How to survive setting boundaries

This does not mean you should not set boundaries. This is why it IS important to set boundaries. What it means is that you should set boundaries and learn strategies to appropriately handle any kick back that occurs.

I will give you an example.

Joanne had two dogs she took regularly to a groomer. The dogs were coming up due for a groom so Joanne rang her groomer to organise an appointment and was directed to voicemail and left a message. There was no response. Joanne was used to this, the groomer was not good at returning calls. She rang again a week later, and again a week later. Finally she visited the groomer in person. As soon as she walked in the door, the groomer said she was all booked out for two months.

Joanne was annoyed at this, but felt she needed time to think about an appropriate response, rather than snap at the groomer in anger.

After a few hours, Joanne was ready to discuss this with her groomer. She rang and no surprises it was voice mail again. So Joanne left her message in a calm, friendly but matter of fact voice. She said she accepted that groomers are busy in summer but she had spent two weeks ringing her. Instead of looking for another groomer, she had persevered out of loyalty to the groomer. She was disappointed the groomer had not rung back or even sent a text message. She explained she had not spoken when she came into the shop because she needed time to think. Her issue was not the groomer’s availability, but the fact she had not responded to the initial call and Joanne had spent two weeks trying to make an appointment. She had made the decision she would not come to that groomer anymore because of this.

The next day she received a phone call from the groomer. The groomer pretended she had missed a call but no message had been left. Joanne started to give the groomer the message. The groomer jumped in and started abusing Joanne. Whereas Joanne’s issue had been only about the fact the groomer had not returned her call. The groomer just sent out a spray of anger. She accused Joanne of making appointments at the wrong time, of having vicious dogs. It was an uncontrolled reaction which left Joanne determined she would never recommend that groomer to anyone else.

Joanne found herself starting to get caught up in this woman’s accusations then suddenly remembered. These accusations were “red herrings”. They had nothing to do with Joanne’s issue, which was that the groomer did not return her call. She realised the woman was going to keep her abuse going, so she said nothing and quietly hung up. She knew the woman was in the wrong, but her anger hurt. So Joanne and I unpacked it together.

Joanne’s first reaction was to kick herself for not realising immediately this woman’s abuse was red herrings.

What is a red herring?

It is a term often used in discussing communication, especially conflict resolution. When someone doesn’t want to address the issue being discussed they will throw in other things to try to distract the other person from discussing the issue.

In this case, Joanne was happy to discuss the fact the groomer had not returned her calls. She had no other issues. The groomer felt guilty and shamed by the fact she had failed to return calls to a loyal customer. She felt uncomfortable and did not know how to deal with that discomfort. So she threw red herrings into the mix to try to draw Joanne into a fight with her. I congratulated Joanne on her self control in realising what was happening and quietly hanging up.

Why is it important to quietly hang up? If you slam the phone down it sends a message you are angry. If you quietly hang up, the message is you have made a choice to walk away.

It is easy to fall for red herrings, which is why it is important to remain calm and focused on the issue. If possible you can say this is not the issue we are discussing. It is unlikely that you will be able to do that so the best response is to just hang up.

Yes the other person may say they won the argument because you hung up. Let them. They know they actually have lost the argument because you walked away from their fight and did not give them the satisfaction of getting angry back and saying things in anger.

A good way to describe what happened is to use a counselling theory and method that was very popular in the 1970s. it is still referred to in communication training. It is called Transactional Analysis.

Very briefly, in transactional analysis people are referred to as having three approaches to others in a conversation. It may be one of mutual respect referred to as I’m OK, You’re OK. It may be one of lack of respect for other, referred to as I’m OK, You’re not OK. Or it may be one of lack of respect for self. I am not OK, You’re OK. The conversation with Joanne and her Groomer was one where Joanne respected herself and the groomer, but the groomer did not respect Joanne.

Another aspect of Transactional Analysis is that we communicate to others from different aspects of ourself. We can be the Adult (I’m OK, You’re OK), The parent or the child. The child can be subservient or rebellious. The subservient child doesn’t think they are OK and will acquiesce. The rebellious child doesn’t think you are OK and will try to bring you down to their level so they can win the fight.

Joanne was the adult with the groomer. But the groomer was not being an adult. She was being a rebellious child and was trying to bring Joanne down to her level. You can’t have a discussion with someone who is trying that. So Joanne’s response to hang up was the correct one.

Maybe you are thinking that it is not worth setting boundaries? What does it do to you if you allow people to do what they want to you? To come into your house and help themselves to your things. To talk about your deepest secrets to other people. To expect you to stop what you are doing to do what they want? To feel worthless and unsafe because you never feel you are in control of your life.

People aren’t always going to try to punish you when you set a boundary. Healthy people accept boundaries and will also set boundaries with you. As for those who kick back the first time you set a boundary. They will think twice about crossing boundaries with you in the future. And if they want to create a hostile situation with you, yeah that hurts, but they would have done it anyway.

It is important to explore what is happening for you when there is unpleasantness about setting boundaries.

You have the right to feel upset at the other person’s lack of respect.

After the groomer sprayed her negativity at Joanne, she determined she was not going to allow it to stick. She stated to herself that the situation was unpleasant. She had a good physical shake to shake off the negativity the groomer had thrown at her. She put her hands on her heart and comforted the part inside that was upset.

At times, when the negativity of the groomer came up, she put her hands on her heart and asked herself what was hurting. She took those answers and explored them in our counselling session.

She expressed gratitude at realising she needed to make the decision to stop using that groomer.

She was grateful she had not reacted to the groomer and got into a fight with her.

She was grateful she had communicated as a healthy adult.

She was grateful for all the people in her life who were healthy adults and would not behave like the groomer.

By the time she finished being grateful she had let go of the hurt from the groomer.

If you grew up in a family where you were not allowed to set boundaries then setting boundaries is difficult. It takes time to learn how to do it. I often work with people who are trying to learn their boundaries and how to set them.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with you learning to set boundaries, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Ways to say Goodbye to your loved one

A client’s painting of their grandmother

In these times of COVID, there is a strong chance that if you lost a loved one you were unable to say goodbye to them or attend their funeral.
It is so important to be able to say goodbye, if not to them in person then at their funeral.
How do you do that when you were not able to say goodbye to your loved one before they died, or say goodbye by attending their funeral?
A lot of pain results from not feeling able to say goodbye to a loved one. There are often things you wanted to say to your loved one.
There are a number of things you can do to say your goodbyes.
• You can hold a small ceremony with people who knew your loved one.
• You can arrange a get together of people who knew your loved one and share stories and memories about your loved one.
• You can write a letter and post it. Australia Post report that one of the most common letters that ends up in the dead letter office is a letter to a deceased loved one.
• You can write a letter, read it aloud, say goodbye and keep the letter in a special place.
• You can visit a place that was special to your loved one.
• If possible, you can visit the place they last lived.
• You can light a special candle to your loved one at times that are important to you.
• You can make an art work, maybe a painting, a clay piece, or a poem to represent what they were to you. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. It just needs to express something that is meaningful about your loved one. One young woman wrote this haiku about her grandfather:
Dark stocky and small man
Full of Celtic mystical thought yet practical
You were my wonderful grandfather

• You can find an object, whether you buy it, or find it, for example a shell or rock on the beach. That object will be one that represents in some way your loved one. One woman bought stamps of flowers her mother had loved. Every time she posted a letter she felt she was honouring her mother. Another woman found a beautiful amethyst heart in a shop. Her mother loved amethysts and for her the heart was a reminder of her love for her mother and her mother’s love for her. A man took the wood from a tree the mother had loved after it fell down. He arranged for the wood to be turned into wooden bowls he distributed to family members.
• You can start a memory box of all the memories you consider important. Make sure you visit it from time to time. It is not intended to be a time capsule. One family have a cupboard they put their memories in. They add to it periodically and visit it often.
• You can honour that loved one’s birthday by planning a special outing. One family planned a birthday party for their child on their birthday. The party was themed at the age they would have turned that year. Another family visited their father’s grave on what would have been his 100th birthday to acknowledge his place in their lives.
• You can include a place at the dinner table at Christmas Time, and other important family events, to remind yourself and honour their presence in your family.
All these things help you in understanding and finding meaning in your loved one’s death. Remember finding meaning does not mean knowing why they died, it means finding a reflection of the love you have for them. Finding meaning takes time. I will talk more about meaning in another blog.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and saying goodbye, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au
If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

7 ways to avoid fast forwarding through your pain

There are very few, if any, people in this world who like difficulties. Given the choice, most people would opt for the pleasant, easy path.

Often, when a person is confronted with a difficult circumstance, the temptation is to avoid the pain. This is what some refer to as fast forwarding through the pain.

We may deny the difficulty is happening.

We may engage in escapist behaviours.

We may self medicate with alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, eating, shopping, and so on.

The problem with this is that these behaviours do not make the pain go away. They do not solve the problem.

In fact, they prolong the pain and can even make our difficulties worse.
It is in difficult times that we can learn things about ourselves and the life we lead.

The lessons we learn in difficult times are not easy, but we learn and grow by working through them.

It is only by facing our pain that we can resolve it. The more open we are to working through the discomfort and pain, the more quickly we will resolve the difficulties and be able to move forward in life.

So it could be said that trying to fast forward through our pain only results in slamming on the breaks and pausing the resolution of the pain.

The following are the steps to follow in working through your pain.

  1. Acknowledge how much it hurts and have compassion for yourself. Try placing your hand over your heart and allowing yourself to experience the pain. Then say “ouch that hurts”.
  2. Remember that you are not alone in experiencing pain, and that it is normal to want to avoid it.
  3. Resolve to sit with the pain.
  4. Pay attention to what is happening in your body and your thoughts. Decide to be courageous and face what is happening so that you can grow and learn.
  5. Look for what is in the situation. Identify the bits that hurt and explore them. are there any messages in the pain? Is there anything that you find particularly difficult?
  6. Know that as you explore the pain, and work through the things you discover in it, your pain will ease. Finding meaning in your suffering is essential to recovering effectively.
  7. Allow yourself time to feel hurt, and time to reflect on what you have learned. Allow time to celebrate your new learning,

    If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with resolving your difficulties, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

    If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Grief triggers that bring back all the pain

My grandfather died a long time ago. I wasn’t yet 20.

I thought I was finished with all the sadness of my grandfather’s death.

Many years later I was undertaking more study. One brilliant man in the field of my study had written many papers and books. His photo, usually on the fly leaf or the back cover, reminded me of my grandfather.

This man died. I never met him, only heard his voice in recordings and read his words. But when I heard he had died I cried inconsolably for some time.

It wasn’t him I was crying for. It was my grandfather.

Years after he had died, I was still grieving.

The reminder of him in this man was enough to bring up the fresh pain of his death.

A friend lost her husband very young to an accident.

Years after his death she heard of another husband to someone she didn’t know dying in similar circumstances.

That reminder was enough to bring up the fresh pain of her husband’s death all those years ago.

Another friend lost a child many years ago.

The death of another person’s child was enough to bring up for her the fresh pain of her own child’s death.

These triggers are everywhere.

They come up without warning, smashing through all those coping skills you have learned over the years.

It is like you have been torn up at the roots and your roots are exposed and vulnerable.

You find yourself reliving the pain. Reliving the grief.

Grieving is never really over and that is okay.

It is not pleasant when those triggers bring it all back up again.

The best you can do is give yourself permission to feel the pain.

Be kind to yourself.

Take time out if you need to.

Reach out to someone you trust for support.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and the triggers that bring all the pain back, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How to prevent positivity from being toxic.

Lately a lot of attention being given to manifesting positivity.

This is causing some disquiet in the counselling world and has raised the question about the dangers of positivity.

So is positivity toxic?

The answer? That depends.

Positivity can be very positive and a great force for change.

On the flip side, positivity can also be very toxic.

So how do you know which positivity is positive and which is toxic?

Toxic positivity denies negative feelings. In the face of a terrible set back, positive psychology involves denying any sadness or upset about what has happened.

Toxic positivity will say “don’t think about it, stay positive”.

It will say “don’t worry. Be happy”.

It will say you cannot fail, that is just not an option.

It will not allow any voicing of what is perceived as negative.

It will refuse to allow space for you to feel hurt.

The toxically positive person will shut down other people when they try to express hurt.

Good positivity acknowledges the bad things that happen and allows for the bad and good feelings around that to be expressed.

It does not seek to deny the bad.

Good positivity will place their hand on their heart and say “ouch, that hurts” and offer comfort to themself.

Good positivity will be honest about their feelings.

What good positivity does, when the person is ready, is allow them to look at what has happened from a different perspective.

Here is an example.

Jill was conditioned early in life by her abusive parents and controlling mother to people please. To earn the approval necessary to feel that her mother would not throw her out of the house, she had to dance to the obscure commands of her mother. If she did the right thing, she earned brief words of approval and for a short while felt safe. Jill learned to move through life doing things to get approval. Sometimes the things she went along with did not match where she wanted to be. These made her feel worthless and ashamed.

At one stage, Jill moved into a new house. She wanted to have friendly neighbours. She had never enjoyed good relationships with neighbours. No matter how hard she tried, her neighbours always ended up being not very nice people. Jill believed it was her fault, despite other people also finding her neighbours not very nice people.

In the new house Jill ignored the nasty things her neighbours were saying about her as she climbed a ladder to fix the roof. She was determined to be friends with her neighbours.

At first everything seemed good. They appeared friendly, and she made promising connections with two other sets of neighbours this couple were friends with.

She ignored the nasty comments the neighbours continued to make, mocking things she and her family were doing.

Then one day the woman next door picked a fight with Jill and the friendliness was over.

Jill was devastated. She tried to talk to the neighbour, but the neighbour avoided her. Instead she heard her neighbour telling her husband and the two other neighbours lies about Jill and what had actually happened.

Jill was incredibly hurt. She felt terribly unsafe.

She spent a lot of time telling her head all the truths about these neighbours, while her brain’s defence mechanisms were telling her she was not safe.

All the conscious logic in the world is powerless against the powerful subconscious neural circuits in our brains and Jill’s neural circuits were firing danger signals.

For two years Jill took one day at a time, determined to find the source of gratitude in the nastiness. She kept chipping away at the hurtful things that were happening by acknowledging them and looking at the good things that were happening.

Her neighbour might have had friends over and told them in a loud voice so Jill could hear, how awful her neighbour was. Ouch, that hurt.

Then Jill went for a walk and another neighbour in the street stopped and had a lovely conversation with her. That was lovely. Put that one in the gratitude diary – “I am grateful that my other neighbours are lovely and friendly”.

One day she realised how little this woman mattered.

She was able to understand that she didn’t want to be friends with this woman and the two other sets of neighbours. They were totally different to her and she didn’t do the social things they did.

Jill also realised the woman next door was mentally unwell. She used controlling behaviours, much as Jill’s mother had, to manipulate her environment to make herself feel safe.

Jill realised that to remain friends with this woman she had to pretend to be someone else. She could not be herself with this woman. The woman had picked a fight with her because the woman wanted to control Jill and make Jill be someone Jill was not.

Jill realised that if she had remained friends with this woman she would have continued people pleasing and would now be in a terrible mess.

Jill knew this falling out allowed her to be able to focus on what she wanted to do in life, not what others thought she should do.

Jill’s positive approach to what had happened was that the end of the friendship freed her to be herself. She was very grateful for this. Rather than seeing her neighbour’s nastiness as something devastating and shaming, she saw it as opening a door for her to be herself.

It took her two years to get there, but she had been able to reach that point by choosing to see the positives, once she had acknowledged the hurt.

It doesn’t often take us years to see the things that happen to us from a different perspective. Mostly, once we have acknowledged and soothed the hurt around the thing we are able to see the positives and be grateful.

To do that it is vital you are honest with yourself.

Acknowledge the hurt.

Express the hurt and provide comfort.

When you are ready, you will be able to see things to be grateful for despite what has happened.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with moving through the hurtful things in life, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Plentiful Life News

Just to let you know the new edition of Plentiful Life News is out today.

If you would like a copy please click on the link below to sign up for the newsletter.

The newsletter is bursting with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them.

If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

“the grieving have urgent reasons, even an urgent need, to feel sorry for themselves.” Didion

How often in your grief journey have you allowed yourself to feel sorry for the loss you have faced?

How often have you felt guilty for feeling sorry for yourself?

Why is it that our society does not allow people to sit with grief?

Why are people not allowed to wallow in their grief?

Why are people expected to “get on with their lives”?

Why are people expected to not act as though a massive hole has opened up in their life?

Why?

Why is our society so frightened of death?

Why are grieving people avoided?

Why are people sent to die in hospitals, far away from the living?

Why are people so frightened of the dead?

Why do we as a society rush to shut down the grieving person?

Why do we as a society ask the grieving why they aren’t over it yet when the funeral has just happened?

Why has our society created so many taboos around death?

Why?

Our society operates on a cult of the young. We spend large amounts of money trying to look younger and stay younger. The beautiful people in the media hide their wrinkles and grey hair instead of celebrating it.

There is no right of passage into old age. The time most associated with death.

There is no acknowledging death.

It is spoken of in hushed terms, if at all.

For the grieving person there is a need for self compassion. There is a need to feel sorry for your loss – after all, you are the one who actually knows what it feels like!

You need to spend time comforting yourself.

You need to spend time making allowances for yourself.

You need to be the one cutting yourself some slack about getting the tasks of living attended to.

If you don’t do it, then who will?

Few people remember your loss.

It is not that they are uncaring, although some are. It is more that life is busy and people get on with their own lives.

But for you, there is a hole in your life.

How do you move on in life with that hole there?

It won’t happen quickly. You need time to sit with your grief. You need time to show self compassion. You need time to feel sorry for yourself.

Just as a wound eventually fills with new tissue and heals, leaving a scar, so will your hole in your life heal and leave you with a scar.

Then you will be able to move on into the rest of your life.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and the tasks of living, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

The impact of trauma and what happens when it is not treated by a trained trauma professional.

This story, as with all my blogs, observes the privacy of the individuals written about. Names are changed, stories are altered, and anything that might identify the individuals is changed.

Veronica, who prefers to be called Ronnie, is a woman around the age of 40. Her life has not turned out as she had hoped. When she was 15 her sister’s husband sexually abused her on a number of occasions. She was devastated and confused. Her family was one where unpleasant things were not discussed, so she kept quiet about it. It was only when she was 19 that she felt able to share and told her mother what had happened. Her mother’s reaction was not pleasant. She told Ronnie she had to keep quiet about what had happened.

Ronnie found herself without a voice. Having to maintain the family image and keep her voice suppressed was devastating to her.

This is one of the damaging aspects of trauma, especially sexual trauma. Having your needs denied. Not being given the comfort and support you need. Being denied the right to be devastated at the invasion of your body.

Ronnie learned to keep it quiet. She saw professionals to help her, and there was some help, but ultimately it failed her, because the professionals were not trauma informed and trained.

Today Ronnie is frightened of relationships. She lives with her mother. She dresses in a masculine way and maintains a level of obesity she considers safe. She thinks her trauma recovery is complete but it is far from that.

Adelle started working for the same company as Ronnie. She heard some of Ronnie’s story and offered her empathy. Adelle had her own trauma history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse throughout her childhood. Adelle offered Ronnie empathy and friendship.

During one project, Ronnie was in charge and gave Adelle a task to complete that was not in the project documentation. This put Adelle in a difficult situation, because her task was effectively non existent. But she was working on this task with three other people and Ronnie told her it was alright. One of the team was working on the main task as well. Over time one team member became ill and had to leave. Then the team member working on the main task left the company. The remaining team member was offered a role on the main task as well. This left Adelle as the only person working on a task that had become non existent. In all the time Adelle had been on this team she had never been given anything to do. It became obvious to her that Ronnie had no role for her. She needed clarification.

When Adelle attended to her trauma history, she saw high quality trauma informed and trained practitioners. She worked somatically with the trauma stored in her body. She learned to reconnect with her body and her spirituality (her sense of “who am I”). She found her voice and learned to express herself in a healthy way.

This was in contrast to Ronnie who was told by her family to not talk about the ‘nastiness’ and who had seen a psychologist who gave her CBT and told to adhere to the CBT principles.

CBT has its uses, but it is not useful for treating trauma in the first two stages. In those stages, the trauma is buried way below the level of conscious memory. CBT works on conscious memory. It can be useful in the third stage of trauma recovery when you are trying to change the script running in your head. But it cannot help earlier than that.

Ronnie was unable to express any feelings/emotions, despite the fact she had studied drama through school and into university. Ronnie was actually terrified of any feelings or emotions. She also lacked empathy for other people because of her fear of connecting with other people’s feelings.

Adelle decided she needed to clarify her situation. Ronnie was a difficult person to communicate with and tended to tell Adelle things that she then forgot about later. Ronnie was also not in the office often, and when she was it was difficult to find her available to talk to. So Adelle decided to send her a polite email.

As the two had shared some of their difficulties, Adelle was honest about the emotions she was feeling. She used I messages, did not accuse Ronnie of any wrong doing, admitted she was upset and mentioned the emotions she felt, and ended with the statement that was not sure what she should do.

Ronnie’s response was devastating to her. Ronnie wrote back a cold, disinterested response. There was no empathy, no “I’m sorry you are feeling upset”, just a very cold if you want to talk about this I will be available in 5 days time. Contact me to arrange an appointment.

Adelle later told me that if she had included some statement of empathy it would have been okay. If she had said, for example, “I am sorry you are feeling upset about the changes, I can’t meet with you for another five days, could we meet at xtime in xplace and discuss this?” But there was none of that.

Ronnie’s disinterested communication left Adelle feeling invisible, worthless, hopeless and then angry. It fed into her childhood trauma. She left it a few weeks then contacted Ronnie again saying how disappointed she was at Ronnie’s cold unempathic response.

Ronnie replied that her psychologist had told her not to reply to such a “highly emotive written correspondence. These matters are best handled in an open and transparent way, this forum is not.”

Adelle wondered which message Ronnie was referring to. Her message was not “highly emotive”. She brought the message to me. It was not emotive. She stated the facts quite calmly and only mentioned her feelings in the format “when this happened I felt ….”. This is a healthy way to express emotions and own them.

I wonder if Ronnie’s psychologist said this at all. A lot of people hide behind “professional advice” when it is actually their fears driving them and they have not sought professional advice.

Ronnie behaved in the way her family taught her to behave all those years ago when she was told to keep quiet about the abuse. She learned to fear emotions and feelings and found it frightening when she encountered such emotions in other people. She was even frightened of people discussing feelings. This is because she has never attended to her trauma properly.

It is also likely that Ronnie had realised this extra task was impossible to work on and did not know how to tell Adelle that she didn’t have any work for her. It is sad, because Ronnie carries the guilt and shame of what she did, not Adelle.

Ronnie still has to work with Adelle. Adelle has dealt with the hurt, we worked on a meditation somatic technique I often use with clients to help them transform the hurt they feel.

Adelle is fine. But she will never have the same relationship with Ronnie again. She has no respect for Ronnie. She does not like Ronnie’s cold behaviour. She will continue to work with Ronnie but it will be on a very formal footing. There will be no warmth and friendliness, just formality. I think Ronnie will find that hard. Sadly, she will not know how to mend the breach and Adelle is healthy enough to have made a decision to not mind if the breach is never mended. Working with Adelle is going to be very uncomfortable for her.

In the next blog I will talk about how trauma counsellors should work.

New ways of looking at my grief

We all know that losing someone you love is devastating. Grief is often seen as being about coming to terms with that specific loss. But there is much more to grief than just losing the physical presence of someone you love.

There is the relationship that is gone. The companionship, the sharing, the mutual experiences and memories, the physical presence of that person.

You no longer hear their voice, their laughter, the sound of them breathing.

You no longer smell them or see the way their face crinkles when they are concentrating. You miss the way they greeted you when you had been apart.

You miss the feeling of them touching you. There are so many aspects of that person’s physical presence that you have lost.

There are also the unresolved issues. Maybe you feel guilty at harsh words you said to them. Maybe you feel angry at something they did. Maybe you feel you never got that chance to say goodbye.

Martha felt guilty that she had left her husband in the hospital when he begged her not to go. She was exhausted and the hospital provided no facilities for her to stay with her husband. She had also been physically caring for him for some time and leaving him in hospital was a necessary physical break for her.

A few weeks after being hospitalised, Martha’s husband died. Now she carried a terrible guilt at his death. Instead of recapturing the life she had once had, she became physically unable to carry out the simplest tasks. Her physical health deteriorated.

She believed she had no right to live a healthy life when she had left her physically disabled husband alone in his hospital room.

Allanah was angry. Her mother had manipulated and controlled her throughout her life.

As a child her mother had failed to provide her with the support she needed through all the important moments in her life. As an adult she had struggled to discover her capabilities ad believe them. She also struggled with her mother’s conditional love.

Now her mother was dead she found herself full of anger at the things her mother had done to her.

In loss there is also the future that is lost. The future you had together. The vision you had of that future. The expectations of life events and other joys you looked forward to.

Nella had lost her husband in their mid fifties. They had plans for the life ahead. Their daughter had just married and they looked forward to the time they would retire and enjoy travelling and being grandparents.

But her husband had died and now the first grandchild was due.

Nella wouldn’t allow herself to be excited by the imminent arrived of this grandchild. To her it felt like a betrayal of her husband. It seemed so unfair that he was missing all the excitement of being grandparents.

If she was prepared to admit it, it also seemed unfair that she had lost the future they had planned together.

There are the changes in your life. If the person you lost was a financial support then you have changed circumstances that may force you to move, or change employment. That is a loss that is not always acknowledged.

Hayley and her partner ran a business. He was a skilled tradesman and in high demand. She was the admin for the business. Now he was dead and the business was gone. Instead of continuing until retirement in business together, Hayley had to find a new job. She couldn’t afford the mortgage repayments on her new income and had to sell the house they planned to retire in.

Her whole future was destroyed and she faced the uncertainty of a future that was unrecognisable from the one she envisaged.

The worst thing was the loneliness of coming home to an empty house. If she was honest, she would admit she resented the changes her partner’s death had caused.

In loss there is also learning to live on your own.

Maybe you now come home to a new empty house instead of one your partner lived in.

Maybe you walk past your child’s empty room and it hits you how much you miss the noise that came from there.

Maybe you see something funny happen and your first instinct is to pick up the phone and call the person, then realise you can’t do that anymore. And that hurts.

Mark missed being able to share the events of the day with his brother. They always had a laugh together at things that happened. And when things were difficult, his brother was always willing to listen and offer support.

He felt so lost at the end of such an important part of his life.

These things I have mentioned are the most common other losses surrounding the death of a loved one.

There are more that are unique to each individual.

They can be difficult to recognise as grief.

If you are experiencing them, you may feel you don’t have the right to hurt this way. But all the things I have described are important aspects of grieving the loss of a loved one.

At this time it is so important to recognise the emotions you are experiencing. It is essential you recognise your right to feel those emotions. You are not wrong to feel the emotions.

It is also important to nurture yourself, to be kind to yourself. You are going through a hard time and you need compassion and support. The first person to give you that is you.

Feeling unsafe in your own home

Rachel came to see me because she had an incident where someone had parked on her front lawn and she felt threatened. Actually she felt terrified.

She had to do something to protect herself because this car was a threat. She didn’t know why, just that it was a threat to her safety and no one was going to defend her or protect her.

She rang council who told her she had to talk to the police. She was terrified to make a complaint but felt she had to. It was the lesser of two evils.

She talked to the police and was given an unhelpful response.

She felt frightened and alone, despite the fact her husband was in the house with her.

She couldn’t understand what was happening to her.

Her heart was racing. She was terrified to move out of a room deep in her house where she had gone for refuge.

She found herself crying uncontrollably.

She was terrified of the car on her front lawn.

She was terrified of complaining to council.

She was terrified of complaining to the police.

She was terrified of her neighbours abusing her for complaining.

She had just justification for the last fear. Her neighbours had threatened her in the past, and wrongly accused her of making complaints against them. These neighbours had brought all the other neighbours in her tiny street on side so she was abused or avoided by the neighbours.

When Rachel came to see me she was still shaking. She couldn’t understand her reaction.

As she talked I asked her if anything in the past came to mind.

She thought about it and said yes.

There was an incident when she was being sexually abused by a boy in her class. He kept touching her inappropriately and she had asked him to stop. She had even gone to her mother for help.

Her mother did not take it seriously and had told her she had to hit the boy to make him stop.

In classes he was in with her she sat at the front of the class in front of the teacher. No one was sitting with her so this boy would come and sit with her.

Eventually she got so desperate she hit the boy with a ruler. The teacher caught her hitting him and told her to stop.

Rachel courageously told the teacher she would stop hitting the boy when he stopped sexually touching her.

The teacher sent Rachel and the boy together, unaccompanied, to the subject master.

On the way there the boy told her she had to keep quiet about what he was doing.

Once there the master put them both in his office and asked them what was going on.

The boy started to say it was just nothing when Rachel courageously cut in and told the master what the boy had been doing to her for months.

The master sent Rachel out of the room and back to the classroom.

She never knew what happened to the boy, whether he was punished or not.

What did happen to Rachel was that the entire class and their friends in other classes bullied Rachel.

Every moment at school was full of name calling such as “Dobber” “C###” “slut” and threats to her personal safety.

At no time did her parents, teachers, or anyone else at the school debrief her, check in on her, or step in to protect her from the bullying or make sure she had help over the sexual abuse.

She was hurt, violated, frightened, ostracised and terrified.

She learned that her world was not a safe place.

She learned that she would always be on her own and no one would defend her.

She learned that everyone else was against her.

She learned that boundary infringements, whether on her personal body space or personal home space, where dangerous and reasons for terror.

So it was not surprising that Rachel was terrified.

We were able to work together to help Rachel heal the wound from the sexual abuse and the bullying.

We were able to work together to help Rachel reenvisage her world as a safer place.

We were able to work together to help Rachel reconnect with other people in a safe way.

We were able to work together to help Rachel learn that most people were for her.

Sadly for Rachel, her neighbours were frightened of getting involved in a disagreement with her neighbour. They thought if they sat on the fence and “didn’t get involved” they were being impartial. That of course is not true.

To the mouse being crushed by the elephant the fence sitter is siding with the elephant because they are allowing the abuse to continue.

Rachel realised most of her neighbours were too frightened of her neighbour to speak to her. It was only two sets of closer neighbours who were abusive.

Rachel learned to separate what was happening in her street from the past abuse and bullying.

It took a long time. But Rachel was able to heal that trigger.

When working with trauma there is no quick fix. It takes time and patience to heal trauma.

There are a number of different techniques to help heal trauma. These range from somatic (body) techniques through art and sand play to EFT and EMDR.

To heal trauma you need to see a properly trained counsellor who knows what they are doing. I am trauma trained and very experienced in helping people.

To heal trauma you need to know that it takes time. There will not be just one visit, there will be many.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au