8 reasons you were bullied/abused. And they are nothing to do with you.

Some years ago, there was a young woman I would regularly see socially. We often chatted about how her family were going. We particularly chatted about her nephew. He was 3 and she was so proud of him. One time we met she mentioned he was getting bullied at day care. As someone who was abused and bullied as a child I was horrified that a 3 year old was getting bullied. Surely someone was doing something about that. Her response? Oh yes, he was being taught how to change his behaviour and fit in better so he wouldn’t be bullied! I was appalled. People are bullied/abused because of the other person’s issues, not because of anything they have done. To place the blame on the victim is like saying a murder victim was to blame for their murder. Or a rape victim was to blame for being raped. Or a child was to blame for an adult sexually abusing them.

For some reason, people cannot deal effectively with bullies. The thing that needed to be done in this situation was for the bully to be taken aside and treated. There were two things that bully needed.

The first, was to have good healthy boundaries set. The bully needed to know that behaviour was not acceptable behaviour. If you stop the behaviour when it first starts it is easier to stop. Once the behaviour has become full on bullying, it is harder to stop and harm has been caused to the victim.

The second thing that needed to be done was to find out why the bully was behaving this way. Bullies are often hurting. Listening to the bully, while setting firm boundaries, is the most effective way to understand and treat the underlying causes of the behaviour before it cases the bully serious damage. How much easier it is to identify problems and treat them at age 3 than at age 13, or 43.

I suspect people are frightened of dealing with bullies because of fears around their own childhood and their dealings with bullies. But adults are grown up now and can defend themselves. They have a duty to protect children from this behaviour.

A video that circulated a few years ago had adults acting child bullying in an adult setting. This behaviour in a child setting is dismissed as “just kids fooling around”. But the reaction to this video was one of horror that someone was subjected to this obvious assault. So why is it okay for children to be assaulted but not adults?

As adults we need to take a stand and be firm in how we deal with bullies. I am sure many of you had your bullying dismissed by adults as being nothing and something you were overreacting about and needed to get over. You may feel you do not have the power to deal with bullies. But you do.

I also know, because for a long time I suffered this too, that you are most likely ashamed of being bullied. Shame is a big issue for those who were bullied/abused as children. A child believes something is wrong with them for this to happen to them. Often that is reinforced by adults who tell you it is your fault.

So what are the 8 reasons you were bullied and or abused?

Those reasons are all about the bully/abuser and their issues. You were not/are not weak, a loser, stupid or not enough in any way.

Reason No. 1: The bully is a narcissist. This is a personality disorder that develops in childhood. The narcissist is self-absorbed, entitled, and needs admiration and attention. If you don’t do what they want then you are bullied.

Reason No. 2: the bully has poor emotional regulation. This bully does not know how to control their emotions. So when they are angry, or hurt, or embarrassed, or frightened (and so on) they use bullying/abuse to try to calm themselves down.

Reason No. 3: The bully has low self esteem. They don’t feel good about themselves. They feel shamed, inadequate, weak and powerless. They think that what they need to do to feel better is to “tear you down”. Of course you can never get power from other people. The only way to increase your power is to build it up yourself. But the bully doesn’t know how to do that.

Reason No. 4: The bully has a need for social approval. They think the way to get approval is to impress others with their dominance. Maybe they learned that from their family or observing other people. This is what they believe they need.

Reason No. 5: Modelling. The bully has copied the negative behaviour of a parent/sibling/peer group.

Reason No. 6: Lack of empathy. The bully has enough trouble understanding and processing their own emotions, let alone understanding and caring about yours. So they hurt you and don’t have the empathy to care that you are hurting.

Reason No. 7: Poor Impulse Control. The bully has trouble regulating their emotions. A person who can regulate their emotions will stop and think before responding to something. A bully will just react. There is no stopping and no thinking the bully just acts impulsively. Usually that acting is outwards to other people.

Reason No. 8: The bully is Selfish. This bully wants their own needs met. The cost of meeting their needs at the expense of others is not a consideration.

Many bullies may have more than one reason they bully.

The reason they picked on you? Because they could. Because you were the first person they encountered they thought they could safely pick on. No reason for that. You were just the person there when they wanted someone to bully.

If you still believe you were somehow to blame it is time to think about what you would say to someone you love, say your own child, if they were the victim of bullying. Would you say they were to blame? Would you tell them to “get over it”? Would you tell them they had to behave differently because their behaviour was why they were being bullied? Or would you show them compassion? Would you care? Would you hug them? Would you do something to help them?

Give yourself the same compassion you would give someone you love.

Bullying/abuse in childhood leaves wounds that need healing.

Many victims of childhood bullying/abuse lose trust in the world and in other people. And there are good reasons for that. After all, who supported you when you were suffering that way? It is quite likely the world seemed to turn their back on you.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your bullying/abuse related 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

Can you relate to this experience of grief?

There are many articles written about grief, and how to live with it. The views they express, and the ways to live with that grief are many and varied.

Recently I read an article about a different way of managing grief. The woman who wrote the article, Kathryn Lane Rossi, is a clinical psychologist who developed the field of psychosocial genomics with her husband Ernest Rossi.
Psychosocial genomics holds that our personal and subjective states of consciousness affect the ways our genes express themselves in the brain and body. That may sound complicated, but I mentioned it because it had a profound impact on the way Kathryn grieved after the death of her husband.

It is well accepted the way we grieve is impacted by our beliefs about life and living.

A friend once told Kathryn “Even on the worst day of your life 95% of it is great. The Sun comes out offering nourishing, rejuvenating light. You have clean water to drink, good food to eat and someone(s) who loves you deeply” (Lee Lawson).

After the death of her husband after a short illness, Kathryn realised grief had become her closest companion. Because of her beliefs about life, she invited grief to be a spiritual experience. In describing this, she used the word ‘numinous’ which was described by Rudolf Otto many years ago as meaning ‘fascinating, tremendous and mysterious’.

Kathryn found that tremendous and mysterious definitely fitted with her grief, but fascinating? How was she going to welcome that to a world that didn’t feel fascinating?

So she researched the meaning of the word. The research showed fascination was a suggestion of something new and different to what came before it. She concluded that therefore fascination was describing something new and original.

The death of her husband was a new and original experience for her.

As a neuroscientist she was interested to understand the neuroscience of her grief.

According to the theory she and her husband developed we have a creative cycle that enables us to change and adapt through our consciousness influencing our mirror neurons. This influence on our mirror neurons then impacts on how our genes express themselves in our bodies and changes our brains.

Mirror neurons are part of our brains that allow us to connect to other people’s feelings. They are what causes us to wince when we see someone else hurt themselves. We can relate to the pain they are experiencing through the activation of our mirror neurons.

We can connect with anyone, but we form stronger attachments with people we are in close relationships with, such as our life partners.

When that person dies, or is no longer with us, our mirror neurons that connect to them have to change. In order to do that, the old neurons have to be removed and new ones have to form.

As a neuroscientist, Kathryn knew that neurons take about a month to come to maturity and a further two to three to make new connections in the brain and body. So she decided that she was not in a good place to make any decisions until these new pathways were developed.

So the first thing she did was resolve to make no important decisions for at least three months.

Instead, she decided to observe her body, mind and emotions.

Every one to two hours she tuned in to what was happening physically and emotionally to her. This gave her structure that she found personally comforting.

She found that just before falling asleep she noticed memories flipping through her mind, like a deck of cards that was being shuffled a card a second.

Many people report being flooded with memories during the day as well.

Kathryn’s research into memory found that the purpose of memory was to help us in the present moment. We constantly adapt memories to help us in our daily life.

Her brain was sorting through her memories to sort those that were more important.

She also noticed that her memory was made foggy by her grief.

Many people experience that in grief.

She observed she was getting brief headaches and pain around her heart. Again, this is not uncommon for people to experience.

She concluded these things were occurring for several reasons.

One was that the growth of new neurons caused pain.

Another reason was that her logic and her emotions were not in agreement. Her brain was saying “accept he is gone” and her heart was saying “I don’t want to”.

She also noticed digestive issues and found she could not eat and do other things at the same time. Her brain was so busy creating new neuronal pathways it did not allow multiple tasks to occur at the same time.

She also found that in common with most people, she often cried or sobbed. Most of these sessions lasted 5 minutes, although she had periods where she cried for about 90 minutes, stopped for 5-20 minutes before resuming crying.

Kathryn was comforted to notice that these difficult times did not continue. Over time she become able to function for longer.

As a scientist she was aware of the impact grief has on inflammation in the body and the depressive effect it has on the immune system. So she set out to exercise in nature every day, usually for 90 minutes.

Many people report that no day is like the rest. One day you can be in the depths of despair, the next you can get things done, the next you may even feel like going out. Kathryn experienced that too. She saw that as positive, because she saw it as evidence she was growing.

Kathryn wrote her article as she approached three months after the deal of her husband. She was aware her immune system was almost completely recovered. She was also aware that the future would hold a lot more pain.

For three months, Kathryn was able to use her own skills as a researcher to cope.

You will use your own skills to cope too. It may not seem like you are coping, and it may not seem that you have any direction or structure in your life, but you do.

You may also notice that some of Kathryn’s observations match your own experience. May that knowledge that you are not alone in what you are experiencing bring you comfort.

You may find it helpful to understand the cause of some of your physical and emotional reactions.

You may also find it helpful to talk to a qualified counsellor.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief journey, 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

It is not the traumas we suffer in childhood that make us emotionally ill but the inability to express the trauma


This quote was written by Alice Miller, a world renowned child abuse expert. She was at the forefront of those who recognised and demanded a changed approach to child abuse and its aftermath in adulthood.

She was initially a Psychodynamic practitioner until she concluded that psychodynamic theory blamed victims for the abuse perpetrated against them. This created the precedent for all psychological theories to blame the victim for the abuse. It has only been in recent decades that this has begun to change.

Alice also was highly critical of different world religions that preached forgiveness. This forced people into suppressing their trauma and anger. She believed that much of that anger was displaced onto other people and was the cause of abusive parenting, anger in society, eating disorders, drug addiction, depression, and in the extreme was responsible for violent leaders.

Alice also contended that our society forces people to suppress the truth.
When I first started hearing the early discussions on child abuse in the 1980s, I was a very young adult, fresh out of school and home. What I was hearing appalled me. People were describing the way I had been treated as a child. My mother, herself a counsellor, had always kept a strong narrative about what wonderful parents they were and how I “overreacted” to things.

As these forms of abuse were becoming more widely discussed, my parents adopted the attitude of laughing off these claims. They mocked what they called the “blame it on the parents” brigade. The message was strong. Nothing happened here.

As time went on I found a deep need to get away from my family. The perfect opportunity presented itself in a posting in Europe. While I was living in Europe I was able to distance myself from my mother’s controlling narrative and began to see what had actually been going on in my childhood. I was able to dismiss much of her narrative as not true. I was shocked to realise the extent of my mother’s lies.

My mother died only a few short years after I left Australia. Her death was the release I needed to properly explore my childhood abuse.

In the wake of my mother’s death, I realised the impact my parent’s behaviour had on my siblings as well. Without my mother’s camouflaging narrative, I was able to see my sibling’s dysfunction. I dysfunction I finally decided almost ten years ago to step away from. I realised their dysfunction was not healthy for me.

As time wore on, I was able to access memories of events in my childhood. The pressure on me to hide them was immense. This pressure came from my siblings and from the church.

I became more aware how much society in general calls on people to hide their stories of abuse.

It was during this journey that I decided to go back to university and get my counselling qualifications.

I see the damage trauma in childhood does to adults.

I see the damage being largely them not being heard, or not being allowed to speak out their trauma.

When children act out, or lose their focus on school, or become incredibly withdrawn we as adults need to ask what is happening. We need to do that through a trauma lens. Instead of racing to judge and punish, we need to ask what has happened to trigger this.

Judging from the stories of the adults I have counselled, the answer would be that trauma has happened. It may be trauma from family. It may be trauma from outside the family. It may be emotional, physical, sexual. It may be because that child lives with a coercive controller parent in a terrifying Domestic Violence situation. It may be because the broken Family Law Court system places children with that coercive controlling parent who continues to abuse them.

What is the message in all this?

If you are adults, don’t rush to judge children who apparently misbehave. If you are a teacher, educate yourself about the impact of trauma on a child. If you are a parent, ask those questions in a non threatening way. You may not be abusing your child, but someone else might.

If you are an adult survivor of childhood trauma. Let your story be heard. Sometimes the safest place to do that is with a counsellor who is properly trained in trauma therapy.

Tell your story. Don’t suppress it. The person or people who abused you have done the wrong thing. Don’t protect them. Protect yourself. Get qualified counselling help and express the trauma that has happened to you.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, 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

I leave you with the following words by Alice Miller.

These answers to the question posed me by my readers show how they have attempted to find the way to their own truth. Initially they recognize the lifelong denial of their reality and sense for the first time the pent-up though justified anger caused by the threats they were exposed to – beatings, humiliation, deceit, rejection, confusion, neglect, and exploitation. But if they manage to sense their anger and grief at what they have missed out on in life, almost all of them rediscover the alert, inquisitive child that never had the slightest chance of being perceived, respected, and listened to by the parents. Only then will the adult give the child this respect because he/she knows the true story and can thus learn to understand and love the child within.

To their great surprise the symptoms that have tormented them all their lives gradually disappear. Those symptoms were the price they had to pay for the denial of reality caused by awe of their parents.

Unquestioning adulation of parents and ancestors, regardless of what they have done, is required not only by some religions but by ALL of them, without exception, although the adult children frequently have to pay for this self-denial with severe illness symptoms. The reason why this is the case is not difficult to identify, though it is rarely taken into account. Children are forced to ignore their need for respect and are not allowed to express it, so they later look to their own children to gratify that need. This is the origin of the Fourth/Fifth Commandment (“honor your father and mother”).

This intrinsic dynamic is observable in all religions. Religions were obviously created not by people respected in childhood but by adults starved of respect from childhood on and brought up to obey their parents unswervingly. They have learned to live with the compulsive self-deception forced on them in their earlier years. Many impressive rituals have been devised to make children ignore their true feelings and accept the cruelties of their parents without demur. They are forced to suppress their anger, their TRUE feelings and honor parents who do not deserve such reverential treatment, otherwise they will be doomed to intolerable feelings of guilt all their lives. Luckily, there are now individuals who are beginning to desist from such self-mutilation and to resist the attempt to instill guilt feelings into them. These people are standing up against a practice that its proponents have always considered ethical. In fact, however, it is profoundly unethical because it produces illness and hinders healing. It flies in the face of the laws of life.

A reflection for the New Year with grief

A new year invites us to reflect and consider what has been and what may lie ahead. As the first blog of 2021 I thought it was appropriate to encourage that reflection with two contemplative poems.

The first is a Jewish meditation before Kaddish. Kaddish is the ritual for mourning used in Jewish Culture. This meditation is particularly beautiful and is often quoted.

When I die give what’s left of me away

To children and old men that wait to die.

And if you need to cry,

Cry for your brother walking the street beside you.

And when you need me, put your arms around anyone

And give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something,

Something better than words or sounds,

Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved,

And if you cannot give me away,

At least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.

You can love me best by letting hands touch hands,

And by letting go of children that need to be free.

Love doesn’t die, people do.

So, when all that’s left of me is love,

Give me away.

Another beautiful poem that is aimed at parents on the death of a child is written by John O’Donohue.

No one knows the wonder

Your child awoke in you,

Your heart a perfect cradle

To hold its presence,

Inside and outside became one

As new waves of love

Kept surprising your soul.

Now you sit bereft

Inside a nightmare,

Your eyes numbed

By the sight of a grave

No parent should ever see

You will wear this absence

Like a secret locket,

Always wondering why

Such a new soul

Was taken home so soon.

Let the silent tears flow

And when your eyes clear

Perhaps you will glimpse

How your eternal child

Has become the unseen angel

Who parents your heart

And persuades the moon

To send new gifts ashore.

Grief is not an easy place to be. But there are always moments when the sun peeps through and you glimpse hope. It is these times that are often places where such poems seem to fit.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, 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 successfully rewire your brain in 4 easy steps

As we go about our days, our brains are working hard keeping us moving. There is so much our brains need to do that in the interests of survival, much of what our brains do is below our conscious control. Neuroscientists have estimated that up to 95% of our behaviour is unconscious. That means we automatically do those behaviours without choosing to do them.

The result of all this efficiency is that we can set an intention to change a behaviour, but our brains can undermine that with unconscious behaviours.

It is important to remember that this works with behaviours that are not related to trauma. It can help with those trauma behaviours in conjunction with counselling to attend to any trauma that is still impacting your life.

SO HOW DO WE GAIN THE CONTROL NEEDED TO CHANGE BEHAVIOURS?

We need to slow our brains down enough to recognise when we are starting to trigger the unconscious behaviour and act to stop that happening and allow our conscious brain to take over some of the work. This allows us to follow through on our intentions and make decisions about how we will act.

To do that, we need to practice. The more we practice, the more likely it is that we can control some of those impulses we don’t want to act on. When that happens we will build new neural pathways that build new behaviours. But this takes time.

SO HOW DO WE SLOW OUR BRAINS DOWN TO GIVE OURSELVES THE TIME TO BUILD THOSE NEW BEHAVIOURS?

Mindfulness. Mindfulness allows our brains to slow down. Mindfulness builds awareness of our thoughts and behaviours. Mindfulness installs traffic calming devices in our brains to slow down those rapid thoughts and behaviours. Mindfulness also clears the paths through the more intentional, slower brain processing to allow thoughts and behaviours to travel along those slower pathways.

SO HOW DO YOU ACTIVATE MINDFULNESS IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSY DAY?

By practicing every day with the addition of small mindfulness pauses throughout the day, especially when you feel your brain is racing out of control.

How do you remember to practice mindful pauses?

  1. You may have a favourite chair you like to practice mindfulness in. Leave it somewhere where you will have to move around it. Use that slowing down to get around the chair as a reminder to sit in the chair and practice mindfulness.
  2. Use mindful eating so that meal times become an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
  3. Put notes up to remind you to pause and practice. Change the notes every few days to a week so you don’t get familiar with them.
  4. Set trigger points in various places. For example,
    1. if you get up set that as a reminder to take a short pause and have a slow in breath and out breath and set the intention to be mindful.
    1. If the phone rings, set that as a reminder to take a short pause and have a slow in breath and out breath and set the intention to be mindful.
    1. If you need to go to the bathroom, set that as a reminder to take a short pause and have a slow in breath and out breath and set the intention to be mindful.

You can think up other ways to take that short pause.

The great thing about this is that once you make these short pauses a habit, you will always associate those actions with that mindful pause. So you are well on your way to slowing down your brain and being more in control of your behaviour.

IF YOU HAVE SUFFERED TRAUMA THAT IMPACTS ON YOUR BEHAVIOURS IT IS BEST TO SEEK COUNSELLING.

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

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 can I help a person who is grieving?

I often receive phone calls from people who are concerned about a family member, friend, colleague, or neighbour who is grieving.

In all these calls there is the question: “What can I do to help?”

In answering that question, I am going to give a short description of the brain and what happens in loss.

The part of our brains that helps us think consciously is situated above our eyebrows behind our foreheads. You will often hear this area referred to as the Frontal or prefrontal cortex. The type of thinking that goes on here is known as executive functioning. It helps us analyse our surroundings, make decisions and interact in conscious and meaningful ways with the rest of the world. It is considered this area helps us make sense of loss and allows us to use coping strategies to deal with our grief. It may also try to understand and find meaning and let us think our way out of distress. This is very efficient, but….

Deep in the brain, above the area behind our nose is an area that is known as the limbic system. This part of the brain is responsible for us balancing our internal world and external reality.

One part adds the emotions to our experiences. It responds to threats to our world with fear that feels very real.

Another part is where we store our memories. This area stores all our experiences including loss experiences and will provide the memories that we base our grieving on. Negative grief experiences will impact our grieving in the present.

Other experiences, such as the way we attach with our care givers as children also have a dramatic impact here. The loss of grief is tied up with our attachment style. It can result in loss being perceived as a threat to our life.

The intensity of our grief experience has its foundation in the limbic system.

The limbic system is an area of the brain we cannot consciously control. It is also an area of the brain that provides feelings we have trouble understanding and voicing.

Another function of the limbic system is to respond to threat with the fight or flight stress response. Grief throws a person into this response. This produces a state of high arousal of the limbic system where the more conscious and logical parts of the brain stop functioning. Instead our limbic system takes over and provides the reactions we need to stay alive.

When the fight/flight response in the body activates there are many effects.

The first, as I have already mentioned, is to turn off conscious thought. The person cannot make decisions or often respond with words that make sense.

They are quite likely to lose their appetite as the fight/flight response is focused on movement and does not allow processing of food.

The person may want to move constantly as a flight response.

Or they may become angry, aggressive and combative as a fight response.

They are likely to not sleep.

People who have journeyed some way from their grief and can vocalise their experience more often tell me at this stage they are constantly bombarded with food or drink. Yet the last thing they want to do is eat or drink. Their experience of grief is so overwhelming it leaves no room for anything else.

They also report they often felt numb. There was a great sense of unreality.

They also tell me that people spoke to them and they knew they were talking, but they couldn’t hear them or they weren’t even aware people were there.

In some instances they heard people talking but could not manage to reply. They felt as though they were paralysed.

Others said they just wanted to move, maybe even escape and just walk and walk.

Some felt great anger and lashed out at other people. One of the hardest things was seeing other people going about their day as though nothing had happened. Their world had stopped but everyone else’s had kept going.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP AT THIS TIME?

Just be with the person. Let them know you are there and want to help them. Be okay to sit in silence, to not have to say anything. Allow the person to speak if they want to. When they speak, just listen. Don’t try to fix things, you can’t. just listen. Let them know you are there to support them.

If the person wants to go for a walk, go with them. That way they can feel supported but also be able to express their need for movement in safety.

You might occasionally offer food or drink. But remember they may not be hungry. Accept their No and don’t try to force food on them.

If there is a steady procession of casseroles, put one in the fridge and freeze the rest. They will be needed some day.

I sometimes have people come to me at this stage between the loss of their loved one and the funeral. There is not a lot of processing that will take place here.

The person often wants to talk. Talking to someone more objective is often easier than talking to friends and family who are affected too.

I also encourage the person to be kind to themselves. To not place high expectations on their behaviour. To not feel they have to look after everyone at the funeral and afterwards. Instead I tell them it is okay to not want to talk to people, to feel angry, to leave if they want to, to not be the consummate hostess. I always remind them they are the one who has lost someone and the priority is their care.

After the funeral things may ease a little and the person may be more able to occasionally engage with the world. They also may appear to get worse as the full reality of their loss, without the distraction of funeral preparations, is able to be experienced.

You do need to watch the person who appears to just shut down and stop eating, talking or generally being with people. Mostly, that person will eventually emerge from that state and start living again.

If you are concerned at the length of time they are in this state, if you are concerned they are getting worse you may consider getting help for them.

Remember they may refuse help.

The best way to approach this is to talk to them about how much you care and are concerned. Arrange an appointment with a grief counsellor and take them to the appointment. Take them home again and make sure they are okay afterwards. You may want to stay with them for a while. They may also ask to be alone. Don’t force yourself on them if they ask to be alone.

It is comforting in this situation to know that researchers have found that when people experience these episodes of great sadness after the loss of a loved one, the sadness has a purpose. It decreases their yearning for their loved one. This allows them to explore memories of their loved one without being overwhelmed. This can help them to heal as it allows them to process some of their most painful memories.

TO SUMMARISE:

Be there to listen and support your friend. Make sure they know that you care and are willing to support them in any way.

Don’t give advice, don’t tell them what to do.

Offer food and drink but accept if they say no.

If they want to walk go with them.

If you think it will help. take them to a counsellor, but if they refuse to go, don’t force them.

Never tell them it is time to get on with life or get over it.

How to manage the Christmas Busy

Christmas is a busy time of year.

There is all the busyness of the end of year. Schools are going on holidays. People are having parties. There are presents to buy. There is food to prepare. Many businesses close down so there is urgency to get things attended to. If you are closing down over Christmas you are under pressure to wrap things up for the break.

If you suffered trauma as a child, or find trauma you have suffered is exacerbated by family get togethers are Christmas, then the busyness has that added layer of stress on top of it.

How do you manage the stress of getting everything done and surviving either family get togethers or a time when you may in the past have had family get togethers?

If you subscribe to my newsletter, the December newsletter (out soon) has some ideas. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

In the meantime, one of the most important things to do is to be able to find the “calm in the middle of the storm”. When you can stop the escalating stress and come back to a place of calm, it is much easier to cope with the stress of the season. Although any opportunity to get yourself into a calm place is helpful, returning to that place of calm a number of times before Christmas will help you to cope better than just a one off calming.

Here is what to do:

1.Stop.
Stop what you are doing. Sit down in a comfortable position, close your eyes and take a few   deep breaths into your tummy.
Just breathe in and out slowly.
As you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out all the stresses and tension in your body.
As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in calm and peace.
After a few breaths in and out you may like to put your hands over your heart. As you continue breathing in and out, tell yourself it is okay. You are doing a wonderful job. Life is busy but you can rest for a few moments. It will all be okay. You may like to tell yourself how much you appreciate all your hard work. You may like to offer words of comfort and love to yourself. Don’t be worried about doing it, you need and you deserve it.
You may like to imagine you are sitting somewhere relaxing and peaceful.
Sit with this lovely vision as you pour support and comfort into your heart.
When you are ready, open your eyes and come back to the rest of your day.

2. Get some sleep.
No matter how busy you are, go to bed at a reasonable hour. If you are finding yourself staying up to finish off something and feeling stressed about it. Stop. Put what you are doing away and go to bed. It will still be there in the morning but you will feel a lot less stressed about it.
Pay attention to your emotions. Don’t push them aside in the busyness. Allow them to be and allow yourself the time to feel them.
Turn off the TV, computer and phone so that you can get a break from them, even for a short while.
Don’t rush your meals. Take the time to eat slowly and pay attention to what you are eating.

3.Rethink your Christmas.
If family get togethers cause you terrible stress and feel more like attending your own funeral than something enjoyable, maybe it is time to rethink what you are doing at Christmas. There is still time to make other plans. If you feel you can’t avoid the dreaded family get together then seek counselling now to prepare for this time, and continue the counselling after Christmas so you may be more prepared for next year.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with anything I have raised in this blog, 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

Do we need to know there is a time for everything?

As Christmas approaches, we are in a time of busyness, gift buying and giving, parties and a time when all the advertisements say we will be together with loved ones.

This reminds me the following:

   There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

   a time to be born and a time to die,

   a time to plant and a time to uproot,

   a time to kill and a time to heal,

   a time to tear down and a time to build,

   a time to weep and a time to laugh,

   a time to mourn and a time to dance,

   a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

   a time to search and a time to give up,

   a time to keep and a time to throw away,

   a time to tear and a time to mend,

   a time to be silent and a time to speak,

   a time to love and a time to hate,

   a time for war and a time for peace.

These words were made famous by the Byrds in 1965. Their hit single popularised the words of the Bible found in Ecclesiastes 3.

It is true.

There is a time for everything.

There is a time to die and there is a time to weep and mourn.

I wonder, does it bring comfort to know that?

Most people tell me it is not helpful at the time of grieving a loss.

Later, when time and distance have softened the pain slightly, they say it is helpful to consider that.

The trouble with these words is they are very analytical. Very black and white.

We will never be done with mourning. But in time, we may find the space to fit other activities in and to be more philosophical about the seasons of our lives.

So on the one hand the words give comfort by reminding us that today we may mourn, but maybe tomorrow we will feel like dancing. And on the other hand they seem to trivialise the impact of grief.

To tell someone who is grieving that there is a time for everything and this is their “time to mourn” is to communicate to that person they have no right to grieve. Such a statement closes the lines of communication that need to remain open so the grieving person can feel able to talk when they need to. After all, we do not know when another person is ready to mourn less and be part of other activities more. Sadly, people are often told not long after the funeral that it is time to move on. I can’t understand how anyone could think you could get over the death of a loved one so quickly!

So yes, there is a time for everything. But telling someone there is a time to mourn is not helpful. But it would be okay if the grieving person came to that conclusion themselves.

Do you like what you see in the mirror?

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Do you see someone you love? Yourself.

Are you able to look in your eyes?

Or do you see your abuser, who shares some physical characteristics with you?

Or do you see someone shameful?

Or do you see someone you despise?

Or do you see someone who is not beautiful enough?

For the person who has had a traumatic past, looking in the mirror can be extremely unpleasant.

You may find yourself looking into your abuser’s eyes, or see the set of their mouth, and be frightened. Or you may see any other physical characteristics you have in common with them that lead you to think you are looking at them.

You may see someone with a lot of faults. You may look in the mirror and see the things your abuser has said about your shortcomings. Your deficits. The things that make you unlovely.

If you see someone with faults, how can you look in the mirror and love, or even like, what you see?

If you look in your eyes, do you turn away from that gaze? Do you feel uncomfortable making eye contact with yourself?

Does eye contact feel threatening?

Does it feel shameful?

If you have suffered abuse in the past, particularly in childhood, it can be really difficult to look at yourself in the mirror.

Some of that difficulty stems from a belief that you are a defective, or shameful, person.

Some can stem from the difficulty of looking in the mirror and seeing features you share in common with your abuser. In that case looking at yourself can feel like your abuser is looking at you. No surprise then that looking at yourself can be frightening.

If your abuser used to make eye contact to intimidate or frighten you, then eye contact with yourself can trigger those feelings of fear and intimidation.

So what can you do about it?

The best way to resolve this problem is to resolve the issues around the abuse you suffered.

Doing that often involves counselling from a trained trauma counsellor who can help you claim yourself as worthy of seeing in the mirror.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your difficulty looking in the mirror, 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

When will grief be over?

It is a common feature of humans that we want to rush through our pain.

That is not surprising. Pain hurts. Why would we want to experience pain any longer than we need to?

When it is physical pain we are suffering from, we take pain killers.

When it is emotional pain the pain killers we take vary. We may deny there is a problem. We may seek to escape by diverting ourselves with other activities. We may take alcohol or drugs. We may engage in other addictions.

All the things we do to remove our emotional pain are ultimately unsuccessful. There is no way to fast forward through the emotional pain we feel.

Our escapism only serves to prolong the pain.

The reality is we need to work through the emotional pain.

We need to acknowledge it.

We need to allow ourselves to hurt.

We need to be kind to ourselves in our hurt.

We need to pay attention to the hurt.

What is it telling you?

What can you learn about your self in this hurt?

What meaning can you ultimately give to this hurt?

I see many people who want to rush through their grief. I don’t blame them. It hurts. But I know that they need to learn to be okay with sitting with the pain.

Marg came to see me after the death of her daughter. She had been ill for most of her childhood and died just as her teenage years were starting.

At first Marg was terribly lost. This was her only child. The only person she had in the world. She was so totally alone. How could she cope? She just wanted the pain to be gone.

Through the counselling sessions Marg summoned the courage to face her pain.

She explored the experiences of others through reading books and searching online.

She started to feel more hopeful of surviving this.

Finally, she met up with her daughter’s friends. She sat with them while they talked about her daughter and all the things they did together. As she sat, she met the daughter these young teenagers knew and loved.

As she met that teenager, she realised her daughter was a whole person that many people missed.

She found a bond with these young people.

She realised that bond would always be there and that was important to her.

She discovered that, although there would be many painful times ahead, she also had peace with her daughter’s death.

In the presence of her daughter’s community of friends she found the meaning she had been seeking.

What Marg discovered was that her pain was not going to go quickly, but she could learn, grow and ultimately find peace by allowing it to be there. And she learned that was an important place to be.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and learning to not rush through the pain, 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