Quotes by Carl Jung – To be normal is the ultimate aim of the unsuccessful.

This statement can be a bit confronting. Firstly, what is normal? Normal will vary depending on who you speak to. Secondly, what is wrong with being normal?

Normal is something that is defined by groups of people. In a group of friends there will be one definition of normal. A group of work colleagues will have another definition. A community will have another definition. A different community will have another definition. There may well be an overlap in the definitions but each will be individual and will be influenced by cultural beliefs and people’s experiences.

So what did Jung mean by this statement?

He spoke in his writings about people finding their true self. Once they had found their true self they were to live according to that true self. To live in your true self means to be yourself, which is rarely normal. Normal is conforming to expectations of others. It does not involve being who you truly are.

A lot of people who come to see me are miserable with their lives. They are not living their lives according to what they really want. Instead they are living life according to what other people expect of them. That is certainly a safe way to live. But it is ultimately unsatisfying and leads to depression.

Living a fulfilled life means living life according to your true self. A fulfilled life is seen as being the mark of success. Striving to fit in and be seen as ‘normal’ by your group is the way to live un unfilled life. Therefore, striving to be normal is the way to lead a life that is unsuccessful.

Many people struggle to change the way they live their lives. They stick to practices, jobs, locations they don’t like. Change is too hard, too scary, to try. So they remain stuck in places where they are unhappy. Ultimately it impacts every aspect of their lives.

I frequently coach people through changes in their lives. It can be very helpful to get help to make those changes. If you would like me to help you please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

The metaphor of the butterfly.

Today, during my yoga class, I noticed a butterfly flying inside the room. As I watched it tried to get out. First it fluttered against the glass beside the open door. Someone tried to help it out towards the door but it instead flew up to the ceiling. There it found another window, closed, that it fluttered agitatedly against. Eventually it settled and remained at rest sitting in the window.

The butterfly was a powerful metaphor. First it found itself in a difficult place and tried to find its way out. Well meaning people tried to direct it, but it was frightened by them and it moved in the direction it believed offered freedom. Sadly, that way just trapped it more. Desperately it flew against he window, willing it to open. But it never did. In time the butterfly accepted its fate and rested quietly on the window. Seeing the outside, but not being able to access it.

It reminded me of the times in our lives when we try to find our way out of trouble. We try to find the solution. But in the rush to find it we often go in the wrong direction. At some stage we panic and desperately fight to get out of the trouble we are in. Eventually we accept where we are and calm down. There are two choices at this stage. We can resign ourselves to our difficulties and remain, stuck. Or we can accept our present troubles and calm so that we can gain some perspective and seek a way out.

It is often at the panic stage that people seek counselling. In a session it is possible to discuss your difficulties and gain some perspective, allowing you to calm and gain clarity of vision. Then, with the support of your counsellor, you can work out how to get out.

Some people come to counselling because they are stuck and realise they need help. Others never seek that help.

In our journey through difficulties we often encounter well meaning people who try to show us the way out. They may or may not have the answers. But what they offer isn’t helpful. They also take away our power in the situation, which makes it less likely we will find a way out of the situation.

I wonder, if the woman had left the butterfly alone, if it would have found its way out the door on its own. As it was, it became trapped up near the ceiling, far away from an opening through which it could escape.

So the moral of the story?

If you see someone having a hard time, offer them a supportive ear to hear them. Do not try to solve their problem.

If you are having a hard time, counselling can help you to calm down and find a way out of your difficulty.

Quotes by Karl Jung – Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.

One of the biggest issues people who come to see me report is that of feeling unheard. As a society we are not very good at listening to other people. More people are formulating their response to the person they are with rather than listening to what is being said. In fact there is more talking with than listening to in conversations.

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn, way back when I was learning the skills of counselling, was to just listen to the other person. I found myself trying to answer everything the other person said, but that is not what communication is about. It is about one person telling another about something. Not everything that person says needs a response. If you listen to the other person there will come a point when they will pause, and you do not have to respond to everything that was said. You usually need to respond to what was said just before the pause. If you wait until the other person stops talking they will feel they have been allowed to say what they needed to say.

The next step in listening to another person is to respond in a way that tells the other person you have heard them. Perhaps you might acknowledge what they said. Do resist the temptation to then talk about your experience of this issue, or that of your great aunt, or cousin, or neighbour. This is about the other person, not you.

The next step is to resist the temptation to solve the other person’s problem. If you are concerned the other person may want help then ask them “Do you want help?”. Make sure you honour their answer. If they say no, then just acknowledge what they have gone through and commiserate with them. There is nothing worse than telling someone about something deeply distressing and having the other person immediately go into solution mode. It feels like you have not been heard, and that the other person does not believe you can deal with this problem on your own. Their response can feel patronising. The end result is you do not feel heard.

So the next time you have a conversation with someone, make sure you listen. No rehearsing your answer. No mind wandering. Just listen to what they are telling you. Acknowledge what they have said. Resist the temptation to problem solve for them. Do your bit to help other people feel heard and less lonely.

If you find yourself not being listened to by other people, try someone else and make a note to avoid those who don’t listen to you.

Flipping your Lid

What is flipping your lid? If you search for the ‘hand model of the brain’ by Dan Siegel on YouTube, you will find a video explaining how our brains react to stressful and triggering experiences. The video shows a hand held upright. The wrist represents the spinal cord. The Palm of the hand represents the lower part of the brain, known as the brain stem. This part is responsible for survival functioning of the body. It is where the impulses to regulate your heart rate and tell you to breathe come from. Now put your thumb across the palm of your hand. This is the limbic system. It is responsible for keeping us safe. It monitors our emotions and triggers our fight, flight or freeze response to frightening situations. If you then put your fingers over the top of your thumb and close them to make a fist, you have the thinking part of the brain, the Cortex. This is our conscious brain. It is where we think, reason and perceive the world around us. This part also regulates our lower parts and maintain a balance in our limbic system. But when danger is detected, this information goes first to the limbic system and this area reacts. If the situation becomes extreme enough, this area takes over and puts us into fight, flight or freeze mode. At this time our cortex is “offline”. Dan Siegel refers to it as flipping our lid. When that happens, our cortex can no longer regulate what is happening in the limbic system.

Some of the things the cortex can do are to regulate the part of our nervous system known as the autonomic nervous system. This is all the things in our bodies that we don’t consciously control. It involves the way our body responds to situations. For example, when your body detects danger your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes rapid and shallow. This is to prepare you to flee should you need to. If your cortex can no longer control that system then your body is out of control.

Another thing the cortex can do is to allow you to tune into someone else. By tuning in I mean being aware of the internal experience of another person. Being able to tune into another person allows you to have compassion and empathy for another person. If you lose the ability to tune into others then you lose compassion and empathy.

Your cortex also balances your body between the extremes of rigidity and chaos. If you ‘flip your lid’ you lose the balance and can become either too rigid or too chaotic.

Your cortex also allows you to be flexible in how you respond to things, to be able to calm yourself when afraid and to be able to have social relationships. All these things are affected by ‘flipping your lid’.

It is possible to learn to monitor your body to detect when your cortex is in danger of going off line and to learn strategies to remove yourself from the dangerous situation and calm things down. This is where counselling can be very helpful.

It is very helpful to learn to recognise when you are about to flip your lid. It is also helpful to understand that when you ‘flip your lid’ you lose control over what you are doing and saying. This is helpful for you to have self-compassion when you are back in control. By self-compassion I mean making allowances for the stressful situation you were in and how perfectly understandable your reaction was. We are often great at being compassionate to others but judging ourselves harshly. This is something we need to change.

I frequently work with people to help them to learn how to manage ‘flipping’ their ‘lid’. I also teach people how to develop self-compassion. These are important things to learn in order to manage the difficulties of life.

Controlling your emotions

I often talk about the need to learn to control your emotions. This is best described as responding rather than reacting.

There is a beautiful story that illustrates this:

A long time ago, when men lived by the sword, a wise man lived in a small community far away in the mountains. He lived simply and spent most of his time meditating. Occasionally people came to him for wise advice, which he was willing to give.

One day an arrogant young man came to see him. The man was a warrior and used his brute strength to get what he wanted in life. He came confidently into the place where the wise man sat and strode up to him. The warrior was used to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. He strode towards the wise man and demanded he explain the idea of Heaven and Hell.

The wise man replied: “You are an ill-disciplined bully, why should I answer your question?”

The warrior was angered by this response and drew his sword and screamed to the wise man “I could kill you where you stand!”

The wise man replied, “That is Hell.”

The warrior was shocked by the wise man’s response. He found the wise man’s words calmed him and he put his sword back in its sheath. Then, humbled, he bowed and thanked the wise man for his answer.

The wise man replied, “And that is heaven.”

I love the way that story describes the difference between reacting and responding. We see the impetuous warrior initially react to the wise man. But wise man is calm and speaks without emotion. He responds with a carefully considered response which has the effect of calming the warrior. The contrast between the carefully considered response and the impetuous anger of the warrior is not lost on him. He feels foolish for overreacting and calms down. He then responds humbly. He has learned to respond to another instead of reacting.

The wise man equates hell as the difficult, conflict ridden, stressful life of those who react to situations.

In contrast, the wise man equates heaven as the smooth, peaceful life without conflict of those who choose to respond to situations.

Most of the time we can make a choice to stop and think, then respond. But we are not always capable of such responses. When situations in life trigger old memories, then we can find ourselves only able to react. It is helpful to seek counselling in order to change those triggers. I will explain more about that in the next blog.

This is an area of counselling I specialise in. Why not ring today to make an appointment to see me?

Eight questions to ask yourself before you make a decision.

Making decisions about your life direction are often difficult. There is rarely a clear cut yes or now answer to that. Additionally, deciding to do something will often lead to change, and change can be difficult. Below are eight questions you can ask yourself before you make a decision.

  1. Does this opportunity fit with my strengths?
    Is this something I will be able to do? It is important to bear in mind that you do not have to be competent using your strengths. Competence comes with use. It is enough to know you have the ability to work with this opportunity.
  2. Does this opportunity fit with my skills?
    Skills are different to strengths. Skills are where we have learned to complete a task. Strengths are more about what things we can do well. When taking an opportunity it is helpful to consider whether your skills will allow you to work with that opportunity.
  3. Have my life experiences prepared me for this opportunity?
    Everything you do or experience in life is useful for you in the future. There is always something to learn from life’s experiences and utilising that learning into new opportunities is important. Never underestimate the usefulness of your experiences.
  4. What do people I trust most say about it?
    When in doubt it can be helpful to ask someone you trust. Their answer can guide you, but should not be the sole reason you accept or reject an opportunity.
  5. If I say yes what will it mean saying no to?
    Saying yes to an opportunity means change. Change means there are things you will not be able to do any more. It is important to consider that and decide if you are willing to stop doing some things.
  6. If I say no what will it mean saying yes to?
    While deciding what you will have to stop if you say yes, it is important to also consider what you may be able to do if you say no. Sometimes, the deliberation process around whether to accept an opportunity can reveal areas of your current life that you can change instead. All these options are very useful.
  7. When I look back in 10 years, will this be the story I want to share?
    This one speaks for itself. Considering what your future attitude to this opportunity is can be helpful in deciding what to do. Think about it. If you say no, do you think you will regret that decision in 10 years?
  8. What does my gut instinct say?
    Ultimately, your decision is about what your gut instinct or your body tells you is right. Gut instinct can override the previous steps. It can be difficult in life to listen to your gut instinct. So often in childhood, children are taught to do what they are told and forced to override their inner voice telling them no. Many adults have learned to mistrust their gut instinct. Yet that instinct is your brain telling you things you may not consciously be aware of. Something about your opportunity may be telling your subconscious brain that the situation looks dangerous. Your body may be trying to tell you to say no to the opportunity. But your conscious mind may be telling you all the reasons why you should say yes and to override that reluctance to say yes.

Finally, there are no right or wrong answers in decision making. You may make a decision you believe is the right one and it doesn’t work out. But that is not necessarily a disaster. You have learned from the experience and you will have greater skills and experience to use when making the next decision. Never underestimate the learning power of decisions that didn’t work out well.

Ten Body Safety Rules you can teach your child.

With the increasing knowledge of the extent of child sexual abuse, many parents wonder how they can safeguard their children. The best way to protect your child is to educate them about their bodies and their right to say no. An important follow on from that is that your child learns that everyone’s body should be respected and touching without permission is not acceptable. Your child also learns that No means no. This is important not just in childhood but through the teenage years and into adulthood. Boys learn to respect the bodies of girls and also learn to seek permission. Girls learn they have the right to say no. Children also learn self respect and respect for others.

  1. The first thing to teach your child is the correct names for body parts. This is important for children to be able to feel comfortable about their bodies and also respect their bodies. This allows your child to expect others to respect his or her body as well.
  2. Teach your child the parts of their body that are private body parts. One suggested way is to explain that what is under their swimmers as well as their mouth is private.
  3. Instruct your child that no one can touch their private body parts. Reinforce to them that their body belongs to them.
  4. Explain to your child that they must never touch another person’s private body parts even if an older child or adult asks them to.
  5. Discuss with your child feelings they may have that may tell them they are uncomfortable or frightened in a situation (early warning signs). These may be sweaty palms, a racing heart, feeling sick and many more. Instruct them to always act on these feelings.
  6. Teach your child to shout “STOP” or “NO” with their hand held out if anyone tries to touch them on their private body parts or in any way they do not like.
  7. Teach your child to tell a trusted adult straightaway if they are touched on their private body parts, in any way they do not like or their early warning signs are activated.
    Sadly in this world children are often let down by the very people who are supposed to protect them. This is often referred to as the second trauma of sexual abuse. There is the trauma of the sexual abuse, then the trauma of the trusted adult who fails to support the child. Always take what your child tells you seriously. Do this even though it may be uncomfortable for you to hear it.
  8. Teach your child to not give up if a trusted adult fails to support them or acts as though they do not believe them. Teach your child to keep telling people until someone listens and acts.
  9. Explain to your child that keeping secrets that make them feel uncomfortable or bad is wrong. Teach them to only keep happy surprises. If it makes them feel uncomfortable or bad then they need to tell someone. Advise them they will not get into trouble for telling someone.
  10. Encourage your child to always be strong, to be brave and to ALWAYS speak out.

How to communicate effectively in those important conversations. (Critical Thinking and Communication)

Critical thinking is often seen as something you need to pursue further education, but it is also important in navigating your way through life.
Consider these thinking behaviours that are used to communicate with others.

It is important when communicating with others that you are able to communicate your thoughts and wants clearly. You may need to add more detail to your words to assist the other person to understand. You may need to provide an example of what you want. People will not always automatically what you want and you need to pay attention to making sure the other person understands.

It is important that what you say is accurate. It is more helpful to others if you give accurate information. If the information you give is inaccurate and they know that, you are less likely to achieve what you want from the communication.

Being precise is a good way to ensure the other person understands exactly what you want. Make sure you give enough detail to aid understanding.

Is what you are saying relevant to what you want? Or does it make expressing what you want to unclear so the other person is struggling to understand what you are actually saying or asking?

Depth involves thinking through the way you are going to say something to ensure the other person is able to understand. This allows you to explain any misunderstanding should it arise.

Breadth is about you considering the other person’s point of view and needs. In this way you will be able to acknowledge any difficulties they may encounter in relation to what you are communicating and will also increase your chance of achieving an outcome you are happy with.

As you prepare to say something, consider whether it makes sense. It is hard to understand another person if their words do not make sense. Using too many words or trying to fit too many concepts into what you are saying make understanding of your communication difficult. It is better to present one idea at a time and work through your ideas logically.

It is important to appear fair in what you say. Show through the way you put the words together that you have considered the other person’s needs. Ensure you have considered whether your request is fair and show that through the way you acknowledge the other person’s needs. Indicate a willingness to find a solution that will suit both of you.

Make sure you focus your words on the most important part of the communication. This allows the other person to understand its importance. Too many ideas and the wrong focus can lead to the other person not understanding what you are saying and thinking the focus is something else. So think about what you are going to say and ask yourself which words are the most important and what is the most important thing you want the other person to know.

Eight positive ways to deal with critical people

Nothing is more disheartening than a person who criticises. This is especially so with the person who is constantly finding fault with what you are doing. So how can you deal with them?

  1. Don’t take it personally.
    One way to deal with them is to see what they are saying as being about them, not you. A critical person finds fault with others because they don’t feel good about themself. By turning what they are saying around and seeing it as them wanting to spread some misery because they feel unhappy, it can help you not to be deflated by the negative things they are saying.
  2. Look at the comments objectively.
    Another way to deal with them is to look more objectively at what the person is saying. They may have some valid feedback to give, they are just saying it in a negative way. If you look at what they are saying, with all the emotive language removed, the comments may not be so bad.
  3. See it as honest feedback.
    Another way to deal with the comments objectively is to see them as honest feedback. You can choose to accept or reject the feedback once you have considered it. Another person’s feedback is not always accurate.
  4. Give attention to your inner discomfort.
    Stop to consider the discomfort you are feeling. What is that discomfort about? Do you feel uncomfortable being judged? Is this person undermining your attempt to become confident with what you are doing? Are you wanting the approval of others? Once you understand what the discomfort is about you can then choose an inner response to it.
  5. Don’t ask for opinions if you are not prepared to accept a negative answer.
    Sometimes the critical person gives their critical comments without you requesting them. In that case this one doesn’t apply. Sometimes, however, the critical comment is given after you have asked for feedback on how you are going. In that case, avoid asking a known critical person for a comment. If you are not sure how the person will respond, it is better not to ask. Instead ask someone you know will give helpful, constructive feedback.
  6. Ignore the criticism.
    While we are on the subject of feedback, one thing you can do is choose to see the comment as feedback. Feedback is based on another person’s observations and their thoughts around what they have observed. The other person’s feedback is their opinion, not fact. You can choose whether you accept their opinion, or part of it, as valid or whether you reject their opinion as not valid. If you refuse to accept the opinion, it does not belong to you.
  7. Show the person kindness.
    Often critical people need kindness from other people. It is a bit like the principle of the child who is not getting attention from its parent when it needs it, so it does something naughty to get the attention it needs. Often critical people are just looking for attention, to be noticed. Just as the child considers any attention, even bad attention, is worth it, the critical person sees the attention their criticism attracts, even if it is negative, as worth it. Being kind to them and thanking them for their opinion (while internally rejecting it) will give them the kindness they seek and may put them off being negative to you again. Even if that approach does not stop their critical comments in future, you will feel better for being kind to another person rather than being angry. So do it for you and your sense of well being.
  8. Avoid them.
    If all else fails, and they are really getting you down, then wherever possible avoid them.

Seeing a counsellor can also help. In a counselling session you can explore those vulnerable parts of you that the criticism hurts and learn strategies to deal effectively with the criticism. You can learn strategies to set firm boundaries around critical people as well. Discussing your experience with a counsellor, who is objective, can also help you to see the person’s behaviour more objectively. Being able to share your experience with a counsellor who will listen without judgement is also extremely helpful.

Are you feeling or have you ever felt suicidal?

One of the hardest times in life is when you find yourself in a place where there is so much pain it is hard to go on. That pain can be physical in origin, or it may be emotional in origin. Whatever the source of the pain it is there. And you may find yourself in a place where it hurts so much you don’t know how to go on.

It is hard when you feel life is too hard to go on with. You may reach out for help. If you are lucky the person you reach out to will listen to you and support you. Sadly that is often not the case. Jodie came to see me because, when her family in financial difficulties she had lost her job. She felt she had let her family down and should be contributing to the family rather than being a drain on them. She blamed herself for her job loss. She had reached out to her doctor after she found herself spending her days lying in bed thinking she was useless and only cost her husband and children money. She believed the terrible financial situation her family was in was her fault. She concluded she was better off dead. One part of her felt she should try to get help so she went to her doctor. She told the doctor she was feeling life was too hard and she wanted to kill herself. The doctor put her off by telling her she would discuss this later and then insisted she have blood tests to check her cholesterol levels and check for diabetes. The doctor’s reasoning was that she hadn’t had these tests for a few years and she was due for more. The doctor was not interested in even discussing her suicidal feelings. Two more doctor visits and the doctor never mentioned her suicidal feelings, even when she tried to talk about them to her. Fortunately she came to see me and was able to talk and be heard. Today she is feeling much better and does not spend her days crying and wanting to kill herself.

What was she able to do through counselling? What helped her is listed below.

1. She realised her pain was valid. She came to counselling believing she had no right to be hurting at the terrible turn her life had taken. She came believing the horrible things happening to her family were her fault. She realised first that the pain she was feeling was genuine and very real. It was no surprise she was hurting after losing her job and being so worried about how the family would cope with one less income. When she realised her pain was valid, a lot of the stress she experienced about feeling that way went. She realised it was okay to feel devastated at losing her job. She understood it was okay to hurt and worry about her family finances. She was able to see that it was not her fault. Once she understood these things, it was easier to deal with the pain and talk about it to her family.

2. She realised she was not weak for thinking her family would be better off if she killed herself. What was happening for her was that she was overwhelmed with things in her life and was struggling to cope. She was experiencing a situation that would cause other people great stress. Her reaction was understandable. That helped her feel less alone and less ashamed of talking about her feelings.

3. She realised that she had a right to ask for help and receive it. Feeling suicidal did not mean she had lost the right to get help. Someone in that level of physical pain would not feel they had no right to ask for help. She came to learn that those suffering emotional pain had the right to ask for help as well. Jodie also realised that she felt ashamed at needing to visit a counsellor. She was able to work through those feelings of shame. She learned that asking for help was a strong, healthy thing to do.

4. Jodie had struggled with friends who dismissed her feelings. One told her she was attention seeking. Jodie realised she deserved support from her friends. She made the decision to distance herself from the unsupportive friends and not feel guilty at doing so. She deserved to be supported. A true friend will offer support and love, not lack of support or judgement. She learned that she had two lovely caring friends who were very supportive for her during her healing and continue to support her today. She realised she had a right to expect understanding, support and validation of her pain.

5. Jodie learned she did not need to feel guilty at wanting to kill herself. She realised she had internalised the belief that suicide was a crime and wrong. This had held her back from asking for help initially. Then it had caused her to not want to tell anyone she was seeing a counsellor. After a number of sessions she was able to challenge that belief. With counselling she was able to challenge also the belief she was a burden on her family.

6. Finally Jodie was able to work through the pain she had been feeling and come to the realisation that the pain was temporary. One day she found herself feeling moments of happiness. Another day she found herself coming up with a plan of something to do to help herself and her family. She came to the realisation that she was finding joy in her life again. She felt that was an important learning. She determined that if she felt this much pain again she could know that the pain was only temporary and that she needed to seek help to assist her to work through the pain.