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.

5 things that I like about myself

Can you think of five things you like about yourself?

This is something people often find hard to do.

Ask people to list the things they hate about themselves and a lengthy list will often be the result.

Why is it so hard to find things to like about yourself but so easy to find the things you hate about yourself?

Part of this problem is our culture. We are taught not to talk about the things we are good at. To talk about those things is seen as immodest and boastful. To be boastful is to be really bad. So you feel you can’t talk about what you are good at without feeling shame at speaking of it. There is a difference between being honest about what you do well and being boastful. It is okay to admit to something you do well in the right context in a conversation. The obvious time for that is a job interview. Another good example is when someone pays you a compliment. Maybe another person comments on how the colour of your clothes suits you, or that your hair is lovely. The fearful response is to make a disparaging response to that. Like the “this old thing” response. Of course that is quite a rejection of the other person. The healthy response is to say “thank you”, or “I love this colour” Being boastful would be dominating a conversation talking about your prowess at something at length when it is not the right time to discuss that.

Another part of the problem is that many people are so used to seeing their faults, they cannot see their good points.

One thing I do with clients who have difficulty with positive self worth is to ask them to fill in the list of their good points.

Here is a challenge. Can you list five things you like about yourself?

 

The 8 ‘C’s of self-harm

There is a lot of misunderstanding about self-harm. It is frequently linked with suicide, although not all people who self-harm feel suicidal or take action to end their lives. It is however always a good idea if you ever become aware of someone you care for who self-harms to ask them if they feel like killing themselves. But remember, their answer may be no. So what is self-harm about? This is what the ‘C’s are about:

Coping and crisis intervention

If you talk to someone who self-harms they will tell you they self-harm as a way of coping in life’s crisis events. A good example is of a young woman who is out walking. A child walking in the opposite direction bumps into her. This triggers feelings of “why am I always picked on”, “Why do people always hurt me”. These are out of proportion to what has happened, but links to past experiences that were more traumatising have been triggered. The young woman starts to feel angry at the unfairness of life, while at the same time feeling powerless. These feelings lead her to feel anxious and unsafe. Her response to that is the dissociate herself from the feelings and she feels numb and out of it. Now she feels no pain. She self-harms and doesn’t feel it, but her body does and her brain releases endorphins, our natural pain killer. The endorphins act to reduce her feelings of anxiety. So she feels better. This is the first ‘C’ of self-harm – self harming to feel better.

Calming and comforting

In the example above, the young woman found cutting herself was calming and comforting. This is often referred to as self-soothing. Self-soothing is something a child learns from being comforted by its parents. A child who does not have that comfort will not learn to self-soothe. Self-harm is a coping strategy that is used to calm and comfort. It is highly effective as a tool for calming, but it is a tool that is harmful in other ways. A person who self-harms needs to learn other calming strategies. That takes time.

Control

Another aspect of self-harm is the feeling of control. For someone whose life has been one of powerlessness and limited control, self-harm can be a way to feel in control. Another aim of therapy is to help the person so feel empowered and in control so that self-harm can be replaced as a strategy.

Cleansing

For some people, self-harm is a punishment for things they think they have done wrong in the past. In those circumstances, self-harm can feel very cleansing, as though their guilt and shame is being expunged by the act of self-harm.

Confirmation of existence

Many who self-harm will report they feel alive when they self-harm. It is a way to turn off the numbness. Some who cut themselves and draw blood say that they know they are alive when they see the blood flowing. When life has been traumatic, the person often dissociates from reality and self-harm brings them back. It helps the person feel more alive and connected to others.

Creating comfortable numbness

For others, the self-harm makes them feel numb. They report that is a good place to be because they do not have to feel any unpleasant feelings but instead can retreat into a place where feelings cannot be felt.

Chastisement

Chastisement is similar to cleansing, but it is more about things happening in the present. A boy desperate to get top marks in his exams may self-harm as punishment for not working hard enough to get top marks.

Communication.

Although the person who self-harms hides what they have done, it is a form of communication. The marks say “I need help”. Because they are hidden, they are not often seen. It takes a lot of trust in a person for one who self-harms to show what they have been doing. For the person themself, the wound of self-harm is visible evidence of the pain they are feeling. Having a physical injury makes it okay to have pain. Should anyone else see the wounds, then the pain can be witnessed by others. For people who have suffered abuse in childhood, the wounds become a narrative of the abuse they suffered. For many children suffering abuse, the abuse is kept quiet and the child can be punished for speaking about it. In this case the wound is a way to speak of the abuse without saying anything.

Most people who self-harm seek to hide what they are doing. They may not be willing to let anyone know what is going on. It takes a lot of courage for a self-harmer to let another person know what is happening. Some of the things that prevent people from revealing their self-harm are:

  • feelings of embarrassment and guilt;
  • being frightened of how their parents or the person they have told will react;
  • not knowing their parents to know and being frightened the person they tell will not maintain confidentiality;
  • fear that they will be judged negatively and labelled negatively;
  • fear that their parents will not be able to afford counselling;
  • a negative experience with seeking help in the past;
  • now knowing what support is available for them;
  • not perceiving what they are doing as being dangerous.

The job of counsellor is not to judge the person who self-harms or force them to stop. People will stop self-harming when they are ready to. What I can do as a counsellor is help my client to learn new coping behaviours to use instead of self-harm. One approach is to teach my clients self-harm is a form of communication and offer other ways to communicate such as art, poetry, story writing or journaling.

The release of endorphins is an important way people who self-harm soothe themselves. There are many safe ways to release endorphins and I will help my clients explore those safe ways and learn how to replace self-harm with a safer way.

I will also teach my clients alternative ways to self-soothe that are not harmful.

These three things form the acronym CARESS (Communicate Alternatively, Release Endorphins, Self-Soothe). Once my client has identified other strategies to use I encourage them to use CARESS whenever the urge to self-harm arises, before self-harming. In other words, they are to try a different form of communication, such as painting, then release endorphins, for example by taking a brisk walk, then self-soothe by movement such as rocking or calling a friend.

Over time, clients learn to use different strategies to deal with the 8 ‘C’s and learn how not to self-harm.

I want to acknowledge Lisa Ferentz from whom I learned the CARESS approach to working with self-harm.

6 plus 3 equals 9

So does 8 plus 1, and 7 plus 2, and 5 plus 4.

There are many different ways to get 9.

My point?

In life there are many different ways to do things. Often we have a set idea of how to achieve something but others have their own ideas. That does not make your idea wrong and it does not make the idea of others wrong.

Similarly, you have your own opinions on things, and others have theirs. That does not make your opinion wrong, or the opinion of others.

In life there is a lot of diversity.

There is also diversity in abilities and in the way our brains work. You may have heard the terms neurotypical and neurodiversity being used. In a world where an increasing number of people are being diagnosed with autism those terms are becoming more common. Neurotypical is used to describe people whose brains are considered to work in a ‘normal’ way. That would be the majority of people. But it is becoming increasingly clear there are different ways for people’s brains to work and this is what the term neurodiversity refers to.

There are not really that many more people with autism than in previous generations. There are just more being diagnosed. Early autism research was first published in the 1940s. This research studied groups of people who had been well known for generations. There were two research papers. One by Leo Kanner in America was research on people who were non verbal and had limited functioning. The other research paper was by Hans Asperger and was published in Austria during World War II. This paper was in German and was only known in the rest of the world in the 1980s. Asperger studied those people who functioned in society very well but had different ways of thinking and behaving. These are the people described as having Aspergers. Nowadays they would be referred to as people with Autism but who have a high level of functioning.

Because of the difficulty with communication of those who were non verbal, and the difficulty coping with academic assessments based on neurotypical people, many people with Autism were diagnosed as learning impaired and considered to be less intelligent than others. What is now known is that many on the Autism Spectrum are actually more intelligent than others and with support can achieve academically.

Children with Autism require support to help them achieve in a neurotypical world. There are those who argue that those children are a drain on the economy because of the amount of money it is perceived is spent on them, but it is important to remember that many other children need support as well. And they receive it. It is increasingly difficult for children to manage in this world. As a society we should be alert to the needs of all children and seek to meet them.

We should always remember that there is more than one way to get 9 as an answer and there is more than one way for a person to be a contributing member of society.

I have a lot of experience with autism and last year conducted research into the experience of parents whose adult children were diagnosed with autism in adulthood. I have a personal interest in this, my own daughter was diagnosed at age 25 with autism. So I have experienced some of the ups and downs described by other parents. I have found that I work with a lot of parents who have a child with autism. One thing my research participants and the other parents I see all say is that other people “don’t get it”. For this reason I am diversifying my practice to include support for parents in that situation because there is a great need for that level of support.

I will be writing blogs on the subject of autism in the coming months.

In the meantime, if you are a parent of a child, or other person you are close to, with autism and you want support, please ring me to make an appointment on 0409396608.

Why you should forgive yourself.

There will always be times in our lives when feel we have done something wrong and seek forgiveness because that is what we think we need. Certainly being forgiven by the person we seek forgiveness from allows us to feel unburdened. We feel we have done something wrong. And that may be something we have really done wrong, or something we think we have done wrong. These wrongs possess energy that is negative and ties us into the relationship with the person we believe we have wronged. Every person we feel we have wronged is energy we carry that ties us to that person. Imagine all those ties for all the people we feel we need forgiveness from. We get so many they get very tangled. They impact on our relationships and carry over into all aspects of our lives.

At the core of this energy and the ties accompanying it is the belief that this can only be released through being forgiven by the other person. That is all and good, but if we give the other person the power to give us forgiveness we lose our own opportunity to reclaim our worth and goodness.

Forgiveness for our wrongs lies with us. We have to forgive ourselves for failing to be perfect, for hurting someone else, for saying the wrong thing, for what we have done that we judge is not perfect.

When you are caught up in feeling bad about what you feel you have done to another person you need to let it go and move on. Letting it go and moving on means forgiving yourself.

Below are the five reasons you should seek your own forgiveness.

1.The other person may not forgive you.

It may be that the guilt and shame you are carrying is so far into the past that you are no longer in contact with the person whose forgiveness you seek. Or they may not want to forgive you for whatever reason. It is you that needs to forgive you, not the other person.

2. If you don’t forgive yourself then how will you keep going?

There is never just one incident in life that we seek forgiveness over. There are always multiple ones. Imagine carrying all that pain and unforgiveness for the rest of your life. It would be like carrying a ton weight around with you. Release it so that you can get on with your life.

3. You can’t forgive others if you can’t forgive yourself.

It is a valid lesson to consider that if you cannot forgive yourself, you will never be able to forgive others. It is important to accept that we all make mistakes. Mistakes are a great learning opportunity. So instead of beating yourself up about mistakes you have made, treat yourself with compassion and forgive yourself. Once you have learned to give this to yourself, you can give it to others.

4. The shame of the past can only be transformed through forgiveness.

Much of unforgiveness is tied up in shame at your own behaviour. Shame impacts on your behaviour and can lead to you hurting people even more as you react angrily in response to your own shame. Approach that shame with compassion and release it.

5. To accept and value yourself you must embrace both virtues and flaws.

Compassion for yourself means you accept you do good things and also things that are not good. You are not perfect. No one is. You will make mistakes in life and you will cause hurt to others. Your mistakes are not you, they are just mistakes. Acknowledge you are not perfect. Give yourself compassionate acceptance and choose how you will live your life.

There are some things you can do to reduce the hurt you cause others:

  • Learn to practice conscious living. This means paying attention to what is going on around you. It means stopping to think about what may be going on for another person. It means listening to others. When you do that you are less likely to inadvertently hurt others. So often, we hurt others because we are ignorant of their situation or we do not understand their situation enough to have empathy for them. If we don’t stop and pay attention to what is happening to another person, then we will be more likely to be harsh with them and do something to hurt them. In the process you will also become a better friend and colleague, because you will be more likely to notice the difficulties others are facing and act with compassion.
  • When you do something to hurt another person, or make a mistake, accept what you have done. Don’t try to deny what you have done. Also don’t seek to justify your actions or put the blame on someone else. Take responsibility for your actions. It may not seem that way, but this has a positive outcome. Taking responsibility for your actions is very empowering. It allows you to feel more in control of your life. It won’t necessarily prevent things happening to you, but it will guide your effective response to them. When things happen, you will feel better able to make calm, effective decisions on how to act.
  • When you take responsibility for your actions you will notice that the sky doesn’t fall on your head! People are a lot more understanding of someone who admits what they did than you may think. Yes, doing the wrong thing often hurts. Ouch, that hurt. Acknowledge that and allow yourself to feel the pain and heal from it. Forgiving yourself is an important step to take to allow that pain to heal.
  • Increase your self awareness of your emotions and do not be afraid of them. Be willing to admit when you feel anger, or resentment, or sadness or any other feelings. So often those feelings are the ones that cause you to react defensively and cause hurt to others. Don’t allow that to happen. Be aware the feelings have come and learn how to respond to them so that you don’t react defensively.
  • Mindfulness is a wonderful thing to learn to allow yourself to become more self aware and better able to put those emotions aside and not react to them.
  • Do remember that you will slip up every so often. And when that happens don’t judge yourself or expect yourself to be perfect. Forgive yourself your human weaknesses.

So often we feel we do not have the power to stand up to the things life presents to us. We hide that fear by trying to be perfect, using that as a defensive strategy. That makes it hard because it reduces our ability to ask for help when we need it.

Some people hide under perfectionism, feeling unworthy of love or good things. They judge themselves harshly and feel very bad about themselves. They can seek to protect themselves by being harsh and judgmental towards others. The trouble is, if you judge others then you also judge yourself. It is not possible to be understanding towards yourself and judgmental to others. If you judge others you will judge yourself. If you forgive yourself, you will forgive others.

Another problem that can be faced on the journey of learning self compassion and self forgiveness is the knowledge that there are people that do not like you. That is such a terrible rejection. It is part of our nature to feel shame when we are rejected. Sometimes that shame is tied up in memories of past times we have done things we regret. It is important when on this journey to acknowledge that bad things you have done in the past and apply forgiveness and compassion to them. These shameful aspects of ourselves, when we were not perfect, were referred to by Carl Jung as our shadow side. We are frightened of our shadow side because it does not match what we want to believe about ourselves as good people. The shadow side is scary and imperfect. It is full of remorse and shame.

Remorse is not a problem, but shame is. Shame says I am a bad person. I can’t do anything right. I am awful. Remorse says I wish I hadn’t done that. What can I change to reduce my chances of doing that again? Remorse acknowledges it happened and moves forward to change responses in the future. It accepts we are human. Shame tries to halt our progress. Remorse is a positive sign our level of awareness is increasing and we are growing into the person we want to be. Remorse brings with it its companions of compassion and forgiveness. It allows us to accept our human failings, take a deep cleansing breath and let go of the past. From that point we can step forward.

This can be summed up as acknowledge, forgive and start anew. Remember, the path to forgiveness is not an instant one. We will have to keep revisiting it, whether it is about forgiving ourselves or forgiving others. You will occasionally remember those shameful things, but with self compassion and a commitment to forgiveness, you will be able to move forward. You will find that remembering will happen less and less until a time comes when you rarely remember, if at all.

Four things you cannot control and four things you can

One of the most stressful things in life is trying to control things you have no control over. It can leave you feeling powerless. Below are the four major ones. Do you recognise any of them in your own life?

1. You cannot control what other people choose to think.

It is hard when people think badly of you, when they judge you, or when they say nasty things about you. It hurts when that happens. But you cannot stop other people doing that.

2. You cannot control what other people choose to feel

You have worked hard to consider others when planning an event. Then some people are upset about the way you planned it. You make a decision and others are unhappy with that decision. All you want to do is make someone happy and you try so hard to do what you think will make them happy. You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to do things that others will be happy about. But there is no guarantee they will like what you have done. And it is quite likely you will not be happy with the decision either. You cannot make other people happy or sad. Only they can do that.

3. You cannot control what other people choose to do.

You try hard to get someone to do what will be easier for you, but they choose to do something that makes things harder for you. You try to help a friend stay out of trouble, but they do what they want anyway. You cannot control the decisions other people make.

4. If you attempt to do any of the above, or any combination, you will feel inadequate, frustrated, angry and depressed.

This one speaks for itself. In my workshops I often have a warm up exercise where a participant is given a ball and a scenario. A common one I use with people who have children is about your adult child making a bad decision. I nominate other participants to represent various people involved in the scenario. The participant is then asked to throw the ball to the person who is responsible for the decision. Frequently, the participant will hold onto the ball and not pass it on.

This is a classic thing we all tend to do. It is that belief that we are responsible for others. That we can control others. And when we fail we feel that we should have tried harder, or are angry that person didn’t do what we wanted.

So what do you do? You focus your attention on what you can control. Below are four things you DO have control over:

1. What you think.

Instead of trying to control what others think, focus instead on what you are thinking. Accept you cannot control what others think and accept that. Life is a lot less stressful when you focus on your own thinking and accept others will likely think quite differently. And that that is okay.

2. What you feel.

You may not be able to control what other people feel, but you can control what you feel. Again, accept others will feel what they want to and focus on what you feel.

3. What you do.

Controlling other people’s actions without resorting to abusive behaviour is not possible. You need to accept that. Instead focus on what you can do and accept others will do their own thing. If what someone else is doing has an impact on you then you can respectfully negotiate with the other person and seek to come to a mutual decision on what you will both do.

4. How you choose to respond to what others directly express and do.

You cannot control how another person responds to you, but you can respond to what is done to you. You do not have to engage with someone whose behaviour you don’t like. That is a wonderful thing to remember.

So with the ability to control what you think, feel, do and how you respond you have a lot of control in your own life. What a wonderful feeling to have that power.

When life prevents you from getting on with what you think you should be doing.

We have all been there. We set out with wonderful plans to achieve an incredible amount of work. Maybe it is in our job. Maybe it is at home. Maybe it is with study. Maybe it is with family. Maybe it is with friends. There are no shortage of areas in our life where we feel we need to be achieving.

However, life frequently gets in the way and we struggle to achieve our goals. Or we are prevented completely from achieving them. So what do you do when that happens? Maybe you get angry with yourself for failing to ‘work hard enough’. Maybe you push yourself harder and feel dispirited when that fails to achieve your goals. Maybe you feel ashamed because you ‘haven’t tried hard enough’ or you have ‘let the family down’. Maybe you lost motivation. There are myriad ways you can be affected.

So what do you do about it?

Maybe you race to a counsellor to identify the blockages that are preventing you from achieving your goals.

That is not a bad idea, and if you came to me I would certainly explore that with you. But what if not being able to achieve your goals is actually the right thing to be doing now?

When I see someone struggling to achieve goals that just aren’t happening, I also look at how to cope with the ‘not now’ of goal achievement.

Not now encompasses many things.

First, it may be that the timing is wrong. You need to achieve this work at another time.

Or it may be the goals are not your goals, but are imposed by the expectations of others.

It may be impossible to achieve these goals because the life circumstances currently affecting you are too great to allow those goals to be completed.

There are many other possibilities.

So if you come to see me we will also explore the possibilities of ‘not now’ and how you can live with that and accept it.

And when the time is right for you to pursue those goals, then I can assist you to devise a plan of action to achieve them.

 

What are counsellors and is there any benefit in seeing one?

Who are counsellors?

There are no regulations governing who can call themselves a counsellor, so a counsellor could be anyone who wants to put up a sign calling themself a counsellor. However, without proper qualifications, a counsellor cannot get insurance. Without proper qualifications a counsellor cannot belong to a professional organisation. These are all things you need to check with a prospective counsellor.

There are two professional organisations Counsellors can belong to: Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) or Australian Counselling Association (ACA). Both require members to have formal counselling qualifications. Counsellors are also required to undertake a minimum number of professional development training hours each year to maintain currency of their skills. It is important a counsellor has formal counselling qualifications because an untrained person can cause a lot of harm.

I have been a counsellor for 8 years and I have Bachelor and Master degrees in Counselling. I am also a member of PACFA.

Counsellors opted out of the Medicare funded Mental Health Care Plan scheme so you cannot see a counsellor on a Mental Health Care Plan and there are no Medicare rebates. This has led to doctors being more inclined to refer people to Psychologists then Counsellors. This has also led to a perception that Counsellors are inferior to Psychologists. But this is not so. We have different roles.

What is Counselling?

When you come to see a counsellor, and you have identified the person is suitably qualified and a member of a professional organisation, then you can be assured that you are seeing a person who is highly trained in the field of counselling. In fact, our professional organisations and our insurance cover do not allow us to work outside our area of training. So if you have a specific need, and the counsellor has agreed to see you, you can be assured the counsellor is trained in that area.

Counselling is a process where you can make changes in your life. Where you can talk through and make decisions. Where you can change the way you approach the world, think about it, behave or feel. A counsellor is there to help facilitate these processes. Counsellors can also teach you ways to cope with life and all its difficulties. People can come to counsellors for issues that are very complex, such as childhood trauma. A suitably trained counsellor in trauma can help work through those issues.

What about the cost?

Many people don’t realise that there is usually always a gap when seeing another mental health professional. Frequently the money a counsellor charges is similar to that gap amount. So seeing a counsellor is not necessarily expensive.

I see clients who will think nothing of spending $100 or more on an alternative therapist. Some will see clairvoyants and happily pay for that. It is all relative. There are a lot of people we see in life that have to be paid for. It would be nice if all mental health support was low or no charge but sadly that is not how life is. Sometimes it is a case of making the decision to put your mental health first. Remember, what happens with your mental health has an impact on your physical body and therefore on your health. Poor health can cost a lot more than preventative care from a counsellor.

It is important to remember that counsellors have to pay rent and services for their room, professional memberships, continuing education and insurance. As with any other therapist you see, they need to earn enough to pay those costs and make a living wage. This influences how much they charge for sessions. In line with professional policy, you will not often see charges listed on websites, but a counsellor will always tell you if you ask.

What can I expect from sessions?

Your counsellor should:

  • Explain how he/she works.
  • Ask you what you want to achieve from your sessions overall and from this particular session.
  • Be willing to listen to you and check in with you to ensure you have been heard and understood.
  • Leave you feeling heard and understood.
  • Treat you with respect as the expert in your own life.
  • Help you to explore options for moving forward, not tell you what you must do.
  • Maintain professional boundaries, which includes not talking about him/herself unless it is essential to the counselling session.
  • Always treat you as an independent, capable person. The last thing a counsellor wants for you is that you become dependent on him/her. That is not good for you.
  • Discuss with you the treatment plan and gain your assent to follow that. Also to monitor that treatment to ensure it is still the best fit.
  • Maintain confidentiality within explained safety boundaries.

Can I get what I need from my family and friends?

Sometimes you can, but people usually seek counselling because they are not able to get the help they need from their social networks. Remember a counsellor is an objective person, trained to understand human behaviour and how best to assist, who can listen without judgement. You can safely disclose things in a counselling session you may not feel comfortable disclosing to your social networks. What the counsellor provides is a place that is safe and without judgement.

It is important to look after yourself. That can often mean you put yourself first and seek the help you need. If you are struggling with life then you are not able to be the best parent, partner, friend, colleague you want to be.

You are more than welcome to email or phone to make an appointment.

 

Breathe

One thing we all forget to do when we are under extreme stress is to breathe. Yet breathing is the best way to bring ourselves to a point of calmness. When I am stressed there is nothing worse than being told to “take a deep breath” by some well meaning person. I explain to my clients the benefits of breathing and will often read them one of the following two poems that express the difficulty of that breath but also the benefits.

The first one is one I wrote. The second is one written by Daniell Koepke that I added extra lines to:

Breathe.

Breathe
Because to breathe is to live.
Because your body cries out for it.
Because no matter how much you may want it otherwise, your body wants to live.
So breathe.
Breathe even though there is pain.
Breathe even though there is darkness.
Even though the pit is insurmountably deep.
Breathe even when your exhaustion for this life is overwhelming.

Breathe.

Because you have strengths you have forgotten about.
Strengths that will pull you through.
Like a banking engine they wait in a siding to push you over the mountain.
To push you into the light.
To reach the mountain top.
To rejoice with you in victory fought for and won.
Breathe and trust in you.

Breathe.

It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.
Just breathe.
Breathe and remind yourself of all the times in the past you felt this scared.
I know you are in a dark place right now.
Dark.
Where the light cannot penetrate.
I know you wonder how you will get out.
Remember all the times you have felt this anxious and this overwhelmed.
All of the times you have felt this level of pain.
And remind yourself how each time, you made it through.
Life has been hard.
Life has thrown so much at you,
yet despite how difficult things have been, you have survived.
Breathe.
Trust.
You have the strength to survive this too.
It won’t be easy.
It will hurt.
Trust that this struggle is part of the process
and trust that as long as you don’t give up and keep pushing forward,
no matter how hopeless things seem,
you will make it.

 

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