When Shame Blocks You Grieving Properly

Grief is a natural part of life. Ever since humankind was capable of feeling love, we have grieved for the loss of that love.

It is natural for us to cry and reach out to others for comfort. That is considered the way grief has happened for millennia. Part of grief is to allow the putting into the past of our grief.

Shame is a big emotion that causes other emotions, mainly sad ones, to be stuck. When Shame complicates grief you are unable to put grief in the past and it just keeps on in the present.

Grief and Shame Often Appear Together

When I work with people who are grieving I have noticed that grief is often experienced alongside shame.

Grief is designed to help us loosen, release and reach out. Shame has the opposite effect. It causes us to freeze and isolate from others.

Shame leads to endless loops of worry and rehashing the shameful episode. This keeps it in the present instead of the past where you fervently wish it would go.

Grief involves crying and grieving for what has happened and putting that grief in the past.

Grief needs to be worked with in a different way to shame.

Complicated Emotions

Complicated emotions are difficult. They require different approaches and sometimes need to be separated in order to work through them.

This complication is probably why most people dislike complex emotions in themselves or in others.

Interestingly, children have no difficulty managing complicated emotions. It is as if that maturing, and learning to identify our emotions, stops us from being able to work with the different emotions we are likely to feel at any time.

Accepting Complicated Emotions

One of the best approaches to working with complicated emotions is to accept they are there. To accept that they just are.

Shame is one of the emotions we fear the most. One of those reasons is that when shame is present, we can’t process our emotions as we are supposed to. Instead of being processed and moved on quickly, they remain stuck by shame. Emotions are manageable when they are processed quickly, but when they remain unresolved, they become difficult to manage.

Shame does have a purpose. Its purpose is to keep us safe by lowering the intensity of other emotions. This allows us to curb our reactions to emotions such as anger. That is fine if we then later attend to these emotions. But what happens more often is that shame binds with those emotions and they remain.

All those bound emotions makes for one crowded mind. And a mind that struggles to process emotions. And shame creates an endless loop of being trapped in emotions.

Working Through Grief and Shame

Most people who come to see me about their grief have shame caught up in the grief as well. When I work with you, it is important to identify all the emotions you are working through and then separate them all out to deal with them.

If I don’t attend to your shame and help you work through it you will be stuck in your grief. Usually that stuckness is what brings you to me.

Can I Help?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful 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

Focusing on the Emotions of Grief

So many people come to see me because, in the wake of their grief, they can’t handle the swirl of emotions.

It is not just the emotions that they struggle with. It is the belief that there is something wrong with them for having those emotions.

It is heart breaking to see people feeling they can’t express their emotions. Either because someone tells them it is bad to do so, or because other people immediately seek to shut them down.

Like it or not, grieving involves a swinging from the emotions of protest at the death of the one you love and despair that they are not there anymore.

Things that Complicate Grief

Complicating grieving are the security of the relationship you had with the person, and any unresolved issues within that relationship.

By this I mean how secure your relationship felt. Did you feel safe and secure with this person? Or were you constantly battling to feel reassured of the security of the relationship? Were there hurts that you had never had a chance to resolve with that person? It will be hard to grieve for that person while those hurts remain unresolved.

Also relevant is anything that has happened in the past that impacts on the current grief.

Factors that Impact How You Cope With the Emotions Around Grief

A major factor in how you will cope with the emotions is your history of how you regulate emotions. If you find it hard to express your emotions then expressing those around grief are going to be difficult.

If you can’t express your emotions then it is impossible to be able to sit with those emotions, face them and work your way through them.

How Rituals Can Help

Rituals around death can also be helpful. What were you raised to do when someone died?

Some are taught to not show emotions, not talk about the death and feel intense shame if you cry.

Others are taught to cry as part of the ritual around the death of a loved one.

Then there are the rituals where the person is commemorated, maybe you will have “sorry business”, or you may light a candle every day for a prescribed number of days in honour of the person.

The above are just some of the ways rituals are used to mark a person’s death.

All, with the exception of the one where you suppress emotions, are very helpful to those who are grieving.

Learning to Manage the Overwhelming Emotions

When I see a grieving person I look for ways to manage the overwhelming emotions. Ways to process what has happened.

I never look for pathology. Although, if you come to see me and it has been 6 months since your loved one died I will ask you to fill in a questionnaire as an aid to measure your progress while seeing me.

Often all you need in your grief is a companion to walk beside you. Having that companion a grief trained counsellor is really helpful. I won’t pathologise your experience. I will help you to express what is so hard to express. I will ensure you realise how normal your reaction is.

Questions to Consider

As we walk together I will ask you to tell me about the one you lost. Tell me about your relationship. What about the history of their death? How did they die? Did you have to make a decision to turn off life support? Did they choose a medically assisted death? Was their death long and painful? Was their death peaceful?

What was the experience of their death like for you?

Were you present in the moment, or did you push your own feelings aside to support your dying loved one, or other family members.

It can be very easy to get stuck, unable to express your own feelings, when you are in a situation of supporting other people.

Were you isolated at the time of death and its aftermath? Being isolated is very traumatising.

Did you feel unsafe in the situation, with all your emotions swirling around and no one there to support you?

The Goal of Therapy

When you work with me the goal we work to is to help you see the strengths that have carried you this far.

Additionally, when you had to support others at the time, I give you the space and support to make that emotional contact with your own feelings so that you can support yourself now.

Together we can be curious and open to explore your experience and the places you are frightened of visiting. My aim is to help you make contact with yourself again. To give you the chance now you are out of survival mode to experience your feelings.

Visiting that experience will most likely involve a lot of reminiscence about your relationship with your loved one. Reminiscing about the things you did together and the events of the end of their life is also important. It allows you to experience the things you may have pushed aside to support others.

What about the present?

An important aspect of grieving is learning to live in the present.

The one you love still exists in your mind. That is something that needs to be explored. How do they exist to you? In what ways do you still rely on them? Do you have a sense of their presence? Do you imagine they help you when you feel lost and not sure how to proceed?

All this is known as continuing bonds. This is an important part of grief. Forming these bonds is how you form the new relationship with your loved one.

“I have a new life. Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some final resolution, some clear meaning, which it perhaps never finds.” ~ Robert Anderson

Grief is not something you ever “get over”. It lasts for the rest of your life. It just gets easier over time to think about the person. You learn to forge a new relationship that is based on them being dead.

That Can Impact How You Grieve

There are many things that impact on how you grieve.

Grief you have experienced in the past, and the way it was managed, has a deep impact on how you are grieving now.

Trauma in your past will also impact on how you perceive grief and how you are able to regulate your emotions and access support.

Having previously learned to suppress your emotions will make it hard for your to experience them now.

One thing I like to do is to take your back to those final moments for you to experience the feelings you had then. It is helpful for you to experience those feelings in a more receptive way. At the time you would have been barely surviving. Now you are better able to be aware of the experience.

Working on that Moment

Sitting with what you were feeling at those crucial moments in the death of your loved one allows you to experience emotions you had to suppress in order to get through these moments.

Many people will realise they felt great sadness, anger, sadness and longing.

One man told me that at the moment in his life when he was in the worst situation he had ever been in, losing the one he loved, the person he could count on to support him wasn’t there because they were dying.

The person is dying or dead and you don’t want to let them go.

Learning to accept the pain

In time most people are able to live with the horror of their grief. They can learn to accept the pain rather than avoid it. They give themselves permission to cry and not try to hide what they are feeling.

Most people learn to continue a relationship with the one who has died. They may still have conversations with them. Some even write a journal for their loved one of all the things they want to tell them.

It becomes possible to be reminded of the one you lost. You no longer avoid the places that strongly remind you of them. You can remember the good and bad times.

Most importantly, you can accept that you are a different person now. And being that different person is not bad. It is okay.

Can I Help?

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 helpful 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





Trauma Blocking Behaviour

I often write about the impacts of trauma in childhood. I also write about the way our society teaches us to avoid uncomfortable feelings.

Today I want to talk about some behaviours people engage in that are designed to cover up deeply upsetting feelings.

These are:
Excessive use of social media and compulsive mindless scrolling.

    I am not referring to people looking on social media to catch up on what friends have posted. I am referring to people who search and search social media pretty much all the time, even when there is nothing to read. I know we can all do that to a certain extent, but when it becomes every day, all day, then it is a problem and most likely to be a trauma blocking behaviour.

Drinking alcohol to excess, including binge drinking.

    Taking drugs of any type, smoking, vaping are also trauma blocking behaviours. In fact experts in addiction agree that the addictions are caused by trauma.

Excessive and mindless eating, even when not hungry.

    Like alcohol, drugs and smoking this is a behaviour that helps to block trauma.

Compulsive exercising to reach an unattainable goal. Or just exercising compulsively.

    As with other addictions, this behaviour blocks uncomfortable feelings so it is compulsively adopted.

Being frightened of being alone so you stay in toxic relationships, even when you are unhappy or in danger.

    It is the idea of it being better to be in any relationship than none at all. But is it better to be in a terrifying and potentially deadly relationship?

Being frightened of being alone so you constantly surround yourself with people and activities to stop you ever being alone.

    This can also involve manipulative behaviours to ensure you have people around you. And when you are alone, you may well use alcohol, drugs or self harm to suppress the fear.

Feeling unsafe if you have nothing do you so you keep yourself busy with constant projects.

Compulsive shopping, especially online, for things you don’t need and going into debt

Being a workaholic with poor work boundaries so that you end up being available 24/7

I am sure you could add others to that list.

Do you find yourself adopting these behaviours?

If you do, you are not alone.

Do you want to stop using these behaviours, or others like them?

This is where a counsellor can help you learn how to face and heal deeply upsetting feelings.

Can I Help?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful 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

20 things Anger is 6 it isn’t

Anger is feared in our society. From an early-age children are taught that Anger is bad and they are taught to suppress it.

Children are rarely taught how to manage anger effectively. Consequently, many adults run from or push away an angry person instead of taking the time to calm the other person and respectfully seek to understand what the problem is.

An important thing to remember in this is that when confronted by an angry person, if you want to stay calm you will be able to. Anger is only contagious if you allow it to. But if you want to feel angry you will get angry at their behaviour. So managing a situation of anger is very possible.

When anger is approached that way, it is frequently permanently defused and a win win resolution is achieved for both you and the angry person.

What anger isn’t.

The following things are what anger is not:

• Aggression

• Bad

• To be avoided at all costs

• Frightening

• Negative

• Controllable (behaviour can often controlled but not emotion)

What anger is.

If anger isn’t something frightening, negative, bad, aggressive, controllable or to be avoided at all costs then what is it?

Anger is:

• Doubt,

• Guilt,

• Tiredness,

• Confusion,

• Fear,

• Frustration,

• Embarrassment,

• Due to being in pain,

• Feeling overwhelmed,

• Feeling rejected,

• Anxiety,

• Loneliness,

• Disconnection,

• Feeling threatened/unsafe,

• Jealousy,

• Grief,

• Unfairness,

• Helplessness,

• Disappointment,

• Stress.

Emotions are divided into two different types. The first is primary emotions. The second is secondary emotions. Secondary emotions arise from other emotions.

You have probably already guessed from the “anger is” list that anger is a secondary emotion. It arises from other emotions that happen.

If you look at the “anger is” list you will see that all these underlying emotions and feelings are ones that the brain perceives as danger. This activates the body’s defence mechanisms. Anger is part of the body’s defence mechanism of fight or flight. Anger gives the body the push it needs to run away or stand and fight.

(It is important to note that abuse is not anger. It is abuse and needs to be dealt with differently.)

Something to try

Here is something you can try.

Next time you find yourself starting to feel angry be curious. Examine that anger. Where has it come from? What thoughts are you having around that anger? Those thoughts will give you important clues to the source of the anger.

If you can’t identify the thoughts then ask the anger what it needs. The anger will want something, which may be to vent that anger so don’t ask it what it wants. The anger will be needing something, it may be to be understood, or to get out of a situation that feels overwhelming, or to be able to take time out for rest.

Would you like to know more?

If you go to PLC Blog – Plentiful Life Counselling Blog (https://plentifullifecounselling.com.au/wp)
And click on the category Anger (in the left hand column) you will see a number of blogs on the subject.

If anger is something that you fear and you feel you need help with it, then seeking help from a Registered Counsellor is a good idea.

Can I Help?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful 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 didn’t think I had an abusive childhood, but now I realise I did

Do you need other people to validate the things you do?

Do you need the approval of others?

Do you find it hard making decisions for yourself?

Do you find it hard feeling self-reliant?

Do you find it hard to regulate your emotions?

Are you really hard on yourself?

Do you feel you have little or no worth?

Do you do things to numb your emotional pain?

Are you frightened of rejection and abandonment?

Do you feel you are stuck in angry mode?

Do you find it hard to feel joy or peace?

Do you find it hard to get close to other people?

Do you feel lonely and seek out others to compensate for your loneliness?

Do you feel lost, misunderstood or that you don’t fit in and others are judging you for that?

Do you frequently feel anxious or depressed?

Are you frightened of social situations and fear being rejected.

Do you feel others judge you as not being good enough?

Do you feel empowered in your life?

How childhood experiences can impact you as an adult

Did you know that trauma in childhood has a significant impact on your self-worth?

If your sense of safety and belonging in childhood was damaged you are likely to have developed skills to keep you safe in that situation. As you grew up you may never have unlearned those skills, so they trap you in patterns that don’t serve you in adulthood.

Also, poor attachment between your parents and you puts you at risk of suffering from loneliness in adulthood.

Traumatic experiences in your childhood disrupt how you see your self as a person and affect your ability to regulate your emotions. All this impacts on the quality of the interpersonal relationships you have later in life.

My parents didn’t physically or sexually abuse me. I can’t have suffered trauma.

It can be hard to understand you have been traumatised in childhood. The usual picture of trauma is that of being hit or sexually abused. But trauma covers much more than just that. In fact, the worst traumas are emotional and psychological.


Neglect is a trauma that is often overlooked. With neglect the child’s physical and emotional needs are frequently overlooked. It may involve not receiving regular meals, not having clean clothes to wear, not having your emotional needs for comfort and support met. A parent who rarely interacts or shows an interest in you is also neglectful.

Neglectful parents are also unlikely to be there to teach you skills of emotional regulation. They may not teach you how to wash yourself, how often to change your clothes.

It is unlikely a neglectful parent will see you and spend time connecting to you. This is known as attunement. A child who is not seen is a child who is not safe. Not being safe is extremely traumatic.

The clear message in this situation is that you have no worth or value. After all, you are not worth having any time or attention given to you.

Narcissistic Parent

Narcissistic parents are also very destructive of a child’s sense of self-worth.

Such a parent depends on the child to make them feel good. The child gets positive attention when they do things that serve the parent. The trouble is, there are no clear guidelines as to what the child needs to do to serve the parent. Consequently, the child lives life second guessing the parent in order to feel that the parent will care for them and they will be safe.

Narcissistic parents will also often shame their children in front of others. They will expect their child to meet their needs, to do things to make them proud. They will never teach their child any skills that will equip them for adulthood and self-reliance.

Narcissistic parents will often hold the child close to serve their needs. They want the child to stay dependent on them because the child is there to serve their needs and that is why they had them.

One classic example is of a woman who would take her child to school. The child would happily run into the classroom and greet her friends. The mother would call her back and make a fuss of her, stating it was okay for mummy to leave now and she would be okay. The child would go back to her friends and be happily talking with them. Again, the mother would call her back. This would continue until the child’s resolve was broken and she would wail and beg her mother not to leave her.

A narcissistic parent is one of the most destructive types of parent and sentence their children to mental poor health and a dependence on validation from others in adulthood.

Complex PTSD and Borderline personality disorder

These conditions develop because of chronic trauma experienced in childhood. The type of trauma most associated with these conditions is emotional abuse and invalidation. It can happen if you are neglected or have a narcissistic parent. It can also happen from other types of abuse and invalidation.

Sometimes parents are not aware that their behaviour towards their children is invalidating and can be surprised when their child develops this disorder in adulthood.

When a parent is emotionally abusive or invalidating during a child’s early years it impacts on the child’s sense of self and the child can struggle to have a strong sense of self.

You may develop self-defeating attitudes and beliefs around yourself and the trustworthiness of the world.

When raised in such an environment it is also difficult to learn to regulate your emotions. This is often due to your parents being unable to regulate their emotions. How can you teach another person how to regulate their emotions if you can’t do it yourself.

For this reason, I encourage people who had difficult childhoods to seek counselling from a trauma trained professional before having children. Many parents who were emotionally abused as children are determined their own children will never have to go through that. But sometimes things your children do can trigger reactions in you that you can’t control and don’t like doing. If you find raising your children triggers behaviours you struggle to control then seek counselling. Seeking help makes you a good parent.

Unstable and intense relationships

If you find that any type of relationship you have with others tends to be intense and over time unstable then you may be experiencing the impacts of chronic trauma in childhood. Sometimes these relationships happen because you are uncomfortable being alone and seek out anyone who looks willing to be in a relationship with you. This can result in you unconsciously choosing the wrong type of person to have a relationship with.

Sometimes when you are in a relationship you can sabotage it by clinging to the person and unwittingly pushing them away.

I think you are the best, I hate you patterns

Another impact of childhood trauma can be seen in meeting someone new and idealising them. This continues for some time then you start devaluing them and finding things wrong with them.

You are too hard on yourself

One of the saddest impacts of childhood trauma is the lack of self-worth and lack of self-compassion.

It is not surprising that children develop these beliefs. When a parent is abusive, or expects you to jump over hoops to gain their approval, the natural response is to believe this is because you are a bad person. If your parent constantly tells you that you are bad then this belief is reinforced.

The reality is that a child is just a child learning how to live life. There is no inherent badness in a child. Sadly a child doesn’t know that. Shame becomes a big part of the life of an abused child.

Ways to dull the pain

If you never learned how to regulate your emotions, and you believe you are a bad person, then you feel great pain that you don’t know how to soothe.

Many people turn to behaviours that numb the pain. These behaviours may be dangerous. A good example of this is children who steal cars then drive them dangerously at high speed. The risk and dangers inherent in this activity help to suppress their pain.

Other things people do include addictions such as substance abuse, smoking or vaping, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, exercise addiction and eating disorders.

I am lonely

If you don’t feel you are worth anything then you may not feel you are likeable. The result is that you may avoid getting close to others so that they can’t reject you.

Getting close to another person means exposing yourself to the rejection of your parents. If they rejected you, then other people will too.

When you do form relationships with others you may be frightened of expressing your needs or asking for help because your parents failed to meet those needs when you were a child. So you may feel even lonelier because you can’t turn to someone for help.

Many people who suffered trauma in childhood report feeling lonely.

Depression and Anxiety

It is very common for someone traumatised as a child to be anxious. Your childhood was an anxious time of never being sure when you would receive support, or whether you may be abused. Abusers are rarely predictable so hypervigilance was an essential part of childhood.

Hypervigilance leads to anxiety. There is the need to be constantly on your guard because you never know what is going to happen in the next minute. You never know when things will suddenly become dangerous and frightening.

When you grow up and things become safer the fear doesn’t go away because your brain has developed neural pathways that constantly scan for danger. This is why anxiety is a constant companion of the traumatised child.

Depression is another consequence of this type of childhood. Many people report feeling depressed from childhood. The sense of not being good enough, the lack of self-worth, being emotionally worn down with anxiety and fear, the rejection and abandonment of parents and the sense of never being safe all contribute to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless and lead into depression.

I constantly feel on edge

The environment of neglect and emotional abuse is a highly stressful environment. Children in this situation are being impacted regularly by the release of stress hormones in the body. This has an impact on the developing brain and will often result in an adult who is highly sensitive to stress hormones.

The result is that your brain is in a constant state of defending yourself. In other words the fight/flight/freeze response.

It is very difficult to cope with life if your brain is constantly seeing danger and you spend a lot of time with your brain taking over your life and deciding whether you are to fight, run away, or freeze.

When this defence mechanism takes over, your thinking brain switches off. You can’t control your reactions. Sadly, very few people understand this and you may find yourself judged when you get stuck in this defence response.

It is for this reason that it is important to seek counselling from a qualified trauma counsellor.

Can I Help?

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 helpful 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

10 Myths About Anger

Just the word “anger” is enough to evoke fear in people. As a society we fear anger. As children we are taught to fear and avoid anger.

But every person will experience anger occasionally or frequently.

Anger is an emotion that serves an important purpose. This is because Anger is a secondary emotion that always has an underlying primary emotion.

You may be angry because you are afraid, frustrated, sad, or feeling threatened. There are many emotions that can underly anger.

Anger helps you to cope with the underlying emotions. It can help you to take action to protect yourself, to make a decision, to problem solve, to set goals you wish to achieve, to take action to remove threats from your life.

When might anger be a problem?

When the underlying emotions are ones caused by trauma anger can become problematic.

When others fear your anger and try to shut you down, this can escalate your anger and make the situation worse. Sadly this happens often because there is a lot of ignorance and fear around anger.

I watched a receptionist in a doctor surgery try to shut down a client who was calmly expressed his frustration at waiting an hour to see the doctor. Instead of acknowledging how frustrating it was for him, she ignored his words and changed the subject. Not surprisingly the man became angry. The receptionist then branded him as difficult and a problem instead of recognising her contribution to the situation.

This receptionist, like many people, was ignorant about anger and healthy communication.

The role of healthy communication in resolving anger

It is really distressing to see how people’s ignorance about anger and healthy communication causes so much trouble. This is something I am so passionate about that I am currently putting together an on line course on peaceful communication which addresses this issue.

In the interim, what are some of the myths around anger?

Myth 1 Anger is inherited.

That is only true in that we all have the capacity to express anger. It is innate to us as human beings.

We do learn how to approach anger from our parents and those around us growing up but we do not inherit “anger” from our parents.

Myth 2 Anger and aggression are the same thing.

This is one of the reasons people fear anger. Because they believe that anger is aggression. Anger is an emotion. You feel it.

Aggression is a behaviour. Sometimes we become aggressive because we are angry. But at other times we don’t. An angry person is just as likely to use healthy methods of expressing their anger without needing to become aggressive.

Research into aggression that results from anger suggests that there are three factors that cause aggressive anger. These factors are:

• Initiation events, where something has happened to set off anger. This can range from someone being rude to you, being cut off in traffic, or finding out your partner has been having an affair.

• Triggering event, where something impels you to become aggressive. It may be a release of hormones in response to a fight or flight response. It may be a belief that the behaviour you have been subjected too is really wrong and must be defended. It may also be that in our society expects us to react aggressively to the triggering event. An example of that is to hit someone back when they hit you.

• Inhibiting factors, where factors in your life reduce the likelihood of you behaving aggressively. This may be that aggression in this instance is socially unacceptable, or fear of negative consequence, or the opportunity to step away from the situation and take perspective.

Myth 3 Other People Make Me Angry

Other people can be irritating and difficult to ignore, but your behaviour is your responsibility. It is your choice how you are going to respond. Often, walking away from a situation to get some space and perspective is a good way to decide your response. And if you are still angry, that space can give you the opportunity to decide how you will respond to that person in a helpful way.

Myth 4 It is better to let anger out than hold it in.

Although it is true that suppressing anger and ignoring it is harmful, giving in to anger without any control is also harmful.

As I mentioned with Myth 3, it is often better to walk away to give yourself space to process your feelings and decide how you are going to respond to them.

When my youngest son was in Year 1, he had a mentally unwell teacher who decided to teach all the boys in the class to hit pillows when they felt angry. I was angry to learn this. Researchers have found that hitting something when angry sets the person up to react to anger by hitting something every time they are angry. Each time the person hits something the reaction of hitting is reinforced and leads to an expectation that hitting is an acceptable response to anger.

This unwell teacher was teaching the boys in the class unhealthy ways of dealing with anger.

In my anger, I sat down and researched this technique. Then, armed with the information, I made an appointment with the teacher and the principal and sat down and expressed my concerns about this teaching and showed my evidence of its harmful impacts. The result was that the teaching was terminated, the principal realised the teacher needed help and she took time off to attend to her mental health, and a new teacher taught the boys healthy ways to attend to anger.

Holding in anger is problematic but letting it out in an unregulated way is also problematic.

Learn to be curious about your anger. Learn to explore ways you can attend to the problem, if it needs attending to. Allow your anger to guide the way you attend to the problem in a healthy way.

Myth 5 I can get what I want and be respected by using anger, aggression and intimidation.

Although it is true that people, including adults, are frightened of bullies, this doesn’t mean they respect them. It also doesn’t mean you will get what you want by bullying others. Some people may fear a bully, but others will stand up to you. And if an adult uses aggression and intimidation with others they are more likely to face serious criminal charges.

The best way to earn the respect of others and get what you want is to be respectful of others. By communicating with others, which includes listening to them as well as telling them your needs, you are more likely to have an outcome you can be happy with. And you will also be more likely to experience healthy relationships with other people which will feel safer and more comfortable than always having to be alert to use aggression and intimidation.

Myth 6 Anger only affects certain “types” of people.

There are many who believe that people of certain ages, genders, socioeconomic status, education levels, nationalities or religious beliefs are the only ones who become angry. Of course in this belief aggression is seen as being the same thing as anger.

The truth is anger is experienced by everyone. It is an emotion and we all feel emotions.

Sometimes the stressors in your life can make you more likely to act out your anger, but there is no one group of people more likely to experience anger than others.

Myth 7 I can’t control my anger.

This can be a frightening belief.

It is true that sometimes people who have experienced trauma in their past can be triggered to react with behaviours that may include feeling the emotion of anger with sometimes an aggressive expression of that anger.

But it is possible to learn strategies to control the way that anger is expressed. In the short term these strategies can be employed. In the long term working with a counsellor to identify and treat those triggers will be really helpful.

Myth 8 I say what I really mean when I am angry.

Although it is true that when angry people can say things to others without filtering the words they use, it is not necessarily what they actually believe that is spoken. Uncontrolled angry outbursts are more about winning the argument and controlling the situation than speaking the truth. When people express their anger they are usually more likely to say things that are designed to hurt the other person.

Myth 9 It is healthy for me to speak my mind when I am angry.

There is a belief, and a very attractive belief, that if you are upset or angry about something you need to speak out about it. The belief states that if you don’t tell people at the time of the anger inducing incident you will dwell on it and become angrier later. Then you will say worse things than you might have at the time.

The trouble with that belief is that when you are feeling angry you are less likely to be perceiving the situation in a realistic way. You may perceive other people are behaving in uncaring or provocative ways when in fact they are not. You may perceive the words spoken to you as being worse than they might seem when you have calmed down and had a chance to reflect on them.

In myth 4 I related the story of my son being taught by his teacher to punch a pillow when he was angry. I related that I was angry when I learned about this. But what I did with that anger was to make a decision to approach this issue in a productive way. I wanted this faulty teaching to stop. I decided that a more effective way to stop this was to present my case with the teacher and principal. I could have decided to speak my mind, but it would not have led to as successful an outcome as me stepping back and waiting until I was more in control of my emotions.

How many times have you spoken your mind when angry then wished in a calmer moment that you hadn’t said those things?

Myth 10 Men are angry, women are much calmer.

That old myth about boys being made of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails and girls being made of sugar and spice and all things nice!

Everyone gets angry. Everyone expresses their anger.

Men are more likely to express their anger in a more aggressive, acting out way but this is more due to cultural conditioning.

Cultural conditioning has taught women that they must be more constrained. Women are more likely to make comments about things, talk negatively about the other person, or even cut off contact with them. When women do act out in a more aggressive way they are often sanctioned more heavily by society than men because they are behaving in a way that is seen as being culturally inappropriate.

To summarise

When people use the word angry they are often referring to the acting out of anger when people may yell, say hurtful things, become aggressive etc. That is a behaviour that may be exhibited when a person is angry. It is not the totality of anger.

Anger is an emotion that does not necessarily lead to any of those behaviours. Many people who feel angry may absent themselves from a situation and take steps to calm down and explore their anger and what they really want.

Why am I feeling angry?

Maybe you are feeling angry because:

• you felt ignored,

• your hurt or pain was ignored,

• the other person’s behaviour led you to feel you didn’t exist,

• you felt afraid,

• you felt frustrated,

• you were disappointed.

• And so on.

What can I do about my anger?

There are many things you can do. You can seek counselling. Another is to participate in a course on communication and conflict. Later this year I will be releasing a course in Peaceful Communication. If you would like to be notified when that is ready you can subscribe to my newsletter and other communications on http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Can I Help?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful 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

Hanging on to resentment is like cutting off your nose to spite your face

As a Reiki Master I have a daily practice to choose the way I wish to live. This practice is in line with the 5 Reiki Principles.

Number 1 on my list is the choice I make to “release my investment in staying hurt and angry”.

I have observed in my own life and that of others how destructive holding on to that investment in hurt and anger is. It destroys relationships. And it destroys the person holding on to the hurt and anger.

As a counsellor I see how destructive hurt and anger is to the mental health of those holding on to hold on and convert the hurt and anger into resentment.

Anger is not bad, what you do with it can be

Despite all the bad press, anger, when directed the right way, can be constructive.

Anger can be an important signal that there are things in your life you need to attend to. This is where anger is a signal that drives change.

Anger in itself is not wrong. It is the response to anger that can cause harm if it is not a helpful response.

Being frightened of anger is destructive if you run from anger

People are taught to be frightened of anger. When anger is experienced a person will often suppress the anger and flee from it, instead of sitting with it and attending to it.

The problem with suppressing anger is that unexpressed anger becomes resentment. Resentment tends to fester, below the level of conscious awareness, and poison our interactions with others.

The festering wound of resentment

Then resentment develops, the person you were angry with is turned into an evil person. You remember bad things about them and forget all the good things. So the person becomes more and more negative in your mind.

Bearing a grudge against another person is resentment.

Holding on to resentment doesn’t serve you. It can make you bitter and less trusting of others. In time it can destroy a lot of your relationships.

How to release your investment in staying hurt and angry

To let go of your resentment you need to revisit the original event that led to your anger converting to resentment. That is not always easy. When you go back to that original event, you are likely to realise the event was not as bad as you have come to picture it, and that the person you have branded as evil is not as evil as you have come to think of them.

One of the biggest issues with resentment is that you assign blame to the target of your resentment. Yet things are rarely that black and white. It is important to let go of the need to assign blame.

Resentment means you never let go of your hurt and anger

One of the problems with needing to assign blame is that your need to hold the other person responsible for your feelings is doing you great harm.

When you think you are managing to cope with your hurt but are resentful towards the other person you are actually holding on to your hurt and anger. To heal you need to let go of the hurt and anger. To do that, you need to let go of the resentment you feel towards others.

Own your responses

You need to own your response to what originally happened and stop blaming others for how you are feeling now.

What do you need now? Do you need the pain and damage to your mental health of holding on to the resentment? Or do you need to think of yourself and your needs and release the resentment that is harming you?

Releasing your resentment

Performing an activity to release your resentment is really helpful.

You may find it helpful to write your feelings down on a piece of paper and then burn the paper as you announce you are choosing to let go of those feelings.

You may wish to read out what you have written before declaring you intention to let go and burning the paper.

I have an old saucepan that I put paper in when burning it. I never leave the pan until the paper has burned up completely. That way I can be present in watching my feelings dissipate and also maintain safety around the burning paper.

Releasing resentment is about serving you

Resentment is tied to forgiveness. Letting go of resentment is forgiving. Forgiving is not about the other person. It is about you.

If you can find the compassion to release your investment in staying hurt and angry then you have achieved an important step in healing and wholeness.

The benefits of letting go

When you let go of your resentment you will find you are much happier. Life seems brighter and lighter. You have so much more energy to devote to you and your growth as a person. You are better able to focus on the things that matter to you.

When you are resentful, everything in life becomes something to judge. Once you let go of that resentment you will find you have the space to accept yourself and others. You will feel happier and experience more joy.

Releasing resentment and removing the barriers it has built between you and a fulfilling life, opens up your life to receive blessings.

Can I Help?

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

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

The Legacy of Grief

Neuroscientific advances have led to the identification of attachment neural networks in our brains. These networks create bonds with the people in your life.

Grief impacts on many aspects of brain function. From a neuroscientific perspective, grief is the action of the brain to build new networks and dismantle old ones to accommodate the loss of people in you life.

The Impact In Your Life

You recall memories of the person you have lost. So many people report the difficulties of bitter sweet memories.

You used to share information with that person and it helped you gain perspective. It enriched the experiences you shared. Many people tell me they no longer enjoy the things they used to do because the experience of doing something on their own is lacking the perspective of the person they used to do it with.

Grief can leave you feeling no longer in control of your feelings and reactions to things. You may find yourself crying uncontrollably, seemingly unable to stop. You may find yourself feeling angry at anything and unable to stop those feelings. You may find making decisions overwhelming.

Then there is pain. That pain may feel physical but your doctor can find no cause for it. But the experience of physical pain occurs in the same part of the brain as the experience of emotional pain. And your body experiences emotions in various parts of the body. Not surprising then that the strong emotions of grief can cause physical pain.

The Experience of Grief

The pain and confusion are horrible. It is not surprising if you want to run away from them. Equally, you may feel numb and want to do anything to feel something.

All this pain, confusion and numbness can only be managed by moving through it. Eventually the worst of it will over and you will learn to live with what is left.

You are walking a tightrope over the gulf of loss and everlasting memories of that person.

Losing You

Your sense of self is totally disrupted. This is not surprising because you gain your sense of self from your relationships with others. If one who deeply mattered is gone, who are you? You need a new identity.

Identity can be tied with another person in many ways.

  1. The relationship you had with them: partner, parent, child, friend.
  2. Your identity in relationship with that person. Were you a parent and now you are not? Did you care for the person before they died and now they are gong you are not a person who cares for another?
  3. How do you perceive yourself as a parent without a child, or with one less? How do you perceive yourself as a person without parents or a parent? How do you perceive yourself as single? You had a relationship with the person who has died and who you were in that relationship no longer exists.

The Only Way Out

One thing you will eventually discover is that facing grief is the way out of this time of deep grieving.

When you learn to face grief and experience it you will learn how to reorganise yourself and your life to include your grief in it.

What You Can Do

Be gentle, self compassionate and open to seeking help from other people. Don’t turn away those who want to support you. It is okay to occasionally say you need a break from people, but do allow people in when you are able to.

Be willing to learn how to cope. Draw on what you already know and learn new strategies. You may find it beneficial to see a Grief Counsellor to assist you with this.

A Wise Perspective From An Old Woman

I wanted to finish on a wonderful perspective shared with me a long time ago.

A lovely woman who saw me some years ago had experienced much grief during her life. Now in her final years she was coming to terms with the losses of close friends as many came to the end of their lives.

At the end of our sessions together, she reflected on a lifetime of grief and rejoiced that she could remember all the wonder of each relationship and the precious memories she had of those times.

She reflected that at the time each loss was so painful. She had grieved so much for each one. She thought she would never feel better. But she was able to move on with the sweetness of that loss as a precious bitter sweet memory.

Now looking back on her life, she could see how precious each person was and how the relationships had been vital parts of her life. Each relationship had given her life a richness and meaning that far outweighed the pain of losing them. For that she was grateful.

Can I Help?

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

The Myth of Passive Aggressive Behaviour

There is a lot of misinformation about behaviour and its causes in the general community.

This leads to many terrible things being done to people who should be given understanding.

One popular thing to accuse people of is being Passive Aggressive. The label is freely applied to people but there is extremely limited understanding of what passive aggressive behaviour actually is.

The source of the myth

This myth is not helped by the fact that there used to be a “personality disorder” listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This “disorder” labelled Passive Aggressive was dropped 20 years ago.

Despite this no longer being accepted as a disorder, the community persists in applying this label to people. People who exhibit this behaviour have had trauma in their pasts and need understanding, not misguided judgement.

What behaviour you may see in someone labelled as Passive Aggressive

• Often a perfectionist with very high standards of their own behaviour.

• Difficulty identifying what they want.

• Difficulty asking for help.

• Difficulty setting boundaries and saying no.

• Low Self Esteem.

• Sensitive to criticism.

• People pleaser who seeks to accommodate other people’s wants.

• Hates to disappoint people and can become very distressed when think they will.

• Frightened of taking initiative in relationships.

• Finds it hard to say no so will instead say yes but try to communicate no by hints or cancelling at last minute, often in great distress.

• Withdraws when someone is angry with them.

• Doesn’t make feelings, needs and wants known to others.

• Saying no leads to feelings of guilt and great anxiety that have upset other person and that they will be rejected for that.

• Expresses feelings through behaviour rather than words.

• Seek to avoid conflict at all costs.

• Taken advantage of by others.

• Feels like a victim.

• Often unaware of feelings. Can be angry and not aware of it.

• May resort to more subtle behaviours to communicate message such as being sarcastic or even fantasising about getting revenge.

• Often feels resentful.

• Can’t understand why others can’t see their needs. Desperately wants other to see them because it is not safe to express them.

• May sub consciously adopt “unhappy” behaviour as non verbal communication.

• Procrastination, inefficiency, stubborness and sullenness are some behaviours that may be used.

Dispelling the myth: what passive aggressive behaviour is actually about

When a child is unable to express their needs safely they will adopt other ways to communicate their needs. This is not a deliberate thing. It comes about because their brain seeks ways to communicate that are safe.

One way to do this is through non verbal communication.

So you may see “unhappy” behaviour, sullenness, procrastination as behaviours that communicate unhappiness. These are not adopted deliberately.

When it is not safe to express needs openly, then passive aggressive behaviours become a safer way to express those needs. That is why you will notice people dropping hints, or being reluctant to do what you ask, or looking sullen.

Have you been accused of passive aggressive behaviour?

When you have learned it is not safe to express your needs you will frequently feel you do not have the right to have needs. This is why you will struggle to set boundaries and say no.

You will also notice you seek to avoid conflict. But underneath you may feel great distress at the way things are happening.

Internally, you may find it hard to even acknowledge what you are feeling. You may feel you are judged by others for the way you feel. In fact, you are judged because of ignorance about your behaviour.

The pressure cooker of denied needs

You may have learned as a child to push down your feelings. In adulthood you continue to do this. Over time this pushing down creates a pressure cooker situation where your feelings will explode and you may express them in a number of ways. For example by being angry, or bursting into tears, or running away.

How to be less passive aggressive

Ultimately you need to be honest with youself about your feelings and learn to express them more assertively. It is important to be aware that not everyone will accept you being more assertive. When that happens the other person is acting out their own insecurities. This doesn’t make you wrong. But it will feel uncomfortable.

Be honest about your feelings.

Learn to express yourself. This will help prevent misunderstandings, hurt feelings and resentment.

Do you need help?

It is not easy to learn to feel safe expressing your needs. Healing the past and learning to let go of the protective behaviours that kept you safe, but no longer serve you, is hard.

It is particularly hard to do on your own.

This is where counselling can help.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you to learn how to effectively meet your needs 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 Conversation and Journalling Prompts can improve your Communication, Creativity and Self-Awareness as well as Boosting your Mental Health and Well-Being

Soon I will be resuming my live talks in my Facebook Group Plentiful Life Exploration.

Last year I always used some cards I own during the live talks.

The cards are called Deep Speak (by St Luke’s Resources) and aim to respect the right to a voice of all people.

These cards are designed to encourage people to tell their stories, offer opinions and listen to others when they tell their stories.

They also help you to learn more about yourself. This makes them wonderful as journalling prompts and for self reflection.

Today I am going to write my blog with some prompts for you.

If you would like to share your answers you can do so on my page Plentiful Life Counselling, or join my group Plentiful Life Exploration and comment there.


The first question is an opener – to get the conversation started.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I would love to know what your book was.

Mine was Anne of Green Gables. I loved the way this unwanted girl found someone who wanted her and set about learning to be herself and to be able to achieve what she wanted in life. So inspiring.

How about you?


The next question is one about identity. That is such a difficult thing for many people. Here is a question to help you explore who you are.

Do you have a favourite family story?

I would love to know what your story is.

Mine is that my grandfather, as a young 19 year old, had to leave Scotland to find work. He was supposed to sail to Canada where his older brothers were waiting.
But my Grandfather hated the cold. He got to the port and there was a ship sailing to Australia there as well. So he bought his ticket to Australia and got on the boat. Wow! He really hated the cold.

I have always been in awe of his courage to sail to a country where he knew no one and there would be no one to support him. He made a life for himself and survived very well. Such a wonderful role model.


The next question is about relationships.

Have you ever been let down by a friend?

That is a challenging one. It hurts to be let down by someone. Often when you share your story other people judge it as being unimportant. But of course it is.

I would love to know what your story is.

Mine is that I had planned to take a trip with a friend to a new place I had never been before. We were going to stay a few days. I researched what we could do and where we could stay. I was so excited. Then my friend told me she was going to this place with another friend. I was so upset and felt so rejected by this. I never said anything to her but I felt she must have decided she didn’t want to go with me. In reality I suspect she had forgotten we had made this plan. I sometimes think it would have been better if at the time I had said that I thought we were going to go together and that I was disappointed. Instead I distanced myself from her and our relationship was never as close again.


The next question is about values. Values are so important. They guide how you see the world and how you relate to others.

How rich do you want to be?

That is seemingly simple. But many people hold values around wealth and the type of people who hold it.

For me, I want to have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. By comfortable I mean being able to pay my bills and have the odd treat. To not have to lie awake at night worrying about money.


The next question is about emotions. This is a lovely reflective question that allows you to explore who you are and how to regulate your feelings.

How do you control your anger?

I would love he hear how you do that.

Anger is so hard to control. I always try to remember to breathe deeply and slowly so that I can remain in control of my feelings. So often anger involves feeling in danger and needing to defend yourself. When that happens, the rational part of your brain is no longer accessible and it is impossible to control your feelings. Breathing deeply and slowly sends a message to the brain that you are safe. It allows you to be able to think about how you want to respond and allows you to choose a response that is helpful for you and others.


The last question is about beliefs. This is another one that is important for you to understand about yourself and for others to learn about you.

Have you ever had something you’d call a spiritual experience?

I would love to hear from you.

Spiritual experiences cover a large range of things. They can include seeing a wonderful sunset and watching in awe at its beauty. They can include feeling the presence of a loved one who has died.

For me I have experienced both those things.


Learning to explore and share your story, even if it is only with the pages of a journal, is an important way to learn more about you. It helps you to understand why you feel the way you do about things. It helps you to feel able to share stories of the sad things in life, of the traumatic events, of the hurtful things. It helps you to heal, either by yourself or by seeking support from a counsellor.

Learning more about yourself allows you to be more present to what your body is feelings. This allows you to better understand what you are feeling. This skill is important in living life successfully, being able to regulate your emotions and form relationships with other people that are mutually respectful.


Sometimes things that happen in life can make it hard to understand what you are feeling. It can also be hard to feel safe with others and be able to set boundaries that allow you to have comfortable relationships with others.

Sometimes you need help to learn these things and to untangle the difficulties of the past. This is where a counsellor can help you.


If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with being better able to understand what you are feeling and/or healing from your past hurts, 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