Working With Couples: A Snapshot

During the last few months I seem to be seeing more couples (and a family-which has some similarities) and thought this would make a good topic for my next blog.

When couples attend, they are usually in a fair amount of distress and there is often a sense of urgency about the issues faced. An individual coming to counselling can generally allow themselves time to explore issues and make changes (or not) but for couples’ things have often reached a make or break phase. Which is a shame. I wish couples would attend counselling more as a regular tune up and check in, before problems became major, as a maintenance idea or concept. But I guess we all get busy in our lives, especially once the kids arrive and we just bumble through as best we can. Until things reach a level of unbearable.

So couples often present in a fair level of emotional pain. Or at least one of the couple, and they have managed to drag the other along. At this stage they have had years of developing certain patterns of behaving and responding and these can be difficult to challenge. And I have to say, nothing can change much if both are not on board. These patterns are interactional, never one sided. And of course I am not talking about obvious Domestic Violence or Abuse of power and control (emotional or physical or any other sort), there I do feel the perpetrator has to take full responsibility for their actions. I can’t see a couple if Abuse is present. The perpetrator first needs to address this and the partner has to feel safe, in all ways, before any further meetings are possible.

Of course all couples counselling is about feeling safe enough, for both members of the couple. Safe enough with each other, to explore underneath the hurt and anger and sense of abandonment or betrayal (or what ever painful feelings exist). Safe enough to be vulnerable with each other, to share what is really going on. But this usually does not happen straight away. It actually takes a fair amount of bravery from the couple and this is also where I usually come in. Part of my job is to try to create a safe or safer space for couples to re-connect and share. And of course this is not always possible. Some couples are in too much pain to be able to trust each other, what ever I say or do.

In general our aim together is to “track and explore how emotions direct the couples dance and how the dance then shapes key emotions” (Becoming an Emotionally Focussed Couple Therapist, Susan Johnson, 2005).  By the dance, I mean the negative interactions. And the way I see it is that most of those emotions will have something to do with very basic needs for love and acceptance. Some of the deep needs that have often not been met enough in childhood, so we still look for them from other people, especially our partners. Couples (and not only couples. Most of us do it at times) often state things like “He should be….” Or “ she doesn’t give me…..”. Having expectations that the other will meet their needs, while the only place these can really be met is in yourself and by yourself. So part of couples counselling is about clients learning a level of self-responsibility.

The other part is about tracking the negative interactions and seeing if there is any space for them to be stopped before they escalate. Or if there are different ways to start interacting. Who of the couple generally initiates the conversations that lead to conflict, who addresses the issues, who pursues, who withdraws/becomes silent. Who gets angry? How does it go? Does it lead to a fight and then nothing gets resolved or does it just lead to silence or ignoring with the same outcome?

Of course there are also communication skills that can be improved. So there are lots of bits to couples counselling. Often we also end up exploring the messages they received from parents and society about what being a couple and what love should look like. And then I might start challenging some of these. Are they really true?? Who says so? Does it really fit for them?. Our society and the media especially can give such a fake view of how things “should” be. That forever after love that doesn’t really exist except with a lot of effort and acceptance about what the other cannot provide for us. Those perfect families in the adds-which also don’t really exist.

The last thing I also like to open up for couples is the consideration that unfortunately we live in a world where men do have privilege, and often unknowingly feel that privilege- to expect to still live the way they want to. In my experience it is often (but of course not always )the woman who sacrifices most for the children and the family. And this need to be acknowledged, if this is occurring. Woman always recognise it when I mention it, men often do not. And this makes sense, they have the most to lose if they really see it for what it is (at least it feels like that). But actually both would gain by acknowledging the unspoken, working on more fairness and equality and ultimately feeling closer and more connected.

Also wanting to add: Please check out my new online course- Exploring Couple hood.see full details under groups and under couples services.

International Women’s Day, March 8. World-Wide Synchronised Meditation

All women are invited to join me in my studio in Parkerville (WA) for a sister circle, which will be joining in on this meditation. March 8, 7pm. Please phone me on 0401348213, to get the address and directions! Or email me!

It feels like a powerful thing to do for our world. Women of the world united!Meditating on peace!

My Focus on Working With Women

Recently I have been completing my Business plan and have attended several business workshops. One of the questions they have left me pondering is-what is my main focus in my business? The answer came to me on many levels-it was “Working with Women”, because this is what I love most and find most satisfying. Not meaning I won’t work with men anymore, but just realising my strength is in working with women. Here is some thoughts about this decision and some of the outcomes:

I found it powerful to hear that: The Dalai Lama, when attending the 2009 Peace Summit once said: “The world will be saved by the Western Woman”. I understand he had previously mentioned, that he believes that collectively women are more naturally compassionate and empathetic than men (of course this is generally-and I know there are also compassionate men) and have that to offer to the world.

I’d personally would like this to come true (and see how possible this is), and want to do my bit to help it along-starting here in Western Australia.

In the same summit, it was also mentioned that girls and women represent the greatest untapped resource of the developing world (and I think the developed world too). There is so much we have to offer.

I am a woman and can relate to many issues women face, plus as a counsellor and group facilitator I have worked mainly with women for 20 years or so and have recently decided to put my focus even more on offering support and personal growth/empowerment/exploration of our Inner Goddess opportunities, for women in Australia. As part of this I am going to attend a Women’s circle and workshop on Accessing, Exploring and Nourishing  our Feminine Energy, in Sydney in January 2017. Watch this space as I will post something about this experience after I get back.

My time of working in the arena of Domestic Violence made me very aware that power and control over women is often still rife in Australian society, as it is throughout the world. I was shocked to read in the paper recently that somewhere in the Middle east it had only just been accepted by scientists/academics, that women actually had souls. So had to be considered above life stock and furniture. To be honest I do not remember the details of the article or exactly where it was talking about-but at first it made me laugh with ridiculousness, and then I realised how sad that is. And I desperately hoped it was not true, (but suspected it was, in some areas of our world).

And Domestic Violence and Family Abuse has recently had a lot of publicity thanks to White Ribbon day in November-showing it still rears it’s ugly head here at home. And by that I do not only mean physical violence. Often its emotional and psychological abuse that women report as most damaging to them and their children. These sort of experiences is still something that concerns me and would like to work with women about.

I’m not anti-men. I’ve been married to a man, and still am, for over 30 years. We have a good relationship,but we’ve had to work on it. I’m actually very much FOR good male-female (and that includes same sex relationships where one of the couple identifies more with a female role) relationships based on equal value and respect but with a recognition that we are different and have different energies, and when working together in harmony (using our differences) can work miracles. Like the Yin  and Yang concept. And I truly believe this is where the difference can be made in the world.

I do think it’s time for the western world to stop portraying Equality for women, as women needing to prove they can do it all, in order to be equal to men. I think its seriously killing women, doing the full time job, plus the taking of the main share of the traditional duties-the mothering, the house keeping plus the exercise and looking after how we look, etc. as we are also told we have to fit in to our day. I see too many exhausted women. It worries me. Plus it also leaves women no time or energy to put into extra things they might like to-like saving our planet from greedy corporations (just one suggestion) or helping other women. No one could do it all for a long period of life. It would exhaust men too, that’s why many do not do it. But they generally have nothing to prove, nor do they have the social conditioning many women carry (as passed on over the generations). I think men often carry their own unhelpful social conditioning-something they also need to address for our world to regain balance.

I’ve worked with women in groups for all of my years as a practitioner. I love that work as I have experienced the power of a group of women coming together, and want to continue doing this. So I am organising some smallish summits (but they may get big!!). Inviting women (and that includes any one that engages more with female energy) to come along and share and explore  their thoughts and needs-and look at possibilities. I’m happy to share all my resources and link women into whatever they want or need-to the best of my ability.

And I want to offer to run some ongoing group sessions for women-offering such options as exploring how our concept of womanhood was shaped, what messages society gives us women, doing some Art Therapy re exploring a woman’s journey, maybe offering some pampering and relaxation opportunities, as self care and self love are very important to women at this stage. One of my big aims is also to develop an online course for women, but this may take a while…….I’ve given myself this year (2017) to achieve this!

My Understanding of the Impact of Trauma

Recently I attended a workshop called ” Collaborating on Narrative Responses to Trauma” presented by the skilled Ian Percy, the person who first introduced me to Narrative Therapy and Narrative ways of looking at the world, during my studies at Curtin University. This gave me a lot to think about and also confirmed a lot I had already know and worked with, with clients. It left me quite excited about continuing to work with those who have experienced some form of Trauma.which is why I felt like writing this blog.

Firstly let me define how I see Trauma (and not only me): It results from any experience that leads to more emotion than the person can deal with. People can be traumatised by any event. It can vary from person to person and often also depends on such things as age and life experience. It is linked to the perception of threat (consciously or unconsciously) and an inability to deal with it at the time.  As Peter Levine (2008)states in his book Healing Trauma: “We become traumatised when our ability to respond to a perceived threat is in some way overwhelmed. This inability to respond can impact on us in obvious, as well as subtle ways”(p.9). He also confirms that it doesn’t matter what the event is (it can be anything), Trauma is Trauma and that it can show up years later, as I’ve noticed with many of the people I have seen therapeutically over the years.

From this definition, it becomes obvious why it’s often those who experienced something traumatic in childhood, are the ones frequently most affected. Children have less power to respond to things adults or those in authority do, they often believe they are responsible, and also have less emotional capacity (as yet) to know how to respond or cope-which leads them to pushing the trauma far away in their psyche (which is actually the most sensible thing for them to do at that time). Until one day in adulthood it pops up, totally unexpected. And then people come see a therapist saying, I think I’m going crazy or their doctor superscribes medication to help push it all down again.

So what is the impact of Trauma? At the workshop, our group of therapists and helpers attending, got together and brain stormed how we had noticed trauma’s impact. And as we amalgamated all the things mentioned, a common list emerged. And the lights went on for me. Some things I had already acknowledged but some of the other comments confirmed things for me that I had noticed but never put into words or coherently understanding. All the things I had felt and held somewhere at the back of my understanding came together and were seen clearly. Yes! This was exactly it. So here is the list of how the ongoing effects of Trauma can show themselves emotionally, and interestingly these symptoms are so close to those of Depression:

A stuckness. A sense or repetitiousness (there is no end, how can it ever be different), including flashbacks and unwanted memories.

A disconnection and separation from self, your body, others, life, joy. Often there is a collapse of the sensory world-less connection to your senses. .

A deep sense of loss. A sense of isolation and aloneness. Emptiness

A sense that the trauma has captured/trapped/imprisoned you-against your will. And won’t let go.

A lack of vitality or energy. A lack of free flow in your body,mind,life. a holding back.

An inability to relax (and often to sleep well). Always being vigilant and on guard. Often on edge. a lot of energy used to try keep safe (due to a sense the world is not a safe place). And exhaustion, chronic fatigue, headaches,continual tiredness due to this. Finding daily existence is all you can handle. anything more is too much. Adrenal fatigue due to your nervous system being continually aroused-which can lead to many health issues..

A difficulty staying present, in the moment.

Trouble trusting people, life, the universe, etc.

Experiencing a continual underground un-articulated fear/anxiety. with a reluctance for it to be spoken about.

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Afterwards I showed these to a client of mine who was diagnosed with Depression and seemed quite hard on herself about being weak or somehow wrong because she couldn’t overcome the depression (but who had shared she had experienced Trauma as a child) and it struck deeply with her. She was quiet for a while, then sighed deeply and replied “I have finally been understood”. And my deep sense was also that she now finally understood herself and how the Trauma had impacted on her, and her own responses to it. And how the symptoms were not of her making, nor easy to “just” get over -as she felt people around her were indicating she should.This seemed freeing to her and she seems very different to me in our next few sesssions, carrying more of a sense of hope.

The other wonderful thing about the workshop (and this was the Narrative Therapy part) was the way it a taught a different approach to this seemingly heavy and difficult issue. Ian reminded us of how our society generally describes the impact of trauma only as debilitating and damaging, and those who have experienced it as powerless Victims. This can negatively impact on how trauma survivors see themselves, but also on how we as therapists might work with them. The workshop left me feeling very optimistic and hopeful re working with people who had experienced Trauma, as it reminded us to focus more on the way people had responded to the trauma, so they would become aware they had not been totally helpless nor powerless in regard to the trauma events. And it reminded me that the main focus of therapy does not necessarily have to be on the trauma details! The workshop helped us explore the questions to ask, which would highlight those responses, usually un-recognised and un-acknowledged. And with this recognition, we can help people gain a restored sense of valued self. A deep understanding that they did not just endure, they did respond, they did fight back and resist in what ever way possible-even if this was ” only” mental withdrawal in order to protect themselves and which shows how strongly they knew what was happening was far removed from their values.

In regard to Trauma due to abuse: Wherever there is injustice, misuse of power and control over, as is often used by perpetrators of abuse, there is resistance by those being impacted. The key is to recognise and value that resistance.

OK, I think I’ve come to a natural end of what I want to share today. There is a lot more that can be said on this topic and I may do so at a future time, but it seems enough for now.

Tactics of Power and Control Used by Bullies (Including Abusive Men)

For this blog I thought I might address Abuse and Domestic Violence. I worked in this area for 3 years at Relationships Australia (running groups for women and children) and I have recently started seeing a client who has just left her partner due to his abusive behaviour. In this case mainly emotional and verbal abuse, which can be equally as bad (or even worse) than physical abuse. This has brought back many of the things I used to be involved with daily in my work place. The most amazing thing, for me, is that all the tactics he uses (as she experiences and sees them) are exactly the tactics I came across in my previous work .

The women who attended group there, once they started sharing, used to be so surprised that their partners all did the same or similar things (sometimes just in different ways) and each group would compile a list (independent of each other) and when I shared past lists, it would always be the same tactics. We came to call them Tactics of Power and Control and we noticed that all bullies use these tactics. Countries use them (especially in war times), governments use them, powerful agencies and big companies use them, bosses/managers use them, The Press uses them, lawyers use them, and many more. These tactics are all around us, we see them every day, no wonder men who feel the need to bully easily follow suit. These tactics work. If they did not, they would not be used. But what the women, who became aware of them, found-was that once you could pick them and see them for what they were (intentionally used tactics), they had less power over them. They themselves then had more choice as to how to respond. They could actually just laugh and say (usually to themselves only-for safety reasons) ” Oh I see what you are trying to do–and it won’t work this time”.

Making the tactics visible, helped free them from them. I do think its the same in society. Seeing the tactics as they are used around us, frees us from them-at least to some extend. It doesn’t mean it stops the Bullying or Abuse necessarily, but it does free us from believing there is something wrong with us. It helps us know who is really to blame-the Bully! This defies one of the main purposes of these sorts of Tactics-the one that is about trying to make you doubt yourself, question yourself, lose your confidence, give up your own power. So the bully gets and keeps the power.

So I thought I would share the main ones, including the intent. I hope some of you will comment and let me know what you think or have experienced or noticed.

So here are some (I’m sure there are lots more variations of the same intent). Many are mind games/forms of manipulation..

Blaming everyone and everything else while accepting no responsibility. This tactic is intended to get everyone off their back and helps a bully avoid looking at them selves. It’s never them! They usually take on the ” poor me, I’m the victim” role. They often manage to twist things somehow, so its always your fault. This can really play with your mind.

Guilting. Using comments or actions to make you feel guilty and at fault or not good enough. This also keeps the focus off the bully and his or her actions and keeps you doubting yourself and undermines your self confidence.

Attack (and being unpredictable with it) of any form whether physical or mental, keeps the attacked in a state of anxiety (fight or flight state) and unable to think clearly. Unexpected attacks, that come out of the blue, are the worst as they keep you on continual alert (many call it- walking on eggshells)and never relaxed enough to respond clearly or calmly

Making excuses. so they do not need to take any responsibility nor make any attempt to change. eg. I can’t help myself, I just see red; its because of my childhood;it’s the alcohol; I can’t remember; Its just how I am; I had a brain snap. They want you to believe them, so you get off their back!

Minimising and denying. making out that you are crazy or imagining or exaggerating  things. Saying “it’s not that bad”, when you know it was or is. Trying to make you doubt yourself so he can avoid facing himself and his behaviour and so you back down and shut up. Also aimed to undermine your confidence.

Getting louder, more aggressive in order to get you to back down and shut up. Its intimidation.

Threats. Again aimed to shut you up, keep you worried and on your toes, so you do what the bully wants. So the bully gets his or her way.Aimed to keep you there and putting up with their behaviour.

Knowing when to turn on the charm. So others don’t believe you or you don’t even believe it yourself, at times. Also to get you to put your guard down. This includes promising to change and pretending to change, for a while.

Isolating you. Trying to turn others against you. Telling lies about you or others. Speaking badly of, and putting down the people in your support team (family, friends). Controlling who you see and when or who is allowed to come to the house. Manipulating others, including your children, to try and get them to side against you (or mainly to side with them).

Silencing you. Telling you to keep secrets. Telling you no one will believe you. Making you feel ashamed to tell others what is happening. Silence gives bullies more power and prevents you asking for help. Talking about what is happening, with someone outside the situation, is a great way to do a reality check and realise if something bad is really going on. Bullies would not want to risk that.

 Control over money, sex, the children, who does what, etc. Control that favours the bully and their attitude of entitlement . Wanting the world to revolve around them while having no empathy for others. Aimed to keep them as number 1 and others as feeling less important.

Labelling or put downs. eg. saying “you are crazy”, ” you have depression, so you are the problem”, ” you are too emotional”, ” you are weak”, etc, etc. Aimed again at making you feel bad about yourself and lose your confidence.

Anyhow, I suppose I could keep going but I think this gives a good indication of how bullies work.

Accepting and Facing Ourselves. Some Reflections!

As I was cleaning up my office and filing away articles I had laying around, I came across one that had a lot of impact on me and my counselling practice over the years.It was from a Psychotherapy Journal from 2007 and I think I came across it while studying and writing an essay on Mindfulness. I always remember the concepts it presented and found them very valuable, as I work with people on their issues (or at least supported them in working on them). And equally so when I look at and explore my own issues!! So I thought this would be good to share in this blog.

This article is called ” Hello Darkness, discovering our values by confronting our fears” by Steven Hayes.

Steven explains that he keeps a supply of Chines Finger Traps in his therapy office. Does anyone remember these? I do have memories of playing with one as a child, so can picture them well. They were like a tube made out of straw or woven plastic, and you would push one finger from each hand into each end. As you then try to pull your fingers out, the tube diameter shrinks and it grabs your fingers firmly. The more you struggle, the more you are trapped! The only way to create enough room to get your fingers back out, is to do something that is counter intuitive. You push them together and deeper into the tube, which then relaxes its grip.

This example is to show, in a concrete and material way,  the idea that often the more we struggle with the problems in our mind, the more confused and stuck we can become. That trying to escape from difficult thoughts and feelings often makes them worse.  Steven Hayes writes of often giving them to clients, to play with and relate to, and he mentions a client who came to realise that his struggle and battle with anxiety was constricting his whole life. and that only by moving into and confronting his pain could he find the room to live a full life.

This approach invites people to step into the now and change their relationship with their experiences. To accept where they are at and stop trying so hard to manipulate and change their own inner world . In my opinion the later often involves telling ourselves off for having the issue  in the first pace and telling ourselves we are not good enough as is-so we have to try harder. In all my years of counselling I have come to see that this is NOT helpful. It especially does not help us feel good about ourselves.

As Steven writes: when we try to avoid, escape or control painful feelings, the present becomes the Enemy and we become fixed on an imaginary future (where all will be different/better) which we will never reach and only feel worse about not reaching. He does mention that turning around and facing the issue involved abandoning some sense of control and this can feel counter intuitive (Scary, I think).

As I write this I realise it fits with my views that Loving ourselves and Accepting ourselves as is, is the only way to change anything. Maybe reading this article made me realise that my values lie in this direction. I know I read it early on in my career but it had a lasting impact.

Later on I discovered Carl Rogers, another therapist, whose Paradox of Change I have had blue tacked to my mirror for over 10 years. this says:

” If you can accept yourself as you are and give yourself permission to have difficulty with it, then the curious paradox is that you will change”

“When I can accept myself as I am then I can change, and when I accept you as you are then you can change”

I now see how this fits with what the article was on about. I still love that way of thinking and know how powerful this is!! Now to find some Chines Finger Traps to keep in my counselling room. Maybe on e bay??

So What do I Actually do as a Counsellor – One Example

This is question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I’ve been looking at adds from other practitioners and see many do a form of coaching and encouraging people to find a positive focus and set goals. That made me reflect, thinking: is this the same as I do? I know sometimes this is the effect for clients after having come to see me for some time, but NO, it’s not really what I do. What I often focus on, is allowing people to sit with any feelings and be o.k. with them. I see all feelings as there for a reason, wanting to tell us or show us something. They usually reflect our deepest values too. Telling us when these have been disregarded. I also know, from many years of experience, that if we try to push feelings away and try to ignore them or distract ourselves (either with keeping busy or maybe using addictive behaviors like drinking too much) they will continue to bug us, nag us, nip us it the heels-to get our attention. They cannot be ignored. It’s usually only when we face them, allow them to be and stop telling ourselves off for having them, that we can move on. That we become freer of them. And by that I don’t mean they will necessary go away, but somehow we can carry them better. They are not so heavy. And we are kinder to ourselves for them. It’s a gentler place to come from. Then we can focus on our positive goals!

Sometimes I encourage people to use drawing or painting or some form of art to get in touch with the feelings; sometimes we tap into Inner Child if the feeling is linked to some old pain from childhood; sometimes playing in the sand-tray will let things move along (on a deeper level). I’m also exploring using dance or motion to get in contact with feelings, but this is a new area for me.

Among other things, I see my job as a support person who can be there when people face the feelings. I might let them know its ok, or its normal to feel this way. I’m there to show that I will not run screaming when they show their deep real selves. That I won’t try to talk them out of it. That I am perfectly comfortable with them in any state. That I can hold them for a while.

I might reassure that the feelings will not overwhelm or destroy them- as this is what most of us fear, on some level.

I remember being told by a counsellor I was seeing (many years ago) just to allow myself a day of grief. I was terrified and especially feared I would not be able to stop, if I started letting the tears and sadness out. But I was feeling so bad, I thought I might as well give it a go. I gave myself a whole day just to grieve. I bought myself a teddy to cuddle and some lollies I used to love as a child (as my counsellor had recommended for support/self nourishment/self love). I sat down and meditated on my losses and sadness’s from youth and the tears came. I scrubbed the floors on hands and knees (as the counsellor had also recommended doing some hard, mindless work while feeling strong emotions) and let it flow and flow. It was very wet and messy experience (on many levels) but my biggest surprise came when about half ways through the day, it was enough. The tears just dried up. My biggest fear did not come to fruition! I was able to be normal when my kids got home from school. I actually felt tired but calm and relieved. And I never felt as much grief again. Later I got in touch with other feelings that were there too but I knew how to handle them.

I now often share this experience with my clients.

I guess not all counsellors work the same, but this is one of the main areas I personally feel is very important and with which I work with clients.

A Great Exercise for Reflecting oh the Past Year and Planning Potentials for the New Year

As some of you may know, I have been taking part in a free on line woman’s ‘retreat’ which consists of many workshops (each taking about 30-60 minutes to take part in). See www.womanunleashedretreat.com . As part of this I have been creating a journal (as is suggested) and writing and doodling and having fun with colours and shapes, as I listen, reflect and visualise during the workshop time. It’s an amazing experience and I look forward to finding an hour for myself each day and then picking a workshop that appeals to me. For me playing with art materials also gives me great joy and now I have an excuse to do it!I’ve made a nice space in my studio, with candles and have pulled out all my art supplies. Just using what I feel like, in each moment.

Each day I learn something new about myself or get a deeper understanding and some clarity around issues that have been affecting me. There are a lot of topics to choose from and I highly recommend checking it out and giving it a try. And did I mention- It’s free!! I am so amazed and grateful about the level of wisdom that is being shared and available for us women (provided by women), world wide, through this process.

The exercise I have done most recently (and am still reflecting on) and which I really wanted to share with you because it is so appropriate at this time of year; is the one about reflecting on the past year, letting go of what you no longer need and planting intentions (” seeds’) for the coming year. It was presented by Dr. Mary Pritchard (www.drmarypritchard.com) of Goddess Awakening fame.

The things that I found most useful was; making a list of the things I want to celebrate about last year (things I liked, was grateful for, was proud of, etc). Thinking about what was my biggest accomplishment and my greatest life lesson in 2015. I have made a list and that is now up on the fridge. I keep adding things too!

Next she asked us to reflect on what we would like to let go of. To think about: What habits, beliefs, and/or behaviour patterns do we not want to carry forward to 2016? I again wrote a list. She then encouraged us to hold a releasing ceremony. I tore my list into strips and burned the strips (I used a candle and put burning strips into a fire proof bowl-and had water on hand!). I then flushed the burned bits down the toilet. It felt great to watch the words shrivel up as they burned :-). It felt very powerful.

Finally we worked on Intentions for 2016. She asked us questions like: What is your heart’s desire in every part of your life? What are your goals for the year? What do you want to love more about yourself? What do you want to have accomplished, if you look back at the end of next year?What would the woman you would like to be look like? (I am still working on that one-and want to draw her). What would your theme be for next year? I personally find that an interesting question and am still reflecting. Think it might be something about being more centred and grounded (less knocked around, by life events). She also asked if you believe you deserve everything you want. I find that such a deep and important question, and an indication of more deep work needed if the answer is NO. I was happy to find my answer was mostly YES! Which is different from years ago when it would have been leaning a lot more to NO. Thanks goodness for all the work I have done for myself and the help I have had from counsellors and other support!

She spoke about seeing our intentions as seeds, so many women (including me) did some art work on seeds being planted and sprouting. See my picture below. She also asked how we would fertilise and water these seeds so they would blossom. Another good thing to reflect on, as we it doesn’t help (in my experience) to just set goals or intentions and then not look after and nurture them. She asked us to consider one thing we could do often, to nurture these ‘seeds’. For me that would be loving myself more, being more gentle on myself. So I drew hearts around my pot of planted seeds.

Altogether it was a very powerful experience for me and felt it was the right time to share it, as the year is very close to coming to an end.

So do any thought s come up for you, as you read this?? Let me know if you do give it a go. Even just a small part of it. Or if you look up her session (or any other session) on the Woman Unleashed website. If you do check it out, there is a FB page women can join and then you see, hear/read what others have got from the workshops. It’s been nice to be involved in that too. More connected in the work. Not so on my own! And so nice to see other women have similar challenges and things they struggle with and find ways to work with.

Inner Child Work – First Time Blog for This Counselling Grandma

Hi all,

At the risk of showing my age I must admit that, as the heading shows, this is my first time ever blogging. but I do feel proud I am up to doing something new and challenging myself (and keeping up with the times, as my adult children would say). So now what to share…… I might start with something that is close to my heart.

Recently I have seen several clients who have really been benefiting form doing Inner Child work during our session together. So what is this and how do we do this, I hear you ask. So let me tell you a bit about this.

When a client is very distressed by something and the distress seems out of proportion to what has actually happened (or seems to come from a deeper, more reactive place-and often is repeated frequently), I may ask that person to close their eyes, take a few breaths, and sit with the feelings for a little while. Then I will ask something like ” how old do you feel now. What age does the feeling connect to?”. Often an age will automatically come up for the client (and surprise them in the process)and they will start to feel this age. I will then ask if I can speak to the child (part of the client, but at a younger age). Then I will speak in a very soft, loving and nurturing way , asking the child part of the person, what they are feeling and why, or what is happening for them. One client spoke of feeling about 4 or 5 and seeing themselves in a dark place. The child part spoke of feeling so scared and all alone and spoke in a childlike manner. Another client felt like a gangly teenager who was feeling lonely and not good enough. I then ask if the child will allow the adult part of them (I name the client by name) , to support or nurture or comfort them. if the answer is yes (and sometimes it is not, and that usually is because the client has been very harsh on themselves and their child part does not trust them to be loving to her) I will ask what they would like. Sometimes it can be a mental cuddle or hand on the shoulder. I ask the client to imagine comforting that sad/scared/lonely part of themselves (using their imagination). Sometimes clients visualise their small inner child, crawling into their lap. One client said the child part wanted to ride on her back, another wanted her adult part just to hold her hand and stand next to her. Its interesting what comes up. The child who felt she was alone in the dark, asked to be taken to a bright place outdoors and to play at tea parties with her adult self. Most of the clients are open to trying to visualise comforting their smaller self part. And I recommend they practice doing this at other times, when they feel sad or scared or lonely. Many report it really helps and I personally use this process frequently.

Of course before this work I do often explain a bit about the Inner Child process.

I explain that our Inner Child part, is that part that often feels childlike and causes us to behave in childlike or childish ways. It is often more emotionally reactive because it responds from feelings, unlike our adult part which is more likely to think and respond more logically. Its our soft, more vulnerable part which if treated well and is feeling safe, is the part where joy and fun come from. But most of us have had to hide that part away, to some extend, in order to survive a world where adults (eg. parents, teachers, older kids, and society around us) often do not meet our needs sufficiently, may criticise us, put us down or even physically and/or emotionally abuse us. The world can be an unsafe place for the sensitive part of ourselves. and for some more than others.

For those who have suffered abuse or more damaging events in childhood, this may apply :

“When our Inner Child is blocked, we are robbed of our natural spontaneity and zest for life. Over time this can lead to low energy, depression or even chronic or serious illness” Lucia Capacchione, Recovery of Your Inner Child p17.

What we all need is for our vulnerable, soft parts to be treated with love, respect, nurturing and gentle care. Many look for this from others and then get up set when they do not receive it. We look at our partners, friends, children, bosses, work mates, etc, etc to give us what we need. But often they can not, as they have their own unmet needs and are only non perfect humans (as we all are). The only person who can always be available to us, is our adult self. Thats why this Inner Child stuff is so powerful. It gives us a tool to give ourselves what we need in our deepest parts!!

Let me know if you have any experiences with this or what your thought s are and I hope a good discussion can be forth coming