Boundaries – Don’t Cross the Line!

There are many reasons why people are unable to set clear boundaries with others within their lives. 

Some of the reasons include but aren’t limited to living in an unstable environment, living in emotionally and physically abusive and at times violent environment, Unclear boundaries and respect shown in childhood. 

Having Low self-confidence and lack of self-worth can cause difficulty in knowing how to create and manage healthy relationships. As a result, the way we manage all relationships within our life can cause us distress. 

Unhealthy boundaries can be seen as:

  • Not being able to say no, due to fear of rejection and abandonment
  • Putting others needs before your own and feeling resentful 
  • Sharing too much too soon, before establishing mutual trust
  • Allowing people to treat you in an abusive manner and in a disrespectful way
  • You absorb other people’s feelings 
  • Reliance on other people’s opinions, feelings and ideas, more than your own
  • compromising your values and beliefs to please or avoid conflict with others

Learnt behaviour and beliefs are acquired over time and they become our security, to change or even to challenge them can be difficult and take you out of your comfort zone.

As a result, when we are at our most vulnerable, we turn back to learnt behaviours and beliefs, back into our comfort zone even if this is damaging and causing us distress.

Healthy boundaries look like:

Setting Boundaries
  • Being able to say no or yes and being okay with your choice 
  • Accepting other people’s rejection as their choice and not a personal attack
  • Developing a strong sense of identity and respecting yourself 
  • Not settling in relationships with the bare minimum 
  • Recognising when problems are yours and when they are others
  • After developing mutual and a trusting relationship you share information gradually
  • Nurturing yourself 
  • Communicating your own needs, feelings and wants clearly
  • Valuing your own opinions and feelings as much as others
  • Relying on your own internal validation rather than external
  • Knowing your limits and asking for help when required

Talking therapy allows you to recognise what your unhealthy boundaries are and gives you the change to explore how they are affecting your self-confidence and self-worth. With the support of a counsellor, you can start to acquire healthy boundaries after challenging and changing the unhealthy ones.

Anxiety – is my fear rational?

In the past year there are many things that have and are still causing us sleepless nights. This includes but isn’t limited to financial worries, fear of illness, lack of support or feeling isolated and even worrying that your loved ones or even you may become ill with coronavirus.

The worries tend to mount and nothing you say or do can quiet the voice in your head that something terrible might happen or is going to happen.

I know how that’s feels, its like going down the rabbit hole, you follow one train of thought and it continues to run away while you chase it trying to gain some sort of control.

The fear of the unknown, the lack of control we feel doesn’t help matters, that is when we then spiral into the depth of anxiety where we are worried to do the simplest things which now is like a mountain to climb.

We can all suffer from anxiety time to time, majority of the time we can stop the way we may overthink or overcomplicate things within our mind. But the issue occurs when our thoughts start to hinder and affect our day to day life.

There are different types of anxiety that we can suffer from and that can then disrupt our daily lives.

  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Specific Phobia
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

Finding out what type of anxiety you have may not be enough did you know that there are also different levels of distress and impairment that you can experience?

Mild anxiety – This can impact you emotionally, socially as well as your professional functioning. The symptoms that can be experienced as social anxiety which is mistaken for shyness. 

Moderate anxiety – More frequent symptoms can include feeling on edge, worrying and not being able to control the thoughts, unable to relax sometimes or majority of the time, it’s not something that happens every day.

Severe anxiety – The symptoms of can coincide with major depression and can cause the feeling of being unable to lead a “normal life”. The symptoms are frequent and persistent and can cause increased heart rate, feelings of panic and social withdrawal. People can also turn to alcohol or drugs as a means to cope with their symptoms.

Panic Level Anxiety – Also known as panic disorder, can be frequent, recurring and be unexpected panic attacks. The symptoms can include heart palpitations, rapid breathing, nausea or dizziness, rapid onset of extreme fear and also fear that you may die. They last around 10 mins and can be caused by a certain trigger which vary from person to person and they can be something you recognise or unknown. 

Managing anxiety – Knowing where to turn to can be difficult especially when you are already feeling anxious, scared and confused.

There are ways in which anxiety can be managed depending on the severity. For someone who may suffer from mild to moderate anxiety it may be possible to manage it through exercise, meditation or therapy. For more severe cases a combination of both therapy and medication may be needed.

Most therapist offer free consultations and they can assess and talk to you about what approach they can take to help you within therapy. I have helped clients by exploring their feelings and thoughts that result in them feeling anxious. I also use a combination of mindfulness and CBT techniques can be used to help with symptoms that you may experience and through exploration anxiety can be reduced.

Reach out to a professional who can help, who can understand your situation and provide you with the support which you need.

Disappointment – Is it just another word to describe Adulthood?

2020 has been a year full of disappointment, fear and for some loss and heartache. But as we tip toe into the new year I find myself wondering how we have dealt with the last year and the disappointments we have had to face.

For most holidays have been cancelled, events postponed and celebrations halted, we have seen up close how fragile our social, personal and professional lives are. It is scary.

As adults we are expected to keep it all together, and deal with our disappointments in a more constructive manner. But how do we do this? It can be difficult to “adult” when our emotional resilience is being tested.

When we are faced with disappointment we can feel angry, sad or even betrayed. These are all natural responses. But you may notice how some people deal with disappointment differently to you. So why is there such a difference in the way we deal with disappointment?

It sounds very Freud but the way we deal with disappointment in our adult lives is rooted to our childhood. This is why some people are fearful of failing and become underachievers while others feel free to explore and over achieve. 

It becomes a cycle of our lives where we are fearful of the unknown. We don’t take the change well and also feel that an event that has caused us disappointment is a personal attack.

When faced with disappointment we tend to associate negative life events to our personal failings. It then results in self-blame and at times feeling of shame or even humiliation come forward, “How could we fall for this again?!”

You had an image in your mind of who you are, known as your ideal self and for some reason you feel you aren’t measuring up to it. That is why you failed and let yourself down. That is when we start feeling anger towards ourselves. Or in some cases you might then direct that anger outwards resulting in becoming spiteful, bitter or even vindictive. 

How can you change this? How can you deal with disappointment in a constructive manner where you are able to overcome such life events?

Disappointments may be unpleasant but can also be used as a learning opportunity.

  • Could it have been prevented? Some times certain life events are beyond our control. Recognising what is within our control and what is beyond can help us to manage our disappointment and deal with our frustrations correctly. Are we expecting too much or too little? Maybe we need to modify our expectations.
  • When we are constantly faced with disappointment we may need to evaluate our perception and behaviours. Is there anyway you can adjust your expectations to be more effective next time? Are you being realistic with your plans? Knowing what is going on around you, are you choosing to ignore or turn a blind eye? Why is that? 
  • How can we move from this disappointment without it turning into apathy and depression? Becoming preoccupied by the bad news or events that surround us every day can cause us to lose sight of what is going right within our lives. 

By internalising feelings of sadness and anger we are then hanging onto them and they can then unconsciously become our identity. How can you direct your focus onto positive solutions?

Disappointment is a part of life and it should not destroy us, instead it can strengthen us and make us better through growth. Growth comes through gaining an insight into ourselves, looking beneath the surface and requires a journey of self reflection.

Talking therapy is a safe place where you can explore the different ways in which you can challenge any negative thinking, disappointments and start your journey for self reflection and growth.

Loss – “Pull yourself together!”

Today I want to talk about loss of relationships, whether it’s as lovers, friendship, or even family members such as sibling or parent and the individual is still very much alive and well.

How do you deal with such a loss? Does the process of grief still apply?

When someone is taken away from us, suddenly or through illness we have to at some point accept that death is final. Regardless of what your beliefs may be, the connection, the face to face contact, the ability to be present physically by the other is no longer possible.

But when someone who you have formed a relationship with, an attachment to, decides to leave your life. Then why are we expected to continue like nothing has happened?

It is my personal opinion that the grief cycle still applies which isn’t a linear process, in fact you may move from one stage to the next, to the fifth and then back to the first. Let me explain what I mean.

In the grief cycle we have: Denial, Anger, bargaining, depression and then acceptance. 

Denial: we cannot believe that the person is gone, our reality has shifted and as we try to process the loss, we are trying to process the emotional pain. 

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If someone has made a conscious decision to leave your life or even you have had to decide to leave, you can still experience denial. You don’t want to accept that the person you know doesn’t want to be in your life or you no longer want to see them, you will experience emotional pain and maybe some form of rejection if you don’t have a choice in the matter.

“How can he/she do this to me?”

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Anger: Feeling anger is a natural response when you are feeling emotional discomfort. Trying to adjust with this new reality can be difficult. Feeling anger towards the individual, at yourself, your emotions, is normal because you feel alone in your pain.

“He/She promised they would never leave!”

Bargaining: In an attempt to alleviate your pain. In the grief cycle we tend to bargain with a higher power. But what can happen in a loss of a relationship is that we can start bargaining with the individual.

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“What did I do wrong?” Blaming yourself, “Tell me what can I do to keep you in my life?” Any form of contact is better than none, and we start bargaining.”Can we still be friends?” The slither of hope that any contact is better than none and you are trying to stop the pain you are going through.

“Can we stay in touch?”

Depression: Reality sinks in. Bargaining is not an option anymore and we have to face what is happening. As sadness grows we can end up retreating into ourselves. Not wanting to be sociable, not reaching out to anyone.

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We isolate ourselves because no one else will understand the pain we are experiencing. Friends and family may advise you to move on. But how easy is it? Should you not be allowed to feel the way you are? why is there an expectation that you should stop feeling how you are and “pull yourself together!”?

“Get over it!”

Acceptance: Here you are accepting your new reality. Sadness and regret may still be present but now you accept the pain you are feeling. Acceptance that the relationship has ended can be difficult. You may have put your heart and soul in that relationship and you are now accepting the loss but you also are now attempting to heal.

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“I need to find the new me.”

You are not attempting to make it into something different or change the out come any longer. 

The complication with someone still being alive is that at times of vulnerability, we might end up revisiting the different stages of grief. We might go back to bargaining or anger because well we can. The person is still alive and can still respond. Maybe we still feel the attachment to that individual and we still want to be a part of their lives and are seeking old comfort. This can just lead to more hurt and pain. Constantly feeling rejected can damage your self confidence and self esteem.

The loss of a relationship is different and I am not comparing it to bereavement because I have felt both and I feel each has their own pain and sorrow to bear. But it also has me wondering about the differences in the way people can respond to such loss.

I also feel and this is my personal opinion that loss of a relationship doesn’t get enough support, as it requires a process of healing that we should be able to go through without judgement, remarks and intolerance by others.

Does ego play a part with how we respond? I still find myself bargaining at times hoping for a different outcome. What about you?

Can a counsellor FIX Me?

One of the misconceptions of counselling is that the counsellor or therapist has all the answers. The counsellor has a number of techniques which have been learnt, practiced and acquired that can be helpful to the client.

A counsellor isn’t there to tell you how you should and shouldn’t lead your life. Your life is something that only you have experience on, and you are the only expert to your life.

A counsellor is there to facilitate the depth of exploration the client is wanting to achieve. The best way to do this is through empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard.

Empathy is a skill that can be learnt overtime but there also needs to be a genuine desire of the counsellor to want to show empathy to their client. The counsellor is not using their own experience as a measure. They are walking with the client in the clients shoes and experiencing the world through their eyes. 

Congruence is being aware of the way that you feel, that then matches with your outer experience. Having awareness of how you are feeling at all times can be difficult for any person but within a session a counsellor needs to congruent and vigilant of any arising feelings. If the counsellor is incongruent and so is the client, then it can be difficult to create a therapeutic relationship. 

Some may say that by sharing with the client how they are receiving the client is congruent, but what benefit does that have to the client? If you are shocked about something the client has said, by stating you are shocked can put the client off from opening up to you in the future. 

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There needs to be balance in the way you demonstrate congruence. The counsellor needs to be real with the client, but not confrontational. Being authentic and real with the client should only be done if it will benefit the client in some way. 

Another aspect of counselling is providing the client with unconditional positive regard. This doesn’t mean showering the client with praises or to “rescue” the client from the feeling they may be experiencing. 

Unconditional positive regard is achieved through respecting the other, being non-judgemental and showing acceptance. The counsellor is accepting the client for who they are. Acceptance that they are unique and the expert to their own life and the experience they share.

The counsellor shows Acceptance through their manner and words. The counsellor values the client and accept their opinion, their values and beliefs. Accepting the client as a unique individual allows the counsellor nurture and care for the client within the session. 

 Taking the clients lead is very important, and going at their pace means not rushing them to disclose any information they may not be comfortable sharing. Allowing them the time and space to explore what they need to. Only then can the therapeutic relationship be developed.

Depression – silently suffering

“You are worthless”. “No one cares about what you have to say.” “If you weren’t here no-one would care”. “You are useless”. “Everyone would be better off without you.” “You are ugly and fat!” “No one loves you!” 

These are just some of the words that I would tell myself, over and over again. In the middle of feeling buried with emotions and trying to act “normal”, I would berate myself over and over again. 

Depression is different for each and every person that experiences it. To think we know what another person going through can be difficult. For me it was like an invader has taken over your mind and every step I took, every action and everything I would say, that voice, that invader had an insult waiting for me. Waiting to pounce and knock me over.

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Sometimes as soon as I opened my eyes, it would hit me with so many insults that I just wanted to curl up and disappear. I refused to get out of bed, I refused to even go to the bathroom because it was the only place, I could find comfort. I felt like I had no-one to turn to and I kept wrestling with the idea of picking up the phone and just hearing that one voice that would help. “But they didn’t want to know, they had their own problems”, the invader would say.

The invader, the negative voice in my head that would beats me down every moment of the day was like a demon feeding off the fact that I felt paralysed and couldn’t turn to someone. 

You want to reach out and scream on top of your lungs that you need help. You need to be held, you are starving for something, anything, inside screaming “Just please, help me”. But your voice is muted. 

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Many times, my partner would ask “tell me what’s wrong?” The words wouldn’t come out, it was like a lump in my throat that just wouldn’t go up or down. I would remain silent or say “nothing”. Each day I would continue to feel lost and alone. With myself I became good at hiding it in public, continue to smile, say hello, and pretend that I am living. 

It would start, day or night, sometimes just creeping up in the middle of the day. Today I wasn’t a good enough mother, I wasn’t a good wife, a good sister, a good daughter or a good friend. I started drowning in the shower of insults and guilt. These are the values I had placed on myself over the years. 

My self-worth was attached to all these roles that in a sense I played. At times I felt like this isn’t my life to lead, I felt fake. I was losing myself, my individuality and my personality was getting lost in my own conditioned beliefs. I had to be perfect and if I wasn’t perfect at it then what was the point? 

As a trained counsellor I now know the way to help others who are experiencing similar thoughts and conditions. My experience doesn’t hinder me in helping clients, because I don’t use my experience as a measure. I use my experience to provide unconditional acceptance that what my clients are going through is real as the oxygen we breathe. Their experience their pain is theirs, which no one can judge or discount. 

One of the things we were taught in counselling was the goal is to be a fully functioning person, someone who has autonomy over some if not all aspects of their being. It can be difficult to achieve that but for me, if I wake up and do something for myself, such as brush my teeth, get dressed, and spend some time doing something that feeds my soul, my individual personality, then that’s a win for me. 

I feel like society has told us that we have to be happy and fulfilled all the time, these unrealistic conditions make us question our own sanity at times and we want to be cured if we are not living the dream or not happy. Now once again this is my experience where I feel that depression is not something you just get over or fix. 

The negative thoughts can be challenged though. The time limit is different, each and everyone’s symptoms and thoughts are different. But learning to take back control over this invader and silence its voice is what helped me.

Majority of the time I am OK (notice how I am not saying great), I feel happy with the way things are within my life, I am loved and appreciated by some and maybe disregarded by others. I am okay with that. I’m doing something that I love. Helping others and taking care of myself are my top priorities now. Every day I challenge a conditioned belief that no longer works or is helpful to me.

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There are days when I am not okay, when I wake up and straight away, I feel like I can’t take a deep breath but them days I am now kinder to myself. I accept that I am feeling low and there is a relief in that acceptance. The relief that it’s okay not to be okay all the time. It is okay to feel like you will burst into tears if someone asks you how you are, and the relief that I may not be perfect to the tamed demon in my mind, whether imperfect or perfect this is me. 

Now ask yourself, how kind are you to yourself?