Saturday, 14 March 2020

Self Compassion in Relationships


Much of our suffering arises in relationship with others, as we are all different, have differing opinions and needs and life experiences that shape who we are. There are two types of relational pain; one is the pain that arises when someone you care about is suffering (pain of connection), the other comes from experiencing loss or rejection and feeling hurt, angry or alone (pain of disconnection).

Downward Spiral of Negative Emotions 

 Our capacity for emotional resonance means that emotions are contagious. Our brains communicate emotions to one another and this is regardless about how carefully we might choose our words.  For example, if some- if you are annoyed with your partner, and you try to hide it your partner or friend can still pick up on your feeling of being annoyed and might even ask, “ Are you angry at me?” Even if you deny it, they will feel the irritation, which will affect their mood and their tone of voice. You then feel this, in turn, so you become more annoyed, and your responses will have a harsher tone, and so it goes on. Other people are partly responsible for our state of mind, and we are also partly responsible for their state of mind.

Close Connections with Others start with Feeling Connected to Ourselves

Self- compassion can interrupt a downward spiral and an upward spiral can start instead. If we can direct positive feelings of compassion to ourselves for the pain we are feeling in the moment, this will also be felt by another- and will show in our tone of voice and subtle facial expressions- and help to interrupt the negative cycle. Cultivating self- compassion is one of the best things we can do for our relationship interactions as well as for ourselves. When we meet our own needs of love and acceptance, we can place fewer needs on our partners, allowing them to be more fully themselves. Self- compassion gives us the resilience we need to build and sustain healthy relationships in our lives. Research shows self- compassionate people having happier and more satisfying romantic relationships, with partners being given more freedom and autonomy in their relationships.

EXERCISE: Self- Compassion Break in Relationship Conflicts
  • Next time you are in a negative interaction with someone, try using the Self- Compassion Break. Start by saying silently to yourself: “ This is a moment of suffering” or “ This hurts”- saying something to acknowledge how you are feeling, then reflecting on the common humanity aspect saying “Suffering is part of any relationship” or “ There are others just like me”,  and then directing some kindness to yourself because of the pain you are feeling saying “ May I be kind to myself” or “ May I be strong”. It can help to use some kind of supportive touch, placing your hand on your heart or elsewhere, or using a subtle form of touch by holding your own hand and feeling the warmth.
  • Before re-engaging with the other person, try practicing Giving and Receiving Compassion to maintain your caring attitude. Breathe in for yourself, acknowledging the pain you are feeling in the moment, then breathe out for the other. Make sure you fully validate your own pain and give yourself what you need as well as honouring the struggle of the other person.
  • Notice how the state of mind of the other person may change as your own state of mind changes.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Relationship counselling


The extent to which two people in a relationship can bring up and resolve issues is a critical marker of the soundness of a relationship.
– Henry Cloud

Relationships are not easy 


We all want to feel happy and feel loved. However, we know from science that opposites attract, so often couples can have quite different ways of thinking and behaving. Each can have different background experiences that influence their way of thinking and acting, and then there is just the flow of life, with the good and not so good times that test out relationships.

Often couples come to counselling as a last resort wondering if their marriage can be saved. There’s often a lot of tension, anger and frustration expressed as each feels not heard or understood.

Some counsellors  are hesitant to work with couples. I find the combination of using expressive arts, mindfulness and self compassion as well as some psychotherapy to explore early childhood experiences and intergenerational patterns to be an effective approach to help with relationship issues. I usually see each of the couple individually first to get their story and then see both together and following that some individual and joint sessions as needed.

A picture says a 1000 words 

When there is anger and frustration it can difficult to just use words to explain what is happening. 
In joint counselling sessions I've found that having each person create a visual picture using symbols/ miniatures that each chooses to represent different times and aspects of their relationship can bring about common understanding as to what the other person is thinking and wanting in a way that words alone could not do.



“What we resist persists”


Mindfulness and self- compassion also help to transform many of our personal relationships for the better.  But it does require allowing the inevitable pain in the relationship to be felt and known. 

The instinct to push away pain is hardwired. We don’t like pain and discomfort so we try to get rid of it using different means- ignoring it, fighting it, numbing it out. However, fighting what we are uneasy about only makes things worse.  The more we accept anxiety, physical discomfort, and the pain of disconnection, the better off we will be. It’s said “When you resist something it goes to the basement and lifts weights!” The more we can try to remain open to emotional pain and breath kindness and gentleness into it the more we can discover the transformative power of self- compassion.

When we are in conflict with another we can become absorbed in the struggle to be seen by the other and seek validation for the pain the other has caused. If we can redirect our attention and compassionately respond to our own suffering first  and then listen to our partner's suffering this is a better way forward.

Intergenerational patterns - "happy genes" account for half our happiness, circumstances - 10%  and 40% is based on intentional activity.


How we treat ourselves depends in part of how we were treated as children. Being aware of how our past experiences have shaped us, helps to get in contact with the deeper meaning of our present day experience.  Knowing the details of our lives can help us come to know and accept our core emotional habits and how they’ve played out in our lives. 
The influence of both genetics and a difficult childhood can be softened if we relate to moment to moment experience with more mindfulness and greater compassion.

To be happy in a relationship the pain buried in our heart, mind and body needs to seen, heard and understood not only by another but by ourselves. This means that occasionally we many need to put aside our own needs and validate the experience of the other. Self compassion for yourselves and others is a vital ingredient in maintaining a healthy relationship.

The self- compassion break is a short meditation that you might like to try.



Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”– Carl Jung



Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Procrastination


"Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment."       Robert Benchley
Putting off doing things, even really important tasks that need to be done, is something we all do. Even when writing this blog there seemed to be a continuing list of other things that needed to be done first. 

So why do we procrastinate? 

There are different reasons we putting off doing things, sometimes it’s that we don’t want to do ‘unpleasant’ tasks and sometimes it can because there’s a fear of failure so if i don’t attempt it then there is no failure or criticism (often self- based).

Unpleasantness

Some tasks are just repetitive and boring for example doing the housework, doing paperwork, Anything that you find you have just have to keep doing and it seems endless.
And sometimes it can be that you just don’l like working and you’re generally unmotivated. Social media can be a great distraction and it doesn’t require you to expend much energy.
Its natural to want to relax and avoid unpleasantness. Putting off some tasks is not necessarily a problem unless it ends up causing more stress in your life because some things that need to be done aren’t being done. Anyone who has studied and realised the due date for the assignment you have yet to start is the following day will know the stress this causes. 

Fear of Failure

Sometimes it’s just that the task you find the task boring- maybe your are not interested in the topic your assignment is about but sometimes it could be there are underlying feelings if fear that come up when thinking about taking on something new. We can be daunted by the possibility of failure, self- criticism and feelings of unworthiness.  Because we often try to avoid unpleasant emotions then procrastinating is a way we can tune out. 
However, sometimes unconsciously we sabotage ourselves so that by not giving ourselves enough time to get the assignment in but the due date, we blame our failure on having had enough time to do to well and so we avoid feeling unworthy or not good enough. 
If we do this all the time with new tasks or projects then we really limit the extent to which we can reach our full potential.

What can help? 

If you find that you habitually procrastinate when faced with doing things you don’t want to do, it can help to go the emotion underlying your resistance. We often avoid thinking about unwanted tasks because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Learning the skill of having self- compassion for yourself - to be kind, gentle and understanding to yourself instead  of being self- critical in times of stress can help.

In the words of Kristin Neff an author of many books on self- compassion “comfort the scared little child inside of you who doesn’t want to venture into the dark unknown, assuring him or her that you’ll be there to provide support along the way. And then see if you can take the plunge. As we all know from experience, the worst part of dealing with a difficult task is often drawing up the courage to start”.

Have a look at this short talk given by Kristen Neff on self-compassion. It’s only 6 minutes.



Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Testimonials


Bronwyn has been a great deal of help to me over the past few months. With her counsel I was able to work through and understand a difficult situation that has troubled me for years.  Her methods, compassion, listening skills, and empathy are a huge resource and benefit.  Using qigong, mindfulness and meditation was the perfect way to end a consultation leaving me in a calm and peaceful state.  I was very grateful to Bronwyn that she was able to travel to me, as I am unable to drive.  I can and do highly recommend Bronwyn as a counsellor and am very thankful for all that she has done for me.
Middle aged female client – June 2018



Bronwyn's counselling has a gentle approach but with a strong applicable outcome.
The method used can appear to be 'playful', nevertheless inwardly it has a serious point. Together this leads to a non-judgemental understanding and the healing sets in. There is nothing to worry or to be concerned about. Such a natural stress relief and letting go of distorted past memories has empowered me to move on with my life. And doing only the sessions that are needed, are a bonus as well.
Middle aged male client – December 2017



After attending only 5 Counselling sessions with Bronwyn in 2017 my mental health had improved. I credit this to her unique approach of combining art therapies with the more traditional talking therapy. Stimulating both the intuitive and rational sides of my brain. Her insightful questions and eco-mapping of my family history also helped me to understand myself better. I would recommend this to anyone, as no artistic skill is necessary, and her approach is considerate and flexible.
Middle aged male client – September 2017




At my first meeting with Bronwyn in March she quickly identified the potential reason for my acute onset of anxiety.
She knew nothing about me however could see the distress I was in and offered to support and guide me through my distress.
I immediately felt comfortable, safe and secure with Bronwyn and started my sessions 2 days later. After 3 sessions with Bronwyn she helped me overcome and rid myself of the anxiety using mindfulness, meditation, homework sessions and more importantly creating a family tree. The family tree helped me to understand why my anxiety had suddenly presented itself without warning.Bronwyn has been very supportive and is a compassionate, caring, empathetic and understanding lady.
Thank you Bronwyn, so very much appreciated.
Middle aged female client – June 2017


I met Bronwyn when I was at a very low ebb. I had just lost my husband…, my best friend too,  after nearly 50 years of marriage and felt so alone. As my grief counsellor she visited me weekly for ten weeks and it was a big help. I also kept a diary which also helped me. Thank you. 
Elderly female client  April 2016


Counselling took away a lot of stress, depression, anxiety and I became more observant and happier. Counselling helped me find out how I should handle things and it was good to talk about how I feel. 
Teenage female- November 2016

Counselling helped me realise what I was thinking.
Teenager male – November 2016



Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Insomnia


"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book” 

Irish Proverb


Getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, some form of exercise make up some of the ingredients for a healthy, happy you! Sleep is an essential building block for our physical and mental well being. But what about when you don’t sleep well which most of us at some point in our lives has experienced! 

You toss and turn, thoughts go round and round in your head and the more you try to fall asleep the worse it seems to get! Nothing seems to help and you get more annoyed at yourself for not falling asleep thinking about how every hour of wakefulness will mean a more sluggish, listless you. When you should be waking to new day feeling refreshed, renewed and ready to take on what the day instead you feel tired, irritable, and fuzzy headed.  
Most of us have experienced times of sleeplessness and find it to be intensely frustrating, debilitating and exhausting! No wonder insomnia is said to be one of the most common health complaints.

Counting sheep 🐑🐑🐑………zzzzzzz


Counting sheep, counting backwards from 100, establishing a bedtime ritual, having a hot bath, keeping IT devices out of the bedroom, relaxation techniques such as controlled deep breathing, visualisation are all ways to support better sleep, helping the mind to unwind and to program the unconscious mind towards sleep. 

But as you may know from experience these strategies don’t always work. Why? Because often you’re focusing on trying to fall asleep and when you can’t control what’s gaping on you feel more desperate, confused and hopeless even beginning to think there is something wrong with you and that you’re not good enough.There may well be some physical or environmental causes such as the barking dog next door, or too much coffee late at night.

What to do? 


I often suggest to clients to try a three step process which is based on mindful self compassion. 
Step 1: When our minds are constantly busy with thoughts we start to feel anxious either about not being able to go to sleep and the consequences of how we are inadequate and our  nervous system goes on high alert. Firstly we need to recognise how much emotional distress we are feeling at that moment.
Step 2 : To accept that your sleepless is not a fight and that you can’t win! Getting up to read a bit or get a drink
Step 3: To accept this with kindness and compassion for yourself in this situation and let go of the resentment and frustration. Can you direct thoughts of loving kindness to yourself?

Still not working?


There may be times when the mind is troubled with overstimulating thoughts and then you could try genty steering your mind to less energising topics. 
One exercise that I recommend is simply to feel the sensation of each out breath- mindfulness of breathing- and to recite a loving kindness phrase with each out breath. Loving kindness phrases such as “ May I be happy” ‘May I be healthy” “May I live my life with joy and ease” etc will take the edge off your struggle, and the boredom or repeating a phrase over and over will help you drift off into sleep. Word of warning ! This works only if you do the exercise for its own sake and not keeping yourself on edge by doing it to fall asleep.

You might like to listen to this guided mindful self compassion meditation from LiberationInMind.com 






Monday, 15 January 2018

Bioenergetics

Bioenergetics is an adventure in self-discovery. It differs from similar explorations into the nature of the self by attempting to understand the human personality in terms of the human body. Most previous explorations focused their investigations on the mind.”                   Alexander Lowen

What is bioenergetics?


Bioenergetics is a body movement technique that on the surface seems to resemble yoga, pilates, or gym exercises but its actually quite different. Emotional energy can be held in the body creating holding patterns or ‘dead spots’ where the natural energy flow has become blocked.  

Dr Alexander Lowen, an American psychotherapist is generally credited with creating Bioenergetics. He was a student of William Reich who coined the term ‘armouring’ to describe chronic muscular holding as being part of the way the body- mind contained emotion and energy. The habitual pattern of holding tension in the body and restricting breathing can keep strong feelings from our conscious attention.
Bioenergetic exercises are used to mobilise physical energy as well as emotional energy, helping to express and release held back emotions so that you feel more alive, to be more in touch and have a deeper awareness of feelings and body sensations.

How to practice bioenergetics?


There are many different Bioenergetic exercises with some being developed for releasing tensions and holding patterns in different parts of the body and for differing purposes. There are some for 'being at the computer', 'jaw and neck stretch', 'taking fear out of the body' and many more. These can all be accessed on YouTube. I particularly like Devaraj Sandberg who is based in the UK but regularly uploads new videos. There is a good introduction at https://youtu.be/IAInDZkLOkI 

In Bioenergetics you breath in a relaxed manner, in and out from down in the belly. This relaxed breathing allows the tension patterns to come up and be released. When doing the exercises you are to do them so you at just on the edge of what you can comfortably bear - not continual pain but not in your comfort zone. 

It’s recommended to start gently at first, to develop some basic familiarity with the exercises then go deeper and deeper with greater benefits. A daily routine of around 30 minutes will energise your body, keep you flexible and progressively remove blocks to your natural energy flow.

The Bow and Arch are a good beginning pair of postures which work together to ground you and release tension or ‘dead spots’ from your back.

Have a look at 



Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Sandplay Therapy


“ Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” C.G Jung


Currently I’m half way through a Certificate in Sandplay Therapy being run by the Expressive Therapies Institute of Australia and am finding it to be a simple but powerful and profound approach that facilitates the psyche’s natural capacity for healing.  

What is Sandplay Therapy? is it just for children?


" A basic premise of Sandplay Therapy is that deep in the unconscious there is a natural tendency for the psyche to heal itself, given the right conditions.                 Estelle Weinrib

A Sandplay session begins by engaging with the sand in a tray, letting the hands experience the sand and allowing them to move as they wish. Then you are invited to select some symbols or miniatures displayed on shelves in the room that you are drawn to or attracted to. These symbols are placed in the sandtray to create a picture or story. Reflective questions are asked about the picture and symbols and each symbol is seen to be unlimited in its meaning. Recently one of symbols represented a variety of the big cats to different clients, either being  a cheetah, a leopard, a panther or a tiger each with its own qualities and strengths as described by each client.

 Sandplay lets the parts of you that have no voice a chance to say


Many sandplay clients at first feel hesitant and uncertain when presented with a tray and shelves of symbols or miniatures. When they are creating a picture in the tray they will often comment "I have no idea what i am doing”. This is completely fine as it actually indicates that the ego is nolonger in charge, and gives opportunity for the unconscious to express itself. This is an extremely beneficial aspect of the process. Unconscious contents are activated and flow out onto an object. But they do not flow all the way out into the real world where they often become lost. They become captured in the personal world of the sand tray picture and are a unique statement of the client’s.

“ Sand pictures represent figures and landscapes of the inner and outer worlds and they appear to mediate between and connect these two worlds.”                                                Dora Kalff

Sand play is a non directive therapy it allows free expression, free creation-  there is no right or wrong way as to how you respond or what is created. There is no interpretation given by the therapist as to what the symbols might mean and symbols are not touched or shifted by the therapist. Reflective questions are asked in an invitational way and there are large amounts of pause time and silence. It is a very respectful process allowing the inner healer to be expressed.

Adults as well as children find it to be effective and it is used in welfare agencies, schools, hospitals and drug and alcohol  rehabilitation centres and in counselling and psychology practices.


In this Youtube clip my Sandplay Therapy trainer describes the process of Sandplay for a training course she offered in the Czech Republic in early 2017.