Category Archives: carolnadercounselling

Keeping a close connection in your relationship

Do you feel that you and your spouse/ partner have drifted apart? This is one of the reasons that relationships flounder in today’s fast moving world.  Are you drifting in different directions? If so, what can you do to restore your former intimacy?

Your relationship is as important as any other facet of your life, so make time for it, and give it sustained effort – every day.  Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Are you absolutely absorbed by social media, phones and TV? Take time out from social media, and do the old fashioned thing – sit together and communicate. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Ban phone and IPad use in the bedroom. It’s the time to be fully present for each other.
  • Are you spending quality time together – just the two of you? Dedicate some time and do activities that you enjoy together. Make some time for regular dates.
  • Are you spending all your time on your children? Give your children adequate time, but remember that to keep the relationship strong, you need to focus on each other. The kids will be fine – but they need the stability of a family that stays together.
  • Do you take your partner for granted? Your family, kids and work are all important.   Do you attach the same importance to being fully present for your husband or wife? To feel appreciated your partner needs to feel prioritized and appreciated.
  • Do your parents, family and friends support your relationship? Negative outside influences can derail your relationship. Get rid of them.
  • Do you display affection to each other? Human touch is so important. Hugs, kisses and holding hands are a very important form of connection. Regular sex needs to happen to maintain intimacy.
  • Are you too focused on material things? The best things in life are free, but you can lose them by putting all your focus on “having things”.
  • Is your attention on what you can put into the marriage? We form relationships to satisfy our partner’s needs. Whose needs are you focussing on?
  • Are you showing your true self to your partner? Share goals, hopes, dreams, desires and fears to build that intimate space.
  • Are you concentrating on what makes your partner happy?   Connect during the day – either by phone or text, just to let them know that they are in your thoughts. Be kind and respectful.
  • Are you so consumed by work that you have to engage with work matters during your free time? Time to question work life and your priorities.

If you are looking for more inspiration, “Take back your Marriage” by William Doherty is a good read.

Is your teen struggling with self harm?

I think that being a parent of teens in 2017 can be quite terrifying. Never has the world been more connected and yet families are becoming more disconnected. Children are subject to many influences each day through social media. Trends spread like wildfire. In my experience, people cut for several reasons:

  • They do not have the coping skills for dealing with strong emotions
  • They may feel worthless and angry with themselves and therefore cut to release the pain
  • They may make mistakes and cut to punish themselves
  • Some feel emotionally numb and the pain from cutting is temporally stimulating
  • Their families are in turmoil and the cutting releases anxiety. They may be the ones that are showing stress because of what is going on in the family circle
  • They have periods of intense sadness and seem disconnected
  • There friends are doing it, so they try it and become almost addicted to the sensation and adrenaline rush

Primarily, cutting is a maladaptive response to emotional problems and should not be taken lightly. Your teenager could also be suffering from symptoms of depression and should be checked out by a mental health professional.  Cognitive behavioural therapy may help to change thoughts and behaviors.   Do not just hope that they will “grow out of it”.  They need to learn better coping skills and the matter should be immediately addressed.  With better coping skills, their symptoms can be remedied.

Keep the lines of communication open with your teen. Have open discussions with them.  Canvas their opinions.  Practice empathy. If you are cutting, talk to your parents and ask for their help.

         

         

         

 

 

 

Controlling your anxiety

Many of us suffer from some type of anxiety.  I am aware that my lack of planning causes me a lot of anxiety. Here are some tips that can assist us with stress and anxiety by drawing on your inner strengths:

 

  • Have three mental inboxes in your head.

    •  Things that I “can control”. Things “I can control with help” and: Things that “I cannot control”.  Mentally assign the “can’t control” things to the requisite box.  What is the point of worrying about things that you cannot control?  All it down is paralyze and dis-empower you. Assign them to the powers that be. It will allow you to feel much lighter and assist you to proceed with other things

  • Are you good at planning?

    •  Have you ever thought of planning to prevent anxiety?  Plan for tomorrow, for that big appointment, even do a bit of practice.  If you feel really prepared, you will stress less.  Spend a bit of time at the end of each day to plan the following day!  Most of my stress emanates from my lack of planning or my bad habit of running a “little” late. 

  • What about an attitude of gratitude?

    • Anxiety often occurs when you feel that “life is out of control”?  How about writing down some of things that you are grateful for.  You probably have strengths that you are not aware of. If you focus on your strengths, instead of focusing on your weaknesses, you will feel more empowered.

  • Practice mindfulness

    •  If we constantly focus on the tasks at hand, without letting other thoughts intrude, we immediately feel calmer and more in control.  There are many good books about that can teach you the technique.  It really works…

  • Look at what is making you anxious and frame it differently.

    •  Are you starting to let your thoughts run away with you?  Is the situation really that difficult? Or have you just fallen into the habit of giving in to stress.  Dissect it and break the task down into small chunks.

  • Call on friends, mentors or counsellors

    •  to assist you with anxiety management techniques – sharing a problem often helps to bring one back to reality.

  • Forgive yourself

    • if you do fail – learn the lesson – and then move on. 

 

.

 

You will marry the wrong person

This headline caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. Don’t we go to great length to marry the right person?  We date for a while, get to know them, get to know their families, colleagues, friends, etc.  We try to ensure that we share their interests – and even after that – we have zero chance of marrying the right person?

Why? Because unless we married a clone of ourselves, there is no person on this earth that will understand all our needs, wants, desires, etc.  We marry, then throw two family systems into the mix, add a couple of kids, and expect that we will grow at the same rate.  Events can and will alter our lives completely.   There will be times when we need comforting and our partner is not really conscious of this need.  The idea that all needs will be fulfilled in a marriage is totally unrealistic – as we are married to a person who has diverse wants and needs of their own.

Before marriage we rarely delve into the complexities of living closely with a partner. We are hopeful, optimistic, romantic and so is our partner.  However, marriage moves us onto a different plane – admin and financial planning, running a suburban home,  giving up our independence, learning how to bring up kids, navigating life events, work frustrations, etc.   The only ingredient that we have in common when we embark on life as a couple is our partner.

Do we fully understand ourselves, anyway? So how can we fully understand another?

If the above is true, it follows that we will probably choose a so-called “wrong” person. However, this can be good news.  Alain de Botton states  that all we need to do is “let go of the romantic idea upon which the Western understanding of marriage has been based for the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.”  Once we let go of that notion, we stop expecting all our needs to be met, and become used to the idea that sometimes they won’t be.

We need to choose our partner carefully and then hope that we will marry a “more right than totally wrong” person, who is good at negotiating differences in taste, and tries to be “more right” for you. We must avoid rushing into unions because we are lonely or feel that “time is passing us by.” We need to be aware that the nice feeling of romanticism will not last, but can be replaced by understanding, open communication, and a willingness to try and satisfy our partner’s needs.

The good news is that you can make it work. Get rid of the notion that your union is not “normal” and learn to accommodate the “wrongness”, and strive for a more forgiving, respectful and kind perspective.

Taken from an article by Alain de Botton in the New York Times. May 28th 2016.  Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) is the author of the novel “The Course of Love.”

 

A LOOK AT RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK

There is a lot of information available about what can damage a relationship, but very little on what to do to have a good relationship.  These are some of the things I have noticed about couples in good relationships.

  • They have open communication – they take time to talk about their relationship and ask what part they can play to make the other happier. They take turns to find out what the other needs. They have the courage to be open and truthful. Avoiding issues often leads to frustration and estrangement.  They practice constructive discussions. If you can’t discuss these issues without getting into arguments, have a one off session with a counsellor.  Inform him/her what the agenda is.
  • They commit to the basic values underlying the relationship or the “relationship rules“. These mutual agreements are the foundation on which any relationship is built. They reach agreement on what is “kind” and “respectful”   and update these “rules” when new issues arise.   Think win = win.  I often have couples that come to counselling within the first year or two of getting married. Most of their issues arise because of a lack of discussion on basic values and how each sees the way forward.
  • They try to feel their partner’s pain. They care about what hurts each other. Put yourself on the back burner and offer empathy, compassion and caring, even if it does not particularly resonate with you. Hopefully they will return the empathy when you need it.
  • They try not to be selfish and endeavour to put their partner’s needs before their own. This can be a difficult one. After all, whose needs should come first? Sometimes we have to sacrifice our needs for what the other needs at the time.  Partners who love each other deeply constantly keep their mate’s needs in mind.  Unselfish emotional chivalry usually is rewarded in kind.
  • They keep an emotional hotline open at all times. They are emotionally receptive and in times of trouble, offer emotional support and compassion, without expecting anything back.
  • They are courageous and strong when needed. Let your partner know that you have got their back. Capitalize on each other’s strengths and your relationship will feel emotionally safe.
  • They believe that their partner is committed to doing his/her best, even if sometimes it does not feel like it. Great couples believe that their partner is doing the best that they can under the circumstances. Trust each other’s good intentions instead of being critical.
  • They do not kick the other when they are down. Be tuned into their failings and self-criticism and do your best to lift them up. Tell him/her what you love about them.
  • They appreciate each other and keep in mind that the “now” is all there is. True security is often an illusion. Treasure each other and be thankful for their presence in your life.  Tell them!
  • They keep confidentiality and honour individual boundaries to build trust. Keep your partner’s secrets for a lasting relationship. No one likes to feel betrayed.  If you are unsure about what can be shared, ask permission.  That is respectful.
  • They validate their partner’s desires. You may have different needs at different times, and commit to being fair. Whether it is sexual frequency, external shared interests, family obligations, etc. Give in sometimes and give them the space that they need – when they need it.
  • They practice resilience and commit to the relationship for the long haul. People in great relationships literally don’t want to lose each other. All relationships have some heartbreaks and ruptures, but the winners are those who navigate the speed bumps and let their partners know that they will not shut each other out.  They commit their energy to trying harder to work out their problems and keep the emotional connection alive.  Remember, change starts with you.[i]
[i][i] Thanks to Randi Gunther for her excellent article on the 14 secrets to having a great relationships – it inspired this blog.

Continue reading A LOOK AT RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK

What you can expect from your therapist

I often find that individuals enter therapy with certain worries.  They worry about the therapist judging them, perhaps telling them to do something that they don’t want to.  Often couples fear that the therapist may “tell them to get divorced”.

I do my best to dispel those fears, but I thought that it might be a good idea to explain the therapy process because there does not seem to be much education in that regard.  Most insights into the therapy process are gleaned from the experiences of friends and family.

First of all, according to Carl Rogers – it is the relationship between the therapist and patient that heals.  Not all patients can relate to a particular therapist, so it’s a good idea to go to the first session with that in mind.  If you do not relate, then look for another therapist.  Trained counsellors are aware of this fact and are quite open to recommending a colleague if you feel it could be a better  fit.  Nothing takes precedence over building a trusting relationship with the patient.  In fact, the effective therapist relates to the patient in a genuine, unconditionally supportive and empatic manner.  For a creative session to take place, the counsellor needs to abandon a position of certainty.  No therapist can predict the outcome of the therapy and needs to adopt a position of “not knowing”  or learning.  The patient is the expert on their lives, and the therapist functions more as a companion or guide than an expert.

In his memoir, Karl Jung, commented that therapist need sto invent a new therapy language for each patient.  I strongly agree, and often I will adopt the patient’s “language” to build a strong  connection.  We also may, at some point, as long as it is in the best interests of the patient, alsoreveal certain details of his/her personal life, in an effort to be authentic and genuine.  I often get complaints from patients who have found their therapist too removed, too remote.  I have never heard of a patient who complains that the therapist is too engaged, too interactive, too personal.

So we:

  • Do show unconditional positive regard. That is the first step.
  • Rarely give advice. Often sketch different scenarios, to illustrate alternatives to the patient.
  • Don’t judge or take sides in a couple’s therapy session.
  • become the partner on the journey in a safe, confidential space with the patient.
  • Are bound to a strict code of ethics and confidentiality
  • Can be objective as a patient sketches a scenario. We do not have an emotional investment in the outcome.
  • Do enter the patient’s world, wholeheartedly, and provide a safe space where alternatives can be explored
  • We enter the patient’s world where they are, go at their pace and collaborate with them to make the changes they desire.

 

 

 

 

How to become a more loving partner

Do you put as much effort into your relationship as you do in your work?

 We are in a relationship to fulfil the needs of our partner – not our own.  Do you ever think of that?  If your partner concentrates on your needs and you concentrate on his/her needs, then everybody should be happy.  Makes sense, doesn’t it!

However, much of the time we are in a “me, me me” frame of mind, focussing on what we need, want or long for.  Try switching this around and take some time to grasp what your partner feels and experiences when interacting with you.  Be kind and engage in behaviour that meets their wants and desires.  In fact, do you even know what your partner wants or desires?    Take the time to communicate and find out.

Listen; truly listen – with your ears, eyes and heart.  See that your partner feels heard and that what concerns him/her really concerns you.  We live in distracting times with a lot of sensory overload, so when listening, we need to tune out any distractions.

When your partner says that are not feeling well – how do you react?  Do you say “Oh, no, not again – or do you show some care and concern? Little acts of kindness can go a long way.  Just giving your partner a hug – or bringing them a cup of tea -can change the dynamic of your day and theirs too.  Try a little tenderness.

Don’t play tit for tat!  You do not have to win every argument.  Sometimes it is okay to say “it is more important for me to stay close to you and it is to win the argument”.  If you start feeling angry, take hold of yourself and calm down.  Next week, you may not even remember what the argument was about.

Above all, treat your partner as you would like to be treated – and if you are unsure of how they would like to be treated – ask them!