Things have fundamentally changed in our world over the last few years. It looks the same, but internally we are all different from who we were. I was talking with Counsellor Kathie the other day and noted that we used to laugh so much when we got together for our regular lunch as co-workers. We have changed and become more serious. I think it comes down to the illusion of control. We thought that we had some control over our lives. We thought that we created our reality to some degree. Many of us are mourning the loss of this control. We are all noticing our inflexibility and feeling the resistance to change.
Change is PAINFUL
While it is true, that there is no growth without pain, no one likes being forced to change. Most people like to change in small, tiny bite sized chunks. We can flex, but not flex too much. Even trees don't like category five cyclones. Generally, our battle is internal: ‘But I am not ready to change.’ ‘But I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone.’ In fact, many have resisted the change by blocking with substances, alcohol, anger towards others (scapegoats) and self-sabotage. They have tried to erase it, but it is there waiting – sitting in their minds and bodies. It waits until some inopportune moment to come out as frustration, anger, intolerance, polarised opinion, stubbornness, rage, anti-authoritarian behaviour, facebook venting etc.
Moreover, those that block change only delay their suffering and later get hit by a tidal-wave of emotion. It must be expressed – this stress and anxiety! It must be expressed with words, body language, exercise, discussions, painting, cold showers, work outs, writing/ journaling – anything other than holding it in.
The Toll on Our Mental Health
The stress response has been triggered more in the last 3 years (from the media and society) than it has in most people’s entire lives. We have to understand that staying ‘normal’ in an ‘abnormal world’ is extremely difficult. Our survival fight or flight response has been on so long creating cortisol (which blocks production of serotonin). In a nutshell (excuse the pun), we are all running our cups on empty.
Methods that we once used for work/ life balance are not working. Combine that with a loss of social connection and finances and you have more anxiety and depression (inward aiming anxiety) than ever before.
Slight dis-regulation is easy to recover from. Prolonged Covid level stress is not.
I have many clients who tell me that they think they should be handling things better. They feel self-doubt, contempt and criticism for themselves. But I answer, ‘How could you do things better? The world has never had such prolonged stress except in war time.’ We need to normalise how hard this has been; this toll on our mental health. It has been hard for therapists too. We are witness to this suffering of our fellow man. We have to balance ourselves more often and with more methods than ever before.
Self-Love Demonstrated as Boundaries
We have to set new boundaries in place for this new world. The old world seemed safer. This new world is unknown. We find that everyone has an opinion about this new world. We have to be more tolerant than ever before. We have become so polarised it is like two political party loyalists within a family. So what do we do about maintaining a sane brain after this when there is potential for more disease or calamity? We must change our internal voice, our inner-mantra…
What is the mantra that you tell yourself regularly? (There may be several for different situations.)
Whatever it is, you can change it. You unconscious does not know that difference between fantasy and reality. It only knows what the conscious commands. And how do we do that? Naturally, with repetition - either spoken out loud or internally as thought…
‘I am doing the best that I can.’
‘This is meaningful what I am doing.’
'Everyday in every way I am getting better and better.' (At least 1% better is true)
‘My body is excited! Oxygenated.’
‘It is okay to feel sad or powerless sometimes.’ (Most emotions last 90 seconds! Ride it out. Sit in it.)
‘I am complete. I am enough.’
‘I am a tragic optimist!’
(High five yourself in the mirror)
Strategies for Relieving Prolonged Stress and Anxiety
Exercise: Dancing, Gym Workouts, Downward Dog /Yoga, Walking, Hiking, Jogging, Deep Breathing, Wimhof Breath work, Golf, Surfing, Hugging for 20 seconds, Sex.
Nature: Looking at a Horizon, Beachcombing, Viewing a Nature Scene, Earthing: Walking Barefoot on Grass, Earth or Sand, Lying on a big rock, Sunshine, Sitting Under a Tree or in Nature.
Other: Talk Therapy/ Counselling, Cold or Hot Showers/ Warm Bath, Watching Funny TV (Belly Laughing), Film, YouTube Videos (laughing), Listening to Happy Music or Sounds of Nature, Positive Visualisation, Affirmations, Mindfulness & Meditation, Reading Books, Getting a Body or Foot Massage, Serotonin Boosters, B Vitamins, Pro-Biotics, Herbal Teas.
Engaging the Frontal Cortex: (Getting out of reptilian fight or flight brain mode) Puzzles, Games, Crosswords, WhoDunnit Books, Stop watching fearful TV and news (Censor your television), Learning something new (Online study?), Problem Solving, Singing.
Take walks together: Walking in parallel creates shared pace. Men listen better on their side. (It is okay not to talk for the first ten minutes.)
Name and express personal needs while the other listens.
Acknowledge disappointments without blame. (I feel this about that because this is important to me…)
Future proof by talking about shared hopes and dreams. Problem solve together. Make plans. Talk Goal Setting. Try Couples Counselling. Intimacy, Touch, Massage, Making Love.
I hope that this blog has been useful to you. If anxiety is severe, see me for Counselling, NLP or Time Line Therapy.
It is not uncommon for adults to have issues with low self-worth due to communications in childhood; usually from adults, but sometimes by other children.
These negative comments, criticisms, rejections are what we call negations. The interesting thing about these hurtful statements is that it is the future adult that takes them in, not the child. Yes, the child holds onto these hurtful words, but they become the limitations of the later adult, not the child that hears them.
It might seem crazy for grown people to still believe the words of someone who was themselves, flawed, abusive, lacking self-esteem, unable to control their temper, a failure, a bad parent/ partner, or a person who certainly would never be the world's biggest expert on what was right, moral or good.
And yet, because a child thinks that it is not acceptable to aim their pain back at the person who launched the words (Eg; a parent), they hold it in and aim it squarely at themselves. Afterall, it is not appropriate (and impossible before the age of about 7) for a child to think that their parent is anything but perfect, righteous and experienced in life. The fault must lie with the child not being good enough, worthy of love, kindness, interest, time, support, validation etc.
Children are of course innocent and rarely hardened by the world. They are sensitive and vulnerable - as they should be.
So the child, now an adult, is mature enough to know that all adults have a lot going on and their parents were probably no different. They were just as human as anyone else. They understand that it was not an issue of deserving (or not deserving) the unkindness shown, it was just that the person delt with whatever was going on in the only way they knew how. They were coping with the fall-out of their own childhood, their own failures, their own internal baggage, their parent's values / morals and their own stress and pressures.
An adult knows that deep down. But somehow they can't get past it or know how to let it go. Of course, there is no internal peace in holding onto grievances. There is only suffering. And often the people who caused the suffering are gone, don't want to acknowledge it, or have forgotten. The only person who suffers is the one remembering and keeping the belief fresh. The belief is often something like: 'I wasn't good enough.' 'They couldn't love me.' 'I was different and different isn't good.' 'If I was better maybe they could have loved me.' "I wasn't smart enough, pretty enough, likeable enough...' 'I wasn't worth a new bike.'
If only the child could really know that it was never a reflection of their worth, but on the capacity for the parent/ person to extend their love under stress. Often the amazing skills a child had were never validated by the parent, so the adult child does not even notice or promote their own talents. Many a high achiever is trying to get validation that never comes...
Consequently, when a person is lacking in good parenting, they have to learn to re-parent themselves. To think about another child at the same age and to consider with compassion how a child of that age should be treated. And so treat themselves accordingly.
You know it is normal and natural after the age of 30 not to consider the opinions of parents anymore than you would consider the opinions of their friends and peers. If you do care too much, you are still in child-mode. No doubt from some guilt and trauma bonding. You cannot self-actualise if you care too much about the opnions of your family of origin. This is the time to be making a family of your own.
A good question to ask yourself is this: Is the person who said the comment worthy of being the world's biggest expert on the subject? Even if they thought they were at the time.
Second question: If they are not, then why accept the criticism as if they were? (Time for them to come down from their pedestal.)
Third question: Are you willing to re-parent yourself: Eg: Father yourself (Make safe, protect, provide for) or Mother yourself: (Nurture, love, care for) from now on? Are you willing to take the best role models and create a perfect-parent instead of the one you got? One that you can use as your new benchmark? (Even if it is in your imagination!)
I hope so. Otherwise, see me for Counselling, NLP or Time Line Therapy.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
If you are wondering if it’s worth fighting for your relationship or whether it is time to leave, and you are at a point where you are serious about finding that answer, this blog may be an important resource for you right now.
It doesn’t matter where you’re at right now – married or de facto. If you are feeling alone and wondering if this is the end, reeling from an affair, or longing to feel more connected to your husband or partner and wondering if there’s a way back, you’re hurting and in a rut; feeling like a failure, and most likely stressed.
Sometimes women book a couples counselling session when they are at the eleventh hour. In my experience, they do this to gain some clarity. They may be thinking, “Can we do something to make the marriage to feel right again?”
However, when these women have tried everything they know for years to make the marriage work it may be too late. They would try different tactics, spice things up in the bedroom, be more accommodating of the husband’s dreams and hobbies etcetera, and things would be better for a while, but they would always return to this sense of disconnection, the same resentments would begin to build up, and the feelings of not having the life they wanted would be there haunting them.
So... the woman would step back emotionally, give up on ever fixing things, give up on her partner. And she may not tell her husband that she had given up on the marriage until maybe during couples counselling.
Why is it that women often leave a relationship mentally before women leave physically?
There comes a point in every diminishing relationship where the whole process of physically leaving (especially if children are involved) seems like a logistical nightmare. So, by the time a woman makes up her mind to leave in boxes and crates, she has already moved out emotionally perhaps months or years before.
The problem is that when a woman asks for a separation or divorce, she may surprise her partner. Yes, she now has her husband’s undivided attention. And he will have enough anxiety and fear to be willing to make the long-overdue changes… In fact, he will bow to any demands in order to save his family and marriage.
The wake-up call for husbands. Common outcomes:
After the first couples counselling session
Despite some excellent suggestions and exercises for getting the marriage back on track, none of the activities seem to work for the woman. These marriage building exercises and tips might have worked years ago, but not now. She feels hopeless, forsaken, empty and guilty. The partner feels powerless, impotent, vulnerable and unprepared.
Unfortunately, no matter what he tries, he can’t turn back time and her heart is without empathy (a defense mechanism). This is because in the time between leaving the pain of a failed marriage behind (mentally leaving) and the time she actually declares she is leaving the marriage cannot now be fixed by last-minute behaviour and changes. This is what people call ‘too little, too late.’ It is now at the point where all marriage coaches wish they had a magic wand for the sake of the children and pleading husbands.
The magic wand
Despite the hopelessness of the situation, miracles do happen. I have had clients who have used Narrative methods or Gottman methods and rebuilt a crumbling marriage. Couples should at least attempt to repairs their relationships, even if it seems hopeless. No one wants to be a single parent and statistics show that new partners will never love our children as a real parent does. These days, it is not uncommon for some couples to stay living under one roof as co-parents (flatmates) for the sake of the children and/ or for financial reasons.
Here is a testimonial for a couple who used my Narrative method even when all hope seemed lost:
"Ghita, thank you so much for what you have done for our family!" Mr & Mrs Lees (36 and 39), Couples Counselling, Gold Coast.
When it is a case of ‘too little, too late’, however, I will honour a wife’s decision. I may try to reality check how a future as a single parent will play out though and explain what mediation is like, so that she does not ‘cut off her nose to spite her face.’ Sometimes being ‘right’ about some old argument or being disappointed in a husband as a gender role model is not worth the loss of a family. This is an ego perspective. The ego is never your friend and wants to keep you alone and focusing on your grievances.
After all is said and done the final decision is of course up to the individual woman.
More information under the couples counselling tab in our recommended reading pages and eBooks.
While all marriages will go through tough spots from time to time, sometimes those bumpy patches can go on from weeks to months, to years. In a hopeful way, we tell ourselves that it will get improve, or that we’ll “sort it out,” even though we don’t really don’t know how to ‘fix’ the problems which come around like some sort of recycling argument. We know that fixing things is probably beyond our skillset, so we ask our friends and family, who don’t seem to have much in the way of good advice either.
So the intimacy wanes, the communication divide widens, mutual resentments appear, and the tolerance for each other’s disappointment in the marriage grows ever louder. In fact, arguing becomes more frequent. Alternatively, the silence between you becomes deafening. If it wasn’t for the man-cave and television, you might attempt a repair. But regardless of the vibe at home, you are nervous, frustrated and out of your depth.
For the men who are struggling in their relationships, I have created some coaching exercises to reconnect men with their partners - in between couples counselling, or individually.
Here are some of the things men ask therapists
Courage for the warrior
It takes a lot of courage to even examine what’s not working in our relationships, so being willing to change the parts that are not working takes a ‘warrior mentality.’
It can be difficult to take a step back and to think impartially. When you are close to a situation and it is causing you pain, there is a part of the brain that switches off the logical thinking, so solutions are not as easy to grasp. Sadly, all men see themselves as ‘fixers’ and this is hardwired into the reptilian brain. Seeking help with a counsellor can seem like an intrusion and it feels as if this somehow reflects upon one’s manhood. “I should be able to handle this.” “I should be the one to cope with family dilemmas.” “Surely, it is my job to make my woman happy?”
But just as all the big CEO’s and professional footy players have a coach (yes, every single one), couples now need a relationship coach to help them to get back on track and to stay at top performance. Furthermore, it makes sense that if you want to improve your relationship game, you can leverage the knowledge of an expert to help you get further, faster, for longer.
Should I stay or should I go?
The methods I share in my workshop with you take both time and effort, but it has worked wonders for many clients. And I believe it can help you too. The processes I will be sharing with you have taken scores of my clients from a state of confusion, to crystal clarity as to whether they are still committed enough to their marriage to fight for it.
3 myths about leaving
Myth 1: I don’t need to work on myself, she does...
It is always easier to lay the blame on our partner, even though we know that we played some role in the relationship’s demise. Perhaps we were not good at communicating our needs to our partners. Perhaps we were not honest with our partners about our expectations of their roles, or honest with ourselves about what we expected. It does not matter. What matters is that we heal any emotional wounds so that marital baggage surrounding the failed relationship does not get carried into the next relationship, creating a pattern.
Myth 2: If I am the leaver, I get to escape the pain
It is not uncommon for people to think that if they are the one that leaves the relationship, that we get to forego all the pain associated with abandonment. Unfortunately, no one gets through a broken marriage or de Facto relationship completely unscathed. You can expect regret, guilt, loneliness and potentially some family shame to work through. A decision to end a relationship has far reaching consequences and will impact your children, in-laws, family and mutual friends. In fact, there will be those who decide to choose sides. When a person is the initiator of separation, they are more likely to be labeled negatively and blamed.
Myth 3: Happiness is external: I will find happiness with someone else
In a modern world, it is not uncommon (post separation) for partners to swipe left for a new partner before they have gone through the five stages of grief - which inevitably come after a break-up. However, a ‘too soon’ relationship is not an antidote to our grief and loneliness. We might believe that a new relationship will fill the gap of the old. But happiness can only come from within.
While it is possible to find long-term love the second time around, the bureau of statistics (Australia) says that 65% of second marriages or de Facto relationships (and 74% of third) will fail. It is important that you know, understand and love yourself first. AKA, do the work on yourself in therapy!
You are the only one that you can change
If you are considering leaving because you are not getting what you want in your marriage, it is not always the answer to walk away. Remember that you will be taking you, your issues, your communication problems and other things with you when you go.
One of the top reasons that people are unfaithful to their partners is because they want to feel like they did when they were single. They want to feel significant, desired, young, special etcetera. It may be that you have let yourself become the breadwinner, the father, the husband, the handyman and the dogs-body. When you feel so numb that you start to get your emotional needs met with the cute girl at work, a secret dating app or social media likes, you know that you are getting desperate for attention.
If you are feeling insignificant, then you have to realise that it is something that you have allowed to happen, through laziness, over time. The questions you need to ask yourself before you leave are these:
“Where did I abandon myself and my own heart and my own needs?”
“When did I make my partner responsible for my happiness?”
“What was I believing about myself that allowed me to make the choices I was making?”
“How can I become the kind of loving partner that I am seeking for myself?”
The shifts need to come from within you. You need to become the type of person that can both give and receive the kind of love and passion you wish you had.
A shift requires you to be willing to see the role that you played in what happened. And it requires you to get really clear about how you want your life to be going forward because the chances of this happening in another relationship are high after the joys of new love and hot sex have faded. You can reverse this feeling of insignificance in your current marriage with coaching. You may discover that your partner may also be feeling insignificant.
Counselling can improve relationships from the first session. I have seen tremendous breakthroughs and forgiveness in one session. It is my experience that individuals and couples never regret couples counselling. What they do regret is not beginning it years before. They know that their happiness and marital contentment would have been sustained from the early years instead of having a prolonged, unhappy period in between.
Counsellors cannot offer advice about whether you should stay or go, but we do help you to look at pros and cons of staying and increase clarity. We talk about our own experience with couples, common trends for Australian marriages, and support clients in their decision making.
More on Couples Counselling. Recommended Reading and eBooks on the website:
Quote by Anthony Hopkins
′′Let go the people who are not prepared to love you. This is the hardest thing you will have to do in your life and it will also be the most important thing. Stop having hard conversations with people who don't want change.
Stop showing up for people who have no interest in your presence. I know your instinct is to do everything to earn the appreciation of those around you, but it's a boost that steals your time, energy, mental and physical health.
When you begin to fight for a life with joy, interest and commitment, not everyone will be ready to follow you in this place. This doesn't mean you need to change what you are, it means you should let go of the people who aren't ready to accompany you.
If you are excluded, insulted, forgotten or ignored by the people you give your time to, you don't do yourself a favor by continuing to offer your energy and your life. The truth is that you are not for everyone and not everyone is for you.
That's what makes it so special when you meet people who reciprocate love. You will know how precious you are.
The more time you spend trying to make yourself loved by someone who is unable to, the more time you waste depriving yourself of the possibility of this connection to someone else.
There are billions of people on this planet and many of them will meet with you at your level of interest and commitment. The more you stay involved with people who use you as a pillow, a background option or a therapist for emotional healing, the longer you stay away from the community you want.
Maybe if you stop showing up, you won't be wanted. Maybe if you stop trying, the relationship will end. Maybe if you stop texting your phone will stay dark for weeks. That doesn't mean you ruined the relationship, it means the only thing holding it back was the energy that only you gave to keep it. This is not love, it's attachment. It's wanting to give a chance to those who don't deserve it. You deserve so much, there are people who should not be in your life.
The most valuable thing you have in your life is your time and energy, and both are limited. When you give your time and energy, it will define your existence. When you realize this, you begin to understand why you are so anxious when you spend time with people, in activities, places or situations that don't suit you and shouldn't be around you, your energy is stolen.
You will begin to realize that the most important thing you can do for yourself and for everyone around you is to protect your energy more fiercely than anything else. Make your life a safe haven, in which only 'compatible' people are allowed.
You are not responsible for saving anyone. You are not responsible for convincing them to improve. It's not your work to exist for people and give your life to them! If you feel bad, if you feel compelled, you will be the root of all your problems, fearing that they will not return the favours you have granted. It's your only obligation to realize that you are the love of your destiny and accept the love you deserve.
Decide that you deserve true friendship, commitment, true and complete love with healthy and prosperous people. Then wait and see how much everything begins to change. Don't waste time with people who are not worth it. Change will give you the love, the esteem, happiness and the protection you deserve."
One of the best things I was ever taught at uni was by my professor Dr Jodie Bradnam, who taught the 'Love, Sex and Relationships' class. Jodie taught me her secret for marriage and it really stuck with me. So much so, that I use it with my couples counselling clients.
Anyhow, the 'Marriage Jar' is a simple concept that the mind can easily 'get.' It is amazing how this simple idea can adjust one's behaviour every day. Basically, it works like this: When you are first together, the jar is full. As time goes by, the jar empties. For every kind gesture, kiss, supportive comment, intimate moment, lunch pack made, etcetera, a marble goes in. For every sarcastic remark, episode of not listening or avoidance of connection, five marbles come out.
The “Marriage Jar” can even be a real jar. Some people put post-it notes of gratitude in for the other person. So that the partner knows they are appreciated and the little things do not go unnoticed. Notes that say, 'I love it when you bathe the kids without me asking.' 'You looked so hot the other night when we went out. ' I was impressed at your skills changing my car battery.' 'Thanks for paying that parking fine.' These little notes can mean so much to a couple that are under financial strain, have little time for date nights, or have a multitude of pressures.
When a jar is running on empty for long periods, it cannot be sustained. One person will inevitably ditch, or release the pressure of conflict with a third party (cheating). These simple concepts are preventative measures. The marriage jar needs to be replenished regularly. It should be cherished and fed daily.
What else fills the marriage jar?
Kindness, thoughtfulness, appreciation, nurturing and encouragement are just a few things that can fill a marriage jar.
Say, "Thank you." Say, "I fancy you." Say, "I think you are beautiful."
Instead of noticing what your partner does not do, focus on the positives. We can't control another person, but we can reinforce behaviour that we like.
Founder of Ghita Therapy - Ghita Andersen (B.Soc.Sci: Psych & Coun; Grad Cert FDR, Hypnosis Cert.) is a professionally trained Psychotherapist, Couples Counsellor, Hypnotherapist and a Federally Accredited Family Dispute Mediator (FDRP).
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