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March 4, 2022

Teenage Kicks tonight

Last night my wife and I started on the 1st of 3 presentations / discussions on surviving the adolescent / teenage years.

Now, I have a relatively good understanding of some of the issues that commonly arise and, given the nature of my profession, you might think that I had a bit of a head start.

WRONG WRONG WRONG!

Just ask my daughter (or actually my wife for that matter!). I am just as likely to say ‘act your age’ as the next parent – which is ironic because given the amount of development that is going on in an average adolescent’s brain, that is exactly what they are doing!

Like learning the lyrics of a song in a foreign language, I recognised the words but not, it turns out, the meaning when it comes to my own little cherub! Who knew they would have difficulty ‘reading’ a sarcastic response from an adult -….well, reading that back now, I suppose pretty much everyone apart from me.
An interesting fact is that a lesser developed but developing part of the adolescent brain can often be responsible for an adolescent misinterpreting a passive / neutral face for an angry one. I am starting to see why sarcasm might not be the best idea!

Any parent who has asked a seemingly innocent question to be answered with a ‘WHAT?’ will recognize this. The problem is that this behaviour normally triggers a response from you. You see, by and large, in some way you will betray yourself by responding, the nearly imperceptible eye roll, the sigh, the frozen smile that silently screams ‘can we try to have one evening meal without an argument…’ thus neatly ensuring the exact thing you don’t want to happen, happens!

Regardless of my profession, and I also know this to be true of a vastly more experienced colleague who specialises in young people generally and neurodivergent children in particular, I was struck by how common and unremarkable the majority of ‘incidents’ are. This isn’t to minimize them at all, but highlight that this is largely a routine process. Usually all our little darlings grow up to become adults and usually our families survive.

You see, it turns out that the majority of issues that come up in a relationship are relatively routine, but the issue is that these concerns usually create behavioural trigger points, as above, so you almost always end up having the same argument time and time again.

If you recognise this ‘relationship dance’ but feel a bit stuck – send me a quick message via www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk and we can arrange a free assessment.

Therefore , if you have emotional involvement in a relationship, you can usually wave goodbye to any notion of objectivity or non-judgement.

Which is why I could never nor would never counsel my family nor any of my relations and good friends. REMEMBER – Do as I say, not as I do!

 

March 2, 2022

Must do better!

Please take the time to read the attached article. The article reflects the pretty (piss) poor state of affairs when it comes to disabled people accessing counselling. It again shows that all too often service providers and health professionals ‘ tick a box’ to say they can deal with disabled issues and then haven’t actually reflected on what issues that might arise – from the practical to the complex and medical. If this were a school report the final comment would be “Must do better”.

The big issue: You can knock… but you can’t come in (bacp.co.uk)

Additionally, I did actually contribute to this article when I was in hospital recently, so I hope it makes sense!

March 2, 2022

Time for you.

Now that the new year has bedded in a bit, it might be a good time to look at those issues, however big or small, that you have been smoothing over or just plain ignoring. Please simply send me a quick message at www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk or Facebook and we can use the 1st free assessment session to look into this more and see if it is something you want to explore further.

I’m sorry I have been away for so long but unfortunately I have had 2 lengthy hospital stays and 6 operations since May 2021. I’m back now and v keen to get going again!

April 21, 2021

Be good to yourself!

Self-Compassion is a difficult concept to grasp.

It might be an idea to attempt to tell you what isn’t self-compassion.

Self-compassion is different from self-pity.
Self-pity can be egocentric, in the sense that you feel like the only person suffering – “… And back to me”. This in turn usually leads to a feeling of victimization.
Self-compassion is not purely kindness or sympathy towards yourself – these are helpful characteristics, but should not be confused with compassion.
Self-compassion should not be confused with self-indulgence.
Allowing yourself a self-congratulatory treat is self-indulgent treat  (which may well be justified), but self-compassion is not treating yourself.

Self-compassion does not equal self-esteem.
Simplistically, Self-esteem is a person’s self worth, self-compassion is not based on a person’s self-worth but based in the idea that everybody deserves compassion.

So how do you define ‘Self-Compassion’.
Compassion is the ability to notice suffering, it is emotional empathy / involvement that allows you to try and understand (not excuse) situations and feelings, putting things into perspective with calmness and understanding that allows you to understand that this suffering / failure / difficulties are all part of being human. (As per Kirstin Neff’s explanation).

Self-Compassion is trying to apply your compassionate behaviour towards others, to yourself.

People frequently treat others with a far more compassion than they treat themselves. They are far more self critical, self abusive, inflexible and frustrated.

Which leads into the obvious question – which type of person would you prefer to own up to a mistake to? Someone who is compassionate, or someone who is critical, abusive, inflexible and frustrated.

No brainer, right? Wrong – internally people are far harsher to themselves than to others to the point whereby their behaviour can change – either they avoid any situation that they fear may result in a similar outcome (suppression) or explode in a self critical meltdown/tirade.

Most of us are taught to value others, to be generous and understanding and generally treat others as we would want to be treated, except most of us don’t.

Interestingly, and amusingly (when looked back on with the sufficient distance and hindsight!) the usual self justifications for treating yourself badly, and I have used all these myself, include needing the such harsh words to motivate myself, to achieve my goals, to fit in at work  etc. However, such self chastising strategies are actually unhelpful as coping mechanisms and not good at building up emotional resilience to endure or overcome the challenges life will inevitably throw your way.
Another thing self-compassion is not is the ability to make yourself feel good all the time.
If you want to talk about the way you talk to yourself, if you think you might be being too harsh on yourself or are not sure where you stand, please just give yourself a break – contact Accessible Online Counselling and we can talk.

Some people cannot stand the idea of counselling.

This can be for any number of reasons, some valid, most not!  But then again, I would say that wouldn’t I?  Some people have had counselling before and didn’t like it/the counsellor.  They felt patronised, they felt like a victim, they felt like a patient, the counsellor always thought they knew best, the counsellor talked too much about themselves, the counsellor asked about private stuff…etc.  All these complaints can be very valid.

Always remember, you are in control, you can change your counsellor.

Similarly, I have heard the complaint that the counsellor did not ‘fix’ the individual / partner / family / relationship / problem to the client’s satisfaction. Now, this is tricky as clearly there needs to be clearer outcome / expectation management from the counsellor / client and this should be a key part of any initial session.  That said, this goes into the territory of my previous post “if I had a magic wand….  Which I don’t!” – what is a realistic outcome for you?

Always remember, you are in control, you are the expert in yourself, or your relationships, or your issues and your needs.  The counsellor is there to assist you in a supportive, an understanding and in a non-judgemental way.

I have heard the complaint that the counsellor was ‘not on my side’.  That’s an easy one.  A counsellor should be independent.  Supportive, understanding, non-judgemental AND independent.  They are no one’s side nor there to find fault.

Always remember, counsellors should be curious, supportive, understanding, empathetic, reflective and independent – but not, generally, on your side

When people come to counselling, it is very important that everyone involved is aware of the aims of the people seeking the counselling have.  If it is a couple, it is often the first time that one partner (or both!) has actually been asked the question “What would be a good outcome for you?”, and frequently the first time that one partner (or both!) have actually spoken it out loud to each other.

It is helpful to the way that counselling will progress that this is stated out loud at the beginning.  It is absolutely fine to say “I don’t know”, “I didn’t want to come” or “Don’t ask me!”, all of which I have heard multiple times, it is also fine if you don’t really have much of an idea yourself and mutter ”You’re the Counsellor!  – You tell me!”, it’s hard enough to go to counselling PERIOD let alone saying something out loud to a stranger!

However, what this question can do is cause you to reflect and any measure of reflection of our behaviour is a ’good thing’. If you are able to think about your behaviour and its effect on yourself/partner/family/others that’s great.  If you can’t, so what – coming to counselling at all is very brave as people are usually totally out of their comfort zone / routine.

The fact you are there at all speaks volumes, even if you don’t say anything!

February 24, 2021

Kids and COVID lockdown 2.0

I wrote on November 16th 2020 about the potential negative effects that being OUT of the lockdown 1.0 might be having on ‘kids’ – and to that I would probably add the number of adults (myself included!).

Well, history seems to be repeating itself.  The government has announced a timetable for the easing of lockdown restrictions.  Sure enough there is evidence, very much anecdotal at this early stage, to indicate that the same worries and anxieties exist about returning into society, and for most kids that includes a form of state mandated torture, e.g., school.

I have heard stories of anxiety around COVID testing at school, not be able to catch up and being christened ‘thick’ for evermore, and there is no point because there will be lockdown 3.0 anyway.  Exposure to the opposite sex, or anyone of any sex has been minimal.  I can now just ‘cut and paste’ large chunks all my previous post because all the issues that existed before, still exist now.

Namely, the social pressures that were there before lockdown 1.0 and 2.0 are still there now.  In fact, you might argue that a large part of these issues stems from growing up, puberty and developing an identity they are comfortable with. Children will be out of the secure and familiar, yet boring environment of home and having to navigate physical friendship/social politics, peer pressure, bullying, standing out, sporting/academic achievement, appearance, personal hygiene, stages of puberty etc, all of which are presumably as confusing as they were before.  Again, because of the overriding sense that easing the lockdown is ‘a good thing’, I can again cut and paste the chunk of my previous post – in some cases this has led to an increase in child anxiety and a decrease in the feeling that children have that they can share their thoughts with adults.  Some children feel that they won’t be listened to if they speak, some children feel there must be something ‘wrong’ with them if they feel there is something not quite right in the post lockdown world.

Food for thought – if they do ask a question / share a thought – even if it is nonsense, trying not to show impatience / dismissive body language.  Don’t try and joke  / use sarcasm (unless you are very sure of yourself!) be kind, be patient, try not to ask too many questions (this usually results in monosyllabic responses), reassure them, try to have a conversation when doing something else (chopping veg, setting the table etc) – although not watching screen!  Allow yourself to be the butt of a joke, the subject of some gentle collective family ribbing, if they ask, say you’re just checking in on them and that you love them.  They will probably think you’re a weirdo, and might say as much, let them have the last word or just blame me!

Words have multiple meanings and, as I have touched on before – why use one word when ten will do?

Sometimes it is quite important to realise what is really inferred by the tone or words that somebody else uses.  Frequently it is the case that somebody will prefix the comment that they are about to make with an excuse.

Eg – “I’m not being funny but…” is the code for “I am about to be rude but it’s understandable…”

“Any normal person would…” is of the code for “I am the standard for ‘normality’, so you have to agree to me or else you are not ‘normal…’

– I find this one particularly difficult as the speaker is essentially assuming the role of speaking for ‘the greater part of society’ – which just is not true

The use of “At least,..” can be quite nuanced and quite sneaky.  I confess I have used that form of words that conveys the impression of being interested in what someone has to say whilst simultaneously shutting them down.

“How was your weekend?”

“Awful, I didn’t get any sleep on Friday night….”

“Oh dear…well, at least you were home, safe and sound…”

The “Well, at least…” is quite frequently a device used by the speaker to close the conversation down because THEY don’t want to talk about the subject.  Try it, you can close essentially any topic of conversation down.

The logical or illogical conclusion to all this?

“Well, at least you’re not dead…” because if you were, it would be a pretty one sided conversation!

We humans like to think we have control over our lives…  Which we don’t.

Simplistically put, our brains are hard wired to try and find patterns in things. Hence why we usually see ‘faces’ in the clouds, the Moon, knots in bits of wood and Jesus in pieces of toast and marmite…

At first, the mental cost of the Lockdowns was sold to us as limited to school-goers and the vulnerable (i.e. those seen to be more susceptible to loneliness).

What is, and always was, inescapable – but it was not really publicly highlighted as such – is that devastating toll that the pandemic will take on all members of the community.  The more obvious ones – Parents,  teachers, frontline health staff, the bereaved etc are recognized.  It seems are like others – students, people who were able to keep working, people who lost their livelihoods, people who lost opportunities  etc are coming to the fore.

Mankind has always tried to ‘explain’ the apparent randomness of events – pagan rituals, religious structures etc. (I’m not going to get into a philosophical argument of religion vs. fatalism etc).  Suffice to say not being able to explain and rationalise the fundamentals of a situation as the consequence of our own actions and decisions is deeply unnerving.  There are some fundamentals, that although assisted by mankind’s actions them, are natural phenomena and cannot be easily controlled.  The best we can hope for is some kind of the uneasy truce.  My guess is that in the way that the mental health of generations of people were harmed by WW I/II, there will be a reckoning.

What a jolly post!

Anyway, if you are slightly concerned please just email at [email protected] or arrange a free assessment at www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk

 

I heard about this letter on the radio from a primary school head teacher, trying congratulate ‘her’ parents for doing their best on the very difficult circumstances.  As long as your kids are safe, loved and cared for – that’s the key issue.

Please share and forward in any way you can,  just so she knows it’s resonating.

In counselling, another holy grail is the acceptance of the concept of ‘YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH’.  In this especially applies to you all as I bet you pride yourselves in being high flying workaholics!

https://www.facebook.com/138387672924388/photos/a.198304726932682/3666191333477320/?type