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I’ve thought long and hard about shedding light on the murky/mysterious world of everyday tasks for disabled people (ie me!).  My reluctance is twofold 1.  My main coping mechanism is humour, which can be a bit distasteful to some – nearest and dearest included and 2.  I am a disabled counsellor NOT JUST a counsellor for the disabled, I thought writing this sort of post would define me as someone using their back story to push a personal agenda.  Then I thought “NAH! – stop reading if you don’t like it, you’re a grown up!  Also, sod it – it seems soo obvious yet not enough people saying it”.  Anyway, if you like look of this keep reading.

06.30 – alarm goes off, knackered – needed loo 4 times last night.  A tricky manoeuvre that requires putting the light on each occasion to ensure accuracy and hygiene.  I have tried guesswork and hoping for the best.  Not a good outcome…

06.30 – 07.15 – Various stretches and exercises to try and get blood moving.  Mostly a waste of bloody time!…

07.15 – 07.45 – pushed duvet to bottom of the bed (otherwise it just gets in the way) – not enough room for the two of us. Whilst pushing duvet down bed with stiff and inflexible legs, I randomly kick wall, side of bed and wheelchair, just to prove to myself, in case a miracle happened overnight, that I still have no actual control over my legs…

Sit up and manoeuvre self with right arm (left arm is rubbish) to sit on edge off bed.  Feel very drunk and unsteady but with no prospect of a one-night stand. Use litter picker to pick up clean underwear and socks.  Reach down carefully to pick up discarded trousers from previous night.  Lie back down on bed in order to remove old socks and replace with new, take off the PJ bottoms and pull-on clean underwear and trousers.  This takes a lot of huffing and puffing, effing and jeffing, straining and pleading (in vain-ing) and just for good measure, the other day, whilst trying to pull my sock over my foot, I lost my grip and thumped myself squarely in the bollocks. My already peachy day glowed ever brighter as my eyes welled up and a sensation I have not experienced since I was 13 washed over me.  At that point I would have gladly been paralysed from the neck down!

On the fourth attempt I manage to zip up my flies, but give up all my trouser button as I can’t be arsed to try and do it up again and I’m not exactly going to be standing up much!

07.45 – 08.10 – I pivot transfer from the edge of the bed (drunk again) to my wheelchair.  This takes five minutes of trying to get my feet into the right position to risk this manoeuvre and not end up on my face on the floor.  Once in the chair, I can remove my thermal top (elasticated and too big – for ease of putting on/taking off), use face wipes for a face / body wash, attempt to roll on deodorant (ha ha), then pull on a clean T shirt, no buttons or zips, whilst not tipping the chair over, nor tipping myself out of the chair.   Then it’s just a quick dash (ha ha again) as I put on my fleece top – again no pesky buttons or zips and add the final stylistic touch, a woolly cardigan.  This does pose some interesting existential questions as it has both a zip and it needs to be passed behind your back two allow you to pull on your other arm.  As above with the underwear and trousers this requires a lot of huffing and puffing etc etc.  I then spend 5 minutes trying to manoeuvre myself in a manual wheelchair out of the bedroom and to the stair lift. The manual wheel chair is controlled from the right-hand side – which is a bit like trying to work out how to reverse a car and trailer through a narrow gate, first thing in the morning after some intensive exercise!

Then I transfer again, blah, blah, blah.  It frequently it takes me longer to get out of bed, get dressed and downstairs than it did to commute to work in Central London from Basingstoke. Repeat ad infinitum.  I have just realized, another reason why I don’t talk about it, is that it is really dull!

Welcome to my world.

January 25, 2021

Disability knocks…

For me, the hugely important bit of this article is the line “But for…[those] with a disability, the tiny motions required for fastening a button or putting on a pair of pants can be part of a gruelling, multi-step process that takes hours—if it can happen at all.”
Often it is only when personally affected by the disability issues (and by that I mean anything that affects your functionality), that an appreciation of the – mostly blindingly obvious – physical limitations of everyday life for someone affected by functionality issues is created.
This inspired me to write another post about getting up out of bed and getting dressed!

One of the holy grails of counselling is the establishment of a ‘therapeutic relationship’.

Simplistically, this is the difficult process of creating the bond of trust between the counsellor and the client(s). Therefore, the client(s) feels comfortable, heard and not judged. The sessions can then go forward in a productive way for the client(s). Until the client(s) reach this point they are unlikely to feel listened to, comfortable and understood. It also follows they are unlikely to risk sharing their true emotions, opinions or own analysis of their behaviour.

Therefore, it was a little confusing to then learn about the phenomena of online disinhibition. The idea is that, due to the unique way in which an online environments impact upon your behaviour, can result in some oversharing of personal information BEFORE a therapeutic relationship has developed. This in turn lead to a kind of embarrassed ‘morning after’ realisation of drunken night before where you have this sudden recall of something you said or did.
Observed common alterations/changes individuals make to their internal/external identity in order to project the desired new or exaggerated characteristic when in a new online environment usually include little appreciation of the consequence of their actions, increased/exaggerated confidence and inflexibility in taking a viewpoint, showing little or no empathy or understanding of another’s position, deliberate offensiveness (‘flaming’) or deliberate misunderstanding due to the semantics of a post. It is also much more difficult to pick up body language, changes in voice tone or facial expressions via Zoom or text.

…And that is why we have emojis – saying ‘you’re an idiot’ can mean an entirely different thing to ‘you’re an idiot  

It follows that counselling online has a different set of behavioural pointers and triggers, and must to a greater extent than’ face-to-face’ counselling relies on honesty and transparency of understanding, or misunderstanding as the case may be!

Surprisingly, sometimes the biggest obstacle to an individual’s ability to manage change is the individuals own expectation(s), usually of themselves.

Previously when I mentioned grief it was in what you might call in the ‘traditional’ sense of the death or loss of somebody close to you or that meant a lot to you.  However, it important to recognise some emotional elements of our common reactions in the process of grieving are also common to changes to our ambitions, dreams, expectations and future.  Therefore, these reactions can be as important. I frequently talk about the ‘grief curve’, there are basically five stages to this, with any number of intermediate emotional stages in-between.  Shock, anger, understanding, acceptance and moving on.  Now think about traumatic event or personal change, for something that you were personally invested in – be it a potentially great job / promotion, potential new house or flat, a potential new relationship, potentially trying for a baby, the potential post COVID-19 world, your children growing into their potential whilst you slow down, a potential election result etc.  This could have presented you with a different future, an ‘ If only….’ moment.

Rationally you know it’s not the end of the world, plenty more fish in the sea and other fantastically facile/banal platitudes, however, emotionally you feel rubbish…  why?  Essentially, you’re grieving to a greater or lesser extent.  It becomes more difficult to manage when your expectations (usually your own!) increase the pressure on yourself and are greatly unrealistic/slightly unrealistic.

For instance, one of the most difficult times that I had adjusting to life in a wheelchair, a significant change in my expected future, was managing my mental image of myself winning the Dad’s race at my child’s primary school sports day.  This might be more understandable were I ever to have been any good at running or won anything in any sporting arena at any time pre-condition or post-condition and certainly pre-wheelchair.

The point I am trying to illustrate is that the expectation is less based in the rational and more in the emotional – sometimes it is more akin to a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  What my image illustrated was the loss of the opportunity to take part.  This was a loss, which I felt emotionally.

So be kinder to yourself and you should give yourself time and space to grieve for what you might feel is a trivial issue but that if you look closer (maybe with www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk) could be having an emotional impact.

December 17, 2020

The negative cycle

I  have previously mentioned in a post @ http://www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk/blog/ – (November 24, 2020 ‘Hundreds of arguments, usually the same one…’), some sort of negative cycle is common in your relationships and friendships.  I wanted to say some more about the common varieties that you might recognise.

When talking about cycles, be they unicycles, bicycles, tricycles or negative it has just reminded me of a joke my then 15-year-old Bolshy middle sister told me years ago.  A woman in a bar has just picked up a man and wants to take him home, when she says to him “I think I should tell you that I am on my menstrual cycle”, “That’s okay” says the man cheerily “I’ll follow you on my moped”… BOOM BOOM TISH.  Apologies and please find the full text @ http://www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk/blog/

In an attempt to mystify what is essentially a quite simple idea – therapists and counsellors will label repetitive arguments as ‘the couple dance’ or ‘the negative cycle’.  To you it is usually just frustration or despair as seemingly whatever you do you always end up at the same bloody place – either upsetting someone or being upset.  It is interesting to note that the very behaviour you might employ to try and defuse the situation, unintentionally, appears to inflame it.

The very repetitive / circular nature of things might cause you to realise that this is a pattern, however, once emotional responses get triggered it is very difficult to extract yourself.  Hence why Counsellors might need counselling themselves – they might be able to recognise they are in a cycle but once an emotional response is triggered, all bets are off!

And that in a nutshell is the key.  You need to recognise initially that you are in a cycle, and then break it.  Again, easier said than done.  However, what it is helpful Is that the behaviour in the cycle itself is seldom important enough to the person to avoid breaking it.  Simplistically, the emotional attachment to the other person is stronger than the emotional attachment to the negative cycle.  I have frequently seen that an individual, couple or family long to behave in a different way, but get caught up responding in the ‘expected’ way – to avoid losing face or being seen as vulnerable.  The expected way is like a choreographed ‘dance’.  It’s easier to act in a certain way as everyone knows their part.

How do you break the cycle?  Do something different, maybe admit to the other you are stuck.  Talk to each other back-to-back, ask the other if this is helpful or maybe highlight that this is ‘just’ a cycle and how you might change your behaviour together.

All of this can that be easier with an independent third party.  If you feel you might need further guidance please don’t just ignore it and arrange a free assessment at www.assessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk

December 16, 2020

Because you’re worth it!

Self-worth is a funny old thing. There are many measures of value. You just need to look at the old saying ‘money can’t buy you happiness’, whatever ‘happiness’ is (but that is a whole different conversation!) Presumably it can if that is all you care about. Essentially, I believe it is YOUR contentment and YOUR ability to recognise something desirable or good in what you do.

One of the things that people find hardest to do is to recognise when asked and vocalise an aspect of themselves that they do well.  What I feel is so interesting is that people very rarely, if ever, cite resilience through the experience of failure, disappointment or enforced readjustment as a valuable characteristic.  It very definitely is and it is something that, as a disabled person, I have noticed people are far more willing to recognise in others (ie me!) than in themselves – a weird kind of British self depreciation that borders on the masochistic at times.  Amongst senior employees the attributes that frequently drive success in the workplace – focus, leadership, valuing rewards, prestige, people pleasing, ambition (conscious or subconscious!) are the very same attributes that drive disappointment and insecurity in their own performance.  Those in less senior roles have the added pressure they feel they are underperforming at work.  In counselling there is the well established idea that it is usually the original attraction between the two partners that is now the source of discontent.  If you are ‘successful’ at work why can’t you be as successful elsewhere in your life.  If you are not ‘successful’ at work, why can’t you translate the success elsewhere to your work.

This can all add up to a conscious feeling of dissatisfaction or an unconscious feeling of ‘something is not right’.  Either way leads to discontent / dissatisfaction, which can lead to an impact on other areas of your life.  So, ask yourself what do you do well, were you on time,  did you make someone smile?  YOU take the opportunity to think about what YOU do well and think about it every day for a week.

Easier said than done!

December 11, 2020

Grief

Just to say that it is National Grief Awareness week.
 
Grief is something that almost all of us go through. However, some people find it very difficult to acknowledge the other feelings, alongside the sadness and the things you’re ‘supposed’ to feel. From an elderly parent to a miscarriage this event, driven by The Good Grief Trust, aims to provide early signposting and a tool kit of support for all those directly and indirectly affected by bereavement. Please see – http://nationalgriefawarenessweek.org/ and if after reading through the website you are not sure if you want to see a counsellor – please arrange a free, no obligation, assessment session at www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk
Younger and older kids – what might help
Try to have some ideas of what you might do in the run up to Christmas day, the dull period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve and for those ‘dead days’ after New Year’s Day and school.
Include older children so they don’t feel too ‘organised’ – especially if they value their independence. Older children can help in putting on Christmas itself, but also plan some older days – shopping, cinema and they can go with their friends, Bowling etc. Tag team up with anyone else available to take a child! Remember, planning ahead means you know what they’re doing, and what you are doing.
It can be really tempting to have either a relaxed routine or no routine at all, but a bit counter intuitively, this actually tends to stress children out because they don’t know when they’re eating or sleeping. Over excited, over tired or ‘hangry’ children get stressed. Stressed kids usually mean stressed adults
Stagger present giving as the younger children tend to get overwhelmed by the excitement of it all if they get everything all at once and smaller presents can get forgotten on the day.
It is a good idea to have a quieter, cooler place away from unopened presents, TV and people to have a quieter time just to play with presents.
Christmas is the ideal time for teenagers to play up!
Try not to react when they say something provocative, usually this just for your benefit – ‘Christmas is a waste of time’, ‘What’s the point?’, ‘I am a vegetarian now’, ‘this is dry…’ etc, stay in control (ha ha, easier said than done). They are frequently trying to demonstrate their power and causing you to lose it is a good example of them flexing their emotional muscles!
Choose your battles and see the bigger picture (otherwise known as winning the war!) – decide what’s important e.g. being at the present opening, being at Christmas dinner and playing one family game. Ask them to be there, ask them like an adult (don’t order them). Also stipulate any conditions beforehand so it is not a surprise to them e.g. No phones at the table, they can have one glass of wine etc. Surprises inevitably lead to negotiations ‘on the hoof’ – a recipe for disputes.
Time off for good behaviour – In the same way younger children need some downtime, so do teenagers. Let them see their friends, disappear to their room for an afternoon, play on the games console for a few hours, have a lie in and miss breakfast etc. – and this ties in to the idea of choosing your battles, don’t sweat the smaller stuff – they won’t, plus they might feel that they should reciprocate a little. You never know….
Also, there will be at least a couple of arguments – they are children after all (and teenagers at that!). Don’t expect everything to be magically great – the extra pressure on yourself and them will virtually guarantee a confrontation. Being told ‘to chill’ will ensure the opposite from you! (I know I just did it, and it is not even Christmas!). When you lose your rag (which you probably will do), don’t feel guilty and beat yourself up. Wait a while, ask for quick word, say how stressed you are and you need their help and (hopefully!) make up and move on.
Blended families
It is the classic saying of ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ – organize stuff ahead of time. Even basic arrangements like ‘I will drop them at 4.00 PM at your house’, this allows everyone to have an anchor event to arrange things around.
Try and avoid most things being organized by 1 person (unsurprisingly, this is annoying!)
Arrange journeys carefully to avoid 1 person travelling a long way / doing all the fetching and carrying (and not drinking!).
Plan / stagger celebration meals / Christmas events around children arriving (but not immediately!)
Step parents: try to think how the present you have bought your partner’s children is roughly equal in cost and size to the ones that you have bought your own kids. Children tend to be even less skilled than adults at hiding their true emotions and this is an easy stress to avoid, especially if the children are tired and/or over excited.
There are, of course, loads of other issues at Christmas, but these are usually made multiple times worse by children.
Remember, this is not a guide to having the perfect Christmas, I’m merely making you more aware of the obvious issues, in case you sleep walk into them.🙂

As promised on Monday (but not delivered on Tuesday!) here are the other defences with some common situations.  Frequently the examples cited are actions, however, all actions start as an instinct, either conscious or unconscious, and it can be pretty artificial to try and separate them out. As a counsellor I frequently encounter some form of defence in direct response to me, in response to a partner or family member or indirectly as part of the narrative of a situation the client had been in.  As I said earlier, a level of defence not bad in and of itself and can be seen as a coping mechanism; frankly I would expect it as a ‘normal’ response (whatever ‘normal’ is!)

5.Dissociation – in its most simplistic form, this is ‘zoning out’ / ‘leaving the scene’ / ‘checking out’ / ‘leaving the building’ etc, either mentally or physically.  It involves some sense of changing your awareness of your place in reality or possibly the reality itself.  This can be as straightforward as day dreaming – wishing you were somewhere more interesting and doing something more interesting, or maybe not doing anything at all!  This can also be as complex as a protecting your emotional self by removing your mind from reality.  Most commonly this is done by not mentioning something, mentioning anything else or just saying ‘I don’t want to talk about it’.

6.Projection – this as it can be very straightforward or pretty complex.  Essentially you have a personality characteristic that you don’t like and don’t want to recognise in yourself.  It might be something you have seen in someone else and criticised.  E.g. Being inflexible, being ignorant, being sarcastic, being too nice etc.  Secretly you know you have the exact same trait that you accuse another person of having, so you ‘project’, either consciously or unconsciously that trait onto someone else.

“You’re being defensive” you say, defensively.

Additionally, it might be the case that you actually accuse someone of implying something you have difficulty acknowledging in yourself.

“Don’t make out I’m being ridiculous” you say, ignoring the fact nobody did.

Things can get quite difficult as this unacknowledged characteristic might also be wrapped up in an unacknowledged/unconscious bias or prejudice.  Which is a whole different kettle of fish….

In order to justify the way you have behaved (usually badly) in your own mind, you further intimate (to yourself), the person had it coming because they were….[Insert preferred answer]

7.Reaction formation – This one is relatively straightforward. You try to obscure your true feelings by acting the opposite way in your outward behaviour to the world.  Metaphorically, you are pulling the pigtails of the girl you like in the playground.  To really see this in action just watch an episode of ‘Love Island’ where every episode someone says ‘I’m glad you don’t see me as girlfriend/boyfriend material as I don’t want to lose you as a friend…’ – really, they are gutted!

8.Intellectualisation – this is my favourite because it is something I recognise in myself.  Another way of putting it might be to say ‘waffling’.  Rather than talking ‘properly’  about an uncomfortable emotion, you indicate a willingness to talk about the event / experience, then do so in a way that, whilst not denying an event happened, focuses your energy on the logistics of the event rather than the impact on your emotions, You think about the issue in an intellectual way so we do not have to address the emotion.

“How did you feel?” The counsellor asked me.

“If you mean ‘feel’ as in was I annoyed, then yes” I respond!!

9.Rationalisation – you might refer to this as the ‘Act of God’ defence, you can argue it is a bit like intellectualisation but you attempt to explain your reaction/behaviour by attributing it to some situation that you cannot control or twisting it so you are not responsible. ‘It wasn’t my fault because…’ and add in the justification of your choice.  You had to act as you did ‘because…’, you had no choice ‘because…’. I did it for you / us / them / myself etc ‘because…..’

  1. Compartmentalisation – As it sounds – this is separating areas of your life into separate silos. This defence is pretty useful when you need to focus entirely on one aspect of your life – for example work, a DIY project academic work etc, but less useful when issues or anxieties from one area ‘bleed’ into another, impacting one or other area due to an unacknowledged reason. Additionally, this can also be an issue if the internal ’walls’ you have constructed to separate the areas of your life render you incapable of discussing those areas together.  Eg you cannot discuss the impact the work and the promotion might have on your family’s ability to move to a bigger house and start a discussion about a new baby.
  2. Compensation – this is trying to emphasise one characteristic / behaviour in order to make up for what you see it as a weakness or lack of a ‘strong’ characteristic in yourself. Eg driving an expensive car to make up for a perceived lack of intellectual status. Making your point repeatedly and forcefully in an argument to make up for your lack of empathy / understanding of another’s point of view.
  3. Identification – we see an image as being something that we want to be associated with, and consciously or unconsciously amend our behaviour/mindset to reflect that image. This can be as simple as giving the appearance of intelligence by reading in public, or as serious (and controversial!) as identifying with an illness and using it to avoid taking responsibility for certain behaviours e.g. ‘it’s just my anxiety disorder making me….’
  4. Ritual and undoing – being aware, either consciously or unconsciously, that an aspect of your behaviour is not acceptable therefore trying to mitigate or hide it behind positive behaviour. Eg – being constantly late then, when on time, making a fuss about it because ‘you’re special!’, you usually put work events before family and then when you are with the family, putting unrealistic expectations on them planning a ‘big’ day out and constantly telling them how great it will be.
  5. Distraction – a temporarily effective response to being confronted with a strong emotion, be it unpleasant or unexpected. Whilst a bit more complex than the cartoons; shouting ‘hey! look at that’, pointing somewhere behind the baddie whilst running in the opposite direction – it is really just the mental equivalent. E.g. Talking at great length about possible arrangements for Christmas to avoid a discussion about commitment and the direction of the relationship.
  6. Sublimation – ‘sublimation’ is a great intellectual word that is only really used by Counsellors and therapists! This is a ‘good’ defence. It basically happens when people transform their difficult / uncomfortable emotions into something productive. E.g. Internal anger at being treated differently because you are disabled, turned into a positive campaign for getting disabled voices heard.  Internal disappointment, confusion and anger etc into how an intimate relationship is causing you to behave in a certain way and taking steps to leave that relationship.

Some and defences you might recognise, most of their time it is difficult to spot them because they are unconsciously motivated, you are too emotionally ‘close’ to be able to determine what is instinct, defence and regular behaviour and, usually,  there is more than 1 defence / motivation working at the same time.

However, if you feel your behaviours and internal thoughts are not very helpful to you, it is probably worth booking a free assessment with www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk and seeing if you can become more aware of your motivations.

Along with ‘couple fit’ talking about defences. be they purely verbal or physical, or a combination of the two in the way they show themselves, seems to be an area of pretty intense interest.  I think it’s because they can be quite accessible, recognisable to spot and you can recognise them in yourself.

A level of defence is a good thing and protects you, those around you and indicates a level of social awareness.  You might argue that the employment of defences, to some degree, allows successful and more complex social interactions.  A good example would be the ability of service personnel to compartmentalise traumatic war zone events and not bring them back to civilian life e.g.  Not talking about dismemberment and explosive devices when buying the paper at the newsagents.

It is when the defence goes beyond the control of the originator, becomes a repetitive default response or becomes evidence of a dysfunctional behaviour that defences can become an issue.  I’m not really sure what the ‘official’ number of defences is.  A quick look on the web sees some people putting down 6 ‘main’ ones, one lists 10, another lists 12 – I came up with 15, but I have probably split some, double counted and made one up!

In no particular order they are:

1.Denial – not acknowledging your own behaviour and using a ‘shield’ of some other reason to justify the behaviour.so you protect yourself from needing to acknowledge something unpalatable – e.g. denial of the idea you smoke by using the name/excuse’ social smoking’ or ‘I only smoke when I have a drink…’.  This could have far more serious implications as part of the justification for somebody staying in an abusive relationship could be to deny/minimise the abuse as a sign of ‘true love’. A more common example would be the serious impact of sudden/traumatic grief and relative(s) are not clearing out the dead person’s belongings until a considerable time after the event.

2.Repression – consciously or unconsciously ‘forgetting’ an unpleasant memory.  This could be as powerful as somebody who has suffered a trauma being unable to recall the specific details of the event to the Donald Trump approach to the US election – seemingly a genuine feeling he won repressing the reality that he lost.

3.Regression – This is the reversion back to a childlike emotional state – ‘throwing your toys out of the pram’, sulking, shouting over someone, refusing to listen, storming off etc, in which your base/childhood unconscious anxieties, fears and general emotional instability erupt (before you have learnt adult control).  Essentially this is a toddler temper tantrum e.g. it leads to irrational behaviours such as road rage incidents, the ‘red mist’ descending, Donald Trump not only repressing idea he lost, but doubling down on the idea there is systemic weakness in the election process, contrary to all evidence.  In arguments it is usually met with the accusation ‘you’re SUCH a child…’

4.Displacement – this is when you ‘take out’ your true feelings on to someone else – usually someone close to you who is not responsible in any way. In the ‘biz’ we would call that ‘transference’ of your true emotions.

A common example would be that you’ve had a pretty unsatisfactory conversation about work with your boss or teacher, and you feel quite helpless but you can’t express your true emotion toward him or her.  Instead, you come home and, usually without intending to or really being aware of it, pick a fight with someone else rather than the actual cause of our difficulties.  The problem is that this is usually our partners, family or friends, and can result in other difficulties.

Spotted any you do yet?!

Do you need a quick free assessment at www.accessibleonlinecounselling.co.uk?

More tomorrow!