The Cost of Creating Self-Care: Can You Really Afford Not To?

Posted by: Gloria Pynn on February 19, 2019 1:10 pm

“Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off  a piece of that Kit Kat bar” – many of us have been there. The all-giving, dedicated counsellor is exhausted at the end of the day having given so much to our clients, colleagues and employers. We reach for that little reward – food, drink, bed, TV, and we collapse into the abyss of mindlessness or sleep to awaken to another day of emotional yet essential and passionate service to others.

Over time, the daily work and commitment of counselling can manifest itself in unhealthy responses to stress resulting in weight and health issues, withdrawal or retreat, anxiety, depression, or an overall lack of joy. That feeling of being a hamster on a wheel despite, and maybe because of, your passionate love of “your wheel”; your profession. In many different forms, compassion fatigue can rob you of your energy, deflate relationships and create a subtle but definite disconnect with your daily life.

The need to be mindful vs mindlessness is ever-growing in our profession.

Yes, we should all feel that it is okay, actually imperative, to focus on our self-care but often there is a guilt associated with looking after ourselves versus others. I’ve often called it a “counselling curse”. Empathy and service to others trumps self-compassion. Often early in our careers we pave the road to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. I feel these are two major thieves of our daily joy, health and peace.

We all read and listen to messages at local conferences, on blogs, and webinars to “provide self-care” and we all fully agree with that message, on a rational level. But how can you make it a reality and a constant in the forefront of your practice and life? Can we concretely plan or create self-care? Generalize it to our daily life practices? In our hurried world of could-haves, should-haves, would-haves, the first step to manifesting any change starts in our heads and hearts.

First Step.

Do absolutely nothing.

You may very well need a rest. Allow true mindless in. Sit, nap, journal – follow your mind’s natural path – this can often show you many of your own thoughts, worries and needs. If you can do this by integrating walks, hikes, nature, all the better. If you have developed mental health issues associated with compassion fatigue, please seek professional support. NO shame! As a counselling professional of over 25 years – been there, done that and will continue to seek whenever needed. NO apologies! Then, read about others and their minds. You can read self-help books but also those stories of people you admire, or even “disaster stories” (where life went wrong) with many lessons to be learned of misplaced priorities and regrets.

Second step.

Get a grip – Take stock and gratitude daily.

Take a long look around and see where are you in your life. Are you healthy? Are you happy? What makes you happy? What do you dread every day? Journal if that helps you, walk or talk with yourself and be open to hearing honestly what is good, what’s missing and what would make you feel more at peace or “peace-full” every day.

Also, truly listen and see what things you regret and how those things and relationships could be changed even gently. The power of change is one of our fundamental beliefs as counsellors and psychotherapists. Change is possible for us as well.

Think on your relationships and what you owe your family, significant others and most important yourself. Start to consider how to commit to those people and then learn to include yourself in that commitment daily. For me, this was integral as this helped me learn stepwise, that giving to myself was the best step to giving to family, and also my clients. (Had to do it for others first but getting there).

Thirdly.

Manipulate your mindset.

Sometimes we overthink and rationalize to our own detriment. Perhaps we need to build a rationale that “allows” us to take a break. Maybe it’s okay because we are learning new skills and perhaps a new naturopathic approach to healing, mindfulness workshops or training etc., to complement our counselling work. Think always about what you would like to learn, what motivates you, your passions and then start to weave these things into your life and career plans. Self-care sneaks in and can become a natural consequence and an amazing byproduct.

After this self-assessment, and during it actually, look at any and all possibilities to create self-care daily, monthly and long term. A few ideas in no particular order follow that I have woken up to (after 25 years as a counsellor) and have started to use or integrate in my own counselling practice and life:

Creating your own self-care plan

Financing self-care – money is always an object or is it? Use the money, options and health plans you may already have in place but you don’t think on daily.

  • “Sick” or leave days – use them or lose them. I dislike the negative connotation of sick days and firmly believe in attending to your physical and mental health days. When you delay or defer these days, you are likely to develop further issues and illnesses.
  • Our health care and insurance plans (Counselling, Massage, Naturopath Services, Dietitian, etc.)
    • How often have you finished another work year and realized that you had coverage for services you never even used but could have benefited tremendously? Just a thought. You could be paying for these services every month or pay-cheque. Allow yourself to engage in what could help take care of you.
  • Mini Vacations
    • Professional learning is also all around us and can equally benefit us and our clients. On-demand webinars and workshops on stress, meditation, mindfulness exist, as does professional learning experiences in places you want to see or places you would like to go. Grants are often available to help you with cost and provide you important learning, as well as a change of scenery or rejuvenation. There is also much benefit from the connection with fellow counsellors and in being around those who know or understand our work.
  • Deferred salary leave plans
    • Deferred salary leave plans can be a wonderful way to create a long-term plan for self-care. Readers should investigate whether their employers and respective workplaces offer this option as a first step. It can be a viable option here in Newfoundland and Labrador for many public sector employees. Consult Human Resources personnel in your place of employment to discuss of particulars with regard to requirements and benefits of these types of options. Long story short, deferred salary plans may be a means for some colleagues to planning self-care longer term – to rejuvenate, pursue personal, family, and/or professional goals.
  •  “Lunchables”
    • Don’t have a full day or afternoon, then make the time for coffee or quick lunch. A quick break away or a coffee run, a drive can be a change of scenery and change can be as good as a rest. Connect with others but have boundaries on time and select places you enjoy.
  • Commit to you by including others (you like)
    • Plan it – Build connection into your day or week or month and make the commitment to other people – connect with those who help you to laugh, reflect, get outside, exercise – whatever it is you feel you need for peace and joy.
  • Continue to Tweak it
    • Try new things and add new elements – walk n’ talks, yoga, painting, meditation anything you love or would love to try. As counsellors who wants to continually improve our practice, look to your passions and the things you personally enjoy! You can learn about, practice, teach and model much of this for your clients. An authentic life and counselling practice is always amazing and powerful!! Do as I do not as I say. Who knows, imposter syndrome may start to slide away? But that’s a topic for another post.

Think, talk and always take care,

Gloria




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Gymnastics

Posted by: Lakawthra Cox, M.A., MAPC, LPC, NCC, CCC on February 11, 2019 10:43 am

Early one year, my girls and I visited a University of Oklahoma’s women gymnastic meet. Upon watching the meet, my young girls were able to get posters and t-shirts signed by the team members. A day later, when her grandpa asked Lenay, one of the girls, about her experience at the meet, she told Grandpa, “We went to the Olympics.”

Some experiences are so wonderful, the experience leaves you feeling like some greater experience occurred. Sometimes accomplishing the one goal that you planned for the year or for many years back, once completed, makes you feels as if you climbed mountain Kilimanjaro. While you feel like you have climbed mountain Kilimanjaro, you may have only played that violin piece well, lost weight, or learned to dance the Tango. It does not matter how insignificant your goal is to others, if it is important to you, make your goals come true. Capture that feeling of accomplishment and use that feeling to motivate you to achieve your next goal. Goals may consist of growing a garden, increasing business and income, and improving an interpersonal relationship.

Since my girls had been in gymnastics for a couple of years, it was appropriate to have them understand why gymnastics is useful. I had the girls watch the pretrial videos of the Olympic 2008 tryouts. My thoughts are that this video will show them what they are aiming to accomplish with each gym activity. If the girls understood the results, they could work to become more efficient in gymnastics. One gym class, after having watched the pretrial videos a week earlier, Lenay said, “Mommy, I am tired of gymnastics,” as she walks off the gym floor. “I do not want to go to the Olympics.” She sat down in protest of finishing her gymnastic class.

You may also feel like not wanting to play in the Olympics or achieve your own set of goals after becoming tired or weary while working toward your goals. Having unrealistic goals contributes to your stress of becoming tired or weary (Weiten & Lloyd, 2006). My goal for Lenay is not necessarily for her to try out for the Olympics, because at four years old she has plenty of time to work toward Olympic, high school, and college tryouts for cheer leading or gymnastics, or none of the above. While I am careful not to impose too much on Lenay, I am aware that stress is largely self- imposed (Epstein & Katz, 1992). Keep your goals realistic and avoid imposing too much stress.

References
Epstein & Katz. (1992). In Weiten & Lloyd. (2006). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Weiten, W. & Lloyd, M.A. (2006). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson /Wadsworth.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Let’s Talk… Mental Health

Posted by: Gloria Pynn on February 4, 2019 1:33 pm

I am honored to share my humble voice, musings, and learnings as a certified counsellor and registered psychologist. I have been a counsellor for 25 years. I hope you identify with and find something in my words – a few takeaways to help you reflect on and use in your daily practice.

There are many community initiatives bringing mental health into our collective consciousness. Amazing community partners are attempting to #endthestigma, and are holding many essential conversations about the prevalence, needs and impact of mental health. Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk Day” is one national push towards mental health awareness and a major source of fundraising to support these goals. In the spirit of such events and the aims of our CCPA Connect Blog, I decided to write on mental health and my general counselling perspective.

Mental health is all about people and life. Each individual’s personal life experience is different and each road to wellness and peace a very personal and unique journey.

It all starts with a person’s story like the following on kidshelpphone.ca. One person’s story – less than two minutes to read but enlightening how young children can start to experience mental health difficulties and the positive impact of support. Click here to read Emma O’Hare’s story.

Every story is unique, requiring an individual exploration and journey to wellness. The story emerges and well intentioned, we all too often jump to “How can we fix?” With this mindset, how can anyone as family, friends even ourselves as counsellors and psychotherapists help Someone has felt safe enough to trust you to share their story and issues. The following link presents a few ways anyone can help if a person confides in you regarding their issues and mental health (via Kids Help Phone).

Most importantly, we should always encourage the person to connect, engage or re-engage a team of professionals or seek professional help.  Sometimes that is difficult, and people can refuse or encounter difficulties in accessing help. In spite of this and perhaps because of this, we always need to work together to encourage the fight to access professional help and support – employee assistance programs, medical, psychiatry, individual counselling – any supports or services tailored to an individual’s needs and issues. The CCPA constantly advocates for access to counselling services. We all walk among very compassionate family, friends and staff in general who are there to help and listen but we must also be mindful of the need for expert supports. Many situations require the support and help of professionals such as certified counsellors and psychotherapists. The journey to mental health is very individual and takes more than one day and one campaign. We have to continue helping people talk and sharing stories, in protective safe spaces and always with an eye to our own life stories as counsellors.

I always stress SAFETY with my fellow educators, students and caregivers, as there are times people need immediate and direct intervention. At any point, if you feel an individual or others around them are not SAFE, the best help you can offer sometimes is to honestly say, this is bigger than me and you right now, WE need immediate medical help or interventions. Engage police and or medical intervention ER, wellness checks as needed. The brutal reality is we can all lose people to suicide or homicide (myself included). Always then, look to your own self-care and mental health as a counsellor, partner, parent, and human being. Vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue are real things that we all must bear in mind to be well and at peace.

In my opinion, the most important element toward all mental health is finding and giving VOICE.  People have to think about and discover what they need and then give voice to their needs in whatever way they can. The counselling process and counsellor’s work then continues to explore and walk alongside an individual’s path leads toward wellness one step at a time. We can try to support, comfort as friends, colleagues, family member, and people but truly each one of us (client and counsellor) has to agree to embark on that unique journey to find our own voice. We need to build inherent strengths to learn to write, whisper, speak and at times fight for what each person needs to be well in their world. Our work as counsellors is to help each individual find these inner strengths, listen, guide, support and challenge thinking toward a more peaceful and well existence.

Personally, I believe different mediums in counselling (art, written, spoken word, song) “spark joy” (sorry Marie Kondo is everywhere) and resonate with each individual. Use each person’s strengths, gifts and joys to help them journey toward wellness and peace.

Here is a song about VOICE I have listened to with many counselling clients in various parts of that journey…. I hope you enjoy! The choice to embark on the journey to wellness is always brave. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles.

Let’s help others and ourselves to be brave, start to find our way, and share our voices and stories a little more each day. Your path is your own but know, you are never alone.

Think, talk and always take care,
Gloria

Brave Sara Bareilles

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

Songwriters: Jack Antonoff / Sara Bareilles

Brave lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Getting Closer to Your Partner

Posted by: Marie Miguel on December 5, 2017 10:39 am

With up to half of all marriages ending in divorce, some people think, “Why bother at allyour relationship will take some work to stay healthy. That is just the way it is.

Everything good takes work,

What Can We Do?

There are plenty of couples counseling therapists and counselors as well as support groups both online that you can go to in person. However, you may not be ready for that. There are some things you can try now that may help improve your relationship without having to go to counseling.

Communicate

Communication is the most important thing in any relationship. If you and your partner cannot communicate, you are not going to be able to get along. This does not mean just talking. Communication is different for everyone. Some people express with actions like hugs, holding hands, and doing things for people while others communicate with words. Some people are passive, and others are aggressive. Those who are aggressive have to be careful not to let that emotion affect their communication in negative ways such as yelling, being verbally abusive, or being physical.

Those who are passive may need to try to open up more and let their feelings be known, so the other person does not think you are emotionally shutting them out. Being quiet is not always a good thing. Talk about things rather than keeping them bottled up or they will eventually become problems.

Honesty

If you and your partner are not honest with each other, you cannot expect to have a good relationship. Lying to your partner or deliberately not telling your partner things that they should know is pretty difficult to get it back. Be honest and open in your relationship and let your partner know that you expect that from them too.

Respect

Everyone wants to be respected by people they care about, especially your partner. You got together for better or for worse, and that means and with but you have to keep an open mind and respect your partner for their own feelings and opinions.

Friendship

Being friends is sometimes more important than love. have to be friends first. Just having sexual attraction for someone does not mean you love them so make sure you enjoy being around them before you make a commitment.

Fight Fair

Everyone fights so when you do, make sure you fight fair. No name calling, yelling, cursing, insults, and definitely no physical abuse of any kind. Experts say it is better to use the words our, us, and we instead of you, me, and I. Using plural pronouns helps you and your partner connect more and increases the chance that you will express positivity rather than negativity.

Sexual Satisfaction

Do not forget to spice things up once in a while. Having a satisfying intimate relationship with your partner has been proven to increase happiness in your relationship overall. Sexual intimacy brings couples closer in more ways than just sex. If you and your partner are having trouble with sexual intimacy, see your physician about it right away. Ignoring this problem can lead to all kinds of problems.

Online Therapy

If you think you and your partner need to talk to a therapist or counselor about your relationship, there are many options. You can talk to your family physician that can recommend a therapist, or you can try an online therapist. There are thousands of licensed professionals available 24 hours a day, seven days a week who can help you right now.

 




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Why Blame? – Part 1 of Demon Dialogues

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on October 27, 2016 1:56 pm

manandwomanDr. Sue Johnson, developer of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (2008), explains that couples get stuck in three different demon dialogue patterns, one she named   the “Find the Bad Guy” pattern that she states leads to a dead end for couples. Johnson describes the Find the Bad Guy as a “blame game” that leads nowhere but to more conflict, disengagement behaviors, and eventually creates a lack of security and trust in the couple’s relationship.

Why do couples engage in this type of behavior? Johnson purports that couples engage in this type of behavior as a way to be in a mutual attack mode, a win-lose dialogue and for self-protection from the real issue(s). Couples can for the moment feel less vulnerable and more in control when taking the stance or role of the “blamer”. This way the blamer(s) does not have to take responsibility for his or her behaviors, thoughts or emotions by pointing fingers at their partner as if to say,  “you are at fault, not me!”

Blaming behaviors can also escalate the other partner to engage in the same role and behaviors. Each person can both emotionally and verbally attack each other until one backs down. The one that emotionally disengages or shuts down usually does so for self-preservation. It is a natural response for the blamed partner to divert negative attention away from himself or herself as a way to cope the ongoing relationship distress. Over time, couples can become entrenched in Find the Bad Guy dialogue and it becomes an automatic interaction that leads to insecure bonding in couples.

The way couples can work on stopping the Find the Bad Guy pattern is to find a trained couples therapist who will point out this demon dialogue to the couple. The therapist needs to explain how this dialogue only detracts from the actual issue(s) and creates ongoing emotional distress. The therapist teaches the couple to come from a new level of communication that encourages language that creates safety, trust, and a willingness to take ownership of past behaviors. The therapist also facilitates couples’ dialogues assisting them to show their vulnerable emotions to their partner demonstrating their ability to express a “softer exchange”. Overtime, and with ongoing practice the Find the Bad Guy dialogue is replaced with an emotionally bonded couple that is able to deal with and find solutions to relationship issues.

Danielle Lambrecht, RSW, M.C., CCC.,Trained in Emotional Focused Therapy at Danielle Lambrecht Counselling

Please feel free to reply, it would be great to hear from you!




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Proximity- How Close Are You?

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on August 26, 2016 11:55 am

Proximity is a felt sense of connection to another and is not just within the physical realm, but is also emotional and spiritual. According to Sue Johnson, proximity is one of the laws of attachment. It is not an idea, but a primal need that is built within each of us. We all need a solid attachment to at least one main figure and if we had that in our childhoods, most likely we would have a secure attachment to others as we grow up.sistersclose

When we have safety in connection with others we can grow and develop and live healthy lives. We grow up to be adults who are flexible, creative, balanced and trust those who are either in our lives or entering in. We can develop solid attachments with others without loosing our sense of personal power. We give ourselves permission to live from an authentic place without worry of disapproval and loss of self.

The opposite is true if we did not experience proximity that felt sense of connection, we may fear people and see love as dangerous. We may fear rejection and have difficulty getting close to other people even when we want or need to. We may not be able to calm ourselves from fear of loss and struggle with feeling emotional imbalanced when what we really want is to feel safe and loved.

As a couple’s counselor, it is important to help clients see their relationship through the attachment lens. This attachment point of view allows couples to be encouraged to talk about their longing for attachment with their partner without their own fears of abandonment or rejection getting in their way. Couples learn strategies on how to seek proximity and deal with triggers as they arise. Couples can also develop secure attachments to one another by learning how to be emotional available, responsive to another, and practice ways that encourage continued emotional engagement.

Danielle Lambrecht, RSW, MCC.CCC

Danielle Lambrecht Counselling

©2016

Please submit any comments and I will gladly respond. Thank you.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Emotional Disconnections – Why Does My Partner Keep Shutting Down?

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on July 6, 2016 1:09 pm

Relationships have the power to heal trauma! A secure bond between a couple that is nourished and maintained has the ability to heal old wounds. When one or more partners struggle with insecure attachment, couples therapy requires a strong focus on adult bonding. It is through this re-attachment process that couples can survive relationship issues.CoupleHugging

Some couples may have had difficult childhoods and had insecure attachments with their main caregivers. Others may have had traumatic events in their early years that have left emotional wounds. Shutting down or withdrawing has been their only source of coping with their emotional pain. If a partner tries to reach out and comfort the other and receives an opposite reaction of withdrawal; this can leave the couple in an emotionally disconnected cycle.

Childhood traumatic events that have led to insecure attachments or fear of getting close to others needs to be addressed in couples therapy. Often it is the fear-based thoughts of the partner that prevent adult bonding. A situation within the relationship can cause one partner to relive “past” thoughts such as “He’s going to leave me like my mom”, “I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve her”, and “I’m not lovable”. These locked up thoughts can be followed by “knee jerk reactions” and withdrawal and shutting down can occur. The emotional disconnections manifest, and the couple do not feel safe or comforted and can find it very difficult to reconnect.

To be able to break the cycle of emotional disconnection is to be able to turn to your partner and notice their emotional pain and reach out and give comfort. There has been multiple studies showing that physical and emotional closeness can relax the nervous system and slow down and eventually stop the “fight or flight response”. However, Sue Johnson (2008) advises reaching out and comforting your partner does not guarantee 100% response back as  “mis-attunements” can still happen. She encourages couples to keep turning towards each other, reach out over and over again, and find the emotional connection.

There is hope, when the couple is able to move through their fears, “mis-attunements”, and old thought patterns. It takes courage to be vulnerable and to work together to heal old wounds and traumas. The reward though is a couple that finds solace, comfort, and safety within the other and an attachment that may have never been experienced before.

Danielle Lambrecht Counselling

Danielle Lambrecht, RSW., MC. CCC ©2016




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Emotional Disconnection is like Inflammation of the Body—It Hurts!

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on June 3, 2016 12:02 pm

When couples experience emotional disconnection it is like a virus that invades the body and spreads. It is painful and sometimes long lasting and chronic. It is more difficult to clear up after it has invaded the entire body, but it is possible! Like any unwanted invader, it must be noticed, and dealt with, and have the proper antidote. The antidote is creating continuous “moments of connection and bonding” between the couple; keeping them immune.

Over thousands and thousands of years relationship bonding has been known as an ancient primal need. It carries within it a fundamental system built to assist human survival. It has been attachment science that has demonstrated that infants who do not receive human touch do not thrive. Throughout the human lifespan and even into the last stages of life, studies have shown men have shorter life spans without a mate. The evidence is closenessthere, that attachment is not only essential for human survival, but integral to optimal health and wellness. Therefore, why it is very important to understand how emotional disconnection between two people can be harmful.

Two people that are bonded are a system of attachment. Each person integrates “self” into the system and it becomes “one”, but interdependent on the other. Secure-based relationships have this well-established attachment system that allow for hardwiring, or fixed connection to each other. It makes for a strong emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual connection and a strong knowing that each one can depend and trust the other.

Emotional disconnected partners have less of secure base or attachment to the other due to ongoing “bond ruptures”. These bond ruptures create emotional and physical distance, insecurities, self-doubts, emotional pain, and continue to erode the couples system of attachment. The couples’ primal need is not met and the relationship becomes an insecure-base of indifferences.

One of the main strategies to create a secure-based relationship is to stop bond ruptures that create gaps and distance between the couple. How to do this, is by doing the exact opposite. By using proximity and reaching out to your partner you have them notice that felt sense of connection and safety. Partners long for attachment and a simple turning and reaching for your partner whether that be in loving words or a physical gesture, the positive, connective energy is the same. When you seek closeness with your partner you stop the “inflammation invasion” and create a safe haven again. It does take time.

Danielle Lambrecht Counselling 2016 ©




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Why is it so hard to communicate with my partner?

Posted by: Danielle Lambrecht on May 19, 2016 10:44 am

communication2This is one of the main questions I hear in relationship counselling. It is not an easy one to answer at first. The reason for this is that each person’s style of communicating can be different from the other. When this is the truth, it needs to be recognized during the beginning of therapy and then addressed with the couple.

If one person has a passive style, it means this person will not be direct with what they really think or how they feel. Their behavior may be incongruent with what they are saying to their partner and this can lead to confusion within the couple.

If the other person is aggressive, they may show frustration, be irritable, and could be verbally abusive. This person may have learned this style growing up and not know any other way to get their needs met. However, this style can and will erode a relationship. In addition, when met with this aggressive style, their partner could retreat, withdraw, and shut down.

I would eventually see this couple in my office. They would both be at their wits end and know that they cannot communicate effectively, but are stuck in old reinforced communication styles. There are power struggles, ongoing unresolved conflicts, silent treatments, and one-up-man ships behaviors because each wants the other to meet their “needs”. This couple can walk into my office at a stalemate in their relationship, both unhappy, worn out, and want their relationship to change.

When both walk in to see me…their communication style is the very first and most important subject to tackle in order to see changes.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Expressing Anger Constructively

Posted by: Denise Hall on March 2, 2016 4:31 pm

Expressing anger in a constructive way is challenging and in many situations almost impossible. First we need to locate the source of our anger then determine whether we actually are angry with others or ourselves. Is it righteous anger or displaced anger and is this a battle that is wise to wage? Is it way beyond the particulars of the situation?
Another question is are we using anger as a defense? For example, anger can keep you from dealing with:anger

* the source of your fear.

* the critical voices in your head.

* personal values that create guilt.

Anger can:

* prevent you from examining the losses in your life.

* stop you from communicating your hurt.

* keep you immobilized and not able to problem solve.

* keep you angry & not moving forward.
Let us discuss the wisdom of choosing our battles. Some of the questions that would be helpful to ask are:

* How important is this relationship?

* What are my personal costs if I keep quiet?

* Is there a power imbalance (e.g. Employer – Employee) and what are the costs of speaking up? (e.g. will I lose my job, will it be difficult in the long term if I speak up?)

* Will I put myself at risk physically if I speak up?

* Can I express myself clearly and constructively?

* Will this person understand if I speak up?

* Is this battle worth fighting?

* Would letting go and not taking the situation personally be a better strategy in this situation?

 

The point in asking these questions is that it makes us pause and better define the situation and decide whether to go ahead with expressing our feelings. Choosing not to proceed in any of these situations does not mean we stuff our feelings. There are other constructive ways of expressing feelings of anger without confronting the person directly (e.g. writing an “unsent letter” to them). Sometimes, knowing that we will not win with someone who is unapproachable and/or has more power than us and instead taking care of ourselves in the situation is a better route than confronting the person and being much worse off.

This does not mean we should accept bullying or sexual harassment. There are other better ways to deal with such problems rather than confronting the person directly. Analyzing the situation is rather tricky. Our feelings sometimes prevent us from perceiving the situation accurately and that is when I believe it is time to bring in a trusted friend, colleague, family member, or counsellor.

When using our feelings to help us direct our lives, we definitely need to give them more than a glance. They are there to guide us to more authentic and healthy ways of being. Strong feelings indicate that we have to take notice and that there could be underlying and long-term issues fighting for uncovering and expression.

Not expressing feelings constructively has the potential to really get people in trouble in their relationships, at work, and with the law. However, not giving them expression is destructive as well because they can erupt at any time in the most inopportune places or wreck havoc on our health. Road rage is a good example of this. Unexpressed feelings seek out opportunities to vent. It can happen on the road or with service personnel who have done some small thing to irritate you.

When you decide it is time to express your feelings, an anger script can be helpful. Write something like what follows before you talk to the person:

In making an assertive statement use the following:

“When you___________ I feel_______________ and the consequences are that I___________________.”

It is important that you are specific about the situation and your feelings and the consequences are realistic. An example:

“When I ask you to empty the dishwasher and you ignore my request, I feel angry and disrespected and as a consequence, I don’t want to make dinner for you or help you with anything”.

Another area where we can feel angry is when others cross our boundaries and/or we agree to things we don’t really want to do. We can then feel resentment, a real sign we need to set limits.

It is surprising how many people have a difficulty with saying a simple “no”. We really don’t have to justify a no answer. Making excuses is not being honest or authentic. Often, just a simple “No I am unable to pick you up this evening” is justifiable. Other times, we may have to give the person more information. The following guidelines are adapted from McKay, Rogers, and McKay (1989):

* Acknowledge the other person’s needs

* Advise them of your position, preference, feelings etc.

* Say “no”

“I know you were counting on me to have dinner with you this evening but I would prefer not to go and stay in instead. So I am unable to come to dinner”.

When setting limits, it is important to spend time thinking about the situation and the best way to go about it. Over apologizing and putting yourself down is not helpful; positive “Self-talk” is important!

Beware of guilt feelings getting you to agree to something you don’t want to (see my Blog on Guilt). Also, make sure your body language is assertive not passive or aggressive.

You can also negotiate with the person.

“I am unable to drive you home however I can drive you to the nearest bus station and provide you with bus fare if needed.”

The “broken record” is a good strategy when people are persistent. Repeat your assertive statement.

“No, I would not like another drink.”

Being specific is key. If you are vague and the person is trying to persuade you, it will give them an opening.

I have used two books as references and the title of one says it all: Don’t be Nice, Be Real. Most reasonable people appreciate your realness and willingness to be clear and assertive. Avoiding and making excuses tends to be disrespectful and leaves most people with an uncomfortable feeling. Being assertive takes some work. However, expressing your feelings, wants and needs is being honest, authentic and respectful to others even if they disagree with you. They likely will respect you for it.

 

References:

Bryson, K. (2004). Don’t Be Nice Be Real: Balancing passion for self with compassion for others, Santa Rosa CA: Elite books

McKay, M., Rogers, P. & McKay J., (1989). When Anger Hurts: Quieting the storm within, Oakland, CA: new Harbinger Publications, Inc




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA