Should professional therapists take sides politically and professionally or remain unbiased and neutral?
The answer, my answer at least, Therapist have a duty and an obligation to challenge and oppose a system that targets and demeans the most vulnerable in society, that fractures and distorts mental health services, that results in people with mental health and other issues living in poverty, without benefits, and often suicidal.
In the very first book of the Bible, when Cain is challenged about his murder of Abel, he cries out, 'Am I My Brothers Keeper?' The answer for this government : Yes. You are your brothers keeper, and their blood cries out to you from the ground.
Let us not forget the hundreds and possibly thousands who have died because of austerity, benefit sanctions, workfare enforcements, cuts to services. Let us not forget the millions who suffer under welfare and benefits cuts, who are paid below a living wage, or on zero hour contracts, who struggle to provide for their children and families while the rich get richer. Let us not forget the thousands who now have to use food banks while companies and basic necessities (gas, electric, water) make more and more money at their expense.
In the light of this governments war on the poor, professional neutrality is cowardice and collusion.
In 2015 are there some things worth giving up?
Here are twenty possibilities (which one will you choose?) ...
- Let go of Negative Attachments and Negative People ... you don't need them in your life.
- Let go of Guilt : either repair whatever is making you feel guilty, or let it go
- Let go of Negative Thinking ... has negative thinking about others got you what you want?
- Let go of Self Criticism : let this be the year you start to build yourself up
- Let go of Prejudice : negative assumptions about others only leads to resentment, bitterness and anger.
- Let go of compulsive thinking ... Maybe it is time to stop doing what you have always done
- Let go of the need for approval : confidence comes from inside, not from others
- Let go of Limiting Beliefs : self imposed limits and beliefs may be holding us back
- Let go of Grudges : believe it or not, unforgiveness hurts us more than the other person
- Let go of Procrastination : what do you want to begin in this next year. Do It.
- Let go of Anxiety : not always easy, but is there really something to be afraid of?
- Let go of Heartbreak ... don't keep on going over those obsessive thought. Time to live?
- Let go of Bad Memories : those stories we keep on telling ourselves to justify how we feel
- Let go of Useless Things : Is our life cluttered with lots of things we don't need?
- Let go of Bad Company : we are dragged down by the company we keep (French proverb)
- Let go of the belief that we are a product of our past and cannot change
- Let go of Job or Partner Identity : we are far far more than someone's partner or job role
- Let go of Bad Habits : don't 'try' to give up. Decide to give up and do something else instead
- Let go of Taking Things Personally : we, alone, decide who we are and who we are not
- Let go of The Ticking Clock : don't be ruled by what always needs to be done before tomorrow
Well, there are quite a few suggestions.
What will you change in the New year (although there is no reason you have to wait until then)?
For myself, I don't have New Year resolutions, but I do take time over Christmas to reflect on what I want to change or move towards in the next year. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don't, and that too is OK.
Next year, I would like to spend more time exploring, meeting new people, being less assertive and more gentle, building up my faith, and a few other things.
What will you change?
If you live in the Leicester area (England) and think you or someone you know would benefit from counselling then please do get in touch.
Tel. 0116 2120807
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
So what kind of issues to people seek help for:
- Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Phobia's
- Stress, either at work or at home
- Relationship Issues (not just marriage)
- Feeling stuck in unhelpful habits, moods, behaviours
- Eating problems and body or self image issues
- Depression, low moods, suicidal thoughts
- Oppressive or Intimidating Relationships
- Bereavement. Grief, or any kind of loss
- Unresolved Childhood Issues
- Self Harm or Other Addictive Behaviours
Seeking Help Is Not A Sign Of Weakness
It Is A Sign That, Very Often, We Have Tried To Be Too Strong For Too Long.
If you or someone you know would benefit from counselling, then please do get in touch or encourage them to get in touch.
The picture above is the back page of my brochure. If you would like a brochure or several brochures for yourself or your workplace, contact me.
Whether it is:
- Alcohol : drinking too much, binge drinking or just a daily habit that you have excused
- Drugs: you feel you need to take some kind of drug to just get through the day
How do you know when enough is too much ... how do you know when you are addicted?
Eight Signs of Substance Abuse or Alcohol Addiction:
1. Memory, Fuzzy Thinking and Headaches.
If you are taking drugs or drinking alcohol every day, do you struggle to remember things you really should be remembering, simple things, appointments, picking the kids up, calling someone, or forgetting arrangements you have made.
Do you struggle to think clearly? Perhaps you don't want to think clearly if something traumatic has happened. Perhaps thinking too much is getting you down. But is taking drugs or drinking every day going to really help, or will it make things worse.
Like it or not, the basic, honest truth is that addictive substances will affect and damage your brain unless you do something about it. If you need these things in order to cope then you need to seek help to deal with the underlying reasons why you need them.
Key Point: Addiction is never about the thing you are addicted to. It is always about what you are trying to avoid by taking that substance or keeping that habit. (This goes for gambling, pornography and other addictions also).
2. Using substances to help you cheer up and get through the day.
If you rely on alcohol or drugs to put you in a good mood, or simply to cheer you up or be able to cope with surviving for another day, I don't mean to be blunt, but you have a serious problem.
Why aren't you happy?What is making you miserable, sad or even depressed?What are your real struggles?
These are the underlying issues that are not being dealt with. They will not go away and neither alcohol or drugs will help you to answer those basic questions. Therapy can help you to look at the reasons for your unhappiness and enable you to take definite steps to deal with the underlying issues. When you are dealing with those issues and developing your life the way you want it, chances are the need for alcohol or drugs will take care of itself.
Key Point: It is a beautiful world, full of extra-ordinary life and vitality, beauty, people, new experiences. What is really stopping you from enjoying it?
3. You've tried to quit but haven't been able to.
The problem with trying to quit anything is the 'trying'. There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, if we are trying, what we often don't realise is that 'trying' is actually mental shorthand for "I'll try but I know I won't succeed." People who say, for example, 'I will completely stop smoking from tomorrow and never smoke another cigarette' are at least five times more likely to stop smoking.
Secondly, when we try to quit something, we are focusing on the very thing we are trying to give up, which makes us think about it more, and want it more. We need to change the focus onto a positive reason or outcome or alternative:
- my children, how much more fun we will have, our times together, their laughter
- going out more, as a family or with friends, the places we could go
- the things I could spend the money on that I will be saving
Key Point: 'There is no try ... there is only do or don't do.' (Yoda, Star Wars)
4. You feel that you need to drink or take drugs to fit in socially.
5. Are you ignoring health issues so you can keep on doing what you are doing?
Lets be honest. We all need to fit in. We all want to have friends, and even be loved and accepted, especially if we are not 'naturally popular.' And sometimes we do have to go with the crowd, to fit in, to be accepted, to have fun. That's a part of life. And we don't want to be the 'killjoy'.
But there are times when we need to stop, think and look at the cost to us and those we love.
Is my drinking or drug taking affecting my health?
Do I need these friends so badly I am willing to risk myself and my family?
What does it say about me if I need to do this to be accepted?
These are hard questions, ones that we don't like to ask ourselves, but if we don't ask (and answer) them, the consequences for us and those we love could be disastrous.
Will you be one of those people who watches their family and life disintegrate, separate, and then drink or take even more drugs to cope with losing the people you love?
Key Point: If you see your family life getting worse, and your habits affecting your loved ones, don't wait until it all falls apart before you seek help.
6. Problems with family members directly related to your drinking or drug use.
Headaches. Insomnia. Waking up feeling wasted and tired. Stomach pains. Flushed red face. Aches and pains. Nausea and vomiting. Cravings. Chest pains. Cramps. Sexual dysfunction. Not eating properly or healthily. Shaking and trembling.
There are lots of reasons for health issues, and not all are down to addictions. But, again, lets be honest. We do know if it is or it isn't. Let's not lie to ourselves. We may make excuses to others, but lets be honest with ourselves.
If you know your drug or alcohol habit is causing you health problems, you need to do something about it now. It isn't going to go away. It won't get better if you continue doing the same things. And if, in spite of knowing how this is affecting your health, you still can't stop, then therapy and other medical support can help. Do not leave it until it is too late.
Key Point: Make excuses to others if you must, but don't lie to yourself. If your health is suffering, be determined to do something about it. No more excuses.
You know the pattern. It's like a script that you play over and over again.
You drink or take drugs, knowing the consequences. Your family or loved ones express their concern (not always as positively as they could). You argue, use phrases like 'it's my life, I'll do what I want.'
The argument escalates. Someone storms out. They feel bad. You feel bad. You hate what it does to the children. All those bad feelings. And so, the next day, or the next week, you do it all again, to get away from the stress, knowing it will only make things worse.
But at least the drink, or the drugs (or other addiction of choice) will blot out the bad feelings and stress for one more night.
And you even manage to convince yourself that it's not really your fault. Your family drove you to it, with their criticisms, innuendo's, pressure, nagging.
If this is you, there is simply one very important question:
Key Point: Is your habit more important to you than your family and the pain that you are causing to the people who love you the most? Is it time to heal?
7. Secrecy and Lies.
8. Withdrawal Symptoms.
You know your habit. You know the problems it is causing. You even know the excuses you tell to yourself and to others. And most of all, you know the conflict it causes. You know, before you even drink or take that drug. You know what is going to happen. It is such a familiar pattern.
And underneath all of that is something else, something you haven't even told your loved ones: your secret shame, how you really feel about yourself, about your addiction. They are so busy focusing on the drink, the drugs, the consequences, they don't even know what is really going on inside you.
And what makes it all worse is the lies, the secrecy. That is when you know you are really addicted, when you are so ashamed of what you are doing and so aware of the conflict and affect on your relationships, that you lie. And I am reasonably sure that you can probably remember those lies.
Key Point: If you have to lie and keep secrets you are doing something that you are ashamed of, and hiding an even deeper shame. Get help as soon as you can.
So What Do I Do Next?
You have tried giving up, but when you did manage to give up you experienced anxiety, sickness, couldn't sleep, couldn't stop thinking about it, craved it, wanted it so badly it was physical.
Your body has become dependant on the drink or drugs, physically dependant. Counselling might be able to help here, but what you really need now is medical help. There are so many organisations, so much support available.
Key Point: Do not listen to that voice that says 'I can't give it up.' Seek medical advice and support. Get counselling in addition to that. Put your life back on track. Do not give in. You are worth more than that.
- Be open, honest and vulnerable with the people who love you
- Be determined to get your life back on track
- Know and believe that you are important, that your life is important
- Make a clear, once and for all decision to give up that which is harming you
- Get medical advice and support
- There are always underlying issues - get counselling and therapy
- Stop lying to yourself and making excuses (I know this sounds harsh)
- See the beauty that is in you, in your loved ones, in the world. Really see it.
- Change those other habits that are keeping you stuck in your problems.
As a person and as a counsellor, I really hope you manage to make a way forward and find ways of dealing with your problems. I do genuinely believe it is a beautiful world and a life worth living. Please find ways of enjoying your journey and defeating the things that are holding you back.
And if you want counselling, you know where I am.
Gateway Counselling Leicester.
I am not a huge Michael Jackson fan, but please don't hold that against me, because I think that the following is one of the most amazing videos and songs ever written, especially from a 'personal change' point of view. Enjoy ...
I friend gave me an article in The Metro this week about Life Coach, Michael Serwa, and the following impressed me so much I thought it was worth sharing (edited and expanded slightly) :
Ten Things That Stop You From Being Amazing:
1. You worry too much about what other people will think.
Other people are too busy worrying about what you think of them to be thinking about what you are doing. Or to use Will Smith's words: 'stop letting people who put you down control so much of your life.'
2. You are in a career you don't really like:
Seriously, change it. Do you really want to look back from your deathbed and see yourself in a career you didn't really like? Take small positive steps towards what you really enjoy doing.
3. You try to do everything yourself:
Don't. Learn to delegate or prioritise as much as you can so that you can free up time to do things that you really enjoy doing (and then do them)
4. You wait for something or someone to motivate you:
Stop waiting for someone else. Find something that excites you, something you enjoy doing. That is what really motivates you. (if you are stuck, work out what it is that you do instead of the things you should be doing but don't want to). The reality is, no-one else can motivate you to do something you don't want to do.
5. People around you bring you down:
On average we have five people we spend most of our time with. Choose those people wisely. No-one needs negative nellies in our life. Challenge them about it or spend less time with them. Also, perhaps, work out why you gravitate towards people who are bringing you down.
6. You put other people's happiness before your own:
Work out what makes you happy, what makes you smile, and do more of that. Your happiness will be contagious and other people will be attracted to it. You can still help others, but not at the expense of your own happiness.
7. You don't know where you are going:
You have no sense of direction, no purpose, no reason to get out of bed in the morning. What is it that you want to do. Where is it that you want to go. Set goals. Take actions.
8. You blame other people and circumstances for where you are:
The truth is, life can be very unfair. But this is your life. Take responsibility for it and, basically, bluntly, stop moaning about it. You will feel better if you do something about the parts of your life that you are not happy about. Then you wont need to moan about it.
9. You are living with regret about the past or unrealistic expectations about the future:
You cannot change the past, so grieve for it, cry if you need to and then move on. You don't need to forget it, but don't let it keep you in the past. And be realistic about the future. Especially, there is no Santa Claus, no magical solution to your problems. Don't wait for a lottery win before you decide to do something with your future. Act Now.
10. You are your own worst critic
How many reasons do you have in your own head for why you can't do something. Stop criticising yourself (why do that to yourself?). Stop comparing yourself to others (they may appear confidant, but they struggle just as you do). Most of all, Be Kind To Yourself.
I hope this helps. I found it very useful. But please, I beg you, don't use this list to put yourself down. Use it to motivate yourself. and I stand on the last words of point ten:
Most of all, Be Kind To Yourself.
What does it take to let go in our lives? To allow for loss – of a loved one, a cherished object, a known and familiar feeling or experience. How do we go about surrendering and letting go?
My experience is that most of us will cling to that someone or something, refusing to let it go completely. We make excuses, rationalize and bargain with ourselves. Confronted with the event of loss we tend to grip, to cling, to wrap ourselves around the very thing we need to let go of.
It is human nature to fear surrendering what we most love, what we have grown accustomed to. It is human nature to fear surrendering and letting go, period. It frightens us, it makes us feel vulnerable, makes us feel alone, existentially doomed to loss.
What will we have once we let go?
Once we surrender? It takes a leap of faith, a belief that once we release our grip we will be able to continue our life in a different, and perhaps even fuller way. We build our lives around loved ones, family, things, objects, habits, beliefs, you name it. And letting go of “it” whatever “it” is, threatens our very sense of being.
Talking with a patient about her struggle letting go of her persistent binging, and of her tendency to isolate and sleep, to wrap herself in familiar patterns, her fear that she will always have a black hole inside, she tells me a Buddhist story:
To let go is counter intuitive to us, and yet, we cannot advance without doing so. The very act of clinging keeps us immobile, tightly wound around the thing we cling to. Even when we want to let go, we fear… the precipice. I think this must be akin to what Sartre had on his mind when he described existential angst.
A man slips and falls down the side of a mountain, he begins to fall quickly, the end of the precipice thousands of feet below. He manages to grab a branch, and as he clings to it for dear life, he begins a dialogue in his head:
“Dear lord, if you get me out of this one I promise I will pray and I will never do wrong again.”
“SURE” a voice replies, “THAT’S WHAT THEY ALL SAY.”
Startled, looking for the source of the voice and glancing down at the precipice below, the man continues, “No really, I will, I promise, just help me get out of this one, and I will do anything you want, anything really!”
“EVERYONE SAYS THAT IN YOUR SHOES.”
“Please, I promise, I will, I will do anything you say.”
“ARE YOU SURE, ANYTHING AT ALL?”
“FINE….THEN LET GO!”
Very unlike the next example, which celebrates letting go as part of the natural order of life.Around Christmas time of 2009, I heard a beautiful sermon on WQXR radio (by Reverend Bruce from the Unitarian Church in NYC) on this very topic. He was speaking on the need to let go with gratitude and an open heart. He shared an experience, which was recorded by an observer in the Metro section of the New York Times newspaper. It went something like this:
A woman steps out of a subway car and starts to put her gloves back on when she realizes that she is missing one. She turns to look at the subway car and sees one lonely glove on the seat, the companion to the one she is holding in her hand. It is now too late to retrieve the glove from the train, so with a shrug of the shoulders she throws the glove that is in her hand back into the train as the doors close. She smiles and walks away.
Surrendering with gratitude and open heart.
My colleague, Dr. Mark Epstein (Open to Desire) talks about the difference between holding and clinging. Holding is done with an open hand, so that whatever we hold near and dear to us is free to move and be.
Clinging is more akin to gripping- tightening our hand around something so that it lies prisoner within our grasp.
Surrendering with gratitude and open heart requires an open hand. It requires a lightness of touch, a lightness of being. Openness rather than tightness. Think about what we do when we are afraid: we tense up, tighten up every muscle we have; we crouch, cross our arms, we close up. We grip and hold onto ourselves. We do this to try and protect ourselves. The question is: from what? Some fears, perhaps most fears, come from within, even if they are triggered by external events.
In the case of letting go, it is our fear of not having, of looking into our own precipice, of losing our (known) sense of self, that makes us grip and hold on.Once we think of surrendering with an open heart we are immediately confronted with the fact that to do so requires an act of faith on our parts.
I do not mean of the religious or spiritual kind, I mean of the personal kind. A personal leap of faith. The woman on the train platform did exactly that when she threw her remaining glove into the train: she released her grip with a smile. Her act of faith exemplified in her release of the glove – in her belief that she could let go, and that she was better off throwing it back into the train to join its companion, rather than bemoaning her loss, or worse – attempting to retrieve it.
The act of letting go creating new possibilities of ownership (anyone need gloves?) as well as freedom. Can any of us disagree with that?
Surrendering has to do with acceptance. Acceptance of who we are, of all of those parts of ourselves that we spend much our lives not wanting to know, but nevertheless know of. Acceptance of what we do, how we think, what we say, and of course, of what has happened to us in our lives. Acceptance of our limitations and our not so nice parts.
Years ago, a patient described what it took for her to stop smoking. “I finally surrendered” she said, “finally gave up in acceptance that I could no longer fill myself with smoke, while telling myself I was soothing myself”. She surrendered to the idea that she wanted to live despite the inevitable suffering that might come as part of really living. This took accepting the fact that her addiction was not to nicotine, but to the way smoking filled her loneliness and cradled her agitation. Twenty years later, she tells me that she still believes that smoking is the best anti-depressant, and that when she gave it up, she had to deal with not being able to instantly fill that space up. She had to accept her loneliness and even her depression, and do something to address those. She had to let go.
Like the man hanging on a limb in the precipice, most of us will do “anything” not to let go. We will bargain, get angry, deny, all part of the cycle that leads us to acceptance and surrendering. We all have much to learn from the woman on the train.
And one more, just because I think it's a cool list ...