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.
The following is my version of a post my brother sent to me recently about Mindfulness, originally posted on The Huffington Post and adapted by me:
Here are things mindful people actually do every day to stay calm, centered and attentive to the present moment.
They take walks.
"In our culture of overwork, burnout, and exhaustion, in which we're connected and distracted 24/7 from most things that are truly important in our lives, how do we tap into our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity for wonder, our well-being and our ability to connect with what we really value?"
Arianna Huffington asked in a 2013 HuffPost blog post
Her answer: Solvitur ambulando, which is Latin for "it is solved by walking." Mindful people know that simply going for a walk can be excellent way to calm the mind, gain new perspective and facilitate greater awareness. And it's Free!
They turn daily tasks into mindful moments.
Mindfulness isn't just something you practice during a 10-minute morning meditation session. It can be incorporated throughout your everyday life by simply paying a little more attention to your daily activities as you're performing them.
As the meditation app Headspace puts it:
"Mindfulness starts to get really interesting when we can start to integrate it into everyday life. Remember, mindfulness means to be present, in the moment. And if you can do it sitting on a chair, then why not while out shopping, drinking a cup of tea, eating your food, holding the baby, working at the computer or having a chat with a friend? All of these are opportunities to apply mindfulness, to be aware, to stay in the present moment."
Mindfulness and creativity go hand-in-hand: Mindfulness practice boosts creative thinking, while engaging, challenging creative work can get you into a flow state of heightened awareness and consciousness.
Many great artists, thinkers, writers and other creative workers -- from David Lynch to Mario Batali to Sandra Oh -- have said that meditation helps them to access their most creative state of mind.
If you want to become more mindful but are struggling with a silent meditation practice, try engaging in your favorite creative practice, whether it's baking, doodling, or singing in the shower, and see how your thoughts quiet down as you get into a state of flow.
They pay attention to their breathing.
Our breath is a barometer for our overall physical and mental state -- and it's also the foundation of mindfulness. As mindful people know, calming the breath is the key to calming the mind.
Meditation master Thich Nhat Hahn describes the most foundational and most effective mindfulness practice, mindful breathing, in Shambhala Sun: "So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath." (See my own page on Mindfulness for more about breathing)
Multitasking is the enemy of focus -- many of us spend our days in a state of divided attention and near-constant multitasking, and it keeps us from truly living in the present.
Studies have found that when people are interrupted and dividing their attention, it takes them 50 percent longer to accomplish a task and they're 50 percent more likely to make errors.
"Rather than divide our attention, it is far more effective to take frequent breaks between intervals of sustained, one-pointed attention,"
Real Happiness at Work author Sharon Salzberg writes in a Huffington Post blog. "Debunking the myth of multitasking, we become much better at what we do and increase the chance of being able to remember the details of work we have done in the past."
The mindful way, Salzberg suggests, is to focus on one task completely for a given period of time, and then take a break before continuing or moving on to another task.
They know when NOT to check their phones (or play on Ipad's, computers, etc).
Mindful people have a healthy relationship with their mobile devices and know when to use them and when to turn them off or leave them alone.
This might mean making a point never to start or end the day checking email or maybe even keeping their smartphones in a separate room while they're sleeping, or choosing to unplug on Saturdays or every time they go on vacation. Especially important, not using phones, checking texts or playing games when you really should be listening and chatting to the other people in the room who came to see you!
One unfortunate by-product of tech addition and too much screen time is that it keeps us from truly connecting with others -- as HopeLab CEO Pat Christen described her own aha moment, "I realized several years ago that I had stopped looking in my children's eyes. And it was shocking to me."
Those who mindfully interact with others look up from their screens and into the eyes of whomever they're interacting with, and in doing so, develop and maintain stronger connections in all their relationships.
They seek out and embrace new experiences.
Openness to experience is a by-product of living mindfully, as those who prioritize presence and peace of mind tend to enjoy taking in and savoring moments of wonder and simple joy. New experiences, in turn, can help us to become more mindful. "Adventure can naturally teach us to be here now. Really, really here," adventurer Renee Sharp writes in Mindful Magazine. "To awaken to our senses. To embrace both our pleasant and our difficult emotions. To step into the unknown. To find the balance between holding on and letting go. And learn how to smile even when the currents of fear are churning within."
They get outside.
Spending time in nature is one of the most powerful ways of giving yourself a mental reboot and reinstating a sense of ease and wonder. Research has found that being outdoors can relieve stress, while also improving energy levels, memory and attention.
“We need the tonic of wildness," Thoreau wrote in Walden. "At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
They feel what they're feeling.
Mindfulness isn't about being happy all the time. It's about acceptance of the moment we're in and feeling whatever we feel without trying to resist or control it.
Excessive preoccupation with happiness can actually be counterproductive, leading to an unhealthy attitude towards negative emotions and experiences.
Mindful people don't try to avoid negative emotions or always look on the bright side -- rather, accepting both positive and negative emotions and letting different feelings coexist is a key component of remaining even-keeled and coping with life's challenges in a mindful way.
As Mother Teresa put it, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
We have a natural tendency to avoid sadness and crying, for example. This stops us from getting past grief. When we see someone else crying our natural tendency is to want them to stop crying and tell them everything is going to be ok. Mindful people know that it is ok to feel what we feel and to stay with others as they feel what they feel.
(Interestingly, I think we often stop others from crying, not to make them feel better, but to make ourselves feel less uncomfortable. Good friends cry with those who cry).
They're conscious of what they put in their bodies -- and their minds.
So often, we shovel food into our mouths without paying any attention to what we're eating and whether we feel full. We ignore discomfort, hoping it will go away, even when it clearly won't. Some use alcohol, drugs, even porn, to numb what they feel.
Mindful people make a practice of listening to their bodies -- and they consciously nourish themselves with healthy foods, prepared and eaten with care. But mindfulness is all about taking your time, paying attention to the moment, focus fully on what is happening and how they physically feel.
Mindful people also pay attention to their media diets, are equally careful not to feed their minds with "junk food" like excess television, social media, mindless gaming and other psychological empty calories. (Too much time on the Internet has been linked with fewer hours of sleep per night and an increased risk of depression.
I believe that each of us know exactly what we do that is unhealthy and we do it anyway. Maybe it is time to embrace a more mindful and healthy way of living.
They remember not to take themselves so seriously.
As Arianna Huffington writes in Thrive, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly."
A critical factor in cultivating a mindful personality is refusing to get wrapped up and carried away by the constant tug of the emotions. If you can remember to laugh and keep an even keep through the ups and downs, then you've come a long way already in mastering the art of mindfulness.
Much of our distraction is internal -- we ruminate, worry and dwell on our problems. But those who are able to maintain a sense of humor about their own troubles are able to better cope with them. Research from the University of California Berkeley and University of Zurich found that the ability to laugh at oneself is associated with elevated mood, cheerful personality, and a sense of humor. Laughing also brings us into the present moment in a mindful way. Joyful laughter and meditation even look similar in the brain, according to a new study from Loma Linda University.
They let their minds wander.
While mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment, mind-wandering also serves an important psychological function, and conscientious people are able to find the happy medium between these two ways of thinking.
It’s smart to question whether we should always be living in the moment. The latest research on imagination and creativity shows that if we're always in the moment, we're going to miss out on important connections between our own inner mind-wandering thoughts and the outside world. Engaging in imaginative thinking and fantasizing may even make us more mindful. Research has found that those whose daydreams are most positive and most specific also score high in mindfulness.
WHY WE SECRETLY LOVE TO HATE
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you woke up one morning to find all your problems with your partner had disappeared? Instead of arguing, criticising or ignoring each other, you could just get on with being happy together.
Relationship theory has been dominated by the premise that when we fight, it is because we lack the skills or insight required to resolve conflict. But what if it’s not that we don’t know how to get along – we just don’t want to?
‘Many couples I counsel aren’t interested in change,’ he claims. ‘They’re more interested in bashing each other’s heads in.’ The reason, he says, is that our ego competes with our ability to live harmoniously.
Think of someone you don’t get along with. Now imagine you can press a button to transform your interaction into a close, caring and supportive friendship. Fancy it? Not many people do.‘Sometimes we just don’t want to get close to the person we’re at odds with,’ says Burns.
He gives his own example of a hostile colleague: ‘A close relationship with him is the last thing I want. What I need is for him to admit how self-centred he is.’ He believes this ‘joy in hostility’ is rooted in the animal side of human nature we seek to suppress.
In order to improve our relationships, we have to focus on changing ourselves – not the other person. ‘You are 100 per cent of the problem, just as they are,’ says Burns. ‘The moment you change, the other person will change too. You can’t not change someone else: everything you say and do impacts on the behaviour of those around you.
Ultimately, you need to ask yourself, “What do I want more: the rewards of battle or the rewards of a close, loving relationship?”’
The 12 causes of conflict
1 Power and control
Like animals, we have a primal desire for a pecking order, even within our close relationships. ‘Wanting to have power over people is part of human nature,’ says Burns. ‘We enjoy feeling superior to others – it means we get what we want from the relationship.’ Ultimately, though, we are hurting someone we are meant to care about more than anyone else. Instead of trying to control your partner, try putting yourself in their shoes. Intimidation drives out intimacy, while empathy and respect encourage it.
If we shoulder all the blame in our relationship, we are, in fact, rewarded, because we are preventing the other person from criticising us – because we’ve got in first. However, that takes lots of energy, and as a result, we’re not much fun to be around, says Burns. Instead of self-blame, consider sharing the responsibility for things going wrong and take an adult, neutral stance rather than an emotionally charged one.
Heavily pregnant Helen was so angry when her husband Adrian stayed out late without telling her, she switched off her mobile. ‘I knew he’d worry if he couldn’t get hold of me,’ she says, ‘and that was what I wanted.’ It is easy to dwell on what another person has done to us, overlooking our own provocative behaviour, but, according to Burns, the urge for revenge too often overwhelms our desire for a loving relationship. ‘It doesn’t make us happy – it just gives us a sense of righteousness. The most protracted international conflicts have been fuelled by revenge – nobody wins, nobody wants to stop. At some point, somebody has to break the cycle.’
4 Justice and fairness
If someone doesn’t meet our expectations, we feel we have every right to punish them. How many times, in the heat of an argument, do we hear ourselves say, ‘It’s so unfair’, when what we mean is, ‘This isn’t what I want’? This is a distortion, says Burns – it is reasoning informed solely by how we feel or an assumption that our feelings reflect the way things are for our partner too. It supports the erroneous belief that it is the other person who needs to change and allows us to justify hurtful behaviour. The key is to realise that what we said wasn’t actually anything to do with fairness or justice. ‘When we are annoyed with someone, we flood our minds with negative thoughts that may seem valid at that moment, but that inevitably contain errors,’ says Burns.
Although a little self-absorption is acceptable, if we find ourselves becoming enraged at the slightest hint of criticism and flying off the handle, we are succumbing to the seductive power of narcissism. Burns suggests trying a disarming technique called the law of opposites: ‘When you try to defend yourself from a criticism that is irrational or unfair, you instantly prove it to be valid. If you agree with it, you prove it wrong.’ For example, if our partner claims, ‘You never listen to me’ and we respond with, ‘You may be right about that,’ we are already proving that we are listening to them.
‘Everyone wants to win,’ says Burns. ‘However, the desire to win only keeps the battle alive.’ After years in an unhappy, physically abusive relationship, Annemarie finally found the strength to leave her husband, Phil – only to go back to him a week later. ‘We were arguing on the phone and he said to me, “I never thought you were a quitter.” I went back just to prove him wrong.’
She left Phil for good six months later and has remarried. Her new relationship couldn’t be more different. ‘I’m still competitive,’ she says, ‘but not within my relationship. My husband’s my biggest fan – not my opponent.’
7 Anger and bitterness
Anger can provide us with a sense of purpose, particularly if we are in a relationship that is draining our energy. Burns explains that anger can be expressed in three ways: active aggression (seeking out confrontation), passive aggression (unhelpfully avoiding confrontation) or by calmly and respectfully sharing how you feel. The last is the least popular, says Burns, but the most effective. Overcoming anger requires us to work on our ability to listen, he advises. The ‘one-minute drill’ can help. For 30 seconds, calmly allow the other person to make their point, saying nothing and ensuring your body language is open and positive. Then, for the next 30 seconds, paraphrase back as accurately and respectfully as you can what they said.
It’s hard to give up the belief that it’s not our fault. Burns suggests using a ‘blame cost-benefit analysis’. Draw up two columns on a piece of paper: the advantages of blaming the other person versus the disadvantages. Advantages might include: ‘I don’t have to feel guilty, I don’t have to change, I can feel morally superior.’ Disadvantages might be: ‘I won’t be able to get closer to my partner, I’ll be stuck in a cycle, nothing will change.’ If the advantages list is longer, you have definitely succumbed to blame as a motivation for conflict. If your list is more 50-50, it’s really tempting to want the other person to shoulder half the blame. But if you want a better relationship, says Burns, you must concentrate solely on changing yourself.
Labelling someone as inferior or defective has the advantage of giving us a clear, if inaccurate, explanation for all our relationship problems. Statements such as, ‘You always do this’ or, ‘He’s so stupid’ are easily made, but cause us to seek evidence to support our labelling. Then we reinforce it by repeating such statements to others – and, like a good gossip, it is a process we often secretly enjoy. But there will always be evidence to support exactly the opposite statement. Seek this out and the power of scapegoating is diffused. For example, instead of saying, ‘He’s totally unreliable,’ ask what evidence there is to support the opposite statement, ‘He’s very reliable’. This draws attention to their positive behaviour and gives us a more balanced picture of their track record. We may enjoy recounting their failings, because it creates drama and paints us as the victim, but what about the times they were there for us?
10 Pride and shame
Being forced to look at our faults, especially by someone we love, can feel too painful, so instead we put up a wall and become defensive. The key to dealing with this, suggests Burns, is to rethink what it means to be vulnerable. ‘When you are totally vulnerable, you are totally invulnerable, because you have nothing more to hide – your vulnerability becomes your greatest strength.’ True intimacy requires us to face up to our failings.
When we fight with someone, the subtext is usually ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’. But what if you’re both right? Take this stance, and the majority of conflicts are dead before they start. ‘Anything that anyone says has some truth in it,’ says Burns. Try to seek that out instead of disregarding their views completely.
12 Hidden agendas
Of the 12 motivations for conflict, this is the hardest to face up to, says Burns. What is your hidden agenda? Do you settle for your relationship’s shortcomings because, deep down, you benefit from it? Samura is the main breadwinner in her relationship and frequently works till 10 or 11pm. Despite his often-expressed annoyance, her partner Jake is secretly pleased that he has his evenings to himself and can eat, drink or go out as he pleases. According to Burns, there are always rewards to the ‘problems’ in your relationship, which means that they aren’t really problems. ‘It might be that you like things the way they are,’ he says, ‘but the price that you pay for not being honest is a lack of intimacy. Admitting your hidden agenda is the first step in putting that right.’
A little girl had been shopping with her Mom in Wal-Mart. She must have been 6 years old, this beautiful red haired, freckle faced image of innocence.
It was pouring outside. The kind of rain that gushes over the top of rain gutters, so much in a hurry to hit the earth it has no time to flow down the spout.. We all stood there, under the awning, just inside the door of the Wal-Mart. We waited, some patiently, others irritated because nature messed up their hurried day.
I am always mesmerized by rainfall. I got lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world. Memories of running, splashing so carefree as a child came pouring in as a welcome reprieve from the worries of my day.
Her little voice was so sweet as it broke the hypnotic trance we were all caught in,
'Mom let's run through the rain,' She said.
'What?' Mom asked.
'Let's run through the rain!' She repeated.
'No, honey. We'll wait until it slows down a bit,' Mom replied.
This young child waited a minute and repeated: 'Mom, let's run through the rain..'
'We'll get soaked if we do,' Mom said.
'No, we won't, Mom. That's not what you said this morning,' the young girl said as she tugged at her Mom's arm.
'This morning? When did I say we could run through the rain and not get wet?'
'Don't you remember? When you were talking to Daddy about his cancer, you said, ' If God can get us through this, He can get us through anything! '
The entire crowd stopped dead silent.. I swear you couldn't hear anything but the rain.. We all stood silently. No one left. Mom paused and thought for a moment about what she would say.
Now some would laugh it off and scold her for being silly. Some might even ignore what was said. But this was a moment of affirmation in a young child's life. A time when innocent trust can be nurtured so that it will bloom into faith.
'Honey, you are absolutely right. Let's run through the rain. If GOD let's us get wet, well maybe we just need washing,' Mom said.
Then off they ran. We all stood watching, smiling and laughing as they darted past the cars and yes, through the puddles. They got soaked.
They were followed by a few who screamed and laughed like children all the way to their cars. And yes, I did. I ran. I got wet. I needed washing.
Circumstances or people can take away your material possessions, they can take away your money, and they can take away your health. But no one can ever take away your precious memories...So, don't forget to make time and take the opportunities to make memories every day.
I HOPE YOU STILL TAKE THE TIME TO RUN THROUGH THE RAIN.
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 ...
Christmas and New year are over, probably a busy stressful time for many and, whether we like it or not, a time to look back and look forward.
My first post of the year, just a light hearted glance at some of my favourite posts from Facebook and |tumblr over the past month ...
My personal Favourite is the one about the wolves: which one will you feed this year?
If you are struggling with the New Year, or any aspect of your life and feel you need help, support or counselling, maybe now is the time and this year is the year to find that support.
Gateway Counselling provides counselling and support, specialising in depression, anxiety and stress (which covers a huge amount of other things as well).
I also provide sessions using a variety of tools and chats to build life skills, maybe become more confident or talk through options.
Please do take a look at my Home Page and consider finding the support you need.
And as always, look after yourself and take care.