Understanding Dissociation: Navigating the Depths of Detachment

Understanding Dissociation

Many people experience dissociation and suffer from dissociative symptoms when they become anxious or overwhelmed. This experience could be anything from zoning out when overwhelmed to more extreme feelings of feeling separated from their own body and surroundings, or feeling they have different parts within them.

Symptoms vary among individuals, leading to diagnoses such as depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself), derealization (perceiving surroundings as unreal or blurry), and Dissociative Identity Disorder (this is where the mind splits off feelings or personality traits, characteristics and memories into separate compartments that then develop into unique personality states where one or other state might be dominant at one time. This can create confusion about one’s sense of identity)

1. Dissociation - Accompanying Symptoms

The above symptoms can be accompanied by feelings of being in dream- like state; feelings of surroundings being an intrusion; experiencing amnesia; numbness and depression.

Dissociative disorders can also overlap with other diagnoses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

2. Causes of Dissociation

Dissociative symptoms have in all likelihood been developed as a coping mechanism for extreme anxiety or stress that a person has experienced. This may be in as a result of a specific trauma that has occurred or could have been developed as a way of coping with anxiety or stress that was experienced in childhood. Whatever the cause or diagnosis, living with the symptoms of dissociation is a distressing experience.

3.Treatment Options

There are many specific treatments which can help with dissociative symptoms. Talking therapy is the most recommended of these. Often people feel uncomfortable and embarrassed living with symptoms that are difficult to understand and are often misunderstood by others.

Counselling and Psychotherapy can help people to understand what they are experiencing with their symptoms and the possible triggers for dissociation. It is an opportunity to learn how to manage anxiety and so move away from the place of fear. In therapy clients can develop practical ways which work to manage life better on daily basis. This might include grounding exercises which help with symptoms as well as developing life style activities to provide a much needed anchor at times when client are confused and anxious.

It is of course important to engage with a practitioner who makes the individual feel safe, who understands dissociation and has experience working with the symptoms.

4. Specialized Services for Support

Seeking help from specialized services can also be instrumental.

Clinic for Dissociative Studies (clinicds.co.uk, 020 7794 1655) is a dedicated resource providing expertise in dissociative disorders. Additionally,  South London and Maudsley Trauma and Dissociation Service (https://slam.nhs.uk, 020 3228 2969) offers comprehensive support for trauma-related conditions.

 

For more information or to book a session, contact Christine at www.pimlicocounsellors.co.uk/directory/christine-hogg

 

Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT)

There is no doubt that it is essential to understand one another to have good social and personal relationships and being able to “think about thinking”, or mentalizing, helps us to do this. When mentalization is compromised, communication issues arise, impacting our connections with others. This article explores Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) and its profound impact on improving emotional regulation, effective communication, and fostering positivity.

1. The impact of Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) on our lives and people around us

Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) plays a pivotal role in emotional regulation, effective communication, and promoting positivity. It centres around mentalizing, which means seeing ourselves from the outside (imagining how others  see us) and seeing others from the inside (imagining what the other person is thinking or feeling).

Mentalizing, or the ability to understand our own and others' mental states, is crucial for navigating relationships. During times of stress, our capacity to mentalize can diminish, leading to a "Mindless" state. MBT focuses on stabilizing the sense of self and managing emotional arousal, preventing overwhelming personal experiences from escalating. By adopting a curious mindset, MBT encourages exploring different perspectives and enhances empathy and compassion.

2. Curiosity and unlocking "Wise Mind"

Curiosity (instead of judgement) is the secret to unlocking the "Wise Mind" within the MBT framework. The mind tells us what we think and feel and why we behave as we are. Practicing mentalizing involves listening with curiosity, exploring various perspectives, and embracing the unknown.  Working with the MBT model, we consider feelings, thoughts, beliefs, desires, and motivations.  This  curious approach expands the "Wise Mind," and as a result, we can have better relationships with ourselves and others.

3. Signs of good and poor mentalizing

Good Mentalizing involves being aware of thoughts, active listening, considering different perspectives, pausing and maintaining a curious stance.

Poor Mentalizing includes certainty about one's and others' minds, making assumptions, ruminating (negative thinking), labelling, blaming, critical words, blowing things out of proportion, jumping to conclusions, focus on failures but never successes, not taking responsibility for our actions.

4. Balancing mentalizing poles

To achieve effective Mentalizing,  we need a better balance in four Mentalizing Poles.

  1.  Cognition/Emotion (more logical mind vs impulsivity )

  2.   Self /Others (limited capacity to perceive other people's states of mind and feelings vs focusing on other people's minds and emotions, neglecting ourselves)
  3.  Controlled/Automatic (a requirement for attention, effort and awareness vs lack of attention and reflection )
  4.  Internal /External (reflecting on other people's inner experiences vs making assumptions based on external things)

 

5. Conclusion

Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) offers a practical and transformative approach to understanding and improving our mental states, enhancing relationships, and fostering emotional well-being. It integrates the Reasonable Mind and the Emotional Mind to form the "Wise Mind." My experience shows that Mentalizing is a process of discovering Inner Wisdom. Our integration begins with Mentalizing.

 

For more information or to book a session, contact Bożena  at https://seeds-of-love.uk/

 

Sophrology a mind-body practice

Sophrology a mind-body practice CORINNE GUION

Corinne Guion is passionate about wellbeing and personal development. Her journey began with philosophy during her A-levels (French Baccalaureat) and led her to explore various practices like Buddhism, life coaching, mindfulness, positive psychology, autogenics, NLP, and sophrology, where she acquired life-changing techniques.

With over 20 years in Consumer Electronics, Corinne held senior roles and learned business coaching techniques. Today, she draws from this experience as a Personal Development Coach and Sophrologist to help clients achieve their goals and dreams.

For more information or to book a session, contact her with details at the bottom on this page.

30 October 2023

WHAT IS SOPHROLOGY?

Sophrology is a life-balancing technique aiming at an alert mind in a relaxed body.

Sophrology is a holistic therapy using relaxation and breathing techniques, concentration, visualisation, and simple movements. At the crossroads between Western relaxation techniques and Eastern meditation, it is inspired by Yoga Nidra, Buddhist meditation, Japanese Zen, and classical relaxation techniques. It was developed in 1960 in Spain by Prof. Alfonso Caycedo, a neuropsychiatrist.
The word Sophrology means “the study of consciousness in harmony.” It is a healthcare philosophy consisting of very practical physical and mental exercises that can be used by anyone in busy 21st century everyday life with just a few minutes a day.

Sophrology has been a very popular method in continental Europe over the past 60 years where it is used in a large variety of settings: in hospitals settings and medical care in general by doctors, nurses, and mid-wives; in sports, arts, and education; and in companies for teamwork, stress, and burn-out prevention.

 

SIMPLE TECHNIQUES, EASY TO LEARN

  • Breathing exercises
  • Using the breath to enhance your health, both physical and menta
  • Dynamic relaxation
  • Gentle movements, suitable for everyone
  • Guided meditation
  • Following the voice and guidance of the sophrologist for a deeper experience
  • Visualisation
  • Exploring the power of your mind

ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYONE  – TAILOR-MADE PROGRAMMES

Sophrology can safely be practiced by everyone, regardless of age and physical abilities. All techniques are adaptable to suit your needs. No special clothing or equipment required. Each session is tailor-made for the client and designed to progressively re-establish balance and harmony in body and mind. The idea is for the client to discover and learn the techniques they need to deal optimally with whatever challenge they are facing.

WHAT CAN SOPHROLOGY HELP WITH?

Health 

  • Stress management
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Fatigue
  • Burnout
  • Pain management
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Common mental health disorders

Self-development 

  • Self-confidence
  • Emotions management
  • Change management
  • Inner resources

Preparing for big event 

  • Exams
  • Speaking in public
  • Pre-natal
  • Sports
  • Competition
  • Stage performance

A TYPICAL TREATMENT

A consultation to assess the client’s needs. Sophrology exercises guided by the Sophrologist’s voice. Practiced either standing or sitting in a chair, eyes opened or closed, no special clothing or equipment required. Feedback on the exercises and planning for independent practice

IN A GROUP: WORKING AROUND A COMMON THEME

Sophrology can also be practiced in a group setting. Groups are usually organised around a common theme, so that clients can meet like-minded people, and learn techniques relevant to their presenting challenge.

FACE-TO-FACE OR ONLINE

Sophrology is flexible and adapts to your needs and this work can be completed in a variety of settings.

 

You can book face to face appointment with Corinne at the Kensington Counselling Rooms. Corinne also works online, via Zoom. All you need is access to the internet (phone, computer, or laptop), a camera or webcam and a quiet room (ideally!).  You will receive the link to the session ahead of the agreed time, all you need to do is click on it, nothing to download.

For more information or to book a session, contact Corinne at https://corinneguion.com/  

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7 tips for navigating the world as a late-diagnosed autistic woman

Being a late-diagnosed autistic woman in a neurotypical world is a journey to say the least. Being able to look back at my life through an autistic lens means there is an explanation for so many of the struggles I have experienced along the way. It allows me to offer myself more kindness and compassion as well as feel a sense of greater acceptance of myself. Furthermore, it means I can now navigate life and my own self-care in a way I could not before I knew I was autistic. Coming to know that you are autistic later in life (as the majority of women do), whether by formal diagnosis, self-diagnosis or exploration around this as an identity can bring up a range of feelings and emotions. As autism presents so differently in women than in men, it is vital to know some of the signs. You can read more about the signs of autism in women at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/women-autism-spectrum-disorder/ 202104/10-key-signs-autism-in-women However, once you have a diagnosis or identify as autistic, it can often feel like you’re on your own in exploring what this means, how to navigate caring for yourself, advocating for your needs and unmasking (showing more of your true self to the world). In this article, I offer some ways to support yourself in the world as a late-diagnosed autistic woman.

1. Know yourself really well

Who are you really? This may be an incredibly difficult question to answer if you’ve spent your entire life masking and trying fit in with the expected social norms of this society. Taking off your mask is a vulnerable process but getting to know yourself when you’re by yourself can be an easier and less daunting first step. What do you like to do in your free time? What do you like/ dislike? What are your interests? What brings you joy? What makes you excited? What makes you sad? What makes you angry? What makes you anxious? What brings you calm? Who do you like to be around? What does your ideal day look like? Knowing yourself well can help you navigate situations that you find yourself in, or help you decide whether you want to be in them in the first place!

2. Don’t be afraid to put in place accommodations and ask for support

After a lifetime spent masking and pushing through, you may not even be aware of the accommodations or support that you may find helpful. Taking a clear look at the ways you function or what you find difficult in daily life can help you identify where you can bring in assistance and ask for the support of family, friends and colleagues. It could be as simple as letting others know you are overwhelmed and that you need some time for yourself. You could ask family to take over more of the house chores for a while. Or colleagues to respect your need for quiet. Or let your boss know you process information differently and need a bit longer on a project. Putting in place accommodations for yourself can be empowering and give you a sense of control in what often feels like a chaotic world. For me, making sure I do my food shop on a weekday morning has transformed the experience from being an overwhelming one to bearable. I also very rarely leave my house these days without my headphones to listen to music. This helps me remain calm and regulated in stressful and busy environments. It may sound strange after a lifetime of struggling through, but you don’t need to suffer.

3. Indulge your interests and hobbies

Your interests and passions are a powerfully supportive resource in your life. Think of how you feel when you indulge your hobbies and spend time with your interests. You may become aware of a deep sense of peace or calm. You may be able to identify your skills and talents in this process, which can bring about a deeper sense of confidence in yourself.

4. Create a schedule that works for you

As mentioned in point number two, you don’t need to suffer or struggle through. Most 9-5 jobs are not suited to neurodivergent people who need a lot more rest, quiet and downtime than such a work schedule allows. You may realise you need a quiet space to focus and that an afternoon walk in nature or a nap helps you regulate your nervous system. You may find that you can utilise your ability to work alone and focus for long periods - as well as your creativity, passion and interests - to create a business of your own or at least create a good case for flexible working.

5. Learn to say no

Boundaries are essential. You do not need to put yourself in social situations you do not truly wish to be in. Learn how to listen to your clear ‘yes’ when deciding whether to do something, and if you don’t hear it, you do not have to force yourself to please others. Honouring yourself and your needs develops your sense of yourself and, in turn, sends a message to yourself that you are worth taking care of.

6. Surround yourself with as much comfort as possible

As women, we often learn from a young age to forgo comfort for the sake of fitting in and being ‘fashionable’. The sooner you can give up caring what others think and embrace what your body and skin truly likes, the sooner you will be able to drop a whole load of unnecessary tactile stress and better regulate your nervous system. I surround myself with soft blankets, cuddly toys and (fake) sheepskin rugs and wear soft clothing materials and shoes with a comfortable fit.

7. Do not compare yourself to neurotypical women

This is a difficult one but understanding you are autistic can help drop the comparisons. Neurotypical women may seem to be better able to function in this world, however, you never know their own struggles. Dropping the comparisons and learning to like and embrace who you truly are can help you avoid the trap of living a life that society deems you should live, in turn helping you create one that is on your own terms and that feels good from the inside.

 

For more information or to book a session, contact Meredith at meredithhusencounselling.com or on Facebook at www.facebook/meredithhusencounsellingforwomen

 

Counselling for Depression

Everyone feels down sometimes, but for some of us the feeling does not go away and we find it can get worse and have a big impact on our lives. Depression is a mood disorder that lasts for a long time and affects how you feel, think and carry out daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. Depression should be distinguished from sadness, which is a natural emotion felt in situations of failure or loss. Depression often lasts many weeks or even months and is accompanied by other symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from the disorder globally. And the incidence of the disorder is increasing everywhere[i]. In any given week in England, 3 in every 100 people will experience depression. Even more – 8 in every 100 – will experience mixed depression and anxiety[ii]. If you are experiencing depression, you are not alone.

The most common symptoms of depression include:

  • low self-esteem
  • lack of self-confidence
  • persistent sadness
  • decreased concentration
  • lack of appetite or disordered eating
  • sleep disturbance
  • loss of interest
  • seeing the future in black
  • suicidal thoughts or actions.

Depression, if left untreated, can have many harmful consequences on a person’s life, including severe relationship and family problems, difficulty finding and holding down a job, and drug and alcohol problems. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make one feel suicidal. It’s important to seek support as early as possible, as the sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can recover. The NHS recommends that you should see your GP if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks.  their self-assessment test helps you to assess whether one is living with depression - https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/clinical-depression/overview/.

Counselling is a scientifically proven treatment for depression.

Counselling for depression

If you suspect depression in yourself or a loved one, you can also seek help from a counsellor. Counselling can help you to understand the roots of your depression, reduce the severity of depression symptoms and prevent relapses. The sessions can support you to find your own ways to cope with your depression and suggest different strategies and self-care techniques. The length of counselling in the treatment of depression depends on your individual needs, during the initial consultation the counsellor will determine how serious it is and whether you may need  additional support, such as from a GP or psychiatrist who can prescribe medications.

How to find a counsellor for depression

The first step of reaching out for help can be very difficult, especially if you are currently experiencing depression. Read through some counsellor profiles and send out an email or make a phone call to anyone who interests you to see if you might work together. All counsellors have their own approach, some counsellors offer both online and face to face work, some specialise in depression and others work with many different mental health concerns. Regardless, they will not judge you and they will be honest with you, and you can be honest with them, too.

Can I have counselling when self-harming or feeling suicidal?

Sometimes in depression, life is so challenging that people consider taking their own life or manage their emotional pain through self-harming. It’s important that these issues are discussed in the first session with your counsellor to help to minimise risk and suffering. Some therapeutic clients reported feeling freer to discuss their difficulties with their therapists rather than with their friends or families. Indeed, counsellors and psychotherapists were trained to be able to listen and explore complex subjects that include self-harm and suicide. Experienced counsellors and psychotherapists have worked with people in similar struggles before and will be able to guide and support you.

Can I refer my depressed partner or child to a counsellor?

It is very hard to witness a person we love being depressed, and many of us would do everything we can for their situation to change. Sometimes it’s frustrating when our depressed relatives do not reach out for help, and we want to make sure they do. Whatever the motivation, it’s important that the depressed person personally contacts the counsellor. The majority of therapists will not accept a client referred by someone else, mainly because reaching out for help is an essential step of getting better and feeling pressured by someone else may contradict the counselling for depression. As a person living with someone who struggles, you may consider reaching out for help yourself to a counsellor or a support group for carers.

Please go to our website Kensington Counselling Rooms and contact one of our experienced counsellors, psychotherapists or psychologicsts to see if they can help.

 

  • [i] https://www.who.int/health-topics/depression#tab=tab_1
  • [ii] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/depression

Counselling for Anxiety

All people experience anxiety at different times in our lives, whether about making a big decision, dealing with an unexpected event or being exposed to a threatening situation. Whilst unpleasant to experience, anxiety is a normal emotion and can even be useful at times. Like other emotional experiences, it can give us information about how we feel about what is happening in our lives. But what happens when we can’t sort out the feelings around our anxiety? What if our anxiety seems irrational or overwhelming? What if our anxiety becomes unmanageable and starts to impact our quality of life? If this is happening to you, it may be a good time to seek out a therapist and get counselling for your anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is normal response to a dangerous or stressful situation and should pass when the situation passes. Many people experience racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, irritability and trouble concentrating when feeling anxious. There can also be many physical symptoms of anxiety, such as racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, needing the toilet more often, chest or stomach muscles tightening or feeling sick or dizzy. Sometimes these symptoms come quickly and unexpectedly and seem to peak within 10 minutes or so, and this may be a panic attack. Panic attacks can be very frightening and sometimes push people to seek urgent medical care, but they soon find out these symptoms are not due to a physical ailment. Many clients come to counselling after they were instructed by a medical professional that their symptoms cannot be explained medically.

There are many different types of anxiety. Phobias, for example, are when a specific situation that is not actually dangerous triggers intense feelings of anxiety as if it were very threatening. Generalised anxiety, on the other hand, is characterised by a persistent sense of doom or dread, frequent worry and fearfulness, and often recurrent physical symptoms as described above. There are also many other specific forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety, death anxiety, health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), for example.

When should I get counselling for anxiety?

If these anxious feelings do not pass when the situation passes, or if the triggering situation is on-going for a long time (such as a chronic medical condition, for example), and it is persistent or overwhelming it can have a big impact on your life. It can affect your relationships, your work, your self-esteem, and your overall sense of well-being. Your physical health can also be impacted if you are losing sleep or experiencing too much stress. If you feel that anxiety is having a big impact on your life, isn’t going away and you’re feeling overwhelmed, it might be a good time to seek help.

How can counselling help anxiety?

Counselling can help you to understand your anxiety as well as develop ways of addressing and managing it. With a therapist, you can explore how the anxiety is affecting your life, what the triggers are and what the root causes might be. Noticing that something triggers anxious feelings can provide an opportunity to explore what that something really means to us and encourage us to assess our resources, opportunities, and vulnerabilities, and possibly help us discover and process unresolved feelings from past experiences. As with any counselling, a therapist will work with you as an individual, collaborating with you to find what works best for you.

From the beginning of the counselling we may focus on finding ways to deal with acute anxiety using breathing and grounding techniques. Later on, the therapeutic process focuses on what is behind the anxiety. In the anxiety counselling, you will explore your current triggers and past experiences that led to having anxieties in your life.

How do I find a therapist to help with anxiety? 

Whilst many therapists work with anxiety issues, there are many different approaches to counselling for anxiety and you can find a therapist that works in a way that suits you, depending on your needs and what feels right for you. For example, some people find CBT helpful, where you focus on understanding the way your thought and behaviour patterns contribute to your anxiety and develop specific, often practical, strategies to address it. Others find a relationally-focused approach suits them, where building a strong, healthy relationship with therapist is central and allows you to explore how you relate to others. Another approach is to explore existential questions around life and death and focus on developing your own sense of meaning and purpose to ground you in an uncertain world. If you prefer to approach your anxiety from the perspective of your body you may choose Gestalt therapy, Dance and Movement Therapy or other body therapies. Yet another approach might be to focus on processing unresolved past experiences and healing emotional wounds so that you can move forward with less anxiety about the present and future (see our blog in psychoanalytic approach). Although many therapists providing counselling for anxiety work from a specific framework, most will adapt to work addresses the areas on which you want to focus. You can and should ask a therapist about their approach and see if what they say makes sense to you and feels right, even if you’re not sure exactly what you want or need.

Do take a look around our practices in Pimlico or Kensington  and if you have any questions or would like any more information do get in contact with our practitioners.

What is Psychoanalysis?

Modern misconceptions of psychoanalysis

It’s a shame the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, has become somewhat of a mockery in popular culture. The Freud cartoons are often very funny, but serve to add ridicule to his ideas; those very ideas that have profoundly influenced and changed our society. Language and concepts that run right through our lives, the unconscious, the meaning of dreams and the idea our behaviour is affected by our past and not just our brains. His thinking and writing were brave, creative and off beam. But perhaps there’s something quite uncomfortable about being reminded we’re not always as in control of our behaviour as we like to think we are. To a certain extent, society survives and operates by denying this fact.

Perhaps similarly, the popular view of psychoanalysis has served to simplify and caricature it as static, an out-dated body of knowledge formulated over a hundred years ago, by a patriarchal figure that believed the root of mental disturbance was unconscious sexual conflict. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Psychoanalysis continues to grow and develop organically, being made up of a number of different and related strands of ideas about the human personality, largely generated from and in response to clinical work. It’s neither dogmatic and unchanging, nor possible to define neatly.

What is psychoanalysis?

As a psychological treatment, psychoanalysis is a method of psychotherapy that can be very useful for people who are struggling with longstanding difficulties in the way they think and feel about themselves, the world, and their relationships with others. Shorter-term approaches to therapy may be useful in helping clients find ways to cope with recent manifestations of states like anxiety or depression. It may be easier to identify a trigger in such cases, specific events or life stressors such as a relationship breakdown, or loss of employment. But for challenging psychological and emotional aspects of a person’s life that have been around for longer and may have their beginnings earlier in life, an approach that takes time and endeavours to understand the bigger picture is necessary.

If you were to stop and take a few minutes to reflect on the hour or so leading up to reading this article, noting any thoughts, feelings and sensations, what you’d notice would undoubtedly give a glimpse into the very individual way you have of viewing the world. You’d probably also realise that such an opportunity to stop, reflect and think about how you experience life is extremely rare in our busy modern day society. A psychoanalytic psychotherapist is trained to create a space and a type of engagement that encourages such internal reflection. They carefully observe and listen to you and overtime gradually build up a picture of the way you view yourself, your relationships with others and how your thinking and behaviour influence your experience of the world. They will gradually feed this evolving understanding back to you in ways that are manageable and in which you can talk and think about together. It sounds simple, but it's incredibly important and what many of us may be missing. Having someone to think with us about things can really help us to think about things.

What is the unconscious?

In a recent social situation, I found myself struggling to make a case for perhaps Freud’s most influential concept. Choosing to ignore what we don’t like or feel comfortable with? The retort was yes perhaps, but everyone does that, it doesn’t mean there’s an unconscious. The metaphor of the iceberg is nicely illustrative, what we choose to show on the surface is only the tip, whilst so much remains hidden beneath the surface. Repeating patterns of behaviour even when we don’t want to and they don’t serve us well? Comes close perhaps and something we can all relate to.

The royal road to the unconscious, of course, became the analysis of dreams, but Freud believed there were moments for all of us in which we’re made aware of our unconscious, through what he termed ‘bungled actions’; what’ve become known as Freudian slips. The moment of truth in the conflict between conscious and unconscious, when we trip ourselves up and say what we really mean, without the filter of the conscious mind to censor. We’re probably all able to recall our own often-humorous slips, trips, and bungles. When Radio 4's Today referred recently to the BBC'S "new spanking building" instead of "spanking new building", listeners responded to the unconscious innuendo with gleeful letters.

Moments like this provide us with fleeting glimpses of the thoughts, feelings and desires that have been repressed, relegated and held out of awareness for fear of causing conflict with a part of us deemed more acceptable. The therapeutic setting provides us with conditions for greater unconscious access, the safety and reliability provided by meeting in the same room at the same time for 50 minutes. In traditional analysis, the client lies on a couch, the therapist sitting behind out of view to facilitate the free association that frees the client from censor. Many psychoanalysts still operate this way and require frequent attendance, between 3 – 5 times weekly. Such frequency keeps the link between the unconscious and conscious alive from one day to the next and enables overcoming the resistance that repression creates. Melanie Klein adapted this approach to children, using play as symbolic expression and a kind of pre-verbal free association, giving insight into childhood unconscious conflicts.

Modern developments

Psychoanalysis had always been interested in early child development. Work with children led to the development of new strands, attachment theory, the British school of object relations and inter-subjective and relational approaches. Whilst concepts of the unconscious and repression remain at the core of psychoanalysis, we now know much more about the importance of our earliest relationships. A combination of nature and the nurture we receive from our environment, an interaction between a new-borns temperament, their adjustment to the world and the emotional development and capacity of parents influence our physical and emotional development both early on and into adult life.

Advances in child development research have provided evidence for the importance of our early bonds via neurodevelopmental findings. We’re born with innate capacities to relate, being drawn to eyes, faces, voices and smells and preferring those that are familiar. We imitate our caregiver’s expressions and movements; new-borns stick their tongues out in response to an adult (with quite a lot of effort!). Infants respond physically and physiologically to touch and being held, distress and heartbeats are calmed. From our earliest moments, even in the womb, we respond to the conditions that facilitate our growth and adapt to circumstances when those conditions aren’t present. Foetus’s exposed to chronic stress develop a stress response of their own, perhaps anticipating the world they’ll be born into.

It seems surprising today to think that pre-1950’s, much of the troubles of infancy and childhood, the tantrums, rage and inability to bear frustration had been passed off as unimportant, or simply attributed to physical factors. Psychoanalysis has painted a vivid picture of the primitive anxieties experienced by infants born in a state of total dependency. Even for the immature child, the world can seem completely overwhelming. If we have a parent that’s able to tolerate, think about and in some way make our distress manageable, by 1 year we begin to develop the capacity ourselves. If we’re fortunate enough to have parents that respond to our emotional needs consistently and reliably, we learn its safe to express ourselves and expect to be met; crucial for developing healthy relationships in and outside of the family later on.

When parents aren’t available enough or capable to provide a facilitating environment, perhaps due to anxiety or depression, we know this translates into difficulties in emotional and psychological development and behavioural adjustment during childhood and adolescence. Neural pathways are laid down from our earliest experiences, but continue to be created throughout life. When things haven’t been ideal, the relationship with a psychoanalytic psychotherapist offers a chance to think about these early experiences again, and through thinking and re-experiencing, the opportunity for something reparative and different from before to occur.

Bereavement, loss and grief

Bereavement, loss and grief are universal human experiences

Although grieving is a natural process and a natural response to bereavement, loss and grief still affects everyone differently. Sometimes the anguish and heartache can leave us feeling that we are alone. Finding ways of coping with your grief and reaching out for support when it’s needed can help us feel less alone. As grief is such an intensely personal experience there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may experience a range of difficult and unexpected emotions, such as anger, shock, disbelief, guilt and profound sadness. The pain of grief can be disruptive for our physical health, interrupting our sleep, affecting regular and healthy eating habits, as well as our ability to concentrate and think clearly. These are normal reactions to a loss, but there are healthy ways to support us during our grieving process.

How you are grieving will be influenced by many things, such as the circumstances of your loss

Death of a loved one
Divorce or relationship ending
Loss of health
Loss of employment or financial security
Death of a loved pet
Loss of home
Loved one’s serious illness

How to live with a loss?

• Acknowledge all your feelings and accept that your bereavement, loss and grief will be unique to you.
• Seek help from people who care for you or from someone professional when needed. At different times during grieving, we may need different things. If you can, be clear with your friends what you need at this stage, whether it is talking it through or having a cup of tea while watching films.
• Taking care of yourself physically will support your emotional well being, but try not to burn out or overwhelm yourself. It is important that you pay attention to how you feel in this difficult time.

How long does grieving last?

There is no timetable for grieving. Sometimes it may feel as if you will not be able to come to terms with the loss you are experiencing. The pain of bereavement, loss and grief can feel overwhelming at times. Living with any loss can be challenging and the first year of a loss can be especially difficult.

Stages of Grief

Although grief may at times feel like intense waves knocking you off your feet, over time these feeling eventually feel less intense and less overwhelming, we can begin to feel we have a firmer footing and although we still experience waves of emotion, they begin to feel less intense over time. Be patient with yourself.
Although we believe that our response to bereavement, loss and grief is unique and may affect you differently, some of our clients find it useful to learn about the five stages of grief described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross :

  • Denial – Shock and disbelief, it can be hard to accept what has happened. You expect things to be the same even though you know they are not the same.
  • Anger –Experiencing the pain of grief can be difficult. Even if the loss is no one’s fault, you may feel anger and resentment at the injustice, you may also feel guilt associated with your loss.
  • Bargaining – You would make any deal for this not to be real, you are not able or ready to adjust to the loss you feel.
  • Depression – Profound sadness following a loss is natural.
  • Acceptance – Eventually, you may notice that you are putting less emotional energy into your grieving process and that slowly, over time, you are becoming more engaged in your interests and family/social life. This is a time of adjusting and re-adjusting to the situation as it is.

Challenging times

If you can, prepare for those times that you might anticipate as particularly challenging such as anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and first anniversaries can be especially difficult. Putting some support in place around these times may help you, such as asking over a good friend/s, family member or find a bereavement group to share your feelings at this time or talk with a counsellor. You might take a day off or do something to remember and honour your feelings. Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died or your own experience of loss; people may not mention it because they don’t want to upset you. Seek out people who value your need to talk about your loss, are able to give you some space and can listen with empathy and compassion.

How to cope with grief?

Grief can feel isolating; sometimes, our own responses to our grief are also confusing and contradictory. One moment we may be laughing and the next moment overwhelmed with tears. You can have a good day and then wake up the next day feeling worse. At times we will want to have some time on our own with our grief, and at other times we will want to draw on support from others around us.

Generally, over time, our memories do fade, the physical details of our loved one become less sharp and for some people this can feel like another loss or even a betrayal of your loved one. It’s important to remember that even though the physical details may become less sharp, the love and affection that we feel about our loved ones, is something that nothing and no one can take away from us and not even time can change what is in our hearts.

When to seek professional help? - Warning signs of depression
It is common for a grieving person to feel sad and depressed, but there is a difference between natural grief and clinical depression. If the feelings don’t fade over time or they get worse it may be time to seek help. If you are continuing to neglect yourself or your family by not eating well or feel unable to perform your usual daily activities, if you are using alcohol or drugs because you are not feeling able to cope, or if you are continuing to find it difficult to get out of bed, your GP or a counsellor can help if you feel you are not coping.
If you are feeling suicidal at any time during your grieving process, seek help immediately.

Samaritans:
Helpline: 116 123 (free of charge from a landline or mobile)
Email jo@samaritans.org
www.samaritans.org
24 hr helpline offering emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide

Calm:
0800 585858
www.thecalmzone.net
Campaign Against Living Miserably Help and support for young men aged 15-35 on issues which include depression and suicide.

HopeLine UK
0800 068 4141
www.papyrus-uk.org
For practical advice on suicide prevention for under 35s

Childline
Childline
0800 1111
For children and young people under 19
Nota Bene – this phone number won’t show up on your phone bill.

Psychological Resilience – why it’s important and ways to build it

I find human beings ability to change and grow fascinating! I became interested in the topic having had my own reserves tested through a particularly challenging time, so I started researching ways in which I could cope better the next time I hit a life roadblock. Inevitability, we all have the odd bad day, but what I am interested in is ones mental attitude to metaphorically dusting ourselves off, getting back up and keeping on going, essentially recognising the incident as a blip, not a constant. This led me to neuro-scientific research on how the wiring in our brains affects our ability to deal with adversity, which is dependent on many variables and impacts on our day to day mental health.
The proof that our brains are capable of repairing (known as neuro-plasticity), enabling us to re-wire our neural pathways or thinking patterns to fortify ourselves in the face of adversity, is such a positive message I am keen to share!”

As corporate life can impose an additional level of stress and pressure on us and in turn, our relationships and day to day living, which can drain our energy and resilience and make life tougher than it should be. Recognising the triggers in advance and learning tips/tools to combat this can be hugely beneficial.

Here we explore more on this important topic, the ways in which our reserves can be challenged and how we can make some lifestyle adjustments to improve our psychological resilience and lead more fulfilling lives.

What is Psychological Resilience?

Psychological Resilience is ones ability to bounce back after a set back or an adverse situation or to put it very simply, to get back up when one stumbles or falls and keep on going. On a word, bouncebackability!
It also links to one’s attitude to life; research has shown that having a positive outlook or disposition can help with building ones psychological resilience.

How might my Resilience be tested?

Modern life places demands on us that can test our reserves - being “always on”, excessive working hours or screen time. Equally, lack of sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise can all contribute to challenging our spirit and energy levels and the knock on affect impacts on our Resilience.

Are there any specific times in life that might impact on our ability to bounce back?

It could be one or any number of things, however times of change or disruption may provide a trigger, e.g. change of career or job, divorce or relationship breakdown, experiencing anxiety and or depression, eating disorders, bereavement, any adverse situation we are struggling with or simply, life!
As we approach Winter, with the limited daylight and decrease in temperature leads to a more sedentary lifestyle where we tend to eat and drink more and typically, exercise less. Whilst there is nothing “wrong” with that per-se, being mindful about having a balanced lifestyle will help to keep energy levels topped up.

What traits do resilient people typically have?

• They have a positive outlook and attitude towards the future
• They do not catastrophise, i.e. they see an adverse incident for what it is, a blip or a one off, not a way of being
• They have solid acheiveable goals and a desire/plan to achieve them
• They celebrate their successes
• They are unafraid of failure, recognising that through failure, we learn (we get back up…)
• They are empathetic and compassionate, however they don’t waste energy worrying about what others think. This is important as is recognising anxious “noise” v what we should be paying attention to
• They maintain healthy, boundaried relationships, they do not bow to peer pressure
• They focus on what they can control and do not see themselves as victims

How can I build my resilience muscle?

The good news is that we all have the ability to develop our Resilience and Reserves! As with tackling any life issue, there is no silver bullet that will “fix”, however adopting a holistic approach will help in abundance. Remembering our mind and body’s are intrinsically connected and therefore looking after one, will in turn, benefit the other.

Some tips for building Psychological Resilience include:

Energy creates energy so think about where you get yours as we are all different. Some tips that have been proven to build our resilience are:

• Move: Do more exercise, if you struggle to do this on your own, find a buddy and commit to certain times to increase motivation. Try different types if you are starting out. In winter, being out in daylight for 40 minutes+ is proven to have positive benefits on our wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be extreme, as long as it gets the endorphins moving and the blood flowing! The ideal would be some cardio mixed with yoga, as long as you feel the benefit.

• Sleep: Getting regular, quality sleep is essential to a healthy outlook. If your sleep is problematic, consider why. Is it the environment, mattress, excessive eating or drinking before bed, or spending too long on screens perhaps - it could be all of the above, by tackling one or all will have pretty instant impact on your sleep. Do not underestimate how lack of sleep impairs our day to day functionality and can make us feel “other”, which is not conducive to a healthy attitude to life.

• Meditation: A personal choice and one I have found useful during particularly stressful periods. There are plenty of app’s to help, many are free. Essentially this encourages a brain reboot and slows down busy minds, temporarily, which can increase energy levels. Research has shown that long term meditation has benefits on a cellular level and combating signs of dementia. However, we recommend you try meditating offline with the help of our Transcendental Meditation teachers.

• Connect: As human beings, we are programmed to connect with others. However in times of stress, we may not feel we have the time or energy to arrange or plan for “fun”. By being around friends and family who appreciate you and just enjoying the connection will have significant benefit on our mental health. Personally, I relate to the old adage of “laughter is the best medicine” - laughter is in addition to a physical release, creates endorphins which lead to a feeling of wellbeing and greater connectivity with those around us.

• Goals: Make plans and goals that reward and give energy, be it physical, educational or something completely different! Consider balance, if your occupation is cerebral, think about something physical or exercise based and if in a more physical job, perhaps an evening class or ways in which to tap into some of the resources you do not use on a day to day basis. This fires up the neural pathways and builds confidence which in turn builds resilience. The important thing is that they should not be arduous or punishing, this is about reinforcing positive and achievable targets.

• Rewards: I cannot stress the importance of recognising your achievements and progress, however small they may seem. By reaching ones goals, and providing a reward structure fires up the neural pathways and builds confidence which builds resilience.

• Supplements: Consider supporting your immune system with acupuncture, supplements, Magnesium Citrate (sleep/mood) Vit D in Winter should the lack of daylight be a thing for you, as it is for me. Everyone needs additional support at different times of life so explore what gives you a boost.

• Therapy: It might be helpful to seek professional support during acutely testing times. This can be particularly helpful in developing your own resilience tool-kit to combat and deal with your own needs.

• Kindness: Simple mantra to live by, be kind to yourself and others! In giving, may we recieve.