A Process Group

Hi everyone, I been thinking about what was really useful to me when I was training and beyond, and I keep coming back to one of the most therapeutic and supportive things, a  peer process group. There were actually fourteen of us in the group to begin with but a few people decided that the training was not for them and decided to leave the course, and along with that was also leaving the group for process.

What is a process group? Its a group of people who mutually find out how their processes work and become aware of how they think and say things, how they receive information when talking to others and how we react to that information. Sounds obvious that we already know how we process information and behave accordingly? Then everyone is sorted then! no problems for anyone at all! great!

How aware are we that we are defensive, offensive, withdrawn, shaming, have hidden sadnesses that quietly drive our defence systems, feel lost and don’t know why, feel angry all the time and don’t know why….. all of these we do in the world, but process group let us do it in a controlled way and in a safe space where everyone is in the same boat and here for the same purpose.

What is that purpose?

To become aware and practice within the group and then take that new awareness out into the world and to your relationships and to your workplace but mostly for you to know and feel happier within yourself because of the awareness, because of the release of old feelings, because of the freedom from your old ways that caused you trouble or heartache.

There are rules to group work and boundaries to learn about. These things are to your benefit as we take these things out of the group and into the world. Some weeks you’ll be sad as you uncover an old feeling, sometimes you’ll be proud of yourself as you realise what you actually have achieved considering what you may or may not have gone through. The rules are very simple; mutual respect (everyone has an opinion and no-one is better than anyone else regardless of where they come from, what they do for a living), let the person finish what they are saying regardless of how long that takes (as you’ll have your turn to do the same plenty of times), and speak without shaming or intimidation.

Sounds easy? Great!

Once the lockdown has finished and we all get back down normal and have settled back in, I would like to organise a group for process that includes anyone who wants to join. The group meetings would be held in Liverpool.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts on this. Would anyone be interested?

 

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Self Compassion

Self Compassion, do we even think about it?

If we do what we regard as wrong, how do we deal with it to ourselves. How far do we go to make ourselves feel bad. Would we speak like that to anyone else?

I want to investigate what goes on when we deal with a mistake, or a bad thing, or a repeated (what we think is a) flaw in our character. Let’s pick a scenario where we can explore self compassion (or non-self compassion as the case may be). Let’s pick a few common examples…

  • A person is in work and for the moment it’s fine; its at a good pace and nothing is stressing them out. All of a sudden, lots of work comes in. This person is already a worrier, anxious/ stressed. The person then goes into panic mode and can’t do the job properly (they think). Afterwards they go into the staff room and begin to tell themselves off for being so stupid…again!

This person is shouting at themselves in their own head…”What will people think!   Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else?! What’s wrong with you!”

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  • Your friend is in work and for the moment it’s fine; its at a good pace and nothing is stressing them out. All of a sudden, lots of work comes in. This friend is already a worrier, anxious/stressed. Your friend then goes into panic mode and can’t do the job properly (they think). Afterwards they go into the staff room and you follow and begin to tell your friend off for being so stupid… again!

Your shouting at your friend, “what will people think!  Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else! What’s wrong with you!”

 

Lets try another scenario…

  • I go on a date, I sit there with my coat fastened up, anxious and just smiling. I know that I’m not full to the brim with confidence and the thing in the front of my head is that I have no confidence, it’s probably not going to turn out well, and that I didn’t want this anyway. We have a few drinks and he’s quite nice…well he’s ok. I don’t really know if he’s quite nice because he’s not saying much! I get home and I’m so disappointed with myself that I was just so unconfident, so stupid for thinking I should go in the first place! I didn’t even know what to say! So stupid, what was I thinking!

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  • My friend goes on a date, she sits there with her coat fastened up, anxious and just smiling. I know that she’s not full to the brim with confidence and so she thinks that it won’t turn out well and might feel she doesn’t want to feel so uncomfortable anyway. She gets home and she’s so disappointed in herself. I say to her…”It’s your fault for being so unconfident, you’re so stupid for thinking that you should go in the first place, you didn’t even know what to say when you got there! You’re so stupid, what were you thinking!”

 

So, there are two situations above, in both scenarios, one part is with the person telling themselves off or disliking themselves or actually beginning to hate themselves for  “the way they are” and the other part is if it happened to a friend of yours and you were saying those same words to them. Do you think that you would talk to your friend like that at all? What bit of that would be ok with you, to talk to a friend like that, when they were already in panic mode and stressed, or were already feeling really bad about themselves being unconfident and uncomfortable putting themselves out there? Are we saying to them that they are right and it is their fault that they are anxious and they need to be shouted at? Are we saying that she is actually stupid to be unconfident and uncomfortable and needs to be shouted at to become more confident and more comfortable? Is that what should happen?

If we don’t think it’s right that we do it to a friend, why are we doing it to ourselves?

What can we imagine that shouting does to someone who is already in a state?

What can we imagine that the inner shouting at yourself does to you when you are already in a state?

Thinking about it, do you think that’s fair? We do hear ourselves say those things to ourselves and it effects us as if someone else said them to us.

What would be nice is kindness in our self talk, a bit of self compassion. We can talk to ourselves with the same kindness as we do to our friends.  Even if we make a mistake, we can treat ourselves as we treat others.

This is not about washing over what happened, it’s about not being mean to yourself. We don’t need to do it, but all too often we do. Instead we can accept that we lose our focus sometimes when we get stressed out and don’t need to see ourselves as if we are different to anyone else because actually, lots and lots of people lose their focus when they become stressed (it’s part of being in anxiety) and that’s ok; we don’t need to shout at ourselves for being human, we don’t have to judge ourselves on our high expectations that no-one else expects, as they don’t expect superhuman from us, only we expect that.

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We don’t have to go from one end of the spectrum to the other, what’s in the middle?

Taking no responsibility at all<——————————————->expecting to be superhuman

A few examples would be…

It’s ok not to be perfect

I realise no-one expects me to be perfect as they already know they’re not

I realise that if things go wrong or things happen,  I don’t actually need to beat myself up,  I just need to learn, like everyone else and to know that’s ok

Why am I expecting myself to do more or be more than everyone else; I know my job, I do my job, I take responsibility for what I do and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

So, above are some of the things that can be in the middle; not big criticism, not big lack of responsibility either, just reality. These things don’t give comfort as if whatever happened didn’t happen, but it doesn’t criticise either. 

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It’s not about beating yourself up because your not super confident and not totally comfortable in new company and unknown circumstances, its about recognising that there are more unconfident people in the world than those with confidence…and that’s ok too.

Let’s be kind to ourselves because being mean to ourselves doesn’t help us in the learning and the progress of accepting who we are and being able to progress into the people we want to grow into.

I’m not talking about putting ourselves first, I’m talking about being equal and including ourselves in the group of people we care about. (please think about this for a moment and realise how important it is)

Being kinder to yourself is the first step, it takes our defences down a little and helps us be more helpful to ourselves rather than be stuck in the cycle of self criticism which isn’t helpful in our personal growth. Try it if you want to, you’ll be surprised!

There are other parts to self compassion too but this isn’t a book, it’s a blog,  so I’ll stop there for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What are Boundaries?

I think the large issue for clients to be confused about is Boundaries. No surprise really because if we were brought up in a house of rules, we may then have a look to see if boundaries were taught at all and that the client could learn the huge difference between Rules and Boundaries. Not surprisingly, client mostly go the place of ” I don’t like confrontation” and when I say no confrontation required for boundaries, I see a confused expression and really that no surprise either. When we begin to learn rules and boundaries, we are very small, have no power of our own, and the incoming information for the child appears to be a one way system. “Do as your told….do as I say… no you can’t…etc. Unless we see Rules in action, and then see Boundaries in action and grow up see the different examples over and over again, we won’t know the difference.

Nothing wrong with that, that’s just some households work, but there’s no reason not to start learning now. Boundaries are so important to every part of our lives. Boundaries are tied up in our confidence, our self worth and our values of self and others.

Boundaries involve how we see ourselves and how valuable our time. Whether we give our time when we didn’t want to, or whether we know its ok to give our time. Boundaries come from the inside and we learn that it’s ok to have what we want just as much as everyone else.

Clients learn that if we have people around us that don’t value what we want, they start to re-evaluate who they dealing with as people with no boundaries tend to be with people with no boundaries, so can you imagine how nice it is to start getting boundaries and realise that the new people around are attracted by the boundaries as they recognise them because they have them too. Eventually clients change their friends (or how they’re treated by them and end up with those around them not stepping over their boundaries anymore but joining in with the values as they have them too.

-no boundaries attracts no boundaries (in others)

-boundaries attracts boundaries (in others)

By this I mean that those who walk over boundaries, may have them for themselves but it requires a two way street, to be equal and be seen as equal. For that to happen, both parties need to be seen as equal by the other but most importantly by themselves.

So what stops people feeling equal to another person? Well the reasons can be very long depending on the person’s background, however, long or short reason, really we are back to the basics of  Boundaries, Self compassion, Awareness of self and When helping isn’t helping.

We will move onto Self Compassion next week…

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About Depression

Depression is a large topic but I thought I would bring a snippet about it today…

When I talk to a client about depression in a session, I hear from them about the flatness, the emptiness and the nothingness. We have to remember in those moments, that the defences are doing their job and we need to understand why they are doing that and give them new instructions. 

Explaining the reason why the defences feel they need to, for example, take away the wanting to go out, taking away the wanting to shower and get dressed, taking away the wanting to reply to a text. The defences think they are helping, saving the client from hurt. The defences go by the inner functions of the person and feel the change, bringing on a defence. What our body/mind needs to re-learn is to assess the change in our inner function and pause before sending the person into a particular state of mind that it thinks is appropriate even though it has ‘no eyes on the world’ and therefore acts solely on the inner regulatory factors which often have no bearing on the ‘outside world’ of the person. 

It’s common for a depressed person to have trouble explaining exactly how they feel and this is usually because its difficult to say what it is… when what it is isn’t the problem, its what it isn’t…or what we feel we are left with that is difficult to relay to someone else accurately.

If our defences pack all of our feelings away for safety, what is left to find a word to say what is left? The closest and most accurate I have heard is that ‘I have been emptied out of all my feelings and so when you ask me to explain, there are no feelings words left as they are the very things which are gone. I can’t say I’m sad as my sadness feelings have gone; I can’t say I’m annoyed as my annoyance feelings have also gone. The words I have left are empty, flat and nothingness.

If we take the theme of our feelings being packed away for safekeeping, we can begin to get a sense of why our defences are working this way. We can begin to ask the questions that our brain needs to hear so that it can understand the reality of what it’s doing and change the way it functions rather than function from its closed off world with no real sense of what is actually going on in the world outside of the brain.  The questions we ask are important, as the defences are reasonable in acting upon a basis of why they decide to defend the emotions in the first place. As we begin to understand that particular persons reasons, we begin to understand the defence. As we begin to understand the defence, we begin to release the emotions back to the person.

Depression is a function, a defence, and when we get to why, we get to know, and when we get to know, we get to work with our defences, teaching them that we understand and will work with them. Getting to know ourselves and regain our feelings again.

It takes a process for your defences to give you back your emotions and feel ok about it but with the understanding it can happen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Interview with Depression

With stealth I come, I have to creep for otherwise you would see me come and be prepared.  You would know it was me, your shield from hurt, your barrier from pain and you would be able to feel the feeling and sort it like any other emotion, like any other feeling.

I come to visit and decide that you should not feel, and I’ll take away not only the painful, but all, all the good feelings that would make you feel better, so, now you are not feeling …good, I am then doing my job, I will save you from feeling the pain by making you numb to everything, I will take feeling away, I am good at my job.

But what if you are with others and doing things and then you might feel? I will take care of that, you can stay in and then you will feel nothing and I am good at my job to protect you from feeling pain so I have you feel nothing. So I have protected you

But what if you got up and dressed in the morning? You may go out and see people! There would be a chance that you may feel something!  I will make you feel like you don’t want to wash or dress. That way you won’t go out. Then you will not see people. Then that takes away any opportunity to feel. I am good at my job. There you are, I protected you.

But what are we without feeling, being involved in our surroundings, or in company?  ….. When we are depersonalised, fragmented, isolated… just at the time when we need to be personal, whole and part of something. “What do you think about that depression?”

“What are you asking me for? That’s not my department I do one thing, I take away .. I take away company and the ways to get it, I take away feelings and the opportunity to have any, I take away clear thought so that you can’t see what I’m doing, and I take away hope so that you don’t give me any trouble. I do these things because I am good at my job.

Me: So what would happen if I took a tiny step and got up and dressed?

What would happen if I saw my friends now and again if I felt I’d like to try?

What if I allowed myself a little reward for making the effort of doing those things so that I felt a little better about myself?

What if I actually answered a text or two that people sent to me?

Depression: I’ve taken so much time convincing you that people don’t care, I’ve even made you forget that the texts are there

Me: Yes but what then depression… what would you do?

Depression: I’d leave you !

 

 

 

 

 

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Parenting styles…we can stick to the principles

Parenting, where are the instructions!!

Is it right to do this thing is it wrong to do that thing? Parents rarely choose a parenting style, but rather, they have a parenting style. Where do we get our knowledge of how to do things? Our knowledge of what to do comes from our main care givers, usually our parents. So, how good (or not so good) were they?

Are you being the best parent you can be by doing what your parents did and you liked that, or are you ‘opposite parenting‘ which is when you are not doing your own parenting at all, but instead, you are just doing the opposite of what your parents did because you did like what they did? Either way, you’re trying to do what’s right.

What is right and what is wrong, is very personal to families. What one family regards as normal, may horrify or confuse another family. There are however, some guidelines as to what might be good according to the principles generally of what every child needs as a growing, feeling, needing, loving human being, regardless of where you are in the world, and regardless of who your main care givers are eg a married couple, a living together couple, a single mum, a single dad, two dads, two mums, nans and grandads…any combination the child’s needs remain the same.

According to the Psychotherapist Adrienne Lee, the general categories of what a caregiver is (or provides) is shown through her diagram of what she has named SPACER.

The Parenting Processes (Lee 2014), SPACER stands for:

 

Soother:   To learn about and have empathy, to be empathic with the child, if they are                           not achieving this then the result will be that they escalate or smother the                             child. If the parent soothes, the child learns to experience calm and learns to                       self-soothe and learns to be able to calm themselves

Protector:  Alert and attentive to what might be dangerous and to be resourceful, if not                        then the parent may be neglectful or even damaging or abusive to the child.                        If the parent protects, the child learns to be safe and learns their own                                    groundedness

Advocate:  Gives language and values, if not then the parent can become a blamer. If the                      child has that advocate in the parent, then will find their voice instead of                              being silenced

Celebrator:  to celebrate the child and can teach the child delight and to share that                                     delight, if not they can’t do that internally for themselves if not then the                                 children are shamed when the parent shames instead If the parent                                         celebrates them and with them, they learn to have pleasure without shame

Educator:  Parents provides enough learning experiences to enable a healthy curiosity,                          if not then the child just gets dictated to or repressed

Regulator:  Parent sets healthy boundaries and keeps the child attached in a way that is                         healthy and consistent, if not then the child experiences inconsistency and                           feels abandonment

 

 

As with the rest of the world, the rest of how we get the balance to have a healthy life style. If we as parents then overdo any of these things in the SPACER parent processes, then we will take away the balance of the purpose of the SPACER. There should be space between the world and the child, there should be spacer between the child and the needs of the child so that the child has space to grow.

 

There is more on parenting processes and the uses of knowing parenting styles and parental guidance on the workshops

 

 

 

 

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Trauma: The Window Of Tolerance

The Window of Tolerance is so useful to know; both for the client and for the therapist.  It shows the areas where the client may be in their state of being, showing the behaviours they are displaying and matching them within the window of tolerance.    The therapist can then adjust the session accordingly and the sessions effectiveness too.

Here is the diagram of the window of tolerance.

credit: nicabm (2017)

NICABM-InfoG-Window-of-Tolerance Event trauma is treated differently than complex (repeated) trauma, but knowing which state the client is in and having a tool to refer to is invaluable for a client with either.  For me as a therapist, to be able to explain and show a client in clear terms about what is happening, can bring a normalisation of the situation. Something for them to go by as well as the therapist, and give them a sense of understanding and that the therapist understands too.

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How the brain works…yes yours!!

I found this poster from:    nicabm

(National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine.)

I found it really interesting and useful for my everyday life. Knowing a little about what’s going on inside, helps to realise that we are all human and are reacting to things…

Web

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Coping with Anxiety

Useful

Liverpool Therapies

According to Bandura’s (1988) research into Social cognitive theory, how much a person feels in control of dealing with a potential threat is linked to whether they feel anxious or not. It is the perception of the match that causes the anxiety. If a person perceives that the match between the potential threat and the ability to cope with it is not very good then the anxiety will be high; but if the match between the potential threat and being able to cope is good, then the anxiety will be low or non existent. It is the person who believes that they cannot cope with the threatening environment that has a high level of anxiety and distress. As the world is full of potentially threatening environments, learning how to develop a better control to bring the desired effect of less anxiety is required. Instead of learning a new behaviour to…

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Depression

As do most practitioners, I like to keep up with the newest information in topics within the world of counselling and psychotherapy. This week, I have finished my latest read which was a great book by Mark Widdowson, on the topic of Depression. I didn’t really know what I was in for when I began the book. Depression is a topic that we all learn about when we are studying, and I think I was hoping for a pathway, a guide to a better way of being with a client who shows signs of depression or for someone who has been diagnosed as suffering from depression. I want to be effective with clients. I want to be helpful and useful, not just making my way around the subject getting to know the client as we do and using our usual skills. Those skills are good, no doubt, but I wanted to read something that is actually useful as well as expanding my knowledge on the subject. To be up to date, to be innovative and to be clear and concise.  It delivered……..

As therapists, when a client sits in front of us, it’s always good to think, ‘what am I missing’ as we are never just sitting listening, never just passive waiting for information. We are listening in between the lines, under the sentence over the meaning and right the way through to the part that the client feels important to them. We don’t judge or make that happen but we are ready when it does. Information helps that process, knowledge of the subject is useful but even better vast knowledge of the subject can be game changing. Thats why therapists are always reading, attending classes, and attending conferences and seminars, to gain extra knowledge about as many subjects as they can, because people with many subjects walk through the therapist door.

To read a book that is helpful, up to date, deep in its knowledge that takes the reader far past the usual learning but keeps the material uncomplicated so that the reader can keep up, is settling and calming, rather than frustrating and hopeless. Some books are so difficult to read that they become ‘work’ instead of ‘pleasure’ to read. Not so for this book. I found it pleasing, satisfying and a book that should be kept for reference on many things such as medication, key therapeutic processes and neuroscience of depression. I feel as if I have truly learned something new and the information I learned is right up to date. I feel informed more in the therapy room and sit with the feeling that I have knowledge of the subject matter far more than basic and together with the individual tailoring of the therapy for each client, the huge subject matter of depression is processing in my head and ready for use as a new skill set for my practice.

Some of the topics were so interesting:

How different a treatment plan looks now that I have this information

Considering the biological side to depression and using it in the therapy room

Medication knowledge and the considerations they require.

Transactional Analysis for Depression: A step by step Treatment Manual by Mark Widdowson

Things I already knew, but now in much greater depth.

Does what it says on the tin…

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