Counselling during the menopause
Going through the Menopause can be a really tough time, physically for sure, but also mentally. We often read about the physical difficulties - hot flushes; sleepless nights; erratic periods: but less is spoken about anxiety and depression that can appear from nowhere, leaving us wondering why we suddenly feel we've lost our confidence and the resilience that we had before. This is not surprising when you stop and think what you are physically going through.
Unfortunately the menopause comes along at an age when we could really do without it ( A bit like GCSE's bang in the middle of the adolescent stage!) We are facing a real time of transition, often dealing with adult children leaving home; or dealing with the worries of parents becoming elderly and frail. We might be questioning our relationship with partners, suddenly having more spare time together and not remembering how we used to communicate: we are also facing our own feelings about the ageing process and what life in older age will look like. It really can be a time of reflection and insecurities. Our settled worlds can suddenly feel rocked and unsafe. All of this will be explored in Menopausal counselling.
Having been through the menopause and having spent much time researching how best to emotionally support clients through this, I have been able to pick out certain therapeutic tools that I feel would be helpful through this menopausal transition.
We explore together, your own specific Timeline. of major events in your life, and what beliefs about yourself you may have built up. Then we look at whether these beliefs are useful or hindering you. If you think they are hindering you, we look at replacing these with a more helpful belief ( created by you) that will empower not hinder you.
We will also explore and look at the other issues you may be facing, whether it's pressure at work; or pressure at home, and see how you would best like to use the important down time ( playtime) to support you through.
And finally, we look to the future, to see what you are hoping to achieve, what your wishes are for the future. We look at any fears that are holding you back, sensitively challenging them, seeing if we can shift any feelings of being "Stuck" to a more freeing, empowering feeling.
If the Menopause is causing you to struggle emotionally and you feel that working with a counsellor would benefit you, please contact me via the e-mail button or by phone. Both can be found by going to my home page.
The counselling room
Here are a few photo's of the counselling room. Many clients have commented on how warm and cosy the room is. I want you to be able to feel that you can relax and chill, take your shoes off if you want to and curl up on the sofa.
If we are physically ill, most of us go to the doctors, and ask for help to put things right. It's a sensible thing to do. We don't want to feel the aches and pains, and we are looking after ourselves. In fact, if you complain of an illness to a friend, most likely the first thing they will say is " Have you been to the doctor?"
If we are feeling emotionally unwell, somehow we expect ourselves to "Get over it" and carry on. We plod on regardless, and usually through positive experiences happening as well, we quickly recover and get on with dealing with life. However, sometimes our emotions just get too worn down, like getting a bout of flu over and over again, and this is when I feel counselling has a real part to play. When we are at this point we "simply can't see straight" and a helping hand is what is needed. This can often be the helping hand of a friend, but every now and then their words don't comfort anymore and you know you need outside help. To speak to an absolute stranger IS Scarey. To talk to someone and tell them how awful you really are feeling takes guts. It's a big brave step to take, and I have loads of admiration for anyone picking up the phone to make that first contact.
My own experience of having counselling has left me in a place where I have a better understanding of how my mind works and my emotions work. I've realised that when someone or something makes me feel vulnerable, I will react in a certain way to keep myself safe. Only sometimes the way I react is not helpful to myself. I may be feeling vulnerable because of a fear that stemmed from something years back. I may start feeling anxious or panicy, re-living the original fear when actually it's not necessary. I will react much better from a position of neutrality, rather than triggering off a reaction from fear. I'm waffling, so let me try giving you an example.
My belief is that I cannot cope with opinionated people. This stems from my family life where there were strong debates about politics. As a child I felt threatened by the ever increasing noise when the debates started. I would feel anxious, on hyper alert, and wouldn't dare speak even if I desperately needed something. When I hear someone being opinionated now, my immediate reaction is to feel anxious; on the alert and ready to escape, and this feeling usually make me withdraw very fast from the conversation. Now I can see that this was how I felt as a child, I can see I don't necessarily have to feel like this today. So, actually rather than withdraw, I might quite enjoy learning where their opinions came from. Because I don't feel vulnerable, I might join a conversation that is really interesting, I might even challenge what they are saying. I don't have to agree with anything. So, I have the chance to try out different ways of reacting, which let's me have more choices in life, rather than just reacting the way I always did. This is just a small example of how we can react differently when we have a chance to explore our past and the behaviours we set up to deal with issues.
SO this is my experience of counselling - the chance to discover patterns of behaviour which are reactions to emotions, and then decide whether I want to carry on reacting the same way, or try out other ways. It's like a freedom from the rut, a chance to do things differently. A new beginning.
If you feel like you're reacting from past experiences which are holding you back, and would like a fresh start, away from those original emotions, counselling may be for you.
If you would like to book an introductory session, please contact me by phone on 07834 422039 or e-mail me at [email protected]
The critical voice in your head
Wouldn’t it be so easy if there was just one voice that we heard loud and clear in our heads, that informed us of the best thing to do at all times?
Instead, the reality is more like we have an internal mob made up of different members, all wanting to be heard at the same time, often screaming really loudly to be heard, making it almost impossible to make a decision that feels like it comes from the core part of you.
Imagine that in your head there’s a child, loud and demanding; another that might be feeling vulnerable and scared; there’s a critical parent voice that is giving you a stern talking to, and then there might be the rebellious teenager that’s really not having it! There’s the spontaneous part that just wants to get on with it, and doesn’t want to listen to the other mob members, that are all chattering away, causing confusion and fear in making what might be the right decision.
In my own life, and as a counsellor, I see these internal conflicts being played out constantly in my own heart and head, and in my clients.
I find that working with a client to understand these different parts, can be so cathartic and life changing for them. Understanding our different voice parts, and what they might be trying to protect us from, can mean that we have a more friendly and compassionate relationship with them, which means that, almost like calling a family meeting, the different voice parts can be heard, and cared for, in a way that makes big decisions easier to make, once we really understand what the internal anxieties are.
If you are reading this, and it is making sense to you, then you will probably really benefit from working with me in this way. It is particularly useful for people who tend to think in quite a visual way. Sometimes, just taking a moment, closing your eyes and allowing yourself to ask a certain part what they are feeling angry or distressed about, can allow that part to be heard. It’s a great technique to take away from counselling sessions that you can use by yourself as a great tool for handling difficult times that come up in the future.
If you want to go ahead and book some counselling sessions, please give me a call or send me an e-mail, by clicking here :[email protected]
I am an accredited registered member with the British association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
I have a brain in my Stomach
According to Michael Gershon, M.D., author of The Second Brain (Harper-Collins, 1999), we have a second brain in our stomach. I heard this mentioned at a conference I was at the other day, and it made so much sense, I just had to write about it.
So, those "Gut" feelings and "Gut" Instincts now make perfect sense, and I will now be listening even more intently to what my stomach is saying to me.
I see my stomach as a round Pie chart - with different sections that grow or reduce depending on my feelings.There's different sections for anxiety; sadness; joy; anger; guilt and shame, and they all have different colours. So for me, anger is red; joy is yellow; sadness is grey;anxiety is purple; guilt and shame is green. Through each message sent from my brain, my stomach reacts and the pie chart shifts around from emotion to emotion in a constant movement of colour. I am learning to really listen to stomach, and work out which emotions I am feeling. This is a helpful tool, because I may be feeling angry about a situation that I've just experienced, but I'm unsure why? When this happens, I can think about my earliest memories of being angry. Most times this gives me a little indicator of any patterns of anger, and I can quickly see whether I am just reacting to old patterns of anger to see whether the anger I'm feeling right now is really justified. If I'm feeling anxious, I can quietly see what I can do to calm it down a bit. Do I just need to really organise my day, so that the thoughts that are causing anxiety are addressed. This anxiety usually happens when I am dealing with a lot of different work issues and I'm not sure which tasks to prioritise first. Just thinking about what the anxiety is about, means I can see what is the most important thing to get done, and what else can be ditched for the time.
When things get ditched, I imagine wrapping the thoughts and actions needed, up into a nice box with lovely wrapping paper and a big bow round it. I then wrap this in cling film a few layers. In my imagination, I then push the wrapped box, ever so gently with both hands, and watch it disappear into the sky, where it sits neatly on a little ledge ready for when I need to look at it. If I do this, it means I have THIS day, to look at what is important to get done, and I have a much better chance of achieving all my goals for the day. Tomorrow, I can send for the lovely wrapped box, and see whether it is the right day to open it, and tackle the issue inside. What this does for me, is it reduces my anxiety, and leaves me more space to en "Joy" other parts of my day.
If I am really feeling anxious, ten minutes listening to a good meditation tape, works wonders. I have to admit, this took practice, and at first I couldn't get my brain to be quiet. If I can stop the constant chatter in my brain, it gives my stomach a chance to re-balance, so that the pie chart is all nicely equal for a little while. When it's equal, my body feels calm, and I feel at peace with the world. When I'm at peace, It's usually followed very quickly by a real feeling of Joy.
If you feel your own personal pie chart in your gut is out of balance, and would like to explore this with me, please contact me and we can arrange a time that suits you, to meet and see how we can re-balance this together.
If you would like to book an introductory session, please contact me by phone on 07834 422039 or e-mail me at [email protected]
Lost at sea - the therapeutic journey
Transitions – lost at sea
When you experience change, whether it’s a welcome change, or a cruel unexpected change, it can take a long time to feel that secure base of safety again and you can feel lost, fearful and unsure of anything anymore. With these feelings present, you may find that making decisions are impossible. You may feel that your stomach is constantly knotted, and there is a constant feeling of being Lost at Sea. All is just not ok. You may feel as if there are a million different thoughts darting through your mind, none of which are making much sense. Focusing may be extremely difficult and it feels like there is no way forward.
When we start working therapeutically together, the counselling space becomes a secure base for you to start unfolding all those feelings and fears. I stop alongside you. I don’t try and give advice or find a solution, but I act as an anchor, a place to ground, and we explore together everything that has brought you to this place, this part of the ocean that is so scary right now. We wait however long it takes until you are ready. Like a damaged boat lost at sea, we work together to make repairs, replacing old wood for new wood and new strengths for old weaknesses before we attempt to move on.
When the time is right, and you are repaired enough, I sail along side you as you begin your journey towards your new secure base. We journey at your pace, sometimes moving quickly forward, sometimes getting stuck for a while, and sometimes being dragged back a bit. But slowly we are definitely moving forward together on your journey and I stay beside you for however long the journey takes.
As you sail slowly forward, the shore begins to take shape and I know my journey with you is coming to an end soon. We spend time looking ahead to the new life just in front of you, and pay respect to the difficult journey you have sailed. You have new strengths with the wind within your sail and your own life is in front of you again. As we approach land, we bid a fond farewell and we part as I watch you in the distance stepping out. Our therapeutic journey has ended and your adventures are ready to begin. You have found your feet and are on solid ground again, you have found your own secure base.
When I look out of my window I see a cloudy grey sky, lots of cars, a clear road, and a mixture of houses. The photo that I have just taken isn’t particularly exciting, but in that moment of looking outside, I take in many thoughts, feelings. If a client stood right beside me, looking at the same road, he would have many thoughts, feelings, but they wouldn’t be the same as mine. That is because we each have a very unique perception on the world out there. Before you carry on reading, have a look at the photo, note what you see in this photo, any feelings it brings, or any thoughts that come up.
What I see is a grey sky. It feels cold and a little uninviting and I immediately feel happy for the warmth of my house, and no reason to go out today. I note the cars, and to the left of the picture I spot a red car. My Mum told me never to buy a red car, as it meant danger. I note the big white house opposite, and it brings a warm safe secure feeling into my awareness, but at the same time I feel a little alone, a bit of an outsider. I note the cars, and in my mind it is a quiet day, for I can see a few spaces for parking.
How different was your experience when you looked at the photo? Did you clock the red car and have the same thoughts as me? Did you have the same experience when you looked at the big white house, which I can now reveal is indeed a Church. Did you think the road looked busy whereas I perceived it as a quiet day? If you put ten of us in front of that same spot, we would all probably have extremely different thoughts. One of the makes of cars might remind you of a friend who has the same, and they may enter your mind. You may even think, I should phone them? So every view we see triggers different responses and actions in all of us. This is known as perception. So why am I writing about this? - because I believe that understanding this is the most important part of my role as a counsellor.
When a client sits with me, I need to cast aside my view on the world, and spend valuable time asking questions so that I can see how their unique world is for them. I need to listen really carefully so that I get it right, so that I can step as closely into the client's shoes and see it through their eyes. This is what is called empathy- defined as “Identifying with or experiencing vicariously another's thought, feeling, or attitude” I will never be able to be “In” your shoes, because only you have walked that unique path, and no-one on this planet has experienced that exact same path with you. The important part is that I can try and understand it from your view.
Getting back to the red car in the left of the photo – a conversation between a client and counsellor might go like this:-
Client: “You should never buy a red car, they’re dangerous”
Csllr: “ A red car’s dangerous?”
Client: “Yeah, you’re bound to have an accident in one – not good”
Csllr: “So where does this come from – red car’s being dangerous?”
Client “Ah, Mum said it for years – never buy a red car”
Csllr: “Ah, so Mum thought they were dangerous. Do you know what was behind that?”
Client “You know, I’ve never thought of asking her. I really don’t know”
Csllr :“Is this like a real fear for you, or do you think you learnt it?”
Client :“Well, I must have learnt it, because now I think about it, they’re actually quite cool”
Csllr :“so, thinking about it you actually think red cars are quite cool, but I sense that you’re still feeling some of your Mum’s fear – like she must be right?”
Client :“Yeah, I must ask her what it’s all about, maybe do a bit of research too and see if it’s a well known fact or just some random fear passed down through the family”
Csllr“ So, you’re going to check it out then!”
Client “Too right, I always wanted a red car”
I still find it amazing how much we learn when we are just given the space to explore our own minds with the help of someone wanting to “Get our picture” and it’s a wonderful experience when a client finds joy that they don’t have to stick with a perception that doesn’t feel right for them anymore. So, when you’re sitting with a friend and they say something that seems completely ludicrous, set aside your perception and take the time to find out about theirs – you could end up having a really interesting conversation.
I always try to keep the issues I talk about in my blog as light as possible, but at the same time, enabling the reader a glimpse of what happens in the counselling relationship. If you would like some help on aspects of your life which are causing you issues and pain, please e-mail me to discuss a time to meet for an introductory one hour session.