How to Deal With Shame

woman feeling shame

"Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket" - Brene Brown.


Brene is my go to when I’m dealing with shame, my own in my head, or someone else’s in my therapy room. I wish I had discovered her years ago, I think about all the time wasted on feeling shame for things that were beyond my control, for choices that I made that in hindsight were perhaps not the best choice at the time but were the best I could do in that moment with what I had. What I have learned is that shame is linked with vulnerability.

I spent years being 'perfect' not allowing myself the freedom to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, this meant that of course I crashed and burned. It’s impossible to be perfect 100% of the time, it’s impossible to please everyone and never make a mistake.

Because I set myself up to be perfect when I did mess up, the results were an almost crippling sense of shame that threatened my very existence and felt as though every ounce of dignity that I fought so hard to retain was shredded and lost. In so many ways I am emotionally resilient. I have picked myself up from the floor many a time, but this was easier when I was being done to, when the pain I felt was not of my doing, when I was the victim in the situation.

There was no shame for me in being a victim, I could rage, I could call people out, I could lick my wounds, talk about oppression if i wanted to, politicize the situation.

When I was the one in the wrong that I couldn't bear. That would lead me to hide away, to push people away. I don't make mistakes, it’s not OK for me to mess up. I was my harshest critic and if anyone questioned me my shame came out as anger. Tears of course are for the weak, and I am not weak! I am strong and independent and empowered.

Yes, in many ways I am all of that, but I’m also vulnerable, and human and that part of me I hid away in my shadow. That part of me is what caused that intense shame that Brene has so awesomely researched and explained to me via blogs, TED talks and books over the past few years.

We judge ourselves

Shame is about judgement, the way we judge ourselves, and the way that we assume that others will judge us. For some its more about others judgements of us, for others its more about the way we judge ourselves.

For me it’s about both. I would judge myself terribly, but also be afraid about the way that others would judge me. This would cause me to hide away, to refuse to talk about my actions for fear that I was as a bad a person as I thought I was.

Did this help? Hell no! All it did was to make the situation bigger and worse in my head and cause me to act totally from a place of fear. The shout and rage more, to push people away whilst trying my best to prove to others that I’m a good person – so massive people pleasing behaviour set in!

Working with shame

A healthier way to work with the shame I feel is to embrace it. To ask myself what is causing me to feel shame, to acknowledge my behaviour, to talk about it, to apologise to the person I feel I have wronged.

Shame is a difficult emotion to work with. It’s a scary emotion and that’s because by acknowledging it we open ourselves up to the fact that actually our behaviour may have actually been as bad as we think it was, and that can be a difficult pill to swallow.

There is also of course the possibility that even when we acknowledge and apologise we may not be forgiven and that it may have a lasting effect on our relationships, it may also lead to us being rejected. This is where I have learned that leaning in to the fear of what may happen although difficult, is ultimately still the healthiest choice.

Unspoken, hidden shame is a timebomb waiting to explode and can cause much more damage in the long term. I was talking with a client recently who told me about a situation that highlights this brilliantly. Following his divorce, he was feeling ready to think about dating. He was on his first date, nervous, feeling unsure. He was enjoying the date, but feeling anxious. So, he had a drink, and then another to help him get over his nerves. His date then asked him a question about his past. A question that for him hit straight at his pain point, and the shame of his past was activated. From that point on the date was a car crash. He told me that he was left with even more shame following his behaviour and he had ended up sabotaging the whole evening and ended up with the voice of I told you that you weren’t good enough in his head. His behaviour totally served that negative belief that because of his past he would not be good enough for anyone ever again.

We worked through this over the coming weeks. It was helpful of course as it helped him to name his core belief and embrace the fact that he was self-sabotaging. It enabled us to do the deep work that was necessary for him to do to move on from his past and let go of the shame he felt. He allowed himself to be vulnerable.

He is now ready to forgive himself and to move forward. He has since had another date with a different person (the original person chose not to forgive him, and that he decided was OK). This date he used the tools we had worked on before he met her, he did not rely on alcohol, and he had fun. What happens next in unknown, but his self-esteem and dignity is intact.

Acknowledge the feelings

So, in a nutshell, shame is a dark emotion that often is difficult to acknowledge. When we allow ourselves to acknowledge the feeling we can work to release it and move on. It really is possible to do this, but only by embracing our vulnerability as a human being will we allow it to happen.

Click here to watch Brene Brown’s TED talk here for more information.

 

 

For more information about how we can support you through this or other areas that are causing you emotional unrest, please contact me on rebecca@hertfordshiretherapy.org to book a complimentary 15 minute clarity call.

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What is Person-Centred Counselling

Ripples and water droplet

In today’s blog, one of our therapists, Maria, talks about person-centred counselling and what means exactly. 

Person-centred counselling is one of the many different approaches to counselling and therapy. We are all unique individuals with different experiences so need different things from counselling.

Finding an approach that works for you, and a counsellor that you gel with, can make a big difference to how much you get out of counselling. However if you don’t know what the different approaches are then it can be very difficult to figure out what might work for you.

My first experience of counselling wasn’t very helpful which put me off trying it again for a long time because I assumed that all counselling would be the same. However, my second experience of counselling was vastly better and had a very positive impact on my life.

I had found a counsellor who I really connected with, and a style of counselling that worked for me.
With this in mind I thought it would be helpful to briefly explain what the person-centred approach to counselling is and how it influences the way I work as a counsellor.

So what is person-centred counselling…

Person-centred counselling is about providing a safe space for you to talk through your thoughts, feelings and experiences with someone who will really listen to you. The time is yours to talk about whatever feels important to you. It is based on the idea that we all have the resources within us to heal, grow and move forwards in our lives.

Many things happen in the course of our lives that can make this feel very difficult and we can sometimes feel stuck. The aim of person-centred counselling is to create an environment that enables healing, self-acceptance and growth, by providing understanding and acceptance without judgement.

The Counselling Relationship

A really important part of person-centred counselling is the relationship between the client and their counsellor.

As a counsellor I aim to build a relationship in which my clients feel safe to talk openly about their experiences and how they feel. I will listen attentively to what they say and try to see the world through their eyes. I will always try to be my genuine self. This means that I will be honest about how

I experience a client and I will share with them my understanding of what they have talked about and how they are feeling.

You are the expert

Another important aspect of the person-centred approach is the belief that you are the expert on your own feelings, experiences, and the direction you want to take in your life.
I believe that you are in the best place to decide what feels right for you, and that coming to your own decisions is usually far more helpful and empowering than having someone else tell you what to do.

Therefore a person-centred counsellor will work with you to help you gain a greater awareness and understanding of yourself and what you want without telling you what to do.

Acceptance and change
 
Sometimes what makes the biggest difference is being able to talk to someone who really listens to you without judging; someone who will accept all the parts that make up who you are, including the parts that you find difficult or uncomfortable or that you may not like about yourself.
Feeling understood and accepted by another person can be really powerful because it helps us learn to accept ourselves more fully.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I am able to change.”
Carl Rogers
 
Often people come to counselling because they want to make a change in their lives or within themselves. Developing awareness, understanding and self-acceptance in a safe environment is a really good place to start and often enables that change to take place.

_______________________________
 
At Hertfordshire Therapy Centre we offer a supportive environment for both children and adults who may be suffering bereavement.

For more information about the services we offer at Hertfordshire Therapy Centre, or to book a complimentary clarity call to find out if our services can support you, please get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.

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Common Questions or Anxieties About Bereavement

Hugging couple

In today’s blog, one of our therapists, Dawn, writes about her experience of grief, both personally and as a therapist working with clients who have suffered a bereavement.
 
 
Grief and the grieving process – removing the ‘Shoulds’ ‘Musts’ and other expectations
 
I am really passionate about this work and the need to support those individuals, it is the reason I became a therapist.
 
Eleven years ago at the age of 27, I lost two friends (both in their 20’s) and my own father within the space of six months. All three deaths were completed unexpected, complicated by the fact I was on the other side of the world at the time when both of my friends died.
 
Through the support of counselling I was able to process my feelings. I was able to arrive at a state of acceptance of the losses and find ways to live with the loss.
 
Why clichés are unhelpful
 
Often within my work and my own personal experience I found clichés such as ‘Getting Over it’ and ‘Time Heals’ are often used by others towards the person who is grieving.
 
They often come from a place of misplaced good intentions.  However, many clients find this attitude unhelpful, unempathic and in some cases, depending on the source, offensive.
 
I would like to stress that if these clichés were possible then the person you are grieving for would not have been that significant or important in the first place!
 
Common questions or anxieties about bereavement

 1. Do the 5 stages of grief exist as I don’t seem to be experiencing the stages I have read/been told about?  
Yes and no. I have met clients who appear to go through that linear process but I believe that it is not always linear.  You can dip in and out of the experience (depending on personal circumstances) or experience some stages and not others.
 
I think this theory is a useful tool to help frame and identify what you are feeling but it can also have a negative effect. For example, you may feel you are not grieving in the 'right way.  This feeling often comes from external opinions on how people should grieve (often based loosely on this linear process). This can lead to feelings such as self-doubt, guilt and concerns over mental stability.
 
I often explore with clients another more recent theory on grief known as the 'Dual Process Model'.  This theory recognises that both expressing and controlling feelings can be important due to circumstances in an individual’s life. It sees grief as a dynamic process oscillating between feelings of loss and feelings of restoration (avoiding the loss).
 
You may recognise this pattern in yourself as 'dipping in and out' of the grief can be a way of coping with the everyday life around you. 
 
 
2.    Do you think anyone can truly be ready/prepare for the loss? (In situations of terminal illness)
 
This is a difficult one to answer as people’s reactions can vary and I have often found that it depends on the individual situation. For example, the nature of the relationship with the deceased which may be negative, positive, close or estranged.
 
Often, if the relationship is close or significant, (i.e a parent/child) then the grief is compounded by the loss of that person’s role in their life.
 
Negative/estranged relationships with the deceased can often lead to complicated grief as often there are unresolved grievances that contribute to feelings such as guilt and anger.
 
These additional feelings exacerbate and intensify the grieving process after the death therefore negating any 'preparation' that occurred.
 
A huge impact on experience is the age of the person involved, often when it involves a child (no matter what age).  Clients have vocalised how they thought they were prepared because of a terminal diagnosis but are then left with a sense of ‘wrong person having died’.  There can be a huge sense that no parent should expect to outlive their child.
 
What often comes up is the memories left behind of seeing a person suffer or deteriorate.
 
Often clients feel that all their happy memories have been wiped out by memories of that loved one during their illness.
 
Although you may feel prepared in the lead up to it, nobody can predict what you will feel in the aftermath.  There may be more acceptance of the circumstances (compared to death by accident or crime) but it does not negate the loss felt.
 
 
3. Can there ever really be a ‘formula’ for grief?
 
Grieving is an individual process.
 
Some people may experience it as a process of stages, others will not.  It depends on the individual, the relationship to the person they have lost, type of death (sudden unexpected or expected, death by suicide) personal circumstances such as external support network and lifestyle.
 
I have seen an individual who cleared out her mother’s belongings a day after the death but also a widow who had a candlelit shrine in her home six years after her husband died. 
 
Human beings are complex; whilst a formula can help us to frame things (as explained above) it is important to focus on the individual in front of us.
 
 4. Do people of different ages have a particular way of reacting when they lose someone? 

Grief is such an individual thing whatever the age of the person who is grieving.
 
However, very young children often find it hard to express their grief and appear to dip in and out of the focus on their loss.  One day the child will act 'normal', the next they will be withdrawn.  Work with this group tends to be non-directive and supportive of how they are in that given moment, often facilitating expression through creative work/story telling.
 
Many teenagers tend to withdraw and this can manifest itself in 'acting out' rebellious behaviours (especially within a school setting) or refusal to participate socially.
 
With adult clients there can often be a displacement of feelings and a focus on another issue, such as problems with a partner or work.  In contrast, I often found with the elderly the loss is compounded by a sense of being alone with little distraction so they tend to focus on the loss rather than displace their feelings onto another issue.
 
I encourage people to express their feelings.  I also feel it’s important to make clear that their grief is individual and to ignore those who may tell them what they should/should not be feeling or doing.
 
Also very important is self-care. Be kind to yourself and do not put yourself under any unnecessary stress or expectations.
 
I don't believe in the cliche 'time heals' but I do believe with time comes acceptance and ability to manage living with the loss.
 
I like to offer clients that the person they have lost will always be a part of their life in a different way, for example by focusing on the things they had in common with that person or the experiences they shared together - they can always carry that with them.


In Part 2 to follow, I will be writing specially about how to support your bereaved child
 
________________________________
 
At Hertfordshire Therapy Centre we offer a supportive environment for both children and adults who may be suffering bereavement.

For more information about the services we offer at Hertfordshire Therapy Centre, or to book a complimentary clarity call to find out if our services can support you, please get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.
 
 
Additional organisations that can offer advice/support to the bereaved.
 
Bereavement UK,
Young Minds,
Together for Short Lives,
Winstons Wish
Cruse
SIBS.org
SOBS.org
Support after Suicide

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Depression & why you should never tell someone to “just get over it”

Man crouching by wall

Today is World Mental Health Day, a day to bring awareness of mental health issues and hopefully remove the associated stigma.   In today’s blog, Peter, one of our therapists, talks about depression and gives some valuable advice about what to say to people who are suffering.

 
I want to share something on the topic of depression because I am aware of how many people suffer with depression and I want to let you know that you are not alone.  People are thinking about you, so please do not suffer in silence.

Let me start by answering why you should never say to someone who is suffering from a mental illness “just get over it” or “pull yourself together”.
 
Would you say to someone who has a broken arm; “just get over it” or “think positive and you’ll be fine”.  The reason for not saying the above is because we can typically overtly see when an individual is suffering from a physical injury and there is societal awareness that physical ailments and injuries occur in nearly everyone at some stage in their life. 
 
There is an acceptance that, in general, physical injuries heal after a period of time. As a society, we need to foster this same awareness, acceptance and compassion for someone who may be struggling with their mental health.
 
People often have empathy and understanding for someone who has a physical injury but when it comes to a mental health condition they tend to dismiss it as something to get over or to just ignore. I know, of course, that not everyone holds this view but I am gently challenging those who feel they may fall into this category.
 
I am challenging you to really think how it may feel to have an illness in which is affects every facet of your life; one that makes it extremely difficult to connect and be with other people.
 
Depression is a common serious medical illness that requires treatment and it is not something someone can just snap out of.
 
Just because we cannot feel another person’s pain or at times we are unable to see their discomfort it does not mean they are not hurting.
 
It would be extremely beneficial to society if everyone were aware that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.  In knowing this, perhaps as a society we would be more open and willing to talk about mental health.
 
Depression not only affects the individual living with it but also the individual’s friends, family and colleagues.  Unfortunately, those people may not have an understanding of what depression is and/or may be unaware of the wide ranging effects depression can have on a person.
 
If you know someone who you believe would benefit from understanding more about depression, why not share this short video with them.
 


​The second video below is closely linked to the above video but is aimed at understanding depression from the viewpoint of a person living with depression.   
I would have preferred in the video that they use the analogy of a black fog or cloud, which I have personally heard to be a more exact picture of what it is like to live with depression.  Not to mention, dogs can be hugely beneficial to an individual’s wellbeing, but that aside I still found both videos to be very powerful and insightful. 



A proverb which I have shared with many people and that I have found to be personally transformative is “This Too Shall Pass”.

I am sharing this particular proverb because it would appear that depression has a cruel way of casting a shadow over a person, a shadow being with you forever, an ingrained part of you.  

It is true that depression can last for a long time but it is also true that with the right tailored treatment and support, painful thoughts and feelings can quiet down and pass.

The reason I have underlined tailored is to emphasise the fact we are individuals. By being special and unique we must find our own path to healing and understanding depression.  With the support of professionals, we can find ways of exploring this angle of our mental health and learning why it may be present in our lives.

I have been thinking a lot recently about acceptance.  So perhaps it might be helpful to frame depression as a way of our body directing us to make changes in our life. 

Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had a magic wand that could eradicate depression once and for all and ensure everyone, including myself, always felt content.  I would wave that wand in an instant if it meant people no longer felt emotional pain.

But the truth is, depression is prevalent within our society and I want to remove the stigma around mental health. I feel we should all be open and talk more about mental health and my hope is for people to understand that anyone can develop depression. It does not discriminate against age, sex, gender, job, location or wealth.

I also want to let you that there is hope.  It may not feel like it now but things can and will get better.  I cannot promise when it will be but it is something I hope for you and I wish with all my heart.
I urge you to read some of the letters on The Recovery Letters. There is also a book entitled: ‘The Recovery Letters: Addressed to People Experiencing Depression’

Below are the sources I recommend. I felt they gave me a better understanding of depression and mental health and well-being.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig – Audible book 
The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris - Book 
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl - Book
Kamal Ravikant – Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It – Book
YouTube Clip - What causes anxiety and Depression - Inside Out: 
 
 
 
A poem by Peter Dillon
 
Depression you’re mean why is it you’re here
What are your reasons for keeping me locked in this fear
Afraid to open up and share how I feel
I’m not all alone but you’re making this seem real
You’ve taken away passion my creativity and fun
But I’ve still got the light and with it I’ll run
The light is my hope and I’ll wait at the start
The race to find meaning, I’ll look deep in my heart
I will never give up I will fight till the end
Depression once frightening now a sort of friend
A friend that is guiding and keeps me on my toes
But now you don’t control me from the ashes I rose
I’m stronger than ever even through a bad day
Cause I’ve learnt the tools to keep you quiet and at bay
 
 
I know first-hand how impossible it can feel to open up and talk to someone but
it is exactly this hardest step to take that can start the healing process.
 
I have had clients tell me that just being able to talk to someone and to know that they are truly listening has made a huge positive impact in their life.
 
As a therapist, I offer a confidential safe space for you to talk about and explore anything you wish.
Therapy isn’t always easy, but neither is keeping thoughts and feelings inside and not sharing them with others.
 
I feel that the real magic of therapy is that for fifty minutes you can talk about anything and know you will not be judged.
 
With loving kindness,
 
Peter x
 

 
 
 At Hertfordshire Therapy Centre we offer a supportive environment for both children and adults to challenge the negative thoughts that are getting in the way of them enjoying their lives.

For more information about the services we offer at Hertfordshire Therapy Centre, or to book a complimentary clarity call to find out if our services can support you, please get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.

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Becoming a Creature of Habit

Coffee and flowers

On the blog today, Sarah, one of our therapists talks about building good habits......

Creatures of Habit

Over the years, I have to admit, I have never been a creature of habit.

To be completely honest, I’m more of a spontaneous reactor to a situation. For example, and this is hard for me to admit, I have always tended to just clean my house really well when people were coming over. That is quite a hideous thing to reveal, but it’s true.

On a day to day basis I have always found other activities that thrilled me far more…. like reading, or researching, or…..watching paint dry….anything but housework!

At the same time, though, it always felt good to have a clean house. I enjoyed walking into a room and seeing everything clean and orderly. The trouble was that I hated the in between bit of giving up hours to achieve that feeling. I couldn’t imagine anything more dull than spending an afternoon polishing my glassware.

Is It Just Me?

Over time I just came to believe that this was me -  the way I was born to be. In particular areas where I was interested, I was a driven, hardworking woman and I could happily spend hours achieving what I wanted. Setting up my Cognitive Hypnotherapy business filled my life with joy; spending time preparing for and helping clients was and is, a pleasure; reading for hours felt like an absolute treat. But cleaning? Or doing my day to day finances? These were forbidden zones of absolute torture.

I knew that I needed to create a habit that would make doing the things I hated, easy. It was just a question of how.

During my Master Practitioner course we had looked at the idea of Slight Edge (a book and concept by Jeff Olsen) – doing something every day, something small, something easy.

If I’m honest it didn’t work for me when I tried it. The reason for this was because I was trying to apply it to something that didn’t need habit – my business. My business was something I loved. I could work through to the early hours setting up my website and writing articles or learning new techniques. Where I had the problem was with the things I found boring, mindless, a waste of time.
  
So, How to Begin a Habit?

As time went on though, something seemed to enter slowly, secretly into my life, my way of thinking. I read an article by the excellent James Clear about the power of habit and, slowly but surely, I started to apply this idea into the places it was really needed. He wrote that habit needed to be easy to achieve and needed to be consistent too, but this time I decided to apply it to a different area of my life. 

Now, don’t laugh, but my first attempt at creating a habit was to clean a section of my bathroom each day. My bathroom is tiny so each section is about 6ft high and 3 ft long perhaps. It takes 5 minutes maximum. I allow myself, in emergencies, to miss a day, but no more than a day and, to be honest, I like keeping the streak going. It makes me feel good. It’s a challenge, but an easy challenge.

My bathroom has 6 sections and it is now cleaner than it has ever been. I have even incorporated cleaning a section of the floor into the routine. Before, I had to lug my hoover upstairs or brush the rubber tiles, then mop. Yuk. I hated cleaning the bathroom floor, but now it’s just a foot square part of a section that never gets dirty enough to have to hoover. Just a quick wipe and I’m done.

Is this sounding a little sad??!!

5 Minutes a Day

The hardened cleaners amongst you may well sneer at my new habit, but wait… I now have a sparkling bathroom on 5 minutes work a day. My mind has perked up and noticed how good it looks. Before long the quiet thought came into my head that…maybe I could do a tiny section of my lounge?

Maybe I could spend 5 minutes having a look at my finances? Maybe I could become a person of consistency in all areas of my life and not just the ones that really interested me?

The secret is to only do a tiny bit. Initially, that tiny bit doesn’t appear to have an effect, but if I keep that streak going day after day, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, it adds up to something that makes a real difference in my life. I can feel my mind changing. I can feel myself becoming organised and feeling good about myself. I can feel the satisfaction of knowing I have done my 5 minutes and that’s all I have to do.

Our minds like patterns and when a good pattern of habit is created our minds start to wonder where else we could apply the same technique. Where else can we create this good feeling?

I Like Coffee, You Like Tea

We are all different and some people might be reading this and wondering how did anyone get to the age of 53 without having created the habit of cleaning. But this was just my Achilles Heel, just my area of most resistance. Other people’s pet hates might be found in other areas like….drawing up your CV; emailing clients; finding time for exercise; doing homework….a myriad of varying tasks that to some people are a pleasure and yet to others seem like torture.

By making a habit that is so easy to complete that it’s nearly impossible not to do we are scaffolding for success. It’s completely fine to do 5 minutes, or 3 minutes, just as long as we do it. And if we don’t do it one day then we can be kind to ourselves and do it the next day.

Anything more than nothing is something and all those tiny somethings add up, over time, into a real difference in our lives.

When Good Habits Lead to Happiness

I feel proud of myself now and not a little smug that I am achieving an outcome I had thought impossible for me.

I remember once having a client who was going through a difficult period of her life and her measure of how good a day she had had was her coffee table. If she could keep the coffee table tidy and organised she had achieved something to be proud of. It was something so small to any outsider, but to her it had meaning. As time went by, the tidiness of the coffee table spread to the area around it and so did the feeling within her. She began to feel that there was a future, a light at the end of the tunnel.

We all have our ‘coffee tables’, our ‘bathrooms’. They are different for all of us, but beginning a habit is a simple way to take back control, to feel good about ourselves, to feel proud.

Our good habits can revolve around anything we choose – from cleaning to emotional wellbeing, from homework to finances – it doesn’t matter. What matters is beginning and doing something over nothing
 
​_________

 At Hertfordshire Therapy Centre we offer a supportive environment for both children and adults to challenge the negative thoughts that are getting in the way of them enjoying their lives.

For more information about the services we offer at Hertfordshire Therapy Centre, or to book a complimentary clarity call to find out if our services can support you, please get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.

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