Anger – part 1

I believe that anger is a very important emotion and one that is given a bad name. Anger itself isn’t bad or wrong although it’s fair to say it may lead people to doing something that is. Sometimes anger is entirely justified, if someone has deliberately hurt you or someone you care about, you have a right to feel angry and I simply don’t believe people who tell me they don’t ever feel angry. Getting to know our anger is a useful process and this is the first in a series of posts about anger and how we deal with it.

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Because you’re worth it – Conditions of Worth and how they work

What are conditions of worth?

Conditions of worth are an idea that comes from Carl Rogers, the founder of a style of counselling called Person-Centred Counselling. Carl Rogers believed that every person has the means within themselves to ‘get better’ and that the Counsellor’s role was to walk alongside the client while they found the drive within themselves to do this.

Rogers said that conditions of worth are what we develop when we take on board other people’s values and ideas about how we should be. If they differ from what our inner desires and beliefs really are, it sets up a conflict and we experience tension and distress because, without really examining why we think the things we do, we are often unaware of what comes from us and what comes from other people around us. One of the things that might happen in counselling is working to uncover what these tensions are – this can sometimes bring an enormous sense of relief and, in turn, it can help us be better parents by stopping us imposing conditions of worth on our own children.

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Self-Harm Is Not About Attention Seeking

Self-harm is an emotive topic and people are talking about it much more than they used to. But there is still a great deal of stigma attached to it and a lack of understanding about why people self-harm and what they might need to ‘get better’. People can be very secretive about self-harm and ashamed of what they have done to their bodies because others can be extremely judgemental about it, or shocked by what they see.

Tree watchers edited 2

What is self-harm?

Self-harm can mean a whole range of things but essentially it is a method of coping with difficult feelings by hurting your own body or ‘punishing’ yourself in some way. This can be something like cutting yourself, scratching yourself or burning yourself or it can be more subtle – starving yourself or binge eating, over-exercising or forcing yourself to do things that you don’t want to do. Even more subtle manifestations might include things like regularly putting yourself in dangerous situations like going alone to pubs and drinking too much or deliberately winding up people likely to retaliate violently.

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The Practice of Mindfulness – Mental Health Awareness Week 2015

‘In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past is too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me. Each moment, taken alone, was always bearable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right’. Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way

Since 2000 the Mental Health Foundation has run an annual Mental Health Awareness Week to try and raise the profile of Mental Health and Illness and remove some of the stigma surrounding them. This year’s focus was Mindfulness – a technique or way of being that can be taught and has been proven to have a positive effect on mental health[1]. Recent research indicates that it can be as good as anti-depressants for depression and, as it is a technique rather than a treatment, it can be used for a lifetime. Continue reading The Practice of Mindfulness – Mental Health Awareness Week 2015

Zayn Malik, One Direction, and taking care of Young People

Recently Zayn Malik, member of the stratospherically successful boy band One Direction, left the band in the middle of a world tour initially citing ‘stress’ as the reason for his departure. This very quickly changed to a permanent move in which Zayn said that ‘he just wanted to be a normal 22 year-old”.

Whatever the actual reasons behind his departure, and whatever Zayn’s future plans (we now know there may be a solo single in the pipeline), the news left teenage fans around the world bereft, traumatised and despairing. They took to social media to express their feelings which were, almost entirely, dramatic and passionate in their nature. Arguments raged, pain and angst were expressed and, later, media reports emerged of a worrying hashtag, #CutForZayn, where some young people were self-harming and posting pictures of the results online. Continue reading Zayn Malik, One Direction, and taking care of Young People

The place of Spirituality within Counselling

I believe that a person is more than just the sum of their parts – whether those parts are our physical body, the contents of our minds or something more difficult to define.
In Psychosynthesis a person is said to embody of a host of ‘subpersonalities’ – all the different roles into which we fall and the different people we become in different situations. However, above and beyond all of these subpersonalities is something more – an ‘I’ – who could be described as the central core of who we are. A classic Psychosynthesis exercise that I learned from Will Parfitt [1], draws our awareness to all the parts of us but then helps us to see that they alone do not totally describe us. In the exercise, attention is drawn to our bodies, our minds and our emotions. Once we have noticed each of these things, it is easier to let go of the various ‘identifications’ that we carry and to look beyond them to try to find the ‘I’ at the very heart of our Selves.

In the practice, we focus our attention on aspects of ourselves – body, mind, soul, emotions and say ‘I have a body, but I am more than my body’, I have a mind, but I am more than my mind’. I found this exercise was immensely useful in expressing the idea that I was all these different things yet none of them entirely defined me. I believe I am more than all of the parts of me – there is something more. Continue reading The place of Spirituality within Counselling

Some thoughts on Happiness

Many people seek out counselling because they are in some way ‘unhappy’. Something in their life is preventing them from being happy. There are, of course, many reasons why this might be and counselling is very good for exploring those reasons and looking at how things might be improved.

For this first blog post for Herne Hill Counselling, I thought I would look briefly at the meaning of happiness and what we, as a human community, know about it.

Am I happy?

The state of ‘happiness’ is something that most people want to achieve, but what does it mean and how do you get it? It’s usually fairly easy to tell when you’re unhappy and most people can also think of times when they have been happy. Many of us, when asked, can also list things that make us happy. A recent Facebook meme asks that we post five pictures that ‘make us happy’ and then nominate someone else to do the same. Most of the pictures feature people or animals – reminders of fun times had or loved ones, some still with us and some who have passed on.

nature and mental healthBut happiness is elusive and people seem to be constantly searching for it. We all ‘just want to be happy’. The quest for happiness is fraught with traps. Often we think that once we have achieved something: weight loss; a partner; improvements in our relationships; children; a bigger house; a better income; a higher status at work; we will be happy.

We also are told regularly that money won’t make us happy and neither will having more ‘stuff’ – better cars, more up-to-date technology etc. and most of us will have experienced finally getting something we really wanted only to find it didn’t quite do what we thought it would for us, or not for long anyway.

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