Am I the abuser
We are sometimes faced with the issues of our Clients exploring an abusive process with us. This aspect of the work has to be dealt with in a different way to other aspects of the work we do and issues we help Clients with. Abuse is not normally the first conversation we have with a Client when they present themselves to us, they will normally present with other issues first, possibly confidence, self-esteem or some other aspect of self-development. Once they feel they can trust us or are happy with how we connect or treat them then they might let us further into they’re life and the abuse they have experienced. This aspect of building trust usually dictates whether that next step will be taken or the Client will just work on the confidence or other issue that has been brought. If we build enough confidence in us then the Client will allow the real work to start. Clients often say to me that they have had numerous bouts of therapy but have never gone further, although the therapy has been good for whatever reason they did not want to explore anything else with the Therapist and I am the first person they have told this too. This is an extremely humbling experience for me as the trust and responsibility can be immense and holding the Client during the work can be a totally rewarding experience, if not hard and intense.
We can abuse them by possibly our lax confidentiality process, being more interested in the story than them, moving them faster down the therapeutic journey than they feel comfortable to go or other such dismissive communicational processes.
This is where our input can be the make or break of the work or indeed them, if we get any of this process wrong for them, once they have been vulnerable with us, then the likely hood is that they will detach and possibly not connect with therapy again. The process and speed of the work has to go at their pace and have them controlling it we journey with them not leading or pushing them and at all times a reflection of the process of the work, from their perspective, should be discussed and their needs totally adhered to. If you can get this balance right then the Client will build the trust and connection with us if not then the likely hood is they will disengage from us. If they need a process which is not our normal way of working then you need to discuss this with them and your supervisor to ascertain if you can accommodate their needs or whether you have the competency to deliver the work. If either of these are lacking then you need to safely and securely refer the client to an appropriate source of help and support. Never say you can do anything to the Client if this is not 100% true or available even if you think you are helping them as this is a short term fix not one you can keep going for the remainder of the work normally.
Abuse work can last over many months so be mindful of your availability and commitment to the Client and their needs.
Trust and Lies
Trust is a major aspect of our work within the therapeutic relationship it tends to become a large aspect of the issues people bring to us, whether that be within a primary relationship or just life in general. It’s the focus of and underpins the making of most positive and secure connections between us as humans. The trust between us is usually built and cemented over many weeks, months and sometimes even years’ dependant on our historical understanding of how solid trust has been in previous relationships. If in the past we have experienced trust being dis-respected or decimated then the likelihood would be that it would take longer to build it in future relationships the next time around. If in that next relationship trust was also dis-respected then we build an historical experiential process that trust may not be able to be built therefore we might not invest in trying to build trustful relationships again, more so if we have always encountered a trust breakdown over many relationships. When we try to build trust then the process is usually a slow one and one that would sometimes still be building even after our work is done with the Clients over the original issue. Trust is only built by consistent repetitive actions following the words being built like a stack of cards; the words on their own will not build trust only our actions will. Words are a good starting point but actions make them real.
Lies are usually a way of getting out of tight situations they will never work, I call this process short term gain for long term pain, as when you start to use lies or disseat they can never end. The problem is that when questioned about the lie then you have to create another lie to re-enforce the original lie and so it goes on until they are so many lies then the truth will always out. We sometimes hear in counselling “I didn’t want to hurt the person I lied to as I thought they could not take the truth” this process of not hurting then just escalates with the many lies you say, it enforces the hurt and pain, more lies more pain. The only way to work is to be completely honest, not partly as that is another lie, and in being completely honest be vulnerable to the person and hope they can understand and cope with whatever has gone wrong. Most people in my experience would rather know the truth than to find the truth by slow extraction from the person who has lied, or worse from another person who was involved in the lie. This truth by proxy is the worst way to find out as it enforces the lie but also brings other people into the process which incurs possible shame within a social aspect, others know, or an escalation of being focused on, washing our dirty linen in public process. So don’t Lie be truthful and always build trust by truth and actions not just words.
Finding your way through your insecure forest
Insecurity drives all of us in our interactions and interventions during our life. It causes us to reshape and redesign what we think, feel and do in our thoughts, words and deeds. This insecure drive is part of our DNA mind programming and we refer back to it for most of our decisions within everyday life. It’s something which we find hard to detach from and take control of. When we have conflict or issues around our relationships with others then we tend to reflect on our situation from an insecure position and then interact with others in a defending way, sometimes using words to create distance from our decisions or actions. This may involve telling lies or fabricating the truth, causing arguments, running away, using deflective behaviour patterns, such as drinking, drugs, sex, isolation or maybe other self-harming ways. If we can understand our insecure patterns of behaviour then we can try to change our actions and reactions to others. It’s hard to do this in the moment, especially when the fight or flight drives are in motion, we would need to do this in a calm and reflective way usually by ourselves or within therapy.
If you can understand where these drives originate and how they impact on your life then you can understand how to implement strategies in order to reduce the effect they have on you.
A personal example would be that as I grew up the relationship with my Father he was very detached I was always trying to get a connection with him, usually in a negative way which did not help. I presumed he did not want me around and that the distance we had was a criticism of the things I achieved academically, not being interested in my school work or my interactions with the schooling process. This made me believe I was thick, a perception not a reality. This insecurity perception drove me to not engage with schooling and as much as possible not gain any academic foundation. So as I grew up I went into jobs which were lower grade to what I could have possibly achieved. But my skills on learning and being able to see positive outcomes from muddle and confusion, seeing the clear path through things and implementing solutions to problems helped me to progress through the roles I had and work I did. This never involved any academic interaction, no tests or academic results, learning on the job so to speak. This stood me well throughout my formative years and helped to challenge some of my insecurity issues, building my confidence in what I had achieved. My insecurity, as always, was purring in the background, like a piece of software on a computer which was hidden in the program, it still informed my interactions with others, also in those days the reflection process I have now wasn’t evident in my thinking, I was blinded to why I did things.
Once I became interested in the therapeutic counselling world as a career I had to challenge some of these ideals about my academic prowess, which was a somewhat scary process. In challenging these ideals by attending college and later university I became aware that I did indeed have an academic brain and could relate to engaging with learning at a higher level than I ever thought possible.
This experience and journey helped me to understand, challenge and beat this insecure perception which I had allowing me now to engage with, learn and understand my insecure drives which had informed me for so long. I now connect with these drives trying to understand them more and engage with them so that I can be in charge of them and use them to challenge my perceived world based on this historical ideals and notions. This knowing and challenging process of my insecure drives makes living within my world much easier to engage with, in a positive and productive way, I revert back to them less and as such am more in the driving seat then I have ever been before in my life and hopefully even more in the future.
My new book, out soon on amazon, which is titled Insecurity “It’s all about Me” looks at these drives in much deeper detail and gives ways to help to engage with them and reduce the effect they have on us.
Have the life you want not the one your insecurity deems you should have.
The individuality of Sexuality
When I first started working within the Counselling profession I was interested in how each of us sees there world and how that world changes throughout the course of our life. In this blog I am looking at our perception of how we see ourselves through a sexual lens.
It’s fairly normal for humans when they are becoming sexually aware to flirt with other ways to sexually express themselves, usually this an inquisitive aspect of understanding ourselves and our sexual identity. Sometimes we hide this aspect of ourselves either because of our confusion or anxiety of how we fit within our cultural norms or how others may see us or describe us or our identity. It’s always intrigued me as to why humans feel more comfortable or have to belong to a grouping or cultural system, it’s like a tick box profile on a dating web site, how do you define yourself, which box do you fit into, and how would others feel about that definition of how you define you. If someone for example define themselves from a sexual identity point of view as bi-sexual then does that mean that encapsulates them, set in stone, and they can never be different or is that a fluid process of change throughout our lives. They may then change during their life from bi-sexual to gay or to heterosexual having a fluidity in how they see or are inquisitive about other aspects of a sexual connection. This having to be as part of a system or cultural/sexual norm can lead to a process of denying ourselves from fully being us or restricting ourselves in our fullness of life. Now this might never be an issue as we are choosing to deny our true self but if for example the cultural/system identity denies this aspect of us, as some cultural/system groups do, then we might resent this aspect of the restriction which will then normally increase our frustration or resentment of the cultural/system grouping we belong to.
When this presenting problem occurs in the counselling room our contracted work may be to find out how the individual sees themselves and how that may affect their world and life, looking at the options and possibilities their choices can give them. Sometimes in the course of the work we will look at this, defining themselves within a specific label or box, and how that might be altered or changed but in doing so we might challenge their box and how they feel about the box they put themselves in. After all one person’s bi-sexual identity may be another person’s gay identity, using stereotypical boxes to define ourselves or label ourselves does not always fit, as a box is defined by another person or group and as we are an individual and that individuality will always mean that we might fit some of the box but also that individuality means there will always be a small or large part of that box we do not adhere to or fit into. Being able to be comfortable with this individuality, knowing that the box is just a guide to who we are not always who we are, that we can be different and an individual making our own box, can be so releasing to the Client, knowing we have choices can reduce anxiety, resentment and frustration.
The war with one’s self
This is the war which we can never win the one with ourselves is the longest war which will span all our years it never goes away and will never cease. This is because we have an original script which is given to us throughout our formative years. This scripts or scripts, gives us our views on life and how to interact with others, its focus is usually one of unquestioning faith it never varies moves or changes and is a constant in our world. We hold it dear even when others tell us it is incorrect or wrong we never question its value or it’s inaccuracy as it is the world. When we grow and develop, as I have said in previous blogs and writings, it can be modified but it never entirely goes away. It is also the voice in our heads, not just in our interactions with others, it informs our judgements and our decisions whatever they may be and is the original source we go to in order to make sense of our world. Now even if that script is a healthy one, which allows others views and traditions to be accepted and valued, it will always at some point be in conflict with the world around us.
If for example we feel comfortable in our own skin, happy with our life and our interactions to the world, we might have a situation where someone questions our interactions and tells us that the world we live in, which we are happy with, is flawed or inaccurate we will then use our original script to inform us of whether that persons view is correct. Now our original script tells us too value others interactions views and positions, so even though we feel those views are needed to be respected they do not fit or are in conflict with our current views. We may then still modify our current correct views to move towards the views that are given to us by others, which is sometimes why we find ourselves doing things that are out of character which are totally different to how we would interact or connect with our world. Even then sometimes we do not fully understand why we reacted or did what we did.
If this occurs then look at your original script and you may find some similarity in a situation the people who gave us those scripts experienced, it’s like the message has not been learned by that person so you have to experience it in your life as a re-occurrence to try to change the outcome. If you find you seem to be going around a cycle in your life, similar things seem to be happening time and time again. Go back to the original script and do some work on that which then should change the way you work your world. When working on that script see it as the person who gave you it was not wrong, as they received their script from their significant others, as did the significant others before them, it goes back and back in time. See it as just something that may anchor to for a time but no longer need it, it’s not disrespectful of the significant others just that the script worked in their lifetime but now does not in yours. Lots of these scripts are unconscious in our psyche and its’ only when we bring them to conscious thought we can actually change them or work to change them in our worlds and life.
Safely working with Clients where abuse is a feature
Abuse comes in many styles and covers in my eyes anything one human does to another human were they have no control over it, which degrades them of suffers them harm both mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually or financially that the abuser gains from.
Over the years a fair amount of my work has been in enabling people who have suffered abuse to be heard and to help them have a life instead of being encased in the secret of abuse, which restricts them in connecting fully with others. The telling is one of the main themes of my work helping them to talk and share as most abusive processes rely on the keeping the secret via shame, guilt or threat of effecting others close to the abused person. The main aspect of my work initially is in building a good therapeutic bond to enable them to feel safe and in control of the work we do. This aspect is the building blocks of the work as until they do feel safe and in control they are unlikely to say what they need to say, to open the dialogue between us. A vast majority of the Clients have had at some time plucked up the courage to seek help, not usually initially for the abuse they usually start with relational issues. Depending then whether they feel safe and in control in engaging with the Therapist they then may take the scary steps of slowly opening up a conversation, not usually about the abuse, to see if the Therapist will engage with the discussion and not deflect it or feel uncomfortable with it. The Client will then make an assessment as to whether they think the Therapist can hold them safely and if they do they may initiate a more detailed discussion. This is sometimes over many weeks and seldom do they talk about the abuse they have incurred in the first few sessions, unless they have told the incidents of the abuse previously to others and it, the incidents, have become detached from the emotional aspect of the abuse, sometimes as I would see it as splitting.
This splitting in my view is where the physical body incurs the abuse, as it cannot do anything else, and to cope with and survive, the emotional aspect of the self then disconnects and finds ways to deflect thoughts and feelings from the abuse they are suffering. This splitting, as I call it, keeps the person safe in being able to survive and deal with the abuse which is happening. The subconscious then can wrap time around the abuse so that the person cannot remember anything form that time as an adult, great swathes of memory can be hidden from them locked away in order to keep the person safe and able to cope with life.
Something will then occur in their life, they may become a parent, they may encounter the abuser again out of the blue, the person who they kept safe by not saying anything passes over. This any many other situations may be the reasons why the Client interacts with the therapy now but as I have said previously abuse will not normally be the initial focus of the work but might be the eventual aspect of the work once they become trustful of the Therapist, possibly initially engaging with grief work for the person who has passed as an example. They not only need to implicitly trust that the Therapist will hear them but also that the Therapist can work with the details of the abuse and as the details unfold can cope with what they uncover, as somethings may still be hidden from them, a Pandora’s box process, not sure what may be inside until you lift the lid.
The main points to bear in mind are that the disclosure needs to be at the Clients speed, pace is everything.
The Client always needs to be in control of the work, as being out of control is the abusive process.
You may have to adopt different more creative ways of working, as talking about it might not be something they can initially do.
You will have to challenge their thoughts about themselves, negative views of self and self-doubt of their own thoughts and actions will be common.
You will have to stay the distance no matter how long it takes, as leaving them in the middle of the work may only abuse them further.
Your manor, actions, words will be constantly scrutinised and judged by the Client.
Your professional boundaries might be challenged and you have to hold them strong and consistent for the Clients benefit.
Abuse work is some of the most challenging for us as Therapists, also tit can be most rewarding, and you should not engage with a Client in this work unless you yourself feel comfortable and competent with it. But don’t on any account leave them high and dry by ending the work without a suitable referral process, which they agree to and feel comfortable with, in place to carry on this most important work.
They have started the process with you and that will normally be the scariest frightening thing they will have ever done. Respect that and feel proud of yourself as you have given them a safe and secure place to help unfold their life in. That was because of you, you are special in their eyes.
Self-preservation in the wilderness of life
We all try as best we can to look after the people that we connect to and care about, you only have to look at the charity collections that we give to others who are worse off than us. Not only the money but the volunteering that we do taking our precious time for the benefit of others, even if that is just opening the door for people carrying shopping bags. We as Humans are normally driven to look after other’s even the people who are considered to be outside the normal constructs of social gatherings or have transgressed the laws of the land. You only have to look in our, towns, jails etc and you will find the most dis-empowered people doing things for others. Hardened criminals looking after animals, homeless people rescuing others in difficulties for no gain just to help and care for another.
In this human environment were often told that if we look to our own needs first we are being selfish and it is a negative process, this skewed look at our self needs being a negative process means that sometimes we often find people whose role is to care for others find life too hard and can burn out, fall apart and sometimes die. Think of someone you care about having a cough that won’t go away, you will push them to go to the doctors but if you had that cough you would possibly ignore it and minimise it, so in doing so you are devaluing your needs which you would impress on others to have.
I often see this in the breakdown of relationships one person over empathises the others needs and then disowns their own needs. This unbalanced process can mean that the person who disowns their own needs eventually feels that they have no needs, they can then live in denial of their needs and supplement their needs by supplying the other’s needs. Eventually the burn out in relational terms, it the relationship becomes a functional connecting one not an emotionally connecting one, hence destroying the original reason for getting together, emotionally caring for another.
So don’t devalue your needs, minimize them or basically ignore them, they are yours and should be fulfilled, they stimulate you. Allow people to show they care for you by them supplying your needs. Your needs are as important as others, no more or less just as important and you’re not being selfish if you accept and supply yours and others needs.
Why we sometimes push people away.
With the large increase in divorce over the last 20 years children, mostly under 10 year's old, can react by owning the responsibility of the breakup. This is done partly to offset the parents responsibility as by the child owning the negative feelings then they don't have to detach from either parent. How this plays out in the child's adult relationships can be that they stop anyone emotionally getting too close and push them away, this is done in part to offset any rejection feelings they may encounter from the partner. As if we reject others then it's easier emotionally to cope than others rejecting us. If you have adult Clients seemingly creating emotional distance in their relationships look into their history and see if there has been divorce or separation it might be a grief focus in their past you may need to work on to effect a change in their current life.