Ian and Sue Wallace Counselling

Abuse the final straw

Over the years I’ve worked with many abused people both Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, Financially and sexually, in fact in my world the term abuse applies to anyone who feels they have no choice in any situation which denies them their human rights which is detrimental to their mental, emotional, financial, sexual or physical health and well-being.
When people feel they have to report or make people aware of their abusive situation it’s usually not the first time it has happened they have usually kept it to themselves for a long period of time. It normally exists within a manipulative process of a relationship, as manipulation is an abusive process, the manipulated person is made to suffer or do something they do not want to or need to do. The abused person has sometimes tried to seek help which has not been recognised as abusive by the person they reported it too or that the person they reported it too did not want to take any responsibility for any action they would need to take in regard to safeguarding the abused person or people.
Sometimes we don’t ask the questions as we don’t want to deal with the answers we get.
When people report or signal abuse to us we need to take action as in not taking action just abuses the person even further, by signalling to them we condone it by not taking action on the information given, the signalling may be given to us by body language, behaviour or voice. If anyone’s behaviour is seen to be extremely different from what we would normally expect from them then they may be suffering abuse, sometimes the abuse in a single episode can look like nothing to us, say a partner is just paying for the persons drink in a café, but if that is because the person has never been allowed any money then it may individually look to us like a caring act but it may mask a financially controlling abusive behaviour, as they can never buy anything for themselves by not being allowed any money. One occurrence may not make us suspicious, and indeed we should not see every caring act as suspicious or abusive, but if every time we meet them the same thing applies then by saying an inquisitive question, which does not directly challenge the situation, maybe saying ohh can you change a £5 for me, would help to identify whether the person indeed had any money on them.
Never challenge an abusive act directly, when the abuser is present, as that may put the abused person in a situation which results in more abuse being inflicted on them or others in the family. Make a mental note of what you have seen and then challenge it when the abuser is not around and take note of the reaction of the abused person. Abused people will always see themselves as the problem, they will always minimise the abuse and sometimes even support the abuser, if they have become accustomed to abuse as a normal part of a relationship, “They only hit me on a Friday” Don’t get angry if the abused person will not take action at that time the normal reporting cycle is that people try on average at least 18 times to report abuse before they finally are able to do so. Support them and offer them help when they need it. maybe giving them details of any local organisations that could help them.


5 Stages of Depression

When looking at depression it’s interesting to me to look at it as a normal natural function of us humans who react to being depressed in finding themselves in an out of control situation. When we experience the feelings of being out of control we are more likely to think of being within the negative context of our world, glass half full or empty. For some people they can respond to this in a shrug it off way whilst for others it starts a deepening process of depressive negative thoughts. My own view is that the difference between us being able to shrug it off or it deepening our negative views is whether we have grown up with a secure base experience or an insecure base experience. The insecurity in our former years tends to build the negative aspect of thoughts so being more prone to depression then others we also tend to fall into one of two categories, internalising negativity or externalising it.
If we are programmed to internalise then we tend to keep those negative aspects to ourselves until we can’t keep them buried inside us any more then we blow and react negatively and or angrily to the people around us, each person’s tipping point is different and the triggers of the feelings to the negative thought process are different also.
If we are programmed to externalise then we generally don’t bury them or build those negative thoughts but we externalise them on an on-going basis, again there will be a difference in the tipping point but it will be more a constant process of exposing them to others
I see the process of depression as a 5 stage model and we move from each stage in a negative downward sliding motion. At all stages everyone will have an individual tipping point to enter the next stage. When that tipping point is reached they will slide quickly into the next stage of Depression. It’s imperative you realise where you are in the stages and don’t ignore the signs.
1st Stage is what I would refer to as low mood depression this is something which most people will experience at some points in their life when things are not going as they expected them to or planned to be. This is where we might be uncaring about things that would normally be exciting or interesting to us, feeling less responsive to positive comments from others and a general can’t be bothered attitude, grumpy or dismissive to others. We might not be too interested in the food we eat or giving ourselves pleasurable experiences. To counter this process we need to first see we are actually in it, noting can be changed unless we have an awareness of the problem and indeed that we have a problem to start with.
2nd Stage is where we have moved further down that road of low mood and are now experiencing devaluing of ourselves to others in our work, social or family connections we will possible keep ourselves distant from positive others and be more interested in connecting with negative outlook people, helping to slide us more quickly into a further depressive negative process.
3rd Stage Our diet will have changed to be more constructed of fast food or sugary snacks as this stimulates a quick energy build up and a heightened feel good process, this quickly dissipates though so we need more of it to get the same high hit, hence the obese aspect of people now who don’t feel positively integrated in society or have no future positive outlook in their life’s. We will be more lethargic and can’t be bothered in life, us or anyone else, possibly not getting dressed or staying in and watching boring television our brains would not be stimulated by anything. We might have an OCD aspect to our world or a compulsion to do things either to be in control, door locking, or cleaning etc, something that we do which will not fulfil us in any way.
4th Stage Total isolation and possible self-harming, either physically or emotionally, making our social connection as small as is possible hiding in bedrooms or disconnecting to the outside world, not opening post or taking telephone calls. We do this as any external intervention or connection cannot be deemed safe as it may make us less in control of the limited control we already have, isolating ourselves is a way of retaining control of our mind, space or life. Suicidal thoughts, not wanting to be here. Hording can be an aspect of this as we put things around us to keep the world out, sometimes literally as we build walls of stuff shutting ourselves off from the rest of the world.
At each of these stages we can do a U-turn by first realising at what stage we are in and the way to bring ourselves out of it, as only we can do this ourselves no one can do it for us, we have to want to change our current situation. The second is by talking to professionals or others about our position and finding appropriate therapeutic help, as we normally cannot be objective in our world at this time. The third is by changing our eating, socialising and exercising habits eat healthily socialise with positive people and exercise within a group or an outdoor activity.

5th Stage Clinical depression, this can be suicidal actions not just thoughts totally wanting not to be a part of this world. Psychiatric mental health conditions which can only be helped by appropriately qualified professionals and may include stays in mental health facilities, which are becoming less and less available these days. In this stage we are beyond the understanding of our position and would not normally ask for help as we are in a world where reality does not exist for us and conscious thought processes are unable to be built. The aspect of finding ourselves in this place would be usually because someone has deemed it necessary to take control of us for our safety or for the safety of others around us.
These are my thoughts on depression and will vary with other people naturally but if this helps you to understand this natural human process better, than that in itself is helpful. Let’s not stigmatise mental health let’s see it as a natural unhealthy process which can be something we all can experience, whether we are aware of it or not, and as such can be helped and changed to make us and others happier and healthier.


Sub-conscious or Conscious that is the question

We all work from a conscious or sub-conscious processing the difference is that as a sub-conscious process we are not normally in a decision based process more in a reaction based process. This reaction is based normally on a historical experience or an inferred action process based on knowledge, unless it’s a safety issue then it will normally be based on a primeval reaction.

If we experience in over previous life that when someone moves their hand quickly it will hit us and cause pain then any quick hand movement might instigate a response of moving away or hitting them back, without thought or conscious processes. This reaction will not be a thought out process but instead an immediate reaction which will happen without any pre-thought. If this is something that we have learned and is not a problem in interacting with others the likely hood would be that we were never aware of it. If for example someone had grown up within a religious family and every time a family member made the sign of the cross when passing a graveyard then from a young age we may never be told that it was right to react this way but that by watching the body language of others it became a consistent process, then it’s likely we would grow up acting out this way when we passed graveyards.

Now again this might never be a problem but say we learn to drive and in heavy traffic we took both our hands off the steering wheel of the car to make the sign of the cross then that might endanger life by having an accident, someone else in the car might see it or take exception to the danger of this movement and say something to alert us to the danger of what we do. In this example then we might move that behaviour from a sub-conscious process, just a reaction, to a conscious process where we have thought and we might then modify the behaviour, from the input of the accident or the other person in the car. Then we would likely create and new sub-conscious reaction, due to the input given of a safety issue, of maybe not doing this crossing when driving whilst still doing it when maybe walking or not being the driver of the car, or we might even stop the behaviour completely now that we are aware of it.
Its estimate 82% of each person’s day is governed by sub-conscious reactions, that’s a scary thought isn’t, what are doing when we are not aware of when we are actually sub-consciously doing it.


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.


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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.

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