Ian and Sue Wallace Counselling

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.

Ok Guys how to keep the love of your life happy

There are basic stereotypical differences between the male and the female and one is that the Male as a species has been brought up, and given the role, of fixer. He, or she if the process has been instigated in the female of fixer, will generally see his/her function as one who takes charge and fixes, does something a task or a job to take control of the situation and fix it. In some instances this is the function which is needed but in an emotional support role with the love of your life it isn’t, it just frustrates the love of your life and instigates arguments or a detachment, withdrawal process.
So to keep the love of your life happy and contented only fix it if they ask you too and if they don’t then this process, I will share, will bond you both and make them completely happy and contented in your relationship.
The fix it process when your partner is emotionally distraught is to completely and utterly concentrate on what they are saying, you attention is totally on the things they are saying and sharing, close your mouth and open your ears. Don’t interrupt with words just use sounds of agreement and support, mmm ohh etc. This process of attentive listening, turn the telly off, don’t answer the phone, no interruptions. This is the fix listen support and don’t take control.
If you do this then your partner will be eternally grateful and be completely happy with the support you have shown them, instead of saying you should do this or I would do that. That is the way to alienate and dismiss their emotional pain as the pain is usually due to someone else taking control of them and you’re just doing the same, taking control.
So shut up, listen and acknowledge their pain, that’s the fix that is required.
For many more insights into having a happy life log on to www.seekingchange.co.uk and if you like it then share it, you may be helping someone you know have a happier life.

Insecurity and understanding who really has the problem

In this world I find a lot of people coming to me for issues around their relationships and how they are not feeling fully fulfilled and happy in those relationships. This is not uncommon as most people at some time in their lives feel unfulfilled in their relationships, this can be due to lots of different things their partner not pulling their weight, work life balance is out of kilt, not spending enough quality time with their partner, not feeling they are heard, these are the general issues I see. In this process some people feel unable to say to their partner what it is that they are unhappy or unfulfilled about in the relationship.

Most of my initial work with couples is to get them to talk and share their thoughts and feelings, mostly one partner will not feel secure enough in the relationship to share these negative aspects with their other partner. This insecurity in themselves does not help them to share as the fear of rejection is a major part of the insecurity drive. This has usually become an issue years previously with some negative aspect of their upbringing either due to bullying or critical evaluation from people who were a major influence in their lives. This builds a process of rejection and insecurity for them which does not help them to share or make choices or decisions on their own, they usually then find a strong partner who will take the lead or make the choices for them. This initially is a good thing, as it creates security for them, but as with all things it normally becomes too restrictive for them and over sometime years they build resentment which has to have an out somewhere and that creates conflict in their relationships. In this process of fear of rejection part of my work is to engage with the insecure person to build confidence, self-esteem and help them to have a voice.

One thing which always helps is to make them aware that the people who have criticised or bullied them in the past are the problem and that they just externalised the problem on to them. A statement, once they trust me, which always brings tears is saying to the insecure person “they are not the problem and have never been the problem” this awareness helps them to disengage with their negative view of themselves, given by others, and I then discuss why that statement is true as anyone who feels the need to put another person down by bullying or negative criticism is always the one who has the issues. As no one would need to put another human being down if they felt secure themselves, they are the insecure person they just put that insecurity on to others so they don’t need to own or have it themselves. So if you know someone who feels this way and doesn’t have a voice or fell insecure let them know that
They are not the problem and never have been

Phones for you but they alienate everyone else

I have been observing people over the last few years, as mobile phones have become more prominent and accepted as a way of life. They permeate all of our aspects of life, everything we do has an app and a program to help us achieve it, they follow us report on us and have a major effect on how we communicate and interact in our lives with other people around us. I watch amazed at how focused we are with them, engrossed in their blips, buzzes and ringtones. Reacting with great speed to them as they interact and interrupt our lives, the phone being more important than the people we are with or even the things we are doing. I see people at dinner tables using reading and exploring the world with the phone, even though they might be with a group of people, they are immersed into this insular electronic phone world, fully focused on the ever increasing sized screens.
It strikes me that as I work with ever increasing people having difficulty in communicating and socialising that this may be down to this “phone for you” dysfunctions, ever evading intrusion into our world. It’s a well-known fact now that babies need a parent’s eye contact and if they don’t get it then it does impede their developmental mental process. The eye contact between the parent and the child releases chemicals which engage with our development in a healthy way without this visual interaction it impedes that chemical process and as an aspect of this our mental development.
I have a theory that if we have relationships with an electronic interfaces then that indeed may affect our socialising development, we quite literally find it hard to talk to a person. Electronic interfaces have a hard time transferring emotions between ourselves and whoever or whatever we are communication with, how frustrating is it when you call a call centre and the last thing you get connected to is a person, lots of electronic interface prior to or instead of a human one, asking questions, inputting information to an electronic interface but not engaging with a human. We then can’t understand how to engage with another human, in order to create friendships or relationships, we can find the right words or actions for this human interface, we stumble through this process and then revert back to our little phone comfort fix, it doesn’t ask us awkward questions or ask us to explain ourselves, it just gives us facts, or not, shortens the interactions with emotional faces so we don’t have to type it in or think too much ab out what we want to say. A new experience at the dinner table, I have seen, is that everyone puts there phone in a basket at the end of the table and no one answers them or interacts with them, what a refreshing process that could be if we all did this.
So in conclusion a phone does not always help you, it can alienate you and restrict your interactions within the world. Free yourself from it for a number of hours a day and talk and express yourself with another human being in those hours, before it’s too late.

Friends are people you know and spend time in each other’s real company, not through an electronic device they are acquaintances.
Don’t get the two mixed up.

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What about you!

So you want to help others that’s a great motivator to make a difference and one which all therapeutic helpers can engage with. Without this motivator most charities and helping bodies would not exist, it’s the giving and caring process that makes the world the place it is. We as professionals will normally have the same motivator, ok we get paid for it but that’s not the main reason most of us commit to turn up and do the work day after day. It’s this helping drive which makes us the people we are and as I have said that is great but what about the title what about you.
We can lose sight of our own needs and our mental health with this complicated drive of helping. Have you ever left your work and mentally taken your Client home with you worrying about them and their life, this as we all know is not a healthy process. You have to disengage from your work to enter your life, without this disengaging we would be exhausted and being unable to carry all our Clients on our backs, which would weigh us down enormously. So although it will not be our most prominent driver, US, we need to give ourselves as much respect, importance and validation as our Clients, after all if we are not healthy we can never help our Clients.

This, what about us, process is hard to engage with as I have said but we have to fight against our priority driver, the Client, and balance ourselves to have a similar prominence and importance. Make sure you don’t underestimate this delicate balance and tip more towards the Client making sure you give yourselves the validation you deserve, don’t feel guilty giving yourself that time and space to gain a mentally healthy life, whatever helps you to relax and de-stress use and if you find yourself mentally taking your client home then see whether something in your life which has not been fully dealt with is engaging, reflect on this and deal with the issue you still haven’t fully engaged and dealt with. Reflect each week on the following questions,

Have I spent enough time on me?
Is the balance between my time and the Client in harmony?
If your answer is no then deal with it re-balance and make your own needs as important as your Client’s.

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