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 Can You Relate?

As one person struggles with recovery from severe childhood abuse (multiple kinds), she writes here about her view of alcohol throughout her journey. In the absence of effective coping strategies or when the stress becomes overwhelming, we tend to turn toward less healthy and unhealthy coping strategies. These can unfortunately offer temporary relief which itself become desired, yet, over the long run, poorer coping choices contribute to worsening thoughts, feelings and of course behaviours.

Check out the following list of pros and cons for alcohol use and you can determine if any of these may apply in your way of thinking…

PROS

  • I feel like I am close to being human
  • I’m not scared of noises I can’t identify
  • I’m not paranoid of people
  • I laugh and I can feel happy
  • I can walk in public around other people and feel like I almost blend in
  • I can express my feelings better or at least some
  • I can’t feel my constant anxiety, worry and stress
  • Flashbacks don’t stress me out as much
  • I eat…because I need to….
  • I dance, sing, swim, listen to music, roller blade , bike ride, play with the kids, jog because it’s fun
  • It tastes so good and feels warm inside my body
  • I don’t focus on anything bad… I just enjoy floating around with no inside pain
  • It feels familiar and comforting
  • I don’t feel so alone and hopeless

CONS

  • That makes me an alcoholic = not a nice label
  •  My liver probably hates it
  •  My moods, emotions, memories, identity can change quickly
  •  I have less control over who is in charge… if any….
  •  Past experiences have led to many undesirable consequences, eg. abuse, jail, loss of a child, suicide  attempts, car accidents, homelessness, etc.
  •  Shows a bad example to my children so it must be hidden and it makes me a liar
  •  I can’t afford it
  •  Sometimes it makes me not human
  •  Sometimes it makes me forget my body belongs to me and I don’t care about it
  •  I can be too impulsive
  •  I can find myself places I don’t want to be
  •  I forget who I am or where I am and where I belong..

Using alcohol comes with risk. Why do I sometimes feel like it’s worth it? It’s not. I know that. It’s just so nice to have a break from my dysfunctional exhausting brain.

 


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ANTS: Our Thoughts or Not ?

The following contribution is from a middle-aged woman who suffered severe child abuse, sexual abuse, containment and physical violence as well as the early demise of her mother. Father’s subsequent downturn to alcoholism and grandparents scornful childcare assistance appear to have contributed, along with multiple sexual predators, to her ultimately suffering from complex post-traumatic stress “reaction” and dissociative identity symptoms. Despite the severe stress and strain on her psyche, she manages to strive to improve for her family and to attempt to regain her sanity. Her interpretation of how her brain works follows:

“I used to think that the four lobes of my brain just worked separately. Decisions made came from whatever lobe was healthiest at that moment. Like the wire connecting them together had a break in it. Over the years, I have tried to get control over which lobe would work but realized I don’t get to decide.

I have tried so many different attempts at control: changing my diet, adding different vitamins, punishment and rewarding the lobes that seemed to work best. Giving control to others who thought they could fix it for me using whatever methods they thought would work… (drugging, restraining, electrocuting, depriving, thought control, etc.). This has proved impossible so far.

Now I don’t think my four lobes work separately. I feel like my brain has turned into a giant anthill, each ant having its own job to do. Sometimes they seem to work together but sometimes they seem to eat each other and fight. It feels like a war inside the hill.

Sometimes, I think the poisonous ants are the big ones that overpower the small ones. The small ones have to fight and stay on alert at all times for the big ones. They have to follow the poisonous ants and do what they say, if they are not strong enough to fight. Other times, they get too tired and surrender themselves to the poisonous ants and get killed if they step out of line and do not follow. Sometimes, the small ants can win. It takes teamwork by many different small ants but they CAN choose their own job to do. It just takes more than one.

I can sometimes feel them in my skin and head. It makes me itchy. It makes me wonder if they are getting along or struggling. Sometimes, I see ants all over my bed or couch or wall…wherever I’m sitting. I think it’s the BIG ANTS making me see them and feel them, reminding me they are in control.

Sometimes, the small ants can be tricky and be poisonous too but you don’t know it at the time. You can’t assume anything with ants of any size. They switch jobs without notice. They fight without reason.

I don’t like ants. I enjoy spraying ant killer into their tiny hills. I like to put them out of their misery. I can’t imagine them being happy. God would likely disapprove, as he created such creatures but they can really torture you if they were to live inside your head. They have such a nasty sting for such a small bug.”


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A psychological term, from cognitive-behavioural theory, uses the acronym ANTS to refer to our “automatic negative thoughts” It almost seems as though the author of the words above has a hypersensitivity to her negative thinking processes. It would be nice, I suppose, if it were much easier to get rid of our ANTS or “Stinkin Thinkin” than it is. Help is available to reduce our ANTS.

Therapy is designed to help people uncover ANTS and find new ways to think that promote improved mental health. For help recovering from abuse, resolving relationship concerns or to improve your view of yourself, contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.

 


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Composure Under Pressure

“After months of not hearing from my co-parent [trust me when I say it is difficult to use this term ‘co-parent’ rather than other names which easily come to mind… including “ex”], he makes contact with meet regarding the baby I am carrying. Our conversations when finding out about my pregnancy were difficult and created conflict. He repeatedly indicated that he did not want this child. I eventually took those words as not wanting me in his life either.

For sure as days went by I questioned whether I’d hear from him again. Sometimes I hoped I would hear that he just needed some time to sort things out and has come to the realization that he wants this family we have created.  Only in my dreams…

Although I did not know how this meeting would turn out or what exactly would be discussed, I prepared myself. I read articles and books on co-parenting. I took advice from these resources to help minimize conflict. My goal out of this first meeting was to prevent future meetings from requiring lawyers, judges, or mediators.

This goal was achieved because although my now co-parent could not indicate what his contribution or role as a parent would be, I guided the conversation with my plans as a co-parent. I had organized what expenses to consider. I asked questions about his considerations of being a part of our child’s life. I focused on specific questions regarding the baby, leaving out the previous romantic relationship.

Now don’t get me wrong. A tiny voice within me wanted to rage out of my body, questioning his disappearance act. I wanted to ask, ‘what about us?’ I wanted to receive a heartfelt, well-deserved apology for his behaviour and disrespect towards me. However I had to ask myself if it was worth it. Would it really make me feel better forcing an apology out of someone who didn’t care to give it in the first place?

Articles and books on co-parenting indicate the importance of letting break ups, divorce, or separation go. Take time to grieve but move past this part of your relationship. This may be the most difficult part of the co-parenting process, especially when we tend to seek closure from our ex-partners. If we keep chasing for answers, we are not accepting the relationship has ended. Thus, we tend to dwell in the hurt and pain of broken relationships even longer and risk even higher conflict.

This can result in a high-conflict co-parenting relationship as well and, subsequently, be detrimental to the innocent children. Overcoming a break up or divorce as well as coming to a mutual partnership between co-parents significantly strengthens the growth and development opportunities of children. For more information and coaching on how to develop the harmony to co-parent effectively contact us today .

   LIVE HARMONIOUSLY!

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  • Arguing every day about the smallest things.
  • Telling me that my dad is selfish and doesn’t care about anything but himself.
  •  Complaining that mom is an annoying nag, who can’t get a grip.
  • I don’t know whether having both of them at my soccer game shows love and support or shows that our house is like a world war right now.
  • I mean, what are they trying to teach me here? That being married sucks?

Unfortunately, for most children exposed to high-conflict parents, divorce usually does not end the conflict, nor does it end parents’ relationship. Although a romantic relationship is over in divorce, parents remain in a relationship of some sort. Divorce proceedings raise intensity of emotion. Subsequently, can actually heighten conflict between parents, therefore damaging behaviour can be increased in the family and impact all members, especially the children.

It takes intentional, consistent and persistent effort for parents to work together and overcome conflict and establish more appropriate and healthier conflict resolution strategies. A professionally trained mediator or counsellor can help high conflict relationships by coaching to find a common ground and new ways to structure their communication process. When there is much hurt, anger, confusion, frustration and heartbreak, a trained relationship specialist may be just what the doctor orders.

Parents who can put down verbal conflict fairly quickly and put hurt feelings aside can more quickly overcome the grieving component of separation and divorce. It is then more possible for parents to learn the skills required to effectively cooperate. This obviously provides many benefits for healthy child and family development.

Cooperative parenting:

  • Helps reduce the child’s symptoms of stress as parental conflict decreases
  • Creates a more relaxed home environment allowing for children to adjust effectively
  • Enhances the child’s confidence and self-esteem by creating an environment for growth
  • Removes children from the middle letting them relax and be kids
  • Models how to get along with others even though you may not be happy with them

Cooperative parenting also helps parents to;

  • Conserve energy at a stressful and draining time in their life
  • Lower argumentative conversations and increase respectful exchanges
  • Reduce the number of litigated cases
  • Learn better anger management, communication, and conflict resolution skills
  • Work in developing a detailed parenting plan

To create a cooperative, positive parenting plan for your family, book an appointment today.

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Learning To Express Anger Well

Growing up, I used to think some feelings are bad and some are good. We are supposed to have a whole wide range of emotions. While it may be common to believe some are better than others, all emotions are essential to our human experience. How we express emotions is key. Depending on our manner, our expression of feelings can either be good or bad, hurtful or helpful.

“Emotions serve an important role in human learning and development, guiding us toward and away from actions and situations. Our emotional system might be thought of like the GPS is to driving. I like to call our emotional system our EGS: Emotional Guidance System.

Research suggests most of us tend to describe our emotional experience using around five to seven feeling words… like: happy, sad, angry, love, excited and maybe even “blah”. We really have quite a vast array of emotions. Improving our understanding of these builds emotional intelligence, awareness and “expression ability”, qualities that improve our way of relating to others.

Many counselling and community resources tend to focus programs on anger management, due in part to the destructive and hurtful actions that can accompany this emotion. The poorest and most unbridled expressions of anger have resulted in abusive, aggressive and even violent behaviours, literally contributing to millions of “broken” relationships.  Learning how to express our emotions well is a skill that most of us develop over time, usually from experiencing a multitude of negative consequences from poorer expression.

As we mature, it becomes clear that our choice of thought drives feelings and actions. When we put little effort and time into self-reflection and introspection, we can easily be unaware, or under aware, of the actual thoughts fueling our anger and hostility. An examined life and mindfulness helps us choose healthier, more positive viewpoints, however it is rather easy to just unconsciously and unthoughtfully follow negative thoughts or “stinkin thinkin”.

Some examples might include;

“How could he/she do this to us?”,  “I can’t ever forgive that!”, “We will not put up with that.”, “This is absolute @!%!**$ !  , “He never…”, She always …” , or “I can’t believe he/she could betray me like that after all we’ve been through.” 

Holding onto these negative thoughts and repeating them in our heads over and over again, we can actually feel our heartbeat racing, our blood pressure rising and knots in our stomach. We may even start to sweat and feel like we are about to “freak out” or “lose it”! This can be the source of extreme “potty mouth”… quite embarrassing to say the least. When we feel these sensations, and experience poor behaviour, our body has likely moved into “fight or flight” mode. Solution #1 is…

                                        … breathe, breathe and breathe again

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Management of our emotions begins with management of our bodies, our faces and the tone in our voice. Oxygen is essential. Once calm, we can move into a process of learning to better understand ourselves and others, finding ways to better cope with troubling situations and feelings.

Our core beliefs also have an immense impact upon the outcome: values that involve concepts like forgiveness, love, equality, acceptance and empathy. When faced with stressful, difficult and frustrating situations, when the actions of others seem to be overwhelming and uncaring, when the pain and hurt caused feels unbearable, we must strive to express value in those hurting us, displaying a loving, compassionate and forgiving spirit and moving closer to them rather than farther apart.

Getting training, support and coaching as well as practicing the new skills learned can really help you more readily access a calm and assertive approach when under fire. Such an approach is indeed a developing skill, an art if you will. Are you ready to get the support and coaching to better manage your emotions and move forward in relationships/life?  Call us today!

Perhaps This Is Normal

In life we are faced with many challenges and obstacles to overcome. At these difficult times and during trying situations, it is imperative to have people to assist us, to provide support and guidance and to encourage our efforts to improve. In our families, at least ideally, we hope that we can come together and support each other through the tough times. This is not always the case, however, as our family members may also be struggling and, thus, are less able or unable to help. Of course, the stress we carry can be brought into the family and our loved ones can certainly add stress to our lives.

Family members may become more negative;

  • “We can’t cope as a family.”
  • “No one respects anyone else.”
  • “If I don’t raise my voice no one will listen.”
  • “We are a failure.”
  • “My parents could not possibly understand what I’m going through.”
  • “I have no power as a parent.”

Stress is a normal part of living and of any family experience. Life is hard on this planet and families constantly face a multitude of difficulties or stressors. How we handle stressful moments is the key to healthier and happier outcomes and relationships. When a family is in crisis, it is very difficult to get to a positive resolution without getting professional help.

Reading materials, joining community or on-line training courses and using counselling can provide the guidance and support families require. Registered, professional family therapists (“coaches”) can help identify areas for change together with the family and incorporate a wide variety of strategies to help families achieve their goals.

“Family counselling can be done in a lighthearted way, with an accepting and encouraging style that helps all family members feel accepted and valued.”

Additionally, drawing upon family members’ current strengths and resources, the counsellor can fairly quickly help the family improve teamwork, re-negotiate roles, expectations and boundaries, making it easier to resolve issues and function well.  Knowledge bases used include cognitive-behavioural, developmental, attachment, family structure, narrative, and family systems theory. Bringing these tools into the family arena allows for better clarity, communication and compassion through a more understanding and accepting view.

New strategies are introduced, in these “coaching” sessions, to overcome some of the negativity or “Stinkin Thinkin” that has developed and recover from past hurt. Through the therapeutic process, families can grow closer and develop more satisfying relations with each other. They redefine goals, assess and clarify shared values and beliefs and develop new ways to love, support and care for each other.

For more information on family “coaching”, call us today!

 

“I Hate to Admit It”

They tease each other, pick on one another, make fun, wrestle, and yell. Their confrontations always end up with one crying, or bleeding, or slamming doors.

Will they ever get along? Can we ever achieve serenity in our home? I’ve heard of sibling rivalry; but this is a bit much. How do I know when I need to get more help for my kids?

These are questions that many parents may ask as their children display increased conflict. Some may not know this, but conflict is actually a normal and healthy part of relationships. When the emotions and behaviours to express and resolve conflicts are carried out appropriately, both parties achieve closure. Conflict can teach us many things:

It can teach us how to appropriately present our perspectives.
We may learn how to confidently rebut other viewpoints.
When done correctly, we refrain from inflicting emotional and physical harm on one another. (both verbal and physical harm inhibits communication and learning and can fuel a variety of mental health issues).

So when is the right time to get help? Teaching children the appropriate ways to resolve conflict can become very overwhelming in the heat of an argument. When parties have had time to separate, breathe and calm down, examining their experience (Time-out), it can then be helpful to bring them back together to sort through the argument and develop solutions (Time-in).

Of course it is easier said than done, especially when habits have developed and conflicts are occurring frequently. Family counselling may allow all members to express their concerns in a respectful manner and learn new ways of resolving disputes.

In family counseling, families can establish goals for themselves as a family and individually. Together they learn to cope with stressful events that occur in their lives (relationships, school, work, etc.). In a safe, professional, therapeutic environment, families have the opportunity to enhance their relationships and create a strong support system for one another. Call us today … we can help.