Category Archives: psychology

What are safety behaviours?

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Photo by UltraSlo1

What are safety behaviours?

We all engage in safety behaviours to differing degrees. A safety behaviour is something we do to provide us relief from anxiety. The problem with safety behaviours is that they only work temporarily and our attempts to self soothe end up becoming a repetitive pattern. The safety behaviour inadvertently ends up prolonging the anxiety.

For example: For someone who finds being in social situations anxiety provoking, they might avoid a social situation altogether. This helps them avoid the anxiety but doesn’t deal with the underlying fear. The threat of social situations stays unchallenged. So the avoidance is the safety behaviour but the anxiety will always be there when faced with a social situation. The anxiety of social situations will remain.

Another example of a safety behaviour: Someone who is insecure in a relationship might constantly check up on their partner by texting and phoning their partner. Initially, once they have checked on their partner, they might feel better…but only until the next thing triggers their anxiety and they need to check again. The need to check will not go away and in this way the anxiety is maintained.

The idea is to reduce safety behaviours, ‘sit’ with the anxiety and realise you can cope without the safety behaviour. This is the correct way to reduce non-productive safety behaviours.

Learning to challenge the threat with using a safety behaviours allows us to learn how to cope with the anxiety. Do what you fear – that’s the basic premise.

Be aware of what you do to reduce your anxiety…do you check your phone constantly? Do you avoid situations you fear? Work at approaching your fears and learning to deal with them. This will improve confidence and help you to be more resilient.

Mandy X

 

The daily grind

 

chained to the rythmn

Photo by matsuyuki

The Daily Grind

 

Apologies to those of you who aren’t Katy Perry fans but this video is brilliant as it is a great example of “purposeful pop”. Katy Perry sings about a theme park called Oblivia and being “chained to the rythmn.” It’s all about the daily grind. Are we just like rates in a maze? Being chained to the rhythmn is a euphemism for being stuck in a system where politicians are dishonest and don’t deliver on promises. Where we are all so influenced by online technology and are glued to our smart phones and ipod screens. This means we are less in the present moment and ‘absent’ from our lives in many ways.

The guests are dressed in vibrant 1950s clothes, an era of great optimism for America. The song’s lyrics depict a world of repetition and ignorance, where technology renders us oblivious (hence the name “Oblivia”) to people’s real problems- mental health, poverty, inequality, corruption and so on.

The “greatest ride in the universe” turns out to be a treadmill. The guests aren’t there to have fun – they’re assets. Cogs in the machine. Literally hamsters on a wheel.

In the closing scene, Katy Perry turns to make eye contact with the camera, tacitly issuing a challenge to us, the viewer.

Are we comfortable with unquestioning conformity? Or will we join her big pop revolution?

I urge you to be a critical thinker, don’t believe everything you see in the media, it is always slightly slanted according to one’s interpretation. Learn to stand apart, be a non-conformist and stand up for what you believe in.

Mandy X

Dealing with dread

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Image: Courtesy of: https://pixabay.com/en/users/MasimbaTinasheMadondo-1388843/

Dealing with dread

There are many times when I feel dread. Often, it emerges prior to the expectation of something unfamiliar. When there is a fear of the unknown, dealing with dread effectively can be a huge asset in life. The feeling of dread often arrives unannounced, feeling like a knot in my stomach or a feeling of fear and anxiety. Dealing with dread can help you to feel braver and approach life more than avoiding situations that you fear. ‘Approach behaviour’ leads to greater resilience and confidence.

Identify the thoughts

Invariably, a feeling of dread comes from the thoughts we have. These thoughts will be negative in nature. Thoughts such as, “I am not going to cope” or “I won’t enjoy myself” will lead to feelings of dread.

Change the story

Once you have identified the thoughts, get in the habit of challenging them. Thoughts aren’t facts – you can choose to tell yourself a different story. Instead of thinking, “I am not going to cope”, you could choose to think, “I will find a way to manage whatever comes my way. I have managed something similar to this in the past”. This will automatically life the feeling of dread.

What we think determines our quality of life. Choose your thoughts wisely.

Cultivate optimism

It serves no purpose to worry unnecessarily about the future. Wherever possible, assume a position of positive expectancy and you find this difficult to do, at least try to be as neutral and objective as possible about the future. People often assume that worrying about the future will keep them safe but this is a fallacy. All worry does is keep your ‘mental torture’ going.

Create goals

Instead of unnecessary worrying, create SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Goals create a structure to work towards and inject purpose into our lives. Goals can help to alleviate dread as they help us maintain direction in life. A clear sense of where we are going and what we would like to achieve can effectively limit dread in our daily lives.

Believe in yourself

Self belief can neutralise dread. When we have faith in our ability to cope, we feel more capable. Believe that you can overcome difficulties in life. You will surely have had to deal with challenges in the past. Use these past triumphs to strengthen your belief in yourself. Talk to yourself positively and remind yourself of your strengths regularly.

Life is more about perception than about the actual events we experience. We can reframe things and change the story in our minds and make anything in life seem less scary. It takes practise but it’s well worth it.

Mandy X

 

Ultimate Relationships

happy couple photo

Ultimate Relationships

Ultimate relationships don’t just happen. They require effort and attention to bring out their best potential. If you would like extra help to take your relationship to the next level, keep on reading…

True fulfillment can only be found in one thing: the emotional power of our personal relationships.

Have you become complacent in your passion? Or, have you resigned to not pursuing romantic partnership at all? Rarely do you see a couple united in both love and attraction, able to sustain their power decade after decade. But, greater passion is possible!

In the Ultimate Relationship, Tony and Sage Robbins share the tools, insights and principles they have created and discovered through their journey, learning together as a couple, and working with people from every walk of life experiencing the same issues. They can help you to figure out where you really are in your relationships, where you want to be and what’s stopping you from having it all.

Just imagine what love coaching through the combined power of Tony and Sage Robbins can do for you — learn a results-oriented approach for attracting your ideal life partner, strengthening your relationship and reignite the passion you and your partner once shared.

Regardless of your past experience or current relationship, the potential for creating something deeper, richer and lasting is within your grasp.

Take action now and experience what’s possible when you transform your beliefs, eliminate your fears and master the fundamental skills necessary to create your ultimate relationship.

Mandy X

Tony’s newest program

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Why can’t I stay single?

 

single person photo

Why can’t I stay single?

Many clients ask me the question, “Why can’t I stay single?”. The moment a relationship ends they are looking for someone new to replace their old love. What is that all about?

There are many reasons for people constantly pursuing relationships. I have listed a few possible reasons:

A loveless childhood

Some people experience a lack of love as a child and this can create a long lasting neediness. As an adult, they will constantly be searching for that love that they didn’t receive when they were younger. They are always looking to fill the void. As they never received the solid foundation of care and love when they were children, it can create a chemical imbalance, the brain develops differently and there may even be a long lasting biological aspect to this overwhelming need to never be single. These people feel unsafe and unprotected without the love of another person.

Love addiction or relationship addiction

Love addicts crave love obsessively. Their reasons for craving love may stem from a loveless childhood but they are less discerning about their partner. They will settle for whomever is willing to be in a relationship with them. Somehow, along the way, they have developed beliefs that they are inadequate on their own and that they cannot cope alone. These core beliefs lead them to seek out a partner and be in a relationship at all costs. Unfortunately, due to their distorted ideas about themselves and their limited thinking about their ability to cope, they never manage to feel satisfied, even when in a relationship.

They are needy, they can be manipulative and can often be co-dependent as well.

Co-dependency

Co-dependency exists when one partner is excessively dependent upon their partner for emotional support. It is a dysfunctional ‘helping’ relationship that is often one-sided (they do all the giving and their partner does all the taking) and emotionally destructive. People with low self esteem and poor boundaries often have co-dependent relationships. They enjoy taking care of their partner as it gives them a sense of control and security.

Low confidence and low self esteem

People with low confidence and self esteem don’t feel good about themselves and need a partner to bolster their confidence. Due to their low confidence they often stay in relationships that are unhappy as they fear being alone too much. They can end up feeling trapped.

There are many reasons for people staying in relationships and avoiding being single at all costs. As previously mentioned, this can be due to neglect as a child (often the case) and/or faulty assumptions about their abilities to cope as a single person as well as dysfunctional beliefs about what a relationship offers. Ultimately, we all want to be loved and be with someone but being single is not at all inferior to being in a relationship. Many people hold attitudes that being single suggests there is something wrong with them. This is only a thought – not a fact. It is also a thought that can be challenged and changed as it is irrational.

If you tend to resist being single, you probably need to be single for a few months just to show yourself that you can actually do it. You will probably learn more about yourself in that time and be in a better place for a relationship. Being single can be freeing and a great opportunity for personal development.

Mandy X

 

 

Is your view on life distorted?

 

distorted

Is your view on life distorted?

As a cognitive behavioural therapist (in training currently) and as a counsellor, I am trained to spot distorted versions of reality in my clients. Often, these distorted views create immense anxiety and depression and once these distortions are identified, questioned and altered into more objective and realistic interpretations, clients mood tend to improve.

We all have some distortions, may that we have picked up in childhood. These distortions become so ingrained in how we see ourselves and the world around us that we believe they are valid and accurate.

For example, I had a client who had very low self esteem and this had stemmed from highly critical parents.She had received continuous messages as a child that she was ugly and useless. She had taken these repeated negative messages and internalised them – she began to believe them as see these labels as part of who she was.

In the end, that was all she could see – that she was ugly and worthless. Her view on life was distorted and she had never had a relationship as she believed no one would ever love her as she was. Only once we started to look at the source – how her parents had told her things that weren’t true and that they were merely her parent’s opinions, she began to make progress and build up her self esteem.

Always be aware of your thoughts and remember that some thoughts are completely inaccurate. If some thoughts make you especially unhappy – look at them in more detail. Where do these thoughts come from? Is there any obvious evidence for them? Are they helpful? Probably not. Learn to look at things in a different way, always ask if there is another way to look at something. If you are self critical, ask yourself how this is helpful to you. Basically – it isn’t. Parents can mess up their kids with their thoughtless remarks and create years of misery.

As long as you remember to question your thoughts regularly – especially the negative ones and remember that thoughts aren’t facts, you are on the right path. Our thoughts can create heaven or hell for us – use them carefully.

Mandy X

 

Tips on how to get the most therapeutic value out of psychological therapy

 

Counselling-session2

Tips on how to get the most therapeutic value out of psychological therapy

You are emotionally struggling – weighed down by different feelings or profound sadness/anxiety/hopelessness.. you might have been going through a number of things that life threw at you from left, right and centre. You might have just realised how sad you have been throughout your whole life. You might have just lost someone, a relationship or a sense of self/achievement/control. And you are thinking about talking to a stranger all about it. Perhaps someone said ‘you better go and talk to a professional about it’. Maybe your GP was not happy to prescribe any medication at this point. Maybe you don’t want to take any pills.

As a therapist, I can tell you that it’s not an easy thing at all. You are letting a stranger see your inner self and your life including the parts you don’t want to think about (although not all therapy will result in digging up the past or your deepest darkest secrets). You have to verbalise how you feel, which can be the most daunting thing ever. You have the right to feel nervous and apprehensive, as well as feeling relieved (because a. you have decided to get help, b. there’s actually someone whom you can unload your internal burden without feeling guilty c. Things might change. In a good way. There’s hope.)
So, it is really, really important that you get into the right type of therapy and you get the most out of it. Based on my 8 years of experience in mental health service, I thought these tips might be helpful for people who are in need of and considering accessing psychological therapy.

1. Do tell your GP how you feel and how you might need emotional support/psychological therapy from a professional. GP may not know about all types of therapy but can point you in the right direction.

2. Not all therapy is ‘counselling’. If you say you need counselling, GP might only give you option for counselling. There are Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, systemic therapy…a variety types of therapy. Bear in mind, though, CBT is the evidence-based therapy recommended for various mood disorders (depression, anxiety, panic, PTSD, OCD, phobia all included) by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. You can do a little research on different types of psychological therapy.

3. You do need an assessment if you are unsure what type of therapy would be most helpful for what you are going through right now. Accessing your local IAPT service can help you with this. Their assessment will determine whether you would benefit from short-term treatment like CBT or you require more long-term/holistic treatment.

4. It really helps if you can think of what you want to achieve from the therapy e.g you want to improve your mood so that you can deal with your life stressors better, you want to reduce fear that’s been really getting in the way in your daily life, you want to resolve your feelings around your childhood. However, sometimes we are so overwhelmed we just can’t think clearly – where to start, what we need, what to focus on first. The person who assesses you might suggest one area to focus on. You might think ‘that’s not gonna be enough’ and feel hopeless/frustrated BUT remember, you need to start somewhere and the assessor is likely to be suggesting something that you can manage with a therapist’s help so try to put aside the uncomfortable feeling and see where it takes you/how it can help you.

5. At times, therapists (especially in NHS) encounter people who ask ‘are you qualified enough? Are you a psychiatrist? How old are you?’. When we are badly injured and our life feels upside down, we wouldn’t ask the consulting doctors and nurses these questions. Therapists need the same level of trust and respect and starting your assessment/therapy with scepticism is not likely to help you with being open and honest during the assessment, which is very important.

6. Just because you are going through 10 different problems, it does not mean that your treatment has to be the most complex, intense one. There are people who say ‘my problem is really complicated, I need to see a psychiatrist only’. If you are experiencing symptoms of psychosis such as visual/auditory hallucination, frequent urges to seriously harm yourself or others, or your paranoia is significantly disabling you, you may require psychiatric assessment and medication, and therefore a psychiatrist. However, try not to jump to conclusions and, again, be open-minded when you discuss your difficulties with your GP and assessor. You may only require a short-term CBT to understand the link between current difficulties and to learn to cope with them with new coping techniques (cognitive and behavioural), for example. Psychological therapy is most often delivered by psychologists and psychological therapists such as CBT therapists, psychological wellbeing practitioners and counsellors who are trained to deliver therapy.

7. Don’t be put off by the word ‘short-term’. It is not belittling your difficulties. Breaking down your difficult emotions and working through them one by one are more likely to have long-term benefit than trying to work on everything at the same time. Think of it this way – you are injured in several different places. Rather than going through a 24-hour surgery which will overwhelm your body and could be more detrimental, you get one treatment for one area, let it heal then move onto the next treatment, so have some gaps in between. You may also find that the first short-term treatment gives you what you need to manage/tackle some of the other difficulties, which can lead to great sense of independence and self efficacy.

8. Often drinking or taking drugs is used to cope with difficult emotions. However, when there’s been this self-medicating going on for some time, it can be difficult for your therapist to get a true picture of your current mental health because large amount and frequent use of alcohol/drug is very likely to have affected your mental health e.g. Exacerbated your anxiety, caused ‘extra’ factors around depression or panic etc. You are likely to be asked to engage with drug and alcohol support service first. This is not rejecting your difficulties or simplifying your difficulties as ‘substance misuse’. It’s not beneficial at all to be stuck in the middle – Therapy trying to pull you up to challenge dysfunctional thoughts while the impact of alcohol/drug is pushing you down to more dysfunctional thoughts and poorer concentration, for example. You will feel stuck, which may lead to further frustration/hopeless feeling/fear/disappointment.

9. Once you start the therapy, imagine that you have a driving instructor sitting next to you. You are still the driver. If you don’t put your foot down on that accelerator, your therapist won’t start the car for you. If you refuse to do that parallel parking although you were given and shown the knowledge and techniques that you require, your therapist will not do it for you. It is not because we refuse to help but because
We are here to help you become an independent driver, not to help you be a passenger.
Therapy is there to empower you, not to take the control away from you.

 

This post was written by an experienced colleague of mine – Scarlett Gallimore. To find out more click on the links below:

Links:

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Happiness is an inside job

 

happiness photo

Happiness is an inside job

I have the words “Happiness is an inside job” on a plaque in my office. Whilst happiness can be influenced by external events – what we think about the world has far more power over our ability to be happy. Too many people believe that it takes something artificial to create happiness. For example – some believe that if they have more money or a romantic partner or a private yacht they would be happy. The truth is that happiness is a mental and spiritual state.

Start each day with positive affirmations like this, “Today is going to be a good day and I am going to be happy. The world is working in my favour and my life is unfolding as it is meant to”. Sending positive ‘primers’ to your subconscious helps nurture the positive energy and keep you on the right track mentally. Your subconscious has infinite intelligence – trust it. Discipline your mind and feed yourself with positivity rather than words such as “I can’t do that” etc

Experiments by psychologists have repeatedly shown that the subconscious will accept whatever it is ‘told’ and does not have the ability, like the conscious mind  does, to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t. You can use this to benefit you. Your subconscious mind cannot argue controversially. Hence if you give it wrong suggestions, it will accept them as true and proceed to bring them to pass as conditions, experiences and events. All things that have happened to you are based on thoughts impressed on your subconscious mind through belief. Your subconscious mind is very amenable to suggestion – let this work for you.

Is fear and worry holding you back?Remember that fear is a thought in your mind. You have the power to think something different and feel less fear. Believe in yourself and talk to yourself in a positive encouraging way. Happiness comes from a quiet wise mind – anchor your thoughts on peace, poise, security and divine guidance and your mind will produce happiness. Keep your thoughts positive, loving and constructive and this will manifest in your life.

Mandy X

Recommended Reading: The Power of your subconscious mind and step to success – Dr Joseph Murphy