Tag Archives: psychology

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

 

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What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Past events and our upbringings shape the way we think. As we progress through life we begin to make assumptions about ourselves and others – some of these thoughts will be helpful and others will be unhelpful. In the same way, some assumptions/thoughts will be accurate and some will be inaccurate. The longer we have thought in a certain way, the harder it is to shift and change. We end up over time having core beliefs about ourselves and the world, also referred to as “rules for living”.

Rules for living often take the form of “if this…then that”. For example: If I go out and socialise I will end up making a fool of myself. Or…if I get into another relationship I will get hurt or – If I don’t please others I will be disliked and rejected. Core beliefs are often in the form of:

“I am not good enough”; “I am a failure” and so on.

So, our past experiences create our beliefs and assumptions about the world which appear as “if this ..then that” thoughts or “must and should” statements.

Becoming more aware of your “must and should” statements is one key way to begin uncovering your rules for living. We can’t change the past but we CAN update our beliefs about the worldand ourselves as many of the core beliefs we hold are often outdated and incorrect.

We learn false beliefs from other, especially our parents and we internalise these thought. If your parents were critical, we begin to see ourselves in the same way (eg. I am stupid, fat, ugly, etc) and we act in accordance with these thoughts by withdrawing, avoiding or finding ways to hide our assumed failings and inadequacies.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a brilliant way to identify inaccurate thoughts and start to replace them with healthier, more helpful thoughts. CBT also involves setting up behavioural experiments to test  out our faulty assumptions to show us how they aren’t true.

If you find yourself repeating negative patterns of behaviour, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might work for you. CBT is available in many areas and most CBT therapists offer skype sessions too – so it can be offered from anywhere in the world.

I offer CBT online and if I cannot help you I can refer to another CBT therapist who can.

Mandy X

 

How defense mechanisms protect us

 

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How defense mechanisms protect us

(and the best ones to use)

A defense mechanism is a psychological term that describes how people protect themselves from harmful emotions. It is a coping technique that is used to limit anxiety and fear. Defense mechanisms generally occur unconsciously-that is we are not aware that we are using defense mechanisms most of the time.

A good example would be of a child who is subject to cruel parenting. They may be unable to cope emotionally and create ways to lessen the emotional strain. One way to do this would be to dissociate (detach emotionally) from what is going on around them.

Types of defense mechanisms

Primitive defense mechanisms (often develop in childhood)

1) Denial

Denial is the refusal to accept the fact or reality. It is considered one of the most primitive defense mechanisms because it is characteristic of early childhood development. If we deny that a problem exists we do not have to attend to it. A person who is a functioning alcoholic will often simply deny they have a drinking problem and will point out how well they function in society.

2) Regression

Regression means going back to an earlier stage of development when the current stage of life is unbearable. For example, an adolescent who is overwhelmed with fear, anger and growing sexual impulses might become clingy and start exhibiting early childhood behaviours such as bedwetting. An adult may regress when under a great deal of stress-refusing to leave their beds in an attempt to avoid normal everyday activities.

3) Acting Out

Acting out occurs when a person feels incapable of expressing themselves verbally. Instead of saying, “I am angry with you”, a person who acts out may instead throw a book as a person will punch a hole through a wall. This acts as a pressure release and helps the individual feel, once again. It is very common to see a child have a temper tantrum when they do not get their way. Self injury may also be a form of acting out, expressing physical pain what one cannot stand feel emotionally.

4) Dissociation

People who have a history of childhood abuse often suffer from some form of dissociation. In extreme cases dissociation can lead to a person believing they have multiple selves (multiple personality disorder). People who use dissociation often have a disconnected view of themselves in their world. Time and their own self-image may not flow continuously as it does for other people. A person who dissociates can effectively disconnect from the real world and live in a different world that is not cluttered with thoughts, feelings or memories that are unbearable.

5) Compartmentalisation

Compartmentalisation is a lesser form of dissociation. Parts of oneself are separated from awareness of other parts. The different parts behave with separate sets of values. An example might be an honest person who cheats on their income tax return and keeps the two value systems distinct and separate thereby escaping any tension due to conflicting values.

6) Projection

Projection is the misapplication of a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings or impulses onto another person. Projection is used especially when the thoughts are considered unacceptable for the person to express, they feel completely at ease with having them. For example, a spouse may be angry at their significant other for not listening, when in fact it is the angry spouse who does not listen. Projection is often the result of a lack of insight and acknowledgement of one’s own motivations and feelings.

7) Reaction Formation

Reaction formation is the converting of unwanted or dangerous thoughts, feelings or impulses into their opposites. For instance, a woman who was very angry with her boss and would like to quit her job may instead be overly kind and generous towards her boss and express a desire to keep working there forever. She is incapable of expressing negative emotions of anger and unhappiness with the job, and instead becomes overly kind to publicly demonstrate a lack of anger and unhappiness. In essence it is another form of denial in the form of the exact opposite of what they are feeling.

Less primitive, more mature defense mechanisms

8) Repression

Repression is the unconscious blocking of unacceptable thoughts, feelings and impulses. The key to repression is that people do it unconsciously, so have very little control over it. Repressed memories are memories that have been unconsciously blocked from access or view. Due to the fact that memory is very malleable and ever-changing, it is not like playing back a DVD of your life. The DVD has been filtered and even altered by your life experiences, even by what you read or viewed.

9) Displacement

Displacement is the redirecting of thoughts, feelings and impulses directed one personal object, but taken out upon another person or object. People often use displacement and they cannot express the feelings in a safe manner to the person they are directed at. The classic example is the man who gets angry at his boss but can’t express his anger to his boss for fear of being fired. He instead comes home and kicks the dog or starts an argument with his wife. Of course it works the other way around as well. This is a pretty ineffective defense mechanism because while the anger finds a route for expression it’s misapplication to other harmless people/ objects will cause additional problems for most people.

10) Intellectualization

Intellectualisation is the overemphasis on thinking when confronted with an unacceptable impulse, situation or behaviour. No emotional context is used to help mediate and place the thoughts into an emotional human context. Rather than deal with the painful associated emotions, the person might employ intellectualisation to distance themselves. For example a person has just been given a terminal medical diagnosis, instead of expressing their sadness and grief, focuses instead on the details of all possible fruitless medical procedures.

11) Rationalisation

Rationalisation is putting something into a different light or offering a different explanation for one’s perceptions and behaviours in the face of changing reality. Example: a woman who starts dating a man she really likes and thinks the world of is suddenly dumped for no reason. She reframes the situation in her mind with, “I suspected he was a loser all along.”

12) Undoing

Undoing is the attempt to take back an unconscious behaviour or thought that is unacceptable or hurtful. For instance, after realising you just insulted your significant other unintentionally, you might spend the next hour praising their beauty, charm and intellect. This is an attempt to counteract the damage done.

Mature Defense Mechanisms (the most effective)

Mature defense mechanisms are the most constructive and helpful but may require practice and effort to put into daily use. While primitive defense mechanisms do little to try and resolve underlying issues or problems, which defenses are more focused on helping a person be a more constructive component of their environment. People with mature defenses tend to be more at peace with themselves and those around them.

13) Sublimation

Sublimation is simply the channelling of unacceptable impulses, and emotions into more acceptable ones. For instance, when a person has sexual impulses they would like to avoid, they may focus instead on rigorous exercise. Refocusing such harmful impulses into productive use helps a person channel energy that otherwise would be lost or used in a manner that might cause the person more anxiety. Some aggressive forms of sport could possibly be seen as a form of healthy sublimation.

Humour and fantasy are also forms of sublimation. They can both reduce the intensity of the situation and allow for more appropriate behaviour.

14) Compensation

Compensation is a process of psychologically counterbalancing perceived weaknesses by emphasising strength in other areas. When we emphasise strengths, we recognise that we cannot be strong in every way and in all areas of our lives. For example, “I may not know how to cook, but I’m brilliant at cleaning up.” When done appropriately and not in an attempt to overcompensate, compensation helps reinforce a person’s self-esteem and self-image.

15) Assertiveness

Assertiveness is the emphasis of a person’s needs of thoughts in a manner that is respectful, direct and firm. Communication styles exist on a continuum, ranging from passive to aggressive with assertiveness falling neatly in the middle. People who are assertive strike a balance when they speak up for themselves, express their opinions and needs in a  respectful but firm manner, and listen when they are being spoken to. Becoming more assertive is one of the most desired communication skills and helpful defense mechanisms.

Defense mechanisms are most often learned behaviours, most of which we learned during childhood. That’s a good thing because it means that as an adult, you can choose to learn some new behaviours and new defense mechanisms that may work better for your life.

Mandy X

Photo by Search Engine People Blog

What is counselling?

 

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What is counselling?

I’ve been a counsellor for such a long time that I sometimes forget what an alien concept counselling can be for some people. I run a private practice 30 minutes outside of London seeing couples and individuals who are experiencing problems.

Typical issues that people seek counselling for are:

  • Relationship issues – trouble communicating, break ups, marital issues, abusive relationships
  • Depression, anxiety, panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Addiction
  • Low self esteem, low confidence, failure to thrive

What counselling can help with:

Counselling can help identify thoughts that are unhelpful and that are contributing to problems in life. When we listen to our negative thinking, we often end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy: one where the  negative thoughts begin to manifest in life.

For example, if our inner talk tells us we are fat, ugly and useless, our body language will mirror this inner world that we create and others will respond to the negative body language by avoiding us. We then use this incorrectly as evidence that our thoughts are true instead of seeing that our faulty thinking may have helped create the situation in the first place.

Counselling offers a safe, non judgemental place to talk about issues that worry us. Often, in the real world we can’t talk about the things we can discuss in counselling. Reassurance and objective input can be extremely useful in changing the status quo.

Counselling also helps us to understand where the issues/behaviour might be coming from and how we can go about changing things for the positive.

What counselling can’t help with:

Counselling needs input from the client to work. It requires effort to change bad habits and can be quite exhausting in many ways. Part of counselling involves ‘unlearning’ habitual patterns of behaviour (many picked up in childhood) that work against us.

Counselling can’t make life 100% perfect. It can help you be more resilient and find better ways to cope when life gets tough.

Counselling is a fantastic way to understand yourself better and improve your self awareness. We can all learn more about ourselves and challenge our existing ways of doing things.

Mandy X

 

Photo by Joe Houghton

psychology websites

Top Psychology Websites

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Top Psychology Websites

The psychology websites listed below are fantastic resources for dealing with depression, anxiety and many other mental health issues. Many offer free online CBT courses as well. Tests and assessments can also be completed for free.

1) Psychology Tools   http://psychology-tools.com/

We are a free to use website dedicated to providing psychology professionals, students, and the general public with transparent access to psychological assessment tools. We strive to provide test questions and answers in the most streamlined possible format, through a simple interface and automatic scoring.

Want to find out your level of empathy? Take this empathy test – I use it regularly. http://psychology-tools.com/empathy-quotient/

2) http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/

This is a fantastic website with loads of worksheets and information on psychology, cognitive behavioural therapy and mental health issues. This is most definitely one of the top psychology and quizzes websites. Self help courses are also provided. A fantastic free resource.

3) http://serene.me.uk/

Another brilliant website that offers free online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) courses. The Serenity Programme (previously ‘Outreach-online’) is designed and developed by Steve Cottrell, a Consultant Nurse Therapist working for the National Health Service (NHS) in North Wales, UK.

4) MoodGym –  https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome (Based in Australia)

I have used this site before and find their information up-to-date, relevant and comprehensive. This website offers the e-couch programme, a free online resource for dealing with depression.

5) http://www.feelingbetternow.com/uk/cbtsites/CBTFramesetPanicCenter.html

 

6) http://www.schoolmentalhealth.org/training/

SchoolMentalHealth.org is designed for use by anyone interested in learning more about how to enhance school mental health.  It is the intention that these resources will help to enhance mental health promotion, prevention, treatment, and referral and will provide practical tools for improving school environments.

7) http://www.llttf.com/

Living life to the full. The Living Life to the Full course is a life skills course that aims to provide access to high quality, practical and user-friendly training in life skills.

What would you like to get out of the course?

  • We all need life skills in our work, relationships and in every other aspect of our lives.
  • Probably we all have very different reasons for doing the course. Some of us may suffer or are suffering from depression/anxiety or distress.
  • Some of us may be caring/supporting people who are facing anxiety or depression.
  • Some of us may be working with people with anxiety/depression.

Whatever your reason for wanting to learn these life skills we hope the content proves helpful. The skills taught cover general skills/information we can all use in our lives when we feel under pressure, stressed or distressed.

8) http://www.psychologytoday.com/tests

Assertiveness, can you be an entrepreneur?, Anger, anxiety, arguing style…so many tests!! Find out more about yourself.

Try out this happiness test. http://psychologytoday.tests.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=1320

9) http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/

All quizzes are free, and most are based upon scientific research. They are instantly and automatically scored once completed, giving you immediate results. You do not have to create or have a Psych Central account in order to take any of the quizzes. But you’ll need one if you’d like to save your test results, or to help track your progress over time.

10) http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/index_surveys.shtml

Can you compete under pressure?

Test your morality

The big risk test…plus many more.

This website also has resources on psychology, mental health, interactive maps (the brain) as well as information on intelligence and emotion.

If you want to find out more about yourself and you have a few minutes spare, visit the above psychology websites. They are fun, informative and just might give you the edge you seek.

Mandy X

 

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Top 10 Reasons why people get counselling

 

Top 10 Reasons why people get counselling

I’ve put this infographic together which shows the top reasons why people get counselling.Many clients have come to see me over the past few years for counselling and psychotherapy and these ten reasons have been the most common.

 

top 10 reasons people get counselling inforgraphic

 

stress intervention

Positive Stress Interventions

 

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Positive Stress Interventions

 

Do you ever feel stressed? I guess that’s a silly question. Even when you try (like I do daily…and often miss my target!) to stay calm, think positively and tell myself that nothing is going to destroy my ‘fab funk’, something invariably comes along to challenge my ‘serenity’. Like traffic jams, rude people, the cost of living, …..etc etc….

So what can we do to inject positive stress interventions to help us manage the crazy world we live in? I have a few suggestions…

This stress intervention technique is my favourite and I use it regularly when I feel myself ready to throttle someone or reach for that big fat dougnut…

1) Acceptance

Most unhappiness comes from the big fat hole that exists between how we want our life to be and how our life actually is. There is often a wide gap between how we envisaged our lives turning out (for me it was a lovely house, a kind adoring husband, lovely kids, a perfect figure,constant happiness…ummm….okay.back to reality) and the reality of life as it is.. (lovely house, no husband, lovely child, far from perfect figure, not constantly happy….sigh…). We can work ourselves up by all that isn’t right and exhaust ourselves in the process or we can accept the way things are. This doesn’t mean being passive and resigning yourself to a mediocre life, it’s about giving up the resistance and learning to deal with the cards you’ve been dealt. It’s okay to have ‘poor me’ days but when we stay too long in the ‘poor me, it’s so unfair, why me?’ mindset, we focus on what is wrong and not on solutions. Acceptance can bring with it a sense of calm and invite a new perspective. Say to yourself, “life is tough right now, this is how things are but it doesn’t mean it will be this way forever”.

2) Mindfulness

There are many triggers that can set us off on a daily basis where we begin focusing on our fears and insecurities. We feel bothered about the past and anxious about the future. Soon, we start the “what if” type thoughts and we’re off on a tangent…leading us deeper into more stressful thinking. Mindfulness is a wonderfully accessible and simple stress intervention. Focus your thinking back to the present moment. If you’re driving, focus on the song lyrics on the radio/cd and if you fid your mind wandering, put the song back to the beginning and start again. Practise being in the moment more. Observe, listen, touch, smell – take in your surroundings. The more ‘in the moment’ you are the less time your mind has to wander off and freak you out with mad irrational thoughts about things that may actually never happen.

3) Unhook from your thinking

This is a vital stress intervention. We need a thought to spark and emotion. If I ask you to feel angry right now, you will need to THINK  of something that makes you angry.So thoughts are the beginning point and they affect our quality of life enormously. Give up the negative thinking…look for ways to challenge your negative thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking, “I’m such a failure”..or “I’m useless”, think of examples in your life that contradict those thoughts. You will most certainly be able to find examples when you were not a failure or worthless. How does that help you in life anyway – thinking of yourself in negative terms? Well, it doesn’t. There can be absolutely no good that can come from reminding yourself of everything that is wrong with you. Imagine if someone gave you a parrot as a present. Imagine that parrot sitting in the corner of the room shouting negativity at you all day long…. “ah you loser, give it up, it’s no good. You can’t do it…”. Hopefully you would do the right thing and give the parrot up for adoption!

The same goes for your negative inner chatter – give it up.

These three stress interventions are great because they are practical and you can try them out anywhere. I really find they help me get back on track and feel calmer instantly.

Mandy X

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Photo by JasonDGreat

 

Photo credit – Smiling Macaque monkey: David Slater

emotional well being

Emotional Well Being

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Emotional Well Being –  the cornerstone of a happy stable society

It’s common sense that a good quality of life and the best chance at peace and contentment come from a society where their mental health is nurtured and prioritised. Yet, it seems many societies’ emotional well being needs are not prioritised in this way.

Mental health services get low funding, according to research by the charity Mind. The UK mental health services are allocated on average, a whole 1% of a local council’s budget. Yet, if our mental health and emotional well being is not attended to, everything else falls apart. Our physical health suffers, our productivity at work deteriorates, neglecting our emotional well being has an over arching effect on everything else.

In a society when mental health services are robust, people are able to see mental health professionals within a fairly short amount of time, not the current 6 months to 1 year waiting times (minimum). People are made more aware through active campaigns about signs of stress and low level depression. The fact that depression and anxiety is growing is a concern yet governments don’t seem to be taking this seriously.

When emotional well being is a priority, happiness levels increase. Productivity and the economy increase and people are nicer to each other- more tolerant and forgiving.

If we do not have decent mental health provision, we have nothing. It saddens me that we aren’t more forward thinking with regard to our mental health and emotional well being. Schools should be teaching children how to manage emotions and help students to know what to do when they feel stressed. Teaching children coping skills is just as important, if not more important, than academic performance. Being successful, more than ever, involves emotional intelligence and wisdom as much as intellectual performance.

A child who knows how to tolerate uncertainty, who is able to regulate their emotions and has a grounded attitude towards life will fare far better than a neurotic, stressed out straight A student. Mental resilience is the foundation upon which society should be building it’s goals and ambitions.

What do you think??

Mandy X

fractured identity

Fractured identities

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Fractured identities

 

To some degree, we all have fractured identities. The various roles that we are expected to fulfil enable us to pigeon hole parts of ourselves into overlapping identities.The French Philosopher Michael Foucault rejected the view of a person having an inner and ‘fixed’ identity. He identified the self as a continuing discourse in a shifting communication of oneself to others.

Identity provides us with a sense of belonging. Our families, our cultural backgrounds, where we live and the type of work we do all contribute to our sense of identity. When there is tension or incongruency between overlapping identities, this creates inner tension and stress and the possibility of anxiety/depression and/or mental illness arises.

The Fractured Identity Syndrome (FIS) is a new theory that is garnering some attention within the academic community in recent times. At its core, it is the merging of Charles Cooley’s Looking Glass Self and Erving Goffman’s Virtual and Actual Social Identity theories

The FIS suggests a social event, or series of events, during one’s childhood or adolescence results in a fracturing of the personality. The term “fracture” is defined as a small breakage of the personality which is often not visible to the outside world. Fragmentation often happens in adolescent years.

Social scientists have for a long time theorized that deviants in society are a production of some kind of traumatization in life. Traumatic events affect different people in different ways. Some people may experience a traumatic event and have it be of little consequence in their life, they would simply move on. For a small few, these traumatic events are a precursor to a life of crime and delinquency and mental health issues. 

When psychologists talk about identity, they are referring to all of the beliefs, ideals, and values that help shape and guide a person’s behaviour. The formation of identity is something that begins in childhood and becomes particularly important during adolescence, but it is a process that continues throughout life. Our personal identity gives each of us an integrated and cohesive sense of self that endures and continues to grow as we age.

Identity is the primary issue in most racial and ethnic conflicts. It is also a key issue in many gender and family conflicts, when men and women disagree on the proper role or “place” of the other, or children disagree with their parents about who is in control of their lives and how they present themselves to the outside world.

Identity conflicts can be especially difficult to resolve. The opponent is often viewed as evil–even nonhuman–and their views and feelings not worthy of attention. In addition, sitting down with the opponent can be seen as a threat to one’s own identity, so even beginning efforts at reconciliation can be extremely difficult. People hold on tightly to their identities as they represent meaning in our lives and a sense or order and belonging, yet being flexible in our identities is what is required in a world where specific, isolated identities are ever diminishing.

Mandy X


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