Monthly Archives: April 2015

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) – seminar update

Psychotherapist, Hannah Cowan, writes: “At our seminar on Saturday, Sarah House introduced us to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) by telling us how the founder, Francine Schapiro, noticed that after a walk in the park she felt more able to manage things that had been troubling her. She connected this to the frequent eye movements that occur when walking and went on to develop a system of therapy that used rapid movement of the eyes from left to right. The purpose of the eye movements is to keep a person anchored in the present whilst remembering a traumatic memory.  Additionally these movements help to connect the left and right sides of the brain which, following trauma, can become disconnected.”

Thank you to all who participated in the event, and for your feedback. Your average rating for both the event and the speaker was 4.5 out of 5!

Our next seminar, 13 June 2015, looks at the tricky issue of how to talk about sex in the therapy room. For more information on this and all forthcoming events, visit our website wendybramham.co.uk

Author:  Hannah Cowan
Editor: Wendy Bramham
April 2015

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Is Therapy Selfish? More perspectives on ‘healthy selfishness’

“When someone is in therapy it can seem like self-absorption to those around them, but this is a necessary and temporary state. Regular, well-boundaried therapy ideally leads to people developing clearer awareness of themselves and how they relate to others. The dynamics may change within their relationships. They may take a more equal footing in relationships that have previously diminished their self-value, or realise that there are areas in the relationship that they could give more to. The goal of therapy either way, is increased contentment for all parties, both the client and those around them – which is an act of love as well as self-love.”
Cassandra Human, psychotherapist
“On a visit to Laos recently I saw how the many statues of Buddha depict ‘The Enlightened One’ looking down. Locals told me this symbolises His focus on looking within himself to find enlightenment. Rather than this being a selfish act He believed that, in order to bring about change, we need to search within ourselves for answers. How tempting and easy it is for us to want others to change in order for us to be happy, or to look to others to carry the blame or take responsibility; and how brave it can feel to focus instead on taking responsibility for ourselves and our own decisions, life and happiness. Therapy provides a safe forum for our inner search and our exploration of the changes this can bring.”

Rachel Cooper, psychotherapist

Is Therapy Selfish? – day five: Healthy selfishness – good for us and those we care about

This week we have been tackling the question of whether, by encouraging us to focus on ourselves, therapy can make us selfish. we have suggested that in fact therapy promotes a ‘healthy selfishness’ which enables us to take better care of ourselves and helps us to form more satisfying relationships. We have also argued that this is better not only for the individual, but for all those we relate to.

We cannot take responsibility for our own happiness if we habitually or compulsively put others before ourselves. The concept of ‘healthy selfishness’ gives us permission to care for and nurture ourselves, which is particularly important if we have learnt to get love and affirmation by pleasing others. Indeed it is often those of us who protest most that therapy might be selfish, who have the greatest need of it!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our week of blogs about selfishness. Visit us again tomorrow for comments on the subject from our team of psychotherapy practitioners.

Author: Wendy Bramham
Editor: Briony Martin

April 2015

Is Therapy Selfish? – Day four: What happens when someone isn’t healthily selfish enough?

Jane* had been married for 18 years, and came to therapy with marital difficulties. She had always tried to please her husband, but recently he had become frustrated and withdrawn. The more she tried, the more selfish Jane felt he became. Jane had become silently resentful of her husband and had also developed stomach pains and indigestion. When her therapist gently commented that there didn’t seem to be “enough of her” in her life, she felt criticised and rejected. She enjoyed looking after others, she said. Surely this was a good thing? Gradually, in therapy, Jane realised that her role as a ‘pleaser’ gave her an identity, but made her self-worth dependent on another’s appreciation. Behind the role of helper she didn’t know who she was; she had become an empty shell.

Change came as Jane began to acknowledge her own feelings, needs and desires, and to believe she could exist in her own right. She started to take charge of her life, taking pressure off her husband and their marriage. The tension that was causing her indigestion also eased, because her unspoken, repressed resentment had been faced, understood and let go. Jane moved from unhealthy selflessness, to healthy selfishness.

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up our series looking at whether therapy can make us selfish. Let us know what you think by leaving a reply (above) or tweeting @WendyBramham

Author: Wendy Bramham

Editor: Briony Martin

April 2015

* “Jane” is a fictional conglomerate of many clients

Day three: What is ‘good-enough’ parenting?

Donald Winnicott, the famous paediatrician and psychoanalyst, coined the term ‘good-enough mother’ in 1953, and his thinking went on to become pivotal in understanding child development. If we are lucky as infants we will have had good-enough parenting; our primary care-giver will have responded to our needs and feelings, reassuring and comforting us in a fairly predictable and timely manner, and empathising with or tuning-in to our emotions. If this ‘good-enough’ parenting is available to us during our early years, we stand a chance of developing the ability to manage and care for ourselves through life’s inevitable ups and downs.

If good-enough parenting is not available, or we experience a great deal of loss or trauma, we don’t learn healthy selfishness and consequently get used to putting on a mask for the world, and living to please others. Therapy can be crucial in addressing this imbalance, helping clients learn to be their own ‘good-enough’ parent and to properly honour and care for themselves. In her book, Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh*, writes about the peace she found through rediscovering herself during a quiet island holiday, away from her busy life as mother to five children: “When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. …Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others.”

Perhaps it is only when we can consider ourselves as important that we can find peace and fulfillment? But why does it matter? Tomorrow we look at the impact of healthy selfishness on our relationships.

Author: Wendy Bramham

Editor: Briony Martin
April 2015

* Lindbergh AM, Gift from the Sea, 1955, Chatto & Windus

Day two: Narcissism – is therapy just ‘all about me’?

Yesterday we introduced the idea of ‘healthy selfishness’; but isn’t this a narcissistic way of thinking, believing that life is ‘all about me’? In fact, selfishness, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “…concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others”, is not to be confused with pathological narcissism. This condition is characterized by self-inflation, grandiosity and lack of empathy, which are ways of coping with very low self-esteem. Narcissistic traits include self-serving attitudes and behaviours that exploit others. By contrast, therapy aims to help clients become less fearful and more accepting of their own feelings, which in turn fosters the capacity to build self-esteem, and relate more openly and fully to others through increased empathy, compassion and intimacy.

So, if ‘healthy selfishness’ actually promotes self-respect as well as respect for others, how can it be achieved? Our experience suggests the following:

* honest self-reflection, especially after setbacks

* taking responsibility for yourself

* self-care and self-respect

* acknowledging what you need and what brings you joy and meaning

* celebrating your achievements

* connecting with your authentic self

* learning to tolerate differences between yourself and others

Tomorrow, we look at the tricky issue of how an ‘unhealthy unselfishness’ can develop – can we ‘blame the parents’?

Author: Wendy Bramham
Editor: Briony Martin
April 2015

Day one: Can therapy make you selfish?

Do you worry that having counselling might be indulgent or selfish? Do you fear that focusing on your own desires and needs might result in neglecting or hurting others? Lots of people who go into therapy have these fears. And the fear of selfishness is understandable given that many of us were brought up to put others first. However, I’m wondering if there is a different way to look at this issue? Perhaps there is a kind of ‘healthy selfishness’ that we can explore in therapy and which might help us get our lives in better balance?

Take journalist, Sally Brampton’s, experience. In ‘Shoot the Damn Dog’*, a memoir of her own suicidal depression, she recounts how a therapist told her she was abandoning herself every time she:

  • pretended she was fine when she wasn’t
  • refused to rest when she was tired
  • didn’t ask for what she needed from a person with whom she was intimate, and
  • put someone else’s needs before her own but resented doing so.

The therapist explained that Sally suffered from a failure of care; care for herself but also care from her parents who should have taught her how to take care of herself in childhood. Sally explains that as a child she unconsciously learned that it was better not to need or become attached to people or things, because anything she loved – people, dogs, houses, schools – were taken away from her. As an adult she was able to see other people’s needs but not her own, and this contributed to her serious depressive symptoms.

Over the next few days we’ll be blogging about this subject, challenging the idea that therapy is selfish, and looking at how a positive focus on ourselves can be good not only for us but for all those we relate to. Far from promoting selfishness, we think therapy might enable us to be less selfish and more loving.

Tomorrow we tackle the hot topic of narcissim… is therapy just ‘all about me’?

Author: Wendy Bramham
Editor: Briony Martin

April 2015

* Shoot the Damn Dog – A Memoir of Depression, by Sally Brampton. Bloomsbury, London, 2009.