Category Archives: Feature

Resilience begins with owning your vulnerability – we’re all only human after all! How I got to near breaking point.

penny robertsThis is a client’s story of courage and recovery.

I always thought and was told that I was a good planner, super organised and focused. My nickname at uni was Miss Organisation and I’ve built a career in Operations a perfect fit right..?

Last year I went through a massive personal upheaval that resulted in me losing perspective and left me wondering what the hell was I doing with my life and whether I’d got it all wrong.

This period of feeling out of control and lost started in March. A stolen purse – six years living in London and the laws of averages meant it was bound to happen to me – there’s a first time for everything… right?

Then after this came the night I left another purse and all my newly replaced cards in an Uber… never to be found. Then it was a stolen rucksack and more personal and work possessions in someone else’s hands a month later. And finally leaving another purse on a train – which even the cleaners couldn’t find!

The icing on the cake was a lost train ticket, when I had no cash and cards – I was still waiting to get new cards after I lost my purse the last time – and nearly being stranded in the city.

Until this point I had NEVER lost anything in my 29 years on this planet. The universe was seriously telling me something – stop, slow down, relax!

The irony is I’d actually been doing that albeit not consciously. At times I had felt like I was nearly paralysed by the massive upheaval that had occurred in my life but I was still acting and carrying on as normal. I was out of tune with my mental wellbeing – I needed to get back in tune!

The truth

So here’s the brutal honesty that with time, my friends, family and my therapist helped me come to terms with. I was numb / out of touch with my emotions. I was grieving for a broken marriage and selling my home – losing the life I’d spent my adult years building. I was feeling totally ashamed of how things have turned out for me at the grand old age of 29 and hiding how I truly felt.

This was not how I thought my life would turn out – but had you asked me what I thought my life would be like I couldn’t have articulated it to you. I knew I wasn’t the first person to go through this – and I sure as hell knew I wasn’t going to be the last but honestly that didn’t help me at the time.

Where to begin…

It’s tough – bloody tough admitting when you’ve not got your shit together. I felt like I was losing face by admitting I had depression – I was ashamed. If I could have hibernated at this point I would have!

What I very gradually realised over time though was that the more I talked about my depression the more I normalised it for me. I felt like I was building my own understanding of what I was going through – the tears lessened as I gained courage.

My work, friends, family and therapist were all supportive. I’ve consciously chosen to write my support network in this order – from personally who I thought would be hardest to talk to, to easiest to talk to- as I am shocked by how even conversations I thought would be tough weren’t as bad as I envisaged.

If you don’t own your vulnerability in all sectors of your life then you won’t build your resilience and support network. I was, and am, blessed with an amazing support network. Having just started a new job when this all “went down” it could have resulted in a sudden ending but it didn’t! They listened, were accommodating and genuinely cared.

Stability with my work routine was important for me and gave me a weekly focus. My friends showed me bucket loads of compassion and were there for me even when I didn’t know how to articulate how I felt. My family were beyond amazing – they helped me focus on the joy of the now (beach trips and time with my nephews spring to mind in particular) as well as planning for fun times ahead.

I’m writing this post from Chile – a dream two week adventure by myself that during dark times I thought I might not have the courage to do. What a difference a year makes!

Small steps lead to big rewards. Honesty and open communications breeds positive changes and inspiration from sometimes the strangest of places and experiences!

2017 is my year of fun! A year for me to own to positively take steps to create the life I deserve. 2016 helped me understand the challenges and heartbreak that life can throw at you from time to time. The lessons from 2016 have helped me become more resillient they’ve made me stronger and aware of how important it is to look after my mental health just as much as I look after my physical health.

I truly believe that to experience life’s true highs sometimes you need to experience it’s lows. And to really get the learnings and build resilience from such experiences you need to own them and get used to being vulnerable – it’s tough but it can be done!

The afterword

Writing and reflecting on my experience of depression briefly makes it seem a hell of a lot calmer than the turbulent time I went through. For me a combination of medical and therapeutic support has worked. Everyone is different and experiences are personal. The commonality in finding a path out is human connection – everything starts by talking and being vulnerable….

The Psychology of Violent Extremism

Since the last newsletter where violent extremism was discussed, there have been a number of further acts of violence within the UK.  Thinking about what drives people to engage in such behaviour has become more pertinent.  Dr Hannah FarrAlongside this it also feels important that we think about how we talk to our young people about these acts, especially after the suicide bomber at the Ariana Grande concert, where many young people were involved.  At the end of this piece I will provide details outlining where to find information on trauma, how to support people who have been through a traumatic experience and how to talk to young people about what has been happening in their world.  However, I want to start by presenting some of the psychological research which has tried to develop a profile of someone who becomes involved in extremism.

Psychological research into those who carry out acts of violent extremism has been somewhat minimal to date.  However, there are some characteristics which have been identified and provide us with some insight into what drives a person to join these groups.  It is suggested that those young men (I will focus on men here as they are the majority in these groups) who feel marginalised and unrepresented in places of authority e.g. the government, and who perceive an injustice are more likely to join an extremist group.  They appear to be searching for a sense of belonging, connectedness and affiliation (Silke, 2008), which they don’t feel they get elsewhere in society or their community.  It is suggested that they feel uncertain about themselves and their world (Bonim, 2014) and seek danger and excitement as a way of giving their life meaning.  They feel they are unable to make changes in any other way than through extreme and unconventional means (Saucier et al., 2009).  They believe they represent a broader victimised group who need someone to stand up for them (Horgan, 2017).  Motivation, ideology and social process all come together to play a role in the radicalisation of men who join extremist groups.  Understanding this interplay is the first step towards developing policies to intervene (Kruglanski et al., 2014), it may also be important for society to understand and play a role in expressing concerns about possible extremism in their communities.

How communities can play a role in expressing concerns about suspicious behaviour has also been an ongoing discussion especially after an attack.  Dando (2017) stated that when it comes to ‘pointing the finger at a neighbour or friend’ when they are suspicious of their values/beliefs/behaviour the impact may be too great.  She considers the impact of a reduction in community police officers, as it may be that a rapport between communities and police could encourage people to have more of the difficult conversations.  ‘When people feel socially and economically excluded, and when groups feel marginalised they tend to look inwards rather than outwards’.

Violent extremism effects us all, either directly as a victim or family/friend member of a victim; even as a family member/friend of the perpetrator; as an observer and member of a community or as a parent (carer) trying to explain to a child what is happening in their world, whilst trying to make sense of it yourself.  These experiences are traumatic and leave us with questions and difficult emotions, so I have attached some links to websites which may help to provide some support.

By: Dr Hannah Farr, Clinical Psychologist
July 2017

Dr Hannah Farr works at Wendy Bramham Therapy on Thursday mornings in Marlborough.

Links

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/03/23/how-to-talk-to-children-about-terrorism_n_8580612.html

  • Helping children understand their responses to difficult news stories

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/13865002

 

Loneliness – no longer a silent epidemic

Loneliness has crept up on us as a silent epidemic and is now regarded as a public health issue affecting our wellbeing and shortening our lives.

Traditionally, we think of loneliness affecting only the elderly or the sick.  Today it is indiscriminate and affects the young, the old, the single, the married, the working, and the retired.  Apparently, we are all increasingly susceptible.

So why are we so lonely?

Loneliness is a feeling of social and emotional disconnection. It is not a direct consequence of being alone. We can feel lonely in a crowd.  It is true that the rise of virtual online relationships, our culture of independence, our frenetic busyness and our increasingly mobile workforce can make us feel more disconnected. But social isolation is not the same as loneliness.

We are often afraid to admit our loneliness because we believe we will be judged as unlovable and unlovely .

How does this cycle of loneliness work?

When we are lonely, we tend to perceive things more negatively and more pessimistically. We make more judgements and more assumptions. These assumptions are often along the lines of everyone else being happier, busier, more popular, more loved, and more sociable than we can ever hope to be.

We become more and more defensive and withdraw rather than engage. Our internal story tells us that ‘everyone else is happy and connected and no one wants to bother with me.’ The story goes round and round in our heads and we end up sabotaging any opportunity for connection by pushing people away.

So what can we do about our loneliness?

We can start by making a connection with ourselves. Notice first how defensiveness feels in your body, notice where it sits, and how it drives you. Name it, describe it and breathe into it. Expand the space around it. Befriend it, it’s ok, it’s yours.

Notice any change when you engage with someone in a shop, or whilst walking the dog. Look for the feeling of opening up and warming up a little. It’s often the smallest incidents that give us the first feelings of change.

Get to know the story in your head. Notice how it drives you further away from others. Notice your negative assumptions. Then by contrast, notice what giving people the benefit of the doubt feels like.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown suggests that when we allow ourselves to be seen, when we share our vulnerabilities, we connect with others. In turn, they feel able to be themselves and connect with us. Her definition of connection is ‘ the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.’
So let’s start by connecting with ourselves. By seeing ourselves, hearing ourselves and valuing ourselves without judgment.  Remember that there are thousands of people experiencing this same feeling at this very moment, you are not alone. Then reach out, from the strength you’ve derived, one small step at a time, to connect with others – chances are, they’ll be hugely grateful.

By: Lisa Stevenson

Tel: 07873 871059 (mobile)

email:  lisa@vitalconnections.co.uk

website:  http://www.vitalconnections.co.uk

Learning to be a better parent

We were honoured that Suzie Hayman came to Marlborough last weekend to offer her pearls of wisdom and inspiration to small groups of parents as well as professionals.

Suzie is a parenting expert, Relate-trained counsellor, journalist, broadcaster and author of over 30 educational books about families.  As before, when we heard her speak in October 2016, Suzie was engaging and pragmatic, always offering us helpful comments to our questions without attempting to pretend that parenting is ever easy – and, of course, reminding us that there is no such thing as the perfect parent; only “good-enough”.

We discussed digital technology and step-families in detail in two separate seminars in small groups.  Suzie was keen for us to remember that, when facing any conflict or difficulty within our families, we can ACT:

A = Adult: ask ourselves “what is going on for me right now? Am I tired, stressed, sad, angry, etc?”

C = Child: ask ourselves “what is going on for my child right now” and be like a detective looking at all the variables that may be affecting your child’s emotional life.

T = Toolkit: what is in my toolkit so that I can deal with the situation in a constructive way, rather than REACT.  This may include for example “active listening” such as taking turns to talk and listen to one another.  Or remembering to use “I” statements (avoiding “you” blaming statements).  For example “When you….I feel….because…. What I would like it/What are we going to do about this?”

Following ACT gives us the opportunity to gain insight around the problem, why it’s happening and how to discuss it without reacting from an overly-emotional stance.

Suzie suggested we set family or house rules.  Every household has rules but usually they are not clear or agreed.  A key point here is to have a “Family Round Table” so that all members of the family – including the children even if they are young – can contribute to and “buy in to” the house rules. Appoint a note-taker, take it in turns to talk (perhaps using an object such as a wooden spoon, allowing each person holding the spoon to have their say without interruptions), have the note-taker write down everything.  Then revise these to allow for compromise and simplicity where necessary.

This task felt somewhat daunting to some of us, but Suzie gave us confidence and courage to think about it.  The earlier you start, the easier it will be get!  And children feel good about being heard and respected.

We were delighted with the level of engagement in both seminars.  I would like to thank everyone who attended and for sharing their experiences.  Many of us benefited from knowing we are not the only ones with our particular difficulties!    Thank you also to the White Horse Bookshop which gave a wonderful ambience to our day.

From 14 feedback forms we received the following scores which are fabulous:

Overall assessment of event: 5 out of 5
Speaker (Suzie Hayman):  4.93 out of 5
Helpfulness regarding learning new skills: 4.93 out of 5

Comments from participants:

  • “I’ve learned a lot both from Suzie and other participants and I value the way the group was facilitated to include everyone’s experience.”
  • “Really good to hear others’ views and experiences and having new techniques to try!”
  • “Suzie is great.  More please!”
  • “Very informative and relaxed”
  • “The group size was just right”
  • Thank you. I really enjoyed this and am going away feeling much more confident!”
  • “Good lively group with interesting discussion and feedback”
  • “Excellent, good venue, good size group”

By Wendy Bramham
February 2017

Seminar on Sex Addiction with Karen Lloyd, 18 June 2016

Karen Lloyd, an accredited psychosexual psychotherapist and certified sexual addiction therapist, gave us a full day of insight and knowledge on the quite misunderstood and challenging subject of sex addiction.

Karen Lloyd with Wendy Bramham

Karen Lloyd with Wendy Bramham

We learnt that people with sexual addiction do not have fun, that it is not related to a sexual orientation, neither is it connected to sexual fetishes or paraphilias. Sexual addiction is not the same as sexual offending.

We thought about the many words we might use to describe a person with sexual addiction problems and that they are mostly negative. Shame is the most acutely felt emotion and trained therapists work mainly with supporting and helping their clients to manage their feelings of shame.

Karen helped us to understand how she and her fellow trained therapists work with clients and gave us lots of detail on the complexities of working in this specialist field. It is a “process addiction” and the primary driver for sexual addicts is for mood altering purposes. We thought about some similarities in how alcohol addiction is now managed, for example providing support groups as a powerful and effective technique.

Karen spent the 2nd half of the day focusing on how she and her colleagues help the partner of a sexual addict and how isolating and shameful the discovery of a partner’s sexual addiction can be.Seminar sex addiction 2016

The seminar was interactive and well paced, packed with information and insight and very much a taster of how to work with this very challenging subject.

By : Jo Turner, June 2016

We are pleased with the delegates’ average feedback scores as follows:
Overall assessment of event: 4.89 out of 5
Speaker: 4.5 out of 5
Value for money: 4.89 out of 5

Comments from delegates:
“Fantastic delivery of the course by Karen, very insightful and interesting”
“Excellent value”
“Karen’s experience, warmth and knowledge made it easy to engage and enjoy the seminar”
“Very relaxed, intimate and cosy to share”

Seminar: Autism & the Therapeutic Relationship – Alison Edwards, 27th February 2016

There was a good turnout for our morning seminar lead by the experienced Integrative Arts Psychotherapist, Alison Edwards.

I particularly enjoyed and benefited from Alison’s “grass roots” experience. The delivery of the seminar was with simplicity and directness – in parity with how those on the autistic spectrum communicate and express themselves.

Alison shared her deep and extensive experience in working with mainly children, in school environments, with vignettes of how her autistic patients react and behave to situations (which would be viewed and experienced very differently by the Neuro Typical population). She is passionate about her work and Alison feels greatly enthused by the steps now being taken in the fields of Education and Science to formulate ways of assisting our autistic population to live full and enjoyable lives in exactly the way they need to do so.

We talked about our perceptions of what autism is, the generalisations and labelling many of us retain. Alison dispelled some myths, for example; not all autistic people are highly intelligent, nor hugely creative; many DO have empathic skills and DO want to relate to others. Alison shared some of her own techniques used to work with autistic patients to enable the therapeutic relationship in communicating, build trusting and empathic relationships.

Neuro Typicals need to search “outside the box” too, to think in different ways, to engage on other levels – an enriching experience for the therapist as well as the autistic patient.
A thought provoking seminar, which has led to further self-reflection and reading on this subject.

Jo Turner, Feb 2016
PG Dip. Mar Th., MBACP (Accred.)
Relationship psychotherapist

We are pleased to announce that delegates gave this seminar the following average scores from 22 feedback forms:  4.43 out of 5 for the speaker; and 4.4 out of 5 for overall assessment of the event.  Thank you to all who attended this and previous seminars, we appreciate your participation and your feedback.

Written comments from delegates:

“I really have learned a lot and gained useful ideas of how to work therapeutically”
“Alison’s enthusiasm is great”
“very knowledgeable speaker”
“venue fitting and a good size”
“engaging, knowledgeable, informative speaker”
“venue great, speaker fantastic”
“well organised and relaxed atmosphere”

Wellbeing in schools – “not good-enough”

Edited large nautilusWe commend Sir Antony Seldon – who has co-founded Action for Happiness and is the author of “Beyond Happiness” – and was interviewed on Radio 4 today. He believes that schools are tricking children and parents into believing that the only route to validation is through exam results, and that we are not doing a good-enough job in promoting wellbeing.

He argues that we should be helping our young people to begin to find out who they are, to be creative, and discover what they want to do. To discover not whether they are intellligent, but how they are intelligent; to find out what their unique qualities are and what their personal life’s journey might be.

In his book Seldon distinguishes the difference between pleasure, happiness and joy.  He argues that we must find a balance between a self-centred notion of pleasure with the joy that can be found beyond this, through a harmonious connnection with others.

Wendy Bramham
1/4/15