Category Archives: Insights and stories – psychological health and wellbeing

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

Emma Taylor: the gift of undivided attention

Counsellor, Emma Taylor, writes about therapy as ‘the gift of undivided attention‘..

Before I became a therapist my professional background was in corporate life. Needless to say there are many differences between the two occupations, but one that now feels particularly striking is the difference in my own state of mind when I am working. In my previous career multitasking was essential and the merits of working in this way unquestioned. Concentration on any discrete task was always subject to the superseding demands of an email, phonecall or the appearance of an instant messenger conversation obscuring the work on my laptop screen. At meetings it was acceptable to respond to emails while simultaneously attempting to keep abreast of discussions.

Now however, when I am with a client, all intrusions – technological and otherwise – are silenced. For fifty minutes my entire focus is on the person with whom I am sitting and this is one of the many aspects of my work that I love.

This single-minded giving of attention has always been integral to therapy, but I wonder if at the present time it has a value that is of greater than ever significance. Certainly I am aware that when I am with clients, the uninterrupted nature of our time together is somewhat atypical of much of the rest of my life.

Given the ongoing questioning of the negative effects of ever-present smartphones on sleep quality, relationships and powers of concentration, to mention just a few areas of life, I wonder if therapy now offers something particularly pertinent. When sitting with a therapist, the client does not have to fear the competing demands of the enticing world of entertainment and information to which we now have almost constant access. By mutual agreement external distractions are set aside for the duration of the session, by client and therapist alike.

My training and work with clients have shown me the many benefits of therapy. However I wonder if its most fundamental characteristic, that it is a dialogue in which two people give one another their full attention, is significant at the present time to an extent that it has never been before. It seems to me that there can be something profoundly healing in this aspect of therapy alone.”

Contact Emma via the Clinic on 07468 573866 or directly on 07834 576853

Dr Hannah Farr, clinical psychologist, introduces herself…

Dr Hannah Farr

Clinical Psychologist, Dr Hannah Farr, writes about her therapy specialism…

“Hello Everyone, I have recently started running my practice from Wendy’s Clinic in Marlborough. I am a Chartered Clinical Psychologist working with adults, young people and couples who are experiencing life challenges and mental health difficulties.  I have worked for charities and universities, but primarily I have worked in the NHS until recently.  My experience has been with young people and adults who have experienced a brain injury and those with severe mental health challenges.  In my latter role I have worked with people with a diagnosis of psychosis, bipolar disorder and personality disorder.

Now I am practicing as an independent practitioner and I am enjoying meeting different people who are at different stages of their lives.  I am aware that there are a number of different types of therapists available to people, so I thought this might be a good place to explain what I do as a Clinical Psychologist.

I provide a confidential and safe space for people to share personal information about why they are seeking help.  When people contact me I spend some time speaking with them so I can understand a little more about why they have come to me.  If we then decide to meet in person, we spend time talking in more depth and I develop a detailed understanding of the person’s difficulties.  I do this by listening to the information I am given and drawing on different therapeutic models to develop an understanding of people’s problems.  These models are evidence-based psychological methods of assessment and treatment, which I have been trained to use to a high level.  This means that there has been a lot of research conducted on these models with people who experience similar problems to the ones people come to me with.

I use a number of therapeutic models to aid my thinking and develop an understanding of how people have come to the point in their lives where they feel they need psychological support.  I also use them to develop strategies with people to support them in managing the experiences they are having.   I use an integrative approach, which means I draw on a number of models to inform my thinking.  However one of the main models I use is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).  In brief, this model allows us to think about how our thoughts, feelings and behaviour are linked to each other and how sometimes these can maintain unhelpful coping strategies.

People are individuals and although we can have similar experiences to each other, we often all understand those experiences in our own different ways.  This means that therapy needs to be flexible and able to change when new information is spoken about in the session, or if a person’s situation changes.  I think this is what makes my work so interesting and why I enjoy meeting everyone who comes to me.”

Contact Hannah via the Clinic on 07468 573866, or directly on 07767 879720

 

 

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

“A Must for any Parent”

The “Parents and Teens” talk, by parenting expert and agony aunt Suzie Hayman, followed by Q and A, at St John’s School, Marlborough on 22nd October 2016, was a must for any parent with children about to embark on their teenage years, or indeed any parent already in the midst of this often challenging and turbulent time. I only wish I had heard these words of wisdom long ago, both from Suzie herself, and also the teenagers contributing to the discussion.

Suzie has many years of experience counselling families and couples, and is also an agony aunt, broadcaster and author of 30 books on families, but most noticeably Parenting Teens 22 Oct 2016her own experience as a stepmother. She is a warm and wise soul, who brought clarity and calm to this topic without denying the challenges involved.

Suzie starts from the core view that the teenager’s main task is to separate from his/her birth family, while our job as parents is to manage these shifting boundaries while passing control over to the teen. And no, she does not say this is easy. Her approach is practical and pragmatic, and she makes you feel you too could manage this. She gives helpful hints for how to relate to your child in a way that enhances communication,  and on how you might approach such thorny subjects as alcohol use and pornography. She entreats us to remember that a problem might actually be our own, rather than theirs, such as our own expectations or dreams being acted out. She never pretends to have all the answers but offers a framework to work from.

The ensuing discussion brought enlightening tips from the teens present, whose overriding message was “please, just listen to us”, since we might not have any idea what our child is experiencing, as well as “be available”, in other words sometimes we need to wait until they are ready to talk rather than rushing in with our own agenda.  The wide-ranging questions and discussions from the audience could easily have gone on past the allotted time.

This well-organised seminar in congenial surroundings will, I hope, be the first of many such events. Highly recommended!

By: Anne Hutson (parent)
7th November 2016

 

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Help with the minefield of digital technology and teenagers

Having attended the talk ‘Parenting Teens’ given by Suzie Hayman at St John’s, Marlborough and organised by Wendy Bramham Therapy, I cannot recommend it more highly to parents/carers of teenagers and those soon to be parents/carers of teenagers.

Suzie Hayman presented the talk in an engaging and relaxed manner, explaining some of the ‘science’ behind teenagers, helping perplexed parents to understand what may be going on in the teenage brain, how their teenager may view the world and looking at how teenagers deal with change in their lives.  Suzie gave lots of practical advice and suggestions as how parents/carers can help their children (and their families) through this often turbulent period in their lives and the discussion session that followed the talk covered wide ranging topics including parenting in step-families, pornography, alcohol, technology, laying down house rules, dealing with conflicting house rules, and risky behaviour.

The talk was clear and easy to follow, supported by a power point presentation.  Suzie was very generous with both her time and resources, offering to provide all those who attended with copies of the presentation, free leaflets and answering questions fully not only during the formal session but also afterwards.  I will be keeping the presentation notes close at hand to refer to when faced with teenage challenges in the future!

Suzie has written various books on parenting and some of the titles were available for sale on the morning – I bought one and fully expect to buy more.  One of her most recent books is on the minefield of digital technology, a subject which worries me and many other parents of technology-savy teenagers

St John’s was, as always, a pleasant choice of venue.  The session took place in the Enterprise Suite, rather than the main theatre, and its more intimate size encouraged the open and wide-ranging discussion that followed on some sensitive issues.

Wendy added both a professional and personal touch to the morning from her perspective as a mother of teenage children and as a psychotherapist of over 20 years experience.  We were also joined by four, real live teenagers who generously gave up their Saturday mornings to offer some insight into their teenage world!  They participated in the discussion that followed Suzie’s talk and it was interesting to hear from them what they would like from us.  The message was loud and clear – space, support and no shouting.  There’s food for thought.

Thank you to Wendy for organising this highly relevant and useful talk – I would be very interested in attending similar talks in the future.  It was excellent value for money and if there is one thing that will remain with me from the morning it is that young children are loving, biddable puppies but teenagers are fiercely independent cats!

By: Sarah Giles (Parent), 27 October 2016