How the right food can make you smart and happy

When we think about mental health, too often we don’t take our diet into consideration. Yet the food we eat can have a great impact on the way we think and feel. Almost everyone by now knows that too much E numbers can affect children’s behavior, but there is more to our food than that.
If you would like to learn more about how our diet affects our mental and physical performance, I can really recommend www.bulletproofexec.com

How to find a counsellor?

thinking
I am often asked to advise on how to find a counsellor.
If you have never had counselling before, the process can be rather confusing, so I thought I will share a few tips here.

Your first port of call is of course your GP. Some GPs are more helpful than others, but you will probably be referred to a local counseling provider. If you are lucky, you will be able to see a counsellor in a few weeks time, but often the waiting list is a lot longer. Even if you do see a counsellor soon enough, you might not get more than 3 or 4 sessions.

So what to do if you feel you need more than that?

The only way to go then is to go private.
It does not necessarily have to be expensive – many counseling training institutions have their own counseling services, where advanced trainees can gain necessary work experience, and offer reduced fees. Some charities local to you might offer free or cheap counseling services, so it is worth asking your GP about it.

If you do decide to look for a private counsellor, www.counselling-directory.org.uk is a great resource. It allows you to search by postcode and all the counsellors listed have to provide a proof of their qualifications.

If you want to be absolutely sure that your counsellor has had an appropriate training and is qualified, you can look at www.bacp.co.uk
It is a website for British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy and it has a directory of counsellors. If a counsellor is registered as an Accredited Counsellor, that means that he or she has trained at the BACP accredited training institution and has had several years work experience post qualifying.

Kundalini Yoga for weight loss

little-girl-1894125_1280Did you know, that Kundalini Yoga works on weight loss in a number of ways: it speeds up metabolism via the thyroid gland and by making more oxygen available to the cells, it reestablishes hormonal balance, it helps restore energy flow into problem areas, and it works on emotional healing. Often people accrue excess weight as an emotional buffer, or an a fear response to their own inner vitality. I often recommend Kundalini yoga to my clients, as it might help you to work through your resistance to weight loss.

Weight Management Counselling

fearWhat does your weight mean for you?

When you think about the extra weight you would like to loose – what comes to mind? Are the any metaphors you could use to describe it? Some clients have described their extra pounds as a protective armor, others – as a suffocating wetsuit. Does it feel a part of you or maybe as something extraneous? Could you give it a name?
By discussing the images that comes to mind with your psychotherapist you could discover possible reasons for being overweight and find ways to deal with it.

AnnaStoreyCounselling at W1G

How to “read” your dreams?

dreams:seaIn my previous post I was talking about how understanding our dreams can teach us a lot about ourselves and the workings of our unconscious. The problem is, very often we forget our dreams as soon as we wake up. So what could we do to remember our dreams better?

Before falling asleep, focus on your intention to memorize your dreams tonight. When you wake up, try to keep your eyes closed and not move for 5 minutes, allowing the images from your dreams to enter your waking consciousness. Focus on your feelings first – are you feeling happy, scared, exhausted? As you will get in touch with your feelings, the images from your dreams will follow.

When you succeed in remembering at least a part of your dream, you can try to “read” it, to uncover the messages from your unconscious.
In turn, imagine yourself being every character in your dream – if you have seen an animal, be that animal. If there was a river – be that river. If you were taking active part in a dream – be yourself in a dream. When in character, feel and think about what is this particular character about? What do you want to do? Are you carrying a particular message? It helps to write all this information down.

All the characters in your dream are different parts of your unconscious and they all carry certain pieces of information for your conscious mind. I f you let them talk, you might get amazing insights into the workings of your mind, which, in turn, might help you find creative solutions to your problems in waking life.

HOW CAN WE LEARN FROM OUR DREAMS?

dreams
Our dreams often seem bizarre or terrifying, but if we learn to “read” them, they can actually teach us a lot about ourselves.

One of my clients used to dream about her old school teacher, setting up a test for her. She was trying to do her best, but no matter how hard she tried, she could never please her teacher. In the meantime, she saw her young daughter running away to play, laughing happily.
After we have spent several sessions reflecting upon the meaning of a dream, my client realized that “the strict teacher” was her inner voice (called Critical Parent in Transactional Analysis terminology) that was constantly telling her to do better or that she was not good enough. My client’s mother used to be very critical and never gave any positive feedback, so my client internalized her mother’s voice and kept criticizing herself long after her real mother was dead.
My client also discovered that the little girl, running away to play, was representing her Free Self. In our therapy sessions that followed she learned to “turn off” the Critical Parent in her head and instead to encourage her Free Self to flourish.

Another client dreamt of hungry children, staring at him. Exploring my client’s life we came to the conclusion that he was “starved” of love and affection and did not have any meaningful relationships in his life. Acknowledging the situation helped my client to start reaching out and learning to form new fulfilling relationships.

Sometimes a dream can point out to an unhealthy character of a certain relationship. One client dreamt of having to carry a body – she had half a body and her mother had another half. Thinking about her dream, my client realized that, psychologically, her and her mother were indeed “a one body”. Being entangled in an unhealthy symbiotic relationship prevented my client from being herself – living her own life and making her own decisions.

So why not pay more attention to your dreams if you would like to find out more about the workings of your unconscious? In my next post I will explain more about how to remember your dreams better and also talk about different ways of reading your dreams.

Lost and Found in Translation – working as a bilingual therapist

dreams:seaI asked my client: “What is “Peter Pan” story about?”
As she was telling me the story, it became apparent how much she associated herself with Wendy and how the story she was telling was really a story of my client’s life.
But my question was not a carefully planned intervention. I really did not know what Peter Pan was about. In the country I grew up in it was not on children’s reading lists.

I am a UK qualified counsellor, but the language I work in is not my mother tongue.

“…it is not possible to be empathically attuned to someone if they are outside of your ken, for it is not possible to be powerful for someone whose mores and internal world we cannot understand, or do not have a lexicon for understanding” (Hargaden & Sills, 2002, p.105). Due to my extensive training, I was very much aware of the issues of difference, cultural diversity, class etc. I learned to pay particular attention to the process of enquiry. I avoided false interpretations. I was always very careful finding out what my client “really meant” in each particular case. But still…

Sometimes I questioned myself if I have chosen the right profession – what if, having grown up in a different culture, I can’t fully understand what my client is about? What if half of his or her story is missed? What if my last client stopped coming because he felt totally misunderstood?

On these occasions it was helpful to look back to my work experience in Russia and Kazakhstan.
My clients over there spoke the same language as myself, yet, as in my current work, it took me hours of enquiry to discover the real meaning of their words. The words were the same, but the meaning could be very different. For instance, there is only one “wife” in Russian, but there can easily be several in Kazakhstan. The whole meaning of a family and family life is different, so it took me a while to find out what it feels like to be a wife of a younger son and a mother of three girls.

Working with Russian clients now, after fully qualifying in the UK and having lived in the country for over 10 years, brought about a new set of challenges.

One of my clients was interested in learning more about modality that I work in and I found it difficult to translate therapy concepts into Russian.
But it was not just about terminology – my whole identity as a therapist was formed in English, so when I had to work in Russian I almost had to “reinvent” myself as a therapist, with a different style and a way of talking.
Maria Shukurova, a Researcher in Bilingualism at Kings College London states: “Linguistic identity is a challenging factor facing every professional working with multilingual individuals. Multilinguals would often more willingly talk about childhood memories in their mother tongue, but could easily switch to another language describing their everyday lives or referring to their present country of residence. This change of linguistic identity is explained by cultural, social and psychological settings and plays a crucial role in multilingual self-identification. In this light, the ability of a psychotherapist to understand and switch between languages during a therapeutic session can only benefit a multilingual client.”

What I noticed in the process of therapy with Russian clients, is that they would often use English words or expressions to describe their day to day experiences, but speak Russian when talking about childhood memories. At times, I found myself “stuck in transference” without realizing it. It was easier for me to spot incongruities in client’s story if it was in English. In Russian it was much finer work, especially if the client was about my age and grew up in a similar setting. I accepted some situations as “norm”, rather than assessing them critically, and had to be careful to look out for possible collusions.

Does it mean that sharing the same language does not necessarily make therapeutic work easier? I am still looking for answers.

My personal therapy is an interesting example of how emotions and language are closely connected.
I found it much easier to talk about my childhood experiences in English, rather than in Russian – talking in foreign language lifted the taboos and I found words for hard to describe or even preverbal experiences. It never came naturally to me to talk about my emotions in Russian, I would usually intellectualize instead. But speaking English created a certain level of safety for me to explore this unfamiliar territory.
Amati Mehler et al.,(1993) “when looking at the senses of self present in the bilingual speakers, found that each language provided an opportunity for the speaker to manifest and experience different aspects of self”. In that sense, my personal therapy was enhanced by the fact that it was conducted not in my language of birth. In therapy I was discovering parts of my Self that I did not know existed and the process was made easier by the availability of the new words to describe them.
Use of another languages allowed for interesting metaphors and made therapy process richer. For instance, during a visualization I once described myself as a “shell”. In Russian the word shell means only a marine shell, as found on the beach. Different uses for the word “shell” in English, of which I knew, brought about a startling insight.

So what does it all mean for my everyday practice as a counsellor?
What I have discovered so far, is that exploring each other’s cultural space, when both therapist and a client are being open and honest about it, may facilitate an establishment of a good therapeutic relationship.
With my Polish client we discovered that quite a few words have a similar meaning in Russian and Polish. These words, that we started using in our sessions, became little links between our two worlds. Not just between a Russian and a Pole, but between two adults with their own life stories.
Another Eastern European client gave me a postcard for my Graduation. It was written in Russian. My client studied Russian at school, had completely forgotten it, and now took the trouble to write a card with a help of a dictionary. For me it was a sign of acceptance of me as a therapist and as an individual, and of a developing therapeutic alliance.

At times, exploring the significance of having a foreign therapist brings about useful insights.
One client held a perception of Russia as a “scary country”. Talking about it brought up the meaning of fear in my client’s life, which he was reluctant to talk about earlier. Another client thought all Russian people were “friendly and warm”. Exploring what friendships and warmth meant for her allowed us to contact the lack of warmth and friendships in my client’s family of origin.

I have noticed, that not being able to use the wealth of a language to the full makes me work a lot with visual images. With several of my clients we have created so called “symbolic images”, which reflect certain aspects of my clients’ lives, and which we can subsequently talk about, transforming them or adding new details.
For one client such an image was a “greenhouse” – a clumsy, useless structure, that she had to assemble and re-assemble as her family moved from one house to another. The more my client talked about it, the more “the greenhouse” reminded me of my client’s relationship, that she had to work hard on, but that had lost its meaning long ago. I shared my thoughts with her and since then “greenhouse” became a word for my client’s relationship in our shared language.
Another client decided to write down a dream she had, so we can talk about it during our next session. She thought it was a “complete nonsense”. When we turned the piece of paper over, we saw my client’s shopping list – extremely detailed, precise and to the point. My client laughed. “Just like you?” – I cautiously suggested. She willingly agreed and our subsequent sessions became an exploration of the “complete nonsense”, that lay behind a composed and well controlled front.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. I read with interest about other therapists working in different languages or with a translator. I compare their experiences with my own and look forward to working with more clients from different countries.
The one thing, though, I am certain about. The process of therapy, amongst other things, is a development of a common language between two very different individuals. This process has to happen for therapy to be successful, regardless of the languages these two people are speaking.

How do we get angry and can we manage the situation differently?

angryHow do we get angry and can we manage the situation differently?

In the previous article we have been talking about Racket anger and discussed what kind of feelings might be hidden behind it. Here I am going to talk about how do we get angry.
When we get angry, we might express our anger there and then, or we might choose to store it away for use later. In this case, in Transactional Analysis terminology, we are said to be saving a stamp.

For example: you come home late from work and find your partner already there. You ask him to help with dinner, but he is reluctant to do so as usually it is your task. You express your disappointment and maybe even have an argument, but at least your partner now knows where you stand and you feel that you have made your point. Or you can choose to say nothing, get on with making dinner and save a stamp for later.

At weekend, you ask your partner to take your daughter to her ballet lessons, because you are going to a work conference. He forgets and you come home to a disappointed child. You can choose to confront your partner and discuss the way you would like to share the childcare in the future. In that case you will explain your point of view and also allow your partner to do the same, coming to some sort of an agreement. Or you can choose to say nothing and just get on with your chores. You have saved another stamp.

A month later you are about to go to London for a night out with your friends. It was planned months ahead and your partner agreed to babysit. On Friday morning he announces that he has a work commitment and has to be in the office all day Saturday. If you have already saved several stamps, you are likely to explode and tell him to pack his bags, that you can’t live in this kind of relationship any longer and you have had enough.

Some people prefer to cash their stamps frequently, for a small argument, whilst other people prefer to save lots of stamps and finally cash them in for a really big prize – a hart attack or a violent fight.

Next time you are about to save a stamp, you might choose to stop and think. Resolving a small disagreement straightaway might prevent a massive problem arising at a later stage.

Who is talking in your head?

talking in yourheadMy clients are often surprised to hear that most of us have some sort of internal dialogue going on. “Hearing voices in your head” does not necessarily mean you are going mad – it just means that you have become aware of your internal dialogue.

Transactional Analysis regards this dialogue as an internal communication between ego-states. An ego-state is the set of related behaviors, thoughts and feelings. It is a way we manifest a part of our personality at a given time.

If I am behaving, thinking and feeling in response to what is going on around me here and now, using my resources as a grown-up person, I am said to be in my Adult Ego-state.

At times, I may behave, think and feel in ways which are a copy of one of my parents or parent figures. On this occasion, I am said to be in my Parent Ego-state.

Sometimes, I may return to ways of behaving, thinking and feeling which I used when I was a child. It might indicate that I am in my Child Ego-state.

The internal dialogue between ego-states might be experienced as thoughts; for example, self-critical thoughts might come from Parent to a Child ( «You could have managed this situation better!» «You ought to have apologized first»). Although if the criticism is valid and relevant to the situation the message might be coming from Adult.
Child may then comply and accept the criticism («Yes, I should have managed it better. I am no good.») or rebel against it («I have done my best!») Self-pitying thoughts can be directed from Child to Parent(«Nobody likes me») to which Parent may respond in a supportive («Don’t worry, there is nothing wrong with you») or in a punishing manner («You brought it upon yourself!»)

Sometimes you can hear your actual parent’s voice talking in your head or it can be a voice you don’t know or can’t remember.

Learning about the content and quality of your inner dialogue allows you to bring confusing thoughts and feelings into your Adult awareness. Once unraveled, your inner voices will loose their power and will stop interfering into your daily life.

How authentic is your anger?

anger-18615_1280HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR REAL FEELINGS AND MANAGE YOUR ANGER?

So you think you are an angry person, but are you really? Try this exercise:

Imagine that tomorrow is the beginning of a holiday period and all the shops are going to be shut for several days.
You have no food left in a house and have just enough time to run to the supermarket and stock up before the shop closes.
You quickly fill up your trolley and go to the tills. There are just a few minutes left before the closing time.
You get to the checkout desk, the person at the till enters your purchases on the cash-till and tells you the total cost.
You reach for your wallet and can’t find it. You search and search and it is not there. You remember now that you left it at home.
As the line is building up behind you, you ask the shop assistant if it would be ok to leave your name and address, take your shopping and bring money after the holidays. The shop assistant replies that it is not possible.
So you can’t take your goods home and there will be several days before the shops will re-open.
As you realize this – How do you feel?

If you will do this exercise in a group, you will notice that different people will report different feelings.
The feeling that you will report is the one you are experiencing quite often in all sorts of situations.
This feeling will also be the one that was “allowed” or encouraged in your family of origin.
The emotion you felt did nothing to help you find a solution to your problem.

These characteristics are typical of what Transactional Analysis calls The Racket Feeling.

The racket feeling is usually a substitute for an authentic feeling. For example, you might get angry when you are really sad. Feelings substitution is happening out of awareness, so you might not even notice what you are really experiencing.

So next time you get angry, you might try to stop and think for a moment – what are you really feeling? Could you find ways of expressing that real feeling (fear, sadness etc.) instead of getting angry? Becoming aware of your real feelings and finding ways of getting your needs met will help you manage your anger and use it in constructive rather than destructive ways.