Director of the Online Counselling College and Coaching Skills International, both based in Calgary, Canada. We provide general and specialist training in counselling and coaching.
You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“So, if you are too tired to speak, sit next to me because I, too, am fluent in silence.” – R. Arnold
Sometimes there are no words that help. No words that can change the situation. No words that can ease our burden. But we still need someone to sit with us, so we don’t have to bear the weight of it alone.
“As I began to love myself, my relationship with everyone changed.”
Emotional safety is key to creating trusting, healthy, meaningful relationships. Some things to bear in mind as you think about this topic include:
1.To relax and trust in a relationship you need to feel both physically and emotionally safe. Even if we don’t we’re physically, at risk we may not feel emotionally safe with our partner.
2. Emotional safety is communicated by subtle non-verbal cues. For example, we can be triggered (so we start to feel unsafe) by things like tone of voice, a blank face, an uninterested look, a dismissive look, or by our partner turning away when we start to talk to them.
3. Words in themselves do not generally communicate safety, security, unconditional acceptance, and a feeling that we’re wanted and loved. Also, when our intuition doesn’t match the words we’re hearing we discount…
Pattie experienced betrayal trauma when she learned that her husband of 35 years had actually been unfaithful for most of their marriage. Below, she shares about the role kindness played in helping her to slowly start to heal.
“What has helped me over time is noticing the small kindnesses of others, and trying to absorb some of that kindness and love.
When you experience betrayal trauma, it causes you totally shut down inside. You don’t trust anyone. You can’t feel at all. It’s like nothing can penetrate the wall around your heart. You can’t open up and let anybody in. You also don’t want to let anybody in.
But as time passed, that began to change. I started to notice some small kindnesses. It might be something as insignificant as a friendly sales assistant who took time to be extra nice to me. Or the barista at Starbucks who always…
1. Every day is a struggle to believe in yourself. You feel completely worthless and inadequate. You are always criticizing and attacking yourself, and are constantly clothed in a cloak of shame.
2. You find it hard to accept yourself, and can’t believe others can accept you either. You interpret everything you say and do in a disparaging and negative light.
3. You can’t see your strengths, and your good qualities, and are constantly battling painful negative feelings.
3. You feel driven to be perfect – so you try and you try – but there’s never a time when feel “it’s good enough”. Instead, you judge yourself harshly; never give yourself a break; and you’re always deeply disappointed in yourself. Also, you always feel guilty – and believed that you have failed.
4. You find it almost impossible to trust other people, and are…
“Maybe the most beautiful act in all the world is to open our hearts even as they are broken. To nurture our tenderness even though it is easy to turn bitter. To remain gentle and supple, although everything in you goes hard. To keep your soul open and facing the sky, even though you cannot yet see the light of the sun.”
– S.C. Lourie
Here’s what I would say about this quote:
1. On the subject of “having an open heart”: There’s a protection in being wary of being hurt again. Why would you risk being wounded or destroyed? We put up walls because not everyone is safe, and we’ve learned it is crucial that we take care of ourselves. That is wisdom, and it shows self-respect. Not everyone is worthy of our trust.
And at first, we might just find that we can’t open heart. It…
“There are losses that rearrange the world. Deaths that change the way you see everything. Grief that tears everything down. Pain that transports you to an entirely different universe, even while everyone else thinks nothing has changed.” – Megan Devine
Steven Hayes, the founder of ACT (Action and Commitment Therapy) has outlined 7 skills for coping with loss. Skills that, ultimately, enable you to thrive, despite experiencing heartache and pain. This is based on the findings of 1,000+ studies, which were conducted over 35 years. They include:
1. Acknowledge that the loss has occurred, and that it has seriously affected your life.
2. Embrace all the emotions that the loss creates in you. This means feeling the feelings instead of trying to push them down, or trying to control them, or attempting to self-medicate with something like food, alcohol, busyness or work.
“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
The most common comments I hear from those who learn that their spouse has a sex addiction are:
“I feel so alone. There’s no-one I can’t tell. There is no-one else I know who’s gone through something like this. I feel so isolated and alone.”
And they’re absolutely right. It isn’t really talked about. There’s so much condemnation, blame and shame attached to it that you daren’t take a risk, and disclose what you have learned.
– You know there would be talk. You’d be criticized and judged. They’d say it was your fault. And they’d highlight all your flaws – and even add some more so they can reinforce their case. Perhaps not to your face – but, at least, behind closed doors.
“The very same brain centers that interpret and feel physical pain also become activated during experiences of emotional rejection. In brain scans, they light up in response to social ostracism, just as they would when triggered by physically harmful stimuli. When people speak of feeling hurt or of having emotional pain, they are not being abstract or poetic, but scientifically quite precise.” – Gabor Mate
Emotional anguish is observable and real. The pain that we feel is registered in the brain. So we need to take that pain seriously. And don’t be surprised if a wound that’s very deep always seems to throb, and takes a long time to heal. For that is exactly what we would expect.
A surgical wound can set you back for weeks or months. You have to take it easy so that healing can occur. There are things that you can’t do –…
Do you ever wonder if you’ll ever recover? Do you ever despair of the roller-coaster ride? If you do, then you’re normal. It is what we all go through when we’re reeling from a shock, or we’ve been traumatized. Welcome to the club. We have travelled this road too.
What should you expect when you’re trying to recover?
Triggers happen all the time, and they happen unexpectedly.
You’ll have flashbacks, broken sleep and anxiety attacks.
You will lose your motivation and your zest for life.
You will cry and feel depressed a lot of the time.
You will feel you’ve lost your smile and your sense of humour.
You might feel like you are starting to be yourself again – and then you have a meltdown and you’re back at ground zero.
You’ll have powerful thoughts and feelings that will shock and frighten you.
In a previous post we talked about some of the statements and comments that can be destructive to the healing process. Below, we talk about some things that can help when you want to support a traumatized friend.
1. When the person starts to talk about the traumatic experience, be aware of the fact that they might actually be reliving the past (even if it happened months or years ago). That means they might be experiencing some of the same symptoms and reactions as they experienced at the time. This is known as rubber-banding back to the past.
2. It is likely that their thinking and awareness will have become incredibly focused; they may not even be aware of their current surroundings. All they can feel is the shock and numbness. There may be adrenalin rushing through the person’s body. They may tune out from time to time and not…
Many people cannot cope with another person’s pain. They do not want to know, and they cannot stand to hear. As a consequence of this, they will try to shut you down, and often they will do this by spouting platitudes. Pointless, empty words that can make you feel alone.
Examples include the following:
“Just let it go.”
“Are you over it yet?”
“Try to focus on the positives.”
“It’s going to be OK …”
“You still have so much to be thankful for.”
“At least you can be grateful that …”
“Fake it till you make.”
“I know how you feel.”
“Let me tell you what happened to me …”
“At least it’s not bad as what happened to X.”
“One day you’ll look back, and be grateful that it happened.”
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ― Jamie Anderson
Grief is just love with no place to go.
Because that individual’s not around anymore.
They can’t hear your words.
They can’t respond to your words.
You can’t express your love in any way that’s meaningful.
All that love that is inside you, in its pure intensity …
All the feelings that you have, and want to open up and share …
Jennifer Freyd was one of the first people to formally identify betrayal trauma. She defined it in the following way:
“Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.”
The effects of this are severe and long-lasting. In fact, the associated symptoms are similar to those associated with PTSD. They include:
– Repeatedly experiencing intrusive thoughts and memories related to the traumatic event. These memories and thoughts can occur spontaneously, as well being triggered by environmental cues.
– Experiencing intense and prolonged distress when the person is exposed to any stimulus that reminds them of the traumatic event (or which resembles the traumatic experience).
– Being unable to fall, or to stay, asleep. Having recurring dreams where content or feelings…
“More long walks. More good books. More music. More sunsets. More holding hands. More cuddles. More road trips. More honouring your heart. More being nice to yourself. More laughter. More fun in the moment. More beach. More forest. More memories. More of what brings peace to your life. More of what brings inspiration. More of what makes you feel loved and not alone. Focus on that today.”
Relapse is commonplace when someone’s fighting an addiction; it’s something many deal with on their journey to success. Yet, Psychology Today records that more give up addictions than those who stay addicted, or who constantly relapse. This should give us hope, and help stave off discouragement.
Also, relapsing is a process that’s predictable and patterned; and recognizing this can help us read the warning signs. That is, we often make decisions which can seem inconsequential … and yet they slowly move us towards a full relapse
“Think of the relapse chain as a chain of decisions – made over a period of days, weeks, months, or even years- that together add up to a backsliding in one’s recovery. This makes it hard to say exactly where any one relapse begins.”
“Trauma is any experience of threat, disconnection, isolation, or immobilization that results in physical/ emotional injuries that dysregulate the optimal functioning of one’s body, emotions, brain, spirit or health.” – Mastin Kipp
“Trauma by definition is unbearable and intolerable. (Traumatized people) become so upset when they think about what they have experienced that they try to puh it out of their minds, trying to act as if nothing happened, and move on. It takes tremendous energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of terror, and the shame of utter weakness and vulnerability.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk
“Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma was still going on – unchanged and immutable – as every new encounter or past event is contaminated by the past.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk
“Own everything that has happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” – Anne Lamont
There are so many reasons why we keep it to ourselves. Why we choose not to talk about the things that we’ve been through. These include self-protection, feeling it is pointless, and because of messages we’ve picked up from our family.
Let’s break this down further ….
Because it isn’t a safe thing to do.
Because we’re afraid of being judged, shamed, or attacked further.
Because we haven’t got the emotional reserves to deal with being judged, shamed, or attacked further.
Because we haven’t got the energy, or mental head space, to carefully explain our side of the story (and, if necessary, ‘argue our case’).
Because we don’t think people will believe us (or even want to believe us)
“It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you, and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story you free yourself, and you give other people permission to acknowledge their story as well.” – Iyanla Vanzant
We need to be able to talk about what happened. We need to have our story witnessed and held by someone who empathises with our shock and pain.
Who gets just awful and life-changing it has been.
But we also feel supported, encouraged and helped by hearing someone else share their story with us. The story of their trauma, and how they have survived.
But why does that make such a difference to us?
It matters because trauma is so isolating. It can feel too big – too awful – to talk about and share.
We feel contaminated, and overwhelmed with shame. So, we…
“At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair should be messy, and your eyes sparkling.” -Shanti
We never know how much time we have left. That’s why it’s important to live everyday. And to fill everyday with something meaningful.
To create a life that is kind and beautiful. To invest in people … and to follow our dreams …
And to make sure we have captivating dreams!
For too often we wake up – and we’re stuck in a deep rut. We do “the same old, same old” and we shrivel up inside. We give up on adventure and we let our world grow small. We find we’re just existing. There’s no passion anymore.
But to really feel alive we must get out there and explore. We need to build new memories, and to live with open eyes. We need to find that courage to…
“So do it. Decide. Is this the life you want to live? Is this the person you want to love? Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger? Kinder? More compassionate? Decide. Breathe in. Breathe out. And decide.” – Meredith Grey
A lot of life comes down to decisions.
Decisions we make actively and consciously; or decisions we make passively. By default. By leaving things as they are.
Either because we are too afraid to make a change, or because it costs us too much to make a change.
But not making that decision costs us as well. Maybe not today, but in the long run.
So how do you really want to live your life? What kind of person do you really want to be?
Perhaps it is time to take the bull by the horns and make that decision which could change everything.
“Ultimately, the worst kind of pain does not come from your enemies, but from those you trust and love.”
When you have learned that your partner has betrayed you, you are at a crossroads in the relationship. You will need to decide if you want to walk away, or if you want rebuild the relationship.
This is a choice that only you can make.
Questions to consider include the following:
1. How much do you trust your partner or spouse? Discovering your partner as led a double life is going to undermine your relationship with them. And if you don’t think you’ll be able to trust them not to lie, or to deceive you in the future, then you’ll always be afraid. You’ll be anxious all the time – and that’s not a way to live.
Ask yourself: Are they remorseful? Do you think it’s genuine?
“No matter how many people surround you, depression is a lonely, solitary place filled with funhouse mirrors. Your world is twisted and distorted, pain reflected back from every direction.” – Unknown
There are times when life feels unbearable, and it’s hard to find the will to go on. The door has slammed shut, and the key’s been thrown away. You’re in a prison cell and there’s no way of escape.
At least, that is how it feels right now.
So what can you do when you feel like this?
1. First, acknowledge how you feel. Be aware of your emotions and your state of mind. Don’t try to ignore, bury or repress the pain. You need to respect it. You need to honour it. Denial doesn’t help. In fact, it only makes things worse.
2. Don’t try to rid your mind of negative and painful thoughts. Being mindful
“Hope is being able to see that there is light, despite all the darkness.”
It can be hard to find hope when we’re battling despair. But there are some strategies that can help with hopelessness, and the feeling that “it’s pointless – because nothing’s going to change.” They include:
1. Try joining the dots: Think of how you would like your life to look like (This should be something you can actually picture. Something that’s different from how things are today – but which you believe is achievable). Chances are you will need to break that picture down into smaller goals, things you can work on one by one. Now put these steps and goals in order. Which would it make sense to work on first? What would you work on after that? Try to picture how you will feel after reaching the first goal, and the next…
“Trauma shatters our most basic assumptions about ourselves, other people and the world: ‘Life is good; I can trust other people; my partner cares about me; I do not need to fear.’ These are replaced by thoughts and feelings like: ‘There is no-one who is safe; it is stupid to trust others; I need to take care of myself for the world is dangerous.”
Healing from trauma is a long, laborious process. It takes much longer than we want it to take. And if you’re on this journey, then I hope the points below will be a help and comfort as you navigate your way.
1. Accept all your emotions. Emotions simply are. Do not judge them as being right or wrong.
2. Expect to experience intense emotions. Expect to experience turbulent emotions. Expect to experience unwanted emotions.
3. Expect everything in life to feel chaotic. And even…
“Owning our story, and loving ourselves through the process, is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” – Brene Brown
Aliesha fell in love with an amazing guy she met one summer on holiday. Everything about him seemed phenomenal. He (Gavin) had graduated with a PhD from one of the top universities. He had his own business – and a very profitable business at that. He was also a diver, a ski instructor, and loved to cook her fabulous meals.
Aliesha and Gavin dated for 6 months then Aliesha moved from Ohio to California to live with Gavin. For the first couple of months, everything was fine. But after that, things started to change. Gavin’s jealousy reared its ugly head. He was moody, controlling, and had angry outbursts. When he became abusive, Aliesha knew she had to leave.
It took a lot of work to process what had happened…
“Everyone says forgiveness is a good idea until they have something to forgive.” – C.S. Lewis
Forgiveness is a difficult, and somewhat touchy, topic. It’s something we are told that we ought to offer others. But ask anyone, and you’re likely to hear that forgiveness is a struggle if you’ve been hurt and betrayed. And perhaps its not surprising that this should be the case.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.
1. Feeling that it’s hard to forgive and start again (even if, in your mind, you really want to forgive) is a primal, instinctive, self-protective response. The reason’s not surprising: if we let the barriers down and open up our heart, then our trust could be betrayed. So our brain seeks to protect us from further injury.
2. We fear that forgiveness – or too quick, or forced, forgiveness – could have the effect of…
In the paper, Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness, authors Smith and Aaker say a meaningful life contains 3 crucial ingredients. These are purpose, comprehension and mattering (significance). In summary:
PURPOSE is choosing, and then working to attain, the kinds of life goals which are significant to you.
COMPREHENSION is making sense of what’s happened to you. It is weaving together all the good and the bad to form a coherent narrative.
MATTERING (SIGNIFICANCE) is knowing that you matter, that others value you, and believing that your life has significance.
But how do we go about achieving these? What kinds of things should we focus on? Below are some suggestions that might help with this.
1. It’s important to find some kind ofpurpose in your life. And our purpose can alter across the lifespan. For example, perhaps you…