burnt out or fired up?

May 9th, 2013

Are you feeling grey and feeling stuck in winter, even in May? I am launching a new venture, which excites me and I hope will lift you too. I am offering one-off sessions for counsellors, supervisors and anyone else interested to try out and experience for yourself what it’s like to use sand-play, stones or drawing to explore where you are at present.
If you are visiting the Lake District while on holiday, or even travelling through on a journey north or south, how about giving yourself a break, and time to ‘play’ for an hour? If you have ever watched children play you’ll know there is complete concentration and absorption in what they are doing. Just as they are refreshed, so can you be. You can park in my driveway, and I’m
keeping the fee at £35 for the hour.
See my contact details page or email b_hales@hotmail.co.uk

Lost a glove?

March 7th, 2013

Following last month’s blog, I’m writing about the loss of one of a pair…and this is where gloves are different from people! A glove on its own is limited by being just one. A person has a job to do to reclaim the parts of themselves which were handed over to the ‘other’.

We finished last time with a question: ‘What can I learn about myself from this other person?’ Someone who has been your ‘other half’, your mate, your ideal, AND also the one you care enough about to get furious with, to feel irritated by when they do simply things differently from you: squeezing the toothpaste tube, stacking the dishes…

Sometime we invest the best parts of ourselves in the ideal other, seeing them as clever/capable/beautiful/kind and find ourselves shrunken, lacking in any of the favoured qualities. Losing that person may leave us without those pleasant parts of ourselves, because we have given them all away as solely belonging to the other. We can feel quite empty. It is our job to be honest and reclaim what are really also our own favourable qualities.

It works the other way around too. So all those mean/boring/careless/thoughtless aspects of ourselves which we have gladly got rid of by putting them onto our partners, actually have to be recognised as also being unwanted parts of ourselves. We can only begin the task of working to reduce their influence when we admit to them as missing parts of us.

We may need the help of a trusted friend to help in this work, or someone who sees us with fresh eyes from outside our usual network to help us to become complete as individuals.

Couples and Pairs

February 8th, 2013

Valentine’s Day is approaching and the House of Commons has held a controversial vote on marriage, so this month had an obvious theme – Couples.
When I’m counselling in Kendal I see several couples. My definition of a couple is any two people in a relationship. What about Pairs? Think of gloves, scissors, indeed anything which needs its opposite in order to be greater than it can be alone (as anyone who has lost a glove will know!).

What attracts us so powerfully to another person? One theory is that the other person appears to be the missing part of our own jigsaw puzzle personality – our ‘other half’ to make us feel complete.
At first we may see only the ideal aspects of our dream ‘other’ and project onto that person the best parts of ourselves. Then something happens to jolt us into seeing not our ideal, but a real other person, with differences which we don’t like – perhaps even because they remind us of disliked aspects of ourselves. He/She is mean/untidy/careless, not like me…..But also, if someone else holds all the best parts of you, then you are left feeling less than, and empty when not with your ‘other half’.

Something to think about in the ups and downs of everyday relationships might be ‘what can I learn about myself from this person?’

Next month I’ll look at the loss of the ‘other’.

Daily new year

January 19th, 2013

Are you feeling under pressure from those Ist January resolutions, now three weeks old? Our diaries show many ‘New Year’ dates such as Chinese New Year in February, the academic new year and the Jewish New Year in September, the Muslim New Year in November. You may also think of your birthday as the start of a personal new year – Now I’m in double figures/a teenager/in my forties. How about rethinking ‘New Year’ so that every day you give yourself a fresh start, a new beginning? Remember the pleasure of starting a new page in a new book, and make your resolution to be open to whatever each new day brings.

Candle light

November 22nd, 2012

So much has been happening in the world that I feel stuck about where to begin. I am reminded of the poem by AA Milne where a castaway on a desert island rushes about starting one thing then another, trying to do everything that’s necessary yet ending up doing nothing.

There is a lot of darkness in the news at present. There is physical darkness in the low levels of light here in northern Europe. It sometimes feels as though we are helpless and adrift. But there is something we can do – each of us can start with who and where we are and light a candle. Just imagine how bright and cheerful, and hopeful, each single candle can be. It can be an actual candle to celebrate Eid, Hanukkah or Advent. It can also be our attitude of steady hopefulness making a difference to ourselves and those around us. Recalling and focussing on what we can do, then steadily doing it, helps us as well as those around us. Our mood lifts, stuff gets done, others are lifted. Have you ever been in a powercut then found and lit a single candle – what a difference!

How can I live with myself?

October 16th, 2012

Recently well-known figures from the world of entertainment and cycling have allegedly abused the trust placed in them by their deliberate actions. Those accused had also done good works such as raising money for charities or promoting healthy sports.

The news stories remind me of the symbol of the Great Tao – those two tadpole shapes that fit together so neatly. One is white, with a black ‘eye’ while the other is the opposite, black with a white ‘eye’. Each contains the germ of the other, like a seed. Every part is needed to make a whole. So does that mean we need to contain both dark and light within us to be whole?

One aspect of the work of counselling is to discover the dark part of ourselves, and own it so that it is no longer put on other people or nations ‘out there’ but is also recognised as being part of us. That spreads the dark more thinly, diluting it so it can be managed and controlled, with support.

Imagine how a 3D object casts a shadow to show it is solid, while a 2D picture can appear to be solid but lacks substance, so casts no shadow. Unlike Peter Pan, the boy who had no shadow and who never grew up, it is our responsibility to discover and own our own shadow.

Summer of Sport

September 13th, 2012

Wow! What an exciting summer of sport we’ve had! But what now? There may be a general sense of anti-climax (my Post-election reflection in May 2010 is relevent here). One of the things that surprised me was that successful athletes sometimes tried other sports first, yet when they recognised the need for change, they were willing to set aside their skills and start again from the beginning in a different sport with amazing results. It takes courage to go back to being a beginner at anything new, whether it is physical movement, learning a new skill like using a computer, or starting again with a challenging relationship.
Rory Mackenzie, injured on medical service in Iraq, said in the closing ceremony: ‘Although we have many differences there is one quality we all share: human spirit.’
What might your Olympic challenge be? Perhaps simply learning to live, day after day, in the situation where you are now is a starting point. That’s how the athletes got their results – daily practice, training under the guidance of those with experience (Andy Murray changed his coach, with great success); stretching themselves to do that little bit more.


July 9th, 2012

I came across this acronym on a useful website www.davidbonham-carter.com

Do you find it hard to ask for what you want? Do you end up feeling ignored and simmering inside, or do you explode with frustration to the wrong person? Would you like a fairer DEAL? This is a handy word to help you remember a way to ask for what you want that is fair to you and the other person.
This is the DEAL:
D Describe the situation or behaviour that bothers you
E Express your feelings and thoughts about it
A Askfor reasonable changes that you feel would help
L Listen & Negotiate for a reasonable solution if possible

Suppose you feel exhausted and resentful because you are doing all the childcare in your household and you would like your partner to help out. It’s best to choose a time when you are both calm and free to talk. Describe the particular situation eg. I’ve been thinking about the arrangements for Saturday night
Express I’ve realised that it will be difficult for me to look after the children then. It’s Sally’s birthday and she’s invited me out for a meal that evening.
Ask Can you go out with your friends on Friday night this week, so I can go out with Sally on Saturday?
Listen to your partner’s reply, then if necessary continue with what you want, offering alternatives as you negotiate e.g. If necessary perhaps we can share the cost of a babysitter? Or a taxi home afterwards for a friend who’ll babysit?

In a moment

June 15th, 2012

In a moment – how often do we use that phrase during a day? Yet there are times when what happens ‘in a moment’ seems to determine our success or failure. I’m thinking of exams and sporting events (yes, even football matches and the Olympic Games) when the results of years of preparation and training are judged by how we act and respond within a very short time span.

One way of managing the stress of such events is to DO the preparation and training with the dedication of an athlete, then as we enter the arena or exam room, BE in the present moment.
A tip I found helpful when taking final exams: Say to yourself ‘I am totally relaxed. I have the capacity to be all that I am capable of being. I am in total concentration. I can do anything I want to do. I remain alert and focused on what I am doing. I recognise and release all other thoughts. I am a winner in being myself. I focus all my concentration and energy on this moment.’ Practise this state of mind, then use one word, FOCUS, to bring yourself back into this relaxed alertness moment by moment. Some people prefer to picture a lion to remind them of relaxed alertness. Try out what works for you.

Manage anger through ASDA

May 18th, 2012

Did you know that ASDA can help you with anger? No, I don’t mean something you can buy in the store, but a useful acronym to help you regain calm and control in angry moments.
This is how it goes:

A – appropriate. Check that you are expressing your anger at the right time, to the right person, in the right place and in the right amount.

S – spontaneous. Check that you express appropriate anger as soon as possible. Suppressing and internalising your anger can build up a volcano within, which might erupt around the wrong time, person, place, or amount.

D – direct. Be specific and direct. Tell the other person what you are angry about and why. Keep to the current issue, don’t drag in other grievances.

A – assertive. The balance between being passive and aggressive. Respect the other person’s right not to be intimidated by how cross you are, while at the same time respecting your right to feel angry and to tell them how you feel. It is more helpful to say ‘I feel angry when you….’ rather than ‘You make me angry’.

Thanks to a counsellor, Peter van den Berk of The Priory Hospital in Roehampton for the ASDA tip.

Next month I’ll be writing about those occasions when years of effort are judged in hours of exams or even seconds if you’re an Olympic athlete.