Effective Therapy from Psychologists

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Why should I ‘accept’ my emotions?

Posted: 25/04/2014

Accepting emotions, particularly negative ones, is a central tenant or at the least a starting point of many therapies: mindfulness therapies, compassion-focused therapies, and schema therapy for example. Many people struggle with this idea of acceptance, particularly when we are talking about accepting unwanted emotions or physical sensations like depression, anxiety, trauma, or pain. The very word ‘acceptance’ conjures up ideas of agreeing with something or passively resigning oneself to having these feelings. Understandably a sense of hopelessness may arise.

However, in therapy terms, the concept of ‘acceptance’ is anything but passive or resigned. It is an active stance of opening up to and becoming fully aware of your feelings moment-to-moment, experiencing them wholly and exploring them with curiosity. This requires a good deal of courage and determination, and throwing away the rule book of human nature that recommends we cope with negative feelings by trying to ignore, avoid, detach, or distance ourselves from them.

Indeed it is our ways of coping with that can become problematic and can reinforce or add to our misery. Often this is the starting point in therapy – when people have tried out a number of ways to solve their difficulties but become stuck – in other words ‘the solution becomes the problem’. Take anxiety – it is widely recognised that avoiding our fears is a natural and understandable short-term solution, but in the long run avoidance can start to put limits on how we live, the choices we make and ultimately affect our quality of life and the lives of others. Similarly with strong feelings of depression, we may find ourselves trying to fight these off, block them, or push past them, carrying on regardless. Of course this can work to a point and help us to function in our daily lives, however our feelings are powerful indicators that all is not well underneath and they require our full attention.

The poem ‘The Guest House’ (by Jelaluddin Rumi) captures the essence of acceptance. Rumi refers to humans as a guest house for a range of visiting ‘guests’ or emotions. He encourages us greet all emotional experiences, positive and negative, with equanimity – treating each as an equally welcome guest which we can learn from. (http://allpoetry.com/poem/8534703-The-Guest-House-by-Mewlana-Jalaluddin-Rumi)

Once we can fully experience and understand our feelings, what causes them, how they change moment to moment, then we automatically command greater control over them. With this clarity we can then decide on how best to manage a difficult situation, how best to take care of ourselves and others, and how to get our needs met.

Samantha Leaity, Clinical Psychologist, Become Psychology

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Why do people say sorry when they cry?

Posted: 23/04/2014

You may have noticed on TV and in your own life that people often say sorry when they cry in front of others.  Why is this and what’s going on here?  I don’t know for sure but it makes me think that it must be because people think they have done something wrong and they feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.  Maybe they feel it is wrong to show feelings in public, or feel they are burdening others with them.  I wonder too if apologising for crying reflects ideas in society about when it is right to show feelings or messages from childhood such as “grown men don’t cry” or that “crying is a sign of weakness”.  Society has funny standards about showing emotions – show too much and you are labelled “emotional” or “irrational” and show too little you are labelled “reserved” or “standoffish”  and if you show any, sometimes people don’t k now what to do – hard to win sometimes.  I think there is nothing wrong about crying – it shows something matters to you.  Emotions are part of our evolutionary make up as humans – just imagine trying to live without ever feeling anything!    We would not have survived as a species without them.   Without feeling fear humans would not have evolved the fight or flight response – important if you need to get away from predators!

Robert Watson, Clinical Psychologist, Become Psychology

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What is Narcissism?

Posted: 23/04/2014

Dictionary definitions of narcissism usually refer to ‘self-love obtained by contemplating oneself’. However, modern psychological theories of narcissism have a different view. Narcissism is characterised by a preoccupation with your own worth or status, maintaining control and ensuring your needs are met at all costs. Unfortunately, when these characteristics are strong, it is easy to alienate and hurt other people as their needs can get overlooked. Many people who are described as ‘narcissistic’ are in fact compensating for an underlying sense that they will be ignored, mistreated, or undervalued unless they are ‘the best’ and in control at all times. When this is unachievable (for example following a rejection or failure) people with narcissism feel vulnerable and alone, and try and avoid these feelings by either distracting themselves or working even harder to regain their status/control; sometimes dismissing other people’s point of view or treating them with contempt. Therapy involves understanding your particular pattern of behaviour and the underlying need for status, approval and control. Over time therapy can be extremely effective in developing healthier relationships and a more balanced sense of identity.

Gill Heath, Clinical Psychologist, Become Psychology

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Why do we procrastinate?

Posted: 16/04/2014

Strictly speaking procrastination means to put off doing something, or the action of delaying or postponing something. All of us procrastinate to some degree. There’s nothing unusual about it. You might procrastinate about tasks that interest you the least like doing the housework, and put it off until you are having friends around for dinner and would feel embarrassed if your house wasn’t tidy. Or you might think that you ought to go to the gym but promise yourself you will go tomorrow. These kind of common day to day examples usually do not have much of an impact upon people’s lives.

Procrastination can highlight to you what’s important to you or not – after all, you probably don’t procrastinate over things you enjoy, or give you pleasure. It can also highlight to you what you might be struggling with personally – you might procrastinate about your work because you want to avoid being evaluated and this could signal that you really fear feeling a failure because it really knocks your self-esteem when you do.

Procrastination can be a sign of depression – if it is accompanied by a general loss and /or lack of interest and energy in doing things. It is also often about avoiding difficult or painful feelings, and because you may predict you would be worse off by action. Avoiding a sexual health check-up because of fear or embarrassment, or putting off confronting a friend who let you down because you fear they will reject you if you do. While it may seem illogical to put things off, you have to bear in mind that feelings such as fear and embarrassment can be very powerful and exert a lot of influence on how you act.

There are lots of helpful ways to overcome procrastination on your own and with the help of psychologists.

Robert Watson, Clinical Psychologist, Become Psychology

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Is the label of Sex Addict a useful thing?

Posted: 01/04/2014

I think labelling someone as a “Sex Addict” is not a good way to try to help people whose sexual behaviour is out of control and who are in distress. One of my big concerns about “the sex addiction label” is that it is a label borrowed from drug addiction models, and treats sexual behaviour that is problematic for someone as if it is a disease that can be treated like a physical disease. This can unintentionally engender passivity and helplessness in clients, and in some cases lead to abdicating responsibility. Passive and helpless is the exact opposite of how you want clients to be.

Clients need to be able to recognise that their out of control sexual behaviour is to do with problems in their own emotional and psychological development and, that they can do something to change it. Sex can make individuals feel better when they are stressed, but if this is the only they know to cope with stress than they will run into problems in life. Sex is about relating and clients need to see and understand how their unhelpful patterns of managing feelings and relating to others can lead to out of control sexual behaviour. If they can’t see the pattern how on earth can they possibly begin to change it?” And it is not surprising that they may latch onto the idea of addiction to attempt to understand their behaviour.

Robert Watson, Clinical Psychologist, Become Psychology

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