New Life Counselling & Psychotherapy
There are times when we need to talk and to be listened to deeply. Often friends or family meet this need. But sometimes it helps to talk with someone who is outside your circle. Someone who can listen to you in a compassionate and non-judgemental way, whatever you’re going through. You may be feeling stuck, hurt, anxious, sad, stressed, angry, alienated, numb or something else and don’t know which way to turn. This is where therapy may help you to explore where you are at now and to decide where you want to go. Therapy can offer you a safe confidential space to be truly yourself, gain insight into your relationships, come to terms with loss or grief, work through difficult feelings, explore your identity, clarify your needs and goals, and ultimately live a more fulfilling life.
New Life Counselling & Psychotherapy is located in Bayside, Sutton, Dublin 13 and provides compassionate, confidential and non-judgemental therapy.
The Paradoxical Theory of Change
The Gestalt therapist rejects the role of “changer,” for his strategy is to encourage, even insist, that the patient be where and what he is. He believes change does not take place by “trying,” coercion, or persuasion, or by insight, interpretation, or any other such means. Rather, change can occur when the patient abandons, at least for the moment, what he would like to become and attempts to be what he is. The premise is that one must stand in one place in order to have firm footing to move and that it is difficult or impossible to move without that footing. The person seeking change by coming to therapy is in conflict with at least two warring intrapsychic factions. He is constantly moving between what he “should be” and what he thinks he “is,” never fully identifying with either. The Gestalt therapist asks the person to invest himself fully in his roles, one at a time. Whichever role he begins with, the patient soon shifts to another. The Gestalt therapist asks simply that he be what he is at the moment.
– Arnold Beisser
Fast forwarding is a visual, concrete way of teaching people to be responsible for the consequences of their decisions. According to Frankl (1959), responsibleness means that since we have the freedom to make choices, we are responsible for the consequences of those decisions. Responsibleness means that we need to be concerned about the needs of our friends, family, and society, and not just of our self…By combining fast forwarding and magical thinking, the therapist can help clients gain insight into what they really want in life, and determine whether their values and life goals are self-defeating.
– Paul Wong
Most of the time, we are so preoccupied with our own limitations and pressing problems that we are not able to see the opportunities. Magical thinking enables us to transcend our present situations and consider new possibilities. To stimulate magic thinking, a series of miracle questions are asked: (a) If you were free to do whatever you want and money is not an issue, what would you like to do on a daily basis right now? (b) If God would grant you any three wishes, what would be your top three wishes? (c) If you were able to decide your future, what would be an ideal life situation for you three or five years down the road?
– Paul Wong
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
― Dawna Markova
Little things that can make a big difference
Being active every day, something as simple as a walk is proven to have a positive impact on your mood.
Talking about your problems
Problems feel smaller when they are shared with others. They don’t always have to be solved – just talking about it will do you good.
Looking out for others
Lending an ear to someone else in trouble, or catching up with someone who seems distant, can change their day, or their lives. Again, you don’t have to fix anything for them – just listening is a huge help.
Doing things with others
Taking part in a group activity that you enjoy is proven to have a positive impact on how you feel, be it a game of football, joining a choir, volunteering.
A regular healthy, balanced and nutritious diet will help both your physical, but also your mental health, and have a positive impact on how you feel.
Staying in touch
Catching up with friends and family is good for our mental health, reminding us that we’re part of a community, and having a positive impact on how we feel.
Drinking less alcohol
For the average Irish drinker, reducing alcohol will have a positive impact on their health and mental wellbeing, making it easier to cope with day to day difficulties and stresses.
Getting a good night’s sleep of 7 or 8 hours, as often as you can, will have a positive impact on how you feel. Protect your sleep if you can, it will do you good.
For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves.
– Hermann Hesse
When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
There is no general doctrine which is not capable of eating out our morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow-feeling with individual fellow-men.
― George Eliot, Middlemarch
4 helpful questions:
1. What’s going on?
2. What do I need or want?
3. What do I have to do to get what I need or want?
4. How do I get results?
-Gerard Egan, The Skilled Helper
Everyone has inside himself a piece of good news. The good news is that you really don’t know how great you can be, how much you can love, what you can accomplish, and what your potential is. How can you top good news like that?
Anne Frank, Diary
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. – Melody Beattie
To be great, be whole: don’t exaggerate
Or leave out any part of you.
Be complete in each thing. Put all you are
Into the least of your acts.
So too in each lake, with its lofty life,
The whole moon shines.
-Fernando Pessoa. Translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith
We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.
We can go around all day feeling something and not acknowledging it. It’s remarkable what a difference it can make to just say, “Yes, that’s there”.
-Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin
When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me
– Lennon and McCartney
Like a bridge over troubled water
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Beginning my studies
Beginning my studies the first step pleas’d me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleased me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wished to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
– W. H. Davies
To a Foot, from Its Child
The child’s foot still doesn’t know it’s a foot,
and it wants to be a butterfly or an apple.
But later, the glass and the stones,
the streets, the stairs,
and the roads of the hard earth
managed to teach the foot that it cannot fly,
that it cannot be a round fruit on a branch.
And then the child’s foot
was downcast, fell
was a prisoner,
condemned to live in a shoe.
Little by little, without light
it went about knowing the world in its own way,
without knowing the other foot, pent up
and exploring life like a blind man.
Those soft nails,
that cluster of crystal
hardened itself, became
an opaque thing, of hard horn,
and the child’s little petals
flattened, lost their balance,
took the shape of eyeless reptiles,
of the worm’s triangular head.
And they became calloused,
with tiny deathly volcanoes,
But this blind man walked
without pause, without stopping
hour after hour,
one foot and the other foot,
now a man’s
or a woman’s,
through the fields, the mines,
the warehouses and the offices,
this foot with its shoe
had barely the time
to be naked in love or in dreams,
it walked, they walked
until the whole body stopped.
And then it went down
into the earth and knew nothing,
because all of everything was dark there,
it did not know it was no longer a foot,
or if they had buried it so it could fly
or so it could become
– Pablo Neruda
Translated by Ernie Jones
One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Their bad advice‚
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations‚
Though their melancholy
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen
Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice,
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do‚
Determined to save
The only life you could save.
– Mary Oliver
For Love In a Time of Conflict
When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.
When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.
When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May your souls come to kiss.
Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Towards the gateway to spring.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
– Mary Oliver
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my childrenâ€™s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness. (Viktor Frankl)
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jalaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
The therapeutic relationship established in online psychotherapy is commonly perceived as equal to or better than in-person therapy, and an established therapeutic relationship can be enhanced using online communication (Julia Stoll, Jonas Adrian Müller and Manuel Trachsel, 2020).
Online psychotherapy can be especially useful for clients living in geographically remote, rural, or otherwise under-served areas where few or no therapists are available, as well as for homebound or mobility-impaired patients (Julia Stoll, Jonas Adrian Müller and Manuel Trachsel, 2020).
Online therapy was especially effective for treating anxiety and stress-effects that lasted after therapy ended and on average was as effective as face-to-face intervention (Barak, Hen, Boniel-Nissim, and Shapira, (2008).
The question is never “Why the addiction?” but “Why the pain? (Gabor Maté)
The stress most people carry in their bodies almost always consists of several life issues, not just one. It is typical to find that one’s body is carrying one or two major long-term stresses along with several minor but acute stresses from events of the day. All the stresses are what we call crossed in the body. Rather than being next to each other, each “gets into” the others so that they add weight to each other. A large overall stress weight results.
The usual methods of stress reduction deal only with the overall stress weight as a whole. In the first step of focusing the stresses are “sorted out”. In our procedure a single stress comes up, and separates itself from the rest of the overall weight. We have a way in which this is “put down” (placed outside the body)…Then our procedure lets another stress come up, again single and separate. It is “put down,” and so on, until one has put down the stresses that were being carried just then. A much greater degree of stress reduction is attained and directly experienced in this way, than with the usual methods. We find that each stress is far lighter when released from crossing with the others. Even when working on them is the aim, rather than stress reduction, sorting them out makes them much more bearable than they were before. They do not reconstitute the same degree of weightedness as when they were crossed. (Eugene Gendlin)
Learning to pause can:
Expand our own awareness and our own sense of empowerment, what we want to say or do – decisions come from our inner compass
Have a sense of ‘the more’ and have the capacity to explore all that we are
Reduce over-reaction to what someone says or does –relationships can improve in this way (William Hernandez)
Dr. Ali Mattu offers six self-care tips to cope with coronavirus anxiety. These tips still apply, and can apply to the blanket feeling of overwhelm many are still facing:
- Be compassionate toward yourself — it’s okay to not be okay.
- Develop a routine — engage with certain anchor points or actions throughout the day to help ground you.
- Consume media that helps you detach from reality — take a break from what is overwhelming you. It’s okay to distract yourself.
- Solve problems in your everyday life — doing this can help remove small barriers that can add up and increase a feeling of overwhelm.
- Be grateful for the things that you have — it can help lift your spirits and the spirits of those who receive your gratitude.
- Share how you are struggling — everyone is struggling in some way or another right now. Suffering is universal and it can be helpful to connect with people who can empathize.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. (Carl Jung)
The essence of working with another human being is to be present as a living being. And that is lucky because if we had to be smart, or good, or wise then we would probably be in trouble. But what matters is not that. What matters is to be a human being with another human being. (Eugene Gendlin)
The rationale for using the here-and-now is that human problems are largely relational and that an individual’s interpersonal problems will ultimately be manifested in the here-and-now of the therapy encounter. (Irvin Yalom – The Gift of Therapy)
When the other person is hurting, confused, troubled, anxious, alienated, terrified; or when he or she is doubtful of self-worth, uncertain as to identity, then understanding is called for. The gentle and sensitive companionship of an empathic stance… provides illumination and healing. In such situations deep understanding is, I believe, the most precious gift one can give to another. (Carl R. Rogers in A Way of Being, p. 160)
Some thoughts on integration
Integration is a theme that is found in many therapy approaches and psychosynthesis which was founded by Roberto Assagioli is no exception. An accessible book on this therapeutic approach is Piero Ferruci’s What We May Be – Techniques for Psychological and Spiritual Growth Through Psychosynthesis. In this book Ferruci states that Assagioli realised that a great deal of psychological pain and sense of meaninglessness arises when our diverse elements within us exist in an unconnected way or clash with one another. A common danger is one-sidedness: developing a part of our being to the exclusion of all the others, whether it is body, feelings or spirit (Ferruci, 1982, p. 26). However, when our different parts integrate “in successively greater wholes” like an “expanding sphere” we experience “a release of energy, a sense of well-being and a greater depth of meaning in our lives” (Ferruci, 1982, pp. 22, 26).
Assagioli developed two interdependent aspects in his approach: personal psychosynthesis, which aims to foster a well-integrated personality and alleviate suffering in a humanistic way and transpersonal psychosynthesis which aims to realise one’s higher nature, the transpersonal Self, and one’s purpose in life” (Whitmore, 2004, pp. 4-5).
One key concept in psychosynthesis is that of sub personalities and Diane Whitmore (2004, p. 86) describes these as “psychological identities, coexisting as a multitude of lives within one person; each with its own specific behaviour pattern, and corresponding self-image, body posture, feelings and beliefs”. For Ferruci (1982, pp. 47-48) subpersonalities are “psychological satellites, coexisting as a multitude of lives within the overall medium of our personality… Each of us is a crowd.” When we become aware of a subpersonality we are able to step outside it and observe it which is called disidentification (Ferruci, 1982, p. 49). For Ferruci (1982, p. 53-54) the ultimate aim is to increase the sense of self by deepening our awareness of our own subpersonalities so that instead of disintegrating into a thousand subselves at war with each other, we can be one: “Awareness not only liberates, it also integrates”.
Ferruci, P. (1982) What We May Be – Techniques for Psychological and Spiritual Growth Through Psychosynthesis. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher Inc.
Whitmore, D. (2004) Psychosynthesis Counselling in Action. (3rd ed.). London: Sage
The Value of Listening
Have you ever had the experience of someone who is obviously distracted saying to you after you’ve been speaking at length, “Of course I was listening. I can repeat everything you said.”?
The fact that they can repeat our words doesn’t satisfy us because it is ‘tape-recorder listening’. The listener can repeat the words verbatim but misses the speaker’s feelings or their meaning. We sense we didn’t have their psychological presence. They weren’t there for us.
It’s one thing to be at the receiving end of poor listening and another to be the poor listener. For a lot of us listening is something we’d like to be better at but have never got around to. Much of the time we sleepwalk through life vaguely aware of important things happening around us but never quite focusing on what they are. Other people are clamouring for attention in loud and silent ways but we don’t notice often enough. Most of the time non-listening represents lost opportunities for greater closeness.
We all have had the experience of not being listened to. Professor Margarete Imhof, President of the International Listening Association and professor of psychology at Augsburg University in Germany says,
“Being not listened to is frustrating and may increase aggressive emotions and even behaviour. Not being listened to means for the speaker to be humiliated, hurt, treated as a subordinate, lack of appreciation.”
Most of the time listening is something we do without thinking too much about it. But if we want to become better listeners we need to look closely at the habitual ways we listen. Becoming aware of our poor listening habits is half way to doing something about them. Professor Imhof says that we fail to listen in many ways:
”We fail to detect the feeling in the tone of voice. We fail to detect the important detail. We fail to detect that we misunderstood and keep “repairing” the statement which we have heard. We are assuming a lot of things as opposed to verifying. We listen with preconceptions and we judge what we listen even before we have listened to the complete utterance. We do not put effort into listening and do a lot of other things on the side. We do not listen but prepare our response while someone else speaks. We do not critically check what we heard.”
I asked Professor Imhof why we are often such poor listeners:
“We find listening difficult, because it is difficult. Listening is a matter of concentration and attention capacity, because attention holds the listening process together. Attention, however, is a limited resource – not only for children.”
It’s important to realise of course that listening is not always feasible. We may have valid reasons for not listening at this particular time. We may have no time. We may have other priorities. We can be experiencing information overload from having heard too much already. Despite our best efforts we may be feeling too pressured or hassled to be able to give our attention. To listen or not to listen is always a judgment call we have to make, depending on the circumstances. But if we would like to be better listeners how can we go about this? Prof. Imhof has helpful advice on how we can improve as listeners in different circumstances:
“Practice, practice, practice. Open your mind and become curious. Generate some kind of interest in the listener / the topic / the situation.”
Professor Imhof believes that it is important to prepare for listening:
“Prepare for listening by getting the mind ready by finding a moment to breathe and mentally settle before going to class / to a meeting / to a negotiation. Prepare for listening by activating your relevant prior knowledge. Ask yourself questions on what you want to know.”
What about the times when we find what is being said is boring? Professor Imhof’s advice is:
“Try to understand why things could be interesting to the speaker even if you find the topic not interesting. Develop an interest in the speaker if you do not like the topic. When a speaker speaks in a boring / irritating way, try to give him or her credit for the content.”
Professor Aidan Moran of the School of Psychology at University College Dublin is also interested in listening. He gives three steps for active listening:
“ Psychologically, there are three main skills involved in active listening.
- First, you have to show speakers through your body language that you’re interested in what they have to say. Portraying interest is vital as it makes people relax and feel confident in your presence. This can be done naturally in a conversation both by maintaining eye-contact with the speaker (rather than looking around you while they talk) and by nodding encouragingly from time to time (but don’t over-do it or you’ll show impatience).
- Next, let the person speak without interruption. As you know from your own experience, it’s very annoying if other people divert your train of thought or finish your sentences for you. However, this distracting habit is not accidental: It’s partly determined by the fact that we can think much faster than we can speak. For example, have you ever noticed how many ideas flash across your mind when you answer your telephone to a voice that you don’t immediately recognise? Of course, it is difficult to remain silent during a conversation if the speaker has a slow or rambling style of delivery. But the discipline of letting people speak without interruptions is good training for your concentration.
- The third and most important listening skill involves the technique of summarising or “reflecting back” accurately what you’ve heard. This is the true test of concentration in a social setting. In practice, it is accomplished best by using frequent summary phrases or questions like “So, are you saying that …?” or “From what you say, it looks as though…”. Skilful reflection builds a bridge of shared understanding between listener and speaker. It’s the best way of saying “I’m so interested in what you say so I want to be sure that I understand it correctly”.
The value of listening is being rediscovered today at all levels of society. Primary schools place an important emphasis on listening. Management courses as varied as assertiveness training, negotiation, team building, customer services and interviewing all contain key elements on listening skills. Personal development and spirituality encourage listening to oneself, listening to others, listening to God. People are realising today that listening encourages others to listen: the person who consistently listens with understanding is the person who is most likely to be listened to.
Listening, ultimately, is a matter of values: listening to the other person springs from care and respect for them as human beings. We listen to those we value and we show we value those we listen to. Like anything worthwhile listening can be hard work at times but it is well worth the effort.
This article was first published in The Word Magazine.