What's Your Story?

What’s Your Story?

Some time ago I was fortunate to be able to attend a professional development workshop run by Professor Jeffrey Kottler, an academic visiting the U.K. from California State University on the west coast of the U.S.  Professor Kottler, an experienced therapist and educator of the next generation of counsellors in the States had a take on the therapeutic process that immediately rang true with me even though I had not up to that point devoted much thought to it.  Our lives, Kottler stated, are our stories.  The job of the psychotherapist is to make sense of our clients’ stories with them, and to assist in the positioning of the client so that he or she can effectively author – within their limitations – the next part of the saga.

This struck me as quite a straight-forward statement at the time, yet having reflected on it since I have come to appreciate the power of the image Kottler was conveying.  I have realised through my time spent with clients that we are all, in our own way, engaged in activities that will hopefully make the present situation better for ourselves and those we care about, while at the same time trying to make sense of what happened then or why we reacted the way we did on that day.

Difficult Chapters

Some people that I counsel have lived through difficult chapters – some through harrowing ones.  Some people are haunted by shame, others by grief.  Some have been deeply unsettled by the pages written by others when they were too young to even write their own name unaided.  I have learned that a lot of people do not show what is written inside the book of their life story too readily.  There are perhaps some things within that we fear we may be judged for.  Or maybe some paragraphs are present that may cause us to be thought badly about.  Some dreams may be ridiculed if we share them with others, and some truths are kept close because they would hurt others deeply if they were ever shown the light of day.

Not Finished There

Kottler felt that through a relationship with a professional therapist, people whose stories are not sitting well with them could be assisted to find new meaning in challenging times.  Perhaps not to completely re-write the story, but to look at the past from a different angle that would allow the future to be authored in a different tone.  I would agree with him, and this has certainly been my experience in counselling clients at a hospice for children and young people.  In engaging in a working alliance with a mother or father of a child who is no longer loved in their presence, but rather in their absence, the search for how to go on writing when all seems lost has at times been heart-breaking.  The story, however, has not finished there.  I have witnessed on many occasions the rising up of a resolve to finish the book well in honour of a loved one.  It seems that resolve can empower those who are left behind to pen some truly inspiring words.

Coming To Terms

Whether you look back at some parts of your story so far with disappointment, embarrassment or indifference, I guess the fact is that we can all slowly choose to look positively at what comes next, if we truly want to.  We might not have an eraser with which to delete undesirable passages, yet perhaps coming to terms over time with what happened in the pages that have gone could be the next best thing.

~ Rob Oglesby MBACP B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

[Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at http://www.ashwoodtherapy.com/]

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Depression,Life Experience

Date : December 2, 2016Comments : 0

20 – “I’m ready for the fight, so bring it on” – Somebody Loves Me – Rick Astley

It’s been a long time since I felt able to write anything, things have been especially dark. At one point I found myself ready to give in to the demons. Literally, seconds away from ending it all, escaping the darkness forever. I had always thought that if/when that time came, I would be scared, but I wasn’t. I finally felt in control and calm.

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Alt Therapy,Life Experience

Date : October 13, 2016Comments : 0

My first floatation tank experience

The last weekend my wife and I decide that we would experience a floatation tank, sometimes called a sensory deprivation tank. There is some research passed on these devices that suggest they help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety on extensive use. In this blog post I explore my experience, thoughts and judgement on my first floatation tank experience and where you too can take part in your own floatation.

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Middle Age

Life Experience,Motivation,Relationships,therapy

Date : October 5, 2016Comments : 0

Middle Age: Looking Forward at 45

As more and more people turn to therapy to help them make sense of their own personal life journey, the issues around life stage changes often crop up in the counselling room. We are all generally living longer, not necessarily keeping the same partner for life and are reassessing what it means to live in today’s busy world.

Mid-Life Crisis

The mid-life crisis is a familiar concept, often stereotypically associated with the buying of a sports car, the quitting of a long-held job or the starting of something new, sometimes with the desire to escape or blot out the emotional and mental turmoil that can hit as we reach middle age. In my clinical experience, while not all clients are negatively affected by this life stage, for some it is a difficult period. Awareness of our own mortality, a realisation that some of the dreams of our youth may never be fulfilled and dissatisfaction with our current employment all seem to be frequently experienced features of this life phase.

Empty Nest

If children have flown the nest, this can also add a sense of purposelessness where once there was utility. Clients can feel that they may have more yesterdays than tomorrows, and that what once was certain is now up in the air. Looking at a partner who is perhaps not the same person we promised our lives to all those many years ago can bring feelings of insecurity and restlessness. How can this maze be navigated?

Sowing The Seeds

Although some people wish to (and do) make changes to the way they are living their lives, often a chance to get it all off their chest and out in the open in a confidential, non-judgemental setting can bring relief and sows the seed of acceptance. I find that sessions spent with clients struggling to make sense of their past decisions and unsure of the road ahead can ultimately be very rewarding and satisfying for us both. Once the therapeutic relationship is established and the client has the chance to air their worries and fears, they often regain a sense of being master of their own ship and set a course more confidently into whatever the future holds for them.

Refocus

Although nothing is guaranteed, if you have reached ‘middle age’ and have relished the rollercoaster journey of life up to the present day, what’s to say the second half can’t be equally as fulfilling? You may just need to give yourself time to look around, regroup and then refocus. We can’t change what has been and gone, but we can tackle head on what is to come!

[Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com]

Stigma

Healing,Life Experience,Negative Thoughts,Psychology,Suicidal

Date : September 4, 2016Comments : 0

Stigma

During my clinical practice this past week, one subject has come up several times with several different clients; that of the stigma of being labelled with a mental health condition and the  unconscious fear of being seen in a different light by others because of such a pronouncement.  Dr. Carl Rogers, the founder of the person-centred approach to psychotherapy, wasn’t an advocate of the use of labels.  Some people can find labels try to put them in a box they don’t want to be in, which only tells half a story.  I don’t find labels all that useful either – after all, each client is an individual, with differing reactions to what is happening in their lives now and to what has happened in their past.

Power To The Client

Some people can be reluctant to tell others that they have sought out counselling, and in my experience this is often because many don’t know what happens behind the closed door of the therapy room, whether that be in a physical location or in cyberspace.  What I hear a lot in my job as a therapist is that “counselling isn’t at all what I thought it would be!  I don’t know what I expected, but if I’d have known what’s involved I would have come years ago“.  The confidentiality side of counselling is important, as it gives the power to the client over who they tell of their attendance in the therapy room.  It also means that the client can disclose things that may be hurtful to or misunderstood by others in their life, without the fear of upsetting those they interact with on a daily basis or those they share a home with.

A Common Problem

With the diversity and equality training that takes place in many of the large multinational companies operating all over the world, it is clear that there is a need to remind people that although we may all be different in some way, we are all equal.  According to research by the Office for National Statistics in the report Measuring National Well-being – Health, 2013, approximately 20% of adults here in the U.K. suffered with symptoms of problem anxiety and depression in 2011.  With common mental health problems being so widespread, it is a wonder that they are not more universally accepted as a part of the varied tapestry of everyday life.

Scary Picture

I sometimes think that the stigma present in some quarters is a throwback to the scary picture of ‘madness’ or ‘insanity’ associated with the harsh and inhumane treatment of people with mental health issues at certain stages in history.  To be ‘crazy’ is a serious matter when it involves the taking away of your rights and your voice.  Thankfully, services in many countries have advanced now to a point where a lot of societies are at least aiming for mental and physical health to be given equal priority and consideration.  There is a long way to go, perhaps, but arguably the change is happening.

Accepting Themselves

Individuals – and especially those who have been the recipient of a label – can be powerful advocates of just what mental ill health entails, and what it doesn’t.  To challenge the stigma and incorrect perceptions that can surround mental wellbeing issues is important for the many who are suffering in silence, so that they may feel able to seek help with their troubles.  A non-judgemental, private relationship with a professional counsellor can leave people feeling accepted for who they are.  For some this is the first step towards accepting themselves, just as they are.  If a friend told you they were struggling with mental health issues, what would be your reaction?

~ Rob Oglesby MBACP B.A. (Hons) BSc

 [Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com]

On Demand

Healing,Life Experience,Motivation,Psychology

Date : August 16, 2016Comments : 0

Personal Growth in an On Demand World

Lots of things that we do today happen instantly or nearly instantly.  The blog you are now reading, for example, probably loaded up within a matter of seconds no matter where in the world you are situated.  If we pay for a product or service over the Internet using a bank card or online payment system, the funds are received by the retailer or service provider in near real time, allowing our order to be dispatched without delay.  Rarely do we have to wait for the postal service to deliver our favourite reading material any more, or wait for 7 days for our personal cheque to clear before our order is processed.

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Social Media Icons

Social Media: False Friend?

You may be familiar with the phrase ‘Dunbar’s Number’, named after the anthropologist Robin Dunbar and coined in the 1990s.  Dunbar’s number refers to the probable limit to the number of social relationships a person can maintain effectively at one time, and is an interesting concept in the Internet age where many people’s  online ‘friends lists’ can number in the high hundreds.  What would you think Dunbar’s studies into human brain size and social grouping revealed to be the approximate maximum number of sustainable social connections?  300?  500?  Maybe 900?

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