WHY LOVE

Why We Should Love More

I wrote this blog article as in counselling it is largely about relationship issues. About being hurt, upset about the way being treated, confused on how to go forward or trying to nut out how to keep a sense of loving thyself. I would be lying if I didn’t say these issues have confronted me also in my life experiences, from my feelings about my parents, family and friends. But hopefully I have learnt along the way about love.

LOVE

We can hold it back, we can divide our love so we love this person more and that person less, we can refuse love or be frightened of it when it is offered, reject it or just take it for granted but love in the end is all we have.

You can’t see it like possessions, you can’t buy it, you can’t add it up or weigh it but you can feel it if you let it in or extend it freely to others.

You can love someone that annoys you as you feel something, you can love the baker, the shop keeper, your work colleagues, your boss. You can love the person you thought your enemy. Hate as the opposite, it does not understand or give. It takes. 

Love is in the mind, it’s not sickly or gooey, it’s proud, it’s strong and resilient when tested. It does not need saying all the time in words. It can be expressed by not saying something, listening says it, it can be said by just being beside someone, a gift of space, a gesture, a present, a card, a text, a thought held. And then there is physical love of touch that releases beautiful mind chemicals of happiness and bonding. Love lives in the mind. It is its home.

Your family and friends need more love despite the differences that sometimes divide and finding new ways to navigate those differences takes courage. Be brave. Trust me on that. Love can still have boundaries and sometimes it needs boundaries to protect it.

Give it freely, accept it with appreciation, hold it and think of it as treasure. As humans on the planet together it is all we have that makes us all the same. There is no rich or poor with love as you can’t buy it. We can all have the same if we want. All we have to do is let it be free to release it in the air. 

And here is why love is so important. 

In the end we all die. 

Gerry North, psychotherapist treating depression, anxiety, addictions, panic attacks and couple relationships. Email: gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com

Do You Argue and Solve Little?

Many clients come to see me because they report communication problems and are continually fighting without resolving anything. After each argument there is a time of feeling in a blue mood and later this turns to purple with depression and feelings of hopelessness.

In time each partner eventually returns to a green zone of some harmony as reactive emotions dissolve. But soon another discussion will trigger the partners where they first go to the warning amber zone and then to the red zone, with feelings of anger, resentment, frustration and disorder. This negative cycle is continually repeated moving from green to amber, red to blue then depressing purple.

What is happening is they are not listening to each other. The basic tenant of effective communication is listening well and validating the others point of view before stating your view. But communicating well is more than just words. In fact not saying things is  positive communication that you want to listen.

Positive communication is more than just words. It can be shown by closing the computer or turning off the TV when they get home to have a chat about the day, making a cup of tea for someone that needs it, thanking them for the cup of tea, arranging a date night, changing the bathroom towel, a hug, kiss, cuddle, gift etc. There are so many ways to communicate positive regard to your partner.

Let’s go back to the arguments that continually occur. When I see couples for the first time I take a shotgun question approach to find out the big picture about all the aspects of the relationship, both good and bad. When people argue a lot about small things it usually means there are underlying structural problems in the relationship. Maybe there is a power imbalance, money issues, sexual issues, continual resentment feelings from a past event, etc. By looking at the many aspects of the relationship we should be able to find the structural problem. The problem is the problem and the problem is the message. (That is a lot to digest I know.)

In the meantime how do you prevent every discussion going into the red zone? What is happening is in the amber zone you are getting information that you are about to be triggered. You will feel this in your body first, maybe a tightness in your chest, a tight jaw, a headache, etc. You are about to enter the red zone. When you get this warning call it is time for TIME OUT. Say you will discuss this later but separate and take the dog for a walk, make bread, read or play some music, just do something else to get back to the green zone.

One of the reasons you are being triggered is a part of your brain, the Amygdala, is awake and about to make you either fiee, fight or maybe freeze. Mostly a fight response as you feel under threat. Now you are in the red zone either yelling (which you later hate yourself for as well as abusing your partner) or running away. After the red zone you will hit the blue and purple zones.

The trick is to not get into the red zone. You should be able to find your own way of not getting there. Time out is one way. Maybe not saying what you want to say is another way to stay in the green zone. Maybe telling your partner you want to listen carefully to them so they get it all out and then have your say. One golden way to always keep in the green zone is to repeat back everything you heard, “What I heard you say was …….”. You do not have to accept what was said but you show you have listened and validated what they said. After this you have your say and they repeat that back. Applying this Responsive Listening technique will always keep you both in the green zone, in fact you will feel so much closer afterwards.

To recap communicating positively that your partner is highly regarded by you is more than using words, in fact it can also be the absence of words. The reasons people argue a lot about small things is there is an underlying structural issue in the relationship. Finally when you argue, stop yourself getting into the red zone as at that point you brain is sending powerful survival messages that you are under threat and need to fight, flee or freeze. De-esculating the argument will stop that happening with Time Out or something more creative.

Gerry North is a couple counsellor and treats anxiety, depression, panic attacks, grief and loss and addictions.

WHAT IS A TRUE SHARING RELATIONSHIP

I know of couples that have been together for many years and still do not have a shared bank account. So how much do you financially share in a relationship? Well you could have a joint bank account for commonly used goods, like food and holidays. There are definite positive emotional outcomes for couples sharing money and paradoxically a sense of separation when not doing so. It also stops unintended financial bullying. What did that cost???

Ah but what about the risk? Well life is full of risk and without it life is pretty safe and dull. I feel it is important to lessen financial imbalances in a relationship and couples need to work at this so they both feel equal. It is not uncommon for one partner to be better off than the other. What seems important is to share common things so if you move into another’s home for instance, pay reasonable rent. Share, and expect others to share common expenses, and emotionally you will feel more equal, more connected.

Sharing the things that need to be done and organized also makes couples feel equal. If you are both working professionally obviously getting a cleaner in prevents many resentment squabbles over those jobs. Who in your relationship pays the bills, buys food, arranges social events, plans holidays, fixes things, cleans the car and rings mutual friends? If it is only you then equality is not happening.

I know these doing things might seem petty but in the long run the more you share the more your will feel connected emotionally. You might have to challenge your control freak bias but it is important to let the other do more. They might never truly know how much you do anyway. So how do you go about sharing more without having a big row over who does what all the time?

I find having a suggestion jar where couples write down things they want to discuss for later is a good way to start. Having regular times to sit down with a cuppa, or a glass of wine, makes light of these sharing ideas. Having a set time to discuss sharing ideas stops having an argument every time resentment builds up about doing more than the other. Once the suggestion is in the jar a sense of relief takes place where the issue will be sorted out at a later set date.

May I also suggest using “I’ statements when discussing ideas. “I find doing the shopping all the time really boring and would like some help with that.” This is better than saying, “You never ever do the shopping.” The way we organise words is powerful.

Sharing in a relationship results in a sense of equality, self-respect and mutual understanding. Inequalities manifest in emotional separation at a deeper level. So be brave and start sharing more. Using a suggestion jar could launch your relationship into greater adventures and new worlds.

 

 

 

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SEX ADDICTION TREATMENT

Frank wanted his life back. He had been spending hours, sometimes almost all his weekends, in front of his computer, feeling compelled to look at pornographic websites. At our first appointment, he spoke about the importance of ‘getting it out in the open’ and his hope that this might help. Thinking about how things had changed or progressed since our first meeting Frank remembered the feeling of not being in control,

I was feeling very fatalistic, I was trapped in a hole. Every weekend I felt it was something that I had to do or was compelled to do and afterwards you feel so bad about yourself.

Recovering a Sense of Control

Something that comes up quite regularly in my work with people around pornography and sex ‘addiction’ is the idea of trying to ‘control’ the use of pornography. Many therapists and psychologists appear to be in favour of people trying to control themselves by putting boundaries into place around their porn use. However by all reports this just tends to flare up the ‘Addiction’. Frank and I worked together over webcam for a number of months. At our last appointment, I asked him about the benefit in us having this connection over time.

You can only tell a person things, but they have to go through it. I went over in my head what I wanted to say. And a few things you said that opened the blinds. For example, that I didn’t need boundaries when I was younger. I didn’t always have to do stuff like that.

Here Frank was referring to masturbation. During one appointment we had a conversation about the choices he made about masturbation when he was a younger man. There had been times Frank chose to masturbate and times that he decided not to. In other words, even as a teenager, Frank had been capable of making his own decisions about sexual expression. If you take a wild animal and put a cage around it, the first thing the animal will do is to try to break out of the cage. I don’t make people construct rules for their pornography use. This is something they have generally already tried before they come to see me and it has often not worked.

Observing the ‘Porn Addiction’

I often encourage people to step back and just watch the ‘Addiction’ come and go without intervening. In doing so, I am inviting the people who work with me to become co-researchers in the problems in their lives. Of course many people start off by assuming the therapist will be an expert or source of all the answers or even an authority figure. This is how therapists are popularly portrayed but it isn’t generally such a helpful idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while there might be similarities of experience, everyone has a different story as to how they came to be using pornography and why they want to stop. And of course, if there was a manual or technique that worked for everyone, it would be sold at the newsagent!

When Frank started making his own observations about the ‘Addiction’ he began to notice times at which it was more likely to ‘take over’ and times at which it took a back seat. He was also in a position to reflect on how he wanted his life to be. He spoke to me about ‘missing out on a real life’, how the time looking at porn was time that he could be doing his sport training and what his family meant for him. He talked about wanting to get back to having respect for his body. This was something he had valued quite early in life but seemed to have slipped in recent years. At the same time, he started to get a new perspective on masturbation.

I don’t have to be scared that it is going to kill me.

Frank started talking about having used pornography as a kind of conditioning he had done to himself. He had got into a pattern around sex and was relying on that. And this gave us the idea that if he had been conditioned to using porn, perhaps it was just a case of re-conditioning himself, like a motor can be re-conditioned, or an athlete can condition himself. These were metaphors that came from the realms of mechanics and sport, both of which were interests for Frank.

As our webcam counselling appointments continued, Frank shared with me some of the discoveries he had made during his re-conditioning…

I’ve started talking to more people. The interaction with people, having a laugh and joking, it’s so much more…
I don’t see it as a major part of my life, or casting a shadow.

A Step by Step Journey Away from Using Porn

For adults, the experiences of life goes back a long way. But without assistance we don’t always easily recall those times in our lives where we had a sense of ourselves as capable or skilled or in control. Narrative Therapy conversations about pornography use or ‘sex addiction’ can help people recover the sense that they have some authority over their own lives again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BUSY STRESS OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

BUSY  STRESS OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

I see many clients who report 10 to 12 hour workdays suffering either: stress, anxiety, depression or a breakdown in personal relationships but not wanting to reduce the corporate work commitments. They say they are happy working these hours, as they feel fulfilled. They are actually addicted to doing and not being, well their mind is so addicted.

When they return from a long holiday they experience how their lives have been hijacked by a corporate work ethic. After a few weeks back at work they are again addicted – or their brain is. Are you leading a pleasantly full life or a busy life? Is it time to be mindful or thoughtful about how you are living your life? It is an important question to ask don’t you think?

Peer pressure, public status, wanting glamorous life goods and the push to get as much money as possible are some of the drivers for people developing exhausting busy lives. What is a pleasantly full life is another question and is it naturally different for everyone? I think it is about increasing the connection with the real world – the natural environment and our relationships with family, work colleagues, our communities and friends.

How many internal thoughts have you had about observing people totally disconnected from the real world? The prime example is watching people texting while walking or driving. This embodies this disconnect, especially when witnessed at pedestrian crossings.

It is time to become thoughtful about spending more time with family, friends, taking walks in the country air, sitting outside watching life, cooking slowly, wearing cosy socks, comfortable clothes and reading a good book on the couch with the dog at our feet. Does this seem more nurturing to you and relaxing into life’s joys?

Our real lives of being rather than doing are under ever increasing threat. The fascination with the latest technology, instant entertainment satisfaction, wanting instant online sex, and experiencing a constant feeling of needing to do things faster robs us of a having a thoughtful pleasant life. Mindfulness is being thoughtful about what your true self wants as a life.

To make life changes we first need to acknowledge there is a problem, as we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Can you put technology down, leave your phone at home, stop texting so much, reduce your work hours, date rather than get casual instant sex and generally develop a plan for a new life of being over constant doing.

Having a simpler life might mean moving to a cheaper house, working less hours, doing creative things rather than only financial pursuits and generally slowing it all down and at the same time having a full life of non work activities.

My partner recently decided to take a year off from the corporate world and is experiencing life anew. But his friends insist he get back into the work force. Can you think of reasons why they pressure him to do so? I find the reasons for this peer pressure very interesting!

So maybe have a good think now on what you are doing with your life. Mindfulness will get you there because now you are thoughtful rather than repeating unconscious busy pursuits.

 

 

 

 

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

You have been in a relationship for a while however the way you are communicating with each other is not healthy or positive and you know it. And the reason is more than likely the relationship dynamic that has developed. Let me explain.

The dynamic is the mental attitude and behaviour you exhibit towards your partner. Take for example you have developed a mental idea that your partner is basically lazy, never gets around to organizing important matters and if it was not for you the whole financial and social world you live in would collapse.

This now is your established way of thinking about your partner and you organize everything to the point of becoming a control freak. Meanwhile your partner has become so used to you organizing everything they are oblivious to how things get done. This oblivious behaviour now confirms the view that the partner is lazy and hopeless at organizing anything.

Bingo we now have a relationship dynamic that is not healthy or positive for growth. So what can you do to change a non-healthy dynamic? Well first it requires self-reflection and a good honest chat on why the dynamic is not working. The problem is the problem and neither of you is the problem, is a good place to start.

Knowing you are a control freak is one thing you will know about yourself. Getting upset and anxious when things do not work out as you scheduled is a strong sign. This feeling can be exhausting and cause depression or anxiety. What about stepping back and seeing what happens when you don’t over plan things? Spontaneity is a wonderful thing and events happen that are never imagined.

To change the dynamic each partner is going to have to be conscious of changing the mental dynamic and response behaviour daily. That means the control freak does not jump in and find the solution immediately to fix an issue and the other partner takes a more pro-active role in getting things done.

If you both can do this mental change in the relationship dynamic you will witness a reduction of tension, the removal of anxiety, a closeness (lost over time) and a spurt of curiosity for new ways of doing things.

It is always interesting to me to hear the perception of a person who is a control freak, seeing themselves as caring and looking after people rather than controlling. And the person being controlled perceives himself or herself as useless but wanting a bigger voice on what happens in the relationship world.

There are many different types of unhealthy relationship dynamics that develop such as non listening, being defensive, laptop and mobile phone addiction, excessive criticism, etc.

However with understanding and a good tune up, relationships can become healthier and more joyful with a change in the fundamental dynamic. How exciting!

Gerry North is a couple counsellor and also treats anxiety, depression, sexual matters and addictions. Email; gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com M 0411 368 142

 

 

COUPLES AND COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

COUPLES AND COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

Communication breakdown is one of the major issues couples say is the problem in their relationship. The love underneath is felt but a distance has been created where there seems little to say to each other and a sense of boredom has crept in. There are many causes of this that can be addressed with curiosity for “what else”.

Being Present

It is impossible to have good communication if either person is not fully present in the relationship. Having secrets is a major barrier to being present.

Mobile Phones & Laptops

We love them. We need them, as they are storage for things that are important in our lives – our second brain. When going out for dinner or just out, especially with him or her, try leaving them at home. At home when they come home close the computer for a while to chat about each other’s days. We know we are addicted to them because without them we feel, well, naked. When you feel that emotion, being without your phone/computer, know that it is your addiction speaking to you. Interesting!

Immersion

There is a lot or research on the negative aspects of immersion in relationships. That is doing everything together all the time. I know it feels safe to be with him or her but in doing so there is deep down compromise going on, with each person not having any new experiences. And without new experiences there is little to talk about. We don’t really have to do everything together. A separate holiday, a night our with separate friends, yoga class, tennis, book club, a movie – are things that can be done separate to your partner and the benefits are many. There is no need to feel threatened if you have trust in your relationship. You will enjoy it after the first felt emotions.

How is Our Relationship Going Chat

Asking and inviting the answer to the question, “How is our relationship going do you think?” is an excellent thing to do regularly. There are many assumptions made by us individually about our partner’s wellbeing. Inviting the answer to this question allows many things assumed to be discussed. We all want to hear, ‘Great’ but maybe there is a time to talk about sex, finance, domestic duty sharing, time spent with each other, etc.

Love Language

It is very easy to take each other for granted. They always come home, our domestic life is cozy and life is good, safe and predictable. Over time we tend to stop thanking our partners for that cup of tea, forget to organize a restaurant booking, buy theatre tickets, flowers, a card to say ‘I love you’ (or say it), text during the day, call each other by a loving nickname and generally thank them for being there with you.

Being Grateful

I’m sure you have heard about the benefits of sharing what you are grateful for before going to sleep. There you are in fresh sheets, feeling like giggling because you are so happy and cozy next to them and this is the perfect time to reel off 3 things you are grateful for in your life. Doing this is so bonding and it is so simple.

Having a sense of shared curiosity about doing things differently will open up communication between couples. Starting with, “How is our relationship going do you think?” is a great beginning.

 

SURVING AN AFFAIR

AN AFFAIR TO FORGET

You have met the one you love and the first years have been bliss. You have felt validated by being loved and you have extended your love to your partner. Then one day the world changes and you find out they had sex with someone else. You now feel crushed under the fallen debris of deceit and betrayal. How do your survive this shattering discovery and can you still maintain the relationship?

SURVIVING FIRST THOUGHTS

The first reaction is from your mind and it is telling you to walk away, sell any joint property, be on your own and lick your wounds. If you search deeper however your heart might say you still love them and want to talk more about what happened. There is also the physical side of your relationship that has a voice. Your mutual friends, family ties, the dog, the house and a sense of companionship that is still there. Are you really prepared to throw it all away as an act of revenge?

DISCUSS

Maybe it is time to discuss what happened taking a helicopter view rather than a purely emotional one. Maybe you haven’t been communicating lately, maybe you haven’t had sex for ages and no one has been brave enough to talk about it (the brain gets very lazy and de sexes our partners over time) and maybe there are unshared secrets that stopped honest intimacy.

 

There are many choices when infidelity occurs. It can be seen as unforgiveble or as acceptance this was a wake up call. When was the last time the question of, “How are we going do you think?” is asked of the partner. Such a question allows the other to open up emotionally and really talk. Having an honest and open discussion can re-unite a couple by sharing deeper thoughts and vulnerabilities. In doing so secrets that keep couples apart can be revealed and a greater sense of closeness achieved.

MORE TIME TOGETHER?

Maybe you need to: review the whole structure of your relationship like changing work demands so you can spend more time together, plan dates with each other, have weekends away with just the two of you (and the dog), talk about ways to get back in the boat, or the bath, and have sex together (once you get it started the rest will follow) and make time for dreams to aim for (a vegetable patch, travel, spar bath, a dog, new house, etc).

VALUES

Also over time couples develop a different idea of assumed values and attitudes. It is a good idea to see if you and your partner have similar values and attitudes. Are you on the same page today? False assumptions are easily made in long-term interactions. I have developed a values and attitudes survey for couple and if you email me I will send you it to you for free.

HELP

Discovering an infidelity can be heart breaking but there are things a couple can do to move on in the relationship by honest discussion and taking a helicopter view of why it happened. And then plan a future where greater intimacy and closeness can be worked on. Please do try to repair your relationship, as it is harder than you think to find another. Maybe you will both grow through this affair. Take care.

 

Gerry North is a couple and general counsellor treating depression, anxiety, self-esteem building, and addictions.

Email: gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com or www.counsellingworkslondon.uk

SECRETS

KEEPING SECRETS RUINS RELATIONSHIPS

Are you tempted to check his or her phone, email or Facebook account? If you are thinking about doing it, the relationship is already in trouble. You are tempted to do this because you have strong feelings the partner is keeping secrets from you. Is it okay to check your partner’s contact platforms and what will you do with any information you find? Well what do you think, is it okay or not to check up on your partner?

Trust is one of the three most important pillars of a healthy relationship, the other two being sharing life’s personal challenges (our vulnerabilities) and having dreams about the future – for each other and as a couple. If you do look at your partner’s phone it means you have trust issues and looking means you also now have a secret to hold – or not.

Holding secrets is as damaging to the person doing it as it is to the person cheated of the truth. John and Carol have been together for 8 years and their sex life has collapsed. John spends 2 hours and the gym and Carol is suspicious about that. John has been texting people on Tinder but has not met anyone and enjoys the pure fantasy of flirting. John has coffee after the gym with a girl he trains with but doesn’t want to tell Carol, as he knows she will get jealous. He has decided to keep this a secret and feels he is entitled to a private life of some sort. Carol agonizes over whether to go through John’s phone and finally does so, finding a text about meeting someone for coffee after gym. She confronts John who denies anything is going on but Carol is ready to leave the relationship.

So is John entitled to hold some secrets from Carol and is it okay for Carol to go through his phone? We all hold some secrets from the world. We don’t express our personal fears to everyone we meet but on the other hand keeping secrets keeps us apart from the ones we love. You have to be brave to be honest but in doing so respect is shown for the relationship and each other.

What if John had firstly discussed their failing sex life and how it impacts their relationship? What if John had discussed his feelings for wanting some sort of sex fantasy and the need to have different relationships with new people? What if Carol had spoken to John about her feelings of wanting to go through his phone and his suspicions about the 2 hours at the gym?

Getting it all out in the open at the beginning would not have lead to what now is a major threat to their on-going relationship – the keeping of secrets. I ask many couples to check in with each other often with a sit down and asking the question, “How is our relationship going do you think?”

So what do you think, should partners check each other phone or other contact platforms? Do they have a right to?

 

How to Resolve Couple Conflicts

The influence of individual internal conflicts is often forgotten in couple counselling. George has been in a relationship with Helen for 15 years. They have great domestic creature comforts, good friends, holiday a bit and like the company of others but deep down there is something amiss.

Well maybe the main problem is not about them as a couple but more about their own unhealed personal internal conflicts. Helen was lied to in a previous relationship and lacks trust. George deep down feels he is not as capable as others either at work, socially or at making decisions.

George also had an alcoholic father who verbally, and at times, physically abused him. Helen had an over protective mother who was obsessed with the body functions of her children and their cleanliness. These secret and unresolved internal conflicts are at play in their daily couple relationship, without them being fully conscious of it.

We all have different childhood experiences that have made us the way we are as adults. It stands to reason if these personal internal conflicts are not healed, or put to bed, then having them in the background will affect all relationships at a base level – at home, at work and at play.

If you are in a relationship and you consider you have unhealed internal conflicts then maybe it is time to address these first in individual counselling, before seeking couple therapy. You will feel empowered if you can clean your own slate first before negotiating changes in your relationship. In the end the only person we can change is ourselves.

I often find in couple counselling one partner wanting me to take their side to tell the other they are wrong. Couple counselling is not about finding blame but more about negotiating new pathways. To do that partners need to reflect on the value of their own decisions – are they really the right ones all the time?

Personal therapy, to dilute the demons of our mind, can change our behaviour in all aspects in life. It can make us happier at work, socially, with our families and in our lives with our closest life partner.