The window to the soul – or is it?

unrecognisableselfieday1

Selfies are the way of life.

I am constantly finding new apps and filters to embellish, decorate, or even distort the picture entirely.

There is nothing inherently wrong with them; sometimes it is the only way a mum can get a photo with her kids!

The only problem with selfies, is that it takes so many attempts to get the best picture! Holding the camera at the right angle, lighting needs to be just right, background needs to be checked – quite a bit goes into the best selfie. Though to the untrained eye, they appear to be spur of the moment photos, quite misleading to what is actually happening.

A carefully constructed window into a disguised life.

What selfies fail to show are the tears, the weary eyes, the frail body, the chaotic home, the cracks of a natural life (I don’t even look like me in this one!!).

How does this help our friends and family to know we need help?

How does this help someone else reach out for help?

Psychotherapy uses insight to gain awareness and knowledge into our past, giving us direction on how to use our present to build a better future.

Though we need the real picture – not the carefully constructed image presented in a selfie.

For Psychotherapy Day, 25th September, I challenge you all to a first take, spur of the moment, real selfie.

Here is one to kick things off!

selfieday1

 

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Perfection: How is it destroying your life? and what can you do about it!

perfection

Is it better to be loved because you are perfect? Or loved despite your imperfections?

So often I feel the pressure to be perfect:

  • Perfect mother;
  • Perfect wife;
  • Perfect friend;
  • Perfect employee, and the list goes on!

It’s tiring and absolutely exhausting. Not only this, it is also incredibly distracting which does not help my efforts to be perfect, I stumble and fall whenever I strive to move forward while constantly looking in the rear-view mirror. Even in Scripture we are told that “no-one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). That’s right, not even Mary Poppins!

If no-one can be perfect – what makes me think that I can be perfect?

Through thinking over the stresses that seeking perfection causes, I wonder if it is worth the cost?

Perfection seeking can lead to:

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Addictions;
  • Failed relationships – personal and work related;
  • Utter despair which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

So it is not achievable and comes at a high cost – not a wise investment if you ask me!

So what gives me hope despite not being perfect?

Romans 5:8 sums it up nicely. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It means much more to me that I am loved despite my flaws, as that shows I am a real person of value. This also means that you are too.

I am still loved despite my flaws; and you know what? 

  • My daughter still loves me;
  • As does my husband;
  • I still have friends and family in relationship with me;
  • I love my field of employment;
  • And I have an identity that I continue to desire to grow and nurture into a person of excellence.

Looking at these points, I can see that I have everything perfectionism promises, though never delivers. What’s more, I can breathe, relax, and enjoy this life on earth.

It means much more to me that I am loved despite my flaws, as that shows I am a real person of value. This also means that you are too.

Do yourself a favour and stop seeking perfectionism, rather strive for excellence.

What areas do you find yourself seeking perfectionism? Share in the comments your plans to change direction!

Addiction proof your child

Habits

This may be a shock to you, though 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis; 7.7% of Australians aged 14 and over have used analgesics for non-medical purposes once or more in their life; 4.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life; 34.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life; 8.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine one or more times in their life; Ice (crystal methamphetamine) is the 4th most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol, benziodiazapines and non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol).

As you can see, substance abuse is up and running in Australia, these stats aren’t even addressing all substances that are often abused and it isn’t addressing other areas of addiction such as pornography/sex addiction, gambling, technology/internet, co-dependency, and the list goes on.

I mentioned in a previous blog, that addictions are defence mechanisms used to protect oneself from the real world. Unfortunately, addictions tend to have an alluring persona to begin with. People seek out different areas in their life, waiting for the hit of ecstasy (either the drug or the emotion), to help them to get through the moment – though not always considering the life long consequences.

There are many things we can do to prevent addictions from developing, though when someone is determined that life will be better with just one more hit, then we need to recognise we don’t have the control we desire to have to save our loved ones.

Consider this thought – that your child is not under your complete control as they age.

How does that feel?

Personally I feel very insecure and worried about my child’s future.

Will she make the right decisions?

Will she consider the needs of others in these deliberations?

Does she understand how important she is to so many around her?

I don’t know yet, she is only 5 and as far as I am concerned, she is actually under my control. I say when bed time starts and screen time ends, when it’s time to eat and time to sleep, time to wash and a time to play.

How long this will last for, I am yet to find out.

Though what can I do in the meantime, while she is under my control, while she remains a captive audience to my every statement and observation?

As much as I would like to give you all the answers now, I can’t.

This is such a complex and far-reaching issue that to give 5 steps to avoiding addictions will simply just not give it the justice it needs, much less deserves. Instead I would like to invite you to join me on a journey to discover a world that so far has remained elusive and transparent; intriguing and beguiling to the unarmed wanderer.

Through this journey, let us work together to work towards ending the life of addictions, releasing one person at a time.

Public Tantrums: How to remain the parent

Angry Girl

We have all been there, in fact you can read about one of my experiences here. As our children get older, theoretically the tantrums get easier to deal with, we can explain things more, empathise with how upset they are about not getting every single toy that catches their eye, they become a little more conscience on how to behave in public.

Though there are always going to be times when they are tired and no amount of reasoning can console the heart-wrenching screams of agony wailing through the aisles.

What can we do then?

The most obvious option is our initial reaction: through gritted teeth inform the child that “no means no”, pick up said child, walk out of the shops to the car and go home.

The next option we have is to give into the child, though this may only work the first 10 times before we run out of money and resort to option 1.

Sure, these are options, though not as effective as we would like them to be.

There are 5 stages we can employ as tactical operations:

  1. Anticipation:
    We need to anticipate that when we go to the shops, these tantrums will be a likely hazard. In this anticipation, we need to make sure that we are not building up our defences to brace ourselves, instead we need to accept that this is likely to happen, though in our preparation we can remain in control.What this does is prevents a self-fulfilling prophecy of our emotions transferring to our children, they smell stress and it causes anxiety for them.
  2. Preparation:
    In this stage, we can assertively (not aggressively), explain to the children while in the car, “I just need to let you know that we are going to the shops now to buy a birthday present for Sally for next week. Now when we get there, I only have enough money to buy this present and get a few groceries for dinner, so I won’t be able to buy anything else today, okay?”
    This conversation isn’t going to stop them from asking, if it does – cheering! Though this conversation is vital for the next stage.
  3. Diffusion:
    So you walk into aisle four with all the Shopkins toys proudly on display, you have already checked with Sally’s mum and she confirmed that yes it is a highly desired product, so it is an unfortunate aisle to walk into with your child who also desires to collect this line of plastic.

    It starts off well, your child is excited to pick out things that they like under the guise of “Sally would really like this!”, so a gift is chosen and it is time to leave, when the whine begins.
    This stage is crucial, it is a tightrope and sometimes it fails depending on the circumstances.
    At this point we need to remember that we cannot 100% control anyone else but ourselves. Look at your breathing, take note of your body language, what message are you sending?

    Crouch down to your child’e eye level, firmly explain that you “can see that you really want this toy and to not have it makes you feel really sad. I do love you and sometimes I need to say no because I love you. Remember in the car when I said I only had money for this present and food for dinner? This means that I really can’t buy anything else, does that make sense?” and allow your child to respond without being interrupted.

    This can feel like it takes a huge amount of time, though consider how much more time and stress would be involved if those first two options might take stage.

  4. Advance onto the next destination:
    To help your child to forget about those toys, moving onto the next task as quickly as possible will really help to prevent a major meltdown.
    Children love choices and being given decisions. As the next task on the list is to get some groceries for dinner, here you can engage in conversation of what to actually have for dinner, this should also help for a quick exit without getting distracted by other strategically placed desirable objects.Now here is another hidden difficulty, we need to make sure we don’t get distracted by anything else on the way, otherwise this communicates to the child that we have double standards – we need to remain self-controlled for our child’s sake.
  5. Debrief:
    Well you have hopefully made it back to the car with your shopping list ticked off and with minimal tears. This stage is important to continue this new cycle the next time you go to the shops and any other time you go out in public.Take the time to debrief with your child how things went and express your appreciation for how well your child did, ask them how it felt and point out that it feels a lot nicer than when they lose control. This is another moment you can come back to in the future when they start to get angry for not getting their way, to remind them they can do it and how nice it feels.

    Then repeat stages 1-5 whenever going into public, it will start to become more natural and effective the longer you apply this approach.

Now I feel it is important to mention here that this is not a foolproof procedure, many different circumstances can challenge it’s effectiveness – stress and fatigue factors, time constraints, physical health, etc.
If you are reading this, chances are this is an area that is really causing some difficulties for you; and chances are you have applied absolutely every tip, technique, and strategy under the sun and it just isn’t working. You may need a more individualised plan tailored to your needs, so who can you turn to from here?

  • A parenting course (you will also get support from other parents in similar circumstances);
  • A parenting expert – there are people who specialise in this area;
  • A counsellor – there may be some approaches that have been handed down through the generations and looking at the family dynamics on a whole may shed some light on the issues at hand;
  • A GP – there are many health issues that may cause mood swings and uncontrolled emotions, it would be helpful to rule out any potential causes.

A reminder you are the parent, you have the control and you can do this!

What do pre-schoolers need to learn before their ABC’s?

Teach to feel

2017 is the big year for us! We put 2016 off, with the excuse of “she’s too close to the cut-off”, though really we felt a lot of relief that there is still one more year before our little girl starts Big School!

In all honesty, I think she could have handled the workload; maybe not sitting still for so long, though the workload yes. Children truly are sponges – it is amazing the things they learn and remember. We have had to change our approach of “No, we can’t do that right now because…” to just “No” as she could always think of logical ways to overcome the very barriers “preventing” us from meeting her requests.

Though, at age 4 years and 6 months, is she really ready to attend school at this point in time? Ignoring the Mum in me desiring to slow down time, the counsellor part of me feels that we have made the best choice. Our daughter is determined, witty, creative and great at problem-solving – though she is still getting a grip on her emotions.

What does this have to do with pre-schoolers not needing to read?

Well, by this I don’t mean they don’t need to be read to – certainly there are a tonne of benefits children can experience by having Mum or Dad spend quiet time in imagination land, as well as supporting the key purpose of this blog.

No, what the title is saying is that children of this age do not have to start learning how to read books by themselves right now to get a head start in life. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, it is more so that there is something incredibly more important that they need to intentionally learn – and that is about emotions.

Ok, who here has watched “Inside out”? Don’t worry, I won’t ask how many times you willingly watched it or coerced your child to watch it!

There was an absolute critical part that really struck a chord with me. At the end, just before their big family embrace, Riley (the little girl in case you haven’t watched it), said:

“I know you don’t want me to, but I miss my old home. You need me to be happy, but I want my old friends…..please don’t be mad”


This little girl has just gone through a major trauma of packing up the only home she has ever known, moved to the other side of the country, left her friends and hobbies behind – and on top of that she feels the responsibility to be happy for her parent’s sake. Heartbreaking for any parent to hear!

We can so often get consumed with helping our children succeed in life, that we bypass the foundational work, and start them straight on the adult work.

Showing my age or youth here, you choose! I am reminded of Curly Sue. The 1991 film starring Jim Belushi and Alisan Porter, a homeless duo that create cons and scams to scrape by with enough to eat. In order to show off to a well-to-do lawyer they met during one of their cons, Bill (Jim) instructs Sue (Alisan) to spell asphyxiate (which she does perfectly!). Later, the lawyer asks Sue to spell a smaller word, like cat, to which Sue confesses she doesn’t know how.


As with Riley and Sue, they were both indirectly and directly put in positions where they had to act as adults without the foundations they needed.

If you are reading this, chances are you are like me and want to set your child up for success. To do this, we need to have the patience to lay the foundations and wait for them to set properly.

We are a society of empowerment – yet too much too early can be detrimental. Children are growing up with the belief that they need to conquer the world, but are too anxious to know where to start. This is a key factor in addictions. Addictions start off by trying to find something that takes away the bad feelings – though the best they can do is mask them, creating a destructive cycle as the feelings get stronger to get the correct solution.

So why is emotional intelligence so important?

Feelings help us to work out if things are ok, or, most importantly, if something is wrong. We can usually very easily work out if things are ok, though if things aren’t, and we don’t know why, it can get very scary – and that is what we experience! Imagine being a child again, knowing something is wrong but not sure what – it is impossible to ask and receive the help we need if we can’t even explain the problem!

How can we start developing our child’s emotional vocabulary?

A really helpful first step you can start right away with, is building up your child’s emotional vocabulary. This isn’t just giving them words, but helping them to link the word to the feeling. This will involve taking opportunities as they come, and expressing your feelings as they come up. The more words you use, the more you add to what your child can use.

Another way to add feeling words to their vocabulary is by reading books! Along with the previously mentioned benefits, children can learn new words by hearing you read to them with emphasis – sad, happy, scared, etc. Stopping every now and then to explain words can help encourage interaction to process the new words.

What are the benefits?

You will actually find yourself feeling more in control as you give so much more intentional focus to your own emotions – allowing you to communicate your needs more effectively. You will also find your child will be feeling empowered in a healthy way – not in the way that they take on adult responsibility, but in a childlike way so they can really enjoy this time in their life – slowing it down for both them and us, which I personally, am very thankful for.