Monday, 31 October 2011

Angel's Quandary - Fear of Intimacy

My marriage ended 18 months ago and it was not my choice. 7 months ago I met a lovely man who expects nothing from me nor I from him. We meet when we can, go for dinner or to the theatre and more recently spend the night together. It is the perfect relationship for what I need right now and he says the same applies for him. In my heart though I know it is not forever. Knowing that one day it will end is spoiling my enjoyment of it for now. I am so used to being married and I do not know how to just relax and enjoy dating. He has told me he loves me and although I do love him I know it is not forever and I do not want to hurt him in the future. I enjoy the time we spend together but I do not feel the same as I did for my husband. People around me tell me he is a lovely man but they do not see us being together forever either as we are very different. He feels safe and he does know how I feel. I don't know if I am maybe just not ready to be involved with anyone yet. I would miss him if we stopped dating.

Bab's Says

Hi Angel

It sounds as if you are a little confused. On the one hand you say the relationship is perfect for you at the moment and on the other hand you cannot enjoy it knowing it's not forever?

My feeling is that perhaps you are not healed from the break up of the relationship with your spouse and that is getting in your way. Perhaps you fear commitment having been badly hurt?
What about you and your friend being just that for a little while. I see no reason why because he is male it has to be either or? If it's the sex that is getting in the way just stop it for a period to give yourselves breathing space. Some people can do the sex buddy thing some find it difficult?

As to other people quite frankly they will often tell you what you want to hear. Being different can work well as long as you value the difference and don't try to change the other person.

If you enjoy each other's company you could say meet up once or twice a week being careful that you take turns in choosing what to do etc so that you are both equally invested. Keep up with your other friends and work out any changes that will enhance your life. Then live in the moment and seize the day. In a way that's all anyone can guarantee.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Since I wrote about the difficulties with blogging I have grown in confidence. I have had some great responses via Twitter and Facebook and I'm steadily gaining followers, though it's early days. People tell me 'I hit the spot' or that I 'give great advice'. I get praised for my 'humour' or 'level headed approach'. Some of you dear friends even comment on the blog itself but alas most of you don't. This little missive is to ask you to change that or at least tell me what stops you? 

Now perhaps I'm impatient? I've not been at it long so I'm really the new kid on the block? Perhaps you need encouragement? The point I'm making is I don't know? One woman, who I think I was in awe of and  whose blog I follow, told me she, 'never comments on other people's blogs' and that 'blogger doesn't like her'. I was quite frankly surprised and saddened by that because I'd thought her a kindred spirit and I do try to support/follow other people/bloggers.

One of my twitter mates said he 'thought it was too fiddly'? I don't quite understand that because I'm no whizz and I can do it. But, is it perhaps part of the instant gratification syndrome where we don't want to grapple with stuff? I really don't know!

The last thing I want to do is guilt you out but I want my blog to be a forum where we can debate and exchange ideas and I really would like your HELP!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pre-Holiday Blues

I hate preparing for holidays! We have a lovely one booked to go with our son and his family to Morocco. I know we'll have a good time when we arrive there. We've been on holiday with them many times before and we get on really well. However, I dread the upheaval of packing etc.

To begin with this is the time I look at my body and ask myself how I could I possibly expose it to the public gaze? Now I'm smart enough to know that in the main the general population are not interested in an old bird like me, and if they are what does that say about them? Surely they have more weighty matters on their minds? No pun intended. Let's be fair there's lots to talk about regarding the state of our nation and not just about who's to blame?  So nobody is going to be looking at my unsavoury carcass? That, however, does not prevent me from submitting myself to the OMG routine when the thought of sunning myself comes up! 

Then there's the 'shit' I haven't got a thing to wear. I kid you not when I say that every occasion that comes around on my social calendar I appear to be minus the appropriate clothes. It feels like a Borrowers conspiracy? Though to be honest if that's the case they must be fairly hefty specimens! But this means I now have the problem of sourcing gear which will fit and look OK? 

At this juncture I'm really thinking I cannot be bothered. I have the makings of a cold. I'm tired. I have work to do. Then my OH chips in with what medicines etc do we need to take? What makes  me the oracle? What stops him from working it out by himself? If asked he would probably say 'if I do it I'll forget something' when what he really means is 'I'll forget something and you'll be critical'. Come to think of it he's probably right. I am a ducks in a row kind of person? Then he utters those encouraging words 'we'll be on the last lap as usual' which translated means 'you'd better get on with it'. So here I am with two days to go and the only prep completed has been done by Jim who has sorted the cameras and photographic gear. I think it's clear where his priorities lie?

My original idea was to visit the Yorkshire Outlet but after a dispirited chat we decided instead to go to Meadowhall or as it's known in our household Meadowhell! So after a leisurely breakfast we venture on the M1 to enter our collective hades. When we arrive there initially it doesn't seem too bad but after a couple of hours trying things on and realising that yes I am a couple of sizes bigger than I was last year I am ready to scream! I know I am responsible for putting on weight but why can't manufacturers accept that people get fatter they don't get taller!!! It is so frustrating! OH is trying to be encouraging but he's failing miserably so we decide the best thing is to head for home where I can sift through my stock of too small clothes to try and pull my holiday wardrobe together.

I am sitting thinking I really could have organised things better. I get why people want magic wands. I want one which will make me two sizes smaller and minus the mountain of ironing I'm looking at while OH mutters comfortingly I don't really need all that!


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Nicola's Story - When Texts Becomes A Problem

I have recently found out that my partner of 5 years has been exchanging intimate texts with a work colleague. He left his phone on the table and I saw one of the texts! He says it's just a bit of fun and doesn't mean anything. He says I'm overreacting  but I'm having difficulty seeing that way. I don't understand it? To me it feels like a betrayal? How can we see this so differently? I thought we were ok and now this! 

After I found out I went back to stay with my Mum but after a few days of him ringing and texting me continuously I went back home. We argue constantly and I'm not sure how much more either of us can take. I'm not sure what I want from you,  perhaps an unbiased voice, but is there anything you can do to help? 

Bab's Reply

Hi Nicola you sound between a rock and a hard place? I do understand what you mean about the texts being unacceptable to you. In fact when you say 'how can we see things so differently' I'm wondering do you have the same core values or is it just this particular issue that divides? 

I guess if I'm honest I hear similar problems on a regular basis. I am not saying it's normal just that it's there. One of the reasons it's there I think is because it's done at a remove. It has an air of unreality and people say things they wouldn't say face to face. I'm assuming you've found me through twitter so you probably know what I mean - people say inappropriate things all the time? 

In my opinion the real issue is not what your partner has done but what has made him act in this destructive way? You say 'you thought you were ok' and I'm thinking how could you both be ok? Perhaps you were ok and he wasn't?  Perhaps he just wasn't saying?  What would make you look at his phone?

The first step is to work out what you want. If you want the relationship?  If you do what do you want it for? What life enhancing qualities does it have? If you could turn back the clock would you still enter into a relationship with him? How equal is the relationship? I think now is the time for you to speak honestly with each other. If you find that difficult to do perhaps seeking the help of a relationship counsellor could help. See my links page. Remember they are not there to stick you together but to explore your options.

Arguments often occur  between couples because they are stuck with the concrete idea of right and wrong and if that's the case they often slug it out metaphorically and sometimes physically to prove a point and themselves right. I have noted some guidelines for arguing constructively because it feels as if you need some help in keeping safe.

Remain seated & maintain eye contact
 Know why you are arguing
 Listen & check that you have heard before replying
Say an understanding thing before launching into a response
Don’t make counter-accusations or justifications
Keep to ‘I’ rather than ‘you’ statements
Admit mistakes & misunderstandings
Stick to the subject in hand
 If the question has not been resolved after 30 minutes, agree to differ and return to it the following day

Finally I am sorry you are unhappy but you can use this hurtful experience in a positive way - take care.


Monday, 17 October 2011

The End of an Era

This morning saw the end of an era when I attended my last CSG (counselling supervision group) with my Relate colleagues. 

If I am honest I went to the meeting with a little trepidation because although in the past I have been able to walk away from groups for me saying goodbye properly is a much more difficult proposition. 

The meeting itself was really no different to previous ones except for the chocolate cake which was on display and we used the session as appropriate to discuss various cases. It was a lively meeting and everyone seemed connected and supportive of each other. But then I was asked how I felt about leaving and I felt unable to say, not only that I didn't really know. I shared the positives on my horizon for example my blog and my hopes for it in the future but I was unable, to access the negatives around my ending. However, when I thought about it this is quite a normal response for me. I typically deal with a crisis and have my breakdown later. Let's hope when the time is right I don't actually come apart at the seams? 

Anyway if I felt unable to feel or share sadness my colleagues made up for it and amidst the laughter there were tears. We haven't arranged a leaving do as such but have agreed to combine it with the Xmas party and so I get the opportunity to meet up with these lovely people again. I left them today with a superb bouquet and a brilliant card and acknowledging that this was the end of an era.

Margaret's Problem - I Need Practical Advice

Recently my husband of 28 years told me he wanted to end our relationship and he has subsequently moved out of the family home and into one of our other properties. We have three lovely children who are pursuing their own lives and who have all moved out of the city.

He had an affair 8 years ago and to be honest I should have ended the relationship then but didn't for a number of reasons. In reality I know my marriage wasn't good and perhaps we stayed together for the children but I'm still a young woman and I need practical advice about rethinking my life and how I spend my alone hours.I don't want to suddenly be dragged 'out and about' trying to reclaim a missed youth but I do want to have a rewarding social life. Instead I seem to seek solace more and in the bottom of a wine glass and to cling to an image of myself as being part of a partnership

Bab's Response 

Thank you Margaret for writing to me. I'm sorry that your relationship has ended, however, from what you say it sounds as if it's for the best. I think it would be fair to say most women in your situation would find it difficult. You have identified yourself as part of a couple for a long time and now you are not.

Firstly there are no answers in the bottom of a wine glass. It may feel as if it relaxes you and that there is some comfort at first but it is short lived and damaging to your health. 

Secondly it is not appropriate for me to tell you what to do under any circumstances but certainly not on such scant information. I can, however, make some suggestions.

Sit down at your PC or with a pen and paper and consider what do you want your life to look like. Then break it down into very small achievable steps.

you don't mention if you work but if you do. Is it a good job? If it isn't what would be a good job?

It sounds as if you are financially secure but if you're not what do you need to do to achieve it?

Your children sound grown up and independent do they have permission to support you both?

Do you have friends? Can you access their support without denying it to your spouse? If you can you are giving them permission to like you both and you have a better chance of keeping them as friend's. One of the difficulties you have is that you will be unwittingly reminding them it could happen to them and most people find that scary.

There is no easy way to get over a relationship. There will be, however unsatisfactory the relationship was, a sense of loss around it and it is appropriate for you mourn. Accept and acknowledge that and it will be easier in the long run. This is a time of loss but it is also of a time of beginnings.  There is a Relate book on my recommended ebook and book pages called Moving On - please read it - you will find lots of useful suggestions. You could also consider counselling to help you make sense and move on?  

I am sorry you are experiencing these problems but I am convinced you can reshape your life and gain happiness on your own. Please don't rush it, make any changes one step at a time, because to get the life you want takes time. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sheep In Wolf's Clothing

Earlier this week me and OH went to the funeral of one of his old mates, A. He and A were friends as adolescents. A had been in the year above him at school but they hadn't mated up until Jim left and went to work at the same garage as a trainee mechanic. Then they and a few more young men played football, fished, drank and went to dances together. A had been one of the good looking ones, a girl magnet and Jim the one you took home to mother.

Their friendship continued through National Service and after when they returned to civvy street. A was married and had two sons by the time I met him. I was never really an intimate friend of him and his wife, they seemed older and different, but we would go out to the local working man's club on a Saturday with them. This continued until I became pregnant and that put a stop to that. 

We then moved out of the district and continued with our lives. I had two children and returned to work. Then tragically A's wife died and he became more involved with his family. We would see him from time to time but the intimacy never returned we'd all moved on.  Ten years later A married a young widow and to all intents and purposes lived a happy life.

The last time we saw him was at Jim's mother's funeral three years ago he looked older but seemed ok we chatted made loose arrangements to meet up some time but that never happened. Then last week we heard of his death and we both agreed we wanted to attend his funeral and that's what I wanted to talk about.

When we arrived at the local cemetery chapel there were already crowds of people there. We both looked around for a familiar face but none appeared. By the time the cortege arrived there must have been a hundred people and we were ushered in to standing room only. The service was not a religious one and in fact only the Lord's Prayer was said. The rest of it was a mixture of anecdotes and music but it captured the man and at the end there was a round of applause for a life well lived. All of it was very positive and we were pleased we'd attended. 

But it was a strange experience, a sort of dislocation? We had been surrounded by a working class community to which we no longer belonged. So when we returned home, we spent some time talking about A and some rather vivid memories we hand of him but then we talked about how our lives have changed over the years. I realised that I had felt like Rita, Willy Russell's eponymous character in Educating Rita. I 'sing another song'. Jim was just in a state of disbelief and then started wondering if he was the last dinosaur standing?  

I think we have experienced an evolution of sorts. A, though a prosperous business man was still living the same life but with more money. Whereas we, mainly through my growing up and late education, have experienced something different. I stress the 'different' I don't mean better. He had clearly been loved and as far as we know he was content. We on the other hand have a rich cultural life and often don't feel contented? Is it because although I sing a different song I no longer have a place of belonging? I'm perhaps neither fish nor fowl. No longer really working class but not really middle either. This discomfort serves me well in my work. I am adept at empathising. I get it from the different perspectives. Where it serves me less well perhaps is when I am required to socialise. I then, to misquote, feel like a sheep in wolf's clothing? 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Cooperation You Scratch MY Back I'll Scratch YOURS

I'll scratch your back you scratch mine is an old idiomatic saying. These days it's often tinged with the idea of  it being underhand in some way but really it just means co-operation - it's a quid pro quo. 
If we think about if further business, family, even society is based on give and take co-operation. Of course in all these areas there will be some who take more than they give and when that happens unhappiness and unrest eventually occurs. 

As I have remarked before I am a watcher and what I perceive on twitter is that they're are some like me who want to help others and co-operate and those whose only idea is to foreground themselves and take, take take. The reason I'm writing this piece is not that I want to name names. The users know who they are but to say once again 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'. If you don't start scratching then you dear tweeps will be scratched and by that I mean I will not be promoting your book, blog, business etc anymore.

I do not mean this in an aggressive way but just to convey my bottom line. I will help you in anyway I can but as my old mother used to say if you're a doormat you get trod on' I have never been nor intend to be a doormat! 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Social Media & My Partner

Robert's Problem

Hi Babs - I am not sure whether this is actually a proper problem but I find "social media" actually very anti- social. My partner spends a large part of her downtime facebooking, tweeting, texting and BBMing to the exclusion of actual conversation between her and me ( the ones alive and present in the room).

It's all rather irritating to me.Should I just chill out and accept this as the way of things in the 21st century or address the issue? If I address the issue what should I say?

Bab's Response

Thanks for contacting me Robert. I find your dilemma is all too common. I see lots of couples who identify Facebook or Twitter as the source of their problem/s.  It is my experience though that when we start exploring it's usually a symptom not a cause.

 In my opinion good relationships are all about balance. If the two of you have quality time as a couple, are able to communicate and have a shared intimacy then I'd be wondering what's the problem with sitting together at times just sharing your space perhaps engaged in different activities. If you don't have these things, however, perhaps you do have a problem.

What is it about the messaging that irritates you? It sounds as if you're saying you feel ignored or that your partner is not accessible to you in some way? That she may prefer her social media friends to you? Perhaps if you write down how you feel about her messaging habit then you can work out what's happening for you.
I am also wondering what's the payback in social media for her? Is it a form of escape? Is it fun? What did you used to do together before she began relating on the Internet?

It is not my decision to make but remember if and when you decide to speak to her, be sure to tell her how you feel not that you disapprove of what she does. If you do she's more likely to listen.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Feelings of Criticism, Rejection & Disappointment

My Week In Retrospect 

As you know I have a habit of looking back on my week and trying to make sense of my experiences and feelings.

I have been lucky enough to experience three 'me time' sessions. Wednesday I went to the cinema to see Melancholia and found that lacking. In fact my verdict was that it was self indulgent twaddle on the part of the director Lars Von Trier and so I walked out of the cinema after about 30 minutes thinking I had better things to do. I may add I rarely do this.  

That evening we went to see Fascinating Aida.  We had invited our  friends to eat with us before we went and we had a pleasant time. However, when we arrived at the theatre I found out Jim and me were sitting on our own and our friends were sitting with some mutual friends. J insisted that it was a mistake by the theatre and she hadn't known about the seating arrangement but nevertheless the error seemed too neat & I felt discomforted. So there we were and I was grizzling away to myself. 

When the show started I was really looking forward to it but I was feeling upset and I was trying not to spend my time seeing if 'the friends were enjoying themselves'. I would like to say Fascinating Aida were good and they are very professional. I did, however, have some doubts about some of the material. In fact, there were times when I felt very uncomfortable with some of the 'jokes' and afterwards I found myself wondering if I have developed into a prude. In some respects I'm not worried about it because I don't care what context it's in I do not like the 'c' word. Ah my friends explained, whilst looking at me as if I had two heads, it was ok because it was an acronym for the Banker's saga. Sorry, I still don't like it and I asked if my feminist friends would have found it so funny if they had been a male comedy act? That, however, is a future debate. Let's stick with the idea of another 'me time' not being up to scratch. 

So the final me time of the week was experienced yesterday when we went to Manchester to see Peter Kay. The tickets were last year's Christmas present from my son Alan and his wife Liz @pinklizzyg. Getting to the concert was not without its difficulties. We'd booked to go on the coach but that was cancelled because there were only the two of us booked on the Sheffield connection.  We then decided to try the train but there's no late night train from Manchester to Sheffield? We considered staying over but the accommodation on offer was too expensive so by a process of elimination we decided to drive. 

The drive over the pennines was not very pleasant due to the weather conditions but we arrived in Manchester in plenty of time to eat before the gig. We ate at Cafe Rouge which was ok rather than inspiring. When we arrived at the MEN it was already quite busy but we had no problem finding our seats and it was with some anticipation we waited for the the show to start. Let me say now I found Peter Kay very funny. I love observational humour and his observations are about the working class and it reminds me of the people I knew growing up. What I didn't enjoy was some of the audience participation.  In front of us was an elderly woman clearly under the influence of alcohol who kept standing up and doing some kind of wave action on her own. Then behind us was another older woman similarly inebriated who screeched her way throughout the night.  I realise at this juncture I risk sounding like a grouch but hey what can I say. I'm not perfect. 

So to make sense of my experience. What have I been feeling this week? Reading this through it sounds like one long moan. On one hand I want to tell myself to get a grip. I'm lucky to be able to experience such diversity of entertainment when so many people have all on making ends meet. Ok the experiences weren't without flaws but am I really expecting perfection and can only be satisfied by that? To be fair to myself I don't think so. I think several things have been happening for me. At the beginning of the week my friend had been critical of my responses towards her. She had been experiencing a problem. I questioned her coping strategies and she felt let down by me. I felt unhappy about this and tried to address this by standing back from the situation but it hadn't really been resolved. So I was still harbouring feelings of being criticised. Then the seat mix up occurred and I felt left out (rejected). Then all the happy times weren't quite as I expected so cue disappointment.

If I'd talked out my feelings with my friend they would not have infected my week. Though I work hard at dealing with problems as they arise. I am not always successful. Once again those feelings from childhood came to the fore and bit me on the backside.  Now having talked about it with you I have made sense of it and I can now let go and feel optimistic about the week ahead. 


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Kirsty's Dilemma

The Dilemma

Hi Babs,

I've never used anything like this before so you'll have to bear with me if I waffle. I'm a 25 yr old mother of a beautiful toddler. His father and I have been together 7yrs but since the birth have been growing further and further apart. The financial strain and differing expectations on how family life should be have just caused argument after argument. We've tried 'date nights' which resulted in another screaming match and him leaving me alone in the middle of town to meet his mates. Our sex life is non existent and if it does happen i have no interest/enjoyment. I know in my heart the relationship is dead but feel like leaving makes me a 'bad mum' and selfish. If I'm being honest there's also the fear that I'll be alone forever if I leave him.

Any of your thoughts are welcome.

Thank you

Barbara's Response

Hi Kirsty

I am sorry you are experiencing problems. It's a common myth that children glue couples together. In fact they often do the opposite due in part as you say to 'differing expectations'. If you feel there is no mileage in the relationship then in my opinion staying together for the children isn't a good enough reason and neither is the fear of being on your own. It is my belief that children fair better with two happy parents rather than two unhappy ones. I do understand the difficulties surrounding your situation and I am not saying any of the options available to you are easy. Before you do anything my suggestion would be to write down the pros and cons of staying in the relationship. When you've written them down extend the communication with yourself by asking yourself  'what makes me think or feel that' at the end of each statement by using the word because. An example of a con could be we are always arguing because? He doesn't listen to me because? He thinks I'm always nagging because? So on and so forth. Continue with 'because' until you run out of steam so as to clarify what you think and feel.  Another good question is 'what advice would I give to someone in my situation'? The reason is because that is often your answer. If you can't afford counselling which I would suggest  there is are a couple of good books on my recommendations page Baby Shock and Moving On which may help. 

Thank you for using the problem page and I do hope you have found it useful. 


Friday, 7 October 2011

Loss and Gain

This week has been one of loss and gain.

The Loss -  I have finished working with a client who has been in therapy on and off for a number of years with a psychotherapist. I had seen her in the past as part of a couple and then she asked if she could return to work out some coping strategies for herself. She knew the reason for her responses but felt unable to change them. When she decided to end therapy this week she had started to hear her own voice and discard mine.  This is what happens in appropriate parenting. The child is nurtured and follows the parents pattern for life. Then as he or she grows, they challenge the parent and eventually become their own person. I felt sad when she left but I was cognisant that it was appropriate and I have confidence she will be OK.

As I am working towards retirement I am experiencing feelings of impending loss. I am confident I will eventually be OK but I am fearful of loss of identity and of not being in a wage earning situation. I am writing this blog to help with the first. To deal with the second I have decided to recommend books.  The aim is  to earn commission. If it works I won't be as affluent but it could keep me in tights.

The Gain - I started up a book group with a friend and a couple of her contacts. Three of us had met briefly to discuss how it would work the other had not committed at that time. Three of the books were chosen and today was the first proper meeting. We discussed Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. I had read the book before so it didn't feel a heavy read for me. So there I was, little old me with three retired tutors - one who had taught  English, one Sociology and one History. I studied Literature at University but I was rusty on deconstruction. Though to be fair counselling is about deconstructing and making sense of the client's story.  I wasn't nervous this morning. I'm too long in the tooth for that, but it would be fair to say I did wonder how it would work. The answer is it worked really well. We all had something constructive to say. We all brought different perspectives. We we're all interested in each others point of view. When we finished the meeting I felt as if I'd reconnected with a part of me that has been dormant. I loved the debate. I felt alive and stimulated and the others seemed to feel pretty much the same. We all agreed this was the start of something good.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

My New Blog designed by Lesley Aveyard

I love my new blog/website which was designed and set up by  @LesleyAveyard
 Lesley is a tremendously helpful woman who is full of good ideas and advice to match. She interpreted my requirements perfectly which couldn't have been easy because I was very much of the I'm not sure of what I want variety of client! It is obvious with the amount of effort she puts in that she cares about her work.

Although we had made friends on twitter before we worked together it was a very professional arrangement and at the end of the process I feel content in the knowledge that she'll be there if need help or further advice. Though in front of witnesses, I promise you Lel, I really don't intend being a pain in the backside.

I think her rate per client hour is very reasonable and her services are premium. So all I can say is if you need help with any Social Media Work then do yourself a favour and employ this woman. On a final note. I am not someone who recommends willy nilly so if I recommend them then they're good! Ask my OH he will tell you I'm the world's best critic! If you need proof of her work then just look round the blog and you'll see how good it is. I am delighted so well done that woman!

Problem Page

Hi Babs

What a great idea this is. Thank you! My story is rather long, so I won't bore you with all the all the details.

To explain, I grew up in a very unstable home. My father was abusive, threatening, and I generally lived in fear until he left when I was 16. 5 years later he died.
That chapter of my life stole my childhood really and blighted my life ever since, even to the point where now I have no confidence in myself whatsoever.

That's not the reason I'm writing though. I find it hard to come to terms with my mother's behaviour during that period and even now. She was never tactile, didn't really protect us (my older sister and I) from his violence. She worked as he couldn't and I know she was just trying to keep the 'house' going.

That chapter of my life stole my childhood really and blighted my life ever since, even to the point where now I have no confidence in myself whatsoever.
But I often feel so sad that she never made time for me, didn't notice me crying in corners, didn't help us learn a language so we could speak to our German family, lied about going to parent's evening and went out somewhere else instead, glossed over my vulnerability when I said I hated myself and would look at pavements in public, won't take any responsibility for exposing us to my father's wrath - especially when she left a volatile house behind and went off for a week somewhere. (without leaving a contact number)

There's so much more to say. But, now, I find it hard to have a relationship with her. She's distant, doesn't take a huge interest, and yet rings occasionally to ask why I've not been in touch. Conversations are always about trivial things, not things that really matter. I don’t want to make small talk with my own mother, and yet I’m forced to as she is more interested in what we’re eating for dinner than in me as a person.
My problem is letting it all go. Accepting that I do and will never have parents that are really there for me. It's daft - I'm a grown woman, run a business and have a lovely husband (no kids) and yet I just can't mentally be at ease with the past - or with myself now. I've tried to see things from my mum's point of view, to make sense of it all. Why am I looking for answers still? Why is it so hard to just move on?
Why do I still feel like the child? I've tried to avoid that victim tag in my life. I've worked hard, refused to allow my upbringing stop me from being me. In fact, I often say that it made me who I am today. I'm caring, loving, and have a huge heart, yet even when tough things have happened in my life, I've always had great strength of character to beat things. Yet, why can't I just forget things that I can't change, or just let things go?


Babs Response

Hello Karen and welcome to my problem page. I want to say how sorry I am that you had to experience all that pain as a child. It seems both parents let you down badly and clearly it still hurts. I noticed you used lots of 'whys'. I think asking yourself why is a critical stance and it stops creative thinking. So instead I would suggest you ask yourself for example 'what is so hard about moving on'. One of the ways of letting go of  hurt and pain is to think of one of  the traumatic childhood incidents and to write a letter as that child to your mother about what you were experiencing and how you felt. When you've written the letter take it outside and burn it and as you burn say something like 'I'm letting you go' or 'goodbye'. Repeat it for each incident until you've covered what you can remember. I don't think forgetting is an option but you don't need to hold it in the forefront of the mind anymore. One more thing every night before you go to sleep say in your head  3 times 'I forgive myself , I forgive other people'. This is NOT about religious forgiveness but again about letting go. It may sound odd but it does work. Please remember this page isn't a substitute for counselling but I am offering strategies that work.

Kind Regards


Monday, 3 October 2011

The Rescuers

I'm a watcher by nature which is a useful attribute for a counsellor. In response to what I was reading on my timeline on twitter last night I commented that  'twitter at times is like an episode of  the rescuers'. What I meant by that is that some tweep will make a provocative statement about their current health or mental state or perhaps they have a tale of woe as to how someone has behaved badly towards them and then other tweeps with rush to their aid. You could ask what is wrong with that? Isn't a good thing that people want to help? My answer would be in some respects yes but often the tweep doesn't want to be helped they want to be noticed and to celebrate their victim hood.

The rescuer also is often interested in being noticed but they want to feel strong and good by offering help and to bask in their own virtue. They will often tell the victim that they too have been there. That they too are sensitive and can empathise. That the victim is blame free it's the other person's problem. As I'm typing this I'm debating with myself what is the difference between those responses and the help I offer. As you know I help people professionally and successfully but that success is built on the client's desire to resolve and to be helped.  I get paid for the service which is confidential. I don't gossip about my clients or share information about them. I have no axe to grind and no vested interest. If the client doesn't make changes, whilst I may feel sad for them, I take no responsibility for their lack of change. I'm not there to rescue but to help the client think their way through whatever is troubling them. I don't tell them they are victims in fact I often ask them what the difference is between a victim and a survivor. I don't have a magic wand though some may think that preferable. I don't get in the hole with them but stand along side offering a hand.

I do believe that everyone has a right to their choice.  I am not the arbiter of good taste nor is it my function to edit your conversations. It matters not one jot how inappropriate I think it is. I do, however, wonder at the public displays? They could after all direct message each other and keep their exchanges private? Perhaps disinhibition takes hold and they lose sight of the fact that what they say is in the public domain. It feels sad to me that they reach out in this way to people who often they don't really know. They only know what they each project on twitter? I won't disclose names or an actual scenario but I heard quite recently of a tweep being duped by a twitter fantasist. The tweep's feelings were really hurt because she'd swallowed the story hook, line and sinker. She was angry with the other tweep and she was angry with herself. My suggestion is if you want to rescue then that's your choice but do it with your eyes open and please do encourage the victim to do it privately. Then please don't complain when you don't succeed and you become the victim of the ungrateful recipient of your largess.

Please Note: I am not suggesting that anyone sets out deliberately to become a victim, nor am I saying that the rescuer sets out to rescue in a cynical way, I am talking about emotional and unconcious processes.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Three Words That Promote Change

It seems to me that when we try to communicate we get hung up on telling the truth. So what is the truth? Very often when it comes to two people telling the story of their relationship there are often different truths. They may agree that they are not getting on. They may agree it's about communication. They will, however,  often have different reasons and they nearly always blame the other partner. That is their truth. My job is to help them understand each other's perspectives and what it feels like for the other person to be in the relationship. It is often an eye opening experience especially for the partner who is convinced that they are right and telling the truth.

I have long been of the opinion that we use and understand language in different ways. One of the I first things I do when I agree to work with a couple is I give them a list of adjectives and ask them to tick which ones apply to them and which apply to the partner. It's usually not long before they acknowledge that they interpret the words in different ways. That's because there isn't one interpretation. 'Ah' you may say but somethings are irrefutable say for example if you see an accident? But if you ask any policeman about interviewing witnesses they will probably say that everyone tells a slightly different story. In fact if they don't then they (the police) usually suspect collusion. As I remarked to a twitter mate only yesterday. It depends where you are stood in the field as to what you see.

So communication - how to get your point across without rancour - can it be done? I think it can. If you want to convert other people to your point of view then that's trickier. I think that's where the majority of us go wrong. We want to convince the other person that we are right and they are wrong. Well in my opinion when it comes to relationships then someone being right or wrong doesn't do it. It means someone is a persecutor and someone is a victim. It's just not useful. The question to ask yourself  when communicating is  'do I feel understood'? If the answer is no then it would probably be useful to work out what prevents you from being understood.

My solution is to first delete a couple of  words from your vocabulary and replace them with more useful ones. The first to go is SHOULD don't worry the sky won't fall in! The reason you're dropping it is that SHOULD is an instruction without choice and who wants to follow those? Then you are going to replace it with COULD. I'm sure you can see that immediately you've given yourself an option? To hammer the point home further just imagine you are with your partner and he/she tells you that you SHOULD be do something to help. How do you feel? Probably criticised?  Now if  they ask if you COULD help?  Don't you want to accommodate them either immediately or later? Perhaps the wits among you will say 'well I don't want to help anyway',  but then perhaps they could ask themselves what's happening for them to make them respond in that way?

The second word to be deleted is CAN'T because if this word is in regular use you are not going to make any changes - you've already said you're helpless? That's not a comfortable position so lets replace it with WON'T now that's a word with some power? So it's not that you can't understand your partner's point of view it's that you don't want to understand. What could be the reason for that? Perhaps it's because if you understand it behoves you to make some adjustments and very often that feels hard. I mean we're mostly of the opinion that our way is the right way aren't we?

Next I want you to try I out for size. So instead of  making general statements which normalise your behaviour and imply this is how it SHOULD be done your going to say this is what I think, feel, like, want. This takes a bit of practice because you probably don't really know what you think, feel, like or want you're probably just carrying around all those instructions from childhood when you didn't have a choice. What I can say is that when you get used to saying I it makes you feel more powerful and you will be communicating more honestly. In a relationship where there is an issue say around timekeeping an example of useful communication would be something along the lines of  'I know that you're busy and you get sidetracked but I don't like it when you don't let me know when you're going to be late. I understand that you feel I'm trying to control you. I'm not but I worry something has happened and you're not OK. Could you perhaps ring me before you set off home'? The thing is you're making a statement but you're also acknowledging the other persons difficulty and explaining your point of view. I'm not saying this is foolproof because I don't think anything is but you stand a better chance of the other person being co-operative.

So to reiterate 3 simple changes I know work and which you could make to improve your communication style and feel more in control.

1) Drop should and use could
2) Drop can't and use won't and then ask yourself what makes you say you don't want to
3) Use I to get in touch with your thoughts and feelings and clarify your statements

What do you think, is it worth a try?