Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

info@positivelifechanges.ca
778-558-8207

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

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Do you struggle to understand your partner at times? Maybe when you met and were freshly in love, the fact that you were different was exciting and interesting. But when the novelty wears off, it’s easy to move from admiring a particular trait to finding it irritating or “wrong.”

This can then become a place where you don’t see eye to eye, your frustrations rub up against each other and you get stuck in the same argument over and over again.

If only he or she could see it your way… things would be so much easier. Often you are convinced that the way you go about things is the right or better way.

I hear about this dilemma during  couples counselling and marriage therapy in my Burnaby counselling office all the time.

If you don’t agree and often get frustrated when discussing certain areas of your life together, you are most likely being confronted with a difference in core value.

Core values are the foundation of who you are and how you choose to show up in the world. They impact your decision making process and are the reasoning behind your choices. Shared core values can contribute to great harmony in a relationship, and differences can be an endless source of misunderstandings and / or judgements.

Let’s look at a concrete example:

Do you ever find yourself thinking that your spouse is anal, neurotic or just plain controlling and anxious?

Or are you the one who can sometimes feel like your partner is lazy, too laid back or even somewhat irresponsible?

Whether you like to play first and then use that energy to get your work done, or if you learned that first you do your homework and then you play… how  you experience work and play is about core values.

The most important thing to remember  when you find yourself at the opposite end of the spectrum – in this case responsibility first or enjoyment first – is that neither one of you is right or wrong. Neither core value is better or worse than the other.

It’s when you get caught up in a critical stance of the other person being wrong somehow, that you get stuck in arguments.

What you can do:

  • Discuss your core values and concretely identify where you stand. A great resource for this conversation  is the work of Brent Atkinson, Ph.D at  the www.couplesclinic.com
  • Be curious – learn about how or where your partner learned about his or her core values and how she or he feels when the preferred way of approaching life is challenged or compromised
  • Agree and continue to remind yourself that your spouse is not wrong… you are both right and both entitled to honour your core value.
  • Discuss how and where you can compromise – in other words how can you avoid butting heads all the time, what would each one of you be comfortable to settle for or live with
  • Have compassion for each other and this process of being different. The desire or need to do things a certain way is attached to specific anxieties.

 

Remember, your spouse is not the enemy just because he or she likes to do it differently.

With some compassion, curiosity and humour you can use your differences to create balance and come up with innovative ideas of sharing life together.

Are you aware of  having roles in your marriage or relationship? Does one of you tend to be the complainer and the other one the listener or sympathizer?

The minute Laura would walk in the door at the end of the day, she would vent to Sam about her day. Traffic had been bad, her boss at work had been rude, her mother called and they had a fight, she didn’t digest lunch properly and so on and so forth. Sam usually listened and made sympathetic noises.

One day, Laura became aware that she was always regaling Sam with stories about her day while he would share next to nothing. When she asked him if he never got frustrated, he was surprised. Of course he did! At work a delivery had been delayed and he had had all sorts of headaches to deal with that day.

Laura was confused that he didn’t talk about what had happened. Sam thought his role was to listen while she complained.

Ideally coming home means the return to a safe haven. As a marriage counsellor I help couples communicate in a way that validates their experience and leaves them feeling heard and seen by the other.

Sharing the little or bigger plights of your day and sympathizing with each other can be comforting; especially if you both get a chance to vent. Most of us don’t have too many places in our lives that allow us to be blunt and honest about our experiences and what we think of our boss, the neighbor, traffic, ecc.

Consider having a mini-pity party together daily. Vent about your frustrations, receive sympathy and then let go and move on. Some tips: try to simply receive your partner and listen, rather than trying to fix what is going on for them or suggesting how they could have reacted or done things differently. When we’re venting, we’re usually not open to hearing criticism (as constructive as it may be) nor do we want our audience to take sides with the other party.

If you do have thoughts regarding what your partner shared, ask if he or she would like some feedback. Talk about what you heard and your reaction and thoughts – NOT about how your partner could or should behave differently. Be curious; ask more questions to get clarity. If your spouse does not want feedback, don’t take it personally and accept a no graciously.

 

 

How to prevent an affair in your marriageDo you ever feel like you’re more open with your friends about how you feel, what you’re frustrated about and what’s going on for you these days than with your spouse? Feeling disconnected or lonely even though you have a partner is not uncommon and can be the first step into an emotional or physical affair with someone else.

Many couples complain that they feel disconnected from each other. But what does that really mean? During a couples counselling session the other day, a client talked about how pleased she felt after having shared her feelings of euphoria and success with her partner. The summary comment was “Of course we talk, but I usually don’t talk about feeling embarrassed or as in this case how pleased I felt that I had  overcome this particular anxiety of mine.” Her partner’s response had been so positive, encouraging and celebratory, and they had both felt more connected after that conversation, they wondered why they didn’t talk like that more often.

For most of us, life is busy. And if you’ve been together for a few years, it can become natural to fall into a routine of chatting about what happened in your day or what needs to happen. And if in the beginning you wanted to know your sweetheart’s every thought, after several years and possibly numerous occasions of feeling misunderstood or judged you talk less about your inner world or how you feel about each other.

As a marriage counselor, I help couples create a deeper and stronger connection. I encourage couples to integrate what I call “The Daily Connector” into their routine.

This is how it works:

Find a regular time in your day where you have approx. 30 min of time together. This could be while sharing a meal, doing a daily chore together, sharing a commute, ecc.

You are going to share the answer to the following three questions, calculating to speak approx. 5 minutes per answer.

1)      How do you feel? – here you are answering how you feel physically and emotionally. You might say something like this: I feel tired. My shoulder is still sore from working out yesterday and I didn’t sleep very well. I’m also pretty excited about the meeting at work today where I’m going to present my new project.

2)      How do you feel in relationship to your partner? – here you’re answering whether you’re feeling connected or not, loving, open, frustrated ecc. You might say something like this: I am feeling a little distant because I’m still disappointed and hurt that you forgot our anniversary 2 days ago. I’ve also experienced you as impatient these last few days and I am not totally relaxed when you always have a grumpy look on your face.

3)      What do you want, need or hope for? – here you’re sharing either a specific request or a personal need. You might say something like this: I really need some quiet time today. It’s been a busy day. I’m hoping that you might be willing to put the kids to bed while I have a bath and read.  OR something like this: I need some help on the computer. Would you have time over the next couple of days to help me install iTunes? OR: I’ve been feeling romantic. I’d like to plan a romantic date with you this week.

There are a few ground rules: as the person who is listening, all you get to do is listen to what is being said. You are not allowed to ask questions, become defensive, argue, add  to the content or otherwise interrupt your partner while he or she is sharing. You are also not allowed to start discussing or question content. If you get triggered or have feelings come up for you, you need to get in touch with your boundary.  I also encourage you to get in touch with what you heard in your journal or pick a later moment in time to share how you feel. Do NOT argue how you don’t agree with how the other person is feeling.

Integrating the Daily Connector into your life as a couple, is like checking the pulse of your relationship regularly. You will stop operating on assumptions, as well as feel more connected and authentic with each other. When you regularly dive below the surface to honestly talk about how you feel, you should not have to live thru an affair like Rosetta Getty.

As always I love to hear from you and encourage your questions or comments.

 

One of the most basic needs that humans  have is to be heard and seen.

Being heard and seen by someone  you love creates joy and well-being.

What do I mean when I talk about hearing and seeing someone? I’m talking about attunement and boundaries. When I start working with new counselling clients, our first session is always a boundary session. We explore how boundaries have been experienced in the past and how that manifests is showing up in the client’s life now.

Whether it is marriage counselling or helping someone cope with addiction recovery, boundary work is essential to communicating true needs and feelings and managing your own emotions.

Truly hearing and seeing someone and being heard and seen in return finally becomes possible when you are connected to and grounded in your boundary.

In order to make what can be an abstract concept, a felt sense in the body, I use string during the boundary exercise. At the end of the exercise I will say the following:

“I want you to know that I can see your boundary. During our work together, I am going to be right here with you, with my boundary. I am not going to invade your space, nor am I going to leave.”

What is often the most important sentence for clients to hear is this last sentence:
“You don’t have to worry wondering how what you’re sharing is landing for me. I will take care of myself.”

What is the greatest obstacle to either being heard and seen or to being fully present with someone you love?

Our Ego and poor boundary management are at the top of the list. Our ego likes to drive our internal monologue.
Here are some examples of what can happen when you’re listening to someone:
Notice that you may or you may NOT be aware that this is what you’re doing.

  • You get distracted because you’re busy or bored and start thinking about something in your own life – i.e. a part of you leaves and you pretend to listen
  • You start having opinions or judgments regarding what you’re hearing and you can’t wait to share those… so you stop listening or eagerly wait for an opportunity to interrupt
  • What you’re hearing brings up feelings for you – either regarding the well-being of the other person or your own anxiety, sadness, anger ecc. When it’s your turn to talk, you jump in trying to change how the other person is feeling or all of a sudden the conversation becomes  about you and your feelings.
  • You feel the need to fix things and start giving advice or telling the other person what they should be doing or thinking.

How many times have you shared something with a spouse or parent but “adjusted” the what, how and when of your communication because you wanted to

  • avoid conflict
  •  not upset the other person
  •  minimize your anxiety
  •  protect yourself from feeling vulnerable

 

About 12 years ago I was part of a closed group of therapist practicing dance movement therapy. For 2 years we met for 7 days twice a year. And in those 7 days, every day we repeated a particular exercise. It entailed one person being in front of the group (there were 30 of us) sharing an experience. Those watching had to be witnesses.

There were only two rules:
In silence, we were supposed to be fully present with the person in front of us and hear and see them.
The moment we noticed that we were no longer fully present because we got distracted, triggered, had gone off on a tangent, were in judgment mode ecc. we had to get up and stand in a marked area to the side.

If we were in “the box” our job was to now be fully present with ourselves; to truly hear and see what was going on for us. Once we had attended to our own issues and were ready to be fully present with someone else, we returned to the witness area.

It was an incredibly powerful exercise for both the witnesses and for the person in front of the group. We learned that as a collective, there were certain things that triggered us or we weren’t able or willing to hear.

As individuals, we were really able to get in touch with how easy it is to get caught up in how others respond to us. (It’s not easy to share something with a group and have half the people get up and stand over on the side.)

Mindfulness and good boundaries are 2 key ingredients for relationship thrival

because the promote an emotional connection where you can feel heard and seen.

How fully we are willing and able to be heard and seen is determined by the amount of emotional safety present in a relationship. I invite you to ponder the following questions and identify your challenges.

  • How safe is it for you to be authentic?
  • Can you share with your partner that you’re distracted or busy right now but you’re willing to listen later?
  • Can you set a boundary and share that what you’re hearing is bringing up feelings for you and that you’re now in your own world?
  • Are you willing to trust your partner to cope with whatever feelings might come up for them in the conversation?
  •  Are you able to let go of trying to “fix” whatever is going on for your spouse?
  •  Can you stay connected to your own boundary and soothe any anxiety present for you, when you share something you know the other person isn’t going to like?
  •  Are you able to not get defensive and lovingly own your own truth?
  • Can you refrain from criticizing what you’re hearing or asking WHY your partner feels this way?

Take some time to journal about what comes up for you and compare notes with your partner. You might be surprised about some assumptions have been making or how you individually experience your communication.

Often in our desire to be fully present with another, we stop being present with ourselves.
Learn the difference between being present WITH someone and being present FOR someone and how the latter can have some very negative consequences in Part 2 coming soon.

Ina Stockhausen, R .P.C. is a marriage therapist offering counselling services for Burnaby, the Tri-Cities area and greater Vancouver.