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.

awareness

One of the most common “complaints” I hear from couples when they make an appointment for couple’s counselling or relationship therapy is how fed up they are  with all the negativity between them.

stop blaming with couples counselling in Burnaby and North VancouverAre you tired of bickering all the time? Are you a nag?

Does it feel like conflict erupts out of nowhere… one minute things seem to be fine and the next minute you’re arguing? Would you agree that those types of arguments rarely lead to resolving the real underlying issue?  Instead you’re both most likely walking away feeling frustrated, annoyed or disappointed?

I’m going to invite you to take a moment and think back over your last few conflicts.

Do your arguments often start with one of you complaining, blaming or criticizing?

In other words, did one of you start pointing a finger and talking about something you didn’t like the other person was doing?

If that is  indeed the case, most likely you ended up arguing about who was right or wrong, one of you got defensive or started explaining and you got stuck  in that place where both of you want to be right.

How can you get out of this repetitive cycle? Grab a cushion and work with the three fingers!

Let me explain:)

Often when you get irritated you step into “trigger – reaction” mode. You point a finger at your Relationship Therapy North Vancouver can help you communicate betterpartner and start telling them what is wrong with them or what you don’t like about them and their actions.

But every time you point a finger at someone – three fingers are pointing back to you. 

I know that it can be really hard sometimes to bring our attention back to ourselves. It is very easy and tempting to get stuck in the energy of: “If you didn’t always ‘fill in the blank’ – then I wouldn’t have to feel this way.”

But remember, this is YOUR trigger and these are YOUR feelings that have developed from the thoughts that you are choosing and the story that you are creating.

Wayne Dyer used the metaphor of the orange to paint a picture of this dynamic. When someone squeezes an orange, juice will flow out of the orange. No matter who or what squeezes the orange – the juice is always orange juice. It doesn’t change flavour or contain pieces of the person who is doing the squeezing.

Relationship counselling Burnaby can help you increase your ability for reflection and accountabilityIn order to reduce conflict and increase connection you need to be able to step out of reactive mode into reflective mode. This is where the “cushion” comes in. Connecting with yourself and identifying what is going on for you requires calming down just like you would  if you sat on a cushion to meditate.

Some tips:

Calming down your body will help calm down the mind. Bring your awareness to your belly and take 3 or 4 breaths into the belly. (This activates the para-sympathetic nervous system which calms the body.)

Asking yourself the following questions can help you identify your trigger and your part in the conflict:

  • What is familiar about this conflict? How does this remind me of my childhood or growing up years?
    Sometimes you will find that the trigger is part of an old  “theme” such as for example “No matter what I do, it’s never good enough,” or “I do so much to make others happy but it never really gets appreciated,”  or “Nobody wants me.”
  • What story have I created in my head – what filter have I used to interpret what has happened?

    Two predominant filters that create conflict are judgment about the other person, or judging yourself, i.e. you either assign a value to the other person because they’re not doing what you would do in a given situation or you put yourself down because you believe that you are the cause of the conflict.

You might choose to write down your insights so you can mull them over and potentially share them with your partner.

Deepen your intimate connection and rekindle appreciation with Marriage TherapyAs you both take increased ownership for your part of the conflict and share your triggers with each other you will  remember that this person is not “the enemy” but rather the love of your life. Building a culture of accountability will deepen your intimate connection and will allow you to make a “repair attempt” more easily. 

If you find that you can’t calm yourself down easily, that you both experience difficulty listening to each other or you have the tendency to take things personally you might consider connecting with an experienced marriage counsellor or relationship therapist like myself who can help you with boundaries and communication tools.

Stress and anxiety counselling Burnaby for women and couples

Do you spend a lot of time worrying about things that are out of your control? Do you agonize over doing it just right so you can avoid conflict of disappointing others?

 Perhaps you experience “crises” similar to the following examples:

  1. Your adult daughter calls you frantically from work. This is her first day at the new job and she was supposed to bring various signed documents with her. She has forgotten them and is freaking out. You go into crisis mode with her and drive all the way across town to get the documents for her so she won’t make a bad impression on her first day (especially since she has 3 months probation).
  1. While you were visiting with your friend, during a brief moment of disattention, your child has wandered off into the bathroom and flooded the toilet. There is water everywhere and you feel mortified. Your friends recently renovated this room and now there will be water damage.
  1. You’re divorced co-parent is not on the same page as you are when it comes to nutrition and feeds your child fast food, processed food items and sugary things. At his house your child seems to eat in front of the TV and go to bed whenever. In the meantime you are doing your best to cook only healthy food and limit TV.

Positive psychology approach for stress and anxiety relief with psychotherapist BurnabyWhat do all these situations  – and  most likely others that send you into crisis mode have in common? The crisis is created by the assumptions that you’re making and the story that you create in your head. In the specific moment that things are happening there is no crisis. But your codependency habit turns it into one.

Let’s take the first example. Nothing bad has happened yet. Your daughter may make a poor impression – she may not. It may affect whether she gets to keep the job, or it may make no difference at all. The crisis occurs when you start to create  a story  with a negative outcome in your mind.

Let’s take the second example. Your child didn’t drown. Nobody got hurt. You go into crisis mode, worrying about your friendship and potentially the criticism you will receive from your spouse about not paying attention to your child.

Perhaps you worry that someone is going to be angry with you or criticize you. You might worry about money. But these are all assumptions and again stories about possible future outcomes. From a birds eye view – there is no real crisis. 

Let’s take the last example. Yes it is irritating that your co-parent is not on the same page.  But right now your child is not in a health crises, nor is it becoming obese or needing corrective vision glasses from too much television. You’re going into crisis mode when you imagine all kinds of negative consequences in the future.

Being in crisis mode can become addictive. You get used to running on adrenaline. Underneath all the fretting and chaos lives co-dependency. Many of the stories you create in your head are based on the assumption that you have control over other people’s behaviours or thoughts. But that is an illusion. Even if  someone were to hold a gun to your head and told you to  feel scared they wouldn’t be able to make you feel or think anything but what you chose to feel or think.

Somatic Psychotherapist Burnaby can help you overcome trauma and anxiety

In other words – you can choose to create stressful stories in your head and feel anxious and stressed or you can try to come back to the present moment and realize that what is happening is not a crisis but your co-dependency habits.

Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor, well respected author and psychotherapist said: “At any given moment we are able to exercise  the most important freedom of all – the freedom to determine our own attitude and spiritual well-being.”

Responding from a co-dependent place is not a habit you have to continue. You can choose to learn ways to soothe your anxiety thru meditation, breathing practices, self-help books or with the help of a trained professional offering psychotherapy or counselling for anxiety and stress relief such as myself.

Do you worry about your loved ones  being disappointed, or feeling bad in some shape or form?

Do try to save your children from feeling/experiencing pain and disappointment in life?

Burnaby Relationship Therapy for recovery from codependency addictionDo you work hard to manage your loved one’s feelings so he or she doesn’t 

  • get sick,
  • relapse,
  • become depressed again,
  • get triggered into some other painful place?
  • Are you the super attentive and kind friend always willing to come to the rescue?

Are you the friendly neighbor who goes out of their way to be helpful?

If you are nodding your head and saying “Yes, I am.  Yes I do all these things and more.”, it sounds like you value being a “good” human being and like to contribute to the well being of others.

Just between you and I, at the end of the day, do you sometimes feel a little disappointed? Do you feel like you put a lot of effort into making other people feel good but somehow they don’t seem to return the favor in equal measure?

Do you sometimes feel a little hurt because all your efforts and the energy that goes into worrying and making sure that others are okay goes almost unnoticed?

Do you sometimes feel a little un-  or under-appreciated?

Have you ever promised yourself that you’re going to stop being so nice? That you’re going to put yourself first? But then, when you try to make these changes in your life, and you actually do try to put yourself first you get stuck?

If you feel anxious or unsettled when  people around you are unhappy or frustrated then changing your behavior may be easier said than done.

In fact you may feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place because when you see people you love experience disappointment or pain, it’s almost as if their pain is your pain.

Often individuals who worry a lot about how others feel, also prefer to avoid conflict if at all possible. Of course the potential Codependency counselling and addiction recovery with Burnaby couples counsellingof conflict increases as “happiness” around you decreases.

In order for you to get to a place of more ease inside yourself and still maintain your values of being a caring person you need to unlearn or shift an erroneous belief that you most likely learned when you were growing up.

You need to let go of the idea that you have control over or power over other people’s lives. You also need to let go of the idea that you are responsible for other people’s lives. (Of course you are responsible for any minors in your care.)

When couples or individuals seek my services as a psychotherapist who specializes in working with addiction recovery and helps loved ones of addicts move into recovery from co-dependency, I sometimes offer this mantra:

“I don’t have the power over, control of, or responsibility for other people’s lives. I was taught that I had these powers. This is a lie I now tell myself.”

Repeating this mantra regularly can help you to stay connected to what it is that you really want –  especially when you are feeling anxious and worrying about what is going to happen if you don’t step in to fix things and make sure everyone is happy,.

It will also help you identify whether your actions are truly coming from a place of loving and caring or whether they are informed by your need to manage your anxiety.

anxiety relief with psychotherapy  North Vancouver for co dependent behaviourSometimes it’s hard to differentiate whether you caught in your codependent place or acting from a place of love and caring. From the outside your behavior looks the same. If you’re confused, get out of your head and into your body.

The best barometer for identifying this difference is your body. An act of loving and caring will make your body feel open and relaxed. If that same behavior is however about managing your need for approval or trying to avoid conflict, your body will feel somewhat contracted or tense.

Remember that a lot of the worst-case scenarios that you’re trying to prevent are completely out of your control. You have no control over how your loved ones will respond to,  interpret, feel or think about something.

or How to stop escalating relationship conflicts.

Burnaby marriage therapist can help you resolve conflictWhen couples contact me for relationship counselling and marriage therapy, I invite them to fill out a personal info form where they are asked to name their short and long term goals for couple’s counselling.

80% of couples that seek out my services as a marriage and family therapist want to change how they communicate. More specifically they want to change how they handle conflict. 

I’m sure you’ve had an argument or a fight or two with your lover / spouse. If you think back for a moment, can you identify the difference between the arguments that ended well and those went “sideways”? What happened in those discussions where you got stuck, didn’t reach a positive resolution and left feeling angry and misunderstood?

I am imagining that you’re answers all point to one or both of you having reached a point where you felt overwhelmed, out of control, triggered, attacked, or ungrounded. In fact you probably felt like Mr. Duffy in James Joyce’s novel “The Dubliners.” To quote: “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”

Typically when we start to get overwhelmed or “flooded” with emotions, our whole system is in stress mode. This means that your brain is pouring out stress hormones, which in turn affect your breathing and your heart rate… and all of this affects your ability to think clearly, stay focused and connected to your boundary. You can literally be beside yourself. Because your body has entered something similar to fight or flight mode, you also tend to forget that the person who is facing you is actually not your enemy…but someone who you love deeply and who loves you.

Grow the love you have with North Vancouver relationship therapistWhat would happen if in the moments of your most heated discussions, you were able to remember the goodness and beauty of your partner? Would you be able to step into a place of compassion and desire to understand what is going on for them? Would you make different assumptions and interpretations and consequently respond more calmly and less defensively? Would you simply be more willing and open for loving communication?

In order to return to a heart space, one of you needs to call for a time out or break when things get too heated. Ideally you will cultivate a sense of awareness of your mind and body in order to be able to quickly identify and catch yourself when you are getting flooded. Sometimes you may be too absorbed in the heat of the moment and it will be your partner who notices that you are flooded.

During this time out or break, you may choose to sit side by side or even stand side by side, leaning against each other. Focus Burnaby couples counselling uses mindfulness to help you resolve conflicton bringing your awareness back to your body. The first and most simple way of doing this is to connect to your breathing. 

  • Focus on breathing into your belly (this activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is calming) and slow down. Relax your jaw, breathe with your mouth open and gently concentrate on expanding the belly and releasing tension on the exhale.
  • Next find areas of muscle tension in your body, and first tense and then relax these muscle groups. Examine your face, particularly your forehead and jaw, then your neck, shoulders, arms and back.
  • Make the relaxed muscle groups feel heavy and warm by imagining that your arms for example feel pleasantly heavy and warm.
  • Finally bring a soothing and loving image to your mind. Focus on feeling calm and safe. Now think about a positive loving memory that involves your partner. Allow your mind to move from one positive image to the next. Allow yourself to remember how you feel when you have felt truly loved by your spouse.

Give yourself about 15 – 20 minutes to shift into this calm and grounded state. If you have a difficult time remembering anything positive or loving about your partner, the two of you may need to sit down and talk about why you love each other. Sometimes couples counseling can help work thru old conflicts and hurts so you are able to  reconnect to why you are choosing to spend your life with this person.

 

In my Burnaby marriage therapy office, I often hear couples talk about their desire for a deeper intimate connection.

Perhaps you can relate to this scenario: Sex is mostly good or okay, but not as great as it could be, because of time constraints and scheduling problems, lack of connection or underlying conflict.

After years of working as a couples counsellor and somatic therapist, and from my personal experience, I know that how deeply we connect with others depends on our ability to be fully present in the moment.

Take a moment right now to stop and reflect. Where is all your energy? While you’re reading this, is a part of you thinking about the deadline of your project, or what you need to prepare for the kids? Or are you fully present in your body and with the process of reading this article?

Most likely, you’re energy is scattered; especially if you’re in the habit of multitasking. Don’t get me wrong, multitasking has its benefits, but none of them are relationship and intimacy enhancing.

Do you ever catch your thoughts wandering off while you’re making love or having a quickie? Nobody likes to admit that while they’re in the throes of passion a part of their mind is engaged making the grocery list or thinking about the laundry.

Here is a perceptively simple exercise which I like to call Skinergy. Regularly practicing 10 minutes of  Skinergy will help you become more present with your intimate partner, which in turn will create a deeper intimate connection.

Skinergy combines Skin with Energy.

One of the most effective ways to become fully present in the moment and with someone else is to become fully present in your own body.

  • Lie down together completely undressed, i.e. skin on skin ( you could stand but most couples prefer a horizontal position and support for their long torso).
  • Start with your eyes closed and connecting to yourself. Take several deep breaths and become aware of your body. What does it feel like? Are you tense, is there any pain, do you feel cold or hot?
  • After a couple of minutes, make eye contact with your partner (it doesn’t matter if you’re completely synchronized or not).
  • Now tune into the connection between you and your beloved. What does his or her body feel like next to yours? What do you see in his or her eyes?
  • After a couple of minutes return to your own body experience. This process of taking turns of being present with yourself and another is called shuttling.

Some things to observe and be aware of:

Notice your breathing. When you connect and look into each other’s eyes, does your breathing change? Do you lose connection with yourself? Do you get to a point of needing to look away or close your eyes? All your feelings are valid and welcome.

This entire exercise is about noticing. Breathing together and feeling each other’s energy.

You can touch each other – but in a non-sexual way. This is not meant to be foreplay, although many couples report that being connected and fully present and feeling each other’s energy creates and builds sexual energy or arousal. If that happens you may of course choose to continue with foreplay AFTER Skinergy.

The entire exercise (approx. 10 min) happens in silence.  This is all about sensing yourself and each other. If you notice your thoughts wandering off (and they will) gently bring yourself back to the present moment – just like you would during meditation. Simply observe the thought without engaging and let it pass by like a cloud.

A regular practice of Skinergy will “train” you to become automatically more present with yourself and attuned to your partner and his or her energy. You will notice that your intimate connection will deepen naturally.

If you experience any challenges, or have feedback, comments or concerns, I’d love to hear from you! Please connect with me by leaving a comment or sending me an email at info@positivelifechanges.ca.

Here’s wishing you deeper and more fulfilling intimate connections.

When you were a baby you had no problem making your needs and desires known.
You weren’t plagued with self- doubts! What changed?

Many of my clients often seek counselling help for depression, relief from anxiety, or counselling support thru grief and loss.

As we sift thru the layers, all problems usually have one underlying theme. Even in my work as marriage counsellor the same topic emerges over and over again.

This theme is called “I’m not good enough.” How come you’re no longer good enough?

What happened to the perfect baby that you were?

When you were a baby, you had no sense that there was anything wrong with you. You had no thoughts that you should be different. You didn’t think that you were too short, too fat, too thin, too ugly, too dumb, too difficult or too ______________

Today, do you ever hear a voice in your head say some version of the following to you?

  • What’s wrong with you?
  • What’s the matter with you?
  • When are you going to get it right?

This kind of self-criticism is the result of having internalized messages you heard people say to you when growing up. Praise, the absence of praise or even punishment can create a mindset of needing to do better, of not being good enough.

A mindset of striving to be “perfect.”

Striving for perfectionism creates a well-developed inner critic; who then interferes with you loving yourself. Limiting the love you have for yourself results in having less respect and esteem for who you are. Low self-esteem erodes your confidence.

Here are some examples of what lack of love for self and lack of self-esteem can look like in every day life:

  • You get caught up in trying to please others
  • You take care of others but neglect your own self-care
  • You put your own needs last – you don’t ask for what you want
  • You procrastinate doing things that would be good for you
  • You get caught up in anxiety worrying about the “should haves”
  • You don’t ask for the raise you deserve
  • You don’t charge enough money for your services
  • You mistreat your body with food, alcohol, lack of sleep or lack of exercise
  • You allow your partner or others to belittle you
  • You minimize your accomplishments

How can you make positive changes in your life?

It starts with loving yourself. We are all our own harshest critics. One excellent way to change your negative self-talk is doing mirror work.

Try looking into your eyes and saying
“I love and accept you just the way you are”

Add your name, for example
“I love you Sally, I love and accept you just the way you are.”

Notice what thoughts surface.

Pay special attention to negative thoughts such as

  • Yea, right… but if you’re so great how come…
  • Who do you think you are?…
  • Who are you kidding?…

Using a journal to jot down what surfaces, can help you identify where that thought comes from and what it is really about.

Babies are not afraid to ask for what they want. Babies feel free to express their emotions.

Learn from the genuine expression of babies. Connect to staying in the present, rather than worrying about mistakes you made in the past or things you might do “wrong” in the future.

 

As you work on your inner dialogue, practice giving yourself permission to be authentic… like a baby.

Choose one area in your life for loosening up your unrelenting high standards and reducing your perfectionistic behaviours.

Strategies to help you cope with change include giving yourself permission to make mistakes, reminding yourself of the consequences of your perfectionism, learning to laugh, and rewarding yourself often for the small steps you make towards change.

 

 

Does the way you eat reflect how your family ate when you were growing up?
Naturally thin individuals are more in tune with their bodies when it comes to food consumption than others who struggle with weight issues and dieting.

When you are in tune with your body, you can interpret the message from your brain “I’ve eaten enough” in a timely fashion. Research shows that, it takes longer for food signals from the stomach to reach the brain as a person becomes heavier.

If you are a “fast” eater, you most likely consume more food than your body actually needs to satisfy hunger.
Now there is a new gadget on the market to help people lose weight by getting them to eat more slowly.

Maclean’s published an article called “Eat Like a Snail” in their April 12th 2010 issue, which discusses the merits of “SMARTBITE”, an oral device which forces the wearer to only eat small bites and chew the food thoroughly before being able to swallow.

In my work with clients who struggle with Emotional Eating and bingeing, bringing awareness to the process of eating is the first step towards change.
Changing Emotional Eating does not mean to never have a piece of chocolate when your sad or stressed again….it does not mean continuous deprivation of all your favourite foods because you are on “a diet”.
It does mean savouring your choice of food. Involving all your senses.

As a child you most likely heard “don’t play with your food”. Perhaps you’re also familiar with phrases like “Finish what’s on your plate”. “If you don’t eat your vegetables, you can’t have any desert”.
Naturally thin people are able to tune into their bodies because they most likely never had to learn to ignore their body’s messages.
Recapturing the signal our body sends us takes practice and mindfulness.

The next time you eat… engage all your senses. Pay attention to your environment. You cannot tune into your body if your mind is absorbed by the TV, the newspaper, unpleasant discussions, or when you are eating on the run.

Bring your awareness to the texture of what you’re eating, the aroma, the temperature. Enjoy the colors, the presentation. Take small bites. Chew thoroughly. You may find out that some foods (primarily fast food) does not taste that great when you chew it more than 4 or 5 times… all of a sudden it’s greasy, too sweet, etc. You may discover that less is more.

When less is more, you might be able to afford higher quality of food. As you rediscover the dialogue between your brain and your body, you might make different food choices… based on the nutritional desires of your body.

As you tune in, you might also ask yourself…what do I really need or want right now? Food? Or do you need a hug, a time out, a walk in the park, some reassurance from a friend?