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.

depression

80% of the couples that come to see me for relationship therapy or marriage counselling want to get back to their happy place. Once we dive a little bit into the couple’s history, I usually hear that things started out well. I’m sure you can relate to that.

Be happy together again with Couples counselling and marriage therapy Burnaby Most likely when you met your partner you were pretty happy with him or her. If you take a moment and think back to that time, would you agree that you also thought good thoughts about him or her? That you told yourself positive stories and that you focused on the things you liked about this person?

Most likely you also noticed things that you didn’t like or that triggered you, but there was enough momentum in the relationship and in your desire to be happy, that it was easy enough to  ignore those things that annoyed  or disappointed you.

My hunch is when something “displeasing or challenging” occurred,  you told yourself that it wasn’t really that important, or that it might change in the future.

Fast-forward a few years. The momentum in the relationship has changed. Enough things have happened where you have felt misunderstood, disappointed, hurt or let down.

It may be your experience that you have discussed certain issues over and over again, you’ve tried to explain how you feel and asked your partner to change but they haven’t. So now you feel discouraged and hurt.

Possibly you have come to the conclusion that you need to adjust  the expectations you had for the relationship and from your partner. What this also means is that your thoughts and your narrative about  your partner has changed. Now you most likely think more negative thoughts or when something negative happens it is more difficult to reach for a positive thought and to focus on the good things.

You might recognize some of your current challenges in the relationship of Victor and Janet
(name and story changed to protect  confidentiality).

Victor and Jane got married eight years ago. When they decided to join their lives together they had similar goals and values of how they wanted to live their life. Today they still feel that they have similar goals and values but life’s demands and how they are navigating and communicating about the challenges of those demands make them feel disconnected from each other and their goals.
2 years into their marriage, Victor inherited  a struggling family business and  Janet became pregnant with twins. Due to a difficult pregnancy she was soon on bed rest and could no longer work. Victor’s father died and he started working 12 hour days seven days a week to try and create a  solid financial foundation for the family that they were going to be soon.

In the last five years that’s pretty much all Victor has done. He has worked very hard to provide for the family. He feels misunderstood and hurt when Janet complains that is he doesn’t help enough with household chores or the twins. He doesn’t share many of his worries with her because he doesn’t want to burden her. As a result he feels like a lone soldier whose wife doesn’t seem to appreciate his efforts. Somehow it is never enough.

Janet feels that Victor doesn’t understand what it’s like to have been the mother of premature twins. She feels like he doesn’t understand her reality and how  exhausted she is and how hard she works to keep the house clean and their children happy.  He doesn’t seem to notice the things she does in the house. Sometimes all she wishes for is to be able to go back to work. She doesn’t feel appreciated or courted by Victor anymore.

V+J haven’t had a date night in years. They both feel disappointed and hurt because the other  doesn’t seem to understand them. When one of them makes a request the other one feels attacked and criticized and gets defensive.

We’re sitting in our second couple session and they are both gridlocked. Janet wants Victor to initiate romantic outings. Victor would like Janet to plan the romantic outings. He is happy to show up but feels like he simply doesn’t have the mental time or energy to come up with ideas because the business currently understaffed. Both make statements that start with “why can’t you…”

I talk to them about “being the change you want to see.” They both acknowledge that they have Sex Therapy and Intimacy counselling Burnaby will help you rekindle intimacybecome  stuck in their negative stories and thoughts about each other and are continuing to co-create more misery and disappointment together.

Their willingness to respond to their partner’s request is hindered by their pain. It’s as if both are sitting there saying “Me, me first. When you can acknowledge and see my pain, then I can respond to your request.”

What kind of thoughts and what kind of stories do you tell yourself about your partner? Do you remember that this is the person who loves you – this is your beloved and not the enemy? Or do you take the things that go wrong personally? Do you feel misunderstood and hurt and struggle to remember that this person you are choosing to spend your life with thinks you are special.

What would happen if you changed your story and your thoughts? I know it may be difficult in the beginning. And most likely you both need to clear up some misunderstandings and soothe some pain.

Learn to appreciate your spouse again with positive psychology

But what would it be like if you started to look for the good stuff again? If you focused on all the things that DO work, that DO make you happy? 

If you find yourself resisting this idea then you need to ask yourself: Why? What do you need from yourself and/or your partner in order to contribute to the happiness that you can build together rather than deducting from it. You are in charge of choosing the thoughts you think and the narrative about your relationship. If shifting gears feels overwhelming or confusing, consider sitting down with a skilled relationship therapist, intimacy counsellor and couples counsellor.

Here are 3 ways to rebuild positive momentum:

Take a trip down memory lane. What did you love doing together that made you laugh and have fun that has been replaced with life stress. Schedule a date and pick up some of these early activities.

Make a point of sharing an appreciation with your partner every day. Consider it a gift to them. Put some thought into what makes them special and let them know why and how it makes you feel.

Be available and fully present when your partner wants to connect. Take a screen break – don’t check your cell phone while you’re having dinner. Stop multitasking when your partner is sharing.

Finally – it’s not about having the perfect relationship – it’s about how quickly you make a repair attempt. If, after a joint discussion, negative habits creep back in – apologize – make amends, shift gears quickly.

Whether you’re feeling the loss of a not-too-distant breakup or you’re sitting in the longing of meeting that special someone,  you might be wishing that Valentine’s Day would have  come and gone already.

Love and Dating Advice from Relationship Therapist BurnabyWho needs a reminder of romantic couple love everywhere when it just brings back painful memories or makes you wonder what’s wrong with you… Why can’t you seem to meet a truly nice guy or gal who wants you?

As a couples counselor and relationship therapist I often work with singles who want to break unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns of relationships past.    As we deconstruct familiar relationship dynamics and old hurts, we most often discover that things would shift greatly if there was an increased focus on loving the self rather than trying to please the other.

quotes_beyonceEspecially as women we are still hearing the old echoes of the female’s job description as being someone who is nurturing, in service, helpful, kind, loving and caring. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a nurturing, kind and loving individual – on the contrary – but it needs to start with YOU.

Because Valentine’s day isn’t all chocolate and roses for many, there are more and more messages in the media about using this day to love yourself. It’s an excellent idea.

Let this Valentine’s day

mark a shift in the most important love relationship in your life – the relationship you have with yourself.

If you had a partner who was the love of your life and infinitely special to you – how would you treat him or her?

Would you:

  • force them to do things because you thought they SHOULD? Because it made you happy?
  • make them feel guilty if they said no because they were honouring their own truth?
  • tell them that they should put themselves last and everyone else’s needs first?
  • tell them that they would be more lovable if they lost 10 pounds, had a smaller belly or bigger chest?
  • think they should feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • suggest they do everything in order to avoid disappointing others?

I can’t imagine you would!!

I am imagining that you would treat this special someone with great respect and care. If they felt discouraged you wouldn’t criticize them but encourage them. You would remind them that not only were they allowed to say no, but that they should say NO to anything that creates a cost of self.

Perhaps you would encourage them to trust that other’s can take care of themselves, that it wasn’t their job to fix everything.

Finally you might remind them that it was who they are that you loved and not what they accomplished or managed to produce.

Heal low self esteem and co dependency with relationship therapy North Vancouver

“Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.” Margo Anand

 

How would your life shift if you realized that the biggest love of your life needs to be YOU?

What would happen if you let go of all the SHOULDs and all the inner conflict and allowed life to love you? How would you feel during the day if you could shift your focus on the things you do have and opened yourself to receiving more of what you wanted rather than worrying about yet again not having your needs met?

Remember:

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship that you have.”

Here is to setting the intention of loving yourself and accepting yourself just the way you are on Valentine’s day and EVERY DAY.

 

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi, thirteenth century Sufi poet

Relationship counselling and addiction recovery can help you rebuild your marriageIt doesn’t matter whether you love someone who is struggling with Addiction or if you are an Addict, part of the emotional roller coaster of living with Addiction is the impact it has on your self-esteem. As an Addictions Counsellor and Marriage therapist I often help couples navigate the journey of recovery from co-depency and other addiction to rebuilding trust and self-esteem.

Can you relate to Hank and Renée?

When Hank and Renée came to see me for Relationship Therapy and Addiction counselling, a major issue in their relationship was lack of trust  caused by broken promises.  Promises made by  Hank to stop with his cocaine addiction.  Renée was a classic loved one who had stuck by her husband during 4 years of cocaine addiction feeling helpless, powerless, confused, hurt and overwhelmed. In the beginning she tried to fix things, trying to  control his addiction by trying to manage his moods and environment.  She pleaded and cajoled; she issued ultimatums that she never followed through on, and she believed Hank when he promised yet again that this was the last time, that he was truly quitting, that he was going to be sober from now on.

The addiction roller coaster had been hard on both of them. Renée felt unloved and hopeless and Hank felt like a loser. Why did he keep hurting this woman who loved him. Why was he destroying his own life? Renée felt like she was walking on eggshells. She wanted to be hopeful and supportive but she had heard these promises so many times before. Now Hank was accusing her of being anxious and controlling. Renée felt like she had to choose between expressing how she felt or suppressing her feelings.

For both the Addict and the Loved One, part of the journey of recovery and healing is to work on self-esteem.

As an Addict it’s important to understand that:

  • You are not a bad  or a loser  because you have become to rely on a substance or a behaviour to help you cope with emotional stress or overwhelm in your life
  • You are still loveable even if you have lied and/ or betrayed others because you were driven by your addiction
  • Even though you may feel shame and regrets, you still deserve to be loved and to walk in the world holding your head high

As a Loved One it is important to understand that:

  • You are not the cause, nor will you ever be “the cure” for an Addiction
  • You are not bad and you haven’t done anything wrong
  • You are not too much and your feelings of anxiety, discouragement or frustration are all legitimate – feelings are not rational and you are allowed to feel your feelings
  • Your loved one’s relapses are not about you and have nothing to do with you not being lovable
  • Saying No and setting boundaries, practicing self-care and not colluding does not make you selfish nor are you ruining your loved one’s life

Moving forward for both of you it is important to remember:Repair trust and self-esteem with Burnaby couples counselling

You deserve to love yourself because you are doing the best you can. If you are on the road of recovery (from your Addiction or your co-dependent behavior) you are making healthier choices. You are learning to cope with your life differently. No, you can’t turn back the clock and undo pain you may have caused. But moving forward you can make amends to the people you may  have hurt. You can practice accountability to yourself and your sobriety and to those you love by showing up every day from a place of intention and willingness.

Continuing an old behaviour is a choice. You can make more loving choices. You can reach out and call your sponsor, therapist, support person, crisis line, priest etc.  before you choose to use. You can practice mindfulness and a continuous inventory of self so you can prevent relapse.

You can practice forgiveness. As you lovingly forgive yourself for having abandoned yourself and those you love you learn to move on. The past is already over. You cannot change it. But you can look for the good in your life and in this moment. You can love yourself just the way you are from a place of humbleness and compassion.

You can learn to become your own best friend and lover. Treat and speak to yourself the way you would to someone who is infinitely precious to yourself.

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.

They use different aliases: marriage wreckers, divorce predictors, love erasers…but they all do the same thing. They are the termites that slowly eat away at your marriage.

I recently wrote an article on my website www.goddessrevealed.ca which focuses on counselling for anxiety and stress relief. The post is called “How to raise your Happiness Quotient” and discusses the effects of negativity on the brain as well as practical steps for moving from no to YES.

Negativity has not only a marked effect on the brain.

When the ratio between your positive and negative messages and expressions in relationship falls below 3:1 you are slowly erasing the love between you.

John Gottman ( The Gottman Method) researched communication between couples in the love lab for over 15 years and  identified 4 particularly harmful habits or divorce predictors that put couples at risk.

He has called them the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse. I like to call them the love erasers. When couples come to see me for sex and marriage therapy, one of our first areas of focus is the elimination of love erasers.

Burnaby Couples counsellor can help you prevent divorceDoes your partner sometimes say things that you have heard a thousand times... things you find boring or have judgment about…so as s/he speaks you roll your eyes. Or perhaps you have gotten into the habit of mimicking your partner, repeating things they said in a way that is sarcastic or diminishing. Some couples get into the unfortunate habit of name calling in moments of heated anger. All these actions fall into the category of contempt. How do you feel if your partner treats you with contempt? Most likely you feel hurt, shamed, angry …certainly not loved or emotionally safe.

Contempt is love eraser number one.

Some couples get so frustrated when they get stuck in communication or they feel so hurt and misunderstood that they North Vancouver Marriage therapy can save your marriage from divorcestop talking. Most of the time however it is one partner in particular who adopts this negative habit. S/he will simply not answer when addressed after a fight or disagreement. S/he will treat the other partner as if they were invisible and clearly inaudible. This “silent treatment” can sometimes go on for days. I once worked with a couple where the wife was extremely jealous. Whenever she thought that her husband had behaved “inappropriately” she would give him the silent treatment or cold shoulder. Sometimes he hadn’t actually done anything but someone had smiled at him and perhaps he had smiled back. Often he wouldn’t know what was going on, except that his wife was treating him like air.
He – like anyone else who has ever been the recipient of this kind of behavior felt frustrated, powerless and hurt. The lack of willingness to communicate slowly erodes trust and emotional safety.

This behavior is also called “stonewalling” and is love eraser number two

.

Burnaby relationship therapist and marriage counsellor helps you stop arguingSometimes when I listen to spouses discuss an area that causes distress during a marriage counselling session, I don’t hear about a specific behavior. Instead I get a very critical description of the husband or wife. “She is just lazy.” “He is so selfish”, “She is so mean-spirited, she always throws me under the bus with her parents.” When you criticize your partner instead of the specific behavior, your partner tends to feel angry, ashamed or embarrassed, and frustrated. S/he will most likely not feel particularly motivated to change the behavior that you are unhappy with.

Criticism and complaining is love eraser number three

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Most often criticism leads directly to love eraser number four. Defensiveness. Instead of being able to hear what you are unhappy about, your spouse either comes up with a big explanation about how this is not his or her fault or s/he retaliates but telling you that this is really all your fault. If you didn’t do “A”, then they wouldn’t have to do “B.”

Love eraser number four – defensiveness is probably the most challenging negative habit to eradicate

.save your marriage with Burnaby intimacy and relationship counselling

You can develop a zero tolerance for contempt and stonewalling. You can practice how you approach your partner about issues that impact you negatively. But you have to develop strong boundaries to be able to simply hear your partner out while trying to understand what is going on for them, rather than launching into defensiveness.

I invite you to stop for a moment and consider all the conversations you and your partner or even you and your children have in the course of a day or a week. What would you say is the ratio between positive and “negative” interactions? For every criticism or complaint, do you share at least 3 or 4 appreciations? Do you take the time to hug, touch and connect with each other in a loving a positive way consistently? Or does life sometimes get too busy, so that all that is left is a long list of frustrations?

If the love erasers are at work in your marriage or family, I urge you to make a pact with your spouse and children. Eliminate the love erasers from your relationships and replace them with mindful, loving communication. Infuse your connections with positivity. Find a balance between discussing the challenges and celebrating the good things in your lives together.

Have you stopped feeling special in your relationship? As a marriage therapist, I often hear one half of a couple who has come for couple’s counselling, share his or her sadness and disappointment about not feeling special anymore in the relationship.
This can prompt the other spouse to exclaim “What do you mean, you don’t feel special? Of course you’re special to me.”

Often  the partner replies with something similar to “but you never pay attention to me.”
Can you relate to the above scenario at all? While men and women feel special in response to different types of appreciation, both desire their partner to take notice of what they are doing or how they might be feeling.

Giving your partner attention is the one of the three keys to creating real love. When you’re in the honeymoon stage of your relationship, or you’re dating someone, you tend to shower them with attention. You notice everything about them. You express your appreciation for this person in word and deed.
Then, when you’ve been together for a while, and you’ve become a functioning team, it’s easy to start falling into the habit of taking each other for granted. You still love this person, but you are less focused. While this is a natural development, the key to relationship thrival lies in finding the balance that works for your relationship.

Kate had tears well up while she vented about her husband’s lack of attention. “Here I was, approaching the car with my arms full of shopping bags, balancing on high heels because we were going out to dinner. Do you think Jeff would notice and open the trunk for me? No, he was too busy on his Blackberry texting his buddy.”

Paying attention and being fully present with your partner doesn’t mean you can’t use your Blackberry anymore while you’re with your beloved.
It does mean, making an effort to notice and give voice to the little things: The expression on her face, the fact that he folded the laundry without you asking, the hours of overtime worked to create abundance, the note tucked into your lunch….
It means cultivating the habit of fully connecting with your partner when he or she engages you, i.e. putting the TV on mute, or momentarily setting aside what you’re doing.

Why don’t we pay more attention to our loved ones? Sometimes, we feel hurt, unseen or misunderstood. We carry around a bag full of unresolved or unnamed issues. I always know when couples have pain tucked away somewhere, when I hear one or both parties say:”Why should I do X? He / she never does Y for me. How many times have I asked for… “ and so on.

This brings us to another vital key for creating joy and connection in your love relationship. It is called willingness. Nothing happens without willingness. In order to be fully present with your partner you have to want to be present. 
Take a moment to reflect. Are you “sitting on something” that is affecting your willingness to make your partner feel special? Are you waiting for your partner to see and hear you before you’re willing to send them some positive attention?

Remember that if you’re hoping to receive your partner’s undivided attention, (perhaps you want to discuss something specific) it helps to let him/her know by making a specific request. Feeling hurt because your spouse isn’t reading your mind is a set up you co-create.

Learning to ask for what you want in a way that your partner can hear you, will go a long way towards creating willingness and receiving attention. To quote Harville Hendrix, founder of Imago Therapy, “focus on the positive.” That means rather than complaining or asking rhetorical “negative questions” such as “ Why can’t you cook once in a while?” or “Why do you always have to be late when we go somewhere?” make a positive request. “I would love it if you could take care of dinner on Wednesdays.”

The third key to creating real love and possibly the most precious gift you can offer your spouse is self-love; i.e. cultivating your ability to being willing to pay attention to and be present with your self.
Self-love often gets confused with self-care. Self-love doesn’t mean taking more bubble baths or treating yourself to a pedicure. Self-love means taking care of your own needs rather than expecting your partner to fix you. Developing an ability to self-soothe your anxiety would be an act of self-love for example. How would your partner and your relationship benefit? Imagine the following scenario:

Suzanne texts Rob all day long. She is constantly asking him when he is coming home, what he is doing and where he is because she is incapable of soothing her anxiety. She also phones him at work to find out whether he remembered to pick up the dry cleaning and to tell him about the phone call she had with her mother. When Rob comes home, and is texting on his phone, she wants to know who he is texting. Rob is Suzanne’s life line, problem solver and crisis soother. While Rob initially enjoyed feeling important, he now often wishes Suzanne could stop pestering him about his whereabouts. He feels curtailed in his freedom and weighed down by the feeling of responsibility of Suzanne relying on him to calm her down and reassure her all day long. Often he gets impatient. Then Suzanne feels hurt or gets angry.

Self-love means honouring your truth, discovering your needs and wants and taking care of your own well-being. While you want to contribute to the well-being of your partner, doing so at cost of self is actually a disservice to you both. It goes back to the principle of putting your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. The consequences of lack of self-love have a ripple effect on your relationship. Not attending to your health, not dealing with your depression, anxiety or addiction can have serious consequences for your relationship.

Take a moment to reflect…where do you neglect your self-love and why? What pulls you off center and away from being the best partner and spouse you can be?
Consistently monitoring your willingness, level of attention and quality of self-care will create a positive LOVE change in your relationship.

You might wonder how breathing can alleviate stress… it’s not as if you weren’t breathing the last time you were stressed or anxious. But if you think about how you tend to breathe when you’re tense, you will most likely realize that your breathing is quite shallow.

I’d like to thank North Vancouver Kinesiologist Raina Croner who facilitates Corrective Exercise Therapy & Personal Health Training at www.inspiringmovement.com (604-760-1205) for generously contributing this guest blog post and sharing some of her knowledge about breathing.

This is what she writes:

You can breathe through anything…I truly believe this for all of our life experiences and activities.  As babies, we are born with the natural and healthy ability to breath from our bellies.  With age, most people shift from this healthy abdominal breathing to shallow chest breathing.  Breathing is the one bodily function we can do either unconsciously or consciously.

Practitioners of Yoga have known for centuries about the importance of guided breathing, and Western cultures are now embracing the benefits of breathing correctly. We develop unhealthy habits without being aware of it, such as: poor posture and being sedentary with diminishes lung capacity, daily responsibilities are demanding and we forget to breathe, and also muscle tension resulting in faster and shallower breathes.  This shallow, quick breathing:

  • Decreases oxygen intake and carbon dioxide elimination.
  • Can decrease our lung function
  • Decrease oxygen leads to reduced vitality, premature ageing, poor immune system function… just to name a few!

We have created this shallow, quick breathing because we are in too much of a hurry most of the time, have an increase in stress and therefore have developed a reactive negative response to our environment – easily excitable, angry and anxiety.  These all affect our rate of breathing.  Keeping us in a constant state of “fight”!

Yogis believe that the nose functions to absorb Prana (the Sanskrit word for “vital life”; one of the five organs of vitality prana “breath” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prana), therefore if you breathe through your mouth and NOT your nose you are missing all the vital energy (prana).  They also say that this is a major factor in our lowered resistance to disease and impairment of our vital glands and nervous system.  Therefore, Yoga proves to have beneficial effects on the body if done with proper breathing.

You don’t have to be a yogi to practice good breathing, here is a simple technique that you can implement into your day with ease.  You can start with just spending a few minutes a day practicing, practice at times of acute stress or just add to your morning/bedtime routines.  Before long you will breathe easier and experience amazing improvements in your life.

How to breathe deeply

How many times have you heard the expressions “take a deep breath” and “breathe through your diaphragm”? If you’re not really sure how to, try this exercise:

  1. Start by lying on the floor on your back. (This will make it easier to develop the proper deep breathing technique the first couple of times.)
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly just above your waist.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose. You should feel the hand on your belly rise.
  4. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. The hand on your belly should gradually lower.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 a few times, then focus on allowing your ribcage to expand and widen as your belly moves out, so that you are filling up your entire lungs, from bottom to top.

Because as a counsellor I specialize in Somatic Psychotherapy, clients who work with me in my counselling office in Burnaby or on the North Shore will tell you that among other things, we focus on breathing.

Whether it is Addiction Counselling or Divorce Counselling… all our work together usually addresses anxiety, stress, trauma and /or some form of depression.

Breathing techniques are a great resource to self-soothe in every situation. Best of all, influencing our emotions and the tension in our body thru breath is free, healthy and always available to us.

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.

 

 

We live in financially unstable times. If you have invested in the stock market you probably feel somewhat powerless regarding the outcome of your investments. You can only hope that, as usual, with time things will stabilize again. Your losses will recuperate and become profits.

When you struggle with depression, anxiety or addiction you might want to consider taking a look at the distribution of your funds on the emotional stock market.

How are your investments faring? I once attended a lecture by Carolyn Myss where she shared a metaphor about emotional currency. Her comparison resonated with me and I use it regularly in my work counselling North Vancouver and Burnaby.

Imagine that every day the Universe (i.e. Life, God) gifts you $100 of emotional currency.

How are you using that $100?

Very few of us actually use our “daily emotional currency” which is comprised of our thoughts, our energy and our feelings to live and enjoy the gift of another day of life.
How about you?

Here is an example of what “diverse” emotional investments often look like:

You use $50 to finance the past. That means, you spend 50% of your mental and psychic time and energy thinking about the past.

You accomplish that by beating yourself up about a mistake you made or by being angry with someone else.

Rather than enjoying the present, you spend time grieving and longing for things that are over.

Now you take $40 to finance the future. This is done by worrying about all the What if’s. What if this goes wrong, what if that doesn’t happen, what if I lose my job, what if…

So now you have a mixed portfolio with $10 left to invest in the present moment.

The emotional stock market is similar to the financial one. If you want to go with absolute no risk then you invest in things that will not change. In return you will have very slow growth.

The past my friend is over and it will not change.

If you’re not well informed and have money to spare or perhaps you have a gambling nature, then you might dabble.
You try a bit of this and a bit of that. You invest in obscure companies that will probably not succeed. You buy stocks that have extreme fluctuations with very little predictability.

In return your growth is hit and miss.

You can hit the jackpot  but  more often you walk away with nothing.

You have no control over the future, no matter how much time you spend worrying about it.

When you spend your emotional currency in the past, you’re in a familiar place. Worrying or dreaming about the future can also become a familiar place. But these investments do not offer a return of joy and connection. Rather they fill your coffers with depression and anxiety.

If you want to make the most of your “daily $100”, then I encourage you to invest as much as possible in the present moment.
Be fully present when your child, spouse or friend talks to you rather than multitasking and thinking about the future. Be emotionally available to participate in your life with mindfulness.

You have no control over the past or the future. You do have control over the thoughts you think in the present moment.

Yes, not every moment in the present is filled with joy and happiness. But that is the cycle of life.
When you don’t give away your resources to the past or the future, you have a lot more strength for the NOW.

You can find the courage to trust that you will be ok, you will survive to manage the joy AND the pain.

Just like with finances, sometimes it is useful to turn to an expert who can help you balance out your portfolio. If you struggle with depression and anxiety, consider getting some support. There are many resources available ranging from self-help groups to counselling for depression and anxiety.

As usual, I would love to hear your feedback and comments to this post.

To your health,

Ina

Ina Stockhausen, Marriage Counsellor Vancouver BC