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.

life transition counselling

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.

Becoming a caregiver can activate a lot of emotions. Particularly when women become responsible for the care of a parent, I have noticed how easy it is to get caught in the perfectionism trap.   It becomes important to do a perfect job, to be a perfect caregiver…adding an extra layer of stress.

I have yet to meet a woman who isn’t familiar, at least to some extent, with the notion of not feeling good enough.

Today I’d like to share a story of how the need to do it right  can contribute to overstepping boundaries.

In the last little while I’ve been counselling and supporting women who are navigating that life transition piece of becoming a caregiver.

The story of Joan (name has been changed) illustrates how perfectionism, or  “extremely high standards” can be driven by the need for approval of others.

Joan’s mother is a widow in her late 70s. In the months, she’s been struggling with vision loss and recently she broke her ankle.  Because mother hasn’t felt very safe to go out on the streets alone or to do her shopping, Joan has stepped in and has been taking care of providing her with groceries.  Now that mother is fairly immobilized with a broken ankle, Joan has taken over the cleaning of her apartment as well.

When Joan came to see me she was feeling very frustrated.  Her mother was complaining to everybody that all she was doing was cleaning.  Here I am trying so hard and all my mother does is complain, Joan shared with a mixture of sadness, anger and confusion.

Then the other day Joan and mother had a big fight about mother’s housecoat. In her efforts to keep everything clean and tidy, Joan had also decided to wash mother’s robe. It was then that she noticed that the robe was starting to look a little worn and ratty.

She told mother that she thought she needed a new housecoat.  But mother didn’t agree. Not only did she love that housecoat – it had been a gift from Joan’s father. She  thought it was still good enough. Joan spent about 30 min. arguing but couldn’t sway mother.

So she decided to take matters into her own hands. The next time she visited, she replaced the housecoat with a new robe and took the old one with her for disposal. Instead of being grateful and pleased about the gift, Joan’s mother was furious and Joan felt very unappreciated.

As we worked together, Joan was able to identify what had happened. She’d been afraid that someone would come and visit her mother and see her old worn-out robe and decide that Joan was neglecting her parent.

Her cleaning frenzies had been motivated by the same fear. So rather than enjoying time with mother and keeping her company, she’d been driving herself crazy cleaning the apartment from top to bottom… even though her mother had asked her to stop.

Have you ever experienced anything similar?

Have you felt embarrassed by the behavior or circumstances of someone close to you because you felt it was a direct reflection on you?

Perhaps you worried about being judged a poor parent, an incompetent pet owner or a “not good enough” daughter or son. While this is a good example of how the desire for approval can activate perfectionism, it also illustrates the loss of boundaries.

The next time you feel an urge to step in and fix something or somebody, or take care of something for somebody that isn’t really your responsibility, stop and take a deep breath.

In fact take several deep breaths. Then connect with this mantra or truth:

“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.”

Of course you are responsible if you’re caring for an infant or child. But as the child grows and becomes more independent or when you deal with adults who have full mental capacity you are no longer responsible for their well-being, appearance or feelings.

While you may mean well when you step in and fix something, as the story of Joan illustrates, you’re not really doing the person a favour. Furthermore while it may look like it’s all about them, upon closer examination, you will most likely discover that you’re meeting a need of your own.

 If you’d like to ease the stress that perfectionism can create, I invite you to check out my new tele-seminar series about “Embracing the gifts of imperfection and letting go of perfectionism” in the Events section.

As always I welcome your comments and feedback to this blog post.

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.

Change can sneak up on you. When I work with clients who are seeing me for life transition counselling, most of the time we identify the presence of precursors indicating that things had been changing already for quite a while.

Change can be a wonderful thing; a catalyst for positive shifts in your life. But whether planned, expected or not, most of us resist change because with it comes the “unknown.”
Oprah once said “When we feel the ground beneath us shifting, we panic. We forget everything we know and allow fear to freeze us. Just the thought of what could happen is enough to throw us off balance.”

Again, most of the time the ground doesn’t shift all at once.
What stops you from noticing and addressing “mini-shifts”?

In my experience there are three major “thought processes” that hinder you from embracing change: 

Denial: You don’t trust your inner voice. Example: You get a sense that your partner isn’t as affectionate as he/she used to be, your sex life seems to have lost its spark. Your gut is telling you something is off. But that thought feels scary. So instead you put it down to stress, and find different excuses that allow you to ignore what your inner voice is telling you.

Worrying about the feelings of others: You don’t want to upset or hurt someone else’s feelings. Example: Lately you haven’t enjoyed meeting with your friend because all she seems to talk about these days are her problems with her kids. You feel like you never get equal “air time” but you are hesitating to say anything because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Plus you feel like you’re not a good friend if you do.

Being caught between the past and the future: All the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ves” compete with the “what ifs” in your thoughts. Example: Returning to the scenario of your sex life as a couple having lost its spark you reprimand yourself that you should have bought sexy lingerie more often and if you would have lost weight like you planned your partner would be more interested. At the same time you worry about “what if he/she likes someone else….what if this is the beginning of the end?”

 How can you be more attuned to change in your life and how can you deal with it productively?

  • Trust you inner voice
  • Connect with your boundaries… you are not responsible for the feelings of others
  • Stay in the present… present moment only moment.

The “emptying out” exercise can be a useful tool.

I recommend you do this in your journal, because being able to go back and read your thoughts helps you identify patterns and can support the process of trusting your inner voice.

At the end of the day, jot down any niggles, any processes that are still sitting with you or came up for you during the day. Identify what needs of yours where met and which ones weren’t. Notice what contributed to your needs not being met and how you can change that.

Remember that you have no control over the past or the future. Acknowledge your feelings of sadness or loss as well as your fear of the “what ifs”. Giving yourself permission to grieve or be afraid and then moving on is important and different than suppressing these feelings or getting bogged down in this place.

Breathe, connect to your boundary and to the present moment.

 If you allow yourself to stay present and grounded, then change will not sneak up on you and it can be a catalyst for something positive…such as a closer and more authentic connection with your partner or friends.

How do you feel about ageing? If you are reading this and you haven’t hit your 40s yet, you might not spend any time thinking about ageing at this point in your life.

But if you have passed the 40 or 50 mark then you might have spent some time reviewing your life:

  • Where has it led you so far?
  • Are you being the woman or man you want to be?
  • Are you living the life you have always wanted to live?

For many of us, change or transition is part of the “mid-life” period. Children grow up and leave the nest, parents age and caregiving roles become reversed, marriages fall apart due to “mid-life crisis.

It is natural to re-evaluate goals, dreams and challenges when you are faced with transitions in your life. Life-transition counselling can help you navigate this exciting period which is often overshadowed with “heavier” feelings such as loss or grief.

We live in an era that cultivates and approaches life with a very different mindset compared to the beliefs our grandparents grew up with. Many of us, particularly if we have the privilege of living in a civilized, peaceful and affluent part of the globe have started to embrace the notion that we create our own reality.

In our consumer and industry driven part of the world, what that reality looks like is heavily influenced by the media and ultimately by politics.

Ageing or better said “preserving youthfulness” is a multi-billion industry that encompasses everything from cosmetics to supplements. While different messages about the benefits or drawbacks of ageing compete for our attention, our cultural heritage and family values continue to have a large impact on our attitudes and beliefs.

Hence, your mindset and your internalized beliefs will influence the ease with which you might navigate life transition periods or why you might seek life transition counselling.

This is good news! Why? Because you can choose the thoughts you think.

Fascinating studies from people like Ellen Langer at Harvard, show that the belief system someone has by the age of nine determines what they believe about aging. Those who believe that as you age you become wise and that there are positive things associated with aging, add seven years to their life.

If you didn’t grow up with a positive belief system about aging, it’s not too late to shift your way of  thinking. Dr. Christian Northrup’s response to the question of how women can overcome guilt and other self-perpetuating abuse, is to switch focus.

Switch your focus from everything that can go wrong to everything that can go right.

Therefore, when you are navigating a transition period in your life connected to mid-life change and the prospects of aging, think positive thoughts, think about the things you love and focus on living the life of your dreams… it might just extend your life span and will certainly help you make positive life changes.