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.

mindfulness

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.

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.

Have you felt hurt, disappointed, under appreciated or rejected in response to something your spouse said or did or didn’t do? And have you then gone ahead and adjusted your own behaviour based on that experience?

Take the example of Quinn and Lara:

Lara used to cook dinner for Quinn but often he would come home late and her lovingly prepared meal would be cold or overcooked. She interpreted is lateness as a lack of appreciation and acknowledgment that she was taking time to cook. Her cooking was an act of love and caring. Quinn seeming lack of appreciation made her feel hurt and disappointed. So she stopped cooking and made herself a sandwich instead. When Quinn would come home, she would be busy with her iPad and wouldn’t make a special effort to get up and greet him with enthusiasm.
Quinn interpreted her lack of cooking and enthusiasm as a lack of caring and now felt hurt. So he stopped bringing her coffee to bed in the morning the way he used to.
Slowly they both kept adjusting their behaviours and acts of love and kindness in response to their hurt feelings. Their sense of disconnection grew in proportion with their feelings of rejections and disappointment. Soon they stopped having sex or struggled wanting to initiate intimacy.

Can you relate to the pattern Quinn and Lara have fallen into?

Marriage counseling Burnaby helps you repair love and emotional connectionSometimes when couples come to see me for Burnaby relationship therapy or marriage counselling they have accumulated a list of slights, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. They have internalized their interpretations and conclusions which in turn are now impacting their behavior and their interactions.

Do you have such a list? Have you gotten stuck in scorekeeping? Is your willingness to be kind and loving with each other compromised by the discussion of who disappointed the other one first?

These discussions are as fruitless and unproductive as trying to figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg. In the end, does it really matter?
Is it really your partner’s fault? Or have you co-created the situation by not sharing your feelings and your interpretations? Did you not also make a choice when you decided that your partner’s behaviour indicated a lack of love and caring for you?

If you find that you regularly assume the worst and tend to forget that this person you’re choosing to spend your life with loves you, I encourage you to sit down together and discuss where this lack of emotional safety and trust comes from.

When did you stop trusting that your spouse only has your best interest at heart? What behaviours make you feel inadequate, criticized or judged?

In order to rebuild love and trust it is essential that you respond with love. Remember that you have a choice when you interpret your partner’s behaviour. You also have a choice how you’re going to respond. Are you going to close your heart and retaliate with a lack of willingness or can you set aside your ego and respond with love?

What would it be like if you could remember that complaining, criticizing and grumpiness tend to be Couples counselling New Westminster helps you repair broken trustan expression of not feeling loved? When your partner seems to express judgment or criticism it is not a statement about you being bad, inadequate other something being wrong with you. It is a statement about your lover’s lack of happiness, joy and inner contentment.

Ask yourself, what do you need to let go of scorekeeping? You might identify that you need to recover from codependency. You might need to be more authentic. Perhaps you need to be more clear and direct. Maybe you need to be more attentive to getting your needs met and honouring your own truth.
Sometimes sitting down with a counsellor can help you identify old patterns that no longer serve you and develop some new responses that honour your inner truth and contribute to you feeling happy, confident and empowered.

Remember you can choose if you are going to respond with love to grow the love you share or you can withdraw from your “love bank” by getting caught up in the downward spiral of scorekeeping.

Are you familiar with the major reasons for betrayal in relationship? And do you know how to avoid them? When couples come to see me for affair recovery or marriage and relationship therapy, we usually start with an assessment to identify the strengths of their relationship and where they need support.

Check out this list of the six most common causes that have been identified to put your marriage at risk for an affair. Do you experience any of these in your relationship right now?

Relationship Therapist North Vancouver: how to recover from an affair1) Do you feel lonely? Does your partner tend to be busy, preoccupied, not available when you ask for attention?

Antidote: make a point of scheduling time for each other. When your partner invites you to connect (he wants to share something with you, she wants to hear your opinion about something) be willing to set aside your media device, game control, social media activity etc. and give your loved one your full attention. If you aren’t fully available in the moment, communicate this with your partner and let them know when you will available.

2) Are you feeling disconnected because of a lack in communication? Have you and your partner stop discussing what is brewing under the surface, or what you have been sitting on emotionally because of time constraints or other reasons?

Antidote: be willing to dig deeper and go below the surface. Go beyond the usual question of “how was your day” and the standard answers of “pretty good” or “not too bad.” Use the daily connector to talk about what really matters to you and create a deeper level of communication.

3) Are you suffering from a love and attention deficit? Do you feel under-appreciated? Do you wish your partner was more affectionate and made an effort to acknowledge what you do or what he or she values about you?

Antidote: treat your partner with the love and care and attention that you would devote to something incredibly precious and valuable to you. (You probably spend some time taking care of your car, your special camera, your special media device, your bonsai collection etc.) Let them know that they are a priority in your life. Be generous in sharing praise and appreciation. If you’re not feeling generous, it’s time to find out why you’re feeling this way and talk about it together.

Couples counselling Burnaby: Relationship advice to prevent affairs4) Are you struggling with boredom? Have you and your spouse fallen into a rut of always doing the same thing, hanging out together but not really connecting…like watching TV every night because you’re both so tired? Are you experiencing a level of emotional distance?

Antidote: be creative and think outside the box. Are you really too tired to do something at the end of the day? Consider agreeing on a media free week once a month or one media free evening a week. Play games, identify or develop a common or shared interest and build excitement in connecting and enjoying this activity together.

 

5) Are you experiencing sexual disconnection? Have you stopped being affectionate with each other? Do you touch each other less frequently these days?

Antidote: start to bring mindfulness into your physical connection. Take the time and remember to have a ritual of greeting each other when you leave in the morning and when you come back together in the evening. Make it more than a quick peck on the cheek. Practice hugging each other once a day for three minutes and see if you can stay present or if your mind starts to wander.  Plan an erotic surprise for each other

6) Is there a lack of intimacy in your relationship? Do you sometimes wonder whether your partner really knows who you are? Do you feel emotionally safe to be completely authentic with the one you love?

Antidote: regularly update your knowledge about your partner’s world. Take time to share your innermost dreams, hopes and fears. Identify any hesitations or feelings of vulnerability and discuss them with your partner, letting him or her know what it is that you need from them so you can show up in a more authentic way.

I often like to compare a long-term relationship to a house. If you are a home owner, but even if you are renting, think about all Marriage counselling North Vancouver: creating long-lasting harmonythe things that need to be done regularly to maintain your property in good condition. What needs to be done regularly to ensure your investment is protected from external influences and increase or at least maintain its value?

Your relationship is a valuable investment. Would you agree that you have invested time, emotional energy and most likely money? Are you doing everything you can to take good care of this investment? If the answer is no, perhaps it is worthwhile to stop and think about why not.

As usual, I welcome your thoughts and feedback regarding this post 🙂

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.

 

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

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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.

As a somatic psychotherapist and marriage counsellor I offer intimacy coaching to couples who would like to deepen their intimate connection and want to share a more satisfying sex life.

The number one practice and first, very simple step towards a more fulfilling sex life is body mind awareness.

In a world that is incredibly fast-paced and almost everybody’s day is tightly structured and governed by a schedule, most individuals spend a lot of  time “in their head.” And while eroticism and desire are governed by the mind and by willingness, without body mind awareness your sex life risks being limited to a quick orgasm rather than the enjoyment of a full body release.

There is often an erroneous belief that a bigger trigger creates a “bigger bang”, i.e. increasing stimulation of the genital area results in a bigger orgasm. It’s like driving a low horsepower vehicle and thinking that if you push the gas pedal hard enough it’s going to go faster, forgetting that maximum output is determined by horsepower.

If we transfer this analogy to the body, the amount of energy in your body is the equivalent of the vehicle horsepower. You need more horsepower, i.e. energy for a more complete orgasmic experience. How can you increase and build energy, specifically sexual energy? Since you can only change something if you have an awareness of the starting point and the desired outcome, body mind awareness is your gateway to building energy.

Exercising and maintaining a certain fitness level can contribute but don’t guarantee that you have body mind awareness. If you tend to exercise and multitask, i.e. watch TV, work on your computer or read while you’re running on the treadmill, you’re often distracting yourself from your body.

Cultivating a “breathing practice” is the simplest way and first step to increase body mind consciousness while learning how to move/raise energy in your body.

 When you bring your awareness to your breath and increase its volume, a number of beneficial physiological mechanisms are set into motion. More breath means more oxygen which is a key element in your body’s ability to produce energy. The website “The Healer within” is an excellent resource for variety of simple breathing practices that you can integrate into your daily routine.

Practicing to regularly tune into your body is the second step in mastering body mind awareness. How often in your busy day do you ignore the signals your body sends you?

Perhaps you’re familiar with these examples:

  • You have to go to the washroom but decide that you don’t have time right now and continue on with your day ignoring your discomfort
  • You skip lunch even though you’re hungry because you’re too busy
  • You overeat even though you feel full
  • You don’t drink water even though you’re dehydrated
  •  You have a cup of coffee rather than a brief nap when you’re tired

Learning to listen to and honor your body signals, slowing down and doing a body scan to bring awareness to your body,  practicing mindfulness, all these are simple ways that can enhance your body mind awareness.

Imagine lying in bed with your partner fully present in your body, acutely aware of the sensations touch is producing. Imagine engaging all your senses, smelling, touching, seeing yourself and your partner. Imagine breathing and deliberately changing your breath to increase and raise your sexual energy.

Now compare that image with lying in bed with your partner a part of you giving and receiving touch while another part of you is thinking about what you have to do tomorrow. As you go through the motions of “pushing all the right buttons” a part of your mind keeps wandering off.

Which intimate experience would you rather have?

 

 

Over the years of offering marriage counseling to couples, I’ve noticed that there are some recurring stories or themes that propel individuals to seek out couples counseling.

 

One such theme is “I’m not getting a lot out of our marriage/relationship anymore.” This statement is often accompanied with a sense of bewilderment, sadness or resignation.

There is a sense of loss that what used to be an exciting, romantic, sexy relationship somehow morphed into a well-functioning, predictable, loving companionship.

I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with solid, loving companionship. I would like to suggest however, that there needs to be a shift in attitude if you want to keep your marriage vibrant and exciting, an emotionally safe haven from the world where you continue to grow, heal and discover each other.

You are most likely familiar with John F. Kennedy’s statement “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I would like to propose that you transfer this statement to how you live and participate in your relationship, i.e. don’t ask what your relationship can do for you, but what you can do for your relationship.

Like anything that is supposed to grow and flourish, relationships need care, attention and nurturing. But you can’t give from an empty cup. That’s why I believe that one of the most important contributing factors of lasting relationship bliss is self-care.

Unfortunately we all lead very busy lives, with long to do lists and self-care tends to land at the bottom of the list. Given that most people never get to the bottom of their list, and new items are added to the top rather than the bottom, self-care can easily fall by the wayside.

Why physical self-care is important:

Physical self-care means taking care of your body by feeding it nutritious food, New Westminter Marriage counsellor helps you rekindle passionexercising, refraining from abusing drugs and other addictive substances and getting enough sleep. If you don’t feel well in your body, it affects your mood. If you’re always grumpy, overtired and irritable it affects your relationship.
If you are disconnected from your body because you don’t exercise and regularly ignore the messages from your body, how can you expect to connect energetically and physically with your partner?

Why emotional self-care is important:

Emotional self-care means attending to your emotional needs. In order to be aware of your emotional needs, you need to practice mindfulness. You have to be willing to slow down and tune in to become aware of how you’re feeling. If you consistently ignore your feelings of hurt, disappointments or other emotional triggers rather than working them out in your journal, speaking to a friend, discussing the issue with your partner or seeking professional help, you risk being shut down, emotionally unavailable or exploding in unwarranted fashion when you reach a breaking point. If you’re busy trying not to feel certain emotions, or your heart is closed, how can you connect with your partner in an openhearted and loving way?

If you can agree that being available to yourself and honoring your own needs is the foundation you require in order to be available to others and potentially honor and connect to their needs, then it would make sense to put self-care at the top of your list.

If practicing good self-care is a commitment that you’re making so you’re able to nurture your love relationship, I invite you to stop and think about what would be helpful to you so that you can honor that commitment.

What are your challenges regarding self-care? Consider how you and your partner could support each other in practicing good self-care. What kind of agreements regarding accountability could you come up with? Remember that it takes consistent effort to move from the know-how to the do how…but isn’t growing and deepening your love relationship worth it?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Mindfulness and good boundaries are 2 key ingredients for relationship thrival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.