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.

perfectionism

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 ever think or say “I can never do anything right!” or “No matter what I do, it’s never good enough for you!” when you’re involved in yet another squabble with your partner?

When Harry and Jen came to see me for couple’s counselling in Burnaby they were both very frustrated. Over the last couple of years their bickering had become more and more judgmental and it was harder and harder to tap into the love and positive feelings they used to feel for each other. 
Jen shared how fed up she was with Harry not helping enough with chores and with the children. She vented about always having to be the one who at the end of the day took care of most things at home. Harry countered that he had given up helping because whatever he did, whether clean up the kitchen or fold the laundry Jen always came and corrected him, told him he was doing it wrong and was never happy with the result. 

Burnaby relationship counsellor helps you stop fightingHarry and Jen (as always names and recognizable traits have been changed to protect confidentiality) are a classic example of a couple where one partner has some “perfectionistic” tendencies or is very attached to how things need to be done. Black and white thinking creates judgements. The partner whose actions are continuously being “corrected” gets tired, gives up and responds with defensiveness…and thus starts “the blame game.” The couple gets stuck arguing over content and whose fault it is. They both point the finger at the other and get nowhere except leaving the discussion misunderstood and unappreciated.

These types of arguments / disagreements can also be caused by core differences…for example, one partner thinks work first then play, while the other one wants to relax first and then work. When one or both partners get attached to thinking that their way is the right way, the other one is left feeling like they are never doing it right, at least in their spouse’s eyes.

How can you shift this kind of pattern or scenario? If you stop and think about your squabbles for a moment and how frustrated you are, you will most likely notice that you feel your partner simply doesn’t seem to “get it.” They don’t understand.

What most of us want, especially from our partner is to feel seen and heard. We want our beloved to understand our pain. Unfortunately this is often one of the most difficult things to do for couples. Sometimes both parties get caught up in wanting the other person to understand them first before they are willing or able return the favor. You might call this the “What about me?” syndrome. Or, instead of being able to just listen, the “accused” gets defensive and / or apologetic and tries to fix things by explaining why they are doing things differently. In both scenarios you end up talking in circles until you both walk away throwing your hands up in the air.

Relationship therapy Burnaby helps you communicate with loveBreak this frustrating communication cycle by practicing the following:

  • Stop and appreciate what your partner does or has done. Acknowledge and accept their way of doing things instead of blaming them
  • Find your empathy. Try to put yourself into your partner’s shoes for a moment. Be willing to recognize what this situation feels like to them. Try to understand their underlying positive intention. Can you get a sense for their pain? (remember this has NOTHING to do with you and you don’t have to fix it)
  • Build your partner up rather than tearing them down. Offer praise and recognition to enhance their self-esteem.
  • If you can’t connect to anything positive and all you feel is anger and frustration, take some time to journal. Dig deeper and find out what you are really disappointed about and most importantly – how are you contributing or co-creating this situation? 

If you feel that you have tried some of these tips but they haven’t worked and your partner still doesn’t understand or seems to be willing to change, it might be useful to sit down with a relationship therapist for a few sessions to get unstuck. A marriage counsellor can help you move past this impasse and metaphorically hold up a mirror for both of you. Sometimes having a third party reframe what you have been trying to communicate or think you have been hearing can create the beginning of an important shift back to being each other’s lovers rather than feeling like each other’s “enemies.”

 

 

Do you feel less inhibited or does it seem like you can “let yourself go more” sexually after you’ve had a drink or two or three? As a marriage counsellor and relationship therapist I often hear couples share that over time their sex life has lost some of its initial “sparkle.”

Recently one couple, let’s call them Mary and Tom,  shared that they had gotten into the habit of drinking or toking before being intimate. Conflict arose because Mary didn’t always feel like having a drink before sex and this was now affecting their physical intimacy.

How does alcohol affect your sex life? On the surface, alcohol may give you the illusion to promote “great sex” because it can make you feel romantic and more inclined to be sexual. For some men, it can “prevent” mild cases of  premature ejaculation or a tendency to come too soon. For some women it can promote sexual arousal or desire.

Have you have ever experienced difficulty in staying present with your partner  during sex (i.e. while you’re intimate your mind wanders and you suddenly think about work, or something on your to do list)?

Perhaps you can relate to the struggle to relax and relinquish control because you worry about being parts of your body being unattractive?

This was the case for Tom and Mary. Tom often felt overwhelmed by Mary’s need to have eye contact during sex and desire to talk after sex. Mary could get caught up in thinking her belly was too fat and trying to avoid Tom touch her in certain areas she thought were less attractive.

After a couple of drinks these feelings subsided for both of them. This makes sense because alcohol and marijuana are both depressants. The can temporarily alleviate anxiety.

Alcohol does not however contribute to building a deeper intimate connection. You also face the risk of developing a habit of needing “chemical” support to handle your emotions, which can of course lead to addiction.

Sexual bliss is directly impacted by your ability to

  • Manage your anxiety
  • Learn to be present in your body
  • Build and maintain charge
  • Create emotional safety and trust in your relationship

Introspection is the place to start if you’d like to deepen your intimate connection, if you long to have sexual experiences with your partner that verge on the spiritual or if you’d like to be more at ease in your body.

Once you’ve identified whether you need help with boundaries, self-esteem building or anxiety management, you can choose a number of ways ranging from self-help books to counselling support to create positive change in your life.

If you have identified that your relationship is lacking in emotional safety, you and your partner will want to sit down and discuss what you need from each other in order to repair or rebuild trust.

Often this will mean that you both learn how to communicate differently with each other. Sometimes it means one of you needing to learn anger management.

There are numerous resources available from books to courses in non-violent communication or working with a love and intimacy counsellor like myself who can help you with the process of hearing and seeing each other and accepting each other’s differences without sacrificing your own needs and desires.

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.

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.