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.

positive affirmations

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.

As a marriage therapist and couples counselor, I regularly listen to couples share the pain they experience when they don’t get the love they want. Often, especially in the beginning of couples counselling, there can be a fair amount of focus  on how the pain is the other person’s fault, i.e. the result of what the other person is doing “wrong” or failing to do.

Similar to J.F. Kennedy’s famous quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” I sometimes like to offer couples these questions:

“ How can you love more in this relationship?Increase love in your marriage with Burnaby Marriage Therapy

How can you give yourself more love?”

It’s easy to get stuck in feeling disappointed, hurt and discouraged based on your spouse’s actions or lack thereof.

Would you agree that when you are marinating in pain, you forget or have doubts whether your partner actually loves you? Would you also agree that sometimes a simple apology is not enough for you to fully let go of your hurt feelings?

When somewhere inside your heart you’re still harbouring resentment, it’s going to impact how much love you’re willing to give.

North Vancouver couples counselling help you create an upward love spiralIn order for love to grow in relationship, both you and your partner have to be willing to give and receive love. Loving and feeling loved creates an upward spiralling “love circuit”.  If one of you struggles with giving or receiving the “love circuit” gets interrupted or reversed.

I’m sure you have experienced this firsthand. Remember a  time when you wanted to give your partner a hug and they didn’t  participate – they weren’t willing or able to  receive you?Most likely your emotional response  ranged from mild disappointment to feeling rejected.

Perhaps you can also remember an occasion where the opposite was true. You weren’t  feeling very generous and giving. No hugs being initiated by you. Your partner’s response most likely landed somewhere in between disappointment and feeling unwanted.

If you’re ready for more love in your relationship I invite you to consider the idea of forgiveness. The degree with which you have either forgiven your partner or yourself can have  a direct impact on your willingness to give and receive love. 

Test this out for a moment. Think of a time when you felt hurt by your partner’s actions. On a scale of 1 – 10, how much have you actually forgiven them? Please go with the first number that popped into your head rather than the number your think you “should” come up with.

Let’s say you came up with a 6. How and when does this impact your willingness and ability to love more? 

Now think of a time when you did something that created pain in your relationship. Perhaps you lied, suffered a relapse from recovery, broke a promise. Perhaps you feel responsible for not being different, more or less. Perhaps you feel responsible for not being able to make your partner happy.  Again – on a scale from 1 – 10, how much have you forgiven yourself? How much have you been able to let go of shame, guilt, feeling inadequate? And how is this impacting your ability to receive love? To give yourself more love? 

If you are ready for more love in your relationship – practice forgiveness. Be curious and Relationship Therapy Burnaby helps you heal relationship painidentify what is holding you back from forgiving yourself and others.

Difficulty forgiving can be impacted by

  • judgement
  • fear
  • low self-esteem
  • guilt
  • shame
  • religious beliefs
  • old “stories” that you were told about yourself or others when you were growing up
  • your sense of deserving

Sometimes the first step to increasing forgiveness is compassion and remembering that you or your partner were doing the best you could at the time. Our best is not always the same. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does mean surrendering and letting go of the past and showing up fully in the present moment. To the best of your ability.

Action step: take some time each day to journal about something that you still need to forgive. Identify what is holding you back. If you are feeling stuck or if you recognize a pattern, you might choose to enlist the support of  a trusted loving friend, psychotherapist / counsellor or life coach.

When couples consider marriage counselling or relationship therapy, they’re often   gridlocked or stuck in a power struggle. A very common issue that surfaces in couple’s counselling sessions is “He or she is so controlling, I can’t stand it anymore.”

Two things may be happening if you’re partner has a need to control, i.e. decide how things get done or what you’re going to be doing. First and foremost it is important to realize that, in everyday situations, control is usually connected to anxiety. Every need to be in charge or to control frequently arises from a worrisome thought or concern.

When you’re power struggling, you’re often dealing with core differences. The concept “Core Differences” (developed by Brent Atkinson, Ph.D) essentially shines light on the different ways of handling or approaching life that exist between you and your spouse. The benefit of understanding this concept is to be able to step out of the critical stance and realize that neither one of you is right or wrong, or is doing things in a “better” way. You are simply “different” in your core approach to living life.

When you understand the desire or longing which motivate your partner, including the fear that can surface when you’re asking him or her to act differently, you can usually move out of gridlock and into a place of being supportive and loving with each other. After all, you do love this person who you’re power struggling with and both of you deserve to be as happy as possible in your relationship. Learning to accept each other’s differences, even if they bring up uncomfortable feelings is an essential part of differentiation and relationship success.

Do you sometimes perceive your partner as controlling or selfish and always wanting their own way? Or do you catch yourself wishing she or he wasn’t so sensitive and would stop taking things so personally? This would be a classic case of dealing with the core difference of how you both tend to handle differences.

If your partner comes from a place of “collaboration first” conflict is avoided when you can each anticipate each other’s needs and are willing to take  them into account as much as your own. What she/he really longs for, is being in a relationship where someone cares enough to voluntarily consider her/his needs without having to ask for it. Your partner’s biggest fear is that you will be arguing all the time if you do things “your” way.

The other end of the spectrum of “collaboration first” when trying to handle differences, is “persuasion first.”  This means that you like to strongly argue your point of view. You don’t want to try and anticipate your partner’s needs, you believe that each of one you should really go for what you want, rather than compromising all the time.

 Your dream is to be in a relationship where you get to be yourself. You want to be in charge of your own “destiny” and you’d like you partner to hear and acknowledge you. Your biggest fear is that you’re going to have to be fake and pretend that you don’t care how things are done.

The next time, you catch yourself thinking “You always want things your way!” or “I wish you’d stop taking things so personally!” take three deep breaths and get grounded. Now literally try standing or sitting side by side, rather than facing each other and consider the issue together from a stance of “neither one of us is wrong, we’re just different” in our approach to handling differences.

 How can you meet in the middle so neither one of you has to pretend not to care or feel like you have to fight all the time to have your viewpoint being taken into consideration? Discuss your individual needs and feelings. Consider finding common ground by rating the importance of the desired outcome. For example, on a scale of 1-10, how important is doing it your way in this particular instance. Can you give each other permission to have different needs without taking it personally?  (i.e. can you let go of  “If you really loved me, then you would do “X”.”)

Sitting down with a marriage or family therapist can help you if you have built up layers of misunderstanding or misinterpreting each other’s actions and/or needs and are now gridlocked in a place of hurt and/ or frustration.

 

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.

 

 

You might be wondering what I mean with ”making yourself small”? What I’m referring to, is the popular habit of not paying attention to or denying our needs.

Especially women are still in large part dealing with the impact of their social cultural conditioning of the caretaking role and what that is supposed to look like.

Many of us grew up learning that being a good wife, a good mother, a good daughter or a good friend means putting your own needs last.

For many, it means assuming responsibility for the wellbeing of those “in your care” such as partners, children, family and friends. It goes without saying that when dealing with children this “responsibility” is very real in the case of an infant and it changes as they grow older.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to feel “responsible” for the wellbeing of someone else.

It involves a number of activities such as mindreading, being an expert about what is good for others, worrying, rescuing, and saying yes when you actually want to say no… just to name a few. In popular psychology we also refer to this kind of behavior as codependency.

The results can range anywhere from feeling unappreciated, frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed to feeling proud of a job well done.

Whenever you choose to put yourself last, no matter how good your intentions, you make yourself small. You give up your power. You can literally feel this “being small” in your body.

I invite you to try the following the next time you do something that you think you should do. Check in with your body. Do you feel expanded, open and full of energy? Or do you feel contracted, collapsed and somewhat tense?

The only way to know the difference between a genuine act of caring and a self-imposed act of caring is in your body.

This kind of stress… physical and emotional is often alleviated with a popular remedy: food.
The problem with trying to fix the state of mind rather than changing the behavior is that while you’re making yourself small, you end up becoming bigger. You gain weight. You start Yo-yo dieting.
You add another layer of stress to your life.

Here are some steps to making positive life changes in the area of self-imposed caring:

  • If you have an internal voice in your head telling you that it is your job to take care of others…because if you don’t do it… it won’t get done…or they will be angry or disappointed…
    STOP LISTENING now!
    This voice is not your friend. It is an outdated echo of the past.
  • To help you counter the voice that is telling you it is your job to make sure others are happy, memorize this mantra:
    “When I make the wellbeing of others my responsibility, when I try to change how they feel, no matter how positive my intention, it’s invasive and cripples them. This behavior undermines those I try to “fix” as well as myself.”
  • In the beginning you might be plagued with feelings of guilt or anxiety. This mantra will help:
    “I am not selfish when I think of myself or act in my own behalf. I have a right to my own body voice, my own body, to know what I think and want and to speak up and ask for it.”
  • Breathe. When you notice yourself looking for food to change how you feel, stop and breathe. Take 3 breaths into your belly and connect with what you are really wanting or needing in this moment.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where we will take a look at how to share your needs and make requests to get your needs met with others.

A lot of the pain that I witness in my work is connected to not feeling good enough. It is sad to watch the amount of self-flagellation we engage in because of old tapes running through our heads.

I came across this lovely piece of poetry by Donna Henes and would like to offer it in appreciation of the courage and beauty that I am also priviledged to witness every day as I hold space for healing and transformation to occurr.

I AM A DIVINE AND BEAUTIFUL BEING 

I CHOOSE TO LIVE EACH MOMENT WITH
APPRECIATION AND COMPLETE ACCEPTANCE
OF MY OWN DIVINITY AND BEAUTY. 

I CHOOSE TO APPRECIATE AND ACCEPT
THE BEAUTY IN ALL BEINGS AND
THE PERFECT DIVINITY IN EACH MOMENT

 I OPEN MY HEART TO THE POSSIBILITY
OF LOVE AND BENEFIT FROM
EVERY BEING AND EACH MOMENT. 

I PURGE MYSELF OF ALL DOUBT,
NEGATIVITY, JUDGMENTAL TENDENCIES,
GUILT, PANIC AND FEARFUL THINKING. 

I ALWAYS SEEK THAT WHICH I NEED TO GROW,
TO BUD, TO BLOOM, TO BLOSSOM,
TO FRUIT, TO BEAR SEED. 

I DARE TO DRAW INTO MYSELF THE POSITIVE
MANIFESTATION OF EACH TRIAL AND DIFFICULTY;
THE RIGHTNESS OF EVERY LESSON.

 I BREATHE DEEPLY AND SAVOR THE LOVE AND
BENEFIT THAT SURROUNDS  AND EMBRACES MY LIFE
AS I LIVE IT EACH MOMENT.

 I FORGIVE MYSELF WITH EACH BREATH I TAKE AND
RENEW MY TRANSFORMATIVE INTENTIONS
WITH EVERY BEAT OF MY HEART. 

I GLORY IN THE GOODNESS AND THE RIGHTNESS
OF ALL THAT I ENCOUNTER
AND ALL THAT I AM 

I AM A DIVINE AND BEAUTIFUL BEING.

 ©Donna Henes

 

How many of us look in the mirror every morning and say to ourselves, “I am the perfection of Life.  Today I will take time to laugh and play.”?

This video offers lots of positive affirmations and is a beautiful invitation to slow down and enjoy life every day.