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.

self-esteem

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

Can you relate to Hank and Renée?

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

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

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

As an Addict it’s important to understand that:

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

As a Loved One it is important to understand that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Do you struggle to understand your partner at times? Maybe when you met and were freshly in love, the fact that you were different was exciting and interesting. But when the novelty wears off, it’s easy to move from admiring a particular trait to finding it irritating or “wrong.”

This can then become a place where you don’t see eye to eye, your frustrations rub up against each other and you get stuck in the same argument over and over again.

If only he or she could see it your way… things would be so much easier. Often you are convinced that the way you go about things is the right or better way.

I hear about this dilemma during  couples counselling and marriage therapy in my Burnaby counselling office all the time.

If you don’t agree and often get frustrated when discussing certain areas of your life together, you are most likely being confronted with a difference in core value.

Core values are the foundation of who you are and how you choose to show up in the world. They impact your decision making process and are the reasoning behind your choices. Shared core values can contribute to great harmony in a relationship, and differences can be an endless source of misunderstandings and / or judgements.

Let’s look at a concrete example:

Do you ever find yourself thinking that your spouse is anal, neurotic or just plain controlling and anxious?

Or are you the one who can sometimes feel like your partner is lazy, too laid back or even somewhat irresponsible?

Whether you like to play first and then use that energy to get your work done, or if you learned that first you do your homework and then you play… how  you experience work and play is about core values.

The most important thing to remember  when you find yourself at the opposite end of the spectrum – in this case responsibility first or enjoyment first – is that neither one of you is right or wrong. Neither core value is better or worse than the other.

It’s when you get caught up in a critical stance of the other person being wrong somehow, that you get stuck in arguments.

What you can do:

  • Discuss your core values and concretely identify where you stand. A great resource for this conversation  is the work of Brent Atkinson, Ph.D at  the www.couplesclinic.com
  • Be curious – learn about how or where your partner learned about his or her core values and how she or he feels when the preferred way of approaching life is challenged or compromised
  • Agree and continue to remind yourself that your spouse is not wrong… you are both right and both entitled to honour your core value.
  • Discuss how and where you can compromise – in other words how can you avoid butting heads all the time, what would each one of you be comfortable to settle for or live with
  • Have compassion for each other and this process of being different. The desire or need to do things a certain way is attached to specific anxieties.

 

Remember, your spouse is not the enemy just because he or she likes to do it differently.

With some compassion, curiosity and humour you can use your differences to create balance and come up with innovative ideas of sharing life together.

Are you aware of  having roles in your marriage or relationship? Does one of you tend to be the complainer and the other one the listener or sympathizer?

The minute Laura would walk in the door at the end of the day, she would vent to Sam about her day. Traffic had been bad, her boss at work had been rude, her mother called and they had a fight, she didn’t digest lunch properly and so on and so forth. Sam usually listened and made sympathetic noises.

One day, Laura became aware that she was always regaling Sam with stories about her day while he would share next to nothing. When she asked him if he never got frustrated, he was surprised. Of course he did! At work a delivery had been delayed and he had had all sorts of headaches to deal with that day.

Laura was confused that he didn’t talk about what had happened. Sam thought his role was to listen while she complained.

Ideally coming home means the return to a safe haven. As a marriage counsellor I help couples communicate in a way that validates their experience and leaves them feeling heard and seen by the other.

Sharing the little or bigger plights of your day and sympathizing with each other can be comforting; especially if you both get a chance to vent. Most of us don’t have too many places in our lives that allow us to be blunt and honest about our experiences and what we think of our boss, the neighbor, traffic, ecc.

Consider having a mini-pity party together daily. Vent about your frustrations, receive sympathy and then let go and move on. Some tips: try to simply receive your partner and listen, rather than trying to fix what is going on for them or suggesting how they could have reacted or done things differently. When we’re venting, we’re usually not open to hearing criticism (as constructive as it may be) nor do we want our audience to take sides with the other party.

If you do have thoughts regarding what your partner shared, ask if he or she would like some feedback. Talk about what you heard and your reaction and thoughts – NOT about how your partner could or should behave differently. Be curious; ask more questions to get clarity. If your spouse does not want feedback, don’t take it personally and accept a no graciously.

 

 

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.

 

 

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

 

As long as society and the media continue to define beauty through the lens of weight, we will continue to raise generations of girls with low self-esteem and potential emotional eating challenges in their life. We have to start the change by changing what we think we see when we look in the mirror.