Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

stress tolerance

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.

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 worry about your loved ones  being disappointed, or feeling bad in some shape or form?

Do try to save your children from feeling/experiencing pain and disappointment in life?

Burnaby Relationship Therapy for recovery from codependency addictionDo you work hard to manage your loved one’s feelings so he or she doesn’t 

  • get sick,
  • relapse,
  • become depressed again,
  • get triggered into some other painful place?
  • Are you the super attentive and kind friend always willing to come to the rescue?

Are you the friendly neighbor who goes out of their way to be helpful?

If you are nodding your head and saying “Yes, I am.  Yes I do all these things and more.”, it sounds like you value being a “good” human being and like to contribute to the well being of others.

Just between you and I, at the end of the day, do you sometimes feel a little disappointed? Do you feel like you put a lot of effort into making other people feel good but somehow they don’t seem to return the favor in equal measure?

Do you sometimes feel a little hurt because all your efforts and the energy that goes into worrying and making sure that others are okay goes almost unnoticed?

Do you sometimes feel a little un-  or under-appreciated?

Have you ever promised yourself that you’re going to stop being so nice? That you’re going to put yourself first? But then, when you try to make these changes in your life, and you actually do try to put yourself first you get stuck?

If you feel anxious or unsettled when  people around you are unhappy or frustrated then changing your behavior may be easier said than done.

In fact you may feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place because when you see people you love experience disappointment or pain, it’s almost as if their pain is your pain.

Often individuals who worry a lot about how others feel, also prefer to avoid conflict if at all possible. Of course the potential Codependency counselling and addiction recovery with Burnaby couples counsellingof conflict increases as “happiness” around you decreases.

In order for you to get to a place of more ease inside yourself and still maintain your values of being a caring person you need to unlearn or shift an erroneous belief that you most likely learned when you were growing up.

You need to let go of the idea that you have control over or power over other people’s lives. You also need to let go of the idea that you are responsible for other people’s lives. (Of course you are responsible for any minors in your care.)

When couples or individuals seek my services as a psychotherapist who specializes in working with addiction recovery and helps loved ones of addicts move into recovery from co-dependency, I sometimes offer this mantra:

“I don’t have the power over, control of, or responsibility for other people’s lives. I was taught that I had these powers. This is a lie I now tell myself.”

Repeating this mantra regularly can help you to stay connected to what it is that you really want –  especially when you are feeling anxious and worrying about what is going to happen if you don’t step in to fix things and make sure everyone is happy,.

It will also help you identify whether your actions are truly coming from a place of loving and caring or whether they are informed by your need to manage your anxiety.

anxiety relief with psychotherapy  North Vancouver for co dependent behaviourSometimes it’s hard to differentiate whether you caught in your codependent place or acting from a place of love and caring. From the outside your behavior looks the same. If you’re confused, get out of your head and into your body.

The best barometer for identifying this difference is your body. An act of loving and caring will make your body feel open and relaxed. If that same behavior is however about managing your need for approval or trying to avoid conflict, your body will feel somewhat contracted or tense.

Remember that a lot of the worst-case scenarios that you’re trying to prevent are completely out of your control. You have no control over how your loved ones will respond to,  interpret, feel or think about something.

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…
    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.

Gimme, gimme, gimme my toy … teaching your child stress tolerance can be more labor intensive than saying yes and an important part of her/his development.

I recently sat in a coffee shop beside a mother with two young toddlers.
Mom was chatting with a friend and the toddlers were happy to be kept occupied with a cartoon they were watching on Mom’s iPhone.

Only moments before, Mom’s friend had wanted to see the iPhone. When Mom had handed her the phone, one child immediately grew restless. She said to her friend: “You better give it back, because Jimmy (fictitious name) gets impatient quickly.” And in fact, he almost immediately started wailing “Gimme, gimme, gimme…”

I’m relating this incident not to criticize the mother or her children. But it made me wonder if today’s children will have lower stress tolerance when they are adults than previous generations.

How will they learn to be present in the moment with themselves and their thoughts if they are constantly entertained, soothed and distracted?
How will they learn, if so many of us as adults are not able to model stress tolerance?

We live in a world of instant gratification. Fast food, fast service… for many wanting something means wanting it now. We live stressed lives, constantly on the clock.

I regularly hear my clients share how overwhelmed they feel. A full time job, children, a mortgage, regular sex with a partner, exercise, home cooked meals, soccer practices, ballet classes, continuing education…the list is endless.

In order to cope, many shut down or cut themselves off from their body. Depending on the situation, they give up, get angry or irritable or try to escape.

Escape can sometimes be as close as the next drive thru at Tim Hortons or a trip to the fridge. Emotional eating is often an attempt to escape from uncomfortable feelings and what Geneen Roth is calling “The Voice” in her latest book “Women, Food and God.”

“The Voice” running in your head telling you that you’re supposed to be a perfect parent, partner and employee. And it doesn’t stop here, often it also tells you that you should be slim, trim and fit (let’s not forget sexy).

Because if you’re not thin… then you’re already failing. You are already not good enough.

And so the vicious cycle starts. Unbearable feelings and demands that are overwhelming. Standards, which are impossible to reach.
We need a quick fix, because there is so much to do. Here’s a drink. Have a smoke. Go shopping. Eat this fabulous food… and you will be as happy as the people you see in the commercials. The beautiful people who are having fun and coping with life with a smile on their face.

Learning to develop healthy coping mechanisms to the stressors of life is a first step to heal emotional eating or other forms of addiction. People who have an emotional relationship with food and a low mood tolerance often resort to binge eating, vomiting, or excessive exercising to get relief from intense feelings.

It takes energy and patience to sit through children’s “growing stages” and temper tantrums while they learn to wait and self-soothe.

Don’t forget to breathe and tune in with what is happening for you in those moments. Acknowledge your feelings to yourself and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Yes, it is hard to wait and feel uncomfortable. But the more we learn to breathe and self-soothe, the less uncomfortable we are.

I invite you to check out Sarah Zeldman’s , free ‘Stress-Relief-Kit-for-Moms’.

If you are a stressed parent, giving yourself permission to relax, unwind and recharge in a healthy way, allows you to take better care of yourself and consequently your family.

Furthermore, you will be modeling and teaching your children how to develop a higher tolerance to stress without resorting to unhealthy or addictive behavior.