The Bank Holiday weekend is here! At last!
I hope that you're having a restful time filled with confectionery and keeping dry... I'm working today but it's entirely by choice! I'll be finished by 4pm, downing tools and joining you all for a well earned rest. If you need something to read while doing so - here are a few links that caught my eye this week:
1) 10 WAYS TO ‘REACH OUT’ WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING WITH YOUR MENTAL HEALTH - letsqueerthingsup.com
2) The new issues of Doll Hospital Journal are about to be released - check them out at http://www.dollhospitaljournal.com/news/
3) Knitting has been revolutionary in the way I manage my mental health - The Pool
Romantic relationships have quickly become the focus of my private practice.
They are a huge part of our lives, and often, when we are younger and learning about ourselves and our place in the world, we can put a large part of our own value as a person upon our ability to attract the perfect mate. Someone who is good-looking, exciting, fun to be with, great in bed, supportive - and if possible - financially comfortable. Magazines and TV shows encourage us to come up with a list of things that we are looking for in this imaginary partner. And we might pin our hopes to finding this rich, sexually gifted, sensitive beauty that we have in our mind's eye (I say this tongue firmly in cheek...).
But how does that square up with reality? Do we regularly meet people who fit all of these ideals? Or do we meet someone who has 9/10 but say to ourselves "there's a chance I might find someone even better" and discount them? Worse - does someone reject us on those grounds?
This idea of "the one" is at best a foolish ideology to my mind. At worst, a toxic one.
Today, on March 28th, 2018 there are estimated to be 7.6 billion people in the world. I wonder what logically, the chances are of there being just one individual - today one in 7.6 billion - who are suited to being in a relationship with us? Pretty small I'd say.
And even if that's so, what are our odds of finding them? It feels as though to believe this rhetoric is to set ourselves up for persistent heartache and failure. That we could spend a lifetime searching for someone who is just that much better than the person whom we are with now, or them doing that to us. How insecure that must feel. Never knowing if we are enough.
So when I'm working with clients who say to me that they feel down and disheartened by the fact that they haven't yet found "The One", it's customary for me to ask them to look at the relationships that they have already been in (if any, not everyone has - no matter what the age). We look at what did and didn't work in those relationships. We often score them out of 10.
One of my clients might say "Well my first boyfriend was probably a 6/10 - but my last one was only a 4". They might feel discouraged that the rating that they give these partners isn't improving as they get older, wiser and more worldly. However, I believe that this is something to be celebrated. Okay, so Boyfriend Number 1 was only a 6/10. Chances are that the connection that they had could be improved on. So ending that relationship was likely the right thing to do for them. That making themselves free and able to meet someone new was a good choice. Then looking at The Latest Boyfriend - well that relationship was only a 4/10 so it was almost certainly a good idea to end that relationship and become available and free to meet someone else who is a better fit.
But what about when we meet an 8/10? What are our odds of improvement? Well, logically they're smaller. We are less likely to meet someone who is going to exceed that quality of connection. And at that point perhaps it's a good idea to say to ourselves - "Okay, this person is not perfect. Nor am I. It is statistically unlikely that "The One" exists. If this person never improves their score, stays an 8/10 for the foreseeable future, and with all their annoying habits and personality traits that I need to overlook to be with them (just as they do us and ours). Can I accept them for who they are and agree that that is the price of admission that I am willing to pay to be with this individual?"
It's a long worded question. But a crucial one. If we meet a partner, and once the excitement of a new relationship and that period of being our "best selves" is over. When we don't go out for dinner as often because we are busy with work or a family, if we have sex once a week (or less) due to children or changes in our own desires, all these things considered - can I accept these things and accept the comfort and contentment that companionship with this person can provide?*
If so then I believe we should be making those assessments, and in the words of the great Dan Savage, rounding those people up to 10. So we've met someone who is a 7.8/10 but we love them and they have lots of qualities that we admire - great. We round them up to 10 and accept them for their flaws. We don't continue to search for an 8.2 or a 9.1. That would be hurtful to them, and painful for us.
If you'd like to discuss this in a session I'd be happy to work with you. You can book your concessionary £15 introductory session online at www.harleycounselling.com/bookonline - or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.
*The example I'm using here is of a monogamous relationship, but other relationship dynamics and choices may not be subject to these kinds of strains due to the increased variety - or conversely - stressors of being in a multi-person relationship (polyamory or open-relationships for example, or monogamous relationships where "special guest stars" are agreed to be included - sometimes called a "monogamish" relationship).
For me, today is one for catching up on admin and the things that NEED to be done before the weekend. However, this week I found myself falling down a marketing hole so enormous (and fun... who am I?!) that I could barely climb out. So I'm going to fire off my #fridayreads before I risk falling back in. Wishing you all a great weekend without even one flake of snow...
1) ‘I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t be on my own’: how I coped with my crippling anxiety - The Guardian
2) Rethinking infidelity ... a talk for anyone who has ever loved - Esther Perel via YouTube
3) Sometimes my boss is the worst. And I *am* the boss - The Pool
4) Delete Facebook? That’s as hard as giving up sugar - The Guardian
We all feel anxiety from time to time. Sometimes it's appropriate - the nervousness we might have before an interview or giving a presentation to colleagues or coursemates. We might feel apprehension and hope when we meet a new potential lover or friend. We might feel nerves before taking part in a competition or something where we are being judged for our efforts.
But what about the kind of anxiety that hurts? The kind that can stop us participating in our daily lives? The overwhelming panic that can leave us feeling unable to participate in social commitments or even leave the house? This is when we can safely say that anxiety is hindering us rather than helping us.
To expect a life without any anxiety is unrealistic. It can be a useful tool for sharpening our senses and giving us an adrenaline push to do something that stretches us and enriches our life. But when it comes to managing your own anxiety, do you know how much is too much? Have you ever felt that anxiety is stopping you from living the kind of life that you would want to?
I work with many different clients who experience anxiety for widely different reasons, and for different degrees of stress. One person's butterflies is another's crippling panic attack. It's all subjective, and so its imperative that we know our own tolerance for anxiety and if it isn't where we would like it to be, that we consider increasing our resilience so that we don't miss out on the life that we could be living.
If you would like to discuss how anxiety is affecting your life you can contact me at email@example.com or arrange an introductory session at www.harleycounselling.com/bookonline.
Well, I don't know about you, but I've had a busy week. Catching up on work missed through the snow last weekend I've had more sessions than usual and have thoroughly enjoyed catching up with my clients.
In the week ahead I shall be travelling to Menton, Monaco and Nice for a break in the south of France, so there won't be a blog post next week. Though I do plan to devour some Esther Perel books that have been eyeing me from my shelf for too long, does that still count as work?
Here's my round up of links for this week. Bon weekend!
1) "I’ve been replaced by another woman and the pain is killing me" - Dear Mariella @ The Guardian
2) How to Immediately Change Your Life For The Better by Lolly Daskal for Thrive Global
3) The Toys They Carried: Syrian Children Under Siege by Megan Specia & Hwaida Saad for The New York Times
Mother's day is often a day for celebration - maybe in more of a low-key way in the UK than some - but it's a reminder to appreciate and acknowledge the sacrifices and hard work that went into being a mother and bringing us up.
For some of us, it involves simply sending a card or flowers. It might mean arranging to take over all of the household tasks for the day, cooking a meal at home, or at the other end of the spectrum perhaps a spa day and dinner at a restaurant. Maybe even gifts.
Some of these gifts of time or money will be influenced by society or advertising - but what does the day mean for those of us who don't have the kind of relationship with our mothers that allows for that kind of outward show of affection? What about those of us who have mothers whom we aren't speaking to, have no contact with or where there is animosity due to disagreements, unacceptable behaviour or childhood trauma that is not resolved?
It can be tricky, especially living in a time where the opportunity for constant comparison is available on the Instagrams and Facebooks of the world. We might worry that if we aren't going to great lengths to show our appreciation for our mothers, that they might misinterpret our intentions - or worse - they might expect the same even though we don't actually feel those things towards them.
How does someone write a mother's day card to a parent who emotionally abused them? Or continues to do so and we haven't told anyone about the dysfunction of the relationship? After all, we are meant to love our mothers... aren't we?
It can be hard to remove ourselves from the emotion of a dysfunctional parent/child relationship. It can be hard not to feel the duty to behave in a certain way or say certain things. But when it hurts us to do so, when the incongruence - the disparity between our thoughts and our actions or words - is so great, that alone can be damaging to us. We can come to resent both the other person and ourselves for playing out roles and a relationship which aren't based on reality.
So how do we deal with it?
Sharing can be key to overcoming stigmatised feelings - such as that of actively resenting a parent - be that with a partner, a close friend or a therapist. Often people choose to do so with a therapist because the counsellor is a removed, impartial figure. They have no emotional ties to the parties involved, and crucially are unbiased. Plus there is the comfort and knowledge that anything that is said is confidential and there is no chance of thoughts and feelings being shared with other family members or the person themselves.
If this describes you, and sharing might help you to untangle yourself from the confusion around a difficult parent/child relationship then please do get in touch via www.harleycounselling.com/contact where you can email me to arrange a chat. Or - you can book your free 10-minute telephone consultation with me instantly over at www.harleycounselling.com/bookonline.
It's Friday! Well, I think it is. With the snow and having to change plans and appointments at the last minute, I'll admit that I've started to lose track of the day of the week... but no matter. Here are some links you can read anytime. Stay safe and warm all!
1) Ghosting, Caspering and six new dating terms you've never heard of - Max Benwell @TheGuardian
2) Why Do Some Women Date Much Older Men? The underlying dynamics in the young woman-older man relationship - Susan Krauss Whitbourne PhD @PsychologyToday
3) How burnout became a sinister and insidious epidemic - Moya Sarner @TheGuardian
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.