Monday, 24 October 2011

My Dogs bigger Than Your Dog

Tom Paxton sang this in the 60's. It is about children competing in their experiences of their world to show that they were better than each other. Monty Pythons Sketch on a similar theme also comes to mind.

Some of my past Clients have competed about how they probably had the worst problem, the worst life creating the worst outcome than anyone else they have known racing to become victims of their own circumstances.

The problem with this attitude is that others are not validated let alone themselves. Others who have significant issues become invisible next to the 'card carrying' victims and therefore they are neither heard nor are they seen as important and their problems fade into insignificance.

However understandable this competition may be, the creation of more victims, many find unacceptable. These issues are neither worse nor not as bad, they are just different. Different people react to problems differently. One size does not fit all and therefore therapy is individually tailored not just to the problem but also to the person with the problem. Hence when potential clients ask me as to how long will the therapy take, it is not possible to give a definitive answer.

Your dog may be bigger than my dog but this just makes it different, not better or worse.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Roll Up, Roll Up, Everyones A Loser

Connie, lived in an aged care facility where I worked some 20 years ago. She told me that when she was a young woman she gave birth whilst not married. The authorities sent her to a mental institution after removing her child. She was then given electric shock treatment and a lobotomy. At the time, British society frowned on pregnancies 'out of wedlock'.

Connie never really recovered from the trauma of what they did to her in the institution and never ever recovered from having her baby taken from her. She felt many things from these punitive acts, the main thing was a deep and terrible sense of loss.

Loss pervaded the forced removal of children from their mother. Loss was there for the fathers of those children. Loss was at the front and centre of the child that was removed and loss was the basis for the adoptive parents start to their new role. The loss associated with adoptive parents is that they are often not able to give birth for physical/psychological reasons. That, coming to terms with that situation is rarely effectively dealt with prior to adopting a child. This then often leads to significant issues over and above the issues that the adoptee is facing.

Some of those involved have not been in position to grieve and others, are not in a position to end their grieving. This is one of the few commonalities that affect all those in these past practices.

What have they lost. The most obvious thing is the mother child attachment. The associated feeling has been described as ripping and tearing of the child from the mother. These children are now adults, many of whom are damaged and sad, again much like their mothers who gave birth to them.

That loss of attachment is only part of the story. Other aspects involve the way that these adoptees found out about the fact they were adopted and when. Other damage was caused by the way they were parented, with different parenting issues to 'natural families'. Some were abused, others were treated like 2nd class people. Unsurprisingly many adoptees feel they are invisible and without a voice.

The result of these unresolved traumas has been an experience of being re-traumatised because of the inability to 'get to grips' with the facts for many years.

It is a difficult thing to try and put the genie back in the bottle and the same is true of the attempted reunion of birth mother and separated offspring. The understandable motivation, from both mother and offspring is to reconnect this is often just too hard for a multitude of reasons.

Crisis of identity is a common aspect of the child and adult adoptee, as suggested in my previous blogs.

Everyone involved in the forced adoption process has a sense of loss.There are no winners only losers.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Joys of Parenting & Being Parented Part 1

 Who you are, where you originate, how you originate, the type of relationship, how you were parented and so on, has a direct influence on how you parent and are parented. The parenting roles are diverse with birth parents, step parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, single parents, separated parents and any combination of those roles. No wonder family life can be so complex.

Unfortunately, it appears that for many people, the needs of their future and present children are the last priority when it comes to having a family. Perhaps that the great need to have a family by one or both parents outweighs any future need of the children hence the industries related to IVF, 'baby farming' and adoption. Whilst understanding the need to have a family, perhaps this isn't always thought through sufficiently well to see that the needs of the family might be different because of the way the family is created.

The parenting roles are sometimes problematic as the styles of parenting may be different between both parents causing conflict between the couple and confusion for the child. It would be no surprise to see 'acting out' behaviour from the child over these inconsistencies.

It is vital that children in a family feel safe, loved and understood by both parents and not feel that the sole outcome is control and being kept down, quiet and emotionally imprisoned. Their learning comes from, in part, from the parents role modelling acceptable behaviour. which would not include having arguments in front of their children.

Child safety is not just about potential accidents or "Stranger Danger" it is about the emotional safety that comes from sound parenting practices.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Professional differences

Many people get really confused about the differences in what the various therapists offer and think that basically they are all the same but with some minor differences and they are interchangeable. The clarity is further confused because some countries expect different things, training and qualifications from their therapists.

In Australia, Psychiatrists are medical Doctors who are specialists in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. This is done through medication and other medical models. They do not counsel.

Psychologists, work in many areas however only Clinical Psychologists work in the therapy of their clients who have a mental dysfunction. In order to counsel, they must have specialist training to practice in this way.

Counsellors should be trained, experienced, hold a qualification in Counselling and be a member of a Counselling Association. Unfortunately, in Australia anyone may call themselves a Counsellor and practice. This can be a highly risky process for a client to be a part of potentially  causing untold damage to emotionally and psychologically vunerable people.

So what is Counselling?
Counselling is a talking therapy that involves a Counsellor and Client/s.

Counsellors are active and professional listeners aiding the client to work towards a change in their circumstances. Various methods and strategies are utilized in order for this to happen. 

Although Counsellors are not authorized to diagnose mental illnesses, some Counsellors, are skilled at treating clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression etc,.

Counselling involves a therapeutic relationship between two or more people who are both working towards the overcoming of a particular issue or issues. It is an essential part of that relationship that both Counsellor and the Client/s are committed to achieving positive outcomes.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Who Are We and our sense of self

This is a large and somewhat complex question. but basically, we are informed by our experiences from birth onwards. This presents a number of difficulties to those who, for instance,were adopted as that sort of information may not be available to them. It may well be that this particular group of people have lost their identity in terms of their original name for instance. This all adds or detracts from a positive sense of self.

Some Clients and others have told me that they never really had a sense of self when growing up as they had had that taken from them by the parenting they had received. Some Clients tell me that they had lost any sense of self in their relationship/s.

All of these scenarios may lead to significant issues of self esteem, lacking in confidence, confusion, a feeling of being lost and grieving for the self that is no longer available to them. They may also feel disconnected, detached, insecure, angry, depressed and anxious.

As babies, we may not understand or consciously remember the things that happen to us such as our birth or what happens to us in the 1st few weeks of life such as a loss of attachment, but that will have a direct effect on our sense of self throughout our lives. Some people may be disabled to the extent that they are unable to cope, others less so. Depending on the damage that has been caused informs how much and the type therapy required.

Knowing who we are is vital so that we can be effective people in our own and other peoples' lives.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Relationship Balance

Relationships, any relationships, tend to work better when there is a power balance either by negotiation or not. 

One aspect of power inbalance is abuse whether it be sexual, physical or psychological, which is why the abuser is always in the wrong and the abused are never at fault.

 Over the years some have talked about some Priests who have sexually abused children saying that it is because they are not allowed to marry and therefore this abuse is the result of sexual frustration. In my opinion, this view has no validity and that any abuse is based in a need for power over someone else.

People who abuse do not come from a place of strength but from a place of weakness. Bullies, for instance, do not bully because they are strong but because they weak. I am not talking about physical strength here as often their physicality enables these bullies to succeed. There is also strength in numbers and where this occurs it tends to be a collection of the weak and the damaged. They require as much help as their victims.

It is more than possible to feel empowered in spite of what others have done to us but like anything, it takes work.