Joanne Gilhooly - Psychotherapist & Counsellor - Dublin City
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Dublin Counselling and Psychotherapy Blog
Dublin Counselling and Psychotherapy Blog
|Posted on January 26, 2015 at 6:12 PM||comments (123)|
"No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along, or that the whole object of playing it is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them."
~ Alan Watts
|Posted on May 16, 2014 at 4:21 PM||comments (99)|
“When people start to meditate or work with any spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are...loving kindness doesn't mean getting rid of anything. [It] means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s the ground....that’s what we know with tremendous curiosity and interest.”
~ Pema Chodron The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness
|Posted on November 6, 2013 at 12:00 PM||comments (355)|
"Don't turn away. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you."
|Posted on October 16, 2013 at 11:40 AM||comments (165)|
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
~ Carl Jung
|Posted on October 2, 2013 at 11:29 AM||comments (213)|
There are two main types of humanistic psychotherapies that I draw on and they are Gestalt therapy and Person-centred psychotherapy. The main tenet of these therapies is that the counselling or psychotherapy client knows best what is right for them. My job is help you get in touch with your ‘inner expert’.
They are respectful therapies in that they take quite an egalitarian approach, believing that the best way to support the client is to be a fellow traveller, a fellow human being (as though that can be avoided!),and they are less about wearing the ‘professional hat’ than they are about‘being there’, and accompanying another person while they navigate their way through their personal journey.
It might sound a bit like something you could get from a good friend (and you may well get solid support from a friend), but there are differences. The main one that comes to mind is that the psychotherapist who is trained in a humanistic way is skilled in listening at a deep level. In practice that means that I am aware of communication on different levels in the counselling room. While I am listening to the content of what you are saying, I am also listening for patterns, for what is not said, and for any shifts or changes that seem to occur in you as you tell me about what is going on for you.
These patterns and shifts can help me to help you get in touch with what may be happening for you at a deeper level. Very often when people come for counselling or psychotherapy they are very much in contact with what is happening in the ‘head’ (their thinking) but less in contact with what is happening at a deeper ‘feeling’ level. This is so common, and is very similar to my own experience when I started psychotherapy during my training. It took quite a while for me to get the hang of listening to my body and to my feelings and it is still a work in progress, as I suspect it will remain.
Feelings can be scary to get in touch with mainly because they are unknown territory, and we may not yet know how to regulate them. That is, we have not yet had enough experience with feelings to know that they cannot harm us – quite the opposite, they can take us on a journey into ourselves and can be very instrumental in helping us to find our voice and put words on our unique experience. Just like getting to know anything new, it takes time to become accustomed to our feelings as they arise, for them to become less the scary monster and more a great source of information about ourselves. This is a natural process that occurs over time with support from an experienced listener.
Why we didn’t get this experience with our feelings may or may not become apparent, but either way, we can do the work of getting to know our feelings and learning to voice them in a way that feels ok to us. That can help us to communicate with others more clearly and more authentically about what we feel and what we want. The effect of this is that we may feel more satisfied and engaged in life as we speak out, get involved, and more confidently take our place in our lives and our relationships.
|Posted on August 25, 2013 at 4:44 PM||comments (260)|
"The cool water of the running stream may be scooped up with open, overflowing palms. It cannot be grasped up to the mouth with clenching fists, no matter what thirst motivates our desperate grab"
~ Sheldon Kopp, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road Kill Him!
|Posted on August 5, 2013 at 1:35 PM||comments (198)|
"J spoke about the natural laws that govern the seasons, how the fields could give the appearance of fallowness, yet the seeds were sheltering underground. Winter was a period of hibernation and incubation, when energy could restore itself. There could be a spiritual intelligence in staying low to the ground, but the ground itself was not dead. Green spring always came back."
~ To Call Myself Beloved, Eina McHugh
|Posted on June 13, 2013 at 5:15 PM||comments (285)|
Ever heard a counsellor or psychotherapist talk about there being a 'shift' in a person or in the therapy?
That word, that perfectly encapsulates the sense of movement and growth a person experiences when they have worked towards change - "There seems to have been a shift". "I have shifted into the next cycle of growth"
As a counsellor, I am aware that change does not happen overnight, but that it is a series of shifts, of periods of growth, each shift often followed a by period of stuckness and frustration, followed by more growth. It happens all the time. Unfortunately, the stuckness, the occasional two steps back, is a part of the work. They go together, stuckness and growth, like light and dark.
Without the stuckness, we wouldn't fully experience the sense of achievement of getting unstuck. We wouldn't get to experience a 'shift' in our emotional well-being, feeling our own emotional growth as it occurs, and the feeling of mastery that goes hand in hand with getting there.
This cyclical process is how we build self-esteem, confidence, and self-knowledge. We grow, we get stuck again, we learn again, we grow again, we get stuck again, we learn again....
It can be frustrating, it can be maddening, and it can be brilliant.
And it is the natural cycle of growth.
Jon Kabat Zinn said "We cannot stop the wave, but we can learn to surf", and that really is key. We cannot stop the wave, but we if can develop the skills we need to move with it, to balance ourselves when a high wave comes in, we can keep going. Eventually, over time, we learn to spot the wave before it arrives, we see it coming from a long way, and it doesn't bother us so much anymore, because we know we can surf.
We know we are in a cycle. That every point on the cycle is temporary and fleeting, but we get to know our personal experience of the cycle as well as we can. Sometimes so well, that we start to predict it. We know when we are moving into growth, or when we are headed back into stuckness, and when we are heading out of it again. We learn about what we need during the tougher times. We prepare, we deliberately move into self-nurturing mode, we ask less of ourselves, we go with it, we surf...
...and we come back out again, having learned some more.
|Posted on April 21, 2013 at 3:16 PM||comments (91)|
This post is a continuation of this previous blog post...
"Am I Good Enough?"
A smaller percentage of people than those who receive ‘good enough’ care giving as infants, do not develop a secure attachment. These people are said to have an insecure attachment style. It is worth remembering though, that all attachment styles, whether secure or insecure, are adaptations to the early environment, to the quality of care and attunement received by the primary caregiver, and are therefore by their very nature adaptive and creative. There is no such thing as an attachment style that is ‘wrong’. Each style of attachment makes perfect sense in terms of a person’s early experiences.
However, the problem for people who have early experiences that do not meet their needs, is that when the infant grows to an adult and attempts to form secure relationships with others they run into myriad obstacles. Their style doesn’t work so well anymore. The person’s template is one of insecurity, of trust being a dangerous thing to experience in relationship to another, and the expectation that they will be abandoned, rejected, or deemed unworthy of the love of another. The early environment is internalised, often unconsciously, and manifests in the belief that they themselves are not good enough.
These expectations manifest in different emotional and behavioural patterns. These patterns are usually categorised (a bit too neatly for some) into three insecure attachment styles, known as anxious/ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganised attachment. I will be focusing mostly on the first two styles here as they are the most common.
Anxious or Ambivalent Attachment
People with an anxious/ambivalent style of attachment usually experienced their early care giving as inconsistent. Everyone can be a bit inconsistent, of course, but for some this occurred to the extent that they became unsure whether they were likely to receive a response from their care giver that was well attuned to their needs. Children who develop this style may express their emotions with great intensity as a means of ensuring the attention of their care givers. They are anxious to ensure that they receive the attention they need, unsure as they are that their care giver will be either physically or emotionally available. Their experience is one of unpredictability, and so they may attempt to make the environment more predictable, and thus ensure their own safety, through their style of emotional expression.
(This unpredictability is different to the ‘rupture and repair’ cycle that occurs in the development of a secure attachment bond. In this, the caregiver will inevitably make mistakes, but more often than not, they will repair the rupture in the relationship by identifying, holding, and acknowledging the misattunement. In this way, the child learns that mistakes happen, but that repair is possible – an essential learning. This is what’s meant by ‘good enough’ care giving.)
This attachment style is often characterised by fear of rejection and abandonment, worrying about whether or not loving feelings are reciprocated, a wish for constant closeness or ‘clinging’, and possibly angry outbursts. People with this style can have great difficulty relaxing into and enjoying their relationships, and may have a persistent fear that their partner does not really want to be with them. They may experience a kind of ‘push and pull’ feeling in their relationships, as they get close to allay their fears, and may pull away angrily if their needs are not met. Close relationships can frequently be experienced as distressing.
The second style, avoidant attachment, tends to occur when the child experiences their care giver as more or less consistently unavailable to them. As a baby this child may not have received the ‘holding’or affection they needed, whether as a result of the care giver being emotionally unable to attune to the child, or being unable to offer their physical presence and affection. Essentially, it seems they turn this experience in on themselves, by attempting not to feel, or by not expressing emotion, and by attempting to meet one’s own needs rather than looking to the caregiver for assistance. This child seems to ‘grow up’ very quickly, at least to the outside observer. On the inside though, their needs are still very much present.
This attachment style in adults is often characterised by over self-reliance, being emotionally ‘closed’ or having difficulty with emotional expression, difficulties with closeness and intimacy, and discomfort with dependence on a partner or needing help from others. The person with this attachment style may seem to experience less distress in relationships. However, what this person seems to be doing in actuality, is minimising the importance of closeness and relationships to themselves. This is a result of a felt necessity to not need, as a consequence of the disappointment and attachment distress experienced in their early years. Not needing can be a defence against the possibility of unmet needs.
Counselling and Psychotherapy for Attachment Difficulties
In counselling and psychotherapy, the counsellor works with clients experiencing attachment difficulties by exploring their current experiences, their early experiences, and the client’s experience of the therapeutic relationship. The immediacy of the therapeutic relationship can be extremely useful in exploring these issues in a here-and-now context. That is, the issues experienced in relationships outside the psychotherapy room, in the client’s life, may well show up within the therapeutic relationship and can be worked through experientially.
Essentially, psychotherapy is an opportunity to explore new ways of relating in a safe and supportive setting, and to examine and reality test the templates we bring from our original experiences and how they can impact our experiences in the present. It is a chance to increase awareness of ‘blind spots’ and assumptions which may be negatively affecting relationships in the present.
Over time, psychotherapy can help to create a new template for relationships. The skilled counsellor or psychotherapist is trained in providing attachment focused therapy, in which the needs for good-enough attachment may be met, and healing can become a real possibility.