Joanne Gilhooly - Psychotherapist & Counsellor - Dublin City
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Dublin Counselling and Psychotherapy Blog
Dublin Counselling and Psychotherapy Blog
|Posted on October 18, 2014 at 7:28 AM||comments (167)|
“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us - and those around us - more effectively. Look for the learning.”
~ Louisa May Alcott
|Posted on April 6, 2014 at 6:58 PM||comments (300)|
Vulnerability isn't good or bad: it's not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.
~ Brene Brown, Daring Greatly.
|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 June 19, 2013 at 9:13 AM||comments (305)|
Many mindfulness practitioners talk about a concept called 'beginner's mind', but what is it?
Beginner's mind is all about looking at or experiencing something, anything, as though we have never seen it before.
Whether it is this buttercup, your morning coffee, the street you live on, your work environment, or your partner, it is all about paying attention anew.
I took this picture of the buttercup while on a walk recently. Many of us will remember holding buttercups under our chins as kids. Our fascination with nature was almost brand new then, but I realised when I looked at this flower, that somewhere along the way I stopped looking at this simple thing, had stopped feeling fascinated, and thought I knew enough about them already. Looking at this picture I realised how much I had never noticed before.
Beginners mind asks us to challenge this resignation in ourselves. It asks us to look again, to challenge our assumptions, to keep looking afresh. It is about wondering, questioning, and staying curious.
Even about the people, places, and things, we have known our whole lives...even about ourselves.
|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.
|Posted on March 25, 2013 at 9:35 AM||comments (295)|
|Posted on March 15, 2013 at 8:35 AM||comments (208)|
A college lecturer I had in my final year was very fond of using the phrase "we are born searching..."
She was referring to the attachment instinct, the natural instinct to search for a 'good enough' caregiver.
And, of course, we're not the only ones.
These pictures were taken a couple of years ago at the Grand Canal in Dublin. The mother of these small ducks was strolling along the canal bank, with her chicks moving as fast as they could behind her. They struggled to keep up at times, but were clearly led by their instinct to stay in close proximity to their caregiver, to give themselves the best chance of survival. Like all attached babies, they became distressed if left behind and there were signs of impending separation, as I witnessed happening to one of the swan signets.
The fact that we see this instinct in play in other animals can serve as a good reminder that we are significantly more than our 'heads', or our thoughts. Just like other animals we have instincts that are intended to serve our survival. It can be easy to get caught in the idea that as humans we are supposed to be beyond all of that, that as 'thinking' animals we should simply 'override' the instinctual response. Actually, in counselling and psychotherapy, it is often the instinctual response that is sat with, worked with and listened to. In doing so, we can begin to develop the ability to think about our instinctual reactions, to understand them instead of reacting from them. And it is from here we open the door to the possibility of more creative ways of responding.
|Posted on November 12, 2012 at 7:07 AM||comments (160)|
Got a voice inside you that tells you are never good enough? A few words for what we call the 'inner critic'...
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."
~ From Theodore Roosevelt's Sorbonne Speech.