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Getting Strong Inside

   Often psychologists tell people who are low on self-esteem to simply ‘love’ themselves in order to build resilience and a stronger internal sense of self.  However, after more than 25 years of clinical work at the Smart Therapy Centre, I find this is simply not enough information to guide people in that endeavour. Being told to ‘love’ yourself assumes that we build our sense of self from the inside-out and all we need do is change our internal dialogue about ourselves. The reality is different.  Humans are highly social and socialised, and we build our self-esteem largely from the…

Behaviour Matters

Every time we interact with others, we are training them in how they will treat us in the future.  This goes for both adults and children.  For example, if we need to repetitively ask children to put away their toys, our repetitive behaviour is teaching them to ignore us.  The way this works is that we ask politely at first, but then with each subsequent request we become more and more frustrated and irritable until we seriously blow our top.  Yet despite our escalating frustration we are not putting any negative consequences in place until the end, where frustration sometimes…

A NEW BEGINNING

If there is one clear thing that I have learnt in over 20 years of clinical work at the Smart Therapy Centre it is this:  in the end, you are the ONLY person who can call yourself to account. You can lie and pretend to yourself until the cows come home but ultimately the buck stops with you. It doesn’t matter what others say or do.  It doesn’t matter how much they try to help you.  It doesn’t matter how much they try to penalise you.    In the end, it will be your commitment to changing problematic behaviours that…

Family stress at Christmas

  Although the weeks leading up to Christmas can be wonderful, catching up with old and new friends and celebrating with work colleagues, sometimes Christmas Day itself can be difficult and even heart-wrenching. This is often because families have old, unresolved wounds that can result in all sorts of tensions.  These tensions can be bad enough that family members become so alienated that they end up spending the day alone and lonely. More commonly though, when long-standing conflicts have not been resolved, there is sheer boredom and emptiness when families come together, simply because they have nothing they can talk…

Desperate and unnecessary fighting tactics

It may surprise you to know that bothaggressive people and compliant people are scared to death of conflict and tryto avoid it, albeit by using different strategies.  This is intuitive with compliant people who clearly shy away from conflict, but completely counter-intuitive with aggressive people who always seem to be getting into the ring to smash up others and themselves in the process. But what I have learned from my 25 years of clinical psychology work is that it is precisely because aggressive people are so terrified of conflict that they do this.  Aggressive people try to decimate the enemy…

What if… my anxiety comes back?!!!

I find in my clinical work that when people get over their anxiety by stopping paying it any attention there is almost always a period a few weeks later where a scary thought threatens to derail their progress. It usually goes like this.  ‘Wow, I can’t believe how great I feel since I stopped paying any attention to my anxiety – I’ve had no anxiety for weeks … OMG!  Wouldn’t it be awful if it all came back again!!  I couldn’t bear it!’ At this point people can become highly alarmed and start to hyper-vigilantly observe themselves for any possible…

With just a little help and kindness…

Often in my work I see couples locked into bitter hatred of each other.  It becomes vengeful with neither party remembering who started the war but both parties keeping on fighting it. I find that it nearly always helps to introduce a couple of circuit-breakers.  Firstly, I ask couples to simply do several un-solicited acts of kindness every week for their partner and, in return for the partner to acknowledge the act with softness, friendliness and grace. Then, I ask the couple to ban all bickering and poor behaviour (like sulking, ‘huffing and puffing’ in exasperation, being rude, yelling or…

Button your lip about anxiety

I have often talked about the importance of stopping paying attention to anxiety mentations.  But I know from my 25 years of clinical work that many people don’t realise that this means not only stopping an internal dialogue with themselves about their anxiety (like ‘OMG! I might panic if I do that’) but also stopping any dialogue with other people about their anxiety. So, to be clear, once you decide to embark upon quitting paying attention to your anxiety then that means that when others ask you how you are going you don’t respond with ‘Oh, not bad, but I’ve…

Conflict is a gift to engage in

I often find in my clinical work that people view conflict and subsequent debate as negative, hostile and rejecting.   But nothing could be further from the truth.  Instead, a recent large-scale study found that couples who freely argue, actually love each other the most.   So long as conflicts are handled kindly and respectfully (even if, very intensively) then they are gifts that provide rare opportunities to gain resolution.  Without such resolution we cannot progress relationships towards depth and authentic closeness.  Conflict also provides us with an opportunity to hone our skills at debate.  While this might seem trivial, learning…

Run your own race

A huge mistake I have often seen in my 25 years of clinical practice is people making themselves miserable looking around at what others achieve and then paying attention to bitter, envious or self-hating mentations.  Remember, the more we pay attention, the more we instruct our brains to build neural synapses specifically devoted to these (unwanted) themes, ironically making them a bigger and bigger part of our mental experience.  This is how people become bitter, envious or self-hating – none of us start off this way. Instead, try to run your own race in life.  Decide the goals YOU want…