Why Do We Grieve The Deaths Of Celebrities?

It has been a year in which several prominent and well-known figures have died. Deaths of celebrities usually result in a massive outpouring of grief on social media, and the news is filled with stories of their lives. Timelines and news feeds are flooded with their quotes, and their pictures are often made into inspirational posters. This expression of intense grief and mourning often feels as if it were for a member of our own family.

While there is no doubt that these losses are incredibly sad, and the world has been bereft of great talent or ability, there is a sense also that this grief may be social media conformity, or that it is misplaced or unreal.

For Whom Or What Are We Grieving?

But, you didn’t even know them!

The idea that grieving for celebrities may be disingenuous is a contentious point, but is worth exploring further. The reality, although somewhat obvious, is that we did not know the celebrity on a personal level, did not share intimate moments or spend time connecting as two individuals. We may well have loved their music or art for years, and may have spent numerous evenings in the front row of their gigs. Without diminishing these connections or memories their music or art gave us over the years, the fact remains that our relationship to them was one sided. Our perception of them was not based on interpersonal interactions, sensed personal feelings or meaningful and powerful human bonds which are associated with those closest to us in our lives.

So how then, if we never met them have they so impacted our lives? Is our grief real? If we feel these things, then surely that makes them valid? This leads me to wonder, for whom or what are we grieving? Are we grieving the person who has gone, for the hole they have left in the lives of their family? Or are we grieving the loss of what they provided us with? Are we saddened on a selfish level, that they will never again make the music we so loved? Are we grieving because they will never again produce art or music which will get us through a hard time?

Is our grief associated with the universal sense that the world has been robbed of true talent? Are we in fact grieving not for a person, but for an image or idealised interpretation of another person who in reality, probably wasn’t as we perceived them on television or in magazines. Maybe we are grieving the loss of our own interpretation of their words or art, which over time provided us with something meaningful.

Social Media & Grief

There can be a sense of expectation on social media that when someone famous dies, you post something in their memory, almost as if it were a requirement, regardless of whether you felt significantly moved by their death. Timelines become filled; adding to the sense there is a collective or unified sense of mourning. This is further compounded by other celebrities doing the same, making the experience feel meaningful, real or validated. Almost instantaneously or virally, news feeds are swamped by the letters ‘RIP’, or ‘Taken too soon’, This blanketed approach to online grief, seems to fit the mentality of following rather than having an individual sense of an experience, and a unique set of feelings regarding grief.

While social media has made it easier for fans to interact with celebrities, and to exchange stories with other fans, it seems that the hashtags, posted links or stories and personal photos related to the death of a celebrity, may be less about remembering the individual and more about who can post about it first or an eagerness to ‘share’ the news. There will no doubt be a rush by media outlets to get the news out there first before their competition, and break the story. It is this aspect of celebrity online grieving, which feels overwhelming, non-empathic and more in line with sensationalism, accruing views and popularity than it is about grief.

Using social media to inform others of a tragedy and loss can be a good way to inform a community, but the retweet, share and one click condolence culture we live in, doesn’t help facilitate the process of loss and grief, If anything it accelerates this as a social norm, when in reality the process of grieving is one that can take months or years. Simply putting up a post and saying RIP somehow doesn’t feel real or meaningful enough.

In Closing

There is a reality involved in the complexity of grief. This is the enmeshment and entanglement of two individuals. The bonds formed over time and the development of closeness to one another is what makes loss so hard. Whether your attachment or relationship to the other person was fractured and painful, or whether it was stable and loving, losing someone is painful. No one can tell another human being how to feel about their relationships, how to grieve, who to grieve for or how they should experience loss. Loss is individual and meaningful for each individual differently.

The mass mourning on social media and in newspapers we experience for celebrities may be in part to do with breaking the news first, voicing your opinions, being part of what others are doing or because you are genuinely grieving.

Regardless of the reasons for our grief, it is certainly true that these people had an impact upon us. Their words or music spoke to us personally on profound levels and helped us through difficult times in our lives. Ultimately, we have been provided with joy and happiness, for which we feel moved and changed. The meaning or experiences we found in their art or music is and was very much real. The positive impact they have had and the value of their art to us and to the world, should not be ignored or diminished.

 

Relationships Issues – Exploring Difficulties & Pressures

The reality is that in each relationship, there will inherently be periods of strain, pressure, conflict and hurt. No relationship is perfect, and even relationships which may be perceived by others as stable, loving and contented, will have their turn on stormy seas.

This article looks at the importance of relationships, difficulties, pressures & blame in relationships and common relationship issues. I will also briefly explore how therapy can help a couple or individual.

Importance Of Relationships

At our core, we are relational beings who need contact, love and connection with others. This helps us feel sustained, heard, valued and understood. The relationships we develop and nurture, whether romantic, platonic, familial or work based, are an incredibly meaningful part of life, bringing us joy, happiness and fulfilment at profoundly deep levels. Relationships make us feel healthier and happier, as well as being a source of advice, support and guidance.

Conversely, relationships are also capable of being a source of difficulty, and can cause us great sadness, upset and anger. There can be many reasons for a relationship to break down or end. We may find ourselves feeling a relationship is no longer satisfying or feel the other person no longer meets our expectations, or we may have outgrown the relationship, or it may have naturally ended.

The nature of relationships, whether they are fractured, close or intermittent, is one of immense complexity, meaning we are all susceptible to feeling hurt, lonely, angry, vulnerable, or feeling disappointed with ourselves, our partner, or both.

It is often those closest to us that are capable of inflicting most hurt and pain upon us. The closeness we feel to our others is in many ways a double sided blade, and even though we care for and value those in our lives, they have the power to leave us exposed and hurt. Making us question the validity or meaningfulness of our relationship. This is in many ways, one of the unavoidable qualities of the human condition.

Difficulties Pressures & Blame

We live in an age of constant advertising, where on an unconscious level, we gain an expectation of what a relationship should be. We see films, television shows and read magazines, featuring perfect couples. Additionally, the advent of social media, leads us to see only perfection in the relationships of our friends or family. It is not surprising therefore, that we place our relationships under such pressure, scrutiny and often expect a great deal.

There will be in every relationship, a multitude of difficulties which we have to navigate and manage. Relationships are often delicate, fragile and easily damaged by a wide variety of occurrences. Seemingly small mistakes such as a careless comment or a perceived slight can erupt a torrent of arguments, leading to breakdown in communication.

The ‘blame game’ happens often within relationships, and can become a hard cycle to break, with each person refusing to budge. It can be all too easy for people to sulk or become angry, with the real issue forgotten. These interactions are common, but when they occur too often, it can over time poison and damage a relationship.

Common Relationship Issues

Often relationship issues stem from differing expectations, opinions or feelings. One partner may expect the other to act or do things a certain way, and then becomes frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Although this is common, each relationship is unique, containing its own individual set of dynamics, difficulties and patterns of functioning. While there are commonalities in why relationships break down, there are no set rules. I have outlined below 3 common relationship issues below.

Betrayals

Betraying a partner or close friend has a huge impact upon a relationship, and comes in different forms, such as an affair or keeping secrets of financial difficulties or an addiction to drugs, alcohol or pornography. In some cases these betrayals can lead to the complete breakdown of a relationship, but some people seek a resolution and want to work through difficulties within the relationship.

Family issues

The relationships we have with our family members become an integral part of our lives and when there is conflict within these relationships, it can have a powerful impact upon our significant relationships. All too commonly, one person does not get along with a member of their partners family due to historical difficulties for example. This can cause a painful and damaging rift in a relationship where one person feels they must choose sides. When feelings about family members go unsaid over time, we can become angry, hurt and disappointed, and our relationship can begin to suffer and become strained.

Communication

Communication is probably one of the most talked about subjects where relationship issues are concerned. Often, people equate communication with explaining how they feel. However, this is not the entire truth. Of course explaining to your partner how you feel is important, but what also matters is that you are able to listen; offering you the chance to know what it is they are feeling. Whether it is the case that one person finds it difficult to speak about their feelings, or access their emotions, and another is adept at doing so, a lack of communication between both people can have a damaging effect on a relationship.

How Therapy May Help

Often the reason for a couple or an individual to enter into psychotherapy and counselling is because a current relationship has broken down, and one or both partners has lost the ability to communicate. Alternatively, an individual may wish to examine their past relationships at more depth, and identify past patterns.

Psychotherapy and counselling allow either a couple, or one individual experiencing relationship difficulties, the space to explore their worries about their relationship, consider any patterns which may have emerged historically, or been made more clear within a recent relationship and begin to work toward communicating more effectively with their partner, and also to themselves. Ultimately, this will both enrich their relationships and their understanding of how they function within relationships.

 

Understanding & Coping With Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

What Is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

The word anxiety relates to feelings of unease, worry or fear and most of us will have experienced this at some point in our lives. Sitting an exam or attending a job interview for example, can instil feelings of anxiety. It is perfectly normal in situations such as this to be anxious or nervous.

Anxiety is the primary symptom in a number of different mental health conditions such as panic attacks, phobias, obsessive-compulsive behaviours and post-traumatic stress. The differentiating factor between GAD and normal levels of anxiety is that the anxiety is on-going and the reactions and feelings are usually highly disproportionate to the risk or worry involved. Meaning, it is much easier for a small incident or event to create huge levels of anxiety. GAD can be described as a persistent and long term condition that causes its sufferers to endure anxiety, worry and fear to the point at which it is crippling, and severely impairs their day to day lives.

Usually sufferers will be anxious around a variety of different circumstances and situations, which are not always the same, rather than one specific thing, which can be the case with phobias for example. Often GAD can cause people to catasrophize about situations, for example, waiting for their partner to come home and thinking they must have been in an accident instead of a likely scenario such as being stuck in traffic.

Others characteristics of GAD can be finding it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything, an unsettled mind or racing thoughts. GAD can often impact one’s ability to sleep or even manage relationships, or hold down a job. This is due to the on-going nature of the anxieties experienced and how as soon as one issue is resolved, another will take its place, thus continuing the cyclical nature of anxiety.

Causes

Although the causes of GAD are generally unknown, it has been shown that there can usually be a number of factors involved. Below I have listed some of these contributing factors. While these contributing factors may increase the chances of developing GAD, many people develop the condition for no apparent reason.

  • Suffering from a long term health condition such as Chronic Fatigue or Arthritis
  • A history or experience of major stress or trauma such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
  • Genetics – If you have a close relative with GAD, you are five times more likely to develop it
  • Over activity in the parts of the brain associated with behaviour and emotion
  • A history of alcohol or drug abuse
  • An imbalance of the mood regulating chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline that occur in the brain

Who Is Affected?

  • GAD is a common condition in the UK, and it is estimated that up to 5% of the population are affected
  • Slightly more women than men are affected
  • The condition is more common in people from the ages of 35-59

Symptoms

GAD usually causes the sufferer to experience both physical and psychological symptoms, and the severity or frequency of these will differ from person to person. One person could feel the entire range of difficulties, where as another could only experience one or two.

Psychological Symptoms

  • A sense of dread
  • Feeling on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Worrying or intrusive thoughts
  • Thinking about disturbing scenarios
  • Not able to relax

Physical Symptoms

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle aches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tension headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Digestive difficulties

The physical symptoms of anxiety will cause the sufferer to experience further worry, anguish and increase their sense of unease. While other anxiety disorders have a specific trigger, GAD is often unpredictable, making it feel there is no way to stop feeling anxious. GAD is a condition with far reaching impacts upon an individual’s life, which can make it difficult to manage relationships, jobs and daily life in general.

Treatment

There are several different types of support or treatment for GAD, including –

Self Help

Talk To Someone You Trust

Talking to a trusted friend, partner or family member about your anxious thoughts, or diagnosis of GAD can be very helpful. You may find that they have encountered a similar problem, and therefore are able to help. Even just having someone show that they care is useful.

Try To Shift Your Focus

You may find that trying to shift your focus can distract you, even if momentarily, from your anxious thoughts and feelings. Look at a picture, or something which you find interesting or comforting. Really notice the details, the smells or sounds, and concentrate on them.

Try Reassuring Yourself

It can be helpful to tell yourself that the symptoms you are experiencing are actually caused by anxiety, and that it is not really dangerous and will pass in time. This can help you feel calmer and less fearful of future attacks.

Therapy

If self-help options have not been particularly helpful, you may benefit from speaking to a qualified psychotherapist or counsellor. Talking therapies will give you a confidential space to explore your thoughts, feelings and ideas, and work on ways to manage your GAD or anxiety. Therapy will give you space to explore the roots of your anxiety, consider its components and triggers. As well as allowing you to explore the rules that can govern your GAD. Ultimately, this can assist you to develop a more dynamic and engaged way of living, which is not entirely filled with or controlled by anxiety.

Moving Forward

Although a diagnosis of GAD can seem impossible to surpass, there are ways of managing, controlling and understanding your anxiety. Although this is of course not an easy road to go down, and will at points involve setbacks and difficulties, there is every chance that you can, with a combination of self-help and or talking therapies, overcome and manage GAD and anxiety. Helping yourself or seeking it from others takes courage, but is the first step toward a life with more balance and peace.

Understanding And Managing Psychological Trauma

What is trauma?

The term trauma refers to an overwhelming level of stress created through particularly distressing, painful or difficult experiences. These experiences in most cases exceed our ability to manage, cope or integrate the emotions and feelings associated with the event or experience. Psychological trauma can occur on a one-off basis, repeat over a period of time or can be intermittent throughout life.

The sense of being overwhelmed which occurs through trauma can often be delayed by months, years or even decades, as we struggle to cope with the immediate circumstances of the events themselves. Because of the painful and difficult nature of traumatic memories, they are often hidden deep within our unconscious mind and we form defences around them, finding methods of coping until a trigger or event reminds us of our experience and we are re-traumatised and overwhelmed.

The definition of trauma will differ among different individuals due to their subjective experiences not the objective facts. In other words, people will react to similar events differently and not all people who experience a traumatic event will become psychologically traumatised. This difference in reaction could be due to the protective mechanisms some people may have developed within themselves to enable them to cope with trauma.

However, regardless of the source, all psychological and emotional traumas will have factors in common. These are that it was unexpected, the individual was unprepared and lastly, the individual could do nothing to prevent it from happening.

Symptoms of trauma

People who experience traumatic events may often have certain symptoms or difficulties as a result. The severity of these symptoms will depend on a number of different factors, such as the trauma involved or the emotional support received from others. Often these symptoms can last from anything from a few days, to years or decades and often can take some time to be recognised. Listed below are some common symptoms of psychological trauma:

  • Shock, denial or disbelief.
  • Flashbacks to the traumatic experience.
  • Insomnia or considerable difficulties sleeping.
  • Anger, irritability or dramatic mood swings.
  • Intense feelings of guilt or shame.
  • Loss of self-esteem.
  • Self-medication, either through drugs, alcohol or food.
  • Rationalisation of events or convincing yourself you were to blame.
  • Often feeling sad, hopeless or desperate.
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating.
  • Constant or regular anxiety and fear.
  • Withdrawing from others.
  • Feeling numb, disconnected or unreal.

The roots and causes of trauma

Psychological trauma can occur through a number of different circumstances. It often results in the sufferer questioning their history, entire aspects of their life or their belief systems and may entirely destroy their ability to trust others. These psychologically traumatic experiences will often be accompanied by physical trauma which threatens the survival and sense of security of the individual. There are many experiences which constitute improper treatment that may lead an individual to feel violated, mistreated or hurt in some way and often result in deep and lasting psychological trauma.

 

Below I have listed some of these:

Abuse

This can refer to a wide range of different experiences, such as physical or violent abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or verbal abuse. It also includes domestic violence, harassment and bullying.

Accidents

Experiencing an accident, whether it is a minor car accident or injuring yourself by falling, can lead to a traumatic response. It could result in us being additionally careful when walking down stairs, driving very carefully or refusing to go out to certain places or do certain things. Even if you were not seriously harmed, these sorts of events can lead to long-lasting changes in behaviour, due to fear of the event occurring again.

Brain injuries

Injuries to the brain or cancer of the brain can be hugely damaging for the person experiencing it, as well as those around them. With some injuries and illnesses, there can be am altering of personality or key motor skills, abilities and functions can be reduced or in some cases cease entirely. These experiences are painful in the extreme and can often lead to varying levels of psychological trauma.

War or catastrophic events

Being involved either directly or indirectly in catastrophic disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions, wars, terrorist attacks or bombings can lead to varying levels of psychological trauma.

Bereavement

Due to the deep and meaningful connection we can have with others, when someone dies, it can be very painful and difficult. Psychological trauma can occur if the loss itself was traumatic, such as a murder, or if it was sudden, such as a heart attack. We can also develop symptoms of trauma if we had a troubled or complicated relationship with the person who died, which can result in complex feelings we are unable to manage.

Violence

Violence in any way can result in psychological trauma of varying degrees. Whether someone has been the victim of physical violence themselves, either in a random attack or in abusive relationship, or witnessed violence on others. These types of experiences can have long-lasting psychological impacts.

Moving on and how therapy can help

The first step in the understanding and recovering from psychological trauma is being able to speak about it. Although this first step is incredibly hard, it is in the long run very valuable. With a therapist or counsellor, you can safely and without judgement begin to start bringing your body and mind out of shock. You can start to uncover your experiences from parts of your mind which you needed to cover up for self-protection and at your own pace begin to once again, trust your environment and regain a sense of wholeness and safety.

It is possible to understand that trauma lies in your past and no longer lives with you in the present and no matter your experience, you can begin to construct a new story about yourself. You can construct a story of your trauma, give yourself the best chance to overcome your experiences and begin to live your life in a way that feels real, meaningful and valuable.

Understanding & Managing Divorce & Separation

Understanding & Managing Divorce & Separation

A divorce or separation from a significant other is well known as putting a great deal of emotional, mental and physical strains and pressures onto us, and is in most cases a life changing event. When two people decide to separate or divorce, they begin to lose their psychological and emotional attachment to the other person. Although, depending on each person, this process can vary in length.

The Process Of Divorce & Separation

This process is one of significant change to all areas of life, and the impact is magnified because all of these various feelings and emotions are happening all at once. During the process, it is not uncommon for the identity of one of both partners to change; sometimes this happens quickly or drastically. An example could be a change in clothing style, shift in career or an entire lifestyle change. Seeing this change is very difficult for people to manage and often one partner is left angry, experiencing high levels of anguish, guilt or loneliness. Many will also feel as though they have failed the relationship, and that they are not worthy of love or care.

Grieving The Loss Of Relationship

Our natural human reaction to loss is to grieve, and this is no different when a significant relationship ends. In fact, there are many similarities between the death of a loved one and the ending of a significant relationship. Often we feel a wide array of emotions ranging from anger, guilt, regret and sadness to name a few. We experience this loss on many levels.

  • Loss of companionship and shared experiences, which may or not have been consistently enjoyable
  • Loss of support, whether it is financial, intellectual, social or emotional, or all the above
  • Loss of shared hopes, plans and dreams, which can be even more painful than any practical losses

Allowing yourself to engage with the pain of these multiple losses is frightening, and you may fear your emotions will be too intense to bear, or that if you allow yourself to feel these things that you may never exit out the other side. This process is important, and is part of the healing process which helps you to gradually let go of the old relationship.

Tips For Self-Care

During divorce and separation it can seem to be a struggle to maintain feelings, and it is common to feel stressed, low or anxious. Although you may not be able to entirely stop these unpredictable and difficult feelings, there are ways to take care of as best you can.

Nurture Yourself

Help yourself to heal by finding time each day to take part in activities you find calming or soothing. This could be reading a book, going for a walk, listening to music or simply 10 minutes for reflective thought.

Pay Attention To Your Needs

Allow yourself to express your needs, and why they are important and valuable. Make space to honour what you believe is right for you today, this week and in the future. Your needs may be different to what your ex-partner or others want, but it is important to be able to say no without fear or guilt.

Stick To A Routine

Divorce or a separation will throw your life into upheaval, and feelings will be amplified and you will more than likely experience a sense of uncertainty and chaos. It is important to do what you can to stick to your routine, which provides stability, structure and a sense of normalcy.

Explore New Interests

A divorce or separation is a new beginning as well as an end. Therefore, it is important to nurture new ideas, interests or think differently about your life. Exploring new activities will allow you enjoy life in the here and now, develop your self-esteem and allow you, however briefly, to stop concentrating on the past.

Dealing With Stress and Depression

It is not uncommon to find it difficult to talk about the way you feel after a divorce or separation, nor is it uncommon for friends or family to think we should snap out of it or move on. In the aftermath of we will experience varying levels of depression, low mood and low self-esteem. It is an erratic time, with a wide array of feelings, ideas and sensations. Below are some ways to manage these feelings.

Go For A Walk

This can be wonderfully therapeutic, and exercising and getting fresh air is important in lessening the feelings associated with low mood.

Laugh

Laughing can be so beneficial in lifting our mood, brightening our day and giving is positive energy. Catch up with old friends, or watch your favourite film.

Keep A Diary

Keeping a diary allows you to express how you are feeling on a daily basis, and gives you the chance to put what is in your head onto paper. It can also be a helpful tool to look back on after a month, or even a year, and to see where you have got to.

Be Kinder To Yourself

Take a moment in each day to give yourself a compliment, tell yourself you are doing alright or do something nice for yourself.

Moving On & How Therapy Can Help

In times of emotional crisis, there is a huge opportunity for growth, learning and development. The emptiness experienced in the present is not an indication that nothing is happening now or in the future. Consider this time to sow seeds needed for personal growth, learn from the relationship, and realise the potential to emerge stronger and more resilient. In order for this to happen, it is important to acknowledge the part that you played in the process and understand the choices you made within the relationship which affected it. This is both empowering and informative and gives you the chance to learn.

Seeing a therapist after a divorce or separation or during the process of ending a relationship, can offer you a safe and nonjudgmental space to safely think at depth about your relationship, discuss the wide range of feelings and emotions you are experiencing, and gain some clarity of thought. It will also give you the chance to explore your other relationships, look at why they may not have worked, and understand what relationships mean to you, and what you seek from a relationship in the future.

Understanding & Managing The Loss Of Relationships

Loss is an undeniable aspect of life. It is unpredictable, uncertain and appears in many forms. From an early age, we experience loss in different guises, and it is argued by some that our very entry into the world is the first loss we experience, the loss of the security, warmth and comfort of the womb. It could also be argued that loss on some level continues throughout life, and that life is about adjusting to loss, and managing to find ways to accommodate and integrate it within ourselves.

We all have relationships of varying degrees of emotional closeness, but whatever the nature of our relationships, there is a reality within them all, and that is, as with life, they will at some point come to an end.

Grieving For Relationships

However a relationship comes to an end, it will be a difficult process involving a wide array of feelings and emotions, and will no doubt bring forth significant change to all areas of our lives. Our natural human reaction to any sort of loss is to grieve. In fact, there are many similarities between the death of a loved one and the ending of a significant relationship. Our feelings will often wildly oscillate between anger, guilt, regret and sadness to name a few.

The loss we are experience, will occur on many different levels depending on the individual, and the depth of the relationship. Such as –

  • Loss of companionship and shared experiences, which may or not have been consistently enjoyable
  • Loss of support, whether financial, intellectual, social or emotional, or all the above
  • Loss of shared hopes, plans and dreams, which can be even more painful than any practical losses

When a relationship comes to an end, it is important to allow ourselves to feel all of our emotions, thoughts and feelings. Engaging with the different levels of loss is frightening, and you may fear your emotions will be too intense to bear. However, this process is important, and is part of what we need to experience in order to begin the healing process, allowing you to gradually let go of the old relationship.

Our Sense Of Self & An Opportunity For Growth

When a relationship ends, whether it is a friendship that has over time become less close, or a romantic relationship that has mutually or for other reasons ended, it can feel as though our world has been turned upside down. We may be led to question the relationship, and ask why or how we got to our current position. Often we find ourselves heavily scrutinising ourselves or beating ourselves up for things we should or should or shouldn’t have said, or for how we behaved. We may decide that we are not worthy of attention or love, or feel as if we will never have a successful or happy relationship again.

In the absence of a relationship, it can feel as if we no longer know who we are. As mentioned above, we are mourning loss on several levels. Where there was once a ‘We’, there is now an I’. We can be left with a sense that a partnership, with shared goals, hopes, dreams and direction, has now been replaced with a sense of feeling directionless, as if we are now lost at sea. Of course, due to the closeness of human relationships, and there importance within our lives, it stands to reason that we would struggle with separating from another. The reason for this is because we can become entangled within romantic relationships, lost within another. Our sense of self was previously weaved closely with another’s, and is therefore hard to prize free or examine objectively.

However, while it doesn’t seem so at first, the breakdown or loss of a relationship can offer an excellent opportunity for us to grow, learn and communicate more freely to ourselves, our own desires, needs and wishes. This is of course, not an easy process, and takes different lengths of time for each of us. But, by beginning the process of lessening the sense of enmeshment we had with our significant other or friend and giving ourselves time to breathe, think and feel, we can begin to discover aspects of ourselves which within the relationship may not have been given as much attention, or parts of ourselves we augmented so as to please another.

How Therapy Can Help

As with the death of a loved one, losses of relationships are rarely smooth, clear cut or easy to manage. When a relationship ends, there can be a sense of feeling distant or ambivalent. There can be a sense within us of something needing resolution, understanding or clarity. We may struggle within our next relationship or wonder what is happening within these relationships that make them end prematurely.

Therapy can offer you the chance to explore your relationship history, from your earliest ones, to your most recent. You can begin to make sense of patterns, and decipher how you function with another, or whether you choosing certain types of people. As well as considering your romantic relationships, you can also explore your friendships, and relationships you have with your family. A therapist will work with you to assist you in unpacking your thoughts, feelings and ideas in a safe environment, and allow you to gain clarity and insight into your difficulties.

In Closing

Given the importance of relationships in our lives, and the need we all have for interaction, closeness and warmth that these relationships can bring us, it makes sense that when one ends, it will have a deep and meaningful impact upon us. Our sense of who we are can often become tied up within the mind of another, thus separating from this can be painful. However, over time, we can learn to regrow our minds, tend to the wounds we experience when we lose love, and begin once again, to have a fuller more complete sense of who we are, as individuals.

 

Paradoxes In Therapy – Part Two Of Two

In part one, I wrote about the following paradoxes in therapy – change, empathy and the therapeutic relationship. In part two, I will write about the paradoxes of blame, responsibility, ownership and benevolence in therapy.

Blame, responsibility and ownership

It is a well-established understanding within therapy that progress is much more difficult to make if someone is ‘sent’ to therapy. This could be because they have been strongly urged to seek help, or it may be a proviso from their partner that the success of their relationship depends on them ‘getting some help’. Even if these suggestions or recommendations are made with good intentions, are honest and real, it will prove difficult for someone to establish a meaningful connection therapeutically, change or make progress, because they have not made a conscious decision to seek help themselves. It is only once responsibility has been taken fully by someone to seek further understanding of their difficulties, that they can find the experience useful.

The paradox of blame, responsibility and ownership therefore is a complex one. At a rather basic level it could be understood as follows – clients can be told at various stages of their therapy that they are to some extent unable to help who they are or the circumstances or difficulties that have befallen them historically and presently, but simultaneously they are told that in fact, the responsibility is on them to take ownership of their difficulties andonly then can they make significant changes. This brings forth a process where by people are required to in a sense, separate their minds from those of others, and find the courage to accept that they have to take ownership of their own difficulties and their own minds.

It is important to note that while taking responsibility for oneself in therapy is an important part of the process, this is not by any means the case for those who have experienced either physical, mental or sexual abuse, a traumatic event such as an accident or lived through war for example. The above list is by no means a comprehensive list, and is given only to highlight this point.

The therapeutic relationship again becomes important with regards to blame, ownership and responsibility. Again in quite basic terms, the relationship could be defined as compulsory within a voluntary setting. Meaning that, clients are told they must, seek help of their own free will, be independent in wanting to make changes and that the success they have in therapy is based upon how much they can engage and give to the process.

However, the compulsory aspects of the therapeutic frame (within private practice at least) are that clients must pay for sessions (depending on their therapist’s policy – pay for missed or cancelled appointments), are asked to keep missed appointments to a minimum and before ending should consult and discuss this with their therapist. So, even though a client comes to therapy off their own back, and the responsibility is on them, there are still rules in place that must be adhered to for therapy to be most effective.

Additionally, a therapist can often be seen as someone who possesses what could be referred to as ‘expert knowledge’, however the therapeutic frame means that the therapist will disengage from offering such advice, instead, choosing to foster within the client the ability to learn, understand and grow themselves. The responsibility is again placed upon the client to engage in the process off his or her own back. This message as you might well imagine, can feel confusing for people. Why if a therapist possesses this level of knowledge do they not share it, why do they conceal what they know? Again this comes back to the relationship, and in terms of equality, the client spills out all of their difficulties, but the therapist remains more or less non-disclosing of any aspect of himself or herself. This is truly, one of the most interesting paradoxes within therapy.

Benevolence

As discussed in part one of this article, therapy is for the most part understood as a benevolent process, one in which the therapist offers acceptance, kindness, understanding and empathy. However, as with the other elements discussed, benevolence also inherently carries with it a paradox. This to some extent could be understood by the demanding, often punishing and painful nature of therapy, where clients are asked to immerse themselves in the ‘work’ of therapy. The paradox of this, is that, as with empathy, benevolence has another side to it. This is that by the definition and role of a therapist being benevolent, they are asking their clients to willingly explore pain, suffering, shame, anxiety and deep rooted feelings that have been buried for good reasons. Again, there is another side to this aspect of therapy.

In closing

There has been over the years a heated debate as to whether psychotherapy is a science or an art, and to quote Magda Denes, “I have no conflict in that realm. I am fully convinced it is an art”. As with any form of art, there are no hard and fast rules or set ways of working. Inherently attributed to art are paradoxes, subtleties, and conscious and unconscious complexities.

What is clear, to me at least, is that the paradoxes as described in this article, are crucial for the work of therapy to progress and flow. The interplay between the different levels of reality within therapy are a fundamental part of the process and the paradoxes are necessary for people, and important to be understand and held in mind.

There is no one thing that constitutes change in therapy or assists it in arriving more swiftly than that of the therapeutic relationship itself. As stated previously by numerous therapists and writers, the therapeutic relationship is in some ways the therapy. This ultimately means that the relationship is crucial and the fact both therapist and client are themselves human and fallible, means there can be no set route, path or plan within therapy.