I just want to be happy. It sounds so simple. The “just” reinforces an idea that happiness, at least, if nothing else, should be attainable. And it feels more disheartening when we see that despite the simplicity of the soundbite, we feel as far away from this ideal as ever.
If it were so quick and easy as the soundbites imply, then we’d all be happy – in ourselves, in our situation, in our lives. But we’re not. 64.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were handed out by the NHS in 2016. 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Many of us are simply existing, doing our level best to navigate our lives as best we can.
Therapy can provide the catalyst for major life-enhancing changes, including increased contentment with ourselves, our situation, and with others. Finding a skilled and trusted therapist, with whom you feel comfortable, is important. But the most important, essential ingredient in change is you.
Change can be scary, and so we can find ourselves stuck. Unhappy in our situation, yet fearful of taking steps into the unknown that could upset the status quo. So we soldier on.
But change is also scary, because to improve our lives, we may need to let go of learned behaviours that – at one point in time – helped keep us safe. However, these same behaviours may now serve to keep us stuck, unable to move forward out of the unspoken need for safety, and unfulfilled despite our best efforts.
In therapy, we can gain insight into the behaviours that helped us avoid or numb our difficult feelings, and see new positive choices that were previously hidden in plain sight. It is hard to do this work alone, and a trusted therapist will help and support us in walking this path. Therapy also provides the safe space and base that is needed to do this work.
Stepping into therapy can feel scary, and our learned defence mechanisms can come up with an unending list of reasons to resist change. But it is only when we commit to change, that it becomes possible, and indeed probable.
We might take inspiration from Robert Downey Jr, who struggled with drugs, alcohol and relationships for much of his life. After many “half-assed” attempts at reaching out for help he ultimately realised:
"It's not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems... what's hard is to decide to do it."
Written by: John Fletcher, Person Centred Counsellor
Antony Lehmann, a Certified Facilitator of Byron Katie's The Work will be facilitating a one day Introduction to The Work, in Macclesfield on Saturday, 11 March 2017.
The Work of Byron Katie is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the fear, violence, depression, frustration, and suffering in the world.
The steps are simple and first involve identifying stressful and limiting thoughts; then inquiring into those stressful thoughts by asking 4 simple questions; then identifying Turnarounds to those stressful thoughts; and finally finding examples of how those Turnarounds may be true now or in the past.
The goal in doing ‘The Work’ is not to ‘change’ a person or their behaviour. That happens automatically as new truths become apparent. Rather it is more about being supportive as they unveil to themselves the countless other options which they may believe are not open to them. This unveiling occurs at a pace that the person themselves dictates.
‘The Work’ is not counselling, therapy or giving advice – it is inquiry.
Furthermore ‘The Work’ is not about trying to change the ‘facts’ or helping people believe ‘black is white’. It is not the facts that cause the stress but the thoughts and images about the ‘facts’ that people carry around with them which is the source of the stress.
If you would like to attend this event email us - firstname.lastname@example.org - and we will send you further information.
This event is being hosted by King Edward Street Unitarian Chapel (KES) in Macclesfield. We are asking for a minimum donation of £5 per person with all proceeds going to KES.
Additional information about this event available here
More information about Byron Katie's The Work available here
Written by: Anne Gabarre, Homeopath
How important is skin?
In 2014, the global skincare market was worth £74 billion, in 2015 that figure will, according to market experts, increase to £77 billion. Skin that most visible of markers, tells us a lot about our state of health, emotional and physical. Those clients who come to see me with skin complaints have often lived with them for a long time and are desperate to find a solution that is not short term.
As a homeopath I see the symptoms as clues to underlying causes. I will seek to understand whether the skin or nail or hair condition, is a manifestation of a more general imbalance, hence a lot of questions which might at the outset appear to have no relation to the condition being experienced.
When someone complains of very dry skin, one of the first questions I’ll ask will be about digestive health. By looking at the cause, in this case, the gut, we can treat the underlying problem. Open sores might also be a sign of inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract — the healthier the gut, the healthier the skin.
If I see puffiness around the eyes, it will alert me to potential kidney issues. Dark marks under the eyes will lead me to check the state of the adrenals and how the person is affected by stress, while overall painful puffiness could indicate an issue with the lymph system.
Rashes that breakout on various parts of the body are among the most common of symptoms, especially for those going through adolescence. While the causes can be complex, location and intensity provide vital clues: breakouts exclusively on the forehead and chest may point to issues with the liver, those on the chin, a hormonal imbalance. Depending on their precise location, the very same symptoms could also be linked to an overabundance of stress hormones.
Applying cortisone cream on your skin will not result in healing. If the medication is withdrawn the symptoms return. In the vast majority of cases, the person who is taking medication is not undergoing a cure but controlling the symptoms. In homeopathy, the aim is to return to a healthy state of well-being that is not dependent on medication. It is important to make the distinction between treating symptoms and finding a cure.
Understanding the relationship people have with their skin ailments is as important as the client’s physical well-being. A teenager’s emotional relationship is likely to be different to that of a middle-aged man or women with the same skin complaint. Being comfortable in our skin an intrinsic part of our well-being. Our relationship to our skin is both physical and emotional.
Not all skin problems are treatable. Some are genetic and in many cases the aetiology unknown. Symptoms can last for years, or in some cases a lifetime.
Dermatographia is a rare skin complaint marked by an imbalance of histamine. The slightest abrasion, scratching or rubbing and the skin swells and reddens. An estimated 4% to 5% of the world’s population are affected by dermatographia. For some, it will be a lifelong ailment.
Ariana Page Russell is one of those 4% to 5%. An artist, she has turned, what for many is a socially disabling, even shaming, condition into a work of art. A woman who is fully in her skin. Ariana has redefined her relationship to dermatographia and in doing so reframed what it means to be healthy. You can find more about Ariana and her work here. www.skintome.com
Alan Watts on Worry and Compulsive Thinking.
Something that often seems to be in short supply - common-sense.
Written by: Hayley Merron Stevens
The term “talking cure,” originally used to describe Freud’s psychoanalysis, is synonymous with all therapies where words are seen as the main vehicle of expression, i.e., psychotherapy, counselling.
First used by Anna O in 1880, ‘talking cure’ referred to her remarkable recovery, under Dr Josef Breuer.* However Anna O. had another, less well known description for the work she did with Josef Breuer – ‘chimney sweeping.’ That may seem like an odd descriptor at first glance, but look beyond the Dickensian imagery: small boys, poverty, squaller… and what we find is a metaphor that tells us much more about the relationship between client and therapist and the psychotherapeutic process that underpins it.
In this metaphor Anna O. is the chimney, the sooty deposits the disturbance. Of the two people involved in the work it is Anna O. who plays the role of apprentice sweep, Breuer the master sweep.**
While it is the therapist who is responsible for ensuring the work is carried out safely and that the client is not overworked or overstretched, it is Anna O, the apprentice who must dislodge and bag the soot. No one else can do the work for her.
In Victorian times soot, once bagged, was never thrown away but used as fertiliser. In the chimney soot is toxic blocking the free flow of air. In the garden it acts as a fertiliser promoting growth and health. The only difference is the location. Soot and fertiliser are the same substance. In psychotherapy the difference is one of perspective.
Gaining a new perspective on the the problems we have, the difficulties we face, the relationships we find ourselves in, enables use to loosen what has become compacted and solidified in ourselves. The metaphorical soot that once seemed so problematical now the very stuff that helps us to grow.
However metaphors while extremely useful are not without there pitfalls one of which is the tendency to oversimplification. The term coined by Anna O over a hundred years ago paints a florid picture of masters and servants. It makes it all to easy for us to draw an unhelpful and inaccurate picture of the therapist, client relationship.
In deeply transformative psychotherapy, both therapist and client are stretched and challenged. The relationship far from being linear is rich and nuanced. In this relationship the psychotherapeutic process does call for a certain amount of talking. But perhaps more importantly it requires a certain quality of listening one which, facilitates a space that can be all too difficult to find outside of the therapeutic relationship. Here the client is given space to hear, often for the first time, the truth of what is being said and felt on an experiential level. In this moment the relationship between therapist and client changes from the already known, to the unknown, to a truth that moves beyond words.
That the psychotherapeutic process should defy our best attempts to be conveniently labelled should perhaps come as no surprise - least of all to those familiar with the process. That we have been left, thanks to a quirk in history, with the label ‘talking cure,’ is not without irony, talking cure saying as it does so little about the psychotherapeutic process. And whilst the term ‘chimney sweep’ is far from ideal, it does at least provide us with questions. As good a place as any to start that rich and nuanced relationship we call psychotherapy.
* Bertha Pappenheim, always presented under the name of "Anna O." as the original patient of psychoanalysis was never treated by Freud but by his friend and mentor Josef Breuer.
** In Victorian England master sweeps would employ a number of apprentice sweeps or climbing boys.
"The things you do should be the things that you love; the things that you love should be the things that you do". Wise words from Ray Bradbury.
This video is on the long side 22 mins. But a joy to watch.
Written by: Anne Gabarre, Homeopath
I have been talking a lot about Toxicity: to the general public, to several therapists groups as well as preparing a lecture on the subject to students learning about homeopathy.
It seems that the issue of toxicity is becoming more and more important in practice. I am seeing more clients suffering from some sort of toxic overload, mainly due to long-term medication and where the symptoms are linked to a specific organ or system weakness.
As a general term the word ‘toxins’ relates to the accumulated waste products in the body that are detrimental to our health.
Some are substances foreign to our organism that may be harmful if they accumulate in cells (chemical wastes from foods/drugs, pollutants…also called Xenobiotics or Exogenous wastes).
Others are produced inside the body either because they are part of normal metabolic activity (Carbon dioxide, urea, lactic acid…) or as by-product of bacterial or viral activity (Endogenous waste).
When we produce too much of these naturally occurring wastes or cannot cope with them naturally the symptoms can, in cases such as gout, where the system produces too much uric acid, cause a great deal of discomfort.
When toxin build up becomes chronic it can lead to further symptoms and in some cases aggravate a disease process. Subtler toxin accumulation can reduce the efficiency of a vast array of physiological activities by altering intracellular and extracellular pH and disturbing the functions of numerous enzymatic and other reactions. Functionally, poor digestion, colon sluggishness and dysfunction, reduced liver function and poor elimination can also contribute to a toxic state.
So toxins can cause organ overload, which turns into organ dysfunction, which then increases the build up of toxicity – a vicious spiral. It is therefore not surprising that many disease processes either occur or are aggravated by accumulated toxins or wastes.
Our first line of defence against Toxaemia is through our body ‘detox pathways’: Gastrointestinal, Urinary, Lymphatic, Respiratory and Skin.
The good news is that the majority of us manage to cope quite well despite a certain level of toxicity. Indeed it is not always toxins themselves that are the problem but the way in which our bodies process these materials.
In France and Switzerland there is a long tradition in the way homeopathic doctors endeavour to help the body address toxicity. Used alongside classical homeopathic treatment, organotherapy works to support and strengthen those organs that are struggling to eliminate toxins, through what might commonly be referred to as organ drainage.
Interested in finding out more?
For more information on Organotherapy I suggest Dr Joe Rozencwaig book (Organotherapy: drainage and detoxification, Emryss publishers) and also the excellent book by Dr Jean-Lionel Bagot (Cancer and Homeopathy, Unimedia) where he describes how 1 in 4 cancer patient in France benefits from homeopathy while undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Written by: Hayley Merron Stevens
It is the first Sunday in 2014 and I have just returned home from a morning spent at Gorton Monastery, a beautifully restored Franciscan church on the outskirts of Manchester now used as a venue for conferences, weddings and social events.
I’d been asked to contribute to an event at The Monastery about 'Body from the perspective of different health and well-being practitioners'.
After much pondering about what I could do in just 20 minutes, I decided to use the common experience of 'shaking someone's hand' to look at Embodied Relating.
In the first 10 minutes I took people through some simple activities to explore the difference between a disembodied way vs embodied way of holding another person's hand. These simple activities brought up a lot of feeling. For some it put them in touch with sadness, others experienced anger, others experienced warmth, love, a letting go of tension, there was also anxiety and fear, and some blanked out or walked away.
What is Embodied Relating?
Very simply put embodiment is our capacity to be in contact with our own feelings, sensations, impulses and thoughts. The degree to which we are embodied could be said to be the degree to which we are alive. To be dis-embodied - cut-off or out of contact with our feelings, physical sensations, inner impulses and thoughts - is to be cut-off from our experience of life.
Many - maybe most - of us are more or less embodied.
Embodied Relating is therefore our capacity to be embodied whilst being in relationship with another. The more embodied we are the more able we are to make deep connections with others.
That is to say that the degree of my internal connection will determine the depth of my external connections.
But not only does dis-embodiment result in less aliveness, it also cuts us off from our wisdom.
Our ability to sense our selves and others - physically and emotionally - provides us with vital information. Information we need to make good choices about relationships - all kinds of relationships.
This is not to say disembodiment is bad or wrong - numbing, deadening or tensing a part of our self was at one time the only choice available to us which is why we did it. The point of exploring Embodied Relating is to have that choice again. For many of us we do not even know that we are out of contact with our self and therefore not fully able to be in contact with others.
You can eat without tasting; it is not difficult.
You can touch someone without touching; it is not difficult;
We are already doing it.
You shake hands with someone without touching him
because to touch, you have to come to your hand, you have to move to your hand.
You have to become your fingers and your palm, as if you, your soul, has come to the hand.
Only then can you touch.
You can take someones hand in your hand and withdraw.
You can withdraw; then the dead hand is there.
It appears to be touching but it is not touching.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1976)