Monthly Archive: February 2015

Love, hate and opposing forces.

Gestalt therapy is about understanding your now and how you react to certain environment and present factors. Part of this type of therapy is understanding how opposing forces impact your life and one another. Think about love and hate. They are two very strong emotions and can represent the same things.  You can be so in love with someone that you obsess over them. The same can be said for hate. You can dislike someone so much that you become obsessed with them.  Those opposing forces have the same underlining emotions that tie into your past and your present. Are you aware of your current self enough to understand them?

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Let’s say you are going through a divorce. The person you once loved is someone you probably dislike- even categorize as hate. The underlining emotions are often passion-filled in these types of opposing force situations. These underlining emotions are caused by blocks and associations from our past that affect our current lives.

To better understand this, I often tell my clients to make a list of opposing forces within their lives. A popular one is a mother-in-law situation.  You may love your mother-in-law but she may also cause you anxiety and stress.  So, in this case, you would write down “Mother-in-law” at the top of a paper and then make two columns.  One column being things you love about her. The other column could be dedicated to things you dislike / hate about her.  After you make that list, write down a single emotion next to each word, in each column, that is associated with the thing you love / dislike. Most of the time, the emotions are the same even though the opposing forces are- well, opposing.

Here’s a good example.  My mother-in-law is always willing to help and I love this. My mother-in-law is always willing to dish out advice and I dislike this.  Now, try this. My mother-in-law is always willing to help and I love this because it makes me feel like she is interested in participating. My mother-in-law is always willing to dish out advice and I dislike this because she is always in my business. Do you see how participating is positive and in my business is negative but they essentially mean the same thing but also cause conflicting emotions?

Life can be hard. I can help you understand the conflicting forces in your life that can cause confusion, misunderstandings, anxiety and much more. We’re human and conflicting emotions and forces will present themselves to us. It is how we understand, dissect and respond to them that counts!

Gestalt therapy and your “ah ha” moment.

I work with many clients, in person or online, who want to understand their present circumstances. After all, the point of Gestalt therapy truly is to be aware of your environment and your current behaviors. The problem I see, however, lies with many people focusing on  trying to become too aware of the details without absorbing the emotions and energies associated with particular situations.

For example, someone may focus on the color of a room’s paint when they should really be responding to how they feel about the room itself. Does the room, maybe even the paint, spark an emotion within and what is the emotion associated with?

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One exercise you can do at home deals with concentrating on the environment, not the details, to achieve an “ah ha” moment. Here’s how to start. First, you need a pen and a paper. Next, sit yourself in the middle of your bed. Be still. If you can, set your cell phone alarm for three minutes and try to be as still as possible within those three minutes.

Now, write down five things about the three minutes of stillness using “I” phrasing. For example, “I couldn’t stop thinking about a problem at work no matter how hard I tried.” This shows that you’re disassociated from your present because of tension or trouble at work. Or, “I feel tired” is a good one. You can then accept you’re tired in the present moment, which will lead you to examine why you’re tired. Perhaps you woke up early or couldn’t sleep because of a problem you’re currently dealing with.

The key to discovering more “ah ha” moments within your life is to focus more on your feelings and less on the details of your environment. If you focus on what you feel within an environment, you will learn more about being present within it versus recalling décor details.

If you want to explore how to move forward with this exercise, or other techniques, please contact me. I can provide confidential online services to further discuss your specific circumstances.

Dreams and Gestalt Therapy.

Frederick (Fritz) Perls is considered the “father” of Gestalt Therapy. The basic concept of Gestalt Perls believed that unresolved conflicts from the past had a great deal of influence upon present behavior, and that these conflicts needed to be “worked through” (Perls, 1969). Dreams were a cornerstone of this type of therapy because of the dreamsenergy and reference work it provides to help people better understand the present.

When working with myself, my patients often discover just how powerful dreams can be when seeking insight into our day-to-day lives and possible hidden issues that we can’t see within the present.  You see, Fritz Perls felt that dreams were highly symbolic and made extensive use of interpretation and I couldn’t agree more.  I believe dreams are a subjective presentation of the person and that there is a sense of wholeness in every image.  By using dreams as a part of therapy, we can better connect to the meaning of what may be parts of ourselves that are veiled or living within a fantasy during waking life.  The meanings have to be carefully talked about, sometimes even talked through using an empty chair as a “third” party.  And we can always evaluate the idea of the intrapsychic dream landscape.  For example, was that angry dog really someone angry at you or yourself angry at a situation.

Dreams are powerful and there are many ways to decipher what they do and do not mean. I tend to believe our unconscious mind is always trying to help our conscious lives by providing clues to not only unraveling what is nagging us, but by presenting options for us to address, work through and then discover how to apply solutions in everyday life.

If you’re just as fascinated by dreams as I, let’s talk. I have plenty more information to provide to you and consultations are always welcomed. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook for daily updates on this and other subjects related to Gestalt therapy.

The Four Stages of Communication & Stress

When we work together, I tend to consider using the principles of Gestalt communication to help you identify what environmental factors are causing stress.  By isolating the background noise of everyday life, we can apply effective communication tools to zero in on stress triggers. By doing this, I can help you come to realize how to positively deal with each present moment and stress.fighting

First, I focus on inclusion as a part of our communication.  Without judging or offering immediate advice, I will work to provide an environment of safety.  I put myself in your shoes and try to understand your experience. I’m not looking for what led up to the events or what your past has to do with the events. I’m not even looking to make a decision on who is right or wrong in stressful situations. By using inclusion communication, I will work with you to guide me into an understanding of your experience and perception during a stressful event. By understanding your point of view, I can better help you come to terms with the self-awareness aspect of your stress response.

I also work on using the inclusion commutative experience to offer how I see your stress triggers and the impact your reactions are having on both the mental and physical component of your being. I will not manipulate situations to have you draw healthy conclusions. Instead, my job is to encourage you to regulate your stress triggers in different environments.

The interpersonal experience is a good communication tool that I use when working with patients, especially when dealing with stress triggers.  Our interaction and examination of circumstances, along with the dialogue that follows, is very important to developing strong coping exercises when future stressful situations arise.  And, finally, we work on “lived” communication. This is a way for us to address issues through the use of non-verbal communication, either by movement or energy work.  Some people prefer drumming, dancing, art, writing – there are many ways to accomplish this goal.

By working within the four stages of communication to address your stress, we can develop a sense of who you really are during moments of tension. By working together with a back-and-forth dialogue, you’re a part of guiding your own healing process. It’s a self-discovery journey that I am always happy to guide!

Have more questions? Let’s talk.  Contact me today.

Constant Transformation

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One of the cornerstones of Gestalt therapy is the belief that we are constantly remaking or reinventing ourselves by accepting responsibility for our behaviors and environmental reactions. All of my programs, including online therapy, are confidential and work to create a safe space of ever-changing dialogue that hinges on your desire to work towards straightforward caring, warmth, acceptance, and self-responsibility in order to improve your life.

I don’t judge or comment but we do work together to help you see how you are reacting to certain environmental factors through the use of this dialogue  and by helping you see yourself from an outside standpoint. It isn’t my job to analyze why you’re doing something or the meaning behind it. Instead, I help you to notice poor patterns, anxiety-driven reactions, and stressful situations so you can decide what your identity is within those situations and how you can become self-aware going forward.

With constant transformation being a working life goal, we will often discuss situations that act as lightening rods to a variety of different reactive emotions.  There are so many different modalities we can work with too.  Some Gestalt therapists encourage not only dialogue but movement (dance, walking around a room, situation reenactments, speaking to an empty chair), and I believe completely on our energy work together. I believe this is an extremely important facet of our relationship because it allows all my clients to work through (and move beyond) painful emotional blocks. Since this is an ongoing process, you will experience constant transformation.

The benefits of working towards constant transformation is that it allows you to explore new behavior, first, in the context of the therapeutic relationship and then, as appropriate, in the outside world. Basically, we work on test-driving your new “present” awareness to different environments, scenarios and past feelings.

Curious about where to go from here? Let’s talk

Shamanism

On Shamanism

Shamanism has many definitions.  A Native American Shaman, in the words of Geronimo Flores (great grandson of Geronimo), has the ability to heal through the movement of energy.

Shamanism itself is a way of being in intimate connection with the spirit world and the natural world around us.  To the native peoples, everything has a spirit and humans are capable of knowing that spirit.  Shamanism is both a personal quest for knowledge and inner power, and takes place within the larger community, benefiting that community and its world.

There are a bewildering array of definitions of Shaman and Shamanism, many of which refer to ancient, rather than modern, shamans.  Barbara Myerhoff, commenting in Joan Halifax’s book “Shamanic Voices” defines the shaman as “the medicine man or woman, the visionary healer who is the central figure in many tribal cultures – the repository of the group’s rituals, myths, and secret lore”.

Shamans  understand the need for balance and harmony within ourselves and with the world around us, and that includes all that make up the universe  – plants, minerals, animals, birds, water, air, earth and fire.

As a person who follows the path of shamanism, and who is also a therapist, I use what I know in my own life and in helping others to reconnect with their true essence and bring balance back into their lives

Psychotherapy FAQ’s

Do I really need psychotherapy, or just counseling and advice?
Psychotherapy or ‘therapy’ is an interactive collaboration with a professional that enables us to fulfill our lives from a fresh and healing viewpoint. It is explorative and individual, and it enables us to create our own solutions. In this respect it is not the same as coaching, which is more about being given advice. Psychotherapists work with individuals who are experiencing emotional issues that they are not able, for whatever reason, to deal with themselves.  For the most part, these issues come up for most of us at some point in our lives.  Psychotherapists do not work with people who have problems requiring either drugs or hospitalization.

What is the difference between a therapists and a counselor?
In the province of Ontario, beginning in 2014, the term ‘psychotherapy’ and the practice of psychotherapy can only be used by therapists who are certified by the College of Psychotherapy.  All forms of psychotherapy are called counseling. Having said this, most people refer to psychotherapists as counselors.  Even psychotherapists themselves will do so.  The term ‘counselor’ does not have an ‘official’ set of requirements in the province of Ontario at this time – anyone can call themselves a counselor. (This is not true in the United States, where the term ‘counselor’ is reserved for a person who practices psychotherapy.)

What about confidentiality?
All therapists in Ontario observe a Code of Ethics, especially concerning confidentiality and disclosure.  Ask your therapist for a copy of their Code of Ethics if you are unsure. The Ontario Transitional Council for Registered Psychotherapists is currently drafting a code of ethics that will be complete in 2014.  Until that time, I refer you to the code of ethics used by OACCPP (Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists, and Psychotherapists) [link is:  http://www.oaccpp.ca/about-the-oaccpp/ethics-standards-of-practice/]  , of which I am a member.

How long does therapy take?
While it is not possible to predict how long your therapy will last, things may work more quickly when you have a specific goal.  This is a good topic to bring up when you are having your first meeting with a therapist. A typical session will be 50 minutes.

What should I do if I am not satisfied with the therapy?
Talk to your therapist about what you are experiencing. Your therapist will want to make sure you are getting the most out of your time and is trained in helping resolve such issues.

What is Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt therapy is a humanistic therapy technique that focuses on gaining an awareness of emotions and behaviors in the present rather than in the past. The therapist does not interpret experiences for the patient. Instead, the therapist and patient work together to help the patient understand him/herself. This type of therapy focuses on experiencing the present situation rather than talking about what occurred in the past. Patients are encouraged to become aware of immediate needs, meet them, and let them recede into the background. The well-adjusted person is seen as someone who has a constant flow of needs and is able to satisfy those needs ( http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/gestalt+therapy).

Anxiety

Anxiety- – What it is and What to do

Anxiety can be described as fear of fear:  being afraid of feeling the fear we anticipate will occur if we do something.  It can also be described as the result of a person’s willingness to face the unknown with no real self support – like falling off a cliff with an umbrella instead of a parachute.  There are several kinds of anxiety disorders, some of which are described below.  There are also both conventional and non-conventional methods of treating anxiety disorders, including self-help. What works depends on the form of the anxiety and on the person themselves.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic disorder that is long-lasting.  It is anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation. Sufferers experience non-specific persistent fear and worry and become overly concerned with everyday matters. It is the most common form of anxiety disorder.  It can be a result of a medical or substance abuse problem, and medical professionals must be aware of this.

 Panic disorder

This type of anxiety disorder occurs when a person experiences attacks of intense terror or apprehension that happen over a short time period, and that can be triggered by stress (either physical or emotional). A panic disorder has chronic consequences that can manifest as worry over the attacks’ potential implications, persistent fear of future attacks, or significant changes in behavior related to the attacks. This can lead to physiological changes, such as increased heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, and other similar changes that might be interpreted by the person suffering the disorder as the beginnings of a heart attack or some equally serious medical problem.

 Phobias

Phobias are characterized as fear and anxiety that is triggered by specific situations. An incident happens when a person habitually anticipates terrible consequences from an encounter with what they fear, and this overwhelms them.

 Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is an anxiety about being in a place or situation where escape is difficult or embarrassing and where help may be unavailable. The term agoraphobia is also used to refer to avoidance behaviors that sufferers can develop; E.g., following a panic attack while driving, someone suffering from agoraphobia may develop anxiety over driving and will therefore avoid driving.

 Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

Social anxiety disorder is an intense fear and avoidance of negative public scrutiny, public embarrassment, humiliation, or social interaction. This fear can be specific to particular social situations (such as public speaking) or, more typically, is experienced in most (or all) social interactions. As with other types of anxiety disorders, SAD can manifest specific physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating, and difficulty speaking. As with all phobic disorders, those suffering from social anxiety often will attempt to avoid the source of their anxiety; and in severe cases can lead to social isolation.

 Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive–compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by repetitive obsessions (distressing, persistent, and intrusive thoughts or images) and compulsions (urges to perform specific acts or rituals). Thought pattern may be likened to superstitions insofar as it involves a belief in causative relationships where none exist.

 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder which results from a traumatic experience and most often occurs when the stressor is not able to find adequate support around the traumatic event. Post-traumatic stress can result from an extreme situation, such as combat, natural disaster, rape, hostage situations, child abuse, bullying or a serious accident. It can also result from long term (chronic) exposure to a severe stressor, for example soldiers who endure individual battles but cannot cope with continuous combat. Common symptoms include hyper vigilance, flashbacks, avoidant behaviors, anxiety, anger and depression.

 Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety disorder is related to young children, and is the feeling of excessive anxiety over being separated from a person or place. Separation anxiety is a normal part of development in babies, and it is only when this feeling is excessive or inappropriate that it can be considered a disorder.

 Childhood anxiety disorders

Children as well as adults experience feelings of anxiety, worry and fear when facing different situations, especially those involving a new experience. It is when anxiety is not temporary and begins to interfere with the child’s normal functioning or does harm to their learning, that the problem may be more than just an ordinary anxiousness. When children suffer from such anxiety their thinking, decision-making ability, perceptions of the environment, learning and concentration get affected. They not only experience fear, nervousness, and shyness but also start avoiding places and activities. Anxiety also raises blood pressure and heart rate and can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, ulcers, diarrhea, tingling, weakness, and shortness of breath. Some other symptoms are frequent self-doubt and self-criticism, irritability, sleep problems and, in extreme cases, thoughts of not wanting to be alive.

Treatment for Anxiety

Over time, unaddressed anxiety can affect a persons emotional and physical balance, and may underlie digestive problems, allergies, and even heart attacks and strokes. Treatment options include medical treatment and counseling.  In the early stages, there are things a person can do to help themselves without having to consult a professional.  The first thing to do if you are experiencing symptoms such as racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, digestive or bowl problems, nausea, tingling, weakness or shortness of breath is to consult your medical doctor.

 

Then, examine your lifestyle:  if it is unhealthy or stressful you are probably going to feel anxious.  Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:

  •  Is your day filled with work, or do you take time each day to relax and have fun?
  • Do you have genuine support in place during times of stress – not chocolate or solitaire, but ways that genuinely help you de-stress and stay in touch with your world, such as deep breathing and short time-out walks?
  • Are you living a physically balanced life that includes healthy eating and exercise?
  • Do you take on more than you can reasonably handle?
  • Can you reach out to others when you need to?

When to seek professional help

If your anxiety and fear have become so great that they are causing severe distress and impacting your daily life, it is time to seek professional help.

Learning to Trust our Gut

A while ago, I read a short article in O Magazine about trusting our gut.

In “Are You There, Gut? It’s Me, Martha”, Martha Beck talked about how we need to get quiet so that we can find out what we really feel.  In our society we are taught to override our intuition, to think and attend to our logic, not to our gut:

Think things through, really think about it. But our gut-deep impulses don’t come from our thinking, they come from our experience, and the way to knowing our gut is to quiet our thoughts and attend to what our body is telling us.

How can you learn to trust your gut? Here are 4 things you can do to learn:

1. First, quiet the mind.  Try focusing on your breathing for 10 deep breaths.  Before we can trust our gut instinct, we need to be able to recognize it, and we can only do that if we put our inner business aside.

2. Pay attention to your visceral responses and reactions.  Do you have a tingling at the back of your head; or butterflies in your stomach; or a clenching, tingling, jumpiness, in any part of your body?  What are those responses telling you?  What images and past experiences come up for you?

3. Now you have your gut information – the raw data.  That may be all you need to take action.  If it isn’t, ask your higher power, inner wise self, for guidance. Close your eyes, free yourself of any expectations and pre-conceptions.  Then let it go and give your higher self the space it needs to respond.

4. When your inner wisdom responds, listen to it. It may come to you while you’re dreaming, or during some daily routine.  Watch out for it.

Trust comes from trying things out and seeing them work.  The more you learn to know your gut intuition, the more you will learn to trust it.

Trust Your Instincts Listen to Your Intuition

Gut Instincts – we all have them!

Here are some terrific videos on gut instinct:

–  A young woman who was raped because she didn’t listen to her knowing.
 

 

– Oprah talking to T.D Jakes about his book “Instinct:
 

 

Quote of the Week
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
-Steve Jobs

The 6 Faces of You

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Many people don’t understand what Gestalt therapy can do for their lives. They think that they need to come into my office, lay down on a couch, and discuss mother issues or mistreatments of the past. While we will work on a way to figure out how the past is affecting your response to present day life, as well as discover your identity in each moment, I use Gestalt therapy more to improve your life going forward. Oh, and we can do this via Skype or phone- no office or couch needed!

Helping you cope with the here and now will reduce your stress and anxiety levels, which brings me to the 6 faces of you. The first face we work on is the you that you presently know. This means addressing  thoughts, feelings, behavior, body sensations, and dreams that cause any current stress or anxiety. Then we work on interrelated relationships, such as how you make contact with your environment (family, work, school, friends, authority figures). The third face (or phase) of you deals with how you organize and/or manipulate your environment from moment to moment.

The next three phases go deeper into the psyche of how you respond to current situations. For example your 4th face deals with self-regulation, which is the creative adjustment that you make in relation to the environment. Then we will work on, in many of my programs, how to really use what we learn from your first four faces of you (or phases) to truly be present within the here and now in what is being done, thought, and felt at the moment. This is where you learn to react effectively to the present day environment and not from a place of worry for the future or from anger /sadness of the past.

The last face of you (6) is understanding how suppressed feelings of your past have been manipulating your present day life and bogging you down with stress, anxiety and other poor behaviors. Together, we will deal with these feelings, which may be resentment, rage, hatred, pain, anxiety, grief, guilt, and abandonment. Understanding and dealing with these uncomfortable feelings in present life  will help you move forward without dealing with preoccupations, compulsive behaviors, wariness, and other self- defeating behaviors.

The “6 Faces of You” as I call them are just phase examples of some of the milestones we will examine throughout your therapy.  Want to know more? Let’s talk