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Depression, stress and anxiety are on the rise in the UK with 1:4 people taking anti-depressants and this figure is expected to increase over the next few years. Work related stress, bereavement, financial and relationship problems are the most common causes of anxiety and depression that present in the counselling room, all of which benefit from the talking and touch related therapies.
Stress, anxiety and depression involve a loss of well-being, which can develop into somatic and psychosomatic symptoms that create more stress and tension in the body and mind. Very often, in my work as a counsellor and psychotherapist in Primary Care, I would re-refer a client back to the doctor for medication to work alongside counselling. Medication can help numb awareness of stress levels and emotional pain and is preferable to excessive alcohol intake, smoking, or indulging in 'recreational' drugs but medication alone cannot get to the root of the problem why someone reacts to environmental influences the way they do.
MISSED YOUR CONNECTION?
Have you ever expressed a problem to a friend, colleague or family member and felt they weren't emotionally engaged with your feelings, or felt that you struggle to be emotionally understand and supported by your partner? Or, that you find it difficult or impossible to enter into another's feeling experience? If you can relate to these examples, you either experience a lack of empathy from others, or you find it difficult to engage emphatically towards them. Empathy is different to sympathy: in the former, there is an ability to enter into the feelings of another without becoming emotionally involved. Sympathy, on the other hand, is a state of emotional involvement which often involves advice giving, which is usually ignored!
As a psychotherapist of couples and individuals, I see clients who tell me stories of Family Estrangement when relationships break-down with one or more family members, often due to a lack of empathy of others' feelings or a different perception of a situation. A good example is young adults who often have insufficient skills in communicating and expressing feelings and social expectations that are often at odds with their parents.
One of the major communication changes since the late 1990s is the development of the internet, social media and mobile technology all of which has changed expectations with how communication happens. The downside of this change is that technology doesn't provide a key factor when communicating with others: empathy. Empathy is necessary to make an emotional connection with the person we are communicating with.
The erosion of a growing social disconnection and consequent break-down of personal relationships is on the increase and a growing problem in our society. Society is 'you' and 'me' and only exists through communication with others in real time. An increasing loss of quality real time in relationships means that attention is going elsewhere: into an addiction with technology, sometimes compounded with delusional ideas of others and situations linked to eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction.
It is a truism to say that we cannot give what we haven't received. If you weren't listened to, emotionally engaged with or given time to develop emotional intimacy with parents as a child, it is likely you experience a psychological gap in contacting your own emotional needs and as a result, the needs of others.
When I counsel couples I ask them the four C's how they show Care, how they Connect, Communicate and how Committed they are to the relationship. If only one the four C's is difficult it tells me that the fourth C - Connection - will be difficult, even non-existent. If the four C's relate to Society then the four C's relate to emotional intelligence, understanding and an allowance for difference. Many couples and individuals have lost the ability to know how to connect, perhaps because of pressured commitments with career and family life. The result of the pace and stress of life today means that there is more and more reliance on technology to communicate when real time being with those we care about feels thin on the ground. Sadly, some never learnt how to communicate with empathy, good listening skills, eye contact, sensitivity and respect for others because their family didn't know 'how to'. Family patterns of behaviour and expectations run through generations in families - and no-one is immune to the contamination of negative patterns, as well as the affirming positive patterns.
The baseline here is that if a child isn't listened to by parents, relatives, their peer group and teachers, with respect, empathy, kindness, taught self-discipline and shown by example by all of these groups how to be self-responsible, then how can they, as adults, offer these qualities to themselves or others? The result of this absence of social awareness is that as adults, relationships will be problematic with the emphasis on self-gratification - a narcissistic attitude that creates a narcissistic society. 'Selfies', and an obsession with technology above talking to family members, friends and others in real time, causes social isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, addictions (technology is an addiction as much as alcohol or drug abuse) personality disorders, psychosis and suicide.
Counselling and psychotherapy offer a route through rehabilitating emotional disconnection towards a healthy ability to engage emphatically with the counsellor, as she herself engages with the client with empathy. Slowly, clients learn how to develop emotional intimacy and to connect and engage with those around them. Through Counselling and psychotherapy clients undertake a journey and learn how to connect and learn, maybe for the first time in the their life, how to care, communicate and commit to others through listening, being with the person in real time, making eye contact and picking up the clues of body language, voice modality and sense of the person. In this way, counselling and psychotherapy pave the way to forming happier, healthier relationships with increased self-confidence and self-belief.
Through counselling and psychotherapy you can learn how to become a sociable, confident and supportive individual. The pay-off? You, as the listener, feel connected to the person you are with - not in imagining who they are, in a virtual world, but in real time, right here, right now.
Make a note how reading this article left you feeling, then send me feedback - sorry it's cyber-space - but you can always meet me in real-time, to learn 'how to' connect and share your feelings and begin the journey of learning how to cultivate the four C's.