Grieving the loss of a relationship

 

Grieving any kind of loss can be very difficult at the best of times and can cause feelings of confusion and desperation. If you identified strongly with who you were in the relationship or had your primary focus on your partner then the loss can be quite confronting, leaving you feeling lost and not knowing who you are anymore or where you belong. 

To avoid grief we may stay in unhealthy relationships that are clearly not working to avoid facing the prospect of being alone or experiencing the inevitable feelings of loss. 

What actually is Grief?

Grief is dealing with the loss of attachment. When we form an emotional attachment to another person we naturally invest our time and energy into the relationship, and consciously or unconsciously we are getting our needs met through our partner, to feel loved and needed, to feel worthy. When we are having these needs met through another person we place ourselves in a vulnerable position because if the relationship breaks down, we are then left with feeling the emptiness of what we did not give ourselves. Unless you are extremely evolved, feeling some kind of grief cannot be avoided, but there are things you can do to support yourself into not sinking into the depths of depression if your partner leaves you.

  • Meet your own needs – Whether in a relationship or not it is important that you know what your needs are and meet them yourself. Love and nurture yourself, appreciate who you are and what you bring. Care deeply for the beautiful you. By doing this you are setting a foundation on which you can stand in any given situation. Let that foundation of love be your rock, not your partner.
  • Do not hold back your love – Be as loving as you can be towards others. Many times we grieve not so much for the loss of our partner but for the fact that we did not show them our true selves or that we did not express lovingly with them on a consistent level.
  • Know that your relationship is not your life – The relationship you are in may be amazing, your partner may be amazing and what you have together incredible, but it is amazing because you are, it is how you are within your relationship that makes it what it is. When you live the love that you are and share it with your partner it is a beautiful experience but if they leave or walk away that love does not go because it is something that you are, not something you get from someone else. Love cannot leave you, but you can choose to express it or shut it down, the choice is yours. 
  • Allow yourself to feel your hurt – If your relationship breaks down it hurts. So allow yourself to feel it but be careful not to indulge in these feelings as this will confirm and cement your negative emotional state. Feel it, acknowledge it and get on with being as loving and gentle with yourself as you can.
  • Be gentle with you – Lets face it, drowning your sorrows in a bottle of chardonnay or downing a family sized block of chocolate actually ends up making us feel a whole lot worse! So take time to care for yourself, eat to nourish, hydrate (with water!), exercise, and find a close friend or trusted therapist as a support to share what you are feeling. 

Stages of Grief 

By understanding the process of grief we can make sense of the variety of emotions we may be experiencing. Anyone who has experienced deep grief can relate to the ‘waves’ of emotion that can arise and then subside. Grieving is not linear and each stage may be felt at anytime until the final stage of acceptance is reached and maintained consistently. 

  • Denial – as a response to the initial shock, the protective method of denial comes to the fore to buffer the hurt. We may even isolate ourselves from others to avoid the truth we do not want to face. 
  • Anger – As we get to a point where we can no longer deny the truth, but are not ready to feel our hurt, we use anger to mask the pain we do not want to feel. Anger may be directed at the loved one, at yourself or even at God, especially if your partner has died.  
  • Bargaining – In an attempt to make some semblance of being in control again we can bargain with ourselves, “if only I had been more loving”, or “If I hadn’t ignored him so much he wouldn’t have left me for someone else”, “maybe if I change she will take me back?”. This is our last line of defence before the dropping into the painful reality. 
  • Depression – When we realise we are not able to fight the truth any longer we may simply withdraw from life, there is a sense of defeat or giving up. This withdrawal creates a space within in that is felt as a deep emptiness, which is depression. 
  • Acceptance – In this final stage we begin to accept the truth, that our loved one has gone and will not be returning but realising that there is life after death so to speak. We commit back to life and start to feel ourselves again.

Kate Chorley is an experienced psychotherapist who has supported many of her clients through their grieving process. She practices in the Blacktown and Parramatta areas of Sydney and via Skype. Contact Kate here on or call 0402134097

The Importance of Self-Awareness in Relationships

 

Self awareness provides us with the emotional intelligence to successfully interact with others, the more deeply we know ourselves and why we do what we do, the more we can understand others, and with this understanding we can start to let go of judgement and bring more compassion to situations and therefore be less impacted by life. 

Self awareness is knowing what makes you tick, why you make the choices you do, why you think the way you do and how this impacts your life and that of the people around you. 

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” ―Socrates 

How to become more self-aware.

1. Learn to see yourself objectively – honing the art of self reflection is an important tool to develop self awareness. To do this well it requires honesty and lack of judgement. If you find you are judging others and defending your position, then you are only seeing life from a narrow, one sided point of view where there is no room from personal growth. Take a broad view on life and yourself, take time to feel what is true for you and what is not. You may find you have been unconsciously subscribing to a way of being that does not align with who you truly are. By becoming aware of this, you can begin to let it go. 

2. Reflect with another – Find someone you feel comfortable enough to be completely honest with, someone who will not judge you but provide constructive feedback. Doing this can provide invaluable support in your evolution. A great way to do this is with a therapist or other professional who is practiced at being objective and non judgemental in their response. When you can start to decentralise and see things from another’s point of view it is easier to see how change can be possible in all areas of your life. 

3. Keep a Journal – By keeping a journal you are able to see patterns of behaviour that occur in your life. Being able to see theses trends you can look for triggers or things you do that feed the pattern which opens up an opportunity to make different choices. When you journal things that you do each day; what you eat, whether you exercise or not and can see a link in the behaviour that follows these choices. One of the ways you can do this is by using the OurCycles App, a tool that is designed for both men and women to track your feelings and moods and make notes about your day. It is a great tool for self reflection. 

4. Nominate things you want to address – When you are able to clearly see those choices or ways of being that are not working for you, only then you can begin to truly address them. 

Growth and developing self awareness is an ongoing journey, one where you never truly arrive. So take your time and make it an everyday part of what you do and reap the rich rewards of living a life that is about evolution and personal growth. 

Kate Chorley is a psychotherapist & couples therapist practicing in the Parramatta & Blacktown areas of Western Sydney. She supports her clients in raising their self-awareness to lead more productive and fulfilling lives. Contact here or phone 0402134097 to make an appointment. 

4 Steps to Managing Conflict

 

The Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, founded by John Gottman is a series of research based interventions that combines nearly 40 years of studies and clinical practice of more than 3000 couples. This structured and goal-oriented therapy assists couples to develop greater connection, understanding and intimacy in their relationship. 

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor found in the New Testament depicting the end of time. They represent conquest, war, hunger, and death. The Gottman Method uses this phrase to describe ineffective communication styles that can lead to the demise a relationship. 

To have zero conflict in a relationship is very rare and for the rest of us, having an understanding of what feeds disharmony and what supports harmonious relations is important for us to know if we want a close and loving relationship with our partner. 

So what doesn’t work?  

1. Criticism – Criticism is often very personal and attacks the character of the other person.

“You never take out the garbage, you’re so lazy..”

The offending party is then left feeling assaulted, offended and hurt. This is then likely to result in the person on the receiving end to retaliate in defensiveness, which can create pervasive patterns that can be difficult to break out of. 

Antidote – Simply reframe what you want to say by owning what you feel and ask for what you need without attack or blame, it’s important to express a positive need. 

“I feel annoyed that you haven’t taken the garbage out again tonight, when you do it I feel loved and supported, can you please take out today?” 

2. Defensiveness – When we go into protection by using defensiveness against a perceived attack which is usually criticism, it is corrosive to your relationship.

“I’m always taking the garbage out, and this one time I don’t do it you jump on me, so unfair!”

We can feel unjustly accused and victimised, coming up with a million excuses to protect our position, and why they are wrong, and we are right. This will come across as being dismissive of what our partner is trying to say, of not listening to their needs, which will fuel the situation even more. 

Antidote – The key here is to simply take responsibility for your part of the conflict, own what you have done.

“Yes, I did forget to take it out tonight, I know how important it is to you that I do this, I’m sorry”

3. Contempt – Contempt is when we make statements from a seemingly elevated position of superiority using sarcasm, cynicism, derogatory names, mockery and eye rolling. Once contempt has crept in things are not looking good and it is the greatest predictor of divorce. 

“You idiot, you forgot to take the garbage out AGAIN!” 

Antidote – The best antidote for contempt is to build a consistent appreciation and respect for each other. 

“I really appreciate how you always remember the little things, like taking out the garbage, I love having you around”

4. Stonewalling – Sometimes in an attempt to psychologically self-soothe one party will remove themselves from the argument by going quiet and shutting down. This can incite the other partner further as they may feel shut out and rejected, causing more anxiety and distress. 

Antidote – It is a good thing to disengage if you are emotionally ‘flooded’, but is best to be clear with your partner that you need time out. It takes around 20 minutes for your body to physiologically calm back down. You can then return to the conversation more centred and connected. 

Kate Chorley is trained in the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy and is available for sessions at her Blacktown and Parramatta Clinic’s in Sydney. To make an appointment – call 0402134097 or fill out the contact form here. 

When your partner is addicted to porn

 

What is it with watching porn? 

Regularly watching porn and the incidence of porn addiction is a wide spread, social issue in the world today. With the explosion of the internet there has been an unregulated stream of ‘fodder’ for us to choose from.

The statistics on porn use are unsettling:  

  • 1 in 5 internet searches on a mobile device are for pornography.
  • Men in happy relationships are 61% less likely to look at porn.
  • 20% of men admit to viewing pornography at work.
  • 88% of porn scenes contain physical aggression. 49% contain verbal aggression.

According to these statistics it is clear that we love watching porn, but is it actually harmful or just a bit of light relief? 

As Ran Gavrieli shares in the clip above that before he started watching porn, his idea being intimate or making love was born from a foundation of love and care, with intimacy being about sensuality and mutuality, there was a narrative. His definition of love was about the whole person, it was about connection.

Ran goes on to say that after watching porn for a period of time he felt like his mind was invaded by those images, that they had taken the place of his original fantasies of romantic love. He makes a pertinent point when he states:

We should not only be careful about what type of foods we put in our body, but also the nutrition of our minds.

When we watch porn we take on the energy of porn into our bodies, it infiltrates our energetic space, a poison we carry with us long after we stop watching – this energy remains with us when we interact with everyone, including those we love, our partner, our children. 

Pornography is addictive and paralysing, why? Because porn excites our primal tendencies, the part of us that is all about desire, with the primary focus being on ‘self’. It stems from our overwhelming need to be satisfied, to get that ‘rush’. It is the ultimate distraction away from a less than fulfilling life. 

 

What Causes Porn Addiction? 

There are many factors that can be precursors to porn addiction, such as a predisposition to impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, high levels of testosterone, childhood environmental factors such as abuse or exposure to sexual content, mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression or personality disorders, rejection in relationships, social isolation, and peer influence.

When we look at these factors more closely we can see that they are underpinned by a basic lack of connection and a lack of intimacy. Not everyone with high testosterone is compelled to watch porn. If we choose to live in a way where we are shut down to others in an attempt to prevent ourselves from getting hurt, to avoid rejection, we just end up feeling isolated and alone. But by allowing ourselves to be open and choosing to let others in we feel a closeness, a connection, a feeling of being met, something many it seems, avoid doing. Could this be what we are actually craving when we view porn?

Watching porn it is usually done in private, we feel safe and protected, we do not have to open up to others and risk rejection, we can have our needs (intimacy and connection) met in a pseudo kind of way, but in truth are we not just medicating the unmet need? 

When a person watches porn it floods the brain with the feel good chemical dopamine, the same chemical that is released when taking drugs. When these ‘surges’ are repeated the brain becomes desensitised and requires more and more extreme type images to get the same rush. Regular sex becomes boring. This widespread problem is now creating a demand for more and more extreme, hard core porn that producers are quick to supply – our behaviour is creating the demand. 

* Newsflash * – Watching Porn shrinks your Brain!

In a 2011 a study was done by German researchers that found the area of the brain called the striatum, that is linked with the reward and motivation response, actually shrank in size the more porn a person watched. 

What to do if your partner is addicted to Porn 

If you are in a relationship and your partner is regularly viewing porn you can feel rejected, alone, and unloved. It may be difficult for your partner to be aroused by everyday sex and ‘making love’, and being tender can become a foreign concept.

There is a seeking of instant gratification which ends up being all about them and what is going to get them there – you no longer seem to factor. 

  • Its important to talk with your partner and be honest about how you feel. Going into judgement or blame is not going to support them, you can’t make them admit they have a problem, it is up to them to take responsibility for themselves. 
  • Take a good look at the current state of your relationship. Look at what role you are playing within it. See if you are in some way enabling their behaviour. When we fail to call out what we are not ok about, it is the same as saying, ‘what you’re doing IS ok’. 
  • Seek professional help for yourself,  so you can begin to open up and make sense of how you feel and look at what you can do to best support yourself. 
  • If your partner is open to it, seek professional support as a couple. This will give you a forum to get honest together about what has been happening and gain a deeper of understanding of why the compulsion is there and look at how to address it. By understanding your partner more deeply it can support you to support them and yourself.
  • Take time to get your partner reacquainted with true intimacy – find ways to open up to each other, look into each others eyes. Lie naked together and hold each other, get used to touching each other again, take things very slowly with no expectations of a certain outcome. Give your partner time to become aroused being with you. If there is pressure to perform or a rush it can push them back into fantasy, so patience is the key. 

Kate Chorley is an experienced psychotherapist and couples counsellor in the Blacktown and Parramatta areas of Sydney.

Kate has worked with many individuals and successfully helped them overcome addictions of all kinds including porn addiction.

Click this link to make an appointment Or

Call Kate today on 0402134097 for a FREE 15 minute phone consultation. 

 

 

 

Jealousy – Does the Green Eyed Monster Rule your Life?

 

Jealousy is an emotion that we all experience from time to time. But for some of us it can be crippling, effecting every area of our lives.

Jealousy is one of the most powerful and painful of all human emotions, in fact it can be deadly: Statistical data shows that jealousy ranks as the third most common motive for murder. And lets face it, being on the receiving end of jealousy is downright awful.

I can’t stop feeling Jealous, help! 

Have you struggled with repetitive and consuming thoughts over your new partners ex for example? Do you constantly put yourself into comparison with others leaving you feeling depressed, and that you are not good enough? Or do you begin to feel enraged when you see that friend or family member who is super confident and successful or who just seems to have life all worked out?

Feeling this way can begin to effect all your relationships, you are likely to become withdrawn, resentful and bitter. You want revenge, you decide that if you can get this person out of your sight you can start to feel better, so you begin to plot as to how to make this happen by having thoughts of how you can attack them and bring them down and to even get pleasure out of watching them suffer somehow, even for a moment. All this sounds pretty evil hey? Probably because that’s exactly what jealousy is – evil. 

So What is Jealousy? 

By understanding what jealousy actually is and how it works you can start to address it.

When you see and feel that someone has made different choices to you that has got them where they are today, choices that you could have made for yourself, this can enrage you and fill you with jealousy, why? Because deep down you know that you could have made those same choices yourself but didn’t, everyone has the freedom of choice.

We always have the choice of how we see ourselves, our attitude to life, of how we are in relation to another, the way we care for ourselves and others, the way we use our time and the list goes on… The truth is, regardless of our childhood or past experiences we can always choose differently today.

So how do I stop feeling this way?

  • First it’s important to nominate that the fact you are feeling jealous. By getting honest with yourself you can start to make true inroads to change.
  • Next, take the time to self-reflect, as jealousy is never about the other person, it is about you. Look at what it is you are jealous of, it may be that they are confident and joyful in their lives. If this is something you want, the fact is you can have this too, you just have to make certain choices to get you there. Look at where you may have made not so supportive choices and simply start to make changes in your own life, in other words – take responsibility for yourself and how you feel. 
  • Develop a healthy relationship with you. Let’s face it, no one is perfect and this is not something to aspire to, let it go. Start loving you for exactly who you are today, do not look back and beat yourself up for past choices, learn from them, and then simply start to choose what is true for you and what you want out of life. For example, if you want love, you need to be love! 
  • Be Inspired. If success and fulfilment is what you want, look to others who have this in their lives and let what they do and who they are inspire you to do the same, let their reflection confirm to you what is possible for you too when true choices are made. 

‘Help’, I’m in love with a Narcissist

 

The label narcissist is a term that is thrown around quite a bit these days, one that generally indicates someone who is vain and selfish but the true personality disorder and its characteristics run much deeper, and carry long-term, damaging effects for those directly involved with people that have the condition.

If you are in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality traits, you will get a strong sense of being manipulated or used and will eventually become aware that your partner does not truly care about you and that you are simply ‘a thing’ that is there to satisfy his or her wants and needs. It can be a devastating discovery to realise you have been deceived in this way by someone you loved.

 

The term Narcissism originated from Greek Mythology and the Story of Narcissus.

Narcissus was a extremely handsome young man who was arrogant and self-involved. He could not tear himself away from looking at his own reflection in a pool of water, and as a result his self adoration totally consumed him and ultimately caused his death. In modern times narcissism indicates an individual who is arrogantly self-absorbed, but this is not be confused with a healthy sense of self-love that does not preclude the ability to love others equally.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), narcissism as a personality disorder classified by the traits listed below. It is important to remember that narcissism is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists along a continuum ranging from a few narcissistic traits to the full-blown personality disorder which is rare, with only 1% of the population in this category. That aside, non-clinical narcissism is a wide spread problem. 

These people are more often than not highly attractive, fun-loving, charming and charismatic, someone who appears that he or she would be a great partner but has a dark side that many do not realise until it is too late. 

 

So what are the signs? 

 

1. Being extremely self-focused and exploitive of others – The narcissist will be primarily focused on getting his or her needs met over all else and will not be phased about using others to make this happen even if others get hurt in the process. Basically, it is all about them, what they want, think or feel in complete disregard to the needs of others around them. Which means they do not want to hear about what is going on for you let alone be there to support you in a crisis.

When in conversation you may feel they dismiss what you have to say, talk over you and rail road the conversation, always turing the topic of conversation towards what is going on for them or their thoughts and opinions. You are made to feel like you don’t matter. 

2. They don’t care about how you feel – Lack of empathy is a classic sign of the narcissist. They fail to put themselves in another persons shoes and connect with how they feel because their focus is solely with themselves. They may give a semblance of caring and concern if they are going to gain by doing so – there is always an agenda that focused on personal gain. 

3. Possess an inflated sense of self-importance – The narcissist will have a grandiose sense of self importance, they will exaggerate their achievements and talents and will expect this to be recognised by those around him or her. He or she likes to be the centre of attention, and will be charming and charismatic to get the outcome they want. 

4. Disregards rules or social etiquette – Because of their inflated sense of self importance your partner may feel that they are above what is considered social norms. They believe they can have affairs, cut into a line where others are waiting for example, as they will go to any extreme to get what they want and to get their needs met and feel they are perfectly justified in doing so.   

5. Is highly jealous and competitive – You will find that your partner is hugely insecure of anyone or anything that is seen as a threat to the illusion of their elevated position. They have a need to feel superior at all times and will go to great lengths to make sure this is maintained. 

6. Excessive need for attention and admiration – These people need to be constantly adored. Your attention must be on them and they are highly sensitive to when your attention may be focused elsewhere. 

7. Emotionally volatile – You will find your partner can fly into spontaneous rages that can take you completely off guard. This can occur in public or private as the narcissist will have no regard to how his or her behaviour will impact others. If they feel they have been wronged or have not been shown the attention they feel they deserve they can be highly reactive. They can return to normal very quickly as if as nothing has happened with no remorse. 

You may find yourself many times trying to calm down and pacify your partner who feels justified in their behaviour. They are very quick to blame and classically do not take responsibility for their own actions. You will be made to feel that everything that goes wrong is always your fault. 

But what is really going on? – Labelling an individual with a mental health disorder or disease subtlety suggests that they are some how absolved of responsibility, but beyond the label of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a person who is using a certain type of behaviour to counteract feelings of deep insecurity or feeling as though they are not enough. It is the fight for individualism, of standing out and being noticed beyond the masses, but aren’t we all doing this to some degree?

The truth is that we come from a oneness, an equalness, and to promote individualism is to fight against this. Narcissism is just exaggerated version of the human condition in its desire to be its own creator. In fighting our own nature, which is to naturally be part of the whole, we become deeply unhappy, feel isolated and unloved. We hold a constant tension in our bodies and are forever looking for anything that will placate these feelings, and in this case it is the recognition, approval and adoration that is the drug of choice. 

What to do if this describes your partner? – 

  • Self-reflect – Remember that you are part of this dynamic so it is important to reflect on what attracted you to them in the first place. Was one of your parents dominant and controlling? Do you prefer to take a more passive role in a partnership, if so why? Do you lack self-worth and therefore accept their abusive behaviour? Do you feel safe to be with someone who takes charge? Does it give you a sense of worth to be with someone who is charming and successful? By becoming aware of your role in the dynamic you can begin to change it as you address your own issues. 

 

  • Don’t be a victim – Work on your own issues, develop self-worth and a healthy level of self confidence. This way you will stop unconsciously feeding your partners negative behaviour by pandering to their needs. 

 

  • Get professional help – By seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist you can get the tools and techniques to develop a healthy level of self worth and build a strong and enduring relationship with yourself. In this way you can either change the dynamic with your current partner or to move on in a way where you not attract the same type of partner again.