cutlery-SET 29 Sep 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Therapy

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Not eating enough and perfectionism

To be held and fed is the very first coming together of expectation with experience most of are lucky enough to get from our mums when we are born.

In an earlier blog I wrote about the childhood sensation of the ‘eternal present’ ie the feeling that ‘now is forever’.

When that feeling has been experienced as perfect in early infancy the feeling of wanting things to be perfect can sometimes return and overwhelm our reason in later childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

In part, if not always, this is based on a need to reciprocate by being perfect back; to our mums in the first place, then subsequently to everyone else.

How many girls and young women I have met who with all the good intentions in the world have become swept up and overwhelmed by wanting to be perfect. Perfectly intelligent, perfectly nice, perfect looking. Perfect.

And it gradually, but like a slippery slope, increasingly, and with increasingly overwhelming ferocity, takes over one’s sense of identity. How? By way of small details.

It is said the devil lies in the detail. Well you know you are struggling with anorexia nervosa when your preoccupation with making things smaller and more finely detailed becomes… enormous!

Doing things perfectly often, if not usually and against one’s reason, morphs into doing things smaller. Smaller dress size, smaller body size, smaller portions, smaller amounts of calories, smaller emotional interactions with others. Smaller.

The illogical logic of this process is to end up so small as to no longer exist. To end up no longer existing. Think about that for a moment. It is why anorexia nervosa can be described as a kind of slow suicide.

If it is suicidal, then what are the imperfect feelings that have been obscured by the over-determined need to be perfect? And how can they be helped?

As long as the sufferer’s brain and cognitive function are not too shrunken too (and to prevent this can require dietetic, medical and family support as a matter of urgency) then the difficult decision to seek psychotherapy should be considered.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam/

Difference and diversity 22 Sep 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Therapy

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Difference and diversity

What a samey old phrase that is for the astonishing and wonderful fact that it takes all sorts to make a world!

And yet we can feel so isolated and alone in all our individual differences from one another. In part that is obviously because we are actually different from one another, all 9 billion of us! It’s an amazing fact. But in part it may also be that we don’t remember how much the same we are.

We grow up as children, most of us, feeling loved and cared for and special in relation to our mums or/and dads. During the process of growing up and becoming increasingly aware of other people we can start to think that the existence of the outside ‘world of other people’ who all, like us, breathe and eat and need warmth and relationship, must mean we are not so special after all. When we realise how many people and races and ages and stages there are, how many countries and cities, villages and homesteads across the globe, it can lead to our feeling very small indeed, the merest drops in the ocean of humanity.

If that realisation then makes us feel unsure of ourselves it can prompt our different origins, skin colours, belief systems, genders, sexualities etc to feel threatened, or indeed threatening, in relation to the ‘world of other people’. It then becomes easy to forgot that most people in this world of ours are actually nice! Not warmongering, or power hungry, or money grubbing, or inferior or superior in any way, as the more thoughtless or bigoted and loud-mouthed would have us believe. But there are individual exceptions to every rule which can be highlighted by unscrupulous politicians or media as if they were the rule.

Psychotherapy can help a person feel more comfortable in her or himself and therefore in feeling less oppressed by phoney social hierarchies which use stereotyping generalisations to erase individuality.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam/

change-and-loss-image 15 Sep 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Anxiety

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Change and Loss

If one thing is certain (probably!) about living on this planet, it is that things change and loss is inevitable.  Everyday dusk falls and the day is lost at it gives way to nightfall. Some time later night is lost to a brand new day.

We live in time.

When things change and time brings us a new present there is always at least some kind of loss of what was before. Sometimes the change and loss are almost unnoticeable. At others they are huge, unmissable and inescapable. Some changes are slow, gradual and predictable. Others sudden and unexpected. Some bring happiness and the loss of unhappiness, others bring sadness, even trauma and loss of happiness.

Psychotherapy for help with awful feelings doesn’t mean we are going mad although it can feel like we are and we have to remind ourselves that facts and feelings don’t always coincide!

Similarly, losing a loved one, usually feels utterly impossible for those left behind when she, he or they, have died, no matter what their beliefs about an afterlife might be. It can feel so deeply distressing that we can start behaving as if we were clinically depressed not eating properly, sleeping badly and unable to function for feeling overwhelmed emotionally.

But there is nothing unhealthy about this kind of sadness. Grief is such a difficult process to bear, but in fact, as the measure of our feeling of love, it is one of the most naturally human experiences that we ever have in life. It may feel unbearable at the time, but in fact, for most of us it actually and eventually isn’t. In time it gradually lets us go as we let our loved ones go.

Of course it is a matter of degree, but expressions and effects of grief, as intense as they are, are rarely symptoms of mental illness they are the products of our mentally healthy love for our lost loved ones. There would be something wrong with us if we didn’t feel profoundly affected by their passing knowing that nothing will ever be the same again.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam

detail-of-old-womans-hands 01 Sep 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Therapy

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Age and Stage

This blog does not follow the usual practice of discussing ‘time and tide’ in the right order. It flits about, but bear with me, please. It is twice as long as usual and in many ways, it restates ‘the blinking obvious’, but as a psychotherapist I think it can be worth considering some of the issues it addresses.

What we all know, but all too often can take for granted and fall into ignoring the profound role it plays in our lives, is how we shape and are shaped – age in and aged by – our passage through time.

To a small baby and to most children under five, and many children older than that too, time is experienced as if now were forever. What they are experiencing in the present is felt so intensely that for them it as if there were no time before or after it. Every mum knows the blissful satisfaction a baby feels as she is being fed can be as total and absolute in the present as her distress can be a few minutes later when she needs a burp! For little ones ‘now is forever’.

Parents struggling with a ‘difficult’ teenager often tell me they feel as if their adolescents are behaving like little children in big bodies. They say this because they know their teenager is very capable at other times of behaving in a mature and adult manner. Adolescents are famously ‘betwixt and between’, but what is less well recognised is that they rarely, if ever, proactively decide to switch between behaving in a more responsible adult manner to a more childlike one and vice versa. It is vital to know that a difference of just two years usually marks a huge developmental shift, which as adults many of us have forgotten about in terms of how it felt. But think about yourself aged 13 for a few moments. And then think about yourself – what you were like –  at 15. Would the 17 year old really recognise her younger selves?

At the other end of life, to a person in her or his seventies or eighties it is as if time is a raging torrent, a huge waterfall of living experience rushing by faster than they have ever felt it do so before and only getting faster as they themselves slow down. How many times have you heard an elderly person exclaim that they don’t know where the time has gone? Advanced age is a time of physiological and anatomical deterioration, but unless an old person is suffering from dementia or some other neurological condition affecting their cognitive functioning, it is a time of great wisdom and hindsight as the prospect of dying and leaving this world concentrates their minds on the meaning of it all.

In contrast young adults in their twenties are coming to terms with their place in the world and what they want and can do about increasing their involvement in it. If they are lucky, their thirties usually bring a consolidation of this in terms of careers and children. These years are predominantly focused on the external world of other people, colleagues, offspring, friends. Then, in their forties and fifties people are confronted by the limitations which their lives and circumstances have imposed upon them in terms of their aspirations when they were younger. Particularly when these latter have not been realised this can sometimes prompt those infamous ‘mid-life crises’.

These are all developmental truisms, of course. Mere generalisations. Individual exceptions are numerous. But reminding ourselves of our wider developmental context in order to better know and understand the context of our own unique feelings as we try to make sense of our lives, can be helpful.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam/