Blogs and items of interest

October 9, 2016
nick

Coping With Trying to be Perfect in a Not so Perfect World.

before-after-beyonce

Today I am going to write a blog about how difficult it is to be a woman in society today.

Of course those that know me might scoff how I might know such a thing being male. Well I have a few sisters, I used to teach approximately 120 young ladies whilst working in a predominantly female environment.  I have seen the difficulties presented to me in counselling sessions, I also think there is something so obvious about the struggles and pressures of women today.

Women are under constant pressure to look their best but this pressure often comes from the individual. A pressure to be as attractive as other women and whilst this pressure for some is as expensive as their beauty products which I might add feels a really inappropriate name. They all promise to do some unrealistic outcome at an ever increasing price. What seems more alarming is the amount of young woman prepared to go to the extremes of going under the knife. theconsultingroom.com says 51,000 people had cosmetic surgery in 2015 and this number is rising each year.

The ability to manipulate photos has become easier and easier to do, with most mobile phones with a camera including basic photo manipulating tools. This has enabled a lot of inaccurate information to be uploaded via social media. Accurate being true to life and real, inaccurate being manipulated images that are doctored to create unreal perfection.

Once upon a time this only happened in glossy magazines or newspapers. Now the ability to create flawless images is not only completely wide spread and accepted it is just a normal part of everyday life. This of course wouldn’t be a problem however women are comparing themselves to this and competing with it when in reality it is un compete able. (The image I have used in this blog I would like to say I am not using it as a name and shame exercise but to show of the transformation that can be obtained.)

On the other side of that is if you don’t strive to be your best then you look uncared for or un kept. I can only imagine this is born out of tabloid newspapers shaming celebrities for having cellulite or being caught with no make-up on. Whilst this may sell newspapers it pokes around in a place that is serious. That place is shame.

It is the very thing we teach our children from a young age, not to make fun of people. Our tabloid newspapers do it to sell newspapers. This has quite possibly created the photo shop era that is destroying the self-esteem of young women today to the extreme of painstaking procedures and operations to compete with the unrealistic representation of female images today, in an attempt to avoid feeling shame. To elaborate on that further, shame in this scenario is I feel like I do not want to exist because I don’t look a certain way, people won’t like me because I don’t look like her and that makes me feel ashamed.

This is of course is not helped by the fact from a young age we might say to a young girl. That’s a pretty dress or I like your hair, don’t you have a nice smile. The praise that comes with these comments set up feelings of positivity but later can result in negative feelings when positivity is not given. This later on in life can encourage feelings of worthlessness due to not receiving positive enforcement.

More recently there is a phenomenon on social media where young women upload images of themselves to see how many likes that image can get. If that image does not get the desired amount of likes the feelings this generates is shame and unworthiness. This is likely to turn into feelings of not being good enough and a more than likely increase the use of cosmetics.

I believe this in turn fuels anxiety, and depression and increases the risk of self-harm, un nutritional fad diets and eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. I have seen these conditions on the fore front and the number of cases are increasing. We need to act now as a society to prevent these numbers from further increasing.

Here are some ideas I would encourage anyone with self-image concerns to take into consideration here are a couple of things I believe can help you work towards a happier you.

Don’t compete with the way other people look, you are not them they are not you.

Remember many of the pictures you see today, even of your Facebook friends are photo shopped.

There is only ever going to be one you, be you gracefully.

One person’s opinion is not a fact.

Smile like you mean it and feel the changes within.

Confidence is a powerful and attractive trait, confidence can be faked remember that 😉

Here is a quote from a famous cosmetic and fashion designer                           

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” 
― Yves Saint-Laurent

I believe that working through our thoughts and feelings towards ourselves and checking out some of the realities and truths we tell ourselves on a day to day basis within counselling, can be the first steps to working towards a positive self-esteem.

Brighter Pathways counselling can offer affordable rates for counselling tailored to your circumstances. We can come to you or if you prefer you can come to us in a range of locations in the Bristol/South Gloucestershire area. Contact us on 07903319318 or email brighterpathwayz@gmail.com alternatively visit brighter-pathways.co.uk to find out more.

 

October 2, 2016
nick

How Existential Thinking Can Better Our Lives

existential-counselling

Today’s blog dips into an ideology that some consider controversial by its very nature. It’s roots suggest there is no god, and whilst things happen good or bad, this ideology suggests that things don’t happen for a reason instead they ‘just do’.

I am talking about existentialism, my first brush with what existentialism is (other than a mouthful to pronounce) was when I came across a quote in a book by one of existentialism’s famous thinkers Irvine Yalom. His quote read

“Human beings must face up to the ultimate meaninglessness of their existence, that there exists no “meaning” no grand design in the universe, no guidelines for living other than that the individual creates.”

When I first read this statement I couldn’t help but feel wounded by it. Right at the core of me, I felt pulled but the realness wanted me to rebel also. I shared it with my lecturer at the time and there was something in her that bolted like she didn’t want to hear or acknowledge it.

The word meaninglessness could be mistaken for worthlessness but I’m not sure that’s it. I think it comes from a place that life is extremely valuable to the individual, I feel it’s an attempt to free us as individuals from some of the meanings we have programmed into us from a young age. Things like ‘having a good career means you will have a good life.’ ‘You should get married and live happily ever after.’ ‘There is a god and you should believe in him/her and if you don’t you will live an eternity of horribleness when your existence seizes to happen.’

In my opinion having a good career benefits a capitalist society. Getting married prevents promiscuous behaviour and promotes a secure financial and emotional space for a child to be born. Believing in a god helps financially support a church and advertises another set of meanings some positive some not so.

Existential thinking on the other hand promotes free thinking, it encourages us to identify what our own individual wants and beliefs are, for example if being a nurse is what you want to do because helping people lights up your soul then you are living for your own existential meaning. If your mother was a nurse and you want to live in her footsteps then you are not living for your own existence you are doing it for your mothers.

If you believe in a god that is the same as your families for some level of conformity then you are not living for your own meaning, you are doing it to fit in. If on the other hand you believe in god because you are sold on the riches of your religions afterlife and you get comfort from this perhaps it could be argued that this is your meaning.

Sometimes something happens in our lives that makes us question our own mortality and we look at our values and meaning. An example of this could be when we have been made redundant or a friend or loved one dies this is when we ask ourselves ‘how would they measure their existence?’ and that makes us wonder how we would measure our own.

I often think about things existentially, for example if I am thinking about starting something new but am unsure. I think about how I would feel after its done, or at the end of my life will I look back and think to myself ‘I am glad I had done that thing, my life wouldn’t have felt complete otherwise.’ Or alternatively you may ask what might it feel like at the end of your life if you hadn’t completed that thing. These things could be something as big as having children to undergoing a course of study or having a career change.

Some of the statements made within existentialism can be really hard hitting and controversial, for example ‘there is no god’ what I think is meant here is remove external influences when making decisions. Live your life by your own conditions. This is probably what was meant by Karl Marx’s (famous communist) statement ‘God takes away our own human super powers.’ If we make decisions without god as an influence we can take full credit for it and self actualise as a result of it, I believe some of us need to realise that we are truly amazing but I also recognise some of us need to do some work to realise this.

This blog is aimed at helping you to think a little bit more existentially for the good of your own life. Here are some tips on how you can incorporate existential thinking.

  1. Don’t make decisions to please others, it will more than likely create resentment.
  2. Think about how the end of something will make you feel when you are questioning your ability to complete something.
  3. Ask yourself from time to time, ‘at the end of my life will I be happy with what I have achieved?’
  4. Give yourself time to think in a quiet space, ask the voice within are you thinking for yourself or are you being guided by external influences unknowingly?
  5. Praise yourself for your own success, you may have had support but it was you that stuck in there.

 

If in doubt counselling can be a way to look at your own existence from an existential perspective before a crisis happens, it can be a way to explore what decisions are best for you.

Of course counselling often happens when we are in crisis generally not when we are asking existential questions. My experience is when people are in counselling after the crisis they recognise the power of the counselling space as a tool for self-discovery. I therefore encourage people to consider counselling as an opportunity to seek clarity on our own life purpose.

Start your counselling journey today www.brighter-pathways.co.uk

I welcome people’s interaction and comments on my blogs, even if your opinion differs from mine. So please feel free to comment as appropriate.

September 17, 2016
nick

Creative counselling techniques Bristol, therapy through creative activities

therapy-through-drawing

In a recent blog I discussed some of the negative effects of keeping silent the blog was called the cost of silence. Even since I wrote that blog a few weeks ago, I have come across more incidents and literature that spells out the harm that can be caused from keeping silent.
Today’s blog I am going to discuss how creativity can be used as a means of self-healing. So often you hear the phrase ‘I am not creative’ I challenge this whenever I hear it, I believe we all have creative flare we just need to identify our own niche. Creativity is so much more than getting out the colouring pencils and tissue paper and glue. And even if it was have you seen some of the stuff that gets classed as abstract art selling for thousands at art auctions!!! Creativity could be drawing or colouring but it could also be so many other things. It could be song writing playing a musical instrument, sewing, creative writing, poetry, perhaps the way you do your make up, or the way you decorate your home, the possibilities are endless.
I am a believer that we can block our own creativity. This could be because of rejection we may have felt in the past from being creative. Imagine being a child who has created a piece of art and when he/she shows it to their parent is not met with the praise expected. Or showing it to a friend and in a spat of jealousy they rubbish the picture. Or entering a colouring competition and not winning, or even just comparing your own creative efforts to someone else’s.
I remember when I was asked to draw a picture of my house, I remember the quietness that consumed the room but there was something happening inside me, it felt recognisable and relaxing but somewhat consuming. The comfort afterwards was really quite rewarding, I thought about things that I hadn’t thought about for some time, my BMX with yellow wheels, the pointless little slope that leads to the back of the house. My neighbours, the garden gate I used to spend many hours swinging on. Whilst these memories were positive there were also a collection of negative memories, I was grateful for being in the presence of a professional counsellor.
I remembered the fire which myself, my mum and my sisters were lucky to escape from. I remembered my belongings I had to leave behind, including my child hood teddy bears. Whilst I think a large portion of the mourning for my childhood home are done, my pain for my childhood teddies is still very much present.
I hear you saying ‘I thought the creative experience was a positive one!’ Well I believe that mourning inside me would have existed whether I was aware of it or not. If it was dormant, maybe I might be more possessive over my belongings. Being aware of it are the first steps to accepting it, I am aware that I am sad about leaving my teddies behind but I am able to share that sadness and recognise it for what it is, and this discovery came from being creative.
Have you ever found your mood to be unexplainably low? Creativity can be a way of exploring the things that make us unhappy. This is because you communicate to a different part of yourself when you dip into creative methods. The place where we first tapped into our creativity would have been when we were young. You didn’t have the drama of bills and day to day struggles when you were learning to be creative, so when you go back to that place our awareness goes back to that place also.
Counselling can be a safe place to explore memories and experiences that can come up when working creatively or it can be a space to explore your creativity. It encouraged me to pick up a pencil and draw after 20 years it also encouraged me to pick up the guitar and start playing as it was something I wanted to do from the age of 8!
Sometimes I think counselling can release some space in our own thinking capacity to work with creativity. When we are troubled and stressed from our thoughts and everyday lives the likely hood of being able to tap into our creative field is reduced because we can only work on a certain amount of things at the same time. Counselling can help free up this space, it can be a place to make peace with some of the stresses and sadness’s we face in our lives and may even encourage us to delve into our creative selves.
A few things you should consider when working creatively.
Don’t compare your work to others, try your best, you can’t do better than your best, so don’t fight with yourself about it. Although practice can always offer room for improvement.
No one has to see your work that is up to you. If you want to show, show. If you don’t, don’t. (Unless its on a toilet wall, then you surrender that privilege)
Create some quiet time to do it, turn your TV off put your phone away.
Participate, don’t go in half-hearted give yourself to the process.
Remember there are many different ways of being creative from drawing to poetry.
If you think you would like to work therapeutically with your creative skills then perhaps I can help you along your journey. Or perhaps you would like to make some space in your own mind to start working more creatively, find out more at brighter-pathways.co.uk

therapy-in-creativity-drawing

August 28, 2016
nick

Finding the beauty in you, and discovering life is not photo shopped.

peacock-butterfly-981142_1280

Today is a tough time to be a beautiful person inside and out. We are filled with things we ought to be, growing up. Be nice, don’t be angry, and don’t talk about people behind their backs, being a nurse is a respectful job, get good grades at school or you won’t amount to much.
Then there is the way we are supposed to look, be skinny, wait! No skinny with a big bum!, have big breasts, actually it’s completely ok to have surgery if you don’t. Straighten the life out of your hair with 500C hair straighteners! Actually wear your hair curly. Die it bright red to be like Rhianna then Black to be like Kim Kardashian. Don’t wear too much make-up be more natural, wear lots of make up its more dramatic!
The pressure to look good today is all around us, from bus stops, to buses to magazines to newspapers to social media. We are surrounded by images that are of human beings that have been modified to fit within a uniform of social acceptance. This is creating a nation of insecure people who are going to extreme lengths to fit this uniform of social acceptance, in the shape of fad diets, eating disorders, intense exercise regimes, quick fix tablets or even surgery or intrusive injections.
Photo shopped images used to be restricted to the media but now many platforms that you can upload photos to come with an easy to use photo shopping tool. Facebook is filled with pictures that are not true life photos and have been uploaded to the uploader’s bias image of perfection. This is creating an ideology in people that people look a certain way, when they just don’t. Snapchat has filters that take 10 years of you in an instant!
It is impossible to compete with this level of photo shopping however I realise it is not as simple to say ‘don’t compete with it’. We all have that friend on the other hand that says ‘This is me, deal with it!’ I would strive for us all to be a bit more like this but with less attitude but instead graciousness. It would seem that many of us give up competing in our 30’s and a great deal of comfort goes with this letting go. However I have encountered people much older still competing with the fact they are getting older.
I have worked with people who have insecurities and don’t accept their differences and this ultimately fuels low self-esteem. Often a message given at a young age fuels this insecurity, ‘you’re getting a bit chubby’ ‘you’ve got hair just like your father’ ‘you have pasty coloured skin’ these are just a couple of examples of the types of things that can be said that fuels low self-esteem as we get older.
I would like to say it is as simple of just pointing out a few positive things about a person before they realise that they don’t have to compete with the world’s photo shopped images or beautiful people of the world. I believe it needs to go a little bit further back than that. An exploration of some of the things that were said to us as a child by our parents, grandparents or playground bully’s. Because there are plenty of photography companies out there that will happily take you’re hard earned money in exchange for photos of a photo shopped version of yourself that you are happy with but I believe that happiness won’t last long.
I am equally as guilty as the next person, but all too often we look to external factors to make ourselves happy. Looking like a certain person, wearing certain designer clothes, buying a piece of jewellery, going for a drink, going on a shopping trip. So many of us are convinced that something external can make us happy. I believe this is an illusion put in place to trick us into attempting to buy our way to happiness because that suits a capitalist society.
Here are a couple of things I believe can help you work towards a happier you.
Don’t compete with the way other people look, you are not them they are not you.
Remember many of the pictures you see today, even of your Facebook friends are photo shopped.
There is only ever going to be one you, be you gracefully.
One person’s opinion is not a fact.
Confidence is a powerful and attractive trait, confidence can be faked remember that 😉
Smile like you mean it and feel the changes within.

Happiness needs to be found within
I do believe that counselling can be a place to explore your insecurities and using techniques to suit you we can move closer to accepting yourself and discovering happiness within. Gently unravelling some of the messages given to us as a youngster and softly releasing these demons can be the first steps towards self-acceptance and a happier you. If you are ready to find a happier you I would be honored to help you explore the beauty in you and aid you along your discovery that life is not photo shopped. If you are ready contact brighter-pathways.co.uk to start your journey today.

August 21, 2016
nick

Silence, its cost and power and why we should probably blame Disney!

bristol-counselling-blog-batb

Silence…………….. think about that word for a moment. What does that word mean to you? Often it can be associated with positivity. How many times have you heard your parents say I just want some peace and quiet? There are many songs out there about silence, a popular example is Ronan Keating’s ‘Say Nothing at all’. The silence I want to address is not the void left in a stadium after everybody has gone home or the peace and quiet a parent might try to obtain at the end of a busy day full of demands from their children.
The silence I want to discuss is the one where we say I will keep my mouth shut. Or when we say its fine! Fine is an example of how we use language today and say what we don’t actually mean. Fine is used all the time and rarely means what it suggests. An example of this might be when someone has agreed to do a big favour for somebody but has had to cancel their own plans to do it. The question will be asked ‘are you sure?’ and the response will often be ‘yes its fine.’ Or how about that time when somebody accidently breaks something valuable to you, it was an accident, you don’t want to make the person feel any worse. When they say ‘I’m so sorry’ often the response is ‘its fine, don’t worry.’
A place that often holds examples of silence is in the early stages of a relationship. Relationships are founded in a juvenile place, for example. ‘I love you’ ‘I love you too, we will be together forever’ ‘yes we will live happily ever after.’ ‘lets live in a big house with 2.4 children’ this is just a few examples of what I mean by juvenile place. So relationships are great to begin with, they are all born out of the things Walt Disney taught us, living happily ever after with a prince or princess in the presence of small furry animals and light blue coloured birds.
To stay in this place of adventure and excitement it is possible that a blind eye is turned to some of the things that are not so Walt Disney. An example of this could be after a couple of dates the woman has a bit too much to drink and becomes a lot more flirty than normal even with the waiter. The man in this partnership may think about their conversation a couple of hours before ie ‘so what would we call our first child?’ ‘where might be a nice place to go on family holidays?’
The man chooses not to challenge her flirty behaviour towards the waiter because it taints the Walt Disney image and there might be a disagreement. Another example could be the man speaks to her in a way that is disrespectful in public but rather than stand her ground and challenge the disrespect, she wants to continue with her Walt Disney version and chooses not to say anything.
Picture this, so the man starts going out a bit more frequently with his mates, he says to his partner ‘I am meeting my mate at the pub after work tonight.’ Inside she is thinking this is the third time this week but of course because she does not say how she truly feels, she will say ‘yeah that’s FINE!’ even though it is not. Then I imagine she will think about the time he disrespected her in public, along with the way he never clears up after himself, along with the fact he hasn’t introduced her to his family yet and the list goes on.
The way this is likely to present itself now is she will now bank all the things he has done wrong in her eyes and when she can’t take it no more she will present them all at the same time. The man on the other hand is likely not to say anything at all about the flirting with the waiter because men often choose to say nothing for a peaceful life as men quite stereo typically don’t talk about their feelings.
The negative side of this is the couple either eventually split up because they didn’t communicate their unhappiness for fear of tainting the Walt Disney image. Or they stay together and become passive aggressive, she may become more deliberately flirty in front of him to get his attention and to take him back to the place of conflict. Or she continues to bank the things he does and big rows may be out of context because enough is enough boils over at a time not fitting with the next committed offence in her eyes. For example, she is angry he was rude to her mum, but she banked it, she was angry that he didn’t interact with her friend when she came over, she is annoyed he doesn’t clean up the bathroom when he is finished but it’s when he walks in the house with muddy feet that she finally loses it.
He might choose not to say anything about what bothers him but stores up the things she does wrong inside and could then begin to resent her or doing anything for her. Or he could avoid her altogether and become passive aggressive by choosing to meet his friends more often after work instead of going home to his girlfriend.
So how does this cost us? What can happen as a result of keeping silent? There are ideologies out there to suggest illnesses can happen in the stomach for holding on to things. In the throat, disease and coughs can develop for not saying what we need to. Helplessness can set in as a result of not dealing with conflicts.
These are just a few scenarios of how keeping quiet about the things that we don’t agree with can present themselves. Of course the male and female role could operate vice versa but I have chose to use stereotypical behaviour. Stereo typing is of course not an exact science but in my experience the way I have written this blog is using likely behaviour from either sex.
If anything mentioned here has had an effect on you and you would like a private confidential plac
Visit brighter-pathways.co.uk
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