By Jayde Austin
Each year, Valentine’s Day puts the emphasis on that ‘special someone’ in your life – and while we totally agree with spreading the love – we think that special someone receiving it, should actually be yourself!
There’s plenty of love and gratitude to go around, and so many ways to release self-neglect and put loving yourself into action. This Valentine’s Day, we’re encouraging you to practice self-love, self-acceptance and gratitude; after-all, loving and accepting yourself is a one-way ticket to improving your quality of life, and gaining a greater understanding of what you need to feel healthy and mentally well, closer with others, more fulfilment, and greater hope for what the future holds.
If you’re anything like us, taking time to practice self-love can be hard. Other things are more important than you; you have kids to look after, a partner you’re putting before yourself, work is more of a priority, or you’re simply lacking motivation – the list of excuses are endless. We call them excuses because the very first step to practicing self-love is shifting your self-perception. Feeling worthy of receiving love is the key to putting excuses aside, and acknowledging that gifting yourself with love and acceptance will greatly benefit everything else going on in your life – including those you were once putting before yourself.
Loving yourself isn’t a one day a year event, either. It’s an endless, ongoing endeavour, and one that we feel needs to be a priority. Not only so we feel enriched in our own lives, but also so we can show up in the world and give our full, amazing selves to others. Here are some ways you can try practicing self-love, and start cultivating this new lifestyle from this Valentine’s Day onward:
Try to overcome negative thoughts.
We all fall prey to negative thinking, which drains our energy and keeps us from being fully present. And while it’s so much easier said than done to overcome negative thoughts, we've put together some practical suggestions that might just help you shift your frame of mind, or attention, elsewhere.
First off, ask yourself this: what are the top 3 sources of negativity in my life? It could be social media, someone close to you at work, or even your diet having a negative response in your body. Take a piece of paper and write your three things down – then ask yourself, what can I do to spend less time with these 3 things this week? Be practical; if you’re not the type to deal well with cutting things out of your life, simply cut them down – limit yourself to 30minutes of leisurely time on social media instead of hours; make an effort not to take a break at the same time as the draining colleague at work; or take some steps to cut out foods you think are upsetting your body.
Another tip we have is to let your inner optimist out when you’re in negative situations. The best advice I’ve been given when I’m completely down and overwhelmed, is to ask yourself questions that will take you out of yourself for a moment, so you can see the bigger picture. Things like:
The final tip we have for shifting negative thoughts (although we could go on with this point for a while!), is to talk it out. Negative thinking is like a snowball – if you hold it in, your thoughts tend to get bigger, heavier and more dangerous as they continue rolling. Venting with someone you trust is a sure way of gaining a better perspective, and feeling a sense of relief and grounding within the situation. Personal therapy is also a fundamental way to analyse the root causes of negative thinking, and teaches us to shift the way we think. All of these things will contribute greatly to letting go of that nasty monster called negativity, and replacing it with light and kindness. We want you to show yourself more love and understanding, no matter what the situation.
Give yourself the gift of decluttering.
We’re not about to get all Marie Kondo on you, but we are going to enlighten you with some science behind decluttering attributing greatly to more happiness and less stress in your life. Living or working in chaos can deeply affect your mood and create a feeling of chaos within. It also diminishes a sense of peace or tranquillity when you move into a space, whether that’s work or home. An open, organised space can be freeing and uplifting. We’re not talking about being perfectly clean all the time, after-all, life is about living too! But taking a little time to tidy up, and create spaces you’re happy and proud of can make a big difference to your emotional state and inner peace.
Studies have proven a direct link between the stress hormone cortisol, and clutter. While a gender split did come into this study, (with women much more psychologically averse to clutter), the basic takeaway applies to everyone. Cortisol is not just linked to stress either; at heightened levels, it also causes depression – so living in an overly messy, cluttered or dirty home can give rise to other negative mental states. Keeping your space stress free can often be as easy as designating 15 minutes a day to tidying, rather than a full day every weekend. Even starting with 5 minutes a day to tidy that problem area could make a big difference.
Your living space reflects your inner self. I know for me, when I'm working in a tidier space, with my favourite scented candle lit, I feel clearer, calmer and more capable of whatever it is I’m trying to achieve. Prioritising yourself enough to cultivate spaces that you feel comfort and pride in is a great step to feeling better and enjoying life. You’re worthy of beautiful spaces, and peace when you come into them. Getting rid of that pile of clothes you've been meaning to donate, organising that cupboard you’re always avoiding because things fall out when it’s opened, or sorting through that stack of papers you've been staring at for months can be quite refreshing and give you a sense of accomplishment. Think of it as getting rid of the old to making room for the new! Treat yourself to a positive momentum to increase your sense of happiness and self-worth.
Treat yourself the way you hope your nearest and dearest are treating themselves.
We all have a complicated relationship between feelings and actions. If you were to reflect on your current state, would you say that your actions are generally reflective of a person who truly loves themselves? We’re generalising here, but for most people, they don’t get enough sleep or exercise, don’t feed themselves nourishing foods, don’t take care of their bodies and minds in the best way for them, and they avoid spending any real time in their own company. Treating yourself in the same way you would hope your loves ones are treating themselves is a great way to lead a healthy, fulfilling life. We all want our loves ones to nourish themselves, right? We want to see them quit smoking, and eat healthy so they can live long, prosperous lives. We want them to feel refreshed every day because they’ve had a great sleep. We want them to feel strong in their bodies from exercising, and we hope they see how incredible they are and have gratitude for all the amazing things in their lives. We want our loved ones to have fun and be silly – to enjoy the lighter side of life. And we hope they treat themselves by wearing their favourite top, or setting aside me time for things they enjoy, like art, or yoga, or walking along the beach.
If you act more like someone who loves you, you’ll feel more like someone who loves themselves. That’s the key takeaway here. Cultivating self-love, self-acceptance and feeling worthy of all of it will help you achieve a greater sense of well-being. Because you deserve love. You deserve time. You deserve focus.
Your ultimate work in self-love is this: step fully and boldly into life, and move through everything with self-awareness and compassion. When times are tough, be gentle on yourself. When times are good, relish in them. Create and maintain spaces you feel at peace in. And always give yourself the gifts you hope others are giving themselves. As you grow closer to yourself, you will feel a sense of self assurance and worthiness, then, your final task is simple: share your gift. Help others shine bright the way you’ve helped yourself. Only when you have learnt to love yourself fully, can you love others with the same capacity. Happy Valentine’s.
By Jayde Austin
Kindness can be defined as ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.’ It is a behavioural response by which we act selflessly. We all know it feels good to make someone smile. Whether you’re letting someone cut in front of you in a line, opening a door, helping someone carry a heavy load, or paying for a stranger’s coffee; you never really know how deep of an impact you've had in someone's life... what you consider a little bit of kindness may give someone a whole lot of hope. The impact of something so simple, is quite incredible – and the ripple affect it has is undeniable.
Psychology Today explained that kindness is so often disregarded. But why is it undervalued? They say it is partly because kind people can be viewed as ‘enablers’ by some, or worse, as ‘suckers’ by the cynical. Thus, the cynic’s view is that one is a ‘sucker’, if they behave in a kind, generous manner towards others. This reflects a belief system that success is only achieved through stepping on, or ignoring others. But what is interesting is that a cynic’s behaviour rarely results in true happiness. They often find it difficult to gain a sense of feeling loved - that their true destiny and purpose is fulfilled, and that what they are doing matters in the most profound sense.
Kindness is actually linked inextricably to happiness and contentment - at both the psychological and spiritual level. Over a decade ago, in a study of Japanese undergraduates, researchers, Otake and colleagues, found that happy people were kinder than people who were not happy. Their study also revealed that a person’s sense of happiness increased by the simple act of counting the number of their acts of kindness, with them becoming even more kind and grateful.
Isn’t that amazing? That random acts of kindness are linked to our sense of happiness and purpose. You see, kindness promotes gratitude. When we are kind to others in need, our capacity to have empathy and compassion is extended, and we feel a greater sense of interconnectedness with others. When you help others, your own sense of gratitude is also heightened because you have a better understanding of your own good fortune. Furthermore, creating something unexpected and wonderful in someone else's life, no matter how small, also sets in motion a dramatic shift in a positive direction that can profoundly change lives.
For example, when our children witness us doing good in the world, they are taught gratitude, compassion, love, and unity. Did you know that science shows that children are biologically wired to be kind, and we further develop this trait with practice and repetition? Outside influences and the stress of day-to-day lives often results in people losing this inherent ability; but by setting an example, and reinforcing kind and thoughtful behaviour, children can be taught that in a world that is so often cruel to others, kindness – and happiness – is choice, and is there to be spread around.
On a scientific level, when we are kind, a hormone called oxytocin is released in our bodies. Oxytocin is primarily associated with loving touch and close relationships. This hormone provides us with the warm fuzzies, by stimulating dopamine and serotonin. According to a study of adults aged 57-85, ‘volunteering manifested the strongest association with lower levels of inflammation.’ Oxytocin reduces inflammation, and even little acts of kindness can trigger oxytocin’s release. It is also responsible for a healthier heart. Oxytocin triggers a release of nitric oxide in blood vessels, which expands the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. It's therefore known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone, because it protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
Anxiety is an extremely common human experience, presenting itself in a number of ways, ranging from mild nervousness to a severe panic. While there are several ways to reduce anxiety, such as meditation, yoga, natural remedies, and psychotherapy, it turns out that being nice to others can be one of the easiest, most inexpensive ways to keep anxiety at bay! A study on happiness from the University of British Columbia (UBC) found that ‘social anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), a factor that can significantly affect psychological well-being and adaptive functioning.’ Positive affect refers to an individual’s experience of positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness. These researchers found that participants who engaged in kind acts displayed significant increases in PA, with increases being sustained for over four weeks of the study's duration. So, the next time you’re feeling a little anxious, look for opportunities to spread kindness, and see if it helps! Try simply smiling at someone, phoning a friend or volunteering your time to help others.
So there you have it; kindness results in happiness, good health, contentment and an inarguable chain reaction. It's good for our lives, our souls, and everyone around us. It's the habit of giving, and the desire to lift burdens from others by being selfless. It humanises us, connects us, and lifts us spiritually. When we are coming from a place of generosity, of giving and kindness that is pure and without any expectation or reward in return, what is occurring is the manifestation of gratitude, hope and guidance. It leads us to a better way of living, greater happiness and the ability to impact deeply others. So… what will your next act of kindness be?
By Angie Laussel, Child and Family Therapist
The long, hot summer school holidays, with the smell of sunscreen, the sound of backyard cricket and the sticky aftermath of ice-cream, are coming to a close. It’s late January, and children and parents across Australia are readying themselves for the new school year. Some children and young people are SO bored they can’t wait to return for the stimulation and to reconnect with their friends. Parents too are counting down the days for a return to routine...
Others are starting to feel the bite of worry. Thoughts of: “who will my teacher be?”, “will I have any friends?”, “what if it’s too hard?”, “will I fit in?”, “what if my clothes/bag/shoes aren’t right?” - are starting to gnaw. The back to school wobblies are very real for many children, and can result in noticeable mood changes, tearfulness, irritability, sleep problems, and somatic symptoms such as stomach pains or headaches.
With our grown-up knowledge and experience, it can be tempting to dismiss their worries and give superficial reassurance that “it’ll be alright!”. This is especially true when we are caught up in the busyness associated with back to school: organising new shoes, uniforms, books, stationery and trying to get a school friendly sleep routine re-established.
It’s important to remember that change can give us all the wobblies, especially when we feel we don’t have much control over it - which is very much the case for children and young people going to school. So how can we genuinely reduce our children’s back to school wobblies in a way that builds their resilience? These 7 tips can help you tackle your child’s worries, when they can appear too big for them to tackle by themselves:
The back to school wobblies are a common experience for children of all ages, including young people going to high school. With parental and school support, the majority of children will learn to cope with their fears, settle back into the routine of the school year and learn to manage the ups and downs that come with it.
Some children, however, may need extra support if the back to school wobblies are more persistent and pervasive. Their fears and worries can transition to anxiety, which may stop them engaging with friends, participating in activities, and make it difficult for them to do things that others their age do. Big emotions such as anxiety are difficult for children to speak about, so will often be expressed through behaviour or through somatic symptoms. You may notice significant and sustained changes in your child’s behaviour, such as being withdrawn if they were outgoing, or defiant if they were cooperative. They may develop repeated and unexplained physical symptoms such as tummy aches, headaches or stress related skin conditions. Anxiety in children rarely just gets better on its own, and seeking support early is the most helpful thing you can do for your child.
By Rowena Bianchino
February is just around the corner, which of course means Valentine’s day is upon us, so why not dedicate a moment to reflect on your current relationship, or on attracting the one you want to have!
The truth is, none of us enter into relationships lightly and we certainly all hope that ‘this is the one,’ but slow down… you’ve only just met this person and it’s more than likely you have projected all of your fantasies and unmet needs on this unsuspecting customer, and theirs on you.
From the get go, no-one human can possibly fulfil everything we need and we definitely all have our little quirks that will undoubtably reveal themselves in time! So, if you’re looking at beginning a healthy, long-lasting relationship, or making your current one even greater, here are five things to think about:
Just as much as a relationship is about understanding each other, it is also first and foremost about understanding yourself. Personal therapy is a great way to understand the inner workings of yourself – which often leads to a better understanding of your experience, past and present, in relationships. This leads to a healthier approach to relationships, and a more inquisitive way of being able to understand your current or future partner. Couples therapy is also, of course, a great way to explore your partners interior world and likewise, help them understand and get to know you more. A safe space to express yourself, where you can be a fly on the wall as your partner does the same. Couples can learn a lot about each other, even in just a few sessions, opening up a whole new world and an entirely new meaning to your relationship.
Read more about how we can help your relationship with yourself, or your S.O, by exploring our Integrative Therapies here. We’d love to hear if you found this article useful, or if any points resonated with you. Leave us a comment below, or engage with us through our socials.
By Jayde Austin
It’s no surprise that most jobs involve some degree of stress, which isn’t unreasonable, however it can become an issue for individual’s health, and the workplace when it becomes excessive and ongoing. Not only does the effects of stress have a significant impact to mental health (in some cases causing an individual to develop anxiety and/or depression – or worsening their existing conditions), it also affects the productivity and performance within organisations.
Let’s first explore the effects to the individual, because we’ve all been there at one point or another, and it’s never pleasant. Some people thrive off being under pressure, but for others, it can feel overwhelming, causing physical symptoms such as:
Then there’s the psychological and behavioural symptoms you may experience, such as:
So what causes all of this? What factors are contributing to people feeling stressed at work? The main culprits include:
When mental health becomes compromised by work, it’s important for an individual to take steps to not only cope, but overcome this stress, allowing them to stay mentally well and as happy as possible. We first encourage individuals who are experiencing workplace stress to understand your agony, ask yourself, is this temporary? How intense are my stress levels? How long have they been increasing, and what impacts are they having to my work performance and personal relationships? Monitoring stress is a great first step in exploring not only the resulting factors of stress, but also the causations. Learning to identify when you’re stressed can help you either avoid commitments that may have otherwise proven taxing to your stress levels and mental health, but also figure out ways to manage situations more effectively in favour of less stress (i.e. ask for longer deadlines, start planning ahead of schedule, have an honest conversation with your managers, or confiding in friends and family, etc.).
While it’s difficult to give generalised advice to people experiencing stress in the workplace, given it is extremely individualised and circumstance based, there are a few key recommendations that are sure to help alleviate stress caused by the workplace.
Aside from yoga, we also offer various forms of assistance to individuals suffering from stress, anxiety and other forms of emotional unease. View our page on Integrative Therapies to learn more about how we can help you overcome your current hardships.
You may also be part of a workplace that offers an Employee Assistance and Wellness Program (EAWP) to assist employees with personal and work-related issues that are impacting their job performance, health, mental and emotional wellbeing. If your workplace offers this service, it’s absolutely worth chatting with someone about taking advantage of it.
For business owners who aren’t aware of this offering, EAWP gives you access to a team of specialists providing services that promote the health and wellbeing of employees. These services are designed to improve morale, and reduce absence levels and stress in the workplace, with the long term aim of improving the general health of the workforce. With EAWP, companies are gaining from resources helping employees manage their personal and work lives, meaning that both parties gain great benefits. With the primary focus being on the identification and resolution of employee and manager concerns, EAP programs are able to help individuals overcome triggers of anxiety and stress, allowing them to be happier, calmer and regain their optimal performance levels.
Harbour Therapy Clinic has a worksite focused program to assist with personal matters such as health, relationships, family, finances, emotions, anxiety and depression, alcohol, drugs and other related issues. Early intervention at the workplace is effective in ensuring employees return to work, in a positive, stable environment. We can advocate on behalf of the client to assist in reducing the impacts of workplace stressors. If you’re an employer concerned about your staff’s wellbeing, or just looking to boost their overall well-being in team building, visit our official EAP page to read more about this service and enquire with our team. Remember, when you or your staff start to be absent, it's our advice to make a timely response.
By Jayde Austin
Re-set, re-adjust, re-start, re-focus as many times as you need to.
With the new year, comes new resolutions. From quitting smoking, to being more physically active, or even eating to maximise your health/pleasure paradigm – whatever the focus we love hearing the goals people set – it shows that they want to continue enhancing their lives, and gives them something to focus on in the New Year.
In our experience, most goals we hear about will undoubtably have a positive impact on mental health, as people foresee themselves being in a happier space upon reaching their goals. It's quite surprising to know that a mere 20% of people actually accomplish what they set out to do… Not only do we hope this percentage increases; we also hope that you’re part of that group. We have written out some simple ways to help you continue moving forward to reach your set goals.
What goals did you set for 2019, and how are they going so far? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
By Anonymous Client
Well I guess it’s time for me to explain what It feels like being trapped in the head of an eating disorder. Personally, I think it’s funny when people say things like “she just wants to be skinny” or “she should just stop what she is doing… doesn’t she know what will power is? and surely eating disorders are a choice! There is plenty more but I’ll save that for a later date.
Here’s a little insight into how an eating disorder works.
I am going to give it a name.. Bully..so we can clearly identify it. So let’s learn a little bit about Bully... Here are some of it’s qualities!
Firstly, it is very nasty, opinionated, controlling and mean. It thrives off disappointment, self-doubt and uneasiness. It likes to never leave you alone, it always lets you know it’s there, sitting on your shoulder. There is always a comment it leaves with you at the start and end of each day. It never misses a beat, always aware of all the things you do wrong, and all the terrible outfits you put yourself in. It’s just like having your own personal bully who follows you everywhere. You never get a minute alone without it second-guessing your decision, your outfit, your meal or the lipstick colour you choose to wear. Yes, I know it sounds like your crazy right?
Well sometimes you do feel a little crazy and you believe and listen to the voice that makes all these final decisions for you. It feels like you have lost yourself and are on auto- pilot, just waiting for something big to happen to shock you back to reality.
I am going to explain a day in the life of an eating disorder so here goes!
You wake up, you’re tired and really feel like sleeping in, considering you have trained every morning for the last 5 days. Your body is sore, you feel weak and lethargic. It's 5 minutes past your alarm, 5 minutes turns to 10 minutes then all of a sudden….”Good Morning get your fat lazy arse out of bed… last night you ate chocolate and that is going to turn into extra stomach fat you don’t need… MOVE IT!”
Then you find yourself sprung out of bed in your gym gear walking out the door, with your eyes half closed. Your body feeling like it’s going to collapse on the floor, but you put one foot in front of the other and you do it. Then Bully goes silent whilst you push yourself, your legs feel like they are going to give out from underneath you and your completely out of breath on the verge of tears.
You get out of the shower you look into the mirror in disappointment; you look at the fat, the freckles and my white skin. You look at the acne that’s plastered all over your face as a result of purging and you fall to the floor in tears. This is when Bully gets a lot of enjoyment and starts throwing these comments at you “yeah you look disgusting, cover yourself, cover your face”. "You shouldn’t be allowed in public looking like that.”
It all eventually becomes a blur, you get up wipe the tears away and get on with it. You go to pick your outfit but Bully is back..”yuck, gross, don’t wear that it looks horrible…you look so fat!!”
Next you go to make breakfast, Bully says.. don’t eat that toast, don’t have butter, you can’t have milk. You have just trained your butt off but you’re only allowed a banana. Bully is happy with that decision, you get to work and bully starts again, are your sure that’s right?, double check that?, you probably stuffed it up.
You start to feel hungry, bully nope you can’t be hungry, you already had a banana. Just drink some water that will fill you up. So you drink litres of water and you find yourself starving, you’re lacking concentration and you can’t focus.
It gets to the end of the day, so you know how you have already trained at 5.30am this morning. “Yeah well you didn’t work hard enough. You need to do another session.” You race home, chuck you gear on and off you go.
It gets to dinner you are ravishing hungry, so you literally eat everything in your sight, which is a binge episode. You sneak food into your room to eat faster than the speed of light. You lay there feeling hot, uncomfortably full and of course Bully leads you to those colourful comments again. The next minute you find yourself making yourself sick. At this point you feel possessed, like a demon. Bully, who is fully in control of you and you are just completing its request at the sake of your health, teeth, mental and physical wellbeing.
The next morning you are back punishing yourself from your bad choices you made the night before. Bully loves that bit!!
That is just a small snippet into just 1 day of an eating disorder. Now take a moment and imagine working a full- time job and having that going on in your head everyday, yeah I bet your exhausted just reading it.
Now is it really a choice?
I am successfully in my 9th week of recovery from bulimia nervosa, I have relapsed but I don’t let that ruin all my hard work. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, every day I just want to throw in the towel and give up, but I don’t.
I just keep on keeping on otherwise I will never recover and I couldn’t imagine a life living with this for any longer. It is poisonous and deadly, you need to take the power back and keep soldiering on.
I believe I will eventually recover, it will take a long time but if I don’t start I will never make it.
I wanted to write this as I believe it is important to kill the stigma around eating disorders. It’s not a choice but instead it is a deadly illness that takes a hold of you and gets tighter and tighter to the point of suffocation.
I have been very fortunate to have been guided to a wonderful, passionate and strong therapist. She has not once judged me. She helps me see the positives even when I am blind sighted to it all. I think for me the most important thing about her is she understands and genuinely cares!!
I believe without her support, I don’t know If I would even be here writing this. I have been so desperate to have someone who listens to me, let’s me cry, doesn’t judge me and is always reminding me of all the positives things.
She will always help me laugh through the pain. I believe the most important part of recovery is finding someone you connect with and allowing them in, eating disorders try and shut you off to help.
I want to say try so damn hard to not let that happen. The first step to recovery is knowing recovery is possible and with the help and guidance your start to really feel it and believe It. At the end of the day it’s about putting one foot in front of another and repeat. You may fall, trip but you get up and continue or you will never make it to your destination.
Ps: the whole time I have been writing this I have been second guessing myself!!
But I want to share because it’s raw, real and honest.
By Urja Refalo
Psychotherapist / Counsellor
What is Gestalt?
Gestalt is a German word which when roughly translated means ‘whole’. Gestalt therapy has a broad, deep philosophical and theoretical foundation. What stands out for me having been a client for many years of Gestalt therapy is that I’ve felt respected, treated as an equal and empowered to be the expert of my own life by the various therapists I’ve worked with. I have felt well supported to explore the different aspects of my mind, body and spirit and at times this has created significant changes. The therapist has been solidly present and authentic, has given space for me to tell my story and supported my exploration. By engaging with the therapist in a way and style, that I had not known previously, I have experienced myself as fuller, more whole; have felt recognised, acknowledged and significant.
Gestalt therapy is deeply embedded in the present moment, in the here and now. By being in the past, or so far ahead in the future we can miss the present moment of contacting and connecting with others and our surroundings, leading to isolation and a myriad of difficult psychological experiences. Increasing awareness of how our past is impacting on our mind and body in the present moment supports our ability to live life in the here and now. What I know from my own journey and working with lots of people is that staying unaware of how we are living our lives can often make it difficult to see our potential and what possibilities lay ahead of us. What we do instead is hold onto an old version of ourselves, one that may not work for us anymore but we don’t know what to do with it.
When we become aware of our thoughts, what our body is saying, our behaviours, what we say to ourselves and our use of language and we have good support, change is inevitable. Awareness of where we are, what we do, and how we do it is what brings about change. By becoming more aware of how we do life and relationships, we can become mentally clear and free from negative habitual thinking. We open to experience reintegration, greater life force and an experience of being whole again, a sense of coming home to yourself.
Gestalt therapy offers a way of exploring the various parts of ourselves that we often keep hidden, either out of shame, fear or anxiety. By finding gentle and supported ways to express ourselves more fully, in all our shades, we can make a space for these parts of ourselves to exist more harmoniously. In Gestalt therapy, your mental, spiritual and physical experiences are given space and by experimenting together we gain more awareness of your patterns and new opportunities follow to live differently, with more choice, more in line with your authentic self.
In short, Gestalt Therapy is profound, authentic, powerful, supportive and perfect for all issues and experiences, ranging from relationship problems to stress management as well as all mental health issues inc. depression, PTSD, trauma; loss, grief and personal growth. I work with couples and individuals.
(I’d like to acknowledge Tracy Kavessy-Bell for her inspiring words www.thrivingsolo.com.au)
By Jo Field
Parenting Educator at Harbour Therapy Clinic
Jo Field parenting educator at Harbour Therapy Clinic, Coffs Harbour, outlines a respectful approach to parenting that is based on good relationships.
There is no such thing as control over our children. All we have is influence within a strong and respectful relationship. With a background in teaching, I took on the prospect of becoming a parent with naïve gusto. Having studied child development at college I though I would be well prepared for what was ahead. I could not have been further from the truth!
When my three-and-a-half year old daughter (now 20) would speak to me with her hands on her hips in a tone of voice I recognised as my own, I thought, “I need help!” It became very apparent this little human being had a will, agenda and feelings of her own. Most of my training as a teacher did little to guide me as now I was emotionally invested. This was MY child - not someone else’s I could give back at the end of the day.
How was I going to get her to do what I wanted, without having to resort to punishment or methods that did not sit well in my heart and with my values? This question set me on a path of exploration and discovery of what it meant to be in a mutually respectful relationship with my almost four year old and be able to guide her as her parent.
I felt lost and confused in the sea of information available. Much of it was contradictory and definitely not a match with my inner compass. The work of Carl Rogers was my inspiration and supported the way I knew I wanted to parent, where love was not conditional and where we didn’t only get what we needed when we ‘deserved’ it - dessert when we finished vegies and love and affection only if we ‘behaved’.
“Getting positive regard ‘on condition’ is very powerful and children bend
“The Heart of Parenting” is a practical, fun and enlightening look at how we live in relationship with our children.
• The skills to promote and support a strong parent- child bond/connection
• How to parent through connection, respect and true communication rather power, punishment and coercion
• Decoding children’s behaviour and responding to their needs instead of reacting to their behaviours.
• How to break generational patterns and learn how our feelings are caused by our unmet needs not our children!
• How to raise cooperative, respectful and self disciplined kids without being a dictator or a doormat
• The importance of emotional intelligence and how it helps to raise children’s self-esteem and independence
• How to strengthen and deepen your relationship to last a lifetime
Children do not rebel against their parents but rather against the control methods they employ.
They form themselves into shapes determined not by their natural actualizing tendency but by a society that may not have their best interests at heart. A good little boy or girl may not be a happy/healthy boy or girl. Children begin to like themselves only if they meet up with the standards others have applied. If they are unable to meet these standards they are unable to maintain self esteem.” Carl Rogers
For the past 13 years I have been researching this relational approach to parenting and facilitating parenting workshops known as “The Heart of Parenting”. The focus of the program is to develop awareness and skills to strengthen and deepen the parent- child bond. This connection is a vital condition necessary for children to mature and thrive. It is also the most potent parenting tool we have.
Parents often see uncooperative behaviour as a challenge to their authority. Once we understand that cooperation is directly linked to the emotional connection a child feels with the parent, we can decode the child’s behaviour as trying to communicate something, such as an unmet need or emotional hurt, which they are unable to put into words
For example, a child who is using a whiny tone whjch you interpret as ‘demanding’ may be asking for your presence or attention or for connection and reassurance. We forget how busy our lives can become and often our children are struggling with the pace. When we are stressed so are they!
“Children are like the corks that bob up and down on the waves of their parents’ stress levels.” Steve Biddulph
A child who is ‘unco-operative’ or plain angry may be in emotional overload. They may just need a cuddle or some ‘special time’ with you. They may just need a good cry as a download of their overwhelming feelings. This helps to re- regulate their nervous system.
Remember our children’s need for connection is on a daily level, just like food.
We do not say that we will not eat for a few days but will feast on the weekend! If your children are not getting enough connection time from you, they will demand it by way of their behaviours. For example, at bedtime if they have not seen you much that day it could be one more story, need to go to the toilet, want a glass of water, and so on. We need to be able to decode this as them wanting more time with us, not being ’manipulative’ or ‘naughty’.
In this example, a parent could aim to start bedtime half an hour earlier and give time willingly. Otherwise, children will find strategies to get the connection they need, even if it is not in the most enjoyable way!
We need to respond to the unmet needs rather than react to the behaviours, as children’s behaviour is their communication.
Instead of asking the question, “How can we get kids to do what they’re told?” and then proceeding to offer various techniques for controlling them, we want to be asking, “What do children need - and how can we meet those needs?” This question then generates ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them.
‘This all sounds great...but what about discipline?’ many of my workshop participants ask. Relational Parenting asserts that co-operation is directly linked to the connection and safety a child feels with the adult they are relating to. When a child feels safe, loved and connected to the adults around him, a child’s intelligence is fully engaged. He can learn, cooperate, be flexible about his wants and needs, and be more in tune to the needs of others. That’s why Relational Parenting grounds ‘discipline’ in love, connection and respectful communication rather than relying on rewards and punishment or fear and control.
Children need to rest in secure relationships, in the context of home and in any other framework in which they are cared for such as daycare, school or with grandparents. These secure relationships are vital for maintaining influence with our children, especially in their teenage years. Children do not rebel against their parents but rather the control methods they employ.
There is no such thing as control over our children. All we have is influence within a strong and respectful relationship. We need to model the respect we expect.
This approach is not permissive parenting. Children need firm boundaries. It is how we communicate these that will determine the amount of mutual co-operation. Authoritarian methods only disconnect our children from us and lock us into unworkable power struggles while a ‘hands off’ approach is just as alienating.
The ‘Heart of Parenting’ course I run, which explores these issues, is based on the principles of Connection Parenting and Compassionate Communication (alternatively called Nonviolent Communication) developed by Dr Marshall Rosenberg.
Dr Rosenberg asks “What do you want your child to do and what do you want their reason for doing it, to be?” We are hoping it is out of a genuine connection to you and your relationship, not out of fear of punishment, for a reward, guilt or duty.”
Jo Field- is our specialist parenting educator at Harbour Therapy Clinic, Coffs Harbour. For an appointment with Jo contact Harbour Therapy Clinic on 66521120.
By Rowena Bianchino
Existential Psychotherapist, Social Worker, Relationship Counselling & Group Therapist.
“And thus forward upon the path of wisdom, with a firm step and good confidence! However you may be situated, serve yourself as a source of experience! Throw off the displeasure at your nature , forgive yourself your own individuality , for in any case you have in yourself a ladder with a hundred steps upon which you can mount to knowledge.”
What I really love about this quote is that it celebrates individuality and promotes self acceptance. How many of you spend hours of your days wishing you were somehow different? Your nature is all that you have been, are in this moment and will be in the future. It is a combination of your given circumstances when you came into the world and your experiences since then. We cannot be like any other and yet, we can catch ourselves wishing to be like someone else. Nietzcshe and his fellow like minded philosophers carved a new road for self realization, taking back the moral high ground from organised religion and encouraging each autonomus being to decide for themselves what was important and what was not. In other words, the freedom to choose what is important to each of us and with it the responsibilty to act according to our own ethos.
Curiosity is the key to freedom!
These blogs have been authored by individual therapists, students and interns practicing at Harbour Therapy Clinic in Coffs Harbour, Australia.