Resiliency is a current hot topic and you may wonder do I have enough resiliency, do I need more and how can I build my resiliency? Maybe we should start with a definition of resiliency. Some definitions say resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness, the ability of an object to spring back into shape; elasticity, the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy and adaptation in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress: family/relationship problems, health problems or workplace/money issues, are a few that I found. Now the next consideration is are you tough, adaptable, have buoyancy and elasticity? How do you get more.
I think one of the basic steps to greater resiliency is self care. Basic self care is eating, sleeping and exercise and additionally, extended self care is physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual well being. All of these components give us complete self care and added resilience. Lets explore these further individually.
Healthy eating 3 times a day with a couple of snacks is a start of good self care. Our brain functions best with regular nutrition and the brain controls our whole body so this is important. Having a complete diet as per the Canada Food Guide gives us the protein, vegetables, fats, fruits, carbohydrates and vitamins needed to help our brain function.
Sleep is important as our body functions best if a regular rest period is in place. Exercise keeps every body function moving, along with muscles and the skeletal system. The brain requires rest for dreaming and exercise for stimulation.
Extended self care includes physical which is exercise and other activities such as work, play and many productive functions such as gardening, household activities and creative functions. The more satisfied you are creatively along with variety for interest and satisfaction, the more resilience you build.
Emotional expression is part of extended self care and keeps us fulfilled as we express all of our emotions fully. Suppression of one or two emotions tends to work on suppression of all the emotions after a period of time and does not lead to a fulfilled life. Many people believe that suppressing their emotions makes them stronger however strength lies in the full expression of emotions.
Social well being includes the relationships we have with others both healthy and unhealthy, as both can help us grow. Social support occurs from our healthy relationships. Unhealthy relationships can bring us awareness of areas where we need change or growth. Pay attention to both as they are both valuable.
Psychological resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally manage crisis with the ability to return to pre-crisis levels quickly. Returning from negative to positive mindset and learning from the experience is psychological resilience. When your mind goes to negative thoughts think of 2-3 positives around the same situation. Eventually your thoughts will go to the positive as the positives are there.
Finally spiritual resilience is the ability to be in an expanded state of being such that your love and caring extends beyond your family and friends and to all humanity and the universe. Can you feel love and compassion for your enemy?
Dr. Dan Siegel developed the Triangle of Well-being and Resilience model, and with this model, he talks about how our thoughts and experiences shape the physical connections between the various parts of our brain. The points in his triangle are mind, brain and relationships, with arrows in all directions as a continual loop is formed between the mind, brain and relationships, with our experiences. This change capacity is the relatively new idea defined as neuroplasticity. These connections form, who we are with beginnings from infancy with secure attachments to our loved ones. This type of security allows the brain to build good connections between the prefrontal cortex which is the reasoning part of the brain with the mid brain structures which involves emotions, their regulation, memory encoding, body awareness and empathy development, according to Dan Siegel. If our needs were met by our parents, secure attachment results and this defines or sets us up unconsciously for more resilience in general providing our life remains stable. If you have had trauma in your life that wounded part of you will struggle but working with a therapist, focusing on your strengths, reading books, groups-online and other resources online can help you heal and develop greater resilience.
Maybe Covid has given us an opportunity to reflect on our lives as we have more time alone in our isolation. Maybe now is the time to develop more resiliency. Maybe you are able to handle challenges just fine. Do you bounce back from hard times or do you tend to collapse and have a hard time. Are you tough, adaptable, have buoyancy and elasticity? Think about these things and maybe now is the time for action.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT Registered Provisional Psychologist with an Art Therapy Specialty is in private practice in Edmonton at The Belmead Professional Centre 218-8944-182 St Edmonton, Ab T5T 2E3 780-232-1055 web: www.edmont.onpsychologistpros.com E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Shame as I see it is a societal infringement to keep people in check. The societies involved are parents, families, schools, churches, communities and government. When we believe in certain social norms put down by society and we violate them, we feel shame. Different people will have different reasons for their shame feelings. The shame feelings can hold a person back. Shame feelings can affect self esteem, self confidence and how people are in relationships. Depression can be intensified by feelings of shame as we focus the feelings inwardly. Women tend to feel humiliated more easily than men do therefore are more susceptible to the negative effects but men are affected too. The feeling of shame is often felt as an uncomfortable sensation in the pit of our stomachs. We probably all have some issues of shame as this feeling is often hidden and not talked about.
One example of my shame was being teased about a presentation I was very nervous about. This experience occurred during my undergrad course in pharmacy many years ago when I was using a pointer on an overhead which tells you how many years ago that was. Presenting to a class of 120 students made me very nervous so my pointer was shaking as I brought certain aspects of my diagram to students’ attention. I could hear snickers from a few of the males in front and I felt terrible shame. After a few such experiences I joined Toastmasters International that has served me well. Now as a therapist one of the most shameful events I hear about is sexual abuse and related trauma that happened to adults when they were children and there is no blame to a child for this experience but yet they carry that shame for years. There are many other examples. Some are about being bullied in school or at other times being a bully in school, being caught in a lie, small thefts, breaking something, failed relationships, being part of a dysfunctional family are but a few and there are many, many more.
If you have the opportunity to explore your shame with a therapist or some else it can be an opportunity of a life time. Exploring it skillfully and with wisdom and heart you can find compassion, vulnerability and a tenderness for yourself that will bring you relief from hiding from yourself. When you no longer hide from yourself you may stop hiding from others and find yourself more at ease, open and available to life. The experience can feel painful to bring into the open but remember it sits hidden and is just as painful. Welcoming it into conscious awareness lightens the load.
Starting to explore your shame can be like an explorer going into new territory. Be courageous, curious and open for best results. Let your compassion handle your pain that surfaces. Your compassion is often related to that voice within. Change the tone to reflect how you would talk to a very good friend or a small child and become your own very good friend. Start with a narrative exploration about the shame and be open, curious and compassionate and leave judgment behind. What happened, why did it happen, what else was going on, what were you feeling and thinking and who supported you and helped you?
Next you will want to observe your shame from a psychological distance, by asking yourself, What is shame?, How does it come into your thoughts from the past and from yourself?, How does it feel? Answering these questions puts a space between you and your shame. Now you can observe and study it from a distance. Its like studying an object that is new to you. If you are an artist or this appeals to you, draw shame and study the art piece narratively to get a different approach or simply write your story. Were you made to feel ashamed of who you were when you were young, ashamed of your intelligence, ideas or your body? Your shame story may have been a heavy load for many years and no longer needs to define you as you are not your story but a whole essence. Leave the story behind as you are not your story! Where do you feel shame in your body? Often shame lives in your stomach as a sensation that is uncomfortable but there areas vary. If you sit quietly and scan your body, notice physical sensations and numb places, you will discover where your shame rests and just accept it and makes friends with it. Remember you are not your shame and watch those spaces dissolve.
Addressing your inner dialogue again is important as this can be the
root of what drives and holds your shame and than your shame drives the inner
dialogue. Once you remove yourself from that shame story some of that inner
dialogue won’t fit and will change to positive. Using Socratic questioning can
help dispel some of the negative self talk and make it more realistic and
relevant. Start with Where’s the evidence that what you say to yourself is
true? Calling yourself a loser, define loser and does it fit? The negative self
talk can be a habit you need to break as it doesn’t fit anymore. Would you say
that to your friend? Are you your best friend? The more you practice exploring
your self talk and its relevance to today, the less impact it will have and
eventually it will disappear. Does living with shame make you isolate and
therefore lonely? Maybe you believe no one wants to be around you so you push
them away. Explore how you do that. Are you critical and judgmental of others.
If you have the urge to isolate, this might be evidence that you are judging
others and your shame is again taking charge. Go to your story and explore what
you believe and where you feel it in your body and accept what you are feeling
without judgment for a healthier relationship with yourself and thereby with
others. Sometimes shame and fear go together as you might be afraid of who you
are and being seen for who you are. Accept the fear and embrace it and let it
stay as long as it needs to. Let yourself be vulnerable as this is the path to
inner peace. Practice with small steps to let yourself see that what you fear
won’t happen and allow your current experiences to be what they are.
Living in shame and fear requires that you lie to yourself constantly and you start to believe you are unworthy, inadequate and wrong. Its not true! Invite radical honesty with questioning those thoughts, Where’s the evidence? Question your experience and look for those feelings in your body. You are whole, full, pure and perfect as you are. Remember shame is about limitations that hold you back and keep you separate and isolated. Where is your heart? Is it wide open with tenderness for yourself? Allow yourself to be touched by every day experiences and have courage to live your life with openness and love for yourself and others.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT Registered Provisional Psychologist with an Art Therapy Specialty is in private practice in Edmonton at The Belmead Professional Centre 218-8944-182 St Edmonton, Ab T5T 2E3 780-232-1055 web: www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com E-mail email@example.com
What is the meaning of the trait resilience? Why do some have it and others not as much? The truth is resilience both increases and declines with life experience. Depending on positive or negative life experiences this trait can change as well as grow within you. There are ways to develop and strengthen resilience in a more conscious way.
One way to develop more resiliency is to become playful and curious, almost in a child-like way. Do you like to know how things work, ask a lot of questions, play with new developments and enjoy the whole process much like children do? This adds to resiliency because you explore many things when you aren’t fearful and overly careful. Do you have a good time almost anywhere, experiment with things, wonder about things, make experiments and mistakes, get hurt at times and laugh at everything and nothing. You might ask: What is funny? What if I did this? What is different? Who can answer my questions? Why is this happening? When will it change? This makes you more resilient.
Learning from experience in a constant manner is another resiliency builder. This one seems related to the childlike behavior as children tend to be curious and learn with their curiosity. Learning rapidly from some new event or experience and allowing yourself to change because of it, adds to resiliency. Being curious at the same time as you learn and wondering what the clues are and also wondering what clues you may have missed and whats the additional learning that might be here if I really pay attention. Even thinking what will I pay attention to next time this happens is a way to learn.
Adapting quickly and being flexible both mentally and emotionally can be resiliency building. Being comfortable with opposite personality qualities is all resiliency building. Opposites such as strong and weak, sensitive and tough, logical and intuitive, emotional and calm, playful and serious, how can I avoid what could go wrong and what negative thoughts can have positive outcomes. The more flexible ways you can be versatile, the better.
How solid is your self esteem and self confidence? Your self esteem is how you feel about yourself and how much love you have for yourself. Are you your own best friend? Your self esteem determines how much you learn from your mistakes or when something goes wrong. It allows you to celebrate your accomplishments, accept praise, constructive criticism and complements. Self esteem protects you from hurtful statements. Self confidence in yourself and your reputation with yourself also enhances resiliency. Can you take risks without approval from others? Do your past successes help you handle new situations well?
Do you have good friendships and loving relationships? Even people in toxic environments are more resistant to stress when they have loving friends and family that they can talk to diminish difficulties and improve feelings of self confidence and self esteem. Loners are more vulnerable to stressful conditions.
Expressing feelings and thoughts more honestly and appropriately builds resiliency strengths. Experiencing a whole range of human emotions such as anger, sadness, love, dislike, appreciation, grief and more, makes a person strong. The ability to suppress those emotions when you need to is easier when you also express them. Thoughts about others and yourself is a resiliency builder if you tend to be positive. Turn those negative thoughts that sometimes come into to your mind into “but what two or three positives exist in this situation”. This method always balances out your negative thoughts so mostly you are positive.
These are some factors that increase your resiliency. We need resiliency when things change and when experiences become negative. Resiliency keeps us going and gives us a positive outlook on life for hope for the future. Its our thoughts that make the future more grim. Pay attention to your thoughts and don’t always believe them as thoughts can get clouded and distorted from experience.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT Registered Provisional Psychologist with an Art Therapy Specialty is in private practice in Edmonton at The Belmead Professional Centre 218-8944-182 St Edmonton, Ab T5T 2E3 780-232-1055 web: www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The learn to Love Your Body group is an 8 week extensive exploration of your body using a self drawing of your actual size. Every week further exploration will occur thru the art therapy process and techniques like the cognitive triangle of cognitions, feelings and experience for societal biases and the self esteem triangle of self worth, love and growth to determine where you are at. Awareness and strategies will be explored and implemented. The importance of self care and supports will be explored. How your family of origin affects your love of yourself using genogram will follow. Your thought process affects how you feel about your body and cognitive distortions will be explored and these patterns changed. Finally a review of all that was learn and a body meditation celebration. Through this process learn to love yourself!
This group will run for 8 weeks 6:30-8:00 pm from September 27 to November 15, 2019 at Cloverdale counselling at 9562 82 Ave Downstairs Edmonton Ab please call 780-232-1055 to register $250.00 for 8 weeks and payments can be arranged. Check your health plan for group coverage. Irene Haire MC, RCAT, Registered Provisional Psychologist.
The reason I decided to do a group “Learn to Love Your Body” is because I went thru years of not loving mine. My partner used to tell me my body was beautiful and as good as or better then any of the film stars he saw on television, but did I believe him, not a chance. Did I really see defects as I compared myself or was it just that I felt overall defective. I have done many hours of self growth and development since that time and I’m an old woman now but guess what? I love my body now with all its defects, parts missing, wrinkles and scars that happen with life experience and into old age. I treat my body better now then I have ever treated it in the past. Believe it or not treating your body well, makes you love your body more.
To draw your body in art therapy is to externalize it and look at it rationally. That will be our first step in “Learn to Love Your Body”. We will also do foot prints and hand prints and add items to make points that we need to make. We will look at parts of our bodies we do like or love already and then we will look at parts we don’t love or like and maybe even hate. I often think of the water experiment that was done to explore what happens to water when negative things are said to it. The structure apparently changes and there is a significant difference between water spoken to positively and water spoken to negatively. A large part of us is water and imagine what the possibilities might be if we were gentle and compassionate with our bodies instead of negative. Perhaps some of our disease states are at least partly related to our criticism of our complex amazing bodies.
A good start in the right direction to loving your body is to explore self care for your better physical, mental and psychological state. Do you eat regularly and eat the foods that are needed? Do you follow the Canada Food Guide and eat proteins, vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the quantities recommended? The body needs three meals a day and 2 or 3 daily snacks of good quality food. Do you exercise at least 3 times a week for ½ hour or more. Exercise gets everything moving and raises neurotransmitters in the brain. It is needed for the cardiovascular system, the bowel, the brain and many other organs. Sleep is another important aspect of self care as your body needs to regenerate physically, mentally and psychologically. Sleep does all those things for you. Some things to do to encourage good sleeping habits is to go to bed and get up about the same time daily, have a quiet, dark bedroom with comfortable temperature control, use your bedroom for sleep and sexual activity so you associate it for those things and not with TV watching, paying bills etc. Some relaxation activity before sleep can be helpful and exercise in the morning can facilitate sleep that night. Things that aren’t helpful are any stimulating activity just before sleep except sexual activity which helps you relax and sleep. Caffeine and alcohol can effect sleep negatively so use them sparingly and not close to bedtime.
An excellent support system of friends and family is a helpful way to appreciate yourself more as they reflect their appreciation of you to you. Keep the Negative Nellies away. And are you a good support for you? This is probably the most important support you can have. Check your thoughts and what they say to you. For every negative thought balance it with two positives and this is a good start in the right direction. There are many other thought processes we will review during our time together to make you your best support person.
Its not too late to join our group called “Learn to Love Your Body” with start date to be announced at 6:30-8:00PM at 9562 82 Ave Downstairs please call Irene at 780-232-1055 if you are interested.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT, Registered Provisional Psychologist/Registered Art Therapist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building Downstairs-9562- 82 Avenue, 780-232-1055 www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com email@example.com
Healthy self esteem is what we all strive for! What is healthy self esteem? Healthy self esteem according to many resources I have read, is the way we value ourselves and various aspects of ourselves. Its how we balance our view points about ourselves whether they are our weaknesses or our strengths. Strengths may be celebrated and weaknesses could be worked on as they are recognized. At risk situations might affect self esteem. At risk situations might be triggers to our past which activate our core beliefs. Our core beliefs are what we think and feel about ourselves because of various life experiences. An example might be that you were criticized as a child and some of those criticisms became what you thought of yourself. They may not be true but because you heard them over and over again they became beliefs about yourself by yourself and thus core beliefs. Core beliefs Can be strengths or weaknesses and weaknesses may get triggered and don’t serve you so can be worked on to get positive change. Other triggers can be relationship breakups or disputes, traumas or health issues or losses of important people, pets and jobs. The foundation of self esteem according to Glenn Schiraldi is a triangle of three factors; unconditional worth, growth and love.
Unconditional worth is what every human being is born with. It’s simply you and you are equal to all others on our earth. It’s independent of what you do, your education, your wealth or any other exterior factor. Its your worth as a human being and you simply have to accept it. The non-acceptance can hold you back.
Your growth is what you do to elevate your self esteem through books you read, changes you make, therapy, courses you take and people you learn from. Awareness and openness leads to growth. Often adults come to therapy in mid life when their children are grown and they want more from life than they are getting. They want to feel different about themselves.
Love is a big factor of self esteem and this starts with love from your family, extended family, friends, teachers, church and finally and most important love of yourself. The love of self is impacted by your core beliefs. Do you have positive or negative core beliefs? Often it’s some of both. Change can help. Other factors that may hold you back are traumas. Become aware of the trauma in your life. I often here people say “oh that happened years ago and doesn’t impact me at all.” Do not be so sure that it doesn’t impact you because it does.
You might wonder, where do I start? Group therapy is a good start to learning about self esteem and it can be inexpensive.
Self esteem is the current theme of the Drop-in Art Therapy groups on Friday at 2pm and 4pm for $10 per person please call or e-mail or simply drop-in at 9562 82 Ave Downstairs Edmonton.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT, Registered Provisional Psychologist/Registered Art Therapist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building Downstairs-9562- 82 Avenue, 780-232-1055 www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Passive, aggressive and assertive are communication styles. Which communication style do you use? Maybe at times you use them all but which one would you like to use most often? Learn more.
Passive communication is defined as not expressing thoughts, feelings or beliefs in an honest straight forward manner but expressing them in a hesitant manner and thus allowing others to disregard them. This style violates your own rights and often disrespects other peoples’ ability to handle their own responsibilities or problems. For example “I don’t like it when you talk to me that way” which is assertive unless you say it passively. Passive includes the way you say it, the tone of your voice and your body language. Are you looking down when you are talking or making eye contact? Other things to notice are; long rambling sentences, beating around the bush, hesitating and pausing, throat clearing, apologizing, saying words like if you don’t mind, if its not a bother, sort of, maybe, using a sing sung voice, saying it soft or overly warm, or uttering qualifiers, dismissals, superior and/or self put downs. The non-verbals might be looking down, averting your gaze, bending posture, wringing hands, covering mouth, or trembling jaw. The thinking style is; I don’t want to upset anyone, my feeling don’t count and I don’t count.
Aggressive Communication is defined as communicating to get your rights met by expressing your needs, beliefs and thoughts but with a method that hurts others. Communication may be aggressive, superior and may leave a devastating effect on the other person. The style of communicating might be abrupt, fast, fluent, firm, sarcastic, blaming, threatening, full of put downs, racist, boastful, and opinionated. Body language may be starring, intruding, lots of gesturing, invading your space, sneering, and seemingly angry. The thinking style is; the world is a battle field, I’ll get you before you get me and I’m number one.
Assertive Communication is a way of expressing feeling, thoughts and beliefs without hurting others and still getting your rights met. Things you notice are; speaking fluently, relaxed firm voice, steady, tone is rich and warm, sincere and clear, volume is right for the situation, brief cooperative statements that are to the point, distinguish between fact and opinion, constructive criticisms, valuing others opinions, willing and open. Body language is open hands, receptive listening, erect body stance, honest feeling expression, steady features and jaw relaxed. The thinking style is; I won’t allow you to take advantage of me and I will let you be who you are.
Communication styles can be learnt, improved and/or changed to reflect who you are and to authentically express your feelings, thoughts and beliefs so you let you, be who you are and allow others to be who they are.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT, Registered Provisional Psychologist/Registered Art Therapist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building Downstairs-9562- 82 Avenue, 780-232-1055 www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com/ email email@example.com
Acceptance in Healthy Relationships can lead to growth in yourself and others. Acceptance of yourself and the other person is important in a healthy relationship. Acceptance of yourself as you are right now and not how you will be after you lose weight or change your hair or makeup, or change in any other way. Acceptance of who you are right now and who your partner or other person in your relationship is right now, helps make way for change.
What is acceptance? Acceptance is facing reality and its present circumstances. Present circumstances might include who we are, where we live, who we live with or without, where we work, our transportation, how much money we have, what responsibilities we have and what we do for fun. Acceptance is easier when life is running smoothly but when challenges come that is when change is resisted. When our dreams and hopes for the future have to change, than acceptance becomes more difficult. Acceptance does not mean adapting to abuse. Abusive behavior is not part of acceptance. It means accepting and acknowledging our circumstances for the present moment, evaluating circumstances from a place of peace and making appropriate changes to solve the problem. Acceptance is for the present moment with sincerity and from the gut.
How do we accept losses, changes and problems others often hurl at us to achieve peace? Melody Beattie suggests every change brings us through a five stage process first defined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as stages of grief. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
1. Denial is the state of refusal to accept reality and often shows up as minimizing the importance of what’s happening, denying feelings around the loss, or mental avoidance by sleeping, obsessing, compulsive behaviors and keeping busy.
2. Anger may come out as rational and/or irrational when confronting others about a problem. Professional help may be needed to avoid a catastrophe.
3. Bargaining is an attempt to postpone the inevitable and sometimes negotiations can be reasonable, productive and achievable and other times not.
4. Depression can be the exhaustion at the end of the struggle when reality sets in. This is the stage of the process that has been avoided up till now and we must surrender and perhaps forgive. The process is worked out and through.
5. Acceptance is not necessarily a happy time but it’s a letting go of the struggle and coming to terms with what is. This can be a time of peace.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT, Registered Provisional Psychologist/Registered Art Therapist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building Downstairs-9562- 82 Avenue, 780-232-1055 firstname.lastname@example.org
Needs are respected for everyone in a healthy relationship! Taking care of others and not getting your own needs met is never a good practice, as it often leads to resentments. We all need our needs met and helping and getting nothing in return is almost never healthy. In healthy relationships, taking care of each others always goes both ways. Being respectful, and getting respect is evident in the way you express yourself, with words, feelings, boundaries and thoughts.
How can you be respectful in your expression? One way to express respect is thru your choice of words. Words can be used to be assertive in your communication style instead of passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive. By being assertive you express honestly what you are needing and feeling. “I feel hurt when we don’t spend time together as we haven’t seen each other much this week, are you extra busy?” Another way to be respectful is to speak kindly without using the four horsemen in every day communication. The four horsemen according to Gottman, are contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling. To avoid these is one way to be respectful. The dictionary defines respect as a deep admiration feeling for someone or something because of their abilities, qualities or achievements.
Expressing and acknowledging feelings is another means of respecting others. Some people are uncomfortable with feelings and will avoid mentioning them or will address them as cognitions which can feel disrespectful. At times we may withdraw our feelings from people we think might hurt us based on negative experiences in the past. Our feelings are very important; they count, matter and are special. Our feelings are indicators of our internal self and how we communicate to others in the world as well as ourselves. Our emotions connect us to our truth, our self preservation desires, our self enhancement, our safety and our goodness. Our feelings also connect us to our conscious, our thought process, our intuition and are signs of our energy.
What about our thoughts and expression of them? Remember our minds work well to think, figure things out and make decisions. We can figure out what we want, need and when to do what. We can have opinions and learn to trust our thinking and our abilities.
Setting boundaries is a way we can be respectful of ourselves and others. Boundaries allow us to value ourselves, our time and our space as well as do these same things to others when we express them.
Being respectful, and getting respect is ways you express yourself, with words, feelings, boundaries and thoughts. In a healthy relationship all the people involved give and receive respect.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT, Registered Provisional Psychologist/Registered Art Therapist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building Downstairs-9562-82 Avenue, 780-232-1055 www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com
All relationships require effort to start, to maintain, to be responsible to each other, to resolve conflict, to be supportive and to end the relationship if need be. Its realistic to expect relationships to take work at times.
The start of a relationship is often very exciting as the initial love is easy and beautiful. This period of time usually lasts between 3-6 months and each person sees the other thru rose colored glasses either ignoring their faults or not seeing them. All things are wonderful. After this time period, reality sets in and the couple have to get to know the real person and accept all the things that were initially ignored. This may take some effort and communication skills may be needed to be calm and respectful thru this process. Gottman’s 4 horsemen often show up at this time.
The 4 horsemen of communications are criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness. The Gottmans’ have research showing if this form of communication habit continues, the couple will be separated before 7 years together. How does a couple break out of the “4 Horsemen” habit of communication? It takes conscious effort on both sides to stop. When I work with couples I ask them to pick a word that signals them that the 4 Horsemen have appeared and this often helps them with awareness, as awareness is the first step to change. With criticism Gottman suggests to complain instead of criticizing because criticism is really blaming. Horseman number 2 is contempt which includes many disrespectful words (sarcasm, hostile humor) and body languages messages (eye rolling, sneering) and replace all these with respect and you’re back on track. Defensiveness often shows up with criticism but can also be a victim stance. Gottman says take responsibility for your half of the problem, be respectful and again you are back on track. Stonewalling is the final horseman that is hard on relationships. Gottman says when people get really angry the tendency is to stonewall as anger is a fight and flight response. Take a break from each other and calm down (about ½ an hour) and resume discussions. Make sure you let your partner know you are taking a break for ½ hour to calm down and want to continue talking after that. Avoid the 4 horsemen and you’re half way there.
Responsibility to each other can take some work too and Gottman has many strategies to connect couples and to turn towards to help couples feel they want to support each other. Usually the better communication helps as this brings couples closer when they are respectful.
Resolving conflict can be another area that is tricky and can take some skills and practice. A helpful strategy is to follow “fair fighting rules”. Some of those rules are becoming aware of what the problem is that is bothering you before you have that talk, focusing on one problem at a time, be respectful, watch your language and own your own feelings with “I statements”, no yelling, no stonewalling, take turns talking, and compromise. These rules help couples or any relationship stay on track.
Ending a relationship can be very painful and if you don’t do the work before a breakup you will probably repeat the same pattern all over again so I always recommend counselling if the problems can’t be resolved.
Irene Haire, MC, RCAT, Registered Provisional Psychologist/Registered Art Therapist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building Downstairs-9562- 82 Avenue, 780-232-1055 www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com