Complicated grief pt2.

As I said in a previous post that sadness is not the only reaction to loss. It is however the expected response. When someone has suffered a bereavement and does not immediately feel sad they will often judge themselves or feel that others will judge them for not being upset enough or at all.

Many people feel like they do not know how to grieve and can go years before processing a death of a loved one. Grieving is a very uncomfortable process and unexpected emotions can surface. Anger and guilt are common feelings to have towards death but in society sadness is the most expected and tolerated response to loss.

Complicated Grief

There are many people who experience loss and do not know how to process it. There is no right or wrong way that loss should be processed. However there is a straight forward way and a complicated way. Both are equally painful and people cannot choose how they deal with a loss.

So why do people process loss differently? Depending on your experiences and how you relate to people around you will determine your response towards loss. A person who is more connected to their emotions may have an emotional response straight away towards a loss.

Whereas someone who has more difficulty with their emotions may not feel any emotion towards the loss. It may take sometime before they begin to feel anything. This can be described as a complicated reaction to loss.

Death/grief

Grief is an extreme sadness associated with death. There is a lot of social awareness around grieving after suffering a loss. It is understood that if one has suffered a loss it is going to be a very difficult time for them. They will need time of work or school, they may not be themselves for a while. However where society lacks awareness is in those people that suffer from a complicated grieving process.

Most people will expect someone who has suffered loss to be very sad but what about the people who suffer a loss and don’t know how to feel sad. Instead they might feel angry, guilty or they may not feel much at all. These aspects of grief are less talked about. Please see my upcoming post on complicated grief.

Endings pt. 2

All endings are painful to some degree some much larger than others. Have you ever noticed that most toddlers all of a sudden become very shy when they are told to say goodbye someone. Saying goodbye is a tiny ending but will cause some difficult feeling. Think about when you’ve gone out and had a great time, you don’t want it to end but eventually it has to.

Depending on ones emotional landscape some people will find it easier than others to manage endings. For some the vast amount of anxiety an ending brings up can stop or hinder being able to start something new.

Endings

Life is full of endings, even as children we are exposed to endings. Whenever we leave a year group and say good bye to a form tutor. Changing from primary school to high school, going to college. Many of which I have just described are beginnings but before you begin something you will be ending something else.

A beginning of a new job will mean the end of a previous job or an end to having no job at all. Endings are difficult and painful. It is saying goodbye to something that has become familiar and saying hello to something that is unfamiliar.

At times an ending can go unprocessed until much later this can be especially true for painful endings. Avoidance might be applied as a defence against those painful feelings. Think about how many times you’ve heard someone say ‘i’m not that bothered’ or ‘you know what, I don’t even care anymore’ in relation to being fired, loosing a friend or a break up.

Verbal abuse pt.2

The differences between verbal abuse and conflict which is a healthy part of a relationship can be very subtle. Most people will often try and justify their partners verbal abuse towards them. ie: It is because they are stressed out and maybe if I was different. These justifications help to perpetuate the cycle. One of the biggest justifications is that they will change their behaviour.

The reality is that you cannot change someone else but you can create change in yourself if you want to. That change might be having the strength to realise that she/he will always be verbally abusive but I am choosing not to stay in that relationship. These are very big and difficult changes to make which is why some people become trapped in abusive relationships.

Verbal abuse

When we think of abuse the first thing we think of is physical abuse, either violent or sexual. But one of the most common forms of abuse within a relationship is verbal. People argue in relationships and sometimes say things that they don’t mean which is fairly common. Its healthy to be able to argue without it going to an extreme level.

However verbal abuse is not ok. Saying things to a partner that is going to repeatedly make them feel bad is abusive. ie: your so dumb you never understand anything. Verbal abuse is not only characterised by the vocabulary but the tone in which it is being said. It can be name calling, criticism, manipulation and blame. If the other person starts to tolerate this then it becomes a pattern of relating within the relationship.

Emotional support?

Being able to be emotionally supportive is important in any relationship and often it gives a relationship foundations. Being emotionally supportive does not mean that you have to fix the other persons problems or emotions. It is as simple as taking the time to be there for someone when they need and vice versa.

codependency pt. 2

It is important to be aware of the signs of when something is becoming codependent. Often there will be an overall feeling that the other person is responsible for your own happiness as opposed to feeling like you are in control of your own happiness. For example: ‘if only she would stop working so late, I would be better off’ or ‘I would really like to go to dinner with a work colleague but Im worried my partner will feel threatened by it if i do’,

There are just a few generic examples of what someone could potentially feel in a codependent relationship. There can often be a sense of needing to do everything together and go everywhere together. It is great to spend quality time with your partner but there is something very unhealthy about feeling like you need to spend all your free time with your partner.

Codependency is a way of relating and in some cases people who are in codependent relationships will have a history of previous codependent relationships whether it is with family, friends or partners.

codependency vs emotional support

At times it can feel difficult to understand the distinction between being codependent and being supportive. Codependency thrives where there is a serious lack of autonomy. Any sense of autonomy within a codependent dynamic will often be met with anger and rejection because it threatens the dynamic.

Emotional support does not depend on anything. It is being supportive, sympathetic and caring without making it about yourself. Some people may need more emotional support but as long as you do not need them to need you it is not codependent. In theory the two are fairly easy to differentiate between however in reality it is more difficult and the lines can become blurred.

What may have started out as emotional support can turn into something codependent if both people allow this to happen.

Codependency/Dependency

The definition of dependency is the inability to function without someone else’s help and codependency is specifically an extreme emotional reliance on someone. Both dependency and codependency are seen as emotionally unhealthy because within those two states there is no room for autonomy. The only way dependency can thrive is if there is a lack of autonomy to begin with. It is important to make the distinction between dependency and being supportive.

Often people will give examples of addicts being in codependent relationships. That one addict needs another to justify their actions. Codependency can be extreme but it can also be very subtle. Either way in the long term any relationship of that sort can be emotionally harmful. A more subtle example of a codependent relationship is a person who needs their partner to need them for emotional support and will somehow hinder their partners progression towards autonomy.

Codependent relationships exist in friendships, romantic relationships and familial relationships. Money can also be used to further entrench a codependent relationship. For example a younger brother may rely on a older sibling to regularly give them handouts. The older sibling is frustrated by this but yet keeps on giving his little brother handouts. There is an aspect of being relied upon and needed by his younger brother that keeps them locked into this codependency. Thus stopping the younger sibling from trying to sort out their own finances.

Disconnection/Detachment Pt.2

The emotional dangers of disconnection can be seen on a long term scale. The more a person becomes detached the more they are likely to be alienated from any real emotional response to somethings.

For example: A wife makes an inappropriate comment about a colleague to her husband. A non-detached response could be an expression of him feeling that the comment was not called for. A detached response could be silence or even an un-opinionated acknowledgement of the comment.

Not having an emotional response to experiences can create an internal void that leaves a person feeling empty.

Disconnection/Detachment

In society we often hear people talking about how detached they feel. Feeling detached is feeling cut off from a part of life or for some people their whole life. It is not being able to gain access to feelings and thoughts. Detachment or disconnection is a defence against difficult feelings but often was tends to happen is that eventually the disconnection develops so that it defends against all feeling.

There are different ways that disconnection manifests. It can manifest in response to a trauma of some kind. In certain family dynamics expression of feeling is not experienced as tolerable so a response to that experience is a turning away from feelings that are seen as inappropriate within that dynamic.

Trauma

Trauma is an event that has had a profound impact on oneself. For some people this trauma takes time to process. Trauma can be anything from an ending of a relationship to long term abuse.

Trauma is about the type of event that has occurred and the impact it has on the individual. For example some people may not consider a break up traumatic and may think of it one of those things that happens but to others it can be devastating.

Eventually if trauma is not processed it puts your emotional well being at risk. In my experience disconnection is one of the most common aspects of unresolved trauma. Other common feelings include depression, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and nightmares/flashbacks.

Often some people only realise an event is traumatic when they begin to explore it in therapy. When something is very painful the psyche can build a brick wall around it to prevent it from causing more distress. For this reason some parts of therapy can be very painful because it is a slow breaking of that brick wall that then enables the trauma to be processed as opposed to be locked away and unconsciously effecting a persons behaviour.

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for post traumatic stress disorder. Basically it refers to negative feelings that are experienced after a traumatic event. It could be a month after and event or years. When anyone experiences a trauma it can be a shock. One of the effects of shock is a feeling that what just happened hasn’t really happened. This state of shock can last a very long time and is a kind of defence against feeling the emotions associated with the trauma.

Suicide Part 2

In a previous blog I raised the question of the difference between feeling suicidal and becoming suicidal. Feeling suicidal reflects feeling like the world would be better of without you and having fantasies about your death. This is more common than people think.

Becoming suicidal means making an actual plan to end your life ie: purchasing pills, writing a note etc. Both feeling and becoming suicidal are important and should not be ignored.

If you are immediatley concerned about yourself or someone else:

samaritans : 116 123

Suicide

With self harm on the rise amongst young people it is important to look out for those who might feel suicidal. But how does someone know when someone else is feeling suicidal and what is the difference between feeling suicidal and becoming suicidal?

First lets look at identifying suicidal feelings. Extreme withdrawal can be a huge sign especially if that person has a history of anxiety and depression. They may withdraw more than usual, this maybe worth looking into. A lack of engaging with the environment around them is also a indication. Certain drugs can cause feelings to be intensified, so if someone is taking psychoactive drugs it maybe a concern.

It is not to say that if a person matches the above behaviours then they are definitely suicidal but that it is something to look into. Being supportive to another person who you might think is in a suicidal state is more help than you realise. They may not want your support but they also may do. Either way you recognised what was going on and tried to intervene.

Stress Management Pt 2

In my previous blog I spoke about a simple breathing technique to help stay in the moment and manage stress. Another technique is thinking about what is in your control vs what is out of your control. In reality this technique is often a process that happens after the stressful event.

At times when we think back to a recent stressful event is can feel punishing and painful. There maybe complex feelings which come up such as feeling you are to blame for everything or why did things have to go that way. These feelings can circulate and become a source of anxiety.

Thinking about the situation in terms of what you can/could control ie: your responses and actions can help you to reflect on the situation with a little more mental space. This technique won’t stop the anxious feelings that are born out of the stressful even but it can help you to hopefully lessen the blame on yourself for other peoples actions.

Another way to manage stress is to create a support network. A support network can come in different forms, co-workers, friends, family or therapy. Many people are able to offer support for others but find it nearly impossible to ask for it themselves. The thought that they should be able to cope and manage everything may inhibit the need for help. For some people there is a fear that asking for help or support is a sign of weakness or failure.

Stress Management

There are a few ways in which stress can be managed. But it is important to remember that as life goes up and down so does stress. Therefore ones ability to be able to manage it will also go up and down. There are no rules or dead certs that if you do this one thing every morning your stress levels will ultimately decrease and you will find your way on a happier path. This is simply not true and in my experience most people find that unhelpful as it creates an added pressure.

I find it more helpful to think of small and simple techniques that anyone can use when they feel stressed out. If your unable to use that technique then its okay too. The idea is that there should not be any pressure to deploy any stress management technique because that will only cause more stress.

One of the most common techniques is breathing. Most people will also recognise this as a technique to help with anxiety which is often a manifestation of extreme stress. Breathing in for 3 counts and out for 3 counts can help to ground oneself in a highly stressful situation. You can take as many breaths as you feel you are able to. The breathing helps you to create a tiny bit of space for yourself in an overwhelming environment.

Stress

Everyone encounters stress on a daily basis. Some days can be more stressful than others and some stressors are more familiar than others. For example that particular family member that seems to get under your skin or taking a different route home. To some these can be seen as small stressors to others they’re huge.

Stress has become such common place in our society that it is difficult to recognise the effects it has on our bodies. Headaches, skin problems, stomach problems, muscle tension, apathy and fatigue are the most common physical symptoms.

Statistically the top 5 reasons that cause people stress are job pressures, relationships, money, health and social media. Now imagine all 5 of those things causing you stress a majority of the time, that’s a lot of stress. Yet most people have and do experience those high stress levels without knowing how to manage it or better still how to lessen it.