Truth Joy Beauty

Just my thoughts and reflections about living and loving in the post-post modern age.

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Why more rentals should be pet friendly

When my partner and I first decided to finally move in together – we both lived in teeny tiny studio apartments, (which by Sydney’s inner west standards were quite spacious, I have since discovered) but certainly not suitable for two people, plus one Chihuahua and one cat (breed unknown) – we found it difficult, to say the least, to find a pet friendly rental in Sydney’s inner west. Something which may be surprising to some as anyone who has lived in the inner west knows, there seem to be more dogs than people! I am pretty sure that not everyone with a pooch  owns their own property so surely these numbers don’t add up?

In any case, it took us many weeks of looking to finally find a place that allowed pets. Note, if a property was advertised as NO PETS then we didn’t bother applying of course, but many don’t specify whether they are pet friendly so it is quite disheartening to find something reasonable that you like, only to be told either at the inspection or by telephone, Sorry the owner won’t allow pets. In many cases, even if the real estate agents say, Pets will be considered on application, you get no response at all to your application or an email simply stating your application was unsuccessful. Both my partner and I work, have a good rental history so I can only put it down to, what I call, The Pet Factor. Another factor I admit was that due to our budget and the ridiculously high cost of rent in inner Sydney, the properties we were looking at were mostly apartments or houses that had been split into apartments. I do understand that it is easier to find a pet friendly house as a rental but our budget simply wouldn’t allow for that.

My dog at the time was 10 years old and had spent most of his adult life living indoors. He gets walked twice a day and is quite content to just snore away in his little bed (or practically on top of the heater when it’s on) the rest of the time. Plus, he is a Chihuahua. The most apartment friendly dog you could ask for.

Over the years of renting in Sydney’s inner west I have always found it challenging to to find a rental. It is always a source of great stress and anxiety. At times, due to time pressure and the need to find something asap I have neglected to even mention that I have a dog and have gotten away with in on almost every occasion but one. Then I was asked to leave or give my dog away! As if. I’d rather live in a tent thank you very much.  In fact, many homeless people end up that way, partly as a result of having to give up their pets in order to access emergency housing. Many would rather risk life on the street than part with their animals. This to me illustrates how important animals are to our mental, emotional and spiritual well being. A fact that I can attest to from personal experience.

When I left a previous abusive relationship, and found myself alone in a different state and thousands of miles away from friends and family, it was my dog (the same one I mentioned earlier) that made all the difference to my mental health at the time. I know, for a fact that if I had not had his little, warm body sleeping on my bed, I would have felt a lot less safer and a whole lot more alone. And, if I had not had his little face looking up at me each morning, sometimes walking up onto my chest and staring right in my face with his big brown eyes silently yet intently imploring me to get up and take him for a walk, I would have stayed in bed a whole lot more. I would have given into the waves of depression that threatened to engulf me constantly during those dark days. Quite simply, in many ways, I owe my dog my life. He was the one thing that kept me going, getting on with things, got me out of the house and he always made me smile, somehow.

My dog was the one source of unwavering, unconditional love that was a candle in the dark that I will always be grateful for. He is gone now (passed away from a heart condition, ironically, in January 2016) but I will always have the deepest gratitude for his presence in my life.

This is why I implore landlords to reconsider their stance on pets. Pets do as much damage as children in many cases, but no-one would dare have a ‘no kids’ policy attached to their rental. I have personally looked at rentals that are still occupied where kids have lived there and the places always, like their parents, generally look a little beaten up. If anything, a ‘pet damage’ clause is something most tenants would be happy to sign. If my pet damages it, like anything else in a property, I would be more than happy to pay for it to be repaired.

Pets add so much value to our wellbeing that it is time to recognize that and place a little more value on humanity than the purely economic factors of property ownership as a growing number of studies are attesting to.

Lyon the Chihuahua

Good moaning!

 

 

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If you want something to change

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When working with persons who are struggling with any mental health or emotional issue, it is interesting to note how attached people become to the behaviours, beliefs and/or relationships that are the main cause of their difficulties and the reason for their appearance in the consulting room.

This is not surprising, in psychology, defensive behaviours such as addiction, depression, anxiety and related safety behaviours become so entrenched because at one time, for all intents  and purposes, these behaviours worked to relieve some psychological pressure that was unmanageable to the person at the time.

I still find it challenging when a client shows resistance to any suggestion that they change something they are doing in order to work towards their stated therapeutic goal, whatever that goal might be. Often, even after going through workability (what have you done so far, how has it worked for you, what has it cost you?) I find that clients are still reluctant to alter damaging behaviours even at the cost of health, valued relationships, money, time, goals etc.

They cling to their behaviours like a child might cling to a parent, even when that parent may also be the cause of suffering and pain.

Attachments can form in the most unlikely circumstances, such is our desire for connection and love. We will often put up with a lot of discontent in order to maintain the most tenuous connection to those, or that which we are attached to.

So the anguish this conundrum causes people is palpable and sometimes heartbreaking to watch.  But reality has a way of exerting itself in a variety of ways, and eventually the breakthrough realisation is as simple as knowing that, in the most fundamental way action needs to happen in order for change to occur. In other words, if you want something to change, you need to change something, no matter how small.

 

 

7 simple ways to change your mind…mindfully!

The news is out!  We are not victims of circumstance or biology. No matter what your past history entails, the good news is change is possible. Our brains are flexible and wired for change and adaptability.

Here are seven ways that you can change your mind, and life, for the better with the help of mindfulness practices.

1. Live mindfully

…that is, consciously, with awareness and conscious choice. Living mindfully means bringing conscious awareness to everything you do. It doesn’t mean you have to spend hours a day meditating but even a few moments of pausing, breathing and noticing what you are experiencing without overthinking can help improve mood and manage daily stress.

2. Relate to experience directly

Try using your senses rather than through thinking, analyzing or judging all of the time. Take a moment to stop, notice and check in with your self. A simple mindfulness exercise is the 5×5 pause. Going through your five senses and noticing the first 5 things you see, hear, feel, smell and taste. (Taste is sometimes a difficult one, unless you are seated at a sushi train…yum!) However, by the time you get to taste, you will have mindfully checked in with yourself.

3. Stay in the present

Resist the urge to dwell on past events or worry about future “what ifs”. Staying present involves noticing and accepting your day to day, moment to moment experience as real and valuable. Whenever you find yourself time travelling in your mind try a simple 5×5 meditation or simply stop and notice your breathing for a few moments, to bring you back to now.

4. Avoid avoiding all unpleasant feelings at any cost

Try to welcome all feelings and emotions as temporary messengers who have something to tell you. Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are and they do pass. Emotions are our body’s way of communicating our truest needs, desires and wants. We don’t have to follow our emotions or do what they tell us to every time, however, acknowledging your feelings is the first step towards honoring our truth. Knowledge is power after all.

5. Accept things as they now are and go from there

Instead of how you would like them to be. Don’t waste energy or time on struggling with discontent. The more you struggle with feelings of frustration, unfairness and anger regarding those things that you cannot change, the less energy you have to put into changing those things you can.

6. Learn to see your thoughts as just thoughts, not facts or reality

Some thoughts are factual, some may have elements of truth and some may be completely incorrect – learn to choose which thoughts are most helpful to you rather than focusing on whether they are true or real. Focusing on thoughts gives them undue power – choose your thoughts wisely.

7. Practice self-compassion daily.

Be kind to yourself. Learn and practice how to be your own best friend and treat yourself with the kindness, compassion and respect you really want. Watch what you say, do and how you treat you. If you find yourself saying, doing or treating yourself in a way that you would never treat a friend then that is a sign that you need to be more loving to you.

Revisiting Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability

This morning I felt in necessary for some weird reason to re-visit Brene` Brown’s now infamous talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I first watched it during a week long Counsellor Development W…

Source: Revisiting Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability

Meditation on flying

 

Caught a plane to Melbourne yesterday morning. I was allocated a window seat, first time in a long time that I have. I also had the entire row to myself which was unusual considering the plane was otherwise full. Not that I’m complaining.
It was a beautiful, blue and sunny Sydney morning, so I took the opportunity to not read, or look at my device but to just sit and enjoy the view and the experience. I augmented my experience with music by way of what I had on my phone, which was also an unfamiliar experience for me. I rarely wear headphones around, I’d rather hear what is going on around me, most of the time. But for this flight, I thought it might be a nice change.
As I looked out of the small window, my view was restricted by the wing. Not that I’m complaining about that either, I am really glad that it’s there but my mind did go to some future place in which planes were designed to be mostly glass – that way you’d really feel like you were flying among the clouds. But that hasn’t happened yet. As such, I had a small window framing my view and that would have to do.
As the plane gathered speed, about to take off, I marvelled at this feat of human engineering. This pinnacle of human achievement. What was once thought of as impossible was now an everyday occurrence, something we mostly took for granted, like so many of our current technological advances. I use that word with some hesitation, however, I cannot think of a better one for now. But, I think it prudent to sometimes pause and reflect on that which we take for granted lest it get away from us, or overcome us somehow…
The plane gathered speed and soon it lurched forward and the ground was no longer supporting me. A weird, unnatural feeling which gave me a sudden feeling of anxiety. This is not natural. Humans were not meant to fly! I am literally putting my life in the hands of a stranger. How do I know he isn’t throwing back tequila shots in the cockpit? Suddenly the whole idea of leaping into the sky in what pretty much amounted to a tin can with wings seemed completely preposterous. The definition of madness! I felt my amygdala ignite and my brain flood with chemicals which signalled ‘danger, danger’ to the rest of my body. My heart started beating faster and my breath felt short and strained. Was it too late to turn back?
Then, I was overtaken by the sight of a fluffy white cloud which seemed in hands reach – if I were able to open the window, and by how solid the clouds all seemed, I almost expected to see an angel or two, lazily plucking at a harp string. The sky beyond the clouds was blue and the ground had pulled away from us enough so that you could see the curve of the earth on the horizon. Another reminder to me that my existence is depended on the vehicle in which I am travelling. Be that a tin can catapulted by jet fuel, or a big round rock obiting a sun, which is itself moving through space. Or the body that houses my consciousness.
Nothing is that stable, or that permanent. If this was my last day on earth then I was grateful for the time I had been alotted. Beauty comes at a price, truth depends on your perspective and joy is a choice you make every day. Yesterday I chose joy, and gratitude, and hope.

Don’t be afraid of change

Ch-ch-ch-chaanges! So sang David Bowie in the iconic song of the same name. One of my favourite David Bowie tracks, and probably one of my favourite songs of all time. Definitely in my top 10, if I had a top ten.
Anyway, in that song Bowie reflects on change and what it means both from a personal and societal point of view. Change is something that often occurs whether we want it to or not. Sometimes change is thrust upon us, in the form of say a change in work status, or a lover leaving us, or the death of someone close to us, or having to move out of your dwelling because the landlord has sold the property…and the list goes on. Change happens every day and can happen in an instant, for better or worse.

But change can also come on gradually. You may even plan for it, and want it, know that you need it, desperately, yet when it comes it can still shake you to your core. Change is the cause and cure for much of what presents itself as anxiety.

In ACT we speak of clean and dirty discomfort, or in other words, anxiety in the service of good or the anxiety that leaks out of the darkness, the anxiety of staying stuck and the anxiety of moving forward.

Wherever you look there is anxiety, fear, discomfort …for that there is no cure.

To be honest, I’ve never been all that good with change. Even when it’s a change I want, need and desperately desire. Even when it’s a change that I know will be for the good of all those concerned, myself included. Change is both exciting and terrifying. The dip in the rollercoaster, the curve in the bend, the unopened door.

So considering I was contemplating the above, I was taken aback when I casually informed the man that comes in once a week to clean our fish tank at my current workplace that I wouldn’t be here next week, as he strolled out the door saying, “See you next week!” as he often does.

He stopped in his tracks and came and had a chat with me, for the first time in the 2 years that I have been working here, and asked where I was going. I told him I had a new job so was leaving to start a career in what I had been training for, counselling and pyschotherapy. Turns out he taught psychology for many years before turning to the ‘fish tank business’, as you do.

We had a brief conversation reflecting on how different my role was going to be compared to my current role, during which he dispensed some unsolicited wordly advice, for which I was very appreciative. It’s nice to have anyone show an interest in what you are doing, but it was his parting words which really made me think, ahhh, is someone trying to tell me something here

“Don’t be afraid of change..”

Weird.

So where ARE the counselling jobs for counselling graduates?

In May of 2015, I finally completed my post graduate diploma in counselling.  After three and a half long years of sacrifice, studying part-time while working full-time (whilst getting paid the equivalent of two thirds of my former salary as a brand manager), I started looking for work as a counsellor only to find that many advertised roles which have the word “counsellor” in the title, don’t actually ask for specific counselling qualifications. Many seem to ask for social work or psychology qualifications. To be honest I was kind of confused. If you are advertising for a counsellor, why ask for a social work qualification? Asking for a psychology degree seems to make more sense, however, even the post graduate psychology course (which I was considering at one stage) does not have counselling specific subjects.

Below is an example from the Sydney Universisty Post Graduate Diploma course outline:

GRADUATE DIPLOMA IN PSYCHOLOGY – POSSIBLE STUDY PLAN A
Semester 1 Year 1 PSYC2011 Brain and Behaviour *
PSYC2012 Statistics and Research Methods for Psychology *
Semester 2 Year 1 PSYC2013 Cognitive and Social Psychology *
PSYC2014 Personality and Intelligence I *
Semester 1 Year 2 PSYC3018 Abnormal Psychology *
Plus one of the following:
HPSC3023 History and Philosophy of Psychology & Psychiatry **
PSYC3011 Learning and Behaviour
PSYC3012 Cognition, Language and Thought
PSYC3015 Personality and Intelligence II
PSYC3017 Social Psychology
Semester 2 Year 2 Any 2 of the following:
PSYC3010 Advanced Statistics for Psychology ***
PSYC3013 Perceptual Systems
PSYC3014 Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience
PSYC3016 Developmental Psychology
PSYC3020 Applications of Psychological Science

As you can see, there are no counselling specific subjects or counselling placement requirements.

I’d like to contrast that with the course I did, the Graduate Diploma in Counselling at ACAP (Australian College of Applied Psychology):

Graduate Diploma of Counselling (GradDipCouns)(Re-accredited)

Year 1

1.  COUN5131 Counselling Practice

2.  COUN5141 Counselling Theories

3.  COUN5151 Cross Cultural Counselling

4.  COUN5161 Counselling Over the Lifespan

5.  COUN5171 Ethical Decision Making

6.  Elective

Year 2

7.  COUN5201 Counselling Skills and Models

8.  COUN5211 Grief Counselling

9.  COUN5221 Mental Health Practice

10. COUN5231 Field Placement and Supervision 1

11. COUN5241 Field Placement and Supervision 2
12. Elective

Electives – choose two

COUN5801 Alcohol and Other Drugs Counselling
COUN5811 Narrative Therapy
COUN5821 Creative Therapies
COUN5831 Groupwork Theory and Practice
COUN5841 Family Counselling
COUN5851 Trauma Counselling

As you can see, most of the subjects are counselling related and counselling specific. A counselling degree trains people to be counsellors and therapists. A psychology degree, on its own, does not.

If I was recruiting for a counselling position, then it would make the sense to ask for a counselling specific qualification, however this is not happening often enough, as far as I can tell.  In 2015 when I called up the advertisers of some of these roles and asked, would they consider someone with a counselling specific qualification for the position, I was been met with somewhat defensive or ignorant responses. Clearly the question made them uncomfortable. To be fair, some said, yes a post graduate diploma in counselling would also be considered and encouraged me to apply …but my next question was then, (as it is now), why not state that in the ad? At the very least, from what I have gleaned so far, there seems to be little knowledge in the community services sector about the difference between counselling, psychology and social work. The way some advertisements are written you would think these disciplines are inter-changeable. I can tell you, they most certainly are not.

My suspicions regarding jobs for counselling graduates were depressingly confirmed when I came across this article written by a counselling educator at UWS,  Where are the jobs for our graduates? (This blog post is kind of in response to this article). I say depressingly because the Google search phrase I used which delivered this article, (third result from the top) was, “graduate jobs counselling”!

After spending three years studying to be a counsellor I can honestly say this article was a low point. As someone who also has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism, I can tell you the ACAP Grad Dip Counselling is not an easy course, not academically nor practically. Don’t get me wrong, if I had my time again, I probably would have started with a psychology degree and continued with the post-grad in counselling. I think psychology degrees are useful for many career paths including counselling, research, business etc.  If I was interested in social justice or community work then a social work degree would be the right qualification to have. But I see myself, quite specifically, as a counsellor or psychotherapist. Someone that wants to work one on one, or in small groups, with people who need the sort of help only a therapeutic counselling relationship can offer. I strongly feel that what we know of as counselling can be the most effective agent of change for many people.

So, why is it so difficult to find a counselling role that asks for counselling qualifications? In the first instance, more work needs to be done by our governing body, PACFA (The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia) and educational institutions, such as ACAP,  – to educate the sector and government about the differences between these three different occupations.

The fact that Medicare does not cover counselling does not help. Similarly, most private health care funds will cover psychology, but not counselling. Interestingly, most will also cover alternative therapies (such as aromatherapy, massage etc) as well, but only Medibank Private offers a rebate for counselling. PACFA, have been campaigning to get counselling and psychotherapy covered by all Private Health Insurance companies. You can read more about their campaign here. This is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go. Even though the evidence base for the effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy continues to grow, I sometimes fear that we are preaching to the converted.

Considering I originally wrote this piece in 2015, the situation is still very disheartening and frustrating for counselling graduates. I am lucky to have found a full-time position in a counselling related role however I know that many counselling graduates struggle to find full-time, counselling related employment. In one sense, this is the plight of all new graduates – companies ask for on the job experience which is impossible to get without, well, experience. At least with a counselling qualification I exited the course with actual counselling experience already under my belt, something employers may be interested to know.

In my case, putting in extra work and volunteering helped me get the job I wanted. However, I believe there is more than one set path to achieving any goal.  As long as you are following your heart and living your values there is hope. Let me leave you with this inspirational quote which I have always liked:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

William Hutchison Murray

You Know You’re Getting Old When….

  1. You give people wayyy more information than they asked for. Case in point: My real estate agent rang today to inform me about some painting and building maintenance going on and asked if I needed any interior painting done. I proceeded to tell him how the bathroom window doesn’t shut properly, how the tiles are coming up in certain areas and that the kitchen doors never close properly….
  2. You get disproportionately upset by trivial things. Case in point: The guy at the sandwich shop does not cut your sandwich in half, and if he did cut it in half you’d be complaining that he didn’t cut it properly, or at the wrong angle, or too much butter, not enough butter, no butter….the list goes on.
  3. Ten thirty PM is way too late to be heading out anywhere. Case in point: You have an unusually free Saturday night. You feel like heading out, going to catch some live music perhaps, socializing but all your friends are busy or otherwise unavailable. You run into an acquaintance who mentions she is going to see some band you like and you say, “Great! I’d like to come. Text me when you get there, I’m only around the corner…” The message comes at 10.15pm. You are already in your pj’s, in bed and catching up on Hemlock Grove. There is NO WAY you are getting dressed now! (Unless there’s a fire and you have to evacuate the building, in which case it’s grab your dog and a jumper, and that’s it.)
  4. You can’t handle your alcohol anymore. There was a time you could out drink anyone, anytime, anywhere. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, I never was a big drinker, but there was a time when I could at least handle 5 drinks in an evening without feeling like my head was going to explode and issue forth a geyser of vomit if I so much as moved it an inch too far to the left. Nowadays, two wines and I’m fine but anymore and I’m straight through to hungover!
  5. Heels are a thing of the past. You can just about manage wedges for up to 4 hours but that’s it. Stilettos are a distant memory. As are G-strings and super-tight jeans that you can’t breathe in. Life is way too short. (And getting shorter!)
  6. You refer to people in their 30s as young. When did thirty-something become young? Remember that show, Thirty-something? You don’t? Well, you probably are thirty-something then!
  7. You remember what it was like to not have the internet. And, you start to say things like…before the internet, (BI) we had to actually find a pay phone to call someone and you can’t even manage to reply to a lousy text message!

If you can relate, then yep. You guessed it.  You’re getting old!

A Brief Reflection on Religious Radicalisation and Young People

Eloquent and best explanation of the malaise that is the experience of many of today’s youth that I have read to date. Thanks for the clarity and fresh viewpoint on a poignant subject Ryan.

Intellectual Misfit

Over the past four years I have had countless conversations with people about the issue of young people and religious radicalisation. It has been an area of intense interest for me, and I thought it might be timely to offer some reflections on my own experience of the issue.

My work included being youth worker and manager of a youth service in Western Sydney’s Auburn- an area known for its cultural diversity and strong Islamic presence. In fact, the location of my work was just around the corner from the infamous Bukhari House Mosque and bookstore. If you have not heard of Bukhari House, a simple Google search will tell you everything you need to know.

Throughout my time in Auburn I spoke with colleagues and other interested individuals from across Sydney and listened to a range of views about the problem of youth radicalisation. As one who takes monotheist religion seriously…

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No way around it

Therapy is a two part process.

The first part is working through your ‘presenting issues’ (what brought you to seek therapy). In-fact, that’s the easy part. And for some, that’s enough but for others, not so much. For others, that’s when the real work of therapy begins.

For some, simply speaking about their emotions, feelings, thoughts etc is hard enough and the challenge for the therapist lies in simply getting a client to unknit whats been often painfully constructed for the last however many years.  Somehow simply being able to articulate what it is that bugs you can be enormously therapeutic in itself. The sense of relief, of lightness, of being able to let down a burden that has been with you for such a long time can sometimes be overwhelmingly beneficial. But often that is where therapy can reach a bit of a hump…the question which then arises is, Now what?

What do you do with this new found insight?

Sometimes this where an apparent stumbling block magically appears. It’s one thing to know why you are the way you are, what bought you to this point. However for some, once the real work of therapy begins, affecting change, real change… well that’s when it can all seem too hard. I’m not a practicing therapist yet, but I would hazard a bet that it is at this point that many clients stop therapy. For when you know the road ahead and what is in store for you, well for some of us  it’s easy to lose heart. It may be easier to just stumble along trying your best even with what you know. There is often comfort in what you know, cold comfort maybe, but comfort none the less. My guess is only after several failed attempts at trying to continue on your path regardless of that big black stumbling block dodge balling you from time to time, that one comes to the realization that sometimes the only way around something is to go through it.

 

(Apologies this was the only video I could find for this song on YouTube)

 

You are not a helpless victim of your own thoughts, but rather a master of your mind. What do you need to let go of? Take a deep breath, relax, and say to yourself, “I am willing to let go. I release. I let go. I release all tension. I release all fear. I release all anger. I release all guilt. I release all sadness. I let go of all old limitations. I let go, and I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with the process of life. I am safe.

Louise L. Hay

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