Truth Joy Beauty

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

Five ways to stop comparing and start sharing

Ever find yourself silently comparing yourself to other people and coming up short? Ever notice how this makes you feel? I bet it doesn’t make you feel better about yourself at all, I bet it just makes you feel worse the more you do it. In-fact, comparing yourself constantly to others tends to bring you down as you find yourself constantly repeating the “I’m not good enough” story, over and over again.

Comparing yourself to others and feeling bad about it only serves to disempower you, and stops you from sharing your unique gifts and talents with others and the world. So here’s a quick how to guide to help you stop comparing and start sharing your unique and valuable self today!

1.   becoming aware of your comparing ways

The first step to overcoming the compare and contrast blues is to recognize when you are doing it and what you are telling yourself. Remembering that it is entirely natural for humans to compare ourselves with others, (it’s something that our minds instinctively do) but allowing this natural process to overwhelm you with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy doesn’t help you to be the best person you can be. Next time you find your mind telling you the same old “I’m not good enough” story just remember to thank your mind, and simply take a deep breath and let it go. Sometimes just doing that is enough to dispel the bad feelings that come with the “I’m not good enough” story.

2.   focus on what you’ve got instead of what’s not

If step one doesn’t work then it’s time to remind yourself of what you have got, instead of those skills or attributes that you don’t have. Focus on what you can do, for others if not yourself. Ask yourself, what’s in your power to contribute. Take the focus off what or where you are lacking, just for a moment, and bring your attention to those things that can help or make a difference. Give yourself a mantra to say to yourself when you catch yourself comparing and contrasting yourself in a negative light. For example: Comparing is a pointless exercise, everyone’s journey is different and unique.

3.   take a wider view

Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s story is unique and private. What you see is often only the surface, you never know how someone is really feeling, or what is happening for them or what they’ve experienced. So even if some people may appear to have it easier than you, or have a better life, appearance or talent, never assume that they are coasting through life without a care in the world. Remember, there may be others that look at what you’ve got and envy you! You might live in a nice house with a caring family, or getting good marks might come easy to you when someone else has to struggle just to pass! If you are too busy comparing yourself to others and feeling down about it, chances are you’ll miss out on chances to feel good about yourself, by being grateful for what you have got….which brings me to my next tip!

4.   practice gratitude daily

Focusing on how you don’t measure up compared to someone else, even if that someone else is just a composite of all the someone else’s you may know in one, is definitely a recipe for misery casserole! An antidote to the comparison blues is to start a daily gratitude practice. Every night before you go to sleep, mentally name and list 5 things that happened that day or that you noticed that made you feel grateful in some way. If you like you can start a ‘gratitude diary’ and write them down. That way, you can look back at it from time to time and build a gratitude resource that you can draw from whenever you want. Remembering to remember the things in our life that we are grateful for is a good habit to get into if you want to increase your overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

5.   limit social media

There’s nothing as encouraging of your comparison demons to come out and have a good old play around with your mood quite like scrolling through your social media feed, especially when you are feeling particularly vulnerable. If you find that spending too much time on social media is causing you to feel anxious, depressed, blue or just plain bad then don’t. do. it. Limit your access to social media and if you must have a peek take everything you see there with tip two in mind: remember that what you see (especially on social media) is only a heavily edited version of what real life is like for an individual. It’s certainly only a fragment of reality at best. People who are truly happy and content with themselves and their lives are generally too busy living their life to spend too much time on social media sites anyway. Don’t believe the hype.

There you are. Five simple ways to help yourself to be the best self you can be. Last of all, being happy with yourself often comes when you stop focusing on yourself in general and look outward at the world and the people around you with compassion, empathy and without judgement. Really appreciating that we are all essentially in this together, and that we all have our own individual and internal struggles is really the best way to start to feel better about yourself.

 

“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.” ― Mark Twain

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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.

A guided meditation for when you’re sick of all the b*******t!

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

Porn addiction – it’s not just you. Truth, reality and hope for addicts and partners.

In 2014 I wrote a serious article with a slightly tongue in cheek heading called  Is internet porn the beginning of the end for the human race?  Now while I admit, I may have been exaggerating slightly, the premise of the article was clearly not entirely without justification. It may seem a little far fetched but if, as I saw tonight while out at dinner, parents are using screens to placate/regulate a child’s behaviour out in public then what does that really mean for that child and their ability to engage with other humans later in life? What happens when, as a society, we are more comfortable relating to a screen or to another human being through the medium of a screen, than we are when faced with a flesh and blood human. One that you can’t simply swipe away when convenient?

How does this relate to porn addiction? Well for many years the debate on porn was centered around the notion that succumbing to the temptation of porn signified some kind of moral failing. From a religious/Christian point of view, it was a question of sinfulness.  A sign that one has allowed oneself to become infected with one or more of the seven supposed deadliest of sins, lust and/or gluttony. Or, from a feminist point of view, porn is seen as the vile exploitation of women as sexual, one dimensional objects with no humanity other than form. Exposure to pornography was seen as something that was detrimental to our morality and incremental to men’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for all things sexual. Yet as Naomi Wolf ironically points out in her article, The Porn Myth in actuality, the end result of too much exposure to pornography has had the effect, not of turning men into sexually ravenous beasts, but the complete opposite; sexual and emotional anorexics who can no longer relate authentically to a real life woman or get aroused by one. As it turns out, excessive viewing of pornography in this digital age turns men off, not on.

As numerous studies now show, repetitive and compulsive viewing of internet porn by men, (and a growing number of women) induces the opposite effect than one might expect, and just like a person who is addicted to a substance grows increasingly desensitized to the drug whilst continuing to crave it more and more, a person who is addicted to pornography finds he/she ends up on pretty much the same, well trodden treadmill. Intensely wanting something that can no longer provide the temporary relief and stimulation it once did.

Recent research implies that internet pornography is as addictive as certain drugs and affects the brain the same way. But, porn’s special hook is that it taps into that human need for attachment by adding into the mix hormones that are normally associated with bonding, love and connection. In effect, a porn addict becomes more attached to porn than anything or anyone else in their life. As a consequence, relationships, marriages, work and soon enough, the relationship with the self begins to suffer.

Porn addiction, like any addiction goes through stages – however, unlike most other addictions, the physical effects of porn addiction are virtually invisible, and the psychological and emotional effects are quite subtle, at first. In-fact, many porn addicts may seek treatment of a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, OCD, as well as physical ailments, stress, other addictions and finally sexual performance before anyone “thinks to ask about their porn viewing habits”.

But more and more studies clearly link issues related to sexual performance, including as I mention in my previous post, erectile dysfunction in men in their late teens and early twenties, (something that was almost unheard of 10 – 15 years ago) back to extensive viewing of internet porn. It is only when they can no longer get an erection, or ejaculate even with porn that some men start to make the connection between their excessive viewing of porn and other issues in their life. Often this is the only thing that eventually get’s their attention. (Their partners, if they have partners, may have known for some time that something was happening, or rather…not happening!)

This sorry state of affairs is bad news for both porn addicts and partners of porn/sex addicts, many who spend night after night lying in bed next to a partner that never seems to be ‘in the mood’ for sex. The result can be devastating to marriages, relationships and the self-esteem to both parties. The secretive nature of most men’s porn addiction may also mean that some partners may not know that they are in a relationship with a porn addict or even if they are aware of their partner’s porn habit, they may not make the connection at first either. Or they may not know the extent of their partner’s porn viewing. The damage this causes relationships is thus far unmeasurable.  One site states that 56% of divorces in the U.S. involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornography among other staggering statistics.

So, is the news all bad? Well, no. Latest brain research shows that the brain is actually very flexible, and  malleable, kind of like plasticine. In-fact the term for the way the brain can change itself, based on what is experienced is called neuroplasticity. This is good news. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the same way you get yourself into a sticky situation is largely the same way to get yourself out of it. While the allure of internet porn may have lost its charm many clicks ago, the habit that it has created will be hard to break. Hard, but not impossible. For men who have lost the ability to relate to women, emotionally and physically, and for partners of addicts there seems little alternative, other than to dissolve the relationship, which let’s face it, is fairly likely. It can’t be much fun to be in a relationship with a porn addict. However, chances are that if you leave a relationship with one porn addict, you are more than likely to run into another just as addicted, or on his way to being so, seeing as in America at least, sex addiction (which porn addiction is a form of) has reached epidemic status, according to this 2011 News Week article.

So, how do you beat a porn addiction and reverse its affects on the brain? Well the answer is simple, if not easy and this is simply to stop it. Stop all contact with porn and masturbating to porn and give your brain a chance to rewire itself and re-learn, or rediscover what comes naturally.

That is the only solution. I did say it was simple, but not easy. Recovering from porn addiction (for addicts and/or partners) takes time, courage and commitment and it is not easy to do without support. There are some very good websites now that can assist, (which I shall list below in the resources) but the assistance of a therapist who is aware of the nature of porn and sex addiction, one who will take it seriously can be fundamental to long lasting recovery. At least, having a close friend or understanding partner (if that is possible) that you know and trust is also important. The reason being that porn and sex addiction most likely mask other issues. Issues such as fear of intimacy, abandonment fears, attachment disorders, and perhaps even trauma. Once the defence of porn has left the building, then there is nothing to protect your unconscious and chances are some deeply buried emotional wounds may re-open.

It’s important to be aware of this possibility as many who try to ‘re-boot’ as it is called on websites such as Your Brain on Porn and Fight the New Drug often try many times and fail because they are inadequately prepared or lack support.

If you are experiencing porn addiction or are the partner of a porn addict, seek help from a qualified therapist and/or see some of the websites listed below for more information.

SOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/02/19/pornography-statistics/
http://fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts/#sthash.ubb4Ty3m.dpbs
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2013/05/the-prevalence-of-porn/
http://yourbrainonporn.com/cambridge-university-brain-scans-find-porn-addiction
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125382361
http://newsok.com/the-five-stages-of-pornography-addiction/article/5407775/?page=2
http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/index1.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/13/a-letter-to-my-ex-husband-who-preferred-pornography-to-me
http://www.newsweek.com/sex-addiction-epidemic-66289
http://globalchristiancenter.com/mens/overcoming-temptations/16765-pornography-in-the-church-a-new-epidemic
https://www.lds.org/tools/print/article/narrow/?lang=eng&url=/topics/pornography/audiences/youth/teenagers-and-pornography-addiction-treating-the-silent-epidemic
RESOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/ (Internet filtering service)
http://yourbrainonporn.com/
http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/
http://www.posarc.com/ (Partners of sex addicts resource center)

Yoga for stress reduction & anxiety

Yoga is one of those things I’ve dabbled in on and off since I can remember. It is something I do for a while, and while I’m doing it I love and really enjoy the benefits of, but then for some reason or another I just stop. And then, after a while I start to feel crap again, disconnected with myself, tense etc and then I remember…oh yeah! Maybe I should do a yoga class.

Since I’ve discovered the benefits of mindfulness practice, this has bought a whole new dimension to my understanding and appreciation of yoga. There is really no better way to connect the mind with the body than to connect the breath with movement. Yoga really is mindfulness in action.

So, having said that, I was pleasantly surprised to find this infographic appear in my inbox this morning from the wonderful people at Happify.  It’s an infographic of 7 yoga inspired breathing exercises and poses to instantly destress any time of the day. And you don’t have to be a yogi to do any of the poses, as they are very simple. This is something I am definitely going to be sharing with my anxiety clients so I just wanted to share it here with you’all.

Here you are:

7 yoga poses for stress reductionOh.. and if you want to get into yoga again in the comfort of your own home none the less, I really recommend Yoga with Adrienne’s YouTube channel. She has heaps of yoga videos for whatever mood you happen to be in, and if you really want kick start your yoga journey, I highly recommend taking her 30 days of yoga challenge.

Namaste y’all for now!

5 things I’ve learned about anxiety from a bunch of anxious peeps

I’ve recently finished co-facilitating two rounds of a 12 week therapy group aimed at helping anxiety sufferers conquer their fears. The ‘self help’ group, as it is called, is basically an exposure based 12 week program which encourages members to face their fears by gradually ‘exposing’ themselves to the source of their anxiety bit by bit. It’s called the stepladder approach and is based on basic behaviour therapy.

The aim of the group is to guide members, after explaining what exposure is and how to construct a stepladder, towards conquering specific fears or phobias. It’s not really structured for those who are diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), PSTD or depression for example. There is only so much you can do in a group context. That was the theory behind the group, however, the reality proved quite different. We had a few members that had a specific phobia or fear such as public speaking, or a specific social phobia such as fear of eating in public, but most of the members’ anxiety was not that specific. Most seemed to be suffering from a general malaise and in some cases extreme uneasiness in public, social phobia in general or just a case of debilitating shyness. Some had depression as well.

It soon became clear that the prescribed ‘stepladder’ technique was not going to work with these people. One could still go over the basic idea of the stepladder, that is, expose yourself to your fears, little by little. Take baby steps. But a definitely rigid approach was not going to do. So, I did some research and also, concurrently, I started an online course on ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) but mostly, I learned from the group members themselves. Hearing their stories week by week, their awkward to embarrassing moments, their small and seemingly tiny triumphs and major breakthroughs…they taught me more about how to manage this thing called anxiety, which we are all faced with to some degree, than any text book or peer reviewed article I have read.

So here’s what I learned about how best to deal with anxiety from my research and from those that know best:

1. Accept anxiety as part of life.

Most people who come to a group such as the one I have just described have been struggling with anxiety for a long time before seeking help. Some for years. What they want most when they first come to the group or seek help is for a ‘cure’ that will somehow make their anxiety ‘go away’. But what is most freeing or a revelation for some is when we explain that anxiety is a normal part of being human, and that it will always be present to some degree. Struggling with it only makes it seem stronger and bigger than it really is, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away either… However, acceptance of anxiety is something altogether different. Acceptance allows for dialogue, it allows for a two-way exchange between the person suffering from anxiety and the message that anxiety is trying to convey. It is the first step towards healing, it signifies a willing to listen, to engage.

2. Face and then embrace your fears.

Whatever it is that makes you most anxious, that is where you need to start.  Jumping in head first is not a good idea, however a measured, stepladder if you will, approach really does work if done consciously, with self-awareness and with self-compassion. A step is still a step, no matter how small….however, there is a qualifier and the qualifier is as follows:

2a. Face your fears, only if they serve your greater good. That is, face and accept anxiety only if it serves your values. There is no point putting yourself through all that pain and anxiety for no good reason, if it serves you however, and helps you to achieve your goals or be the person you really want to be, then there is a very good reason.

3. Know your values.

One session, after learning about the importance of values in ACT I asked the group members to share with me their reasons for coming to group in the first place. They looked at me blankly at first, as if it was a silly question but then I explained… Yes, I know it’s because you wanted to get help with managing your anxiety but WHY? Why does that matter to you? Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay home, live with your anxiety to a degree and not push yourself to come here, or go on working through your stepladders each week? There is a reason why you do that, come to group each week, something you want to achieve or a way you’d like to live, and that reason should give you a big hint as to what your values are. Values guided action makes anxiety meaningful. It adds another, very powerful dimension to the how of exposure based therapy. The why.

4. Listen to what your anxiety is trying to tell you.

Anxiety is not always blind fear and anxiety is not a one size fits all broadcast. There are different types of anxiety. There is helpful anxiety and not so helpful anxiety. Sometimes, it is steering you towards something, sometimes it is telling you your off track. There is the anxiety that comes with moving forward, and the anxiety that comes with staying stuck. Only the individual can know what their anxiety means to them, or what it is trying to say. Mindfulness is one way of getting tuned in to what your anxiety is trying to tell you by displacing some of the static that most of us walk around with every day, without realizing it most of the time.

5. You are what you do most.

All the skills and techniques broached in the 12 week course (and in most CBT based therapies including ACT) are all pretty sound, yet none of them will work if we only pay lip-service to them. There is no magic pill or cure for anxiety or any other mental illness. Medication helps to a degree but it really only treats the symptoms, or helps with balancing out chemicals that have become imbalanced in the first place because of what the individual has experienced, reacted to and consequently how they have been behaving for many years. It takes dedication, practice and conscious choice to over-ride what have become automatic behaviours or ways of responding for many anxiety sufferers. The more you practice these new behaviours, thoughts, techniques and ways of being, the more they will seem natural.

 

So that’s pretty much it. (Well not really it, but a sizeable chunk, and besides, I’m getting sleepy!)

All good things take a little time, but like all good things, they are truly worth it in the end. As has been my journey towards becoming a qualified counsellor…it’s been a long 3 and a half years and in a few weeks I will be done with this first long stretch of road. Yes, in just a few weeks I will be qualified! However, while I feel I have learned so much, it gives me a certain amount of anxiety to realize that I have still sooo much more to learn. But, I’m pretty sure it’s the good sort of anxiety…

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.

Ryan Buesnel

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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Impermanence

I used to write a lot of poetry. Especially in my angsty late teens and early 20s. (Those that know me won’t be surprised to hear this.) Somewhere, there is a folder containing all those old poems, some on loose bits of paper, napkins, wrappers etc. Some torn out of the pages of whatever notebook I carried around with me at the time. I always had a notebook and pen with me wherever I went. Most were typed on an actual typewriter. (Yep, I’m that old). How I sometimes miss that clack, clack sound. (I don’t miss making a mistake and ripping the page out in frustration to start all over again though!)

Sometimes, at random times, some lines come back to me from poems I’d written so long ago. Lines that have stuck with me for some reason, for example this one:

Where are you my love that will understand me, not just for my hair, my skin and my teeth?

You don’t fucking exist. It’s me, all alone. I don’t need anyone. I couldn’t care less. 

I wrote that when I was 19. Teenage angst much? Yeah, well. I also wore a lot of black at the time… I remember that line because for me it was triumph of independence and powerful rage. And so, so transparent in its ache for just the opposite. Of course I cared. I cared a lot. Of course I needed love and connection, we all do.

Another line of poetry that sometimes floats back at me, is this:

Constant flux. Constant. Flux.

Is all we can rely on. 

That was the last two lines of a longer poem which I can’t recall right now. But, I marvel at my insight. I think I was 17 when I wrote that. And it came back to me the other day when I was having a conversation with someone who said, and I am paraphrasing here but it went something like this:

“At the heart of it all I think is a desire for permanence, for certainty. Everything changes, and can change in an instant. Nothing lasts forever, and you can’t really rely on someone to be there for you because from one day to another, everything can change. I find it hard to go all in because….well, what’s the point? At one point or another, you’re gonna get hurt.”

There-in lies one of the great existential challenges that we all face as humans on this small, blue planet that we call Earth. Nothing lasts, everything changes. Impermanence is built into the nature of existence. Yet, we try and resist this essential quality of being with all our might. We resist loving completely because, we will – not may, WILL lose that love one day. It’s inevitable.

Buddhism has a name for this. It is called Annica, and is considered one of the three basic facts of existence. The other two are suffering (Dukkha) and non-self (Anatta). The last one is kind of hard to define and calls for a whole other post, and more so let’s just leave it alone for now.

But, and perhaps the one thing that I wish I had said to my friend, because at the time I didn’t say much. Or what I did say didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, and it’s been playing on my mind. What I wish I had said was this,

What’s the point?
What’s the point of loving or giving yourself completely to another human being, a cause, a passion or an animal even? When there is no guarantee that those things will last? Well, that is the point. That is precisely the point.

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