Healing, The Process

In a few of my previous blogs, I spoke of fear as one of the underlying drivers of the unhappy human.  How on earth do we address this age old issue?  Let’s get one thing straight, we need fear.  Without it we would not learn that crossing the freeway is dangerous.  Initially children have no fear, which is why we must constantly rescue them from their environment.  We develop fear which protects us from doing stupid things.  But what if our fears prevent us from living, i.e., shopping, outdoor activities, meeting friends, etc.  This is called anxiety.  Because we are sentient beings (we can reason and think) everything we experience is filtered through our internal neurological structure, mostly the brain.  Furthermore, everything we experience defines how we interpret all future experiences.  Here’s the difficulty, if we have many and formative experiences that are destructive, we may tend to believe that the world is a dangerous place.  This belief then colors all of our experiences for better or for worse.  But, what if our belief is not altogether true and that the world is not as dangerous as our past or formative experience would lead us to believe.  We would then carry unnecessary and unfounded fears about the world and very likely avoid it.  And this is for all intents and purposes true to varying degrees for all of us.

How do we begin to reprogram ourselves so that we are not at the mercy of our faulty beliefs?

This is where, as Bob Dylan would say, things are going to get interesting right about now.   How do we get hold of that piece of ourselves that holds the fear?  Where is it, how do we get at it.  I believe that one way, is to use what is called the creative imagination.  If we know or can identify at what age we roughly picked up that fear, we might be able to speak to that element of ourselves.  By drawing this piece of ourselves, writing to it, painting it, singing to it, we bring it into our consciousness.  Once in this conscious and real time world we can relate to it in a physical or sensory sense.   So many times I hear people saying, I don’t know where this fear comes from, or if they do, they immediately try to dismiss it. I encourage clients to actively identify the source in themselves.  Once identified, we have a choice, face the fear and or pain and get to know it, or walk away.  Let’s be more to the point, if you were able to go back in time and see yourself when you experienced pain and suffering, would you walk away, or would you go to help.  Most often, clients have been walking, or more likely running away from those parts of themselves that have suffered from emotional, cognitive or physical pain.  Here’s the flash point, in order to heal, it is my belief that ultimately we need to heal ourselves, to go to those parts of our injured, vulnerable, painful selves that we have forgotten or pushed away, and to be understanding, caring, accepting, and loving with them.  If you’ve read other parts of this website, I state this ad nauseam.  If we have over the course of our lives failed to care for and accept those pieces of ourselves that are injured or in pain we are essentially, non-integrated with ourselves.  In a sense we are dis-integrated.  In my work, it is my job to help you to reintegrate those aspects that have been abandoned.  By doing so, and bringing these elements to consciousness and treating them with love and care, they will be much less apt to rise up and kick us in the teeth in order to be acknowledged.  It is my belief that our psyche very much wishes to be whole and will provide us with increasing levels of discomfort, (anxiety and depression) if we do not wake up to this “request”.  In this day and age, we have a wide range of drugs and medications to avoid this aforementioned process of integration.  This approach may relieve the symptoms, but does not deal with the underlying issues.  This may explain why the use of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety are so prevalent and on the rise. I offer an alternative to this approach, give it a try it may set you free.

Relationship Communications

On April 16 at 7:00pm I will be giving a presentation on relationship communications at the Mountainview Wellness Centre. Mountainview is located at 3566 King George Blvd, in Surrey BC.

Dysfunctional Communication:  When Words Fail Me.

Dysfunctional Communication: When Words Fail Me.

The focus of this talk is to explore the nature of dysfunctional communications in relationships and how we can change it. The pieces of this frequently difficult issue are many and problematic. I will be laying out the components of communication based on scenarios that occur in most households. This includes the individual’s characteristics, environmental conditions, experientially learned behaviours, vulnerability, fears, values and beliefs and the list goes on. If you are facing challenges in your relationships, this presentation may help to know where to go next. Once we have a handle on what is occurring in a problematic relationship, can make conscious choices about where we go with it. So often we simply believe that difficult issues will just sort themselves out. This is a default position and it seldom works.
I warmly invite you to attend this presentation.
You may sign up for this presentation by phoning the Mountainview Wellness Center at 604-538-8837

Where does fear come from?

We are born into this world defenseless and vulnerable. The moment we are born, and some believe, even before we are born, we are exposed to the forces of this world. We cannot feed ourselves, we cannot protect ourselves, and we are at the mercy of our caregivers whoever they should be. As we develop we learn, and our knowledge base is expanded, when we cry, we may be fed, changed or cuddled. Alternatively, we may be criticized, ignored, abused or abandoned. By our exposure to the world we begin to unconsciously develop a perception of the world based on our experiences.

If, as in the first instance we are supported and cared for we may perceive the world as a place we can trust. If we have elements of the second type our beliefs about the world may be that it is a place that is not trustworthy and that we have much to fear. In the early phase of our lives, our wants are basic. How these wants are met combined with our innate characteristic set us up for the rest of our lives. Our basic need when we are young is to be nurtured, that is, loved and cared for.

Now, here’s the most important message on my site.
We all want to be loved and cared for; this does not change when we become adults. The difficulty arises when we wish to be loved and cared for, and we do not get either loving or caring in our lives. If we get rejected, abandoned or abused, the antithesis to being loved and cared for, we feel pain, emotional, mental, physical or all of them. This experiential learning continues throughout our lives. If we operate out of an unconscious belief or attitude about our world and the people in it, our expectations often fuel our imagination to generalize about the world at large, be this positive or negative.

Fear is often the negative emotions of our beliefs. By negative, I mean that we would choose to move away from rather than toward the stimulus that engages our emotions. If our knowledge base is that the people in the world are untrustworthy and dangerous then we might determine that we should avoid people in general or personal interaction because it is too painful. Herein lies the tension.

We may wish to be loved and cared for but we are afraid of anyone who could potentially hurt us; the ultimate double bind. That’s all well and good, but now what? The next step is healing.

What Lies Beneath Anxiety, (What is Fear)?

In the human condition, there appear to be some very basic drivers for our existence; Love, of both ourselves and others; Power, which I feel is really about self love; and Fear which is one of the most primal drivers of most living organisms on the planet.  The underlying principal of love and fear is either moving toward something or moving away from something.  Why is understanding fear important to us?  In human relations fear is not often recognized as a dynamic component of more obvious emotional symptoms. These emotions can have a huge impact upon how we live our lives, or conversely how we fail to live our lives.  What is this demon called fear?  Objectively fear is simply an emotional reaction to a stimulus often felt as pain or discomfort.  Our reaction to this discomfort is to move away from it.  The difficulty lies in how to deal with fears in particular circumstances and what we learn from it.  There is no doubt that we need fear; without fear we cannot protect ourselves from harmful outside influences.   As an example, if we have a parent who is abusive when they are under the influence of alcohol, we tend to avoid that parent when they are drunk.  We have learned to fear that parent when they are drunk.  In this case our fear protects us from harm.  The difficulty lies in how we translate what we have learned in one type circumstance to the rest of our lives.  If our fears remain unconscious, we may apply that fear to the world at large and we respond by distancing ourselves accordingly.    Our fears may be generalized, which may appear to be a distrust of the world, or specific to some type of event or person.  Some of the most basic fears are; fear of death, fear of abandonment, fear of dis-ease, and fear of loss of self.  The fear-driven learned behaviour of closing off others, angry outbursts, vindictiveness, neediness, isolation or other reactions may isolate us from what we truly want in our relationships, which is love understanding and caring.   As in any learning, it’s important to question the origin of the information and more so how we use that experiential learning, this is part and parcel of the counselling process.    If you are or know someone who is experiencing the symptoms or fears described, I strongly recommend seeking help from a counselling professional.    Next issue, what is the origin of fear?

Dream Work

One of the approaches to counselling that I use with some clients is that of dream work. In psycho speak generally called analytical psychology. This therapy as the name suggest is working with the symbols of our dreams to make some sense of our day to day reality. I hasten to add that while all of us dream, we do not all have the capacity to recall these dreams or to be able to what they might have to say to us. However, if you do dream these can figuratively be a gold mine of self knowledge. It is important to recognize that dreams are not separate from us just because we seem to have no control over them. Rather they appear to be a part of our unconscious process which is fed by our daily living and interactions.  Conversely we could turn this around and say that what we do in our daily living and interaction is affected by our unconscious life. This oscillation between the conscious and unconscious realities, which in primitive cultures is commonly accepted, appears to be a novelty in western culture. By working with the totality of the conscious ‘reality ” and our unconscious world, we can become more aware of: where we are now, where we could be (our potential) and even how to achieve our greater potential.

Beneath Grieving

Although the grieving process follows a rough progression of steps, from denial to acceptance, there may also be a significant element that is not expected in retrospection.  Time and again I witness clients whether for themselves or others, having to face their own mortality.  This is a frighten aspect of life that in our culture appears to be avoided like the plague.  Death of those close to us, or the threat of our own death may cause enormous uncertainty about what it is to be alive.  This terminal stage of living follows no logic physiologically, emotionally, cognitively, or socially, particularly if we ask why someone had to die.  Enter the realm of the spiritual or lack thereof.  Each and every one of us has beliefs about the world, this includes death.  This can be a frightening awakening if we have not dealt with this before, and I would say particularly if we have previously thought that we had everything in life under control.  Ultimately death is out of our control, it comes to all of us eventually.   If we deny this aspect of life, it is my belief that we lose the meaning for living.  In my practice I help clients to become a little more familiar with the prospect of mortality, which often aids in the development of values and beliefs not only around dying , but for living a more complete and satisfying life.


Emotional pain and suffering, at some point in our lives we all face it.  It appears to be an inevitable part of living.  There are many books written by many authors on the subject and many are well worth reading.  However, the reading does not take away the pain and suffering.  It may help us to find ways to deal with it, but we are left with the emotional burden.  I once heard a quote, “pain it the quickest way to god” It doesn’t specify which god any culture in particular so it’s fairly generic, any pain, any god.  My point in all this is that if we are unable to deal with our pain and suffering we may be trapped in any one of the defined stages of grieving, denial/ isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and fail to move forward in living.  Talking with others who care about you may help immensely so that would be the first step.  For those caregivers, being a good listener is at the heart of healing.  If you are not able to take this step, you may want to see a counsellor.  Many of us in the counselling profession are able to help the grieving individual find a perspective that helps the process along.

A Season of Choice

Christmas comes, “but once a year”, as Australian entertainer Rolf Harris once said.  Every year we engage in an internal seasonal tension.  We spend huge amounts of energy trying to fathom what we should buy for each other, race from shop to shop looking for gifts, and spend our hard earned cash.  In this season of darkness and dormancy we push our emotional and physical selves to the limit in an extreme of commercialized activity.   Yes of course, the children are excited about presents at Christmas, but maybe, just maybe we could shift our perspective a bit and reduce the volume of STUFF, and focus on the people we care about.  For years we’ve watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the message is, “There’s more to Christmas than just gifts.”  Generally speaking, I don’t believe we’re getting the message.

What most of us want although we don’t say it very often is that we want to be loved and accepted by others.  There seems to be an absurd notion that “the more we give the more we are loved and appreciated.”Here’s the crux of the matter.  Don’t confuse love and caring with buying stuff for someone.  If you took even half the time and energy you spend at the shops and spent that with the people who you care about in a related and meaningful way two things would happen.

Firstly, you might really connect with those you love, and have some fun.  Secondly you might not be so stressed with parking lots, traffic, crowds and spending cash you haven’t got.  Don’t have any ideas for taking this time let me offer you some suggestions.  Bake cookies with your kids, take your family indoor rock climbing,  go bike riding, walking, read a good story, watch a good movie together, sing together, have a family dance, do a puzzle,  play a board game, go skiing, decorate the tree together.   As you might have noticed, I did not mention watching TV at any point in this message.  This was deliberate.  When I speak of really having time with friends and family, let it be with a sense of connectedness.  Communication, touch, laughter, interaction, these are all part of giving of ourselves, directly without any distraction.   Now, as a recipe for better relationships across the board, take time for the people you care about All Year, Every Year, and Always.  There’s one more piece of the puzzle for better relationships, take time for you, slow down.  If you don’t take care of yourself, and give yourself time to recharge YOUR batteries, you won’t relate well to others no matter how much you would wish to.  And it goes without saying that no matter how much you buy, you will not have a better relationship without the personal relatedness.

Now, if you really, really like the Christmas crowds, traffic, lineups, and the buy, buy, buy idealism, don’t let me stop you,  but on the off chance that you don’t, take more time to be with your family and friends.

Fracture Lines In Relationships

Rate your current relationship Frequently Occasionally Seldom as based on the following symptoms.

  • Do you feel as though you aren’t seen in your relationship ?
  • Are your arguments with your partner destructive?
  • Are you angry with your partner?
  • Do you or your partner stop communicating for extended periods?
  • Do you distrust your partner?
  • Do you feel bitter about your partner and your relationship?
  • Do you avoid your partner because the relationship is too painful?
  • Is there a lack of intimacy in your relationship?
  • Do you have trouble communicating or relating to your partner?
  • Do you dislike how your partner behaves or relates?
  • Are you tired of arguing with your partner?
  • Is your communication with your partner painful?
  • Do you and your partner feel as though you are drifting apart?
  • Have you given up on your relationship?
  • Do you blame each other for problems?

If you answer frequently for any of these questions, it is probably time to see a counsellor.

Throughout my life both in and out of practice I have come to see many of the difficulties in marriages. Many couple’s relationships are foundering dysfunctional systems and in many cases they don’t need to be that way. It is often the case that we live with our difficulties hoping that they will “just go away,” or that we can work it out ourselves,” or that “this is what marriage is.” This Does Not Have to Be!!!!! In so many cases it is possible to work with a counsellor on our relationships so that they can be creative and caring.
Some of the issues that help to create destructive relationships are: differences of values and beliefs, poor communication, assumptions, personal vulnerability, fear, individual personal issues, and the list goes on. I am distressed to see that couples will stagger through years and years of a dysfunctional marriage and not seek help. I am positively mystified by this lack of motivation.

It is so interesting that when our car has a failing transmission we get it fixed usually to the tune of hundreds if not thousands of dollars, but we will not seek help for ourselves our partners or our relationships. You aren’t expected to fix a transmission on you own, why would you expect to be able to fix a failing relationship. It’s that simple. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help from a Professional Counsellor or Psychologist. We don’t bite.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder   (PTSD)

It has come to my attention lately, both through my practice and through literature, that there is a significant incidence of PTSD.  This mental illness is brought about by a traumatic experience or even witnessing a traumatic event.   The events could be a car crash either experienced or witnessed, sexual abuse, rape, or other horrific event.  The symptoms can be many and varied. Anxiety and depression are common.

If you have suffered from a traumatic event either in childhood or later in life and have had the following symptoms, you may have PTSD”

1.      Response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror, or in children the response will involve disorganized or agitated behaviour.

2.      There may be persistent avoidance of the stimulus originally experienced, and numbing of general responsiveness.

3.      The symptoms must be persistent for more than one month and the must cause significant distress or social, occupational or other important areas of functioning

4.      Symptoms of anxiety, hyper-vigilance or exaggerated startle reflex may be experienced.  There individual may also feel highly irritable, have nightmares and have difficulty in completing tasks.

5.      There may be a sense of detachment or estrangement from others and a lack of intimacy, tenderness and or sexuality.

(DSM TR IV 2005)

If you have had some or all of these symptoms you may be suffering from PTSD.  If you have these symptoms is can be very helpful to talk to a counsellor.  In many cases, individuals will avoid dealing with their issue because of the emotional pain.  Avoidance will not help, in fact it can figuratively “poison” the individual to the point of suicidal behaviour.  By dealing with the issue in the confidential environment of a counselling session, the fear, guilt and suffering may be reduced or eliminated so that the individual may get on with a meaningful and creative life.