Assertiveness 

Assertively saying no to the requests of others rather than giving in protects the relationship from ressentment that would arise if you felt like you had to say yes when you really didn`t want to.

Know what your values and morals are and stick to them. When people ask you to do something that goes against your values you aren`t going to feel good about yourself if you agree to their request.

(The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook for Bipolar Disorder – Using DBT to regain Control of Your Life – Sheri van Dijk MSW)

What Do You Say After You Say Hello?

“When Mike first meets Pat (in the first 10 seconds or at most 10 minutes after they first set eyes on each other) Mike`s Child senses exactly what Pat`s Child is up to.

Since the Parent is older and presumably wiser in some ways than his offspring, it is his duty and responsibility to control his Parental behaviour. Only if he brings his Parent under control of his Adult can he accomplish this.”

Eric Berne, What do You Say after You Say Hello

on Cognitive Distortions and Hint Giving

A couple of years ago, I had a course of psychotherapy. After lostcountofhowmany let downs, disappointments, losses and betrayals I wasn`t coping at all with life in general and becoming increasingly paranoid, always expecting the worst. Never mind the stigma – I`ll be forever grateful that I chose therapy instead of medication (or alcohol, for that matter).

I learnt loads about cognitive distortions (great link – check it out!!) and how to deal with them, and while I, of course, was able to practice this particularly well under the supervision of my therapist, I continued to apply my new skills after the sessions had finished.

One which is particularly relevant to me is reading too much into (interpersonal) things, then behaving as if my assumptions were true and thus creating a negative outcome that`s caused by my reaction rather than the initial situation. While I`m still tending to try too hard to make sense of other people`s behaviour, I`m now also able to pull myself back sometimes.

There was one particular situation where I had to work extremely hard at behaving not only as if my negative assumptions weren`t true but also as if I did not have them. In the end however, it turned out that what I was thinking had indeed been true on this occasion. Someone was throwing me (albeit weak and non-committal) hints, and I behaved as if I did not understand them, carrying on causing drama because I refused to see the signs.

“So did your therapy not cover that?” asked my husband later. “how to recover from the disappointment of a real problem? How to deal with things when, by applying her techniques, you actually made it worse? For life isn`t always a bed of roses, and you cannot always influence other people!”

No, she never covered that. And I don`t think the problem was so much my own behaviour, but my (former) friend`s evasiveness. To most Brits, giving hints only seems kinder than being upfront (also to oneself, as you save yourself the discussion) about bad news, but you have to be clear that the hints are understood, or at least be clearer when asked.

Could I have influenced the situation? No. I`d have saved myself a lot of embarrassment (and maybe preserved a friendship that obviously wasn`t what I thought it was) if I had acted upon the hints, but I`d also forever have asked myself: And what if the assumption I was acting on was not true after all?

On Past Injuries II

Quite a while ago, I wrote about reacting to past injuries, and even though I know them so well, I was failing to name examples.

Ever since I wrote this blog, however, I started to pay attention, and I can now not only add examples but, much more importantly, discovered that I could heal from some.

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The first situation where I realised that I was reacting to past injuries was my fierce hatred of Country music. It was the kind of music my dad liked (apart from a few other, for me equally unacceptable, genres), and he plaid it particularly often and particularly loud because he knew it grated on me. Long car journeys in particular – anything I could not get away from. And when I complained, he laughed and turned the volume up. It was a power trip, and maybe a punishment to his teenager slagging his music, and it got me to hate it to this day (where it probably would have remained a simple dislike otherwise).

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Another example where I`m reacting to past injuries is my own birthday. I had 8 until I overheard my mum saying that she hated my birthdays with all the gifts, cakes, parties, children, grannies and merrymaking. I had 4 more (which I had ceased to enjoy) until my parents decided that I was too old, and that was fine with me.

Even when I was an adult and able to throw my own parties, I never did – there were half hearted gift exchanges with family, because it was the only way to for them to retain their own righ to receive, and that was it.

A couple of years ago, I turned 40, and I decided to celebrate it. At that point, I felt blessed with very many great people in my life, but only few of them had actually met. It was mainly meant to be an opportunity to bring the mall together – and I had such a ball!! And I celebrated the next, which was much smaller but an equally beautiful day, and when it came round again just recently, I got properly excited about it because people actually made a”deal” about it – mainly new ones, who didn`t know I disliked my birthday, and some others thought I had changed my mind. And I discovered that I probably did – after skipping 28 of them because of what my parents said and did when I was a child…

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Another really important thing is perfume, and how it can remind me of the particular good or sad times when I was wearing it. I`ve been known to give perfumes away just because I couldn`t stand the memories I kept associating with the smell. (But this works vice versa, too – I know which one to wear if I want to wear confident or sexy or fresh or happy.)

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And then there are two… really silly things – the ones which actually inspired me to pick up this blog again.

I`m still too embarrassed to mention either in a public blog, but someone had hurt me very much, twice, with things which for others are probably absolute trivia.

One instance involved a particular brand of cosmetics. I was not using the brand myself at the time, but I was given them as a gift later and had to pass this on, as I was unable to use it without flashbacks (yeah, that`s probably the right word – I`m not just thinking of the injury, I`m having proper flashbacks which bring me so down that others actually comment on my low mood). The fact that I recently bought myself not one, but two, lipsticks from this make, shows me that I`m really and truely over the person who injured me. It`s one of those products which tingle on my lips and remind me that I have it on, and it`s nothing but a great feeling.

The other one involves a food. It was used to neglect, be stubborn towards and commit an act of absolute cruelty against me, or at least so I saw it at the time. I could no longer enjoy this kind of food. It had no taste whatsoever, just injury, fat and calories. Adn a whole 2 1/2 years later, there comes someone else and turns the whole thing round. Whatever happened back then, that person did the polar opposite. I feel healed, and I will never ever eat this kind of food again without this particular happy memory, which totally erased the other one (although the memory is still there, it no longer hurts).

And maybe that`s the secret. Rather than avoiding the triggers, re-expose myself in a pleasant situation and simply replace those memories with something upbeat.

I`ve got a candidate for that on my shoe shelf. Horrible memory, which I cannot summarise adequately in a three liner (I just tried). I never wore them again after that night. They are of cream suede, and they still bear the black marks of a drunk man`s shoes where he kicked them about in a night club.

I should wear them next week. I should plan a whole outfit around them and make them feel and look absolutely amazing – and then remember them for that…

Lifestyle Month: on Exercising

Every year, it`s an intention, and every year, it is a struggle.

In summer, I don`t need the gym – I walk everywhere and enjoy running at the beach. Winter however is a different matter. I don`t like to be outside, but soon, both body and soul are missing the activity. Gym should be calling my name – but I just don`t want to go.

When I reduced my working hours, I vowed to go finally re-establish a regular gym routine and wrote down a list of the most compelling reasons why I should get over myself and just go, no matter what:

  1. I always feel good as soon as I enter the gym. As soon as my body is in there, my mindset will follow suit. And I feel amazing afterwards!
  2. I set myself a goal of 30 mins (for the beginning). That`s not much, but it`s more than nothing, and a small step towards establishing a habit and being able to do more again eventually, as I get fitter.
  3. Every journey starts with a small step. The first visit is always the one I`m most likely to postpone over and over again. The second (and third, etc) visit however will never be as difficult again, as once I started something I want to keep it going. So just go!
  4. Too busy? 30 minutes of gym will cost me about an hour including travelling, getting changed and shower. What else would I do with these 60 minutes? Probably mainly berating myself for not going to the gym.
  5. The time and effort is an investment into my health and wellbeing, for now and for the far away future. I remember what it felt like to be overweight, and I can only imagine what it will be like to get the first ailments of old age and knowing that I could have held them off for a few years if only I had taken the time to exercise more when I was still able to. Remember the benefits of exercise go beyond weight loss.
  6. Being happy with my body and going to the gym regularly feels great and nourishes a positive mindset and self esteem that spread to other areas of my life: nutrition, general activity levels, alcohol and how I dress and care for myself in general.  Not going to the gym affects the same things, in the opposite way.
  7. Money – I pay the same fee for my membership, regardless of how often I go. One visit can cost me anything between £1.20 and £40.00 – choice is mine.
  8. Exercise releases endorphines and enhances my sense of self worth and confidence, which makes me happier (and easier to be with) altogether.

Even though, it lasted about 3 weeks. Finally, I acknowledged that I simply dislike it – and cancelled my membership. And the guilt (point 7 above!) fell off as soon as I handed in the letter!

I now exercise at home. I already had a treadmill, and I also bought myself a mat and a kettlebell. Now, a 30 min session isn`t difficult to fit in at all – no travelling,, my own bathroom, and then straight into my comfies. My own music. I often preper dinner before I go, so it`ll be ready for me coming out. So far, this seems to work for me.

I really think you have to enjoy exercising in order to stick with it, and if you don`t, you`ll have to go and find something else, until you discovered the activity you`re actually looking forward to.

Airbrush apps and thoughts about beauty and perfection

Below, a fab post about a topic which I was wanting to write about, too, for some time.

It`s about apps which beautify your selfies, and about what they do not only to our own self esteem, if we cannot keep up with our own selfies or if they show you “imperfections” of your natural self, which you never cared about before.

I also think it raises expectations which are both unrealistic and dangerous. As Paleica writes, social media became so popular, because it was authentic. But is it still?

There was that rather catty remark from a colleague about a friend, whose facebook photos were always looking so  much better than her real self: “I saw her in the street last week, and she looks nothing like that!” My initial thoughts were to defend her – if you are really that plain, but once in a while, you get a really good photo of yourself, of course, you`ll want everybody to see it.

On thinking a bit deeper however, I don`t think it`s all that cute. The woman who saw her in the street was now, in other words, telling everyone she was an imposter. And imagine she was invited to a class reunion and felt she could not live up to her own selfies. Would she still go, or would she find an excuse? Even though we all know about the apps, we kind of expect each other, and ourselves, to look like that in real life.

What I often think is that there now seems to be an expectation that you photoshop yourself. Everyone can do it, the tools are for free – there is no “excuse”. If you don`t you stick out for being mediocre – not only don`t you look good enough, you also cannot possibly value yourself, otherwise you`d at least try. It`s the same phenomenon which has been raised numerous times in relation to cosmetic surgery. The sheer availability of it has raised standards for everyone.

BTW, apparently, the selfie culture has significantly increased demand for facial surgery…

episoden.film

Heute stelle ich euch eine App vor, die mich selbst sehr zwiegespalten hinterlässt. Auf der einen Seite finde ich sie genial, auf der anderen Seite aber “horrifying”. Warum stelle ich sie euch dann überhaupt vor? Weil ich selbst bis vor kurzem nicht wusste, dass es diese App gibt und ich denke, dass es nicht schadet, wenn man sich dessen bewusst ist, dass es heute kein Photoshop und ausgefeilte Retusche-Kenntnisse mehr braucht, um entweder das Beste aus sich rauszuholen oder im Kleinen und auf die Schnelle ein sehr unreales, halbwahres Bild von sich zu erschaffen.

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On Past Injuries

When I`m out and about, I`m listening to the “Thinking allowed“-Podcasts at the moment, and yesterday, I stumbled upon an episode about football and domestic violence. Apparently, there tends to be more domestic abuse when the perpetrator`s team has an unexpected (this seems important!) win or defeat, and women who escaped such a relationship say to this day, they cannot stand anything to do with football, even if they were once very fond of it themselves.

I always thought I was the only one who, once hurt with our around something, cannot face this something again without unpleasant memories intruding and spoiling what would otherwise be a pleasant experience, and I always felt childish and unreasonable for this.

It`s still a job in progress, and I often need to work really hard to disconnect say, Christmas from certain memories I have around it. Still, I often become what others think of as unduly upset about seemingly trivial matters.

After a longish phase of reading psychology and therapy, I now realise that me being upset is never about the incident itself but always about my feelings about it, and my feelings are still stuck in the past. While I cannot change the past and not always the current incident or situation in question either, I can always try to change my feelings, at least a little bit.

What helps is asking myself the following questions:

  1. Would I be as upset if there wasn`t a connection to past injuries? (other people, other places, etc)
  2. Could I imagine others (I have a small list of names I add here, ranging from people I admire to people who are most like me) becoming upset if they were in my situation? How would they feel and act?
  3. How would I feel if this had happened to someone else, and they were telling me they were as upset as I am? Would I be upset for them? What would I think, feel and say to them?

All these questions force me to take a step back and see that my feelings are really still about the past, and not the present incident. And while that`s not always enough to ease the pain, at least it prevents me from lashing out at people in the present who often have nothing to do with the past injury (or wouldn`t necessarily be aware of the connection).

ATTENTION SEEKING OR: OF GIVING AND TAKING

WHAT IS FREELY GIVEN DOES NOT HAVE TO BE TAKEN.
WHAT IS FORCEFULLY TAKEN CANNOT BE GIVEN.

I read the first bit in some book, and the context was sex, where I have major issues with this quote. I added the second bit myself.

It makes me think of attention seeking behavior more than anything else.

Imagine a child who doesn`t get enough love and attention at home for whatever reason. Hoping that this will get him noticed, this child may start misbehaving, but mum is seeing right through him and chooses not to reward this kind of behavior. Child may become even naughtier, and mum starts to punish by total ignorance. Meanwhile, other children start ignoring him, too, because he`s so annoying.

Also, any attention he is given will not be volunteered or loving, and he may be old enough to know, feel or question this and continue to behave in a way that he hopes will bring him the kind of attention he really wants. It`s really draining for others and doesn`t make him seem a likable person at all – problem exacerbated, actually.

But eventually, he may no longer be able to act in any other way.

(Blog inspired by a discussion about Cristiano Ronaldo. We were wondering why he acts the way he does while he is already lavished with attention for his great talent and also from women.)

Why are women so mean about other women`s weight?

I sometimes get the impression they totally relish it when another one puts on weight or otherwise doesn`t look good in this department. (I rarely hear this kind of talk about skin issues or bad hair days.)

Today, I overheard yet another conversation which was just plain nasty. She`s off sick from work, and everybody knows she isn`t ill, so noone who would evoke warm feelings in the first place. Someone asked about her, and someone else said no, she hasn`t spoken to her again, but she`s seen on Facebook that she is currently in Turkey, and there were photos of her sunning herself in a bikini. The moment she said “bikini” the whole focus shifted and became rather ugly.

A women at my old work lost more than half her weight and then put it back on. And some of the women were pleased about it. When I lost weight myself a year or so later, this woman was my inspiration for keeping it off. I don`t don`t want to gain weight again because it doesn`t conform to my beauty standards or would cause me health problems, it`s because I don`t want to make myself vulnerable to nasty comments. I could easily afford another few pounds, but I couldn`t deal with the sneering. I just don`t have enough confidence to be, leave alone become or regain, fat.

I don`t particularly like envy comments either, but I can deal with them because I can see them for what they are. But against fat shame, you`re utterly defenceless, at least in the short term and definitely when you are at an age where you probably have to work really hard to not get even bigger.

I think most women have or had body issues at some point in their lives, and this makes me even more puzzled if I encounter such behavior. I also know women who were big themselves, lost the weight – and with it all the tolerance and compassion they were so wanting for themselves.

Please could someone shed some light? I really want to understand, at least sort of…

 

The Difference between Yours and Mine

I`m raised to know from a very early age the difference between yours and mine. My mum still prides herself that her children never opened other people`s drawers, never longingly looked at their possessions and never stole a single thing, but although this will certainly have made us easier children, I sometimes wonder whether it also made me an adult who is too reluctant to share.

Don`t get me wrong – I`ll give you anything you want, but today, I had a(nother) situation where I felt forced to give something away, and something from deep inside me wanted to cry out that I didn`t really want to.

I had a punnet of strawberries sitting on my reception desk which I ate while working away. While I turned round, a child (just under 2 years old) discovered the fruit and will have indicated that she wanted some, so the social worker picked one and gave it to her just as I was turning round. While the little one was already munching, the social worker (who is a lovely woman, just in case anyone asks) said I hope it was okay to give her one of your strawberries. I said of course it was (and meant it!), but three minutes later, the child pointed again, social worker picked another one and, while already handing it to the child, asked: “Can she have another one?” I blurted out “It`s my fault that I put them there in the corner, so yes, help yourself.” I think she got the message, as she moved the punnet and profusely thanked me once again for my two strawberries as they left.

She probably thought I was being mean, but something inside me felt that my rights were being violated, just as I did when my dad freely helped himself to our sweets right in front of us if we didn`t hide them, but punished us if he missed a couple of squares of his chocolate, stating that he bought this chocolate from HIS money which HE is working hard for.

Why am I still so damaged at the age of 40 by what my parents have done to me more than half a life ago?