Control -how to be in control of not being in control!

With the recent news overage about coercive control and it now being recognised as a crime, the word control still conjures up negative vibes in our minds.

But what if control were the only way we could get through the day? What if being in control was our safe place?

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Google the word control and get an idea of how many meanings we have for control.

Recently, I have experienced an array of ways in which control and the thought of having it taken away or indeed having it gifted, can send us into a spin…

Case 1 – A teenager who lives in fear that something will happen to her Mum, following years of emotional abuse from her father. Control of her environment is key. She has to know where Mum is all of the time and panics if Mum doesn’t instantly respond to her messages. This leaves her unable to leave the house out of school hours and is crippling her as she would love to go out and meet friends.

Case 2 – A young adult who has lived his life in the fast lane, spending all of his money (and then some) and finds himself at the age of 22 wanting to settle down with his girlfriend. She feels safe when she is “in” control whereas he feels safe when there is “less” control. Thus, there has been created a see saw whereby she feels frustrated by his apparent lack of commitment and he feels hemmed in by her planning and saving money.

Case 3 – A Mother who is facing the loss of control of her daughter who is about to move away from home to attend Uni. It’s not that she feels a need to control her daughter’s life, far from it. Rather that having to juggle the needs of her daughter and control how she does this has defined her. Shes almost losing control of her “self”.

Do any of these scenarios feel familiar to you?

Here is one of my top tips for managing your need to gain or give away control…

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  • Imagine you are the pilot of an airplane – you are flying the plane with your co-pilot
  • You are in control of the plane and the 150 passengers on board
  • You find that you need to use the toilet
  • Before you give away control, you have to ensure that your co-pilot is in control
  • In aviation, this exchange of control goes like this…

Pilot: “Bob, you have control”

Bob (Co-pilot): “I have control”

  • Not only do you now know that you have given control to Bob but he knows it too!
  • You can retake control whenever you want
  • You have the choice…the power to both be in control and to hand over control
  • So, either way – you’re in control of your choice

Cool hey?

Try it and let me know how it goes

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You’ve been Framed

As an INFJ, I have a never-ending need to learn. I satisfy this by constantly listening to others, mostly the amazing young adults I work with from whom I learn the most.

Professionally, however, I can usually credit little nuggets of wonder in my practice to my clinical supervisor who also is always teaching me and helping me to keep a student’s mind.

In our latest session, we talked about re-framing.

I often encourage my clients to accept that whist they cannot change certain things, they can change how they choose to react to them.

This is basically Re-framing  (check out a far more professional way of putting it here) but it always feels a bit of a mouthful and difficult to explain.

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Until!!!!! The amazing Carla told me how she does it…

Let’s imagine your problem is in picture format

You may not like the picture, you’re tired of looking at it and it makes you sad, angry etc.

Imagine taking the picture out of its existing frame and placing it in a new one…

The new frame can be anything YOU choose

YOU have control over the way the picture looks

YOU can change how the picture looks

It may always be the same picture inside but you can change the overall look of it by adding a new frame!

Easy Peasy!

So I say this to Carla…

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Can’t wait to use it!

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And…Breathe

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The Ultimate Four Letter Word

TRAGEDY!!

Sometimes we are faced with awful events over which we have no control. They send us into a spin and we have to use all of our energy and knowledge to process and work through them.

But what if we’ve never been exposed to a tragic event before? What if we’re a young adult and we’re experiencing tragedy in its raw form for the first time?

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Young adults are hardwired to be part of “something”. Often, whether they like it or not, that something can be the school community.

This can make it all the more difficult when something happens which directly affects the school community. The illness, disappearance or even the death of a school colleague can send a tidal wave of shock through a school instantly.

Add the immediate information source of social media and suddenly a dangerous game of Chinese whispers begins.

Here are some of my top tips for supporting young adults if you’re an educator or carer…

Listen, Acknowledge, Believe

We know that young adults can sometimes be accused of never letting the truth stand in the way of a good story but they do not know what is true and what has been inflated for dramatic license.

If they see a new “report” on social media, updating them on their school friend, they are likely to believe it.

Whether you know this to be true or not, it is important to acknowledge that they believe it.

Try and hear them out and then ask them how they feel about the news. Do they believe it? know it to be true? Remind them that there are trusted sources of information such as the school or the parents of their friend. Has the news come from there?

Remember that whether the news is true or not, it will have generated a felt reaction and this should always be acknowledged. Not to do so could result in the young adult withdrawing and not trusting you.

Create Space

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Don’t overwhelm your young adult. They will want to share this new experience with their peers which could come across to us crusty old adults as false and over-dramatising things.

Remember, for many of them, they will not have had a chance to test out the emotions created by a tragic event at school.

Let them see first hand how others react so that they can decide how they want to react.

You may find that your young adult sees the weeping and midnight vigils as pointless but nevertheless is having difficulty expressing how they feel.

As humans, we often want to make sense of tragedy and feel that we are doing something to help.

Be Practical

A school I work with recently had to deal with the tragic death of a former student. Students that I spoke to wanted to do something as a community and decided they would like to light lanterns together. This helped them to mark the loss and have some closure. For more information, see my blog about bereavement.

Things like an open book of condolence, memories or get well wishes can give students a tangible place to go and take some action, mixing with others can help too.

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Encourage students to record their thoughts and feelings on their phone or in a journal. This has can be as helpful as talking to someone.

Give Accurate Information

If you are a school, my advice is to connect with a trusted source of information. The family are the best source but otherwise, police or other support teams working with the family may be able to help.

Share information as and when you have it.

This can be difficult as the social media jungle drum is often the “go to” for news, fake or otherwise.

Be truthful with students from the offset and reassure them that you will share facts as a and when you have them.

Follow through with this!

Offer Support

Use your support teams and any mental health professionals to offer support. Sometimes, having a quick chat or a few minutes time out can really help.

Support doesn’t have to be a talking therapy. Make some quiet space for reflection if students need it and ensure that students will remain quiet. Libraries are often good for this.

Likewise, have a “support hangout” destination where more extroverted types can meet and talk about how they feel with others without fear of recrimination.

Most of all, use your common sense! And remember, you were a teenager once!

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An Idiot’s description of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT as it is lovingly known was the buzz word of the noughties when I was studying counselling.

This was largely because the NHS had decided that it provided an evidence based way of treating mild to moderate mental health issues.

The name really explains what CBT is…

Cognitive or cognition; the brain’s way of understanding and processing things

Behavioural; the resulting behaviours

Therapy; support to change negative behaviours

There are many ways in which therapists work with clients and CBT practitioners take the practice to a much deeper degree than we’re talking about here.

I am sometimes asked about CBT and how it can help. CBT has it’s uses particularly for trauma, fears or phobias and to challenge negative thinking.

For a much better explanation than I can provide, read what Mind say

CBT is like starting to go to the gym but instead of training muscles, we’re training the most important of all our organs, our lovely brains!

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There can be very quick results for us when we challenge our negative thoughts and investigate them. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know whether our thoughts are logical or not and CBT can be a great gateway to looking at inbred behaviours which do not serve us well.

CBT does, however, require some input from the person wanting to apply it. The best way to get the most our of CBT is to try and introduce it into our lives as a way of thinking. This takes time and devotion but it’s well worth it when we see the results which can include managing our anxiety and depression effectively

If you feel that you may be suffering from anxiety or depression, please do one of the following…

  1. Tell someone – a friend or family member. Sometimes verbalising what is going on in our brains can be a great release and telling someone you trust can help to share the burden.
  2. See your GP – in the first instance, you can get advice and a diagnosis. Also, if necessary, medication that you may need.
  3. Make a journal – write down how you are feeling. Amazingly, this can be as effective as talking and is especially helpful if you are not a natural talker
  4. Stay healthy – its a cliche but diet and exercise really do help. Watch sugary foods and try and eat plenty of fresh food rather than processed. Also, a 10 min walk each day can help with well-being. Does a work colleague fancy a stroll around the block at lunchtime? Could you organise a “walking meeting”?

For more information about CBT, contact the NHS Online where you can also find out about registered therapists.

If you like what you see here, please hit the “follow” button, leave me a comment below or contact me directly.

You can also see what I’m up to on Twitter and Facebook

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Gee – The end of her beginning

New beginnings…

I didn’t hear from Gee for a while although I had reports from other teachers that she had been back to school to collect belongings, projects etc. She had expressed to some of her teachers that she didn’t know if she could do it, move away, live life on her own.

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I had given Gee my details as I often do with students when they leave school. I explain to them that I work privately also and if they ever need to see me, to get in touch. It’s always a difficult choice for me as I know I must charge for my work, but I also know that my fee is more than most of these guys earn in a week. For that reason, I am always willing to be discretionary with my charges.

One day, I received a garbled email from Gee explaining that she had been on a night out with a friend and had driven into town, intending to leave her car and collect it the next morning. Gee’s friend had fallen out with her boyfriend and was about to walk home alone. Gee stopped her and they made their way to Gee’s car to shelter from the cold rain. Gee was not able to drive as she had consumed too much alcohol. Gee had started the engine to get the heaters to work and…yes…you guessed it! A knock on her window, followed by an argument with a police officer, resulted in a night in a cell!

Gee was horrified about what had happened and hadn’t known where to turn.

She ranted about how her Dad already hated her and would hate her even more now. He would never want anything to do with her again. Her chances of going to Uni and starting a new life for herself were now over. Her life was a total mess and what was the point!

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As I read the words, a mixture of fear, affection and anger bubbled up inside me.

We had come too far for her to hit that self-destruct button now!

I immediately emailed Gee and asked her to send me her phone number so I could call her.

A few minutes later she answered the phone, crying and panicking. I stopped her in her tracks…

“Gee be quiet and listen very carefully to me!” She did as I instructed. “Now, where are you?”

“I’m still in town” she sulked, “may as well go straight to a pub and get hammered now!”

“Don’t you DARE do that!” I ordered. “Now listen to me, get yourself a coffee and call your dad”

“B-b-but he-he hates me” blubbed Gee

“I’ve never heard so much nonsense in my life! That man has stuck with you through thick and thin, more than lots of biological dads do. Now get on that phone and give him the chance to prove me right!”

“But what if…”

“He gives you a massive bollocking? Take it! You deserve it! Gee managed a snivelling giggle

“Guess you’re right there”

“Now, I’m going to keep my phone available and I want you to call or text me when you’ve spoken to him, understood?”

“Yeh”

“Do you mean it?”

“Yes, thank you Sarah”

“Don’t thank me, get yourself sorted!”

As I rang-off I wondered if I had gone too far. Had I used the fact that Gee trusted me to make her do what I wanted? What if Dad really did throw her out? Oh well, no going back now.

Working with young adults is nothing like working with children or older adults. They demand a total and utter presence and they demand every last drop of anything you have to give. Never seeming to give anything in return, they test out all of their emotions on you and expect you to stay strong. If you don’t, they leave you for dead; if you do, they welcome you into their World and it’s very hard to leave.

Gee had an innocence and gratitude about her that I had rarely seen, and I knew this had to have been demonstrated to her at some point and my guess was that it was her Dad that had developed her sense of trust and loyalty.

A little while later, Gee texted me to say she had spoken to Dad and he was on his way to collect her and sort things out.

Phew!

The next time I was aware of any activity from Gee was when I heard that her Dad had loaded up his van and taken her to Uni.

Gee emailed me from time to time to say how much she loved Uni and how much she loved the area. I felt a real sense of pride and hoped and wished nothing but happiness for her.

After some months, the emails changed mood and Gee started to say she hated Uni and didn’t know how long she could stay there for. Christmas was coming so I encouraged her to stay until then and see how she felt when she got back.

The last email I got from Gee was to say that being away from home had helped her to realise that it wasn’t her home town she needed to escape but her own worries and insecurities. Gee now realised that she could indeed survive on her own, she was capable of making new friends and surviving independently.

The biggest thing that Gee had realised though, was that the very things that she had perceived as her issues were her greatest strengths.

Her family and friends.

“I feel like everyone has changed” she said. I knew that no one had changed except her.

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As I bring you up to date with this amazing story of resilience and growing self-acceptance, Gee has achieved a 1st in her initial degree assessments and, much to the annoyance of her Uni lecturer has decided to transfer to another Uni close to home, so she can be with her Dad and her brothers.

Good luck Gee!!

Much love xx

Oh, and by the way, you never did pay me! xx

 

If you like what you see here, please hit the “follow” button, leave me a comment below or contact me directly.

You can also see what I’m up to on Twitter and Facebook

If you liked this article, here are some more you might be interested in…

Gee – a real life story – Part 5

Gee – a real life story – Part 4

Gee – A real life story – Part 3

Gee – A real life story – Part 2

Gee – A Real life story