Anxiety, Depression and Thankfulness

(Make sure you read to the end of the post!)

There’s a lot to be said for being thankful.

1.For a start, we have a lot to be grateful for – Even when we’re suffering, and life is full of pain.

Most of us will have a decent roof over our heads, enough food to eat, some family and friends … And then there’s the beauty that surrounds us in the world. When we start to think about it, the list becomes quite long.

2. Gratitude can also help us to keep things in perspective. When things are really tough, we usually feel quite negative. And feeling negative affects the way we see the world. There’s a dark and dusty filter over everything in life. We have lost all sense of hope. We expect the very worst. This is normal, and it’s natural, when we’re in this situation.

However, thinking of those things that we’re grateful for in life can help steady this imbalance (an understandable imbalance.) Yes, our friends have let us down, and they didn’t understand.  

But perhaps there are some things we can still be thankful for.

3. Being grateful helps to temporarily shift our focus from ourselves and our pain, onto the larger world again. It shifts it back onto a world which – it seems – is much the same. And that in itself, can help to ground us once again. It can offer some relief when it feels like chaos reigns.

What does the research tell us?

However, the research also shows[1] that when we practice gratitude, the effect is minimal if we’re anxious or depressed.

That is, it doesn’t change our feelings for any length of time.

What can we take away from this?

Yes, there’s value in being thankful. It can balance out wrong thoughts. But if you suffer from depression or anxiety, then it helps to know being grateful will have limited effects.

So, pay attention to the research. Show compassion to yourself.

And know that being thankful really isn’t a cure-all.

[1] David R. Cregg, Jennifer S. Cheavens. Gratitude Interventions: Effective Self-help? A Meta-analysis of the Impact on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s10902-020-00236-6

For the Fierce, Courageous Ones …

Have you ever had one of those dark, lonely nights?

And yet you have survived it; you’re here again today.  

Ready to keep fighting.

To keep on going

To keep on persevering, despite what you’ve been through.

And that is how you know you’re going to make it in the end

Because you’ve clung to hope, when you were sure that there was none.

Because you remained strong when you were tempted to give in

And in the heat of battle you were brave, and you stood firm.


Ask Us – Core Beliefs and Life Scripts

In this post we will briefly answer a question that was asked by one of our clients. Here is today’s question:

“I thought I had made progress, and had really moved on from my partner’s betrayal. In fact, I woke up this morning feeling great; but then something triggered me, and I was back in that horrible stuck place again.

Why does this keep on happening to me? I wish I could be free, and move on with my life.”

It’s so distressing when something like that happens. It can feel as if the past is hijacking the present … And, we fear it will hijack our future, too.  

Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.

When we find ourselves experiencing extreme emotions, it usually points to unhealed pain from our past.

1. Let’s start with the most obvious thing here (related to unhealed pain from our past).

Experiencing betrayal is a devastating experience. Its effects are far-reaching and profound.  

However, after the initial shock wears off, we usually try to process the most obvious losses – loss of trust; loss of safety and security; loss of the life we thought we had; loss of self-worth and self-esteem, and so on.

Working through those losses takes a lot of time and effort. It is extremely painful, and a roller coaster ride. There are unexpected triggers everywhere you turn.  

(From your comment it sounds as if you might have already done a lot of this healing work.)

2. Thus, what I think you might be referring to above goes beyond dealing with the devastation of betrayal. What I think could be happening is that triggers are tapping into other unhealed traumas and repressed memories. Let me explain …

What usually occurs, as we go through life, is we start to put together a narrative about how others see us; how they’re likely to treat us; and what we can expect for ourselves, and our life.

One thing to bear in mind is that painful, negative events have a particularly potent effect on our beliefs. Also, the negative beliefs tend to accumulate more, and are more strongly reinforced when something painful happens.

These beliefs greatly influence the person’s life script. The story I tell myself about myself. Often, we can’t even remember how we formed these basic views. In fact, we may not even know that we have these core beliefs.

What is the significance of this?

When we find that we are triggered, the intense over-reaction often doesn’t just relate to what is happening right now. Instead, it’s likely activated by a painful core belief that is part of the narrative we’ve formed about ourselves. Usually, this be something like the following:

No-one really cares about me. Others don’t think that I matter.”

“What I want, or how I feel, is irrelevant to others.”

No-one treats me well. I’m the kind of person who gets abused, mistreated, abandoned and rejected.”

I will never be wanted, or be genuinely loved.”

You can see how very painful these core beliefs are.

They are damaging and toxic.

And they’re also not true.

But we can see how, and why, they’ve developed, over time.

The solution?

To move forward, we need to look at all the negative events that have led to their formation, and have caused them to take root. Then, we want to challenge these beliefs so that our narrative is healthy, and we’re living out a story that is life-giving and healed.

This is the work of therapy.

Quote of the Day: Life Advice

Life Advice

Always be the best person you can be.

Be kind even when you’re tired. Be understanding even when you’re angry.

Do more than you’re asked, and don’t ask for anything in return. Don’t silently expect anything either.

Listen when someone talks; and really listen too. Stop just thinking of how you’ll reply.

Tell people that you love them, and that you appreciate them. Go out of your way to do things for people.

Be the greatest person you can possibly be and when you mess up, make up for it in the next moment, or minute, or day.

One thing you should never do? Never spend your time trying to prove to anybody that you’re great. Your actions will speak for themselves.

And we only have limited time on this earth, don’t waste it.

If someone doesn’t see your light, don’t worry. Like moths, good people are attracted to flame and to light, and they will come.

– Source Unknown

Forgive and Forget?

Memory serves an important function. There’s a reason why we’re gifted with a powerful memory. Those who tell us to forget the awful things that we’ve been through, are really not our friends.

They aren’t wise counsellors.

Why do we Need to Remember?

Why don’t we just bury the past? Why not repress the painful memories? Forgive, and then forget? Pretend that nothing has gone wrong?

Why? … Because our memory protects us, and we need to be protected. What good comes from forgetting? We could just be hurt again.

Also, our memories give us strength – for we survived the awful nightmare. We learned important lessons; we fought hard, and made it through.

And by remembering we help others who are facing their own nightmare. We understand their heartache, and can truly empathize.

We can also sound a warning – for we’re conscious of the dangers. We know the way this goes. We know our vulnerabilities.

And we understand the struggles; why we hesitate and stall. But what could be the outcome if we don’t act when we can.

Memory as a Gift

So memory is important. It’s a gift that we should prize. It safeguards all our futures. It protects us against harm.

There’s no shame is remembering, or in recounting the past. In fact, it is essential, and we owe it to ourselves.

“Remembering is a noble and necessary act. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered.”

Elie Wiesel

Why does Betrayal Kill your Desire for Sex with your Partner?

After betrayal, it can be hard to enjoy (or to even want to have) sex with your partner. You can feel there’s a wall that you just can’t break down. What are some possible reasons for this?

1. To really let yourself go, and enjoy having sex, you first need to feel safe and secure with your spouse. However, if they’ve cheated on you then it’s hard to feel safe.

Even if happened a long time ago.

Even if it wasn’t an actual affair, and your partner was addicted to online sex.

The fact, is we don’t feel safe anymore. And that makes it hard to be spontaneous now.

2. Related to this, if you’ve experienced betrayal then it’s likely you’ll feel some anxiety and doubt around having sex. There will be lingering questions: “Why wasn’t I enough?” “Am I pretty enough? “Is he happy with me?” “In his mind, is he judging and criticizing me?”  

Anxiety and safety can’t co-exist.

3. Sex has now changed from being a tease and a game, from something that is fun and which turns you on, to something with requirements, and a rating scale. (At least in the mind of the one who was betrayed).

4. When it comes to sex, we really want to feel desired. And we’d previously believed they had eyes for us alone. But, if our partner’s looked elsewhere, then we don’t feel we’re desired. Their actions sent the message that they wanted something else.

5. Eroticism is fuelled by curiosity, by a sense of the unknown, and of mystery. However, if we discover the unknown is betrayal by our spouse, then then this mystery and intrigue aren’t appealing any more!

6. If you contract an STD because your partner chose to stray, then self-preservation will prevent you wanting sex. There’s as instinctive response to protect your life and health.   

7.  Also, if your partner has deceived you, and has deeply damaged you, then abandoning yourself may now feel impossible. This resistance that you feel, and the lack of true desire, can be your body’s way of showing you your value and your worth. It is saying “Only give yourself to somebody who cares.”

The Death of Shame

“Shame dies when stories are told in safe places.” – Ann Voskamp

We all know what it feels like to struggle with shame. Just hearing the word “shame”, can start to conjure up the feelings.

But how to free ourselves from this burden that we bear?

What often helps the most is to share with someone safe, with someone understanding, who truly cares for you.

But how do we decipher who a safe person is? He or she should possess the following attributes:     

1. They listen. Really listen. Carefully, and with compassion. They are also non-judgmental in the way they listen to you. You can sense that they are trying to get behind your eyes, and understand the feelings and events from your standpoint. 

2. They validate your feelings. They ‘get’ the way you feel, and why you feel the way you do. Also, they tell you that your feelings and reactions are all normal.

Thus, they don’t correct your feelings, tell you how you ought to feel, or communicate your feelings are dysfunctional or wrong.

4. They communicate understanding. They don’t utter platitudes, resort to giving you advice, or suggest trite, easy answers to a complex situation.   

5. They are patient and accepting. They allow you to take things at a pace that works for you. Thus, you don’t feel under pressure to make some kind of progress. They let you change you mind, be inconsistent, or stand still.

For their goal is not to fix you; it’s to go through this with you.

6. They are comfortable with silence.  Sometimes, we want to sit silence – for there’s nothing to be said. No words can ease the heartache, and the facts cannot be changed.

 A safe person knows this. They are simply there with you. They offer you their presence so you don’t feel so alone.

7. They are completely trustworthy. You know this person talks to no-one. What you share will stay with them. You know they’ll never gossip. They will take this to the grave.  

For them … a confidence … is a confidence … is a confidence. Period.

Impossible Blackness

Are you a fan of jigsaw puzzles?

The first time I met my husband’s family, they were working on an unusual jigsaw puzzle. There was no cover picture on the front of the box.

Inside there was a booklet, a synopsis of a murder. And the murderer was revealed when the puzzle was complete.

Although it was intriguing, I disliked that jigsaw puzzle. I’m not too good at puzzles at the best of times. There were hundreds of dark pieces. Midnight blues, dark greens and browns. Too many shades of blackness. It was just impossible!

And yet, when it was finished, everything fell into place. There really was a picture. No, it wasn’t meaningless. And in a strange kind of way, it was a very striking picture.

I never would have thought that scene could look so beautiful.

Life as a Puzzle

This experience reminds me – just a little – of our lives. Too often it can feel as if there’s nothing that makes sense. We’re stumbling in the darkness; there’s no picture on the box. No guidelines or instructions. It can feel like we are stuck.

And if your life’s a bit like mine, then you’ve gone through some tough, dark times –

When life was very messy. Full of heartache, grief and pain.

You’d stare at all the pieces, trying hard to make them fit.

And yet it felt so pointless – for you knew they wouldn’t fit.

The Picture Revealed

It’s often decades later that the picture is revealed. And it’s a different picture from the one we thought we’d see.

For the disconnected fragments …. they’ve produced a masterpiece. We stare at it astounded – for it’s truly beautiful.

Not because of the black pieces.

In spite of the black pieces.

“She picked up the broken pieces of her life, and created something beautiful.”

Constructive Wallowing

In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it.” – Mitch Albom

There are times when we don’t want to feel our feelings … but we know that, in the end, this will only make things worse.

And one way to process feelings, so they don’t come back to haunt us, is by working on a practice called the T-R-U-T-H technique.  

This is described in Tina Gilbertson’s book: “Constructive wallowing: How to beat bad feelings by letting yourself have them”.

The 5 Steps in the T-R-U-T-H technique can be summarized as follows:

T – Tell yourself the situation:  Describe things as they are, in a non-judgmental way. For example, if you’ve just learned your spouse is having an affair you might say:

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I feel completely spaced out. I don’t know what to say. I think I’m in a state of shock.”

R – Realize what you’re feeling: There are no wrong ways to feel. All emotions are allowed.  Don’t pretend that things are fine. It’s important to be real.

So, in our case study example you might state something like:

“I feel stunned and shocked. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I think that I am feeling both angry and afraid.”  

U – Uncover self-criticism: We need to show ourselves compassion, and to be on our own side. We shouldn’t sabotage our healing by being self-critical.

Examples of self-critical thoughts might include:

I shouldn’t be taking this so badly. Other people have experienced and survived much worse things.”

“I should be over this by now. Perhaps there’s something wrong with me.”

T – Try to understand yourself: Try to analyze exactly why you feel the way you do. Once you uncovered the roots, you’ll find your feelings make more sense.

For example, you might state something like:

“I thought we’d both made a commitment, and I trusted him completely. That’s why I feel so broken, rejected and deceived.”

H – Have the feeling: Sit with the feelings. Experience them fully. They are saying that you matter. They are helping you to heal.

Note: These steps are not necessarily linear or sequential; often they occur simultaneously.