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.

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

Ask Us – Will I Ever be Able to Trust Again?

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

I am afraid to trust again. My husband was betraying me behind my back for years, and I had absolutely no idea. So, my question is how can I know it’s safe to trust another man.? I’m afraid that I’ll be duped again.”

When we’ve been betrayed, especially if it’s multiple times, or over a long period of time, then it absolutely natural to fear trusting again. It’s also natural to be afraid that you might miss something important – because you were successfully deceived in the past. It’s sad but it’s very understandable. Your fears here are normal, and are actually very healthy.

Let me beginning by saying : What you did in your previous relationship was right.

You were right to trust your ex-husband. We are meant to trust the people close to us. We can’t go through life constantly looking over our shoulder, or constantly checking to see if someone is trustworthy or not. It would be exhausting to live like that … And we would be very unhappy and insecure.  It’s not a good way to live.

The fact that your husband betrayed you is terrible. I can’t emphasize that enough. You should have been able to trust him. Period.

However, I want you to know that just because he was untrustworthy doesn’t mean all men are untrustworthy. I’m guessing that on some level you already ‘get’ that – because I imagine you already know guys who you think are trustworthy. It’s just that you’re afraid … Because it happened to you … And it was devastating …. And you’re not sure you could survive that kind of pain again.

It’s good that you desperately want to take care of yourself. You need to protect yourself.

I’m sure you also know that all relationships involve a leap of faith. No-one is completely knowable, and none of us has a crystal ball. We can’t have absolutely certainty about how anyone is going to behave in the future.

To a certain extent all relationships are a gamble. For all of us.

However, you can choose to engage your rational mind in the decision-making process. You can step back and try to objectively weigh up whether a new guy in your life really is who he presents as being. You can also ask other people for their input, as well.

And don’t be afraid to trust your intuition. It is looking out for you! Listen to any doubts you have.

Take them seriously.

Check them out.

Perhaps they are alerting to something important. But perhaps it’s also your fears that are speaking when you begin to feel wobbly and anxious. If that’s the case, thank them for wanting to protect you. Then, tell them you’ve done due diligence, and this man really does seem to be different from your ex-husband. 

Give yourself time. It’s a process. But if you’re willing to take things slowly, you may find it’s worth it in the end.

Trust is an active responsible engagement with the unknown. It is always a leap of faith.” – Esther Perel

You are my Reminder

“You were an unpleasant memory; now you’re my reminder.

You’re my reminder to be more cautious of the people I invest my time in.

You’re my reminder to see people for who they are, and not for who I want them to be.

You’re my reminder to fall in love with how people treat me, and not with what they tell me.

But if, by chance, I do fall for the wrong person again,

You are my reminder

that I can survive the worst.

– Author Unknown

I wish we never had to frame anyone as someone who is now ‘a reminder’ to us.

All of us deserve to be loved well.

To be treated well.

To be treasured, and honoured, and cared for.

But all too often that is not real life.

Some of us experience excruciating pain.

And pain at the hands of those we trusted, and loved.

This absolutely never should have been the case.

But if this is your story, then maybe take some time to look beyond the trauma. The damage that was done.

You’ve risen from the ashes. And darling, you’ve survived.

You’ve found a strength and fierceness you never knew you had.

Let It Be

“The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

We don’t just put it behind us and move on.  We don’t just forget, and start over again.  

We know that doesn’t work. That it’s just a fantasy.

That’s not how trauma, or grief, or sadness work.

They are all part of your story.  They are part of who you are.

Those memories and events: they will always be with you.

So you need to accept them.

And welcome them.

And make space for them.

You need to allow them to be true – whether you want them to be true, or not.

You need to allow them to be your reality.

Your life.  

You will never be able to stifle, or forget, or erase them completely.

So make room for them.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable and broken, at least for this moment.

Allow yourself to feel all the intense, scary, overwhelming emotions.  

Allow yourself to ache, and mourn, and grieve.

For the truth is – you will be stronger because of it.

You will be freer because of it.

And one day you’ll discover it belongs to yesterday.

And your today, and tomorrow, are not defined by this.

They tell me that Rome wasn’t Built in a Day

Healing is not an overnight process. It takes time.

Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re finally over something and happy again, and the wound will reopen.

Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. Take each day one step at a time.

Just try to be in a better place mentally and emotionally than you were yesterday.”

One of the hard things about dealing with a trauma is it’s so chaotic and unpredictable.

There are no easy answers.

There are no quick solutions.

Our subconscious holds the reins, and life can feel out of control.

Some forms of therapy can help, plus getting useful information.

Feeling heard and understood can make a huge difference as well.

But it’s like walking through thick treacle when we’re trying to move on.

The progress seems so patchy – and the feelings are so strong.

So, we just have to be patient, and accept that it’s a journey.

A journey that’s exhausting, and that tests us with each step.  

You celebrate the good days.  You hold tightly on to hope.

And gradually you notice the dawn’s begun to break.        

What are the Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma makes you feel like you are losing your mind. It puts you on an emotional rack and pulls you in opposite directions until you are begging for mercy. It yanks your sense of security out from under you and puts you in a state of emotional free fall. It is severely emotionally distressing, and until you have experienced it, you really can’t imagine how truly life-altering the experience can be.”

–Michelle Mays

When you have experienced betrayal trauma you are living in a state of emotional devastation, something that is very hard to navigate. Its symptoms include the following:  

1. Adrenalin and cortisol are surging through your body as your autonomic nervous system (ANS) prepares for “fight or flight”.

2. Your body and mind are screaming danger and threat. You feel as if you’re living on high alert.

3. For many people, when they start to calm down, the whole unpleasant cycle starts over again, and is repeated and repeated in a series of waves.

4. The fear of future betrayals, and what that could mean, keeps the internal threat response system activated, and ready to go into over-drive again. This becomes chronic, and a way of life.

5.  This means you are on an emotional roller coaster where emotions rise suddenly, are extreme, overwhelming and intense, are unpredictable, and hard to control. As a consequence of this, life feels frightening, chaotic and difficult to navigate.

6. When the ANS response system is triggered, it interferes with mental functioning. This affects your ability to focus, pay attention, concentrate, apply problem-solving skills, think logically, or analyze and process almost any information. Also, your memory is affected, and you can’t remember things.

7.  You feels as if you’re constantly being “rubber-banded” back into the past. Because of the intensity of this experience, it is hard to separate the past from the present; to feel grounded; and to be fully aware of, and responsive to, what is happening here-and-now.

8. When you’re living with emotional dysregulation, it is rare to experience prolonged periods peace and calm.

However, once you can identify what’s happening to you, and can start to articulate the trauma and pain, you can begin the long process of recovery. Hold on to that hope. You are starting to heal.