Diane Arthur Counselling

Press Articles #01

Loughborough Echo Articles

Read an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 20 November 2009

Money Doesn't Make You Happy But Therapy Does

Some of you may have seen my regular 'Love and Life' articles printed in the Loughborough Echo?

Here are four pieces in a series I wrote on basic emotions.

How Do You Handle Anger?
When Did You Learn About Fear?
Are You Suffering From The Blues?
Why Is It Hard To Like Myself?


How Do You Handle Anger?

Do you squash it down? Do you explode? Do you say you are not angry even when you really are? Do you believe you shouldn’t get angry?

More questions... How did you see anger acted out as a child? How did you feel when someone got cross with you? What were you prepared to do to make things better if someone got angry with you? Your answers give clues as to why you cope with anger today in the way you do.

Anger refers to a range of feelings, from the mild aggravation, irritation, and annoyance that we can feel when stuck, again, in the queue on Epinal way. The exasperation and frustration we experience when having a button pushing ordeal with a call centre is another example.

Stronger feelings, such as rage, fury, hostility, ferocity, bitterness, hate, loathing, scorn, spite, vengefulness, and resentment may emerge as a result of situations (such as divorce) where we believe we have been treated unfairly. Disgust, revulsion, contempt, envy and jealousy are based in anger too.

We all feel angry at some time or another and it is normal to do so. The truth is that feelings are neutral, there is no right or wrong to them. Feelings are an energy and passion that rises up in us in response to a situation.

The expression of anger is usually where we hit problems. Anger expressed in a violent and destructive way is unacceptable. The solution though, is not to bottle it up either. This, I believe, can lead to depression.

What do we do with our anger? The term ‘anger management’ has become a bit of a cliché these days but the notion is simply to channel the energy that anger gives us into a positive and affirming action. This could take the form of initially facing the truth that a situation is not working for us. On another level our anger can give us the impetus to courageously make necessary, but challenging, life-changes (while not harming others in the process).

There are times when feelings can feel overwhelming and getting outside help may be the best course to follow. It is possible to learn to deal with strong feelings in a positive, life-affirming way and to get a sense of choice when it may feel like there is none.

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When Did You Learn About Fear?

Most of us learned about fear in childhood. In the till queue last Saturday I saw a father with his fidgety three-year-old son. The lad was clambering over a basket holder, which was on wheels and top heavy. His Dad noticed and told the child to stop, but the lad did not respond until he was told that he may hurt himself.

As I watched this child’s small lesson in self care, I was reminded of how we are taught from an early age that the world is a dangerous place. Ultimately if we believe that the world is intrinsically unsafe, we are unlikely to thrive and be comfortable taking risks.

As well as learning about fear in childhood, and we also learn how camouflage it, work under the pressure of it and run to get away from it too.

Fear has many disguises, being an ultra-efficient worker can be a mask for fear of losing control. Procrastination can be the manifestation of fear of success and of failure both at the same time! Prejudice and racism are not very well disguised manifestations of fear.

There are two sides to fear; alarm and anxiety.

Alarm is a natural response to a trigger, we use words such as shock, fright, horror or terror to describe how we feel. We may feel mild alarm when watching a scary movie to extreme alarm if we are involved in a life-and-death situation.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is our early warning system gone awry. We usually feel anxious in response to what we think may happen. As we sit thinking about our forthcoming driving test / wedding / job interview / house move we may feel nervous, tense, uneasy, apprehensive, worried or distressed. The more catastrophic our thinking becomes the more anxious and paralysed with fear we become. Some people may experience panic attacks or other physical symptoms.

‘Nerves’ in some situations are normal, but many of us feel anxious a lot of the time. When anxiety is running high, the world can seem such an unsafe place that nothing is possible.

There is a twist to this tale, anxious people often have low self esteem. It is hard to feel good about oneself if you believe your life is limited. The opposite applies too, if you feel bad about yourself you are less likely to push your limits and prove yourself wrong!

If anxiety gets overwhelming it may be a good idea to speak to your doctor and to get help in dealing with life-limiting beliefs. What we believe about ourselves influences our perception of the world.

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Are You Suffering From The Blues?

It is hard to be sad or ‘down’ in a world that demands we be active, bright and optimistic. This can lead to feeling isolated from other people, especially if you persistently feel low.

‘Sadness’ describes a wide range of feelings, from disappointment to intense pain and anguish. Depression is a lingering and deep feeling of sadness. Sufferers use words like despair, hopelessness, unhappiness, grief, sorrow and misery to describe their condition.

Feeling depressed for a period of time after (for example) losing one’s job or the death of a loved one is natural and it is normal to need some time to grieve and recover. However, when one’s quality of life is significantly impacted and there is a feeling of being stuck, it may be useful to seek help.

What are the signs to look for?

Signs of depression show in behaviour and in the body such as social withdrawal, poor appetite or overeating, low energy, tiredness, aches and pains, problems with sleep, change in appetite for food or sex and inability to concentrate. Depression obviously affects our thinking; we are likely to be more pessimistic and lose interest or a sense of pleasure in life. We may think we are worthless and even have recurrent thoughts of death.

We all deal with loss in our unique way and our reactions will be affected by our previous experiences and our expectations for what might have been.
Let’s not to forget the effect of stress, long-term stress particularly, can leave a person feeling unable to cope, overwhelmed and powerless; in other words, depressed.
How do I know if I need to seek help?

It is important to respect your own process. Ultimately it comes down to finding a balance between giving yourself space and looking for appropriate help if you are feeling stuck.

If you suspect that you are suffering from depression, it may be an idea to speak to your doctor, particularly if you have been feeling down for a long time or if you are having persistent thoughts of death and suicide. Many doctors offer counselling or psychotherapy, as well as medication. Exercise and fitness programmes are starting to be offered as an alternative treatment for depression that is as effective as taking antidepressants.

My view is that depression does not come from nowhere; there will be a cause which can be addressed. Exploring the thoughts and feelings attached to the condition can lead to relief. Breaking the negative thinking cycle that underlies depression can be a major step in re-finding hope and an interest in life again.

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Why Is It Hard To Like Myself?

“Shame on you” - three little words that are so powerful and yet so devastating.

I’m sure we can all remember a ‘cringey’ moment when we had wished the earth would open and swallow us up so that we could avoid a situation or person. This impulse arose because we believed that we were somehow ‘wrong’ in our essence. Shame hits really deep and challenges our belief in our right to exist and our sense of self worth.

Let’s not confuse shame with guilt. Guilt is a feeling in response to external issues. If we, for example, bump into someone else’s car and damage it, it is appropriate to feel regret and remorse about our action. The fact we were careless in our driving doesn’t mean that we are a worthless human being. If you do start to feel worthless or useless you have slipped into the realm of shame. Using the word ‘slipped’ is appropriate because shame is insidious and creeps up on you. Shame is a very physical emotion, we feel it strongly in our bodies and it can make our minds go blank

Here is the nasty bit; shame is used as a tool to control others. We have all witnessed schoolyard bullying or teasing (if not been a victim of it). The bully’s main tactic is in inducing shame in the other. It is of course not limited to the schoolyard; religions, teachers, spouses and parents may use shame to control others too. Shame games are also present in racism and sexism.

Some people are more shame-based than others, probably due to their being shamed a lot in childhood. If one is a shame-based person then other people’s disapproval or anger can be devastating and trigger a shame response that takes you back to childhood.

Shame can be so crippling that it can stop a person functioning, no other emotion is like that. Shame makes us feel ‘bad’. Nobody likes a bad person, so how could we like ourselves? Ultimately shame removes the internal compassion and support that one would normally extend to oneself.

Healing the wounds of shame is a delicate business, one reason being that it is so easy to feel shame about feeling shame. However the experience of having a therapeutic non-shaming relationship can be healing. With time a person can start to feel that there is no flaw to their essential nature and that their presence on this planet enriches the world rather than taints it.

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Money Doesn't Make You Happy But Therapy Does
By Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent

A massive pay rise or even winning the National Lottery may not offer as much joy as talking about your problems, researchers have found. They warn that often we overestimate how much money will increase our happiness.
Research shows that therapy is 32 times more cost effective at making people happier. The boost to personal happiness triggered by an £800 course of therapy is equivalent to a pay rise of over £25,000, their findings show.
Chris Boyce, from Warwick University, who led the research, said: "Money isn't that effective at making people happy. "Of course if you win £40 million on the lottery it is going to change your life massively but there will be down sides attached to this.
"Psychological therapy is a very effective way of increasing people's wellbeing.
“On a day-to-day basis it is a question of what we want to aspire to, more income or better access to mental health."
He added: "Often the importance of money for improving our wellbeing and bringing greater happiness is vastly overvalued in our societies.
"The benefits of having good mental health, on the other hand, are often not fully appreciated and people do not realise the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non-directive counselling, can have on improving our wellbeing."
The findings also warn that financial compensation for victims of traumatic experiences is ineffective.
Instead, the state should provide psychological therapy.
The research reviewed the available evidence of the impact of money and therapy on people's emotional state.
The findings are published in the journal Health Economics, Policy and Law.

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