Welcome to couples counselling and coaching, my name is Lynn Armstrong, I work as a relationship facilitator, and stress resilience coach. I am a professional member of the ANLP. (The Association For Neuro Linguistic Programming).
I work with couples and singles who want to create and sustain loving and meaningful connection with their partners. If a couple are experiencing conflict in their relationship, it means something new is struggling to come forward!
With the right relational tools, we can transform conflict into a deep and meaningful connection!
When our relationships are going well, life feels easier, we feel more secure in ourselves and with life in general.The opposite is also true.. when our relationships are a source of stress and conflict, our emotional and physical health are affected. Stress hormones that are circulating in our bloodstream are a contributing factor to many illnesses.
If we want healthy loving relationships, we have to be willing to talk and listen in a different way…
We need a structure that keeps our communication safe for both partners.The safe communication dialogue is a way of talking and listening that allows for both partners to be truly seen and heard by each other.
Safe communication is created when we use this structured way of talking and listening. Here are 3 of the main elements of safe communication.
1.Listening without judgement (mirroring)
2. Validation (being able to validate the other persons point of view without judgement)
3.Empathising ( Getting a sense of what the other person may be feeling, and communicating that)
Safe communication means we have a zero tolerance on negativity, we learn to turn our complaints into requests.
I offer sessions by telephone, video call and in person. Do get in touch if you would like more information or to book a session. Sessions are 60 mins for couples and individuals. Email email@example.com
We all want to be independent, to be able to sort out and deal with our own lives. Occasionally we may need outside support, but once we become adults, we want to be able to support ourselves the majority of the time.
We all have inner resources to draw upon, such as our wisdom, knowledge, and experience. Sometimes however when we need to draw from our inner strength, we make a costly mistake…….
To illustrate what this costly mistake is, imagine this scenario.
You are sat on your sofa after work, feeling really tired, your also really thirsty, your whole body is aching, and even though you are thirsty, you end up falling asleep without getting a drink.. In your dream you see yourself feeling very thirsty, you see a water fountain, and you go and get a cool refreshing drink of water, in the dream your thirst is quenched.
Did the fact that you dreamt about having a drink of water actually quench your real thirst?….
When you wake up, you discover that you are still really thirsty, so, you head to the fridge and pour yourself a cool glass of water you drink it and are satisfied.
This scenario illustrates the mistake we can make when we go inside ourselves for inner strength and support, if we go to the fantasy illusiory part of ourselves, looking for answers, this willalways yield poor results.Because this part does not deal with reality, but with illusions, it is this part of us that is neurotic.This part of ourselves cannot reason, it is driven by unreasonable expectations and anxiety, it is the false self, and it cannot be trusted. This part of ourselves is not in touch with our wisdom or experience. This illusiory part feels victimised, and holds negative beliefs such as “noone cares”, or “I’m always alone”
Just as in our scenario above, in order to get what we really need, we have to go to the real authentic self for answers.This is the part of us that deals directly with reality, not with neurotic fantasies. The authentic part of ourselves is strong, wise, calm, knowledgeable, it is not controlled by neurotic emotions like anger, fear, blame, or victimhood. The answers to our challenges lie within.
Just as in our dream scenario, we cannot quench our thirst by going to a fantasy water fountain, and we cannot find the inner strength, courage and wisdom if we go to the fantasy illusiory part of ourselves.
If we feel overwhelmed with negative emotions and thoughts, we are in the illusiory fantasy part of ourselves, we cannot make good choices from this position. We have to wake up from the illusions of self and life.
The authentic self is reasonable, and not driven by negative emotions.We cannot find the resources we need if we are looking within our illusions for answers.
What is this fantasy illusiory self?…its the part of us that feels separate and alone, the part that has a self destructive script.
We become a safe place for ourselves and others when we are being our authentic self. The neurotic part of us may tell us “I can’t “.. but the real, authentic self knows “I can”…
Which part of yourself will you go to today for inner strength?
We all know the long term costs to our health and self esteem if we have a pattern of emotional eating, this term refers to eating for reasons other than hunger.
To begin the process of stopping a pattern of emotional eating, we first need to notice what preceeds the desire to eat.
Make a list of your triggers to eat (other than hunger), ie feeling stressed, overwhelmed, lonely, bored, irritated,etc. Also make a list of any rewards, such as eating to feel comforted, distracted, loved, cared for, for example.
Once you have your list, you now have valuable information as to why you engage in emotional eating.
Emotional eating is a conditioned response to a trigger or to seeking a reward. Here is an example from a lady I worked with who engaged in emotional eating, this pattern had led to weight gain and self esteem issues.
Lynn “So what is the behaviour you want to stop?”
Sandy.“I want to stop eating chocolate and cake most evenings, because I’m overweight, and feel generally unwell”.
Lynn.” Ok, so what preceeds the eating?, are you aware of what the triggers are?”
Sandy.“Its usually when I feel bored, and I want a distraction”.
Lynn.“Ok, so feeling bored is the trigger, and eating provides a temporary pleasurable distraction from feeling bored, is that right?”
Sandy.“Yes, that’s it”, but afterwards I feel awful, I feel guilty and weak willed”.
Lynn.“So you recognise that in the moment it may give you a temporary distraction, but long term you know it’s not a solution?”
Sandy.“Yes, that’s it, but it has felt like a compulsion to eat”.
Lynn.“Yes, that’s because it has become a conditioned response when you feel bored. Can you remember when you first began the pattern of eating cake etc when you were bored?”
Sandy. “When I was young, I grew up in a really quiet village where there were no kids my age, I can remember stealing cookies or cake to take to my room at night, I think I was just sooo bored and lonely, it provided a bit of excitement!”
Lynn.” So you can see back then that cookies were providing a distraction from the boredom that you felt, albeit temporarily. Then each time you felt bored, it would trigger the desire to eat cake or cookies.So in other words you became conditioned to associate eating cake or cookies as a distraction from boredom”?
Sandy. “Yes, I can see how unconsciously I created that link between avoiding boredom and eating cookies.”
Lynn.” Yes, so eating cookies was a means of getting something, it wasnt the cookies you really wanted, what was it?”
Sandy.“I wanted relief from the horrible boredom I felt, but cookies were the only thing I had to hand at the time”.
Lynn. Yes, cookies were a means to an end, not an end in themselves, it was wanting to avoid boredom that you really wanted, not the cookies. The cookies just happen to be there, and temporarily allowed you a distraction from boredom. What else do you think you could have done as a child to avoid boredom?
Sandy.“I would have loved to sing as a child, but I was so shy and my parents didnt really encourage it, I would sing secretly outside sometimes to myself”.
Lynn. “Yes, if you just take a deep breath, and imagine you are that young girl again, see yourself feeling that familiar feeling of boredom, only this time instead of reaching for the cookies or cake, your mum comes to you and says, “come on Sandy” let’s sing a song together”, you both start singing a happy song and your feeling great! What song are you singing?..
Sandy. “We are singing somewhere over the rainbow”,…(Sandy was now smiling, eyes closed)
Lynn.“Yes, and now see yourself at different times, knowing that a feeling of boredom is your cue to start singing! and you can sing anytime you want to you notice how good it feels! you know that it was never the cookies or cake you wanted, it was an end to the boredom you wanted! And now you have it ..now you have found something that ends the boredom, something that is really good for you!, really be there and feel what that feels like, to sing and feel good!
Sandy. “Wow!, that felt really emotional.”
Lynn. So now, you have this information that you didnt have before, you now realise you really do have a healthy enjoyable way of relieving boredom, and that there never was a link between eating and getting rid of boredom, it was just that you were not aware of other choices back then, you tried to meet your needs in the best way you knew how.
Sandy. Yes it does feel different, I feel like I really want to start singing lessons!
Lynn. Great! You can use this timeline method anytime you want to make a change, just like we have used it today.
Sandy had a few other conditioned responses to eating which we worked on over a number of weeks, she was quite quickly able to break the pattern of emotional eating.
To decondition emotional eating we have to firstly notice our triggers and rewards.
When a person traces back to the origin of the conditioned response, as in the case above, they can break the pattern, but only when they see that the link they made was arbitrary, in other words, it was a link created by them! ..and if other things had been available, such as being encouraged to sing for instance, then the singing may well have become the conditioned response toboredom instead of eating.
Emotional eating refers to using food for reasons other than hunger. We might get the urge to eat certain foods because of emotional triggers such as boredom, loneliness or anxiety.
The other kind of emotional eating is when we eat to get a feeling of reward. Such as wanted to feel comforted, secure or loved.
The problems associated with emotional eating include weight gain ill health, and low self esteem, in our next blog, we will be discussing how to break the cycle of emotional eating, by first recognising the triggers and rewards.
We all know that when our relationships are going well, everything else in life works better too. The opposite is also true, when our relationships are marked by misunderstanding and conflict, it has a knock on effect in other areas of our lives.
The ‘safe communication dialogue’ is a structured way of having a conversation, it is widely used in every kind of setting, from business, to schools, families and couples.
The safe communication dialogue is part of a relational technologythat promotes connection and understanding between people.
The dialogue process eradicates conflict and allows each person to feel really seen, heard and respected..
The diagram below illustrates how the quality of our communication with other people is affected by which brain state we are in.
The ‘safe communication dialogue’ keeps us in our upper brain (brain states 1 and 2) when we are talking and listening to others. The dialogue process prevents us beingtriggered into an unhelpful emotional response such as anger or anxiety. These negative emotional states come from the lower brain areas(3-5)
The safe communication dialogue helps us to create win wins , rather than competing about who is right and who’s wrong!
The dialogue process teaches us how to self regulate our emotional reactions.
For more information please contact us at couplescounselling family