Taunton Somerset Counselling David Trott

Taunton Somerset Counselling David Trott

About the Author

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022. You may also contact David via email on: davidtrott747(at)btinternet.com Please replace (at) with @ in the email address.

David has a specific focus on integrative counselling, integrative counselling and psychotherapy, the integrative counselling model and the integrative counselling approach.

Keep up-to-speed with David's integrative counselling and psychotherapy articles that explores integrative counselling case studies.

Qualifications

David is a member of The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and works strictly within their ethical framework. As a fully qualified Integrative counsellor, he can adapt the therapy on offer, to best meet the individual needs of the client or group.

What is the BACP Register Counsellors & Psychotherapists?

The BACP Register of Counsellors & Psychotherapists is a list of BACP members who have met the standards for registration. In addition, the Register has gained an important quality mark of accreditation by the Professional Standards Authority for Health & Social Care, which is an independent body accountable to Parliament.

Website URL: https://somersetcounselling.org

The `Other` Addictions

When we think of addictions, many of us will focus on the more familiar ones that we may hear or read about or indeed be involved with. I’m thinking in particular of alcohol, nicotine, gambling, illegal or prescription drugs or pornography. These are the headline grabbers, the ones that motivate support groups and agencies that strive to help those affected. However there are many other addictions that cause misery, unhappiness and often danger that we don’t seem to hear so much about.

In my work as a counsellor I work with many clients who present with issues which have their roots in addictions. One which rears it’s head occasionally is` Thrill Seeking`. Some of us just seem to be natural thrill seekers and risk takers while others among us would rather keep our feet firmly on terra-firma and lead a more cautious existence. But what do we define as thrill seeking? After a quick peruse of the internet I was able to identify over fifty activities that we may consider exciting. These included bungee jumping, sky diving, extreme kayaking, wing walking, rock climbing, big wave surfing, cliff jumping, white water rafting, running with the bulls and cage diving with sharks.

We have all seen on TV a skydiver land back on earth and when asked by a reporter `How was it?` Reply `I just want to go back up there and do it again.` But what makes these activities so addictive? The reality is that Thrill Seekers share many of the same issues with more mainstream addicts; they get a rush from naturally occurring chemicals released into the brain like dopamine and testosterone and these are quite addictive. And so if the person wants to experience that heady and exhilarating feeling again they will repeat the event.

Research suggests that teenagers and adolescents are the age group most likely to take part in risky and dangerous behaviours and are more likely to gamble in experiments than adults. But again most of us have seen in the media a 95 year old great granny tandem skydiving or wing walking proclaiming that it was the best thing she had ever done.

Cosmetic Surgery.

In our society it appears that our appearance is becoming more and more important. Each day we are bombarded with images in magazines and on TV of the beautiful people posing, posturing and pouting in a parade of pride and vanity. So it’s no wonder that a few of us with physical things that make us unhappy about ourselves, seek cosmetic surgery to put them right. But let’s be clear, we are not talking about plastic surgery provided for people who have suffered injury, disease or birth defects where the main aim of plastic surgery is to restore the function and appearance of tissue and skin so it's as close to normal as possible. We are referring to surgery, which is carried out solely to change a person's appearance to achieve what they feel is a more attractive look. This desire to tweak what nature gave us by having procedures such as rhinoplasty, botox or fillers can be addictive and can lead to people pursuing the unattainable in the form of what they feel is the perfect body. Research has shown that the majority of people addicted to plastic surgery suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) a condition which is seen as a intrusive preoccupation with an imagined defect in one’s appearance. BDD affects only around 2% of the populace but in those seeking plastic surgery it’s 15 times higher. The disorder varies in severity but in worse case scenarios can cause severe emotional distress and can have a distressing effect on quality of life.

Grief Addiction

You might ask ‘how can I be addicted to grief?` You are right to ask but it happens. Here are two fictitious but entirely possible scenarios. Take the widow who visits the grave of her late husband. Initially the visits are regular but within acceptable limits but gradually they become more frequent as the woman becomes addicted to the feelings of sadness and sorrow she feels whilst she is there. Somehow these feelings become a tangible link, a bridge to her husband and she finds she cannot stop. We know of course that this will prevent her from moving along the transition from the shock and distress of losing a loved one to a place where she has accepted the death.

The other example of being addicted to grief is the young man whose father had died. The father was a fan of the American country singer and songwriter Don Williams and enjoyed his deep mellow voice and romantic ballads. The man’s father had vinyl LPs of the legendary singer and later when the son saw the album in CD form in a music store he bought it. In retrospect this could be seen as a mistake as every time the son played the CD he was transported back to his father’s house and the rich tones of his favourite singer filling the air. Although this might sound comforting, it upset the son and once again prevented him from progressing on from the distress of his father’s death because he was addicted to the pain of it.

Shopping

Generally here we are not talking about the weekly trudge with the trolley around the supermarket filling up with milk, eggs and Prosecco, it’s about people shopping for exciting things that they hope will make them happy. A frequently used collective title for people who have a shopping problem is shopaholics but I find that title slightly offensive so I will refer to them just as `problem shoppers`.

According to experts, there are several different types of problem shoppers, and these are:

  • Compulsive shoppers who shop when they are feeling emotional distress
  • Trophy shoppers who are always looking for the perfect item
  • Shoppers who wish to look like a big spenders and love big ticket items
  • Bargain seekers who buy things they don’t need because they are in the sale
  • Bulimic shoppers who get tangled in a vicious cycle of buying and returning
  • Collectors who need one of every colour and size to complete a set

Some people develop shopping addictions because they get addicted to how they feel while shopping. As they shop, their brain releases endorphins and dopamine, and over time, these feelings become addictive. It’s said that up to 15% of the population may lean towards these feelings.

Another unfortunate side effect of problem shopping can be debt and in particular credit card debt. I sometimes hear of people who are worried by this and so to cheer themselves up they go shopping, usually with a credit card. The thrill they get from buying something is often short lived and so when the buzz has left them they are left with an item they probably don’t need and more debt which make s them feel bad and so they go shopping to feel better. It’s an awful cycle that goes round and round and needs professional help to overcome.

Hoarding

Filling one’s house, garden and garage with things is known as `Hoarding`. Our understanding of this distressing situation has been greatly helped in recent years by excellent TV programmes such Channel 4’s `The Hoarder Next Door` where we see people who have surrounded themselves with possessions and who cannot bring themselves to part with them. In almost every case, as the story unfolds, the person is found to have suffered some form of trauma or loss in their life which is seen as the start of their hoarding behavior. A Hoarder may feel a need to surround themselves with things which gives them comfort and a sense of security in their vulnerable state. The problem of course is that the amount of possessions can get out of hand and then affects the functionality of their house. However, despite the difficulties that their hoarding creates, the client finds it extremely hard to let go of their things because doing so would cause more trauma through the loss and separation.

In severe cases we see people with so many possessions that they are unable to use rooms in their house for the purposes that they were intended. For example people that are unable to reach their bed and so they sleep in a chair amongst their hoard or they cannot use their kitchen or bathroom because of the clutter. It’s not unusual for the person’s hoard to have little or no monetary value but none the less the person will have an ultra strong attachment to it and will become extremely upset if someone tries to clear it. Therefore it’s easy to see why treating Hoarding Disorders can be quite difficult. This is partly because very often Hoarders don’t view their habit as an issue and have little appreciation of the effect it’s having on their lives. Those who do realise they have a problem may not ask for assistance because they feel ashamed or embarrassed.

Possible Signs of Addiction

Addiction shows itself differently in each person, and indications of addiction vary based on what the person is addicted to. Behavioural addiction does not exhibit the same physical symptoms as drug, alcohol or substance abuse. Some signs of addiction that aren’t physical include:

  • Considerable amount of time spent engaging in the behavior
  • Inability to stop engaging in the behavior
  • Inability to complete obligations at school, work, or home
  • Relationship issues or social problems
  • Increased tolerance to the addiction
  • Withdrawal symptoms if able to stop
  • Previously enjoyed activities abandoned

Treatment

Recognizing one has a problem is the first major step in recovery from any addiction. For the `other types` of addiction that we have examined above, counselling with a professional therapist is the next logical step. A Integrative Counsellor will draw from many of the major approaches to counseling and include them in a way which treats the person as a whole and views the nature of the person in an `inclusive` way. Integrative Counselling leans heavily on the relationship built between the client and the therapist and the trust established here will enable thoughts and feelings to be explored as to the origins of the compulsion or addiction.

Counselling sessions will almost certainly include the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is widely used in the treatment of addiction. It’s likely that a client will have their beliefs about their addiction challenged by the therapist. Are their beliefs actually true and is there evidence to support them?  The client may be asked to do `Homework` between sessions: watching for incidents and occurrences which trigger the need to feed their addiction or compulsion. A journal may well help to record these events and provide a starting point for the next session.

To summarise then; there are many `other` addictions out there that one may not immediately think of as addictions. But simply put, if any activity or thought, large or small causes a problem and we can’t stop doing it, then it’s an addiction and it is best attended to.

© 2024 David Trott

What To do Next

If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

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Reason or Excuse?

In the Counselling Room I often have people come along who are troubled by an activity they are doing which they feel is counterproductive to their wellbeing. Some examples of this are: getting into bad relationships, abusing alcohol, over spending, using illegal drugs, overeating or getting little or no exercise. Maybe not surprisingly I view these activities as more of a symptom of their issues rather than the root cause. 

Over the past two years we have experienced a threat to our health, unheard of in our lifetime. Lockdown forced us to stay at home, isolate ourselves and abandon social and group activities. For many it felt as if they were prisoners in their own home, with little or no contact with the outside world. To help many of us to get through those unpleasant times, coping mechanisms established themselves and new habits were born. The most obvious of these are comfort eating, sedentary occupations like watching daytime TV and screen time and an increase in alcohol consumption. The result of these excesses has been mirrored by an increase in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and motivation and self esteem concerns.

For many attending counselling sessions there appears to be a trend: A move by clients to feel they have `lost their mojo` in other words their confidence, energy or enthusiasm. This often goes hand in hand with weight gain which just strengthens the unhappy cycle they are locked into. In therapy of course we look at ways to break that cycle because as we know, if we do the same thing every day, then things will always be the same. Albert Einstein said it wonderfully with “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

What readers may find surprising is the severity of the self criticism that some people levy upon themselves over what they have done or what they are doing. One question often asked by therapists is “Would you be as harsh on other people as you are on yourself?” The answer is predominantly “No”.

In CBT, we work with the theory that it’s our belief about something rather than the actual event itself that upsets us. For example, we are late for our doctor’s appointment and so we get put at the back of the queue, which causes us to get angry. It’s possible that we have a belief about the situation that causes the anger i.e. there’s too much bureaucracy and red tape about seeing the doctor rather than the fact we were late and got placed at the end of the doctor’s list.

With this in mind we might look closer at the viewpoint of clients who see their coping mechanisms as personal failures and label the actual events behind them as `excuses` and not `reasons`. Take the person who has suffered bereavement. This person might take solace in eating chocolate regularly but begins to feel bad because they believe that the loss they are suffering is just an excuse to eat the confectionery. I view the bereavement as the `reason` not an excuse.

Reason or excuse – what’s the difference and if there is one, what is it?

According to my source a `reason` is simply an explanation or justification for something.`1  I take this to mean that the reason we might have an apple fall on our head when walking in an orchard is because of gravity. The same source says that an `excuse` is `a reason or explanation, not necessarily true, given in order to make something appear more acceptable or less offensive`. An example of an `excuse` could be someone oversleeping and being late for a meeting at work. To avoid ridicule and derision from colleagues, they might say that there had been an accident which blocked the road for a while. This of course shifts any blame onto others and exonerates them from any responsibility.

So there we are. Reasons are solid and genuine explanations as to why we do something or why something has happened. While `excuses` are wobbly, shaky justifications to help us wiggle off the hook or to save face. It’s clear that `reason` and `excuses` are definitely not the same thing. With this in mind, if we find ourselves self soothing because of some unpleasant event, let’s be kind to ourselves and not beat ourselves up quite so much. There’s a reason behind the chocolate eating, it’s not an excuse. 

What To do Next

If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

©2022 David Trott

Encarta World English Dictionary. 1999. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc London.

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Hiding in Plain Sight

In the brilliant cops and robbers classic film `The Italian Job` (1969) starring Michael Caine, there are many clever and memorable scenes involving the trio of red, white and blue Mini Coopers that whisk away stolen gold from under the noses of the Italian authorities. One of these scenes shows the Minis being closely chased by the police around a large car sales site.  To evade capture the Minis race into a British sales area and quickly park amongst the other Minis there. The hapless police pass close by without seeing our band of likeable rogues, who are hidden in plain sight.

In a recent episode of `New Tricks` on TV, our vintage detectives discuss where their dastardly villain might have hidden a valuable book. After careful consideration it was decided that the aforementioned book was probably hidden in the London Library with the other one million books.

It’s often been said that if one is kitted out with a high visibility vest, hard hat and a clip board, one can wander around almost anywhere unchallenged. Similarly who would really notice someone in a white coat with a stethoscope around their neck and a sheaf of papers under their arm in a hospital?

Moving away from the fictitious world of Film, TV and imagined scenarios and into the sometimes harsh brutality of real life, we have seen examples of people in the public gaze leading a kind of Jekyll and Hyde double life. One such person of course was Jimmy Savile and although there were many allegations of his activities during his lifetime, these were largely dismissed and the accusers ignored. Hiding in plain sight, Savile was said to have been given an office in the grounds of Broadmoor Hospital where he worked along with a bedroom and a set of keys to the wards. Widely praised as a fundraiser of an estimated £40 Million during his lifetime and decorated by the Queen, Savile’s real legacy is far darker for his many victims.

Another person hiding in plain sight was Harold Shipman, the GP turned serial killer who was convicted of murdering 15 of his patients but was thought to have actually killed around 250. Seen as a respected member of the community but lacking the celebrity of Savile, Shipman was interviewed in 1983 for an edition of the Granada Television’s documentary World in Action on how the mentally ill should be treated in the community. No doubt Shipman gained some pleasure from his appearance on TV in front of millions, while successfully concealing his true nature.

It’s widely recognized that a high percentage of murder victims know the perpetrator and this ties in with TV appearances by some people who know more about a crime than they are disclosing. In the past we have seen many relatives of victims on TV, apparently overwhelmed in grief, appealing for help and information regarding their loved one, only to be arrested and charged later in connection with it.

In 2002, the Nation watched as Ian Huntley a College caretaker in Soham, spoke to reporters on TV about missing school girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. He put himself at the centre of the investigation by claiming to be the last person to see the girls and appeared to want to help by showing the police around the College and assisting in the search. He attempted to point the finger at others and away from himself and tried to build a relationship with the police to gain information about DNA. He seemed almost too helpful but his few minutes on TV went far and wide and soon reports about his history flooded in to an already suspicious investigative team. Following the discovery of items of the girls clothing at the College, Huntley was arrested and charged on suspicion of abduction and murder. Shortly after came the awful news that the bodies of Holly and Jessica had been found, which dashed the hopes of the nation that somehow a happy ending would transpire.

Many experts have dissected the film of Huntley frame by frame and have pointed to words and mannerism which indicate where this evil double child killer was lying.  Huntley tried and failed to hide in plain sight and went down for a minimum of 40 years. In setting this minimum term of imprisonment, Mr Justice Moses stated: "The order I make offers little or no hope of the defendant's eventual release.

So, how do we relate the concept of `Hiding in Plain Sight` to the world of Counselling and Psychotherapy?  I believe this is subjective and that there’s no one single answer, which leaves you the readers to make up your own minds. However, therapists are very aware that often a client’s presenting issue is not the true one and that something else lies at the root of their distress.  It’s about using all of our skills, being watchful and alert in our work to identify when a client could have been a victim of a perpetrator living and hiding in plain sight. We know that abusers can very clever, manipulative and controlling in their activities and as a result can often leave victims with the belief that somehow it was their fault. Shattering that belief and setting the client free from their ingrained guilt through careful therapy has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. It’s just tragic that there are still so many wounded people out there, victims of those abusers who hide in plain sight.

What To do Next

If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

©David Trott 2021

 

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Small Steps: A Brief Look at Change

The first signs of the New Year that most of us see are often the fireworks over Sydney Harbour in Australia that illuminate the iconic Bridge and Opera House a good ten hours before we celebrate the occasion here in the UK and this year has been no exception albeit slightly muted. It’s likely that people will not mourn the passing of 2020 too much with memories of the Covid-19 epidemic reeking chaos and misery across the world. However with all of our own country now in total lockdown and huge numbers of the new variant of Covid-19 cases every day I guess there’s little enthusiasm for celebrating the arrival of 2021 except for the promise of the vaccines.

For many people, the New Year can bring about ideas of making changes to their lives in the form of Resolutions. In years past it was not unusual for people to draw up lists of these pledges, which might have included: to stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, lose weight, get a better job or take the dog out more often. However, unfortunately New Year Resolutions are seldom kept and this can bring about feelings of disappointment in us and so we feel worse. The main reason for the lack of success of these promises is that they are often unrealistic and also unachievable without outside support.

As therapists of course, we are in an excellent position to provide this support and that is why at this time of year our counselling and psychotherapy world is usually extra busy. Depending on our modality, we might employ the S.M.A.R.T. approach: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed.

For example Specific might be going cycling to keep fit. Measurable - deciding how often and how far one might go. Achievable - confirming one is up to the task – are there any reasons why this can’t be done, health etc? Relevant – will this help to keep fit? Timed – when will it start, how long, when will progress be reviewed?

In Counselling and Psychotherapy we can work with our clients to decide if the changes they want to make are achievable. In my work with clients I sometimes use John Bird, the founder of The Big Issue magazine as an example of how to break down a problem into manageable chucks. In his book ‘Change Your Life – 10 steps to get what you want` (2008 Vermilion Publishing) he writes of his chaotic younger years of being imprisoned in a young offenders’ institution at the age of fifteen, where he was locked in a cell for 23 hours each day.  He had been abandoned by his family and felt disliked by everyone.  At one point he ran away from the institution but was caught and taken back. As a punishment he was instructed to dig over a huge field with a spade and a pitchfork.  The size of the task was meant to overwhelm and beat him but he was determined not to let that happen.  Mentally, John divided the field into small squares of 3% which straight away made the task more manageable and also meant that he could measure his progress. Every time he dug over a square he felt he had achieved something positive and this made it easier to keep going.  By breaking down this huge job into small steps, it was no longer daunting. This was the birth of his now legendary 3% rule.

Breaking down the problem with baby steps, small steps, little victories or the 3 % rule will almost certainly make the issue in question more manageable but we still need to decide together if the ultimate goal of the client is actually achievable. Clients wanting to be CEO of M&S by Easter, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World by the end of the summer or an Astronaut by Christmas will need all of our helping skills if they are to avoid a feeling of disappointment. Here the application of a Force Field Analysis might be useful to identify Hindering Forces and Facilitating Forces, allowing the clients to build a tangible picture of the pros and cons of their wishes. Those of us that have reasonable expectations of what we are able to achieve will often surpass those expectations and in doing so will improve our self esteem.

When a new client arrives at our counselling room and after the pleasantries and admin are over, one of the first things we might ask is `So, what brings you here?` and later `What are your expectations of counselling?` or `What are you hoping to achieve?` And however cloudy, vague or guarded the answers might be, we then tease out what their goal really is. But there’s a huge underlying factor here and that is hope. Our client has singled us out from the possibly dozens of therapists in our area. They have probably trawled the Internet for some time, reading the profiles, studying the pictures and comparing qualifications and modalities and after all that they have chosen us. They have chosen us because they believe we offer hope in the shape of getting from where they are now to the place they want to be. And there’s the balance isn’t it? Optimism and hope for change within achievability and realism.

What To do Next

If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

©David Trott 2021

 

 

 

 

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Isolation: Why It Feels So Strange

The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 is the biggest and worst threat to our health and wellbeing in living memory. The previous one being the H1N1 Flu virus of 1918-20 which infected an estimated 500 Million people worldwide and killed somewhere between 17 to 50 Million.

Here in the UK, as in many other countries we have been living with measures put in place to reduce the spread of the virus, this has included staying at home, working from home where possible and staying apart from others outside of our household. A few exceptions allowed us to go shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine and some form of exercise once a day.

Around the middle of April saw what many believe was the peak of the pandemic in the UK and on Sunday 10 May the country watched and listened as Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation about changes for England concerning what we can and cannot do. We heard how people who cannot work from home will now be actively encouraged to go back to work and that English primary schools may be ready to open in stages from early June.

The rules about being outside have been relaxed a little for England and people will now be free to spend much more time exercising outdoors and will be allowed to sit in parks and play sports with others from their household, however the rule about keeping at least 2 metres apart definitely still applies.

Even with the relaxation of some rules in England, the UK has never seen restrictions like this in peacetime and so it’s likely that many will still struggle with the isolation and loneliness. This is because humans are sociable animals and are generally happier in herds and packs. Take the car park scenario: a car park is virtually empty except for one car parked in the middle. A second car enters the car park and has the choice of parking anywhere it likes. So where does it park? Yes – as close to the other as possible, sometimes even making it difficult to open the doors.

A similar example is often seen on a sparsely populated beach where we might view a couple happily reading their books in peace and quiet. Then a family arrive and with the whole beach to choose from, decide to camp next to the couple. There follows football, flying sand, Frisbees and the obligatory barbeque and the associated clouds of smelly smoke.

If we consciously choose to congregate together or if it’s an unconscious animal instinct is open to debate. But rest assured, when we encounter someone stepping on the backs of our shoes at the supermarket check-out or driving very close behind us on the roads, it’s an example of people being happiest when they are herded together. It’s likely that these people have little or no spatial awareness in relation to other people and as such will find social distancing more difficult to understand and to comply with.

The desire for company and the terror of isolation felt by some was never better portrayed than in the 2000 film `Cast Away` starring Tom Hanks. In the film Hanks plays a Fed-Ex employee called Chuck Noland who is marooned on a desert island following a plane crash. The film follows Chuck’s struggle for physical and mental survival which includes befriending a washed up volleyball which he calls `Wilson`. Later in an excruciating and agonising scene Wilson is lost and Chuck is engulfed in a tsunami of loneliness. With very little dialog in the island scenes, the film pulls the audience into an uncomfortable feeling of isolation, loss and separation.

So with this in mind, how are people managing during the Covid-19 crisis with the current restrictions? Dr Adrian Hyzler, Chief Medical Officer at Healix International1 offered some useful advice at the beginning of the lockdown to aid our mental wellbeing and help to stave off the negative psychological effects including anxiety, post-traumatic stress symptoms, anger and confusion.

According to Dr Hyzler, one of the most important things to do is to maintain a routine that resembles your `normal` life. It might feel tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day but shower and get dressed in your usual way: this will help you feel productive and useful.

Eating well is vital for maintaining your physical and mental well-being as is exercise and that could be as simple as walking the dog or the use of any exercise equipment that you may have at home.

To avoid becoming bored during our time at home it is good to stay entertained. Read those books that you always meant to read, write a journal or listen to music but remember to stay connected with others. This can be done with Skype, Zoom or some other video link. Failing this there’s always the good old landline to stay in touch with family, friends or work colleagues. However, don’t bombard yourself with those terrible stories on social media and the news channels. Switch it off for a few hours and give yourself a `digital detox`.

Being isolated doesn’t mean that one cannot have fun. Why not join an online community to play Scrabble, Monopoly or some other traditional game, which, as well as being entertaining will give a sense of connection with others. Then of course there’s DIY: it’s an ideal time to catch up with all those jobs around the home that have been put off while we have been doing other things and many of the well known DIY shops are open albeit with restrictions for staff and customer safety.

For myself, it feels odd not to be able to see clients at the moment in my role as a counsellor. As one who has always worked face to face with clients, the thought of moving across to working on-line or on the phone seems a little daunting but it’s an avenue I will probably have to venture down in the near future.

No-one knows how long this situation will go on for: there are only theories and guesses and models often based on what has happened in other countries. However we will eventually come through this but it’s likely things will never quite be the same. For many the change will include loss. This might be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or business or the loss of an innocence or belief. In a time when people seek reassurance it’s ironic that churches are closed and for the moment therapy rooms have to remain empty.

© 2020 David Trott

Source: 1 - iPMI Magazine: What Will Get Us To The Other Side Of This Pandemic? By Dr. Adrian Hyzler, Chief Medical Officer, Healix International/HX Global.

Photo Credit: Christopher Knight. Godrevy Lighthouse, St Ives Bay, Cornwall.

What To do Next

If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

Read more...

Embracing Uncertainty: We Look At Leaving Our Comfort Zone

For most of us there’s often an element of uncertainty in our lives: we never quite know what’s around the next corner. We could experience this in our family life, in our recreation or in our work. This unknown aspect of our existence can add spice and interest to otherwise ordinary days or can cause unease and disquiet, depending on one’s outlook.

In the world of counselling and psychotherapy it’s no different, one never knows what issues will be brought into the therapy room when a new client comes through the door. Sometimes there will be some background information because things have been mentioned in the e-mail or phone call when contact was initially made. This knowledge is often offered by the potential client because they want to know if I can help them in that area or if it is something outside of my field. While helpful in some respects, I prefer to know nothing of a client until they sit in the chair and they start to tell their story. For many that might be an unsettling scenario, but I have to own up to having a penchant for this uncertainty and I actively embrace it.

So what sort of issues surface in the therapy room? The short answer is – everything. The most frequent problem seems to be anxiety and depression, which when examined is often linked to other underlying issues such as relationships, work, self esteem, addictions, childhood abuse and money. So it’s important to unravel what’s below the surface and covert, rather than what’s floating on the top.

Uncertainty of course is not just a visitor to my domain; the client no doubt will be feeling some unease at meeting a counsellor for the first time. They may wonder if they will get along together, what will be expected of them, will it really help and countless other thoughts. The relationship between counsellor and client is paramount for psychological change to occur, although the client may feel at times some dislike for the therapist if they are being challenged on deeply held beliefs or viewpoint.

For many people it’s more comfortable to carry thinking and behaving in their habitual ways rather than make changes, because at first these changes feel all wrong. In counselling we look at the neural pathways that get established in the brain over time that maintain patterns of thought. These pathways are like tracks through a wood that we keep going down because to veer off the well trodden path and make a new one is hard. So it’s not unusual for clients to want to alter and improve their lives but seek reassurance that they themselves do not have to change.

A popular approach to making those changes within therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and works by the client being shown the link between events that happen in our lives, our beliefs about those events and our resulting emotions and behaviour. A key aspect of my work with CBT are the `Ten Unhelpful or Irrational Patterns of Thought` - a handout that I often give to clients. Listed here are the ways of thinking that as the title suggests are unhelpful in our lives. Most of us will experience these at some time or another but they are like the tide at Weston-Super-Mare; they come and go. The danger is when we think in those ways rigidly and inflexible all the time.

The Ten Unhelpful Patterns of Thought are:

  1. All or nothing or black and white thinking - perfectionism. All or nothing thinking is extreme thinking that can lead to extreme emotions. People either love you or hate you. Something is either perfect or a disaster.
  2. Overgeneralising - sweeping statements. The error of drawing global conclusions from one or more events. We tend to assume irrationally, that if one thing goes wrong everything else will.
  3. Mental filtering - focusing on the negative. Glass half empty. Mental filtering is a bias in the way you process information in which you acknowledge only information that fits with a belief you hold.
  4. Mind reading - assuming you know what others are thinking. With mind reading the tendency is to assume that others are thinking negative thoughts about you.
  5. Fortune telling - you think you know what is going to happen. You probably don’t possess extrasensory perception that allows you to see into the future
  6. Awfulising or Catastrophising - exaggerating the importance of something. Thinking that a situation is worse than it is. Awfulising is taking a relatively minor negative event and imagining all sorts of disasters resulting from that one small event.
  7. Emotional reasoning - assuming your negative emotions are how things are. Confusing feelings with external reality. Your partner has been spending long nights at the office with a co-worker for the last month. You feel jealous and suspicious. Based on these feelings you conclude that your partner is having an affair with their co-worker.
  8. Labelling and mislabelling - using inaccurate and emotive language to describe a person or an event. You may label the world as `unsafe` or totally unfair`. The error here is to label something that is too complex for a definitive label.
  9. Making Demands - Thinking Inflexibly. Got to, need to, have to, should, must, ought to statements - result in guilt about yourself. “I should have looked after my parents better” .
  10. Personalization and blame, removing yourself from the centre of the Universe - you see yourself as the cause of some negative external event. Taking excessive responsibility for bad things. Major negative events are very rarely the responsibility of just one person.

Embracing uncertainty means leaving that well worn path and making new ones, despite the feeling of strangeness that will occur. It’s about thinking in a different way and recognizing when those negative automatic thoughts rise up and consume us. We have a choice of how we think and it’s possible in the first second or two of a stimulus to change how we react: replacing those old tired patterns of thought and thinking in a new way about ourselves, or in fact about anything.

An indicator of one’s propensity for `stuckness` might be seen in simple ways. When we buy clothes, are they usually in the same style and colours? Do we mainly do the same type of holiday or do we actively seek out and experience different cultures? Do we experiment with food: trying new dishes and recipes? Do we rigidly stick to the same make of car and get in a spin when something changes, like the man I knew who bought a brand new Ford Escort every two years. As we know the Escort was a very popular reliable motor and had a run of around thirty-six years. It was produced in around six different Marks, many special editions and went through numerous transformations and upgrades. When it was eventually replaced by the Focus the man in question didn’t buy one because it wasn’t an Escort. Had this new model just had an `Escort` badge on it, he would have.

As mentioned at the start of this piece, uncertainty can add spice and colour to one’s life and no doubt this is partly why the Lottery and Bingo are so popular: we are uncertain if we are going to win. On a higher level, there may be times when we consider our own existence and ruminate on where we came from and where we are going when our time is done. Many will have a solid belief that they know the answer but many will experience uncertainty around this existential question and this is another of the issues that surface in the counselling room.

If you are currently in therapy while reading this, you will have noticed that your therapist does not give you advice or tell you what to do. Instead they will support and guide you while you explore your own thoughts, feelings and behaviour before reaching your own conclusions. This is because there is far more value in what you discover for yourself than things that we are merely told. With this in mind, do take this opportunity to stray from the comfortable and the familiar and stretch yourself mentally and make some fresh new pathways in your brain, it will feel odd, but do it anyway and wholeheartedly embrace uncertainty.

What To do Next

If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

David Trott © 2019

 

 

 

 

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Bereavement: Making Some Sense of It

It’s almost certain that at some point in our lives most of us will experience bereavement. It might the loss of our parents, spouse, children, friend, colleague, neighbour or someone that we feel we know like a TV star, celebrity or even royalty. Whoever it is, they will leave a void in our lives consistent to their importance to us.

This article is intended to make some sense of what happens to us when someone in our life dies and the distress, shock and confusion that most of us will feel, but first of all, let’s get the terminology right:

Bereavement is what happens to us

Grief is what we feel

Mourning is what we do

Being bereaved sets us off on journey of transition; from where we were before bereavement, through several stages of change, to hopefully adjustment to the new situation. How many stages of transition after bereavement actually exist is open to debate and varies from therapist to therapist but I opt for nine. These are:

Shock/Numbness

Denial or Minimising

Anxiety/Sadness

Anger – either at the person who has died or at a scapegoat for causing the death. Guilt that didn’t do something

Grief – physical and mental pain

Consideration of new options

Making sense of what happened

Acceptance - coming to terms with the death

Being at ease with the new reality

Although set out in a neat and orderly fashion above, that’s not usually how we journey through the stages. We can jump forward, skip or return to any stage at any time, like the tide at the seaside, we ebb and flow. However for most of us, we reach the point where we have made sense of what happened and are able to find some contentment with the new situation, sadly for a few it’s not the case. The use of the correct words like `died` and `dead` is important and although this might feel uncomfortable, research has show that using the right words can help the grieving process.

Years ago grief was dealt with very differently and people in mourning could be identified by signs and signals - mourning clothes, stopping clocks and pulling over of curtains etc. These days people in mourning can outwardly look the same as normal but be going through a whole raft of emotions - possible all within one day. As well as emotions, severe physical symptoms of illness can appear. Stress and worry can make you ill and bereavement, especially when the death is sudden can cause all sort of symptoms including numbness that can last for days, tightness in the chest, loss of appetite and insomnia.

Support at this time of course is crucial and often we see families coming together and supporting each other, however some experience detached, slightly cold behaviour from people, for example a neighbour crossing the road to avoid contact. This type of behaviour is often down the person just not knowing what to say, being embarrassed or worried that they will say the wrong thing. Although the bereaved person will usually welcome the chance to speak of the deceased, there are things that are best not said. These include `It’s part of God’s plan.` This phrase can make people angry and they often ask `What plan is that? Also `Look at what you have to be thankful for` is best avoided because they know what they have to be thankful for, but right now it doesn’t help. ‘He’s in a better place now.` The bereaved may not believe this, so keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked. Lastly `This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.` Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to moving on because they feel this means forgetting their loved one and this can feel disloyal or a betrayal of them. Sometimes the deceased can take on the status of a saint in the eyes of those bereaved. Moving on is easier said than done.1 

Betrayal and disloyalty also creeps into another area of `moving on` and that is the emotionally charged process of disposing of the deceased’s possessions, like clothes, paperwork and hobby items. This should only be tackled when the bereaved feels really ready and because of the emotional attachment many will feel towards their loved one’s `things` the bereaved should not be pushed or harassed into premature sorting and disposal. When ready the bereaved can decide if they would like to do this with a close friend or family member or on their own, although opinion seems to favour accompanied small steps. For many, the process is fraught with emotional ups and downs; what do you keep? What do you give to charity? What do you throw away? As well as the fear of losing even more of the loved one. It’s here that we occasionally see the seeds of hoarding sown: people just being unable to lose anymore and so they start to build walls of stuff to take comfort from.

One of the most difficult areas of dealing with bereavement is when we have to explain to children what has happened to a loved one and this starts with telling as much of the truth as possible, this means sharing information in doses and gauging what the child can handle by giving information in small bits. Avoid saying things like `Granny is on a journey` or has `gone to sleep` The latter could be worrying for the child because they might think if they go to sleep they may not wake up as well. One child became confused by being told that Granddad had `gone to heaven` because they heard it as `gone to Devon`. This reminds me of the late, great Irish comedian Dave Allen who once said that he attended a funeral when he was young and had misheard what the Priest had said at the graveside. Instead of `In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost` he heard `In the name of the Father, Son and in the hole he goes` This stayed with him for years and years and he really thought that was what a Priest says at a funeral. We may also be tempted to say that we have `lost` someone and children might worry in case they get lost as well. On a popular TV chat show some years ago the host said to a female celebrity `Of course, since we last met you have lost your husband?` `No` replied the celebrity ` I haven’t lost him, I know exactly where he is`.

The truth gives a reason for your upset and tears and your openness can help the child to learn how to mourn. Of course, however you broach the subject the child will be upset and we have to accept their emotions and encourage the child to talk. Also remember that that it’s ok to cry. Often we hear well meaning people saying to a crying child `Now come on, none of that`. This is not about the welfare of the child but more about the adult being unable to cope with the tears and the emotion of the little one and so they try to shut the child down.

A few words about `Impossible tasks` for children who are bereaved might be useful here. Sometimes adults will place huge burdens on these children by saying things like `you’re the man of the house now` or `you must take your Mother’s place in the home` How innocently these things might be said and probably with the best of intentions, but what a burden to pass on to that child. In counseling children are often encouraged through visualisation to stop and unload some of their burden, like leaving heavy baggage on the platform when they board a train, this approach can be very beneficial. Sadness in children at distressing times can be looked on as jumping in and out of puddles whereas in adults it’s more like wading up a river of grief.

As an adult it’s important not to hide your grief from the child. Seeing you grieve will let the child know that it’s normal and healthy to feel sad and be upset. Don't be afraid to share memories of your loved one. Sometimes parents feel afraid to talk about the person who has died. Research has shown that re-living memories or sharing stories actually aids in healing. Don't be tempted to change the subject when your child comes into the room because doing so places a taboo on the subject of death. Instead, modify your wording when a child is present.  Children need consistency, so try to keep to your usual daily routines and ensure that your child continues to take part in their regular activities. Bereavement doesn’t put a ban on laughter and as such is a great healing tool; it’s ok to still laugh.

It’s impossible to determine how long the grieving period will be for the bereaved, as we are all unique and handle things differently. However at some point it would be useful to ask yourself these basic questions:

Have I accepted the reality of the loss?

Have I experienced the pain of the grief?

Have I adjusted to the new situation?

Have I withdrawn from my loss and put my energy into a new situation or person?

If the answers lean towards the negative, it might be useful to consider outside help in the form of bereavement counselling. In my own counselling practice I have worked with many bereaved people over the years. A common denominator appears to be the opportunity for the bereaved to talk openly and freely about their loved one without fear of upsetting a family member or friend. This can be a huge release and encourage the healing process. I can offer the confidential, private and comfortable setting of my own therapy room here at Creech St Michael with as many or as few sessions as the client feels are needed, at reasonable cost.

Alternately there are many agencies offering help and these include:

Sue Ryder www.sueryder.org/how-we-can-help

Cruise Bereavement care – Call their helpline on 0808 808 1677 open until 5PM

Somerset Area Cruse - phone 01458 898211 - covers:

Bridgwater and Burnham-on-Sea

West Mendip

Taunton and Minehead

Yeovil and Sherborne The line is staffed from 10am to 1pm, Monday to Friday

Samaritans (Taunton Branch) 01823 288998 (local charges apply) 16 Wood Street, Taunton.

Samaritans (National free number) 116 123

Lullaby Trust (Death of a child) Bereavement Support 0808 802 6868

Bereavement Advice Centre 0800 634 9494 Mon – Fri 9 AM-5PM www.bereavementadvice.org

Whichever path is chosen, it’s important that one is taken if the bereaved person is suffering distress and sees no way out of their situation. Many feel it’s not grief that hurts; it’s not talking about it that hurts.

What To do Next

If you feel Bereavement counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

© 2019 David Trott

1 American Hospice Foundation

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The Rationale Behind Talking to a Counsellor Rather Than Friends or Family

Back in 2012 I wrote an article about how it’s far better for someone in distress to talk to a professional counsellor than a friend or family member. Now seven years later it feels right to update and expand that piece in line with current attitudes and ideas. Since my original post we have seen views about mental health and personal stories being expressed more openly, often by celebrities like actors, musicians, sports stars and even Royalty. These people have done much to bring the whole subject of mental health into the limelight and have helped to improve attitudes to where we now see psychological health moving towards being treated the same as physical health. However for some progress is gradual and by this I mean we still encounter occasional derision around mental health issues by some who wouldn’t dream of disrespecting a person with a physical illness and so we sometimes still find prejudice if we scratch below the surface.

Previously I talked of what can happen when someone confides in a family member or friend and the result of that being the listener possibly feeling some responsibility for the talker’s situation. When this happens it’s a springboard for upset and hurt and may trigger the talker to hold back and not talk freely about their concerns and issues because they are afraid of upsetting the listener. An example of this could be the son encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the family firm, even though the young man had other ideas about his future. Plucking up courage to speak to his parents about his unhappiness and the feeling that joining the firm was a big mistake, he gets into a heated argument and decides that he cannot raise the subject again. The parents feel hurt by their son’s apparent rejection of their help and his ungratefulness at the chance to carry on the family business and ruminate on `where they went wrong. `

Alternately, if the young man has sought the help of a professional counsellor, things might well have turned out differently. He would have been able to talk freely without any fear of upsetting anyone because counsellors and psychotherapists are not personally connected to their client’s story and are independent in their outlook and because of their long training are virtually unshockable. A proficient therapist will be genuinely interested in their client, empathic and non-judgmental and do their best to help their client but they won’t advise them or tell them what to do. It’s all about the therapist supporting the client while he or she explores their thoughts and feelings and if the client can come up with their own solutions there’s more value in that then being told what to do. The client will be encouraged to maybe see things differently and helped to explore ways of resolving their situation. All this is done in the confidential and private setting of the counsellors own comfortable therapy room.

Depending on the individual client a profession counsellor will work with them along a planned path, which will start with identifying what the client wants to achieve in counselling, what changes they want to make to their lives and what their goals are. Through active listening the counsellor will help the client identify unhelpful thinking and irrational thoughts that are creating unwanted feelings and explain how to replace those unhelpful thoughts with new positive ones.

The work might include the acquisition of an understanding of the origins and development of emotional difficulties and becoming more aware of thoughts and feelings which had been blocked off or denied. Hugely important is self-acceptance and the development of a positive attitude towards self and movement in the direction of fulfilling potential as well as being assisted to arrive at a higher state of spiritual awakening. The therapist will also help the client to find a solution to problems which the client had not been able to resolve alone. Right from the very first session, the aim of counselling is that at some stage the client will leave feeling better about whatever was troubling them and with new skills to keep themselves psychologically well. So we can now see now that it’s not just family and friends being too close to be helpful, it’s also the skills the counsellor has to move things forward that makes things different.

In conclusion: Imagine that you have taken yourself away to your favourite seaside resort to give yourself time to make sense of something disturbing and worrying in your life. You walk along the front, taking in the vastness of the sea, the seemingly endless beach and the gulls riding the wind overhead. You notice families enjoying a day out and couples holding hands with eyes only for each other, oblivious to people around them. You reach the end of the promenade to where the bandstand sits upon a grassy knoll and decide to sit for a while on a wooden bench where you get into conversation with a total stranger. The stranger seems understanding and genuinely interested in you and you find yourself trusting them. You pour your heart out to them and talk of things that you have never told your family or friends. This is similar to counselling because counsellors are not personally involved in the situation and are impartial. Therefore there is no conflict or bias and you won’t upset them because they are trained to listen. Hence, there is no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive, no past, regret or guilt: the counsellor is maybe the perfect stranger.

What To do Next

If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

© David Trott 2019

 

 

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Farming: We Reveal the Dark Side

Travelling around Somerset and our neighbouring counties it’s easy to become accustomed to the lush pastures, rolling hills, woods, hedgerows and huge areas of arable land that make up our wonderful environment. To us it may just be the backdrop to our busy lives but to the operators of one of the biggest and important industries in the UK, it’s their workplace. We are talking of course about farming and the men and women who help feed the nation and add billions to the economy of the nation; the farmers.

According to 2014 Government figures the value of UK agricultural production (at market prices) was £25.8 billion, this included 970 million dozen eggs laid by 37.1 million birds and 14.6 billion litres of milk from 1.8 million cows. During this period 400,000 people were employed in farming and 71% of land in the UK was used for farming – impressive by anyone’s standards.

To the layman or casual observer, farming may seem an idyllic and pleasant way to earn a living. We see farmers out on their tractors or passing by in Land Rovers with their trusty black and white Collie in the back and we may think `That’s the life`. We might be impressed by the massive machinery they use or the nice looking farmhouse and buildings. We could notice the farmer’s children playing in the yard with the freedom that we wish our own children had. It’s possible that we really believe we see real farming life at the county shows where the gleaming white coats of exhibitors and their beautifully presented animals convince us that all is perfect and flawless down on the farm. We might then venture into the food tents and sample the delights within. It’s no accident that the red and white gingham tablecloths, cheese, pickles and crusty bread feed into our desire to view farming as a wholesome, healthy occupation enjoyed by wholesome, healthy ruddy faced people who love the countryside and the job they do. But there’s another side to this seemingly idyllic profession, a dark side that’s not spoken about very often, a side that even in our open society cries out to be heard and understood; mental health issues for farmers.

Countryfile Magazine drew attention to the prevalence of mental illness among farmers recently with the shocking statistic that on average one farmer will take his own life each week in the UK. In France the situation is worse where a farmer dies on average every two days. So why are farmers at such high risk of suffering mental health issues?

Farming can be a very isolated occupation and it’s common for farmers to do entire days without seeing anyone, a far cry from bygone days when many farm workers were employed on the average farm. As opposed to many other professions farming is a 24/7 occupation with very long hours, far less days off and holidays and with the added element of `living above the shop` where the farmer cannot leave the worries and stress of his work behind at the factory gate.

We have seen many factors over the years that have tipped many over the edge – these include Foot and Mouth, Bird flu, TB, difficult market pressures, flooding, and loans and mortgage repayment issues, any one of which have the potential to decimate livelihoods. As well as this there is the sometimes negative perception of some farming methods by the general public

The social isolation of farming can lead to a lack of support or a lack of other people noticing mental illness symptoms. Most farmers are male, and it’s widely accepted that men are less likely to discuss personal problems than women. This could be linked to strongly held beliefs that men should be able to sort themselves out or that seeking help is somehow a sign of vulnerability or weakness. It’s also known that men are far more likely than women to take their own lives.

The most common mental health problem is depression, one in five of us will suffer from this at some point during our lives, and farmers are no different. There are major differences between feeling low and being clinically depressed. When the latter develops, the person can be affected most of the time, frequently for a number of weeks or months. Symptoms can include tiredness, restlessness, low mood, falling energy levels, poor concentration, a lack of interest in things that would normally give pleasure, an increase in alcohol or tobacco use, loss of sex drive and suicidal thoughts. Physical symptoms such as aches or pains may also occur.

So where can farmers turn for help? As a professional counsellor working in a village on the outskirts of Taunton, I have had clients from all walks of life. These include mechanics, architects, accountants, cleaners, musicians, garage owners, web site designers, welders, members of the armed forces, dentists and farmers. Although hugely diverse in their occupations, they all had something in common; there was something in their lives that prevented them from leading a happy and contented life, a black cloud that followed them around and weighed heavily on their shoulders.

Talking to a professional counsellor or Psychotherapist can help immensely. One reason for this is that counsellors and psychotherapists are not personally connected to their client’s story. A good therapist will be genuinely interested in their client, empathic and non-judgmental and do their best to help their client, while at the same time not advising or telling them what to do. It’s all a question of support for the client – support to help the client explore their thoughts and feelings and support to maybe see things differently and to hopefully move forward towards resolving their situation. All this happens at the client’s own pace in a confidential and private setting.

As well as counselling there are other avenues open to farmers seeking help with stress, depression and other mental health issues, these include -

Whichever path the farmer decides to go down for help, it’s important that one is taken. With deep seated habits of just managing or trying to cope on one’s own it sometimes feels right or normal just to carry on in the same old way but there is an alternative and that is to seek help before things get worse.

About the Author

David grew up on a small farm in Somerset, where as a young boy he helped with milking, the pigs, chickens , sheep and beef bullocks and in the summer, the hay making. He often attended livestock markets with his father at Glastonbury, Highbridge, Yeovil, Langport, Bridgwater and Taunton and helped with the family wholesale butchery business. Although almost a lifetime ago and set in a bygone age he feels it gives him an insight into the stresses of farming life and an empathic view of the valuable and essential work of the farming community.

What To do Next

If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call. 

To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.

© David Trott 2019





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Understanding And Managing Emotional Baggage

All of us, as we travel through life, acquire emotional and psychological baggage; unwanted stuff from painful events and times in our lives that we have not been able to get rid of. We drag this burden around month after month, year after year, often unaware that these negative feelings are shaping and influencing who we think we are and the choices that we make. Some of this baggage is overt and plain to see, while other baggage is concealed and lurks down in one’s subconscious.

What might be an example of emotional baggage? A fictional but an entirely plausible scenario might be the woman abused at an early age by a trusted relative. Through clever and devious means the young girl is led to believe by the perpetrator that she is somehow to blame for the attack.  She then carries this belief into adult life which then affects the view of herself, her life and relationships. She might therefore retreat from the limelight, keeping herself in the shadows where she won’t attract attention.  She might dress plainly and not make the most of herself for the same reason.  She might consider herself not worthy of the good things in life and by doing so punish herself for what `she did wrong. `

So why do we put up with it? It’s been said by some that this baggage can almost become comfortable to carry, we certainly get used to it’s weight and sometimes can’t imagine what it would feel like to be without it. However we have a choice; to carry on taking this stuff around with us, allowing it to disturb our lives, relationships and future or to make a conscious decision to ditch it.

In the counselling room I see baggage, either overt or subconscious rearing it’s burdensome head most days. As a symbol of this I often describe a scene from the brilliant 1986 film The Mission set in 18th century South America in which Captain Rodrigo Mendoza played by Robert De Niro drags around a large net of armour, shields and swords as penance for previous behaviour.  The scene is harrowing and follows Mendoza as he struggles through jungle and rivers and up steep hills with his huge load. At times he loses his footing and tumbles backwards but regains his stability and forges forward again, never able to put his burden down until he has punished himself suitably. It’s a fine performance by De Niro but one that is played out every day by ordinary people with ordinary lives  

So we see that emotional and psychological baggage can affect who we think we are (Ego) and influence our choices in life. But how do we put down that baggage once and for all? The answer is likely to be counselling, where long held beliefs and assumptions can be explored together by the person and the therapist and maybe a different view of the client’s situation offered.

The fictional client discussed above, when in therapy could well come to see that the abuse she suffered was not her fault. She might then feel able to come out from the shadows and allow herself to shine. She might put herself forward more, have more confidence, dress better but most of all put down that heavy sack of armour.      

© 2017 David Trott 

 

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