Archive for hope

Autumnal Change and Uncertainty

Let’s start with the premise that change is usually unsettling. The human brain is generally not programmed to thrive on risk, so habits and learned ways of thinking can be a source of comfort in our daily lives.

The wise American philosopher William James stated that;

‘A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices’

This was written at the turn of the 19th century but could easily stand today as a shining observation of the overloaded list of social and political dilemmas in this strangely unsettling autumn of 2019.

It’s rare in my counselling room for world or national events to be a focus. Clients come for a variety of reasons,  usually needing a safe space to reflect on the issues that affect their own personal situations. Seldom do outside forces seem important enough to invade their personal session time.

During these last weeks, fear and external conflicts have caused disruption to so many of them and has now become a subject in itself that has impacted the lives of most of us in some way.

Theoretically,  we may try to understand that change is a crucial component of growth and evolution, but we also need to trust those who appear to be in control.

Without certainty, rumour, speculation and assumptions will thrive and leave us feeling understandably threatened.

It is inevitable that, at some point, we shall all experience change in our everyday existence.

Births, deaths, divorce, redundancy and separation are among the huge life events that mean major re-evaluation and adjustment, and these are often the presenting problems that bring clients to therapy.

All change will bring loss – even the most joyful shifts in our lives. Some of the more difficult personal events will feel shocking and unexpected, leading to anger and disorientation.

The current situation in the UK is now bringing up emotions described as nameless dread, fear and helplessness leading to real anxiety around the future, as clients contemplate their own experiences and then make links with the wider social and political situation that has overshadowed us all in recent months and left many feeling dispossessed and scared – both for themselves and those they care about.

This kind of enforced change can shift perspectives for us all and will alter our emotional landscape.

In our personal lives, tumultuous situations such as bereavement, health issues and job losses are always going to bring grief and fear. But compounded with the tenuous social and political  situation, many of us are feeling the chill of uncertainty and a range of complex apprehensions.

Therapy can’t change what’s happening in the moment, but talking feelings through with an impartial, empathetic listener in a place of comfort and safety can be extremely helpful for clients.

Adjustment to the altered state of our lives is a process that is helped by self-care and kindness.

Sometimes feelings of helplessness and frustration are exacerbated by the way they revive emotions that were experienced much earlier in our lives, bringing anxieties into sharp focus and making current responses even more vivid and upsetting.

Acceptance of a new state doesn’t mean forgetting what went before, but needs the ability to leave behind what we knew as normal and find a shift to our new normal.

Which again brings me – reluctantly – to the present state of our country. We all share this huge void of uncertainty even though we may be looking at it from different viewpoints.

Change can be exciting if it forces us to grow and look at things from a new and different viewpoint. It can teach us to be flexible and can challenge long-held beliefs leading to creativity and can help us develop new strengths leading to a boost in our self-esteem and strengthening our resilience.

As humans we need to accept that society has to develop and evolve. But change that feels forced upon us all and seems to benefit only some at the expense of many, can feel unjust and leads to the anger that comes from experiencing unfairness and the imposition of ideas that may conflict sharply with our own beliefs.

As the clocks go back leaving summer behind, let’s hope the autumn of 2019 is not remembered as a dark and gloomy place, but the start of a new opportunity for some beginnings of hope and reconnection.

We can’t change the past, so rather than regret what may have been lost, the way to feel more in control is to look at whatever we now can do to repair those past hurts and let’s now give an optimistic nod to the future.

As the great Sam Cooke wrote;

There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long

But now I think I’m able to carry on

It’s been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change is gonna come,

Oh yes it will.

Christina Fraser

Lighten the Darkness

In the London Borough of Hackney where I live, the twinkling fairy lights decorating the trees and street lamps are switched on at the end of October, just as the evenings get darker and winter sets in. They mark the start of the winter festivals of light that are celebrated over the next couple of months. The first is usually Diwali, followed by Hanukkah, Advent, St Lucia’s Day, and Christmas. London is a vibrant, diverse, multi-cultural city and, even for those with no faith, there is something symbolic and uplifting about piercing the gloom with the glow of candles, lamps and lights as we approach mid-winter and the end of the year.

 
Sometimes it is hard to remain hopeful. For too many it has been a difficult challenging year. Our hearts ache at the plight of Cumbrian communities plunged into darkness by the floods. Refugee camps are frightening, cold and dark. Many will have experienced the dark times of loss. For others relationships have ended and feelings of certainty, safety and security have been shaken.

 
Often the people I see for relationship counselling are in despair. Yet I am struck by their courage in reaching out to make that first appointment. Somewhere, amongst all the distress, anger, fear, frustration or resentment, is the idea that changes can be made and things could be different.

 
Alongside the painful description of conflict and disappointment, and alongside an exploration of the difficulties, I ask clients to remember the beginning of the relationship: how they met, how they fell in love, what it is that was so special and valued about their partner. So often a couple will look at each other and smile. Faces will light up at the recall of a particular intimate memory.

 
I am privileged to work with people who dare to believe there could be a light at the end of the tunnel – while simultaneously overwhelmed at the risk of daring to hope. It can take resilience to tolerate the feelings of vulnerability as they dare to lower defences and reach out to each other. I try to encourage them to stay in touch with the good things they share, the love, the strengths of their relationship, however fragile they may seem. They need those thoughts to balance the darkness when confronting the toxic elements of the relationship, the painful differences, the hurt, and where they are stuck.

 
‘This too can pass’ – if we keep hold on to the light!

 

Kathy Rees

The Festival of Chanukah – 8 candles 8 lessons

Last Sunday Jewish families around the world were celebrating the first night of Chanukah. The time of the year when this joyous festival of lights is celebrated with the kindling of an eight branch candelebra. Over the next eight days an additional candle is lit every night accompanied by singing special songs, eating oil based foods like doughnuts and exchanging gifts.

Rabbi Mark Levene says with the strike of a match the flames of the menorah can teach us eight powerful lessons. I believe we can also apply these lessons to our couple relationships:

CLARITY – there are often times in life when we can get overwhelmed with difficulties. It just takes one person to break that darkness and reach out to another to show love empathy and compassion

HOPE – no matter how impossible things may look at times, with patience, time and effort we can fight off the forces that often want to break us.

ADDITIONS – on each evening we light an additional flame and then go back to light the previous candles. In doing this we show that everyday we have another opportunity to add our own light into this world and improve what we bring to one another from the day before.

NOTICE – have we become so accustomed to routine in our lives and relationships that we fail to see the fascination in the familiar and mundane?

UNDERSTANDING- more about ourselves and how we behave helps us stay more connected to our partners and ensures we don’t keep repeating the same mistakes

KINDLE- regardless of how many candles we light our flame never diminishes. When we share our knowledge, time and energy with our partners we keep that light shining brighter

AWAKEN – to question our commitment to our relationships can reawaken the curiosity and interest in each other

HEAVENWARD – allowing ourselves to look inwards. However far we may travel the light of the flames teach us that our hearts and minds remain steadfastly committed to our relationships.

The festival of Chanukah enables us to look inwards and utilise the opportunities available to us. This year as we eat our doughnuts lets hope we can see the glow of the eight flickering candles and stand strong as we did over 2000 years ago and overcome our difficulties now as we did then.

Happy Chanukah

Dawn Kaffel

How the Festival of Chanukah can bring light and hope to relationships

Jewish families around the world are preparing for the festival of Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication. It is very happy and enjoyable time for families, an eight day holiday commemorating the dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt. The festival is celebrated with the kindling of the lights of the candelabra: one additional candle is lit every night for 8 days, often accompanied by singing special songs, playing games and exchanging gifts. Another custom is eating oil -based foods such as doughnuts and potato pancakes as a reminder of the oil that was used in the temple.

Sitting with my clients this week, I was struck by how many couples could benefit from this wonderful festival of renewed dedication. Partners could benefit hugely by committing themselves to eight days of renewed dedication, faith and hope.
Here are some suggestions to help your relationship get into the Chanukah spirit:

*Focus on what you have in your relationship rather than what you don’t have
*Slow down and make more time for each other
*Spend more time listening to each other
*Discuss how to make these eight days more special than others
*Be more conscious of how you speak to your partner, the words you use and the tone of your voice
*Plan something unexpected that you know your partner would love
*Be more affectionate, warm and loving
*Laugh and have fun together

Happy Chanukah
Dawn Kaffel