Below is a small snap shot of how we used with Russian dolls to help us develop a better understand the dynamics of our ‘Inner child’
1. Inside the grown-up deep inside is the child just like these Russian dolls.
You might feel it a positive when you are playing with children. For example I feel it while playing football with my young nephews.
2. You might feel it in a negative way if you are waiting to go in for formal appointment and you start to feel as if you did when you were called to the headmaster’s office. (Or maybe you were all good kids and were never sent to the headmaster’s office!)
3. (Using an elastic band)
Like this band we are all big and stretched out, but certain events, circumstances or people could make us feel small again.
4. (Imagining all our younger selves)
Thinking about when you were at primary school what 3 words would you use to describe the wee person you were then?
5. (Pick an age between 5-10 years old)
– Thinking about you at the age you have chosen we will ask a few questions if that is OK to that part of you, be it 5 or 7 or 10 years old- whatever age you have picked.
– Think about who was your teacher, your favourite toy or who were your friends then.
Ok so we are all focused in on an age and who we were then.
If that child had something to say, to be heard what might it say?
What did it need?
What would you like to say to it?
How might you soothe it? (Note: Demonstrate by putting the little one in the big one.
6. We end by putting all the dolls back inside each other so there is just one big one. It demonstrates we are back in our adult place.
After a busy few sessions requiring much thinking and discussion and brain power….this group was a celebration of all the achievements, growth, learning and development within the group and as individuals over the year. As we look to Christmas too and the New Year we had a party celebration and a consideration of how people may look after themselves in what can be either a busier time or more isolated time. Difficulties seem more poignant in a season which emphasises togetherness and family if these structures for some individuals are missing or fragmented. Being in Scotland too in December we are well aware of the very short days at this time of year, so much darkness for some can feel heavy and draining, as we post this we are just about at the shortest day sunrise 8.42am, sunset 3.39pm!! It’s so dark…though this does mean that after tomorrow the days start getting longer again as we sprint towards spring.
In the meantime however we celebrate the light and hope that is so much a part of this group, where one is in a place where it feels hard to hold hope, the others will hold it for them.
So, fun was had in the form of games, party food and warm wishes to one another as we head off for a break and look forward to starting a new year together in 2019. The first group back will be Thursday 10th January.
The group had requested a session looking at boundaries, so we started by looking at where do you find it hard to put in healthy, balanced boundaries? People said that it was hard to assert themselves and they ran away instead, that it felt hard to say yes and that their social anxiety created their own cave. Others too were aware of overly strong boundaries and pushing people away.
The reason that people found it difficult to set boundaries was being worried about offending others, letting people down, biting off more than they could chew and afraid in case they couldn’t follow it through.
Families were cited as a difficult place to set boundaries as they are very likely to push them, particularly kids as they know your vulnerabilities! It’s easy to give in here “Just to keep the peace”. We acknowledged that it is harder to do too when tired, and can feel guilty so don’t want to ‘rock the boat’.
Setting boundaries in a workplace can feel particularly difficult because of the power relationship of an employer who is maybe asking too much. Being taken advantage of here can have an effect on personal life where the reverse occurs and you feel you can’t say yes to anyone as you don’t trust people.
We also discussed the paradox of saying no, whereby it is great to set the boundary, however people may not be used to hearing your ‘no’ and have a difficult reaction to this, which then requires holding the boundary and knowing that the reaction is their responsibility, not yours. We discussed also that sometimes we are trying to please people and seek approval but recognised that this is not a helpful foundation for us or others to act out of in terms of self-care and good care of others.
Without healthy boundaries people realise that they take on a lot of responsibility for other peoples stuff, and also not setting boundaries creates future resentments. Interestingly, like the discussion about decision making where people actually knew the right decision to make, (it was other things that created confusion), in not having healthy boundaries, people knew that this didn’t feel right.
There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public. There are worse things than these miniature betrayals, committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things than not being able to sleep for thinking about them. It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.
The following structure for this group’s discussion was taken from the following CBT book:
Corrie, S., Townend, M. and Cockx, A. (2016). Assessment and case formulation in cognitive behavioural therapy. Los Angeles: SAGE.
‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’ (GAD) is characterised by “Excessive worry and preoccupation about a number of events and activities”. The condition is diagnosed when this occurs most days; the feelings of anxiety causing restlessness, easily tired, finding it hard to concentrate, tense, disturbed sleep and affected functioning.
- The belief about the worry is worse than the actual worry
- Worrying is actually a way of coping
- The worry thoughts can centre around ‘what if?’
- When did you first notice that worry was a problem?
- What were the circumstances when you first started worrying?
- Has the worry changed or developed over time?
- Are there any significant worriers in your family?
- Have there been times in your life when things were going really well and how did you cope with difficulties then?
- Is it important to you to know what is going on all the time?
- Can we think about worry differently? As a process without getting dragged into the actual fear, rumination or content.
- Can we alter the way we talk to ourselves about things? E.g. not be so critical, perfectionist or brutal to self, instead be kinder, caring and give yourself a break.
- Can we discover coping strategies?
Some strategies that the group have amongst them were to set a worry time (although this doesn’t work for everyone), meditation, write down the worries and then throw them away. Accept that life is imperfect and uncertain. Actually facing that uncertainty head on rather than avoiding it will see the worry gradually decrease over time. Other skills that the group already employ included the use of poetry, adding a little transition between the days events e.g. to sit in the car for a few minutes after a day at work and going home, and remember that although you may feel anxious, others cannot see your anxiety.
Do you feel that you struggle to make decisions? Do you feel defeated trying to choose a cereal in the supermarket, or tormented about whether to attend your niece’s wedding? We make so many decisions daily, and life is scattered with huge life changing decisions with a myriad of implications. Popping into Starbucks for a coffee alone offers you no less that 80,000 ways to take your caffeine, or maybe no caffeine, or milk, full fat, semi or skimmed, or soya, latte or americano, tall or grande…..you get the picture (!) So how do we cope with making decisions. Or do we not? Or is not making a decision actually making a decision?
First of all in the group we looked at what is it about making a decision that can feel difficult? People said not knowing the outcome, the fear that if it goes wrong it’s all your fault. People also said that a history of making bad decisions makes it hard to trust yourself and so decreases confidence. Overthinking and rumination over the potential ‘what if’s’ of a decision provokes anxiety and procrastination. And a final difficulty cited is that once a decision has been made you may then be tied to the consequences of it, and that is scary.
So, the second part of our discussion was around responsibility-the level at which we are able to accept responsibility probably promotes our decision making abilities.
Taking no responsibility leads to blaming everyone else, whereas taking all the responsibility is blaming yourself for everything.
We had a think about what these two elements look like: Not taking any responsibility manifests in procrastination, always letting others decide, not paying bills, not contributing, not thinking of others, avoidance, not willing to look at oneself, unhealthy coping mechanisms [to escape e.g. alcohol or sleep], and blaming others. Taking all the responsibility conversely involves always making decisions for others, taking the blame for everything, putting others before self, only seeing the negative in yourself, dis empowering others, not trusting others which can lead to micromanagement and bullying. Another direction of over responsibility is taking so much care of others that it can lead to obsessive compulsive behaviours trying to protect everything.
The question was posed to the group ‘Do you actually know what decision is best to make, but fear and doubt are what comes in creating confusion and reluctance to decide’. Interestingly people mostly did seem to concur that they did in fact know what to do, so it isn’t the not knowing that creates a barrier to deciding but rather the implications of the made decisions. People did chat too that as well as not making or avoiding decisions, sometimes they just make very impulsive choices, we talked about whether at times these were self-sabotaging behaviours.
There are some things we can do to help in combating decision fatigue. A study of an Israeli prison parole board showed that prisoners appearing earlier in the day were more likely to receive parole for no other reason than by the end of the day the judges were tired and less likely to have the mental energy to make a decision regarding a prisoner’s release. This study is cited in the New York Times in an article about decision fatigue.
It is no different for us, when we are tired, hungry or it’s the end of the day having already made thousands of decisions, it becomes more difficult to decide. So sometimes putting an important decision off until the morning may be wise, and planning and organising can significantly reduce the pressure of having to make extra decisions.
Building self-worth is a topic that had been requested by the group, so first of all we chatted about what was contributing to low self-worth. Common among the group were themes of feeling a failure, and therefore not trying new things as there wasn’t much point or purpose and feeling undeserving.
The first is to be mindful, to build awareness of your self-critic and negative self-talk. This is a recurring topic in the group, we realise that our minds are very clever at protecting us by always looking out for trouble, but too easily we see it within ourselves which isn’t helpful to us, but the more we are aware and have techniques to deal with this thinking, the better equipped we are to build self-worth. It is good to remember that these are thoughts, not facts. Remember: you are not your circumstance, this was a powerful concept for some people who realised that they had they potential to define themselves by their family situation or health circumstances, so it is empowering to realise this is not who we are.
Secondly we talked about changing the story; Whose version of the story about you are you listening to? Some people discussed how situations they had previously seen as a failure they could now see opened up very different avenues for them in life, more of a change of direction and a different story than a failure.
It’s important to understand and choose your own story, for some the idea of being the hero of your own story is a transforming way to navigate and anticipate life’s events emphasising the control we have and the choices we hold over how things go if we can visualise ourselves doing well or differently than we may have coped previously.
Put some realistic positive affirmations in there and challenge other voices-Why should the prosecutor have all the evidence!
Thirdly, don’t compare and despair! Avoid the comparison trap and don’t fall down the rabbit hole! This can lead to negative self-talk, anxiety and negative feelings, and generalisations e.g. ‘If I fail, I am a failure’. From the group discussion, this seems like a popular belief to reduce self-worth, so learning the difference between failures being part of life but not an identity is crucial.
This is enhanced by the fourth tip, to ‘Channel your inner Rock Star’. We each have our own strengths, no-one is successful at everything, therefore it is important to develop and recognise your own strengths, that’s what makes you special and unique. Einstein said:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish for it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid”.
It’s important to be realistic with our aspirations too, for example, I’m likely to satisfyingly succeed at improving my swimming fitness to 20 lengths a day, but to aim for gold at the next Olympics might just cause me more upset and stress than it’s worth.
This final and fifth tip we really like: Organise your day around self-care. We considered how we generally try and slot this stuff in, and what would it look like to actually prioritise the following:
- Social time
- Do unto others and self-compassion
- Be of service
- Do what gives you a meaningful sense of purpose
- Forgive-reduces bitterness and resentment which leads to negative thoughts
“The more someone does something in their life that they can be proud of, the easier it is for them to recognise their worth”.
We did an exercise where each person wrote a list of some of their perceived strengths and perceived weaknesses-but they had to draw a heart around both of them. People actually saw how their weaknesses could also be strengths, and vice versa, like Geoffrey Bain, an occasional guest to our group, says, bright spots have dark spots.
Today we looked at fun games from our childhood. We discussed games we used to play in the school playground like ‘British Bulldogs’ which we assume would not be permitted or acceptable in the present day on the grounds of health and safety! We also compared children’s playparks from the past to the modern today. In the past if you were unlucky enough to fall off park facilities you would most likely tumble on to a ground of hard grass, sand or gravel thus creating a lot of scuffed knees. In the present day things have thankfully changed regarding safety with most playparks now using protective wood or rubber that can lessen the impact of a child falling.
We went on to discuss board games from childhood: These in included;
Ludo, Frustration, Cluedo, Mouse Trap, Battleships, Connect Four, Operation and Spirograph, just to name a few.