Finding Love in the Looking Glass: A Book of Counselling Case Stories

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Never has there been such a hunger to understand relationships, both with our self and with others, and this book contains valuable insights into the fascinating and dynamic dialogues between clients and their counsellor. Although the clients presented here are entirely fictitious, they become real and easy to connect with as the reader is taken deeper into the unfolding intimacy of the counselling room. A variety of interventions are used but what is most instrumental in empowering the clients is the relationship that develops with themselves. These clients show us how we can successfully overcome outdated survival patterns and make effective new choices that work for us. The four topics covered are: Anorexia (including issues about cultural identity); Relationship Breakdown (including themes about boarding schools, class and cultural differences); Depression (including suicidal ideation); and Cocaine Addiction stemming from childhood sexual abuse. An introduction explains the structure and professional requirements of a counsellor; a brief outline of the themes precedes each case story and there is an appendix of useful books, articles and online information. From thirty-five years of experience as a counsellor, supervisor and Head of a University Counselling Service, the author shows how she has used her particular style of brief counselling to enable and witness this remarkable process.

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Case One: Lan-li's story: finding love in the looking glass

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Anorexia

Recently, at a barbecue, I overheard a father saying to his petite five-year-old daughter, “don't put tomato sauce on that, you'll get fat.” A shadow of hurt was cast over her previously excited face. She put the sauce bottle down on a nearby table and sat down. She chewed half-heartedly at her burger, kicking the legs of her plastic chair. I noticed that she disappeared off without finishing what was on her plate.

I never cease to be shocked by sitting across from attractive, intelligent young women or young men, listening to them tell me how stupid, ugly, and fat they are. It took me years as a counsellor to realise that such a client truly was not able to take in the truth of what was actually reflected back to them in the mirror. This distortion is just one example of the many ways we can perceive ourselves as “less than”.

There are commonly two types of anorexia and although it is more frequently found in women it is something that young men can develop as well. Symptoms can begin from age ten or even earlier:

 

CASE ONE Lan-li’s story: finding love in the looking glass

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CHAPTER TITLE

CASE ONE

Lan-li’s story: finding love in the looking glass

Anorexia ecently, at a barbecue, I overheard a father saying to his petite

five-year-old daughter, “don’t put tomato sauce on that, you’ll get fat.” A shadow of hurt was cast over her previously excited face. She put the sauce bottle down on a nearby table and sat down.

She chewed half-heartedly at her burger, kicking the legs of her plastic chair. I noticed that she disappeared off without finishing what was on her plate.

I never cease to be shocked by sitting across from attractive, intelligent young women or young men, listening to them tell me how stupid, ugly, and fat they are. It took me years as a counsellor to realise that such a client truly was not able to take in the truth of what was actually reflected back to them in the mirror. This distortion is just one example of the many ways we can perceive ourselves as “less than”.

There are commonly two types of anorexia and although it is more frequently found in women it is something that young men can develop as well. Symptoms can begin from age ten or even earlier:

 

Case Two: Shirley and David's story: finding the heart

ePub

Relationship breakdown

Often we are attracted to life partners for the very qualities that can eventually become difficult to us. There can be an unconscious positive and negative fit that is being worked out in any relationship. The specific example used in this chapter is a couple in a heterosexual relationship, but some of these issues are equally commonplace in homosexual relationships. It is common in relationships for us to become “stuck” or “polarised” in terms of power or control, to become preoccupied by a need to be “right” and to make the other person “wrong”. Fear plays a part in this, a fear of not wanting to be controlled by others, a fear of being out of control, a fear of not being good enough, a fear of being vulnerable. What can help us get beyond this “attack” or “defend” position is for us to begin to understand how the other person feels and how we feel ourselves. It is more difficult to stay being “right” when you can see beyond the logical arguments to the feelings underneath. This understanding increases the trust in the relationship, which makes it easier to move forward to a resolution.

 

CASE TWO Shirley and David’s story: finding the heart

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CASE TWO

Shirley and David’s story: finding the heart

Relationship breakdown ften we are attracted to life partners for the very qualities that can eventually become difficult to us. There can be an unconscious positive and negative fit that is being worked out in any relationship. The specific example used in this chapter is a couple in a heterosexual relationship, but some of these issues are equally commonplace in homosexual relationships. It is common in relationships for us to become “stuck” or “polarised” in terms of power or control, to become preoccupied by a need to be “right” and to make the other person “wrong”. Fear plays a part in this, a fear of not wanting to be controlled by others, a fear of being out of control, a fear of not being good enough, a fear of being vulnerable. What can help us get beyond this “attack” or “defend” position is for us to begin to understand how the other person feels and how we feel ourselves.

It is more difficult to stay being “right” when you can see beyond the logical arguments to the feelings underneath. This understanding increases the trust in the relationship, which makes it easier to move forward to a resolution.

 

CASE THREE Michael’s story: finding the joy

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CASE THREE

Michael’s story: finding the joy

Reactive (exogenous) depression here are many different types of depression. At one end of the continuum is a serious clinical depression or endogenous depression, which can be extremely debilitating, including marked psychotic symptoms and will certainly necessitate seeing a doctor, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist who will very likely prescribe antidepressants or antipsychotic drugs to balance the body chemically. At the other end of the continuum would be a less severe reactive depression or exogenous depression which can be a result of a substantial loss or disappointment. This could include the loss of a loved one or other important losses such as: a divorce or separation from a partner; moving away from friends or family; loss of identity, country or place; loss of a job or a chosen career; loss of job security or stress at work; loss of money or good health; social isolation; seasonal adjustment disorder; and even that sense of “emptiness” caused by the absence of “good enough” loving, secure and safe support that children ideally need in their early lives. Within this continuum there are other forms of depression: the depressive phase of manic-depressive or bi-polar illness; involutional melancholia,

 

Case Three: Michael's story: finding the joy

ePub

Reactive (exogenous) depression

There are many different types of depression. At one end of the continuum is a serious clinical depression or endogenous depression, which can be extremely debilitating, including marked psychotic symptoms and will certainly necessitate seeing a doctor, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist who will very likely prescribe antidepressants or antipsychotic drugs to balance the body chemically. At the other end of the continuum would be a less severe reactive depression or exogenous depression which can be a result of a substantial loss or disappointment. This could include the loss of a loved one or other important losses such as: a divorce or separation from a partner; moving away from friends or family; loss of identity, country or place; loss of a job or a chosen career; loss of job security or stress at work; loss of money or good health; social isolation; seasonal adjustment disorder; and even that sense of “emptiness” caused by the absence of “good enough” loving, secure and safe support that children ideally need in their early lives. Within this continuum there are other forms of depression: the depressive phase of manic-depressive or bi-polar illness; involutional melancholia, occurring at the involution period of life (fifty to sixty-five years), very common at menopause (female) and retirement (male); an existential crisis, a crisis of meaning in life, where there can be a general sense of “emptiness” and a response to frustrated aggression. Depression can also be a response to other forms of stress or trauma. It may be accompanied by: feelings of anxiety; loss of motivation and interest; lack of concentration; insomnia; lack of libido; loss of weight; feelings of despair and hopelessness, and depression can be serious enough to tip over into suicidal ideation.

 

Case Four: Karen's story: finding a reason to live

ePub

Addiction and abuse

Addiction can be a desire to numb out from overwhelming or frightening feeling, a need to escape from the pain of living into a perceived sense of unity. It can be a way of self-harming and taken to its extreme, an expression of finding it just too unbearable to live in this world anymore; a slow form of suicide. Both addiction and depression can be masking a deep unacknowledged, unexpressed deprivation, loss, longing, fear, hurt, or anger. In the book The Continuum Concept, Jean Liedloff (1989) states:

Of all the expressions of in-arms deprivation, perhaps research will confirm that one of the most direct is addiction to narcotics like heroin. Only research will be able to ascertain the precise relationship between deprivation and addiction, and when it does, the many forms of addiction—to alcohol, tobacco, gambling, barbiturates or nail biting—may begin to make sense in the light of the continuum concept of human requirements.

She goes on to describe some addicts' experiences and highlights that the heroin experience, in particular, “is like the feeling the infant has in arms”. Although heroin addiction is extreme, even lesser drug addictions help to return the addict to a place of infant like self-absorption, dependence, and no responsibility. Her hypothesis was that babies require a large amount of “babes in arm” experience during the first six months of life in order to properly achieve independence. I believe that this may be equally effective from a “mother figure” or “father figure”. This important developmental stage requires a sufficiency of secure bodily contact mixed with vital human stimulation, including play.

 

CASE FOUR Karen’s story: finding a reason to live

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CASE FOUR

Karen’s story: finding a reason to live

Addiction and abuse

Addiction can be a desire to numb out from overwhelming or frightening feeling, a need to escape from the pain of living into a perceived sense of unity. It can be a way of self-harming and taken to its extreme, an expression of finding it just too unbearable to live in this world anymore; a slow form of suicide. Both addiction and depression can be masking a deep unacknowledged, unexpressed deprivation, loss, longing, fear, hurt, or anger. In the book The Continuum Concept, Jean

Liedloff (1989) states:

Of all the expressions of in-arms deprivation, perhaps research will confirm that one of the most direct is addiction to narcotics like heroin.

Only research will be able to ascertain the precise relationship between deprivation and addiction, and when it does, the many forms of addiction—to alcohol, tobacco, gambling, barbiturates or nail biting—may begin to make sense in the light of the continuum concept of human requirements.

 

Appendix: Useful books, articles, and websites

ePub

The author has a useful counselling website/blog which contains various counselling tools and a series of relaxation exercises. This is accessed on: counsellingcasestories.wordpress.com

Addiction

Books

Bower, M., Hale, R., & Wood, H. (Eds.) (2013). Addictive States of Mind. London: Karnac.

Bryant-Jeffries, R. (2006). An addicted society? Therapy Today, 17(2): 4–5.

Ford, C., Oliver, J., & Whitehead, B. (2006). Treating drug users: a collaborative method. Therapy Today, 17(2):17–20.

Liedloff, J. (1989). The Continuum Concept. London: Arkana.

Schaverien, J. (2004). Boarding school: the trauma of the “privileged” child. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 49(5): 683–705.

Sinclair, M. (2010). Fear and Self-Loathing in the City, a Guide to Staying Sane in the Square Mile. London: Karnac.

Wilders S., & Robinson, S. (2006). Addiction: is counselling sufficient? Therapy Today, 17(2):11–15.

 

APPENDIX Useful books, articles, and websites

PDF

APPENDIX

Useful books, articles, and websites

The author has a useful counselling website/blog which contains various counselling tools and a series of relaxation exercises. This is accessed on: counsellingcasestories.wordpress.com

Addiction

Books

Bower, M., Hale, R., & Wood, H. (Eds.) (2013). Addictive States of Mind.

London: Karnac.

Bryant-Jeffries, R. (2006). An addicted society? Therapy Today, 17(2): 4–5.

Ford, C., Oliver, J., & Whitehead, B. (2006). Treating drug users: a collaborative method. Therapy Today, 17(2):17–20.

Liedloff, J. (1989). The Continuum Concept. London: Arkana.

Schaverien, J. (2004). Boarding school: the trauma of the “privileged” child. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 49(5): 683–705.

Sinclair, M. (2010). Fear and Self-Loathing in the City, a Guide to Staying Sane in the Square Mile. London: Karnac.

Wilders S., & Robinson, S. (2006). Addiction: is counselling sufficient?

Therapy Today, 17(2):11–15.

 

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