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Farewell Drop of Life!

It is with mixed emotions that I write this letter. As some of you know, I will leave the clinic this week as I am moving back to the Netherlands to be closer to my family and to continue working there in the mental health field. This was not an easy decision to make because Drop of Life has meant so much more to me than just a workplace.

Let me take this moment to express my gratitude for all the support and kindness that I have received from all of you. I am so lucky to have met you all and to call you my friends.

A special thanks to Natalie Turvey, who has been my supervisor for the last 1.5 years. Under your guidance, I have learnt so much more. I can honestly say that you have been the main source of my significant growth in the field of psychology by inspiring me to challenge myself and take on new opportunities while working under the roof of Drop of Life.

It has been such a pleasure to work with you all!

 

You and I will meet again, When we’re least expecting it, One day in some far off place, I will recognize your face, I won’t say goodbye my friend, For you and I will meet again.” -Tom Petty

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“Don’t Worry About a Thing”

As my home country, Jamaica, recently celebrated 57 years of Independence I celebrated with them – putting on some Bob Marley music that the whole world knows and loves. One of the songs (Three Little Birds) had lines therein that inspired the title of this post. He sang, “don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is going to be alright”. For so many of the clients I see who experience high levels of anxiety (the emotion), there is often the accompanying experience of worry (the thoughts). The combination of the two often leads to the individual’s experience of significant levels of distress and can result in a number of serious mental health concerns.

In psychology, there are different ways in which we understand the nature of anxiety and worry thoughts and there are as many varying viewpoints on how we treat with them. Anxiety is most simply defined as an internal experience of stress, which may involve feelings of nervousness, fear, worry and apprehension. It is also important to know that Anxiety is a future-based emotion – meaning that the focus is always on something that has not happened yet. You may reflect, for a moment, on an experience of anxiety (it can be recent or one further in the past) and notice that while it may have been triggered by something in that moment it was really about something that you believed was going to happen or that you believed could happen.Anxiety is an emotional experience created and made stronger by the nature of the thoughts that we have and usually these thoughts are negative.

But, is all anxiety BAD?

The truth is, some amount of anxiety can be useful in that it gives us information about things in the future that are important to us. Take a job interview, for example, and the anxious feelings about that which may arise. First, we acknowledge that the anxiety is present in this situation because of our thoughts about the future (we might be concerned about whether we will get the job). Secondly, it is giving us some information, which is that this is a job you really want, or it is important to you. Some anxiety can help us to perform well, but too much anxiety can get in the way of us being our best selves in the present.

Worry takes a toll!

Worry tends to go hand in hand with anxiety and it is the thought process, the self-talk that keeps running on a loop in our mind when we are anxious. Anxiety can also result in physical symptoms and these tend to vary across different people. Noticing what happens in your body is an important first step in coping with anxiety, because you can be alerted to the warning signs of when you are becoming anxious.

 

Get out of your worry loop and back into your body

To get out of the mind, sit or lie down in a quiet place. Close your eyes and feel your body – focus on where the sensations are and bring awareness to them (you do not have to do anything about them, all you have to do is notice them). Even though these sensations are not pleasant, rest assured, they want to go out. Take deep breaths. Draw the air down into the pit of your stomach, then easily and slowly release it again.

Dealing with anxiety and worry can be a challenging experience and there are different approaches and tools that can support you towards living a better quality of life. If you believe you could use support in terms of managing your own experience of anxiety and worry, contact our team at Drop of Life Psychology Clinic.

 

By: Matthew McKenzie, B.Sc. (Hon.), M.Sc. (Dist.)

Registered Psychologist, Drop of Life Psychology Clinic

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The Impact of our own Attachment Style on our Relationships

Each of us has a certain style of attachment, that impacts on how we find a partner and the way we behave in our romantic relationships. This is the main reason why recognizing our attachment pattern can be important as it can give us the opportunity to understand our own strengths and vulnerabilities in any relationship.

So, what is attachment exactly? Attachment is a deep personal connection that we have with another person who will protect and help to organize our feelings. It consists of two concepts namely care-seeking and exploration whenever there is a safe base to do so. As adults, we will remain attached to our caregivers though we also form attachments to our romantic partners and close friends.

The attachment theory is a well-researched theory in the field of relational psychology. It describes how our early relationships with a primary caregiver, mostly a parent, creates our expectations for how love and relationships should be.

There are four main attachment styles that can help us to identify our own and also help us to understand how this can affect our relationships.

Secure attachment
This is an organized attachment style that occurs when children feel they can rely on their caregivers to attend to their needs of proximity, emotional support and protection. This in return makes the child feel safe and secure. A secure attachment style is important when it comes to creating healthy relationships as an adult. In a secure relationship, we know that we can feel that our needs are met and that we can rely on the other person.

Insecure attachment
This is formed when children cannot rely on their caregivers as they are unresponsive. There are three different insecure attachment styles:

  • Anxious attachment
    Attachment style in which a caregiver has been inconsistent in relation to their availability and responsiveness to the needs of their child. This leads to confusion for the child as it does not know what to expect. These children turn out to be adults that find it difficult to trust their partners and have a high need for attention.
  • Avoidant attachment
    This style develops when a child is neglected by their caregiver and therefore has too much opportunity to explore. While having to opportunity to explore is an essential key to parenting, an underemphasize on the safe base causes children to feel that they are left on their own and do not have an adult to rely on whenever they need help or safety. As adults, they usually will view themselves as highly independent.
  • Disorganized attachment
    Occurs when there has been trauma or abuse in childhood. These children do not feel as if they have a safe and secure base to draw upon and fear their caregivers, or their caregivers are frightened of the child. Children with a disorganized attachment usually exhibit a breakdown in behaviour when the child needs to seek comfort and protection from their caregiver. They learn that they cannot rely on their caregiver regarding care and safety. Instead they know that their caregiver will abuse them regardless of what they do. As adults, they usually will have partners that will show similar behaviour as their caregivers as they are used to inconsistency when they seek connection. Usually these adults will behave in certain ways that will confirm their own negative beliefs that they have formed as a child. These adults that have a disorganized attachment style are at increased risk of anxiety and depression compared to the other insecure attachment styles.

As mentioned previously we know that our attachment styles that we have formed in our childhood usually impact on our behaviour in close relationships as an adult. However, there is good news, we can change and work on our attachment!

The first step to changing an insecure attachment style is to identify sources of our anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment style. A therapist can help to recognise moments in our life when we experienced certain attachment related behaviours. For example, for people that have disorganized attachments styles there will be most likely past trauma or maltreatment that needs to be addressed in therapy in order to make sense of these past events. The second step will be to identify and focus on our negative thoughts or core beliefs that we have formed in our childhood on basis of our past interactions with our caregivers. In attachment-based therapy, a therapist can support by examining our thoughts that have been formed about ourselves and evaluate these and conclude if these thoughts are true or rather exaggerated or incorrect. Additionally, people who have had caregivers that failed to take care of them, usually struggle to communicate their needs in a relationship. Through counselling, it is possible to improve our communication skills and to learn how to express feelings and needs more clearly.

Eventually, we can notice that an increase in communication can be helpful in our current relationship, or it might be realized that we will never get our needs met in this relationship.

Overall, attachment-based therapy can be really helpful if you feel that you are experiencing issues in your current relationships that might stem from your childhood.

So, if you think that you might have underlying issues related to attachment that might affect your current relationships, feel free to book in with one of our experienced psychologists at Drop of Life!

Sources

Ainsworth MDS, Blehar MC, Waters E, Wall S. Patterns of Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum; 1978.

Ainsworth MDS. Attachments and Other Affectional Bonds Across the Life Cycle. In: Attachment Across the Life Cycle. Parkes CM, Stevenson-Hinde J, Marris P, eds. London: Routledge; 1991: 33-51.

Bowlby J. The Nature of the Child's Tie to His Mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis.1958;39:350-371.

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Is it really about the Skeletons?

In my last blog I talked about trauma in previous generations of the family and how knowing about this can be helpful for the current generation. Now let’s talk about the benefits of knowing about family, not just about the traumas.

Psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush of Emory University in Atlanta Georgia asked children from 48 families 20 questions about their family history. They called this the “Do You Know” scale. Marshall Duke points out the major criterion for inclusion in this set of questions was that they test knowledge of things that children could not possibly have learned firsthand, thus relying on having learned these through the telling of family stories or other indirect sources. What they found was that children who knew more had:

  • a stronger their sense of control over their own lives
  • higher self-esteem,
  • lower levels of anxiety,
  • fewer behavioural problems
  • improved chances for a good outcome if the child faces educational or emotional/behavioural difficulties

They also found that the families of the children who knew more functioned better. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush reassessed the children in these same families shortly after the tragedy that was Sept 11. The families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, but they had all experienced the same national trauma at the same time. They found that the children who knew more about their families proved more able to moderate the effects of stress, were more resilient.

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.”, a sense of their history and that their identity stretches back 100 of years giving them connection, strength and resilience.

The research shows that children who have a strong “family narrative” in particular one about the ups and downs of life and how the hard times were overcome, enjoy better emotional health. Dr Duke asserts that negative family stories can be even more important than the positive ones for fostering children’s emotional resilience.

So this is good news right, all we have to do is teach our kids the answers to the “Do you know” questionnaire and they will have all these benefits. An easy fix is really appealing but of course there is more to it than that. We need to look at how it is that some children know more than others and what are the factors in the family that contribute to this.

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Tapping to Help with Stress?

I recently attended a workshop on Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as Tapping, and was amazed to learn about the benefits of this technique.

To be honest, I was somewhat dubious before I attended this training and questioned how tapping could bring about benefits for so many types of emotional and physical problems. But I saw firsthand the benefits of tapping doing this workshop and also saw that it was backed up by empirical research!

So what is EFT / Tapping?

Tapping combines principles from Chinese acupressure and psychology to treat both physical pain and emotional distress. Tapping with the fingertips on specific meridian endpoints of the body, while addressing negative emotional experiences or bodily sensations, can calm the nervous system, thereby reducing stress and providing healthier ways of responding to daily stressors.

How does EFT work?

EFT recognises the connection between mind and body. Whilst ancient Chinese populations have known this for a long time, we are now beginning to find and have discovered through research, that our bodies are equipped with an energy system that runs along pathways known as meridians. It is believed that EFT helps to stimulate these pathways, and when we verbally or mentally target the cause of distress, energy that is stuck or blocked can begin to flow naturally.

The basic technique involves tapping with the fingertips on 12 of the body’s meridian points, whilst addressing negative emotions, bodily sensations or physical pain, and repeating this sequence between 5-7 times. At this point, and having done tapping on myself, you start to notice a shift and a reduction in the experience of distress or stress. It is truly phenomenal!

What can it be used to treat?

Another incredible thing about tapping is that it can be used to treat so many types of emotional problems and pain. It can be used for stress, anxiety, phobias, chronic pain, addiction, weight loss, negative core beliefs and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD).

Benefits of EFT

Along with reducing emotional distress, tapping can improve memory, increase positive feelings, lower stress (cortisol), control inflammation and immunity genes and down-regulate heart and blood pressure.

Probably one of the most amazing features of tapping is that, once the process and sequence has been fully learned, it can be practised by anyone, at any time and is FREE!

I would like to express a word of caution in this regard, if there are complex psychological problems (such as PTSD), it is best to undertake EFT with an experienced mental health provider or psychologist.

So if you are interested in trying out EFT, feel free to book in with one of our experienced psychologists at the Drop Of Life!! J

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