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The Service of Suffering

Over the course of our lives events happen that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, heartbroken or depressed. Have you ever been in the depths of despair and asked why? What is the point of this pain and suffering? How we answer this question affects the way we feel about our life, it’s purpose and how we perceive the world.  These terrible occurrences can shape who we are, if we chose to learn nothing from our pain then we may end up getting stuck in it. Perhaps suffering is a conduit to help us learn and connect to one another. What if there was a purpose to your misery?

While in the midst of a life altering loss or tragedy it can be incredibly frustrating to hear the phrase, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ Although it may be something you believe, it can be difficult to feel that way in depths of grief. When I speak of learning from painful experiences, I do not assume that this is something that can be done in the middle of the grieving process. It is completely healthy and encouraged to feel your sadness, anger and frustration. However, if you stay stuck in those feelings it can be easy to believe that the world is conspiring against you.

Feeling like a victim is an incredibly lonely place. Watching others have their dreams come true, while another opportunity slips from your grasp. Believing that nothing has and ever will turn out positive for you is heart wrenching. It is difficult to believe there is any point to your misery when you have yet to see a break in the clouds, let alone a silver lining. Often these feelings cause us to isolate ourselves further. Feeling ashamed and believing that we are a failure can make it less likely to reach out for support. Usually having the assumption that no one has experienced exactly what you have, so no one can understand.

The belief that we are separate and alone in our pain is what can make us feel so terrible. However, I believe it is through this pain that we can learn how to connect more fully to each other. The first step is acknowledging that everyone hurts. Everyone has moments of feeling lost and believing their life is a mess. However, when we cannot find that understanding for ourselves it can be difficult to believe that anyone else would. That belief causes many to stay quiet, suffering in silence, never being able to share their inner pain. When the truth is, everyone has a right to feel. If you have been hurt you feel that way for a reason. Trying to convince yourself you do not, will not make those feelings go away; usually it makes them worse.

It is in these dark places within ourselves that there is space for personal growth and understanding. However, that can only be achieved when we find compassion for ourselves and our pain. That means not being judgemental of how you feel. Nothing is gained from thinking and speaking negatively about yourself. These thoughts are not usually facts and if they contribute your misery they are not helping you. If you want to evolve from the pain you need to consider if you have learned or gained anything from the struggles in your life.

As therapists the most common prerequisite to training is ‘life experience’. Which really is a nice way to say suffering. To better connect and help someone move on from their pain you have to have been there yourself. Having the ability to facilitate growth, knowing that in the end there is hope, light and possibility. You don’t have to be a therapist to recognise the benefits gained from living a full life, one filled with ups and downs. The difference is that many people use their losses as a way to separate themselves from others, instead of a way to connect and learn. We should be able to see ourselves in every tear that is shed by those around us, but we don’t.

Suffering disconnects us from ourselves and in turn, one another. This disconnect means that we can find it difficult to relate to the suffering of another. From the stranger we pass on the street to a loved one, the up’s and down’s are called ‘the human experience’ yet we usually perceive them as ‘my’ experience. Living with the belief that what I experience is different from what you experience. Which is only true to a point, I may not know exactly how sadness feels to you or why you have experienced it. However, I do know that when I feel down what makes the difference is knowing I am not alone. I believe is true for all of us.

In an ideal world we would see our struggles as lessons, teaching us to grow. Or we would recognise that no matter the culture or religious background the experience of emotion connects us all. Perhaps suffering is a part of our experience because it allows us to appreciate the joy while also teaching us how relate to one another more fully. Either way, until we give ourselves the opportunity to reflect on all parts of our journey it will be increasingly difficult to learn from it. Allow yourself to believe in a life where your suffering has not been worthless and explore what there is to gain.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”  – Haruki Murakami

Workshop – A Reflective Journey

Life moves quickly. So quickly, that most people spend all of their time focusing on what’s next and what needs to be achieved; rarely taking the time to reflect on the journey thus far. Always looking to the future can lead to feeling anxious and unfulfilled. Instead of appreciating everything you have accomplished you may end up comparing yourself to others and focusing on what you lack.

Have you ever given yourself the time to reflect on all the ups and downs that have lead to you being here today?

Rick Warren

It’s difficult to know where you are going if you don’t understand where you’ve been. Although one day is not enough to reflect on a life’s journey, it’s a start.

Through the use of exercises, visualisations, discussions and an introduction to the stages of psychological development, you will gain personal knowledge and understanding. This learning will help give you a further awareness of your own patterns and how they have shaped your life and reactions. Gaining self awareness will help put you on the right path to living in a more positive way.

Further Information

When: Saturday, April 23rd 10am – 5pm

Where: 9 Fitzwilliam Street Upper, Dublin 2

Cost: €100 – all supplies, snacks and tea included.

If you are interested in joining or would like to know more please contact Angela, spaces are limited:  085 133 6644, or by email: adastratherapy@gmail.com

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” – Ralph Ellison

To everyone who thinks they aren’t good enough

You probably can’t pinpoint the exact moment you started to believe you weren’t enough. Most likely it began when you were younger. Someone said something or treated you in a way that you didn’t deserve, but you thought you did. Comments and behaviours planted a seed in your mind which blossomed into assumptions that you hold onto today. That you, as you are, are not enough. This assumption most likely formed because someone you loved didn’t make you feel loved. Which was interpreted as “I am unloveable.”

I write this to tell you that you are wrong. You are loveable and good enough just as you are.

You may be thinking, ‘You don’t know me, you don’t know who I am, what I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made, etc.” And you’re right, I don’t. But I do know that almost every person I have ever met is too hard on themselves. Holding an entirely different set of rules for themselves than they do for those around them.

It’s not your fault. We are raised in a society where buy more and change yourself are sold to us from birth. Our parents (who are also only human) have their own insecurities that can get passed on and the cycle of believe that we need to be more than we are continues; never being happy in our own skin.

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You, with all your flaws and human imperfections are exactly all you need to be. That internal voice that speaks harsh complaints about who you are is a liar. It can grow and get so loud that it makes you feel completely worthless. Imagine if you believed that you were good enough, as you are. If you could live your life with a belief in yourself and the decisions you make, how would that reflect in the way you interact with the world around you?

It benefits no one living a life trying to please others. When we live by the assumption that we aren’t good enough then choices can be made in hopes to impress those around us. If you feel unloveable then you may do whatever you can to make people love you. Which results in living a life for others and not for yourself.

Notice when that internal voice puts you down and question it. Are you really an idiot or did you just make a mistake? How would you respond to a friend if they looked at you and picked at every perceived imperfection? I imagine you would be angry and hurt. Yet you do it to yourself all the time without noticing the consequences. Be aware of how harsh you can be and see if you can question the beliefs you hold about yourself. Start trying to believe that you are good enough, with all your quirks and wonderful qualities. Because you are.

You are good enough. You just have to believe it.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha

Enjoy Responsibly

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. Which means many will be wearing, eating and drinking all things green. The day is named after the patron saint of Ireland who died over 1500 years ago. He is known for bringing Christianity to Ireland. As the celebration falls during lent it originally allowed for those abstaining from alcohol to be exempt for this one day. For most people this day now has very little religious connections but are still happy to celebrate. As Paddy’s Day allows for those par taking in festivities to start drinking at noon, which for a week day can certainly can feel miraculous.

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When it comes to drinking, especially when in the midst of celebrations pacing isn’t usually part of the equation. Which is why here in Dublin many locals stay out of the city centre on March 17th. Tourists come in and drink far too much, too early and things get messy. In general it seems many people don’t know their limit. Being surrounded by people who drink faster than you or having to buy rounds can add a pressure and a pace that might not suit you.

To know your limits it’s important to pay attention to what feels right for you when it comes to alcohol. You don’t have to be the same level of drunk of everyone else if you don’t want too. Especially if you suffer from anxiety, pacing can go out the window. That anxious voice that usually fills your mind might be quieted as the booze flows. However, what often happens is you wake up the next day feeling so much worst. Often because the fear of what happened while under the influence haunts you. If you have hazy memories that makes it worst and gives your anxiety more power and a louder voice.

Alcohol is a depressant which means that it takes longer for information to travel between the brain and body. This slowing down impairs everything we do but can often give an air of confidence, which is why people might do something drunk they would never do sober. Since it’s the most widely used drug in the world it’s common to make excuses for what happens drunk.

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As with all things it’s important to notice your own pattern when it comes to alcohol. Do you feel like you need a drink when you are sad/anxious/upset or angry? If that’s the case you are most likely using it to help you cope. If you feel it’s the only way you can celebrate or unwind then you most likely need it to help you relax. Using regularly in either scenario can become a problem because your body can forget how to regulate; you’re relying on a chemical to have the intended reaction. Which is why some people feel like they can only have fun while drinking.

The goal is to enjoy everything in moderation, which looks different for everyone. Today and any other day you decide to consume alcohol notice the impact it can have on you. You are fun and people will like your company even if you aren’t completely hammered. If you wake up dreading what happened the night before you’re only hurting yourself.

“Drink moderately, for drunkeness neither keeps a secret, nor observes a promise.” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Nice Stuff

Here in Dublin the sun in shining and I am feeling hopeful for Spring. It has put me in a good mood and I want you to feel the same. With that in mind I’ve put together a short post of things that are nice. If the sun isn’t shining where you are I hope the clouds clear soon.

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Fan of House Of Cards? Check out this Dublin version

This is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

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“Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.” – Maxim Gorky

An (Almost) Free Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and with it can come the pressure to spend a lot of money. The costs add up very quickly if you feel the need to conform to typical Valentine’s Day purchases. You may be expected to buy flowers, chocolates, and go out for dinner. On average people spend at least €100 on this one day! Usually unaware of how much both florists, shops and restaurants mark up their prices.

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If you want to do something nice for that special someone but are already feeling stressed about how much it will cost. It’s important to remember that doing something nice for your significant other doesn’t have to cost a lot. If you want to take this day to enjoy being a couple then all that matters is spending time together. Keeping that in mind I have outlined a day long itinerary, or a menu of sorts. That way you have the option to pick and choose whatever you feel suits you best. With the goal being getting to spend time and not cash.

Wake-up rested (free): If possible give yourselves permission to sleep in. The effects of getting a good night’s sleep are huge, from better mood to overall well-being. You don’t want to start off the day irritable and crabby, whether you live under the same roof or not decide to begin slowly. Remember, today is not about feeling pressured but feeling content.

Brunch (€10): Grab a few things to make something yummy you’ll both enjoy. A few quid spent on eggs, bread, orange juice or their favourite coffee is really all you need. To make it feel special it just needs to look special. Clear off the table, set it, add some folded napkins and viola! Special Valentine’s Day brunch at the ready.Country-kitchen-table

Fun and Games (free): Stress or the familiarity of routine gets in the way and couples can forget to have fun together. Take a few hours and play board games, card games or ask each other fun and random questions. Have music that you love playing in the background instead of the television or Netflix and keep the social media sharing to a minimum. Being present to each other means you have to keep the distractions at bay.

Head outside (free – €10, if you want coffee or hot cocoa): Although it’s the middle of February, walking hand in hand in the chilly weather can be fun and romantic. Grab something warm to sip on and go explore! Check out a park, or take a hike somewhere you’ve never been. If you cannot imagine spending time outside then just leave the house and head to a museum, an art gallery or pop into a pool hall and play some games (this may cost you, but only a few a few €).  None of these have a high price tag as many museums and galleries are free.photo-1417962779624-1790ed01e8d5

Dinner (€20 – 30): Heading out for dinner on Valentine’s Day is really where you can end up spending a fortune. Instead of being surrounded by strangers, enjoy the comfort of your home. Then you can say goodbye to set menus and the already mentioned markups. Why not have a romantic picnic on the floor? Or in a  fort? Lay down a blanket, some pillows, light a few candles and string some fairy lights. Remember if it looks special it will feel special! If you don’t feel like cooking or you are worried about your talent in the kitchen. Mix and matching from your favourite take-away will still be a small percentage of what you would be paying to eat out.

Gift Giving (Max €5): If you feel like spending the whole day together is not gift enough. There are things you can give that don’t break the bank and unlike flowers won’t need to be thrown out in a week. You don’t need to push yourself to spend more than you have. Here are some lovely gifts that prove it really is the thought that counts. Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 19.13.40

  • Write a poem.
  • Make a list of all the little things you love about them.
  • Print and frame photos of the two of you together.
  • Make a slideshow put to their favourite music.
  • Bring back the mixed tape (or mixed thumb drive).

If you were to do everything mentioned above the entire day would only cost €55! As you can see you don’t need to do something big and extravagant. The days we consider special are most often the ones filled with fun experiences. If you want to make this Valentine’s Day (or any day) memorable, show the person you love that all that matters is the connection you share. At the end of the day that is something that cannot be purchased.

“I want to be in a relationship where you telling me you love me is just a ceremonious validation of what you already show me.” – Steve Maraboli

January Blues

If you are feeling quiet low this week you aren’t alone. This past Monday was and is known as Blue Monday and it is supposedly one of the most depressing days of the year. Because of that I wanted to post a quick note to recommend you check out this list I wrote in Buzzfeed.  It offers tips on how to beat the blues and hopefully it will help your mood.

Also I recommend you close your eyes and imagine places like this…
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Let’s just dream of sunshine.

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland