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Banks,bail outs and loss of control….

Counselling — admin @ 4:15 pm

What a week we’ve had in terms of Irish politics…..the lies, the cover ups, the calling in of the IMF to rescue us…. There’s a sense of unfairness and injustice for us as ordinary people being punished for something we didn’t do. We seem to have little or no control over the immediate future and we have lost our trust in those who tell us it will be okay in the end.

It’s not a nice feeling when the safety net is pulled. We can be left feeling insecure and wary of everyone around us. The world is not to be trusted. The only person we can really rely on it seems is ourselves. We feel safe when we are in control of our lives, financial stability playing a big part in the developed world. However, we often hand over our control to other things in life. This may be allowing another person to control you, a partner, a parent or an adult child. It may be the obvious ones like drinking or doing drugs. There are more subtle ones like food and weight control. While these may feel good in the moment they are ultimately a handing over of your person to these things. You are no longer in control of yourself if your life centres around any of these because they take you away from your real self. These are ways of detaching from yourself often to avoid emotional pain from hurts inflicted on you by others or through losses in life.

And here’s the thing….we all have it in us to be happy, to be in control of ourselves and our lives by really tuning into the person inside. Listening and trusting that quiet voice inside of you is the first step to healing hurts from the past.  When we learn how to do this all things outside of us become not so important, like the bail out and the country’s economic crisis. These things while important at a national level do not define us individually. In times like these, there is always an opportunity to come back to yourself and to recognise what is important in your life. Separating out the state of country from you as a person can help give you a sense of stability. It is reported that there is a calmness at the centre of a hurricane even though there’s chaos all around….you can be that centre for yourself amidst all the national uncertainty. It is what happens inside of you and subsequently the knock on effect in your relationship with others that matters. I’ve heard so many people say this week that they weren’t going to listen to the radio or TV anymore, that they’ve had enough… So in this quiet time with the telly off you might ‘tune in’ to yourself and have a listen. You might be surprised at what you hear……and how it makes you feel…



Cut out dolls, hopes and dreams, divorce and new beginnings.

Separation/ Divorce — admin @ 12:56 pm

Here at counselling connections this week we’ve been thinking and talking about divorce. It seems that there are so many losses involved in finally coming to the stage where a marriage is officially dissolved in a court of law. A very private grief is made public. But it takes quite a lot to get to this stage.

Hands up who can remember that game we played as kids with a book of cardboard cut out dolls and cardboard cut out doll’s clothes. The doll was a blank canvas on which you could place a number of different outfits (clipping the outfit around the doll’s shoulders could be a bit tricky . . . it might not stay on very well!). The exciting thing is to be able to change the blank doll from a princess to a cowgirl to a disco queen with the only limits being the availability of suitable cut out clothes. To make these clothes ourselves means the only limits are the limits of our imaginations and we can make the blank doll into anything we want it to be.

It seems to us that these childhood imaginings have some parallels in adult attraction and more particularly in how we project the cut out clothes of our hopes and dreams onto the blank doll of our chosen partner. Some may be able to meet these hopes and dreams in adult life and sadly some will not. Some pinned on roles will fit well and some will fall off. The person who we choose to fill the role of husband or wife will have their own way of being and we may find out too late that their hopes, dreams and expectations and our own are just not compatible.

In working through the losses involved in a relationship breakup in therapy we often find that the loss of the hopes and dreams are more difficult to come to terms with than the loss of the actual person who we were in relationship with and from whom we have now become separated. The love we felt for them may have long since died a slow death but the feelings of loss associated with the loss of our dream can remain. It is not the person we miss; it is the failure to fulfil the aims of our childhood imagination that is hardest to come to terms with.

These childhood aims are complex and individual to each person. In simple terms it may be the expectation that ‘when I grow up I will be married with a nice house and happy children’. Sometimes we find that these dreams include the wish to correct aspects of one’s own childhood which were a disappointment. We want to give our own children things that we feel we missed out on ourselves. The strong and holding family life that we imagined we could create cannot survive the break up of a relationship. We have to adjust our aspirations to the new and more complicated family arrangements that follow such a break up.

There are also the symbols of marriage. A wedding itself is a great public celebration of two people choosing to commit to each other and setting out to make a life together. The wedding rings swapped on that day are worn with pride and can give a sense of the continuity and support felt in a good marriage. The photo album with smiling faces showing the optimism and hope for a life together contrast with the private loss that can be experienced years later when looking over these pictures alone. The wedding dress is a particularly important symbol and is often something invested with dreams of becoming a princess that have been held by a bride since she was a girl. These are all things associated with our hopes and dreams that are painful to let go of when, for whatever reason love fades and a marriage ends.

If there are children the practical aspects of separation and divorce can be made even more difficult. Some cannot resist the temptation to play out some of their feelings about their former partner in front of the children. We can only plead with these people to try to behave both as adults and as parents and co-operate together in matters relating to the children leaving personal hurts and disputes for a different place.

Reflecting on the symbols of marriage together with our childhood hopes and dreams and our adult expectations are things that commonly arise in a therapy following a marriage break up. There is something especially upsetting seeing the details of your personal life set out and described in legal documents. It can be a time of deep personal loss, of reflection and of re-considering what we hope for and expect from life. It also represents the opportunity for new beginnings and we at counselling connections wish you well with this journey. We know that you can love and be loved and if you feel we can be of use to you in making a start and looking over all these things we’d be pleased to journey with you.

FB. Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

Stories of Suicide series.

Self Harm and Suicide — admin @ 12:35 pm

Here at Counselling Connections we welcome the Irish Times focus on suicide in their Stories of Suicide series:

If you are in the Dundalk area and have been affected by suicide and are looking for support then please feel free to contact us by phone, email or through our website. The phone lines and email inbox are staffed by trained counsellors experienced in dealing with self harm and suicide ideation. We are committed to working towards preventing suicide in Dundalk through our counselling practice.

What’s in a text? . . .

Counselling — admin @ 10:52 am

Communication, when apart, has become very immediate these days with twitters, texts, blogs and emails. The immediacy of this form of communication allows people the freedom to say whatever they want, however they want, without mulling it over and without having to face the other’s reaction in person.  It gets it ‘off the chest’ so to speak and on to the screen of the recipient….It can be so easy to press ‘send’ and can induce a great sense of relief in doing so. However it might be wise to pause before you send . . .

For the recipient it can be hard to know what the tone of a text is at times and so the sender of the text is open to misinterpretation. The mood of the recipient can also influence the way a text is understood. How many times have you received an ambivalent text and read too much into it, only to discover that’s not really what the person meant?. Or better still sent a ‘do you love me?’ text, only to receive a reply a day later due to busy networks ( if only you had known this at the time it wouldn’t have spiralled into a major row with your partner!). When sending a text it may be worth asking yourself what it is you expect to hear back, if there is a need in you that you are hoping the other will fulfil in their response. What happens then, when you don’t get the response you had hoped for?

As we reread old stored texts (that we were keeping as evidence!) they can resurrect old feelings of resentment, anger and hurt. Here in counselling connections, we can see the parallels in therapy where past hurts revisited can bring up old feelings which are difficult to deal with, which is why we bury them in the first place. These feelings, while difficult to face, keep us trapped in past hurts and hold us back in relationships and in life in general. To move on and be free of the past it is necessary to allow those feelings to come up, to be dealt with. Anger and frustration left unexpressed can become low mood and depression when turned in on the self (Jacobs, 1998). Psychotherapy offers you a safe place to deal with these emotions at your own pace, where you won’t be overwhelmed. We have heard so many people say they are afraid to cry in case they won’t be able to stop. The reality is you will.

Therapy isn’t as immediate as pressing ‘delete’ on your phone or laptop but over time it will help you to sort out the folders in your mind so that what you keep stored away in your ‘saved messages’ are only those positive ones that make your life better. It doesn’t mean that we forget, rather that thinking about these experiences doesn’t hurt so much anymore.


Jacobs, M. (1998). The Presenting Past. Open University Press. London.

MMG, Counselling Connections.

The Voice of the Child.

Here at Counselling Connections this week we have been reading and digesting the contents of the Report of the Inquiry Team to the Health Service Executive into the Roscommon Child Care Case. It is another catalogue of sustained and chronic abuse meted out, in this case by parents, against Irish children.  It is by no means the first report of its kind. Recent reports have focused on abuse perpetrated on children over decades by members of the Roman Catholic Clergy. These reports highlighted a litany of horrific abuse and cover up over decades. That the reports found that there was an official cover up is important because cover up means that somebody knew. A lot of people knew and did nothing. The voice of the children was not heard; they had no-one to speak for them.

Over 95% of abuse however is not perpetrated by religious. Much of it happens in families and the same silence and cover up is to be found there. The events described in the most recent report occurred subsequent to the Kilkenny Incest Investigation, the report of which was published in May 1993. That report expressed the hope that the publicity attached to the case, the subsequent investigation and the analysis and conclusions would make it easier for people to take action sooner. The authors of the report further hoped that agencies and professionals would be alerted earlier to signs of abuse. It was noted in that report that the victim’s mother was aware of the sexual and physical abuse being carried out on her daughter by her husband. While the responsibility for the abuse, the report states, rests with the father there were others who were aware of it and did not act to protect the children.

A similar family structure is outlined in the more recent Roscommon report. They note that the father ‘ruled his home by exercising considerable control over each member of the household’. The authors go on to state that he exercised the same ‘controlling stance in relation to the professionals working with his family’.  This is a structure we see again and again in our work with adult survivors of childhood abuse. There is a man at the head of a household or operating in a religious capacity who rules over his family or his flock with a reign of fear. This fear becomes an important element in allowing abusive situations to develop and continue. People are afraid to speak out, afraid to confront him and this facilitates a continuation of abuse. The voice of the child is not heard.

Collusion or a conspiracy of silence is frequently found in cases of abuse. This may even find expression at a societal level in the reaction to the publication of the various reports. There may be feeling of ‘oh no, not another report’, what might be called ‘abuse fatigue’ where ordinary people who are unaffected by childhood abuse have become tired of listening to the details of it and simply switch off. There is also the feeling which we detect with the publication of these reports that they bring ‘closure’ to the story of abuse and that the issue has finally been tackled and can be put away. This is a very dangerous false sense of security to allow ourselves to be tempted by.

Commentators have said that abuse was happening at the time these reports were published and we can be sure it is happening now. These comments are supported by the fact that the events described in the most recent report occurred subsequent to the 1993 report.  The men who carry out this abuse and those around them who collude with it are not deterred by the mere publication of reports. Stronger, more assertive action is required to meet abuse head on.

The most recent report finds that ‘voice of the child’ was not heard in this case prior to the children being taken into care. There was too much emphasis on trying to work with the parents and not enough emphasis on balancing this with the rights of the children. The children were not independently represented in the successful High Court proceedings taken by the parents to prevent the Health Board from taking the children into care. There is a Constitutional issue at work here. Despite this, the long-promised referendum on Children’s Rights has been sidelined in the legislature for reasons of short term political expediency despite all-party support. Once again, the voice of the child is not heard.

At Counselling Connections we are familiar with stories of stolen childhoods from our work with survivors of childhood abuse. The picture of collusion and silence is all too familiar as families, groups and society turn their faces away from the horror of abuse. In this vacuum the abuser thrives.  Our message this week is a simple one. The voice of the child must be heard.

FB, Counselling Connections Dundalk.

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