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The Psychology of a Hangover.

Addiction.,Depression,Psychotherapy — admin @ 12:00 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we have been turning our attention to one of the less favourable aspects of the holiday season. Regular readers will know that we love this time of year. We like to try to remain tuned in to the cycle of the seasons and the turn of the earth. We like the ancient celebration of the solstice and the promise of brighter days to come. We love the optimism and the gathering together for a family celebration. Another feature of all of this anticipation is expressed in a letting off of steam in a series of office and other parties. A build up of months of hard work is released in group celebrations up and down the country. These occasions often involve the consumption of alcohol; sometimes lots of it. So, as we witness groups of friends and colleagues dressed in seasonal jumpers and often hopping from one pub to another in the latest party craze we pause here to reflect on what comes next. Without wishing to be accused of being party poopers, we’d like to pause for a moment and give some thoughts on the psychology of a hangover.

The first thing to bear in mind about a hangover relates to the expectation and frustration that sometimes accompanies the drinking behaviour in the first instance. People say to us that if they have had a hard week or a tough time in work that they intend to blow off a bit of steam on a Friday night. The reasons for having a few drinks can be important and we’ll explain why a little later. Sometimes clients tell us of occasions where they know that the reason they have a few drinks is to make some emotional problem go away. This is very successful in the short term but it brings a number of built in challenges with it. In short, it doesn’t last longer than the alcohol. In the best traditions of a Greek or a Shakespearian tragedy, the seeds of the eventual fall, the hangover, are sown in the character of the build up and the pressure which we’re seeking to release in the first instance.

Sometimes these pressures are emotional and sometimes mundane. From one end of the week to the other we get to bed and get up and commute and rush about at what is, to our instinctual self, often regarded as the bidding of the other. We go to work because we have to. We have to pay rent and mortgages. We have bills to pay. We don’t have as much discretionary income left over as we’d like to. And in these latitudes the evenings gradually get darker to the point where we often go to work and come home again in the dark and it can seem like we’ll never see the light of day again. The idea then of a chance to party a little, to kick up our heels and even to misbehave a little is a very welcome one. Indeed, at some level we feel we deserve a party as a reward for all our effort. This can be experienced as a frustration and a sense of entitlement for an office party where the company look after us for being good little boys and girls; we get to be naughty for one night for being good all year long.

If you’re thinking that what you’ve read so far isn’t in our usually positive tone well you’re right. That’s because we think that some of these frustrations and anger are what is expressed in a night of drinking and these are what return then with a vengeance the morning after the night before.

So, you wake up in the morning after having a little too much to drink the night before. Sometimes this is mild enough and at other times it is much more debilitating and puts you out of action or bed bound for the best part of a day. One of the first things that people describe is the phenomenon often referred to as ‘the fear’. This seems to be a double edge sword. Firstly, it is simply a feeling of all over dread based on the physiological reaction to the levels of alcohol consumed and still in our system. Alcohol is a depressant. Secondly, as we wake and review the previous evening’s activity we are often consumed with a range of feelings based on what we can remember of what we have done the night before. Sometimes this process happens in waves over the course of the day. We might have said something indiscrete or just plain stupid. We might have just carried the fun a little too far and made a nuisance of ourselves. Or we might have committed some sexual indiscretion and wonder how we can undo any damage to relationships that we have caused. A number of referrals to our office come as a result of violence, sometimes involving police and courts which were a direct result of alcohol intake. We get belligerent when we’ve had too much to drink.

As we look over these things we face the fall in our estimate of our self and can spend some time in self reproach. We call this part of the process a spiritual hangover. Quite apart from any physical sickness which will quickly pass, this spiritual part of the hangover can be quite serious and oddly enough can be part of the process of frustration we described earlier which will build and lead to the next blow out. People often describe to us how this can become a cycle which can seem difficult to escape. So, drinking heavily can cause real spiritual or psychological harm which is not good for our mental health.

The reasons why we were tempted to have a few drinks in the first place return with a hangover with a renewed self destructive cheer. It is like all the problems we were trying to escape simply sat on the sidelines and witnessed our brief interlude into a party self and then expressed themselves again with a renewed vigour. And again, this is often then associated with severe self reproach. We are hurting our self when we do this. And we tend to do it over again.

The antidote to all of this is quite simple. When we say it to people they think it is quite radical and often a little extreme. The one sure way to avoid a hangover is not to drink. When we dream of a lovely, bubbly, cold beer on a weekend we rarely pause to check our expectations or experience. The drink does not deliver on the promise; it doesn’t give us what we hope it will. It is very temporary. We don’t stop to think of the whole process of hangover and recovery that we have gone through before. Sometimes this process is harmless enough but often it is not. It is often quite harmful to the self, to our mental health, to drink to excess and then to repeat it again. We can get stuck in the cycle of this and end up feeling miserable over and again. Quite apart from any physical health problems we can say for sure that it leads to mental health problems.

So, with apologies for the sobering tone in this, the party season we would simply urge you to look humbly at your own drinking. Mind your self and take good care of your mental health.

Counselling Connections.

Christmas and New Year Holiday arrangements 2015.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 10:26 am

Christmas and New Year Holiday arrangements 2015.

We’ll be open until Wednesday, December 23rd at 6pm. We’ll be closed from the 24th until January 4th 2016. We will be checking the voicemail during the days when we’re not here so if you like to leave a message we’ll ring you back to arrange an appointment. We don’t have an around the clock service for emergencies so check our links page http://www.counsellingconnections.ie/cc/links/ for contact details for Aware and Samaritans.

We’d like to wish all our clients and friends a Happy and Peaceful Christmas. We’re looking forward to working with you in the New Year.

Fergal and Maggie. Counselling Connections.

tel. 042 9331803 mob. 086 0381073

My Brother: A poem about a boy with Autism, by his brother.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 10:18 am

My Brother

 

His room is his fortress,

A bare, barren floor.

One bed in the corner

And a key in the door.

The ritual of locking

Eases the stress.

Four pulls on the handle

No more, no less.

Washing is solace

from the grim everyday,

Cleaning his hands

Helps take the fear away.

Watching his clothes spin

At forty degrees

With bubbles and powder,

God knows what he sees.

The world makes no sense

In his strange little head

He washes and washes

Till his fingers turn red.

What will he do

when it’s all stripped away?

Will he think “carpe diem”

And then seize the day?

Or will he regress to a simpler stage,

With none of the problems that come with age?

If he stays as he is, what then?

Repeating things over and over again.

Should he be nudged, or should he be pushed?

Should we be patient, or should we be rushed?

Left to his own devices, I fear

his mind will become more clouded, not clear.

The others around him suffer as well

Perhaps, he makes life a living hell.

Anger and shouting can sometimes arise,

While he wipes the glistening tears from his eyes.

But despite all his foibles, despite all his flaws,

He still can be helped, and that is because

He is my brother and that allows me

To see past the cloud of emotional debris,

To the little boy floating in stasis within

This is his true self, the yang within yin.

With time and affection, this flower can grow

The thorns will be brushed aside and new life will flow

Stress, fear and loneliness will be things of the past

And he will be happy at last.

The Irish Psycho-Analytical Association Annual Lecture 2015.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 10:58 am

The Irish Psycho-Analytical Association Presents

Professor Liam Kennedy

Northern Ireland:

Who Was Responsible for The Troubles?

Prof. Kennedy is Professor of History at Queens University, Belfast. He has had an interest for many years in the psychological, or psycho-social, view of history. During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, nationalists would have seen the disturbances as “Suppression of a legitimate aspiration to join the 26 counties and form a 32-county Island of Ireland under Dublin rule”; whilst many or most protestants would see them as “IRA violence, supported secretly from the South, opposed to British sovereignty over the North”. Liam lived through the many years of violence in Northern Ireland, and will have seen more deeply into the disturbances than most observers.

Date:          6 June 2015

Time:                   11.30 am

Venue:        The Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire

Entry:        €20 (€10 for the unwaged)

Sabina Spielrein and the Holocaust.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 4:57 pm

This week in Counselling Connections we are remembering the Holocaust. As we write this post the World is remembering the 70th anniversary today of the freeing of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Our profession has strong links to the Jewish faith. The founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud was Jewish and he fled the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria in 1938. His daughter, Anna had been interrogated by the Gestapo and held for twenty four hours. Her arrest and release was the event which finally convinced him to abandon his home and celebrated consulting room in Vienna. He secured safe passage to England, where he was welcomed and there he spent the last year of his life. Members of his family weren’t so fortunate and four of his five sisters were killed in concentration camps.

We want to remember in a particular way today a lesser known member of the psychoanalytic profession and the Jewish faith, Sabina Spielrein. Sabina, was born in 1885 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia into what is described as a well-to-do, cosmopolitan, Russian Jewish family. She had an avid interest in science from an early age. In 1904 she went to Zurich to study medicine. She suffered a breakdown there and was put under the care of psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Over the next seven years she was first his patient and then his friend. They were described as ‘emotionally intimate’ and it seems likely that doctor and patient had a profound influence on each other. In 1911 she graduated with a dissertation on the subject of schizophrenia, one of the first published papers on the subject. She presented further papers to the Psychoanalytical association and it seems clear that she was a bright and original thinker on the subject. Much of her early work included descriptions of the struggles of the life and death instincts within the psyche. It seems likely that her work influenced both Jung and Freud.

Sabina married in 1912 and had a daughter, Renate, the following year. She returned to her native Russia in 1924 and in 1926 had a second daughter, Eva. After a period in Moscow she returned to her hometown and founded a psychoanalytic children’s nursery. Psychoanalysis was banned by Stalin but it seems likely that she continued to practice covertly. In 1941 the German army advanced on Rostov. Along with other members of the Jewish community Sabina was captured by the advancing army. On July 27th 1942, Sabina and her daughters Renate and Eva were shot and killed.

We remember them today as symbols of all those innocents killed. We remember Sabina as a brilliant and skilled analyst and wonder at her loss. We wonder how her contribution might have been remembered if she had lived. Her work did not receive the attention it might have and she is not a well known figure in the history of the psychoanalytic movement. We bring Sabina to your attention today as our modest contribution to remembering. Like many we feel it is important that the torch of remembrance is passed on and kept alive by this and by future generations. The horrors of the Holocaust and the unbearable human suffering it brought about are reminders of the dark forces within human kind. We cannot afford to forget the hate that men are capable of and how a death instinct can be directed at a race or religion.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

You can read more about Sabina in ‘Freud’s Women’ by Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester or online at the Jewish Women’s archive: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/spielrein-sabina

Irish Psycho-Analytical Association Lecture.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 11:44 am

The Irish Psycho-Analytical Association Presents

Professor Karl Figlio

The Difference Between

Private and Public Mourning

karlfiglio

Karl Figlio, Professor of Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex in Colchester, has been a friend of our Association for many years. Here he takes up the topic raised by Freud in his 1917 paper, Mourning and Melancholia, and re-examines it from the viewpoint of the twenty-first century, including his interest in the societal unconscious and in object-relations psychology. His overview is broad and sweeping.

This lecture will be of interest to anyone who deals with depression and/or mourning in the consulting-room. Since it throws light on the changes in unconscious structure due to mourning, and those resulting from depression, it will have an appeal for anyone who has lost a person, or a situation dear to them, and who must deal with this

Date: 17 May 2014

Time: 11 am

Venue: The Royal Marine Hotel, Marine Road, Dun Laoghaire

Entry: € 20 (€ 15 for the unwaged)

Easter and Personal Transformation.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 8:02 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we have been grappling with a question posed to us by a twelve year old. She wanted to know about the origin of the tradition of giving eggs at Easter time. Like a lot things it turns out there is more than one answer. In the first instance it seems that eggs were one of the foods that were not generally consumed during the Lenten fast. Pancake Tuesday became the day when all the eggs in the larder were eaten before Lent began. The stocks that piled up over the weeks of Lent were then consumed at Easter time. Eggs also represent renewal or rebirth which is a deeper, older meaning of the Easter holiday.

Indeed a look at the dictionary reveals that the origin of the word Easter lies in the old Germanic goddess of fertility and spring. Her name is linked with East and the sunrise and her feast was celebrated around the spring equinox. It is said that early Christians borrowed her name for their celebrations of the resurrection at the same time of the year. So the Christian story of Jesus dying and being raised from the dead supplanted earlier traditions who celebrated a feast of new life at this time of the year.

Indeed the story of the Passion of Christ which we remember at this time is one which represents extremes of suffering. Suffering is something many people endure at different times in their lives. The anguish which He endured in the Garden of Gethsemane is something that many have identified with at times of illness, loss or personal crises. The idea of death and rebirth is one which recurs not only in the story of Jesus but also throughout mythology. It also makes an appearance in dreams. We may find a dreamer reporting that they imagined their own death but were a witness to it and emerge from it a different person.

These themes represent something which seems to be common in human psychology, especially as we pass through the phases of childhood. We can face the next stage ahead of us with great fear. It can seem like a trial which we are not sure we will be able to survive. We cling to the comfort of the familiar and we resist change. This can happen after we have reached adulthood if we become unhappy in our home, work or relationship. At these times we can suffer great anguish and fear at the prospect of what may lie ahead of us. We may be tempted to turn away from the suffering that might be involved if we try to bring about change. This can also result in pain for the ones we love.

We see this kind of anguish all the time in our work. We see people assess where they are at in life and begin to consider a different kind of future. Often this results in upset and suffering as we go through a process of transformation from an old self to a new one. Sometimes these changes result in a new career or in the breakup of a long standing relationship or marriage. These are the modern, therapeutic realities of the ancient phenomenon of death and rebirth. They mirror our ancient forbears marking of the change of the seasons; the coming of spring and the light of sunrise on new growth. It is a natural process with a momentum of its own and we hope that in our work we can continue to facilitate those who are ready to undertake their own journey.

Happy Easter from us all at Counselling Connections.

A tendency to repeat.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 8:37 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we have been talking about one of the more puzzling aspects of human behaviour. We’ve been looking into why we can find ourselves repeating the past. Sometimes it is one of the things that a new client will mention in a first session. The work of the therapy then becomes a process of remembering past events and trying to work out why some of the more painful things seem to reoccur. It can be quite distressing to overcome a difficult period only to find a similar set of circumstances cropping up again.

An example of the kind of thing that people come to us to seek help with would be if a tendency to repeat becomes evident in romantic relationships. It is not unusual for someone to wonder aloud ‘what it is about me that attracts these kinds of bad partners?’ It might be more profitable to reframe the question and wonder what it is about these others that attracts us. In trying to figure out why we might seek out a particular kind of partner we might uncover clues as to what our own individual patterns are. We might also succeed in uncovering hidden motivations behind our actions.

Some form of repetition can also be found following a traumatic event. We may have vivid and terrifying dreams in which the details of the trauma are replayed. This is a kind of repetition even if it is only in our imagination. Anyone who has been woken in the middle of the night by one of these kinds of dreams will testify to how real the feelings of terror are. The reactions in our body can be similar in intensity to those we experienced during the initial trauma. We believe that in these dreams we can find clues to what the phenomenon of repetition is really about.

The way we think about repetition involves taking into account the past, the present and the future. The past is represented by whatever event we experienced and which we have not understood or overcome. This might be a relationship which caused us pain and which ended in an unsatisfactory manner. In the present we replay some of the characteristics of that relationship. We can find ourselves acting out aspects of the past and often find ourselves at a critical crossroad faced with a decision as to how to proceed. If our thinking on this is correct the purpose of the whole repetition is to then try to bring about a more satisfactory conclusion and create a better future.

The purpose of repeating behaviours would be to return to a past difficulty which left us with a degree of dissatisfaction; to try to resolve it and bring about a better outcome. One of the difficulties this poses is that once we have succeeded in recreating the original situation we often do not then know how to proceed to bring about the desired result. There is even a danger that we might find ourselves stuck in a cycle of repetition. We may end up secretly striving for nothing more ambitious than to be able to live with the discomfort of the situation in the absence of any satisfactory solution to it.

The work of therapy is to lay bare the range of our hidden motivations in these situations. This can throw up some surprising insights as to how little control we have over our emotional lives. We would seek an understanding of these influences and to try to facilitate a different outlet for them. The repetition is about trying to find a solution to an old problem. We would hope to bring about an awareness of the inner self so that we can exercise more choice over how we proceed with things that we got stuck on in the past. In this way a cycle of repetition can be broken for good.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

Beyond the self.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 4:57 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we have been having a debate about what the goal of therapy might be. Our discussion arises out of questions we are often asked as to how exactly therapy works. People ask us what it involves; how the weekly sessions might go and where it leads to. Often the reasons for someone attending therapy have to do with difficulties in coping with their work or romantic lives. Sometimes they report a kind of dull feeling of dissatisfaction and a sense of a directionless or unfulfilling existence. We have been considering things recently from the perspective of the aloneness of the individual in relation all aspects of the world.

Therapy is first and foremost an individual process. You come on your own each week and you talk about yourself. You might talk about your childhood and your relationship with you mother or father. You can spend some time considering your relations with brothers and sisters and with friends. The focus is on the paths that these significant attachments take and how their ups and downs inform our subsequent ways of being. The focus of the therapy is very much on the self and our feelings; our hurts and our reactions to things. After we spend some time working through these things we hope to learn about our own patterns of behaviour.

Sometimes therapy works a bit like an archaeological dig in that we begin with the deposits from the most recent events and work backwards through time to earlier ones. Past events can be seen to exert an influence over how things develop from there. Learning about how we might repeat the patterns of the past becomes a big part of therapy. We talk about these things and sometimes have moments of insight where we can see deep inside our own self. But therapy is not just about our own self. In the first instance all these personal explorations are done in the presence of another: the therapist. We are relational beings and we develop and live to the full when we achieve good relations with others.

To some extent individual therapy is about working out a hypothesis of our own inner life. It is in relationships outside of therapy where we put this to the test. Our work and love lives are the places where we try to put into practice what learn in our therapy. We work things out in the privacy of the therapy room and even test them out on the therapist. One aim of therapy then would be to try to work firstly on our relationship with our own self. This is done in the presence of and with an active relationship with the therapist. Good relations with the world may mean working things out on several levels including bringing meaning and purpose into our daily lives. Each of us has to work out these values for ourselves. This is a personal journey but not one which requires that we have to go it alone.

Counselling Connections.

Does Santa exist?

Psychotherapy — admin @ 5:15 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we were sitting down to our weekly meeting when somebody raised a question that is on a lot of people’s minds at this time of year. The question is whether Santa exists. Well, we have some fairly clever people here who have been to college and know a little about important things like psychology and philosophy. These are people who are used to seeking answers to the big questions in life. So we set aside the other items on our agenda and talked for a while about Santa Claus and whether or not he really does exist.

A first piece of evidence is the presence of Santa in almost every shopping mall. But I guess we all know from an early age that these are really Santa’s helpers because the man himself can’t be in all these different places at the same time. There seems to be two main problems to be addressed when looking into this. Firstly, how does Santa exist? And secondly, how does he manage to get all those presents delivered all over the world in just one night? The answer seems to be linked to these questions because it is in trying to figure out where the presents come from that we get some clues as to where he might be.

It seems that belief plays an important part in this conundrum. The World, it seems, is divided into two kinds of people; those who believe in Santa and those who don’t. But we figure that if you put a grown up who doesn’t believe in Santa in charge of a child who does then on Christmas Eve night Santa would bring a gift to that child. So does that prove that Santa exists? Because there is something in grown ups, even those who may not believe any more, that wishes to keep the magic alive for little ones who do believe. It’s about giving. It is about giving a gift and about giving proof to the belief in this magical person who inspires so many to keep on giving.

Some grown ups have memories of magical Christmases when they were children. They remember waking early, excitedly rushing to the bottom of the stairs and heading for the tree to find out what presents Santa has left. People like this try to make sure that their own children and nieces and nephews have lovely memories of Christmas too. Some grown ups don’t have very good memories of childhood Christmases for various reasons. Sometimes this has to do with lack of money or maybe because of illness or alcohol. When mothers and fathers fall out of love and live in different houses this can be difficult for children too. Grown ups will generally try to make Christmas as happy as possible for children.

Whether or not you believe in Santa it seems that he can still exercise a strong influence. This manifests itself in trying to make Christmas a magical time for children, of all ages. How Santa exists still remains somewhat of a mystery. He seems to exist quite strongly in the imagination of quite a number of people; both children and grown ups alike. The evidence which is hard to ignore is all those gifts. Where do they come from? They seem to be proof that Santa really does exist at some level. That is the conclusion that we came to anyway. We are in no doubt that Santa really does exist. We believe in him.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

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