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Brave Therapy is a blog site created by Andrea Szasz, a Psychotherapist and Counsellor living and practicing in Sydney, Australia.

How to BRAVE the Holiday Season

How to BRAVE the Holiday Season

 

The holiday season is the time of the year when there might be some extra relational demands of us. While the festive season is generally a happy time, the reflections and celebrations can also be challenging. There are expectations; from family members with whom we may share some difficult history, or perhaps the opposite – we may find that we don’t have enough people to share in our experience.

Below is a small list of skills I’ve put together for you on the occasions when you might find yourself overwhelmed. The exercises are adapted from Somatic Experiencing®, The Daring Way™ (Brené Brown’s work), and are also informed by the Polyvagal Theory.

Breathe. Wherever you are, this is the easiest option to start regulating your nervous system. Practice three counts in-breath (via the nose) and five counts out-breath (via the mouth), pushing the air out. Repeat this sequence three times and practice at least three times a day. This technique will help you to engage the calming part of your nervous system – the part we refer to as the parasympathetic nervous system.

Remember a recent day or time when you felt most like yourself. It could be a day when you had a good session at yoga, a superb coffee in bed, or that time you spent with people who you connect to. It can be anything really. As you remember, and recall the sense of being most like yourself, feel the sensory experience of that. You may have a sense of expansion into your chest, maybe you feel tall or a sense of spaciousness in your stomach. Stay with the experience and let it grow in your body. You can practice this for a couple minutes per day. This can be really useful in situations when other people’s thoughts and actions can get overwhelming, like a Christmas gathering 🙂

Awereness or orienting is a skill that you can also practice anywhere and anytime. When you reach a location, take a couple of minutes to arrive. Notice your feet, then if you are sitting down, notice the support that the seat provides. Slowly, gently moving your head, neck and eyes, look around. This seems very simple I know, but it helps your nervous system to relax by giving you chance to reduce any implicit triggers and to notice safety.

Values are the lights that help us to show up in difficult situations, as Brené Brown says. So, carrying our values inside our bodies when we show up to a difficult holiday gathering can make a difference. Choose a couple of your values; compassion, or gratitude or maybe integrity. Think of one of them and check in with your body – where do you notice this value? Is it in your heart or more in your stomach? Don’t mind if this does not make sense in a cognitive way, we are looking for sensory experiences here. Stay with the sensation of the value, see if a colour comes up, see if there is a shape that is appearing, and go on like that, finding all the sensory details that you can. You will see how good it feels noticing that this value that is so important to you already lives inside you, and it will support you in challenging situations.

Empathy is not an easy skill to practice in difficult relational situations. I still suggest to go with; ‘everyone is doing the best they can, with the tools they have in that moment’. If you find yourself in tricky situations where, for example, your aunt makes comments about your body at a NYE gathering, instead of getting really angry or hurt, think about why is that so important for her? Did she learn somewhere maybe that looking a little different can be dangerous? Was she bullied when she was your age because of how she looked? These are just ideas, but you get the drift. Go easy, go kind with yourself and with others. You can also gently tell this aunt that you feel fabulous in your skin and hopefully she does too.

 

Wishing you a safe, peaceful and fun Holiday Season.

Love from

Andi

Brave Therapy™

 

PDF to download the skills

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Pieces, a wonderfully integrated autobiography.

(Warning: There are some spoilers in this blog. I wanted to make sure my clients are warned by some of the contents.)

‘In Pieces’ by Sally Field is one of most integrated autobiographies I have read or actually listened to. I always have been a fan of Sally, I could watch her movies again and again. After listening to her audiobook recently, I developed a different level of respect for her. While listening to her emotional and haunting descriptions of the generational traumas suffered by her family and her own traumas, I wondered ‘how is this possible that she is so integrated and expressive, witty and sharp?’ Some parts of the story are really hard to listen to. She reveals that she was molested by a family member, and it comes as a shock in the book, as it must have come to little Sally. She also describes the birth of her first son, and the brutal methods used to get babies out of their mother’s body in the sixties. She also takes you to a ride to learn about some quirky celebrities and she truly makes you laugh out loud.

In spite of her immense suffering, there is a great deal of compassion and self-reflective capacity in her writing. I was not surprised to learn towards the end of the book that Sally has kept journals all her life and been in therapy for many years with Dr Dan Siegel (one of my heroes). Sally has done things that we as therapists often suggest to our clients/patients to enhance their healing and integration. I personally use many techniques and modalities and combine them to best serve my clients.

Sally also used her creative art form to learn about parts of herself, which is also something we encourage for those in our care. Often we look at parts or pieces of selves, and in this book, Sally beautifully describes how and why certain aspects of our self become hidden, thwarted, or end up being silenced or too loud.

If you feel ‘in pieces’ sometimes, or you are a therapist, or just someone who loves great writing, I suggest you read this book. I felt full of hope and awe when I finished reading this excellent autobiography.

Warmly

Andi

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3 of My Favorite Resources for Loving Relationship

As a psychotherapist, I find that the most common reason clients come to therapy is related to unhappiness in their relationship. Sometimes there are simple communication problems that can be changed in a few sessions, but more often there are deep-seated issues.  Our early experiences in life can create patterns of relating that last through to adulthood.

 

Attachment theory gives a solid explanation of how this happens and why. Changing behaviour and our ‘wiring of relatedness’ takes time and commitment. While we explore these patterns in therapy with my brave clients, I often search for additional resources that are easy to understand and offer practical solutions. I am very excited to find some gems and share them with you!
Stan Tatkin’s Relationship RX is one of the best self-help books out there. He explains attachment theory in a very approachable way, and offers practical exercises derived from interpersonal neurobiology, somatic practices and the Adult Attachment Interview – a widely accepted method of measuring attachment state of mind.  He combines a lot of the knowledge and research that I integrate in my practice, so I feel a real synergy
with the material. Stan is the narrator of the book, and he has a lovely voice and an energetic delivery. In addition, this audio-only book uses actors to play scenes that might happen in a relationship. These role-playing exercises are very specific, but by showing a ‘Not useful’ way and then a ‘Better’ way to play out the same scenario, show how the theories and ideas can be used in real-life situations. These demonstrations illustrate how different attachment styles relate differently and how a more secure way is possible. Stan has a beautiful understanding of intimate relationships, and offer inclusive insights to all. This is a great audiobook to listen to together with your partner or partners.

 

This is also a very good book by Dr Leslie Becker-Phelps. I listened to it as an audiobook and enjoyed the narrator. Full of great explanations about how it feels and how to recognise if anxious attachment might be the reason for some relational difficulties in your life.

 

I have done many training in Diane’s model that she has developed from Somatic Experiencing. She is a real attachment expert and this audiobook is a real gift. I go back to it often for my own self and also thinking of clients. It is full of practical skills and insights.
I hope you find some of this useful and can have some yummy connections with loved ones.
That is all most of us want and need 🙂
Warmly
Andi

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The Daring Way™ in Sydney 14-15th July 2018 Tickets, Sat, 14/07/2018 at 9:00 am | Eventbrite

Source: The Daring Way™ in Sydney 14-15th July 2018 Tickets, Sat, 14/07/2018 at 9:00 am | Eventbrite

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Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough. We must do. - Leonardo Di Vinci

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