Counselling in Wokingham – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson, reworked time and time again. A well-known there, of the good man and the evil, both contained in the same body. The idea that we all have a dark side that we keep hidden, that we need to keep under control.

JekyllHyde1Do you feel like that about yourself? Are there things about you that you don’t like, that you struggle to subdue? Maybe you can get very angry, say things you don’t mean, behave badly towards others. Maybe you can be jealous, or vindictive or spiteful and you regret it when you behave like that. Maybe you have a tendency towards laziness that you dislike. I think most of us would say that there are bad sides to our character, things we wish we could get rid of.

That way of looking at ourselves – the Jekyll and Hyde model – depicts a battle between good and evil. So, if you feel you have a Mr Hyde in you, does that mean that you have to battle all the time to keep him down, to keep him under control? I think it does feel like that for many of us.

For the fortunate, the battle is not too difficult to win – and the consequences of the occasional loss are not too great. If you occasionally drink too much, or are rude to people, or slob about watching a lot of TV and wasting your time, does it matter? Let Mr Hyde have his fun, you can apologise later, your friends will understand the occasional lapse – you’re only human after all.

For the less fortunate, their Mr.Hyde impacts on their lives and the lives of those close to them in a significant and serious way. For these people the battle is not easily won and the consequences of losing the fight are dire. And there’s a downward spiral – each lapse can leave them feeling worse about themselves and that makes the battle more difficult to fight, even to the point of surrender. Ultimately Mr Hyde was too strong for Dr Jekyll, of course.

Jekyllhyde3What can be useful here, I think, is to look at things differently. Your Mr Hyde is not a different person living in your body, he’s a part of you. Where has he come from, why is he there? Rather than trying to get rid of MR Hyde, try understanding him instead. So if he’s an angry person, perhaps in part he is copying behaviour you saw as a child, in one of your parents perhaps? He may think that’s a normal way to behave in certain circumstances. What makes him angry? Rudeness? Injustice? Rejection? What triggers him, why is that so important to him, when to other people it may not matter nearly so much? What life experiences have led Mr Hyde to be the way he is? What are his beliefs, his values?

If you can understand your Mr Hyde, you have a chance to help him. He is not an evil man, he is a part of you and he behaves and feels the way he does for a reason. He doesn’t want a battle. Probably what he wants is to be helped. He may be like a little boy or girl who has been hurt badly. He may need someone who can get past the anger, or jealousy, or spitefulness, someone who will look after him. He may feel like your enemy, but he really wants you to be his friend.

Jekyllhyde2If you can make friends with Mr Hyde, you can work together with him. His anger can give you energy, his laziness can help you to destress, his sadness can give you sympathy for others.

Mr Hyde is just like the rest of us, he wants to be loved. And who better to love him than Dr Jekyll, who has known him all his life, who knows him better than anybody. Give the poor man a hug.

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Counselling in Wokingham – Quite a Journey

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

It had been quite a journey.

My client had come to see me at time of crisis. His world had fallen apart. His wife had died a few years ago, his son had moved out to live with grandparents, he was struggling to control his anger, he was starting to drink heavily. He knew he was self-destructing. He was desperate for help.

He talked, and he cried, and he talked. He talked about his wife’s death – a road accident – and the anger he felt towards the other driver involved and the failure of the health service to save her. She had been the perfect wife, their lives together had been blissful, they had had everything. It was snatched away.

journey3He talked about his son – a teenager – about how their relationship had deteriorated after his wife died, about how his son’s behaviour had become increasingly rebellious. About how he tried to keep his son in line by being stricter and the conflicts this caused, culminating in a fist fight, and his son going to live with his grandparents. We talked about the anger he felt towards his son for abandoning him, towards his wife’s parents for colluding with that, and even towards his wife for dying and starting the whole thing off.

He talked about his childhood – a happy time, he remembered – an ideal childhood, as he described it, until things went wrong. His mother had an affair, his father started drinking, there was a custody battle. We talked about the anger he felt towards his parents for destroying the perfect childhood.

journey2We talked about how these things linked together. He made connections that previously he hadn’t seen. He started to understand himself differently. He started, too, to understand his son differently, thinking about his own teenage years and looking at his son’s situation through that lens.

As we talked, he slightly changed his view of his relationship with his late wife. It hadn’t been perfect, or blissful. It had been good, yes, they were happy together. But there had been problems too. He looked again at his childhood and started to see some of what had happened then in a different way. And in looking at the past differently he started to look at the present differently as well. The past had not been perfect and the present wasn’t hopeless.

He started to change the relationship with his son. They were able to talk about what had happened and understand each other better. He started to be able to control his anger. He could catch himself as his temper started to rise and do something differently. He was able to manage his drinking better, he no longer needed to blot everything out.

journey1We had perhaps been meeting for about six months, when, suddenly, for the first time either of us could remember, he stopped talking. We looked at each other, and smiled. Then we talked about his silence. And then we started to talk about him, about what he wanted for himself, about what his future might hold. We had never done that before.

It had been quite a journey.

Details of this case have been changed to protect client confidentiality

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Counselling in Wokingham – Piggy In The Middle

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

piggy1Nowadays, with more and more relationships ending in separation, there are far more blended families with each partner bringing one or more children from a previous relationship.   Such situations are enormously complicated. Just think about the mathematics. If you get together with a new partner, each bringing two of your own children from a previous relationship, there are six of you involved. Add in your two exes and that’s eight people. How many relationships is that? Put eight dots on a piece of paper and join each dot to each other dot…that’s an awfully complicated network. Twenty-eight lines by my reckoning, twenty-eight relationships.

What can often happen is that one person in that network finds themselves caught in the middle, feeling that everything revolves around them. This can be a very difficult position to be in, especially if they are trying to keep everybody in that network happy.

Different people will react to this role in different ways. I’ll give you three examples.

For a person who likes to care for others, being caught in the middle can be exhausting. Understanding what every wants and needs, trying to see everyone’s point of view, being the shoulder everyone can cry on – that can be emotionally draining.

For a person who likes to do things to help others, it can be equally difficult. Providing a taxi-service for all those kids, fixing things for both new partner and old. The fixer can run themselves ragged trying to give everyone what they are asking for.

piggy3It can be tempting to tell everyone what they want to hear and some people find themselves doing just that – they duck and dive, they juggle priorities, telling one person one thing and someone else the opposite, and for a while this can be quite an exciting role to take. In the short term, everyone is happy and the juggler is in control. In the medium term, of course, the lies tend to be discovered and nobody ends up happy at all.

So, the “piggy in the middle” can be motivated by different things but the end result is the same – they work harder and harder to try to maintain an equilibrium. They end up exhausted and frustrated but others tend to see them as the “go to” person and so the demands and pressures on them increase until, in the end, something has to give.

piggy2What to do? It’s difficult but the person caught in the middle needs to step away, to stop running round after everyone, whether they’re doing that in practical ways, or as a diplomat, or providing emotional support. They will probably feel that things will collapse, feel that war will break out, that the world will come to and end, but it really won’t. There may we more arguments, fallings out or sulks in the short term but people will work through things and find their own solutions.

Running round trying make everybody happy ultimately tends to mean that others don’t take responsibility, they leave it to the “piggy in the middle” – who often tends to get the blame when things don’t go well.

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Counselling in Wokingham – Digesting Jeremy Corbyn

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

It only takes a few seconds to swallow a mouthful of food but it takes a lot longer to digest it.

corbyn1The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has led to some differing reactions. Some Tories see it as the death-knell of the Labour party and are delighted. Left-wingers maybe see it as a return to the core values of the party and are delighted. Some of the shadow cabinet have refused to work under Corbyn’s leadership and it seems that he will have a major battle on his hands to gain acceptance from the right wing of the party.

For some of his party, it seems that Corbyn’s policies are too extreme – they cannot accept his philosophies and so are choosing to distance themselves from them. Suddenly their political party has changed significantly and some members are no longer comfortable to endorse what it now represents by being part of the shadow cabinet.

It reminds me of a client I worked with who found out that his partner was a shoplifter. He had been happy in the relationship – he felt it was secure, respectful and loving – but suddenly he found out something about his partner and it felt as if everything had changed.

corbyn2When a secret is revealed it is a shock, and it can feel huge. It might be about a friend, a family member, a partner. It might be work-related, or health-related. As we live with the secret for a little while, it will gradually become less huge, and we can start to assess its real impact. My client wrestled with the question of whether his partner’s shoplifting really changed anything. She was still the same loving and respectful person – was the shoplifting relevant to the relationship? Was she the woman he loved – albeit a woman with a problem? Or was she a bad person who had been deceiving him, whom he could never trust again?

Putting the new information – the secret – into proper context can take time, and in a relationship this can be difficult for the person with a secret. The have known for a long time that they are a shoplifter, or a gambler, or a transvestite. It’s not a big deal, and for them, nothing has changed. Why can’t their partner just get over it? But often their partner is doing a lot of processing – reworking history in the light of new information. My client, for example, wanted to find out what his partner had shoplifted. Was he wearing stolen clothes? Reading a stolen book? Eating stolen food?

It will be interesting to see how the internal conflicts within the Labour Party develop. Will the party adapt to its new leadership? Will people accept him, respect him and learn to work with him, even if they don’t agree with him? Will some leave the party, unable to reconcile their views with his?

corbyn3In the end, my client decided to stay in the relationship and help his partner with her shoplifting problem. It took him time to adjust to the new information, to understand it, and to place it inside the relationship so that he could live with it. It took him time, too, to trust his partner, to believe that there were no more dark secrets that were going to be revealed to him in the future.

It only takes a few seconds to discover a secret but it takes a lot longer to digest it.

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Counselling in Wokingham – Going Round In Circles

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

circles1On Sunday, I was travelling home from a family gathering in the Midlands, driving down the M40. Unfortunately there had been an accident up ahead and I was diverted off the motorway. Following diversion signs, I found myself moving very slowly through Banbury in a long stream of traffic. Half an hour or so later, I found myself back at the same motorway junction that I started from, with the motorway still closed and my patience somewhat frayed.

I don’t quite know what had happened – I suspect that the motorway had only just been closed and that the diversion signs hadn’t all been put out, so that the traffic followed some old diversion signs. But whatever the reason, there I was, back where I’d started.

We go round in circles, not just on motorways, but in other aspects of our lives. Patterns repeat, and often this is because we choose to repeat them. If our last holiday was great, for example, we are likely to try to repeat it. We know what gives us pleasure and we try to do more of it. We follow routines, at work, at home and socially, because we know they are good for us and because they are safe. We like to go round in circles. Nice circles, anyway.

cricles2But some circles are not so nice. Addicts find themselves going round in a destructive circle, and in depression too, the patterns that repeat are not happy or healthy ones. And how many couples have I counselled who find themselves having the same arguments over and over again?

When I found myself back at the closed motorway junction I took a different exit from the roundabout. I know what would happen if I went towards Banbury so I tried something different – and with the aid of my satnav I found my way home.

Unfortunately, life is not as easy to navigate as the country lanes of Oxfordshire (with a satnav) and breaking out of undesirable circles can be very difficult. Satnavs of sorts are available, I suppose. Friends and relatives will advise – and there are hundreds of self-help books and internet resources available. These things can be useful, but do not provide magic answers. The advice we might get may have worked for other people, but it may not work for us. Counselling, on the other hand, will tend to help you to find your own answers – perhaps a more challenging approach but one that is ultimately much more likely to be successful.

Escaping from circles can be much more difficult if there are other people involved. If my car had had two steering wheels and my co-driver had insisted on heading through Banbury for a second time, I would have found it much more difficult to take a different turning. And typically, for couples who find themselves caught in vicious circles, it is not enough for one of them to do something different – both of the couple need to change in some way to change the pattern.

circles3Assuming that both of you can recognise the need for something to change, it can be really helpful to take a step outside the circle. Working with a counsellor can represent that sort of breathing-space – it can enable you to look at things from a different perspective. Rather than being caught in that diversion that goes round and round, you can explore alternative routes.

So, park the car in a lay-by, take a deep breath, and talk about what you can do differently.

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Counselling in Wokingham – Getting Used To The Idea

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

Some new ideas sit easily with us, and we can embrace them readily. If they fit with the thoughts and beliefs that we already have, they are comfortable and easy to fit in with our picture of the world. These ideas fit well for us emotionally. If we admire someone, we can easily listen to someone else singing their praises. If we believe in ghosts, we can readily engage with the idea that someone else has encountered them.

ideas1On the other hand, it can be hard to embrace new ideas when they conflict with our existing belief system, and so we can find ourselves rejecting these ideas – questioning and disbelieving the evidence – because to believe these ideas would require a major revision of the way we look at the world.

The educationalist Piaget described us as living in equilibrium. Most of the time, we can live more or less at peace with our various beliefs, thoughts and feelings. When something new comes along – a different idea or a new experience, the equilibrium is upset and we need time to integrate the new thing, and re-establish our equilibrium.

ideas2Some people refuse to believe that man ever landed on the moon, or that Elvis is dead, (despite a certain amount of evidence to the contrary) because, for whatever reason, they want to continue to believe their own theory. On a more sinister level, there are people who refuse to believe that the holocaust ever happened. New scientific theories – such as the idea that the earth is round rather than flat – tend to have to fight for acceptance until the evidence is overwhelmingly in their favour.

When people have some sort of emotional investment in looking at the world a particular way, it can take a long time to change, and this is something I come across a lot in my work. I’ll give you three examples.

Addicts often take a long time to accept that they have a problem. It may be obvious to friends and family that their habit is out of control, but the addict themselves will often be in denial. “I can give up whenever I want to”. They will minimise the problem, claiming they only smoke ten a day when it’s really more like forty. They will blame circumstances: “I’m going through a stressful time at work at the moment and this is my release”. The idea that they have a problem, that they need help, is a difficult one because it requires them to change the picture they have of themselves.

Sometimes we cling onto ideas about other people. It can be difficult for women to accept that they are in an abusive relationship, for example. The man they fell in love with, the man they admired so much, their Prince Charming – he turns out to be abusive and violent. That behaviour is completely at odds with the picture we want to see, and so it is difficult to accept, difficult to grasp. And so we can make excuses for the behaviour – “there’s a good man inside” – “it could be much worse”, and so on.

ideas3When we are young, our brains are very malleable. New ideas are easier to assimilate. We are less “set in our ways” – and that includes our mental ways as well as our behaviours. As we get older, it generally becomes more difficult to accept new ideas just as our minds change, so too do our bodies change – they become less flexible, less strong. And so, at some point, we will be forced to play less strenuous sports, for example, or give up sport altogether. And as old age approaches we may need more support – walking with a stick, needing help with the gardening or cleaning, needing a stair lift. This can be difficult if we pride ourselves on our independence, our physical strength. It requires, as my other examples do, a major rewrite of our story about ourselves. The facts do not match the picture we have of ourselves.

New ideas can be difficult to take on board, to integrate with our old ideas. And this integration is a process that takes time. We might know, on one level, that we have a problem with alcohol, but to believe it – to feel it – takes longer. It is a slow process of absorption that ultimately enables us to attain a different equilibrium in our thoughts and feelings.

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Counselling in Wokingham – Naughty, Naughty

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

A big news item in the UK this week has been that Lord Sewel, upholder of standards in the House of Lords, has been filmed snorting cocaine through a five pound note from the body of a naked prostitute. Allegedly.

It is difficult to understand what might have been going on in Lord Sewel’s mind but I suspect that part of it was about compartmentalisation. I work a lot with couples where there has been an affair and it is often the case that for the cheating partner there seems to be no connection between their life at home and their life in the affair. It is almost as if there are two – or more – different selves involved in the two relationships, that the two things do not join up.

Why is this? I suspect that it is something learnt in childhood. As kids, we tend to experiment. Life is interesting. I remember, around the age of seven, I’d guess, wondering how long it would take a wash basin to fill up if I put the plug in and left the tap dripping. Of course, having set up the experiment, I then forgot about it as there were more interesting things to do than to watch a tap dripping. Some time later, I found out how long it took before the wash basin overflowed and water started coming through the ceiling. And the consequences of that.

naughty2If, as children, our natural desire to stretch boundaries and explore is forbidden by our parents, some of us stop exploring, but others will explore in secret. And so we can behave in one way at home, and in a completely different way when with our friends. We can develop the idea that different rules of conduct apply in different situations, and that these situations don’t really connect – they are separate from each other.   The different worlds don’t meet, they don’t impact on each other. They are separate (watertight) compartments.

Of course, on some level, we know that we are being naughty – that our parents would disapprove, or be upset, or punish us, if they found out. And for many people that is enough to discourage our naughtiness, or set boundaries around it. But for some people – and I conjecture that Lord Sewel is one of these people – we believe we will never be found out, or we don’t care whether we are or not.

Acts of naughtiness can be thrilling – we can feel high (even without allegedly snorting cocaine through a five pound note from the body of naked prostitute). And that’s nice – to feel big, to feel great about ourselves. And I suspect that for Lord Sewel the irony of the situation added to the high he experienced. The enormity of the deception is fantastic. On the one hand, he holds a position carrying immense responsibility and on the other… LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!!

naughty1And I wonder if Lord Sewel is enjoying being on the front pages of the newspapers? I wonder if he is (secretly, on one of his compartments) revelling in the publicity? I wonder if he is looking forward to the visit to the headmaster’s study? Let the authorities do their worst…they can’t hurt me. Here perhaps is another thrill. If I can uphold standards in the House of Lords, and snort cocaine through a five pound note from the body of a naked prostitute, and be found out, and get away with it? HOW BIG AM I NOW!!

Of course, I speculate. Free from facts about Lord Sewel’s life I can conjecture freely. And I can also criticise. And it seem to me that Lord Sewel has made a significant style blunder in what he’s done.

Because if you are going to (allegedly) snort cocaine through a banknote from the body of a naked prostitute, surely you should use at least a fifty?

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