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Being in touch with your needs

Know your needs!

“Know thyself!” — in this maxim Socrates outlined his route for personal growth, greater happiness and fulfilment. What it means to know yourself is a hugely vast, complex psychological and philosophical question. We may wonder where and how we can embark on this journey. I would suggest the starting point by rephrasing Socrates’ call: know your needs! 

Being in touch with your needs forms a foundation for knowing yourself. This may sound prosaic, down to earth, yet the failure to recognize and meet our needs is often the root of many physical and mental health issues. 

Consider an example, that you don’t realize that you are hungry and you go for a whole day without food. You may end up feeling faint, developing a headache and getting snappy and short-tempered. Do it for long enough and more serious health issues may develop. Or suppose you do not heed your need to have some quiet time by yourself and keep saying yes to social engagements or volunteer to babysit your friend’s child. It will result in you feeling drained, resentful and wondering why the spark has gone from activities that used to be fun. Similarly, taking on extra tasks at work, working long hours on a regular basis will pave a road to burnout, often characterized by increased anxiety and depression. 

Our needs are diverse and complex. They concern physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of our existence. It is important to get to know them intimately in order to be able to create a lifestyle that supports and promotes our wellbeing on different levels. An appreciable part of my therapy work is dedicated to helping people get better at recognizing and addressing their needs. 

 

What stops us from knowing our needs

It may be surprising to know that you might need therapy to get in touch with your needs. Aren’t we supposed to just know them intuitively? After all, our needs are part and parcel of who we are. What can be closer to home? 

There are, however, serious hurdles that get in the way of us being in touch with our needs. Most of them stem from our upbringing. If our physical and emotional needs were neglected when we were children we wouldn’t become skilled in recognizing them ourselves. Equally, if our parents neglected their own needs we would have learned to do the same from their negative role-model. 

There are also all kinds of judgmental labels and messages which end up creating blocks to being in touch with our needs. One of the most virulent and pervasive of such labels is “selfish.” You may (or may not!) be surprised to learn how many people express qualms about doing therapy because spending time and money on themselves and their emotional needs means for them “being selfish.”

Similarly, values and beliefs implicated in our self-identity may obscure our needs from us. Our aspirations, our desire to live up to certain standards become intricately interwoven with our self-image. Our mind (a skilled deceiver!) will then “help” us to avoid an inner conflict by hiding from our awareness things that may challenge our inner beliefs and self-perception. Thus if we associate being “strong” with having a “stiff upper lip” we may learn to suppress our emotions and never allow ourselves to cry – even when we are grieving a significant loss. Likewise, the fear of being a “failure” may prevent us from quitting a job we hate and exploring other possibilities that would allow us to realize our potential.

 
One step at a time

Being in touch with our needs and knowing how to communicate them effectively is a basis for building healthy relationships with our family, friends and work colleagues, for preventing burnout and ensuring that we function to the best of our ability. 

Getting through to our needs may require overcoming certain emotional barriers, some of which I have outlined above: dealing with self-judgment and the feelings of shame that it triggers; challenging our pre-existing assumptions about ourselves and the world around us. It will require courage to learn to express our needs to others and not to suppress them for the fear of confrontation. 

This is a journey that will be forever unfolding as we are continuously changing and thus will our needs. It will always be a work in progress, a thought that  I find rather liberating. It means we don’t need to strive to be perfect or complete.

All we need to do is to take one step at a time. 

Depression Therapy Online

Depression Therapy Online

 

Depression is like a twilight of a soul when lights are dimmed and colours are muted. Alongside with anxiety, depression is a very common mental health problem. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways and in some cases can be extremely debilitating. Depression Therapy Online makes counseling for depression more accessible than ever from the comfort of your home.

Working with a therapist can help you explore the underlying causes, address current issues and develop coping mechanism for overcoming depression and preventing it from recurring in future.

Depression can undermine your ability to work and enjoy a fulfilling life. It can also have a detrimental impact on your relationships. It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of depression and to seek help.

Symptoms of depression

Depression  can manifest in different ways. Sometimes we may experience intense feelings of sadness either ongoing or triggered by seemingly minor events. Often people tend to loose interest in doing things they normally enjoy. They may feel exhausted and have little energy to engage and socialize.

During the episodes of major depression a person may feel exhausted and lethargic to such an extent that it may be difficult to get out of bed, have a shower and get on with mundane life. Poor appetite or overeating can often be signs of depression.

Cognitive symptoms of depression include difficulties concentrating and processing information as well as memory problems.

People struggling with depression may feel increasingly irritable, unable to unwind and relax. Sleeping problems often go hand in hand with depression. Difficulty falling or staying asleep as well as sleeping much longer than usual may be indicators of depression.

When we are depressed we tend to withdraw within our own shell and feel very isolated. We may feel very alone, like nobody understands us, and we can be hurt easily even by casual remarks.

Depression therapy online can help you relieve the symptoms, identify the causes of depression and create better coping mechanisms.

Causes of depression

Depression can have multiple causes. Roughly they can be divided into two categories:

  • The lack of something
  • The excess of something

Among the things that may be lacking could be things that

  • provide emotional nourishment (e.g. love, care, meaningful relationships);
  • ensure stability and security (e.g. home, job, money);
  • promote physical health (e.g. healthy diet, physical activity, relaxation).

Things found in excess may include

  • stress (either work-related or home-related)
  • worry and overthinking;
  • demands on your time and energy.

Both lack and excess create a disbalance in our system and it becomes either depleted or overloaded. Both of these states preclude our system from functioning at the optimal level and this may lead to depression.

Depression Therapy Online

Counselling, especially in combination with mind-body therapy can be very helpful in treating depression without drugs. First of all, counseling helps you to overcome the feeling of isolation. Many people find it easier to communicate their feelings to a professional than to a friend or a family member who may judge you or be adversely affected. Finding understanding and support can both produce relief and give you more energy to deal with daily challenges.

Depression therapy online can help you explore and understand the nature and the roots of your depression from the comfort of your home. It may help you identify whether your depression is circumstantial (depending on the set of recent or current events) or has its origins in the past (for example, childhood trauma). Addressing the underlying causes of depression allows both to heal the old wounds and to create strategies and coping mechanisms for maintaining better mental health in future.

In certain cases antidepressants can also help regulate the chemical balance in our brain and facilitate recovery. Although treating depression without drugs is successful in many cases sometimes it is recommended to take antidepressants alongside counseling.

My approach: Mind-body treatment of depression

When I work with people struggling with depression I often use a variety of approaches and techniques. Each person is different and finding treatment that is effective for this particular individual is very important. Thus cognitive approach to treating depression facilitates greater awareness and understanding of different aspects of depression on the conscious level.

Sometimes, however, we need to access deeper strata of our psyche. Then mind-body techniques in combination with counseling prove to be very effective. Mind-body treatment of depression can help eliminate the long-lasting effects of past traumatic effects that can be stored in the body. It promotes relaxation and increases the sense of peace and calm. It can help unearth forgotten memories and heal them. It can also help reprogrammed our brain and engrain different responses and coping mechanisms.

Depression therapy online is just as effective as therapy received in person. This is also true for mind-body treatment of depression. Modern technology such as Zoom allow you to see and interact with your therapist as if you were in the same room. If you are struggling and travelling is not an option for you I would certainly encourage you to try depression therapy online.

 

Time to reconnect: Therapy online

Breezy spring greetings to everyone!

Hope you are keeping well and in good spirits in this time of uncertainty and new global and personal challenges. As it happens, the current adversity also brings with it some unique blessings. The abrupt slowing down of the grinding wheels of modern hectic life offers time and space for deeper reflection as well as the opportunity to reconnect with yourself and with your friends and family — even though it might be via emails, telephone calls or social media.

Personally, I am taking this opportunity to write and reconnect with you after a longish pause. As you may know, I have taken a break from my therapy work to recharge my batteries, attend to my health, spend time with my family and explore new paths and ideas. I am happy to let you know that I am resuming my work, albeit primarily in an online form, at least for now.

I have a lot of experience in counselling and body-mind therapy online and can say with confidence that it is no less effective than face-to-face sessions. It may feel slightly unusual to start with, but one quickly gets used to it and it also saves you time on travel.

Whether you are considering doing counselling for yourself or know somebody who is contemplating this route for personal growth I just wanted to touch base and let you know that I am back in practice. If you are unsure and want to try whether online counselling may be right for you I offer 20% discount off the first session to make it more affordable. I also have referrals discount scheme where both people — the one who refers and the one who is referred — can benefit from 50% off a session.

I offer therapy in three languages: English, Russian and Hebrew.

Once again, hope all is well with you and look forward to hearing from you.

With warm wishes,

Ludmila

 

 

From the therapy room: Asking for help

Cambridge April 2008 074a

Are you feeling more comfortable giving or receiving? Can you ask for help when you are struggling to complete a task by yourself or need support?

In these reflections shared by one of my clients she considers the inner obstacles that may prevent us from asking help and suggests some ways of overcoming them.

***

Asking for help

So many people find it hard to ask for help, whether it be at home, at work or to do with their physical and emotional wellbeing. We seem so worried about what other people might think: maybe we aren’t capable; maybe we can’t cope. What if they see that we aren’t as good as they thought or what if we see that we aren’t as good as we thought.

Recently I had a conversation about asking others for help. The overriding question that came out of that conversation was ‘Why do we find it so hard to ask?’ It got me thinking… I asked somebody to help me decorate my flat earlier this year, but it was several weeks after realising that I was not going to be able to do it on my own. Why did I wait so long? Maybe I was afraid to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own, maybe I was afraid to admit that I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid to ask.

Perhaps we all have areas of our lives where we find it easier to ask for help and areas where we are afraid to ask for help. Even though it took a while for me to ask for help it was important that I did because I didn’t have all the skills necessary to complete the work. Maybe I was afraid to admit that to myself and so I remained unhappy with where I was living for longer than I needed to and that affected my mood. I was living with a negative feeling for a long time and it led to other behaviours that caused pain, impacted on my productivity and prevented me from being happy.

How can we get out of this vicious circle?

Maybe asking for help isn’t just about us. Could we think more about the person we ask? Think about what happens when someone asks you for help. Do you think “Why are they asking me for help?  They are so useless anyone could do that” or do you think “They have asked for help, this is obviously important to them and they think I can help, I must do all that I can to help”.

How do we feel when someone asks us for help and what goes through our heads? I think the first thing that happens is that is makes us feel good. We often feel flattered because the person who asks for help obviously sees us as someone who is capable of helping. Whether it be our skills, our encouragement or/and our enthusiasm. Secondly we want to do all that we can, we want to do a good job and we want to live up to expectations. Lastly, it reminds us that it is ok to ask for help.

It takes a lot of courage to admit that you need help but, instead of thinking just about how you feel, think about how you can make that other person feel. The good feelings are contagious and maybe you can learn a new skill, so why not ask for help today. It will be worth it for both you and the person you ask.

Fear of change or dying to oneself

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‘Ella’

On one occasion I was working with a young woman (I will call her ‘Ella’) who was struggling with a lack of assertiveness. She found it very difficult to say ‘no’ to people and to stand up for herself. Consequently, she very often felt pushed around and not treated with respect.

Ella was very distressed about it, to the extent that her whole body felt infused with a damp, murky feeling of impotence and hopelessness. I asked her what would happen if she could let these feelings go. She felt she would feel brighter and lighter, more energized and alive. However, when I suggested that she went ahead and released that dreary fog from her body she was not prepared to do so. She voiced her concern thus: ‘What if I then become a rude person and people don’t like me?’

You may find Ella’s response surprising, yet it is very common. We are paradoxical creatures for while with our conscious mind we may want one thing, at a deeper level we are often not ready to embrace the change. This happens even when we are suffering from physical pain.

‘Jeff’

Another of my clients (‘Jeff’) had been plagued by debilitating headaches that had severely impaired his life for a very long time. The headaches were a symptom of a deep trauma and its ensuing acute inner conflict – on multiple levels. When, after some months of work, the past wounds began to heal and Jeff began to feel the desire to engage more with the world around him, the headaches became less gripping in their quality and ‘almost ready to go.’ However, when we asked his ‘subconscious mind’ whether it was OK to release the headaches completely, his body responded with a strong panicky sensation, bubbling in his chest, stomach and arms, like a stormy sea threatening to sweep him away. “I guess I am scared to let go of headaches completely because then I won’t know what to do with my life.”

 

Familiar is safe

I have pondered a lot over the phenomenon of our deeply rooted fear of change. It seems to have neurological, psychological/cognitive as well as spiritual dimensions.

To begin with, our brain, just like the animal’s brain, is wired for safety. In order to feel safe we need to know the territory in which we operate, to know what to expect from it, to be familiar with the possible traps and emergency exits. We associate safety with the familiar, and therefore any encounter with the new and the unknown naturally brings about a certain amount of anxiety.

The instinct of self-preservation does not concern just our physical survival. As can be seen from the examples above, psychological changes may present just as big a challenge, if not an even bigger one.

Even though Ella suffered from being pushed around and ‘trampled upon’ by other people, her situation felt safe because it was familiar. She knew what to anticipate and was used to her pain. Although uncomfortable, it didn’t scare her as much as the unpredictable reactions from the part of others (friends, colleagues, managers) had she dared to assert herself.

Similarly, Jeff was used to his headaches. While they stopped him from doing things he might have enjoyed, they also shielded him from facing life’s challenges and assuming greater responsibility for his way of being. For both Ella and Jeff, the anxiety associated with stepping into the unknown was overriding their desire to heal, and it took a long time to shift that.

Self-identity

All of us, whether consciously or unconsciously, have in our minds a certain picture of ourselves. What we believe about ourselves becomes an integral part of our self-identity, which gives us a sense of presence in the world and helps to define our boundaries and our position vis-à-vis other people and events. When our self-perception is challenged we can be plunged into a state of uncertainty. We feel lost, unsure of who we are and how to relate to others. It is a very uncomfortable state to endure, and we instinctively avoid entering it, even if the change would be beneficial for our growth.

Ella feared that becoming more assertive might come at the expense of losing her gentleness and sensitivity. She was concerned that people would perceive her as ‘rude’ and would not like her anymore. It is certainly true that when we leave behind our old ‘skin’ and develop new qualities, some who were used to our old ways will not welcome the change. This is a risk to consider. But the question really to ask is whether these people truly cared for us in the first place? Did they genuinely want the best for us or did they find our meekness and inability to say ‘no’ convenient for them?

These fears are real and facing them requires a lot of courage. The first step is to admit that we have these fears. Then we can explore them, weigh the risks, assess our strength and find the support that we need to help us make changes.

Dying to one’s self

At the bottom of it, our fear of change is very much akin to the fear of dying. Indeed if we think about it, dying signifies the most final and permanent form of change. Even if we believe in reincarnation or some other form of the afterlife, our existence as we know it is going to change forever once we cross the threshold we call ‘death.’

And sometimes it can be easier to accept physical death than to give up our beliefs, e.g. when people say they are ready to die for the sake of an idea. This also explains why people who were fearless in battle can mentally crumble when the ‘gods’ who led them into that battle are revealed as hypocrites and tyrants. That happened to many a bona fide communist when the atrocities of Stalin’s regime were brought to light.

As I wrote above, we derive our sense of who we are from our self-identification with our beliefs (about ourselves and about the world and life in general). Thus we may resist acknowledging the betrayal of our partner, or the abusive behavior of our parents towards us as children. We may also avoid being exposed to new ideas through reading or listening to the members of a different faith community, or social group.

Letting go of our beliefs is the same as dying to our selves: our former ‘selves’, the ‘selves’ as we know them. The ‘selfies’. The challenge of this act cannot be overemphasized. Yet in dying there is a rebirth. As it is written in the Gospel of Matthew: he that loseth his life … shall find it.” I am not a Christian believer, but I find that this saying contains profound truth about our psychological and spiritual predicament. If we resist this change we will never evolve. We will just stagnate and continue to exist while not being truly alive.

For me, personal growth is about learning to see more clearly what I am grasping at and why, and learning to embrace change by letting go of the old props. I must admit to being a rather heavy-going student and appreciate that this is a life-long class. But I draw much inspiration from the people I work with and their admirable courage. I challenge them, they challenge me, and together we walk the path.