I am an avid believer in people and their ability to accomplish a lot given the right resources. I see success as the outcome of developing good and nurturing relationships. I therefore place relationships at the heart of and as the framework of my therapeutic approach. I practise a therapy approach based on the belief that we discover and form ourselves through our relationships rather than through introspection. I focus on three main human struggles: relationships, trauma and anger.
“First there is the relationship then there is the individual” is an old Gestalt psychotherapy principle.
What it means for couples is that in a relationship there are very few individual issues, most struggles are couple issues. Love, hate, sex, anger, depression, anxiety, disappointment, satisfaction and happiness, to name a few, are of relational nature and their experience is complexly connected with and dependent on being with other people. As such, the problem is never with one partner, but can be seen as a joint-creation of both partners.
Once couples are willing to work with the idea that most issues are of a relational nature, an honest and sustainable relational repair can take place. Often, the key task is to help couples shift punishing exchanges, based on trauma and fear, to rewarding ones, based on trust and love. I believe that to achieve that, it is crucial to work through old traumas, hurts, fears and childhood experiences. Once partners invite each other into their ‘world’ – healing can begin and healthy communication can then be learned.
We experience stressful and threatening situations all the time. They become traumatic when our capacity to respond to threat is compromised and we become overwhelmed. It can happen to children and adults alike and can happen anytime and anywhere. It can sometimes take us by surprise.
The effects of trauma are held primarily in our body. We may think cognitively that the effects are over but very often our body retains the “memory” and we may react strongly to events and relationships that remind us of the past. These effects can last as long as a lifetime and if left untreated, can cause long lasting physical and mental problems. The most enduring healing traumatised people can expect is through building meaningful relationships.
Is being angry a choice? The simple answer is yes if you believe you can change your responses.
Anger is one of the most unwanted, controversial and the least understood of our emotions and understandably so because it can be a frightening experience for everyone involved. The problem is that anger can become entangled in fear, shame, guilt, prejudice, suffering and loss of control.
Whilst people do not have to get angry – when our needs are met, anger is no longer needed – it remains an important primary feeling that can serve an important purpose. I would argue that anger can be useful inasmuch as it propels us to change our circumstances; it is therefore worth getting to know your anger.
I believe that anger is not like a virus that needs eliminating but more of a fear gatekeeper that protects us in different situations. Most anger issues arise in relationships and to me, one of the most sustainable and enduring anger management strategies is to build sustainable and enduring relationships.