On The Couch


Because you (rightfully) want it to work.

“Red flags are moments of hesitation that determine our destination.” ― Mandy Hale

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Photo by Jenna Jacobs on Unsplash

It’s easy to spot red flags in hindsight.

People who’ve been in a toxic relationship nearly always say the warning signs were there from the start.

But if they felt uneasy about some of their partner’s behaviours, they let them go. They were in love, after all. And they had no idea those behaviours were a sign of where the relationship was heading.

It’s only when you’re on the other side of a toxic relationship, that you allow yourself to acknowledge those early signs.

And there’s a comfort in that. It means you were not completely blind to what was going on. You were trying to make a relationship work. Which makes you normal. …

And why you won’t stay there.

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Image by Jason Goh from Pixabay

I was at a networking event way back when no-one wore masks.

We were all standing around with a drink pretending to be cooler than we really are. With two big events on in our city at the weekend, one woman asked us all: “which conference are you going to?”

When I gave my reply, she raised an eyebrow: “Really? But that conference is for Ordinary Women.”

I tried, probably not very successfully, to hide my smile. Imagine the horror of spending a weekend with Ordinary people? Imagine the nightmare of being Average?

We’re all different, but the same

In a dog-eat-dog world, we’re terrified of being Average. Sick to the stomach with the thought of not making the most of ourselves, of not Making Our Mark on the world. Of not soaring as high as we can soar. …

But I probably wouldn’t have listened to.

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Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin

I didn’t set out to become a relationship coach.

But every therapist quickly learns it’s an essential part of the job because relationships are such big players in our lives.

We learn that good relationships are the source of so much happiness and, when they go wrong, so much pain.

And that helping people understand and improve their intimate relationships is often best way to help them improve their lives.

We each have our own relationship “journey” and that means learning some things the hard way, down in the trenches. But, if you’re up for a shortcut, here are some things to ponder. …

“It is what it is. But it will be what you make it.” — Pat Summitt

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Are you mentally strong?

The bulletproof few will be nodding their heads. But most of us have times when we wobble under pressure. When we feel more paper than rock.

That’s okay. If we want to go anywhere, do anything, with our lives — if we want to take risks — we’re going to feel the heat. Sometimes to boiling point.

And, even if we’re content with where we’re at, there’s no escaping the ordinary stress of 21st Century life.

The trick is to build your mental game. Not in the way Navy SEALs do it. You don’t have to spend weekends crawling through mud or scaling mountains with packs on. …

They inform you. They tell the world too.

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Photo by Godisable Jacob from Pexels

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” –Carl Jung

Who are you?

Can you put hand on heart and answer that question fully and truthfully? Or are you still trying to figure it out?

Everyone wants to know themselves better, to Make Sense of Themselves. It’s the key reason people come to therapy.

Often they’ll have a specific problem. But, beyond that, they’ll want to dig down into how they roll in the world: their thoughts, moods, emotions, behaviours, fears, hopes and dreams.

Getting to know yourself is a work in progress — for life. No-one ever gets to shut their personal file and say: “that’s it, job done, I know everything there is to know.” …

But Only When You’re Ready

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Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

“Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny.” — Steve Maraboli

It’s over: you’re free of your toxic relationship.

You know your partner was bad for you. You know you’re in a (way) better place. And, yet, it doesn’t feel as good as it should.

You’re still wrestling with anxiety, sadness, shame — anger. Some nights, after a drink or three, you still find your fingers hovering over your phone wanting to text them.

Welcome to the relationship recovery room. It’s a hard place to land. Toxic relationships can trigger feelings of unworthiness, helplessness, fear, anxiety, depression, insecurity, paranoia and shame. And, if it’s your first experience of toxicity, it strips you of your innocence. …

Knowing yourself hugely improves your relationship success and happiness.

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Photo by Analise Benevides on Unsplash

Each of us has an “operating style” with a relationship.

It’s based on how we approach love, how we interact with another, who we are when we’re with someone else.

Our styles — or archetypes — are a mash-up of our biology, temperament, emotional history, experiences and the feedback the world has tossed at us.

And, of course, one size doesn’t fit all. People are not absolute so, while one style tends to dominate, we all spill over the edges into other categories.

But when we understand how we function within relationships, we’re better placed to be in them — and to answer questions…

How to play the Big Game.

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Photo by Angelo Pantazis on Unsplash

Are you a courageous person?

Not in the swim-with-sharks-paraglide-off-mountains kind of way — although I’m not denying the courage involved in those things.

But in the way you lead your life. In the way you go about your day to day tasks, the approach to you take to the big picture.

What does it mean to have courage?

Courage is the ability to front up to something that frightens you.

In therapy you see examples of courage every day.

  • The schoolboy who tells his parents he wants to live as a female.
  • The woman in her forties who has come out of a 10-year toxic relationship goes on a date.

Even when your circumstances defy it.

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Photo by Loren Joseph on Unsplash

When working in India, I got a free lesson in happiness.

Across the road from my Pune hotel was a run-down urban village. It was overcrowded, the buildings were crumbling, the people had limited access to basic services.

Every morning, the women who lived there were up early, beautifully dressed in colourful saris. They worked all day, cooking and selling food in the streets, alongside their sisters, aunties and friends. Their kids played in the streets.

I knew how little they had, how tough their lives must be, yet they laughed more than most people I knew back home. They seemed able to frame their circumstances to work for them — not against. …

Why is it so hard? And how can I do it with a little grace?

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I was fortunate to be part of a beautiful event recently, Belinda Chang’s Virtual Boozy Brunch. I spoke in a segment on “how to say no” and offered a step-by-step process to help individuals who are burdened by a habit of always saying “yes,” even when an opportunity doesn’t align with their “budget.”

In theory, saying “no” seems simple, right? But it’s not. It’s something many of us struggle with at one time or another. So, why is it so hard to say “no,” but so easy to say, “yes?”

If we look at the science behind it, we say “yes” for three main…


On The Couch

Practical psychology for everyday life.

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