Posted: September 10th, 2014

What is a controlling relationship?

Frequently a controlling relationship is when an individual begins to dominate their partner within their relationship/marriage. However, a controlling relationship can also develop within any relationship: straight or gay, parent-to-child, child-to-parent, between friends, between ex-partners and work colleagues. There are no hard and fast rules.

It often starts in an insidious way with something small and in most cases it is all about taking control. Creating dependence and thereby taking away or reducing the other person’s independence.

Who are controlling people?

A controlling person can be male, female, a young person, a child or an elderly person.

They are often perfectionists and extreme cases frequently exhibit symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).   These people often claim to know what is best for people.   Family and friends have to do things their way and have little or no freedom to manage their own lives. Frequently, a controlling person tries to keep control by making others feel ashamed or guilty.

Controllers are often people who are worried about feeling out of control themselves. They are afraid that if they are not in control, their world will fall apart. They try to make themselves indispensable to those around them.

They are often surrounded by two types of people, those who depend on them and could not function without their support and those who resent them, feeling the controller needs to mind their own business and leave them to manage their own lives.

Why do people try to control others?

This could be for one of the following reasons:

Lack of control in their own lives. They need people to need them; this validates them and in turn helps them to feel in control of their own life.

Fear and/or anxiety.    Anxiety about what might happen if those around them have too much control of their own destinies. Fear that they, the controller, will be abandoned by their friends and family, they will no longer be needed.

Poor self esteem. This is a very common reason for trying to control a partner in a marriage or relationship. The controller may think their partner is too attractive either in personality or looks and if they are not controlled they would have the opportunity of straying or making a new life and/or friends thus leaving the controller abandoned.

How does a person become controlling?

It is frequently a method they develop to cope with anxiety in their early life. This can manifest itself in only children who are the centre of attention and can often feel in control their parents. Alternatively, the first born boy or girl in a family feels proud of themselves for ‘helping’ and being in control of their siblings. Again they can feel in control of their family group.

All feel the need to be in control and needed by their parents and or siblings.   If this should change at any time, they feel unsafe and ‘out of control’ and anxiety steps in. 

Ways to deal with controlling people

Never try to control a controller! Don’t tell them what to do, but be assertive and refuse to be their pawn, or even in extreme cases, their victim.

If they try to tell you what to do, tell them that you appreciate and value their advice but you want to run your life your way. If necessary agree to disagree but don’t give in.

Tell the controller that you cannot be at their beck and call; that you have your own life and can only be there for them as long as the constraints of your life allows.

Many controlling people are really shocked to learn that their family and/or a friend feel that they are being controlling. They simply see it as showing their love and attention, sadly they are unable to have true empathy for those under their control.

When the controlled start to try to take back their lives, the controller feels abandoned and hurt.

How can ‘controllers’ help themselves?

They can start to make changes. Telling themselves “If my actions are not helping I will stop”.

They can acknowledge that they may be preventing their friend/partner/family for realising their full potential, being true to their own values.

They can learn all they can about anxiety and about low self esteem, there are many self-help books available and, of course, there is also counselling and other therapies available.

By reminding themselves that the best way to love their family and friends is give them independence, to let them be themselves and lead their own lives, making their own mistakes and learning from them.

I believe it may help both the controller and the controlled in a relationship to seek counselling/coaching as this will provide a safe place to talk openly and confidentially. Feelings can be explored and empowerment skills development enabling both parties to move forward independently, possibly alongside each other, but without either being in control of the other.

How grateful are you?

Posted: August 13th, 2013

A quick thought: 

Grateful people tend to be optimistic.  They see life as special despite challenges that come their way.  People with a high sense of gratitude are less likely to become depressed, they are less greedy, and less envious of others.

It is not enough to say ‘thank you’ you have to mean it.  As you practice gratitude you will find that you are focusing more on the positive parts of your life and not dwelling on the negative parts.   

Being grateful will help you to be more positive.  

Gardening can be good for your emotional wellbeing as well as your physical health

Posted: August 13th, 2013

A few months ago I had been doing some gardening including pruning, planting, weeding and even tidying up the greenhouse.  Each time I gardened I  noticed that my mood had lifted by the time I finished.  This made me think and do some research.

I have found out that a group of researchers, headed by Sir Richard Thompson investigate the effects of gardening on various mental disorders including depression.  They found that gardening was more beneficial than medication.  Because of these finding the NHS has introduced gardening as a therapy for people with depression.   I am now recommending that some of my clients try gardening as a way of helping themselves to lift their mood.  They have reported back saying that gardening has been a great help to them.   One saying it had calmed his nerves and helped to remove anxious thoughts. Another saying it had really helped her mood, as when she started everything felt quite ‘black’ but by the time she had finished ‘colour’ had come back into her world.

Gardening also has other benefits including helping to burn calories and keeping physically fit.  It helps with flexibility, strengthens joints and even slows down the development of osteoporosis.  Experts recommend doing it for at least 30 minutes.  However, if you are new to gardening, don’t do too much to start with, gradually do a little more each time.

So I feel there are a great many benefits to a tidy garden.

Finally enjoy being outside in the fresh air.  Gardening is at its best on a sunny day when you can feel with the warmth of the sun and get the benefit of Vitamin D at the same time.   However, even on a cold cloudy day it can help your mood and enable you to feel calmer.



How to survive the loss of a close friend or lover.

Posted: July 21st, 2012

When you lose someone, whether it is a close friend, lover or soul mate and you feel as though your heart is broken.  It tears you apart, it hurts so very much and it can arouse negative emotions in us all.  We can suffer loss of confidence, guilt, anguish, anger and bitterness.

Please remember time is a healer and life does go on. 

Here are a few suggestions of things you can do to help yourself.

  • Do not shut down, but allow yourself to feel the pain.  Believe it or not, this is the very beginning of healing.  As you start to feel a little better, you may feel angry, but remember this is part of the process and in a while it will leave.
  • Talking is wonderful therapy.  Talk to a friend, a counsellor, family member or really anyone who will listen.  Even talking to your pet can help ease the pain.  By saying what you feel you will release some of the tension that you feel inside.
  • Get out and about, try going for a walk in the countryside and really looking around you, taking in all that you can see, this will give you a short respite from your inner thoughts.
  • Visit friends, or have them visit you.  You may not feel like being social or being with friends, but push yourself to spend time with them.  Do not stay alone for long periods of time.
  • Spend time with positive people.
  • Don’t let yourself go, that will make you feel worse.  Take good care of yourself and your wellbeing, in fact, pamper yourself.   Exercise and eat well, don’t let yourself become unwell.
  • Fill you days with activities.  Think of all the things you haven’t had time to do.  Plan your day from the moment you wake till the moment you go back to sleep.  Do some things that you really enjoy, even if you don’t really feel like it at the moment, make yourself, you will probably enjoy it once you are there.  It will take you mind of your troubles for a little while and lift your mood.
  •  Try smiling at yourself in the mirror, seeing a smile, even if it is your own lifts your mood.

If your broken heart comes from a break-up. 

  • Remember it is important to be kind to yourself.   Sometimes we punish ourselves because we feel we have failed in some way.  Tell yourself you have not failed you have had a learning experience and move on.
  • You are important and you must live with yourself.  If you are unkind to yourself, other people will treat you badly too.
  • Use positive affirmations to re-build your self-confidence.  Say things like “I am deserving of love”  “I am a beautiful person” “I am strong” “I am happy”  “I can survive this and I will survive this”.  Say your affirmation over and over again in your head when you are doing everyday things like: washing and cleaning your teeth, walking the dog or going to sleep at night.

Lastly, wait until you have healed before looking for a new love or relationship.  It is important to ensure that you are over the past relationship before you look for another one.   Once you are sure that you are ready to move one, open your mind and your heart to love.

What I aim to provide as a Supervisor

Posted: February 12th, 2012

Recently it has become clear to me that I will always be learning as a supervisor.  My present supervision work is one-to-one, but whether I am working with individuals or in a group I believe a learning environment/culture is the core to supervision.  I believe I am accompanying my supervisees on their journey whilst also following my own.  I always need to be curious, reflective and keep learning, whilst remembering learning happens between people and also within people (Lave and Wenger 1991).  I also need to be open to feedback from my supervisees because I too have more to learn.  Lastly empathy, it is important I stay in touch with my emotions as there is much to be learnt from an awareness of my ‘inner self’ and reactions.

A good working relationship is vital.  Whatever the chosen model of supervision ‘it is the quality of the relationship between supervisor and supervisee that determines whether supervision is effective or not’. Hunt (1986:20)  A good relationship is built over time and both parties need to work together in order for it to be achieved and maintained.

When I visit my own supervisor for supervision, I see it as a safe calm ‘place’, where I can download, reflect and be restored.  I leave feeling energised and sometimes excited.   I always aim to offer that safe calm ‘place’ to my supervisees.

How to make those Important Changes Happen.

Posted: June 30th, 2011

We may want to make big changes in our lives and in our careers but this type of change doesn’t come easily. We often have a longing to make change and we need to consider what to do about it. At times we also have change thrust upon us. Both types of change can feel uncomfortable and maybe even frightening. So what to do?

But first, what not to do: Do not ignore the need for change. We ignore change at our peril.

Create time and space to think about the change. Big changes need a lot of time and take energy. If you are rushed you might make an error or might not make the change at all.

  1. Think carefully about what the change means for you. Does it bring meaning to your life, possible success, joy?
  2. Take time to imagine the outcome to help inspire you to move onwards.
  3. Make a plan even if it is a really basic one. Good planning is so important to successful change.
  4. Look for support, the support of colleagues, friends, your partner and possibly a coach. This support can really help you on your way forward.
  5. Remember to build on your strengths.
  6. Manage your stress, as too much stress can make the task much harder or even impossible.
  7. Do your best.
  8. Try to remain detached from the outcome, as attachment to a specific outcome can prevent you from adjusting to the unforeseen. There will be many unforeseen circumstances along the way.
  9. Have faith in yourself. Trust yourself.

Remember, even if at first the change looks like disaster, change frequently takes you to a better place.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” – Anatole France

Do you need to forgive somebody?

Posted: June 30th, 2011

Forgiving can change your view of life and can give you peace and contentment.

Everyone has been hurt by somebody and sometime in their lives. When you have been hurt, what have you done, have you carried the hurt around for years? Have you carried the anger with you, cursed that person and told everyone about what they have done to you. Where did all that get you? When you carry hurt and anger around with you, you are carrying poison which can hurt you mentally and physically. Forgiveness changes that.

Sometimes it is us that has done the hurting, and then we carry the guilt around with us, again this is poison and we need to forgive ourselves. Not forgiving yourself is as damaging as not forgiving someone else.

Forgiveness reduces:

Feeling of depression
Anxiety and stress
Anger and aggression
Blood pressure
Risk of drug or alcohol abuse

Forgiveness also helps your relationships with others, prevents the control that the other person has over your thoughts and it can improve your psychological health.

Forgiveness can be verbal, in your thoughts and through the written word (even if you burn or shred the letter and don’t send it).

Remember, as Alexander Pope said “To err is human; to forgive, divine”. Forgiving someone can change your outlook on life, giving you peace, removing bitterness, anger, resentment and pain. You can then move forward free from those restrictions.

Stress and how it can affect your body

Posted: February 11th, 2011

Not all stress is harmful.  There is a type of stress that is exciting and good for us, the type that we experience when skiing, doing an extreme sport or racing to meet an exciting deadline.  Acute short-term stress can also be good for us, but can be distressing, this can come when our skiing goes wrong or when somebody is angry and confronts us.  Some people seem to make that type of stress their way of life.

More harmful stress is often called Chronic Stress, this type seems to go on for ever and we cannot seem to escape from it.  It frequently occurs at work or in our home lives.  Chronic stress can cause physical symptoms like headaches and reduced immunity to infections.  If allowed to continue it can cause more serious problems like: depression, hair loss, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, sexual problems, ulcers and sleeplessness.

In order to cope with stress we need to look after our bodies and our minds.  Social support can be a great stress reliever and studies have shown that those who have strong support tend to be healthier, happier and less stressed.

Many of us forget to take care of ourselves; a massage, a long relaxing bath, a healthy diet and exercise can all help prevent chronic stress.   Having a well-cared-for body can make you feel good about yourself and your life; it also conveys to others that you value yourself.  Remember, people who neglect themselves are at danger of unhappiness and low self-esteem.  Sometimes people who spend their time taking care of others can be at risk of burn out.  Taking time to care for yourself can make you a better carer for others.

If you are struggling with stress, consider visiting a local counsellor, joining a meditation group, taking up yoga and doing everything you can to protect your health and wellbeing.

Remember to take time to smell the flowers……

Walking – good for your body and your mind

Posted: September 28th, 2010

A number of my clients are struggling with stress and anxiety in one form or another.  Many have found that just simply walking is a wonderful way of relieving stress whilst at the same time keeping their body fit.

Walking is simple you don’t need an instructor or a coach, it is inexpensive and can be done nearly anywhere and at any time.  So why not just get up and walk.   It doesn’t need to take too long, just walk for ten minutes in one direction and then ten minutes back again.   Why not walk with a friend?

The benefits for your body are improved balance and co-ordination.  Walking is good for your spine too and it can improve fitness and help to keep your weight down.  It can also decrease bone loss and improve circulation.

The benefit for your mind is that it can improve your mood, energy level and alertness, thus helping to reduce stress.  Remember to breathe deeply and walking ‘mindfully’ – notice your surroundings, notice the sounds around you and how you move.   Think positive thoughts and count your blessings as you walk.   This is just one simple way of helping to improve your wellbeing – I hope you enjoy your next walk – please remember to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.

Anxiety Disorder and OCD – The importance of support from the family.

Posted: August 19th, 2010

I have recently been talking with a friend who has a family member with OCD and thought I would write something about this on my blog.

If you have somebody in your family who is struggling with Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) you will find an Article on this site providing some further thoughts on the topic.  Please remember that your relative is a person in their own right.  A person who is healthy and able in many ways, but who nonetheless has a disorder.

Do not allow the OCD to take over your family life, keep stress low and the families life as normal as possible.

For people with OCD to make progress towards recovery you must resist helping in their ritual behaviour.

When talking about the behaviour with the person affected, don’t criticise past behaviour, state what you want to happen in the future.  Avoid making any criticism personal and help your relative to feel accepted.

Remember, gentle humour alongside care can really help.  Support from you doesn’t always have to be serious.  People struggling with OCD often know how silly their fear is and they can often see the funny side of their behaviour as long as they feel that you are laughing with them not at them.   The humour should not be disrespectful.

The way you react to the family member and their symptoms can have a huge impact.  Negative comments and/or criticism can make the disorder worse.  It is important to keep calm and provide a supportive environment.  There is no point in getting angry with somebody who has OCD or telling them to just stop.  They can’t and the extra pressure from you and others will probably make the behaviour worse.  Be kind and be patient, focus on the positive and praise any success.

Finally, remember you and other family members may need support and help too.  Find somebody to confide in whether it is a friend, your GP or a counsellor.