Kitchen Therapy


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“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The last few weeks have been emotionally and physically draining. My father had a heart attack that he was not expected to recover from. Luckily he has recovered and even though he has lost the use of his right leg, we are overjoyed with the progress he has made.

As we have progressed through the wards of the hospital, I have cut down my daily visits from 12 hour bedside vigils to a two to three hour visit. My days are very full and very tiring and as I drive to and from the hospital I find my mind drifting, questioning theories about grief. Running through exercises and passages I have read, asking myself what is useful and even possible when clients come in during times of stress. I have never wanted to be one of those psychologists that just talks at you, telling clients what they should be doing without making the effort to understand or respect what they are telling me. I have also never had the patience to be one of those therapists that sees clients endlessly, listening to them carry on about the same issue and not challenging them (may sound cold but there are clients who do just want to come in and have a bitch or a whinge without any interest or intention to change their lives!)

My dad’s heart attack meant I was now facing one of my biggest keeps you up at night fears.
Most of the time I felt I couldn’t breathe from the pain that seemed to crush my ribs and block my airways!
And then out of nowhere there were moments of perfect clarity that allowed me to step back and observe the process I was going through with objective interest.
Moments where I felt complete acceptance with the cycle of life and I knew that we would all be okay.

So here’s what I learnt from my dad’s heart attack…

1. All the stuff that books tell you doesn’t matter, really doesn’t!
Who cares about the gossip and who said what about who! You have no time or energy or interest in such rubbish! It was like a breath of fresh air. I had perspective and I wanted to make sure that I rememebered what really mattered and more importantly what didn’t matter for the rest of my life. I knew that at some point things would have to return to normal and I didn’t want to waste this experience.

2. You can choose how to respond.
I always felt that I would be one of those women you see on television, you know the one’s that wail, scream and try to throw themselves at the coffin. The thought of losing a family member has always filled me with such anxiety and despair that I never doubted that would be me! Recently I went to a friend’s father’s funeral and this friend of mine conducted herself with so much dignity that I took strength from her. Another friend’s 5 year old has been battling a brain tumor and again I witnessed a woman handle a terrible situation with incredible strength and grace.
I started to build other ways of being in my mind. Seeing these women helped me realise that you can choose how you conduct yourself no matter what is happening. I taught it, but I must confess I had my doubts, the pain with some clients at the loss of a loved one or the loss of a marriage is so intense and debilitating that you can easily be dragged into their worlds and feel as incapacitatingly helpless and hopeless as they feel. If you meet them all the way you will find it hard to see a way out yourself, if you don’t meet them at all, you will never really have an empathic understanding of what they are going through and will not be able to establish that necessary relationship and connection you need to be of use to them. So just like in counselling, in real life it’s finding that balance for yourself where you can grieve but you have the door open to the rest of your life and you can come and go freely.

3.You can only play victim for so long.
I find this hard to say without sounding insulting. I have clients who come in and spend so much time and energy waiting for the world to acknowledge the unfairness of their situation and then fix it. The world does acknowledge it, but then it expects you to move on. I felt surely everyone could see how much I was going through and I felt justified in my grief, until I returned to work and there was a stack of forms and files that needed addressing immediately. I had to work hard at not feeling resentful and sorry for myself! I have seen clients waste so much time and energy refusing the move on. Losing their jobs, their relationships as they cling desperately to the perceived unfairness and injustice of a situation. I’ve seen enough to know there comes a time when you need to accept and move on with your life. The alternative is truly terrifiying! Losing everything and everyone and then realising that it was all for nothing, carrying on will not take away the pain, it just creates more. Nothing will take away the pain, it’s about building a life around it.


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How do I know if he’s the right one for me…

What to do when you start to  think that maybe this isn’t the right person for you…

Well kids, this is a topic I am very passionate about because I don’t want to see you in a therapist’s chair 50 or 60 years from now talking about how you wasted your life on someone who never loved you or treated you with respect.

Where is this coming from you might ask?
Many clients, family and friends who spent their lives waiting for the “love of their life” to change and become the man or woman they knew they had the potential to be!

So this advice may be hard to take and you will probably ignore it at first buy you will come back to it at some point. I just hope it’s sooner than later…

 When you are considering getting married, moving in, having children or making any kind of committment with this person, I urge you to look at him or her. Look beyond their great looks! Look beyond their cool attitude and obvious intelligence! Look beyond the great hairstyle, tatts, piercings, car, money or whatever it is that has made you think this is the one!!!

Do you like him or her just as they are.

Now I know this might sound a bit simplistic and even stupid! But I have heard so many times the answer “no” and then followed by “but once they change they’ll make a great husband/wife!” 

Don’t marry / stay with someone because you think they have potential! 

Potential is something that could possibly happen, as opposed to what you’ve actually got there. See this person as they are. Not the person they could one day be once they kick that drug habit. The person they could be once they get a job. Or one of my favourites, the person you know they could be once they grow up and start acting more responsible! What makes you think they will grow up? And here’s one of the most cringe-worthy answers I get of all time… “once we have kids they’ll have to grow up and take responsibility.” No they won’t!

I know I sound incredibly cynical but consider the following scenarios…

1. When you met him, you knew he smoked pot but you just assumed he would stop one day because that’s what people do. You go on to buy a house, have kids however you can’t go on holidays because he can’t take his pot or whatever drugs there are without getting caught! He disappears into the shed for a while each day and when you ask him what he’s doing he gets angry at you for snooping or not giving him his space. At random times throughout your relationship you’ve discovered drug taking paraphanalia, but he has always said it’s someone else’s or it’s been there for years. He lays around and doesn’t help much or intereact much with you or the children. He gets passed over at work and you know he could achieve so much if he just applied himself and he promises he will, but he never does. Everyone else can see that he’s unreliable and stoned yet you believe him because you don’t want to see it.

2. You’ve been married for 40 or 50 years and one day he dies and finally you find all the evidence and confirmation you need that he had been cheating one you! You pretty much knew it while he was alive, actually he cheated on you while you were dating but you believed him when he said he wasn’t and anyway you weren’t married then and you thought once you were married it would all stop. Now you are left with anger, resentment and bitterness because finally you have all the proof you needed. But too late now.

3. When you met he was so exciting, playful, spontaneous. You thought he was the best thing and you couldn’t believe how lucky you were to have snagged him! You did everything for him! Cooked, ironed, payed his bills and you loved doing this because he needed you. People told you that you were being used but you just cut them out of your life because you thought they were just mean and jealous! Fast forward a few years or even decades and he is still loving life and having fun! You have become bitter and resentful because his playing meant someone had to be the adult and you are tired and exhausted. Finally you see what everyone else!

These are just a few scenarios. There are many, many more!
However I don’t want to lose sight of my point here.
Don’t ignore the niggling doubts, don’t bury you intuition that says there’s something not right here.
And my favourite, don’t ignore the feedback from family and friends!
They know this person better than you and they can see them in an objective light.
And if you think you will change him or her you are kidding yourself! 

I say this because I have seen so many people stuck in relationships that suck the life right out of them!
People stay in these relationships hoping/waiting for their partner to change. To stop taking drugs, stop acting life a child and get a job, stop sleeping around. Because if they stop then everything would finally be okay!

If you stay in a relationship where you are cheated on, trespassed against, abused, taken advantage of, the consequences to you are not pretty. While you have invest all your time and efforts in this person you didn’t realised you had lost yourself in the process. You lose your self respect by behaving in ways that are beneath you. You lose your confidence and you lose your ability to trust yourself and others. It ain’t pretty when you have a person who is well into their 60’s crying about wasting their life on someone who never loved, respected or appreciated them.

I have seen so much anger, resentment, bitterness and pain it would be a damn shame to not take it on board and learn from it! I also think that if their experiences help another human being then it might ease their pain just a little bit to think that it was for something. It had some meaning.


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There is no set time or age when you suddenly lose all your fears and become a grown up!!!

Do you sometimes feel like everyone grew up and worked out how to behave like an adult and you got left behind?

Why is it that some people radiate confidence, assurance, elegance while others gossip, bitch, and are just plain old nasty! And then there’s the fearful, anxious group that try really hard to please everyone in an effort to avoid being rejected and end up with no sense of self (this is ringing bells with me!)

Have you noticed some women have an aura of peace and security around them while others are desperate to please and can’t call their kid’s teachers by their first names?!

I’m only bringing this up because sometimes I swear I missed the boat on how to grow up and behave like an adult! I guess like everything else in life, there are pros and cons to this as well.

Maintaining a child like interest and joy in the day-to-day things is necessary. Especially if you’re a parent (my husband is one of four boys and he can play and be more childish than the kids, I envy his ability to do that and the kids love it!)

 However I’m raising this issue to get to the not so nice bits about being stuck in teenage mode at 40!

Sometimes we feel we are not fitting in with the other mothers at our children’s school or with our peers at work. Instead of isolating yourself and feeling there is something wrong with you I want to encourage you to see yourself like a car’s gear box (I led into that smoothly huh?) What I mean is that we can’t expect to put our lives into D for Drive and sail through life smoothly. I know it sux but it just doesn’t work like that.

Do you find yourself babbling like a fool when you talk to certain people? Or do you find some situations fill you with dread and fear (situations that others may find fun and appealing).

Well, if you can imagine your life like a gear box, just like the gear box has different speeds it can be moved to, we have many different parts to our personality that we put into gear.

Two very common parts are the inner child and the inner critic. The inner child can feel scared when faced by the bully mother in the playground while the inner critic (you know that voice that tells you nothing you do is good enough and whatever you are doing is wrong!) is always looking for people who are not good for you and actually make you feel like a loser! 

Now there would be no probs if our inner gear box was nicely greased and could sense which people and situations called for which qualities. For example, it would be great to be able to turn to your inner child when it is time to be playful and silly. It would be fabulous to hear when your inner critic is just not helping you, like when you are driving in the wrong gear and can hear the car straining! Unfortunately not many of us are built that finely tuned!

But imagine if we were?!

I’ve come to believe that the better we get at switching through the gears of our personalities and knowing which parts of life call for which qualities, the closer we get to behaving like adults.

We all have the adult inside of us, you know that side that knows what is right and good for us. The side we choose to ignore as we relish feeling sorry for ourselves. The side we ignore as we suck up to someone we don’t like because we are too scared to contemplate cutting them out of our lives. The side we bury as we convince ourselves we are absolute and utter failures! But that side is there.

I encourage you to join me in identifying when this adult side raises its head in your life and pay attention to how it feels. You mind feels clear, your chest and shoulders are relaxed, your breathing comes easier. The adult in you is there all the time. Mine gets buried easily by the other two qualities because they are more dominant, stronger and emotional. In other words, I interact with the world way more from those gears than the adult gear!

It’s just as important to get to know your inner child, how does it feel when you are being playful and silly. Recognise when you inner child is serving you and when it’s not. When does it get scared or the brat comes out?
I can now recognise that when I am dealing with some of the playground bullies (the mum’s I’m referring to!) I feel anxious, my breathing gets faster and my body becomes tense. I become a child, eager to please so they like me and don’t target me or my children! Now that I can recognise this, I am more aware of how I am interacting with these people and work at choosing to switch gears and slip into adult mode.

Same goes for the inner critic. I have another bunch of friends that make me feel like an awkward, silly, giggly klutz whenever I am with them! My inner critic screams “they are so much better than you!” and as a result I interact with them like a nerdy teen trying hard to get in with the cool girls! Sounds sad, I know, but I need to be aware of what my triggers are and which parts of my personality they engage so I can put an end to this cycle. I can honestly say I had myself convinced I was not made to mix with people and I was considering a move to the wilderness. I was convinced I could not be around people and still feel good about myself!

My family can breathe a sigh of relief now that I understand things a bit better and I will not be moving them to a bush station in the Australian outback where the only school options would be radio school!

So being aware of which gear we shift into as we interact with the world and make decision is an amazing tool to have. Once you can see yourself interacting from child mode or critic mode, imagine how it would feel if you faced the same people and situations with your gear firmly in adult mode? When I face the mummy bullies I can be polite without becoming a simpering sycophant! When I am with my assured, confident friends I no longer feel I need to run and hide out of fear of blurting out something stupid! I switch into my adult gear and I can face them head on! Confident, assured and calm!

Hope all this makes sense! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.