What can you do when love is not returned?

When a client turned up unexpectedly yesterday we ended up with the tables turned!  I was expecting my teenage daughter home who had spent the day fuelling her fire of hate  for me for ‘ruining her life’ and the poor client ended up listening to my tales rather than vice versa.

This morning however, up popped an email with something that I needed to see – funny that!
“In the beginning, the price of giving great love, is running the risk it wont be returned”

Hmm!  This echoed the conversation of yesterday evening where I was trying to explain to said teenager that the rules we put in place were to keep her safe because we loved her – the response being, “well it doesn’t feel like you love me!”

Sometimes we do things with very positive intentions and get floored when the desired outcome falls way short.  We then question if we did the right thing, or indeed, if we are good enough.

Taking my parent head off and putting therapy one on, the answer is that if you do something to the best of your ability then it is good enough.  Yes, you can continue to learn, you can make changes, but doing your best is the best you can do.  On top of that, if the motivation comes from a place of love then you are already flying high.

We cant control other people’s reactions, we can only control our own.  If you don’t get the response you wish, you can change your strategy but it may just be that the person you are interacting with is not ready or perhaps even able to react in the way you wish.  So just love them and be patient!

And this is how that post I saw ended…..”In the beginning, the price of giving great love, is running the risk it wont be returned.  In the end however, great love is always returned!”

My teenager is not ready to accept the rules being placed on her.  She has not got the skills yet to know when is the time to stop fighting.  I am doing the best I can as a parent and will continue to learn how to get the best out of a teenager.  And in the meantime, I will continue to love and know that in the end, (and even now in her own way) it will be returned!


Caroline Cavanagh is author of anxiety alchemy, and a national award winner: APCTC Consultant of the year



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Can you relate to this…..

I recently worked with a lovely lady whose life was being made miserable by what appeared to be inconsiderate friends.  But then the story unfolded…..
She had a lot of rules! So for example, she has a lovely home and wanted to keep it that way! She has rules around taking shoes off before coming in, using coasters on the wooden furniture etc – not unreasonable me thinks.. until she told me that when people break her rules, she gets so angry she can’t even focus on the conversation because she is consumed by the muddy shoes or mug.
It was not for me to tell her to change her rules, but wondered why friends were being so inconsiderate…..
…and then found out she had not told them about her rules!
She was worried about how they might react to her rules so avoided telling them, and instead got hugely stressed or angry when they unwittingly broke them.

Can you relate to that?

If so, here is what I suggested to her…

Humour is a great way to diffuse confrontation.  A simple, “I know I may be a fussy moo, but would really appreciate it if you took your shoes off when you came in”, or “My hoover is on holiday, would you help me by leaving your shoes in the hall?”
This is a great way to get your message across in a fun way that few would take offence at.
The coaster thing – she is planning on getting them all designed a personalised coaster she can present to them as a gift to use – in her house!
Humour is a great tool to use in many situations.  Only 7% of communication comes from the actual language.  We interpret much more from the tone of voice and non verbal communication.  So use these things to your advantage!
Caroline Cavanagh is a clinical hypnotherapist, author of anxiety alchemy and winner of the APCTC Consultant of the Year 2016.

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Can avoiding risk actually increase anxiety?

Anxiety’s roots are in uncertainty.

Anxiety reduces when you increase control (ie reduce uncertainty)

And one of the ways we create control is by having rules – boundaries within which we feel in control.

All well and good – or is it?

Rules – and in their highest form – laws – create structure.  Laws, which are societies rules,  are the least flexible rules. We have cultural rules, group rules and at the top of the pyramid, individual rules – ones that we have established for ourselves to protect us and reduce our own specific uncertainties.beliefs

We learn rules from a young age.  Children are taught the ‘rules’ around acceptable behaviour and when you ‘step across that line’ (boundary) then there are consequences.  And it is argued that children are happiest when they know where the boundaries are – it’s safest to stay within the boundaries.

Problems can arise however when individual rules become inflexible.  The safety becomes restricting; the rules literally cease to become boundaries and become impenetrable walls that you cant see beyond – and the irony here is that this will create anxiety.

Consider the person who stays in an unsatisfying job because they know the ‘rules’; they know what will happen each day – there are no surprises, everything works as it should.  This reduces the anxiety of going to work, but makes the anxiety around getting a new, more rewarding job very high.

Or the company that does not invest in new technology because the staff all know the current system, even if it is outdated and less productive than new systems.

In these instances the safety net of avoiding uncertainty, can actually lead to heightened risk – and we are back to breeding anxiety.

So here are 5 tips that can help to keep rules flexible; reducing uncertainty whilst allowing flexibility for you to manage change.

  1.  Focus on your goal and then concentrate on the next step only.
    If the goal is big, it can be very daunting and that uncertainty fuels anxiety.  By knowing where you are heading, but then only focusing on the next step, it re-introduces control as you are only focusing on the next step.
    This is what I call the satnav approach and this is explained more in this short video clip 
  2. The carrot and stick approach
    This is understanding whether you are more motivated to move towards pleasure, or away from pain.  There is not a right or wrong here, but when you know which direction works for you, you can use it to focus your efforts.  To find out how your direction filter works, click here.
  3. Make a decision.
    Much anxiety comes from procrastination (the fear of failure).  There are many sayings along the line of, “There is no failure; only success or learning”.  Once you have made a decision, you will have learned something – if you learned it was the wrong decision, then you have learned one less way to achieve your goal!    Even failure delivers a certainty- indecisiveness doesn’t!
  4. Acknowledge success.
    Neurologically our minds like to know when they have performed well.  We all tend to praise children for correct behaviour, pat good dogs on the head, but often do not acknowledge our own success.  By saying a  quiet, “well done me” the mind is more likely to imprint the positive outcome and deliver that positive result again.
  5. Plan.
    Planning reduces uncertainty.  When you are looking to break down the walls, and stretch the boundaries of a rule, plan for the likely outcomes. When you have mentally prepared for the possible outcomes, uncertainty is reduces – as will be your anxiety.Caroline Cavanagh is the author of anxiety alchemy and APCTC Consultant of the Year 2016.  She specialises in helping people with anxiety.

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3 things to do to help people with eating disorders

Its national eating disorder awareness week.
Much of the focus is understandably around people with the disorder however parents, friends and family members, often feel powerless to help, which also can hinder the recovery of the person with the illness.
So here are 3 things to be mindful of if you suspect a loved one has an eating disorder:
1. The eating disorder is a symptom. The ‘dis-ease’ lies in the mind. Focusing on eating is like putting a plaster over a ruptured artery – its not getting to the root of the problem. By encouraging that person to eat, you risk them developing avoidance tactics to get out of eating – literally driving the behaviour ‘under ground’. Talk to them about how they are feeling rather than what they are (are not) eating as it is the feelings that are leading to the symptom of their eating behaviour.
2. Many sufferers hate what they are doing, they just dont know how to stop. Therefore getting angry or frustrated with them will not help. Instead, aim to work out what the trigger for the change was. Very few people are born with an eating disorder, something happens (which may or may not be traumatic) which results in a subconscious response to use eating as a strategy to achieve a specific emotion. By tracking back and finding the trigger(s) you will be on a potential path to address the problem at its roots.
3. The problem is likely to escalate quickly, therefore take action to get help as soon as you perceive there is a problem. The brain learns patterns of behaviour very quickly. Think about learning to ride a bicycle, or drive a car. It took a matter of hours to learn something very complex and this skill stays with you for life. If the sufferer is allowed to continue practising their eating behaviours, it can similarly become embedded.
Most importantly, avoid assuming fault. Many parents who have children with eating disorders blame themselves unfairly. If your child got cancer it would be devastating but few parents consider themselves responsible for the illness. We all have cancerous cells in our bodies and sometimes they just turn rogue. Similarly, we all have eating ‘programmes’ that are run by the mind – and sometimes these break down. There are many environmental factors that affect the mind, just as they can contribute to cancer. Seek first to get the treatment, and only later, look forward to what you can change to prevent re-occurrence: what has happened in the past, has passed so focus on the future.
Caroline Cavanagh is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and National award winner.  She is author of Anxiety Alchemy and specialises in anxiety – a common root that feeds eating disorders.

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The labels we wear – and I am not talking fashion!

You may be wondering about the relevance of this image?
This image is from the current mencap campaign to stop people ‘labelling’ mental disabilities and actually see the person.  This is Joe!
I have no issue with labels – they help us make sense of things by grouping them together. The issue comes when labels engender a behaviour.
Consider these two statements:
I am mentally disabled
I have a mental disability
I am depressed
I have depression.
It may seem pedantic to differentiate, however the differences are big when it comes to how your brain reacts to the information.
I AM ……is all encompassing. It gives little scope for change. For example, I am female – that aint gonna change!
I HAVE…..however elicits the possibility to have NOT and also can be part of a list. For example, I have brown hair, I also have brown eyes. Brown hair does not define me, its just part of me. I could also get the bleach out and no longer have brown hair!
These little words make a big difference to not only how others treat us but also how we treat ourselves. If you regularly say, “I am depressed, anxious….”, fill in the blank, then it becomes easy to ‘live’ that label. Your brain literally says, “your wish is my command!” The label drives the behaviour.
I HAVE depression gives the suggestion its not always been there, generating the possibility of a time when it won’t be there again. This creates a very different mental image.
I recently spoke with a women who had cancer. Fortunately we don’t tend to say, “I am cancer!” However when she told me that she had cancer, she had clearly adopted the label of being cancerous.
A few questions elicited that the tumour was in one organ only so my response to her was, “You have a small part of you that has cancer but a much bigger part of you is still working perfectly fine.”
That fact had escaped her. She then decided to start behaving as a person who was a much larger percentage of person without cancer than the bit with cancer. This little change created a big change in her self confidence – she started wearing a different label.
So think about how you label yourself.  Is that label giving you the option to take it off at some point?  Is that label just a tiny part of who you are – if so, wear a much bigger label that describes the big bit!
Have you had a look at my book yet?  You can check it out here

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3 tips on how to help children who are anxious

It’s children’s mental health week so this week I am going to put some thoughts and ideas up around this theme.


Today: 3 tips on how you can help children who are anxious

The statistics around the escalation of children being diagnosed with mental health are frightening and I experience many people who negate this with comments such as “We all had those pressures and we’re OK, children are too soft….” type of thing.

Children learn a huge amount from their parents and as a key role model in their lives, you can do a significant amount to help your children.

Here are 3 things I encourage all parents can do that will help their children:

1: Never tell them they are being silly.

Their fears are real to them and its important to acknowledge them. Making them appear ‘silly’ is likely to heighten that teenage feeling of, “they don’t understand what its like”, adding to their sense of isolation.”

Instead, acknowledge how they are feeling and find a scenario from your past that you can tell them that is relevant.

Due to natural teenage resistance, telling them what to do or how to feel will encourage them to do resist the advice – after all teenagers know so much more than their parents dont they!! A way round this is to tell a story about your own experience. Something akin to, ” I remember feeling very scared about my exams and it felt as though if I failed them, the world would end. What worked for me was….. or what I have learned since then is…..”

This will reduce the resistance as you are not ‘telling them’ what to do, and is a way of communicating a coping strategy that is proven to work through a simple story.

2: Avoid pressurising them to talk to you.

We all cope with stress in a different way. Males are especially more prone to with-drawing but many teenagers also find it hard to talk to their parents. A constant tirade of “tell me what is wrong” is likely to add to the stress.

Many teenagers also find it quite difficult to verbalise how they are feeling and so literally ‘cannot’ talk about it rather than ‘wont’.

Metaphors and similies are very useful. One of my favourite is the dripping tap in the sink. The tap drips away and unless you take the plug out sometimes, the sink will eventually overflow and cause a crisis. This is like stress and worries, they keep dripping away and unless you ‘pull the tap out’ ie let the worries out, they will flood out at some point too and it’s likely to get messy!

Having set this metaphor up, the next step is the ‘pulling the plug’ bit. The secret here is to literally, ‘get everything out’. As mentioned, many teenagers struggle to talk to their parents but it is not about who is listening that is important. A trusted friend, a teddy, the family pet – the need is just to ‘let it all out’. My beloved dog knew more than anyone else about my teenage problems – she never provided any solutions other than a wagging tail but I always felt better after having told her everything.

Other children may like to write everything down and then encourage them to destroy the paper – shred it, set light to it (safely obviously!) – this also has a great symbolism for having destroyed the worries.

You may be familiar with a common phrase;” Just get it off your chest”. This is what the teenager needs to do – and with the weight of their chest, they will breath more easily!

3: Make worrying a task.

This one is a bit more ‘alternative’ but also very powerful. We have routines in our day to do things – brush our teeth, eat meals etc. By making worrying a task you then give it a time and place to do it. If your teenager is worrying about something outside of the ‘worry hour’ then remind them, that it is not ‘worry time’ so save that thought up until it is time to worry. When the agreed worry time then comes along, their focus is to worry! Think about all of the things that are problems and really do a good job of worrying. Allow this for around 20 minutes and then move on to the next task – worrying over until the next worry slot comes around.

This technique is powerful because it does not negate the fears (as per tip 1), it provides an outlet for them (tip 2) and at a subconscious level, the worry doesn’t have to stay front of mind because it’s time to be aired is coming – its a bit like a shopping list – by writing it down, you only then focus on it when you go to the shops!

This can even become a family activity. All have worry half hour where you all talk about the things that are giving you stress. Most importantly though – it is not about solving your teenager’s problems, just listen and then you take your turn.

You may struggle with this as a concept. However, you don’t brush your teeth all the time, you don’t eat all the time so why worry all the time. This is the first step to then deciding to skip the worry hour – ie just like going to bed without brushing your teeth because you’re tired – it’s a choice – and from choice comes control – the think that confidence is built upon!

More on that later this week.

Id love to hear your thoughts on these ideas – please let me know in the comments field below

For more ideas on reducing anxiety, take a look at Anxiety Alchemy

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How to have that Friday feeling every day

How would your week feel if every day felt like a Friday?start-every-day-as-if-its-a-fridayNow I know that there is only one Saturday in week and if you are like me, Saturdays mean a bit longer in bed, a slower pace, less fuss over appearance….and these thing lead to a different feeling on a Friday knowing what is just around the corner.

And then we spend 5 days in the week on a countdown to feel that next Friday feeling.  Is it just me or does that seem like a waste of 5 days??

Now here is a challenge for you – your mind only knows its Friday because you tell it it is!

I bet you have had the experience of thinking its a certain day of the week and then finding out you were wrong (it seems to happen to me after every Bank Holiday Monday!)  When you realised the mistake, you either felt happy because you were a day closer to the weekend or fed up if it was the opposite!  It wasnt the day that changed, it was your perception!  And perception is something you are in control of.

It is quite possible to trick your own mind.  If you tell it its Friday, it will believe you. Yes, you’ll have that little voice saying, “Oh no it’s not you fool” but who is in charge?  Stop and imagine how you would feel if it was actually Friday.  How would you act differently?  What would you do differently if it was only 4 hours until the weekend started rather than 4 days?  Those different options are choices – you can choose the ‘real time’ option, or choose the ‘Friday option’.  Only you are making the rules according to the days!!!!

Happy Friday – may there be many of them in the week!!




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