Do you have a child that you find you are constantly pulling up?
Or a partner that you criticise over small things, from morning till night?
It might be time to take a look at what type of relationship you are creating, and whether you are happy to continue that way.
Usually, people have their hearts in the right place and are actually aiming to help the person they are critical of, by pointing out the easier/better way to do/achieve something.
But somewhere along the line, the ‘helpful suggestion’ can turn into an unhelpful habit that characterizes the whole relationship. It can also become a substitute for deeper resentments or hurts that are not being acknowledged in the relationship.
Take an example of a mother and son who are constantly at loggerheads over the son’s personal hygiene. Or, a mother who is constantly annoyed at the son’s lack of personal hygiene. These are actually 2 different things!
By being able to recognize that your own set of priorities can be very different from someone else’s, can allow you to become clearer about what the issues really are.
So, a son’s infrequent hair-washing may not really mean he will never get a job and be an upstanding pillar of society! He may just not see squeaky clean hair as part of his necessary ablutions.
Does it really matter? Is it symbolic of something deeper for the mother? Is this the type of interaction that either person wants?
Get clear on what the conflict is actually about and thoughtfully approach those issues at a time when you are not angry or irritated.
3 steps to stop the criticism:
Vanessa Steele, ThoughtMatters counsellor
It was a CRAZY afternoon with too many appointments, kid drop-offs and pick-ups to sport and what-not, topped off by a forgotten jumper we had to return to find and the fact that the neighbour had just called to say our chickens had escaped and were roaming the street - I was STRESSED!
Ideally we eat at around 7pm so the kids get to bed by 8.30-ish so they have proper sleep for their early starts, and I feel like an ok parent.
The time was already 8.15pm and we were just arriving home. My partner was working till very late and I hadn’t planned dinner at all (but I hoped there were some sausages in the fridge that were still in date!)
The kids found the chickens (alive!) but they could see the stress building up and about to turn me into a blithering, cranky, resentful and snappy mother. Perhaps you know the feeling?
Instead, I made a different choice.
“Let’s teach you how to BBQ”, I said to one.
“Be creative and make any salad you like out of the fridge”, I said to the other.
It wasn’t all plain sailing as the BBQ gas ran out after 5 minutes and we had to dash to the servo to get a refill. Normally this would have been the final straw…but by then, my attitude had changed. The kids were involved, we were solving it all together.
Dinner was wonderful, the salad was indeed creative and the sausages divine!
More delightful though, was the pride the kids felt in bringing this all together and how empowered they were by the experience.
By re-framing the situation from one where I was overloaded and heading for anger, to one where we all got to pitch in together, we were all able to actually enjoy the experience.
The tale is told in a different way to how it might have usually turned out… the kids now often ask to help with the BBQ and making the salad. They have greater independence, self-esteem and have learned some life skills.
Perhaps more importantly, they saw me make a different choice - rather than rushing to angry martyrdom, I asked for help and we made it work together.
Yes, they were very late to bed that night, but I actually felt like a good parent!
It’s a word that makes people uncomfortable.
It still carries a stigma of fear, sadness and, for some, even shame.
If we were more able to talk about the ‘s’ word openly we could help each other deal with isolation, depression, anxiety and provide support and a road to recovery.
Have you guessed?
Suicide kills almost twice as many Australians as the national road toll each year.
More than 3 million Australians are living with depression and/or anxiety today.
Of those people, more than half will not seek help.
While we can talk about the number of people dying on the roads and suffering and dying with breast and prostate cancer, as soon as suicide is mentioned, many of us look for ways to change the conversation. It can make us uncomfortable because we may be afraid, embarrassed, or feel out of our depth.
World Mental Health Day is all about raising the awareness of our engagement with those illnesses that affect our mental state. By being willing to talk about our own experiences, or situations we have known where other people have been affected by anxiety, depression, and, yes, suicide, we can remove that stigma, and open the way for people to let us know when they need help.
Suicide is something that many people consider as a way to make their emotional pain stop. Some people feel suicide is the only way they can escape their situation.
It can be daunting to ask someone if they feel suicidal, often for fear that the person may say “yes”. Then what?!
OK, if there is someone you know who seems isolated, depressed, overwhelmed, or behaving differently to their normal self, find an opportunity to ask them if they are having thoughts of suicide. It’s important not to beat around the bush, but clearly ask.
Don’t start off by saying “ You’re not thinking about doing something silly, are you?” Show the person you respect them and care about how they are feeling by saying something like “ Are you ok? I’ve noticed you are under a lot of pressure/ feeling low/ aren’t participating in things at the moment. Are you feeling suicidal?” or “Are you thinking about harming yourself?”
If the person isn’t suicidal, they simply say “No”, and are usually clear that that isn’t an option they think about. They do not feel offended and the conversation moves on quite naturally after that.
If the person says “Yes”, it is often accompanied by a sense of relief that they are able to talk about how serious their pain is, and the first baby step on the way to keeping them safe.
If you do know someone who is suicidal, stay with them, or arrange for someone else to be with them until you are able to get professional assistance from a doctor, counsellor or other mental health professional. Call Lifeline anytime on 13 11 14 if you need support with this.
Many people worry that asking the suicide question may put ideas into the person’s head. According to Lifeline, it is simply not the case.
It’s a question that Lifeline telephone counsellors are trained to ask each caller as part of their mission to achieve an Australia free of suicide.
“Are you thinking about suicide?” Ask the question, have the conversation. You may just save someone’s life.
Vanessa Steele, ThoughtMatters counsellor and Lifeline Telephone Crisis Support
When people feel overwhelmed or anxious about something that is going on in their lives, they can find sharing their concerns with a close friend or family member helpful. And while talking with a friend about a problem is something most of us do, there are many good reasons why talking to a counsellor may be a better option.
Often, the issues and concerns that people share with a counsellor aren’t things they are comfortable to share with a friend. It can be that a traumatic event has triggered anxiety, they feel stuck in a difficult patterns, or they might realise they are just not coping with some aspects of their life.
While a friendship is an important part of a support team, friends have their own opinions, beliefs, prejudices and values, which may colour their advice. Friendships can also have an imbalance in power, status, or reliability, which can make people feel compelled to conform to peer pressure or others’ expectations. The counsellor takes a caring, empathetic approach, making no assumptions and really ‘ hearing’ what the client has to say, while respecting the unique situation and individual values the client holds.
Friends may also find it difficult to maintain confidentiality, or be completely honest for fear of hurting feelings and harming the friendship. A counsellor is bound by a code of professional conduct to ensure confidentiality is maintained. This security, as well as knowing this relationship is separate from most other relationships in the client’s life, allows the client to speak freely and honestly.
A professional counsellor provides a structure and framework to assist the client work through the issues that matter most to them. Professional boundaries are established to ensure the client feels safe, respected and supported throughout their journey. The counsellor is trained to assess important safety aspects such as suicide risk, family violence or risk to children, and provide support or professional referrals to get help where it is needed.
But, importantly, talking with your counsellor is not like a normal two-way conversation where your friend may relate shared experiences or personal stories to make you feel less alone. It is the one-way dialogue you have with your counsellor that keeps the conversation focused on your story, your issues and your goals that ultimately helps you find your solutions.
Because of all these reasons and more, seeing a counsellor should feel very different to talking with a friend. The quality of the therapeutic relationship has been proven to be the most important factor for a positive outcome.
So, faced with the choice of talking to a friend who means well, but may lack the skills to be of much help, or speaking with a skilled listener who is bound by professional ethics of confidentiality and trained to support you to get through them, what would you choose?
If you feel ready to have the conversation that focuses on you, your goals and solutions for difficulties you are facing, please contact us at ThoughtMatters Counselling on 9188 4481.
Vanessa Steele, ThoughtMatters counsellor
Vanessa Steele: counsellor, mum, partner, blogger... listening and learning every day.