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I have recently binge watched “Couple’s Therapy”, a real-life documentary, charting the path of four couples in counselling.  I was absolutely hooked, curious to see how their stories would unfold.

couples therapy title on tv

Each episode shows how Dr Orna Guralnik, a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist, creates a space where couples can have a dialogue about their relationship and better understand each person’s experience and perspective.

Dr Guralnik expertly demonstrates how the role of the therapist is not about jumping into the detail of the drama and the “he said, she said”.  Instead, with genuine warmth and empathy, she asks questions and offers observations.  This enables the couples to have those “light bulb” moments where they start to answer the questions for themselves.

For anyone who has no knowledge of what counselling involves, or what to expect from the process, this series offers a realistic and insightful view.

counselling session

Living in the past

There is a wonderful moment where Dr Guralnik helps one of the women understand how the anger she feels towards her husband is not about him, and is instead rooted in the past.  The client talks about a VHS tape(DVD) which has clips of all the times she has felt worthless and not good enough.  She describes how in moments of uncertainty, she will go back to these clips on the tape.

Dr Guralnik explains how this tape is the client’s enemy and it is keeping her in the past, stopping her from living her current life.

This clip resonates with me, particularly when I think self-esteem.  There is a critical voice which sits within us all, encapsulating past trauma, failures, and negative messages from others.  This critical voice could also be likened to a VHS tape; it is a bank of evidence which backs up the notion that we are not good enough, unlovable, a failure, not normal, or a sense that there is something wrong with us.  We may find ourselves going back to this time and time again and it has a devastating impact on our self-esteem.

When we give space and credence to this critical voice, it has the power to stop us in our tracks.  It tells us not to put ourselves out there.  Or we may unconsciously sabotage opportunities or the positive things in our lives to prove the critical voice right.

How can you help yourself?

Finding strategies to silence the critical voice or to stop yourself from replaying clips on the VHS are incredibly important.  Here are 4 ways you can help yourself:

1. Awareness

The first step is to become aware of the critical voice.  By simply noticing it is there gives you a choice; whether you choose to listen and allow it to play the VHS video to back it up.

2. Ground yourself in the present

Life with a dominant critical voice means you are living in the past, and you need to find ways to ground yourself in the present.  When the critical voice comes through, there are simple ways to do this such as focusing on your breathing, listening out to what you can hear, looking around you and noticing what you can see.  These are techniques which help bring you back to the moment.

3. Check it out

There will be times when you lack the internal resources to challenge the critical voice.  If there are people you can trust, speak to them about how you are feeling.  They may offer a different perspective.

4. Seek professional help

Talking to a counsellor can help you explore your critical voice and gain a real understanding of where is comes from.  It will undoubtedly come from a place of trauma and pain, and often we need to explore these wounds to heal.  This is where a trained professional can have a significant impact on your life.

If you are interested in finding out more about how professional counselling can help, please reach out via the “contact me” section on my website.