Learning to Surrender…

By surrendering, I mean allowing yourself to feel what you feel. Stop trying to control or prevent. Stop fighting against yourself. Stop struggling and pressuring yourself to feel differently from the way you feel. Stop the judgment of what you are going through and the comparison with others. Stop feeling shameful and weak for your own experience.

Allow yourself to just feel…

To just welcome whatever emotions you are feeling. To allow your mind and your body to acknowledge those physical feelings. To allow the discharge in the form of grunting, crying, or even cursing to yourself.

It makes sense to feel frustrated when dealing with frustrating people. It is natural to feel sad when you are missing your loved ones and longing to be reunited with them. It is organic to feel anxiety when dealing with a stressful situation or with uncertainty.

Those emotions are not proof of weaknesses or a mental health disorder. It is proof that you are alive, that you are a human being, and that you are facing adversity.

We tend to put pressure on ourselves to feel cheerful all the time and rush to wrestle and fix anything that feels “negative” and uncomfortable, in us or others. We can even feel shame or guilt when we experience unpleasant feelings such as anger or fear which result in negativity piling up. Yes, feeling bad about feeling bad makes us feel even worse! Your judgment and expectation on how you “should” feel or not feel create more pain than the feelings you are experiencing in the first place.

Based on her research, Doctor Maya Tamir points out that, “People want to feel very good all the time. Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.” On the subject of happiness, she also discusses that, “It is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think, are the right ones to have,” the ones that seem appropriate at the time, even if those emotions are negative or unpleasant.

Researchers also found that people who were open to experiencing both positive and negative emotions reported greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression. It suggests that being aware of and accepting your uncomfortable emotions without judging or trying to change can help you cope more effectively with stressors.

Judging, resisting, or trying to remove your emotional experience won’t help you recover, grow or even feel better. On the contrary, resistance prolongs your pain and may amplify the emotions that you are trying to get rid of. It also delays dealing effectively with the situation that causes pain. Repressed emotions may accumulate and wind up creeping up on you when you feel the most vulnerable and don’t have the resources to chase them away anymore.

Emotions are not good or bad in themselves; however, they can be pleasant or unpleasant. They are an important source of information that are useful to be acknowledged. Unpleasant emotions often arise from an unsatisfied need. For example, you can feel frustrated and sad with work if your need for recognition and respect is not satisfied; you can feel anxious when your need for security (emotional, financial…) is challenged.

Surrendering and accepting is not the same as resignation. It doesn’t mean giving up all hopes that things will get better and it doesn’t mean dwelling in your pain either. It means accepting and acknowledging that for now, this is what is happening at the moment. It is accepting that there are things you cannot control. If you are unhappy in your relationship, you can work with your partner on changing the dynamic, communicating better, and so on… while at the same time allowing the facts that right now, the situation is complicated, that this is a frustrating and tiring process and even maybe that “it sucks!”

Practicing acceptance and welcoming your emotions are about meeting you where you are in life and moving forward from there.

When you open up to a friend about something you are struggling with, before looking for their advice or opinion, don’t you appreciate it when they truly listen to you? When they validate your feelings and experience? And if they move on to problem-solving too quickly or suggest that you “just relax” or “snap out of it” you may end up feeling not understood and “wrong”. Then don’t do that to yourself! Give yourself that space and time to feel what you feel. You deserve to give yourself that much compassion.

Written by:
Lucie Ramet
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling


Brett Q. Ford, Phoebe Lam, Oliver P. John, Iris B. Mauss. “The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2017; DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000157

Maya Tamir, Shalom H. Schwartz, Shige Oishi and Min Y. Kim. “The Secret to Happiness: Feeling Good or Feeling Right?” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (Online first publication, August 14, 2017) DOI: 10.1037/xge0000303

Christine Carter’s article “How to stop being a control freak” in the Greater Good Magazine  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_stop_being_a_control_freak

Extinguishing Burnout

A few days ago, I ran across a Twitter feed that originally posted last November. The quote resonated strongly with me, begging me to sit with the question of why do we so often neglect ourselves for work? Is it to… get recognised? Prove our worth? Win? The quote came from Katy Leeson, Managing Director of the Social Chain. She wrote:

One of the reasons this struck such a deep chord in me is that not only have I seen this create a greater impact on people during the pandemic by eroding the mental and emotional well-being of my clients, but in my own life I have had to remind myself that I need to pause and take time to set limits on myself, to not use my exhaustion as a measure of my worth or to forego my own need to self-care in service to others. 

I have noticed that people are more willing to forego self-care to focus on what they feel “needs” to get done. What if we change this message? What if we begin to foster the belief that what needs to get done is self-care, setting limits on work, and putting ourselves first? Because in truth, we really aren’t doing anyone any good if we are burnt out; our work suffers, our loved ones suffer, and we suffer. We become defined by what we do and not who we are. And as the term burnout suggests, our light goes out.

So how do we change that? And how do we even know when our light is in danger of being extinguished? The Mayo Clinic explains that burnout can be caused by a myriad of situations and circumstances including:

  • Lack of control at work in your schedule, your resources, and your assignments. 
  • Unclear expectations at work or not feeling like you are not sure of your roles and responsibilities.
  • Lack of emotional connection and support at work- this could be difficulty with interpersonal dynamics of colleagues, feeling isolated, or having no feeling of purpose for your work. 
  • Extremes of activity or stagnation – meaning that you are expected to always be “on” or that your work feels monotonous and nothing new or developmental is occurring.
  • Work-life imbalance – the idea that so much of your time is dedicated to work and your relationships and abilities to connect socially and emotionally begin to suffer; if your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.
  • Having a high workload – this could be working long hours, having many calls/video conferences.

When any of these circumstances exist in our professional life, we need to be more aware of how we are impacted, what our internal experiences are throughout our days and nights. How do we change our expectations of ourselves to ensure that we are able to make it through the tough times in our professions and in our lives? 

Part of that change is being honest with ourselves about what is going on for us emotionally. If we stop long enough to notice if we are experiencing increased anxiety or stress, insomnia, irritability, sadness, or lower immune functioning we need to pay attention. We need to listen to what our symptoms are telling us and adjust our work. Each symptom is a little alarm, pointing out the need for something to be different. 

This shift doesn’t have to be momentous, but maybe it’s about setting a schedule that is more clearly defined. Maybe is it finding time to dedicate to ourselves, whether that is meditating, working out or spending more time with friends. Maybe it is taking off work for a week to re-evaluate what our core values are and if they are being met. It can feel challenging to begin to make those changes, especially if we are feeling that our worth or success are tied to the experience that is causing the burnout. 

Whatever the reason for the feeling of burnout, the important thing to remember is that if you begin to allow yourself time to be more than your work, to stop wearing your “burnout like a badge of honour,” you can begin not only to find more appreciation for who you are as a person, but you can be an example to those around you on how to live a more well-rounded and meaningful life. You may even shine a little brighter, feel a little healthier, for a little longer. As Rabbi Herald Kushner has said, “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’.”

Written by:
Kimberly Fisel

Counsellor, Marriage & Family Therapist, Leadership Development Coach
SACAC Counselling



Don’t do that; you’ll hurt yourself!

I often write these blogs in a light-hearted way. I try to think of you, the reader (hopefully more than one, but you are important enough) – not necessarily an expert but perhaps someone with more than a passing interest in mental health. In trying to engage you, I offer something of importance while remembering that we all have other things in our lives too. So here is a quick question for you: which word links the 2 points from the APA Dictionary of Psychology below?

  1. a pattern of unnecessarily engaging in activities or behaviors that are dangerous or highly subject to chance.
  2. accepting a challenging task that simultaneously involves potential for failure as well as for accomplishment or personal benefit. 

Did you guess? Oh, well done. Yes, the word is risk.  Did you notice how they sounded different, but actually talked about the same thing? They are 2 sides of the same coin. Risk is a game of chance; it might be fun, but it might not. And it may be preoccupying more and more of us. 

A couple of years ago, you might have been less consumed by this topic, but along came a pandemic to adjust your thinking. Now we all regularly assess risk in a very overt way. It may not just be that, though. Perhaps it simply did what a virus does – reveal and feed off underlying conditions. You can’t get very far in daily life now without being accosted by a set of instructions; and 10 people lined up to tell you how to do it. Whatever happened to Lego? Didn’t you just build it? Not anymore – use the manual. Creativity is being increasingly managed.

Along with creativity comes risk. There is a chance something may not work, but you have the freedom to develop things that might. Yet much of life now is trained, instructed or more subtly guided. How many ‘gentle reminders’ have you had lately? Incessant calls you get to confirm an appointment are perhaps part of a concerted effort to eliminate risk. It may be something to guard against.

Risk has a very necessary role in life. At our core, we are curious beings and this is what fuels our development. Some of us do more with this than others, depending on our life circumstances and temperaments, but we all encounter it. Perhaps noticing how often we do is important; ever run down the stairs, or should I say escalators now – you could hurt yourself! Have you ever watched the fear that some people have when stepping onto them? We may all have very different approaches to balancing risk; I say balancing rather than managing, as to manage something may take the sting and the life out of it. 

This is very tempting to do with children. Armbands and stabilisers are very necessary to a point – which is always determined individually – but they also detract from the reality of an experience. It is frightening to give young people a role in their own experiences – you can usually smell the impending disaster from a long way off. This can encourage a desire in the grown-ups to control things. This is sometimes wholly necessary but when it doesn’t fit the child or the situation, it may encourage more than it prevents. It can be very difficult to work out the danger or benefit of an experience without involving your children in the thinking. If the level of risk may be determined by the context and the nature of support available, thinking about it together may be vital.

Written by:
Robert Leveson

Psychotherapist & Counsellor
Children and Families (Reg; TSP, BPC & APACS)

SACAC Counselling


American Psychological Association; APA Dictionary of Psychology.  https://dictionary.apa.org 

Wider Reading:

Zuckerman, M. (2007). Sensation seeking and risky behavior. American Psychological Association.


Introduction to Hypnosis

As the famous psychologist Professor Hans Eysenck stated, “Very few topics in the whole history of mankind have given rise to so many absurdities, misunderstandings, and misconceptions.”

There are many myths about hypnosis, mostly coming from stage and media presentations, however, setting aside pop culture clichés, hypnosis is a well-studied and legitimate form of treatment for conditions ranging from obesity and pain to anxiety and stress. The word “hypnosis” has many connotations: for some people, it conjures up visions of a stage entertainer who uses hypnosis to make volunteers behave foolishly for the audience’s amusement. At the other extreme are those who, in our self-help era, see hypnosis as a quick and easy cure-all for their problems, from smoking to chronic back pain. Hypnosis is neither a tool to control others’ minds nor a panacea. It is, rather, a natural phenomenon that helps people harness their inner resources to improve their physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

The ability to hypnotize or to be hypnotized is latent in everyone. Hypnosis can be naturally induced without a formal induction procedure and is part of everyday human existence. When we become so absorbed in a book or a film that we are oblivious to external stimuli, we have put ourselves in a light hypnotic trance. When a mother kisses a child’s hurt to “make it better,” she is using the principle of hypnotic suggestion. In a clinical setting, these principles are applied in such a way that their effects are heightened and directed to specific problems.

Clinical hypnosis is entering a modern renaissance. In 1955, the British Medical Association formally approved hypnosis as a valid and supported therapeutic technique. In 1958, the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association sanctioned its use in treatment. Research continues to explore the brain functioning in hypnosis and to support its efficacy and ways for it to be used more widely and effectively in clinical settings. We now know that hypnosis works by modulating activity in brain regions associated with focused attention, and several studies offer compelling new details regarding neural capacity for hypnosis.

When hypnotized, a patient is not asleep (recurrent misunderstanding) but in a state of relaxed attentive alert, able to hear, speak, move around, and think. The electroencephalogram (EEG) of a hypnotized person is that of someone who is awake rather than asleep. Reflexes, such as the knee jerk, which are absent during sleep, are present under hypnosis. It is common for persons who have achieved a light trance to argue that they haven’t been hypnotized at all.

“While most people fear losing control in hypnosis, it is in fact a means of enhancing mind-body control,” Prof. D. Spiegel (Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine) says. Instead of allowing pain, anxiety or other unhelpful states to run the show, hypnosis helps people to exert more control over their thoughts and perceptions. How does hypnosis do this? Spiegel’s research has shown it can act on multiple brain regions, including some linked to pain perception and regulation. Hypnosis has also been found to quiet parts of the brain involved in sensory processing and emotional response.

Hypnosis is not an otherworldly phenomenon, but a natural, fascinating, and valuable resource available to each of us.

Written by:
Laura Spalvieri

Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Transactional Analyst &

SACAC Counselling