I believe I can; therefore, I am succeeding

I choose to start this article by sharing with you two quotes that illustrate the notion I want to cover below.

The first quote is by Dr Seuss from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. “You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes; you can steer yourself in any direction you choose!” 

The second is from a slightly different source of inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

These quotes illustrate the notion of self-efficacy described by Albert Bandura as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage any potential situations.” In other words, it is people’s belief in their own ability to succeed and influence events that affect their lives. It is determining how people think, feel, behave, and motivate themselves. Self- efficacy plays an essential role in how you approach every aspect of your life (academic, work, friendships, parenting, sports, hobbies, health, and wellbeing) and determines what goals you choose to pursue, how you go about accomplishing those goals, and how you reflect upon your own performance.

Self-efficacy is formed in early childhood, and its growth continues to evolve throughout the lifespan as people are confronted to new adversities, setbacks and frustrations.

Self-efficacy is a psychological skill that help you deal better with difficulties. You can foster and strengthen it by working on its four main foundations:

– “Mastery Experiences”: it refers to the experiences we gain when we take on a new challenge. By getting out of our comfort zone and trying out new things, we create an opportunity for growth. We are teaching ourselves that we can acquire new skills, improve and succeed. So it is important to celebrate our successes, big or small and reflect on how we made it possible like trough perseverance or continuous efforts.

– “Social Modeling”: According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed.” Hence, find positive role models that are similar to you; observe them and get inspired. You can have several depending on your area of interest, and it can be anyone from your immediate environments like a parent, a teacher and a mentor to someone from the public sphere. 

– “Social Persuasion”: This refers to the positive impact that words can have on someone’s self-efficacy. Bandura explains that through encouragement and positive feedbacks, people are led to believe that they have or can develop the skills and capabilities to succeed. This drives them to overcome self-doubt and employ their resources to achieve the task at hand. So seek positive affirmations and listen to the encouragements and positives feedbacks you are getting.

– “Psychological Responses”: Bandura explains that “it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted”. This means that by learning how to manage your thoughts and emotions, you feel a higher sense of control over the situation and over yourself, which make you feel more capable of managing potential threats. This improves your belief of self-efficacy and decreases avoidance type behaviour like shying away from challenges.

By developing high self-efficacy, you are able to look at difficulties as challenges rather than threats. Struggle, step-backs, and failure don’t mean defeat; instead, they reveal an opportunity for growth, a chance to cope, to adapt, to learn and to find new ways to overcome.

According to Albert Bandura, “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” He specifies that yes, “Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.”

Sources:
Bandura, A. (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies. New York: Cambridge University Press
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Worth Publishers

Written by:
Lucie Ramet

Clinical Psychologist

Philosophy and Psychotherapy

It is easy to forget that psychotherapy and counselling were once very much the business of philosophers. They also have religious and medical roots, but understanding yourself and how best to live your life was the business of Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Epicurus and Aristotle. Like many other branches of knowledge, psychotherapy has grown up and become a separate discipline. But some therapists remain closely attached to their
philosophical roots, especially existential psychotherapists.

Philosophy as practiced in many universities in the West and around the world has also narrowed itself, becoming more academic and not much concerned with how people can best live their lives. But this is just one philosophical tradition. What of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and other world philosophical traditions? Have they also become remote from the
concerns of people about how to live?

It was very refreshing to see a new book (2018) “How the World Thinks” by Julian Baggini, introducing western readers to a much wider range of philosophical traditions, and trying to see whether they have anything to teach each other. All philosophical traditions, western included, look back to their founding fathers for key ideas and principles, and in varying
degrees explain and reinterpret their ‘revelations’, in the Indian Vedas, Confucius’s Analects, Buddhist sutras, the Quran, and more. Baggini surveys modern interpretations of these ideas from around the world, and tries to reconcile them: are they talking about the same issues, do they reach similar conclusions? Who is right?

His approach is always polite; he wants to find out what his own western tradition has missed; how different are we in our beliefs? When I discussed the book with a group of people mainly brought up in a western philosophical tradition we were perhaps a little disappointed by his reluctance to say to other philosophers, “You are wrong.” But perhaps that is because, as Baggini suggests, we come from a “truth-seeking” tradition, rather than a “way-seeking” one. We want true beliefs about ourselves and the world (parallel to the western scientific tradition) from philosophy, rather than models of behaviour which will help us to lead better lives. Buddhists, Confucians, Daoists and Hindus are perhaps more interested in what we should think and do to escape from suffering, or karma, and achieve salvation, or unity with nature. Baggini suggests the western tradition has become too narrow.

Baggini’s book is perhaps part of a change in the western philosophical tradition, in which the concern with leading a good life returns to its proper place. Alain de Botton and many others now encourage us to think how our beliefs about ourselves and the world are an essential part of who we are and how we should live. Truth remains vital but so too does ‘the way’, ‘telos’ (our purposes and goals) and practice.

Written by:
Dr. Tim Bunn
Consultant Educational Psychologist

Silence is Golden

In the song, ‘The Sound of Silence,’ there is a line about people talking without speaking and people hearing without listening. Silence can be a haunting sign of the struggle to communicate. But is it always such a terrible thing?

If you have been in a lift, up at 5 am or on a bad date, you will have experienced silence. It may be something you vaguely remember from your younger years. Or silence may be fleeting, appearing for a moment with a power enough to shock you, before being consumed. Perhaps between family life, work and the busy streets of Singapore, silence may have been lost altogether. And with it may have gone the chance to contemplate, to reflect and to listen. Which is perhaps why some people find themselves wandering into a counselling room.

We may be tempted as therapists to fill a silence when it descends. It is awkward between people and may encourage a great deal of anxiety in you too; perhaps someone has nothing to say, or seemingly doesn’t care. Maybe you have run out of words. It may feel like you are not there, or perhaps that they are not and you are on your own. These are powerful feelings which encourage speaking just to break the silence (even in words, it is fragile). It may be experienced as a loss of something, which may be too much for some – including Paul Simon!

But there may be a different experience too. If you consider that ‘…silence is complementary to words in general…’ (Sabbadini 2004, P.229), it could be easier to see a role for it, one which offers something rather than taking it away. Buddhism and Mindfulness both speak of the benefits of silence. Perhaps allowing for a ‘…silent space within…’ (Sabbadini 2004, P.231) may give you something to make of these moments. Silence may be an opportunity to consider someone or something else, whether they are there or not. It is a communication, encouraging attention, both in you and in others, in contrast with the perpetual noise of modern life. It could be a chance to digest – try talking and eating at the same time to get a clearer idea of this – or simply a chance to pause. It also offers hope, even expectation – think of a silence falling over a crowd at a cinema or a concert as the performance begins. It is therefore something that can be recognised and even used, rather than avoided.

You are perhaps reading this in silence; or you may have life going on in the background. This may indicate how it feels to you, a good starting point to consider its role in your life. So next time it all goes quiet, perhaps hold on for just a moment before you allow the noise to kick in. You never know what you might hear.  

References:
Sabbadini, A. ‘Listening to Silence’, British Journal of Psychotherapy, 21 (2), pp.229-240
Simon, P & Garfunkel, A. ‘The Sound of Silence’, Columbia Records (Originally released as ‘The Sounds of Silence’, October 1964)

Written by:
by Robert Leveson
Psychotherapist & Counsellor,
Children and Families (Reg; TSP, BPC)

Patience

Isn’t it nice to have things ‘on-demand’? You can Grab a cab, have your food Deliveroo’d or Face-Time someone anywhere in the world. It almost feels like being… quite powerful. Aren’t we all supposed to be empowering ourselves; taking control of situations, technology or language? What could possibly be wrong with that? Am I asking too many questions?

Having a little time to answer may be quite important. Watch a media interview with a high profile figure in any aspect of life and just take note of the pace and nature of the questions. The goal has almost become to deny someone space to answer, or to cajole them into saying what the interviewer wants. It’s very demanding. Maybe the idea of having a life ‘on-demand’ may not be so wonderful after all.   

There used to be a period of time between wanting and getting which was called waiting. It is the realm of excitement, expectation and hope but also the land of frustration, boredom and disappointment. Fewer and fewer of us stray into this place or remain long. We are demanding our way out of it. But is also a place of creativity and idle thought. It breeds reflection, and subsequently development. If we skip or side-step it, we are letting ourselves down. If we don’t bring our children into it occasionally they will fall into accidentally one day, and it will be a shocking place. Waiting – with its benefits and drawbacks – should be experienced, or at least tolerated, since you can learn a lot by doing nothing. More than anything else, it builds patience. 

Most therapeutic approaches available today involve a process of applying the brakes. An outside figure, rather like a police officer, will step in front of your speeding life and raise a big, flat palm to halt you. They may give you concrete directions or question why you are going so fast; they may even get you to change your vehicle, or start walking. What they are doing in some way is introducing an element of patience into your life. To link this idea with my previous blog (’The Power of Attention’), they will direct your attention; ‘…all psychotherapy techniques direct what the clients pay ‘attention-to’.’ (Whittemore 2018, p.28) This process of directing attention is not instantaneous; it will take time.

The idea of things taking time is almost criminal in today’s world. Time must be mastered, or at least managed. In Singapore, you can’t even stand still without soon finding yourself moving along mysteriously on some sort of unnecessary travelator. But time provides space, a space to think, rather like a counselling room. And thinking may not be your enemy. It is in itself is therapeutic and in that way, therapy is in some form the application of patience where it is denied. 

It would be crass to suggest that being patient was all that people needed to do to feel better. But it’s a very good start.

References:
Whittmore, P. ‘The Central Role of Attention in Psychotherapy’, International Journal of Psychotherapy, 22 (1), pp.26-36

by Robert Leveson, 
Psychotherapist & Counsellor,
Children and Families (Reg; TSP, BPC)

SACAC Counselling



The craze for meditation, could it be a response to the increasingly acute demands of capitalism?

People who come for therapy, all at one point, seem to consider going for activities such as yoga or meditation. They say they are keen to ‘capture’ these techniques in order to increase their performance and feel they will be more productive in their everyday life. Certain companies are creating outlets for meditation and run their own programme so that their employees can be more focused at work and perform better.

The development of practices today regarding yoga or meditation is not contradictory to the foundations of meditation, but could it at times limit its purpose? There is a hysteria of performance in our urban world, which can make one deviate from the aim to make contact with one’s self.

I wonder if when someone is into yoga, are they aware to what extent they are using it more of as a technique or a space to be in.

Meditation consists of observing one’s sensations and emotions and has the goal to create a safe and free space which reduces less reaction from us to events. It helps us to get to know each other better, to be aware that happiness is a mental state we can access. The trap is that if it works, then we seek to use it more and more to be more successful and focus on doing it as a ‘task’. But is this the original purpose of the practice?

My understanding is that through yoga or meditation one looks to go deep down inside, to search an understanding of what is happening, to position oneself as a spectator of one’s emotions, to stop and pause from constant mental stimulation. This means we should be able to feel  and sit with the sadness, the discouragement, the anger, the impatience… To accept that we are not able at times to fully “manage” our emotions.

Written by:
Saveria Cristofari
Counsellor

SACAC Counselling

Discovering Our Nature in an Unnatural World

One of the areas we can explore in psychotherapy is discovering oneself and one’s different modes of being. What is interesting about us humans is that we are the only species who has “separated” ourselves from nature and therefore made ourselves not fully natural.

In nature, everything exists in an intricate and complex interconnection, and yet everything is being fully authentic. No one would question the authenticity of a tree, a river, a lioness, or a bird. A tree is always being fully and authentically a tree, and expressing itself in the world without any internal disruptions or distortions. In that sense, it is always in a state of a “flow.” For us contemporary humans, though, authenticity is a constant struggle. We can never be fully authentic, and yet we desire to express ourselves and live as who we are! We want our energy to flow freely within and between us, and yet we continually stumble upon obstacles.

In the process, we’ve created many artificial ways to help us, if not go back to our nature, then to at least come closer to experiencing who we naturally are. Psychotherapy is one of these ways. Yoga, meditation, art, dance, singing, and different spiritual experiences are some of the others. If we fail to find ways to catch moments of authentic being, we start to feel a sense of disconnection from life itself — to the point of becoming more robot-like and withdrawn from everything alive within us.

Times change, and the ways we create contexts for authentic experiences and reconnecting with ourselves are also changing. The way people engage in religious rituals are not the same as hundreds years ago. The ways how contemporary people meditate, dance or play music are also contemporary.

Several years ago, I happened to witness a performance of sorts that totally mesmerized me. It seemed like every atom of this being I was observing was vibrating and glowing with a kind of a presence that is impossible to miss, overlook, or experience partially. It took my total attention immediately. I have no memory of the content itself, but this woman’s presence was so captivating!

I was intrigued to learn that it was not what we would normally consider a performance, but her authentic way of expressing herself in the world at that particular moment of time. She allowed and encouraged herself to be seen, heard, and felt by others. This involved movements of her body, sounds she produced, words she said, and the energetic connection she made with the people witnessing her. She used a particular frame, a particular mode of being, to do this, as every beautiful creation needs a frame. Hers was created by her and named “Wisdom Bones”. This was my first encounter with Robyn Lynn. I have had many personal experiences with Wisdom Bones since that time, and had always wondered: “Isn’t it intriguing to find this kind of dimension in our contemporary world?”

I have been going around the world through different cultures and times (as I become older), and I have been encountering different people and experiences to learn from. Many of the times there were some amazingly rich professional workshops, and sometimes, as well, I could learn something deeply “therapeutic” from people, who are not directly related to professional psychotherapy.  Wisdom Bones was one of those gems, because it is probably closer to an expressive art rather than therapy.  

Basically, when I engaged myself in practice of Wisdom Bones first I was invited to connect to what was present to me not through my thoughts and words, but through the way my body wanted to move and make sounds. This idea was not new to me, so I could do it with a relative ease; but the next step, when this nonverbal presence had to create words and meaning, – was a challenge for me. Because, in everyday life things are either verbal or non-verbal, and most often, most of us don’t really connect them together, moreover, not on purpose. At the same time, we can always distinguish when someone is speaking from their heart. And in that case the words really do not sound from that person’s head, so to say, but from their whole being. In my therapeutic work I use Somatic Experiencing, as one of the approaches. And because this method is also emphasizes awareness of the body that would allow one to reconnect with one’s natural innate abilities to self-regulate and to come back to the flow of life, I could resonate with Wisdom Bones modality immediately. Whereas, Somatic Experiencing is really a therapy method, it can be seen as a framework for an authentic self-expression in some moments of therapy process as well. And this aspect is what is connecting therapy, art and aliveness. Therapy is like a kaleidoscope with many colours and shapes making always different constellations.

Written by:
Oksana Okhrimenko
Counsellor, Somatic Experiencing Practioner & Leadership Coach

SACAC Counselling

What is the Enneagram and how is it helpful?

Click here for original source.


The Enneagram is a guide/framework to help you reflect upon yourself in a beautiful protected way. 

The Enneagram describes 9 basic world views and each type has its own way of behaving, thinking and feeling. The beauty of the Enneagram is that it doesn’t box/ label you, but allows you to be you. It is a pathway to more self awareness, self discovery and self development.

You will get more insight in your qualities, strengths, motives, gifts, struggles, challenges, blind spots, growth points, fears and defence mechanisms. The Enneagram will lead to self growth, more acceptance and a way to get in contact with and to become more aware of your inner self on a deeper level.

We all resonate with a type of the Enneagram (9 core-types) and a sub-type (27 sub-types, 3 sub-types in every core-type). Below a brief summary of the names of the core-types with their motivation and core fears.

  1. Strict perfectionist.
    Motivation: Have to do the right/good thing
    Core fear: being criticized
  2. Considerate helper
    Motivation: have to be liked and appreciated
    Core fear: being unloved
  3. Competitive achiever
    Motivation: have to outshine the rest
    Core fear: being worthless
  4. Intense creative
    Motivation: have to be unique
    Core fear: being ordinary
  5. Quiet specialist
    Motivation: have to understand
    Core fear: being foolish
  6. Loyal sceptic
    Motivation: have to be safe and belong
    Core fear: being unprepared
  7. Enthusiastic visionary
    Motivation: have to experience it all
    Core fear: being limited
  8. Active conctroller
    Motivation: have to be in control, be strong
    Core fear: being vulnerable
  9. Adaptive peacemaker
    Motivation: have to keep the balance
    Core fear: being in conflict

Be aware you are more than your core type! The description above is just a little bit of information but to find out more I would recommend doing an Enneagram typing test with an accredited professional. At SACAC Counselling I do guide people through the Enneagram journey. More information is available on request.

The Enneagram is a lifelong journey which will help you live a more integrated and fulfilling life.

Written by:
Flo Westendorp
Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Health Care Psychologist Certificate, MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)
Accredited by Integrative Enneagram

SACAC Counselling

Global Warming: young people take a lead.

Personally I have never had much doubt about the reality of man-made climate change leading to potentially disastrous global warming. And although people such as Al Gore have presented the facts and the need for accelerated action well, there has until very recently seemed a lack of commitment and especially of action from the current world leadership. People of my (older) generation tend to feel there is nothing we can do.

So it is especially encouraging to see many young people taking action themselves around the world to try to wake world leaders up. The recent highly effective Extinction Emergency protests in London, the school strikes in Australia, the Green New Deal in the US all depend on young people, like Greta Thunberg, the Swedish activist.

I sometimes visit classrooms in Singapore schools, and I see climate change
projects on the walls and in the books of students. In England in the 1950’s we learned about the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago or Norman castles 1000 years ago. We didn’t need to worry about the future. We certainly didn’t get taught about nuclear winters, the biggest threat we faced at that time. It is good to see school children now are taught about global warming.

Global warming is very frightening; today’s teachers are brave and compassionate to try to educate the next generation about the challenges we face, and about what we can do to deal with this emergency. There is much, much more we can do, and much of the technology we need is already available. Young people can see that well within their lifetimes weather patterns will alter our lives, often for the worse, and sea level rise will cause massive loss of land in highly populated areas, causing populations shifts and consequent conflicts. They are telling us we can change but we need to get serious about this now. The teachers have done an excellent job: we all need to pick up the ball and run with it.

Written by:
Dr. Tim Bunn
Consultant Educational Psychologist
BA (Hons) Psychology & Philosophy, Oxford, Post Graduate Certificate in Education (Primary) University of Bristol, BSc Educational Psychology, University College, London, EdD, Educational Rseearch, University of Warwick
Associate Fellow, British Psychological Society, Chartered Psychologist, BPS, UK Health & Care Professions Council Registered, Member, Singapore Psychological Society

SACAC Counselling

The Dark Side of Being Perfect

In an increasingly competitive world, there are constant demands to improve one’s performance.  In addition to meeting external demands, many people also experience the internal pressure to succeed or perform to a certain level or established standards.  This desire to meet high standards motivates one to achieve goals and perform effectively. However, the healthy pursuit of excellence crosses the line into an unhealthy striving for perfection when:

  1. The standards (for yourself and/or others) are “high beyond reach or reason” (Burns, 1980)
  2. One’s self-worth is judged based largely on one’s accomplishment, productivity and ability to achieve such high standards
  3. One continues to strain or strive to meet these internal expectations despite experiencing negative consequences or a lack of satisfaction because one’s performance is not good enough

In clinical perfectionism, functioning at work, home, and in interpersonal relationships can be negatively impacted.  At an individual level, perfectionism have been shown to detrimentally affect one’s physical and psychological well-being.   It has a negative impact on the stress and coping process which in turn affects one’s health behaviours. Perfectionism have been associated with poorer physical health and an increased risk for poor adjustment and disease management of chronic illnesses (Molnar, Sadava, et al., 2012).

Perfectionism has been implicated in the aetiology and maintenance of eating disorders, anxiety disorders and depression with research demonstrating a clear association between perfectionism, psychopathology and negative treatment outcomes (Shafran & Mansell, 2001).  For example, perfectionism is a:

  1. Risk factor for developing eating disorders
  2. “destructive” force in depression and strongly associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviours
  3. Robustly associated with anxiety disorders, especially obsessive-compulsive disorders.

The aim of treating clinical perfectionism is not to lower or remove striving for personal standards.  Instead, it is aimed at reducing self-evaluation being exclusively based on meeting personal standards, and the associated self-criticism when the standards are not met (Egan, Wade & Shafran, 2011).  It is only through striving to overcome a difficult situation or experience that helps us to experience success and a feeling of competence. By focusing on being perfect all the time, if humanly possible, we never learn or develop the capacity to trust ourselves.   

Given the dark side of perfectionism, I’m contented with the beauty of just being good enough.  After all, as Winnicott puts it, “good enough” is far better than being perfect or the “best”.

References

Burns, D.D. (1980). The perfectionists’ script for self-defeat. Psychology Today, November, 34–52.

Egan,S. I, Wade, T.D, & Shafran, R. (2011). Perfectionism as a transdiagnostic process: a clinical review. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 203-212.

Molnar, D. S., Sadava, S. W., Flett, G. L., & Colautti, J. (2012). Perfectionism and health: A mediational analysis of the roles of stress, social support and health-related behaviours. Psychology and Health, 27, 846-864.

Shafran, R., & Mansell, W. (2001). Perfectionism and psychopathology: A review of research and treatment. Clinical Psychology Review, 21, 879−906.

Written by:
Velda Chen
Clinical Psychologist
MClinPsych, BA(Hons), Registered Psychologist (Singapore)
SACAC Counselling


Letting Go Of The Past

What drives us to live in the past? How can we be stuck in the past to the point of forgetting the present and neglecting the future? And most importantly, how to get out of this spiral and finally move on with our lives? All of us, without exception, have experienced one or more sad and painful episodes in the past. Some of us have been able to move on while others struggle to really let go.

When it comes to letting go of the past and moving forward, we always refer to bad experiences, one must forget their ex, failures, sad youth, and so on. Yet a disabling past that prevents us from moving forward may very well be of a glorious or a legendary time that unfolded what was once our success, power, and beauty.

Hence a separation from our past, be it painful or glorious, is crucial because it only slows us down.

There are two kinds of past that it is challenging to get over:

The tragic past

It is all the negative experience that prevents us in one way or another from moving forward, to get better and live the present moment.

The nostalgic past

It is the strong, even sickly, attachment to a glorious era of our life to the point of rejecting the reality that is often different and sometimes much less advantageous. 

There is no harm in being nostalgic, one would say, as it does not matter to rethink tenderly of our youth or past success and provided that this nostalgia does not stop us from accepting our age, physical shape, health, current financial and / or social situation.

Also regretting the harm that had been caused to others because of our past actions is a human and benevolent reaction that will prevent us in the future from doing the same wrong again. On the other hand, hiding in the depths of the past so as not to face reality creates a feeling that only gives one the illusion of a temporary well-being.

The past is the past and the present is where you are now, but the future is what you make! If you have not done so yet, it is high time to make the decision to let it go of your past.

Start by making a conscious decision followed by the commitment of getting over the past; accept the pain inflicted to you in the past and learn from it; stop the victim attitude and take ownership of your actions. Forgive yourself for past mistakes, and stop dwelling into past glories, the future is yet to come!

Seek professional help if letting go of the past remains a challenging task.

Written by:
Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling), MS (PolSci)