Author Archives: samebutdifferentblogger

About samebutdifferentblogger

Hello. I'm a Counsellor and Psychotherapist with twenty-five years experience of counselling clients from a variety of settings. I've worked as a Counsellor in a GP surgery, as part of a team counselling clients in a local government setting as well as mor recently having my own private practice and seeing clients on a longer-term basis. I've also worked as an Associate Lecturer in Psychology. I have now decided to focus on blogging about the experiences and issues that clients have brought to me over the years. I hope that you find my blogs interesting - please do comment if you would like to do so. I realise that comments might not always be positive, but it's all a learning curve for me!

Trying To Deal With Difficult People?

Make no mistake, interacting with difficult people can take its toll on most of us and if any of your family members, friends or colleagues have what I’ll call high-conflict personalities you’ll know exactly what I mean!

There are lots of reasons why some people have these sort of personalities – some are deep-seated personality characteristics, maybe from trauma in their earlier lives, but there can be many other reasons and also an element of people recognising early on that being in a mood, flying into a temper or sulking gets them what they want.

There are lots of reasons why some people have these sort of personalities – some are deep-seated personality characteristics, maybe from trauma in their earlier lives, but there can be many other reasons and also an element of people recognising early on that being in a mood, flying into a temper or sulking gets them what they want.

As with so many issues, there are three different ways of dealing with this – either you carry on putting up with unreasonable behaviour (along the lines of “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”), leave the situation which isn’t always easy, particularly if family is involved, or the option I prefer – dealing with the situation in a different way. Or, in a nutshell – same, leave, change.

If you’ve decided to carry on carrying on, fair enough and, let’s face it, a lot of us feel we have limited choices regarding leaving whether it’s in your workplace where you’re dealing with a difficult colleague or manager or in your family where you don’t want to ‘leave’ as it’s too drastic and you don’t want to lose contact with people you love.

So, first of all you have to work out what changes you want to make and then assess how emotionally mature the person you find difficult is – do they have the necessary characteristics to take responsibility for their actions? Are they emotionally mature? You have to take this into account before attempting any changes which will have to come from you – other people don’t necessarily want to change, but think about it like a game of dominoes where one domino has a slight push and it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in other peoples’ related behaviours.

So, how to make changes that will ultimately make a difference – by ‘ultimately’ I’m saying that this won’t happen overnight. Most people are resistant to change and will say things like “What’s wrong with you? You’ve always been okay with this before”.

The first thing is to put down boundaries – if someone’s taking advantage of you and have done so for a long time, they’ll almost certainly be surprised and annoyed if you choose not to do something that you’ve previously gone along with. You could start with putting a time limit on phone calls, not responding to text messages immediately and not replying to e.mails that add a lot of emotional pressure.

Stay calm if the other person starts to get agitated – they will want to tell their story so, if there’s time, let them do that (and trust me, their story will be more important than yours! I speak from personal experience….) and then respond with brief responses if they become hostile. Try not to be emotionally threatening – it won’t help; instead, try to show them some empathy where you can.

However, it’s important not to agree or volunteer for anything in order to fix it. That’s not your job. If you have to distance yourself slightly, do so.

After that, if your sister-in-law asks you to look after her children for the umpteenth time, and for whatever reason, you’re finding it too much, think of a way that you can gently tell her that you can’t do it. (Maybe along the lines of “I’d like to be able to help, but I’m already doing something that day”). If she’s frosty or angry with you, so be it. You have to think about your own health and wellbeing as well as hers.

If the person you’re in conflict with is someone at work and you discover that they’ve given others misinformation or they’re angry when they speak to you, try to provide a firm but balanced, informative response using whatever method of communication that they used, whether this was verbal or by e.mail. Provide accurate up-to-date information and try to remain at arms’ length. Again, as with family members or friends, limit the time spent in discussions.

Although mindfulness and staying in the ‘here and now’ is hugely helpful, at times of conflict it’s also useful to focus on the future and how much better that might look if you can make small changes.

There will be some loss involved because there always is with change. Be prepared for that and let yourself grieve for the relationship(s) that you’d hoped to have.

None of this will be easy, but in some ways it’s an insurance for your future – a time when you don’t succumb to things you don’t want or like and where you can make boundaries and re-discover your own self-worth.

Check out my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button – you can share them with your friends too. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.                          #loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy

Friends, But You Really Want More?

In my last blog on 13 July, I wrote about whether you can really be friends with your ex and how, in theory, that’s possible if you both want it and already have a lot in common, especially if there’s a shared history too.

However, that’s very different from being friends in the first place but the relationship has never gone further than that, but now you’d like it to progress to something deeper, preferably including romance and sex.

First of all, if you’re in that position – you like them a lot, you’ve been friends for ages but, actually, you really fancy them and like to take things to the next level – you might feel awkward about doing anything about it. So, you need to test the water by talking to them, maybe saying that you’re feelings have changed, grown deeper, or however you want to phrase it. Remember, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.

If they pull away, it’s awkward, but it’s also important not to blame yourself or think that there’s something wrong with you. Going down that path will only lead to more pain and hurt but if you can be there for them as a friend again, the awkwardness will slowly disappear. It may not be what you want but staying friends means that you’re still an important part of their life.

It won’t be easy if you’re physically attracted too them, but nor will it be impossible. It’s hard seeing someone whilst your feelings for them are still really strong, but if you really care for them, you’ll make it work.

One thing to take into account is how they told you that they didn’t like you “in that way” – if they were hurtful in what they said, you could challenge them on that otherwise it will come between you. Emphasise that it’s not what they said so much as the way they said it. Not wanting to take things further isn’t a reason to be nasty about it.

Time passing may mean that they change their minds, but don’t wait around thinking that this might happen. You’ve tested it out, they said “no” and now you have to try to get your previous friendship back on an even keel.

To do this, turn to other friends in your life and spend more time with them; try to distract yourself from what you hoped might come about and appreciate all that you’ve been through together and separately. Don’t forget all those great conversations that you’ve had, all the fun times and what you’ve learned from them. Those things are still there and for the friendship to thrive again, they need to continue. So, carry on thinking of fun things to do together, still have their best interests at heart and don’t try to ‘fix’ them.

Sometimes, people need a gentle push in a certain direction, but you can’t do that for them and it’s not healthy to even try. Any changes that they make have to come from them and be what they want. Some friendships last forever, but if this isn’t one of them, you have to try to accept that the future looks different from how you hoped. That acceptance is the key to being happy and contented in the here and now.

You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.                          #loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy

Can You Really Stay Friends With Your Ex?

In theory, it’s possible to stay friendly with your ex and, in some cases, it’s very reasonable – after all, if he or she was someone that you have a lot in common with, have shared different experiences with and hold the same values, why not? If you have children together, it can be especially beneficial as it helps with the flow of information and when you’re managing your different schedules (in theory at least).

But whether it actually works in practice is another thing altogether because sometimes it can make it harder to successfully put that relationship behind you if one of you starts dating other people. In an ideal world, if it’s what you both want, you’ll both find new partners and everyone will get on really well, even holidaying together and spending birthdays and Christmases together in some cases.

So this is when it can work:

  • You’ve both accepted that the relationship is well and truly over.
  • You both understand why you broke up.
  • Your relationship with one another is no longer full of emotion – it feels similar to your other friendships.
  • You can both handle appropriate boundaries and, more importantly, manage any nostalgic feelings that might come up without getting any deeper than that.
  • You’re both comfortable and happy dating other people and it’s what you want for one another.

But, maybe it’s time to cut ties if:

  • One of you is still secretly hoping you’ll get back together.
  • You know that, really, your ex isn’t fully over you.
  • You’re holding onto what you once had because you’re scared to separate your lives and start to live independently of one another.
  • If you’re the one who ended it and you feel guilty about that, sensing that somehow you ‘owe’ them some attention.
  • Your ex actually still occupies a lot of your time, energy and thoughts.
  • The thought of them with someone else makes you feel upset.
  • Being friends with them just doesn’t seem to work.

So, although you might decide that you can’t be friends at the moment, that doesn’t mean that things can’t or won’t change in the future. You might eventually come together in a new sort of friendship but that might take time, whether it be months or years ahead.

A key thing is to set some boundaries if you are hoping to be friends, such as how much information you share about your personal lives, how much time you spend alone together and how you emotionally rely on one another.

So, to sum up, give it time before you hurtle into a friendship that you’re not actually ready for, make sure you’re actually over one other and remember that any friendship will need to be different from the relationship you once had. And, it’s alright if you decide that it’s too emotionally complicated for you and hopefully you can explain that you need more time before you can be true friends. A friendship isn’t always possible and accepting that in itself is a big step forward.

You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.                          #loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy

Find That You Keep Repeating Mistakes?

It can be overspending so that you get into debt or other issues like always picking unhealthy relationships, whether it be with partners or friends.

Maybe our brains are actually designed to repeat mistakes although this isn’t yet fully understood, but it could be that we tend to focus on what we’ve done wrong (or perceive that we’ve done wrong) rather than looking at what we’ve done right.

For instance, a study that was published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science showed that if you focus on your past spending mistakes, it doesn’t stop you having shopping spree; quite the opposite in fact! But if someone focuses on good future outcomes where spending is concerned, they’re more likely to stop making poor financial choices.

One thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that people who grew up without a lot of boundaries don’t always know how to draw a line in their own adult lives. If you grow up not seeing your parents or care-givers establish limits, whether that’s around food, time-keeping or shouting about the slightest little thing, it’s harder to establish those boundaries yourself. You may disagree with this – after all, some people grow up thinking that above all, they’re going to be different from their parents and they set out to do that as soon as possible. If their parents were bad time-keepers, they always make a point of being punctual – and good for them.

If people are criticised a lot as children, they often grow up doubting themselves and any decisions that they make.

Sadly, any sort of abuse, whether emotional, physical or sexual, leaves children unconsciously believing that they don’t deserve good things and they make decisions as adults that prove that such assumptions are actually correct when that’s not necessarily the case.

So how can you avoid making the same mistakes again and again? Well, it’s not instant and takes some work but here are a few things that will help:

  • Learn goal setting that works. One way of doing this is making your goals achievable – in other words, one step at a time. If things don’t go according to plan, have a back-up that will still help you achieve your goal, maybe by a different route.
  • Focus on the future – as I said above, focussing on what we did wrong makes us more likely to do the same thing again so visualise how you want things to look in the future.
  • Stop beating yourself up if things go wrong – self-compassion is a good route to self-esteem and ultimately helps with decision-making.

As with anything, there will be blips along the way, but if you keep trying to look at your decisions and break any unhealthy patterns, eventually you’ll start having confidence in what you’ve achieved and what’s still left to achieve.

You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.                          #loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy

Caught Up In Yet Another Family Crisis?

Maybe your family doesn’t have a lot of conflict – in which case, lucky you – but if you often find that there’s friction, falling-out and shouting in your immediate or wider family, read on.

Although it’s normal to disagree with family members at times, if there are often arguments it can become very stressful and sometimes damaging too. Because people have different beliefs and values, it stands to reason that we won’t always agree with other people in the family. But, it’s how we deal with those differences that’s the key to calmer times.

Some families are very good at smoothing over differences and agreeing to differ on certain things, but for others it becomes almost impossible to agree to differ on certain subjects and there are often family members who become intentionally aggressive and hurtful.

It can be quite disconcerting to find that people growing up in the same family have such opposing beliefs and values, especially when it comes to disciplining children, experiencing a health crisis or being redundant. Basically, we want members of our own families to understand us and our needs, but they too have needs that might not be met during difficult times.

So, what can you do if you find this often happens in your family?

Well, one thing is that it’s better not to label people in your family – see my last blog published on 1 June regarding this very subject! If you find yourself saying things like “Well, that’s the way Joe is – he’s always been selfish”, try to think about whether that’s actually true or it’s just a shortcut to glossing over what’s happening.

That’s another point though – some people want to gloss over contentious subjects and not look any deeper into them and sometimes that’s more difficult to deal with than someone who gets into arguments very quickly.

If you can stand back from a situation, it can help enormously – it’s more likely that you’ll find some sort of resolution then. If you take the view “mine’s the right way and yours is the wrong way” it immediately polarises people, as well as irritating them. Of course, we all think that we’re right but trying to understand the other person or people is the first step towards a resolution. To understand, we have to really listen to what they’re saying and even if it sounds preposterous don’t write it off immediately. There’s a reason why they think that, even you feel that it’s an uninformed opinion.

If you find that you’re too angry to listen to them, suggest walking away and cooling down before resuming a conversation. That doesn’t mean ‘sweeping it under the carpet’, but coming back with clearer ideas of what you might say in future discussion. A conversation might begin with “I felt really upset when we talked before, but I really want to understand where you’re coming from. Could you start again and tell me what it is that you like/dislike about this?”

Some stages that families find difficult to negotiate are:

  • Birth of a baby – a reason to celebrate but it’s then that people realise that they have very different ideas about the whole process from breast feeding to education (and a million things in between!).
  • A young person becoming an adult
  • Separation and divorce – a big source of conflict in most families as people tend to ‘take sides’ and feel very strongly about what’s happened.
  • Changes in financial circumstances – other family members often have opinions about what you should do if you’re poorer or wealthier, for whatever reason, than previously. More money can cause envy, less can escalate people into resentments or, if they’re lucky enough not to be in that position, they often have an opinion about the person whose finances have changed. Unfortunately, they often feel the need to express that opinion, even if it’s unasked for!
  • A new job – if this means longer travelling time to work, this in itself can cause conflict as that person may not be so available for family get-togethers or to help out in ways that they used to.

So, the list is endless, but ultimately it comes down to trying to understand what’s happening and then navigating through it.

So, work out if an issue is really worth fighting over and then, if you feel that it is, keep in mind that the idea is to resolve the conflict, not necessarily win the argument.

Then (and this can be a hard one!), remember that other people aren’t obliged to agree with you about everything. They’re allowed their own opinions so try to respect what they’re saying and stick to the topic, not bring in other things from the past that are no longer relevant.

After that, try to find some common ground and work on that rather than the differences but ultimately recognise that you might have to agree to disagree.

If you can find some peace within your family and find some resolutions to any conflict that’s occurred, that’s priceless really – a happy family life is to be treasured, especially when things are particularly hard going.

You can see my blogs as soon as they are published (usually on Wednesdays) by pressing the ‘follow’ button and you can share them with your friends. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Instagram (samebutdifferent) and read my FB posts at Same But Different.                          #loss #depression #mentalhealth #anger #melancholy