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Marius Paul Therapy Posts

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Trauma, PTSD, Panic attacks

It all seems to happen quickly, unexpectedly, you zone out as if in a dream, a short movie of an unpleasant event you’d rather forget runs quickly in your head.
You can once again see everything in this dreamlike place, remember what was said, even smell the place. This is not happening you try to remember to stop it, but it’s too late.
Now you are back in that moment, your mood changes to anger/anxiety, you notice that you are getting hot, your heart is racing, your breathing quickens, you need to get out of the room. You feel out of control, dizzy. Slowly the world you are really in returns and the feelings subside.
This is a panic attack, an emotional hijack, unexpected, unpleasant, possibly made worse by the people who are trying to help you.
This account, based on my own felt experience, is an attempt to map out what happens when PTSD or panic is triggered. Of course, the severity and nuances are different for every individual. Occasionally it invades our dreamscape as well.
I would describe it as Anxiety to the max.
The physical response, raised heartbeat, shortness of breath, feeling hot and sweaty is the result of your body being flooded with adrenaline.
The “fight or flight” response, located deep within our basic survival mechanisms has its uses. If someone shouts ‘fire’, this, without thinking will help you get out of a building quickly.
However, these effects can be triggered (before you can even realise what is happening to you) by small details that unbeknownst to your conscious mind have now become unconscious warnings of an imminent threat.
I do not make light of this, whether it be trauma or as I say Trauma, our conditioned response can make our everyday life fearful and, in many ways, harder to bear.
I took this on as a research subject, looking at the differing ways other countries have treated this common reaction. From the USA and its post-Vietnam experience, to civil war refugees living abroad, and of course the less dramatic accidents, or being involved in larger and unusual dramatic events.
My approach
I have developed my way of working with these problems. My main philosophy is that it is possible to learn that you control it, it does not control you.
It means that this issue needs to be examined safely, so that it does not trigger the response by talking about it, however if I have helped you in my useful way to resolve it, you will back in control of your life.
Over the years I have been practicing I have helped people in many ways from overcoming their fears of flying to working with a community in the aftermath of a terror attack in London.
I will work with you to be back in control of your ‘emotionally-hijacked’ responses.

The Full Monty. masculinity in crisis

Guerrilla Jung 2

The Full Monty

Men, Animus and Anima.
When I first looked for a piece of popular culture to illustrate what James Hollis entitles the ‘shadow of Saturn’, I was surprised that what came to my mind was not a movie from the vast range of men as heroes’ movies, but a slight piece of a British film comedy. (also, now a stage production).
I remember seeing it in the 1990’s as a social statement about the plight of the skilled blue-collar workers in the period of deindustrialisation. A socio- political work defined by humour.
It was only later that I began to see the subtleties at work, the fine balance of the complexities of gender. I looked deeper and there it was. A filmic commentary on the complicated ideas expressed in C Jung’s work on the importance of understanding and being aware of the unconscious at play.
The complications of the hidden shadow and the Anima (feminine principle) and Animus (male principle) are hidden beneath the screenplay.
Yet the illustration of the problems of the Masculine archetype and lack of balance without the compensatory Feminine quality are there at the beginning, played with in the plotline and finally resolved enough.
All this in 90 minutes.

The Full Monty

A brief overview.
This is a male film; the main characters are men. the female roles in this movie are few and far between. They act as judge and jury throughout.
The gender roles here are comedically reversed subtlety throughout. This is the main route for the set piece scenes, the hidden premise for the plot.
There is also a child, here representing the ‘puer eternis’ the innocent boy who does not yet know the rules of the masculine, a counterfoil to the adult men and their attempts to regain their lost sense of self.
The lead role ‘Gaz’ is the trickster, the conflicted character and motor for the plot.
Here we can clearly see in him the Saturnine burden of men. Worry and work.
If work is removed the central pivot of male self-worth has dissolved into recklessness and apathy.
He has mates, who act as his foils in this world play. They will all undergo their own journey in this tale of the redemptive animus spirit.
He has also an opposite ‘Gerald’ his former boss, also now workless.
Gerald is in many ways the shadow self in denial. He would rather dress in a suit and pretend to go to the office than admit his current job loss and failure to provide.
The trickster and the diminished emperor need to team up to go on this journey.
Each will find in the other the missing qualities of maleness that they need to possess in order to grow and develop a new sense of ego-self.
The others must also learn that teaming up as a group, rather than being in a distorted sense of competition with each other can lead them further into their own conscious awareness.
And still, it is a movie about men learning to dance.
This is the foundations of a story, a story that has become popular over the years. I suggest that as with all things that rise out of the rubble of popular culture and survive or are readapted, that there is something that speaks to our archetypal unconscious through the medium of the arts.
The rites of initiation.
As is normal in movies we are presented with parentless characters with no ties to anyone in their larger family. No big deal, however, it does provide a platform here for the plotline to include an analogy for the missing rites on initiation that can describe the coming of manhood.

These rites of passage involve a quest, a difficult task, the ordeal and finally the acceptance into (or applause) of the tribe into adult membership.
This undercurrent story exposes us to the archetypal realm, a relatable compelling narrative that has been told across the millennia many times before.
In our modern society these missing stages in our own development from child to adult are hidden away in odd milestone events (how many times have I heard a thirty-something claim that they only realised they were adult when they had to buy their life insurance!).
This film can be read as an initiation journey, from child adults to adult in the form of a (self-inflicted here) ordeal.
When we as men cannot follow in the footsteps of our fathers, we must invent a new path to establish the same journey of development. This is an act of the unconscious, something done without us being aware of the significance of the act.
The Full Monty is a rite of passage movie, a celebration of the need of a rite of passage to become a version of the adult masculine.
This is the outer journey.
The Inner Journey
This rite of passage demands an inner journey, a reassessment of who we are, a loving on from the imago or ideal stereotype of ourselves, based on our perceptions and feedback from others, to find our inner distortions of our gender type and correct the imbalance of having only one, tyrannical version of whom we ought to be.
There is an absence of personal nuance that prevents us from accessing our deeper inner world, the unconscious (or psyche).

Syzygy (or learning to dance).
Syzygy. The union of opposites, the male and female principles that are yoked together in the psyche
The pivotal plot in the Full Monty is a comedic play on gender role reversal. A traditional plot for many plays and dramas over the century. The exception her is that the men must behave in a less trapped masculine way to achieve their transformation and win back the lost respect of the community.
Jung’s psychology was much influenced by the Chinese idea of our Yin and Yang capabilities. The coming together in a harmonious way of the opposite polarities of our personalities. In the western tradition this has been the opposition of Logos (male attributes) and Eros (female attributes).
The resonant suggestion from these polar opposites is that we cannot ignore that our unconscious psyche retains these parts. Individual growth necessitates that we accept the shadow parts of ourselves (Jung defines the unknown unconscious as the Shadow, including the Personal Shadow (parts of us that we reject and project commonly onto others, the Animus (our male traits, the world of the rational, logos orientated psyche, and Anima (the free spirited, sensual, creative self).
As we progress through our life journey, the ability to better dance with these aspects of our psyche can increase the depth of our being. we become the adults we had the potential to be.
The unfolding psychodrama of the Full Monty.
Enough theory! Back to the film.
The 2 main characters Gaz and Gerald start from opposite ends of their dilemmas. Gaz aided by his less confident mates can get away with his child adult life. Gerald (the former manager) has become isolated and trapped in his glories of his past career.
Only by coming together in a hare-brained scheme can they both find something they did not know they were looking for. One word. Respect.
But here is the thing. This development path requires not only getting the team together to do something meaningful, to dance without shame; It requires that they see each other as people, not competitors, and they start to behave with greater empathy towards each other’s plight in life.
For brevity I will mostly omit the other male players in this, but they all have a part in this journey of personal development. They all somehow grow before us.
And how is this achieved? Voila! they learn to dance, to respond to each other’s moves on the stage.
The standout scenes for me (there are a few of these) the clues I suppose that we are watching a story that has a deeper meaning are in the middle and towards the end. Story telling has a progression from initial tension towards a comfortable resolution after all).
Pivotal scenes from the movie (my choices)
As a subplot there is a death. This does not seem to have much to do with the central theme of the movie, however symbolically in the notion of initiation rites, it marks a place where the child-men develop into their adult forms.
This is a reminder that we are involved in a deeper archetypal tale.

The dole queue step and twirl. An obvious scene to pick, though the beginning of their inner joy appears in the direst of circumstances.
The trial by ordeal 1.

What could be more humiliating than to perform a sexy dance in front of older ladies knitting in front of you. A disaster that toughens our heroes up.
The trial by ordeal 2
The police arrest and watch the practice video. The secret is now out. The troupe are now fully exposed to the ridicule of others.
The scene in Gerald’s wife’s beauty room. The realisation that seen from the other side they had been all trapped in a unidimensional understanding of the notion of their female opposites.
Also later here is the best scene where the Emotional centre of the Group (Dave aka the ‘fat bastard’) has a serious conversation with his wife Jean.
Here the internal trap of what a man should be is exposed to the reality that freedom is possible. Just talk. If we can move on from the person we believe we ought to be, to the person we can become, personal transformation appears as if by magic.

The Finale.

And so, we reach the end. The scene is set, their secret scheme has now been broadcast across the whole community. Their friends, male and female (even the Police) have taken over the role of audience. They want the show.
Backstage, the jitters are giving way to proudful resignation. The strip, indeed the Full Monty* has to happen. And do it goes.
The final moment of triumph, the denouement sees our complete set of heroes, stripped naked in front of all. Sexy? Maybe or perhaps a dramatic version of a Rebirth of the animus spirit, now co-joined in a meaningful way with the complementary Anima.
And now this story is complete.

Last word
I do not write these as a film critique, but to try to illustrate that the themes and stories in some films, are our new fairy tales and myths.
I never know whether the writers intended for this to be so. I like to think that the one idea that started the creative process of the screenplay, grew and developed sometimes unconsciously to connect us all to the great hidden interplay of our psyche and our own hiddenness became available for us to see.
Peace and good fortune
Marius Paul.

Ecopsycholgy. our relationship with nature

dogs are everywhere

Myself and other animals. The wild Psyche.
Some initial musings
I have often wondered about the importance of the natural world in my own life. I need some exposure to the world of nature, to keep, well, happy, content even. Nature has a powerful calming and restorative effect. I feel good when some random dog decides to make a brief acquaintance on a walk, or a cat, looking for pavement affection, purrs contentedly when I scratch its ears. The busyness of the birds, insects and squirrels as the year comes to life still captivates me as a profound connection to the Earth.
I started on my journey to psychotherapy, at first from my interest in philosophy, and then I studied Zoology at university. I selected evolution, ecology and behaviour as my distinct research interests, with a cross over to the Psychology department to have a background in Neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. I dissented a lot from the scientific model of objectivity, the pretence that I was not involved in some way with the animals I was observing.
I remember being in a Marine Biology laboratory and the chief researcher introduced me to his favourite octopus.
In retrospect I should asked a question, how does one develop a relationship(favouritism) with a Cephalopod?
What was the link between this man and a vastly different alien being (related closely to snails and slugs)?
Others that spring to mind are Dianne Fosse and Jane Goodall, their initial studies of gorillas and chimpanzees, instead of being carried out with scientific objective rigour, became a personal almost family endeavour. No relational distance there, it was personal.
I also studied primates (in captivity) for a while, way back when, in a team. By the end they all had names and personalities.
Psychotherapy, a place I arrived on my journey 20 years later, in many ways looked like I had simply swapped species. Now I was interested in the relational world, not how anymore, the question had become why? What did this mean.
best cat ever

Families and other animals.
I think we all, at least in the UK, understand the familiar role that domestic pets play in our lives. (Farm animals are mostly cute in the fields, or wrapped prepared in the supermarket reduced to pieces of meat)
Pets though, now that is quite different. Different cultures, even across a vast timescape have relationships with pets. They are buried with solemnity and remembered as a tiny person, connecting seamlessly with our emotional lives.
I will attempt brief rather cartoonised version of this journey with pets and the wild.
Firstly, let us start with settled couples. In preparing for the large step into the move from coupledom to family, a dog or cat mostly will be introduced into the household. This is preparatory responsibility and caring. A test of nurturing (kittens and puppies, not older rescue animals) and a shared task. The intricacies of how a couple will interact with a needy, helpless in many ways third, are played out here. On occasion this practice run turns into something far more serious, the pet/baby/parent interaction gets played for real. There is extraordinarily little difference between the practice and the reality of parenting children.
Next, with younger children, rather curiously short-lived pets become introduced into the family home. I have heard it suggested that this is the first introduction to death, and the solemn rituals of burial and even the emotional pain of loss. A primitive rite of passage, inbuilt into our collective unconscious. A dead goldfish is a manageable situation, but still, dead is dead.
As we move through our life stages, children become firstly taught about the outside world, friendly and cute creatures are in story books, dinosaurs( very commonly) exist as the old mythic monsters, backed up by ‘science’, exhibitions, television documentaries and fiction.
To be scared by the mythic monster is another rite of passage in the world. Some story books, fairy tales, myths even cartoons hold our fascination with the dark shadow uncontrollable wildness of our fellow creature travellers.
Anima and animus and childhood.
We let this wildness into our homes, domesticated and playful of course. The curious bond between dogs and boys and cats and horses with girls suggest, a difference of relational expectations, even at this early age.
This is an over generalisation, I realise, but it still holds true, represented in story books, movies and parental biases. Bowing to pet pressure there remains a gendered choice, that has stood firm despite fashion changes over the years.
Cats are given female (or anima) characteristics, dogs male qualities (animus).
Horses and ponies have a different quality. Equine therapy is now widely used around SEN, and curiously dependency recovery treatment. This is because you need to build an essential, trust-based relationship with horses, you cannot force them. This relational aspect again is much more a part of our own anima tendencies, the relational self.
When we interact with non-humans, we are revealing some parts of ourselves, often hidden from others, due to the constraints of our own gendered consciousness.
And so, it goes.
We carry this code into our adult lives, sometimes expanding to care about the plight of the non-domesticated wild world, over the last few decades the ethical or non-ethical treatment of our farmed animals has risen to become a new ethical battlefront.
In short, we care about our fellow creatures, and respond emotionally when they are mistreated.

Picture of woodland in Sussex
we live next to nature

I know the above is very general, I have also passed over how we enjoy plants and tending to gardens or wildflower patches. The connection we have with nature, even though our techno savvy 21st century eyes are blinkered, our relational based psyche responds in a way that suggests a deeper bond with our planet and life in general.
Our mental well being is part of this life ecology. We enjoy the outside, freed from brick and metal boxes, the fresh air, and horizon clears our mind, whilst we remain enthralled by the ecological world that surrounds us.
Relationships. Easy and complicated?
Over many years in practice, I have seen clients who have ‘better’ relationships with their companion animals than with other people. This is a rather curious phenomenon.
The most obvious answer (well they don’t answer back) is not actually the case. Our favourite animal companions are (dogs, cats, ferrets, birds and horses) are remarkably good at responding to our presence, voice and moods. They also do not pretend with false reactions.
The muted nature of this response may make life a little easier, however it opens up a relationship side of our ‘selves’, which no longer needs to be hidden. An American psychotherapist suggests that when two people first meet, there is only one task that needs to be performed. Initially we Promote ourselves to and Protect ourselves from the ‘gaze’ of the other. If this persona is not needed, we can reveal our relationship needs and fears. Companion animals let us do this without comment, or critique.
The nurturing side (and its corresponding shadow, bullying control) is given full rein here.
This sounds a bit too simple to me. Other factors now come into play. In some process we identify with these creatures. How many clients have I encountered, will tell me about their adverse childhood experience?
And I have seen them find some solace in rescuing an animal, the smallest, perhaps injured animal at the adoption centre. This supports the proposal that when we care for the needs of others, we also are taking care of our own (unmet?) needs emotionally.
Animals allow us to care for our hurt childhood selves, the relationship is real and constructive.
This is the reason that we will grieve their loss. They area apart of us for the short while they are here.
*Recently it has struck me as interesting that whilst, under Covid lockdown, some relationships have struggled (it has been a huge ask to live with another 24/7/90 days ++) that we do not mind having a similar relationship with our pets, who can be a constant companion. This may be to do with the asymmetrical power dynamic of course.
Lastly, our psyche has parts that we are ‘ashamed’ of, anger, fear, lust, etc. (these are considered part of our shadow psyche, the necessary duality of opposites (C. Jung).
On occasion, we cannot contain them within ourselves and either judge others or find a way to hide them in plain sight. (if you have worked in an office, I am sure you will understand)
Once again there is the curious case of our companion animals. We translate them into language, (much as we do with babies)
In many cases this is unbalanced, we see what we want to see in their ‘personality’.
Their character traits (see how the language changes) have become ‘humanised’.
I have met snarly yapping dogs, described by their owner(carer) as “really sweet natured”!
Or alternatively I have seen clients with anger issues describe their dog (always dogs) as vicious and then later show me a photo of a rather dopey looking mutt.
Our pets contain our own emotional map, projected onto them. The vehicle for this projection is the invisible glue of relationship.
I wrote this to examine our relationships through a different prism. If I am asked about the purpose of therapy, I have found the best answer to be just one word. Relationship. Here we find ourselves and we find others. We can see them in us and ourselves in them. It could be other people; it could be a pet cat.
The other thing, which does bother me, is the curious belief that if we destroy our home, there is some sci fi future on dead rocks in space. I suggest that this planet Earth is our only real home, we have evolved here and are part of a whole. The narcissistic desire to explore space is a phantasm, our mental wellbeing depends on all sorts of interactions, we are ‘wired’ that way.
Take care
Peace and good fortune
Marius Paul

Corona Virus. The New Normal

Corona virus, emergency and trauma

This current situation, ongoing for as long as it will take, has come with a much-overlooked side effect.

This, unfortunately, unless looked at in the open will exacerbate the situation, long after whatever green light freedom has been announced and this period recedes into the distance.

It feels at this moment like it will never end, and that the aftermath will lead to great changes, however, this may not be the case.

If you can remember the  London Olympics a joyful month in the near past, where every day we in the UK participated in a world event, or on the horrific side, various horrendous terrorist bombings in London, Manchester and Paris and not forgetting  more recently Grenfell, now marked on our calendar with anniversaries, there is the marked lack of anything feeling really different in our day to day lives.

We licked our wounds, attended to the survivors and moved on.

On a surface level this may appear true; however, there is something fundamental that changed. This change will remain on the back burner threatening to return if the circumstances change again. In psychology we term this as trauma our psyche. Our imagined world can no longer be considered safe; The illusion of safety has been shattered, then slowly forgotten as we have returned to the world of appearances once again.

Emergency Psyche.

Human beings are remarkably resilient. Historically we can survive wars, revolutions, natural disasters, economic downturns etc. Yet for the majority they do not fall apart( some do of course), they have adapted and survived , as indeed our ancestors learnt to do over the last few millennia.

We have an evolved mechanism, like being hardwired for such eventualities, that is there for the’ just in case’ emergencies.

The problem is that once we have usefully encountered it and used this unsophisticated emergency thinking to

survive, it cannot easily be switched off. All things/events will now have to be weighed up in the balance of what type of new emergency this is?


The problem is the notion of the invisible virus enemy, somehow constantly there in the background, This can make every person, surface, journey outside seem dangerous, or at least high risk.

We have collectively lost our trust in the world as a safe enough place; everyday things become a throw of the dice, in an unacknowledged game of chance, played for high stakes.

The big risk is that we become attenuated to the threat, bored even, playing a seemingly endless game with no clear-cut rules. The parameters change constantly, fuelled by over excited media and the quest to feel better than useless in the face of this disease.

The danger here is that we start to test the riskiness of the situation, it is easy to forget and self-sabotage as the days drag on. Like a child told that the lake is dangerous to swim in, we stare into the waters and try dangling our toes in for a while, to see whether this is true or not.

Our fascination with danger, our reluctance to just be an obedient child is stirred into action.

The emergency brain has now made us into our own worst enemy, as we swing between extreme caution and bold adventures. There are only black and white areas. No happy middle.

This thinking is a reboot of our preverbal child mind, when we don’t know what is going on we fill in the gaps, and the world is either hope for the best (happy child, it will get better) or extreme distress (the bawling, crying infant) . Without words that can accurately grab the moment we have become emotionally hijacked, and so the see saw swing comes into action.

After all, this duality was useful once, it worked too keep us safe when we were at our most vulnerable.  It is a useful tool, but not the only one (if we are armed with only a hammer all our problems begin to look like nails!)

The world outside has emptied

The end game

We escaped from this state of uselessness, reacting to everything that did not quite make sense once before.  We have all moved from this state of infantile reckoning to the calmer waters of adulthood.

On this journey we have learnt in the most part, how to tolerate not knowing ( the playful side of this ‘emergency’ thinking is in watching live sports, such pleasure in the tension of not really knowing how it will turn out)  we have learnt that our experience is the worthwhile reality test to dispel the imagined demons or indeed the belief that we are invulnerable and need  to be strong always.

When we have better, more informed knowledge we will once again be able to make wise choices.

We can learn to trust the world again, to be safe enough and this experience (which is not over yet, I write this on day 55 of the UK lockdown) will be absorbed into our collective knowledge, mediated by movies, novels, songs and art as a memento of these times.

We will emerge from this wiser, perhaps more wary of threat (global warming and the Anthropocene spring to mind) and our communities will move on. I don’t know where to, but the journey of our lives will continue.

Stay safe. Remember, this too will end.

Peace and Good fortune
Marius Paul

Caring for someone with mental health difficulties. A brief introduction

For carers . (Helping those with mental health problems)
A short introduction
Sometimes problems or issues can’t be seen. They affect our behaviour and how we respond to the person with the problem. I call them the invisible problems
The classic invisible problems are addiction, eating disorders, mental health and grief.
Just because we can’t see them physically does not mean they don’t exist or someone is pretending or weak willed

The challenge with living with someone with an ‘invisible ‘ problem is knowing how best to be helpful, keeping the relationship going without falling into the trap of smother kindness ( or indeed imprisoning) or ‘refrigerator’ response boredom with the issue and the person.
After all they are still a person you have known or know , it’s just they come with an issue that can’t be seen from the outside.
I call them invisible because from the outside the person is physically able, in most cases can do everything that you can do, and yet they cannot.
It is easy to second guess what to do if your partner, child etc has broken their foot for example. You can offer to carry things, cook even do their shopping and aid them on the path to recovery.
It’s our go to strategy in caring and looking after our nearest and dearest when some calamity has changed the relationship dynamic for while.
And broken feet do , after a time, heal. Things then mostly return to normal, and as is the course with this type of problem , eventually recedes in to the past ,mostly forgotten.
This unfortunately is not the case with conditions you cannot see.
As we so often have to adapt our lives around people with these problems , the lack of our understanding of what is helpful or not is brought to light.
I write about this, because until recently , there has always been a lack of practical advice for carers outside the medical and support professions.

Over the many years I’ve worked as an NHS counsellor and seen numerous carers, referred to counselling full of the heavy responsibilities with a lack of useful advice ( who is going to advise you on the best way of looking after an alcoholic partner? This isn’t a medical problem or a social issue, you are on your own)
Fortunately though, South London and Maudsley conducted some good research around the thorny problem of living with and helping someone with an eating disorder and developed a useful schema, which I will now further spread, as many of my carer clients were unaware that sometimes their strategies were doing more harm than good.
These I shall share with you here.
Firstly though I must reiterate something important. If you’re this ballpark situation and caught up in a relationship with caring reponsibilites then it is very important to remember a major point.
Self care and even a routine set up in the midst of what can be seemingly chaotic is a necessary tool to possess . An exhausted , problem solving carer cannot function. None of us are super human even though sometimes we are required to go the extra mile

Self care can simply be taking time out for yourself, a walk or swim if time away is a problem will do, but regularly so there is a little time for your own well being.
The SLaM Menagerie of caring styles.
SLaM researchers and psychologists developed this approach to help carers of people with eating disorders.
I believe it has a much wider application.
(to see the full paper check the reference below)
The model they developed was translated into animal styles so as to be easy to remember and apply.
Here is my attempt to distill it down to useful information.
I saw that most of us (myself included) seemed to only have a single strategy in helping people and use this one plan (probably because we ourselves were parented in this style) in every situation , like a one bladed penknife. It works the majority of the time so we keep on doing it.
There are alternatives.
Firstly lets have a brief over view of the caring/helping styles which really don’t work , thoughyou might recognise in action around you.
They have been given animal names and charracteristics
The NOT HELPFUL caring approaches.


This does not help

The angry berating approach . This is most commonly seen around repeat behaviour and in my experience grief reactions, the “why are you still upset your dad died over a month ago now?” resposnse
I suggest this is a lack of emotional intelligence at play and sits on the bored/angry threshold of carer responses.
It makes all problems worse.


Problems do not disappear when ignored.

Here is a denial that anything is wrong or has changed, the completer and utter avoidance of a new situation.
Also a get out of any responsibility strategy.
This doesn’t help at all.


Do NOT smother.

The smothering carer, the complete opposite of the ostrich. In taking over the life of the person you are looking after, they have been reduced to the infant dependency . On the surface the ‘you stay where you are, I’ll get that or sort that out for you looks like generosity and kindness personified. The side affect is that learned helplessness and victimhood are being constantly reinforced. It may make the carer feel good ( sacrifice, martyr syndrom etc)
BUT it does not help in anyway a path to some sort of recovery.
It is of course a very easy trap to blindly walk into from the carer’s side.


It is not about you

I have only met a few carers in this mode, though perhaps that was enough. This sees the carer take centre stage , the issue is about them , guilt is the engine and wanting to be involved and powerful seem to be important.
Caring often involves not really knowing what to do at the time and feeling a bit useless. This is not generally how we approach our lives so the wish to reassert usefulness can drive us to being the most important person in the dynamic of caring.
Jellyfish is thought to be the emotional response , but way too much.
Again I reiterate stay away from doing this if you are helping someone.


Usefulness around the invisible problems is difficult. Mostly addictions, grieving, mental health issues, illnesses make all of us feel useless.
I have yet to meet anyone who is comfortable in that position.
So, what to do?
The suggested strategies are about letting the cared for express some agency in their life. It is their responsibility to recover. They are the only ones who can facilitate change or recovery. Not carers.
Caring in these circumstances involves 3 strategies

Mountain Rescue Dog

Turn up when needed only.

Crisis management. This has been called the mountain rescue dog approach. Here we turn up sort out the immediate crisis, make sure all is back to a reasonable place and then depart.
This enables you to take a step back and allows them to get their feet back on the ground and solve the problem their way. It’s their responsibility to look after themselves, rather than handing their issues onto someone else

Guide the person to a safer place

Nudge is the second component. This in the menagerie is termed the Harbour Dolphin, nudging the boat into safer channels and being aware of the risks in deeper waters.
Again after your intervention is done , it is now better to allow them some space

Finally, in this collection there is


This has also been typified as Terrier behaviour, a constant, though not nagging, herding into a safer place

This is the best we can do .
I know that caring is hard miles, that we can get trapped in a strange and not useful co- dependent relationship , where the carer does all the hard work.
If we care for someone without a plan ,we can also become part of the problem , and not notice it because of the urgency of the tasks at hand.
I hope this helps to at least enhance your awareness of choices and pitfalls in caring for someone with invisible problems

If you wish to read more I suggest you have a look at SLaM ‘s PDF here, complete with a worksheet.