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The Integrated Coaching Academy

Where Coaching and Counselling Connect

Prince harry, grief and how to really help


Prince Harry has gone very public about his mental health struggles resulting from the death of his mother, Princess Diana. In Apple TV’s ‘The Me You Can’t See’ he says he ‘boxed up his emotions’ for 20 years.

It’s true; people often attempt to deal with life’s losses and traumas by disconnecting and switching off their feelings.


The ‘box-it-up’ method can work for a while, as it did for Harry, but what tends to happen over time is that the lid of the box begins to lift all on its own and the anger and despair begin to tumble out in an uncontrolled way. For Harry, the lid of the box seems to have really started to open after his marriage to Meghan and the build up to the birth of his first child created a psychological pattern match to the trauma of his mother’s death.


Harry was filmed in an EMDR session with his therapist. It seems to have really helped. I wish he could also experience the Rewind Technique which was originated by Dr David Muss in the 1970s. It can be even more effective. I did some training with David. As a newly qualified psychotherapist many years ago, I was so amazed by the successes I was having for my PTSD clients that I wrote a book about it. It works in a similar way to EMDR by grounding the client and setting a cognitive task that anchors the brain into the neo cortex. It’s less well known simply because it hasn’t attracted the research and funding of the EMDR programme originated by Francine Shapiro.


Here, an EMDR therapist gives a succinct explanation about the underlying mechanism. She says:

‘The therapy works by the therapist creating a safe and trusting space. We identify the experiences … and bring them into the room in a gentle way to reprocess those memories so the past can be in the past and our past life experiences do not continue to create stress, anxiety and triggers in our current life’


The subconscious mind


What stays in the subconscious mind has the ability to control us. Allowing suppressed emotions to safely surface can actually process long term grief in just one session... if that is what the client wants.

Sometimes, however, the bereaved just want to speak, to be allowed to explore and express their emotions in their own time and in their own way. Fortunately, a Fusion Therapeutic Coach will have the empathic attunement to understand what the client needs from their practitioner.


Yes, if they want resolution, the Rewind Technique can achieve that quickly and efficiently but if they need to talk, a Fusion Coach knows how to offer the time and space for that to happen. It’s about making the model fit the client rather than the client fit the preferred therapy style of the practitioner.


My article this week looks at suppressed grief and how the reaction to unprocessed emotions can take us by surprise many years later.


I hope it helps…


Grief and how to really help


As James sat in front of me, memory after memory of his father’s death surfaced, released, and ran softly down his face.


‘He died when I was 10’, said James. ‘It was an unexpected heart attack. He went to work one morning and didn't come home. Mum thought I was too young to go to the funeral so I went to school on that day just, like any other day.’


James's mum wasn’t being cruel. She had hoped to protect her young son from the pain of seeing her so desperately upset at the grave side. She wanted him to escape somehow the turbulent and intense range of emotions that are a part of the journey through the grieving process. So she made life as normal as possible for him. She compensated by taking him on lavish holidays, buying him the latest gadgets and putting on her ‘I'm fine’ face in the daytime.


Crying alone


She had removed all the pictures of James's father in the house and he was now rarely referred to.

The mother-who-meant-well stayed strong and kept going. She was doing a good job she told herself. After a year, James seemed fine, was doing well at school and never mentioned his father at all.

But the grief hadn’t gone away and it was only after she put James to bed at night that she allowed herself to cry. What she didn't realise was that, in bed at night, James could hear his mother crying and would often cry himself to sleep too.


Both mother and son were going through an intense range of emotions they did not want to communicate to each other, for fear of causing more upset. They had both become isolated in a shared grief for the most well-intentioned of reasons and they were making a mistake that many of us make.

I must keep going


There are plenty of laudable reasons for not dealing with grief. People have to go to work to keep their job. They have to get the kids off to school. They have to mow the lawn, do the shopping, cook and pay the bills. They think if they give way to grief, it will be like a dam has burst. They won’t be able to cope with the deluge and will drown in a flood of their own tears.


But deferring grief is like living with an undetonated bomb. We fool ourselves that if we tiptoe around it, perhaps it won’t go off.


An open wound


However the loss and grief remain as a concealed, but still-open, wound. Although we may have put a plaster over it, it will not begin to heal until we acknowledge its presence and let some light and air onto the injury.


As Prince Harry has observed, death has become a sanitised business.


We try to ignore it. We clean it up with phrases like ‘passed over’, or ‘slipped away’ rather than saying someone has died. Or we wrap it up and leave it on a shelf in a darkened room that we try not to visit.

We are taught, in the face of adversity to stand strong. We must stay in control. We have to keep a very British ‘stiff upper lip’.


But grief is not an illness. It’s a fact of life. We will all lose someone we love and we will all feel the pain. Being able to ride the intense waves of emotion that come with bereavement is an example of mind management and asking for help or talking to someone about how we really feel is a sign of emotional intelligence, not weakness.


As a therapeutic coach, I have a range of skills in my professional toolbox. But for James, as with most of my clients who are grieving, I used the simplest, yet most powerful of them all.

I listened.


Frances Masters MBACP accred GHGI


Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist, coach, training consultant and author of the book PTSD Resolution: Reclaiming life from trauma.


In 2009, Frances founded the charity Reclaim Life; training its volunteers to work in the new, integrated coach-counselling model, Fusion.


As founding Principal of the Integrated Coaching Academy Frances gained accreditation for her training from NCFE as Customised Awards; 'The Fusion Therapeutic Coaching, Counselling and Training Diploma in Therapeutic Coaching and the distance learning programme Certificate in Therapeutic Coaching Skills'


Training programmes also include


The Integrated Coaching Academy certified Fusion Mindfulness Based Mind Management Skills Certificate

and new online training Breathe Stress Away


Fusion® Therapeutic Coaching is an approved NCFE training centre, an organisational member of he British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Association for Coaching

Blog

An easy way to create SAFE SPACES at work and in schools

Posted on May 10, 2016 at 4:10 AM

 

‘Presenteeism’ is the flip side of the better known phenomenon ‘absenteeism’; being related to the implications for industry and the economy of stress and emotional distress in the work force. It affects output, it affects efficiency and ultimately, it affects gross domestic product (GDP).

 

Simply put, happier employees are more effective and productive employees, yet mental health continues to have a low priority and is still referred to as ‘the Cinderella service’ within the NHS.

 

My motivation for working in the world of wellbeing grew out of personal experience, as I came to realise that our current mental health system is flawed and that much of our training of mental health practitioners is also flawed.

 

What I have worked on ever since, is a way of distilling the skills of 'emotional intelligence' to their absolute essence so they are easy to understand, making it faster (and cheaper) to train practitioners, providing the kind of help, knowledge and advice I needed when I was emotionally distressed and the kind of fast track, effective and affordable training I wish had been available when I embarked on a career as a psychotherapist. Introducing this training into the NHS could save the service a lot of money.

 

Perhaps someone could tell them.

 

In my article this week, I consider the impact of introducing the idea of 'SAFE SPACES' into industry, commerce and into our schools. In the story, I talk about Rachel, a young woman who, although physically present at work is psychologically absence, due to extreme emotional distress.

 

Rachel suffered an early miscarriage and was given a week off by her GP to recover. On her return to work, although now physically well, Rachel had been so emotionally traumatised by the experience that she was unable to function in her job.

 

In the article I give an intimate and detailed description of Rachel's distress and how that impacted her ability to work.

 

This was easy to do, because the Rachel in the story was me.

 

 

Rachel

 

Rachel, at 22, had not expected to become pregnant so soon after her marriage.

 

Although not planned, she soon got used to the idea and started excitedly looking forward to having a baby. She told family and a few close friends. She started shopping for baby clothes in her lunch hour at work.

 

Then one day, something terrible happened. Rachel miscarried.

 

The reaction in her circle was uniform. ‘You’re young, there will be other opportunities. You'll get over it.’ Rachel's GP gave her a week off to recover, but by the time she returned to work, although physically present, Rachel was psychologically absent.

 

Her manager, with all good intentions, asked to have a quiet word with her at the back of the office. ‘My wife had a miscarriage’ he said ‘so I know how you feel’.

 

‘Thank you’, said Rachel. ‘You have no idea how I feel’, she thought.

 

The weeks that followed were difficult.

 

Rachel felt tearful most of the time. She couldn't sleep and couldn't stop thinking about the baby she had lost. She wanted to talk about how she felt. At first friends and family were sympathetic but, after a while, seemed to have less patience with hearing what was, essentially, the same story, over and over again.

 

Rachel learned to keep quiet and people thought she was ok.

 

But Rachel's work was suffering. Her concentration had gone and she started making mistakes. Her manager was now less than sympathetic.

 

‘What's going on Rachel? You'll have to pull yourself together’ he said ‘I can't afford to carry passengers.’

 

Now Rachel had something else to worry about. Her previously safe world seemed to be crumbling around her. Her relationship was suffering too as her husband lost patience with her seeming inability to ‘get over it and move on’.

 

Rachel never did ‘get over it.’

 

Helping Rachel

 

Grief is grief. We should not underestimate the strength and significance of the bond between a mother and her unborn child, no matter how early it is in her pregnancy.

 

The grief does not get smaller. Rather, with time, the hope is that our life expands around it and our loss becomes part of our journey and part of our personal narrative.

 

‘I know how you feel’ is not the best starting point. Neither is ‘pull yourself together.’

 

‘Tell me how you feel’ is better, but that's no good either, unless people are prepared to listen empathically, without judgement and without interrupting with their own experiences.

 

It would have been more helpful for Rachel to have had access to a professional who knew how to support grief, trauma and emotional distress. What Rachel really needed was validation for her experience, an explanation of what was going on for her and guidance on what she could do to help support herself as she worked through her sense of loss.

 

We now know that, the more we become emotional, the less we have access to our rational brain. It’s called emotional hijacking. Concentration and focus are destroyed by high emotion. Managing anxiety is a skill. At times of crisis, just knowing this is empowering. We know what to do to help ourselves.

 

The more we worry, the less we enjoy good quality sleep at night. By the morning, our motivational energy has been eaten up by too much REM (dreaming sleep). Now there is a second problem and the tiredness just adds to the stress.

 

SAFE SPACES

 

If Rachel had known about the ‘recipe’ for emotional well-being, she would have been aware that her needs for personal security, attention and control were compromised by the loss of her baby; that the emotional distress she felt was authentic and that, while she waited to regain her sense of equilibrium, there were things she could do to help herself.

 

The STOP system™ would have given her a practical way to ‘take a step back’ from her distress and self soothe with gentle mindfulness techniques.

 

SAFE SPACES integrates ‘the emotional needs ‘recipe’ with a practical ‘system’ for emotional management, creating a powerful wraparound formula for wellbeing and resilience.

 

When it comes to mental health, knowledge truly is power. For all the Rachel’s, here is the formula. I hope it helps:

 

Security

Attention

Family, friends and fun

Emotional intimacy

Status

Privacy

Achievement

Control

Engagement

STOP System™

 

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