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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


How to unlock the power of your amazing brain

Posted on May 16, 2016 at 2:55 PM

Affirmations seem to work better for some people than for others, but why is that?


Some swear by the positive impact their affirmations have made on their life and, there can be no doubt that a well placed, affirmation has the ability to ‘re-set’ the brain for positivity. This is because your brain doesn't know the difference between what is real and what is not, so what you choose to say to yourself is very important.


More importantly, your brain is neuro-plastic which means it is able to change and rewire itself. This is good news. It means you are not destined to be the person you have always been and is why, when my new clients express a desire to work on discovering who they are, I respectfully suggest it may be more appropriate to focus on who they would actually like to be.


The trouble is, we have a pre programmed negativity bias that can sabotage our very best efforts to make positive changes. We are hard wired to focus on the negatives as a kind of self preservation exercise, which can certainly save our skin by making sure we avoid risks or situations where we might fail. Sometimes, it can feel like a real ‘internal battle’ of belief systems.


And many of us have been negatively programmed as children with statements such as ‘you’re slow, lazy, fat or clumsy’. These ‘sticky’ beliefs stay in our subconscious minds and we may not even be aware of them. But, while they sit there, they create cognitive dissonance when we try to make changes which conflict with the self image we've built up from a young age.


Neuroscientist, Dr Michael Merzanich refers to a ‘critical period’ when the human brain initially configures itself. Current research indicates that up to age 10, there is no ‘off switch’ for incoming data. We are like a computer downloading the output from our environment, whether that is good or bad.


Worryingly, this is when we are drawing up our internal frames of reference. After that age, we are largely consolidating the information we have previously uploaded, to use as an internalised ‘map’ which we then refer to, to navigate the world in which we find ourselves. After age 10, the brain plasticity ‘switch’ is flicked, reducing our capacity for learning from new experience, as a range of powerful internal filters now come into play.


Brain aerobics


Assuming your negative beliefs may have been there for many, many years, it would be unrealistic to expect a positive affirmation, if repeated only once or twice, to make a significant difference immediately. Regular work and repetition will be needed to build and reinforce new neural structures for them to become encoded and embedded. Now you can strengthen your mental muscles much as you would your biceps and triceps by regular trips to the gym.


As Dr Merzenich explained in his groundbreaking 2004 TED Talk:


‘….in your future is brain aerobics. Get ready for it. It’s going to be a part of every life, not too far in the future. Just like physical exercise is a part of every well organized life in the contemporary period….


….Now that you know, now that science is telling us that you are in charge, that it’s under your control, that your happiness, your well-being, your abilities, your capacities, are capable of continuous modification, continuous improvement, and you’re the responsible agent and party.

Of course a lot of people will ignore this advice. It will be a long time before they really understand it.’

Making a start

You might need to begin by rooting out the negatives first of all.


Try making a list of your perceived negative qualities, including the kind of criticisms others have levelled at you, whether parents, siblings, your boss or your peers. Accept that we are all imperfect and all have flaws, and we all need to be forgiving of ourselves on the long and winding road to becoming the person we want to be.


Once you have acknowledged those negatives beliefs and made a decision to let them go, screw them up and throw them away. Now write out something more positive and empowering.


When you have the positive affirmations you are happy with, you will need to actually speak them out loud for several minutes, several times a day for them to really grow new roots. Brushing your teeth in the morning, looking in the mirror, can be the perfect time.


Anchor the affirmations firmly in your mind and body to the word 'STOP'. As soon as you say STOP, you become fully present and can make a conscious decision to shift your mind-set.


Use the word STOP as an IT password. Then, every time you type it or use it, STOP brings you to mindful awareness when you can repeat the positive affirmations again.


Positive self statements are powerful tools for raising hope, expectation and self esteem. Getting the right ones for you is key. Remember they must be personal, powerful, positive and present tense.


If you are having trouble coming up with the right ones, take inspiration from the 59 character strengths listed below to help you add real punch, create your most powerful affirmation yet and to unlock the potential of your amazing neuro-plastic brain.


59 character strengths

1. I am creative

2. I am original

3. I am adaptable

4. I am ingenious

5. I am interested

6. I am open

7. I can think things through

8. I am open-minded

9. I love learning

10. I love mastering new skills and topics

11. I love to build knowledge

12. I can see things from different angles

13. I can see the big picture

14. I do not shrink from fear

15. I speak up for what is right

16. I am persistent

17. I am industrious

18. I finish what I start

19. I am honest

20. I am authentic

21. I have integrity

22. I am enthusiastic

23. I have energy

24. I can love and be loved

25. I can build close relationships

26. I am generous

27. I am kind

28. I have care and compassion

29. I am altruistic

30. I am empathic

31. I understand what makes other people tick

32. I am socially responsible

33. I am loyal

34. I am a team player

35. I value justice

36. I am fair

37. I am an organiser

38. I encourage others

39. I accept others' shortcomings

40. I give people a second chance

41. I can forgive

42. I am modest

43. I can let my accomplishments speak for themselves

44. I do not take undue risks

45. I have self-control

46. I am disciplined

47. I manage my impulses and emotions

48. I appreciate beauty and excellence

49. I am grateful for the good I express thanks

50. I feel blessed

51. I am optimistic

52. I have hope for the future

53. I am future focused

54. I am playful

55. I bring smiles to others

56. I am light-hearted

57. I have faith

58. I have purpose

59. My life has meaning





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