Clinical Psychologist & Family Mediator

Welmoet Bok

Wynberg - Cape Town

Do you suffer from anxiety or depression?

If so, how healthy are your thoughts?

These days most of us are conscious of our health and we do a great deal to ensure that we stay well. We watch our diet, many of us exercise regularly, and we know we need to get good quality sleep.

But how many of us are aware that to we need to watch what we think as well to protect our mental health?

In my psychology practice I am very aware that few people monitor their thinking. In fact, many people are of the view that the thoughts that go through their minds are outside of their control.

Individuals who are prone to anxiety thing a great many “what if” thoughts during the day, such as “what if I mess up during my exam”, whilst people who suffer from depression tend to ruminate excessively.

These types of thought patterns serve to “feed” anxiety and depression.

It is possible to gain control of your thoughts through CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy). This will enable you to break the cycle of anxious and negative thinking.

There was an interesting article on the Psychology Today facebook page today, which speaks about the serious consequences to one’s mental health of negative thinking habits:

www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/words-can-change-your-brain/201208/the-most-dangerous-word-in-the-world?

Steering away from negative thinking towards a positive mindset is the subject of Positive Psychology.

If you would like to be happier, more optimistic and hence more psychologically resilient I recommend that you embrace the principles of Positive Psychology.

Wouldn’t this be a great way to begin 2020 (and enjoy the festive season)?

Continue Reading No Comments

Anxiety. Are you dealing with it in the best possible way?

And what does your approach to anxiety tell you about yourself?

In my previous blog-post I talked about how important it is to examine your life and to work at understanding yourself.

Anxiety is something that we all experience from time to time. Why? Because life tends to be uncertain and unpredictable, and comes with a certain amount of risk – of accidents, illness, financial hardship and natural disasters – to name a few.

Evolutionary psychologists tell us that anxiety has been with us since the dawn of time and is a major factor in our survival as a species. Fear and anxiety are hard-wired into the most primitive parts of our brain.

However, of course, some individuals experience a great deal more anxiety than others do. Many have generalised anxiety disorder, where one is generally anxious without necessarily knowing what one is anxious about. Other forms of anxiety relate to a specific thing or situation, such as having a fear of heights or a phobia of snakes.

How do you deal with the uncertainty and potential risks in your life? If you tend to avoid things that make you anxious, this can lead to more and more situations that need to be avoided to relieve your anxiety, and life becomes very tough and stressful as a result.

A much better anxiety-management strategy is to identify your sources of anxiety and stress and examine your thought patterns that lead you to feel anxious. This is an element of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT and is an approach I use a great deal in my psychology practice.

Other very useful strategies for dealing with anxiety include meditation and mindfulness training. Regular exercise is also a very positive way to manage stress and anxiety.

If you have any questions about managing your anxiety better, please get in touch.

Continue Reading No Comments

How well do you know yourself?

And why does this matter?

Socrates famously said “The unexamined life is not worth living”.

Do you agree?

If so, how would you go about discovering more about yourself – your values, goals, personality traits, and your characteristic approach to life and to coping with adversity?

If you want to live a meaningful and authentic life, I believe it is essential to continually assess one’s life/

Over the next few weeks I will be writing posts on this topic. Please feel free to comment!

Continue Reading No Comments

Finding Mr or Ms Right. What criteria do you use?

Perhaps you don’t believe in criteria at all?!

Many of my clients in my clients in my clinical psychology practice are preoccupied with relationships – past, current or future.

What makes for a compatible partner?

Do you look for certain attributes, like intelligence and a sense of humour in a prospective partner?

A recent article in Psychology Today highlighted an often overlooked dimension – that of relationship compatibility. https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/in-the-name-love/201908/the-best-way-find-partner-whos-right-you#_=_

If you are looking for the ideal partner you need to look at yourself as well. For example, if you are a stay-at-home introvert but are attracted to someone who is the life of every party, will this work out long term? Or of you are very careful with money and have long-term investment goals will you be happy with a person who believes in living for today and who spends his/her money accordingly?

Of course many other factors will affect likelihood of long-term happiness and relationship satisfaction such as capacity for empathy, compassion and kindness, which are often overlooked as well!

Continue Reading No Comments

Split loyalties can cause serious problems in intimate relationships.

What can you do if you find yourself in such a situation?

For example: You are in a relationship with a partner who has an ex-wife who seems to be totally helpless and calls your man every time there is some sort of crisis or emergency in her life. Because he is such a loving and giving person he jumps every time she makes any type of request, even when you have something planned to do together. This situation is starting to drive you crazy and is causing problems in your relationship because you tend to complain again and again about the issue.

Or an even more difficult situation:

Your partner whom you love very much has a child from a previous relationship and he regularly puts the child’s interests and requests ahead of considerations in respect of your relationship.

As a psychologist, over the years I have had many such clients who are grappling with this type of problem which can put intense strain on a current relationship.

What is the best way to approach such a situation?

First I would like to suggest things that are far from helpful such as:

1. Trying to give advice to your partner about his or her situation. Advice can very quickly turn into frustration when your advice is not taken or is actually ignored. A partner who is in this situation can very easily start to feel judged and controlled. He or she will very likely feel that he or she is being pulled in two opposing directions at once, leading to elevated feelings of stress which can lead to unproductive arguments between you both.

Because your spouse or intimate partner undoubtedly also feels a great deal of guilt in leaving his previous family, he is likely to resist any efforts on your part to cut back on his involvement with his previous family. If anything is going to give, it will in all likelihood be your relationship. This will seem totally unfair but is usually the reality unfortunately.

So what should you do?

Best to keep your own views to yourself initially and ask for advice from a trusted third party. Try not to feel too emotionally invested in resolving the problem in your favour (this is very difficult).

I would also suggest that you think empathetically about the situation from your partner’s point of view, and also those of his ex-partner and his children. This will help you come across to your partner as more sympathetic and encouraging of a contact scenario that will work for everyone in the family network.

 

Continue Reading No Comments

Generalized anxiety – is there an antidote?

Of course anxiety is an emotion we all feel from time to time. We wouldn’t survive without anxiety as it alerts us to possible danger and threat. Think of the last time you had to write an exam or had to visit the dentist. Very few of us can contemplate these types of experiences without a certain amount of butterflies in the tummy!

What I am speaking about here is “normal” anxiety which is situation specific. However, some people experience anxiety that is more general and unremitting. Often this is related to a dread of uncertainty. The future is often regarded as threatening as life is unpredictable and outside one’s control.

Continue Reading No Comments

Couples: Is your relationship as happy as it could be?

If not, what aspects are preventing you and your partner achieving a mutually fulfilling relationship?

Over the years I have provided couple counselling to many unhappy couples who are experiencing major problems in their relationships. In many cases couples tend to wait much too long before accessing couples counselling when relationship problems have become chronic and trust and goodwill between the partners has become seriously eroded.

What issues often undermine relationships?

  1. Infidelity. Cheating on one’s partner, whether it be a fully-fledged sexual affair, secret texting to a third party or even spending money without the partner’s knowledge often places any relationship under serious strain. Partners often have unrealistic expectations that infidelity can be swept under the carpet after a brief discussion and/or apology. This is invariably not the case. A lengthy process is usually involved, where both partners need to commit to the long haul of recovery.
  2. Chronic arguments that do not get resolved successfully but tend to recur over the months and years on a regular basis. In couples, this type of habitual and long-term conflict often centres around disagreements around money, parenting, friends and in-laws.
  3. Poor communication. When partners are dissatisfied about the quality of their communication, this often indicates relationship problems. Intimacy becomes an early casualty of poor communication as partners who no longer communicate their deeper feelings and needs to their partner are invariably removing themselves emotionally from their relationship. Resentments and misunderstandings often result, which takes the relationship further into a negative cycle.

Relationship deterioration can happen suddenly, for example in the cases where infidelity is discovered or revealed, or can happen gradually and often unconsciously over months and years.

It is a good ideal to regularly gauge the health of your relationship by couples asking each other the question “Are we happy” and “what can we do to improve our relationship happiness”. As with our physical health and fitness, relationship health, too,  requires regular work to maintain peak happiness!

 

Continue Reading No Comments