A recent newspaper article got me thinking about how many people within their professional life find themselves wondering about whether a colleague or client is, in fact, in an abusive relationship? What if someone actually disclosed this and needed support or help? How many would know what to do ‘for the best’?
A whole range of emotions could be triggered including shock, surprise, fear, anger, sadness, trepidation, anxiety, worry or some may feel motivated to take action. Thoughts may include “What do I say?” “Did I hear that right?” “Could I make it worse by saying the wrong thing?” “What am I supposed to do with that?” “They’ve trusted me with that so what do I do next?”
The article I read was about the tragic death of a young woman who confided in her hairdresser about her partner’s aggressive and violent behaviour and threats to hurt her. Many of us develop trusting relationships with our hairdresser, barber, beautician, nail technician, often over several years; discussing families and relationships as well as the everyday chit-chat.
Research demonstrates that many people in unhealthy, and abusive, relationships will indirectly reach out to several people before someone recognises the invitation to help....but it’s a big ask if it isn’t something you know about.
I decided to offer a free information evening to the local hair and beauty professionals and will be running the event tomorrow night: I’m delighted that many have confirmed they are planning to come to help them feel more empowered to both recognise and respond appropriately. How many more people, professions and customer-facing businesses could benefit from knowing more; keeping themselves and others safe?
Watch this space for a follow-up!
Several times recently I’ve been asked why I named my practice “RealTalk Therapy”? To answer this, I first want to do a quick recap on ‘talking’.
One of the earliest developmental milestones for most of us is communication and more specifically talking – as a Mum myself, I remember the excitement of the first word my children spoke....even though it was classically ‘No’. From the very first interactions with parents, siblings and other significant people, we start to build both an internal word dictionary as well as an understanding of how to use these words to convey information but also to have a particular impact on someone or to have a need met.
The impact of language in relationships can be profound – good and bad. It can convey the deepest positive emotions and provide comfort. It can also cut and wound deeply – sometimes by design, sometimes through naivety, sometimes through carelessness. It can also influence how we define and value ourselves; the early messages and how we interpret them can often stay with us as adults.
Working as a Counsellor, you become aware of just how much internal conversation we engage in and whilst this can be very positive, this self-talk can also be damaging and limiting when the messages we have heard about ourselves have been negative. Replaying painful quips, jibes, spiteful and careless comments, cruel criticism and negative judgement from others .... can all become part of our internal dialogue, sometimes playing on a persistent loop. This is so often the case when working with survivors of domestic violence and abuse who, even free from the abuse and on the road to recovery, “can still hear the abuser’s voice in their heads” and this perpetuates their own self-blame and negative internal conversation. In addition, many have physically ‘lost their voice’ and are silenced; fearing having an opinion, stating a concern or asking for anything; denying themselves these rights for fear of further abusive retribution.
But this is not restricted to survivors of abuse. How many people feel unable to state their needs; question; challenge; enquire; contribute; disagree? How many feel unable to have ‘real conversations’ with themselves as well as others, even loved ones, because they fear it being perceived as conflict, inflammatory, mis-understood or rebuffed? How many simply don’t have a role model or a template for how to ‘really talk’ without these consequences ..... and indeed, others a template for how to ‘really listen’? How many won’t give themselves permission to be honest about their experiences, thoughts and feelings for fear it will shock, break invisible codes of acceptability, drive others away or simply be too much for others to cope with? How many can be confident they know they have the safe space and acceptance of a.n.other to ‘not know’ but to let it all fall out in an incoherent jumble or be supported in searching for what they don’t yet understand?
So this is why I call my practice RealTalk Therapy – I offer this space and this acceptance. I support clients in voicing these internal conversations, being curious about the how, the why, the alternatives. I aim to help clients reclaim their own voice and to dismiss those which hang around as unwanted echoes.