Relationships : Conflict Management is a Choice.

conflict-man-womanIt is my own personal experience, and that of clients, that whoever you choose to have a relationship with, there will be conflict and a lot of it. The paradox to our usual thinking is that the more intense and close a relationship is, the more likely it is that troubled times will come. As humans, we are built that way. Anyone who tells you that there is no conflict in their relationship is either lying or is not totally engaged. The key is how you handle it and whether you allow it to escalate. Because let’s face it, much of the conflict we have with our partners is about pointless things but we allow it to grow to include other pointless things and we often trigger from other experiences we have had. A good portion of it could be solved fairly easily if we just make it so. If we stop the stonewalling and having to prove that we are right. This puts both partners in the proverbial red and blue corner slugging it out until the end. Add pride to the mixture and you have a lethal cocktail.

Everyone has a conflict style and understanding that is the first step to making that style more functional. When I look at my own, I realise that I tend very quickly to escalate things. I always know this afterwards but often then it is too late. The window of opportunity has gone. Why does this happen? I recognised that a long time ago. When I get the hint of insecurity, long-held fear of abandonment (due to my childhood) takes over as I frantically try to get my point across. In effect, I am my child like self in the conflict instead of a mature adult who might handle it better. However, as with everyone else who manages conflict in a dysfunctional way, this is no real excuse and I, as with all adults who are mostly self-aware and self-conscious of our actions,  hold a true responsibility to ensure that our own internal struggles do not project onto our partner or anyone else. Just doing this will help greatly because if this is happens, it will stop the cycle of guilt and shame that will inevitably start the next round. How this is achieved takes discipline and strong will.

How many of us can truly give up our position and look at things fairly and without pride and being triggered? How many of us can listen effectively to the true meaning of what our partner is saying? How many of us can see that some of what they are saying might be true? How many of us can forego tactics in order to gain the upper hand? I truly believe that not many of us can do this but this is essential and yes, conflict can really be a method of improving the way things are in the relationship going forward (as long as violence is not involved). This takes the form of looking at ourselves instead of looking at our partner. Essential is that we keep act in a respectful, calm manner in conflict and keep the well-being of the relationship in mind. Staying present and listening effectively avoids triggering and setting healthy boundaries instead of stonewalling and anger will certainly move the process forward.

If we can truly see conflict as a means of improving the basis of our relationships and manage it that way, then that is the way it will be. It is a choice and doing nothing and allowing escalation  is also a choice, albeit that we might not see it that way at the time. The bottom line is…manage conflict effectively and your relationship will be in a place that you could not have imagined.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies with a speciality in CBT techniques. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr. Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who find taking therapy online as convenient and tailored for their needs. More Details HERE

New Podcast: The Kiss Of The Narcissist!

Have you ever felt The Kiss Of A Narcissist?
That devastating feeling where your world that seemed so perfect at the beginning of the relationship suddenly crashes down as your partner shows his/her true self, leaving you feeling like a tornado has ripped through your life.
Learn about the 3 definable stages of a narcissist relationship.

There is Only One Moment For You To Live

live_in_the_present_momentDreaming about the future is part of who we are. We are apparently the only species who has the ability to this (that we know of). It gives us hope and expectation and for many, keeps the flame alive for a better lot than they have. However, looking to the future can also be irrational when we allow it to be. Letting our mind wander into darker places will affect the very place where we can make a real difference : the present.

These days, I don’t tend to look much at the future. I am at an age where there is more past than future to look at. It wasn’t always at way. As a younger man, I had great imagination of what life had in store for me with all the excitement, trepidation and fear that vision brought along with it. However, like most people who create an imagined future (let’s face it, there is no other kind), I allowed the trepidation and fear to dominate. This had the effect of making my then present fearful as well as I ruminated about things to come. Of course, this was all based on false evidence. Much as we try to convince ourselves we can see into the future and predict our fate, it is seemingly one ability that has until now, largely escaped the human race. It doesn’t stop us trying with all the panache of a psychic or crystal ball reader! For some reason, when we are having stress or issues in the present, our ability to see disaster and catastrophe in our future is finely honed.

I see this very often in my clients who lose the ability to think rationally about the future when their present is threatened. “It will be a disaster” “I won’t be able to do it” ” He/she will surely leave me”, they cry. When questioned and challenged with the notion that no-one can read the future or predict such events with absolute certainty, they agree. However, they fail to recognise that they have done just that. That is, predicted the worst scenario possible without a counter argument or sufficient evidence to back it up. Maybe it is part of our “fight or flight” mentality that we have to steel ourselves for preventative action or maybe it is a mindset but it can be damaging. I have seen clients raging and very traumatized over an imagined future. One such client comes to mind that I worked with many years ago. Living overseas, she had convinced herself that she would at some stage have tp return to her homeland to look after her sick parents. It affected everything she did, her views on work, relationships and herself were all distorted by this impending decision. The trouble was that her parents were in very good health and the only issue was what she would do “if” if ever happened. We can get very trapped in “what if” questioning that promotes rumination. Of course, what it does promote is anxiety and panic about what we think will happen. Anxiety is very often a symptom but the cause is usually another underlying belief or disorder which robs us of the ability to look rationally at the future and stay in the present. Of course, there are also those who find solace in an imagined future if their present is not as good as it could be in the form of escapism but is also extremely unhealthy.

The solution is to use the very thinking that instigated the situation in the first place. The bottom line is that we have very often thought our way into the dysfunction that conjures up such a clear future in our minds. Changing those irrational thoughts in the present will give us a much clearer idea of where we truly stand. The evidence we need is all around us to do this. We just cannot see it. Challenging damaging thought patterns, limiting rumination and finding ways to keep thinking conscious will always help and it becomes as automatic as catastrophic thinking in the end, as it must.  It is hard work. It is much easier to listen to the voices in our head from the inner critic who will always deal in disaster scenarios but this statement from the teachings of the Buddha sums it up very nicely :

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies with a speciality in CBT techniques. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr. Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who find taking therapy online as convenient and tailored for their needs. More Details HERE

Is Codependency Real Or Just Over-diagnosed?

Free From Codependency

2409474974_c2affd3e4dIf you read the majority of articles on codependency, you would surely believe that anyone you might come across is either codependent or a narcissist. Psychology has always had its buzzwords. A few years ago, everybody was bipolar or borderline, and codependency might be classed by some as a new word in the same ilk. However, unlike the two terms mentioned, codependency has no diagnosable criteria that classes it as a recognized disorder or disease. Some observers doubt it even exists and therefore must be purely a symptom of a diagnosable disorder. Opinions are split.

However, I deal with many clients who show specific symptoms and behavior towards another person without any identifiable disorder being present. If we accept that the term codependency was first used in relation to alcoholism and addiction, it is not beyond belief that it can be also used to explain an “addiction” to relationships and what…

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When the Going gets Tough, The Tough get Going!

71f2c07d6ea971d201b760dd723662a8I often use my own personal experience to highlight elements of my posts. Even in therapy, my own stories shared sparingly and at the right time can help others to put their own stories into perspective. The Native Americans believe in their culture that life is about stories. When one story ends, another begins and the telling of stories and understanding them is the key to solving problems and moving on in life. This, I buy into and believe, in that we can all learn from each other’s stories.

This is one of those times and on this occasion,  I am learning from my own story. At this present moment, I am in Europe,  Spain to be precise, and away from home for one night. Even though it is a short time to overcome, it puts many things in my life in perspective. My recent posts have pontificated about happiness and what elements we need in our lives to make us happy. There were various factors highlighted but nothing specific. This is because happiness and what it means to us is as individual as we are. If someone had asked me what made me specifically happy, I would have a clear answer. This answer would come from a base of healthy self esteem, personal growth and independence on my part. All factors that have embroidered my happiness.

My clear answer would be sharing my life with the woman I love.

Now I know we all say that as a default answer and one that you might expect but I have the clearest evidence possible to make that claim. Firstly, I now know that I spent the majority of my life with the wrong people (we do not know this until we find the right one). Given that experience and the lessons learned, I am in a position to know what is right for me and what I can reasonably offer to the right relationship. I have truly found the one.

For me, we have everything we need to maintain a healthy long term relationship and it is not about honeymoon periods or infatuation, we are long past that. We have the basis of honesty, trust, respect and mutual benefit. However, you can never test those things until you get to difficult times. We have had these in abundance.  For example, we have moved across continents  (more than once), been apart for long periods and endured emotional, logistical and organisational challenges frequently. All are enough to fuel tension and possible conflict. It would be very easy to lose yourself in blaming and finger pointing when things get tough or don’t go as you expect.

What I really love about us is that we slip immediately into problem solving mode, solution focused and work together to get things done.  We dont just compromise, we find new solutions and any conflict is dealt with with this in mind.Whatever, the issue, it is always that thinking that emerges. I personally, didn’t believe that existed and had maybe given up hope of ever finding it.

This single factor, in my opinion, is the key to happiness with another person. When you have this, you can conquer anything.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals, couples, groups and companies with a speciality in CBT techniques. Apart from seeing clients face-to-face, Dr. Jenner also runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who find taking therapy online as convenient and tailored for their needs. More Details HERE


Why Codependents Are Sometimes Resistant To Therapy

Free From Codependency

branding-images_client-wallsIt is wrong to assume that if codependency is identified as an issue, the person concerned is codependent with everyone in his or her life. There is usually only one or a number of people (or thing, e.g work, substances) but the typical behavior associated with codependents does not necessarily get projected on everybody. The “object” of codependency is usually a very strong (mostly negative) influence on their lives and all focus is placed there. They are very resistant to realising this as it often defines them as people. Their struggle is them.  Their “object” is their whole life and only by fixating on this, will they  get what they need.  Until a point of real awareness occurs, they will defend their object with all they have and even though they will incessantly complain about the “object”, on one else can. It once heard it described as a form of…

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What Makes Us Happy? Further Thoughts

Just recently I wrote a rather philosophical post pontificating about What Do We Need to Make us Happy?. As I generally do, I placed this article on various websites for people to read and comment. On one particular site, the article generated a fair amount of interest and discussion from many people who all offered their ideas about happiness and how to achieve it, recognise it and maintain it. Much of the content lacked specifics as you might expect but generally most people thought along the same lines. Loving yourself, having the right partner, having sufficient funds to live, the right job, having kids, etc, etc. This proves exactly what I wrote about. That while there are some elements that determine happiness, it is as individual as we are.

It set me thinking. While all or a combination of the above can be seen as a recipe for happiness (which ones depend on the individual’s situation), there is an added element that is often overlooked (actually more than one) that in my opinion goes a long way to providing a basis for personal happiness, irrespective of whether you are in a relationship or not, good or bad job or to a certain extent, rich or poor. That is to see that life is truly a series of problems that need to be solved. Our issues (and ultimate unhappiness) come from either not facing them or not having the ability to recognise or face them. These problems then stack up and affect every aspect of our lives. As one of my favorite authors famously wrote :

Life is of the greatest truths. …Most do not see this and spend most of their life moaning more or less incessantly that life should be easy. Life is a series of we want to moan about them or solve them? Discipline is the basic set of tools that we need to solve life’s problems. Without discipline, we can only solve some of life’s problems. With it, we can solve all problems.

Scott Peck was certainly onto something in his best selling book “The Road Less Traveled”. In my opinion, he truly gave us a blueprint for happiness. His basic tack is that we do not see challenges and problems as true opportunities for growth and we spend much of our time avoiding the pain that goes with such growth by employing various methods to “make ourselves happy”. Of course, some challenges are bigger than others but there are people who cannot realistically face even the smallest issue.

The first tactic we employ in the face of challenge is instant gratification. This explains everything you need to know about comfort eating, shopping, overspending, relationship-hopping, many addictions and more. The need to feel “good” in the face of challenge will drive a lot of people in this direction while they procrastinate about what to do…or in effect what not to do. Delaying gratification (facing problems and then after treating ourselves) takes discipline and a strong will and very few have it. Where this comes from is not always clear. Too loose or too tight boundaries experienced as children could be one element. However, ineffective parenting is often seen as a root cause. We often lose the ability to delay gratification after a certain age and even though some children can retrieve this ability, some never will. They never learnt (or better, were never taught) to delay gratification as children. Many over-stressed parents do not have the determination to teach problem solving or to say no to children. How many parents do you see giving in to sweets or television for an easy life?

While we are enjoying ourselves in the face of challenge, what we are truly doing is hoping that if we avoid the issue for long enough, it will either go away or someone else will take care of it. We are just shirking responsibility. However, when children grow up in a household where they are told one thing and they see their parents doing another, it is no wonder that discipline and responsibility is lacking. I remember from my own experience being told about the dangers or risks of this or that and seeing the very people warning me doing exactly that!! What a message for a child!! It teaches that you do not really need to do what you say. Many parents do not confront children for their lack of responsibility and it becomes a default method of problem solving. Why face that issue when I can do something more pleasurable for me and no-one will bring me to task about it!!??

Even if sometimes we are forced to face something, how many of us give up easily before really trying? How many of us say “it’s too hard,too painful” ? How many of us take the time to really solve the problem before giving up and moaning and proclaiming to the heavens that “my life should be easier than this”?

Yes, Scott Peck hit the nail firmly on the head. Solve the problems that come your way, large and small, face the pain that is associated with it and we can transcend that view of “life is difficult”.

One Thought Away From Relapse

Free From Codependency

relapse1When you recognize and become aware that you are indeed a codependent, the hard work really starts.

Even codependents who have a good handle on their triggers and situations that could cause a relapse have to fight hard to keep them in check. As one of my recovering patients said quite rightly “You are only one thought away from relapse”.

I know from my own experience and that of others that even the smallest relapse back into codependency can be a devastating feeling associated with doubt, guilt and shame. The very emotions that helped to create the codependent in the first instance. To some, the hard productive work done in recovery is overshadowed by this perceived “failure”.

Often, the relapse is down to contact with a former “object” or someone or something that triggers similar feelings. Once that happens (and depending on the state of recovery), it might take some…

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Press Release: What Are You Prepared To Do For Your Relationship?

Ebook - Our Quest For Happily Ever After.. & Why It sometimes does Not Work

“Being involved romantically with another human being is to use a famous quote “the best and worst of times”. We proclaim our love, often far too quickly, and make irrational decisions. We believe we can take on the world and our own world is in order. Though when it goes wrong, things swing quickly in the other direction. Such is this thing called love”. (Our Quest For Happily Ever After And Why It Sometimes Does Not Work, 2016. Dr. Nicholas Jenner).

Let’s be honest, when it comes to relationships, we often try it and we often get it wrong and most of us have no idea why. We think we do but we are generally clueless. The fact is that we are all largely unprepared for what awaits us when we start on that quest for happily ever after.

In his new e-book “Our Quest For Happily Ever After… And Why It Sometimes Does Not Work”, Dr. Nicholas Jenner asks the critical questions that help couples to realise what they can do to build a secure base for their relationship. Any couple having difficulties or embarking on the journey of life together might do well to ask themselves:

  • Do we really understand our relationship in terms of how we see love, our partner and how our early attachment to our parents all play a significant role?
  • Are we aware of how it can go wrong, how we can handle conflict effectively, and overcome the inevitable rough patches that will certainly come?
  • Are we able to imagine moving on if it does not work? Can we even see when we might need to?
  • And if we stay, are we prepared to look at our relationship and ourselves in order to bring things back on track?

Dr. Jenner provides the answers to these questions and more and challenges the reader to go back to basics. Through his tried and tested concepts, he sheds light on relationships that often fail because the couples involved have forgotten the fundamentals of human interaction. They forget to listen; they forget to communicate what they are feeling or thinking. They make assumptions without having any real evidence in front of them. They blame their conditioning, their childhood but sometimes fail to realise that they have choices; choices that can make or break their relationships. They fail to realise that doing nothing is also a choice.

The consequence of doing nothing is that they live mediocrity. They have mostly given up and have accepted wrongly that the relationship is in such a deep rut that it seems impossible to save. Yet, they unhappily stay and avoid making the tough decisions that could make all the difference. So is there really any hope for a successful relationship? And what does it take to get there? Dr. Jenner answers: 

“Relationships are the most frustrating; complicated joint venture we can ever become involved with. Yet, they are the most rewarding and intriguing experience we can ever have if we get it right with the right person. Building a relationship on the four pillars of Trust, Honesty, Respect, and Mutual Benefit will virtually guarantee success. It may take some time and a few bad experiences to finally get it, but the journey is worth undertaking. Reach for the ideal, allow yourself to believe it exists. Nothing is perfect but very good and excellent can be had with the right work and insight”.

 Dr. Nicholas Jenner’s Bio:

In his long career as a therapist, Dr. Jenner has been at the business end of changing the way couples and individuals think about themselves, others and the way they see the world. Using effective methods and applying realistic thinking, Dr. Jenner helps the people he works with to realise their full potential. With couples, he helps individuals to make use of their strengths to bring about function and harmony. Working on the conditioning they brought into the relationship, he teaches them to make use of the window of opportunity they have to manage conflict and enhance connection.


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