Monday, November 16, 2015

The ones to avoid. A guide to dating and dumping men.

The ones to avoid. A guide to dating and dumping men. Dedicated to the romantics among us (ok I include myself in that). Over the years I have met many women and a few gay men who have been really hurt having tried to make unworkable relationships function. I think I should start a dating agency for sane people. Well okay sane(ish) people.

Here follows my list of people to avoid and take steps to protect yourself:

 Mr “it’s not you it’s me”: The simple statement above really means that he is a mess or just not that interested. It belongs to the same group of pathetic guys who say “you deserve better than me”. The answer is YES, you really do so close the communications before you get hurt. Mr man who says this is also likely to be a manipulator, best dealt the card of silence.

Mr “Invisible”: Now this guy is the kind that isn’t ready to go anywhere with you. He likes to keep his friends apart and wont introduce you even after months. After a reasonable time if he doesn’t go for dinner, coffee or even add you to facebook it is time to run as far as you can. I have heard of this all too often and always ask what he is hiding. If you are good enough to date he should be proud of you and want to explore new things with you and to introduce you to his friends.

Mr “I was going to”: Oh dear, now this one is the type that never plans anything. If you have a need he may not offer to help out. Oddly enough you might offer to help him more than you get back. You may be the one who arranges all the future dates and nice things to do.

Mr Empty Handed: You rush home from work having stopped off to do shopping because Prince Charming is coming over for dinner. You chop, prepare, make, blend and tidy the place to impress and then Mr not-so-right arrives empty handed. If his mammy didn’t teach him to bring something, it isn’t your job to do so. I would offer a warning shot and wait for the next time.

Mr Silence: Have you ever felt alone while dating a guy? Many people have been through this one. Sitting over a meal or even at home when Mr Man goes into his head. Now some silences are fine but there are those excluding silences when you just know you are not part of his life.

Mr Words not actions: You know the drill here. The “you mean everything to me”, “I would do anything for you”, “You are the most important person in my life”. Do the behaviours show this? Do they arrive on time? Does he really make you feel important or are you second fiddle. Does he follow through on what he has agreed to do? He may even offer to help with something but does it ever happen? (I though not). Check and ask him to do something reasonable and see if it happens. It’s not in my nature to quote the bible but “by their deeds you will know them”.

Mr “expressionless” Mmm say for example , it is his birthday or some other celebration. With excitement you make plans, gigging as you go imagining the response. You prepare, wrap, decorate and eventually give him his present. He sits there glazed over and expressionless. OUCH what a let down. This is a guy who wasn’t expecting niceness. We all need someone to do the dance of happiness with. This guy just isn’t going to get that. It could be time to send him off with his presents into his future.

Mr Gaslighter: Ouch to this one. This is a cruel form of treatment that should NEVER be tolerated. This is where a guy says or does stuff which he denies after. From the most simple things to more detailed. The impact of this behaviour is to undermine confidence of the victim.

Mr Victim: Okay you have spent ages trying to be patient. He has told you how much better you deserve and how he doesn’t know how you put up with him. He promises to improve and does but eventually slips back to default mode. You point this out saying you want things to be okay and he goes into rage. He will say “I am sick of being blamed for everything”; notwithstanding the fact that he is only being blamed for the stuff he does wrong. In fairness it could be your tone or stress level but in this case the defensive twister will try to remove focus from what he has done or failed to do just to make you feel bad. Mr victim may eventually calm down and accept his errors and want to try yet again.

In conclusion: Okay ladies (and guys) you have tried your best. Isn’t it time you really got someone nicer. The fact that your may have tried to make it work just means that you are a nice person, deserving of love and respect without having to fight for it. It’s a big world. While there isn’t anyone perfect out there you can always find better than the above. Be careful out there you might even have a fun, stable normal relationship if you aren’t careful.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Toys for Christmas

I recently had a mother describe how this year she would not be able to buy new toys for her kids for Christmas. Sadly in this 'recession' there are many people in a similar situation.

As the woman spoke of buying second hand toys, I imagined faded colours and recalled the great pleasure of ripping boxes open as a kid. In fact, one of the greatest pleasures as a child has to be the element of surprise and tearing paper of a box to reveal a shining new toy. A greater pleasure as an adult is seeing the expressions of delight as a little person opens a pressie (or maybe that is just what I think.)

As the woman tearfully sobbed I felt very moved and upset. I don't normally problem solve but this person was not a therapy client. After a brief internet search, I noticed the Society of St Vincent de Paul website and gave them a call.

The SVDP have been doing brilliant work for years and this year is no exception. They have had a campaign with Ryan Tubridy to collect NEW toys for kids. When I called their office the person I spoke with was so compassionate and helpful. She advised me that they have loads of new toys for people who cannot afford them. I immediately passed her details to the mother. I don't know if she called them but I hope she did. It might just solve a problem.

If you happen to know anyone in the same situation who needs a dig out - ask them to look up their local SVDP branch or check out the website on

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cars and Psychotherapy

Now, some of you who know me will be aware that as a kid I worked in a garage (Yes, it may surprise you but I was almost a mechanic). One of my favourite things to do was to get a broken car in, try to figure out what was wrong with it, repair it or even make it better and better. Sometimes, that involved a re-spray, an engine overhaul, or simply a bit of polish. It was always fun to see a customer collect their motor and to have it in a better state than before. Now that strikes me as a good approach to most things in life.

Given that I trained for many years as a traditional therapist, I spent a lot of time reflecting and thinking about many things and the best ways to work with clients. In Ireland, part of therapy training is that students are required to 'gain insight into their own process' (do therapy as a client) before being allowed to work with real people. Luckily enough they deemed me suitable to be released on the world of clients.

My own therapy, as a student, involved sitting through many hours of 'head nodding' and great empathy from some therapists who clearly believed that the telling of a bad story seemed to create some kind of 'Understanding and Insight', much valued by some therapists. (and indeed, of much value(€$£) to others.. I recall at one point having a really bad therapist who answered her phone mid session and often called me by the wrong name. (Needless to say I decided not to continue with such attention and soul searching!). I had another one who kept telling me all of his problems - so i decided as I was paying him, it was not a good idea to continue. The poor guy had a lot of issues but I am sure he is working them out with his poor (and i mean the word literally) clients.

I often wonder why people feel that if they are talking about a bad situation they are going to feel better. Now compassion and understanding are things I value but wallowing has never made me feel better. If it works for you please let me know and I will add your comments to this article.

Some therapists seem to believe in the great value of exploring the past. And again, this does seem to be of tremendous value (ahem) to the therapist. I often wonder how useful this is for clients. You see, if you take the car thing mentioned above, this could be a bit like bringing your poor old banger to the garage very very often. Now the psycho-analysts would love you to bring the car at least 4 times per week and ask it to make random noises. The appointments would last over many years and the poor old mechanic would have a great insight into why the car didn't work in the first place.

With the work of Carl Rogers, we discovered the 3 Core Conditions of effective therapy (1) Congruence - the therapist being real, (2) Empathy and (3) Unconditional Positive Regard. These things I like and work with all the time, although I do like the challenges suggested by other theories such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and the creative wisdom of Gestalt Therapy. I do often wonder though how 'real' the head nodders are in the therapy relationship.

It is funny, we encourage clients to be real and yet don't tend to model a full selection of emotions. How many therapists do you know who would have the guts to be angry with a client? There may be some and I hope there are. I am also priviledged to know a handful of happy therapists.

Now of course, the Rogerian Approach with the car would be to have it call in once a week,over an extended time period; accept it lovingly, regardless of what it had done and give it unconditional positive regard (Nice wheels say I!).

Now this might appear somewhat cynical, and indeed all those years ago in therapy school, they used to give out to me for having a sense of fun. My reports used to comment on how I used my sense of humour 'inappropriately'. Seemingly, these well intentioned people felt that I masked my emotions by laughter. Now laughter is clearly linked to an emotion called fun. It's a kind of emotion I like to feel a lot. Funnily enough!, my clients seemed to get better even as a trainee. Isn't that strange eh? Encouragingly, my placement supervisor liked my approach and was fully supportive of the work I was doing - You see I was getting tangible results, people were getting lives, starting college, gaining work (ok it was a while ago!), finding love and some even got off 'madication'.

[By the way I am not anti madication, i just think it is over-prescribed. For example, my mother was killed in a horrific car crash, in which I was a passenger, About a month after I had a chest infection and went to the Doctor, who asked how I was feeling since my mother's death. (autocue sadness!) Eh I was 16 at the time and promptly broke down in tears. Guess what was offered - a nice little course of drugs and the quote "John, you don't have to feel this way". I declined and shortly afterwards changed doctor].

You see, Over the years I have worked with many clients who also were told they didn't have to feel ......The fact of the matter was that when clients laughed they started to feel better, when asked more about the future, rather than the past they seemed to be able to get an idea of what they wanted. Specifically, what they wanted to do, to know, to feel and to achieve. Now this does not mean that they don't need to tell their story - sometimes they do - and I have noticed that once we witness what they have to say it may be time to help a client move to a better place, naturally and easily.

A few years ago I did some training in Neuro Linguistic Programming, which is basically a series of techniques designed to make people feel better more often. (see for more info - I think they brainwashed me to put that link in!). Now this seems to work really well to help clients move forward in life.

Oddly enough I don't believe in a single best way approach to anything, I am trained as an Integrative therapist. That just means that I draw on a number of schools of thought when working with clients. I like to use empathy, humour, challenge and trust to create effective and lasting change with my clients. As I become older and more impatient I like to do shorter term fast work with clients.

Ooops, I can hear the old Humanistic therapists screaming that one should work at the client's pace, and I agree partly. But isn't it more fun to see people getting better faster.

That is the kind of work I like to do and I and my clients enjoy it. Sometimes I am controversial and very direct and usually this elicits laughter. I now get referrals from friends of former clients who frequently comment on how much better X is doing. I giggle and wonder why.

So therapy should really be about making people feel better faster - that's just my view but what would I know - ask my former clients.

As I write this I am aware that my car needs a service - should I go to slow motors limited or just get it sorted?

So in summary, I don't think there is a single best way to do therapy, and I like doing short term work - In the context of the poor car, that does make sense doesn't it?

Please feel free to add to this discussion - any contribution to dialogue can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Praise of my local Priest

Ok those of you who know me might be surprised at this one but I had to note this.
I am one of those people who goes to church for weddings and funerals. So far I have escaped active participation in either of these ceremonies!

As a child of the 60s and 70s the big men in black used to be a bit intimidating and a tad judgemental for my taste.... BUT.........On Christmas Eve this year my local parish priest was REALLY welcoming to all people in the congregation. His homily was warm, caring, sincere and full of good values. His warmth is exactly what the church should be about.

At the end of the mass he sensitively announced how bad he personally felt about the crisis of abuse by people in his own organisation. He mentioned how the 'organisation' of the catholic church had let people down and how he hoped and prayed that the right steps should be taken and that certain people should resign. He also asked us to pray for healing and forgiveness. His humanity shone through as he spoke, while people wept and looked on. This was really moving. I have the utmost respect for this man and his ilk.

Well done my local PP - I liked this a lot. Your compassion, honesty and humanity are indeed gifts. Be careful or I may become a fan :)

See you maybe at Easter :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Just Listen

This is one of my favourite poems:

Just Listen
When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.
Listen! All I ask is that you listen. Don't talk or do - just hear me. Advice is cheap; and I can do for myself; I am not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.
When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy. But when you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can stop trying to convince you and get about this business of understanding what's behind this irrational feeling.
And when that's clear, the answers are obvious and I don't need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what's behind them.
Perhaps that's why prayer works, sometimes, for some people - because God is mute, and he doesn't give advice or try to fix things. God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.
So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn - and I will listen to you.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Murphy Report

How shaming it is – and what a shame it is for the men in dark dresses who for years selectively chose to abuse innocent children. Blithering hypocrites – selling lies and being moved as they destroyed the children. ... each individual child with his or her life messed up by a man who chose not to relate to someone – an adult- in a meaningful sexual relationship.

How ridiculous they are, valued in the former times of ignorance when the ‘important’ people were the priest, the doctor and the guards.

This ‘Holy, Apostolic’ church protected the evil men and shamed children, condemning them to lives of hurt and distrust presided over by generation of evil people, from Pope to Bishops to Police who knew it was all happening.

Come on, mother church, show your compassion, Be with , and help -and be -for those people whom your representatives messed up. Accept what you allowed to happen, for without acceptance there cannot be forgiveness.

Listen as I do to the howling tears, the shame that your evil men tried to shove onto children for ‘leading you astray’. Children do not seduce adults - any adult having sex with a child is an abuser.

Catholic church, you should see the the faces of innocent adults shamed in their youth by your people in the name of God. Watch the suffering as grown men weep in my office, covered in snot, raging, embarrassed and feeling nausea – wanting to puke, recalling what your men did to them; some of them now so damaged they cannot have normal relationships. These men were once innocent before your dark, evil performers ruined them in the name of your faith.

Of course, when these innocent are grown up and go mad nobody sees them – they are labelled ‘strange, odd, alcoholic, psychotic,homeless, nutters’. Perhaps when they were children they needed love from you --and they got sex and destruction of self.

I feel priviledged to be able to offer some comfort to them now, to slowly work through and heal some of the damage done by the so called 'men of God'. I am so glad that recovery has been possible for many SURVIVORS- these are not victims any longer.

Listen to the shame you have deeply instilled in young men because their bodies may have reacted to your pervishness and women shoved into laundries to work to the bone.

Visit the graveyards where the suicidal young people had no other option than to end their pain. Admit how you stood back and let this all happen, hid the bad priests and ignored what was really happening. Just imagine moving known abusers to where they would have further access to kids. That's a bit like treating an alcoholic by bringing him to a pub.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, a Human and as a Therapist working with REAL people – not those who hide behind large, rich institutions, I pray that healing will take place for all of your victims, especially the ones who cannot speak out.

I feel sorry for the good and loyal men and women who joined the now evil version of the Catholic Church with good intention – how embarrassing it must be for those committed ones who joined the church to do good. As a teenager I was fortunate to be befriended by some of the good guys and when I was in training as a therapist I was lucky to have had supervision by 2 good hearted professional religious people who wanted to do good work. I was - and am - grateful to these people.

I feel compassion, empathy and caring for those who are brave enough to stand up to their past and to conflict the demons of sexual and psychical abuse. These are the survivors. For those who cannot confront or deal with this I feel pity, knowing that pity alone does not help them heal.

As for those who hide in the church, with no admission of wrongdoing - From the current Pope to the Bishops who knew but denied and said they didnt know! - the lies that you "didn't know" just cause more harm.

This is a case of the church being so far removed from reality. So arrogant to deny love to its members, so hurtful to deny reality while storing gold. So judgemental of others yet tolerant of its own rotten core. This is the church that gave us Institutional abuse: magdelene launderies, and silence on what matters most. The church has been robbed from its own people. I do believe in God but not these cynical horrid people who cause hurt and shame. The Church needs an overhaul. Why not let them get married - even to each other if they want? Why not let them share love?, Why not allow them be human and take part in a valuable and valued society.

Why not do some psycholigical tests to screen out the paedophiles? Are they so dumb they never considered this - or did they not know about this either.

Surely, there can be no bigger sin than to know -and then choose to DO NOTHING to protect the innocent. Doing nothing is a harmful act. The harm has continued for too long and change is needed.

Dedicated with love and compassion to the many hurt and recovering survivors of abuse. John O'Connor December 2009.