Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Projection aka The Sophie Cat WILL be lonely for me while I'm away

According to wikipedia (such a reliable source I know) Freud says that "projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one 'projects' one's own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires and feelings onto someone else". In my work, I see projection a lot, however I haven't really been thinking about it a lot in terms of myself, and certainly not in terms of my relationship with Sophie Cat! Today I went to see my counsellor, who I see about once every five weeks or so, just to check in, and she pointed out to me that I seemed to be placing a lot of care and concern on what Sophie Cat might be feeling about life events worry about how they might affect her, without really being able to clearly articulate that I might be having similar feelings.

Monday, I got the keys to my new house. My new roommate and her cat move in on Thursday, and the cats and I move in next Wednesday. Then the last two weeks of September, I am going on a vacation with my dad and leaving my cats with my roommate to look after. Naturally, I expect that Sophie Cat is going to hate this. That she's going to have anxiety, that's she's going to be stressed, that she's going to pine for me. I worry that she'll get sick, or stop eating, or go back to her old evil, angry and hissing self. I worry that she'll hate the new cat and that things won't work out. I worry that she'll miss me terribly. And while these concerns are semi realistic (cats don't like change, especially Sophie Cat, there may also be some projection going on here).

Perhaps, I'm a bit nervous about not liking my roommate, just as I'm worried that Sophie will hate the new cat. Perhaps I'm a lot worried about getting homesick for my house and my cats, just like I'm worried Sophie won't like the new set up. Perhaps I'm worried that with my limited diet I won't be able to find food I can eat. And I'm sure there's some part of me that worries about what it will be like spending two weeks with my father. (I probably won't start hissing any more than I already do though...)

So these week, I plan to spend more time paying attention to projection. Not just what I'm projecting onto the cat, but what I'm projecting on to other people. I think it's an important thing to look at, particularly with clients, but in my personal life as well. It will be interesting to look at, and see if I notice anything. Also, I think I'll pay a little extra attention to my Sophie Cat. For both ours sakes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

on disclosure and/or did I tell you that?

That's a picture of her highness madam Sophie Cat licking out the inside of an empty cat food bag. I always give them the bag to play with, but I've never seen her disappear completely into it until tonight. The picture reminds me of being a counsellor in some ways, because for the most part, we stick a lot of our personal lives away in back corner and we don't talk about them with clients; they only see a little piece of us, like the tail sticking out of the bag. It's not a perfect metaphor, but the picture works for today's topic.

As a counsellor, I try to be quite "real" with clients. I share perhaps slightly more about my personal life than some, but I think for the most part, I really am quite guarded. All of my clients know I like cats, of course, they can't help but know as soon as they set foot in my office. Many of them also know that I have a second job and where it is, and I'm okay with that. For the most part though, that's it. I see know point in giving out information about my personal life unless it's relevant to the client and in their best interests. The point of counselling is certainly not for me to tell MY story. When I do groups I think I tend to share more of myself, simply because I am constantly having to come up with examples. Even then, they mostly revolve around fairly generic things, such as the fact that I have friends, and a family, nothing very specific.

Because of the above, it surprised me, when a client recently commented not just on me moving into my house, but on me getting a roommate. You see, I very much do NOT remember telling her this, and I'm really not sure why I would have. I might have shared with the group she was in that I was moving (and honestly it was probably in the context of cats, and how they don't like change, and how people don't either), but I have no idea why I would talk about the roommate thing. I didn't tell my family till yesterday. I mentioned the situation to a couple people on my team and the best we can figure is that the client must have over heard me talking to my coworkers at some point, listened, and remembered. Either that or I'm really not paying attention to what I'm saying.

I think, regardless of how the client found out about the details of my life, it's a reminder to watch what I say at work. I need to be more mindful about disclosure and make sure I am keeping the focus on the client, including the small talk we make. It also means that I probably need to watch my volume and watch where I am talking to coworkers, especially remembering that the room we eat lunch in has vents which carry sound quite far. There are definitely some things I share with coworkers, particularly over lunch, that I wouldn't want my clients to know about.

As professionals, there is so much power in what we say, and I think it's good to remind myself o this more often than I do. Words have power, and clients pay attention to what we say. Time to start paying closer attention to my words.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Birthday Number 25

I wanted to do a birthday post, of some sort, a sort of recap of my twenty fifth year on the earth, but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to post, so you get a mix of things.

For starters, you get to read about what I did today, because today was awesome. I decided to make the best of the whole not being allowed to/give the opportunity to not work today (I pouted and cried yesterday, today was for celebration). I was up early anyway, seeing as best friend texted me at 707 to wish me a happy birthday, and the cats were up and meowing. Dad and I met with the lawyer's office to sign all the papers for my house, then hit the Starbucks. I took him to my church's garden (which I'll DEFINITELY have to write about sometime) and we drove past my house. Then I did a flow class at yoga. Came home, ate lunch, watched tv yada yada, then off to my doctor for a quick check up and med refill and it was time for the second Starbucks visit of the day! (It's my birthday, why not). After that it was time for my flow II class at yoga then birthday dinner with my dad and sister at my favourite vegan burger place! They even have dairy free soft serve with gluten free cones, so I can EAT it! And that was my birthday :) A very good day if I do say so myself!

Now, for my reminiscing part. Things that have happened since I turned 24 last year.... hmmm
-Well, there's the obvious ones. My grandmother died, and then my mom died, right close together, so this has been a sad year in many ways.
-I decided to house hunt and bought a house!
-I became senior staff on my team and we had almost a complete staff turn over
-I became president of our union
-I deepened some friendships, let go of some others
-I learned a TON about yoga and how my body works
-I went back to counselling (and still go, on and off)
-I started seeing my naturopath
-I started getting massages
-I cut way back on my inhalers (I also stopped taking them completely for a bit, before the asthma nutrition plan, and couldn't breath deeply enough to do a sun salutation)
-I started playing Ultimate Frisbee (which is aweomse!)
-I went to Ottawa, Washington State, Washington D.C. and Richmond Hill Ontario (and got to do Moksha yoga in Ottawa and Richmond Hill)
-I broke my caffeine addiction but discovered that I still really like coffee
-I taught Sunday School, which I always said I'd never do again, and wound up liking it
-I said no to more things then I've ever said no to before (and the world didn't end)
-I decided to go to Malawi
-I began to enjoy wine only do have it disappear due to the asthma plan
-I learned more about motivational interviewing and am getting better at putting it into practice
-I came more to terms with my ethical and moral beliefs about suicidal clients

And well, I'm sure a lot more! I bet that didn't even touch most of what I did this year or what I learned, but I'm falling asleep as I type, so the list is as good as it gets!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Do you ever feel trapped? Like everything you do is just the WRONG thing to do. Feel like you can't win, no matter what? That the harder you try, the worse things get? That's how I feel today, and I've been busy trying to talk myself out of it. I wish I could elaborate, because it's a complex story and kind of mind boggling really, but it's the kind of thing I really can't put on the internet without risking serious repercussions. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that I'm spending my 25th birthday (tomorrow) away from the office through no choice of my own and I'm rather displeased about it. It was initially a punishment of sorts, disguised as an offer of good will, then became a true offer of good will, however, it's an unnecessary offer, which places me behind on some work that I need to get done. I will say that at NO point was my work with clients affected, and the last time I checked, being stressed about one's upcoming house purchase on one's lunch break wasn't a crime. But, it is what it is. And I can't even sleep in :( have to meet the lawyer at 9 anyway.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

awkward questions/compliments

Something I talk about in the classes I teach on Assertiveness, Self Esteem and Criticism, is that a lot of people have a hard time accepting compliments. So often in life, we are unable to take compliments at face value, and we have a hard time accepting them as positive. Sometimes it is because we are wondering about a hidden motive, what does this person want? Why are they being nice to me? Other times, it is because we don't believe it ourselves, when we feel badly about ourselves, it's hard to imagine that others don't feel similarly. I'm sure the following conversation is fairly normal in your life as well.

"Nice outfit today!"
"Oh, this old thing, I found it in the back of my closet"

"You did a good job on that project!"
"(list of all the things that went wrong on the project)"

Because I am constantly teaching this, I've tried really hard to work on it myself, and I really think I've improved at taking compliments, except about one issue. See, here's the thing, in January, I did a detox at yoga, and after that, my naturopath put me on an asthma nutrition plan which cut out eggs, wheat, dairy, chocolate, wine and beer. So, since January, I've lost more than 40lbs. I am still not even half way to being a "healthy" weight for my height, but it's a big change, and it's quite noticeable now. I have a really hard time with this. Part of the problem is that I was happy with my body the way it was before, and I'm happy with my body the way it is now. I'm enjoying the weight loss because it's been good for my yoga practice, and I'm almost out of plus sizes so the thrift store will have more clothes that fit me... oh, and towels wrap around me better! I am not, however, obsessed with the weight loss. I stick with the eating plan because it has helped my asthma A LOT. I've cut back a huge amount on the inhaled steroids, from two puffs, twice a day to one, once a day, and the only time I have asthma symptoms is when I eat things that aren't on the plan, (like the s'mores last weekend!)

How does this relate to compliments? Well, I've started getting a lot of "compliments" on my weight loss. And I'm really having a hard time with it. I've been trying to get to the root of why, but I'm having a difficult time analyzing it. Part of it, I think, is that it seems too personal, but my body is something the world sees everyday, of course my coworkers and friends will notice the change in size. If I get a new hair cut, or new makeup, they notice, why wouldn't they notice this. Then there is a part of me that feels that I don't deserve the compliment, that I haven't done this to lose weight, that I'm not cutting calories that much (I eat a lot of tortilla chips and jelly bellies). The simple fact is, that with cutting out eggs, wheat and dairy, and continuing with my yoga classes, I must be eating less than I put out. I've had to eliminate frozen pizza and ice cream and lean cusine frozen dinners from my daily eating, and it makes a big difference. I also had to stop eating most desserts and snack food. So, I feel like I'm not putting nearly as much effort into this, in a direct way, as all the times I did try and lose weight and failed.

So really, I think the issues comes down to the weight. I don't like that the focus is on weight. I don't like that it's something we compliment people on, and yet in some ways, I think we should? I have a lot of thoughts about it, and I'm having a hard time getting them out. On the no side, as in no, we shouldn't compliment people about their weight loss, my thoughts are as follows.
- Self Esteem and Self Worth should not come from physical image or outside things. Giving compliments about this does not promote internal factors.
- My sister has an eating disorder, as do many, many others, and this is a huge trigger thing.
Then there's my thoughts on the we should compliment people side of things.
- Science has shown us over and over that obesity is rampant, and a huge cause of health programs, should we not applaud people's efforts to be healthy?
- (This goes with the one above, I suppose) if someone were to quit smoking, we would applaud it, if they were to quit drinking, we'd compliment them, why wouldn't we do the same to weight loss?

I think what it comes down to, is who the compliments come from, and how their phrased, at least in my book. For example, when my supervisor compliments me, she says things like "you've really changed a lot of your habits" and she encourages me in my healthy eating. When her supervisor compliments me, she says things like "you're a lot smaller, have you lost weight?" I find the questions harder than the compliments, I suppose. People telling me I look good, I don't seem to mind nearly as much as people telling me I look good I because I've lost weight, or that the weight loss looks good. I have a really hard time with those, and I question, did I look that bad before? I was okay how I looked then to! (I also really hate it when anyone calls me a skinny minny, or really, when anyone uses the word "skinny".

I suppose, this has no conclusion. I haven't answered any of my questions. I still don't know whether it's good or bad to compliment someone on their weight loss (thankfully I'm so oblivious I never notice when someone loses or gains weight, so that part of things is not an issue for me), and I still don't know why it bothers me so much when people compliment me on my weight loss. Thoughts for another day, I suppose.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Things I've Learned

Today I got the clients to do an exercise for the last day of group in which they had to think of ten things they'd learned. Either things about employment, or coping skills, or job searching, or themselves, and so I figured that while they were working on it, I'd try and come up with ten things I'd learned in the past four weeks as well. I came up with 14 and thought I'd share them.

1. I am an adult... for real (I think I learn this one at least once a month though)
2. B12 shots rock my world
3. I don't want fixing, I want support (again, I learn this one a lot)
4. Half moon pose needs to be done from my finger tips
5. How to do a proper headstand the "yoga way"
6. How to stake peas and beans
7. It might not happen even when it feels right
8. Don't drink drinks made by a certain friend
9. How to be a better "mark" in ultimate frisbee
10. Gluten free buns are kind of gross (but they're buns I can eat so I eat them anyway)
11. Your SIN card no longer counts as ID for criminal record checks
12. Republic of Doyle is a great Canadian show
13. Cats at the office are good, transporting said cats to/from the office is not
14. Sophie Cat is a good judge of character (or at least dislikes the same people I do).

Grumpy Sophie Cat

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Melancholy: a deep, pensive, and long lasting sadness.

I think that melancholy might be a good word to describe how I'm feeling right now. It's hard to explain really. When my naturopath asked me today, the best I could come up with was "contemplative" and that didn't quite do it, so I thought about it some more, and melancholy really seems to fit, especially the part about being pensive. I'm not sure quite what I'm thinking about, and some of it's definitely good, but I'm definitely thinking, and pondering, and just generally, pensive.

The number one thing on my mind these days is "growing up". Now, I don't mean that in the way of now I'm not a kid anymore, I've just noticed lately, that I'm more grown up and more comfortable in my roles than I used to be. I've been working with a few people at the shelter lately who've been younger than me (which is a nice change, to be honest) and it's started to really strike me just how much I've grown and changed since I started working there more than three years ago, and for the most part, in a good way. When I started working there, everything was new and exciting, and I had story after story after story to tell. I was enthusiastic, wanting to learn, and always looking for something to do. I see that a lot in our new staff, especially some of the younger ones. Now, it's not that I'm not enthusiastic, and I don't do extra stuff, and I still LOVE learning and hearing people's stories, that stuff is still all true, I guess it's just that I've settled into my role. It doesn't need to be exciting anymore though, I'm okay with quiet shifts; if there's nothing to do, I'm okay with sitting back and observing. Situations that I might have found exciting, or scary, or challenging in the past are no longer quite so extreme. I don't think I've hardened or become bitter, I just think I've adapted, gained experience and gained confidence. I've also gotten a lot more experienced in how things work in terms of policies, staff dynamics, and client dynamics, which helps A LOT when working in social services. New staff ask me questions, and now lots of times the answer is "I've stopped asking" (I haven't decided if that's good or not, one gave me a great ethical dilemma that I'm still mulling over).

And then there's my full time job. I've been working as a social worker/counsellor for more than two years now and I am now the most senior person on my team. Some days I feel like I'm really comfortable in my role, that I'm a good counsellor, other days, I feel like I'm just playing at my job and not really doing anything. I realize that's normal and I may never get over it, I've just been thinking about it a lot more lately. Counselling is such a hard thing to evaluate though, in other professions I might be able to have objective measures of how things are going, but I find it very hard to figure out this. I mean, most clients thank me and make another appointment and are hopefully moving towards there goals, but there are also a huge chunk of clients who drop off the face of the earth, or who don't move towards the program goal (employment) and I have to close their file whether they like it or not. (Someday I will work in a program that does not have a specific end result and where success is not measured by only one outcome, and my job security does not depend on the percentage of clients who meet that goal).

Finally there's me as a person. I've had a few different people lately compliment me on how friendly and how nice I am. I have a hard time with this. Not because I don't believe that I'm friendly and nice, because I am, but because I feel like I haven't been putting any effort into being friendly and nice and there is so much more I could be doing. I almost feel like I've been avoiding being friendly and nice, and yet, here I am, getting these compliments. This both confuses me and gives me hope. I'm glad that I am coming across that way, because it's the person I want to be, but I wish I could see it in myself. I guess I'll just have to watch harder!