Sunlight Centre - Crisis Counselling


Support for Suicide

Suicide is the act of intentionally ending one’s own life. It is important to note that there is often no single reason as to why an individual dies by suicide or attempts it. Several factors may contribute to it, making it a complex case.

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Organic Super Computer Brain

An iPad 2 can process information at 170 million operations a second, an average house cat at around 61 billion potential actions per second, and an average human brain, that weighs not more than a kilogram, and can run on the same power as a light bulb, can process up to 17.2 trillion actions per second.

The speed of our Organic Super Computer Brains create lightening quick associations between internal and external stimuli and events. For example, we walk down the street, and a song drifts out from a shop, the ears pick up the sound waves and send the signal up the audio nerve to the brain, the brain recognises it is a song, and scans our memory banks to see if we know it. The brain gets a hit! This particular song was chosen by you and your first love as “Your Song”. Then the association continues and the thoughts start passing through the filter between the unconscious and conscious and you are suddenly aware that you are thinking about a past love that you haven’t thought of in years.

What do we then do with those thoughts? Perhaps we realise we have a small smile on our face as we dwell on a moment of a past happy memory, and continue our walk, or perhaps we start feeling a sadness growing because that ex-love broke our heart. The fact is that the brain will activate those memories and thoughts, and send some to the consciousness, no matter if we like them or not. What we call our consciousness, our Self, or our Mind, then labels these thoughts with values, such as ‘bad’ or ‘good’. With these labels in place, we may then punish ourselves for having a ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ thought. This is when we focus on consciously accepting that the thoughts are there and tell ourselves that it is OK to have them. That when we sense an emotion in us, an emotion we do not want, and we then focus on redirecting away from these thoughts and with them the emotions. Perhaps it sounds easier said than done, but we will see in the Mindfulness and CBT section exercises to help make it a little easier.
Do not do the following; do NOT think of Mickey Mouse. Do not think of Mickey Mouse, his big black ears, his white gloves and squeaky voice. Do not think of him at all!! But there he is, a mouse that has been around us for decades. When we imagine Mickey Mouse or our ex-partner our brain hasn’t done something wrong, it has done exactly what it is built to do. Your brain took in each word and in nanoseconds, with association, processed the image and meaning of each word. Your brain then sent to the consciousness how all these words tie together to give a meaning to them, hence Mickey Mouse appearing.
Unfortunately for us the brain does not discriminate between what we label, as Good or Bad thoughts. With the same way Mickey Mouse popped into our mind even though we saw ‘do NOT’, that song that reminded us of our past love activates too. We may not want our brains to associate and connect to painful memories, but it will happen. Accepting this fact can help us take a breath when a thought jumps into our consciousness, offer ourselves some self-compassion, and redirect to a more positive thought.

Did you drive today? How many times did you change gears? Did you have your hands at the ’10 and 2′ position on the steering wheel? For drivers, when we first start to learn we focus so much on where are hands are, what gear we’re in, but soon we’ve slipped into unconscious competence and we are unaware of what we know, and are driving on nearly full leaving our conscious mind to focus on other tasks for the day or to be aware that there are new road works to avoid etc. Like our associations, our brain will create patterns around any repeat behaviour, no matter if it then creates or tags on emotions we wish it didn’t. This can be especially dangerous around Anxiety and Panic. It can get to a place where we are anxious about feeling anxious, instead of accepting that we have some anxiety in our system, for example, public speaking. If one gets anxious around public speaking, it may be due to a deep belief inside us that we believe the audience should not laugh at us, as laughing at us is wrong. As we’ve repeated that thought over and over, it has slipped into a pattern, and now we don’t even know the reason why we’re anxious in front of a crowd anymore, we now get anxious over feeling anxious, and don’t delve further.

Mindfulness can be a fantastic tool used with our Organic Super Computer brains. Mindfulness is to be Aware of the psychological events of the brain, of the thoughts and emotions. Imagine our brain flowing like a river, and thoughts and emotions are debris floating down the river, like small leaves and big great logs that are hard to avoid if we were in the middle of that river. Mindfulness tells us that we can be standing at the edge of the river, observing the debris, instead of being in the middle of the river being hit by the debris, or overwhelmed by the large log that is flowing towards us. Breathing can be a brilliant kinaesthetic exercise to help us become aware of thoughts and emotions. One such guided exercise can be – We sit, we close our eyes, and we focus on our breathing, we consciously think about inhaling and exhaling, we think about the air feeling cooler on the inhale, we think about that small gap between inhaling and exhaling, and when our mind wanders, because it will, we become aware that it has, we label it as ‘thinking’ and we redirect back to our breathing. We can focus, while breathing, on our Hearing sense too, focus on the furthest away sound you can hear, and then focus on the closest sound you can hear, it could be your own breathing. When your mind wanders, become aware of it, label it as ‘thinking’ and redirect back to the last sound you were focusing on.
Practicing this breathing exercise of thoughtful awareness will prepare your organic super computer brain better for when a thought enters your mind that brings with it low, heavy emotions that you don’t want to have in that moment. We close our eyes, breathe, acknowledge and redirect.

There are many therapies created around the umbrella term of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, not just one over all therapy. The Organic Super Computer Brain creates belief systems in our psyche, and it is our brain that is connecting with these beliefs that then can bring up emotions. For example, if I believe my friend should not insult me, because we are friends, and then he insults me, it will hurt. If I was to reprogram that belief with a fact that my friend CAN indeed insult me, I just hope he doesn’t, there may be a hurt there, but it will not be as severe. Our brains can work better if we use Facts instead of Beliefs when dealing with situations, especially in relationships.
We can also map out our Thoughts and Emotions together with our Actions and our Physical Sensations to help recognise what is going on inside. Such as: When I Think of an exam coming up, my Emotions would be Stress, my Actions could be nail biting and pacing, and my Physical Sensation could be a tightening of my gut. I then can look at what I can directly try to change, such as consciously going for a nice stroll instead of pacing, while redirecting my thinking to the tea break I’ve planned after my exam, and with some deep breathing to help the tense stomach, I should then also realise my emotions are moving to a more lighter shade.

So next time your ex pops into your mind, or the painful stress of an exam enters your thoughts, or a sadness flows into your consciousness, take a breath, take a moment, and remember, our brains are fantastic, complicated, multi layered, versatile, resilient yet fragile, lightning quick organs, they create and deliver our hopes, dreams and fears, sometimes all in one moment. If we treat ourselves with compassion, and understanding our brains can be our best friend and most powerful ally.

Our Brain is our very own personal Organic Super Computer.

Social Media has not (fully) taken over the Youth!

Social Media has not (fully) taken over the Youth!

600 male students aged between 15 to 17 were asked their preferred communication between people they fancy / dating and the results were surprising!

In an age where we see people buried in their devices some of the older generation may believe that the younger folk are missing out, that “Ain’t what it used to be” and other Grandpa Simpson quotes!

Ken Loftus, Clinical Director of the Sunlight Centre who carried out the study said he himself was surprised at the response. “I thought that we were going to get quite a different outcome, but in science we can learn from any result, especially the one we don’t expect.”

One of the main questions asked in the study was: If you are flirting / chatting with someone you like/fancy/dating, please pick the most used way below – Face to face, Over the phone, by text, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Other.

The most used form of communication by the young men was Snapchat at 25%, the next answer, a close 2nd was the surprise, Face to Face at 24%. These young men are still talking to who they fancy the ‘old fashioned’ way! Texting came in 3rd (19%), Instagram (18%) and chatting over the phone came in last at 14%.

This shows how healthy it is to expose your children to peer social events, school socials, trips to the shopping centres and friends’ birthdays. Being able to maintain face to face conversation will increase their skill sets for when they leave school, and make sure they don’t focus too much in the world of social media.

The other main question was: What is it about people you like / fancy / dating that you find most confusing? Some of the top answers were ones that have been around as we were living in caves!

This was not a multiple-choice question. The students were able to voice their own thoughts how they liked. The top three similar things they found confusing were:

  • How do I know if they like me?
  • What are they feeling?
  • Why do they say one thing then change their mind?

And some other very relevant responses that came out:

  • They text one thing but face to face, say another.
  • I cannot tell their mood over text.
  • I think I’m a nice guy, but stigma says women might not like nice guys and it is weak to be too agreeable.

The above shows that there is another level past the ‘birds and the bees’ that young students need to know about, the emotional quotient. How does one develop their emotional intelligent? Usually through their role models, yup, that’s you the parent!

For more information follow Ken @therapist_ken on IG or through the Sunlight Centre @sunlightcentre

How we are reacting to a Pandemic

First off... you should be feeling weird and a little off! No matter what was happening before we realised there was a pandemic in our World, those relevant feelings and thoughts are still there in your psyche. Now on top of that we all have this underlying concern about COVID-19.

It is like running an obstacle race along a beach. As well as your normal every day obstacles you encounter you also now have to deal with a constant wave lapping at your lovely shoes. Your every day thoughts and feelings are present but now there is a foundation of worry to add to them. You may have been going through a difficult time and still are, with your own personal life and adding this ocean beside you is not helping with the emotional flooding you might already had.

Let's break it down a little more from the view of Trauma. When a person goes through a trauma their body goes into Alert. It means their sympathetic system is activated and the entire body wants to do something. There is a huge amount of pent up energy wanting to either Fight or Flee (the fight and flight response). And on top of that we are being asked to stay home, to do a lot less then our routine says so, and don't we love routine?

Being asked to do less, to break routine, may increase the worry and the alert phase in the body. One may feel trapped, overwhelmed and unsure what to do. Well, join the gang! This is an unprecedented situation and the governing bodies around us are, believe it or not, trying their best, as we all are, from parents to professionals.

The build up of energy, adrenaline and urges to do something is normal in an abnormal situation. To help this we need to release this energy – through movement and creation. Have you set up a home type gym? Are you taking advantage of a short walk? Try art and music as a way to release this energy too. When is the last time you baked a cake from scratch or used a brand new recipe?

We are also being asked to self-isolate. As we are very tribal creatures this phrase alone might cause worry. Many mental health issues arise from issues with our tribe: Do people hate me? Think I'm an idiot? Am I alone?

Once again normal feelings in an abnormal situation. We need to connect with another creature, from a family member in our home to a pet, from a video chat to a childhood friend to a group chat with friends, family and work colleagues. Also remember to hug yourself from time to time!

For the Parents

It is OK to not know what you're doing!! As we said, this is an abnormal time. No one currently on this planet has dealt with a world wide pandemic. We are all looking at others for support and some will be looking at you, as the parent to know what's going on!

It is OK to gently tell your family that you are unsure what to do, while at the same time reassure them you can get through it together.

Keep up to date with Facts and NOT opinions! Really monitor what the World Health Organisation (WHO) is informing the public and what your local / national government is informing the public. The news stations / websites and papers dramatise and catastrophise and swing a few heavy words in their reporting which can raise worry and anxiety.

For the Teens

You will find this challenging. Your instincts will talk of immortality, that you can not be affected by COVID-19 and you need to get out to your peers. You are more than your instincts. This is a time to raise your hand and ask "What can I do to help?" We don't mean the dishes! Although that might be nice for the people in your home, but how can you help your family / community / country.

Really this is a time your actions can help your country. If you can fight those instincts, stay home and just wait until we're given the all clear, you will help people's health and wealth as there is a knock on economical affect.

Listen to your body, mind and instincts. Use breathing exercises, mindfulness moments and the pointers above and we can come through the other side of this stronger and more resilient! 

Self-Compassion – is it just for hippies??

OK, so the ‘is it just for hippies?’ is an attention grabber! But OK… I’m kinda serious too! My background is a mix of science & the holistic. Psychology is a science, and many see therapeutic Mindfulness as a more holistic approach to counselling and for me, I tend to see that science is everywhere! So when I bring in self-compassion to my work, I ask my client “what does that mean to you?”. Many say to “love oneself” and I agree, but I also tell them about the science aspect!

On a holistic note, my favourite explanation of self-compassion is a mix of the history of mindfulness and bringing depressions best friend into the chat – rumination. The word rumination comes from the Latin word ‘ruminant’ which means ‘to chew over again’, to bring right back up that material you thought was cognitively digested! This usually happens when the lights go off in your room at night, and your head hits that pillow! The brain says – “Right… I was just having loads of fun stalking on Facebook and getting fed loads of stimuli on Instagram so I’m WIRED! And now the lights are off and the noises are lowered, so the neurological power needed for my eyes and ears can be redirected as well… redirected RIGHT BACK TO THAT THOUGHT ABOUT MY MIX UP AT THE WORK MEETING EARLIER TODAY!!! Ah that was a TERRIBLE mess, wasn’t it?! I mean I called my boss by my dad’s name, and I’m sure Sarah from accounting caught me staring… that’s going to be all over the office by tomorrow!!” What fun the brain is!

When I talk about self-compassion I usually bring in a Loftus original… if you go to the fridge and take out an old container and take a good ol’ sniff, and the contents make your eyes water and recoil in disgust, what/who do you blame? Possibly the person you think left it there, but you know who gets away Scott free? Your nose! You don’t blame your nose for a bad smell, but you blame your brain for a bad thought! We know our nose is there for smelling, but for some reason forget to realise our brain is there for thinking! “But I’m in control of my brain!” ah… I’m afraid not! That power house in your skull is calculating your oxygen, water and salt level while you’re still figuring out what socks to wear! Controlling your brain is like driving a 12 horse stage coach, over rocky terrain, with only three wheels…! It’s bloody tough and you can pretty much only guide it!

A more picturesque image is the one of 2 arrows. This old image shows its age by using arrows instead of bullets! When an event happens that we don’t like, and leaves us sad, angry, hurt, that is the first arrow. And that event has happened, we can’t change that, just try to accept it. However, if we dwell on it, ruminate about it, attack ourselves for it, then that is the second arrow hitting us, and we fired that ourselves. I have used this many times with my clients, some clients have even said that their previous day was full of second arrows! That awareness that we are cognitively attacking ourselves for a past event that has happened, instead of thoughts such as: “OK, what can I do different next time if this arises again?”

Self-compassion is self-acceptance. Self-compassion is self-awareness of our skills and limitations and knowing that our brain will think anyway. It will think of your ex when a song plays in a shopping centre, it will remember an embarrassing moment from earlier that day, but it will also help you remember your friend’s birthday and stop you calling your boss ‘Dad’… occasionally!

For more keep your eyes peeled for Ken’s Mental Health Guide Book coming soon!

Don't be a Can't ... and other Toxic Words

Our modern western society is currently going through an epidemic of mood disorders, with many going through a co-morbid hit of levels of depression and types of anxiety. The psyche lays on a foundation of base core beliefs, the beliefs that fuel most of these co-morbid diagnoses. The Base Core Beliefs have been constructed by our self-programming organic super computer brain that believes in its instinctual core that it is doing its best to protect us and have us stay alive.

Our Thoughts, Actions and use of language are the sign posts to these Core Beliefs and that is what we work on to help alter the epidemic. This paper focuses mainly on the use of Toxic Words in our daily language and shows their connection to the deeper beliefs in our psyche’s foundation.  

Keywords: toxic, depression, anxiety, base core beliefs, thoughts, language

Don’t be a Can’t…or a Have to, or a Need to… and other Toxic Styles

A therapist’s job is to listen, but to what? The tone? The deeper content below? The words themselves? Yes, of course a mix of all the above, however the words we choose to use have that direct connection into our mind. Words represent images in our minds of how we see the world around us, that doesn’t mean how the world is, but how we see the world subjectively.

The Beginning

Our brain strives on images and symbols; it was the staple diet of the earliest communication between our ancestors. The words we use daily are highly complicated images and symbols that we use to communicate daily and recognising the ones that could be harmful is a helpful step to being Mental Healthy. These potential harmful words are connected to our brain but let’s stay out of the anatomy for a moment. The Consciousness to the brain is like a tiny driver on a 12 horse stage coach, that has just lost a wheel, on a dirt road, and the horses have just been spooked by a snake. We consciously want to control our brain, with its urges and drives, but we can only guide it, and hope it all goes well. And unfortunately, at times, it guides us. The base core beliefs and the toxic phrases in this paper are locked in the organic super computer brain, deep inside waiting to be accessed and used at a moments’ notice to protect ourselves.

Facts VS Beliefs

Base Core Beliefs are exactly that… beliefs. What a resilient person focuses on more are Facts instead of Beliefs. For example: “Every has to like me” is a belief. “I would like it if everyone liked me, but that may be impossible due to the several billion people in the world having their own internal beliefs about other humans.” Is a fact! Yes, we can whittle that down a little, “It would be nice if people liked me, but it’s OK if everyone doesn’t.” If two people began a similar role in a large office, one with the belief “Every has to like me” and the other “Wow, it’d be nice if people in here liked me.” What do we predict could happen? The Belief driven worker may be a Yes person to insure more people like them, they could take every co-worker action as a personal attack that they want to either fix or punish. The Fact driven worker engages with their co-workers and eventually, and hopefully (as nothing is guaranteed) finds a click of compatible friends. If some co-workers come across as not liking the Fact driven new worker, it may sting them a little bit, depending on how they showed their dislike, but they’ll be able to bounce back because they are basing the experience on the thought “It would be nice if all my co-workers liked me, but it’s OK if they don’t, and I hope I find some like-minded people.”.

But what is Toxic?

As mentioned earlier, words we use are connected to beliefs in our minds. We may try the old advice of “thinking before you speak” but even then the words we use are driven by what we see in that moment as right or wrong, good or bad, or that we think what may be an appropriate response for the situation. In the moments where we are in full reactive conversation (not thinking before we speak) the brain is in full swing analysing what is being said, and gauging your appropriate responses.

Toxicity itself is poison. We have heard of toxic relationships, toxic environments, toxic friends. What we’re focusing on in this paper are words we choose to use that create a psychological poison in our mental health.

A Toxic phrase is one that we think and talk about. They are most toxic when they are aimed at ourselves: I am worthless, I am unlovable, I am not capable. The more used ones being: Of course I got that wrong / failed. Of course they broke up with me. I am stupid, that’s why I missed that instruction.

Like the question earlier; what do therapists listen to… they listen to the above. They hunt down the thoughts and language that are directly connected to base core beliefs that are toxic and based in Beliefs instead of based in Facts.

The Main Toxic Words

OK so we’ve talked about our Organic Super Computer Brain, our Base Core Beliefs and Facts vs Beliefs and toxic phrases, now let’s focus on the villainous words that any reader can relate to, and hopefully try to consciously change.

Have to, Need to, Should, and last of all, Can’t, so yes, please, don’t be a Can’t! Let’s start with some examples and how they relate to unhealthy base core beliefs, unconscious and conscious thoughts, and the emotions they illicit.

 So what do we see above? The Core Toxic Words having a massive influence in the Thought, which in turn has the effect on the severity of the emotion. What else do we see? Subjectivity. And plenty of it! Next step… let’s identify some Subjective beliefs that added together with toxic words can really mess up our day!!

Subjective Beliefs

For over 2 decades I have worked in the Mental Health / Caring sector and what I’ve seen most are people reacting to what they believe is right or correct. Good or bad – subjective. Right or wrong – subjective. Respect – subjective. So when we have a thought that someone ‘has’ to respect us, they would first need to know exactly our personal definiteion of respect to fully respect us. Even if we take that ‘have to’ and flip it to “I would like it if they respected me.” You’ve removed the Toxic word, but there is a Subjective belief in the sentence still. Let’s double jump this sentence… from “They have to respect me” to “I would like it if they respected me” to “I would find it respectful if they acted in x way”.

Test Time!

Well not really a test… but here are some examples but then Comment below your own suggestions!!

“You have to understand that you’re being mean!!”

What is in the above?

A Toxic Word, a Subjective View all wrapped in a Belief.

Let’s Flip it!!

“I feel you’re being mean to me, and I would really like you to take a moment to try to see it from my point of view.”

I’m afraid they still may act in a way you see as ‘mean’. That still leaves you with choices of telling them again, or even leave their company for a set amount of time.

“That TV show is wrong and disrespectful”

Flip it!!

“I think that show is wrong and disrespectful.”

“I can’t talk in front of a crowd.”

Remember…don’t be a can’t…so let’s flip this:

“I can talk in front of a crowd, but I feel very nervous about it, and today I’m going to choose not too.”


How are we doing so far? OK, quick recap… Words are important! Recognising Toxic words and phrases even more important! Creating a skill set to catch a Belief, that contains toxic words and a subjective view and then flipping it to a Fact based thought with an acceptance that others may not share our subjective belief is a Life Changing Skill!

Take three breaths and bring awareness to your words today.