Dear Therapist: My Guilt Is Killing Me!

Dear Therapist: My Guilt Is Killing Me!

Dear Therapist

I’ve recently lost a brother to suicide and I can’t live with the guilt.

We all knew he was feeling down after losing his job, but we didn’t know how bad he felt. I now just keep thinking back to the weeks and months before his death, wondering how I could have missed the signs. It’s going around in my head and I can’t seem to switch it off.

Please can you suggest how or if I’ll get over this terrible feeling?


Dear Anonymous

It’s very common to feel guilt when someone decides to end their own life. The other common thing is to play things over and over in your head, trying to pinpoint signs of anguish that you might have missed.

That’s human.  It shows empathy and compassion.

However, when it starts moving into unhealthy guilt, then we tip over into self-punishment and anxious mind churning.

It makes it hard to pass through the normal process of grief, when guilt has us stuck in a loop.
If we’re spending time thinking about ourselves and what we could have, should have, would have done, then our mind is caught processing the impossible.

If your brother had begged you for help and you refused, then you might have a need to question your actions. But in this case, he was unable to ask, or he didn’t want to ask, and he made a decision to end his life.

I’m not saying he acted in any rational way.  Suicide seems far from a rational choice.
But it was the choice he made, and you had no control over that.

What you do have control over is refusing to further disturb yourself with needless, painful, misguided guilt.



Healthy guilt or regret is natural. It’s our human warning system that’s triggered to help us change our ways. It helps us to maintain social connections and live in communities. It helps keep us healthy by giving ourselves a little nagging if we mess up our lifestyle or engage in a wrongdoing towards others.

It is NOT an emotion to tolerate when we are innocent and can’t do anything to put things right.

When you find yourself in the guilt trap, then reality can be your best friend.  It can really help to ground yourself in what is true and what is being created and made up by guilt thoughts.

You can try asking yourself questions such as…

  • ‘Is what I’m telling myself absolutely true?’.
  • ‘if I was on trial for this, what would be the irrefutable evidence that I’m to blame?’.
  • ‘What is a SANE reason for continuing to punish myself for my brother’s death?’.
  • ‘Does my current thinking help me grieve and heal or keep me stuck and feeling helpless?’.
  • ‘If I was helping a friend in my situation, what advice would I give them?’.

Whatever you come up with, write it down. When you ‘hear’ your own beliefs reflected back on paper, you’ll see that your mind is playing tricks on you. Your inner critic has gone haywire and it’s making a big mistake.

Once you start to ask these important questions you can gain perspective and live the truth of the matter.

You don’t have to move from chronic guilt to ‘over the moon’. You might instead, want to aim for moving from unhealthy guilt, to deep sadness and disappointment that you couldn’t help him.

Regret, sadness, remorse, disappointment and healthy anger, are all normal negative responses to losing a loved one. They help us process, heal and move on.

You’re already suffering the loss of your brother. You don’t need to add more fuel to an already painful fire. This is not a time to allow your inner critic to crucify you.

Put your foot down.

Refuse to join in with this cruel inner bashing.

Get back into reality and try to be kinder to yourself.  If you can make that shift, then in time, you’ll grieve, let go and start to accept what has happened.

People often think of grief as a negative thing, but really, it’s the heart and mind repairing itself.

The grief is the healing. And every human being deserves to heal from loss.

Including you.

Wishing you peace.


Dear Therapist responses are published with the full consent of those who have their problem featured.  It does not replace medical advice or diagnosis.  Please consult your doctor or a mental health practitioner if you have concerns. 

I want to hear from you!  Want some FREE HELP?  Once or twice a month I I select one email to feature here on Dear Therapist.   Submit your issue to me using the button below, and get the chance for some expert eyes on your dilemma.  Your personal details are never featured, neither are names or any information that would reveal your identity.

Linda Bebbington is a psychotherapist & life coach, specialising in beating anxiety, building relationships and overcoming blocks to success.

If you need help to heal or to build a bright & healthy future you can book a free 30 minute consultation HERE

Dear Therapist: My Team Are Making My Life HELL!

Dear Therapist: My Team Are Making My Life HELL!

Dear Therapist

I have a serious problem with my new job role.  I recently got promoted to manager of my team and I can’t cope with the staff.  The problem is I used to be one of the workers and now I’m their boss and they don’t like it one bit.  This has put me in an awkward position as I have to allocate their tasks and hold them accountable.

When I try to do so, they range from being openly hostile ‘you think you’re too good for us now’, to completely ignoring me, arguing with me or generally making my life hell.

My confidence is shot and as I’m not very assertive, so I don’t force issues with them.

I love my job and want to rise up the ranks, but how can I find the confidence I need to get my team to respect me?


Dear Anonymous

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say, ‘I’m not very assertive’.  When it comes to dealing with difficult people and managing relationships, assertiveness is one the key solutions to building connections and getting people to respect you.

It’s also common for people to struggle with transitions and change (that’s why organisations have change management experts!).  What you’re dealing with is a lot of different emotions coming at you from your team.  Some of them might be envious of your new role, anxious about being led by you, sad about losing you from the general team.

Try not to take it all too personally.  As with all change… people adapt over time.

Until that happens there are steps you can take to start addressing your situation:

1. Set down your ‘BOUNDARIES’.

Write out what you are prepared to put up with and what you are not.  Make it clear to yourself what you think is acceptable behaviour and what is not.  Once you’re clear on your boundaries, you’ll know when someone is overstepping the mark and you can then take appropriate action.


2. Drop the need for approval.

If the people you once worked with can’t remain friendly with you, then you need to prioritize your management role and let go of the friendships.  In a work situation, your job role comes first; being liked comes a close second.  You’re getting paid to lead a team, so in order to maintain your integrity (and sanity), this is where your loyalties must lie.

It doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly, fair, kind and understanding.  But it does mean that the boundaries as a leader must be kept firmly intact.


3. Learn assertiveness skills

Most people think that being assertive is something we’re born with or taught when young.  But actually, it’s a skill that can be learnt by anyone.

It sounds like you’re a ‘passive’ communicator right now, which means, ‘Allowing others to assert their rights whilst disrespecting your rights’.

And that’s not on.

You don’t have to become an aggressive ogre, or bossy, or mean.  You just need to stay clear on your requests and repeat them until action is taken.  You may have to step out of the friend zone and refuse to laugh anything off.  Keep your eye contact steady, with a gentle smile and firm tone.

At first they might think you’re being a bit weird!  Your new way of communicating may confuse them as they’re not used to you acting that way.

But hey…who cares what they think!

Show up and keep doing it.

Sooner or later they’ll get the message that they can’t demean or bully you.

You will get much better with practice and grow in confidence as you use assertive language and communication over a period of time.

You can download my free Assertive Guide here.

4. Let time pass.

When people say time is a healer…it is.  As I mentioned at the beginning of my response, change management is huge in organisations, because people find change HARD.

But all in all, people are very adaptable and when they get used to an idea, they tend to come around in the end.


5. Refer To The Rules.

On a practical note, you can get copies of everyone’s job descriptions and have one to one meetings with each of your team.

Tell them you want to clarify their job role, so you know which tasks are best to hand over to them.  During that meeting, you can ask for their advice and opinions and generally warm them up.  People love being consulted and if done authentically, you should foster some good-will.

This will do 4 things:

  • Make them feel included and part of the process.
  • Subtly get them to take responsibility for which tasks they should be doing
  • Show them that YOU know which tasks they should be doing
  • Allow you to use the psychology of ‘divide and conquer’, which means getting individuals away from the group and onto your side. Once they have this personal time with you they can get a chance to express their concerns and see you mean well.

6. Keep your cool.

Your power lies in not getting caught up in the drama of others.

Their perspectives, opinions, emotions and behaviours have nothing to do with you.  They are projecting their insecurities onto this situation and that is not your business.  You need to stick to your guns, hold onto your boundaries and let them get on with sorting out their own issues.

7. Ask for training and support.

It’s not a weakness to admit you’re struggling, it’s a strength.  If you can ask for specific support around managing transitions, dealing with difficult behaviour and being assertive, then that will take you a long way.  You can also self-study about all of those issues and read up on the material that’s already out there.


8. Work on yourself.

 If you do learn how to be assertive, but still can’t apply it…then you may have fear blocks.

Write out the worst possible outcomes, what you’re afraid of and get a real close look at what’s in your own way.  Often our fears of the present are inherited from the past and it might be time to clear some of that up.

Before you can get anyone else to take you seriously and show you respect, you have to give that to you yourself.  Assertiveness can teach you what to say and how to say it, but it won’t root out the inner self-talk that makes you doubt yourself.

You can start by asking yourself questions like:

 ‘What does it mean about me if they don’t respect me?’.

‘What’s the worst thing that can happen if they don’t like me anymore?’.

‘What’s so scary about being challenged?’.

 Ask these types of questions to get to the root of why you feel so threatened about asserting yourself.


If people continue to dislike you, then that’s unfortunate, but the sky won’t fall down.

You have been given the managerial role, I assume, because you’re capable of doing the job.  You accepted it because you wanted to challenge yourself and grow professionally.

Believe in yourself and stay on your own side.

If you know you’re making your BEST EFFORT to be fair and supportive to staff, whilst maintaining the interests of yourself and your company, then that’s the thing to focus on.

There might be days when you fret and long for your friendships, or feel overwhelmed, or get scared.

Be assertive anyway.

In the challenging times, your values and boundaries are your rocks upon which you can rest.  They are EVERYTHING.

When we decide to stand up for our rights, we need to stand strong.

Letting go of the need to be liked, or to please others takes a leap of courage… and one that must be taken if we’re going to live a life that matters.

To your success.


Dear Therapist responses are published with the full consent of those who have their problem featured.  It does not replace medical advice or diagnosis.  Please consult your doctor or a mental health practitioner if you have concerns. 

I want to hear from you!  Want some FREE HELP?  Once or twice a month I I select one email to feature here on Dear Therapist.   Submit your issue to me using the button below, and get the chance for some expert eyes on your dilemma.  Your personal details are never featured, neither are names or any information that would reveal your identity.

Linda Bebbington is a psychotherapist & life coach, specialising in beating anxiety, building relationships and overcoming blocks to success.

If you need help to heal or to build a bright & healthy future you can book a free 30 minute consultation HERE

Dear Therapist: How Can I Change My Lazy, Disrespectful Husband?

Dear Therapist: How Can I Change My Lazy, Disrespectful Husband?


Dear Therapist

 My husband gives me zero help or support.  I love him, he seems to love me, but we’ve been together for 25 years and nothing has ever changed.  No matter how much I beg, shout or plead for him to help out, he just ignores me.  He won’t help out with chores, he shows little interest in my work and he’s reluctant to do the smallest of favours for me.  He calls me an ‘old nag’ and is very hostile and disrespectful when I challenge him.  Honestly, he just constantly fobs me off and laughs when I get angry.  I used to moan about it, but that’s settled into deep lying resentment and I find myself snarking at him and putting him down. I don’t like who I’ve become.  I’m also suffering with stress, IBS and other health anxieties.  My confidence is so low and I’m wondering if I should stay or go (although I don’t really want to divorce him if I can help it).

Is it possible to change him and if not, how do I deal with the situation?


Dear Anonymous


Resentment is a natural feeling that eats away at us, when we don’t release our true thoughts and feelings.  It’s very important that you find a way to tackle your husband’s disregard for your support needs.

I guess I don’t have to point out that after 25 years, the dynamic between you and your husband, has become pretty ingrained, so it’ll take a bit of skill to turn things around.

But it sounds like you’re ready for change, so let’s see what your options are.

It would be helpful if you spent some time considering what you want to happen.  This can take the form of making some boundaries for your relationship.  This doesn’t’ need to involve your husband in the first instance.  What you can do is consider the ‘rights’ you are claiming for yourself as a human being first and a wife second.  That might be:


‘I claim the right to do only my share of the work’.


 ‘I claim the right to be respected and heard’.


 ‘I claim the right to a healthy life, free of resentment’.


You need to decide what you feel is healthy for your own happiness and well-being.  If you expect your husband to support you, then it seems sensible to start supporting yourself.  That starts with drawing some lines in the sand and deciding what you will and will not tolerate.

Once you decide on your bottom line, then you can approach your husband and discuss it.

Now before doing so, it’s important to also decide the consequences of him not listening to you, or respecting what you say.  It’s likely that after 25 years of laughing it off, he may not take you seriously.

If that’s the case, what are you prepared to do?  What action would you take if you knew for sure he was never going to support you?

Because that’s what it all boils down to when we are in relationship with another.


 And you have 4 choices:


  1. Carry on without support and keep getting upset.
  2. Carry on without support and accept things as they are without getting upset.
  3. Be equally unsupportive and see how he likes it.
  4. Leave the relationship.


Now number 4 might seem drastic and might only be an option you’ll consider way down the line when all other options have been exhausted.  Or maybe that will never be an option because you’re in this for life.  But at least you know it’s an option.

You don’t have to tolerate behaviour you don’t like.  It’s also important to realise that changing the behaviour of someone else, usually involves changing ourselves first.

That means getting our values and boundaries in place and being prepared to stick by them.

Below are some DO’S AND DON’TS when it comes to attempting to change the behaviour of someone else.  Everyone’s personality and situations are unique, so you can see what resonates, take what you want and leave the rest.




One problem that comes along with resentment is that we can stop recognising and appreciating the positive qualities of another.  We end up focusing only on the negative and as the saying goes, ‘Give a dog a bad name and he’ll live up to it’.

You can reflect on whether this is the case with you.  If you feel you’ve been overly critical, then you can make a list of his positive qualities and start reflecting these back to him.  When people feel appreciated and their positive behaviour is acknowledged, they can actually respond very well and improve in other areas as well.

You can also sit down and calmly explain to him that the situation is upsetting you and you’d like to ask his point of view.  If he’s willing to discuss it, then you might be able to resolve the issue with some ongoing adult conversation.

However, if you’re way past that, then it’s time to take some action based on the boundaries you’ve made for yourself.


DON’T behave in any way that didn’t work in the past.  If you’ve been moaning, sulking or shouting, then don’t do that.  It hasn’t worked up until now so it’s unlikely to work in the future. He’ll also have tuned you out and won’t hear it anyway.


DO – Keep your communication clear, precise and calm.  Tell him exactly what is bothering you and what changes you want to see.  Tackle ONE issue at a time, don’t throw a whole barrage of stuff at him, he’ll just shut you down.


That might sound something like this:


‘When I asked you for help this morning and you told me to stop nagging


 I felt really upset and disrespected by that


 When I do ask for help, I’d like you to take my needs seriously


 If you can do that, then our relationship can get back on track and I can start supporting you in return.’


Now notice something about the above.

  • It will be conveyed in a calm tone, with steady eye contact and non-aggressive body language.
  • You’re taking responsibility for your own feelings using ‘I’ messages, instead of ‘you make me feel upset’.
  • You’re being clear on one specific situation, rather than a barrage of different things or a vague statement about his lack of support.
  • You’ve laid out what you want to happen in future, trying to make it a win/win

Another thing to notice is the last sentence, ‘If you can do that, then our relationship can get back on track’.  I just need to point out that giving a ‘win’ for behaviour change is always going to sweeten the pot for the other person, but it needs to be something they see as valuable.  Before you approach the person you want behaviour change from, you need to sit down and think about what would appeal to them.  If they don’t feel the relationship is off track, or they don’t care…then it’s pointless offering this as a sweetener.

The sweetener can either be a positive gain or the removal of a negative.

 For example:

  ‘If you can do that, then I will remain in the relationship and we can stay in the home together’. 

  ‘If you can do that, then I’ll no longer have to shout and scream all the time’.   


DON’T – Make any threats you’re not fully prepared to carry out.  When we do this, we’re not taken seriously…ever.


DO – Seriously consider your bottom line and what you are fully prepared to do.  If you say you’re going to withdraw all your help, or you’re going to leave, or you’re going to stop contributing to finances, or whatever…. make sure you’re geared for action.  This is not a time for false claims.  This is where you show you’re serious and you want him to take you seriously in return.


DON’T- Blame yourself.  It’s easy to start criticising yourself for being soft, but this will only eat away at your self-esteem.  Right now, you need to be on your own side.


DO – Realise you made mistakes long ago and got into patterns and habits that no longer serve you. It’s normal to get into ruts and holes we make for ourselves.  Now you’re older and wiser.  Congratulate yourself for taking a step in favour of your own needs.  Be proud that you’re a nice enough person to help him in the first place.  Feel good that you’re moving in the right direction.


DON’T – Blame HIM.  This might be a tough one, but dynamics in relationships are always about two people.  There’s the one with the bad behaviour and there’s the one that’s putting up with it.  We actually train people how to treat us, with our own consistent action.


DO – Start to be consistent with new thoughts and behaviour.  When your husband sees you mean business, or realises he doesn’t like the mess he’s living in, or doesn’t like it when you don’t support him anymore…he’ll start to notice the status quo has altered.  At this point, he’ll need time to process what’s happening.  It’s going to take repetition to get him to see that the ‘new you’ is not going away…ever.


DON’T – Keep mulling over the problem.  If you keep telling yourself it’s all so unjust, he’s a rat, he doesn’t care, he’s a lazy loser etc…you’re just eating mental poison that will make you sick.  This is how stress and IBS and all kinds of physical symptoms develop.  Of course, this is not a medical diagnosis of your particular ailments, but it is based on a large amount of research that shows a strong connection between stress and symptoms such as yours.


DO – Get your mind focused on the solution you want and put all your attention there.  If you catch yourself ruminating over his negative behaviour, STOP, get quiet and ask yourself, ‘Is what I’m thinking right now part of the problem or part of the solution’?.


DON’T – Go in with the worst bottom line, unless you’re so fed up, and he’s in The Last Chance Saloon! E.g. If you don’t change I’m going to divorce you.


DO – Have an escalation process that will allow you try out softer consequences first and if there’s no response, you move down to the next level consequence, all the way to the bottom line.

This might have final assertive statement such as…

‘I’ve asked you many times to start helping me and I’ve withdrawn my support from you already. It hasn’t made any difference and I don’t feel you care.  I feel totally ignored and I feel you don’t care about our relationship enough to try.  I want to tell you that I’m going to ask you one last time to start acting on my requests for help and if you ignore me, then I’m going to seriously consider if we have a future together’.

That’s just an example.  Your bottom line will be unique to you.  I’m not in any way advising you to leave your marriage.  Just be clear on what your line in the sand is going to be.


DON’T – Expect miracles.  25 years is a long time and your husband is in an unconscious state of expectation…about you and your habitual behaviours.  It’s probably going to take you a few times of being assertive, before he will respond.  He might even get WORSE.  When we first challenge the unwanted behaviour of another, they can get very uncomfortable about it.  People can get defensive and act out in all kinds of ways, to show you who’s boss.

He might even tell you to ‘leave if you want‘, or ‘don’t you dare threaten me’….or some other aggressive or defensive response.  Just expect some kick-back and calmly keep repeating your assertive statements.  Try not to add to the drama.  Remain in your new, calm resolve to get the changes you want.  He might try to drag you into a conflict, because it takes the heat off him. If you start shouting or getting emotional, he can then turn around and blame you for being unreasonable!


DO – Be patient, because change will happen, one way or another. Whether that means your husband changes, or you change the way you see the situation, or you change your own behaviour towards him, or you leave altogether, something will indeed change.



Those are just some ideas around being assertive and influencing the behaviour of another. Try to keep an open mind and heart and believe in yourself as an agent of change.

Although you can influence the behaviour of another, there are no guarantees.

It depends on what they feel they have to gain or lose. 

If your husband refuses to change, then you might assume, he doesn’t feel he has ANYTHING to lose… and that would be something you may want to consider.

Sometimes when we challenge others, we find out a lot about their real feelings.  When they know we’re serious about taking action that involves ending the relationship (and they know we mean it), you can bet some true colours will start flying.  He is either going to not care, declare his undying love, call your bluff and risk losing you, pretend he doesn’t care but secretly does…who knows?  

But you’ll certainly ruffle a few things up and maybe clear the path to a better relationship based on truth.

You don’t need to feel pressured into making any big decisions. You can experiment with any of the above.  You may even decide that you’re just going to tolerate his behaviour without upsetting yourself anymore.

The main thing is, you recongise your options and act in favour of your own life.  Training yourself to stay calm and refusing to upset yourself about this any longer, should also help you with your stress.  When you feel stuck, your negative energy, anger and anxiety can release toxins into the body that are extremely damaging.  When you take back your power, your energy will start to flow in the right direction…and that is a life-giving process that can make you feel a WHOLE lot better.


 To Your Success.




Dear Therapist responses are published with the full consent of those who have their problem featured.  It does not replace medical advice or diagnosis.  Please consult your doctor or a mental health practitioner if you have concerns. 

I want to hear from you!  Want some FREE HELP?  Once or twice a month I select one email to feature here on Dear Therapist.   Submit your issue to me using the button below, and get the chance for some expert eyes on your dilemma.  Your personal details are never featured, neither are names or any information that would reveal your identity.

Linda Bebbington is a psychotherapist & life coach, specialising in beating anxiety, building relationships and overcoming blocks to success.

If you need help to heal or to build a bright & healthy future you can book a free 30 minute consultation HERE

Dear Therapist: I’m 250 lbs. How Do I Stop Emotional Eating?

Dear Therapist: I’m 250 lbs. How Do I Stop Emotional Eating?

Dear Therapist

I’m writing because I have a problem I just can’t solve.  I’m a 18 stone woman and I’ve tried everything to lose weight but can’t do it. 

I lose a couple of stone and then pile it back on. 

When I was younger I was very privileged financially, but my parents were absent and neglectful.  The upshot is I was brought up by a paid nanny who really seemed to love me and the feeling was mutual. 

I can trace my eating to those times when the nanny used to cook for me and take me out for cake and treats, because I tend to use food as a source of comfort.  I like to eat out 3 or 4 times a week and I always feel better when I’m indulging myself.

The problem is, when I stop doing this, I honestly don’t feel life is worth living.  Eating and treating are what make me happy.  I feel that it’s so unfair to have to deprive myself of the thing that makes me happy, in order to lose weight and be healthy.

How can I get out of this trap?


Dear Anonymous

First off, I think it’s a great insight that you connect treating yourself to the love your nanny gave you.  A lot of people who are emotional eaters, have similar connections.  Some people are conscious of their reasons for overeating and others not.

The fact that you are aware of at least some connection between feeling love and eating food, is going to help you break the connection more quickly.

You seem to have a current program that food equals love and nurture.  As a therapist I deal with a lot of people who have weight or eating issues and have all kinds of complex relationships with food.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing habits, upskilling in nutritional knowledge and putting a plan in place.

On the other hand, food as a coping mechanism, or a means of filling a void, is more complex.  As an adult you know logically, that food does not equal love, it’s a means of nutrition for the body.  But somehow these connections get made in the brain and they are often subconscious and out of our rational control.

Change has to be tackled on several different levels:

  • Breaking the connection between nurture/love and food.
  • Filling the void from childhood by addressing the emotional insecurities you’re feeling
  • Starting to build connections between happiness/nurture and something that is life-enhancing, rather than life-defeating.
  • Learning more about nutrition and getting a plan for healthy eating
  • Making lifestyle changes and decisions that support your goals


You can start with becoming curious about how your thought processes are sustaining your food/love connections.

Become more aware of what you’re thinking whilst you eat.  If you have a big cream cake and you’re devouring it whilst thinking, ‘This is such a treat, I deserve it, I’m pampering myself, I feel better when I eat cake’…then the connection will continue to be strengthened and maintained.  On the other hand if you eat the cake whilst thinking, ‘Right now I’m chewing on fat, cream, sugar and flour and swallowing it down so it settles into fat on my body’….then you will start making new connections in the brain that are more rational and realistic.

Food does NOT equal love, security, nurture or pampering.  It equals only nutrition for the mind and body.  That is a fact.

Now there’s nothing wrong with enjoying food, but when it starts to control you, then it’s best to sever the food/love connection and nip all that in the bud.

Staying conscious and aware is the most powerful thing you can do initially, to change the situation.


Raising Your Awareness

Keep a journal and note down your thoughts before, during and after eating

Check in with your emotions and thoughts and figure out what you are feeling (hurt, depressed, bored, scared, lonely, deprived, overwhelmed, sad, worried etc)

Keep a note of events in your life, both big and small and start to see if there are any patterns that lead you to eat more, or eat less etc

Take ‘moments’ in the day to practice new language and thoughts around food. Everyone has a few moments, whether they’re travelling, tying their shoes, waiting for a bus or during the adverts on TV.  Little changes and practice sessions can make a BIG impact on the way your brain takes on new ideas.

Here are some key points to think about

Never deprive yourself – This will set up a war in your head and you won’t win…ever!  That’s why conventional diets based on restriction, don’t work long-term.  The part of the brain that’s being deprived is just quiet for a little while and it’s waiting to pounce when you have a moment of weakness.  Eating little and often works best for most people, but you know your own patterns, so do what’s best for you.  Just make sure you don’t get to the ravenous stage of hunger.  When you reach that point, your imagination fires up and comfort food becomes a big picture in the mind…too hard to resist.

Check your beliefs – The brain is listening all the time to what you tell it.  You can start to reprogram your beliefs in line with reality by sifting out any unhelpful and repetitive thoughts, such as…

  • Everyone is my family is big
  • I CAN’T stop eating junk food
  • I have big bones/dodgy hormones

Some of what you tell yourself may be true. Maybe your genes are prone to weight gain, maybe your hormones or medication has you bloated and hungry.  BUT, even then you can get to optimum weight for your personal circumstances and that is better than being dangerously and depressingly overweight.

Mind your language – The brain is a very literal tool. It takes everything we say as a fact.  Avoid saying things like, ‘I’m famished, ‘I’m starving’, or ‘I could eat a full horse!’.  The brain takes on that idea and when you start to eat, it turns off the natural switch that you’re full…because…it thinks you’re STARVING.

Also mind your language around what you’re telling yourself about food and eating. You already state that, ‘I have a problem I just can’t solve.  I’m a 18 stone woman and I’ve tried everything to lose weight but can’t do it’.  Well the more you keep telling yourself that, then the brain is going to agree and make you act accordingly.

Make a list of all the things you tell yourself about food, eating and yourself and then change them to something that is an OPEN QUESTION.

Questions like:

‘What has worked for me in the past?’.

‘If I COULD do it, what are the actions I would take to reach my goal?’.

When you start to get more realistic, then you can come up with creative ways to overcome the issue.  These types of open questions get the brain working on your side to come up with solutions.

One point I’ll make here, I often use the term weight loss when I’m telling people about my services, but generally I won’t use that term during coaching or therapy unless I have to for the sake of understanding.  LOSS is a negative word and even if it’s coupled with ‘weight’ the brain just hears that there’s something that’s going to be lost and it doesn’t’ like it.  It’s always better to phrase goals in the positive, e.g. ‘Getting slimmer’,  ‘Getting leaner/fitter’, ‘Shedding pounds’, ‘Dropping weight’.

There is so much more involved around the language we use and specific words to avoid, but the above will be a good start for you.

Cut associations – The brain works in terms of pain or pleasure.  It wants to help you, make you comfortable and keep you pain free.  So, when you start glamourizing a pizza and think of it as lovely melting cheese, crunchy base and sweet tomato, it wants you to have that…a LOT.   If you think of pizza as some flour, oil, sour churned milk and plain old tomato, then it’s just a plain old circle of nothing.

See the bigger picture –  You mention ‘being deprived’ when you can’t eat what you want, but let’s check that out.  You’re depriving yourself of so much more when you eat unhealthily…here’s the data on that….


Eating Unhealthy Foods Eating Healthy Foods

Comfort and temporary relief from negative feelings or feeling deprived

Feeling like you got away with something (a secret treat)

Less thinking required

Short-term gain (minutes) of feeling better(ish)


(all the above are driven by weakness and false beliefs…REALLY)


Wearing what you want

Feeling more attractive

Increased mobility

More energy

Higher self-esteem

More freedom

Longer life/Good health

Possibly more love and affection from humans rather than sugar!


When you look at the above, ask yourself this question, ‘Which of those columns contain REAL deprivation and which column contains fake deprivation?

There’s no contest….right?

You can turn around your deprivation thinking and start seeing restriction where it belongs.  You’re actually depriving yourself of genuine self-care, nurture and love.


Filling The Void

If you don’t have a fulfilled and meaningful life, then there are many steps you can take to get your needs met by connecting to people, nature, interests and finding a strong sense of purpose in the world.  Using food to fill the void is not working. It’s a short-term fix that causes you long term unhappiness. 

A lot of our unhappiness can be traced back to relationships of one kind or another.  Either we didn’t get enough love as children, or we got spoiled, or we don’t connect enough with others, or our intimate relationships are causing us stress that we deny, or our relationship to our own self is atrocious.

If you have these strong connections between love, comfort and food, then it’s basically a relationship issue.  See where you can find this comfort in the love you give to others, the love you receive and most importantly…the love and care you give to yourself.

Never say mean things about yourself, ‘I’m stupid, lazy, the size of a house’…or whatever your current favourites are from your inner critic.  This inner critic deals devastating blows on your self-esteem and will open up the void even further.  Watch out for what it’s saying, take note and then turn it around to something that is nurturing and supportive.  

If you can’t overcome the issue, the it might be helpful to seek professional help  You can certainly check out my Hypno-Fit Program which will go a long way to getting you on the right track.

Then there are the practical steps:

Plan all your meals ahead of time and shop for them

Stay away from temptation and avoid going to restaurants, parties or ANYWHERE you feel out of control.  You can go to these places later when you have a grip on your mind power.

Hang out with people who eat healthily and temporarily avoid people who eat the things that cause you trouble.  This might sound drastic, but ask anyone attending 12 step programs for addictions, and they’ll confirm that the company they keep has to change if they’re going to conquer their issues.  You can always explain to those who matter, that you’re lying low for a while whilst you conquer your food battle.  Anyway, think about that one…it’s your call.

 As you can see, the process mainly starts with your own mind.  What you’re telling yourself is keeping you stuck in the gloom.  If you can start to change what you’re telling yourself, you’ll start to change how you feel and act.

The one idea you might want to revisit is the love and food you got from your Nanny.  Although this is a strong memory for you, with powerful associations, it’s no longer serving you as an adult.

Try some of the strategies outlined above.  You can slowly start to find new ways of FEELING love, comfort and care, without resorting to fat, sugar and flour.

To Your Success


Dear Therapist responses are published with the full consent of those who have their problem featured.  It does not replace medical advice or diagnosis.  Please consult your doctor or a mental health practitioner if you have concerns. 

I want to hear from you!  Want some FREE HELP?  Once or twice a month I I select one email to feature here on Dear Therapist.   Submit your issue to me using the button below, and get the chance for some expert eyes on your dilemma.  Your personal details are never featured, neither are names or any information that would reveal your identity.

Linda Bebbington is a psychotherapist & life coach, specialising in beating anxiety, building relationships and overcoming blocks to success.

If you need help to heal or to build a bright & healthy future you can book a free 30 minute consultation HERE

The Proven Way To Make Wise Choices

The Proven Way To Make Wise Choices

Think back to the last time you had a problem.

Can you think of something?

My guess is the answer is… ‘yes’.

My second guess is, you didn’t have to think too far back.

If you’re like most humans, you’re probably sitting reading this with your own over-flowing problem bucket.

We’re so damn good at problems.

And by that I mean having them, not solving them.

As a therapist and coach, people come to see me when they have problems.  This could be a relationship question, a personal crisis, a business dilemma, a health issue, or a loss.  Other times there’s just a vague notion that something’s up. The light of life has grown dim, they’re wandering aimlessly with a gnawing sense of ‘something ain’t right here but I don’t know what it is’.

The good thing is…my job is to get them past that problem.  But more than that, to make sure they don’t stumble so much when something buggers them up in future.

Now anyone who’s in the field of psychology, mentoring or coaching, know something important about problems.  And that is…

The problem or dilemma, in large part, is solved (or not) by the types of questions we ask. 

That means both the questions we ask as therapists and coaches, and also the questions we ask ourselves when we have a crisis or issue to solve.

So, before we explore what that means, I’ll set you a little challenge.

Here are a few real-life problem scenarios that clients have presented.  Just take a moment to read through them and take note of the types of questions these people were asking themselves.

Ok here we go…

  1. Daniel – is ambitious, energetic, talented at his job as a business consultant.  For the last 2 years he’s tried to grow his client base.  He’s failing.  Daniel comes to me at the point of giving up.  He’s scared.  He tells me his story of how the future looks, how he’ll have to go back to work he hates, how he’ll have to sell his home, how him and his wife are going to divorce because of the financial pressures. He’s asking himself, ‘Why can’t I make it, like all those other successful people…why am I such a loser?’.
  2. Renee – is savvy, kind and a mum of 2 teenagers. For the last few years she’s found parenting a ‘nightmare’.  Her kids don’t listen, she gets into scream-fests with them.  She finds herself hating them.  She wants to run away.  She’s filled with shame and guilt about being a rubbish mother – just like her own mum.  She’s asking, ‘What the hell is wrong with me, that I don’t even like my own kids?’.
  3. Georgia – has it all! A luxurious life, high-flying career, friends, good looks and creativity.  She tells me she’s stressed and needs a ‘life-style’ balance.  She tells me she wants to stop drinking so much, she wants to stop lying awake at night worrying, she wants to stop feeling lonely.    She’s asking, ‘Why am I so miserable, when I have so much?’.

Now, without doubt, they’re all in a bit of a mess.  The problems they have are real.

But did you spot the issue with their questions?

If so, you’ll have noticed they’re the types of questions we ask ourselves all the time when we hit some bother.  It’s standard to get caught up in asking questions relating to the problem we’re facing.  Questions like, ‘Why do I have this problem?’, ‘Why am I miserable/anxious/depressed?’, ‘What’s wrong with me?’.

BUT… they’re the wrong questions.

The questions they’re asking are not on the level where the solution lives.

Albert Einstein recognised this, when he told us… 

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’

Research in neuroscience shows that if we ask a problem-focused questions, we get problem-focused answers.

Questions such as ‘why am I so miserable’, will have the brain running around gathering up all the data about misery.

Now, this can bring insight and it’s useful for someone in a trouble-shooting sense.  As humans we have a need to understand ourselves and why we feel and behave in certain ways.

But focusing on the problem too long, just keeps the brain wiring-In the problem over and over and then we wallow and remain miles away from the solution to the damn thing.

And I’m not talking about life ‘situations’.  If our loved-one dies, or we get sick, or we lose our job…these are situations and events that need time for healing and repairing.

What I’m talking about are persistent problems that don’t seem to be getting resolved.  That means grief that’s never-ending.  Illness made worse by worry.  Job-loss that has us paralyzed with depression and anxiety.  Bad habits that have us bound in gloom.  Relationships that suck.

THOSE types of problems.

Research in cognitive psychology shows that if 100 people have the exact same problem, background and biochemistry, they won’t all react in the same way when their world shatters.

Some will thrive and rise stronger after a crisis.  Others will falter and fail to get over it.  Some can’t even bear to stay alive.

And what we really want to know is…why?

What are the processes that the thrivers and survivors use to get unstuck and flourish in the face of adversity?

Well there are hundreds of strategies that can be used.  And in order to embrace a fresh perspective and get out of the doldrums, the first thing we can do is back up from the problem.  Because the mind that’s creating the problem is not the one that has the solution.

Statements such as ‘I hate my life’ or ‘I don’t want this’, are normal as a starting point for change. But they should act as signals that trigger something new.  They’re NOT a place to dwell.

One important piece of research might help give us insight.

Igor Grossmann, of the University of Waterloo, carried out experiments in relation to problem-solving.  The name of the study was…

Exploring Solomon’s Paradox

For those that don’t know, King Solomon is the biblical figure known to give wise counsel.  But, apparently his own life was a bit of a shambles!  What he could dish out to others, he seemed unable to apply to his own life.  Taking that as context, Grossmann formed the hypothesis for his experiment.

Grossmann wanted to test if people were wiser when they solved other peoples’ dilemmas rather than their own.

He also tested to see whether viewing your own problems, as if you were looking down on yourself in the third person, would give better answers…rather than trying to solve it from an ego-centric perspective.

He found this was indeed the case.

He asked those in romantic relationships a series of questions related to being cheated on and betrayed by their lover.

The questions included things like:

  • Do you need more information and context to really understand this situation?
  • Is it important to you to look for a compromise?
  • How much do you consider others’ perspectives on the event?
  • How many different futures can you imagine?

The findings showed a higher level of emotional intelligence and wisdom by those who imagined it was a friend who had the problem, rather than themselves.

This has stunningly important implications for how we go about asking the right questions, in the right way.

It indicates that psychological distancing can lead us to make better decisions and solve problems more quickly and wisely.

If we want to see how this works in real life, we can look at an example.

Let’s take Georgia from the above list of clients who presented problems.

Instead of asking Georgia directly what she thinks the solution to her misery is, I ask her, ‘Imagine your friend has this problem.  What needs to happen for her to get out of misery?’

Georgia tells me, ‘She needs to stop dwelling on what she doesn’t have and appreciate what she does have.  She could be more pro-active at finding a relationship.  If she stopped drinking, she’d have more clarity, focus and energy’.

And the list goes on.

When Georgia takes herself out of the equation, she knows the answers.

It also worked when Georgia imagined herself floating up and observing herself and asking the questions from a third person perspective.  So, I ask her, ‘Does Georgia need any more information to really understand her problem?’.  ‘What are Georgia’s options for moving forward?’. 

She showed a high level of emotional intelligence and creativity, when she viewed her problems objectively and got out of her own head.

Before I share a list of things you can do to find your own answers…I have a free gift for you…


So, here’s a list of things we can do when faced with a persistent or important life dilemma:

  1. Get the problems out of the head and into the open. Whether that’s writing it all out or talking it through with someone, clarity is key.  Now at this point you might want to scream and wail…and you should.  It’s important to acknowledge and release stress, pain and frustration.  In order for the wiser part to step in, the distressed part of yourself needs to express its fears, or it will likely shut down the process and tell you, this is all a stupd idea.
  2. Trouble-shoot each problem to see what can be done. Ask questions from the third-person or as if you’re talking to a friend.
  3. Write out wise solutions that pop up and avoid letting the distressed part hijack the process, (e.g. getting distracted, saying it’s pointless, telling you this is NOT helping).
  4. Commit to avoiding problem-focused questions in favour of solution-focused ones.
  5. Be on guard for setbacks. The brain is used to defaulting to old patterns of churning the problem.  When you notice it…. stop.    Switch tracks.  Repeat until the brain catches up with the new way of doing things.

At this point you might be thinking, ‘Well Linda, you clearly don’t understand how bad MY problem is’.

And I get it.  It always feels like OUR problem is worse, different, bigger, tragic.

But we only ever have two choices…

Give our power to the problem.  Or give our power to the solution.

And they ARE choices.

Sometimes, it doesn’t feel that way.  Sometimes, the mind whips us into a frenzy.  When that happens we now have the problem, coupled with painful thoughts, emotions and self-defeating behaviours.

And here are just some of the little thoughts that tie us up…

  • I’m devastated, I actually can’t cope.
  • The universe hates me, I must have done something terrible in a past life to deserve this.
  • It’s the end of the road for me. I can’t stand it. I’ll die lonely and alone.
  • I’ll never get over it/him/her.
  • I’m going to end up a failure, a starving bag-lady, disowned by my children, old and sick, ugly and unloved, fat and worthless, unacknowledged and forgotten.

Then we wonder why we end up anxious, depressed and for some…suicidal.

And it’s not all to do with the problem. It’s to do with the faulty thinking about the problem.

And thank goodness we have a choice about our own thoughts.  With practice, we can recognise how we’re sabotaging our chances of turning everything around.

Statistics show that those who are resilient and bounce back quickly do some of the following:

Get humble – and recongise that the world doesn’t spin around their desires

Cease fantasizing – that if they keep head-butting a brick wall, it’ll magically disappear

Quit demanding – that the world and everyone in it changes

Stop the drama – of playing the problem over with a large dash of catastrophic thinking and mind-movies that are hellish

Become Intolerant – Of any thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that are self-defeating.  Laying down values to live by, owning their circle of control, being single minded in the pursuit of self-growth and empowerment

Get solution-oriented – If the problem is a ‘dilemma’, then it’s a matter or working through the pros and cons and seeing where the sticking point is.  If the problem is a ‘loss’ then it’s a matter of nurture and support until grief and healing takes its course.  If the problem is strategic, then it’s a matter of getting steps in place to overcome the hurdle and get to the goal.

Get REAL – And work in terms of the Serenity Prayer, where they ask their higher-self or their God to, ‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference’.


So, the next time your life turns into a nightmare…

Look to see what’s real and what’s not.  Look to see what you can and can’t do about it.

Have deep compassion for the part of you that’s devastated. We don’t want to be in denial about pain, we want to acknowledge it and listen to our inner fears.  BUT, then we have to take charge and not let that part try to solve the problem. Remember the solution is on a different level to the hurt and fear.


And it’s not easy.  It’s a ‘Hero’s Journey’.

The gauntlet you’re being called to pick up, is a means of transformation.

If you don’t pick it up, it’s going to trip you up over and over again. It’s lying there on the ground and you’re not going to get anywhere having a staring contest with it.

Now it’s possible that at this point in time, it’s just too heavy to lift.  You can’t do it. Your life is in bits. If you’re in the middle of a crisis, you feel like the gauntlet can go eff itself.

You don’t want transformation.

You don’t want to do the work.

What you want is peace!

And that’s normal.

We all want things change ‘out there’, because it’s so much easier than changing ourselves.

So, we might have to start slowly. We have to commit to removing problem-related thoughts one by one.

We get quiet.  We stop resisting.  We stop magnifying the issue.

And most importantly of all, we don’t let our mind run off in all directions, bringing back more misery and pain to add to an already shit situation.  Instead, we send it off to look for solutions. It’s brilliant at its job, it’ll always finds what we ask it for.

Be patient.  Be persistent.  Be relentless.

Because putting our minds to work FOR us, is the only real power we’ll ever possess.

When we accept the challenge, we’re going to face life with courage and we’re going to overcome that problem we thought would be the end of us.

And we can start by getting out of our own way.  We can start engaging with our own inner, wiser, King Solomon.

This is the secret weapon that makes the difference between those who continue to flounder and those who flourish.

To your success.

Linda B x


Linda Bebbington is a psychotherapist & life coach, specialising in wellness and anxiety issues.  She’s the creator of ‘Hypno-Fit’, ‘The Confidence Code’ and ‘Dear Therapist’…which help you take charge of your own life and happiness.

If you need help to heal or to build a bright & healthy future you can book a free 30 minute consultation HERE

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