The Ripple Effect: How our Feelings can Change the World

Feelings Emotions | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

Feelings Emotions | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

You know those days when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. You feel irritable, low on patience and everything feels overwhelming.

What happens in your interactions with others? Maybe you’re a bit snappier with your kids? You roll your eyes at your partner’s joke that he has made to try to cheer you up. You don’t let someone pull in front of you in traffic.  It’s really hard to listen to your co-worker’s complaints again.  

And then you feel guilty. You didn’t want to feel like this or treat others badly. You want to have a good day. You beat yourself up and vow that things will be different. And maybe they are. And sometimes, despite your best intentions, things still feel crappy.

How about those days when you are feeling great? You are feeling energized and positive. Your kid is freaking out and you are able to get to their level and diffuse the situation.  You look at your partner, feel grateful for your imperfect relationship and give them a hug. This time you do let someone go ahead of you. You are able to empathize with your co-worker; she is really having a hard time.


How we feel has a ripple effect. Our emotional well-being impacts how we interact with both our most intimate friends and complete strangers. How we treat them may impact how they treat someone else later that day.


So, now  I’m responsible for the emotional well-being of everyone else?!?!?

Of course not.  We are all ultimately responsible for our own well-being.

I cannot make you happy.

You cannot make me happy.

However, our emotional experiences do not happen in a vacuum. We affect others and others affect us. Even if we decide to live on a deserted island all by ourselves, our lack of others will affect us.  It’s part of being human; we desire connection yet are scared by it.

The truth is we are all the walking wounded. We all have our emotional bump and bruises. For some of us, our emotional injuries are catastrophic. We differ in how we tend to those wounds.

Some of us pretend that the wound doesn’t exist, even though it’s gushing blood.

Some of us pick at our wounds. We scratch and pick and can’t find relief.

Sometimes we allow the wound to heal, but a bump or jostle can make it twinge.

Then we go out into the world and we interact with other wounded people. Sometimes we find solace when we find someone who truly gets our wound, because they have a matching scar. Sometimes our wounds make it impossible for us to connect, even though it’s what we so desperately need. Sometimes all we can see is someone’s wound and not the person that they are underneath all that messiness. 

We are expected to be the perfect parent and empathize with our kids, even though we have never been on the receiving end of empathy ourselves. We are expected to have this passionate, amazing romantic relationship even when we have no clue what a realistic relationship looks like. We are expected to maintain relationships that are incredibly harmful to us to keep up appearances.

We are the walking wounded.

This can be a pretty depressing thought. It definitely doesn’t me give the warm fuzzies.

However, it is amazing to be a witness when someone acknowledges their wounds. When rather than shaming, judging or criticizing yourself for an emotional response, you allow it to happen and understand why it’s happening.

You start showing yourself compassion and kindness.

You start making choices that are healthier for you.

You make space for true connection with others.

The healing starts.

And then the amazing ripple effects happen.

You may make someone feel so much better just be being authentic and honest. You are finally able to put all of those parenting strategies into place because you are actually functioning from a healthy place (have you ever noticed how so much parenting advice doesn’t actually consider how the parent is doing?). You may model to your daughter that self-care is okay. You may model to your son that having feelings is okay. You may show your partner that you accept them, flaws and all.


I want you to heal your wounds for you. I want you to feel less anxiety, to feel that you’re enough, to feel like you’re living the life that fits for you.

However, the impact that your healing can have on the world can be truly amazing. I see it every day. As wounds begin to heal, the ripple effects begin.

Our feelings can change the world. 

38 Therapists, 3 Days, 1 Huge Lesson

Vulnerability | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

Vulnerability | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

This is a story about connection, vulnerability and showing up just as you are. I just came back from a conference. It wasn't your usual conference though. I travelled across three time zones to spend 3 days with 37 other therapists that I had never met in person. As my depature date drew nearer and near, my anxiety began to creep up.

“What if they don't like me?”

“What am I going to say? What if I sound dumb?”

“What am I going to wear?”

I knew that in order to get the most out of the conference, I would need to be authentic. Honest. Actually admit that I didn't always know what I was doing. This was both terrifying but also curiously freeing. I was not only permitted, but actually encouraged, to just show up as I was.

So I did show up, anxiety and all.

And the most amazing things started to happen.

My anxiety started to go down. I began to learn not only skills, but started to learn about myself. Other attendees were sharing about their own fears and vulnerability. Walls came down. People started sharing parts of themselves.

And then the connections started happening.

People were developing relationships. Finding kindred spirits.

Soul sisters.

Spirit animals.

People who had only met the day before were sharing their struggles and supporting each other. We had found our tribe. A group of people that understood us, appreciated us and wanted to support us as we grew.

At the end of the conference, many tears were shed. My own protective shell had completely crumbled and the soft marshmallowy core of me was seeping out of my eyeballs. We were sad that we were parting ways but also so grateful that when we showed up with vulnerability, we were received with warmth, acceptance and kindness.

This is what we all need. We need our tribe. We need to feel safe to just show up as we are. We need those people who we can be vulnerable with.

But it's so, so hard. Even walking into a space filled with therapists, some of the most non-judgmental, empathetic people in the world, was really scary. Leaning in to our own vulnerability leaves us feeling so exposed, so at risk for hurt and rejection.

However, the alternative is just as scary. If we walk around all the time with our walls up, we miss the opportunity to truly connect with others. By tapping into our own vulnerability, we are able to truly show up and then allow others to show up as well.

Here is a challenge for you; show up just as you are. We want to see you.

Please share this with the people that you truly want to see #ShowUpAsYouAre

Communication Problems: The Cause of Relationship Angst?

Communication | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

Communication | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

Do you ever feel that you and your partner are speaking two different languages?  Do you feel that your partner doesn’t really understand what you are trying to tell him or her?  Do you feel that you have the same discussion again and again, without making any progress at all (if anything, it feels like you’re further apart than you initially were)?  Has it got to the point where it just feels easier to avoid certain types of discussions, even though you know they need to happen at some point?  Does it feel like communication problems are the root cause of much of your relationship dissatisfaction?  If any of this ring true, you are definitely not alone.

Without fail, every couple that comes through our door identifies one major issue in their relationship; communication problems.  They describe a never ending pattern of trying to have the same discussion again and again, never fully resolving it.  They end up frustrated, exasperated and feeling like they just spent the last 15 minutes trying to communicate with their partner in two different languages.  Every couple turns to me and says “We need to learn to communicate better.” However, are communication problems really the issue?

There is no doubt that there are communication skills that can help people communicate more effectively such as active listening, reflection, and not interrupting.  These skills are relatively simple in theory and most people are capable of using them.  When I work with couples, almost everyone is able to demonstrate these skills when interacting with me.  They are able to listen to me, take in information and provide me with information about their own experience.  A lack of communication skills is relatively infrequent.  However, when they try to communicate with their partner, all of those skills go right out the window.  How does it happen that two people, who have the basic skill set, go so off course with each other?

Often it’s not a lack of communication skills that is the problem, but rather the emotional intensity between partners that interferes with truly being able to listen to each other.  We enter relationships because we want to feel that there is that one person who understands us, will listen to us, support us and even when they don’t quite get us, will work really hard to at least try.  When we feel that our partner is not really listening or understanding us, this can trigger some intense emotional reactions.  We may feel sad that they don’t seem to care about us or our concerns.  We may feel anger that they are not agreeing with our perspectives.  We may feel attacked, and in response, go on the defensive.  All of these responses, while very understandable and normal, greatly impact our ability to communicate with our partners.  If we are feeling overwhelmed emotionally, it is very difficult to actually listen to someone else; it’s kind of like trying to have a calm, rational discussion while trying to flee a burning building.

Rather than attributing our relationship difficulties to a communication skills deficit, it is more likely that we are having a hard time truly connecting with our partners.  We want our partner to show us that they are truly listening and trying to see things from our perspectives and it is likely that this is what they want from us as well.  

How do we solve these "communications problems?"

1. When approaching your partner, make it your goal to understand their perspective.  S/he will be much more likely to try to see your point of view if they feel listened to.

2.  Really listen to what they are saying; stop planning what you're going to say once they are finally finished.  Just be in the moment with your partner.

3.  If you feel your emotions intensifying, let your partner know.  This can be a cue to take a step back, re-establish a positive connection with your partner, and then continue.

4.  Some ways to re-establish a positive connection can be to hold hands, use humour, recall a discussion that went well, or simply sitting with each other.  It may be useful to discuss ways to re-establish connection prior to more serious discussions.

5.  If things get too emotionally intense, try to put the brakes on the conversation.  Reassure your partner that you are not trying to avoid the conversation, but delaying it until you are able to truly listen.

When we feel that we are being listened to and understood, it is much easier to use the communication skills that we have.  It is when we are feeling emotionally intense, that things tend to get challenging.  Establishing that emotional connection can make all the difference in communication.

Can I Be A Good Parent and Romantic Partner at the Same Time???

Parenting Partnership | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

Parenting Partnership | Agnes Wainman | London Psychological Services

I recently posted an article to our Facebook account about the impact of focusing on children on a romantic relationship (you can find the original article here).  This article really seemed to strike a chord with people, often with the painful acknowledgement that their relationship had been sorely neglected since the arrival of children.  Relationship satisfaction tends to dip (or sometimes plummet!) when a child arrives on the scene.  

How can you protect your relationship, while balancing the needs of a family?

  1. View your romantic relationship as the foundation for your family.  Trying to raise emotionally healthy children while the parents’ relationship is suffering is kind of like trying to build your dream home on a foundation of quicksand.  Children thrive when they feel secure within their family units and part of that security comes from a healthy parental relationship.
  2. Make spending time with your partner a priority, even if it means cutting back on activities for your kids.  There is an epidemic of over-scheduling our kids, while severely neglecting our own self-care.  Kids need the freedom to play, explore and just have down time.  While parents often feel guilt about scaling back activities, you are not doing your kids a disservice if they are not in activities every night!  They have a lifetime to learn and develop interests.  While they are off playing, make couple time a priority.  Ask your partner about their day, what is worrying them, what is making them happy.  These moments of connection are hugely beneficial for your relationship.
  3. You and your partner are on the same team, even if you have differences in opinion.  Different philosophies towards parenting can create friction and disagreements in a relationship.  When you and your partner are feeling frustrated with each other, remind yourselves that you are both working together towards the same goal.  You both want well-adjusted, successful and happy kids, but may just different ideas on how to get there.  Reminding yourselves of this common goal can help you both feel less defensive, more co-operative and more open to hearing out the other’s perspective.
  4. Don’t neglect physical intimacy.  While your sex life will undoubtedly be affected by parenthood, try to maintain affection within your relationship.  Hold hands, give hugs, make a point of kissing each other hello and good-bye.  This will also model to your kids the role of physical affection within a healthy relationship.
  5. Don’t forget what first brought the two of you together.  While you’re slogging through the parenting trenches, it can be easy to forget your partner was once a very attractive, appealing human being!  Out of all the possible choices, you picked this person to be your partner.  Remind yourself what it was about this person that got you excited!  That person is still there, you may just need to look a bit harder to see them again.
  6.  Envision what life will be like with your partner once your kids are grown and gone.  Will you have anything in common?  What activities would you like to do together?  What do you want your lives to look like during the empty nest phase?  Having goals and visions of the future can help us keep our relationships on track.  If we don’t put the effort into our relationships NOW, the likelihood of those visions coming true is relatively low.

As with all worthwhile endeavours, the secret to maintaining a strong romantic relationship while parenting is that the relationship needs to be made a priority.  It is so easy to lose sight of our partner for the person that they are when we are mostly seeing them as our co-parent.  However, by making our romantic relationship a priority, we are providing our kids with a healthy model of relationships, investing in the future of our relationship, and doing something that makes us feel good!  Your relationship is worth it.

Do you feel loved?

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, we are bombarded with symbols of love.  Hearts, chocolate, flowers, cupid.  Restaurants are bursting at the seams with diners out for the “most romantic night of the year”.  Romantic songs are on constant rotation on the radio.  You cannot escape from all the LOVE, which can be great if you feel that you’re a full member of the love club.  However, for those who are struggling in a relationship, these can be painful reminders that our own relationships are falling short of the love ideal. We all have different ideas about what it means to love and to be loved.  Often, those ideas may even be very different from your partner’s.  This is where a feeling of disconnect can occur.  For example, imagine Bob and Sue (a fictional couple).  Sue makes Bob a cup of coffee every morning and leaves it for him on the counter.  At some point, Bob stops drinking the coffee (caffeine is making him a bit too jittery!).  Sue stops making the coffee.  One day, Bob confesses that he is hurt that Sue is no longer making him that cup of coffee.   Sue is confused, because Bob didn’t drink the coffee so why should she make it?  Turns out that the simple act of Sue making a cup of coffee for Bob, made Bob feel loved.  He felt thought of, cared about, loved.  It didn’t matter to him that he didn’t drink the coffee, the sight of that coffee cup on the counter every morning was the meaningful part.  Sue had looked at the act in a very practical way, it was not a special ritual in the way Bob had viewed it.  If Bob wasn’t drinking the coffee, why make it?  Now Sue gets it.  That cup of coffee was not about the coffee, it was about loving Bob.  She goes back to making the coffee (decaf, of course!).

So often, our acts of loving are missed, or we miss when we are being loved.  It is like we are trying to speak to our partners in a different language.  We need to start speaking the same language.  For this Valentine’s Day, ask your partner “how can I make you feel loved?”  Tell your partner what you need to feel loved.  You may be surprised at what you discover!