Sarah Lewin - Inner Smile TherapiesCounselling and Psychotherapy in Nottingham

Current posts. Library Image: Counselling

Who is Therapy for?

For a long time now, we have seen counselling as support for those people who are in a dark place. Those who are depressed, or have severe anxiety and panic, personality disorders, or are addicted or suicidal. Counselling is seen as something we do when we are at our lowest and can’t cope.

That’s how I saw it too, but since I became a qualified Psychotherapist, I now realise that each and every one of us can benefit from Counselling.

The reason I now realise this is from having years of personal therapy myself.

I dabbled in it before I trained. I saw Hypnotherapists as well as counsellors for short term therapy when I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s because I just felt lost. I was just not happy with my life and I wasn’t sure why. I wasn't depressed, I just wasn’t happy, and I had no real reason to be unhappy, I just didn’t know where I was going in life, and how can you expect to reach your destination when you have no idea where you are going?

It was part of my training to pay for ongoing Counselling through the full 3 years of my course, which was definitely more than I needed, so I was glad to stop. However, I have since gone back to it as I have found myself going through a tricky time lately, due to some relationship difficulties and bereavement.

What I realise from my own counselling, and counselling others is that we all have times in our lives when things don’t make sense to us, when we might need some support. We might experience a life transition, such as retirement, redundancy, or the end of a relationship, or loss of a loved one.
Importantly, counselling isn’t always about talking endlessly, but also about problem solving and awareness. Enabling you to better understand who you are and to realise your strength and strengthen your resilience. It can last a few weeks or a few months, and thats up to you.

What Counselling offers is a relationship like no other. Though it does take a while to build that relationship, it can be so refreshing, liberating and healing to share and explore life and ourselves with a trusted, unbiased other.
Some are lucky enough to have this person in their lives. Someone to share their deepest fears and darkest worries, hopes and dreams, and insecurities, and not fear judgement or criticism. But many of us don’t have that person.

I have realised how important this relationship is. Ok, it may not be not free, but its genuine. There is warmth and understanding, confidentiality and most importantly, no judgement.

Contrary to popular believe, Therapy is not for the weak. It takes courage to be vulnerable, look hard at yourself, and to make changes, Most of us hate change, but as Albert Einstein said “If you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same results”, so without committing to making changes you will stay stuck. Embarking on therapy itself is proof that you are ready to look at what’s working in your life and what isn’t, and how to make changes to get the most out of life for yourself and those you love.

Sharing our secrets with a trusted other means we can let it go, it really is a weight lifted, and once it is out, in the room, it can be viewed from a different perspective. To be able to untangle all of those thoughts and beliefs that have been holding you back and to see them for what they really are.
Counselling has allowed me to offload my mind and connect with my heart and to understand what it really means to be understood. To have someone sit by your side, to walk the same path and catch your fall. That’s worth paying for because, for me, that is priceless.

Sarah Lewin - Counselling, Psychotherapy and Coaching for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery and Anxiety Clinic online and in person at Magnolia Therapy Centre, Mapperley Park, Nottingham NG5, and Ransom Wood Business Park Mansfield NG21


Current posts. Library Image: Doorway of Hope

What is Anxiety?

What is going on in my body when I experience feeling of Anxiety?

That’s a good question, and the answer is, a lot. But in this blog I am going to keep it very simple and generalised. I will delve deeper into each section in further blogs for those who are interested in knowing more.

Some may not be so interested in what is going on but just want to know how to get rid of it. I know that is how I felt about my anxiety, but I found the more I knew and understood, the better able I was to take control of it. I also found it fascinating to learn what an amazing organ our brain is and how its sole purpose is to keep us safe and alive.

So, what is going on?

Fight, flight, Freeze Response

Early humans were exposed to the constant threat of being killed by other tribes or wild animals. Therefore, since time began this has been our natural, survival or stress response. It’s automatic and allows us to react quickly without even thinking.

When we feel threatened and afraid, the amygdala automatically activates the fight-or-flight response by sending out signals to release stress hormones that prepare our body to fight or run away or freeze.

What’s going on in the body

It all begins in the amygdala, where signals are then sent to the hypothalamus, which stimulates our autonomic nervous system (ANS).

The Autonomic Nervous System consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system drives the fight-or-flight response, the parasympathetic nervous system drives freezing. How you react depends on which system dominates the response at the time.

When your ANS is stimulated, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone, which prepare your body to fight or flee. These hormones are released rapidly, causing numerous physiological changes within the body.

• Your heart beats faster to bring oxygen to your major muscles.
• Your breathing becomes faster and shallower to deliver more oxygen to your blood. In the freeze response, you might hold your breath or restrict your breathing.
• Your peripheral vision increases so you become more aware of your surroundings.
• Your hearing becomes sharper.
• Your blood thickens, preparing your body for injury.
• You may sweat and shake
• Your hands and feet might feel cold as the blood is forced to your major muscles in case you need to run.
• The sensation of pain reduces.

That’s a lot of changes going on isn’t it, and how you respond to these reactions will depend on how you usually react to stress. You might also shift between fight-or-flight and freezing, but this is very difficult to control. Usually, your body will return to its natural state after 20 to 30 minutes.

Cerebral Cortex

The Cerebral Cortex, also known as the frontal lobe/s, is the rational, part of the brain system, where thinking, decision-making, and planning happen.

The Cortex allows you to decide upon a logical response. Unlike the automatic response of the amygdala.

When you sense danger, your amygdala wants to automatically activate the fight-or-flight, while, at the same time, your Cortex/frontal lobes are processing information to determine if danger really is present and the most logical response to it.
When the threat is manageable, the frontal lobes override the amygdala, and you respond in the most rational, appropriate way. However, when the threat is strong, the amygdala acts quickly and automatically triggers the fight-or-flight response or amygdala hijack. Its complicated isn't it. who would of thought that your brain is doing all of this in a split second.

How can you stop your amygdala being hijacked?

This may take some practice and persistence. You can start by beginning to take notice of your thoughts and your reaction to them (emotions). At times when you are not in full amygdala hijack (fight or flight) take time to notice your thought process. Become aware of the kinds of thoughts you are having. Are they rational or not.

Once you notice the fight-or-flight response has been activated, your goal is to calm down and take control. Remind yourself that what you’re feeling is an automatic response to fear.
A good way to get calm and stay calm is to pay attention to your breathing, and I will write another blog specifically about the power of the breath. Think about the pace and rhythm of your breathing and focus on what’s going on in your body as you inhale and exhale. Try to breathe out a longer breath than you breathe in. This eliminates carbon dioxide.

How to prevent an amygdala hijack

It is worth considering these methods to help you gain control of your anxiety and promote relaxation. I can help you to do this as we can do them as part of the sessions.

Mindfulness - This refers to staying in the present moment by focussing on what you are doing right here, right now. It gets your out of your thinking mind.
Focus only on the current moment, not future tasks or past problems.

Mindfulness takes practice, but it can be done at almost any time. When you’re waiting in the car or going for a walk, take time to focus on and become aware of your immediate environment.
At first, your mind will quickly start to wander. With more practice, though, it’ll be easier to stay in the moment.

Breathing: Another way to stay in the present is to focus on your breathing. Notice the air moving in and out of your nose and how it changes between inhaling and exhaling. Try to visualise a balloon in your belly, expanding with every breath. If its easier to count then count, this helps you stay focussed.
As mentioned earlier let the out breath be longer so breath in for say 5 and out 8.

Meditation. By relaxing your body and mind through meditation or deep breathing, you can change your brain’s focus from responding to a threat or stress to inner peace and calmness. The are plenty of videos and recordings on You Tube and you may find Apps such as Calm and Medito helpful.

Reasoning. This means you use your frontal lobes to think the situation through, review the possible options, and choose the most rational and logical way to respond.
The more you practice these techniques when you’re not experiencing an amygdala hijack, you will be prepared to use them the next time you’re in a stressful situation, and with practice your response to the trigger will become more manageable.


The modern world is full of stress. We often feel this psychological stress when we see things on the news or social media, such as dangerous events and natural disasters.
Your amygdala can’t tell if these threats are real or imagined, so it responds to this stress as if it’s a real physical threat to you, and triggers your fight-or-flight response.
You can prevent or stop an amygdala hijack by breathing, slowing down, and trying to focus your thoughts. This allows your frontal cortex to regain control. You can then choose the most reasonable and appropriate way to respond to the situation.

Practicing these techniques regularly can help prepare you for stressful situations.

(Adapted from information on

Inner Smile Anxiety Clinic can help you to take control and find inner peace and calm when you didn’t think it existed. We will use techniques such as breathing and guided visualisations as well as Neuro Linguistic Programming to help you master your thought processes and your physical responses to threats in 4 – 6 sessions typically.

You can email me for more information via my website or at


The Road to Recovering from Narcissistic and emotionally immature parents


All narcissists are emotionally immature but not all emotionally immature people are narcissists.

Emotionally Immature parents come at the relationship from a me-first position. Once you understand this you may find it easier to not take their rejection so personally. Though that is no easy task.

Over the years you may have begun to recognize that the relationship didn’t feel right. That your parent/s didn’t behave like other parents and there is a lot of conflict and conflicting emotions.

You may have noticed;

  • Your parent/s have little or no empathy for you or anybody else.
  • They are intolerant, judgemental, and opinionated.
  • They have a air of superiority
  • They play the victim if you stand up to them
  • Your feelings weren’t considered and weren’t asked about
  • If you expressed any feelings or opinions they were dismissed
  • Activities and conversations were focused around your parent/s interests/wishes rather than yours.
  • They have no self awareness of how their behaviour affects others.
  • They blame others
  • They make you feel guilty or bad for not doing what they want you to do.


This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the many traits of emotionally immature parents, but you may be able to tick a few of those.

As a child, you long for a healthy relationship with your parents, and you have probably tried REALLY hard to have this kind of relationship with them, and have been left feeling sad, frustrated and angry that you just seem to get the opposite of that. Growing up  you longed for that connection with you parents, with positive communication and affection. That’s only natural. As Lindsay Gibson PsyD states “feeling love from an emotionally immature/narcissistic parent is like trying to experience the mountains by looking at a photo – you can see they are there but you can’t experience the emotional connection to them”. You have been missing that emotional connection your whole life.

Other feelings you may have been missing are;

  • Acknowledgment
  • Good communication
  • Praise and approval
  • Affection and encouragement
  • Being seen
  • Feeling special


The road to recovering from emotionally immature parents requires;

  • Nurturing your relationship with yourself
  • Learning to trust and experience your feelings, good and bad.
  • Understanding that it was never your fault.
  • Understanding there was nothing more you could do to change the situation.
  • Accepting that you have little control over changing the situation.
  • Appreciating what you have achieved despite what was missing.
  • Nurture self-compassion and self-care.
  • Treat yourself in a way you would have liked your parents to treat you (reparenting yourself)
  • Allow yourself to experience joy and love.
  • Fantasize about your future and what you would like to achieve.
  • Understand what your needs are.
  • Practice Mindfulness and Meditation for positive mental wellbeing.


Sarah Lewin - Counselling, Psychotherapy and Coaching for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery and Anxiety Clinic online and in person at Magnolia Therapy Centre, Mapperley Park, Nottingham NG5, and Ransom Wood Business Park Mansfield NG21

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