Author Archives: jlhipkiss

About jlhipkiss

I am an American living in the United Kingdom. My hobbies are walking, running and gardening. I love anything to do with nature and being outdoors. My real passion though is my work. I'm a Person-Centred counsellor and I am passionate about helping people find their own solutions during difficult periods in their life.

Conquer the Frustration that Leads to Anger


  • Freeze frame that moment.  What are you actually thinking? The truth is it’s all in your head. Before you “fly off the handle” a thought process takes place, related to the situation you find yourself in. This thought can either increase or lower the chance of you becoming frustrated.

Examples of irrational beliefs/thoughts:

  • I can’t take this.  Really? What will happen if you have to endure another hour of sitting in traffic or waiting in a queue? Will you collapse and die? Suffer a mental breakdown? More than likely nothing so drastic will happen but you won’t be doing your blood pressure any favours by getting worked up over it. You do have a choice though. You can continue to work yourself up over the source of your frustration or you can find some way to make it more bearable, like listening to music, planning what you are going to do tomorrow, catching up on calls or doing some reading.
  • This is too much.  Too much for you to bear? If the answer is yes then remove yourself from the situation before you actually blow up. Make a quick exit and find something else to do.  On the other hand, if it’s an inconvenience, frustration or annoyance that you are finding difficult – you need to weigh things up. For instance if you’ve waited for hours in a queue you need to decide whether it’s worth it. Can you leave and come back at a less busy time? If not then consider the benefit of what you are standing in the queue for and try to find some way of spending the time productively. You always have choices. No one is forcing you do anything. You choose to do it.
  • I can’t wait that long. You can’t wait or you don’t want to wait? There is a difference. If you really can’t wait then leave and come back later when you have more time. However if you just don’t want to wait, then you have a choice to make. Does the benefit of continuing to wait in the queue outweigh the frustration? It’s up to you to decide.
  • It shouldn’t be this way.  Maybe not but it is this way. So what can you do about it? If this is the way it is then you can’t change it. The only thing you can do is choose how you react to it. Don’t forget. It’s all about choices.
  • It shouldn’t be this difficult or complicated.  Yes but it is. So how do you deal with it? You have to deal with the reality of the situation. It is not the ideal situation that you would like it to be so it is pointless to think that it should be. What is the best course of action considering the situation? Since you don’t have the power to change the difficulty or complexity you are faced with all you can do is deal with it. For instance let’s just say you are trying to fill out a complicated form and feel out of your depth. Could you find someone to give you advice or help you complete it? Or could you leave it until later when you are less tired and in a better frame of mind? If you have to do it yourself then think about the free time you will have once you’re finished, when you can enjoy yourself by doing something you really want to do.
  • I should always be happy and content.  Really? Or what? Where is that written? Is that true for everyone or just you? It is natural to want to be happy and content, but is it realistic to expect it to be that way all the time?
  • Things must go my way and I can’t stand it if they don’t.  It simply isn’t possible for things to go your way all of the time so you will have to find a way to bear it. We can’t all be first in line in every queue or crossroad in life. So what are you going to do when it’s not your day? Find ways of building up your tolerance level and make the best of situations that are less than ideal.
  • I can’t stand being frustrated. I must avoid it at all costs.  If you really feel that way then of course it is possible to avoid certain situations. Do bear in mind though what you may be missing out on through avoidance. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision as to whether it’s worth it to you or not.
  • Other people should stop doing things that annoy me.  Or what? You have no control over what other people do. You can only control how you react to it. What could you do differently to make the situation better? Think about it. You are wasting time and energy getting frustrated over things that you have no control over.

Another way to deal with frustration is to increase your tolerance level by exposing yourself to it more often.

  • Exposure – Gradually expose yourself to frustrating situations. Make a list of situations that you recognise as difficult. Then commit yourself to increased exposure. If your frustration is very severe then maybe only do this once a week. If it’s less severe then try to endure it at least once a day. Then increase your tolerance slowly. If you can tolerate your daughter leaving her bedroom in a mess, then try to go a day without tidying it up, then two days, then three, etc.
  • Rate It.  Put your frustration into context. If you are thinking, “This is dreadful!” ask yourself  “How dreadful is it?” Is it as dreadful as being in a car crash? Going through a divorce? Where does it stand in the greater scheme of things? Look closely at the source of your frustration. Compare it to your other life experiences. This will help you put things into perspective.
  • Develop Skills.  Discover more about what really gets you frustrated and develop skills to deal with it. What are the issues that lie behind your frustration? Do you feel trapped, powerless, bored? Then work at ways of doing things differently in order to eliminate these feelings. Write these feelings down and ask yourself what you can do to feel less trapped, powerless, bored or whatever. Make active choices instead of merely reacting. This will give you a better sense of control over your life and put you back in the driver’s seat. 

Control your frustration and anger. Don’t let it control you.

Jane Hipkiss Counselling – Darlington


Relationships and an Inspiring Quote from Maya Angelou


“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
Maya Angelou

I’m a great admirer of Maya Angelou.  For me this quote is one of her most inspiring. Everyone will have their own interpretation of it. This one is my own. I would love to hear other people’s views.

People often choose not to accept reality when it doesn’t agree with their image of someone, especially someone they are drawn to. They prefer to hang on to their idealistic view, even when the other person shows them otherwise. So time and time again they ignore what they see and get hurt. The art of self-deception can be so strong that people simply turn a blind eye. They manage to convince themselves (not once but many times) that their sugar-coated version of the other person is the one to believe in and that time will prove them right. Do you know of anyone who does this? If it’s you then you may be reluctant or even unable to recognise it.

If you do recognise it then the next question is: what can you do about it? Well it depends on what you want to do about it. You may want to do nothing. If so that is your choice. However if you are unhappy then maybe it’s time to take stock and look at what you can do to help yourself. Who is causing you this unhappiness? Is it the other person? Well no not really because you can’t exactly blame them for being who they are. The only person who can make a difference in this situation is you. And it’s up to you whether you choose to do anything about it or not.

Counselling can help but only if you really want to find the answers and you’re willing to make changes. The decision is yours. It’s your life. Make it a good one.

Jane Hipkiss Counselling – Darlington


How far would you go…

to gain someone else’s approval? Often I have people tell me they want to be liked. The underlying message? They need other people’s approval to give them a sense of their own self-worth. And often they will do things – not because they want to – but because they feel they should. People would want them to or expect them to. Does any of this sound familiar?

How often do you use the word ‘should’ in conversation? When you say “I should…” it generally means you don’t particularly want to do something but you feel it is expected of you.

If you use the word ‘should’ a lot maybe it’s time to reassess your own thoughts, values and beliefs. Where do those thoughts, values and beliefs come from? Do they come from you or are they handed down from others? It’s likely that they come from family or other influential people throughout your life.

I can almost hear you saying, “Yes but isn’t that a good thing? Someone needs to teach us how to behave.”

The trouble with this line of thinking is that if we follow a set of rules blindly it means we no longer think for ourselves. In a sense we have become what someone else wants us to be. We make decisions based on rules laid down by someone else and set in stone, rather than giving it careful consideration from our own perspective.

People who seek counselling often come because they feel overwhelmed by things that seem outside their control. They have lost a sense of their own identity and find themselves in conflict between what they feel they should be doing and what they really want. Often people don’t realise what it is they want. They are too busy trying to live up to other people’s expectations to recognise who they are, never mind what they want. There is no quick fix. It takes commitment and effort to make a difference.

If you can identify with any of this then maybe it’s time you started to think about who you are and what your own beliefs and values are. So what does it take to get started? It takes recognition, motivation and effort to make positive life changes but it’s never too late.

Start today by giving yourself the challenge and asking, “Is this what I believe/want or what someone else believes/wants?” Discover who you are and learn to believe in yourself. You are the best adviser you will ever have. I would encourage anyone who feels confused and out of their depth to seek counselling. Studies have shown that counselling works. We all need support at some time to find the answers. Counselling is not about giving advice but about supporting people in finding the solutions that will work for them. Recognising when we need help and doing something about it is a sign of strength – not a weakness. So if you feel that you need help don’t be afraid to do something about it. Take it as a clear sign that you are beginning to listen to your own voice and to believe in yourself.

Jane Hipkiss Counselling – Darlington

Flawed Thinking?

Give it the rock-solid test. Can you identify with any of these distorted thinking patterns?

1.      I feel guilty, stupid, boring etc. Therefore I must be guilty, stupid, boring etc. Drawing conclusions based on our feelings is called emotional reasoning. Feelings are triggered by thoughts and if your thinking is inaccurate then you can feel bad about yourself without just cause. Good examples are:

a. Filtering – When you filter out the positives to concentrate on the negatives then you make the negatives seem worse than they actually are.

Example: Jenny sits an exam and when she finishes she continually worries about the two or three mistakes she knows she has made. The fact that she answered most of the questions well is of little comfort to her as she is too concerned with the ones she answered incorrectly.

Jenny can achieve a more balanced perspective by looking at her answers as a whole and giving equal attention to the ones she answered correctly. This way of thinking can be applied to all aspects of life and will give you a more realistic outlook.

b. Polarizing – Polarized thinking leaves no room for middle ground. Things can only be good or bad, black or white with no grey in between. If we use the example above, polarized thinking might lead Jenny to conclude that she is a failure. With polarized thinking Jenny only has two options: she is either perfect or she is a failure. Since she has made some mistakes she cannot be perfect. In this instance Jenny has no choice other than to conclude that she is a failure.

This all or nothing view can make you a harsh judge when it comes to evaluating yourself.

c. Overgeneralisation – This happens when you take one incident or factual piece of evidence and use it to draw a general conclusion. If Jenny were to fail her exam she might then conclude that she will never succeed in passing another exam. This distorted way of thinking can restrict personal growth, especially if it means you begin to avoid situations where you’ve had previous bad experiences. Overuse of the word ‘always’ and ‘never’ are clear indicators that you are overgeneralising.  As a result of Jenny’s failed attempt at passing her exam, she might overgeneralise and say, “I never do well in exams” or “I always make a mess of things”. This is a get out clause that says, “I might as well not even try”. This type of thinking can lead to a sense of overall failure, which may stop you from trying altogether.

 A more realistic (and healthier) way for Jenny to view her experience would be to say, “I didn’t do well on this exam”. This way she can learn from her experience in a way that will better prepare her for the next time she sits an exam.

2.      I expect something awful to happen to me every time I pick up the newspaper and read about problems happening elsewhere. This type of thinking is an indicator that you don’t trust yourself enough to deal with the ordinary challenges of life. This habit of catastrophising serves to convince you that you are forever at the mercy of something far bigger than anything you could possibly handle, which essentially lets you off the hook (nothing I can do) when things eventually go wrong.

Learning to react to the situation at hand rather than what you imagine to be the worst-case scenario – is a good way to keep things in perspective. This will also help build confidence in your ability to meet life’s everyday challenges head on.

3.      I imagine that people feel and think the same way I do, which means that I don’t need to listen to what other people have to say. Actually mind reading is inaccurate at best and dangerous at its worst. You can miss out on important messages that tell you how someone feels if you don’t open your mind to the possibility that other people may see things from a different perspective.

The best way to find out what someone is thinking or feeling is to ask.

4.     Everything I observe around me (what people are doing and saying) is a reflection of what people think and feel about me. The world does not revolve around you so don’t assume that everything that happens relates to you. This unhealthy way of thinking means that you put your own value in question. You may unfairly compare yourself to other people and worry about what they are thinking about you. Learn to trust your own internal evaluation. It’s the only one that really matters.


5.     I resent the fact that people treat me unfairly. Your view of what is fair does not necessarily agree with other people’s idea of fairness. People have different views about what is fair and until you recognise this you will continue to feel resentful that – in your eyes at least – you are being treated unfairly.


6.     I blame other people for how things have turned out for me. Take responsibility for the fact that you have freedom of choice and can make changes if you really want to.


7.     My happiness depends on other people’s actions so I spend a lot time trying to change them to suit me. The problem with this way of thinking is that you cannot change or control what other people do. The key to your own happiness depends on your own life choices. You alone are responsible for your own happiness and it is a fruitless effort to try and change other people.


8.     I believe in certain rules of behaviour (for others as well as myself) and it makes me angry when other people don’t follow these rules. And if I don’t follow them I feel guilty. Everyone has his or her own values and beliefs, which may or may not agree with your own. Sticking to a rigid set of rules means that you are constantly finding fault with yourself and others. Don’t be controlled by the rules. Trust in your own judgement and go with what you feel is right at the time.

       Jane Hipkiss Counselling – Darlington

Which Angry Face Belongs to You?

…and don’t say you never get angry. Everyone feels angry sometimes but we don’t always show it in the same way. We may not deliberately set out to hurt the people closest to us when we get angry but the result is that we often do.

  • The Sarcastic Face – Do you go out of your way to make other people look small by being sarcastic? Sarcasm is an expression of anger that can be very hurtful to other people. Have you ever put someone on the spot by making cutting remarks or revealed personal information about someone in a deliberate attempt to embarrass them? And what about your tone of voice or manner? Do you convey contempt through the way you speak or act?

  • The Cold Angry Face – Do you withdraw when you’re angry? Pretend that nothing is wrong? Avoid showing affection? Avoid discussions that may lead to talking about feelings? This can feel like a form of mental torture to the person you are angry with, as they may be desperate to connect with you and talk about how they feel.

  • The Passive Aggressive Face – Do you engage in actions that you know are going to upset someone? Do you show up late or fail to follow through with your promises, often forgetting things that are important to the other person? When you get upset do you withhold affection or ignore the other person? This type of behaviour can be extremely frustrating to others, who may struggle to understand what is happening.

  • The Hostile Face – Do you raise your voice or shout when you get angry? Do you berate others for not being quick enough, competent enough or performing well enough?  Do you lose your patience and ‘blow up’ at people who don’t do things the way you want them to? People who behave this way are often described as having a short fuse. This type of behaviour keeps people on edge and makes relationships difficult.

  • The Aggressive Face – Do you lash out and become verbally or physically abusive? When you become angry do you have a mental picture of hurting someone? This expression of anger is the most dangerous and creates an atmosphere of fear around those who are close to you.

Most people can identify with one of these faces. Understanding which face belongs to you can help you manage your anger in a more appropriate way. But of course this only works if you really want to change. Counselling can help you discover how to make these changes so you may want to consider this as an option for getting started.

The good news is that anger can be channeled into something really positive, like making life changes for the better. Set yourself a challenge. Think of all the ways you can  put your anger to good use. It takes a lot of energy to be angry. Don’t waste it. Use it wisely. Control your anger. Don’t let it control you.

Jane Hipkiss Counselling – Darlington