You will survive : staying strong during the crazy time created by divorce.



At the beginning of the divorce process it may seem like you are signing up for open heart surgery, under minimal anaesthetic, with seemingly no guarantee of a complete recovery. You may not have even been the person who “volunteered” for this procedure. Still many get through this troubling, and sometimes crazy time, and even go on to live better, happier, and healthier lives. It’s important to maximise those activities and processes that help you come out of the process with your heart and hopes intact. 

I work with women, and men, individually and in therapy groups, to help them face the challenges of divorce and to co-parent cooperatively and with the health of their children in mind. Here is some advice from the trenches, what I see frequently, and how you might better strengthen yourself during the divorce process. 

While much of the advice I offer here would also be helpful to men, it is written mainly with women in mind.

Recognising crazy time.

Individuals experiencing divorce are sometimes perplexed and surprized by the extent of disassociation they experience during the process – feeling detached from reality and floating between shock and vulnerability. I’ve had a number of clients who come to therapy and tell me how they would, ideally, like their divorce to proceed. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have the divorce we want – no conflict, no sadness, no fighting over kids or finances, everyone acting in a mature manner, with respect for each other? Unfortunately, it doesn’t normally happen that way. 

One minute you may feel completely numb, the next filled with rage, worry, fear, then hurt and pain so great you feel your heart may actually break. At the same time, the person that you would normally have shared these intense feelings of vulnerability has become a stranger to you, perhaps even the enemy. You lose your sense of self, wonder who you are and what you are worth. 

This time, feels insane, and typically lasts anywhere from two to five years. Don’t go into the shadows alone. Find yourself some good support and constantly remind yourself, it does not last. 

You need support to survive, and even more to thrive.

This is not a time to hide away from the world. It is normally to feel embarrassed. Unfortunately, stories of divorce provide juicy gossip for bystanders and you may live in fear of informing friends (and foes) of your new circumstances. 

Whilst this does happen, at the same time divorce also reveals champions to support you, if you let them. Friends, especially those who have experience of the divorce process, are essential support. You will need at least one “been there, done that” girlfriend that you can call when you feel completely lost. 

Consider a support group. As a counsellor I run therapeutic support groups. I am constantly delighted as to how uplifting, supportive, and reaffirming these groups can be to individuals in time of divorce. If you can join a support group then do, if you can find a therapeutic group (ie run with some form of therapeutic agenda), even better. These groups allow for reflection and sadness, but also focus on the key skills that will build your brighter future. 

Other members of your household also require support, especially your children. Children are harmed by divorce in a mirage of ways, particularly if there is a lot of parental conflict. My simply recommendation for this blog – give your child the opportunity to go to counselling, not just once. Like you, they will have good days and bad days, offer counselling again and again. If you can, work with a professional to build a personalised gold standard of co-parenting that will support your children. The question is never, “will this divorce effect our child”, but rather “how much will this divorce affect my child, and what can we do to minimise this?”

Have patience with yourself, you may grieve for a while. 

Many women want recovery to be fast, and why wouldn’t you?  The emotional journey does not end once final papers are signed, although this might bring some temporary relief. Many women report feeling deflated and sad when the divorce is all done. 

You may feel tempted to run away from the feelings of discomfort until this is “over”.  However, be wary of the pressure your feelings may create. Rushing sensitive negotiations just so they can end faster than you feel you can cope living in emotional discomfort, can be a mistake – take the time you need to get the terms you want. 

Grieving can continue, even when the deal is done and you are shipping your kids from your home, to that of your ex, for their turn. Its difficult to repeatedly review the cost of a “broken family”, when the children are sometimes yours, and feel like they are sometimes, not. This is normal, it is sad, be kind to yourself, and your kids. It will get easier.

What becomes of the broken hearted?

While many people use another relationship to give them the strength to finally leave a marriage, statistically the odds of that relationship being successful after three years are not favourable. Divorce does come with the opportunity to be “newly single”, and for some is extremely tempting to test the single waters again. Be mindful not to miss some of the valuable self-development opportunities that divorce provides

Others feel they may never trust another again. We lament, “what becomes of the broken hearted?” Divorce provides a valuable opportunity to us to explore, how did I get here? Learning to know and trust yourself again, is an important recovery step to help you thrive. 

Build your better tomorrow.

It might take two, three or, even ten years, but you will feel much better in time.

Divorce is unsettling for many because they don’t know how they will survive outside of their marriage. Finding a financial and personal future is important. Even if you have ample alimony to last the rest of your days (and I hope you do), you will still need to think about what you’ve learned about yourself, who you want to be and what do you want in the future. Women who start new careers during the divorce process often come out of divorce better than those who chose not to work again. 

Build an new you. List the things you would like to try, that you felt you were not able to explore inside your marriage – perhaps travel to a new country, take up a hobby or class. Start on a journey to a new you.

Learn to like yourself: Make a list of the attributes that you like about yourself. Have your friends contribute. Pull out that list whenever you have moments of self-doubt. 

If you lose your way, try something else: If you have trouble seeing beyond today, a counsellor or coach can help to determine and build your strengths and help you to see and realize a different tomorrow.

I hope you find these guidelines helpful. Divorce is hard, and it often gets harder before it gets easier. Be kind to yourself, and remember as the great Gloria Gaynor declared in song, “I will survive”.


Angela Watkins is a psychologist and counsellor at RED DOOR Counselling in Hong Kong Her current clinical work focuses on adults in the areas of, depression, the experience of divorce, anxiety, perfectionism, career change, loss of direction, burnout, relationship and family challenges, OCD, and parenting special needs children. Angela is also training as a child consultant to better support families during custody discussions during mediation.  In therapy Angela uses a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in collaboration with the strengths model, positive psychology, systemic techniques and art therapy techniques. Every client is unique and so is their journey, hence techniques are adapted to enhance each person’s level of confidence in facing challenges in your life.


What is RED DOOR? A red door holds several life-enhancing connotations.
A red door is the traditional sign of welcome and sanctuary for weary (life) travellers.  If you encounter  a red door in your dreams it  heralds the arrival of new opportunities. In traditional Chinese mythology the red door denotes power, energy and abundance of luck and happiness.  In the area of mental health facilities, colour coded doors can denote greater or more restrictive access to the real world, the red door is typically the exit, symbolising completed healing and renewed mental strength. 



The Making of a Lioness – Hear her Roar!


go girls

Is any woman really surprised by the overwhelming response to the hashtag “me too” campaign? It appears that half the women in the US workforce may identify themselves as “me too”.  Who knows what would happen if the question was broadened to include experiencing sexual harassment, gender bias, and being negatively judged for simply “being a woman”.  Hashtag “me too” serves as a reminder that the women’s rights movement still has some way to go, and we can all play a role.

While I am delighted that my generation has experienced a broader remit of occupations they were allowed or encouraged to apply to  than our mothers, it begs the question, what attributes should we be encouraging in young girls to break the glass ceiling, end gender bias, and redefine what it means to be a woman.  With this in mind, our RED DOOR team has been redesigning our GO GIRL programme, identifying those key skills we believe should be developed in tweens and teens.


Go Girl – Essential Skill Developments for Young Women

These are the essential skills we develop in Go Girl:

Personal strengths – Identifying and celebrating what strengths you have, regularly, is investigated and encouraged. Believing you can face challenges is extremely important. Celebrating overcoming difficulties is particularly important. Young girls often to have an abundance of confidence, but by the time girls are 16-17 this confidence is harder to find. That loss of confidence can be undone.

Believe you CAN– As women we have a responsibility to expose our female teens to all kinds of achieving women so that they can better appreciate that women’s careers are being redefined, daily and hopefully, forever.

Teaching self-acceptance and healthy thinking patterns – Self acceptance is not only recognizing your strengths, it is accepting that you will make mistakes, you will experience failure, and that this is part of life. We need to teach girls to avoid thinking traps such as comparing, personalizing, labelling themselves negatively and catastrophizing. By adulthood many of us are limited by negative thinking patterns – building habitual thinking patterns that challenge these negative thoughts helps to raise teens who accept their mistakes, avoid self-punishing behaviours, and get themselves ready for the next big challenge.

Negotiating with confidence – We can teach girls confidence to negotiate in life, for job promotions, and for salaries. This starts from learning and using negotiation skills as early as the teen years. Negotiating for independence, pocket money, activities, and also performing chores as part of those negotiations, teaches girls that they can determine their future through their efforts, and that they have the right to challenge what is a fair wage for fair work.

You are not your body – You are not defined by your body, and loving your body will help you have a fuller life.  We need to teach girls that women come in all shapes and sizes, and none is better or worse than another. You are not your “fat thighs” or your “boring hair”. Speaking negatively about your body and yourself can be challenged, and need not be part of your self-talk dialogue.  You are more than your body, your healthy body gets you from A to B, and if you look after your body, it will look after you.

Relationships and boundaries – The teen years can include episodes of being bullied, feeling unpopular, wanting to be unique (while being just like everyone else), and wanting to please others for a multitude of reasons. We need to teach our teen girls to reflect on the decisions they make in friendships and if those decisions are to their benefit or cost in the long run. If teens fear being cut off from a group, we can teach them ways to stand their ground, be themselves, and be comfortable with the consequences. Having a broad range of friendships helps protects girls from this vulnerability.

Cyber security – With the proliferation of the internet, young children have access to a wealth of sites, information sources, and social media channels. A teenager can receive a thorough education (and miseducation) simply from spending a few hours a day on YouTube. Recently I discovered that our 15-year old girl had been talking to people overseas on the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) website forums! Some of the people were adults. She had sincere difficulty understanding why her parents responded to this with such horror. To her it seemed very innocent. We reiterated our cyber safety rules in the house:  Mum and Dad have access to your online profiles and may check them,  you can use your computer only in public areas of the house, never share personal information about yourself, and never agree to meet in real life (without adult supervision). This is a large topic and deserves a blog all of its own.

Physical safety – I believe that all girls should be prepared to protect themselves physically. This preparation may simply involve them being able to respond to unwanted physical attention in a manner beyond embarrassment. Helping girls become comfortable responding to negative attention may seem like shifting the blame for abuse onto them. This is quite the opposite. We want girls to know that they have the right to protect themselves, to be prepared to respond to a perceived threat, and, particularly, not to freeze in fear.

We rise, and fall together. Don’t harass other girls. – For example: girls who wear big hoop earrings or short skirts are not “hoes” or “sluts”. When girls degrade other girls in these superficial ways, they bring us all down. When we defend all girls, we all rise together.  We need to stop this gender depreciating madness.

The Safety Card – I am a keen proponent of the safety card – setting up a “what if” system to help teens imagine themselves in difficult situations and then determine an acceptable response. A safety card helps teens negotiate highly charged situations when they feel calm, helping prepare them for situations that may feel more out of control. For example, if you feel very depressed and even suicidal, what can you do?  If you found a friend was self-harming by cutting what could you do? If you found one of your friends had drunk too much alcohol at a concert, what could you do? Talking to teens when they are calm in hypothetical situations helps to acknowledge two important aspects of life in Hong Kong.  First, as adults we know that these behaviours do occur, we are not lecturing but helping them negotiate a potential situation. Second, we are enabling them when they are calm to set out set of steps that they can follow if they ever find themselves in difficult situations.


At RED DOOR we believe not only that Girls can do anything, but that they should be able to do everything. Go Girls!

The next 10-week RED DOOR GO GIRL programme will start in Feb 2018. IF you would like to enquire about this programme please contact Angela at


COMPARISON: a one-way ticket to Misery


Jane sat down next to Lucy at the school’s information meeting. Lucy started to recount details from her family’s latest holiday, “California is so wonderful in the summer and it was great to get out of town for a few weeks”. “I can’t wait until mid-term; we’ll be going to Bali again. How about you?” Jane didn’t want to tell Lucy that she and the kids were experiencing tough times financially, and there were no overseas trips on the horizon. “I don’t know yet”, she lied. To herself, she thought, “Lucy is so lucky; I am such a failure”.


People often appraise their success, their status, and their personal worth by comparing themselves with others, even celebrities. Facebook and Instagram are full of images of beautiful smiling families, exclusive dinners, children’s awards, and personal achievements. Comparing ourselves with others, especially through social media channels, can rob us of joy and happiness.

Invariably, there are will always be someone who is a better academic, speaker, sportsperson, or is taller, thinner, richer, with more Facebook friends than ourselves. When we make these comparisons, we stimulate feelings of inadequacy and bitterness. These comparisons are especially harmful to teens as their sense of self is not as yet fully developed.


 Seven reasons to stop comparing  

1)    When you constantly look at the world through a lens of “winners and losers” you will always find others who have achieved more than you. This is disorienting, and artificially casts you in the role of loser. This is damaging to your sense of self-worth.

2)    Comparing people is usually driven by inaccurate information. In the situation described at the beginning of this blog, Jane feels inadequate because she is comparing the value of “holidays”, what that might signify to others and then applying her perceptions to her sense of success. She doesn’t know that Lucy has a troubled marriage, struggles with her children, and suffers with mental health issues. We often compare  snapshots and these are often superficial, incomplete and heavily filtered (not to mention photo shopped).

3)    Constantly comparing yourself to your friends, and others, robs you of the enjoyment in celebrating their successes with them, and can lead you to see friends as rivals rather than a valuable source of personal support and fun.

4)    Comparing yourself with others is a constant losing battle. It never ends.. Striving to compare doesn’t make you feel better and can create a learned compulsory cycle of discontent, feeling “less-than”, and self-hatred.

5)    Comparisons with others can distract you from your goals. The ruminations that comparing creates zaps your energy and wastes what energy you have focusing on a perceived deficit in yourself rather than on achieving your goals in life.

6)    Comparing yourself with others will only echo the feeling that life is unfair. Some people are born with more advantages such as social connections, wealth and looks. The world is an uneven playing field. When we focus on comparisons we brood on this unfairness rather than focusing on what we have the power to achieve.

7)    Comparisons focus your attention on the outside world, rather than your inner state. When you focus on how you look relative to others, you may lose sight of what values you want to represent and who you are as a person.


Break the cycle: compare no more

The first step to breaking the comparison mindset is to acknowledge the thoughts you are having and accept them as they occur. Remember that you have choices. Decide to challenge your thoughts and how you interpret the world. Confront your perceptions. Do you have full and accurate information about a person or a situation? Does it really matter to your life goals?

Be more aware of your own successes relative to your goals. Recognize your achievements and celebrate your success rather the comparing it with the (perceived) success of others.

Appreciate more, compare less. Practicing gratitude about what you have, without looking to see if it is more or less than what others have, will increase your sense of satisfaction.

Give yourself the occasional pep talk. Tell yourself “Nobody is perfect. I deserve kindness from myself.” Rather than focusing on others, explore what you can learn about yourself.

Stop yourself from falling back into the cesspit of comparisons. Celebrate your uniqueness, find yourself a mentor to help you focus on what you want to achieve, and act to make your personal contribution to your world.


You can make your life happier, simply by stopping activities which are associated with diminishing enjoyment of life. Stop comparing, and start celebrating who you are.If you continue to have problems breaking your compulsion to compare, you might like to consider counselling.





For more information: If you would like to regularly read our RED DOOR blogs – on a range of topics from mental health and wellbeing, relationships, parenting, anxiety, sadness, bereavement addiction, and so much more – please like our FB page:


About the author: Angela Watkins is a psychologist and counsellor at RED DOOR Counselling in Hong Kong. Her current clinical work focuses on parenting, family life, parenting SEN children, anxiety, OCD, career change, stress management and divorce.


What about me? Supporting the siblings of special needs children.


As the parent of a SEN (Special Educational Need) child and a typical child, I personally understand the complexity of supporting children who have extremely different needs. Having children with SEN kids, and supporting their siblings, is a common concern when I talk to families with special needs kids, either as a counsellor or as another special needs parent.

Every day I see our typical child struggling with her sister in a manner beyond the typical challenges between siblings. Our typical child often has playdates with friends interrupted by her sister who is less capable of making friends and is attracted to this group of younger girls. Our typical child is sometimes sent to her room (frightened) when my husband and I are dealing with one of my eldest’s  more extreme meltdowns. And like many siblings of SEN kids, our typical child feels jealous of the attention, and “double standards” she perceives about our parenting.
As parents of special needs children, with IEPs (individual Education Plans) to complete, therapies to attend, extra lessons to consider, and difficult to forecast futures to plan for our SEN kids, we can burn ourselves out providing SEN support, leaving our typical kids to wonder, “What about me?”
Let’s begin with some positive news. Studies suggest that siblings of special needs children are more likely to be extremely caring towards others, unselfish, and more willing to advocate for the disabled.
While these are wonderful benefits, there are many challenges that typical kids who have special needs siblings experience as well. Siblings of SEN kids often experience a range of emotions towards their sibling including pride, embarrassment, love, anger, jealousy, fear, worry, feelings of responsibility, and these intense emotions need an outlet.
For example, a younger sibling may quickly reach levels of independence less possible for their special needs sibling. Rather than feeling pride in their own accomplishments, they may feel guilt that their sibling may not be able to achieve such a milestone.
Or, as happens in our household, a typical sibling may witness her parents’ difficulty in managing their special needs child’s meltdown due to the child’s emotional regulation challenges. This can be scary. While our daughter has a lot of love for her sister, she also finds the anger of our autistic teen extremely frightening and worrying.
Sometimes siblings feel like they are an only child, when they are not. For example, they may feel that there are limited activities their sibling is willing or able to do with them in terms of play.
Outside of the home your typical child may feel fiercely protective of his or her sibling, while also feeling embarrassed when their brother, for example, makes loud noises in a quiet setting. They may experience their friends mocking children from learning support classes, and feel torn as to how they should respond.
Frequently, when interviewed, siblings of SEN kids, mention that they often feel jealous of the attention that Mum and Dad seem to pour into the SEN child, and, at the same time, feel guilty that they feel this way. As parents, we need to recognize that it is highly possible that our easier, typical kid may be missing out on attention, and consider how to redress the imbalance.

Activities to implement to better support your typical child in a SEN home
1) Open and honest: Helping your ‘typical’ child can be improved by open and honest communication about the condition, your feelings, the division of labour, and the situation at home. Simply telling your child that the situation is “all okay” and that they shouldn’t worry, won’t allay their fears and may accidently convey that their feelings are unwanted or not important. If this pattern continues, the child’s desire to express his or her feelings may become suppressed, inadvertently heightening their concerns.
2) Super-model: Model positive ways to interact with your child with disabilities, so he or she can learn how to have fun with this sibling. Also talk with your child regarding their options when challenging situations such as meltdowns occur.
3) Fair division of labour: Try to balance household chores so that each child needs to contribute to the household within their capabilities. Yes, do give your children chores, although you probably have a helper. One child may wash the dishes or fold laundry, while the other helps with more complicated tasks, such as cooking.
4) Do not delegate responsibility: Do not expect, or allow, your typical child to be a teacher or parent to their sibling. Discourage this if your typical child starts to try.
5) Special love: Don’t forget to give special attention to your typical kid. Support them with one-to-one time, and consider basing a family holiday around their interests.
6) Educate: Hep your typical child understand their brother/sister’s condition. They should know that it is not contagious, what to expect and, if they are old enough, talk about your plans for the future of your SEN child.
7) Listen: let them express their feelings to you. It may be difficult to listen to their complaints, and it may feel hard them to be fully expressive since they may fear offending you. Encourage them to be frank, even though their opinions may be hard to hear. If you and your child are struggling with this dialogue, consider counselling.
8) Find support: Where possible, help them join a support group. This is a neutral place where they will be with other children who can share experiences, vent, and talk constructively about their siblings.

The special role of support groups
Support groups allow siblings of special needs children to meet others who have similar experiences, to discuss their feelings outside of the family, to express their needs and, importantly, to express their uniqueness. These groups offer activities to help siblings express and process their feelings of anger, joy, pride, love, jealousy and fear in an environment of understanding and acceptance. It may the first time your child may have been in such an environment.





#Family Support

If you would like to regularly read our RED DOOR blogs – on a range of topics from mental health and wellbeing, resilience, relationships, parenting, SEN life,  anxiety, sadness, addiction, and so much more – please like our FB page:


About the Author – Angela Watkins is a counsellor and psychologist working out of the RED DOOR Counselling practice in Hong Kong. Angela helps SEN families build current and future plans in support of their SEN children, helps families learn to cope with the special circumstances that occur as the parent or the sibling of a child with special needs. Together with her SEN clients she builds customised plans that help them accentuate their positive traits, and overcome specific challenges.  Angela is a SEN parent herself, and understands both professionally and personally that different is NOT less, and we all benefit by identifying find our own version of awesome.

Please email Angela at RED DOOR if you are interested to learn more about our SEN- siblings-support programme at

Are your emotions turned off?

emotions off

People sometimes seek counselling for emotional numbness – stating they feel nothing, or feel detached from themselves, a sense of boredom about everything that they are involved in, even feeling that they are watching their lives rather than living them.


What is going on? 

Emotional numbness can be a component of depression. The experience of depression varies from person to person. Our usual understanding of depression involves the feeling of sadness. Some other symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, emptiness and numbness.  Usually depression involves a person’s distortion of perception and loss of perspective . People may feel something is wrong, but cannot identify what it is, describing it as a general sense of pessimism.

When people experience depression-numbness they don’t feel much at all. They experience life without active engagement.  In my experience, clients who wish to break from this pattern are often men, perhaps because of the process of how the numbness is developed.


Why/ How does this happen?

Emotional numbing is not a deliberate or conscious choice by individuals. Sometime the reason for exists in your childhood. Children may have faced extreme situations and, as a consequence, believe that expressing emotions or sensitivity would be responded to negatively. This protective reflex continues longer than was originally necessary, even when danger or judgement has been removed. It can become a permanent way shielding to feel nothing.


What is a proposed treatment?

The path to numbness is complex, as is the path out. Part of the challenge is understanding personal and deeply seated motivations to avoid the experience of emotions due to a fear to being overwhelmed by feelings. While you may not like the numbness, the alternative may seem terrifying.

Therapists working with emotional numbness will help clients safely identify emotions, experiment with small (safe) doses of emotional identification, which help thaw through the protective shell that has been developed. Clients have to believe there is a benefit to learning to feel again. The benefits are recovering and accepting yourself, learning to love your life, and perchance, to experience true happiness.

If you feel you are struggling with emotional numbness please consider counselling. Be patient with yourself, it does take time to feel again.





10 ways to move from GOOD to GREAT


The final months of the year often signal performance appraisal time in large corporations. Wondering how you can improve your performance at work, and your career in general, from good to great? Here are our top ten recommendations.

1)      What is your WHY?

Without a clear vision of what you want to achieve, and a proper understanding of your compulsion to accomplish that goal, you may be rowing frantically in circles. Identify your goal and its purpose so you can determine a route to row.  You need to have a plan in place.

Even then, you will need to really love the job and the path. To be the best at what you do, you need to adore the job you do. Otherwise you may not have enough energy to commit to the journey. If you don’t know your WHY or your WHAT you can explore this with a coach or counsellor.

2)      Develop the mindset of a champion

A champion connects his or her capabilities to their passion. What are your strengths that are relevant to your goal? How can you best apply these to distinguish yourselves from others in the workplace?  But don’t stop there.

3)      Practice positive habits

Champions practice self-reflection – looking for ways to learn and improve. Reward yourself for your investment in yourself and your future.  Stick with your commitment to growth. It is not that you won’t fall down, once, twice, or maybe even five times, what matters is that you get up every time and continue on your journey.  Consider alternative ways to solve a problem if your first ideas fail. Remember the words of Voltaire, “no problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking”.

4)      Hustle for results

Understand what problems your company needs you to solve, and commit to bringing about results which will solve those problems. During your yearly review ask your boss how she/he will know you have been successful in your role. From their response build a plan, the backbone of which is your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you will be measured by and can use to benchmark yourself. Now you know your goalpost, aim for it, and communicate your successful results upward. When you do, acknowledge the support of your team, and your boss, in helping you achieve these results. This highlights you as grateful, as well as focused.

5)      Build a winning team

If you want to be great at what you do, do not model or tolerate mediocrity or laziness from your teammates. Your team is a reflection of you. Surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak. These people will amplify your impact, and help you with your blind spots. For example,, I’m known for my humorous, accountable, and no nonsense approach to counselling, and my private clients like this approach.  In building a counselling practice, I understand a range of styles are required. Therefore, I have deliberately selected other counsellors for this practice who provide support in gentler manner. When a new client comes to our practice I can offer them the best fit for their personality and circumstance, and offer them a range of counselling styles.

6)      Dissect the anatomy of a success 

Find the best examples of what you want to achieve and break down the components of others success into steps you can emulate. Are you as committed to your goal as much as they are? I have many successful friends who have been told that others would like to emulate them. They respond: “Are you willing to commit what I have committed in terms of time, money and opportunity cost?”

7)      Seek (constructive) feedback

Seek feedback from colleagues and people you admire and trust, not just through the performance review process, as well as from those whose job may be to manage your expectations. Rather than ask for generic feedback, seek details to the specific elements that could improve your chances of becoming CEO (or whatever title you’d like to achieve). Ask, “how could I better manage my team?” or, “How can I contribute more to the business?”, or even, “Is there anything you think I should be doing in my job, that I’m not”?

8)      Coach yourself to greatness

From the feedback you received set about to become your own super coach rather than beating yourself up with criticism. Being a good coach to yourself involves more than simply assessing performance gaps between desired and current performance. You need to set impact-oriented actions that will help you achieve your overall career goal. An external guide may be helpful at this juncture.

9)      Get out of your own way

Don’t let baggage or resentments of the past hold you back. All of us experience setbacks and receive the occasional critical comment. If you feel debilitated by such comments seek the reason. Are you a perfectionist who is fearful of all mistakes? Can you recognize that these are essential for growth? Are you stuck playing old roles from your past, wanting to prove your father (figure) wrong, or crush anyone who you suspect may betray you? Does criticism send you into a spiral of self-doubt? These patterns of behaviour might work for you occasionally, but prohibit achievement in the long run. Consider counselling to help you escape from self-hindering behaviour or thought patterns.

10)  Consider a change of scene

You may not be able to get ahead and achieve your career goals with your current employer. If you have followed steps 1-9, and still see no results, consider a change of scene. Consider to move to competitor, or even a change of career. While you may be very good at what you do, it may not be the only thing you will be good at. Greatness may even found in a different occupation.  A counsellor or coach can help you evaluate your strengths and passions, as well as broadening your horizons.

we regularly have blogs on topics related to improving performance and career change. Attached is our popular blog on career change … to great2

The best course for divorce – helping women survive the emotional journey



Getting divorced is extremely stressful. Regardless if you made the decision to end the marriage or were “left”, the process of divorce involves a gauntlet of emotional experiences, a need to be a savvy negotiator (quite possibly for the first time in your life), patience, persistence and a lot of positivity. As a counsellor, here is what I have learned from helping women through this experience.   While much of the advice I offer here would also be helpful to men, it is written with women in mind.


All over the house

Individuals experiencing divorce are sometimes perplexed and surprized by the extent of disassociation they experience during the process – feeling detached from reality and floating between shock and vulnerability.

One minute you may feel completely numb, the next filled with rage, worry, fear, then hurt and pain so great you feel your heart may actually break. You must accept that this is, unfortunately, a NORMAL part of the process of divorce. You may have anchored a view of yourself, your family and your future on the foundation of your marriage.  When that foundation cracks, you will feel extremely unsteady. Be patient and kind to yourself . Remember, this rollercoaster will finish, so help yourself hold on tight during the ride.


There are minimal short cuts

Many women expect  recovery to be fast, especially since they link the dissociative state with the legal process of divorce. The emotional journey does not end once final papers are signed, although this might bring some temporary relief. If you feel like a victim during this process, ask yourself why and if it is really going to help in the long run.

I recommend that you recall of some other challenges or transition during your life – moving to a new country, the death of someone close – and analyse how  you coped during those times? Explore your armoury of coping strengths and remember, you got through tough times before.

You may feel tempted to run away from the feelings of discomfort until this is “done”.  However, be wary of the pressure your feelings may create. Rushing sensitive negotiations can be a mistake – take the time you need to get the terms you want. If your safety is or has been in danger you need to protect yourself – do not remain in a situation where your physical safety is compromised. Find somewhere to stay.


Direct your dialogues

Sitting down with your lawyer to vent about the unfairness of your soon to be ex-spouse is as pointless as it is expensive. Try to focus your conversations efficiently so you get what you need from the people who can best provide it in a timely manner.

In conversations with your lawyer and financial advisor, keep emotional elements to a minimum. Their jobs are to calculate the most favourable terms for you, and to help exit the legal contract of your marriage in an acceptable (and advantageous) manner.

Discuss your emotional experiences with your friends  – bitching about your ex can be positively cathartic. A counsellor can help you understand how you got to this point, prevent these patterns in the future, and help you build a new foundation for your life. Given the emotional maelstrom of divorce and its aftermath, counselling during divorce is highly recommended. Since you are vulnerable now, it can help keep you as mentally and emotionally strong as you can be, while helping you move forward.


Support, support, support

This is not a time to hide away from the world. You need support. Let your friends help you. Seek support from groups. There is also tangible support, those who can help now that you may be a single parent much of the time. List these resources down on paper,  invite them over, ask for support. For example, if you have children at school, school counsellors can offer some assistance. You may be surprised who is willing to really be there for you.  You do not need, nor is it in the interest of your mental health, to go through the divorce process alone. The first step to accessing support is to ask.


Resist the urge to repeal and replace

While the heady new days of separation might provide fun opportunities to connect with new romantic partners, try not to race forward into a serious relationship. This is a time to find out who you are now, not who you want to be with. While many people use another relationship to give them the strength to finally leave a marriage, statistically the odds of that relationship being successful after three years are not favourable. Feel free to enjoy your new freedom, discover who you are now, and who you want to be. If you fear being on your own, this may be a topic worth exploring further with friends or a counsellor.


A better tomorrow is possible

It might take two, three or, even ten years, but you will feel much better in time.

Divorce is unsettling for many because they don’t know how they will survive outside of their marriage. Finding a financial and personal future is important. Even if you have ample alimony to last the rest of your days (and I hope you do), you will still need to think about what you’ve learned about yourself, who you want to be and what do you want in the future.

Make a list of the attributes that you like about yourself. Have your friends contribute. Pull out that list whenever you have moments of self-doubt. List the things you would like to try, that you felt you were not able to explore inside your marriage – perhaps travel to a new country, take up a hobby or class. Start on a journey to a new you.

If you have trouble seeing beyond today, a counsellor or coach can help to determine and build your strengths and help you to see and realize a different tomorrow.


I hope you find these guidelines helpful. Divorce is hard, and it often gets harder before it gets easier. Be kind to yourself, and remember as the great Gloria Gaynor declared in song, “I will survive”.




RED DOOR offers counselling to individuals who are experiencing relationship troubles, and specifically to people during divorce. We will be introducing a SURVIVING DIVORCE group therapy for women on Monday evenings. This is a therapy group, focused on moving participants actively through the process. A therapy group focuses on the emotional aspects and processes experienced during a divorce and utilizes shared experiences of the group to help each member deal better with the emotional turmoil created by divorce. You will be working on your emotions and thoughts, your reimagining of your future, your current and future mental health in a supportive, and challenging environment together with other women sharing their experiences and learning.

We will host an information session on divorce for women Monday 16 October 2017.  If you would like to join the SURVIVING DIVORCE group, or our information session, please email Angela at





I recall being told that when asked the standard interview question, “what is your greatest weakness”, the perfect answer is, “I’m a perfectionist”, The intended implication is to suggest that your standards so high that, undoubtedly, any business would be smart to hire you.

Contrary to this common belief, perfectionism and being a perfectionist, leaves one vulnerable to compromised mental health. Many of the numerous negative effects of perfectionism are overlooked due to the perceived benefits and rewards that come as the perceived result of holding high standards. Perfectionists themselves find it extremely hard to abandon these tendencies. Instead, they continue to pursue the perfect experience, often falling short, and then privately berate themselves as failures.

Perfectionism is far from perfect. This is particularly concerning for teens and young adults in our society.


The dark underbelly of perfectionism 

Teenagers today are studying in a highly competitive academic world that emphasises consistent achievement and compares students with their peers. For most, the pressure of academic standards is motivating. However, for those with a high degree of perfectionism, the pressure can lead to extremes of procrastination or an extraordinary effort that may not be justified. Due to a constant fear of failure, perfectionists take an all-or-nothing approach, which can result in paralysis, as an avoidance strategy. This is not uncommon, and remains misunderstood.

Due to an ‘All-or-Nothing’ mindset, perfectionists are unable to realise a middle-ground between two extremes — be perfect or quit. Driven by a fear of failure, the potential risk of mistakes can freeze them in their tracks.

I sometimes meet adults, whom I refer to as 96ers,  who would regularly score more than 90% in exams, who spend the time thinking about the 4-10 marks they DIDN’T get rather than those that they did. This practice reinforces a belief that they are not good enough.

Express not Suppress

For many, perfectionism can be translated not only into their work and aspirations, but also into the way in which they handle emotions. Within the spectrum of human limitations, perfectionists reject typical emotional reality as a form a failure, under the illusion that an unbroken chain of positive feelings is possible.

Furthermore, although uncommon, some perfectionists consider the idea of tormented life, a tortured soul and a wronged victim, as the ideal of the misunderstood perfectionist. Whether a perfectionist or not, there are many people who are taught that it is improper to display emotions. Perfectionism forces suppression and denies individuals the permission to acknowledge and experience ‘undesirable’ emotions.

The suppression of depressive thoughts is associated with a worsening of depressive symptoms, as it intensifies the emotions by keeping them fresh and active. This is why it is important to accept and release our built-up feelings, opening us to emotional growth and healthy grieving.


Within a relationship, especially amongst millennials, the media has become a third-party pressure for #RelationshipGoals. The added forces those with perfectionist tendencies to demand perfection from themselves, their partner, displayed through their social media profile. Perfectionists tend to put so much pressure on themselves and their partner to be ‘perfect’ that they end up far from it. The demands that they put on themselves are often reflected on their partners, which lead to high expectations. As a result, perfectionists often feel disappointed, unsatisfied and resentful in relationships – a potential recipe for disaster – pressuring their partners with constant reminders of inadequacy.

Why is perfectionism difficult to abandon?

Nobody likes to fail, but it is the ability to recognise, understand and accept the reality of failure that allows you to digest it. However, for a perfectionist, the rejection of reality places them in a fantasy world where mistakes can be avoided and success is the only destination. This mindset restricts their desire to change, emphasising the apparent rewards and successes at the end of the tunnel, which are driven by the unforgiving fear of failure and of disappointing others. Perfectionists cannot see the negative effects as clearly as the rewards, which leads them to cling to their standards and reject compromise.

Further detrimental effects of perfectionism, such as, depression, anxiety and eating disorders, highlight the importance of realising and understanding perfectionism. If you recogniseyourself, I urge you to take action so that you can start making changes to become more self-accepting and begin to enjoy the journey.

If you would like to break free from your perfectionism prison you might like to consider visiting a counsellor. In counselling the thoughts associated with being perfect can be unpacked and assessed. Understanding the roots of your perfectionism, and the behaviours and thoughts that help you to maintain a perfectionistic persona, can help you break free from self-judgement and self-loathing that accompanies the perpetual pursuit of perfection.

If you don’t feel ready, just yet, to address your perfectionist tendencies, consider reading books on this topic. I personally recommend Brené Brown’s The gifts of imperfection,  orTal Ben-Shahar’s The pursuit of perfect.  Enjoy your journey back from impossibly high standards, embrace today and accept yourself as you are.



#reddoor #perfectionism #relationshipgoals #imperfection #anxiety #mentalhealth #selfhelp


Thanks for reading our blog on perfectionism. We post regular blogs and if you would like to receive these more regularly please like our page on Facebook. or our Twitter handle Mental Health Essentials.







Volunteer for better mental health

volunteer In Hong Kong most students pursuing the International Baccalaureate certification are expected to participate in CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) activities. The goal of these activities is to help children develop a holistic well-rounded perspective. The activities are mandatory. Outside of CAS, should children be encouraged to participate in volunteering activities?

One benefit of volunteering is to build your child’s CV, and consequently to improve their “chance” to gain entry to an elite university. I am not encouraging you to push your child into volunteering as part of a helicopter parent or over-parenting agenda, but rather to help them explore volunteering as a means to develop independence, resilience and empathy. These traits are predictors of success in life, not just at university

Psychological benefits of volunteering:


  1. World-centered vs self-centred

Exploring the plight of others helps teens see that other people experience significant challenges, helping them see the world outside of their secure and (frequently) privileged Hong Kong lifestyle. Regular voluntary work increases the development of empathetic and altruistic behaviour. The voluntary action of giving your time and energy to help others aids in the development of compassion and gratitude.


  1. Improved psychological functioning

Volunteering helps in reducing stress and anxiety, as connecting with others encourages proactiveness, wards off loneliness, and helps to combat the growing psychological culture of individualism and self-absorption.


2. Give teens a sense of satisfaction

One of the primary psychological benefits of volunteering is the sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction that accompanies working to make a positive difference.


3. Health benefits

For both adults and teenagers, research from the United States by Federal Government’s Corporation for National and Community Service and The University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education and Department of Psychology, have indicated that people who volunteer regularly experience better cardiovascular and mental health, including happiness and resiliency. Your child will live longer and be happier.


4. Allows teens to change their internal dialogue: change ‘Would’ into ‘Will’

Helping others provides teens with a valuable sense of purpose and meaning, allowing them to identify the morals and principles that they hold in high regard and then act upon them. Being aware of one’s priorities becomes rewarding once you are able to live those values and believe that you are channelling your time and efforts to make a difference. Therefore, instead of internalizing what you ‘should’ and ‘would’ do, start tackling what you ‘can’ and ‘will’ do to make a change.


For young people today, working for a charity is generally not seen to be a serious career option or even a legitimate tool for progress. However, the mental health benefits, although still a novel concept, far outweigh the overly simplistic view that volunteering is only a stepping stone to other career options. Despite this, there are a huge variety of ways for someone to serve and help others, whether you sort donations for a local charity or assist caring for children in an orphanage, both big and small acts reap psychological benefits.

You will often find that you will get more out of it than you give.


ADDICTION 101: Breaking Free

addictionFor most people, irrespective of whoever they are and whatever they may have done in their lives, understanding addiction is difficult. People define and think about addiction in very different ways, depending on their experiences and point of view, leading to a vast array of theories about potential causes, and approaches to the treatment of addiction.

Features of addiction include compulsive behaviour, lack of control and proliferation of harm in many, if not all aspects of that person’s life.  Addiction is present in many peoples’ lives, and in a many different forms.  It may be related to substance abuse or compulsive behaviours, and range in strength from mild to severe.   Patterns of addiction can change depending on life stage, and behaviours may be time-limited, intermittent or persistent.

The causes of addiction can be influenced by any number of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors, and are perhaps as unique and individual as the person they concern.  It’s a complex issue and so not uncommon to feel troubled, baffled and frustrated when trying to find ways of dealing with the situation.

The good news is that much can be done to try to improve the situation.  If you think you might be struggling with addiction problems yourself or are worried about someone you know, here

You are not alone Help is available.  Healthcare providers are a good place to start learning about addiction and the types of help that are available.  Healthcare websites will often signpost to additional sources of information.  There may support groups that work in your area, or you may know people that have struggled with addiction in the past.  Talk to as many people as you can, and find out what advice and support can be accessed online and face-to-face.


Share the load.It is important that the person with addiction, and people close to them, acknowledge that there is a problem and work together to find a way of managing the situation in the long and short term. Rather than one person working to solve the challenge, there is a team. Remember there will almost certainly be occasional setbacks and unexpected developments, but don’t give up, accept that the path may not be as you originally planned, but your destination remains the same.   Think about other people who can be of support you at times like this – maybe family members, friends and specialist support groups.  Just as we might surround ourselves with others who have similar addictions as part of maintaining our addiction, think about spending more time with people who have healthier coping strategies and a positive approach to life.  Look around for role models that can inspire you in your path away from addiction.


Manage your expectations –  Don’t be too disappointed if a one-size fits all, simple solution fails to materialise.  In most cases, addictive behaviour will be the result of combination of factors, individual to that person, and will require a holistic and bespoke approach. Your path out of an addictive situation may need to be as unique as you are.


Consider the underlying issues  People may turn to substance abuse, or other unhealthy behaviours, as a way to cope with undiagnosed developmental or mental health conditions, environmental stressors or negative patterns of thought.   Addictive behaviour may be symptomatic of unknown or unacknowledged struggles. It is worthwhile to think about your needs – those that have been met and those that remain unmet – so that you develop a plan that is beyond your compulsive behaviours, but makes you feel more whole and functional in the long run.


Think about potential development opportunitiesMost people will experience a hedonistic rush at some point in their lives, and although like the sensation, will not go on to develop addictive habits.  Evolution equipped us with a need to seek out pleasure and minimise pain, but unfortunately not everyone has the ability to control their behaviour all the time, and in every situation. Sometimes, we all need a little help to develop important coping skills such impulse control and self-regulation. At the very least forgive yourself your past failings, and think about what you would like to do differently in the future. The past is like a distant country with the border closed, it cannot be changed, but your future is yours to determine.


And finally, keep your eye on the prize.  Recovery from addiction may be a long and ongoing process but if successful, more than worthwhile.   Feeling free to enjoy all that life has to offer, and having the confidence to deal with the inevitable challenges, in much better and healthier ways, just might be the best gift you can give to another yourself, and your loved ones.


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