Arguments happening often? Try this.

Arguments happening often? Try this.

Couples often seek relationship counselling because they are having lots of arguments.

They love each other and hate feeling like this but are stuck in bad habits. Counselling can be a great support to unpack certain themes and stuck points. I hear all the time “This sounds so petty, I don’t know why we have so many arguments over silly things.”

Usually, arguments are not really about the content, they are about the message underneath, often something to the effect of ‘I feel like you don’t care’, or “I don’t feel important to you”, or “I’m not feeling loved”.

Counselling can support couples to get out of negative loops where arguments never get resolved, by working on the underlying causes.

Power struggles are another common reason that couples get stuck in arguments they wish they were not having. Common struggles include tensions such as messy vs tidy, spender vs saver, ‘touchy-feely’ vs reserved and different styles of parenting.

Learning to communicate calmly, without triggering each other into a cycle of ‘attack and defend’ is an art, and even if you know what you should be doing, it is very hard to enact when the person you love is looking at you ‘with that look’ or tone of voice. Practicing this in counselling can help you to gain new skills, so that you don’t get into arguments that are destructive to the wellbeing of your relationship.

Almost every couple that comes to see me gets the following homework to practice while we work on improving the above.

Have a weekly ‘couple check-in’

This is a time when kids or housemates are not in earshot. You are both as relaxed as possible. Sit down together and ask each other the following questions.

1. What have I done that has made you feel loved this week?

2. Is there anything person one wants to share about the relationship?

Keep it as a complaint or request rather than a criticism or attack, by using non-blaming language. Person 2 just listens to understand and doesn’t add anything of their own. Once person 1 feels totally understood, person 2 can respond, while person 1 just listens to understand, and doesn’t add anything.

3. Is there anything person 2 wants to share about the relationship. Follow the same process as question above.

4. Only once both have had a turn to share, decide what you will try differently in the coming week. Commit to some small steps.

5. Now touch base on any life admin stuff.

Are there events coming up, stressors, hopes, expectations that it could be useful to share?

If you need more ideas have a look at the Gottman Institute;

This simple process can have an enormous benefit to couples and really reduce arguments.

You are not letting things build to a point where it bubbles out in anger, or seeps out in resentment. You are practicing speaking your needs calmly. You are giving your partner the message that their concerns are important.

It’s a good idea to do this just once per week, for 20-30 minutes max, because this will only help you to reduce arguments if you do it regularly.

Any more than 20-30 minutes, you might not be willing to do it every week, invest in your relationship and see if you can commit to this.

Once you have had this talk, do your best to take on board any requests or hopes that your partner shared. It’s like a team meeting at work, you set yourselves up for the week, then you get on with it. Try not to keep bringing things up unless they really are urgent. Use the weekly meetings for complaints as well as appreciations, then during the week, try to just enjoy each other more by focusing on what your partner is doing right.


EMDR Therapy, An Attachment & IFS Informed Approach

EMDR Therapy, An Attachment & IFS Informed Approach

EMDR Goes beyond Talk Therapy.

Counselling is an effective step towards wellbeing. It helps to talk, but sometimes, despite all the talking and doing the ‘right’ things – nothing changes. This is where Transformative Trauma Therapies like EMDR Therapy come in. Every adult had childhood experiences that were hard to integrate. Some experienced abuse or neglect and for others it was smaller moments of embarrassment, pain or shame. When memories are too painful to process into long-term memory, they are buried as ‘raw’ material within our psyche. When something happens in the present that reminds us of the same feeling- BooM- we are triggered, and experience the pain of the past in the present. Ella is one of a small number of Cairns EMDR Therapists who is Accredited with  EMDRAA (EMDR Association of Australia).

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement, Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a method of helping people integrate the past. We process what happened, the bodily sensations and emotions, as well as negative beliefs about oneself that formed at the time and have not been updated. It is not necessary to share all the details, or even remember; if the memory can be activated in the present- EMDR therapy can be used to process it.

Book a session with Ella here; 

EMDR Therapy does not remove memories, it enables people to think of the past and say “That was terrible, but I can think about it without become distressed. My feelings, beliefs and actions in the present are no longer influenced by the past.”

Attachment Focused EMDR

To heal from impacts of the past, we must address our unique patterns of hurt. Even the person with the ‘perfect’ childhood has things to repair, related to the way they learnt to ‘attach’ to their parents. In many homes- love, closeness and safety were inconsistent or not available. To heal at a deep level, ‘attachment wounding’ must be addressed. Attachment focused EMDR utilises the power of guided imagery to enable this repair.

The neural networks of the brain can’t tell the difference between ‘real’ or ‘imagined’. If something is felt in the body, the brain ‘fires’ just the same.


Internal Family Systems (IFS) Approach to EMDR Therapy

Modern psychology now understands that humans are not one fixed personality. We are made up of multiple ‘parts’. IFS says every person is a ‘True Self’; calm, connected, compassionate etc. The part of us present when we have no problems to solve. Yet our ‘Self Energy’ gets eclipsed by other parts. As children, we responded to experiences with shame, pain and sadness. In order to never feel those awful things again, we ‘Exile’ these young parts of ourselves into the metaphorical basement, trapped in time, holding the burdens of those experiences. To keep these young parts from overwhelming, we develop other parts that ‘manage’ these little ones. Examples of common managers are angry parts- they keep people away to never feel vulnerable again. ‘Perfectionist’ parts who think ‘If I just make sure I do things absolutely perfectly I won’t feel ashamed again’. Or workaholic parts, who stay so busy and focused on achieving, the little one that feels ‘not good enough’ is never activated. There are infinite possibilities, but the important take home is that there are ‘No Bad Parts’. All parts are just trying to avoid pain and suffering.

Combining an Internal Family Systems approach with EMDR Therapy, the inner system is befriended. Attention is placed on understanding why and how parts got their roles, and parts learn how to rely more on Self Energy so they can do their jobs in less extreme ways.

Experience EMDR Therapy with Ella Shannon

Ella has been working under the supervision of Annabel McGoldrick of Insight EMDR, attending regular supervison sessions and training programs.

If you’d like to know more about Attachment informed EMDR go to;

If you would like to know more about Internal Family Systems go to; 

To have a session with Ella, you are welcome to book online for an inperson EMDR Therapy Session, or via Zoom.

Want to understand more about Internal Family Systems?

This is a great 10 minute video that gives an easy to understand overview. If you are embarking on EMDR Therapy with Ella, it can be a great starting point to understand how your inner system works. 

Ella shares her experience as an EMDR Therapist;

“EMDR therapy has been a game changer for my work as a therapist. Many people come to counselling really wanting to change deep seated patterns, ways of reacting, and want to feel differently. I used to feel a bit helpless, people would leave the session feeling better, and with lots of tools to try at home, but ultimately could not shift the deeper / underlying issues. With EMDR Therapy, I have seen remarkable transformations, it’s such a gift.”

Client Testimonial of EMDR Therapy with Ella

“EMDR was a breakthrough for me. Years of talk therapy, rehashing emotional wounds over and over, gaining little ground, then a few months of EMDR and I feel free of intense anxiety that had been my constant companion since childhood. The somatic unfurling was powerful. Diving into the most difficult emotions through tapping, eye movement and emotional integration techniques was the key that unlocked these trapped emotions from my body, my nervous system and subconscious mind. The peace I feel on a day-to-day basis compared to how I previously lived is enormous. I thought I would live that way forever, I’d tried everything under the sun from 18 to my late 30s. I’d almost surrendered to the fact I would be this way until I died. EMDR came through for me. As a massage therapist, I regularly refer clients who need help clearing past trauma to Ella and EMDR in general. Clients come back to me having moved leaps and bounds in personal growth and their healing journey. I think EMDR and related therapies are the cutting edge of healing modalities and we are only seeing the beginning of what it can do.” Neil- Massage Therapist 

How to Feel Beautiful

How to Feel Beautiful

The ancient Goddess and Earth Religions understood the sacredness of the body; they worshipped nature and embraced the cycles of birth, life and death. They saw beauty in the bloody mess of menstruation, sex, birth and death.Before Tantra came on the scene, most of the main religions were not body positive at all. 

An example is body mortification within Catholicism: “Those who belong to Christ have crucified nature, with all it’s passions, all it’s impurities.” (Galatians 5:24).

Or the Buddhist practices of meditating on how disgusting one’s own body is, with that hope that if you don’t like your body, you are less likely to reincarnate and get stuck in one next time.

Yoga also started as a dualistic path. The idea was that humans and the rest of the natural realm are separated from the promise of eternal bliss because of our gross animal nature. Yoga was a way to transcend the trap of physical reality, to ‘become enlightened’ and transcend this world for something higher and more ‘Godly’.

The ancient Goddess and Earth Religions understood the sacredness of the body; they worshipped nature and embraced the cycles of birth, life and death. They saw beauty in the bloody mess of menstruation, sex, birth and death.

Tantra bought these world-views together. There was a deep reverence for the Feminine Mysteries; they understood the Goddess as embodied divinity- living as creation. They used the body as a divine vehicle for merging with the transcendent, the un-manifest. Their journey was one of going through the Mother, to reach the Father. They realised there is only One. 

A main tenant of and one of the most beautiful aspects of the Tantric path is the notion of Transfiguration. ‘Trans’- means ‘beyond’- so transfiguration is seeing ‘beyond the figure’- seeing the divine nature inherent in every single thing.

“Everything I see is nothing less than God.”
“Everything around me is a manifestation of the Divine in form.”
What a stunning way to live your life!

The beauty of the natural world is for many people a window into a peak state. I know I’m not the only one who has gazed out to sea, watched a sunset or stared up at the stars and had tears stream down their cheeks- experiencing a mini-awakening, a glimpse into the true nature of reality.

Tantric practitioners make this part of daily life. A beautiful teacher of mine- Les Dyer, was talking about Sacred Space. He told me that his local rubbish tip is Sacred Space, because to him, nothing exists that is not part of God / Cosmic Consciousness / Great Spirit. There is nothing that can be excluded. 

So here is the practice: when you get served at the shop by someone rude, on the day when you especially needed a little bit of kindness, remember that God just served you.

When your partner is short with you and you’re about to snap back at them, remember that God stands in front of you.

There is a transfiguration practice where we make a circle, those who want to hold the masculine energy sit in a big middle circle facing outwards, and those who want to hold the feminine energy sit before them. For 2 minutes we gave into each other’s eyes and meditate on the concept that this person is a manifestation of Shiva (God) and Shakti (Goddess), then a bell rings and the outer circle moves to the next person and we continue all night until we get back to our original spot.    

Self Practice:

Stand in front of a mirror, (either a face mirror or stand naked in front of a full length mirror), close your eyes for a few moments and meditate on your own divinity. If this seems hard to do, remind yourself that if Cosmic Consciousness is truly ‘All that Exists’, i.e. if you really believe in ‘Oneness’, and out of the formless Oneness came all of creation- then logic suggests that nothing can exist that is not Divine. To remove yourself from this equation would be the height of arrogance.

When you feel this truth in your heart, open your eyes and look into your own pupils. 

Meditation upon yourself in this moment without going into story. 
See; ‘Who you Really Are’.

I suggest that you might find nothing less than the miracle of life staring back at you!

Feel the Oneness with Everything That Is. Really experience deeply the truth that this exquisite moment presents to you. Hold your own gaze without blinking too much. After a few minutes, it is not unusual to have tears come. To really see yourself- your beauty, without the usual judging or stories about ‘you’ as a person and to see beyond can be a truely touching experience. 

Another common experience is that your face might start to morph (we speculate that perhaps you are seeing ancestors or past lives?). Just notice if this happens and continue the practice. 

Your body is finite- in fifty years or so (if you’re lucky) you have to return in and merge back into the Oneness…

But right now, you stand here as an expression of Divine Consciousness in form. Your body is a precious gift; loaned for a short time so that God can have an experience of forgetting that He is Everything, and therefore is able to experience Herself. See beyond the figure into your magnificent divinity. 

Celebrate for a moment… use your hands to feel yourself, or watch as you make small movements and marvel at the fact that you live, breath, cry, pray and feel. 

Try this with dedication for 3-5 minutes every day for a week and I promise that you will start to feel so beautiful that others will comment and the way you experience your life will change. 

I invite you to use a version of this practice as a powerful meditation that among other things, will help you to feel extremely beautiful.

Everyday Moments As Ritual

Everyday Moments As Ritual

I have a prayer for you, or really an invitation..

That you may deepen into the everyday moments- and turn them  into little pieces of ritual. Taking every chance to recognise the exquisite ecstasy available to us in this playground of existence.

Seize these little moments as mini-awakenings, snatched rememberings- a glimpse beyond the daily grind into the truth that we are literally made of dancing energy- and between these atoms of energy- just space!

A vibrating universe made of energy and space… made of love and of God.

Just take the little moments- make them tiny rituals… sitting by the creek, the way the breeze gently caresses the leaves til they so delicately dance, the water moving without compass- sparkling towards the ocean.. use it as an opportunity to reflect on the vibratory nature of the Cosmos.

Every meal

A chance to take a deep breath and for a moment consider the rays of sunlight sent from 150 million kilometres away to breathe life into the earth- bringing your body this nourishment.

 To take a moment to cultivate gratitude for all the many people & processes involved in your meal, and if you are so inclined- a moment to remember and thank Cosmic Consciousness for the unfathomable Gift of This Life. 

Greeting a Friend.

When you first greet a friend, a colleague or someone in the street- make a ritual of zooming out and seeing them as they truely are. For every Human Being is nothing but Divine Consciousness- Albeit incarnated into a limited form that has momentarily forgotten who they are. Forgotten so that the Oneness of Existence- the formless, limitless, unknowable, and boundless Love of the universe may experience itself- to play out the exquisite Cosmic Game of concealing and revealing this Mystery – to the rapture of the poets, the bliss of the lovers and the Samadhi of the meditators.

As you start and end the day, what tiny thing could you do to ritualise the end of one thing into the beginning of another?…

These sweet pauses – like the moment before the inbreathe becomes the inevitable out breathe…. can you fall into this infinity between your breaths?


When you lay down with your lover..

Does it start the same way every time? You do this, then they do that?

 What if you took each other’s hands for a moment first… took 3 slow breaths as One whilst gently meeting the gaze of this person who you love and trust enough in this moment to combine your energies with? And then to just let the energy take you… no routine, no plan… following the energy wherever it guides you?

A flower placed just so with presence..

A mindful breath between emails, a momentary tuning into the deep mysteries of nature and the workings of the universe  

These tiny moments, these little rituals, will take your life from routine and even boring, into a continuous play of heartfelt moments – moments that bring a tear to your eye, moments that make you so glad to be alive, moments where you feel so deeply connected to God.

 With love,


Having a great sex life- Advice for Women, and People who love them.

Having a great sex life- Advice for Women, and People who love them.

As a Clinical Sexologist, I have the privileged opportunity to know the intricacies of many people’s sex lives.

Therefore, I can say directly that there is no ‘normal’ or right number of times a month or ways of being intimate that are right for everyone.

What is satisfying for each couple and individual varies enormously. Saying this, I do see patterns and there are certain things that people bring to my counselling room regularly that may be helpful for you to know a bit about.

Many women and people with vulvas / vaginas experience difficulties relating to sexual difficulties at some point in their lives.

Here are some common ones and some things to think about if you or a loved one experiences any of them.

 Painful Sex

This is really common and there are a lot of reasons why this could be happening.

A non-exhaustive list is scar tissue, thinning of vaginal walls, tight muscles due to anxiety or previous sexual trauma or physical trauma from giving birth, STIs or infections as well as dryness. The first step is to see your GP, depending on what is happening for you they can refer you to a gynaecologist or pelvic floor physiotherapist to support you. Once any physical aspect is also being addressed, get some support to combat anxiety, tension and sexual aversion that may have developed due to the pain. There are also many wonderful devices and toys that can support you to experience sexual intimacy in different ways and without pain.


Lack of Arousal.

Bodies change throughout the lifetime. We change with age, fluctuating hormones, state of external life and relationships, illness and injury.

It’s unreasonable to expect a baseline level of arousal to remain constant.

But the good news is that good sex doesn’t depend on arousal and orgasms, a desire and motivation to be sexual is needed, then the fun can unfold in a myriad of ways.

If there is a willingness from all involved to be really present and just enjoy whatever sensation and experience is happening in the moment, without such a focus on orgasms or a certain type of activity you can still have satisfying and pleasurable sexual connections. Use a great lube to ensure any touch glides, there are so many different types these days.


Mismatched Desire

Ripping each other’s clothes off in a passionate flurry isn’t something that happens much outside of movies, at least not in long-term relationships.

And once that rush of honeymoon endorphins are over, couples are rarely going to both desire sex at exactly the same time. Each human has an amount of sex each day, week, month or year that feels satisfying.

Difficulty arises when there is a big mismatch, as one person will seek sex, the other feels obliged and pressured, or refuses and the other feels rejection.

Both people in this situation may need to adjust to a shared middle ground; talk about what that is in a neutral setting from a loving heart, remember more or less isn’t better or worse- it’s like food, some people just have bigger appetites than others.

For many women who experience less desire than their partners, it’s really common that the mental load they carry of the home, kids, work and partner is too overwhelming and not fairly split, and therefore they feel too exhausted and resentful to want to be sexual, this warrants a really frank conversation about shared responsibility and what feels reasonable.

You might also want to explore how to bring some ‘New Relationship Energy’ into your love life, as familiarity and comfortability are so cosy, but sometimes a spark is needed to reignite the sexual passion too.


Not feeling Connected

Many women and more feminine leading people really need to feel emotionally connected before they have any desire for sex or can open sexually.

If there are any trust issues, feelings of insecurity or perceived lack of connection in the relationship many women just don’t want to be sexual. Intimacy starts out of the bedroom. So do your best to connect through conversations, shared activities, laughter and play- this is often better foreplay than any kind of sexual advance.


Orgasms (lack of)

Many women don’t orgasm purely from penetration and need non-penetrative touch or oral sex before or after or added stimulation from a vibrator or a hand to reach orgasm during sex.

This is perfectly common and doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong. Learning and exploring slowly and playfully with a partner exactly what works is a wonderful experience and highly recommended.

Other people will have trouble letting go during sex and therefore find it hard to release, while others find they don’t build up enough intensity of pleasure to get to orgasm. Some medications prescribed for mental health issues interfere in this way, for others it’s due to being too ‘in the head’.  Learning mindfulness as a sensual and sexual practice can slowly build more connection to the body and the moment that can allow more pleasure. It can be frustrating not to reach orgasm but being with whatever pleasure is available in the body at a certain time with a sense of relaxation is something to enjoy, in and of itself. For some people and some bodies, toys and devices will be necessary to add the level of stimulation needed.


Happy Practicing!