What Therapy chats with Psychotherapist + Counsellor Eugenia Gajardo of Knowthyself and Alliance Professional Counselling about her journey, the changing landscape of issues she has seen in Singapore, and an easy tool we can all use to deal with modern-day stress. Eugenia shares with us some pearls of wisdom on being happy and fulfilled.
You are an existentialist and an eclectic psychotherapist.
Let’s start with the easy one – what is a psychotherapist?
Literally it means a therapist who deals with mental and emotional disorders.
Practically, it is a counsellor who delves deeper into the client’s issues. Psychotherapy sees the issues as symptoms of deeper afflictions and a psychotherapist seeks to help the client resolve them. To create change at the core in a rather more permanent way, creating transformation versus a temporary change.
Why existentialist and eclectic?
An existentialist because I see the issues of each individual as relating to the whole being in a more profound manner.
I see all human challenges as relating to fundamental existential issues such as life purpose, freedom, fear of death, self worth, isolation, and meaning. Under depression, anxiety, OCD, addictions, relationships issues, and other conditions, there lay existential issues. Once those are looked at and resolved, the rest falls easily into place.
Eclectic because I do not adhere to one counselling or psychotherapeutic modality. I am broadly experienced and familiar with many – I.E. Psychodynamics, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Solution Focus Brief Therapy, and several others.
I do not try and fit the client to the model, but rather use the model as per the client’s needs. You could also call me a Client Centred psychotherapist.
Your life journey so far has been interesting, colourful, at times challenging, and definitely rewarding. What is one thing that has become a strength for you as a therapist?
Exactly what you say, I have lived life to the full. I have done so much and with such diversity.
I have lived in several countries. I have been a young and older student. I have lived within the world and also retreated to an ashram. I have worn ball gowns and shaved my head and been an ascetic. I have been in the corporate world but also the spiritual world.
I have been my own laboratory of personal change and transformation. I have suffered deeply and I inflicted suffering. I have been rich and poor. I have been suicidal and I have enjoyed life deeply. I have been married and gone through divorce. I have been a lover, a wife, a mother… I have cheated and been cheated. I have been a controller and I have also submitted. I have rediscovered and changed my values in life. I have forgiven and been forgiven. I have been a survivor and have learned how to live. I have been a victim and become free… so I actually understand through personal experience most issues people come to me with.
Experience, that is the one thing that has become the biggest strength for me as a psychotherapist and counsellor.
How do you keep perspective when someone’s choices are putting them in misery?
By knowing that it is about them, not me. Those are their choices and they have a right to them. They must travel their journey, their way.
There is still a stigma about seeing a counsellor – that something is wrong with you, that you can’t sort out your own dirty laundry. What are some other perspectives people can consider?
That when you come to a counsellor it is because, as in business, it is useful to have a professional’s perspective. A professional can be objective, offer balance and stability, and help a person find their own answers and solutions, while being supportive and a guide.
You have been a psychotherapist for many years now. Has the trending of issues changed?
When I started in 2002, many of my cases were related to depression, life purpose… today, I see a lot of relational issues, and a fair bit of infidelity, both in the local and foreign communities. There also is a marked increase in anxiety-related disorders, like OCD, and rather a bit of anger management. People seem to be much more reactive and unable to self-manage their emotions.
Besides helping see clarity, you also teach clients tools for ongoing well-being. What is one easy tool for dealing with the stress of living in a city like Singapore?
The breath. Your breath is your best friend, at your service 24/7 and you never can leave home without it. Learning to be aware and use the breath is, in my view, fundamental to emotional stability. I also work with mindfulness and breath awareness.
Any other pearls of wisdom for those looking to be happy and fulfilled?
Happiness and fulfilment only come to those who understand that…
The only place to live is in the Here and Now.
Suffering is in the nature of existence. It is not what happens to you, but what you do with it that matters.
Neither the Past nor the Future exists. Being in the Past creates depression and being in the Future, anxiety. To be happy you need to imbibe the knowing that there is nothing you can do about the past, other than change your perceptions or learn from it. That the future does not exist. It is nothing but a concept and is impossible to predict. We can only plan and take calculated guesses, then we must let it go to bring it alive in the Now step by step.
Guilt and regret are like iron shackles tied to your neck and feet, constantly slowing you down. To be happy you must learn to open and release them, and you have the key.
Resentment and anger are like drinking poison, hoping the one who hurt you gets sick or dies.
When you fall in the mud puddle of self-pity, you need to look up and get out as quickly as you can.
There is no purpose in comparing yourself to others… there is always someone better or worse off, depending on whether you look up or down… the truth is that you are ok as you are. You only have to know it and believe it.
And if you find it difficult to bring alive and live any of the above points, you will benefit from finding a psychotherapist and counsellor to help you liberate yourself so you can give yourself permission to be happy and fulfilled. You deserve it, it is your birth right.
“I believe that there is an inherent drive within us to be the best that we can be, and that we all have an in-built potential to self-actualize.”
Eugenia Gajardo is a highly experienced Psychotherapist and Counsellor who is about change and fulfillment. At her practice KnowthySelf (Counselling + Psychotherapy for Change), Eugenia works with both individuals and couples, and young people 18 and above. She supports them through their growth and day-to-day life personal and professional challenges.
With her background in the corporate world, extensive personal development, and three years living in an ashram, Eugenia fluidly bridges many seemingly disparate realities. She understands the pressures and stresses of modern multicultural living, having worked in both London and Singapore. Eugenia is a longtime Singapore foreign resident who was married to a local Singaporean.