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Listen to those Voices inside your head

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Are you the same person when you go the office as when you pick up your child from school? Or when you greet your spouse after you haven’t seen then for a while, as when you go clothes shopping, or meet up with a friend?

Are you really the same person?

I invite you to consider that actually your not! Instead, each of these situations bring forth a different part of you, each unique and with a personality all its own. This is the view taken by Hal and Sidra Stone who created the Voice Dialogues model of the psyche in the early 1970’s. This model has been used by coaches and therapists over the last 50 years to help people make better decisions, and to have better relationships both professional and personal . It can bring new insights into your your dreams as well as deepening self knowledge, and help to bring your life back on track if things have gone awry

I discovered this process about 6 months ago and I recently completed a Voice Dialogues Facilitator training with Tim Kelley .  Often when we start out the parts unfortunately don’t always get along or agree with each other. As you beginning to get acquainted with your parts, Voice Dialogues helps you bring your parts into better alignment. It puts you back in the driver’s seat of your own life, rather than being pulled this way and that by the needs and interests of all the parts that live inside you. Voice Dialogues is as structured process for talking with parts, in which you are facilitated by a Voice Dialogue Facilitator.

One of my clients has been using Voice Dialogues to understand why she has burned out.  She discovered that she has a high need please other people because of something that happened when she was 5 years old when she saw her mother crying with worry about her.  This part of her decided that she was going to be a good girl and please her mother.  Another  client has been using the process to understand  both  the attraction and  the difficulties she has with her partner.

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As part of the training which I have just completed, I have been diving deeply into the life and world of my own parts. Its been an interesting journey of self discovery, and now that I know my parts, we can talk to each other when ever we want. It is bringing me a lot.

I ‘d like to share a personal story in illustration, that happened the other day. I had promised myself a day at the sea side, (more precisely, a young part of me had told me she wanted to go the seaside). My responsible, manager like part had gotten me organised. I had booked a car from the community car program, as I don’t own my own car. The young part was thrilled, its still new for me to keep the promises I make to myself.

In the morning when I woke up there was a Voice inside my head, and I recognised this Voice, (my Voices can get very animated, they really get into the parts – but its not like that for everyone). This Voices calls itself the Wise one, I realised later that Worrier is probably more accurate, but I decided to listen to it. It was worried about my travelling there, that there would be danger on the road, and it was also worried that I would get back late and then spoil my next day, which was full of plans. In the past when I would become aware of such concerns I would either ignore them completely, and then not take proper care of myself, or I would do exactly what they said and cancel my plans to have fun.

This time I did something different. I listened to the Voice. Revolutionary! I decided that I would go ahead with my trip and take extra special care driving and I would make sure to not come home late. I would take careful note of any danger on the road and see how it compares with the concern that had been raised, for my future reference . I was taking the Voice seriously for once, and I wanted to check its reliability.

I got myself ready and went to pick up my Cambio car.  Cambio works pretty well most of the time, the car is there and off you go. Every once in while there’s some kind of hitch, there is some kind of problem that takes bit of sorting out. This time I got to the station and no car! It turned out that the car had been parked on another street about 5 minutes away, so no big hassle, but I had to go and get it.

Aha, is that what that Voice was trying to tell me this morning?! I did make sure to thank it for its concern , as it didn’t want me the inconvenience of having to get the car.

I was curious to see what else might happen on my trip. Nothing did. I had an easy straightforward drive to the coast, and a great day on the beach. The young part that had asked to go was thrilled that I had made it happen and that I had kept this promise to her.

Everything was fine and dandy, until it was time to coming home. I had eaten out at the restaurant where I had parked. The sun was beginning to set and I love sunsets….. My Young part wanted me to go and take one last look at the beach. So I started walking down there, but it was taking much longer than I remembered. Normally I would just keep going regardless, but this time I d id something different. I stopped, I turned around, and I got into the car and I drove home.

I had made a promise to that Worried part of me that I would not get home late, and I wanted to keep that promise too. Its true I possibly missed an amazing sunset, and I caught glimpses of it as I was driving home. It surely was a great sunset, but I was glad to be driving home. Typically I would choose to watch the sun go down to the last rays were gone and there is place for that – but not tonight. I was proud of myself that I got home about the time I wanted, and I had kept the promises I made to myself. This was new and wonderful. I felt calm, and grateful for my day and for the new sense of self.

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Do you make promises to yourself and then find it hard to keep them?

What strategies do you use?

Please share comments below.

 

Handling Emotional Reactions

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Are you someone who ever gets emotionally triggered or reactive when things don’t go your way and you then do or say something you later regret?

It can happens to all of us, especially when we are stressed.

So what can you actually do about it?

This might sound obvious, but the first thing you need to do is to notice when it happens. You probably won’t catch the moment right away. It might only be afterwards, and at the beginning it may only be a long time afterwards. The more you pay attention, the closer to the moment you will catch what happened, but it may take some practice to get there.

Now that you are paying attention, instead of beating up on yourself, let’s try something different. You can try being kind to yourself, in the face of having been caught out, once again. Not to excuse whatever it was you did or said that you are now regretting, but to recognise that this kind of thing happens to anyone when they get triggered. You can give yourself a break. You are not a bad person but you did something in the heat of the moment, that you didn’t intend. That’s all.

Let’s look at what happens in the midst of a triggering.

We all have needs, it’s healthy, and knowing your needs helps you to survive. Sometimes other people help us meet our needs, and sometimes we need to meet them in other ways, instead of relying on others. The problem is, we tend to have expectations that certain others should meet our needs – like the need for care and acceptance, for example. However, sometimes that favourite person is just not available in the way that we want in that moment. That’s one of the moments that a lot of people get reactive, and that’s perfectly normal.

Inside the brain, there is a lot going on in such moments… The emotional part of the brain takes over, which means it activates the Freeze-Fight-Flight response system. The problem is, that the emotional brain does not do a reality checking. This part of the brain jumps into action – or reaction. It doesn’t check to see if this thing it’s reacting to is actually happening now, in the present moment, or if it is reacting to something that happened a long time ago. For the emotional brain – there is no difference.  The fact that the emotional part of the brain can step in so fast is also a life-saver – for example it fuels your impulse to run into the road and to pull your child back from an approaching car.   It’s the same mechanism.

The problem is that this part of the brain doesn’t know the difference between a challenging situation that happened a long time ago and something that is happening right now.

Often when we get triggered into an emotional reaction its because the emotional brain is responding to a situation that happened a long time ago,and it’s behaving as if it were happening now. Here is an example: You are having a talk with someone and they appear not to hear you, they are just saying other things and not acknowledging you. Perhaps in the past, when you were a young child, this kind of thing happened a lot and now when it happens you get upset about it.  But you are not only upset for what is happening no but also for all the other times it happened before. Then if you don’t catch it in time, you end up being inappropriately angry with the person in front of you – but they are not responsible for all the other times before. That’s why its so important to catch these moments – as more awareness always brings more choice.

So what to do about it?

There’s a lot of information out there that tells us all you need to do is to Stop, notice what’s going on, calm yourself down, take some deep breaths and carry on. As the saying goes ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’. It works ……up to a point.

However as Besel van de Kolk points out in his books ‘ The Body Keeps the Score’ it isn’t that simple.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18693771-the-body-keeps-the-score

‘When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signalling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it’.

In fact when the emotions and reason are in conflict – we can have a very visceral experience, and its worth paying attention to it, even though the natural inclination can be to run away or ignore it all.   It can feel like World War 3 breaking out in the gut, the heart, lungs and so on. It creates havoc to our system – all the long term projects of the body go on hold,  that’s things like building the immune system, growth, healing etc . And lets face it no-one enjoys being triggered.

This is when its important to turn towards the body and take note of the information held in the body. One of the methods that helps is Whole Body Focusing. This is a body centred enquiry process that helps you to learn from the body – when you can connect with the raw feelings in the trigger they can lead you back to the root cause of the problem.  Now that you are in contact with the root cause of the trigger, you can deal with it – by welcoming and accepting whatever you find there – and then you won’t get as reactive with people in the present.

I am giving a workshop on the subject on April 12th

More details over here https://www.meetup.com/Personal-Development-in-Brussels/events/247877792/

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In the meantime here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start paying attention to your triggers and get curious about them, as an investigative journalist trying to make sense of a situation.
  • Keep a trigger journal and write about the situation, to reflect on the trigger and what is causing it. It will get you pretty far just by noticing what is triggering you and how you are reacting.
  • When you catch it in the moment, try and bring yourself really present – notice your feet on the ground, the sounds around you, your breathing etc, and be aware of whatever bodily sensations you are experiencing. Feel your own sense of being a person who is bigger than this thing that is triggering you – it is a part of you that is triggered – you are so much bigger than that !

And be kind to yourself for having to deal with this challenging situation.

Have a Happy Easter, Spring, Passover and whatever else you are celebrating!

 

Please post your thoughts in the comments below – what gets you triggered and how do you handle it?

 

Empathy at Work

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The other day I was with a client – a senior executive, with a challenging role, recently arrived in Belgium. He told me how he was struggling with some of his colleagues. They weren’t open to the solutions that he and his team of consultants wanted to implement. Solutions that involved a reduction in head count, among other significant and unpopular changes. He seemed genuinely surprised that his ideas were meeting with resistance. He informed me that people were lazy and that they should be able to see how everyone would benefit. I invited him, just for a moment, to put himself into the shoes of his colleagues, to see how they might be feeling. I invited him to send them some good will in the face of their challenging situation. He said it was easier to send empathy to the people who were working hard and on board with his plans. He struggled to send good will to the people resisting his plans and whom he thought were lazy.

Meanwhile, I was facing a similar challenge to get past my own judgments. It wasn’t so easy to find my own good will and empathy for this man with his challenging situation!

Learning to do this is definitely worthwhile, as the research is confirming. Empathy is now recognised as a key leadership quality.

For example here http://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/EmpathyInTheWorkplace.pdf and here https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/05/30/why-empathy-is-the-force-that-moves-business-forward/#4896e028169e

What I find particularly interesting is that the research shows that empathy for others brings positive effects for you as well. It helps to reduce your own stress. It helps you get out of your self and make room for the needs and concerns of others. It helps to calms the nervous system and reduces the stress response, and it can reduce the risk of burnout. You can read about it here:
https://hbr.org/2017/05/prevent-burnout-by-making-compassion-a-habit

So how do you build empathy?

Here are a few of my tips:

Develop active listening skills
Check your understanding by feeding back what you heard. Doing this you will become much more present. Its too easy to fall into thinking what we will say next, and then we don’t actually hear what the person is saying. If you are going to summarize what they have told you, you listen in a different way. and the person will feel really heard by you. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can let them know that you heard what they say.

Stay open:
Perhaps your colleagues, have a perspective or an idea that can help your project to go forwards. If you have already decided that your way is best, then you will miss the chance to develop an even better solution.

Notice
Notice if you hold are holding judgments.- about the person or what they are saying. Notice if you are having some kind of reaction, if you disagree with them. The point is to notice it, and not to get caught up in it. This means finding distance from your own negativity, so that it doesn’t damage the relationship. When I worked with my client I saw my own judgments of him. I could acknowledged them for being there, and I kept coming back to give my attention to the client. This is where the focusing method which I use can be so helpful.

Give yourself Empathy
Give your self the same emapthy and good will that you want others to extend to you. This means including yourself as you think of all the challenges that people are facing. You too have your challenges and it is not easy for you in those situations.

Be grateful
A sense of gratitude bring a wider perspective. Even if you have challenging colleagues, maybe you can be grateful that you have a a job and some security. If you have challenges, isn’t that better than work that is boring or unstimulating?

Its another sunny day in Belgium – this is definitely something to be grateful for!

 

Stressed to Impress

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‘How focusing saved me when I met a person whom I terribly wanted to impress’

Guest article by Professional Coach Lenka Grackova. Lenka was one of my first clients and has also followed 3.5 days training in Whole Body Focusing

I sit down in my living room and look at the clock on the wall. Good, I still have enough time to get ready before I leave my home. For an unknown reason, I feel stressed. I have this strange feeling in my belly, telling me that I am anxious. I do not understand why. I am going out to meet a person whom I did not see for 9 years. I am looking forward to meeting him again. I am curious how he has changed. I really liked him at that time.

I am still sitting on the sofa and feel frozen. I do not feel like standing up and get myself moving. I look at the clock again. I still have some time, and I can not leave in such a state. I need to take some time to figure out what is happening.

I tune in and get aware of each part of my body. I notice my breath, my feelings, my appartment, my whole being. I ask my body to reveal what is happening.

The first idea that flashes in my head: „I am going to be late!“. My logical side totally disagrees and tries to push the idea out of the away. I focus again on my belly. I wish I could run away from that tense feeling. Instead I open up. I tune into the nervousness inside of me. I relax and focus on what is happening right now in my body. I feel weak. My arms and legs are without any power. I open up to that feeling as well.

I feel powerless. Suddenly I get a flash in my head. I feel I am not good enough. I would like the other person to enjoy being with me. I want him to be impressed. But I am worried that I might not be good enough. An emotional flood open up and I let the feeling pour out. I stay with my feelings of insufficiency. Another part of me starts calming me down or maybe complaining again that I do not feel confident. I open up to both parts. I give them as much space as possible. Until they can make peace. They become friends and my tense feeling in my belly goes away.

I thank my body for all that it revealed to me. I feel very much alive and energized. I look at the clock. Damn. Now I need to hurry up!

On the way to the restaurant, I start looking forward to the meeting. The curiousity takes over. I feel light.  When I arrive to the place, I am almost on time (only 5 mins late). But finding a parking place seems impossible. I start stressing a little bit. Sending him a couple of messages that I am not able to find a parking place. After turning in circles for 15 more mins, I find a convenient place. I arrive to the restaurant 25 mins late. That’s a bit of a world record for me.  I feel a little bit guilty, but the guy is extremely understanding.

I celebrate inside of me that I did my focusing session earlier on. If not, I would be feeling uncomfortable with such a bad start to the evening, and  I would not be able to be myself. Instead we  have a great evening together.

Before leaving the restaurant, I check myself in the mirror and smile. Oh no! A big piece of parsley is stuck in my teeth. I do a quick calculation, it has probably  been there for at least an hour. I regret I was laughing that much. Then we go out from the restaurant and my friend offers to walk me to the car. Oh my goodness. Where did I park it? After being confused for a couple of minutes, I finally find my way.

After we say good bye and I go off in my car, I have to laugh. I am so happy that I did my focusing session. In the past with such „bad“ impressions, I would probably be driving back home devastated. Now I just think: What a funny story to tell! I need to share it with my focusing guide and teacher, Ruth Friedman.  My body was right again. I was terribly late and I surely impressed the guy!

About Lenka: She creates motivation and passion at work by individual coaching. and she works to help people bring the passion back to their job. Thanks to her international experience in multinationals, she learned that the problem was not to be different, the problem was to be different while trying to do the things the same way like the others.   More about Lenka www.challenging-goals.com

 

 

Shift your mood and find your gratitude

I had gotten off a call with a friend. I felt so much warmth between us on the call that it was almost palpable. He told me that he had seen this photo of me, as it had been posted on FaceBook. He mentioned it as he was speaking about history – my history and his, the history we have together. He is a colleague on a training program we have been following together these last 18 months. He spoke about how we are both growing and healing – even in the time that we have known each other. It was good to hear all that.  Our call had gone deep and I was aware that somewhere inside me, I also felt a bit sad. It felt like a good kind of sadness.
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This photo holds a lot for me – it was taken right after a particularly challenging time in my life . A few weeks before I had a had a nasty cycling accident, that had left me shaken up and depressed.

That weekend of the photo was itself very memorable. For one thing we were on the beautiful Gower coast in Pembrokeshire on an August Bank Holiday. We had great company, fantastic weather and amazing nature. What more can you ask for!

 

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After the call, I remembered what had been going on right before that weekend, many many years before. I remembered how I had stumbled into a nightly gratitude practice after my accident. This turned out to be the perfect antidote to dealing with the shock and depression of my accident. Looking back, it seems strange that I was so depressed. After all, the accident could easily have been much worse. I was definitely still alive and without any major injury. I realize now, that the depression was probably the way I dealt with the shock of the accident.
I feel lucky that I found this practice from ‘first principles’. It was a long time ago and not much energy was put into positive psychology in those days.  At the time it made sense to see how many positive things had happened in the day, and there were always a lot ! It gave me the grace to get things back into perspective. Life was good and I was indeed lucky to be alive.
As I got off the call and had these reflections, I noticed that my energy changed radically. I wasn’t pushing anything away. I hadn’t changed anything. I hadn’t pushed away the sad feelings, but my energy was different now.
What struck me the most is how easy it was to shift my awareness to something positive. I was still feeling tired but the darker mood had definitely moved on. I also realised that this type of mood-shifter is a useful tool that I had never thought of before.
I am wondering if you have used this kind of mood shifter? What works for you when something has just brought you down?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Do You make mistakes?

I know that I do make mistakes and sometimes they are big ones – ones that I really wished I hadn’t made.

Sometimes when you make a mistake you can do real damage. You can hurt yourself, or other people. For example, if you do a bad mistake whilst driving you might cause an accident and people will get hurt or worse. If you make a mistake when you are talking to a friend or colleague, you can say something that you didn’t mean to. The other person might feel hurt by what you said and you might have caused damage in the relationship. In the long run it means you have hurt yourself as well. Point being, it matters when you make a mistake, but we all do it as we are all human beings. Sometimes the impact of the mistake can be much greater than the thing we did itself.

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Recently I made a bunch of mistakes, so I’ve been thinking about mistakes and how we treat ourselves. I do not want to diminish the wrong action, but to find a way to come back to learn from the mistakes and so to  move on.

I was observing how I treated myself afterwards. Perhaps the mistake I made was foolish or ignorant but it was too late to change the outcome. In England there is an expression  ‘There is no use crying over spilled milk’. It means after you spilled the milk, its too late to be complaining that your milk is gone.

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In my case I was doing something for the first time, and if I am honest with myself, I wasn’t thinking straight. It happens even to the best of us! I didn’t realise it at the time, so I made the mistakes and I didn’t get what I wanted. Then I was gutted!!

That was when I got really hard on myself…. I kept trying to tell myself that it was a mistake, mistakes happen, everyone makes mistake sometimes!! But I was still hard on myself! Later I realised that I was so very hard on myself because I was also disappointed in the outcome. I hadn’t realised how much I really wanted it. 20:20 hindsight is a marvelous thing!

Once I recognised that the hardness came from my disappointment, and not from anything harsher, it was easier to have compassion for myself! I could give myself a break. The harshness came because I felt I had let myself down, and that was painful for me, but it was nothing worse. That was a relief!

Somehow, even after that realisation, I still wasn’t done with this. – I fell into a dark and unhappy state that I haven’t seen for a while.  It was odd to see it, but I realised that this part of me doesn’t actually want me to be happy, right now. It was a surprise to recognise that this part of me actually wants me to wallow in misery!  Maybe other people have that place as well…. its not an easy place to admit to and for me it was a startling realisation!

So I asked myself ‘Is this a place I actually want to live from ?’ The answer came back, NO!  That was when I remembered my first antidote to all this darkness is to remember to stop complaining and to get grateful…. there is always, always so much to be grateful for!
Gratitude, and choosing to feel grateful is like taking a medicine for your brain. That’s true, even when it doesn’t feel natural or obvious. Its even true when it feels like the last thing on earth you want to do. Gratitude changes something in the chemistry of your brain. They say that joy and gratitude go together. Its not that joyful people have more to feel grateful for, it is that grateful people experience more joy.! If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can check out Brene Brown on this topic over here.   You really can resource yourself with gratitude, and it works!

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Now that I had resourced myself, I could see that it was not surprising that I made that mistake. I was doing something new and I had been anxious about it.

Then I remembered to looked back on the last few months. I recognised that globally, I feel more lightness and more openness. And yes I do have a a lot to be grateful for. Simple things like having good food to eat – a nice apartment, things that nourish me, people who care about me and so on.

It reminds me that being happy is a choice. Sometimes I need to re-choose it over and over again. Old habits sometimes take hold and they can be hard to break. The thing is though there really are times when being happy is just not it, at least for me. In those moments, if I am honest, I don’t choose happiness. The challenge I have then is to be kind to myself, in the face of choosing ‘not happiness’. So that I can be a friend to myself no matter what.

As soon as I can find kindness for myself in the face of choosing ‘not happiness’ , then something shifts inside me. Its amazing! There is more space for me to be myself and I find my centre again. Once I find my gratitude for life, happiness, calm, being centred, is never far away.

It has been an interesting journey these last days and not an easy one…. I felt pulled in many different directions, and not easy to find the distance I needed inside me. I am deeply grateful for the tool of Focusing which has helped me find my way.

What happens for you when you make mistakes?

 

 

By the way upcoming I have 2 workshops one on Self Compassion on March 12 2017 where we can really dive into methods to find kindness for yourself. Details here

And on April 23rd an Introduction to Whole Body Focusing in which we will learn the basics of Focusing.

 

 

 

Is Happiness an Inside Job?

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege and the honour to speak at the first ever Serious Waffle Session. If you haven’t heard about them you might be wondering what on earth is a Serious Waffle Session? Whilst the TED talks https://www.ted.com/ seek to inspire Serious Waffle Sessions seek to educate. I was invited to give 3 key learning points on my talk on happiness. Why Waffle Session? Whilst Brussels is well-known for its waffles, there is also a pun involved here. In the UK to ‘waffle on’ about something means to talk at great length on a subject – often in a boring and roundabout way. A Serious Waffle is not a long and boring talk, but a short one and to the point – I had 15 minutes. There are two more Serious Waffle Sessions in the coming series. You may like to join me as part of the audience. I am sure the next round of speakers will be excellent and thought provoking. Serious Waffle Talks

I had agreed to give this speech because I believe I have something of value to say about happiness, and it was also a good opportunity to raise my profile. As one of three speakers for the evening, we addressed the topic of happiness. Sascha Siegmund kicked us off, by talking about some of the myths about happiness. Andy Whittle followed with some principles to follow.  You can check out what he said over here   Andy Whittle’s principles of happiness

For my own talk I wanted to give some tools that can be useful in everyday life. Keeping my talk practical and hands-on idea was a key motivator for me in giving this talk. After I had said YES a few months ago, there were quite a few moments when I had serious second thoughts. What did I know, really? What made me think I had something useful to say on the subject? I noticed the barrage of negative thoughts, but I kept reminding myself why I wanted to give this talk. What it meant for me, was a big motivator.

As a trainer and facilitator, I am used to standing up and talking to people . But I had never given a proper speech before!! Truth be told, I was terrified! We met as a group a couple of months before, to review the planned event. I wasn’t liking it – it was feeling too formal, too real even. I was very much in contact with my own fears of about giving this kind of speech.  But I felt committed.  I wanted to do this even though I felt scared about it.

Agreeing to give this talk was challenging me in more ways than I had bargained for. I had forgotten that I had spent much of my earlier life perfecting the art of invisibility. When I look back at my childhood, it seems that being visible almost always got me in to trouble. Even when I had done something good. A memory is standing out, of me at about 8 years old.  I was given a  certificate  for some good work I had done. I was called out in school assembly and congratulated, for my hard work and endeavors. It should have been a nice happy moment for me. Unfortunately for me, my elder siblings were also present and they found it hilarious. They didn’t rate my youthful hard work as they were not as studious as me. They laughed at me, as only elder siblings can. I was young enough and sensitive enough to take it to heart and it was painful! I ended up feeling that I had done something wrong , when I was just being a good conscientious student!

Through that event, and others like, it I learnt not to stand out. It was never good news, so I became a master of being there without ever being noticed. So now, what on earth was I doing, thinking that I would stand up and make a speech?! I had never done anything like that before!! In  a sense, I was challenging myself to rewrite my history.  I needed to create a positive memory in the present to counter-balance the negative memories from the past that were still impacting me. Even after all this time.   Its only now after the fact that I recognise why this was so important for me, and so scary.

Before Christmas I had a vague notion of what I wanted to talk about. When I  was in the shower, or out for a walk, thoughts arrived that belonged in my talk on happiness. Most of all, I realised that I definitely did have something to say about this topic. I realised that I used to be invested in  being unhappy – without even knowing it. No longer!  My perspective had changed so much that I definitely wanted to share some of it. This was already building my confidence, as was my excitement about my topic.

Then I had the good fortune to go on holiday over the Christmas break. It turned out to be perfect opportunity to think about my talk. I went away with a group but I hadn’t bargained on being almost the only single amongst many couples. This not a topic that I think about much in daily life. But  I was on holiday now,  and some moments were excruciating!

I asked myself if I believed everything I said about happiness? What a perfect opportunity to find out! As I realised this, I remembered the practice I had received years before, from my then teacher Alan Lowen, from the Art of Being. This practice of ‘No complaining’. It took me a long time to learn that one, and now I can talk about it!! This practice of ‘no complaining’ pulled me out of the pity party I had fallen into. There is so much here and now to be grateful for, even if its not ideal. I am fortunate to have this opportunity, to go on this holiday. I am enjoying this glorious sunny weather in the middle of winter. The people were all friendly and inclusive, some of them were going out of their way for me.  Thats plenty to be grateful for.

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This was my first tip that I could speak about. And I had some good anecdotes from my holiday

By now my speech was writing itself, new memories and old ones kept coming. I even learnt my speech by heart, all 15 minutes of it.  I had not never imagined I could do that. The words were alive inside me. I am glad to report that my speech went super well. It has helped my confidence no end and I am looking forward to the next opportunity!

And here you can see me in action

Is happiness an inside job? No doubt about it now, I am sure of it. What about you? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.

Opening the Door on Gratitude

open-doorThe other day I managed to lock myself out of the house.  Did that ever happen to you? I had just come back from holiday and I was on a planned Skype call. I was expecting a furniture delivery but it wasn’t scheduled til later.  So of course on this occasion my furniture arrived EARLY – and sure enough I had to get some cash from the bank around the corner for their delivery fee.  I came back into the building, and when I got back to my front  door I realised that I had left my other key on the other side of the door and so  I had locked myself out!  What to do?! – Time was I would have panicked and stressed out, giving myself a hard time about how foolish I had been.  Fortunately for me this problem was easily solved as my upstairs neighbour was home and could help me connect with my landlord.  Everything was sorted out super fast, and I was home What a relief!!.  Sure I spent a few hours hanging around waiting but globally I was extremely lucky, it was so easy and straightforward  to solve it, and I was feeling grateful…..

Grateful for all the people who dropped everything so I could get back in to my home, grateful that I could get into the building so I was warm and dry, grateful  that I have somewhere nice to live, that I can pay my rent, that Id had a super holiday, that I was feeling calm, healthy, alive – the list is long once you get started!.  I wasn’t remotely bothered about the time I had lost that day  – I was so grateful to be home again, sure I had to reschedule my call but the other person was understanding  once I told them what had happened.

What I m noticing is that once I take time to feel grateful all those other voices –  the ‘beat me up’ voices   – I am sure I am not the only one that has them  – don’t need to be heard so much – I am so busy feeling grateful that they go a way of their own accord – how marvelous is that!!

And as a follow up to this little story, This morning, on my way to my office,  I realised that perhaps I had gotten out of bed the wrong side as I wasn’t in a particularly good mood, and I had just missed my bus – there wasn’t another one in ages, darn it!!   So I decided to walk – it was a beautiful sunny morning –a  bit cold but the exercise was  good.  I realised that  it was time to start practicing what I am on about – Get grateful!   Its a practice – which means that sometimes gratitude is not spontaneous when you start  -= its like showing the mind the groves in the tracks  look over here – GRATITUDE – you know you feel great when you feel grateful –

What am I grateful for today? – well actually this walk, being out in the sunshine on this cold Belgian day is pretty good to start with,  I am fit and healthy and I love walking .  Its Friday today and I have some nice plans for the weekend, starting this evening , and then the mind takes over finding more and more things I feel grateful for.  By the time I got to my office I was in a great mood and ready for a full  day ahead of me.

What are you feeling grateful for today?
Please Share in the comments  below

A new way to deal with anger…

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Today, well  all week actually, I am in a bit of a spat with someone – they did something that really upset me, made me angry, that has consequences for me –I could go on, but I will spare you.  In any case, I am still pretty upset about the whole situation…

I am writing about it here because  I’d like to reflect on how my response to it today is so  different than how I’d deal with this type of situation in the past.  Previously I have not been known to do well with anger…… I have been reactive and  difficult to be around. In fact, I’d do anything other than just feel  the anger, so that I can move on to get life back on track – despite this irritating thing this other person did.

Through my work with focusing – I have learnt a new way to respond , to ground myself  and the results this morning were remarkable.

This morning before leaving home, I was triggered again by an email  I read. There I was fuming mad all over again!!   I had been planning to ride my bike to my office  – and I was suddenly was aware of an inner  voice saying ‘ be careful – you’re ungrounded ,  it ‘ll be a mess!’.  This voice knowing that I have a history of accidents happening when I’v e been ungrounded – and some of them have been pretty nasty over the years. It has been at my peril when I didn’t pay attention to this voice in the past!

Today though I heard an inner response ‘Hang on a minute, I want to ride my bike! – I just got it repaired yesterday and it’s no good just sitting in the shed’.  I took  another moment – and sat with these two voices, allowing them both to be there. Then I realised that I needed to ground myself and it would be fine!  So I did just that, I took the moment to feel my whole body – to feel the ground beneath my feet , to feel the energy and to feel everything that was going on for me right there in the moment.  I felt  the energy pulsating through me, as I sent it down into the ground.

Quite quickly I felt gratitude, for my life and for this practice, even as the anger was still present – but I felt alive in it, in a totally new way.  So I duly cycled to work,  and even as I was cycling along I could feel the ground through my feet,  through the pedals in fact – that was a bit of a weird experience I have to admit!!

I am glad to say I am now safely sitting in my office writing this blog!!

It never  ceases to amaze me how the simple act of grounding  and making space for everything thats there gives me more space and freedom in my life.

Memories Spinning Off – Focusing and a Fear of Flying

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The young man told me he had a fear of flying – so much so, that he was working on it with another therapist.  He was curious to see what focusing would bring in helping him with this phobia. Lets take a look at what happened in Jospeh;’s  session ( not his real name)  which I describe here with his permission.

 

By way of introduction I asked Joseph what happens for him when he flies and he described the panic and anxiety that he often had before and during flying.  After our introductory grounding I invited him to get in contact with his memories in a physical way and we invited his body to show him something .  Right at the beginning of the session a lot of anxious feelings came up for him and he noticed there was a pressure in his chest.  It seemed that lying on the ground was a good position, lots of contact between him and the ground.  I invited him to really feel the ground.  Then I suggested that just for a moment, he get back into contact with the anxiety and then immediately to come back to bring his awareness to the ground. Already there was more calmness as he did this.

 

Then he announced that he needed to sit up – ‘you know, like in an airplane’.  I found us some suitable chairs – sitting opposite each other on upright chairs, not exactly like airplane seats but it seems to have been close enough.  I kept inviting him to reconnect with the anxious part and to keep bringing his awareness back to his feet and to the support from the chair.  Before long Joseph was on a memory carousel of challenging  flights – from years ago – in  Surinam, in Nicaragua, in Indonesia as well  as closer to home.  All I was doing was sitting opposite him and inviting him to feel the stable ground beneath his feet and the support from the chair.  And I kept inviting him to make space for whatever was there, over and over again.

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A little while later Joseph informed me that the bad flight memory carousel was still going round, but spinning off –further and further away.  Suddenly Joseph reported that there is more space in him,  the memories still there – but  ‘over there’ and in him now – more space.  Something had shifted in him and my role was simply to remind him to bring awareness to the solid ground underneath him – and over here on my side I was extremely aware of my feet and the contact I had with the ground I noticed that my feet were warm and definitely connected to the ground..

Later on Joseph told me that he will be flying again very soon and that he could  see himself at the airport about to fly – The self he sees he sees is telling him ‘It’s going to be fine, I can handle this now’.

With focusing when you start a session you never really know what is going to show up, or even whether your body will want to go where you are intending it to go – sometimes other things that are more pressing need to be dealt with first .  Sitting over here as Joseph’s listener and guide I am struck again by the simplicity of this process, and its beauty.

In this situation where Joseph’s sense of  panic at the start of the session was almost completely overwhelming him, having a  listener was essential in his process. This is definitely not a topic to try at home!   Nonetheless the simple practice of finding the contact between you  feet and the ground  can help brings more presence, calm  and more aliveness , wherever you are and whatever is going on in the moment.