Daring greatly

We all strive to be happy and to live a fulfilling life. This means following your dreams, speaking your truth, daring to be authentic and stand up for who you are and what you believe in. Speaking your truth even though some may not like it.

That takes courage!

Courage – cour means heart in french. Courage means to listen to and follow your heart. Go out and do whatever it is you have to do to follow your heart, even when your knees are trembling and your heart is racing. That is daring greatly.

I know that feeling so well – don’t you?  When it comes I remind myself,  if I want to live a balanced fulfilled life I must, listen and I must dare.

When I am too scared to do it I really feel I am betraying myself and it creates imbalance, I feel discontent. Not that I always get what I go after, but I have to try.

Trying is a success in itself – because even if we fail, at least we tried. We feel the emotions that comes with failing, we let go and move forward.

“It is hard to fail , but it is worse never to have tried to succeed” Theodore Roosevelt

Dr. Brene Brown is a researcher of vulnerability and shame. When I think of courage I think of her. In her books she puts herself out there. She tells the world about her shame and her vulnerabilities and she shares from her heart.

Her new book Daring Greatly is about the courage to engage wholeheartedly in our lives. About embracing vulnerability and imperfections. About Daring Greatly.

“I failed my way to success” – Thomas Edison

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Key Lime Coconut Baby Pies

It is time for cake – little sweet, tangy and deliciously fresh in the sunshine!

I love rawfood cakes,  because they taste so amazing  – they are authentic honest food, through and through. Pure and good!

These little babies are not your everyday Key lime pies, but are inspired by the rawfood concept – I was so pleased that they turned out so well.

It all started when I was shopping and looking for some lime to put in the iced water jug. And there they were, these cute little key limes. So I bought them and immediately started dreaming of key lime pie and the thought of how I could make a healthy rawfood version of this old classic.

This is what I came up with.

Key lime coconut baby pies

For the crust I used:

1 cup of walnuts

1 cup of dried coconut

8 dates pitted

2 tablespoons of Agave sirup

Pinch of sea salt

To make the crust, I put everything in the blender for about a minute – to cut up the nuts and the dates. Then, I pressed the mass into a mini-muffin pan like this:

For the lime filling:

2 cups of cashew nuts – that have been soaked in water for about 2-4 hrs

6 tablespoons of agave sirup

1/3 cup coconut oil melted

1/2 cup of fresh lime juice from about 15 key limes – if you cannot get key limes use regular limes instead, it works fine.

1/4 cup filtered water

Put all these ingredients into the blender and blend into a smooth cream. Spoon it on top of the crusts and put them in the freezer to cool for at least an hour. I keep them in the freezer and take them out as and when anyone is in need of a treat with tea or a small dessert. Let them thaw for about 5 min. before you bite into them. Serve them just like that – enjoy!

Emotional health

Allowing your emotions to show is often looked upon as weakness – I don’t see it as weakness, I see it as the doorway to the most important experiences in life.

I am working on a textbook and this is a snippet of the work I try to convey as a psychotherapist – I would love your thoughts and feed back!

We live in a world that is mostly frightened of emotions. In our day, emotions are often something we hide from one another as we try to stay “strong” or “brave” – like a tin soldier. We fear that others will not like us if we show emotions – we fear rejection and to protect ourselves we create layers or walls of defenses.

Defenses are not created on purpose and not because we are weak – it happens unconsciously, as a way to survive.

We were born with emotions and we need emotions to navigate in life.

We learn to contain emotions from parents/significant others who react to us in healthy ways, without fear, when we express emotions. As children we need to be valued, understood and mirrored so that we can learn to contain emotions ourselves. By being seen, acknowledged and understood, a child learns to contain his or her own emotions and those of others. Of course this we can only dream of, it is of course not possible to provide all the time, even if we want to and know the importance of it, but if the child experiences healthy respect for emotions most of the time, they will develop a healthy sense of self.

The Swedish psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Clarence Crafoord talks about “containment” and his diagram (see below) gives us a way of understanding this important and edifying concept.

When something happens in the outer world (see the * in “outer world”) it activates an emotion in the child. From this, the child experiences a tension (” T “) and not knowing what it is, the child asks (back in the outer world): “Mom, is this okay?, what is this?, will I survive?, Do you still love me when I feel like this?” 

The diagram then shows how the parent/significant other refers to their own inner reference (” IR “) system. Inner Reference (IR) systems have been built from the experiences we have had as a child, how we were met or not met, when we showed emotions.

The parent either answers back to the child. “I see you are angry. It is okay to feel anger. Tell me more, what made you angry?  I understand that you got very angry when that happens ….. Anger is a natural feeling and I, of course, still love you when you are angry.”  Or – like many of us have tried:Hey, you stop that right now, go to your room, without your dinner and stay there till you can behave yourself! We don’t like you when you are angry.”

The response is then stored and builds the child’s Inner Reference system (IR) and becomes the way they relate to themselves and the world.

From the healthy response, a child will learn to contain emotions and react adequately on them. But if we as parents have a poor Inner Reference system , i.e., did not have good experiences and responses from our caregivers when we showed emotions as children, our responses to our children may not be good and they learn anxiety when they feel emotions and do not get good feedback. If the emotions are not acceptable for us or significant others because we did not learn to contain emotions, we may show anger, resentment and rejection towards the child – based on our own childhood experiences.

A child is 100% dependent on her/his caregivers; without them, the child cannot survive – so the anxiety from being rejected is high. To the child it means life or death! It is here that defense mechanisms are developed – in order to survive and be loved the child learns ways to appease. However, this costs and we pay a price, we suppress ourselves, our emotions and our needs.

Defense mechanisms can stay with us and create problems for us throughout our life. And when the defense mechanisms are too strong, we no longer feel our emotions and needs and we cannot navigate in life and feel what is good for us to do. We miss out on intimacy and authentic connection with others.

If we did not experience a healthy response to our emotions when we were children, it is as in Crafood’s diagram – our IR system gets built of these inadequate responses.

I was one of the people who did not get healthy responses to my emotions as a child and my IR system was not supportive of good emotional health. I needed many defense mechanisms to survive.

Looking at Crafood’s diagram helps to understand: Moving back a generation, I can put my mom in as the child and my grandparents on the parent side. My mother’s emotions were not met sufficiently by her parents when she was a child. Thus, she did not learn healthy ways to respond to emotions. I could also put my grandparents and my great-grandparents into the model. Crafood’s model shows the way that we inherit  behaviours. There is always a reason to the way we respond and it is not about blaming, it is about understanding.

By understanding why my mom did what she did and at the same time feeling the emotions that comes with that, brings me into a place of empathy, love and forgiveness. Feeling the emotions was the most crucial part – by feeling the emotions I healed and was able to break the circle of emotional “unhealth” and then I was able to give my children more of the good responses that build on to their emotional health.

Clarence Crafoord’s containment diagram has no age frame or limitations – we can change our Inner Reference system (IR) by sharing emotions with people who are able to be present with us. And assist others in having great experiences when they share emotions too. It is never too late to do that – awareness, understanding and feeling is key to all change in life.

Emotions are the doorway to strength, joy, love, creativity – to the most important things in life!

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The sacred space between us

True connection between us is a “sacred space” and is what brings us together and make a difference, it nourishes and feeds us.

What can truly make a difference in the world is creating more of that sacred space between us.

The other day my dear neighbor came in for a short visit.  My husband was preoccupied on his phone trying to get a hold of our teenage daughter who had gone for a walk to the beach and had said she would come home for dinner but hadn’t yet returned. At one point he looks at our neighbor and he says “I’m sorry that I’m not present with you, but I just have to make sure that Kathleen is okay, I will be there with you in a min.”

The next day I saw my neighbor and she said “You know, that was so nice of Hugh that he told me he was sorry he was not present, he didn’t have to do that”- I told her that it is something we consider really important in our family, to be there and to be present with the people we meet, no matter who they are. Of  cause that is not possible all the time, but then we make a point of saying it. To the kids ” sorry Love I really want to be present with you and hear what you are saying and right now I am busy. Let me come back to you so I can hear you properly.” We do the same with each other or if people call us or drop by at a time that is not convenient. The message is ” You are important to me”.

We have all been in the situation where we feel that we are not being listened to or not being taken seriously – for example, at the doctor’s when he is too preoccupied with other things. Or perhaps your therapist nodded off while you were in the middle of a story.  I tried that once and I crawled right back into my hole. Of course, I was furious but then I did not know what to do about it and I turned  the anger inwards. Today I can laugh about it but then it felt awful.  When this happens we feel worse than when we came.

Arnhild Lauveng  was schizophrenic and deeply psychotic – she has written 2 amazing books  ” Tomorrow I was always a Lion” and “As useless as a Rose”. In the books, Arnhild tells of how she came back to reality and how the nurses and doctors who were able to be there for her, trust her, connect with her and be authentic with her – those people helped her back. This story shows just how powerful authentic connection is – it can heal!

Arnhild returned to study and today she has a degree in psychology. She works as a psychologist at the Kongsvinger Psychiatric Center in Norway and helps people with schizophrenia.

You can read more about her here

A Ted Talk I came across with Hedy Schleifer – The Power of Connection says it all so beautifully! I had the honor and privilege to attend a weekend workshop for therapists in Denmark with Hedy. She truly is an incredible woman. I hope you will enjoy this!

So long, shame, so long

So what has shame to do with health? just Everything!  Just think about it. How do you feel when you feel shameful, hurt and angry. Your body is tight, your shoulders are up around your ears, you have a knot in your stomach and a tightness around your chest, your breath is shallow, your thoughts are dark and maybe the big hammer is hammering away with messages like – “Gosh you are so stupid!” “Why did you do that?” “Will you ever learn!” “You are so fat!” “Why can’t you never do it right” …ad nauseam…

And how about “old” shame? Stories that have been in our families — maybe for generations? Addictions, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect – shame we feel deep inside, shame that makes us feel different and inherently defective, flawed and bad. The feeling of shame we hide from the world, we want no one to see it, we keep it hidden in the darkest corner of our soul. We overwork not to feel it, we overeat and drink to numb it out, we sabotage ourselves, we criticize ourselves, the world, our children and our spouse. We pretend to be happy and hide our vulnerability.

It affects us deeply to feel shame, on a cellular level, it even affects our immune system. It affects the choices we make, it affects how we sleep, how we eat, how we show up in the world, how we love, how we parent. When we feel shame it is easy to chose to comfort ourselves with red wine and creme cake. Shame rubs us of health and happiness. It takes away our energy and focus on life. We are caught up in a web. All suppressed emotions – are not just suppressed, they actually build up in the body causing havoc inside – stress, depression, anxiety, addiction …….

In my life it was addiction and abuse that was my secret shame. I never talked to anyone about it, I hid it from the world and smiled while I desperately….desperately, tried to hold the shame down so no one could see it or find out that I was actually flawed, defective and not good enough.-  But it was like a beach ball it kept coming back up.

Shame works like a really effective defense mechanism. While I was “busy” thinking it was me who was defective and flawed, focus was away on my true feelings. Feelings of anger and pain for having been abused and for having had an addicted mother who could not be there for me.

But shame can only live in the dark, shame thrives in the dark – as soon as we bring it out in to the light, talk about it to someone who will listen with empathy and without judgement, it dissolves! It is not about blaming or acting our feelings out! – It is about feeling those emotions connected to the experiences we have had, sharing them, going through them, having a benevolent witness to those feelings. When we do that, we feel like a ton of weight has been lifted from our shoulders, we forgive, we feel love and connection, we feel joy and we move on.

When we feel shame it’s like an alarm clock – it’s time to stop up and figure out what is going on. We are not born with shame – feeling shame is just telling us something is wrong – something needs our attention. We need to shine love on it, be gentle with it and reach out for help and connection.

Vulnerability is not a weakness, it’s a strength and it’s beautiful- it’s here we come from the most authentic place within us.

Dr. Brene Brown is a researcher in shame and vulnerability – she is such a great inspiration and I absolutely love her. I have devoured her 2 books  ” I just thought it was me, but it isn’t ”  and “The gifts of Imperfection”. I recommend her books wholeheartedly! Find them in Anne’s Favorite’s

Here is a Ted Talk she did – enjoy!