The Power of Relationships

If there is one thing in life that can completely create imbalance in our lives, emotionally and physically – it’s troubled relationships.

Relationships between our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, co-workers, or our boss – any relationship out of balance has the potential to create havoc in our lives.

Relationships have a huge impact on how we thrive, our health, our overall well-being and enjoyment of life.

We are genetically wired for connection and we need connection, we need relationships to survive. So when our relationships are challenged we feel enormous stress, we feel threatened and our bodies suffer –  causing anger, resentment, guilt, sadness and pumping out stress hormones causing us to be on alert, a constant fight or flight mode.

Our relationships live in the sacred space between us, which is sacred – Martin Buber

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Unplug

Last week it was “National day of Unplugging ” did you know?

It went by without me having the slightest clue even of its brilliant existence. Probably while I was myself plugged in and most likely busy working online, tweeting, blogging, updating Facebook,   Unplugging Day came and passed me by!

Hmm, I asked my two gorgeous teenagers – “did you know it was National Unplugging Day, a few days ago?” No reaction – and not surprising – they didn’t know either.

But when talking about health and well-being, unplugging is crucial! We need to unplug and create space to slow down, be quiet and simply just be.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

 

We need this quiet time to listen and tune in to our needs. Even though, the body is amazing, the perfect GPS, always reliable; it has to have the space to tell us what we need. It can tell us if we are happy and content, if we are stressed and out of tune. So often we look outside ourselves for the answers, but the best answers come from within. The body never lies it always tells the truth. But, it needs to be “unplugged” from the outer influences and given time to relay its messages.

Our happiness and health rely on us taking that time to tune in.

I remember when I trained to become a psychotherapist, part of my training was going through intense therapy sessions and I remember how difficult and humbling it was for me to try to answer the simple question “How do you feel?” – How did I feel? Really feel? I didn’t know!

The honest truth was, I was so used to, when asked that question, to say “fine” without ever actually feeling my body responses. It was a new experience to me to connect to myself, to listen to my body and then be able to answer honestly how I felt. An even worse question was “What do you need?” – Again, I honestly had no clue. That was painful!

It took time and practice to learn and relearn. We are born with the ability to feel and know what we need, but early on we learn to suppress those feelings – in order to fit in.

I am a great believer in creating unplugging moments, every day. But how do we do that in a world that is so plugged in all the time?

I have devised a set of unplugging strategies, that works for me:

  • Getting up 1/2-1 hr before everyone else to meditate, sip tea, write my journal (with a pencil), run, jog, or just sit.
  • Unplug over the weekend just giving myself time to hang out with the family, read good books, wear my gumboots and do gardening, hike, walk, feed the hummingbirds and generally just be.
  • Before bed some quite time for a hot bath, a good book, some journalling, a lit candle, some gentle music, an evening meditation.
  • Sitting still with a hand on my heart, closing my eyes, while asking my heart (not my mind) the questions “how do I feel'” – ” what do I need” and quitely wait for the answers.

How do you unplug?

Presence

Presence

Here are some great links to inspire you further:

http://www.expresswhoyouare.com/

http://zenhabits.net/

 

Be the change

Our children are stressed more than ever. They are on a non-stoppable – high – speed treadmill. Demands from school, parents, extra curricular and a never ending intrusive connection to social media and cell phones. Our children are on 24/7, always on the go.

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As a tragic result, we see anxious, depressed and stressed out children like never before. Nearly 7% of Canadian teens suffer from some serious and/or disabling anxiety.

According to an article in Globe & Mail ” School study paints a picture of teens under pressure” – this is a serious problem.

The article reveals the Canadian study of 103.000 grade 7-12 students. It  shows that teenagers are under so much stress that they are losing sleep, being driven to tears and experiencing greater levels of stress than parents and teachers expected.

Read the statistics of the study here

Dr. Atkinson, a clinical psychologist working in Toronto, sees children who are confused and overwhelmed, who are not able to experience life in a natural way, because they have to do more and move faster.

I see stress and anxiety as symptoms, a serious wake up call to all of us. Something needs to change.

Underneath stress and anxiety there are needs and suppressed emotions – stress and anxiety are natural reactions to what the children are experiencing, they are signs of overload, but the children have nowhere to go. This way of living has become the norm, we are all stressed. While this unhealthy environment goes on and on, we are creating children who are worn out, burned out before they even begin, maybe for life.

This means that children today need us more than ever.

The good news is that we by pulling the emergency brake can help our children deal with stress and burnout. Not by telling them and staying on the treadmill ourselves, but by slowing down and dealing with our own stress.

They need to see us:

  • get off our own treadmill
  • say “no” and mean it
  • say “yes” and mean it
  • meditate
  • go for walks
  • be mindful and present
  • be in the moment
  • do nothing
  • take a nap
  • have time to chat
  • have time to listen
  • have fun
  • take a long bath
  • do yoga
  • read a book
  • bake a cake
  • take care of ourselves
  • say what we mean
  • listen to our bodies
  • follow our hearts
  • take deep breath
  • have no plans

They need us more than ever: to support them, encourage them and spend time with them. 

It can be hard to do these things, but lets do it, for ourselves, our children and the future.

Be the change you want to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Stop procrastination and succeed with your new years resolutions

Do you have any new years resolutions? Do you want to lose weight? Start doing yoga? Be more healthy? Start meditating?  Stop procrastinating?

We all procrastinate to some extend and make excuses as to why today is not a good day to start that project you’ve been planning, stop smoking or eating healthily.

Some of us may procrastinate so much that important things in life never get done. Robbing us of our dreams and deeper longings, ultimately leaving us dissatisfied and depressed.

 

New Years resolutions

Today it is easier than ever to get distracted and seduced by procrastination. Busy lives, busy schedules, too much work, families, children and all the things that add up and make us desperately trying to make ends meet. On top of that there is social media, oh there’s a message on my Facebook, wonder who it’s from? Oops a text, wonder what it says? I should Google it and find out about …….  and click, click, click hours and hours have gone by and it is too late, I’ll do it tomorrow.

We become addicted to the news the likes and the comments, we want more of that feeling. The same with emails, text messages – we just need to see if there are any new mails any new messages any new likes, any world news we cannot live without – any rewards.

We know we are fooling ourselves and, in fact, wasting precious time away from what we intended to do, what really matters. This creates frustration and increases feelings of not following through, not doing good enough – so we try to repair that feeling with going back for more – a quick fix – of ice cream or Facebook.

The quick-fix happiness feeling is short-lived and followed by a feeling of inadequacy – a vicious circle.

I know in my own life I can make endless excuses – for not going out on that run, or not sitting down to meditate or finish the children’s book I have worked on for years. So is it because I really don’t want to run and stay fit? Don’t I want the book to be finished and get out in to the world? Yes, I do, I want it with all my heart, more than anything – it’s a longing, a passion, my deepest mission. So why do I procrastinate and do less important things? – Because there is always “real” work,  there is always dishes that needs to be done, some washing to do or some clothes to fold, or some dinner plans to make, some children to drive, some phone calls to make …………….

Seen from a psycho-dynamic perspective, I know I have to look at what is underneath, I know that if I am self-sabotaging my goals, there is something underneath that needs my loving attention.

Key is embracing emotions – If we are stressed, if we feel sad somewhere deep down, if we are angry, because someone walked all over us – it’s time to go within, it’s time to confront those feelings inside.  Maybe it’s time to talk. If we suppress some feeling, it stays in the body and creates stress and discomfort. It doesn’t just disappear because we turn the other cheek – it loads up within the body and creates havoc, it makes us want to eat more, procrastinate more, postpone more.

I know why I procrastinate finishing my book, or sitting down to meditate, even though these are really important to me – there are some issues I need to attend to first. For example, one of the things that I have to say goodbye to is that we have just sold our farm in Denmark, our home of many years, and we are starting a new chapter. Our children were raised there and it’s a place filled with many wonderful memories. This means there is grieving to be done, there are more tears and feelings I need to embrace. If I don’t do this, I know it will stay within my body and take my creativity, my happiness, my flow and it will ultimately sabotage my goals.

I recommend:

  • Journaling – get a note-book and write your heart out. Everything, anything, no censoring just fill the pages with whats on your mind and in your heart. Don’t think of grammar or doing it “right” just write.
  • Pauses/breaks spend time every day to check in with yourself, to breathe and reconnect. Take 5 min – give yourself 5 min.
  • Meditation – mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to create space, overcome stress and fatigue.
  • Talk to a trusted friend and tell them how you really are
  • A self-help group – a place where you can talk from the heart and be heard.
  • Consult a therapist/ a psychologist/ a coach

Once we embrace our emotions, all of them, we automatically get more energy and we want to be active, we want to eat better, we become more compassionate towards ourselves and the world and we make better choices for ourselves. This leading us to a feeling of contentedness and there will be no more procrastinations but an eager to get going.

Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens – Carl Jung

Also read:

Love as a daily supplement

Each Morning a New Arrival

 

The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

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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Worlds healthiest “fast food”

Are you busy and think  it takes too much time and effort to prepare healthy food?

Green smoothies are the easiest and healthiest “fast food” ever. When I am really busy and don’t really have the time to prepare  a nutritious meal – I make a green smoothy! It has everything in it that my body needs, the nutrients, the proteins and the fibers – it keeps me glowing and energized for hours on end. I make a big portion, put it in the fridge and even when I’m heading out on the road, away all day, I can bottle it and take it with me to enjoy later.

This recipe has

Fresh spinach

Mango

Grapes

Celery

pear,

Lime

Kiwi

And filtered water/ice cubes

Cheers to your health!

Green Smoothies are:

  • easy to make and easy to clean up afterwards
  • loaded with nutrients and proteins
  • full of fibers that keeps you full and satisfied
  • a perfect way to reduce/eliminate cravings for unhealthy food
  • a good way to balance your blood sugar
  • easy to digest and assimilate
  • a great way to alkalize the body helping to fight disease
  • a great way to lower cholesterol naturally
  • an energy booster
  • boosting your immune system
  • great way to help lose weight
  • an easy way to get  greens and fruit – in fact it is difficult to eat your way through the amounts of greens and fruits we need, but by juicing or making smoothies, its easy.
  • supporting your overall health – both physical and emotional.

Cheers to your health

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!

Soul Blossom

Springtime is full of new beginnings. It is time to let the light in and and the darkness out. Its time to breathe in the fresh air and the new life and let ourselves bloom like the flowers in the garden.

But there might be things that are holding you back from the full bloom or to from spreading your leaves out.

Try to look within and see if there are any old grudges laying around, shame, fear or pain that need to come out in to the light and be embraced, loved and be set free.  In fact the things we have felt the need to suppress and store, are the things that need the most love and compassion.

Sometime we store experiences and the accompanying emotions inside in a corner of the soul, because it was too painful to deal with them at the time. But those emotions are still in there and draining us of energy and new life.

I am not telling you to forgive, forget, move on and pretend. We know it doesn’t work to suppress and pretend it robs us of health and happiness.  It is important to feel the emotions of the experiences we have had in order to truly be able to forgive and move on. In fact, forgiveness comes naturally when we have felt the emotions.

I encourage you to look in, be gentle and compassionate with what ever comes up. Is there anything that is causing you pain or regret? Write about it, talk about it, feel it, share it with someone you trust – do what ever it takes to finally set yourself free.

” And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” – Anais Nin

The truth is:

You are worth it
You are lovable
You may speak your truth
You may feel and have all emotions
You may be YOU with all there is

I love this poem by David Whyte – Questions that can make or unmake a life

SOMETIMES

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right
to go away.

David Whyte

Compassion

Be positive – is something we hear often or even say to others. However it is very hard to be positive in an authentic way if there is something underneath that is bothering us or even hurting us. It is like a beach ball, if we try to hold he bugger down down under water, but it keeps coming up to the surface as soon as we let go of it. Shame, pain and worry are all signs that we need to find a place where we feel safe to talk – share how we really feel from the heart with someone who knows how to be compassionate and listen.

Quite often when we find out that we are not alone shame disappears and the pain dissolves – feelings are not dangerous. They are there to guide us.

When we suppress our needs and feelings, it creates an imbalance that we may experience in many different ways: lack of sparkle, stress, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, overeating or addictions etc. These symptoms are also the body’s way of getting our attention to the fact that something is wrong – that we have become disconnected from ourselves.

Underneath dissatisfaction, stress or low self esteem are feelings. Many of us have had to disconnect from those feelings because they were not accepted where we came from when we were little. That is totally natural and in fact very wise, we needed to survive. The problem is If we cannot feel them we will not know how to protect ourselves, set boundaries or feel what is good for us. Feel what it is that we need to do in order to feel content again. The feelings have a message for us and we need them in order to navigate in our lives. Feelings are our personal GPS they are part of our true nature and when we start to sense them again, we receive balance and harmony in return, a sense of contentedness and freedom. This is where positive and happiness comes natural and not as a thing we try to pretend we are.

Jung said: Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens

If you feel there is something underneath that stops you from feeling content and happy I recommend:

  • Meet with a trusted, supportive and compassionate friend and share
  • Consult your diary – diaries are great. Here  you can write anything and no one needs to see it. Pour your heart out on the pages
  • You may want to find a good therapist, coach or psychologist
  • Be compassionate and mild with yourself
  • Meditate, take some time to be alone

Even if we are not quite sure what is bothering us talking, sharing, writing and meditating are all ways to heal.