Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The ultimate prayer

Holistic psychiatrist Kelly Brogan shared a lovely video of Joan Borysenko a few weeks ago and Joan said something really beautiful. She said there is a very simple prayer of the heart and it's called: Help.

Ask for help and notice all the various ways it shows up, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. It really works, please try it.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

You are what you digest, assimilate and eliminate

You probably know the saying ‘You are what you eat”. But lately I’ve been hearing “You are what you digest” from functional medicine practitioners. This is true for food, relationships, and everything in our environment. If we can’t digest it, it accumulates and stagnates in our system causing all sorts of health problems.

It’s not just what we digest though, it’s also what we assimilate and eliminate. What goes in, must go through and come out. If if doesn’t, we aren’t nourished by the things that are good for us and we can’t therefore eliminate what is no longer good for us.

If we don’t feel, we can’t experience. But feeling seems far too simple a solution for it to work. We think we need something more complicated and fancy, especially when our issues are complex.

So much has been written on this subject, but because it doesn’t seem quick and painless, it doesn’t get as much airtime as other so-called easier solutions, but the fact is that it works. The ability to handle difficult emotions increases our capacity and resilience and makes us more of who we really are. Who wouldn't want that?

Collectively, our emotional intelligence isn’t great. We aren’t very good at dealing with difficult emotions, people or experiences. Is it because we don’t place as much value on our emotional and social intelligence as we do academic intelligence? Watch/listen to this excellent podcast with Dr Joan Rosenberg talking about how our life changes for the better when we learn to feel and experience difficult emotions.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

I can't digest ...

What do you find difficult to digest, feel, experience? Are you bursting at the seams because you have so much undigested stuff inside?

Go slowly and take at least 5 minutes to yourself every day, in silence, and feel a little bit of what you find hard to feel. I know that's difficult to do but the more urgency and desperation we feel to not feel certain emotions and sensations, the more we need to slow down and feel them, it sounds counter intuitive but it really does work.

The 'it' that Ivor Browne is talking about is dissociation, that is, avoiding, numbing, checking out, and we all do it to a greater or lesser degree to protect ourselves from pain.

Try tapping on:

I find it hard to digest ...
I find it hard to feel ...
I find it difficult to experience ...
I find it difficult to accept ...
It feels like my body is bursting at the seams with symptoms
The worst symptom is ...
It makes me feel ...
Does this feeling remind me of anything or anyone?
When did I first feel this feeling? Guess if you don't know
How does this emotion feel in my body? Be as descriptive and specific as you can be here
Is avoiding this feeling helping me in the long run?
What's worse, feeling this difficult feeling or suffering the consequences of pushing it away?
What if I felt 10% (2, 5, whatever number feels manageable) of this feeling every day?

Monday, July 01, 2019

Emotional flashbacks

13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks by psychotherapist, Pete Walker.

1 Say to yourself: "I am having a flashback". Flashbacks take us into a timeless part of the psyche that feels as helpless, hopeless and surrounded by danger as we were in childhood. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are past memories that cannot hurt you now.

2 Remind yourself: "I feel afraid but I am not in danger! I am safe now, here in the present." Remember you are now in the safety of the present, far from the danger of the past.

3 Own your right/need to have boundaries. Remind yourself that you do not have to allow anyone to mistreat you; you are free to leave dangerous situations and protest unfair behavior.

4 Speak reassuringly to the Inner Child. The child needs to know that you love her unconditionally- that she can come to you for comfort and protection when she feels lost and scared.

5 Deconstruct eternity thinking: in childhood, fear and abandonment felt endless - a safer future was unimaginable. Remember the flashback will pass as it has many times before.

6 Remind yourself that you are in an adult body with allies, skills and resources to protect you that you never had as a child. [Feeling small and little is a sure sign of a flashback].

7 Ease back into your body. Fear launches us into 'heady' worrying, or numbing and spacing out:
[a] Gently ask your body to Relax: feel each of your major muscle groups and softly encourage them to relax. (Tightened musculature sends unnecessary danger signals to the brain).
[b] Breathe deeply and slowly. (Holding the breath also signals danger).
[c] Slow down: rushing presses the psyche's panic button.
[d] Find a safe place to unwind and soothe yourself: wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a stuffed animal, lie down in a closet or a bath, take a nap.
[e] Feel the fear in your body without reacting to it. Fear is just an energy in your body that cannot hurt you if you do not run from it or react self-destructively to it.

8 Resist the Inner Critic's Drasticizing and Catastrophizing:
[a] Use thought-stopping to halt its endless exaggeration of danger and constant planning to control the uncontrollable. Refuse to shame, hate or abandon yourself. Channel the anger of self-attack into saying NO to unfair self-criticism.
[b] Use thought-substitution to replace negative thinking with a memorized list of your qualities and accomplishments

9 Allow yourself to grieve. Flashbacks are opportunities to release old, unexpressed feelings of fear, hurt, and abandonment, and to validate - and then soothe - the child's past experience of helplessness and hopelessness. Healthy grieving can turn our tears into self-compassion and our anger into self-protection.

10 Cultivate safe relationships and seek support. Take time alone when you need it, but don't let shame isolate you. Feeling shame doesn't mean you are shameful. Educate your intimates about flashbacks and ask them to help you talk and feel your way through them.

11 Learn to identify the types of triggers that lead to flashbacks. Avoid unsafe people, places, activities and triggering mental processes. Practice preventive maintenance with these steps when triggering situations are unavoidable.

12 Figure out what you are flashing back to. Flashbacks are opportunities to discover, validate and heal our wounds from past abuse and abandonment. They also point to our still unmet developmental needs and can provide motivation to get them met.

13 Be patient with a slow recovery process: it takes time in the present to become un-adrenalized, and considerable time in the future to gradually decrease the intensity, duration and frequency of flashbacks. Real recovery is a gradually progressive process [often two steps forward, one step back], not an attained salvation fantasy. Don't beat yourself up for having a flashback.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Would you like to dissolve traumatic stress around your pregnancy and birth?

Please join me this Thursday, 23rd May at 5pm GMT (Dublin), to tap on clearing and dissolving any traumatic stress you experienced during pregnancy, birth and beyond. The class is online with zoom (free to download). I will be working with a volunteer and you can tap along and borrow benefits. The cost is €15 for a 90 minute class, you can book by emailing me to find out more or pay directly for the class here.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Human attunement

Attunement creates the safety needed to soothe our nervous system. It’s what Robert Stolorow calls a “relational home”. Attuned relationships with other humans (and animals) create a home for our true selves where we can develop a real sense of belonging.

Our brains, bodies and minds are formed according to our relationships, they are that important. I read a recent blog post by Mark Brady entitled “Are safe relationships all that really matter?” and I’m inclined to say yes to that.

If you study up on the polyvagal theory by Stephen Porges, you will see the crucial importance of our social engagement system. We don’t talk ourselves into this truth, our nervous system will do that for us. Our nervous system has evolved over millions of years and trying to override it gets us into all sorts of trouble.

Not having ‘relational homes’ sets up a real dilemma and catch 22 for those of us who haven’t had safe and nurturing relationships. We might try and convince ourselves that we can go it alone, though that rarely works out as we well know. Human connection is a valid need that there is absolutely no point in trying to bypass.

The good news is, our brain is plastic, we can get what’s called “earned secure attachment”, a phrase I’m not crazy about. What it essentially means is that we can learn to feel safe and good inside and have the relationships with others that help us thrive. It takes a lot of hard work, there’s no point in pretending otherwise, but it absolutely is attainable.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Tapping on the obvious

I’ve noticed that we don’t seem to tap on the obvious. We say the same things, have the same recurring dreams, see the same patterns repeating when we’re stressed, yet often we don’t tap on these things.

The most obvious things are hiding in plain sight, but because we’re so close to them, we often don’t see them as important to tap on. Or we discount them as too ordinary to tap on, after all, we’re looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow aren’t we?

The holy grail or the root cause that will finally be the big breakthrough that we’ve been looking and pining for and maybe even believing that there’s something wrong with us because we haven’t had it yet.

But I think that most of us, have the smaller, less conspicuous breakthroughs that are incremental  and that we often don’t notice. When you see someone every day, you don’t notice the changes in them that someone who hasn’t seen them in a year will see and it’s the same with progress. We often don’t see or give ourselves credit for the things we’re doing differently, the stress we’ve dissolved, the internal conflicts that we’ve uncovered and the way we’ve grown.

I think we often want a short cut through our pain or an easier journey and that’s more than ok. None of us want to suffer. The truth is where we should all start and when you tap on the truth, mountains move.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Whatever you meet, you can go beyond

This very true sentence was written by Karen Brody in her book, Daring to Rest. Whatever we don’t meet, gets stuck on repeat. We’ll repeat it until we can meet it, digest it, experience it, complete it, finish it, accept it, even love it. There really is no way out except through.

It takes courage, support and resources to meet what we fear and in my experience what we fear and feel threatened by the most, are the sensations and emotions inside us that feel awful. The unfelt hurts and pain that we’re afraid will swamp and swallow us whole. But, as Joseph Campbell says: The cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek.

The fear of pain and hurt often becomes greater than the hurt and pain. Struggling against the fear just doesn’t work. We need to ride the waves of difficult emotions and sensations instead of repeatedly crashing against them. When we have the experience of moving through something, our fear of it diminishes. We learn resilience, strength and the trust that we can handle what comes our way (with help and support).

Even though I’m afraid of meeting … I completely accept how I feel

Even though I can’t experience … I completely accept how I feel

Even though this … feels … I love and accept myself anyway

Repeat whatever words/phrases feel right on the tapping points.