So many women I work with in therapy express the agonizing anxiety of not trusting other people in a diverse range of areas in their lives. Without emotional safety with our friends, at work, in our intimate relationships and in our families, we tend to protect ourselves and shut down. Unfortunately, this also blocks us off from ourselves, our emotions and authentic connections with other people. We become isolated, withdrawn and develop a hard shell around our hearts.
Understanding emotional safety is the cornerstone of self-assurance, self-confidence, self-value and feeling comfortable in our own skin as women. Without knowing what is safe and what is not on an emotional level, we do not have the fundamental information to assess our personal boundaries with other people or to make choices as to who we let close to us. Then we do not trust ourselves and we become embroiled in self-doubt and confusion. We tend to betray ourselves with our choices and allow situations and relationships that harm us to remain in our lives. Due to our lack of understanding of emotional safety, we may allow others to exploit, control or abuse us. This is why as a woman, it is vital to understand our emotional selves and what our emotions are telling us.
The Feminine is all about emotion
Emotional safety essentially supports our feminine essence to open, trust and radiate. Therefore, it is crucial to establish emotionally safe relationships and remain connected to our emotions, rather than block them off to protect ourselves. Our emotions are our guidance mechanism system that helps us navigate the sometimes confusing and dangerous word we live in. They are fundamental to who we are as women. They are trying to tell us something important about what is happening to us, and they will scream louder if we do not listen. Without emotional safety, we will inevitably shut down, disconnect and protect ourselves.
So what we really want as women is to feel emotionally safe in all of our relationships, including our relationship with ourselves. Only then will we become who we really are and reach our potentials.
To honour International Women’s Day today, I will post blogs over the next weeks on creating emotional safe relationships. Stay posted on how we can create healthy boundaries in our relationships based on principles of emotional safety, without shutting ourselves down or closing off from the world.
Embracing our Inner-Woman
Learn more about how to work with your emotions rather than be overwhelmed them, in my new book.
The heart break and confusion that happens in relationships signifies just how important it is cultivate a strong head/heart alignment. We can feel tortured between the pull of our compassion and the mistrust and judgement of our minds. We are all doing it! Judging our partners, our children, our parents, our friends or siblings and tearing ourselves apart at the heart.
Using meditation to avoid emotional pain
Many people practice meditation in times of stress and distress in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain. However, this can go two ways. When we meditate, the end result is often to open our heart. However if our heart is in pain we can actually intensify that pain and create a heightened desire to cling to destructive relationships just to sooth the pain. Alternatively, we can overcome the pain from negative dynamics in relationships through meditation, and accidentally fall into a delusional open heart space that loves without discernment. Either way, the heart opening meditations can be more destructive than helpful in times of tension.
Heart opening meditations such as sound meditation, guided visualization, crystal bowls meditations, mantras, chakra dances and the like are all beautiful endeavors when our lives are generally in a state of balance. Problems only arise when we participate in these types of meditations without grounding ourselves or when we are in a state of acute loss or trauma. When we are emotionally overwhelmed and vulnerable we are at risk of making destructive choices to ease our pain which can be heightened by compassion orientated meditations. Only when we are grounded in our mind and our resolution can these heart opening meditations then be conducive.
Mindfulness meditation and psychotherapy
Here is where a combination of mindfulness meditations and psychotherapy can really help. When we are in emotional pain, we need to make sense of our situations and ourselves. Psychotherapy supports the development of personal insight and tangible coping skills. Mindfulness helps attune our conscious awareness either away from our pain or into our pain, based on whichever is most helpful at the time. Both of these approaches cultivate discernment of our minds and wisdom which is what is really needed in times of distress.
Navigating through emotional overwhelm, loss and grief, or trauma takes mindful and wise guidance. It is important not to simply try to avoid our pain using meditation, but rather face our inner demon’s using mindfulness and psychotherapy. When we are beyond the intensity of the feelings and our lives have re-balanced and are safe and secure again, then the compassion meditations can be a wonderful practice.
Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.
Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group
Bookings are essential, as places are limited
Mindfulness mediation is quite different from meditations that aim to raise compassion. This does not mean that mindfulness is without compassion or kindness, on the contrary, mindfulness is at its best when it embraces compassion. By ‘compassion based meditations’ I am simply referring to meditations that help us to feel warm and fuzzy. They include guided visualisations, crystal bowl meditations, meditating to a flower or candle, sound meditation, or meditating to drums, didgeridoos or gentle uplifting music. All of these types of meditations are focused on experiences that are pleasant to our senses. They are heart opening meditations.
How Mindfulness Meditation is Different
While compassion based meditations aim to open our heart space, mindfulness practice aims to train our awareness to expand. Both types of mediation bring us into the present moment, however, mindfulness cultivates awareness to watch ‘what is’. It is irrelevant whether our experience is painful or pleasant, mindfulness is only about watching whatever is occurring with open curiosity and neutrality. Mindfulness aims to expand the mind, rather than open the heart. This is important, as mindfulness strengthens the practice of wisdom and discernment.
I have commonly witnessed people cultivate a beautiful open heart, when their lives or their psyche are not ready for it. This can intensify a “broken our heart”. Compassion is wonderful, however, any wise Buddhist will tell us that compassion is only helpful when we simultaneously develop discernment. Without cultivating the mind, blind compassion can get us into a myriad of problems. A healthy heart/head alignment requires both types of meditations, if we are to cultivate true balance in our lives.
Join us on Friday afternoons at 3pm and Saturday mornings at 9am for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.
Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group
Bookings are essential, as places are limited
Intimate relationships can bring up the deepest and most beautiful emotions. They can also bring up the most painful! We are often only concerned about the emotional intensity if we are experiencing painful emotions. However, whether the emotions in intimate connection are pleasant or unpleasant, the same awareness applies. Surprisingly pleasant emotions can lead us astray as well as painful ones! Today we will look at awareness of unpleasant emotions and next time we will focus on awareness of pleasant emotion.
Cultivating conscious awareness of emotion is vital for participating in and creating healthy, happy intimate relationships. It is well known in psychology that intimate relationships often trigger early childhood attachment issues with significant others. We know that a lot of intensely painful emotion experienced in early childhood through a range of different situations and circumstances, can be triggered in relationships. Many of these emotional memories are pre-linguistic and have not been understood or consciously processed. Therefore, they come out in projections that we unconsciously put on our partner without even realising it. There are processes of increasing self-awareness about our emotional reactions in our relationships that can help to dissolve destructive relationship dynamics. All that’s needed is a willingness to look at ourselves rather than blaming our partner, and spending time and effort on understanding and healing ourselves.
Bringing Awareness Into The Emotion
To cultivate awareness of emotions in relationships we begin by reflecting on your own reactions to our partner’s words or actions that have triggered deep or intense emotion. As we remember the past events, we may witness the familiar blaming thoughts come into our head. Just notice them without needing to believe them. Then bring focus to the thoughts, feelings and actions triggered at that time. Question whether the reaction has been repetitive over time. Chose to see it as a pattern… it is not who you really are! It is a learnt or conditioned response. Then we can allow ourselves to feel the emotion and ask ourselves when the first time this emotion was felt?
This process leads into the emotional memories that created the pattern. We need to be gentle with ourselves as we begin to see what the reaction is really about. If the emotion is particularly intense, or if those memories that emerge frightens us, then it is important to see a trusted therapist to work through them. Whether on our own or with a therapist, this process involves exploring and making sense of earlier events and memories. It also involves learning to tolerate the emotions and safely expressing them, rather than suppress them or destructively lash out. This step takes compassion for ourselves and others, as well as validation of the emotion at that time and under those circumstances. Emotions actually do not lie! They may be disproportional to current events because they are really about the past. However, back then they would have been proportional to the event. The emotional pain is simply alerting us to past wounds. That is what it is to be “triggered”.
Mastering Our Emotional Reactions
As we learn what our feelings are really about, which ones belong to the present and which ones belong to the past, we begin to master our emotions. With a partner, we can begin to safely describe the emotions that surface with the mutual awareness that the emotions are triggered. Blame between partners dissipates as the understanding that we all have patterns and reactions from our childhood wounds, is accepted. No longer is it about wanting to change our partners or blaming them for our emotional reactions. It becomes about listening, understanding and loving our partner for the human being they are. Equally important, it becomes about loving ourselves for the human being we are!!!
“Surfing the Waves of Emotion” workshop will be held on the 7th July 2012 in Coolum Beach. Don’t miss out on learning how to distinguish between adaptive emotions and emotional memories, work with your emotions, and a whole lot more!!!
What emotional patterns have you struggled with in your relationship?
As women, we often feel hurt or angry towards men for their lack of understanding our emotionally orientated perspectives. Women who have a feminine essence tend to operate from their emotions. The masculine on the other hand, tends to operate from the physical and mental. To make things even more complicated, it is not unusual for masculine men to attract feminine women (and vice versa) in intimate relationships. So the dance of the feminine and masculine continues to move in mutually confusing directions and entanglements.
The trick for women is not to educate the masculine in understanding our emotionally orientated views, although they are welcome to do so if they want. But rather it is to educate ourselves in the forever moving emotional landscape of our own bodies and minds. Learning to “surf the waves of emotion” is the key to us mastering ourselves as women and taking our power back from the sometimes intensely painful and confusing emotions that can arise from within us. We also need to communicate to men about how we would like to be treated when we are caught in the grip of our emotion. However this is not possible without our own understanding of ourselves first.
Emotions Hold Valuable Information
As a woman in our feminine essence, emotions tell us about the connection or lack thereof in relationships. This is a gift when we realise its potential. However, all too often we are caught in “emotional reaction” rather than recognising the wisdom within the emotion and responding to the events around us. For example, Sally was caught in emotional reactivity towards her husband, Shaun even though her rational mind argued with her emotions. She felt like a dill, however her resentment and anger towards him kept overflowing into heated arguments and cold shoulders. It was not that he was doing anything particularly bad to her. He was working hard, providing for her and the family and he was largely caring and co-operative. And yet she found herself angry at him.
Sally discussed her feelings with a close friend who was at a loss as to why she would feel this way. Then bit by bit, it came out that Shaun was thinking of investing their money in a managed share portfolio and Sally’s father had lost the family money through bad investments. Her father’s decisions lead to huge fights between her parents and financial instability in their lives. Her emotional memory being triggered by Shaun’s desire to invest was her fear of a lack of security which she had longed for and needed as a child. So unconsciously her emotional response was trying to alert her to a perceived threat in her security and her relationship.
The outcome of whether Sally and Shaun should invests or not is a matter of financial education, rational decision making and negotiation between the two of them. However, without Sally understanding the meaning behind her own emotional reactions, she would not be able to communicate her concerns to Shaun. Without Shaun understanding what was really affecting Sally, he is likely to try to make investing decisions without her, either thinking she is too emotional or that she is simply against him or not trusting his decisions. Allowed to continue, this dynamic could eventually tear their relationship apart. The key is in the process.
These two need to negotiate these decisions together and Sally needs to be an active decision making for this investment to work. If the investment does go bad, it is likely that Sally resentment would shut Shaun out of her heart and eventually her life. This is not because Sally is a bad person nor is it that she is materialistic. Rather, with the emotional memory of material insecurity in her childhood, safety and security are important to her. It is not unusual for women to value security, which is understandable given that we bear children and need security to bring them up properly. It is however important that Sally recognizes the meaning behind her emotional reaction and finds new, more constructive ways of communicating them to Shaun. Likewise, both Shaun and Sally need to share their values and priorities in their relationship and their financial future together before they can really come together to make the decisions in front of them.
Honouring Emotions & the Feminine Perspective
Emotionally based thought is often viewed as less important or valid as rational or logical thought. However this is not true. Our emotions are there for a reason! It is the feminine which tends to think in terms of emotions (which could be either men or women in their feminine). As women, we have often developed our masculine minds in a world where the rational thought is privileged. However, the basis of thought is still often emotional for a lot of women (and some feminine men) in intimate relationships.
The problem is not with the lack of wisdom in the emotion, but rather the lack of effective education about how to work with our emotion and understand the meaning behind it. Emotional reaction is the action of misunderstood emotions and a lack of understanding how to honour emotion. The trick is not to get rid of the emotion through suppression or medication, but rather to increase self-awareness of emotion and the wisdom behind it.
Interested in finding out more about surfing emotions?
Emotions act and move in much the same way as natural phenomenon. Ocean waves and currents and weather patterns are good examples of natural processes that mirror the movement of emotion. Knowing how emotion moves and changes helps us to understand and master our emotions.
The Ocean & Emotion
Wise sailors are fully aware of how important it is to respect and honour the ocean. They say to never turn your back on the ocean. One minute the seas can be calm and peaceful, and in the next moment the swell can pick up and rock the boat. The ocean can be kind one minute and cruel the next.
When sailing the ocean, you are at its mercy. You have no control over it movements. The only choice you have is how to react to it. If you stubbornly face the high swell and crashing waves head on, trying to force your will onto them, you could die. If on the other hand, you work with ocean currents and the direction of the swell you can navigate yourself out of the dangerous waters and into calmer seas.
The same principles apply to learning the work with emotions. When emotional intensity is overwhelming, we often try to ignore it and deny its existence or we try to force our will on it to try to make it go away. This may work to some degree in the short term, however it does not tend to help in the long term. Often the result of trying to supress or deny emotion is that it becomes more intense as time goes by. If we turn our back on the emotion it tends to dump us and leave us feeling sore and anxious of the next wave of emotion.
The trick to working with emotion is to navigate through the emotion. Breath, allow, validate, listen and release. As we allow emotions to safely express themselves and take notice of the wisdom held in the emotion, we can learn the truth that the emotion holds and then it dissipates naturally. We may be left feeling a little daunted or amazed with its insight, but we are still standing strong and are not generally overwhelmed by the emotion.
Emotions & Weather Patterns
Weather patterns are always in motion as are emotions. They can be sunny and fine as emotion can be happy, confident and calm. It can be dreary and raining, as emotions can feel down and sad. The weather can be a storm or cyclone as emotions can become anger and fury. So when we work with emotion we are working with an organic process which is in perpetual motion. We often aim to stop our emotions but this goal is as hopeless as trying to stop the weather!
Honouring Emotion as Nature
Like the ocean and the weather, emotions are to be respected and honoured. We can prepare for them if we know they are coming. We can take notice of the signs that indicate danger. We can learn how to keep ourselves safe as possible when the intensity hits, but we cannot stop them or make the go away by simply putting them out of our minds.
Learning to allow, validate and learn from emotion and then safely release the emotion is the key to empowerment. To remember how emotion moves and acts gives us an edge in working with and mastering this amazing part of who we are.
The honouring process is one of mutual understanding, accepting differences and embracing the other for who they are. Men generally want to be appreciated for what they do and give, while women often yearn to be cherished for being beautiful, wonderful or loving. When the masculine and feminine see each others differences and hold each other in a loving embrace, an amazing phenomenon occurs. Our hearts open, everything becomes brighter and seems more alive and it feels like life a blessing.
The more we all can see ourselves with mindful-awareness and how we project aspects of ourselves onto our partner, the more we can choose to step out of those perceptions and work through what is really needed in the relationship.
As we do this we can open to:
- Real commitment in relationship
- Effective communication between the genders
- Understanding each others differences
- Honouring the emotions within
- And of course, great sex!
Conscious Relationship is all about honouring the opposite gender for the wonderful person they are in all their beauty and all their flaws. I personally believe that the more we learn to integrate these practices into our lives, the more we not only heal ourselves individually, but we also help heal the energy of our past family patterns and gender archetypal memories, that span the past and the future.
Healing the rift between the genders is healing an archetypal wound. Some of that intense pain felt deeply within the body could be bigger than our own. Maybe it is the unconscious universal energy of the masculine and feminine. I sometimes feel so much sadness out there within my own gender, due to the mis-understanding, blame and criticism, and the aggression acted out of the archetypal hurt… that I cry! I feel the masculine wound as well, and feel deeply sad within my heart. There comes a time when this destructive dance between the masculine and feminine needs to be turned around. It is time to learn how to honour each other, rather than further the damaging effects of ignorance and hurt. Conscious relationship is the co-creation of men and women, honouring themselves and each other! There is a new dance, one that celebrates the both masculine and the feminine!!!
How do you honour yourself in your relationship?
What ways would you like to honour your partner?
Caring for Queensland Flood Survivors this Christmas
Late 2010 and early 2011 we were hit with floods that affected 75% of Queensland, including an in-land tsunami in the Locker Valley, west of Brisbane. In these floods, 35 people were confirmed dead and 9 missing. Tens of thousands of people lost homes, belongings and livelihoods during these floods. It is now Christmas 2011 and the media has largely forgotten the devastation. However this Christmas is going to be very emotionally difficult for a lot of Queenslanders this year as it will trigger memories of what has been lost and loved ones who have died.
There are still a number of people who are very much dealing with the immediate effects of the floods. They may have not secured employment or housing or may be unable to replace belongings. Building repairs are still being carried out. For some, what they have lost is irreplaceable. But the biggest effect this Christmas for flood victims is the emotional aftermath of the disaster.
An increase in conditions such as depression, trauma and anxiety is to be expected throughout this time of year due to the floods. Grief will be exacerbated by Christmas for some people, as the reality of their loss is setting in. It is normal for loss and grief to take years, not months. While many people may expect them to have “moved on” by now, those expectations are completely unrealistic. A normal grief cycle takes over a year to get through the worse of it. It can still be years after than before a person discovers happiness.
What to look for if you are a flood survivor
If you have been affected by the floods there could a range of things you may experience this Christmas. Symptoms of depression, trauma or anxiety could be exacerbated and grief could be intensified.
If you are worried that you may be experiencing depression, here are some symptoms to watch out for:
- Difficulties sleeping or eating
- Being randomly teary or feeling empty inside
- Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
- Excessive fatigue or a lack of motivation
- Feeling generally bad about yourself
- Wanting to withdraw or escape from the world
If you are concerned you may be experiencing anxiety, here are some symptoms to watch out for:
- Excessive worry, over analyzing things, thinking of worst case scenario
- Racing heart, nausea, shallow breathing, sweaty palms
- Difficulties making decisions, remembering things and concentrating
If you have experienced events in the floods where someone died or you felt threatened with serious injury, you may be suffering from trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of PTSD include:
- Symptoms of both anxiety and depression
- Hyper-vigilance or scanning for danger
- Being jumpy or expecting bad things to happen
- Bad dreams, nightmares or flashbacks
- Being irritable, anger out bursts
- Panic attacks
- Avoiding anything that may remind you of the trauma
- Emotionally shut down or feeling emotionally distant from everyone else
If you think you may be experiencing any of these conditions following the 2010/2011 Queensland floods then it is important to see your doctor and find an appropriate therapist you feel comfortable with. Some of these conditions do not go away on their own and can affect you for a long time to come without professional treatment.
What can you do to help someone affected by the floods?
There are a number of things you can do to help someone struggling emotionally with the floods this Christmas. These include:
- Recognize a realistic time-frame for grief and loss and do not expect them to be “over it” this Christmas
- Allow them to talk openly about how they feel
- Validate their feelings
- If they are close and on their own, ask them to be involved in your Christmas
- Assist them to get professional counselling if you believe they need it
These are the fundamentals of caring for someone who is experiencing loss and grief or is psychologically affected by the floods. If they have severe symptoms such as anger outbursts from trauma or suicidal ideation associated with depression, then supporting them to access appropriate therapeutic help is vital.
If you do not know anyone directly who was affected by the floods then you can still help by donating to charities that are assisting flood victims.
The spirit of Christmas is all about giving and helping those in need is essential to our community and our country
Beware of Secondary Psychological Effects of the Queensland Flood Disaster
Over the past week since the flood disaster in Brisbane, Ipswich and the Lochyer Valley, I have heard many reports in therapy about clients being affected by the news stories of the floods. News broadcasts of trauma and adversity can easily effect anyone who is watching, and especially if you are already suffering from depression and anxiety. The effects are amplified because this disaster is so close to home, many people here know people directly effected, and because it was a potential threat in the Sunshine Coast region. So even if you do not know someone who is directly affected by these floods, it is important to be aware of the effects of media coverage of the floods.
In my experience, the general “feel” in the Sunshine Coast since the floods has been shock and apathy. The air feels heavy and fear can be sensed in the community. I think nearly everyone feels the weight of what has happened and a large number of people in the Coast region feel a strong desire to help. The problem emerges when the media coverage becomes addictive and it becomes difficult to re-focus on life outside the flood stories. Given the magnitude of the flood disaster we could expect to see increases in depression and anxiety in not only our flood effected communities but also our non-flood effected communities in Queensland over the coming months.
If you feel this is happening to you there are strategies to help. The first step is to recognise the effects of the media coverage on your mood and anxiety. If you are feeling more depressed or more anxious than before the flood disaster and you have been watching a lot of news coverage of the floods, then this may apply to you. The other sign is when you find it hard to pull yourself away from the watching the news stories of the floods. It may even feel obsessive. The next step is to consciously choose to turn the TV off and re-focus on something that feels safe and relaxing. Guilt may emerge as you do this, but this guilt is inappropriate guilt. Re-focussing on yourself is “self care” and this is necessary to being in a space to give to others in a real way. Have a warm bath, read a book that helps you to feel good, go for a walk or meet a friend for coffee. Do anything that reignites hope! It is important to know what is happening in terms of the floods and it is great to give what you can to people directly affected by the floods but do not forget about your own needs.
When we look after ourselves we can give more to others. This is key! Take care of yourself in time of hardship. If you are in the Sunshine Coast region and need counselling throughout this time, please contact Vanessa Bushell on 0424 507 101
Never Tried Mindfulness Before?
Here’s where to start…
These days we tend to see the word “mindfulness” everywhere we look. Health magazines, business reviews, internet marketing, workshops and billboards seem to promote this new wiz-bang practice that promises peace of mind and physical well-being. But what exactly is mindfulness and is it really what it promises to be? Can the average person who plods through life the best they can utilize these practices and enhance their quality of life?
Well, the first point about mindfulness is that it is far from new. Mindfulness is lifted from meditative and yoga practices that have existed for hundreds if not thousands of years in the East. The biggest recent change in mindfulness practice is that Western countries have found this practice and have recognised its potential benefits. Western psychology for example, has now studied the practice of mediation and mindfulness and has a large body of evidence to support its validity. Even 5 minutes of practicing mindfulness a day can significantly decrease stress and anxiety and promote psychological and physical health.
So, who best could benefit from mindfulness practice? The answer is simple, everyone can benefit from practicing mindfulness. The reason for this is that mindfulness is actually a very simple process that is not limited by intellectual or physical in-ability. It does not need to take very much time and can be incorporated into any everyday chore or activity.
The beauty of mindfulness is that we do not even have to “make time for it”! I often practice mindfulness when I do the dishes in the morning after breakfast. I enjoy this daily routine because it starts my day on a positive and refreshing note. I stand there at the kitchen sink and breathe. I look out the window in front of me and breathe in the palms and branches of the trees. I then put my dish gloves on, feeling the gloves slide slowly over my fingers and hands. I then bring my attention fully into the act of lifting the first dish and placing it in the bubbling water. I consciously feel the circular motion of washing the dish… and on I go!
It is amazing! Washing the dishes becomes a timeless, mindful practice where I can escape the bombardment of annoying thoughts and stressful body tension. If I catch my thoughts infiltrating my mindfulness practice, I simply acknowledge the wanderings of my mind and gently refocus my awareness back to the motion of washing the dishes. Beautiful! By the time I finish the dishes I am in a clear, positive state of mind, ready to facer my day.
The practice of mindfulness is simply the process of bringing awareness fully into what we are doing, thinking or feeling. It is literally “smelling the roses”! Mindfulness can be practiced at any time. It is simply a shift in conscious awareness and focus.
Take the First Step Today…
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