Why Do I Feel Stuck?

Listen to the blog article as an extended version on my podcast, or read it below!

Helen got the opportunity to do a creative video project to market her business. She was excited. Yet, instead of starting to work on it, she cleaned up the entire house first. Then she started cooking a meal. Then she thought she should return some phone calls. She realized she was procrastinating. Does this sound familiar? She didn’t understand why, because a part of her really wanted to do this video and that part could see the benefits of it.

When she started going inside to explore, she found she had a protective voice, another part inside of her, that was trying to keep her from doing the project because it was afraid what would happen if she did. She called this protector the “Busy Housewife Part” because it kept her busy with other tasks. It had a fear that if it allowed her to do this project, she would end up being embarrassed.

When she explored this further, she discovered that there was yet another part which was a younger child part that was holding embarrassment and shame. As a child, she had a couple of experiences where she made herself visible and was ridiculed and embarrassed by the other kids and teacher. The busy part was protecting the “Embarrassed Child” part in her. Realistically, it wasn’t likely that Helen would embarrass herself and be laughed at for making the video, but our parts are stuck in the past. They interpret current life situations based on what happened in childhood and act accordingly.

 

from Self-Therapy workbook by Bonnie J. Weiss

Helen used Internal Family Systems Therapy or in short IFS to explore this issue of procrastination and to shift out of it. IFS works with parts or subpersonalities. They are called parts in this model because that’s the word we naturally use. We say for example, “There is a part of me that wants to lose weight but there is another part in me that really wants me to eat pizza and chocolate cake tonight.” Or we might say, “A part of me wants to find a new job that’s less boring but another part of me feels it’s better to stick to what is familiar and safe.” Or, “A part of me wants to commit to this relationship but another part of me is afraid I’ll get hurt”.

Illustration by Karen Donnelly

We all have many different parts. Some of the famous ones are the Inner Child, the Inner Critic, the Perfectionist, the Pleaser, the Pusher/Driver and the Controlling Part, but there are many more. Each part has its own perspective, its own feelings, even its own memories and especially its own goals and motivations for us.

In IFS, there are two main categories of parts: protectors and exiles.

Protectors

Our protectors have two roles. One is to handle the world, or rather to influence the way we handle the world, for example the way we interact with people. Their goal is to protect us from painful experiences. Protectors also directly try to keep us from feeling the sadness, grief, shame or pain that we are already carrying inside from past experiences.

Illustration by Karen Donnelly

Those protective parts are dedicated to safety and homeostasis. Unfortunately, protectors also attract what they are trying to avoid. If I, for example, have a fearful protector, or a mistrustful protector, or an angry protector which are trying to help me to avoid situations that could hurt me, their behaviour often is part of creating the anticipated hurtful situation. However, in order to give up their role and transform into a more beneficial role, they need to be honoured, respected, reassured, appreciated and understood. They need to learn to trust us when we are in Self, a concept I will elaborate on more below.

Managers

Mangers are proactive protectors. They try to keep us in control to prevent feelings of hurt or rejection. There motto is “never again”, based on a painful experience in the past which they are trying to avoid from happening again.

Examples for these proactive protectors are a Controlling Part, a Planner, an Analyzer, a Judgemental Part, a Pessimist, a Caretaker, a Pleaser, a Worrier, a Perfectionist, a Rational Mind, a Responsible Self or our Inner Pusher or Driver.

from Self-Therapy Workbook by Bonnie J. Weiss

 

Firefighters

Firefighters are responsive protectors. They instinctively react when our vulnerability is triggered. Just like real firefighters, they are focused on stopping the “fire” a.k.a. the problem or pain. They don’t care about consequences.

Examples for firefighters are an Angry Part, an Attacker, a Vengeful Part, but also parts that retreat, hide or stone-wall in response to what another person does or says. The third type of firefighters are distractive parts that convince us to engage in an addictive behaviour.

These firefighting parts often feel lonely, rejected, isolated and shamed because nobody likes them. Nobody in the world likes to see them come out, but also internally they are judged. The other parts don’t usually like the firefighters either.

Exiles

The second main category of parts are call “exiles” in IFS. Exiles are usually young wounded inner child parts that carry pain, occasionally from adulthood, but mostly from childhood. They might feel inadequate, ashamed, afraid, lonely, sad, scared and so on. Or they carry limiting beliefs, for example that they are not good enough or that people are dangerous and so on.

Helen’s exile, which she ended up calling the “Embarrassed Child”, felt ashamed. Helen wasn’t aware of this most of the time because her protectors kept her wounded child shut away or “in exile”, so that she didn’t have to feel the pain that it was carrying around, in this case, shame.

Illustration by Karen Donnelly

 

A third and really important concept in IFS is the concept of the Self.

The Self

The Self is your Aware Ego, your true self, it’s your spiritual centre, your essential self, your core self or your soul. It is who you really are when you are not taken over by your parts. If you are not overidentified with an exile or a protector in a given moment in time, then you are in Self. The Self is the healing entity you already hold inside. It is meant to be the wise leader of the inner system of parts. The Self is eternal, knows all and is not affected by any trauma. The Self energy connects us to all there is in the world. It is characterized by the 8 C’s of Self-Leadership: calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness. It manifests as being present, heart-open and consciously aware.

“A person who is leading with the Self is easy to identify. To rephrase a joke, you get the impression that ‘the lights are on and someone is home.’ Others describe such a person as open, confident, and accepting—as having presence. You feel immediately at ease in a Self-led person’s company, sensing that it is safe to relax and release your own Self.” (Richard C Schwartz, Internal Family Systems Model)

Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS, who is one of the most authentic and unpretentious people I have ever met, points out that very few people are “constantly and fully Self-led” (Schwartz) and he modestly includes himself in that statement. We all carry to a varying degree burdens of feeling rejected, abandoned, humiliated, shamed or traumatized. Naturally we put on masks to protect these inner wounds.

IFS is a path towards moving into increased Self-leadership by degrees. The more we access our Self and heal our inner pain, the more we can relate differently to our own parts and also to the people in our life. When we understand and practice that we are more than our parts, that we are Self, our relationships become more harmonious, we are less reactive in crisis and less overwhelmed by emotional situations. We are able to let our protective masks come down and give others permission to do the same.

 

If you are curious about finding out more about working with your parts contact me for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Join me on Sunday, August 12 for a workshop in Mississauga from 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. You will learn how to work with your parts, especially the critical inner voices and transform them, how to parent your inner child parts and heal them, and how to acquire the ability to lead more and more from Self. For more information or to register, please call me.

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Learning Addictive Patterns

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

I was curious to know which topics you might want me to speak about in my next podcasts. My poll on Facebook resulted in different requests. One of your requests was anxiety. Another one was addictions.

The latter one is a much more complex topic. I might need to preface, that I am not an addiction councillor. One way in which I can speak to the topic of addiction is in how far it has touched me personally. Another way is to share my understanding of the origin of addictive behaviour. I grew up with a close family member who was an alcoholic and thus have experienced how destructive and challenging an addiction is for the entire family. I was also at one point in my life in a relationship with a man who had an alcohol problem, until I realized that we cannot help somebody who is not ready to change. I had to make the self-loving choice to get out of that relationship.

I believe it is important not to downplay addiction, no matter how socially acceptable the substance or activity somebody engages with in an addictive way is. I believe that as parents, grandparents and educators we can make a huge difference for the next generation if we understand how addictions begin. Making sure that children do not learn addictive patterns of behaviour is as important as teaching them their ABC’s or math skills. What can we do to address addictions? Let’s explore why addictive energy shows up.

We need to begin with a definition of addiction. Recognizing addiction can be quite intuitive and you might feel that you will recognize an addiction when you see it, but in order to discus the topic we need to come to an agreement as to what qualifies as an addiction. An addiction can be defined as “something to which we have a strong predilection for and have little control over our actions in relation to the desire” (Dr. Alexandra Katehakis). We may find that a lot of our time is spent either engaging in the addictive behaviour itself, or in preparation for the experience of it. Unlike other things which we enjoy a lot, an addiction can have a certain component of secrecy and also shame connected to it. This is especially true when the behaviour we are engaging in is at odds with our own personal value system. Denial might also be part of the addiction.

Most people think of drinking or taking drugs when they hear the term addiction. However, there is a long list of addictive behaviours we engage in. Just a few examples of those behaviours are addictive eating, depending on alcohol, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, taking drugs or medications, addiction to sex or pornography, engaging in workaholic behaviour, addictive exercising or working out, gambling, compulsive shopping and overspending, addictive consummation of TV, video games or other electronics, obsessive engagement in social media and much more.

Why do we interact in an addictive way with certain substances or activities? What is going on with these behaviours?

These are all short-term coping mechanisms to distract ourselves from unpleasant emotional states. We have been conditioned to respond to emotional pain, sadness, overwhelm, stress and other uncomfortable emotions by eating, drinking, smoking, or distracting ourselves with any of the other above mentioned activities. Even nervous habits like nail biting, lip biting or twirling hair are subconscious attempts to deal with unpleasant emotions. They have become our pacifiers.

Short-term, these activities might feel like they give us some relief, calm or comfort us, but we have not addressed the real problems by engaging in these behaviours. We have taken our emotions and pushed them down with food, alcohol, drugs and we have distracted ourselves from acknowledging and feeling them.

Every emotion gives us feedback about unmet needs or another situation which needs to be addressed. When we are, for example, experiencing sadness or grief, it’s because we are feeling a loss. We need to process that loss. If we are feeling anxiety or fear, we need to take action steps to explore this and achieve greater safety. If we are feeling that something is unfair, it is a call to “make fair” or forgive and let go. If we are feeling anger, we need to investigate what more vulnerable feelings are underneath anger and need to be addressed.

Instead, we ignore the messenger. We are doing what we have learned as children when we were comforted with a pacifier or with food. Our caregivers didn’t know that the soother to make us stop crying, or the cookie to sweeten the disappointment, or the tub of ice cream for the heartache, or the bag of chips to stuff the anger down would become our automatic go-to and our basis for any addictive behaviour.

When I was teaching elementary school, we had an interesting unit one year, an extension to the regular curriculum, which was proposed by an older colleague of mine. The unit, which we taught in the grade 3 classrooms, was around recognizing unpleasant emotions and developing different action strategies. The idea was for the students to learn that soothing with food, TV or electronic activities only led to the emotions temporarily going away, while seeking human contact and talking to a person of trust was soothing, but also helpful in regards to changing the emotional state or addressing the underlying need that wasn’t met.

Addictive behaviour is often established in early childhood. Human beings need other human beings for regulation. It is the job of the primary caregiver to be present as a secure anchor for the child and as an interactive regulator who soothes, comforts and supports in a gentle and loving manner so that a state of high sympathetic arousal (fight or flight) or parasympathetic responses (freeze response or dissociation) can be turned into feeling safe and secure. What happens instead, due to the fact that parents themselves have not learned to rely on human interaction but to rely on outside stimulants, is that they model addictive behaviour when they are emotionally aroused.

Only 54% of people in our society today have experienced and learned a secure attachment style. Parents can only do the best based on what they know and understand. Children who do not have conscious and emotionally present caregivers inevitably find strategies in order to survive and often carry these energy-relieving patterns into adulthood. The result of these childhood experiences is a dependency on external soothing often combined with distrust that others are willing and capable to meet their needs.

Does or did your toddler have a pacifier? Once they are two and a half or three years old, you will probably be advised that it is time to take this soother away. Be aware that with this common habit they have already made the first experience of an object to go to for comfort. Make sure you let your child make the decision of how and when to give the soother away. I heard a lovely story the other day of a mother explaining to her daughter that she is so big now and doesn’t need the soother anymore but that her younger cousin now needs it. She is allowing the daughter to decide without pressure when it is time to wrap the soother up as a gift and pass it on.

At the same time, the mother of course also needs to offer her presence, and the presence of the grandmother who looks after her daughter a lot, as human alternatives to the soother. When we expect our toddlers to get rid of their pacifiers when they are not securely attached, they will inevitably develop other habits of soothing. They need to learn that they can count on their caregivers. We might not personally be able to be there for them all the time but we can direct them to trustworthy and conscious adults who will support us. That way we can provide that secure anchor for them and teach them how to soothe through human contact rather than addictive substances or activities.

The particular addictive substance somebody is abusing is only the secondary problem. The primary underlying problem is that we learn addictive behaviour. Rather than judging others for their addictive behaviour, let’s take an honest look in the mirror and examine in which ways we also tend to reach for outside stimulants. In which ways are we comforting or distracting ourselves instead of facing challenging emotions and addressing our unmet needs? The best thing we can do to change the problem of addiction is to start with how we handle our own emotions. Let’s throw out our adult pacifiers, so that we can teach the next generation a healthier approach to handling our emotional states. After all, our emotions are like a friend who never lies to us.

 

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

Angelika
905-286-9466
greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Indigestion – Your Body Speaks Your Mind

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

Our body communicates to us through physical symptoms. Sometimes the message is in the symptom itself, or the effect it has, or the changes we have to make due to it. In previous articles, I have highlighted the meaning of colds and of pain, especially of headaches. Today, I would like to take a closer look at indigestion, stomach issues in particular.

Eating is not just about absorbing nutrition for our physical body. It is also about swallowing and assimilating our experiences. Digestion is about absorbing everything that is happening to us along with our feelings, and eliminating that which we do not want. Our digestive system can be a good mirror of our emotional state. When we feel safe and happy, our digestion tends to be reasonably maintenance free. If we are experiencing conflicts, stress, or emotional turmoil, that often shows up in indigestion.

Indigestion - Louise Hay 1

Often food and love are also connected, or even become interchangeable depending on what beliefs we have learned and how food was used when we grew up. Many of us have been rewarded or soothed with food. Food can become a substitute for love, attention and comfort. We might have learned to use food as a STERB (Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviour) to distract ourselves from uncomfortable emotions like sadness, anger or fear. That unconscious way of using food often increases the indigestion.

Indigestion is without doubt caused by the “wrong” foods, but also just as much by worry and stress. Feelings of “worry” and “fear” are held in our stomach. When we can’t “stomach” what is happening in our life, when the reality is too scary, bitter or sour to digest, or is proving too much to bear, indigestion and heartburn could be the result. According to Deb Shapiro, a helpful question to ask when you are experiencing acid reflux is, “What issues or feelings are you swallowing that are bitter, sour or upsetting?”

Indigestion - Louise Hay 2

For Inna Segal, acid reflux is also a sign of experiencing difficulties in regards to digesting life. Our body is letting us know that we are feeling uncomfortable with what we are seeing, feeling, hearing, and experiencing. We might feel irritated, frustrated and out of control. We are resisting life in some way.

Lise Bourbeau reminds us of letting go and allowing things to unfold instead of worrying or trying to control something. She also notes that the stomach sits in close proximity to our heart. A loving, accepting and peaceful heart has a calming influence on our stomach. On the other hand, thoughts such as “this is not fair”, “this is wrong”, “why do I have to take this”, or “this is not what I wanted” block the flow of energy. The more tolerant we can be and the more we can go with the flow, the easier life is to digest.

Indigestion - Louise Hay 3

Just as Deb Shapiro and Lise Bourbeau provide useful questions to investigate our symptoms of indigestion, Dethlefsen and Dahlke also suggest to listen to our inner feelings and to consciously come to grips with inner conflicts and incoming impressions. We need to ask ourselves what we are unable or unwilling to “swallow”, what we are feeling sour or angry about or what is eating away inside of us. The ability to digest life with ease requires openness and surrender.

Indigestion - Louise Hay 4

Meditation, affirmations and of course subconscious belief changes help to address the symptoms of indigestion. One meditation mantra I suggest is “Let It Be”. If you are interested in investigating your symptoms more, to clear out fears and to change limiting beliefs at a subconscious level, using PSYCH-K®, L.E.E.P.’s (Life Enhancing Energy Processes) or Shadow Energetics, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

Further RESOURCES in regards to the body-mind connection:

  • Lise Bourbeau, Your Body’s Telling You: Love Yourself!
  • Thorwald Dethlefsen & Ruediger Dahlke, The Healing Power of Illness
  • Louise Hay, Heal Your Body
  • Narayan-Singh, Messages From Your Body
  • Inna Segal, The Secret Language of Your Body
  • Deb Shapiro, Your Body Speaks Your Mind

A Cold – Your Body Speaks Your Mind

cold remedies

We are taught that colds are caused by viruses and that you will catch a cold when your immune system is not strong. The classic recommendation to boost your immune system is vitamin C. Yet, why is our immune system sometimes strong enough, other times not, despite following all the rules of getting enough sleep and maintaining healthy nutrition to keep up our immune system? Every physical issue has an emotional and mental component which has been left out of the equation in the explanation above.

It is not a coincidence when you get sick with a cold. The common cold is linked to a conflict in our life, a situation of overwhelm or stress. Your mind might literally be speaking through your body by saying “This situation stinks! I’ve had enough!” A cold can tell us that we are stressed out and need time off, or it can be connected to emotional issues.

Louise Hay points out that upper respiratory illnesses are related to “too much going on at once, mental confusion, disorder, small hurts” (L. Hay, Heal Your Body, 25). Sinus problems are an “irritation to one person, someone close” (L. Hay, Heal Your Body, 63). When I have a sinus problem I am usually annoyed with or angry at somebody else – or at myself. I need to acknowledge my anger and release it. A sore throat can be connected to “Holding in angry words, feeling unable to express the self” (L. Hay, Heal Your Body, 64).

Deb Shapiro explains that “colds, runny nose, and tears are all related—mucus and tears are both ways of releasing repressed or pent-up emotions. You may feel the same helplessness and despair, the same need for comfort. So, if you have a bad cold, you may want to see if there is some crying or grieving you are repressing, some deep feeling that has been pushed aside.” (Shapiro, Your Body Speaks Your Mind, 184) Some questions she suggests to ask yourself are: Do you need some time to yourself to adjust to something? Is this a cry for attention because everyone seems to be taking you for granted? Do you need to get ill in order to be taken care of?

Louise Bourbeau clarifies that “a cold will often manifest as a result of congestion on a mental level, especially when there’s so much going on in your head that you don’t know which way to turn.” (Bourbeau, Your Body’s Telling You: Love Yourself, 149) Our body can be quite literal. When we are “stuffed up” our emotional “stuff” is coming up. Key questions to explore the situation further are: What is this cold preventing me from doing or having? What is it allowing me to do or have? What am I experiencing and how do I feel about it?

cold - scrabble board 2b

The phase of the cold when we have the symptoms is already the healing phase. Preceding that phase in which we are sneezing and coughing is the conflict phase. This conflict can be an event in our life. Sometimes it is a major event like losing our job, the break-up of a relationship or our pet dying, sometimes an event like a fight with our partner or being stressed about a situation at work. During this conflict we are in fight or flight mode.

After the conflict is resolved, our body goes into recovery mode. The body needs to heal and the symptoms of the healing are a runny nose, a headache, a sore throat, a cough etc. If the conflict does not get resolved, we might find ourselves in phase two having the cold symptoms as well because we get so exhausted from the conflict that our body is forcing us to rest. However, if the original conflict is not resolved, the cycle repeats and we will get sick again soon. Repeating cycles of this kind can manifest in serious illnesses.

Another mental factor of getting a cold is our belief system regarding illnesses. Beliefs like “I always get a cold in February” or “I get three colds every winter” affect us as much as a positive belief like “My immune system is strong. I hardly ever get sick”.

Illnesses will never be completely extinguished, no matter how much scientific research we invest into finding cures because it is the natural way of our body to communicate with us. To be healthier, we need to listen to our mind speak through our body and respond to the messages. There is an amazing intelligence in this mind-body-system which has the purpose to keep us emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually well.

 

Are you curious to find out what your body is telling you through physical issues and how you can respond to those messages?

Book a session with

Angelika, 905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!