Turtles and Hailstorms

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Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt call the template or idealized image of positive and negative qualities of our primary caregivers our “Imago”. Through our subconscious programs, we are drawn to somebody who matches this template.

In other words, our partner carries some of our shadows. He or she displays to us what we are struggling with and are working on. They are a mirror of what we have learned to identify with or disown during childhood. They might not superficially appear to be like our primary caregiver but we will inevitably end up feeling the same feelings we did as a child. Partially, those could be positive feelings of belonging, being accepted, safe and loved. But the relationship also brings up painful feelings due to our more traumatic experiences, and activates our childhood hurts. Unconsciously, we seek out a partner with whom we can heal each other’s childhood wounds.

If you had a mother who abandoned you, you might unconsciously expect to be abandoned again while seeking out a partner who is like your mother in some ways, to relive and heal the old experience. If you had a father who never stood up for you, you might unconsciously seek a partner who is also afraid to stand up and protect you, in the unconscious hopes that somebody will finally stand-up for you.

Partnerships are meant to resurface feelings and experiences from our childhood. “About 90 percent of the frustrations your partner has with you are really about their issues from childhood.” (LaKelly Hunt) Even if we have convinced ourselves consciously that the person we are attracted to is a good match and not at all like our parents or caregivers, our subconscious meanwhile as a completely different agenda. It has already figured out early on who we can relive our childhood traumas with, hoping for a happier ending this time.

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If you are wondering whether your partner echoes shadows from the past for you and what they are, you can do the following exercise. Make a list of frustrations, problems and unmet needs in regards to your primary care giver(s), for example “she never listened to me and that made me feel…” or he “never had time for me and that made me feel…”. Once you have completed that list, make a list of issues you have with your partner and how they make you feel. Compare the lists and notice any similarities. Talk to your partner about the similarities. Once he or she understands that he or she triggers your childhood emotions, the work to keep each other safe and meet each others needs can begin.

You and your partner may have a lot in common but Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt have found that couples are often incompatible in how they handle stress and conflict. When it comes to handling stress and conflicts, people’s reactions fall into two categories: minimizers or maximizers. When minimizers are anxious, they contain their energy and go inside. Like a turtle, they retreat into their shell. When maximizers are anxious, they tend to express themselves loudly. Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt call this person a hailstorm. Their energy flows outward and they prefer to process their feelings with others.

Turtles process slowly and inwardly. From the outside, it looks like not much is happening and as if the person is avoiding rather than addressing the issue. However, the turtle processes his or her feelings and thoughts quietly on the inside, reflecting carefully before responding. Hailstorms visibly get things done; they usually have a to-do list and love being able to cross things off their list.

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When the Turtle feels flooded and becomes overloaded, he or she needs to withdraw. To the Hailstorm, it can feel like the Turtle disappeared. That makes the Hailstorm more anxious and he or she will start hailing to get the partner’s attention.

Both partners need to learn to accommodate each others differences in processing. The Hailstorm can learn to give the Turtle a little shell time and make them feel safe to come out again soon by letting them know how much they are appreciated and valued.

To coax out the turtle you can

  1. Ask them what they need right now. Sometimes they are not sure, but be curious about why they are hiding.
  2. Don’t do anything; give them space.
  3. Write a short note of appreciation and leave it somewhere for them to find.

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And the Turtle can learn to be more courageous when he or she sees the storm clouds gathering. “Hailstorms hail because they are overwhelmed. They often feel like they’re holding the weight of the world. And when you retreat, the Hailstorm feels even more alone. So the minute you hear a rumble, give them your full attention. Offer kindness and support.” (Hendrix) The fastest way to get the storm to stop is to assure the Hailstorm that you have got their back. Once they realize they rely on you and you will do your part to keep them safe, the sun will shine once again.

To calm the hailstorm

  1. Respond! Let them know you are not retreating. Respond with facial expressions, a kind note, a service or gesture that shows them you care how they feel.
  2. Listen and repeat back how the Hailstorm is feeling. They don’t feel heard. Show them you hear and understand.
  3. Ask “Is there something I can do for you?” They need to know you have their back.

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Partners can learn to not judge the other for how they are. As Hal and Sidra Stone point out, “what we judge in others is actually the medicine we need”.

Turtles and hailstorms can teach each other what they are each missing to become more whole. “Turtles need to learn how to push their energy out and how to ‘show up’. This means expressing themselves out loudly and clearly, like the Hailstorm does. And hailstorms need to learn the turtle’s wisdom of stepping back and containing their energy.” (Hendrix)

Ironically, both partners need to learn how to be more like each other. When we embrace the shadow sides which we have disowned, we take a step towards each other. “As the Turtle becomes more storm-like, and the Hailstorm becomes more turtle-like, balance is restored” (Hendrix) within the relationship, but also within ourselves. We have reclaimed a disowned part of ourselves.

Belief Change Coaching, Relationship Coaching and Workshops on various topics

Angelika, 905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Oranges and Tobogganing

Did you know that December is one of the busiest times in hospitals? Not only do more health issues occur due to overeating, or injuries as a result of shoveling snow or slipping on ice, but many of the health issues are connected to stress and family dramas. The emotions are flying high: overwhelm, anger, sadness and grief, just to mention a few, are triggered, and our emotional state affects our physical health. Sadly, one of the stress factors is gift giving itself. It can be stressful to run around getting gifts for several people and to juggle the financial expenses which can put us over budget or even into debt.

On December 13, my friend Dhebi DeWitz and I offered a free webinar to address the emotions which are triggered at this time of the year. One of the questions that came in during the holiday webinar was how to handle receiving gifts from people and having to reciprocate when your budget is limited. That was such an excellent question!

Is it possible that we have forgotten what our holiday celebrations are about? Do our children really need a pile of toys? Or do they need family members who are present, who listen well and connect from the heart? And as far as gift giving is concerned, ask yourself for a moment what the best gift is that you have ever received. For me, a few homemade and personal gifts come to mind which really stood out: a well written and thoughtful card which told me how much I meant to somebody, or something self-made.

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There is a whole long list of things we could come up with to create meaningful gifts: baking, knitting, crocheting, stitching, sewing, jewellery making, drawing, painting, making soaps, and so on. I received a wonderful mix of bath salts for tired feet beautifully put together in a jar from a friend this year and I know there will be more self-made presents under the tree.

Gifts neither need to be expensive, nor complicated to make. It just needs to come from the heart. One of my daughters just gave her Christmas gift to her boyfriend. It’s a jar full of Hershey kisses; to each chocolate kiss she attached a note which tells him what’s wonderful about him.

One of my clients, a beautiful and conscious young woman who was born in Russia, shared with me how they had very little back home. The grown-ups felt grateful when they had the ingredients to bake a cake and to bring oranges home. She remembers going tobogganing with her siblings and friends. Winter holidays still mean oranges and tobogganing to her.

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Have we perhaps fallen prey to the idea that our holiday celebrations need to be grand and extravagant? Have we forgotten what the magic of Christmas truly means?

Three years ago, a friend of mine, who is the amazing mom of a little son, posted on Facebook about her decision not to lie to her son that Santa exists. She was struggling with the concept of tricking children into believing a mystical figure is real, basically lying to our children when we are trying to teach them to be honest. She also had trouble—and I can empathize—with the concept of calling somebody “good” or “bad”, when really there is just an undesirable behaviour the child might display. Telling the truth—and not to potentially jeopardize a trusting relationship with her son—was more important to her than to fully join in the Santa tradition. She caused an avalanche of replies, some quite heated as everybody had an opinion on this.

A couple of weeks ago, I was asking my friend how she has handled this fine balance between not lying to her son while allowing for the magic of Christmas. She shared how their experience is different: her son does not make a long list of material things he wants. There is also no threatening him to behave well, or have presents taken away. Christmas feels fun and easy to her while other parents with young kids that she knows are more stressed about struggling to get what their child asked for to keep up the Santa myth. This year, she is planning to have one gift under the tree with no name on it to make it a fun mystery for her son who the present is from.

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So what exactly causes this magical holiday feeling and where does it come from? Is that feeling of hope and belief in goodness tied to Santa and extravagant gifts? Or is it the belief that everything is possible? The exciting feeling that there is magic? The unwavering conviction that life is a fantastic adventure full of amazing surprises? The deep trust that there is Love all around?

I grew up—and with me a whole nation of Germans—never believing in Santa. Christmas was still magical and exciting. It was a time of joy and surprises, a time for family and being present with each other. I remember my parents most of the time feeling pressure to be productive—my father at work, my mother as a homemaker—except for occasions like Christmas, when they actually sat down with us. We had a big winter scene puzzle with 200 pieces we would do many years in a row, or we would play one of the two family board games we had. I still remember how good it felt to do these activities together. On December 24, the Christmas tree was finally put up—with real candles on it, no less—and there was magic alone in the lit tree.

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Germans celebrate Nikolaus Day on December 6th which goes back to the same historical figure as Santa Claus: Nikolaus von Myra, who lived at the beginning of the 4th century. On the night of December 5th, children put their polished shoes out in front of the door. The next morning they are filled with treats, with oranges, nuts and chocolates, brought by “Nikolaus”. People might jokingly say that “baby Jesus brings the presents” on December 24 but even children know this is just an expression.

My older daughter, who was five when we came to North America, never believed in Santa. She played along for the other children her age, but actually felt proud to know the truth and to be treated like an adult. Growing up in a multicultural environment made it easier to not be a Santa believer. However, she certainly completely gets what the spirit of Christmas is all about. She is one of the most giving, caring and non-materialistic people I know.

Santa is a mythical representation of a spirit we want to encourage: generous giving and love. At Christmas we can open up to feeling that Love is all around. And life IS a fantastic adventure full of amazing surprises. We can experience that excitement at any age. We are not slaves to our feelings. At any given time, we can change our perspective and decide to feel and live the magic of Christmas, simply with oranges and tobogganing, or our own personal versions thereof.

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If you are enjoying my articles, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Angelika, Belief Change Coach & Workshop Facilitator

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

What Not To Say When Others Are Grieving

I was 19 years old when I was faced for the first time with not knowing what to say when somebody has lost a family member. I had a one room apartment in the city in which I was attending university. At the beginning of the month, I used to go downstairs to the landlord’s apartment to pay the rent. A week prior, my landlord had been admitted to hospital. As I was paying my December rent that year, I casually asked if he was feeling better. His wife replied that he had died. For a moment, I was speechless. It felt like kicking myself for asking her. Then I must have managed to stutter some words of condolence, but feeling extremely ill-equipped for this situation. I know I wasn’t alone with this feeling of not knowing how to speak words of real comfort. Unfortunately, nobody teaches us what to say or do when loss occurs.

When I returned to my apartment, I wondered who to call and to ask for advice. My mom, who had lost her own mother when she was young, broke out in tears each time anybody spoke about death. Today, I know she carried around a lot of unresolved grief. So I decided to call my grandmother instead. She was close to 80 at that time, and had experienced many losses during her life. She told me she always made sure she had a bunch of fresh flowers in a vase next to the picture of my late grandfather. She suggested to do the same for my landlady, to buy her flowers. She also recommended to check if I could help by getting groceries or do other errands for her.

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My landlady and her husband did not seem to have a very loving relationship; in fact, I often wondered if he physically and emotionally abused her. I didn’t want to assume that she would put up a picture of her husband with flowers next to it, yet this seemed better than any words I could think of.

In fact, there are several things which are particularly unhelpful to the grieving person.

  • “Don’t cry”, “don’t be sad”, “don’t feel bad” and so on denies the grieving person to have their own feelings.
  • “Time heals all wounds” or “just give it time”. Time itself does not heal. It is what we do with that time that will help us complete the pain caused by the loss.
  • Comments in regards to the person’s age: “He had a long life” or “Be grateful you had her for so long”. No matter how old our loved one was, we have a right to miss them.

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  • “You can have more children” or “be thankful you have another son” or “you are still young, you can get married again”. How can we possibly compare one loved one to another, or substitute one child or partner with another? The loss is always experienced at a 100%.
  • Comments of a religious nature, like “she is in heaven / in a better place” or “God will never give you more than you can handle”. No matter what my beliefs of an afterlife are, whether my loved one is in a better place or not has nothing to do with the loss I am experiencing. “God gave me this challenge because I can handle it” translates to “I have to be strong”. offer-to-do-laundry

  • “You have to be strong for…” or “the living must go on”. Instead of allowing ourselves to feel and to grieve, we are asked to suppress our feelings.
  • “I know how you feel”. All relationships are unique. Even if you and the grieving person for example have both lost your mother, your relationship with your mother was unique and completely different than his or hers. This also applies when you are experiencing the loss of the same person. You both had an individual and very different relationship to the dead person.
  • “You have to keep busy now” or “you must stay active”. Keeping busy buries the painful feelings while you distract yourself with activities, but at the end of the day the pain is exactly the same.

You might now wonder what is left that is actually helpful to say to a grieving person. The unhelpful comments originate from feeling uncomfortable with another person’s emotions. Remind yourself that it is okay to feel unpleasant feelings. You do not need to “fix” anything, you just need to be present. It can also be very healing to cry. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you know the person well enough you might want to offer them a hug. But be very sensitive whether this physical approach is welcome or not. Not everybody likes hugs.
  • Understand that people express grief differently. Don’t expect to see particular stages of grief. Some people might feel more emotional including angry. Others might withdraw because they have learned to grieve alone. Others might act as if they are just fine. Listen without judgment to their feelings.
  • A better alternative to “I know how you feel” is “I can’t imagine how you must feel” and then allow the griever to share how they actually feel.

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  • Listen. Listen. And don’t rush to hand over the Kleenex to stop the crying when the tears are flowing. Allow the grieving person to feel what they are feeling and to talk about the person they have lost and about their relationship. Hold a loving space. Refrain from making comments about yourself and your losses, or rushing the person to feel better. Be like a heart with big ears. There is nothing to do but to actively listen. Active listening means responding with facial expressions and sounds while you allow the other person to fully express their loss experience, including crying.
  • Every day tasks can be overwhelming when the grief is fresh. Lend a helping hand. Get groceries, cook food, do the laundry, do the gardening, walk the dog or take care of the little children.

Holiday celebrations are coming up and with them come unresolved grief. This time of the year can trigger great sadness for people. We might not be able to be with a wonderful loving family, because some of our beloved family members have passed on. So this can be a time of feeling loneliness and the pain of a loss.

That applies whether our family members have died or whether we have been estranged with them. You might also be of service to friends or family members when they are grieving an estrangement with somebody. Listen, non-judgmentally, to how they are feeling. You don’t need to fix it. It is also not at all helpful to commiserate with them and tell them what an awful person the family member they are missing was and that they are better off without him or her.

Some family members have brought so much toxicity into our lives that we had to opt for no contact with them, for example in the case of a narcissistic personality disorder or addictions. However, even though we might have made that choice for our own peace and well-being, we can still grieve that the relationship wasn’t “better, more or different”.

John W. James and Russell Friedman offer a way to achieve completion of all loss relationships with their grief recovery program. It’s an excellent program for death, divorce and over 40 other losses.

 

For individual sessions contact Angelika

Certified Grief Specialist, Belief Change Coach and Workshop Facilitator

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.