The Placebo and Nocebo Effect

One of my favourite topics is the placebo effect and, on the down side, the nocebo effect. I feel very strongly that we should be leveraging the placebo effect more for our benefit, and be acutely aware not to be affected negatively by the nocebo effect. Today, I want to share a conversation I had with my colleague naturopathic doctor Felicia Assenza on this topic. You can also read her article below.

Join us for a 30 minute podcast episode about

the placebo and the nocebo effect.

 

The Placebo Effect

BY FELICIA ASSENZA, ND

What if it’s just placebo?’ Many of us have heard or asked this question before, especially in the healthcare field, but what if there’s something powerful and healing about the placebo effect that we might be missing by simply brushing it off?

WHAT EXACTLY IS A PLACEBO EFFECT?

A placebo effect can be defined as a beneficial effect from a substance or procedure that cannot be attributed to the specific properties of the substance or procedure itself. In other words, someone gets better from taking something that doesn’t, on its own, have any medicinal properties. For example, someone is given a new cutting edge pill for migraines (actually a plain old sugar pill) and the migraine disappears.

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HOW POWERFUL IS THE PLACEBO EFFECT?

Since its discovery in the 1700’s, the placebo effect has unfortunately been looked at as more of an annoyance or something that needed to be controlled for in studies of ‘real medicines’ or drugs or therapies being tested for their efficacy. For example, looking at whether or not Drug X is more effective than a placebo sugar pill. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the placebo effect itself began to be investigated in more depth and we’re now realizing the incredible role it can have in very real healing1.

The placebo effect has been shown to play an important role in many ailments that our modern healthcare system has much difficulty with treating, such as pain, depression, anxiety, osteoarthritis, immune health, and ADHD. It has even been shown to be effective in the context of surgery! A fascinating 2002 study by Mosely and colleagues demonstrated that placebo knee surgery (where an incision was made but no actual surgery was performed) was just as effective at relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis as the commonly used arthroscopic debridement surgery2.

DO I HAVE TO BE TRICKED FOR IT TO WORK? 

No! It seems the most important part for a placebo to work is believing that it will work, believing that things will improve or that the outcome you are hoping for is possible. A 2010 study by Ted Kaptchuck and colleagues found that when patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were given a placebo, told they were given a placebo, and given up to date information on the placebo effect, their IBS symptoms still improved3.

THE NOCEBO EFFECT

By this point, it shouldn’t surprise you that when it comes to health (and I’d argue other areas of life as well, but that’s a discussion for another day) if you think something will help, chances are it will! Turns out the opposite seems to be true as well. If you think something will be harmful, chances are it will be. This has become known as the nocebo effect. In other words, the expectation that a harmful effect will happen actually leads to that harmful effect happening. For example, a couple of studies have shown that nebulized saline, which is just airborne salt water droplets, actually triggered asthma attacks in individuals who were told they were being exposed to something they were allergic to5,6. An earlier study even showed that people who thought they were being exposed to trees that they were allergic to triggered the same visible, itchy rash that actually being exposed to the trees caused7.

IT’S NOT QUITE THE SAME FOR EVERYONE

Like everything in medicine and healing, the placebo effect does not look the same for everyone. If you’ve been to one of my workshops or read any previous blog posts, you have probably heard me emphasize the importance of individualized medicine or, as I sometimes like to call it, personalized medicine. Everyone is different and I have yet to come across any therapeutic approach to healing that has exactly the same effect in everyone. The placebo effect is no exception. There has, however, been some interesting study into more specific individual variations in genetics, neurobiology, past experiences, and how they relate to the placebo effect and a person’s susceptibility to the placebo effect1,4.

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN WHEN IT COMES TO MY HEALTH?

I think one of the most important things that the placebo effect shows us is our own healing abilities. One of the most powerful medicines is you! Realizing that your state of health ultimately falls on you is such an empowering way to approach your health but also quite a large responsibility. However, while you are the most important person on your healthcare team, you definitely don’t have to be the only person on your team. That’s where healthcare professionals come in to offer help and guidance to move you forward on your health journey, which brings me to my next point…

It is so so so IMPORTANT that you trust your healthcare professionals and have a positive therapeutic relationship with them. As we already talked about, the placebo effect can be a great asset to your healing but the nocebo effect can be quite the opposite. It is important that you feel comfortable enough with your healthcare providers to voice your thoughts or experiences with certain treatments and can collaborate on a treatment plan that you both believe is in your best interest.

What’s your experience with the placebo effect?

Do you have any experience with the nocebo effect?

We’d love to hear from you.

 

Want to work together on your health journey? Have more questions about the placebo effect? Let’s chat. Send us an email, give us a call, or book a free 15 minute consult.

Dr. Felicia Assenza can be reached by e-mail:

felicia.assenza@gmail.com

or through the

Awakening Health Clinic in Burlington

Invested in Your Relationship

As a relationship coach, I hear different people’s theories about love and relationships. I hear what I know to be myths. However, sometimes they are rather explanations which we have adopted to make sense of the fact that a marriage or long-term relationship ended, or as we tend to look at it, “failed”.

One of my clients in his late fifties said the other day, ”I was married for 13 years in my twenties and early thirties, I have had three other long-term relationships since then, which all lasted between 4-8 years, but I don’t see how I could have continued any of these relationships beyond that time. Do you believe a relationship has a shelf life?”

What he experienced is quite typical. Statistics Canada describes in their 2008 report that an average marriage last 13.7 years. Second and third marriages end even earlier. And that statistic does not include long-term relationships.

But to answer my client’s question, I do not believe that a relationship has an expiration date, per se. I do believe that relationships change and go through different stages. I also know for a fact, that we are very ill-equipped to make the transition to the next phase and to handle relationship challenges in general.

Nobody ever teaches us how to “do relationships”. My wish for future generations is to have the school subject “Living Successful Relationships”. That subject would need to include how to connect to our own feelings and protective responses, how to self-soothe, how to truly listen and communicate from a vulnerable place, how to solve conflicts, make compromises and create win-win situations. This school subject could help us in our intimate love relationships and in all our professional relationships. It would allow us to create a different society in which everybody is capable of connecting. I even believe that by teaching non-violent communication and other relationship skills, we could prevent wars and save the future of this planet.

So why do relationships end? A friend sent me this quote by relationship coach Mark Groves the other day which summarizes it perfectly:

What does it mean to outgrow a relationship? It often means that two people have grown away from each other, instead of having been able to stay connected. I used to say that this is what happened with the father of my daughters. However, it is just as true that in my thirties, I did not have the skills necessary to navigate this relationship and steer it back on course.

Another aspect of relationships deteriorating which the quote highlights is our level of investment. The moment one or even both partners are not invested in the relationship anymore, or maybe never were all that invested in the first place, the relationship has received its death sentence. One person alone cannot keep a relationship going. When it feels like you are dragging a partner along who is not willing to devote the necessary time and work into the relationship anymore, you have no other choice but to accept that. Both people need to be invested in the relationship.

One important investment you can make into your long-term relationship or marriage is to see a counselor or coach. You can learn the skills you need to navigate the changes every relationship undergoes. If you are longing to connect with your partner and steer your relationship boat through a tough time, reach out for a free phone consultation.

Also check out my packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

10 Relationship Myths We Are Conditioned to Believe

I just re-read the book “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley because my niece in Germany had an English exam on that topic and I had volunteered to help her prepare for it. This novel, published in 1932, is a dystopia in which a world government completely controls all citizens from the moment of their conception in a test tube to the moment they die alone and drugged up. There are no mothers, fathers or spouses, and emotional ties of all kinds are frowned upon. The methods used to control the population are “genetic engineering”, “sleep conditioning” and the happiness drug “soma”, which turns the workers of different casts into willing laborers for a consume oriented society.

One of the questions which came up in the discussion with my 17-year-old niece was what signs of social conditioning she sees in our society today, especially regarding our relationships. We spoke about different ways of conditioning through our society, parents, peer groups, the education system, the media, popular culture, religion and so on.  Once I named a few examples, she realized that no social group, no matter how liberal, democratic or tolerant, exists without training individuals to think and respond in a manner generally approved by the respective society.

In contrast to Huxley’s dystopia, we have the freedom to examine and question our conditioning, and we have the freedom to change those learned beliefs, and conditioned emotional responses and desires, if we so choose. However, analyzing and changing our conditioning is not always easy. We have been programmed to believe and hence feel that we are a failure if we don’t look a certain way, make X amount of money, have what is called a “successful career”, and are not in the societally expected relationships at a certain age. That idea of being a failure can literally paralyze us and keep us stuck in the social conditioning that is to blame for the feeling of not being “good enough” to begin with.

Anne is depressed because she has been struggling with her weight all her life. Martin is beating himself up because he has been out of a job for the past year and he wishes he had made other professional choices when he was younger. Laura is 30 and feels like a failure because all her friends are married. Peter is angry because he works long hours but still cannot afford the lifestyle his brothers have. Marie is a 38-year-old midwife who has been struggling to conceive for the past six years. Frank is a 68-year-old widower and is convinced he won’t be able to find a new partner. Lisa is 59 and ashamed to be alone since her husband of 25 years has left her for a younger woman. And this list goes on and on. There is an incredible amount of suffering in our society when we don’t manage to meet the norms we have been conditioned to meet.

In fact, our Inner Critic voice can always find something to criticize because it is literally impossible to meet the societal standards for success in every single way. The conditioning of how we should think, feel, act and what goals or relationship markers we should have reached at arbitrary points in our life has a strong hold on us. As a belief-change and relationship coach, I come across limiting beliefs every day. Today I want to highlight a few about love and committed relationships.

In “Brave New World”, committed relationships or marriages do not exist, instead “everyone belongs to everyone else”. Family, monogamy, and romantic notions are highly discouraged and regarded as a crime against the state. Promiscuity is in this future world the only way to interact with the members of your own caste. Citizens are given the happiness drug soma to relieve their depression about being lonely or insecure.

It is so obvious how the citizens of Huxley’s dystopia are manipulated and conditioned about love and relationships. Yet, what beliefs have we learned about love and relationships?

Here are ten of the top myths:

  1. Love is all you need to make a relationship last

Long-term relationships go through different stages. What is essential at every stage is to adapt and work with what life brings us. We start out with the honeymoon phase, but that is not supposed to last. It is just supposed to bring us together. Instead, love ideally matures more and more with each new phase. A book that describes this with beautiful metaphors is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea”.

  1. Good relationships don’t require work

Absolutely all relationships require ongoing attention, successful communication and the willingness to work through issues together. Or as Carroll Bryant says: “Love is a two-way street constantly under construction.”

  1. If my partner really loved me…

Those beliefs that start with “If my partner really loved me…” are another trap we fall into, e.g. If they really loved me, they would know what I feel/want/need. Our partner is not a mind reader. For a successful relationship, we need to learn to express our feelings and needs.

  1. He/she will change if I just keep trying to change them

It is completely impossible to change your partner! You only end up in a tug of war. In fact, focusing on how the other person should change keeps you stuck in your problems. Instead, a successful relationship is all about the question “How can I change? What is going to be required of ME to create a better relationship?”

  1. Couples in good relationships don’t argue

Many people still believe that conflicts in a relationship are a bad sign. Relationship scientist and expert John Gottman has proven that arguments are not the problem, but that how couples argue can destabilize a relationship. We want to practice how to deliver and receive criticism successfully and learn how to argue with less defensiveness and without stonewalling or showing contempt for our partner.

  1. Couples should have sex x-number of times per week/month

You should not compare yourself to other couples. Whatever amount of sex you both are comfortable having is exactly the right amount. Getting too stuck on average numbers when it comes to having sex, distracts from the actual problems which might be behind changes in the sexual desire. The desire to be intimate is about making time to connect and be vulnerable with each other. If a couple has a huge discrepancy between how often each partner wants sex, that is an issue to work through with a coach or therapist.

  1. True love is all about passion

I have seen people leave a perfectly good marriage because they felt it was lacking the passion. Often that meant that they have exchanged one stale relationship with one that is exciting but filled with drama and jealousy. Love can be both, passionate and safe. A solid relationship has achieved the right balance for a couple and their individual needs for passion.

  1. If we are struggling in our relationship it means we made a wrong choice and are just not destined to be together

Every couple goes through ups and downs. Every relationship is a constant dance between closeness and distance that we need to navigate. A belief like “every relationship has a shelf-life and ours must be over” gets in the way of putting in the work which every relationship requires.

  1. Talking about my past wounds will only make them worse

You cannot change your past, but you can change how you feel about it and heal your childhood wounds in your grown-up relationship. Speaking about your vulnerabilities and wounds with your partner is one answer to healing them. Ideally, the purpose of a relationship is to provide a safe space to be vulnerable and feel loved.

  1. Couples don’t need coaching or counselling unless their relationship is in serious trouble

Seeing a professional is beneficial at any stage of our relationship to help us navigate the transitions. In fact, a fabulous time to come in for coaching sessions is before you get married to lay a solid foundation for this next step of your relationship.

 

Do any of these myths sound familiar? Are you feeling stuck in your communication or struggling to navigate the current phase of your relationship? Perhaps it is time for you and your partner to come in for relationship coaching to work through a tough time or to get ready for a bigger commitment.

Check out my packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work – And How to Ensure You Are Reaching Your Goals for 2020

Another year has passed and if you are like most people, you might be looking back right now, reflecting on your toughest challenges but also your happiest moments. Perhaps you can feel gratitude for what unfolded in 2019 and how it has served you. You might also be looking ahead, wondering what dreams and goals are still waiting to be fulfilled.

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I had a client a couple of days ago who, when we spoke about goals for the new year, insisted that she doesn’t know what she wants. Yet, we had already determined a hierarchy of her values and she had great clarity on what her top six values are. Ultimately, our values determine our dreams and goals. If family and friends are one of my top values, I will need to spend time with them in the new year. If adventure and new experiences are important, I might plan an exciting trip. If health is high on my list of values, I might want to make healthy lifestyle changes. Or if financial security is an important value, being out of debt or owning a house might be one of my goals. If companionship and love are high values, I might want to put myself out there to find a partner.

When we feel a resistance to planning ahead or figuring out our goals, we might hold an underlying belief that our wishes and dreams never come true anyways. Or perhaps we had a traumatic experience in the past where we made important plans which have not come true, and we are still grieving the loss of those dreams and plans.

We also need to have supportive subconscious beliefs in place to reach specific goals. Popular new year’s resolutions tend to be losing weight, exercising more, living healthier (e.g. quitting smoking, drinking less, changing your diet), financial abundance, travelling, or attracting a romantic partner.

But new year’s resolutions alone simply don’t work very well. They only work if we get our powerful subconscious mind on board with our conscious goals. Let me illustrate this with a couple of examples.

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In order to successfully lose weight, we for example need to believe at a subconscious level that

  • we can lose weight easily and effortlessly
  • exercising and moving our body is fun and enjoyable
  • we have a normal or fast metabolism
  • it is safe to be slim and attractive
  • it is easy to keep the weight down

and much more.

Or in order to get our finances in order and create abundance and financial security, we need to for example believe that

  • we can support ourselves
  • we deserve to make and keep money
  • we are good with money and finances
  • we can be a “good person” and make lots of money
  • we can do what we love and make the money we want

to just name a few beliefs.

No matter what dreams or goals we have, no matter what we want to create in our lives, whether that is better health, more abundance or loving relationships, we ultimately want happiness. So, it all begins with the decision to start loving what is and what we are creating right now. It literally begins with the decisions to live a joyous life in the present moment, instead of putting happiness on hold until we have reached a particular goal. From that joy we can more easily create what we want to see in our lives.

We also really need to focus all our attention on making the change. Another reason why new year’s resolutions don’t work is that we often do not consistently set and follow concrete action steps to reach our goals. Choose one goal that you want to reach and make it your first priority by figuring out reachable and reasonable action steps. Where attention goes, energy flows. And where energy goes, shifts and changes occur.

Making changes and keeping your new year’s resolutions starts with changing your subconscious beliefs and your thoughts. As you think differently, you are able to create better health and experience more abundance in every area of your life. PSYCH-K® and the belief change technique from Shadow Energetics allow us to reprogram your limiting beliefs into those beliefs which support your conscious goals for 2020.

Reach out to Angelika for more information

or to book a session in person

or—if you are not in the area—through Zoom.

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

https://pixabay.com/illustrations/new-year-s-day-new-year-s-eve-2020-4720207/

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How to Get Through the Holidays When We Are Grieving a Loss

It has been imprinted on our psyche from an early age that holidays are the time to spend with our family and loved ones. In an ideal world with complete happy and well-functioning families, that is a wonderful thing. However, what if we are still grieving the loss of a family member who has passed, or we live in a split-up family, or we cannot seem to make the dream of a family come true due to fertility issues or not finding the right partner, or we are experiencing another loss, like the loss of our health, our job, our pet, our home and so on? There are so many situations in which the holidays can deepen our sadness and magnify our pain.

The loss of a family member—whether loved or not so loved—or the break of the original family unit, tends to bring out in families what already existed under the surface but could be ignored until the loss occurred. Those relationships which were struggling prior to the loss now become obvious. Missing bonds, hurt feelings, dysfunctional family patterns are suddenly right out in the open. The loss of one family member or the split of the family into two separate units naturally changes the dynamics between everybody. Coupled with the grief everybody is feeling and expressing differently, the issues which were already part of this family’s interactions are multiplied. Suddenly, family members are triggering each other into emotional responses, and the ideal of the harmonious peaceful holiday time seems to go up in smoke.

  • There is the young woman who has been trying to conceive for eight years now and who is supposed to spend the holidays with her in-laws and with not just one, but two pregnant and much younger sister-in-law’s. The soon to be grandparents, who do not know about her struggles, are ecstatic. Her own pain is equally big and seems unbearable, but worse is her Inner Critic that tells her not to be so selfish and that she should be happy for her sister-in-law’s.
  • There is the son, who always felt that he couldn’t measure up to his brother and compete for the love of his mother. After the death of his father, he feels even more isolated, has a fallout with his mom, and chooses not to spend Christmas with his family.
  • There is the widower whose wife used to be his best friend, his lover, his one and all and who is still trying to come to terms with her dying from an aggressive form of cancer within only a few months. He has no children to help him through this first Christmas alone and will need a friend to reach out to him.
  • There is the daughter, who felt she had to side with her mother against her father in a divorce and did not get another opportunity to have a relationship with him as she was growing up. She learns the limiting belief that men can’t be trusted and that close relationships with men are unavailable to her. She chooses to get back into an unfulfilling relationship just before Christmas when it is the hardest to be alone.
  • There is the granddaughter, who was very close to her grandmother and experiences her being replaced by her grandfather’s new girlfriend soon after. She feels deep sadness and starts to wonder about men and their loyalties. When she invites her grandfather for Christmas Eve as it is their family tradition, he refuses and spends the evening with his new girlfriend; her beliefs are confirmed.
  • There is the widow, who forces herself to do everything as usual to be strong for the kids and she shoulders not just her former workload but also the one of her deceased husband. By the time Christmas Eve arrives, she is taken to the hospital with a lung infection she has ignored.

These are all real people I am referring to and I could go on but I would rather share some strategies of how to get through the holidays when there is a recent or unprocessed loss, whether that is the loss of a person, or a relationship, or a dream.

The first decision to make is, do you even want to go through the regular Christmas routine? You can change the routine to something more normal like ordering in food and watching a movie together. Anything that feels too overwhelming, you are allowed to skip. The big holiday decorations, the festive meal, sending holiday cards, buying gifts for people beyond your immediate family, spending time with family members that trigger your sense of loss… Whatever it might be that makes you feel like you are simply going through the motions, give yourself permission to drop. There is no right or wrong way to do the holidays. In fact, loss has a way of encouraging us to evaluate what parts of the holidays feed our soul and which parts don’t. It is even okay to cancel the holidays altogether and to go away. Often a change of scenery is exactly what you might need.

If you want to spend the holidays in your traditional way with your family, be gentle with yourself and compassionate with others. We all grieve in a different way. What might look like anger or even destruction can hide a lot of pain, what might seem like indifference might be an equally strong protection from feeling the loss. We are literally not ourselves when we are grieving. The first time to make major decisions is right after a big loss when our emotions are flying high.

Nobody asks to experience a loss, or as a client of mine phrased it: “The splitting up of my family was never what I wanted, never what I imagined, never what I dreamed of.” Yet, at the other side of the grief we realize that we are not alone. Everybody experiences losses at some point in their life. We can always reach out to the Greater Power and asked to be carried through a time like the holidays. Remember that we are all connected.

Allow others to help. There is no shame in needing help, on the contrary. Accept their practical help at this time of the year, and share with them what is going on for you internally. Let them know they are not expected to fix anything, but that it helps to simply vocalize your thoughts and feelings. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Love and support?

Remember that crying is okay. You do not need to be strong for others. Acknowledging your own sadness and grief can help others to do the same. Make sure you talk to kids as their grief can be overlooked or forgotten. Explain to them what is happening and why you feel the way you feel. Often children have a healthier attitude towards death than we do as adults, but they still need to process the loss of a loved one who passed or the loss of their family which broke apart.

If you are getting together with your family and you want to remember the family member you have just lost, communicate beforehand how you would like to do that. Allow everybody to partake or also to not partake, keeping in mind that we all grieve differently. If it feels right, you could light a candle or share memories or photos of your family member. Consider what this person’s legacy is and how you as a family want to continue living this legacy. Were they perhaps a charitable person or known for helping others? Were they musical or loved telling jokes? Did they like arts and crafts? Where they a good listener? etc. You might then decide to donate something to charity in their name, bring in the music or jokes, make a holiday ornament in their memory, adopt your loved ones listening stance and so on.

And last but not least, if you have been putting off getting professional help and for example seeing a coach or counsellor, now might be the right time. The holidays are tough to get through. Reach out to get the support you need.

Contact Angelika for grief work or fertility work 

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you want to read more about how grief accumulates you can read the article “Recovering from Our Losses”.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

A Child’s Theory of the World

In this newest podcast episode I am interviewing Sheila Sims, the founder of “All of Me Counts”. Sheila is a certified teacher with 18 years of experience. All of Me Counts provides resources and services for kids, parents, educators, and organizations to help kids access their best self.

Sheila works with an Inside Out Approach. This “inside-out” approach is based on the premise that what all of us—including children—are experiencing on the outside is a reflection of what is going on inside of us. Philosopher Immanuel Kant already wrote almost 200 years ago that we do not see things as they are, but as we are. And that view of the world already affects us as children.

Every child has as Sheila calls it their own unique “Theory of the World” that determines how they perceive and respond to their experiences. It powerfully impacts their behavior, motivation, relationships, and learning potential. When we can uncover a child’s theory of the world, we can more easily resolve behavior and learning challenges at the root for lasting success. We can help the child to live life with joy and confidence.

Sheila Sims

In Sheila’s own words:

“We all have our own unique theory of the world that powerfully affects how we perceive and respond to every experience. It consists of the subconscious beliefs we have about who we are and how the world works. These beliefs are developed when we are very young at a time when we are personalizing every experience, when we do not yet have the cognitive ability to question and think critically and when our subconscious mind is very open to outside influence.

When a child develops a healthy theory of the world, they will naturally act in the best interest of themselves and others, have positive perceptions of their experience, and will make choices that reflect their highest potential. I have yet to meet a child or adult that does not have some beliefs that are not serving them, but those that are really struggling likely have a theory of the world that is working against them in some way.

When a child has an unhealthy theory of the world, this sets them up for low self esteem, dissatisfaction, challenging relationships, and reduced potential regardless of the opportunities available to them and the strategies used by parents and teachers.

We’ve been led to believe that better opportunities, better parenting strategies and better teaching methods will lead to success, but if kids are taking the world in through the filter of their beliefs than these things can easily be distorted. What a child really needs is better beliefs!

Unless we work to shift the unhealthy beliefs that are leading to surface challenges, then whatever patterns or “themes” that are perpetuating in childhood will follow the child throughout their life. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t other factors at play that affect a child’s behavior, but in my opinion, these unhealthy beliefs are at the core of most imbalances and are most often overlooked because they are not obvious on the surface.”

To find out more about how we uncover a child’s theory of the world join us for our 30 minute podcast, or read Sheila’s articleMy Teaching Fail that Revealed the Answer to “Difficult” Behaviors in Kids”.

Embracing the 50+ Years

I just finished watching the new episodes of the Netflix series “The Crown”. While season one and two had actually endeared “The Queen” to me and allowed me to shift my perspective of this powerful and dignified figure, so I could see her humanity, the third season had—and not just due to a change in actors—a bit of a different effect on me. It had me reflect on how we as women manage to combine our power, wisdom and kindness in the second half of our lives. How does becoming older affect our self-image and our relationships?

Olivia Colman stars as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown.

Some of us stay stuck in fear, in being inauthentic and not speaking up because that is what was role modeled to us as “politeness” and the only way to be as females. Others, newly aware of their power and position, might be tempted to set their boundaries by ripping into others under the pretense of speaking their truth. The women that I admire speak their truth, but with consciousness, kindness and warmth, always aware that others do their best and are not out to get them. We all might react too strongly when we feel overwhelmed. The key is to readjust back onto a path of heart-centredness. Compassion and understanding does not only show up in what we say, but also in how we deliver it. We can speak and express what we are guided to say from a place of clarity, with compassion and understanding.

Christiane Northrup coined the term “Alpha Goddess” for the perimenopausal or postmenopausal woman who has come into her own. When we have entered that “second spring of our life”, self-care and self-development become priorities, as wellness expos show—they are primarily visited by women of that age group. We feel it is our time to accept ourselves fully the way we are with all our strengths and weaknesses.

“They know their strength because they have experienced significant loss and come through it.” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age) We have learned to ask for help when we need it and that overall we are smart and capable. We have learned to put matters into perspective and trust that everything will pass. As mature woman we are very much aware of the fact that “no” is a complete sentence, which is liberating. We are free from the need to prove ourselves. “We look back and see that we didn’t do so badly after all. Maybe we have some regrets and maybe we disappointed some people, but that’s part of being human” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age). Sometimes we simply need a fellow Goddess to remind us that we are doing well.

We know that we do not need to let ourselves be pulled into other people’s drama, summarized so beautifully by the phrase “not my circus, not my monkeys”. We also recognize when a friend needs us to hold a loving space or when it is time to reach out to a professional.

Being a coach and supporting others, I have strong wise women supporting me not only as friends, but also in the role of a therapist or a coach. Depending on what is going on in my life, I reach out to either one of the latter. I admire and trust them, yet they are also human. They might not always be able to give me what I need. In fact, my therapist, despite having known me for several years, missed the mark the other day. When that happens, we can slink away quietly and not reach out to that person anymore, or we can speak up. A good practitioner will listen and be grateful when you speak up. In fact, when I let her know that in the particular situation I did not need her to go into problem solving mode for me, but I simply needed to be heard and held in my vulnerability, she replied with a simple heartfelt “I am sorry” and the acknowledgment that she sometimes misses the mark when we do a phone session rather than an in-person session. I admire and value her for that response and unless she repeatedly misses the mark despite me speaking up, I see no need to end this relationship.

The same applies to our friendships. “Alpha Goddesses know how to make new friends but keep the old—but they only hang on to those longstanding friendships if they’re vitalizing instead of draining” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age). There are friends and family members who drain our energy with drama or other toxic interactions, but as we refuse to be pulled into their turmoil, they naturally fall away. We can release them and let them go with understanding and forgiveness.

I have recently become newly aware of who some of my true friends are. They are not our social media connections that we are sometimes so busily feeding, but those friends who you can be vulnerable with because you know they feel confident in themselves and are far beyond competition between women, status, gossip or pettiness.

Some of them are my age, but that is not even the main requirement for a supportive nurturing relationship. One of my dearest friends is 84 and she will be reading this blog as she follows with interest what is going on in my life. She is curious and young at heart, while being wise and kind. She is one of the women I admire most. If I only have half of her spunk and joy for life when I am her age, I will be fortunate. Another one is in her early 30’s, who also is wise beyond her earthly years, and I am grateful to have a friend who is like a third daughter. And then there are a handful of amazing women my age who I consider to be part of my tribe. Our relationships are equal. One day they need me, another day I need them to remind me of who I am and can be. I know I can reach out to them at any time and that I will be received without judgment.

They have boundaries where necessary, are aware of their feelings and of their own baggage. They are able to be kind and honest with themselves. We all are triggered or judgmental at times. The question is what do we do with those emotions and judgments? Do we choose to rip into others and kick them to the curb when they do not fall in line, or do we acknowledge our flaws and work on stepping into our true self?

To get back to the Queen in the Netflix series, she mostly stands alone and she hardens over time. She is unable to connect with vulnerability or love to her children or most other people. She finds peace with her dogs and especially her horses, but in my mind she misses out on what it truly means to be this amazing age of 50+.

What the women I love and admire have in common is, in my opinion, the most important quality in any man or woman: they see with their hearts. They are smart yet have the most loving view of others. They have managed to step into their power and being authentically themselves while treating others with kindness. They all are true Goddesses in my mind, when most of them wouldn’t even think of themselves in that way. I am proud and grateful to have each of them in my life.

 

Contact me (Angelika) for sessions at

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Don’t forget to check out my January Special.

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The Mind Body Connection

I am exited to introduce you to my new affiliate Andy Schmalz at Awakening Heath in Burlington. Andy Schmalz is an osteopathic manual practitioner and certified athletic therapist with 15 years of clinical experience. He is extremely skilled and heart-centred. He treats each client with compassion, wisdom and respect. He synthesizes concepts in energy medicine, nutrition, and environmental influences with traditional therapeutic concepts to provide a thorough rehabilitation to fit each person’s unique needs. I would like to present him to you by sharing one of his articles.

Over the last few years, I have repeatedly written about the mind body connection and how a physical issue has messages for us in regards to our emotional and mental well-being. Some typical examples are headaches, indigestion or physical pain in different areas of our body, or even a simple cold. Andy’s article is filled with excellent examples of how treatment has to address the whole human being.

Read Andy Schmalz’ article below

and/or join us for a 30 minute podcast episode about

the interconnection of physical issues with emotional and mental ones.

 

The Mind Body Connection

BY ANDY SCHMALZ, DO(MP), CAT(C)

We are often taught that the different issues in our body are the result of physical, emotional, or mental stresses. For physical injuries we look to some sort of therapist that focuses on stretching and strengthening to bring the physical structure back into a balance. Mental and emotional issues are treated with a therapist that has been trained in talk therapy and various rehabilitation techniques to help heal the initial trauma. The compartmentalization of these conditions has created a roadblock to healing for many individuals.

Instead of thinking of physical, emotional and mental health as being separate, they should be viewed as interrelated aspects along the same continuum. This can be thought of as similar to colours on the spectrum. Red, blue, yellow, or any other colour are not individual spectrums on their own colour palate, they are part of the same spectrum that transitions through all colours. In the same way that the inclusion of all colours combined produces white light, the total combination of physical, emotional, and mental spheres is required to produce holistic health.

To introduce this concept, let’s look at a simple injury like a sprained ankle. Imagine you’re a high school athlete competing for your school’s basketball team in the playoffs. You accidentally land on someone’s foot when descending from a jump and roll your ankle. You feel a couple of pops, a lot of pain right away and know it’s not good. You later discover that you will have to miss 4-6 weeks in rehabilitation if everything goes according to plan.

This is a very mechanical issue, right? There was no emotional stress that caused you to hurt your ankle so it should be a straight forward rehabilitation – manage the inflammation, begin range of motion exercise, slowly re-build the strength and continue from there. 4-6 weeks, right on schedule. But let’s take a look a little more closely at the whole scenario.

No injury is ever purely physical or purely emotional. They are opposite ends of the same spectrum. When you rolled your ankle, what were your feeling before and after the injury? You’re one of the better players on the team and there’s likely a feeling of letting your friends down, or possibly frustration because you had prepared hard for this year and now you’re going to miss the end of a short season. Maybe your coach isn’t supportive of the situation. Instead of reacting with empathy he/she responds with frustration that they have now lost one of their starters and the team’s chances of winning the championship have taken a hit. You will be able to feel that pressure during your healing process. And these thoughts don’t even include what might be happening at home – maybe your parents have been fighting lately and it has begun to create a lot of stress in your life. Maybe you’re having relationship issues with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Maybe there’s a loved one like a grandparent whose health is deteriorating.

The point is that ALL of these different stresses and emotions come into play during your healing process. Once again, the physical and emotional domains are opposite ends of the spectrum, and it’s important to have a rough idea where this injury falls within the spectrum to determine what type of treatment is required. This is not to say that every injury you experience needs to be assessed by a trained psychotherapist. Having a rough idea where an individual is in the spectrum helps to identify any barriers to healing as well as guide treatment. In this simple example of an ankle sprain it’s likely that the injury is much closer to the physical end of the spectrum with a small emotional component:

PHYSICAL___X_________________________EMOTIONAL

But if there are significant stressors at home or school, the spectrum would adjust:

PHYSICAL______________X______________EMOTIONAL

The difference between the two spectrums dictates what needs to be addressed in treatment. The physical rehabilitation of the injury does not change – control inflammation, then increase strength and range of motion as appropriate. But it’s possible the athlete in this scenario is carrying some stress that can slow the healing of the ankle. It may still heal on its own but the process will be more complete – and the care for the injured individual much more comprehensive – if the emotional stresses are identified and addressed. While this example is hypothetical, it’s well within the realm of possibility. Let’s look at a couple examples from clinic.

Example 1

A pre-teen girl (age 11) comes into clinic complaining of neck pain and headaches. Upon assessment the typical issues leading to neck pain are present – tension in the deep muscles of the neck, a change in breathing pattern (chest breathing), increased tension in the connective tissues of the abdomen, and weakness in the muscles of the mid back. The simple formula is to reverse these findings and the headaches should alleviate. However, in conversation during treatment the patient reveals that she has been experiencing difficulty all year long with a bully on the school bus that has been progressively getting worse. Her parents are aware of the issue but have not been fully informed about the severity and the young girl has not been forthcoming about the impact it is having on her. This simple disclosure has a significant impact on the healing process. The stress of worrying about a bully on a daily basis will create the tension in the abdomen (see effects of inflammation), change breathing patterns, and likely create the tension in the muscles of the neck as well. The approach to treatment at this point needs to change. The physical symptoms will resolve with the treatment of physical restrictions, but will return if the initial root issue is not addressed. The impact of the stress on the patient needs to be brought to his parent’s attention so they can address the issue appropriately – or the time and energy spent on neck rehabilitation will likely be redundant.

Example 2

Many of us carry low-level stress on a constant basis. We have simply been doing it for so long that we do not realize that it is actually affecting us. But the physiological effects of inflammation and the blood flow changes associated with stress can take a significant toll on us that we do not realize until there is a breakdown in the physical body. In this example you are a parent working full time with a couple of kids. You try to take care of your body but your responsibilities to your children take up much of your time. You are so tired at the end of each day that you can barely make it up to bed. Instead, you pass out on the couch most nights. You do get out for walks with the kids and eat the best you can, but the busy-ness of young children consumes most of your life…soccer practices, music lessons, birthdays, family commitments, etc. Sound familiar?

Life flies by, work gets busier and responsibilities increase. The kids are older but there are some minor troubles at school that worry you. Your parents have started to experience some health difficulties and need some help at home. Each of these commitments has also placed a strain on your marriage that simply wasn’t there 10 years ago.

Then one day you pick up your daughter after a particularly bad day at work – the same way you do every day when you get home from work. She’s only 45 pounds and you have lifted her many times before. But this time your back spasms and you experience extreme pain that brings you to your knees. You immediately know you’ve “blown out your back” and are able to see your doctor the next day. You’re told it’s a muscle strain and that you didn’t lift properly and that’s why you’ve hurt your back. NO WAY!!

Let’s take a close look at what has actually happened. Years of wear and tear and progressive increase in stress have decreased the mobility of your body. The lack of flexibility has finally reached a point where your spine cannot accommodate the things you’ve always been able to do, like pick up your daughter. The bad day at work is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Your system was at a point where it could no longer accommodate any more change. The small change in blood flow to the muscles due to the cumulative stresses combined with one more stress lead to the muscle spasms.

What does this mean for your treatment? The back will likely heal no matter where you do your rehabilitation. If it’s really bad you might need to try a couple different practitioners before you feel back to normal. Stretch the muscles of the low back, release the tight connective tissues on the abdomen, strengthen the core, and things should resolve in a typical fashion. But here’s the problem – you have done nothing to address the root causes of the back injury. You have approached your rehabilitation as a purely physical phenomenon and therefore you have not completed your rehabilitation. Unfortunately, you will likely injure your back again in time.

What else could you do to completely heal your injured back? You can’t necessarily control the events in life that cause your stress, but you can manage how you react to stress using appropriate techniques. Managing stress is a multifactorial approach (view Andy Schmalz’ article “Managing Your Stress”) that should be part of our everyday lives. If there is a significant strain on you personally because of your parent’s health or relationship you may benefit from talking to a trained psychotherapist that would compliment the physical side of your rehabilitation. Meditation, breathing techniques, regular physical exercise, yoga/flexibility work and potential modifications to your diet all come into play when trying to heal something fully instead of simply managing symptoms for another couple of years.

Example 3

It is important to remember that the physical and emotional connection is a two-way street. The first two examples showed how emotional stresses can either create an injury or slow it’s healing. But issues that seem to be purely emotional can also create a physical imprint. Anxiety is a perfect example. Anxiety is like a little breeze that can quickly turn into a tornado that takes over your brain and body. The emotion is often created by a perception based on a root fear that leads to worry and distress. And like many things in the brain, the more it is experienced the easier it seems to become to trigger an anxiety attack. But what we forget is that there is a physical imprint left in the body that seems to form a physical pattern – and once that pattern is established it feeds into the continued development of anxiety. In essence the physical imprint helps to perpetuate and lower the body’s threshold for anxiety.

When we experience anxiety, breathing patterns change – the breath becomes shorter and we no longer activate the thoracic diaphragm to breathe properly. Instead we use the upper chest muscles and neck muscles attaching to the upper ribs to lift the ribcage and create the breath. This results in increased tension in the thoracic diaphragm, neck and upper back that may affect nerve and blood supply to the head potentially creating headaches. There also seems to be a consistent pattern of tension in the centre of the upper abdomen just below the ribs that can lead to abdominal discomfort. It may be the inflammation in the body from the anxiety or some sort of other pathway but some of the stress from anxiety collects in this solar plexus area that seems to make the emotion of anxiety easier to experience.

As these physical changes culminate, they restrict proper breathing and seem to feed into the development of subsequent attacks. Releasing the physical imprints of the anxiety attacks seems to help the body manage anxiety. It is important to note that this is in no way a substitution for counseling. Instead it is approaching the body from a holistic point of view. Treating only the brain for anxiety will help to decrease the anxiety attacks one may experience, but it will not reverse the physical effects the attacks have.

As you can see in these examples, a physical injury is never just a physical injury. Conversely, an emotional issue will always have a physical imprint. To heal the body, mind and spirit a multi-faceted approach is required. It is up to you to determine the right formula for your healing, as you are the one responsible for your own health. At Awakening Health, our goal is provide you with the information and tools available to achieve the balance in life that we are all seeking.

 

For an Osteopathic appointment go to Awakening Health.

To work on the Emotional and Mental side of a physical issue contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Fertility Issues and Your Partnership

Nicole is devastated. After 15 months of trying to conceive, and having had an early miscarriage a few months ago, her period has arrived once again. Her husband Jason just shrugs as he briefly lifts his head from the TV screen and says “Don’t Worry! We will Just Try Again”.

Nicole feels like she wants to shake him. He just doesn’t get it! She wants to yell at him, “Why aren’t you upset? Don’t you want a baby, too?” Underneath the anger, a feeling of intense loneliness and inadequacy takes hold of her. It is bad enough that she has to deal with the fact that this life-long dream of hers is not becoming reality the way she had hoped and planned. Now she also feels completely disconnected from Jason. She had to admit that it was helpful that he had been calm and tried to be her rock when she had the miscarriage, but it still felt like he simply did not understand what the loss and the ongoing failure meant to her.

What Nicole forgets is that Jason might be dealing with this challenge differently. As women, we have learned to express our vulnerable emotions more than most men. We have also learned that being a mother is an essential part of life. We often plan our entire life, including marriage and motherhood. Being able to conceive fulfills—for a lot of women—several heartfelt desires; the desire for the companionship children and grandchildren bring, the desire to feel a new life growing inside, to give birth and nurture this fragile human being, and last but not least, the sense of purpose that can be derived from parenting and raising the next generation. The idea of fertility is often tightly linked to our self-identity as women. Therefore, trying to conceive unsuccessfully often cause anxiety, fear and grief.

Most men have not received the same messages about the importance of parenthood. Yet, for men, showing vulnerability and allowing the fear of failure can be more scary than we usually imagine. Men can also be terrified that their sperm won’t measure up and that they won’t be able to reproduce and give their partner what she most desires. Their female partners however, only perceive denial, indifference or stoicism. Trying and having difficulties conceiving takes a toll on a marriage or partnership.

The challenges around conceiving create different stresses for a couple. Sex can become a means to an end rather than a spontaneous expression of the need for closeness and love. The couple might disagree on when to get help and how much money to invest in often costly treatments. Fears and insecurities are triggered for both partners. More than ever, what the couple needs most during this stressful period is time to connect with each other, beyond fertility. How can they still enjoy life and each other totally unrelated to trying to conceive?

As modern day humans, we are so used to being able to control everything and obtain reliable results. We plan what job we want to do and make the choice to attend a certain school or learn a particular profession. We might plan to get married or buy a house and so on. Getting pregnant defies those expectations that we can plan everything in life. When the stork does not deliver as planned, it can feel like we are completely out of control in regards to making our dreams come true and it can appear completely unfair that other couples seem to be getting pregnant so much more easily.

However, even faced with fertility struggles, the question remains, “What choices can we make together as a couple?” Some examples are:

  • The choice to make time alone with each other and time with friends and family to experience carefree fun and laughter.
  • The choice to be loving and gentle with yourself and with each other, as you navigate this challenging period in your life. Even though it feels that way right now, infertility is not forever. You will find a way to meet your needs and create what you want.
  • The choice to find natural mood boosters like sunlight, exercise, yoga and enough sleep.

  • The choice to treat your mind and body well, for example by getting massages or giving each other massages, or by using relaxation techniques, meditation or hypnosis. The last three will come in handy when you are giving birth or raising your kids or in any professional or private situation where you are challenged.
  • The choice to see a relationship coach or therapist for couples sessions. As was the case with Nicole and Jason, fertility struggles often affect the relationship between the partners tremendously. A professional can help you to reconnect.
  • The choice to focus on everything you are grateful for that is part of a fulfilling life, for example by keeping a gratitude journal.
  • The choice not to ruminate and buy into depressing thoughts and limiting beliefs. I know! That is easier said than done. And that’s where one more choice comes in:
  • The choice to do the inner work and change limiting beliefs and fears into supportive beliefs. That increases your ability to move through this trying time more smoothly. You can make the choice to see a life coach or therapist on your own. Friends, family and your partner should not be your only support.

 

Contact me (Angelika) for individual sessions or couples sessions at

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Please read testimonials from couples here.

Don’t forget to check out my discount packages for couples.

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What Does a Relationship or Marriage Coach do?

Sometimes a client just makes my day because they send a few lines as a thank you, or an update to let me know how they are doing. Each time I get a feedback, that I have empowered somebody to be their best self or that I have helped an individual or a couple through a rough time, I feel deep gratitude for being able to be a coach. I am always very clear that the credit lies with the person or the couple who has done the inner work. At the same time, it is beautiful for me to see how somebody has been able to shift something around. It is truly an honour to be invited into the life of a couple or a family and to be able to guide and witness amazing transformations.

Last month, a client send me—with a note of gratitude for having a “marriage mentor” in me – an image she had seen on Instagram. The idea of marriage mentoring is a bit different. I usually refer to myself as a relationship coach or coach for couples. I offer sessions for couples who are married as well as those who are not. I see heterosexual as well as homosexual couples. I also go beyond mentoring as I use techniques to do deeper personal work. So, after receiving the image accompanied by her beautiful thank you note, I thought I should write about being a relationship coach.

A big part of what I do is educational. I share what relationship experts have discovered about challenges we all have in our interpersonal connections, how to repair relationships and how to make marriages last. An example of that are the five losing strategies in relationships and the five winning strategies. Relationships have been a life-long interest of mine, and by that, I mean all sorts of relationships. In fact, I would go as far as to claim that fulfilling, loving relationships make our life worth living. Of course, that applies to our romantic partner, if we have one, but just as much to our relationships with our children and other family members, with friends and colleagues and even with strangers. Relationships can be our greatest joy and our greatest source for pain. Perhaps you are struggling with jealousy or trying to process an affair, just to mention two common situations. Or maybe anger in the relationship or feeling emotionally flooded is your challenge. Anger has a surprising purpose and when you feel flooded there is a way to address that issue. How do we show up with each other and how are we able to connect in a meaningful way? How do we apologize and make amends and how do we communicate successfully. This all actually starts with self-love and self-acceptance, or in other words, by working on our relationship with ourselves.

As a relationship coach, I help you understand your relationship with yourself, with your partner, your family and your friends. Because I look at the situation from the outside with complete neutrality, I am able to point out dynamics and how to shift them. When you are about to give up, I encourage you to keep going. As your biggest cheerleader, I can hold the belief for you that you can create the relationships you desire. I teach you how different parts of you operate in relationships, how they protect you, but can also keep you stuck in unhealthy dynamics and conflicts. I urge you to be gentle with yourself and others and to see things with renewed clarity from different perspectives. I guide you to apply new ways of communicating and interacting. No matter how challenging or dysfunctional a relationship has been, there is never any judgment. I am as human as you are and have complete empathy while keeping my eyes on how to make the changes necessary.

Photo by Cole Keister from Pexels

When you come in with your partner, I am impartial. I am neither on your side, nor on their side, but my primary client is your relationship. I will advocate for what the relationship which you have created together needs from both of you. I encourage both of you to take responsibility, make amends and ask what it is you can do to create the connection you long for.

Whether you are wondering if you should come as an individual or as a couple, I will never tell you what to do because you know best what is right for you. I simply assist you in achieving the clarity you need for all your decisions. My focus is to support you fully in all your choices and to encourage you to live with awareness and integrity, to be the healthiest, happiest and most authentic version of yourself.

If you feel a bit stuck or lost in the dynamics with your partner, or another person close to you, please reach out for a free phone consultation to see if we are a good fit. A good connection with your coach is crucial, for you to feel comfortable enough to do your inner work. You can speak to me on your own, or we can arrange a three way call with your partner, to get a feel for how we might be able to work together.

Contact me (Angelika) for individual sessions or couples sessions at
905-286-9466
greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca
Don’t forget to check out my discount packages for couples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the pop up window or in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Why Are You Getting So Upset? – Passive Aggressive Behaviour PART 2

You met Lisa and Yohan in part 1 of my article Why Are You Getting So Upset? They decided to face the challenge of shifting out of a problematic pattern She was being placed in the role of a controlling mother and he was responding passive-aggressively to the control he experienced. They had no productive disagreements at all. Today we will look at some of the work they did to shift out of the unsatisfying dynamics.

Disagreements and conflicts can only be resolved when both people are honest about their feelings, willing to take responsibility for past actions, and committed to making changes for the future. When one partner is stuck in a passive-aggressive stance, he or she is too busy pretending not to be angry and feeling wronged instead of being able to make amends and work through conflicts. To move out of this pattern, it is first of all necessary to believe and feel that it is okay to be angry.

Lisa had to examine if she was perhaps unintentionally discouraging Yohan from expressing his anger directly. She realized that she had a tendency to humour him out of his anger, especially when the kids were around. It still felt more comfortable to her when Yohan was moody and sulked than when he actually expressed his anger. As much as she had been saying to him, “I wish you would tell me honestly what you are feeling”, what she actually wanted was for Yohan to be less resentful and angry. However, supressing anger will only guarantee that it comes out in other more indirect and passive-aggressive ways.

Anger is an emotion like any other emotion. It is neither good nor bad. It is a protective emotion and serves a purpose. It gives us the feedback that we are perceiving something as unfair or unsatisfying, or that there are other emotions hidden behind the anger. Anger is only the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, there are usually more vulnerable feelings.

Therefore, Lisa’s first step was to understand that anger is not a “bad” emotion and to learn to be less judgemental about Yohan feeling resentful and angry to begin with. She had to get to know her own angry part inside, so she could love and accept first herself and then him with this emotion.

Yohan, was very afraid of his own anger and had to do some inner work to get to know this passive-aggressive part, as well as his angry part. He connected to himself at younger points in his life when he was angry and felt the only way to express his feelings was to be passive-aggressive.

Venting anger on its own is not useful unless we can get to the more vulnerable feelings underneath the anger. Yohan needed to find the perfect balance between expressing the anger and finding the courage to explore his unmet needs or what feelings were really hiding beneath the anger.

“Anger is an inherent component of all human relationships, especially romantic ones. The more dependent on someone and vulnerable you feel, the more likely they’ll be the object of your hostility as well as your affection”

(Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man).

 

Relationship expert Dr John Gottman has proven in his scientific research that fighting is not the problem; rather, how couples fight is the issue. Conflicts are inevitable in relationships. Addressing the conflicts is healthy if we can avoid the four horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Healthy and strong relationships can and do handle anger, provided a couple sees it as a constructive force and fights smart and fairly, sticking to certain ground rules.

Both Yohan and Lisa needed to learn to have healthy fights in which it is okay to express anger, explore more vulnerable feelings and make requests of their partner. An important key element was to recognize when Yohan was triggered into feeling like a child. When Lisa became more controlling, she reminded him of his mother and he would instinctively revert to passive aggressive responses. His automatic assumption in many situations was that his needs were in conflict with Lisa’s and that there was no point in expressing those needs because they would not be met anyways. This corresponded to his experiences in childhood. He grew up feeling that nobody heard him and that he never got what he wanted. He was still stuck in that feeling, expecting that he would still never get enough of what he wanted as an adult.

Yohan had to learn to notice and acknowledge when Lisa was meeting one of his needs. He learned to say thank you and shift his perspective. She, on the other hand, had to learn not to interfere and do things for him he hadn’t asked her to do, especially not when he chose to be passive aggressive with other people in his life. A repeating example was when he was supposed to pay his child support to his ex-wife, but Lisa had to remind him to do it repeatedly before he put the cheque in the mail. Lisa felt this was antagonizing and unfair to his ex-wife and son and had put the cheque in the mail a few times herself. Yet, that caused Yohan to postpone the next cheque even longer and to feel resentful towards Lisa. When they examined this situation without judgement, but simply with curiosity, and began to understand their own parts in it, they were both able to shift out of it.

Another important shift was for Yohan to retreat less. They learned that underneath Yohan’s distancing behaviour was a fear of rejection. He would push Lisa away to prove to her that he didn’t need her. He had to learn to make the distinction between feeling rejected or fearing rejection and actually being rejected. He had to learn how to recognize stuck emotions and release feelings of rejection and disappointment.

Today, Yohan’s and Lisa’s interactions have mostly changed. Some situations still cause them to fall into old patterns, but one of them usually recognizes the pattern, takes responsibility for his or her part in it and initiates an open and honest conversation. There is more intimacy and closeness in their relationship and they exhibit better teamwork taking care of the children. Sometimes Yohan needs space, but he is able to express that instead of just retreating. He is also able to allow more vulnerable feelings of dependency and love without a constant nagging fear that he will get hurt. They know that their intimate love relationship continues to confront them with challenges and opportunities for growth, and they are both committed to continuing to put the necessary time and attention into their marriage.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

If you are interested in ordering Scott Wetzler’s book ”Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” I am grateful for you using my amazon associate link below.

Why Are You Getting So Upset? – Passive Aggressive Behaviour PART 1

Have you ever tried to clear the air with somebody by initiating an open conversation, putting your own needs on the table and asking the other person what they need, but they have been very vague and non-committal? Maybe you have even apologized or taken responsibility for your part in an interaction but the other person pretends that they cannot remember what you are talking about? You are given feedback along the lines of “No big deal, can’t even remember what you mean…” but then within the next days, the person drops some pointed remarks about how ridiculous your needs are or how difficult you are to deal with? Or have they ever given you the silent treatment and sulked? Or do they promise to be supportive in some way, tell you they will do something for you, but then conveniently keep forgetting their promises? And when they have led you down again and you are disappointed, they say with disbelief, “Why are you getting so upset?” All this could be passive-aggressive behaviour.

We are all forgetful at times and we have certainly also all been passive-aggressive in situations when we felt powerless, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about passive-aggressiveness as a strategy developed in childhood out of a feeling of powerlessness, and carried into adulthood and into our relationships as the automatic response when there is a conflict.

The passive aggressive person in your life could be a friend, a family member, your colleague or boss, or your spouse. The passive-aggressive person appears to be such a nice and peaceful human being, supposedly getting along with others, denying that they are doing anything at all while the people they are in relationships with feel the anger seething underneath. Their behaviour is not inadvertent, even though they hope you will think it is. They count on your politeness or need to get along. However, underneath the guise of innocence, generosity or passivity, is hidden hostility.

They test your boundaries all the time. How often can they ignore your needs or rattle you by doing what they know is infuriating to you? That could be forgetting to do what they said they would, doing what they know you hate, taking advantage of you in another way or playing little power games. When you call a passive aggressive person out, they deny their indirect and inappropriate way of interacting or play it down. This is confusing and utterly infuriating because it is impossible to honestly talk about hurt feelings, insecurities or needs.

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a learned behaviour. Passive aggressive people often had an overbearing or controlling caretaker as a child. Expressing their needs and wants was not welcomed. Let’s take a look at Yohan’s upbringing, for example.

Yohan remembers his childhood as a time of coldness, deprivation, control and conflicts. His parents both drank and his mother was an alcoholic. “A remarkably high rate of alcoholism exists among the parents of passive-aggressive men. Alcohol has a way of facilitating conflict” (Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man). His mother humiliated his father and Yohan lacked a strong male role model. He wanted her approval while he also feared and resented his mother. He felt he was never good enough for her and he has projected that onto every female partner or boss he ever had.

The conflict became even more apparent when his two younger siblings were born. Some jealousy towards a younger sibling is normal, but his parents responded with harsh punishments and did not let him voice his feelings or his fear of being replaced.  Because he couldn’t express his anger and fear, he used other ways of communicating his hostility.

He responded to his parent’s expectations with moodiness, stubbornness and a lack of cooperation. He became destructive, whinny and sulky. He refused to speak and started to underperform academically, rebelling against yet another authority figure, the teacher in school. His mother especially wanted to know his every move. This is the emotional expectation of the women in his life, which he still holds onto today, as he has grown into an adult who is secretive and vague.

As a teenager, his inner conflict grew further. When he was kicked out of school for missing too many classes, he felt that was unfair, after all he was working a nighttime job. He did not see a connection with the fact that he was falling asleep at his desk, didn’t turn his homework in on time, and cut too many classes. Expecting special treatment, he felt victimized and still tells this story from that perspective as an adult.

He has a hate-love relationship not only with his mother but every women—like his superiors at work—who appears to be powerful. His wife became an unwitting player in the reconstruction of his past. In Lisa, he was attracted to a woman who was strong and controlling. Simultaneously being attracted to a strong woman who reminded him of his mother and subconsciously fearing dependency and control, he responds to her with retreat, sulking, stubbornness or by turning a cold shoulder.

Yohan is unaware that a mutual dependency is normal and healthy. As humans we all need other people: we are interdependent beings. In our romantic relationships, that means letting yourself be cared for by your partner and at the same time caring for your partner. Dependency makes him feel weak, incompetent and needy. Feeling needy creates a fear of abandonment.

Today, he sets up situations which create an experience of deprivation, rejection or abandonment for him, especially in his love relationships. The stuck emotion of feeling unimportant and the belief that others, especially women, are not giving, operates like a self-fulfilling prophecy in his life. Either he does not express his needs at all and expects his wife Lisa to be a mind reader, or he expresses them at inopportune moments when the kids need to be attended to or Lisa is distracted by work. Subconsciously, he expects for his needs not to be met and sets out to prove that this is true. Meanwhile, he believes other people have all these unreasonable expectations of him which he feels resentful about.

When faced with challenges, opportunities or conflicts, he responds with procrastination, lack of initiative and indecisiveness. He waits for others to solve his problems or for his luck to turn. When others suggest positive changes or new opportunities, his response is, “what’s the point?” His hopelessness wins out over taking action.

Lisa, his second spouse, has a strong manager personality trait and says she fell for Yohan’s potential. She came to his rescue by organizing his finances and resolving his problems with co-workers and family members. She is surprised that Yohan resents her for what he experiences as dependency on her. His inactivity has brought out her more controlling side. And her controlling side activates his passive-aggressive behaviour. The more she tries to fix and help, the more resistant and negative he becomes.

A similar thing occurred in his previous marriage. That marriage ended due to Yohan having an affair and carelessly leaving the signs for his indiscretion out in the open for his first wife to find them. According to Scott Wetzler, that again is typical for passive aggressive men. “No matter how troubled relationships get, the passive-aggressive man will not unilaterally leave them…If he wants out, he’ll engineer the situation so you are forced to break up with him. Leaving is too real, too actively self-assertive, requiring too much initiative. It would allow you to actually blame him, something he doesn’t like at all.” (Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man)

Lisa loves Yohan and she wants to get out of the role of being the mother figure he fears and resents. At the same time, Yohan is recognizing his challenges due to his learned passive-aggressive behaviour and the underlying fears. What can Yohan and Lisa do so that their marriage does not end in the same way that his first one did?

Please read my next blog to find out. You can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post part 2 of this article. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar or in the pop-up window.

If you are interested in ordering Scott Wetzler’s book ”Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” I am grateful for you using my amazon associate link.

 

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