Giving Birth to A New Year

I just had a birthday, one of those that are supposed to be a big deal. I had a truly wonderful get-away with family and some of my closest friends, yet this transition into a new decade of my life did not unfold completely smoothly. This had me contemplating the mix of emotions which can come up prior to a birthday.

I have always felt a certain heaviness and sensitivity around the time of my birthday, and this year even more so. And had you asked me why, I would have told you that I wasn’t quite sure, couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Each year, I wondered if it was the fall and the upcoming winter that felt sad, or the hopes and expectations for the day itself which felt heavy. I knew it had nothing to do with getting older per se. I do believe that with each passing year we become wiser and that each new decade of our life brings new adventures and gifts. Yet, the emotions around this time of year always felt a bit like grief.

alone-depressed-grieving

This year, my wise friend Dhebi DeWitz said something that really resonated with me. She reassured me, that “it is not uncommon with the week or two weeks leading up to a birthday to feel the heaviness of the old birth year ending and the energies die off that go with it. Just ride it through and know that it is a cycle coming to an end. Then things start fresh energetically with the birth of your new year.”

Her words prompted me to start an internet search. I was amazed how many articles I came across on the topic of “birthday blues”, “birthday depression” or “birthday sadness”. I had no idea this was such a wide spread phenomenon. We all know what birthdays are supposed to be like. They are supposed to be joyous occasions, a time of celebration, a time when friends remember friends and families get together. It suddenly dawned on me that just like Christmas, Mother’s Day or other holidays which are overloaded with expectations, birthdays can also be challenging for several different reasons.

  1. As Dhebi pointed out, something old ends and something new begins. We might need to experience some feelings of grief and of letting the old go as we open up to the new year, or even new decade of our life. There is an energetic shift. That energetic shift can be exhilarating, but may also come with apprehension about the unknown. A birthday can be bitter sweet and that is alright.
  2.  

    2. Unless you are like my uncle—who literally hopes everybody will forget his birthday—we often have a need for this day to be more significant than other days. Some of our essential needs are the need for appreciation, love and celebration. It is natural that we are hoping for the day to be out of the ordinary and to feel significant or special, celebrated and appreciated.

celebration 2

What we have to be aware of, however, is the tendency to measure people’s love for us by how they respond to our birthday. Everybody has a different love language, and while some people are very good at giving gifts or words of affection, others are better at showing their affection through spending quality time with us or by doing something for us (acts of service). It also all depends on how much value others attribute to birthdays in general. It is easy to misinterpret somebody’s action or non-action in regards to our birthday and make it mean something it does not mean at all.

  1. Just like the end of a calendar year and the beginning of a new one, a birthday can also mark a point where we are contemplating our goals and where we are at in life. Suddenly, a certain goal we have not achieved stands out more, or a particular milestone has not been accomplished. When we are struggling with work, relationships or fertility issues, certain birthdays can be a trigger for sadness or depression. We might have hoped to be at a certain point in our career, or to own a house, or to be married / in a long term relationship at a certain age, or we might feel we are running out of time in regards to having children. We are experiencing grief in regards to our dreams, yet, we are expected to be happy on this special day of ours. Whether a birthday is depressing or joyful largely depends on those artificial deadlines we have set for ourselves.

dreams-house-marriage-children

As humans, we are capable of organizing our life into past, present and future. We have a certain life expectancy and particular birthdays can be more emotional because the number represents something to us. At 20 we are not a teen anymore, at 21 we are considered to be even more of an adult, 25 is the completion of a quarter of a century, 30, 40, 50, 60 and so on mark the beginning of a new decade, 50 is half a century, at 65 we are considered senior citizens, perhaps when we turn 76 or 83 or 87, we wonder how much longer we have because one or both of our parents died at that age, and so on.

  1. Another factor that influences how satisfied we are around our birthday is conscious or unconscious childhood memories of happy or unhappy birthdays. Perhaps, we mourn the long-gone magic of a childhood birthday. Or perhaps, we have had disappointing experiences and we have learned limiting beliefs about ourselves, about deserving and about celebrations. That experienced disappointment might literally be stuck in our body and energy field and can easily be triggered again, unless we release the emotion.

boy-crying

  1. We might not be fortunate enough to have someone in our life who organizes a party or other birthday celebration, and there is work and stress involved in planning the event. That stress is magnified when we feel grief about having to plan and prepare ourselves. How much that sadness hits us depends again on our beliefs, our unfulfilled needs and longings and what meaning we attribute to a particular birthday.

If you are experiencing confusing emotions or heaviness around your birthday, know you are not alone and just ride it through, as Dhebi recommended. You are allowed to laugh and cry, to feel happy and sad, to celebrate and mourn, and to embrace the wide range of your emotions fully, no matter what day it is.

I embrace all my emotions

To release stuck emotions, discover more about your needs and how to meet them, or change subconscious beliefs, using PSYCH-K®, Shadow Energetics or L.E.E.P. (Life Enhancing Energy Processes created by Dhebi DeWitz) please contact

Angelika

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.

 

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The Blind Passenger

I had been contemplating this year’s Thanksgiving blog, when I came across this beautiful story by an unknown author on Spiritual-Short-Stories.com. It is perfect the way it is written, so allow me to just share…

The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver, and using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg. It had been a year since Susan, thirty-four, became blind. Due to a medical misdiagnosis she had been rendered sightless, and she was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, anger, frustration and self-pity.

Once a fiercely independent woman, Susan now felt condemned by this terrible twist of fate to become a powerless, helpless burden on everyone around her. “How could this have happened to me?” she would plead, her heart knotted with anger. But no matter how much she cried or ranted or prayed, she knew the painful truth: her sight was never going to return. A cloud of depression hung over Susan’s once optimistic spirit. Just getting through each day was an exercise in frustration and exhaustion.

 And all she had to cling to was her husband Mark. Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all his heart. When she first lost her sight, he watched her sink into despair and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence she needed to become independent again. Mark’s military background had trained him well to deal with sensitive situations, and yet he knew this was the most difficult battle he would ever face. 

bus-city

Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Mark volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city. At first, this comforted Susan and fulfilled Mark’s need to protect his sightless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task. 

Soon, however, Mark realized that this arrangement wasn’t working – it was hectic, and costly. Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again, he admitted to himself. But just the thought of mentioning it to her made him cringe. She was still so fragile, so angry. How would she react? 

Just as Mark predicted, Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again. “I’m blind!” she responded bitterly. “How am I supposed to know where I’m going? I feel like you’re abandoning me.” Mark’s heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened. For two solid weeks, Mark, military uniform and all, accompanied Susan to and from work each day. He taught her how to rely on her other senses especially her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. 

He helped her befriend the bus drivers who could watch out for her and save her a seat. He made her laugh, even on those not-so-good days when she would trip exiting the bus, or drop her briefcase. Each morning they made the journey together, and Mark would take a cab back to his office. Although this routine was even more costly and exhausting than the previous one, Mark knew it was only a matter of time before Susan would be able to ride the bus on her own. He believed in her, in the Susan he used to know before she’d lost her sight, who wasn’t afraid of any challenge and who would never, ever quit. 

Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. She said goodbye, and for the first time, they went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan had never felt better. She was doing it! She was going to work all by herself! 

Blind-Passenger-silouette

On Friday morning, Susan took the bus as usual. As she was paying for her fare to exit the bus, the driver said, “Boy, I sure envy you.” Susan wasn’t sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live the past year? Curious she asked the driver, “Why do you say that you envy me?” The driver responded, “It must feel so good to be taken care of and protected like you are.” Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about, and asked again, “What do you mean?” 

The driver answered, “You know, every morning for the past week, a fine looking gentleman in a military uniform has been standing across the corner watching you when you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches you until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss, and gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady.”

Tears of happiness poured down Susan’s cheeks. For although she couldn’t physically see him, she had always felt Mark’s presence. She was lucky, so lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight, a gift she didn’t need to see to believe – the gift of love that can bring light where there had been darkness.

This touching story has me wondering if we aren’t sometimes all like this blind woman? We feel alone, struggling to go about our life, meanwhile we are watched over, protected and held without being aware of it. We are, in fact, safe and abundant beyond our wildest imagination. There is an abundance of love and support—if we could just see it. What if we opened our hearts and looked around to notice the fullness and abundance in our life with gratitude.

Thanksgiving - Happy Thanksgiving 3

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,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

I love you! I love you! I love you!

Energy follows attention. What you focus on, is what you get. That universal law applies to our relationships as it applies to anything else.

In the past, there was a theory that it is good to get your negative feelings out. Unfortunately, venting at our partner leaves him or her with bad memories. Over time, our brain responds with apprehension to high energy interactions. In fact, our brain starts to associate our partner with negative situations and with danger instead of with feelings of safety. Our brain goes on alert because we remember the hurt and emotional pain. Instead of triggering endorphins (feel good chemicals), the stress hormone cortisol is triggered. Our main job in our relationship is to be a source of safety for our partner, instead of another source of stress.

Our brain has, as Rick Hansen calls it, “a negativity bias”. We remember negative events more easily than positive ones. For our ancestors that negativity bias was important for survival. Drs. John and Julie Gottman state that five positive exchanges or comments are required to override one negative one. If we hear more critical comments than affirmations or appreciations, we are often left feeling defensive and uneasy with our partner.

Another reason why venting is not beneficial is that whatever you express, you also experience. Whatever you do to others, you do to yourself. When you yell at your partner, it is as if you are yelling at yourself. Your brain reacts to your own negative yelling in the same way your partner reacts. It triggers danger cues and the release of cortisol.

What would happen if we flooded each other with positive emotions and we were able to connect intensity with positive exchanges? Hendrix and Hunt suggest the following couple’s exercise.

3 Minute Exercise That Re-Patterns Our Brain

In preparation for the exercise, make a list of

  1. your partner’s physical characteristics which you like
  2. their personality traits which you admire
  3. some of their recent behaviours you appreciate, and
  4. come up with a global affirmation, e.g. they are terrific, thoughtful, fantastic, amazing, wonderful etc.

positive flooding

One partner sits in a chair and the other one circles him or her and floods the partner with positive adjectives. The first minute is focused on the physical characteristics. The circling partner identifies and appreciates all of the physical features of their partner in a normal tone or volume, e.g. I love your smile. I really like your silky hair. I love your soft hands.

During the second minute, the circling partner focuses on appreciating traits in a more excited tone, while raising the volume of their voice, e.g. I appreciate your warmth. I appreciate your kindness. I appreciate your intelligence.

During the last minute, the circling partner values and affirms behaviours the partner has displayed. This time they are raising their voice even more, e.g. I appreciate that you picked the kids up from school yesterday. I am thankful for your advice in regards to my boss. I am so grateful for you sending Aunt Edna a gift.

At the end, the circling partner comes around and stands in front of the sitting partner. He or she yells, “I can’t believe I am in a relationship with (married to) a person as amazing as you. I love you! I love you! I love you! You are wonderful/amazing/fantastic” etc.

Then both partners stand and give each other a full minute long hug to calm down.

 

The rationales behind this exercise are

  1. This interaction exercises, first, the sympathetic nervous system, and during the hug at the end, the parasympathetic nervous system. It activates the bonding hormone oxitocin.
  2. It creates new safe memories of our partner. Intensity is now connected to positive memories.
  3. It also takes us out of the resentful part of our brain where we have kept a list of the things our partner has done to frustrate or hurt us. It moves us into the part of the brain that wakes us up to how wonderful our partner is. Our perpetual issues or relationship problems have, of course, not disappeared. However, the shift into our prefrontal neo-cortex opens up the option to deal with them in a more civilized and calm manner than our primitive brain is capable of. From that part of our brain, we can be more curious about why our partner is the way they are, instead of being judgmental with each other.

 

If you are hesitant to try this dynamic exercise, consider cutting out negativity and shifting into appreciation with a different ritual. Drs. Gottman for example suggest a weekly “State of the Union Meeting”. The couple sets aside one hour a week to reconnect. The State of the Union meeting begins with giving each other affirmations and appreciations. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt propose to end each day by sharing three things we appreciate about our partner and vice versa. This conscious practice of appreciation requires us to pay attention to what we enjoy about each other.

positive flooding - joy

Re-patterning our brain, as well as other activities of shifting into appreciation, give us the opportunity to revive the love we have for each other. Gratitude and appreciation foster a secure bond and allow us to continually build a sound relationship house.

Contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika,

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.

 

“Good night, John Boy!” – What is Family?

Do you remember the television show “The Waltons”? I know it’s a rather old show, which launched in 1972. It was one of the few TV shows I was allowed to watch as a child. I loved the family support the characters extended to each other and it really touched my heart how each episode ended. You saw their house in the dark, the Walton family with their seven kids and two grandparents went to bed, one light after the next was turned off, and they all said “Good night” to each other. “Good night, Mama,” “Good night, Daddy,” Good night, children!” “Good night, John Boy!”

Over the last six weeks, I have been contemplating the question of what “family” really means. What constitutes family and how do families cope with things?

Waltons 1

There is, of course, the ideal of the “picture book perfect family,” like the Waltons. We probably all carry that family archetype around in our mind. But let’s get real. It is 2017, not the 1930’s, and the reality is that there are more and more blended families. We are faced with more complicated family dynamics, other challenges, and different conflicts than the Waltons would have ever dreamed of. In today’s world, family set-ups change constantly. Separations and divorces occur and new unions, for example second or third marriages, are formed. Custody arrangements change, or children get older and move out. With each stage in life, energetic dynamics are transformed. Families even change temporarily, as we have experienced this summer.

For the last six weeks, my 16-year-old daughter has been living and working in Quebec. Meanwhile, we had a 17-year-old exchange student from Quebec staying with us. Just like our daughter in Quebec, he had to adapt to a completely new environment, a different language, his summer job in English, and many new impressions and events each day. They both impressed us tremendously with their openness and courage.

We also had to adapt as a family and understand cultural differences and differences in communication styles. Within the first weekend, our “exchange son” had captured both our hearts with his awareness and sensitivity. A bass guitar major for the last six years, he brought music into our house and many interesting conversations. He wanted to get to know both of us and made the effort to connect right from the start. Very observant and mature in his communication skills—despite the language challenges—we felt from the first moment on that we “lucked out” with this amazing summer guest.

Sounds like the “honeymoon”? It was. Ten days into his stay, the first challenges naturally arose which we had to work through together. Just as in a blended family, there were different values, other rituals and new ways of doing things. From home, he was used to coming and going spontaneously, unaware that over here in his host family, everybody else had adjusted their schedule to his to spend some quality time together. He was not used to communicating when plans that he had made were changing, or accustomed to keeping each other informed by text. The curfew put in place by the exchange program was initially looked upon by him and other French students as a suggestion, and the concept that parents might worry until the young people are back home safely did not occur to the students.

Having grown up in an all-girls household and having only parented girls, I was expecting that familiar communication of sharing your experiences and feelings, and expressing appreciation for each other on a daily basis. I read one syllable answers to questions and his lack of planning as a lack of consideration and lack of appreciation. He read our questions, responses to his behaviour and different rules as overprotection and judgement. The more he felt “not good enough” and “wrong,” the less he wanted to communicate. When we feel blamed, we sometimes just want to run and avoid an unpleasant talk. That is a human response. It took a change in approach—a “tough love” tone—for him to wake up.

Good Night, John Boy 0

We are so extremely proud of this young man for taking responsibility for his side of the misunderstandings and for being open to hear our explanations and apologies where we had made him feel judged as “wrong”. After this talk, we gained a tremendous understanding for each other. Our communication improved greatly, and we were able to see each other’s dissimilarity as just different instead of wrong or rude. We were able to focus on the similarities and the efforts made by everybody and express more appreciation towards each other.

Now, almost at the end of his stay, we are truly sad to see him go. There is no question in our minds and hearts that we will stay in touch with him, just as my daughter will continue the connection with her loving and truly amazing host family.

This exchange experience had me contemplating the question, “What is family”? What is it that the Waltons have that can be still found—or be missing—today in our modern families?

For me, it boils down to the wisdom that as a family you are stronger. What is good for one member of the family is good for all. You don’t give up on each other, but you talk through challenges and you grow from sharing your feelings and thoughts. You learn about the feelings, experiences and triggers the other family members have. From that place of greater understanding, you take responsibility for your part in a regretful interaction and create compromises together. Or, as a friend of mine said a few weeks ago when we spoke about issues with her step-son, “Shit happens in families, but as a family you work through this shit together!”

Good night, John Boy 1

Unfortunately, in her case, the mother of my friend’s teenage step-son is sheltering him from having to take responsibility for a big screw-up. She is depriving the father and his family from having the opportunity to work through things together as a family unit. Instead of trusting her son that he is old enough at 17 to work through a conflict to which he contributed, she is doing him a disservice by letting him hide behind her apron. Wanting to be the more beloved parent can leave us very short-sighted in terms of what beliefs and coping strategies we teach our children.

A family unit can only function if our feelings and needs are not swept under the carpet but rather are processed. Without the willingness to be vulnerable and discover what is going on underneath the feelings of irritation or anger we might be experiencing, we can’t move out of a stuck state. By not working through things as a family, we are making a choice to carry anger, resentment and blame with us. Sometimes it is the parent generation who is not willing to communicate openly and honestly, at other times it’s the young generation feeling unable to express themselves. Often the unsuccessful communication goes both ways. However, only when we take responsibility for our feelings, words and actions, can we grow as individuals as well as families.

Good night, John Boy 2

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 & Relationship Coach

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

One way of working on your relationships is the Relationship Energetics Workshop coming up this fall.  For more course information please click here.

Making Mistakes

On Saturday, I was out to run a quick errand. The white Honda in front of me had slowly crept down the street at 40km/h. Now it was turning right, and so was I. The lane was clear to turn. The Honda started turning and then abruptly stopped. I hit his rear bumper. A gentle bump but still my front license plate scratched his bumper, making repairs necessary. It was my fault for hitting him.

On Tuesday, I got out of my late morning session with a client and found a text and a voice mail from one of my favourite clients who always has a long drive getting to Mississauga. Her text said, “I am here for my appointment, rang doorbell, no answer”. I pulled up the last email I sent to her. It clearly said, “Next appointment, Tuesday, July 4 at 10:00 a.m.”. Yet, I had entered her appointment into my calendar for Wednesday. I screwed up.

I had a week of quite a few things escaping my attention, a week of “screwing up” if you so like. A few important emails also slipped my mind and an important anniversary. A mistake, screw up or failure like the ones I experienced this week is exactly what brings a particular part inside of us to the forefront: our Inner Critic loves to use any mistake or situation of fault as an opportunity to blame and criticize us harshly.

I have been asked in the past, what is the most common limiting belief? As much as we are all individuals and have very individual beliefs which hold us back in life, I would say that the most common beliefs are the ones which make us feel not good enough. At the top of the list is the belief that it is not okay to make mistakes. We learn this early on and our school system often manifests this belief. Our Inner Critic loves to “pounce” on us and really beat us up for past decisions we regret or more recent mistakes that we feel we have made.

mistakes - movie clapper.jpg

What if we could instead see a mistake just as a “missed take”, like in the movies? In most cases, we get another chance for a “Take Two” or even a “Take Three” in life. And in those case where we don’t get another opportunity we really need to let ourselves off the hook, heal the past and forgive ourselves in the process. Any choice we have made in the past was made with the knowledge and wisdom we had at the time. From a place of greater knowledge, we might have made a different decision, yet, we need to be compassionate with that younger self that did not know what we know today.

We are part of the human race, and as humans we don’t always make the strongest choices. We all mess up, miss opportunities or make decisions we regret in retrospect. In fact, we can even take it a step further. It is not “making mistakes” that is often the problem but “not making mistakes”. “If you do not make enough mistakes, that’s evidence that you are not taking enough risks, that you are not growing, that you stay in the comfort of your own safety zone” (Rachel Naomi Remen). Making a mistake can be one of the best things which happen to us because it gives us a feedback. The discomfort we feel when we have made a mistake means that we are more likely to remember what we have learned—unless we allow fear to drive our future choices.

Fear combined with the expectation that the same mistake, rejection or loss will occur again increase the likelihood that we are co-creating that same situation of failure or loss once again. We need to acknowledge the fear and face it. How can we learn from the past without allowing fear to take over our present and future?

What keeps us stuck in a feeling of “unworthiness”, of “being a failure”, is not the mistake but the lack of self-forgiveness and self-compassion. The feeling of “not being good enough” has its foundation in shame. It prevents us from going out and trying again, whether that is going to take another professional risk or healing our losses or relationships. Shame vibrates at a very low level. According to David Hawkins’ scale of consciousness, it’s one of the lowest possible vibrations.

Hawkins Map-of-consciousness

The only way out of that swamp of shame and fear is through self-love and self-acceptance. “There is this place that we all have deep inside us that is untouched by trauma and shame.” (Mark Nepo) There is a deep wisdom inside of us. Our essential self knows that we are perfect and whole, that we are love and light. In meditation or hypnosis, we can experience that place of deep and profound love-ability.

Once we have experienced this, it is easier for us to change our narrative about ourselves. We can change our story from “I am flawed. I am not good enough” to a different inner narrative of “I am human. I make mistakes. And I learned from my past mistakes”. As we change our story, we do not just change our perspective, but we literally change our brain. When we change our story, we change our life.

Often we feel stuck, when we are at a point in our life when our story needs to change. We always have the choice between a victim story or an empowering story. We have the choice to bring up a loving supportive parent voice as opposed to the judgmental voice of our Inner Critic. You are after all not your Inner Critic; that voice is just a part inside of you. Separate from it. We all have the capacity to personify and create a visual image of this part in us. You can even give it a name. Pick a name that is a bit ridiculous to make the separation even clearer and easier.

We want to be able to identify the voice of the Inner Critic. We could communicate with it. Like all parts, it has a purpose. The Inner Critic sees its job in keeping us safe from outside criticism and rejection. You can thank your Inner Critic for how it’s been attempting to help you. You can even find out what that part fears for you. Let it know you appreciate it is trying to protect you from embarrassment.

inner child - little girl

The second step is to bring up a loving parental voice and to connect with our vulnerable inner child that needs to hear and feel support and compassion. If you find it challenging to tell an empowering and self-compassionate story in a given situation, imagine the story someone who loves you tells about you, different from the story you tell yourself. Or imagine what you would say to a friend or a child in a similar situation. The Inner Critic talks to us in a way we would never dream of talking to somebody else, especially not a child. When we speak to others, we know exactly what words are encouraging, uplifting and motivating to do better next time.

Here is an exercise you can do to practice separating from your Inner Critic. Think about a choice you regret, or a moment in which you felt a sense of failure or shame. Imagine sharing this moment with a wise and loving friend. What would that friend say to you? They would most likely first of all show compassion and say something along the lines of “that sounds so difficult” or “I am sorry you had to experience this”. The second thing they might do is empathize and respond with something like, “I know how you feel. We have all experienced something similar.” The third thing they might do is remind you how lovable and amazing you are. They might encourage you not to give up but to try again. You can even write a letter to yourself pretending to be this compassionate, wise and unconditionally loving friend.

Compassion is not so much a trait but an action. I recently came across another interesting suggestion to increase our awareness of being compassionate. Get a pretty glass jar. For each time that you are compassionate with yourself (or others) you place a beautiful stone or colourful marble in the jar. The accumulation of crystals, stones or marbles becomes visual evidence for how compassionate you can be with yourself. When you do something self-critical, you can look at the jar and remember that those compassionate acts are not taken away and that the glass is just waiting for the next colourful token.

Glass Jar 2.JPG

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 & Relationship Coach

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

The Four Pillars of Shared Meaning in Our Marriage or Partnership

Is our love relationship or marriage just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love, or is there more? What about the spiritual dimension of creating an inner life or inner culture together?

Usually, we think of culture in terms of large ethnic groups or even countries. Within those macro-cultures, each couple and each family creates their own mirco-culture. These smaller units also have their customs, rituals and stories or myths about what it means to be part of their group.

In order to create shared meaning, Drs John and Julie Gottman name four pillars to build a solid relationship on. These four pillars allow the couple a shared sense of meaning. With this shared culture, conflict is much less intense and perpetual problems are less likely to lead to gridlock.

pillar_sky_one

PILLAR ONE: Rituals of Connection

Powerful antidotes to disconnection are rituals with your spouse and children—together and separately. A ritual is a structured event or routine that you enjoy together. Such rituals include

  • rituals of communication like talking over dinner or the stress reducing conversation
  • celebration rituals, like birthdays, holidays or anniversaries
  • rituals around recreation like repeating weekend or seasonal activities, and vacation times together
  • sexual rituals, like initiating lovemaking
  • rituals around everyday living, like start-of-day rituals, end-of-day reunions, bedtime routines or dealing with illness

 

PILLAR TWO: Support for Each Other’s Roles

We all play different roles. We are not just partners, but also parents, children to our own parents, siblings, friends, and of course we take on professional roles as well. Our perspective on our own roles, and our partner’s view of them, can either add to the meaningfulness or create tension and disharmony.

Dissimilar perspectives on what the role of the husband/wife is, different views on parenting, and which kind of interactions with parents, siblings and friends are appropriate, can all contribute to conflict. Our views and our partner’s views on what it means to work and the significance we attach to our own work can either deepen our sense of connection or create tension.

It is important to speak about and understand what the different roles mean to each partner. Even if we do not agree with each other 100%, we can reach a consensus if we know what is significant to the other.

heart-sky-door-cropped

 

PILLAR THREE: Shared Goals

Part of what makes life meaningful is the goals we work towards. No relationship stands on solid ground without shared goals of some kind. These are some useful questions to pursue.

  • Do we value each other’s accomplishments and honour each other’s personal goals unrelated to our relationship?
  • Do we share the same goals for our children, our life in general, our financial future and our old age?
  • Are our life dreams similar or compatible? If they are not identical, do we find ways to honour them?

 

Gottman-quote

 

PILLAR FOUR: Shared Values and Symbols

Values and beliefs form the final pillar of shared meaning. They are sometimes represented by symbols. Such shared philosophies are around

  • love and trust
  • the importance of family
  • spiritual beliefs
  • the role of sex in the relationship
  • the importance and meaning of money and possessions
  • the importance of education
  • similar dreams about retirement and old age
  • the role of fun, play, adventure and connection with nature
  • similar values around personal freedom, autonomy and interdependence
  • sharing power in the relationship.

 

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 and Relationship Coach

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Hello, Old Pal Anxiety!

Ingrid has colitis and other health challenges; the unpredictability of her physical issues gives her anxiety. Margaret has a fear of flying which has gotten progressively worse; due to her anxiety she has not stepped foot on a plane in years. Peter is a widower and single dad with three daughters; the oldest one has anorexia and he is experiencing great anxiety regarding her well-being, as well as her sister’s. The two teenagers are both plagued by anxiety as well.

Anxiety is a more and more prevailing challenge for many people. One in five Canadians has a mild to severe mood or anxiety disorder. Anxiety is especially on the rise among children and teens. It is a continuously growing concern at any age. What is happening in our brains and how can we address this issue?

To understand how our brains function, we need to remember that for our ancestors, negative experiences had more impact for their survival than positive ones. They needed to remember their painful or dangerous experiences so they would not repeat them, in order to survive. Our brain is still wired that way. Our brains evolved with a “negativity bias” (Rick Hansen). In general, we remember negative experiences more easily, unless we really focus on the positive ones and take them in deeply. That is like a “learning disability” and traps us in conflict. So, it does not help at all to tell somebody who is worrying or has anxiety to think positively.

Anxiety - time

The experience of uncertainty which creates anxiety comes from the fact that we can make representations of time. We structure our experiences into past, present and future. The ability to analyze the past and think ahead to the future is part of the human survival kit. We are supposed to learn from the past, be very awake and alert in the present and make sure we are safe in the future. Unfortunately, our ability to evaluate future risks is only based on a few facts and our left brain fills the gaps between those facts in with a story. Depending on which subconscious beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, this story our left brain makes up is either a supportive one or a limiting and fear-inducing one. In the case of anxiety, our left brain has created a fear narrative.

Mark Twain says it humorously:Anxiety - Mark Twain

Most thoughts that makes us anxious are thoughts about the future, a future that generally never happens like we imagine. That is why mindfulness and staying in the present moment helps to train the brain to stay focused on the here and now. The present is all that is real. Therefore, mindfulness alone can already help with anxiety.

We have also been trained to avoid unpleasant emotions, to push them down and not feel them. So naturally, we don’t want to feel anxiety. However, our attempt to push unpleasant feelings down, keeps the anxiety going. The attempt to make anxiety go away is what traps us in it, not the anxiety itself. Instead of putting all our energy towards avoiding the anxiety and trying to get rid of it, we can learn to be with it and ride it out.

It is an ancient Buddhist practice to stay with the feeling that arises. So when fear or dread arises, we can welcome it into our heart and stay with it until it has moved through us. Greet the anxiety like an old friend, “Hello, my friend. I know you. You are my old pal fear. Welcome back.” Then keep breathing all the way into your belly, long deep and complete breaths, letting your belly expand on the inhale, and become smaller on the exhale. Simply being with the fear allows it to come and go like all other mental content.

meditation-monk

Of course, mindfulness and being with the feeling requires practice, like everything else in life. When we say, “I have tried that mindfulness thing, it doesn’t work” it’s like saying “I have tried playing the piano, it does not work”.

Often we believe uncertainty is the problem to be solved. “If I could just control my physical body”, or “If I could just have the guarantee that there will be no turbulence”, or “If I just knew whether I will pass my exam or not”, or “If I just knew that my child will be alright in the future”.

Uncertainty is not a problem to solve. A much more useful approach is to rest in the uncertainty and experience it as a sanctuary of possibilities. When we are emotionally in a place to create a positive influence or make choices, we end up being more comfortable with the uncertainty of a situation and, in the end, are more in control.

A situation of suffering and uncertainty can challenge our whole identity. Being sick might challenge my identity to be a productive and capable human. A fear or phobia might challenge my identity as a rational adult or spiritual person. A crisis with my child might challenge my identity as a good parent.

We first of all need to remember that we still are who we always were. In fact, we are everything. We are capable and rational and spiritual and a good parent. We are just having the experience of a hugely challenging situation. Because it is unpleasant to feel the pain, disappointment, shame, anger, fear or other emotion, we seek control. If we instead acknowledge the painful feelings, we can shift into a place of self-compassion. We can then move from attempting to gain control to choice.

We can always ask “What can I choose? What can I bring to this situation? Courage? Trust? Love? Who do I want to be in this situation? And how do I want to feel?” The answer might be “I want to feel less alone and therefore I reach out for support to address this health crisis” or “I want to be present and calm on the airplane and trust that I am safe in the Universe” or “I want to be compassionate and loving with my struggling child”.

Anxiety - choices

 

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

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Your Mother’s Story

I was flipping through the birthday calendar which my girls made for me last year for Mother’s day and which is filled with quotes about mothers, when my eye got caught on a particular quote:

Mother's Story - There is a story

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”

Mitch Albom

 

I have been reading a fascinating book by Bryan Sykes called “The Seven Daughters of Eve”. In his book, Sykes, who is a leading DNA scientist, gives a report of his research into a specific gene, which passes undiluted from generation to generation through the maternal line. After examining thousands of DNA sequences from all over the world, Sykes found that almost everyone of native European descent, wherever they may live throughout the world, can trace their ancestry back to one of seven women, seven “clan mother’s” who he calls the Seven Daughters of Eve.

His book is written almost like a mystery novel, but what really intrigued me was this idea itself: As Caucasians, we can all trace our history back to the woman who was our ancestor and lived 10,000 to 45,000 years ago.

Usually, we barely think back two or three generations. What is your mother’s story? And what is the story of your mother’s mother? Do you know it?

Mother's Story - book

My mother’s story is one of courage and new beginnings. She grew up during World War II, which pretty much robbed her of any care-free childhood. When she was 21, her mother died and soon after, she packed her suitcase to move to Spain. She learned Spanish and made Barcelona her new home. As a woman in the fifties, coming from a working class background, she never had the privilege of a higher education, yet she made her way in life, working in a bank and later on as a secretary. If she wanted something, she set her mind to it and made it happen. When she was in her early thirties, she set out for yet another adventure, accepting a job in Liberia, Africa where she met my father. Getting married and having children was another new start. And ten years later, she moved to Africa again with her husband and her daughters, this time Nigeria.

My mother’s story is also one of a lot of suppressed pain, grief and other painful emotions. She lost her own mother when she was young and never processed that loss. I hardly know anything about my grandmother’s story because my mother couldn’t speak about her without breaking down in tears. So I stopped asking. Due to all the unprocessed experiences, my mom struggled with addictions, with anorexia and alcohol. She had a hard time with getting older and with life slowing down. She didn’t do “calm” very well. Staying still and being present was “torture” for her. It must have scared her a lot to stop. She loved activity, like talking, laughing, dancing, exercising, playing sports and travelling. The ancestral healing process which Dhebi DeWitz describes in her book “The Messenger Within” is one way of bringing healing to previous generations.

Ruth Monrovia

My story begins when my mother was 37 years old. Back in the sixties, that was old to be a first time mother. She stayed active though, and always looked younger than she was. She was at times a bit overprotective, but she was present, taking on the unfamiliar role of the homemaker, and made the best out of what she felt was expected of her. She encouraged education and understood the longing to discover other horizons. When I moved to Malaysia in my late twenties, and to Canada in my early thirties, she was sad, but at the same time, completely supportive. She understood all about new beginnings.

For me, one way to honour my mom’s story is to encourage my own girls to embrace life to the fullest, to travel, to seize opportunities that come along, to be a master of their own destiny. That for me is a huge part of their grandmother’s legacy. I also believe another part of her legacy is for me and them to learn from her errors. My mom never had the opportunity to process her grief or learn how to address her emotions in a healthy way, to heal her pain. She searched for relief in distractions. Her granddaughters, on the other hand, have all the tools to live life more consciously and I am very grateful to say that they do.

Mother's Day card

 

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If you are interested in grief recovery work, shadow work, belief changes or relationship coaching contact

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

 

Do not ask me not to feel!

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing one of my daughters on stage as Marianne Dashwood in the play “Sense and Sensibility”, based on Jane Austin’s novel. It was an amazing performance, drawing you in with laughter and tears, and transporting you back to England in 1792.

The confining atmosphere of society gossip and the desperation of many of the female characters to need to make a good match leaves you with an eerie feeling. The necessity of marrying well is one of the central themes of the story. In Austen’s era, a woman’s survival depended on her ability to acquire a husband, if possible, an affluent one. The more manipulative and cunning women were often the ones who ended up winning this game for the wealthy spouses. Yet, the two main female characters, Elinor and Marianne, end up finding true love and happiness without manipulation.

Sense and Sensibility, sisters and beaus

Performance and photography by Cawthra Park Secondary School

I could muse on the Universal theme of being rejected in love, or the patriarchal society and how patriarchal beliefs still affect us at a subconscious level today. However, what fascinates me most is the relationship of the two eldest Dashwood sisters. In the development of the story, the friendships of the sisters and what they learn from each other is at least as important as their relationships with their love interests.

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are complete opposites. Every female reader or audience member can identify with either the older one or the younger one. They are a perfect example for how siblings carry each others shadow traits. Elinor is all “sense” and reason, while Marianne represents “sensibility” and feelings. Elinor makes cautious decisions based on rational considerations, on what is prudent and proper, while Marianne lives life impulsively and on an emotional roller coaster of extreme highs and lows, being guided by her feelings alone.

Sense and Sensibility, Elinor

Neither one of them is “whole”, as they have disowned the opposite energy represented by their sister. Just as Marianne needs to learn to adopt some of Elinor’s restraint and not to wear all her feelings on her sleeve, Elinor can learn to express her deeper emotions, warmth and spontaneity more.

We all have different primary personality parts and other more disowned parts or sub-personalities. As we witness Marianne’s impulsiveness which throws all caution or restraint to the wind, we recognize that part in all of us. We might anticipate and fear disaster for her as the story unfolds. We feel disappointment and sorrow when her love relationship with John Willoughby does not unfold as she anticipated.

Sense and Sensibility, Marianne

Marianne’s sorrow is frightening to Elinor, who just wants her sister to stop sobbing and to compose herself. But Marianne cannot help but live life from her primary self of passion. She exclaims, “Leave me, hate me, forget me, but do not ask me not to feel!” After almost dying from a serious fever and her “broken heart”, Marianne eventually learns to appreciate the value of a quieter and less glamorous admirer in the older Colonel Brandon. She begins to embrace the more level-headed energy which Elinor has been mirroring for her. She also has to forgive John Willoughby for breaking her heart and let go of the past to move forward with the Colonel, the better man.

Sense and Sensibility, Marianne sick

The story invites us to examine where in our lives we are out of balance between our rational and emotional sides, between caution and impulsiveness, between wearing a mask of civility and being our spontaneous and honest self. The plot calls us to consider how we show up in our relationships: passive or active, reluctant or forward-moving, polite or authentic. We are also encouraged to examine if we are stuck in the past and if we need to forgive somebody and let go, in order to move forward in our relationships.

We all grow up identifying with certain traits or parts in us and rejecting others. Jane Austin’s tale invites us to discover what we have disowned which might be useful to us. Accepting the ambivalence and moving beyond dualistic thinking of right and wrong, black and white, involves re-conceptualizing who we think we are and opening up to greater wholeness of our deeper selves.

What traits do you identify with and which opposite traits or shadows have you perhaps disowned? Do you feel judgment towards people who display what you have rejected for yourself? How does this affect you in your life or hold you back in your relationships?

Shadow work is one of the techniques I use as a Life Coach. If you are curious to find out more, contact me for a FREE phone consultation.

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

You can also check the “Upcoming Workshops” schedule for the next four-day Shadow Energetics training or contact me for individual sessions.

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.

An Unusual Anniversary

Today is an unusual anniversary for me. A year ago today, I fractured both ankles. For six weeks following, both my legs were in casts. I was first bound to my bed and then to a wheelchair until I had learned to walk again. It was one of those experiences that give you a completely different perspective on life, on yourself and on others.

IMG_4327

A year later, I hope I have discovered all the messages this incident had for me. I have written and shared many of the insights. There were lessons around being caught in love and caring when we fall , living in the now, vulnerability versus autonomy, gratitude and heart coherence, empowerment, and taking care of one’s needs. So-called accidents are not coincidences. Their timing and exact details happen for a reason. We have to ask, what does the injury or illness prevent us from doing; what does it allow us to do? In what way is our body speaking our mind? Which of our needs have we not been taking care of?

The end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 was a time of many changes for me. My oldest daughter was moving out, which shifted the family dynamics. There was also a lot of disruption and emotional upheaval stirred up in our core family through our extended family.  On top of that, some professional changes were unfolding. I had moments of confusion about where I was going and how to meet everybody’s needs. “What ifs…” came up and the question of “Who am I in the different roles that I am playing?”

The accident happened just a few weeks after I taught the Shadow Energetics workshop, created by my friend Darryl, for the first time on my own. I originally felt that I had to fill big shoes, as Darryl is a powerful teacher with a catching laugh and fabulous sense of humour. I have meanwhile taught the four-day workshop—or part of it—several times and have learned not to fill his shoes but my own. As much as the processes I am teaching have remained the same, the class is filled with my stories, my own sense of humour, and completely new media to present everything differently.

With some of the other lessons, I took my sweet time to learn them fully, for example the lesson of noticing when we over-function for others and thus end up feeling unappreciated. A clear reminder of that came up for me around Christmas. We can’t please everybody. In fact, there are people who never can be pleased because they feel so deeply unlovable that there is nothing anybody else can say or do to change this. They are insistent on telling their victim stories, which give them attention and are oblivious of how they affect others. All we can do is send them love from a distance and allow our own life to be in balance.

Balance is something

Other lessons—like fully living in the present and enjoying each moment—I am certain will come back time and again. Life is this wonderful balance of looking ahead to the future and co-creating our tomorrow but still living right now free of cares, just connecting to our true essence.

When I come across somebody in a wheelchair or a walker, I make an extra effort to connect. Being physically disabled can be a life of looking in from the fringe and can feel quite lonely. Even with a temporary disability, I was treated differently; people avoided looking at me and even spoke to the person pushing the wheelchair rather than me. I can only imagine how challenging this must be for others in a more extended situation than mine. Every person, who smiled at me or talked to me while I was out and about in the wheelchair made my day.

What remains for me a year later is a deep sense of gratitude for my amazing family, for my body which carries me so well through life and a huge joy at being able to enjoy this spring time outside. I watch each flower blooming, each bud sprouting on the trees with true delight. Here is another spring, another round to learn and grow and be present with each glorious moment that unfolds.

IMG_7743

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