A Missing Piece in Couples Therapy

I am—despite that odd question arising after my last blog—not in the business of uncoupling people. I am more than ever invested in how I can guide couples to have a deeper committed long-term relationship in which both can feel safe. I have more recently discovered what the missing piece is in regards to being able to show up as the loving and compassionate Self with the other person. The answer lies in a particular practice which I will elaborate on more later in this article. But let’s first of all look at what is commonly done in therapy or coaching sessions and what the value of those approaches is.

Couples therapists like Stan Tatkin and Sue Johnson, who are based in attachment theory, empathize how important it is to create a secure attachment in our partnership. Stan Tatkin focuses among others on knowing each other’s threat signals and creating a “couple bubble” in which both partners feel safe with each other. Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, says, “When EFT is successfully implemented, each partner becomes a source of security, protection, and contact comfort for the other. Each partner can assist the other in regulating negative affect and constructing a positive and potent sense of self.” (Susan M. Johnson: The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy).

For both of them, the answer to feeling safe, less anxious and less depressed lies in the connection between the partners. The goal is for each partner to learn how to show up as the unconditionally loving attachment figure for the other spouse. Your partner is your primary go to and the one who provides the safety for your childhood wounds to be healed. Their premise is that you need somebody outside of yourself to heal the past. If your partner is really struggling to be that person because their own defenses are triggered in the relationship this journey can be frustrating. Unless one partner already has a secure attachment style, the process of creating this attachment requires some time and commitment to working this out together.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman, whose research-based insights and techniques I use in my sessions with clients, also have a wonderful set of tools to truly empathize, perfect communication between the partners, compromise successfully, and to avoid the four horsemen of the apocalypse, which predict the end of a relationship.

Other couples therapists, like Willard Harley, focus on women’s and men’s needs being different and on making deposits into each others love bank, which is the emotional account we all have. I acknowledge the importance of our needs by teaching my clients the non-violent communication steps developed by Marshall Rosenberg to express our feelings and needs successfully.

All these are fabulous tools and techniques that can make a big difference in our closest relationships. When couples are willing to not just learn but also practice these techniques, their relationship improves. Besides making the commitment to put the time in to practice relating differently to each other, couples must learn how to handle situations when one or both partners get triggered into states of high emotional activation, into what is called fight or flight. When this happens, destructive patterns of interaction are activated and amends and repairs need to be made. Often the spouses feel discouraged by that setback. And that is were Richard C. Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems Therapy, known in short as IFS, comes in as a missing piece.

IFS helps couples replace their distant, controlling, or needy way of relating to each other by what Schwartz calls “courageous love”. This courageous love is accepting of everything we are and all our partner is. Within each of us is a group or “family” of sub-personalities, which Schwartz calls “parts”. Just like in a family, these parts have intricate relationships with each other. Some of the more known parts are the Inner Critic and the Inner Child, but we have many parts which, according to Hal and Sidra Stone and their system of voice dialogue, are either primary personality parts or disowned personality parts. IFS, in comparison, focuses mainly on two kinds of parts. One type is the “protectors”, which have the function to keep us safe; some of them are responsible for us going into fight or flight mode. There are also the “exiles”, which usually are younger wounded child parts.

Every message we get growing up from our family, our friends and the media, has conditioned us to believe that finding our soul mate, the One, will be the answer to our inner pain, our loneliness, sadness, fears or insecurities. The myth is that a special someone will come and love us unconditionally and heal all our childhood wounds. “We’ve been told that the love we need is a buried treasure hidden in the heart of a special intimate partner. Once we find that partner, the love we crave should flow elixir-like, filling our empty spaces and healing our pain” (Schwartz: You Are The One You Have Been Waiting For”)

The truth is that our partner can no more relieve our sense of unloveability and unworthiness than the short term energy relieving behaviours (STERBS) we use to distract ourselves from our pain. The external focus on other people or on STERBS, like food, alcohol, drugs and so on as well as addictive activities, can only provide temporary relief. In fact, this very assumption that our partner is our rescuer is the reason why so many relationships struggle and fail.

“From watching movies or TV, listening to songs on the radio, you’ll be convinced that everyone, sooner or later, will find their one, true, happily-ever-after relationship. The person who will heal you, complete you, and keep you afloat is out there. If the person you’re with isn’t doing that, either he or she is the wrong person altogether or you need to change him or her into the right one” (Schwartz).

We subconsciously pick a partner who matches the template of our original care-taker who has wounded us by making us feel “less than” or unworthy. And we set out with the unconscious agenda to relive the past but this time around change this person’s mind about our worthiness to heal that original wound. The problem is that our partner acts so much like our caretaker that he or she triggers our protectors. When the euphoria of the honeymoon period is over, and the love naturally changes, we get scared and, as Schwartz puts it, set to work on one of three projects.

The first “project” is to get our partner to change into that loving rescuer that we are hoping he or she will be for us. “We plead, criticize, demand, negotiate, seduce, withhold, and shame” (Schwartz). Naturally, most partners resist these attempts to change them and become defensive. They feel unloved and not accepted.

The second project that we embark on is to figure out what our partner doesn’t like about us and then strive to become what we think he or she wants us to be. In this case, the criticism and shame is directed at ourselves. We are no closer to true love and acceptance than when we are trying to change the other person.

The final project kicks in when we give up on getting the love we crave from our partner. We begin to close our heart to him or her and we do one of three things. We either search for a different partner, we numb down enough to stay with our original partner, or we fool ourselves into thinking that we need to live alone because we believe our true needs for love can never be met in an intimate relationship.

Women engage more in the first two change projects mentioned above, while men tend to more quickly retreat into the third behaviour. Shutting down externally often seems like the safest choice for men, especially when they experience strong inner angry protectors. Men often fear what they might do if they let that rage take over.

Women tend to define themselves through relationships and are socialized to take care of their inner child parts through relationships. When those exiled child parts are upset, they usually want to change things in their relationship so that the distressed inner child can get the love and comfort from their partner in order to feel safe and secure. Hence, women are more often the initiators of change-oriented discussions.

We tend to assume that women are more connected to their emotions and we jump to the conclusion that they should be better at parenting their own inner children. However, women focus so much on taking care of others and on getting their inner child’s needs met by their relationship, that they are no better at nurturing their own parts than men.

Schwartz talks about a cruel joke that is being played on all of us. “We’ve all been setup—victims of a cruel joke. First we are loaded with emotional burdens by our family and peers, and then taught to exile the parts carrying them. Then we are told to go out in the world and find that special person who can make us finally like ourselves. Together we and our partner enter the striving, frenetic whirlpool American lifestyle that preludes time together, isolates us from community, depletes and stresses us out, and offers innumerable addictive distractions that further isolate us. When we can’t make this impossible situation work, we feel like total failures—as though something is wrong with us.” (Schwartz) Meanwhile, we never had a fair chance due to the baggage many of us have and the pressure of modern life, but most of all due to the complete ignorance on how to deal with our inner turmoil, other than expecting our partner to miraculously make it go away.

The missing piece you have not been taught is how to parent yourself in a way that allows you to take care of our own inner wounds and to show up as your best self with your partner. You can stop searching outside of yourself because you are the special person your vulnerable inner child parts have been waiting for. Once you realize and embrace that insight fully, your partner will be released from the pressure to have to be the perfect unconditionally loving parent for your younger selves. IFS is essentially attachment theory taken inside.

In your partner’s place, your Aware Self will become the primary caretaker of your inner child parts so that your partner can be a secondary caretaker. Instead of your power parts, for example your Inner Pusher or Inner Perfectionist or Inner Pleaser, to just name a few, parenting your vulnerable inner children in their limited way, your true Self can give those parts what they so desperately need. Those protective parts are parentified inner children. They have taken on the job to protect you and thus parent the vulnerable child parts but are often quite burdened by it.

IFS is a psycho-spiritual model of therapy in which all human beings are perceived as healthy and whole. The Self is the spiritual aspect of this therapy. It is a myth that we have to learn or build compassion. Our true self is naturally accepting, loving and compassionate. All humans have this inner wisdom and healing energy. The Self is the healing entity. It is meant to be the natural leader of the inner system of parts. The Self is eternal, knows all and is not affected by any trauma. It connects us to others and to all living things. It is presence, heart-openness and conscious awareness. The Self is characterized by the eight C’s of self-leadership that Schwartz names. The Self is compassionate, calm, curious, connected, confident, courageous, creative and possesses clarity.

When you take care of all your parts from that Self, you can also show up from that calm, connected and compassionate stance with your partner. The way you relate to your own parts is mirrored in the way you are able to relate to your partner’s part. If you for example have a relationship with your own fearful part, you can be compassionate with your partner’s scared part.

When our power parts, for example anger, control, defensiveness, judgement, righteousness or even our distant rational self are triggered, we are usually blended with them or have a feeling of being taken over by them. Interactions with our partner from a place of anger, judgement, righteousness, defensiveness or control are clearly not productive but are greatly damaging for the relationship. Instead of our power parts taking us over in a given moment, we ideally want to be able to speak for the parts rather than being immersed by them and speaking from those powerful parts.

We also want to be able to speak for our vulnerable inner child and their needs rather than having the child take us over. When that child takes over and jumps into the driver’s seat, we might show up as overly scared, helpless, or moody. Our partner is left wondering what to do with this child-like behaviour and finds himself or herself in an involuntary parenting role.

The myth of us having a monolithic personality, which translates into being only one mind, is according to Schwartz one of the greatest causes of distance and conflict in our intimate relationships. That awareness of our parts, our natural multiplicity, on the other hand, is the greatest antidote. Instead of believing our partner is this angry or controlling person, or they are this distant judgmental person that shows up at times, we can relax into the awareness that this is just a part of them and that it serves the function of protection. When both partners are totally flooded by their protector parts, the knowledge that this isn’t a permanent condition but that the protectors on both sides will relax and the two Selves will emerge is extremely eye opening and comforting. We can then both work with our own parts to get back into Self and then repair and reconnect with our partner from a loving and compassionate place.

Not only does the knowledge of the multiplicity help us navigate through storms, but it can also deepen the intimacy and love. We all have fears that once we have exposed our parts that cause difficulties, we will forever be seen by the other person as having character flaws. If both partners understand that those are just parts of each of them, parts that simply need empathy and acceptance, it is easier to respond to each other lovingly. As we learn to love and accept all our own inner parts, we also learn to love and accept all parts in our partner.

“There is something magical about trusting that all of you is welcomed in a relationship. It’s as if you are a single parent who feels ashamed of how ugly, stupid, or frail some of your children are” (Schwartz). When this process of welcoming all parts of oneself and of ones partner is mutual, it provides such a secure couples connection that the protectors can relax more and more and both partner’s younger parts know it is safe to come out.

Join me on Sunday, June 24 for an “Intro to Your Parts and to Your Self” workshop from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. This workshop is based in Jay Earley’s parts work. For more information please call or email.

Contact me for a free phone consultation on either individual sessions or couple’s coaching. I also offer packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you reading my blog. If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Why We Judge Our Parents

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

Do your children seem judgmental of some of the things you do? Or do you feel triggered into judgment and lack of compassion in regards to your own parents?

When I teach the Shadow Energetics Workshop, I give examples for how couples carry each other’s shadow traits, how siblings are often functioning from opposites, and how children trigger our own shadows. When I was teaching day one of the training last weekend, it occurred to me that I don’t highlight as much that children are also triggered by the shadows their parents mirror to them. Our parents reflect to us what we have disowned in ourselves and we do the same for our kids.

Henry Ward Beecher points out that we don’t really know the extent of the love our parents felt for us as children until we have become a mother or father ourselves. I would like to add that we also don’t know what it feels like to be judged by our children until it happens to us. The experience of walking in the parental shoes gives us a different perspective on our own parents and their struggles. Being the parent means that we are mirroring shadow traits for our teenage or young adult children as well. It is uncomfortable to be at the receiving end of those projections but we need to keep in mind that this is not about us, as much as it feels that way, but it is about what our children have learned to disown; and we may even have taught them to disown that particular trait or energy.

When it comes to technology or other modern day problems that need solving, I am quick to throw my hands up in the air, going into helplessness. My daughters will help, but lately there has been some impatience from their side. They pride themselves on being independent and able to problem solve well. At their age, they have disowned their own neediness for outside support a bit. It appears to them as a quality that is not desirable, a shadow they have renounced.

Ironically, raising my daughters, I always affirmed their independence and encouraged them to put their mind to problem solving because my own mother mirrored helplessness to me. Independence is a very useful quality. At the same time, we are naturally interdependent as human beings.

Helping others with an open heart and gracefully accepting help from them in return connects us on a heart-to-heart level and fosters greater compassion and understanding for one another. What would society look like if everybody just took care of themselves without extending a helping hand? No energy is “bad” or “wrong”. Being able to ask for help is as useful and beneficial as being independent.

As a parent, it is my job not to take the response of the younger generation personally and to keep mirroring this shadow to them until they are ready to embrace it. We need to learn from each other in this situation. Their independence encourages me to problem solve more myself before turning to somebody for help. At the same time, they also need to be connected with that energy of “neediness”. As humans, we are all needy for emotional support and practical help from each other.

According to author James Gilliland, who has written about the seven essence mirrors, the fifth mirror reflects our parents to us: “It is often said we marry our father or mother. We often also become them, acting out the same healthy and unhealthy patterns we learned as a child.”

I used to see my mother as overly fearful and helpless, especially when something unforeseen occurred, and I also judged her for what I perceived from the outside as “settling” for a situation she was not happy with. Once my sister and I had grown up, she was clearly bored. I used to question why she didn’t find something new, something that was challenging and fulfilling.

Today, I certainly have more fears than I had when I was twenty. My daughters’ courage sometimes leaves me breathless. When the older one travels all over the world by herself or the younger one charges forward without fear of rejection, I have to remind myself that they are safe and to trust them to be okay. In some ways, I have become my mother. The horizon of the next generation is always a bit broader; it is a different world.

I also notice that the lure of what is familiar is strong. Starting something new can require a lot of positive self-talk and belief changes. It has a scary element to it. I did not have that empathy when I was younger. I lacked the understanding that what my mother was mirroring to me was what I had disowned within myself.

Sometimes we realize that we have become somewhat like our parents, other times we wake up to the fact that we are married to our father or mother. In an older blog, I wrote about Benjamin who grew up with a stepfather who was a raging alcoholic. Ben learned that anger is nothing but destructive and that he is weak and helpless when confronted with it. Before Ben realizes it, he is married to Grete, a partner who in that one important way is a replica of his stepfather. She didn’t appear to be angry when they first married, but their interactions bring this energy to the surface. When she is frustrated, she hides her vulnerability behind anger and she yells. Ben, however, has learned to be afraid of anger and aggression. When somebody only slightly raises their voice, not to mention starts yelling, his reptilian brain instantly goes into the fight, flight or freeze response. The more Ben freezes and avoids her instead of communicating what is going on for him, the more disconnected and invisible Grete feels and the louder she becomes, desperately trying to get through to him. They are caught in a cycle of frustration. Ben feels unsafe and unloved just as he felt during childhood. He judges Grete for being too angry. Grete feels invisible and unimportant, which is her childhood experience. She perceives his stone-walling as a danger cue and, if you so like, a counter-attack.

Ben shuts down because he feels controlled and powerless just as he did when he was growing up. As a child, he felt terrified of his stepfather’s anger. By the time he was a teenager, this fear had turned into stubborn resistance. Ben perfected the non-response, a completely still-face and quiet defiance of the man he hated. Grete mirrors his stepfather to him and he cannot help himself; he flips either into the helpless little boy or the stubborn teenager. In that quiet defiance and non-response lies Ben’s power. He is unaware how this dynamic perpetuates the problems they have. Even though Grete seems to be the stronger one on the surface, underneath the tip of the anger iceberg is always a more vulnerable experience.

Anger lives in Ben’s shadow and because it is an energy he is disconnected from and fears, he is bound to attract it into his life through other people, like his wife, until he integrates this shadow quality. Grete judges Ben for being weak and passive. The only way out for Ben and Grete is to embrace the opposite energy more. Ben needs to get in touch with his own anger and stand up calmly and assertively. That will allow Grete to be in her female energy more, be softer and gentler, allowing him to be more masculine and strong. By taking steps towards each other, they are both becoming more whole and are able to communicate and interact more productively.

Are you stuck in a parent-child interaction with your partner? In which ways do other people mirror your mother or father to you? And in which ways are you mirroring a disowned part for one of your children?

If you want to  work on your own triggers and shadows to live more conscious relationships contact me for a free phone consultation on either individual sessions or couple’s coaching.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you reading my blog. If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

A Sacred and Safe Space for Workshops

The word “sacred” means different things for different people. It is usually something that is regarded with great respect and reverence by a particular religion, or a group of people, or an individual person. In different traditions, there are different places, objects or rituals which are considered “sacred”.

According to the encyclopaedia, “A sacred place is first of all a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces”. To me it is a space created and upheld through intention and awareness to form an uplifting, safe, peaceful and spiritual area. Our intention to be respectful is key in creating and using a sacred space.

We might want to use certain rituals to honour the sacred space and to shift into a clear intention of what we want to feel and experience in the sacred space. This sacred space can be an area in your house which you set up with intention, perhaps as a meditative corner, possibly with an altar or other meaningful objects. Nature itself can be your sacred space and you might create a ritual around this. One of my best friends finds her daily meditation by going for a walk. This is her sacred and soul-nurturing ritual, her sacred time.

Part of focussing on the sacred is to set aside certain times and spaces as sacred, which means as something basically different than the everyday world we live in. When I offer a workshop, my intention is to provide a sacred and safe space for all the participants. With the upcoming Dream Workshop, I am more than ever focussing on the sacred as I have the immense pleasure to facilitate this class together with my friend Susan Webber, who is a spiritual artist and teacher.

Prior to this workshop, we have visited the space where we will be teaching and have performed a small ritual outside, asking permission from the ancestors to use the space. As a response, four—not just one but four—swarms of geese, which symbolize fertility, unity and intuition, flew over our heads. What a perfect symbol and encouragement for our workshop.

Did you know that geese never leave one of their own behind? Should a goose become injured during the flight to the south, another goose will leave the migrating flock to stay with the injured one. That sense of community is certainly what we would like to create with our workshops. We can have the experience that we are all one and can hold the space for each other during challenges times and experiences, or when we do our healing.

Geese are known as gifted navigators and instinctively know the way to warmer climates. They forge ahead, confident and brave, and thus are a symbol for courage and for trust in their team. Geese have intricate methods of communication. They smoothly take turns to fly at the front of the flock and communicate with each other about when and where to land. They keep each other safe. Taking this workshop is all about tuning into our intuition and listening to our more instinctive parts, like our inner child. It is also about safety in the group, and growing together as a spiritual family, in which healing and growth is possible.

During the workshop, we will use rituals to create a safe and sacred space. Susan will guide us through a smudging ceremony and a story ritual around the camp fire, and I will lead you through meditations. We will make sure that everybody feels safe to speak, explore and share.

Any personal healing work requires a safe space. This applies even more so when doing our dream work. Sharing our dreams with others requires vulnerability and trust. We need a space in which others listen respectfully and lovingly and do not intrude with their interpretations. Everybody allows everybody else to be the expert on their own dreams and the meaning of those dreams.

When you decide to join us for a workshop, you make the decision to set aside sacred time to do soul-nurturing work. You are part of this team of dream explorers, which holds the safe and sacred space for everybody else. Together we can be like the flock of geese, forging ahead to discover new lands.

Sacred space is where you connect with who you are at a soul level, where you find yourself again, and sometimes again and again. Workshop participants often return for further workshops to learn something new, but also to experience and connect in this sacred and heart-opening space once again.

 

Join us—for the first time or again—on Dec. 9/10, 2017 for the Dream Workshop in Lowville (Burlington). For more details click here or contact me

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

6 Ways of Keeping the Spark Alive in Your Marriage

A gorgeous young client of mine, who is dear to my heart, got married this weekend. I felt very honoured that she invited us in the small and intimate but truly beautiful celebration. It was such a pleasure to meet her family and friends, and to watch the couple step into this level of commitment. She and the groom, who are both very conscious people, had clearly put a lot of thought into meaningful traditions they wanted to include.

One beautiful custom they incorporated was the wedding sand ceremony. They both took turns pouring different coloured sand into one clear glass, forming a layered effect, expressing the coming together of their two souls into one new family. Then they shook the glass to mix the sand, symbolizing the strength of their relationship. Just as the sand cannot be parted neither can they. They are filled with optimism, love and joy as they are beginning their journey together as a new family.

wedding-sand-ceremony

Prior to this special day of hers, I was searching for some words of wisdom to share with her. I have seen her grow over the last few years, change into a powerful “manifestor” and attract the partner who is perfect for her. I have no doubt that their bond will increase with each passing day and that they will create a full and exciting life together. What advice is there that is actually useful when starting out as a married couple?

North Americans today have higher expectations than they historically ever did. We expect marriage to offer a route to self-discovery and personal growth. Time magazine author Belinda Luscombe, in the special edition on happiness, quotes Lisa Grunwald (who together with her husband Stephen Adler put together “The Marriage Book”), “The promise you make is not just to be faithful and true and to stay married, but to try and bring out the best in each other”. Couples can indeed “achieve an unprecedentedly high level of marital quality, but only if they are able to invest a great deal of time and energy into their partnership” (Eli Finkel).

The ones who know how to go about investing into their relationship would be couples who have been married for decades and have found ways to keep the love going. Karl Pillemer, a Cornell professor, interviewed 700 elderly people and recorded their wisdom in his book “30 Lessons for Loving”. The most important lessons about keeping the spark alive are

  1. Think Small (and Positive)

What keeps the love flame burning are the unexpected kind gestures, successfully long-term married couples say. Make a habit out of doing small, positive things for your partner. In other words, “turning towards” each other as Drs John and Julie Gottman advise, and having an accurate “Love Map” of your partner. That Love Map is a clear guideline to knowing what makes your partner happy or relieves their stress, and doing it often and unexpectedly. According to Pillemer’s interviews, three types of gestures when used frequently have a great impact on the relationship: surprises, chores and compliments. In the words of Gary Chapman, you are speaking these three out of five love languages of “doing services”, “words of affirmation” and potentially “giving gifts”.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 2

 

2. Become Friends

The importance of physical attraction to each other is a given. However, physical and sexual attraction are not enough to keep a relationship going over the long term. We grow older, our physical appearance changes, and friendship must become as much a part of the relationship as romantic love. The interviewed elders were also completely on board with Dr. John Gottman’s research on friendship among couples. Friends know how to have fun together and be good company for each other, no matter how long they have been together. Friends are also open to one another’s interests. The advice that these couples provided was to learn to enjoy your partner’s interests.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 3b

 

3. Expect An Active Sex Life

The elders describe their intimacy being as good or better than when they were younger. They have learned what their partner likes and they felt more secure and more comfortable with each other. The sexual spark changes and deepens, they say. “There is a kind of quietness there that’s quite deep. It’s very fulfilling. You feel a peaceful intimacy that’s in a way really more meaningful than the frenetic thing”, shares one of the men Pillemer talked to.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 4

 

4. Give up Grudges

Sometimes you hear the piece of advice “Don’t go to bed angry”. I have always felt that that was a bit of a cliché which worked for some people but not for others. What is a better and more useful piece of advice is “Don’t Hold Grudges”. When we keep resentment smouldering instead of resolving issues and letting go of the past, our relationship is in trouble. Most things we disagree about are not worth a long-term fight. Let hurts and conflicts truly go. Be quick to apologize and forgive. In fact, make forgiveness of your partner a regular practice.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 5

 

5. Get Help

If the spark feels like it’s dying, get help through counselling. Make a genuine and wholehearted attempt at working on the relationship. Relationships go through difficult periods. We might need to learn more successful communication skills, learn to forgive, or learn how to build a stronger relationship. The elders believe—and I wholeheartedly agree—that counselling or coaching is not just for overcoming a crisis but an important tune-up to keep the spark alive and to create a successful marriage or long-term relationship.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 6

 

6. Other “Secrets”

Some other “trade secrets” for keeping your marriage fresh, vibrant and exciting for a lifetime that the elders shared were: Take care of your physical appearance, travel more, reach out and engage together—for example in volunteer services—as a natural extension of your affection, embrace change, and last but not least, the beautiful advice to treat your relationship as if it was a “life-time date”.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 7

Would you like to make your marriage a “life-time date”? Does your relationship need a tune-up? You can take a workshop or book individual coaching sessions.

Contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

What Makes a Happy Life?

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

Every year, at the end of the summer, when I have returned from our trip home to visit family, usually combined with a little holiday somewhere else in Europe, I am in a contemplative mood. I wonder what creates the happy and content feeling of the summer and how to keep it going the rest of the year. In previous years, I have written about vacations being a Vacation Away From My Planner Self, about Our Vacation Self and whether Vacations Make Us Happier.

As uncovered in previous years, the link is not a direct link between holiday time and happiness. There is, however, a correlation of happiness and spending time with family or close friends. The level of happiness is not dependent on the fact whether I can afford to go on vacation, but it is dependent on what I do during my time off. Deep nurturing connections, love, laughter, support, and acceptance are all factors in our experience of happiness. Spending time with a loving partner, or having fun with your family members or people who you feel close to, have the effect to increase your happiness.

One of the longest studies on happiness is the Harvard Study of Adult Development. For 75 years, several generations of researchers tracked the lives of 724 men from two very different walks of life. 60 of those 724 men are still alive today. Perhaps a bit gender biased in the original set-up when first started in 1938, the study at a later point included their wives as well. One group of the participants in the study started out as Harvard sophomores who almost all went to serve in WWII after college. The second group consisted of boys from one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Boston, young men from some of the most troubled and disadvantaged families.

Harvard Study+of+Adult+Development

Robert Waldinger, the 4th director of this study, reports about the findings and lessons on happiness in his excellent TED Talk “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness.”

The one main lesson that stands out in this 75-year-long study is that happiness is “not about wealth or fame or working harder” (Waldinger). Instead, the one important insight not to miss is that “good relationships keep us happier and healthier” (Waldinger).

Mark Twain - The Good Life 2

 The Harvard researchers have learned three important facts:

  1. Social connections with our family, our friends, and our community are extremely beneficial for us. They keep us physically healthier and allow us to live longer.
  2. It is not enough to have relationships, for example to be married or have family, but the quality of our close relationships matters. High conflict marriages in which we feel lonely and unsupported are detrimental to our health. When we are in a relationship with little affection or with toxic interactions, the stress and loneliness shorten our lives. Living in the midst of good warm relationships, on the other hand, is protective.The Harvard researchers found that they could predict—based on the relationships people were in during their 50ties—how healthy they would be at age 80. The men who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. In addition, most happily married men and women reported that on days when they had most physical pain, their mood still stayed positive. Men and women in unhappy relationships, on the other hand, experienced that their physical pain was magnified by their emotional pain.

couple, old, happy

  1. The study also showed that good relationships do not just protect our physical bodies, but they also protect our brains from decline. There was a clear correlation about being in a securely attached relationship in your 80ties and memory loss. Happily married people experienced that their memories stayed sharper longer. Those people who were in relationships wherein they felt unloved and felt that they couldn’t count on their partner experienced greater memory decline.

This does not mean that we have to always get along well. Relationships don’t have to be smooth all the time to be healthy. Waldinger reports that some couples could bicker day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could count on one another when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll. That is in line with John Gottman‘s research findings. He showed that marriages don’t suffer because of arguments, but that it depends on how a couple argues and what basis the relationship has.

As humans, we like a quick fix, but as Walding points out, “relationships are complicated, messy and hard work” and that this work never ends. I would like to add that relationships are also full of moments which are simple, joyful and easy. However, relationships always require attention and effort.

Harvard Study, old couple

The people in the study who were the happiest in their 80ties were the ones who had “leaned into relationships with family, friends and community”. What does it mean to lean into your relationships?

It starts with making time for family and friends, or doing something new together with a loved one, or reaching out to that family member you haven’t spoken to in years. Forgiveness, letting go, healing our own wounds, opening our hearts, reaching out to have difficult conversations, and communicating successfully are all part of building relationships which keep us healthy and happy.

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The Purpose of Our Intimate Relationships

Naomi and Ben are both in their late twenties. They are part of a bigger group of friends. On and off they have crossed the line from platonic friends to friends with benefits. Ben seems to be comfortable with this spontaneous commitment-free arrangement, but Naomi is growing more and more dissatisfied with it. Yet, she feels the need to follow popular relationship advice and pretend to be strong and self-sufficient, appear busy and not interested in a serious commitment. Ben can have his cake and eat it too; he gets the excitement of being together intimately while not truly needing to be vulnerable. Meanwhile, Naomi is trying hard to be mysterious and is not expressing her genuine needs and feelings. She has noticed that Ben is more interested in her when she goes out with other guys. Lately, she has half-heartedly started going steady with Rick. All of a sudden, Ben’s interest is really peeked. He wants Naomi to break up with Rick and go steady with him instead. Naomi feels excited, yet guilty. She is confused by Ben’s change of heart as well as by her own feelings. What is at the bottom of this situation?

Attachment theory designates three main “attachment styles”, as well as combinations of them: securely attached, anxiously attached and avoidant of attachment. Stan Tatkin has named these three styles as being an anchor (secure), being like a wave (anxiously torn between attachment and non-attachment) and being like an island (avoiding attachment and favouring independence).

Attachment theory is based in research with children and their primary care-givers, and considers our evolutionary programming. We have been programmed by evolution to single out a few specific individuals in our lives and become attached to them to increase our chances of survival. Our brain has a mechanism that consists of emotions and behaviours that ensure our safety and protection by staying close to our loved ones.

baby-father-hands-cropped

In the 1940s, parenting experts warned that “coddling” would result in needy and insecure children. Parents were told to let their infants cry themselves to sleep, and train them to eat on a strict schedule. In hospitals, the common practice was to separate mothers and babies at birth and keep the babies behind a glass window in the nursery for the first days of their lives. In the 50s and 60s, attachment theory (Mary Ainsworth, John Bowlby) proved that infants who had all their nutritional needs taken care of but lacked an attachment figure failed to develop normally. Their physical, intellectual, emotional and social development was affected.

In fact, attachment is an integral part of human behaviour throughout our entire lifetime. Our learned attachment style is relevant for a variety of relationship situations in adulthood. “We live in a culture that seems to scorn basic needs for intimacy, closeness, and especially dependency, while exalting independence. We tend to accept this attitude as truth—to our detriment” (Amir Levine, Attached). The co-dependency movement and other similar approaches portray healthy adult relationship attachment in a way that is similar to the detrimental views held in the 1920s about child rearing. According to these ideas, we should be able to distance ourselves from our partner and look after ourselves. If you are emotionally attached it is looked upon as “too enmeshed” and “co-dependant”.

couple-holding-hands

As much as I agree that we are responsible for our own feelings, we are also in each other’s care in a partnership. Partners can have a huge stress relieving effect on each other. The assumption that we should control our emotional needs and soothe ourselves in the face of stress is at odds with our biology. “Numerous studies show that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit. Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood.” (Amir Levine)

If our partner does not know how to reassure us when we are stressed, we are programmed to continue our attempts to achieve closeness and reassurance. That might look like “neediness” or “clinginess”. In reality, we are only as “needy” as our unmet needs!

Needy

There is in fact a phenomenon that is called “dependency paradox” in attachment literature. “The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become” (Amir Levine). The ability to step into the world on our own stems from the knowledge that there is someone we can count on for emotional and physical support. If we feel secure, the world is at our feet. We can step into the unknown, take risks, be creative, and pursue our goals and dreams. As adults, we provide the attachment role for our partner. We are able to provide a secure base for each other if we understand our attachment styles and work on being securely attached to each other.

When we flip between feeling insecure, anxious or even obsessive and feeling elated and passionate in our relationship, we might mistake this for love. However, what is most likely going on is an activated attachment system of somebody who has a non-secure attachment style. Jealousy, fear, and mistrust are not signs of love, but signs that we are in a relationship with an insecure attachment.

When we are in a relationship with somebody who has a secure attachment style, our experience is completely different. Securely attached people are

  • Great at de-escalating a conflict
  • Not threatened by criticism
  • Effective communicators
  • Not game players
  • Comfortable with closeness
  • Quick to forgive
  • Inclined to view emotional intimacy and sex as one
  • Respectful and loving with their partner
  • Confident in their ability to improve the relationship
  • Responsive to their partner’s needs and well-being

In such a secure relationship the true purpose of our intimate relationships becomes clear. The partners provide a sacred space for each other to be able to be who we truly are with all our needs and desires.

relationships_purpose

To get back to our couple from the beginning, Ben has a mostly avoidant attachment style. He sends mixed messages about his feelings, doesn’t like girls who are “too needy” or “too dramatic”, he pulls away when things are getting close, and he wants to keep the relationship light and non-committal. He feels most comfortable being aloof and independent. He only misses Naomi when they are apart, or once he realizes he might lose her to somebody else. Naomi, on the other hand, has a relationship history which has turned her from being secure in her affection for her significant other into somebody who longs for closeness but doesn’t dare to hope for a secure attachment. Their vibration matches. Ben mirrors her expectations and fears.

To get out of this painful pattern, Naomi needs to understand his attachment style and be authentic in regard to her own needs, feelings and dreams. We can all learn more securely attached relationship interactions. That shift begins with an honest relationship with ourselves.

Rumi_Love Barriers 1

 

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The Four Pillars of Relationships

Healthy, loving and empowered relationships sit on four strong pillars: the relationship we have with ourselves, the relationships with others, the relationship between couples and the relationship with our divinity. They affect each other.

For example, how much I love myself affects my other relationships. In each relationship, we are either projecting “I am lovable” or projecting the basic fear “I am not lovable”. Others reflect to us what we think and fear, and most importantly, how much we love ourselves. If we don’t trust others and ourselves, we are not open to receiving love, we are safeguarding our heart. We need to trust, love and respect ourselves to give these things to someone else. We need to feel accepted and heard to truly listen to another person.

Relationships with others—and with our partner specifically—push our buttons, and trigger old wounds and our disowned energies or shadows. They affect each other and also influence how we feel about ourselves. We need to be conscious of the dynamics in those relationships, have clear priorities and be willing to do the relationship work on all four pillars.

The fourth pillar also shapes all our relationships. The Beloved or Divine resides within our heart. It is experienced when we have brought our inner masculine and feminine energies, our inner god and goddess, into divine balance. We feel whole and complete and are able to embody love.

Relationships

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Within each of those four areas of relationship, we can find another set of pillars. The relationship of a couple for example rests on different pillars or principles, like building a friendship, managing conflicts and creating shared meaning.

Gottman 7principles

To read more about creating shared meaning in our marriage or primary love relationship click here.

Once Upon a Time There Was An Evil Queen

“I’m still what’s inside of you. I’m all you’ll ever be,” says the Evil Queen, smirking at the woman in front of her.

Regina, the modern counterpart of the Evil Queen, is facing her darkness, about to kill her. Characteristic for this popular TV series, she ties the Queen up with a magic spell, reaches into the chest of the evil woman and rips out her heart.

“I hate you,” snarls the Evil Queen.

Regina is looking down at the black heart beating in her hand. She is about to kill her dark shadow side by squashing the heart, but then she hesitates.

She replies, “But I don’t. Not anymore… I am going to choose love over hate.”

She pulls out her own heart and melts the two for a moment. When she pulls them apart again, the dark heart has become lighter, and the light one now has traces of darkness. She puts both hearts back in their chests.

“I gave you some of my love… in return I am taking back some of your darkness, our darkness”, she explains.

The Evil queen looks stunned. “Why?” she inquires.

Regina answers calmly, “You are part of me and I am part of you.—And now I love myself!”

“Once Upon a Time” is a TV series about fairy tale characters who end up in our modern world and travel between realms, different magical realms and the contemporary world. One of the main characters is the Evil Queen from the fairy tale Snow White. At the beginning of this series, this Evil Queen, Regina, cast a curse which traps all the fairy tale characters, frozen in time, and brings them into our modern world. Different interactions between good and evil unfold throughout the six seasons.

Remarkable about this series is that no evil character is purely evil. Everybody demonstrates good and bad sides and even the antagonists change and develop. The viewer gets insights into how and why they have became so dark in the first place. There usually is some pain, hurt and lack of love behind their darkness.

Regina develops into a loving person in the contemporary world, yet her original character from fairy tale land remains dark. In the sixth season, it comes to the above described showdown between the modern Regina and her dark counterpart, the Queen. This showdown scene is the perfect example of how we are all facing our shadow selves and how we often hate that shadow. Instead of killing it and trying to get rid of everything that we have learned to believe is bad or wrong about us, we can embrace those shadow traits and end up actually loving ourselves the way we truly are.

Originally, the Evil Queen, who experienced a lot of personal pain and loss, trapped everybody in time to prevent all the fairly tale characters, especially Snow White, from getting their “happily ever after”. In the end, her modern counterpart, Regina, helps her to find her happy ending in Fairy Tale Land. The message being that everybody deserves to love him or herself and find that intimate connection with others.

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When we embrace our shadows we work towards a similar “happily ever after” in all our relationships. Integrating our shadows moves us into wholeness, into unconditional love of ourselves. We separate from the Inner Critic, the voice inside us that says there is something wrong with us for having a certain trait or behaving in a certain way. The more we separate from that judgemental voice, the easier it is to look into the mirror and say “I love myself.” By finding separation from the voice inside of us that says we need to hate our flaws and hide the way we truly are, we become gentle with ourselves and we can reconnect with our Inner Child. When we connect with that vulnerable part inside, we find our joy, our childlike wonder, our magic, our curiosity, our imagination, our creativity, our playfulness, and our intimacy.

As we accept all traits inside us, we can accept them in others. We release our judgments and projections. We develop a natural compassion towards others. We can accept other people more and more the way they are. When others feel our love and acceptance, it gives them permission to be their authentic selves. They feel safe because they will not be found wrong by us. Their protective walls come down and their masks come off. The result is the mutual ability to live loving and authentic relationships with each other.

couple, bike, love

Check the Upcoming Workshops schedule for the next four-day Shadow Energetics training or contact me for individual sessions.

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

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Like a Beaver Dam

Samantha is really frustrated. “I have been doing my healing work for years. I have tried many different techniques and they all helped, some more than others, but why am I still at this point in my life? Why have I not reached all my goals of abundance, health and the perfect relationship, yet? Why do I have to do more work? I want to finally be done.”

Samantha is not the only client sitting in front of me who express frustration with the fact that their inner work is still not complete. Their Inner Critic tells them that they should be clear and enlightened with no issues or struggles whatsoever because, after all, they have already worked on themselves, their fears, their beliefs, their emotions and their relationships.

At that point, I usually share with them my latest piece of personal work. And they typically say something along the lines of, “But you have been in this field for fourteen years! You should be done!” I also tell them that in my experience, the work never ends. Why is that? Doing our personal work is like peeling away the layers of an onion. Each layer allows us to go deeper. Life unfolds and we are nudged to peel away yet another layer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sometimes it is like working away on a beaver dam that blocks the flow of the river of our consciousness. This dam represents all our obstructions and blocks due to our limiting beliefs, fears, emotions and shadows. With each piece of debris we pull out, the river can flow better and we become more whole. With each stick, we broaden our conscious awareness of ourselves and the world.

When we do deeper work, it is also quite normal that resistance comes up. Our subconscious has many useful programs in place, in fact programs that help us to function and survive. If it was easy to change all those programs, our survival might be in danger. Changing subconscious programs requires engaging this resistance in just the right way and using techniques to access the subconscious mind. Dhebi DeWitz’s L.E.E.P.s are such Life Enhancing Energy Processes that can assist us with our inner work.

The past week held two bigger pieces of work and learning for myself. What came up for me was a shadow trait I needed to integrate and an emotional interference pattern I needed to release. An individual had been mirroring the shadow of being argumentative and opinionated to me. Being opinionated and in some way closed and inflexible is often a trait which is looked upon as difficult. I am the first to admit that at times I can be opinionated and I am sure others find that difficult or discouraging. Many topics I just let go of, because I frankly don’t care enough about the subject at hand to argue with anyone. Yet, when it comes to work-related topics where I have a certain expertise I can certainly come across as having a strong opinion and expressing it clearly.

I usually minimize time with people who want to argue but this particular person had asked repeatedly to spend an extensive period of time with me and my initial judgmental approach was, “oh, no, I can’t take this arguing”. It was time for me to shift how I feel about being opinionated. In fact, I should have done this personal work much earlier when I first noticed a desire to avoid this energy.

jung-quotes

I used a process which I apply with my clients and also teach in my workshops: a Shadow Integration Process. For this method, another person stands in for the shadow part that is the trigger. We take note of what the initial relationship between the person and the part to be integrated is like. Usually, people report dislike, judgment, anger, fear or a feeling of disconnect from this part. We then use a meditative and intuitive process to befriend this shadow and to understand the gifts of this energy. Afterwards, the person gets to meet their now integrated part again and observe completely different feelings towards this energy. Disconnect, anger, or fear have made way for understanding, tolerance, acceptance or even friendship towards this part of us. We are able to love ourselves with this trait and are able to tolerate and accept others with it.

The second piece of work I had to do this week went deeper, as it touched a core wound that required some more healing. All of us have experienced negative or unhealthy emotional extremes at some point. When those emotions feel overwhelming, they can lodge themselves in our body-mind-energy field. They send out a continuous interfering resonance that can cause health issues but also hijack our peace of mind. We perceive our reality through our emotional pain.

Dhebi quote Some of our greatest hinderances

With an open heart, I had made an offer to somebody about a week ago who I don’t know that well but always quite appreciated. This financial discount offer was well-thought through and even muscle tested. I felt good about being giving. I was stunned and shocked when I received a reply in which this individual indicated she felt unfairly treated by me.

When I checked in with myself later that day, I realized that in response to her feeling unfairly treated, I had flipped into the same emotion of being unappreciated and feeling this was unfair towards me. “Our emotionally driven subconscious mind has the uncanny ability of bringing people and situations into our lives that force us to face, and feel, whatever we have previously resisted, denied, or suppressed because that is what it has stored there.” (Dhebi DeWitz, The Messenger Within) My emotional interference pattern from long ago had, despite all good intentions, drawn the same emotional issue into my field.

So whose work was this to do? Mine, of course. This emotion showed up in my reality and it vibrated something much older in me, a core wound, in fact. What needed to be done was not so much to explain and make her understand my position, but to release the emotional interference pattern from within my body and field. The Emotional Release Process, often used with my clients and also taught in the Shadow Energetics Workshop, turned out to be the right tool to resolve the emotional pattern.

When we resolve the interference pattern, the vibration brought to us by the other person does not resonate anymore with our own emotions and we can let the matter go with our heart at peace. Once I had released the emotion, I was also able to see things from the other person’s view. I was able to hear the overwhelm she was experiencing and able to relate to it, free of needing to be defensive. A non-judgmental and loving communication could unfold at that point, which she responded to in kind. After all, we are usually more alike than we can see when we are lost in hurt or emotional pain.

Do you want to embrace a shadow and be less triggered by others, release an emotion you feel stuck in or learn these processes and more in a workshop? You can either contact me for an individual session or join me for this four day workshop:

April 1/2 & 8/9, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

For more information please click here:

Upcoming Workshops

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

 

 

Believing Impossible Things

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

alice_in_wonderland_by_one_film_one_drawing-d7t894y

Drawing by one-film-one-drawing.deviantart.com/art

 

When we first entertain a new more supportive belief it often seems impossible and ludicrous. Our subconscious mind has, after all, been running on the exact opposite program for years.

“I have a strong immune system and stay healthy all year long.” How unbelievable is that if I have been expecting to get at least one cold every winter?

“I easily and effortlessly attract money doing what I love”. How ludicrous does that seem if the previous belief program is “It is hard for me to make and keep money”?

“I have all it takes to draw my perfect partner into my life.” How hard to grasp if old programs of unworthiness have been running the show!

“I deserve to relax and take time for myself.” How challenging is this when I have learned that I always have to achieve and produce and that resting means I am lazy?

“It is impossible for a human being to run a mile under four minutes.” So many believed that in the 1940ties until Roger Banister broke the world record and ran the mile in 3 minutes, 59 seconds. Shortly afterwards several other people broke that barrier of 4 minutes as it was now believable. Today the world record lies at 3 minutes 43 seconds.

roger-banister

 

Have you ever tried to change your beliefs through affirmations alone? How long did that take and how effective was that? We usually need many repetitions to create lasting changes on a conscious level.

Our subconscious is like a sumo wrestler in a wrestling match with our conscious mind, which perhaps has the strength of a five year old child. Unless we get the sumo wrestler on our side, the match is pretty much lost.

Our conscious mind can process and manage an average of 40 nerve pulse per second, our subconscious mind manages approximately 40 million nerve pulses per second. In other words, while the conscious mind can process 40 bits of information, the subconscious can process 40 million bits. Our conscious mind only controls 5% of all our actions. 95% of our actions are due to our subconscious programs, our beliefs based on our past experiences, traumas, ideas and values.

Bruce Lipton quote A

Bruce Lipton summarizes the four ways of rewriting subconscious programming:

  1. Shock

For example, a belief like “Life is safe for me” can suddenly change to the opposite when we experience a traumatic event like an accident or loss.

  1. Repetition

Affirmations are a way of repeating a new belief over and over again until the subconscious agrees.

  1. Hypnosis

In a normal waking state of consciousness, our brain wave activity is in the beta range. Through hypnosis, we can access alpha and theta brain waves and access the subconscious mind with beneficial suggestions.

  1. Energy Psychology / Belief Change Modalities

Belief Change modalities, like PSYCH-K® or the Shadow Energetics® Belief Change Process, are equivalent to super-learning and are undoubtedly the fastest way of changing a belief. You can rewrite a belief program in 5-10 minutes.

 

What do you believe to be impossible? Are you ready to question your beliefs and belief systems and create amazing changes in your life?

For individual Belief Change Sessions or if you want to learn Shadow Energetics® contact

Angelika Baum, Belief Change Coach and Workshop Facilitator,

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Our Heart at Peace Vs our Heart at War

 

 

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Flying on a low cost European flight carrier, which shall be left unnamed, I overheard a peculiar interaction between a flight attendant and a passenger in German. This passenger boarded the plane as one of the last people. When wanting to store his rather shabby and small carry-on in one of the overhead bins, he found they were all quite full. A young male flight attendant who was standing in a row and watching the passenger, gave the sloppy dressed attire of the passenger a once over. Instead of assisting him, he merely commented, “If there is no room overhead, your bag needs to be put under the seat.”

The gentleman, being older and somewhat overweight, struggled to bend down to push his carry on under the seat in front of him. His head turned red and he started to breathe heavily. The flight attendant sighed and reluctantly offered, “Or shall I see if there is still room in the back?” The man nodded. “You need to move over then to let me out,” responded the flight attendant

At that point, I noticed the woman next to me raise her eyebrow. I figured she was thinking the same thing I was, “What a rude tone for somebody in the service industry.” The gentleman moved a few steps to the side to let the flight attendant step out of the row. The reaction from the member of the crew was by no means a “thank you. Instead he said, “Not that way. I still can’t get through. I have to get to the back of the plane.”

Now this gentleman was extremely patient and stoic. He did not take offence to the tone or the words which were both clearly out of line, even considering that Germans can often be utterly unfriendly. It is not hard to imagine how with a different passenger this same conversation could have escalated into an unpleasant altercation. This flight attendant could have helped the passenger with a friendlier and more polite tone, but he obviously perceived the gentleman as a nuisance. He saw him as an irritating obstacle rather than another human.

So what exactly causes the start or the escalation of a conflict? It is not so much the actions we take that invite war, but the way we are while taking them. Is the other person an annoyance to us or can we relate to them with compassion and kindness? The same action can be performed from a heart at peace or a heart at war. Interacting with others with a heart at war is likely to provoke a defensive reaction or create or prolong a conflict.

Way of Being

There are two ways of seeing others: as objects, which leads to a heart at war or as persons, which leads to a heart at peace.

When we see others as persons it is because we recognize that their flaws and qualities are also ours. Everything which is in the world is also inside of us. The flight attendant at present might be young, slim, fit, healthy, financially well-off and very competent in regards to traveling but one day he might be in the place of this gentleman and require help. When we see others as persons, we also see that their desires, hopes, doubts and concerns are just like ours. Their cares and concerns matter to us. We have enough awareness to understand that what we judge in them are our own shadows. I can only speculate what prompted the crew member to act this way. Was he judgmental of the unkempt appearance, the weight, the lateness of the passenger, his clumsiness or the fact that this gentleman sat in one of the low fare seats on the plane (as opposed to getting food and other preferred customer treatment paying a somewhat higher fee)?

We see people as objects when we “de-personalize” them, for example when we reduce them to a category (a Poor Person), to a role (a Passenger), or to a quality (Difficult or Incapable). There are three ways of seeing a person as object: as an obstacle (“This passenger is making my job more difficult”), as a vehicle (“This Client will sign the contract and make me rich”), or as an irrelevancy (“I never bother talking to people who are dressed this way”). We are in a “them versus us” or “me versus him/her” dynamic.

What determines which way we see someone? We can simply choose to see someone as a person rather than as an object. We can choose to focus on what we have in common instead of separating ourselves through judgment.

When we are following a way of being that is counter to our own sense of humanity, we usually justify our self-betrayal. The other person who we don’t treat with kindness and compassion becomes an object of blame, and we begin to see everything about him in a “crooked way”. This is the seed of war; our need for justification distorts our perception of reality.

The perceptual box the flight attendant most likely was stuck in can be described as the “better than box”. From that box we feel we are superior. We see the other person as inferior, irrelevant, incapable or wrong. We treat them with disdain, indifference or impatience. We choose to feel superior or “right” over being at peace.

POSTER Boxes

According to the Arbinger Institute, there are three other perceptual boxes we get stuck in when we interact with others from a heart at war. Sometimes we choose to feel like the victim, mistreated or unappreciated. That puts us into box two, the “I deserve” box.

Or we might have a tendency to need to be seen in a positive way (for example helpful, competent or a “good” parent/child/friend/boss and so on). From that need to be seen a certain way, we might end up sacrificing our own needs and interacting with others from an unauthentic place. That place breeds resentment underneath the surface of being such a “good” person.

A fourth box is the one which makes us feel less or worse than others. When we feel broken or deficient, we perceive others as advantaged or privileged. That results in us getting stuck in feelings of helplessness, bitterness, jealousy or depression. The entire world seems to be against us; life appears to be hard and difficult for us.

We all have a tendency to slip into one or two of these boxes in different situations. We are not in a box all the time. In some relationships we might be in a box, while at the same time we are out of the box in other relationships.

To get out of the box and to stay out of it, we first need to recognize the signs of blame, justification, horribilization, and those four common box styles. Am I blaming others for a conflict we have, am I justifying my own actions, have I made the other people worse than they really are? Do I have a need to be right and make the other party wrong as a consequence of feeling superior, inferior, victimized or needing to be seen a certain way?

“The more sure I am that I’m right, the more likely I will actually be mistaken. My need to be right makes it more likely that I will be wrong! Likewise, the more sure I am that I am mistreated, the more likely I am to miss ways that I am mistreating others myself. My need for justification obscures the truth.”

— The Arbinger Institute

We also need to find an out of the box place, for example a memory with that person or group I am judging or have horribilized, that helps me to see the relationship or situation differently. If I have horribilized my sibling/my boss/my step-mother and so on, do I have a positive memory of him or her? If I have horribilized a group of people (“all men”, “all Muslims”) do I have a different experience with one of them that helps me get out of that perspective?

When I have found that out of the box place I need to re-examine the situation anew, asking myself

  • What are this person’s or this group’s challenges, emotional wounds or burdens?
  • How am I, or some group of which I am a part, adding to these challenges, wounds or burdens?
  • In what other ways have I or my group neglected or mistreated this person or group or made them feel unappreciated and unwanted?
  • In what ways are my Better-Than, I-Deserve, Worse-Than, and Must-Be-Seen-As boxes clouding my perception of others and myself and interfering with potential solutions?
  • What do I feel I should do for this person or group? Is there an action I could perform to shift the relationship?

 

In the workshop “Them Versus Us” we will examine where in our lives we are stuck in a them-versus-us dynamic and how to shift out of the boxes we might be in.

Join us for “Them Versus Us” on September 11, 2016 or on September 10, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Angelika Baum, 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.

Steam Kettle

Have you ever engaged in any of the following behaviours, short-term or long-term? Most people are familiar with at least one of these responses.

– addictive eating, drinking or smoking

– taking drugs or medications

– engaging in workaholic behaviour

– addictive exercising

– gambling

– shopping to feel better

– addictive consummation of media

What is going on with these behaviours? These are all short term coping mechanisms to distract ourselves from unpleasant emotions. We have been conditioned to respond to pain, sadness, grief, and stress by eating, drinking, smoking, or distracting ourselves with any of the other above mentioned activities.

Short-term, these activities might feel like they give us some relief, but we have not addressed the real problem by engaging in these behaviours. We have taken our emotions and stuffed them down with food, alcohol, drugs or we have distracted ourselves from acknowledging and feeling them. We are doing what we have learned as children when we were comforted with food. Our caregivers didn’t know that the cookie to sweeten the disappointment, or the tub of ice cream for the heart ache, or the cake to stuff the anger down would become our automatic go-to and our basis for any addictive behaviour.

steam kettle cropped

Do you still remember those old fashioned steam kettles which sat on the stove with a flame burning below? John W. James and Russell Friedman use the example of such a steam kettle to explain what is going on. These kettles were fitted with a whistle to notify us when the water has reached the boiling point. Instead of responding appropriately to the whistle and dealing with the hot water, we have been trained to jam a cork in the spout. The cork represents our beliefs that sad and other uncomfortable emotions are too painful to feel and should be kept under wraps. A steam kettle without a cork can release built up energy right away. A steam kettle with the cork builds up to an unbearable amount of pressure. As a result, we engage in one of the addictive or unhealthy activities above to relieve the pressure short-term. They help us to temporarily forget or bury our emotions.

Unfortunately, emotions are energy in motion. Energy has to go somewhere. It ends up stored in our bodies and manifests as energy blockages, pain and illnesses. Suppressed emotions consume tremendous amounts of energy. We need all our strength to keep the cork in the spout and all our concentration to ensure the steam kettle will not explode. The more emotions we push down, the more energy is required. Unresolved emotional issues have a negatively cumulative effect. We lose our health, wellbeing and joy.

Stem Kettle - When you welcome your emotions

To change the addictive behaviours and to regain our full energy potential, health and happiness, we need to learn to deal with emotions differently. Instead of pushing them down, we need to look them straight into their face; instead of judging them, we need to let them be what they are; instead of blaming others for our emotions, we need to take responsibility for them and forgive others for triggering them.

Nobody makes us feel angry, sad, “not good enough” or any of the other many emotions. Other people and circumstances are not responsible for how we feel inside. If somebody brings low energy, addiction, victimhood or other states of mind into your life which you do not want to partake in, set clear boundaries. Then take responsibility for your own emotions and do the “happiness work”. Decide to work thought and release what you do not want and bring joy and happiness into every day. Gratitude, joy and laughter are a choice; they are your choice!

We also need to teach our children that they are strong enough to feel any emotions. All emotions are good because they give us feedback. Anger is the brightest warning light. It gives us the feedback that something is not right. Underneath the anger, there are usually other more vulnerable feelings. We can teach our children to listen to what is really going on, that their needs matter and that they can share their feelings and needs.

Steam Kettle - Your emotions are your best friend

Emotions inform us. Sadness, for example, gives us the feedback that we are missing a person or object. Grief is long-term sadness due to a loss or change we’ve experienced: something is still incomplete in regards to this change and needs to be completed. Depression could be hidden grief. Frustration lets us know that something is not working, that our needs are not met. Fear and stress are a sign that we need to change our stories and beliefs, which cause anxiety and overwhelm.

However, before we can address the needs these emotions inform us about, we need to remember that all emotions are good. To shift out of our unhealthy responses to emotions, we need to accept them, love ourselves with them and take responsibility for them.

In my one-on-one sessions as well as in the Shadow Energetics workshop, I teach an emotional release process. By applying this process, we change how we handle emotions and we have a tool to effectively release stuck emotions from our body and field. Once we have released the emotional charge, we can understand the message and address our needs appropriately.

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

If you enjoy my posts, 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.