How many times have you heard, or even said yourself:
‘life is too short’
‘you don’t know what it around the corner’
‘we should make the most of our time here’
You can relate to that right? How many times have you heard that after someone passes away! I imagine quite a lot! Understandably, it is natural to think in such a way at a time like that.
My question is: Why does it take death to remind you to live? Why not remember to ‘live’ anyway – each and every day. You never get the same opportunity to be in the moment you are in right now again. It is to be experienced ‘now’ – why wait?
When you lose someone you will mourn for a period of time. You might reflect on the person’s life, especially if they were young and went way before their time. This might remind you of your own mortality; sudden realisation that you might not wake up one morning sooner than expected either, so therefore you have this urge to live your life to the fullest.
Hold onto this desire to ‘live life’ ! Sadly for many people this desire to ‘live life’ slowly diminishes and before you know it you’ve slipped back into your old familiar ways, getting caught up in society again, becoming busy with work, wrapped up in daily responsibilities, worrying about money, going at 100 miles per hour, not stopping to rest and so on! What changed? Where did the passion to live life to the fullest go? It’s only natural to go back into ‘default’, we are creatures of habit and of course need to be realistic as we all have jobs and responsibilities.
Perhaps life starts to feel heavy and you’re feeling weighed down by all that you do again. Time passes for a while, until you hear some more news that reminds you again that life is too short. You have the urge to change your life again but then slip back into life as you know it. The cycle continues.
Give yourself permission to break cycles in your life that prevent you from feeling alive. You deserve to be happy and enjoy life.
Everyone feels stressed and anxious at times, but there are simple ways you can start to live a happier life on a day to day basis as well as long term, find out how here.
Since being a child, the concept of ‘Life After Death’ has intrigued me (Sounds a bit morbid right?) – I guess I just felt there was something bigger out there. When I was an infant close family lost significant people in their lives and although I don’t consciously remember this, I would have on a subconscious level been ‘soaking’ this up. I now recognise that I was highly intuitive as a child and picked up on others energy, beginning to question ‘existence’ quite early on.
I had an instinctive sense of people having ‘souls’, being curious about what underpinned others behaviour – often reading between the lines, which I remember from a primary school age! I strongly believed it does not all ‘just stop’ when one dies.
Such sensitivities and beliefs start to take bit of a back seat as children generally get older and society ‘kicks in!’, swaying them more towards ‘normal’ stuff, rather than exploring spirituality! I think we still have a long way to go in feeling comfortable in having such conversations with children.
Children might receive the message that they are too sensitive, over imaginative and should stay away from ‘things like that’. They might either stop believing, or carry on believing but keep it to themselves! Nevertheless this can create self doubt and fear.
Reflecting back on the last twenty years, I have experienced many synchronistic events putting such concepts back on my radar! Once it was 3 different people randomly on the same day who bizzarley mentioned the ‘after life’, ‘soul contracts’ and ‘spirit’, with no invitation from me! I’d be lit with curiosity when this happened, but my deeply embedded fears about it not being OK to talk about such things would hold me back from expressing my views despite my beliefs being solid – especially in my counselling profession! It felt like a taboo subject. My counselling training only included a small section on ‘Spirituality and Counselling’, it wasn’t widely spoken about.
In the last 4 years, through supervising trainee and qualified counsellors I was ‘reminded’ of this concept again which then gave me the courage to start testing the waters and I began to ‘come out’ about my views. One of my supervisees being very spiritual herself and working in bereavement, was relieved she could share her personal experiences and views with her supervisor without being judged – this was a significant basis of developing trust in our work – where she did not feel she had to ‘hide’.
Having recently read the the book, ‘Both Worlds’ by Susan Bond about her connection with spirit – my supervisee introduced me to the book ‘Proof of Heaven’ by Eban Alexander; neuroscientist who did not believe in life after death until he experienced a Near Death Experience (NDE) – he shares his experiences during his time in a coma. Another supervisee introduced me to Anita Moorjani’s book ‘Dying to be me’ – I was instantly drawn to the title, and thought it might relate to a woman’s journey of finding her true self. The book was in fact about Anita’s journey about becoming her ‘magnificent’ self but also following her very own experience of a NDE – she writes about the glimpses of the afterlife she was exposed to – extraordinary!
Both experiences strongly indicate that there IS an afterlife; another dimension, a higher power, an angelic realm… if you’re a bit sceptical, it might be worth having a read about how both their experiences baffled science and the medical profession.
A few weeks ago a dear friend of mine, he who also experienced a NDE, that transformed his life gave me the book ‘The Afterlife of Billy Fingers’ written by Annie Kagan which I am currently reading -again reinforcing there is life beyond this one. It is filled with many beautiful and inspirational messages. It is truly wonderful to see that more and more stories are being shared by people influencing a great shift in our consciousness.
I am starting to embrace that it is OK to be open about such topics. It is nothing to be ashamed off neither worth worrying about others judgments. I realise now that due to others fears and strong views against such concepts, what I truly believe in again took a back seat! However having made some recent major life changes, staying true to myself is an integral part of my journey. If I allow others to stop me from sharing what I truly believe in, then how am I being my authentic self and how can I possibly empower others to be true to themselves!
Since this shift, it is amazing how new doors are opening for me. I am attracting more and more people on the same wavelength who actually want to work with me because of my openness about spiritual concepts.
On that note, my message to you: Be true to yourself and the right people will arrive!
Are you in the counselling profession with similar views – would love to hear from you.
I was talking to a friend who recently broke up with her partner about how now is a good time for her to ‘find herself’ (cliche!) and reconnect with who she is, what she likes doing in order to build that relationship up with herself, as we can lose this in a relationship. Although this can be a daunting process (as most of us are afraid to really meet ourselves) it is where healing takes place.
My friend has already signed up to dating websites. On one hand I think that’s great, she is ‘moving on’ and being proactive – and it is good to socialise with people to lift your spirits, however is she really moving on, or just trying to quickly fill the void her ex has left her with? A quick fix solution, will only fill the cracks, but the cracks will still be there. We discussed this void within her – she acknowledged she was trying to fill the gap as did not want to be left with her own thoughts. Starting a new relationship from this state of mind can be unhealthy.
The universe never ceases to amaze me when it throws in synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) as later that day we got talking to someone randomly about meditation who shared that he’d always kept himself busy and doing ‘nothing’ use to make him feel really uncomfortable so he’d do ‘stuff’ all the time to fill the void.
I feel my friend needed to hear this, as it normalised her feelings but it also gave her hope (a bit anyway…that is a start!). He said once he learnt to get past the initial ‘pain barrier’ of facing the void inside him, he started to feel much more comfortable being in his own company and things really shifted for him. Obviously this does not happen over night. Everyone at their own pace.
For us to be truly happy we need to address our voids; emptiness and loneliness. People tend to avoid such feelings as they can be painful and bring anxiety to the surface, they therefore keep the void ‘stuffed’ up by perhaps spending money; retail therapy, eating too much, smoking, drinking, working too much, keeping busy, jumping from one relationship to another etc.
Most of the time this is unconscious, we don’t even realise we are doing it. In my earlier twenties I still remember my counselling tutor saying, ‘I wonder if you’re keeping yourself busy to fill the emptiness inside you’. He was right, but I didn’t realise consciously at the time that I was feeling empty! I learnt that keeping busy had become a defence mechanism I developed from an early age which actually can be an unconscious form of ‘avoiding’.
Becoming more self aware is bringing the unknown into the known – brining what is unconscious to you into your conscious mind. It is only then you can enable change, because if you don’t know what is underlying, how will you know you need to work on it? Counselling courses take you on a journey of self discovery and exploring your inner world – but I will save that for another blog!
If you resonate with filling a potential void inside you, then I’d encourage you to reflect on some of the following.
What are you hiding from? What do you think you might realise if you allowed yourself space? What is the worst thing that might happen? How would you survive the worst case scenario? Because you WILL survive! A lot of people are afraid that if they allowed themselves to feel the pain, the sadness, the guilt, or whatever the feelings might be, that they won’t come through the other end. Not ‘giving in’ to these feelings suggests an internal battle, but YOU are the one fighting it! Perhaps you feel you need to ‘be strong’, but it takes more strength to face your feelings right? This can also be linked to ego, which again is another topic for another blog!
Try giving yourself time, to be with just ‘you’ for only 5 minutes a day to start of with, you can do longer if you’d like. No phone, no people… just you -simply notice how this makes you feel, both physically and emotionally. Do you have aches and pains in your body you did not notice before? What are you feeling? Strange, for doing this!?! Agitated, relaxed, sad? Do you feel like running away from yourself, or do you feel peace? Make a note of these each time. By doing so you are acknowledging the feelings that are trying to get your attention! Acknowledging is the first step, and sometimes that is all that is needed. Just acknowledging thougths, feelings and pain can actually help them to reduce. Remember your feelings are not bigger than you. They will pass and won’t last forever.No-one can fill your void – only you can!
‘What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be’ Quote by Ellen Burstyn
If you are interested in astrology, you’d already know that the lunar and solar eclipses in August 2017 are considered as enormous events causing huge spiritual shifts in people and their lives. August has been highlighted as a time for transitions and transformations; an opportunity to ‘reset’ your lives, taking off your masques, shedding your ego and aligning with your true selves. A time to let go of what is no longer serving you and a time to allow in new beginnings; out with the old and in with the new! These concepts have inspired me to write a blog on ‘Letting Go’. You don’t need to believe in astrology for this, I am just extracting the concepts and themes arising from the solar eclipse, which affect each and every one of us when when we face transitions.
Change is one thing that is inevitable in our lives, whether it be planned or unexpected – we all go through change all the time, no matter how big or small and sometimes these changes occur simultaneously with other changes, which can feel somewhat overwhelming. Maybe a new job or a new home, a loss of a relationship, a new realisation, a shift in friendship, redundancy, a bereavement, a new baby, a new way of thinking, a change in career, an illness etc.
With Change there comes loss. We can not move into change without losing something, leaving aspects of our lives and even parts of ourselves behind. On the other hand we can not move into change without gaining something either. Like the eclipse, letting the shadows pass allows room for the light. Letting go, creates space for other things to enter into your life. Often we unconsciously bring the shadows of the past into our present lives because we are still holding onto them.
Letting go can be a painful grieving process. The 5 stages of grief (in a nutshell!) suggests that you may experience the following. Denial of the events, ‘this isn’t really happening, it can’t be’; a common initial reaction to loss which can be combined with shock and perhaps lead to isolation. Usually anger follows the denial stage, one might be angry with God, life, other people, situations and even themselves. Anger can be a defence; the tip of an iceberg – the bit that we can see and feel, however underneath there sits a range of hidden emotions; sadness, guilt, frustration, despair, loneliness, helplessness.In order to try and gain some control such feelings are avoided known as the bargaining stage, ‘If only I’d done this, or that…or tried harder… or noticed the signs…’, this can often be tangled up with feelings of regret. For some this can lead to depressive symptoms; loss of interest, lack or increase in appetite, rumination (going over and over a situation with no resolution), tearfulness, loss of motivation, sleep disturbance, low energy – to name a few. Eventually (hopefully!) we come to accept our loss allowing some sense of relief and peace.
Grieving is a very unique and natural process and people will move through the stages differently to others, sometimes experiencing all the above stages and emotions rolled into one or perhaps becoming stuck in one particular stage. Sadly not everyone reaches the acceptance stage.
Let go of what you no longer want and keep what you want more of!
The eclipse got me thinking about helpful and practical ways of ‘letting go’ – sometimes being involved in a visual activity can really help to shift emotions.
Write down all the things, situations, feelings, relationships you want to let go off on pieces of paper and then watch them disappear in a creative way; burning the paper and watching the flames take their course, throwing the paper in flowing water, like a stream, a canal or the sea and watching the feelings float away – maybe you could put all the pieces of paper in a plastic bottle and watch that slowly move away from you. Another way is to attach the papers onto balloons and watching them drift away. These are great ways to get children involved and help them to process feelings of loss too. If you’re reading this and have done something similar I would love to hear from you, and invite you to leave a comment below to share your ideas to support others.
Following this exercise write down what do you want in your life? What do you want more of, including new things – what do you want to attract into your life like more joy, fun, like-minded people, success, good health etc
Change your intention into action!
So how are you going to attract more of what you want? Focus and create time and space for yourself. Where do you begin? Do some research and find out what is out there. How are you going to do this? Have a look at your routine, does something need to change? What do you need to do? Sign up to a new class perhaps.
Making an action plan can help as a starting point. Timescales can also be very helpful- rather than trying to focus on everything all at once, perhaps breaking it down with mini goals will make it more achievable.
Embrace your emotions.
It’s natural to feel a range of emotions and please let them out as they arise, it is ok to have a good cry – by letting it out you are allowing yourself to heal. By avoiding and pushing the feelings down you are denying yourself. Find ways to slowly help you to release your feelings. Keep a journal, write or draw your emotions, do some exercise, or spend time connecting to nature, do some meditation, talk to someone. Listen to music or watch movies that are likely to enhance your feelings. Being around like-minded people can also help.
It takes great courage to face difficult feelings – it is not sign of weakness, but a sign of great strength.
Shift your thinking.
Rather than focusing on what you have lost, think about what you have gained.
If you have been bereaved, what can you take from that person and interject into your life? How did that person help to mould you in some way or another? Is there something about their attitude to life or morals you liked?
Ok, you were made redundant from a job, so compare yourself from when you began that job – What skills and experience did you gain in that time? Think about yourself ‘before’ and ‘after’ that job – how have you grown in confidence?
Instead of directing your anger towards a previous partner, think about how that relationship helped you to grow – maybe it helped you to learn patience, or reminded you of your self worth. What lessons did you learn and how can you take these into your next relationship.
Keep on track.
It’s easy to lose track of your intentions, so maybe reviewing where you are at every 3 months can be a useful way to bring you back on track. You may have stumbled across new people and gained new inspiration therefore you might need to revisit your action plan.
I think this quote nicely sums up the process of letting go…
‘Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind’ Walt Whitman
I hope you enjoyed this blog. If you’d like to share any thoughts relating to this topic please add comments below – would love to hear from you
So, it’s almost been one year since I last wrote a blog! Makes me think about the concept of time. On one hand, it seems to pass quickly, but then on the other hand when reflecting back time can seem to have passed at a much slower pace. The way we remember some of our experiences can also vary; feeling so real in the moment and then so surreal when you reflect afterwards.
I met a 9 year old boy on the train this weekend, and got chatting to him about moving up a year at school in September – he said ‘time flies when you get older’, and he really meant it! I was like ‘but you’re only 9!’. I was surprised that at from such a young age the notion of time going quickly is being believed to be true by children…so young! Of course there will be many factors contributing to this such as societal and cultural pressures and expectations.
Living in the world we do, it can be extremely challenging to escape such expectations. We all get lost in this from time to time (no pun intended!), or for some of us most of our lives. Getting caught up in being ‘who’ and ‘what’ we think we are ‘suppose’ to be, or ‘should’ be we lose touch of who we actually ‘are’. All these layers get added from external places that sometimes we can become so far removed from our true selves…our authentic selves!
When this happens we may experience depression, anxiety, a sense of being ‘lost’, anger, frustration, generally feeling dissatisfied with life, our relationships, work, activities we undertake… it might feel like something is missing. A sense of there is more to life than this!?!
Imagine how it might feel to connect to your true self? Getting to know yourself again, or for the first time. The most important relationship that we need to experience in order to feel true inner peace and happiness is the relationship with ourselves. This then provides a foundation for meaningful and satisfying relationships with others. Relationships can then be based on ‘wanting’ to be with someone, not ‘needing’ to be with them – they can come from a place of unconditional love and detachment (meant in the terms of not ‘clinging’, or trying to find your happiness through the other person).
My own journey and those of others around me, both personal and professional relationships have inspired me to share more and write more! It might just be one sentence that speaks to you and that sentence might be just what you need in that moment, to help you along your journey. It might sew a seed, or it might help to confirm something for you. The kind of topics I Imagine I will be writing about are around, self love, connecting to your true selves, obstacles holding you back, mindfulness, removing fear of judgment, making decisions, reducing stress, coping with change…… and so much more, so keep an eye out for future blogs.
I also welcome your thoughts on this blog as well as ideas and recommendations for future topics, please leave a comment below or alternatively – email me.
I like to keep the conversation around ‘self care’ alive, not only with my clients but also with my colleagues and supervisees. The counselling and caring professions can suck our energy and if one does not take good care of themselves, this can become depleting overtime – It can really take it’s toll on physical and emotional well-being.
I read a quote which said ‘Self care isn’t selfish or over-indulgent. It’s not a luxury – it is essential’. It’s so true. Self care should not be something we treat ourselves with from time to time, nor should it be something we just squeeze in, it should be a part of our daily lives.
Having talked to a few people about this some feel ‘bad’ about trying to prioritise their own needs, others might feel ‘too busy’ for self care. I think people can struggle to balance work and other commitments which leaves little time and energy to focus on the ‘self’ (even though the desire to do so is there).
Sadly, if self care is neglected over time, this can lead to a general dissatisfaction of life, and physical and emotional problems. We might begin to feel disconnected from our own very selves. In more extreme situations this might lead to ‘burn out’.
Stop to reflect, is this happening to you at work or home? Back to back appointments…skipping lunch…deadlines to meet, so you’re working really hard… emergencies to deal with… little rest…?!
Think about how you can take the responsibility of your well-being.
Where can you add in some time for ‘self care’.
A short walk and fresh air
Eating lunch away from your desk
Saying no when you have too much on
Slowing down generally, maybe trying two minutes of mindfulness breathing in-between appointments.
SMALL changed can make a BIG difference
We can’t give anything to others if we have nothing left to give. We must give to ourselves first; where it all begins. When we board a plane, we are advised that we must put our own oxygen mask on before putting on someone else’s. The same applies to self care.
This concept is so widely used these days. It has become a popular area of research with studies proving a link between gratitude and better emotional well being. It has become a psychological intervention – you may have come across the term in self-help and modern philosophy literature. Interestingly, this makes it all seem really complicated, but really it is so simple and underpins many religious and spiritual teachings.
When did we stop being grateful? Why do we need to be told to practice gratitude? We can get so consumed with the demands of society that we become tunnel visioned and perhaps a bit target orientated – looking for more and not actually feeling satisfied with what we already have. This way of thinking can be a hard habit to break, but an important one to break if you really want to appreciate life and feel joy. Practicing a bit of gratitude everyday can be a good way to start ‘training’ yourself to notice the positives and usually these can be the littlest and most simplistic things in life, yet the most life changing.
I explore with clients creative ways to feel and show thankfulness, appreciation and gratitude. One of my favourite suggestions (and one I use myself) is to make or buy yourself a Gratitude ‘Container’ – mine is a jar which I have decorated with gems and beads. You might choose a box or a tin. Make it feel special. Every night write down what you have been grateful for that day and place it in your container. Don’t worry if you don’t remember ‘feeling’ grateful at that time but replay your day in your mind and wonder about where you ‘could’ have felt grateful. Keep adding to your container regularly and watch it build over time. Initially this might feel like an effort but eventually it will become second nature.
The more situations you recognise a reason to be grateful for, the more genuine gratitude will begin to feel. You will become happier about what you have in your life and less worried about what you don’t. Not only will you accept yourself better you will become more accepting of others and generally more positive about life.
Donald Winnicot, pediatrician and psychoanalyst considered the concept of the ‘Good Enough Mother/Parent’. He believed that if a mother/primary carer provides a ‘holding’ environment for their infant adapting to their needs (Feeding, bathing, comforting, holding…), the infant will develop into an autonomous being.
It’s Mother’s day today in the UK; a celebration of maternal bonds. I’ve been reflecting on the mother and child relationship, drawing up on my counselling work with children, young people and women. In my pre-twenties I was naive enough to assume that all women are naturally ‘maternal’ . During my psychology studies I became interested in psychotherapy from a feminist perspective and began to learn otherwise. For years after I worked in a number of women’s organisations offering therapeutic support and counselling.
Sadly, not all mothers can provide their children with that holding environment for various reasons; stress, life’s demands, mental health issues, domestic abuse, their own upbringing, their self esteem etc. Not all children grow into autonomous little beings and therefore don’t learn how to cope with life. This can cause anxiety, depression and relationship difficulties as adults.
In the absence of the ‘Good Enough Mother’, some children are fortunate enough to get their needs met from other adults; relatives, carers, teachers and these relationships can be the difference between make or break.
Counselling aims to re-create this ‘maternal/paternal’ relationship by providing a ‘holding’ environment that Donald Winnicot considered as essential to help people develop their autonomy. Counselling gives another opportunity to experience a nurturing relationship that was unavailable or somewhat limited in childhood.
Through counselling people can start to develop trust in themselves that maybe wasn’t learnt as a child from adult carers but can be experienced with a ‘Good Enough Therapist’ later in life. Experiencing this nurturing relationship encourages you to begin nurturing yourself, giving a greater sense of self acceptance. By learning to nurture yourself, you begin to take responsibility over your emotional well being – it’s almost as if the ‘parent’ part of you starts to take care of the ‘child’ part of you. This can help you to feel more confident about facing challenging situations in life once counselling comes to end.
Feelings may build up and present themselves through agitation, stress and overwhelming emotions.
Day to day tasks and responsibilities might feel like too much.
Imagine if you could alleviate some of these feelings, how would that feel? Wouldn’t it be great if your headaches reduced or even stopped, or if you didn’t get wound up that easily anymore and as a result your relationships were better?
The idea of ‘free association’ comes from Freud, who believed that if we ‘freely talk’ we can start to become aware of underlying feelings. Even though these may not have been conscious prior to therapy, they most likely have been causing difficulties in your life without you even realising.
You may suddenly become aware of the reasons why you struggle to be assertive in your relationships for example. Maybe in the past your needs weren’t prioritised by others so you’ve learnt to become a ‘people-pleaser’. Counselling can really empower you to break such patterns that have become the norm but aren’t necessarily emotionally healthy for you. You can start to think about your own needs (as well as others!) by coming to counselling.
You might be reading this and wondering ‘why not just talk to a good friend, why a counsellor?’
It’s absolutely not necessary to talk through feelings with a counsellor, what’s important is to find positive healthy ways to express them. A cuppa and a chat with a friend might really benefit you in some ares of your life, however there might be particular things you’d rather share with a professional in confidence.
If you are not sure about counselling, then I offer an initial appointment at a reduced cost which gives you the opportunity to find out more about counselling and how it could help with your personal circumstances. You can find out more here FAQ’s