Wednesday 10th March 2021
I’d hazard a guess you’re a great friend to your loved ones.
If you ask me, old friends are one of the highlights of this life. They know us well, they empathise with us when we struggle. They encourage us when our confidence falters, and hold us accountable to our goals. They remind us of who we are and tell us why they love us when we just can’t see it.
What would life feel like if you were that kind of friend to yourself?
So much of my work brings clients into feeling compassion for themselves. Holding their fragile, hurt parts with the kind of understanding and warm, loving attention they would readily offer an old friend. There is healing of our fragmentation when we are able to befriend ourselves in the supported environment of a session. Not just intellectually but really experiencing what it feels like to give loving kindness to yourself, and receive it.
Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we find it so much easier to extend forgiveness, understanding and unconditional regard to a loved friend than our own selves? Why are we often our most exacting judge, harshest critic, most ruthless detractor?
Usually it has its source in childhood and the modelling we experienced, or what we decided was our fault. Many parents were dissociated from their tenderness, or caught in their own pain, or tough on their children because they feared the world would devour them in one gulp if they remained sensitive and child-like. For some of us it was an experience of fragility at a developmental point that caused pain, and forever after we have guarded against that vulnerability by being tough on ourselves, shutting ourselves off from receiving our own compassion.
The reasons are many; the struggle only tightens its grip when we continue that imprint by causing ourselves further pain. Reasonably simple or solvable problems can become a hundred times more difficult to navigate when our internal critic gets the upper hand.
The experience we can access in a breathwork session of offering ourselves the kindness of a true friend is a powerful medicine and can be accessed and practiced after that whenever the negative self-talk, blaming, punishing parts of us are activated. Practising self kindness is like strengthening a muscle that you didn’t even know you had, recognising when you’re mistreating your vulnerable parts. For most of us there are ample opportunities to respond to ourselves with this quality of care and develop new neural pathways, new habits and a life of growing ease and gentleness.
I look forward to being your ally, walking beside you in the terrain of the inner landscape, in this and many other kinds of journeys. This work a great honour, accompanying those who feel the calling to deepen their relationship with themselves.
FEEL IT ALL
September 24th, 2021
Emotions are such a big part of our experience as human beings, and usually the main reason people come to see me. They colour our relationships and perspectives, underpin our values. They morph from moment to moment, yet can also define a day, month, year or decades of our lives. I think of them as our own internal weather system.
How would it be to welcome the gentle rain of your tears, allow the wildfire of your anger burn to re-energise your inner landscape, or witness the sunshine of your joy nurturing new growth, knowing it too will pass?
As author Karla MacLaren puts it in her excellent book The Language of Emotions: “Emotions contain indispensable vitality that can be channelled toward self-knowledge, interpersonal awareness, and profound healing.”She sees them as guides to be honoured and heeded.
But you and I live in a feeling-phobic culture. It seems to me there's an underlying campaign to bypass, minimize and deny them, especially Anglo Celtic culture. I remember being in Greece as a teenager and observing two fishermen arguing loudly. I thought they were about to come to blows and, feeling a bit concerned, I asked my mum what was going on. 'Oh, they’re just discussing politics' was her nonchalant reply. While our culture tends to repression, Mediterraneans go for passionate, sometimes messy expression!
As a parent I give a lot of consideration to my daughter’s emotional life. I have learnt that children have a magnificent set of tools to process and discharge their big feelings. When they are safe to express, they tantrum when they’re angry and frustrated, they cry when they’re sad. These mechanisms allow them to ‘clear the pipes’ and then they’re ready for connection and clear thinking.
It breaks my heart when I witness adults telling kids to control their emotions, training them to discard their innate capacity to process feelings, and to relate to them as wrong and shamefull.
Conversely it fills my heart in the session room when adults rediscover their body’s wisdom to feel their feelings. When we have this opportunity, we return to clear thinking, resolved emotional equilibrium and availability to ourselves and those we love. When we don’t or can’t, they pile up inside us until the bushfires of anger ravage and scorch, the deluge of tears sweeps us away or perhaps worse, our dis-connection from ourselves gets even stronger and we disconnect from our feelings, our wisdom and our selves.
While recent times have brought more acknowledgement of the importance of what we call ‘mental health’, in general there is still the attitude that any feelings other than happiness and well-being aren’t welcome and need to be fixed! In my experience, whether you’re two or seventy-two, feelings are a part of life, and immensely wise when able to be felt freely and guide us towards what we need. For example, the feeling of being overwhelmed tells us we need to take more time and space, fear can be our intuition trying assess what’s safe, anger can indicate our boundaries are not being held or respected.
As a person and as a practitioner, I work to shift the understanding of emotions, to honour them as our own in-built navigation system, communicating beautifully with us and at best used as a compass to guide us towards greater truth with ourselves and others, authenticity in our life and work and a rich and well-resourced inner life. In other words, wholeness. Breathwork sessions often involve big emotions that have been banished, shamed or dismissed. In the safety of that space, they are given permission to be expressed, felt fully, move or be held.
I’m not sure we ever really ‘arrive’ at a permanent equilibrium; but through courageously engaging with ourselves we can develop greater and deeper capacity to express feelings, to hold ourselves and to be held in our vulnerability. It’s like an all-access pass to yourself, to know whatever you feel, you have your own back.
Sometimes the feelings pre-date our memories and awareness, even our own life-time. The beauty of Breathwork and body centred counselling is that you don’t need to understand the who/when/where/why intellectually - you just need to allow the process, with my guidance the wisdom of your breath and body will do the rest.
I am so honoured to be holding space and supporting my clients to peel away the layers, experience themselves in their full depth and to move towards being their truest Self in the world. Engaging in this work is a gift not only to yourself but to your loved ones, families, friends,colleagues and community. Just imagine if our parliamentarians were doing it!