Many years ago now in an attempt to quell the anxiety I experienced I became interested in affirmations. The goddess of affirmations at the time was Louise L. Hay. She still is in many ways. Have you used any of her works?
I have a beautiful ‘You Can Heal your Life Affirmation Kit’. It contains a guidebook, cd (remember those?), word magnets and gorgeous affirmation cards.
And yet no matter how many times I repeated the affirmations I never believed them. No matter how many times I repeated the ‘I ams’ I never got to the power and the truly wonderful life that they were said to impart.
Fast forward to now and thanks to the calming world of Havening Techniques® I now know that my brain, back then, was in no state to believe the ‘I ams’ I was offering it as a way to change my life.
My brain was, or rather my amygdala was, ruling my thoughts, feelings and emotions. to the degree that negativity ruled and getting to a place of positivity was very difficult.
Along with the hold that Amy-amygdala had she also had accomplices in the form of saboteurs (*). These saboteurs flooded my mind with statements such as “You? Who do you think you are to live a better life? And many more degrading and doubting statements.
If like me you have struggled with ‘I ams’ and getting to a place of positivity and safety within your own mind then below is a four step process that might just help you. 1. what if? 2. I can. 3. I will. And then eventually 4. I am.
If at any time you reach resistance as you climb the steps, bring yourself back to the one below and stay there until something in you melts and then climb up to the next one.
Here is an example of what I mean.
> What if I begin to choose daily gratitude and appreciation and celebrate all of the possibilities I am creating in my life?
> I can choose daily gratitude and appreciation and celebrate all of the possibilities I am creating in my life?
> I will choose daily gratitude and appreciation and celebrate all of the possibilities I am creating in my life?
> I am choosing daily gratitude and appreciation and celebrate all of the possibilities I am creating in my life?
What if you gave these statements a go to see if they create different possibilities for you and your journey as you move forward with your grief?
With warmth and kindness
*see post ‘Is this Helping me or Harming me?, for more about saboteurs.
We can’t live without it. Because?
Yes, you’ve guessed it, because of Amy your amygdala.
Amy is all about your survival and she is constantly assessing your environment. Part of this is whether something or someone is a threat to you.
Worry and anxiety can have a profound effect on your health and wellbeing.
Amy is about survival and not wellbeing.
Amy is about fight, flight, freeze and fawn. These are primitive responses that helped keep us safe when we were hunter-gathering thousands of years ago. Back then we were part of the food chain. Amy became instrumental in creating heightened awareness of your environment.
The worries that you experience today aren’t the same worries that you would have experienced thousands of years ago e.g., you’re no longer likely to be chased by a sabre toothed tiger as it fancies you for its supper.
Instead your worries will be many and varied e.g., financial, social media, climate change, business, relationships etc. However the mechanism of worry has remained unchanged since we were created.
I have often commented that my mother-in-law will worry about having nothing to worry about. Worrying is an established part of her life and as such is normal. Something about this must be working for her as she is now 93 years of age!
If you know that you worry excessively and that this is negatively impacting your life then now is the time to consider choosing to challenge your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Ways that worry maybe too much in your world
- your sleep is disturbed
- you carry an impending sense of doom
- for no good reason you often feel guilty or resentful
- you feel rundown, your immune system is struggling or perhaps your blood pressure is raised
- you fret over your decisions
- events, both good or bad, replay over in your mind
- You feel as though you don’t have an off switch.
Worry, anxiety, stress and overwhelm are felt in your body due to hormones eg adrenaline and cortisol. these hormones are necessary for your body to spring into action. Over a long period of time these hormones begin to have an effect on your physical wellbeing. You may experience this as intense muscle tension.
While changing the habits that have created the worries, stress, tensions etc may take time there are simple things that you can do right now –
- Check your jaw as you may be clenching it without even realizing it. Allow it to relax.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath in to the count of four and then slowly allow your breath to move out of your body to a count of six. Repeat this a few more times.
- For the next 10 seconds stop, soften your gaze and focus on one thing in front of you. For this exercise I have a small lizard on my desk. I choose this to gaze at and ask Amy to be calm. As Amy is often referred to as the reptilian brain this is why I have a little lizard as an ornament on my desk. I have another on my key chain and again I can use this to gaze at, practice breathing techniques and calm Amy.
- Havening Techniques® are wonderful, magical even, for any condition that has its base in fear, stress, overwhelm, anxiety or worry.
And so now I ask you – what do you know of that helps you when you find yourself in a spiral of worry?
With ease and calm
Improving your mental fitness
There are many ways in which we can come back to ourselves as we move forward with our grief and loss.
There is one thing that I urge my clients to do (other than self-Havening) Is to re-connect with their innate, heartfelt values.
By discovering or re-discovering your heart-felt values this can really help you to discern what it is that really matters to you. By spending time quietly with yourself and perusing a list of value based words you may just find that you have a tool that helps you to make decisions and choices that are best for you.
Your loss, subsequent grief and a brain that is numb from the shock and trauma that you have experienced can see you moving forward in an auto-pilot fogginess. All very normal under the circumstances you have experienced.
However, as the fog lifts you could find yourself looking for something to help you work out what really matters to you and your life as you move forward.
In a previous post I talked about “Will this help me or harm me?” Knowing what you value, which values are at the heart of you, will add another layer of consciously coming back to you, your life and living on this planet. Grief and loss can leave us feeling adrift from reality and choosing a simple tool like this can bring our brains some much needed relief.
Whether or not you are aware of your values, we all have them. They are influenced by family, friends, culture, age etc. There are no right or wrong ways of finding out what our values are. Google values and you will be able to search until your heart’s content.
I personally have a set of beautifully designed values cards – The Live Your Values deck, Lisa Congdon and Andreea Niculesco.. Shuffling and sifting through these visually appealing cards works for me and my brain. There is something about the tactile experience of holding the cards and then pulling three cards randomly from the pack that I like. sometimes what I read has little to no effect on me and so I choose again. I make a game of it and enjoy myself playing with these cards.
If you haven’t undertaken an exercise like this before I suggest that you give yourself some time and space. Initially choose just three heart-felt values and over time build on these as you sense that your initially choices enhance your well-being, enrich your life and grow your mental fitness.
If you have ever played with an exercise like this, how did you find it enhanced you and your life?
Stuff accumulates if we don’t Marie Kondo it on a regular basis. Yes?
For those of you who haven’t come across Marie Kondo she is the Japanese goddess of tidying up and organising our ‘stuff’.. Truly what this women doesn’t know about tidying up probably isn’t worth knowing.
In the very beginning of this thing called grief there was an afternoon I had on the sofa with a sleeping Jessie dog. I watched several episodes of Marie Kondo, sometimes referred to as ‘KonMari’, and her tidying and organising methods on Netflix.
These episodes were so calming. There is just something about this diminutive Japanese woman and her approach to every home and business she enters. There is a reverence to her. Her gentleness and kindness radiate from her. And I find myself wondering how she tidies and organises her inner stuff.
One aspect of grief is the pain and sadness that we experience. This type of pain can’t simple be ‘ignored and it will all go away’. Neither can we self-help ourselves if what we want to do is to ignore the pain.
Pain is the stuff of suffering. This stuff needs an outlet. This stuff is fear based. This stuff can see us closing ourselves off to life. We retreat. We hide. We stop ourselves from engaging with life.
All of this stuff – pain, heart ache, suffering, fear, anxiety etc – really needs an outlet.
With out an outlet our bodies will hold onto it and our amygdala, Amy, will constantly Google search, via our working memory part of our brain, and this can become a heavy sackful of stuff to carry around with us.
Fear is very natural. We have an amygdala and Amy’s role in our brain is to make sure that we survive. We have to have a healthy, natural dose of fear so that we understand that crossing a road, or driving a car, carries risk. it doesn’t mean that we don”t do these actions.
Pain and fear are very close. They are quickly able to rally stress, overwhelm and anxiety and Amy is happy to add to this now scary experience with any information she can find. Now you have an overflowing sackful of inner turmoil, while pretending that you are ok.
As Megan Devine says, in her book ‘It’s OK that you’re NOT OK’, – “Unacknowledged and unheard pain doesn’t go away.”
Sorting out our inner stuff can feel too messy, too pathetic, too hard to shift. In the world of today this pain is a problem to be solved. But what if it isn’t a problem? What if it only becomes a problem if it isn’t acknowledged and we refuse to be aware of the heaviness of this sack of stuff we’re attempting to lock away inside us?
Just like Marie Kondo and her kind and gentle approach to tidying up and organising stuff, what if, instead of ignoring our inner stuff, we put our heavy sackful down, even for a brief moment and tend to ourselves with grace and kindness? What if we can choose grace and kindness for ourselves, knowing that there is a safe place within us?
Our painful stuff won’t just go away. Our past is always present and our future requires help as we move forward with our grief and losses. How we respond to our pain, our sack of stuff, is something that we can choose to change.
It’s time to put your own oxygen mask, get present with your pain and choose just how much of this stuff you are ready shift, change and carry with you into your future. Yes?
Aug 2nd – The Loss of Time.
I can’t believe that we are in August. How about you?
A friend contacted me to ask if it was still ok for her son and his girlfriend to call by at the weekend and collect the sofa that we were getting rid off and are absolutely delighted to think that it was going to a young couple who were starting their together life and that our sofa is going to a another home, instead of landfil.
In my mind I was doing a calculation about how they must be bringing the date forward. My mind was doing somersaults trying to work dates out.
The dates were the same, that hadn’t changed and yet somehow it feels as though July hasn’t had enough time and I’m not ready for August.
This ‘loss’ of time happens at this time every year. Summer is coming to an end. The desire to suspend time is very strong for me at this time of year. Is it that we don’t have hot summers I wonder?
And then I remember today is my, or would have been, my sister’s birthday. Bev died age 18. I think of all the seasons she hasn’t been here and marvel at how I can see and hear her as she was, as though still here and yet I’ve had so many seasons on this planet without her.
I’ve changed. I’ve aged beyond anything I thought I might.
I don’t have a map for how to proceed beyond the age I am right now and this is both daunting and exciting. My mum died when she was 63 and I’ve already outlived her and lived without her for many years.
Right now you may be grieving much bigger things and the passage of time not on your radar. I get it. We all grieve. Everyone grieves their losses differently. No right or wrong. Just different.
Loss comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures, colours and sounds. How we grieve our losses, cope with them and move forward with them are always personal . No two of us will grieve in exactly the same way. There may be similarities though.
How do you view time? How do you view time and your losses?
‘Is this helping me or harming me?’
Before I came across Lucy Hone and her work on resilience I asked a similar question, “Is this feeding the inner victim or feeding the inner empowerment, that is my preference?”
Please note I always attempt to keep the victim at arms length and claiming it as MY victim has in the past led me down a very slippery slope of overwhelm and powerlessness. A pity party for one is – well – no one is gate crashing that scenario.
To say MY victim I have come to realise had me at the mercy of it.
Somehow if I said MY it created a sense that Victim had power over me and that I didn’t have any say in this.
I have since learned to acknowledge that I am actually the empowered one and it’s up to me to give Victim as much or as little engagement as the case is now and has as little room in my mind palace as I truly desire. And these days that is the tiniest of cubby holes somewhere in the attic gathering dust.
Victim does however attempt to run amok through the corridors of my mind palace but Victim runs into many STOP! signs that I have in place so that that sense of disempowerment, ‘woe is me’, ‘poor me’ cannot get a tight grip on me and in particular my thoughts, feelings and emotions. Inner empowerment is my go to to lead the way
I learned a lot about saboteurs when I studied with Shirzad Chamine and Positive Intelligence.
Shirzad has identified 10 saboteurs with there being a main ringleader ‘The Judge’. The other 9 are,
3. Hyper Achiever
4. Hyper Rational
5. Hyper Vigilant
We all experience all of these to greater or lesser degrees. Shirzad believes that we are genetically encoded to develop at least one of these as a top saboteur as we go through childhood. At the top of my list is Pleaser. Victim isn’t far behind and in the past (when i didn’t know any of this stuff) has been allowed to rampage totally out of control.
The doubt about myself and my capabilities that Victim thinking generated in the past was a horrible place to be.
When Ted died I vowed to myself that I would do everything in my power, which is considerable, to shun any and all invitations to wallow at the pity party.
When I heard Lucy Hone and her question, “Is what i’m doing helping or harming me?” I have now replaced my rather long winded version of this with her question because as well as Victim rearing its ugly head any of the other saboteurs can also exert a negative influence.
As I mentioned my biggest trait is to be a Pleaser. Now before I hurtle head long into pleasing others before considering myself i ask the question, “Is this helping me or harming me?” I have begun to really sense the power in this question for myself especially when I consider the saboteurs AND the effect that Amy (amygdala) can also create.
What do you think of this question, ‘Is this helping me or harming me?’ Have you ever used it or may start using it?
Do you have something similar that like me you created for yourself?
With gentleness and kindness as we travel this journey together
For some time I have been questioning something about myself and the grieving process
Since Ted died I have found myself wondering about what is different about me now as compared to when my sister died. After Bev died I tormented myself with guilts and regrets and although I looked ok to the world I was going crazy on the inside.
I just didn’t know how to release my grief I didn’t know how to express any of what was churning me up on the inside. I thought that I was wrong in some way if I mentioned her and again if I didn’t. I was, quite frankly, a mess.
Compare that to the me of today and I am glad to say that I now have more understanding of me as a person, how my brain and mind works and the importance of mental fitness in the grieving process.
It is this understanding of the brain that is being shared by neuroscientists the world over that has me fascinated about improving my mental fitness, altering my neuroplasticity and acknowledging that this then radically improves my levels of optimism, regardless of the circumstances and challenges that continue to arise.
I have the belief that there is no end to grieving our loved ones. There is however a knowing, that we can all cultivate, that our life is worth carrying on with regardless of the challenges we appear to face. And boy oh boy can we be challenged?
We can also be optimistic as we move forward with our grief. We are non of us immortals or perfect or without challenges. Imagine!
We can however cultivate optimism for this one life we are living right now regardless of our circumstances. Years ago I would have scoffed at this and you maybe doing this too, and yet, I have discovered that this sense of optimism, and I don’t mean a la-la land type of dissociation from reality, rather a day by day checking in with that part of me, somewhere near my heart, that holds a level of pragmatism that is unwavering. I wish i had acknowledged this all those years ago or even understood to do this, instead of tormenting myself with ugly thoughts of unworthiness and the like.
If you are tormenting yourself please know that I have more love and kindness at my disposal like never before and I am open to sharing this with you.
if you would like to have a conversation with me about your grief then please be in touch. in exchange i offer you a simple session of Havening®. If after this you identify that you require sessions then we can go on to organise those as well.
With gentleness and kindness
When Appreciation may trump Sadness
I have found that instead of searching for happiness at the end of the day ie recalling happy events in a journal that may have occurred waking up and moving through my day instead I begin, middle and end my day with appreciation and often while Havening®.
As I wake up the first think I see I tell it I appreciate it.
–Hello sunshine, I appreciate so much that you have risen today.
–Hello toothbrush do you know how much I appreciate that someone has gone to so much trouble to design you, build you, market you and once I’ve payed for you send you to me so that I can use you to clean my teeth?
–Oh fridge, where would I be without you keeping all this food cold and ready for me to eat when ever I feel like helping myself – and so on.
Are you getting the picture?
It is all too easy to be swamped by sadness and feel as though you will never surface. I believe that in the initial stages of grief, once the shock has worn off, sadness envelops us and becomes a comfort blanket that can be hard to crawl out from underneath of.
You have heard me talk about our amygdala, Amy. (See previous posts if you are new to this page). If you have a dialogue of sadness running on a loop Amy will show you more sadness.
She is listening all the time and as she doesn’t engage in conversation as we do with each other, more in pictures and sounds, touch and sensations, smells and taste. By practicing appreciation for the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, touches and tastes we experience Amy will show more of what you appreciate. You see Amy is about survival. The flip side of this is she is also about resilience and our ability to adapt.
So when I find myself thinking of Ted I could easily be swamped by melancholy and find the tears flowing. By focusing on my appreciation of my second born son and everything he brought into my life (and still does) I quickly find that my mood has lifted and instead if tears i am smiling, appreciating instead of saddening.
As with any other form of exercise gaining fitness with your brain, just like with your body, takes time and practice, determination and diligence.
With gentleness and appreciation
Have you ever considered that you could be a slave to your fears?
We can have fears of almost anything with some appearing to be totally irrational eg I have a friend who doesn’t wear anything that has buttons on it. She has what for many may appear to be totally crazy. What? A fear of buttons? Yes!
Would you consider that you are enslaved by your fears?
There is one fear that is well and truly exploited these days and that is FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. How is it so easy for marketers to create this FOMO?
Easy! Talk to Amy.
For those of you who have’t read any of my previous posts where I’ve spoken about Amy here’s a brief recap
- Amy is the name that we use in Havening® when we are talking about the amygdala and as you can see the first three letters of amygdala are a-m-y. Amy.
- Amy is one of the oldest parts of our brain and we share her with every animal and reptile on the planet. She is called pre-historic brain, old brain, primal brain, reptilian brain and I’m sure a few other things as well.
- Amy’s job is to keep you alive. She is all about survival and to this end she is on guard 24/7. No rest. No stopping. No shirking.
- Amy is 4x faster than the blink of an eye. That is one swift response, which when you are in danger is crucial for your survival.
- Amy does a great job at letting you know that she knows what creates fear for you and stress in your world because she has access to a part of your brain – working memory – that acts like a Google search for all the times you’ve experienced fear and she uses this information. Remember Amy believes that this is what keeps you alive. This is your survival brain, Amy, in action.
- Amy’s language is based on your 5 senses – Sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
- Amy is very open to any suggestion that may impede your survival. FOMO, anyone?
So, back to talking to Amy.
It is very easy to rouse Amy and set off the thoughts, feelings and emotions that create, worry, anxiety and the like. Easy? Yes. Because Amy is primed and ready for action 24/7. Have you ever woken from a nightmare? To Amy that nightmare is real and your body tells you it’s real by reacting to her reactions.
What to do about this so that the impact to your mental fitness isn’t detrimental?
Some fears are so deep rooted that it really is beneficial to seek the help of a trained professional to assist you in discovering what is at the root of your fear. I’m glad to say that in Havening it isn’t essential to pin point this as there are techniques in Havening that help regardless.
For some of you it is in the words of Susan Jeffers ‘Feel the Fear and Do it anyway’.
For others the bliss of a good nights sleep goes a long way to dialing down the effects of day to day encounters with fears. Hello delta waves.
Other things may include meditation, mindset training , breath work, journaling and the like, because so many of the things we fear are totally irrational and yet they create really uncomfortable sensations in our mind and body.
For me Havening Techniques® is my go to practice to calm Amy and boost my resilience and overall mental fitness. I have dreams/nightmares and wake with a pounding heart, shortness of breath and it’s Havening that helps me to create a softening of these sensations with speed and gratefulness as a safe space, a haven is created within.
if you consider that you have or had a fear of something or more than one thing what have you done, tried or are considering trying? How has this or might this benefit your mental fitness?
I’m interested in hearing about your experiences if you’re willing to share.
With gentleness and kindness
I wonder what you’re telling yourself about how well you’re doing?
Well I am happy to tell you that you’re doing just fine. Really you are.
I’ll bet that you’ve got yourself out of bed, washed and dressed. I call this a good coping result.
We all cope with adversity in our own ways. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves the acknowledgement for each day that adversity losses it’s hold and adaptation grows.
>did you get up today?
>did you brush your teeth?
>have you put your clothes on?
>have you fed your family?
Are you beginning to get the picture?
Coping can be grand gestures and it’s also about the things we do that we don’t acknowledge because they are habits from years of doing the same things. Coping is a survival mechanism until the pain of adversity subsides and the adjustment to resilience kicks in.
So, you will have good days and not so good ones when it comes to grieving.
Some days will feel like you’re wading through treacle and on other days you will notice that the sun shines and you will smile. I promise
You are not failing if you can’t quite get ‘it together’ and your thoughts are on the more shambolic end of the scale. You are doing your best under challenging circumstances.
How can you put your focus on growing your coping skills?
This is entirely personal to you of course.
Would any of the following help you?
*Physical activity eg a walk, dancing, yoga
*Making a date with yourself and including someone you can trust not to freak out if the tears fall if this feels good for you eg cinema, library, a quite corner of a coffee shop
*Check in with your emotional wellbeing eg I use Havening Techniques® here, or maybe journaling, looking at photographs, crying
*Creativity may call eg I draw my grief. My pictures aren’t art gallery worthy but they do something calming for me. Going forward I will be taking lots of Ted’s t-shits he wore as a teenager and sewing them into a quilt.
*Learning more about grief isn’t morbid it can be really helpful information to have eg for me reading is an extension of me. I have read so much on grief and loss recently that I now have such a library of information to call upon that I am well informed on what works for me and what doesn’t.
What do you know about coping after loss?
If you created a coping list what would you put on it?
Here’s to your resilience capacity, gentle playmate.
Extraordinary Grief Events or Experiences or Encounters are those moments when the presence of our deceased is experienced in some way shape or form. Researchers refer to this as ‘after death communications’.
It is said that these experiences or events bring a sense of comfort and relief to the mourner. They happen across all cultures and races.
I would like to say here and now if you have had one or multiple experiences like this you are not crazy. I used to think that I was which is why I say this.
While it doesn’t happen for everyone, for those of us who have these encounters we can be left with a sense of ease and calm as our deceased communicate with us that they are ok. For me it’s a sense of ‘presence’ and on many occasions Ted has been present in my dreams.
Other people or ‘perceivers’, as they are often referred to, talk of touch, smells, sounds, sights and even objects moving, all signs that although the deceased isn’t physically with us there are still channels of communication there.
‘I know that you are here. Different and yet still with me.’
Ted is most definitely here. I don’t see him, feel a touch from him or have experiences to do with smells and yet he is here.
The most profound experience I have had so far with Ted was the morning I woke up in March 2022 and I had two words swimming around me – Haven and Neuroscience – and I had that sense that we had been having a chat.
The word haven did not figure in my vocabulary. ie it wasn’t a word that I used, EVER! To be sure that I understood it’s meaning and I didn’t assume anything I looked it up – ‘a place of safety or refuge’ – which is what I thought it was. Well that’s nice I thought and I do love how neuroscience is showing us so much more about the brain and how it functions. Had Ted reached a safe haven?
The words wouldn’t leave me.
So I gave a cursory nod to the words in that I said to myself “Well, I do rent The Room above Chester Health Store, that has the sense of being a Haven”. That’s it. It’s about The Room.
And neuroscience? Well I’m always listening to the experts in their field and gleaning information. So that’s that bit. And I tried to dismiss any further interaction with these words.
As if to give me a kick up the backside, in the kindest possible way, a book, that I don’t recall ordering, and yet must have done, appeared from Amazon. This book had been written by a young woman, Linzi Meaden, ‘What suicide Left behind’, detailing the journey she was on with her brother’s suicide.
To help my brain re-orientate I was reading a lot. With some books I would get to the end and as I closed the book not be able to recall a single thing that I had read. My brain was scrambled. This book however I will never forget.
As I was reading Linzi’s account of her loss during the first six months of her suicide loss, she mentioned that she ‘self-havened’. The energetic pull that I had to this word was profound. Except, I didn’t see haven in the wording.
Havening. I read it as have-ning. I then went to Google, popped in self-havening and up came a course that was being held online in April 2022. I booked on not knowing a single thing about this self-have-ning that brought such calmness in turbulent times for Linzi.
It was only after I had booked on (and paid) that I looked into have-ning and when I heard how have-ning was pronounced ‘haven-ing’ I got it. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
It has been well over a year since this experience with Ted and also since I took my first Havening course.
To say that I am grateful that I am able to have these experiences and that they can be life changing is an understatement. I have had many such encounters over the years. Back in my 20’s when my sister died and she would ‘talk’ to me I really did think I was going mad and stifled any interaction she was attempting to have with me.
As the years have gone on I have opened up to energetic connections like never before and now they are a part of my life. No right or wrong, just what happens with me.
So how about you?
What if any of these type of events or experiences have occurred with you?
And remember you are not crazy, you are not going mad.
Here’s to our extraordinary experiences.
Long may they continue.
Many years ago now I was the most critical person of myself that I could possibly know. I judged and berated myself mercilessly. I just wasn’t good enough, looked good enough or did anything to a good enough level. Blah-blah-blah!
Hmmmm. Anyone else? Anyone else aware of that inner critic that gets her own way more than she should?
Can you imagine if another person spoke to you the way that the inner critic is allowed to?
The inner critic (and please note I’m not saying your inner critic and I will come onto this shortly) can be so damning, so hurtful and unkind.
So why do we listen?
It all goes back to how we are hard wired. Remember me talking about Amy our amygdala in previous posts? Well as we are wired for survival first and foremost, guess what? Part of that survival is the ability to judge and critically assess our landscape. We are hard wired to experience three negatives for everyone one positive.
The inner critic that lives rent free in my mind palace has a lot less room now than she used to have all thanks to the practice of ushering in self-kindness.
By treating the inner critic as something that is not me, that can be changed and that I have control over has lead to a much kinder version of myself emerging. I am always a work in progress and I always will be.
Rather than allowing the inner critic to run amok through my mind palace reeking all sorts of stress and overwhelm in her wake I practice self-kindness. This has become my go to form of self-compassion. I practice three positives for everyone negative
Self kindness is much quieter and gentler than self-criticism could ever be.
I offer that imperfect part of me a tenderness and warmth that has a self-soothing effect on my mind and body. Sometimes it’s a gentle chat with myself. Other times I self-care with self-Havening®.
When the inner critic appears dressed up as a drama queen I acknowledge her presence. To ignore her will lead to way more hurt and upset down the line. I gently confront my personal suffering, by journaling, drawing, colouring, self-Havening® and yet again by accessing the skills of a trained Havening Practitioner as sometimes it is hard to face the more exhausting and negative emotions that the drama queen exhibits.
By treating myself with kindness and awareness of the inner critic and all she has to say I am promoting my own mental fitness which in turn equals a wiser, happier me.
I wonder what it is you do when the self-critical drama queen comes calling?
With kindness and curiosity
I wonder when was the last time that you stopped in your garden (or anywhere) and used your 5 Senses to take note of what is happening around you?
I love to do this. It’s one of those games that is easy to play at any age and can be so calming for us to engage in.
What do you have to do? – I hear you asking
Stand still in a safe space, perhaps you have taken off your shoes to experience a connection with the earth if you are in your garden, although this isn’t necessary of course.
Sense Number 1 – Name 5 things that you can see or like to look at
Sense Number 2 – Name 4 things that you can hear or like the sound of
Sense Number 3 – Name 3 things that you can touch or like the texture of
Sense Number 4 – Name 2 things that you can smell or like the smell of
Sense Number 5 – Name 1 thing that you can taste or like the taste of
Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell are your 5 most basic senses.
By taking several seconds to connect with your surroundings in this way you may just bring some ease and calm to your mind and body.
I use this simple calming technique during some of my Havening Techniques® sessions with clients. It can calm an area of our brain, the amygdala,which is that part of us that is tuned into survival and stress, and can have us forgetting about ways we could play and restore our sense of calm and ability to flourish.
I’d love to hear from you if you choose to do this and how you get on with it.
With ease and kindness,
Drawing my Grief
In the months since Ted’s death, nearly 16 months now, I have found many of his wonderful and creative art works.
I look in wonderment at his skill with creating something totally unique and different.
One day recently I found myself unable to stay calm. I was agitated, for what appeared to be no good reason.
What to do? I was home alone. It was raining outside and I didn’t especially wish to go out and get wet. I sensed that that wasn’t going to elevate my mood.
So I looked around at what I could do rather than at what I couldn’t or didn’t want to do.
Cooking? – I was home alone and had more than enough food already prepared.
Knitting? – I sensed that I didn’t have the concentration for this.
Sewing? – I couldn’t settle on any specific one thing.
Netflixing? I know not a verb and yet how many of us turn to Netflix as something to do?
Colouring? – Hmmm! No there’s something I do enjoy. What to colour? I have many pens and pencils and colouring books for adults exploded on to the scene a so I have a fair few stacked on my book shelves. I settled down my box of pencils and postcards and began colouring in. Only I grew restless very quickly.
What next? My eyes fell on a sketch pad. Blank sheets of paper? What am I supposed to do with those? And yet I was drawn to this.
I picked up a colour and made a line on the page. Nothing specific, just a line. And then another and then another. Swirls of colour began to emerge. My breathing fell into a slow rhythm and before I knew it I had covered the paper in lines and yet more lines.
The ‘picture’ is hardly art gallery worthy. It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t depict anything at all.
When I stopped to critically look at it I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t all doom and gloom as I somehow had thought it would be. Yes there is black and grey in there and yet there is so much more than that. Colours that are more akin to a rainbow – symbol for me of awe and magic.
I also noticed that I had drawn tiny little T’s among the lines that almost look like fish scales. Was I on a journey with Ted when I was in this drawing state? Maybe.
The point is, is that at a point of aloneness where I could have so easily sunk into a mood of despair I did something that created a lightness in my mood instead. I was able to have a ‘conversation’ with Ted about how his skills as a creative artist most definitely did not come from me and I recognised how this was a comfort for me.
So I ask you have you ever tried ‘Drawing your Grief’?
With so much kindness
I would like to acknowledge the journey with your grief that you are on.
Your journey is similar and yet very different to mine.
The shock, the stress, the pain, the brain fog, the emotions, the bewilderment are all valid for you and for me.
I wonder though just how often you acknowledge your abilities? – ability to get up every morning and get dressed; your ability to eat and drink; your ability to have conversations, sometimes painful and sometimes happier; acknowledge that you’re moving forward – not matter how slowly and painful this may be.
A simple definition of ‘acknowledge’ is “to accept that something is true”.
You may of course refuse to accept the truth of your loss and grief? I also wonder how many of you have pondered on why you don’t want to accept and acknowledge the truth of your situation?
Well, you have your brain, in part, to thank for that one.
Brain Maps – As we go through life our brains are recording the events that we experience. It creates maps of where we’ve been, who we’ve been with, how we reacted and responded, when these events were and why we were doing what we were doing and it will give us interpretations of what it knows.
When we experience loss and grief our brains become confused, for a while at any rate. Neuroscience has shown that our ‘brain maps’ show us what was and it takes time for the neuroplasticity of the brain and its cells, the neurons, to create new paths and roads – new maps.
Have you ever been on a long journey and in front of you is a new road with new road signs? When you look at your car’s sat-nav it shows you as though you are floating across a green field or a blue stretch of water and is likely ‘yelling’ at you directions that can no longer be followed. Both you and your cars’ sat-nav are momentarily confused. Your sat-nav may issue commands in it’s confusion to keep you on the ‘right’ track. Yet looking ahead of you you can see that there is a new road.
Your sat-nav isn’t wrong. He/she hasn’t been updated as to the new directions. You are not wrong for following the new road.
This is what loss and grief can be like.
On the one hand your brain shows you the map it knows – the map which sadly is now out of date.
On the other hand you know that there is a new road ahead of you – and this can lead to confusion.
An example I can give you is this, only a few weeks after my son died his fiancée had come to stay with us. We were sitting in the kitchen chatting and I kept looking around waiting for Ted to walk in. Hannah was here so where was Ted? My brains sat-nav was showing me what it knew, not what the current reality actually was.
Until your brain has created new neural pathways and updates your brain map it will continue to remind you of what was. This is not right or wrong as it takes time for your brain’s cells to catch up. This in part explains that confusion and brain fog that is experienced. American writer Joan Didion referred to this time of adjustment as ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’, a book she wrote after her husband had died. She refused to clear out any of his clothes or shoes in case he walked back in to their apartment.
If there is one thing I highly recommend at this time is that you acknowledge that it takes time for internal maps to catch up with the situation that you find yourself experiencing and to be kinder to you, whatever that looks like for you and your abilities and capabilities now more than you’ve ever been willing to before. .
Acknowledging you with kindness and caring
One of the things I get up to when I’m not seeing individual clients is ‘Enrichment Networking’.
Enrichment Networking is the joint project of myself and Sami Blackford. One day I’ll share with you how this came into being.
The reason why I mention Enrichment Networking is that at the last meeting every single woman around the table had experienced loss. So much of this loss related to the Covid period.
This is what the list I wrote down sounds like –
Loss of …
… body confidence
… business (with total hair loss as a result of the stress of this)
… elderly relatives
… family identity
… personal health
… support from friends
… connection to self
… connection to inner resilience
… inner calm and serenity
… ease and freedom
… self gratitude
… simple steps or even the next step
… children in the form of empty-nest.
What every woman in this group identified was that in order to re-connect with their true selves they required professional help.
When seeing a practitioner this is your time to do a deep dive into how your loss has affected you.
After Ted died as well looking after myself as I did I recognised that I needed to be with someone, a practitioner, who could help me, especially when I couldn’t speak through my tears, and hold the space of safety and calm. I did this with a Havening Techniques® Practitioner.
My suggestion is this – if you know that you’re brain is scrambled and having difficulty making sense of what has happened to you find someone you can relate to and book a session with them.
It is very difficult to do a deep dive by ourselves as we can so easily side step the truth of our emotions and the effects that they are having on us heart, mind, body and soul.
Please – be kind to you and seek the help you need.
One of the things I have noticed when folks talk about grief is the suggestion about ‘purpose’.
There is no doubt that loss, adversity and grief can be motivators for many to create something long lasting in the world that brings meaning to suffering, eg starting a charity or a movement for change in some way.
But I want to say this – ‘Be the purpose that you wish to see in the world.’
What the heck am I going on about here?
After Ted died this all embracing sense took over my body/mind – I had to look after myself so that I could be there for the rest of my family.
I was my own purpose. I looked after myself ON purpose.
I knew what it was like to be a sibling and experience the death of a sister. I wanted to be able to comfort my own children as they grieved for their brother, in their way. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t look after myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
My sonTed was one of the kindest souls to ever walk this earth and I decided that a purpose I would carry out was being as kind as I could be for myself so that I could radiate this kindness out to my husband, children, extended family, friends and in business. My purpose hasn’t changed to anything bigger or grander than this. Who knows, this may change in the future.
Right now I am my own purpose. Looking after myself, having my own back, supporting myself in any way that appears appropriate is the kindest way I can be on purpose at this moment in time.
So, will you be the purpose that you wish to see in the world?
What are your thoughts about purpose?
With so much kindest to each and everyone of you.
Turn on your resilience tap
There’s no doubt in my mind that being resilient 24/7 is difficult, if nigh on impossible. Well it is for me in this moment.
Confusion has disrupted my focus: bitter has tainted the taste of the sweetness of life: stress most definitely hoodwinks me and my resilience suffers.
I know that for the longest time I was tuned into believing that other people were right and I was wrong on so many levels. I was tuned into believing things that created stress in my world and even when I wished to change I didn’t have the tools and techniques that stopped the stress barrel from overflowing. I didn’t know where my resilience tap was, let alone how to turn it on.
Fast forward to today and the skill stacking that I have done in order to keep my resilience tap open and the stress in the barrel as low as possible at any given time.
In my last long post I mentioned that to move forward with loss and adversity we have to remind ourselves that we have choice. How do we do this? Simple, with curiosity and questions.
Here is a selection of some of the questions that I ask myself when I get curious –
1. What if I were to get curious about [ ‘this’ ] right now? (‘This’ may be tears or a sensation in my body eg palpitations)
2. What am I imagining is real right now that actually isn’t? (I may be imagining a conversation with Ted that never happened and I wish it had, and guilt is the resulting emotion)
3. How activated is ‘Amy’ in this moment? (Usually very activated)
4. What has triggered this stress response? (I may have no logical answer to this one)
5. What is going to help me turn on the resilience tap here? (Going for a walk? Watching an episode or more of Friends? Havening Touch®?)
6. What if I were to speak to myself with infinite kindness the way I would a dear friend? (What might that sound like? spend some time with this and perhaps journal or write myself a letter)
7. What if? (Add in a question with a positive bias)
So, when your stress barrel is over flowing how about you get curious about why this is happening and start to turn that resilience tap on?
With kindness and resilience
What is resilience and where can I get some?
There are many variations on the definition of resilience and they primarily boil down to our ability as humans on this planet to adapt to our experiences of stress, trauma and adversity.
Once upon a time, as with so much in life, it was thought that you either had resilience or you didn’t. You either coped well in the face of stress and adversity or you didn’t.
Thankfully with the advent of neuroscience and neurobiology studies it is being shown by these wise and wonderful research men and women that no matter the resilience capacity we are born with we can all develop the skill of resilience if we pay attention and work with intention.
This life we experience can be many things, not least of these things are the challenging awful and demanding times. And yet there are also the beautiful. joyful and magnificent times that we have to remind ourselves off.
Resilience is a skill that can be taught, learned and cultivated. We don’t have to put up with what appears to be our lot in life. We can change. With intention, with diligence and with tools and techniques such as, Havening Techniques,® mindfulness, breathing techniques and so much more, we can reduce our stress and build our resilience no matter the circumstances we find ourselves facing.
By becoming aware of how to build our personal resilience we can move forward at a pace that works for us, works alongside the circumstances and challenges we face and situations we find ourselves in.
And guess what? Yes, we have to mention Amy, our amygdala here. Remember from previous posts that our brains are primed to be vigilant in order to survive?
Teaching and learning resiliency is about personal agency. And agency is about our ability to do something in ‘this’ situation, whatever that situation maybe that we find ourselves facing.
Each of us has had a similar yet different life. Our brains, and Amy, have developed their own way of responding to the life we’ve lived and are choosing to live in this moment.
Neuroscience has shown that we can re-sculpt our brains, re-route our brain cells, our neuroplasticity, so that we get to live a more resilient life. Now how does that sound?
For the rest of this month, March, I will be bringing you more on resiliency, agency, snippets from books, quotes, Youtube and so much more that I am certain will assist you in building your own personal resiliency.
Where you’ve come from is only part of the story. Where you wish to go and how you wish to get there is also important. We can move forward with loss and adversity when we remind our brains that we have choice and we do this with the power of curiosity. More on this next week.
With adaptability and resilience
What am I referring to here?
This is that space any of us could find ourselves in following loss and grief, where there can be a profound lack of interest in our life carrying on. We simply lose interest in day to day activities. We don’t care about things that used to be part of our reality.
When my sister died, she was 18 and I was 23, I thought I was going insane with my thoughts. i was a young nurse and I didn’t care about being part of the caring profession because my grief was so painful. I would quite literally block my sorrows at every opportunity believing that this was coping and coping well.
I was in fact resisting the change to a new reality with out her and going out and getting blotto’d with anyone who fancied joining me most nights and some days. I now know so much more about the brain and grief. Oh how I wish I had had this information back then.
One way that we can help ourselves is to acknowledge our need to cry and to retreat. We are after all grieving and there is a place for our tears like never before.
Then we ‘effort’. We bring ourselves into the present moment and make the effort to perform a task. This task can be anything from a few seconds to a few minutes and eventually longer. These days we call this mindfulness.
We have to help our brains make sense of the new world we are now in, alongside the grieving process for the old world that has been shattered.
Even when we are at work we can use this oscillation process. Feeling overwhelmed? Try tidying up your paper clips in that moment (or something else mundane) and your brain will come on board inside of continuing to wallow in inertia and sorrow.
This process is referred to as oscillation or the Dual Process model. (Stroebe and Shut)
It takes time to move forward and gain a sense of a brain that is working with us and not against us. I would say that my brain is 80% of the way there since Ted has died because of things I know how to implement. I can still be hijacked by ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’, and I get curious about what resistance may be in place here.
So, I wonder what has helped you with your grief?
If you have experienced mourners resistance and lost some part of you in this process we call grief what has helped you recover a sense of yourself and helped you to move forward with your grief?
With love and kindness
Beautiful Being, it is safe for you to come out of the corner and to test the choppy waters, the oh so choppy waters at times, of moving forward with your grief and loss.
Beautiful Being, my heart overflows with love and compassion for you as you navigate your voyage with your grief.
Beautiful Being, please know that I care about you and the next unsteady step that may be about to take in this new reality you find yourself immersed in.
Beautiful Being, I am here with you on this journey.
With kindness and caring for all that you are going through
Havening Techniques ®
Worry. Anxiety. Over thinking everything.
This is Amy in action.
Our personal Amy is constantly scanning our environment for potential threats. She can’t help herself. It’s what she does.
directlyShe never sleeps. She is on survival duty 24/7.
This is great when we live in a cave and a bear decides she wants to live in the same cave after eating you. Alert!
This is not so great when all we crave is a good nights sleep so that we can wake up refreshed in order to go to work and dare I suggest, actually enjoy our day?
You know the saying ‘90% of the thoughts you are having right now are the same as the ones you had yesterday’. This is Amy in action and she is gathering evidence for the survival case and she’s not afraid to let you know.
There are many stress relieving modalities available and the one that has improved my stress, anxiety and overwhelm is Havening Techniques®
Havening® speaks directly to Amy and calms her down through the use of delta waves and how our brain cells respond to these particular waves or electrical currents.
Delta waves are simple to generate by the use of Havening Touch®, the gently, caring and calming touches that are applied to face, upper arms and palms of hand.
Try self-Havening for 5 minutes while concentrating on your breathing. Amy will constantly interrupt your focus. Gently yet firmly re-focus on the caressing moves and your breathing.
With ease, kindness and self-Havening
If you would like to know more about Havening and if this may help you then please be in touch with me.
Alternatively for more information about Havening Techniques® check out www.havening.org
This time last year it was 27 days since my second born son had died by suicide.
No one really new what to say to me. Facebook was eerily quiet. I bought my own chocolates and smiled and cried. The following day was my sons funeral.
Mixed emotions doesn’t quite cover it.
This year I have no idea what will happen.
I know that for myself I will be curious about my mind-body state. I will take care of me and gift me a birthday that has kindness running through it.
So, I’m wondering what have you done for yourself on a birthday or anniversary after the death of your loved one, or after the loss of a family pet or after the loss of something you held very dear?
With kindness, always
Stress and Trauma
Experiencing any form of stress and trauma can put our personal Amy (amygdala) into overdrive.
Amy will constantly remind you of the trauma in any way she can. This is because this is her way of keeping you safe. It’s all she knows how to do.
Great job Amy!
Except when it’s not and her constant reminders begin to impact our ability to live our life
Not knowing how to stop Amy’s narrative can feel so debilitating and begin to feel like a hammer blow to our confidence.
After any loss, of your person, of your animal, of your thing e.g. job, health, relationship, it can be all to easy to hear Amy and what she is saying – remember she thinks she is keeping you safe – only we find ourselves overwhelmed, not sleeping at night and we begin to believe the stories of hopelessness that go round in our heads.
I would like you to know that it doesn’t have to be like this. It is possible to calm Amy down. Amy’s role is survival. She has no awareness of quality of life.
It’s possible to calm her down because there are tools and techniques that can be used to change our brain cells, our neurons and their neuroplasticity and this can be achieved with Havening Techniques®, as just one example.
I know I’m talking a lot about this this week and this is because fear, anxiety, stress, overwhelm, worry affects our day to day lives.
It has been said, by wiser people than me, that 90% of our present moment is impacted by our past. As Dr Ron Ruden, co-founder of Havening Techniques says, and has a book with the same title, ‘The Past is Always Present’ .
Amy has great awareness when it comes to threats. Unfortunately she doesn’t have a relationship with time. She will do whatever she considers she has to do to protect her person – You.
Amy may be perceiving threats. She sends out the alarm signal. Unfortunately the threat she is reminding you off happened years ago i.e. they are not real in this present moment. But by golly they can feel real.
The aim of the work I offer is that you learn to decipher her warning alarm bells in this present moment so that you can create ‘actionable’ resilience in your day to day life.
With ease and kindness
If you would like to know more about Havening Techniques® you could message me and we could arrange a chat session about this.
You could also check out the Havening website, www.havening.org
There is a part of our brain called the amygdala.
In Havening Techniques® we refer to this structure as ‘Amy’.
– Amy is doing her best to keep you safe.
– Amy is a very ancient part of our system.
– Amy is also referred to as our reptilian brain or our prehistoric brain. We share her with every other reptile and animal on the planet.
– Amy is wired for survival.
– Amy can be very insistent with her brain chatter.
– There are ways to calm Amy down so that we can do more than survive, we can thrive and learn resilience.
One of these ways is with Havening Touch®
Havening Touch is gentle, simple and oh so effective at melting stress and bringing calm and ease to your body.
With kindness, Denise x
I’ve been wondering recently if on some level we are taught to hide our grief and why this might be?
Is it because
– showing grief is a sign of weakness?
– that to show our grieving selves is too vulnerable in some way?
– that it will mean that people will begin to avoid us?
– that we think that no one wants to be around someone if they’re going to cry?
– something else?
Another year without you Ted.
I wonder what this year will hold?
For me there won’t be any BIG resolutions.
For me I didn’t expect to break my shoulder last year.
I didn’t expect to have flu over Christmas.
So no big new version of me. Same me. Different year.
I will continue to put one foot in front of the other.
I will continue to make sure that my grief isn’t all consuming.
I will be making sure that I don’t lose myself to the self-pity that threatens to engulf me at times.
I will continue to have good days and not so good ones.
The ebbs and flows of grief will continue. I’d be daft to think otherwise.
I do want to let you all know that ‘Christmas Kindness’ has resulted in over £500 donated to Shelter. Money from us, money from family, an unexpected refund, Christmas Kindness comments and gift aid. Small amounts that create something bigger.
So on a daily basis I will be curious, kind, peaceful, creative and generous.
How about you?
How will you be in 2023?
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