Author: Ludmila

Beyond Words: Body-mind healing practices

How words help us

Body-mind healing practices don’t form part of conventional counselling and psychotheraphy. Western therapeutic approach to helping our turbulent minds and souls is traditionally based on talking. And, of course, the ability to comprehend and express ourselves in words is an integral part of our experience as human beings.

Through telling a story we give shape to our reality and also give it a meaning, which is extremely important. At difficult times when meanings escape us we find ourselves floundering and being plunged into chaos. Then talking to someone who is ready to listen empathetically, with interest and without judgment can be immensely helpful as little by little words streaming freely and seemingly randomly begin to weave the fabric of new meanings.

Words also help unburden our mind of what had been stored there, so we often feel lighter and freer after having talked of what had been troubling or upsetting us. We can then begin to see things differently and more clearly and come across new unexpected solutions.

The limits of the talking-based approach

There are many creative things one can do with words, including writing this blog post. However, what I found in my therapeutic work and in my life is that no one approach is enough. Every approach has its benefits and its limitations. So it’s good to have a number of them under your belt to be able to pick and choose as feels right for the moment.

The limitation of the talking-based approach is that it keeps us in the upper layers of our consciousness. We can come to understand a lot of things rationally, but on the deep emotional level we would still feel the same and continue to be triggered by the same situations. This is where diving into the deeper strata of psyche, which are rooted in the body, can be helpful.

Beyond the words: talking to the body

When we want to affect the shift at the root level we need to learn a new language: we need to learn how to talk to our body. It may sound as a fancy metaphor, but actually it’s almost literally true because we still use words but they come from a different place, as our active daily mind relaxes and ‘sinks’ deep into our body. In this state our consciousness begins to expand and the answers flow back and forth between the conscious and the unconscious mind. And thereby they become integrated by the nervous system effortlessly, one step at a time.

The relationship between the human mind and the human body continues to be a sphere of mystery, less studied by scientists even than the Moon or Mars. Indeed how do we explain the cases of sportsmen, for example, who fully recover after some terrible spine injury,  returning to their sport having been told they would never walk again? I believe that these people have incredible ability to connect with their bodies and sustain this connection, without allowing it to lapse. Thus they mobilize all the healing powers of the organism, turning the brain’s ‘controls’ on to the healing regime so that it pumps the body with all the hormones, enzymes and whatever is required for production of the regenerating tissue.

While I haven’t had any such dramatic occurrences in my own practice, I do have the joy and privilege of being both a witness to and a participant in some very uplifting, transformative experiences that happen on a regular basis. And I would like to share with you a couple of such stories (names have been changed). I work a lot with EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping, but also use a number of other active visualization techniques (sometimes involving movement) to help bridge the gap between the mind and the body, the conscious and the unconscious.

Jill: Undiagnosed stomach pain

Have you ever given much thought to the bodily idioms that we use, such as: “carrying a burden on your shoulders,” or somebody being a “pain in the neck.”  They’re more than just metaphors – they often correctly identify the part of the body affected by the distress, and the sort of pain that comes from trying to contain that distress. Emotional pain when it finds no outlet translates itself into physical pain and lodges itself into our bodies, turning – as the time passes – into a chronic condition. It takes some skillful detective work together with with patience, courage and perseverance to release it from its ‘nest’.

Such pains are often resistant to medical treatments because of their emotional roots. Thus Jill came to me with persistent abdominal pain that was particularly sharp in the mornings. She had been through all kinds of medical checks and examinations, which revealed nothing. She had been given pain-killers and told that she would need to take them for the rest of her life. She also tried acupuncture and homeopathy, but with no success either. She came to me because she heard of EFT and found my website.

It took us only a couple of sessions to uncover that the origins of Jill’s abdominal pain seemed to be in her relationship with her mother. Growing up Jill used to be afraid of her mother’s volatile unpredictable moods. She remembered getting stomach cramps when hearing her mother’s steps on the staircase. This was not a healthy safe, loving, supportive environment for the child to grow and now, in her mid-40s, Jill still struggled to establish proper boundaries with her mother.

There was a whole mixture of emotions: fear, resentment, guilt, anger. As we worked through them, talking and tapping and locating them in the body her abdominal pain began to diminish and within a couple of months it was almost entirely gone. Then we did a round of tapping and asked her body whether it was ready to release the remnant of the pain. Surprisingly, the response came: “No.” And the reason was: “I need a reminder – to keep the boundaries with my Mum.”

And this is a very interesting phenomenon: pain that we experience doesn’t necessarily have to be our curse or punishment. Sometimes it can be our protector, our shield or guardian. It disappears fully only when we feel safe for it to do so and thus release it from its duty.

Ada: turning logs into snakes and aversion into confidence

Ada came to me in distress over a meeting she was supposed to have with a colleague, whom she found uptight and rather difficult. She had a few days left before the meeting and her mind was already preoccupied with it, consuming a lot of her nervous energy. So we decided without further ado to explore the nature of her distress and, if possible, neutralize it. We didn’t do tapping on this occasion, but instead, after preliminary guided breathing and relaxation I asked Ada (sitting with her eyes closed on my couch) to imagine her colleague in front of her and to become aware of the resonance it produced in her body.

Ada said she felt as if a log was stuck in her throat. A fairly big dry peeling log, with a rusty nail in it. It was impeding her speech, making it difficult to breathe and the nail was scratching her throat. She said it reminded her of some situations at school as a young girl when she felt highly awkward and uncomfortable. We spoke about these early experiences for a bit and then I asked her whether she would like to remove the log from her throat. She was eager to, so we thought of a possible way of removing it. Could it be transformed into something else perhaps? After a brief moment Ada said ‘yes, it could be turned into a snake.’ We sat for some minutes in silence as Ada was performing her shamanic transformational act and me waiting, holding the space. After a while I ventured to ask how it was going. Ada reported that the log had turned into a snake and the snake had crawled away, leaving her throat clear and free. She didn’t think much about the forthcoming meeting after that and when the day came she felt confident and grounded.

Beginners’ tips to body-mind awareness

These are just a couple of examples of how creative body-mind work can improve our physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Our inner healer – when we tap into it – can help to alleviate insomnia, polymyalgia and various chronic conditions as well as to overcome the fears of exams, anxiety, of our limiting beliefs, and much more. The more I witness it, the more I feel in awe of the wisdom of the body.

In order to become more in tune with your own body and learn to communicate with it better, try this simple practice. Choose a quiet place to sit and make sure nobody interrupts you for some 10-15 minutes (or more, if you want!). Relax your body, taking a few gentle slow breaths in and out, and then scan your body for various sensations/feelings in different parts. These can be either physical or emotional sensations. If some physical sensation clearly stands out (e.g. constriction in your chest) you may attempt to link it to what is going on for you emotionally at the moment. And vice versa: you may start from connecting with your emotions and then proceed to identifying them in your body.

This simple mindfulness exercise, if practiced regularly, is very effective in quieting the mind’s chatter, promoting self-awareness and helping us become more grounded and rooted in our bodies, as we become more connected throughout our being.

Reprogramming your brain: 9th World Tapping Summit

Spring greetings to my readers!

Sorry for not being in touch for a while. Things have been rather busy in my life and work lately and I fell behind with my monthly blogs. I promise to amend this in the near future, but in the meantime I want to draw your attention to one very good free online event: the 9th Annual Tapping World Summit:

http://www.thetappingsolution.com/2017tws/reg/afpd/new-access.php

As you may know EFT tapping is one of the very effective tools that help us ‘rewire’ our brain, get rid of unhelpful habits and thought patterns, heal our bodies and thus improve our lives. This is possible because our brain possesses the quality of neuroplasticity and if we find the way of communicating with it in the right manner all kinds of amazing things become possible. EFT tapping is one such ‘language.’

The Tapping Summit runs from 27 February to 10 March, with two presentations every day (that also contain tap-along sessions). Replays are available for 24 hours. To register and catch up on the first day (including science behind EFT: interview with Dr. Dawson Church) go here:

http://www.thetappingsolution.com/2017tws/reg/afpd/new-access.php

With warmest wishes,

Ludmila

From the therapy room: Freeing the inner child

NW-child2

Although I mostly work with adults, much of my work concerns children. Yes – children of all ages – toddlers, shy pre-schools, unruly sulky teenagers. These children come to me hidden within adult bodies and desperately needing help. I already wrote more than once about the importance of healing your inner child to set yourself free to lead a happier and a more fulfilling life as an adult. You may check out:

Healing our inner child

Redeeming the sparks or Children frozen in time

Recognizing Childhood Trauma

This blog post, however, is extra-special, as here I hand over to one of my clients who tells about a transformational encounter with his inner child that happened during one of our sessions. We used a technique that I call ‘time-travelling’ and that I found to be very effective in rescuing lost children (and lost adults!). It is a very moving and powerful story and I am grateful to the author for sharing it with us.

Let the sand flow!

For many years I was creatively blocked, as if something was frozen within me. When people talked of “feelings”, I had no idea what they meant. It was like a foreign language. It was if they were all in the normal world together, and I was isolated, having somehow missed that day at school. Looking back now it seems as if something was struggling within me, like a bird beating against a cage wanting to break free. But setting it free was frightening. The conflict produced terrible headaches that stopped me in my tracks, forcing a movement in a new direction, and eventually, very reluctantly, prompted by an osteopath, I decided to try therapy. It turned out to be an incredible journey for me, still unfolding, but I won’t talk about it all today. I want to talk about one little episode to which I kept returning over and over again through many sessions.

One day at school (I must have been about 4 or 5) I’m in a sand pit with some friends. We’re throwing the sand around, and I take a cup, fill it full of sand, and pour it over my ears. I’m amazed at this experience. It feels so wonderfully pleasurable, the smooth flow of the sand, almost like water, but more exciting in its sense of material weight pressing in, the warmth enclosing me, and every moment of the flow so fascinating in its own way. I can feel every individual grain of that sand – each one is different, unique, itself, felt so sensitively – and yet it’s all still  connected, all one, simple and easy. I can’t let go of the feeling all day. Can’t wait to get home to my Mum and Dad so I can share this wonderful thing, this brilliant new secret I’ve discovered with them. As soon as I get in the door, I tell them in a rush, so excited I can hardly get the words out.

In the silence that follows it slowly begins to dawn on me that something is not quite right. Then I notice my father’s grim face and my mother’s eyes wide with fear.

“You were pouring sand over your… ears? Let me look at them.” She gets hold of me, pushes away my hair and twists my ear rather sharply, causing me to gasp in pain.

“Do you realise you could have damaged the inside parts – they’re very delicate – and become deaf for your whole life?” says my Dad. “You never think, do you? Nothing matters to you, you’re so irresponsible.”

Mum looks away from me, almost tearful, and so very disappointed, as if our world has collapsed. “Make sure, you never do it again.”

After this the sand instantly transforms from a thing of joy and beauty to one of stressful anxiety and danger. And with that a nagging crippling fear enters my heart. It is a fear of letting go to the creative flow within me, something of my very own, just experienced simply for its own pleasure.

“Are you seeing that sand pit now?” The voice of the therapist reaches me.

“Yes, I do,” I reply.

“And the little boy, is he still there?” says the therapist.

“Yes, he is there .. he looks rather sad .. and alone..”

“Why don’t you talk to him?” urges the therapist.

“What do you mean?” I simply don’t know how to do this.

“Go and talk to him!” she coaxes.

“And what shall I say?” I need my lines worked out in advance, I always have.

“Don’t worry about that .. just talk to him, he needs you.”

The therapist wants me to dive in and connect, take a risk. The boy sits listlessly in the sand pit, absently trailing his hand through the sand. I approach, and stand watching, my mind frozen with confusion. It’s hopeless.

“I don’t know what to say to him.”

The therapist reassures me. “You do, look, he is so sad ..”

I decide to at least have a go. “Hello.” The boy mutters something, looking away. “How are you?” No response from the boy. “Look, it’s alright to play with the sand, but you must be responsible ..”

The therapist intervenes. “Is that how you talk to a child!?”

The hopelessness bubbles up. “I don’t know how to talk to a child!”

The therapist replies. “You do!”

I kneel down to the child’s level, at the side of the pit, and start trailing my hand in the sand like he is doing. “It’s nice isn’t it?”

The boy mutters “I can’t …”

I reply “You can’t do what?”

The boy looks away again “Play …”

I escape back to the therapist. “But I can’t tell him it’s alright, it’ll damage …”

The therapist still refuses to give me my lines, trusting me to do it on my own. “Just connect with him, communicate…”

I turn back to the boy, with a bit more confidence. “Ok .. what’s the matter?”

The boy replies “I can’t …”

I continue to trail my hand in the sand, mimicking his movements. I try and connect. “You know, it’s so nice … I like playing with the sand, I’m always doing it …”

Something is changing in me now, I’m getting him, this boy — I’m somehow with him, on his side, sensing a leap I might take.

The boy looks briefly hopeful, but then shuts down. “Adults don’t play.”

I more boldly pour the sand, higher up my arms and on to my neck. “I do.”

The boy is shocked. “You can’t do that!”

I continue to pour the sand, with obvious calm enjoyment. “Why not?”

The boy becomes tearful. “I did it, poured it all over me once, it was lovely .. but they say I can’t.”

I slowly move my hand towards him and tip some sand gently down his upper arm. “Who says?”

The boy replies. “Mum and Dad.”

I gently ask. “Why not?”

The boy whispers. “It’ll damage my ears, I was bad …”

I slowly move my hand full of sand up to his ear, and let a little trickle down it. He flinches slightly, but feels the pleasure again. “Look, isn’t it lovely?”

I then trickle sand over my ears as well. “You can’t .. adults don’t ..” the boy says.

I continue to steadily trickle the sand over our ears. “I do”, I tell him.

The boy is unsure, but doesn’t move away. He’s sensing the initial thrill the sand gave him, once again.

I feel I’m getting it now, really connecting. “They don’t understand about sand, about play,” I tell him.

The boy sadly acknowledges this now. “No ..”

We hold each other with a calm and warm eye contact. “That’s alright,” I say quietly.

The boy is still unsure. “Is it?”

I feel I’m truly with the boy now, feeling with him effortlessly. “They just don’t get how lovely it is, like we do”, I tell him.

The boy smiles. “No.”

We now begin to tip the sand over our ears and bodies with increasing abandon. I tell him. “I do it every day, it’s beautiful.”

He stares at me in wonder. “Do you really?”

I feel strong and sure. “Yes! I even carry a big can of sand with me in my rucksack, so I can do it anywhere I happen to be! And I’m not deaf!”

The boy laughs, thrilled. “Will you come back and play with me again?”

I’m loving this now. “Yes, whenever you want.” And I know I will.

I feel so different after all this. Well, to put it simply, I do feel, at last. The adult me had liberated the boy from his frozen state — he’s stepped in finally, and healed the wound his parents had inflicted, by telling him not to trust the flowing ‘sand’ at his heart. This was about giving the boy back his power, and celebrating it. And I’d been freed up too. By allowing the boy to live and breathe fully within me, I’d also allowed the mature me to fully release the breath I’d been holding for so long, and start to stretch my wings. I’d told the boy this, and so made it ‘real’, so now it’s as if I always am carrying a can of sand, in my rucksack, always available, and safe, magical, easy, and flowing.

The sand was a powerful early experience of sensuous pleasure, which was quickly stamped out, labelled dangerous, meaning I came to shut it down, locking it tightly within. Later anything similarly big and pleasurable, like sex, became a problem. But now the boy and the man are together, far more, in all their experiences, through going back and re-visiting the sand pit, and having it out together. They’ve found each other once again, these lonely wanderers. Now they are available to each other, the boy and the man, at their most vulnerable times – the boy helping the man play, and the man giving the boy mature guidance — to keep the sand flowing. They relish the presence of each other now, each being bigger because of the unique and fascinating difference of the other, that they are intimate with, and have strongly included, but refuse to pin down and second guess. It’s basically a simple and strong love affair between the boy and the man, each letting the other off the hook for what they are, each giving the other free reign in every fresh moment. It makes life continually open and exciting, and magically rich.

At last I can start to calmly and fully enjoy each grain, each moment of my experience, as unique and incomparable, letting go and feeling it without anxiety. This contrasts with a frantic rush to a destination point I’ve been obsessed with, so I was never really living at all. In particular I feel this to be settling on a sexual level, where each moment of the experience becomes more normal and comfortable, as I give myself permission to fully be where I am and live it. This also liberates the climax, through it mattering less, to be all it can be, so the intense joy of it can flow more comfortably into everything. So I come to feel that all my experience, however mundane, has a sensuous pleasurable quality, as if now the sand never stops flowing. One cup of sand, continuously flowing, a whole thing. And yet its flow is actually made up of tiny individual grains, each fully felt as a unique moment, and so also separate.

Perhaps there are experiences like the sand in many of our early lives, lying frozen, ready for our return, so they can thaw, and flow once again.

It was terrible headaches that brought me into therapy. They haven’t gone completely yet, but they have definitely lightened and softened. Some of that old oppressive pressure has released, amidst a sense of cooling soothing flow – very like the early joyous experience of the boy in the sand pit..

Anger management? Befriending the Genii in the Bottle

Norfok-surfer

A ‘bad’ emotion

Of all the emotions branded as ‘negative’ in our society, anger probably occupies the position of chief villain. It should be banished, silenced, banned, locked behind the bars. Being angry is equal to being ‘bad.’ If your child shouts in anger in a public place, you freeze in fear that people may think you are a bad parent because your child cannot behave. Then, to shift that sense of blame and shame, you tell your child that he or she is a ‘bad boy’ or ‘bad girl.’ And thus the vicious circle goes on.

From early on we are taught to ‘behave,’ to be ‘proper’ in order to be socially acceptable and to fit into society – at all levels (family, school, work place, etc). As children we are usually reprimanded for expressing anger by being told off or punished in some way. Our parents’ facial expression changes and they speak in a harsh tone of voice. The message we take in is that our parents will withdraw their love when we are angry. So we learn to associate being angry with being bad or unlovable.

The fear of anger

Intense anger if unleashed can be very destructive, and we have an instinctive fear of its annihilating potential. Young children feel threatened on a visceral level when they are shouted at or hear their parents having a loud, angry argument. People who grew up with violent parents often develop deep-seated fear of anger, not only when coming from others, but also from within themselves. They suppress their feelings of anger and do everything to avoid provoking angry responses. As a result they run the risk of becoming ‘people-pleasers’ and subject to abusive relationships.

The problem with anger though is that it is a highly charged emotion that cannot be easily subdued. When we bottle it up, it continues seeking its way out, disrupting our life and wellbeing. It may seep out in small doses in the form of constant nagging, complaining, or  being grumpy and unhappy about everything. Or, if denied this outlet, it will sooner or later explode (turning against others) or implode (turning against one’s self) causing great harm and grief.

Fear is the attitude that governs our relationship with anger. Fear, however, is not a wise advisor as it prevents us from attempting to understand the thing or person we fear. And it is through understanding, I believe, that we can transform our relationships from destructive into constructive and productive.

So today I would like to invite you to suspend your judgment and together, from a safe distance, take a fresh look at anger and the ways of engaging with it.

Anger is a secondary emotion

What I discovered from working with anger in myself and in other people is that anger is a secondary emotion. Secondary in the sense that it always arises in response to some other emotion, usually some kind of hurt or distress. I had a long conversation about it with one of my clients and, as she told me later, she went home after the session determined to find an example of anger not arising from a hurt. I always appreciate when my clients challenge me and test my propositions against their own experiences. If a hypothesis survives this scrutiny we may consider it as a valid working hypothesis until proved otherwise. In this case my client turned over in her head a whole throng of instances when she felt angry and found behind each of them an underlying sense of hurt or distress.

What is useful about this realization and how it can help you deal with your anger without lashing out at others or at yourself?

As you probably know from your own experience, anger is quite a troublesome emotion. It throbs, burns and pokes us from inside. Now, instead of trying to suppress it, listen to what it is trying to tell you. Consider it as a herald clamoring for attention and demanding justice. We have been wronged! And our hurt needs to be acknowledged. You may be surprised, but as soon as the hurt is acknowledged the herald of anger lowers its blazing trumpet as it knows that we are dealing with the wrong.

Don’t believe it? Try it for yourself! Take a mundane example and think about what may be the underlying distress causing your anger. Let’s say your teenage son keeps throwing his dirty clothes on the floor instead of putting them in the laundry basket. In what way does it upset you? Is it your sense of order that is being offended? Or perhaps you are feeling helpless and out of control? Think about it and you will notice that your anger arises in response to these feelings.

Acknowledging the hurt is the first step in dealing with anger and this will usually help lower its intensity. When we start addressing the hurt on a deeper level and healing the old wounds, our anger subsides even further and eventually transforms – into compassion, a desire to change, and a desire to help others. It becomes a motivational force rather than a disturbing and destructive force.

Anger is a power

Contrary to the commonly-held perception of anger as negative, I believe that anger is neither good nor bad. It is a power, a super-charged energy. Similar to nuclear energy. Can we say that nuclear energy is bad? No, it all depends on how we use it and to what end.

Slavery wouldn’t have been abolished if people who fought against it hadn’t felt angry, because their sense of justice and fairness had been deeply disturbed. So they used this fuelling energy to address the wounds of the society and change what they felt was wrong.

I also like comparing anger to a genii that for hundreds of years was trapped in a bottle, seething there and vowing to destroy his captors and the whole world together with them if he ever got a chance. Imagine that you now open the bottle and liberate this raging spirit. He has a potential to devastate the world, but if you know how to talk to him it will make your wishes come true!

Learning how to harness the power of anger can transform your life and the lives of others.

And in order to do this we need to remember the following steps:

  • Release your fear of anger;
  • Acknowledge your anger;
  • Acknowledge the underlying hurt behind your anger;
  • Address the hurt and heal the wound.

The protective function of anger

Sometimes when I work with people on anger they come to a point when their anger is greatly diminished yet they are not ready to let go of it completely. When we enquire into the reasons for retaining their anger they often say: “I need it as a reminder, to protect me from falling again into the same trap/making the same mistake/getting hurt in a similar way.”

This is perfectly fine. It is not our aim to get rid of anger entirely. What we want to do is to establish a trusting, cooperative relationship with it. If you feel that you need to keep some of your anger to protect you – follow your gut feeling. And when you feel strong and confident enough to go on without his protection, you can thank the genii and release him from his service.

 

 

From the therapy room: Asking for help

Cambridge April 2008 074a

Are you feeling more comfortable giving or receiving? Can you ask for help when you are struggling to complete a task by yourself or need support?

In these reflections shared by one of my clients she considers the inner obstacles that may prevent us from asking help and suggests some ways of overcoming them.

***

Asking for help

So many people find it hard to ask for help, whether it be at home, at work or to do with their physical and emotional wellbeing. We seem so worried about what other people might think: maybe we aren’t capable; maybe we can’t cope. What if they see that we aren’t as good as they thought or what if we see that we aren’t as good as we thought.

Recently I had a conversation about asking others for help. The overriding question that came out of that conversation was ‘Why do we find it so hard to ask?’ It got me thinking… I asked somebody to help me decorate my flat earlier this year, but it was several weeks after realising that I was not going to be able to do it on my own. Why did I wait so long? Maybe I was afraid to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own, maybe I was afraid to admit that I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid to ask.

Perhaps we all have areas of our lives where we find it easier to ask for help and areas where we are afraid to ask for help. Even though it took a while for me to ask for help it was important that I did because I didn’t have all the skills necessary to complete the work. Maybe I was afraid to admit that to myself and so I remained unhappy with where I was living for longer than I needed to and that affected my mood. I was living with a negative feeling for a long time and it led to other behaviours that caused pain, impacted on my productivity and prevented me from being happy.

How can we get out of this vicious circle?

Maybe asking for help isn’t just about us. Could we think more about the person we ask? Think about what happens when someone asks you for help. Do you think “Why are they asking me for help?  They are so useless anyone could do that” or do you think “They have asked for help, this is obviously important to them and they think I can help, I must do all that I can to help”.

How do we feel when someone asks us for help and what goes through our heads? I think the first thing that happens is that is makes us feel good. We often feel flattered because the person who asks for help obviously sees us as someone who is capable of helping. Whether it be our skills, our encouragement or/and our enthusiasm. Secondly we want to do all that we can, we want to do a good job and we want to live up to expectations. Lastly, it reminds us that it is ok to ask for help.

It takes a lot of courage to admit that you need help but, instead of thinking just about how you feel, think about how you can make that other person feel. The good feelings are contagious and maybe you can learn a new skill, so why not ask for help today. It will be worth it for both you and the person you ask.