Category Archives: conscious living

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

Anger management? Befriending the Genii in the Bottle

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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.

 

 

Helping a friend in a dark place: Empathy and Sympathy

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One day, not too long ago I had a challenging but helpful conversation with a good friend of mine about empathy. It started from my phone call. I had been feeling a bit sad that evening, listening to the rain and to an old wound that came throbbing again, and so I rang her. We had a little chat, made sure that both of us were cozy with a nice cup of tea and had space to catch up properly. She told me about some highlights of her week and asked how I was. Encouraged by her invitation I reached out from my sad place and attempted to tell her about what was on my mind. Before I’d even finished my first sentence she interrupted me with a big sigh:

– Ok, we’ve been there before… I thought you’ve moved on.
– I thought you wanted to know how I felt…
– Sure, I am here, do talk…
– I am trying to talk but then it sounds like you are judging me and you don’t really want to listen.
– I am not judging you. I love you and I want you to be happy.

Have you ever had a similar dialogue with a friend? I am sure we all have at some point, and have experienced both sides of it. We are probably also in agreement that one of the most valuable things one can offer a friend is what we call ‘moral support’ in a time of emotional turbulence. Yet being there for a friend in need, in the way that is actually helpful, often proves rather tricky. When a friend starts talking to us about something painful for him or her, our immediate responses are usually of two kinds:

  • They contain evaluation/judgment (i.e. a statement that suggests that we know exactly where our friend is and – moreover – where they should be);
  • They contain advice (i.e. a ‘roadmap’ or rather a ‘shortcut’ for getting out of the place where he or she is and to the place where we think they should be).

These responses are not in the least helpful – we all know it from our own experience. Yet we keep offering them and, if challenged, say that they come from a place of love.

Now… are we being hypocritical? Do we only pretend that we care for our friends? And if not, then where indeed are our responses coming from?

More often than not they originate from our own discomfort. We don’t want to be dragged into and re-experience a dark place of helplessness, confusion, pain or uncertainty. So our system sends us a warning: ‘Don’t go there!’ And, responding to this warning, we try to pull or push our friends out of that place so that we wouldn’t need to stay there. The result is that our friends feel judged, misunderstood and left alone in their struggle.

What then can we do to help a friend in a dark place? Below I share a few pointers, which I hope you may find useful.

Trust

Our mind/psyche as well as our body has natural ability to heal. However, in order to heal they require environment conducive to healing. Thus if you are down with a flu you need to stay in bed for some time. If a bone is broken it is put in a cast that holds it, while still allowing the broken parts to re-grow. The same is with emotional malaise: a safe holding space creates an environment where the fragmented pieces of meaning can gradually begin to come together and rearrange themselves in a way that makes sense.

Understanding these processes helps to relieve our urgent panicky impulse to find a ‘solution’ here and now. It is a matter of trust. We need to trust a person’s ability to heal, which is their natural capacity. We also need to understand that healing process may take a while and that what makes sense to another person may be different from our own meanings.

Broken record

We often get frustrated hearing a friend going over the same thing again and again, which seems like a broken record. But more often than not it only seems so. What is really happening is that through repetition our mind is trying to come to grips with something that is difficult to grasp. It tries and slips and tries again. Eventually it will succeed, but this may take multiple attempts over a long period of time. When we understand that we can be more patient with our friends. We can relax and, by relaxing and letting go of our own anxiety, provide a firm hold for them in the midst of their raging storm.

A dark place is not a bad place

To a great extent, our difficulty with helping ourselves or helping a friend in a dark place stems from us associating difficult emotions with ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ emotions. And so we try to get away from them as quickly as possible by pushing them down, rationalizing them or finding a distraction. This is the most common and most gross misconception. A dark place is not necessarily a bad place. In fact, it may be well a ‘good’ place, if we think in terms of our personal growth. Yes, it may be difficult and uncomfortable, painful and scary. But there are hidden treasures to be found there, however improbable it may sometimes sound. And if a person seems to linger in that dark place it means they have a sense that there is something to find there. And we need to trust them. What they need from us is our reliable presence and our reassurance that they are not alone. Then they can feel safer and bolder in their exploration and find what they need more quickly.

Building up your resilience

You may agree intellectually with all that I have said above, but this knowledge is not enough if it is not substantiated by our own experience of navigating through the dark caverns and tunnels of our psyche. Indeed, how can we help a drowning person if we don’t know how to swim? And so, learning to be comfortable with our own discomfort, learning to stay with our difficult feelings and having an experience of receiving a right kind of support makes us more prepared for helping a friend.

If you feel that you cannot be there for your friend in the right way you may gently suggest that they seek help from a professional therapist. Not because something is wrong with them and they need to be fixed, but because a therapist may be better equipped to provide them with the safe holding space that they need.

Sympathy and Empathy

These two notions may seem very close and indeed they overlap to the extent that both presuppose an ability to feel for another person. Yet sympathy often entails over-identification, when we get swamped by the other person’s emotion and begin to feel as helpless and as desperate to get out as they are. Even as a therapist, it sometimes happens to me. I then find myself slipping into a ‘fix-it’ mode, trying to ‘rescue’ a person from what I perceive as a place of danger. Such a response from my side is usually felt as unhelpful.

Empathy has two main ingredients to it: an ability to imagine what it may be like for another person and an ability to keep a certain distance from what is going on for them. This detachment doesn’t mean coldness or indifference. What it means is that we can hold a wider perspective and can trust in our friend’s ability to find their own way. Empathy allows us to step into our friend’s dark place without being overwhelmed by it.

I started this blog post by telling you about an interaction I had with a friend of mine. Following our conversation she sent me a link to this video. It is a very good illustration to the things I spoke about. Hope you enjoy it and find it helpful!

Discover Emotional Freedom Technique – Free EFT tapping workshops in Cambridge

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EFT tapping is getting more and more known among people interested in holistic approaches to health which recognize the inherent and inseparable connection between mind and body.

EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is an extremely versatile tool that can be used both in therapy and for self-help. Here are just a few examples of the wide range of things where EFT can help:

  • Releasing stress;
  • Overcoming cravings and addictions;
  • Enhancing your meditation practice;
  • Enhancing concentration and creativity;
  • Alleviating depression;
  • Dealing with anxiety;
  • Relieving physical pain;
  • Healing emotional trauma;
  • Building up self-confidence.

The technical aspect of EFT is very simple. It involves lightly tapping with your fingers on certain acupressure/acupuncture points on your head and the upper part of your body. This is why it is nicknamed ‘tapping’ and is sometimes also called ‘acupuncture without needles.’ Yet its apparent simplicity is misleading and it’s not surprising that many people who have learned the basics of EFT from youtube videos or books come away disappointed and say that it doesn’t work for them.

EFT and mindfulness

The secret power of EFT lies not in mechanically applying the tapping. The key to its success is the ability to tune in – as fully as you can – to what is going on within you, on emotional, mental and physical level. And you need to stay tuned in for the whole duration of tapping. This is easier said than done because in our everyday life we are so overloaded with different tasks and activities that we are often hardly aware how we really feel.

When doing tapping work with clients, I often begin by inviting them to ‘locate’ their emotions in their body. We experience emotions viscerally, whether we are aware of it or not. Unlike thoughts, emotions never exist just in our mind, separately from our body. Old metaphors that speak of ‘broken heart’ or ‘carrying the burden on our shoulders,’ or getting ‘butterflies in your stomach’ are not just fancy phrases, but an accurate expression of complex neurological and physiological processes.

Emotions – like a shock wave – reverberate in our system. I like to compare them to a ‘Genie in a bottle,’ a genie that pounds on the narrow walls of its glass prison demanding to be released. If we don’t pay attention to our emotions, they become stuck and turn into deposits of pain in our bodies. How does this happen? Neuroscientists are still unable to give us an answer. But it happens nonetheless.

Scientific research on EFT

EFT helps to clear emotions trapped and stored in our bodies. Once the emotional ‘genies’ are convinced that we are no longer in need of their service they are only too happy to fly away. Our body can then recover and resume its natural functions.

Over recent years, quite a number of clinical studies have been conducted exploring the efficacy of EFT in treating different physical and mental health conditions, see for example:

www.theeftcentre.com/research

www.eftuniverse.com/research-and-studies/eft-research

An attempt has also been made to understand how exactly EFT works, from the point of view of neurology and physiology: www.thetappingsolution.com/science-and-research. It has been suggested that tapping appears to calm the amygdala – the area of our brain responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ reflex. The amygdala, in turn, operates in close conjunction with the hippocampus – another part of the brain, which is thought to be the centre of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system. Thus, calming the amygdala helps to ease the intensity of the emotions and disconnect them from memories.

However, as in general with the human brain, much still remains a mystery. And maybe this is not so bad, as it leaves room for excitement, experimentation and discovery…

The use of EFT in counselling

EFT has evolved out of TFT (Thought Field Therapy) developed in the beginning of the 1980s by American clinical psychologist Roger Callahan. Callahan, who had an amateur interest in Chinese medicine, was becoming increasingly frustrated with the slow progress and limited efficacy of traditional talking therapies, and one day – through either inspiration or desperation – he applied tapping on an acupuncture point for treating a patient with water phobia. This produced miraculous results and so started the ball rolling.

My experience concurs with that of Roger Callahan: though talking is essential and provides solid foundation for therapy, very often talking alone is not enough to bridge the gap between the body and the mind. Thus people sometimes come to me after years of counselling and still suffer from the same symptoms.

Tapping serves as a “knock-knock” to your body. It distracts the ‘rational mind’ and allows deep-seated emotions to surface so that they can dissipate. It also allows for communicating the knowledge stored in the ‘rational mind’ down to your body and vice versa. Once this interchange is established, things get moving and flowing, and the shift occurs.

Free EFT tapping workshops at CB2 café in Cambridge

Every first Sunday of the month I run free tapping workshops at CB2 café on Norfolk Street in Cambridge.

If you are interested and happen to be nearby you are very welcome to drop in. We start at 11am in the library upstairs. The first hour is a practical part, followed by questions and discussion over coffee.

Whether you are a complete newcomer to EFT or have already been tapping on your own, you would have something to discover at these workshops. They are fun, heart-warming and uplifting. Also group tapping very often creates a powerful resonance which helps you connect deeper with your self and with others.

There is no need to book your place in advance, but I would be grateful if you could drop me an email if you intend to come so that I know, approximately, how many participants to expect.

Look forward to meeting you! And feel free to drop me an email if you want to ask questions about EFT or to share your story.

With warmest wishes,

Ludmila

PS. Please connect with me on Facebook (Soultap Therapy) to stay in touch and receive updates, offers and other relevant information.

Can therapy really help to change your life? For anyone out there who is suffering and feeling hopeless

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In my previous blog I spoke about our deep-seated fear of change. Change, in many ways, is akin to dying since it entails ‘dying’ to our old beliefs, our old ideas and ways of being. But change is also about rebirth. Just as in fairy-tales and myths, where frightening monsters are faced and conquered, the descent into our own underworld equips us with the special powers, skills and knowledge needed to make changes in our everyday life.

Most people who decide to try counselling and psychotherapy (or EFT and other forms of therapy) express their doubts as to whether this would work for them. These doubts and scepticism are very natural, normal and healthy. Indeed, how would you know if therapy can really help to change your life? If you have been struggling with depression, anxiety, lack of confidence and relationship issues for a long time it may be difficult to imagine (even if this is what you want) how they can metamorphose into joy, contentment and fulfilment.

Embarking on a therapy journey does require a leap of faith and commitment. It is similar to growing a flower: it takes time, nurturing care, and patience for the seeds that you’ve planted in the earth to bring forth their shoots and eventually blossom. This growing process is subtle and changes can be almost imperceptible until they become visible.

Therapy is not an exact science. Its effectiveness is evidence-based, and from there you can take your faith: if it worked for other people it may work for you. Below I share a ‘real-life’ story told by a client of mine, a young professional woman, with whom I have worked for over two years. It just shows how much things can change, how one’s life can heal and unfold in wonderful ways. I hope you find it as encouraging and inspirational as I do.

For anyone else out there who is suffering and feels hopeless…

My journey in self discovery and healing started almost four years ago when I felt I had reached rock bottom and had almost become unable to do the most simplest of tasks let alone run a business or deal with the family and relationship issues that I was faced with.

I had trapped myself in such negative situations, thought processes and beliefs after suffering great losses, hurt and betrayal, that it felt like I was in a prison I’d never be able to escape from. I was no longer able to trust in the world and people, and had lost considerable hope and belief in myself. I couldn’t see a solution, yet was continually trying so many things to ‘improve myself’. My physical and mental health had become so weak and fragile I felt it would be next to impossible to feel ‘normal’ again and have ‘normal’ friendships and be able to cope with the challenges of life and a demanding career.

This is where I turned to therapy as my last resort. After an incredibly challenging year of conventional counselling I sought out Ludmila because I have heard that EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) was very efficient in helping people recover from trauma.  I will admit it took a tremendous amount of effort, dedication and perseverance on both my and Ludmila’s part but, as with most things in life, the hard work eventually started to pay off and I slowly began to heal from my mental anguish, fear and trauma. And little by little, small, almost imperceptible changes have lead to several major breakthroughs in my life, which I can only fully appreciate now, looking back to where I started…

The biggest breakthrough but also challenge was accepting and forgiving my mother. It was very painful to acknowledge through therapy that my mother was actually a very damaged person. She loved her children very much but was, unfortunately, unable to give us nurturing care because of her own traumatic childhood experiences.

I was always so conflicted about my mother… On the one hand, I knew she loved me and my brother, and she tried her best encouraging our education and cultural development, acquainting us with film, art and performance, ensuring that we got to a good school and later supporting financially my university studies… After the divorce from my father she has been on her own and also juggling a full time job. I appreciate all that very much and I don’t want to wrong her and do her injustice by focusing on the negative things, and yet sometimes it was more than often unbearable growing up with her.

I was living in constant fear that she would blow any second at the smallest thing and scream and shout at me. I became an emotional punch-bag for her unresolved pain which had effectively formed into a severe mental illness. This manifested in constant criticism and resentment towards me, as well as extreme negativity and distrust of life and most of the people she knew or met. Constant mental instability, switching from a seemingly rational and wonderful person to a completely irrational, made her very frightening.

Growing up I was unable to fully understand this, I just tried to keep safe within the emotional war-zone my brother and I lived in by forming effective coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms consisted of continually ensuring my mother’s needs were met, however irrational or unfair they were. I placed them before my own in order to keep the peace and try to manage her behaviour as much as possible. I effectively looked after her emotionally in exchange for a home, food and education.  I was unaware at the time that this was abnormal, that I was just surviving and not really coping at all…

It only started to become apparent for me years later when all the trauma of those years and subsequent experiences just became too much to bear. Those learnt coping mechanisms no longer protected me, instead they became undermining. I had been living a life driven by the need to please others and putting others’ needs before my own to severe detrimental effect. I didn’t know how to enforce healthy boundaries and was almost unaware of my own feelings and needs, allowing myself to be exploited and never feeling happy or fulfilled.

Acknowledging and confronting this was painful, but also empowering. It has been essential in re-establishing a new healthier relationship with my mother and other demanding characters in my life. Coming to terms with the fact that I am not the cause of their mental anguish, and that it is not something that I am able to resolve for them, was very healing.

I learned to assert my newly-found boundaries and realized that it could be done in a non-aggressive manner. The wonderful outcome has been that my mother and other similar characters in my life now treat me with more respect and no longer seem to unleash their demons on me as much. Or – more importantly – if they do, I no longer feel responsible for their irrational behaviour.

It was very difficult for my mum initially but over time she has adjusted and it has actually brought us closer together although, sadly, we will never be really close and I will always remain on guard in order to protect myself. Nonetheless are relationship is healthier than it has been since I was a teenager, which has benefited every aspect of my life.

I came to forgive my first love for his betrayal and abandonment. Hard as it was, I came to terms with the devastating illness of my father. I also succeeded in reconnecting and repairing my relationship with my partner and learned to stand up to bullies in my professional life.  Even though it seemed almost impossible to achieve, I managed to overcome my huge fears of exam failure, shame, ridicule, exposure and guilt in order to complete my education and become a fully qualified professional in my field.

But, most importantly, I came to forgive myself for all the criticism I constantly gave myself, for not being good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough, cool enough… the list goes on… I began to acknowledge that I am not a bad person but am worthy of love and goodness in my life.

Looking back at my life four years ago, I have come such a long way, and it’s sometimes incredible to believe the changes I have made in both my personal and professional life. I don’t believe I would have made it without Ludmila’s help, for which I am so grateful. Her strength, conviction and dedication, her compassion, encouragement and faith in me have been truly transformational.

I haven’t by any means come to the end of my journey, but I am now on the right path and feel able to trust in life again and feel secure acknowledging and accepting my hurt and emotions. For anyone else out there who is suffering and feels hopeless, as painful and difficult as it might be, try not to give up on therapy. It can sometimes feel impossible to ever recover from great trauma and despair, but I truly believe we are all capable of healing and great change with hope, dedication and perseverance – together with a therapist you trust.