What If The Trauma You Experienced Has Given You Some Amazing Strengths?

So many people who have experienced trauma in life live with the sense of terrible brokenness.

There is the sense that “I am defective”. And so much in your life has told you that.

There is a terrible sense of shame that these things have been done to you.

The Untrue Messages That Dominate Your Life

But those messages and the other negative ones you received are not true. They are the words of the people who traumatised you. If they were dysfunctional enough to traumatise you, then they were too dysfunctional to give you accurate information about yourself.

For many of you, you may be aware of this but are unable to turn off the negative messages in your head.

People Rise Above Childhood Trauma Better Than You Think

Over my life I have read and heard so many people’s stories. Many of them speak of surviving trauma to arrive at the point in their lives where they could share their story.

One thing that emerges from the story is the way they survived.

Some people are fully aware they have achieved a lot and want to share that heartening news.

Do You See Your Strengths Or Your Failings?

Other people are not aware. They may come into my room feeling such a failure, when they have achieved amazing things to just get to my door.

Maybe you are one of those people who sees only the negative and defective and can’t see the truth, that despite the horrible things that have happened to you in life, you are an amazing and unique individual.

Maybe you think that seems insincere. You don’t want to be told by me that you are amazing and unique.

Looking At Your Trauma From A Different Perspective

But what if, instead of seeing the awful things that have happened in your life you saw instead how they have contributed to you being an amazing unique individual.

What if you could see the way you have survived as being a triumph and instead of seeing the defective you see the triumphant you.

The Reality Of You, Here, Now

The reality is you are still here and you are living your life. You might not live it as well as you want to. You might not feel totally in control of your reactions. Those are things you can work on. But the fact that you are here and functioning is testimony to the way you had strengths and abilities that allowed you to function despite the things that have happened to you in the past. And just maybe those things that happened have given you strengths and abilities other people don’t have.

What Might Those Abilities Be?

There is the obvious one about your brain developing more in some areas that often means you are better at reading non-verbal communication than others and are better at spotting danger.

But there are other areas too.

Maybe you are more understanding of others.

Maybe you are more compassionate.

Maybe you have a drive to seek justice for others.

Maybe you believe in honouring your word so that you are reliable and admired for that.

Maybe you have tenacity in difficult situations that allows you to keep going when others give up.

Maybe You Need Help To Heal And See Your Strengths And Abilities

Maybe you can see these things but then that belief in yourself is blown away by all the negative messages in your head.

Sometimes you need assistance to heal. You need assistance to see the real you.

This is where a trauma qualified counsellor can assist you.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your healing and identification of your amazing strengths, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Don’t Hide From Grief. Let Your Brain Do Its Work.

Grief is a very difficult feeling to explain. Although there are similarities in the way people grieve, there are also differences. Each person grieves in their own unique way.

How you grieve depends on your life experiences, your relationship to the person who has died, what else is happening in your life and what you have been taught about grief.

Grief Is Inescapable

The important thing to remember is that Grief is real. It is not something to be pushed away or run away from.

It is not something you can drink away, smoke away, drug away, shop away or any other activity you can devise to hide from it.

Grief is.

Grief Impacts Your Brain

Neuroscientists studying grief have found that grief activates the same areas of the brain activated by physical pain. In other words, emotional pain causes the same pain reaction in the brain as physical pain.

Grief also triggers the brain’s fight or flight defensive areas. This results in you being alert and restless. It also causes you to feel exhausted as your brain doesn’t allow you to rest.

I Can’t Get The Circumstances Out Of My Mind

People who grieve often talk about the constant churning of the events of their loved one’s death over and over in their mind.

This is something that is often reported as being unhealthy. Replaying events in the brain is something that people are often told is bad and must be stopped.

But replaying the events of a painful experience such as bereavement is essential for the brain to process what has happened.

I am not saying that you keep going over and over the events forever. But you do need to allow them to replay and be resolved.

Memories Usually Lessen Over Time

Those memories should start to lessen over time. You might not think them as often. You might find the memories are less painful. That means your brain is processing them and resolving them.

If those memories don’t lessen. If you still are troubled by the high frequency of the memories. If you feel things are not resolving then you may need help from a grief counsellor.

The Uncertainty Of The Grief World

It is important to remember that the fight or flight response in the brain is triggered by the disruption of grief. All that you knew, all that seemed certain, has been devastated. You are in the grip of uncertainty and that is scary. You will most likely feel unsafe.

In some instances you may be financially impacted by the grief. That in itself is scary.

It is really important to allow others who you feel safe with to financially support you.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Taking The Leap Into A More Satisfying Life

Something you realise throughout life, often as you grow older, is that you are never “finished”. There will never be an end point to your growth and development. Right up to the moment of death you will continue to grow.

The fact of your unfinished state is often very obvious when you do something new. Then the gulf between your level of competence and the new thing you are doing is very obvious.

To Live Is To Grow

Life is about growth. It is about stepping out into the unknown. About stepping out into your level of incompetence and doing something new and different.

If you don’t grow, you stagnate. This concept is often discussed in regard to relationships. A relationship can never stay the same, it either grows or stagnates. In other words, it doesn’t grow. Stagnation precedes the death of the relationship.

It is the same with life. If you don’t progress in your life and grow you will stagnate. Stagnation is where many people find themselves. Maybe you are there right now. You feel stuck in the sameness of your life, you feel empty, depleted and maybe restless or hopeless.

The Importance of Restlessness

Restless is good. From restlessness comes the desire to change, to grow, to get out of the rut you find yourself in.

Restless allows courage to arise. Courage to make changes and start new beginnings.

Beginnings are full of possibilities and unknowns. They are uncertain and scary. And that is okay. Within you there is the ability to survive the unknown and find your way. There is the possibility to try something new, learn how to do it and survive the experience.

Change Happens On The Edge Of Uncertainty

Change only ever happens on the edge of uncertainty.

There has been much research into the importance of challenging yourself in order to change and move away from stagnation.

New relationships are scary, but you still work at them until they are less scary. And you keep working at them always. New things in life are like relationships. They are uncertain and scary but if you work at them they become less scary. They can even be exhilarating. You work at them until you reach the point of feeling less scared, maybe even comfortable.

Keep Going. Rest Yes, But Don’t Stop There

But don’t stop there. You can rest there for a while, but allow the restless within to lead you further forward. Remember. You never stay in the same place. You either grow and move forward and stop and stagnate..

Changes in life are scary, but you still make them – whether you want to our not – and you settle in to the changes. One day you find yourself comfortable with the changes that you formerly found terrifying.

Change Is Uncertain And That Is Okay

Change is uncertain. Uncertain is scary. For many people that level of uncertainty feels impossible to overcome. But it can be done.

Maybe you are dreaming of a new job, moving to a new area, a new career and the idea is overwhelming so you remain in the same place. You stay put and you are miserable but unable to see how to make the leap to a new change.

Sometimes Change Is Best Accomplished By Taking A Small Jump Instead Of A Massive Leap

Don’t make that leap, instead make a series of small adjustments.

Try doing one thing that breaks your usual routine. It may mean getting up earlier in the morning to have a walk on the beach. It may mean eating breakfast outside, instead of in the kitchen. It may mean catching the bus and train to work instead of driving.

These small breaks from your usual routine are something new. Just try doing something different. Even one different thing a week. If you eat the same menu night after night (because it is easier and you don’t have to think) switch around the meals so that you eat them on different nights. One night add a different meal.

These changes may seem insignificant. They may seem downright weird – especially the one about where you eat breakfast. But they change your routine. And changing your routine opens the way for bigger changes.

The First Step Is The Hardest In Every Journey Of Dreams

It is said that the first step is the hardest. This is from a quote by Moffat Machingura.

“The first step is the hardest in every journey of dreams. There is nothing else to fear unto whosoever has shown the tenacity to begin; because, once having started, the hardest part of the mission is the one lying behind.” ~ Moffat Machingura, Life Capsules

At The End of Your Life Your Greatest Regret Will Be The Risks You Didn’t Take.

Another wonderful quote that is worth noting is:

“Your greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn’t chase. you will look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path” ~ Mark Batterson.

Remember your greatest asset in change is courage.

You Grow Your Wings Once You Leap Off The Cliff Not Before

There is a beautiful quote by Ray Bradbury about jumping off the cliff and growing your wings on the way down. It is true. You don’t grow those wings until you need them. You don’t need them until you have launched yourself into uncertainty.

You can’t wait until everything is in place before you do something new. You will never be ready. That is why you should just start and allow the growth that will lead you to succeed.

I made the comment to someone recently about leaping off the cliff and finding my wings so that I could soar. They looked worried and asked me what about if my wings didn’t come. The answer? They will always come.

Life Is About Beginnings

You are part of a continuum of human life that has gone on for millennia. All life is about beginnings and within each life are countless beginnings.

Beginnings feel like lonely journeys into the unknown, the jump off the cliff without wings.

But the wings are always there. The outcome may not be what you imagined it would be, but there will be an outcome.

Let Go So That You Can Grow

It is only when you let go that growth can come. Your wings only arrive when you embrace uncertainty.

Maybe you will not find the outcome that you wanted. It may feel like failure. But it will be learning and from that place of learning you can move on into a new unknown. Each leap off the cliff into uncertainty strengthens and empowers you to grow.

Beginnings, those leaps off the cliff, are invitations to embrace the gifts and growth that wait once you soar with your new wings.

Endings Are Necessary For Beginnings To Happen

Sometimes you will spend time in preparation, not realising you are ending an old pattern of behaviour. You will prepare and leap off the cliff. Other times you will experience an ending and discover a beginning within it. That is your leap off the cliff.

Leaping off the cliff is not necessarily comfortable but it is most definitely survivable.

On the journey of your life you will experience many beginnings and endings. That is what life is about. You choose what you will begin and you choose what you will end. If you don’t choose, life will choose for you.

The Leap Into The Unknown Is Your Ally

As you leap off that cliff recognise that the leap into the unknown is your beloved ally. It is waiting to share with you the exhilaration and possibilities of the unknown.

Don’t get stuck. Be open and vulnerable. Don’t be afraid of the new and the different. Embravce the opportunities to grow.

Take a deep breath and launch yourself over that cliff. That is where life is.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you to leap off that cliff, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

3 Steps To Helping Your Child Understand And Process Grief

Grief is devastating for anyone.

As an adult, you have an advantage in grieving. That advantage is your brain development.

All things being equal, by the time your brain is fully developed (around age 25) you have learned how to process grief. If you haven’t encountered grief before, hopefully you have learned to seek help in processing your grief.

Children’s Brains Struggle To Process Grief

For a child, the lack of brain development means that processing grief is very difficult.

For an undeveloped brain, comprehending death and the existential issues around it, is extremely difficult. Adults struggle with this. So children will struggle even more without the tools yet to be developed to help them.

Grief In Children Resurfaces At Each Developmental Stage.

The younger the child, the more undeveloped will be their ability to process their grief. It is now known that grief in children will resurface at different stages in their childhood and even into adult life.

It is important to be aware of these difficulties and be ready to support your child.

The developing brain is learning. That is how the brain develops. But without support, the brain cannot learn. The brain needs to learn how to process Grief.

Attending To The Trauma Of Grief

Grief is a trauma. It is dysregulating. A child experiencing grief will be thrown into a major fight/flight/freeze stress response. They will also lose their connection to others and feel very isolated and alone.

Many people think they just have to sit their child down and talk to them and that will help. But a dysregulated brain can’t learn or reason so talking to a child in this situation will not work.

The 3 Steps

There are 3 steps to reaching your child and helping them to learn how to process their grief.

The steps are as follows:

Step 1. Regulate

The first thing you need to do with your child is help them regulate their fight/flight/freeze response and become calmer.

One of the best ways to do this is to be as calm as you can. Research has shown that children cope well with traumatic events when their parents remain relatively calm and can maintain as much as possible regular routines. The main thing is that your child feels safe. They need to feel that you can still protect them. In a world that has just fallen apart with the loss of someone important, knowing you are still there is vital.

Do the best you can

Obviously, if you are grieving as well, it is going to be hard to regulate yourself. You are likely to be crying and finding it hard to focus.

This is the pain of parenting. There are times when you have to put your own needs aside to attend to the needs of your children. It is natural for you to do that, and it may be necessary. But don’t put off attending to your own needs for long. It is okay to be crying when you seek to regulate your child.

After all, your child needs to see you grieving to learn it is okay to be sad and cry, but life still goes on.

One of the best ways to regulate is to hold your child. That helps them to feel safe and also gives you a sense of safety as well.

Step 2. Relate

Holding your child is part of the next step as well.

You help your child to regulate, to feel safer and still cared for.

Now you help them by establishing a connection. Holding your child will help them feel connected to you. This will mean they feel less isolated and alone.

Being Attuned To Your Child

Relating also involved being attuned to your child and their needs. It means you will stop and seek to understand what your child is thinking and feeling. Depending on their age, this may involve (when appropriate) making a general statement such as:

“It is really sad and frightening that x has died.”

This would work best for a young child who may still be learning to understand their emotions. Acknowledging what you sense they are experiencing helps them to feel understood.

For an older child you may ask them what they are feeling. Or you may wonder if they are feeling sad because you are.

It is important to not hide your feelings and allow your child to see you are sad too but that your sadness won’t stop you caring for them.

Be Attuned For A Long Time

Remember that I earlier mentioned that grief in children takes longer and is revisited at each developmental stage.

It is important to keep that in mind. Even after the initial period of adjustment to death your child will continue to grieve.

Always make sure you seek to understand your child. This maintains a connection between the two of you and is also comforting for your child. An attuned parent is one who provides safety and security. Something all children need, but grieving children need it more.

Step 3. Reason

Once your child is regulated and secure in their relationship with you, you can then reason with them.

You can support your child to express their feelings should they want to. You can support your child according to their developmental stage to reflect, learn, remember, articulate and learn how to live with their loss.

How Do I Support My Child To Learn?

There are many aids you can use to help you support your child through their grief. These aids will help them to learn healthy ways of processing grief. This will serve them well now and in later life with other losses.

There are many age-appropriate books you can read to your child. Your local library is a good source of these. If you send your child to a counsellor many will have these resources as well. I have a range of books I use with younger children.

For teenagers, who are already exploring the more existential issues of life as part of their teen development, a more existential approach that emphasises philosophical discussions mixed with some helpful facts about grief and its impacts is really helpful.

Can I Help?

Sometimes you and/or your child/ren will need help from a grief trained counsellor. It can be very helpful to learn what is normal in grieving both for yourself and your child. If you need help, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please
click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

What Is Family Enmeshment? Is My Family Enmeshed?

The definition of family enmeshment is that family members are excessively involved in each other’s lives and find it hard, even impossible, to set boundaries. There is a strong desire to maintain close relationships, which in itself is not bad, but it has negative impacts.

It is like several lengths of wool, each representing a family member. The wool strands become tangled into masses of knots. With an enmeshed family each person in the family becomes entangled and the needs and identities of each individual get lost.

Enmeshed Families And Close Families Are Different.

This doesn’t mean that families can’t be close and healthy. There are families where family members are close. These families have strong bonds. The members of the family care for each other.

The difference between a close family and an enmeshed family is that in the close knit family there is respect of each individual and their personal space and independence. Individuals within a close family are encouraged to grow and make their own choices. There is no pressure for people to do things they don’t want to.

In the enmeshed family there is a blurring of the boundaries between individuals within the family. It becomes difficult for a member of such a family to make a decision or even have their own thoughts and feelings. Members of enmeshed families feel unable to make choices that the family won’t approve of, even when they really want to do something.

Are Enmeshed Families Codependent?

It is often believed that enmeshed families are in codependent relationship with each other. Certainly co-dependency and enmeshment are related and can happen in family relationships as well as other relationships but there is a difference.

Enmeshment is when two or more people become so involved in each other’s lives, relationships and decision making that they are unable to act autonomously. This has a negative effect on the mental health of the enmeshed people.

Codependent relationships are where two people, such as those in a romantic relationship, friends, parent and child rely on the other for emotional support, acceptance or identity.

Co-dependency may exist in an enmeshed family but then again it may not.

Cultural Impact Of Enmeshment.

In different cultures families can act differently. If the culture is one of autonomy and independence (individualistic) a healthy family will have well defined boundaries between family members. If the culture is one where being part of the group and more dependent on others is normal (collectivist culture), then a family that meets the definition of enmeshed is more likely to exist. In this setting, such a family is considered to be normal and healthy.

If the culture the family exists in is collectivist, family members will not suffer negative mental health impacts. However, if the family has emigrated to a country with a more individualistic culture, the family members may be more torn between the culture of their family and that of the society in which they are now living. This is particularly so with children.

When deciding if a family is enmeshed or not it is important to consider the culture of the family and the impact that enmeshment is having on the mental health of the family members.

In Enmeshed Families Roles Are Rigid.

Another thing seen in an enmeshed family is that family members will often have rigid roles within the family. Every family has roles for family members, but in a healthy family the roles can change over time.

Enmeshed families are often very intrusive. There is little privacy and interfering with another family member’s private thoughts and concerns is considered normal. This is because of the lack of boundaries between family members.

How To Spot Lack Of Boundaries

In such a family other signs of lack of boundaries can include:

• Over protective adults who control what children do and prevent them from anything that challenges them and allows them to grow. The adults may believe they are protecting the child but the motivation is often their own fears of something like that happening to them.

• Adults in the family system will micromanage their children and make decisions for them without any consultation.

• Manipulation is used to coerce the children to do what the adult wants. Guilt and Shame are often used to achieve this.

• Not respecting the privacy of children, often seen by going through their belongings, reading private writings, monitoring their activities and keeping tabs on what they are doing.

• Use the children for emotional support and validation.

• Set out to be the child’s “best friend” even when the child doesn’t want it.

• Not perceive the children as individuals who are growing up and striving for independence.

• Enforce family unity and prevent anything that threatens that such as something an individual may wish to do or outside relationships individuals may wish to have.

• Keep a strict cap on any conflict within the family. Individuals within an enmeshed family learn that keeping the peace is essential and there are negative consequences for disobeying that rule.

What Impact Does An Enmeshed Family Have On A Child?

Children in an enmeshed family are:

• Often very alert to their parent’s needs and emotions.

• Have trouble making decisions.

• Struggle to become independent as adults.

• If asked what their interests and values are they will always cite the family interests and values.

• Believe they must keep the family happy.

• Often are loners and don’t make friends because their emotional needs are met within the family.

• Find it hard to voice their own needs, again due to a need to maintain peace within the family.

• Become more emotional then is normal when there are family conflicts or crises

• As they grow older they often become financially and emotionally responsible for the care of their parents.

Why Does Enmeshment Occur In Some Families?

A lot of enmeshment happens because of parents being raised in enmeshed families. This is the only family structure one or both parents know. Parenting is usually based on what was learned during childhood. Unless the parent is aware their childhood family was enmeshed and was able to learn about other family models as well as learn how to set healthy boundaries, the pattern the parent will use in their family will be an enmeshed one.

Another cause could be if there were difficulties in the relationship a child had with their caregivers that resulted in what is known as an anxious attachment style. That style of attachment involves a need for excessive closeness and validation from others. If the childhood wounds are not resolved and the attachment style healed then it can result in the behaviours present in an enmeshed family.

Research has suggested that a parent who has poor mental health and is raising their children alone without healthy adult friendships is more likely to establish enmeshed relationships with her children. People in that situation often experienced their own trauma as children and consequently have a poor sense of self and have difficult regulating their emotions.

Crises in the environment, such as natural disasters and wars will increase the likelihood that the family members with look to each other for support and security. If the crisis is long term or resulted in traumatic impacts that are not healed then enmeshment can develop.

Is Enmeshment Bad?

Yes and no. members of enmeshed family value loyalty, belonging and emotionally supporting others. They also have deep interpersonal connections with other family members.

The negative is that family members, especially children raised in such a family, find it hard to set boundaries with others. They can find it hard to make decisions. They will also struggle being able to express their own needs and desires and set healthy boundaries around their needs and desires.

Another negative is that it can be difficult developing healthy relationships with others outside the family.

For adults in an enmeshed family there can be high levels of stress as they remain constantly vigilant maintaining control and closeness. Adults are also likely to struggle to maintain their own identity which impacts on their own mental health. It also impacts on their relationships with others both within and outside the family.

Conflict is another difficulty for enmeshed families. It may often lead to conflict being buried and these unresolved conflicts result in tension within the family that can become destructive. Family members, especially children, will struggle to learn healthy conflict resolution skills. This impacts mental health as well as impacting on the ability to learn healthy communication skills.

Does Enmeshment Cause Trauma?

Yes it can.

In heavily enmeshed families each family member is very involved in the emotional life of each other family member. This is difficult for children with their developing brains and developing emotional regulation skills. Being overloaded and overwhelmed by adult emotions without anyone to help the child understand what is being experienced, as well as emotionally regulate, impacts the child’s mental well being, both in childhood and later in adulthood.

Not knowing where you end and other family members start is also damaging. This impacts on the ability to form a sense of self. It impacts on the ability to set boundaries.

In a family where everyone’s business and feelings is everyone else’s it is very difficult to learn boundaries and to learn to say no or yes.

If a child doesn’t learn to set boundaries then it is very difficult to do so in adulthood.

Research shows that adults who grew up in enmeshed families and were traumatised by this, struggle with their mental health in adulthood. They may suffer depression and anxiety. They may also find it hard to form healthy, respectful relationships. They are more vulnerable to codependent relationships. They also struggle to separate their emotions and needs from those of others.

The Good News.

As with all trauma, it is possible to heal. It is not easy and it will take a long time for your brain to grow new, healthy connections, but it is possible.

The first step is recognising the enmeshment and what behaviours within the family are enmeshed behaviours and which are not problem behaviours.

• It is possible to learn who you are and learn where your boundaries are.

• It is possible to learn to assert those boundaries in a calm and healthy way.

• You can even learn to say no without feeling guilty!

• It is even possible to learn to set boundaries with your family. It may not always be possible to set boundaries without cutting off contact with your family, that will depend on how mentally healthy individual members are, but you can learn to set limits on contact so that it is healthy and you learn how to heal from this.

• You can learn what is normal family and relationship behaviour and be able to set healthy boundaries around future relationships as well as existing ones. You can also learn to recognise unhealthy relationships that may need to end.

What Other Things Can You Do To Learn Who You Are And Heal?

A competent counsellor who is trained in mindfulness can teach you mindfulness and how to use this to understand the feelings and emotions you experience.

• With this skill you can be taught how to regulate your emotions.

• With mindfulness you can start exploring the things that matter to you, what your values are, what you believe in.

• You can get to know yourself and what you are passionate about. You can recognise the things that really interest you.

• You can learn how to be curious and how to try new things.

• You can learn to connect with others in a healthy way and “find your tribe” who understand you and support you.

• You can learn to be kind to yourself.

Getting Help.

When you have been raised in the difficult environment of an enmeshed family it can be hard to learn what is normal and what is dysfunctional.

It can also be difficult to know how to learn more healthy behaviours.

This is where seeing a counsellor who is skilled in those areas can be helpful.

Can I Help?

I am trained in mindfulness and in trauma counselling. I use mindfulness always in my work with people. If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your family enmeshment, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

The Importance of To Don’t Lists

It is very easy to get caught up in the pressure to do more. This is particularly so at this time of year when people are sharing their wrap of the old year and their plans for all they are going to do and achieve in the new year.

I recently read an article that suggested another way to respond to this pressure. Instead of a To Do list, it involved a To Don’t List.

How Much Is Okay To Do In A Day?

Before I continue I want to qualify that it is fine to add extra things to your day, if you can do it without overburdening yourself.

For example, A few years ago I found myself waking up between 4 and 5am in the morning. It became an unproductive time for me because I would lie awake worrying about things. This resulted in me waking up feeling quite stressed and often fairly down.

So I decided to add into that time a morning meditation routine. That worked a treat. Instead of lying awake worrying, I spent the time relaxing and focusing on positive things. This was the birth of my “Paint Your Soul” routine and workshops.

When Adding Extra To Your Day Is Not Helpful

But what if normal for you was you sleeping soundly until the alarm sounded and getting up to start your day?

What if you decided to get up earlier to do something you wanted to fit in to your day? What if getting up earlier was not something your body coped with? What if instead you found yourself tired for the rest of the day?

Whereas my earlier start and morning meditation suited my situation, an earlier start may not suit you.

Making The Decision To Pull The Plug On Too Many To Dos

During the years I was raising 4 children, attending to the needs of the family and working part time, I found myself increasingly burdened with too many things to fit in to a day. As a result I was constantly exhausted, struggling to do everything and getting very stressed.

I realised I needed to reduce my workload. It wasn’t easy to do. I decided my priorities were my marriage, my children, clean clothes, clean dishes and food. Everything else was drastically reduced. If it didn’t serve me, it went.

Sometimes to protect yourself and your health you need to be brutal in making decisions to cut back on activities.

Writing A To Don’t List

In this article the writer talked about having a To Don’t List.

This was a decision made to set strict boundaries around her time.

I had To Don’ts. I just didn’t realise I had them.

One was that once the family sat down to eat in the evening the phone would not be answered. I had an answering machine (yes this was a couple of decades ago) so I knew people could leave a message. This allowed the family to focus on eating together, sitting down after dinner to talk or watch television together, and put the children to bed.

Another was to restrict how many invitations a week I accepted. Once I reached the limit I said no to any more invitations. It was hard to miss out on things, but I found it got easier as I enjoyed the time I had to attend to what was important.

Why A Written To Don’t List Works Better

You may have things you decide you won’t do, but find yourself falling into the trap of agreeing to do things on the spur of the moment.

For example, you may decide to spend your day off visiting a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. You haven’t put it in your calendar but you are planning to catch up with them. Then you get a phone call from the group you volunteer with to fill in for another person who is sick. They are so desperate. There is no
one else. You find yourself saying yes and cancelling your friend’s visit.

So here’s a worst case scenario. You miss out on catching up with your friend and are never able to have that catch up because your calendars never have a matching gap and your friend suddenly dies.

The charity you volunteer for? You get there and find there are more people there than needed. Later you discover you were the first person they rang and there were a number of people who would have been happy to fill in that day.

You don’t know when you are asked to do something what the future holds. You don’t know if you are desperately needed or not, or whether the person ringing you is anxious about filling a gap in a roster and wants to fill that gap with the minimum number of phone calls.

When you write your To Dont’s down it is easier to stick to them. There is something about the act of writing things down on a list that you can see that makes them harder to ignore.

Someone once told me that she puts everything in her calendar, including taking time out for “me” time. That way when someone contacts her wanting her to do something that clashes with her me time she just says no. It is in her calendar and she has learned the value of “me” time.

Guarding Your Time Is An Ongoing Process

I still fall into the trap of doing too much, especially as so many people want to see me before Christmas and I have so many friends I want to catch up with at many Christmas Gatherings. The past few Christmases I have found myself staggering over the finish line of Christmas Eve and spending Christmas feeling very unwell. Next Christmas? There will be a formal list with To Don’ts around the number of people I can see in a day. I won’t exceed my limit of people I see on a normal day. This is because I love catching up with my friends. Now that my children are grown up I have added my friends to my priority list. They are essential for my well being.

I still make decisions that involve To Don’ts. Now that I have read about To Don’t Lists I will be formalising my To Dont’s and taking them more seriously.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with setting boundaries around your time and deciding what is necessary and how to fit it in to your life, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

5 Ways To Navigate Christmas When Life Seems Far From Ideal

Traditionally Christmas is a time when people get together with their family. That is great if you have a family you are happy to get together with. But not everyone is in that position

Maybe your Christmas is marred by memories of someone you used to spend Christmas with but don’t anymore. Maybe it is because they have died, or you are estranged, or they have moved away.

Or maybe Christmas is a time of having to visit family when there are difficulties in relationships. When you feel you have to endure contact with people you are frightened of, or may have hurt you, or are downright unpleasant.

Or Christmas may be a reminder of past traumas.

The Cultural Importance of Christmas

Whether you like it or not, Christmas is important culturally for many people. There are those who believe in Jesus and see this time as a celebration of Jesus’ birth, often with family. There are also people who see Christmas as a time to have fun and catch up with family and friends.

If you watch the myriad Christmas movies that exist, you will see a constant message of people having a lovely, perfect time. Suddenly everyone is friendly and old rifts are healed. People are included. There is fun and laughter and all good things.

The reality frequently fails to meet the expectations of the movies.

Christmas Has Significance In Many Lives As A Time To Be With Others

The significance of Christmas as an occasion in our lives means that it takes on a significance that is hard to ignore. Few people report being happy to spend Christmas alone. Many experience stress at what to do for Christmas. Many are alone, and not happy about it.

Christmas can be a joyous time if you have people to celebrate with. But it can be a sad time if you have lost someone. It can be a stressful time if you have traumatic memories of past Christmases that were horrifying. It can also be a stressful time if catching up with some family members is far from pleasant.

An Experience of a Christmas With Gratitude

I recently had a conversation with a man who was facing yet another Christmas alone. He was estranged from his family after the death of his brother, and had experienced many lonely Christmases. He was looking for something different to do for Christmas and decided in the end to plan his own special Christmas camping somewhere he loved.

His choice for Christmas is not everyone’s idea of a fun Christmas. But his attitude may be helpful. He had decided last year he was going to stop fighting the fact that he was alone at Christmas and instead be grateful and seek gratitude in the season. His plans for this year were the result of that decision.

These are his tips for a joyous solo Christmas.

One. You Belong.

It is easy when on your own to think Christmas is not something for you. After all, the images we see everywhere of Christmas are of people in groups. But being on your own doesn’t mean you don’t belong.

You do belong.

He worked out a few years ago that looking for things in his life to be grateful for reminded him that he was loved and worthy even though he was alone. He saw Christmas as a time to have fun. To relax. To eat all the foods he felt he couldn’t eat at other times of the year. To indulge in special foods.

He listed all his friends and the way they showed throughout the year how much he mattered. So many of them had family Christmases and caught up with him at other times near to Christmas. Even though they couldn’t invite him to their family Christmas, often a long way away, he still belonged.

He decided to see Christmas as a time he may be alone, but not lonely. He decided to be grateful for the friends he had and the richness they brought to his life all year around.

He chose to see his life as a gift to himself and to others and decided to plan a Christmas that honoured this. In his case, it was to go camping in a favourite spot and spend a few days doing what he loved to do, knowing he belonged even if he was alone.

Two. Give Yourself Permission to be Real

He found that as a result of practicing gratitude he was able to accept his life exactly as it was. He didn’t try to deny the reality of his life. He accepted it for all its wonder and all its warts.

He was happy to realise he had given himself permission to see his life as it was and be okay with that.

He allowed himself time to feel the pain of the family estrangement. He allowed himself to be honoured by acknowledging this pain. What he found was that honouring that pain and giving it space did not make him miserable. It actually allowed him to accept what was and find joy in the things he decided to do at Christmas.

Life is full of hurts and absences. Fighting those things only makes it more painful. When you accept what is, you are able to find a way to move forward in life and find joy.

Three. Stop. Look. Go.

As he was researching gratitude he came across this practice of grateful living. The practice is to stop. To pause. To not rush into decisions, action, reactions, but to pause.

Once you stop, look around and within. What are you feeling? What opportunities can you see around you? What does your heart tell you?

Once you have given yourself time to examine your future direction and you are comfortable with what you have discovered, then proceed.

As you proceed keep stopping, looking and then going. You may need to try different approaches to see how they fit. You may have an idea and find you can’t proceed with it. You may start doing something and not be happy with it. Be ready to adapt what you are doing and to go on when you feel ready.

Four. Be Open to Opportunities

Last year, he discovered an elderly neighbour who was alone at Christmas, having just lost her husband. He decided to share his Christmas meal with her and give her a simple present at Christmas. The day turned out to be a special one for both of them, especially as the elderly neighbour died during the year.

He saw an opportunity and acted on it.

His planned camping holiday was another opportunity that arose for this year and he has decided to take it.

Being alert to opportunities is a way to honour your life for all it has to give and for all you are able to receive.

Five. Say Yes to Joy

This last point was one he was delighted to learn.

He felt to be happy, to experience joy, would be a betrayal of his brother.

Instead he found that his happiness and joy was there alongside his sadness at his brother’s death and his family estrangement.

He saw the reality of the advice he had read that joy can be present alongside sadness. That joy is an affirmation of life continuing. He also realised the courage it takes to hold the past in the present and experience joy alongside sadness.

He realised he wanted to enjoy Christmas and he chose to live it doing something he enjoyed. Yes it was going to have its sad moments, but it was also going to be a wonderful day.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about the things happening in your life, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How To Stop Your Stories Causing You To Fail

“The stories we tell ourselves can either empower or weaken us. When we live in our heads, we don’t appreciate the current moment. Sometimes we are so busy crafting our stories that we miss the importance of what is happening right now. Take a moment to stop, take a breath, and notice everything that is happening. Appreciate what is and allow what is going to happen to enter naturally into your life.” ~ Emily Silva.

Getting Caught Up In Stories

When you are more caught up in the stories you tell yourself, you can cause yourself to fail in the things you do because you pay more attention to the stories than the present moment.
It is an easy trap to fall into. It starts when you are first exposed to traumatic events, most likely in childhood. Everyone does this to a certain extent. There are myriad ways a child can be traumatised. And there are myriad stories to manage the overwhelming and impossible to process feelings associated with those traumatic incidents.
When things are overwhelming and impossible to process, and the child does not receive any assistance resolving this issue, the child will write their own narrative to explain what happened.

Children Are Masters At Writing Negative Stories About Themselves

Sadly, children are very good at added 2 and 2 and getting 500. So often the stories the child writes are disempowering. Children are more likely to blame themselves for something, even when it is not their fault. A child lacks an adult understanding of what is happening and may not have an adult available who can help them understand. So the child will be less likely to understand the context of what happens and therefore think they are to blame for what happened.

Of course, children are often blamed for things that happened when what happened had nothing to do with them. Sadly it is the nature of intergenerational trauma that adults will often default to using the language that was used on them as children. So most of us will get some words spoken to us that are hurtful.

Affirming Stories Can Cause Distractions Too

Other words spoken to you as a child can be ones that affirm you. That tell you that you are loved, capable, good at something, able to do something well. Those words empower you.

But they can lead to stories that distract you from the task at hand, or expect you to be unrealistic about what you can achieve.

The Power Of The Narrative In Your Head To Distract You

The words that you hear become a narrative in your head. They may empower you and fill you with confidence. Or they may weaken you and fill you with anxiety and doubt.

They may fill you with the sense that you should achieve an impossibly high standard. When you don’t achieve that you can be left feeling you have failed when you have actually done very well, just not as well as you thought you should.

Your narrative may also fill you with the sense that you can’t do this so that achieving what you want becomes almost impossible.

Narratives Can Distract You

No matter what words the narrative contains, it can distract you from being in the moment and focusing on what you are doing. They can even trip you up and cause you to not be able to complete your tasks effectively. They can also stop you from enjoying and being part of what you are doing.
It is worth remembering to stop and notice what you do as you do it. Better to fill your head with awareness of the present moment, than be distracted by the narratives playing in your head.

When you stop and pay attention you are more likely to be able to evaluate how you are going and see the progress you are making than being caught up in narratives that cause you to lose sight of what you are actually doing.

Awareness of the present moment also allows you to make instant changes in what you are doing that increase your ability to succeed. You are more likely to succeed in your tasks if you are in the present moment.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with being in the present moment and changing your negative narrative, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Live Life. Don’t Just Survive

Here, right now, stop.

Breathe deeply in and allow that breathe out slowly.

Breathe in and out a few more times.

Turn your attention to your heart centre.

Maybe you would like to place your hand over your heart.

Ask yourself the question:

Am I just surviving, or am I living my life creatively?

The Curse Of The Modern World

With the busy lives that are led in the modern world, it is easy to get caught up in just surviving. Rushing from activity to activity. Never stopping, never relaxing, never just having fun. Never allowing yourself to use your creative side to enrich and grow your life.

Scientists who study our ancient ancestors contend that once people were able to move away from spending all their time surviving, they had time and space to be creative. It was this creativity that allowed them to expand their lives and further improve their situation.

It was this time for creativity that allowed our ancestors to become farmers, then to devise new tools and weapons. This creativity allowed progress to occur.

Growing Creatively

In order to grow this way, our ancestors had to allow space in their lives to allow creativity to work.

When you become caught up in surviving, you lose that ability to expand your life and improve your situation. You get caught up in surviving. That is a scary, anxious place. It is a place where your quality of life deteriorates.

But it doesn’t need to be that way. You need to allow creativity back into your life. Creativity feeds your mind and your soul. It should work alongside survival, with its focus on your body.

Yes your body needs to survive, but so do your mind and soul.

Finding The Balance Between Survival and Creativity

Finding that balance between survival and creativity is essential for a happy, full, productive life.

One of the ways you can survive and be creative is to meditate. It is that action of stopping and allowing yourself to just be. In this moment. With nowhere to go. With nothing to do. Just be.

At the start of this blog I invited you to have a moment to just be. At the end of that moment, I invited you to ask yourself a question about how you are living your life.

It is in the moments that you stop and just allow yourself to be that allow you to find space for creativity in your life.

After you meditate and clear your mind to allow that sense of just being, there is a time for creativity to allow yourself to connect to your creative inner self. Your soul.

Connecting To Your Creativity

There are many things you can do. Some people write a journal. Some people write poetry. Others dance to their own sound or music.

Then there is painting. This is my preferred method of creativity. After I meditate I use water colour paints to paint what comes up for me in that moment.

This act of creativity has allowed me to discover deep insights into my life and my place in this world. This has allowed me to live, not just survive.

I run workshops to teach people this method of meditation.

Do You Want To Know More?

If you would like to find out more about meditating and creativity, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

PaintingYourSoul

Love And Accepting The Rites Of Grief

“My grief says that I dared to love, that I allowed another to enter the very core of my being and find a home in my heart. Grief is akin to praise; it is how the soul recounts the depth to which someone has touched our lives. To love is to accept the rites of grief.” ~ Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

We lose so much in our lives. There is the obvious death of loved ones, of pets, of dear friends. There is also the loss of homes, jobs, health, fitness, for some, their country.

There are also the losses of dreams, community, nature.

There are too many losses in life to mention them all.

They all have something in common. You need to grieve for them.

The Unspoken Emptiness Inside

If you don’t grieve for the losses then you always have unprocessed grief, an emptiness, inside.

So many people have an unspoken emptiness inside. There is a hole there that you struggle to fill. The emptiness if the hole of unprocessed grief. It is a constant pain, sometimes sharp, but mostly dull. You try to push it aside, but it continues to gnaw at you and hide under the surface, waiting for an opportunity to resurface.

There are many in the field of unresolved grief research who believe that the desire for more in our society has its roots in unresolved grief.

People try to fill the hole by being busy, by frenetic activity, by buying more and more things, by wanting bigger houses and plenty of storage to hold the things that are accumulated.

People also try to control the external environment. Maybe you do that too. An obsession with bodily perfection, with having the perfect house, the nicest car, the picture perfect family, the right friends, the perfect kids, the helicopter cotton wool parent, the hothoused child.

The Myth Of Being Able To Control Your Life To Fill The Emptiness

All this is an attempt to control your life. It is a cover for the emptiness and feeling of being out of control inside. But controlling your external life does not fix the emptiness inside.

All that focus on external things does is deny you the necessary processing of your losses.

Losses are a core part of being human. Running away from the things that frighten you doesn’t make them go away. It makes them grow and become more problematic.

Gratitude, Humility and Reverence for Human Life

Instead you need to allow the pain. Be courageous and sit with that pain. You will find that the pain isn’t as large and insurmountable as you thought it would be. In fact, allowing yourself to feel the pain allows you to access great skills that help you heal.

These skills are gratitude, humility and reverence for human life.

This may sound very airy, but it isn’t.

Gratitude

Gratitude allows you to see those things in your day that you can be grateful for. Even on the worst days there is something to be grateful for. You don’t need to acknowledge gratitude through gritted teeth.

Sometimes the fact that you are alive is gratitude. Even when life seems too miserable to be alive there is still gratitude for that. Gratitude can be about people who in your day did something nice to you. The person who held a door open for you, the driver who let you out into the traffic when you were struggling to get out of a side street, the person who smiled at you and acknowledged your existence. These are just some examples of things you can be grateful for. You can also be grateful that you are breathing, that your heart is beating, that you can think, that you can explore things in your life to be grateful for.

Gratitude means looking for the good and not focusing on the negative.

Turning your attention to positive things is a great help in processing your grief.

Humility

Humility removes the sense of entitlement we all suffer from occasionally. The one that says bad things shouldn’t happen to us. The one that protests at the bad thing that has happened. When you humbly acknowledge that loss is part of being human you remove a burden caused by resisting what has happened and open the way to grieve and process the loss.

Humility doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be angry at what has happened. Far from it. If you are angry then honour that and allow yourself to acknowledge the anger. But allow that anger to dissipate when it is ready to go.

Do the same with other feelings you are experiencing. If you want to cry, then cry. Acknowledge what you are feeling and allow it be there.

Humility means you accept you are human. You accept that something has happened that you are upset about. That you have lost something that mattered to you. Humility means you accept that you are hurt and this is going to require some attention to allow yourself to feel and release the pain.

Reverence

Reverence for human life is important. All life is important and deserving of honour. You are important and deserving of honour. You deserve to be shown kindness. And the person to give that kindness to you is you.

Other people are not always available to give you kindness. If they are, then their kindness is like a cherry on top of a beautiful cake. But your kindness is the beautiful cake. It is the comfort and support available to you all the time. Make sure you show reverence for your own life and give yourself the kindness you need and deserve.

Can I Help?

Sometimes you need help with the grief you are feeling and the pain. It can be difficult trying to find gratitude, humility and reverence for yourself and others. You may need to talk through all the emotions you are experiencing.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your rites of grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz