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

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

People Pleasing, The Destructive Behaviour That Should Be Rejected

Most people are taught as children to have good manners, do as you are told and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Oh and if you can’t hurt anyone’s feelings then you have to accept that your feelings may get hurt, but that is okay because they don’t matter.

Wrong.

What is deemed good manners often involves other people invading your personal boundaries. And if you follow that code, you aren’t allowed to set boundaries. And that is wrong.

The Downside Of People Pleasing

When you people please, not only do you get hurt but you don’t get a chance to do what you want to do because someone else frequently steps over your boundaries and prevents you from being who you want to be.

Sometimes people learn to people please because of the family environment they grow up in. When there is trauma you learn to do whatever keeps you safe. So you people please.

Narcissistic parents cause a lot of harm by making you responsible for making them happy. So you constantly second guess what you need to do to make them happy.

Becoming Addicted To Being Liked Because Your Truth Says You Don’t Matter

People pleasers can also become addicted to being liked by others and may even learn manipulative behaviours as well as people pleasing.

Behind people pleasing is the message that you and your needs don’t matter. That the things you want to do and the person you want to be is unimportant.

People Pleasing And Healthy Boundaries Can’t Co-exist

One of the problems with people pleasing to everyone is that you set boundaries with people that are very small and people don’t necessarily know they are encroaching on your boundaries. Inevitably you reach a point where you explode with frustration and anger. The other person may be shocked and surprised, not having realised they had encroached on a boundary.

Remember, you set boundaries and you only have to gently ask a healthy person not to do that if you want to set a boundary. If you say nothing then you have given permission to that person to breach that boundary.

An Example Of When People Pleasing Became An Issue

A classic example I saw years ago was when I was working in an office. One of the other team members would walk past the desk of another team member and constantly take her pencils and pens to use. The team member said nothing.

Privately she would complain to the rest of us about it. When it was suggested to her that she ask the other person to stop borrowing her pencils and pens she replied she couldn’t possibly. That would mean she wasn’t being a good team member.

One day she needed to write something down and discovered she had no writing implements on her desk. She went to the other person and exploded in anger. The other person was shocked. She had no idea her borrowing of pens/pencils was a problem.

That is the risk of people pleasing.

The Risks of People Pleasing

The team member in my example stayed up at night running over in her mind the way she should have spoken to the other staff member.

She fantasised about telling this team member not to take her pens and pencils. She became irritable and short fused and often snapped at her family and fellow team members. But never to the one she was actually angry with.

Over time she became resentful of this other team member. Far from being a good team member she had become an ineffective team member because she wouldn’t set boundaries. Her hidden anger and resentment, coupled with her irritability, was causing problems in the team. This reflected badly on her, not the other team member.

Over a period of time, it resulted in an outburst at the most unpredictable moment. Her reaction was out of proportion to the issue at the time.

The Cost of Not Valuing Yourself Enough To Set Boundaries

Not valuing yourself will rob you of your self confidence and self worth. It will destroy your sense of who you are. It destroys your relationships with others because you are constantly looking over your shoulder, second guessing people and modifying your behaviour to keep others happy.

How Do I Change From People Pleasing To Setting Healthy Boundaries?

Learn to say no.

Learn it is acceptable to ask someone not to take something of yours, or rearrange your plans to suit themself, and to consider your needs when making a decision.

Learn to understand who you are. Learn your values, boundaries, and worth.

Learn to say no to what you don’t want to do and yes to what you do want to do.

If the fear of speaking up for yourself and setting a boundary becomes too great to overcome then seeking help from a counsellor can be helpful.

Can I Help?

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

I can guide you through the roots of your people pleasing and help you heal the pain there. Then I can help you learn your values, where you want your boundaries to be and to see yourself as worthwhile.

It takes a lot of courage and strength to learn that you are worthwhile, it is okay to love yourself, you are not responsible for other people’s disappointment and you can say no.

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

“I don’t love you anymore”. Getting over the trauma.

Many years ago I had a woman come to see me.

She had been married nearly 50 years, having married in her teens. It was a very long and seemingly happy marriage.

One day her husband told her he had never loved her.

He left.

She was devastated.

The Impact of a Relationship Ending

It is unlikely what he said was true, but so often I hear one of a couple tell their partner the same thing. It is as if in the moment they don’t love the person any more so it becomes “I never loved you”.

This woman had worked hard all her adult life. She was approaching retirement. They had been planning all the things they would do. Now all that was over.

She was facing retirement and old age on her own without the man who had been part of her life for almost 50 years.

Relationship Ending Cause Grief Too

And there was the pain.

He didn’t part amicably. It was nasty and messy. He left and ignored her. The only contact was through lawyers.

The Pain of Rejection

How do you recover when someone you have spent all your adult life with is gone?

It is hard enough when they die. But when their departure is due to them not wanting to be with you anymore that is excruciatingly painful.

It is an incredible rejection.

She had moulded herself to be the other half of a couple. They had a lifetime of memories together. The children they shared, the places they had lived, the pets they had over the years. Everything was a tattered wreck.

How Counselling Helped Her

The woman who walked into my room was shattered. She was stripped of self confidence, self esteem, self worth and sense of self. She was deeply grieving the loss of her future, her plans, her dreams.

But she was resilient. After a few sessions where she was able to express all her anger, devastation, fear and the desire to get him back, she began to realise how resilient she was.

She determined to reclaim her life. And to reclaim it as it related to her. Not as half a couple but as an individual.

Retelling Your Life Story

To do this she decided to tell her life story. Prior to this point she had been telling it as half of a couple. Now she told it as a single person.

She told and retold and retold the story.

She kept telling it until she was able to develop a fresh sense of self.

Finding Who You Are in the Retelling

With that newfound sense of self she was able to hold a fresh perspective on her life. With this perspective and her renewed sense of self she was able to find purpose and meaning in her life to date and in her life moving forward.

This may sound extreme, but we all tell and retell our life stories. Every time you relate to someone else the hurtful things in your past, or the great things in your past, you are telling your story.

What this woman did was look at her life story from a different perspective. She looked at is from the perspective of being an individual.

You can do this too, not just with your stories of loss, but with anything in your life.

Can I Help?

When you are in the depths of grief and rejection, it can be hard to find your story to tell and retell from a new perspective. At those times it can be helpful to see a specialist grief counsellor.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your loss and rejection, 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

I didn’t think I had an abusive childhood, but now I realise I did

Do you need other people to validate the things you do?

Do you need the approval of others?

Do you find it hard making decisions for yourself?

Do you find it hard feeling self-reliant?

Do you find it hard to regulate your emotions?

Are you really hard on yourself?

Do you feel you have little or no worth?

Do you do things to numb your emotional pain?

Are you frightened of rejection and abandonment?

Do you feel you are stuck in angry mode?

Do you find it hard to feel joy or peace?

Do you find it hard to get close to other people?

Do you feel lonely and seek out others to compensate for your loneliness?

Do you feel lost, misunderstood or that you don’t fit in and others are judging you for that?

Do you frequently feel anxious or depressed?

Are you frightened of social situations and fear being rejected.

Do you feel others judge you as not being good enough?

Do you feel empowered in your life?

How childhood experiences can impact you as an adult

Did you know that trauma in childhood has a significant impact on your self-worth?

If your sense of safety and belonging in childhood was damaged you are likely to have developed skills to keep you safe in that situation. As you grew up you may never have unlearned those skills, so they trap you in patterns that don’t serve you in adulthood.

Also, poor attachment between your parents and you puts you at risk of suffering from loneliness in adulthood.

Traumatic experiences in your childhood disrupt how you see your self as a person and affect your ability to regulate your emotions. All this impacts on the quality of the interpersonal relationships you have later in life.

My parents didn’t physically or sexually abuse me. I can’t have suffered trauma.

It can be hard to understand you have been traumatised in childhood. The usual picture of trauma is that of being hit or sexually abused. But trauma covers much more than just that. In fact, the worst traumas are emotional and psychological.

Neglect

Neglect is a trauma that is often overlooked. With neglect the child’s physical and emotional needs are frequently overlooked. It may involve not receiving regular meals, not having clean clothes to wear, not having your emotional needs for comfort and support met. A parent who rarely interacts or shows an interest in you is also neglectful.

Neglectful parents are also unlikely to be there to teach you skills of emotional regulation. They may not teach you how to wash yourself, how often to change your clothes.

It is unlikely a neglectful parent will see you and spend time connecting to you. This is known as attunement. A child who is not seen is a child who is not safe. Not being safe is extremely traumatic.

The clear message in this situation is that you have no worth or value. After all, you are not worth having any time or attention given to you.

Narcissistic Parent

Narcissistic parents are also very destructive of a child’s sense of self-worth.

Such a parent depends on the child to make them feel good. The child gets positive attention when they do things that serve the parent. The trouble is, there are no clear guidelines as to what the child needs to do to serve the parent. Consequently, the child lives life second guessing the parent in order to feel that the parent will care for them and they will be safe.

Narcissistic parents will also often shame their children in front of others. They will expect their child to meet their needs, to do things to make them proud. They will never teach their child any skills that will equip them for adulthood and self-reliance.

Narcissistic parents will often hold the child close to serve their needs. They want the child to stay dependent on them because the child is there to serve their needs and that is why they had them.

One classic example is of a woman who would take her child to school. The child would happily run into the classroom and greet her friends. The mother would call her back and make a fuss of her, stating it was okay for mummy to leave now and she would be okay. The child would go back to her friends and be happily talking with them. Again, the mother would call her back. This would continue until the child’s resolve was broken and she would wail and beg her mother not to leave her.

A narcissistic parent is one of the most destructive types of parent and sentence their children to mental poor health and a dependence on validation from others in adulthood.

Complex PTSD and Borderline personality disorder

These conditions develop because of chronic trauma experienced in childhood. The type of trauma most associated with these conditions is emotional abuse and invalidation. It can happen if you are neglected or have a narcissistic parent. It can also happen from other types of abuse and invalidation.

Sometimes parents are not aware that their behaviour towards their children is invalidating and can be surprised when their child develops this disorder in adulthood.

When a parent is emotionally abusive or invalidating during a child’s early years it impacts on the child’s sense of self and the child can struggle to have a strong sense of self.

You may develop self-defeating attitudes and beliefs around yourself and the trustworthiness of the world.

When raised in such an environment it is also difficult to learn to regulate your emotions. This is often due to your parents being unable to regulate their emotions. How can you teach another person how to regulate their emotions if you can’t do it yourself.

For this reason, I encourage people who had difficult childhoods to seek counselling from a trauma trained professional before having children. Many parents who were emotionally abused as children are determined their own children will never have to go through that. But sometimes things your children do can trigger reactions in you that you can’t control and don’t like doing. If you find raising your children triggers behaviours you struggle to control then seek counselling. Seeking help makes you a good parent.

Unstable and intense relationships

If you find that any type of relationship you have with others tends to be intense and over time unstable then you may be experiencing the impacts of chronic trauma in childhood. Sometimes these relationships happen because you are uncomfortable being alone and seek out anyone who looks willing to be in a relationship with you. This can result in you unconsciously choosing the wrong type of person to have a relationship with.

Sometimes when you are in a relationship you can sabotage it by clinging to the person and unwittingly pushing them away.

I think you are the best, I hate you patterns

Another impact of childhood trauma can be seen in meeting someone new and idealising them. This continues for some time then you start devaluing them and finding things wrong with them.

You are too hard on yourself

One of the saddest impacts of childhood trauma is the lack of self-worth and lack of self-compassion.

It is not surprising that children develop these beliefs. When a parent is abusive, or expects you to jump over hoops to gain their approval, the natural response is to believe this is because you are a bad person. If your parent constantly tells you that you are bad then this belief is reinforced.

The reality is that a child is just a child learning how to live life. There is no inherent badness in a child. Sadly a child doesn’t know that. Shame becomes a big part of the life of an abused child.

Ways to dull the pain

If you never learned how to regulate your emotions, and you believe you are a bad person, then you feel great pain that you don’t know how to soothe.

Many people turn to behaviours that numb the pain. These behaviours may be dangerous. A good example of this is children who steal cars then drive them dangerously at high speed. The risk and dangers inherent in this activity help to suppress their pain.

Other things people do include addictions such as substance abuse, smoking or vaping, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, exercise addiction and eating disorders.

I am lonely

If you don’t feel you are worth anything then you may not feel you are likeable. The result is that you may avoid getting close to others so that they can’t reject you.

Getting close to another person means exposing yourself to the rejection of your parents. If they rejected you, then other people will too.

When you do form relationships with others you may be frightened of expressing your needs or asking for help because your parents failed to meet those needs when you were a child. So you may feel even lonelier because you can’t turn to someone for help.

Many people who suffered trauma in childhood report feeling lonely.

Depression and Anxiety

It is very common for someone traumatised as a child to be anxious. Your childhood was an anxious time of never being sure when you would receive support, or whether you may be abused. Abusers are rarely predictable so hypervigilance was an essential part of childhood.

Hypervigilance leads to anxiety. There is the need to be constantly on your guard because you never know what is going to happen in the next minute. You never know when things will suddenly become dangerous and frightening.

When you grow up and things become safer the fear doesn’t go away because your brain has developed neural pathways that constantly scan for danger. This is why anxiety is a constant companion of the traumatised child.

Depression is another consequence of this type of childhood. Many people report feeling depressed from childhood. The sense of not being good enough, the lack of self-worth, being emotionally worn down with anxiety and fear, the rejection and abandonment of parents and the sense of never being safe all contribute to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless and lead into depression.

I constantly feel on edge

The environment of neglect and emotional abuse is a highly stressful environment. Children in this situation are being impacted regularly by the release of stress hormones in the body. This has an impact on the developing brain and will often result in an adult who is highly sensitive to stress hormones.

The result is that your brain is in a constant state of defending yourself. In other words the fight/flight/freeze response.

It is very difficult to cope with life if your brain is constantly seeing danger and you spend a lot of time with your brain taking over your life and deciding whether you are to fight, run away, or freeze.

When this defence mechanism takes over, your thinking brain switches off. You can’t control your reactions. Sadly, very few people understand this and you may find yourself judged when you get stuck in this defence response.

It is for this reason that it is important to seek counselling from a qualified trauma counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, 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 complicated journey of grief

Dealing with grief is overwhelming.

As you try to come to terms with your grief it can feel so hard to do. Being able to verbalise what you are feeling and experiencing can be so difficult to accomplish that many people never process their grief to that depth.

Grief is complex, overwhelming and unsettling.

The 5 stages of death belief

Back in the 70s it was thought that grief was processed in a straight line. There was a five stage process that you went through in that order. According to this theory you were supposed to experience the stages of:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Later an extra stage was added:

  1. Meaning

This was a theory formed to describe the process of dying, not the process of grief.

So much harm was done to people who weren’t grieving according to the rigid stages structure. Even today, there are those who adhere to this long defunct theory.

The effects of grief are more complex than a simple linear theory.

The tasks of grieving

There have been many theories of death proposed since then. In many of the theories it was suggested there were “tasks” to be completed during the grieving process.

One of the most popular theories gives four tasks:

  1. Accept the reality of the loss
  2. Process the pain of grief
  3. Adjust to a world without the one you lost
  4. Find an enduring connection with the person in the midst of embarking on a new life.

The tasks in themselves aren’t wrong. But a rigid adherence to them is not helpful when you are grieving.

Oscillating between grief and life

More recently the Dual Process Model has become popular. In this theory you oscillate between loss oriented mode and restoration oriented mode. This model has great validity. You need to keep living so you do have to live in the real world and there are tasks of living you still need to do. Additionally you need to learn how to live in the world without the one you love. You also need to process the loss so you need to spend time and allow yourself to experience and accept the emotional pain of your loss.

But there is more to understanding grief than oscillating from loss and restoration.

Multidimensional Grief Theory

In 2023 a paper was released describing Multidimensional Grief Theory (MGT). This theory relates to children aged 7-18 who are grieving. According to the theory there are three dimensions of grief. They are:

• Separation Distress

• Existential/identity distress

• Circumstance-related distress

Although this is aimed at children, my reading of the theory is that it can be applied to adults as well.

Separation Distress

Separation distress is not just an emotional reaction. It also involves areas of the brain where attachments to other people form. When someone close dies, there is a time of that area of the brain removing and altering neural networks connected to that person.

The big issue with separation distress is finding a way to feel connected to the person you are grieving for, even when they are gone.

Existential and Identity exploration

Every time you lose a loved one, there is a period of redefining yourself. This happens because every person you are connected to helps you define who you are. When one person dies, especially if they were very important in your life, you have to redefine who you are.

Every loss is a challenge existentially. I have found this is greater when it is the first time you have encountered the death of someone you know.

The way they died

The last dimension of grief relates to the circumstances of that person’s death. How do you think and feel about the way they died? How do you learn to accept that?

These three dimensions of grief have a major impact on how well you process grief and incorporate it into your life.

The importance of understanding what is happening to you

You may wonder why I am giving you all this information.

It is important you understand what is happening to you. When people talk about you being in denial or anger you can understand this is an outmoded theory on dying that was misapplied to grief.

If someone talks to you about tasks you must complete you can understand what they are referring to.

You are more likely to hear about the dual process model if you visit me and I will explain how you sometimes are overwhelmed by grief and other times focused on daily tasks and learning to live after your loss.

As for MGT, I am also likely to discuss with you the impact on your brain of the separation from the one you love. I will also at some stage explore the existential and identity aspects of your loss. You may also want to talk about how your loved one died so I will most likely explore your perception of that with you.

To Summarise

Grief is a complicated journey. There is a lot to process and a lot of physical changes in your brain to be completed. You need to learn how to live in the world now they are gone. You need to learn who you are. You also need to process your feelings around the manner of their death. Sometimes you will want to talk, other times cry, and maybe other times process your feelings through expressive activities such as poetry, painting, sandplay, or journalling.

This journey takes time, so don’t rush it. Be okay for it to take as long as it needs to.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief journey, 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

Attachment and its relevance to you

Attachment is a frequent topic of conversation. You may have heard about it and wondered what it is. In this blog, I will be explaining attachment and the related term attunement. I will describe the impact it has on child development and finish with an explanation as to how this impacts on adulthood. Finally, I will end with the good news for adults who missed out on secure attachment in childhood and how to correct insecure attachment.

What is Attachment?

Many mistakes and much research has demonstrated that an essential need for children is to be held and touched, as well as to feel seen. This need starts at birth.

These two needs are named Attachment and Attunement.

Attachment describes the bond between the child and their caregiver/s. For survival, a baby needs at least one secure adult who will provide the baby’s needs. If the child cries, it needs an adult to pick it up and attend to its needs for food, nappy changes, comfort when distressed and loving interactions. In an ideal world every child will receive that care and will be secure in the knowledge its care needs will be met.

But this is not an ideal world. And children, even in infancy, have to adopt behaviours to ensure their care needs are met.

The securely attached child

For the child with secure adult/s in their life, it is easy to have their needs met. They know there will be someone to look after them, to keep them clean, feed them, comfort them when they are distressed, play with them, see them. The usual attachment behaviours of crying or holding out their arms will result in their needs being met.

The insecurely attached child

For the child who does not have a secure adult in their life, it is not so easy. These children, described as having an insecure pattern of attachment, learn that their carer is not available when they need them. For this child, crying or expressing emotions may be dangerous. They learn to hide their fear and distress. Other insecurely attached children may learn that only when they exaggerate their crying or adopt any behaviour that gets attention will they get their needs met. For these children there is a belief that their carer is not there to meet their needs physically and/or emotionally.

Another group of insecurely attached children may learn that their carer is totally inconsistent in meeting their needs. This carer may be terrifying. That child may be frozen, unable to get any needs met and never being sure of the carer’s response to their attachment seeking behaviour.

The positive impact of secure attachment

When a child feels safe. That their physical and emotional needs will be met. They are able to develop on a normal trajectory.

Before I explain this, I want to talk about Attunement.

Attunement

It is not enough for a child to have its needs for food and comfort met. Children also need to feel seen.

If a child is not seen and visible to its carer/s then it will not get its needs met and will not survive.

Attunement is noticing a child, tuning into them, interacting with them, seeking to understand them.

A child needs to be reassured that if they are upset at something, their carer will seek to understand what the problem is.

Babies are observed to use behaviours to be noticed by their carer. They smile, coo, put their hands out, respond to the carer’s interactions. All these are part of early attunement.

Another aspect of attunement is the carer who hears the child cry and understands that cry is one of discomfort. So they change the nappy and check for anything else causing discomfort.

If the cry is one of hunger, they feed the child. And so on.

As the child grows, the attuned parent plays with the child, interacts with them, looks at things they show them, seeks to understand why the child is upset, seeks to understand acting out behaviours and so on.

Providing the security to explore the world and safety to return to

Attunement is an important aspect of secure attachment for a child.

What a child needs is to have a secure base from which to explore the world while being delighted in, helped and sharing enjoyment. They also need a safe haven that welcomes the child returning and where they can feel protected, comforted, delighted in, and having their feelings organised so they can learn to do that later in life. (Circle of Security www.circleofsecurity.net)

Interacting with a child securely and safely

Once children learn to talk, they learn to ask questions. A lot of them. These questions are vital aspects of learning for the child. It is a child’s interactions with its carers that drive brain development.

It is during the child’s first five years of life that dramatic brain development takes place. During this time the child learns how to self-regulate their emotions. They learn this by being co-regulated by their carer who holds and comforts them when they are upset or hurt, as well as laughing with them when they are having fun.

During these years, the child learns about the world and forms the view of the world as either safe or dangerous.

4 main areas where attachment drives development

  1. Cognitive development. This is the internal belief about who I am and who You are.
  2. Emotional regulation. This is the ability to experience, tolerate, express and regulate all emotions and to learn to seek help when needed.
  3. Exploratory play and allied behaviour. This is the ability to be able to initiate exploration and investigation of the world through play and socialisation.
  4. Pro-social orientation towards others. This means feeling able to reach out to others, to form friendships with others, to be part of a community.

9 positive benefits throughout life of secure childhood attachment

  1. Protects from toxic stress. Toxic stress can be an abusive teacher, a bully, an abusive parent, needs being unmet, a disruption in the family such as divorce or a parent dying.
  2. Allows healthy development. The stress of insecure attachment has a negative effect on child development. It also makes children vulnerable to depression or anxiety in childhood and later life.
  3. Learning to regulate emotions. This has already been mentioned above.
  4. Develop a healthy sense of self. Being related to by others in secure attachment allows the child to develop a sense of “who am I” and “who are you”.
  5. Frees the brain to focus on learning. Insecure attachment involves the child constantly seeking safety which prevents the brain from giving full attention to learning.
  6. The development of self reliance. If the child is secure, they can feel safe to try new things and learn to be self reliant. On the flip side, the child also learns it is okay to ask for help when needed and safe to rely on others when necessary. Insecurely attached children can struggle to learn self reliance and can struggle to ask for help because as a child there was no one to help them.
  7. Healthy self esteem from which confidence grows. A securely attached child learns that there is always someone who thinks they are worthwhile. This is communicated to the child by the fact that there is always a carer there to pick them up, soothe them, play with them, see them. This sends the message “I am here and you are worth me being here”. What message does the child get from this? “You are here and I must be worth your being here. If I am worth you being here then I am worthwhile”.
  8. Social competence. The carer baby relationship is the first relationship a child has. These sets the template for all relationships the child has in life.
    Secure attachment teaches a child: • it is safe to be close to another person (intimacy) • you can support others and they can support you • empathy • getting along with others in all areas of life (or doing the best you can because it is not possible to get along with everyone)
  9. Good health. This is considered due to lower stress in childhood and into adulthood, which, apart from the lowered exposure to the damaging effect of stress hormones on the body, is shown to lower the need to resort to stress relieving activities such as excessive alcohol intake, comfort eating and smoking.

Secure attachment also leads to healthy relationships which result in good mental health, good physical health, healthy life habits and lowered mortality risk.

How does this relate to me as an adult?

If you had a secure attachment and were well attuned to as a child then you are likely to be able to live life with the ability to cope with the challenges you encounter. You may occasionally need help, but you will be fairly likely to be comfortable asking for help.

You will be able to form secure relationships with other people.

If you didn’t have a secure attachment then life may be more stressful. It may be harder to cope when challenges occur. You may not know who to seek help from or feel safe seeking that help. You may find it hard to do that things you want to do in life.

You may also find it hard to function when you are stressed. And you may notice you are stressed often. On the other hand, other people may comment on how stressed you are and you don’t think you are stressed at all because stress is so much part of your life that you don’t know what it feels like to not be stressed.

You may find you get into friendships and intimate relationships with people who are toxic. You may find yourself unable to speak up at work about problems.

You may find you feel there is crisis after crisis and struggle to feel at peace.

There are myriad ways your childhood may impact on you.

The good news

The good news is that, with the help of a trauma trained counsellor, it is possible to repair those early attachment wounds. It is possible to learn how to be more secure in relationships. It is possible to learn how to use the way your brain developed to serve you well in life, instead of hampering you.

Can I Help?

I am trauma trained and if you would like to talk to me about how I can help you to develop a more secure attachment style, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting 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 Conversation and Journalling Prompts can improve your Communication, Creativity and Self-Awareness as well as Boosting your Mental Health and Well-Being

Soon I will be resuming my live talks in my Facebook Group Plentiful Life Exploration.

Last year I always used some cards I own during the live talks.

The cards are called Deep Speak (by St Luke’s Resources) and aim to respect the right to a voice of all people.

These cards are designed to encourage people to tell their stories, offer opinions and listen to others when they tell their stories.

They also help you to learn more about yourself. This makes them wonderful as journalling prompts and for self reflection.

Today I am going to write my blog with some prompts for you.

If you would like to share your answers you can do so on my page Plentiful Life Counselling, or join my group Plentiful Life Exploration and comment there.

QUESTION ONE

The first question is an opener – to get the conversation started.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I would love to know what your book was.

Mine was Anne of Green Gables. I loved the way this unwanted girl found someone who wanted her and set about learning to be herself and to be able to achieve what she wanted in life. So inspiring.

How about you?

QUESTION TWO

The next question is one about identity. That is such a difficult thing for many people. Here is a question to help you explore who you are.

Do you have a favourite family story?

I would love to know what your story is.

Mine is that my grandfather, as a young 19 year old, had to leave Scotland to find work. He was supposed to sail to Canada where his older brothers were waiting.
But my Grandfather hated the cold. He got to the port and there was a ship sailing to Australia there as well. So he bought his ticket to Australia and got on the boat. Wow! He really hated the cold.

I have always been in awe of his courage to sail to a country where he knew no one and there would be no one to support him. He made a life for himself and survived very well. Such a wonderful role model.

QUESTION THREE

The next question is about relationships.

Have you ever been let down by a friend?

That is a challenging one. It hurts to be let down by someone. Often when you share your story other people judge it as being unimportant. But of course it is.

I would love to know what your story is.

Mine is that I had planned to take a trip with a friend to a new place I had never been before. We were going to stay a few days. I researched what we could do and where we could stay. I was so excited. Then my friend told me she was going to this place with another friend. I was so upset and felt so rejected by this. I never said anything to her but I felt she must have decided she didn’t want to go with me. In reality I suspect she had forgotten we had made this plan. I sometimes think it would have been better if at the time I had said that I thought we were going to go together and that I was disappointed. Instead I distanced myself from her and our relationship was never as close again.

QUESTION FOUR

The next question is about values. Values are so important. They guide how you see the world and how you relate to others.

How rich do you want to be?

That is seemingly simple. But many people hold values around wealth and the type of people who hold it.

For me, I want to have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. By comfortable I mean being able to pay my bills and have the odd treat. To not have to lie awake at night worrying about money.

QUESTION FIVE

The next question is about emotions. This is a lovely reflective question that allows you to explore who you are and how to regulate your feelings.

How do you control your anger?

I would love he hear how you do that.

Anger is so hard to control. I always try to remember to breathe deeply and slowly so that I can remain in control of my feelings. So often anger involves feeling in danger and needing to defend yourself. When that happens, the rational part of your brain is no longer accessible and it is impossible to control your feelings. Breathing deeply and slowly sends a message to the brain that you are safe. It allows you to be able to think about how you want to respond and allows you to choose a response that is helpful for you and others.

QUESTION SIX

The last question is about beliefs. This is another one that is important for you to understand about yourself and for others to learn about you.

Have you ever had something you’d call a spiritual experience?

I would love to hear from you.

Spiritual experiences cover a large range of things. They can include seeing a wonderful sunset and watching in awe at its beauty. They can include feeling the presence of a loved one who has died.

For me I have experienced both those things.

THE BENEFITS OF EXPLORING QUESTIONS LIKE THESE

Learning to explore and share your story, even if it is only with the pages of a journal, is an important way to learn more about you. It helps you to understand why you feel the way you do about things. It helps you to feel able to share stories of the sad things in life, of the traumatic events, of the hurtful things. It helps you to heal, either by yourself or by seeking support from a counsellor.

Learning more about yourself allows you to be more present to what your body is feelings. This allows you to better understand what you are feeling. This skill is important in living life successfully, being able to regulate your emotions and form relationships with other people that are mutually respectful.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

Sometimes things that happen in life can make it hard to understand what you are feeling. It can also be hard to feel safe with others and be able to set boundaries that allow you to have comfortable relationships with others.

Sometimes you need help to learn these things and to untangle the difficulties of the past. This is where a counsellor can help you.

CAN I HELP?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with being better able to understand what you are feeling and/or healing from your past hurts, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting 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

Interoception: Understanding the Importance and Benefits of Tuning Into Your Internal Sensations

Did you know:

• That research is showing that your internal body and internal organs send signals to your brain and play a major role in regulating your emotions?

• That your brain flicks in time with your heartbeat?

• That your emotions are impacted by neural activity that is impacted by your body organs?

• That memories are more likely to be remembered when you are in the body state you were in when the memory was first laid down?

• That interoception is important to keep you alive and allows you to feel pain and discomfort in your body.

• That people have different levels of interoception and trauma, either in childhood or adulthood, can reduce interoception.

WHAT LEVEL OF INTEROCEPTION DO YOU HAVE?

One test is to sit comfortably in a chair. Somewhere where you feel safe.
• Close your eyes.

• Place your attention in your heart.

• Can you feel it beating in your chest?

• If so, can you count your heart beats without having to find your pulse and count with your finger?

If you can feel your heart, then you have good interoception.

Interoception is not well known. Most of the emphasis in life is on what we think, not on what we feel in our bodies.

But interoception is a vital skill for your wellbeing.

Did you know that research has indicated that how well you can feel the signals from your body determines how well you regulate your emotions. If you can regulate your emotions well then you are less likely to experience anxiety and depression.

If you can read what your body is feeling, then you can be better able to protect yourself from mental health issues, regulate your emotions, and resolve conflicts.

WHAT IS INTEROCEPTION?

Interoception is the signals, expressed in sensations, that you receive from your body. This includes sensations sent from your internal organs such as your heart, lungs, bowel, bladder and so on.

These sensations are constantly being sent to our brains, where they are read by the brain. The brain makes the decision whether we need to be consciously aware of any of these sensations.

Have you ever heard someone say they felt something in their body wasn’t quite right then found out they had a medical issue with a particular body organ? This is an example of interoception where signals from an organ indicating a problem were sent to the brain and the brain sent messages to your conscious brain that there was something wrong.

When you feel something is wrong but can’t quite explain that feeling, this is interoception at work.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOTICING BODY SENSATIONS AND UNDERSTANDING THEM

Most people’s brains are able to feel what is in their bodies, but they may not know how to interpret what they are feeling. They may not understand the link between what their body is feeling and the event that led them to develop that reaction in their brain.

Some people are totally cut off from the understanding of those sensations and may not even be aware they are feeling anything in their body unless they are taught to pay attention to those sensations. This is seen often in people who are depressed. They cannot feel their bodies and they feel numb.

Similarly, people who have suffered trauma, especially childhood trauma, often have difficulty feeling body sensations.

POOR INTEROCEPTION CAN LEAD TO ANXIETY

Other people are aware of these sensations but cannot understand what they mean. These types of people are more likely to report feeling anxious. They need to learn to connect these sensations with their conscious brains.

People who report feeling numb and separate from their body have been found to have poor interoceptive awareness. They struggle to notice what they are feeling.

Autistic people often struggle with interoception because they often struggle with Alexithymia (see previous blog on this). This is why many autistic adults suffer from anxiety.

INTEROCEPTION AND YOUR SENSE OF SELF

Interoception is the foundation of your sense of self.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE INTEROCEPTION

Mindfulness is one approach that has been found to increase people’s ability to tune into their internal sensations.

Exercise has also been shown to help with interoception, especially certain exercises. For people with trauma histories, the feeling of the heart racing is threatening as it can trigger the fear of a trauma response. Exercising and getting used to the heart racing, and learning how to be comfortable with that can help with the feeling of threat. Exercise will also allow you to use mindfulness to allow you to learn to read the signals your exercising body is giving out.

Interestingly strength training has been shown to reduce anxiety. It is thought that training the muscles changes the signals the brain receives from the muscles as they become stronger and better able to deal with heavy use.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

It is helpful to seek professional help with difficulties with interoception. A trauma trained counsellor can help you resolve any underlying issues and learn how to feel safe in your body. Once you feel safein your body then you can learn interoception.

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting 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

Finding the Real Wonderful You

• Are you finding yourself bored with your life?

• Maybe you feel depressed at how little you feel you achieve?

• Or do you think that compared to other people you life is so unimpressive?

• What can you do to fall in love with your life again?

• What can you do to feel motivated to change?

DO YOU REALLY KNOW YOURSELF?

The first thing is to ask yourself if you really know yourself. This may sound weird but let me explain.

You are a unique individual. At your core, the bit others often don’t see, is a vibrant, curious person. This person is magical and able to express themself in honesty and love. In fact this person is totally lovable.

Sometimes this authentic self is called the Wonder Child. The pure little being born into this world to thrive, survive and achieve as themself.

Life however rarely allows the Wonder Child to be themself. The Wonder Child is bruised and battered by people and events in life.

To protect themself, the Wonder Child hides the parts that they feel are unacceptable to others. This self protection keeps them away from true connection with others through their Authentic Self.

THE WOUNDED CHILD

As the Authentic Self is buried under these layers of protection, what emerges is the Wounded Child.

The Wounded Child knows they must put on a false self to protect themself from hurt and rejection. This becomes a Mask and it is designed to protect from hurt and rejection.

The trouble is that the Mask hides the true Authentic Self. Often you don’t even see the Mask as not being you and you miss out on knowing your Authentic Self.

So you live your life with the Mask that your Wounded Child hides behind as it protects your Authentic Self.

Small wonder you feel bored, depressed and that your lie is completely unimpressive.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT YOUR INAUTHENTIC LIFE?

How can you access your Authentic Self in order to change your life?

Sitting and thinking about it does little to help you. That Mask is very good at covering up those bits that are considered less socially acceptable.

There is a need for much deeper exploration of the unconscious in order to find that Authentic Self again.

HERE IS SOMETHING LEFT FIELD TO TRY

One of the things I encourage people to do is use art to express themselves.

What do I mean by art?

Anything that is spontaneous, creative and allows you to express your authentic self.

This can include:

• Journaling in a dedicated journal

• Drawing in an art journal

• Painting

• Collage

HOW DO I USE CREATIVITY TO FIND THE REAL ME?

The best way to find your authentic self and start the process of change is to spend a few minutes every day doing something spontaneous and creative.

I have already mentioned 4 things you can try but what you do depends on you.

The important thing is to let go and let the real you out to create.

JOURNAL WITH YOUR NON DOMINANT HAND

If you choose to write in a journal, write with your non dominant hand. This will allow you to access more of your mind that writing with your dominant hand.

DRAW OR PAINT

Drawing or painting can be great. Many people particularly love the flow of paint. My personal preference is for watercolour, but sometimes I draw with pencil, crayon or felt tip pens.

A lot of people are frightened of drawing/painting because they feel they can’t draw well. I draw stick figures, unashamedly. This is not about producing a masterpiece; it is about expressing yourself. Squiggles of paint, funny shapes, dots, lines. All these are great ways to express yourself. You need to paint what is inside, for your eyes only.

COLLAGE

If you feel really challenged by drawing or painting then you can try collage. Many people find that really helpful. You just need some magazines/advertising flyers, stickers, scraps of paper. Anything you can find that you can glue to a piece of paper is great.

A 30 DAY CREATIVITY CHALLENGE

One way to challenge yourself is to do this for 30 days. It need only take a few minutes.

• To do this effectively start by bringing yourself to a place of stillness.

• Sit quietly, you can close your eyes or let your eyes not focus on anything.

• As you sit quietly tell yourself you are going to let go of everything in your life at the moment. You could say “Just for this moment I let go of everything”

• Breathe in and out gently. Focus on your breath. After a few breaths take a deep breath into your belly and then gently let it out. Now breathe a few more deep breaths. Continue to focus on your breath. If anything comes into your mind just gently put it to one side. Don’t engage with the thought. Once you have taken a few breaths and you are feeling you have stilled your mind you can move on to the next step.

• While you are still quite and reflective, ask yourself “What do I need to paint/write/draw/collage right now?”

• You could put your hands on the paper and ask the question. You can tell yourself that you are going to express what needs to be expressed.

• Now start. Just put on that paper what feels you feel like. Don’t have a plan. If you feel you want to paint a corner red then paint it red. If you feel you want to draw a smiley face, then draw a smiley face. If you see a picture of a bottle of perfume and you want it on your page, then put it on your page. If you want to write random words in your journal then do that.

• Whatever you put on the paper is the right thing.

• Keep going until you feel you are finished.

• Look at what you have done.

• Does anything about it strike you in some way? It doesn’t have to.

• It is always helpful to put the paper away and look at it later.

• Things you put on the paper that may immediately or over time give you insights.

• You may notice you keep drawing a particular shape, or use certain words. You may find your collages follow a particular theme. You may favour certain colours.

• You may find you look at what you have done and a thought will pop into your head about it. You may find yourself seeing a meaning in the picture.

• Over time you may find more insights in your expression than you realised when you were doing it.

• There is no right and wrong in this.

If you would like to join my Plentiful Life Exploration Facebook group you are welcome to join in a 30 day challenge of expressing yourself daily.

The link for the group is Plentiful Life Exploration | Facebook

I will be kicking the 30 day challenge off next Tuesday 16 August at 4am with a live feed on my Facebook page. You are welcome to join me for that or you can watch it later.

You can post your work on the page and share any insights you have or ask people about any insights they may have in it.

NEED MORE HELP?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you find and heal the authentic you, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting 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

And don’t forget to join my Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/761908951834983