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

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

Trauma Impacts Your Adult Life, Even When You Don’t Think It Has

“Few of us have escaped experiencing trauma in our human life. I define trauma as a difficult life event that was too overwhelming to emotionally process when it happened. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, trauma is stored in your body, waiting for another time in the future to be digested, resolved and healed.” ~ Shelley Klammer

Many of the difficult feelings that are experienced in life are never dealt with. Maybe at the time there was too much going on to be able to process what had happened. Maybe there wasn’t support available to help you process what had happened. Often these traumatic experiences occur in childhood.

Frequently other people don’t understand how traumatic seemingly (to them) unimportant events can be to a child. If others don’t comprehend the impact the event had on you, then they can’t help you process it.

Sadly, not all children have adults in their lives who are attuned to them or have the skills to help them process the difficult things that happen in life.

So You Think Your Childhood Trauma Didn’t Impact You?

I have witnessed so many people who claim they were never impacted by the difficult things that happened in their lives, but the way they react to things and the difficulties they face in life tell another story.

So often individuals are unaware of the impacts because they have covered them up for so long, at first as a matter of survival and later because they have covered them up so successfully they can no longer see them as existing.

My Journey Of Discovery

I know. I did the same thing. As I grew older, and learned more, I started to try to understand what was happening for me.

My mother dying helped, as her hold over me was broken. It was like waking up and seeing the things she did to me and hearing what other people had observed but I hadn’t been ready to hear until she was dead.

When I studied counselling I discovered a lot of places where trauma had impacted me. I was able to see that shadow side. The trauma side.

Along the way I sought my own counselling to help heal the trauma impacts.

Shame

I was also able to acknowledge the shame I felt at being abused as a child.

Shame is a major part of childhood abuse. The child is often told the adult’s bad behaviour is the child’s fault. Even if the child is not told that, the child concludes they are bad and shameful because it is the only way they can make sense of what is happening to them.

Trauma Healing Is Active And Lifelong

I continue to discover places where trauma has impacted me. I suspect I will continue finding these impacts until I die. They are not major now, but they are still there.

Seeing Trauma Impacts As Different Parts Of You

I have learned to be able to see those impacts as a child of the age when the trauma occurred. That helps to be more objective about the impacts.

It helps to have compassion for the child, rather than judging her. It helps me to understand better how hard I had to work as a child and how well I have done to be fairly normal as an adult.

Mindfulness, reflection and compassion are my tools for exploring all those hurt places.

You can learn this too. On your journey you will find it hard to be able to do this alone. This is where a trauma trained counsellor is helpful.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma impacts, 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

“Few of us have escaped experiencing trauma in our human life. I define trauma as a difficult life event that was too overwhelming to emotionally process when it happened. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, trauma is stored in your body, waiting for another time in the future to be digested, resolved and healed.” ~ Shelley Klammer

Many of the difficult feelings that are experienced in life are never dealt with. Maybe at the time there was too much going on to be able to process what had happened. Maybe there wasn’t support available to help you process what had happened. Often these traumatic experiences occur in childhood.

Frequently other people don’t understand how traumatic seemingly (to them) unimportant events can be to a child. If others don’t comprehend the impact the event had on you, then they can’t help you process it.

Sadly, not all children have adults in their lives who are attuned to them or have the skills to help them process the difficult things that happen in life.

Subheading So You Think Your Childhood Trauma Didn’t Impact You?

I have witnessed so many people who claim they were never impacted by the difficult things that happened in their lives, but the way they react to things and the difficulties they face in life tell another story.

So often individuals are unaware of the impacts because they have covered them up for so long, at first as a matter of survival and later because they have covered them up so successfully they can no longer see them as existing.

Subheading My Journey Of Discovery

I know. I did the same thing. As I grew older, and learned more, I started to try to understand what was happening for me.

My mother dying helped, as her hold over me was broken. It was like waking up and seeing the things she did to me and hearing what other people had observed but I hadn’t been ready to hear until she was dead.

When I studied counselling I discovered a lot of places where trauma had impacted me. I was able to see that shadow side. The trauma side.

Along the way I sought my own counselling to help heal the trauma impacts.

Subheading Shame

I was also able to acknowledge the shame I felt at being abused as a child.

Shame is a major part of childhood abuse. The child is often told the adult’s bad behaviour is the child’s fault. Even if the child is not told that, the child concludes they are bad and shameful because it is the only way they can make sense of what is happening to them.

Subheading Trauma Healing Is Active And Lifelong

I continue to discover places where trauma has impacted me. I suspect I will continue finding these impacts until I die. They are not major now, but they are still there.

Subheading Seeing Trauma Impacts As Different Parts Of You

I have learned to be able to see those impacts as a child of the age when the trauma occurred. That helps to be more objective about the impacts.

It helps to have compassion for the child, rather than judging her. It helps me to understand better how hard I had to work as a child and how well I have done to be fairly normal as an adult.

Mindfulness, reflection and compassion are my tools for exploring all those hurt places.

You can learn this too. On your journey you will find it hard to be able to do this alone. This is where a trauma trained counsellor is helpful.

Sub heading Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma impacts, 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

What you seek is what you are

This quote from a Tara Brach lecture is a reminder that you need to find your purpose in life. This is not some mystical endeavour, it is actually relatively simple.

What are the things you love doing?

What is your passion?

Not what others tell you that you are good at, or that you should be doing. No. This is about what you love doing. What you dream of doing.

What Makes You Happy?

Think of the things you long to do. The things that make you happy.

When you identify what makes you happy let your purpose come to you. Practice mindfulness. Sometimes meditate on the things the make you happy.

Explore without agenda, just with curiosity, what it is about those things that makes you happy. Allow the exploration to lead you to where it sends you.

Learn To Listen To Your Intuition

If you haven’t already done so, learn to listen to your intuition. That feeling in your belly that alerts you to things that you are uncomfortable with and things you love doing. That feeling that longs to do things.

Do the things you love. Allow your imagination to dream about them. Follow your intuition. In time create your ideal reality. Realise that the longings you feel, the call you hear, is calling you for a reason. This is the path, the path you follow with purpose. This is your purpose in life.

Your Purpose

Your purpose is what YOU follow. Nobody else has to follow that path. Nobody else has to understand why you follow it. Nobody else has the right to criticise or judge your path. It is your path, your responsibility, your choice.

Finding that path is great. Following it is often daunting.

Following Your Purpose

Tara Brach talks about how in times like this you forget your oceannness. You identify with the waves crashing on the shore, tossing you around when you swim in the surf. Those waves can be scary. They are hard to learn to ride. Even experienced surfers fall off waves frequently. That can be scary.

But Tara reminds us you are not the waves. You are the ocean. Never forget your oceanness. You should be identifying with the ocean, not the waves. The ocean is vast and powerful and the waves have little impact on it. The ocean is bigger than the waves and you don’t have to be afraid of the waves, because you are the ocean.

You Are The Ocean And The Waves Are Thoughts and Feelings

See the waves as thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Just listen to them. I love to watch the waves on stormy days. Their power and their ferociousness is awe inspiring. But if you look out beyond the waves, the ocean if fairly flat. If you were to travel out way beyond the continental shelf you would see the vast ocean, stretching as far as you can see in all directions. This vast body of water that hardly moves at all.

The waves have little impact on the ocean itself. And your thoughts and feelings have no power over you. Using the essential skill of mindfulness meditation, you can listen to those thoughts and feelings. When you ground yourself in the present moment, in reality, and use mindfulness, you can take a step back from those thoughts and feelings and just observe them.

Learning To Identify With the Ocean

You are the ocean and you are not the waves breaking on the shore. You can see them and observe them, but they have little impact on the deepest part of you.

When you identify with the calm, deep and steady ocean and use mindfulness you can just observe the emotions and realise you may be experiencing them, but you are not the emotions and thoughts. You are the calm, deep, steady ocean.

How To Manage Overwhelming Thoughts and Memories

You can do this every time emotions or memories overwhelm you. Focus on your breathing. feel into the sensations in your body. Connect to the ground. Take that step back and observe the emotions.

Sometimes it is helpful to say “this too”. I have found this a really helpful phrase to remind me to step back from the emotions and observe them rather than be overwhelmed by them.

Be the observer watching the waves crash on the shore, not the person being thrown around by them, struggling not to drown.

Journalling after you meditate is really helpful. It is especially useful after you have meditated to manage overwhelm.

How Do I Learn To Meditate?

I will shortly be making available a recording of how to do a basic mindfulness meditation.

It often works better if you can get spoken instructions. If you were sitting in my therapy room, or the location where we have chosen to hold a therapy session, I would instruct you on how to do this.

For now, I will write some instructions. If you sing up for my newsletter you will receive a free mindfulness mediation that guides you to explore your feelings safely. It is a helpful interim measure and you may learn from it too.

Practicing Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is about allowing yourself to be present. Really present. It is about paying attention to what is happening in you and around you. Sometimes, too deep an exploration of your internal feelings can be overwhelming so it is often helpful to be mindful of your boundaries and what is going on
around you.

I am going to describe a mindfulness mediation that focuses on your boundaries and what is around you.

A Mindfulness Meditation

  1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit or lie. Somewhere where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. It can be helpful to listen to gentle music, there is plenty you can find online or you may have some in your music library.
  3. You may choose to close your eyes, or if that is too difficult to do, soften your focus so that you are not looking at anything.
  4. Breathe in deeply so that you feel your tummy rise. Then slowly release that breath.
  5. Pay attention to what it feels like as you breathe in, as the air enters your nose, as your tummy and chest rise.
  6. Then pay attention to what it feels like as you breathe out, your tummy and chest drop and you can feel the air leaving your nose.
  7. You may even hear yourself breathe in and out.
  8. You may choose to say to yourself “I am breathing in”. “I am breathing out.”
  9. You may choose to say to yourself “As I breathe in, I breathe in peace”. “As I breathe out I breathe out tension.”
  10. Continue breathing gently and easily for a while.
  11. When you are ready you may choose to check in with your body to identify how you are feeling. This involves focusing on each area of the body as you breathe in and out and noticing anything you are feeling there. It may be tension, pain, discomfort, heat, cold, relaxation. Don’t judge what you feel, just notice it.
  12. If at any time you find yourself noticing other things, maybe a thought pops up, just notice it and don’t engage with it. It is as if someone has come into the room and you know they are there but you choose not to talk with them.
  13. As I mentioned earlier, it can be distressing for some people to explore the body. If you notice that you may switch to observing your boundaries.
  14. Notice your body as it touches whatever you are sitting or lying on. Notice the feeling of the fabric where your skin is making contact. Notice the feeling of pressure where your body is making contact with the other surface. If your feet are touching the floor notice your feet touching the floor. If you are in a room with a breeze, notice the feeling of the breeze on your skin.
  15. Once you have paid attention to your boundaries (your skin) you can turn your attention to things you are hearing. Maybe you can hear a clock ticking, or a bird calling outside the window. Maybe you can hear rain, wind, cars, a far-off lawn mower, children playing. Just gently notice those things without judgement.
  16. Continue breathing in and out and just observing what you are paying attention to, whether it is inside your body or outside of your body.
  17. When you are ready you may open your eyes, stretch and go about your day.

How Often Should I Practice Mindfulness And For How Long?

Mindfulness meditation does not have to be long. I suggest at least 5 minutes at a time. If you can manage that once or twice a day then you will become familiar with this practice and be well equipped to practice it whenever you are overwhelmed.

Just practicing mindfulness when you are overwhelmed won’t work because you will be trying to learn a new practice when your brain is not able to do that. But if you practice mindfulness when you are calm then you can just quickly use it when overwhelmed and your brain will be able to use mindfulness to help you regain calm.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with discovering your life purpose and/or learning mindfulness,, 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

Why Imagination—Not Resilience—Might Help You Heal From Heartbreak

One of the buzz words you will likely hear spoken around disasters and traumas is resilience. It is particularly popular in schools where teachers speak enthusiastically about developing resilience in children. Sadly, teachers have so much they had to teach children that adding resilience to the mix is really difficult.

Resilience Is Not Always Enough

What researchers have found is that maintaining resilience is virtually impossible. Resilience is defined as a consistent ability to adapt to difficult situations and return to normal.

This is fine if you have gaps between your difficult situations that allow you to adapt. As for returning to normal. Once something, anything, happens it changes you and you can’t go back, only forward.

Resilience requires great mental toughness. Something that goes out the window with massive difficulties. Facing a life changing crisis is more likely to leave you feeling weak and disempowered.

Mental Toughness Leaves When Facing Heartbreak

If you have been through a disaster or major trauma, or you have faced a devastating grief, mental toughness is one thing that will be in short supply.

You are scared, tired, overwhelmed, not knowing what to do next.

Resilience goes out the window here and suggesting to a person in that situation that they are resilient and will cope, or that they need to learn resilience is soul destroying.

You Can Only Ever Go Forward, Never Back

In grief, as in disasters and major traumas, life altering events occur. There is no going back to what you were. You are in uncharted territory.

You won’t bounce back. You won’t get over it. You won’t go back to what was there before. To how you were before.

Learning To Be A New Person

What you do need to do is learn how to be a new person. The new person who has suffered a loss and has been changed by what has happened to them.

You won’t bounce back, you will likely limp slowly over the finish line, long after the race organisers have packed up and gone home.

Imagination, The Hero Of Healing

What is more likely to help you in grief is your imagination. That right brain side. The creativity that allows you to find solutions to life’s problems. The side that allows you to imagine things. The side that is curious, open and allows you to adapt.

The right side of your brain allows you to imagine the future. It allows you to look at the future from different angles. It allows you to perceive your blackness and despair as something temporary and malleable. As something you can change. As a future with potential.

Imagination Brings Your Conscious Brain Back On Line

There is a method of using imagination to reimagine past events in an effort to heal the past trauma. This uses the concept that imagining things stimulates the cognitive part of our brains that is usually taken off line in unsafe situations, such as grief and trauma.

Researchers have discovered that if you are able understand what matters to you most right now then you can use your imagination to discover what is possible for you to do in the present moment.

Imagining What You Are Able To Do

Your imagination actually helps you to imagine what you are able to do in this moment. Not what you “should” be doing, but what you are able to do.

The interesting thing about imagination is that it can find slight suggestions of hope that you can use to help you through this time of heartbreak.

People who have used their imagination to get through grief have found that imagining something as simple as getting out of bed, having a shower, eating breakfast, getting dressed, going out of the house. Have helped them actually do those things that had seemed so impossible.

Imagination Helps You Get Back Into The World

As the people moved out of the deepest parts of the crisis they were able to imagination things that led them out more into the world.

Over time, these people were able to use their imaginations to discover the new them and the new life without the one they loved so much.

Your Imagination Will Never Remove Your Pain, But…

You can never imagine away your pain. That would be impossible. But you can imagine small gaps in your suffering that can allow other things to happen. Moments of laughter, connection with others and compassion for yourself and others.

You can imagine so much more. Maybe a conversation with a stranger that becomes amazingly soothing and even healing. Peace when you suddenly see a beautiful flower. The feeling of support when someone gives you a hug.

Imagination allows you to discover that your life is not all pain, that there are still things in your life that are not pain.

Find Your Way Out Of The Pain

When you are in such pain that you can’t see a way out, imagination can allow you to make a choice that will help you see there are gaps in that pain. This is wonderfully helpful for you in being able to cope.

You can imagine choices in what you will do, in where you will go, in whether life is all darkness, or there is light there.

Using your imagination allows you to imagine meaning in the loss of your loved one.

Making a Choice Between Hardness or Imagination and Possibilities

Yes, you can survive the depths of grief by becoming hard, or you can use your imagination to find those gaps in your grief where you can use your curiosity and be able to live with the uncertainty of your life as it will become. You can even use your imagination to stop being afraid of your suffering.

The Role of Mindfulness

To use your imagination it can be helpful to use mindfulness to access that area of your brain.

Mindfulness is a practice that is best used regularly, preferably daily. It can be just 5 minutes. You can do it quietly without anyone else noticing. Although it is best done somewhere away from others, many people practice on public transport on the way to or from work because that is when they have the best opportunity to snatch 5 minutes.

A Helpful Mindfulness Practice

• Sit quietly, preferably somewhere where you will not be disturbed. This is really helpful when you first learn to do mindfulness.

• If you can, close your eyes so that you can focus better. Alternatively you can soften your focus or look down into your lap.

• Take a deep slow breath in to your tummy.

• Release that breath slowly.

• Continue to breath deeply, in and out.

• As you breathe in, notice the feeling of the air entering your nose, you tummy and chest expanding.

• As you breathe out, notice the feeling of the air leaving your nose and your tummy and chest contracting.

• As you breathe in, breathe in peace.

• As you breathe out, breathe out tension.

• Breathing in peace

• Breathing out Tension.

• Once you are settled into this rhythm, and you feel the tension has been released from your body, breathe in say to yourself:

• “Who I was before this time of suffering cannot be resurrected.”

• Continue to say this for a few breaths.

• Now when breathing in say a word of something you are determined to experience while experiencing this hardship. The word may be peace, growth, connection, surprise, reconciliation or any other word that expresses what you are determined to experience in your recovery.

• Now use this word as you continue to breathe in.

• Imagine what it would feel like to be that word, not in the future but now. Find somewhere in your current life where you can feel that word now.

This may seem hard at first, and it will be. But with commitment to practice regularly you can find a way to move forward with your life and your healing from heartbreak.

Can I Help?

Sometimes, when going through experiences that are hard to live through, it can be helpful to get help from a counsellor. If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your heartbreak, 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

Learning to Sit With The Discomfort and Journal

I often write about the way our brains suppress uncomfortable feelings. In this blog I am going to talk about how this relates to grief and how you can learn to sit with what is uncomfortable in your grief journey.

When you feel uncomfortable feelings, your brain responds in many ways.

The first way is you may consciously push the uncomfortable feelings aside. The more you do it, the easier it is to do next time. A lot of people learn to do this as they grow up. It is how we survive in a society that expects us to push our feelings aside in order to maintain the status quo.

But your brain acts subconsciously (without thinking) and unconsciously (below conscious awareness) as well to suppress the uncomfortable feelings.

Where does the brain hide these feelings? In your body. But those feelings don’t just stay there. They agitate to be heard. A lot of pain in the body actually comes from those suppressed, hidden feelings.

Imagine how hard it is to find those feelings and express them when your brain has been so efficient at hiding them!
This happens generally in life, but in this blog I am talking about how this happens with grief and makes it hard to process that grief and move forward in life.

What are the impacts of pain hidden in the body?

The raw pain that sits in your body has never had a chance to be processed. That pain can and does get triggered on occasion and then you are left feeling overwhelmed. Often the pain is never recognised for what it is. But its impacts are far reaching. They may even cause you to feel so overwhelmed with life that you are unable to move forward with your life.

What can I do about this pain?

Processing your pain daily is helpful. That is the ideal. In the early weeks of grief you may find daily too hard to do at first. But try when you can and eventually you will reach a point where you can process this pain daily.

How can I process this pain?

There are many ways to process the pain. I have a daily practice, which I teach in my “Paint Your Soul” workshops. If you have not explored what is hidden within yourself before, it may be more helpful for you to start with a different approach. This allows you to process the great volume of past hidden feelings.

Trust Your Intuition

I often have people telling me they don’t trust their intuition. This is because they have had bad experiences where they thought everything would work out and it didn’t. They often think they have listened to their intuition and it turned out badly. When asked to describe the experience in more detail, it emerges that their intuition was sending clear messages they weren’t heeding because their needs were drowning out the wise voice of their body.

Sit with your body

I teach people to take the time to sit with their feelings and focus on their bodies. Shutting down the brain’s chatter is challenging. But this practice, which is mindfulness, can be learned.

It is often better to learn from someone skilled with mindfulness. I often teach people who come to see me to practice mindfulness in their bodies.

Mindfulness needs to be practiced or it doesn’t work. When you are feeling relaxed and secure is a great time to learn how to tune into your body and listen. When you learn how to do that, it is more likely you can use mindfulness when you start to feel unsafe.

How do I use mindfulness to explore these hidden feelings?

A daily practice of mindfulness meditation and journalling is a great way to explore these feelings.

This involves meditating, listening to the body and writing in a journal the things you have observed.

This method helps you to listen to your body, understand the uncomfortable feelings hidden there and learn how trustworthy your intuition actually is.

How do I journal?

To do this practice, you need to commit to 15 minutes of practice a day.

It is best when you can be in a quiet place and undisturbed.

Getting up 15 minutes earlier in the morning is one way to achieve this if you can’t find space at any other point in the day.

What I have found when I did this practice was that the more I cleared subconsciously, the more my unconscious mind released for processing.

Sitting With The Discomfort Journal

Before you start, you need something to write your notes in. You will find you won’t write a lot, but it is important to record what you need to. This allows you to see patterns, discover hidden feelings, see progress and be encouraged. An old exercise book is ideal for this.

You may like to set a timer for 15 minutes so that you will know when the time is up.

Step 1 – Clear the Space Around You

To do this step, you may like to play some relaxing music quietly in the background. This is useful if there are distracting noises within hearing range.

Sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Note when you breath in and when you breathe out.

Breathe in deeply so that your chest and belly rise. Then breathe out slowly.

Take a few minutes to breathe in and out, just noticing the feeling of your in and out breathe.

Now notice your body. Breathe into each area of your body and observe how it is feeling. Then breathe out any tension held there.

Once you feel you are relaxed, ask yourself how you are feeling today. Don’t push the answers, just allow them to come up. Don’t let the issues that may arise overwhelm you. It helps to identify what comes up as “the feeling of”. This helps to keep it more objective.

Step 2 – Choose a Problem

Now choose one problem you will focus on. Remember to be outside the problem, keeping it objective.

Notice where in your body you can feel this problem. What are you feeling in your body?

Note down without too much detail what and where you are feeling things.

Step 3 – Explore the Problem

After writing down your notes, come back to the breathing in and out, and feel into that part of the body that is housing the problem.

What word, phrase, symbol or image comes up when you sit observing this problem?

Allow yourself to sit for a while to allow something to come up. Don’t try too hard. Just allow what comes up to come up. If nothing comes up that is okay.

Stay with what comes up and allow it to develop. When you feel you have enough detail then write a description of this in your journal. This is your felt sense.

Step 4 – Matching the Felt Sense and Description

Go back to breathing in and out as you focus. Once you are focused bring up the feeling of the problem again and think about it with the words you used in your journal to describe it. Do you feel they were the right words? If your body experience of your problem changes then follow the new changes. If either the feeling or the description need to change then do that.

Keep exploring this until you feel your description is the right one.

Step 5 – Ask More Questions

Now that your description of your problem feels right, it is time to ask your sense of the problem to deepen.

Feel the part of your body where you sense the problem. Ask it what the significance of the problem is. Ask it if the problem has more to add.

One technique I often use is to ask the problem what it wants, what it needs and what will it feel like if it gets what it needs.

Keep asking it questions until you feel you have explored enough.

Step 6 – What Does Your Body Want to Give You?

This may not happen on your first go. It may be that you may not even be able to identify the problem or find it in your body.

Persevere. As you do this practice every day you will learn how to find these problems in your body and understand your body better. You will also get faster at exploring the problems. With practice, you will learn to trust your intuition.

For this final step just sit again with your breath and the awareness of the body part where the problem was hidden. Allow yourself to be aware of anything that comes up. You may observe images, symbols, words, colours or any way you gain an impression of what you are experiencing around your intuition and the problem.

Sit with whatever comes up.

Sometimes you feel emotionally there has been a major shift. Just sit with that as your body absorbs what has happened.

As you sit you may develop an understanding, or that may not come for some time.

When you open your eyes you can record any impressions you gained.

Sit quietly for a few minutes. Feel your feet on the floor. Wiggle your toes. Move your fingers. Stretch your arms above your head. Listen to the noises in the room and outside. Then when you are ready open your eyes and go about your day.

Daily Practice Leads to Results

It may take some time to gain understanding and insights and that is normal. As you practice every day, you will notice over time that things become clearer and with that comes understanding.

You will also notice that the uncomfortable feelings are not as uncomfortable as you thought they were.

How This Relates to Grief

A major aspect of grief is being able to experience the pain and understand it. It is in letting yourself feel the pain that you are able to process it. Processing involves the experience of pain and the giving of meaning to it. It also allows you to be able to move through life with the pain so that it is more manageable.

Sometimes This Practice is Better Learned From a Professional

If you are having trouble learning this practice. Or the pain is overwhelming and you can’t do it. I am experienced in teaching mindfulness, as well as being trained in Grief and Loss Counselling. You are welcome to make an appointment to see me so that I can help you with mindfulness, being able to sit with those uncomfortable feelings, and learning how to do the steps of the daily practice.

I can be contacted on nan@plentifulllifecounselling.com.au or 0409396608.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning to complete your Sitting With The Discomfort Journal, 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

Mindful Walking: A Powerful Practice for Reducing Stress and Promoting Mental Wellness

I live near the Coral Sea on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. When I long for the energising that walking on the beach brings I can hop in the car and in 15 minutes be walking along the beach. My favourite walk is to walk from one beach, around the rocky headland, and to the next beach. It is a walk that can only be done at low tide. It is also a walk over slippery rocks so walking without shoes is essential.

I start by walking along the beach, where the waves lap at my feet as if to kiss them and welcome me there. I then walk along the rocks, as close to the water as possible, walking in the zone between the high tide and low tide. In that space there are many slippery rocks. This is a perfect opportunity for mindfulness (and you might say falling flat if you are not walking carefully).

I walk bare footed, carrying my shoes. I walk gently, kissing the ground with reverence. That reverence allows me to take my time, to be slow and careful where I place my feet. I stop to place each foot carefully on the rocks, allowing my weight to shift slowly and firmly on to my foot. This grounds me on the earth and also allows my foot to grip the rock firmly and not slip. If I rush, then I slip. So it is important I take my time and place my feet carefully.

My entire focus is on placing my feet, observing what is around me, hearing and seeing the waves. This is wonderful mindful walking. If I don’t pay attention to where I am and how to place my feet, then I slip.

If you live near water, maybe you can try this. Take your time, don’t rush. The aim of the walk is to recharge your batteries. To release tension and stress, and to fill yourself with peace and calm. Doing this will help you to feel more in control of your emotions. It will fill you with peace and allow you to manage stressful situations better.

If you are nervous about going alone it is okay to bring a friend. But better to choose someone who will not talk. You need to do this quietly and with focus. Any conversation will distract you from the mindfulness required to do this walk. It is okay if you and your friend occasionally notice a wave, rock, small fish etc. and discuss it reverently. But don’t allow talk to distract you. This is why I prefer to go alone. I want to be with my thoughts and gain maximum benefit from this mindfulness practice.

You don’t have to walk for hours. Even grabbing 5 minutes to walk is helpful. Just make sure you pay attention to your surroundings, to the placement of your feet, to the sound of the water, what you can see in the water and rock pools and take your time. No rushing.

If you don’t live near the sea, maybe you live near a lake, river, creek or other body of water. It is possible to mindfully walk around these bodies of water as well. It will be different, but it can still be mindful.

If you don’t have access to water, you could try mindfully walking through a park, a woodland, a grassland. Anywhere that is nature is great for mindfulness.

Researchers have found that being in nature is very calming. Even photos of nature are more calming that photos of other things.

Even walking around your backyard, placing one foot carefully and mindfully down on the ground, then placing the next foot and so on. Can be a beneficial mindful experience.

Why not try it sometime. Regular mindfulness practice is really helpful for managing stress and, when practised regularly, can be used to manage stressful events as they are happening or directly after they have happened.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness or ways you can manage stressful situations better, 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