Thursday, February 26, 2015

Trapped In The Mirror

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.
-Robert Frost

Are you unable to see yourself clearly and/or to separate your self from others needs? There is a great tendency to see others through our own window. In fact, it is so prevalent that we dont often know we are doing that; seeing others through our perspective. And, if we are used to not being seen it can be quite difficult to see us clearly, or at all.
I have two stories that relate to this subject. The first story I will address in this weeks blog and the second story I will address next month. The second story deals with a woman who is so eager to help that she doesnt realize that she is doing it for herself and sees others through her own perspective. This weeks story deals with a woman who is lost in the mirror. 
In this weeks story, I was working with a woman who had not been seen by either parent. One left when she was four years old, and the other was a teenage parent already with two children and not able to see her child from her own needs. Can you imagine what it is like to be very little and not be seen? In this case, her mother couldnt wait to get out of the house and married at the age of around 15. She had her first child by 15 and her second child by 17. Dad and mom tried to be good parents, and tried to stay together, but they were so young. Mom didnt realize that she wasnt available to her husband or her children. The grandmother, moms mom, lost her mother very young. The great grandma had an affair, so the story goes, and so she was sent away from the family by the great grandfather. She had to leave her young children. The hurt everyone felt was overwhelming, and unbearable. They all survived.but the grandmother grew up blaming herself and not knowing how to mother. Already in this story you can see how everyones actions were about them. The grandmother wasnt seen and she got trapped in the mirror of herself. 
The grandmother has two daughters. One of them, my clients mom, grows up and cant wait to leave. She was angry and sad. My client, as a little girl, just wanted to be seen and loved as herself. Her good memory is just being with mom, who allowed her to be with her, but all centered around mom. This woman, now grown, has four children and is having difficulty separating their needs from her own. She wants to do what is best for them, but she is confused. She loves going on stage as an actress or speaker because she feels seen. But who is the audience really seeing? 
She is trapped in the mirror with the big question, who am I? And, is it okay to be seen? All she sees in herself is a reflection of her. Who is she really? As she figures this out, it will help her four children as well as honor all the mothers and children who came before her. As a facilitator, I work to help her to see herself, in the mirror, and in herself.

Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results: an exercise
I think most of us have elements of being trapped in the mirror. Here is an exercise designed to help us come out of the mirror.
Give yourself about five minutes for this exercise; dont belabor it.
Find a good sized mirror, or the mirror in your bathroom. Just look at yourself.
What comes up for you? What do you see? Who do you see? Can you even look at yourself? As you look, do you really see yourself? How long can you look at yourself? Can you feel yourself? 
Next, write down your thoughts, feelings and experience. Do this every day for a week and see how it evolves for you.
Again the purpose here is to learn about you, gently, and help us to come out of the mirror. It is not unusual to have young thoughts and feelings come up for you. Feel free to reach out for help if needed, and to share your experience.           

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Who Am I? Who Are You?

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
                                                                                    -Oscar Wilde
I have been on the subject of selfishness, narcissism the effects of being raised by narcissistic wounded people and how this also keeps getting passed forward to future generations. We all need to be seen and to feel like we are loved for who we are. Often this does not occur in our lives. Last week I wrote about being trapped in the mirror, seeing only a reflection of the self and wondering, who am I? This week I am writing about the opposite, which is really the same, can, we see others as separate from us? 
When we are merged with a parent, or when we feel like we have to take care of a parent or their feelings, we too often lose a sense of ourselves as separate from them. We may not even realize we are doing this. We end up wondering, who am I, and who are you?
In my family it was normal to have everything revolve around our father. We all looked forward to our time together, and we also knew that when we were with him, we would be doing what he wanted to do. He would love for us to be with him, but we had to do what was on his agenda; all the time. This was normal. We didnt know anything else. I am sure you all have your own story of some kind of wound which happened in your life where someone important to you couldnt see you. When we arent seen it is hard to see ourselves and to think we are worthy.
I was working with a woman who was having some personal difficulties and was struggling and asked for help. Through the Family constellation work in a small group setting, we had come to a deep wound in her and we were ready for some resolution. I asked a woman who was in the group and who had been studying this work to help out. And she didbeautifully, feeling what was needed at the time. The only difficulty was that what she said shut down the client by telling her what she felt instead of helping the client to find her own words. As I engaged (I hope gently) in stepping in and helping both women, I suggested that she ask it as a question rather than to state the words for the client. I explained that by telling a client what they are feeling, whether they are right or wrong, takes away from the client the opportunity to find their own words and experience of it. I further stated that when we do this it is more about us that it is the client.
After that, the woman helper got very upset with me and was palpably angry and adamant that this was about the client. She said, I want this for her, and I want to do this for her.So I asked her to repeat her statement, and she did. I asked if she heard herself, and the Iin the statement? It took awhile, but she finally heard what she had said. Whenever we want something for another person, no matter the reason or the intention, it is about us, not the other person. We want it. As it becomes more about us than the client, we also stop seeing them; an important part of them.
We may feel right, want to be right, have the best intentions, but as soon as it becomes about us, we lose the other person. My helper in this case could only see the issue from her perspective for a long time. This is what happens to us when we arent seen or even seen clearly. Then as we grow up we cant see clearly. Narcissistic tendencies are all around us. Learning how to love us and see us and value us is so important so that we can heal ourselves on a deep level.

Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results: an exercise
If you havent read last weeks blog and exercise please do before doing this exercise. It is really a two part exercise. Here we again are working with a mirror. In this exercise, we are going to envision someone behind us in the mirror, or have a friend step in and stand behind us in the mirror, or a picture you can put so you can see it. 
Now, as you are looking at yourself in the mirror, see the other person behind you. As you do ask yourself, do I still see me? Can I see both of us? Does my perspective of me change as I look at both of us? If so, how does it change? Can I see the other person clearly? Can I see myself clearly?
Again, spend about 5 minutes on this exercise. Write down your experiences See how this experience deepens or changes or adds to your experience of just seeing yourself in the mirror.
If you feel like sharing this experience, please feel free to do so.

The purpose of these exercises is to help us to heed and heal our souls so we can become the whole, vital, healthy people we can be, and to experience the joy.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bodies and Souls

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
                                                                                             -George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever had the privilege of witnessing a person or animal die? It is an amazing experience. A few months ago I was with my 13 year old Great Pyrenees as we put her to sleep. She was here one moment, and in a last breath, she was gone. You can feel the presence of ones soul, ones being, and you know when it is gone. If you had ever questioned the presence of our soul, witnessing the soul leave and the difference in the body before and after lets you know there is a distinct and palpable difference. Our essence lights us up.

As we live in our bodies and often dont pay much attention to intangibles, we can easily get confused and begin to think our body is who we are. Our body houses our soul, and because it gives it a place to be, our bodies reflect what is going on within us. When we were growing up as children, our father would often discuss things like honesty, listening to ourselves, what it is to live in our bodies, and integrity. These discussions, really monologues, often took place over meals. When I was growing up, our family often ate at different times because of our schedules. But Sunday breakfasts were different. We were all together, and we would have a special meal instead of our usual morning cereal. 

My father would eat an omelet and I would choose pancakes. Then we would listen to stories my father would tell us. It was not unusual for him to use himself as a discussion point. He would talk about self healing and how he went inside himself and healed a cold, or flu, or a cut, and so on. An example would be him having a cold. He would go inside his body and talk with the white blood cells. You see, already he was making a distinction between him and his body. He would say our bodies and minds and soul are the same.  Yet, he would talk about working with his body. He would talk with his cells by asking and showing them how to work together as an army in perfect marching order. His white blood cells would then go and eat up every virus cell, one at a time, in perfect order not in a hurry, until every virus cell in his body was gone. This was the way he worked with himself. Often his colds would only last 1 or 2 days, as his working with himself in this way did help him. I have tried a similar method myself, but including my essence and it does work. It is a way to gather all of our parts in a conscious way, and for them to work together. 

When we as whole individuals, and all of us; our conscious and unconscious minds, want to be well, most often we are. When aspects of us feel overwhelmed, lost, sad, needing to be cared for and so on, often we do become ill to one degree or another. So who and what are we? We are souls living inside our bodies. Our body does give us much needed information about who we are. Sometimes we just need help deciphering what they are telling us. Do you have any stories that have had meaning to you in your life similar to this, or that speak to you regarding our bodies and souls and working with them? Or, have you too witnessed a being transitioning, and what did you notice? If so, I would love to hear them and welcome you sharing.

Small Changes that Promote Big Results:

How can you work with your body/self to help you to work with your soul in your body? Take a sheet of paper and write out a way or place that your body is speaking to you. This could be through physical pain, illness, injury, scoliosis, head ache, heart ache, and so on.

Now invite you to go inside and speak with that area. Ask it what it needs, and what it might be telling you on a more spiritual level. You may or may not get an answer. It is ok either way. The more you do this, the more you are attuned to hearing. 

Next, ask your cells to come and work together in some way to help your blood flow, or to bring nutrition or circulation to a problem area, or to work to heal a torn cell of a muscle, etc. Ask all your parts to be involved, and notice if and when you are aware that maybe not all your aspects are on the same board. If not, then just notice. Ask the parts with a different agenda if they can share their agenda with you. The gentler you ask the better. 

Afterwards, write down what your body told you, or what you heard from other parts of you, conscious and unconscious. The task here is also to bring the unconscious more up front so you can hear it or see it or even feel it. 

The more your parts work together, the greater the effect.

Again, here is to greater health, wholeness and vitality in our lives. And to my father who was able to communicate an intangible activity in such a tangible way. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Are You Selfish?

Self absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion.
                                                                                    -Daniel Goleman
I think we are all born selfish. We have to be for our survival. We selfishly need food and warmth and touch and love to survive and flourish. I love the word, flourish. To me it sounds like its meaning; to grow well, to thrive, and to prosper. I want to write this with a flourish. We need everything, and to us, the world revolves around us. In the best of worlds, our parents and caretakers sense our needs and provide them in a timely manner and with care, and most hopefully, with love. We survive and grow.
There comes a time when just takingand just having the world revolve around us is not good enough. As we grow older, and walk and think for ourselves, and to go school, we begin to need to be aware of others and to begin to give back in some way. This giving back, or sharing, begins small and slowly grows. We start making our beds, helping pick up our toys, washing our dishes and bathroom sink after ourselves, etc. We hopefully become aware of us in connection with others. At first it is with our families then our fellow students and teachers, our community, and so on. If something interrupts our growth through adoption, through the death of someone important to us, through an early move away from an integral member and such, this pattern changes. The give back doesnt happen.
It is not cute to watch older children become entitled and selfishly demanding. It is not cute to watch adults live and act only according to their needs; to be purely selfish. Are you selfish? We all are to some degree, and as well we need to be. The problems occur when we lose the perspective of seeing us as part of the whole and when we are not able to see ourselves, our words, and our actions as to how they affect others.
I have a nephew who I love deeply. He was adopted at the age of two days old. Even though he has known my sister almost his whole life and knows her as his mother, or adoptive mother, and knows she loves him and he her, he also knows, in his cells and bones that she is not his biological mother. He knows his mother and father chose to adopt him out and that for whatever reasons, he was not wanted. He knew his mother for 9 months and two days..a very formative time. He was bonded with his mother and at two days old she was ripped away from him.
Although he is loved and has a family he knows and loves, there is a very real part of him that is angry and feels that he deserves more. He is demanding of my sister and gets very angry when something is not about him. He gets angry if he has to clean his room, if he has to do his home work, and even if they rent a movie for both of them to watch, it is not just for him. At two this was still cute. At ten this is not cute. Something is off and hasnt been able to develop, grow, and flourish. Part of him is stuck at the age of two days. He is selfish. 
I know about selfishness intimately. During our Sunday breakfasts for example, all conversation revolved around my father. He needed to be heard and seen and everyones saviorall for him. Growing up this way felt normal to us. There is a problem when even his wanting to help and save others is really for him, not for us. My father wanted to be the center of attention for him. He tells us many times that the reason he wanted to have so many children, he wanted eight, is so that he would have friends. 
He too had very young traumas beginning with his birth when he was a c-section delivery and his mother became ill and was separated from her son for a few weeks. He knew his mother, and she was taken away from him. In a babys thinking, it was his fault as all has to be about him. Some selfishness is good and helpful and does help us to grow and flourish. When this care of the self becomes all about me, it morphs into something else entirely. 
Are you selfish? Again, we all are to an extent. To see ourselves clearly and openly without shame or blame allows us to expand ourselves and to become more and more aware of us in connection with everyoneand to flourish.

Recommended Resources:
To learn more about selfishness and our growth process and how to become unstuck and flourish, go to my web site, and click on working with Gail. Also click on BodyPresencing and Family Constellations to learn more.
In addition, a simple helpful exercise is this: one a sheet of paper write out ways you are only aware of yourself. Do you teach for you, or for others, or both? Are you aware of how your words or demeanor impact others? Why do you do the work you do? Is it just for you, to satisfy something in you, or it is also for others and how is it for others?

We are all a mixture of good and bad, dark places and light places, good selfishness and not so good selfishness. The important thing for us is to find a good balance to fulfill us, and to share with others so we can all flourish!

Monday, February 9, 2015

What Do You Love?

 The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.
                                                                                -Robert Frost

We all love something. What would happen if we really followed our loves instead of following what our mothers or fathers want or believe? Or following our friends or our communities or even more importantly, following our shoulds? Maybe we would be happier.

I would like to think that what we spend most of our lives doing are the things we enjoy and even love. Over breakfasts our family would talk about things like love and honesty and integrity. All or most of our discussions were led by my father. He was passionate about savingothers. I dont know if he loved it, but he certainly had a lot of energy around it. His life revolved and still does in a way, around saving and helping others; even if they didnt ask for his help. He would say he loved helping others.

A story comes to mind that he would relate to us. When he was two years old both of his parents worked and they brought in a baby sitter to take care of him. This woman was extremely abusive. As he remembers it, one day was a terror day, and the next was a pain day. He looked forward to the pain days over the terror ones. He would remember lying on his bed at night and asking himself which day was coming up. He would be glad it was pain. The terror days would include holding his head under water until he panicked, and then savinghim. The pain days were pinching him in places and bruising him in places she felt would not be visible. This abuse went on for months. He grew afraid of water and he grew further and further distant from his mother. Mothers are supposed to support and protect us. In his mind, he would wonder where his mother was, how could she bring this terrorist in the house, and how did she not know what was going on? Yet he never spoke of these horrors to anyone. Finally a neighbor who apparently witnessed some events spoke with his mother about what she had seen. Soon afterwards the baby sitter was gone. But the damage was done.

In conjunction with this, my father remembers seeing a movie in high school which depicted a psychiatrist working with his patients. Before seeing this movie he thought he might grow up to be a bum and travel. He was so taken by this man in the movie listening to and helping his patients that he just knew that is what he wanted to do. He didntknow what the word psychiatrist meant, so he looked it up in the dictionary. That was it; his career had begun. He knew he wanted to save others.

What we love and even may be passionate about has great meaning to us and often is a result of important formative events in our lives. This can come from old traumas we experienced and even unfinished or unreconciled events in our parents lives, and even over generations. It is now even proven that our DNA through our RNA is passed through the womb at least three generations. 

I know people who have to dance, or have to write or create art, and love it! These passions or loves help us to work through our own personal issues, help us to understand ourselves, and become what we know the best. People who have struggled with their weight, love helping others with health and healthy eating; and know it intimately. People who are visual and see things others dont might develop a love for sharing their visions through their art. When we allow ourselves to follow this beautiful inner direction, not only do we help us, we also help others authentically, and are more happy, whole, and vital. In my fathers case, he has to save others. I love being healthy and eating well, but I most love sharing my knowledge with others regarding spiritual and soul growth and understanding. It gives me energy. Following our inner direction makes us feel more energized and inspired instead of feeling drained when we are outer directed. What do you love?

Small Changes that Promote Big Results:

What do you love and love to do? How can you tell the difference between interest, liking something, and being passionate about something?

Take a sheet of paper and write two columns. In column 1 list what you enjoy, what you like, what you spend most of your time doing.

In column two list what you love, what you just have to do because you enjoy it so much. This is different from what you feel compelled to do; the shoulds.

Now cross reference the lists. Are you doing what inspires you? If you love to write, are you writing, for example?

If you arent doing what you love and what energizes you, take a few minutes and ask yourself what is holding you back and keeping you from doing so? Write down your answers so that they are in front of you and you can come back to them to continue working with and learning from. After all, this is your life, and it is never too late!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bonds Between Mother and Child

Most people dont grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.
-Maya Angelou

It is important to know who we are. As funny as life it, we come into life needing our mother in an ongoing interplay to know we exist, we are loved, and who we are. We then spend a large part of our lives separating ourselves from our mothers to see ourselves clearly. We are ever connected to our mothers and yet separate from them. If we get too close, it is uncomfortable, and if we become too distanced, it is uncomfortable. 

This year I am entwining stories and patient cases with memories of my father and his impact on my life personally and metaphorically. What comes to mind is the importance of our early years and how they impact us and our development in life. My father was his parents only child, and a child of the great Depression. Being born in 1927 he was a c-section baby separated from his mother after his birth from her subsequent illness. His father was frightened and couldnt be there for him. At first he was held by nurses, and later by a caretaker at home. He never remembers being or feeling close to his mother. In the work of Family Constellations, we call that an interrupted bond. The bond between he and his mother was interrupted, and he was not able to mend his connection to her in life. As a consequence, he never was able to love himself or to fully know himself. In my fathers world, everything revolved around him because as hard as he tried, he wasnt able to really know or realize his essence. He certainly had glimpses of his essence. But he couldnt fully know it or sustain it. He was locked in that young place of needing his mother and yearning for her, and yet not wanting or accepting her.

That said, I am working with a young woman who had an opposite experience from my father. She was too close to her mother. She has been merged with her mother. She grew up with a large close family and community, merged with her mothers feelings, and now is away at school and feeling alone and lonely; maybe for the first time. On the other hand, she has an opportunity to be away from her family and learn who she is separate from her family and her mothers feelings. She is feeling distanced and lonely and isnt sure what to do.

When she was a baby, she felt her mothers fears. Her moms sister was the oldest child and developed severe seizures just after birth and became mentally disabled. Mom was born two years later. As mom was carrying her first born, those old fears came back to her and her baby felt them without any words to help her understand her feelings. Now this young woman is away at school and physically far from mom and for the first time is discovering her separate self. This is a wonderful and scary experience. Who is she without moms feeling and fears, and is it ok to feel happy and secure? Finding out who she is begins with going to these old places and feeling these old feelings; this time with words and with distance and with the support of all of her and all her inner ages. The process of separation now can unfold one step at a time with awareness. 

Who are we? Who are we separate from our mothers and families and yet connected to them? What a great discovery to make, and as we do so, we become who we are and we find out our purpose in life. Here is to a whole, healthy and vital life!

Shift Your Story Shift Your Life: Guided Visualization/Mediation

Take a comfortable seat and feel your feet on the ground. Take a minute to feel grounded. Breathe deeply 2 or 3 times and let an image of you surface to your minds eye. Now let that image go. Let another image of you come to you. With that image, who joins you, or who is behind you, if anyone? Just notice, and let it go. Again, let an image surface.see again who is with you or near you or behind you. Continue this process 2 or 3 more times, and let them go. 

Now let an image come to you that is just you. Just notice and see if this image is different from the first image of you that you saw. Breathe you in and become aware of your breath and slowly open your eyes. Write down any thoughts or feelings that come up for you from your experience.

If you feel like sharing your experience, please feel free to.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Power of Biology and Belief

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
-Andy Warhol
Living through another persons journey is a powerful experience. Last week I wrote about my journey and experience through a very small part of my fathers life. This journey could be witnessing the growth of your child, standing by a friend going through a difficult time, watching a loved one losing their mind, and so on. Through it all is a strand that connects every one of us……our minds. 
Our minds are mysterious. They are both what sets us apart, and what connects us all. We are learning so much about our brains and how they function and the biology of belief. Our brains are also amazing and powerful, and yet they are not the same as our minds. What is true is that as we believe something, everything in our mind and thoughts follows the belief; including our biology.
An example of this phenomenon is with illness. I have seen people riddled with migraines for example, begin to see and understand something within their selves. This understanding could involve a pattern of anger in them and in their families, and with that new understanding, a new set of movements and awareness opens for them. They begin to know that they have permission to be well and they dont have to carry their parents anger, or be like them, or disrespect their selves or others. They begin to eat differently and care for their selves differently and their migraines disappear. 
Another example of this phenomenon with our minds I witnessed with my father during his last visit. He has known and believed for over 50 years that he is diabetic. When he first made this discovery, he couldnt tolerate sugar, including rice and yellow corn. If he ate sugar or rice inadvertently, he would feel horrible and go into a diabetic coma. Looking back, most likely at that time he had type 2 diabetes, not type 1. Type 2 is adult onset and is usually controlled well by diet and exercise. As one changes ones diet, loses weight, eliminates sweets and processed foods, often the diabetes goes away. My father believed he was a type 1 diabetic, and controlled it through diet; not insulin. He successfully stayed away from sweets, rice and corn and did well for years. Recently, as his minds awareness is receding through dementia, he has forgotten he cant eat rice and corn and barbeque sauce and such. In fact I saw him eating sweetened sauce, rice pasta, liberally sprinkle fried eggplant with sugar, and had no after effects. He has forgotten he cant eat these foods, and now he can tolerate them. He didnt have type 1 diabetes, which he believed he had. Yet still, he can now eat foods he wouldnt allow himself to touch for many years with no or little ill effect. 
Our minds are amazing, and so is the power of our beliefs on us. What do you believe strongly that affects you psychologically, emotionally or physically? Can you see how that belief affects you? Is this belief tied to one your family carries, or your church, or your friends, or your community?  What would happen if you tried something different; how would that feel?

Give these things a try, and I would love to hear from you what you discover.