Is it Possible to Shake Out Trapped Emotions? Find Out in This Review of Kundalini Meditation

There are many kinds of meditation and the one I do in my personal time almost every day is a traditional vipassana – sitting up straight and concentrating on my breath. This can be quite difficult in the Western world because it requires us to slow the internal chatter that has been further increased in modern times with marketing messages, technology, and other stimulations. Fear not, fellow inner peace seekers the Osho Active Meditations that I review in this series have been scientifically designed for the busyness of the Western World, and thus Western mind.

Kundalini Meditation

The Kundalini meditation is a type of shaking and dancing meditation that helps move energy within the body. According to Emerging Sciences ‘Kundalini’ is the name given to the discovery of a certain mechanism in the body which is responsible for spiritual awakening.

There are four stages to this meditation; Shake, Dance, Be Still and Lie down, all are for 15 minutes each and play out in that order.

Stage 1. Shake 15 minutes

The stance for this I to stand hip width apart with both feet firmly placed on the ground. With knees bent and mouth slightly open we were asked to shake from the knees upward by bobbing up and down on from our knees, rickershaying a shake upwards through out bodies. This action moves the body in an up and down motion with slight forwards and backward rocking. We were encouraged to released sounds if we felt this but I’m not that vocal and to be honest I felt in new territory and wasn’t completely able to let go. It’s almost impossible to think at this stage but when I did find myself thinking the most common thoughts were self-conscious judgements ‘you look stupid’, ‘you’re not doing it right’, ‘you’re not doing it good enough’. Every time these came up I managed to shake them away and get back to feeling the shakes but this was a constant process of going back and forth as my mind came grabbing for the wheel of control. The struggle between the two was interesting to observe.

Stage 2. Dance 15 minutes

After 15 minutes of shaking with actually felt like it went n for a lot longer than it did so I was happy when the tape changed to dance music as we were encouraged to dance how we felt like and move around the room. I enjoyed this stage because I like dancing, but again I was surprised at the self-consciousness that came up, that I wasn’t dancing good enough. On reflection these self-conscious judgements stopped me from fully immersing myself in this stage because deep down I know that I wasn’t putting in the same effort of dancing that I do when I’m in my room, on my own singing my heart out to emotional songs which I actually do do on quite a regular basis (don’t pretend like you don’t do that too because I know it’s the first thing that anyone does when they realise they’re home alone… don’t they?). I realised that the notion of feeling self-conscious in front of a group of people doing the same thing in a non-judgemental space actually sounds ridiculous and again it’s another interesting discovery to go deeper into.

Stage 3. Be still 15 minutes

After 30 minutes of movement, we sat down in silence and concentrated on our breath, very much in the way I would do in my regular vipassana meditation. This is where the tears hit me, flooding out of my face like a gentle waterfall. I didn’t actually feel upset or sad, in fact, I felt numb but it was as though someone turned on the ‘eyes tap’ and the water just moved freely out. I’ve had a few experiences like this before when I’ve meditated, especially after my Dad passed away and I spun myself into busy avoidance – living out our ridiculous societal stereotype of ‘Keeping busy’ when something difficult in your life happens (yeah, great idea because by not validating our emotions they’ll just fade away right? No. Wrong. They most definitely will not). In reflection, those emotional releases when meditating are probably what has kept me balanced in times when I refused to acknowledge the inner turmoil that’s happening inside, obviously this stage shows that there is still more that needs to surface from my subconscious.

Stage 4. Lie down and be still 15 minutes

For this stage, we literally just lay back on the mat and again concentrated on our breathing. What I found interesting was that when I lay horizontal the tears began to stop and instead I was overcome with a feeling of exhaustion. An interesting reflection here is that I sometimes do my regular meditation lying down, not for any other reason that sometimes I’m a little bit lazy with it but by seeing this reaction of tears drying up when my body position changed it made me wonder if my positions of meditation affect my emotional expression. Maybe I have a comfort association with lying down and a focus association with sitting up? Maybe it’s easier to suppress tears in a lying down position? I don’t know but another area to investigate and play with.

Overall

I really enjoyed the Kundalini meditation and I found the internal struggle between my mind and my body actually really fascinating. In reflection, I particularly find the judgements towards myself a good insight into who I am and also what self-limiting beliefs lie beneath the surface which ultimately hold me back. ‘I’m not good enough’ is a constant record played that I have been consciously working through but subconsciously it still seems to be controlling the reigns of my thought patterns. Also the ‘looking stupid’ and ‘not doing it right’ are also threads which I suspected were pulling strings deep down. The underlying fear of not ‘fitting in’ or not being ‘perfect’. ‘Bringing this to light showcases how ridiculous it is and throughout the week I gradually felt myself standing into the place of the person I am wholeheartedly, without the shame of being ‘too fiery’, ‘too outspoken’ ‘too direct’ – all the tags that my society tells me I ‘shouldn’t’ be. Consciously I know that these are messages fed to us through corporate marketing to build up insecurities that can be directed to ‘solutions’ of buy this product to fix that. I know this intellectually because of the reading and studying I’ve done in psychology and marketing but I was really surprised how deep these threads ran into my subconscious regardless. I’ve found that underlying all of this is the need to accept myself for who I am, where I’m at and for what I’ve been through. Overall I found some very insightful messages surfacing which I see as positive directions of where to focus my healing.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches, and my Therapies.

Advertisements

Ever Wondered What Ayurveda is? Find out in This Review of an Ayurvedic Consultation

Ayurvedic Consultation – at Aiona Garden of Health, Bunutan Beach, Amed, Bali

Whilst in Bali I stumbled across a health food cafe which also did Ayurvedic Consultations, so I decided that I would have one. Before reading up on Ayurvedic on the internet and reading the literature in the cafe I wasn’t too sure what it was about. When I’ve previously heard it mentioned it seems to have been used as a marketing buzz word to make a massage or certain treatment sound more desirable without an actual explanation, so because of this I’ve previously strayed away from it. However, Ayurvedic is actually an ancient way of life which was originally developed in India thousands of years ago and it is centred around principles of creation, energy, and spiritualism. There are many facets to Ayurveda but the main principle is that in order to live a healthy life then a person must maintain a certain balance in their mind, body, and spirit that is specific to them. To find out this balance there are a variety of different factors that need to be considered such as date of birth and characteristics which are defined by DNA. This consultation was for me to find out my body type by an Ayurvedic Practitioner and to find out what type of foods and actions will benefit me in my way of life and which ones won’t. As every person is different, it is worth going to a practitioner to find out what body type you are because it’s not easy to work out and there is a lot of theory to be understood, which is why it takes up to 7 years to be an Ayurvedic practitioner. There is a lot more to understand than I’ve managed to squeeze into this introductory paragraph so if you’d like to find out more check out The Ayurvedic Practitioners Association.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session and my overall review. As this wasn’t a therapy I didn’t feel that it was necessary to perform a before and after sense check.

The Session

I booked the session two days previously and was asked to write down my date of birth when I booked as this also determines something about my characteristics, along with family heritage and a variety of other things.

I arrived at Aiona Garden of Health and was offered a glass of cold water and to sit down until I was called in for my consultation. When called, the practitioner-led me through the beautiful gardens with a variety of vegetation, plants and wooden structures to a small veranda where there was a bamboo table and chairs and bed. First, the consultant asked me to tell her something about myself, which I did – my family background, occupation, the recent life events and where I currently am in my life, the trauma story flows pretty easy these days. The consultant then explained the principles of Ayurvedic living and then asked me to lie on the couch so that I could consider the five different elements and see how I felt about them. These are Water, Earth, Fire, Air, and Space. She asked me to lay down on the bamboo couch and concentrate on my breathing to allow myself to focus and then she talked me through each element by asking me to imagine certain things. For example for water, she asked me to imagine a spring of water on a mountain top, and then a river and a lake and how it feels to be swimming in the water and drinking it etc. At the end of imagining each element she asked me how I felt about it and to associate three words with each element, silently. At the end of the final element she talked me back into being on the couch and when I opened my eyes she asked me to sit back at the bamboo desk. Then she asked which of the elements I felt the most strongly about and which one was my least favourable. For me, I felt very strongly for Water and Fire, and least about Earth, whereas wind and space I was generally neutral about.

Following this, we began to talk about spirituality and how I generally didn’t feel too connected, even though I meditate every day. I guess even though I believe that there’s something bigger out there, I still come from a very practical and scientific mindset, to be blunt the fluffiness of spiritual people seems quite flaky to me so I tend to believe but in secret. This could be because I’ve been brought up in a Muslim/Catholic family which didn’t really practice either religion, therefore religion/spirituality has never been a strong part of my life and I guess I have been somewhat confused as to where I sit with it. I also think that this could be a more widespread problem in my generation as we see the rise of people using religious labels for their own personal endeavours: ‘Catholic’ Priests who take advantage of their position for sexual impulses and ‘Muslim’ terrorists who claim to be acting in the name of God when they kill people to name a few. Unfortunately, regardless of religion or belief this abuse of status actually comes down to a lack of personal integrity and such religious systems have been caught up in this, so like many I’ve ended up staying away from religion and spirituality altogether because of this. However what I’m coming to realise is that regardless of the system you adhere to, it’s naive to believe that there isn’t something greater out there that we don’t understand, I mean science is even starting to acknowledge that there are energies out there that we don’t understand – energies which spirituality has been talking about for decades. What was interesting was that the consultant picked up on this as something for me to work on and asked me if this might be the reason that I found myself in Bali, and maybe it is. I mean, I don’t really believe in many religious frameworks but I do believe that there are energies that we can sense and that something greater exists but I don’t feel strongly connected and after all these traumas, especially after my Dad passing away I do feel a bit lost in the World. The practitioner actually said that my Dad gave me a lot of things, which he did but that he didn’t give me prayer and this is absolutely true because it was difficult for him to continue to pray five times a day and work as a Doctor in a country where the majority religion wasn’t Muslim and neither was his wife, kids or social, political or education system. She mentioned that this is something that I could bring back to my family karma and it’s something that I think I’ll work on.

In regards to my body, she said that I have a kafa – pitta – vita balance, in the ratio of about 60:30:20, this means that I should avoid foods that make me ‘slow’ – particularly white sugar and white flour and instead try to eat raw foods to make me feel more balanced. What’s interesting is that during last year when I went home after the attack, after falling down the stairs and after my Dad died I concentrated on having a healthy diet, meditating and doing yoga. Specifically, in my diet, I cut out refined sugar and instead used honey or coconut sugar and I made my own bread, mainly brown or granary. I also ate a lot of vegetables, specifically raw food and superfoods. I did so because it just felt right to do this for my health, so I was basically living the principles of Ayurveda without knowing it. However, it’s more of a challenge to do that while I am constantly on the go (well, I actually carry coconut sugar around with me so I do try). Another thing that the practitioner mentioned which I thought was interesting was that I feel better by the ocean, which was spot on and probably the reason that I’ve ended up working on yachts. She specifically said that it probably doesn’t feel good for me to work in a city or an office which made me laugh because this is actually my nightmare scenario – I would much rather be broke and sailing a boat unpaid than working in an office earning a comfortable wage. To hear this out loud confirmed my thoughts and made me think that maybe I wasn’t so weird after all (that’s my societal shame right there).

The other thing that she said which is something that I am continuously hearing is that I’m at a point in my life where I’m not sure what to do next – I think I keep hearing this because it’s pretty obvious for a start – find me someone who is travelling around Bali that isn’t lost for a start, secondly find me someone who has gone through a variety of traumas who feels grounded – these things are obviously going to shake me up right to the core! At first, it was really hard to hear that I was lost and that it’s ok to be lost because this is the last thing that I want to admit. I’ve already changed my career four times and although there are massive benefits to this I sometimes reach a point where there are so many opportunities that I feel like I’m not too sure which road to take. The next piece of helpful advice, which I also often get – just do what feels right. This is helpful if you’re connected with your feelings but for me in my post-trauma state, even feeling itself, is still difficult. My usual answer to this is how do I know what feels right when I’m disconnected to my feelings? To which I already know that answer… I’ll work it out… which is why I’m allowing myself to run completely out of money being in a place that I feel nourished at the moment and trust that the Universe will send something my way… won’t it? We’ll see. The other thing that she mentioned was that whatever I was meant to do next might be something like writing. Interesting I thought because I wrote a book last year which I am trying to finish and obviously I have this blog but am I really going to take on a 5th career? I guess right now I don’t need to make any firm decisions, I’ll just keep on doing what feels right, right?

When explaining about Ayurvedic principles, the practitioner also described the Ayurvedic morning cleansing routine – to scrape the tongue clean (because during the night this is where toxins from the body build up), then to clean the inside of the nostrils with salt water, to then wash the eyes with fresh water. Then to meditate to cleanse the mind and to do some small exercises or yoga to wake up the body. Oil pulling is something that can also be done to cleanse the body but as this is more of a remedy for illness it is something that is performed for a week or month as a form of treatments. What’s funny is that back home when I have a routine it consists of waking up and oil pulling for 20 minutes, doing 20 minutes of meditation and then a short series of yoga exercises combined with my physiotherapy posture stretches before then going and having a drink of either homemade water kefir or hot lemon juice. Maybe this is the reason that I have been dealing with the traumas so well and my physical health hasn’t taken too much of a beating under such psychological stress.

Overall Review

The objective of an Ayurvedic consultation was to give me an idea of what my body type was and how I could maintain a mind-body-soul balance in my life, however I thought that some of the information that the practitioner gave me was also very interesting because it made me think about certain elements in my life differently as to why they are important – e.g. Sailing, because it allows me to be close to the water. Spirituality because it fills the void that religion might have otherwise provided. I can imagine that a consultation can also be used as a medical diagnosis but as I don’t really have any ailments at present, apart from the pain in my left side which I know is emotional so this wasn’t how I approached the consultation. Considering that a practitioner needs to study for up to 7 years in order to practice, an independent 80-minute consultation will only ever be a brief introduction, however, it did provide me with a deep insight into a philosophy of life which I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I need to do a lot more research on how Ayurveda and it’s principles but it has definitely encouraged me to build a routine into my life again.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches, and my Therapies.

What’s With the Shame Around Talking to a Therapist Anyway?

As well as meditation, one of the most effective things that has helped me cope with difficult life situations has been to go and see a therapist for counselling. When I talk openly about this I get some interesting responses – some people look at me quite awkwardly then disengage their eye contact not knowing what to say, some tell me how brave I am to go to a therapist and some people just ask me about my experience. I find the first two responses quite interesting and it makes me wonder – why is it so taboo in our society to go and see a therapist?

It’s a strange conundrum because there’s a taboo around acknowledging all dark emotions, expressing them and reaching out for help when we need it. The thing is that as humans, we all have something in common – that we all feel good and bad emotions at one point or another. It’s like it’s one big secret that we all know about but if we acknowledge it then the World as we know it will combust into a tiny thousand pieces! Apart from, it won’t. In fact, the minute you start talking in a non-judgemental space is the minute that you start to heal.

Luckily I have some very supportive friends and family around me who supported my decision to go and find a therapist. I remember one of my friends saying “Just think you can anything you want to and get away with it, awesome” when I told her that I was booking in for my first therapy session. An interesting way to view it, I thought and it changed my viewpoint from negative shame to positive exploration.

The fact is that at some point everyone is going to go through a difficult life situation, and experience the negative emotions that come with those experiences. Emotions such as shame, guilt, anger and sadness and when that happens it’s damn right destructive to pretend they don’t exist and suppress them. So let’s all just step outside the closet for a minute and acknowledge that we’re human ok?

I guess being attacked allowed me the opportunity to seek help for my ‘difficult situation’, as though a classic traumatic event somewhat lifted the cloud of shame and weakness that hovers around seeing a therapist. Would I have gone to counselling if I was feeling trapped in a job or depressed about a relationship? No, I probably wouldn’t have, I probably would have told myself that I can deal with it and to carry on without addressing the problem – in fact, I have done this in the past. I remember a time when I worked in my first graduate office job where I was paid well, had good career prospects and a great benefits package but most nights I would come home deflated and in tears simply because I felt trapped in a situation and didn’t know how to get out it. The last thing I would have considered doing is talking to an unbiased professional to help me find a way out of my problem. However, had I had a more physical problem, like when my wisdom tooth was infected at the same period of time I wouldn’t have thought twice about seeking help from a professional to sort it out.

So why is it that we expect to fix a problem of the mind, with the mind and don’t seek external professional help? Would I try and fix my broken right arm with my broken right arm? No. Even if I was a Doctor I wouldn’t, because quite frankly that’s dumb. So why do it with the mind? I mean it’s only the part of the body which dictates how the rest of the body behaves and performs that we basically can’t full function without, surely it makes sense to tend to it like we do with the physical problems we have?

Back then I probably wouldn’t have talked about ‘feeling trapped’ as a problem, I was so ashamed and guilty for not feeling how I ‘should’ feel that I just suffered in silence and told myself that it was my fault. In the end, I quit my job but not without almost two years of putting myself through this personal torture. Had I seen a therapist at that time I probably would have found my solution a lot quicker because what a therapist does is give you the tools to explore those negative emotions and question why they’re there, which ultimately guides you towards your own solution.

The difference for me, this time, is that with so many traumatic events happening in such a short space of time, suppressing them was physically impossible. Being the ‘strong’ woman that I was, with a background in construction and sailing I didn’t view crying in front of people as socially acceptable, especially not in front of my male colleagues but with these traumatic events, I didn’t have a choice. The tears, aggression and panic attacks would come and there was nothing I could do to keep them at bay. It even got to a point where I couldn’t even trust my own judgement anymore because I couldn’t tell if I was seeing things through an emotion or not and this would ultimately affect all my thoughts and behaviour. After having therapy sessions for a while I realised how important it is to be able to talk a situation through in a non-judgemental space, which at the time was something that I didn’t have in my life because I just hadn’t reached that level of authenticity within myself to accept my own judgements.

Through counselling, I also realised how entrenched I can become in my emotions, to the point where it’s like I’m wearing blinkers which can be quite common especially in emotions life grief and (post-traumatic) stress but now that I’m aware of this I can see it in myself, and also strikingly in others. Others who tell me that everything’s fine, but deep down I know it isn’t. People, mostly men, who are locked in an emotional cave and don’t realise how beautiful their World could be if they stepped out. The thing here though is that people will only see a therapist when they are ready, so I can’t and won’t push people if they say that they’re fine. My mission, however, is to help clear the shame around dark emotions by openly sharing my story, standing tall and admitting that I feel shit sometimes too, but that when I talk about it I start to feel better.

Anyway, what’s the harm in going to a therapist just to find out what happens? Like my friend said it’s an opportunity to be in an emotionally safe space where you can say absolutely anything no matter how shameful or weird it is. Isn’t that first session worth it for the sake of a curious hour of productive mind exploration?If you’re ready for that kind of exploring then my article 3 Step Guide to Finding The Right Therapist is here to help you on your way. I guess, if you don’t like it, no one is forcing you to go again… although if you don’t like it then I would question why? It could be that it’s not the right counsellor or maybe it’s a judgement that comes from a protective mechanism that actually comes from the fear of being vulnerable. If you’re unsure then check out my article on When to Call it a Day With Your Therapist.

Enjoy exploring your inner psyche, I wish you well on your journey.

What is Cupping and Why Are Olympic Athletes Going Crazy For It?

I had cupping as part of an Acupuncture Treatment that I was reiving when I was in Bali and seen as Olympic athletes are going crazy for it, I’ve dedicated a specific piece on the theory, my thoughts and how it made me feel.

My overall review of how I felt physically and emotionally after the series of treatments can be found in my review of Acupuncture but I’ve included my notes on how I felt about that particular acupuncture and cupping session on the day, especially for this review.

Cupping is an ancient technique from Traditional Chinese Medicine and it can be used as its own treatment or alongside acupuncture. The British Acupuncture Council states that it’s used to stimulate acupuncture points or larger areas of the body, which may be the reason why it’s being heavily used in the Olympics – all that work on those pumping muscles must require a lot of healing.

The cups are rounded and can be made of a variety of material, most commonly in the Western side of the practice, glass is used. To use the cups, the practitioner heats up the air inside the glass with a flame and then places the glass on the clients skin. Then the natural laws of physics prevail and a vacuum is created inside the glass, causing the skin to be sucked into it. It’s typical that multiple glasses will be used at any one time and they are left on the skin for up to 20 minutes.

The theory behind this method is that it supposed to reduce stagnation of ‘qi’ (energy) and also help draw out toxins. In the news however, it’s been reported that the athletes are using it to aid recovery from the physical aches and pains brought on by constant training and competing.

Red Dots

The Session

This was my fourth session of Acupuncture with Ben and as always it started off with some talk therapy which ended up being a roundup of how I was feeling at the time and how I felt about going home – I was leaving Bali that afternoon to slowly head home (via Jakarta, Bangkok and London). We talked about a recent mindset change that I’d experienced and how I envisaged moving back into the real world once I got home. It was evident that I was starting to come down with a cold which was probably a combination of working through all these emotions so intensely and a little bit of partying towards the end of my trip – I was squeezing in as much Bali fun as I could before leaving. Due to the cold, Ben suggested that I have some cupping as well as the acupuncture to help my body release toxins and move around some of my energy, seen as he’s the expert I agreed.

As I lay on on my back, on the acupuncture couch, Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists and then proceeded with placing some acupuncture needles. After he removed the acupuncture needles he asked me to turn on to my front and remove my upper body clothes so that he could put the cups on my bare back. He left the room whilst I did this and knocked before he returned to ensure that I was decent.

He explained the procedure of cupping and methodically started to place them on my back, one by one. Instantly I could feel the pressure of the sucking of my skin into the cups, it didn’t feel uncomfortable but it was a strange feeling. It reminded me of the feeling of being massaged when the therapist goes quite deep to stretch a certain area, however instead of my skin being moved across my body, it was being pulled outwards. There was a feeling of release as though some kind of space was being created within me, like a void was being created between the pressure of the skin in the glass and the muscles within my body. This feeling felt quite pleasurable but it was difficult to really tap into it because so much was going on. I could also feel that some cups had a slightly stronger pulling sensation than the others, but none of them were strong enough to cause any discomfort. The cups were left on my back for what felt like a considerable amount of time but in reality it was only about 20 minutes, for which time I tried to focus on my breathing.

When Ben came to take the cups away he told me beforehand and then proceeded to remove each glass by releasing the pressure at the side of the glass in what felt like a peeling motion, probably much in the same way that I’d remove a sucker off a glass windscreen. When all the glasses were removed he left the room to give me some space to get changed before coming back and asking me how I felt. We talked a little bit about my experience and also about what to expect in the next 24 hours – that I may be slightly tired. I already felt a little lethargic because of my cold and I was aware that after these treatments I can sometimes feel exhausted, but luckily, apart from getting a taxi to a hotel in the south of Bali I didn’t have much else planned.

Pre-session sense check (02 May 2016, 8am –  1 hour before treatment)

Physically – I’d woken up with a head cold, which has been coming for a few days and is now in full force. I’m feeling tired, achy and without much motivation to do anything other than what is necessary. My head hurts, my eyes feel a heavy and my shoulders ache a little too.

Emotionally – I don’t feel that emotional, or I’m not connected with my emotions much today because my physical sensations are quite intense with the feeling of being a ill. I’m a little upset at having to leave Bali but I know it’s the right time so I also feel contempt too.

Post-session sense check (02 May 2016, 5pm –  7 hours after treatment)

Physically – I feel exhausted and my whole body feels really heavy, my movements are also sluggish. I just want to sleep. I have a weird sensation in my head, as though I had had a pressure build up that was now releasing but very slowly.

Emotionally – I’m feeling pretty fragile. I ended up crying when I got to the hotel, not for anything in particular but just because the tears were there and needed to come out. I feel quite numb to any sense of feeling, as though I’m a bit detached from them at the moment.

Overall Review

The sensation of having the cupping treatment was quite strange at first but overall I enjoyed the treatment. With regards to the ‘success’ of it, it’s difficult to review it individually as I had it as part of a series of acupuncture treatments, however those treatments overall were very beneficial for me because they released a lot of physical pain and also instigated a couple of strong mindset changes so overall I would say that it was effective. As with all holistic therapies, it’s difficult to scientifically measure them as the placebo effect could be having a very strong effect, and because I strongly believe in the meridian energy system which these treatments are based on then of course they are more likely to ‘work’. Whether or not they are proving as successful for the Olympic athletes is something that we’ll have to watch out for when we compare the medals and red spots – hardly scientific but worth a shot to find out. Personally I enjoyed the cupping treatment and would have it again but I think that it’s worthwhile to do your own sense check and reflection to see how effective it is for you.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches and my Therapies.

New Sketch! Meet The Emotional Cat

I met the emotional cat for the first time after the attack when I was in Mallorca, in the middle of my Yacht master theory course to be exact. It was lunch time and I was chatting to the instructor of the course who had decided that it was appropriate time to start criticising and judging me for no reason. Well, there was a reason and it was probably the same reason why a lot of people like to shoot down others – to make themselves feel better. It’s something that I see and experience regulaly as an independent women, working in a World where men feel imasculated (sorry about that but it’s not fault, give me a break already)!

This type of uninvited aggression was more than I could handle at the time, being in such a vulnerable post trauma state. I’m not sure what reaction this guy was expecting but it caused the emotional cat to jump out on me unexpectedly, leaving me in a blubbering mess of tears. The thing is that when the Emotional Cat decides to come out and play there is no stopping him. Worse yet, as soon as he rugby tackles me to the ground he gets bored and then runs off to find someone else to play with, leaving me floored and drained with everyone looking at me like I’m a weirdo – Thanks E-Cat, great job!

Since my father died, I see the Emotional Cat a lot more and I’ve learnt to accept him in my life and play with him when he’s around as we work towards a more balanced and healthy relationship where I control the cats behaviour, not the other way around.

Introducing the BS card

After experiencing such raw and heavy emotions as anyone who has dealt with a major trauma in their life can empathise, I reached a point where being authentic became really important for me. It called for me to become brutally honest with myself and those around me in order for me to progress with my recovery journey and create the authenticity in the friendships so that a space was created where anything can be talked about.

This meant that there were some uncomfortable conversations to be had that I might not have otherwise invited into my life. Conversations that created challenges and opportunities and took courage to approach. It’s not easy being completely honest and when you’re as direct as I am, you don’t always get the most receptive response (delivery is a challenge that I am constantly working on). Regardless of the difficulty of having these conversations, it’s really important that difficult subjects are aired between people if we want to create honesty in our friendships because that’s the firm foundation that all deep relationships are based upon.

The lesson that I’ve had to learn is how to approach these conversations with compassion when I’m delivering honest feedback to a friend, because even though I can take direct feedback I know that this isn’t the norm. Instead I’ve learnt that feedback must be delivered from a standpoint of ‘I care about you and that is why I’m pointing this out’, rather than ‘you did x, y and z and I don’t think you should have done that’. Hopefully, you can see the difference between compassionate honesty and judgemental spotlighting in those two sentences.

A recent example is a good friend of mine who avoids conversations when she knows there’s going to be something that she doesn’t want to hear, even if she knows that she needs to hear it. However, that’s pretty difficult when you’re friends with me because as all of my friends know, I call them out on this kind of avoidance like I expect to be called out when I’m in my own avoidance. This friend of mine wasn’t being malicious and the avoidance wasn’t about me, it was about a lot of things going on in her life and she just didn’t need to know about another thing to work on at that time, so it was easier for her (subconsciously) to avoid those conversations all together. The frustrating thing for me was that it meant that I lost one of my best friends to have any kind conversation with, even just an easy chat on whatsapp. When we did finally chat I brought up the situation in the most compassionate way I could, by telling this friend I was upset that I was losing my friend but I needed to voice something that was going to be difficult to hear because I think it could be in her best interest to know. By putting it like this she was open to listening to what I said because it came from the heart. It was the same when I started feeling a certain way towards an ex-boyfriend of mine and considered that I might want to try and patch things up with him, when a friend bluntly pointed out that I was probably only feeling that way because I felt vulnerable and that I didn’t actually want to be with the guy in question. She went on to point out that when we were together and I had my chance to be with him, I wasn’t that bothered about being with him anyway. “Oh yeah,” I said. Funny how our emotions can cloud our thought patterns, which is why we need such honest friends to point out the obvious when we’re unable to see it!

As I was in my car a few days later, talking to another friend about these reflections I joked about how it would just be easier if we could shout out “BULLSH*T” when we thought someone was blindsided by their emotions. She laughed and asked “Then why don’t we?” as she picked up a handy business card that was lying around in the front of the car, only the psychologist Dr Jenn’s business card (how appropriate for my psychologist friend to be the BS card when she has called me out on multiple BS’s this year)! Thus the concept of the BS card was born.

The thing about using a card to call out someone’s BS is that it can be used really objectively, and is thus less likely to be taken personally. However delivery here is still key and with my friends, I request for the use of a BS card before delving into the reason for using it. I still find though, by actually using a card and by approaching the situation in this way that it creates an objective space where two people can observe and dicect a situation without getting too emotionally involved. This creates more honesty and an objective learning opportunity based on the feedback received, bypassing any pain received through pervied judgement or blame that may have otherwise surfaced.

Getting to this level of authenticity in my friendships has strengthened the bonds between us and I know that anything and everything, no matter how shameful or tragic, can be aired in this space. It’s also helping me create the kind of authentic compassion that I want my post trauma life to be centered around, and the kind that I want to spread out into the World.

New Sketch! Pulling out of Negativity

When I asked a friend recetly why she didn’t tell me how bad a negative state she was in, she replied that she didn’t want to pull me down into her pit in case we both couldn’t get out. I get this, it’s the whole ‘Tree’ sketch all over, however as I explained to my friend, it is my responsibility to enforce my boundaries and that if  I’m unable to deal with her situation then I can at least signpost some of our other friends her way who are in a healthy mindset and have the strength to pull her out of the negativity. Even if it takes more than one person (I know sometimes it has with me when I’ve been in my darkest times) isn’t this what friends are for – to pull each other up when we’re down?

If you like my Sketches, please check out my Blog, my Therapies and my Therapy Reviews.