When Not To Judge Someone’s Character

One of the things I find really interesting these days is how easy we are to judge each other without any internal pre-vetting. It’s as though we lost some kind of conscious filter that used to be delicately balanced in our throats. A filter that would create a necessary lodge if we were about to say something particularly judgemental. A lodge that when we’d feel it, would require us to flick on the ‘reflection and question’ switch in our brains and vet the words before they flowed out. I’m not entirely sure if this did exist but if it did, I wonder if it got removed in the free reeling speech that this new technological era spun us into?

While we scramble for new social rules and how to treat each other respectfully in these new and challenging times I thought I’d start with the instructions below. Feel free to add, share and question – I’m only human too remember. We make mistakes, oversights and we need feedback to improve, me included!

Things you cannot judge someone’s character by:

Gender

Age

Skin colour

Sexual orientation

Sexual preference

Nationality

Religion

Profession

Family heritage

Their appearance

You can only really judge someone’s character by their actions. And even when you do that, remember that you might not know what they’ve been through, what their story is, or what they’re trying to cope with right now. If you did, you might not judge them at all.

That is all.

Photo Credit: Jose Moreno

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

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Some Valentines Day Positivity For Singletons

Oh Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year where singletons are cast out of the societal structure as we know it, even though for  the other 364 days we relish in our freedom while most of the couples complain about their other half and the downsides to being in a relationship. Well it doesn’t have to be all misery around this time of year and hopefully by moving through these next few questions you can come to some authentic happiness with your singledom, and own it like the awesome human you truly are.

Let’s start with some honest truths:

  1. Why are you single on Valentine’s Day?

Yes, it’s a toughie and probably something you wouldn’t willingly ask yourself but let’s put all those self deflating beliefs to one side and just extract the information. Why is it? Have you not met someone who you like enough to commit to a relationship yet? Maybe you broke up with someone because they weren’t treating you how you wanted to be? Maybe someone broke up with you? Or maybe, like me you have a massive fear of vulnerability because of some crazy life situation so you removed yourself from the dating scene altogether and now here we are in singletown on Valentine’s Day? Find the real reason and admit it to yourself. Whether it’s your fault or not, just get the reason, come to terms with it and move on to question number two.

  1. How do you feel about this?

If you’re reading this article you’re probably not feeling too positive about it, but what is the actual feeling there? FYI – ‘shitty’ and ‘bad’ are not actual feelings, and if you’re struggling to identify them, check out the Non-violent communication feeling directory to distinguish what it really is. Our feeling are there to give us information so we can learn from life situations and make an effort not to re-create them. Don’t get wrapped up in the unhappiness, guilt, shame or fear, just acknowledge it, feel it and release it.

  1. Why do you feel like this?

Let’s get straight on this one – we are each responsible for our own emotions. No one made you feel a certain way and only you are responsible for your happiness – the sooner you admit this the better. I mean, it’s up to you, you can spin around in circles blaming Tom, Dick and Harry for how he/she/they made you feel, but ultimately you put yourself in that situation and you are responsible for your emotional attachment to the situation. So let’s dig deep with this one and without blaming anyone else answer why you feel like this. Maybe you’re upset that you let someone cross your boundaries without stopping them? Maybe you feel guilty for pushing someone away or self sabotaging a relationship? Maybe you’re fearful of getting hurt because of something that happened in the past? The answer might not come straight away but ask those questions and eventually it’ll come to you.

  1. What could have you done differently to prevent this situation?

This is where you need to get your pen and paper out and write down all the options. There are always a tonne of different options but we seem to get tunnel vision with our behaviour and convince ourselves that we could have only done what we did to get here when that isn’t the case at all. For example, I’m single on Valentine’s Day because I haven’t quite come to terms with something scary in my past so I’ve avoided putting myself back on the dating scene. I didn’t have to do that, I could’ve gone out and met guys on online dating, or tinder. I could have gone out on the weekend and chatted up men until I bagged a date. I could have asked women out on dates. I could have asked my male friends if they wanted to go on a valentines date and see what blossomed. I could have sold the opportunity to date me on ebay (like James Blunt kind of did for his sister). I could’ve settled dating someone who I didn’t like just so I wouldn’t be single on Valentine ’s Day. I literally could have done a thousand things to not end up in this situation, however I didn’t choose to and there is often a reason for that (personally I’d rather be single and honest to myself on any day of the year, rather than compromising my values or being in some bullshit situation that I’m not 100% authentically happy with while me and my respective other comply to the obligation of a day which only corporations cash in on). Either way I chose to be here, and my actions of choice got me here.

  1. Can you accept that you made the best decisions you did with the resources you had at the time?

Ok, so maybe you’re still not completely content with the idea that you’re on your tod on Valentine’s Day but can you at least accept that you made the best decisions that you could have at the time that resulted in you being here? They might not have been the most logical, clear minded or even favourable decision but can you give yourself the compassion and love that you need to accept them? We all have egos and we all make regrettable decisions but that’s because we’re human and it’s our prerogative to make mistakes and learn from them. Cast that self blame, judgement and guilt aside and accept that you are what you are for good and bad, and that because of that you are fully human. You’re real, own it!

  1. What can you do to give yourself love today?

If you haven’t got a date, that doesn’t mean that you have to go without love. It also doesn’t mean that you have to scowl at all the happy couples roaming around all snugly in each other’s arms – in fact you definitely shouldn’t do this because the Law of Attraction states that by resenting what you want, you only push it away anyway and the future you doesn’t want that! So what can you do to give yourself love and make yourself happy on Valentine’s day? Let’s start with what you enjoy and what would make you feel good right now? For me that’s usually going out for a walk around my favourite lake and listening to an audio book, taking myself out somewhere nice for a coffee or hanging out with a friend and talking about silly little things. Whatever it is, fill your day with it so you can spend the majority of your day in positivity, that way you’re more than likely to attract next year’s date. I mean, who doesn’t want to be around a positive beam of singledom on the one day of the year that it’s not allowed? Rebel and let your happiness shine through you beautiful authentic being.

Photo credit: Shereen Soliman

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

How To Use PTSD As A Platform For Growth

First things first, let’s bust a few myths on PTSD:

Post traumatic stress disorder is not something permanent.

It is not an identity (seriously #Iamnotashamed – let’s not create identities out of emotional experiences that pass)

It does not affect a person for the rest of their life

and it certainly doesn’t mean that someone has to live in a life full of safeguards which keep them away from any potential triggers (urgh, what a boring life that sounds like!).

At least, not if you let it.

Post traumatic stress is the reaction of the brain to a situation where it has had to go into survival mode. If you want the science, it’s where the emotional response has been so strong that the brain has created new and stronger neuro-pathways that were previously there. It’s like speed-building a motorway over a whole network of roads which took years to intricately build. However with the motorway, all the cars now speed across it to get from A to B, regardless of whether B is where the car wanted to go. It means that every possible sense trigger (sight, smell, sound, taste and touch) that could remind a person of the initial event takes their subconscious brain back there and automatically they react in the same reaction that they did at the time. For me that’s revisiting the night a man violently tried to rape me where I had to psychically fight for my life. Can you see how this might cause a potential hiccup in my dating life? (Although in reflection it’s actually quite funny and there’s definitely a book there… ‘How to date a PTSD nightmare…?’ Stay tuned for updates on that one!)

The trick with PTSD is to re-train the brain one trigger at a time. So for me, rather than avoid triggers and live a life of hiding because I’m scared of my own response, I created a safe environment around me (physically and mentally) to face every trigger and bring myself out of it, until I created the new neuro-pathways that allow me to feel safe in the world again. Think, deconstructing the motorway, brick by brick, and using it to create new roads back to the road network that was originally there. Here are my three top tips on how to turn a PTSD experience in to a gift of growth and exploration.

  1. Drive your own recovery

To anyone who is currently suffering from PTSD and is listening to Doctors, ‘survivors’ and people who just want to offer their inexperienced opinion- listen up! I had so many people tell me ‘you’ll never recover from this’, or ‘it’ll take years’ or ‘this will affect you for the rest of your life’. If you have people like this in your life – STOP LISTENING TO THEM RIGHT NOW because their opinions are total Bullshit! Even if it is your Doctor, your Psychologist or a family member. Don’t let their judgement stump your recovery time because the fact is that you will start recovering from your PTSD as soon as you start unpicking the triggers. The faster and more thorough you do this, the faster you’ll recover. Think of it like a pile of work on your desk. If you do one piece every month, yeah it’ll take forever to get through. If, like me, you want to get on living your life you might race through the work as fast as your physical form allows. If I listened to half the people who gave me their opinion on my recovery I wouldn’t be anywhere near as clear minded and emotionally resilient as I am today. When I think of what advice to take on I remember listening to a friend of a friend who had published a book about taking advice off people about publishing a book.

He said, ‘What are people telling you about publishing your book?’

I replied honestly ‘To not bother because it probably won’t make any money’.

Then he asked ‘And how many of them have even written a book?’

‘None’ I replied.

‘So why are you listening to them?’ He asked.

‘Fair point’ I laughed.

From that point on I never took advice from people who were not in a position I aspired to be in after going through something similar to what I’d been through. Advice from people about my PTSD and my recovery? I tell them to mind their own business – especially nosey opinionated onlookers who can’t even talk openly about their own emotions. The only expert on your recovery is you – so make sure you drive it, not anyone else.

  1. Create your winning support team

Lucky for me I have a best friend who is a psychologist for high performance teams who helped steer me through my recovery. Not everyone has this kind of resource to draw upon, however I can offer you the advice that Dr Jenn gave me and this is a golden one – create your winning support team. When you’re in a PTSD trigger, you’re living in a parallel reality where everything looks and smells the same but your reaction is as though you’re under attack. So it might be completely rational for you to defend to the death – because in your mind you’re under attack remember. However, to everyone outside of your head (and perspective) it will be obvious that you’re acting completely irrational to the situation in question That’s why it’s imperative that these people are part of the winning support team and know how to approach you when you’re experiencing a trigger and compassionately make you aware of it.

This takes a little organisation and some very honest conversations to work out a team plan of how to manage this but it is totally worth it in the long run. If you read my original blog Trauma on Tour you’ll know that I introduced the BS card which was a simple gesture – placing a business card in front of me so it reminded me to sense check and reflect upon my behaviour… and question whether I was bullshitting myself and acting from a place of fear, rather than a place of authenticity. As well as calling me out of my patterns, I also asked my friends to call me out if they thought I was being destructive to myself, or if I was doing anything in fact, that wasn’t serving me. It was like we had a team plan to get Shereen back and everyone had a part to play. It was extremely vulnerable for me to give this kind of authority over to other people and it required a great deal of trust, authenticity and open conversations to get there. In fact, it meant that to stay part of the team, each friend was required to face some hard truths within themselves as well as some difficult emotional training, but they all stepped up and grew along with me (thank you guys). Now I’m part of lots of winning support team as I root for every one of my friend’s successes; telling them when they’re off course and helping them strive to be the best version of themself.

  1. Start training with Mindfulness and CBT

Before you sign off on this third point, I’m not talking about barefoot meditating with hippies in a field, or lying on a leather couch while someone unpicks your darkest dreams so drop your judgements right now and read on.

There is a reason why this winning combination is in the spotlight at the moment and it’s because it works. What happens is that it allows your mind to unpick patterns, while observing the unpicking of the patterns in a way that is outside of the intense emotional feeling. That means, rather than re-feeling the feelings that you experienced in the incident that gave you PTSD, you instead observe the emotions, which means that you are much more equipped to deal with the unravelling of the event. If we go back to the motorway analogy it means that rather than painstaking remove every brick by hand, it’s like you’re watching someone else do it. Or if you’re impatient like me, you’ve hired a construction team with heavy machinery to get the job done efficiently. There’s no secret to mindfulness and CBT, it’s just re-training the brain and getting a bit of perspective on the training. It’s the same approach that top athletes use to train their psychical form – train it, analyse and measure the training and keep checking in to tweak it. The effect is extremely quick – within one week I went from unconsciously attacking a guy who triggered me (FYI – he groped my ass in a bar) to being able to acknowledge and control an intense feeling of fear inside me. The best thing is that it teaches you how to reflect, self manage emotions, explore your true passions and ultimately work to being the best version of yourself.

In fact, once you’ve come through the first few triggers and you get attuned to your new training regime, it’s really insightful process and it becomes exciting to work through the triggers and explore the mind. It’s a type of exploration that I wouldn’t have gone on, had I not been attacked. That’s why to me, it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

Photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

Emotional Intelligence is Nothing Without Awareness

I’m always chirping on about emotional intelligence. How understanding our emotions can be used as an opportunity to grow through life’s challenges. How it can help us better understand each other. How it can bring us together through compassion and help us lead more fulfilling lives. But something that I see often as this term gets tossed around is the lack of awareness in the people who are talking about it, and without personal awareness, it’s nothing.

If someone had spoken to me about emotional intelligence a few years back I probably would have nodded and said I’d got it, because I would have thought I had got it. I would have logically processed it in my mind and thought ‘yeah, I know how I feel most of the time, I’m in tune with my body and my emotions’, but in reality I wasn’t. In fact I didn’t even know what I didn’t know back then, and this is something which I see around me often these days. That so many of us think how we feel, rather than feel how we feel. In fact, some of us have made an art out of it to the point where we’ve even convinced ourselves that we are actually feeling, when the truth is that we’ve completely blocked off our senses all together. It’s no one’s fault that we’re doing this, we’re simply doing the best we can with the knowledge that we have, and unfortunately the majority of us in the west have been taught through social conditioning that this is how we find out how we feel.

This could be due to many factors such as the post war generation children learning to lock down emotions from their parents who would have experienced horrific traumas. This then being passed on to future generations as ‘the norm’. The introduction of industry and the desire to maximise production through robotic behaviour, slowly omitting any kind of emotional expression within the work place. The Victorian school system favouring science and maths over arts and music (mind over heart, or logic over feeling), seen as creativity is physically expressive form of emotion. The reinforced perceptions that this is the norm, seen as to question it might risk the consequence to be ousted from the community. I could go in to many more theories of how and why I think we’ve arrived at this point in the western society but I’ll reserve that for another time.

So what does it mean to become aware? To me, it means to gain an understanding of what our body, mind and heart are trying to tell us through signs.

It means to check in with our physical senses – touch, taste, sound, sight and smell, and understand what each sense is experiencing in the present moment.

It’s understanding what our mind is telling us through our judgements, commentary and instructions on how to behave.

It’s noticing what our emotions are telling us through our creative outputs and expressive behaviour.

At first, when we start paying attention to our body, mind and emotions it can be overwhelming, especially if we’ve been living a life which is in-congruent (with conflict between the head and the heart). For me, inner conflict was something that I’d lived with for a long time, especially as I strove more towards what I thought society wanted of me, rather than what I wanted for me. It was like opening my eyes in a room which had a whole load of mess in that needed clearing up. I felt exhausted just knowing about the mess, a mess which I had unconsciously been adding to for years. Part of me wanted to bury my head in the sand and pretend that I hadn’t seen it, but the problem was that I couldn’t un-see it and deep down I knew that the only way to feel better about the situation was to start clearing up the mess that I had created. That’s when I made a conscious effort to increase my awareness, learn the best techniques on how to tune into to my mind, body and emotions, and ultimately start to live a life that was true to me, no matter how ‘emotional’ or messy it seems on the outside. It’s the moment when I finally embodied the words my Mum had told me all my life and thought ‘Fuck what people think, I’m doing this my way’.

There are plenty of tools you can use to start becoming more aware. Mindfulness is one of the most spoken about tools to practice, but questioning ourselves and reflecting on our behaviour are also important too. I also find that journaling, and talking things through with friends is an important process to practice because sometimes I’m still not sure how I feel and it helps to have a little feedback.

The truth is that without inquiring into these areas of ourselves and really becoming a-tuned to what is going on inside us, emotional intelligence just becomes another subject matter to give lip service to. We may as well be talking about the weather, and it’s this disconnection to ourselves that is stopping us connect with others, with our inspiration and with greater fulfilment.

Photo credit: Kelly Searle

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com