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

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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

Lead By Your Actions, Not Your Words

It’s quite often that when we meet someone new that we choose to see what we want them to be rather than what they present us with. More often than not, it’s what they want themselves to be too, however the reality is that they might not be willing to put the work in to actually get there. This message seems to be reeling around my universe at the moment, in my own relationships and those of my friends as we meet new people though personal and professional encounters.

It’s so easy to get carried away with the vision of what can be, as we listen to self proclaimed virtues, even though what is staring us in the face is sometimes contradicting evidence. It’s something that seems so ingrained in our self obsessed culture, as though the marketing of something takes over the reality of what it is, leading to illusions and false pretences as the norm. It’s not that I want to be sceptical of the people I meet, or that I think this is something that people do maliciously. It’s just so easy to claim things which haven’t yet been earned, and we are in a society that celebrates it. We literally live in a world that values word higher than action, and condemns any honesty which might blow away the smoke screen.

Another fact to note in this situation is the sense of urgency that comes with it – a tell tale sign of an illusion at play. A trick used by sales people, to try trick potential customers into parting with their money for something whether they need it or not. To create the fear which directs the need for the solution which can be bought at a price so urgently agreed upon that the value and necessity isn’t even considered.

But how many of us fall play to this in our personal relationships too? When we are pressured to commit to loving someone on the premise of who they are? And I don’t just mean romantic love either. I mean the friendships that hold unspoken truths. The families who’s conversations consist of ‘everything’s fine’ when the writing is on the wall that all is not.

The thing is that this lack of honesty stops us from being the best version of ourselves. In fact, it’s the difficult feedback which we so often hide away from that holds the valuable information we need to take action and grow. The question that we need to ask ourselves is why do we hide away from the truths that are sometimes so obvious? What is it that we’ll lose if we acknowledge and even voice these truths? And if there are things that are being exchanged under dishonest words, is it serving us to believe them?

In recent times I’ve annoyed some friends by telling them what they didn’t want to hear. In fact, I haven’t restricted this to personal relationships either; I’ve rustled the same feathers in my family and in organisations that I work with. It hasn’t been an easy ride, especially when the commitment to the illusion is so ingrained, but it’s something which is a necessity to voice if we aim to grow, as a person or a business.

So as I sit here this morning, writing this post with my coffee I wonder to myself what dishonesty lies in my life? What relationships have I created which tell me what I want to hear rather than what is? What evidence is there in my life that I’m ignoring this? And most importantly what work do I need to put in to get me to the version of myself that I want to be? It’s only by looking for these answers and being honest that I can direct myself towards the best, and authentic version of myself.

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

The Value of Creating Space

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve written at all. It’s due to a combination of factors, mainly working full time for the summer which hasn’t allowed me the time to sink into my writing space. Instead I’ve resided in my marketing space and focused on doing the best job I can. It’s not such a bad thing, seen as now I have some money in my bank account and the feeling of some financial security while I constantly try to create balance on the scales of my creative pursuits and actually earning living. I also recognise that I’ve gained some confidence credits as our department hits our extremely ambitious targets and I can see the fruits of my labour – a combination of many marketing campaigns that were produced on minimal budget without many resource,s but instead achieved because of team that works well together and has an abundance of passion steered in the right direction – this is the reality of working for independent charities. Still, it’s a life choice that I wouldn’t sell out on for money because deep down I know that my efforts in work reflect my values, and that means that I’m true to myself.
The thing I’ve come to miss, is the vacant space that I once would have done anything to avoid. The old Shereen would have filled this space instantaneously, and sometimes I still try to, forgetting the value that each breather holds. At my most emotional state I made sure that I was filling the smallest of gaps and sometimes it’s a fight to change this pattern. To resist trying to tidy up, calling a friend or turn on an audio book (I don’t own a TV and film has never been my go-to-escapism-vice), anything to not sit in this space and deal with whatever arises. A common pattern of mine was to try and plan out the future, in an effort to control what might happen next, rather than letting things arise naturally. This a common fear trigger that I’ve noticed when I come to the end of my work contracts, as though I think I’ll never find work again, strange.
It’s not often that we have the space to sit back and reflect, especially not when we’re working full time jobs and managing personal commitments. Let alone, write, which is what I discovered this summer. But to me, these gold nuggets of time are the most important throughout life. The time when projects end or relationships break up and we’re left with a gap to breathe, reflect and take stock of where we are.
The reality is that without taking the time to stop and sink into the vacant space, we can’t gain the perspective needed to clearly direct our next move going forward. We also can’t open our eyes wide enough to see opportunities that are approaching us that might be bigger and better than anything in our current direction. We can’t listen in to ourselves and separate our thoughts from the constancy influx of external messages. Thoughts that often hold the key to the dilemmas we allow ourselves to stress over. Without this space, we’re simply not available to creativity, opportunity or connection.
As I sit back and write this, I’m at another cross roads in my life. My rent period is coming to an end, my work contract tying up and there is a blank canvas in front of me. I could frantically worry, plan and scramble to control what happens next but instead I’ve decided to spend a month creating the space. A month to revive, reflect, and take stock of where I am now, because I know that doing so will create its own opportunities that’ll take me to where I need to go.
Photo Credit – Shoot ‘n’ Design
Originally posted on www.shereensoliman.com

When Saying No Has Consequences

The topic of consent has been popping up in my life quite recently. It’s been sparked off by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which is all over the media and even though I don’t follow mainstream media the story somehow infiltrated my life. This, in turn, ignited the #metoo social media campaign which has then sparked off a lot more conversation, around sexual abuse, consent and a certain kind of negative sexual behaviour which is so often dismissed that it’s unfortunately it’s become a normality in our culture.

Firstly – it’s about time we started talking about this because it’s been underground for far too long. In fact, it’s so underground that a lot of people can’t actually believe it’s a thing at all. It’s not their fault that they don’t believe it at first, in reality most of us go through life viewing our personal perception as the general experience of all. To someone who would never dream of sexually abusing someone else, they may therefore assume that none of his friends would either, thus deeming that the reality of this happening is relatively small. Unfortunately this perception isn’t reflective of the experience of a lot of people, and anyone who has experienced sexual abuse will know about the shame and guilt that comes with telling the story. They’ll also have probably experienced firsthand the judgement that comes when they tell people, the questions that automatically assume that the victim is at fault: “What were you wearing?” and “Were you drunk?” were two common questions that I was often asked when I first told people that a man had voilently attacked me to try and rape me. So is it a surprise that we don’t feel comfortable to offer our stories at the dinner table, let alone reporting it? Because of this, these stories aren’t shared as common knowledge, they’re kept inside and suffered in silence because most people don’t feel safe enough to even voice them with their closest friends and family. If you’re reading this and still think that it’s not an issue, then start listening to the conversations of those around you and in a non judgmental manner* start asking people for their stories, what comes back might just widen your perception.

As this story has unravelled, and in the conversations I’ve had especially, I’ve found myself explaining the concept of consent frequently and it’s seems to be something quite misunderstood. There’s some really great public campaigns creating awareness about how important consent is, one great one in the UK which explained it in a metaphor of offering someone a cup of tea and that you wouldn’t force someone to drink a cup of tea against their will if they’d already said ‘no’ – you can imagine the humour in this with a nation that is so polite with the treasured ritual of the famous ‘cuppa’. What it seems to miss out though, is the issue of consent when one person is in a position of power, which they could use against the person with less power if they don’t get what they want. Quite often in situations where sexual abuse takes places there is a power dynamic which is being abused, be it physically or like in the Harvey Weinstein case – the power of one person’s career prospects. To me, consent isn’t just about saying no. It’s about having the opportunity to say ‘no’ without consequences.

Consequences such as the other person reacting negatively like becoming dismissive, moody, even ending the relationship and all that has been built to create it so far.

Consequences like losing out on something external of the situation that a person has worked so hard to achieve, like a career, an opportunity or their reputation.

Consequences like personal safety, that if the person with less power doesn’t just give in and give the person with power what they want that things might just turn that little bit nasty.

I’m not saying that we need to have sit down discussions at length prior to having any sexual encounter because I know how these things arise and nobody what’s to spoil the mood. But what I am saying is that the vulnerable person in the sexual dynamic (the one that has the least power) has to feel safe enough to say no if they choose to and that it’s up to the person with the power to create that safe environment. The only way we can do that is by having this conversation about sex, safety and what consent actually means to us as individuals. And I don’t mean “What do you think about this Weinstein scandal” conversation starter in the office. I mean talking in depth, to those people close to us about the vulnerable details of our own experiences and what makes each of us feel comfortable and safe. Talking to those who we know would have had different sexual experiences from ourselves. If you’re a man, talk to a woman. If you’re straight, talk to someone who has had homosexual or bisexual relationships. If you’re monogamous, why not talk to someone who’s polyamorous? It’s only by widening our perception that we can learn more about the world and other’s experiences, and it’s only through sitting through the discomfort of others painful stories that we’ll start building up compassion within ourselves.

We need to start reflecting about our experiences too. Think about those times that you’ve had sex and it didn’t quite feel right – why was that? Did you not actually want it to happen? Or maybe you pushed yourself on someone and they gave in because of that? If you’re unsure can you open that conversation with that person and get some home truths aired? Don’t beat yourself up for something you weren’t aware of at the time though, because it’s not product to wallow in guilt. Just use this awareness to apologise and rectify the situation if you need to and change your behaviour going forward.

Without this kind of open awareness, reflection and compassion we’re not going to be able to create the respectful and safe world that we all deserve. So keep talking, keep challenging your own opinion and most of all listen, compassionately.

*A non-judgmental manner means to react neutrally to the answer that is given, regardless of how you feel. It means to allow space to listen, receive and for that moment sit in the awkward discomfort with the other person and feel what they are actually feeling. I write discomfort because that’s what it is at best, at worst it can be shameful, upsetting or deeply crushing. It is your obligation as the receiver to listen, without comment as someone expresses what is probably extremely difficult for them. And if you still don’t understand what that means then you obviously need to do some more reading.

Photo by Hailey Kean on Unsplash

 

Back En Route

Hi, how are you? I’m Shereen, I used to live here, and after much deliberation I’ve decided to come back to and write from here.

It’s been a turbulent three years since all the interesting incidents happened in my life. Turbulent in terms of ups and downs, confusion and clarity, and every time I thought I turned a corner I found myself, somehow back at the start again. Or at least that’s what it sometimes felt like. In fact, that’s the reason that I decided to step away from this blog in the first place. I was done with having myself associated with the word trauma, being connected to it like we were conjoined twins who couldn’t escape each other no matter how much we pulled apart. By blogging on this site it served as a constant reminder that I wasn’t able to let go and move past what had happened. Thus wasn’t able to heal.

So I decided to leave it in January this year and set up a new blog straight from my name – shereensoliman.com. It helped, a bit. But I still found myself still analysing human behaviour, reading self help books and attracting new people in my life who had either just been through something traumatic or were in some stage of trauma recovery process. It’s not these actions were wrong in any way, it’s just that there became a time when all this exploration into trauma recovery had served its purpose for me. I’d simply learnt and processed as much as I needed to for this time, and for as long as I continued to swim around in these murky waters, I wasn’t going to get to where I wanted to be in life with my business, my romantic endeavours or my lifestyle. What I discovered was that although my decision to step away from the ‘trauma on tour’ title was of good intention, I hadn’t really done the work that I needed to in order to steer my life in the direction I wanted. In fact moving away from the blog didn’t really make that much of a difference for me at all, and even though I wasn’t writing from it I was still getting lots of daily hits and people reaching out to me through it. I’ve since figured that I may as well start to write from here again, if only to demonstrate that such challenging times can be overcome, and clarity of mind can be reached – without pills.

While moving away from the blog didn’t loosen the anchor of trauma that I felt weighed down by, the work that I continued to do on myself did. After having more therapy sessions this summer – this time in Creative Kinesiology, and also a soft psychology session with a good friend of mine. Things started to become much clearer in my life, I decided that there was work to be done and that I was ready to do it.

First things first – I decided that I don’t want to make a career out of this emotional intelligence stuff. I might be good at coaching some people and I know that I talk in an authentic (and blunt) voice that is sometimes rare in our modern times, but in terms of actually coaching people, I just don’t enjoy it. So I just stopped and decided that this was no longer to be a part of my relationships.  I’ve since felt a hell of a lot lighter.

Second of all, I decided to clear out my life. Coincidentally we’re renovating my childhood room back home, so my stuff is all over the place – a great opportunity to go through and get rid. After reading a book called Spark Joy (thanks to my brother who bought me this for my birthday), I’m literally in the process of chucking out every single physical thing in my life that doesn’t bring me a deep sense of joy to own it. I now walk around wearing only elegant clothes… because that’s how I want to feel. I also cut out those relationships in my life which weren’t right for me. The ones which sucked my energy or involved me having to defend myself. All of the ones where I felt a hint of negativity when I thought about them, because I want people in my life who spark joy in my and who I spark joy in too, why would I have it any other way?

Thirdly, I went back to what my dreams and passions were before all of this craziness started – to build my own Eco Spa. Sustainability and wellbeing are two things that I’m extremely passionate about; it’s why I have such random qualifications from Beauty Therapist to MSc in Sustainable Architecture, and regardless of all this trauma stuff, it’s the goal of my life to create this building. So I started making headway in this area too – contacting people, talking to anyone who will listen about my concept and making sure that any work that I do is in the general direction of this goal (my workshops combine sustainability and beauty and my remote work is for a sustainability charity).

I’m not sure how many corners there are left to turn, in fact it’s probably a never ending maze that we’re all in called life. However, I do know that if I at least have the courage to head towards my dreams then I’ll feel good no matter if I succeed or not. At least I’ll know I’ve tried. And after coming through what I managed to process over the last 3 years, surely building an Eco Spa should be a doddle in comparison right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I hope you enjoy my writing, there’s more to come.

Happy Exploring.

I’m Leaving Trauma on Tour, for Shereen Soliman…

Dear Followers, Friends and anyone who finds their way to this blog,

Thank you for following me on Trauma on Tour, I really appreciate your support and I hope that you’ve enjoyed my blog posts this far.

It’s now the time for me to move this blog to my personal website as I continue to work on my Personal Development and Wellness Concept. So, from this point onwards you’ll receive emails from me, Shereen Soliman, rather than Trauma on Tour. To give you an update on my current work: I’m bringing out my first book in January – The Backpackers Natural Beauty Book, which is a collection of skin care recipes that are easy to make, chemical free and completely natural and ecological. Following this, I hope to bring out In Search Of Compassion, a book of short stories which takes the reader through a journey of situations, giving perspective on human behaviour and the necessity to have compassion during the most challenging times. This book is finished and ready to go but I’m going to try and get a publisher for it.

On my personal website you’ll find the same style of life observing blog posts, therapy reviews, therapy guides as well as my concept and book information.

It’s been an interesting year, exploring my psyche and the path it’s taken me on in my state of recovery but it’s now time to share the lessons I learnt on a wider scale.

Thank you for reading, writing encouraging comments and accompanying me on my journey this far. If you’re interested in personal growth, awareness or self care then please follow me on facebook, pintrest or twitter for more inspirational sharings.

Best wishes and Happy New Year!

Yours sincerely,

Shereen

 

A Little Bit Of Perspective at Christmas

I read a lot of books. Usually about 5 at any one time because I need to switch around a variety to stay engaged. Typically in my reading portfolio there’s a business book, a self development book, a science/research type book, a book about spirituality and a novel of some kind. The novels are usually about someone’s life story or life events, obviously because I love analysing human behaviour.

Recently I was recommended ‘The Girl On The Train’ by Paula Hawkins. I’d seen adverts for this book plastered all over the place – most notably the displays at train stations – and I noticed that there’s a lot of hype about the book at the moment. It made me wonder why. From what I read, I wondered if it seemed quite reflective of the situations that many people in modern western society find themselves in. Popular books usually hit a common note with it’s audience if it resonates with them, usually through the stories or the characters. That thought left me feeling quite sad about the society that I live in. Let me summarise the characters to give you an idea why.

There was:
A alcoholic who is avoiding the depressive life’s she’s created for herself and appears to drink as a way to numb the pain – at least from what I can make out.
A woman who has narcissistic behaviour and uses intimate relationships as a way to fill the gaping void of grief for the death of her brother that she hasn’t fully deal with.
A mirage of other characters who live in the illusion that they’re happy because they have a job in the city/own house/status quo happy relationship (inc baby in one case) even though their secret thought patterns are very negative.

The book is very well written and the author did a great job of creating character depth and drawing the reader into the situations. However, I simply couldn’t finish it because the reality of the situation made me feel so deflated. In one sense it’s a compliment to the author because I was clearly so drawn into the book that it was evoking such a depth of feeling within me. However, the feeling itself was depressing. It made me realise how inept we are as a culture of dealing with certain life events. The very popularity of the book made me wonder if we face an epidemic in western societies – a subconscious apathy in the illusion of happiness?

Lucky for me I already had another book to switch over to: ‘In Order to Live’ by Yeonmi Park. This book is about a girl who escapes life in North Korea. It talks about the famine and what it was like to live through starvation. How she and her family would risk their lives and walk for miles to receive less food than one UK family might throw away in a week. This girl has to repeatedly physically fight off men who constantly try to rape her while she is trafficked across borders like a commodity. She’s 13.

In the second book there is no opportunity to create significance out of hardship, because everyone is in hardship so there’s no difference. However there is a strong sense of compassion and human intimacy between the characters, which together with the hardship seems to create a wealth of emotional resilience.

Both these books made me ponder about psychological trauma and the significance of it in the perspective of our lives. I believe that it’s necessary to acknowledge and validate a difficult life experience in order to process it. But I wonder how much quicker this process would be if we didn’t have the opportunity to claim significance for the story. I wonder if this perspective on life might make someone think differently about their situation.

As we come closer to Christmas, I remember how difficult last year was. A quite Christmas day with a gaping void that so many painful emotions swirled around in the absence of my Father. What I remember most though, is how we talked about missing him and how the conversations always ended with gratitude. We were grateful that we had such an amazing person in our lives for so many years. We were grateful that we had each other. We were grateful that we had our health, a roof over our heads and food on our table. It’s easy to say thanks flippantly but when we allow ourselves to immerse in the situation of others, that’s when we can really feel gratitude. I wonder if the characters in The Girl On The Train might think differently about their privileged lives if they woke up every morning with the excruciating pain of life threatening hunger? Or if they were separated from their family and anyone who spoke their language, in to a trade channel that constantly tried to rape them? I wonder if we might think differently about our own pain if we could see it through the perspective of others?

Even if we are missing someone at Christmas, have hardship or ill health it’s valuable to remeber that there are people in the World who don’t have food, safety or shelter at one of the most joyous times of year.

Wishing you a Christmas full of gratitude x

Physical Abuse – Could Lack of Emotional Validation Be The Cause?

I know the news isn’t the most unbiased picture of what’s going on in the World (especially not in the UK at least). However, the most recent headlines are ones causing me to wonder why certain events seem to be happening on mass. One if of wide spread sexual abuse in the UK Football Association and the other is the rise in self harm cases in children and young adults in the UK. Both abusive acts on the body, either towards the self or another person’s body. Both violent, abusive and harmful acts against the body. When I take a step back and look at these acts, I wonder if they’re both physical expressions of pent-up negative emotional energy? Possibly committed because of inner turmoil that hasn’t been addressed for whatever reason.

I can relate to inner turmoil because of my own challenging life events. When I was in my most destroyed state, I was pretty toxic to those around me. Angry, reactive, sometimes out of control as I spun around firing out a whirlpool of negativity. Blaming and shaming anyone who came in the vicinity of my pain. I’ve also been on the receiving end of this toxic behaviour because life has a tendency to offer us mirrors of our state, so when I was in my most destructive state I happened to meet people who treated me very negatively. And in true irony of the Universe, I’ve also been on the listening end of this behaviour as many people have sought counsel from me as they confess to their own pain and how they express it. (I mean what did I expect when I named my blog ‘Trauma on Tour’).

Through expressing, receiving and witnessing these emotional expressions of inner pain I’ve come to wonder if our lack of basic emotional expression in the Western society could be the cause of this abuse. That due to the lack of expressing the lightest of emotion that we’re now starting to witness a pressure cooker effect? That what might have been a little bit of pain from shame or blame, has been held on to, suppressed and refuelled in the mind as it churns over again and again and again.

With the fear and the shame that cloaks our society it’s difficult for someone to come forward with any emotional expression. God forbid someone might be overly happy in the office. Or that they might cry in public. Or get passionate about a project they’re working on. I don’t know about you but I’ve spent most of my life trying to find acceptance in the fact that I’m naturally very emotionally expressive. It’s difficult because it means that I get attacked or rejected often, regardless of the emotion. From “what are you so happy about?” to awkwardness from friends when I spent a few days in bed depressively grieving my Dad’s death. For some it was such a shock to see such depth of emotion that our friendship never got over it. Could it be that some of us have got into the habit of naturally suppressing daily emotions that the build up is now starting to splurge out? That the level of toxicity in the physical act reflects the darkness of the wound inside? Could the epidemic of male on male abuse in the 80’s be the result of suppressed pain that was experienced in the earlier years of these men – as women’s empowerment took hold of the mothers of those abusers – omitting them of the love or attention they required as children? Could the self harm in young adults be the result of emotional vents which aren’t getting validated in a world of technology? Could this lack of validation be causing a pressure cooker effect on a conservative culture that’s on the brink of exploding?

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I think it’s about time that we got over the shock of emotional expression and instead started asking why. Otherwise we’re never even going to get close to the answers and we’re never going to figure out how to proactively avoid such behaviour. We can start today by checking in with how we feel right now. For me, that’s scared. I’m scared about publishing this article because I’m worried it will rustle features, causing people who also feel scared to attack out at me for opening up this subject. The thing is that I know that those attacks are just opinions that come from other people’s pain, not mine, and besides words don’t hurt me. Emotional acknowledged and  validated, lesson understood, reflection made and compassion developed. But what happens when we suppress that emotional energy? Where does the pain go if we don’t let it out?

Photo Credit – Buzz Andersen