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.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash

 

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.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo credit: Kelly Searle

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.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

 

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.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo Credit – Shoot ‘n’ Design

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.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

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 want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

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

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen 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?

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo Credit – Buzz Andersen

3 Values to Live Your Life by. From my Father, a Good Man

Nothing can quite prepare you for the phone call you’ve always dreaded. The panicked voice from a parent, relaying direct information down the phone.

“There are three paramedics resuscitating your Dad”

It was all my Mum had to say.

I got up from the cafe I was sitting in and heading down the escalators with the phone to my ear.

“Ok. I’m leaving now. I’ll be home in 3 hours”

“Ok” She replied and hung up.

I called my brother, he was on his way home too. It would take him 1 and ½ hours to get to our family home and in the space in between my Mum would sit and wait. Luckily a neighbour and friend went round to comfort her. The ambulance outside giving something away.

It took me 3 and a ½ hours to get home. Straight up the motorway from the bottom of England to the middle. I have no recollection of the actual drive apart from the vague feeling of the rush I had within me to get there and get there fast.

As I pulled up, there was a silver van outside my house. There were two men sitting in the front seats wearing black suits. Men from the morgue. I knew. I’d known all along. I’d known he’d had died before I got in my car and drove, but I hadn’t allowed myself to entertain those thoughts in case they sent me off the road spinning.

The rest of the evening was a blur. Each one took our turn to say goodbye to him before the men from the morgue took him away. Some family friends came round, someone made us food, and then all of a sudden it was dark and it was just the three of us. My Mum, my brother and me. Standing outside the house in silence.

I remember the night clearly. The moon was a waxing crescent and the sky was clear, the stars shining through sharply.  We all paused there, outside the back door, my Mum lighting up a cigarette. We stood in silence at first, no one really knowing what to say about the loss of someone so great. Not just for us, but the world. To lose a man of such good values, a local hero. Before long we were talking about what my brother and I had learnt from him, values which had been installed in us to live through a legacy. Values demonstrated without words and through actions. Values that will stay with us forever.

  1. Have integrity. No matter what the circumstances, my Dad would always come through on his word. Even in the most difficult situations, and trust me if you’re a community Doctor there are many difficult situations. Integrity was something that was installed in him and he expected of those around him, his children included. It was practised daily in our family life, something that my brother and I thought was the norm of society. It’s only now, as adults that we realise that it’s somewhat of a rarity in the world these days.
  1. Be compassionate to others. I never truly understood what compassion was until my Dad passed away but looking back I know that he completely embodied it. There was the time that a grief stricken family tried to sue him for an error that wasn’t his, only for him to say that “People act in unusual ways because of grief”. There’s also the time when a patient with psychiatric problems waited in his surgery car park to attack him, by slapping him across the face with a belt. All he would say is that it wasn’t the patient’s fault, and that they just needed some help to get on back on the right track. At the time I felt puzzled with him and angry at the people trying to do him harm but I can hear his voice clearly respond to me “You never know what someone else has been through, and maybe if you did, you might see things differently”.
  1. Have courage to stand up for what you believe in. The most admirable thing about my father was that he always stood up for what he believed in, no matter who he was up against. Amongst many strong and positive beliefs, he believed in providing the best health care possible for his patients, a value that would often come up against boards of directors when discussing health care budgets. My Dad would never compromise his values and he wouldn’t sell out on his patients, even if it meant losing his job over it. It took a tremendous amount of courage for Muslim Egyptian man to exercise these values in predominantly White, Catholic, ‘old boys school’ type environments but my Dad didn’t see the differences on the surface that many of us do. He just focused on what was important at the time – ‘what’s the best for the patients?’ Then he stood by it and fought for it.

The death of a parent, a spouse or any family member is always a difficult part of life, but what got us through the darkest parts was the reflection that we had such a decent man in our lives. Of course I would have loved to have my Dad around for another 30 years, and I miss him every day. But in the 30 years that he shared with me he gave me some of the best gifts I could have ever wish for – good values, and for that I’m grateful.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Life Aint Always Plain Sailin’

I’ve only done a few yacht deliveries and each time it’s completely different

From what I’ve experienced so far I’ve seen that sometimes the weather can get rough. However, I’ve learnt that if we prepare by learning how to read the weather and how to recover from a storm then we’ll have what we need to experience the storm, learn from it and carry on sailing. So far, I’ve learnt that the sailors who take the time to stop and repair their boat, end up having a better journey. I’ve also noticed that sailors who surround themselves with a good crew and take care of each other also end up having a more enjoyable sail. Some sailors tell me that if they have some home comforts on board, like nice treats and good tunes then it makes all the difference when weathering through the stormy times.

There’s lots of things for sailors to experience on their journey. Cool things, like dolphins and getting the boat to go fast when it catches the wind right. There’s also challenging things like the possibility of the rudder falling off or a fight between the crew. The sailors that recover best in the most difficult times are those who talk about things beforehand, prepare themselves with the right tools and react in a mindful way. The ones who seem to suffer are those who assume that everything’s going to be plain sailing, then find that they’re caught out when the weather turns.

Sometimes I get worried when I see a load of boats heading towards a squal (storm patch) and I end up shouting and screaming “NOT THAT WAY” but that’s not helpful because

  1. a) All they can hear is screaming… which just makes me seem a little crazy
  2. b) Sometime people don’t need directions, they just need the information so they can act, if they want to

I’m trying to work out how to use my radio so I can send them a message with the weather information on. That way they can work out what they want to do with that information. If they still sail into the storm and the boat gets damaged then it’s ok because they know that help is reachable by radio. There are also good boat yards and boat shops around to help get the yachts repaired. There’s also plenty of good sailors out there ready to share their knowledge, skills and expertise if needed.

I know this because I’ve been in a few bad storms lately and they came out of nowhere! I only managed to get out of them because I called for help from those around me. There were sailors who lent me their tools so I could make repairs and amendments, and those who gave me guidance when the fog came down. Some even towed me when my boat broke down all together! It’s been an interesting experience getting through the worst of it and now that it’s over I’ve been spending a lot of time, energy and effort to get back into shape. It’s been worth it though because now the boat is looking better than ever and I’ve learnt a lot about the kind of weather that’s out there.

 The thing is that it’s not my responsibility to go after the boats that are heading towards bad weather, even if I have been there and know of the consequences. Although, I do feel that’s my responsibility to share the lessons of my experience so that others can learn from them if they want to. I mean, isn’t that every sailor’s responsibility?

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x