The Power of Personal Responsibility

One of the things I’ve come to learn and appreciate this year is the power of personal responsibility. Admittedly, it can be a challenge to maintain this daily, especially when we seem to be in a society that profits off the lack of it, however once realised and practised it’s one of the most empowering things along the journey of trauma recovery or a personal development journey.

When I first started to become aware of this, it seemed like we’ve been taught from a young age to look externally for the responsibility of our personal life circumstances, especially when something difficult takes place. I certainly see the tendency to blame and shame in my own Western culture, which regardless of whether it’s right or wrong, called for or not, the fact is that it’s a complete waste of energy. Worse yet, by starting the ‘who’s fault is it anyway’ process, we literally give over our power to another person, a situation or anything other than ourselves. While I agree with reflecting on a situation and considering how it could be done better, I recognise that act of blaming outward is a pointless exchange of negative energy.

That said, practising this is much easier said (or written) than done and it can be a very difficult pill to swallow when we’re in the mist of a situation that negatively impacts us, such as in the aftermath of a heart break, a trauma or a death. In fact it’s actually a lot easier to blame outwards, and look for something outwards to hold responsible which is why I think a lot of us become susceptible to this kind of pattern.

The thing is that if we don’t reach a point where we can reflect objectively on the situation and hold our hands up to what was completely within our control then we’re powerless to the event and therefore can’t let it go and move on. I’m not saying that this is the only approach to letting go of a painful event, and I’m certainly not saying that it should be implemented immediately after the event takes place either – the acceptance phase also takes it’s time and it’s important to remember that! Also, not every situation is within our control and sometimes there are incredibly shitty things that happen to us which we’re not personally responsibility for at all, and no matter what, we wouldn’t have been able to change the outcome. There’s no way I could stop my father having a heart attack for instance. However when I look at the years prior to me getting attacked and the way I aimlessly went about my life, it’s crystal clear to me that I created the path I walked along to create the right environment for that situation to occur. Also, regardless of the events, I am responsible for how I reacted in the aftermath of those events and I’m responsible for whether or not I learn from the situations after. As soon as I realised this, I was able to start forgive myself for certain choices I’d made prior to all these traumas and was then able start processing all these events which have since led me down a path of empowerment and growth.

I didn’t have to take personal responsibility for my situation. I could have blamed my attacker, friends who didn’t stop me acting so recklessly, or anyone who came near me in the aftermath for not understanding what I’d been through, and believe me I did do all of this when my emotions were so raw. What I soon realised though is that for every time I deflected some blame on to someone or something else or pulled out the ‘you have no idea what I’ve been through’ card that I literally gave my power away and became helpless to a situation in my past, again. And you know what, this soon got boring for myself and those close around me, and I certainly don’t want to be that person.  So what I tend to do now when I feel my ego come up at an opportunity to blame someone else for a challenging situation that I’m facing is take a breath and let it go. Then, I reflect and look for the choices I made to get me in that situation, so I can take responsibility, forgive myself if necessary and recognise the power of my actions. By taking this approach it’s means that we’re always responsible for something, which in turn this means that we can then recognise our personal power in any given situation, no matter how painful it is. Now isn’t that empowering?

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’re with me on this mission, please like, comment, share and sign up. 

Sending self care vibes, 

Shereen x

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

 

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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

 

Compassion for the Christmas Monster

Every house has a monster at Christmas. You know, the one who gets stressed out and is basically a nightmare to be around. Full of tension and trying-so-hard-to-be-happy that they couldn’t spot authentic happiness if it slapped them in the face? Well, this year that’s me.

Who am I kidding? It’s me most years!

Last year I somehow managed to escape the fate of the Christmas monster, probably because we glided through the holiday in a drunken stupor in my Dad’s absence. The first Christmas is always the hardest apparently and especially as my Dad was a Muslim and didn’t drink it seemed only right to go through a painful Christmas period the only way us Brit’s knew how – with an abundance of alcohol. It’s funny how the emotions play on the brain, as though they zap energy from painful times so that the memories don’t stay fixed, a kind of protective mechanism from enduring suffering maybe. It only became apparent today when we were asked what we did for last years celebrations – my Mum and I looked at each other cluelessly. We didn’t know. I later discussed this with my brother – he didn’t know either. None of us knew what we ate, if there had been a tree or if we had even exchanged presents. Come to think of it, the only thing I do remember is doing the Christmas shop… Wine, Whisky, Amaretto – could this be the reason why we don’t remember?

The fact of the matter is that I don’t remember being a monster last year, which is refreshing because when I am in the guilt ridden state of not-being-able-to-step-out-of- being-a-monster it seems like I have spent my life that way and that I will always be that way, but thankfully, that’s not reality. This very example of what we can all remember from last year demonstrates how these are all just tricks on the mind – that we can think that we will be in our current state for ever and that our life will be shaped this way, but in reality this isn’t true. I remember managing to pull myself out of a dark depression with this thought when my Dad had died, but I also remember how difficult it was to believe it, against the odds of how I felt at the time.

The thing is that sometimes we are monsters. With emotions running high and the pressure to enjoy family holidays it can be so challenging to not turn into a monster and today I just didn’t have the strength in me to keep it calm.

I’m lucky to come from a forgiving and compassionate family though. With a brother who takes me out for a gin and tells me to not worry because tomorrow is another day, and a mother who comes to tell me she loves me, hugs me and tells me that I’m forgiven for the way I’ve behaved lately –even though I have not earned either of these actions. These things made me melt. Knowing that I didn’t deserve to be treated so nice after being so horrible and knowing that I was still loved for all my worst traits. It’s this compassion that melts the hearts of monsters and brings them back into the love of life.

If you have a monster this year, show them some compassion.

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

The vagus nerve, emotions and the difficulty with mindfulness practices

Let’s talk about emotions! Here’s some science.

healing from the freeze

“Now, many people who don’t know a lot about trauma think that trauma has something to do with something that happened to you a long time ago. In fact,the past is the past and the only thing that matters is what happens right now. And what is trauma is the residue that a past event leaves in your own sensory experiences in your body and it’s not that event out there that becomes intolerable but the physical sensations with which you live that become intolerable and you will do anything to make them go away.” (Bessel van der Kolk)

Last week, during a two-day deep cleaning/paint prep binge (see the kitchen ceiling to the right!), I listened to a recorded talk by Bessel van der Kolk given at the May 2011 22nd Annual International Trauma Conference. The title of van der Kolk’s title is a mouthful: “Putting neuroplasticity into clinical…

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Therapy Review – Myofascial release and cranio sacral therapy

Therapy Review – Myofascial release and craniosacral therapy, by Emmeline Gee, Angels on Board

I’ve known Emmeline for a while, back from my yachting days when I was living in Mallorca. Having worked in the same industry that she runs her business in (and is highly recommended within), I was aware of her reputation as being an extremely good massage therapist when we first started to become friends and I’ve since had a lot of massages from her which have always been very intuitive and therapeutic. This isn’t why I made friends with her, she’s an absolutely amazing person too and has been a great friend to me, especially in the months after my Dad’s death when I was trying to hold jobs down and work through, what in reflection was, the worst period of my life. She’s a gem and when the opportunity comes up to hang out with her and explore new therapies that she’s learnt, I jump at the chance.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

The Session – 7th July 2016, 1pm

This session wasn’t a usual massage session. It was more of a specific bodywork session to see how I reacted to some new methods of trauma treatment which Emmeline had been working with. Having already known me (and my body, the story and the physical manifestation of my emotional pain) we worked together through feedback throughout the treatment and she used her instinct to try out different movements based on a collective knowledge of all her therapy training (it’s pretty extensive in terms of physiological and psychological subjects).

One thing that I admire about the way Emmeline starts her treatments is that once she has the client settled in the correct position on the couch she takes a moment to focus on herself by taking a few deep breaths. She told me what she was doing and I know that this simple moment allows her to focus on her intention for the treatment and I guess it helps her step out of any busyness that might be happening in her mind – I try to do the same thing when I find myself racing around in my thoughts, it always helps, when I manage to remember. By doing this at the start of the treatment it also gives the client space to take a few breaths and settle into the treatment themselves.

Firstly Emmeline told me that she was going to perform some myofascial stretches from my legs. According to the theory of myofascial release therapy, the myofascia (the 3D network of connective tissue which holds the body together) can store physical and emotional trauma. .,By performing these slow, gentle and sustained stretches, the tissue can be encouraged to release restrictions that may have been caused by such trauma. I lay on my back and she began to gently pull on my left foot, very very gradually stretching my whole left side and I could literally feel the stretch as it travelled up from my ankle, up my calf, knee, thigh, stomach and my rib cage. When the stretch got that far my body started to numb out and rather than feel a stretch, I was just receiving some random twangs of stretches in higher parts of my body, like my shoulder and neck, but no general stretch as I had felt so prominently up my leg. She performed the same stretch on my right leg and it had very much the same effect. It was quite interesting realising such a numbness in my chest area and as it is the area where I feel the most discomfort (especially on my left side), it was strange to feel such a numb sensation when I’m used to, at least, feeling discomfort. When she did the stretch, I just felt numb.

Following the leg stretches, she then performed a stretch on the top half of my body. She placed on hand on my upper left arm and one on my head to help stretch my neck, and this I could feel. Again, it was very subtle but I felt very small releases which were really gratifying. The only thing I can think of to physically compare this to is to think of bubble wrap – it was as though by stretching this tissue that the little bubbles of tension (like the bubble wrap air bubbles) were gently popping, but not in a harsh pop and bang way, more in a gentle squeeze then release kind of way.

Emmeline asked me to turn over onto my front and carried out some myofascial release on my back. With both hands placed on my back, she moved them in certain directions which caused a really interesting kind of stretch. I’m not sure if it was my imagination or what I was actually feeling but I felt subtle stretches quite far deep inside my chest. It was as though my chest muscles had a netting holding them and I could feel the tension as it stretched one way and a release as it was moved to stretch another, much in the same way you’d feel if you were wrapped in fishing net – one strand tightening as other areas loosen off. It was such a strange sensation at first but the release was quite incredible, especially considering that the movements were so slow and subtle. Usually, I have to have quite strong massages with a lot of pressure to feel a release so this technique really surprised me.

After the myofascial part, she moved on to the craniosacral part and asked me to turn around onto my back again. To be completely honest, I had no idea what this treatment even was at the moment that I had it and every time Emmeline went to tell me the theory about it, we seemed to get interrupted and I never found out. I think that worked in our favour as I found the treatment to be really powerful and I just went with the flow not knowing what to expect. As I can have a tendency to really over think things, had I known the theory behind the treatment there is a chance that I could have subconsciously created or blocked some aspect of it but because I didn’t then I couldn’t use my mind to steer my body responses.

She placed one hand on my neck and one on my chest and seemed to keep them there still. She didn’t say anything and didn’t seem to move and I just lay there, feeling what was happening to my body. Firstly I felt a strong warming sensation travel up my legs from my toes up my body, it was a slightly tingling feeling but the main thing I noticed was a general sense of comfort that came with the warmth, it felt nice. As the feeling travelled up I felt it up my stomach, and then I felt nothing move further up. Again, the feeling stopped around my chest area and there was a total void of feeling there. Then suddenly I felt the feeling move from my upper arms, down to my fingers and up my neck until my whole body felt warm apart from the ‘nothing’ feeling around my neck. The phrase ‘heart of stone’ came to mind which made me feel really frustrated with myself and I had to concentrate on my breath before I started to go into negative talks berating myself for not feeling something.  I’m not sure how long this lasted, possibly 5-7 minutes.

After this, Emmeline moved her hands to what I think was the side of my head – I say think, because she didn’t actually touch my body but I somehow knew that’ where they were, maybe I felt the warmth of them or sensed them through the shadows of darkness that blocked the tiny fragments of light through my eyelids – the same way that you know when someone draws the curtains when you’ve got your eyes closed in a light room. She did explain every movement as she went through but I felt relaxed by this stage that a lot of the words didn’t stay in my brain, I was just too busy relishing in a really nice feeling of warmth and comfort. I do remember her saying that this part can cause some involuntary movements and although I did have some twitches I wonder if me knowing this may have blocked some involuntary movements which may otherwise have happened if I didn’t have that nugget of information. The thing is that in post traumatic stress the mind tries to control a lot of things in fear of losing security and I know that with me there is a very strong control on ‘letting go’, as if I subconsciously think that if I do, someone will try and attack me. I do know that I allow myself to let go more when I’m in the presence of women, more so than men and also around friends more so than strangers, so at least both these things were going in the favour of this treatment. The twitches that I did have were that the ring finger on each of my hands flicked at one point, individual of each other, and at one point I felt my whole body wobbly very gently.

After this, Emmeline asked me to lie on my right side and curl up into the foetus position, while she sat down on a small stool and faced my back. I think she placed one hand behind the bottom of my spine and one at the top of my neck, I don’t know why I think this because I don’t remember her explaining where her hands were but I just felt that they were there even though, again, she made no body contact with me. I was in this position for a few minutes again and when this was over she whispered that she was going to leave me in the room on my own now and that she would be outside when I felt I was ready to come out of the treatment. I’m not sure how long I ended up staying there in that position, but I do know that I felt a few more gentle rocks, again, extreamly subtly apart from one which felt like quite a noticeable one. After a few moments I felt the need to lie on my back with my arms stretched out and I took the opportunity to really tap into what I was feeling and then I felt a sensation come from the pit of my stomach, up my body and out of my eyes – that familiar ‘whosh’ of tears. I didn’t feel sad and there was no sudden in takes of breath like you get when you’re crying hard, no, just the exiting of water out of my face again. Just a few tears this time. After the tears went I felt refreshed and more energised than I had done earlier. I got up, got dressed and went off to find Emmeline and discuss my thoughts.

Pre-session sense check (7th July 2016 DD MMM 2016, 12 O’clock – one hour before the treatment)

Physically – As a standard my left side is feeling tense. I’ve noticed that this is an ever-changing sensation, sometimes intense, sometimes loose, and I think it must change depending on how I’m feeling about my security. It did seem to intensify in the morning before the treatment and it could have been because I’m scared of letting go and new treatments are obviously a way for me to push these boundaries, so if I feel this I know it’s linked to anxiety. Apart from that I felt well rested and healthy in my body.

Emotionally – My mind felt busy from the morning and Emmeline had already sensed this because she suggested that we meditate for 10 minutes before the treatment – great idea and it calmed me down. I originally explained this to her as I felt like I could be worried about her seeing my vulnerabilities, which is ridiculous because this woman has seen me at my utter worse so I don’t know why this would bother me. We talked this anxiety through and just voicing it cleared a lot of it away.

Post-session sense check (9th July 2016 – 2 days after the treatment)

Initially I wrote down how I felt an hour or so after the treatment but I had much greater sensations throughout that day of the treatment and in the following days that I’ve done my sense checks after I experienced the main effects.

Physically – The days following the treatment I felt very subtle shakes within my body when I really focused on it, this was mainly during my meditation that I do every morning but I also felt the need to meditate in the evening after the session too. I felt like that was a lot of emotion in my body that I was trying to let out but somehow couldn’t and I know that if I meditate when I feel like this then it gives an opening to the emotion that my mind can’t shut in. During the meditation I felt subtle shaking like quick but gentle wobbles that were across my whole body simultaneously, as though I was inside something that was shaking, rather than it feeling like my body was shaking. The only thing I can think to compare it to is being in a swell and feeling your body pulsate with it, apart from it was a lot faster, however just as gentle. The pace was about 4 beats per second (yes I tapped into it and timed it but it’s the only way I can think to really describe it accurately). Tears also came out of me during the meditations, so I know that something got stirred up during this treatment and came out in the days following it. I’ve never had a sensation like this before and to physically see this in my own body was pretty powerful.

Emotionally – I feel very sensitive to a lot of feelings after the treatment and I’m aware that I’m reacting on this. It’s weird because I get waves of numbness and I’m aware of the numbness and it’s strange sensing feelings and learning to actually feel them again, it’s also really comforting knowing that I’m getting these sensations back but with the joy and the security feelings I’m also getting pain, upset and excruciating vulnerability that I’m consciously nourishing through self care. I’m also making sure that I am vocalising these feelings, as if to educate my conscious mind on what is going on so I can attach a language to them. Luckily I’m in Palma and have lots of consciously aware friends who understand the sense I’m trying to make out of my treatment exploration so I’ve got people around me who are comfortable hearing my vocalisation of these weird and wonderful feelings that are popping up.

Overall Review

This was a very subtle but very powerful treatment for me. There were obviously a few things at play here – I felt very comfortable at the time of the treatment because Emmeline and I had talked through the anxiety I had that morning, we had also meditated and I know her well, I trust her and I feel safe with her so obviously I was able to go quite deep into this treatment. Emmeline is the kind of therapist that does create a strong space of comfort for the client and I remember this from my first treatment with her which was only the second time I’d met her. She also explains what she is going to do, what she is doing and if the client is comfortable with it she will ask for feedback on what is being felt and put this information with the intuition to guide her next movements. She is in fact one of the best therapists I’ve worked with for this very reason and I’m conscious that I do benchmark a lot of my treatments on the standard that I’ve seen from her. From what I know, this high standard has been reached because she is consistently working on fine-tuning her knowledge and skills in terms of feedback, review, investigating new therapy methods through workshops, reading and experimentation. It’ a very interesting student-therapist dynamic that keeps her intuition sharp and her game spot on, many therapists could learn from having a simple massage with her.

I found the mysofacial massage to be subtly powerful and I didn’t expect that. Some of the movements felt similar to ways I’ve felt when I’ve done some advanced twisting yoga moves, a subtle gentle inner stretch which is almost undetectable. I think that to be able to really benefit from this kind of massage that a lot relies on how conscious the client is of their body because without this I suspect some of the benefits could go unnoticed, or if someone was concerned with busy thoughts and unable to sink in to the treatment. It’s definitely something that I would like to explore more and over a longer period of time to see it if releases any deeper trauma.

I’m not sure if it was the craniosacral massage itself or the combination of the two together, but I felt a very powerful response during this part of the treatment. I’ve tried a few other therapies which try to encourage involuntary movements and I’m conscious that I have a strong mind that can usually block a lot of these efforts and I know this comes from a protection stance because the most prominent time of my life when I felt involuntary movement was when I was fighting with my attacker. I’m still scared of involuntary responses and I’m aware that this means that I’m missing out on a lot of good things in life but I will venture there when I’m ready. In the mean time, the gentle fast-paced rocking that I experienced was phenomenal and although it brought tears with it, I was fascinated when I felt this, especially when I could tap into it the following days after during meditation.

I think that these two massages could be very effective as trauma release therapies, however I think it is imperative that the client feels emotionally safe before the treatment and has a place where they can feel safe in the days after, otherwise I think the benefits could be limited from what they could be.

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

‘Female Power’ Workshop – The Name Says It All

Having spent a week on the Community Experience Program at Osho Leela and having previously met Sanjula, I knew that the Female Power Workshop was one that I wanted to try out. Before I even met Sanjula, I’d heard her reputation as a very intuitive bodywork therapist and I had been advised to see her for a bodywork session to help me look into some of the post-traumatic stress that I’d been dealing with. To say the least, I was very inspired by the strength of this woman and when I returned home, I booked straight onto this workshop.

As usual, my review is set into three parts – description of the workshop, how I felt directly before and after, and my overall review.

The workshop

I arrived on Friday evening, before dinner – as requested in the booking email which allowed me some time to settle into the accommodation and get to know some of the other women in the workshop. After dinner, we went straight into the workshop, which gave me the impression that we were being prepped for some hard work throughout the weekend. There were 7 participants in total and two therapists running the workshop – Sanjula, and her assistant Amrita – I liked that there were two women running the workshop, kind of like a leader and a backstop to support the all-female tribe. We started off with sitting in a circle and sharing: why we’re here, how we feel and generally where we’re at in life, which was a great starting point because it built a sense of connection within the group straight away that was built on honesty and authenticity from the word go. Sanjula started off with the sharing and opened up the space with her own very vulnerable sharing, really overcoming the shame that could have potentially lurked in many areas. By setting the bar at this level, it left a totally open platform for each of us to be truly authentic with the group about exactly how we felt at the same depth. An honesty that we sometimes don’t even share with ourselves, so to openly vent it in front of the group, for me, was actually a little scary, so when it got to my turn I shared that, that this felt scary.

Scared and numb, to be exact. They are the two most prominent feelings that frequent me these days and that’s how I felt at the sharing, combined with an air of resistance which I was battling with. There wasn’t much of a response from anyone during the sharing, everything was just listened to and accepted which, in essence, created a sealed area of emotional safety. With this, Sanjula explained that everything shared within the room will be treated with confidentiality and that she would like us to respect that between ourselves. That request is respected in this review and thus, it is a factual account of only my experience which I obviously give consent for (The dark inner workings of my soul are openly shared on this blog, so, of course, I’m keeping up that openness, even if it does feel a little cringeworthy at times). Following this, a general explanation of how the workshop would unfold was given and then we did an active meditation (possibly a dance one… I can’t quite remember exactly but I remember lots of good music and opportunities to dance). Then we heading off to bed.

Reflecting on Saturday and Sunday with the individual tasks is difficult because there are so many things that happen that it’s almost impossible to remember them in order so instead, I’ll give a general description. Firstly we didn’t start the sessions until after breakfast which meant that we didn’t need to get out of bed until 8ish, allowing plenty of time to sleep off any exhaustion from the activities. This was hugely beneficial for me because I know that processing these traumas can still be exhausting for me sometimes, and if I overdo it then it can result in a physical illness which my body takes the time out to recover and process.

Saturday started with openly sharing and sense checking with our emotions, and although we had done this the previous night it was interesting to see that many reflections and considerations had been made in such a short time, the work has already begun I thought to myself. The main part of Saturday was spent exploring hard emotions through expression, particularly anger, which is one that I feel I’m not always allowed to express is our ‘stiff upper-lip’ Western society, in fear of someone pointing out that I’m crazy because of this. The fact is that yes, sometimes I am angry, and it’s valid because of all the pain I’ve been through so as long as I’m not taking it out on anyone else, why shouldn’t I be allowed to express this emotion?

What this workshop further clarified for me is that, us humans are emotional beings, women especially, and by not expressing these emotions we risk destroying ourselves from the inside. The workshop focused on letting out these emotions in a healthy, constructive and controlled manner by using the body’s movements. One exercise that I found quite powerful was one that caused us to regress back into our early childhood and think about moments which caused us pain, to do this we got dressed up (Osho Leela has an awesome theatre cupboard) into clothes that we would’ve when we were aged around 12 – to really set the mood. Then we had individual sharings in pairs to talk about these experiences (between the ages of 6-12 are influential times in the development of our personality and sometimes we can find that it’s where we learnt to suppress pain). We swapped around so that we talked about four different experiences and equally listened to four different experiences. We were asked to listen mindfully and to try and not react, comfort or advice – this in itself is a useful skill when practising compassion and is especially valuable when someone is upset about a situation that cannot be fixed. I remember this from when my Dad passed away, getting agitated with people who wanted to tell me that everything would be ok or not to worry when all I wanted was for someone to be present and listen.

Personally, I found it difficult to think of painful memories pre 12 years old, mainly because I didn’t really experience anything that was particularly hard on me at that age. The most painful memories that I did manage to tap into ranged from the age of 14 – 17 where I first experienced heartbreak, bullying and a few other painful things that I’m not going to divulge into in this review. After the sharing, these memories and feelings were pretty raw so it was easy to go into the next stage – expressing the emotion, anger. For this, we did part of the Osho dynamic meditation where we listened to quite aggressive loud music, and we encouraged to use our body to bring the anger up and out by hitting a mattress, thumping a pillow, using our voice to scream and shout, and generally just allow anything that needed to come up to come up. Spit buckets were provided if any of us needed to spit or vomit, which I can imagine sounds a bit farfetched to read, but when something is deeply painful the body’s natural reaction is to physically try and get rid of the pain, as it would do if there was a physical poison. I know this from my personal account from all my traumas, the pain of some of them ran so deep that I physically almost vomited on a number of occasions, but because I’m so used to suppressing this reaction I didn’t allow myself to. By just acknowledging the judgement that I initially had to this physiological response, it demonstrates the shame that is so prevalent in our society to expressing our emotions. The shame that stops me expressing, understanding and validating many of my own emotions in their full depth.

After this expression, we did another active meditation of shaking and dancing and my body felt a lot more fluid in movement than it had done the night before. As though I’d broken through some judgement and shame barriers which had physically locked me in some sort of invisible body cage. I guess after screaming obscenities, and spitting to a bucket whilst on all fours meant that I wasn’t so bothered about other people’s judgements anymore, I mean that in itself breaks through a few shame barriers with quite a force that the space created after is vast, vast and fresh.

Later that day we explored boundaries and this exercise was particularly intense. To do this we all had to stand in a ‘power stance’ – with our feet are wide apart, knees bent, back straight with hips slightly forward, with our fists clenched and raised. It’s the same stance used for the anger stage of the AUM meditation and it’s a very powerful position to own as it really allows you to fill a space and hold your ground. It’s actually the same stance used in a lot of self-defence teachings such as Krav Maga too. For this exercise, one member of the group would shout “NO I WON’T” (or various versions of) and the rest of us lined up to scream “YES YOU WILL” at that person, one by one. The ones who were waiting in the queue were encouraged to shout at the individual shouting “NO I WON’T” to push them to scream louder and fiercer. After every person in the ‘Yes crowd’ had had a go at the ‘No person’ we’d swap around and a different person would be in the ‘No’ role. This meant that when you were in the ‘No’ position that, although there was only one person screaming in your face at any one time, they had a whole army behind them that you were competing with. To be in the No position was extremely intense as there was a lot of energy coming your way.

I ended up being in the ‘No’ position last, by at which point my voice was already starting to fail for having egged on the ‘Yes crowd’ for so long and the exercise was taking its toll on my momentum as well as my throat, but I figured that this would only encourage me to find that inner strength which I knew I had because it came out and protected me on the night I got attacked. At first it was difficult and I felt fatigue which I knew was my subconscious being resistant, probably because of fear of going back to such a scary place, but I pushed deep into this feeling because I knew, intellectually, that by going into this place in a safe environment would help eradicate the fear of going there altogether. At some point, I remember a voice coming from the bottom of my stomach, like a deep roar that burns from the pit of your belly, all the way up the throat. The last time I had really heard this was the night of the attack when my own voice woke up me up out of a blackout with the words ‘HELP ME’. I carried on screaming until the last of the screaming Yes women had had their go, then I went and hugged one of the girls, simply because I just needed to flop into the arms of someone else. I was exhausted.

After this, we stood in a circle and shouted “No one has the right to hurt me” a few times and at that moment I burst into tears and I realised that I was shaking quite intensely. For a minute I was right back in the moments straight after the attack; sitting on a stranger’s sofa trying to catch my breath whilst trying to explain in broken Spanish that a man had tried to rape me. Then the shame of having to tell people in the crew house and their wide-eyed faces of discomfort, then the same people avoiding me etc, all those horrible vulnerable and disgusting feelings that I’d locked away and forgotten about had burst out of me and streams of tears flooded down my face. All the feelings seemed entangled up together and it was as though they were rushing out of me all at once, really fast, spilling out in the tears. At the same moment, I felt a sudden release of tightness in my back, like a metal rod had broken off it was so weird, but refreshing all at the same time. As with any Osho Leela experience, there was a lot of hugging, sharing and comforting afterwards and I think that having the opportunity to relive the aftermath feelings of the attack and then receive the comforting that I deeply craved was hugely therapeutic because in reality, the morning after the attack hardly anyone comforted me and I had to deal with everything on my own which only added to the pain. Whereas now it felt like although the wound had been opened again, it had been tended to properly so it could heal now.

In the evening there was more dancing, sharing and a visit to one of the trees on the property which is said to be a very calming and nurturing place. Believe what you will about spirituality but who doesn’t find sitting at the base of towering oak tree nurturing? Just stopping there and appreciating the perspective of where I am at in my life, the oak tree’s life and the lives of the beetles that were ferreting around my feet helped me appreciate my place in the World. A moment of gratitude that we often forget in our busy lives. The last session was a massage exchange that we did in pairs, just to practice vocalising what we like, what we don’t and how we would like to feel. I think this is a skill that women have been shamed not to exercise but it’s another valuable tool to take into the outside World.

The Sunday felt a lot calmer and needless to say, I slept very well the night before. We started off with a Samasati Meditation, a humanaversity meditation which is about letting go of grief (grief of a person, a relationship or whatever feels right to the person). The meditation itself moves through a few different stages that actually explores dying and some part of it felt very heavy, mainly because it took me to that moment when I had to kiss my Dad goodbye. It left different women with different perspectives because it put us all in a reflection of ‘are you really living your life totally?’ Personally, I feel like I started living this question the minute I quit my corporate job back in 2010 and I haven’t looked back since but it’s important to be reminded of because for me it pressed me deeper towards what I want to accomplish in this life… stay tuned for that one.

There was more sense checking and sharing, which I feel I personally took to a deeper level than I had done before and I noticeably built on a deeper sense of empathy and compassion. I’ve noticed this since getting attacked that I feel things where I wouldn’t have before, nausea when someone tells a gruesome story, or upset when someone else gets upset about something around me, but after Saturdays session, this went to a deeper level and at first I felt extremely overwhelmed by it. As I write this I’m becoming more comfortable feeling the compassion and empathy without letting the feelings engulf me, especially when the event isn’t mine to be upset about. On Sunday however, the magnitude of this was strong, and I felt like I needed to let out all that emotion, to make up for times when I’ve bottled it up in the past. The release of it felt like a heavy sludge being sucked out of my blood, leaving a light fresh flow behind.

We spent some time on Sunday in the Tipi with one of the community members who holds it as her place of sanction – don’t we all need one of those in our lives? It’s a beautifully set out circular space with a fire in the middle and cushions, pillows, and blankets to lie on. We sang a few songs to a lightly strummed guitar and drum whilst an aromatic incense filled the air. It took me back to my days of camping with the scouts, apart from instead of smelly immature boys, I was surrounded by strong beautiful women who I had witnessed grow in so many ways in such a short space of time.

The workshop ended with coffee and cake (it was one of the lady’s birthday) and a ‘positive hot seat’ exercise – this is where one person volunteers and everyone in the group has an opportunity to tell them what they love or appreciate most about them. I’ve done this before when I ended a volunteer project in Ecuador and the power of it has stayed with me since. It’s not often that we explicitly say what we love about someone to their face, but it’s so important to do so and to also recognise and say thank you when we receive such positive comments. I thoroughly enjoyed telling each woman what I liked most about them and it was fascinating to see how each person offered and took different things away from this session. It prompted me to reach out to the special women in my life who have walked me down the most difficult path of my life so far, held me together as I broke down and offered me a sense of normality when my head just kept on spinning throughout the traumas. These types of connections are unfortunately rare but they don’t need to be, it just takes a little bit of courage to open up and share.

Overall

In a word – powerful. I knew that I would get something out of the session because Sanjula is the kind of woman who thrives in seeing people become the best version of themselves. It’s a kind of tough love that pushes you beyond your boundaries that we might have only ever experienced with explorative and supportive parents, which I was lucky to have. There was a lot of talk about sisterhood and how the general thread in society encourages us to turn against each other through jealousy when in reality we should be sticking together and building compassion in the World. The workshop also took me back to some conversations that I had in Bali with my two amazing ‘Bali sisters’ and female friends as we’ve delved deeper into our friendships and it’s an important lesson to keep visiting as women. We are all here to support each other, through the times when we think we’re ‘failing’, or when we feel like we’re ‘not enough’ or when we’re scared of being branded as ‘crazy’ because we’re rightly pissed off (we’re emotional beings remember)!

What was really noticeable was how each woman physically changed throughout the session. I noticed this when one of the women told me how my face looked completely different after I had broken down in tears, it was as though there was a real tension that went from my face (as high as my left cheekbone to be exact), down my back that had literally melted and others could actually see it – wow. When I thought of this comment and looked around the group I knew exactly what she was talking about, some of the women’s eyes had opened wider and brightened up. Smiles were fuller and spanned wider and the general tone of body language was more open in a confident yet whole-hearted way. Witnessing that and being part of it was really powerful.

I really feel like I broke through some barriers during the female power workshop, or uncovered some layers, whichever way you want to see it, at the end of the weekend I felt happier and more open. Obviously, some of the exercises were difficult, vulnerable and sometimes felt emotionally uncomfortable but having the support of sisterhood bond allowed me to feel nourished and supported throughout all of it. I know that there are many other layers to uncover and that is the journey that we call life, but the intensity of this weekend really pushed me to delve deep, hard and fast which I appreciated. I will also take away some very valuable tools back into the real world, including knowing where my boundaries are, and how to vocalise them. How to and having the right to express my needs and also what empathy and compassion feel like to a greater depth – a tool that keeps growing.

The thing is with any workshop is that you will only get out what you put in because it is no one else’s responsibility other than your own to delve deep into your psyche but if you’re willing to do the work then doing it in a place like Osho Leela is immensely therapeutic. Even with an amazing group of therapist friends who can hold my space, doing such a large amount of work in one weekend really opened my eyes to how beneficial personal growth workshops can be. A theme that I see in Osho Leela throughout is the acknowledgement that personal development is ongoing. There is never a ‘fix’ or a ‘solution’. It’s just a constantly evolving and working through of the psyche, practising new tools and realising new lessons. The point of it all is just to enjoy the journey as you travel through it.

Sense check – before, 24 June 5pm

Physical – The standard niggling pain in my back from my neck, down to my left arm. It still comes and goes but since having acupuncture, the intensity is much less – as I feel better emotionally it dissipates more and more. I feel a little tired from the drive down, especially in my calves but that’s nothing that a sit-down and a cup of tea won’t fix, so generally I’m all good.

Emotional – Anxious again! I remember this feeling from last time that I made the drive down to Osho Leela and my mind was coming out with all sorts of excuses as to why I should turn back, even stronger than the last time I drove down – probably because I know that I will be doing some things that quite frankly will make me squirm in discomfort. Apart from the anxiety I’m happy, I feel more solid in myself these days and I know deep down that I want to grow more in the area of female power so I keep on driving.

Sense check – after, 27th June 6pm

Physical – Throughout the workshop I physically felt a release in the pain that comes from the back of my neck, down the left side of my back. It was as though a tight strand broke off and my back muscles started to relax, the exact moment when it happened was sensational. There is still the tightness on the front which comes from the neck muscles near my jaw and they still feel a little tight but there is literally just half the pain that was there before which is amazing. Generally, my muscles are tired, from the dancing, the tensing and from releasing emotion. I’m looking forward to a bath tonight.

Emotional – This time I was ready to leave, maybe because I have a sense that I’ll be back so instead of a farewell it was more of a ‘catch you later’ to Osho Leela and all the great people there. I left feeling a little more whole and certain of myself. I’m not sure if this is a feeling that will last for long but I definitely feel like a firm foundation has been laid which is reassuring because I have, at times felt very uncertain and up in the air about myself in the last year. It’s left me feeling grounded, not so much that I feel like both feet are solidly on the ground but at least the balls of my feet are firmly planted, which for me is huge. For that, I am immensely grateful.

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When to Call it a Day With Your Therapist

We live in a bit of a ‘go to an expert to fix all my problems’ kind of culture and because of this I find that there can be a tendency to stay with a therapist longer than necessary or worse yet, stay with one that doesn’t necessarily help at all, yet because we’ve handed our power over them in the short-sighted belief that they can fix us we don’t even realise that we’re not getting better. Let me be clear about this – only you can heal yourself and it’s up to you to take that responsibility, find those tools (from the right therapists) and commit to doing that difficult work, yourself. I find that until this realisation is met many people spend a lot of time spiralling in avoidance and escapism spirals in the illusion that someone is healing them, when in reality only you can heal yourself. I know this because I experienced this first hand and had to call myself out on my own bullsh*t, but to do that takes awareness, reflection and courage, it wasn’t easy.

When I think about therapy, there are a lot of things at play here and ultimately the therapist is only human too so we have to see them for what they are – someone who provides tools for us to heal ourselves, whether that’s providing healing through massage for symptoms such as physical pain or a different perspective on how to think about life events. The role of a therapist isn’t to give the final fix solution and to think of them in this way is naive, like any other human, they might get it wrong or their judgement might get the better of them and this is ok (within reason) because they’re only human too. This isn’t to say that they should be allowed to work by sloppy practices, not at all. As long as they act professionally and try to do the best for the client with the tools that they have available to them I think it’s acceptable to acknowledge that they are on their own journey too, learning things and passing them on as they go. But ultimately the work that needs to be done remains within the responsibility of the client.

I’ve found that in order to really steer my recovery I had to keep asking myself a series of questions so that I didn’t get lost in the wishful thinking that x, y or z therapy was going to ‘heal me forever’ because that my friends, that, is delusional thinking. These are the questions that I use to sense-check my therapies and how they are currently working for me.

  1. Has this session made a positive influence on me?

If you read my therapy reviews you’ll notice that I do a physical and emotional sense check before and after each therapy review. By doing so I allow myself to check in with the current state, record them as they are, then I can go back to what I’ve written and objectively see whether or not the therapy was beneficial to me, rather than just rely on my (often rose-tinted) memory. If no positive difference has been made then you can choose to persist and see if you need a few more sessions to really get into it or consider that it may not be the one for you. If it’s positive, great! Stick with it for as long as you continue to get what you need from it.

  1. Am I still getting what I came here for?

Firstly what are you going to the particular therapy for? If you’re going to have your symptoms treated then regular sessions are probably useful and necessary, that’s how I use sports massages – a good way to manage the problem of my tense shoulder that is sometimes unbearably tight. However, if you’re looking to heal then it might help if therapy is seen as an opportunity to receive tools that help you solve your problems. I used my counselling sessions for both treatments of symptoms – I needed to vent in a non-judgemental space to release some pent up emotion but I also needed some objective viewpoint and knowledge of what might be happening in my brain to be able to understand, process and help myself in the reflection periods in between sessions. After quite a few sessions I reached a point where I felt like I’d attained all the tools that I needed from this counsellor and that particular therapy. It was the signpost that I didn’t need any more sessions, for then at least. I take comfort in the fact that I know a good counsellor who knows my baggage and can be there for more sessions as and when I need them for now though I feel quite capable of processing on my own and I know this comes from a place of reassurance, rather than fear of what’s in my subconscious.

  1. What does my intuition say?

Ultimately all therapists are only human and are still susceptible to human traits, such as mistakes, misjudgements and their own emotions. The most important role of a therapist is to create the security for you to be able to get what you need from them, whether that is emotional security in a meditation workshop, physical security in salon environment or psychological security in a counselling session. If you don’t feel safe then you won’t be able to indulge in the therapy. I found however, that the fear can either be a resistance to the therapy for fear of expression (usually because of the shame that our society associates with expression of emotion) or that it’s a legit message from my intuition that is telling me that this person/therapy isn’t right for me at this moment. I always air how I feel now and give the therapist the opportunity to make me feel secure, just in case it’s my own worry of what I’m too shameful to let go of, which most of the time it is. If the therapists answer fills me with integrity and security then I know that it was a fear of vulnerability/expression popping up but it’s always worth sense-checking this because I have had a few experiences where I’ve not been satisfied with the answer and I’ve upped and left the therapy altogether.

For example, my first experience with a counsellor after the attack was not positive but I fought my intuition and went back a second time and this time I told the counsellor of my expectations – of being able to get on a boat in 4 weeks time and sail from the UK to Mallorca, in winter, with three men I’d never met before. The answer I received rang alarm bells for me to change counsellor, it was “I would never recommend for any young woman to get on a boat across tricky waters with three strange men, let alone in the state that you’re in”. What happened here was that the counsellor had measured me by her own limitations when in reality our risk factors and capabilities are completely different. As a trained counsellor, she should have been able to extract her judgement from her professional opinion but she didn’t.  This is actually pretty bad practice for a counsellor and I hope that she has the mindfulness to reflect on this, and why I ultimately cancelled all our future sessions, however, I also recognise that like me, she’s also only human too and we’re all constantly working through things so I’m compassionate towards this. I can’t expect everyone to have the same level of courage, adventure and well, let’s be fair, recklessness that I may appear to have, I imagine for some this attitude to life is really scary. I can, however, choose to leave a therapist that doesn’t understand me and find one that does, which I did because ultimately I am in control my healing, no anyone else.

For the record, I got on that boat and sailed across those ‘tricky’ waters with those three ‘strange’ men.

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