More Honesty, Less BS Please

Quite often, friends come to me for advice. And quite often I tell them what I see, which to me is usually pretty obvious. However as I know myself, when you’re consumed in your own emotional whirlwind it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. I’m quite happy to share my observations – note, I try to not give advice on experiences that I haven’t had so I’ll always only offer up what I can see from an outsider’s perspective. Something that I find time and time again is that most people don’t like the truth. Sometimes it even angers them. But if you’re a friend of mine and you’re coming to me for advice then you know what you’re in for – the hard honest truth. I’ve even picked up the nickname ‘No shit Shereen’ from some friends, and I actually quite like the ring if it.

To some reading this, it may sound like I go around offending people, telling them ‘home truths’ that they’re not quite ready for (even though they came to me for advice – I don’t hand these insights out freely… at least not anymore anyway… far too many blow ups from people who adore living in an illusion)! My question here though is why are we all getting so offended by the truth these days? And second to that, if you don’t want to hear the truth then why are you asking someone else for advice?? Thirdly, why do most of us reply with polite half truths’ rather than being uncomfortably honest?

In my opinion this lack of uncomfortable honesty is what leads to resentment in relationships, and eventually that tears them apart. Whereas I’ve found that with tactile honesty (and sometimes the disclaimer of ‘I’d like to offer an observation but I’m not sure you’re going to like it, so I can keep quiet if you’re not ready to hear it?’) has become the mortar that’s bound so many of my deeply connected, authentic friendships. Although I’ve sometimes had to deal with some close friends getting ‘techy’ when they hear the ‘advice’ the result has usually been action that’s served them well. Over the last few weeks alone one friend has increased their circle, another has quit their job and landed their dream role and one more is making big changes in a relationship with a family member – all huge positive changes. All changes that came about because of some uncomfortable-to-hear, honest advice.

I sincerely think that if we all started to lean into this discomfort and share our honest observations with each other then the world itself would be a happier place. For certain it would be a ‘no shit Shereen’ kinda place.

I’m on a mission to create a greater sense wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. To teach others how to connect authentically with themselves, so they can connect authentically with others. It starts with learning self-awareness, maintaining a strong value system that serves us, and having the emotional intelligence to move through a whole spectrum of emotions so we can connect without attachment, and of course being HONEST!

If you want  the EQ tools to connect authentically with your values and the values of your fellow humans, then contact me directly to see how I can help you. Find out more about workshops, training and tailored coaching packages at www.shereensoliman.com. 

Shereen x

Photo by Andre Guerra on Unsplash

Therapy Review – Ecstatic dance Ubud

Therapy Review – Ecstatic dance Ubud

It’s undeniable that dance is a therapy. In terms of exercise it releases a lot of tension in the body which builds up endorphins, music can also bring up your vibration frequency and, well it just makes me feel good really.

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

The session

I’ve been to the ecstatic dance at the Akasha villa in Ubud a couple of times and the crowd never ceases to surprise me, it’s always full of vibrant and colourful people. The last time I went there was a man dressed as a unicorn and almost the whole crowd was wearing glitter or a face paint of sorts.

The dance is held in the beautiful Askasa villa about a 20 minute scooter ride out of the centre of Ubud (where the palace is) and as I walk in I’m greeted with a sacred smudging ritual. Whilst I stand there the man in front of me ceremonially waves a smouldering piece of wood from my head to my feed, ask me to turn around and then do the same thing from feet to head on the back of my body.

I walk up the path and to the left is a fire, alight in a large metal bowl. Directly in front of the fire is the swimming pool, complete with flowing waterfalls and a pagoda which some artists are using as their painting studio.

I can hear the music playing loud as I enter the main dance room of the villa, that’s where the DJ is; happy, engaged and whispering the occasional motivating sentences into the microphone. The villa is huge and the music can be heard from all around. Through the dance room is an archway that leads through to another large space. On the right are some steps which lead to another dancing space where at the back a man is serving tea with a blessing of sorts. On the left of the archway is a large couch which actually sinks into the floor, so I can literally step down into it. I guess it’s for dancers to rest if they get tired feet.

As I was past the couch, the double doors open up to some stepping stones right in front of me which are set in a beautiful natural water feature. They lead down to an enclosure which keeps a monkey on the left and a bamboo dome on the right, which is an exclusive naturally build bedroom. During the dances the bamboo dome is usually occupied, and off limits to dancers, but I’m lucky enough to have been inside during the daytime and I can assure you, it’s absolutely beautiful.

Ecstatic dance is a sober affair, on sale you can find vegetarian food, coconut water and raw food chocolate but there is no alcohol, no drugs and I rarely see anyone smoking, well not smoking cigarettes. All in all it’s a very holistic affair. It’s a place where anyone and everyone can feel free who be who they want to be. Want to wear glitter and do a yoga dance on your head in the pagoda? Go for it. Want to bop around subtly to some tunes in plane shorts and a baseball cap? Feel welcomed. It really is for all and the premise is just to dance. Just feel comfortable and dance, and what a therapy it is too. I can’t say for sure what the music type is because it’s a mix and it changes, but throughout the night there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re into house music, reggae, rock, jazz or anthems. It’s a good variety of beats to dance to. Also for those who don’t want to dance, you can soak in the pool, chill on the sofas or just chat to someone whilst sipping some coconut water. However I decided to approach this as a therapy, so for me it was the dancing that I explored.

As expected I felt anxious when I arrived. There are a lot of people this time and being surrounded by a lot of people these days brings up an anxiety in me, an anxiety that actually almost caused me to leave until a friend sat me down and stayed with me through that discomfort.

This fear sets off a negative chat in my head, and the battle to overcome it cane become challenging because all I really want to do is leave. Leave because of fear. But, fear of what? It’s the ‘fear of what’ conversation that helped me shake it off. I mean, I’m at a sober ecstatic dance in Ubud, spiritual centre of the Universe and I’m here with a group of friends – really what is the worst that’s going to happen? Even if I decided to strip naked on the dance floor, loudly confess my undying love for a randomer then do a serpent dance to the exit in rage-tears I seriously think everyone around me would just carry on doing their own thing as though all of that was completely normal behaviour. Some may even join in to help me embrace my emotional state, or sincerely cheer me on from the edges of the dance floor. As I realised this with my friend, I laughed. Ecstatic dance in Ubud wasn’t the place I needed to fear judgement of others. Acknowledging that highlighted that judgement was another trigger for me, another trigger that needed to be unravelled and reframed and what better time than now?

With a little pep talk and a few tokes on a walk-by shisha I was able to suck in my inner shakes and get on the dance floor, even if for me that can sometimes mean just swaying from side to side until I get into it. It’s one of those things where I know it will do me good in the long run and although it’s scary and difficult to climb over that barrier of fear, it must be done anyway.

By the end of the evening I was in full swing dancing and managed to stay until the end of the night.

Pre-session sense check (30 May 2016, 3pm –  1 hour before leaving for ecstatic dance)

Emotionally – I feel quite anxious. I’m excited for ecstatic dance because I love the dance aspect but at the same time I know there will be some triggers for me to deal with, and with them my own judgements and fear of being judged. I also know that all of this is in my head and it’s stupid, then I need to not beat myself up for being stupid – there’s a lot to deal with today. I’m generally in high spirits and I feel quite clear headed. I also feel very motivated today too and I know that I can shake off the anxiety, I just need to get myself to the dance.

Physically – the anxiety is like a flutter in my chest and stomach. It’s not too unpleasant and it’s not that strong but it’s still there, just a general sense of discomfort really. Apart from that I’m feeling good in my body. The pain in my shoulder is pretty much none existent these days, I feel healthy and alert.

Post-session sense check (30 May 2016, 12 midnight –  1 hour after returning from ecstatic dance)

Emotionally – I feel quite drained because I think that I worked through a lot of inner judgement at the dance. I also had a lot of triggers from the attack come up – fast movements in the dark because at one point there was some very active dancing. I persisted to stay and dance, even the moments when I didn’t feel comfortable in myself and this gives me a sense of achievement but I’m also tired and ready to relax.

Physically – I feel a head cold coming on, my head is foggy and I’m sneezing. I’m not surprised at this because physically and emotionally over the last few weeks I’ve released a lot of emotion so this is probably a sign that my body is ready for a rest, hence putting me out of action. Conversely I also feel quite energised, like the way you sometimes feel after a work out, strangely tired but energised at the same time. It’s a nice feeling, and there’s some purity to it because I spent the evening drinking coconut water and dancing in a beautiful setting.

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

Are We Living in a State of International Apathy?

In a World where we are constantly told how we feel, how we should feel and that if we buy ‘x’ product then we’ll feel better, I fear that we’re starting to lose touch with how we really feel in replacement of how we think we feel. On the surface I guess it doesn’t appear to be too much of a problem, everyone seems quite happy, life is progressive and generally, all is ok, isn’t it? Or are we unconsciously in a state of apathy?

For example, when was the last time that you truly felt like you were alive? For me, it’s those moments dinghy sailing when I’ve caught the wind and my crew and I are heeling over balancing ourselves on the edge of the wind, carefully adjusting our movements to get the maximum speed we can without making the boat capsize. Even if we do capsize, it’s exhilarating to know that we found a boundary and pushed it. Without pushing it, we wouldn’t have known where it had ended. So even if we’re in the water, wet, and with a boat to right, we’d at least learnt something. The opposite of this approach is living in the fear of capsizing. This results in reactive thinking and quickly jumping about the boat without communicating to the other crew member what’s happening, resulting in no one being in control of the boat, inevitably causing it to capsize anyway. There is also a lesson to be learnt by the second capsize but it’s never as fun, in fact, it usually ends up in two stressed out crew members blaming each other. The thing is with sailing is that the wind changes and no one can control that, and sometimes that can be scary but we all have a choice as to whether we let the fear control us or not. To me, this situation is reflective of a lot of life scenarios, there’s the option to feel the fear and do it anyway, go through the experience whilst reacting to the fear or to not go through the experience at all because of the fear itself.

I wonder how many of us sit on the shore with certain activities, disengaging because of unconscious fear? Disengaging with relationships, jobs, even just speaking our own mind in fear of being judged, criticised and shamed? I know that I used to be one of those people and I would completely back out of any situation that would cause me to be vulnerable and I would do that by firing out judgments, criticisms and blame towards others because that is the ego’s way of defending us. Ironic isn’t it, that the very thing we fear the most is usually the thing we are unconsciously doing in order to protect ourselves.

I see this more often since I’ve practiced mindfulness and after having gone through so many difficult emotions in the last 18 months, so now I always try to put myself in other’s shoes and empathise with others situations rather than judge them. I do still slip up from time to time and it can take me a couple of days to get out of my ego and reflect upon a situation but I make a conscious effort to reflect and question my thoughts and behaviour and I ask why I did a certain thing. This reflection is the starting point of change because it always presents an opportunity for growth, but it’s this step that I see unconsciously avoided by most people. I guess it’s because if we ask ourselves why then we might find a difficult answer and then we have the dilemma of dealing with it or ignoring it and knowing that we’ve ignored it. When I ask myself why I’ve jumped to a conclusion or why I’ve judged someone without knowing the whole story or why I find myself backing away from something/someone, it always comes back to fear, usually the fear of being vulnerable. This isn’t surprising, considering that we live in a society where shame is so prevalent, the shame that creates the very fear that makes those judgments, and if we are unconsciously aware of this then we can start unconsciously shutting off, and this is when things start to get a little dangerous.

If we constantly bear away from things that fear us and we never face them, then we never grow. What we do instead is safeguard. We safeguard from anything that could scare us, and ultimately by doing this we starve ourselves from life. We starve ourselves from the same intensity of positive emotions as we do negative ones because you cannot have the good without the bad simply because without one the other doesn’t exist. Instead what happens is that we numb out, eventually leaving us in a state of apathy; the lack of feeling anything much at all. This is when the connection between humans starts to breakdown, in relationships, in friendships and day to day occurrences. It’s where the compassion dissipates because we fear those feelings of pain so much that we can’t be there for others when they’re experiencing it, because the very acknowledgement of that vulnerability in others, means acknowledging it in ourselves. This would bring us back to the dilemma of deal with it or ignore it. So instead a road that many of us walk down is where we numb out and disengage. I know this because this was the reaction from some people when my Dad died and it resonated with me because when a friend of mine lost her sister when I was 19, I remembered that I had done exactly the same thing and I’m not proud of it, but I can have compassion for myself and my friends in knowing that we are products of the culture we live in and unfortunately at the moment that appears to be in a state of unconscious apathy.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though, and you certainly don’t need to go through the trauma of being in a life-threatening situation or losing someone close to you to snap out of it. You do however need to start paying attention to your actions because they hold the clue to your thoughts, and how you feel, and it’s only when you feel that fear that you can become aware of it.

So next time you find yourself distancing from a situation, judging someone’s actions or getting angry at the way a situation is unfolding, stop and ask yourself what is it that you’re scared of? Then why not go ahead and do it anyway? You might find that you learn something by facing that fear, or that voicing it might bring you that little bit closer to the person you voice it to. These emotions are part of our being and by denying them we deny part of ourselves, so whether good or bad I implore you to fully feel those emotions and challenge why they’re there.

If you like this blog post, check out my Therapy Reviews, my Sketches, and my Therapies.

Are You Outrunning Your Emotions? If You Were, Would You Know?

I love to travel. It’s what I spend all my money on pretty much as soon as I get it. It’s not just the exploration of visiting new places and challenging the social norms that I bring with me but I love the actual travelling part too. Whether it’s a plane, boat or train I enjoy the suspension of knowing that I will be somewhere soon and have the time to build up the excitement within me for that next place.

What I didn’t realise is that for the past few years that I’ve travelled I’ve used it as a tool to escape when people came too close. I didn’t see it back then because I wasn’t consciously aware that I was doing it but nowadays I am conscious of this and I question myself when I embark on a new journey – am I leaving to run away from something or am I running towards something? And what might that something be?

 

This week I’m in Palma de Mallorca and the feelings that I have inside me are excitement, nourishment and an overwhelming sense of joy just to be here. Mallorca is the place where I arrive two years ago by boat on my first yacht delivery and from the moment that we secured the lines I liked the place. It felt like a place I could settle in, I speak Spanish, I love the people and enjoy the food and the culture so I decided to rent a flat here for 6 months and finally plant some roots whilst studying for my Yachtmaster. Those 6 months didn’t go quite as planned as a month later the traumas started rolling in, heartbreak and then getting attacked. I remember coming back to this place that I love so dearly in January 2015 (after having returned from the Caribbean) and feeling like I really didn’t want to be here. No matter what friends were here who were here before I felt like a stranger, no matter what places I knew previously I felt like a foreigner and no matter how much the sun shines, inside I felt dark and broken and un-fixable. The place which I’d finally decided to call home was now the last place I wanted to be and with that, I ended my flat rental early and moved back to my parents house in the UK where I started to see a counsellor to help me get through the post-traumatic stress that was starting to pop up in my life.

 

Since then I have visited Palma, I stayed for a month in May 2015 in between yacht deliveries. Although I didn’t feel as strongly negative towards the place as I had done in January I remember still feeling very unsettled inside, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be in Palma, I just didn’t actually want to be anywhere. So I jumped on the next delivery to Athens and continued to run away from those feelings, not realising that they would be on the dock in Athens waiting for me to pick them up again.

 

This time, it’s different, I feel different. I’ve got the carefree confidence of travelling that I had before being smashed by the traumas, but with the knowledge that I have real strength now to stop and sit through discomfort, vulnerability and any other intense negative emotion. I had it all along but I was so scared to deal with those negative feelings that I was never willing to find out that inner strength until it was tested. What’s interesting is visiting the same places where I once felt loved and also once felt destroyed, reflecting on this and realising that I was projecting the feelings that I had inside out onto my external environment. Whereas now I realise that if I can maintain a positive feeling inside then the outside reflects this back at me. Now that doesn’t mean pretending to be happy and positive on the outside when I’m actually feeling insecure or upset on the inside, no, infact that would mean putting on a superficial mask and basically bullsh*tting myself. It means giving space to those negative emotions when the arise to validate them, express them and let them pass so I can go back into my generally positive outlook, which is now back to being my centre point. Without doing that I know that the negative feelings will keep on popping up until they are dealt with and no matter how many miles I travel they will still be right there with me.

 

“Resistance means Persistence” is what a good friend in Bali once told me. “The more you try to busy yourself away from the difficult emotions, the more they’ll persist until you deal with them” she would say, and she was right. They did.

 

It’s a reminder to me that when my first reaction is no, or I don’t want to be here, or I don’t need to do that, to stop and see what emotion is driving that response. Is it fear from being vulnerable? Am I running away from something that I need to deal with? Or is there something else at play? Questions and reflections that keep me on an ever-learning path.

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

 

 

 

 

Can Underwater Massage Help With Trauma Recovery? A Therapist Explores…

Whilst sitting at a beach restaurant on Haad Salad beach, North-West of Koh Phangan island (Thailand) there was something happening in the water that caught my eye. From what I could see it was a man performing some kind of dance routine with a woman which involved him pulling her in, underneath and through the water. This intrigued me and I had to find out more of what this dance movement was, coincidentally it turned out to be a type of therapy – Wataflow

Wataflow is a type of massage that combines massage, stretching, dance and meditation in the medium of water. It is said to relax and calm the mind and help with emotional blockages, stress, and anxiety. After reading up on this I decided to book a treatment and review it in my current therapies research. You can find out more about the therapy and how it was created here and if you’re in Thailand and would like to book the therapist that I have reviewed (Miguel) you can get in touch with him here.

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

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The Session

I met my Wateflow Therapist Miguel at a beach on the East Coast of Koh Phangan where the sea was deep enough for the treatment and there weren’t too many people around. First, we sat down and he talked me through the process of what would happen and what I could expect from the treatment. Then he asked what my reasons were for wanting the treatment – I explained the trauma that I had been through in the last year and that I was experiencing some anxiety, panic attacks and physical pain from what I believed were emotional blockages because I don’t freely express difficult emotions. He then asked how I felt to be around water and underneath it, to which I replied that I used to feel quite at ease being a scuba diver, sailor, and strong swimmer but seen as the smallest of things sometimes feel like challenges these days I explained that I might feel ok now but if I feel triggered throughout the session then I might have an adverse reaction. Miguel took all this on board and explained that I would receive the best from the treatment if I could try to completely let go and trust him in the water. I knew that this might be a challenge especially with him being a man as all my trauma situations have related to men but there was something calming in his nature that allowed me to relax in his presence. After the consultation, he talked me through some breathing exercises, which we then did and then we went into the water.

For the next 60 minutes, Miguel moved me in, out and through the water in a series of stretches and movements. They started quite gradually without much submersion in the water and for the first few moments as he moved me around, he hummed a song. He also did this at the end which basically signified the start and the end of the massage. Gradually, the submerged time and depth underneath the water increased as Miguel sensed that I became more comfortable and relaxed. Some of the movements I was familiar with as they were similar to positions that I have been in with Yoga, Acro Yoga and Thai massages but the feeling of being weightless in the water made everything seem like a lot less effort. I had my eyes closed for the whole treatment and my breathing was steady and slow but I was prompted by a subtle double tap from Miguel to hold my breath ready for a submersion. During these times I was flexed forwards, backwards and sideways in what was literally a three-dimensional massage. I was also gently floated up, gently submerged deeper and pulled through the water at different speeds and different directions which was a very surreal feeling. Throughout the whole thing, I don’t remember thinking much, it was almost as though because the sensation of being moved through the water was so strong then I actually lost the capacity to think altogether. The times when things did pop into my head it was an observation about how I was feeling which went something like I feel like a baby or I feel like a fish apart from this I think I just felt quite calm and free. I remember the sound of the bubbles as I flowed through the water and feeling of my body floating up to the surface and out of the water, being gently brushed by the air and even now to draw upon those thoughts, it leaves me feeling relaxed. There were some points when I felt the strong urge to take a breath and felt a little discomfort when I was submerged but I realised that these times were irrespective of the amount of time I was being held under water and instead they related to the actual experience. Most of the times when I felt this, it was when my hair momentarily covered my face and it went dark and also when my back was close to the sea bed. At one point my back was rested against the seabed and my legs were at right-angle in the water and I felt quite panicked and jerked my feet which Miguel sensed and brought me up to the surface for a breath. As darkness, hair across my face and being pinned up against something are some of my PTSD triggers it makes sense that I would feel uncomfortable at these points, however, a part of re-framing triggers is to experience them in a comfortable surrounding so exposing me to such triggers in such a relaxing experience will actually work towards my trauma recovery rather than against it.

The final part of the treatment involved Miguel bringing me out of the water and onto the beach. Before he did this, he finished off the massage the same way he had begun – by doing some lighter submerged movements and humming a tune. Then he pulled me up to the beach, until I was half out of the water, where he massaged my head, neck, and shoulders and also pressed on some meridian points. I was shaking quite noticeably when I was brought out of the water and although this may have been because I was cold it also felt like the kind of shaking that happens after I’ve had a panic attack but I hadn’t had one. My eyes also felt a little tired as though I had cried which I may have done in the water but I couldn’t actually tell. Miguel then sat me upright and left me to open my eyes and have the time I needed to do whatever I felt like.

I decided to get back into the water, wash off the sand and float for a little while, reflecting on the experience I had just had. Afterwards, I walked back up the beach and we had a chat about my experience, this is when the emotion hit me. He told me that he didn’t feel any resistance from me throughout the treatment and that I seemed relaxed which was true in my own evaluation as well. I explained that I felt really comforted and somewhat protected throughout the treatment which is when I started to cry because that’s how my Dad would make me feel. Saying that out loud tapped into how empty and afraid I’d felt after the attack and how much these feelings were magnified when my Dad died, as though the only man who I could trust to protect me and not break my heart wasn’t there any longer. Miguel hugged me at this point and I just cried without holding back. To be honest, given the explanation of how the treatment worked I expected that I would probably cry afterwards but having someone stay present with me and accept this emotion helped me accept it too. As it was getting close to 6pm and the sun was starting to set I decided to sit on the beach with Miguel and watch the sunset with the crowd that was slowly gathering. He pointed out a man who was swinging a small baby around by the legs and arms as though the baby was weightless. I said that that’s how I felt in the water with him and we laughed. I thought about how that was probably a father and child playing around at the beach like me and my Dad would have done when I was a baby, it made me smile.

Pre-session sense check (12 Jan 2016, 3pm – 1 hour before massage)

Physically – I woke up feeling groggy and stiff, especially in my knees and my upper back and upper arms. I still feel tired even though I had 10 hours of sleep (probably disturbed sleep) and I’ve not done anything challenging all day. My knees still feel tight but my upper body has loosened up.

Emotionally – I woke up feeling quite irritated as we had to move accommodation today and as we didn’t have a plan I felt a little stressed out and pressured about this situation (pre-trauma this wouldn’t have phased me in the slightest). Other situations throughout the day have left me feeling defensive, stressed, frustrated, low in confidence and generally negative. I feel like I could cry but I’m pushing it back down because I’m out on a moped today and feel like I need to stay clear headed in order to ride competently.

Post-session sense check (12 Jan 2016, 7pm – 1 hour after massage finished)

Physically – I feel very relaxed, free of tension in my knees and upper body. My skin also feels really nice too, almost as if it’s been refreshed and rehydrated. It’s not that it felt bad before, it’s just that there is a noticeable difference to how it feels now, it’s an almost tingling feeling. I don’t have any pain or stiffness in my body like I did this morning, but I don’t feel exhausted which I can do after a massage. I feel relaxed and energised.

Emotionally – I feel positive and there is a sense of acceptance of myself at the moment. I feel a lot less judgmental towards myself and I feel a sense of inner confidence too, especially when I’m riding the moped. I feel the way I did when I was in Koh Phangan two years ago when I was nipping around the island confident enough to do anything I put my mind to. I do however feel upset but rather than dwelling on it, it’s more like I’m content with what has happened to me recently. I wonder if this might be because I had to completely give up control while I was in the water which is something that I don’t like to do (especially not after the attack) but it’s as though this experience has shown me that it’s ok.

Overall Review

Overall I was very pleased with the wataflow massage and I think it meets a large criteria in terms of it being a therapy, however, I think there are a few key things that can affect the experience which need to be taken into consideration which I will elaborate on later in this part of the review.

The theory behind Wataflow makes complete sense to me and although there doesn’t seem to be much research (lab or case study) on this as a therapy it’s clear that it works under the same principles as meditation, the meridian energy system and also general massage relaxation. As well as working to calm the mind and release emotional blockages I also imagine that Wataflow could be used as a type of exposure therapy, especially in regard to PTSD triggers. In my experience, I had to give up complete control which firstly is something difficult to do when experiencing PTSD because there is such a big fear associated with loss of control. However due to giving up this control actually experienced a few triggers throughout the treatment which I might not have otherwise allowed myself exposure to, such as having my back pressed against something (the sea bed) and also having my hair flared across my face and the darkness and trapped feeling that this experience brought me. As one of the steps in trauma recovery is reframing triggers to make them feel safe again I really feel like the trigger exposure that I experienced whilst also feeling completely calm and relaxed has helped me reframe such situations in a positive light, which is why I see a potential for such a treatment to be used in exposure therapy. That said, I believe that there are two very important elements which can determine the success of a treatment if used as exposure therapy – firstly whether or not the client is ready and willing to face such discomfort (if you’ve read My Philosophy section you’ll see that I am). Secondly, it’s imperative that the client feels safe throughout the treatment and that comes down to the setting, the pre-treatment explanation and most importantly the therapist. The client obviously holds some responsibility to communicate how they feel but the therapist should also be intuitive enough to read between the lines and judge whether or not they actually do feel safe. It could be that the client is confused about how they feel or may be out of touch with how they actually feel and it’s very important that the therapist can read this (in the clients words, body language and actions). As I meditate daily I’ve learnt to become very in touch with how I feel and had I not felt safe then I would have communicated this and probably wouldn’t have got in the water at all. Even though I did feel safe I also felt a little anxious at the start of the treatment because this was a new experience but I communicated this clearly with Miguel and I could also see that he was intuitive to how I felt in his response towards me – be that in his body language, words and also actions before, throughout and after the session. This could be down to the experience Miguel has had with other holistic therapies such as reiki, holistic massage, craniosacral biodynamic, yoga, meditation and  free diving or it could just be down to his personal characteristics, either way there was definitely something very calming and secure in his nature which gave me the confidence to have such a sensual treatment with him.

I think another important elements of this treatment are the setting – having this treatment in the clear blue sea on a beautiful beach in Thailand whilst the sun shines through the water and onto my skin as I’m brought to the surface – it felt as amazing as it reads. If this treatment was to be done in a chlorine filled echo-y swimming pool it might not have the same effects and I don’t know if that’s because of the natural effect of the sea and tide or a placebo effect that this setting has on people who aren’t brought up in hot idyllic countries. Miguel believes that there are therapeutic properties of experiencing the treatment in the sea, as it is a natural medium of our bodies and thus gives us a strong connection with nature which I also believe could be true.

Currently as I’m travelling on a shoestring it’s unfeasible for me to commit to having more sessions of Wataflow at present but I would definitely recommend this as either a one off treatment or as a series of treatments for someone who is looking for an exhilarating but relaxing experience, providing that they feel safe to be submerged in water. I think there is great potential for this treatment in terms of exposure therapy as well but probably not without the consultation of a psychological therapist first (luckily I have one of those at hand). Either way, it was enjoyable, relaxing and refreshing so I hope to see and experience more of it in the future.

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**UPDATE** Second Session – Wataflow as a potential exposure therapy?

After reading the review Miguel gave me a complimentary treatment to explore the possibilities of using Wataflow as an exposure treatment. After discussing my thoughts and feelings about the first massage with Dr Jenn and the how it had helped me become aware of some more triggers we both thought that this would be an interesting idea. Before the massage Miguel carried out another consultation with me and particularly spoke about how he was going to gradually put me under triggering situations, getting more intense throughout the massage. I agreed to try this out and we began the massage with the breathing exercises on the beach again. The difference between this massage and the last one is that I felt a little more resistant to being put in positions that triggered me, and I believe this is because I knew that it was going to happen so I had subconsciously built up some fear around this. I did however, persist and try to fight against the fear but it was noticeable more difficult. To persist I literally chanted positive affirmations in my head that I’ve been doing in situations when I feel under attack, which go something like I am safe and protected, I am safe and protected over and over again. In PTSD treatment this is called reframing, it’s basically getting the logical part of my brain to override the reactive (fight/flight/freeze) part of my brain, stopping it from reacting and also disassociating the trigger with the attack. Obviously by doing this underwater I had made this a bit more severe for myself but I’m not known for taking the easy route and I knew deep down that I could handle it, so I pushed through with this. The first trigger occurred when Miguel tried to push my back on to the sea bed with my legs at right-angle, and I actually did push out of this one because I was slightly fearful. However, his response to this was to work more slowly with the submersions that he knew would trigger me and build them up more gradually. This meant that he did a lot of movements where my hair was in front of my face and he pulled me through the water by my hair and very close to the sea bed. Although I didn’t touch it, I was aware it was there. Gradually, he started to lay me down on my back, hold me down by pressing down on my legs at right angles and finally he was able to curl me up into the foetus position and hold me down with his foot pushing against my shins while I lay curled up, back against the seabed.

The end of the treatment followed the same process as the previously reviewed massage and Miguel maintained consistency throughout the procedures which is something that I look for in a therapy as signifies professionalism and confidence of subject area.

Looking back on the second treatment I was actually quite surprised with myself and it’s given me a lot more confidence throughout my daily activities. Personally, I think if someone had told me that I was going to be held underwater in the foetus position underneath their foot, I would have been more worried for their safety than mine. However, as I actually managed to override my reactive response to fight back and re-frame a non-threatening situation it gives me the courage to work on my other triggers.

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

What Do You Need Right Now?

I remember as a kid, how my Dad would sometimes have a tear in his eye when talking about a situation at work. The difficulty of having to tell someone they’ve got cancer, listening to a patient’s last wish when they knew they were near the end, or speaking to the parents of a recently deceased child. That one was always the worst.

To experience the death of your child, before you rather than the other way around. I can’t Read More »

Lean into the Discomfort

One of the most predominant themes of this trip so far has been leaning into the discomfort which is from Brené Brown’s book The Power of Vulnerability. It’s interesting because as my counsellor has previously pointed out to me, our natural human response when something is uncomfortable (with another human being) is to shy away from it. However, as Brené Brown points out – by doing this we stop ourselves from developing deeper bonds with the other people.

As far as the travels go, the three ‘Charlie’s angels’ (as we’d been so delicately called by a fellow traveller) moved from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, and now Dr Jenn and I are in Koh Phangan while Kyrie has gone back home to Cambodia. Before we parted ways with Kyrie we’d approached this topic of what makes you feel uncomfortable and why? – then we decided that 2016 was the year that we’d make a special effort to embrace such discomforts to try and make them more comfortable. Coincidentally a few days later Jenn split her toe open on a kerb and had to overcome her ‘foot shame’ discomfort while Kyrie had to overcome the ‘nausea at the sight of blood’ discomfort while she tried to tend to the injured patient, developing a close bond between the two in the process. Meanwhile, I  was enjoying a very comfortable Thai massage on the other side of the city, unbeknown to what challenges my friends were facing – little did I know that my discomforts were on their way…

Whilst in Bangkok Kyrie put us in touch with her taxi driver friend who we hired for the whole day to take us to Ayutthaya (the old capital of Bangkok). Throughout this time, we got to know this man quite well as we openly talked about politics, religion, cultures and our own lives whilst driving around the historic site. We found out that this man had recently lost a parent and someone close to him was terminally ill. It was obvious that these situations upset him very much because he showed these emotions openly rather than shying away from expressing them in our presence. Having gone through these same emotions recently myself, I could especially relate to what he was talking about but what touched me the most was his courage to share this with two women that he had just met. To me, it highlighted how uncomfortable I feel when I show emotions in front of other people, especially emotions which show my vulnerabilities. It made me think about I may have acted in this situation or how I did act when I was around work colleagues straight after my Dad passed away – I didn’t show that I was hurting at all and just tried to get on with the job at hand, even though I was struggling inside. I did this, simply because it was so uncomfortable for me to cry in front of anyone in fear of what they might think of me if I showed them this ‘weakness’. It wasn’t just new work colleagues I shied away from though, I did this with my closest friends and family too. When I began to look into the past few years, I have actually shied away from most vulnerable situations, whether to do with my vulnerabilities or the vulnerabilities of others because I was so scared of how to deal with it. For example, with dating guys – I’ve usually had an escape route pre-planned via boat or plane so that I have an excuse to leave when the relationship develops to the point where I have to open up. With my friends, I’ve always hid away when I felt upset or angry because I didn’t want to show these weaknesses, because of this many of my friends had never seen me cry until my Dad passed away and that was only because I physically could not lock away these emotions any longer. The heartbreak I could deal with, the attack I could hide, but when my Dad died the combined emotions of all three events overcame me every time (never mind leaning into the discomfort – with the intensity of these situations it’s been more like basking in the anguish)!

Such a lack of open vulnerability meant that I’ve stopped deeper connections developing with people who have tried to get close to me – because I also discouraged people to openly show emotion to me as well. To be honest, I’m not sure what I would have done in the past if someone expressed vulnerable emotions to me, maybe I would have been supportive in some situations or maybe I would have completely disengaged and ran away because I couldn’t deal with the comfort, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it might have been the latter. Only now do I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of this and how the avoidance of my personal discomfort probably made other people feel rejected at a time when they needed me most. On the flip side of this I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the best response I had when telling someone about the attack – it was after a yoga class and it was probably my first big emotional ‘outburst’ and the yoga teacher who is also my friend suggested that we go for a drink and I tell her what’s on my mind. As we drunk our beers I told her everything that had happened, in detail, crying throughout. My friend sat there as cool as a cucumber, with cigar in hand while she nodded her head at the appropriate points and just said “uh huh” as she maintained clear eye contact with me. She didn’t try to offer any kind of sympathy or solution, she just acknowledged my words and let me tell my story. I’m not sure if this woman had been through a similar situation but I know that she is a very strong person and probably understood that any sympathising or problem solving might make me feel more helpless than I already did. Since becoming aware of my previous responses to discomfort and being on the receiving end of a variety of responses and remembering how each of them made me feel, I now make a conscious effort to sit through my own discomfort to support another person when they need it, friend, stranger or foe.

What made my own situation worse in the aftermath of these traumas was that whilst hiding these vulnerabilities so well, I have also made myself out to be indestructible because of the kind of life that I’ve led – a somewhat fearless one. With respect to my professional life I’ve been so confident in my ability to learn and earn that it doesn’t phase me to work freelance or contract to contract because I know that I can make it work, thus eradicating the normal safety net of the steady job with the steady income. When it comes to travelling, I’ve acted the same way by trusting in my ability to figure something out so I’ve become accustomed to rocking up at new places without anything planned, knowing that I’m comfortable dealing with any situation, even if it means sleeping in a bus stop (I’ve done this a fair few times). I’ve acted the same when it comes to physical challenges too, caving with huge spiders, hiking to Everest base camp or sailing the Bay of Biscay in a Force 9. Dealing with these experiences has given me a confidence to constantly overcome fear where others might not and it’s made me believe that I was indestructible, worst of all I’ve convinced others to believe this too. The trick here though is that I was kidding myself all along, because whilst doing all of these ‘fearless’ things I was constantly running away from personal situations that did make me feel vulnerable.

What’s happened now is that my personal security has been shaken up so much that things that wouldn’t have phased me before now make me feel vulnerable too, whether that’s applying for a new job contract, travelling to a new place on my own or even climbing a waterfall. So whereas I could quite easily get by before by avoiding situations that made me feel vulnerable it’s now the case that to shy away from my vulnerabilities means giving up the nomadic life that I worked so hard to build. It means no more sailing, travelling, freelancing and no more adventures. Too me that is too big a sacrifice, which is why I’ve decided lean into the discomfort and work towards overcoming these discomforts and fears to the point where I feel comfortable living my nomadic life again. I guess the opposite of running away from ‘hard’ emotions is exposing my own emotions publicly and what could be more terrifying that doing that on the internet? As well as that, one of the reasons for coming away is so that I can start to immerse myself in all these vulnerable situations and build up my confidence with regards to work, travel, activities and showing emotions openly – having a personal Psychologist for the first month of this journey is definitely a massive aid and I’m grateful to have such a special person dedicate this energy to me (thank you my treasured friend). On that note I’d like to encourage all who have read this post today to try and catch yourself when you shy away from something difficult and rather than take the easy route why not lean into that discomfort and explore what happens. It might just bring you a little closer to someone

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