Who The Hell Are You Anyway?

When we speak of loss and grief, we’re usually referring to a person or a connection at least, like grieving the loss (or end of) a relationship. But for me one I the things I struggled the most throughout these last few years was the loss of who I was, my identity, and crafting out a new one can be quite confusing at times.

For most people who go through PTSD I think there’s a bit of an identity crisis of ‘who am I now that I’ve experienced this’, of course that’s usually mixed in with a lot of guilt, blame and other murky emotions from the negativity pit. I’ve also spoke to people who have lost a parent and they’ve said the same thing too, and I know I felt this too but it was hard to distinguish which event was causing those feelings. The heartache also contributed, because it was the first time I’d been rejected which obviously I couldn’t understand in my late-twenties arrogance.

Quite a few years have passed since all those things happened in my life and what’s coming up now, as I continue on this personal development highway is that I find myself grieving the loss of old Shereen. Don’t get me wrong, there are some parts of old Shereen which I’m happy to wave goodbye to, the unawareness, the lack of compassion and definitely the pig-headedness that were not my most virtuous of traits. However, there were also a lot of parts of me which I miss dearly and I’m having to re-craft them back into my life. Traits like – complete and utter belief in myself when it came to doing anything new. This may have mascaraed as arrogance to some but most of the time I pulled off whatever was in question so I truly believed that I could achieve anything. There was also a sense of complete fearlessness that I carried around with me too, and this gave me the freedom to travel, switch careers, be adventurous and completely go for my dreams. The thing that I miss most of all was my carefree positive attitude. I could literally find joy and laughter in anything and I would joke about all the time, and a lot of that went when I got all serious with this healing journey.

What I’ve come to learn recently is that once going through an experience like this, and putting the energy into recover and heal fully, we then have a clean slate in front of us. An identity that we can build up based on the traits we want to have, rather than those we accidentally adopt because that’s what we believe we should be. A flexible identity even, if that’s what we want. Multiple identities that fit different situations if that’s your bag. There’s so much choice, and it’s recognising that you have a choice which makes all the difference. The choice to choose a new you, whoever you desire to be, whenever you want to be it. I think that’s the best way to deal with any kind of loss – recreate, and get creative. Explore you. Flex to your edge and come back to a comfortable mid-point.

I’m on a mission to create a greater sense wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing – including values, emotional intelligence, self-care, personal development, and body and mind awareness.

If you feel stuck and you want the EQ tools to move forward again, then contact me directly to see how I can help. Find out more about workshops, training and tailored coaching packages at www.shereensoliman.com.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

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Three Life Lessons From Growing Out of Trauma

  1. Life is precious.

One day you are going to die.

I am going to die.

It could be tomorrow by getting hit by a bus, it could be in 20 years time with a horrible illness but the truth of the matter is that one day I will be a lifeless, cold, corpse and everything will be over.

Yes, this is pretty morbid, especially as most of my posts are bringing messages of ‘yes you can conquer anything, love life to the full etc’ but that joyful message doesn’t hit home as hard as the realisation that we are all going to die someday, life is short. Embrace it.

While thinking about that, ask yourself these questions:

  1. If you dropped dead right now would you be happy with how you’ve spent your life?
  2. Did you chase your dreams?
  3. Did you tell the people you love often enough?
  4. Were you happy with what you achieved?

If the answer to any of these questions is no then I seriously insist that you explore these questions more and ask yourself what the hell are you doing with your life?

We can often get wrapped up in the nitty gritty of life, and I get it, we’ve all got our things to do, got to pay the bills right? When you’ve come through a life threatening situation though, you see things a little differently and it’s as though you really see what matters.

I remember when I experienced this mindset change quite vividly. There was a poignant moment during the attack that I seriously thought “I am going to be raped, murdered and then left here to rot”. This was the exact moment that I seemed to spring into life. As though something inside me said “No fucking way”. It was the moment that I pulled out all the stops to get out of that situation, and I did get out of it. I survived and I’m here writing about it today. That situation was the scariest thing that has happened to me in my entire life and it has brought me a whole load of uninvited emotions that I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. They weren’t pleasant and I would never wish for someone to go through something as horrific as having to literally fight for their survival or to experience the rickershay of emotions that pop up at every trigger in the aftermath – the panic, the fear, the depression, the shame, the guilt, I could go on. However, without this experience I wouldn’t have the perspective I do now, so I’m passing this message on to you. We only have one life, don’t take it for granted.

  1. Fear is a signpost for growth

Fear is a funny thing, sometimes I know it’s there and I can really feel the terror, the butterflies, the anxiety – like I’m going to physically vomit  because of it, and then sometimes I can’t feel it at all but it’s there lingering in the background controlling my thoughts and actions behind my subconscious state. The second type of fear is the most debilitating, it’s the unconscious state of fear that causes us to disengage in a relationship, cause arguments to create distance and generally provoke negative actions in a way to protect ourselves.

What I’ve come to realise as I unpick the triggers in my post trauma state is that every negative reaction we have usually comes from fear. That means any judgment or blame towards others, the avoidance of a particular subject/person, numbness, suppression or outright anger – all of these deflection techniques are the ego’s way of protecting us when we’re in a state of fear. When we become aware of this and we can see the ego’s behaviour it becomes easier to question it and find out why the fear is there in the first place and from my own experience I’ve found that underneath fear are almost always signposts for growth.

In a recent situation where I was starting to become vulnerable with a man I found myself judging, blaming and becoming angry with him, I didn’t even realise that I was doing it until a friend pointed this out to me. So I decided to address it like all my other triggers. When I did this, at first I found myself in tears. I was terrified. I was scared that if I let someone into that vulnerable emotional space that something awful was going to happen to me and that I would experience all the emotions from heartbreak, attempted rape and the death of someone close all over again. I desperately did not want to feel all those emotions in that intensity again and I was terrified that this situation was headed that way. Having got to know my triggers very well, I know that they create a whole world of illogical scenarios in my head based on a couple of situations in my life and during those moments of fear I remember what those scenarios feel like which causes me to back out fast. The reality though, is very different because the past doesn’t determine the future and the trick is to remind myself of this reality when I’m experiencing what feel like very real occurrences. Practising that continuously is what has allowed me to grow out of trauma in to a more authentic and stronger person than I was before. The next time you find yourself bearing way from something, as yourself why? If it comes down to fear then it could be an opportunity for growth too.

  1. Communicating that we don’t know how to feel is the first step to connecting

Anyone who knows about Brene Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability will already know that vulnerability is where human connections thrive. I’ve watched her TED talks, I’d read the books but what I hadn’t done is really practiced what she preached when it came to vulnerability and to be honest it’s because I wasn’t aware that I didn’t know how to be vulnerable. To be completely honest, I thought I knew all about vulnerability before I experienced my traumas but in reality I was running away from all negative feelings in my very privileged and somewhat entitled life, without the awareness that I was running. So when I was faced with so many difficult situations I got to experience first-hand what she meant in The Power of Vulnerability, especially when she explains about those vulnerable moments:

  • Making that phone call to the relative who just lost someone, even though you have no idea what to say
  • Telling someone you love them, without knowing if they feel the same
  • Admitting to someone you care about that you did something wrong and that you’re sorry

What all these situations do is communicate our feelings at the times when it’s the hardest because those are the times when it matters the most. When I was on the receiving end of these situations I appreciated the friends who called me and said “I don’t know what to say”, over those who just avoided me altogether because we could at least converse over the fact that neither of us knew how to deal with the situation which meant we were in it together. I also did this with the vulnerable situation where I acted reactively with the guy I previously mentioned, after I had become vulnerable. I explained that I was terrified and that I didn’t know how to handle the situation and because of that I had pushed him away. In both these situations I found that communicating the very observation of the feeling led to me becoming a lot closer with these people and that is the start of practicing vulnerability.

All our life experiences give us a choice. The choice to deal with them, learn and grow from them or the choice to shut off, avoid and live in a life of safe guards. For me, the latter meant that I would give up the nomadic lifestyle which was the very thing that made me feel alive, so I had to find away to grow out of it or I knew that I faced a life locked in silent misery, clouded by apathy and an inability to connect with other people. Urgh, no thanks.

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

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

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

Are You Using Your Tools For Good or For Bad?

It’s still a bit strange being back home. I remember being here and hating it, feeling like I didn’t want to be here but I couldn’t escape either. To me, everything was just negative. Looking back I can see that my perspective was a complete reflection of how I was viewing the World back then. Nothing’s actually changed, but I’m more at peace with what’s happened and I’ve let go of a lot of internal turmoil. I know this because the first thing that people have greeted me with is “You look great”, rather than “How are things?” – Thank you, Bali, my new friends and all the therapies that I explored whilst on my travels.

I was away for four and a half months in total, and I’ve been away for longer before, much longer but the difference, this time, is that I had the motive to better myself and this made all the difference to the trip. I wasn’t deluding myself in the myth that everything was ‘fine’ and that I was ‘ok’. Instead, I acknowledged that I had been through some traumatic life events in a short space of time and that I was having certain emotions because of this, and that if I wanted to get better then I would need to accept these emotions and  focus on myself. This intention affected the way I used certain tools in my life.

Depending on how you view things, everything can be seen as a tool and therefore they’re subjected to being used negatively or positively. If a tool is used in a positive light then usually good feelings come from this, however, if they’re used in a negative light then, in the end, you’ll just feel worse, at least that’s what I discovered.  I know this can sound a little confusing, so I’ll elaborate on it a little bit…

What do I mean by ‘tools’?

I spoke about tools in my last post, with regards to acquiring new tools to move forward with self improvement and personal development but tools can literally be anything and everything and it’s how they’re used that makes the difference. There are physical tools like alcohol for example. It’s a drink which can be enjoyed, used as a treat or as a relaxant, conversely, it can also be used in excess to help escape emotions, or when socialising is too difficult without it (because most of the Western society is wrapped in a heavy cloak of shame… alcohol lifts this temporarily). So the question that needs to be asked to find out if it’s negative or positive motive is ‘Why are you using this tool?’ As I write this, it’s the evening and I’m having a glass of Shiraz. I felt like having a glass of wine and last night a friend and I talked about how Earnest Hemmingway was famously quoted “write drunk, edit sober”, so I figured why not – maybe there might be a productive outcome. The thing is that I’ve checked in with how I feel and why I have the desire to drink a glass of wine. I have no negative feelings to escape and I actually desire the taste of a decent red, so I’ve poured one glass. I’m enjoying it, it’s relaxing me and overall I feel like it’s having a positive effect on me. However, I witnessed a different use of this tool earlier today as the local drunken men stumbled out of the pub next to the salon where I work, shouting and stumbling about as one fell over, banging his head on the concrete, causing for an ambulance to be called. When I saw this I wondered what the motives were of this man and why he felt the need to drink to excess?  Escapism, numbness or a total avoidance of life altogether maybe? This isn’t an uncommon situation in the place where I live, and I think it’s becoming more prevalent in the West altogether.

It’s not just alcohol that I see getting abused regularly where there could be an emotional imbalance. Food is often abused too, it’s a source of energy for use but I’ve seen it used as a tool for comfort and control too. Television and telephones are also easy devices to escape into when the conversation gets heavy or when a silence becomes awkward. Maybe you find yourself becoming excessively ‘busy’, which is actually one is my personal favourites. You’ll know if I’m escaping my emotions because my diary will look like the picture below and it’s because internally I’m skipping around the Avoidance Fun Fair, being chased by the Emotional Cat.

But feelings can also be used as tools as well. Love for example, it can be unconditionally used in a positive light and it can be used to manipulate other people to achieve an objective. Even counselling methods can be used for positive or negative, Neuro-Linguistic Programming has been used to help countless people deal with difficult life situations but it’s also used as a sales tool to unaware customers.

I’ve come to a point where I’m using mindfulness as a tool to discover the underlying motives for my actions and sometimes I’m questioning everything.  It originally started back in January when I was smoking – something I’d started up again when my father passed away – and Dr. Jenn asked me to do a mindful smoking exercise, to literally meditate whilst smoking (I used the headspace ‘cooking’ meditation and just applied it differently). It made me think about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Particularly why did I feel the need to smoke? Was I addicted? And if so why? I mean, I’ve watched the Johann Hari TED talk about addiction and how it’s a substitute for not having a fulfilled life so logically I knew there was a reason behind this, however, I was obviously comfortable being oblivious to the reason. Why was that?

What I found was, that once I had rolled the cigarette, lit it and smoked a few puffs that I didn’t actually desire it anymore. I also found that there were some pretty heavy feelings that I was avoiding letting up too. Vulnerable feelings, the kind of broken feelings that make you want to cry and hide away from the world. There was a physical heaviness in my chest, my heart, the same pain I felt when I missed my Dad and to be quite honest sometimes I just didn’t want to deal with it, so I didn’t. That’s why I was smoking – when I didn’t want to talk, it was easy to stick something in my mouth so I didn’t have to. Ultimately all this did was push down these emotions temporarily, which is actually very unhealthy as this great podcast explains – it’s one by the Christ Church London and although I’m not religious I can appreciate that the information about managing emotions is very beneficial. What I came to find out for myself is that emotions need to be expressed and suppressed ones need to be unpacked in a healthy fashion (Check out my 5 Steps to Unpacking Emotions post) and talked out so that a positive mental state can be reached and the abusive use of tools can subside.

So I leave you with this – what tools do you use? Why do you use them? If you don’t know or you come up with a quick answer then why not tap into the moment that you desire a tool and ask yourself ‘What is it that I am craving right now?’ Maybe you’re using the tool for a positive motive, but it could be negative too. You’ll only know by delving deeper into your psyche and finding out.

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

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Bali Sunrise

How often do we avoid our emotions? Especially the more negative ones? I’ve started to realise that for me, it’s quite often, as though I’m some talented Master Emotion Smuggler. However, this strategy is somewhat challenging these days as my emotions seem to be popping up and out all over the place when various triggers come about. It’s a bit like one of those wack-a-mole games in an amusement arcade – they keep popping up, I keep batting them down, but then they pop up again. It’s never ending.Read More »

What is the Impact of Mindfulness in Trauma Recovery?

This week I’ve been in Amed, north Bali, a sleepy little rural village well known for idyllic diving. Whilst here, I’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing dives, including a night dive on the USAT Liberty Wreck which houses an abundance of beautiful marine life due to the nutrient rich waters flowing through the lava encrusted wreck.Read More »

Cultivating Comfort in My Own Skin

I think that one of the biggest things that I’ve questioned in the aftermath of the attack is who I am and what I’m working towards – apparently this is a normal process of trauma recovery and it’s because  trauma completely shakes up everything that you thought you knew about yourself and turns it on its head. I can completely relate to this because things which used to be the norm for me have now been subjects of my anxiety and even panic attacks – from walking down dark streets alone, through to getting on a boat with a man that’s acting in a sleazy way towards me. Usually, I’d just suck it up and get on with whatever I’d put my mind too, but post trauma I question my ability to deal with such situations and consequently question my whole identity because I’ve changed from the fearless Shereen I was once so comfortable being.

This subject came up in conversation this week when Dr Jenn and I were made to feel quite unwelcome in a vegan cafe and I joked that it was because we weren’t wearing ‘hippy trousers’ and hair braids like everyone else in the cafe. Instead, we were wearing shorts and t-shirts that were either old work clothes or second-hand items, the fact that we’re both quite environment, health conscious and daily meditator’s was beside the point when it came down to receiving good customer service depending on your external image. Thus, we began to talk about what identity was and what it looked, felt, and appeared as, further to that was whether or not it mattered and why should we care anyway. This is a subject which I have questioned in my life before but after the attack it’s a subject which has been on my mind a lot as I explore what my post-trauma identity is, and what I am working to cultivate and take comfort in.

If I look back to my childhood I remember a particular event which might have made me question this for the first ever time – I was about 14 years old at the time and I had started listening to rock music. Naturally I’d assumed the identity of a ‘rocker’ which meant wearing mostly black, dying my hair a different colour each week (as outrageous as I could think of – red, blue, green, even silver at one point) and I also participated the kind of activities that other ‘rockers’ did like going to rock music festivals and hanging around a certain statue in Wolverhampton on Saturdays (the ‘Man on the Horse’… we were so cool). The thing is, I really enjoyed listening to rock music at the time; it was very expressive and there was a whole range which would suit whatever mood I was in – punk if I felt perky, harder rock if I felt frustrated and even some quite melodic music if I was feeling nostalgic. I’m sure it was actually therapeutic to me at that time in my adolescence too, because most of the time I just wanted to jump around and be silly which is what I loved so much about the all age venue concerts that I’d go to with my friends – getting in the mosh pits! However, there were some bits about being a rocker that I didn’t enjoy so much. I didn’t really like the clothes because black is quite a boring colour and my outfits mainly consisted of band t-shirts, hoodies and black trousers/jeans – there wasn’t much variety. I also wasn’t too fond of the behaviour that I felt was sometimes expected of me, as though I should be some manic depressive and act all dark and sad all the time because of the songs I listened to. Either way, I continued to conform to these things because I liked the music and wanted to fit in with the people who shared this interest. What made me finally snap out of it was when my Dad decided that he wouldn’t buy me any more black clothes, so if I wanted to have something new it would have to be a colour that he deemed appropriate (usually pink, purple or something pastel coloured). Seen as I was reliant on my Dad’s income to clothe myself, I didn’t have the option to disagree. I’m not sure if we actually had a conversation about why I had to conform to this image to listen to a certain music genre but I do remember thinking that it shouldn’t matter what clothes I wear or music that I listen to and that people should accept me for who I am.

Somewhere along the way though I seemed to have stopped developing this attitude and as I’ve tried out different careers, and lifestyles I’ve come to berate myself for being too many things at once and not fitting in the box of a person doing ‘x’ career/past time/activity because I enjoyed the variety of doing lots of things. To put it bluntly how many sailing, marketing consulting, project manager, beauticians are there out there, who are passionate about sustainability, travel, adventure, chemical free living, organics and wellbeing, who have recently written a book and are now blogging about trauma recovery and therapies research? If you know someone of this description please email me because I’d love to have a coffee with them!

I guess what this comes down to is that a core value of mine is integrity – that means that I say what I mean and I do what I say, but the problem with an overwhelming emotional experience is that I’m no longer able to control these emotions or predict when they’re going to overwhelm me. This affects my integrity because I don’t feel like I can commit to something because if I experience an unknown trigger or an emotion becomes too overwhelming then I simply want to run away from whatever I’ve committed myself too (although these days I’m trying to lean into those discomforts, it’s still a daily challenge to practice). This has ultimately affected how I live my life (especially my ability to work) because I don’t want to end up in a situation where my somewhat ‘irrational’ emotional response compromises my reputation as a <insert identity here>. What’s frustrating is that when it comes down to it, external identity means nothing because integrity will show if you are who you say you are. So, it doesn’t matter how much I dress, act or even swear like a sailor right now if I can’t deal with the somewhat testing situations that sailing a boat bring. At the moment, the reality of this is that I don’t know if I can deal with that kind of pressure so I’m not willing to take the risk. That’s not to say that I can’t pick this hobby and profession up again when I know I’ve faced all my PTSD triggers and learnt how to manage my emotions.

Luckily I’ve got the perspective to see that I won’t be stuck here forever and every day I continue to work towards my post trauma identity which I know will be stronger and wiser than ever before. I also know that the insecurities of ‘not fitting in’ will also vanish when I feel comfortable within my own skin and accept that I am all the great things that I am, no matter what anyone else thinks. Looking back at my professional and personal experiences, and knowing that I have the flexibility to adapt to different situations gives me the confidence that I need to start building this new identity, whatever that may be. It gives me the assurance that no matter how long I take out of the construction/sailing/marketing/beauty/sustainability World that I’ll be able to go back into these environments and pick up where I left off because if I did it once, I can do it again. I also know that if I branch off into something new that I can do, because I’ve done it before. What’s best to know is that all of this is regardless of external image because it comes from my personality and characteristics, which is great because however much I enjoy meditating, tie-dye just does not suit me.

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