3 Steps to Finding The Right Therapist

I posted this post quite a while back and I find it SO relevant today. Now that therapy and sorting your stuff out has become a ‘thing’ (at least it definitely shouldn’t be shameful!), I think it’s ever more important to approach these professionals with discernment. That’s what you’re going to get from this blog post.

Firstly, a few things you should know…

Like with any profession, there are people who do it well and there are people who don’t do it so well. The thing is that when you’re in the role of client you’re putting your mental health and wellbeing in the hands of someone else, so it’s very important that you’ve vetted this person to make sure that they’re up to the job.

What I’ve found with many therapists, counsellors and even psychologists is that they lack the self-awareness and humility to admit that their ego can pop up during a session and project on the client. Here’s the thing – we’re all human. We all have egos. We can all project, have blind spots and ‘act out’. The problem is, that if the person who is holding the space of your mental health is not aware of themselves enough to know when they’re in their own ego, then you as the client can be in a very vulnerable and sometimes dangerous position.

That’s why it’s very important for you as the client to be discerning when you pick your therapist. By going through these steps, you’ll be equipped to do just that.

  1. Does the therapist have appropriate qualifications?

Firstly it’s important to be clear on the therapy you want and to make sure that the therapist is qualified to provide this. The first question I ask before I even meet up with a therapist is what kind of qualifications they have and what school they studied at. A therapist who is confident in their ability will happily provide their course and school details and answer any other questions you have. If you ask this question and the therapist starts to get defensive then to me this is a red flag I would question whether or not this is a person you want to have a treatment with. Seriously, if they are so insecure that they feel the need to get defensive with you then that’s already showing you that they might not have the skills. Also, by them getting defensive is a clear sign that they aren’t self-aware and cannot emotionally regulate – red red reeeeed flag!

  1. Meet up with them first

A very good piece of advice I got from Dr. Jenn (one of my best friends who’s a very good psychologist) when I ended up in a bit of state because I was seeing a counsellor that unfortunately wasn’t right for me, was to meet up with the therapist before paying for a session to see if you ‘click’. I’ve come to realise that this is something very important especially with any kind of psychological treatment (CBT, NLP, talk therapy etc) because if you don’t feel comfortable and safe in the presence of the therapist then this will limit your ability to heal. Why? Because you won’t open up and then you can’t process your stuff because it’s still locked away. What I mean by safe and comfortable is that you feel physically and mentally safe but also on an emotional level, which means that you shouldn’t feel judged by the therapist. Instead you should feel like you can say anything that comes to mind, that you can cry and that you can feel free to explore these areas of your emotional spectrum.

Since receiving this information I now meet up with anyone before having a therapy to see what my gut reaction says about them. If you don’t have a good gut feeling then it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is bad, it’s just your instinct saying ‘not this one’, keep going until you find someone who is right for you.

  1. Can they provide what you need?

It’s important to be clear with the therapist about what your expectations are of the treatment and to ask them whether or not they can provide what you need. A credible therapist will be clear about what they can and cannot offer and steer you in the right direction to get what you need. It’s better to communicate this before the treatment so that both parties are clear on the expectations. For this, you’ll need to have a think about what you want from the treatment? How many sessions can you pay for? How deep do you want to go? Do you need to be able to take a break from the sessions at some point?

I think this step is even more important when it comes to people who are selling packages. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes clients need that container of ‘6 sessions’ etc, but some don’t – I certainly know that I don’t work this way anymore, so make sure you decide on a framework that suits you in your life right now, that you can change later if you want to.

Also be careful of people who promise the world because only you can heal yourself, it’s just the therapist’s job to provide space for that kind of unfolding. Hopefully if you follow these three steps you’ll get the right person for you.

Have you checked out my YouTube channel for videos on all things Emotionally Intelligent? Please subscribe if you like my content, and I’ll keep on providing great insights for you!

If you want the EQ tools to master your emotions and life an empowered life then, sign up to my newsletter for monthly insider tips on how to do this. My subscribers get access to free tutorials and are the first to know about exclusive offers on my Empower Yourself Program.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

The Reasons Why I Didn’t Die

It’s been so long now since the night I got attacked that I forgot sometimes how shocking it is for people to hear it for the first time. I guess I’ve done so much therapy and processing in the last few years that to me it’s just become a thing that happened. Life. A little blimp in the tapestry of my journey.

One of the things that I see often (other than the gasp at the horrificness of what is being told) is the surprise in people’s eyes that I actually came out alive and unharmed, well un-raped is I think what they mean. To be honest, I don’t know, nor have I heard of anyone who was in a one-on-one attack like that who managed to get out alive and unscathed. So I want to shed some light on to why I think my situation ended the way it did, and why I’m still here to tell the story.

  1. I am, and was extremely aware when I got attacked

Self-awareness is something I’ve always practiced naturally. Who am I? What do I stand for? Am I doing the right thing by me? Those are questions I’ve always asked myself, I think because my Dad installed such a strong sense of values within me. This kind of questioning obviously lit my interest in human behaviour and how I work as a person. I guess I’ve always seen myself as a kind of science experiment as I challenge myself throughout life – changing careers, changing countries, challenging and changing my beliefs. Practising this curiositymeant that I had already built up a strong sense of self-awareness and awareness of others so of course I was aware that night I got attacked. Being aware of him and his potential motives meant that I had already prepared myself subconsciously for something to happen. That’s the only reason that my survival response wasn’t ‘freeze’ like so many unfortunate women before me.

  1. I will fight to the death for what I believe in

Having the awareness to be prepared for a fight, I was then met with the worst case scenario – I had to fight. I did try to run which was my instant response, but obviously the guy grabbed me and he was a lot bigger and stronger than me so my next instinct was to fight. The memory here is lost, and I can only piece together what happened through my injuries and visiting the scene the next day. What I do know is that I was pinned down but managed to somehow get him off me. That I was able to break free and run away.

Again, I think this is because I had built up something internally that I’d been working on for years – that I stand up for what I believe in. This internal strength has sometimes proved annoying to others in my life, especially when it comes to hierarchy because I question any lack of integrity that I see. I do this because I believe that we should be questioning each other’s motives to make sure that we are acting out of self and not out of ego. This strength within me manifested as a fight that night, and there was no way in hell that I was going to go out without a fight, if not just for me then for every person who has suffered the sexual injustice to the hand of a another.

  1. Luck, faith and something higher than myself

I’ve always believed in something higher than myself, but I have always been strongly opposed to religion – can you blame me when it’s become so corrupt in the world? I mean, I stand for integrity yet I struggle to see it in religion these days.

I’ve always taken note of those synchronicities in life when it feels like someone else if pulling the strings and I’ve always prayed thanks for the gifts I’ve received – love, friendship, compassion and joy. I do this on a personal level, and I feel a non-judgemental type of spirituality that doesn’t subscribe to one ‘God’ or one deity. I just believe that there is something bigger out there at play, and I pay respects to it as and when it feels right. I (jokingly) call it Shereenism but I think that this is what true religion is – something private that stems from integrity and values, something that feels right and connected, and is individual for each of us.

The night I got attacked there were a few weird things that happened that strengthened my faith in some kind of guidance system. And you can take this or leave it, but this is my truth and all outside opinions are void of it.

When the man had walked past me, I heard a voice that said ‘Turn Around’, which I did. Had I not then the turn of events would have happened drastically different.

I felt as though I had assistance when I came to protecting myself. There is no way that a small figure like me could have fought off such a huge man, call it adrenalin but I physically felt like I was being aided.

When it came to someone finally offering refuge and opening their front door towards me for somewhere to run, it was a universal symbol of safety – the silhouette of a woman holding a new born baby. I’ll never forgot this image which has been seared into my brain. Apart from the fact that it seems so weird when I look back, I can’t begin to imagine what the woman herself must have been thinking. What compelled her to open the door when she heard my screams, because no one else in that neighbourhood even dared.

I’m not saying that by adopting these methods that you’ll become infallible to life or death scenarios that might get thrown at you. What I am saying though is that when you truly know yourself inside and out, and you stand strong for what you believe in that you live life a certain way. You live life consciously, and with courage, and that courage brings you freedom.

The irony in all of this is that these traumatic experiences took me back down to base level where I questioned myself completely. Through my journey of recovery I had to build myself up again, one block at a time. I had to carve out my new value system consciously so I could get back to this level of courage and internal freedom. This journey in itself is what has put me back on the right path – one that helps people and inspires people to find their own sense of internal freedom too.

The truth is that in learning why I didn’t die, it taught me how we should live.

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.

If you want FREE EQ tools to master your emotions and live an empowered life then, sign up to my newsletter for monthly insider tips on how to do this. My subscribers get access to free tutorials, book previews and are the first to know about exlusive offers on my Empower Yourself Program. If you’ll like to find out more about the workshops, training and tailored coaching packages I offer, head over to www.shereensoliman.com. 

With love, life and freedom, Shereen x

Photo by my dear friend James Duncan, of me, sitting by a tree.

A Relationship with PTSD

2020 marks the 5 year anniversary since I went through my life threatening ordeal when a man tried to rape and kill me. Last year was a huge turning point for me because it was the first time since this event that I’ve managed to get into a healthy, loving and progressive relationship.

It was a milestone.

There have been many milestones in the last few years as I rebuilt my life, but this one has been (by far) the most cherished. Getting here hasn’t been easy, and even now, within the relationship there are some incredibly challenging parts. However, it is 100% worth it and I want to share my insights for anyone who is trying to pick their way through the ptsd minefield of trying to have a romantic relationship.

The biggest challenge I continue to face is that the fear within me presents itself in so many different ways, and sometimes I don’t recognise it. That’s nothing new. In fact, a main part of this journey has been about consistently opening up to others about what is going on in my brain – often extremely erratic fear induced stories that I was telling myself. Stories with no logical sense when compared to the reality, but in my ptsd brain I was convinced that it was ultimate truth and would definitely happen.

This fear crops up in so many ways and if my man hadn’t been very persistent when we were dating then we probably wouldn’t be together now, simply because I kept pushing him away.

I kept telling myself stories about him that weren’t true. I’d find excuses to be annoyed with him so that I could validate undesirable traits within him, traits which often weren’t there.  For example, if he was late I’d tell myself that it was because he was lazy, couldn’t keep time management and because of that, he wasn’t someone I should be with. I would focus on the superficial things and magnify them and make conclusions about his whole character because of them. When the reality was that I hadn’t yet found out who he was to even make those conclusions in the first place.

The thing was that regardless of all the negative self-chat in my head, deep down it felt good to be with him and throughout my whole healing journey it was following what felt good that lead me to heal so fast. That’s why I knew that I had to follow it this time too. When I made that commitment, I realised that all that was left was fear – a fear that brought me to tears because I was so scared of opening up and being vulnerable again. Time and time again I’d have to release those tears, put my big girl pants on and keep putting myself out there, date after date. It was hard, but I’m very glad I did.

Another huge challenge that I face is how easy it is to fall into old patterns of blaming, shaming and judgement. These strategies are ego defence mechanisms that crop up because of fear and stop someone from getting close to us or our heart. What I’ve found is that it’s very seductive to fall into these old patterns and that the attraction of ‘being right’ is a strong force of pull. That even when I am at my most mindful, this fear can still engulf me and cause me to act in a way which is destructive to the safe emotional space my partner and I have worked so hard to build. A space that takes such a long to create, and can be eroded in seconds with harsh words or careless actions.

While it’s hard to catch this in the moment – whether you suffer from ptsd or not – it is imperative to acknowledge this behaviour and take responsibility for our own actions. It’s important to say sorry meaningfully and understand that it may take time and trust until full forgiveness is given. This is humbling and incurs a feeling of guilt, but it’s necessary to build up that foundation of trust again.

As well as that it’s necessary to understand why that behaviour cropped up in the first place, so we can start to break it down and become aware of how we can choose differently next time. All of this requires hard conversations, honest self-reflection and the commitment to becoming a better person every time we fall back into old patterns. Again, it’s humbling work but the rewards are worth it.

Another challenge on this part of the ptsd recovery journey is believing in the value of self, in yourself.

This is a lesson that I had to learn time and time again. I knew I’d finally learnt it when this man entered my life, because it was the first time in years that I’d romantically engaged with a person who actually valued me for who I was. Prior to this I was finding myself attracted to men who treated me in ways which devalued my sense of self-worth. Men who were aggressive towards me, men who belittled me, men who shamed me, dismissed my talents and left me feeling ashamed of being the ‘intense’, ‘questioning’, ‘demanding’ person that I am. The reason why I kept finding myself in these relationships was because I needed to fully heal within myself and get to a place where I felt complete acceptance and love for who I am. I knew that once I’d healed to that point, that I would naturally attract a person who mirrored that. As the old saying goes, you can’t love another until you love yourself. Another take on this is that when you value yourself highly you simple don’t entertain the option of getting involved with someone who doesn’t appreciate that value equally. Quite frankly once I got there, anyone who didn’t value me simply didn’t get a look in, let alone an opportunity to date me.

The romantic-relationship-with-ptsd journey is an interesting one. I’m sure it’s different for everyone but I hope my insights provide some guidance for anyone who’s struggling.

As with all this healing, know that you’ll get through it and stay curious to the lessons it presents. Life is after all a series of lessons along a journey, the trick is to enjoy the fun along the way.

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.

If you want the EQ tools to master your emotions and life an empowered life then, sign up to my newsletter for monthly insider tips on how to do this. My subscribers get access to free tutorials and are the first to know about exlusive offers on my Empower Yourself Program. If you’ll like to find out more about the workshops, training and tailored coaching packages I offer, head over to www.shereensoliman.com. 

Picture by me, of me and my man holidaying in Thailand.

Never Give Up

When I look back at my trauma recovery journey, my goal was always to get back to an adventurous, fearless and nomadic lifestyle with a clear and calm mindset. There was no plan B, or second best option because I knew that if I couldn’t get back to being ‘me’ (or a better version of ‘me’) then quite frankly I didn’t want to live at all. I’m not being dramatic when I write this, because there was a very real point throughout this journey when I went down that dark road and considered ending my life all together. I never wrote about it back then and I don’t talk about much now (apart from the public speech I did about it earlier this year to 150 people… which wasn’t daunting at all!!)

I got to that point of hopelessness when I wasn’t sure if I could overcome what had happened and I didn’t see the point of living my life through the cage of fear and not getting to achieve my dreams. In my eyes, the thought of existing through fear rather than living fearlessly wasn’t a life worth living to me. That’s when leaving the planet all together seemed like a viable option. Luckily, I have the kind of psychologically educated support network who steered me away from these thoughts and believed in me even when I lost belief in myself. I owe my life to these people and for that I’m forever grateful.

So with plan B not being an option, I focused on challenging myself to overcome every single trigger and every single fear to secure my goal of living fearlessly no matter what.

That means I’ve overcome panic attacks.

That I’m back to travelling solo, and talking to random people (inc men) in hostels again like they’re new friends, because they are.

That I’ve got the energy to work long hours that the yachting industry demands, while making sure that I put in the right boundaries and self care routines to take care of myself during the season.

That I am living nomadically, adventurously and with the full freedom to be curious about the world like I used to be.

That I have finally managed to be in a healthy romantic relationship with a man who is emotionally intelligent, kind and has the same goals and values as me.

That I am finally working as a life coach, public speaking and spreading my motivational message, because this is what I was put on this planet to do!

However, there are still many more steps for me to take until I reach my goal because although these accomplishments have got me back to living a ‘normal’ life, a ‘normal life’ is not one that I ever lived and it’s not one that I aspire to live moving forward either. I want to live an extraordinary life.

I want to travel to new places, try new activities and feel the freedom to put myself in new situations on a daily basis – rather than have the fear occasionally stop me in my tracks and pull me back from a new experience.

I want to be so open and vulnerable in my relationship that my partner and I feel connected like a team no matter what is thrown at us – rather than pushing away and closing off because the simple fact that he’s a man triggers the living daylights out of me

I want to have my solid sense of self-assuredness back constantly. That feeling that I used to have, that knowing that I can create anything I dream up, that the world is an abundance of limitless possibility that is open for my exploration and pleasure.

I want to experience all my dreams and goals as real life experiences so that I can look back with no regrets when I finally leave this planet. That I can look back at a legacy that I’ve create and know that I used my energy to contribute to a greater good that the planet needs.

This is why I’m not giving up. This is WHY I continue to challenge myself and reflect, and grow!

Even when a setback plummets me back to ground zero and I’m upset and exhausted and disorientated from the triggers and the thoughts. And when I’m not sure what thoughts in my head are reflective of the actual reality or the ptsd version that my brain likes to create. Or when I’m in so much heartache and pain and guilt at my own ptsdy reactive behaviour that I feel ashamed to face the people who witnessed it.

Because to give up would mean to create an easy life, that’s comfortable and ‘normal’, and for me, that’s not a life worth living.

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.

If you want the EQ tools to master your emotions and life an empowered life thensign up to my newsletter for monthly insider tips on how to do this. My subscribers get access to free tutorials and are the first to know about exlusive offers on my Empower Yourself Program. If you’ll like to find out more about the workshops, training and tailored coaching packages I offer, head over to www.shereensoliman.com. 

Photo by x ) on Unsplash

What Are You Focusing On For 2019?

I was asked recently from a friend who owns a marketing agency ‘What keeps you focused with your business?’ I ended up pondering on this question for a while, dissecting it in a few forms and seriously thinking deep about this – would you expect anything less from me??

Firstly I thought ‘focus’ and me in the same sentence? If anything, throughout my multiple business endeavours and careers, my work life has been anything but focused. In fact, I don’t think it’s a word many of my friends would typically associate with me.

However when I thought about this a little deeper, I realise that since overcoming PTSD I do have focus. It was actually something I crafted in the mist of trauma recovery to pull me out of such emotional turmoil. Back then my focus was to get back to my fearless, nomadic lifestyle. Recently I feel like I got that back – WIN – and proof that you can do anything you put your mind to.

One of the things that constantly beat me with a stick to stay focused and keep on moving was my tendency to think with foresight and compare it with what was happening in the present. I’ve been told that this can be a negative trait because ‘you’re not living in the present blah blah blah…’ but when living in the present means reliving trauma, well of course sometimes I didn’t want to live in it, I’m only human!

When I was able to project in the future that my current actions were not going to get me to where I wanted to be, it alerted me to change my focus. Sometimes this meant reassessing things in my life, questioning how I’d ended up so far away from my focus (usually fear and self-sabotage) and then I would make the relevant adjustments to get me back on track.

Having known what living such a fearless and adventurous nomadic lifestyle felt like, I focused on what those feelings felt like whenever I felt low.

I focused on the time that I arrived at the café in Indonesia, built by my future-to-be-boss and told him that he needed to hire me for his construction project. Back then, I had unchallengeable confidence in my ability.

I focused on the time I helped sail a boat across the Bay of Biscay in a force 9 with a crew of 3 men I’d never met before. Back then, I trusted that I was always safe and protected in life.

I focused on all the times that I went out dancing with travel buddies in Bangkok and Malaysia. When I danced on tables with yacht crew in Sardinia, singing our hearts out. When I laughed wholeheartedly across the streets of Monaco with my friend until my stomach ached so much I had to lie down!

Focusing in to these feelings made me realise that I could get back to them. All I needed to do was focus on unpicking the thought patterns that kept me living such a fear-driven restricted life. Obviously I had some short and sharp situations that drastically changed my life and created contrast. In a moment I went from living fearlessly to living fear driven. For most of us, I know that this isn’t the case. Some of us have picked up picked up negative thought patterns gradually throughout life and sometimes we aren’t even aware that we’re living in the restriction of them. However, the method for unpicking and releasing them is always the same and it’s empowering. If anything going through this process has taught me that we can all break free from these unconscious fears and live out our dreams. In fact, this is our birth right to do this, and the challenge of life is to figure out how.

With that, my question to you is – What are you focusing on this year?

For 2019 I’m focusing on inspiring you to be the best version of yourself, so you can move towards the life you’ve always dream of. To do the work necessary to break free from what unconsciously holds you back, so you can feel happier for longer and together we can create a more compassionate and connected society!

If you’re interested in how to do this then get in touch now to find out more about my emotional intelligence coaching and sign up to www.shereensoliman.com for free emotional intelligence tools, personal development book recommendations to get you started.

Sending motivating vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

A PTSD Recover’s Guide To Dating Online

Online dating is high on my vulnerability list. I haven’t dated in just over a year and the last time I did it was with a guy who was passive aggressive and scared me enough to recluse back into the hole I’d crawled out of. Now I’m venturing out into the new territory of online dating, and my my, what a minefield it is.

From a woman’s point of view we get inundated with messages, some creepy, some lovely but lots of them, often. From a guys point of view I’ve heard they get ghosted, preyed upon (hello cougars) and viscously demonised from women who’ve been hurt in the past (ouch, sorry dudes). Some of the online dating world seems to be a full on fight until the death. But some of us are ducking the bullets and waving the white flag as we search for authentic beings who are acting from their heart and not their ego.

Once out of the battle, things get even more confusing as we move into whirlwind of what seems like a dating world on speed. As one of my friends explains she’d gone from being in a relationship, to being dumped, to having a date, breaking up and then having a tentative date cancel and spring her back into the heartache of singledom all over again. And this was just one week. I don’t know what this is doing to our dopamine and cortisol levels but I can imagine that such fast paced highs and lows are unhealthy. Surely there has to be a better way to find love in these technological times? After much discussion and trying out various tactics we’ve come up with some guidelines to help create authentic dating experiences in what seems like an incredibly falsified arena.

  1. Slow things down

In the world of instant gratification that we now live in, it can be difficult to take things slow. Especially when we have that buzz of excitement when we find out someone who we like, is also interested in us. Suddenly we can race away with thoughts of our first date, and what they’re like and before we know it we’ve created a whole world based on a few pictures and some black and white text. An imaginary illusion created by our own expectations of someone who we’ve never even met before. Even when we do meet them, we can continue to race into the fantasy of what we’ve created without even knowing whether they’re on board. When we find out they’re not, our hopes crash and burn leaving us feeling dropped from heaven in a sad little mess. And over what? Someone who don’t actually know that well, but who we heavily invested in the illusion of. To escape the rollercoaster of these intense ups and downs the trick is to slow things down. This allows us to see the reality and take every message and meeting for what it is – an opportunity to get to know someone. It takes quite a while to get to know who someone really is and when it comes to dating it more important than ever to take the time to get to know a person, especially if we are looking for someone to share marriage and having children with. These big life decisions take a lot of time and energy investment so doesn’t it make sense to spend time collecting the knowledge to make an educated decision? Keep checking in with your feelings regularly to figure out if you genuinely like the person or if you genuinely like the idea of them.

You will only truly know someone if you take the time to get to know them truly.

  1. Don’t present an image of yourself, let them find out who you are

This is a tricky one because all the dating sites have an ‘about me’ section and this can leave a lot of temptation to describe who we think we are. Try to avoid presenting an image of who you think you are and instead let that person find out who you are. You know, like back in the day when we all used to meet up a few times over a long period and let each other’s personality unravel naturally. There was none of this ‘I’m this kind of person, and I do x, y and z’. Instead we just used to have conversations about stuff and hope that we had something common to chat about (given that we’d probably like the look of each other if we’d already been drawn to conversing). Stick to talking about the things you do in your life and what you like. The person on the other end will start to figure out who you are based on your attitude and your actions. If they like what they hear/see they’ll stay, if not let them go and move on to the next. If anything that’s the beauty of online dating – lots of variety right at your finger tips.

  1. Focus on the experience, not the results

Online dating is not a transaction. It’s not like we’re at a cattle market measuring up the animals against our never ending check list of what we’re looking for. As a western society we need to step away from this idea that there is this perfect result at the end of the game for us, whether that is the house, car and 2.4 children or any result in fact. Online dating, like all of life’s lessons is about enjoying the experience regardless of the result. Have a laugh with it and take it for what it is – a place to meet, converse and potentially find a person to enjoy new experiences with. If someone doesn’t message you back, try not to get upset over it. If someone messages you who you’re not into, tell them ‘thanks but I’m not interested’. Yes it’s a shame when we hope to find love instantaneously and it seems like we’re not getting anywhere fast but focus on enjoying the experience and the journey will seem shorter.

  1. Have fun and show your playful side

Imagine this, you’re in a bar and there are some sexy people who you like the look of at the opposite end of the room. Some have stern faces and seem to make snide comments at people who approach them. Some are smiling and laughing, generally having fun and looking approachable. Some are staring right at you with needy looks on their faces, longing for you to approach them. Who would you go and speak to first?

Personally I’m going to approach the smiling, laughing fun group, because they look like fun to hangout with. Well, online dating works on the same principles – people will approach you based on how approachable you seem to be. Obviously this is subjective to each person but for me this starts with a smile, because to me that shows that the person is enjoying life, because if I’m going to spend my time with someone then I want to do it with someone who would add to my life not take away from it. I also like messages from people who sound fun and approachable too because it makes me want to converse with them, rather than questions that make me feel like I’m being measured up against a check list. I think like this with my own profile too, fun pics of me doing things I enjoy and light hearted conversations that are usually full of banter. You’ll always attract what you put out, so if you’re not getting the type of responses you want, start with looking at what you’re sending.

  1. Don’t take things personally

People will always bring their own shit and most of the time they won’t be aware of it. We all have our own shit. Them, you and me too. The trick is to try and be aware of it so we don’t bring it to the dating table and to also not take it personally when it heads our way. That’s not to say that we should accept maltreatment or not call people out when they treat us bad (if you’ve read any of my other blogs you’ll know that I’m the first to call out low moral standards). What I’m saying is that it doesn’t do us justice to attach our own self worth on the opinion of others, especially someone who we barely know. We live in a culture that judges quickly based on little information and on the battlefield of online dating there are some twisty daggers at play. Negativity and resentment can build up pretty quickly if we take every little thing personally, so don’t take it on board and move on to someone who sends you the kind of messages you do want. Eventually you’ll attract the person you want with the positivity you shine out.

To really step into authentic online dating, it helps to take it out of online realm as soon as possible because you will only start to really know someone when you know how you feel about them. You know when you get that subconscious inkling of ‘it just feels right’ or ‘something is a bit off here’. This doesn’t mean violating rule number one and running into a dating scenario fast. It means gathering more information in a face to face situation so that your subconscious can pick up on things that your conscious might not, then you can be more true to yourself.

This isn’t the easiest guide to follow in the world, and as with all my blogs it requires a great deal of self awareness and mindfulness. It is achievable though and there are authentic and conscious people using online dating platforms,with this guide I hope you find them. Happy searching.

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

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

 

How To Use PTSD As A Platform For Growth

First things first, let’s bust a few myths on PTSD:

Post traumatic stress disorder is not something permanent.

It is not an identity (seriously #Iamnotashamed – let’s not create identities out of emotional experiences that pass)

It does not affect a person for the rest of their life

and it certainly doesn’t mean that someone has to live in a life full of safeguards which keep them away from any potential triggers (urgh, what a boring life that sounds like!).

At least, not if you let it.

Post traumatic stress is the reaction of the brain to a situation where it has had to go into survival mode. If you want the science, it’s where the emotional response has been so strong that the brain has created new and stronger neuro-pathways that were previously there. It’s like speed-building a motorway over a whole network of roads which took years to intricately build. However with the motorway, all the cars now speed across it to get from A to B, regardless of whether B is where the car wanted to go. It means that every possible sense trigger (sight, smell, sound, taste and touch) that could remind a person of the initial event takes their subconscious brain back there and automatically they react in the same reaction that they did at the time. For me that’s revisiting the night a man violently tried to rape me where I had to psychically fight for my life. Can you see how this might cause a potential hiccup in my dating life? (Although in reflection it’s actually quite funny and there’s definitely a book there… ‘How to date a PTSD nightmare…?’ Stay tuned for updates on that one!)

The trick with PTSD is to re-train the brain one trigger at a time. So for me, rather than avoid triggers and live a life of hiding because I’m scared of my own response, I created a safe environment around me (physically and mentally) to face every trigger and bring myself out of it, until I created the new neuro-pathways that allow me to feel safe in the world again. Think, deconstructing the motorway, brick by brick, and using it to create new roads back to the road network that was originally there. Here are my three top tips on how to turn a PTSD experience in to a gift of growth and exploration.

  1. Drive your own recovery

To anyone who is currently suffering from PTSD and is listening to Doctors, ‘survivors’ and people who just want to offer their inexperienced opinion- listen up! I had so many people tell me ‘you’ll never recover from this’, or ‘it’ll take years’ or ‘this will affect you for the rest of your life’. If you have people like this in your life – STOP LISTENING TO THEM RIGHT NOW because their opinions are total Bullshit! Even if it is your Doctor, your Psychologist or a family member. Don’t let their judgement stump your recovery time because the fact is that you will start recovering from your PTSD as soon as you start unpicking the triggers. The faster and more thorough you do this, the faster you’ll recover. Think of it like a pile of work on your desk. If you do one piece every month, yeah it’ll take forever to get through. If, like me, you want to get on living your life you might race through the work as fast as your physical form allows. If I listened to half the people who gave me their opinion on my recovery I wouldn’t be anywhere near as clear minded and emotionally resilient as I am today. When I think of what advice to take on I remember listening to a friend of a friend who had published a book about taking advice off people about publishing a book.

He said, ‘What are people telling you about publishing your book?’

I replied honestly ‘To not bother because it probably won’t make any money’.

Then he asked ‘And how many of them have even written a book?’

‘None’ I replied.

‘So why are you listening to them?’ He asked.

‘Fair point’ I laughed.

From that point on I never took advice from people who were not in a position I aspired to be in after going through something similar to what I’d been through. Advice from people about my PTSD and my recovery? I tell them to mind their own business – especially nosey opinionated onlookers who can’t even talk openly about their own emotions. The only expert on your recovery is you – so make sure you drive it, not anyone else.

  1. Create your winning support team

Lucky for me I have a best friend who is a psychologist for high performance teams who helped steer me through my recovery. Not everyone has this kind of resource to draw upon, however I can offer you the advice that Dr Jenn gave me and this is a golden one – create your winning support team. When you’re in a PTSD trigger, you’re living in a parallel reality where everything looks and smells the same but your reaction is as though you’re under attack. So it might be completely rational for you to defend to the death – because in your mind you’re under attack remember. However, to everyone outside of your head (and perspective) it will be obvious that you’re acting completely irrational to the situation in question That’s why it’s imperative that these people are part of the winning support team and know how to approach you when you’re experiencing a trigger and compassionately make you aware of it.

This takes a little organisation and some very honest conversations to work out a team plan of how to manage this but it is totally worth it in the long run. If you read my original blog Trauma on Tour you’ll know that I introduced the BS card which was a simple gesture – placing a business card in front of me so it reminded me to sense check and reflect upon my behaviour… and question whether I was bullshitting myself and acting from a place of fear, rather than a place of authenticity. As well as calling me out of my patterns, I also asked my friends to call me out if they thought I was being destructive to myself, or if I was doing anything in fact, that wasn’t serving me. It was like we had a team plan to get Shereen back and everyone had a part to play. It was extremely vulnerable for me to give this kind of authority over to other people and it required a great deal of trust, authenticity and open conversations to get there. In fact, it meant that to stay part of the team, each friend was required to face some hard truths within themselves as well as some difficult emotional training, but they all stepped up and grew along with me (thank you guys). Now I’m part of lots of winning support team as I root for every one of my friend’s successes; telling them when they’re off course and helping them strive to be the best version of themself.

  1. Start training with Mindfulness and CBT

Before you sign off on this third point, I’m not talking about barefoot meditating with hippies in a field, or lying on a leather couch while someone unpicks your darkest dreams so drop your judgements right now and read on.

There is a reason why this winning combination is in the spotlight at the moment and it’s because it works. What happens is that it allows your mind to unpick patterns, while observing the unpicking of the patterns in a way that is outside of the intense emotional feeling. That means, rather than re-feeling the feelings that you experienced in the incident that gave you PTSD, you instead observe the emotions, which means that you are much more equipped to deal with the unravelling of the event. If we go back to the motorway analogy it means that rather than painstaking remove every brick by hand, it’s like you’re watching someone else do it. Or if you’re impatient like me, you’ve hired a construction team with heavy machinery to get the job done efficiently. There’s no secret to mindfulness and CBT, it’s just re-training the brain and getting a bit of perspective on the training. It’s the same approach that top athletes use to train their psychical form – train it, analyse and measure the training and keep checking in to tweak it. The effect is extremely quick – within one week I went from unconsciously attacking a guy who triggered me (FYI – he groped my ass in a bar) to being able to acknowledge and control an intense feeling of fear inside me. The best thing is that it teaches you how to reflect, self manage emotions, explore your true passions and ultimately work to being the best version of yourself.

In fact, once you’ve come through the first few triggers and you get attuned to your new training regime, it’s really insightful process and it becomes exciting to work through the triggers and explore the mind. It’s a type of exploration that I wouldn’t have gone on, had I not been attacked. That’s why to me, it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

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

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash

 

Therapy Review – Myofascial release and cranio sacral therapy

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

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

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

The Session – 7th July 2016, 1pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Review

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

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

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

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

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

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