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.

If you’re stuck in an emotional rut or you want something more for your life, then you need to check out my Empower Yourself Program. This program starts on the 14th of October and runs for 5 weeks. It’s all the emotional intelligence tools and techniques I used to re-wire every single intense emotional trigger that stopped me living the life I want. If I can re-wire the intensities of my emotional triggers using these techniques, imagine what they you can do – book a discovery call with me now to find out.

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

Your Situation Can Be Your Anchor Or Your Springboard. It’s Your Choice. 

This week I got in an uberpool taxi in New York and listened to some poignant words from an insightful passenger named Dante. “It’s your situation”, he said. “It can be your anchor or your spring board, it’s your choice”. He continued on, to talk about how good or bad situations could be used this way and that it’s all to do with our intention. Dante was pretty switched on. He was a 27 year old NYC actor and a bar tender which he relabelled as ‘the people’s psychologist’. In the 20 minutes that my friend and I were graced with his presence his perils of wisdom sprinkled through the taxi like flickering lights into the darkness. My friend Guy, and I talked at length about this experience after and we’re still unsure of the oracle who presented himself as Dante. Did he exist as a real person, as a figment of our alcohol infused imagination or maybe he was the ghost of Christmas past, gently directing us on our way. Whatever he was, he told me exactly what I needed to hear at that moment in time.

On that particular night I’d been pushing myself pretty hard in the area of triggers and it had ended in a spectacularly awful way. I’d had a disastrous night trying to connect with a new guy I’d met and without realising my ego had jumped up and sabotaged the evening without me even noticing. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to get into a romantic situation, with a guy who I hadn’t know prior to the attack. The first time since my Dad died at least, which is when the trust that I had in my judgement of new men disappeared completely and subconscious fear started controlling my life.

Trusting men has become difficult for me since these traumas exploded. As though my subconscious fears that all men are now going to break my heart, rape me or die on me. Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn’t it? But that’s how our neuro pathways work and it takes work to re-program them. Ive known about this for a while and it’s something I’ve started working on as I start to work on the male relationships in my life – my brother and my close male friends. The thing is that the area of romance is the one that I really need to work out if I want to lead the fulfilled life that I dream of, but these lessons don’t come easily. They’re peppered with pain, embarrassment and sharp emotional edges that all these authenticity insights have brought me as I unwind the traumas. It feels like I’m being reset back to the start of this recovery journey and every time I think I know something my whole world seems to completely morph into something unrecognisable, as though all I knew before turns out to be an illusion.

As I sat in the back of the taxi I felt deflated, upset and embarrassed. I was exhausted from spending the later part of the evening in floods of tears whilst my friend comforted me and helped me reflect on the situation. Secretly, I was wishing that I wasn’t me. That I could just switch back into being a normal person, talking about normal stuff and enjoying the friverless light conversation that modern dating life continues to provide. Unfortunately trauma processing provides no such grace and the emotional hooks that spin out when someone’s unwinding go far and wide hooking up all in their presence. It’s something which leaves me feeling outcasted and alone in a world where being emotional to any depth is simply taboo until other social confirms are met. I do reflect on this often and wonder how we got to a point where we exchange saliva and body fluids with less social policing than we do with the exchange of tears.

I don’t know if the insightful young Dante sensed how I felt, or maybe he somehow knew what had gone on that night. Maybe he got the gist from my tear-strewn make up less face. Or maybe he just said something completely coincidental and I chose to apply it to my evening and be in awe of it. Either way I found what he had to say pretty profound.

Viewing my situation as an anchor or a springboard suddenly made me see things differently. Suddenly I wasn’t upset anymore. It highlighted that I could see my situation as one that tethers me down, restricts my life’s movements and keeps me in one place. On the other hand I could see it as a springboard to jump up and down until I get the momentum to move forward. Depending on how I saw it ultimately affects my reaction and all of this is ultimately my choice.

It strung a cord with me because it also highlighted how important it is to reflect and react from our stories so that we can work at changing our situation. It sums up my whole journey of my trauma recover so far: sit and dwell in my situations or use them to my advantage and progress forward in life. As I looked back on the evening I knew I’d finally been trying the later. After avoiding dating for months after being terrified of trusting men I’d put myself out in a vulnerable situation and tested the water. I knew that I still had issues of coming across as confrontational or even aggressive towards guys. After having fought off a rapist this is unfortunately my current ‘go to’ whenever I feel the slightest bit vulnerable. The worst of it is that for the most part I’m unaware of this behaviour and it takes constant mindful practice and gentle reminders from my friends that I’m acting this way. All necessary feedback if I’m to make progress.

Its a difficult situation, balancing between consciously trying to face my triggers and subconsciously fighting them off all at the same time. I can only imagine how ridiculous it must look on the outside. In a world where words and body language usually flow in sync to see a person who contradicts themselves to such an extent.

The night had been a disaster but it had been a huge step forward too. It was the night I’d pulled up the anchor that had held me stationary for so long and I’d started to springboard. In this particular instance I felt like I’d sprung up and banged straight into a painful lesson, but at least it was movement and that means progress. A step forward from being locked in a secret solitude

That simple comment at the end of my night turned a teary deflated evening into a reflective one. It gave me the slap round the face that I needed to give myself the well needed break of self compassion. It reminded me that although I struggled to be the person I so desperately want to be on the outside of these traumas that I was at least moving forward in that direction. It showed me that the tears, the upset and deflation that I was experiencing was necessary to build momentum in my spring. It reminded me that I was doing all I needed in the right way to get there.

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