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

5 Steps to Unpacking Emotions

I finished my book recently and sent it out to a few people to get feedback. The results were interesting because as much as the book captivates its audience (which I take as a huge compliment), some family members were concerned with the idea that I am somewhat wallowing in the aftermath of the traumas. I can see why they think this because the book was part of my processing so it goes through all the events and how they affected many of my relationships, literally telling my story over the last 18 months. The thing is that I finished the book and I’m not there anymore but this whole situation brings about a very valuable point – what is the difference between wallowing and unpacking a negative emotion?

I feel like the Western society actually encourages wallowing and even pushes people to create an identity out of their ‘condition’. Firstly the awkward responses when you tell someone about what you’re going through, then the whole ‘something must be wrong with me‘ feeling, off you trot to the Doctors and before you know it, you’ve got a whole new condition to claim and feed your ego with – and trust me, the ego loves this. Be it PTSD, depression, or something else, it’s a whole new identity to live through and get attention for ‘how bad’ you are. The thing is I’ve been there, I was living this identity for the year after the attack and 6 months after my Dad passed away. Allowing myself to get carried away with emotions then pulling out the ‘you have no idea what I’ve been through’ card. That changed in January of this year when I boarded a plane to Asia, because I made the decision to choose happiness and not wallow in the negativity of these traumas. That said, I’ve realised that in order to be truly happy I’ve had to go into my inner depth and unpack these emotions, attachments and traumas before getting to the ‘I’m getting through it’ stage. It’s really important to make this distinction and I feel like this is where some people get a little confused.

So firstly, let me clear this up – if years after these events I am moping around all day in negativity, getting angry, suffering in silence because things are too difficult to talk about or blaming others for not treating me right (pulling out that ‘you have no idea what I’ve been through’) card. Generally, spiralling around in negative patterns that I keep creating without truly moving forward in my life, then this is wallowing.

If on the other hand I become aware of an emotion as it comes up and I stop, sit with it and ask myself why has this upset me/made me angry/why am I negative today? Then this is the start of unpacking it. I’ve written about this in my emotional intelligence post but let’s truly explore this.

I’m going to be brutal about this: Most negative emotions that are experienced come from traumatic events that haven’t been unpacked fully. If it had been unpacked fully then there wouldn’t be any negative emotion around it because it would have been accepted and dealt with already. What about people who don’t feel like they’ve been through a ‘traumatic’ situation but experience a lot of negative emotions I hear you ask? Well, hardly anyone is trauma free. The majority of us would have experienced minor traumas in our childhood that we haven’t addressed which later manifest in our psyche (such as self-limiting beliefs, depression, anxiety etc) and sometimes in our physical body (Dr Jenn’s PhD was all about this, and so is Louise Hays book: You Can Heal Your Life). I’m sorry if this is the first time you’ve heard that you’re probably traumatised in some way, but hey, you’re reading this post and I’m going to share with you some great info to help you unpack these traumas!

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite powers of our light” – Brené Brown

So here’s my advice, from someone who has been there. From someone who has read around various subjects. From someone who has received some amazing support from psychologists, counsellors, acupuncturists, NLP practitioners and a variety of other therapists in the whole spectrum in mind body and spirit therapy:

1. Meditate. Neurologically speaking, meditation connects the emotional and logical parts of your brain, so rather than getting carried away with your emotions you actually become an observer of them. So instead of spiralling into depression you can literally stop yourself and say ‘hmm, I have some sadness today’

2. Explore inwards. When an emotion comes up, acknowledge it, accept it and explore it to find out why it’s coming up and where it’s from. It could even be from a seemingly insignificant even in your childhood that you didn’t realise bothered you, or a recent event that wasn’t fully dealt with.

3. Help yourself. Work to unpack every trigger, every self-limiting belief and seek the help you feel is right for you. If that’s acupuncture then go get it. Beating up a pillow in your room? Do it. Counselling? Book it. Everyone needs help now and then, whether it’s to talk something through with a friend or booking to see a professional, don’t stop yourself from getting what you need because of societies stigmas.

4. Be compassionate to yourself. Like me, you’re probably a human too and having emotions is perfectly normal – especially negative ones (no matter how much Instagram might try and convince you otherwise)! Even if you have really difficult emotions like guilt and shame come up for how you acted in a certain situation, show yourself compassion and acknowledge that you acted in the best way you could with the tools you had then. Let the emotion come up, then release it with compassion.

5. Listen to yourself. You’re the best guide for you, so tap into your feelings and let them steer you on your path. Even with these 5 steps, if they don’t feel right for you, don’t do them, just explore what does work for you right now and deal with what you can when you’re ready. And if you’re not ready that’s ok too, just listen to your body and follow what feels good for now (even if it’s avoidance through smoking/drinking, that might be your body’s way of distracting you until you are ready, but by meditating daily you can at least acknowledge this for what it is and stop it if it spirals out of control).
Like most things in life, unpacking emotions takes work. It can be uncomfortable at times and it can require persistence to get through the sticky parts but the rewards are worth it, trust me.

Like Brené Brown says:
“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite powers of our light”
Now with this knowledge wouldn’t you choose happiness too?

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,

 

Christmas Eve

A year ago today I fought.

It was Christmas Eve and I was in St Maarten (the Caribbean), in between jobs when a local man tried to rape me on the way home to my accommodation. There are some parts I remember and some parts I don’t but needless to say, the event somewhat traumatised me. I’ve spent the majority of this year trying to deal with the post-traumatic stress that wrestles with me regularly.

This Christmas I’m home but there’s someone missing – my Dad. It’s quiet in the house with one less person and it’s left a gaping hole in all of our lives. Being a Muslim, he never really celebrated Christmas, it was a camaraderie that he went on with for my brother, myself and my Mum, who’s Catholic. Being a Doctor, however, he worked every Christmas and when I was a kid I would go to his hospice to give out the lunches to the terminally ill patients that he was taking care of. Everyone seemed to love my Dad. I remember how the patients would fondly talk about him and tell me what a compassionate man he was, something that I would also be reminded of in the wake of his death as ex-patients and colleagues stop me, to talk about him when they see me.

The experience of giving out hospice lunches at Christmas made me very grateful for what I had – two amazing parents and my brother, all of us well and healthy. I think that’s what Christmas should be about too, being grateful for the presence of our loved ones. It’s only when we no longer have this that we realise that the presents, the dinner and fuss don’t actually matter at all.

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