You Always Have A Choice

One of the things that I found to be the most powerful in my recovery journey was realising that I always have choice. For example, I can choose to let my emotions control my behaviour and not take any responsibility for my actions, or I can choose to learn how to master my emotions and process all challenging emotions in a healthy way. I can choose to delve into substance abuse and drink away my problems. Only to find that they’re still there in the morning, or I can choose to speak to a therapist and find a way to process my problems in a healthy manner. All of this is a choice but often if someone is in the mist of emotional turmoil that hasn’t been dealt with then often they’re not aware that they have choice.

You probably know how this sounds “It’s not my fault”, “I’m not that bad”, “But you don’t know what I’ve been through” etc etc.

The thing is that everyone goes through ‘stuff’ and when it’s at it’s rawest, then so are our emotions, and it’s incredibly difficult to see that we have a choice with our behaviour. But we always do.

  1. Start a Reflective Practice

To help cultivate the awareness of choice the first step is to start a reflective practice such as journaling, and to ask yourself ‘Was I the best version of myself today?’ If not, maybe there some things you’re not proud of – what are they and what would you have done differently? By understanding this thought process in hindsight, it demonstrates that you choose that action, and therefore you can choose differently. The trick is to move this reflection into the present moment so that you can catch yourself before you make your choice.

  1. Provide the Opportunity to Receive Feedback

I realise that many friendships aren’t built on brutal honesty, and mine weren’t until I was faced with some raw emotions that took us all into some open honesty. I realised quite early on that I hadn’t created situations where my friends could give me honest feedback and this was mainly because I didn’t want to hear the truth. I’ve since realised that feedback from an outsider who knows you well is extremely valuable to keep you on track to becoming the best version of you.  To create this channel of reflection from my friends I used a trick called the BS card… click on the link to find out more. We don’t use this anymore because we’re accustomed to calling each other out bluntly, but at the start when we weren’t used to this the BS card helped a lot!

  1. Check into How You Feel, and Get Honest About It

Making bad choices that don’t serve us typically doesn’t feel good. Things like excessive drinking, or constantly feeling ashamed of your behaviour, or living in false hope that something will change. If something doesn’t feel good then there is always a reason for that, and it’s up to you to find out what that reason is. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because we’ve been told by society how we ‘should’ feel for years upon years, and sometimes it can be difficult to find out what those answers are. However, after practicing reflection and self-questioning this becomes easier because it’s literally like developing a muscle in the gym – you work on it and it gets stronger.

Realising I had choice was a lightbulb moment to me because it meant that I could steer my life in any way I wanted. Although, it also brought up some feelings of upset and regret as I became aware of the bad choices I’d made before I became aware of choice. I worked on processing the feelings connected to the bad choices, forgave myself and made a commitment to learn and do things differently. I hope now you realise you have choice that you can do the same thing too.

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

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

Shereen x

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

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Who The Hell Are You Anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Christmas Eve. Three Insightful Years Later.

Today it’s three years since I first posted on this blog, and what an insightful three years it’s been.

At the time when I started writing this blog I didn’t have any ambition for what it might be. I didn’t know where I was going with it or where it might lead. All I knew, was that I’d been through some challenging life situations and that expressing them through writing somehow made me feel better. It was the start of releasing emotional expressions which had been bottled up for years because I didn’t have the knowledge of how to let these emotions out in a healthy way.

Three years on and I’ve learnt a lot.

I’m proud of the way I’ve addressed my trauma recovery, and I’m grateful to every single person who played their part to help me along the way. My aim three years back was to explore my inner world and see how I could grow from the situations I’d been presented with, even if it meant sinking down into an uncomfortable hole of darkness (which it often did). I knew deep down that all of it would be worth the journey and that by talking about it openly I’d help others along their struggles too.

As I write this, I’m back in Bali – one of the places I resonated to when I needed healing the most. This time, I’m back here on holiday enjoying the food, the sun and the massages. Before I left for Asia, a few things rolled into place and it was the moment that I looked back at the three years past and I realised none of this was in vein.

I was asked to run a workshop on how to overcome ‘negative’ emotions, I called it the ‘Unstuck Yourself‘ workshop. This workshop had such a positive response that I ran a second and a third and I’m now running a coaching program helping others learn the emotional intelligence toolkit to get themselves out of any emotional rut. My aim is to set up initiatives which help people identify, unpick and release pent up emotions and gain a full emotional intelligence toolkit along the way. Eventually I’m going to build a luxury spa and trauma recovery centre (out of natural and sustainable materials of course) where anyone can come to process their emotions and traumatic situations.

I know all this sounds quite grand, and I’ve only just started on this new journey, but if I’ve learnt anything over the past few years, it’s that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Knowing that is what’s going to make these Christmas wishes come true.

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.

Merry Christmas!

Shereen x

Photo by erin walker on Unsplash

Back En Route

Hi, how are you? I’m Shereen, I used to live here, and after much deliberation I’ve decided to come back to and write from here.

It’s been a turbulent three years since all the interesting incidents happened in my life. Turbulent in terms of ups and downs, confusion and clarity, and every time I thought I turned a corner I found myself, somehow back at the start again. Or at least that’s what it sometimes felt like. In fact, that’s the reason that I decided to step away from this blog in the first place. I was done with having myself associated with the word trauma, being connected to it like we were conjoined twins who couldn’t escape each other no matter how much we pulled apart. By blogging on this site it served as a constant reminder that I wasn’t able to let go and move past what had happened. Thus wasn’t able to heal.

So I decided to leave it in January this year and set up a new blog straight from my name – shereensoliman.com. It helped, a bit. But I still found myself still analysing human behaviour, reading self help books and attracting new people in my life who had either just been through something traumatic or were in some stage of trauma recovery process. It’s not these actions were wrong in any way, it’s just that there became a time when all this exploration into trauma recovery had served its purpose for me. I’d simply learnt and processed as much as I needed to for this time, and for as long as I continued to swim around in these murky waters, I wasn’t going to get to where I wanted to be in life with my business, my romantic endeavours or my lifestyle. What I discovered was that although my decision to step away from the ‘trauma on tour’ title was of good intention, I hadn’t really done the work that I needed to in order to steer my life in the direction I wanted. In fact moving away from the blog didn’t really make that much of a difference for me at all, and even though I wasn’t writing from it I was still getting lots of daily hits and people reaching out to me through it. I’ve since figured that I may as well start to write from here again, if only to demonstrate that such challenging times can be overcome, and clarity of mind can be reached – without pills.

While moving away from the blog didn’t loosen the anchor of trauma that I felt weighed down by, the work that I continued to do on myself did. After having more therapy sessions this summer – this time in Creative Kinesiology, and also a soft psychology session with a good friend of mine. Things started to become much clearer in my life, I decided that there was work to be done and that I was ready to do it.

First things first – I decided that I don’t want to make a career out of this emotional intelligence stuff. I might be good at coaching some people and I know that I talk in an authentic (and blunt) voice that is sometimes rare in our modern times, but in terms of actually coaching people, I just don’t enjoy it. So I just stopped and decided that this was no longer to be a part of my relationships.  I’ve since felt a hell of a lot lighter.

Second of all, I decided to clear out my life. Coincidentally we’re renovating my childhood room back home, so my stuff is all over the place – a great opportunity to go through and get rid. After reading a book called Spark Joy (thanks to my brother who bought me this for my birthday), I’m literally in the process of chucking out every single physical thing in my life that doesn’t bring me a deep sense of joy to own it. I now walk around wearing only elegant clothes… because that’s how I want to feel. I also cut out those relationships in my life which weren’t right for me. The ones which sucked my energy or involved me having to defend myself. All of the ones where I felt a hint of negativity when I thought about them, because I want people in my life who spark joy in my and who I spark joy in too, why would I have it any other way?

Thirdly, I went back to what my dreams and passions were before all of this craziness started – to build my own Eco Spa. Sustainability and wellbeing are two things that I’m extremely passionate about; it’s why I have such random qualifications from Beauty Therapist to MSc in Sustainable Architecture, and regardless of all this trauma stuff, it’s the goal of my life to create this building. So I started making headway in this area too – contacting people, talking to anyone who will listen about my concept and making sure that any work that I do is in the general direction of this goal (my workshops combine sustainability and beauty and my remote work is for a sustainability charity).

I’m not sure how many corners there are left to turn, in fact it’s probably a never ending maze that we’re all in called life. However, I do know that if I at least have the courage to head towards my dreams then I’ll feel good no matter if I succeed or not. At least I’ll know I’ve tried. And after coming through what I managed to process over the last 3 years, surely building an Eco Spa should be a doddle in comparison right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I hope you enjoy my writing, there’s more to come.

Happy Exploring.

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 – 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

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

Is it Possible to Shake Out Trapped Emotions? Find Out in This Review of Kundalini Meditation

There are many kinds of meditation and the one I do in my personal time almost every day is a traditional vipassana – sitting up straight and concentrating on my breath. This can be quite difficult in the Western world because it requires us to slow the internal chatter that has been further increased in modern times with marketing messages, technology, and other stimulations. Fear not, fellow inner peace seekers the Osho Active Meditations that I review in this series have been scientifically designed for the busyness of the Western World, and thus Western mind.

Kundalini Meditation

The Kundalini meditation is a type of shaking and dancing meditation that helps move energy within the body. According to Emerging Sciences ‘Kundalini’ is the name given to the discovery of a certain mechanism in the body which is responsible for spiritual awakening.

There are four stages to this meditation; Shake, Dance, Be Still and Lie down, all are for 15 minutes each and play out in that order.

Stage 1. Shake 15 minutes

The stance for this I to stand hip width apart with both feet firmly placed on the ground. With knees bent and mouth slightly open we were asked to shake from the knees upward by bobbing up and down on from our knees, rickershaying a shake upwards through out bodies. This action moves the body in an up and down motion with slight forwards and backward rocking. We were encouraged to released sounds if we felt this but I’m not that vocal and to be honest I felt in new territory and wasn’t completely able to let go. It’s almost impossible to think at this stage but when I did find myself thinking the most common thoughts were self-conscious judgements ‘you look stupid’, ‘you’re not doing it right’, ‘you’re not doing it good enough’. Every time these came up I managed to shake them away and get back to feeling the shakes but this was a constant process of going back and forth as my mind came grabbing for the wheel of control. The struggle between the two was interesting to observe.

Stage 2. Dance 15 minutes

After 15 minutes of shaking with actually felt like it went n for a lot longer than it did so I was happy when the tape changed to dance music as we were encouraged to dance how we felt like and move around the room. I enjoyed this stage because I like dancing, but again I was surprised at the self-consciousness that came up, that I wasn’t dancing good enough. On reflection these self-conscious judgements stopped me from fully immersing myself in this stage because deep down I know that I wasn’t putting in the same effort of dancing that I do when I’m in my room, on my own singing my heart out to emotional songs which I actually do do on quite a regular basis (don’t pretend like you don’t do that too because I know it’s the first thing that anyone does when they realise they’re home alone… don’t they?). I realised that the notion of feeling self-conscious in front of a group of people doing the same thing in a non-judgemental space actually sounds ridiculous and again it’s another interesting discovery to go deeper into.

Stage 3. Be still 15 minutes

After 30 minutes of movement, we sat down in silence and concentrated on our breath, very much in the way I would do in my regular vipassana meditation. This is where the tears hit me, flooding out of my face like a gentle waterfall. I didn’t actually feel upset or sad, in fact, I felt numb but it was as though someone turned on the ‘eyes tap’ and the water just moved freely out. I’ve had a few experiences like this before when I’ve meditated, especially after my Dad passed away and I spun myself into busy avoidance – living out our ridiculous societal stereotype of ‘Keeping busy’ when something difficult in your life happens (yeah, great idea because by not validating our emotions they’ll just fade away right? No. Wrong. They most definitely will not). In reflection, those emotional releases when meditating are probably what has kept me balanced in times when I refused to acknowledge the inner turmoil that’s happening inside, obviously this stage shows that there is still more that needs to surface from my subconscious.

Stage 4. Lie down and be still 15 minutes

For this stage, we literally just lay back on the mat and again concentrated on our breathing. What I found interesting was that when I lay horizontal the tears began to stop and instead I was overcome with a feeling of exhaustion. An interesting reflection here is that I sometimes do my regular meditation lying down, not for any other reason that sometimes I’m a little bit lazy with it but by seeing this reaction of tears drying up when my body position changed it made me wonder if my positions of meditation affect my emotional expression. Maybe I have a comfort association with lying down and a focus association with sitting up? Maybe it’s easier to suppress tears in a lying down position? I don’t know but another area to investigate and play with.

Overall

I really enjoyed the Kundalini meditation and I found the internal struggle between my mind and my body actually really fascinating. In reflection, I particularly find the judgements towards myself a good insight into who I am and also what self-limiting beliefs lie beneath the surface which ultimately hold me back. ‘I’m not good enough’ is a constant record played that I have been consciously working through but subconsciously it still seems to be controlling the reigns of my thought patterns. Also the ‘looking stupid’ and ‘not doing it right’ are also threads which I suspected were pulling strings deep down. The underlying fear of not ‘fitting in’ or not being ‘perfect’. ‘Bringing this to light showcases how ridiculous it is and throughout the week I gradually felt myself standing into the place of the person I am wholeheartedly, without the shame of being ‘too fiery’, ‘too outspoken’ ‘too direct’ – all the tags that my society tells me I ‘shouldn’t’ be. Consciously I know that these are messages fed to us through corporate marketing to build up insecurities that can be directed to ‘solutions’ of buy this product to fix that. I know this intellectually because of the reading and studying I’ve done in psychology and marketing but I was really surprised how deep these threads ran into my subconscious regardless. I’ve found that underlying all of this is the need to accept myself for who I am, where I’m at and for what I’ve been through. Overall I found some very insightful messages surfacing which I see as positive directions of where to focus my healing.

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 Traditional Chinese Acupuncture Assist in the Release of Emotional and Physical Pain?

I’ve had acupuncture before at a physiotherapist clinic and for the most part, it was good. It certainly helped me release some physical tension in my body and relaxed me somewhat but when I had Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, the effect was something completely different.

I stumbled across a good acupuncturist in Bali and for some reason the first time I came across him, I didn’t end up booking a session but when I ended up in his presence again (at Hubud, a co-working space in Ubud, Bali) I decided that this might be a sign and I booked a session – trusting my intuition here was the best thing I did because this treatment at that time brought around a whole mindset change. My Therapist for this session was Ben Elan who’s services include Narrative Counselling and Classic Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Cupping). He offers a very holistic care service with talk therapy, and energy work based on the intuition and agreement of client and therapist, the way I believe all therapies should be.

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

The sessions

There were four sessions in total and they were spaced over a course of 4 weeks with a week between treatments. The first session lasted 90 minutes and involved a thorough consultation period, where I explained the physical pain on my left side, how long it had been there, significant life events, and of course the most recent traumatic events. Ben asked a series of questions and I answered them in as much detail as I could. As I’ve talked out the traumas and my life events so much I’m quite happy and open to explain everything and give a therapist as much information as they need so that they can use their experience and knowledge to assess how best to treat me.  After the initial 90 minute session, the following 3 sessions they took on average 60 minutes each, as the consultation period was more of a review of what had happened in the last week since the last session, however we would usually find that some additional life information would pop up and provide more of an insight to Ben and his decision of how to treat me for that session. Following the consultation period, I would lie on the massage couch, on my back while Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists one at a time. This usually took about 5 minutes per wrist and would give him an idea of how my energy was running through my body – not being an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine I don’t have much of a clue what this means, but when he explained to me what he could feel my pulse his assessments were a clear representation of how I felt inside. For example he explained that he could feel a haze, which is normal after trauma because it’s a way of protecting the body. That falls in toe with how I would sometimes feel completely numb to certain things, as though I was unable to access certain feelings. After this, Ben would tell me how many needles he would like to use and where he would like to place them and then he asked me if this was ok with me. Of course, it was, that’s what I was there for but it felt very empowering as a client to be asked if this was ok, something I always appreciate.

There were never more than five needles used and the number of needles depended on my current state of mind, my pulse and what Ben believed was safe and appropriate for that session. During one appointment he only used two needles because he was concerned that I might have a strong reaction if I had more than that, which wouldn’t be good if I wasn’t ready for it. “It’s like if you pull a scab off that’s not really healed underneath yet, the wound will just scab over again” he said. I liked that analogy and he was spot on because even with two needles I had a strong reaction after that session. It was a positive strong reaction but it felt very powerful, three needles might have overwhelmed me.

For those who haven’t had acupuncture before and might be concerned about the needles, I can assure you that they don’t hurt more than a light scratch. They’re not the type of needles used in syringes; in fact they’re a lot thinner, at most they feel like a scratch when they penetrate the skin and then there’s a somewhat dull ache when the needle hits an energy point. The needles would usually stay in for about 20 minutes, and then Ben would remove them and ask if I’d like a glass of water. Just like all therapies, it’s important to drink plenty of water to flush out toxins in the body once the energy (physical or meridian) has been moved around. After the session, we would usually have a chat about what I might expect to feel and he would assure me that I could contact him if I felt unsure about anything, which was really reassuring.

Throughout the four sessions Ben worked on a variety of things and having a sequence of sessions with one practitioner was really beneficial because we could reflect on how I’d felt the week after the treatment. During the first session he concentrated on my general energy flow and placed needles accordingly to see how I would react, I felt fine straight after and very relaxed that evening. During the second session he started to get a bit more strategically, I guess he had a good idea of how I was reacting to the acupuncture. For this session he concentrated on my left side on the pain that I regularly experience – the ‘heart protector’ area because the muscles there seemed tight and overworked (can you blame me after the year I’ve had??). After this session I was quite emotional and did have a few strong emotional releases throughout the week following this appointment. On the third session he simply placed two needles on my right wrist and elbow to help open up my heart energy flow and this is where I had the strong reaction. Straight after I was full of energy and in a very positive mood which lasted for quite a few days before I then had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but I felt physically less tense and happy within myself, something which I had lost in all the numbness. The final session was a more of a general session to get my energy flowing and I also had some suction cups on my back because I was experiencing the beginning of a cold. Suction cups apparently help rid the body of toxins. After the final session I felt sleepy and exhausted, but that was probably more because I was becoming ill rather than the acupuncture, however processing all those emotions, at that intensity and speed probably was starting to tire me out after four weeks.

Pre-session sense check – (20 April 2016, the day before my first session)

Physically – At the start of the four sessions, I still had the grappling pain on my left side. The pain would stem from the back of my neck, across my shoulder, spreading across the front and back of my chest, under my arm and down my left arm, down to my ring finger. I’ve had the pain on and off for about 6 years, which was about the time that I started to feel unsupported emotionally (this ties in perfectly with what Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life has to say). It goes on and off but intensifies at times when I feel vulnerable or scared. Generally, I felt a little fatigued at the start of the 4 weeks but that’s something I was coming to accept after experiencing the emotional traumas – processing is exhausting.

Emotionally – I still felt like I was in a bit of a flux emotionally. Ok one minute then not the next, confused most of the time as to whether I was feeling clear headed or not, and in general still a little numb sometimes. During the time I was having the acupuncture sessions I was in a period of ‘time out’ to specifically work on process things as they came up and working on accepting and expressing my emotions. I was knee deep in a messy process and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be done so I was just taking things one day at a time, and Bali allows for this which I am grateful for.

Post session feeling – (23 May 2016 – 3 weeks after my final session date, 2 May 2016)

Physically – It was during the third session that I felt a physical release in my left shoulder. I had two needles in my right arm and they were placed strategically to help open up my heart – the physical pain that I was experiencing was from my heart being tightly protected (and who could blame me after everything that I’d been through). I remember this session vividly because after it I was full of energy and I felt like a whole weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt light again and I had forgotten what it felt to be like that, that pain that used to come on and off over the last 6 years has dissipated completely and it’s remarkable to feel so free from it.

Emotionally – Just before the last session of acupuncture I remember feeling like I was just bored of my trauma story now. I had a complete mind shift in the last week of the acupuncture sessions (and last week in Bali) and I felt like I was making decisions with a clearer mind, one that wasn’t so muddled up by emotional stories playing scare tactics in my brain. A mind that wasn’t fogged by emotions, judgements and should I or shouldn’t I. Since the last session I have felt more open, refreshed and comfortable in my own skin to the point where I feel like I can be here for others – a state which I haven’t felt for a long time.

Overall

I was having the acupuncture sessions during my last month in Bali and it was a time when I had decided to stay in one place and work through my emotions, so as well as having the acupuncture I was also talking through a lot of things, dancing and expressing myself creatively. However, I know that acupuncture has a strong effect on me and I think it was the tool that I needed to help speed up my recovery journey and get me to the point where I felt empowered to move forward to the next chapter of my life, whatever that may be (stay tuned). As well as working with a therapy that I know I respond to, a lot of this also comes down to the therapist and in this case I couldn’t have asked for someone more intuitive or safe than Ben. He has an air about him which creates a space of emotional safety and I could feel this from the moment that I met him, almost like that comforting feeling of someone you trust placing their hand on your shoulder. I found him to be professional and supportive throughout the treatments and the ability for him to hold space for himself and for me, his client was something that he was able to do very successfully. This is extremely important as a therapist because without this security then I client cannot relax into their hands, inhibiting their own recovery by holding back. Ben allowed me to feel safe enough to express my emotions and vulnerabilities fully, which I know aided my response to the treatment even more.

Acupuncture worked for me and I was lucky enough to find a very intuitive therapist which is key to any treatment. It’s something that is worth exploring and I would highly recommend it for someone who is going through any emotional or physical pain. Going to an acupuncturist who is also a trained counsellor was also very beneficial. I’m unsure as to whether all Traditional Chinese Acupuncturists are trained in counselling but it is definitely worthwhile finding one who is and arranging to have a series of sessions to allow for sense checking and reflections. Check out my 3 step guide to finding the right therapist if you’re ready to start your own healing journey.

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

When to Call it a Day With Your Therapist

We live in a bit of a ‘go to an expert to fix all my problems’ kind of culture and because of this I find that there can be a tendency to stay with a therapist longer than necessary or worse yet, stay with one that doesn’t necessarily help at all, yet because we’ve handed our power over them in the short-sighted belief that they can fix us we don’t even realise that we’re not getting better. Let me be clear about this – only you can heal yourself and it’s up to you to take that responsibility, find those tools (from the right therapists) and commit to doing that difficult work, yourself. I find that until this realisation is met many people spend a lot of time spiralling in avoidance and escapism spirals in the illusion that someone is healing them, when in reality only you can heal yourself. I know this because I experienced this first hand and had to call myself out on my own bullsh*t, but to do that takes awareness, reflection and courage, it wasn’t easy.

When I think about therapy, there are a lot of things at play here and ultimately the therapist is only human too so we have to see them for what they are – someone who provides tools for us to heal ourselves, whether that’s providing healing through massage for symptoms such as physical pain or a different perspective on how to think about life events. The role of a therapist isn’t to give the final fix solution and to think of them in this way is naive, like any other human, they might get it wrong or their judgement might get the better of them and this is ok (within reason) because they’re only human too. This isn’t to say that they should be allowed to work by sloppy practices, not at all. As long as they act professionally and try to do the best for the client with the tools that they have available to them I think it’s acceptable to acknowledge that they are on their own journey too, learning things and passing them on as they go. But ultimately the work that needs to be done remains within the responsibility of the client.

I’ve found that in order to really steer my recovery I had to keep asking myself a series of questions so that I didn’t get lost in the wishful thinking that x, y or z therapy was going to ‘heal me forever’ because that my friends, that, is delusional thinking. These are the questions that I use to sense-check my therapies and how they are currently working for me.

  1. Has this session made a positive influence on me?

If you read my therapy reviews you’ll notice that I do a physical and emotional sense check before and after each therapy review. By doing so I allow myself to check in with the current state, record them as they are, then I can go back to what I’ve written and objectively see whether or not the therapy was beneficial to me, rather than just rely on my (often rose-tinted) memory. If no positive difference has been made then you can choose to persist and see if you need a few more sessions to really get into it or consider that it may not be the one for you. If it’s positive, great! Stick with it for as long as you continue to get what you need from it.

  1. Am I still getting what I came here for?

Firstly what are you going to the particular therapy for? If you’re going to have your symptoms treated then regular sessions are probably useful and necessary, that’s how I use sports massages – a good way to manage the problem of my tense shoulder that is sometimes unbearably tight. However, if you’re looking to heal then it might help if therapy is seen as an opportunity to receive tools that help you solve your problems. I used my counselling sessions for both treatments of symptoms – I needed to vent in a non-judgemental space to release some pent up emotion but I also needed some objective viewpoint and knowledge of what might be happening in my brain to be able to understand, process and help myself in the reflection periods in between sessions. After quite a few sessions I reached a point where I felt like I’d attained all the tools that I needed from this counsellor and that particular therapy. It was the signpost that I didn’t need any more sessions, for then at least. I take comfort in the fact that I know a good counsellor who knows my baggage and can be there for more sessions as and when I need them for now though I feel quite capable of processing on my own and I know this comes from a place of reassurance, rather than fear of what’s in my subconscious.

  1. What does my intuition say?

Ultimately all therapists are only human and are still susceptible to human traits, such as mistakes, misjudgements and their own emotions. The most important role of a therapist is to create the security for you to be able to get what you need from them, whether that is emotional security in a meditation workshop, physical security in salon environment or psychological security in a counselling session. If you don’t feel safe then you won’t be able to indulge in the therapy. I found however, that the fear can either be a resistance to the therapy for fear of expression (usually because of the shame that our society associates with expression of emotion) or that it’s a legit message from my intuition that is telling me that this person/therapy isn’t right for me at this moment. I always air how I feel now and give the therapist the opportunity to make me feel secure, just in case it’s my own worry of what I’m too shameful to let go of, which most of the time it is. If the therapists answer fills me with integrity and security then I know that it was a fear of vulnerability/expression popping up but it’s always worth sense-checking this because I have had a few experiences where I’ve not been satisfied with the answer and I’ve upped and left the therapy altogether.

For example, my first experience with a counsellor after the attack was not positive but I fought my intuition and went back a second time and this time I told the counsellor of my expectations – of being able to get on a boat in 4 weeks time and sail from the UK to Mallorca, in winter, with three men I’d never met before. The answer I received rang alarm bells for me to change counsellor, it was “I would never recommend for any young woman to get on a boat across tricky waters with three strange men, let alone in the state that you’re in”. What happened here was that the counsellor had measured me by her own limitations when in reality our risk factors and capabilities are completely different. As a trained counsellor, she should have been able to extract her judgement from her professional opinion but she didn’t.  This is actually pretty bad practice for a counsellor and I hope that she has the mindfulness to reflect on this, and why I ultimately cancelled all our future sessions, however, I also recognise that like me, she’s also only human too and we’re all constantly working through things so I’m compassionate towards this. I can’t expect everyone to have the same level of courage, adventure and well, let’s be fair, recklessness that I may appear to have, I imagine for some this attitude to life is really scary. I can, however, choose to leave a therapist that doesn’t understand me and find one that does, which I did because ultimately I am in control my healing, no anyone else.

For the record, I got on that boat and sailed across those ‘tricky’ waters with those three ‘strange’ men.

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