Today is a calm day at work, maybe simply because it’s Friday and people are getting ready for the weekend. Who wants to be serious then? I am using the time diligently (almost) and have for example taken some phone calls and been to 2 hours of supervision. I`ve had one patient, and have read a little bit, also. The chapter I`m reading right now is about giving yourself as much compassion as everyone else. This is maybe one of the most central themes in my work, and something especially hard for
traumatized people. They`re so used to focusing on others, because they had to, before. If mother was in a good mood, then maybe that day would be okay. Maybe it would even be possible to do something nice together.
Right now I feel the need for comfort, myself. It’s 5 month after my big love left me, and my heart is healing so slowly. If I try to contact him, just in case he has changed his mind, I never get anything else than more disappointment, and the knowledge that he`ll never ever be with me again, is just so hard to take in. When I hear songs reminding me of the situation, I have to turn it off, and I still haven`t seen one romantic movie after the break-up. I don`t even like to be around couples. I have no problem connecting with my patients and their pain from rejection. So now I want to try to give myself crutches, myself a chance to stand upright even when I feel nothing is right.
First of all, it’s not the first time I`ve lost somebody. Like I`ve already written in my narrative, I lost my very best friend and my first real love while still struggling to grow up. I spent years trying to come to terms with loosing my first love, and I even thought about us while I was in new relationships. If I read books about people finding each other again after a long time, I hoped that would happen to me. After some time I felt better again, and tried to move on.
I have to remind myself of the struggles I`ve had, and how I always tried to continue fighting even when I just wanted to lay down, letting nature take me back to the earth. I`ve been in the rain countless times, and I managed to crawl back into a dry house after a while. These last months have been so difficult, and I am really proud that I got through Christmas, New Year and Valentine in one piece. Valentine was even a good day, because I treated myself so nicely; Ate something good, did scrapbooking, put on music and was proud that I could enjoy myself so much. It’s the first time I spent any of those big occasions without a boyfriend, and I feel stronger. Instead of finding some random person to soothe me, I soothed myself, and I am proud of myself.
I still see his face when I close my eyes, but now I work towards mixing the good things with the bad. How I felt when he was never there, how it hurt when he thought I was demanding too much, the way he never asked about my day or how he was restless when he finally was at home. I was always trying to make him, and still he only told me I was reacting the wrong way. He told me I was overreacting when I tried to talk about how I felt, and that I made it more uncomfortable for him to be home. I did many things wrong, because I felt neglected, and that made me feel even worse and more unstable. I know I`m to blame for a lot of things, but I ALSO have to remember I always did my best.
Another thing I must remember is how hard I have worked to be a better person. I have reproached myself, cried my frustrated tears without anyone to dry them, and gone to sleep alone most nights. I`ve had a warm shower when I really need it, and been social and active. I`ve not missed one day at work, and always focus 100 % at my patients, and I have been completely honest with people around me on how I`m doing. I`ve also been honest with people who liked me more than what I could return, and felt I have been able to not let anything go too far. I`ve also had my share of rejections from some people I’ve met, who I could have liked a bit more, without feeling too bad about it. I`ve told myself I have to take the time I need, and given myself some invisible hugs when the world is grey around me. I must remember that I need this time to heal, and that I obviously deserve it. I shouldn`t feel bad for using several hours on nothing, like staying on the internet or watching some tv-show. I`m much harder on myself than with anyone else, and always keep these unreasonable standards on what I have to accomplish.
To elevate my mood and take care of my body I have started swimming and running 2-3 times a week. Even when on vacation or at home, I try to put some exercise into the program. Today I walked to work for the first time in a long time, and it felt great! I am eating healthy most of the time, but still eat dessert, chocholate or drink chai caramel when I want to. I have met people I and prioritized spending time with them. I also have to learn to not feel bad if I say no to something, because I MUST have time on my own. It`s essential that I can just be with the bad feelings, that I see I can bear it and even learn more about how to control them.
And what about who I am? I have sometimes done bad things, but that doesn`t mean that I AM bad. I have hurt people because that`s easier than being hurt myself, but it still doesn`t make me a person unworthy of love. I struggle, and instead of dragging myself down, by thinking I’m horrible, I have to see that I also do good things, every day.
It can be the small things like holding the door when I see someone coming towards me, and bigger things, like saying to my supervisor today that it`s not okay that my patient is treated bad by her mother. It can be to give my brother a hug and a heartfelt compliment, and it can be to validate someone else`s pain. I think about the environment, and don`t use my money on fancy and expensive stuff. I want to be real, and am proud that I actually can show that it`s okay to do mistakes. We all do, and we will probably do them again. Most of us don`t have energy or time enough to really work on our issues, and there are so many expectations the whole time, that we just have to fail once in a while. I can be creative, get new ideas from diverse bits of information and try to keep updated on what`s going on in the world. I also try to be open to meet new people, and to let the unknown rest where it should be: In the future that no one can see.
Taking all this together, I`ve done a considerable amount of work, and that shows my strength. It shows that I can Survive and thrive, and when I get through this I will surely grasp the opportunities that I deserve. I will take my time, mull it over, and really feel if its right or not, when I go into a new relationship, and I will be honest anout my past and what I hope for. I want to give myself this letter, because I have felt a unhappy the last days, and I need to remind myself that what I`m trying to do is hard work. I am allowed to hope that things will turn around again. I can choose which path I choose, and no one can stop me.
Enjoy your time while waiting for the last scraps of sorrow to fade away, because there is no reason not to.
I want to ask everyone who’s reading this: How would your letter be? What is good about you? Do you give yourself enough comfort? Could you give even more? What would be really great for you, and why do you deserve it in the first place? If you don’t feel like writing a whole letter, is it possible to think about those questions? It`s far too common to forget oneself in a hectic life.
Noah`s Ark is one of the big blockbusters from Hollywood, there is so much advertisement that I probably will see it myself, not so much because of Hollywood, but because I`m quite curious when it comes to the story. I have never read the bible, and just know what we learnt at school (but a lot of that is forgotten already). I still don`t know what I think about religion, but I`ve realized that no matter what you believe, stories have their own power, true or not. One of the most powerful stories I`ve ever read (it still lingers in my mind) is The Woman Who Stood Naked Before Her Lover, and even if I`m still not sure why I loved it so much, I think the was the mystery and how I felt it told me something profound about life.
I think stories in the bible are popular partly because they have some of the same honesty and lessons about life in them. The story of Adam and Eve is so profoundly human, and symbolically its a piece of art people immediately respond to even if they never understood art before.
The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God” Pope Francis declared.In a speech that shocked many, the Pope claimed “All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there?
The reason that I wanted to write about Noah`s ark is because I saw a news channel this morning, talking about the Noah`s Ark museum in Denmark. The point is to teach people the story, without saying if it`s true or not. Some people who went there, were described as silent when they left the exhibition. “We think many are surprised, not because they suddenly believe in the story, but because they are impressed by the story and everything they didn`t know”.
I think we all need a Noah`s Ark every now and then. A place to feel safe, where we can be protected when it feels like we`re drowning. We psychologist don`t need to be afraid integrating metaphors and images from stories like these.
James Hillman, psychologist and director of studies at the Jung Institute in Zurich points out: “We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Therapy and the World’s Getting Worse”.
ike we literally might need some kind of Noah`s Ark soon, or tragedy will walk into everyone`s houses. The news of today could report that a Ebola virus has indeed been found, that is spreading without any vaccine available. I saw a documentary about the Ebola Virus: once, and it scared me so much I couldn`t watch more of it. I thought: This is really dangerous. It spread like fire, and you died fast. They have no closed the boarders of Senegal to reduce the problem. It reminds me a bit of “Inferno” by Dan Brown that I finished a month ago. Another book (Nothing to envy) I`ve read (it was recommended from a friend in United Kingdom) wrote about the state of North-Korea, and the stories I read also scared me.
This morning, the news could tell us that South and North-Korea has shot more missiles, and North-Korea has been clear on their unwillingness to cooperate. Another news item, was that FN Climate Panel had said that the changes we experience in the climate, will lead to more conflicts the next years. We have the problem with overpopulation, and the resources are dwindling. Russland is threatening Ukraine, and I`m afraid there will be less and fewer places where kindness is the norm.
Yesterday I interviewed and talked about the kindness project with several people. I went to a couchsurfer dinner with6 others (for example Kirstine Desian) and they said that it wasn`t usual for a lot of people to come, especially not if alcohol was involved. I was a bit saddened by this. Is this the only way people interact? Another new`s story focused on mental health, and even if many Danish people have psychological issues, it`s still stigma when it comes to mental health.
I hope that the reader feel helpless after reading this, because some do. They think: The world is in a bad state and there is nothing we can do. But is that true? I was surprised by the kindness I met when walking around in Copenhagen, and when I interviewed random people. We feel good when we do good, and many found it easier to remember things they had done to others than kindness other`s had showed them. In other words: We do like to give, and our memories stores those experiences more readily than getting something from. 10 points to altruism if you ask me.
We are already many in the kindness group, who have committed ourselves to reflect on and do small things for others.
One lecturer told us: If we`d helped only one person with mental health issues, to get better, we`d already paid for our studies. That is encourgaing, and shows the potential of kindness and helping others
Remember pay it forward? It might go slow in the start, but if everyone started to do one kind act in a month, what could that lead to? How many turn off the lights when earth hour comes?I`ve made a podcast, and if someone would like to join in, you`re very welcome. My dream is to pay people for doing interviews and writing about kindness, and I am not so far away from reaching that goal.
It can feel like the world is going under, and that Noah`s Ark can`t save us anymore, buy is there any harm in trying? I have seen so many people, ready to drown, that start to swim and find paradise on the other side.
I don’t even care what the world thinks about how I sound
Christina Aguilera, Sing For Me
Anachronism (noun): an error in chronology; a person or thing that’s chronologically out of place
I put my hand under the faucet, letting cold water touch my skin, skin warmed up by my boiling mind. I am here. The really cold water remind me of this simple fact that we often forget. I close my eyes a bit, to enjoy the sensation even more. Closing my eyes brings back memories from other times when I was not in the here and now. When my chaotic life consisted of more tomorrows and yesterdays than life today That was the time when my colors were grey, my mood black and my road consisted of an invisible bleak color. I made no sound then, only some lamenting noise that I`d rather mute.
We come to this world from a watery place that feels safe like a warm, cozy house. There we are all alike, we know nothing more except what our fluid surroundings tell us. When we finally come out to our version of reality, we have to find our place in it. Some of us, never quite do. At one point we`d rather be at a mountain top, smoking plants with ancient mountain-people, at another rather lie burrowed in the earth we supposedly come from. We swim upstream and downstream, seldom relaxing to just float. Bubbles burst, and shattered pieces remind us of who we once were.
Last year I got the chance to travel to dream-destinations of mine. China. It was my chance to be in my tomorrows, walk on my mountain-tops and my chance to just be. From early on, I feel in love with simple life-views portrayed in movies like Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and.., Spring and books like “Eat pray, love”. The first steps to some of these philosophical views were mapped out by Asians, so the wish to walk at the same earth as they did, grew until the turning compass-needle in my heart pointed directly at Asia. What would I see in my own personal mirror?
One of the many places I got the chance to touch with myl Norwegian shoes, was Hong Kong. There I enjoyed an extraordinary experience where I sure felt out of place constantly, silently enjoying it.
When you eat, do you taste every bit like it would be your last? When I was a child, I remember how I enjoyed a German chocolate after coming back to Norway. I saved it as long as I could, prolonging the joyful taste and thereby squeezing more happiness from it. I did this since I knew it would be long until next time a piece of Yogurette could melt on my tongue. The more grown-up and richer one gets, the less one savors what enters our senses. For this reason, “Dialogue in the dark” was just what my under-stimulated nerve-cells needed. Before I attendedthis unorthodox tourist-experience, I just knew that it was created by blind people, and that we would learn something from it. My inner owl hooted in satisfaction, even when someone put a blindfold over me over me and 9 other unknown people eyes. It was pitch dark, but the next hourwere filledwith so much color that it felt like I finally could see again.
I heard a classical piece of music that whirred up strong emotions, I touched objects that made my senses boomerang in wonder. I heard sounds never noticed before, and my body was drenched in water that almost crept under my skin. The excitement I felt, doubled by the mere presence of the strangers around me who had their own surprised exclaims and sounds. Although I`ll never meet those people again, their voices and laughter has left an imprint on my soul. The exquisite meal we had at the end, felt like it must have done for the 12 disciples. With no sight and no disturbing white noise, I could fully appreciate what I tasted and how lucky I was to be there.
I sure felt the truth of this after we had touched, tasted, felt and walked in the dark, but shining, room in Hong Kong. In the loud silence of our journey through the dark, I could focus completely on how the food tasted and felt. I also had time to appreciate the fact that I sat there, completely free from inhibitions and restrictions, enjoying food some children never get to taste. I am one of the one percent of the population with this chance,
Even if this can be categorized under the most disorganized experiences of my life, I have never felt so clear about anything before.
Where have you arrived, and what is the sound of your symphony in the dark?
It’s so good to finally want to write again. Sometimes the thirst is there, at other times Its not. I like writing when it’s dark and silent, Since my thoughts can roam without distractions. I especially love writing when I have a lot of thoughts buzzing around, as it helps me to organize the jumble of nerve connections. It aligns the mess in more manageable units, so I can go to bed with a calmer mind. Christmas and other holidays have a tendency to trigger thoughts. It’s all the impressions that need to be processed and integrated in my mind. It can be small things, like the gifts I got and how that made me feel, or more essential questions, like my future or how the past has effected me. Instead of turning in my bed, I choose to turn it all around in my head. I let the thoughts free through letters and mix it all together, making a new map of the world. Life is essential about this; Understanding the world and giving it meaning. Without meaning we feel empty and lost. We need to find meaning in both good and bad experiences. If we don’t we feel depressed or anxious. We feel like something’s missing. It doesn’t matter who you are and which circumstances surrounds you. No matter how you have suffered, you can still find happiness if you manage to find the meaning in the meaningless.
I wish you all a merry Christmas. Maybe my readers also find wisdom in silent nights where thoughts can roam without interruptions?
@SabineBraun: Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. Chinese Proverb
Because mindfulness requires a commitment to regular practice. If there is no commitment, then the mind can easily be drawn back into it’s old ways. Modern life holds so many distractions and it bombards us with so much information that it can lead the mind astray easily.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who pioneered secular mindfulness says the following:
“Making a time for formal practice every day is like feeding yourself every day. It is that important.”
Vidyamala has done so much for the field of mindfulness in the UK. After learning how to manage her own chronic pain through mindfulness, Vidyamala set up the Breathworks mindfulness foundation that offers mindfulness course to those trying to managa their own pain, illness and anxiety. Read her breathtaking interview with Everyday Mindfulness here.
Danny Penman wrote the critically acclaimed ‘Finding Peace In A Frantic World’ with Prof. Mark Williams. This book has helped so many find mindfulness in difficult circumstances. In this interview with Everyday Mindfulness, he discusses his own journey to the practice and contemplates the future for mindfulness.
Ed Halliwell is the author of ‘The Mindful Manifesto.’ He found mindfulness at a low point in his life, and the practice brought him back to life and enabled him to better manage his moods. Read his personal and moving journey to the practice here.
Nick has been a regular meditator for 20 years, coming to the practice after struggling with poor health and low moods. He is now an established mindfulness teacher in Brighton, England. Read his fascinating interview here.
Richard Gilpin is a highly respected counsellor and Cognitive Behaviour Psychotherapist with a specialist interest in mindfulness. He is also the author of Mindfulness For Black Dogs & Blue Days – Finding A Path Through Depression. In this revealing and wide-ranging interview, Richard explains how meditation dramatically changed his life and led him away from chronic suffering. Read the interview here.
Gill Hasson is a teacher, trainer and writer, based in Brighton. Her expertise is in the areas of confidence and self esteem, communication skills, assertiveness and resilience. She also teaches accredited courses on the subjects of mentoring and counselling skills. Her latest book is entitled “Mindfulness: Be Mindful. Live In The Moment.” Read the interview here.
When a pendulum swings one way, there will often come a different reaction that ultimately leads to a shift in view. This means that theories will be created, updated and ultimately rejected if it does not explain the data collected in a good way. This is especially true for psychology, where theories and ideas have been proposed and opposed in a consistent fashion. When we had no other way than our minds to study the insides us, this was particularly true. The history of psychology is in some way a very recent one, but it is also an old one, since philosophers have tried to understand thought and behavior since we were able to. Plato, Aristoteles, Descartes and so on, all tried to construct models on how we could live a good life, and what determined it. Descares, for example, thought we had a body (matter) and a mind. He thought those were divided from each other, and this thought is still alive today when people discuss if a psychiatric condition is biological or psychological (most people now think its a combination of both). Locke, proposed that we were “tabula rasa”, which meant we were born ready to take in the world as we wanted, but that is not so. We are influenced by our genes and what we experience in the womb. We are “ready” for the world we come into, but the meaning we make of it is created along the way. We are probably the only species who need this, who has to have meaning in addition to just existing. For example we are born with a knowledge about what gives us pleasure: Milk, warm objects, a nice voice and so on. We automatically approach that, like the baby searching for the nipple. Baby`s automatically cry when they need something, this is also something they were born with.
Back to how something goes back and forth. I will demonstrate this principle with using examples from the history of psychology.
Mind over matter
I have already mentioned Descartes`s name. Many people know the name and maybe some of his theory. Descartes thought we where divided in soma/matter and in mind/consciousness. This was a popular thought, that in some ways relate to the idea of an eternal soul, that we meet in many religions. This dualism has shaped how our society is constructed and how we treat each other. If we believe there is a soul, that will go to heaven or hell after we die, we will want not to sin (we want pleasure in heaven, not pain). Descartes was sure about this division, and a lot of others, were, too. Then the princess of Bohemia comes along. She asks Descartes: If mind and matter really are divided, then how can they interact? Descared`s answer was that there must be a place in the brain where it happens, and proposed the pineal gland. This actually did nothing to strengthen his argument, since the pineal gland is itself biological tissue. When we got the methods to study the brain, we found out there is no “soul” in the pineal gland, so new theories tried to explain our thoughts and actions (the pendulum swung).
The uterus and the devil
One had a phenomena (for example, extreme mood swings in women) that had to be explained. In the start the one of the explanations could be that the uterus was too dry. For that reason, it had to “find” moisture in the body, and did so by “wandering” around in the body. When it wandered around, it explained why moody women “twisted” and seemed so agitated. In borderline PF-disorder some of the symptoms can be constant shifting moods, strong emotions, flashbacks and analgesia to pain (the same symptoms “hysteric” women had). The uterus theory was after a while challenged, since it couldn`t explan why men without an uterus could have the same symptoms. Another theory explaining some of these symptoms, was that our “nervous system” had literally been “shaken”. But that did not explain why people who hadn`t been “shaken” had the same symtoms. Another popular theory was phrenology, where different “bumps” in the brain were related to different personality characteristics.
When we didn`t know much about psychology, stress-symptoms could even be explained as manifestations of a devil possessing the “patient”. Exorcism was then the solution. After a while, people started to criticise the theory, and again the pendulum swung to new explanations that fit the data better. One of the new explanations was the theory of “hysterics”. Hysteria was a popular term when Freud was young, and he was very interested in the phenomena, and ultimately this led to his grand psychoanalytic theory.
All these examples, show how we make theories, clarify them, challenge them, or even discard them, if they don`t fit the knowledge we have collected by different means. We actually do this all the time, as children. We explore by putting things in our mouth, to see if it is edible (we learn some things are not) and must make another category for it (it is an animal, and they should not be eaten, at least not when they are alive). This way we learn and become who we are today. This means that through history, we have explained many of the same “symptoms” with different theories that also influence how we “treat”” those symptoms.
War-time and new theories
When the war came, the condition of PTSD was not particularly known. After the war, however, a lof of men got a variety of symptoms. It could be mood-swings, irrational behavior (anger over “nothing”) or flashbacks. This also had to be explained, and when we knew more about biology, we learnt that certain things happened in a stressful situation, like adrenaline being released in the body. When they came back from the war, this still happened even when there was no real threat around them.
The mind and body works together, and this ultimately lead to the theory about dissociation.
After thinking and writing down some of my plans for the next couple of days, I will now draw the curtains and shut the window for the night. I’m quite excited, so I wonder if I can ‘shut out’ the thoughts and ideas that are jumping up and down. I just know I look forward to waking up, drawing back the curtains and opening the window for a new day with a different view.
Tiredness tickles me, but I stare bravely at my new mac-screen, with my legs crossed and a cup of warm, green tea at my side. I am in a mood to reflect about my day, before it flutters away like most days do. Small pieces of it assemble in my mind and hurry down to the knots, reminding me of getting up from a warm bed with my new love still in it, then going to work after 5 blissful days off, and all the little things that a day consists of. This evening I have used my big shot machine, to roll well-used templates through the pressure created by two plates upon each other, which resulted in many pretty figures that eventually will decorate purple and blue cards. I have treated myself nicely today, since I sometimes have felt rather clumsy and hopeless. It can be small things; Like making coffee, trying to balance it while walking, and then realizing that the content is reduced and the floor spotted with brownish dots. It can be two girls talking about skiing and their kids, while I know I can`t relate, since I`m in a different word than theirs. It can be clients feeling lonely, not picking up the phone, and with thousand worries lining their words. To smooth their worried brows I have thought about calm, rocking movements.
To comfort my own small bruises I have put my feet in scolding water, letting it soak me while scrubbing off yesterday`s news. I pull blankets around me, thereby keeping tiredness warm. I even sat in the sun for a while, closing my eyes and thinking about nothing while feeling fairly calm. I`ve also used my rocking ring, letting it swirl around me like a pretty dress, round and round in swift movements.
I love the rhythm of it, the safeness in it`s continuity. It`s the feeling of a rocking boat, a rocking horse, or sitting in a rocking chair with someone dear. When the ring touches my stomach, I block out other thoughts since I crave sensations. If thoughts or anxiety try to knock on my door, I just let them follow the movement of the ring so they don`t have time to bother me.
I also need food on my plate, and therefore chose to enter a local store so that I could pile up healthy groceries. When I came in, I was welcomed by a massive rearranging project. Food had sheltered itself inside boxes, laughing at the confusion created. Macaronis got to get acquainted with chips and vinegar, and sugar fell in love with tomato-sauce. New friendships and connection made inside these boxes, while the customers felt nothing but irritation at the disarray.
Sometimes life is like this, unorganized, and thrown into boxes lacking name-tags. Sometimes the shelves are empty, with just one hermetic box forgotten in the chaos. I wish it was possible to rearrange your life this way,sometimes. Woudn`t it be nice to mix it up a little, add salt when something`s too sweet, and a hint of pepper for more a wild touch?
The world is turning around, events mixing into each other and affecting people like ripples in a pond. Today I read that North Korea is still threatening the planet we share, while some people try to heal it. Two examples are signing a weapon treaty born for peace, and the other is Obama`s decision to fund brain-research. With knowledge growing around us, the organizing of lives will be easier, there will be less mixing with wrong ingredients, and several smart combinations that enrich our lives. The boxes will be filled by colorful balloons, bursting with energy and the rocking ring will turn itself smoothy, catching hope and tossing it back to more people, people with brain damage, sickness and psychological problems can catch it with their open hands.
This knowledge will hopefully turn into hard crystals of unbreakable facts, so that a strong core is created. This core can be used to block cannons and to plant seeds growing into flowers of strength, and hopefully the rocking ring will spread it with steady movements.
The rocking ring turns around my stomach, catching something and bringing it back to me. I put it in my pocket, and give small pieces of it everywhere I go. I hope you got it, too.