Tag Archives: emotions

Hold Me Now

Some mornings my daughter feels wobbly, and separating from me and the comforts of home is suddenly daunting. On those days, I promise to send her mind mail. The thought of an invisible envelope arriving in her head in the hours to come, full of Mummy love and swirly hugs and kisses, calms her considerably. In that moment I am reassuring her that I will keep her in my thoughts. Warmly. Securely. I might not be able to place my hand on her shoulder, or stroke her hair, but I can ‘hold’ her in a different way.

Being held in mind is a vital psychological component to all attachment relationships.


Genuinely holding someone in your mind spins delicate, transparent threads of intimacy across even the widest gaps, deepening confidence and trust.

Psychotherapists and others working in the healing professions have learnt to understand the potency of holding clients in mind between sessions. During the days that bridge our meetings, I make a point of remembering words written by my group, creating a special ‘holding’ space for them in my thoughts.

Energetically, we feel the difference. When I was a lovesick teenager waiting a whole summer for the boy I was besotted by to send a letter across an ocean, the disappointment ran achingly deep. Not only because I felt rejected, but more accurately because I felt completely forgotten. I knew he was not cradling me anywhere in his heart. It was as if I had evaporated.

Maintaining relationships can at times feel overwhelming… despite technology providing so many more opportunities to do so.  Ironically, finding ways to feel truly ‘connected’ to others can remain elusive.

Begin by hosting a quiet gathering in your mind. Be choiceful about who you invite in. Offer them something sweet (the best part is you can do all of this lying down on the sofa with your feet up and your eyes closed!) Put the Beach Boys on your i-pod dock, look around the room, make eye contact with all your guests and open your arms for hugs. Once you begin to send out the Good Vibrations, I believe you are more susceptible to accepting them back in return.

This exercise might lead to a phone call. A spontaneous text. An overdue email. Even a quick ‘like’ on Facebook of a post you appreciated but passed by. Who knows, it might even lead to writing a real letter with a real pen and real paper. But ultimately, what it will achieve is not so precise, not so easily pinned down.  It is an unspoken gesture. A feathery kiss blown to an unaware recipient. A silent murmur of friendship and love.

A powerful affirmation of emotional bonds.

Write for Ten Minutes using the title of this post as a prompt – Hold Me Now. Don’t edit, just let the words and feelings rise to the surface.
I am always here… holding this space… waiting to listen… willing to hear whatever you need to write.
Share in the comments…

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Ready, Steady, Write # 11

Illustration by Sarajo Frieden

Forge a relationship
With this image
Tell us a story
Write
About
It
Share
The writing
love

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A Question In The Air

I’m back. Extrordianry how disconnecting for a week can leave you feeling so much more connected.

My computer is still acting skittish though. Maybe he doesn’t trust me now. Lilly, my dog, is behaving a bit oddly as well. I’ve always heard that dogs have no memory and live like mindful monks – only in the moment.  But I’m not so sure.  I think Lilly remembers being left behind.  Her  wistful expression tells me there is a question in the air.

“Will you leave me again?”

We bank memories. Store them in secret hiding places. Fill the pockets of our psyches with fistfuls of experiences. Sometimes they get buried because there are so many being gathered and crammed into tight spaces. Spines. Temples. Guts. Muscles. We hold memories in our bodies and they determine our maps.

Each of us becomes an atlas… alive with continents of feeling and oceans of recollection.

When I was in Mexico I discovered a plant by the name of Mimosa Pudica. It has a delicate fern like leaf, not dissimilar to many other plants, the difference being this plant appears to have a memory.  When you touch it, even lightly, the leaves tilt up and inwards, like finger tips meeting in prayer. Don’t hurt me.  The mimosa is programmed to protect itself. Pudica in Latin means “shy, shrinking or bashful”. Apparently the Mimosa is also referred to as The Sensitive Plant or the Touch Me Not.

Isn’t that wonderfully appropriate?

Sensitivity is often regarded in our society as a weakness.

“Oh… he/she is soooo sensitive…” as if the word itself is a tender spot that turns a tongue painfully pink when spoken.

On the contrary, I truly believe that sensitivity is a blessing. But for those of us with the label it can also be cumbersome. Like the Mimosa plant it might result in excessive self preservation.  A closing up too soon. A touch me not mentality, when in truth we are longing to be touched. Somewhere, deep down, we hear the echoes of distress. We remember stings and burns and bites, and we employ all our energies to prevent repeat performances.

I was entranced by the Mimosa plant.  I kept brushing against the leaves. I kept watching them close.  I kept imagining that somehow I could entice this organism to trust again.  To remain receptive. I didn’t. Eventually I wandered back to the beach, with a new resolve. I can’t alter the DNA of the Mimosa, which has clearly evolved with a greater purpose, but I can continue to lightly retrace my own steps.

Explore the contours of my memory map, through writing and reflecting.

And in doing so, recognise the times I flinch and wilt, anticipating the same hurtful outcome, instead of remaining open and inviting in a fresh response.

Write ten lines beginning every line with the words “I remember…”  Stay aware of the memories that trigger you to curl inwards. Create a poem of floating moments.  If you want more… zoom in on one of those memories and flesh it out. Write for ten more minutes. Be brave. Share in the comments. I’m listening…

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Strangling Stereotypes

Photograph by Chloe Green 2012

Meeting someone at a party or social occasion and revealing to them that you’ve trained to be a psychotherapist, usually evokes a discernible reaction.

Not always a pleasant one.

Scenarios I’ve encountered:

The Escape Artist likely to be thinking, “Oh dear god, get me away from her quickly! She’s definitely  dull, eerily earnest, and will probably spend the whole evening analysing my every move.”

The Dissenter“Isn’t psychotherapy merely a self indulgent pursuit with the sole intent of avoiding accountability and blaming your parents for everything?”

The Macho Man, “I talk sports, stocks, sex and statistics in no apparent order. Feelings are for females.”

The Veteran, “Been there. Done that. Have had sixteen therapists since I was sixteen. I know so much I could be YOUR therapist.  I mean – seriously!”

And finally The Virgin, “Wow! That’s amazing! It must be fate that I ended up meeting you tonight, because I’ve always thought about seeing a therapist and I have like a million stories that I think you’re going to be really interested in…”
One of the first clients I ever treated was a woman about 20 years older than me.  When I entered the waiting room to greet her, she dropped her jaw in disbelief.

“The therapy is with YOU?” 

I’m not sure what she was expecting. Maybe a few more wrinkles. A flowing cardigan and jade beads. I obviously didn’t meet her expectation of what a ‘proper’ therapist was supposed to look like.  She held a stereotype in her head, as we all have the tendancy to do.  Sometimes it is much easier to summarise people in one dimension (like I  have playfully done with my party goers above) than to stay receptive to the complexity of  all human beings, regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, and even profession.

Stereotypes strangle.

It turned out that despite being in my thirties, with a leaning towards Death Cab for Cutie and a cupboard full of skinny jeans, I was still a good listener. And the client eventually realized that.

Writing and Psychotherapy require similar skills. If you are writing fiction, you owe it to your characters not to sum them up in a sentence (as fun and easy as that can be) Your characters should become your clients.  They need to be the ones at the party, keeping you in the corner, spilling their histories. Stay curious. Keep your ears open. Observe their body language and their gestures. Find out about their parents.  It does matter Mr Dissenter – I promise.

And if you are writing about yourself, then you have the pleasure and the pain of internal investigation. The two endeavours are bursting with benefits. And while each come with a handful of hazards, ultimately they share the same joyful purpose: to artfully activate transformation, leaving the recipient altered and opened, in ways both subtle and sweeping.

Write about stereotypes. Are you stereotyped in your world? Have you encountered obstacles as a result? OR Write about writing. What are your tricks for ‘fleshing’ out your characters? How do you avoid the pitfalls of flat packing and build more dimensional creatures instead? SHARE YOUR FINDINGS HERE! I’m the Good Listener, remember?!
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Golden Goldberg

Natalie Goldberg, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is an extraordinary woman who paints, writes and guides others in their writing practice.  When I was twenty, I discovered her book “Writing Down the Bones” and devoured it.  The experience was delectable.  Her pages were full of wisdom, ideas and permission. While enticing me to write down the bones, she crawled under my skin.  Natalie has written many wonderful books since then, but it was that book that remained with me for years, until I was lucky enough to participate in one of her workshops in Taos, New Mexico in 2010.

The workshop consisted of yoga sessions, writing sessions and enforced silences.  I say ‘enforced’ because while I crave it often, silence does not always come easily to me.  I fill up my space with sound. I love my music. I talk to Lilly (my dog). I bore my husband with daily minutia. I like to chit chat on the phone. I ask my kids too many questions when I pick them up from school. I even talk to myself. All that commotion before anyone else has managed to join the bonanza.

We’ve all heard the saying ‘Silence is Golden’, meaning precious. Sought after. Seductive. Valuable. I’m not sure I fully understood quite how golden silence can be until Natalie Goldberg forced it upon me. Gently. With understanding. She encouraged us to ‘sit’ in silence for luxurious lengths of time.  She instructed us to eat in silence, even if we were feasting next to our best friend (which I was). Instead of filling up the air with words, my tastes buds had a conversation with my food. It was a delightful exchange. She suggested that we walk slowly around the world in silence, and pay close attention to  everything we encountered along the way. And I did.

But silence, like most things shiny, has a darker side. It can be lonely. Frightening. Silence can leave you feeling disconnected. Caught on a broken treadmill endlessly running over unproductive thoughts.  That sort of silence is ‘noisy’.  Tarnished.  The golden glow long since forgotten.

Our task, as writers, as human beings, as learners, is to pay attention to both states. Pay attention to when life gets too fast, too loud. Pay attention to the times we could benefit from pressing mute in order to listen to our breath and not our voices.  Equally, pay attention to when we become locked. Stifled. In need of our volume being turned up.  In need of being heard. Too many of us operate on extremes, missing opportunities to create a more harmonious balance.

I have plenty of lasting memories from that week in Taos, but there is one that stands out from the rest. I was walking back to my bedroom on the first deliciously dark night. Somewhere over Taos mountain there was an electrical storm.  The entire landscape was alive with light — frenetic, neon bolts cracking into the atmosphere, scratching silver zig zags through the blackness. Natalie was walking next to me. Silent. I assumed she would remain wrapped in the meditative moment.  It seemed possible to me that she was the kind of women who could slow walk calmly through Mardi Gras. But then she surprised me, like the best writers do.  She glanced up and caught sight of the spectacular sideshow, and in her broad New York accent, she sliced through the silence with a gloriously, life affirming query.

“What the FUCK is that?” 

I remember smiling. It was that line that leaps out at you from the page of a book when you’re quietly reading at midnight.  It catapults off the page and cartwheels around your brain, reminding you why you love to read. Reminding you why the author is so brilliant.

Golden Goldberg.

And now to you! What is your relationship to silence? Do you want more of it or less? Do you need silence to work or are you more productive with noise around you? Do you have ‘loud’ memories from your childhood or ‘quiet’ ones? Or both?
I won’t talk for a little while… I’ll sit and wait for your words to arrive. I’m ready to listen…

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Once Bitten

Photograph by Chloe Green 2012

My dog, Lilly, was bitten by another dog this week.

Ouch.

The vet stapled her wound shut, and if that wasn’t dismal enough, condemned her to wear ‘the cone of shame’ for ten days. Like any self respecting animal, Lilly was desperate to lick her wound. She moped around the house forlornly. She whimpered. She kept me up for two nights sitting by the edge of my bed staring at me, determined that I would be the guest of honour at her pity party. It worked. It’s ridiculously hard to resist those beautiful brown eyes, even at 3am. The following day I gave in and removed her cone, vowing to watch her vigilantly to prevent her inflicting any further damage. Of course I got distracted.  I have a university degree in getting distracted (with distinction). After a twenty minute phone call, I returned to find Lilly gleefully licking her laceration. She wagged her tail triumphantly, having managed to pull out the staples and open the wound.  Lilly and I spent another hour at the vet.

She was hurt all over again.

We do that don’t we? We feel attacked. Bitten. Injured. Disappointed. And we hold on. Sometimes we find it almost impossible to not keep returning to our wound and reopening it, repeatedly.

I completed a novel last year, succeeded in securing an agent, and like thousands of others who submit full of optimism and sparkle, my book was rejected. Many times.  I spent months, not unlike Lilly, feeling sorry for myself and gouging at my wound. I longed for the life I was leading in the run up to the submission, full of promise and potential. I attempted to begin another novel, but without the validation I had been seeking, my enthusiasm for my craft wobbled and wavered. Eventually, a scab began to form and with the scab new ideas and resolve slowly began to generate. I decided to write about my experience of rejection, as a means of catharsis, but also as a way of fielding the constant questioning from everyone I knew.

Them: “So,what’s happening with your book?”
Me: “Ummmm….”

I sent my ode to rejection to a group of family and friends and it spread from there. The encouragement and support I received in return was awesome. The rally around me was palpable. My willingness to lay myself bare seemed to inspire people.

Suddenly it was clear to me.

I had been contemplating the idea of Write To Be You for some time, but had been too focused on the novel to initiate motion. I wanted to create a community that drew together my psychotherapy training and my writing background. I wanted to design a space for myself and others that didn’t rely purely on external approval. I imagined a forum where I could encourage others to write to make connection to themselves, rather than to please someone else. A bright, luminous lightbulb appeared above my head and Write To Be You Workshopsand blog were born.The ethos: write from your heart and your words will find a pulse. 

My intention, restated, is:

To offer a safe, empathic environment where we can contemplate wounds, reveal scabs and scars, and support one another in not constantly reopening the cuts and watching them bleed. Write To Be You is a call to creative action.  A wish that everyone reading will spend some time reflecting on the posts and writing, even if it is just for a few minutes or a few lines.  I’m showing up here every Monday and every Thursday with an invitation for you to write and to share. All your stories, responses and thoughts are read by me and published in the comments section, where we can weave together common threads, as well as delight in our differences.

If you choose to write, even for just ten minutes, twice a week, in a matter of months you will have a lively notebook. I’m also regularly challenging you to a Ready, Steady, Write… an opportunity to launch your imagination or your thoughts from an image and watch your words as they fly.

So please join Lilly (who is on the mend) and me in this new phase of promise and potential. We both may have been once bitten, but we’ve come to understand, there is little to be gained from being twice shy.

If you’re interested in the piece I originally wrote “It’s good, but…” Reflections on Rejection, it has been published on Single Minded Women. Click here to read.

And now to my readers – what has bitten you and how have you reacted? Have you been picking at a wound or finding it hard to move away from shame? What advice or stories do you have for other readers who are grappling with rejection?  Your responses are welcomed here always…. ten minutes, ten lines… just write…

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A Splash of Our Own

Photograph by India Thain, 2011
The first Write To Be You Workshop of 2012 has begun.
I would like to thank those who showed up and jumped. With a splash. Breaking through the surface. Making an impact. Moving the water with their presence. A declaration. I am here. I have arrived. Somewhere I need to be. I’ve entered.
IN

Taking that first step towards the unknown can be hell of hard. Our bodies stiffen. Stress chemicals begin crazy dance spirals in our brains. Our pulse accelerates. We feel the resistance like a cold jagged slab. It hurts to be so tender. So full of jangled nerves. But our tendency to tenderness is precious. Treasure it. Anxiety and exhilaration are not so distant cousins.They operate on the same spectrum and given the chance, they can learn to negotiate; one unexpectedly, graciously, opening the door for the other, creating an equilibrium rather than a dictatorship. Both are reminders that we are alive, full of anticipation, wanting and waiting to make a splash of our own.

Ready to write?
Ready to write!

Option one: Tell us a story about this image.
Option two: Describe an anxiety or apprehension that you find yourself scraping against.
Option three: Share a time when you broke through anxiety and met exhilaration on the other side.

Splash into the comments – your boldness will encourage others to jump in after you…

Feeling lighter hearted? Visit  Goldilocks and the Three Apples and update your own fairytale. Keep the words coming!

 

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Mingle in the Mud

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

I am relatively new to the world of blogging.  One of the reasons I circumvented it for so long and wrote only for myself to see (and my dog to listen to) was because I wasn’t especially enamoured with the word ‘blog’.

It’s not a pretty word. Remove the ‘L’ and you are wading in a swampy marsh, waste up in mud and slime.

Despite my dislike, I squelched ahead.  I pulled on the wellie boots I haven’t worn since leaving England, and I entered the mire. Surprise, surprise. Suddenly writing didn’t feel so lonely.  I was surrounded by ‘Bloggers’!  All of us making our own journeys through sludge in the hopes of delivering something special.  Something sparkly.  A shiny gem that can be rubbed so clean that it will become lucid in the hands of the reader.

There are a lot of us – millions in fact.  Some days I am so overwhelmed by how very overcrowded this bog of blogs is that I contemplate giving up in order to step back on the sidelines and watch instead. I haven’t been at it for long. Surely no one would notice me slink away? Life would feel safer – less chance of getting roughly elbowed in the ribs by an overenthusiastic daily poster with a rugged thirst for adjectives.

But I am choosing to mingle in the mud.

There are times for spectating and times for doing and this is my time for doing.  So instead of being intimidated by my fellow explorers, instead of feeling threatened by their band of followers, I feel encouraged by their tenacity instead.  I feel enlivened by the connection and the surprising sense of community I have never before associated with the quiet hum of my computer screen. And I feel deeply moved by the courageous recollections of my readers, learning how to Risk It, offering up their stories filled with spectrums of colour, inspiring me by example.  And I am reminded why I began this in the first place. Write To Be You.

Not even the most experienced writers nor the most seasoned bloggers will produce gems week after week. If it weren’t for the muddy, knobbly rocks, we would never a truly appreciate the crystals when they appear. Glinting in our palms. Urging us to get our hands mucky and keep sifting for more.

Your turn now! Think of a time when you opted out because you felt crowded out? Have you ever stopped yourself before starting, for fear of being inadequate or not being able to compare? Perhaps you set a goal after reading Round and Round We Go but you’ve yet to mobilise?

OR do you recall something you began but gave up too soon? Do you want to return to it?  Take a moment to suspend judgment and simply reflect on why you gave up.

Find your notebook.  Choose your pen and start writing.  Write for ten minutes. I invite you to share. Anything. The earthy pebbles and the shiny shells – both valuable in their own ways.  I’m here, mingling in the mud, waiting patiently to collect them all…
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Video

That Song

We’ve all been there.  A song comes on the radio and you are transported somewhere immediately.  Some other point in time.  Another place in your life directly connected to ‘that song’.  The memory is visceral and vivid.

You might not recall the details of a conversation you had with someone an hour ago, but when you hear ‘that song’, you not only remember every single lyric, every arc in the melody, but you also recall the very real emotions that accompanied them as well.

Yesterday, this for me was ‘that song’

Classic 80s.  Took me right back to being with my best friend K.E.L. our ears pressed against my older sister’s bedroom door as she played this song on her cassette player over and over again.  She was 16 and had a boy in her room. A cute boy.  We were not sixteen and we were dying to know what it felt like to be in her shoes.  I was wearing white shorts and a baggy yellow tank top with the words RELAX emblazoned in black letters on the front. My long hair was pulled into a high ponytail with bangs/fringe back combed meticulously, sprouting forth like a tangled fountain.  K.E.L. had silky brown hair cut in a bob, braces, scuffed keds and the magical ability to make me laugh so hard I thought I would pee in my pants.  The tiles in the bathroom I shared with my sister were teal green and some of them had colourful exotic fish embossed onto them – decor inherited from the previous owner.  My lipstick was opalescent pink.  I was filled with curiosity and envy. My sister’s perfume was Anais Anais, a sickly sweet fragrance with pale, soft petaled flowers adorning the bottle.

Details.  They came tumbling at me avalanche style the moment I heard ‘that song’.

It’s all in the details.

What is ‘that song’ for you?  Have you heard it recently? Can you find it and listen to it.  Open your mind and heart up to all the particulars of the time it takes you to.  Write down the details.  The more the better.  No matter how trivial.  Keep your pen moving as you take a journey in your time machine.  Listen to it one more time.  You might be surprised at what else comes back to you.

Write for at least ten minutes.  Longer if you wish.

Bon voyage!

 

Risk It

Two days ago I released the website and the blog into the wider world. It’s strange to know that now I’m not the only one reading these posts! I have had a lot of love and encouragement flying my way as a result, and I am extremely grateful.

Attempting anything new is always a risk. We risk being vulnerable. Feeling exposed. We risk getting it ‘wrong’ and feeling uncomfortable, or at worst having to battle the dreaded, loathsome enemy – shame.

Shame is a such a visceral, pervasive emotion.  It can appear in an instant, usually when we find ourselves at the mercy of someone else’s reaction. It gets us in the gut. Coats us in a slimy film. It has the power to diminish us in seconds. In a blink we can transform from a functioning grown-up into a very small person longing to be smaller, or even more effective – invisible.

Shame is often rooted in our ancient histories (early school experiences; mocking reactions from our peer group or adults; in the most serious cases – abuse) but a present day reminder can trigger instant recall, and we end up tangled in a destructive loop.  Some people go to great lengths to avoid ever being in that position again, and their lives shrink considerably as a result.

I have never been a natural risk taker. You won’t find me bungee jumping or balancing on a narrow edge.  As a child, I was even scared to walk down a steep hill. I was afraid of being hurt or looking like a fool. Some of us just are.  But I am learning to find alternate ways to bungee jump. I am risking breaking the loop in order to try things out.  I am dipping my toes into waters I previously judged far too icey. The rewards, as I am discovering, are golden.  I’m becoming more resiliant and that feels like warm relief. It is not a simple process. Many of us are very entrenched in the habits and ways of being that we have constructed to keep us feeling protected and safe. But ironically, many of us also feel imprisoned by those same security measures. It takes time to bend the bars.

Begin here. Think about an experience where you felt overcome with shame. How did you react?  What were you left with after it had all unfolded?  Stay with the feelings. Be specific. Now write a letter to the people or person who you feel contributed to that shame response in you.  Don’t hold back. Write in BIG BOLD LETTERS. Allow your words to SHOUT.  Tell your truth.  When you are finished – rip it up, or better yet – put it in an envelope (if you still have one!)  Write whatever you wish to on the front, and take it to a post/mail box and slip it through the slot.  Or leave it on a table at Starbucks. Or propped in a tree branch. Or on the bus. Or on a bench.

Just let it go…

Notice how you feel as you walk away.

Sometimes we need a grand gesture to make a start.  Risk it…

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