CAN YOU MAKE A COMPASSIONATE CORRECTION?

CAN YOU MAKE A COMPASSIONATE CORRECTION?

Overcome the Fear of ‘Wrong’ to Grow and Evolve

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Recently I was telling a lovely friend about the time I met Oprah and I was reminded of a few things. Woahh…back up, did I just say that? Sorry to name-drop so casually, but yes, it’s true, I have met Oprah (if you’d like to know the full story, call in for a cup of tea some time). One of the things I remember about Oprah (now we’re both just too busy to catch up so regularly) was the aura of complete peace that surrounded her. I remember thinking ‘blimey, this woman has done some work on herself.’ She carried herself with an ‘ease’ that I believe stemmed from a sense of being in full acceptance of herself. While I was standing behind her (drinking in the serenity of her bouffant hair) she happened to make an obvious error in judgement. A mistake! What did she do? Well, she let out a huge belly laugh at herself. It was at that moment that I almost put my hand to my heart as I excitedly thought ‘she’s just like me!!’ Oprah makes dumb mistakes and laughs at her dumbness!

I tend to enjoy having a laugh at myself and I do enjoy that wonderful Piscean trait of seeing the ‘cosmic joke’ that the Universe plays on all of us as we earnestly do our best in the game of life. But am I always laughing? (I have actually had clients ask me this!) The truth is that I do spend a lot of inner time devoted to self-criticism. I habitually berate myself for my mistakes, errors and wrong-doings. I have found that breaking the habit of self-criticism is difficult and I am really bad at it (Oops! there I go again). That’s why I decided to try a new approach. Instead of ‘beating myself up’ for ‘beating myself up’ (insert eye-rolling emoticon here) I decided to simply take note of the times when I can ‘let myself off the hook’ and enjoy a good belly laugh at my errant ways and those times when I decide to ‘beat myself up.’  

The criteria for the ‘off the hook’ category (belly laugh errors) appear to be first-time offences and petty crimes. If I have made a mistake due to my innocent ignorance when trying something new - ‘Oh! That macramé knot looks like a noose instead of a square knot’ – then I definitely don’t decide to hang myself with it, I have a laugh at such first-time shenanigans, reboot the You-Tube clip and start again. If it’s a petty crime - ‘Oops, I’ve mistaken that cucumber for a zucchini’ – I will definitely have a laugh as I pull the soggy cucumber out of the vegetable steamer and get on with my lunch (minus zucchini).

However, the criteria for the ‘beat myself up’ category is another soggy cucumber altogether. That basket is chock-full of old chestnuts. There are the errors that trigger the chestnuts ‘I am a failure’ or ‘I am not good enough’, then there are the mistakes that trigger the ‘I am bad’ or ‘I am a terrible person’ beratements and then there is the overarching mother of all chestnuts that can be used for relentless self-punishment…the ‘I should have known better’ chestnut. What a big fucking chestnut that is. Just when you might be on the brink of being able to laugh off a mistake, the ‘should know better’ chestnut chimes up to remind you that you have made this mistake before. In fact, you have made it over…and…over…again. And THIS is the definitive evidence that you, my friend, are a COMPLETE LOSER. The fact that you have failed to ‘learn from your mistakes’ and have still, despite ‘knowing better,’ repeated your idiocy, is well, idiocy.

What I also noticed from this exercise is the innate resistance I have (and believe we all have) to being ‘wrong’ or ‘doing the wrong thing’ and a reflexive reluctance to being corrected. For years, I have noticed the madness of popular teaching approaches that prefer the ‘good try’ over ‘wrong’ approach to learning. ‘Johnny, 2 + 2 = 7? Oh, GOOD TRY’. While this seems so gentle, nurturing and encouraging at the time, do you really want little Johnny to be the accountant doing your taxes in 20 years’ time? I think not. Hang on, let me turn down the heat on that pot of steaming cucumber so we can explore this further. 

I cannot tell you how many sessions I have done with clients on the whole ‘fear of being wrong’ chestnut. And what have I learned? That the fear of being or getting it wrong actually blocks inspiration, stifles intuition, stymies creativity, prevents growth, kills curiosity, exploration and experimentation, and of course, completely destroys the ease of decision-making. This fear of wrong is just simply wrong!

How did we get so scared of being wrong? And why are we so bad at simply correcting ourselves and moving on with life when we do get it wrong? Two words people. Guilt and shame. And this brings us back to the two categories. In the ‘off the hook’ category lie those mistakes that you don’t feel too guilty or ashamed about – first timer errors (new to macramé) and low-impact mistakes (no zucchini for lunch). In the ‘beat myself up’ category lie those mistakes where things really went pear-shaped because your choices, actions or words seemingly caused pain and suffering for yourself or others. In those cases, the guilt or shame played a valuable role in helping you to find your moral compass at the time. In other words, these emotions helped you to learn your lesson and ‘correct’ your behaviour. Yet you may have never properly processed these emotions nor learned to separate out the behaviour or action from your true and perfect Self.

This leaves you in a position of not trusting your natural innate goodness to guide your behaviour but instead relying on a fear of being wrong and experiencing guilt and shame to drive your decision-making. It’s therefore not surprising that you may spend so much time hiding in procrastination and perfectionism or running away from ‘WRONG’. It also means that you may have become all too aware (and scared) of correcting others (particularly children) for fear of guilting and shaming them. You don’t want little Johnny to feel like a complete fuck-up for getting an answer wrong, so when something is wrong, instead of being guided by your highest good (and the laws of mathematics) you are instead driven by sympathy and a reluctance to inflict the shame of ‘wrong’ on someone else. Instead of associating ‘wrong’ with ‘learning’ you’re associating it with ‘failure.’  

Being wrong is an integral and necessary part of learning, growth and evolution. It plays an important role in finding yourself, living your truth and reaching your potential. You absolutely need to be wrong and to ‘correct’ your wrongs without fear, shame and guilt if you are to evolve. The true definition of ‘karma’ is ‘habit’ and it is the opposite of growth and evolution. Karma is being ‘stuck in a loop’ of making the same choices over and over again (based on your past programming) with little change in the result. You cannot break with your karma and evolve without correcting your wrongs.

In most sessions I find myself helping clients to ‘get back on track’ or to ‘find their path’ or to ‘connect with their truth’ and all of this requires a ‘course correction’. All healing occurs through:

  • The awareness of an error - ‘Shit! I’m off course!’

  • The willingness to learn from it - ‘How the hell did I end up here?’

  • The act of compassion for self – ‘I can understand what happened and I forgive it’

  • The inspiration for a new choice - ‘A -Ha! I am free and empowered to choose differently’

None of this can happen if you’re investing a great deal of energy into avoiding blame, shame and guilt, and it certainly can’t happen if you’re too scared to correct yourself. Naturally, it is uncomfortable to admit that you’ve done the wrong thing, but it will be a lot more uncomfortable if you continue to repeat your mistakes, remain stuck in a karmic loop and move further ‘off course.’ Yet, even this very logical reasoning may not prevent you from ‘fessing’ up to a wrong.

I am quite sure that most of my clients assume that I bang on about self-love and self-compassion just for the fun of it (and to see them squirm). But the truth is, I am being very practical. I have learned that you are never going to ‘fess up’ to your so-called failings if self-punishment awaits. And you’re certainly never going to get an aura of self-acceptance like Oprah’s. I propose that you learn the art of making a ‘compassionate correction’. Which basically means learning the humble ability to deal with your fuck-ups without always feeling like a total fuck-up.

Let’s have a look at what’s involved:

STEP 1: Put this Shit into Perspective

The compassionate correction begins with taking a ‘big picture’ or ‘evolutionary view’ of your mistakes. In other words – let’s put this shit into perspective. You have been here many lifetimes and this little ‘habit’ you’ve got may have been in operation for a few centuries. It may also involve some pretty deep and irrational fears based on some pretty ‘wild’ past circumstances (oh you know, torture, death and stuff) so now is the time to make a vow to stop beating yourself up for this ‘wrong’.   

STEP 2: Accept You Don’t Have A Bloody Clue

Next, it’s time to trust the process of growth. In other words – let’s accept that perhaps you don’t have a bloody clue about anything. Your intellect cannot grasp the entirety of the problem nor see all the possible solutions. Stop making intellectual assumptions about your problem (and why you still have it) and be open to listening, what is your problem really prompting you to do? Trust that your problems are always leading you towards an opportunity to break free from a karmic pattern by making choices that promote learning, growth, expansion, freedom and evolution.

STEP 3: Apply the Feminine Care Factor – Forgive the Error

Apply the feminine principles of empathy, care and gentleness to forgiving the error. Think about the compassion a mother has in understanding a child’s pain. Use whatever means you can to get to a state of accepting and allowing the ‘mistake’ instead of judging it. In this stage you can say to yourself ‘I may or may not understand why you made that choice, but I no longer judge you for it.’

STEP 4: Apply the Masculine Power Play – Action the Correction

Unite your feminine empathy with a bit of masculine tough love. Apply the masculine principles of confidence, determination and firmness to actioning the correction. Call upon every ounce of courage you have affirm that you can and will change. In this stage you can say to yourself ‘I want to stop doing this and I have the power and capability within me to choose differently’ (or ‘For God’s sake, check closely if that it is a cucumber!’).  

STEP 5: Check that You’re on Course

Ultimately a compassionate correction should feel freeing and loving. Remember that your erroneous behaviours have arisen from your karma and programming – they do not reflect your true nature. If you have blown up at your kids, sworn at a telemarketer or lied to your boss then remember that these ‘errors’ are not the totality of who you are. Do you really need to put yourself through the wringer of shame over it? If you do find yourself feeling guilty, then ask yourself, honestly, with love and understanding: will this guilt take me closer to or further away from being my true Self? Will it contribute to my freedom, growth and evolution as a loving human being? Can I simply decide to course correct?

Compassionate corrections will continue to help bring you into alignment with your true Self. You can continue beating yourself up and stay in fear of being wrong or you can grow. The choice is yours. But all ‘I know for sure’ (thanks Oprah) is that it feels ‘wrong’ to deny my true nature and my birthright to grow and evolve into the best version of myself.
 

WHAT IS THE POINT OF PRESSURE?

HOW TO ESCAPE A SELF-MADE PRESSURE COOKER

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What is the point of pressure? I pondered this as my recent holiday came to an end. I’d spent a week living on the beach, exploring places of natural beauty and enjoying a freedom-fueling road trip. Driving through lush rain-forests and along coastal roads, I felt a sense of freedom and expansiveness. But as I reached the outskirts of the city, getting closer to home, I felt my energy change – my body began to feel heavy and tired, it was almost as if I could feel this sense of freedom coming to an end. My body was literally sensing that I wasn’t in freedom-loving territory anymore. I was coming back to routine, responsibilities, work and commitments, it was the sensation of…pressure. 

What is pressure? It’s not really tangible but we all seem to know what it feels like – an invisible buzz-kill! The thing that can turn a fun, creative or joyful project into a drag, dread or sense of obligation. It comes in many forms: a recurring thought, a constant reminder, a nagging feeling…an item that stays unticked on your to-do list that generates a sinking feeling every time you look at it. Often, it’s related to a task, event, activity or project that you have committed to doing and have not yet started or you have failed to complete. 

As I observed my body changing as it neared the destination of my life’s required tasks and responsibilities, I realised that pressure is simply heaviness. It’s an ‘energetic heaviness.’ Pressure is the stale, dense energy that you are lugging around day and night and that you are not moving. It is energy that feels stuck, constricting or suffocating. The problem with this stagnant energy is that you feel blocked from doing anything with it – it seems to weigh you down so much it paralyses you.  

We know what the absence of pressure feels like – a holiday. When there is no ‘pressing’ thing you that have to do, no-where you have to be, no-one you have to please and the most difficult decision you have to make is what to eat for your next meal. Holidays are simply when you give yourself ‘time off’ from your usual routine and responsibilities, but even when we ‘return to reality’ why does that have to automatically equal pressure? I believe it’s because we seem to think that ‘pressure’ is something that originates from external sources and is something that happens to us, instead of realising that we are the source of our own pressure.

When I worked for a big corporation it was really easy to believe that pressure came from outside of me. I felt pressure coming from ‘demanding’ managers and ‘difficult’ clients and from totally unrealistic workloads and deadlines. It was easy to blame these external factors for my feelings of pressure, stress and heaviness. If they all just went away I’d be able to relax and rest, right? 

It was a rude shock when I stepped out of the corporate world expecting life to become one big coastal road-trip of freedom only to find…pressure. Pressure to please, pressure to make money, pressure to meet deadlines, pressure to do things quickly and above all, pressure to be ‘better’. What the hell? The pressure was coming from me

How many times have you wished for your boss/staff/client/husband/wife/parent/child/friend to stop asking for you to do something? Their request or demand feels overwhelming and you hear yourself saying “I just don’t need the added pressure.” The next time this happens, stop and ask yourself – where is the feeling of pressure really coming from? Perhaps they are just asking a simple question. Have you ever walked in the door and innocently asked your beloved, who is busily cooking in the kitchen, “What time will dinner be ready?” only to have to duck your head to avoid being hit by an airborne kitchen utensil? As the spatula went hurtling past your head you might have even retorted: “I was just asking a question!” Were you putting pressure on them or were you just asking a question? When someone asks something of you, are you registering it as a simple question or are you feeling pressured?

The truth is, the only person who can apply pressure to yourself, is yourself. If someone is asking or even if they are ‘demanding’ something from you – this can only translate to ‘pressure’ if you let it. If you have a strong, robust boundary that is firm on your timeline and on your willingness to do something, then any unreasonable request or insistent demand will simply bounce right off you. For example, if you are extremely clear and firm in your conviction that you do not want to volunteer for the school fundraiser, then no matter how strongly someone insists that you volunteer for the school fundraiser, no matter how much ‘pressure’ they place on you in the form of recurrent requests and guilt-tripping hints – their requests or insistence will fall flat. You are clear you don’t want to do it, you are committed to other plans (or what is right for you) and you continue to feel light, clear and peaceful in a ‘boundary bubble’. 

But most of us are not in a clear and peaceful boundary bubble – we’re in a bloody PRESSURE COOKER of stress and overwhelm.  And while we’re suffocating under the weight of conflicting requests and obligations and busy complaining resentfully about all the ‘requesters’ and ‘demanders,’ we’re failing to notice that this pressure cooker we’re in is totally of our own making. The feeling of pressure we’re experiencing is all down to our very own lack of clarity, grounding and purpose – and poor boundaries

In his book No Boundaries, Ken Wilber defines pressure as ‘disowned drive’. He believes that pressure results when you have disowned your own internal drive, it’s never something that originates externally. While you might start out with a healthy motivation to do something, you might get distracted or interrupted and ‘disown’ your drive to do it, resulting in pressure. 

This is how it works:
You decide that you really want to clean out your wardrobe. You’ve been reading The Life Saving Magic of Tidying Up and you’re pumped – you are going to de-clutter, become all zen from your new minimalist life and save the Earth by recycling the results of your past unfettered consumerism. You are committed. You get started and you’re loving it. You’re productive, ruthless in your purging and strategic in your organisation. As you’re filling up your charity bags you are wondering why you left it so damn long to do this – it’s so easy, and it’s SO freeing! 
Then you decide to try on some of the clothes you are unsure about. You’re umming and ahhing in front of the mirror when the phone rings.  You chat to your friend for half an hour. You have a cup of tea. You have some lunch. You decide to get back to a few emails. You decide to check Facebook and Instagram…Before you know it a couple of hours have passed before you re-enter your bedroom. You walk back in and survey the site – piles of clothes, shoes, scarves and hangers all over the bedroom. And suddenly, YOU HAVE LOST THE WILL TO LIVE. 
Nooooooooooooo. Make it go away. Now. 

What happened? You WANTED to clean out the wardrobe. Then you LOST your DRIVE to do it. You have become detached from your motivation and now it feels like PRESSURE. And it feels like a weight of expectation that is coming from OUTSIDE of yourself because you’ve forgotten that you wanted to do it and you have (for one reason or another) disowned your internal drive

Now think about when someone has asked you to do something and you have agreed to do it even though you don’t want to do it. You have NEVER owned the drive or motivation in the first place – no wonder it feels like pressure! But how many times do you then see the person asking or the undesired task as the source of the pressure? It’s not. The source of the pressure is the disowned drive, the fact that you don’t want to do it! 

I’ll give you a moment to ponder the significance of looking at pressure this way. It explains so much – the book you want to write, the half-knitted jumper you want to finish, the bedroom you want to paint, the course you want to finish…have you simply lost your motivation? And also, are you looking to escape the pressure by further disowning your motivation? Have you chosen to deal with the pressure by avoiding, escaping or procrastinating? The solution is to re-own your drive. 

So how do we avoid putting ourselves in our own pressure cooker? I use a little exercise called the ‘Flow Finder’ and it’s as simple as asking yourself a series of questions to help you take responsibility for your drive (what you want to do), your timing (when you want to do it), your style (how you want to do it) and your rhythm (setting boundaries to support your choices).

Once you take responsibility for your own choices you are empowered and energy can flow. If you do not take responsibility for your choices you are simply resisting or blocking the flow of energy, causing heaviness and pressure. If you want to learn how to work through these questions, then you can download the FLOW FINDER from the Well For Myself - Mind-Body Wellness D.I.Y. page on my website. 

Escape your pressure cooker and find your flow!
 

DO YOU ESCAPE TO THE FUTURE?

The Gift and Power of Feeling in the Present

Mindfulness seems to be everywhere. Touted as the new-age solution to all of our problems, the messages to be ‘mindful’ and ‘in the present’ are liberally plastered across all forms of social media, self-help blogs, magazine and books. But what does it even mean to be ‘in the present’ or ‘mindful’?

The other day a lovely client was telling me about how she had invested in a Mandala Colouring book. She was busily colouring away when her husband walked in to the room and asked her what the hell she was doing in that typically direct and judgemental tone that husbands seem to have. While she wanted to reply that she was ‘mindfully colouring’ in order to relieve worry and stress, achieve blissful levels of inner peace and present-moment nirvana, she felt the pang of a panicked reality check as she looked down at her pencils, it was a good question – what was she actually doing? And why? Was she mindfully colouring or colouring mindlessly?

The thing with attempting to be ‘mindful’ and in ‘the present’ is that it can be so easy to miss the point of it. What is the intention of being present? I believe that the point is to discontinue thinking incessant thoughts about the past or future so that you can focus on your experience of what is happening right now. I diligently tried to do this for many years, once I was trying so hard to be ‘present’ while perusing the aisles in Coles that I rammed my trolley into an unsuspecting pensioner. Somehow I don’t think that my ‘mindfulness’ had achieved the desired effect. Staying present all of the time is basically trying to live your life as a meditation, which is bloody difficult! As usual, I set about investigating why it is so difficult to stay present and live life mindfully.

I realised that becoming mindful or present is very similar to that annoying habit of going on holiday and getting sick. When you finally give yourself permission to stop, relax and let go, all of a sudden, your body feels the time, space and freedom to process all of the emotional stuff you’ve been avoiding or too busy to attend to and it all comes to the surface. I’ll have a sinus infection with that poolside cocktail, thanks! I think the same goes for becoming present, when you stop and pay attention to what is going on for you in your body, the risk is that you may not like what you feel.

In essence, mindfulness is actually supposed to pave the way for you to feel, to truly experience the flow of energy and aliveness in your body and in what you are doing in the present moment. How cool is that? Mindfulness is designed to help you behave like a proper human being, who feels alive and experiences a continuous flow of life-giving source energy! (Might need to remember that the next time I am colouring in a paisley-patterned peacock!) However, if you’re not aware of this intention to be present to your experience of energy, you run the risk of doing mindfulness activities which simply give more ‘air time’ to a shitload of incessant thinking about disaster scenarios.  

Embracing the present moment doesn’t require you to accumulate more opportunities (i.e. more time or space) to be mindful, nor does it require you to adopt more techniques or methods to be mindful, it simply requires you to be willing to be present to your own experience. That is, to be willing to feel whatever it is you are feeling in that moment.

The real reason it is difficult to be mindful is not because you are lacking in time to yourself or lacking in apps or colouring books, it is difficult because you are, like all of us, in the mindless habit of finding ways to avoid being present to the experience of your own energy and emotions. You have been programmed to resist emotions, particularly ‘negative’ ones. The reality of living in the present moment is that you need to be willing to experience the energy of happiness as well as sadness, or the energy of peace as well as chaos. While you may be prepared to become present to more joy, contentment or relaxation, the moment that anger, disappointment or anxiety show up you want to get the hell out of the present ASAP! All in all, your inner child is most likely pretty confused when you shove a colouring book in front of its face, because for years you have been finding numerous ways to escape your present emotional experience rather than embrace it.

Which brings me to somewhat of a ‘blind spot’ in emotion-escaping techniques – the use of ‘time’. When I ask clients that question (you may be familiar with it!): “What would you need to know to be at peace with this anger/sadness/pain?” The answer is invariably – “that it won’t last forever.” This is true, emotions are transient, they are ‘energy in motion’ and when you become truly aware of this and come to trust that “this too shall pass” there is a great sense of relief, release and liberation. But hidden in that little gem of “it won’t last forever” can also be an implicit resistance to the present experience of that emotion. You might be seeking relief by escaping to the future. Let’s tweak the question and see how it feels: “What would you need to know to be at peace with this anger/sadness/pain for the rest of your life?” When the ‘promise of the future’ is removed from the equation, how do you feel now?

I stumbled across this knowing when I was experiencing a bout of fatigue years after I had recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When I had been in the thick of ongoing fatigue, I was most often distressed by it because I had no idea when it would end nor what I could possibly do to end it. This distress was pretty understandable given that the fatigue lasted for years. But over time I learned that it did pass and that I did eventually stop feeling that way. So, when a bout of fatigue came back from time to time, I knew and trusted, at least intellectually, that it wouldn’t last. But even though I knew this, I found that this knowledge didn’t actually give me much relief and I would still feel stressed, helpless and resistant to the fatigue. In other words, I had the ‘promise of time’ but it wasn’t helping me to truly cope with my present moment experience.

I realised that there is a big difference between ‘tolerating’ your experience by knowing that you won’t have to endure it forever, versus knowing that you have whatever it takes to tolerate or live that experience on an ongoing basis. The removal of the ‘future’ option reveals much more bluntly how empowered you truly and honestly feel in relation to your emotional or physical experience. While I felt more empowered to trust that my state of fatigue was a transient one that would shift, I was somehow also waiting for time to take it away. It was like saying: “Time, you’re responsible for taking away this fatigue, so I’ll wait for you to do so” – it seemed like I was asking time to rescue me from my present experience and I didn’t feel completely empowered by this. I wanted to know how I could possibly maintain my feeling of power in the very present moment, without an escape.  

Time does heal. Of course the passing of time can lessen the intensity of your emotions. However, you might also completely hand responsibility for your healing over to time. In doing so, you can become disempowered and possibly delay the healing that is available to you in the present moment. I believe that the true ‘power of now’ lies in being willing to be present to your emotions and maintain your power as you experience them – without waiting for time to take them away.  When you can sit comfortably with an emotion, with your present experience, without needing to change it nor wait for the future to change it, you are truly present and truly powerful. You have dropped all resistance to your emotions, you have let go of the need to fix or change them and you are not even getting impatient in waiting for them to move. True presence is a declaration that you are never powerless to your own emotions, it is the embodiment of your power.   

Being present enables you to claim, retain and maintain your power in any situation, despite what is happening externally. But it can be easy to forget that this presence begins and ends with your ability to maintain your power in relation to what is happening internally – with your own emotional state. Your ability to stay present to your surroundings then, means taking responsibility for your own emotional experience regardless of how much you are tempted to escape.

In a recent session, a beautiful client was struggling with how to support her best friend who was dealing with the death of her 4-month old baby. How can you begin to help someone deal with that amount of pain, sadness and grief? What can you say or do to help? The answer is nothing. Sometimes there are no words. We both agreed that no amount of “it will get better with time” could possibly bring her friend any relief in the moment of intense grief. What she could offer however, was her presence. She had flown halfway across the country to be with her, to be present to her experience, and that we agreed, was the most healing thing she could do.  

When you truly show up for yourself, when you stay mindful of the experience you are having in your body and you are willing to feel whatever is coming up for you, you own your power. Being present to your human experience is the gift you give to yourself. But if you find yourself wanting escape to the future to delay your emotional processing or healing, it might be time to ask yourself, why wait? And pick up your coloured pencils. There’s no time like the present. 

HEARING YOURSELF IS HEALING YOURSELF

The Simplicity of Listening to Your Body

By the time something has manifested as an ‘issue’ or ‘problem’ in your life it has already had an interesting life span. It has enjoyed life as a thought, an intuition, a gut feeling, a gentle nudge or a quiet whisper. How many times have you had an inkling about something that turned into a fully blown problem? When you just knew something was going to go pear-shaped. In fact, if you step back from any problem that you have right now, you might find that this problem has only become a problem because you didn’t listen. To yourself. The quiet whisper that originates with your Heart (your wiser, all knowing self) and is delivered by your body in the form of a ‘gut feeling’, emotion or symptom, is unfortunately something that you have been almost trained to dismiss, ignore or override.

In nearly 10 years of seeing clients I can safely say that ‘not being heard’ would make the ‘Top 5 Hit List’ of stress triggers and childhood wounds. When you think about a stressful memory from your childhood like the time you felt sick but you were forced to go to school or the time you weren’t allowed to go out and play, you may recall feelings of sadness, frustration or anger, but at the very root of your stress is something extraordinarily simple – you didn’t feel heard.

We seem to overlook ‘not being heard’ as a root cause of stress because it seems too simple. Yet not being heard is extremely stressful, sad and infuriating and most of us carry around painful baggage and a relentless undercurrent of inherent frustration at not being heard. But why is it so stressful? Because you want your voice, your feelings and your needs to be acknowledged, respected, valued, and in many cases, acted upon. Listening to someone (and their feelings or thoughts) is a basic form of human respect and when you don’t feel that others are listening to you, you make numerous self-deprecating assumptions or form any number of limiting beliefs: you’re not worth listening to, you don’t have anything important or valuable to say, you’re not important, your opinion doesn’t matter, your needs aren’t important, your feelings are insignificant or invalid…the list goes on. In a sense, not being heard could be seen as the foundation for many of the faulty or limiting beliefs you have about your self-worth, beliefs that have ultimately influenced how you have interpreted all of your life experiences

The problem with ‘not being heard’ however, is actually not that other people are failing to listen to you (and make you feel important and worthy), it is that you are not listening to yourself. While a parent or authority figure in your life may have ignored you in the past, the problem is not that they ignored you, the problem is that this how you learned to ignore yourself. If your voice, your intuitions or emotions were not listened to or respected, and were instead dismissed, ignored or overridden, then this is what you have been trained to do. This pattern or dynamic of relating to yourself has been ‘installed on the system’ so to speak and is playing out over and over again. To make matters worse, you are probably trying to change this program and resolve the stress of not being heard and its related self-worth issues by trying to make others listen to you, by demanding that they demonstrate respect and honour your opinions and emotions. And of course, they’re refusing to, which exacerbates your anger and frustration at not being heard.

The solution is simple: start listening to yourself. Hearing yourself is healing yourself. When you are prepared to listen to your gut feelings, when you are prepared to stop dismissing or overriding your uncomfortable emotions, when you are prepared to respect your voice, you’ll find that you can heal whatever problem is going on for you. You are taking an important step towards changing the program – you are consciously deciding that your opinion or feeling is worth being heard and you are worthy. It does not matter how ridiculous or irrational that feeling is, you are prepared to hear it and that simple act of listening is, in and of itself, an act of love, respect and understanding. Interestingly, when you perform this loving act of listening to yourself, you will find that it doesn't even matter if anyone else hears you!

But when you dismiss the simplicity of listening to yourself as a solution, you have probably entered into an overly ‘rational’ reasoning of a situation and ‘you are in your head.’ You may be addicted to ‘taking action’ or ‘fixing’ and in a hurry to ‘action’ and ‘fix’ you’re making all sorts of assumptions and jumping to conclusions about what you think you need or what you should need, rather than stopping to listen openly and honestly to your feelings and to the ‘quiet whisper’ about what you actually need.

How annoying is it when someone asks you a question and when you answer them it is ignored, rejected or declared ‘wrong’? How often do you want to scream “WHY ASK ME THEN?!!” Well that is exactly how your Inner Child or Body feels when you fail to listen to its needs, emotions or guidance. You might ask the body what it would like to eat and when it tells you it would like to eat pineapple you shut it down, telling it that it shouldn’t want pineapple because according to the book you’re reading, pineapple is for Blood Type A and you're a Blood Type O. The Mind has spoken, theory and rationality (gleaned from a book) is more important – forget the pineapple. And the Body, the child, is not listened to, its needs have been rejected and its opinions disrespected. And we wonder why we become disconnected from our bodies, and why they don't seem to ‘cooperate’ in our healing regimes and wellbeing goals!

How often do you listen to your innermost self for guidance? And how do you know when you are really listening to an intuition, a feeling or symptom? Here are some of the ways you can ensure that you are effectively listening to yourself:

Receptivity

Listening is a receptive state. Stephen Covey once said that most people do not listen with an intent to understand but with an intent to reply. Often you are not fully listening because you are thinking – in the form of judging, analysing, seeking solutions, recalling memories or thinking about how you are going to reply. Being receptive is a Yin energy of passivity and we often judge passivity as lacking power, so we avoid it, believing we need to direct or project (Yang energy) in order to be powerful. It's time to start practicing being powerful in your passivity. The ability to hold a space of non-judgment, of innocence, detachment and curiosity and to allow information to flow to you is a state of vulnerability, it is a state of totally trusting yourself and it is immensely powerful.

Openness

Accompanying receptivity is a state of openness – of listening without judgement, assumptions or preconceived notions. You simply cannot listen openly if you presume to already know the answer. I remember a Kinesiology teacher once saying “if you’re no longer surprised by the results of your muscle testing you may not be doing it properly.” True openness means listening without overlaying what you think you hear, what you think you should hear or what you want to hear. Approach listening with innocence – like you’re about to hear something you have never heard before and prepare to be surprised.

Connection

So how can you tell if you're in a receptive state and openly listening? By simply noticing how you feel. Do you feel connected, content and in synch with yourself? What is your body telling you? Remember the Body (child) is an aspect of your consciousness that speaks its own language – it is not a construct of the rational mind, so resist the urge to assume or even ‘make up’ what you think the Body is saying. Just listen. No thinking is required. When you have listened you will feel connected, grounded and in harmony. Simple. When you haven’t listened openly, your body will definitely let you know!

The best part about healing yourself through hearing yourself is that you will stop feeling irritated or upset when others don’t listen to you and you will stop demanding that they do so in order for you to feel important or worthy. Being free of the dependency on how others respond to you is liberating and empowering. You can check in with this by asking yourself: do I trust that what I say is important, even if no-one else but me hears it? When you have heard yourself, you have honoured yourself and a feeling of love, connection and contentment ensues. So, listen up! Your Body will thank you for it.

LOVE, WHO'S JOB IS IT?

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR LOVING YOURSELF, IF YOU DON’T, WHO WILL?

It’s reasonable to ask that the people in your life accept you and treat you with love, respect and consideration. In fact, that’s how you would define a relationship – by the willingness of another person to relate to you – to love you. But the bottom line is that it really isn’t their job to love you. Neither is it their responsibility and it’s certainly not their sole purpose for living. It is your, and only your responsibility to love yourself

It isn’t even your parents’ job. I see plenty of clients who have become locked into years of pain and suffering based on the premise that their parents did not love and accept them as they would have liked. They feel resentment, bitterness and even hatred for how their parents ‘failed’ at loving and nurturing them. This may be true, perhaps your parents failed miserably at loving and accepting you unconditionally and were just plain duds in terms of supporting you and demonstrating love. The question is: what are you going to do now? 

You can dwell on how others have ‘failed’ at their job of loving you and proceed with endless therapy sessions, self-help reading and courses, addictions, unhealthy habits and self-sabotaging behaviours all the while indulging the search for the ‘peace’ and ‘happiness’ that others have deprived you of. Or you could give yourself the very things you feel deprived of and GET ON WITH YOUR LIFE. I love to explain this concept by using a catchy book title such as: “So…Your Parents Screwed You Up, Now What?” or “So…You Married an Asshole, Now What?” 

Here’s a novel solution. What about, you stop asking for others to give you unconditional love and you just give it to yourself? What? That sounds cur-ray-zee! I even said this to my husband once – “you know that it’s not up to me whether you feel loved or not, feeling loved depends on your feelings and I am not in charge of them,” he just paused for a moment before saying disbelievingly “that can’t be right.” Yep, this is how foreign the concept of self-responsibility for love is.   

But let’s just get real about what is really going on when you ‘outsource’ responsibility for love. In couples counselling I often ask couples to imagine what they are asking of their partner when they fail to take responsibility for feeling loved. If it was written as an advertisement to the Universe, this is how it would look: 
 

 
 

Who in their right mind would want to sign up for this? The amazing thing is, you do get an applicant! Stop for a moment and appreciate that there are people in your life who have answered this call and have decided to step up to the plate and give it a crack! Bless them! But what are you doing? Are you appreciating their efforts or are you judging them for failing to meet the job criteria? 

I have plenty of clients who complain to me (always with an air of exasperation) that the solution to all of their problems seems to boil down to the same thing – self-love. And I often comment that I have come to accept that my job in ‘therapy’ is simply to drag people kicking and screaming to self-love. However, it becomes plainly obvious (and rather ironic) that while we are so fiercely reluctant to love ourselves, we’re happy to criticise and condemn others who won’t or don’t love us! Blimey – if we find it so bloody hard, we should give them a break! 

So why is it challenging to take responsibility for loving yourself? You’re simply not taught to, instead you are taught that love is something that is provided by others. Even in religious traditions you can be taught that love originates from a ‘source’ outside of you. You grow up believing love is given, bestowed upon you and in many cases, earned based on conditions. So, you have never really taken responsibility for loving yourself because you simply don’t know how. 

How now? 

1) Rejoice that self-love is actually the solution to all of your problems. The healing of your pain, hurt, symptoms and diseases are actually within your control and they are entirely dependent on the extent to which you are willing to love yourself. 

2) Sack other people from their job of loving you. Relieve them of this unfair responsibility. Give them a break. Let go of the need for them to love you and show it in particular ways. When you do this you might fear that they’ll leave you up 'no-love creek without a paddle'.  The truth is – they don’t want to leave, they signed up for the shitty job, to take responsibility for loving you. They WANT to love you. Perhaps it’s getting past this – can you let go of NEEDING people to love you and accept that people WANT to love you? 

3) Love yourself. If your parents showed you unconditional love in countless ways then you have good role models for how to do this. You know what to do. If they weren’t particularly good role models then your job is harder. But you might have your own children and as a parent, you can always find a way of showing unconditional love to them, so you just need to apply it to yourself. Failing that you have your own imagination and a connection to your inner child, who can tell you directly (via your emotions) what would make you feel loved.  We all have it in us – the ability to love. It’s a matter of whether you are going to allow it or not. Of whether you are going to take responsibility for it or not. Why don’t you just start loving yourself and see what happens? Set an example for how you want to be loved and invite (no strings attached!) others to join you…you’d be surprised how many followers you get.