Splashes of Delight

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Have you noticed that when on a journey of growing awareness many of us begin to realize we are all interconnected…like waves of the ocean are connected?

On early morning walks I’m finding myself mesmerized by the way waves coming in meet waves returning from the promenade. There is a splash of delight! A meeting, a jump of joyousness, excitement. That makes sense! Waves transmit energy!

Much like what I hear when listening to two women on interconnecting journeys as they talk excitedly via podcast about what they have been discovering. It’s what I feel when something resonates with me in a book or blog post, or when I’m talking with another woman and we discover a mutual understanding of each others’ experiences. Splashes of delight, exchanges of energy…at soul level.

Am I making sense? I’ll take it further. I also feel these moments of ecstasy when I see another sign that something big is unfolding in my life. I was at a writing workshop recently where I was directed to choose an object and two postcards for three different writing activities. Each time I was drawn to brightness. A bright yellow bath-toy duckling, a bright flower, a lamp shining in the darkness. I observed this brightness theme with curiosity. An inner knowing grew stronger that day – there is a great brightness within me that is strong and glowing, but this brightness has been covered over with the rubbish and criticisms from others’ pain and dysfunction. This has become my inner critic which has been saying for years that I can’t trust my intuition, this brightness, my connection to the divine – that I need to hide it or it’ll hurt people or seem arrogant or not be good enough.

This awakening has been continuing and again a week later on my counselling course this concept came up: the bright sparkly part of me was ridiculed and stamped on by people in my early years. Now that I can see this more clearly I know I do not want it to continue. With help from others I am re-writing these old stories and learning to trust my inner knowing.

We all have bright, sparkly parts which we’ve perhaps even forgotten are there because they’ve been buried so deep by pain, rejection, lies and misunderstanding. The amazing thing is we can share with each other what we are learning on our individual journeys. What one person bravely shares can spark another person’s epiphany. We can encourage each other as we move towards greater understanding and boldly living our brightness.

I’ve been following Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook since reading Big Magic last year. Recently she linked to Carrie Hilgert who is another amazing woman daring to uncover her brightness and share her gifts with the world. Last week she posted her star sign artwork and I looked through them to see which image drew me in. This one did – can you see the lighted match at her centre?

I’ve only recently allowed myself to be curious about star signs (it was a no-no in my Christian upbringing) and so I had to go looking to see what my sign is. Bingo, I am an Aries. Emotion flooded me…here was another sign that I’m on the right path…that I’m connected to something much bigger than me. It was another splash of delight, an exchange of energy!

How about you? Are you in touch with your inner brightness, your soul, your unique gifts? Do you live from a place of peace and inner confidence? There is so much to learn around all this but for now I’m so glad you’ve found my online space. I’d love to have you share one of your moments of delight! What is opening up for you, lovely reader?

 

Blessings!

Elizabeth

 

Rising Strong

 

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I’m often amazed by how a book I’m reading speaks right into what I am living.

In January I shared what I encountered during my first Counselling Course weekend: On Finding Our Unique Voice. During the following three weeks I began to realize that yes, I am strong, but I can also hide behind my strength. And that is not such a good thing!

At this month’s workshop, almost immediately, the returning students were all speaking up and I soon realized that I don’t have to be strong in that room. I can be vulnerable and allow myself to feel things that I haven’t felt in years. During the course of the weekend I experienced sadness (tears rolling down my cheeks), vulnerability and even intense shame. Some of this shame was triggered by everyone laughing (in enjoyment) over my strange vowel sounds: think New Zealand accent in a room full of English ones. I knew in my head they weren’t laughing at me, but my body responded as if they were and it felt like déjà vu. The incredible thing for me was being able to stay in that room in that vulnerable state and then later share my vulnerability with a few of the others and feel totally supported. For the first time. Ever.

After the weekend I continued reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown and I just happened to be in chapter four, The Reckoning.

CURIOSITY is a SHIT-STARTER. BUT THAT’S OKAY. Sometimes we have to RUMBLE WITH A STORY to find the truth. p44

“One of the truisms of wholehearted living is You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness. Walking into a story about falling down can feel like being swallowed whole by emotion. Our bodies often respond before our conscious minds, and they are hardwired to protect – to run or fight. Even with small every day conflicts and disappointments, physical and emotional intolerance for discomfort is the primary reason we linger on the outskirts of our stories, never truly facing them or integrating them into our lives. We disengage to self-protect.” p46

Brené also writes: The rising strong reckoning has two deceptively simple parts: (1) engaging with our feelings, and (2) getting curious about the story behind the feelings – what emotions we’re experiencing and how they are connected to our thoughts and behaviors.

I realize that on my journey to where I am today I analyzed my painful past in my head and then moved on. Now I understand that it’s time I walk back into my story again, allowing myself to feel my emotions, get curious about them and integrate my past more fully into my present. I know it’s not going to be an easy process but I am rather excited about it.

Would you like to join me? Next time you feel strongly about something how about stopping a moment to get curious about your emotions and ask yourself some questions about what you are feeling and why. It might feel a little daunting but I believe the price of stuffing our emotions is much higher.

One of the big prices we pay for not rumbling with our story can be in our relationships with our children. Our theory for the second workshop was attachment styles and my tears were flowing as I realized how much I have let my children down because of what I haven’t known. If we didn’t receive what we needed emotionally from our parents then we will end up parenting in the same way. UNLESS we choose to go on a journey to find deeper self-understanding. So I’m choosing not to beat myself up for my failings because I know there is hope for me and for my children because I am choosing to invest time in both myself and in them in order to find healing together.

I can really recommend getting a copy of Rising Strong as Brené does a wonderfully gentle job of leading us through this challenging growth process. If you are intrigued as a parent or a future-parent-to-be and want to research further here is a little introduction: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Parenting. I can also recommend another book I’ve just begun but already feel like raving about and that is: Parenting from the Inside Out – How a Deeper Self-Understanding can help you Raise Children who Thrive. I don’t know about you but that has always been the desire of my heart – to put wind under my children’s ‘wings’ to help them to fly far!

So, have you walked into your story yet? Or are you living outside of it and still hustling to find your worthiness? I am passionate, not only about walking this journey myself but also about supporting others on their journeys. I welcome you to contact me via my Contact Page. Looking forward to meeting you!

Elizabeth

The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending-to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends. p50

Seeking Therapy is a Sign of Inner Strength

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Many people think that going to counselling or therapy is an admission of weakness. I say it’s a sign of strength and courage. It’s admitting when we need help; when we are stuck.

When I was a young mother and struggling with self-esteem, parenting, marriage issues and lots of family-of-origin baggage someone reached out to a group of young mums I was a part of and offered to meet with anyone who felt they would like some support. It was a bit scary to admit I needed help, but looking back I’m so proud of the younger me for finding the courage. I think by that point I was just so desperate for life to change. My sessions with this woman were just the beginning.

Four years and many struggles later my husband and I began dreaming about getting out of New Zealand to work in a foreign country as part of a missions team. The church we attended at the time required us to have a psych evaluation to help them decide if we were a good risk and worth their financial support. Consequently, after filling in lots of forms, we ended up in the office of a psychotherapist. Best thing ever!

FOUR BENEFITS I’VE EXPERIENCED FROM PSYCHOTHERAPY OVER THE LAST 4+ YEARS:

1. Validation

I still remember the feeling I had as my husband and I walked out of the psychotherapist’s office that first day. We had been validated as a couple and felt, for the first time in a long while, that we were okay. Peter (name changed) made us feel that we were on track, our intuition was good and our plans had merit. We both left there with a little spring in our step.

We had been struggling for years with issues with both sets of parents and we soon made an appointment to go back to the psychotherapist about my parents in particular. I’d been trying to make peace with hurtful memories from my past and I shared one of these with Peter. It was a story of shame from when I was just ten years old. I was embarrassed and it was hard for me to tell it, but I’ll always remember the incredible feeling of validation that came when I saw Peter’s jaw drop.

We discussed my experience and for the first time I realized that it really wasn’t my fault. My parents had royally screwed up in the way they had handled the situation. Just having someone professionally trained tell me that I wasn’t bad was incredibly healing. I can now look back on what for years was a very painful memory and feel peace.

2. Belief in Myself

Having someone validating my feelings and intuition gave me the courage to get to work in my own time. I asked for recommendations of books I could read and after reading Changes That Heal by Dr Henry Cloud (good for anyone who has been raised in a Christian environment) I sought out others on my own. I love that once I became open to learning books, blog posts and conversations seemed to come to my attention/happen just when I needed them…and still do.

Having Peter show me (by the way he listened, heard (got me) and validated me) I was worth something gave me the belief that I was worth investing time in.

3. Motivation to Grow for the Sake of my Children

As a result of reading and continuing to work on understanding my past I came to the realization two years ago that I had suffered mental, spiritual and emotional abuse from my narcissistic mother, both during childhood and into young adulthood. Very soon I was saying to my therapist, “How can I avoid damaging my children in the same way?” His answer (as I’ve written in an earlier post) was: “The best thing you can do for your children is to work on yourself.”

I know what it’s like to live with insecurity, fear, conditional love, lack of emotional support, lack of confidence, etc. This year has been a year of discovering more about who I am and who I want to be. Finally, in my thirty-eighth year, I have figured out that it’s okay to be authentically me. I want my children to leave home already knowing who they are, being comfortable in their own skin, and confident in their individual abilities and gifts. This is huge motivation for me to continue to unpack my past even though it can be painful and emotionally draining at times.

4. Better Communication with my Husband

Last year  I found myself growing internally in leaps and bounds and the gap between my awareness and my husband’s awareness was widening. I was feeling very emotionally disconnected from him and nothing I was saying was making sense to him or getting us anywhere. We were struggling with issues that had been present our entire marriage, namely our opposing communication styles and his obsession with computer gaming.

I got to the point where I no longer had the energy to put into improving our relationship on my own. I went to Peter and explained how I saw things and then hubby and I attended 6 sessions of psychotherapy together. Yes, I had to sweet talk him into it, but by the end he was thanking me for organizing it. Peter was able to spot unhealthy patterns that had developed in our relationship and give us pointers as to how to change them. He helped hubby to understand himself more too and why he felt most refreshed when on his own, hence the gaming.

We’ve continued to learn and grow together since then, we just needed a tune up to help us get back in sync!

~~~~~

I’m so excited to be on the verge of embarking on my own journey to becoming a psychotherapist. I’ve just found a psychotherapist here in England in preparation for beginning a counselling course in the new year. I haven’t felt stuck lately and likely wouldn’t have considered spending money on therapy if it wasn’t for the course. However, it’s become quite clear in my first two sessions that there is a lot more work to be done! Instead of seeking help for my son it makes sense for me to be supported in my role as his mother. It’s really comforting to have found someone to support me both through the 3 year course and my continued journey of healing and personal growth.

My parting thoughts on this subject…you are worth an investment in therapy! Not only will you benefit by learning to love and understand yourself more, but those around you will benefit too! If you’d like to start looking for a therapist, you might want to follow this link: How to Find the Right Therapist.

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”  ― David Richo

Actions Speak Louder than Words

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Maya Angelou

I often find myself sharing this quote with people. Probably because it has been one of the toughest lessons I have had to learn in my life so far. Have you ever experienced inner confusion because of inconsistencies between a loved one’s words and actions? I did for many years in regards to my parents, but because I was raised to never question them I didn’t really see or start trying to analyse the discrepancies until my mid-twenties.

My mother and step-father “became Christians” when I was 3 years old, so I grew up believing that this was true. Many of their actions did match up with this claim of theirs. We attended church every week, they held family devotions daily and they home-schooled my siblings and me using Christian programmes. Most of their talk was about their beliefs and world view and the fact that it was the only right way to live.

Being taught by them from an early age I believed them and took everything they said at face value. I admired teachers they endorsed, I read books they recommended and I tried to live my life as I had been taught a Christian should. To me that meant being a person of integrity, a truth teller; it meant being loving, showing compassion and kindness, encouraging others and giving.

Within a year of marrying and having my husband’s perspective on interactions with my family I began to see things that didn’t add up with who my parents said they were. Our relationship with them became fraught with challenges. The opposing messages we were getting from them created a lot of emotional stress for me and my husband. We knew there was something wrong, but we couldn’t put our finger on what. As hubby liked to say, “It’s insidiously subtle and subtly insidious.”

Fast-forward through a decade of trying to resolve the issues between us and things finally came to a head when I read my Dad’s journal of the year I was born. Suddenly I was confronted with a completely different truth about my parents than what they had led me to believe. It was shocking to discover the infidelity, yes, but more that they hadn’t been truthful about it. I went to them again and asked them for an adult version of their past; no longer believing I would get the truth, but hoping nonetheless.

Sadly, they were unable to be honest with me, instead choosing to continue to lie and twist the truth in an effort, I think, to maintain their image as ‘godly, righteous people’. I have been able to verify my Dad’s story and in fact observations he made about their character in the ’70’s are consistent with what my husband and I have lived through with them. It was an incredibly painful time of discovery, but also a freeing one. Finally, I was able to see them as their actions showed them to be and not as the people they had made themselves out to be.

After years of making every effort we could to find a way to have a healthy relationship with them I finally realized that it was not going to happen. I cannot change them, but I can choose to protect myself. For me and my family this means no contact. I wish it were not so, but for our family’s emotional health it is necessary.

My mother and step-father may not be people I can trust or want to be around but I do feel compassion and forgiveness towards them. I just choose to live my life without them in it, and have found peace with that decision. Do you have people in your life who cause you stress and anxiety? Do they say they love you and care about you but treat you badly? If yes, please do start to give yourself permission to choose whether you want them to play an active part in your life.

We could have saved ourselves so much grief and pain if we had believed who my parents were as soon as we began to see the inconsistencies. For too long we allowed ourselves to be taken in by their words, giving them way too many second chances. It is my hope that in writing about our story others might be spared some unnecessary pain and heartache. When someone shows you who they are, believe them!

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From Caged to Free

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I was sad to see this Zebra Finch and his friends behind wire yesterday. They seemed content enough, but do they even remember that they were born to fly free?

It reminds me of how I used to be. Content and secure in my cage.

I was raised in what I thought was a Christian family, but now call pseudo-Christian. I inherited my beliefs about who God is from my mother and step-father and from others in the myriad of churches we attended. The Bible was portrayed as a book without error. I was to read it every day, memorize it and obey it without question. I was taught that being gay was an abomination to God, that divorce was wrong, that I needed to evangelize and help others to see the Truth.

We had The Truth. Anyone that didn’t think and believe the same as us was wrong. It was my responsibility to help them to see the error of their ways so that they could be saved. I was told that we weren’t religious as it wasn’t about following rules and regulations but rather a relationship with God. I believed all this and did my best to follow God and be all that I was meant to be.

The sad thing was that I held on to those beliefs for so long. But why wouldn’t I? Seeing I had The Truth, why would I question it? Why would I seek to understand more of who God was if I had him defined already? Yup. I had him in a box.

Problem. I didn’t realize that I was also in a box. Or rather, a cage.

Over the last two years I’ve been coming out of that cage. A big catalyst for me has been conversations with my Dad. He has challenged my thinking and belief systems in ways that no one else ever has. It has been really difficult at times – having the foundations of my world view rocked. However the biggest thing I’ve realized is that the God outside the box of religion is so much bigger and more amazing than I ever imagined.

Religion, race, roles we play…none of them matter. They aren’t what life is all about. We are souls first and foremost. We are all interconnected. How we treat one another, love one another and connect with one another is much more important than having a so-called monopoly on the truth and/or following someone else’s interpretation of ‘God’s rules’.

We were born to be free. Free to love, free to be.

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.