Coloured portrait

Coloured portrait

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Why Affirmations Don't Work and When Do They


Language reflects one of the four mental faculties:

1- Remembering
2- Planning
3- Fantasizing
4- Noticing

Remembering is recalling sounds, images and feelings from past events.

Planning is placing one’s thinking efforts towards the future. 

Fantasizing is making things up using imagination.

Noticing is paying attention to what is real in the present moment.

Of course, the four faculties are building upon each other. You can plan for the future based on what you remember from the past, and on what you are aware of in the present. Fantasizing is also using mental memories or things noticed in the present. In order to imagine a blue flying giraffe with yellow polka dots, you must have seen what a giraffe looks like, the colour blue, the colour yellow, polka dots and flying things / animals.

Planning for the future is based on one’s values, desires, needs, drives, urges and impulses, on memories of the past and on envisioning what is possible through fantasizing. Planning begins with intention: what are you seeking to create, and what are you intending to do towards your future. Intention gives direction to your actions. 

Prayers are an upgraded version of intention: they open a door for that which is generated from beyond the conscious mind and decisions. Prayers are either petitionary, addressed to a deity in second person perspective “Please dear [Deity] restore my health!” Or they are uttered as a neutral way to open doors for favourable possibilities: “May I recover fully and restore my health”! I personally tend to favour the latter.

What are affirmations?

Affirmations are used in lieu of prayers, as a way to affirm the individual’s responsibility and part in creating a desired future. “I have fully recovered and I enjoy total health!” Affirmations are positive statements in the present tense, which are used to describe a desired outcome as if it is already happening. 

For affirmation to work, they have to be rooted in reality or a possibility. 

When do affirmations fail:

1- Affirmations describing factual events that do not depend on an individual’s behaviour. Examples: “It’s raining!” Or “The storm has already stopped” 
Unless you are an effective psychic and Expert Rainmaker, this type of affirmations are useless. If everyone were a powerful psychic, humanity would shape the world’s climate, stop hurricanes and tornadoes, make rain in the Sahara and make Ottawa tropical. 

2 - Affirmations describe personal traits or behaviours that are not true. “I’m blonde with blue eyes” or “I’m tall and thin”. These are blatant lies and apart from their entertaining value, uttering them has no purpose.

3 - Affirmations that describe future outcomes which are highly unlikely to happen. “I have become Queen of England” or (a favourite of the naive) “I won the lottery jackpot”. 

When do affirmations work:

1 - Affirmations are useful when they describe an individual’s trait or behaviour which is already true but not yet or currently expressed. By affirming a strength, one can shift the mental focus from a deficiency to a resource, change their mental and body state, and express it. 

As an example, think of two polarized traits that you know yourself to possess, like being mean (come on, admit it, we all know that you and I can be mean at times, so own it!) versus being compassionate. You want to cultivate and strengthen your kindness, which you already possess, otherwise you wouldn’t recognize it or value it; so you affirm it: “I am kind and compassionate!”

2 - Affirmations are useful when paired with the individual’s ability to sustain a vision for a desired future. If you can imagine yourself fully recovered, then the possibility for your recovery is real and alive within your imagination, and affirming it will help you connect with it. Hope is a glimpse into possibilities. When affirming something that you are truly and sincerely hopeful for,  which is possible and credible, it has a chance to work. This bit is often employed by effective healers. There is a video clip on YouTube depicting two Qi Gong practitioners performing healing on a woman who has a tumour (bladder or another organ, I don’t remember the details). There are two cameras, one inside the woman’s body, focusing on the tumour; the other camera focuses on the practitioners. The two men use body movement and chant something translatable as “It’s already gone!” The camera shows the tumour shrinking until it completely disappears. 

3 - For affirmations to work there is a need for congruence between the person’s body-mind state and the content of the affirmation. Movement, voice pitch and volume, breath and posture must be aligned with the declared words.

4 - It is easier to see results using affirmations which describe a relative process then an absolute outcome. A person who is recovering from illness is more likely to benefit from affirming: “I am getting stronger and more radiant each day” than saying: “I am strong and radiant”

To sum it up: affirmations are positive statements which are used in the present to create a desired future, engaging existing strengths that have not yet been expressed and towards an outcome which is envisioned as possible by the person who is practicing the affirmations.  Their effectiveness depends on truth, sustainable vision, and congruence.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Many Hats of Education

The many hats of EDUCATION:

A good Teacher tells you WHAT to do, pointing towards an ideal to aim for, and possibilities to consider. Teachers inspire you.

A good Instructor tells you HOW to do it, with clear, doable, easy-to-follow instructions. Instructors help you build skills.

A Role Model shows you how it’s done, and teaches you by example. A Role Model points towards which possibilities have already been embodied and enacted.

A good Trainer supports your practice, so that you get experienced at what you have been learning from the Instructor. Trainers help you refine your skills.

A good Coach will ask you well-directed questions which elicit your insights about the What of your ideals and possibilities, as well as about the How To’s. Coaches help you connect with your intuition and develop wisdom.

Anything you would add?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Politics, Free Speech and Chronic Pain

There was a joke going around during my youth behind the Iron Curtain in communist Romania, one of the thousands of jokes of victim humour that the oppressed thinkers used to whisper to each other in order to cope during the tyranny of the political regime of that time and place: 

Question: “What is the difference between a Russian journalist and an American one?” 

Answer: “They are both free to write whatever they want. But the American journalist is also free afterwards.”

I grew up in a world of lies and play-pretend, making believe that all is well when it was not, applauding the politicians whom we loathed and feared, masking our pain to compose poetry and songs about how happy we all were to live under the communist regime in our beloved socialist republic. 

The day I arrived in Israel as a new immigrant, on a hot May evening in 1985, when I was 24, a Romanian-speaking clerk welcomed me on the Ben-Gurion airport, and filled out a questionnaire before sending me to my new home, an immigrant centre in Ashdod. 

“Have you arrived here with family?” The clerk asked.

“No, I’m on my own” I answered.

“Where are your parents? Mom, Dad?” He went on inquiring.

“They are staying behind in Bucharest” I replied.

The clerk chuckled and said: “Oh, they’re staying behind with Ceausescu!”

I panicked. Someone might hear us talk about Ceausescu! People have disappeared and ended up in prison for mentioning the Romanian leader’s name in disrespectful ways, and that included political jokes and all kinds of innuendoes and humour. For a few moments I forgot that I was on a new, free land. A short flight of two hours and twenty minutes from Bucharest to Tel Aviv was not enough to erase the fear of speaking truth, of speaking up. It took me a few moments to realize that I was now free. I took a breath of relief. 

At the Romanian Intelligence quarters, a Securitate officer asks Yitzik:

“Yitzik, why do you want to immigrate to Israel?”

“Because there I can go to a central square in Tel Aviv and yell out loud that the Israeli Prime Minister is an idiot!” Replies Yitzik.

The Securitate officer shrugs and asks: “So what keeps you from going to a central square in Bucharest and yell out loud that the Israeli Prime Minister is an idiot?”

***

I am recovering from PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My treatment is what is usually referred to as “alternative” therapy: classical homeopathy, mind-body methods, mindful meditation, and conscious movement. Things get worse before they get better, as bottled pain, physical and emotional, is being unleashed and bubbling up to the surface of my awareness, sometimes in quite intense ways.

In the past few weeks I dealt with a particularly intense bout of rage mixed with anxiety, so intense that I was pushed beyond my ability to self-regulate, which I am otherwise quite skilled at. The emotions were so strong that my thinking was clouded - you could call that “foggy brain” - the same kind of cloudiness one experiences when drunk or otherwise poisoned, and I was physically sick with nausea and fatigue to the point of almost fainting. There was also a sense of being contracted and self-absorbed by the intense pain, unable to focus around me, to my immediate surroundings. This entire experience leaked out in several of my relationships, and caused further pain.

As I pause my treatment to integrate what’s happening with me, and the clouds of fog dissipate, I am able to see a bigger picture of the emotions within the context of what has triggered me. As PTSD sufferers know, triggers are present events which elicit a response, and the emotional intensity of the response is intense and out of proportion with the trigger, which indicates a memory response from something painful that happened in the past.

One of the incidents took place at my Comedy Improv training. During an exercise exploring status, one partner having a low status and the other high status, my high-status character partner corrected my language: “It’s called lemon zest, not peel!” When we switched roles, and I played a high-status character, I playfully paraphrased my own English language limitations and said to my partner: “And by the way, this is called lemon zest, and not peel”. To make my line humorous, I added drama, rolled my eyes and said: “Some people don’t even speak good English!” And scoffed: “Those immigrants!” (I am an immigrant with a strong Romanian accent and after seventeen years of living in Canada and speaking English, I still make mistakes)

Every one of my colleagues laughed, except the instructor, who said: “You don’t say that, which you said in the end”. She refrained to even utter the word “Immigrants” but referred to the Improv school’s rule of “Punch UP!”, meaning, don’t laugh at the -quote- “disenfranchised groups” and do laugh at those in power. 

The instructor’s intervention left me shocked, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. It took me a while to understand that what has happened was censorship on my language which unconsciously threw me back mentally to the memory of my childhood and youth under the communist regime. As I have been listening at quite a few talks on YouTube on the topic of free speech, mostly talks with Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, and Gad Saad, I became aware of the ideology of language censorship prevailing in today’s academia, which is what I was dealing with at my Improv class. The instructor herself lives in fear of uttering taboo words, including “immigrants”, and extends that fear to the students. Even as an immigrant I am not allowed to utter the word “immigrant” in a humour context, not even to laugh at my own immigrant self. And as I am writing this, I am well aware that publishing this article comes with a risk, and might cost me participation in the theatre’s Improv classes and jams. 

But I have learned that keeping silent comes at a risk too, and one major risk is body pain. When my holistic reflexology therapist performed the intake foot analysis (based on the Avi Grinberg method) back in January 1999 in Israel, she looked at the signs of imbalance in my feet and told me my life story from what she saw: the Water element is over-represented, and this is the world of your emotions. You have water retention, and this body fat is not from food, but from all the insults you swallowed throughout the years. She was painfully accurate.

Every time something, a truth, needs to be spoken and isn’t, failure to say what must be said causes tension in the body. In time, tension becomes pain, and a life of chronic lies leads to a life of chronic pain, and often extraneous body fat and water. I know this from my own life, experience, and body. As I write this, I am aware of sharp shooting pain through my muscles, in my neck, arms, legs, and back. Emotions are emerging, as a part of me is still scared of telling the truth, and arguing against publishing this article, while another part of me would rather speak truthfully and live with the consequences.

In New Age jargon, chronic pain is sometimes explained as the result of living in misalignment with one’s soul purpose. I have thought about this a lot, wondering what I should do to align my life with my soul’s purpose. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me that alignment with one’s purpose must begin by telling the truth, first to oneself (truth about what matters most to one’s self) and then to others. I value kindness, and believe that the truth should be spoken kindly, but also fiercely, if any positive changes are to be made, even with, and in spite of any discomfort caused. Growth is not comfortable - have you seen children growing teeth? Imagine how uncomfortable it is to be growing a spine (metaphorically, how you stand up in the world).

***

The Biodanza weekly classes I participate in always begin with an hour of “circle sharing”, where participants talk about their experience with last week’s dances. Most of the talks are expressions of gratitude to the teacher and the other dancers, and to the beauty and benefits of the exercises. Most of my speech has been outlining my own appreciation of this practice, which is a truly joyful, uplifting and enlivening practice that I have been looking forward to every week. There has been one aspect that at times I have difficulty with, and that’s the bad odours emanating from some of the dancers’ body and breath, particularly during dances of intimate embrace where we literally breathe into each other’s face. I have always had a sensitivity to smells, or, as Jordan Peterson calls it - a sensitivity to disgust. Reaction to disgust is embodied and involuntary, ranging from nausea, to stomach spasms and breath-holding.

The Tuesday night Biodanza group is a closed group, the participants are the same people each week, and we dance with each other as a tribe, a friendly tribe. I get ready for the dance like I’d go on a date,  I shower, put on beautiful clothes and jewellery, brush my teeth and put on perfume. Some of my fellow dancers do the same, and I see this as a way to consider each other, and make each other’s dance a pleasurable experience. Other dancers care less about their appearance’s effect on others, and last week a tall dancer had raw garlic for dinner before our dance, and as this dancer and I ended a dance exercise in an embrace, I felt a wave of the raw garlic breath down on my face as it nested at his chest, and I became sick and distressed. But I said nothing, and did nothing about it, which is my usual conditioned response to distress: “freeze”. Determined to change in ways that are good for others as well, I decided to talk about my experience in the sharing circle, and request the said dancer, and all dancers in our group, to not eat raw garlic before our dance. 

As we sat in the circle, I spoke as kindly as I could, feeling clumsy and awkward about my request, trying to be playful about it, but causing discomfort nonetheless. There were two responses to my request: one, beginning with the teacher, was to invalidate my disgust and proclaim the benefits of natural smells (she said something about how our sense of smell changes, indicating that I should change my sense of smell, while she encouraged the dancer to keep eating garlic if he wanted to). The other response was whispered from the sides, from fellow dancers who congratulated and thanked me for the courage to speak up on a topic that was as relevant to them as it was to me, but they hadn’t been willing to risk by saying anything about it.

Again, speaking the truth might risk my membership into this tribe; but I dare to think it will also cause change, and at least some of the dancers might be mindful of the way they get ready to move with, breathe with, and touch other people. 

Is there a better way I could have spoken and addressed the bad smell topic? I am sure. Speaking the difficult truth is new to me and I am clumsy at it, and I have so much to practice. 

Also, speaking the difficult truth is neither encouraged, nor promoted by the culture that I am part of, so I go not only against my own fears, but against the so-to-speak cultural grain.


But it’s the best alternative that I have to living with chronic pain, in a web of lies and play-pretend. And I am inspired by those who do speak up, and speak well, and I am trying to learn how it’s done.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) 2017 Musings

Why is it so difficult to realize that body, mind and spirit are one and the same? That self and other, individual and collective, person and world, are the same? That the falling of the Temple, that which is most sacred and valued, is the same as the falling of that which is most sacred and valued within the self?

The Enemy destroyed the precious sanctuary of prayer and community. Inside the psyche, the forces of the darkness, perhaps unconscious habits and reactions, perhaps ignorance, perhaps weaknesses and lack of appropriate resources or appropriate timing, led to the destruction of one’s most praised qualities - maybe intelligence, or physical beauty, or youth, or strength, or loss of home, of land, of culture. Loss of parnasa, or work, or business. 

My own personal temple has fallen in the hands of an enemy that I have regarded as being external, a harmful and and cruel other whose upper hand in home, society and money has led his violence to be abuse. But the raise of such enemy was only possible through that inside myself which led me to choose him as consort. This was by far not an act of God, but the doing of another in relationship with self, another that I was attracted to, and wish to live with. 

The falling of the Temple led to loss, grief and suffering - in the Jewish people, and in my own personal story. A story of being wronged and victimized - and yet, here we are, and here I am, on this day which commemorates the falling of the sacred, not just offering our forgiveness, but primarily asking for forgiveness for our own wrongdoings. I do not see the confessions of wrongdoings as punishments but as means to awareness, to bringing the inner enemies to the light, and expose them, and by exposing them from their dark hiding, to use our conscious, intentional choice of performing TIKKUN - making amends. This is not a process unique to Judaism - you have the Tibetan practice of ‘feeding the demons’ and turning the inner dark forces into enlightened allies, thus growing strong. This is the essence of Western psychology and the integration of Shadow elements. There is nothing punitive about this process, but everything is integrative, restorative and healing. It’s not about returning to a goodness lost, but growing into goodness. We had what it took to build a Temple (twice!) but we lacked what it would have taken to defend it. And now we’re learning to grow strong, and as the country of Israel is demonstrating, we have developed enough strength to defend borders and that which we value.

On my personal level, I have endured great losses and pain, which have revealed to me my own areas of growth. I am exiled and ailing, but I am kinder, wiser, stronger and more skilled for living, loving and being of service than ever before, and certainly than before stepping into that difficult marriage.

———————

Why is there such a widely spread assumption than others are more knowledgeable than we are? On my way home from the synagogue, I stopped at the park. When I left, I drove to explore a path, curious to see if there was another exit from the park, closer to home. The young woman who pulled out of the parking spot next to me followed, and when I turned around as we both realized there was no exit after all, our cars crossed and we looked at each other and laughed. She may have assumed that I knew what I was doing - there was no way for her to know that I was exploring, and not knowing.

It makes me wonder about how many instances we give up our inquisitive aspects of our minds and our openness to explore and trade it for the false reassurance that another can show us the way better than we can find it ourselves. I am not talking about competence-based expertise, but about big and small life dilemmas at literal and metaphorical cross-roads where we ask the counsellor, the doctor, the rabbi, or the angel communicator to tell us where to turn. We could explore, or check in with our embodied intuition, but we trust our gut less than we trust another who appears to be poised, confident, and knowledgeable. We’d rather run to experts in telling us what to do rather than coaches who instruct us how to uncover and access insights.

I’m thinking particularly about the Angel communicators - and channellers of sorts.

Are Angels beings of light who are separate entities from us, humans, who have a mysterious reason to want to help us with guidance, protection and healing? 

Or are Angels potential archetypal qualities awaiting to be embodied? What is peace, love, harmony, curiosity, generosity, humour? Are these traits that humans develop through some kind of bio-chemical and physical reactions? Or are they pre-existing energies waiting and wanting to inhabit conscious beings - and we call them “Angels”? Do Angel communicators connect with someone outside of and separate from the self? Or do they draw wisdom from their own inner qualities, in their own language?

Where do any qualities come from, anyway? Not just human qualities, but traits of all and any conscious and sentient beings? I sat on a bench to eat an egg and some almonds (this year I’m not fasting, as I have been feeling weak and unwell). A seagull approached me vociferating his interest in my food. I gave him almonds and watched him fly low and abruptly towards other gulls, to shoo them away. He was clearly the strongest and had the highest status. How does that happen? How do little gull chicks break their egg and emerge out, one powerful and fierce, and another shy and submissive? This little guy had no fear. He walked so close to me, he almost touched my feet.

Where does this courage and strength come from?

I doubt he read the books, participated in the seminars and trained with black belt masters. What makes him courageous and strong, and earning of respect?


And what does this say to us, humans about our traits?



(C) Tana Saler September 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dogs, Boundaries and Rape

When Kinook, my Akita girl dog and I first me Dr. Ann McEwan, a veterinarian doctor who is also trained and functioning as a classical homeopath for pets, I was surprised and impressed with the vet’s approach to consulting my fur baby: instead of lifting the dog on the cold metal table, Dr. McEwan kneeled down on the floor to consult. Before touching Kinook, she greeted her and made an introductory friendly conversation: “Hi Kinook, I am your doctor. How are you?” Then she asked Kinook’s permission to touch her, and before she did, she first told her what she was going to do: “Now I’m going to poke your belly and feel”. “Now I’m going to smell your ears”. “Can you lift your front leg so I can look at your toes?”

This approach was not at all what I grew up with in my native Romania. Dogs were given instructions, short-worded orders, rewards and punishments: “No!” “Forbidden!” “Go to your bed!” “Come!” “We’re going for a walk!”. I remember the harshest of all: “Marche!” (From the French word for ‘go’) intended as “Get lost!”. I lived in the capital, Bucharest, and my dogs slept in bed with me, were well fed and walked daily, a much better fate then their countryside counterparts who spent their lives chained to a post outside the house.

And still, dogs were seen as objects, as an “it”. They weren’t treated as conscious beings in their own right, with awareness and personalities; but objectified extensions of us, their humans, who called ourselves “owners”. Yes, they were given food, veterinary care, and affection, but more like the kind of affection one gives to the doll or the teddy bear, not to a friend who has his or her own personality, preferences, and needs.

And then I realized another, more disturbing thing: in my native culture, children were treated the same as dogs: the property of the parents, and an objectified extension to the adults. We were subjected to slobbery kisses and embraces from sweaty visitors, and no-one would ask for our permission before being touched. It was unheard of. Medical doctors would poke at us - not only children, but also adults. Professional touch as intimate as a gynaecological examination was often conducted, when in hospitals, in the presence of a full class of practicing medical students, who were urged by their professors to stick two fingers in the patient’s vagina, without ever asking for the patient’s permission or cons
ent.

I watched Dr. McEwan talk to my dog with a kind of care and respect that I, as a child, didn't even know it existed, or dared to hope. 

Personal boundaries define a conscious being as someone in his or her own right, to be respected and treated as such. Defining personal boundaries begins in childhood. Developing a healthy sense of self as an individual, autonomous being, begins in childhood.

Growing up in Romania I heard marvellous stories of another culture: Israel. Being Jewish, I had family members and friends’ family members in Israel; and there were folklore stories circulating among us Romanians about them: “Did you know that…?” Our eyes were widening in awe and disbelief: “Really?!?”

“Did you know that in Israel parents ask their children for consent when the doctor prescribes injections?”

“Really?!?”

“Yes, it’s true! The doctor says: ‘We must give little Shlomo an injection’, so the parent turns to little Shlomo and asks: ‘Little Shlomo, are you okay with getting an injection?’ And little Shlomo says: ‘No!’ So the parent turns towards the Doctor and asks: ‘Is there anything else that you can prescribe for him, Doctor, like, maybe a pill?’

Growing up as an objectified extension of the adults, discouraged us from having and expressing our own needs, wants and preferences; an objectified child learns to obey, and disconnects from any sense as a separate and whole self.

When my math tutor tried to kiss me saying: “You know, you have some qualities!” (I was sixteen and his wife was seven months pregnant”, all I could do was softly touch his arm, to block it, and turn my face away. Fortunately, he snapped out of his impulse, and promised that from now on, we would only do math. He also urged me to not tell anyone about what happened. 

I did what I knew to do: I obeyed, and kept silent. I didn’t tell anyone about it.

Four years later I met a man at a dance in my university's discotheque. We dated and I felt anxious around him, but I didn't know how to listen to my gut feelings, or trust my instincts. Instead, I listened to his words, convinced that I was anxious because something was wrong with me. 

One night he proposed a visit upstairs to his apartment. It was late, after midnight. I kept obeying his words and ignoring my gut, and I joined him. He urged me to keep my voice down, not to wake the old man - who my date said was his father - who sleeping and snoring on a couch in the living room. Down on the floor, in the entrance hallway, there were two pairs of small-sized women’s sandals. But there was no woman in sight in the house. My date led me to his bedroom, and persuaded me to undress, promising me that “nothing would happen”. I obeyed. He drank a few glasses of tzuika -plum eau-de-vie, and then he raped me. 

I cried. 

I cried silently, not to wake the old man up. 

When he was done, the man fell asleep. I looked through his ID papers and saw he was named differently than he had told me he was. I thought for a moment to steal his ID and take it to the police to complain, but for some reason, I didn’t. I got dressed and walked home.

For years after this rape I asked myself why was I silent. Why didn’t I scream, wake the old man up, and save myself the pain. What was wrong with me? 

It wasn't until just a few years ago when someone posted an article on Facebook with parenting tips: “Don’t force your child to kiss, or hug, or touch anyone if they don’t want to. Teach them that their body is theirs, to do as they choose.”

That moment everything made sense: the priming of a girl with uninvited touch is a door open to rape. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do not blame myself, or any rape victim. Rapists are despicable human beings, and that particular man was of the worst kind. His actions are reprehensible.

What I am saying is that cultivating strong and clear boundaries and a healthy sense of a separate self begins in childhood, and will later affect how an adult will behave in any conditions, including and especially under attack. 

To defend oneself requires a sense of self. To stand up and speak up for oneself, requires a healthy sense of self, where self-preservation can kick-in when needed. Without a self, there is no self-defence.  A self that is separate, with a mind - and a body! - of her own, who will fight back and kick in order to stay safe. 

Or at the very least, scream.

© Tana Saler, September 2017







Friday, September 8, 2017

Tips on Facing Painful Memories

My tips on facing painful past memories:

(Offered this in a Facebook group to someone who is doing Jordan Peterson's Past Self-Authoring program, where you write down the major events in your past that impacted your life)

1- Process one painful memory "dragon" at a time. If writing one bit was intense, give yourself at least one "sleep" before moving on to the next.

2 - Breathe. It sounds trivial, but when feeling old pain re-emerging, its instinctive to hold your breath in order to not feel. So feel and breathe slowly, deliberately, softening your belly, allowing your breath to descend down into your belly.

3 - Have Kleenex around, feel, and cry. The past hurts are lingering because they haven't been fully processed. The writing brings up the opportunity to process. Feel the emerging pain and welcome it, with full body awareness (emotional pain is body pain, so locate it in your body and stay aware of it). Apply together with 2 - (breathe!)

4- Stay present! The events happened in the past, but the lingering pain is happening now. Once tuned into the pain, avoid analyzing, giving meaning, interpretations or conducting dialogue mentally. Instead, stay in the here (body) and now.

5 - Complete the process! Connect with the pain, feel it, breathe through it, voice it (ouch, uncensored verbal expressions, any words or sounds that need to come out), move with it (make fists, frown, stomp or whatever comes naturally with your body) for as long as the pain is intensifying. When it reaches a peak, let go of it, open fists, soften eyes, tongue, jaw and belly, and take some time to relax your body. This step is an important one, as it completes the process of that particular experience, so it won't have to haunt you anymore.

6- Integration. Give yourself time to integrate. Integration is for emotional processing what digestion is for eating. You don't follow a meal with another meal. Sleep, go for a walk, dance, play, make love, do something pleasurable and creative, and don't talk about your experience for a while.

Success! You can do this, and it's going to be worthwhile your efforts!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Boundaries!

I can't count the times I heard this word exclaimed like an interjection, without an explanation, elaboration or instructions. Several other times I heard people saying that I or someone else had poor boundaries. It sounded like an awful predicament to be in, without a proper instruction or even hint on what to do about it.

Here's what I figured so far: Personal Boundaries, an expression that did not exist in my maternal language when I grew up, refers to the physical and imaginary "lines" a person draws around themselves, to separate and distinguish themselves from the surrounding environment and others. 

Simply, boundaries are what makes you be you and not someone else. 

You have physical boundaries: your skin and your senses. Establishing clear boundaries means that you get to decide and communicate what goes in and out of your mouth, eyes, ears (what you look at, and listen to), who, when and where they touch you or do things with or to your body. Your physical boundaries extend to your property (you get to decide, and should communicate clearly, what happens with your money, car, toothbrush, bra and olive oil. Unless the olive oil belongs to the family, in which case it's a collective boundary and you guys get to defend it agains predators. Boundaries extend to your dependents as well: you get to decide where your child, dog, cat or goldfish sleeps tonight, and any other night, who walks with them (well, not the fish) and where and when. You get the gist.

There are non-physical boundaries too, which are imaginary lines drawn on your preferences, lifestyle choices, activities and conversations you engage in etc. You get to decide what to work, who to befriend, what conversations you participate in, what kind of language or treatment is acceptable for you from others, where do you draw the line in relational agreements. If I ever write the Boundaries! manual, I'll write examples in it. Should I?

As an autonomous human being you are responsible for establishing, communicating and defending your boundaries. As a people please like myself, you have to begin by figuring out who you are and what your boundaries are when you are not trying to please or appease anyone. Tough one, after growing up in an oppressive culture, and practicing being oppressed victim for so long, I am now in the midst of figuring all of this for myself. Who am I, not who I think that others think I should be. 

As a social being, to live and function with one another, I found, it takes two or more autonomous humans with clear and healthy boundaries. You must know who you are before you commune with another, or things get really messy. Don't ask!

Would it be helpful to you to give you specific examples of learned boundaries, from my own experience?