Press “Pause”

In today’s workaholic culture, the success of our day is measured by what we accomplished and how much we got done. Being always hungry for more and planning what’s next is certainly a drive towards amazing achievements. However, this mindset can also be associated with high levels of stress and exhaustion. The sessions I have with my clients are filled with “I will take a break once I do this”, “I will celebrate after I am done with that”, “I will use my day off to catch up on X, Y, Z”, “I need to work really hard now so that one day I can finally relax”.

Those statements are the testimony of our tendency to postpone living until that “one day”. We can become so focused on the destination that we forget to notice and appreciate the journey. The risk of putting off living until tomorrow is to wake up one day and feel like we have never lived.

Your ability to entirely enjoy and savour every minute rather than just counting and filling them can be practised through adopting a “slow-life philosophy”. Self-care doesn’t have to take the appearance of another “to-do list” filled with “I should” activities that can add on to your already busy life and create feelings of guilt. What if it was not about doing more, but rather doing differently? For instance, by allowing yourself to pause, to take notice and be present.

To help you get grounded in any situation and catch your breath, you can focus on your five senses. Actively notice what is happening in your body and mentally describe it to yourself. It is then possible to be fully committed to what you are doing as well as connected with your surroundings. Practice by focusing on one activity at a time rather than multitasking, especially if you are doing something that matters to you. For example, turn off the screens whenever there are not necessary like at dinner with your family or while working out. Any notification can wait at least these 45 minutes. You can also start paying attention to the nature around you and finding beauty in the shape of a tree or the vibrant colour of a flower. You may listen attentively to the words and instruments that fill the music you like without using it only as background noise. You can even allow yourself to do absolutely nothing once in a while. The Italians call it “Dolce far niente”. It’s a special “me time” during which you don’t do anything in particular: no sleep, no massage, no reading… You pause, open your eyes and admire life in its simplicity.

By slowing down and being more aware of how you live your life, you are creating space to unwind, to reflect on your choices, to adopt a more balanced life and move forward in an empowered and more committed way.

Written by:
Lucie Ramet

Clinical Psychologist

Discovering Our Nature in an Unnatural World

One of the areas we can explore in psychotherapy is discovering oneself and one’s different modes of being. What is interesting about us humans is that we are the only species who has “separated” ourselves from nature and therefore made ourselves not fully natural.

In nature, everything exists in an intricate and complex interconnection, and yet everything is being fully authentic. No one would question the authenticity of a tree, a river, a lioness, or a bird. A tree is always being fully and authentically a tree, and expressing itself in the world without any internal disruptions or distortions. In that sense, it is always in a state of a “flow.” For us contemporary humans, though, authenticity is a constant struggle. We can never be fully authentic, and yet we desire to express ourselves and live as who we are! We want our energy to flow freely within and between us, and yet we continually stumble upon obstacles.

In the process, we’ve created many artificial ways to help us, if not go back to our nature, then to at least come closer to experiencing who we naturally are. Psychotherapy is one of these ways. Yoga, meditation, art, dance, singing, and different spiritual experiences are some of the others. If we fail to find ways to catch moments of authentic being, we start to feel a sense of disconnection from life itself — to the point of becoming more robot-like and withdrawn from everything alive within us.

Times change, and the ways we create contexts for authentic experiences and reconnecting with ourselves are also changing. The way people engage in religious rituals are not the same as hundreds years ago. The ways how contemporary people meditate, dance or play music are also contemporary.

Several years ago, I happened to witness a performance of sorts that totally mesmerized me. It seemed like every atom of this being I was observing was vibrating and glowing with a kind of a presence that is impossible to miss, overlook, or experience partially. It took my total attention immediately. I have no memory of the content itself, but this woman’s presence was so captivating!

I was intrigued to learn that it was not what we would normally consider a performance, but her authentic way of expressing herself in the world at that particular moment of time. She allowed and encouraged herself to be seen, heard, and felt by others. This involved movements of her body, sounds she produced, words she said, and the energetic connection she made with the people witnessing her. She used a particular frame, a particular mode of being, to do this, as every beautiful creation needs a frame. Hers was created by her and named “Wisdom Bones”. This was my first encounter with Robyn Lynn. I have had many personal experiences with Wisdom Bones since that time, and had always wondered: “Isn’t it intriguing to find this kind of dimension in our contemporary world?”

I have been going around the world through different cultures and times (as I become older), and I have been encountering different people and experiences to learn from. Many of the times there were some amazingly rich professional workshops, and sometimes, as well, I could learn something deeply “therapeutic” from people, who are not directly related to professional psychotherapy.  Wisdom Bones was one of those gems, because it is probably closer to an expressive art rather than therapy.  

Basically, when I engaged myself in practice of Wisdom Bones first I was invited to connect to what was present to me not through my thoughts and words, but through the way my body wanted to move and make sounds. This idea was not new to me, so I could do it with a relative ease; but the next step, when this nonverbal presence had to create words and meaning, – was a challenge for me. Because, in everyday life things are either verbal or non-verbal, and most often, most of us don’t really connect them together, moreover, not on purpose. At the same time, we can always distinguish when someone is speaking from their heart. And in that case the words really do not sound from that person’s head, so to say, but from their whole being. In my therapeutic work I use Somatic Experiencing, as one of the approaches. And because this method is also emphasizes awareness of the body that would allow one to reconnect with one’s natural innate abilities to self-regulate and to come back to the flow of life, I could resonate with Wisdom Bones modality immediately. Whereas, Somatic Experiencing is really a therapy method, it can be seen as a framework for an authentic self-expression in some moments of therapy process as well. And this aspect is what is connecting therapy, art and aliveness. Therapy is like a kaleidoscope with many colours and shapes making always different constellations.

Written by:
Oksana Okhrimenko
Counsellor, Somatic Experiencing Practioner & Leadership Coach

SACAC Counselling

Connecting with the feeling and meaning beneath childrens’ behaviour

There is a little and loved book in our house that was given to my children. The bearer of this book declared it a long time favorite in their house, one often requested at bedtime. The children’s book follows a young girl who runs through a series of potential mishaps with her Mother – and asks, “Would you love me?” Finally, running out of scenarios in which to test her Mother’s love the girls asks, “What if I turned into a polar bear and I was the meanest bear you ever saw and I had sharp, shiny teeth, and I chased you into your tent and you cried?” The Mother replies, “then I would be very surprised and very scared. But still, inside the bear, you would be you, and I would love you.”

It strikes me that so often our children’s challenging, explosive, angry, jealous, sad and tricky feelings are waiting to be understood in this way. That when they are most out of control, and most uncontained that this is the exact moment they need us to see the “the real them inside the bear” and help them find a way back to themselves. Janet Lansbury and the RIE method offer many practical and effective ideas for parents to help their children find their way back to themselves in these moments. Here are 3 ideas that can allow children to discharge the emotion they are experiencing and stay connected with their caregiver. For, it is the relationship above all else that is important.

1.) Reflecting Emotions with Empathy: Welcome emotional expression, it is how children (and adults) calm their arousal from stressful experiences, yelling, crying, “tantrums” of stamping feet are not things that a parent can control, and in fact they help the child discharge the emotion they are feeling. Often once the child has the experience of being heard, seen and accepted in their big feelings they are then open to hearing the rational wiser ideas that parents or caregivers can offer. Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Bryson in “The Whole Brain Child” call this ‘Connect and Redirect’. The Whole Brain Child is a tremendous book that I recommend to anyone who is interested in children, the brain and making parenting more enjoyable.

2.) ‘Sportscasting’ (or ‘Broadcasting’): Is the term given to the “just the facts” reflection of the situation. This verbalization of the events is done in a comfortable, non-judgmental, neutral tone. The adult demonstrates understanding and ideally empathy for the child’s position, yet does not accept the invitation to fix, find fault or favor. As parents we all have an instinct to protect and solve disputes for our children. However, just like helping them in other matters that they can resolve themselves we may be taking from them a great opportunity to learn. What children deeply need in these moments is connection. They want to know the adults understand the feeling, see what is going on, they want to know we are there for them, and are available to step in when they really need us. When they do need an adult to step in and stop them is when things are about to, or have already crossed the line into, pushing, hitting, biting, or kicking.

3.) Ground and Calm yourself – take a few deep grounding breaths, the purpose is to dampen down your own sympathetic nervous system,  to bring the calm with you. Children will naturally take on the affect you bring into any situation. Triple P’s (Positive Parenting Program) mantra is “Always be, bigger, stronger, wiser and KIND”. Finding one that works for you can be a lifeline to your parenting intentions in times of daily struggles and stressful moments.

Janet Lansbury:
Triple P:
Barbara M Joose, “Mama, Do You Love Me?”
Dr Daniel J. Siegel and Dr Tina Bryson, “The Whole-Brain Child

Written by:
Veronica McKibbin

SACAC Counselling