Category Archives: Handouts

A BRIDGE OF WISDOM – FOR GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE

A BRIDGE OF WISDOM

MADE UP OF INDIVIDUAL BLOCKS OF:

COMPASSION

        POWER      STRENGTH                                  GRATITUDE      HUMILITY

 

A Round Arch Bridge at the London Science Museum. Visitors can  build an arch bridge out of individual angled blocks that vividly illustrate the stability of such structures. Once the keystone is placed in, you can take away the wooden framework and the bridge is very strong.

The inspiration of what each block contains is inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela during and after his experience of prison. He used the time to enrich himself which led to him becoming one of the greatest and most compassionate leaders of our time.

POSITIVE STATEMENTS FOR GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE AND FOR MEDITATIONS

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These are statements which can be cut up and placed on a table so that participants can select the most appropriate one for them to focus on during a meditation.  I found group members also wanted to take several of them home to use as affirmations.

I RESOLVE TO TREAT MYSELF AS MY BEST FRIEND

I LISTEN TO MYSELF AND TALK KINDLY TO MYSELF

I AM LIVING MORE AND MORE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

EACH DAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TO CHANGE YOUR WORLD IS TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK

I ALLOW MY MIND TO RELAX AND BE QUIET

I KNOW MY OWN STRENGTHS AND SKILLS

I CAN HANDLE ANYTHING THAT COMES MY WAY

MISTAKES ARE HOW WE MOVE FORWARD IN OUR LIVES

I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN LIFE

I AM TAKING CHARGE OF MY LIFE

I AM MAKING EACH DAY COUNT

I TRUST AND BELIEVE IN MYSELF

I TRUST AND BELIEVE IN MYSELF AND IN THE PROCESS OF LIFE

FEEL THE FEAR …AND DO IT ANYWAY (Susan Jeffers)

I BELONG IN THE WORLD

I DESERVE TO BE LOVED AND ACCEPTED BY MYSELF AND OTHER PEOPLE

I AM A GOOD PERSON

I HAVE MANY GIFTS TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE WORLD

I AM SAFE IN THE WORLD

I CAN BECAUSE I THINK I CAN

I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY

MY CONFIDENCE IS GROWING EVERY DAY

I AM BUILDING A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH MYSELF EVERY DAY

IT IS TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE FOR ME TO SAY NO

IT IS A GIFT TO THE WORLD WHEN I EXPRESS MYSELF AND MY TRUTH

I AM ABLE TO EXPRESS MYSELF CREATIVELY AND WISELY

I AM POWERFUL, VULNERABLE AND WISE

I CREATE PEACE OF MIND AND EASE FOR MYSELF

I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY OWN COMFORT

I PROTECT MYSELF AND KEEP MYSELF SAFE

ALL IS WELL-BEING

I AM ABLE TO EXPRESS MYSELF CREATIVELY AND WISELY

I AM AT ONE WITH MYSELF AND WITH THE UNIVERSE

I DESERVE TO SUPPORT MYSELF AND I DESERVE TO BE SUPPORTED IN THE WORLD

I HONOUR MY JOURNEY AND I HONOUR MYSELF

I HAVE POWER, STRENGTH, GRATITUDE, HUMILITY AND COMPASSION, THAT IS MY WISDOM

I AM MAKING ROOM FOR LOVE, HAPPINESS, PLAY, PEACE AND JOY.

I USE QUIET AND STILLNESS TO RECHARGE MY POWER AND STRENGTH

ALL IS WELL

I HAVE CREATED MY OWN SAFETY

I AM NOW POSITIVELY CREATING MY OWN LIFE

I EMBRACE A FUTURE OF JOY, PEACE, HAPPINESS, LOVE AND PLAY

I CAN DO………  I CAN HAVE………  I AM………

(Complete with positive messages)

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GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES, NUTRITION AND EXERCISE

TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES

IT IS VITAL THAT WE MAKE TIME TO RELAX, HAVE FUN AND TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES, THIS IS WHAT HELPS US TO WORK AND LIVE MORE EFFECTIVELY

  • MEDITATION, RELAXATION OR JUST QUIET TIME WITH OURSELVES.

  • CREATE AN ATTRACTIVE WORKING/LIVING SPACE WITH MEANINGFUL OBJECTS, PICTURES, COLOURS THAT ENERGISE US. POSTCARDS ARE INEXPENSIVE, CHOOSE ONE THAT MAKES YOU SMILE. BUY OR PICK SOME FLOWERS, EVEN ONE SINGLE FLOWER. CHOOSE WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?

  • LISTEN TO MUSIC, SING, DANCE, ENJOY SPORT OR WALKING IN NATURE.

  • FRESH AIR IS IMPORTANT WHEN WE ARE WORKING AND SLEEPING. WE NEED TO TAKE REGULAR BREAKS OUTSIDE WHEN WE CAN.

  • LEARN A NEW SKILL, A NEW LANGUAGE, GAIN A NEW QUALIFICATION.

  • TAKE PROPER BREAKS, WHETHER THIS IS A FIVE MINUTE BREAK TO STRETCH AND WALK AROUND, A WEEKEND AWAY OR A PROPER HOLIDAY. RECOGNISING WHEN WE NEED A BREAK IS VITAL FOR WELL BEING.

  • VISIT A PLACE THAT YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN BEFORE AND NOTICE HOW YOU ENJOY SPENDING TIME WITH YOURSELF. THIS CAN BE FUN.

  • SLEEP IS IMPORTANT AND IT IS ALL TOO EASY TO STAY UP TOO LATE, TOO OFTEN. WE NEED TO CATCH UP ON SLEEP WHEN OUR ENERGY IS DEPLETED. IT IS REGENERATIVE AND DREAMS ARE THE BEST WAY TO CLEANSE OUR SUBCONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS. OUR NERVOUS SYSTEM IS STRENGTHENED BY SLEEP. IF YOU ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO TAKE SHORT NAPS WHEN YOU NEED TO, THAT IS VERY HEALTHY.

  • CREATIVE PURSUITS ARE CHALLENGING, RELAXING AND INSPIRING:PAINTING, SCULPTING, SEWING, COOKING, DRAWING, DRAMA, MAKING MUSIC, PHOTOGRAPHY, DANCING, GARDENING, POTTERY, CREATIVE WRITING OR WRITING A DIARY, COLOURFUL DOODLING OR COLOURING. ALL OF THESE CAN BE ABSORBING AND ENERGISING WAYS FOR US TO EXPRESS OURSELVES EVEN IF WE ARE A BEGINNER.

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  • PLAYING GAMES WITH FRIENDS: CARDS, BOARD GAMES OR COMPUTER GAMES CAN GIVE US ENERGY.

  • PURSUING A PASSION, AN INTEREST, AN IDEA, A DREAM, A LONGING, A GOAL CAN ALSO GIVE US ENERGY.

  • A MASSAGE, ANY KIND OF MASSAGE, IS WONDERFULLY RELAXING. YOU COULD DO A FOOT/HAND MASSAGE SWAP WITH A FRIEND OR PARTNER.

  • SOAKING IN A HOT BATH CAN BE RELAXING, IF YOU HAVE A BATH. ADD THE TO EXPERIENCE WITH A CANDLE, BUBBLE BATH, INCENSE AND/OR MUSIC.

  • WALKING IN A LABYRINTH…FIND ONE IN YOUR AREA…CAN BE HEALING AND RELAXING. THERE IS NORMALLY ONE PATH IN AND ONE PATH OUT. THE OBJECT IS TO ENJOY A WALK AT YOUR OWN PACE. YOU CAN FOCUS ON RELEASING SOMETHING NO LONGER HELPFUL TO YOU (AN OUTDATED BELIEF OR HABIT, A NEGATIVE PATTERN OF BEHAVIOUR OR OUTDATED THINKING OR A LIMITING ATTACHMENT) ON THE INWARD WALK; IMAGINE RECEIVING A STRENGTH YOU MAY NEED AT THE CENTRE; AND RETURNING WITH THAT ON YOUR OUTWARD WALK. SEARCH FOR A LABYRINTH IN YOUR AREA ON THE VERIDITAS LABYRINTH FINDER WEBSITE MENTIONED IN THE SECTION ON LABYRINTHS IN THIS BLOG.

  • CONTACT WITH PEOPLE, PLACES AND BELIEFS THAT ENERGISE OR RELAX YOU. NOTICE WHO AND WHAT GIVES YOU ENERGY AND WHO OR WHAT DRAINS YOU!

  • LAUGHTER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST SOURCES OF ENERGY!

  • DOING SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE HELPS US TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES.
  • IT CAN HELP WHEN WE BUY OURSELVES A TREAT, ESPECIALLY WHEN WE ARE PARTICULARLY BUSY OR STRESSED. ALSO, IT IS HONOURING OURSELVES WHEN WE REWARD OURSELVES FOR REACHING A PARTICULAR GOAL.WE ALL NEED TO PRIORITISE NURTURING OURSELVES IN ORDER TO BECOME OUR OWN BEST FRIEND……

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NUTRITION

  • Notice whether you feel more energised by eating a number of smaller meals spread over a day or whether you feel better to have two substantial meals and a larger gap, (daily fasting of 16 hours), before eating the next day, or something inbetween these two There are trends as to what creates healthy bodies and you are the best judge of what works best for you. It does seem helpful to most people to have your last meal of the day at least three hours before you go to bed.

  • EATING MORE REAL FOOD is certainly a healthier option. This means more fruit, salad, fresh herbs, nuts, seeds, grains, pulses and vegetables. These foods are comparatively cheap, easy to prepare and SO MUCH BETTER FOR US. Where possible, if we eat meat, it helps to choose organic meat which has less additives and less hormones.

  • LIMIT CIGARETTES, TEA, COFFEE, ALCOHOL, COLA AND COCOA DRINKS, SUGAR, SWEETNERS, PROCESSED/FAST AND OTHER ‘CHEMICALLY RICH’ FOODS. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol and nicotine add enormously to our stress and toxin levels in the body and foster a physical as well as a psychological addiction – this does not seem like relaxation or a freedom!

  • We can make small changes that are healthier: using sea-salt; cooking in coconut oil which can add an interesting taste to many meals and you don’t need a lot, a teaspoon goes a long way and heats up at lower temperatures; using walnut and other nut oils as part of salad dressings; adding fermented bean sprouts to any salad; using a good pro-biotic to fight off infections or enjoy yogurt or Kefir which are reputed to be an energising and healthy way of doing the same thing.

  • There are many good milk substitutes for dairy, which often has a variety of additives including hormones and anti-biotics. We can also benefit from using organic milk. It is now easier to buy a variety of different nut milks, oat milk, soya milk and others. Goat and sheep cheeses are a healthy alternative to cow’s cheese. Haloumi is a good example of this.

  • A good quality honey is a very healthy and nourishing alternative to sugar and a little goes a long way. You can now buy a halva which just includes honey and no sugar if you want something sweet and nutritious.

  • Fruit and nuts, especially dried fruits, are an ideal snack food if you want some energy inbetween meals.

  • When we are really thirsty, there is nothing quite like a fresh glass of water and if we are detoxing after an illness, operation or a ‘heavy night out’ water helps us to detox and can sometimes top headaches caused by dehydration.

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EXERCISE

  • EXERCISE DOES US GOOD PHYSICALLY BUT IT ALSO MAKES US FEEL BETTER MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY, CONTRIBUTING TO A GENERAL FEELING OF WELL BEING. GOOD EXERCISE IMPROVES OUR ABILITY TO SLEEP AND IS AN EXCELLENT WAY TO REDUCE ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND STRESS. IT INCREASES MENTAL AGILITY AND CLARITY OF MIND AND THEREFORE IS VITAL AS A TOOL TO COMBAT STRESS.

  • It is important for us to do some form of exercise that we can easily build into a daily routine and most important of all is that we choose something that we ENJOY doing!

  • WALKING IS ONE OF THE BEST FORMS OF EXERCISE. IS THERE ANYWHERE YOU COULD WALK INSTEAD OF USING CAR OR PUBLIC TRANSPORT, AND SAVE MONEY TOO?

  • Is there any sport which you would enjoy doing on your own or as part of your social life? What sport did you most enjoy doing as a child?  Could you just take time out to dance to your favourite music?

  • SWIMMING, GARDENING OR WALKING CAN BE RELAXING AND A GOOD WAY OF TAKING A BREAK FROM WORKING. TIME OUT ALLOWS THINKING TIME AND ALSO ALLOWS OUR BRAIN TO PROCESS INFORMATION SO THAT IT CAN BE BETTER ABSORBED AND ‘MATURE’ LIKE A GOOD WINE! IT IS DURING OR AFTER SUCH A BREAK THAT CREATIVE IDEAS AND SOLUTIONS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BUBBLE TO THE SURFACE.

  • When you listen to music, try moving/dancing on your own and see how your energy changes.

  • TAKING A WALK INTO OR AROUND ANY COUNTRYSIDE OR BEAUTIFUL PARKS/GARDENS AROUND WHERE YOU LIVE. THIS IS DUAL PURPOSE BECAUSE YOU CAN ALSO TAKE IN AND ENJOY NATURE WHICH IS A NATURAL ‘STRESS EATER’!

  • The most important thing is that we do something that we ENJOY and that we don’t turn it into a punishment!

DO YOU NEED TO ADD EXERCISE TO YOUR WEEKLY SCHEDULE?

IF SO, WHAT NEW EXERCISE WOULD YOU CONSIDER?

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GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: QUESTIONS TO HELP US INCREASE OUR ENERGY

DSC_0389QUESTIONS TO HELP US INCREASE OUR ENERGY

Are we giving ourselves enough time out – time to do something for ourselves? (entertainment/exercise/creativity/fun/play/friends/relaxation).

Are we having enough breaks? – breaks give us more energy and hence time to do the things we have to do. (real lunch breaks; a change of scene; time to talk to others) (even short breaks help: get up/walk about/stretch/take a few deep breaths)

Are we tackling the most demanding tasks when we’re tired? (wait until we’re fresh for the most difficult things to do) Are we bottling anything up?(need to talk to someone)

Is it hard to get started? (an affirmation may help: I can do this…)

Do we recognise when we need help?

Are we pacing ourselves? (we need to stop just before we get too tired; if we are saying to ourselves, ‘one more thing’ –it may be time to stop NOW!)

Are we prioritising and planning our time AND allowing for interruptions? (we can do things that give us energy first – put them top of the list)

Are we carrying responsibilities for other people’s work and responsibilities? (we may need to let go)

Are we attached to aiming to be perfect?  This will slow us down, better to get it done and be effective. (70% is a good enough!)

Are we going too fast?  (slowing down gives us time to think more clearly and take stock)

Are we too reactive to things that wind us up? (work at not reacting; distract ourselves even use a mantra/colour/image to STOP reacting. We could design for ourselves a STOP sign!)  What would be a better response? (it is powerful when we take time to choose to respond differently)

Are we setting realistic expectations?

Are we using our imagination to worry or pile work/the future on our heads?(change what we are imagining to something productive and creative)

Are our beliefs/feelings/thoughts weighing us down?  (change our focus to half full glass not half empty especially about ourselves) (can do rather than can’t; positive self talk rather than negative self talk)

Are we too easily distracted? (we can imagine putting all negative distractions outside our office door/at home or if they are really intruding – we may need to prioritise them first/take a break)

Do we give ourselves time for a ‘well done’? (rewarding ourselves in some way is vital for inner motivation)

Are we working too long on one task/getting bored? (take a break and come back renewed or do something else for a while) (we may want to mix up activities – balance again!)

Are we laughing enough? (laughter and smiling changes our body chemistry and gives us lots of energy)

GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: ASSERTIVENESS

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BEING ASSERTIVE

Being assertive means balancing a concern for others with a concern for ourselves. This is a skill that makes our communication clear and effective. It means we respect the rights of others and ourselves to say NO; to receive respect; to express views, thoughts and feelings in a manner which does no harm to anyone else or ourselves; the right to make mistakes; the ability to take responsibility for our actions; the right of all of us to set priorities and boundaries for ourselves; the right of all of us to consider our own needs to be as important as those of others; the right not to feel guilty when being assertive!

SOMEONE WHO IS ASSERTIVE IS COMING FROM A PLACE OF I’M OKAY AND YOU’RE OKAY

One way for us to achieve this position is to build up a positive relationship with ourselves and especially to speak to ourselves in a kind and loving way. It is easier to be assertive if we change some of our self criticisms to self encouragement and self support. Remember that we deserve to be able to express ourselves honestly, openly and assertively.

DIFFERENT COMMUNICATION:

In order to accurately assess what is assertive communication, it might be useful to focus on the extremes of passive and aggressive communication, and find that middle place between those two. Is is important to consider body language, spoken and writen communication.

Passivity is when someone is denying their own rights and is self-effacing. It can include body language such as: shifting of weight; downcast eyes; hand wringing; steps backwards; shrugs; a hunched body posture; a hesitant, giggly, quiet or whining voice. Non-assertive words can include words and phrases such as: perhaps…; maybe…; I wonder if you could…; only…; just…; would you mind very much…; I can’t…; or fillers such as: you know; well; uh; um. Also, common passive statements are: it’s not really important; never mind; I mean; it’s all right; don’t bother.

Aggressive communication is when someone is denying the rights of others and is typically angry, hostile or loud. It can include body language such as: glaring eyes; leaning forward; pointing a finger; thumps of the fist; a sharp, sarcastic, angry, loud or dominating tone of voice. Aggressive words can include threats such as: you better…; if you don’t…watch out; or discounts such as: come on; you must be kidding; and judgemental comments such as: I thought you would know better; this is your fault; don’t be stupid; you’re joking; and lots of ought’s, should’s and must’s.

Indirect aggressive communication is when people use the language of the passive combined with body language from the aggressive communication.

Assertive communication involves body language which matches the spoken message: an assertive person would establish good eye contact; a good upright, comfortable posture, without anxious fidgeting; a strong, clear, steady voice, neither shouting nor mumbling. Being clear about specific details with regard to time, place, context and reference etc.

Assertiveness involves careful and active listening, without mind-reading, assumptions and judgements. There is a process of checking out and clarifying that what the person understands corresponds with what was intended so that both parties share an understanding of the communication.

Assertive words include ‘I’ statements such as: I think…; I feel…; and I want…; as well as co-operative words such as let’s…; we could…; and empathetic statements of interest such as: what do you think; how do you feel;

HOW TO BECOME MORE ASSERTIVE

The first stage of changing anything is to notice what we are doing now, so I we may need to take a step back from ourself and from others and notice how we are talking to people and how we respond. Notice how other people treat us and how they respond to us, taking into account the information above. Also, notice our energy around other people, who do we feel comfortable with, who gives us energy. When we are giving or receiving aggressive or passive behaviour it can be quite a drain on our energy levels. Self protection is important and there may be occasions when walking away is the best solution to avoid a situation escalating into violence or bullying.

Assertive communication and behaviour feels good, mature, equal, is a very straight way of communicating with other people. It is mostly energising because there is an equal exchange of energy which leaves neither person drained. This style of behaviour and communication is most likely to leave us feeling positive about ourselves and about the other person.

After a time of “noticing” we can make a choice to change something about our communication or behaviour, one step at a time. We can choose to focus on being particularly assertive for one hour of the day, or with a particular person, or over a particular event or occasion. Change is better tackled in small “bite size pieces” at first . We need to enable ourselves to notice and feel good about any changes we make.

If we have a particular situation in mind where we want to be assertive it can help to do a role play. Set up two chairs and role play, in turn, being both ourself and the other person. Notice what it feels like to give and receive assertive communication. We can ask a friend to help us. Role plays are empowering and are an excellent way of being prepared.

ASSERTIVENESS SKILLS

A useful phrase, if we are invited to do something is: “I’d like to come/help but I need to think about it and/or check my diary – I’ll get back to you tomorrow/next week/ later today/ in a while”. This gives us time to think through our response.

It is useful to change words like should, must, ought to the freedom of could.

It may be necessary to politely and calmly repeat what we want more than once, especially if someone is being manipulative or argumentative – we need to stick to our point of view, without getting side-tracked.

Calmly acknowledge to any critic, that there may be some truth in what he or she is saying. This allows us to remain our own judge of what we do. Equally, we may need to accept someone else’s criticism. What is important is that we can receive criticism comfortably without agreeing or not agreeing with them, without becoming defensive or explaining ourselves. This way we stay empowered without disempowering the other person.

Actively ask for criticism in order to use the information (if helpful) or reject it (if manipulative). This helps our critic to be more honest or assertive and less manipulative or aggressive and hence improves communication. Again we keep our power and empower the other person. We can offer a workable compromise to the other person as long as our self worth or self respect is not in question.

Part of being assertive is for us to feel okay about asking other people for help and being able to offer help to others. It is important for us to feel okay about giving and receiving compliments or thanks.

When we feel irritated by someone or something, we may need to take a deep breath and pause before we react. Choose whether we want to use our energy on this or not. We need to save our energy for important issues.

Useful phrases if someone is attempting to escalate the conversation into a full scale argument or wanting to leave us feeling guilty might be “That’s interesting”; “I hear what you say”; “I’d like time to think about/consider what you are saying”. We do not have to explain ourselves and to do so can sometimes be a discount of us. Remember other people can invite us to feel discounted or manipulated but we have a choice as to whether we agree with them and how or even whether we respond.

The main point about assertive communication is that we and the other person both remain “winners” and “okay”.

 

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GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: RESOURCES TO INSPIRE AND INFORM

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RESOURCES TO INSPIRE AND INFORM

Books:

K. Akhler, Self Talk Your Way to Success, Amazon Media, (2009).

Richard Bach , Jonathan Livingstone Seagull: A Story. Harper Thorsons, (September, 2015). An inspirational story about a seagull finding freedom and independence, love and kindness.

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transfrms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, (January, 2013). A book about how powerful it is to be vulnerable – insirational talks by Brene Brown on ‘Teds Talks’. 

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be and Think You Ought to Be Who You Are , Hazelden, (September 2010). Again, any of her lectures on ‘Ted’s Talks’ are inspirational.

Paul Coelho, The Alchemist: A Fable about following Your Dreams,HarperOne, 25th Anniversary edition, (February, 2015). A simple fable based on simple truths. An Andalucian shepherd boy pursues his dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian Pyramids.

Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. The Art of Happiness. Riverhead Books, (1998). A Handbook for Living.

Michael Ende, Momo, Puffin Books, (2009). “And it is Momo, with her uncanny ability to listen, her simplicity and honesty, who holds the key to salvation.” (A book for children and adults!)

Ben Furman. It’s Never Too Late To Have A Happy Childhood . BT Press, (1998). From Adversity to Resilience.

Susan Jeffers, The Little Book of Confidence, Ebury, (December, 2013) and The Little Book of Peace of Mind, Jeffers Press, (May, 2015).

Jasmin Lee Cori, Healing from Trauma, Da Capo Press, (April, 2009).

Maddy Malhotra, How to Build Self Esteem and Be Confident, Betterment Publications, (2013).

Gerson Maso, Through the Valley. The Journey of an African Refugee, Westbow Press, (2015).

Judy Murphy, Assertiveness: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Others, Kindle unlimited, (November 2011).

Wajdy Mustafa, Levant Fever: True Stories from Syria’s Underground. Juspax (November 2015).

Gulwali Passarlay and Nadene Ghouri, The Lightless Sky: My Journey to Safety as a Child Refugee: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Journey of Escape, Atlantic Books, (October 2015).

Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Faber and Faber, (September 2015).

Chris Riddle (Children’s Poet Laureate), My Little Book of Big Freedoms, Amnesty International, (2015). See also: Amnesty International’s We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, (2015)

Michael Rosen, Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, Walker, (January 2011).

Eckhard Tolle, The Power of Now, Hodder and Stoughton, (2001) and A New Earth , Gale Cengage Learning, (2005). Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

J. Tugendhat, Living with Grief and Loss. London: Sheldon Press, (2005).

Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score, Penguin, (September 2014)

Doreen Virtue, Assertiveness for Earth Angels, Hay House, (November 2013).

Peter Walker, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. A guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma, Azure Coyote Publishing, (December 2013).

Websites with information about counselling and finding a counsellor:

http://www.bacp.co.uk/ The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

www.counselling-directory.org.uk

http://www.baatn.org.uk/ The Black and Asian Therapy Network.

http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/useful-resources

Talks: Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing”, standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident, can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success. http://www.ted.com/talks/amycuddy. See also: http://www.ted.com/speakers/amycuddy.

GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: SELF ESTEEM

WHAT IS SELF ESTEEM?

As we arrive in adulthood, our level of self esteem reflects how nurturing and supportive the people around us were. The way our parents, teachers, family and friends regard, judge, love, value, respect and behave towards us helps to create how we regard, judge, love, value, respect or behave towards ourselves. This includes people who have social, cultural and political power over our well being. None of these people exist in a vacuum so their behaviour towards us will have been influenced by their own experiences, beliefs, cultural, religious, political and social norms. So, we receive messages about ourselves from many different people for many different reasons but that doesn’t make them true and such messages ARE NOT SET IN STONE!

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We may not have had control of how other people viewed and treated us but we can take control of our future view and treatment of ourselves. We can choose to get to know our strengths, skills and positive aspects and we can choose to build on these and learn to love, approve, accept and care for ourselves the best we can.

For many of us self esteem takes a pounding during the process of childhood, especially given the pressures that exist in schools, family life and in Society as a whole. There is much emphasis placed on ‘performance’. There is pressure to achieve at younger and younger ages: goals and grades; assessments and inspections. Children have become highly measured commodities. The fear, uncertainty, self doubt and negativity which can be generated by such a system can be a breeding ground for low self esteem. Many of us have learnt to exaggerate our mistakes and excel at self doubt and self criticism. Many children are having to deal with the stress and trauma of poverty, loss and separation, abuse, ill health and the results of war.

How can we turn this around and build self esteem. It is a freedom for us to emphasise what we ARE achieving, what we ARE capable of, what we ARE doing well and how loveable and amazing we are. Challenges, change, mistakes and crises are a part of each of our lives and it is from such experiences that we learn our best coping strategies and become aware of our many human strengths and abilities. We need appreciation for this from ourselves and from other people. It helps us to build confidence in ourselves if we acknowledge our strengths and positive skills, at least to ourselves!

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REGAINING HIGH SELF ESTEEM:

One of the major tasks for us as maturing adults is to become wise and it is wise for us to build the best possible relationship with ourselves. Some of us have high self-esteem in some areas of our lives and maybe not in others. To feel good about ourselves leads us to to be powerful in our lives and can help us to transform outdated negative beliefs and behaviours into positive beliefs and behaviour. As we increase our self esteem and our confidence to do things better – it builds on itself! If you nurture and feed a plant it grows strong and healthy and produces the best flowers, fruit….we are the same, we become more more able to develop talents and gifts to take out into the world – we blossom!

The first step of regaining self esteem is to notice how we talk to ourself. Sometimes I have worked with clients in counselling and I notice that they have used the word ‘stupid’ about themselves several times in the first 10 minutes of the counselling. Often people are really surprised about this when it is pointed out to them. I’ve noticed too the number of times we may all say, ‘I can’t’. This can be disempowering and is often untrue. It helps us to become aware of how we speak to and about ourselves.

The most important relationship in our life, the longest lasting and most intimate is our relationship with ourself. In our relationship with ourself we are constantly talking to ourself. It helps us to notice how we speak to ourself, how we speak about ourself to other people, how we treat ourself, how we feel about ourself. Notice whether we can be more positive and kindly towards ourself. We all need love, support and encouragement. We need to become our own best friend. When this relationship is good, other relationships, our life in general, runs more smoothly! We need to emphasise our strengths, the things we do well and what we like about ourselves. We need to promote ourselves to ourselves and to the world in the same way that we would a friend.

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BUILDING A SOLID CENTRE:

One way we can build a solid centre inside ourself is to imagine a tall solid tower running through the centre of our bodies from our feet to top of our head, made of bricks. Every time we do something positive for ourselves: reward ourselves for something we have done well; buy ourselves a treat; visit somewhere we’ve always wanted to visit; phone a friend who encourages us; do something that gives us joy – listen to lovely music, read something that inspires us, buy a single flower to admire, take time to walk somewhere beautiful, visit an art exhibition which inspires us, make ourselves a lovely meal…imagine that this adds a solid brick to that tall internal tower, strengthening us at our very centre. Then, imagine that when we do something that harms ourself: put ourself down, put up with something or someone that harms us, smoke, eat, drink too much so that we feel bad, hoard too many things around us so that our space is uncomfortable….this takes a brick out of that centre and weakens the strength and power of that brick tower which can make us feel more vulnerable and weaker in our very centre. Then think of more positive things to do. The more commitment we make to ourself, the better we will feel. We are worth it!

AFFIRMATIONS:

It can be helpful for us to use affirmations. If we think of a positive statement that is the opposite of how we might normally think about ourself and just say it over and over again to ourself as we are walking along, as we are waiting in a queue. When we do this and notice what happens in our body, we can feel a lightness of step, a lift of energy. Just as when we smile or laugh it has a real ‘feel good’ effect. By using positive statements, we can re-programme new messages into our self awareness and consciousness which can build our self esteem.

It can be helpful to give a few minutes to think about what we are grateful for about ourself. Gratitude about our many gifts, good health and well being is a vital part of moving forward positively. We could buy a special card, with a picture that we identify with in some way and write in it a list of things we enjoy about ourself and keep adding to it. How better to fall asleep than to think of a few positive things we have done that day, before we go to sleep. Often we can be good at dwelling on any negatives but the positive things might make you fall asleep with a smile on your face!

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You may like to choose one of the following positive statements to say to yourself

a few dozen times. You could breathe it in slowly as you are sitting in a relaxed place or just before you go to sleep. Notice your energy levels change and keep going even if it sounds awkward at first.

Positive Statements to begin with until you can create your own!

I can handle anything that comes my way

I trust myself and I trust the process of life

Life is sweet and so am I

I welcome risks that expand my life

All is well inside and outside of me

I know this (meeting/seminar/presentation/interview) will go well

I belong in the world as a equal

I am loving myself more each day

I recognise my own successes

I am alive to joy, play and laughter.

I am powerful and I love it

It can take effort and work to regain a realistic and positive perception of ourself. If we allow ourself to know and recognise what we are good at and realise our potential in different aspects of our lives, then we may begin to recognise what a gift we are to the World and then we may take our space.

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GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: WHERE DO I WANT TO BE

This is a hand out for the Group on Taking Our Space  but could be used as a handout or as a point of discussion with any client in individual counselling. It can help us to reach our goals and ideals by the use of visualization. It can help us to name our intentions to ourselves as well as  ‘putting out an intention’ into the larger world.  List your ideal goals in each of these main life areas below:

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What would you like to be doing in two years time?

JOB:

 

 

PERSONAL LIFE:

 

 

What would you like to be doing in seven years time?

JOB:

 

 

PERSONAL LIFE:

 

 

Choose one of these, close your eyes and visualise yourself being in this position in every minute detail.  Have fun with it. If you picture yourself in a room, describe the room in detail to yourself: colours, shapes, scent.  Imagine the people around you in detail.  Make this visualization come alive for you.  You could do this for each of your goals.  Then with a friend or with your counsellor you could discuss what steps you need to make to reach these goals. Consider the small changes that you could make which could put you further forward on the path that you choose to be on.

Remember that whenever we choose to move forward positively in one area of our life it has positive affect on other aspects of our life.

 

 

FORGET YOUR PERFECT OFFERING

So often when clients come into counselling, they are distressed about the fact that things in their life are not going well, that everything is not ‘perfect’, that they are not ‘perfect’.  Despite the fact that this is a completely unrealistic expectation for any of us to have about ourselves or others.  Instead of which, it is so often the mistakes we make, the negative experiences that we have, the limitations that are placed on us by circumstances, ourselves and others that help us to change and become wiser. I used to keep this quote from Leonard Cohen on my counselling room wall; it is a useful hand out:

RING THE BELLS THAT STILL CAN RING

FORGET YOUR PERFECT OFFERING

THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING

THAT’S HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN

(Leonard Cohen)