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My Mind Sanctuary Cloak

A long time ago I learned a technique which has served me well over the years. I created a mind sanctuary – a mental space and stress-free zone where I can re-group and reframe my thoughts and feelings and feel nurtured and renewed.
It works as a protective capsule and also as my creative laboratory! I call it my Golden Mother of Pearl Bubble.

I have retreated to this space whenever my confidence or self-esteem has taken a beating. It’s where I go to regenerate.

It exists in my imagination. Initially, I spent time on its design and I created my own personal ritual around its use. I made my bubble beautiful with a multi-coloured shimmer of mother of pearl and I cloaked it in a protective gold mist. I then find a quiet place and then imagine myself inside my bubble. I can summon it at will, anytime, anyplace.

When I’m inside my bubble I psychologically enter into my own world which has a direct line to the infinite. Inside I feel nurtured, protected; it‘s a space I can retreat to and be healed.
It’s also my creative workshop because inside my bubble there is magic, love and infinite possibilities. My Bubble is available for me at any time, like putting on a magical cloak. I can create anything inside my bubble and I’m not dependent on anyone else for my happiness.

For me, a bubble made sense, aesthetically beautiful and also transparent so I could look out, but at the same time be shielded by a precious gold mist which made it invisible to others, so I always have privacy. I could float anywhere I chose, rising high and getting a clearer, bigger perspective and connecting to the Universe and infinite wisdom.
To some this may all sound a bit woo-woo, but don’t knock it until you try it!

Your mind sanctuary may be different. It could be a glade surrounded by trees with a gentle breeze and the sun shining down, or a mountaintop high above the clouds where eagles soar. Or it could just be the perfect safe room in your mind where everything is there to support you, a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis. It will be a place where you feel safe, untouched and able to cleanse and purify as well as tap into your creative potential.

Sadly, too many people today retreat into a screen, the tv, computer, phone, and lose themselves in a fantasy creation made by someone else. This may temporarily distract from any stress or allow you to live out your frustrations through the characters on screen. But it is not your creativity you are using. You are immersed and being moulded by someone else’s role models who may inadvertently encourage you into areas of behaviour you might not have consciously chosen.

When we are vulnerable we can too easily be blinded by ‘quick fix’ ideas and become much more easily influenced by the advice and opinions of others. Choose your influences wisely!

When you create a mind sanctuary you are not dependent on an outside source to give you an outlet for relief. You are in control. So, think about it … what kind of space can you imagine where you’d feel master of your mind and your future?

Withdrawal Strategy

Knowing your Priorities

I’ve been far too long getting around to writing another blog post! I allowed life and lots of other projects to get in the way, including writing a series of self-help journals (soon to be published so watch this space!). Fortunately, I’ve just started an online course called The Quick Start Challenge which helps people get a website or blog online. It’s helping me iron out some of the glitches in my existing website and I’ve now merged my old tarot website (readmytarot.co.uk) with this website. And it has also motivated me to get another blog post written!

So, to continue the theme of my earlier posts…
In my earlier posts, I wrote about the defense mechanisms people sometimes use when they feel emotionally threatened. Stress of any kind causes the body to instantaneously flood with stress hormones, triggering the fight or flight response and the choices we make in those brief moments about how to react can have far reaching consequences in terms of maintaining or losing valuable relationships.

If the emotional reaction is extreme and has the potential to be explosive (like intense anger or tears) then remove yourself from the vicinity immediately, just as you would if it was a physical bomb. The stress hormones will reduce if you don’t feed them more fuel. If you can go for a walk and work the stress hormones through and out of your body all the better. A withdrawal allows thinking time.

Or if you can’t escape the situation then take a few deep breaths and count to ten – good old-school wisdom that still works!
Time is your friend in this kind of situation. Find a quiet space to be alone. Remind yourself you are physically safe. Try and get back into the present moment. You will feel drawn backward in time to relive the experience. Avoid the temptation. Stay in the present moment. Now is the time to focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. What is valuable to you in this situation? It’s no good winning a battle if you lose what’s most important to you overall.

Knowing your Priorities
There is nothing more valuable than your own creative spirit. It is the inspiration behind all of life’s good things. If you have a desire to make something good happen in your life then you need to learn to deal with the challenges and pain that will inevitably arise along your journey.
A long time ago I learned a technique which has served me well over the years. I created a mind sanctuary – a mental space and stress-free zone where I can re-group and reframe my thoughts and feelings.

In my next blog post I’ll tell you how I created it and how you could benefit from doing something similar. I promise my next post won’t take as long as the last one!

Your Invisible Shield

Have you created your own customized, invisible shield yet?

Shields are awesome and you should always have them on standby with you because you never know when you might need one to protect yourself. A bit like an umbrella, you can pop it up when life rains down on you and then put it away when the sun comes out again.

Anyone who watched the ninth episode of the last series (series 6) in Game of Thrones will have become graphically aware of the power of shields. We’ve seen shields used in countless movies and although I’m not militarily-minded in any way, using a simple military defensive strategy as a metaphor can give ideas for helpful choices when we feel we are under emotional attack.

Shields give you precious moments of respite and allow you mentally and emotionally (and in a real military situation, physically) to regroup and re-strategize.

We are all vulnerable.

As described in my previous blog post: Breaking down the walls, we have all developed our own personal style for dealing with conflicts. It requires a level of self-awareness to recognise our styles.

Everyone has their own ‘agenda’ and some pursue their agendas more forcefully than others.

By ‘agenda’ this simply means we are all motivated by something, and we’re not always aware of what this is! Some examples of agendas are more obvious: the telephone sales cold caller, the child whining for more sweets, the elderly relative who asks for favours and rambles on for ages to keep you there when they are lonely and crave company.

But what about ‘hidden’ agendas?

We all have them. Hidden agendas often reflect our deepest fears. Fears of abandonment or rejection; financial insecurity; not feeling loved or important; dying alone, being labelled a failure; whatever these are for you, you will probably do your best not to think about them consciously (although you will detect their presence when you catch yourself worrying!). Instead, we do a cover-up and act and speak in ways which paint over our subconscious fears.

Many interactions with others tend to be motivated by these deep underlying issues. Our major life choices are influenced and driven by our own emotional and physical needs which are part of our survival. However, it is important to understand that each of us has our own our unique blend of needs.

Is it a wonder then, that when someone who is feeling under pressure with their hidden agenda buttons being pressed, suddenly erupts into what appears to you as an unprovoked verbal attacked?

This is precisely when you need to whip out your invisible shield! Using a shield gives you some time to think.

Yes, the arrows may still be raining down, but for a while, you are protected.

You can feel the emotion and fear inside you – you are under verbal attack and this has now pressed your vulnerable buttons.

Our immediate reaction is usually to retaliate and attack back; it’s often our instinctive default mode of self-defence, especially if you feel unjustly accused. But it can all too often escalate into a slanging match which can ultimately destroy relationships.

Now consider the value of a psychological shield

If you want to truly appreciate the greatest power of the shield you must first remember the arrows are not real. They cannot kill you. However, your body is reacting biochemically as if the threat is physical because your body’s fight/flight biochemical response reaction has been provoked.

(Please be clear I am only advising this for verbal attack – if you feel you are in physical danger then there is no question to the fight or flight question. The first choice, if you can, is always flight – get away from the ‘attacker’. Always choose the option that gives you thinking time.)

The arrows raining down on you are expressions of emotion from someone who feels vulnerable and deals with this feeling by ‘verbally’ attacking and lashing out.

When you put up your shield it allows precious moments for you to reflect – and slows down your body’s autonomic response. It apparently takes approximately 10 seconds for the intense surge of chemicals to diffuse and feel less urgent. (Hence the old wise adage: count slowly to ten before responding to anything that upsets you.)

This is valuable time for you. In these moments you can get in touch with what is being triggered inside you. It’s not about the other person and what they are saying. This is about YOU. What can you learn about yourself from the fears being triggered in You?

All the time we react strongly to the attack of another there is within us some degree of underlying dependency. Your question to yourself should be: why is this getting to me? Don’t make the other person the focus of your questions. Why others react in certain ways is their ‘stuff’.

This is profoundly different from the normal way most people tend to look at things that upset them, when the temptation is to immediately retaliate. Later they often regret their harsh reaction. But if we learn to first look inside at our own responses then we can learn some great life lessons.

Instead of responding reactively and defensively to others, which can over time eat away at your sense of self-worth, you will start to feel better about yourself and feel happier in general because you are able to be less entangled in other people’s negative emotions.

Feeling valued comes from within, not without. Understanding this is when you discover you can choose to be free of the turbulence and emotional storms that others try to entangle you in.

But it’s only in the ‘doing’ that we really learn.

So here is something practical you can do which hopefully will help you learn something about yourself.

If you have unresolved issues that are festering within you then you will find this a useful technique.

Spend some time alone and have a bit of fun creating for yourself an arsenal of shields for different occasions.

You can do this by either drawing them or searching the internet for different images to give you ideas, or simply conjure them up in your imagination.

Here are a few to start you off, but please design your own because only you know how to tailor to your inner world.

Hard core shield.

Make this one of solid (but lightweight) metal. It could have a crest and be beautifully engraved with something significant and empowering.

This is for use when you have a tough task to perform.

Useful when you know are likely to feel vulnerable, yet have to keep your composure. A good example might be if you are a manager and you have to deliver bad news to someone who you know may kick off and take it out on you. Nothing will penetrate this shield, but don’t let it become a wall. Remember to put it down when you move on to another environment.

Pink Marshmallow shield

Yes, soft and squidgy, yet highly effective.  Just let whatever comes at you be absorbed and dissolved by the shield.

This is useful for dealing with someone who tends to always be like this (eg critical, nasty etc) with lots of people.

Or it could be a stranger you’ve not met before, so their reaction is all about themselves and their ‘stuff’ and certainly nothing you should be taken personally!

Making the shield pink and soft reminds you to take it with a bit of humour.

Don’t let this tempt you to make allowances for those who are truly taking advantage of you.

Mirror shield

Use this wisely. It’s not designed to bounce back insults or negativity. Ideally, it should be used quietly, sensitively and with love; then it will serve you as a valuable tool.

An example might be when someone you love accuses you of doing something which upset them.

Your response (after taking a few moments to bring yourself in line with the beneficial purpose of the mirror shield) might be on two levels.
Firstly, and most importantly, if the criticism has really got to you, remember to recall this feeling later when alone so you can look at it more deeply to discover more about yourself and what could be underlying your sensitivity. There are many facets to the inner You to discover.

Secondly, don’t make excuses, just state a simple fact that it was not intentional and you are sorry they are upset. Then say no more and perhaps avoid the temptation to say more by leaving the room.

The next time you feel under attack try to remember to follow this procedure

Resist the urge to succumb to the body’s chemical demand to instantly retaliate.

Instead, use the next ten to twenty seconds to mentally select the best shield to use for this occasion.

Choose the best for the situation at hand. There is no rush – the arrows are not real!

Each time you use a shield think about any refinements you can make to really personalise it to your needs for future use.

Always remain aware that any shield must be flexible and not become a permanent fixture.

We all have our ‘stuff’ to deal with, both in our inner world and our outer world. The wider choice and selection of shields you have, the better equipped you will be to deal with life’s slings and arrows of misfortune.

There is one shield I like to use which is my Golden, Mother of Pearl Bubble Shield. But I will save it for another time because it deserves a post of its own …

Breaking down the walls

Building Emotional Walls

Everything’s a metaphor for our inner self. And so it is with walls.

We all know what it means to ‘build walls’. It’s what we do when something has deeply hurt us and we don’t want to risk it happening and damaging us again. We think we are defending ourselves from the intensities of pain, loss, anger and negativity.

But a wall, unlike a shield (which all good warriors need to defend against the negative), cannot be held up to protect us, then lowered when not in battle. The ‘idea’ of a shield requires a more mature, conscious and self-aware approach to self-protection (a topic for a future blog post). A wall is more permanent. It creates a barrier which blocks out the emotional intensities of not just the bad feelings, but unfortunately the more positive emotions too. It numbs us and prevents us from experiencing the fullness of love and life.

We know we’re kidding ourselves by thinking we’re safely protected from the risk of being hurt. Because we know that deep down all those feelings still exist, just the other side of the wall. But we daren’t get in touch with them. We’re afraid they may overwhelm us. Instead we justify the wall by telling ourselves that others are dangerous, or can’t be trusted, or that we can’t trust our own judgement anymore.

Sometimes by isolating ourselves from intimacy we think life is easier. And temporarily this might feel true. But sooner or later we grow to understand that it’s only through our connection to others that we can really feel alive – even though relationships with others come with risks. Life can be lonely when shut off from love. And loneliness can hurt just as much as the feelings that caused us to put up the wall in the first place.

Each person’s wall has been custom designed and built to his or her own emotional specification. It’s sometimes possible to recognise exactly when the wall went up. Maybe you were betrayed by someone you deeply loved and trusted and swore you’d never trust love again.

Some people may realise they started building the foundations of a wall early in life. As a child the world is intense and is either black or white, good or bad, love or hate, so flimsy walls may seem to quickly pop up and fall down again when things improve. It’s not a natural thing to build big walls as a child because we need the nurturing of love and support from our family and friends.

But if emotional pain is severe or consistent the only protection is the symbolic ‘hardcore’ wall and it comes at a price.

When my sister was dying of breast cancer she was determined to visit the Berlin Wall before she died. I have no idea why it was so important for her to go there in her final few weeks. There is nothing in our family background which connects us to Germany or the old ‘Eastern block’. Was seeing the dismantled Berlin wall symbolic for her in some way? Her last gift to me was a souvenir piece of the Berlin Wall. We had shared an upbringing of verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Was she battling with her own internal wall?

Breaking down the walls

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a wall? How big is it?

As all demolition experts know, a really big wall needs to be carefully dismantled. You can’t just attack it with a sledgehammer! It can come crashing down and crush you. If you’re too aggressive bits can fly off and hit you in the face!

Take a good look at the wall. See if you can determine how it was constructed. Look for recent patchwork and for clues to what caused the need for repair. You may remember taking some of the wall down in the past, only to find the rest starting to tumble down and overwhelm you, so you quickly underpinned and patched up the cracks.

It’s often easier to see other people’s walls than your own. When you know someone well you might know what they’ve been through and suspect they may have created certain defences. Sometimes you can literally see their rigidity and feel the barriers go up when they are vulnerable. Be careful not to judge or point this out to them or they may pull up the drawbridge and run to the arrowslits! However, by observing the defensive process in others you can then do a bit of inner reflection. Have you got a similar process going on in a certain area of your life?

So what has all this got to do with feeling valued?

Ask any elderly person what matters to them. What helps them feel good in their old age? Or ask them what they regret. They want to know they mattered – that their existence made a difference somewhere. That they were loved, and the love they gave was valued and passed on. Or maybe instead they’re filled with sadness and remorse wishing they’d overcome their walls of self-denial when they had the chance.

By knowing we’ve given of ourselves and it has made a difference makes us feel good about ourselves. We experience self-love. Walls cut us off from all this.

Remember: If we’ve built blocks against emotional pain we must first dissolve the blocks we’ve erected before we can truly feel again. To break down our walls we need to be careful to dismantle safely. Get help from someone you trust if you think your wall is too big for you break down on your own.

You don’t need walls to be safe in the world. You just need to learn how to use a shield. (To be continued …).

Life is a Journey … not a Destination

First blog post and the pressure’s on – feeling it has to be good because it’s the first! How many of us never get started because we worry about not getting it right? It’s like a lot of things in life that don’t get started, let alone finished, because of worrying about it not being good enough.

Where does all that stuff come from?

It accumulates over the years – all the judgments and the ‘helpful’ criticisms from well meaning and not so well meaning family and friends.

I started a home business many years ago when I first became a single parent. I printed hotfoil business cards. My first order was for a friend. I spent hours making sure I did a good job. When I delivered them he was pleased, but when I next saw him next he felt he needed to tell me there were half a dozen which hadn’t printed ‘perfectly’.

I immediately felt a sense of shame and inferiority – if he’d only known how long it had taken me, learning to get the foil to print just right etc. … after all it was only my first order and I thought I’d done a good job! Mixed with these emotions was a feeling of indignation because I had in fact printed and delivered an extra 10% to cover any potential print imperfections (good advice given me when I bought the machine). So I’d actually over-delivered, yet still been ‘judged’.

Now although I appreciated the feedback and realised I did need to know if my customer wasn’t 100% happy, I also felt that sinking feeling in my stomach, like I’d done something wrong. Was it the way this person told me he wasn’t 100% satisfied (like ‘you need to know the job wasn’t ‘perfect’)? Or was it the way I heard and interpreted him? Because underneath my ‘go-getting’ exterior I was actually quite sensitive and vulnerable – and he was my ex, and any judgment from him pressed my ‘not good enough’ buttons?

Doing something for the first time always has the risk of things not being ‘just right’. In fact it’s to be expected and is a healthy part of the learning process. Keeping a sensible perspective and learning not to take any feedback personally is an essential part of business growth. Mistakes happen sometimes and learning to deal with them, correct the situation as diplomatically as possible and move on is all part of learning the skill sets required to be successful – not just in business, but in all of life.

So I’m not expecting that creating a blog and writing about sensitive personal issues will always meet the approval of all readers. I know I am exposing myself to possible judgments and differences of opinion. My view on that is great! I want to hear your views.

I’ve come a long way since my vulnerable days when I never managed to say what I really wanted to communicate when I felt I was being unfairly judged. I know how it feels when your intentions are to be accepted and loved and instead you feel misunderstood and rejected.

Over the years I’ve learned to slow my thoughts and emotions down enough to articulate my feelings and stand up for myself without damaging important relationships in my life. I’ve learned how to value myself for the right things.

About 25 years ago I began reading the tarot cards. Initially this attracted some external disapproval from certain people, including family. But I didn’t allow their opinions or superstitions to shut me down! Over the years reading the tarot has not only helped me enormously, but also thousands of people who came to me looking for guidance and insight. (Click Tarot in menu above for more info on my style of tarot card readings.)

As clients returned to me for more regular readings, my style of reading developed into more like a life coaching session. Then ‘life coaching’ became popular as a term. So now I tend to use the cards less, if at all, depending on my client’s wishes and focus more on life coaching.

I’m currently writing my book about ‘Feeling Valued’ and would love your interaction on my Facebook page. Your stories of what has helped you overcome feelings of low self-worth could help others. I’m looking for solutions that have worked for you rather than in-depth descriptions of the personal problems. I’m wanting to help others with what’s worked for you.

I’m not a therapist, I’m a life coach. There’s a difference. I believe life coaching (and tarot) can be a huge support for anyone wanting to make the shift from feeling taken for granted and misunderstood to a life of empowerment and personal fulfillment.

Sign up to my blog and come along for the ride!