I hope you enjoy reading the newsletters below which provide more in-depth information about the work I do.
In his book The Happiness Industry, William Davies assembles evidence to demonstrate that strongly materialist and competitive values lead to higher levels of mental distress in young people. Research by the mental-health charity Young Minds has found that exams are a significant trigger for mental illness in young people. Schools and parents give teenagers the impression that they have a one shot opportunity at tests that will determine the rest of their lives (of course, this is not true). Children as young as 11 have been known to be fearful of unemployment.
Some parents see their children’s results as an indication of their own value. This gives the children the responsibility of their parent’s sense of self-worth. It has been noted that children in private schools are highly aware of the fees that their parents are paying for them to be there and their expectation of eventually going on to university.
Social media has been cited as a cause of depression in young people and in particular cyber bullying. Rates of bullying haven’t, in fact, risen in the past 10 years. It can, however, change our moods and feelings. Facebook carried out an experiment in July 2014 when it doctored feeds of some users to spread unhappiness and proved that social media can affect how we feel. It can also make us feel that everyone else is having a better life than us; other people are hanging out with more cool friends, have more “stuff”, are more attractive to the opposite sex etc. This can make the vulnerable feel wretched. These types of thoughts may cause stress and continued ongoing stress can lead to depression. Read more about stress affects on teenagers
These symptoms may indicate depression, particularly when they last for more than two weeks:-
- Poor performance in school
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
- Anger and rage
- Overreaction to criticism
- Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
- Poor self-esteem or guilt
- Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
- Restlessness and agitation
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Substance abuse
- Problems with authority
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression. They may also express their depression through hostile, aggressive, risk-taking behavior. But such behaviors only lead to new problems, deeper levels of depression and destroyed relationships with friends, family, law enforcement or school officials.
Depression is serious and, if left untreated, can worsen to the point of becoming life-threatening and few adolescents seek help on their own. If depressed teens refuse treatment, it may be necessary for family members or other concerned adults to seek professional advice.
Therapy can help teens understand why they are depressed and learn how to cope with stressful situations. Depending on the situation, treatment may consist of individual, group or family counseling. Medications that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist may be necessary to help teens feel better.
Some of the most common and effective ways to treat depression in adolescents are:-
Psychotherapy provides teens an opportunity to explore events and feelings that are painful or troubling to them. Psychotherapy also teaches them coping skills.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps teens change negative patterns of thinking and behaving.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on how to develop healthier relationships at home and at school.
Medication relieves some symptoms of depression and is often prescribed along with therapy.
When depressed adolescents recognize the need for help, they have taken a major step toward recovery.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Pay attention to these warning signs:-
- Suicide threats, direct and indirect
- Obsession with death
- Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
- Giving away belongings
- Dramatic change in personality or appearance
- Irrational, bizarre behavior
- Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection
- Changed eating or sleeping patterns
- Severe drop in school performance
REMEMBER!!! These warning signs should be taken seriously. Obtain help immediately. Caring and support can save a young life.
Helping Suicidal Teens
Offer help and listen. Encourage depressed teens to talk about their feelings. Listen, don’t lecture.
Trust your instincts. If it seems that the situation may be serious, seek prompt help. Break a confidence if necessary, in order to save a life.
Pay attention to talk about suicide. Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions. Silence is deadly!
Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen’s life — family, friends and teachers.
Depression can be so debilitating that we just don’t have the energy to do the simplest things; Everything takes so much effort. Depression then becomes a verb – it is something that we do as opposed to how we feel. If we are to pull the emergency chain to halt the train of depression then we need to stop doing what we have always done (it didn’t work!) and to do something different.
The first step to beat depression is to restore mind/body balance. All those negative thoughts have an effect on our body. This is because the body doesn’t know the difference between what is real or imagined. Instantaneously our bodies react to whatever we are thinking and saying to ourselves. It floods our whole system with stress hormones (cortisol) which in turn:-
• Affects our sleep
Throughout the night we all naturally have cycles of dream sleep (which is light) and deep recuperative sleep. It has been found that people with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression have more dream (light) sleep than deep recuperative sleep. This leaves us waking up exhausted with no energy for the day. Sleep deprivation is also known to increase cortisol.
We might also have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
• Affects our Eating And Digestion
The way we act and subsequently the way we feel is influenced greatly by the food we eat. Because stress stimulates and impairs the functioning of the Vagus nerve (a sub-system of the Autonomic Nervous System) our digestion and appetite are affected.
We may experience bloating, cramps, nausea and diarrhoea. If we eat junk food including caffeine and alcohol or skip meals it can increase cortisol.
Read Dr. Mark Sircus’ article about the function of the Vagus nerve here
Ways to restore mind/body balance:-
• Regular Exercise
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.
Regular exercise has been proven to:-
Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
• Eat Well
There are certain foods that increase cortisol; Read more about Diet and Depression and what foods can help you to beat depression.
Getting into the habit of eating little and often promotes feelings of wellbeing which gives us less chance of grabbing anything that is unhealthy.
• Mindfulness Meditation
Consistent daily practice promotes the development of stability, inner calmness, and non-reactivity of the mind. In turn, this allows us to face and embrace even the unpleasant or painful aspects of daily life. By developing a simple and pure awareness, we learn to disentangle ourselves from our habitual thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.
Daily meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in just 6 weeks.
Read more about Mindfulness for stress, anxiety and depression here
The combination of meditation and physical movement provide two important elements for relieving depression. Meditation helps bring a person into the present moment and allows them to clear their minds. Controlled, focused movements also help strengthen the body-mind connection.
Read more about yoga here
Taking daily deliberate action – eat little and often, go for a 15 minute walk daily, spend 5 minutes practicing mindfulness, join a yoga class – will restore mind/body balance. This will improve the quality of your sleep, reduce stress and anxiety and leave you starting the day with the energy to make further changes to halt the train of depression.
The next step to beating depression involves assessing whether all your other primal needs are being met and making appropriate changes to meet those needs. Visit my website page Alleviating Depression for further information or contact me today to book a session so that we can together pull the emergency chain to halt the train of depression.
In previous articles I discussed our shadow side and how we are attracted initially to our partners because they exhibit the parts of ourselves that we had to repress to survive childhood. In this article I will seek to explain how the biological and cultural differences between the sexes affect intimate relationships and how to integrate split off parts within a relationship.
The biological and cultural differences between the sexes are often the source of conflict in relationships. Children are socialized to be “men” or “women”. If we are to have fulfilling relationships where each person feels valid then we need to integrate the energies of the opposite sex that we had to give up – our denied and lost self – in order to be accepted by our caretakers and the environment.
Men and women differ biologically – if we can understand those differences we can go a long way to resolve conflict in our relationships with understanding and empathy rather than blame.
When men acknowledge and develop their split off female energy in themselves and women allow their masculine side to emerge they no longer need to get what is missing in themselves from their partners and they no longer see each other as the enemy.
Women generally complain that men are domineering, don’t show their feelings, don’t communicate; Men complain that their partner is too emotional, too demanding and they talk too much.
If we are to acknowledge and embrace our Denied and Lost Self and to understand our partners we need to do this in a dialogue in couple counselling rather than individual therapy.
Biologically men and women are different. There are physical differences – men are generally taller, have more body hair and are stronger than women. Another crucial difference between males and females is hormonal – the presence of estragon in women and the significantly higher level of testosterone in men. These hormones have an impact on health and on brain development as well. These biological differences in combination with cultural reinforcement and stereotyping result in divergent ways of perceiving and approaching the world.
Most men communicate to give and receive information or to resolve problems. For women, generally conversation is a means of interacting and expressing their feelings. Women often want a sympathetic ear when they express their frustrations to their partner and all too often men go into “fix it” mode. Men don’t converse just for the sake of conversation. This can often leave their partner feeling rejected because biologically they are drawn to intimacy and connection.
It is often difficult to accept those biological differences without making value judgements “how can you not like ballet?” “How can you eat oysters? They are disgusting!” These differences in taste are often disparaged. Judging and blaming lead to a breakdown in communication and intimacy. What we need to be cognisant of is that our partner is not us, we are individuals and want to be validated and accepted for who we are.
When we intentionally and consciously seek to understand our partner’s world we expand our horizons and it helps us to get in touch with our shadow side. Dialogue is a crucial relationship skill which can be difficult when discussing emotive issues in the absence of a Counsellor. It is suggested that a couple initially practice it by simply listening, without judgement and with open curiosity in order to get an understanding of the other.
The benefits of dialogue are:-
It shows respect for our partner’s different perspectives
It assumes equality – moving away from right and wrong, good or bad.
We can learn from it and not go to our default settings of blame, hurt and anger
It narrows the gap between partners
It dissolves differences
It invites our partner to “share their world” with you
The goal of the dialogue is understanding and can be initiated by the following sentences:-
“How do you feel when…….(eg you are criticized/ignored/misunderstood)”
“What do you do when you are…….(eg scared/threatened/feel vulnerable)”
“When you…………. (eg don’t talk/are unaffectionate/are silent) the story I make up about your behaviour is…….(eg I am not good enough/you don’t love me) and what I do then to protect myself is………..(eg withdraw/drink alcohol/sulk/withhold sex)
“And the affect this has on our relationship is………..(eg we are disconnected/lose intimacy/lead parallel lives)
Without dialogue we cannot relate to another person’s internal reality; we only relation to our version of it which means that we are relating to ourselves. With dialogue any problem can be contained and resolved.
The dialogue provides safety for each person to be vulnerable and those old stereotypical ways of behaving can dissolve. We need the empathy and understanding of our partners to help us to reclaim the energies that we gave up in the socialization process, rather than expecting them to make up for our missing selves.
I previously discussed ways to identify and reclaim your hidden and lost self. This article seeks to explain ways to identify and reclaim your denied self which is the third component of the Missing Self. Because our denied self (split off parts of ourselves) are deeply embedded in our unconscious we will need to seek the co-operation of people that are known to us to help us bring them to our consciousness. We cannot reclaim those split off parts until we allow ourselves to at first acknowledge them.
The Denied Self is a part of yourself that you have a hard time accepting; Below are initial steps that you can take to begin to uncover them:-
- On a blank sheet of paper, draw a large circle and divide it in half horizontally. Mark the top of the circle with a plus sign and the bottom with a minus sign. Using adjectives to describe yourself, list your positive traits in the top of the circle, and the negative traits you see in yourself on the bottom. Do this thoughtfully and thoroughly.
- Draw the circle diagram as above on five or more additional sheets of blank paper. Ask at least five people you know, including at least two with whom you have had an intimate relationship (ie an ex-lover or partner) to describe you, using the same method as above.
- When you have collected all the responses, underline each description, whether positive or negative, that is identical or similar to an adjective you used to describe yourself. Circle the positive and negative ones that were not on your list.
- Draw another circle identical to the ones above, but divide this circle vertically as well, so that it is quartered. • Transfer the positive underlined adjectives that were mentioned more than once to the top left quarter of the circle and write next to each one the number of times it was mentioned.• Transfer the underlined negatives that were mentioned more than once to the bottom left quarter of the circle.
• Transfer the positive circled adjectives that were mentioned more than once to the top right quadrant of the circle in the same manner,
• and the negative circled adjectives that were repeated to the lower right quadrant.
- Write “Traits Known by Me and Others” on the left side of the circle. Label the right side “Traits Unknown by Me but Known by Others”.• The adjectives in the right half of the circle describe your Denied Self. Although people who know you well see the positive qualities, you may be embarrassed or fearful of owning them. For instance, you may downplay your sharp mind if your parents thought that “women should be seen and not heard” or if you unconsciously believe that “men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses”. Or you may still downplay the artistic nature that your teenage friends thought was wimpy.• The most troublesome part of your Denied Self, however, is the negative qualities that you disown but that you are likely to project onto others. You may have experienced these aspects of yourself in times of stress or crisis and thought, “That’s not like me”. You may have suddenly exploded with anger and then thought “I don’t know what came over me”.If you have completed the exercises in my previous article you now have a rather complete picture of your Missing Self (hidden self, lost self and denied self).
In my next article I will describe ways to assist you in integrating all these disowned aspects. All your missing traits must be embraced and integrated, and some must be changed, for you to become whole. In a relationship with an intimate other, any integrated self parts will tend to be projected upon your partner and may result in destructive conflict. You will have a more constructive relationship with this knowledge available to your conscious mind, and it will not be the source of conflict between you and your partner.
If you are currently single you may choose to do the work of identifying and reclaiming your missing self and embracing your shadow which will unconsciously affect who you next attract in your life.
Source: “Keeping The Love You Find” by Harville Hendrix
In my previous article I discussed the various components that make up the Missing Self. In our drive to wholeness we will gravitate to partners who did not have to repress the same functions that we were asked to repress; They have positive traits that we have buried as well as the negative traits that we disown. Later in the relationship we will tend to criticize those “alive” parts in our partner that are dead in ourselves. What first attracted us and momentarily liberated us, will eventually stir up what has been forbidden causing us great discomfort. If we do not reclaim our missing self, good and bad and put ourselves back together there will always be great unhappiness and conflict in our relationships. It is so easy to walk away when things get tough and find someone else until things get tough again….. But facing our missing parts is hard! Here are a few steps that you can take to identify and reclaim your missing self.
- The Hidden Self – Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and allow about an hour to complete this exercise. You will need pen and paper.Take a few long deep breaths, close your eyes and take a few moments to connect with your body and the sensations of the body breathing. Allow your mind and body to become one, feeling the difference between each “in” breath and each “out” breath. Feeling your chest rise and fall.Now think of traits of yourself that you keep hidden from others – things that would embarrass you if others knew about it. Perhaps you have a cache of pornographic material, you cry when watching movies, have a crush on someone at work. Just take your time and think about those things.Ask yourself “what would people think if they knew”? Now ask the same question with regard to the opposite sex. As thoughts and ideas come write them down. Write down whatever comes to mind. This is your Hidden Self.Now get a separate, blank piece of paper and make four headings – Thinking, Acting, Feeling and Sensing. Categorize each trait that you have identified by putting it under one of these categories.Some of these traits are aspects of your authentic core self that need to be integrated in your self-concept and interpersonal relationships. Perhaps showing your gentle tender side by crying at the movies, writing love poems or seeking an environment where these things are acceptable.
Other traits might be compensatory for aspects that you felt you had to repress – looking at pornography due to sexual deprivation or loneliness.
- The Lost Self – this information is not in your conscious mind and will possibly take several attempts to access.
a) Think about your childhood and remember all the “don’t”, “shouldn’t” “stop” messages that you received about your body, thoughts, feelings, behaviours and self. Eg “stop running, “don’t argue”, “don’t get dirty”.
Also think about the unspoken messages you received “you are a bother”, “you are not good enough”, “you don’t have a voice”, “you are not important”.
Take your time to write down all the messages you heard from your parents, teachers, peer groups, friends and other important adults.
b) Think about messages you received from current or past intimate partners. These could be “stop” or “don’t” messages (“stop talking to your male friends at parties”, “don’t question my decisions”) but may also be “want” messages. “I wish you would be more affectionate”, “I wish you would think before you speak”. “You never kiss me goodbye when you go out”. Write everything down that comes to your consciousness – take your time.
All these messages are clues to Lost Self functions. They are indirect requests to express what you have repressed and contain information about what is missing in you.
Take another piece of blank paper and head it Lost Self and include the same four categories – thinking, acting, sensing and feeling putting all the messages under the appropriate category.
Now you have an impression of your Lost Self. The categories that have the most messages identify parts of your authentic self that are missing.
You will need to develop the repressed functions to become whole so as not to require your partner to “carry” your missing pieces. Our partners prod us to develop those missing pieces by criticizing us for not having them.
In my next article I will describe steps to uncover your Denied Self which involves seeking involvement from people that you know.
The primary function of our caretakers (parents) is to nurture us through the various developmental stages and to meet our basic human needs. Another concurrent job our caretakers have is to socialize us so that we will be accepted into the world, including family, community and beyond which include schools, religious communities and peer groups. When we are not adequately socialized and receive repressive messages from the environment we give up parts of ourselves in order to survive . To live a life of joyful aliveness it is essential to embrace your shadow to reclaim lost parts
There are rules and expectations about what sort of behaviour is to be encouraged and supported and what must be discouraged or extinguished which vary not only from culture to culture but from family to family. These rules and the way the messages of socialization are delivered impact the development of our capacity to express ourselves through thinking, feeling, acting, sensing and the core energy of being.
If the messages are accepting of the expression of our aliveness and guide us in appropriate ways to channel that expression, our energy to that particular area of our functioning stays intact.
Examples of accepting messages are as follows:-
“It’s OK to express your thoughts”
“ It’s OK to be creative”
“ It’s OK to think”
“It’s OK to show feelings”
“It’s OK to express all your feelings”
“It’s OK to exaggerate
“It’s OK to move”
“It’s OK to dance, run, play”
“It’s OK to be strong”
“It’s OK to feel sexual”
“It’s OK to touch”
“It’s OK to enjoy your body”
Through Core Energy
“It’s OK to be”
“It’s OK to be you”
“It’s OK to feel alive”
It the messages are repressive, giving us the sense that we cannot have that part of ourselves and still be loved and accepted, we must choose between wholeness and acceptance. Sometimes these expectations are clear, overt and verbally taught, like the “don’t” messages:-
“Don’t think for yourself”
“Don’t assert yourself”
“Don’t show certain feelings (anger, sadness)
“Don’t show off,
“don’t make a noise”
“don’t enjoy your body”
“don’t show your body”
“you’ll go blind if you…..”
More often than not these expectations are implied, covert and taught through modelling (imitating the norms of the family/culture). These messages may be harder to erase from the fabric of our belief systems. They often appear in the way we believe people should act.
Unconsciously we learn that to be loved and accepted we must disconnect from certain aspects of who we are (giving up playfulness, expressing thoughts etc.). Alternatively we might choose to risk alienating our family, peer group and community by being true to ourselves and express our wholeness. If we were to do this we risk losing love and acceptance.
In confirming to family and societal rules, we essentially create a lost self, a self whose aspects of thinking, feeling, acting, sensing and being go underground and under-develop.
Here are some examples:-
• The little boy who was told not to cry, “to be a man” will grow into a man who cannot show his feelings
• The little girl who was told “It’s not ladylike to show anger” will suppress expressing discontentment as an adult
• The child that was told “don’t think for yourself” will find it difficult as an adult to be confident enough to make decisions and to express opinions.
Because we crave our original wholeness we miss these parts of ourselves. In searching for our Imago match, a person who carries these lost parts will initially be very attractive. We may even refer to them as our other half.
Whilst we are initially tremendously attracted to these traits, after time we may come to dislike and despise them in our partner. This is because unconsciously we recognize that this is a trait that we deny in ourselves and had to give up in order to be accepted by our caregivers.
If we want to have happy, joyful relationships we need to consciously take steps to reclaim our lost traits, accept that they are a part of ourselves which we have previously denied or disowned. Oftentimes a relationship will end because we are frustrated that our partner is “not like me”. We can change the relationship, still attracting a partner who has traits that we have lost and we then journey on the same cycle over and over again. In summary; We have it, we lose it, we miss it, we meet it, we marry it and then we try to kill it!
Imago Relationship Counselling provides the structure and safety to help a couple uncover their lost self. Read more about Imago Relationship Counselling here and here to learn more about the Imago match
Read Suzanne E. Harrill’s article on Finding And Reclaiming The Lost Self here
I have mentioned in previous posts the importance of being aware of what you think and what you say to yourself. Our thoughts and beliefs are stories and impressions that we have gathered about ourselves and the world around us based on messages that we receive from the environment. When I refer to environment I mean our parents, school teachers and peers. As we develop and grow we are constantly receiving messages such as “you are too fat”, “you are ugly”, “you will never be slim, because everyone in our family is overweight, it is in our genes”, “you are not clever enough”, “your sister is the pretty one”. Because these messages are repeated over and over again they become who we are and believe them implicitly. Our beliefs predict success or failure, if we want to change our results we need new beliefs.
“Belief is a thought in your mind that causes the power of your subconscious to be distributed into all phases of your life according to your thinking habits. The belief of your mind is simply the thought of your mind. It is foolish to believe in something that will hurt or harm you. It is worth noting that it is not the thing believed in that hurts or harms you, but the belief or thought in your mind that creates the result. All your experiences, all your actions, and all the events and circumstances of your life are but the reflections and reactions to your own thought.” Source: The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind” by Dr. Joseph Murphy, D.R.S., PhD., D.D., L.L.D.
We believe what we are told about ourselves when we are young because we have no way of testing, and these beliefs often persist unmodified. Our beliefs strongly influence our behaviour. They motivate us and shape what we do.
High expectations (providing they are realistic), build competence. Low expectations instil incompetence.
Throughout my primary school years I was constantly told by my teachers that I was not as clever as my brother and that “I should be more like him”; This judgement was continuously repeated at home by my parents. I always remember the time when, like all 11 years in the UK at that time I sat the 11+ exam. This exam was a selection process that all children had to go through where the results determined which high school the children would attend but also career options. If a child “passed” then they would go to a Grammar School; If they “failed” they would go to a Secondary Modern School. The Grammar School kids were expected to take GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels and go on to further higher education. The majority of Secondary Modern kids left school at 15 and were expected to work in shops, offices and factories. In both institutions what was expected became the reality. My brother did not pass the 11+ and everyone was astounded; All his friends went to the Grammar School and he felt a failure and subsequently stopped trying so hard; Because my brother failed I was told that I had no chance of passing. Because I wasn’t expected to pass I didn’t take it seriously and failed.
My High school results were fairly predictable because of the double whammy labels both at home and at school. If just one person believed in me and encouraged me I might have been motivated to learn. It took many years for me to believe in myself and study. When we believe something, we act as if it is true. What we do (try or not try) maintains and reinforces what we believe. Beliefs are not just maps of what has happened, but blueprints for future actions.
The best way to find out what you are capable of is to pretend you can do it. Act “as if” you can. What you can’t do, you won’t. We are not born with beliefs as we are with eye colour and they can be a matter of choice. You can drop beliefs that limit you and build beliefs that will make your life more fun and more successful. Positive beliefs allow you to find out what could be true and how capable you are. They are permissions to explore and play in the world of possibility.
Think of some of the beliefs you have about yourself. Are they useful? Are they permissions or barriers? An essential part of being successful is having beliefs that allow you to be successful. Empowering beliefs will not guarantee you success every time, but they keep you resourceful and capable of succeeding in the end.
You might like to think of 3 beliefs that have limited you and write them down. Now imagine how your life will be in five years if you continue to act as if these limiting beliefs were true. How will your life be in ten years? In twenty?
Take a moment to clear your mind. Stand up, walk around or take a few deep breaths. Now think of three new beliefs that would empower you, that would truly enhance the quality of your life. Write them down. Now imagine yourself acting as if these new beliefs were really true. How will your life be in five years now? In ten years? In twenty?
Changing beliefs allows behaviour to change, and it changes quickest if you are given a capability or strategy to accomplish the task. NLP techniques provides such strategies for change.
Read this article Beliefs, Values and the Vacuum of Choice by Dr Patrick Jemmer
Many of us eat when there is an absence of hunger. We may eat because it is “time” to eat or in response to our emotions, such as to celebrate, when we are angry, lonely, sad, frustrated. In my last article I discussed tuning in to your body whenever you find yourself thinking about or searching for food. It is also essential to manage your thinking which can either motivate or demotivate you towards your goal. These two components associate with emotions and manage thinking to lose weight are essential if the loss is to be permanent.
An important step to identifying the function of your eating habits is to keep a food diary for a number of weeks so that you can get a better understanding of your eating habits.
There are a number of components which need to be logged in the diary:-
Write down everything you eat and drink
Eat Mindfully this means whenever you eat give all of your attention to eating; Do not eatg when engaging in any other activity such as watching tv, reading, driving your car or working on the computer.
Rate level of Hunger on a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being not very hungry and 10 being very hungry.
Indicate whether you are alone or with others – you might notice that you tend to eat more when you are alone. This could be due to boredom, loneliness or even shame to be seen eating
Emotions – note what you are feeling before and after eating
Body sensations after eating – notice whether there is an absence of hunger, whether you are full. If you can feel the food in your stomach then you have eaten too much.
Keeping a diary of everything you eat and drink will help you to ascertain if your eating habits are driven by emotions. You might notice that you dissociate or detach from feelings that are uncomfortable.
To explain dissociated and associated thinking styles you might like to try this exercise – Think of a conversation you had recently . As you think about this conversation, pay attention to how you are thinking about it. For example, are you seeing, hearing and feeling the situation as if you are in your own body and you are re-experiencing it now? Or are you experiencing the situation as if you are outside of your own body – seeing yourself “over there” as an observer? The experience of being in your own body is referred to as associated and the experience of being outside of your body is known as dissociated. Both states are valuable. There are times when associating are the best option, for example if we want to engage our emotions, create a state of motivation or show vulnerability. However, people who are able to “keep their heads” in the midst of a crisis can usually dissociate.
In a dissociated state you will be detached from the feelings and it becomes a habit so embedded in our neural pathways that as soon as we are uncomfortable we automatically suppress our feelings and self-soothe with negative habits such as eating too much of unhealthy food, drinking alcohol, gambling or taking drugs. All these habits make us feel better momentarily but do not get to the source of the discomfort.
By setting the intent to practice associating with feelings, over time you understand yourself better and what used to be unconscious reactivity becomes conscious and you can choose to soothe yourself in a way that serves you better and keeps you on track towards achieving your goal.
We can also ascertain whether we focus on our desired goal or on the challenges that may be faced in order to get there. To help you understand what I mean think of a goal you have for yourself right now. Be aware of how you are thinking about this goal. Are you imagining what it is like to achieve the goal, seeing, hearing and feeling the experience of having it? Or are you aware of what stops you and what you don’t want? For example, if you are thinking of being slim and fit do you imagine yourself wearing lovely clothes, receiving compliments, feeling confident, or do you think of the food you want to avoid and the weight you want to lose? What is in your mind? Your ability to think about what you really want is known as towards thinking. Your ability to think about what you don’t want is known as away from thinking.
In the context of goal setting, the principle is that what we think is what we get. Our mind does not recognize the “not” part of a problem-centered statement. For example, if you tell yourself not to each chocolate you are effectively programming yourself to eat chocolate. If you think about the benefits and rewards of being slim then the likelihood is that this is what you will begin to achieve.
Read more about thinking patterns in NLP At Work by Sue Knight. Visit her website www.sueknight.com
Read more about NLP here
In my recent posts I discussed some useful steps on how to lose weight permanently; Ditching unhealthy diets, changing habits, evaluating our personal benefits of being slim and healthy and visualizing our goal so vividly that we feel as though we are already experiencing success. A further important step is to break the habit of comfort eating and to give ourselves permission to stumble as we work consistently towards lifestyle changes to achieve our goal.
For many of us our “go to” place when we are worried, bored, stressed, angry, upset or hurt is to eat. Often this is something we learned as children; Perhaps our parents would give us food to soothe us when we hurt ourselves or were upset. Conversely food is a cause of celebration and reward. Over time our associations to food become embedded in our neural pathways and we unconsciously turn to food in response to our emotions rather than eat only when there is a physiological need for food to fuel our body.
There are a number of strategies that we can use to break the habit of comfort eating:-
Identify Whether Hunger Is Actually Present
The moment we find ourselves thinking/looking for food we need to STOP, tune into our body to check if we are actually hungry; Check that there are physiological signs of hunger, such as a rumbling stomach. If those signs are present then the body needs food and we should eat until the body is satiated.
Connect To Emotions
If there is an absence of hunger then we must ask ourselves “what am I feeling”? Most of the time we are not paying attention to how we are feeling emotionally and the moment we feel any discomfort we automatically want to suppress it without even identifying what the emotion is. We are conditioned to soothing ourselves with food rather than addressing the cause of pain. Pain is part of the human experience and we can expect to feel it from time to time. Our feelings are a message from ourselves to ourselves and this flow of communication is continuous.
Name The Feeling
Give it a label; Happy, hurt, disappointed, bored, lonely, sad, angry etc. Acknowledge those feelings and be present with them. Then ask yourself “how much cake must I eat to feel less sad/angry/lonely”?? The answer, of course, is that food will only give us a temporary good feeling a short term gain with long-term consequences. Eating hasn’t addressed the cause of the feeling and afterwards we feel bad and beat ourselves up. It would better serve us if we can find something else that we can do to feel less this way. Such as calling a friend, engaging in a hobby, doing some exercise etc. Oftentimes there is no solution to the feeling; At those times a pragmatic attitude of accepting “what is” for now and being gentle on ourselves is all we can do.
Expect To Stumble
Humans, don’t like change, we are creatures of habit and the moment we start to change them we become uncomfortable. When we do stumble (eg didn’t take lunch to work which resulted in buying a take-away) we have two choices; We can just roll over and say “I can’t”, “It is too hard”, “I’m a failure”, or pick ourselves up and get back on track. Every “mistake” is an opportunity for learning. We can choose to look back at what happened and think about what we could have done differently. If we didn’t take lunch to work we can identify what stopped us. We may have run out of time to prepare it. Perhaps we didn’t have the ingredients to make it or were over-burdened with other tasks. Once we have identified what stopped us doing what we set out to do we can find a new strategy to achieve it. We cannot fix what we don’t acknowledge. We could perhaps ask someone else to make it, relinquish some other tasks or decide to shop more regularly.
Be Kind And Patient To Ourselves
If we are gentle to ourselves and make caring for our physical, emotional and mental self a priority then what follows is a slim healthy body. Understand that you didn’t get fat and unhealthy overnight and you won’t get slim and healthy overnight. Just love and care for yourself!
In my next article I will discuss ways to stay on track and be motivated when things get tough.
Read more about alleviating emotional eating here
In my last article I recommended ditching the cycle of dieting and making lifestyle changes to successfully attain a healthy body weight. Dieting makes us feel deprived; We are constantly thinking about food; What we can eat and especially the food we are not allowed to eat. Diets are usually pretty restrictive and typically we will avoid situations where “bad” food or food that is not prescribed our diet sheet will be served; When invited to social occasions, the dieter’s first thought is “what can I eat”, “how will I cope” “I can’t go”. Some of us stay at home to avoid temptation because we don’t feel we have the willpower to be “good”. Being unsociable not only puts strain on our relationships it is also not sustainable because food is all around us and is usually central to social events. Alternatively we might decide to “go off” our diet for the occasion and at the same time make the most of it by eating too much of the type of food that caused us to gain weight in the first place. Consequently we feel bad, weak, overwhelmed and may backslide into the old eating patterns. This type of negative thinking produces results that are pretty predictable – failure!! It just reinforces the belief that having a healthy body involves deprivation, strong willpower and starvation. It really doesn’t have to be this way, you don’t have to keep beating yourself up; Instead you can make self-nurturing a priority and get excited about living life to the full with health and vitality and shift your focus from deprivation to benefits of being slim.
The benefits of a desired outcome are personal and differ from person to person. These benefits become our “why”. If we focus on “why” it is important to do something then our thought processes are specific and positive which motivate us to stay focused on our goals.
Here is how you determine your personal benefits:-
Using all of your senses imagine that you could wave a magic wand and you have the body that you so desire; Ask yourself the following questions about how different your life is:-
- How does it feel and what affect does it have:-
On how you interact with others?
On your intimate life?
When you exercise?
When buying clothes
- What are you doing differently?
How does it affect your productivity?
What can you do now that you wouldn’t/couldn’t do before?
- Imagine further into the future being slim and healthy – perhaps as an older person, a
being a grandparent, achieving sporting goals, pursuing hobbies. Notice what gets you excited.
Now, as you imagine the future with a slim healthy body determine what benefit is most important and compelling to you. It would be helpful to focus on this most important benefit for about 10 minutes at the start of every day so that you can stay on track to be self-nurturing.
The first step is to picture and imagine yourself on a tv screen with the body you desire and all the habits that are associated with having a slim trim healthy body.
Imagine trying on your “slim clothes”
Making healthy choices when socializing
Shopping for healthy foods – reading nutritional information on packaging
Imagine it so vividly, using all of your senses (seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting, and what you are saying to yourself) as if you have already achieved success
You might also like to give yourself some affirmations that are appropriate for you such as:-
- I eat when there is a physiological need for food for fuel….I am in touch with my emotions
and recognize the difference between hunger and negative emotions…..I seek to change my
habits to self-soothe in a healthy way…
- I choose fresh healthy foods to nurture my body… I make it a priority to plan my meals….. I
nurture my body and mind with a wide variety of foods.
- I give all my attention to the food that I am eating, enjoying aromas, taste and texture…….I
enjoy food and take the time to research and try out new recipes……I eat mindfully and find
that I am satisfied with eating less
In my next article I shall explain how you can rid yourself of past beliefs and experiences which affect your eating habits and lifestyle today.
Read more about Hypnosis/NLP/Personal Coaching for weight loss here
Read Health Status article on using visualization for weight loss here