In the articles below I am sharing my many years of study and practice of the fascinating subject helping others change how they think, feel and behave to be the best they can be.
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What to expect from Fertility Massage Therapy. Because it is not usual to receive massage treatments in the abdominal areas Fertility Massage Therapy treatment starts on the back of the body which will give you time to relax and slow down.
When working on the abdomen you will be touched from the public bone up to the rib cage which include different massage techniques including pulsing and rebozo.
You will be nurtured and held in a space of safety to allow you to release deep seated emotions that may be blocking your energy. To also become aware of and connect to your creative energy.
Many people ask “Can I receive Fertility Massage Therapy throughout my cycle?” The answer to that is yes.
During menstruation the focus is on the lumbar/sacral and digestive area and the womb area is avoided. Rebozo massage is included to help you deeply relax and “let go”.
During the Pre-ovulation and Ovulation phase the massage includes your lower back, digestion and womb area. The increased circulation in these areas boosts nutrients, oxygen and hormonal flow to the womb and ovaries.
During the post-ovulation or post implantation phase the womb area is avoided the focus is on the sacrum and upper abdomen to boost circulation in the womb. As we move into the 2 week wait this is a time of PMS. Pulsing is a beautifully gentle method of shifting these feelings from within and allowing them to surface and be rocked out of your body.
“You can receive Fertility Massage Therapy throughout your cycle, changing and flowing as you do”
Upon booking your consultation you will be asked to complete the consultation form which needs to be completed and returned at least 2 days prior to your appointment.
The initial consultation is of 90 minutes duration and will give us the opportunity to decide the best way that we can work together, allowing you time to share your emotional aspects of your fertility journey. You will receive a full Massage Therapy and receive support in the form of self-care information and techniques that you can use between sessions. This includes fertility lifestyle advice, menstrual charting, and instructions on yoni steaming and castor oil packs.
For the follow up sessions You can choose either a 50 minute or 90 minute appointment when we will re-connect at the beginning of each session to assess how you are feeling, any improvements since your last treatment and you will receive a Fertility Massage Therapy tailored to your new needs. You can also use the follow up sessions to ensure that you are performing the techniques correctly.
Pulsing and Rebozo Massage techniques are incorporated into Fertility Massage Therapy. I explain below what pulsing and rebozo are.
Referred to as “the Tai Chi of Massage”, pulsing is a rhythmical and exceptionally fluid form of bodywork that uses a variety of simple, flowing and rocking techniques, that could be considered unusual for traditional massage.
Combining Pulsing into a Fertility Massage session benefits and supports the body-mind system in releasing deep rooted physical and emotional tensions and imbalances, and creating the space for blocked creativity to flow; leaving you feeling more loose, more free, lighter, and more in your body and at peace.
As Pulsing works within an almost continuous flow of movement, this form of bodywork is often exceptionally relaxing, sometimes to the point of being like a deep meditation for both receiver and giver!
Pulsing massage is a way of truly letting go and of finding an enhanced inner spaciousness inside as a result; a truly releasing and honouring form of holistic bodywork and an ideal compliment to Fertility Massage.
The Rebozo is a traditional shawl woven and used by Mexican women. Traditional Mexican midwives use the Rebozo to do the manteada, a rocking massage technique, through pregnancy and birth.
For massage, the Rebozo allows your whole body to be shimmied, rocked, wrapped and held as it releases tension and you’re left feeling lighter and more free!
For fertility the Rebozo massage is deeply relaxing which is one of the reasons it’s so ideal for fertility. It balances and relaxes the pelvis, lower back, womb and ligaments; allowing more room for the womb to settle into her rightful place.
Wrapping the womb centres the woman and brings her energy into her sacral chakra; allowing her to feel held, safe and nurtured.
I once had a client who requested my services to help her prepare for IVF treatment after she had experienced several failed attempts. She had so completely lost faith in her body’s ability to conceive naturally that she had ceased to take notice of where she was in her cycle; That is she felt it was futile to have sex at a time when she was most fertile. She had pinned all her hopes of becoming a Mother on the successful outcome of IVF treatments. What I wanted to say to her was ” I will help you to take action to improve your fertility “.
Infertility impacts on just about every area of your life which causes immense stress and associated negative emotions.
1 in 6 people in the UK today are struggling with infertility of which 42% are reported to have suicidal thoughts. These stress levels are further compounded because fertility treatments, particularly IVF, are highly stressful, not only due to the worry if treatment will be successful but also because of the side effects of medication.
How stress affects reproduction
When we are stressed our brain takes the stress we feel and signals the body to act accordingly with physiological instructions directed at the reproductive system:-
- It has an adverse effect on your reproductive hormones particularly FSH and LH which are important hormones for reproduction.
- It inhibits the production of progesterone (responsible for sustaining a pregnancy) and decreasing testosterone in men.
- It is responsible for insufficient uterine blood flow. (A thick lush lining is essential to enable the embryo to embed in the uterine wall).
- Your body goes into survival mode and stays out of reproduction mode.
Stress causes the mind and/or body to lose its natural state of balance and harmony and can exacerbate any fertility issues that you may have. Often problems with conception and pregnancy can occur when this balance is upset. Hypnotherapy and fertility massage therapy helps you to restore that balance and to help you cope with the negative effects of infertility.
If you are struggling with infertility and you do not have the funds for private treatment, the chances are that you have spent a long time waiting…………….for a referral to see a specialist………………for test results……….treatment…………….. More stress!!!! Many people think that assisted reproductive technology treatments such as IVF are the magic bullet to help them fulfil their dreams. The success rates are, in fact, quite low – around 35% if you are 35 or under and the chances of success decline as you get older.
Instead of pinning all your hopes on the successful outcome of medical intervention to help you to conceive, you can rather use this waiting time using relaxation techniques and visualization to restore balance to not only enhance your fertility (to give yourself a better chance of conceiving naturally) but to also prepare for medical approaches. Studies have shown that when hypnosis is used during embryo transfer it doubles the successful outcome of the treatment.
Let me reiterate what I have just said:-
- The effects of infertility are stressful
- This stress is compounded by medical treatments
- Stress has an impact on your body which takes you into survival mode and keeps you out of reproduction mode
- Hypnotherapy and Fertility Massage Therapy restores mind and/or body balance which gives you a better chance of conceiving naturally and improves the efficacy of medical interventions.
My client conceived naturally one month prior to her scheduled IVF treatment because she took steps to reduce her stress levels. She listened daily to the self-hypnosis cd which I provided, she re-kindled the spark in her relationship with her husband and practised other relaxation techniques that I taught her. Hypnotherapy helped her to erase the negative beliefs that she had about her body which helped her to feel positive and believe that natural conception was possible. She is now the Mother of a beautiful baby boy.
And guess what??? She saved money!! She spent in the region of £600 for hypnosis and massage therapy which is a whole lot less than the cost of IVF (in the region of £5000). If she hadn’t conceived naturally and had to undergo further treatment she now had the skills and resources to be relaxed and balanced which would have improved the outcome.
Learn more about how I can help you to restore balance, learn to cope better and/or prepare for fertility treatment here
Read about Fertility Massage Therapy here
Join my Infertility Support Group Facebook Page
If you are struggling with infertility wherever you are on your journey speak to me; I offer a complimentary call so that I can learn what you are experiencing and can establish your needs.
Research has shown that women struggling with infertility experience the same level of depression as women with Cancer, HIV and heart disease and a shocking 42% of respondents in a recent Fertility Network survey reported having felt suicidal at some point. Joining an infertility support group can help a person cope better.
You grow up believing that it is easy to get pregnant and that as soon as you want a baby it will happen. For most people this is the case, so they can’t possibly understand the desperation and longing that those struggling to conceive are feeling.
Because of this lack of understanding, they just aren’t able to fully support someone with infertility. They try to help and offer comfort with comments like ‘don’t worry, it will happen’ and ‘stop thinking about it’, but to someone struggling month after month to get pregnant these words offer little comfort and almost trivialise the heartache they are feeling.
Many people suffer alone, not wanting to tell family or friends for any number of reasons (embarrassment, privacy, other’s lack of understanding), which makes the journey a very lonely one. Sufferers question their mental stability because of the thoughts and feelings they experience. They long for someone other than their partner to talk to, someone that completely understands, someone they can confide in.
This is where support groups come in…
Support groups can be invaluable when going through fertility treatment. Treatment is extremely intense, you are pumped full of hormones and the entire cycle can be weeks of intense worry and anxiety. You put all your hopes on treatment working and then analyse every symptom to prove success or failure of treatment. Knowing other people that have experienced the rollercoaster of treatment (or are going through it as you are) can make the process less scary and gives you someone to talk to.
How infertility support groups help
• You can talk openly and honestly without fear of judgement
• You know that you can be completely honest without the group thinking badly of you, they are very likely to be feeling the same.
When you tell the group you are feeling upset because another friend has announced their pregnancy, they just get it and will have your back, without questioning your opinion. They won’t think you are a horrible person, they will probably have a similar story to share.
A support group may be the only place you can be truly honest about your thoughts and feelings. This gives you a great outlet for your fears and emotions, rather than keeping them all bubbling inside.
• They can help validate your feelings
When you are questioning if you have something wrong with you mentally because of the thoughts you are having, it gives a lot of comfort to know that you are normal and that your thoughts are normal too.
I constantly questioned my ability at everything due to my inability to conceive, it ruled my life and I felt like I couldn’t do anything right or well, like I wasn’t good enough. I started to question how stable I was, and it wasn’t until I spoke to other women after my treatment that I realised that its normal. I wish I had known that as I was going through it, it would have been a huge relief to me.
• They show you that you are not alone
With a support group beside you, you know you will never be alone, if you are having a bad day you can turn to them and they will be there for you with encouraging words and virtual hugs. When you are trying for a baby it seems like everyone is pregnant and that you are the only one that isn’t, or the only one having problems. It is comforting to know you are not alone in your struggle, and to spend some time in a safe space with no babies and surrounded by others who understand.
• They can be a light-hearted break from the day to day reality of infertility
Many of the emotions felt while struggling with infertility are negative – anxiety, jealousy, grief, anger, hopelessness, sadness. Although the groups cover upsetting stories, there can often be a light-hearted side when sharing embarrassing stories about parts of trying to conceive and treatment. Everyone can relate to them and see a humorous side to them, which add a sense of solidarity over things like a shared loss of dignity
My dream is to set up a regular face-to-face monthly meeting which is free of charge and open to anyone who is struggling, wherever they are in their journey. In the interim you can join my online support group on Facebook which is a place for members to share their stories, express how they are feeling, seek advice or simply be there for others who are struggling.
If you wish to signup to a face-to-face group meeting, please go to this link and receive a free MP3 download to help you relax.
Fertility Massage Therapy is a nourishing blend of modalities, that when combined bring harmony and balance to the reproductive, digestive & sacral areas but on a much deeper and probably more important level, it re-awakens and re-connects women to their bodies, especially their womb. The aim of this therapy is to aid fertility; There are, however, no guarantees that women will fall pregnant after receiving this massage.
Womb massage has been around for thousands of years. Egyptian women massaged their wombs to heal themselves, Norse traditions also mentions goddesses rubbing bellies to heal. It is just a part of the fertility massage therapy and is so much more than a physical treatment; The techniques used are different from those that many people are likely to have experienced before. Rebozo and Pulsing are also included within the session, and together they all blend beautifully to create a nourishing flow of feminine energy, leaving a person feeling whole, centred and most importantly, nurtured.
Pulsing is a blend of several traditional techniques and is known as the Tai Chi of massage. It was devised as a holistic body work therapy to release emotional tension and the dissolution of body armour, which Wilhelm Reich brought to our attention by understanding that our bodies hold emotions and through certain styles of body work, the emotions can be released. During pulsing you are gently and rhythmically rocked at approximately 120-160 beats per minute, which is the same as the heartbeat within the womb. Pulsing releases physical responses to emotional traumas.
Physically, pulsing increases blood & lymph circulation throughout the whole body, which we know we need for good fertility, especially the pelvic region. Digestive transition is improved, and bloating is eased through specific abdominal pulsing techniques and lastly, Fascia that wraps around every muscle & organ within the body is gently encouraged to release, allowing for a freedom of movement internally and physical tension is rhythmically rocked away. This also includes the movement of a misaligned womb to gently shimmy back into her rightful place.
Rebozo is the name given to a Mexican shawl, and the techniques I use which were developed by Clare Blake (Spink) involve using the rebozo to hold the body almost as if it is being held in a hammock; This gives fluidity and softness and the rhythm that flows through makes a person feel a sense of returning either to the womb or to the first few months of life.
Another element of the therapy that is really worth noting, is that any woman who has experienced trauma, be it whether it is in the form of sexual abuse or emotional abuse, divorce, traumatic childbirth or any other unpleasant experiences is that women will disconnect from their body. To complete each session, Ceremonial Rebozo wrapping takes place to help bring the whole woman back into herself, to help her feel centred, grounded, safe & held. This is a vitally important part of the therapy and women love the sense of being swaddled!
The massage focuses on the digestive, reproductive & sacral areas. This is important because:-
- In the abdomen all muscles including the pelvic floor muscles, organs, and connective tissue all share the same neural inputs. Hence, for instance, if there is a problem with digestion, the pain can often be manifested in your back, your abdominal wall, or anywhere in the pelvic region. And vice versa.
- There are ligaments that connect the sacrum to the uterus, if either are misaligned it will in turn, misalign the other.
- If one organ is misaligned, it will impinge on the circulation to the area, therefore a reduction in blood flow, nutrients and oxygen to the abdominal cavity.
Therefore, it important that all areas in the torso are massaged to enhance optimal health and well being.
These 3 main therapies, when combined with the guided visualisation or energy work allow for a much deeper, energetic release than just a regular style of massage.
The more common complaints addressed by this technique include:-
Painful or irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation
Bladder or yeast infections
Miscarriages or difficult pregnancies
Pre-menopause or menopause symptoms
PMS/Depression prior to menstruation
Ovarian and breast cysts
Abnormal uterine bleeding
Held in emotions
Infertility impacts just about every area of a couple’s life; their work, their relationships with friends and family, their finances, their social life, their own relationship and their mental and emotional health. People will typically feel sorry for the woman who is undergoing multiple medical tests and treatments but often not think much about what her partner is going through. Infertility has multiple effects on men because despite his own concerns he often feels the need to be “strong” in support of his partner.
Typically a man wants to be able to “fix” any challenges they may encounter in their life. He has a primal desire to protect and make things better for his woman; This is innate. Infertility is, of course, not something he can fix and it can leave him feeling weak and “less than”.
Assisted Reproductive Technology treatments are expensive and can run into thousands of pounds. Figures released in recent months by Fertility Fairness (previously the National Infertility Awareness Campaign) highlight the postcode lottery that exists for people seeking IVF treatment on the NHS in the UK and the cuts to funding in most areas in recent years. Almost all the local clinical commissioning groups in the UK now fail to comply with NICE (National Institute for Health Care Excellence) recommendations and some are not funding IVF at all.
The alternative is private treatment. People have been known to sell their homes, or accumulate huge debt in their quest for a baby. Financial concerns can cause a great deal of worry for a man and the couple could disagree on how much debt they are willing to accrue for treatment which is not guaranteed to be successful. He suffers inner turmoil; he wants them to have a family but is also fearful of what it will cost them.
A man may also feel inept in his struggle to cope with his partner’s emotions, which may seem like a roller coaster. In the early stages of trying to conceive she will move from hope to despair as she has yet another period. Each month he comforts her, supports her , tells her that he loves her no matter what and assures her that it will happen. Then, if she has invasive tests and treatments this will further make her anxious, depressed and generally unhappy.
Throughout all of this whatever he is feeling, whether he is sad, disappointed, depressed, hopeless or weak he tries to be strong and positive for her; He keeps his feelings inside and puts on a mask. He may also feel lonely and long for the time when they used to have sex just because they desired it. Long gone are those days. If they are undergoing IVF treatment some couples will stop having sex because they feel “what’s the point, it doesn’t work”. They feel that their body has let them down and often stop trying to conceive naturally. All the joy, fun and tenderness of lovemaking have long gone. However much he misses it he may keep quiet, withdraw or become angry. This may also affect his libido and he struggles to perform on demand.
He may feel that he isn’t enough anymore to make her happy and that their future happiness is dependent on having children. People struggling with infertility often lose that sense of “coupledom”. They have forgotten how just being together was enough, when nothing else mattered as long as they had each other. The desire to conceive a child is all-consuming and takes over everything else in their lives.
If their infertility struggle is attributed to him he may feel guilt and shame. He may have issues about using donated sperm; He really wants her to be happy but he is unsure about them having a baby that isn’t biologically his.
Infertility is a dark and lonely place for everyone. Women typically share how they feel with their girlfriends but men generally don’t share their feelings. Bring a group of men together and they will talk about work and sport, not how they feel. Even if a man were to share his own specific fertility issue with friends he opens himself up to ridicule in some cases. One man reported that his “friend” offered to do the deed himself. Needless to say he is no longer a friend.
A Support Group provides an environment of safety and acceptance where couples and individuals can share their experiences. The simple act of coming together can feel as though a huge weight has been lifted from the shoulders of those struggling with infertility; and it provides an opportunity for couples to drop the mask, to share their feelings, communicate better and have greater understanding of each other.
There is a huge lack of awareness and understanding of the emotional impact by anyone who hasn’t struggled with infertility, and the only people who can truly empathise are those who have experienced the struggle themselves.
Alice Domar PhD. Leading expert in mind/body medicine says “We know from research that support groups can help people with just about any health problem to feel better”. Learn more about my support group in Swindon or find a support group in your aea. For more information about male infertility and some useful resources go to male infertility website Mensfe here
Visit this page for information about how hypnosis and other mind/body approaches can reduce the negative effects of infertility and learn more about the Fertile Body Method can improve the success rates of natural conception and assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF.
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