Self-esteem

Do other people's opinions really matter?

Digby

Care about people’s approval, and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu.

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

I went to the beach with my daughters and their friends. My dogs love the beach so I took them along too. The plan was for the teenagers to go on the beach then head for the amusement arcade and shops while I walked the dogs. I agreed to stop at a shopping centre on the way home too and wait for them while they went clothes shopping.

The dogs went in the mud flats. The two golden retrievers were now dark brown and dripping with mud. I couldn’t get to the sea to clean them off without going through the mud again. Not only that but the one dog came up to me and shook. My face, my hair, and my clothes were all covered in mud. A lot of mud. The only consolation was that I wore my wellies and had boots to change into.

On the way home we stopped at the shopping centre. As I waited in the car I really fancied a latte from Costa and a sandwich from Marks and Spencer. The voice in my head said, “You can’t go in either of those places in this state!” So I sat and waited a bit longer. But then another voice in my head said, “But you always say that you don’t care what people think. Why are you denying yourself this small pleasure?” So I got out of the car and got my latte and sandwiches and really enjoyed them. I got a few strange looks but I just thought “So what!” It really struck me then that if worrying about what people think of us stops us enjoying something as small as a latte – how many bigger things and opportunities are we missing out on?

Diving home later we went past someone walking a golden retriever on a lead. My daughter commented on how clean it looked. “Yes”, I agreed. “I bet that dog isn’t allowed to run free on the beach!” The two dogs in the boot of the car were very muddy but they had loved the walk and the freedom (and the mud). Fortunately for them I didn’t stop them enjoying the beach because I wanted create a good impression with two clean well-groomed dogs.

We were all muddy but happy.


Intuition connects us to the natural world and to our nature.

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The authority of your internal voice is much stronger than your external voice.

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

The moment we choose consciousness rather than the tired out collective consciousness (behaviours we have inherited from our family) is when we start to think for ourselves. It's when we stop our lives unfolding according to someone else’s plan. It’s the transformative moment – it’s when we get to choose the life that’s ours and ours alone.

By becoming overly attached to the things (and people) that we like but don’t necessarily need, we become their slaves. We become distracted from thinking about and pursuing our real goals.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells the story of how a mouse does not know it has been caged for quite some time: “It doesn’t realise it has been trapped. There is a little cheese hanging on the hook just inside the door and it tempts the mouse inside. The door snaps shut. The mouse thinks to itself, “I wonder what that noise was?” But is doesn’t realise what caused it because there’s this nice beautiful piece of cheese hanging from the hook. The mouse nibbles the cheese, maybe takes a few rest breaks, and a little glass of wine with it, they enjoy themselves and think “yum, yum, this cheese is really good”. And, when the cheese is gone, they think “Well, I’ll be on my way now, and I’ll find somewhere else to go, be and do”. But they can’t get out. The door is closed. They are trapped. They are trapped by this thing that initially was something that was the lure of temporary pleasure. Maybe it even put them to sleep a little bit, like when you eat too much then you drowse a bit.”

That’s how people become trapped away from their true souls. You offer them something pretty, or something nourishing, or something delightful, and you get them to enter the cage and the door snaps shut immediately. And, they have no idea of what’s happened for a long period of time. They might be drawn to a new partner and think “Oh look, they are having a nice time, that’s a nice house; they look like they’re having a nice time and eating nice stuff”. But, it isn’t long term, it isn’t nourishing. It isn’t what lasts. You could say that at that moment they have overwhelmed their own intuition. They need to be more conscious of transformational moments and take them instead of being so easily seduced away from them.

The mouse with the full belly was convinced all the choices were right – at least for a time – until the full belly was gone. Pleasure is the motive choice, it’s the anesthesia, especially for women, often inherited from women who felt they had no status, or whose status was received from the men they were married to. It’s not useful for setting a good example for their children.

It’s the quality of what they choose that’s the issue – they shouldn’t choose anesthesia, they shouldn’t choose the full belly if it puts them to sleep.

It is such a wonderful thing to be born. It is just incredible how everything comes together to form a human. This shouldn’t be wasted. Everyone is needed; everyone has a role to play. The thing to remember is what besides intuition can a person possibly rely on in order to develop and to grow in order to transform themselves? How else can they grow from something ego-driven into something soul-driven? Dreams are intuitive, daydreams are intuitive, and visions are intuitive. Everything that proposes an image or symbol is intuitive. And this plays a role. It generates the energy within the belief system, or within the intuitive system, or within the psyche – however, you would like to say it. It enables the person to think the thoughts that they weren’t able to think before and they have a choice whether to investigate them, or whether to refute them. But, the question is, “Who chooses?” At this point who chooses? Your soul? Your ego? Or the strange demon who appears to have possession of you?

You don’t need to understand your childhood. You just need to remember that the authority of your internal voice is much stronger than your external voice. To make use of it you have to increase your self-esteem, your self-love. You need to learn to trust your instinct. You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you to the best solutions. Intuition connects us to the natural world and to our nature. Every thought is preceded by a perception, every impulse is preceded by a thought, and every action is preceded by an impulse. Listen.

Rely on your intuition, your true being.


Growing our internal mother

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BY JANE REDFERN JONES

The relationship we have with ourselves sets the tone for every other relationship in our lives.

Practicing self-love means showing up for ourselves daily, celebrating ourselves and our successes daily, and understanding that whatever we feel we need from others we have the power to give ourselves.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Warming the Stone Child, says that internally we all have a light that can never go out. There are many beliefs about this light, and one of the sayings is that any type of wood that is half burnt always has a spark or ember in it that can be fanned by a very small wind into a gigantic flame, and this is also true about the internal flame of those of us who lacked parental guidance as a child.

Even people who have endured terrible things must realise that surviving is not enough. We must learn to thrive. That is what the little flame inside us is all about. Fanning that flame into something that’s sturdy, something that doesn’t waver every time someone gives us a funny look, disapproves of us, or is angry with us. We can become resilient so that our flame burns brightly. That’s what healing our inner child is all about.

In terribly unhealthy families children are damaged in many ways, including the destruction of the child’s belief that he has any purpose and value. Without that belief, it is difficult to succeed, difficult to take risks. It may even seem foolish to them to take risks, “knowing”, as such people do, that they are not up to the task. Estes talks about how we can suffer from a syndrome she calls ‘collapsing’. When someone is angry with us we go into a psychic regression with feelings of being worthless, wishing to be invisible, collapsing instead of being adult and stable and present in the moment. This causes the flame to waver.

We can look back and try and analyse everything that has happened to us - the neglect, the put-downs etc - but that will not help fan the flame.

The tender, the keeper of that flame, is the internal mother and if things had happened properly to us as a child that flame would already be burning bright and stable.

In order to grow the internal mother, you have to be willing to be decent and good to yourself. You must be willing to accept self-love and self-respect. You must realise that the only things holding you back are the faulty illusions and beliefs from your past. Nothing can stop you so long as you believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are overweight, too thin, too short, too tall, it is all to do with caring about all the things that you are. That is what develops the internal mother. You can feel and see her grow before your very eyes if you are willing to develop your self-love, self-respect, and self-regard for yourself.

Many people who have this deep sense of being unmothered often feel that they are searching for love, that if they were just loved enough, everything would be so much better. But, it doesn’t matter how much love you have lavished on you, it won’t be enough. What will work, is to have the guidance of intuition, the guidance of consciousness, the guidance of common sense.

Consciously knowing what we are capable of, what our good points are, what our bad points are, and guiding ourselves through life with that knowledge is the deepest internal mother that you can have.’ And if you are an unmothered child, that is what was missing in your upbringing.

Take heart, no matter what happened to you, that light still lives inside you.

Take the focus away from what you look like, take time to get to know yourself – both your strengths and your weaknesses. Know that whatever has happened to you, you are enough. Nourish your body as a celebration of all it does for you.

And, as we pour love into ourselves, that love will spill out into the rest of our lives.

“Beautify your inner dialogue. Beautify your inner world with love, light, and compassion. Life will be beautiful.” Amit Ray.


Believe you can do it and you will

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On a bike ride with my daughter at the weekend, I was riding my bike up a very steep hill.

A jogger coming towards me called out, “You’re doing well! Keep going!” I replied that I wasn’t going to make it to the halfway point, never mind the top.

It then immediately struck me that I was letting my mind limit what I could achieve. I reminded myself of that morning in 1954 that Sir Roger Bannister made sporting history by running a mile in under a minute. He believed he could do it so he did. I believed I couldn’t so I wouldn’t.

I talked myself into trying harder and did at least make it past the halfway point.

If we don’t believe that we have a purpose and a value it can be difficult to succeed and difficult to take risks, “knowing” as some of us do that we "are not up to the task".

The way circus elephants are trained demonstrates this dynamic well.

In his excellent book The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker considers the mighty elephant when its spirit has been broken:

"When young, they are attached by heavy chains to large stakes driven deep into the ground. They pull and yank and strain and struggle, but the chain is too strong, the stake too rooted. One day they give up, having learned they cannot pull free, and from that day forward they can be “chained” with a slender rope. When this enormous animal feels any resistance, though it has the strength to pull the whole circus tent over, it stops trying. Because it believes it cannot, it cannot.”

“I can’t do it,” “I’ll never make it,” “I’m going to fail,” are words in our heads that we possibly learned as children from our parents, or from past failures.

Top golfer Jason Day doesn’t believe in negative self-talk. He says: “If you don't believe in yourself, somewhere or another, you sabotage yourself.”

Day adds “If you're going to have a bad attitude, you may as well not even tee it up that week because you probably won't play good anyways.”

We have bigger brains and more advanced intellect than other animals yet as Albert Camus puts it, “Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.” 

Could you imagine our cave-based ancestors saying, “I can’t catch that deer, it runs too fast.” They would have starved to death. A lion doesn't lament "It's too hard, I'll never catch it!" Maybe our lives have become too easy now that we don't have to run for our dinner, even though we know that being active will extend our time on this earth.

“I'm not saying it's going to be easy. Nothing in life is easy. But that's no reason to give up. You'll be surprised what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. After all, you only have one life, so you should try to make the most of it.” Louis Sachar.

In Seneca’s essay on tranquillity, he uses the Greek word euthymia, which he defines as “believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction.”

The Stoics know where they are going. They trust themselves and their sense of the path. And so should we.

“Anyone can give up; it is the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone would expect you to fall apart, now that is true strength.”  Chris Bradford, The Way of the Sword.

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Create your own wild art and let nature be your therapist

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir.

 There is nothing to stop you being an artist in the outdoors. If we allow our bodies and minds to access what nature has to offer then there is only healing to be found.

The only objective you need is to have no objective. Just go where your heart and mind guide you to go, and start to create.

Use the beautiful resources you have to hand, and, as you quietly create, you will feel a sense of calm come over you.

Be aware of the natural world around you and feel gratitude for being a part of it. Be aware of the birds flitting from tree to tree, hear the rustle of the leaves, and the gently flowing water in the river. Breathe deeply and feel the fresh air fill your lungs and go deep into your body.

Collect whatever treasure you can find – rocks, buttercups, ferns, and let the intricacy of their beauty infuse you with abundance and awe. The next time you see any of these special objects you will reminded of the peace and tranquillity they instilled in you.

When you are stressed your brain and sympathetic nervous system are continually stimulated. It’s harder to focus or make decisions because you are in a reactive state. Being outdoors makes you naturally calmer. Focusing on your art makes it easier to clear your head, and it allows you to process your emotions and relax.

Wild art therapy is simple and fun. You can create to your heart’s content without fear that judgement will be passed on your work. It’s also free and accessible any time you can get outdoors. It will help you to feel calm and to cope with any challenges you are facing.

Having a therapist with you can be helpful in guiding you to clarify your thoughts, but it’s possible to be your own therapist. You don’t have to have any goals in mind other than deciding to build a rock tower, press some flowers, or just make a picture out of what you can find.

Reignite that imaginative spark we all have within us. Notice things that come to mind while you are creating something. Feel the wonder and awe of these little bits of nature’s masterpiece that you are using in your creation.

It can feel incredibly rewarding. When you have finished admire your work and know that you have created it just for you.

 

 


Why losing control can be a good thing

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I’ve always enjoyed horse riding. When I was younger I particularly enjoyed pony trekking when we would ride all day. In the summer there would often be forty or more of us saddling up and heading into the Berwyn Mountains.

One day, when I was a teenager, there was a shortage of guides. The owner of the farm asked me if I would lead that day’s trek.

“But I won’t be able to remember the way,” I replied, worried about leading all the other riders astray. Although I had ridden it many times before, I had not memorised the route and was afraid of going the wrong way.

“That doesn’t matter,” he said, “The horse knows the way. There will be two points where he will hesitate and when he does, the first time guide him to the left, the second time guide him to the right.”

Sure enough, the horse hesitated at two intersections and I simply guided him the right way.

I often think back to that day and think how easily we can create problems that aren’t there and make life far more complicated than it needs to be.

The great hypnotherapist Milton Erickson once shared a story about a horse that wandered into his family’s yard when he was a young man.

The horse had no identifying marks. Erickson offered to return the horse to its owners. In order to accomplish this, he simply mounted the horse, led it to the road, and let the horse decide which way it wanted to go. He intervened only when the horse left the road to graze or wander into a field. When the horse finally arrived at the yard of a neighbour, several miles down the road, the neighbour asked Erickson, “How did you know that horse came from here and was our horse?”

Erickson said, “I didn’t know- but the horse knew. All I did was keep him on the road.”          From: My Voice Will Go with You: Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson

Erickson became a famous psychotherapist and he liked to tell this story to his students, telling them that therapy was a lot like riding that horse. In beginning a course of therapy it is often helpful to go back to the beginning of the real road. Whatever ideas you have about the best path for your client to take, you stand more chance of success if you tap into the wisdom of the unconscious mind – both the client’s and your own. “You can trust the unconscious,” he used to say. He would encourage his students to let go of their preconceptions – about therapy, about clients, about human nature – and to trust their unconscious mind to come up with creative solutions to their problems.

I’m not saying there isn’t any value in making plans and applying what you know. You have to start somewhere.

But whenever you set out to do something extraordinary, there comes a point where, like Erickson on the horse, you have to choose between trying to control everything – or letting go and getting carried away by something bigger and more powerful than yourself.

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The river of life

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.

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“By the time it came to the edge of the forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and being grown up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly for it now knew where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry. We shall get there someday”. But all the little streams higher up in the forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late.” AA Milne. 

At the edge of Big Wood, I stood on the riverbank, gazing down into the water of the Clywedog. Recent rainfall had made it deeper and faster than usual.

A flowing river speaks to me about the journey of life. At its origin, the river is small and insignificant compared to what it is to become. Who would believe looking at the Clywedog now, or the Dee which the Clywedog flows into further on, that their source is a tiny trickle that you could step over?

From its humble origins, the river begins a journey of challenge and excitement. Each drop of water that bubbles forth at its source knows not what lies ahead. But from the moment it emerges, it becomes part of an inevitable, uncontrollable flow that leads it forward. Its whole life lies before it, and it begins a journey that will take it through various stages and directions of its life.

 An individual drop of water cannot flow by itself. For it to flourish and survive it needs other drops of water to join it on its journey. It needs to be fed by rain that falls from the sky. Encounters with other streams allow it to be nourished and grow. Every chance meeting contributes to its growth and maturity as a river. Just as it cannot reach its destiny without receiving from others, it gives as well as takes. It enriches the land and crops; it gives life to fish, amphibians, birds and humans.

Despite its power, kindness and generosity, its flow is not without difficulties. No river ever flows straight to the sea. It meets obstacles, diversions, challenges. Heavy rain might cause it to rush and roar ahead along a narrow channel, a long hot summer might rob it of its resources and take it back to a trickle.

 Its mood alters with its circumstances. There are times for rushing ahead and times for peacefully trickling along just trying to survive.

It meets obstacles – the fallen tree it has to negotiate, or the rockfall that means a change in course.

In its infancy, the river is joyful and dancing, in its adolescence more purposeful. In maturity, it broadens and shares its experience and wisdom.

Its pace slows as it continues its journey to the sea. On meeting, they become one, not just with each other but with all the other rivers and waters on the planet. The warmth of the sun evaporates the water. It gathers in the clouds, is deposited back in the hills, and so the journey of another river begins.

The river gives us a sense of permanence, a feeling of eternity that would outlive our mere fleeting existence. But in its permanence, there is also something temporary. The river is constantly changing, adapting, the molecules of water constantly changing.

The river begins at Source, and returns to Source, unerringly. This happens every single time, without exception.

We are no different.

It is the rivers constant, ever-changing nature that makes it a classic metaphor for all of life’s journeys.  

‘Go with the Flow’ is the foundation of River Philosophy.

You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it. Paulo Coelho.

 In the water, the current determines what is needed from us at any given time.  When approaching a rapid, the river demands our attention, forces us to plan our route, to prepare for change and have the physical strength to keep our course.  When the water is still, we are allowed to rest and enjoy the scenery or prepare for the next rapid.  No amount of wishing, fighting, crying or demanding will change the river’s current. We must accept it for what it is, choose our course and do our best.

The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it's going to go and where you'll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don't let anyone deter you from that. Eartha Kitt.

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Have faith in yourself

After about three hours climbing Snowdon along the Pyg Track, the coffee and rest at the top were greatly appreciated. I decided to head back down the Miners’ Track but felt that the challenging walk was made even more difficult by the burden of my heavy backpack. Like many things in our lives, it weighed heavily on my shoulders. More than once I wished I’d left it at home as I clambered down the rocks and steep path.

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Yet, as there are two sides to every coin, there were aspects of my burden that I needed. It carried my camera, water for me and the dogs, snacks, and extra clothing. I thought about the amazing photographs I had taken, how much I needed that warm fleece in the bitter cold on the top. No, I would not choose to be without them.

As I plodded down the mountain, the two dogs on their leads in case they ran over a steep edge, I could feel the effects of a tough day on my body and limbs, and it restricted my joints and my gait.

My backpack weighed heavily and my knees and ankles were suffering from the concussive impact of each deliberately placed footstep. My mind turned inwards, focusing on my burdens and pain. Briefly, I would be distracted by the sun catching a distant mountaintop or a small hardy plant and I would get my camera out, but it wouldn’t be long before I was back in the thoughts of my own misery and wishing I wasn’t so far from the car.

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Then, my attention was captured by a noise from behind. There was a sound of laughter and merriment from a group of walkers behind me. Though we were walking the same path there was a vast difference in our mood and manner.

They carried loads which were much heavier than mine and with much greater ease: big backpacks with camping gear and supplies.

Ahead of them ran two dogs agilely jumping down the rocks. As the walkers passed me they talked and laughed as they traversed the trail like mountain goats, leaping from stone to stone. I watched their light, fast movements. They were walkers who were familiar with the path and obviously with carrying heavy loads, so surely there's was an example to follow. I adopted them as my model, let the dogs off their leads and started to replicate their gait. ‘Spring rather than plod. Move lightly’ became my mantra. And the results were rapid. The pains in my knees and ankles began to ease.

Then I let fear resume its grip. What if I went over on my ankle? What if I stepped on a loose rock and fell? What if… In fear, I again slowed my pace, deliberately watching each footfall. As I did so, I felt the full weight of my burden, and the concussion of each firmly planted step brought the pain back into my joints. My dogs, meanwhile, agilely traversed the path like the dogs ahead now that they were free.

The laughter of the walkers ahead drifted up from below. “Surely”, I thought, “My eyes are capable of seeing the path ahead. My legs have supported me well through life so far and know how to move. I just need to feel confident in the abilities I already have. Somehow, reminding myself at a conscious level what I already knew at a deeper level freed my body to move comfortably and lightly. Permitting myself to be in touch with long-held capabilities allowed my feet to travel easier. As I traversed the stumbling blocks of my mind, I moved over the ground with great ease, and the weight of my bag wasn’t so heavy and burdensome. Every now and then I stopped, a little worried again. If I started to worry about falling, I felt myself become tense, and I wasn’t able to move freely. When I reminded myself that what I wanted was well within my capabilities, I felt the worry fall away and my gait became freer.

All I needed was to trust my inner mind to do what it was already capable of doing.

When the burden of life becomes heavier, when it starts crushing our shoulders with all its might, it is time to be stronger! Mehmet Murat Ildan.

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Sometimes a change is all you need

Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. Warren Buffett.

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If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.

Julie reminded me of the truth of that statement. 

Julie was feeling depressed. She worked in admin in the local hospital and every workday she set her alarm for 7 am. She’d make a pot of tea and would drink two cups every morning followed by a bowl of cornflakes. While she had breakfast her husband would have a shower and then she would shower while he had breakfast. She would leave the house at 8.10 am to drive her Ford Fiesta to work, arriving half an hour early so as to set a good example.

She told me that she had worked in the same hospital in the same department for nearly twenty-five years. She didn’t enjoy her job and was looking forward to her retirement even though it was nine years away. Every lunchtime at 1 pm she would go to the staffroom and eat the cheese sandwiches that she’d brought from home, along with a cup of coffee. She’d leave work at 4 pm and arrive home an hour before her husband. She would cook dinner and he would do the washing up before they settled down to watch television for the rest of the evening.

I asked her about her weekend routine. Julie said that her husband always set the alarm for 7.30 am on Saturdays so that they could have a lie in. After the regulatory pot of tea, and showering, they would go out shopping, always to the same town. In the afternoon they would potter around the house and garden cleaning and catching up with the washing and ironing.

“What about Sundays?” I asked hopefully.

“Oh, we always go out on a Sunday,” she replied. I thought, at last, there might be something interesting that they do.

“Where do you go?” I asked.

“To my husband’s favourite café” she answered. “We have fish and chips and a cup of coffee. It very good value and my husband always says that it saves me cooking.”

I was hardly surprised that Julie felt depressed. She clearly illustrated the principle that if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.

We began to explore how she could change her routine and change how she was feeling. Julie felt hesitant, fearful even, which was perfectly natural, for what she had been doing was not only familiar but it also kept her life balanced and stable. Her lifestyle limited the risk of the unexpected but it also limited the possibility of enjoyment.

We started to talk about what small steps she could take to facilitate this change. To start with it was small things like taking a different route home from work, sitting at a different table in the café, or eating different food. Ideas such as trying a different café or town were rejected at first. I later found out that Julie’s husband had been resistant to any change at all and he would become angry at even the smallest change in their routine so at first, it was things that only affected Julie that were changed.

Julie began to look at whether she was really enjoying what she was doing and, if not, how she could do things differently. As she introduced more change into her life so she began to experience more positive emotions. Soon she was meeting friends to try out new coffee shops and go for walks. She stopped watching so much television and had signed up for an evening class plus joined a local wildlife group.

Her husband refused to change his routine at all and he disliked his wife having new ideas and interests. Soon Julie realised that they needed to separate and they did.

Sometimes change can seem difficult and frightening, but Julie learned that making gradual changes at your own pace soon opens up opportunities for new experiences and new possibilities.

She has remarried now and she and her husband have opened an art gallery and café. They regularly travel abroad to unusual places and Julie’s depression is a thing of the past.

Julie adapted the quote at the beginning and printed it to put on her wall. It reads:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got, and you’ll always feel what you always felt.

Feb16

My stories about clients and patients are just that – stories. Clients inspire me, but they are not included in my posts.