In one of the sessions with my client, the word autonomy came up, which I have been reflecting on since. In Bodynamic, which is a form of body psychotherapy, the stage of autonomy is a developmental phase from 8 months to 2.5 years. It’s the time where we learn to keep our impulses whilst being in relationship. The question is “Who am I when in contact with another?”. One of the risks we are running is that we lose ourselves in the relationship. The challenge is to stay in contact with our own centre, power and feelings whilst being in relationship with another human being. It’s about an open heart without needing to shut down or abandon ourselves.
I invite you to track when you lose connection to yourself, when you start to follow another person’s rhythm, pace and timing, thereby losing your own and when you give your power away in order to stay in contact.
Sometimes a week or days can be summarised by or explored through one word. For this and last week, this word has been "discernment" for me. It has come up for me in a session with my supervisor, who has trained in and taught a psychotherapeutic tradition that is based on Buddhism. One of the definition of discernment (not in the Buddhist sense, but in the broader sense) is "the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure" (Merriam Webster Dictionary). Other definitions include words like insight and being able to judge well and accurately. A lot of the work I have been doing is about understanding what is my real and authentic self and where am I stuck in my patterns. Sometimes being triggered, or in transference, can feel like reality. However, I know that when I take my time and importantly slow down, I can distinguish, i.e. discern, between my defences and coping mechanism and my real self, i.e. between what is the immediate and real experience and what I have fallen into, unconsciously.
For me personally, when I'm in my pattern, there is a sense of urgency to do something, a feeling of not wanting to be with what is emerging and a desire to discharge the overwhelming emotions. This is often accompanied with a lack of grounding and thoughts that are in a constant loop. On the other hand, when I'm in contact with my authentic self and what is truly emerging within me vs. the secondary more interpretative energies that are often layered on top, I'm more centred, more grounded and slower. I am in contact with my centre and with what is real.
The art is to discern: what is real and what is made up; what is coming from the core and what is story.
Walk in beauty.
Since I have finished my personal psychotherapy sessions, my relationship to my two supervisors has become increasingly important. Regular supervision helps me to reflect about the work with my clients, but also about my own personal process and how I'm touched by my clients and what they stir up within me and mirror back to me. Unlike common belief that supervision is about the client, it's really about the teacher or therapist and their own process.
A couple of weeks ago, I felt ungrounded, overwhelmed and definitely not in my body. I felt that I was "failing" my clients and that I was not sure about what I was actually doing as a mentor and therapist. I had a session with my supervisor and I was asking him how I can "tackle the problems" some of my clients were experiencing. I was in the space of needing to find another "solution" for the problems that have been reoccurring - and I needed that solution fast. Metaphorically, my supervisor held up a pin and popped the balloon of busyness with a simple question: "So, there is somewhere to get to, Sandra?". In that moment I realised that I had fallen into the trap of needing to get somewhere and especially fast. I completely forgot that we are already here and that the only moment we have available is the present moment. By frantically trying to find a solution, I had also sent the subtle message to my clients that they need to be different to how they are right now. The fact is: they are whole human beings who simply disconnected from whom they truly are. I felt immediately lighter, more at ease and more embodied.
I feel that this approach is so beautifully summarised by Beisser (1970) in his article "The Paradoxical Theory of Change":
"Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is-to be fully invested in his current positions. By rejecting the role of change agent, we make meaningful and orderly change possible".
Be who you are fully and have your own back.
Walk in beauty.
In January, I decided not to continue with my UCKP accreditation for Body Psychotherapy through the training organisation I had been with for almost 9 years. Because I was seeing my therapist at the centre in Cambridge I also decided to finish my personal psychotherapy. After some what's app messages to my therapist, I wrote her an email to say that I needed to take a break. After I got no reply from her, which upset me a lot, I decided to block her number. This was after what felt like an eternity, but in reality was after two weeks. Then in September, I decided to restart my work towards accreditation but through a different training provider and also felt the urge to go back into therapy. I knew I needed to contact my previous therapist, as things were left unfinished. In my first session, she told me that I never reacted to what she wrote in February. I insisted that I did not get the message. Of course, I did not get the message, because I blocked her number!
She ultimately supported me, but not exactly in the way I wanted her to. I have been thinking about this a lot. I often have had feelings of being unsupported in the past when in reality I have had a lot of support from amazing people around me. At times the support has come in different ways to what I wanted it to be - failing to see that it was there. I then, just like with my therapist, have closed myself off and decided that I can only rely on myself. That further isolated me and confirmed my belief that the only way forward is self-reliance.
My commitment to myself is to open my heart and allow myself to deeply receive and feel held and supported by the people I trust - in whatever form it comes. We can only freely give, if we allow ourselves to receive. It's an act of courage and vulnerability. Join me.
Walk in beauty
Last weekend I went on a CPD course for Body Psychotherapy and we looked at aversion, attraction and conscious goals. The movement and feeling that helped me to understand how to bring forward more of myself when setting goals was the feeling of being pregnant. My belly was loose, my hips were open and there was a sense that I was taking my weight more into my heels than into the balls of my feet.
My shoulders were relaxed and I was swaying from side to side while at the same time rubbing my belly. It had a soothing effect on me, which is quite the opposite of how I normally approach my goals: wanting to attack it, get on with it and be generally quite cut off from myself while at the same time being totally focused on what needs to be done.
The swaying movement with loose hips and belly was a reminder about the natural process and incubation time of ideas, goals and life in general. The person I was working with remarked: “The pregnant woman does not need to go and find the baby. The baby is within her.” This felt incredibly profound and eye-opening to me. I did not have to search for the wisdom, the ideas and goals, but they were actually already within me. I just need to allow life to flow through me.
I would like to encourage you to find your own movement that helps you to bring more of yourself into life and into the way you approach your goals and visions in life, so that whatever you're doing is coming from within you and is an extension of your authentic self.
After having handed in all my course work for my Body Psychotherapy course last month, I'm about to have my last weekend with my group in Cambridge. I've felt for the last three months that I've been in a state of major transitions where endings are very prevalent.
I'm finishing my course after five years of training, I'm ending my relationship as it is now with my psychotherapist whom I've seen for six year and I'm redefining my work. However, I'm not very good with endings and tend to move on to other things very quickly. I normally don't allow myself to feel what happens in that space where I need to let go of something, as I am too busy to plan my next project.
Endings can be very painful and often feel uncomfortable. I feel more at home with beginnings and going deeper, but I have a harder time to create space around when courses, projects, relationships, etc. finish.
My intent is to stay in feeling during this important period of transition, as I know that being spacious around endings is absolutely vital to live an authentic life and to be able to honestly connect to the people and the environment around me.
After five years of training, the final deadline for my body psychotherapy course is the 13th of June where I need to hand in documentation about my training, two case studies and an essay about what creates suffering and what aids healing.
I have been thinking a lot about this theme and for me it is the disconnect from ourselves that brings about suffering. When we can't be ourselves and we try to become somebody different, we suffer. In other words when we are not embodying our spirit, problems arise.
We often try so hard to be different - look differently, behave differently and ultimately be different. However, we can only be ourselves and if we can be invested more fully in our current situation and wholeheartedly accept and see reality as it is including our faults and mistakes, we can find some peace and balance in our lives.
Allow yourself to let go into who you are.
In addition to my own personal psychotherapy, I have been going to supervision regularly to have a sounding board for what I am doing professionally and in order to clarify the direction of my work. During my last session my supervisor summarised the core question I am facing: "Is what you do feeding your soul or is it feeding your personality?"
I don't think that they are mutually exclusive, but the priority needs to be with feeding the soul rather than the ego. When we are concentrating on bolstering our personality, we are creating more layers of protection to shield us from the outside world, which can be sometimes disappointing and very hurtful. In short, we are creating an image - often also with the aim to compensate for other parts of ourselves that are less integrated.
When we focus on feeding our soul we look for the things in our lives that give us more aliveness, more vitality and more connection. We are being creative and look to express who we are rather than whom we think we should be.
Maybe next time you are facing a decision, ask yourself: Is this feeding my soul or is this feeding my personality?
Yoga is a physical practice that accesses the emotions through the body with the assumption that the two can't be separated. Emotional processing is an integral part of our journey towards healing and wholeness. I have been drawing more and more on body psycho-therapeutic principles that are in line with yoga in order to help and promote this aspect of yoga.
As part of my Body Psychotherapy course in Cambridge I have been looking at different traditions of psychotherapy and I have come across this incredible prayer created by Dr. Fritz Perls - the founder of Gestalt therapy:
I do my thing and you do your thing.
(Fritz Perls, "Gestalt Therapy Verbatim", 1969)
It resonates deeply with me and I hope it does with you, too.
Yoga, well-being and mindfulness... always walk in beauty.