…difference and safety….

I want to be honest here about where I do have some experience in the realm of difference,,, and where I don’t. This way I hope you’ll have more information in your decision to work with me or not.

I will have blind spots, given I was raised, lived and absorbed a whole heap of racist, heteronormative, disablist, binary and gender norms.  There’s gonna be stuff I have not yet worked through, and saying that, ignorance doesn’t get me off the hook. So I’d say, in acknowledging my privileges, if something I say, on my website or in this post, feels off to you, trust your instinct. I very much hope you can find someone to work with who you won’t need to defend against, even subtly – you deserve that space.

Firstly I’ll talk about: Gender, Sexual and Relationship Diversity (GSRD)

I haven’t been on a course about gender, sexual and relationship diversity. Ever. That’s probably not great, and something I will change. My original training (12 years ago) barely mentioned this. I don’t necessarily believe a course is the only way or sometimes the best way (unless it’s really good) to challenge oneself or to notice internalised oppressions, but still..

I have read many many articles and listened to podcasts and learned from relationships with others (personally and professionally), especially by listening to myself in what feels good, which is often not what I’ve been told ‘should’ feel good. I often begin a reading-thinking-exploring-feeling feast when I am trying to open up and see how others really are, and I take time to reflect inwardly and continue to explore my own diversities.

I keep uncovering layers of where the script of monogamy, the relationship escalator (or the many ‘norm’ escalators out there), binary genders (or in fact binary everything) and patriarchal stuff gets in the way of being with ’myself’ and being with others. I will undoubtedly continue to work on this, and will try my best to challenge what comes up in me – hopefully fast enough so you don’t need to deal with it, but I might be slow at times – if I am, I hope we’d find a way to recognise that and value you and your input in any of the ways which will be open to us. I do want to do this work in a fair way. 

I have worked and continue to work with those who define as or are curious about: non binary, non-monogamous, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and fluid. I’m hoping to become a ‘kink aware’ therapist, but am not there yet and have a lot to learn. I haven’t worked with clients who define as transgender. 

I have a sex critical approach, which definitely definitely doesn’t mean I’m sex negative. Sex (in all its forms) can be all sorts of great, and intimacy comes in many forms too (including the non sexual). There are so many important and authentic ways to be seen and to live, and the important relationships we have with others can and, I’d argue, should look different because, well, we are all, as are our desires. I’m not ”sex positive” because my experience of this is that it becomes another set of norms about i.e. sex=good which isn’t helpful. 

This >sex is good</>sex is bad< is another binary which isn’t helpful for us to uncover the erotic, that which brings us to our senses, brings us to life. Our erotic selves can be renewed by our relationship with other(s)(the human and non-human), ourselves, ideas, nature,… the list is probably endless. 

Many have experience of the sexual and the intimate as a place of abuse and hurt, so I work with the affects of trauma in mind with an essential gentleness and awareness.

If this feels about right for you then, if you’re looking for a counsellor, be in touch; but if something I’ve said, even subtly, displays an ignorance, then I’d say, trust that part of you which notices what you need to. Feedback is welcome, and not expected.

these times

A colleague and I were talking this morning about our unease with the ‘We’re All in It Together’ slogans that are coming out to keep us on track with lockdown. We wondered about what ‘This’ was, and how importantly difference was being overlooked in that message.
The first kind of difference we noticed was situational. What ‘This’ might be is very different depending on where you are, and who you’re with. Some of us feel trapped, overcrowded or pigeonholed into mutual responsibility, others feel they are truly socially isolated,or forgotten.
The situation of our friends and families also affects our individual ‘This’. Some of us are already grieving or anticipating doing so. Others are trying to help our children adjust to enforced isolation and inactivity, or  recover a sense of progress towards a future that is no longer clear. Others are missing chat or essential contact. And many are finding echos of our own loss, fear and experiences in wider and broader contexts.
Economically we may feel precarious , responsible, or overcommitted (if we are an essential worker).
Some of us are sleeping deeply , others not at all.
We may yearn for peace, or internet connection or, a certainty to grasp.

With those differences come another layer – how is ‘This’ affecting me now as an individual? Am I scared, distracted, bored, lonely, anxious, awakened, even elated by the community spiritedness I might see?
Am I focused on the past – the things I miss, or have lost, or remember? Or the present – what do I or we need? what should I do? Or the future – how will this end up and when will we reach that? What will I do then?

And there are the questions: what is the way you want to deal with ‘This’, the unique ‘This’ that you are facing, and your individual response to it? Some of the social pressure on following the rules to help others, can push us away from our need to find our own paths through the strange, new world in which we find ourselves. We may need a place of trust and security to be open and honest about that.

There will not be only one answer to that question for any of us, and different parts of the ‘This’ will be more important to the answer at particular times.

What makes up my particular ‘This’?
How is it affecting me at the moment?
What is the way I want to deal with it for the next little while?

Loss of the world we know

I hear the news of mass extinction, of the insects, the oceans, of those displaced, of what we are loosing; at first numbly, then it trickles into what I feel when I notice the delicate arrival of a blue tit… and I feel..

..waves of despair.

I watch myself holding tightly to the glimmers of beauty which appear unannounced; and realise I will (if I am still around) see the gaps, gaps where something beautiful once was. Grief pounds at me.

I believe they are all parts of my (and our) collective grief. Mourning for the only home any of us has ever known. I am trying to learn to grieve better. I’m not sure I know exactly how, but I do know it is the only way of honouring all I/we have loved and will continue to love. It is the only way, I think, to learn to be with what is, hopefully, together; and do what we can while we can. And to appreciate the now in a deepening way.

And nothing I can write can seem to capture the enormity of the rage and grief of this.

But still I decided to write this on my blog. I want to say to you if this is overwhelming you, then, me too, maybe differently, and still. I don’t think it shouldn’t either. It is so beyond me to hold this, all I can is be part of this wave of grief. I want to say, if this speaks to you, I respect your (individual and collective) pain and all that you are uniquely holding.

… and sometimes I feel overwhelming gratitude for being able to experience

this tree

right now.

and sometimes rage just swells.

Links:

BBC Radio Documentary on Eco Anxiety

Resources – Solidarity, Emotional Support and Inspiration

“Wisdom only begins when we let in the grief and rage of understanding climate breakdown”

Space for Sadness in the Sunshine

Have you ever felt sad in the summer? Seen your deep-down grief juxtaposed against a sunny sky and wondered What’s wrong with me?

When the weather is lovely and everyone’s off on holiday, it can be hard to process and honour our painful feelings. Sometimes, it’s even difficult to get beyond the idea that we “should” be feeling fabulous, on the beach, in the middle of August. For some of us, though, our emotional range and intensity (our ability to experience intense joy and sorrow, and a million other things) are some of our greatest assets. And they don’t always take the summer off.

Giving ourselves permission to feel whatever we’re feeling is a gift. Human bodies, minds, and lives don’t often follow the exact same rhythms. We are all so different from one another! Yet, because of the way our society and economy are set up, summer sadness seems to trigger a special kind of loneliness. It can feel like being set apart from everyone—like being lost at sea while everyone else relaxes on the shore. If we can stop feeling bad about feeling bad, perhaps it would be easier to see what our emotional turbulence can teach us about ourselves and the world.

Get cozy with your strong emotions

A while ago, I shared Elizabeth’s wonderful post Grieving Every Day. As someone for whom sadness is a recurring presence in her life, Elizabeth tries to incorporate honoring these feelings into each day. I admire how she’s sought to build up her relationship with these feelings, learning to coexist with them and understand their value:

Some pain is personal and individual and recognising individual pain and its cause can be very important. But some pain might be universal and this kind of pain may need a different approach. Overall I believe we need to rethink our relationship with pain and sadness and not see them as villains to be conquered or avoided.

If we intimately know our grief, it’s less likely to throw us off, even if it shows up unexpectedly.

Sadness is not necessarily random

For some of us, summer is an especially difficult time. If you have experienced a trauma in your past, strong emotions may be triggered by certain holidays, kinds of weather, or seasonal activities. These can be really subtle, and we may not even see the connections between our surroundings and our emotions at first.

Physiological responses to light and temperature can also affect our moods, especially if we’re highly sensitive to environmental stimuli to begin with. You might be familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is commonly thought of as a kind of “winter blues,” but about a tenth of people with SAD actually experience it in the summer. Having a hard time with the warm summer months is pretty normal. It doesn’t make you no fun, and it doesn’t mean you’re broken.

How are you feeling today?

How has summer been for you this year? Are you sad to see it go, or relieved that autumn will soon be here? What patterns can you see in the way your heart moves through the year?

 

The Unexpected Gifts of Being Sad

Going “right through the centre of yourself”

This is Rilke’s description of the movement of sadness, in Letters to A Young Poet. I like this definition of being touched: being a conduit for feelings rather than a reservoir for them or a victim of them. It makes me think about whether perhaps we are built to process emotions. It is possible for feelings to pass through the centre of us without damaging us, just as it is possible for emotional experiences to hurt us in deep and lasting ways.

Understanding the architecture of your centre allows you to know what your capacities are.

Knowing ourselves, we know how much we can take. This is particularly important for HSP, as our sensitivity can make our capacities and strengths different from other people’s. When it feels safe, allowing ourselves to be deeply touched by emotion can be a way to move toward growth and change.

Our sadnesses [ . . . ] are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Whilst sadness can spark a change in us, so too can change make us feel sad.

This is part of the reason transitions can be so difficult, even if we’re leaving behind something that no longer serves us or moving on to something exciting. Whether we are intentional and resolute or we feel that we’re being torn from our comfort zone, we are often thrown off kilter when things shift.

All change is a kind of loss, isn’t it? And this loss is not only external. Change can make us feel as if we’re losing a part of ourselves or turning away from a path we expected to travel in our lives.

Moments of loss and sorrow create important spaces within us.

We can experience grave and overwhelming sadness when we lose something important to us—sometimes when we just think about how that loss might feel in the future—and loss can take many forms, from cancelled plans for coffee, to being laid off, to an illness that changes our abilities temporarily or permanently.

But it also seems that we can experience the sadness that comes with change as a  vital kind of loss, as a feeling of being emptied out and ready for something new to enter. A feeling of being “empty” may mean that there is  a space in our heart whose purpose remains undefined. For the new. Or perhaps even that a new space is formed, awakening us to our wholeness.

What if a feeling of sadness indicates a need for reflection, silence and stillness? How can we figure out what the spaces left inside us are for?

Sadness and grief aren’t moments, but processes. Fighting the passing of sadness, circling round in the unpleasant feeling, can be more challenging than taking space and silence, and letting it pass through. We each go through the process of feeling differently.

We cannot avoid sadness. If we understand our individual process, accepting the fact that we are deeply touched both by sorrow and joy, Highly Sensitive People can live in our intensity in ways that serve us, making choices based on our individual desires and boundaries.

Sadness too passes: the new thing in us, the added thing, has entered into our heart, has gone into its inmost chamber and is not even there any more, — is already in our blood. And we do not learn what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing has happened, and yet we have changed, as a house changes into which a guest has entered.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

I wonder what we might gain by welcoming sadness and joy as they move through us, in all their transformative potential?

P.S. If you’ve found the quotes in this post interesting, you might like to have a look at the rest of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to A Young Poet here.

 

Loneliness

“The truth is you already know what it’s like. You already know the difference between the size and speed of everything that flashes through you and the tiny inadequate bit of it all you can ever let anyone know. As though inside you is this enormous room full of what seems like everything in the whole universe at one time or another and yet the only parts that get out have to somehow squeeze out through one of those tiny keyholes you see under the knob in older doors. As if we are all trying to see each other through these tiny keyholes.”

― David Foster WallaceOblivion

A while ago I felt really lonely, or perhaps more accurately I feared the loneliness sure to exist in the future. I thought long and hard about how to defend from it, and a couple of things struck me:

It is unavoidable, we are all alone inside ourselves.Loneliness

If you experience this sort of loneliness, it is not because you have failed, it is because you are human.

If you are self aware and made of the deep then I think you are likely to feel this more acutely. Firstly, because you feel things in an intense way. Secondly, if the things which are essential to you are left locked away it leaves you feeling deeply unconnected: feeling somehow wrong, somehow failing. Jung said that:

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”

Loneliness gnaws at the inside and is an unavoidable.

And yet …

…there can be rich, beautiful moments where time melts away and you feel deeply connected to another person. It’s the best thing I know of. It’s why I do the work I do. This deep connection; the sweet pain and beauty of it is all about being vulnerable. To be with someone, to feel really alive you have to risk being totally alone. To experience joy, you have to risk some pain, some sadness. You can’t have just one side of the coin: nothing is so thin that it only has one side; especially not something as expansive as life.

For me, the amazing part of feeling deeply, even the bad stuff, is that the pain of an experience seems to scour out a space inside of me to feel it ALL more. The positive of this is that in times of encounter I can feel the beauty of connection so deeply it leaves me breathless, acutely aware of being really alive and so incredibly grateful to be in this moment, with this person.

If this really connects with you then I urge you to get in contact with me. Counselling can be an amazing and safe place to take those risks for the very first time, when you feel ready.

We all need a nest

This cartoon, is kind of funny, but made me have a wee tear in my eye. It captures something of deep acceptance, which can be deeply moving. It’s the essential part of person-centred counselling, of love, of a healing relationship.

Tips on travel for the Highly Sensitive Person

TravelKitThis time when I travelled I did some thinking and research about what could help those of us who are highly sensitive travel a little easier. I find holidays a curious combination of recovery and pressure. The combination of the shoulds of time away – BE RELAXED and HAVE LOTS OF FUN combined with a lack of sleep, the furious way I try and get everything ‘sorted’ before I leave plus possibly a new culture to absorb. Well, it can be a bit overwhelming. Sometimes I float above all that, and after some rest I then can have some fun, especially when I’m with people who understand and love me.

But for me to have a good holiday it is essential to respect my need for solitude, rest and understanding. Taking time out and being assertive might be a crucial part of that, and you can read more about that here…. BUT ALSO I found some stuff helps too! So here are some of the cool things I found help, so hopefully they might be helpful to you too.

1. It’s a really cooling water bottle. When the transport is a sweaty affair, my sensitivity helps me to really appreciate the contrast. Sometimes sensitivity means I appreciate things which others might not even notice. Cold, lemony water travelling down is just lovely to me.

2. Melatonin – sleep is essential to us all, but lack of sleep to an already sensitive system can be a path to overwhelm. If jet lag is a possibility consider a remedy such as melatonin.

3. Snacks – if you are already receiving lots of sensory information putting your body under the stress of hunger isn’t going to go too well. High protein, whole grain, nuts or seeds or fresh fruit is may be the best for a body which is probably sensitive to stimulants and processed sugary foods. I often opt for an easy bounce ball and oatcakes stashed in my bag.

4. Travel Sickness Tablets – I’m sensitive. Pretty much everything about me is. Of course this means even moving fast makes me sick. Travel sickness tablets are great.

5. Ear Plugs – The sensitive person’s best friend (y’know apart from you know the deep relationships you have) I think has to be ear plugs. I think the silicon ones are best. I missed it off the picture, but an eye mask can be really handy too.

6. Earphones to listen to…

7. Phone (used for music/podcasts/apps) … one of the following suggestions:

– Music which makes your heart sing

– Nature sounds, there are many apps out there. There are some which have white and brown noise, forest/ bird song, the noise of a washing machine or gongs.

– Favourite podcasts – you’re a deep thinker – use the travelling time to do what you are best at, thinking about the meaning of life. My favourites are: Tara Brach, Philosophy Bites, Radio Lab and Sheep Dressed like Wolves (a Uk based HSP podcast).

8. Big Scarf – A lovely small blanket or scarf, to cosy under, or to sprinke with a fragrance you are partial to. I know the smell of things others don’t even notice can leave me turning green. I can bury my head in this and survive.

9. Lavender Oil – I sprinkle my scarf in Lavender oil. It’s a better smell then the weird gaseous fragrance that are emitted by fellow travellers and the microwaves on trains cooking whole weird burger and bun combos. Ugh.

10. Obviously I missed off a book. A good book.

Travel well. Look after yourself. Try and have an ok holiday (the pressure of a great holiday can sometimes be too much).

Michelle x