Monthly Archive: August 2017

The Endurer

endurer

In the first part of the 20th century, Austrian Psychoanalist Wilhelm Reich developed a theory explaining how we respond both physically and emotionally to the challenges we meet in life, especially in early life.  From his studies.

Last week, I introduced you, in broad terms, to Character Structures – what they are and how they develop.  This week I’ll introduce you to the Edndurer body and character type; also known as the Masochist type.  In the diagram above, the Endurer is depicted as someone who is somewhat heavy-set with slightly rounded arms and a solid base from the waist down. While this isnt always so pronounced in this character type, it’s generally so.

Why is this body type called a Masochist, or Endurer (I will use these 2 terms interchangably)? Because the person who armors in this way does so by holding in instead of expressing their displeasure or discomfort. They hunker down, waiting out any nlslaught that comes their way. They keep their opinions to themselves – and they have a lot of their own opinions.

In fact, if this kind of person doesn’t find a way of expressing to the rest of the world what’s on their mind, it begins to eat away at them, and they grow angry.  But because they never express themselves, this anger comes out in surrepticious ways – often cruel and petty ways – like biting remarks, leaving someone waiting, not showing up.

On the positive side, Masochists are powerful thinkers and doers, often chugging along when everyone else has long since left the scene.  They are reliable. Atlas carying the world on his (or her) shoulders.

The primary challenge of the Masochist is to speak what is on their mind, without anger.  This is a challenge, because the longer something is left unsaid, the more it’s laced with anger.  Often this means learning to speak up in stages: first speaking up to a tree or to nature or in your car, letting out all the anger – no holding back.  Then speaking up to a trusted friend, with the understanding that this is to help you learn to re-empower your voice and nothing else. Finally, speaking up once more to the world, re-owning that voice that somehow got silenced.

Next week, I’ll introduce the Oral character Type.  If you find this series interesting, and want to know more, and I along with my friend and colleague Jane Mactinger will be holding a workshop on Character Structures in the near future.  Stay tuned for a date and time.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Trust and Small Moments

Who do you trust? And why?

Last week I went to one of the local coffee shops in my neighborhood – I do a lot of my writing in coffee shops — and discovered it had changed its business hours for the third time this summer. I was frustrated, but even more, decided not to even try to go there again. I was disappointed and even though I knew it wasn’t personal, felt a little betrayed.

A little girl tells her best friend a secret, and that friend tells another friend, who tells someone else, until the original secret comes back to the girl.  She feels embarrassed, hurt and betrayed. What would have happened if her best brined had kept her secret instead?  We all know the answer to that, because we’ve all been there:  that little girl would have felt valued.

Loosing trust with a friend is a lot more painful than losing trust with a coffee shop, but it’s the same process:  We expect a certain kind of behavior from them that is consistent with what they mean to us. We become vulnerable in our expectation, and form a bond of trust with the other as a result. That bond is broken if we feel betrayed. The trust might be broken in a big way – like a friend breaking a secret – but most often it happens in little ways.

John Gottman in his research found that trust is built in the smallest of moments. He called these moments Sliding Door moments, after a movie of that name, where the life of the main character was significantly altered based on a decision taken in a single moment.

He discovered that each of these small moments are one of two things: either a moment of trust, or a moment of betrayal. That friend has a moment to decide: will she keep a secret or tell others?  A single moment with one of 2 opposite results.

This not only applies to ourselves with others, it also applies to self-trust and self-betrayal.  In fact, every act of trust-building and betrayal we do with others, we also do with ourselves. That time you knew in your gut that something was wrong, but chose to ignore it in favor of the business connection to someone you don’t really like that might benefit you later on; or pretending not to see a friend when you see him across the street.  We betray ourselves when we don’t listen to what our gut is telling us, and then we betray our business contact through insincerity. We betray our principles when ignoring a friend, and betray our friend by lying to him through pretense.  One small moment; two big results.

So, the first step in building trust with others is to build trust with ourselves. Once we trust ourselves, the rest will simply happen.  And the way we build self-trust is in the small moments of the every day. It’s something we can train ourselves to do. Here are three things you can do right now:

  • Notice when you ignore what you know is true or real in favor of some overwhelming desire. That glazed donut you see after being hung up on by a customer service rep, for instance, when you know the sugar rush will do nothing good for your body. Even if you succumb to the lure of the donut, simply register in your awareness what just happened.
  • Take a few unscheduled moments every day to check in. Set the alarm on your phone to ring at random times, and when it rings, take a few deep breaths, and check in to see if you’re doing something that makes you feel good about yourself, or not. Think of it as a “retraining” of your whole body to learn to recognize, catch and turn around something that you would otherwise remain unaware of.
  • When you catch yourself ignoring something – it will happen – be gentle. Building self-trust takes time; it’s something that we can form as a habit, and habits always take time to build. Harsh self-criticism doesn’t help to build self-trust.  Just the opposite – it undermines your efforts.  Learn to accept that you slipped this time, see if you can catch how it happened, and then move on.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Brene Brown – The Anatomy of Trust

Quote of the Week

I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.
― Maya Angelou

Announcements

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

 

Discovering your Character – why you do what you do

character structures

In the first part of the 20th century, Austrian Psychoanalist Wilhelm Reich developed a theory explaining how we respond both physically and emotionally to the challenges we meet in life, especially in early life.  From his studies, others have expanded on his discoveries – Alexandar Lowen, Johnson, Painter, Ida Rolf and many others.  There is also a similar body of knowledge in some shamanic traditions. Following is my interpretation of character structures, integrated with my learnings from Gestalt Psychotherapy and many other modalities.

The idea behind all of these is that:

  1. Human beings are made up of emotional, mental and physical parts that operate as a unit and influence each other;
  2. Living involves encountering things and events that threaten us; and
  3. We adjust to these events by “armoring” ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

Depending on when the events occurred, and the context surrounding these events, human beings will typically “armor” in predictable ways. There are 5 primary ways, and these are called Schizoid, Oral, Masochist (sometimes called the Endurer), Rigid, and Psychopath (sometimes called the Challenger).  These terms are sometimes hard to swallow, and are meant to highlight the kinds of issues those armored in this way encounter.

That’s the protective side.  There’s also a good side to this: the ways we armor ourselves are also the ways we interact and learn from our environment. The 5 primary ways we interact are projection, confluence, retroflection, introjection and egotism.  These – to my mind – correspond directly to the character structures.  In Gestalt terms, we use all of these capabilities to “creatively adjust” to the events in our enviromnent that impact us – either positively or negatively.

If we adjust in a positive way, we are better able to process what we encounter; if we adjust negatively, we armor ourselves and are eventually not able to process what we encounter; instead we react to triggers in our environment that we seek protection from.

I will speak briefly about each of the 5 character structures in the next 5 weeks.  If you find this interesting, there are many texts on this subject for you to read, and I along with my friend and colleague Jane Mactinger will be holding a workshop on Character Structures in the near future.  Stay tuned for a date and time.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

If you meet Buddha on the road…

If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.” This saying is attributed to Zen Master Linji, and I often wonder if it might be more accurate replacing the “if” with “when”. “When you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.” Because it will happen. For some of us, more than once.

If you’re like me, way more than once.

My latest encounter in a long line of encounters happened a short while ago. I was with someone I revered and thought was wiser than me – catering to the limitations of the English language, I’ll refer to this person in the feminine. This person had been up for 3 days and – it turned out – ended up being pretty much at their worst.  She was de-deified and re-humanized before my eyes; I was able to see her – really – for the first time.  I’m not saying that the real personality was who she was at her worst; only that all of us are no more than human.  And one more thing: all of us – including me – are the only real authority we will ever have as adults.

I met Buddha on the road, and I killed her.  In other words, I unconsciously gave someone else the authority that actually resides inside me, and when I realized this, I was able to take it back. Whew!  What a relief that was.

And, knowing me, I’m already wondering who the next one will be.  You see, I’m a hero worshiper, an eternal optimist, always believing there are great and wonderful people in this world. I want to meet every one of them.  The thing I forget is that I am equally a wonderful person – just as are you.
Warts and all.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Pema – You already have everything you need


Quote of the Week

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.
― Rumi

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Are you aware of your potential? 3 keys to unlocking this awareness

potential

Are you aware of your potential?  There is an inherit need for us, as humans, to want to rely upon experts. We all want to be the best at our craft, or with our health, so we entrust “experts” to help guide us to where we would like to be. The problem I have seen, however, is diving into trusting these “experts” so easily.  First, we have to ask ourselves how we define expert. A lot of online courses are deeming people experts in the medical and business field without vetting experience or approach.  You buy into the program, you get a certificate, and then you go find business. Sounds simple enough, until there are too many unqualified experts running around competing for your trust.

As a therapist, I see the above scenario a lot. It has to do with both wishful thinking, a need for someone else to validate what we’re trying to achieve in life, and from a place of trusting too much. No one wants to think or feel like they were led astray, so we buy into services that are more marketing platforms. Think about the term “health coach”. I am sure there are great health coaches out there, but many of them took an online certificate program and are now leading the decision making process for clients with serious health issues when the coach themselves doesn’t understand the health issues from the get go, yet they are using the term “expert” to sell their services.

We, as a society, buy into things. We are often looking to get paid without doing the work. We may have good intentions, but if there is a quick course to get certified as an expert without putting in years of training to achieve the status – well, most people are buying into the certificate! And we have this need to be perfect, to show off accolades (sometimes that aren’t earned), and to do more bigger and better and faster than our peers who may be competitors.

When you look at human behavior, you start to notice why it is we feel the need to buy from experts or have the best. Consider the iPhone platform. Each year Apple puts out a new phone. Are they stating the one you paid close to a thousand dollars for the year earlier is flawed? Yes, which is why you need the newer- more perfect- one. And the leader of the tech industry, Apple, is the one convincing you to shell out another thousand dollars. Is there really something wrong with your prior iPhone model? No. Can you live without a few thousand more pixels in your camera? Probably. But we buy because we are sold on the concept, not because the product is so much better a year later. Apple reinvents its marketing plan every year- not the cell phone.

Wanting to have the latest and greatest thing, such as a phone or a fashion item, is a part of psychology that is based on want and need. We want to be the best and we need to find ways to achieve it – even if it means trusting so-called experts with our businesses or our health. In order to break the cycle of bleeding money, time and trust, I suggest evaluating why you feel these “needs” when making decisions. Like I stated, there are some business advisers who mean what they say and do what they are supposed to do. There are health coaches who actually can benefit your well-being, but understanding the “why” behind your need will help you become a more selective person when it comes to vetting the people you decide to invite into your personal and professional space.

There are three things you need to understand about the “why” that will help you determine the expertise you really need, or even if you need an expert:

  1. Why do you believe you need an expert? Is it because you’ve tried everything you can think of and still have no answers? Or is it because what you want may not actually be possible? Do you need an expert to help you determine what’s possible and what isn’t? Or are you really looking for an “expert” to tell you that the impossible is probable? For instance, suppose you are beginning to find your energy can no longer keep up with the demands you put on yourself. It’s always been there when you needed it and now it isn’t. You’ve tried diets and exercise programs – even yoga; but still you find yourself no longer able to do what you could when you were 25.  Your doctor checked you out and declares you healthy; your naturopath has you on supplements; your closest friends have suggested that perhaps you’re overdoing it, but you have too much to do and simply don’t believe them.

Answering the “why” at this level requires ruthless honesty, but the payoff is clarity: you’ll have a good idea of what you’re missing, and will be able to eliminate many energy-robbing routes you might have otherwise explored.

  1. What is it that you’re afraid of? The reason why we turn to experts is because we’re afraid we’ll lose something important to us, and that we don’t believe we have the know-how to deal with the situation ourselves. Continuing with our example of energy loss, let’s say you get clear that you need an expert to help you identify what’s critical to do and what isn’t. Simply thinking of what to drop may bring up fears – of dropping the wrong thing and ending up loosing an important opportunity; of losing independence or your ability to support your family; perhaps of losing who you see yourself as – your identity.

This process can be enlightening and painful because it brings to the surface something most of us would rather not know about ourselves – our own vulnerability.

  1. What is it that you want more than anything? Knowing our own vulnerability will give us this answer, and that knowing will, in turn, tell us what we need to do next, which expert we really need, if at all.

By answering these three questions, you give yourself the gift of power because you have taken charge of the process, and are using experts to help you along the way.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

The fine art of letting go, and what that really means

What does it really mean to hang onto things and people and situations? We hear a lot about the virtue of letting go, but how often do you see that happen?

Not often! Because it’s a really tough thing to do. Letting go pretty much always means letting go of a belief – that something or someone is so important to us that losing it would be a disaster.  This belief may be connected to similar childhood beliefs – may even be connected to events in childhood that are still painful.  If so, then letting go is far from easy.

And yet, there’s a saying I’ve heard that goes something like “you become what you fight”. If you’ve ever witnessed someone close to you who is afraid of losing something and won’t let go, you know the truth of this first hand. We end up being alone because we fought loneliness.

So, if not letting go really means losing what we love, then what does letting go really mean? What it means is freedom. Freedom to move on, to enjoy what we have with no expectations, and to look forward to new adventures around the corner.  It doesn’t mean we won’t have our loved ones near for many more years – in fact, that’s more likely if we’ve let go of our need for them to stay . What it means is that they, and we, have no obligations that unnecessarily tie us down.

And that tastes of freedom.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Isaac Lidsky – Letting Go

Quote of the Week
Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it. ― Ann Landers

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Letting go, pillar of mindfulness

letting go

Letting go takes practice.  It’s easy to let go of a thought or desire if it isn’t that strong or important.  Not so easy when it is.

The cause you’ve worked for all your life.  The son or daughter who wants to move to another continent. The issue at work that you fear might end your career.  These are the kinds of things that keep us awake, and that can take up every free moment in our day.

And yet, it’s by hanging onto them that we have the best chance of losing them – the child or lover who can no longer handle our neediness of them; the cause that needs a new and fresh approach that you can’t bring yourself to embrace.  The issue at work that makes you so stressed you can’t think straight and find yourself making big and bigger mistakes as a result.

Deep down, being unable to let go is about fearing to loose what is important to us.  The problem is that fear changes us, so that what began as something beautiful turns by that refusal to let go into something toxic.

Let go. Spread the love.

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

When time seems not on our side

“I don’t have time for this” is a refrain I heard often from my mother. Now I say it. I don’t have time for a lot of things, and it isn’t because I’m impatient.  It’s because I try to fit too much into a day – like my mother did.

Some people are fantastic at calculating how much time something will take, but never those who never have enough time.  Those are most of the people I know.  We tend to underestimate everything – to such a degree that what we thought we could accomplish is hopelessly out of wack.

Why is this? Partly it’s because we are overly optimistic about our own abilities and the smooth running of the world.  Partly because our hopes take over instead of our objectivity. Partly because we simply have unrealistic expectations about life, especially about ourselves. Most of us are very hard on ourselves – inside us is a little diabolic dictator who mercilessly berates us whenever we fall short of her or his demands.

That inner dictator is this way, possibly because she is fuelled by fear.  Mine is. She shows up when I’m afraid I won’t be able to do what I promised; or when I’m afraid I’ll suck during a presentation.  So many things – and whenever that fear sneaks in, so does my mini dictator.

Time isn’t on my side when I try to do too much – or so it seems.  But when I stop to consider this a little deeper, I have to admit that the pain I go through whenever I’m driven like this is a strong motivator to stop doing it.  If being driven gave me pleasure, I probably wouldn’t stop.

The truth is that I’m discovering that time is on my side: I always have the time I need to do things that are really important, as long as I pay attention to what’s really important.

Time, it turns out, is a choice – my choice.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Laura Vanderkam – Time is a choice

Quote of the Week
Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’
― Lao Tzu

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

No time? How to reclaim it

How often have you said to yourself “What happened to the time? Where did it go?  I still have so much left to do!”  If it’s often, then you’re a lot like me. Every time I go away for more than a few days, the amount of stuff I have to get done before I go grows exponentially: I have to get the work I’d normally do the week I’m away done before I go; that office clean-up I’ve been planning for 6 months suddenly looms large in my mind; what about that sweater I began and never finished 2 years ago?  These things, reasonable or not, suddenly become imperatives, even if some rational part of me knows better.

My partner knows better than to argue and offer rational argument; he simply finds other things to completely occupy himself with while I go crazy and wear myself out needlessly.

It really is a compulsion, and as with all compulsions, sitting and thinking about it in an attempt to discover what’s really going on isn’t going to get me anywhere.  What’s needed is to take 10 or so minutes, and discover what my body has to tell me.  That’s right – my body.  It’s in our bodies that we store feelings and value sensations, and this compulsion is, for me, connected to my values and, possibly fears.

How do I do this? I do a body-scan, then sit quietly and meditate on what comes up for me. That’s all.  A body scan is a mindfulness technique where we breath into our body and be with whatever physical sensations come up.  We begin at our toes, then move up our legs, into the pelvic area, then up the torso to the shoulders, then from the finger tips up the arms, finally breathing into the neck, the face – jaws, mouth, nose and eyes, forehead and ears, the top and back of the head. By doing this, we not only become familiar with what is going on physically for us, we also get to know how those sensations are connected to our values and beliefs.  And for most of us, this is an unfamiliar feeling.

Here’s a real-life example from my own life: I’ll take my compulsion to multiply tasks before I leave for more than a few days.

While thinking about the impossible list of tasks on hand and my sense of urgency over getting them done, I scan my body.  I’m looking for discomfort and numbness.  When I discover these, I take note and continue my scan. In this case, I might notice a tightening at my solar plexus, a hardening at the back of my head, and a clenching of my back shoulders.

Now, for each sensation, I ask what it’s doing and how it’s helping me. For instance, if I breathe into my solar plexus and the tightening there, asking it why it’s there and how it’s helping me, it might respond with something like “I’m holding things together”, and “I’m helping by enforcing calm”.  This helps me understand that what’s really happening is panic, only what I’m feeling is tightening – tightening me up so that I can keep doing all those things on my list.  I’ve fooled myself into believing everything is A-OK.

The hardening at the back of my head and the clenching of my shoulders are similarly, helping me dull down the panic, so that I can finish everything.

Knowing this is the first essential step to changing this approach into something healthier and less driven. It isn’t the answer, but it is a huge start.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .