couple sitting at table looking at the laptop

Self Care Around the Holidays

There’s something about the holidays that can amp things up; family, old memories, things unspoken, even movies designed to cheer us up, in which everything ends up perfect and wrapped up with a bow, but leaves us feeling less-than by comparison.

Many people have to also deal with grief, the ghosts of trauma past and life challenges, and all these things can add up to a stressful holiday period. So I’ve put together a simple guide with suggestions for making self-care a priority throughout your holiday season.

  1. Think about any pressures you’re putting yourself under.

These may be unspoken, or things we’re unaware of. Are you pressuring yourself to provide others with a certain experience, buy the perfect gifts, do things a certain way, be with certain people?

Consider if all/ any of these pressures are necessary. It may help to think about why them seem necessary, and then gently challenge that thought. The underlying impulse may be good, but does it need to look exactly the way you think, or be achieved in the way you’re planning? Is there a way that feels better to you (perhaps lower stress, less expensive or more genuine to you)?

2. Consider what stresses you’re anticipating.

That’s the thing with long-term friends and family isn’t it? We usually already know what they do that stresses us out, and often just anticipating that causes stress in advance. If there’s anything specific you’re worried about happening, see if you can create an alternative plan, boundaries, a get-out clause or pre-emptively communicate to see if you can lessen the stress and boost your feeling of safety and relaxation.

3. Consider which expectations are unhealthy.

Unrealistic expectations are the hallmark (excuse the pun) of Christmas movies, so it’s normal to feel a heightened sense of expectation and even fear of disappointment already.

This can be especially hard for anyone who’s experienced trauma – i.e. the idea you “should” be with your family of origin (even if that is painful for you). What expectations are you trying to live up to? And do any of them require you to abandon yourself in some way to achieve them? This is not just for trauma survivors, we all experience social pressures that can make us forget about ourselves.

There may be a more genuine way to honour your expectations and wants this holiday season. It may not look like a perfect Christmas movie, but being genuine starts within. You can consider what an expectation’s best intention is and then a way to meet it in the way that allows all of you to show up. For example, from the social expectation that you should be with your family or origin, you can take the message that you should be kind-hearted and loyal. Then you can consider: who do I genuinely want to be kind-hearted and loyal towards, and how would I like to show that this holiday season? Or who do I feel deserves my kindness and loyalty, and how do I want to express that?

4. Create pockets of time and space

This can be especially important for introverts, but we all need our version of this. If you know you need alone time for at least an hour every day, set that up right from the start of a visit. If you know you need physical space, make sure you take that time for yourself. You can use an excuse, such as I just started walking an hour a day and I like to do it alone, or you can be brutally honest; I love you, but I need an hour alone every day to feel good. Think about what will help you to stay present and happy through the holidays and ways to set those boundaries in advance.

5. What do you want from the holidays?

Expectations and pressures are rife, and it may feel like we already know what we want from the holidays – the perfect Christmas meal/ time with loved ones/ time off work/ playing a computer game non-stop etc. But it’s easy to assume we know what we want, without actually considering it.

So, take a moment to think about what the ideal would be. Lots of baths, walks, talks, food, friends, laughter, games, sleep, cuddles, books, learning a skill, exploring a new place. Bear in mind it doesn’t have to be what is expected of you. When you know your top goals, you can put some things in place to increase the likelihood of getting what you need. Remember not to try pressure others in trying to meet your needs without communication though. They may not be in a place where they can meet them.

The need for Self Care is magnified when our lives are magnified

By which I mean that our lives can take on an intensity or a high level of scrutiny over the holidays, which can end up making us feel overwhelmed, disappointed or down.

I believe a large part of this stress comes from the pressure of trying to meet social expectations or our own expectations in a way that forces us to abandon parts of ourselves, whether that is aspects of our personality, boundaries, or important aspects of our lifestyles. Of course relationship is about compromise, but people who love you also want all of you to show up.

I love the magic of the holidays, the movies and the general spirit of it. But, like a great pair of jeans it is meant to fit us, not the other way around. It is meant to help us by giving us something to look forward to and reminding us of all the good things in life. It often backfires when we hold up our lives to a false ideal, and leaves us feeling disappointed. So, when you consider your self care this holiday season, you might want to think about what makes life special to you, and how you can celebrate that in a way that feels right and good to you personally. Happy holidays!


fire camping coals embers

Exhaustion of the Spirit

When you think you’re tired because you’re not sleeping or eating right or you exercised too much or too little, but then you fix all those things and you’re still tired – it may actually be your spirit that is worn out. 

It can be pretty hard to differentiate the cause unless you rule out the other factors, because spirit (aka: energy, enthusiasm, creativity, desire, passion, joy, shine in our eyes) is always there, while our other habits can fluctuate. But here are some ways of telling if this is what you’re experiencing:

  • feeling exhausted by: negativity, mediocrity, solutionsless-complaining
  • needing to spend time alone in nature or in quiet contemplation
  • feeling energized after being exposed to: beauty, uplifting art or music, conversation with engaged, bright and/or soulful people, spending time in nature, immersing yourself in a passion or creating
  • feeling like you have an injury which can’t be seen, but you definitely know something inside is tarnished, or even broken. 

I have experienced this a few times in my life, so if you’re going through it now I can empathize. Being a very open person and putting myself into a variety of new situations is great for learning and growth, but you can find yourself unprepared for new challenges. Challenges that can be too much for us if they affect us very negatively and wear us down.

If you’re an HSP (highly sensitive person) you’re even more likely to experience this unique kind of burnout. The world can be more geared towards the people who crave stimulation, information and drama, making it overwhelming for people with sensitive nervous systems. 

I feel that at a certain point in our lives we all have to get real about the minimum quality of situations and conditions required for our health. In doing so, we can decide to change a situation or culture, leave it, or, if it us unavoidable, protect ourselves from it as best we can.

Because spirit is always there and not in the forefront of our minds, it seems infinite. Until suddenly we realize we’ve exhausted it. 

Putting energy into someone or something for too long while getting nothing back, allowing our enthusiasm to be used by someone unable or too lazy to engage their own, wringing our creativity too hard without rest – basically any form of using the energy of our spirit without reward or renewal, can exhaust it. 

And then we need rest. Not a few naps or an early night. Deep, deep rest that renews our spirit. We need to bathe in beauty, remove ourselves from incompetence and ugliness, pursue activities that kindle a spark of life within us, restoring our unique self and the energy that both fuels it and which is given off by it. 

We need to give our spirit the conditions it requires in order for the healing process to happen fully. 

Because when it is broken there is no progress, no deep love, no joy, no newness that can enter our world and delight us. Without spirit, life is all structure and no substance, like a dilapidated house on a hill with broken windows untouched by either light or warmth. 

But whatever state you’re in, remember there’s always at least a spark there within you, just waiting for you to supply the right kindling that will allow it catch fire again. And with patience, dedication and good choices, you can tend that precious flame until you feel like yourself once more. And then a whole world of colour and life and experience will open out in front of you to enjoy once again. 

I hope this was useful, and that if your spirit is tired, you take the deep, deep rest you need and deserve.

Take care. 

Picture of a woman by a climbing wall, rubbing chalk onto her hands, thinking.

Reframing to Overcome Your Resistance

Reframing is a tool used in therapy and coaching, to help us see things in a different light. It can loosen the grip a difficult situation has on us, allowing us more scope to see in different lights.

In this article, I am going to talk about reframing specifically as a way of helping us with our own resistance. 

This could be resistance to change, effort, moving forward – anything we know is good for us and genuine, but something is holding us back. It can also be important to look more deeply at why we are scared to move forwards, but right now we will only be looking at managing our own resistance. 

Let’s start with an example. I want to start working out at the gym. I put it on my schedule, pick out my clothes, even the music perhaps. Yet there always seems to be a plausible reason not to go. 

I used my willpower to get everything ready to go, so why wasn’t that enough to get me through those gym doors? 

Well, there may be self-worth or other issues from the past going on, but right now, I just want to start working out. So how can I push through? Do I just try to force myself?

No. Instead, I’ll use reframing to help with my resistance. 

I can think one or two of these things:

  • Thank goodness I have the resources, free time and support I need to be able to work out
  • I don’t have to enjoy the first 20 minutes, that’s OK, I know I’ll start to feel good at some point
  • My goal right now is not to work out, it is just to walk through the gym doors. Whatever I do after that is fine. 
  • I deserve to be healthy and strong and to enjoy the relaxation that goes with that. 

When I think of a phrase that works for me, I feel a shift. I put my shoes on and even though I still feel a nervousness and a hesitation, I put my hand on the gym door and push. 

And just like that, I have defused my resistance and got one step closer to being as good as I want and deserve to be. 

Reframing for Your Resistance

The phrases you use will look different depending on who you are and how you feel about your goal. Mostly because the reason you feel resistance will be specific to you. 

But although it is helpful to understand why you are resisting something, so you can come up with a specific new viewpoint, it’s not vital. As in the example above, you can choose the phrase that sparks something within you, that makes you feel freer to act. 

And this is not just about working out, of course. It could be starting a new class, learning a new skill, meeting new people, going to a party, applying for a job, going to a fancy bar, asking someone out, basically any situation where you’d have to push yourself, grow, see yourself in a new light or leave your comfort zone in any way. 

Can you think of something you want to do, but you’re resistant to taking that first step or committing?


  1. OK. Call to mind that thing you’re resistant to. 
  2. Now imagine yourself taking the first step. Notice the details: your clothes, your posture, how you feel, the weather, how the thing, place or people look. 
  3. Now wonder with an open mind, what attitude/ thought would make me feel OK doing this?
  4. Notice what comes up, jot it down if you like. It may be something unexpected, that’s OK. As long as it feels positive for you. 
  5. If it is not already a phrase, make it into one. For example, if the attitude is feeling confident, the phrase may be: “I am a strong, confident person who belongs here.”
  6. Now hold that phrase or thought in your mind, embodying it as fully as possible.
  7. OK, imagine taking that first step again. How does it look and feel?

That visualization can not only help get you your reframing phrase, it can give you a little insight into the reason you feel resistant. Maybe the first time you imagined the situation you felt a little insecure, underqualified, out-of-place or unworthy? That is part of your resistance. 

You could definitely explore that in therapy or your own self-reflection. But learning through doing is also an important part of self-development work, because we learn more about who we are when we try new things and enter new situations, pushing through personal frontiers. 

The Mechanics of Resistance and Reframing

When we have resistance inside us, it can be hard to push directly back against it and win, because it is coming from us. It has the same strength we have, so it can be as effective as arm-wrestling ourselves. 

But if we approach it from a different direction, mindset, instead of fighting against it – we recruit some of the resources creating it, to use for our own goal. 

There is energy in resistance and there is energy in emotion. And there is emotion in resistance too. Basically, there is a lot of energy. 

And when there is energy in a place, it is much more efficient to recruit it and/ or redirect it, than to try and make it disappear or fight against it. This applies to the energy of resistance too. 

It’s not only made of energy, it’s made of us. When we want to do something hard or new, the more of us we can get on our side the better. 

Our resistance is usually created by underlying limiting beliefs. “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not good-looking enough,” “I don’t know enough,” I’m not popular enough.” The things we all think sometimes, but so strong it ties our shoe laces together. 

By using reframing we can shift the centre of our viewpoint, from within that limiting belief to outside it. We don’t completely blast it to smithereens, but just step outside it and make it not the focus. 

Fighting against a limiting belief can do the opposite of what you want. It’s like fighting with a narcissist – you make it about them and they use that energy. So fighting against a negative belief can give it more power. Instead, shift your attention away from it, towards a more useful and positive thought. Then you will use the energy in your attention to help that positive thought to grow. 

Final thoughts about reframing

For such a simple tool, this is also extremely powerful. I want to leave you with a few final points to make sure you get the most out of it:

The best reframing statements feel right, but there may be some resistance (more resistance??) to believing them completely. That resistance doesn’t mean the statement is not true, just that you’re not completely there yet in terms of being able to accept it fully. 

Excessively positive or grandiose statements are not helpful. For example, not “I will be the best and beat everybody,” but “I have a right to be there and take part.” If your statements are really over-the-top positive, you may be trying to counter very low self-worth or very negative beliefs about yourself. The best way to work with that is kindness, patience, being gentle and changing incrementally instead of leaping ahead. 

If you have a limiting belief that continues to undermine you, you might be better off addressing it in therapy. If you feel like therapy is right for you, but you have resistance to going – try reframing that. “Thank goodness I have the resources to go for therapy,” “it is great I can find affordable resources to support me,” “I deserve to feel good inside,” “I am a brave person,” for example. 

When you know your limiting belief, do not allow it to dictate your reframing statement by making something that is the direct opposite. In a way, that keeps it about the limiting belief. Instead, let a genuine, positive phrase come to mind, or try a few out. i.e. the opposite of “I am not worthy,” is “I am worthy,” but a more genuine thought for you may be, “I love all the messy parts of myself that make me bold and beautiful.” In this way you don’t allow the limited parts of yourself to set the parameters for your perspective, you allow your inner potential and light to do that instead. 

And you have a lot of it! 

I hope you enjoyed this look at reframing and get to use it soon, today even! 

And as always, take care!! 

basketball team stacking hands together

Using Meaning to Motivate

A common issue I see in clients trying to achieve a goal, is trying to use mainly discipline as motivation, only to have that run out and either only make intermittent progress or give up entirely. 

The issue with using discipline to move forward is that it is mainly designed as a short term engine, not a long term one. It is like being in first gear (for you manual/ stick drivers!) – great to get moving, but not very easy to keep moving or accelerate.


The fact that we need to use discipline to start with, means we are doing something we’re resistant to. Over time, the resistance often outlasts our discipline. 

This may not be true for areas where the habit or action can become pleasurable over time – but in this case, we’re not continually using discipline. We only used it to get started.

So, if discipline is mainly good for getting us off the sofa, what do we use to motivate ourselves and others for the long term? 


I kind of gave it away in the title, didn’t I!

I have been thinking recently about how when we strive for happiness, we often end up unhappy. But when we strive for meaning, we generally feel more satisfied and content. 

When you use discipline, underneath is the message that you are working hard to push against something within yourself – laziness, an addiction, or inaction. And working against ourselves (even small parts) is usually tiring. 

When we work towards meaning, we usually aren’t working against anything (OK, it could be against injustice, but we usually aren’t working against major parts of ourselves), we are working for things. 

Let use the analogy of a worker being told to do something “just because” and being told to do something, plus the reason behind it. In which scenario are they more enthusiastic and engaged?

In which scenario do they have to use will power to begin, and in which can they use a sense of purpose instead? 

We all want to feel useful, effective and that we are making an impact on the world. 

So the next time you need to motivate yourself, or someone else, consider:

How will this add meaning or value to my life, or the lives of others?

Let me give you some examples, to really anchor this point: 

Working out at the gym 3 times a week because you feel you should (discipline), or because you know being strong is something that makes you feel more at ease in yourself (meaning, authenticity). 

Getting a report done because it is due (discipline), or because you know it will help your team (meaning, showing up for others, positive self-regard)

Tolerating your difficult relative because you feel duty-bound to (discipline) or because this is an aspect of being the person you want to be (meaning, integrity, forebearance). 

Can you see how easily meaning combines with other intrinsic values? Discipline can co-exist with them, but it is largely it’s own thing. It says “I’m pushing through, don’t disturb me”, while meaning says “I’m working towards something” and sometimes “can we do more together?”. 

And I satisfy some of my own need for meaning by writing this blog, because sharing information is a key value of mine. I feel that if we all share our expertise, we’ll shape a better world together. What is the meaning you work towards?

I hope this look at meaning vs discipline helped! 

Take care, 


PS In the future I will most likely look at practical ways of finding the core meaning to help you achieve your goals, or to help team members find theirs, so stay tuned. You can also access my guide on setting powerful goals here.

woman showing paper with prohibition sign

Dealing With Very Difficult People While They are Triggering You

Little Intro

In this eclectic article I’m going to talk about dealing with people who are very difficult and at the same time pushing on our sore spots emotionally. I don’t mean the people who accidentally step on our toes (once again emotionally speaking!), but the people who seem intent on getting a rise out of us, or staying entangled in some kind of weird dynamic, or power struggle with us. You can absolutely use some of the following exercises for people who are essentially benign and are just tripping over our triggers now and then by accident.

But if you have someone who is being an absolute nightmare right now, perpetuating a situation or conflict that absolutely does not need to be as difficult as it is, I hope that this will help. Because your situation is exactly what I had in mind while writing. OK, here we go!

Dealing With Difficult People When it Hurts

This is very not fun. You got hurt in the past and now, almost as if the world is poking the wound, it has come back around with a new version of exactly the same thing. 

‘What did I do to deserve this?’ Is a common reaction.

It makes sense. It’s not fair that we can go through life trying to do good, but bad things and people with bad motivations still pop up out of nowhere. 

But we need to shift the paradigm. 

What if the world isn’t trying to hurt or diminish us at all?

What if it keeps coming back with opportunities for us to revisit our wound and heal ourselves stronger? To know ourselves better? To finally move on.

I am currently dealing with a situation like this, so for me it is the perfect time to write about it. In fact, I usually try to write about issues when I am in the midst of them, because then I can truly empathise with you and everyone going through it, in a way that is embodied. A lived experience, rather than just something I know about. 

A quick note from me

Firstly I want to remind you, as always, do get help from a trained professional such as a therapist if you are suffering or affected by these issues. 

And secondly (but not less importantly), I want to say that I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. 

Adding Injury to Injury: A Rare Opportunity?

To have been wounded in the first place, perhaps when you were even quite young, is hard and it’s painful. To have that wound circle back over and over again like some kind of hungry shark can feel even worse sometimes. Like its personal.

And I think it is personal. But not in a malicious way. I believe if the universe thinks you’re strong enough and that you deserve better, it will keep offering you opportunities to step up into a more powerful and real expression of yourself and out of the lingering pain of that wound. 

So, a difficult situation with someone who is triggering you can be an amazing opportunity, even though it is also so hard. 

It’s important to note that even though we may carry a wound, we don’t need to accept any responsibility for other people’s bad behaviour. We can use it to our own advantage, however, to grow as a person and to heal.

Designer Brands Of Pain

It’s also useful to think about the fact that while other people may act badly, their behaviour may roll off our backs and we may either barely notice it or recover very quickly, if we don’t have the wound that matches it.

While those people who are acting out and looking (unconsciously) to tap into our specific brand of pain, can do things that feel exquisitely painful to us.

If you are a match then they will tend to linger in your life until you have healed that wound enough to stop accepting that kind of pain. At that point, they typically no longer get any release or satisfaction from the dynamic and may even let go of their own accord.  

Pointers, Perspectives and Exercises

The difficult thing with these situations is the amount of stuff going on behind the scenes. The invisible stuff that makes a dynamic – most of it unspoken and unconscious. 

So I want to talk about a few pointers you can use to get some perspective on a difficult situation like this, as well as some tips for dealing with it. 

  1. Try and Identify the Wound 

If someone’s actions or words are hurting, although it could just be about the current situation, if it feels very strong then they may be triggering an old wound. Bear in mind you may need to get support from a therapist as you work with this, because it may be very sensitive and/ or be affecting a much younger part of you.

The phrase “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical” is kind of useful and catchy enough to remember, if patronising – I don’t think you’re hysterical! But, if your reactions are stronger than seems warranted for the behaviour, that’s a strong sign you have an existing sore spot they may be pressing on. 


  1. Try to remember the first time you felt the way this person/ situation is making you feel. Try writing down all of your feelings about that old situation or emotion, and how it made you feel about yourself. Be kind to yourself as you do this, take time out if needed, and practice self-compassion. Self-blame has no place in this exercise. 
  2. Now write down your feelings about the current situation and how it is making you feel about yourself.
  3. OK, now you have those two lists, find the similarities common to both.
  4. You can draw this out as a Venn diagram if it helps, one circle being your feelings from the past (from #1), the second circle being the recent situation (#2) and the overlapping section containing the similarities (#3). These can include similar dynamics, feelings, actions, gestures, responses from you, even vocabulary used by the other person or yourself.

2. Take a moment to Breathe

It’s important to be kind to yourself when you uncover these deeper emotions. So take a moment with the following exercise. 


Put your hands on your heart and say these phrases in your mind or aloud in your own time: 

“I am safe and I am loved.

I am worthy of love and respect.

I am not to blame for others’ actions.

My worth remains high, no matter how I am treated

I am whole and worthy of love.”

3. Imagine What a Mentor Would Do

This does not have to be someone you know in real life, or even a real person. Just pick someone you look up to. Like Judi Dench, the Black Panther, Marlon Brando – whoever you feel a strong respect for. OK, now you have your person in mind, try this quick exercise:


Imagine your ideal mentor in this exact situation. With an open mind and taking your time on each question, wonder:

  1. How would they respond? 
  2. What would they say? 
  3. And how do you think they would feel? 

This is a very useful exercise because it tells you not only how you want to be in the situation: it tells you more about who you actually are deep down. If there is a strength you admire in your mentor you may not have fully embodied or owned it yet, but it’s in there. Congratulations!

4. Identify What the Difficult Person is Trying to Get/ Get Rid Of (and What is Hurting You)

Our weak spot is our wound, the ‘difficult person’s’ MO is whatever emotion they are trying to put on us or get from us. For example, if someone can’t deal with their own anger they may be impossible to work with until we feel that anger and express it for them. Or if, as very commonly happens, they are in pain and can’t bear to feel it, they will act in a way that hurts us, putting their pain on us instead.

I had a realisation of another key aspect of this dynamic, while reading an amazing book called Group by Christie Tate. In it her therapist says that when you keep a secret for someone else, you’re agreeing to hold their shame. I realised this may be crucial to the kind of poor behaviour we might experience from others, beyond an unconscious channelling of their pain into us or trying to elicit specific emotional responses. Because shame is a very specific, sticky, uncomfortable emotion – difficult to hold and difficult to let go of. Even if the difficult person is not asking you to keep a secret, they may be trying to alleviate their own feelings of shame.

So there are a wide range of things the other person may be asking us (unconsciously) to hold or to supply, from emotions such as anger or joy, to… forces (? there may be a better term for these) such as love, attention or pain. It is great to be open-minded while considering what the relevant one(s) in your situation might be.

(And the ‘difficult person’ most likely has their own wound they are trying to distract from or satisfy. But that is none of our business, because that is their issue to deal with, not ours to try to fix (a common way we might try to avoid addressing our own discomfort, or avoid acknowledging our value).) 

I believe symptoms of holding others’ pain may include: agitation, confusion, excessive problem-solving about the situation, self-blame and thinking about that person too much. And symptoms of holding others’ shame may include all of those and also: feeling like the connection between you is “icky”, you feel bogged-down or ‘gross’, and that the issue is starting to affect how you feel about yourself, for example: lowering your self-esteem or ability to listen to your instincts. 

So, try this short exercise:


  1.  Wonder with an open mind, what the main emotion or specific dynamic behind the scenes is.
  2. When you have one or a couple, say to yourself:
    • “This [the specific emotion or dynamic] is not mine to hold. It has nothing to do with me.”
  3. Picture it leaving your body, and also your, and the other person’s, emotions separating. 
  4. Take a deep breath and let your shoulders drop a couple of times. 
  5. Then pick out a pleasurable and healthy thing to do to nurture yourself today. A walk, a smoothie, massaging your shoulders – whatever it is, try to enjoy shifting your focus back to yourself and your life in an empowered and embodied way.

5. Get the Care You Need

Although this situation has been a great prompt, it is powerful to keep your attention on yourself, your healing. In fact, shifting your focus back from the other person to yourself is the ultimate success. Because, although you may never get the apology or vindication or even just clarity you want, the point is always you and how you feel about yourself.

So, try this open-ended exercise for considering your healthiest next steps. 

  1. Call to mind the nature of the hurt you are carrying, with a gentle and open mind set (avoid getting into specifics or the “story”)
  2. With a curious and open mind, wonder – what is the best way forward for myself? Is it therapy, massage, more socialising, speaking more openly to my friends, setting up healthier boundaries, or other? This next step could be anything as long as it is healthy and feels right for you. 


I hope you enjoyed this simultaneously long and way-too-short-to-cover-everything article. It occurs to me we have not covered the practical aspect of dealing with difficult people, so I may revisit this topic with a second part next week. And if you’re struggling with a situation like this, you may also benefit from reading Part One and Part Two of my article on dealing with narcissists. 

I hope you’re doing OK with everything, feeling healthy, happy and whole. 

As always, take care! 


PS If you want to check it out, this is the Group book (it’s an affiliate link btw).

hugging unrecognizable group of people in spacious arena

Integration: Bringing Our Whole Self Together

Integration means the ‘unification of parts into a totality’ (APA dictionary of psychology). In this context, I am using it to mean both: 

  1. integrating new information into our whole selves and 
  2. the integration of parts of our Self that have been disconnected to some degree, into the rest of our whole Self. 

And it’s a big topic. Huge in fact. 

Before we start, I need to give this disclaimer: that you should work with a trained therapist if you need to. Also, I mention different kinds of therapy in this article, if you try them please note I can’t take responsibility for the quality or practice of any other therapist or practitioner, so please do your due diligence and involve your therapist and/or doctor in your choice. 

OK, with that said, let’s begin. 

We all have many different working parts that make us, us. Our body and physicality, our emotions, our thoughts and mind, our energy, spirit and soul, our desires, our habits, our way of being. And a lot more. 

All of our parts are connected and interrelated. When one changes, others are affected. But these changes don’t always naturally spread throughout our whole Self and this can cause us to get stuck. 

So when we learn something new, or experience growth in an aspect of our self, how do we cement that by connecting it to the rest of us? AKA – how do we integrate the changes? 

In this article, we’ll explore a few different ways of assisting integration, starting with my favourite: using activities and practices. 

  1. Activities for Integration

Let’s begin with an example. 

Sandy has made a lot of progress in changing some old limiting beliefs and finds many opportunities are opening up to her, but there is always a sticking point. She can only get so far before she finds herself lapsing into old behaviours and thought patterns, even though she knows and understands what she “should” be doing.

So she decides to explore different ways of staying open. She tries an art class, she travels a little, she starts to dance and she also goes for energy work.  

In their own ways, each of these things helps her to connect aspects of herself to her new understanding of how she wants to live and be in the world. She couldn’t just tell them to change, though, she had to involve them more actively. 

If you want to try this method, I wouldn’t normally recommend trying a whole bunch of things at once, like she did, but one at a time, or maybe a couple, so you know what they’re doing for you. 

You also want to try to be in the moment instead of being too fixed on bringing that new learning into the experience. So you wouldn’t want to go to a dance class and constantly be thinking, am I doing this right? Am I avoiding having limiting beliefs right now? Rather, you would want to go and immerse yourself in the experience, whether that means having fun or being creative or being peaceful, or other.

But perhaps once or twice wonder if there is a difference, or a way of allowing yourself to feel or act differently to your norm. In the example of dance, you might wonder if you are moving the way that feels right for you, now that you have fewer limiting beliefs. 

It’s also helpful to pay attention to how you feel afterwards and even journal. But when you’re doing an activity, try to be in the moment. Analysing it can just be a way of keeping ourselves safe and at a distance so we don’t really change. 

I would also recommend doing the thing you are most drawn to first. Unless–and this is important–it is one of your default ways of doing things. For example, if you are great at over-thinking, don’t try to use that method to integrate things – you are almost guaranteed to already have used your default method enough. But if you have a strange urge to try drawing or train spotting, or other, listen to that impulse as it may be your deeper intuition speaking to you. 

Interestingly, almost any activity can be a tool for integration, including simply living our lives. But trying new things can really be helpful, and having an open and grounded attitude helps a lot too. 

Self-development through doing and being is very powerful. So often we try to explain or think our way forwards. But through doing, we get an immediate experience of who we are in that different context, and we directly engage many or all parts of ourselves (some more than others usually). And this engagement really helps with integration. 

Journaling/ Keeping A Diary

A tried-and-true method, this doesn’t really get your body involved that much, but it is a wonderful way of acknowledging what you have learned, how you want to change, or how you have already changed. 

This is useful for integration because sometimes we don’t really know what we know, or what we’re feeling. By freeing ourselves to write whatever comes out, we can discover what’s on our minds and how we really feel. This method of integration is also good at telling us what the darker corners of our minds are thinking. 

Journaling is even better if you write by hand, but typing is also good. 

In theory, if you wanted to bring physicality into it, you could try a video blog instead and say “today I feel” and make a movement with your body and a sound. Most people stick with the conventional writing method, though. I know some people post on social media in a way that almost feels like journaling. I don’t recommend this, because you will always edit yourself a bit for how other people are going to perceive you, and it’s better to get raw, unfiltered “you”. 

Different Kinds of Therapies and Tools

There are so many out there, I am going to start by saying maybe just try one or several and see what works for you. But don’t try too many new ones at the same time or you won’t know what’s working.

To help with physical integration, you can try bodywork, like massage or getting stretched, or a movement-based discipline, such as Feldenkrais, stretching, yoga or other. The effect in terms of integration can be different depending on whether you need to feel nurtured and receptive, or if you need to create new physical patterns and experiences more actively through movement. They are both great in their own ways, with their own strengths.  

For your mind and thoughts there’s obviously a wide variety of talking therapies, which will help you to explore your emotions and understand what’s going on and build a relationship with your Self. In addition, you can also try meditation, which also has myriad formats. Reading can also be great, but sometimes taking in additional new information doesn’t help with integrating something you’ve recently learned. That is, unless it specifically allows you to unlock a different aspect of that learning, or connect to it in a different way. 

Emotions also benefit from talk therapy of course, but you can also try other types of sessions such as breathwork (of course you could put that in the physical category too – we’re holistic beings so none of these divisions (mind, body etc) are absolute. They just help us to think about things). Or you could also try something like play therapy, art therapy or mask work. 

In terms of shifting your energy, a simple healing session can be very useful. Energy healing comes in a wide variety of flavours, including reiki, shamanism and other disciplines. I usually recommend choosing both the method and practitioner you are drawn to. There are some self-guided practices you can also do in most disciplines if you prefer not to work with a practitioner. 

And if you are already benefitting from one type of therapy, it’s often useful to have another quite different one that complements it. For example, if you’re having talking therapy, I recommend getting body work because that will ground you down into your body, helping you to work with that aspect of the emotions that are coming up. It will likely also help you to feel safer and stronger in yourself. 

Energy work can be useful, but sometimes it’s unhelpful if you tend towards intellectual bypass, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from spiritual bypass. But it is really great for shifting things when you feel like you’ve already done the work and you can’t figure out why your new learning still doesn’t feel settled or easy to embody. 

If you do have two different types of therapy at once, have them on different days if possible, as it takes time for the changes from one to settle in. It’s also easier to see what each is doing for you if you leave at least a full day between them. 

So, this has been a quick review of some things I believe may help you integrate parts of yourself or a learning across all parts of yourself. 

When we’re integrated new information becomes a natural part of us, making it much easier to act in a way that incorporates it. As well as other huge benefits, integration can also help us to think more clearly and be more connected with our desires and inner truth. 

Like I said, integration is a huge topic, so this article may just be the beginning for you, depending how deep you want to go. But I hope it has given you some ideas you can use to feel more at ease in yourself and, well, integrated.

As always, take care! 

woman in white and red floral dress standing on green grass field

Fear of Happiness and Joy

Trigger warning: brief mention of adverse childhood experiences.

Joyophobia it’s called.

Just kidding – cherophobia is the actual term for a fear of happiness.

Does it sound like the most bizarre thing you’ve heard today?

Well -it’s not that strange really. We may think we’re constantly trying to move away from being unhappy and that we desire happiness above all else. But often our conscious mind is saying one thing, while our actions, feelings and underlying thoughts have a very different idea.

It might be good, before exploring this further, to start by exploring when feeling happy all the time became the ultimate goal.

It certainly wasn’t for the Victorian English, who celebrated hard work and more rigid values over aspiring toward an emotion (ptui!), especially such a messy and self-centred one. And many other cultures and groups have their own desired goals, of which happiness is not the main aim.

So why did we choose happiness?

An article in The Harvard Business Review by Peter Stearns says the whole thing started in the age of Enlightenment, maybe they decided to enlighten things up a little bit? And he mentions that among many of factors, improved dentistry made smiling more desirable and generally less scary.

And, OK, yes that was before the Victorians. They just seem a little uptight to me, but it turns out that was my mistake as one study found they were happier than we were! Isn’t that kind of insulting, like when you realise someone is much better at you at something you love, but they don’t even care?

We are definitely locked-in on it now as a goal though, ranking the happiness of different countries (oh to be Finnish!) and using happy colours and filters in our depiction of our lives (I do it all the time). I think it’s a great goal to have, as long as we can ride through all the other emotions we experience naturally, because happiness feels good and it can help us to live longer (I popped a link to an article below).

So why be scared of it?

OK, here’s my short take on this complex topic. It won’t be exhaustive and if you’re dealing with this, you may want to explore it with a therapist.

Here we go.

1. Being happy a lot of the time would be a change. Change is hard.

Let’s say your body, thoughts, emotions and general way of being, are all pretty calm and content. When you’re feeling somewhere between content and slightly grumpy, that is, because that’s what they’re used to.

But you actually want to be a more positive and happier person. So you try to make choices that will get you closer to that goal.

However, when you finally get there, instead of enjoying it you feel off-balance or unsettled. Maybe you’re not used to the feeling in your body, or you have to change the way you speak, or just be OK experiencing yourself in a different way. Perhaps it’s all of the above.

If you don’t really enjoy the change in you that happiness creates, you may find yourself using partsof yourself to pull back from it. You could slouch with your body or cross your arms, use more negative or critical language, have your mind figure out things that are wrong or that could go wrong. All to avoid having to feel different.

2. Happiness Can Be a Much More Vulnerable Emotion Than People Realise

How can happiness feel vulnerable?

It is an emotion that opens us up – to other people, new experiences, and even to new parts of ourselves. When we’re trundling along in normal life, dealing with the ups and downs and generally doing our best, we usually have a fixed sense of who we are, what we like and what we’re capable of.

Sometimes happiness can blow that wide open.

And that’s scary!

When you get a lot of comfort from feeling like the boundaries of your Self and your life are pretty solid, to have them expand and change unexpectedly may cause fear and uncertainty.

  1. We Might Feel Guilty Being Happy When Others Aren’t, Or Are Gone

I don’t know a lot about survivor’s guilt, but I do know it can make it very hard to feel like you have permission to feel happy. Or even just to get on with your life. At its core, happiness is life. It’s an abundance of life force. Just the thing your departed loved one doesn’t have. So why should you get to feel it if they can’t?

Or if your friend or partner is suffering, sick or even dying, it can feel almost impossible to let yourself have even short experiences of joy, as if it’s disloyal.

I would say this empathy makes you human and that sometimes not feeling happy is appropriate. But you can also ask yourself what they would want. Because leaving behind the legacy of people who are more able to be happy because they knew you is a great thing for a person. And if you have a friend who is suffering or even about to die, opening yourself up to all the genuine emotions allows them a fuller experience of life and of you. It allows for more honesty and intimacy. If you’re going through this, I hope you’re getting the support you need.

  1. Fear of the Jealousy of Others

Ooh, this is a tricky one! Have you ever had a moment of success and wanted to celebrate with those closest to you, but they aren’t all happy for you? Seeing someone else do well, especially in an area you hope to do well also, can be triggering for people.

But some people are just triggered by happiness in general. Grumpy-pants! (That is not a technical coaching term). I just mean the people who feel hurt and confronted by seeing happiness in others. Not your ideal support system.

If you find yourself unable to celebrate your successes with others for fear of hurting them, they may not be able to stay with you for your whole journey, because the better you do, the worse they will feel. And we also have to master our own envy and learn to celebrate the success of our peers too. The world is hard enough without having to minimise ourselves to makes others comfortable, or minimise others to keep liking ourselves and our lives.

  1. Worrying that It Will End

Waiting for the other shoe to drop is a common issue, especially in those who have experienced trauma. And this is not only when experiencing happiness, but it definitely plays a part in worrying that our current state of happiness is going to end.

The good news is that happiness always ends – at least for a bit. Bad drivers, bad news, arguments – the stuff of day-to-day life, as well as the occasional catastrophe. They always eventually pop up and our mood shifts (as it should).

Why is that good news?

Well, you don’t need to worry happiness will end – it definitely will. But it doesn’t have to end because of something terrible. It, like all emotions, flows in and out. So you don’t need to anxiously grasp at happiness when you finally feel it, you get to just try and enjoy it while it lasts.

But, I completely understand that for many of us that takes practice, especially if we have not been accustomed to stable situations and relationships.

5 is a good number and place to stop for now. There are many reasons we might feel fearful of or resistant to happiness.

I find that as individuals we all need practice feeling and holding certain emotions that are challenging for us. It could be happiness, or anger or any feeling. It can even be the ability to feel and receive love (that’s a topic for another article!).

All of this work can bring up strong emotions, sometimes from the very moment we had to make a split-second decision that a certain feeling wasn’t safe. So you may need to work with a therapist on that. And be careful with yourself, take your time, journal, practice self-care. You only have one of you after all!

And as always,

Take care!


Articles and studies I mentioned:

The History of Happiness (

Victorians were “happier” than we are now, finds CAGE research (

If you are happy and you know it… you may live longer – Harvard Health

Bonus for all the people who read to the bottom!

man looking in binoculars during sunset

What We Look For When We’re Looking or How We Have Been Trained to See

Trigger warning: mention of childhood conditioning.

Also, I’m not a therapist but do see one if you are struggling, or another professional as appropriate.

In my brain there are a lot of connections that light up like little fireflies as thoughts shoot around. There’s likely a unicorn wandering about over here and a cesspool of unwanted stuff over there, and little random snippets of trivia fluttering about like brightly-coloured butterflies.

Perhaps your brain is similar?

And then under all that are some train tracks, hidden in overgrown grass, but there all the same. And my mind-carriages just snap into their grooves without me even noticing sometimes and suddenly I’m back to where my mind was trained to be, through early repetition and observation. Before I even knew what thoughts were.

I have one track that I’m not proud of. But I’ll share it, because I think it might be useful. My first underlying instinct of what to look for when I see something new (not in-person, but on TV or another removed way) is to immediately find out what’s wrong with it. My other way of looking, which is more conscious and more “me” is warmer and more appreciative (and nuanced). But underneath – that old train track is steering me. Telling me what to look for. What to see. What is most important.

So, recently I’ve started to pull the grass up to uncover this particular track, now that I know it’s there, to reveal the mechanism behind the instinct. Is it scary to think that something we do so naturally might not be a genuine part of us at all?

“But how do you know it’s not genuine?” I hear no one asking. Well – because it doesn’t feel like me. It feels like the people I learned it from. No blame – we all have stuff to deal with. But that is what it is.

And it happens in loads of different areas of our lives.

However, today I want to ask:

What are you looking for when you’re looking?

Because most of us have been trained to look for something. Trained to orient ourselves around some kind of certainty which fits in with the way we see (or have been taught to see) the world.

OK, do you have your answer? I’m going to give you some further questions you can ask about this particular way of looking at things.

Take your time and you may want to write the answers down. Also, try to keep an open mind and accept the ‘fresh’ answers rather than formulated or more controlled ones. They may be unexpected. OK, call to mind your way of seeing, now ask yourself:

  1. How do I feel about that?
  2. How is it affecting me?
  3. How does it shape my view of the world and me in it?
  4. How do I think that would make the person I’m looking at (or creator of the thing I’m looking at) feel?
  5. And finally – what is a more genuine way for me to look at things?

It can be hard to remember not to be too self-critical when trying to deepen our understanding of ourselves. After all, we’re often looking for what’s ‘wrong’. A deeper view of ourselves is not that reductive though, the self is not sorted into good and bad in such a black and white sense.

It might be more helpful to see traits and behaviours as ‘more’ or ‘less’ us. I know that I enjoy my intellect, and that intellects love looking for what is wrong – it gives them something to grip onto and wrangle with. They aren’t so engaged with rainbow-hues and positivity that is enough in itself. The intellect likes to dissect and compare and contrast and it really, really likes facts it perceives as distinct objects. The edge it likes to use to orient itself around is often a flaw, so to use it in this way, you have to look for flaws. On the other hand if you were an engineer maybe you wouldn’t be looking for flaws so much as weaknesses and if you’re in a creative mode, you would be looking for possibilities, while a communicator or pattern-maker might be focusing on connections. (These aren’t specific terms used within a specific system, by the way, just the language I’m using right now).

Woah, I didn’t mean to get into a discussion on aspects of the mind! What I mean is, I like that intellectual side of me. But I don’t like the fact I can have a behaviour that is mainly the result of conditioning that supersedes my free will and my personality. So, without throwing it all out, or condemning it, I want to find the parts that feel like me and the way of doing things that feels like me also.

And then when the old behaviour shows up (which it always will, especially at first), I will start to practice allowing myself to be different in the moment. And take care to process the emotions that come up (which could be any, but will usually include uncertainty and fear – because it’s different).

So, if you’re looking to change how you look at things, do be gentle with yourself, and be intentional about how you do it. The current way won’t be all bad or all good, most likely. Find the parts that work for you. And then notice how when the way you look is more attuned to who you are, things start to shift.

And as always, take care of yourself, you good-looking person!

photo of woman wearing eyeglasses

The Importance of Self-Development in Leadership

We are surrounded by leaders. Teachers, CEOs, parents, influencers and others who steer the course of a group and serve them. They are not only the figure heads and decision-makers: they are actively shaping the culture of the group they are leading – whether that is a conscious effort or not. 

I have had a lifelong interest in self-development because it seems to me that the real parameters of our lives are not the opportunities we come by or the successes we achieve, as much as how able we are to expand and grow into new situations. And how we shape those new situations. A group culture can easily become a reflection of the best and worst parts of ourselves (and to different extents those of other team members, although usually the leader’s influence is strongest).

In my leadership coaching sessions with clients, it’s very clear to me that they’re great people with very good intentions. And 95% of the time, doing exactly the right things. But in that 5% – that’s where we have the opportunity to grow in really exciting ways.  

The people who are already succeeding 95% of the time are experienced, have mastered a degree of self-reflection and are good at what they do. Usually the remaining room for improvement comes from the part we’re not taught about. This is the fact that how we feel inside and how we relate to, and know, ourselves, is crucial for having healthy relationships with other people and with groups. And that healthy connection is essential for true leadership. 

Working through our own issues can help us to suddenly see issues in the culture or a group that we have been blind to. It can help us to realise how we have been contributing to a dynamic or a culture. And the more work we do on building our own self-love and self-esteem, the easier it is to invite feedback and actually be able to hear it. 

We all have unique personalities and histories and so there is no judgement around the fact we all have stuff to work on. It’s a shame that often as we move into positions with more influence, people are usually more hesitant to point out our flaws. For some leaders this makes them even more cautious, because the usual safety-guards are removed. Other times it means the information a leader is working with is lop-sided or incorrect, because only certain people are speaking out. So it can be very helpful for leaders to have support from people they know will tell them the truth, with the right balance of compassion and honesty.

But at the end of the day, a lot of the quality of our leadership comes down to us. A leader with a healthy sense of self, good boundaries and an ability to work through their emotions is going to create a much stronger and more productive culture, than someone who has many tools, but none of those self-development skills.

And finally, because it can be a lonely job, it’s so important to practice self-care. It can also be very helpful to the culture in your team for them to see you modelling that behaviour also. 

So, a big shout out to all the leaders. It’s not an easy job, and we need you! I hope you’re getting all the support you need to be the leader you always wanted to have. 

Take care! 



woman looking at sunset

Our Pain is the Same

But How it Comes Out is Different. 

In my work over thousands of sessions and in my travels I’ve come to realise our feelings, our pain, wishes, desires – are strikingly similar from person to person. But the way they come out is different. 

Have you ever judged someone for having this, while you’ve had that? Substitute infinite number of options: being overweight, being underweight, bad habits, a tiny bladder, a funny tummy, gas, nervous tics, strange behaviours, an odd sense of humor, defense mechanisms, limitations that don’t seem to make sense etc etc. 

One person is stressed and gets diarrhoea, another gets stressed and stops eating, another gets stressed and yells. We all get stressed sometimes. We all experience pain. 

But it can be so hard to relate to the things that are non-optional for other people. To experience them as real for that person. 

I’ve been told I didn’t have low blood sugar and wasn’t really about to pass out by someone who had never suffered from low blood sugar. I’ve had clients who were told their excruciating pain wasn’t that bad, by someone who had never felt that level of pain. 

And I’ve sometimes had a lack of understanding for other people’s pain, just because it wasn’t coming out in the way I could relate to. 

I try to believe people and to listen. To understand that our physiology, psychology, energy levels, life experiences, challenges, abilities, strengths and weakness, innate traits, support networks and beliefs are different. 

But our pain is the same. 

It just comes out in different ways. 

As always, wherever you and whatever you’re doing, take care,