I came across a great blog post the other day by ‘The Flying
Witch’, Gabriella Guglielminotti Trivel entitled Time
for Wholeness. Ms Tivel’s blog carries the subheading ‘Flying with the
feminine’ and in this particular article she writes about her experiences
of going through perimenopause and needing to observe and honour the changes
going on within her body.
This made me think about my own situation. I, too, am at this stage in my life, while
also going through a lot of other changes – home, location, work, animals,
friends, etc. It’s been an exciting,
stressful, wonderful, and exhausting 12 months, and so I felt it was time to take
a look at where I am, currently, and assess how I’m doing with all that’s been
The answer is that I’m feeling rather drained, and a little bit
lacking in ‘mojo’.
I’ve therefore decided to take a step back from writing this
blog for a while. While I love writing
and sharing with you – and would love to engage more with you all – it’s time
to take a short break. Instead I’ll be
using the time to focus on resting, recharging and reassessing where I want to
go next. I also have some other writing
that I want to make time for, such as the mindfulness course that I’ve had
sitting on the back burner for a while.
It’ll be good to get this done rather than having it sitting, staring accusingly
at me from my To Do list! 😉
Also, I have a VIP guest coming to visit next month – my Mum is
coming over from Ireland to see our new home for the first time. I’m so excited and can hardly wait to share
this magical space with her. It’ll be
her first time meeting Dax and Rika too!
So, I wish you all a wonderful September with whatever you have
planned, and see you again in October.
is your summer going? I hope you’re
getting at least some sunshine, though the UK has been experiencing some very
unseasonable weather this August! This
can make such a difference to our mood and motivation levels, particularly when
we’ve been holding on for our summer holidays and counting on warm sunshine,
only to find that it’s cold, damp and grey outside.
were thoroughly spoilt with hot dry days last year so the contrast can add to
our disappointment. All those plans we’d
made for a ‘staycation’ or day trips with the kids during the holidays, might
have ended up being a bit of a wash-out.
of us work hard during the winter months, thinking that we’ll be able to take
some ‘down-time’ in the summer: images of sitting on a beach, or park, or just
in the garden, sipping a cool drink, and soaking up those warming rays, are
what keep us going during those cold months…
can end up running our batteries down, promising ourselves that we’ll top them
up again in the warmer months…
least, that’s how I’ve been feeling. We
moved here in October of last year on the day that storm Callum arrived and
ended the 5 glorious months of sunshine.
We then spent the winter working hard to fix leaks and get the place set
up for ourselves and the horses. I know
that I, for one, was hoping for a nice long summer to recharge and have more
time just to enjoy being here, before the challenging weather returned.
these things don’t always go to plan, do they!
what can you do if you’re finding that you’re sitting indoors feeling depressed
at the wet, grey view from your window?
can actually be an opportunity to go within and to rest deeply. Sitting in the sunshine obviously feels
amazing, and does great things for our wellbeing, but cooler, greyer weather
can call us to a kind of ‘hibernation’ and it can good to take advantage of
this, listen to our bodies and relax into that deep state of rest.
if we’re not careful, sunny days can draw us into a different kind of
busy-ness, with parties, weddings, barbeques, gardening, outdoor repairs, and
so on. All of these can be fun but it’s important
to balance them out by taking a break every now and then.
rainy weather is the perfect opportunity / excuse!
In my work I meet so many people who are frazzled and run-down. They have an endless To Do list that just seems to get longer and their holiday, or time off, is a distant dream that keeps getting put off to another day.
on those ‘not very summery’ summer days, don’t despair! Try not to feel frustrated or upset at the
weather, because after all it’s not something we can change. Instead, use the time for some self-care:
book a massage, or some
Bowen or aromatherapy
have a session in a
jacuzzi or float tank
do some yoga,
mindfulness or meditation
read a good book
or just have a lovely,
indulgent afternoon nap!
sure you can come up with lots of other things to do! Please feel free to share your suggestions in
the comments below.
you struggle with taking this time out for yourself, and some little inner
voice is driving you to keep going even though you’re exhausted, then I can
help. Together we can explore where that
little voice comes from and how to address it, so that it can let go and give
you the peace and permission you need in order to fully rest and recharge. After all, this will mean that you can function
much more effectively and enjoy greater wellbeing. You’ll also have the energy to include those
fun things in your life that you’ve just been too tired / busy for previously.
you’d like to have a chat, you can contact me by phone, email or through my
to some, having been raised an Irish Catholic, I should practically have a PhD
in guilt! Seriously though, seeing the
effect that it has on people’s lives, I do ponder this feeling, and its
consequences, from time to time.
I’ve been thinking about how strongly it relates to shame. For most of us, this is something that we
learn at a very early age. This means
that it’s acquired during the phase of our lives (0 – approximately 6 years of
age) when we accept things without question, and without the ability to judge
their validity or helpfulness. As a
result, shame is something that is very longstanding, deep rooted and can have
a profound impact on our lives. It is
also – as alluded to in my, slightly flippant, comment above – often embedded
into our culture, helping to perpetuate and strengthen its hold on us.
is it healthy, and does it serve any useful purpose?
I can address the second part of that question first, I believe that guilt is
only useful in as much as it alerts us to discomfort. It shows that there is an issue that needs
we experience discomfort in this way, it indicates that our thoughts are out of
line with our Higher Self’s views on the subject. For example, if I do something that makes me
feel guilty, my inner critic is telling me all those self-shaming thoughts,
You’re a bad person!
You never get anything right!
You’ve failed again!
What a stupid mistake that was!
contrast, our Higher Self never judges us, and certainly would never
address us in less than loving terms.
our discomfort makes us aware that we’re out of alignment. We’re not being true to our Higher Self.
we drill deeper, we’ll probably find it’s not just the shaming thoughts that
are off balance, they’re most likely coming from our deeper awareness that we’re
not living as our Best Self – we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by other
today’s world we’re spoilt for choice on ‘distractions’:
‘Will we / won’t we’ Brexit?
And, whichever way it goes, what impact will this have on the economy?
Has environmental damage gone beyond repair?
of course, there’re also the ‘minutiae’ of our everyday lives:
What to have for dinner
Who will get together with whom on Love Island?
What are people thinking of me / of what I said / of how I look?
of these things can occupy our thoughts, meaning that we’re not fully
present much of the time.
a result, we often act, or make decisions, on a largely subconscious
level. We can end up going through our
days on autopilot, reacting rather than consciously responding to situations,
allowing the nervous, anxious, fearful part of our mind to make our decisions
for us. This can result in things like:
Not stepping out of our comfort zone – eg trying something new
Avoiding situations that we find challenging – eg meeting new
we notice that we’ve made decisions that were unwise, and maybe got us into
trouble, we then feel guilty. This isn’t
‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ – no feelings are, and it’s impossible to turn them off anyway
– it’s what we do with this feeling that’s important.
we get ‘stuck’, listening to, and engaging with those shaming thoughts?
do we explore the feelings and learn from them, seeing what changes we can make
to move closer into alignment with Who We Really Are, in order to live a life
where we make conscious choices that serve us, and that feel authentic
and honest, and where we can be responsible and accountable rather than feeling
guilt and shame?
can be challenging, and will require us to look deeply at conditioning that we’ve
carried since childhood. Others have
referred to this as ‘un-domestication’ or ‘rewilding’. It’s a visceral process and requires
deconstruction and reconstruction, but you don’t have to do it alone, and the
rewards feel amazing: self awareness, autonomy and freedom.
think that this is the only value of guilt and therefore I don’t feel that it’s
a place where we should spend any more time than absolutely necessary. In fact, to return to the question of ‘is it
healthy?’, generally, beyond the initial recognition and finding the issues to
be addressed, I would say that the answer to this is ‘No’.
the contrary, guilt is often very restricting and deeply uncomfortable. It keeps us small and can be very stressful
which, as we know, impacts on our wellbeing.
That inner voice also isn’t content with just criticising our current
choices. If we are prepared to listen, it
has a nasty habit of dragging up every perceived failing and every ‘mistake’ we’ve
ever made. It also projects its beliefs
onto others, telling us that they, too, see us as not good / clever / skilled
what can we do?
by taking a step back and observe the things that your mind is telling you,
without engaging with them, knowing that they are merely the product of your
conditioning and your natural negative bias.
Don’t try to fight your mind, it’s just doing its job, and it’s not
really open to persuasion anyway!
Observe, without judging, and accept that this is what the mind does –
not just yours, but everyone’s.
can then make a conscious decision about whether to go along with what your
mind says, or choose a different option.
You don’t have to push yourself too far out of your comfort zone. Small steps and small challenges will help
you to build your ‘consciousness muscles’ allowing you to stretch and grow.
you become more self-aware you will be able to identify the things you
really want in your life, the things that light you up and fill you with
excitement and joy. These are your guide
in creating the fulfilling life that you long for. These are where you discover your ‘purpose’. You aren’t here for the ‘should’s, ‘have
to’s or ‘ought to’s. You’re
here to Be Who You Really Are and to let that light shine out. You’re here to experience and grow and en-joy
How to recognise the escalation steps and know the appropriate response at each level
In another role, I recently attended a 1-day refresher course in MAPA® (Management of Actual and Perceived Aggression) run by CPI (the Crisis Prevention Institute). This course looks at what happens when an individual’s tension starts to rise, and how we can respond – rather than react – in order to hopefully diffuse the tension before it escalates further and possibly turns into aggression.
MAPA® teaches that there are 4 stages in this
When we can respond appropriately at each stage, it allows us to address the level of tension in the ‘least restrictive’ manner.
suggested responses are:
Use (minimal and proportionate) physical intervention
Engage in therapeutic rapport
to the trainer, I began to realise that this makes a lot of sense for our
interactions with our animal friends too!
I like simplicity (as you might have seen in my recent post) and so MAPA®’s 4-step process resonated with me and I thought I would share, in case it might prove helpful for others too.
first step we need to take is to observe, and become familiar with, our animal’s
How do they appear in a variety of situations and settings?
What does their ‘happy’ look like?
What does their ‘slightly uneasy’ look like?
What does their ‘worried’ or ‘anxious’ look like?
If they have a disagreement with another horse, what behaviours do they show and how do they behave afterwards? (ie during the tension reduction phase)
What do they enjoy? What are they good at?
When we know the answers to these questions, then we can start to gauge where our animal is on their scale of tension, and how we might begin to support them at each level.
Sometimes however, we don’t notice / recognise the subtle signals an animal displays to say that they’re beginning to feel anxious. These might be a tension around the eyes, mouth and ears, or behavioural clues such as yawning or looking away.
Most – if not all – animals would prefer to
keep their tension levels as low as possible, therefore their early signals are
an invitation to us to offer support in some way. If we aren’t able to at least attempt to
offer this – and animals are generally very forgiving, tolerant and accepting
of our sometimes stumbling and clumsy attempts – then their anxiety will
probably move up to defensive behaviour.
At this level we could see things like threats
to kick or bite in horses, or bared teeth and growling in dogs. Unfortunately, particularly with animals who
have been punished for giving these signals, we might perceive that they ‘suddenly
jump’ into the risky behaviour of charging or biting. However, if we are able to spot defensive
signals, then the MAPA® suggested response is
to be directive. With animals, since we
don’t have a shared verbal language, this will need to be in the form of body
language or movement on our part.
You could, of course, use a verbal command such
as ‘No!’, but I believe that if this was successful it could have the same
outcome as punishment, in that it might restrict the animal’s choices in
communicating their feelings. Over time
they might stop showing the lower level signals all together, meaning that we
no longer have the opportunity to step in and respond to help them release /
channel their tension.
Our animals can’t learn to speak, however with
a bit of effort and practice we can learn to read their body language and
facial expression (see more about this in my blog
work together to create a set of signals that have meaning for both participants.
At this level we can use ‘re-direction’, that
is shifting the focus to something else.
The ‘something’ would depend on the individual, but you could use things
like movement, play, touch or breath. Obviously,
this should be something that you know the animal likes, or already knows how
to do, and so can feel the reassurance of doing something that is ‘easy’ for
them and at which they can be ‘successful’.
When the animal has reached defensive behaviour, they are beginning to lose the ability to think rationally which is why the response is to make the decisions and direct the activity at this point.
However, if we miss this opportunity for the animal to release their tension, the next step is risky behaviour. This is when their behaviour becomes much more dangerous, that is, the animal attacks in some way. At this point they have completely lost the power of rational thought and their entire focus is self-preservation. They have lost the ability to be conscious of our vulnerability! The training from CPI – which I highly recommend – covers a range of disengagements from various holds, but with animals, unless you’re trained and have the necessary protective gear, the best response at this point is to get out! Move away and get to a place of safety.
No animal, including ourselves, can hold this level of tension for a sustained period. It takes a lot of energy and is exhausting. When they run out of steam, they need to be allowed a period of tension reduction. For some this will mean being allowed to have some quiet time by themselves, whereas others might want contact and reassurance. This allows the individual to recover their sense of balance and can give us a chance to re-establish bonds of friendship and trust that might be feeling a little frayed.
We too might need support after being the target
of an animal’s risky behaviour, to help us recover and not lose our
It’s important to point out here that these steps don’t necessarily progress only in a linear fashion. An individual who has started to ‘de-escalate’ in tension, could be re-triggered back up the scale at any point, if they haven’t yet reached full tension reduction, so be aware of possible triggers and of any signs that their arousal level is increasing again.
I hope this simple set of steps helps to provide a useful way of approaching tension in your animals, but please remember that your safety must come first at all times. If you feel that you need support, I recommend calling on the services of a good behaviourist to help you build a deeper – and safer – connection.