Positive thinking – is it always a good thing? (part 1/4) – Repost for Mental Health Awareness Week

As #mentalhealthawarenessweek2019 draws to a close, I thought I would take this opportunity to reshare a blog that I wrote a while ago on why I think we should exercise the ‘3 C’s around #PositiveThinking :

– Caution

– Care

– Conscious consideration

Sometimes I think that the trend for advocating Positive Thinking has got a little out of balance, where people are pushing themselves to feel happy all the time and then feeling that they’ve failed when they fall short of this impossible expectation.

Equenergy

Our lives seem to be full of contradictions!  On the one hand we’re bombarded by news that is often negative and full of doom and gloom, while on the other we’re encouraged to be positive, smile and avoid negative thoughts for the sake of our health.

So what’s the answer?!

Well, first of all let’s look at why positive thinking can bring great benefits.  The cycle goes like this:

The thoughts that we think create the perspective from which we look at things.  This influences the filters through which we interpret the world around us.  This determines our experiences, which help to form our beliefs about that world.  Our beliefs are what our thoughts are based upon, and so the cycle continues…

Obviously if we think positive thoughts, and can carry this on round the cycle, then we will be happier than if we are plagued by negative thoughts, however…

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Learning to Dance in the Rain

I initially wrote this blog early last week, but then something happened on Thursday which prompted me to write this short edit.  A friend that I deeply respect, told me that she felt I wasn’t being honest with myself about my responsibility in the situation I find myself with Dax, and that I was placing the blame on other people.  I would therefore like to print an apology for anything I’ve said that has come across in this way.  It was not my intention. 

Regarding responsibility, this has made me think of the difference between ‘taking responsibility’ (in an empowering way that leads to action) versus ‘taking the blame’ – which is what, in hindsight, I think I was actually doing, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and generally powerless.  I have recognised that this is something I need to address and so have begun to take steps in this.  This has then enabled me to look more openly and closely at what’s been happening with Dax and to take more constructive action in this too.

And now, back to my blog:

Last week I wrote about how I’ve been learning to bend so that I don’t break.  A further step in this lesson for me is to practice being able to ‘dance in the rain’ – ie, not to wish that there were no storms in life, but rather to celebrate them, knowing that they bring valuable teaching and that even when times are tough, I can still dance and make the most of every moment.  It’s also about being able to be present with whatever is happening in the moment and to be comfortable, even with being uncomfortable.

Getting to this point takes time and practice.  We rarely manage it in any sustainable way the first time!  But, like the baby learning to take its first steps, it’s a matter of getting up, dusting ourselves off and trying again.

After all, that’s what life’s really about, isn’t it – experimenting, trying, finding out what works and what doesn’t, repeating the former and discarding the latter and continually refining and adapting.

When we make decisions and choices, we might think that we’re doing so from a purely logical, rational, analytical perspective but I’ve come to realise that there’s always an emotional element on some level.  This is true for the simplest of choices, such as what we’re going to wear on a particular day, to what’s for dinner, to what car we want to buy.  It’s even more true when we consider our responses to situations.  These are determined by our thoughts and beliefs which are strongly coloured by our past experiences and our emotional state:

In every situation, when we react rather than make a conscious choice, we are doing what we think will make us feel better / safer in that situation.  However, when our perception is coloured by fearful past experiences, these decisions will not help us to move forward.  They can end up being a form of self-sabotage.

This is why, when we want to grow, we need to become curious about what is motivating our choices.  To do this, we need to develop our ‘emotional intelligence’ in order to gain a greater understanding of what’s going on inside.  It can be a real challenge to face up to the things that we don’t like about ourselves – the things that we don’t want others to see – and to be open and honest about them.  But when we can do this with self-forgiveness and self-compassion it can be a very liberating experience!  Not only that, but it enables us to support others in developing the same skills and so allow them to find that same freedom.

Just imagine how wonderful that could feel:

  • to no longer be held by fear
  • to be free to experience the fullness of love, joy and connection
  • to be fully your self, no longer needing to wear any masks
  • to feel fully alive!

Of course, life still has its ups and downs.  It still seems to throw us curve balls to keep us on our toes!  But when we can learn to bend and to dance in the rain, we are much more able to adapt, flex and flow with these ‘plot twists’.  We have greater clarity and insight on our own responses – and after all, these are the only things we have any control over.

It was very difficult for me to face the fact that we’d lost our field shelter when it was destroyed by the recent storms.  There was the financial pain – it had cost about £4,000.00 and we can’t afford to replace it – and the thought of all the wasted time and effort that my wonderful husband had put in to building it and making it – we thought – storm safe.  Not only that, but I worried about the horses: their safety when it went over and what they were now going to do for shelter.

Then I decided to look at the situation from a different angle.  Yes, we’d lost a lot of money, but everyone was safe, and no-one had been injured, which was the most important thing. 

Obviously, we had tried to stand against the force of Nature, rather than go with it, and hadn’t realised how strong the winds could get in that part of the field.  So how might we do things differently?

I looked around at the resources that we have here.  The house is situated on a lower level than the fields and between them there is an area of ‘unused’ land – rough grasses, gorse bushes and some trees.  It had always been my plan to open this up to the horses and as I looked at it with fresh eyes, I realised that there is a lot of natural shelter there, from trees and the contours of the land. 

So now I’m looking into making this area secure so that the horses can access this natural shelter.  It will also provide them with additional, interesting places to explore.

I’ve also ordered some Willow, to see if I can create a living shelter for them.  If it’s successful it will have many benefits, including roots to further stabilise the land and drink up some of the water which makes that part of the field a quagmire in the winter.  It will provide shoots that the horses can nibble on – as long as they don’t eat until there’s nothing left!  Time will tell on that one…

This is what we hope to achieve:

If you’ve ever tried to create something like this, I’d be really interested to hear from you about how it went, and any tips that you can share!

part of the slope down to the house from the fields

If any of this has resonated with you and you’d like to learn more about developing your own emotional intelligence and resilience, and how to feel your way to the choices that are right for you, you might be interested in attending one of my workshops on how to ‘Feel Your Way from Stress into Flow’.  Contact me for further details:

Learning to ‘bend’ so that I don’t break!

I’ve started to write this blog in my head so many times but not yet had the opportunity to ‘put pen to paper’ – or as I do more often these days, put fingertips to keys! 

Each inner draft has seen the content shift and change, reflecting my sense that everything around me is shifting and changing as we move from winter into spring.

This has been very evident in the weather that we’ve been experiencing this month. 

The weekend of the 15th / 16th saw further storms with very strong winds.  Sadly, after all the hard work and care that my wonderful husband put into repairing our field shelter, when the previous storm had put it on its roof, this time the wind took it, twisted it and ripped it apart beyond repair:

The very next day the sun came out and it hasn’t stopped shining since!  We’ve had some truly glorious days and as the external storms have subsided, it has allowed some of the inner unsettled feelings to calm.

One of the factors contributing to my inner turmoil was the fact that my non-horsey husband and Dax had a serious clash, resulting in Tim saying that the horse had to go. 

Tim is nervous around these big animals and Dax, being a typical hand-reared horse, has little sense of boundaries.  When he comes too close, Tim gets nervous and Dax, being a sensitive animal, picks up on this and gets anxious in return.  Sadly, his response to this is to get defensive, which in his case means threatening with teeth.  Tim tried to reinforce his space by pushing Dax away, but Dax is a horse who just pushes back.  This, understandably, left Tim feeling very vulnerable and afraid for his safety. 

I’ve actually found that Dax responds better when the energies around him are kept calm.  If he starts to get a bit over excited, the best way to deal with it is to distract him and to walk away, to give him the space to feel safe again and to calm himself.  This can be challenging though when faced with an apparently very angry horse!

The need to rehome this beautiful boy, who I had hoped would be with us for the rest of his life, and who has taken a huge part of my heart, has hit me hard.  

Unfortunately, his owner is not in a position to take him back and so I’ve been trying to find him a good and understanding home, as otherwise he will have to be put to sleep.  However, I’m finding that this is far from an easy task when the horse in question is a non-ridden 8-year-old gelding with some behavioural issues.  I’ve found it a very depressing and frustrating process as everyone I’ve approached has said that they can’t take him, but Tim is pressing for him to go.

But life goes on, even when sometimes it feels like it’s falling apart, and this wonderful place, with its amazing energy, has been working its healing magic on me.

On Thursday I went to a networking meeting in Monmouth where Patricia Carswell spoke of her journey from working as a barrister in London, through burnout and recovery to recreating herself as a freelance journalist and top-class rower.  She was then diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer but following surgery and chemotherapy, is back and looking amazing.

Listening to her speak, helped to crystallise some thoughts that have been running around in my head and I thought I’d share them here. 

I’m coming to see, with much greater clarity, the value of flexibility.  For many years I was someone who could have been described as a ‘control freak’.  I liked to feel that I had a handle on each situation, and I needed to know where things were going and what was going to happen next.  I definitely didn’t like to feel out of control! 

I thought that being ‘in control’ would be less stressful and give me a greater sense of security.  However, particularly since moving here, I’ve realised that any sense of ‘control’ I had was just an illusion!  Also, that trying to hold on to that control was more stressful and left me feeling more overwhelmed and exhausted.  It must have been very difficult for those around me too!

I’m now coming to appreciate the value of being able to ‘bend’ and ‘flow’ rather than clinging rigidly to the things that I think will keep me safe.  As Confucius said:

It’s funny that I’ve ‘known’ these things for a while in my head, even believed them, but it’s as my wonderful boss from my first job used to say: ‘It’s not until it makes that 10-inch drop from your head to your heart that you really know it’.

I’d like to close with a quote that Patricia Carswell used at the end of her presentation as I thought it was very poignant and ‘on point’: