Defensive cleaning….or whatever.

I just got home from a long weekend trip.  The trip involved a celebration with a number of family members whom I don’t see often.  The celebration was wonderful, the visits with adults and children in the family were lovely, and I got to see a part of the world that I haven’t visited for a long time.

NOT the house I was cleaning…

Once home though, I found myself frantically busy:  doing laundry, tidying up my things, looking around the house critically and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.   I know when I get like that, something is happening that is a lot more than I have a dirty house.  In fact, the house wasn’t particularly dirty but I was particularly wired up…I went out to run five kilometers and came home to vacuum and dust and wash countertops.  At one point during this compulsive vacuuming, I finally asked myself the relevant question:  what is it that I have to clean up?  What untidiness am I fending off?  What messiness am I afraid of?

I stopped in mid stroke of the vacuum as the answer smacked me in the head.  Okay, that didn’t really happen but the metaphor is apt:  I felt like I needed to smack my forehead.  Of course.  I am busying myself so I won’t feel my sadness at leaving my children and grandchild yet again.  I am pushing away the very real and painful longing to stay close and connected to these people to whom I am powerfully attached.   I am displacing those feelings by being irritated at the dog hair and normal untidiness of a lived-in home.

Yeah, so Freud was right.   We DO defend ourselves against our feelings….our sadness, our anger, our longing, our fears.   Do you know what you do when you are trying NOT to feel something?

What do you REALLY want?

I have been thinking a bit about wants and needs.   We often want something…something that seems indefinable, amorphous, something that feels out of reach.  Trying to nail down that wanting feeling can be hard.

However, some people have their  wants clearly identified.  If only, they think, if only I had a new car, then I’d feel really good.  Or…if only, if only I could go on vacation and just take some time off, THEN I would feel really good.  Or maybe, if only, if only my husband/wife/mother/father/teacher/boss would just change their behaviour, then I would feel okay.  Or maybe, if only I had someone to love me in my life, if I only had a partner who really, REALLY loved me, then I would feel okay.

So sometimes we want concrete objects:  the new car, the big flatscreen tv, the smartest phone.  Sometimes we want time and luxury:  vacation, travel, food or entertainment.  Sometimes what we want is something from another person:  their attention, affection, or some kind of treatment that we experience as positive.

But do you hear the commonality that underlies all of these wants?  Do you hear what we expect each of those things, experiences, or behaviour of a person?   We expect that WE will feel a particular way, a particularly GOOD way, if we could have the wanted item or experience.

What we really want isn’t a car or a tv.  It really isn’t a vacation or someone to love us.  What we really, REALLY want, is the feeling that we think we’d have under that desired circumstance.

So no, honestly, I don’t want my boss to stop bugging me.  I want to FEEL the way I think I’d feel without that behaviour.  I want to FEEL unbugged.

So all I really need to do is change how I feel;  take charge of my own feelings, stop giving my power to feel to other people or to my negative thoughts, and just FEEL unbugged.

Sounds easy….and it can be.  If we can accept that we construct our feeling of want by our thoughts, fantasies, and wishes, then perhaps we can construct a feeling of having enough in that same way.   Or try this:  notice when you DO feel “enough…”  What is it like in your body and mind when you feel “enough?”   When have you had “enough” to eat?  “Enough” work for the day?  “Enough conversation,”  “enough sleep,”  “enough music?”   How do you experience enough?   Then allow that feeling to spread throughout your life…so that what you are right now, what you have right now, what you experience in THIS moment….THIS is enough.  Enough for now.

When the craving or wanting or desiring or attachment to objects arises, see if you can locate a sense of “enough” in your body and rest in that.

Needs?  Well, that can be a topic for another day!

Descartes was wrong.

That’s it.  That’s all I have to say.  He blew it big time with his assertion about thought and existence.

You don’t exist because you think.

You think because you are currently housed in a body.  Or, if you like, because you ARE a body.  Your body, through complex and intricate biochemical and electrical processes, feedback loops, and messenger systems, your BODY creates the opportunity for thoughts.

And when you think about thoughts as just that, as a perceptual process that is trying to make sense of an orchestra of bits of chemical, mechanical, and electrical energy, well, then, isn’t it hard to take your thoughts so seriously?

Just sayin’.

And if you want to know more (like a LOT more), see Antonio Damasio’s books:  Descartes’ Error and The Feeling of What Happens.

My friend and colleague, Melissa Arsenau, gave me a great refrigerator magnet.  It says, “Don’t believe everything you think.”  Good advice!   Just a thought!

Anger: What’s mine, what’s yours?

Trying to figure out anger just doesn’t work.   Mostly we want to “figure out” who is to blame for our anger, who “made me angry?”  Along with that, we have a belief that we can only let go of our anger if some other person changes their behaviour;  apologizes, for example, or starts to pick up their socks, or uncross whatever boundary we think that they have crossed.


Trying to figure it out is a way of trying to give someone else the responsibility for our anger.  Another way we try to avoid taking responsibility is to try to make the anger go away.  We press it down into our bodies somewhere;  squeezed into our tightly held lower backs, or our shoulders and necks.  We hold back the impulse to strike out, to hit or to kick, and we hold it back by creating a chronic tension in the body.  Well, of course we can’t go around hitting and kicking people.  We learned that when we were two years old, at least most of us did.  And when we first tried shoving those impulses into words, we also learned not to use our words as weapons.  (Think of a five year old calling names;  that gets stopped pretty quickly.)

So we learn quickly that we don’t want to be responsible for this feeling of anger, so we can blame someone for it (“the devil made me do it!”) or we can suppress it in our bodies, and if we get really skilful at suppressing, we can actually REPRESS it, so that we are unaware of the feeling at all.  That actually makes it not a feeling.  We have the body sensations that go with anger but we can’t feel it as anger.  We just feel our heart race, our face flush, our shoulders, backs and jaws tense, and we may have an impulse to say something unpleasant or cutting.  But we don’t label that experience as anger and so we don’t think we actually GET angry.

This is a very deep level of denying of the self.  Your self gets angry.  It is an automatic response to other people crossing your boundaries.  But if you don’t feel it, don’t express it, don’t claim it, you are denying  a part of yourself.

Leap Day!

Credit: via Nahno McLein's blog


I just had to make sure I got a post up on this special day….Leap  Day, that only happens once every four years.  Of course, every single day is just as special as Leap Day, in that it will never come again, and that my job is to try to make the most of it, even if that means just sitting and being in the day.   But I still have some attachment to posting something on this day.

So I am going to post an information sheet that I’ll be handing out at the group meeting tonight.  I hope you are coming!

Here it is:

               Body-Mind Psychotherapy: Bioenergetic Analysis & Therapy

Are you stressed?  Anxious? Sad? Worried?  Having trouble making decisions?   Things feel like just too much?

Bioenergetic Analysis is a holistic form of psychotherapy that listens not only to your words but also to what your body has to say. Bioenergetic analysis diminishes anxiety and depression, and promotes health and wellness in body, mind and spirit.

Bioenergetics assumes that the mind and body are one.  The experience of living in a body shapes and creates the subjective experience of the mind.  Feelings are a body experience, for example, and our minds use the information from our body experience to construct thought, generate behavior, and motivate our ways of being in the world.

The body-mind approach of bioenergetic analysis helps to heal a split between what our minds tell us and what our bodies experience.  In bioenergetics, we use body responses as a way to understand our patterns of behavior.  When we can feel those patterns in our bodies, then we become free to change them.

Becoming oneself~

When we were children, our feelings were huge.  When a very young child has a feeling, it happens all over the body….joy, sadness, anger or fear is a whole-body experience, filling the child and often filling the room.  As children, we learn that such explosive emotion is not acceptable.  We learn to contain our belly laughs by tightening our abdominal muscles, to constrict our longing by tensing our shoulders, to hold back our rage by tucking in our tails, setting our jaws, and tightening our backs.  In this way, we become socially acceptable but we cut ourselves off from our deepest feelings, including the sources of pleasure. In bioenergetics, we can take back our birthright.  We can learn to feel all that we were meant to feel, and experience our life in all of its fullness.

Working with a bioenergetic therapist is a way to help alter old patterns, heal persistent wounds, and move into a fresh future.

In bioenergetic therapy, you will explore your internal landscape with a trained therapist.  You’ll use movement, your voice, and other tools to help you experience yourself in a safe, comfortable setting.  With support, you’ll find that you can allow yourself to feel more, experience more, appreciate more, enjoy more.  When you can have these experiences in the therapy room, they become more possible in the world where you live and work.

Good to know….

An essential part of bioenergetic training is extensive personal bioenergetic therapy.  In bioenergetics, you know that your therapist has been through this very therapy.  This allows us to create a collaboration, in which you develop ways of moving forward in your life, while becoming more fully the person you were meant to be.

Bioenergetic Bodywork:  become vibrantly alive!

Bioenergetic exercise classes are fun!   Exercises are designed to help you get in touch with your body sensations, getting to know and like yourself in a different way.  Exercise classes are not psychotherapy, but helpful for everyone.   Exercise is tailored to your body needs, and incorporates stretching, sustained postures, vocal expression and fun!

During 2012, we’ll be offering FREE monthly bodywork groups on the last Wednesday of the month at Lokamotion Studio, 7-8 pm.  Call to register or just drop in.


Was there anything new and interesting in this post?   drop me a note or post a comment and share….and I hope to see you becoming vibrantly alive!




The space within…

We can be quiet within no matter what is happening in the sensory world.


Many people come into the office complaining that their heads just never stop going.  They have racing thoughts, or even if their thoughts don’t feel like they are racing, people feel like they don’t stop thinking.  There is always something going on inside them, usually in the form of a monologue but sometimes a tune or a song, sometimes a repetitive rhyme, sometimes the sound of another person’s voice.   The main complaint is that there is no peace, no quiet.

People are less likely to be aware of internal “noise” that takes the form of images but that kind of inner activity can get in the way also.   When images are overtly disturbing, then they may jump into a person’s awareness, but often we just go along in our daily lives with this inner movie playing and our inner sound track, often unrelated to each other, and we wonder why we are exhausted and why our lives don’t feel satisfying.

I suggest that all this inner activity is tiring and keeps us from living our real lives in the here and now.  But how to change what’s going on inside?  We have a sense that those inner activities are not ours, that we don’t have any control over them.   Well, if that’s true, then who actually IS controlling what’s going on inside you?   Hmm, that could be a scary question.

Well, let’s assume that it is you.  What has happened is that you have learned a habit.  This is a habit of mind, the continuous thinking or continuous singing or non-stop imaging.   If you pay attention over time, you probably will notice that the content of those thoughts is pretty limited.  You probably only have four or five themes that you harbour, maybe fewer.    When I discovered the fairly boring limits of my unattended thinking patterns, I was shocked and dismayed….so this is what I was spending my life energy on!  My inner life was pretty dull, repetitive, and wasn’t doing much to enhance my living.

Our over-active thinking, because it is a habit of mind, becomes quite comfortable and learning a new habit requires attention.  But it is eminently possible to find a different habit, a different way of being in yourself.   A first step can be to find the space between. By that I mean the space that is between thoughts, between images, between the discrete rush of internal stuff that sometimes threatens to ovewhelm us.

The white space on the page makes reading possible, makes pictures pop into our perception, softens the gaze and allows us to relax a bit as we are reading.  Similarly, the space between our thoughts can help us to notice them, as well as to find peace between them.   But where do you find this space?   For some people, there is space in the mind upon waking in the morning.  Just notice as you are waking up if there is spaciousness and openness in your mind.   Notice that and then look for it during the day.  Another place to find it is when you notice that you have had a thought and you label it:  Oh, that’s a thought.  Right then, right after the labeling, there is a brief moment of openness and space.  If you can continue to pay attention to the spaciousness it will increase in amount.

You can also try a more formal practice of meditation or mindfulness.  If you choose to sit in stillness with yourself,  you thoughts will become more apparent to you.   As thoughts arise, you can say with a smile, Oh, yes, there is a thought …and just let it go.   If you need an image to help with that, you can imagine yourself sitting by the side of a quiet stream.  As a thought arises, you can place it on a floating leaf and watch it float away down the stream.  As it leaves and the image evaporates, notice the emptiness and spaciousness of your mind.

Try it and let me know what you discover.

Chicken and egg take two

Which comes first, the thought or the feeling?  Do our thoughts actually create our feelings?  Or does a sensation in the body give rise to a thought, which would suggest that feelings come first?

One of the things I have learned in my studies is that when you have an apparent dichotomy, you can bring the level of analysis down to a finer view and the dichotomy will disappear.  Okay, that’s a fancy way of saying that most things look different when you take a different point of view.

So ages ago, psychologists theorized that a sensation in the body was just that, until the person gave it a label and then it became an emotion.  Much later, pioneers in the cognitive therapy movement suggested that what we THINK can dramatically affect how we feel;  specifically, we can generate a whole lot of personal distress by thinking distressing thoughts.  That doesn’t address the question of where those thoughts actually arise, though.  Lowen (check out the lowen foundation for his writings, and audio and video recordings….http:// was ahead of his time, really, in pointing out that the neural activity of a thought likely arises from a sensation in the body.   Damasio offers a variety of clinical and scientific support for this…that the FEELING of what happens is what creates our thinking and our behaviour.


Okay, I am getting there.   You know that I love the theoretical but the practical is infinitely more, well, useful.   What it means is that everyone has a piece of the truth.  In your own experience, you can point to times when thinking about something in an unhelpful way has made you feel worse than you were feeling before.  So that part is verifiable with experience.   And when you develop your body awareness so that sensations register on your consciousness, it becomes apparent that there are links between body sensations and at least some of the thoughts that seem to arise spontaneously.   Here’s a pretty crude example:   You start to notice an empty feeling in your belly, and then there are some noises from in there, and at the same time, you suddenly notice that someone in an office down the hall must have popped popcorn (that should be illegal unless they plan to share) and you have a thought…..Maybe I’ll go out for lunch.    It would be hard to argue that the internal sensations, the external stimulation and the thought were unrelated.

Try it…try to see what connections you can find between your thoughts and your body sensations.   Or just your thoughts and your feelings (emotions, or overall mood states).   Notice when your thinking is affecting your feeling state.  Notice what thoughts arise when you experience particular body states.   See if you can figure out which is chicken, and which is egg.

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