Author: <span>Michele Engelke</span>

How to access the healing power of grief

Grief is a biological and emotional/psychological healing process. We go through it to process our losses, regardless of their nature. Those who open themselves to grief, experience emotional and even physical pain. As no grieving process is alike, some might experience it more intensely than others. While some connect more easily with anger and guilt, others might struggle to feel anything other than deep sadness. While there is no right way of grieving, its healing power is universal.

How to access the healing power of grief
To access the healing power of grief, you need to nurture a mindful attitude

Unfortunately for those who agree on the benefits of grieving, awareness alone does not make connecting with this process any easier. Thinking it is a good idea to go grieve does not lead you there. Listening to sad songs might not trigger it either. That is because grief is sneaky, it hits you when you least expect – when you are clothes shopping or eating your dinner, for instance. It is also slippery; it escapes your grip when all you want is to control it.

To access the healing power of grief, you need to nurture a mindful attitude to the changes you experience in your body. Bodily sensations carry precious information not only about our physiology, but also about our feelings. Sadness and anger – grief’s main emotions – have their way of expressing themselves. Think about how you feel when you experience both. Make a mental inventory of the negative bodily sensations you connect with feeling sad, such as heaviness in your upper body, pressure in your chest and feeling like you have a lump in your throat and tears behind your eyes. Do the same with anger.

Once that knowledge is at the front of your awareness, it will be hard not to connect with grief when it strikes. As you notice its presence, turn your attention to it. Drop what you are doing and sit with it, literally. If for any reason that is not possible – you are at work or busy with something important – make a mental note to connect with it later. Do not leave it for another day but make time for feeling what comes up – whether it is anger, sadness or guilt – as soon as you can.

Taking time to grieve when you notice its presence is the best strategy to heal. An honest and proactive attitude also helps you through your healing journey. Approaching your grieving process with openness and without shame supports mental health and sets a wonderful example of maturity and strength to those who are influenced by you.

5 strategies for coping with parental emotional neglect

5 strategies for coping with parental emotional neglect
If you feel inadequate when you share your feelings with your parents, that means they are not suitable to give you emotional support

Emotionally neglectful parents fail to properly see, feel and hear their children. Consequently, their children often crave attention, validation and support, even in their adult years. Although such needs are reasonable, adult children of emotionally neglectful parents’ insistence on having them met by their parents perpetuates unhappiness and disappointment. If that behaviour seems familiar, here are 5 strategies for coping with parental emotional neglect to help you get out of that cycle:

1- Let go of the ideal family fantasy: most of us were conditioned to believe that our families are the first and most reliable sources of safety, love and support. That is a fantasy. Even though some experience safety and security while connecting emotionally with their family, others feel ignored and alienated by their self-absorbed and emotionally immature parents, which has a negative impact on their emotional development. If you grew up in an environment of emotional neglect, keeping the ideal family fantasy alive through always hoping that one day your parents will change and honour how you feel is counterproductive.

2- Get the support you need from emotionally mature individuals: if you feel invisible, insignificant or inadequate when you share your feelings with your parents, that means they are not suitable to give you the emotional support you seek. When feelings of hope try to convince you otherwise, do not entertain them. Go talk to an emotionally mature friend instead. If you do not have one, hire a therapist.

3- Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries: whatever is going on with your parents has nothing to do with you, most of the time. Their lack of interest in you does not mean you are uninteresting. Their difficulty to connect emotionally started way before you were born. Therefore, draw a line between you and them. Remain in your body, especially when around them, and do not feed the narrative that you are the reason for their emotionally neglectful behaviour.

4- Practice self-love: as a mature adult, you no longer depend on your parents to feel loved, competent and good enough. You can get those needs met through relationships with things and people outside your family circle. Friends, loving partners, pets, colleagues, neighbours, and even random people you come across have their ways of showing respect and love for you. A rich spiritual life or beliefs that help you cultivate a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself also give you a sense of belonging and inner safety.

5- Practice emotional maturity: break the habit of relying on external factors to feel better about yourself and start honouring your own emotions. To deal with the anger and sadness you carry as effects of your relational trauma, allow time to process your grief. Having a good cry when the need arises and expressing your anger creatively or through exercise are healthy means of regulating your emotions.

If you suffered trauma from emotional neglect and need professional help to heal, contact me to book an appointment and find out more about Attachment-Focused EMDR therapy.

Self-sabotaging or tired of chasing happiness?

As life dissatisfaction sets in, you start wondering why. After all, there must be something you have not done that made that feeling arise. Have you been working hard enough on achieving all your goals? Is there something missing that could make you happier and more fulfilled? If your answer is no to the former and yes to the latter, you might consider self-sabotage.

When you study the term “self-sabotage”, be it online or in a self-help library, you find it largely connected to the themes of professional growth and entrepreneurship. Self-sabotage is highly associated with failure in achieving success, or as Brenner (2019) puts it

“Self-sabotage occurs when we destroy ourselves physically, mentally, or emotionally or deliberately hinder our own success and wellbeing by undermining personal goals and values.”

The problem of “self-sabotage” does not exist in a vacuum, but it stems from a culture of finding happiness via “success” and “achievement”. Such culture has its eyes on the ultimate goal, while it ignores the journey. It limits our appreciation of experience to the attainment of material goods and validation. As happiness seekers, we become dependent on good feelings – triggered by external factors – to nurture a sense wholeness and life engagement.

Self-sabotaging or tired of chasing happiness
Are you tired of chasing after happiness?

So let’s go back to you wondering where it all went wrong. According to the self-sabotage theory, all you need to overcome your dissatisfaction is to roll up your sleeves and get something done. But what if your body knows better? What if it secretly understands that even if you achieve all your goals and feel a surge of happiness, you will eventually go back to your personal baseline? Organically and without your awareness of “the hedonic treadmill”, it has decided to get off it.

Before rushing to dismiss your bodies’ wisdom, take a moment to sit with your discomfort. Become the observer of your own feelings without engaging with them. Notice their natural ebb and flow, without being swayed by them. With openness and curiosity, surrender to the moment alternating the focus of your attention from your inner to outer experience. As your concentration becomes more intense, notice how perception changes, moment by moment. As you feel more present with what is, invite a sense of acceptance and contentment into your body. After a couple of minutes, start contemplating life again. Do you still feel a burning need for change?

Reference:

Brenner, B. P. (2019). Stop sabotaging yourself: Tips for getting out of your own way. Therapy Group of NYC. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from https://nyctherapy.com/therapists-nyc-blog/stop-sabotaging-yourself-tips-for-getting-out-of-your-own-way/

8 signs of emotional immaturity

8 signs of emotional immaturity
Emotionally immature people do poorly at self-soothing

Victims of developmental/childhood trauma often believe they “attract the wrong people”, as their family relationships do not make for good reference of well-being and emotional growth. If you identified with this vulnerability and would like to break the cycle of dysfunctional relationships, here are 8 signs of emotional immaturity:

1- Mental rigidity: emotionally immature individuals hold rigid beliefs about themselves, the world and others that do not evolve over time. Their black and white thinking does not allow them to see beyond right or wrong and good or bad. They have low tolerance for ambiguity, risk taking and making mistakes. Due to their inflexible mindset, they do not respect individuality and are weak at honouring boundaries.

2- Poor emotional regulation: emotionally immature people do poorly at self-soothing. Their neglectful attitude to their emotional health makes them suffer from depression, anxiety and or pent-up anger over a long period. Their low discomfort tolerance leads them to do what is best for them without considering the effects on others or the benefits of delaying gratification.

3- High subjectivity: the emotionally immature do not nurture the habit of distancing themselves from their own perception to allow for more neutral analyses and interpretations. They are driven by rigid beliefs and strong emotions.

4- Lack of accountability: Emotionally immature people are highly motivated by shame and have a victim mentality. They do not own their mistakes or apologise for them.

5- Egocentrism: emotionally immature people need to be the centre of attention. therefore, they spend excessive time absorbed in themselves and worrying about themselves. In addition, they have a habit of using themselves as a reference, displaying narcissistic traits.

6- Childish behaviour: Emotionally immature individuals expect others to act in mature ways for them. Their love partners feel pressured to do the hard work for them, such as confronting others and making decisions. Children of emotionally immature parents are forced to act like their parents# parent to feel safe (role reversal/parentification).

7- Fear of intimacy: vulnerability and emotional connection trigger insecurity in the emotionally immature. When “forced” to connect with their inner selves, as well as with others, they feel inadequate and overwhelmed. They deal with their discomfort by changing the subject (flight), shutting down/not engaging (freeze), and/or reacting aggressively (fight).

8- Low empathy: Due to their mental rigidity, poor emotional regulation, high subjectivity, lack of responsibility, self-centeredness and fear of intimacy, emotionally immature people are insensitive to others’ feelings.

Emotional immaturity is an effect of developmental trauma. If you experienced neglect or emotional abuse as a child and identified with the above, healing your trauma wounds can help you approach life and relationships with balance and maturity.

What I have experienced from meditating for 3 hours a day for 4 weeks

This is what happens when you meditate for 3 hours a day
What would happen if you tried meditating for long hours every day?

When I started meditating back in 2015, it was not easy to incorporate a regular practice into my daily routine. Perseverance finally paid off after long months of stubborn dedication, when sitting for 20 to 40 minutes every day turned essential for my wellbeing. It has been 7 years since my first sitting, and I have learned much about myself through experimentation with different types of meditation. I have found that long sittings – for over 90 minutes – seem to affect my thinking, emotions and behaviour in ways never experienced by me before. That aroused my curiosity. What would happen if I tried meditating for long hours every day? The following are the changes I have experienced from meditating for 3 hours a day for 4 weeks:

Less reactivity: mediating for long hours has allowed me to experience serenity in a natural way. Negative emotions come and go in short waves. Because their intensity has become much lower, they have become more tolerable.

Fewer negative thoughts: there is a time during a long sitting when my mind becomes completely quiet. Thoughts about the future and reassessment of past events are replaced by a sense of being in my mind and body, often felt as one. At times, I also feel that sense of unity with the environment. After a practice is over and in between practices, negative thoughts seem to continue to lose their power. They occur less frequently and seem irrelevant when noticed.

Better concentration: due to decreased emotional reactivity and greater emotional detachment, my brain feels less rigid and more plastic. As if meditation nurtured a cognitive state of flow. I seem to be able to retrieve, analyse, process and organise knowledge faster and with more ease.

More patience: living a slow-paced life makes perfect sense when practicing meditation for long hours. I am able to connect with my environment as if autopilot had been turned off. I drive more slowly and enjoy noticing my surroundings without feeling restless. I also take more time to listen to others without a burning need to say something.

Better sleep: for someone who has battled insomnia for most of her life, I welcome healthy habits that favour sleep. A 3-hour a day meditation practice has not cured my insomnia, but it has considerably improved my relationship with it. I no longer have strong negative reactions if I wake up in the middle of the night, so I go back to sleep a lot quicker.

More confidence: experiencing fewer negative thoughts and greater detachment from negative emotions has allowed me to see things more clearly. A calmer and more balanced approach to life has made me feel unashamedly intelligent, awake, tranquil, tolerant and mature.

Detachment from material goods: I feel no need to buy what I do not need.

Worry about “wasting time”: despite all the above, my inner critic still gives me grief about my 3-hour meditation practice. The more I stick to it, however, and enjoy its benefits, the less I care about the critic’s silly comments.

I do not know how long I will manage to keep this practice up, or if it will ever become a habit, but its effects have been undoubtedly positive.

4 signs of friendship burnout

4 signs of friendship burnout
Losing interest in the other is a sign of friendship burnout

Despite its severe connotation, friendship burnout is an actual thing. We are all susceptible to it, but recovering codependents, or people who find it hard to honour their boundaries, may experience it with greater frequency. Here are 4 signs of friendship burnout to increase your awareness of its effects on behaviour:

You feel exhausted: the relationship has become too intense and/or one-sided. You feel drained from spending too much time with your friend, even if they do not feel the same way. This can lead to a sense of overwhelm, especially when boundaries are not respected. You often feel guilty when saying no to your friend, and a sense of obligation to keep prioritising their needs.

You have lost interest: you struggle to connect with your friend in a way that feels pleasurable, meaningful, or rewarding to you. Your values, ideas and interests have changed and no longer match your friend’s. You start making excuses not to see them or worry about coming up with “good enough” reasons for not meeting up with them.

You have outgrown the friendship: you have grown and developed as a person, but your friend has not. As the current version of you no longer suits the friendship, you feel pressured to act inauthentically in order to maintain it.

You feel powerless: as you have changed, but the relationship dynamic has not, you feel a growing sense of pessimism about the future of the friendship. You consider expressing how you feel to your friend, but you feel hopeless about the outcome. As a result, you start fantasizing about reducing or even cutting contact.

If you have identified with the above, it is a good time to revaluate your friendship. While connecting with others can promote life engagement, dysfunctional relationships make us feel disconnected from our true selves. Consider taking a break from the friendship if it feels like too much hard work. Remind yourself that you are allowed to change your preferences and lead a balanced, peaceful life.