Category: <span>Self-confidence</span>

Self-care requires effort

Self-care requires effort
Meditation, breathing exercises and personal grooming are all examples of self-care practices

It is usual for those invested in their mental and physical health to know a thing or two about self-care. As a trauma counsellor, I talk to my clients openly about the importance of a self-care routine. A self-care routine comprises regular practices that promote wellbeing. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, eating healthily, walking and personal grooming are all examples of self-care practices. When you incorporate them successfully into your daily routine, you can say you practice good self-care. Those who practice self-care regularly feel more balanced and less susceptible to emotional overwhelm.

If looking after ourselves does us so much good, why don’t we all do it? Why do we need to be reminded by our therapists to stick to a self-care routine? Because self-care, for most of us, requires effort. Treating oneself with care might not come naturally, especially for those who suffered neglect and abuse growing up. Complex trauma victims tend to have a complicated relationship with their bodies. For such individuals, neglecting and even abusing themselves may feel more instinctual than delaying gratification to prioritise long term health.

Hypervigilance – a very common effect of childhood trauma – makes one feel constantly on high alert or stuck on fight or flight mode. Those who suffer from hypervigilance are prone to armouring (tension in various parts of the body), excessive worrying and anxiety. Hypervigilant bodies are also restless and impatient. Therefore, daily meditation for someone with hypervigilance is a huge effort. In such cases, focusing on the breath and observing thoughts without judgement feels counterintuitive, when all one wants to do is to get up and do something else. When you do not feel safe in your body, your instinct is to escape it.

If you are a developmental/childhood trauma survivor, or you have suffered neglect and/or abuse growing up, it is important to be kind to yourself. Just because self-care is good for you, it does not mean it is easily done. Chances are you will find it hard to incorporate it into your daily routine, and then find it harder to maintain it. Do not give up. Most importantly, do not punish yourself for not being able to get it right, right away. Give yourself time. You are teaching your body a new trick – something it does not know – so give it time to learn and get used to it. With time, you will start enjoying to benefits of treating yourself with care, love and respect. Be patient and trust the process.

Emotional connection through recognition of bodily sensations

Emotional connection through recognition of bodily sensations
Emotions are felt as bodily sensations

You do not have to hold a high coefficient of emotionally intelligence to connect with your body and emotions confidently. To foster the ability to notice what you are feeling, it is helpful to understand how emotions are felt as bodily sensations. Although your intuition is very powerful and no formal study is required to recognise your feelings, some struggle to fully trust it. With the help of some interesting research findings, however, this article may help you perceive emotions as more than abstract concepts, but as concrete bodily experience.

As Hartmann et al (2021)[i] explain in “Valence-Related Bodily Sensation Maps of Emotions”, high arousal emotions, or those triggered by the flight or fight response – such as fear and anger – lead to heaviness in the body. While non-pleasant emotions make us feel heavy, pleasant ones – such as love and happiness – have been connected to sensations of lightness and activation. You will find the areas where lightness and heaviness are felt in the body and the emotions with which they are associated below, in increasing order of heaviness (depression being the “heaviest” emotion, heavier than sadness):

Surprise: lightness in the head, upper chest and arms

Neutral: neither light nor heavy

Love: lightness in the whole body, but more intensely in the face

Happiness: lightness in the whole body, but more intensely in the upper body, especially head and chest areas

Pride: lightness in the head – especially upper face – and upper body

Fear: heaviness in the head, neck, throat and shoulders, upper and lower chest, and belly areas

Disgust: heaviness in the face, mouth, throat, upper and lower chest, and belly

Shame: heaviness in the head, neck, throat and shoulders, upper and lower chest, as well as belly area

Anger: heaviness in the head, neck, throat and shoulders, upper and lower chest, belly and hands

Contempt: heaviness in the head, throat, upper chest and hands

Envy: heaviness in the head, upper and lower chest areas

Anxiety: heaviness in the head, neck, throat and shoulders, upper and lower chest, and belly area

Sadness: heaviness in the whole body, but more intensely in the upper body, especially head and chest areas

Depression: heaviness in the whole body, but more intensely in the upper body, especially head and chest areas

Amongst the practices that facilitate connection with the body and boost awareness of self and others are mindfulness meditation (for a body scan meditation, please click here), yoga, breathing and grounding exercises, as well as therapeutic approaches which are rich in somatic interventions, such as Attachment-Focused EMDR (AF-EMDR).

[i] Hartmann, M., Lenggenhager, B., & Stocker, K. (2021, March 3). Happiness feels light, sadness feels heavy: introducing valence-related bodily sensation maps of emotions.

130 emotion concepts to refresh your vocabulary

130 emotion concepts to refresh your vocabulary
Emotion concepts help you create a more empowering perception of reality

Emotions not only help you make sense of what is going on in your own body, but also influence your perception of what lies outside yourself, as the environment and others, in a creative and empowering way. Therefore, the more specialised your vocabulary for feelings and emotional states, the greater your understanding of your inner experience, as well as your ability to transform your perception of reality. To approach your emotional world from a more specialised, yet non-complicated perspective, here are 130 emotion concepts to refresh your vocabulary:

Acceptance, admiration, adoration, agitation, amazement amusement, anger, anguish, annoyance, anticipation, anxiety, appalled, apprehension, awe

Betrayed, bitterness

Certainty, concern, confidence, conflicted, confusion, connectedness, contempt, curiosity

Defeat, defensiveness, defiant, denial, depressed, desire, despair, desperation, determination, devastation, disappointment, disbelief, discouraged, disgust, disillusionment, dissatisfaction, doubt, dread

Eagerness, elation, emasculated, embarrassment, empathy, envy, euphoria, excitement

Fear, fearlessness, flustered, frustration

Gratitude, grief, guilt

Happiness, hatred, homesick, hopefulness, horror, humbled, humiliation, hurt, hysteria

Impatience, inadequate, indifference, insecurity, inspired, intimidated, irritation


Loneliness, longing, love, lust

Moody, moved

Neglected, nervousness, nostalgia

Obsessed, overwhelmed

Panic, paranoia, peacefulness, pity, pleased, powerlessness, pride

Rage, regret, relief, reluctance, remorse, resentment, resignation

Sadness, sappy, satisfaction, shadenfreude, scorn, self-loathing, self-pity, shame, shock, scepticism smugness, somberness, stunned, surprise, suspicion, sympathy

Terror, tormented

Unappreciated, uncertainty, unease

Validated, valued, vengeful, vindicated, vulnerability

Wanderlust, wariness, wistful, worry, worthlessness

To benefit from emotion concepts as the ones listed above, increase self-awareness and create a habit of monitoring and naming your emotional and feeling states. When sensing non-pleasantness and/or high arousal or stress, make a conscious effort to use as many emotion concepts as needed to explain what you are experiencing, but proactively and not – purely – reactively. When the same is applied simultaneously to pleasant feelings and emotional states, you learn how to tolerate ambiguity and connect with a more balanced self. With time, this practice also has a direct impact on negative bias, reducing its power, and what is more, enriching your perception of your own experience and validating your role as its creator. If the idea that our brains create reality and do not simply react to what lies outside ourselves appeals to you, I recommend reading the brilliant “How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain” by Lisa Feldman Barrett.

Common negative beliefs of C-PTSD sufferers

Common negative beliefs of C-PTSD sufferers
Complex PTSD sufferers struggle to think and feel positively

C-PTSD sufferers display a view of themselves, the world and others through the distorted lens of complex trauma. Complex trauma victims struggle to maintain an objective and neutral perspective due to the negative adverse experiences that shaped their neurobiology and ability to live in the present without an exaggerated need to protect themselves against further hurt. If you believe that to be your case, it is helpful to identify the beliefs that perpetuate a sense of unsafety, hopelessness, powerlessness, disconnection and isolation, such as the ones mentioned below:

I am damaged goods.

I have no control over my emotions.

I am alone in this world.

I cannot trust anyone.

When things seem to be working out for me, I should expect something bad to follow.

If anyone finds out who I truly am, they will leave me.

I am unable to feel okay with whom I am.

I am not safe.

Nobody understands me.

I am cursed.

Intimate relationships are sources of pain, therefore, they should be avoided.

My mental health problem is beyond healing.

I am unable to make relationships work.

I am crazy.

I will never be able to do well in life like other people.

I have no control over my own body.

A few people might like me, but they do not know the real me because if they did, they would not.

I am less than others.

Things are harder for me than for other people.

I must make sure to always avoid people, things and situations that trigger me.

I will never feel free from my abuser(s).

I am powerless against my abuser(s).

I will only overcome my trauma if I manage to distance it from my mind completely.

I will only overcome my trauma if I manage not to feel any emotions related to it completely.

All my dysfunctional behaviours are effects of my trauma.

I cannot manage the effects of my trauma.

I will only feel okay once my abuser(a) is(are) dead.

When things get tough, it is best to move away from the problem.

Others see me differently because of what I went through.

Things will never work out for me.

As rigid beliefs like the ones listed above fail to make justice to our complexity, as well as our ability to manage vulnerabilities and live a fulfilling life, I would highly recommend you to take time challenging the ones that resonate, somehow, with your own thinking. If you need help to understand why they are dysfunctional and how to refer to them as such, click here to access my list of cognitive errors.

Regulating fear of abandonment: a closer look at the role of shame

Regulating fear of abandonment, a closer look at the role of shame
Fear of abandonment is felt when expression of the authentic self leads to feelings of inadequacy

Developmental/childhood trauma victims often struggle with fear of abandonment.  Fear of abandonment is felt in relational contexts when expression of the authentic self leads to feelings of inadequacy. Genuine self-expression, on the other hand, is experienced when thinking, feelings and behaviours occur in a congruent manner. When one is in the process of grieving a recent loss, for instance, and feels sad, looks subdued and avoids social contact, there is consistency between how he or she thinks, feels and behaves. Emotionally neglectful and abusive parents, however, do not foster a healthy connection with emotions, especially when negative. This is observed when they consistently criticise, blame and even punish their children for having and expressing emotions such as anger and sadness. Children exposed to this maladaptive parental attitude towards negative emotions, then learn how to associate their expression to feelings of rejection, shame and loss of affection.

If parental love is conditional and, therefore, not available when children feel frustrated and sad, make a mistake, or fail to fulfil expectations, their shame triggers a sense of unsafety. This mechanism is not only at play when they are young, however, but also throughout their adult years. In practice, this tendency is easily observed in adults’ emotionally dependant behaviours such as people pleasing and denial of individual needs to secure a partnership. The urge to be liked by everyone through repression of negative emotions and wants is highly motivated by a fear of the drastic consequences that would supposedly follow their emotional freedom and acts of self-assertion, namely, loss of love and attachment.

Since the link between shame and fear of abandonment is so intimate and detrimental to mental health, it is vital to highlight its influence on people’s ability to create functional relationships that allow them to be themselves and build strong emotional connections. If you do not feel good enough to connect with your own body, understand and honour your needs because you are afraid of the effect that that might have on others, I highly recommend to challenge the dysfunctional beliefs that are feeding your fear of abandonment. First, it is not your duty to make others’ existence free of emotional discomfort. Secondly, would you like to keep a relationship with someone who only validates their own interests, needs and wants? And finally, do you not think yourself worthy of your own? If you do believe to be good enough for you, practice tolerating the shame that arises from acting in an authentic way until it becomes a trait from a much more confident, happier you.

For recovering codependents: tools to successfully say no

For the recovering codependent tools to successfully say no
Learning how to say no helps you overcome codependency

If you are codependent, your sense of safety and identity rely on your ability to please and be liked by others. Codependents are also emotionally dependent because they use other people to regulate negative feelings and emotions. Because of their history of relational trauma, they often feel anxious in the context of relationships. In order to ease that emotional discomfort, they turn their attention outside their selves and focus on making others feel good. When codependents’ perceptions of others in relation to them is one of approval, they feel worthy and lovable, which makes their state of unease more manageable.

This tendency makes it almost impossible for codependents to feel at peace with themselves when saying no. For that reason, they avoid it as much as they can. This turns them into “Yes men and women” who sacrifice their happiness and wellbeing for others, not necessarily because they are “nice”, “kind”, “helpful” and “friendly”, but because their behaviour is greatly motivated by insecurity and a fear of rejection and abandonment.

So how can a recovering codependent break that habit and start prioritising their own needs, wants and interests without feeling guilty, afraid and ashamed? By saying no and tolerating the discomfort. Tolerating inadequacy and just sitting with it, feeling it while observing it without judgement and, most importantly, resisting the urge to act, is one of the greatest skills of the emotionally autonomous. The emotionally mature can say no also because of their understanding that affecting others in negative ways – even when unintentionally – is human and unavoidable. Safe in that knowledge, they tolerate their own discomfort as well as others’, while freeing themselves of the incoherent burden of making others’ existence pain free.

Due to our ability to feel and process negative feelings and emotions, we are equipped to handle the disappointment that might arise from being refused or denied something we want. Therefore, if you are trying to overcome your codependency by not agreeing with everyone and everything that is asked of you, start saying no and practicing sitting with the discomfort that that behaviour tends to trigger. Resist the urge to go back on what you have said, change your mind, explain your reasons for acting the way you do, apologise and compromise, and just accept that your body needs time to adjust to a new attitude. With patience and perseverance, your assertiveness will enable the authentic self to flourish, which once fully felt and experienced, revolutionises – in a much healthier and functional way – your ability to think, act and feel independently.