what would it feel like to drink again?

Had a major drinking dream last night. It came out of nowhere and was one of those ones that feel totally real, even to the point where I was writing to you guys admitting I had done it and reading the kind messages from people telling me to start over, and others from very upset and vulnerable people who were devastated I had let them down and started drinking again themselves.

 

All I did was pick up a glass of wine and drink it at a party, as simple as that. I picked the glass up and downed it like it was normal. Then had another. The feeling of ‘this is so easy to do’ was terrifying.

 

The feeling after the picking up of the two glasses of red of utter relentless disappointment in myself and the message I had sent to others by starting to drink after all this time was like a thousand cuts.

 

Then the relief on waking and of realising it wasn’t true hit the other end of the joy scale. I don’t know why these dreams happen, but I am guessing it is simply my brain reassuring me that if I restarted, the feelings would be unbearable, so don’t go there.

no drinking

What do you do with your evil twin?

swan

Hi, wanted to share with you some interesting thoughts about our ‘evil twin’ sent to me by my NLP coach:

Hi {Binki}
Have you ever had the privilege of baby sitting? Not something I do regularly but, the times I have, I am often amazed at the range of emotions a toddler can display in just a matter of moments.

Sure, a toddler or baby wouldn’t be classifying their experience in that way, and that my friend is, a real, if not the real skill! They have no concept of what we as adults categorise as an emotion, never mind the labels … think about it!

Adults all too often seem to forget this natural ability, to be able to experience a full range of emotions. As adults we often become accustomed to a less complete range (related to the concept of small ego, should not’s and should’s) and as one consequence, can experience what I will call emotional constipation. I think the term is very appropriate!

As a therapist, change professional or coach, there is often both a tendency to focus on our client feeling good at the end of a session and their outcome focus as some kind of completion. Both of these in my opinion have the potential to distract from the real generative process of change.

Joseph Campbell is very famous, among other things, for the phrase “follow your bliss”. There is another form of this and it is “follow your wound”. I first heard this wonderful statement from Bill O’Hanlon. The real skill here is using either your wound or your bliss to make a genuine and heart felt difference in the world and certainly your own well being.

This to me, means integrating and accepting pain, pleasure and your evil twin, Skippy! Who has a great deal of energy to offer you. If you will welcome them in.

There is a real power to be gained and it’s about acknowledging and welcoming, yes, welcoming your wound, or the parts of you that are pulling against the small ego. There are ways to many therapies and change processes that concentrate on the so called positive. So, what about acknowledging ALL your feelings be the bliss or piss? Welcoming your demons and angels.

Nietzsche said “Beware lest in casting out your demons you cast out the best thing that is in you”. Joseph Campbell said that “So many psycho-analised patients are like filleted fish” – The best part ( the guts ) is missing … Think about it and perhaps you can harness and integrate an incredibly powerful part of yourself.

Here is a little experiment for you to explore and internalise.

Let’s say you have a negative experience, like emotional pain, hurt, guilt, anger, rage, animosity etc … all of these are somatic and are within your body, the feeling is not a concept, it is a feeling!

First, acknowledge your own feelings (anything else will surely lead to a kind of dis association that is IMO ultimately unhelpful). That is feel it and then … welcome the physical sensation. Notice where you feel this sensation.

Notice I am already re-framing a labelled emotional response to a physical feeling.

Then concentrate on the sensation, notice if the sensation is moving or still, and BREATH and then BREATH in and out through the sensation. Welcoming this physical sensation. This is not a 30 second exercise.

What I want you to do is imagine you are breathing in through the place in your body your are experiencing the sensation. And keep breathing, in and out, through this place (or places) and notice consciously if the sensation is static or dynamic, if the sensation is changing or staying the same.

Do this until the sensation passes or until it is really, very different. Concentrate on the sensation and NOT on your descriptions of the sensation (anger, sadness, jubilation, sickness), this is way to conscious mind stuff. The whole aim here is to be mindful of your body sensations and not your conscious mind description of the emotion.

If the sensation moves to some new emotion (well a sensation really) repeat the process. This really is a very deep meditation and is intended to re-orientate us to a skill we all had access to as children. After all there are no pre-verbal babies or toddlers I know of who are sad, angry, depressed, happy, pissed off, expectant, disappointed, worried, anxious or you name it.

In fact, the naming process of emotions was ‘inflicted’ on all of us by someone else, our parents or care givers who were very well meaning. Time to re-write our own feeling interpretation systems?

 

Going over the basics

Thank you to another wonderful swan member for the following post.

I had a really great meditation session yesterday, I was the only one there, fate I think as it was what I really needed. I talked about how I’ve been feeling this week and she suggested going over the basics again, we practiced a simple meditation that I can do anywhere and she also suggested I wrote a check list for myself…so here it is.

1. Stop, breathe, calm yourself.

2. What is going on in my body right now? Where is the tension? What am I feeling right now.

3. Where did these feelings come from, am I aware of what caused them.

4. Challenge the thoughts gently, do not fight them. Feelings and thoughts can’t hurt me.

5. Stay in the present…not worry about what might happen, focus on some small manageable tasks.

6. Ideas for distraction and coping:

Meditate
Note 3 or 300 things I am grateful for
Eat chocolate
Light incense
Take a bath
Talk to someone
Light some candles
Take the dog for a walk
Hoover
Put some music on

7. Don’t be scared of yourself. Be confident that you have the ability to know what is right for you.

8. Remember the end goal! Freedom!

It felt good to just spend time writing this out and I’ve put it in the back of my diary so I can look at it when I need too. My aim this week is to stay in the present moment…there is absolutely no point worrying about what ifs.

seeing the wood for the trees

love

Few people who get into a habit of drinking to excess long term do so for the fun of it, or at least this is something I find when talking to people about the reasons why they drink or drank.  Mostly it was/is to blot out some kind of issue in their lives.  Drinking often starts out as fun/social then becomes a crutch as people get older.

Often having a ‘drink problem’ becomes the focus of the person’s life and they forget, or are not able to identify, what brought on the ‘drink problem’ in the first place.  All they can think of is the fact they are drinking, and the need to stop.  This thought process ‘I must stop drinking’ only ever acts as a superficial address of the real issues, and the original reason(s) for drinking can stay unresolved. The risk of going back to the drinking behaviour is still a factor. What I am trying to say is that often the drinking isn’t the original problem – it is the reasons behind the dependency that need to be tackled if any of us stand any chance of staying sober.

One way to tackle underlying reasons for drinking in my personal experience is to relentlessly focus on the competencies I do have, especially where some of the reasons I originally drank for cannot be changed any time soon (not at least, for now). Where am I doing good in my own life and in others? To think about what I CAN do and what I AM good at makes me stronger.  The smallest of things that work well in my life can be a great comfort when I feel the negatives crowding in.

Sometimes the problems we have in our lives, and we all have them, can seem insurmountable. It is not easy to notice or realise parts of our life where we are competent and doing good because our focus is our problems.  A tight focus on the negative can have a tendency to obscure and minimise everything else that is available to us in terms of feelings, thoughts, past and current experience.

There is a saying that:

‘the best way to hide a tree is to put it in a forest.’

Even the smallest competency can be seen as a basis for changing the apparently insurmountable and if we can realise this by ourselves, then we can and do have the capacity to make beneficial changes.

You may like to consider, like me, exploring that when you may be stuck or constantly recycling the content and meaning of your problems, your experience and perceptions are often confined within quite a tight frame or container.  What methods are available to reconnect to your competencies? In other words, seeing the tree in the forest.

Therapists and coaches often work with a client to ‘out frame’ a problem context and discover or more correctly uncover useful processes within a much larger frame. To facilitate the client developing a strategy enabling them to look at the ‘bigger picture’ or to ‘explore the territory, not just the map’.

They may encourage a client to explore ways to store a treasure trove of processes as resources to deal with perceived problem situations. So when X happens (again!) then I know if I do Y or even Z, I can deal with it.  I can recognise what is happening and bring forward the strategy which successfully worked before to deal with that thing, and use it again.  In terms of dealing with a craving for example, putting particular distraction techniques on repeat, because you know they resolved the cravings successfully in the past.

The had enough feeling

Hello hope you’re fit and well. I finally reached the had enough point with my seesawing weight and mood swings yesterday. It felt very much like the had enough point I reached with drinking, where I just got so fed up with my own behaviour around alcohol that something just flipped.

 

Quite a relief to get to that similar way of thinking about my enduring muffin and muffin attitude,constantly setting myself goals and not reaching them,constantly making fresh decisions and not sticking with them,constantly feeling I was letting myself down. I wrote down endless plans and then promptly ignored them. The only thing that has kept me relentlessly working on my thought processes is the faint hope that I have not completely given up on my health and wellbeing and have something very important to do which never quite goes away.

 

So I got really peed off and the switch just went over on to ‘on’. I realise the regime of quitting dairy, sugar and gluten for a period (not permanent) is really not ideal for a lot of people, but for me reading about the effect these substances may be having on my health has given me a kick really. So yesterday I tried it (just for a day, thinking, like with alcohol) and this morning I feel so very different already. I also take on board the advice about scales and chucking them out, very sensible I know, but personally I need the scales as accountability, and when I weighed myself this morning I was amazed at the results even just after a day.

 

The fact that I had such dramatic side effects and super hard cravings yesterday with not having those three things tells me there is maybe an issue there. Talking to others about food intolerances/sensitivities also suggests to me there may be something in it. So will be persevering and if I carry on feeling like this after just a day I will be a happy bunny. Not recommending this as an answer by the way, I know you know that, but for me it is a journey I am going to try, since nothing else has worked and the had enough feeling is strong right now xxx

 ps, I saw this advertised by Future Learn, a brilliant free online distnace learning platform. Idid their Drugs and Addiction course and it was incredibly informative, so looking forward to this programme too.

Demystify the complex and conflicting messages we hear about diet, health and lifestyle today, with this free online course.
futurelearn.com|By FutureLearn

Mindfulness and the Art of Managing Anger

mike-fisher-main-resized

Mindfulness is a term that has gained increasing awareness in the minds of people in recent years. It’s to do with dropping into yourself, becoming aware, finding a healthy balance between doing and being, becoming fully attentive to the present moment. Engaging fully in what ‘is’ (right now) rather than what ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to be. 
In the context of anger, allowing yourself to feel angry without reacting in any way, remaining open-hearted and empathetic – even though you want to strangle someone!

 Balance Through Mindfulness

By the time people embark on an anger management programme, their lives are so out of balance that anger is simply a manifestation of their state. In order to find balance we need to become mindful and through becoming mindful we create balance. We cannot have one without the other.

I have been holding anger management classes at the British Association of Anger Management (baam) for 15 years, and when I attended a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (mbsr) course in 2006, I discovered I was aligned to the practice and advocating its use to anger sufferers without even realizing it. In my workshops, I was already teaching skills in awareness – the key element of mindful anger management.

Finding the Middle Ground

The basic premise of mindfulness that I teach is to help people who suffer from anger to learn how to delay gratification and tolerate sitting in the discomfort of their feelings – especially anger! When eventually they’re able to do that, they experience a new freedom – the freedom of finding the middle ground. Instead of exploding, they can contain their impulses and express themselves cleanly; or they can find a way to be assertive rather than bottling up and imploding. It is by understanding how our mind works that we can control our anger, and mindfulness is the key.

My Path to Anger Management

I came to this work through my own struggle with one of my biggest issues in life – I could not tolerate conflict and arguments. Today this would be termed ‘conflict avoidant’. Despite my training as a counsellor I had no idea how to deal with conflict, anger or any other form of resolving disputes.

I began to realize that being angry and yet conflict avoidant was an effective way to avoid dealing with the depression I was suffering from. For years I didn’t even realize I was depressed. I had no benchmark or yardstick for determining whether I was depressed or not – I just seemed to be in a perpetual state of confusion, felt isolated, misunderstood, alone and often overwhelmed. Finally, Fritz Perls’ definition of depression being ‘anger turned inwards’ hit home – it struck a chord deep inside me, and I remember thinking that I couldn’t be the only one who felt as furious as I did. There had to be others who felt like me at some point or another. How come people never talked about their feelings of anger? Why were we so disconnected from our anger, considering the challenges we are faced with on a daily basis?

From Avoidance to Expression

It took me years to fully grasp the complexity of how my anger ruled my life. From being the archetypal conflict avoidant and expressing myself passive-aggressively by using provocative comments, or sarcasm, or winding people up, I went to being the full-on, explosive, in-your-face angry man. I won’t deny that I actually loved this new feeling of omnipotence. I had finally found my voice and boy, was I going to make sure everyone heard it. Of course it didn’t work. If anything, it polarized me even more. My inability to self-regulate became my demise. Those who had loved and respected me became afraid of me and started to avoid me. Others just ended up not taking me seriously, which angered me more.

In the end, it was the wise words of my mentor that shifted my perception. He quietly suggested that maybe I needed to experience the two extremes of anger in order to discover where I could stand, and I realized that I did indeed need to live in the centre of these two polarities. I needed to find the balance. I had become so out of control that in order to find this balance I had to experience the full range of expression. To me, that was an incredible revelation and the next big step towards becoming mindful. The fundamental discovery I made was that when I found myself imploding, I needed to navigate towards finding the courage to stand up for myself. When I found myself exploding, I needed to use my mindfulness strategies to contain a potential outburst by reminding myself of the negative consequences. These two polarities became my beacon towards being mindfully vigilant, just in time to pull me back from the brink of emotional and verbal violence.

Opening to Stillness & Solitude

Stillness is anathema to our Western civilization. We live in a world whereby the more activity we’re involved in, the more hip and cool we look and feel. However, the truth is more likely to be that no matter how much we do or are involved in, it will not change the way we perceive ourselves. We simply pay a massive price for our busyness, which is evident in how stressed we are, how exhausted, fatigued and – in more extreme cases – ill. Opening to stillness and solitude is a step towards overcoming this undesirable state.

The Challenge of Relaxing

I remember doing an assessment with a very angry young woman, and I asked her if she ever relaxed. She felt she did, and her partner nodded in agreement; but when I asked if that included switching off her brain, she seemed confused and perplexed as to why she would want to do that. I believe this reflects most people’s understanding of relaxing – it’s about being physically inactive. However, they overlook that while the body is inactive the brain is still racing at a million miles per hour, so they are never truly ‘switched off’.

Almost all the exploders I have ever worked with have absolutely no relationship with relaxation. They are usually highly strung, hot-wired and short-tempered. They get annoyed when you suggest they could chill out, and have zero tolerance for what they see as doing nothing. Obviously there is a correlation between this and their anger.

I completely identify with this position and constantly have to monitor my own urges to steam ahead. This has been one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. A constantly over-active central nervous system meant that slowing down and becoming still was more like an existential death to me than an opportunity to relax. Every time I tried, I judged myself as being too lazy, which then kick-started me straight back 
into ‘doing’ mode.

Mindfulness can allow us to be with the things we fear without being overwhelmed by them. By giving our fears and anxieties our attention, we can shift our relationship with them, rather than compulsively running away.

Meditation as Medicine for the Soul

 The most reliable and immediately accessible way for you to recognize how you are feeling – and therefore in turn make a judgement call on how well equipped you are to manage the day – is to tune in to your body. Being mindful of your energy levels, stresses and strains and general well-being gives you an indication of what you are, or perhaps will not be, capable of facing. All it takes is some time to train your brain and get into the practice of using your body sensations to guide you. Meditation is the ideal tool.

Situations will be ever more mismanaged if you cannot approach them from a place of being resourced and maintaining a certain neutrality. In an ideal world we would all love to be able to maintain that sense of calm and objectivity – but we are not in control of our external environment. We can, however, have a certain measure of control over our internal environment. So, when we find ourselves about to 
fly off the handle we have to bring our awareness to the situation and recognize that we have choices. I’m the first to acknowledge how difficult it is to step back and slow things down when your heart and body are surging with stress hormones and adrenaline.

By learning to manage your neurotic impulses through applying what you learn through mindfulness training and letting the noise settle, you will eventually become increasingly open to stillness and silence. I find it amazing that my whole being now yearns for this, and without it I would find it impossible to remain relaxed and happy. Stillness and silence have become nourishing friends, and solitude a welcome retreat.

Mike Fisher  Mike Fisher is a trained counsellor, facilitator and anger management consultant, and the founder of the British Association of Anger Management (BAAM). He is the author of Mindfulness & the Art of Managing Anger, published by Leaping Hare Press, £8.99.

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Is there a mathematical formula for happiness?

It would be so easy to achieve happiness if we could apply a mathematical formula. Like working out the area of a room in order to lay carpet. Multiply x by y and you end up with z. If only there weren’t so many variables requiring brackets and indices….

 
Yet there does seem to be a pattern or sequence of some kind relating personal happiness with congruence…the more congruent each area of our lives become, the more personal happiness we experience. While I am rubbish at algebra, I cannot help thinking that a better grasp of mathermatical equations would help me achieve the answers I am looking for.

 
A formula for happiness could be surprising yet simply revolutionary when one considers how much many of us put up with in order to ensure the happiness of others and sacrifice our own congruence in the process.

 
I suspect I may not be alone in brushing over areas of my life which are decidedly not congruent and yet I keep going because it is easier to stay unhappy than make major changes in my life. I blame myself for not making things work, not succeeding, when actually I am trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

 
Getting sober throws up a great many conundrums about congruence. In the drinking days it was a lot simpler – one got drunk to cover boredom, fatigue, frustration, disillusionment, took the hangover on the chin and kept going. As a sober person, the areas of my life which were/are not congruent become more obvious and less easy to ignore. No wonder a good many people experience the ‘fuck it’ syndrome and decide conscious awareness is just too painful/inconvenient/disappointing to bear sober.

 
Humans have a tendency to categorise areas of their life, and shun the overlaps, but compartmentalising does sometimes make it easier to identify where changes could be made to improve personal happiness. Some experts suggest:
• Career
• Relationships ( friends, partner, clients )
• Professional Achievements
• Parenthood
• Financial Freedom
• ‘Projects’
There are many more both general and specific categories which might apply to you as an individual, so these are not meant to be directive, instead suggestive.
From my own point of view I am doing a little audit currently and asking myself in each of my personal categories:

 

What do I want in / from ‘CATEGORY?’
What do I need in / from ‘CATEGORY?’
What do I expect in / from ‘CATEGORY?’

I am allowing myself any number of possible answers and considering the results, to see which feel most congruent. Which are wants and which are needs for me and which are to satisfy other people’s expectations, and indeed which may be a combination of both. If you are doing this, try grading your answers on a numerical scale (maths can be handy sometimes).

 
Be aspirational and allow yourself to dream. Where answers about ideal scenarios are above a 7 for example, that is a great place to begin asking some questions…How do I want / need / expect this to happen?

 
Where your scores in your personal categories are very low, you may wish to ask yourself…What is valuable to / for me in having this fairly low score? What personal values are actually being preserved?

 

Asking myself pretty searching and basic questions is really an exercise in unpacking previously undefined needs, wants and expectations. Things that have been buzzing about in my head for years but I have never managed to pin them down, because frankly, asking the questions has been too scary. Upsetting the status quo, no matter how unhappy that status quo makes me, has been a step too far. Yet are insights into wanting, needing and expecting not worth having, in order to achieve greater personal happiness? Might there by new and different ways to do things which could lead to more personal congruence?
What about you?

 

Warmest wishes, Binki