Are You A Giver Or A Taker In Your Relationships?

6956173-girl-hands-daisy-flowers-summer-moodSome people live life being just on the take – looking at what they can get out of every situation. They’re also not interested in doing something unless they get something in return.

In some way none of us will do anything unless we get something out of it but true joy in life comes from giving without a guarantee of receiving anything in return. Like unconditional love.

If you find yourself being conditional in the gifts you give people i.e. I gave you x, you owe me y then your gift was not given unconditionally.

From taker to dictator

I think self-centered people often wind up taking the Dictator role in relationships. Especially if they’re paired with a giver. This is where `who gets what and how much` is always determined by the taker, the other partner gets whatever the taker decides they’ll get. And that’s that.

This inevitably leads to unhappiness for the taker’s partner. And a failing relationship.

You can’t take and win

This fascinating study ‘Reciprocity is Not Give and Take’ illustrates a powerful reason why takers kill relationships. With a series of experiments, a team at the University of Chicago found that when it comes to social relationships, including intimate relationships, when one side gives, the other side can give equally and both parties feel satisfied.

But when one side takes, and then in return the other side takes the same or receives something of equal value, then the dictator (sorry I mean the taker) is the only happy one left. The other party who was initially taken from is still not happy. It’s just human nature.

So to sum this up, the only relationship that can work and flourish is two givers. But watch out, there are still ways being a giver can be bad for you.

Be a giver, not a record-keeping matcher

Make sure you’re a giver, and not a matcher – someone who remembers every little thing they gave and expects the equal amount in return, or they’re just not happy. This Psychology Today article explains the matcher nicely.

Very often such matchers don’t even express all the things they feel the other party owes them and they become martyrs – always giving, giving, giving and feeling sad and frustrated because the world just isn’t giving back. See my earlier post on martyrs here. Don’t become one!

Givers can be taken advantage of

In any relationship the giver is the happiest and also potentially the unhappiest.

Just make sure you’re with another giver, not a taker or a matcher. And the best way to be is always strive to give unconditionally, expecting nothing in return. Except perhaps that warm feeling of giving to someone you love.

Give from the heart because you want to. I think you’ll agree that’s true love and the foundation of something beautiful.

How to know you’re receiving unconditional love

And at the same time respect yourself, don’t be taken disadvantage of and make sure you’re receiving unconditional love too. Not in a tit-for-tat way. But just be aware of it.

When you’re conscious of this you’ll know if your partner is playing the role of a taker and dictator. And you can communicate it to them if they are, because they’re probably unaware of it.

When your partner gives love and is happy, regardless, you know it’s no strings attached giving. And when you mess up, make poor choices, get in your partner’s way, take a wrong turn or sabotage your own happiness and you’re partner’s not disappointed or irritated. And stays right with you, without judging or punishing. That’s another sign you’re not with a taker.

So, are you a taker or a giver in your relationships?

Share your thoughts!

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Got a Gut Feeling? Your Gut Might Cause ALL Your Feelings!

lose-belly-fat1Do you ever get a gut feeling about something? I was fascinated to learn that our gut and the health of our gut plays a huge role in how we feel.

Almost as much, perhaps even as much, as our minds do.

We spend all our time working our brain and the rest of our body to boost our emotions, but we may be ignoring half the cause of problems. Isn’t it exciting to think that we can literally feel happier and emotionally stronger, even boost our immune system and overall health, just by taking better care of our gut?

If you’re feeling down, anxious, depressed, or just want a big old boost of happiness-inducing serotonin, it turns out your gut most likely has a huge influence over it all, as its proposed in this very entertaining Huffington Post article.

The little friends in your second brain

You’ve probably heard of our friends the ‘good bacteria’ battling it out against the ‘bad bacteria’ in our digestive tract – our second brain. Well, the state of these micro flora and how well the good bacteria are doing determines a whole host of health-related factors.

For example, good bacteria decides how well the toxic by-products of your digestion are neutralized and whether harmful pathogenic bacteria or other substances are prevented or allowed to grow. And it determines how much hormone production there is and many other factors that affect the health of your immune system.

Did you know you have two nervous systems too?

SetWidth700-ADMA-Blog-GUT-FEELING-OR-ANALYTICS-Vlad-Andrianov-V2That’s right. You have two nervous systems – one is the central nervous system we all know and love, which is in your brain and spinal cord. But you also have the ‘enteric’ nervous system, which is in your gastrointestinal tract – your gut.

Through this whole system your brain and gut are connected and the bacteria in your gut sends messages to the brain through the nervous system. These messages affect your mood, and you know the surprising part?

Your gut sends your brain more messages than the other way around. Your gut sends instructions on how to make you feel all day long. And since we can influence those messages, it’s something we should pay attention to, wouldn’t you agree?

Happiness, anxiety and depression

You have neurons in your gut, which is another reason we call it the second brain. And these neurons produce neurotransmitters like serotonin – the primary chemical responsible for your feelings of well-being and happiness. We all know that, right?

But here’s another surprise. Serotonin is found in larger quantities in the gut than in the brain. So let’s influence our primary serotonin-producing environment in our gut and make more of it!

You may have experienced stomach pains or irritable bowel syndrome during times of great anxiety. There’s clearly a strong relationship between anxiety and the health of our gut.

There is even a strong line of scientific work proposing that certain probiotics can affect levels of proinflammatory cytokines and tryptophan in the gut, which have been implicated in depression.

OK, I get it! So how do I start improving my gut?!” I hear you ask.

Well, that’s the next stage of my investigation. And don’t worry, I’ll share my findings with you as I go.

Perhaps you already have some ideas.

Share them with us!

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Don’t Hate the Love Month, Learn to Love It!

tumblr_mi7851G9Nl1qlo84oo1_500The love month is upon us, and some people hate it because they are single. Is this you?

Well, time to cheer up – here’s how anyone can learn to love the love month. The thing to remember is that a romantic relationship is not just about sex. It’s about intimacy too, in all its many guises.

Love and intimacy are actually around you all the time in different forms. The problem is, as human beings in our society, we are attached to love or intimacy in a particular form or package.

If it isn’t tall, dark and handsome with the name ‘boyfriend’ OR hot and sexy with the name ‘girlfriend’ then we reject it. And when we do that, we fail to see just how much love we have in our life so we wind up running around spitting at couples and cursing at happy matches because we feel angry about being single.

tumblr_mhg7ttnalJ1qj4315o1_400Love is all around you, it’s no cliché

Love is all around and perhaps you don’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend but you will have 4-5 amazing people in your life who provide love in its different ways.

This feeling we have of a need for love is actually a need for the various components of love and intimacy, and when we reject and shut off these things because they do not fit some sort of socially accepted package, we are stopping ourselves from enjoying a huge amount of pleasure endorphins and overall feelings of wellbeing.

If you break down the components of a romantic relationship, you might find you have a lot of love around. Here are some examples.

Companionship

Your mother/father/the dude you watch football with/a friend you watch movies with or collect stamps with – who provides companionship in your life? You get this in many places.

Snuggles

Who do you get snuggles from? Perhaps a beloved pet, a huggy friend, your mother/father or a giant teddy bear. You could volunteer at a shelter or go visit a dogs’ home or buy a giant pink panther teddy bear. You could even put a sign up that you will give away free hugs to get your snuggle time. The simple act of snuggling releases endorphins – doesn’t matter who or what with.

Laughter

Who makes you laugh? Don’t tell me no one makes you laugh in your life! Surround yourself with gigglers or go try out some Laughter Yoga.

Good Listening

Find someone in your life who really listens to you and gets you. You already know this person and perhaps you don’t spend enough time with him or her. Schedule that in.

Romance

When you are single, it’s tricky to get the romance fix BUT there are probably single people in your life you can flirt with so find them and flirt with them.

If you are brave and put yourself out there into environments where you are in close physical contact with new people, it might just creep up on you. Join a dance class and try out that tango with a hunky man, or go to a dating event and simply enjoy the spark of getting to know new people.

See how much easier the love month is to bear when you break it down and find the components?

Go and get the intimacy you need. It’s all there just waiting for you!

Happy Valentine’s day!

Lots of hugs

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Go on, give yourself permission to climb into a Porg-hole!

Porgie-300x275When I was little, I had a bull terrier named Porgie. I loved her so much so, that I would greet her on all fours, hide her in my bed so she wouldn’t be cold and even come home and climb into her dog basket with her. She was an absolutely mental dog and I loved her craziness and zaniness. Porgie however, was no ordinary dog. She harbored a secret.

Not only did she chase her tail with joy, sit in the pantry and slip in her own drool waiting for a dog biscuit and eat noisily like each meal was her last, she had an inner wisdom which far exceeded her dog years.

I truly believe that Porgie was a guru in a previous lifetime.

Every few months, Porgie would be in a bad mood. Who knows what caused it – perhaps hormones, a phantom pregnancy, or Pluto aligning incorrectly with Venus. When this happened, she would go to the bottom of the garden and go dig a hole. She would then crawl into this ‘Porg-hole’ and growl if anyone came near her. I would attempt to coax her out with food but she didn’t come out and she let me know that I was not welcome. 3-4 days later, she would come out of the hole, cover it up and come bounding back as if nothing had happened.

porghole-300x200I used to think this was more evidence that my dog was weird and unwell but actually thinking back on it today – it was sheer genius.

In today’s society, we don’t ever allow ourselves to dwell in a bad mood. We are told to ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’ and be happy. The dawn of Emotional Intelligence has created an international outbreak of suppressed human beings who don’t allow themselves to just be grumpy and to just be with their grumpiness, unhappiness or depression until is passes. Instead we must apply an emotional avoidance trigger or tranquilize ourselves with alcohol, drugs or antidepressants until ‘rational intelligence returns’.

GROWL. What Daniel Goleman didn’t realize when he wrote his NY Times bestseller ‘Emotional Intelligence’, was that he helped contribute to the mass suppression of emotions which is commonplace in today’s society. Instead of expressing raw emotions, feeling them authentically, crying, screaming and just being grumpy when we feel grumpy, we are expected to be cool, calm, collected robots who smile politely, play political ping pong with the sales guy we hate and certainly don’t flinch in the boardroom when someone missed a deadline and messed up our project.

Your EQ is now more important than your IQ as this man managed to convince and advise nations that suppression is healthy, balanced and somehow good for us.

In describing the importance of acknowledging our emotional states, American psychologist Dr Maurice Elias says, “Emotions are human beings, i.e. warning systems as to what is really going on around them. Emotions are our most reliable indicators of how things are going in our lives. Emotions help keep us on the right track by making sure that we are led by more than the mental/intellectual faculties of thought, perception, reason, and memory.”

In her article titled ‘How to Understand, Express and Release your Emotions’, author Mary Kurus, a renowned psychologist based in New York, writes that emotions control our thinking, behavior and actions. If you ignore, dismiss or repress your feelings, you’re setting yourself up for physical illness.

The understanding is that emotions that are not felt and released can spawn a host of ailments: cancers, arthritis, and many types of chronic illnesses. The explanation is that negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, negativity, frustration and depression cause chemical reactions in our bodies that are very different from the chemicals released when we feel positive emotions such as happiness and contentment and also when we’re feeling loved and accepted.

Signs that you are repressing your emotions

When we have an experience that is painful or difficult we often dismiss the emotions or bury them under busyness, exercise, comfort eating or drinking. The problem is that our suppressed emotions don’t like being hidden. Our negative feelings stay with us; in the muscles, ligaments, stomach and midriff. These emotions remain buried within us until we allow ourselves to feel them and deal with them, thereby releasing them.

Short Term Emotion Avoidance Triggers (STEATs) and other ‘methods’ we use to suppress or avoid our emotions:

  • Ignoring feelings.
  • Pretending something hasn’t happened.
  • Overeating.
  • Eating foods loaded with sugar and fat (‘comfort eating’).
  • Excessive drinking of alcohol.
  • Excessive use of recreational drugs.
  • Using prescription drugs such as tranquilizers or antidepressants.
  • Exercising compulsively.
  • Behaving compulsively.
  • Excessive sex with or without a partner.
  • Excessive busyness.
  • Constantly intellectualizing and analyzing situations.
  • Excessive reading or TV viewing.
  • Spending hours watching romantic movies or fantasizing about ‘the one’.
  • Working excessively.
  • Keeping conversations superficial.
  • Burying angry emotions under the mask of peace and love.

You cannot control your emotions BUT truly acknowledging them and feeling them, allows them to move on

You cannot change or control your emotions. Think of the people who trundle along day after day, seeming to function normally. And then one day they’ll suddenly explode over something seemingly trivial or harmless. This behavior is a result of a pressure-cooker syndrome; apply a little heat in the form of a tense situation and repressed emotions boil over. The more you try to control your emotions the more your emotions resist. Eventually you lose emotional control. It’s a vicious cycle.

It’s not popular in today’s society to express negative emotions in public. Seeming out of control is interpreted as a sign of weakness. We’re often uncomfortable around people who express strong emotions. As a society we’re taught to hide our emotions, to be ashamed of them and to be afraid of them.

We spend a great deal of time talking ‘about’ our feelings and emotions and very little time actually processing and feeling them. We attend workshops, visit therapists, and they describe how we feel.

We talk and talk about our emotions, intellectualizing and analyzing them, but how much time do we actually spend feeling them?

We are emotional creations and we must learn how to know our emotions, be with them, and release them in healthy ways.

Although I disagree with Daniel Goleman and his thoughts on intellectualizing our emotions before we give ourself permission to feel them – taking out our frustrations on others is also not particularly evolved. I know he wrote his book to prevent irrational rants in the workplace but the problem is we have become deader and more resigned than ever. Depression rates have never been so high as they are today and some psychologists believe that depression is simply long term suppression of emotion.

So Porgie had it right after all.

pawFeeling crabby? Go dig a hole away from others and go BE crabby and do not stop being crabby until you feel pruney with your crabbiness. Growl. Its really fun actually. Surrender to the emotions, feel them and be them until they naturally pass and peel away like layers of an onion. The crabiness is concealing a deep sadness, fear or anger so get to the root cause of your emotion so you can release the tension in your body and prevent long term illness from happening.

So, to hell with your EQ, smiling when you don’t mean it and fake bubbliness- its plastic and weird. Let people know how you feel in life. Give yourself permission to be a glorious crabby depressed mess until you are sick to death of it. Give yourself permission to climb into a Porg hole today – you will feel a hellava lots happier tomorrow and guarantee longer healthier life too.

Thanks be to Guru Porgie…

Till next time

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Don’t Eat That Cookie! Are You Healing or Avoiding?

foodWhen you were young did your mother use to say, ‘Don’t cry. Here have a cookie and you’ll feel better.’

And you ate the cookie, got distracted and yes you did actually feel a bit better. For ten minutes. Then the pain came back, and it was time for another cookie.

Does this sound at all familiar? If that child was you, perhaps you grew up to associate fixing your emotions with food, or other short term distractions. Instead of facing the pain and actually healing properly. The fact is:

If you don’t confront your emotions, you’ll never heal!

The example of the daughter and her cookie comes from John James and Russell Friedman’s great book ‘The Grief Recovery Handbook’, where they talk about confronting your emotions rather than filling your life with things that fill your time, but only provide a short-term relief.

When you eat that cookie the fact is there’s no emotional completion of the pain caused by the event. The event and all the feelings associated with it are simply buried. Ready to keep coming up throughout your life no matter how many cookies you eat.

What are Your Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics?

Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics (STEATs) are things you do to avoid feeling the pain, numb the pain, or to take the pain away in the short term. They are often escapism-type activities where you keep SO focused and busy that there is no time to think.

They help you feel better in each moment BUT you’re not feeling better for real – it’s a false sense of security – a false feeling of recovery. And if you fill your life up with lots of STEATs your healing will not progress.

STEATs are so common after divorce

The sad thing is that for most people struggling to get over their divorce they’re engaging in a cycle of feeling the pain, applying a STEAT, feeling the pain, applying another STEAT, until over time they feel numb and they think this numbness is them healed from their divorce.

STEATs prolong the emotional roller-coaster of your divorce. So you never fully grieve for long enough or experience the loss critical to healing for real. Your emotional roller coaster will go up and down, up and down. Until you stop. And start to heal for real.

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Your recovery exercise – which of these common STEATs do you use?

It’s time to be brutally honest with yourself.

Try to identify two short-term relief activities you’ve been doing to distract yourself and displace your feelings since your divorce or break up. This can be a lot harder than it seems, but it’s going to take your absolute commitment to honesty to truly heal.

Here are some common examples: Excessive socializing. Over-exercising. Fantasy or escapism activities (books, TV, movies). Shopping/retail therapy. Work and becoming a workaholic. Pretending something hasn’t happened. Overeating. Eating foods loaded with sugar and fat (‘comfort eating’). Excessive drinking of alcohol. Excessive use of recreational drugs. Using prescription drugs such as tranquilizers or antidepressants.

The list is endless, and it could be something totally unique for you.

So, what STEATs do You use?

Can you share a few with the world?

I’d love to hear them!

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Are You Choosing Your Life Or Just Surviving?

DepressedOne of my clients was so traumatized by something brutal which happened in her life. She dealt with it by swallowing everything down, including alcohol, drugs and just numbing herself.

 

Many would say she ‘chose’ her path of destruction

In life this word ‘choice’ always gets tossed about. Perhaps too much. How we always have a choice in everything we do. How everything we do is our choice.

I believe that on one level but I am beginning to think that true choice is something which becomes available when you’re on the higher echelons of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs;

MaslowsHiearchyofNeeds

 

You need to be able to think straight to truly ‘choose’

Otherwise we’re just reacting and stumbling along. The thing about being in survival is you go back to basics and consequently have no true ‘choice’ because you’re just existing to survive. You can’t think properly and operate robotically.

Suddenly all you feel you can focus on is getting the basic needs of physiology and safety; sleep, food, sex, homeostasis, safety of body, safety of employment.

All those old stuck emotions keep you held down, unable to rise above survival mode or think beyond it. When you don’t face those emotions and work to release them permanently you’re just stuck struggling to deal with them day by day, while also trying to operate a normal life and survive.

Everything beyond that is way out of your reach, and beyond your choice to have in your life.

Without releasing all those old stuck emotions, you can’t choose a different path consciously. You can’t just ‘switch’ off anger, deadness, and coping mechanisms to just be full of happiness or possibility.

Your unconscious mind is driving you blindly

Although you may consciously recognize that you’re on a self-destructive, unfulfilling path away from real healing, you don’t have the choice to get off it without taking the difficult step first to release all the crap that’s holding you there.

So your unconscious mind is robotically taking over and trying to get you through the day. And without any understanding of a real strategy for release and long term healing, your unconscious mind is pushing you to deal with the pain and stuck emotions the only way it knows how – with short term escape tactics.

For my client this was drugs and alcohol among other things.

How to release and escape the cycle

But my client has now been doing this incredible catharsis release process we designed and what is now there is pure sadness and compassion – for herself, others and her family.

She now has a choice!

A choice to take a different path and heal herself. To move beyond this kind of destructive survival mode and cycle, and towards happiness and possibility once more.

And she got there by taking that first bold step and facing those old stuck emotions head on, following our carefully developed release process.

Are you stuck in a similar place?

I’d love to help.

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Stop Fixating on HIM and Focus on YOU!

keep-calm-and-focus-on-yourself-8Let me tell you a bit about one of my clients, I’ll call her Molly.

Molly came to see me towards the end of 2009. She’d been divorced for six years and in all that time hadn’t stopped obsessing about what her ex-husband was up to. In the beginning, she would talk about only one thing…

“You know, he is seeing Suzy now and I think they have been dating for a few months (not that I have noticed) and I don’t think she is right for him. He’s also got an earring now and changed his car – why do you think he did that? Well, actually I don’t care but it is strange isn’t it? A lot of our friends say that he’s changed for the worse and just isn’t the same guy now. I would agree. He’s even taken up sky-diving! He is clearly having a midlife crisis! Suzy isn’t even that pretty, she looks strange with her little skinny legs and fake tan. My friend Sally says that she gives them another six months and they will split up, too…”

 

Trapped by her fixation

 

What Molly wasn’t aware of, was that she was fixating on her ex-husband and how HE was doing, what HE was thinking, feeling and who HE was seeing.

This focus on him was actually her way of escaping and avoiding dealing with her own emotions. Although a great deal of time had passed, she was no further along in her healing.

Working with her, the key component which shifted her into healing from her divorce, was supporting her in shifting her focus from him onto herself. It was painful but once her grieving was complete, she found peace, harmony and a new life once she stopped fixating on him.

The last time I saw Molly, I asked her how her ex-husband was doing and she said, “You know, I don’t have a clue. Let me show you some pictures of the hot air balloon ride I did two weeks ago. I have always wanted to do it and now I have!”

 

If you have Target Fixation you’re gonna crash – I almost did!

 

One thing which I see time and time again with my clients is this concept of Target Fixation.

Target Fixation is the process by which the brain is focused so intently on an observed object that awareness of everything else diminishes.

With Target Fixation, the observer can become so fixated on the target that they will forget to take the necessary action to avoid it, thus colliding with it. This is a common issue for motorcyclists and mountain bikers as statistically most collisions are due to Target Fixation.

A motorcycle or bicycle will tend to go where the rider is looking; if the rider is overly focused on something in the path ahead of him, the cycle can collide with that object simply because of the rider’s focus on it, even though the rider is ostensibly trying to avoid it.

As a keen motorcyclist, I’m well aware of the hazards of Target Fixation. In fact, on one motorcycle trip in the Himalayas, I collided with the back of a motorcycle I was fixated on in front of me. This almost led me to fly off a cliff so it was a pretty frightening moment!

 

Stop the cycle of pain… focus on YOU

 

Focusing on your ex and what they are up to leads to no good. You are in essence, fixated on them and end up having daily collisions with unnecessary pain and suffering over and over again.

When I observed this type of fixation on the ex with most of the people I worked with, I realized that tackling FOCUS inside of the naked divorce was very important.

For some of you who have been divorced for years, it may be easy to not think about your ex. However, do notice if you are constantly thinking of your job or your children as a distraction from your healing. The lesson is to think of yourself during this program. It’s time to be selfish and be fascinated in how YOU are doing and to grow your awareness and analysis of yourself, rather than something else.

 

How to focus on Yourself

 

Here are a few examples.

Whenever you want to think about what your ex had for breakfast or if his new girlfriend has remembered to launder his socks – think instead about yourself, your own eating and laundry habits.

Whenever you find yourself drifting off and wondering what your ex meant when he said he loved your new hairstyle, think about the new bath towels you are purchasing on the weekend.

Whenever you find yourself wondering why your ex said what he said, focus instead on painting your nails.

 

Your Action Plan – Three Steps to Freedom

 

Training your mind to stop being preoccupied with thoughts of your ex and what he’s thinking or what he’s up to, or to stop pointless thoughts of your neighbor or friend, or job – is a little like training a new puppy:

Start by gently ignoring the yelps for attention.  If you notice your mind flashing to your ex or another unhelpful distraction, relax. Imagine that the thought is a soft, fluffy white cloud. Imagine this cloud drifting across your mind like a cloud floats across the sky. Just notice the thought and gently let it go.

Tell yourself that this unhelpful thought is just floating across your mind. Engaging with this thought is like engaging with a puppy’s yelps for attention and this is not constructive.

If the yelps continue, keep a short leash.  If you find yourself constantly drifting into an amazing fantasy story or if you find yourself stuck in a cycle of analysis paralysis, sometimes it’s good to reign in that thought with one swift action. Immediately say to yourself, “NO, enough is enough!”

Make a swift sudden action and stand up, saying out loud that this line of thinking is not constructive. Become immediately fixated on doing something else like journaling about your feelings or going for a focused power walk.

The key is swift, intentional action to jerk yourself out of the lethargy of daydreaming. If your leash is too long and you indulge negative thinking for too long, it takes longer to come back into the present.

Reward with healthy treats if well behaved.  If you notice that it’s been a few hours or days since you last engaged in unhelpful thinking, then reward yourself with a healthy treat. Something like taking yourself out on an outing. And soon, like Molly, you’ll be healthy, happy and free in your focus once more.

 

So, do you have target fixation on your ex?

Have these exercises helped you to bring back your focus to yourself and recover?

 

Tell me about your experiences!

I’d love to hear them…

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