Beliefs

How to push past fear to awaken and liberate your life


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“We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them.” Elbert Hubbard

How many times do you catch yourself saying “If only he/she/they would change, life would be so much better.”? Or, “I’d love to do …. (fill in the blank) but I’m too scared.”

It’s something I often hear clients verbalise,  and I’m aware it’s been something I’ve succumbed to at various times.

Liberation comes when we wake up to the fact that we can’t force someone else to change, as much as we feel what we’re seeking to change could be of benefit to them.

However, by changing ourselves, we discover that magically those around us begin to change too.

Or do they?

Could it just be the way we see things that changes? And when we react and respond differently to events, and life in general, due to the changes we’ve personally instigated, then our perception of others alters accordingly.

Take an example of changing the way you look at things to face your fears …

Facing fear

Can you think of any fears you’ve faced and overcome, by changing the way you see them? Maybe it’s happened by talking yourself through them, and seeing a new perspective, with a cleaner, sharper and brighter lens?

I can recall a few from the past twenty years or so of my life:

  • Arrivals at Auckland Airport

    Arrivals at Auckland Airport

    Fear of flying – In the 1990s, I had an irrational fear of flying – nothing major, it didn’t stop me from holidaying in Europe, but I hadn’t ventured further than that. I recall during those short flights, breaking out into a cold sweat during take off and landing.

  • However, in 2001 I flew all the way to New Zealand, literally to the furthest point you can go from England without being on your way back again.

I’ve repeated the journey south or north 24 times since then!  I can’t recall how I changed my mind, only that my desire to go was greater than my fear of flying. Once there, my need to remain in contact with my family and visit them frequently, enabled me to maintain my mindset. I told my mind a different story to the one it had previously pictured.

I read about the risks of flying and informed myself that there was more risk crossing the road than flying in the twenty first century. I discovered that long haul flights are so much nicer than short ones. And I chose to see the journey as a part of the ‘holiday’, the joy of time to sit still and eat, drink, read, sleep, watch movies, chat.  Visiting different airports became a delight too, so I added that into the reasoning.

  • Fear of enclosed spaces – I have no idea where or when this originated, but I had a fear of being buried alive. I remember watching a film where it happened (thankfully she escaped at the last minute – I held my breath and could hardly watch!). The absurdness of my fear brings to mind the YouTube video ‘Stop It’, by Bob Newhart – if you haven’t watched it yet I recommend it. You can’t fail to laugh out loud at his direct coaching style.

I took steps to overcome this fear during my 2001 to 2002 sabbatical to New Zealand. On a solo road trip , I visited ‘Waiotomo Caves’ in the west of the North Island and went ‘Black Water rafting‘. This entailed crawling into a hole in the ground, sitting in a cave, then walking, jumping and swimming underground in a wetsuit and hard hat with light, before finally sitting in the rubber tyre we carried, leaning back, holding the feet of the person behind, turning off our lights and watching glow worms illuminating the cave roof – resembling hundreds of brightly twinkling stars.

It was one of the most magical experiences of my life, and one I repeated three years later with my younger daughter – just to prove I could! But it took some self-talk initially to persuade myself I could do it and enjoy it.

  • Fear of drowning – I suspect this is similar to my being buried alive challenge. I’ve tried scuba diving in a swimming pool twice, but each time my fear overwhelmed me after only a short time. Then in 2005,  on my aforementioned daughter’s NZ visit, she asked to experience white water rafting.

Buoyed by the black water rafting experiences, and feeling I’d taken myself way out of my comfort zone a number of times, I imagined I’d accomplish a change in view once more. Unknowingly, I chose to book us onto an adventure that would heighten my fear rather than diminish it. We rafted on the Kaituna River near Rotorua in the North Island of NZ.

At the bottom of the Tutea Falls, which, unbeknown to me at the time is the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall with a 21 foot drop, our raft overturned (you can watch a clip of a raft descending it successfully here). I woke up underneath the boat, due to thankfully still holding tightly onto a rope, in an air pocket only slightly higher than my head, and managed to scream and hyperventilate simultaneously. 

I don’t dwell on the possibilities had I not held on, though did initially imagine the scene of me waking up at the bottom of the waterfall, panicking and completely forgetting the instructions to curl into a ball and allow the water to lift me up should such an event occur. The outcome of a black eye and a few tears was minor considering the potential alternative of something far more sinister.

React, respond or retreat?

Throughout our lives we’ve been watching and listening to events that occur around us – and even those we have no personal experience of through the media’s portrayal and more recently the Internet.

We make assumptions and form beliefs about the world and others, from the knowledge we gain daily. The interesting thing is that we all do this differently. If four people watched the same film simultaneously, in the same room, and then were interviewed, they’d each recall parts that resonated with them and spoke to their particular beliefs – and they’re unlikely to be the same ones.

So when we’re faced with a situation that daunts, scares, enrages or confuses us – take a step back. Consider what story is being brought to the forefront of your mind. Then consciously choose to look at it from other angles, not just the first reaction. Respond thoughtfully, rather than reactively. See if you can find an alternative tale to tell your brain.

Or retreat. Walk away. Be ok with it not being ok. We don’t succeed at everything, and if we can be open and honest with ourselves, we’ll learn a great deal when we ‘fail’ – it doesn’t make us a ‘failure’.

Know that most of the time, you CAN push past your fears and change your self.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”~Ambrose Redmoon 

Did you notice how my last two posts have had quite a focus on the importance of breathing? More about that next time …

Are you stuck in your story? Ways to get out of the drama …


What's the drama of your story?

What’s the drama of your story?

They fuck you up your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

I recall reading that poem (along with another two verses) during the decade of my thirties. It was part of my ‘scrapbook’ of inspirational quotes, sayings and articles which served to motivate me as I did my best to bring my two daughters up ‘successfully’ as a single parent, while shift working as a midwife. Looking back, I’m not sure at the time I REALLY appreciated the meaning of the words. I did, however, sense their importance and hoped I wasn’t filling my children with too many of my ‘faults’!

Those children are now inspiring and beautiful adults. One of them is a parent themselves (meaning I’m a grand-mother), whilst my parents are amazingly still alive at 93 and 80 years old. I’m very aware of how blessed I am to be in a position to spend time with these special people, and continue to explore some of the limiting beliefs I’ve formed over the years.

One of these, from my perception of my father’s authoritarian position, is ‘I’m powerless’. Now he’s the one who’s relatively powerless, and my life has brought me to a place where I can support him to retain some control over his finances and destiny.  Ironically, my younger sister and I have recently signed a lasting power of attorney for if/when he becomes incapable of financial decision making.

Identifying life’s gifts amongst the drama

As my relationships strengthen and grow, with my parents, children and grandchildren, I find myself reflecting on the sentiment expressed by Mr Larkin in a much deeper way. However, I’m also recognising the importance of identifying all the gifts my parents gave me – which are varied and numerous.

Returning from NZ the first time, in 2002, I vividly recall my sudden realisation that all the striving, proving and working so hard since leaving my second husband, had been to show my dad that I was ‘good enough’ to replace the son he’d always wanted, that I wasn’t a ‘failure’ because I was born a female. I could see how much I’d missed out on by trying to be everything to everybody, thinking that if I was ‘the best’ midwife, was endlessly promoted, earned more and more money, that he’d love me. Of course this wasn’t his ‘fault’, of course he loved me, it was merely the drama I’d concocted for myself.

Since March 2011, during my ‘Holistic Life Coaching’ training and subsequently with every client I’ve had the pleasure of coaching, my story and theirs are heard and reflected upon.

It’s such a huge honour to listen to people, and realise how immensley powerful these stories have become, and what meanings we’ve given to them.

From birthing babies, and empowering midwives and women along the way, I’ve changed direction to support people to birth a new life for themselves; one that serves and nourishes them.

Now in my fifties, I find myself reflecting with my three sisters too; discovering what meaning they’ve given and carried along from their childhood, and why.

It’s fascinating!

Because when we break it down, however ‘traumatic’ and/or ‘dramatic’ we each believe our individual story to be, there will always be someone else who feels they’ve ‘had it worse’ than you.

And then, when you look at the stories your parents could have manifested into their lives which shaped and limited them, you can begin to look on the poem in yet another way.

If you can ‘get over your self’ even more, and focus on what you gained from your childhood, however ‘bad’ it may have seemed, you can enable those to strengthen and lessen the power of the drama.

Getting out of the drama

It’s not about making excuses, or feeling sorry for your parents, it’s about:

  • Standing in their shoes to feel how it would have been to walk their respective journeys
  • Accepting that we’re all human and therefore prone to fallibility
  • Realising we do the best we can, with what we know, and which resources are available to us at that time and place
  • Allowing ourselves to let go of the need to ‘hang on tight’ to staying stuck in the drama of our story
  • Reflecting on why we believed what we did and how it helped us to feel ‘safe’ at the time
  • Seeing all the amazing love and gifts your parents DID give you
  • Loving your self first and foremost, then finding it in your heart to love your parents in spite of what you feel they did or didn’t do for or to you
  • Making the most of this life – because for things to change in the ways you desire, YOU need to change

Choosing to change

We may not realise it, but we all have a choice to change.

We may believe our happiness is dependant on others, and once they change, our lives will be different and/or better.

But they have their own stories to work through and let go of.

We are responsible for getting out of our own dramas.

Alternatively we may choose to remain there, acting out the victim role and blaming everyone and everything else for whatever happened and continues to happen ‘to’ us.

Looking back, what have you made the story of your life mean to you? And importantly, what will you choose for the next chapter – and why?

What’s in a name, and how can it define you?


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What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.” ~William Shakespeare

Does a name ‘make’ a person, or do you ‘make’ a name for your self during the journey that is your life?

I’ve recently had a few experiences that have prompted me to consider how we gain a sense of identity from what we’re called, and what others call us, at different times in our lives:

  1. My father, at the grand age of 93, introduced me as ‘Sheila’ a few weeks ago. I have no idea where this came from – as far as I’m aware he doesn’t know anyone of that name. The only similarity to ‘Sandra’ is the first and last letters! When he said the name, I didn’t at first register he was talking about me, and wondered who he was about to describe. As he’s becoming more confused with each passing day, it didn’t take me long for the penny to drop and I laughed it off as he realised his error.
  2. On a supervised session with a client, my supervisor called my client by the wrong name. Again, the first letter was the same. I was unsure whether to interrupt her train of thought as she gave feedback, but decided that actually, if she wasn’t talking to the client using her ‘real’ name, the client would be less likely to resonate with the words she was saying. I didn’t know who my father had been talking about when he called me by someone else’s name. So I did point out her ‘mistake’, and the supervisor was extremely grateful for having it pointed out, as was the client.
  3. Having decided not to pay to remain on the nursing or midwifery register in UK this year, I hadn’t realised this would mean I’m no longer able to call myself an RN (Registered Nurse) and RM (Registered Midwife) in this country.  I can say I’m a ‘qualified’ nurse and midwife, but not registered. Reading the letter from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, I felt part of my identity stripped away. Why? I’ve chosen not to work in either field anymore, so the only benefit to me of paying £100 a year to stay on the register, would be to have those letters after my name. I guess because I worked so long and so hard to obtain them, it’ll be a gradual process of letting them go and finding other ways of being.

Registering a birth and giving a child a name

In the UK, all births must be registered, with a name or names, within 42 days. I recall in Junior school, aged about eight, being so inspired by my teacher that I wrote her a letter stating I would name my first daughter after her. It wasn’t until some years later, after I’d birthed and named both my girls, that I remembered this ‘promise’.  Her name was Cynthia. As I can’t recall anything else about her now, it would’ve been inappropriate to use such a name.

What I hadn’t really considered when naming my daughters, was using a family name. My grandmothers had beautiful names – Alice Maud, and Alfena May. In fact it was only when writing this blog that I realised they share the same initials! Living in New Zealand for eight years, I’ve been privileged to be present at the birth of many Maori babies, and was fascinated and envious of the way many proudly chose ancestors names for their children.

Names we’re called by others

I vividly recall, during the 1980s, my second husband rarely calling me by my name. Instead he referred to me as ‘wench’, as in “Make me a cup of tea wench”. It’s a Black Country ‘term of endearment’, but not one I related well to. I temporarily lost my soul in that marriage. Being in the forces, we were also referred to as ‘Wife of …’ or ‘Child of …’ Hmm, not the best for feeling a sense of pride in your self.

Following my second divorce, I reverted to my maiden name, and vowed never to change it again. My father had wanted a son, and after four daughters was saddened to admit defeat. So none of his children had kept his name on marriage – well I was going to, even though my children were also both girls so it made not a scrap of difference in that respect! But it made, and makes, a difference to me.

I do not ‘belong’ to my third husband, I retained my surname, and the title ‘Ms’, and feel we’re equal partners in our relationship. I did suggest he could change his name to mine, as that is a right most women don’t even realise they have – unsurprisingly he declined. He has a long complicated surname, of Germanic origin, and frequently uses my surname when we need to give one as it’s so much easier to spell! But his name is his identity, and his children share it – one of whom, as a son, may one day carry it on.

Interestingly, J.K.Rowling recently published a book under the pseudonym of ‘Robert Galbraith’ – and sold only 1,500 copies until the secret was divulged. Following that, sales rocketed 5,000 places to top the Amazon sales list. I bet the publishers who turned her down, and the book stores who only stocked minimal copies, wish they’d chosen differently!

Is there such a thing as a ‘bad’ name?

Can a ‘bad’ name really affect you?

Professor Helen Petrie, from the University of York, recently studied the psychological effects of having an unusual name.

“I found that people with unusual names had a really hard time, particularly when they were children,” she says. “They described getting teased and how traumatic it could be – because all children want to fit in. But when they became adults, they are often glad that they have something to help them stand out from the crowd. People with very common names sometimes feel that they aren’t unique enough. So I think there’s a happy medium to be struck.”

So there’s potentially a lot in a name, isn’t there?

Maybe parents could give more thought to the potential long-term consequences of naming their child Messiah, Hashtag, Sanity, Google or Hippo (yes, those really are genuine 2012 names)!

What do you think? How has your name or title defined you during the course of your life so far? As usual, I’d love to hear from you …