This week, amidst all that is currently going on in the world, a quote I shared in 2013 spontaneously reemerged out of the archival depths of the Facebook servers and has been doing the rounds. Join me this week if you're interested in a discussion about how and why this quote can be and what we can do to stay on track to living, loving, engaging with life and finding new ways to connect, despite all of this.
Fear is adaptive in a few respects:
-Protection: It has it’s useful evolutionary protective function by reminding us to be cautious in dangerous circumstances
-Reconnection: It beckons us to reconnect with and start listening to ourselves at times when our head has been off in the clouds of whatever vision or project we’ve been completely consumed with. Or have been running away with ‘what if’s’ And can be one of the triggers from within that can bring us back out of worrying about the future and back into the NOW. It puts us back into connection with our own life force and wakes us back up into feeling ALIVE.
-Education: And it is also a very effective teacher, if we choose to sit in class for the lesson.
In the end, it’s what we DO with all that energy next that makes it either helpful, or maladaptive.
If we try and shut it down, stuff it down and ignore it, or run away from whatever caused it, for example:
-the central object at the heart of a phobia (eg the spider, the dog, the virus) or
-the experience at the heart of one e.g. the act of standing in front of a room of people, being rejected in business, being rejected in dating, abandonment, criticism or negative feedback, ill health or potential death
the downside is that we may never learn to be emotionally resilient, or get to practice staying centred and grounded in the face of that potential threat. Which, in turn, means, that we might miss out on the ‘good good’ that’s waiting on the other side of dealing with it. We might miss out on living life.
Part of the reason that both adrenaline junkies and people working with, say an Hypnotherapist or NLP Practitioner or Coach on a specific phobia end up overcoming that fear, is not just because of the specific techniques used. But because the act of being brought face to face with their fear, makes them have to stay and be present with the experience of the fear, for maybe the first time. And in staying present with this thing, this thing that they’ve built it up in their minds with a thousand repetitive thoughts and stories full of whatever evidence they’ve seen reinforce their worst fears about that thing or experience to be valid, they then have no choice but to experience the ACTUAL reality about that thing and to start to realise a new truth about it, instead.
That, whatever the thing was, neither the experience of their fear of that thing, or the actual thing itself, actually killed them (or was ever likely to.) And that they DID in fact cope in the face of it, once they stopped trying so hard to control and repress all their reactions to it and just let what is essentially the healing and transformation process flow into happening…and then they inevitably got to the other side of the experience, in which they start to go something like, “oh hey, actually that wasn’t as bad as I thought, actually I CAN cope with this, this is how I do it, i'm stronger than i thought. I can do this!”…and a whole new mental story and a shift in the beliefs that underly it starts to develop.
Which ultimately then allows you to start being around that thing or experience in a whole new way. And with repeatedly being around it further, your capacity to stay centred and present despite it, and maintain your perspective despite it, builds. More than that, from this more centred place, you can now consciously choose to direct your thoughts and channel your energy into creating a different experience, one that moves you towards your end goal and in the direction of what you desired in the first place, rather than AWAY from it.
This is why simply trying to shift our thoughts and lift our vibrational frequency to create a better, healthier, happier reality alone doesn’t always work in resolving a phobia and the web of past traumas that are interwoven with it. It can become a bypass strategy that helps us feel something better and formulate a vision of living what we want instead. But if that is our only response every time a fear comes up, it’s still a bit like driving AROUND the block in the middle of the road, without anyone stopping to drag it OFF the road and or take it somewhere for recycling or reuse for another purpose. It can STILL keep us running away from and never being able to actually be resilient and stay centred in the face of the thing we feared. Which can end up cutting us off from both our power to make a choice, our capacity to truly channel our energy into creating what we really want and most importantly a hell of a lot of amazing experience of life that may be waiting on the other side of that fear.
Fear does not ultimately protect us from death, if we end up spending all our time and energy trying to avoid what we’re so afraid of, let alone avoid and completely eliminate fear itself. It can cut us off from the experience of life and feeling alive and truly living and loving how we wish we could. And then we can end up 'dying' in a whole other way. We end up surviving. But at what cost to really living?
Which is why as we sit at a place in life right now, where there is SO much fear and false information getting around about Coronavirus, I say that, while YES absolutely there are things we need to DO right now to reduce the risk of transmission and maintain our health and wellbeing, we need to also be really careful that we don’t get so caught up in our fear response, that it blocks us from from living and find new or alternative ways to KEEP loving and engaging with life fully anyway.
If you want to get some reliable facts, what to do's and perspective on the health aspects to help alleviate the fear of the unknown, watch this TED talk by Global Health Expert Alanna Shaikh below:
But then, it’s also important that we get reconnected and move through all the feels, get the download and keep flowing onwards to the place where we can KEEP focusing and channelling our energy into being, doing and living with and from love.
Why do I also say any of this? Because I know what it’s like to live with the stress of being diagnosed with some scary virus and I know what it’s like dealing with the fear and the host of reactions it triggers in the people around you. I had my own experiences of how to navigate that. And I spent many hours within my Women’s Wellbeing practice speaking about and working with both women and men who had recently found out that they’d been diagnoses with HSV 1 or 2, or who had long had it (and or been navigating various other co-existing sexual health concerns) and were struggling with how to navigate dating, relating and LIVING with it, at times when they had to occasionally ‘distance themselves’ physically because of it. So I’m somewhat familiar with the range of reactions we have when we’re confronted with a tiny virus we don’t know much about, let alone how to control it and we’re afraid might threaten our health, our loved one/s health, our relationships and how people might perceive or engage with us in public view, should they find out. And a lot of that experience is transferrable to how we navigate Corona in the present moment.
A lot of my work involved not just talking to people about the practical health aspects of how to live with it and prevent infection, but also Louise Hay style, trying to get a grasp on the psycho-biological and psychosomatic manifestation of both the initial and later ‘attacks’ of the virus and WHY it keeps coming back (because, interestingly, like our fear as a teacher above, it DOES seem to stop manifesting when you get the download on what it’s trying to teach you and take appropriate action accordingly) as well as in helping people believe that they CAN create and then CREATE an awesome quality of life and amazing relationships DESPITE having and us all potentially living with this crazy little virus.
Like many people, when I first got HSV 2, I (temporarily) thought my life was somewhat 'over.' I thought no man would every touch me or want me again once they found out about it. Like many, i fell into such a deep, dark, depressed hole, grieving the future loss of physical intimacy. And I was terrified of how people would judge me and shame me and maybe distance me for having it. And yet, ironically, it was in the first few months AFTER I got it, that I ended up getting into one of the longest, most beautiful relationships that I’d been in so far. Ok, so that relationship later ended for a different set of reasons and when a separate set of patterns came into play. But what i never anticipated was that, as a result of having that virus, I had to start navigating relationships and life in a whole different way. Actually, a much healthier one than before.
Before, I’d jump into bed trying to please and convince a guy that I was worth his time, with not NEARLY enough regard at times for my own wellbeing, while hoping for some relational outcome. But that virus MADE me have to start loving myself, valuing myself, be more honest and direct in my communication and have better boundaries from minute one. By forcing me to take my vagina OUT of the equation at times, for their benefit as much as mine, it taught me to start focusing on creating and nurturing a friendship with a partner before anything else, and over trying to be a master seductress people pleaser to prove that I was something a guy should madly WANT. When I started coming from THAT place in romantic and intimate relationships going forward, the whole game changed. And in the years after, I’ve had some relationships and connections that were definitely powerful sources of healing OTHER things. BUT honestly, i share any of this because that little virus has a) properly managed, NEVER EVER infected anyone else I’ve ever been with since I got it 2) NEVER been a block to me having had some of the most sexually fulfilling and adventurous years of my life and living a life I love and 3) never got in the way of me being able to HAVE a relationship and live a quality of life I love. (While other things certainly HAVE instead of it.) So, in the end, I have a whole heap of love and gratitude for that crazy little virus, because it taught me how to do life a WHOLE lot better.
Corona may be from a different family of viruses all together and scary because it’s a new strain. But many of the lessons are, paradoxically, the same.
Many of the common reactions that Alanna Shaikh talks about in the video above, that she’s seen while managing global outbreaks of Corona (and other outbreaks), are exactly the same. Being afraid of getting it and worrying what it might do to our own health, it bringing up our fear of mortality, being afraid of what it might do to others we love, being afraid we might be cut out from the herd and shamed or isolated if we admit that we have it, and not wanting to be alone or lose our friends, colleagues or loved ones for disclosing we might have it, being afraid of what damage it will do to our reputation and public standing if people find out we have it. Being afraid what will happen and what we will lose if we DON’T do or say anything. Feeling ashamed and embarrassed. Not knowing how long this will take and just wanting it to be over. Wanting to be able to DO something, anything to be able to manage our fear and do what we can to get a sense of control again.
My question for us all though is:
What is this virus also showing and teaching each of us about our individual and collective ways of living and doing things? What is the fear REALLY about? Go head to head with your fear and uncover what's in it and you might just succeed in engaging in life and relationships in a whole new way on the other side.
There is a time and place to be vigilant in trying to protect ourselves and others from it, as an act of love and care. But may we be careful NOT to get so lost in the fear of it, that we stop living, loving, engaging with life and finding new ways to connect. No virus or illness can ever take that away from you. I promise you.
Seeking treatment so far has both put me back in touch with many amazing Practitioners and offers of help I’m very grateful for. Including my GP and the original Gynaecologist I didn’t stop raving about after I last saw his team (because I thought this generation’s patient-centred focus on listening to the Woman first as the expert on her own body, before telling her what she should do with it, is the remedy to everything that’s been WRONG with the paradigm of Obstetrics and Gynaecology for centuries). But then, I’ve also had more than a few messed-around, having been agreed with that it’s urgent, but then pushed back 6 weeks due to schedules, having to do the same ultrasound twice, dealing with the talking about me (and through residents), rather than to me, in earshot, in the corridor moments, and all the extra stress that goes along with engaging with all of this. Both combined, have had me re-reflecting on what specifically makes for a high quality of care in situations like this.
What does it take to help a client to feel truly safe and supported, at such highly anxious times and best facilitates their healing and catalyses their growth in a timely fashion? Not to mention helps them leave feeling they received both what they needed and, hence, a high quality of care?
For those just catching up with who i am, where i've been and what i now do: After 22 years in many client facing and relationship building roles, numerous years working at State Leadership level in Health and Emergency Services, co-managing clinics and RTO's, due to the kind of knowledge and experience you pick up not only having been a Practitioner who's trained and worked in various settings providing Counselling, emotional support, grief, abuse and trauma counselling, due to having worked with A LOT of emotionally vulnerable people in times of crisis, but also having been in constant contact with over 20 000 Allied Health and Holistic Practitioners in the last 15 years, I’d like to think I have a little bit of wisdom by now to share on how to well take care of clients who find themselves in similar circumstances. As well as of what awesome bedside manner and duty of care SHOULD ideally look like, in an ideal world.
And I think there are 5 things many clients need in those moments, in addition to the expertise they're presently getting, that can make things SO much more humane. Not to mention honouring of the client’s wellbeing and the duty of care the Professional has to the client at these times. Those 5 things being:
1- Intention: Yes we might be busy off our head and dealing with bureaucratic and competing demands. But the client still needs to feel us bring focus to the part of us that is there to be of service, more than whatever part of US is all wrapped up in what else we’ve got going on right now.
This is a bit esoteric, but before I ever go into any room, with any client to do work, there’s a question and intention I try to alway make time to align with first. In addition to wishing for the absolute best outcome for whoever is there, I ask the Universe/Divine Intelligence/God/ess (whatever you personally call it) and all the “guides” or spiritual helpers who also want what’s in the best interest of and the highest outcome for whoever is in the room, to help me, help THEM co-create that outcome, in a way that best honours and supports us all.
The spiritual practice part is not the point though. The intention IS. Us re-affirming our intention to be of service and wanting the best outcome for them WILL be felt by them. And it does make a world of difference when we take the time to do it. No one ever leaves your space feeling like a number or like they’ve been de-valued when we do. They leave feeling the love and like you’ve got their back, even if the problem couldn’t be fully resolved right away. The intention changes how WE show up, which in turn, changes the quality of their experience of our presence.
2- Presence: it’s not enough to just be a walking, talking source of expertise in the room, delivering messages that turn people’s world’s up-side-down, from a place of detachment, in order that we get through the day relatively unscathed, when a client is on the verge of a meltdown (and likely crying when you’re not in the room.) In these moments, we’ve got to bring some presence, which is to say be willing to show up, look the patient in the eyes and give them as close to 100% of our attention in that moment as we can manage, while we do our thing. But more importantly, be willing to see them and hear them.
We don’t need to be afraid we’ll have to spend an hour listening to someone therapy style to satisfy them with presence if that is not our main role (though we could also refer them for that, so that they DO have a chance to talk). All it takes is a minute of being there, looking at them, while thinking “I see you, I’m with you, I’m here to help” for the person to start to trust and feel safe in our presence, at a time when things may well seem scary and out of control, while we then get busy on the ‘how i can help’ part.
3- Empathy: it helps to make time to ask the question, what is this like for them right now? Notice their non verbals and listen to how they say that it is for them, to help work out what type of response and energy to respond to them with. No matter how expert or intuitive we might get and how much we might think that we know because we’ve seen it before, or how much we might think we KNOW because we went through a similar thing (which doesn’t actually mean that we get how it is for THEM, it means we get how it was FOR US), where we need to start is still to ask where the other person is at...and then work toward the desired outcome from there.
Not only does this respect them as the expert on their own inner world and respect the uniqueness of their personal experience, it’s a more constructive question to help us stay heart centred, yet centred on their care. Where we lose ourselves in the depths of the feels with them, is when we start imagining us IN their shoes and how WE’D feel, as them. THAT is when we start to conjure painful similar memories and get lost in the emotion with them, separating from our capacity to professionally guide the process. Asking how it is for THEM though, helps us stay heart centred, yet the curious professional observer of their experience. Understand the difference?
4-Acknowledgement: the first step of all healing experiences is to validate their personal experience of the problem and what they want instead, before we start trying to move into what our knowledge of the problem is and where WE think they need to also go. Especially if they keep talking about the same thing, some part of them is likely in need of ultimately self acknowledgement and validation of the legitimacy of their feelings and experience. It’s difficult to move them on into transforming, until you help them acknowledge the thing they need acknowledged. Hence, it helps to validate that they’re right and that it’s very human to feel that way where needed. Then try acknowledging the strengths they have to deal with this and get beyond this.
When we’re present and really listening, it wont take any more than 30 seconds to identify at least one. It doesn’t have to take a whole hour of talking and therapy. But you noticing their strengths and taking the time to affirm them, in a moment where their fears and weaknesses are likely more present on their mind, can make a world of difference in lifting their faith and confidence in their innate ability to overcome their present challenge/s. That is a part of what they most need in these moments. In addition to your own groundedness, calm and strength.
5-Action: I’m going to be honest with you, I’m kind of face-planting a little bit that I need to write this one, because while I’m not a Lawyer, I know there is a good chance this was likely covered in almost every Practitioner training under duty of care. But it has often surprised me in recent years how many Professionals, Practitioners and Coaches still let clients walk away, without any actual resolution to any of the things the client approached them for in the first place, or mentioned during a consult. There are often 4 elements I've seen contributing to this:
1) fearing that you’re being too pushy or might offend them by offering something, or worrying that maybe it’s not wanted. When actually, that is exactly what they came to us for, for us to offer potential solutions to their problems.
2) fearing that I’m not enough and will look incompetent if I don’t know it all or have the right solution. Which sometimes then becomes “I don’t know what to do, therefore I’m going to get busy with other things I CAN do, until I have more of a response to this awkward conversation I don’t know how to resolve yet,” which may then keep getting put off and off and off (but perhaps could be quickly solved with a little professional supervision or consultancy with someone with more expertise in this particular area? Not to mention, it is advisable and actually okay to admit when you're wanting to bring in additional professional support or opinion.)
3) deciding where they’re at is not my area or I can’t help them and then turning them loose, but without connecting them with any other form of support, in line with what the client approached us for and
4) being too busy to see them right now for whatever reason (professional or personal), but wanting to hoard and hang onto them anyway, until WE’RE ready to show up for them, even when making them wait may actually be to the detriment of their wellbeing or circumstances. At what point and by what criteria do we deem a waiting list period too long, and circle back around to looking at another solution?
In all 4 instances, if we can’t, don’t want to, or feel we aren’t able to provide the client a service in a timely fashion, the ethical, A level customer service solution, not to mention (from a legal standpoint) the professional duty of care honouring thing to do, is to either:
a) research and come up with a new solution, where you didn't already have one
b) bring in someone into your team asap who does have the expertise to support them, or
c) refer them to an external service or to a someone who CAN help them in a timely fashion and give the client the professional care that they deserve.
At most, it will take us or someone who assists us the time to do a database or google search, followed by a phone call or two, maybe a bit of advocacy too, to link them with an appropriate referral. But contrary to popular misbelief that they’ll likely feel abandoned, actually the client will often likely feel just as grateful for and sing your praises for a high quality referral that turns out well, as they would if they saw you personally for a high quality consult. They will still attribute their outcomes, to your support given.
Yes it might also take a bit longer to find someone with the appropriate complimentary skills to us for our team, by the time you go through the recruitment process. But if you think of it in terms of how many similar people you’re turning away (and the potential funds you're turning away) because you don’t offer a solution for what they need, IS it really not worth the time and the expense in the short term, to ensure that both the client/s can still get the right aspects of the care or support they need from you PLUS to ensure that you leave them with the kind of impression you WANT to be remembered for?
Just leaving them to fend for themselves and find something else though, after they’ve reached out and we’ve already engaged them, not only doesn’t leave our clientele with a great aftertaste in their mouth at the best of times because we DID just abandon them to the too-busy-too-hard-not-quite-right basket, when we KNOW we could've done more. But, how might it stack up from a legal standpoint, if something goes seriously wrong with them and we’re identified as a service provider, who knew they were in a vulnerable state, or in poor health and didn’t act in a timely fashion on that knowledge? Nobody wants to be in that position, on either side of the care-giving equation.
Sometimes I think though, the best of us, who are great at what we do, can still struggle with wishing we had more resources to be able to DO more and provide a better looking, better quality user experience for our clients. Yet any single of us, in any service, can do the above 5 practices with just a little extra time taken and practice, no matter what our budget, or our clients. And contrary to how lovely all the extra bells, whistles and embellishments are, you might find, in the end, it’s things like these 5 things, in addition to your expertise, that make the biggest difference to how they feel at the end of and beyond your time together.
A big shout-out to all the Practitioners out there doing awesome work. Thank you for all that you give to all that you do.
Sorry for the heavy this week. But may it serve as a reminder of exactly what we all got into this to do and make better.
Until next time....
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.