How to live with greater presence, purpose, and wisdom in the digital age

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. ~ Aristotle

In the field of human experience, you are not merely your thoughts, nor are you merely your body or the workings of your brain.

You are the whole.

The recent Wisdom 2.0 Summit explored and allowed space for discourse on the interaction and integration of the parts of us – physical, mental, spiritual, in the digital age.

A good idea, isn’t it? To look at the human condition and to explore wellness from a whole human being perspective, instead of merely discrete parts.

Check out the Summit’s website where you can watch talks from eminent members in this field of integration such as Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Roshi Joan Halifax, Dr Dan Siegal and Dr Daniel Goleman.

 

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

Your words of emotions

 

The language we use to describe our emotions affects how we feel.  I see this often in my work, and this is the basis for a common call to “reframe”. There is more to mere “reframe”.

But first, can we identify our emotions now? How do we do this? What words do we use, and why? Words are culturally-informed, and we use words as a tool for social conformity, in our instinctive desire and attempt to belong.

 

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

A mindful approach

Life is change. I know this. Even the reliable turns of the seasons do not go as expected, do they? If we are to see, there is beauty in the everyday minutiae of change.

And I believe in progress, less of the advancement of human enterprise, rather of the mindful approach to our human experience

  • towards greater awareness of who we are in the worlds we inhabit, whether personal or professional,
  • towards greater connection to these worlds,
  • towards greater understanding of our impact on them,

and to these, I have unwittingly been seduced since a young age, fuelled by an insatiable curiosity.

It is a beautiful seduction, though not necessarily easy or without pain.

This mindful approach requires an open mind and a vulnerable heart. And I am not without the scars to prove them.

The greater awareness to life also requires us to let go of the past and our ideas of the future, to have the willingness to be present without judgment and to see the world afresh. The wonder and intrigue that come our way when we allow ourselves to experience them.

Put aside the critical thoughts based on a past conditioning of what the future should be.

My daughter recently sang in a concert and for the first time, she did so in her school uniform. It was a school day after all. I remember when she eschewed the idea of changing from her school uniform, judgment flooded my mind questioning her dedication to her craft and fear that she wouldn’t be taken seriously.  This lasted for a brief moment then I let those thoughts go. These are unwarranted worries and anxieties. My mind has always been an incredible trickster.

Her performance that evening was her best so far, for she captivated with her voice and composure, expressing her emotions from within. I looked around the room, and saw an audience rapt with attention, spellbound by her haunting rendition of “Burn” from the musical “Hamilton”. It seems she had developed a confidence grounded within herself; a fragile bubble at times for creative people. I am truly grateful that I did not prod at it with my unruly thoughts. To trust the process and let things unfold is not easy, but do-able.

Not all things change however… at least not at the speed or time that we expect them to. It is our expectation then which creates disappointment, hurt and pain.

Hope is present, expectation is merely a conditioned thought.

Expectations interfere with our connection to the world, for it is because of our fear for the myriad of unmet expectations – that our love will be betrayed, our vulnerability will be shamed, our curiosity mocked – that we distance ourselves from being alive in the moment to our work and relationships.

Identify a destination by all means, chart our course and trust that we have the capacity to undertake the journey. We do. Planning may be useful, but the fixation with each manoeuvre will inhibit our adaptability to change.

A mindful approach requires us to employ our senses in each moment, untainted by the past. Memories, “good or bad”, have their uses; we may not forget but we sure don’t need to be ruled by them.

Being mindful in a changing world requires trust, in ourselves and the unfolding life.

Each moment is a new moment.

 

~ FlorenceT

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

You are your own narrator

 

What new stories will you be creating for yourself?

Narrative tool

Writers do it all the time, use narrative as a tool to guide interpretation, to construct meaning, and ultimately to persuade and influence. So do teachers, as narrative is also a powerful tool for instruction and learning.

Why? Narrative creates meaning, invokes emotions, it makes things “real”.

And it is also through narratives that we view and experience our lives, both personal and professional. This is how we learn who we are – from the narratives told of our lives from when we were too young to create our own.

We initially used (very large) computers as a tool for calculations, its size and cost restricted our access. Now, it is ingrained in our daily life, using it so often such that many of us would feel rather lost without our devices. Our sense of self is very much tied to this small device.

The same applies to narratives. One story does not a man or woman made. But many similar stories and repeated create a wealth of meaning and gradually forges an identity.

A narrated life

One instance of timidity, and a story being told over and over again, which in turn compels attention to other incidents of “lack of bravery”… until one day, that girl can only ever remember stories of her timidity. Along the way, she has also picked up stories of “shy” and “unsociable” which fit with “timid”. These were noted and recorded by those around her, who saw only these because the narrative is indeed persuasive.

And what does it mean for this young girl, to be known as “timid”, shy” and “unsociable”? She now makes sense of the world through these limiting lens.

Little attention was given to, nor stories told of, the times when she courageously stepped into a new world, or when she stood up for herself when accused of a wrongdoing, or defended her brother to her friends. They went unnoticed perhaps because everyone loves a good story, and a good story is one that is coherent and familiar, like a fairy tale. Except for the girl, it is unlikely to end with ‘happily ever after” unless something changes. Until she takes up the challenge of authoring her life, to learn to make a different sense of her self and her world.

This now young woman is stepping out into the world. Her unease of who she is may lead her to question and become aware of how those stories that have shaped her life emerged… grew.

Will she step out of the limiting narrative that has governed much of her life? What can she do to re-story her life?

You as narrator

Humans are meaning-making creatures after all. When there are enough “aberrant” stories, we will be compelled to ask “why”, to see new patterns, to create new meanings.

So if you are in this exciting space of exploring stories that have shaped your life,

  1. Identify witnesses to your life who will share alternate stories,
  2. Seek out alternate stories,
  3. Consciously create new stories,
  4. Choose a professional who will facilitate this important exploration.

To paraphrase a popular saying, if you want a different result, do something different.

Begin with determination and committed action.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

References:

Barker, S. (2016) Paul Ricoeur and Narrative Identity: Why we are our story. Psychology Today Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/post-clinical/201604/paul-ricoeur-and-narrative-identity

Foresight Future Identities (2013) Executive Summary. The Government Office for Science, London. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273968/13-524-future-identities-changing-identities-summary.pdf

Gottschall, J. (2013) The Story-telling Animal. Mariner Books,

Szurmak, J., & Thuna, M. (2013). Tell me a story: The use of narrative as a tool for instruction. Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, April 10–13, 2013, Indianapolis, IN. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/acrl/conferences/2013/papers

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Experiencing our strengths…

In my work, words are privileged. They can communicate and persuade. They speak to the reason within us, the cognitive rational part of us. Most importantly, as we utter words and then narratives of who we are and how we are, these stories become part of us, they begin to form a part of our identity.

Words can prompt actions in, and change how we perceive, the world we inhabit, whether professional or personal.

Yet true transformation comes from our experience of ourselves in relation to another.

Peter [a pseudonym, of course] consulted me as he could not see a way forward in his career. It seemed to him that every step he took in his professional life was fraught with challenges and less than satisfactory resolutions. He was wondering if he was indeed in the right career and if he ought to move on. Peter also adopted some maladaptive habits to bolster his sense of loss of control.

One aspect of Peter’s problem was a lack of confidence. His success was “just good luck”, his failures were his fault. Our initial conversations revolved around the rational sensible steps to be taken in the face of challenges in his work – some of which resulted in his commitment to take certain steps – the notion of “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Peter would bring the outcomes back into our conversations, most of which were positive and he patted himself on the back, though not entirely convinced. Peter’s resistance to “stepping up” remains, the fear still takes hold at “crunch time”, as he called it, immobilizing him.

Ironic though it may seem, that at times of real conflict, we choose to trust a (professional) stranger than close ones no matter how supportive they can be. A stranger has no preconception or expectations of us as individuals. This gives us a level of freedom to experiment with being “different” to our “usual” self. It allows us to see ourselves through fresh eyes. This was how, I as psychotherapist/coach stepped into a relationship of trust with Peter, and established a foundation of safety upon which he could explore his “stuff” without fear or favour.

So what to do with Peter’s continued hesitance? It was not the ‘do’ but rather the being in our connection that provided rich evidence of his capabilities. It was not my job to tell him what to do with his work; each time there was a challenge, he was the one with the courage to face it with varying degrees of success. So it was that I bore witness to his courage, his analytical and critical mind, his creativity and his tenacity.

And it was through fresh eyes that he began to experience a different version of himself.  As Peter cautiously put on this new cloak, a new story of himself emerges – a self-assured man.

And the journey of self-discovery continues.

 

Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.

~ Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017