About Our Roles In Others' Lives
One morning I was feeding the rescues cats that live in shelters around our home, when I noticed one of the cats in hunting mode, chasing something. As I got closer, I noticed the cat was mercilessly swatting at a butterfly, playing his catch game. I got closer, shooed the cat away and examined the poor butterfly. The back part of its wings had been slashed on several places, leaving the butterfly still able to fly, but only at short heights and distance. With pain in my heart for the poor butterfly, I decided to try to get it and move it to a safer location where it wouldn’t be so exposed. As I tried to approach it and carefully scoop it in my hands, the butterfly seemed to understand I was trying to help. It simply walked from my cupped hands to my left wrist and just sat there, seemingly waiting for my next move.
Mind you, that was the very first time I ever had a butterfly pose on my arm, and I felt a sense of exhilaration, as well as responsibility for that beautiful and precious little life. I started scouting the area for a place where to safely discharge the ward in my care. I walked towards one of my neighbor’s house and approached a low hedge in the middle of their front yard. Not sure if that would be safe enough, I decided to ask the butterfly. As I got closer to the hedge, moving as if to place it there, the butterfly walked up from my wrist to my arm, giving me a clear indication that it wasn’t ready to get off. So I kept slowly walking around, butterfly on arm, until I noticed a low-bearing tree behind the wood fence between the next two neighbors. Some of the tree branches touched the top edge of the fence. I climbed up a pile of bricks to reach the top of the 6’ fence, paused and decided to ask the butterfly if that was a better spot. As I was in the process of formulating that question in my mind, the butterfly seemed to instantly respond by walking down my arm and into a leaf from one of the tree branches over the fence. Elated,
I said goodbye and left it there, hoping it would still be able to live the rest of its butterfly life
I found the experience quite moving in many ways. And since I believe everything happens for a reason, I started looking for the meaning behind this sad but beautiful experience I had just shared with a butterfly. What came to mind was a parallel with my profession. As a healer, it’s my job to create the safe space to assist the people I cross paths with in dealing with the challenges they encounter, and help them find a better path. But all I can do is to serve as a tool, a facilitator, a ride from point A to point B. As much as I want to help, even to the point that I might occasionally entertain the misguided belief that I know what’s best for my clients, in the end my job is to gently guide them where they want to go, while checking along the way if they are indeed approaching their goals; and then finally letting them go when they find the perfect spot where to get off and continue their journeys on their own (or with someone else’s assistance). I would have loved to know if that butterfly managed to live the rest of her life flying from flower to flower, completing its mission in this world. But I had to trust the fact that our paths were just meant to cross for that brief period of time during which we connected and learned from each other, while I was able to be of service.
The same principle can apply to anyone trying help a loved one through a challenge. The bottom line is, we can’t shorten anyone’s path; but occasionally we may be placed in a position to offer someone a hand (or accept someone’s support), as we all continue to move forward at our own pace to where we need to be…
On a side note: I often use the butterfly symbol of transformation during my sessions, and I actually had a client gift me a beautiful coffee cup with the following famous quote:
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 10/23/2017
Do you remember the fast-talking peddlers often depicted in old Western movies, who entertained their audience while selling bottles of miracle medicine that was supposed to cure everything from lice and snake bites to lumbago and lameness? Most of those "medicines" were simply ineffective and harmless; many of them, however, were potentially dangerous and contained herbal concoctions mixed with generous amounts of strong liquor or opiates which often caused customers to become addicted.
That’s what came to mind when I read the Huffington Post article Coconut Oil Is Over, RIP Coconut Oil (link below). In her rather angry article (which is something that tends to raise a red flag for me), Dr. Laura Thomas says that the coconut oil hype is an example of “marketing getting one over on science.” She mentions the tall claims that coconut oil helps you lose weight, reduces cholesterol, prevents dementia and boosts the immune system, to name a few. She then proceeds to quote the British Nutrition Foundation and their findings concerning the claim that coconut oil promotes weight loss. After reviewing available studies, the BNF reports that “there’s insufficient, good quality evidence at present to conclude that the consumption of coconut oil leads to a reduction in adiposity (fat).” According to Dr. Thomas, the studies used to substantiate such claims were flawed and are examples of “bad science” being used to push tons of coconut oil on unsuspecting consumers. She also mentions on her article that there are no studies showing any “immune-boosting” or “brain-Boosting” effects of coconut oil. And she ends by telling you to keep coconut oil “the f*ck out of your smoothies.”
On the other hand, the article Top 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Oil (medically reviewed by Kris Gunnars, BSc), seems to disagree. Among other things, the author points out that “coconut oil contains fatty acids with powerful medicinal properties”; “populations that eat a lot of coconut oils are healthy” (going off on a tangent, I remembered watching a Jackie Chan movie where he saves a guy from dying in a desert by using coconut water in a make-shift I.V.!); “coconut oil can help you burn more fat”; “coconut oil can kill harmful microorganisms”; “coconut oil can reduce your hunger, helping you eat less”; “the fatty acids in coconut oil are turned into ketones, which can reduce seizures”; “coconut oil can improve cholesterol levels”; “coconut oil can protect hair against damage, moisturize skin and function as sunscreen”; “the fatty acids in coconut oil can boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients”; and last but not least, “coconut oil can help you lose fat, especially the harmful abdominal fat.” Gunnars ends the article by affirming: “I personally cook almost everything I eat in coconut oil and my health has never been better.”
There are countless such articles online, authored by information providers who have supposedly checked the facts; all heralding the health benefits of coconut oil. Many of them mention the great benefits of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s patients, for instance. One example is the article Alzheimer’s Treatment: New Alzheimer’s Drugs Continue to Fail Where Coconut Oil Shines. (please see link below), which lists a lot of research and testimonies, and claims that “the testimonies of success in using coconut oil to treat Alzheimer’s have been nothing less than remarkable, especially considering the widespread failure of the drug companies to find drugs that can effectively deal with this disease.” The thing is, this information comes from coconutoil.com, a website that seems to have been created with the purpose of promoting coconut oil. And you might be familiar with Dr. Mary T. Newport, who decided to give her husband coconut oil to treat Alzheimer’s, supposedly with amazing results (please see the link to a short video below; the full-length video is available on youtube.com). But the website cited on the video is coconutketones.com, which might also be another coconut oil promoting site.
In addition to the marketing aspect of the available information, Dr. Thomas affirms that “a lot of the available studies “are observational, meaning we’re just looking to see what happens - you can’t prove cause and effect from this type of study.”
If Dr. Thomas is the one who’s right, maybe my husband and I should also be angry, as we bought into the coconut oil rave and personally use coconut oil in generous quantities for cooking* (as a medium/low smoke point oil, so we don’t use it for frying or other high heat cooking methods; please see oils smoke point chart on the article below). Except that neither my husband nor I seem to be suffering the potential harmful effects of cooking with coconut oil. And we absolutely love it. I also use coconut oil once a week as a deeply moisturizing skin mask as per my esthetician’s suggestion, due to the fact that I have very sensitive skin and usually have trouble with commercial face creams. It works very well for me (BTW, if you’d like to try it, but are not sure if it will feel or smell too overwhelming, you can try applying a thing layer of coconut oil and then your regular moisturizer on top).
We’re all aware that, over the years, many foods have been “villainized” in comparison to their competition, to only end up by being proven as the better (or less harmful) option, after all. For instance: a few decades ago, studies came out showing that butter was full of saturated fat and very, very bad for you; margarine and other butter substitutes were supposed to be much healthier. A few years later, margarine and other butter substitutes were proven to be much worse than butter due to the harmful effects of unnatural trans fat such as hydrogenated oils, in addition to the dozens of chemicals they use (including yellow die to make it look like butter). Butter had a come back as a better option, especially if organic and consumed in moderation. A similar trend happened with sugar and artificial sweeteners, among other foods and products.
The problem is: With the mass media world constantly feeding us (often incorrect) information, how can we tell what is what? In our household, here’s what we do:
1) We try to do some research ourselves and get as much information as we can from reputable professional sources on both sides of the issue. If at all possible, when we read about a “scientific study,” we try to find out who funded it (a very hard thing to do, since the moneys behind it might reveal the vested interests, if any, on the results of the study).
2) Even if the research checks out, we take it all in with a grain of salt… And we make sure to check with our doctor or other healthcare professionals for reasons why a specific substance might be beneficial or harmful to us.
3) If we decide to try it out, we pay attention to how we are personally affected by it, so that we can decide if it works for us. For example, I know for a fact that I do noticeably well on real butter (in moderation), but do very badly on margarine (digestive issues, weight gain, low energy level, etc).
4) We also make sure to have a wellness exam with a complete blood panel and other tests at least once a year (or more, if any issue comes up). That’s how we’ve been able to ascertain that our use of coconut oil hasn’t increased our cholesterol levels or caused other health issues.
Final Thought: So maybe coconut oil can’t indeed cure everything and should be used with discretion in the kitchen, especially by people who need to watch their intake of saturated fats (of the “good” and “bad” kind). But let’s not get carried away and go for the tar and feathers just yet. Maybe coconut oil does have some positive effects which haven’t been properly researched yet. Plus, in addition to its uniquely delicious flavor which makes it a favorite for cooking, this is an amazingly versatile oil that has countless uses, including beauty/hair and around the home. So, as with most things in life, enjoy… with moderation.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 08/16/2016
Photo from Pixabay.com
* Two of our favorite ways to use coconut oil for cooking are:
1) Thai Baked Salmon: spread some coconut oil on a baking dish; place salmon fillets; season both sides to taste with curry, turmeric, coconut sugar, light soy sauce and anise or fennel seeds; top with a touch of cayenne pepper and a dab of coconut oil per fillet; bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
2) Sweet Potatoes With Coconut Oil: dice and steam sweet potatoes or yams; toss lightly with coconut oil.
Coconut Oil Is Over, RIP Coconut Oil, by Laura Thomas, PhD
Alzheimer’s Treatment: New Alzheimer’s Drugs Continue to Fail Where Coconut Oil Shines
The Science Behind Coconut Oil As An Alzheimer's Treatment - Dr. Mary Newport
Top 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
The Top More Than 10 Evidence-Based Benefits Of Coconut Oil
101 Best Coconut Oil Uses And Benefits
Cooking Fats 101: What’s A Smoke Point And Why Does It Matter?
Reiki (“Rei”: universal; “Ki”: life energy or light) is a technique used for stress reduction and relaxation that can also help promote healing. There are many forms and founders of Reiki. One of the main originators is Dr. Mikao Usui, who developed the practice in the beginning of the 20th century in Japan. Reiki is usually administered by the laying of hands on or above the chakras (energy centers) of the body. The practitioner then increases and directs the energy flow through the body. Blockages found in the meridian points and channels are often released by Reiki treatments. This technique also helps balance the body’s chakras. Think of it as an energy “tune-up.”
Is There Any Scientific Proof That Reiki Works?
Up until recently, scientific proof of the effectiveness of Reiki or Reiki-based healing was hard to come by. Part of the reason is that it's practically impossible to accurately measure the effectiveness of energy healing by using most the of scientific methods currently in use, as the great majority of them don't even acknowledge the existence of subtle energy bodies, and don't measure the effect of energy healing on meridians, chakras, etc. Not to mention the issues regarding the infinite number of variables present in energy healing studies, as well as the way some of these studies are set up. For these reasons, most of the research available can hardly be taken as real proof of the true effectiveness of Reiki (or lack thereof, as many attempted to disprove it).
For instance, one particular study had three different target groups; the first group was treated with Reiki by trained practitioners; the second with "placebo Reiki," (a person who was not a trained Reiki healer and was just going through the motions), and the third group received no intervention. Both the first and second groups reported feeling better, while the third group reported no change. But the conclusion of the study was that "real" Reiki was no better than "placebo" Reiki, as both groups had similar results. So, even in the way these "scientific studies" are set up, it's obvious that there's great lack of understanding about energy healing. The fact that the "placebo Reiki" group got good results could be explained by the placebo effect. But isn’t the placebo effect the very proof of the power of the mind to energetically effect change on the body by mere suggestion, which makes it part of the effectiveness of energy healing?
There’s also the fact that, if a subject is open and receptive to energy healing, it’s more likely to work (placebo or not); but how can you measure the level of receptiveness of each subject in a study? In addition, it could also be that the person who performed the "placebo Reiki" actually managed to move energy and cause an effect, even without having been properly trained in how to do it. Of course, most trained practitioners should be able to achieve better results more consistently. However, everyone has access to the same energy fields and would be capable of achieving different degrees of result when doing bodywork, training or no training (although some results might be more positive than others, depending on the person's energy). Some people are natural born energy healers without even knowing it. I know a nurse who said that her elderly patients claim to feel better and have less pain as a direct result of how she kindly touches and handles them. Of course, part of the reason may simply be the fact that these patients are being treated with kindness. This nurse has never been trained in hands-on healing and isn’t even sure if she believes it works. However, her many patients frequently mention her “great energy,” “uplifting smile” and “healing power.”
Encouraging News: Science Is Catching Up
Nowadays there is better scientific research available, as modern science is beginning to catch up on such subjects. More adequately designed scientific studies, which assume the presence of biofields or energy fields around the physical body, as well as the possibility that these energy fields can overlap and interconnect from one person to another, have showed very positive results in many areas, including pain relief. On a side note, biofields are now known to exist due to newer technology such as Kirlian photography, aura imaging and gas discharge visualization.
According to Cyndi Dale, author of The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energy Anatomy, “one particular study measured the effect of healing touch on the properties of pH, oxidation-reduction balance, and electric resistance in body fluids. These factors were linked to biological age. Before a treatment, the mathematically determined age of the touch-treated group was 62; after treatment it was 49.” Dale also mentions a paper written by the respected medical doctor and author of bioenergy Daniel J. Benor. Upon reviewing sixty one studies, Dr. Benor concludes that “distance, even thousands of miles, does not appear to limit the effects of healing.” Current Quantum physics theories attempt to explain these phenomena; however, this leads to very complex discussions that go beyond the scope of this article.
Partly due to such studies, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch and other similar energy therapies are becoming more widely accepted due to their encouraging results, and more and more energy therapists and nurses in hospitals and clinics are being trained in these modalities. Some hospitals and clinics have also created volunteer services. For instance, at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, MN, practitioners of Reiki or healing touch provide services as volunteers to patients at both the hospital campuses and some outpatient areas. The healing enhancements are provided in conjunction with Mayo Clinic's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program.
Along the same line, the article Reiki Really Works: A Groundbreaking Scientific Study (Savvy Examiner; link below) mentions The Touchstone Process formulated by William Lee Rand. According to this source, Rand developed a web site about Reiki in hospitals, which is "considered to be the most comprehensive compilation of hospitals offering Reiki treatments throughout the world." Rand developed The Touchstone Process after creating his web site. Quoting the article, this process "is a peer review method for analyzing the current state of scientific studies done on Reiki programs in hospital, clinics and hospice facilities throughout the United States. The process of critique is rigorous, impartial, and consistent and incorporates the best practices for scientific reviews." This is an unprecedented approach which has actually been able to show indisputably successful results with the use of Reiki therapy.
Please see below additional articles with information on many current scientific studies, some of which mention the measurable effects that occur during a Reiki treatment. One of them specifically mentions the significant difference on certain test meridian points (spleen, adrenal glands and the cervical and thoracic regions of the spine) before and after a Reiki session.
Final Thought: Hands-on healing modalities have been around for many centuries, having been successfully practiced in many cultures. The bottom line is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating… So give it a try!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 08/03/2016
Photo by Jürgen Rübig from Pixabay
The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy, by Cyndi Dale
Essential Reiki - A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Guide, by Diane Stein
The system of meridians
Reiki - Science-Based Medicine
Reiki Really Works: A Groundbreaking Scientific Study
Reiki studies and articles - Mayo Clinic
What Is Self-Hypnosis?
Self-hypnosis is the self-induced form of hypnosis through which you make use of self-suggestions and affirmations. Self-hypnosis can help reinforce the work done during guided sessions. In a way, all hypnosis is a form of self-hypnosis. Different techniques can be used, either on your own or with a hypnotherapist as your guide. But even when you engage the help of a hypnotherapist, it's your subconscious doing the work of opening up to and accepting suggestions for positive change. The more motivated you are, the better it works. Most people are capable of reaching a hypnotic state, as long as they are motivated to do so.
• Define your goal, being as clear and specific as possible. And then think about suggestions and affirmations that can help you achieve your goals, along with imagery, symbols, etc, which you relate with and will make it easier for you to visualize your goals. You can also choose to write up a script outline or a full script.
• Choose no more than one or two goals per session. Otherwise, you might overload your subconscious and end up by not achieving what you want. Also, try to keep it realistic and simple.
• Try practicing 15 to 20 minutes per day. You can do it sitting down or lying in bed, right before going to sleep. You should expect to make positive changes that will benefit your life, based upon the suggestions given during hypnosis. You can also add a post-hypnotic suggestion to make it easier to achieve a self-hypnotic state every time. In addition, you can choose to record your session and play it every day.
• Choose a quiet place and make himself comfortable. If you’d like, you can gauge the effectiveness of your session by choosing a number from 1 to 10 that represents the intensity of your discomfort (stress, anxiety, etc) or challenge. At the end of the session you can assess yourself again by choosing a number from 1 to 10 and checking if it decreased.
• Use your voice, making it normal in the beginning of the session, then making it softer and slowing it down as he proceeded. Eventually you might get to the point where you don't need to speak it out loud; saying it silently in your mind can be just as effective.
• Separate your hands and feet (to stay open and receptive to the process), close your eyes when you are ready and start helping yourself relax by using deep breathing and progressive relaxation techniques to allow your mind to get calmer and clearer. You can use some imagery at that point, such as a liquid relaxation that spreads throughout your body, from head to toes.
• Use a deepening technique such as counting down (with or without imagery) to reach a deeper level of relaxation.
• Create your safe place or inner world using imagery and trying to engage all your senses for best results. Use your imagination! Or you can choose a more direct and authoritative approach.
• Include positive affirmations and self-suggestions to reach your goal, repeating them as much as possible. Make them positive and keep them in the present, such as: “I am calm and peaceful; I feel completely stress-free,” rather than “I will be calm and peaceful and not feel stress anymore.” The subconscious responds better to positive affirmations and often doesn’t recognize negatives.
• You can also choose to end with a post-hypnotic suggestion for continuing benefits, as well as to make it easier to achieve self-hypnotic trance next time.
• Count yourself back up, while taking the opportunity to reaffirm your goals. Example:
5... I’m getting ready to return from my positive experience.
4... I’m very satisfied with the changes that have taken place.
3... I’m more in touch with the room around me.
2... The mind and the body are returning back to normal.
1... I am refreshed, feeling calm and peaceful, wide awake and completely stress-free.”
• Assess yourself again, and practice whenever possible.
FINAL THOUGHT: Self-hypnosis is a great self-empowerment tool that can be very effective. Give it a try!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 07/13/2016
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
More Than Best Friends
After the shooting at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, a local Lutheran church which has an outreach program with the LGBT community joined forces with other churches and organizations around the country to invite 12 comfort dogs to come to Orlando. These wonderful dogs were brought to work with injured victims and their relatives, the family members and friends of those who lost their lives, and the emergency workers in attendance. They helped provide temporary calm and consolation to those in need during a traumatic week. It was heart-warming to see them at work, to watch their interaction with so many people in need of healing. Many people would just start crying as they petted the dogs. Comfort dogs (and animals in general) have the capacity to pick up the emotions of those who pet them, and are great listeners who don’t judge and offer unconditional love. They also help make it safe for people in pain to drop their guard and express their feelings.
Humans and animals have always shared a strong bond. Anyone who has a connection with their animal companions understands how rewarding it is. This bond has often been a source of solace and relief for those who suffer from physical or emotional pain. But a growing body of scientific research is showing that our pets can also help make us healthy, or healthier. That helps explain why Pet Therapy (which includes Animal-Assisted Therapy or AAT, and other Animal-Assisted activities) is a growing field, having gained a lot of popularity over the last few years. There has been an increasing use of animals (mostly dogs and cats; but also horses, birds and fish) in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, jails and mental institutions.
According to Aubrey Fine, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State Polytechnic University, the use of pets in medical settings dates back more than 150 years. But it was only in the late 1970s that researchers started to discover the science behind it, and a great number of studies have been published since.
For years, animals have been used with great benefit in the treatment of the elderly and the terminally ill. Animal-Assisted Therapy has also been shown to help children who have experienced abuse or neglect, as well as patients undergoing chemotherapy or other difficult medical treatments. These days, AAT is also helping sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The use of pets for assisting veterans and their families who are struggling to cope with the effects of wartime military service is becoming more common, due to the many success stories of pets helping PTSD patients greatly reduce their symptoms. Studies reveal a high success rate with the use of dogs, cats, birds, horses and even dolphins in PTSD treatment. According to an Elements Behavioral Health’s blog article (Animal Therapy Is Making Strides In The Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), “in one study of the effect of dogs with patients, psychologists noted an 82% reduction in symptoms. One particular case noted that interacting with the dog for as little as one week, enabled a patient to decrease the amount of anxiety and sleep medications by half.” The studies have been so encouraging that the Department of Defense is investing close to $300,000 in this type of treatment.
Pet Therapy can also help patients with OCD and other psychiatric conditions. Here’s a touching video from America's Got Talent featuring a contestant with a disabling form of OCD who says that his dog has changed his life. They obviously share a strong connection, which anyone can notice when they perform together:
America's Got Talent 2016 Patrick & Ginger The Most Talented Dog in the World
Some of the many reasons why Pet Therapy works:
1) Animal companions require care and attention, which keeps the patients busy, active and distracted from their health challenges. They also reinforce rehabilitation behavior in patients (for instance, by getting them to walk or throw a ball).
2) Animal companions offer unconditional love, which is the most healing feeling anyone can receive.
3) Animal companions inspire altruistic love. By doing something for another being, a person can reduce depression. Loving others is a depression antidote.
4) Animal companions are wonderfully accepting creatures. As I mentioned above, they make great non-judgmental listeners, providing a safe space for emotions to be expressed.
5) Animal companions lower blood pressure, relieve stress, reduce anxiety, boost the immune system and more. Countless studies show the health benefits of riding a horse, playing with a dog or a cat, etc.
In short, Pet Therapy can promote healing of mind, body and spirit in many children, adults and seniors suffering from countless different issues. And one of the best things about therapy that involves animal companions is that it goes both ways. Animals also benefit from their special bond with their human companions and can find healing along with their caretakers; especially animals commissioned from shelters, who often have a history of abuse and neglect. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 06/29/2016
NOTE: This blog article was published on the September 2016 issues of Natural Awakenings - Central Florida/Orlando Edition (link below)
Natural Awakenings CF - September 2016
Article: Animal Companions - Pet Therapy Offers Many Benefits; pgs. 32-33
Photo by Cindy Makonin on Unsplash
In A Shaken Orlando, Comfort Dogs Arrive With “Unconditional Love”
Pet Therapy: Man’s Best Friend As Healer
The Pet Effect on Mental Health Conditions (Stress, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Trauma) - HABRI - Human Animal Bond Research Institute
Pet Therapy: How Animals And Humans Help Each Other
Is Mental The New Normal?
According to NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (which corresponds to 43.8 million or 18.5%) experiences mental illness in a given year; and approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (corresponding to 10 million or 4.2%) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities (for more numbers, please see link under References). That means a staggering amount of people with some level of mental health challenge. Considering that a whole lot of people don’t seek help and go undiagnosed, the real numbers are likely to be even scarier.
No wonder words like OCD, OCPD, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, chronic depression, etc, have become commonplace. Look around yourself. How many friends or family members display behavior that has been qualified as (or suggested to be) a mental health disorder of some kind? Or look in the mirror. When was the last time you’ve felt emotionally, mentally and physically (not to mention spiritually) healthy and balanced? Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with a mental health challenge, or do you suspect you or someone you know might have such a challenge?
The even bigger question is: are we all going mental, at least to some degree? And where is it coming from? Being out of touch with ourselves and our innermost needs? The stress and lack of balance of modern living, along with excessive exposure to technology and information overload? Unhealthy foods? Contaminated water? Polluted air? Probably all of the above and more. But one thing is certain: when a system says that a big chunk of the population has some type of mental health issue that requires medication, maybe it’s time to change a lot of things in that system. Mere common sense dictates that something is seriously wrong with that picture.
Antidepressants vs. Placebo
To top it all, in the past few years there have been plenty of studies which show that certain drugs have no more benefits than placebos for many health issues. One example: antidepressants. Although they can help people suffering from extreme depression, their effectiveness for mild to moderate depression is about the same as placebos, with a minimal difference considered to be clinically insignificant (please see some of these studies under References). So the people who are feeling better by taking these drugs are doing so largely due to the placebo effect, not the chemicals in the drug. However, a lot of people with mild to moderate depression are still being prescribed antidepressants on a regular basis, notwithstanding the facts that their effectiveness has become questionable, they often cause many bad side effects and have high potential risks which include addiction. In addition, they mostly serve to cover up the deeper causes of depression.
What to do?
On a personal level, we really need to take a good look into what we’ve made of our lives and try to make better, healthier choices in relation to work, career, life path, people we choose to be in relationships with, forms of entertainment, etc. Looking at the bigger picture, we also need to intensify efforts to stop further contamination and destruction of our environment, and expedite damage control and sustainable solutions.
We can start by trying alternatives to prescription drugs for issues such as anxiety and depression, among others, as follows:
1) Mind-body therapies (if we can change our mind, we can change our body; if we can change our thoughts, we can change our lives): CBT - Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Biofeedback, Creative Arts, Meditation, Prayer, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, etc.
2) Exercise, along with proper rest and sleep
3) Massage, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Energy Healing, etc.
4) Light Therapy or Sun Gazing
5) Vitamins, supplements and natural antidepressants such as St. John’s wort
6) Aromatherapy, Flower Essences, Homeopathy, etc.
7) Anything that brings us true peace and joy rather than an artificially induced high, including spiritual faith and practices that uplift our souls; love and light; smiles and laugh; music and dance; hopes and dreams; inspiration and passion...
8) Gratitude for everything we have or partake in, including loving family and friends we can be ourselves with; our animal companions and other living beings who share this beautiful planet with us; etc. In short, gratitude for life!
10 Chillaxing some more.
Final Thought: The Placebo Effect serves as a reminder of how powerful the mind is. Let’s put it to good use, and make the choice to be happy!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 5/26/16
NOTE: This blog article was published on the June 2016 issues of Natural Awakenings - Central Florida/Orlando Edition (link below)
Natural Awakenings CF - June 2016
Article: Antidepressants vs. Placebo: And The Winner Is…; pgs. 26-27
Photo by The Tonik on Unsplash
10 Antidepressant Alternatives Proven to Work
Popular Drugs May Help Only Severe Depression
Anti Depressant Drug Effects and Depression Severity
Treating Depression: Is There a Placebo Effect? (60 Minutes video)
The Challenge (or One of Them)
We live in a time period when a lot is expected and even demanded of anyone who's on their way to awareness (or trying to get there). And it doesn't make any difference where on our paths we might be; we are not being cut any slack. A lot of us can't help but feeling overwhelmingly pressured to perform, to become someone many of us don't feel quite ready to be (even assuming we know for sure who we want to become or what we want to do).
Everyone and everything around are inspiring (or rather, urging) us to take major action, and immediately. Something about the fact that we don't have a lot of time left. The news. The prophets. New Age books. Movies such as An Inconvenient Truth, Fast Food Nation, Supersize Me, Sicko, etc. Everywhere you turn, it's doomsday approaching by the minute. It's do or die. Although all that information is very necessary and fulfilling a vital service by educating us, one of its common side effects is that of creating a state of paranoia and panic, and freezing a lot of well-meaning but overwhelmed people into depression and inaction (not to mention that, according to the law of attraction, it can actually reinforce this very reality we want so much to change). The current political (and socio-economical) climate doesn’t help one bit.
Like so many, for a long time I had also felt that I should be doing something about it. I went through a period of confusion during which I desperately tried to figure out what, how, which, when. And, more specifically, who I had to become to participate, to contribute. "Become" being the operative word. I did not believe that I could just choose to do something, to participate, to create without becoming somebody else first. As in, becoming better; improving myself as a person. Not that I have anything against the idea that we all should put an effort into connecting with and expressing our best selves. I believe that's one of the reasons we come here: to remember who we really are, and ultimately make that choice. It's just that, in my mind, I often felt I was not even worthy of initiating any change process because I was not good enough. I didn't believe that if I just followed my heart, chose something I care about and made it happen, even if it were on a small scale, that I would really be making a difference. As I was influenced by our modern culture, which is filled with so many amazing people doing things in the grandest possible styles, I thought that whatever changes I made, they would have to be on a much larger scale. It seemed like hard footsteps to follow. Just too much for little ol' me.
And so I read all about how to build an organic garden and do composting and save water and energy, etc, etc, etc. And then I watched movies and documentaries about the environment and felt inspired (or shamed) into doing something about it. And then I saved all the web site links and their huge lists of things to do. At first, my intention was to go all out; but then, for lack of time or money or energy or simply for being lazy, all I managed to do in the end was to neatly organize bookmarks of informative websites for future use... and buy a few eco-friendly light bulbs.
Until I decided to stop trying to become someone I'm not, and find my own small way to help by doing something I enjoy, am good at and can have fun with: becoming a wellness practitioner, and writing articles to hopefully help break it down for other people like me.
What's Next, Then?
Here are 11 steps I suggest you consider if you’re feeling lost and confused about your studies, work, career, calling, life path, etc, and trying to figure out a way to contribute to positive change while following your bliss:
1) Chillax.* Take a deep breath, take a walk, meditate, give yourself a break.
(*This slang made up of the contraction between “chill” and “relax” used to be a thing. Then older adults started overusing it, so it’s considered lame and even archaic now; but I still like it and I think it works here. So, there.)
2) Chillax some more.
3) Realize that you are the only one who can decide what works for you. There's no wrong way or right way. There's only your way, my way, and everyone else's infinite own ways.
4) Decide to have fun in your life. This is very important: first thing you do when you wake up is to ask to have fun and prepare to be surprised. Expect it. Believe it. Pursue it. And watch it happen. Everything else falls into place.
5) Understand that you don't have to be or become perfect (whatever your perception of perfection happens to be) to deserve that good things happen to you, and to decide to participate in this amazing shift that's happening in our world right now. In other words:
You don't “gotta” become anything.
You just gotta be.
You be, and in the being the best you can manage to be at this very moment in your life, you'll eventually find yourself and your way.
6) Whichever way it goes, it's all good. Sure, human civilization as we know it might end in this planet if we don't act quickly enough. However, there are also a lot of people out there already working to make a difference, as we speak. And in the end, as my yoga teacher said, whichever way it goes it's all good. And it's certainly not going to do us any good to constantly worry about it....
7) So, go at your own pace. Your timing is just right for you. Just because your favorite guru or your next-door neighbor already got enlightened and found their mission, it doesn't mean you have to rush out and try to get a bigger one for yourself. I mean, the pressure to keep up!!! Just try to do what you can, without worrying if you're doing enough, or doing it quickly enough and, most importantly, without worrying about what anybody else is doing or not doing.
8) There's no such thing as missing your opportunity to do anything in life. There’s always another opportunity where that one came from.
9) Think baby steps. In the end, it's the little things, the tiny steps, the small ways that make a difference. Every single, minute action counts. You are here and now to take only one step to begin with.
10) And finally, but most importantly: enjoy yourself in the process. If you are not enjoying yourself, try something else. In the end, it's all about You. Yes, You. So, be gentle with yourself, and be merry!
11) In case you start following the steps above and get busy, tired, sick, overwhelmed, overworked, disheartened, discouraged, fed up, lazy, etc, and then give up, step # 11 is here just to remind you to give yourself a break. When you are ready again, just go back to step #1 and start over!
Choosing Your Step
Just think of something that you would like to be doing to help. Look around your home, or think about your family, friends, school, work, hobbies, community, or whatever you connect the most with. The choices are virtually limitless. If there's anything that draws your attention, some area where you feel you can make a difference, even if in very small ways, go for it! You can start by simply picking one action to follow and putting it into practice, until you feel ready to add more to your list. Try not to overwhelm yourself. Unless you do feel like choosing several things and starting to change the world right away; then, by all means, go ahead and follow your instincts. If at any point you become overwhelmed, try not to get discouraged and drop everything; instead, remember you can always cut back and/or change your choices.
C’mon, Can One Small Step Really Make A Difference?
YES!!! Think about the proverbial small pebble creating the ripple effect when tossed in the lake. Think about any other frequently used metaphor in relation to the huge power of small actions; or create your own! Whatever it takes to get you going. But take that step. And then another, and another, and another. Just try it and see.
Final Thought: Remember that even a tiny step is better than doing nothing. And don't forget to HAVE FUN!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 05/18/2016
Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay
What Hypnosis Is and Isn't
As a hypnotherapist, part of my work with clients involves explaining how hypnotherapy works and playing the role of “myth buster.” That has become necessary because of the great amount of mistaken notions about hypnosis that’s out there, mostly due to misrepresentation on TV shows, movies, etc. It doesn’t help that hypnotherapy is often compared to and confused with stage hypnosis and other entertainment-driven practices such as mentalism, street magic, etc. It’s been my experience that a lot of people, including other practitioners and healthcare professionals, share at least a few misconceptions about hypnosis.
One recent example came from a client of mine. After a few sessions, she started noticing marked positive change. This client happens to be someone who goes easily and deeply into trance, and hardly ever remembers much about the session on a conscious level. As it often happens in these situations, she couldn’t believe that something as seemingly simple and easy as a hypnosis session (which she often felt as if she’d slept through and couldn’t even remember), could start making such a big difference in her life. So, every time we’d meet, she would question me about how hypnotherapy works. I was only too glad to answer all her questions to help her feel as comfortable as possible with the process. One of those times, however, she mentioned that she had spoken about it to someone she knew, a massage therapist who claimed to also be trained in hypnotherapy. She had told this person that she was mostly zoned out during her sessions and couldn’t remember almost anything. The well-intentioned but ill-informed practitioner told her that it was not working, then; and added that she needed to be alert and engaged for it to work. So I had to explain to my client that this is one of the most common misconceptions about hypnotherapy. I told her that, although it might feel like being asleep during session sometimes, she’s really not completely asleep or unconscious. She’s actually in a sleep-like state or somnambulism, which is between awake and asleep (in the Alpha/Theta zones), and not in deep sleep (Delta zone); in that state, she might lose conscious awareness but her subconscious is still engaged, listening to the sound of my voice in the background and duly recording the message. That’s how she always knows when I’m counting her back up (which is referred to as “awakening”). As my client was still looking a bit unsure, and also wondering about the content of the scripts I had been using, I offered to show her the script I had used in our last session, explaining that it would give her a good idea of what we had covered but it wouldn’t be exact, since I customize it for each client. Well, the moment my client started looking at the script, she cried out in instant recognition: “Oh, I remember this! I remember the door and the key and everything!” Merely glancing at the script was enough for her conscious mind to get triggered into remembering what her subconscious had already recorded. She was quite surprised about it, and was finally convinced that the therapy was working as it should, and her subconscious was doing its job.
Light or Deep Trance? Trance levels vary for countless reasons. For instance, some scripts are more interactive than others, so you might be more alert during those. Or you might be curious about the process or a bit nervous during your first session, which could also cause you to stay more alert. Or your levels of stress might be higher than usual that day; or unexpected background noises might pull you out of your relaxation mode; or your mind might be distracted by your to-do list; etc. Or you might simply feel more comfortable staying alert through the process. Of course, the therapist will do the best to help you stay relaxed and engaged in spite of distractions. But, in general, your own subconscious will do whatever is best for you at the time. If there’s something you need to remember on a conscious level, you will be more alert during the session; or go in and out (in for the part you need to remember consciously and out for the part that you will retain more on a subconscious level). If your subconscious needs your conscious mind out of the way for some deep healing and change, you are likely to zone out for most of it. As illustrated above, if you do go into a deep hypnotic state (or sleep-like state), you might not remember everything (or anything) on a conscious level, once you are awake. And that’s OK; your subconscious mind still records the message. You can actually train your mind to stay conscious and aware during a deep trance, but that’s not necessary for the hypnotic suggestion to work. On the other hand, it is possible for a client to get completely detached from the environment and go into the Delta zone (deep sleep). However, the tell-tale signs are clear, and at that point the hypnotherapist can bring the client out of hypnosis a bit, making the trance lighter.
IN SHORT: Hypnotherapy works through subliminal suggestion, regardless of how deep the state of hypnosis. The hypnotic trance achieved by the client can be light, deep and everything in between; and significant change can happen at any level of trance. The only exception I’m aware of is medical hypnosis for pain management or control. In this case, the client needs to reach a deeper trance for best results. You can learn more about the science behind Hypnotherapy (including studies proving its effectiveness and theories discussing why it works) by exploring the sources under References.
OTHER HYPNOSIS AND HYPNOTHERAPY FACTS:
1) About Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is a trance or altered state of consciousness that's between waking and sleep, and is characterized by increased suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. It's a natural state which we achieve many times throughout the day, without even realizing it (for instance, when we become so involved driving, watching TV or a movie, or reading a book, etc, that we lose awareness of where we are). We just don’t refer to it as going into a hypnotic trance; we call it “zoning out.” Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic method of healing by using hypnosis.
2) Hypnotherapy is completely different from stage hypnotism, mentalism, street magic, etc. What entertainers seek to accomplish is to distract your conscious mind through rapid induction and confusion techniques, so that they can get you to temporarily believe certain things and act in certain ways for the purpose of entertainment. But for that to work, you still need to be a willing participant. And even when it does work, it will be short-lived, as your subconscious will seek to go back to normal (and “normal” is certainly not clucking like a chicken!). This process is called homeostasis, or a natural state of balance, and it will soon occur even without suggestion removal by the entertainer. A hypnotherapist, on the other hand, discusses goals with you before the session so that you are aware of and in agreement with the positive suggestions that will be made to the subconscious during the session. Then the hypnotherapist intentionally induces a trance to help bring you into a relaxed and focused state, which makes the positive suggestions much more effective. And even in such planned circumstances, if you have too much resistance or mixed feelings about the goals you are trying to accomplish, your subconscious might not accept the positive suggestions, or just accept them to a certain degree. The bottom line is: the more motivated you are, the better it works.
3) Hypnotherapy is not mind control. Nobody can force you to do anything you don’t want to do through hypnosis. You have to be willing to accept the suggestions. As I mentioned above, even in the case of stage hypnosis, the participants need to be willing to play the game.
4) Hypnosis is not dangerous. There has never been a documented case of harmful results from the therapeutic use of hypnosis. It is easy to be brought back from a hypnotic trance; there has never been a documented case of someone unable to come out of it.
5) All hypnosis is a form of self hypnosis. Different techniques can be used, either on your own or with a hypnotherapist as your guide. But even when you engage the help of a hypnotherapist, it’s your subconscious doing the work of opening up to and accepting suggestions for positive change. As I mentioned before, the more motivated you are, the better it works. Most people are capable of reaching a hypnotic state, as long as they are motivated to do so.
6) Hypnotherapy does not work better on weaker minds. In fact, the stronger the will and imagination of a person, the more likely they are to achieve success in hypnosis. This is because people are most influenced by their own suggestions and, in actuality, put themselves in a hypnotic state. A therapist's role is to guide them in this process. Hypnotherapy will only be effective if you want to be helped and want to resolve your problem. In a hypnotic state you will either accept or refuse a suggestion.
7) Potential Issues with Hypnotherapy. There are some issues which can potentially decrease the effectiveness of hypnotherapy by impeding or slowing down progress, such as resistance (often caused by the client being of two minds about a goal; having fear of symptom removal; trying too hard; being over analytical; having lack of rapport with the therapist; suffering from extreme anxiety or other mental health issues; etc). The hypnotherapist should be able to help the client through some of these issues, at least to a certain degree; however, the client needs to be willing and open to change. The combination of hypnotherapy with counseling or other behavior modification practices can be beneficial in such cases.
There are also potential risks involving hypnosis; some of these are: abreaction (a strong emotional reaction to a memory); physical reactions (especially if the client has epilepsy, lung or respiratory disease, etc); recollection of blocked memories (which can cause an abreaction); and false memories. It is important to remember that such occurrences can be great opportunities for a client to remove, resolve and release past issues or trauma. It’s also important to understand that recollected “memories” might be real; but they could be distorted and embellished, much like being in a dream state. Such recollections could also be just a symbolic representation of what the client felt during a hurtful or traumatic moment. A qualified hypnotherapist should be prepared for and able to handle such issues, and also know when to call for additional professional help or refer the client.
8) Hypnotherapy is a safe, natural and non-invasive way to guide you through positive change. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Hypnosis that's conducted by a trained therapist or health care professional is considered a safe, complementary and alternative medical treatment.” It can be of great use in the treatment of many behavioral, physical and psychological conditions, such as stress, anxiety and panic, fears and phobias, pain, fatigue, health issues, sleep distress, self esteem and motivation, loss and separation, depression, learning disabilities, bed-wetting and many others. It is often used for weight loss, smoking cessation, athletic performance, natural child birth, regression, etc.
BOTTOM LINE: So, once you choose a qualified professional or learn how to practice self-hypnosis, how do you get the most out of your sessions? Simply put: motivation... and an open mind.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 05/12/2016
Image by the 33D Animation Production Company from Pixabay
Clinical Hypnotherapy: A Transpersonal Approach, by Allen S. Chips, DCH, PhD
Hypnosis for Change, by Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher
On The Hypnotic Induction
Scientific Theories of Hypnosis
Various research, training and educational materials supplied by SWIHA - Southwest Institute of Healing Arts
What Is Loss Really About?
My husband and I recently lost one of the rescue cats we’ve been sheltering, feeding and trying to get adopted. His name was Solo, a sweet, gentle and friendly Tuxedo cat who was very loving and protective of the other cats in the colony; especially his smaller siblings. After a week-long search, we found poor Solo’s body in a neighbor’s yard, close to the fence between our homes. We believe he got into some rat poison. It was quite shocking to find him that way. I wept inconsolably because of the sad way he died, as well as the condition of his body, which was already in the first stages of decomposition; and for not having had the chance for a proper goodbye. But I also cried for not having realized how seriously ill he was and tried to do more about it (he had looked shaky and non-responsive a week before, so we tried to catch him to take him to the vet but he escaped, and because we couldn’t find anything visibly wrong and he seemed to be doing better, we decided to just keep an eye on him; unfortunately, that was the last time we saw him alive). I also wept for not having been able to find him a permanent home soon enough; for the deep pain I witnessed and felt in my husband, who had developed a soft spot for Solo; but above all, I cried for the kind of world we live in, where too many living beings suffer from neglect and ill-treatment, and where too many are killed so casually and mindlessly, often just for our convenience.
After my husband asked permission to enter the neighbor’s backyard, we went together to pick up Solo’s remains and bring him back to our house, the place that was never meant to be his permanent home but was the only home he knew for the almost three years of his life, ever since he was just a little kitten hiding with his siblings under our shed. We buried him in our backyard, saying our final goodbyes. Ironically, about a week later someone called and asked if Solo was still available for adoption. They were looking for a neutered Tuxedo male to keep company with a Tuxedo female who had recently lost her companion. Solo would have been perfect. The call came about two weeks too late.
A few days later, we attended an event with a few friends and acquaintances. One of the people there was a man who had lost his younger son to suicide just a few months before. I can’t even imagine the kind of pain that man had gone (and was still going) through. I also remember feeling embarrassed about how much I was still suffering for the loss of a rescue cat, and how self-conscious I felt after a friend asked what was wrong with me, and I shared it with him. I caught myself trying to justify what I was feeling and why I was still feeling that way.
Over the years I’ve suffered my share of losses, as everyone else. In the past year alone, my grandmother (with whom I had a very special connection) and a cousin-in-law (a special and wonderful young woman with whom I also shared a special connection) passed away. In addition to Solo, we also lost three other rescue cats; one of them was especially hard, as it was a sweet little kitten who got severely sick and had to be put to sleep. I still carry all of them with me.
As these events caused me to muse about loss more than usual; and considering that every single one of us deals with loss on a regular basis, I decided to write down some thoughts and feelings in relation to this important and reoccurring theme.
1) Loss is always about much more than who or what you lose. As it happened in relation to the death of Solo the rescue cat, loss can bring up many other issues to the surface, including fear of death, feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness, etc. Generally speaking, the more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. However, as our losses can be connected with so many different aspects of our beings and existence (including past experiences of loss), the significance of each loss is quite personal and individual.
2) Loss is loss is loss. No loss should be considered greater or lesser than another; comparing losses is an exercise in futility. There’s no right or wrong here. So I shouldn’t have compared my grief for the loss of our rescue cat with the grief of the gentleman who lost his son. Losses cannot be compared by quantity or quality. Of course, it’s still a good rule of thumb to not try to engage someone who just lost his son to suicide by speaking about the loss of your rescue cat. Each person tends to feel very intensely about their own loss and most likely wouldn’t respond well to a comment that might elicit comparison, especially if they are still grieving. When someone is in need to sympathy for their loss, it’s always better to address their needs without bringing up your own loss, anyway. However, you should be able to go through your own grief process without guilt or shame. Which bring us to the following thought:
3) There’s no shame in loss. Or there shouldn’t be. Easier said than done, as I happened to prove with my own personal experience. However, that’s what we should strive for: understanding that grief due to loss is a very natural feeling that needs to be honored and experienced without guilt or shame. In spite of the fact that many of us believe in a higher realm where souls are eternal, it’s still hard to disconnect ourselves from the pain caused by the very real losses in our physical world. The thing is, we are also physical beings, and it is OK to acknowledge and feel loss in this realm.
4) Suffering more for the loss of one person (or animal companion, etc) over another doesn’t mean caring more for one over the other. Among other things, the circumstances involving someone’s death can make it harder for the people who survive them. As I mentioned above, I lost my grandmother and my cousin-in-law just a few months apart in the past year. Although I was a lot closer to my grandmother than I was to my cousin-in-law, in some ways I suffered my cousin-in-law’s death more intensely. The reasons were that my grandmother died at the age of 97, having lived a full life, having had the chance to see most of her family for her 97th birthday celebration a couple of weeks before (with family coming from out of state and even of the country), and having her wish for a good death fulfilled (she died peacefully in her sleep, and mostly in good health). My cousin-in-law, however, was only 41 and died painfully of cancer in the prime of her life, leaving her husband and her 6-year-old son behind, not to mention a mother who had recently lost her husband (my cousin-in-law’s father) to cancer, and whose son (my cousin-in-law’s brother) also has cancer.
4) Those of us who are highly sensitive people (HSP) might feel loss even more deeply. As I mentioned on my blog article “This Is Too Much!!!” About Highly Sensitive People, what is moderately stimulating to most people is overwhelming to highly sensitive people, who make up about 20% of the population. One more reason why it’s wise to not compare degrees of grief and loss.
5) The grieving process is not linear. So we shouldn’t expect it to follow a preset pattern. For instance, although the five stages of grief and loss (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, as per Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s model) are a generally accepted standard, we can’t expect to go through one by one and be done with it. While some stages might be easily identifiable, others might be hardly noticeable or existent. It’s also common to swing back and forth among them, mix them up and even create a few combos of our own... So it’s better to just go with the flow, accepting and honoring our own process as it is.
6) There is no statute of limitation in relation to loss. Therefore, there should be no rules concerning when and how we are supposed to “get over” a loss. Of course, the exception should be that it’s advisable to seek help to cope with grief and loss whenever that is leading to self-destructive and other destructive behavior.
7) There’s always loss. We are always losing someone or something throughout our entire lives. Accepting this basic principle can help us through the losses we’re certain to suffer. The more acceptance we can muster, the less we grieve. Yes, easier said than done, but something to work towards nonetheless.
8) Loss and change often go arm in arm. The reverse is also true. Change is the fiber of life; so is loss. We lose people (friends, family, romantic partners, etc), jobs, homes, opportunities, memories... But there’s always another where that one came from. Which brings us to the next thought about loss:
9) Something to lose, something to gain. The upside of loss is gain. We often gain a lot from our losses, from deeper understanding and awareness, maturity, etc, to new people, things or circumstances that come into our lives to fill that void or empty space and redirect our sense of purpose. It’s a natural law of the universe. The gentleman who lost his son knows painfully well that no one can ever replace him; but he has another son who now needs him more than ever. Some people who go through similar tragedies also choose to get involved in support groups and volunteer for organizations that have suicide prevention lines. In our case, just a few days after Solo was gone another stray Tuxedo cat showed up at our house, needing food and shelter. Of course, the newcomer can never replace Solo, who will always be in our hearts. But it is the nature of our universe to create new relationships and circumstances once previous ones are gone.
10) Loss is an illusion. We take loss very personally, and concentrate on the feeling that someone or something was taken away from us; we even express it that way by talking about “our” losses. However, nothing and no one really belong to us during our temporary passage through this world, do they? In addition, if we believe in the eternity of our souls or energy beings, and that nothing is wasted in the universe, only transformed, then loss doesn’t really exist from a broader perspective. Likewise, if we get technical and consider the quantum physics principles involving space/time and alternate realities. Whatever set of beliefs floats our boat is worth a try. Maybe believing that loss is an illusion or that everything happens for a reason won’t make us suffer any less; but it can offer some comfort. In my case, when things are tough I repeat to myself these well-known Abraham-Hicks words: “You are loved. All is well.”
11) We are simply not in control. One of the most important things that loss teaches us is that we are not in control. Concerning Solo, the truth of the matter is that my husband and I weren’t in control of our neighbor’s actions (using the rat poison), or Solo’s actions (eating the rat poison and then running away from our help). We were in control of our own actions, but only from a limited perspective and incomplete understanding of the whole situation. So, ultimately, we were not in control of what happened to him. And the bottom line is that everyone is always doing the best they can with what they know at any given time. That’s worth remembering whenever we start getting into the blame game (blaming ourselves or others) concerning a loss.
12) We are not alone. There’s always help. That doesn’t mean we can’t take whatever time alone we need to mourn and grieve a loss. But there’s great value in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and sharing it with others. For one, we are reminded that everyone of us deals with loss. In addition, if we are feeling spiritually disconnected due to loss and grief, sharing with others helps us reconnect and feel like part of the web of life again.
FINAL THOUGHT: If all else fails, remember these famous words: “This too shall pass...”
My heartfelt condolences to everyone in grief,
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/27/2016
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Is This A Thing?
Yes, Highly Sensitive People, or HSP, is a thing. There’s solid research that supports this concept. According to expert Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You:
“The brains of highly sensitive people have more activity and blood flow in the right hemisphere, indicating an internal rather than an external focus.
What is moderately arousing to most people is overwhelming to HSPs.
HSPs often have decreased serotonin levels resulting from the repeated stress of over arousal.
Likewise, they have more reactive immune systems (allergies) and more sensitive nervous systems.
The sensitivity trait is just as likely among men as among women; both represent about 20 percent of the population.”
Taking into consideration that 20% of the population currently corresponds to approximately 1.48 billion people worldwide, that’s too high a number for it to be just the latest fad, anyway. But hey, I get it. Many well-meaning parents, teachers and others responsible for rearing children want to understand what’s going on and do right by their kids, but don’t want to be taken for a ride in the process. With all the behavioral health trends that keep coming up, it’s hard to tell the difference between a legitimate thing and yet another label which legitimizes bad behavior. Or the difference between highly sensitive kids and over indulged brats, or between highly sensitive adults and dysfunctional drama addicts. The thing is, although being highly sensitive can lead to disorders and disorderly behavior, it’s not a disorder. Although it can lead to mental health problems, it’s not a mental health problem. It’s simply a different, more intense (sometimes much more intense) way of perceiving, relating to and connecting with the world. Of course, highly sensitive kids can become over indulged brats, and highly sensitive adults can be socially inept people or dysfunctional drama addicts. Why? Maybe part of the problem is simply the lack of awareness and information about how to raise a highly sensitive kid into becoming a functional highly sensitive adult. It can be hard to understand, relate to and deal with a highly sensitive child. The key is to remember that it’s also very hard to be one. Highly sensitive children are also referred to as “orchid children.” According to the article Genetic Roots of “Orchid” Children by Bruce Bower, “a Swedish expression that translates as ‘orchid child’ refers to a youngster who blossoms spectacularly if carefully nurtured but withers badly if neglected.” An orchid in a field of dandelions, the highly sensitive child has a much more delicate personality than his peers and needs a protective environment to properly flourish.
From early on in life, highly sensitive children have to live with the perception that they are different; that they don’t quite fit in; that there’s “something wrong” with them, according to others. Because they are so sensitive, they experience tremendous hurt, which may result in self-hatred and self-destructive behavior. In addition, highly sensitive people often have the capacity to understand or perceive what’s going on with others better than many do themselves. So they can become a bothersome and inconvenient presence to a lot of people, and frequently receive (and/or deeply feel) negative feedback from their input, such as anger, rage, fear, sadness, withdrawal, defensiveness, etc. In family dynamics, the highly sensitive child usually plays the role of the "scapegoat" or "screw up" or "problem child" (the "scapegoat" is the truth teller of the family; this role is played by the most sensitive and emotionally honest child, who often verbalizes or acts out the "problem" or dysfunction that the family is attempting to cover up or deny). It doesn’t get any better as the highly sensitive children grow up. I’ve heard many of my clients say that they are constantly told such things as: “stop being so annoying”; “why do you always have to see more into it or make a bigger deal than it is?”; “stop being so sensitive”; “calm down, you’re being irrational”; “you’re overreacting”; “you’re overthinking it”; “why do you care so much?”; “anyone else can handle this, so why can’t you?”; “you don’t know everything!”; etc. Of course, highly sensitive people are not always right about how they understand, feel or perceive things; but they are often on the right track, which annoys a lot of people.
A client once told me that it took her years to be able to see a dead animal on the road without crying, which used to cause her to be regarded by friends and family members (not to mention herself) as weird. Other clients say that they didn’t feel like they ever fit in; that they didn’t have a place. Some mention that they see (and intensely feel) too many things that are wrong with the way we live, the way we treat other humans and other living beings, the way we are destroying the planet, etc; and they simply can’t live with all that and go on pretending nothing is happening, ignoring what’s happening, or profiting from what’s happening, as so many do. They see the unfairness and injustice of the rigged system, along with all its rigged subsystems, that our modern society has become. And they want it to stop. Many of them do manage to thrive and become the dreamers, the doers, the game changers, the rebels with plenty of cause; but they often give so much of themselves and get so deeply involved that their cause sucks the living energy out of them. In addition, many highly sensitive adults often get discouraged easily, at the first sight of a challenge or disappointment; or simply change they cannot handle or suffering they cannot bear to witness. Others are lost and confused; they go into hiding for self preservation, often numbing themselves with mind altering substances (legal and illegal) and/or suffering from severe health issues which cause intense physical, emotional and mental pain. In short, many are hiding because they can’t find their place and their way; and they can’t function in this rigged system without it chipping away at their very souls.
Under References and Related Articles there are many suggestions that can be incorporated as part of the highly sensitive person’s survival kit, as well as sources of information for the non-highly sensitive people who have HSPs in their lives. As a highly sensitive person myself, I share some of what I have learned and offer a few suggestions below.
For the non-highly sensitive people out there:
For the highly sensitive people out there:
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 03/31/2016
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay
References and Related Articles:
1) The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You, book by Dr. Elaine N. Aron
2) Are You Highly Sensitive? test from Dr. Elaine Aron’s website
3) The Plight of the Empath or Highly Sensitive Person
4) 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People
5) What Makes A Highly Sensitive Person?
6) Genetic Roots Of “Orchid Children”
7) On The Trail Of The Orchid Child
8) Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? What You Need To Know About The Science Of This Personality Type
9) Orchids and Dandelions Abloom - Best of Neuron Culture