counselling psychotherapy

Parenting

Mamamia – I’m Terrified of Having Children

“The idea of having children terrifies me. Truly, on a deep level.”

A 31-year-old married woman has opened her heart in a letter to Mamamia. She says that deep down, she’s uncertain if she should be trying to get pregnant or not.

Read the full article with my suggestions on how to determine whether or not to have children as well as some of the underlying reasons that might be holding you back.

Image Credit: Mamamia

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About Jodie

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private supervision, counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Inside Out: We All Have Little Voices in Our Head [Official Movie Trailer]

inside out official trailer 2Inside Out: We All Have Little Voices in Our Head

[Official Movie Trailer]

I can’t wait to get a dose of movie therapy this July school holidays with Inside Out, a movie about feelings and the little voices in our head.

Robbie Collin in the Sydney Morning Herald writes,

“Pixar is at the peak of its heartstring-tugging powers with this poignant, joyful coming-of-age story…The first tear was rolling down my cheek within 30 seconds flat.”

You can watch the Inside Out trailer below and read the full review here. There is also a great review of Inside Out in Spirituality and Practice.

About Jodie

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Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist, Therapeutic Counsellor, Eating Psychology and Life-Coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.  Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

 

Family Feud: The Mother-Daughter Relationship

CLEO Family Feud (600x448)I was recently interviewed by the Chief Sub-Editor of CLEO & DOLLY, Ellie McDonald, for her article Family Feud in the March issue of CLEO Australia (on sale now). Here you can find an edited and updated version of our discussion:

About the importance of a strong mother-daughter relationship and why the daughter needs this as she reaches adulthood…

To achieve and maintain healthy relationships with self and others, we need to have internalised an accepting, unconditionally loving, nurturing and nourishing mother so that we can relate from, and care for ourselves in this way. If we haven’t for whatever reason internalised a nurturing mother, we can get caught in a cycle of searching outside ourselves for others to meet our needs and to affirm our worth in the world.

For most, our relationship with mother is often our first and primary attachment relationship – it is the barometer for all of our future relationships with self, family, friends, colleagues, partners and our children. We are born into her world and this helps shape:

  • our sense of self-identity
  • our feelings, needs and desires and whether they are acceptable or not
  • our self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence
  • our experience of our body, femininity, power and sexuality
  • our capacity for nourishment and self-care
  • our social roles as girls/women and how much space we can take up in the world (e.g. we often use our bodies – fat or thin – to reflect this).

If mother has awareness and has worked at resolving her own identity issues, it is far easier for her to foster the daughter’s separation, autonomy and sense of self. A strong sense of self-identity is essential as we move into young adulthood.

About the negative effects of a strained mother-daughter relationship for a young woman in her twenties…

We know that strains in the relationship with mother throughout childhood and beyond are major contributing factors to our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. Symptoms may include addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, poor relationships, a lack of self-worth as well as numerous other concerns (Reference: Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes the Baby’s Brain)

Some of the negative effects that we may experience are:

  • Extremely high and unrealistic expectations of ourselves (this may have come from mother’s unlived dreams that she has projected onto us).
  • Tyrannized by a harsh inner critic (mothers often think they are protecting, helping or teaching through being controlling or critical – great idea but wrong intervention!).
  • A lack of self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-compassion and self-confidence (mother also lacks these and hasn’t for whatever reason been able to mirror these qualities to us).
  • We give more than we are able to receive through caretaking, rescuing or pleasing others (we learn this through watching mother act in this way – often as a way of getting her needs met).
  • We do too much because we believe this is the only way to get our needs met (mother is often over identified with masculine qualities, rather than having a healthy balance between masculine and feminine qualities).
  • We are increasingly angry because we don’t know how to meet our own needs or how to ask for what we need in relationships. We are unable to express our anger in a healthy and assertive way because as a child, it is safer to squash our anger and turn it inwards rather than risk being abandoned by mother. This becomes a life-long pattern whereby other people’s needs are put before our own (we’ve watched mother disown her anger).
  • We believe at the core that we are flawed (not good enough) and search outside ourselves to have our safety, love and worth needs met (think facebook updates and likes or searching in diets and magazines to find out who we are. This can be a result of narcissistic wounding – not being seen and heard by mother as a separate Divine being).
  • We downplay our beauty, intelligence, gifts, light and achievements because we fear betraying mother (who is more than likely a master at repressing her own sublime!).

As a psychotherapist for the last 15 years and a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being, I have witnessed the journey of many young women who enter therapy because of symptoms such as eating disorders or relationship problems. Of course we work on symptom relief but a huge chunk of the therapy is actually spent separating psychologically from mother (and father as well as other internalized imagoes).  This can be long-term and painful work as the daughter begins to wonder, ‘who am I, if I am not my mother?’, ‘who am I if I am not who my mother told me I am?’

It is grief work because it means letting go of the false identities we have been living out of as well as coming to the realisation that we cannot change mother into the mother we long for. It means accepting mother as she is. It means growing up and (re) mothering ourselves in a loving and nurturing way. In Jungian psychology, it means getting in touch with – and owning – our feminine aspects of the soul/psyche.

About how common the breakdown of a mother-daughter relationship is…

Many women have an extremely complex relationship with mother. It is not uncommon however, for the relationship to breakdown, heal and transform overtime.

About some of the reasons why this may have happened…

The most problematic mother-daughter relationships are for those who grow up with a mother who suffers with narcissistic wounding and who therefore parents with narcissistic tendencies.

If the mother has herself not been seen or heard and her own dependency, safety, love, worth, self-actualisation/realisation needs have not been met, she might:

  • be neglectful of the daughter’s needs
  • lack empathy and feel resentful, anger or rage at having to meet the needs of the daughter
  • have unrealistic expectations of her daughter
  • be controlling rather than supportive
  • over compensate by parenting in a smothering way
  • show her daughter off like a pretty doll to gain attention and praise from others
  • use the daughter to emotionally dump on/ to be her confidant
  • seek validation through her daughter’s successes
  • be jealous and envious of her daughter’s youth and beauty

In the few examples given above, it is more about the mother’s needs than the daughter’s – this can be highly toxic to the daughter’s sense of self.  Child psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott writes,

“The mother gazes at the baby in her arms, and the baby gazes at her mother’s face and finds herself therein…provided that the mother is really looking at the unique, small, helpless being and not projecting her own expectations, fears, and plans for the child. In that case, the child would find not herself in her mother’s face, but rather the mother’s own projections. This child would remain without a mirror, and for the rest of her life would be seeking this mirror in vain.”

We all long for our mother to meet us emotionally, but the mother who suffers with narcissism is incapable of doing so. We learn at an early age, adaptive and creative ways of getting our needs met; though pleasing, rebelling, academic achievements, becoming the sick child and so on. These patterns of being and behaviour often follow through into adulthood.

About how to heal from a difficult mother-daughter relationship…

The Mother/Daughter Relationship:

  • Like all relationships, both parties have a responsibility to work on themselves individually as well as on the relationship.
  • If the relationship is strained and both wish to continue to have a relationship with each other, choose to spend time doing something you both enjoy and set boundaries around rehashing old stuff – build a new relationship with each other. This becomes easier when we accept the other for who they are.
  • If the relationship is highly toxic for mother or daughter, I recommend seeing a very experienced family or couples’ therapist – at very least, a mediator to help you move forward. If one or the other isn’t willing to participate in therapy, it is not uncommon for there to be a period of estrangement. This usually allows the daughter to separate and individuate and whilst sometimes necessary, it can be a very painful process for both mother and daughter.

For Mother:

  • When you are concerned for your daughter, show vulnerability, concern and empathy rather than criticism. This builds connection rather than disconnection.
  • If your daughter is in therapy and wants to discuss your relationship – don’t be defensive, this deepens her wounds. Practice listening and ask her what she needs from you.
  • Value and encourage your daughter’s independence, autonomy and sense of self…always!
  • Work on (re)mothering yourself, building your own sense of self-worth and learn how to meet your needs in a healthy way, rather than relying on your daughter to meet your needs.

For Daughter (and therefore Mother!):

  • Take as much time as you need to get to know yourself fully. Who are you separate from your mother?
  • Find a good psychotherapist to help you explore your history – you will internalise the loving, accepting and compassionate therapeutic relationship – this can help you heal
  • What are the positive aspects that you have inherited from your mother? Practise a sense of gratitude for these (and towards your mother too)
  • What are the negative messages you have received from your mother? Practise empathy and compassion for yourself (and towards your mother too as she has also suffered)
  • Remember that your mother is a daughter too; she has struggled/is struggling just like you
  • Work on being assertive and learn how to set boundaries with your mother
  • Release any anger that has been turned inwards or outwards. Underlying anger is almost always pain. Listen to that quiet voice inside and practise self-compassion.
  • Your search for wholeness and happiness must begin inside. It is a cliché but healing happens when we learn to love and accept ourselves unconditionally. To keep returning to mother (or anyone else) for acceptance, approval, compassion, kindness or love when mother has proven to be emotionally unavailable – will only set you up for more disappointment and this often deepens the wound
  • And finally… ageing and becoming a mother often helps to heal old wounds. When you become a mother, it is common to get in touch with a huge sense of empathy as you realise just how tough mothering can be!

NB: it is important that we don’t get caught in blaming or demonizing mothers; there are just as many complexities within father/daughter relationships. Notice that I don’t use the term ‘narcissistic mother’ – the reason for this is because at the core, mother is a human being, whole and unbroken – she herself has more than likely suffered with narcissistic wounding. The ‘narcissistic mother’ is only part of who she is. In saying all this, as mothers, we do need to recognise the profound impact that our wounding and parenting style have on our daughter’s sense of self and her ongoing relational, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual health and well-being.

About Jodie

asseeninmaster2 (600x124)Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She spent time in the South of France training in mother-daughter relationships from an Indigenous, Jungian and Psycho-Spiritual perspective. Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.  Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

 

 

10 Tips for Healthy iPad Use for Kids and Their Parents

10 Tips for Healthy iPad Use for Kids and Their Parents

This article is in the Northern Beaches Family Living Magazine (February, 2016).

It is also part of my Children and iDevices 5 part series. Part of this series has been picked up by Cambridge University and will be published there soon.

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With the arrival of millions of iPads and other screen based devices in Christmas stockings all over the globe and reports of children as young as four struggling with iPad addiction – here are my top attachment focused parenting tips for healthy iPad use.

10 Tips for Healthy iPad Use for Kids and Their Parents

1.Focus on connection   

The attachment relationship between you and your child is the foundation for all future relationships. Connection builds inner security and a healthy sense of self – the best preventative medicine for addiction there is!

  • Make time for connection with your child as soon as you arrive home – there is nothing more deflating and damaging to a child’s sense of self than parents checking out online as soon as they walk in the door
  • Use the iPad to build relationship by using apps together, rather than using the iPad as a babysitter
  • Sally Hunt – clinical psychologist, 123 parenting coach and mother of two – recommends lots of parental involvement including looking at the internet and apps together and taking time to answer any questions your child may have. This not only enhances connection but it also develops the child’s research skills. She also recommends playing the games together – just for fun.
2.Healthy boundaries create healthy relationships

Boundaries help and guide your child; it is therefore essential you can own your parental authority, set clear boundaries and formulate a family home use plan

  • Be clear regarding expectations and consequences
  • Be consistent as this helps your child feel safe and secure and inturn builds inner security
  • As your child grows, make time and space for connection, wondering and negotiation around boundaries and privileges
  • Set boundaries from a loving place based on values, meaning and purpose 
3.Moderate screen time

iPads do not provide the full range of healthy and sensory experiences a child needs to thrive – so first and foremost – encourage lots of physical, creative and sensory play. Limit use to:

  • Under two: iPad use is not recommended by paediatricians
  • Under five: iPad use is healthiest when limited and in connection with a parent
  • School aged: iPad use should be negotiated according to age and maturity. Many professionals recommend no more than 30 minutes on a school day and 30 minutes to 1 hour on the weekend

NB: Many Silicon Valley giants (including Steve Jobs) set strict rules around iPad use so you aren’t alone in setting boundaries!

4.Bedrooms are screen-free zones

Keep children safe and healthy by having a screen-free bedroom policy:

  • Cyber bullying, pornography and inappropriate sharing are easier to manage if iPad use takes place in shared family spaces
  • Turn off screens 1-2 hours before bed, as light and stimulation disrupt circadian rhythms and inhibit good sleep hygiene
  • Bed-time routine is for relaxation and connection so cuddle up with your child and a favourite book
5.iPads for dinner? No thanks!

The Pew Internet American Life Project  found families with multiple communication devices were less likely to eat dinner together. Screen free, family meals are consistently correlated with positive outcomes: better grades, a sunnier outlook on life and significantly fewer problems with addiction and eating disorders (Maushart 2010):

  • The dinner table is a great place to connect as a family and for your child to learn social skills
  • Using devices to entertain, distract or calm behaviour either at home or at a restaurant dinner table provides short-term gain for long-term pain = anti-social skills!
  • Help your child to practice mindfulness by paying attention to relationships and people, the view and the delicious food
6.Keeping your child safe

It is easy to feel anxious about your child using devices (I know I do!):

  • Focus on building communication, emotional intelligence and understanding so your child feels safe to talk with you
  • Wonder with your child about the positive and negative implications of iPad use
  • Have a designated shared area for use and create a charger station where all family members leave their devices at night
  • Set parental controls, delete unnecessary apps and  set limits with the family sharing system
7.Choose apps that serve your child’s wellbeing

Some of our family favourites are audio books, educational apps recommended by the school and children’s meditations which teach mindfulness, help regulate emotions and build connection with your child’s internal resources:

  • Encourage your child to make healthy app choices based on self-care and self-respect
  • Avoid apps that are unhealthy, addictive or cause distress
8.Model healthy iPad use

How you use your iPad or other device will provide a model for how your child uses it:

  • Put your phone down – wherever you are – and direct your attention to your child. Again, there is nothing more deflating and damaging to a child’s sense of self than a disconnected, absent parent (the result can be narcissistic wounding, which is common in adults with addiction!)
  • Drive mindfully and value lives by keeping your car device free. If you cannot drive from A to B without checking your screen, it is time to check in with an addiction specialist!
9.Have a screen free day

Take a weekly time-out from technology and spend time connecting as a family.

10.Take a complete digital detox

Next holiday, leave your iPad and other devices at home – relax and connect with your environment, yourself, and your family. Try sharing stories and playing board games. Take your digital camera – shoot now and share later!

About Jodie

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Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist, Eating Psychology Specialist + Transformational Life-Coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

10 Self-Help, Psychology and Parenting Books for Mothers

Mothers day books (600x366)10 Self-Help, Psychology and Parenting Books for Mothers

The transition from daughter through maiden, lover to mother can be overwhelming for many new mothers – myself included!

Regardless of how well we know ourselves and how much of our own ‘stuff’ we have worked through, entering motherhood can stir up a whole lot more: sleep deprivation and exhaustion, post-infertility, post-natal or post-adoption depression and anxiety, fear of not being a good enough mother, parenting like our own parents even though we swore we never would, comparison with other mums, fears about our children’s development, getting caught in keeping up with the Jones’, lack of ‘me’ time and a complete change of lifestyle. These are just a handful of the concerns that come to mind.

Here are some books that I use with clients in therapy and that I have personally found useful as I journeyed towards motherhood, as a new mum and adoptive mother of two toddlers.

My Mother My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity

By Nancy Friday

‘The greatest gift a mother can give remains unquestioning love planted deep in the first year of life, so deep that the tiny child grown to womanhood is never held back by the fear of losing that love, no matter what her own choice in love, sexuality, or work may be (Goodreads).’

My Mother My Self, is an oldie but a goodie. This classic women’s psychology book is a great read for any woman who has had a difficult relationship with her own mother or for those struggling to separate and individuate from mother. It provides a deeper understanding of mother-daughter relationships, acceptance of mother, how to let go of searching for the perfect mother and why we so often become our own mother. Ultimately, this book teaches us how to heal and love who we are.

Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing your Inner Child

By John Bradshaw

‘We first see the world through the eyes of a little child, and that “inner child” remains with us throughout our lives, no matter how outwardly “grown-up” and powerful we become. If our vulnerable child was hurt, abandoned, shamed, or neglected, that child’s pain, grief, and anger live on within us. Bradshaw believes that ‘this neglected, wounded inner child of the past is the major source of human misery (John Bradshaw).’

Homecoming is a valuable tool for healing the child within and revealing the true self; the part of us that may have had to go into hiding due to growing up in an addicted or physically, emotionally, psychologically or spiritually absent, abusive or neglectful home environment.  Growing up in such circumstances can often result in a sense of low self-worth and feeling ‘not good enough’. When it comes to parenting our own children, regardless of good intentions to do it differently, unless made conscious, these dynamics can result in unfavourable consequences for our own children. This book helps us to build a strong sense of self, a deeper level of intimacy and connection and tools for dealing with concerns such as relationships, parenting issues, addiction, anxiety and depression. John Bradshaw’s work, like many others within the psychotherapy field, is now being validated through extensive attachment research and neuroscience.

Sex, Love and the Dangers of Intimacy

By Helena Lovendal and Nick Duffell

Everyday issues related to parenting can take the spark out of even the healthiest of relationships. In Sex, Love & the Dangers of Intimacy, Psychosynthesis couples’ psychotherapists Helena Lovendal and Nick Duffell, write about relationships as a spiritual path (me, you and the spirit of the relationship). They suggest that many couples feel that conflict is the sign of a problem arising in a relationship. However, they teach us a way of appreciating conflict as a means for reaching a deeper level of intimacy, how to transform potentially difficult situations into opportunities, self-knowledge and a more authentic partnership.

Depression as a Spiritual Journey

By Stephanie Sorrell

Depression as a Spiritual Journey offers a holistic model, as opposed to the medical approach which currently dominates the field of depression. Sorrell, a sufferer herself, takes a well balanced view and writes poetically about suffering and depression as a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. She shows us that it is possible to find value, meaning and purpose out of our depressive symptoms and suffering. This book is great for anyone who has suffered with depression, including depression brought about through infertility, post natal or post adoption depression.

Attachment Focused Parenting: Effective Strategies to Care for Children

By Daniel Hughes

Attachment security and affect regulation have long been buzzwords in therapy circles but many of these ideas—so integral to successful therapeutic work with kids and adolescents—have yet to be effectively translated to parenting practice itself. Moreover, as neuroscience reveals how the human brain is designed to work in good relationships, and how such relationships are central to healthy human development, the practical implications for the parent-child attachment relationship become even more apparent (Google Books).’

At the heart of our relational, emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being, is our ability to form secure, healthy and balanced attachment relationships. Attachment Focused Parenting is a must for any parent. By focusing on the attachment relationship first and foremost, it will help to deepen the parent-child bond, which in turn, helps to alleviate and manage behavioural issues in a healthier way. This book is essential reading for foster and adoptive parents.

First Steps in Parenting the Child Who Hurts

By Caroline Archer

First Steps in Parenting the Child Who Hurts is a valuable resource for foster and adoptive mothers. It offers sensitive and practical guidance through the process of separation, loss and trauma in early childhood. Caroline Archer is an adoptive parent so she speaks from experience. This book provides good, practical advice and encouragement for foster or adoptive parents. It explores issues such as bringing the child home, childhood development, what to do when things don’t appear right, the effects of trauma on the child and how to handle these difficulties.

Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain

By Sue Gerhardt

‘Gerhardt, has bravely gone where most in recent years have feared to tread. She takes the hard language of neuroscience and uses it to prove the soft stuff of attachment theory. Picking up your crying baby or ignoring it may be a matter of parental choice, but the effects will be etched on your baby’s brain for years to come. Putting your one-year-old in a nursery or leaving them with a child minder may turn out to be a more momentous decision than you thought (Rebecca Adams, Guardian Book Review).’

Sue Gerhardt is a psychotherapist in private practice; she is a leading specialist in mothers and babies. Why Love Matters is evidence based and provides an eye opening view of the baby’s brain, psyche and how these develop in relation to separation, bonding and attachment. Gerhardt links early childhood attachment and development with childhood and adult issues such as anxiety, depression, addictions and so forth. This book is a valuable resource for making conscious choices regarding the care and well-being of our children.

Read more about Why Love Matters.

Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children

By Sarah Napthali

Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children is the perfect read for practising self-care and learning to parent in a calm and peaceful way. Napthali applies Buddhist teachings such as mindfulness, presence, acceptance and compassion to the everyday challenges and stresses of raising children. Rather than focusing on the child’s behaviour, this book focuses on the inner self of the mother.

What to Expect: The Toddler Years

What to Expect: The Toddler Years is a valuable, practical, lifesaving resource. The format is easy for dipping in and out of the content list. What To Expect covers hundreds of pointers on self-esteem, emotional, physical, psychological and social development, discipline, eccentric behaviours and making time for self-care.

The Velveteen Rabbit and The Velveteen Principles Gift Box

By Margery Williams & By Toni Raiten-D’Antonio

This delightful gift box is a wonderful resource for mother and child, a great baby shower or Mother’s Day gift and a valuable tool for inner work.

‘Margery Williams’ classic The Velveteen Rabbit tells the story of a stuffed rabbit who finds himself looked down on by the other toys. With the help of the Skin Horse, he learns that real is not about how you are made, but your relationship with others. The Velveteen Rabbit’s journey from loneliness to love has inspired generations of children and adults.’ (Amazon).

‘The Velveteen Principles is fast becoming a classic of its own. This comforting, inspiring book draws twelve lessons from Margery Williams’s story to show how each of us can become more Real about our values, our goals, our loves and our lives. And most importantly in a world that is often superficial and stressful, its simple wisdom points the way to rediscovering our own true selves.’ (Amazon).

References

Abrams, Rebecca, 2004, Minding the baby, Retrieved from The Guardian Online

About Jodie

Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. Jodie is also the adoptive mother of two toddlers.

 

 

How to create a sacred space for meditation

sacred space website (593x600)How to create a sacred space for meditation

In the midst of the busyness of life, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by an excessive amount of information and too much stuff.

Even though we are spending more time supposedly ‘connecting’, in fact, many of us feel more disconnected from our authentic, true and spiritual selves than ever before.

For some of us, there is an inability to be with ourselves without something or someone to constantly distract or entertain us. For others, the life energy increasingly becomes immobilized by concerns such as codependency and relationship issues, weight and eating problems, addictions, anxiety, fatigue, depression and major health crises.

The Self calls us to wake up to its presence in mysterious ways. It may call us to awaken to our true nature through the aforementioned life crises. Alternatively, we may have a peak experience which calls us to awaken to a new way of living and being. Both ends of the spectrum can shine the light on our growing sense of disconnection and unease.

One way that we can heal our suffering is by reconnecting and becoming present to what is. It is tempting to get busy booking expensive holidays or spiritual retreats in the hope that we can slow down and be. How often though do we return home with the post holiday blues and feel as though we need another holiday?

By creating a sacred space, we can retreat close by on a daily basis, even ground our retreat and spiritual experiences from far away places. Ultimately we are able to create a space whereby we can connect with our own sacredness and the Divine within.

What is a sacred space?

A sacred space is a place to:

  • Get grounded
  • Set our intentions
  • Relieve stress
  • Recharge our batteries
  • Practise self-care
  • Affirm our worth
  • Claim our space
  • Be present to ourselves
  • Dedicate to our purpose
  • Find ourselves again and again
  • Bring new energy into our lives
  • Connect with our deeper essence
  • Meditate and practise mindfulness
  • Practise yoga
  • Honour and uplift our spirit
  • Dialogue with our higher, deeper, Spiritual Self
  • Worship God or Spirit

Preparing for the creation of a sacred space

Spend time journaling, in prayer, meditation or reflection before and during the creation of the sacred space. Here are some possible reflections:

  • Would I like my space to be inside or outside?
  • What colours and textures call me?
  • Is my sacred space private or are others allowed in my space?
  • What boundaries do I need to negotiate with others regarding my time and space?
  • Do I need to schedule some ‘me time’?
  • What other needs do I have?
  • What are my intentions for this space?
  • What is the purpose of my space?
  • What makes my heart and soul sing?
  • What does sacred mean to me?

Where to create a sacred space

A sacred space might be a quiet spot in the garden or a homemade area with or without an altar. For example:

  • A quiet and peaceful corner
  • A spot in the garden
  • A room in the house
  • A quiet nook
  • A window seat
  • A kitchen table
  • A special chair
  • A giant floor cushion
  • A bathtub/bathroom
  • A place on the land
  • A church, temple or other place of worship

Some elements and ideas for bringing a sacred space into being

There is no need to rush out and buy expensive mats, buddhas or other artifacts. Many of the elements in my sacred space I have collected over time at women’s retreats and workshops. Creating a sacred space is about listening to that quiet voice inside. The following elements are often found in a sacred space:

  • Alter
  • Plants and flowers
  • Rocks and crystals
  • Windchimes
  • Candles and incense
  • Goddess and daily meditation cards
  • Books that awaken and nourish the soul
  • Beautiful bath and skin products
  • Water
  • White sage
  • Delicious fruits
  • Statues and figurines
  • Art and craft supplies
  • Journal
  • Rugs, cushions and throws
  • Photos and images of sacred places
  • Sand tray
  • Music
  • Singing bowl
  • Worry dolls
  • Guided meditations and visualizations
  • Evokative word cards for reflective meditation
  • A small suitcase for a portable sacred space

Quiet time nook (448x600)Sacred space for children

For those who have children, consider creating a space where they can play quietly, read or listen to audio books/music. Creating a quiet time or reading nook is a great idea for little ones. Keep loud toys in a designated play area and soft toys, books, puzzles, dolls’ house, audio books, guided meditations and visualizations near the quiet time nook. Children who learn mindfulness and meditation skills at an early age have higher self-esteem, a better attention span and live healthier and happier lives.

Benefits of a sacred space

We don’t need to spend hours in our sacred space to experience the benefits. Even a few minutes of quiet time can help us to build a more balanced relationship with our body, feelings, mind, sexuality and spirituality. Practising mindfulness and meditation in a sacred space can have the following benefits:

  • Reduce stress
  • Enhance emotional intelligence
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Develop compassion and kindness towards self and others
  • Manage painful thoughts and feelings
  • Live a balanced and conscious life
  • Experience more peacefulness and calm
  • Reconnect with our true selves, others and our environment
  • Gain a greater sense of clarity, focus and concentration

Check out my Pinterest page for more inspiration and beautiful images of other sacred spaces.

About Jodie

Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.

Top 10 Self-Help Books for Women

top 10 books for women (600x600)Top 10 Self-Help Books for Women

As a therapeutic counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist specialising in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being – there are many books that I recommend over and over again. Many are listed in my bookstore and on my Pinterest page but here are my top 10 recommendations to help women find change as well as adding depth and meaning to their lives.

The Gifts of Imperfection

by Brené Brown

Having taken part in The Gifts of Imperfection Art Journaling Course with Brené Brown – this is my new favourite go-to book for women. Her research focuses on shame, vulnerability, authenticity and belonging. If you have a relentless inner perfectionist and never quite feel enough – this book is for you! You will come away chanting, ‘I’m imperfect and I’m enough. Brené is a wonderful storyteller and that makes this an easy read.

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing

by Dr Christinane Northrup

“By the wisdom of the body I mean that we must learn to trust that the symptoms in the body are often the only way that the soul can get our attention.”

This is the ultimate bible for women’s health. It covers topics such as the body, menstruation, infertility, motherhood, menopause, sexuality, intuition, wisdom and self-nourishment. Dr Northrup takes a holistic approach towards healing physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns.

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés

This deep, soulful and inner life enhancing book has been described as ‘vitamins for the soul’, ‘a gift of profound insight’, ‘fertile and life-giving’, ‘a bible for women interested in doing deep work’.

Jungian analyst, Dr Estés uses intercultural myths, dream symbols, fairy tales and stories, to help women reconnect with the fierce, wild woman and instinctual self within.

Women Who Love Too much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change

by Robin Norwood

Along with ‘Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie, this is one of my most recommended books to women who suffer with a fear of abandonment, controlling behaviours, co-dependency, love addiction and relationship problems such as choosing unavailable or abusive men.

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything

by Geneen Roth

Geneen Roth suggests that food, diet and weight related issues are an attempt to fix something that has never been broken. We are already good and whole; our journey is to awaken to our goodness and wholeness.   She writes,

“It’s never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels…We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves.”

Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children

by Sarah Napthali

Along with ‘Attachment Focused Parenting’ by Daniel Hughes – this book is my bible for parenting in a calm and peaceful way. Napthali applies Buddhist teachings such as mindfulness, presence, acceptance and compassion to the everyday challenges and stresses of raising children. Rather than focusing on the child’s behaviour, this book focuses on the inner self of the mother.

Breaking the Spell: The Key to Recovering Self-Esteem

by Rachel Clyne

‘What matters is that we stop hating ourselves; when we do so what has to replace it is Love!’

At the heart of addiction, food related issues, depression and other modern day concerns – working to increase self-esteem and self-worth is always at the core of the healing process.  Psychosynthesis psychotherapist Rachel Clyne gives very practical suggestions in each chapter for developing a healthier and more loving sense of self.

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions

by Dr Christopher K. Germer

This is one of the best books out there for healing a toxic, harsh, punitive and critical inner voice. With practical mindfulness techniques for living in the present moment, this book teaches us how to nourish the spirit, reconnect and show kindness, compassion and empathy towards ourselves. Germer shows us that through self-compassion, we can heal pain and suffering.

Depression as a Spiritual Journey

by Stephanie Sorrell

This book is rigorously researched and takes a well-balanced view. Psychosynthesis practitioner Stephanie Sorrell explores indepth – the medical, psychological and spiritual aspects of depression. She writes poetically about suffering and depression as a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. Sorrell shows us that it is possible to find value, meaning and purpose out of our suffering.

Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

by Thomas Moore

This life affirming and soothing read illustrates how to add spirituality, depth, and meaning to modern-day life by nurturing the soul. Moore uses myths, stories and dreams to help us understand everyday concerns such as depression, anxiety, death, low self-worth, envy and narcissistic wounding.

Man’s search for meaning

by Dr Viktor E. Frankl

‘If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”

This moving book was named one of the 10 most influential books in America. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl spent time in four Nazi death camps. He survived his pregnant wife, parents and brother. Man’s search for meaning is based on Frankl’s own life experience as well as those he worked with in private practice. His ultimate message is that we cannot avoid all suffering in life but we can choose how we respond to it and ultimately, we can find meaning and purpose in it.

About Jodie

Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.

 

Part three: Children and iDevices. The effects of iDevice use, little brains and neuroscience

iPad for kids (600x600)This post is part of my Children and iDevices 5 part series.

The effects of iDevice use, little brains and neuroscience.

Touch screen devices – and before them TV and video games – have been of great interest to paediatric neuroscientists and researchers for many years.

One of the justifications for allowing early iDevice use is that children will learn their ABCs and 123s faster than their less fortunate counterparts. In ‘What to Expect the Toddler Years’, Eisnsberg, Murkoff and Hathaway write, ‘While children who have had some number experience before school may enjoy a temporary edge, studies show they don’t retain it, as other students quickly catch up’. So… while early use is linked with some temporary benefits, there is also a cost…and one that far out ways the advantages.

iDevice and internet use has been linked with disrupted sleep, inability to focus, lack of creativity, forgetfulness, impatience, narcissism, loneliness, depression, anxiety, addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder and autism.

In ‘iPad mini will be bad for your kids’, Kit Eaton from the New York Times writes, “Inactivity associated with TV and computer watching is connected with developmental issues, mobility issues, and health issues to do with diet, diabetes, and other issues. There are also psychological concerns related to depression, disengagement, poor social skills, and damage to a child’s ability to empathize.”

Kevin Donnelly states in ‘Educating your child… it’s not rocket science!’, ‘The danger is that too much time on computer games, watching screens and surfing the net damages the way we process information and the way we think. Unlike printed texts that require you to focus on the words, concentrate, read carefully and sit quietly, TV and computer screens are full of colourful graphics, ever changing images, sounds and lots of movement.”

Many parents are noticing that their children enter a trance like state, commonly known as a ‘flow experience’ in the world of psychology. This often happens when children watch TV, play video games or become engrossed in their favourite toys. Technology guru, Ben Worthen suggests that when playing with toys such as Lego, it is the child who makes the choice to end playing, however, with touch-screen apps, the game decides when the child will end. It becomes increasingly difficult for children to stop playing because of the dopamine reward in the brain that they experience.

Dopamine is the chemical associated with pleasure. Many of the apps aimed at children, including the ‘educational’ ones, are designed to stimulate dopamine releases. These encourage children to keep playing by offering rewards or exciting visuals at unpredictable times (Worthen, 2012) . Philip Newton, neuroscience lecturer at Swansea University, describes dopamine as a ‘neurotransmitter, one of those chemicals that are responsible for transmitting signals inbetween the nerve cells (neurons) of the brain. Very few neurons actually make dopamine.’ Altered levels of dopamine can cause a range of symptoms and issues. Some of these are known to be Parkinson’s disease, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), psychosis and schizophrenia. Dopamine is also linked with addiction. Tony Dokoubil, in ‘Is the web driving us mad?’ writes, ‘Dopamine also plays a role in addiction, because it is part of the brain’s system of motivation. Some drugs stimulate its production, leading to increased levels and a corresponding high. When the drug exits the system, it leaves behind a sense of depression and a slowdown, which can only be remedied by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter again. The brain quickly learns to seek out drugs that will stimulate production, leading to addiction’.

Comparable to children’s physical, emotional, social and psychological development, the early years of neurological brain development are formative. Why then, would we introduce them at a young age to using something that could potentially have long lasting effects and consequences on their health and well-being?

If we want our children to grow healthy brains and have a solid sense of all round physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being, their little brains need their primary relationships to be with human beings – not with iPads, iPods & iPhones!

Coming soon: Part Four: The winter of our disconnect.

Coming soon: Part Five: Top tips for healthy iDevice use

References

Donnelly, Kevin, (2013 to be released), Educating Your Child … it’s not rocket science! Connorcour cited in Digital age is dumbing down our children. The Australian. Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/digital-age-is-dumbing-down-our-children/story-e6frgd0x-1226436959981

Dokoupil. Tony, (2012), Is the Web Driving Us Mad? The Daily Beast. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/08/is-the-internet-making-us-crazy-what-the-new-research-says.html

Eaton, Kit, (2012), iPad mini will be bad for your kids, Fast Company. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/3002200/ipad-mini-will-be-bad-your-kids-discuss

Einsberg, Arlene, Murkoff, Heidi and Hathaway, Sandee, B.S.N, (1995), What to expect: The toddler years, HarperCollins, Australia

Worthen, Ben, 2012, What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out With an iPad. Retrived from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304363104577391813961853988.html

About Jodie

As Seen In Banner Profile (600x79)

Sydney Soul-Centred Life-Coach, Counsellor and Psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives.

She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Sign up for some SOUL in your inbox (aka. latest news, blogs and workshops).

Part One: Children and iDevices: iPads, iPhones and iPods. Why our family did a U-turn!

Part One: Children and iDevices. Why our family did a U-turn!

This post is the first of my Children and iDevices: iPads, iPhones and iPods 5 part series.

As a psychotherapist in part-time private practice and full-time stay at home mum, like most people these days, I’d feel somewhat lost without my iPad. Its benefits are endless: appointment scheduler, camera, children’s playground finder, weather forecaster, recipe index, cinema booking office, music player, daily meditations, online bookstore, email, social media business and life organiser…all in the one spot!

Much of my clinical and written work for the past 15 years has focused on addiction, so I am constantly aware of the limitations and increasing dangers of the overuse, abuse and addiction to touch screen devices and the internet. Coupled with my studies in childhood attachment and development throughout my psychotherapy training, I was reluctant to let our children use iDevices in their early years. I saw few developmental benefits and thought they hindered creativity and the ability to connect and relate to others (one of the major underlying issues with all addictions).

From the iPad, iPad mini, iPod touch, iPhone to the iPotty (yes you did read that correctly!) – Ben Worthen, technology writer from the Wall Street Journal writes that over 39% of two to four year olds and 52% of children, five to eight years old, are now tech savvy. For eight to eighteen year olds, media use has grown so quickly that on average children and teenagers are spending twice as much time using iDevices as they spend time in school. Children with parents who have busy life and work schedules and with books considered outdated by some, many children are now spending less than 10 minutes a day reading. Screen time however is consistently on the rise.

Mike Elgan from PCWorld suggests that it won’t be long before every child will have a touch-screen device. Parents, who are tired of losing their own iDevices to their children, will either purchase the far more affordable iPad mini or they will continue to pass down their older versions as they upgrade to a newer model.

The iPad has been described by the New York Times technology guru, David Pogue, as a ‘magic electronic babysitter that creates instant peace in the household’. Elgan suggests that parents are always looking for electronic babysitters to pacify their kids so they can do something else, for example, driving, cleaning or making dinner. As an overwhelmed and exhausted new mother of two toddlers, I wondered how on earth other parents survived the much needed ‘quiet time’ and cooked dinner at night without distracting their kids with ‘educational’ TV or by playing ‘educational’ and ‘interactive’ games on the iPhone or iPad. For those who have experienced that time between 4pm to dinner, bath or bed, when our adorable little beings turn into screeching and scary little witches, goblins, demons and monsters – screen time instantly brings a sense of calmness to what is otherwise known as ‘witching hour’.

Then something far scarier happened (amongst other warning signs!). Two months ago when I tried to remove the iPad from our nearly two year old – having only ever used it three or four times to read interactive stories as a family – he threw the tantrum from hell. For half an hour, he kicked, stomped, thrashed and yelled, ‘iPad, iPad, iPad, iPad, iPad…’. He howled hysterically and was completely unable to be soothed. Whilst approaching the so called ‘terrible twos’, this type of tantrum was extreme and out of character.

Bearing all of this in mind, I began to research the effects of the use of touch-screen devices in early childhood. Apparently, our son’s reaction is not uncommon. For the time being, we have done a  U-turn in regards to letting our kids use iDevices until they are older and can appropriately navigate guidelines and boundaries. It probably comes as no surprise then, that in the coming weeks, we will not be using the iPotty in our attempts to potty train our little one!

References

Elgan, Mike, 2011, iPad for Kids, PCWorld Online

Pogues, 2011, A Parent’s Struggle With a Child’s iPad Addiction. New York Times Online

Worthen, Ben, 2012, What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out With an iPad. Wall Street Journal Online

About Jodie

As Seen In Banner Profile (600x79)

Sydney Soul-Centred Life-Coach, Counsellor and Psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives.

She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Sign up for some SOUL in your inbox (aka. latest news, blogs and workshops).

Let your light shine and live the life you have always dreamed of! Contact me now to book your first appointment.