23 May 2011

Embodied Self-Awareness - Positive vs. Negative

I wonder how the world derives on these two words in the first place – positive and negative. Why good feelings and thoughts are placed under positive and bad ones, categorised under negative? Are only good feelings and thoughts good and only bad ones, bad?

Probably I have been in search for a deeper understanding and meaning in life, I often ponder and reflect, observe and question. One word that I value and learn is ‘BeFriend’ from my supervision. When our body has been fighting so hard and defend ourselves all the time, we will find ourselves sometimes stuck, exhausted and resistance may surface. Numerous books, articles, blogs have been trying to promote positive feelings and thoughts and to strive for a positive lifestyle. Why is it happening? Have we been living in a world of negativity? Is being constantly positive always help? Do we have to push away all the negativity that may arise? How come there is a division between them, a world of contrast and opposing one another? Don’t we all have both in feelings and thoughts? Then why are we dividing them in the first place?

Balance and integration is my belief and philosophy. It is what I am promoting and creating awareness in my life and help my clients to find it. I come to recognise if we sit in the extreme ends and living in denial, we can fall into the danger mode of perhaps pushing ourselves too hard, either to strive only for the positive feelings and thoughts or take away the negativity and completely avoid them. Or just choose and stay in either of each mode.

Is positive all the time good and negative all the time bad?

As a dance/movement therapist, I believe our body is a great indication of our being. Our body often will signal to us how we are, how we are doing at the present moment, that is, what we are feeling, what we are thinking. Perhaps today I don’t feel so good, feeling a little lousy over a matter. The question is are we going to ignore it or are we going to listen to what it is trying to tell us about ourselves. Feeling lousy, feeling sad, feeling angry, to name a few, is not necessary a bad thing, isn’t it? Instead of trying to push it away and pep ourselves up with reasons, positive quotes what I MUST do… but listen to our feeling and thought, for example, “Ah I am feeling angry right now, why is it so? What is ticking me to be so?” Maybe talk to someone about it. Anger may seem to us bad and perhaps even ‘taboo’ to mention it. However, anger can be an important message in trying to tell us something about ourselves. Maybe we are still holding onto a past, a matter, childhood issues, something we associate with, bias, prejudice… that we may have suppressed into our unconscious mind or not aware of. It does not surface for no reason. If the anger becomes a constant problem and greatly affect our lives and others, it is advisable then to seek help with a professional. To acknowledge it is never easy but to avoid it and let it erupt out of nowhere (it is nothing wrong to express anger but if it turns into something uncontrollable, then help is needed.) is also dangerous not only to ourselves but to others as well. 

Is anger (or any other feelings) always negative? Can it be positive? What about sadness? (for instance)

Perhaps when one has dwelled in the mode for a long time and not knowing what to do, it makes us feel that it is bad since it is never a nice feeling. When it is there for a long time and for years, it is advisable to seek help in this case. However, if an uncomfortable feeling comes for the moment and sometimes it can take a few days, a few weeks in that uncomfortable state where we cannot put a finger in the feeling, and it is then not a bad thing after all. Our body has something to tell us.  We often find ourselves we want an immediate answer as how our society is often geared towards but sometimes it doesn’t happen just like that - in a snap of the finger that we have the answer. 

Often, eventually, we will find an answer to what our body wants to tell us if we allow ourselves to sit on it, to let it evolve. If you ask me, is it easy to go through it. No, it is not. But from my experience, when we practise it, we develop the awareness of being and I am often surprised by the answer and it can even sparkle off new inspirations, ideas and new transformation takes place as a result.

Now what about positive? 

If we strive to be positive constantly and push the negative away, probably it can lead to an extreme of craving for the positive, nothing but that. The more we crave as in push towards that and reach the high point, we feel good at the moment, but we still have to come back to reality. The high ecstasy feeling, the rush, is never permanent. If we constantly seek for that, only that, but push everything away, then it can be dangerous.

Being positive can also be to acknowledge and embrace the negative feelings and thoughts and turn them into our growth and nurturing ourselves and others in return. Not sweeping under the carpet and pretend that it does not exist. The fact is we encompass all feelings and thoughts and each has its energy and value we can learn from if we learn to listen to it.

No doubt here I am relating to feelings and thoughts, it is also applicable to success, riches, fame, materials… I am not against in pursuing them. Just bear in mind that if we find ourselves craving non-stop for them and pushing ourselves to the extreme, then we have to question ourselves why? Is it to fill our emptiness or needs that are not fulfilled or met which may have resulted from our childhood? Or is it a form of escapism not to face the inner truth our body is trying to inform us. Sometimes we chase against time and keep ourselves busy (even in social work or helping others but neglect ourselves), however, does it help in the end or why are we doing so?

It takes time to develop embodied self-awareness and it is a process and journey, the more we develop it, the more we develop a deeper insight and understanding to ourselves. Just by listening to our body, feelings and thoughts as one.
~ Reflection by Elizabeth Rutten-Ng

Pointers – this sharing is referring to a general feeling and thought. Cases like depression is advisable to seek professional help for example. It is more complex than it seems than just being a positive or negative feeling and thought.

Embodied self-awareness is a programme run by Embodied Movement in facilitating participants to develop a deeper awareness of self. Contact Elizabeth for more information or check out her workshops. Special arrangements can also be requested for individual or a group. Welcome to read the feedback from the various participants who have attended the workshops.

15 May 2011

Understanding Toddler at 2


(With given permission from parent to share about the parent and child sessions and photo of child. It is not a therapy but a private session where observation and facilitation took place with the parent and child.)

Each year I returned to Singapore, I facilitated mother and toddler private sessions. The toddler has turned 2 and she is in the developmental phase of saying, ‘No’.

Before I shared some aspects of what took place in the sessions, I would like to address about toddlers at 2.

Often than not, I would always hear the two words, ‘Terrible Two’. And many times it carries the negative connotation of the toddler as being ‘naughty’, ‘disobedient’, ‘not listening', 'stubborn'… I clearly understand that parents having to go through this period of time, is not an easy time at all, but by 'labelling' the child as 'Terrible Two', would it actually help in establishing the parent-child relationship? Won’t the labelling bring about more tension between parent and child rather than improving the situation? Or is it going to be the beginning of this tug-of-war going on between parent and child?

Toddler coming to the age of 2 or even earlier would start to exert the word, ‘No’. In the Kestenberg movement profile, snapping and biting phase, the infant is beginning to learn to separate from his/her main caregiver, usually the parents. It is also the stage where he/she is going through the teething phase. This takes place much earlier and it is not a nice time for the infant as well as for the parents. Next come the phase where the toddler is seeking one’s self-identity, setting boundary and learning to exercise assertiveness by saying or practising the word, ‘No’. It is an important phase for the toddler to go through by finding their own ability to exert assertiveness, setting boundary, finding their own identity and develop their core centre and self.

If there is an extreme interference by not allowing the toddler to do so, in adulthood, they may not be able to exercise them, needless to say, to understand boundary, assertiveness, and to be able to set limits and boundary in life and not to be ‘lured’ by peer pressure into doing something they do not like. It is understood that parents may feel a sense of rejection from their child when they say, ‘No’. The real fact is the toddler is not attacking a parent personally but trying to seek meaning and understand the world through their senses and at the same time making senses of themselves and the world around them.

I hope in sharing the encounter that I have with the toddler will help parents-to-be and parents who are having young toddlers to have a better insight to the world of the toddlers and in aid of parenthood.

Here is the scenario.
I use T. for toddler, M. for mother

First session

T. has grown up a lot since the last time I saw her. She could not recognise me. Immediately, she showed me her displeasure as a sign of I was someone whom she did not know personally. I gave some space in between as I entered the room and had a conversation with M. At the same time, I observed T, making eye-contact with her. M. introduced me and she would strongly say, ‘No’ (a few times) as saying, “I don’t know you and I’m not ready to accept you, stay away from me.’ I didn’t attempt to go near her but let her be where she was and accepted her ‘No’ to me that she was not ready to let me into her ‘circle’ as yet. T. began her play in her room while M and I would observe. At one point, M. went to pick up a toy for her in another room. I chose at this point of time to move a little nearer to her but at a distance. She immediately would say a loud ‘No’ again with her feet hitting the floor, sitting down, to assert her ‘No’ a few times. I then imitated her actions and mirrored her repeating her ‘No’ at a distance. I repeated them a couple of times as she continued. She looked at me, making eye contacts and her body immediately relaxed as we ‘played’ this game of stamping feet and ‘No’. She softened her body and broke into a smile. It is a sign that she was accepting me and acknowledged my presence to be in the room with her. I let her take the lead to approach me in her own time. In split second, she came towards me (very near) and smiled. Since then, I was given the permission to join M. and T. in the exploration of play.

Note: I won’t go into the details of the whole session as my main focus is to show the intervention of interacting with a toddler at 2.

Second session

T. was still sleeping and awoke after a while I was there. I was having a conversation with M. She came out of her room, woken up and needed some time to orientate herself to awake state. T. was still in a state of what was going on. The evident of her mood was not a happy one and again she would exert her ‘No’ even with more assertiveness. The question is, ‘Do we force the child to immediately have the session?’ Or ‘Do we wait till she is ready on her own to begin?’ Being a therapist, my way of working is to follow the child’s cue and not to force them to do what they do not want to do. What if we do? Naturally, the child will put up a fight and the tension would be amounted and escalated. In fact, M. asked me and I gently asked her in the form of question what would she do about it? (as a form of intervention with M. and T.)

We let T. to settle down and let her be until she was ready. Interestingly, she had her milk and soon enough, she regained her disposition and ready to cooperate without any fuss and with a smile. It didn’t take very long in fact. All we did was let her be, let her decide and all we did was be with her, observing her and picking up her cues. 

Note:  Boundary and structure is important and when to attune and clash depends on the situation and the nature of the moment. What is shared is pertaining to the nature of the process itself.  Normally it is worked on case to case basis.
One thing I would very much like to share what struck me in moving with T. and observing her movement. I can feel and sense T.’s core-self and confidence. So far that I have observed children, I have not felt such a core-centre in a toddler of 2. She is grounded and has a core-centre in her body. To be able to feel a toddler with a core-centre in her body and movement is such a wonder to be felt in my body. It is such a beautiful moment and experience I would never forget. I would like to applaud M. for trusting herself, moving in the flow with T. in her developmental phases and reading her cues.
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