Monday, April 14, 2014

You reap what you sow: planting sustainable relationships

Spring is here and it's time to get planting in your relationships as well as the garden!

For my first attempt at growing vegetables I planted carrots. Watching my son race around the garden with his friends and then stop, pull a carrot out of the ground, wipe it on his trousers and eat it remains a fond and abiding memory. 

It was a delight to watch him share the carrots with his mates, but we never got to eat any; they polished them off before any carrot ever got a chance to get to the table! Being new to growing veg, I had no idea how many to sow, what the long term needs of the family would be - or even how the whole system worked!

This is a problem that also surfaces in relationships. When there is little understanding of the process and purpose of relationship, the focus tends to be on making sure immediate needs are met.   If there is no commitment and dedication to planting the seeds of respect, true communication and forgiveness (which would sustain everyone) the result is a kind of emotional starvation that will eventually lead to relationship famine.   The relationship becomes incapable of feeding anyone.

Guidelines for long-term, sustainable and fruitful relationships:
  • Communicate openly and honestly.  Putting up with situations in order to avoid conflict creates drought like conditions.  A willingness to discuss difficult subjects shows a commitment to the health of the relationship.  Sometimes a dying plant only needs water to revive it.  You may have to dig deep to find the water and if you fear conflict, coaching can help you with improved communication skills.
  • Develop your emotional vocabulary.  Our emotions are the nutrients that allow us to blossom, grow and be productive.  Clients often ask me for a written list of feelings so they can find one to describe what is going on for them.  Being able to identify, experience and express feelings is vital not just for your long-term health but for the growth of the relationship,
  • Open your heart, whatever it takes. Every plant needs sunshine to grow and an open heart allows the light to shine.  A closed heart kills the spirit, shrinks vitality and shuts down the life-force.
  • Put yourself in the centre of your life. Self-development creates a fertile environment for creativity and inspiration.  It not only improves your quality of life, it feeds your relationship too.

Happy Planting!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mixed messages

Mother's can drive you mad can't they?  Mine spent most of my formative years (it seemed to me) being obsessed with having a clean and tidy house, then this year for Christmas she gives me a plaque for my kitchen saying "A tidy kitchen is a sign of a wasted life".  Talk about mixed messages, I've spent years trying to match her level of cleanliness and order only to discover she's changed her mind!

Then I had a row with my husband the other day about the state of our kitchen (my life is one big relationship training centre!!!)  He's started baking (see previous blog entry) and whilst his bread is AMAZING (make friends with him on facebook) the kitchen is taking a real beating.  When I complained about everything being covered in flour and him not cleaning up properly after baking, he accused me of having unrealistically high standards.  I felt completely misunderstood as he had no idea how far below my mother's exacting standards I felt I had dropped!

Life can be so confusing sometimes.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mothers and Daughters

'By the time a woman realises her mother was right, she has a daughter who thinks she is wrong.' 
My mother was in the delivery room as I was giving birth to my first child.  I'm still not sure how she got there - but then again, I doubt anyone would have told her to leave.  She would have given them one of her old fashioned looks which basically says "There's nothing here I haven't seen before." 

Anyway, there I was at the painful end huffing and puffing and - well - mooing for some reason, with my husband bravely holding a cool flannel to my head and trying to avoid seeing anything gory.  My mother was at the action end with a look of mild impatience, which I like to believe was masking her excitement.  

Of her five children I was her only daughter and the birth of her first grandchild was a big event for us both.  I was glad and touched that she had turned up unannounced and, although a little embarrassed to be 'revealing' so much of myself to her, I knew this was a turning point in our relationship.

Finally my daughter arrived and was placed in my arms.  "I've got a baby, I've got a baby" I kept repeating.  "Well, what were you expecting?" my mother asked "A rabbit?".  

I laughed softly and then, looking down at my darling newborn daughter I was overcome with awe, love and a deep understanding.  I knew I loved this tiny being with a fierce and protective love and that I had been waiting for her my whole life.  I also knew that underneath all the misunderstandings and heartbreak between us, this was exactly how my mother felt about me.

Cradling my daughter in my arms, I looked into my mother's eyes and said: 'I am so sorry.  Thank you.'  

She sat very still, gave me a gentle nod, and our healing journey began.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Life and other revolutions.

Warning: this could change your life, forever.

Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.  Margaret Mead.

Women have a powerful ability to create profound and lasting change through something that comes naturally to them: the power of relationship. The only problem is no-one told us this was our talent, many of us have forgotten how to use it effectively and we certainly can’t do it alone.

But when we rediscover it in the company of other courageous can start a revolution!

So, if this glorious weather is making you want to break out and do something exciting, you might be interested in the next Family@Heart course I’m running.

From a previous participant: Kim's Family@Heart course has been a beyond words experience for me where I discovered a whole new way of thinking and ability to apply a pause button to enable me to have more meaningful relationships .
The book alone is worth the course price and I think everyone should invest in themselves under Kim's total commitment to get you over any doubts you may have about yourself.
Just do it!!!! 

I’ve called this course Family@Heart, because I believe that every woman’s heart holds a deep desire and natural talent to help others and make a difference in the world.  Your innate feminine gifts of emotional intelligence, intuition, creativity and compassion are powerhouse tools that have been neglected too long, this 6-week course shows you how to blow off the dust and use them confidently to change your life and help others do the same.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in making a difference the next morning course  (9.30 – 12.30) starts Tuesday 6th May for 6-weeks. If evenings are your thing Wednesdays 7th May 6.30-9.30.  (May 27/28 no class for half-term).

If you’d like to know more do give me a call on 07789 408378 or email me here.  There's more info here too. 

Here’s what other participants have been saying:
I wouldn’t have missed the course for the world and I know I am so much happier for all the work that I have done with you and cannot thank you enough for holding my hand through it..  Things have changed with my children, which is such a fantastic starting point.

It really has been amazing to apply the principles that I learnt from you in the Family@Heart course to my relationship.  Things which would have become big problems in the past, we're now able to talk through sooner, take ownership of and transform.  I honestly can't thank you enough!  

I wanted to express my heartfelt thanks to you for starting me on such an amazing journey.  It feels such a profound shift in such a short time, despite my independent nature and initial resistance to group work.  You are right!  It’s the way to faster healing and I have absolutely loved the connection with the group.  I look forward to continued ‘unpeeling’!

In groups and 1-2-1 situations, Kim creates a safe space to explore difficult and painful situations and relationships.  With wisdom empathy, compassion and humour Kim shows you patterns of behaviour that are creating repeated conflict and pain in your life.  With that new awareness you can chose more positive and constructive responses to any situation and really transform your life for the better.  Kim has a true gift to share through her work. 

Email Kim or phone 07789 408378 to book your place now.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to spin emotional straw into relationship gold

Often what drives a couple to separate is actually the same thing that could take their relationship to a new level of love and bonding.

When we fall in love we tell ourselves ‘this is the person to help me live happily ever after’ but really we would stand a greater chance of happiness, love and long-term success if we recognised that ‘this is the person I am going to hell and back with’!  Not because relationships are a living hell (although I admit, it can sometimes feel like it), but because relationships offer an amazing opportunity to heal anything in us that is the opposite of love. 

Emotional literacy - being able to identify emotions and communicate about them - is a vital skill for successful relationships in every area of life.  In simple terms:  when someone upsets us, we feel something.  We may not even understand what the feeling is but its not pleasant.  We may feel hurt, rejected, sad, inadequate (it can take time to identify the feeling as we have been well trained to avoid them).  If that feeling has an echo of a painful experience from our childhood, it will set of an emotional chain reaction.  We begin to feel the deeper emotion and, whilst we believe we are relating to an event in the present, our emotional age just got much younger.  We start to process the past event as well.  

If we numb ourselves to what is going on inside, we can't work through the emotions successfully.  We find it hard to communicate effectively and end up feeling even more misunderstood, compounding the feelings of hurt.  It is a downward spiral.

Your subconscious mind is the main driver in your relationships; it houses your childhood experiences, drives your behaviour and determines your level of emotional intelligence. Even if we vow we are going to do it differently from our parents, we don't realise that as we relax into the relationship the strategies we learned from childhood and early models of relationship start to run us.   'God you're just like your mother/father' can be a declaration of war in some relationships, so resistant are we to acknowledging the influence they have had on us.
We are trained to bury our emotions, but I see them as the emotional straw that can be turned into relationship gold.  When you are willing to do growth work in self-awareness and emotional maturity and learn to process emotions consciously, you can transform a devastating experience into a positive and loving outcome. 

It takes courage to be vulnerable in relationship, to reveal the places in you that feel inadequate, unworthy, fearful.  It may seem easier to believe the relationship can survive without you revealing this part of yourself, but learning to be open with yourself and others can enhance the connection and build greater intimacy, trust, love and create successful, sustainable relationships.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Can you say the C word?

Commitment: Heaven or Hell?
Its a word that brings conversation to a halt, makes people uncomfortable and can be very upsetting.

I'm talking about the biggest C word of all - Commitment.

People get scared of commitment because they believe it means being tied down, but true commitment is actually the key to freedom. 

Simply put, commitment means becoming emotionally engaged.  It takes effort, it takes courage and it certainly takes practice - but the long term benefits far outweigh the short term discomfort of learning something new.

And Commitment gets your life out of the doldrums.

The journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step.

If the idea of commitment fills you with dread, then its likely you're  trying to run before you can walk.  Let's  break the process down into manageable chunks. 

Commitment is an art and a practice and has several levels. 

Level 1: Its all about you!

You can't solve any problem if you're overwhelmed or lack confidence, so the first level of commitment needs to be to yourself. 

Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act, it's a sign of leadership.  It is a clear communication that you are ready to lead your life rather than have life lead you by the nose.  If you feel like your spinning too many plates or that you are constantly firefighting - its a sign that you've let life run away with you by putting everyone's needs ahead of your own.

The guiding principle here is:  I am worthy of self-compassion.

There are lots of resources out there to help strengthen the commitment to yourself (including inspiring and helpful video and book pages on this blog) It's also why I created the Family@Heart course; it taps right into this level and opens the door to a whole new way of living.

Level 2: Honest Communication
You're the common denominator in all areas of your life.  Whether its family, friends, work, health or finances, how you feel about yourself will dictate how successful you feel about life, and how well you enjoy it.

As your confidence and self-worth improves the next level of commitment is to living your life wholeheartedly.  You may begin to recognise behaviours and patterns in yourself or your relationships that are not helpful and the skills you develop as you commit to your own well-being will help you communicate more honestly about them.  The guiding principle here: Its important to me that I am authentic with you.
Level 3: Partnership
Partnership means creating a relationship based on equality. Most of us were not fortunate to experience a healthy model of partnership growing up and have very little to work with when it comes to creating it in our relationships.   Unhappy relationships are built on foundations of competition and inequality so the guiding principle here is: your success and happiness is as important to me as my own.

Partnership refuses to use the real dirty c-word in relationship - compromise.  With compromise everyone loses, commitment at this level makes resolution the goal - an outcome that everyone is happy with.  It may take longer, it may be difficult at times but this is what true commitment means: the process of mutual understanding, forgiveness and acceptance no matter how many conversations, or how difficult they may be.

The paradox is that when you get to this level you might discover some relationships are over, but the decision to move on is reached through love and understanding rather with blame and guilt - and the fall-out is far less damaging to all involved.

Marriage, parenting, caring for elderly parents, running a business: all require high levels of emotional maturity in order to create successful partnership. You can't get to level 3 without working on yourself, but the moment you start taking care of yourself commitment changes from being something that strikes fear in your heart to a way of opening up to a wholehearted life.

Ready to get started? Sign up for the next Family@Heart course in May.  
Make the commitment to yourself first here

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tale of tails.

I'll never forget the question that changed my life.  

I had promised the children we could have a dog and we finally chose a beautiful German Shepherd called Ella. She was very glamourous -  like a kind of doggy 1950s movie star: beautiful, intelligent and very high maintenance.  

But she never lay still.  She'd pace the house and began to chew the walls.  Sometimes when I opened the back door she would race across the field to the local school because she could hear children playing football.  I knew she only wanted to play but she'd run off with the ball and when I went to get her, a replacement for the punctured football in my hands, the headmaster warned me that it would only take one child to be scared and the dog would have to be put down.

I tried everything to help her settle - hours of walks and training, took her to classes, I even hired a dog whisperer!  I lovingly cooked tripe and baked healthy treats to make sure it wasn't her diet that was affecting her.  Then one day, out of the blue, my mother-in-law rang up and said "I don't think the dog is working out.  You have done everything you can, you're exhausted and I think you need to let her go."

I was so shocked.  I thought I'd hidden the toll that taking care of the family, running my business and trying to make the dog happy was taking.

The thought of getting rid of the children's beloved pet was agony.  I knew they would be devastated, especially the youngest.  I kept trying to calculate which would be the least damaging -  being a stressed-out mum for the rest of the dog's life or giving her away and ruining the children's childhood to save my sanity.  Every time I thought about getting rid of the dog I'd feel guilty and cruel and berate myself as a bad mother. Every time I thought about keeping her I wanted to shoot myself.

Then a friend asked me a life-changing question: '

'Are you willing to disappoint another in order to be true to yourself?'

I chewed that over for days but I knew the answer straight away.  I found a home for the dog and told the children we needed to let her go as she wasn't settled with us.  It was awful, one of the children just walked to the corner of the room, turned his face to wall and wept silently. They were heartbroken, we all were, but my friend's question kept ringing in my ears and, like a mantra, gave me the strength, courage and compassion to help us all through.

Ella was happy in her new home on a farm and, would you believe, four days after she'd gone a black kitten turned up at our back door and never left.  Despite asking around we never found where she came from but we all firmly believe she'd heard our heartbroken cries and came to help.  She's still taking care of us.  

It took a couple of years for the children to work through their grief and loss.  I never felt guilty, though.  I was sad for the children and I was sad that things didn't work out the way we'd all hoped.  Whenever we talked about it I always apologised, but I also forgave myself.  I knew I had done what was best for us all - including Ella.  

I learnt so much from this experience, but most valuable of all was the question itself.

Are you willing to disappoint another in order to be true to yourself?* 

(from 'The Invitation' by Oriah Mountain Dreamer)