Fear of what we know

Photo: Jurnal fotografic

FEAR is one of the four primary feelings we have. It is instinctive, and it is planted in our subconscious because we need it to keep us safe.

If we think of the old times, when people lived in cages and hunting in forests, fear was necessary. If they met a giant predator, of course, it was essential to listen to fear so they can save their lives and run or hide. At the time we are talking about wild animals and warriors attacks from other tribes.
What is happening today is that we still have those instincts because we still need them to keep us alive. In the world we live in today, the wild animals have been replaced with Thieves, Lack of Money, What people think, or Overprotective families, and the list can continue.

Each of these elements or all of them together appear in a different context, but our subcounscient fear, the instinctive feeling, cannot distinguish between them, and it makes it hard for us to see if it is accurate or not.
This type of FEAR is an element that influences our decisions in pretty much everything we do. Depending on where we live and how safe the environment we are living our everyday life is, it will influence the way we look at other places in the world.

Fear is a feeling of the future. We are afraid of something that may or may not happen in the future. We have no idea if what we imagine in our heads is true or not. Yet, we continue to write books in our heads about the scariest things our minds have been filled with through the personal experiences we’ve grown up with, media and films, whatever information comes to us in our immediate environment.

Our background, the family we grew up in, and how safe our childhood has been play a significant role in the picture of fear. If some of us have been unfortunate to experience a lot of uncertainties coming from the close guardians (parents, siblings, close relatives, and friends), it will be hard to break that pattern. The safety net around us is already ruined, and the need for control shows up. Or, in other words, the fear of losing control in a different environment where one does not know people/language/system and the surroundings will kick in.

We think about 50 to 60 000 thoughts a day, and research shows that all this huge amount of thoughts are pretty much the same every day and that they shape our reality.
If we keep feeding our minds with the same type of information and do not put in new and different information, we have little chance to change both the way we think and our environment.

If we grew up in a dangerous home and community, where our trust has been broken by people supposed to hold us safe, like family and friends, then there are two choices. We stay in that environment either because what we know is safer than what we don’t know, or we run/travel to see if there is the same in other places.

People who do not yet travel have a more significant need to keep their comfort zone, and therefore, it is easier to stay with what they know, even if that may not be safe either, than to go for something they don’t know.
In the second case, as travelers and people who move to other countries, controlling and making own plans not depending on other people is essential.

So, where is the “unknown” here that they may feel afraid of? The unknown is right there, coming from people they know well. We do not know how those people they know well and call friends and family are going to react. So the biggest unknown is happening right under their noses. To travel someplace else gives much more control even if they travel to unknown places. A foreign country and a foreign language is much easier to “control” than to control people in their lives.

At the same time, many people travel to see how it is in other places, and this way, they are “killing fear with fear” and discover that the world is much friendlier than what they expected. Simultaneously, some may observe how they carry with them invisible luggage, they may not have been aware of.

In case this article had awaken thoughts that may need to be sorted out, feel free to register for a free session here. A lot can be sorted out in ONE good conversation.


Photo: PHOTOFrog

There are many types of fear. And fear has to do with danger and with things that may happen in the future. It’s meant to keep us alive. 

Yet, some fears can do us more harm than good. One of these fears is the fear of being rejected.

Fear of being rejected is a kind of fear that can stop you from living your life comfortably. If you think that some people won’t like what you do and/or how you think, then you’ll be giving those people a considerable power over your life. They will be in charge of you and your actions instead of yourself.

One way this fear of rejection can be dealt with is to Face it. Easier said than done.

Put yourself in a situation where you could be rejected, so you can check it out. See if it is going to happen. Is like fighting Fire with Fire.

It is not always easy, and it requires a fair amount of strength. Yet, you do not know if you have that strength if you do not try.

You do not need to do it alone, either. You can always ask for help.

You can ask a good friend that you can open up to, to be with you while you face something or someone that can reject you. That person needs to be an excellent emotional support, someone you can entirely rely on. Someone emotionally mature enough so he or she can hold space for you no matter what.

If you do not have a close person you can trust with this kind of task, it is probably best to find someone trained like a therapist, a psychoanalyst or a coach. When you choose between these ones, be aware of the difference between therapy and coaching. You can read about it here.

Someone you know that they will be able to deal with their feelings and fears in that particular situation and support your feelings and reactions in the same time.

Most times, people find out in time that this rejection does not come from others but from themselves. As human beings, we are quite good at stumbling in our fears, and we reject ourselves in various situations. And we do that when being rejected serves us a porpoise. To be rejected is useful for us in a way or another. It keeps us in the comfort/safety zone, keeps us comfortable.

Now, if it would be for you to think about your fear of rejection, what is that doing for you? In which way it serves you if you still keep it around?

If you want to do some more research over it, feel free to register for a free session here. ONE good conversation can help a lot.

Knowledge VS Wisdom

Photo: PHOTOFrog

There is a lot of information around us when it comes to mental and emotional health. We are swamped with books, articles, TV and internet shows, opinions, and advice. Everything we want to know, we ask our best friend in need: Google.

Or, we ask friends and family and strangers on FB or Instagram. We are surprised to learn that everybody knows better than we do what we should do or not do about our problems.

At the same time, we also know very well what we should do about whatever is bothering us. We wouldn’t ask questions if we weren’t aware of the fact that we have an issue.

In discussions with people and sessions with my clients, I often hear, “Yes, I know that. I’ve been reading a lot on the subject”. Or “Yes, I know, my other therapist told me the same thing”. 

That is very good to know about the subject. At the same time, my question to the people I talk to is, “And what are you doing with what you know?”

How do you apply the information you know in your daily life? How is that theoretical knowledge manifesting in your behavior towards yourself and/or towards others?

This is the difference between Knowledge and Wisdom.

Knowledge is what we know.

Wisdom is what we do with what we know. 

This simple definition applies to all fields. We start from an idea that we picture in our mind, and then we see how we can materialize it and put into practice the knowledge and the theoretical information.

It is the same in coaching/therapy. If you’ve read a lot and you know many things, how do you put to work all that information? Which actions are you taking towards your well-being emotionally and mentally? If you need to talk more about what you know VS what you do, feel free to sign up for a free session here. You’d be amazed to find out how much you can sort out in ONE good conversation.

What would people say!

Photo: Pavel & Petruta

As you may have already understood, I bring up in this articles questions and issues that pop up in my therapy room.

This time is about “Feedback”. How do we hear and take feedback? Good or bad. How well are people prepared to hear what is told around them, in the environments they walkabout? “What would people say?”

Perhaps I should define first, what I see as being feedback. Feedback is acknowledgment. We need acknowledgment since we are born. Being acknowledged is a synonym for being alive. A living being grows and transforms itself accordingly to the environment and the acknowledgment it gets. Look at flowers and plants, or animals. They tend to thrive or to pale and disappear accordingly to the environment. If plants are watered and have just enough Sun as they need, they flourish.

Acknowledgment is “Water and Sun” for people. Humans are living beings as well. The difference is that we have language and words to define what is happening around us and to change environments if we don’t thrive where we are, or to change ourselves in order to fit the place/people around us. We change ourselves accordingly to the feedback we get and more importantly, with the meaning we give to that feedback.  

Feedback can come in different ways, and I have chosen to speak about four of them here:

  1. Verbal: we receive words coming from other people who tell us what they think about us as people or about our actions in certain contexts.
  2. Nonverbal: for some people, being ignored is worse than having an argument or a fight. Ignoring or not see a certain behavior, or not hear certain comments or suggestions are ways of avoiding conflict, or disapproval, or simply not knowing what to say. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything”. I don’t know who said it. At the same time, I meet people who react very strongly to being ignored. For them, a good fight/argument is better than not speaking about the matter. In certain contexts, not speaking/silence can be a form of violence as well. About that, in another article.
  3. Physical: handshakes, a pat on the shoulder, a punch or a kick, and even spanking. In some cultures, children can be spanked because people do not know any better, and parenting ideas didn’t reach there yet. Parenting is a new concept, only since about 1970 when Alice Miller’s books have been published. Alice Miller was the first child psychologist in the world and her books have made a revolution when it comes to parenting and child-rearing.   
  4. Energetically: here I consider the reputation that we can build or destroy for other people by speaking good or bad about them. Here I like to apply Socrates’s filter test. There is a story that goes like this:

Once, Socrates was walking alone in his garden, enjoying the good weather and the Sun. One of his disciples comes to him and joins him in his walk. The disciple starts talking:

  • Master, I have heard some news about this person. Wait until I tell you about it.
  • Wait a second, says Socrates before you speak about this person, do you know if the information you are just about to tell me is true?
  • No, answer the disciple. I just heard it from someone else.
  • Well then, is it good news, is it positive?
  • No, absolutely not, says the disciple with an expression of confusion growing in his face.
  • Ok, says Socrates. Do you happen to know if this information is useful to me or to the projects, we are working on together?
  • No, it has nothing to do with either, answers the disciple.
  • Well then, says Socrates, then do not say it. If you do not know if the information is true, good, or useful for me or for us, then do not say it. I do not wish to hear it.

Since I’ve just told the story of Socrates and what he chose to hear/know about people, we see that he made a difference between positive and negative feedback. We all know, that people talk and that not all of them have heard about the filter Socrates had. Therefore, we will hear negative feedback either we want it or not.

The question is what we do with that negative feedback? Do we let it go under our skin? Or do we treat it as “information”? Feedback is, after all, information. Information that we receive and we can choose how we want to use it. We have choices here. We can listen, and see if any of that information can be useful to us, and save it for later when we can actually use it.

If there is nothing we can use, then we can just let it pass by us, and never think of it again. Yet, research shows that humans have an issue with holding on to negative feedback much longer than necessary. Humans can hear 10 good feedbacks and if one negative feedback comes along, then we tend to hear that one louder and stronger, and we ignore all the other ten good and encouraging. If we’ve been unlucky and we gave negative feedback to someone, then it will take us up to 7 or 10 good feedback so we can make it good again.

Feedback we receive usually has to do with the actions we do. In the same time, people are not aware of the way they use language when they give feedback and often we can her that we ARE so and so, because we have DONE something. With other words, it can be difficult to distinguish between TO BE and TO DO.

Often, people ARE good, in the same time they can DO less inspired actions. Our actions are our behavior. When we hear feedback like “You are such and such…” for something that we have done, the best thing is to reflect on it, and rephrase it in our mind. It is even better if we react and we tell the person who gave us the feedback something like that: “If I have DONE this thing, it doesn’t make me a bad person. Only less inspired at the time I’ve done that action”. We cannot always control our behavior and especially our feelings. When we feel strongly about something, it is very common that we act on our feelings. If “anger” is that one feeling, it is also possible that we do not remember the things we’ve done or why we did it. See previous articles about anger. Our reactions make our behavior. Our behavior can be inspired or less inspired. We are humans and we cannot be perfect.

Next time you hear feedback, think about if it is about you or about something you’ve done. Try to distinguish between the two: BE and DO/DONE/ACTION.

If you have difficulties in distinguishing between them, feel free to register for a free session here. There is a lot that can be clarified in ONE good conversation.  

Coaching VS Therapy

In my practice I have received this question quite often: what is the difference between therapy and coaching.

Therapy sounds like someone is bad mentally and needs extreme treatment and pills and it is almost crazy. Not quite true. That is something psychiatrist are dealing with.

Therapy helps you heal past emotions and people need psychology training to perform it, training that goes over many years (I have six). Therapy helps with understanding past experiences and with healing them.

Coaching helps you achieve goals, and it’s mostly based on the personal experience of the coach. Like “If I could do it, then you can do it too. Let me show you how I did it, and you can see if you can do it as well”.

It is a term coming from sports where we find team coaches who are leading the team to success. Most coaches from sports have been themselves players in a particular sport, and after retiring or wounding themselves and not being able to play anymore, decide to work as coach for the same sport they have practiced and use the experience from the field.

In time it was discovered that people could use this kind of coaches in their daily life as well, to help them deal with different areas of their lives: body issues, food, career, parenting, performance in music, and other varies arts, business, and I am sure that today, we can find coaches for everything. Not a bad thing. Usually, if we want to go to a higher level in any field, we need help, and there is no shame in asking for it, only strength.  

Part of people who choose to work as coach, may also get training with an even more experienced coach, so they learn tools (mostly use of language). There is also extensive readings one can do by self-study about how to help yourself overcome some issues, known as “self-help” books. Usually, after you manage to help yourself, helping others with their struggles, comes naturally.

Some coaches have taken so many programs that they have become really good at what they do. The fact that they went on many programs says about them that they have acquired great personal experience from learning themselves and from achieving their own goals.

In my practice as a psychotherapist, I find many times that I use both methods in one session. Depends very much on the necessity of the people I work with. Some people are ready to look at their history and heal some wounds, and then they can move further to working on achieving their goals.

 Healing wounds from the past can be easy or hard, depends on each person’s personal experience and history. It is a bit like modeling clay. Sometimes you may need to bring to dust whatever you thought was true for you, to add water (new information, perspectives, feelings), and reshape it into a conscious story that can help you move forward. Not always easy, yet very rewarding for those who dare to do the work, especially to do the work together with someone trained (that can help to add the water). One can achieve a lot working alone, yet, if one wants to move past own limits, assistance is required. It is easier to share the load of the work and talk it through together with someone that knows how to sustain and give space to this kind of inner process.

Many people cannot touch their past because it is too painful and prefer the coaching instead. In time, past stories come forward and a measure of healing is done as well, through the coaching process.

My experience both personal and from my practice is that 90 % of people need to heal some emotional blockage first before they can go further in their lives and achieving goals. Here is where I would like to ask those who are working as a coach, and who feel that they are stumbling in the “healing” part of their client’s process, to make a conscious decision and send them to a therapist. As I said, asking for help is a strength.

Each person needs to understand themselves in own time. They become ready to work both on the past and on the future somehow in layers, step by step, all in good time. Each experience in their life ads a measure of understanding both on their own past and on the way they may need to take to have the future they want. The process takes as long as it takes.

When choosing to work with a coach or a therapist, check how much experience they have from learning themselves, and how much experience they have with clients in the field they work in.

In the meantime, you can take into consideration trying a free session with me. Perhaps my expertise as a psychotherapist and an expat for almost two decades can help you. If this sounds interesting to you, register here.

Freedom, rights, and flowers

Do you know what are we celebrating March 8th?

It may seem like a simple question with a simple answer. It’s international women’s day. We celebrate women all over the world.

But in which way? What is it that we celebrate about women?

What I have noticed is that this particular day has different meanings in different countries.

For instance, for me, who I grew up behind the Iron Curtain, women’s day meant Mother’s day. Women would get presents and would be treated better by their families and spouses. Femininity and motherhood were celebrated, the weakness of being sensitive and needing attention expressed in flowers and gifts.

After I moved to Norway, I saw that women’s day meant something else in this society.

When it comes to gender equality, Norway is in second place in the world, after Iceland. Here I saw that celebrating women did not ment celebrating their ability to be mothers, or to be sensitive or weak.

Here women are celebrated for being strong and independent. It is the political fight to gain rights that is celebrated. Rights like vote, contraception, abortion, deciding what to do with their own bodies, the right to maternity leave, and child care.

The right to education, to work, to choose who and if they want to marry and how do they want to live their lives.

The celebration of women’s day in Norway focuses on what still needs to be done when it comes to women’s rights. Like equal pay, sexual harassment, abuse, rape, domestic violence.

The whole week that includes March 8th day, is full of events where experts and political activists are bringing forward all these issues and put a spotlight on what is still not right for women.

I meet quite a few women from different countries who sometimes protest about the fact that they do not get flowers in this particular day. That their male colleagues at their jobs do not say more than perhaps «Happy women’s day», from the distance. They feel they are lacking something on March 8th because the celebration is not the same.

Many women today have grown up in a world where they always had the right to vote, the right to work and to go to school, the contraception, and the right to marry who they want. Because of that we should be even more aware of the sacrifices and do not take these things for granted. Some women fought and died so women of today have all these rights. Perhaps it would be a good idea to remember those sacrifices. 

Is this anything you ever thought about? How do you celebrate women’s day? What tradition did you have in your own country? I would love to hear your story about it.  

What March 8th mean to you?  Weakness and sensitivity, or strength?

Happy International Women’s Day! 

Em-power-ful Festival

Em-power-ful is a festival created and organized by Mar Pages and Meg Gerard for the Solo Female Traveler Community.

I have the honor of being one of the speakers at this festival. There are two topics I am touching in my talks.

One is about how to deal with anxiety and fear while traveling solo. How to distinguish between types of fear and how to deal with them.

The other one is a panel discussion together with Dr. Nisha Barkathunnisha about how to deal with traditional points of view when it comes to traveling alone as a woman.

If you are curious about them, you’re welcome to purchase your festival pass here, or just click on the picture above.

There is nothing you MUST


How many times have you heard people around you telling you that “you MUST” do this, or you MUST do that, or you should, or you ought to do whatever? Or even speaking about themselves and saying: “I must do this or that”. 

In the end, after hearing these words so many times in our surroundings while we grow up, and later after we move away from home and get to school or to a job, we start to believe that we really must do a lot of things. And we start using the words ourselves and we tell them to the people around us, and in this way, we contribute to spreading the must culture around us. We teach it to our children too.  These words are inherited from our family, and the various communities and cultures we grow up in.

I have good news: there is nothing we MUST. And there is nothing we SHOULD.

If you take a moment and think of all the things you did and still do in your life because you MUST, or because you SHOULD, how many of those did you really HAD TO do, or MUST do?

There is always a matter of choice. We always have a choice in every situation. The issue that shows up is that of consequence. Because each choice we make will have a different consequence.

In the end, it is a matter of pros and cons for each choice we make. There is like a constant negotiation with ourselves and others.

If we think that in some situations, we really don’t have a choice, we still do. Because most of the situations we consider as being without a choice are those in which we may die.

And when I say “DIE” I do not only refer to the physical death of the body.

There are several ways one person can die.

  • The feelings of shame and guilt in an embarrassing situation can feel as strong as death like the world has crushed or the earth has split and swallowed us.
  • Bankruptcy: someone can die on the market by getting bankrupt. The feeling can be just as strong and painful.
  • Broken hearts can feel extensively painful; therefore, it can feel like dying.
  • Losing a job – shame of being without a job
  • Losing family members – emptiness in the heart
  • Moving to another place. The life before has died, even if one returns to the old places, it will never be the same.
  • Failure, no matter in what area of life

And I am sure there are even more situations that can feel like dying. To avoid all those feelings, we make choices and then we say we must, or we had to. We didn’t have to, but it felt like that because we wanted to avoid a painful feeling. 

Physical death is the only thing that we probably must do because history has shown that living beings die, eventually, sooner or later. At the same time, we can still choose when that is happening in situations where we think that we have no choice. We have no choice because we decide to choose life.

I like to think in terms of our brain as a computer, and the language and the words we use, the software in the computer. It is just that from this computer it is more difficult to “delete” such powerful words like must and should, and reinstall new “software”, as I choose, or I prefer, or it may be wise, it may be better, or I have a suggestion.

It takes some work and some awareness over the way the software of words is going through our brain.

It is not always easy to be aware of all the words we are thinking and all the words we are saying, especially when we think about 50 to 60 000 words each day. At the same time, it is not impossible to become aware of small fragments from that huge quantity of words and make an attempt to change that software.

I would like to suggest an exercise:

Think of a situation or a thing that you MUST do.

Say out loud: “I must do…..”.

Take a deep breath and then repeat the same thing, and change the word “must” with “I want to”, or “I choose to”.

Repeat both versions of that sentence and notice how do you feel in your body when you say each of them.

Do you notice any difference?

How does your body feel when you say I must vs I want to/I choose to?

Do let me know and enjoy the choices you make in your life.

Remember, there is nothing you MUST!

In case you should need to elaborate and speak some more over a situation you think you MUST do something, feel free to subscribe here for a free coaching/therapy session here.

For women only!

This talk is for women only, because the community I’ve held this talk for is women travelers only. I speak about “The invisible luggage” we all carry with us, and which is more than the suitcases which follow us around the world.

If you want to watch it, you’ll have to join the FB group. Check it out here.

Photo: PHOTOfrog