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Dream Symbol Dance

Pic credit: Clearly Ambiguous

Pic credit: Clearly Ambiguous

Are you dancing alone or with a partner?

Are you asking or being asked?

Are you watching or participating?

In general, dancing implies inner harmony and spontaneous expression of feelings.

If you're dancing alone, you may be wishing for someone to pay more attention to you.

If you see children dance, it's a sign of joy; older people dancing are an omen for successful business.



Dream Symbol Fire

Pic credit: matthewvenn Are you starting it or putting it out?

Is it contained or wild?

Can you feel the heat or hear it crackling?

Fire can stand for desire and passionate feelings.

If you're starting a fire, you may be starting a new erotic relationship. If you're putting one out inside your home, it may indicate illness.

Fire also symbolizes cleansing energy.



Step 10 - Recognise that all feelings are good and useful

Over the next few weeks, I'll be basing my articles on this "12 Steps to Happiness" post.
My granddad died last week, and emotionally I was all over the place. Sad, because now he's officially gone; confused, because I didn't get a chance to say goodbye except in the form of a letter; relieved, because his suffering is over. Apart from that, I was mostly anxious about how my grandmother would handle the situation. I mean, you don't just get used to being alone after 61 years of marriage overnight, do you. Turns out, there's no need to worry, because granny has a grand attitude: "He reached a good age, he touched many people, we've had a happy time together, now it's time not to complain, but to be grateful." Bless her cotton socks.
I'll now share with you some other feelings that I had. My husband and I have recently moved to the United States and are in the process of getting our residence papers sorted. While said papers were being filed, we had to be in the country. Thus, as timing would have it, there was no way that I could have flown over to Germany to be with my family if I didn't want to risk having to start the dreaded paper-wars all over again, or even be refused to re-enter the country. I was thankful to have this legitimate excuse, because the thing is, I'm not sure I would have gone had I been able to. I loved my grandfather dearly, still do, but I didn't want to remember him lying in a hospital bed hooked up to all sorts of machines like he had been since January, drifting in and out of consciousness and not even recognising everybody. I didn't want to travel over there and have to deal with my family and their needs. And I didn't see the point in going for the funeral, because he was already dead, wasn't he, so what's the point.
It goes without saying that I should have gone, though.
Once I admitted all those things to myself honestly, that added feelings of guilt and shame to the already significant sadness. Guilt and shame about how I would not honour my granddad and accompany him on his last voyage, how I selfishly preferred to deal with my own grieving than pull myself together and help others grieve instead. Also about feeling relief in the first place, because life is the highest good, isn't it, and we should have been everything possible to extend his life. But the truth in this case is that the medics didn't see any chance for a recovery, which is why pretty early on they made it clear that they wouldn't be taking any life-prolonging actions should his body decide to give in. So had he survived longer, he would have been needing full-time care which my grandmother was certainly in no condition to give. This means he'd have ended up in a home, and truthfully, I'm glad his death wasn't drawn out like that.
I've now had many days to think about this, and here's what I found. Every person deals with death differently. Also, every person deals with their feelings differently. Some acknowledge them, some ignore them, some reason them away, some avoid them and focus on something else. In general, feelings like happiness, joy, contentedness, peace are considered good. Feelings like anger, shame, guilt, sadness are considered bad. I don't like good and bad labels, I prefer to look at the feelings in terms of helpful or not. In this case, my sadness helped me connect with my grandmother and communicate with her without having to speak. Acknowledging my feelings of guilt and shame forced me to take a closer look at my stance on etiquette, "shoulds", even my own mortality. What have I learned from this experience? Sometimes it's ok to let people go. And it feels much better to face all feelings head-on instead of adding to the pain by making them into something "bad". Also, there's a time and a place for every feeling, and it's essential to take an honest look at what's going on inside.
Til next time, take care.

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I'd like to take this entry and talk some more about something we touched on in this post a few weeks ago.Allow me to paint you a wee picture. It's holiday season and we're looking through the window into the house at the end of the street. The whole family is there and about to sit down for a nice meal. The table-legs are aching under the weight of the splendid foods offered, there's a fire crackling in the corner and the mood is festive and happy. The young couple is a bit nervous as this is one of the first proper family encounters with the new in-laws. You see the woman take the first bite and choke - wow, she really doesn't like that food! She can hardly swallow without grimacing, poor thing... Why is nobody else screaming in horror? They all seem to be enjoying their meal!She gently taps her mouth with the napkin and sits still for a moment. The way you see it, she has two options: tell the truth and disappoint/insult/anger the cook and face a possible argument with her spouse or be sick for the next three days. What would you do?

The answer I'm going for is to tell the truth, and I don't see why that should create a problem. Yes, time and effort have been spent in order to prepare that meal, and she's the only one at the table who seems to have a problem with it while all the others are digging in and helping themselves to seconds. But there is a way to make everyone happy, and that's to behave in a congruent manner.

Congruence is a term most of us have tried to avoid since highschool geometry and algebra, but fret not - in the words of Billy Connolly: I have no intention of going there. In this case, congruence is the term for being true to yourself. I mean this not just in a fashion-sense, but rather in your dealings with yourself and in your relationships with other people. You may find it has to do with self esteem and honesty. As far as I'm concernced it's all interlinked, which means by changing one behaviour (or even just your attitude), you can change them all.

To be congruent implies that you laugh when you're happy and cry when you're sad, and what's more - you don't feel bad about it. You live according to your values and you're not afraid to admit to your fears. Being congruent also means giving unpleasant feedback, but if you find a way to communicate without putting blame on the other person, nobody's feelings will get hurt. In this case, the young woman has the option to thank the host for the wonderful meal and acknowledge the love that went into making it. She should then also be able to confess that it is not to her taste and ask if she can go fix herself a sandwich.

There's no point in being overly mortified or humble, because she should not have to apologise for her taste. She may want to acknowledge it if she thinks the situation is awkward, but I'm convinced the less of a deal one makes of it, the easier it will be for the host to gracefully accompany you to the kitchen and point you towards the pantry. After all, nobody's attacking them as a person, and if their self esteem is intact, i.e. not depending upon everybody loving their food, they will see that this is just a case of someone preferring their meals prepared in a different manner. The easiest comparison here is that not everybody loves steak, and even amongst those who love it, they don't all eat it done equally.

Over the next few weeks I'd like to talk some more about self esteem and congruent behaviour, and give you some markers what to look out for as well as some tools to work with.

Til next time!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Billy Connolly reference, you can watch the stand-up sequence here. Caution, contains explicit and strong language!



Empathy vs. Experience

A week ago I had a poll online that one of you was kind enough to comment on. The question was, what does a Coach need most, empathy or experience? Turns out, the voter chose experience, and he explained it to me in an email.

In his opinion, empathy is something a Coach needs, but empathy alone is not enough. He didn't want someone to be able to cry with him and feel sorry for his situation, who wasn't able to help him out of it. That, he felt, would be better achieved by someone with experience. I could imagine many of you feel the same way, so here's what I'd like to add:

In order to explain my position, let's start by looking at what empathy and experience mean to me. Wikipedia starts off it's empathy article by saying: "Not to be confused with Pity, Sympathy, or Compassion." Empathy describes the ability to imagine and to feel how someone else feels in a particular situation. For example, in a Coaching situation the client may talk about the relationship to his parents in a matter-of-fact manner. An empathetic coach will listen to the words, possibly have an eye on body-language, and open a channel inside himself to let in all that is spoken in between the lines. He might become aware that his heart is beginning to race, his fists want to clench and his breathing turns shallow.

At this point, the coach is in a position to verify with the client and ask something like "How does this make you feel?" Depending on the client's reaction, he'll see whether he picked up the right vibe or not (in this case: anger). The coach would then ask many questions that the person may not have asked themselves about possibilities how to deal with the situation and improve it under their own steam. It is my belief (and indeed the premiss of the Coaching profession) that everybody has inside themselves all the resources they need to live their lives fully. Imagine a static windmill that needs a little breeze to get its rotators moving again - sometimes people just need a nudge in the direction of where to find their own strength and ability.

Now, just to be clear, while the coach may be experiencing feelings that the client may have been communicating on some level or another, the coach is well aware that those are not his own feelings. They are in a way because they happen inside of him, but the coach is aware of how they were triggered and that they have no real basis in his own life. Therefore, he may take a minute to get his heart-rate down again, but he shouldn't be affected in terms of feeling the anger all the way and letting it cloud his judgment or act out as a consequence of feeling angry. Let me put this in a picture: when you're sitting at the bottom of a well crying your heart out, your Coach will not jump down to be with you. He knows how it feels to be alone and sad down there, but he'll stay up top, because only from there can he point out a way back up to the surface. If he were down there with you, you'd both be stuck.

When I asked what I, a new coach in the field, would need to do to convince the voter to hire me and give me a chance, he answered: simple, tell me more about yourself. Which brings us to the experience part. Having experience and knowing what you're doing is undoubtedly as important in Coaching as it is in any other profession. What makes things more interesting though, is that in Coaching, life experience counts. So in my case, we're talking 32.5 years of relating to friends, colleagues and of course family members from different nations and generations, a couple of long-term relationships that have taught me quite a bit (as well as the marriage that just keeps getting better), a few jobs that were not only work- but interpersonal learning extravagances and of course the five different countries I've lived in and was successfully integrated into.

Besides all that, it is my belief that every person (read: client) is different. Whatever experience I may have made with or whatever lessons I may have learned from Client A, might not help me with Client B, because they're two different people with two different sets of issues and two different sets of resources. However, it is safe to say that the more people you deal with, the more you're able to gauge how they need to be treated - but that's going back to the above empathy.

In an attempt to shed some more light on my educational background and work experience, I've added a link to my profile on You can find the button on the left-hand side, between my blogger profile and the button to subscribe to this blog. If there's anything else you'd like to know, drop me a line.

Til next time!

PS - you won't find a more experienced guy than him... Gerald M. Weinberg, highly successful writer, tremendously experienced consultant and genuinely talented (and nice!) guy has recommended my blog to his readers. If you haven't already, do check out his at