The Power of the Group Can Transform your Life as Well
Some months ago, a middle aged lady - let’s call her Rose -, came to me because she was unhappy in her marriage. Her husband of 20 years had been unfaithful multiple times. Every time his transgressions became known, he had vowed betterment. Every time he had broken his promises.
Rose was desperate. She worked very hard to improve her marriage. She took him to counseling, went to see a therapist herself, made all kinds of changes. But nothing helped.
Yet she felt she was stuck with him because he was the only person who supported her against her unsupportive family. She had grown up believing that she wasn’t good enough to get the kind of relationship she really wanted. That her own needs weren’t important. That she had to take care of herself because others weren’t reliable.
We did a lot of good work together, but she still couldn’t get away from her disloyal husband.
That changed when one day she came in and announced the she had joined a group. Many of the other members were divorced, or in the process of separating. They understood each other. They exchanged helpful tips and lent support every way possible. Rose began to enjoy what had eluded her most of her life: true friendship and honest support.
From that day on, Rose became markedly stronger. It felt like she had a constant invisible circle of people around her who wanted the best for her, propped her up when she was down, and expressed warmth and affection when needed.
Today, Rose is in the process of selling her home. She successfully negociated a separation agreement with her husband, that ensures her a secure retirement. Her group is always there for her. Her new life is waiting, and she has regained hope and self confidence.
If you feel equally stuck and in need of support, join one of my women’s empowerment groups. Two new ones are starting in January. One will be face to face in my Ridgewood, NJ office, and one will be online.
During our 8 weeks together, the main topics will include how to effectively cope with stress, anxiety, overwhelm, depression and depletion. You will learn to understand what beliefs drive you, and how to change these beliefs. And the importance of setting boundaries to avoid feeling tired and run down.
Maybe the most healing aspect of the course is that you are learning with the support of up to 8 other women who will join you in the group. Studies have proven that being around like minded peers is extremely effective for your mental health, and for many people it is even more powerful for your growth than individual work on self improvement.
In our meetings together, we start with a check-in, where everyone shares a little about their state of mind. Then we move on to a pre-set topic, for example how to develop self compassion, followed by a guided meditation. After a debrief, we finish every meeting with a healing meditation that centers around the needs and desires of one group member.
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Most of us have a fraught relationship with money. Our Western culture notoriously tells us that we never have enough. Not enough stuff, not enough romance, not enough safety, not enough success, not enough happiness. We are made to believe that we need much more of - fill in the blank - in order to be happy, and that requires resources.
Many people come from families where money was not reliably available in abundance, and they carry the burden of feeling chronically short changed. They might have learned that it’s impossible to get out of a bad job, and that a sense of lack is a part of life. Many people feel they can’t achieve or even don’t deserve a better life when it comes to money.
The most important thing we can do to start changing our relationship to money is ...
Everybody talks about having healthy boundaries. But what if our boundaries are too thick?
For a long time I woke up in the middle of the night and worried if I had enough friends. Never mind that I have good relationships with family, neighbors and several communities, of a spiritual and professional nature. But somehow in the wee hours of the morning, when lots and lots of people seem to lie awake and worry, none of this counted. I felt lonely. I made lists of people in my head I should be calling. I analyzed why I could possibly feel this way. I the morning these thoughts had disappeared. But then they came back, during another sleepless night.
Loneliness is maybe the number one cause of most mental health problems. It lurks in the background of most depressive states, causes anxiety and panic attacks, and leads to addictions and premature death. Mental health experts have long found that in order to live a meaningful life, we need healthy relationships and a network of strong community ties.
So why are we so lonely? Isn’t ours one of the chattiest and most extroverted cultures on the planet?
Some time ago, one of my husband’s family members had a bad accident. The family was awesome. Everyone rushed to his bedside, visiting, praying, showing up at the hospital at any odd hour of the day.
But as the weeks dragged on, the most important person at his side was always his wife. It was she who held his hand when he went through depressive states. It was she who advocated for him to the nurses and doctors. And she received the brunt of his anger when the pain got to be too much.
And she felt it. She got more and more tired, more and more depleted. And even though lots of people still checked in with her, she had trouble asking them for help. At the end of the day, she remained the person who picked up most of the slack.
Lots of women have trouble with that. They give and give and can’t help but feel responsible for everything. The might allow others to help, but emotionally are so tied into the other person’s needs that they can’t really relax. They keep worrying even when things seem to be under control.
Ask yourself: Is it hard for you to withdraw your supporting energy from others even just temporarily, and take care of yourself? Do you find yourself becoming the go to person to help others, again and again?
One way to change that is ...
Ask most women what brings them pleasure, and you will meet at least one moment of silence. Lots of women don’t even really know what self care and having fun for themselves means any more. There is so much focus on the family (younger and older), on getting things done, on making money and taking care of the house, on cleaning up other people’s messes, that there’s not even mental space for her own needs.
Years ago, I too could barely come up with anything beyond the typical “take a long hot bath”, or “eat lots of ice cream”.
The mere sight of a tree or a houseplant may seem unlikely to offer any significant benefits, but thanks to a growing body of scientific research, it has become clear the human brain really does care about scenery — and craves greenery.
The little known field of Ecopsychology and Ecotherapy has been slowly simmering away over the last few decades and with more and more books and articles written on the benefits of nature and people like Alistair Humphrey's promoting the back-yard micro-adventure, things are slowly starting to become more mainstream.
About the difficult art of seeing others as they are, not as they are to us. Because: Relationship is always mutual.
The task of renewing Earth belongs to Earth, as the renewal of any organism takes place from within. Yet we humans have our own special role, a leading role in the renewal, just as we had the dominant role in the devastation.
We know that our real self shines through when we are in a relaxed, calm state. When we have enough energy and strength to explore the world with curiosity. When we are creative and can focus the mind on designing something new.
It is present, when we feel connected: connected to a person we love, connected to nature, connected to a sense of purpose. It is triggered even through a short encounter with a stranger that is fun and pleasant. The true self is in action when we feel confident about a task we’re doing, or about a skill we have acquired. And it is genuinely compassionate.
Many women (and some men as well) learn to be overly compassionate with others. There is nothing wrong with showing empathy to others, but it is wrong when we forget to be compassionate with ourselves. When we deplete our resources, we disregard our own needs. That is not the true self. That’s another part that needs attention.
When we are in touch with our true self, we stand in our true power. Genuine power is not power over others, but power within oneself. There is no need to dominate others, because we are at peace inside.
It is not hard to find your Inner Self. You don’t have to meditate for 20 years to find it. All that’s needed is a state of calm. It’s not something magical and mystical - although it can have these qualities. It is present when we are not distressed and can simply be.
It may not be there all day long. And that is ok. That’s what being human means. The mind is always in flux, as the Buddhists rightfully teach. There is always movement - sometimes in big ways, and sometimes in small. But there is no permanence. And that also means that we cannot be in our larger self every minute of the day. You will be tired, you will be triggered and you will lose touch with the larger self - temporarily.
And then you can work to get back in touch with it.