Gender is a Social Construct

Gender is a Social Construct

Gender Identity

How do you relate with your gender identity?

I sat in the workshop. The instructor said, “Let’s do an icebreaker exercise. Everybody gets a card with a color and, then you just connect with whoever you feel drawn to without talking.” I saw the cards – red, blue, green. They looked so beautiful. I love the colors. The facilitator came to me. They gave me a pink card. I looked at this pink card in my hand and thought, Shit, pink again. Why did I receive this stupid pink card out of all the colors they had in their hand? I felt lost. This card represented to me the one concept I had never understood: how to be a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I have a female body but the complete concept of being a woman has never made sense to me.

To which extent is gender socially conditioned?

As a child, I had short hair and loved to play with cars. When puberty came, people suddenly started to label me based on gender. I felt shocked because I did not know what it meant. “Woman” or “girl” was just a word to me, even though society told me that I was supposed to be a woman. In my inner world, I did not connect with gender. I guess people always sensed that I was different: when I worked for a mobile network operator, my (male) colleagues usually had cell phones “just for women” in their portfolio. After four years of collaboration, one of my colleagues told me that they had never asked me to select one because I just was not a “typical woman.” I knew that I would have been the wrong person to ask.

Do you fit into the stereotype society imposes on you?

The older I grew, the more I collided with society and the meaning of being a woman. Once, I went to a workshop about my Myers Briggs Type Indicator personality type. The facilitator asked us to position ourselves on the quadrant that best described us. I found my place and was perfectly happy with it. She looked at me and called out that I was too male to be a woman. I felt confused because I did not know what she meant. However, I understood that there was something wrong with me. I started to doubt myself. That day, I gave in to the pressure of society. I had to find out what it meant to be a woman.

Part of the journey to find yourself: Find out who you are not

I connected with my intuition. My hope was that I would become a woman this way. However, I found out that intuition has nothing to do with gender. We are all intuitive. We just need to choose to connect and listen to it. So, it did not really work for me. I did spiritual meditations to connect with my feminine side. They did not really change anything. I expressed my gender confusion and concerns to my counsellor. She brushed them off. I read the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” because it seemed to be the perfect choice to explain to me what gender means. I felt completely confused by it because I could not make sense out of it. My inner world concerning gender just did not seem to fit into the two boxes. I threw the book away. The more I tried to explore what it meant to be a woman, the more lost I felt.

Allow yourself to be who you are

The last partner I dated explained me his version what it means to be a man and a woman. It was a confusing, evolutionary story about the times when human beings were still living in caves. While he passionately explained his theory, I sometimes wondered why he was holding on to such a limited narrative and how it related to modern life. When he broke up with me, I decided to stop trying to be a woman and to allow myself to just be myself.

Gender is a social construct

One day, I gained the insight I had been missing for many years. I learned that gender was a social construct and that sex we are assigned at birth can be different to our gender identity. My life suddenly made perfect sense. I just did not identify as a woman. I was gender queer and I never questioned my gender identity again. Gender just does not exist for me. I felt relieved.

Explore your gender identity

While we live in a world that is still shaped by being a “man”  or “woman,” there is also an increasing awareness that our gender identities are more diverse. We also need to be mindful that the labels we carry represent a social stereotype and may limit is if we do not fit into its box. There is a difference between our social conditioning and who we truly are. Part of our life’s journey is to overcome the limitations society imposes on us and find out who we truly are, independent of our gender identity. Every person has their individual meaning for their gender identity and they need to explore it. The beauty of life is that we are all unique and different and my hope is that we all learn to respect each other for our diversity and embrace it.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Find out about my online services for queer people.

Learn more about gender identity.

Laura Ockel

How to Find a Good Counsellor

How to find a good counsellor, this question was constantly on my mind when I first started my healing journey. In the beginning, I did not really know what to look for. Furthermore, I felt afraid of judgment and stigmatization.

How about you? What are your fears?

My first experience was difficult:

I sat in my psychologist’s office and said, Well, for me, it is over now. I have already packed up the stuff he had in my apartment and sent it back to him. Dr. Mueller looked at me with cool eyes and said, You are complicated. You will always find complicated men. I looked at her. Her words broke my heart. She was the psychologist. She was the authority. If she said it, it must be true. I asked her what I had to do because I truly wanted to heal. She told me that I could not leave my partner. I had to stay.

Until today, I have no clue why she made this assumption. I continued staying in an unhealthy relationship that wasn’t good for me because I thought it would help me grow. It never did.

What is your experience of how to find a good counsellor?

While this therapeutic relationship was painful, it also showed me what a good counsellor shouldn’t do. It was an important lesson to learn. I continued looking for a good counsellor to support me. Later on, I found them while I let go of those professionals who weren’t good for me.

So, how to find a good counsellor?

Unfortunately, there is no simple rule. I cannot tell you that it depended on their degree, their education or their professional association. However, there were certain qualities that made our therapeutic relationship beneficial for my healing journey. Here are some guidelines you can consider concerning how to find a good counsellor:

They don’t judge, make dismissive comments or discount your feelings or experiences

The counsellors who supported my healing journey did not judge me or stigmatize me. I never sensed that they looked down on me because I was a survivor of childhood abuse. They were not shocked by my story but responded with empathy and compassion. I felt as if they provided me with a safe space where I was able to show my deepest pain.

They have the courage to be with you in your darkness until you come out of it

Working through painful emotions is part of healing. A good counsellor is comfortable being with these difficult emotions. I always felt accompanied by my counsellors, no matter how much pain I felt. I never heard phrases like “just get over it.” They never brushed me off. They were there for me and they trusted that I would eventually find my way out of my darkness.

They leverage the power differential

Counsellors have a position of power, but how they use this power makes a difference. Good counsellors actively manage the power differential so that they do not abuse their power. In the collaboration with good counsellors, I felt like I was the expert of my life while they were the expert in healing. Unfortunately, we also do not live in a perfect world. Discrimination and oppression exist. Often, it is hard to put a finger on it. A good counsellor takes into consideration the social context that might influence the relationship with a client. They also leverage their privilege so that the dynamics of oppression do not continue in the therapeutic relationship. They are able to listen to stories about discrimination and open to feedback by their clients. They believe you.

They support you to find your answers within yourself

Good counsellors never gave me advice or told me what to do. While they encouraged me to experiment, they also trusted me when something did not work for me. It was a creative process that always respected my needs and helped me to connect with my inner voice and find my answers within myself.

I hope that these guidelines support you in finding a good counsellor. Last but not least, trust your gut. If you have a counsellor and you do not feel comfortable, safe or heard, they may not be the person for you.

Do you want to learn more about my programs? Check out my offers.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

4 Refreshing Perspectives of Success

Success

We were in the kitchen, preparing dinner. I just had met my date a couple of weeks ago and I was curious to get to him better. I asked him what he wanted people to say about him about his life. He looked at me and said, he made lots of money. I felt surprised because it did not really fit into my definition of success. Was money really everything? I asked him how the money would serve him after he was dead. He never answered this question.

Is money really the only measure of success?

Looking at my family of origin, money, and possession was the only measure of success. Society was a direct mirror of my family: the bigger the house or car, the more successful you were. It was a simple formula. I started doubting this model when my mother died of cancer when I was 19. She was just 50 years old. She died with regrets. Her greatest one was that she never had a loving relationship with her husband. She only knew dysfunctional relationships. I often asked myself how painful it must have been to die without ever having had a satisfactory relationship with a loving partner. My mother’s death was full of suffering. My mother’s agony made me re-consider the definition of success I had learned at home.

What have you learned about success? How well does it serve you?

Over the years, I created my own definition of success. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing bad with having a successful career or having financial success, but it is not everything. Success consists of more than just finances. We need to dig deeper and ask ourselves how we define success for ourselves.

For myself, I have defined four important elements that create my success.

Success means having healthy and mutually respectful relationships

The quality of my relationships defines the level of success I have achieved in my life. My relationships are mutually supportive and nurturing. I have friends on who I can rely on and vice versa. I am not saying that it is an easy journey to find people like this but I am deeply grateful that they are part of my life. How about you? What means the quality of your relationships to you?

Success means being true to myself

I guess most of us have aspects of us that collide with the stereotypes of society, where we do not fit in. At least, I had. In these moments, we have the choice to either give in to the pressure of society or to have the courage to be how we really are. While it seems tempting to try to fit in, we pay a price for it because fitting in is not the same as belonging. We can only find belonging if we show up as we are. Being true to myself may not be always comfortable but it is empowering and, ultimately, the only way that I can feel proud about myself and see myself as a success.

Success means listening to my heart and following my dreams

I guess most of us have our dreams and we can choose to follow them or not. Following my dreams means to take risks because I never know how it will turn out. Sometimes, it is a rocky journey because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me in ways that I would have never imagined. Following my dreams is the most beautiful journey I have ever embarked on. Overcoming obstacles, growing as a person, and not giving up is the road to success.

Success means to have grown and healed myself

I am not sure whether there is anybody who did not receive some emotional bruises in their childhood. Maybe there are some lucky ones out there, but I have not yet met them. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I had my share of childhood wounds that needed healing. As adults, we have a choice whether we look at our childhood and heal our past or whether we repeat unconsciously unhealthy patterns. Healing may sound scary and, often, it is an unknown path, but it is our only option to break free from our past and any unhealthy conditioning we have received. And I think that the result is worth the effort.

I do not know whether any of these options resonates with you. I cannot tell you how you should define success. However, I hope that you start to create your own definition of success so that you know your direction in life.

How about starting your definition of success today?

Do you want to learn more? Check out the free ebook “7 Magical Principles to Find Happiness.”

Photo by Madhu Shesharam on Unsplash

Three Essential Lessons about Suicide

suicide

Outside my room, the sun was shining. In the distance, I heard the voices of children who were playing. Inside my room, I sat on the floor in my room. The outside world was hidden behind a gray veil. I just could not continue living with this pain anymore. It was unbearable. I had a knife. I knew how to cut my wrist. Time passed by endlessly slow. Life did not matter anymore. I did not want to live anymore. I faced my dark night of the soul – I wanted to die by suicide.

The ringing of the phone penetrated the heavy silence in my room. I could not answer. I could not move. How are you? How about going for a walk one day? I heard my friend’s voice on my voice box. His voice sounded genuine. He sounded caring. The phone call evoked a spark of doubt. Was suicide really the only option? Was there maybe somebody who cared for me? It took me another night until I decided that I would give it a try. Maybe another life was possible? Maybe there was a reason for living? I did not know but I wanted to find it out. As a result, I returned his call and we went for many walks together. My life started to change in tiny steps over the following years.

I learned the following lessons about suicide:

Suicide is associated with tormenting pain.

I became suicidal because I felt an excruciated pain in my soul as a result of the abuse I had experienced as a child. I do not know whether you have experienced abuse or not, but I felt a tremendous pain while having to accept the dark truth of my childhood. It wasn’t a question of being weak or strong, I just did not know how to be alive while feeling this incredible pain. Dr. Edwin Shneidman described it with the very accurate term “psychache” (Dozois, 2015). Have you ever felt a pain like this? I certainly have and, luckily enough, I was able to transform it over the years. However, I still do not know how profound other people experience their pain and how detrimental it is for them. Therefore, I do not judge them.

Stigma propels suicide.

I went to work every morning, and nobody had a clue what was going on within me. It was impossible for me to talk to them. Stigma made it impossible to reach out for them because it shamed me. As a result, my voice was silent and I could not see any option to get for help. However, no matter how much stigma blamed me, it did not change my suicidal ideations. It rather pushed me towards it by disconnecting me from people.

Real connection keeps alive.

People who searched for a true connection with me kept me alive. They didn’t judge, they did not look down on me, and they did not tell me what I was supposed to feel. They showed genuine care and I felt their empathy. These connections helped me discover a reason for living and find the strength within me to face my pain. I don’t know if I were alive today without my friend’s phone call. He taught me that the best suicide prevention is a genuine connection.

Supporting somebody who is thinking about suicide

Years later, I became the emergency contact for a friend who lived with depression and was thinking about suicide. When her symptoms worsened, she used to ask me whether I would take care of her cat if she were to die. When I heard this warning sign, I asked her whether she was thinking about suicide. We talked about suicide. She explained her plans. She expressed her her pain. I felt with her and told her that I cared for and that I was concerned about her. I encouraged her to ask for professional help. It wasn’t an easy journey. There was no fast track solution.

At times, I felt scared that I would receive a message that she had died by suicide. I knew I could be there for her, but, ultimately, I couldn’t save her. I knew enough people who had died by suicide – my grandfather was among them. The line between life and death is fragile. After several months, my friend got help and recovered.

Talking about suicide

Suicide is a difficult topic to talk about, and it is easier to deny it. It is hard to face the reality that people we love are thinking about suicide. However, denial, stigma and silence will not make suicide go away. As a community, we need to challenge stigma. We can shame people who are suicidal or we can be there for them. Everybody has the choice to give empathy and compassion to people who are thinking about suicide. The only question is which choice we make. It is essential that we talk about it, even if we do not feel comfortable doing so. The more we can give people a safe space to share their suicide story, the better we can support them. This way each one of us can make a difference.

I have initiated the community development initiative “Let’s Talk About Suicide.” Our vision is to create a community that is free of stigma.

Do you want to join us?

Join us today and get the latest updates about our events. Take action towards creating a community that is free of stigma.

Sign up below:

Do you need help concerning suicide?

If you are currently thinking about suicide or if you want to support somebody who is thinking about suicide, please reach out for help. The following web page gives you an overview about the local crisis centres all over Canada:

Crisis Services Canada

Do you have more questions?

I would love to hear from you. Please send me a message.

 

References

Dozois, D. J. A. (2015). Abnormal Psychology. Don Mills, ON: Pearson Canada Inc.

Do You Know What Freedom Is?

On a warm night in September when I was just 19 my mother died after a life-long battle with cancer. I woke up and I knew that she was gone. I walked down the stairs. My stepfather had locked the house, and hid the telephone. He told me that I could stay but only if I behaved the way he wanted me to.

I somehow managed to phone my sister. The moment she came, my stepfather was on top of her, trying to beat her to death. I froze. Please don’t let this be my family. We escaped. I stood outside of the fence. The police came and said that they don’t intervene in family affairs. My mother’s doctor came. She said that my mother was finally free. I had no clue what she meant. I only knew sadness and violence. By the energy of her words I had a sense that freedom must be something wonderful. That day, I grabbed a bag and left. I promised myself to find freedom… Over the years I have found it.

For me, freedom has three essential components:

Freedom is choosing something different

My family was shaped by hatred, blame, discrimination, and violence. My parents never took responsibility for their behaviour or to heal their pain…. They were never happy.

I chose something different – I learned to trust – I chose to heal myself.

Today I know that no matter what happens to me, I have choices: I either allow it to destroy me or to make me a better person.

Freedom is standing-up for myself

I made a career change. I became a counsellor. One day I attended a large training for one hundred therapists and social workers. All was silent. In front, next to a therapist, a client sat with her head down. She sat next to the therapist, her head down.

The therapist asked: “What were the incidents in your family?” She replied: Sexual abuse and violence. Her voice broke. A shocked murmur spread.

I shrugged. For how many years had I felt stigmatized by the generic judgment of being a hopeless case? For how long had I allowed other people’s opinion to define my worthiness? … My answer was, for too long. I looked at her and ask myself: How does this murmur make her feel? She shrank in her seat. She was a picture of myself years ago.

Suddenly, the counsellor next to me said: “Poor thing, she’ll never recover.” I opened my mouth, and I wanted to tell her, it is possible to heal, but I didn’t find the words to tell it to her. I felt like a failure. I felt like I betrayed the woman on the chair.

That day I decided to write my memoir. I wrote it for the woman in the chair. It is my way to tell her that she is not alone. It is my way to tell her that I disagree with my colleagues. It is my way to express my hope that, one day, we will live in a world where people can share their stories without being judged.

Freedom is following my dreams

My dream has always been to create a sanctuary for cats that are different. When I was volunteering at a colony for feral cats in Barcelona, a shipbuilder brought a little box. Inside the box, I saw a kitten with two huge bandages around the back and another helper at the colony said he would die that night. I brought him to a vet. He said that it would be a miracle if the kitten were to survive. I called him Angel, visited him in the clinic and gave him Reiki. I told him that he had a home with me if he wanted to live without back legs. Five weeks later, I brought Angel home. Today, he runs and fights just like any other cat.

Living in Canada has always been my secret dream. In 2013, I arrived at the Vancouver airport with one suitcase and my three cats.

My dreams have always been the fuel to overcome my fears and search for freedom. Freedom means to choose something different, to stand up for myself and to follow my dreams.

I hope you find your version of freedom as I have found mine.

Thich Nhat Hanh said:

“Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice…”

Learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh and his Mindfulness Practice Center Plum Village.

Do You Feel Bored in Your Life?

I felt so bored lately. Running again. The same old route. There is nothing new. My runs got shorter and shorter. Don’t get me wrong, I love to run. I tried to motivate myself. Hey, you love to run, you love nature. Why is it so hard to get you out of your chair? It’s not the running. It’s the direction. You are sick and tired of running the same route over and over again. You need a new direction, my inner voice whispered to me. A change? But where shall I go? I felt scared and chose to ignore it.

Boredom – A sign that you need a change?

During the next couple of weeks, my fearful voice tried hard to convince me that my current direction is perfect. It’s so convenient. You run through the parks, there are hardly any streets or cars. It is safe. Why bother to change it? And even worse, what if you get lost? What if the new route would be worse than the current route? What if you overestimated your capacity, ran too long and had trouble to go home again? My worst case scenario planning blocked me even more and I sat with my inner conflict for a few weeks. I felt stuck. However, my inner voice continued urging for a change.

Give it a try

Finally, I chose to challenge the voice of fear. I wanted at least to give it a try. Therefore, I allowed my inner voice to guide me and chose a new direction. I didn’t really have a plan where I wanted to go. I just ran without any pressure on how far I would get. I wanted to see how I would feel and enjoy the process. I passed by new streets and explored a new neighborhood. Finally, I entered a different park. There were beautiful, tall trees and I saw squirrels whose white fur on their tails looked like a bridal veil. I also saw different possibilities to vary my route in the future.

On my way home, I run up a hill where I’ve never been before and I saw the sunset from a new perspective. It was the most colorful sunset I have ever seen in Vancouver: Orange and purple clouds covered the sky above downtown and a dark violet glaze covered the mountains of the north shore. I took a breath and enjoyed its beauty. When I came home, I felt happy that I had listened to my inner voice.

Change is part of life

Life is about change, yet change is always scary. Fears can be powerful to hold us back, but does it really serve us well? I’ve made many changes in my life, from moving into a new country, leaving my romantic relationship to healing the effects of sexual and emotional violence. I never did them without fear. However, each time I followed my inner voice, it was worth it independent on how much fear I felt.

Today, I invite you to reflect on yourself:

  • Where do you feel bored in your life?
  • What does your fearful voice tell you? How does it keep you stuck?
  • What direction does your inner voice urge you to take?
  • What direction do you choose?

Do you need a change in your relationship?

Check out my program “Create Your Vision of a Fabulous Relationship.”

What’s your Secret Story about Childhood Abuse?

Abuse in Relationships

One hundred people – therapists, counsellors, social workers and clients – in a room. All is silent. What’s next? They are looking at her. She sits next to the therapist, her head down. What were the incidents in your relationship with your family?  The therapist asks. Sexual abuse and violence. Her voice breaks. A shocked murmur spreads.

Are You an Adult Survivor of Childhood Abuse?

How many years didn’t I dare to look into others people eyes due to the sexual and emotional violence of my past? For how many years did I feel stigmatized due to the generic judgment of being a hopeless case? For how long had I allowed other people’s opinion to define my worthiness? My answer is, for too long.

How about you?

How does this murmur make her feel? I look at her. She shrinks in her seat. You can never overcome the effects of abuse. Poor thing, she’ll never recover. The voice of my colleague – a counsellor – cuts through my thoughts.  I open my mouth, and I want to tell her, it is possible to heal abuse and violence. That is my experience. It is my truth. How to find words to express what can’t be described but only experimented? My rational mind never fully understood the transformation I went through. The more I was able to own my pain, the more I was able to experience joy. How can I express this to her?  I search for words. There is nothing. Silence. I shrink in my seat and feel small and powerless again. I lower my head and stay silent.

What is your secret story about childhood abuse?

The one I told – I called it A Brave, True Story – is mine. I wrote it for the woman on the chair. It is my intimate message to tell her that she is not alone. And it’s also for you if you feel like her.

Healing is beyond logical explanations. Meaning what? Healing is about becoming whole again. About reclaiming those parts of you that seemed to be lost in trauma and pain. A re-connection with your inner child to give them the love they have never received before. There will come this moment, when your inner child fully awake, full of joy, curiosity, innocence, dignity and intuition. Do you know how innocence feels like? I lost mine when I was three. I didn’t know what it was.

Recovery is about personal growth. While the trauma felt devastating, there is post-traumatic growth. Healing is about finding a safe space within yourself and take responsibility for your needs and dreams. Reclaiming your well-being is about letting go of the invisible barriers you have build around your heart and learn to love again, first of all yourself. Wholeness is also about finding empowering ways to deal with stigma.

What is essential for healing abuse?

Telling and owning your story makes the difference between merely surviving or really living. How does this feel? I don’t know what it will feel like for you but for me living means feeling. My image is that living is like a joyous dance to your favorite music, and you move and dance while you feel a sensation of deep joy in your body. Like looking at my cats and seeing their smiles and happiness. Like feeling the heat of the sun on my face, smelling the air after rainfall or seeing the fresh green leaves on the trees.  Simply, it’s a deep gratitude for being alive. A sensation of bliss that feels like exploding balloons filled with a multitude of bright colors. It’s feeling the embrace of a friend.

What can you do to heal the effects of childhood abuse?

No, I don’t want to force you to tell your story but I invite you to take your time, continuously taking small steps towards telling your story with full transparency. Rest assured that, however small, effects will be seen quickly and will empower you to keep moving.

Blame, criticism and judgment – both internal and external – can be powerful to silence your voice forever. And, if you are like me, you’re probably the one who gives yourself the harshest criticism. You perhaps try to adapt, to fit in, to be perfect and fulfill excessive demands about whom, how and what you should be. If you allow this to happen, you pay a price: you can never experience deep connection and true belonging in a relationship. If you try to fit in, you may end up with who you want to be and get some approval however they do not care about you but the illusion you play for them. Deep in your heart, you know that they don’t truly care for you.

What is genuine connection?

How can somebody truly connect with you if you don’t show them who you are – with your strength and weaknesses? How can you ever belong if you hide behind a mask, deeply afraid that somebody may find out about your secret?

How can I ask you to show up if I am not doing it? This is why I share these words with you, the reason why I wrote my memoir.

What is the healing power of telling your story?

Stories have the power to heal because they talk to your subconscious and can guide it gently into a new direction. They give you new pictures and perspectives for your situation you haven’t yet seen. They are like a protective cloak because they allow you to release painful emotions like shame and guilt without ever entering your story. And they show you that you are not alone in your situation. Aren’t we all human? What is so bad about being real? Why should we hide our imperfections and weaknesses when they make us human and our common humanity is our only hope to connect?

As a counsellor, I give to my clients what helped me during my own healing journey. I will not tell you what to do but I will collaborate with you so that you find the answers you need. You are the expert in your life and you have the power to transform your past.

Check out how I can help you.

Do You Say Yes When You Should Say No?

Say No

Learning to say no was one of my greatest obstacles for having a joyful and authentic relationship. My struggle originated from my childhood where I had experienced dysfunctional relationships. As an adult, I repeated these unhealthy patterns in my romantic relationships. I often said yes when I meant no and I gave in easily if my partner expressed different needs.

How often do you say yes when you should say no?

Initially, I thought that it was the only way to show my partner that I loved him. However, I paid a price for being nice and submissive: I abandoned myself and lived up to my partner’s expectations. I also felt increasingly resentful towards my partner and myself. The longer the relationship lasted, the more frustrated I became. I lost self-respect and my sense of worthiness and my partner lost respect for me.

Do you experience a similar dynamic in your relationship?

Over the years, I noticed the negative impact of my behavior and decided to change this. I set my intention to become assertive and to be authentic in my responses to my partner’s requests. Achieving this goal wasn’t always easy. There were many voices in my head that motivated me to say yes for the wrong reasons. It took me some time to understand the differences between saying a heartfelt yes and saying yes out of the wrong impulse.

Can you differentiate between a heartfelt yes and a yes out of a wrong reason?

If we grow up in dysfunctional families, we are likely to have learned a distorted truth about saying no and we tend to say yes due to the wrong reasons. To say no is often labeled as unloving, so we learn to deny us and put the other person first. This imbalance causes major problems in our relationship. The truth is that your needs and your partner’s needs are equally important. Here are five impulses that caused me to say yes when it would have been honest to say no.

  1. Saying yes because I wanted to receive more love.
    My inner child had learned that she would only receive love if she did what people asked her to do. She learned to say ‘yes’ to receive the love and attention she needed. As an adult, I learned to give my inner child the love she needed. I also understood that I can’t influence whether my partner loves me or not, I can just show up as I am and allow him to get to know the authentic me. Do you say yes because you want to be loved and accepted?
  2. Saying yes because I feared punishment.
    In my original family, there was a constant threat of being punished if I didn’t do what the adults wanted. As an adult, I had to use courage to say no despite my fear of punishment because it was deeply rooted in my inner child. Do you say yes out of fear of punishment?
  3. Saying yes because I wanted to avoid conflicts.
    In my childhood, I experienced conflicts that were perpetuating and unsolvable. As a result, I avoided any type of conflict and gave in immediately if my partner wanted something different. It seemed an impossible task to stand up for my needs and find a solution. The first times that I stood up for myself I did it with shaking knees… but once again, to respect myself I had to learn to go through a conflict and to trust that we would find a solution that fits us both. Do you say yes in order to avoid a conflict?
  4. Saying yes out of guilt and shame.
    My family relationships were manipulative and based on guilt and shame to keep the family functioning. It took me many years to get completely rid of this dynamic. Guilt and shame are destructive emotions. If we say yes based on guilt and shame, we tend to over-give and to deny ourselves by putting other people first. It took me some time to learn to say no instead of yes when I felt guilt or shame. However, it was an important step to fully reclaiming my power. Do you say yes out of shame and guilt?
  5. Saying yes out of any sense of duty or obligation.
    In my past relationship, I became a perfect cook even though I dislike cooking. I felt obliged to do. What do you say yes to out of duty and obligation?

All those times when I said yes out of the wrong reasons, I used to say no to being me. I used to say no to my power and my joy. I now say a heartfelt ‘yes’ for the joy of giving, and I say no whenever my inner voice tells me so.

How about you?

What if Your Partner Says, “I Don’t Love You”….?

I Don't Love You

He stood in front of me. He had brown eyes and an athletic body. It was six months since we had started our relationship. Now, he must say it. I waited for his words. I love you. I waited for these magical words. And then, he said, I like you, but I don’t love you. His words hurt me, deep in my heart. Part of me wanted to run away. My mind went crazy. It can’t be true, can it? How can he stay with me if he doesn’t love me? How can he have sex with me if he doesn’t love me? Another voice said, I just have to try harder. One day, he will love me.

Did you experience the same?

When he said that he liked me but wouldn’t love me, I was hurt, but it was the pain I knew. I stayed for the following nine years and found excuses. Poor guy, his ex-girlfriend has just left him. He doesn’t mean it this way. I secretly hoped that he would love me one day. He never did. I can’t remember how often he told me that he didn’t love me. Now, I know that I needed this experience to become aware of unconscious patterns that ruled my relationship. He was my first boyfriend. We had met shortly before my mother’s death. I was not yet an adult – and a product of a broken home.

How come that I stayed with him?

  • Repetition of the relationship with my father.
    The relationship with my father had always been conflictive. While one part of me rejected him, the other part yearned for my father’s love and appreciation. I tried hard to make him love me. And I did the same with my boyfriend. When I finally acknowledged that my father wasn’t able to give me the love I hoped for, I also left my boyfriend.
  • Negative beliefs I learned as a child.
    I considered myself of being unworthy of love. In a way, my boyfriend gave me the pain I expected. Who would ever love an abused child? I thought I didn’t deserve love. At this age, I was convinced that no man would ever love me. They were rooted in my identity. I never questioned their truth, and I had no idea that I had the power to change them.
  • Lack of knowledge about good relationships.
    I grew up in a manipulative and violent environment. Nobody had ever taught me how a good relationship looked like, and I didn’t know how to make a good choice. I was content that he wasn’t violent and didn’t beat me up. My childhood experiences shaped my reality. I didn’t know what to look for or ask for. I didn’t know that I could heal and change this. Sometimes, I wish they had taught me in school all I know now.

How come that you stay with him?

With all its pain, this relationship was a precious teacher in healing myself and defining a healthy and good vision of a relationship. It was an inner process that evolved over time.

What my most important learning was out of this relationship? A relationship needs two people who love each other. If my partner doesn’t love me, there is no reason to stay. I can’t make him love me, and it doesn’t make any sense to try. I can just be myself and show up as I am. Whether he loves me, is up to him.

What is your most important learning?

After this relationship, I defined a new rule for my romantic relationship: I leave my partner if he doesn’t love me. It doesn’t matter how much I love him. It doesn’t matter how he justifies it. I do this because I love myself. I do this because I deserve to be loved by a man.

How about you?

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What Does Your Soul Yearn For?

She is quite attractive and seems to have everything. She has a great job and a relationship. She lives in a nice apartment and has enough money to buy some luxuries but deep inside she is frustrated. Is this really all what life is about? She looks for a different job and improves her relationship. But it doesn’t matter what she does, she can’t find fulfillment.

Do you relate with this?

Some years ago, I was this type of woman. I lived the life I thought I was supposed to have but deep inside my soul was screaming. I felt like being stuck in swamp mud, and I sunk deeper and deeper each year. Was this the life I really want to live? Something felt wrong about it.

I knew I needed a change. Despite all my doubts, I decided to follow my intuition: I started yoga and nurtured my soul’s longing for creativity. I left my partner because our relationship didn’t have the connection my soul desired and started my journey to heal my heart and childhood wounds. The following years, I connected more deeply with my intuition. The more I listened to her voice, the more I connected with happiness and fulfillment.

I moved with my cats to Barcelona and rebuilt my life from the scratch. I only implemented what felt right, and I let go of all activities that didn’t. First, I went for long walks at the beach and spent hours sitting at the beach looking at the sea and the limitless sky. The waves seemed to whisper, “Open your eyes. The world is full of new opportunities. Allow yourself to see them.” A seagull flew above my head every once in a while, and her chirping seemed to tell me, “You are free to choose. You don’t have to re-live your parent’s life. You don’t need to live up to other people’s expectations. You can choose whatever you want and whatever makes you happy.

My soul yearned for so many things that my mind didn’t feel comfortable with, and he tried to talk me out of it. But my intuition told me to walk on this path.

What did my soul want?

She wanted to experience deep connection with other people and to belong. She needed creativity, growth and healing. She wanted to share true love and to give back. She desired to stay in nature and solitude. And so I took my awkward steps just like a child who learned to walk. Each step gave me a higher degree of fulfillment and happiness. One accomplishment let to a new desire – from healing myself to become a healer, from increasing my creativity to writing a book. I found that there were two types of intentions: If my mind wanted something, I had to put a lot of effort and fight against adversities. I felt bored, and my energy drained away. If I finally decided to let go of these intentions, I felt relieved. If my soul wanted something she went for it, no matter what challenges she had to face. Deep down in myself there was a power that gave me the strength to move forward, to learn new things and to achieve goals I considered impossible. If there were those moments of doubts, there always came this inner voice that told me: Don’t give up. Trust. Everything will be all right. Following these intentions expanded my life and gave me fulfillment and happiness.

What does your soul yearn for?

I’d love to read your comments below.

Do you want to read more? Check the post Do you have impossible dreams? Find out how you can realize them.