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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Why it's important to talk about your sexual desires (even if it feels a bit awkward)

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Clearly expressing what you need, when it comes to sex, seems difficult. We don’t want to hurt our partner’s feelings. But there are simple ways for improving your communication about it, says marriage counselor Esther Perel.

When did you last have an open and honest conversation about your sexual desires and needs? It might well be a while ago. Perhaps you never have. We all know communication is the key to good sex, but somehow, we find it hard to talk about it. Because it feels awkward, because we don’t know where to start, because we don’t want them to think they’re doing it wrong. Or because we simply haven’t learned to express what we like. Marriage counselor Esther Perel has helped hundreds of couples to improve their relationship and their sex lives. She thinks it doesn’t have to be complicated.

What turns you on?

At mindbodygreen.com, Perel writes how men and women receive contradictory messages regarding sexuality. Women often hear they should be more assertive in the bedroom, and express what they like. But it’s easier said than done. Perel says women want to talk about it, they just don’t know how to.

Focus on your own pleasure

Women are natural pleasers. They put other people’s needs first. And in the bedroom, that’s a problem: it’s a place where you shouldn’t worry about others all the time, and focus on your own pleasure. According to Perel, many women worry that they take too much time to climax. When their partner orgasms, they give up their own pleasure. That’s a shame, because to most men, there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing a woman genuinely enjoy sex.

Talking about it honestly and openly

It may seem to make sense to talk about what you like during sex. According to Perel, it’s better to talk about it outside the bedroom. That way, it’s easier to express how you value your partner. Couples with a satisfying sex life, dare to be honest about their sexuality and talk about it freely. Perel thinks all couples should make this a habit.

Subtle, but clear

However, it is possible to point things out during sex – as long as you do it in a non-verbal way. Don’t be afraid to manoeuvre your partner in a certain position. That way you show them what you like, without words that might be interpreted as an offense or that might change the vibe. Intimate sex with someone you love is one of the most beautiful experiences. A moment of ultimate connection. Allow yourself that connection and start talking. You will thank yourself for it.

Photo: Larm Rmah

These are the five ways to make room for a lover in your life

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You long for a lover, a partner to share your life with. But how do you manage to be yourself in the process of searching and finding?

 If ‘the one’ doesn’t appear on your doorstep all too quickly, it can be difficult to remain the person you are. Fears pop up: will I meet expectations this time? Or will he leave me in no time? If you think like that, you risk changing your behavior into something you think they want to see. Are you so focused on capturing the prize that you forget what you’re feeling? Then you’ll lose yourself before the relationship has even started. Writer and psychotherapist Charlotte Kasl looked for help with the Buddha: suppose he had dated, what would his approach be?

 Tip 1. Tell the universe about your desire for love

Wouldn’t it be great if you could send some sort of cosmic contact ad into the air, and all you had to do was wait until the prince (or princess) would show up? It may sound crazy, but there’s some truth to that concept. Without knowing it, all of us are electromagnetic fields who send signals through words, body language and hundreds of non-verbal clues. All of these have an influence on the interaction in our relationships. Suppose you feel like you are destined to be alone – then you radiate a vibe that doesn’t match what you really want: to be together with someone.

Tip 2. Clean up unfinished business

A fight with your brother, a grudge against an ex lover, fear holding you down. All this unprocessed pain takes in more space than you might realize – space you could use for a new, light and loving kind of contact. By leaving old wounds behind and expressing your gratitude, your energy can flow freely and you let go of the tension in your body. So: write your brother a letter and try to clear the air. Offer your apologies if necessary.

Another thing that’s good for a new relationship, is to come to terms with your parents.  Or in Charlotte Kasl’s words: ‘In order to find an intimate partner, we have to “move out”.’ According to the psychotherapist, we need to examine the values and mentality we learned in our youth. We let go of everything that stands in our way.

Apart from that, it’s important to liberate ourselves from the apodictic stories we’ve made up about ourselves, based on the way we were brought up and our parents’ behavior. If we don’t, we’ll project all of it on a new partner: ‘Honey, I can’t see you tonight, because I have to work.’ ‘I see, so work is more important to you than I am…’

Tip 3. Let your higher self guide you – not your ego

There are tons of books about dating that tell you what to do and when to start dating. On the spiritual path, rules are simple, Kasl writes. Ask yourself if you are guided by your higher self or by your ego. The ego says: ‘I want someone who fills my void.’ The higher self says: ‘I want someone who helps me to be aware, who points out my blind spots to me and who will be a companion and a playmate on my journey.’ Oftentimes, fear is the root of behavior that comes from ego. It’s a fear of being spontaneous, of behaving naturally and trusting your instincts, in other words: a fear of being yourself. It’s important to take a quiet and loving look at what’s below this ego-driven behavior. You don’t have to fear these human feelings, it’s better to accept them than to lose the way to yourself.

The more you dedicate yourself to self knowledge and self acceptance, the more you will be able to dedicate yourself to loving another person, because you have nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. By letting people see the real you, you’ll find out if your new lover is ready to join you on your journey. And the more aspects of yourself you accept –and feel empathetic for-, the more you will be able to appreciate others the way they are.

Tip 4. Prepare your bedroom

You can literally make room for a lover with a little feng shui. The ancient Chinese interior art can make you translate your desire for a lover in your home, especially in your bedroom.

One method is to walk through your house and look at it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Is there room for energy to flow freely, and make room for a loved one? Or do you need to replace things or tidy up? If your belongings don’t help you to progress, put them away, feng shui says. Clean out your closets: when they are full, a possible partner may unconsciously feel that there’s no place for them. Remove keepsakes of former lovers.

Symbolically invite someone to your bed by putting two pillows there or putting a bedside lamp at both sides. Remove electronics from the bedroom, all they do is distract you. Think about what symbolizes love and marriage for you. Translate your wish to be part of a couple by putting pairs of applicable objects in your room: two candles, two roses or two beautiful sculptures.

Tip 5. Accept transience

If you want to be able to love, you will need to accept that change, loss and sadness are inevitable parts of life. If you manage to do that, it will be less scary to you. We suffer less when we acknowledge suffering as part of life, Buddha says. A lot of suffering comes from the unrest we create when we demand life to be ‘fair’. In love, things change and end too. We say hello and goodbye. One moment we are connected, the next one we’re not. Tender moments are always different. Happiness and sadness exist together, they even belong together.

If we follow the spiritual path, Charlotte Kasl writes, we let things be the way they are, we look at them and see how they go by, like a breeze. Our partner will not be the same forever and we shouldn’t want them to be. We should look at eachother with a fresh look every day, with clear eyes and an open mind, so we can see the person who’s standing there today – not an image from the past.   

Text: Astrid Marlies Kieft - Photo: Pablo Heimplatz

 

 

 

This is how you can have the best bed time conversations with your child

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What are you proud of? What made you happy today? Asking the right questions on your child's bedside, will help them to relax and smoothly fall asleep. It's a nice and simple family ritual they will remember for the rest of their lives. 

From day to night. From light to dark. From action to rest. For grownups, it can be difficult to make that transition – for children, it’s even harder.

Crossing the boundary to complete relaxation, being ‘forced’ to surrender, give in to sleep… that’s complicated.

Rituals

Children tend to rebel against rules and boundaries – just like we do, for instance in traffic. By making up clear rituals and being consistent about them, you offer your child safety and something to hold on to.

Twelve questions for a good conversation with your child

These questions help your child to close off the day and go to sleep calmly.

What are you proud of?
What will you be dreaming of tonight?
What made you happy?
What didn’t you like? What do you want to do differently tomorrow?
What compliment would you give yourself today?
What trick can you think of to make tomorrow an even better day?
What would you want to do again tomorrow?
What did you learn today?
Which thoughts are you saying goodbye to?
What made you feel calm today?
What are you grateful for?
Did you have a laugh today?

Photo: Annie Spratt

 

How to tell someone's lying (and 8 other facts about lying you need to know)

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‘No honey, you don’t look fat in those pants.’ Unknowingly, we lie much more often than we want to. In this TED talk, writer Pamela Meyer tells us all about lying: why do we do it? And how?

Why do we lie?

According to Pamela Meyer, essentially, lying is about our desires. We all long for something sometimes: intelligence, wealth, the perfect figure, ani deal partner. When we lie,  we do so to bridge a gap. We connect our fantasies and desires about who we want to be, to who we really are.

4 signs that you’re being lied to

Formal language

Your partner is talking more formal than you would expect given the situation. A liar often uses language to create a distance between themselves and the subject of the lie. For instance, think about Bill Clinton: ‘I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.’

Too many details

The lie is often wrapped in details, like a gift. The irrelevant details feel odd, and don’t contribute to the story.

Body language

Do the words of your conversation partner tell a completely different story than their body language? Chances are the person with the crouched posture who’s telling you the cool story, is lying.

Funny behavior

According to scientific research, liars are easily exposed by taking a good look at their behavior. People who are lying, often tend to distance themselves from the situation. They do by blinking a lot, putting an object between themselves and the conversation partner, or focusing their body towards the door. To sell the lie, we talk in a low voice.

And 8 other facts about lying we bet you don’t know yet

-According to research, you are told 10 to 200 lies a day (!)

-Strangers who meet for the first time, tell each other on average 3 lies in the first 10 -minutes

-People lie more often to strangers than to colleagues

-Extroverted people lie more than introverted people

-Men lie 8 times more often about themselves than they do about other people

-Women, on the other hand, lie more often to protect others

-Married couples lie at least once in every ten conversations

-And that’s not bad… because unmarried couples do so at least once in every three conversations

Photo: Vinicius Wiesehofer

Are you scared of really being yourself? This is why you deserve to drop the mask

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You’re allowed to vote, you pay your taxes and you have a mortgage – but all of that has nothing to do with being a true adult. Adulthood is about knowing who you are, deep in side, and having the guts to show it. That’s how you become who you really are.

1. Know that you’re allowed to stick up for yourself

Each time you say ‘yes’ to something you don’t like or don’t want to do, you say no to yourself. Being caring and helpful is wonderful, but life is about finding a balance between what you want to do and what you need to do. Is the balance lost? Then life probably takes lots of your energy. Being a real grownup means knowing when to offer a helping hand, and when to say no. It may sound scary, because we all want people to like us and oh, well, it’s just about one small task… But as soon as you learn how to stick up for yourself, you will feel so much freer and more autonomous. Just try it sometimes.

2. The grass isn’t greener anywhere else

It’s in our nature to constantly compare ourselves to others. Evolutionary speaking, that was quite useful, because it increased our chances of survival. But nowadays, the comparing has turned into self-torture. Thanks to Instagram and Facebook, 24/7, we’re updated on the success stories of our friends, family, acquaintances and even complete strangers. Compared to your neighbour’s slick instagramfeed, your real life seems quite… pale, doesn’t it? The thing is: your life isn’t pale at all – or at least, no more than your neighbour’s life. Even if it may seem that way. Try to keep reminding yourself of that. If it’s hard, perhaps it’s a good idea to try a social media detox for a while, or cut down your usage a bit. You’re far more important.

3. Choose your own path

If you ask any 20 year old about what they want from life, chances are they will answer: a nice relationship, children, a dog or cat, a nice house, travelling, friends, a fit and healthy body and a job that really allows me to make a difference. Life may have changed a lot in the last fifty years, people still have persistent ideas about what life should be like. The notion that working hard and doing what everybody does makes us happy, is still very much alive. But life isn’t about doing what’s normal, life is about knowing who you are and what’s important to you. Find a connection with yourself rather than the world around you. If you find out that the things you find important don’t match what society thinks is right, dare to choose your own path.

4. Learn to love yourself

We are often our own worst enemies. Our inner critic talks to us in negative, strict words. But why? Life can be a struggle as it is sometimes, we don’t need to make things even worse by being hard on ourselves. It’s time to stop doing that and become our own best friends, in stead of foes. Try to see through the words you use when you’re talking to yourself. Realize that you are not your thoughts and distance yourself from the nagging voice. Meditation and mindfulness can help you to think about yourself in a more positive manner. Because you’re not really an adult until you have learned to love yourself for who you are – with all your flaws.

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Sarah Gray

Sunny weather? Why you should forget about work today and go outside

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How much time can you spend thinking in one day – really thinking deeply? If you’re honest? (Cleaning out your desk / daydreaming in meetings / chatting with colleagues doesn’t count).

It almost seems like a trick question, and you might think it matters what kind of job you have. But it’s not a trick question, because the amount of time is the same for everybody: four hours. After that, your brain just stops, and you best wait until the next day.

So why do we act like we are able to do ten hours of focused work a day? Alex Pang wonders in his book  Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. According to Pang, the only reason we work from nine to five is because, when it comes to work, we still think we live in the time of the industrial revolution.

Embrace your rhythm

In his book, Pang looks at the work of the Swedish Anders Ericson. Ericson studied violists and he’s the originator of the theory that everyone who puts 10.000 hours into something, is an expert. He came to the same conclusion: just like everything else in this world, we have a rhythm. We sleep, eat, wake up, work, get tired, eat, work, get tired, eat, and go to bed. So why do we try to ignore that rhythm?

What if… we would work less

Continuing to work without listening to your body only causes more stress. By working too much, you increase the chance of cardiac diseases, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. And if everyone would work less, there would be more jobs, the economy would produce less, which would mean less pollution (rich countries where people work less often have a smaller carbon footprint).

Stop acting like you’re working on Friday

There are more and more companies who act on this, and who introduce a 4 hour working day or a four day working week. For instance at start-up Treehouse. Founder Ryan Carson abolished the working Friday, so workers didn’t have to pretend they were working the last day of the week.

The most important reason for a company to make a decision like that, is that it’s good for employees. They are happier when they have time to see family, spend time with friends, explore their hobbies. But that’s not the only thing. Happy people work harder and their work has a better quality: happy cows produce more milk.

Pushing people’s boundaries doesn’t just make unhappy employees, it also makes them deliver a poor job. Besides, if you have to do more work in less time, you start working more efficiently.

The conclusion to all this: ask your boss to read this article and talk about working more in less time. Who knows, you might be the start of change.

Want to read more?

Alex Pang – Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
Josh Davis – Two Awesome Hours

Photo: Jeremy Bishop

 

 

 

This is how you help your child to build self-confidence (10 essential parenting tricks)

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A strong self image has more impact on a child’s life than a high IQ. It turns out that children with high self esteem are more carefree and happier. But how do you help them to build confidence?

Self confidence is something that has to be built and anchored deep inside. It’s knowing, deep inside, that you’re special. If you do, you don’t need good grades, lots of material stuff or others’ opinions to feel good about yourself.

Trick 1: Make them feel your love

Children need love, attention and physical contact to be able to attach to others. After a couple of months, a child wants to crawl away from you. To be able to do that, they need to know they are loved. A child that’s flooded with love and attention, feels connected to their parents. They trust in people to be nice and see the world as a safe place. That basic certainty allows them to go out and discover the world.

Trick 2: Let them know they’re unique

Every human being wants to be valued for who they are. Children, too, want to feel like they’re unique. This makes them turn into leaders rather than submissive sheep, because they learn they don’t have to follow others, they can be an example themselves.

Trick 3: Be relaxed about naughty behavior

A child who’s valued, learns they are not what they do. They can knock over a glass, which makes their action clumsy, but not them, as a person. That’s how they learn: I can make mistakes without disappointing people.

Compliments make you reach for the stars, criticism makes you crawl. For every point of criticism, give at least seven compliments. Because you know all too well that criticism has more impact than a friendly word.

Trick 4: See the sunny side

Do you want your kids to enjoy life? Make sure you see the sunny side, too. Children who grow up in a positive environment, learn to count their blessings. A positive approach makes all the difference between a grey existence or a sunny life.

Trick 5: Encourage beautiful thoughts

Allow your children the freedom to discover what they like to do. Encourage them in all their passions. Let them cherish nice thoughts, big dreams and deep wishes, even if you don’t share them or even if you think they are unrealistic.

Trick 6: Set the right example

Your life, as a parent, is the only parenting book your child will ever read. Live the life you would like your children to have. Do you want them to share? Share yourself! Your own behavior is always the best parenting strategy.

Trick 7: Let them make their own decisions

The aim of parenting, is to teach children to be their own parent. If a child has developed self worth, it’s time for a next step: growing self confidence. In order to do that, a child needs to be allowed to take their own actions.

If you’re not allowed to do anything, the message you will hear is: you can’t do it. And guess what? If children can climb a playset on their own, they are less likely to fall or bump into anything, than when they are  constantly monitored.

Trick 8: Let children enjoy things carelessly

Don’t just compliment your kid with the result of their actions, like a nice drawing, but mainly with the action itself. Some children just keep pushing themselves to get results, and forget to enjoy themselves in the meantime. Children don’t have to aim for perfection, they have to laugh, play and act silly. If you see life as a competition, you keep focusing on others to decide what you are worth.

Trick 9: Teach them to embrace the unknown

Life is change – just look at your body, your clothes, your opinions. Teach children to embrace changes with open arms, encourage them to take risks and take new paths. External safety doesn’t exist. Go for inner security, the feeling that you can do anything.

Trick 10: Let go

Our biggest wealth is not the things we have, but the things we dare to let go. Parenting is about finding the right balance between lovingly holding them and having the guts to faithfully let go. Letting go makes them feel assured about their own abilities and your faith in them.

Point the way towards a colorful life, and then step aside. You can do that by encouraging children to experience new things. They will find out how achieving things requires new skills, and how boundaries can be pushed. That’s how you help your kid to go out into the world, full of self confidence.   

Text: Christine Pannebakker - Photo: Guillaume de Germain

 

Bring a trampoline - and other creative ways to make your working life more fun

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Do you miss the time when you looked forward to going to work? There are lots of ways to re-introduce the fun at your office. This is how you spice up your working days. 

1. Shake it off

A football, hula hoop, table tennis table, volley-ball, trampoline will do the trick.

2. Start a meeting with 20 jumping jacks

The blood starts flowing, you feel more active and will be more productive right away.

3. Challenge eachother for 30 days

… to sleep at least 7 hours a night, drink 8 glasses of water a day or run a mile a day. Of course, there’s a prize involved.

4. Daily recess

Schedule 15 minutes of non screen time in the afternoon. Just to go out, or have a nice chitchat.

5. Is there an empty space at your office?

Transform it into a lounge, preferably with real grass, comfortable chairs, board games and yoga mats. There’s one rule: no talking about the job.

6. Pick a theme for one day of the week

For instance: Aloha friday, with a hawaii-themed dresscode.

7. Plants make people happy.

So the greener you can turn your office, the better.

8. Do you have satisfied customers, partners or shareholders?

Put positive messages, prizes and other forms of recognition in a place where everyone can see them, especially the ones who have worked hard for it.

9. Schedule a trade market

For presents you would like to trade for something else.

10. Tea for the soul

Tea time! Get hot water, assorted teas and healthy snacks and put inspiring cards on the table. Pick a card in turns.

Photo: Brooke Cagle

 

 

A message to all the worriers and pessimists: you are not your thoughts

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Negative thoughts can get the best of us and create a cage that’s difficult to get out of – until we realize that the bars of the cage are imaginary.

In his world famous poem ‘Invictus’, William Earnest Hernley wrote: ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’ These words gave Nelson Mandela the power to go on during his imprisonment in South-Africa. It’s like it often is with art: it has a different meaning to every individual.

Thoughts at the steering wheel

Personally, I read the famous poem as a manifesto for self awareness and faith in yourself. A nice and inspiring thought. Yet, I often find myself in situations where my thoughts are at the steering wheel – not me. I let my thoughts decide what I think, regardless of whether they are true.

At times when I'm feeling good, that’s fine. My thoughts are beautiful, cheery and positive. It’s more difficult at times when I don’t feel so great. Things can get dark and destructive in my mind. The nagging voice of self criticism keeps talking and before I know it, I’m in a downward thinking spiral.

Thoughts are just thoughts

Luckily, there are several ways to escape the negativity. Humans are not victims of their own thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts don’t have to decide the course of our lives nor our moods. Thoughts are just thoughts. If we let that insight really sink in, we no longer have to fight the thoughts. We can just allow them to be there.

Four questions

One of the originators of this theory is bestselling author Byron Katie. She created The Work, a method of finding negative thoughts and examining them by asking yourself four questions. Katie believes emotions such as sadness, anger and dissatisfaction come from our faith in our own negative, untrue thoughts.

Kind thoughts

The four simple questions from The Work help you to keep your thoughts from getting the best of you, and looking at them in a different light. This causes a distance that makes us kinder. Kinder towards ourselves and towards others around us. Or, as Katie would say: ‘I don’t let go of my thoughts. I encounter them with understanding, and then they let go of me.’

Destructive thoughts? Ask yourself these four questions (and write down your answers)

1. Is it true?

2. Can you be certain it’s true?

3. How do you react, what happens when you believe the thoughts?

4. Who would you be without the thoughts?

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Marco Xu

Had a bad night's sleep again? This video might help you to change your sleeping habits

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There are days when you wake up nice and well-rested, and other mornings you just keep pressing the snooze button. Getting enough sleep is complicated, but also extremely important. This TED talk explains why.

We all know it’s important to get enough rest. But we’re busy, and there are smartphones to check and TV shows to watch, so we find ourselves going to bed too late. 

As a grownup, it’s very important to sleep seven to eight hours a night. Because if you get less sleep, you’ll notice soon enough. It’s more difficult to memorize things, you get annoyed easily, it’s harder to study.

Check this video, it might just help you to hit the sack nice and early tonight.

Photo: Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho

Are you an introvert? Then these 7 things are probably very important to you

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An introvert is –in a really tiny nutshell – someone who gets energy out of being alone. Because society is mainly focused on extroverts, it’s really important that introverts’ boundaries and needs are respected. Of course all people are different, but in general, introverts really need these seven things.

1. Time to recover after a busy day

No, there’s nothing selfish or theatrical about wanting some me-time during, or after, a busy day. Introverts process stimuli and information on a very deep level. Because extroverts process it in a more superficial way, they can handle much more stimuli. For introverts, it’s really important to have enough time to recover.

2. Meaningful conversations

Of course, sometimes it’s nice to simply talk about what the day was like, but because introverts are often deep thinkers, they need conversations that go beyond that every once in a while. Introverts are conscientious and think a lot, about themselves and the world. That’s why, more then extroverts, they need conversations about these topics.

3. Just being silent together

Introverts’ batteries are charged in silence. That’s why they need to have people around them who are just as good at being silent as they are. Not because they don’t have anything to say, but because it can be really comfortable to embrace a good silence. By being quiet together, you allow thoughts and ideas to really get through to you. Silence is not something that needs to be eliminated, it can be beautiful.

4. A peaceful place of their own

A room or a spot where they can retreat, surrounded by their own stuff, even if it’s just for a minute. That’s where introverts find the space to recharge their batteries. It’s an essential part of a happy life. Being able to spend time alone is very healthy for an introvert.

5. The chance to think before they reply

For an introvert, an impatient partner or colleague can be extremely stressful. Whereas extroverts lean on their short-term memory, introverts turn inside. That’s why they need more time to find the right words. If people don’t pay them any mind, they miss out on beautiful ideas.

6. Friends who understand their absence

Introverts need friends who understand they can’t always be around. It’s not because they don’t like to spend time together, or hate parties, but it’s all about balance for them. When they get too busy, they get very tired. It’s nothing personal when they decide to stay in. They simply need it.

7. Personal attention

For extroverts, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to be introvert (and vice versa, by the way). They think: who doesn’t like to go to a party? Introverts need social events, too, they just prefer to spend it one on one.

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Neil Bates

 

Did your heart get broken? These novels will help you to heal it

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When your heart is torn to pieces, you can use anything to ease the pain. A good novel, for instance. These novels will help you to get up again.

The best is yet to come

What if you guys had stayed together? If your heart is broken, the question probably goes through your head ten, twenty or hundreds of times a day. In ‘Stoner’ by John Williams, the answer to the question isn’t romantic or idyllic. Stoner doesn’t really love the woman he marries, and life in general doesn’t make him feel all that much – until he falls in love head over heels with another woman. In other words: you never know what’s ahead of you, the best is yet to come.

John Williams, Stoner   

This is how you would like to experience love too

He’s a bit of a douchebag, Yunior from ‘This is how you lose her’. Especially when it comes to handling the women in his life – Love of his Life after Love of his Life. And yet somehow, you never really start to dislike him. Perhaps that’s because his airy outlook on life makes us a bit jealous too (and because, in the end, he knows he should do better).

Junot Diaz, This is how you lose her

What’s going on inside your head?

What’s going on inside your head when you’re morning a lost love? Writer CS Lewis (you probably know his children’s books The Chronicles of Narnia, or the films) lost his love ‘H.’ after only three years of marriage. He’s very honest about his grief, and also about his anger towards God (Lewis is a very faithful man), who took her away from him. In the end, he chooses to be thankful for the love they had.

CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

Breakups can be funny too

Few writers can make you laugh and cry as much as Nick Hornby. If you’ve read one of his books, no doubt, you’ll want to read all of them. High Fidelity is a classic, about music geek Rob who tries to grasp his life by making lists. One of his list contains of ‘the five most memorable breakups’. It’s witty, true and touching. ‘I’m very good at the past. It’s the present I can’t understand.’

Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

This book about grief will get under your skin

Being lovesick is like mourning: mourning a person who is alive, but no longer in your life; mourning a future that will no longer come true. One of the most beautiful books about love and grief is The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. She reports about the first year after the love of her life passed away, with whom she had shared forty years. Writing the book, to her, was a way of keeping him with her – even though she knows she will have to let him go.

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Comforting: you’re not the only one feeling lost

It’s nice to read about other people’s experiences with matters of love and life. That’s why Tiny Little Things by Cheryl Strayed is such a delightful book: it’s filled with recognizable questions about how-on-earth-to-go-on-now (after adultery, after a breakup, after loss). Cheryl’s answers are worth your while, because they are genuine and personal, often funny and touching, all at the same time.

Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Little Things

Possibly the most touching book of the century

There’s not a sentimental sentence to be found in The Sense of an Ending, and yet it is one of the most touching books written in the last fifteen years. When one of Tony Webster’s college pals appears in his life, he has to face what he made of his life. What kind of person was he, in his love life and friendships, and who has he become? If you feel like watching a movie rather than reading, see the beautiful film. It’s just as witty, subtle and comforting.

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

The classic: devastating love in the Victorian age

‘Heaaaaathcliiiiiiff…’ You probably know Kate Bush’s big hit single Wuthering Heights, based on Emily Brontë’s book. The novel is the story of the destructive love between Catherine and Heathcliff, that doesn’t end well. The book, situated in the Victorian age (back then it was very controversial), is still one of the ultimate English classics.

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Thought Catalog

Be your own palm reader: this is what your hands reveal about your personality

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Are you always right in time, or always running late? Creative, a perfectionist, athletic? Your hands reveal many things about you. The size of your hands, the length of your fingers and your skin structure show your character. That comes in handy when you’re on a date, or during a job interview.

Firm handshake

You probably met them: people who almost crush your hands when you meet. How does that make you feel about a person? Depending on your own personality, you might think of them as self confident or too dominant. Ira Nagel, hand reader and owner of the Namasté Café in The Hague: ‘People with a firm, dry handshake are decisive and often dominating. A limp handshake means the opposite: lack of self confidence. Clammy hands reveal a person is nervous and represent sensitivity.’

Your skin structure

Rough skin structure: fierce, go-getter
Normal skin structure: balanced, aware of other people’s feelings
Delicate skin structure: sensitive (to vibes)

Big or small hands

Does a person have relatively big or small hands? People with big hands are often bon vivants, versatile persons. People with small hands are quick thinkers and often a bit impatient. Ira: ‘In a conversation with a small handed person, you have to get to the point quickly, or they’ll get restless. They are often proactive people who see the bigger picture. Conversation partners with big hands are calmer, and the ones with long fingers are analytic. People with mid-size hands are both intuitive and rational, which makes them good at mediating.’

The length of your fingers

Long fingers: analytic, an eye for detail
Short fingers: helicopter view, focused on action
Mid length fingers: combination of both qualities

Phalanges

The length of your phalanges reveals whether you’re an emotional, a rational or a physical person. People with an upper phalanx that’s longer than the middle and lower one, are often emotional and decide upon their feelings. A longer middle phalanx is common with rational people and a long lower phalanx represents the need for a physical challenge. ‘A constricted lower phalanx means you’re not grounded enough,’ says Ira.

Your phalanges

Longest upper phalanges: inspiring, spontaneous, creative
Longest middle phalanges: rational, turns ideas into plans
Longest lower phalanges: grounded, focused on actions, physical challenge

The length of your fingers

‘If your index finger is shorter than your ring finger, you’ve experienced a longer period of insecurity. This period might be over, but the finger won’t grow,’ Ira explains. A middle finger that’s almost a phalanx longer than the index finger and the ring finger, often belongs to a structured person who keeps a promise. A short pinky (the top doesn’t reach the ring finger’s upper phalanx) often belongs to late bloomers whose lives change quickly after their thirtieth birthday. An index finger that’s longer than the ring finger represents people who take on the same role at home as they have at work.

Which finger is the most striking?

Thumb: perseverance, will power
Index finger: growth, ambition, self awareness, spirituality
Middle finger: responsibility, structure, seriousness
Ring finger: lust for life, energy, happiness
Pinky: communication, self expression

Flexibility

Can you easily move back your fingers? Then you might give in too easily. Your left hand represents your private life, the right one represents work. Ira: ‘It could be that the fingers of your left hand are more bendable because you’re more flexible in your private life than in your working life.’ A thumb that’s very bendable, means you change opinions easily due to other people’s opinions.

See the lines in your hands

Few lines: knows how to stick to their own opinion, not too impressionable
Many lines: chaotic mind, sensitive to stress, impressionable
Very delicate, thin lines: highly sensitive

Photo: Jony Ariadi

 

Setting a good example - and other things Nelson Mandela taught us about raising children

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It takes a village to raise a child, is how the saying goes. But where can we find that village? As a parent, you can use all the advice on raising children in the world. Especially if it’s Nelson Mandela’s advice.

 

 

About Mandela

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) was a South African anti-apartheid  activist and politician. He was involved in the battle against the South African apartheid regime. In 1963, he was sentenced with a lifelong emprisonment, and he spent 27 years in prison. In 1993, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He stood up for equality by means of non-violent revolutions, and he firmly believed that dignity and love could change the world – not anger.

Trick 1: A good example will be keenly followed

Setting a good example is supposed to have a bigger influence on children, than answering their yelling with your own. One of the mantras of non-violent resistence is: don’t make hay when the sun shines, but wait until everyone has calmed down. Then you speak your mind about what bothered you. Teach children to channel their anger by doing so yourself.

By the way, this has an equally positive effect on grown ups. Increasing your self control, anger management. Taking a good look at your own behavior, instead of other people’s flaws, might be the solution in all kinds of relationships. In the end, that’s what non-violent resistence comes down to.

Trick 2: Take full responsibility

It’s important for the world, for society, for our families: taking full responsibility for our own anger, our discomfort, our own actions. Becoming better people and setting the right example. ‘One of the most difficult things is not to change society - but to change yourself,’ Nelson Mandela spoke shortly before the end of his presidency.

Text: Pauline Bijster - Photo: Janko Ferlic

 

This is why it's important to feel your emotions (and how to do that)

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Some people seem to feel everything very intensely. If they’re sad, they cry big tears, and if they’re happy, their smile is radiant. Do you feel like your emotions pile up inside sometimes, is it hard for you to let them out? This is how you learn to feel.

Emotions allow you to live life to the fullest. If you suppress them, you are selling yourself short, because without ups-and-downs, life is monotonous and dull.

Even if some feelings are scary or painful, they help you to handle adversity. It’s like author Paul Loomans, who wrote a (Dutch) book about emotions, says: ‘Our ratio has a tendency to suppress or avoid unpleasant experiences. But this means keeping yourself from coping with it. The challenge is feeling comfortable with something that’s really unpleasant.’

Just let it enter

Emotions can really surprise you. Someone says something to you, a thought enters your mind, you hear a certain song, and suddenly you’re flooded by sadness, shame, anger or another feeling. The key is to let it all in. Just sit down and let the feelings enter. The more you suppress it, the bigger it becomes – and the bigger the knot in your stomach. If you allow the feeling to just be there, it’ll get easier, it’ll feel less sharp.  

Find silence

Even if you don’t even know what it is you’re feeling, relaxing is helpful. Don’t force yourself to untie a knot, simply find a silent place. It doesn’t matter if you say inside or go outside, and it doesn’t have to take much time. Just try to give in to the moment, preferably once every day. Without other people distracting you, without the phone, Netflix, music. Simply avoiding these distractions can bring some peace.

Use your body

The more you live inside your mind, the more tense you get. If you’re the kind of person who wants to analyse everything and finds it hard to stop thinking, there’s only one thing you can do: focus on your body. Go cycling, running, skating, anything you like: movement helps to get rid of the tension.  Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, author of ‘Six pillars of self esteem’, wrote: ‘An emotion is both a mental and a physical event.’

Try not to judge

It’s quite difficult to welcome your emotions and not the voices in your mind, who keep yelling their opinions – like sports reporters alongside the game. ‘You’re exaggerating’, ‘Are you still going on about this’, ‘I thought you were over this’ – it may seem like a good idea to be sceptical, but you are actually undermining yourself. Emotions are never ‘just’ or ‘unjust’, they simply are – like the clouds in the sky. You can have opinions about them all you like, but it doesn’t make them go away. It’s better to study them attentively, and try to avoid judgment.

Photo: Naomi August

 

 

Are you a highly sensitive person? This will make it easier for you to handle judgment

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We’ve all been there: a friend, family member or acquaintance said something about us and really hurt our feelings. If you’re a highly sensitive person, it’s even harder for you to handle judgment. The good news is: you can make it easier for yourself. 

‘When someone judges the road you’re taking, lend them your shoes.’ This proverb is a nice reminder for anyone who would like to care less about other people’s judgment. One of the most important things in life is to do what makes you happy. Even if it means being different.

Need for harmony

The difficulty is that people have a natural tendency to judge. Especially if you choose to go your own way, you may encounter hurtful opinions, lack of understanding and judgment. They can make you feel really small, especially when you’re highly sensitive and need harmony and peace. A judgmental look, mean smirk or a bad vibe can lead you to a downward spiral.

Self doubt

People who are highly sensitive, think a lot. Other people’s judgment can remain in their heads for days. Am I doing something wrong? Am I crazy? Why do people judge me? Does it matter that I do things differently than my friend or family member? Why can’t people see me for who I am, just for who they want me to be? This self doubt can drive us crazy.

Many highly sensitive people handle the doubt by adjusting. They are very empathetic and do the best they can to understand others and meet their needs. It’s their way to keep the peace, and it shows how sensitive and well-intentioned they are. But in the end, it makes them cross their own boundaries, time and time again. It’s important not to let other people’s judgment determine what you think, and do what feels right for you.

Be true to yourself

It’s incredibly hard not to care about what others think, yet very important. Sometimes, criticism is constructive, or friends mean well with their judgment. Of course, it’s wise to listen to them. But once you feel their judgment isn’t just, it’s even more important to put it aside. That way, you make sure the judgment doesn’t bring you down, and you stay true to yourself.

How to handle other people’s (unjust) judgment

1. Take a deep breath

Make sure you don’t get into a heated discussion. Keep your distance and discuss how you feel with a good friend before you carefully decide how to react. Distance makes a situation less complicated and allows you to calmly express your feelings.

2. Depersonalize the judgment

It’s wise to think about this: chances are the judgment has to do with the person giving their opinion, rather than it has to do with you.

3.  See through the charade

People with severe opinions about others, often have a low self esteem. If you don’t accept yourself unconditionally, with all your flaws, you can’t accept anyone else. Putting labels on people or judging them, is a way for them to control you. By realizing this, you can put the judgment aside.

4. Talk about what’s bothering you

Possibly, they don’t know what their judgment feels like to you. By expressing what’s bothering you, you allow them to explain their behavior. It brings you peace, because your intentions are pure. If they react compassionately, the two of you might reach a new level of connection.

5. Focus on people who do support you

It’s impossible to satisfy everyone around you. Don’t waste your energy on hostilities and negativity, but find the people and situations that actually make you happy.

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Carolina Heza

 

 

Do you need help? This is why you shouldn't feel bad about asking for it

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Why is it so much easier to help others, than to ask for help? Is it because you want to show people you’re tough, you don’t need anyone? In fact, it’s a missed opportunity. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Here’s why.

1.   You make the helper happy

Helping someone with their luggage, grabbing something from the highest shelf in the supermarket, lifting a buggy into the bus, explaining something to someone who just visits the gym for the first time – all of it hardly costs any effort, but afterwards, you feel good. This is how it works for you, and exactly how it works for others. So think of it this way: by asking for help, you make someone else feel good, you’re doing them a favour too.

2.   It’s a sign: you’re learning new things

Sure, it’s nice to be able to do everything on your own, but it also means you’re not learning too many new things. If you need help, you’re clearly outside of your comfort zone, and that’s the place where you learn the most. If someone with more knowledge and skills is able to help you, your learning curve is going straight up. Besides, most people really like to be able to share their knowledge and experience with someone who really benefits from it. It’s like with reason 1: your helper will be happy, too.

3.   It’s good for you

Asking for help is a way to take care of yourself. If you keep asking too much of yourself, you’ll get exhausted and maybe even burnout. By asking people for help, you enable yourself to switch back to a lower pace and relax when you need to. It makes you function better, which is also beneficial for the people around you. Besides, you’re taking full responsibility for your own wellbeing.

4.   You’ll make friends

Asking for helps means being vulnerable. People interpret this as a sign of trust and friendship, which makes them like you. This also works with people who aren’t all that easy to cooperate with. If you ask them to help you with a small chore, and show genuine gratitude for it, it’ll improve your connection. Think of it like this: by helping each other, contacts are enforced.

Asking for help is a strength

Michele L. Sullivan says beautiful things about asking for help. She travels a lot and she’s in a wheelchair – she simply can’t avoid to ask for help when she’s travelling. In her TED talk ‘Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness’, she discusses the remarkable situations and conversations she gets into. Asking for help brings her contact and connection, and it taught her that everybody needs a little help every once in a while – even the people who don’t show on the outside.

Maybe that’s the most important thing: by asking for help, you’re showing others it’s OK to do so. So if you need help, grab that opportunity and ask for it. Allow others to lend a hand. We’re in this world to help eachother, perhaps it’ll make all of us a little kinder.

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Milada Vigerova



 

How to be you in a relationship (and keep it sparkling)

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When everything is fresh and new, all you want is to be together and share everything with one another. It’s wise to create some distance now and then, though. That’s how you two remain two individuals, like the two terminals on a battery.

Keep scheduling time for yourself…

Make sure to detach yourself from a close embrace every once in a while: me-time. That’s how you keep the air flowing in your relationship and how you prevent your relationship from becoming too symbiotic. It makes it even more fun to see eachother after. Allow your partner this space and time, too, even when you regret it because you felt so much like watching a tv series together.

… and don’t cheat

It’s oh so tempting to keep texting eachother all day long, but if you do that, you’re never really apart. Besides it’s so much more fun not to share everything in real time - save some good stories for when you’re together!

Don’t put them on a pedestal

When you’re in love head over heels, you might tend to idealize your significant other. Especially when you’re a bit insecure about yourself. Try to be aware of this: don’t put them on a pedestal, and don’t think of everything that’s different about them (his personality, his family, his work, his taste…) as ‘better’. It’s important to be equals.

Cherish your friendships

You wouldn’t be the first person to forget about your friends for a while, simply because you’re caught up in your new love. When that first phase is over, of course you want to meet them: your lover needs to know why your friends are important to you, and the other way around. But keep meeting your friends separately, too. Cherish the things you share with them, the jokes you make together, the shared past.

Keep your dreams in mind

Sometimes it’s so clear when you look at other people: their new love is so intense, it seems they don’t care about anything in their ‘old’ life anymore. All that matters is their life together. It can be lovely to be soaked up by new love, but try to keep in mind what other things make your life worth while. Who do you want to be, what do you want to achieve, what’s important to you? Go for these things. If they love you, they will motivate you to do so.

Keep doing new things

It’s not just important to remember your ‘old’ life (and everything that mattered to you before they appeared), but also to remain focused on the future. Apply for a creative workshop, join a gym class or playing an instrument: keep growing.

Photo: Montse Monmo

 

An ode to the yoni

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It’s a part of our body we don’t particularly like to talk about, and most of us seldom take a good look at: the yoni. That’s a shame, Pauline Bijster learned from several ‘yoni experts’ – because more attention for the vagina can make our body, and even life in general, lighter and more enjoyable.

What’s up with the vagina nowadays? It seems to get more attention lately, and has even been renamed: more and more often it’s called yoni, the ancient tantra-word for vagina and Sanskrit for ‘source of everything’.

In English-speaking countries, courses in Orgastic Meditation and yoni-massage studios are multiplying. Yoni eggs –little eggs made out of gems- are popular. The book ‘Pussy – A Reclamation’ emerged on top of the New York Times bestseller list.

It all starts with ‘turning on’ your own sensuality

According to the writer, Regena Thomashauer, we should all bring back the fun and power that yoni brings us into our lives. Fun, because this seems to be the only purpose of the clitoris, with its eight thousand nerve endings. But there is more. According to yoni experts, there’s a special energy that can make your body, even your entire life, lighter and more enjoyable.

It all starts, Thomashauer says, with ‘turning on’ your own sensuality. You can do this by touching the vagina, massaging it, looking at it, thinking of it.

Difficult to love

When I started writing this story, I thought I had quite a normal relationship with my vagina. To be honest, I’ve ignored it for the most part of my life. To be even more honest: I’ve dreaded it. During my periods, and giving birth to my four children, which was (apart from beautiful and moving) incredibly painful. Let alone all the times I had cystitis, yeast infections, all researched by the unpleasant speculum of the gynaecologist. Or even worse: the high amount of women –one in three, according to research- who have had unpleasant sexual experiences.

Of course, the vagina is more fun and more beautiful than this, but still, it is difficult to love. It’s hidden, we don’t think about it a lot. Or we do, but we don’t talk about it, because that’s indecent.

The right name

Our society isn’t cut out for yoni’s. All books and articles start with the compelling prove: we hardly have any names for it. All parents are lost for words for a minute when their daughter wants to know what that place between her legs is called. In fact, the vagina is only half of the organ, besides, it sounds like medical terminology – especially coming from a little girl’s mouth.

‘Cunt’ is a curse word, just like ‘muff’ or ‘cooch’. Words like ‘pussy’ have been annexed by the porno industry. Thomashauer, by the way, uses the word ‘pussy’ on purpose, because she wants it to lose it’s negative connotations.

Tantra: get to know yourself

It’s not just in the US where the yoni movement has started, it’s also in Europe. The Centrum for Tantra in Amsterdam gets more clients than ever. “Although there’s always been an interest for what we do,’ says tantra teacher Kyo Verberk. ‘People have always been interested in sex.’ As long as we keep seeing sex as something that’s purely physical, we get in trouble, she says. ‘Many people encounter problems in their relationship when they have been together for a while. Then they start looking for new things. I get that.’

The goal of tantra is: getting to know yourself. People often think it’s a sexual thing, but in its essence, it’s not, she says. ‘It’s a spiritual path that embraces all of life: also the vital sexual energy. The difference with other forms of body work is that the genitals are not excluded.’ She continues: ‘In tantra, yoni is regarded as an important source of knowledge.’

Yoni release

Mariëlle Spronck of Avalanche Bodywork introduced the word ‘yoni release’ in the Netherlands. A yoni release means that the genital area is freed of blockages from the inside. 

‘The G-spot, the A-spot and the mouth of the uterus are places where many women have blockages. We read in women’s magazines that the sandpaper-like spot near your G-spot is normal, but it isn’t. I can make that tissue soft again.’ The result: the vagina becomes more sensitive, making love feels more intense. ‘I always thought I had a great sex life,’ she says, ‘until my yoni was released. It got even better then.’

A yoni release is not a sexual or sensual thing, sometimes it's even painful. She calls it ‘shiatsu on your vagina’, and she talks about it very clearly, almost the way a physical therapist would talk about a shoulder. ‘You can learn how to do massage blockages away yourself, but there are several women who come to me three times a year, to have it released’, Spronck says. 

Focus on pleasure

Another thing that all the experts mention: we have learned to focus on a climax during sex, or on ejaculation. But that’s a one-sided approach. Marjanne Hurks is a tantra and sex coach, and gives yoni massages that are meant to be pleasant. A woman can experience what it is like to feel her vagina, without the goal of having an orgasm. We’ve forgotten how to do that, says Hurks.

It would be wise if we focused on pleasure more, without focusing on an orgasm 

She regards her work as rather sensual than sexual. ‘I think we should treat the yoni as something more holy than we do in our society,’ she says. ‘Or at least: more respectfully. My own mother called her vagina ‘that thing below’. Not much has changed since then.’

According to Hurks –and Regena Thomashauer agrees with her- it would be wise if we focused on pleasure more, on the orgastic feeling –without focusing on an orgasm itself. The stream of energy you feel in your yoni, and that fills you, the kundalini energy, that’s what’s important.

Tingly feeling

We can be all skeptical about this –and up until now, I would have been- but what if it’s true? What if the yoni is every bit as special as they say? What if it empowers us as women, makes us radiate, gives us more self confidence – as long as we’re aware of this secret, dark, damp place that’s part of our own body? 

Perhaps talking about yoni’s is already very helpful, to encounter the word ‘pussy’ 36 times a page in a book, and maybe, just maybe, you experience the same thing while reading this article: if you focus on it, you feel it.

And if you do this, you’ll notice that it feels good. Tingly. Admittedly, feeling any part of your body is tingly if you really feel it in a meditative way, but the yoni is by far the tingliest part. Feeling it makes you instantly happy.

Just by being open to it, you have access to this sparkle in your life. A moment of joy that’s ever present, simply there to enjoy, whenever you want.  

Text: Pauline Bijster [edited] 

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Did someone hurt your feelings? Here's something you should know about forgiveness

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In the end, life is a battle field. People will hurt you and you will hurt people. You will forgive and be forgiven. It's the forgiving I would like to discuss here and now.

If you are the one who has been hurt, people around you tend to think you should be moving on - quicker than you do, yourself - and thus, should forgive the other one, as a 'gift to yourself' and 'for closure'. No one, I repeat, no one (not even your spiritual coach, your therapist, your mom or your best friend) is allowed to tell you that you need to forgive someone, or when. You are the only one who can decide to do that, or not (yet).

Two steps back

Forgiving people too quickly, just because you want to be a nice person, means taking two steps back. Every time you feel anger or resentment popping up inside you, you feel like you're a hypocrite, because you already Forgave them, right? It gets in the way of truly processing (which also includes anger). It slows this process down, because now, you've added a dose of self judgement to your plate. Forgiving, to me, doesn't mean giving yourself a gift. Simply deciding not to waste any more energy on feelings of hatred, and forgiving the person you would like to behead immediately - is that true forgiving, from the heart, or is it self-imposed numbness, just to get it over with?

Finished story

When the time comes you're really ready to forgive, then there's a finished story. You've processed it, perhaps you've come to understand why they did what they did, time has passed. The emotional charge has disappeared. You're able to see the other person with kindness and compassion, able to move on without being bothered by the past. Mind you: the other person doesn't have to be there when you forgive them. Maybe they haven't asked for it, maybe they haven't shown a shred of regret - all of that doesn't matter. You don't even have to tell them you forgave them. As a matter of fact: as long as you still care about how they feel about your forgiveness, your motives aren't fully pure yet.

Hidden agenda

You're doing this from the heart, without a hidden agenda ('And now I'd like you to forgive me too, that's only fair, right?') or without any other purpose ('See how much I've grown!'). You're giving forgiveness as a present you want to gift. Whether the other person likes it, doesn't even notice it's there, or goes to the store to return it, is of zero importance. What counts, is that you know. In the end, you're the one who benefits from the quiet, space and peace that forgiveness brings you. And you deserve nothing less.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Amy Treasure