Back to books and learning

    So I completed the Positive Psychology course on Coursera with Barbara Fredericton just now. I feel a great sense of accomplishment and a bit more confidence to start the offline Counselling studies tomorrow. Tomorrow is our first lesson and I feel prepared – which is rare. I guess as we grow up we need to feel more prepared? I used to risk and wait for the boost of energy in the last minute preparations but now I really want to relax while studying. I want to make time for it, take time while doing it and be really good in counselling once I get to practice. I have learned a lot about new psychology academics during this course. I learned about new trends. I also learned a little bit about practice of counselling and psychotherapy in business, schools, personal coaching and in academic research area too. It gives me a good starting point to learn about the reality of the new profession too. I am trying not to think about all the other things I need to learn and my craving to learn it ALL!:) All the books I want to read, online courses I want to take. About http://www.ippanetwork.org/. About http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/. I feel excited about finally, after years and years, going back to my childhood dream of helping others by supporting them emotionally. When I was younger I really wanted to be a psychotherapist but I simply did not dare to claim the dream. Today I know that we have many voices in our head but only we get to choose which one to believe and follow. I choose to listen to the one that empowers me to walk another mile, work harder and achieve more satisfaction from the fact that I do something I really believe in. And the trust is that: as the world is moving towards tech and we increasingly move away from human contact (don’t get me wrong, I do not criticise tech at all, just state the obvious) we also start to feel a bit confused. Things change with dramatic speed. Our generation, in my humble option, is the first one that holds the key to the solution of inter-generational gap. The very same generation faces a huge challenge of social web, self-driving cars and AI. What is left then but to dive into how our brains, bodies and emotions feel about all this and how those of us who are more involved in tech can help others manage their worries, fears, inconsistencies? To me it’s almost a natural step in my own self-development – a path I cannot not take. So I am really excited about my Counselling Degree. It is going to be hard – just doing this online course was not easy. I was falling asleep tired after my usual daily tasks, but I took it easy and continued. Even if a bit harder than back in my student times (we had so much time then!) I think I am still benefitting from this educational path much more because I am benefitting from my conscious motivation: I can see clearly what I am aiming for at the end of those four years. With this in mind, I find it symbolically significant that I start this new academic adventure with the subject of positive psychology and new, very suitable definition of love – the micro-moments of connection between people that shape our positive resonance and lead to better overall health and well being!


    What a great time to be a student!

    I am tired but happy. Work started and I feel it creeping into my learning time but I am determined. On one hand, I am taking on more work to allow myself more books and courses. On the other hand, I am pushing myself harder to stick to the working time – I just do work in advance. Today I did work for two clients for the entire month, so I do not have to worry about them and can study. I did the 4th week of positive psychology and moved on to the definition of love – which is very meaningful and -as opposed to static status-like meanings – is actually effective in daily life. I really enjoy studying emotions.  I decided to read ‘The art of loving’ by Fromm once again. It shaped my view on relationships since university but I could do with a reminder now, after this positive psychology course too (I aim to finish it by 18.09). Last night I have also read about neuro-psychanalysis – which is a very exciting new branch of psychology. It does make sense for Freudians and neuro-linguists to collaborate though it was a reminder of my academic experiences to learn that they have initially remained in mutual disrespect for quite a while (not even reading each other’s journals!). It’s all good now and I have managed to find a lot of their published findings online, for free. EU countries announced today that they are aiming to ensure that by 2020 all academic results and work are free. What a great time to be a student!

    The positivity ratio

    Today I have learned more about positivity ratio and ordered Frederickson’s two books to catch up on more of her studies of positive psychology. I noticed that taking notes on paper helps me focus in the still challenging world of household and multitasking, so I will study more in the evenings and with written notes. I also started writing down main points from Gilbert’s book on compassion as it also contains a lot of positive psychology insights and I know I will find those notes useful when working. I know many books can be read on Kindly with notes there, but I want to read and make notes from core ones on paper. School starts tomorrow and I am happy that I paid for my counselling course for this year, prepared study space and time and core books. I will spend all year identifying online resources too and blogging about my journey.
    I have also learned today about the wheel of emotions (above) – I feel I need to learn to name them all so Robert Plutchnik is a good start for that. I also have a book I got for fun read ‘The book of human emotions’ – I will get on with it after Gilbert. It contains cross-cultural perspective on emotions so I learned just from first few sections quite a lot of new feelings. At some point in the future, I will try to blog about each feeling too to emerge myself in them and to learn more about them.

    Positive psychology

    I have paid for the Positive Psychology course on Coursera now to get a diploma so I need to finish it by 18.09. It’s good to be pushed for it as I make more time for studying. Today I have completed the second week and learned so much! I mean instinctively I knew some of those facts but I am so glad that science proves I am not madly positive and naive;) Aside from ‘negativity bias’ (the need for us to live the negative experiences more intensely and respond to them faster) I have also learned that the stable, more sublime, quiet way of living with positive emotions is supported by since and called ‘positivity offset’. We live many more positive moments than negative ones, we just don’t notice them so well, that’s all. In her interview back in 2003, Barbara Fredrickson mentions: “Emotions SHOULD reflect our circumstances” ergo we should feel sad, attacked, depressed sometimes. But most of the time we feel OK, good, inspired, at awe, hopeful, in love. We just don’t talk about it. We are happiness biased striving for some ideal state of super-love or super-happiness. Even back at the university when I studied love and family from Erich Fromm I learned that’s not the case entirely. But nowadays, at the beginning of the XXI century, we seem to promote, even make money on that promise of painless, light and mindless (not mindful) life. So as I study this course I am starting to see just how much work is there to be done for councillors. Acc. to Fredericton’s studies back in 2003 only 20% of Americans lived thriving life – not financially, but from the point of view of that balance.
    Balance is something I have also noticed in Paul Gilbert’s ‘The Compassionate Mind’ (just reading it when I can relax). I really like his list of life challenges were are facing (chapter 2) and the Three Types of Affect Regulation System:
    1. DRIVEN, EXCITED, VITALITY: Incentive/resource focussed – wanting, pursuing, achieving, consuming – activating
    2. ANGER, ANXIETY, DISGUST: Threat-focussed – protection and safety seeking – activating/inhibiting
    3. CONTENT, SAFE, CONNECTED: non-wanting, affiliative-focussed – safeness – kindness – soothing
    The third I find shocking. It should be obvious to me as a mother that it’s needed but having worked in marketing and businesses I was so distracted by the main two forces: seeking/wanting and protecting/hiding that I forgot about the most crucial system: the balancing act of being simply OK, happy with things as they are. Maybe it’s the answers to things I currently find difficult to accept in my life – leaving the full, energetic, emotional life behind for calm and slow paced one?  I guess that’s one for my own counselling.
     For now, I am really pleased that I re-discover the elements of psychology I was already learning at the Uni with the addition of immense discoveries in the last 20-30 years. That learning curve itself is immensely satisfying!



    Rogers, meditations and diets?

    A long week of spending time with family, organising things and preparing my life for studies. I have purchased a few more books and a positive psychology course. I have resigned from two public roles (it was always the plan to take them on to practice making time for studies) and narrowed the remaining two to the very minimum. The rest of my time is to be dedicated to studies from now on. I spent a week on a diet and I feel much better in my body now so I hope my brain will be happier to learn better too. I have also subscribed to Headspace premium to get back to my habit of daily meditations and as for journaling I am using the iPhone app for 5 Minute Journal – still struggling with remembering to do it each day but I will get there. Small daily habits of happiness;)
    Tonight I progressed in studying. I read “Active Listening” by Carl R. Rogers and Richard E. Farson to discover just how difficult work must have been in the 50’s! I had no idea! Well, I did, but to see this form of a manifesto to employers is a bit of an eye opener. I was reading it imagining that this is actually news back in the 50’s – and that reality was truly shocking to me. I know I am lucky as I had really good jobs and good mentors in my life but to think that production could be prioritised over individual’s mental health (and by that I mean sense of justness, motivation and common goal) is a bit scary, to be honest. I am glad I read this very short piece and I am sure I will read those 20 pages many more times just as a reminder of how far we have come and what we need to protect – just in case if we lose this progress in mental health!

    Freud, hello again!

    Today was all about Freud. It’s nice to be back with him and refresh my knowledge about psychoanalysis but I am not sure how deep my practice should be. I think I will find out during my Foundation course?

    In creating psychoanalysis, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association and discovered transference, establishing its central role in the analytic process. Freud’s redefinition of sexuality to include its infantile forms led him to formulate the Oedipus complex as the central tenet of psychoanalytical theory. His analysis of dreams as wish-fulfillments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the underlying mechanisms of repression. On this basis Freud elaborated his theory of the unconscious and went on to develop a model of psychic structure comprising id, ego and super-ego. Freud postulated the existence of libido, an energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive, the source of compulsive repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt. In his later work Freud developed a wide-ranging interpretation and critique of religion and culture.

    Though in overall decline as a diagnostic and clinical practice, psychoanalysis remains influential within psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy, and across the humanities.

    Transference is a phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. One definition of transference is “the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person’s childhood”. Another definition is “the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object”. Still another definition is “a reproduction of emotions relating to repressed experiences, especially of childhood, and the substitution of another person … for the original object of the repressed impulses”.Transference (German: Übertragung) was first described by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who acknowledged its importance for psychoanalysis for better understanding of the patient’s feelings.


    Listening skills in practice

    I spent two hours yesterday reading the Introduction to Counselling by John McLeod – the chapter on the history of counselling as a profession both in the US and in the UK. It helped me a lot to place the counselling next to sciences I have already studied: post-modernism in literature and psychology in teaching methodology. It feels nice to unveil those new areas and I really like the idea of going back all the way to Freud and reading about his works again. But I also cannot wait to hear learn about the practice. Something nice and motivating happened to me too this week. I met a woman who has turned her life around for better so drastically thanks to my listening and comments, that I was just overwhelmed. I was trying to remember and hold that feeling as it made me think of something McLeod mentioned in his first chapter – counselling is hard and often feels like ‘just listening and talking’ but very often it is so impactful when councillor feels the results of their work and changes people’s lives for better. I really like this feeling and I hope I can be good at it – I could get used to this type of ‘saving one person at a time’.

    My new journey begins

    And so it begins. I have finally decided to study counselling – returning to psychology after over 10 years of doing other things.  I feel excited and happy but mainly at peace. I know this is the right path.I spent about a week researching local bookshops, second-hand book shops and online for developments in psychology since I left it. I have studied a lot of it but missed out on most of the positive psychology. Susan Cain’s ‘The Quiet’ allowed me to catch up a few years ago when I read it – with at least American developments. But counselling has such large social work, voluntary, the practical context that I feel I have a lot to learn. As for the main skill – listening – I think I like to listen to people and I have stopped talking so much! I do not like to talk about myself because my daily morning coffee meditation/thinking time allows me to function without having to share too much with others. I talk to myself, in my head. And if I get stuck I discuss details with my friend and family. But I do feel that I have shifted from my endlessly open, vulnerable self to a closed one, distanced one, more resilient one. I think I know how much I can suffer when I allow myself to open up and what benefits that vulnerability carries. I learned to switch the openness on and off. But I also want to live at peace, with a little bit less emotion, and more time to develop intellectually. Or maybe I was hurt too much? Or maybe both? Or maybe I just want to test this new approach to life to then ‘come back to the middle’, more balanced approach later on in life. I feel positive about this new journey though. Not ecstatic-happy but contempt and curious.
    According to positive psychology course with Dr Barbara L. Fredrickson, we have more than the feeling of pure happiness to cherish. Here are the top ten positive emotions we have – many of which I genuinely did not consider as positive emotions crucial to my wellbeing! I understand now how I managed to come out of my own depression without much direct help – I have a huge contingency of joy, awe, inspiration, hope and interest, not to mention gratitude. And I think that on the spectrum of my emotional goals I shifted from striving for joy and amusement to serenity more. SERENITY is my goal and when I lose it I am not happy.

    Getting old together


    I think about getting older a lot these days. Sometimes I feel I have lived a million years and many lives already. But then I think it’s not just my life I feel…I spent a few days in Warsaw watching and talking to other women. Women who love and women who loved. Women who are loved and who were loved once. Women who make really difficult choices – all of which are necessary for survival, but something more than that: for living their life fully. Some stories are good, others sad, but they are all connected by one theme: the underlying love not for men but for life itself. Whether it is there or missing they all measure their personal happiness in terms of their own ability to fulfil their own potential to live, provide, plan but also feel the life fully. It’s a grounding exercise to go back to Poland. Each time I go I become more of myself. I see the life sharper, clearer which is not to say I become more practical or pragmatic. Quite the opposite – I find the need to connect with other women who dare. Dare to feel, to seek, to dream more. I hope that as I grow older I will find my way back to those benches where we sit down and share the passion for love – reminding ourselves that life is more than just a great label, a smooth style or a great job. It’s so much more than that.


    The art of being yourself

    For over a month I have been investigating the question which emerged from a simple online test: just because I know myself very well (my body, my mind and my soul) do I actually like myself too? It took me a while. It actually took me longer because my life is like a river – flooding me from all directions and I often can pretty much hardly catch my breath nowadays. And it was that very metaphor that helped me find the answer to my question.

    My philosophical enquiries usually take time but thanks to the social web very often are also fast-tracked by content I stumble upon in my social streams, because I have given all the online algorithms enough to be served with the relevant stuff in return. I started seeing James Bay’s music in my feeds. OK, you would say, he is a bit of a celebrity at the moment. But I started seeing less known songs. I am also not a fan of celebrities. So last night I decided to take a hot bath and listen to his music. I did so after a little online research – checking out his YouTube channel, interviews, social comments and the like. What I got so far was an image of a man who stands his ground in a manner steady enough to avoid styling too much – in each and every video he becomes more of himself. In each and every song the meanings collide – one can someone guess the origins of his lyrics but the truth is: I can relate to each song in my very own way. And I suspect many other listeners can do the same.

    So last night, in my very hot bath, next to my lovely candle, I have almost collapsed into my very deep, own self-listening to James Bay. I could not realise why I like him so much until I noticed something: I can related to what I have discovered of him: integrity, shine in his own kind and actions, uniqueness and steady, strong presence. I used to feel like that about myself. But then I thought: I AM feeling like that about myself now too. I am fully aware of my faults and mistakes, but I am also extremely familiar with my gifts, experiences, strengths and battles I have won so far. Then I thought of love. I have experienced so many types of love…me loving and me being loved. But…but there is one way I love and I am being loved which is pure, unconditional, unrestricted by life, people and all of this world: it is my love for my son and his love for me. Only a mother can understand the extent of that feeling (no offence, gentlemen, I think it’s simple down to the idea of giving life out of our own body that this bond is so strong).

    So, if this is the measurement of real love – I thought – can I, do I love myself in the very same way? I am glad to admit that my conclusion was a yes. Yes, I do. But the problem still exists – for over ten years I have forgotten about that love all together. Normally realisation like that would make me very sad – last night it didn’t.

    I have found a long lost friend. Me. I have remembered.

    I have found a long lost lover. Me. I have remembered.

    I have found a long lost soulmate. Me. I have remembered.

    So today I do not regret those ten years because I have experienced clarity in what made me forget. I know now that my heart was never broken, it was lost, forgotten. I have spent last three years building safety net and walls around me because I was hurt, I suffered, I was often overwhelmed with life but also because I have realised that my purpose is to help people and with this level of vulnerability and lack of resilience I might be very bad at it.

    People came and went.

    Life got in the way too.

    For the last few weeks I started feeling the need to share my daily struggles and my ways of dealing with those…but I didn’t write. I could not find a centre – a starting point. Because I forgot the starting point. And I do not think writing is good if it originates from marginal areas of life. Forgive me, this post is getting long so here is what I have learned:

    We don’t loose our centre, our heart – we forget it; we don’t suffer – we turn a blind eye on happiness which is here, all the time; we don’t manage life – we allow it get in the way. 

    Today I have found a lady who sums it all up in a more witty, extremely intelligent and linguistically superb manner, so just before you classify this post as narcissist (or label it with another currently trendy word), please listen to her and afterwards grab a glass of wine, light a candle, run a hot bath and enjoy being yourself listening to an artists who reminds you who you truly are. That’s what good art is all about – reminding us about the central truths.

    Thank you, thank you for reading.