Q? from the AMA Inbox: Why Can’t I Follow Through with Weight Loss?

Question from the AMA box: I want to lose weight. Why can’t I follow through?

Dear AMA person: This might be the hardest question I’ve had to answer so far from the AMA Inbox. I am not trained or educated in nutrition. Furthermore, the research on how to lose and keep off weight is a vast and contradictory subject with more than one person hacking a ‘snake oil potion’ that promises weight loss nirvana to everyone who will buy the product. It is difficult to know whom or what to trust. I am guessing that these are the very reasons you posed the question.

Many people try diet after diet, endless exercise programs, and/or other lifestyle changes with no discernable change in their weight over time. This has created a burgeoning commercial industry but no reduction in overall rates in what is called ‘obesity epidemic’ in North America. Nor has all our science reduced the human suffering that has travelled alongside the many attempts to lose weight.

Willpower is probably not the problem. Obesity is often viewed through the lens of a lack of willpower; if people just tried harder (or tried at all—so say the shaming messages) they would lose weight, right? Eating less and exercising more over a period of time does work for a few people but, overall, willpower does not explain long plateaus where there is no weight loss despite very little caloric intake, set-points that a person can’t push past, or rapid weight gain after being on a diet despite little change in the overall caloric intake. Therefore, follow-through or willpower might be a red herring in our attempts to lose weight.

Insulin management might be the answer. How does insulin affect calorie use and distribution? Good question. It’s a bit radical to consider that we may have been fed misinformation about the role of calories but Dr. Jason Fung is pretty convincing and seems to have the research to support his ideas.

Create a lifestyle that best supports your mental and physical health and wellbeing. Going on a diet/cheating/starving/gaining-losing/repeat is no way to live your best life. So, begin by creating a way of being that, overall, makes you and your body happy and healthy. You will find it easier to stick to something that supports your values and ethics and has a definable purpose.

Stop the shaming-blaming-naming cycle. You are not bad; food is not bad and you are not a… “insert terrible self-appraisal comment here”. I know our culture is perfect-body, celebrity-beauty, and youth-obsessed but you don’t need to hop on this train. Most human beings will never look like that for very long, if at all, so it is really a train going nowhere good.

Therefore, work on silencing the inner critic in your head and break the unrealistic body image spell. Deeply hold the truth that you are not what others say you are. Weight and character are not equivalent. Beauty and character are not equivalent. Live into self-compassion for your whole self and appreciate what your body can do. Gather some people around you for the changes you want to adopt and add a lot of loving presence via your relationships. It is easier to follow through when you have solid social support.

Also, try not to obsess about calories or consuming empty calories/working off every calorie, monitoring the nutritional impact of every calorie, and so on. Is every calorie used up, accessible in the same way, and stored in the same way by your body? Apparently not! This may be another myth that we are so used to hearing about that we believe it to be unequivocally true. Following through on systems that don’t work doesn’t make sense, so make sure you are accessing information and resources that work for you.

Finally, if you really want to do the diet thing, the Mediterranean diet seems to work slightly better than any other diet and is generally considered a more healthy approach to life in general. This program is easier to follow than others so you might find it is easier to do over the long haul.

Disclaimer: As for any health or wellness information presented, it may not be helpful, safe, or appropriate for every person. Always run everything by your doctor or health professional before you make any changes to any health and lifestyle practices.

The current cultural ideal for a desirable body image is pretty rigidly defined and often carries with it psychological pain if you don’t measure up to what is, largely, an unattainable physical shape. This can create deep frustration and disappointment, self-hatred, public shaming, and a long list of everyday fears and trials that are largely subsumed into a diminished life.

On a personal level, weight management has been a big part of my own life experience and has affected many of my clients, friends, and family members as well. Because of this, I have attempted to offer perspectives about weight management that inspire hope, relieve some suffering, and increase the possibilities for individual flourishing. I hope that these goals will manifest in the life of every reader.

Peace to you and your household,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC
Twitter: @gottasecond
Medium: https://medium.com/@sharivs

Question from the AMA box: Why does my partner give me the “silent treatment”?

Some thoughts about this:

The Silent Treatment

First off, the silent treatment is best understood as being in the same league as solitary confinement in a prison. It’s not nearly as extreme a measure but, nonetheless, it is a form of punishment especially distressful to human beings. Typically, it includes the purposeful withdrawal of contact with another human being (usually a loved one) to establish power and control over the situation and/or the person.

Why Is It So Painful?

The silent treatment punishes someone by ignoring the basic human needs for companionship, affection, and attention. Essentially, the silence breaks down all three of these ways of relating and is very painful for the person on the receiving end. Isolation and shunning typically continue until the other person offers assurances to do what the ‘silencer’ wants. If you can remember being frozen out of a conversation or out of a group at a party or meeting, you know what the silent treatment feels like.

Motives and Ethics

So why do people use this type of behaviour on other human beings?

This is a complex subject but here are a few questions that might unearth some motives or purposes. Does the silent treatment…?

  • Uphold a relationship or uphold someone’s rights (or self-righteousness)?
  • Increase the flourishing of others or the diminishment of others?
  • Create meaningful change or confer a stubborn challenge?
  • Construct a healthy relationship or destruct a meaningful connection?
  • Heal hurts and wounds or give one of you the upper hand?
  • Make things go right or make things go a certain way?

Furthermore, if you are ever tempted to use the silent treatment…

  • What is your end goal?
  • What will it take for you to break the silence?
  • What will the silence do for you or your relationship?

Silence As a Treatment

We cannot forget this basic premise: the silent treatment is a ‘treatment’—it is not in the same realm as inattention, nor is it a dedicated time away to collect one’s thoughts when one feels psychologically overwhelmed. If that were the case, the treatment would end in a few hours at most with meaningful connection (it usually doesn’t).

Rather, the silent treatment is most often used as a way to make a statement about who will win and who will lose in a conflict between two people. Silence can be held for days or even weeks (in extreme cases) if a person is motivated enough to keep ensuring that his or her point is still being made.

Going Forward

My overarching ethical belief is that I (we) should treat every person with dignity and respect, upholding each person’s inherent value and need for connection. Along with that, I believe that each person should be able to access his or her own agency, shared power, and privilege, especially in intimate relationships. The silent treatment doesn’t fit with ideas about how to work with our humanity and vulnerabilities.

To the person who asked this AMA question:
Ask your spouse (or friend) to consider other coping strategies for working through difficulties, ones that increase connection, belonging, and flourishing for both of you. By all means, take a time out if either of you are fired up about something and revisit the area of conflict as much as you need to in order to resolve it…but return to the conflictual conversation when you are both calmer with your prefrontal cortex (your reasoning, analyzing, prioritizing brain area) firing again and the promise of a healthy relationship a priority.

Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

Twitter: @gottasecond

The Inner Critic in Your Head

Most of our conversations happen in our heads—only a small percentage of our words are spoken, although we all know people who would swing on either side of this continuum. The rest of our words run through our heads in a constant stream of thoughts, questions, factoids, nonsensical impressions, and sensory information. There’s a lot of chattering going on in between our ears but only some of it reaches our conscious awareness.

For some people, probably many, there is a running monologue that can be a bit bossy and harsh (aka, the inner critic). This is the thought dictator who tells us everything we are doing wrong, how we always screw things up, that people don’t like us, that we sound weird, that people are either staring at us or ignoring us—basically, there can be a whole litany of failure-talk and negativity and all of it is on repeat.

Where Does the Inner Critic Come From?

A couple of ideas: it might have started as a survival response or a safety mechanism i.e. your brain’s way of working through a threat (perceived or real) at some point in your childhood or adolescence. Maybe there was a harsh caregiver or tough teacher or you were bullied or shy or awkward or maybe you experienced a traumatic event or were shamed by loved ones. It’s a skewed way of thinking that probably isn’t related to a mental health diagnosis but can be, nevertheless, destructive and debilitating.

Threatening Ourselves

Keeping track of potential dangers is the job of your limbic system, the most primal part of your brain. Think of it as a smoke detector, which is an early warning system for a potential danger. It’s meant to warn you, to get you in position to fight, run, or freeze and survive the threat.

However, the threat system can stay activated a bit, or a lot, even after the metaphorical fire has been put out. Ongoing stressors, whether they come via externally or internally, can wreak havoc with our thought patterns. Add to childhood or adolescent factors the current difficulties—insomnia, harsh living conditions, relationship problems, traumatic memories, illness or chronic pain—and you have a lot of threatening situations, at least to your brain.

Stress and the Inner Critic

If you are experiencing ongoing stressors, it’s like the smoke detector keeps warning you over and over to take action, to do something, to hurry up with the answer to the problem. If the threat isn’t resolved, your limbic system stays fired up in a chronic state of readiness that keeps pumping out stress hormones and scanning for everything unusual, unpleasant, or undesirable in your environment and in your memory banks.

What Are You Saying to Yourself?

Over time, this can result in some ways of relating to your self that are decidedly harsh and punitive. The inner critic can become a tyrant and monopolize our conscious thinking. And we often don’t become aware of these negative conversations or think of it as an unusual way of being until someone else points it out. People might point out: “You are really hard on yourself” or “Don’t beat yourself up all the time.”

What’s Next? How Do I Break This Way of Thinking?

How can you talk to yourself differently? Very briefly: begin by reducing your stressors, healing your hurts, and having different conversations with yourself. Be kind and generous and compassionate when you are distressed. View yourself through the lens of a shared humanity with everyone else when you stumble and fall. Seek out reasons to like yourself and catch yourself doing things right. Fill your mind with what is good and beautiful and inspiring. Live mindfully and in the present as best you can. Argue with your inner critic. It isn’t the boss of you, not really.

If you want to consider more practices and components of a more compassionate way to live, refer to the article entitled: Self-Compassion: An Antidote for Shame.   If intrusive thoughts are more problematic for you, refer to the article on trauma entitled Trauma (Part 1): What is Trauma And What are Its Effects?

Peace to you and your household,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

Twitter: @gottasecond

Self-Compassion: An Antidote for Shame


Shame: it is one of the most painful human emotions but we have an antidote:

Introducing Self-Compassion to Shame

Self-compassion neutralizes the idea that you are a “bad person” and normalizes the experience of setbacks and disappointments encountered in life. It allows you to balance out the lights and shadows in your life and restores you to a more peaceful and compassionate understanding of yourself.

Self-compassion is a more generous, empathic, and respectful way to dialogue with yourself. “Beating yourself up” and keeping secrets is a common way to respond to shame but is typically counterproductive and it tends to burden and isolate us further.

To dislodge shame, a concerted effort is needed, one that moves us forward into healthier and more helpful ways of thinking about ourselves. Consider trying a few of the practices below to quiet the inner critic and access your innate value, potential, and goodness—the beauty of every human being. If it is possible, engage with trusted friends or a counsellor to obtain support for this new way of dialoguing about yourself.

Practicing Self-Compassion

  • Learn to Process as You Go. Notice and process distress (not engaging in denial or dissociation practices).
  • Mindfully Accept All Emotions. Be aware of and accept painful thoughts and feelings; allow them to ebb and flow (not minimizing or maximizing difficulties).
  • Engage in Learning, Not Judgment. Learn from your experience (not overly critical of your situation or behaviour).
  • Be Empathic To Distress. Understand the source of your distress and do what is necessary or helpful to alleviate it (not remaining in the painful story).
  • Offer Kindness to Harshness. Offer understanding, generosity, and kindness in the face of failure or setbacks (not harsh judgment or undue criticism).
  • See Yourself in Your Shared Humanity. View your experiences as part of being human (not believing that it is unique or worthy of isolation practices).
  • Stay Deeply Connected. Offer warmth and emotional connection to others (not punishing or freezing yourself out of relationships).
  • Convey Security. Express your capability for weathering strong emotions (not devaluing your own efforts and abilities).
  • Understand your body’s threat system and brain functions under stress.
  • Plan strategies to cope with and avoid external triggers or threats.
  • Mindfully and compassionately accept emotions and the sensory information associated with memories.
  • Reframe the story with self-compassion and empathy and include other parts of the overall narrative. Your friends and family can help with this.
  • Increase your sense of safety or comfort by making changes to your physical or psychological environment.
  • Practice meditations and visualizations to decrease stress and threat system activation.
  • Increase social support and self-esteem by joining others in talking and working through shame narratives.
  • Increase genuine concern for your own well-being and let others care for you when they offer.

I sincerely hope these practices of self-compassion will assist you in deconstructing shame in your life and constructing a more hopeful and happier future.

Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

Twitter: @gottasecond

Why Do People Talk About Others Behind Their Backs?

A Question In My AMA (Ask Me Anything) Inbox:

Why do people talk about others behind their backs and not to their face?

Answer: I canvassed about 35 people to get a bit of perspective on this. Here is what people said about the good, the bad, and the ugly reasons people had for talking behind a person’s back (TBPB).

The Good: TBPB is often not about intentionally hurting or diminishing others. People may be trying to…

  • Process their feelings with a trusted friend
  • Seek a resolution or a new perspective, including a positive one
  • Sort out how to have a future, follow-up conversation
  • Identify their own vulnerabilities, motivation, and role
  • Elicit some encouragement
  • Prevent the loss of a friendship or compromising it
  • Clarify what has been said or done and the various ideas possible
  • Avoid a future conflict or misunderstanding
  • Stop the spreading of rumours
  • Vent annoyances or frustrations that they can’t talk about directly

The Bad: But TBPB can be about hurting others if a person wants to…

  • Feel powerful or exert control that is less public (witnessed)
  • Be spiteful, spread rumours, or share secrets to ‘get back’ at others
  • Divulge their experience, even if it degrades or vilifies the other person
  • Indulge their own insecurities by:
    • Encouraging “negative” sharing or gossip
    • Joining into negativity to secure a place in the ‘inner circle’
    • Complaining about others to feel better about themselves
    • Ensuring others know and appreciate their ‘victim’ status
    • Creating divisions and forcing others to take sides

The Ugly: But TBPB might be more about one (or both) of you who…

  • Is fiercely protecting their own position and is ‘deaf to difference’.
  • Won’t have a conversation unless they win and you lose
  • Doesn’t want to hear about how or why change might be good or necessary
  • Prefers passive aggression to actual aggression toward you

Know Your Role

The difficulty with TBPB is to recognize ourselves in the ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ side of it. We believe we are right or we have a right to say what we want when we want. And we are complex beings with mixed motives and paradoxical mindsets. However, a quick way to dig into this is to ask yourself what you will gain and lose by having these discussions. Basically, what’s the end game, or the goal, for all this talking?

Share, But Maybe Not Everything

Not everything that can be said should be said.

A wise woman once said this to me a couple of decades ago and I have tried to live out this wisdom ever since, with varying degrees of success. But—I find that I am most likely to engage in TBPB when I am feeling insecure or powerless and need to establish a sense of control. When I am settled, secure, and safe within my own life context, I find that I listen more and speak less. I don’t think this is a co-incidence or a one-off experience and maybe this tendency resonates for you as well.

Try This Experiment

Speak less (or not at all) about a person who has wronged you when everything in you wants to share all the juicy details. See if any anxiousness or distress comes up for you, any sense of entitlement, or even a desire to hurt or even a score. Then dig in and discern what might be going on with you (besides that the fact that there is this intolerable person who is making your life miserable). Then, deal with that before you dish it out.

Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

Twitter: @gottasecond

Abortion: Difficulty with Death (Part 3 of 3)

For those who would find the topic of abortion too difficult to engage with, please refrain from reading further. As well, you might find it helpful to speak to a health professional or a friend.

The topic of abortion is often discussed within the context of political, theological, or ideological belief systems but for the purposes of this discussion I would like to position it within the framework of the human experience, grief, and loss.

Regardless of the reasons for or against abortions, many people will, nevertheless, experience deep grief and loss as a result of one. This may occur around the time of the abortion or many years later, and the person, their partner, and/or friends and family members may all experience significant loss.

While this is not everyone’s experience or understanding of an abortion, in counselling, we always begin where the client is situated. We talk about grief if they are experiencing it. We talk about conflicting feelings and emotions if they have them. We talk about how to identify and integrate the ideas and expectations about abortions within relevant contexts and possibilities if that’s helpful. And for some people, we talk how to grieve when you can’t discuss it with your family, partner or faith community.

As stated before, this is a complex subject fraught with big emotions and posturing so the first step in counselling is to offer non-judgemental, no-agenda, empathic witness and compassionate presence. Listening, with the intent to hear and understand, is often the biggest gift we can offer. Often, a client will say that this is the first time they have ever told anyone about the abortion; they have had additional pain by keeping it a secret.

Generally, there has been, or the fear is that there will be, harsh judgment, moralizing, and shaming. They may be experiencing any number of emotions (e.g., shame, regret, fear, relief) that have manifested in anxious or depressive symptoms, relationship difficulties, or problematic ways of living. Listening, therefore, is an important first step in the process of healing.

After a time of supportive listening, the next step might be to enter into grief work. For this, we generally turn to the ethics of re-membering, that is, bringing the loved one back into (or beginning to bring a loved one into) an ongoing relationship. Some re-membering conversations about the loss might include the following questions:

  • How did this decision protect your marriage/other children/other situations?
  • What values, hopes, dreams did you hold about your child?

We then will move into co-creating practices, rituals, and remembrance ceremonies for the loss, if this seems helpful, and learn how to integrate the loss into the present and the future.

If this sounds difficult, confusing, and painful—it is! Grief work is very hard and it usually takes longer than we would have ever imagined. However, joining together with someone—who is for you and with you—to work through any kind of suffering will, ultimately, lessen the pain and bring health and healing.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this topic or if reading this post has awakened some grief for you.

Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

Twitter: @gottasecond

Suicide: Difficulty with Death (Part 2 of 3)

The subject of death is a sensitive subject to write about in a public forum and I believe there is therapeutic value in discussing difficult topics. However, if you are currently suffering or grieving about a loved one’s suicide, use caution in reading this post and please seek professional counsel if needed. If you are experiencing grief or trauma, there are links to resources in the post, google suicide prevention, or phone 911.

Death is rarely welcome in our lives and our Western culture typically has great difficulty knowing how to respond to it. While other cultures have specific rituals and periods devoted to grief (e.g., sitting in shiva for seven days), Canadians, if they are fortunate, will receive three bereavement days off of work. More often than not, the message is: quickly get back to work or back to your “normal” life.

The navigation of grief and loss can be even more confusing and difficult if the death was a result of suicide. There are many beliefs about suicide, that it is a ‘sin’ or a ‘cop-out’ or a betrayal of trust or a friendship. There can be additional trauma for loved ones who “find” the person who suicided or who “didn’t see the signs” and now feel heartbroken about their actions or lack of action.

One of the ways we talk about death in counselling is to ask questions about the relationship the client has with the person that died, such as:

  • What kind of person was s/he?
  • What was s/he good at and bad at?
  • What stories do you have about her or him?
  • How do you want this relationship to continue?

We talk about the person’s beliefs and values about suicide, which typically include the ongoing influences of culture, faith, and family norms and rules. We talk about creating or maintaining grieving and memorial practices and rituals. We talk about strong emotions, including anger, shame, horror, resentment, and frustration and we talk about how to speak about the suicide (or not) with others, including one’s children, friends, or co-workers.

In counselling, yes, we talk—but we also might sit in silence, weep, look at photos, or engage in creative exercises. We give importance to the process of grieving over time, giving as much time and freedom to grief work as is needed. Most importantly, we bear witness to human suffering and offer simple presence, empathic listening, and compassionate alongside-ness.

Important: If you or someone you know is talking about suicide or is at risk to themselves or others, talk about it with a health professional. Call 911 or seek mental health assistance right away (see below for helpful links). Don’t go it alone and don’t wait.

Peace to you and your household,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

Twitter: @gottasecond


SAFER (1-604-675-398): https://crisiscentre.bc.ca/mental-health-and-suicide-services-2/

Suicide Information by province in Canada: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/

Suicide Information by state in USA: http://suicideprevention.wikia.com/wiki/USA


Miscarriages and Stillborn Babies: Difficulty with Death (Part 1 of 3)

Death is rarely welcome in our lives and our Western culture typically has great difficulty knowing how to respond to it. We likely haven’t had any good models in our lives about how to grieve. Those around us don’t know what to say or do because there are so few rituals to engage in and we are so reluctant to intrude in the “privacy” of others.

The death of child is especially tragic and heart wrenching and losing a child through miscarriage or a stillbirth can be difficult to grieve for a lot of reasons. These deaths are often never talked about, are swept aside by loved ones, or rarely mentioned after a short period of time.

Well-meaning people will sometimes inadvertently discount the death: “You can have more children“; or, “You have two healthy children already.” These types of comments suggest that the child never lived, were never given “person” status, or that their lives didn’t matter. The message is: move on; this event (life) wasn’t that important.

One of the ways I talk about death in counselling is to ask questions about the relationship the client has with the person that died. For parents, I will ask questions about their non-living child in the same way I would ask about any living child.

We begin with the stories of the pregnancy and continue to the experience of the present and hopes for the future relationship. By re-membering (that is, making the child a member of the family again—or a member for the first time), we are creating space for a rich relationship to grow and continue between parents, children, and families. Here are a few questions we might discuss in a counselling session.

Remembering the Beginnings

  • What are some moments of remembering and connection in your experiences of being pregnant?
  • What might the child say about your love for him/her while in utero?

Re-Membering the child: The Current Relationship to Your Child

  • What kinds of practices or conversations do you do to continue your relationship with your child (e.g., special celebrations, traditions)?
  • How are you refusing or resisting other people’s messages or discourses to “let go” or “move on”? What might your child say about you and your position?

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this topic or if reading this post has awakened some grief for you.

Peace to you and your household,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

Twitter: @gottasecond

My deepest thanks to Lorraine Hedtke & Helena Grau Kristensen (2016) for their work in this area and the understanding they have provided. Adapted 2017, by Second Story Counselling. Lorraine Hedtke & Helena Grau Kristensen (2016). TC13 Workshop: Still Alive.

Sleeping with Parasomnias

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder; it affects 30% of North Americans and can cause a many difficulties beyond persistent exhaustion, like weight gain or an increase in accidents.

But there are a lot of other types of sleep problems called parasomnias just as debilitating as insomnia (and, no, I’m not talking about the arrival of an infant in your home). Parasomnias are grouped into a category of abnormal behaviours or physiological events associated with sleep, sleep stages, or sleep-wake transitions. Here is a brief description of some of the more common iterations that you or a friend might have experienced.

Nightmare Disorder: repeated occurrence of frightening dreams, which typically focus on imminent physical danger or personal failure.

  • Occur during REM sleep later in the night and happen frequently
  • Most people will have difficulty falling back asleep after this type of dream
  • Generally cause significant subjective distress due to the detailed recall of frightening images and story lines
  • Are strongly correlated [i.e., have a relationship] with depressive and anxious symptoms and are more common in children and women

Sleep Terror Disorder: these are nightmares or scary dreams characterized by abrupt awakenings that begin with a panicky scream or cry and include incoherent vocalizations.

  • Typically occur within the first third of a sleep cycle.
  • Are accompanied by intense fear and difficultly in awakening
  • There is an inability or great difficulty in being comforted by a co-sleeper
  • The episode is not remembered in the morning
  • Associated with psychopathology in adults (e.g., PTSD)
  • Highly correlated with a family history of sleep terrors or sleep walking
  • More common in male children but are equally common in male and female adults

Sleepwalking and Sleeptalking Disorder: repeated episodes of motor behaviour or talking during sleep

  • Occur in the first third of night
  • The person, although seemingly awake, is unresponsive to others but can often talk and do simple tasks well
  • There is some confusion and difficulty re-orienting to the waking state, which will take several minutes to a half hour to occur
  • Psychosocial stressors, fever, alcohol, and sedative use can increase sleepwalking
  • Sleepwalking can occasionally lead to violent episodes, sleep-eating, and sleep-sex in adults
  • Quite common for children: 10-30% will have at least one episode
  • The peak occurrence of sleepwalking is at age 12 and a positive family history of it increases the odds for other family members
  • For adults: 1-7% will experience at least one occurrence in their lifetime

Parasomnia NOS (Not Otherwise Specified):

REM sleep behaviour disorder: motor activity of a violent nature

  • Occurs during REM sleep later in the sleep cycle
  • Characterized by total dream recall
  • People who have been violent in their sleep will remember it as a dream

Sleep paralysis: inability to perform voluntary movement during period between sleeping and waking.

  • Being fully awake but unable to move your body can be an intensely fearful and anxiety-provoking experience
  • Terrifying images and hallucinations can accompany the ‘paralysis’
  • Can last for a few minutes to a half hour, and sometimes even longer
  • It is thought that this occurs when your REM sleep has finished but the mechanism that ‘paralyzes your body’ during REM sleep (so you don’t live out your dreams) does not shut off appropriately during the first while of awakening
  • Very common in adults; between 20-60% of people have experienced this
  • Anxiousness and depressive symptoms may increase the risk, as does shift-work and alcohol use.

If you have experienced one or more of these sleep disrupters, I would recommend that you speak to a doctor and arrange for a sleep test. It will reveal a lot about your overall sleep architecture, sleep problems, and will provide some strategies for reducing anything that’s interrupting restful sleep on a regular basis. As well, many parasomnias are correlated with other psychological factors like depressive and anxious symptoms or even childhood trauma. So, it is important to check it out with a health professional.

Good sleep for you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

Twitter: @gottasecond

A Grief Re-Membered

This is a simple practice of remembrance of a person you have lost–whether by death or by absence.  It re-members the person within your circle of important people, effectively bringing them back into the relationship you have with him or her to the present tense; it does not relegate the relationship to the past, forgotten as our culture seems to dictate.  This is because we typically carry the remembrance of them with us and their influence is in some way subtle or powerful, but is not erased.

Our loved ones do not vanish out of our consciousness after they stop breathing or interacting with us; they continue to speak to us and inform our present–sometimes in surprising ways.  If you are missing someone, this is one way to honour and re-member the relationship with your loved one as perpetual and life-giving to your present experience.

First, we can say “Thank you”.

Think about the person and the positive qualities and influence they held in your life. If you could sit with them right now, what could you thank them for? What do you appreciate most about them? How was the world positively changed by them being in it?

  • For who you are (what I know and love about you)
  • For the light you bring into this world and my heart
  • For the influence you had and are still having on me
  • For the influence you bring into our family and others
  • For the role you have…

Next, we can say “I Love You”.

Think about how the person is loved (was loved) and how you could express your love to them (writing, singing, creating). What is it about them that you especially appreciate or enjoy? What do you especially miss?

  • I love this about you
  • I love you because…
  • Others love this about you
  • You bring love into the world by…
  • I miss this about you…

Peace to you and your household in 2017,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC
Twitter: @gottasecond

To get more info or schedule an appointment

How to Get Here

1321 Blanshard Street
Victoria, BC
V8W 0B6