Finding sense in everyday living
Finding yourself in new life circumstances, like moving to a new country can trigger quite a variety of experiences: from mild confusion, irritability and disorientation mixed with curiosity and excitement to some states of anxiety and/or depressive moods; lack of concentration. We need to remember that the shift into a new cultural setting comes on top of the "regular catastrophe living", that goes on anyway: like tensions in the work place, relationship issues, dealing with the pain of separation, a child undergoing a time of transition, a sick parent in your home country and the car breaking down too. It is usually not the single crisis that overwhelms us but the accumulation of all those individually manageable tasks that may get our life out of liveable shape. So allowing yourself professional support before things fall apart may save you a lot of stress and emotional turmoil.
Here’s an example: A young successful professional from New York finds herself in panic in the middle of Cologne`s Neumarkt. She is shocked, as she is used to handle more complex situations than a crowded square in a German city. A few more unpredictable panic attacks come and go before she sees me in my office. We explore the situations carefully with special awareness on how she senses her body. She learns to listen to small bodily cues and there the connection pops up: it is about a sense of abandonment she physically held from childhood when being left alone in a strange place. We listen to what that sense of abandonment feels like. She senses it as "a panicky tight place" in her stomach. We stay there with our awareness and listen to little steps that come from a bodily knowing. Living in her familiar culture in New York she could compensate successfully, but being left on a square with foreign sounds and images triggered that deep sense of abandonment. So she can discover that with my support, but there is more. By listening in a specific way to more bodily cues coming, she finds a new quality in how to deal with her situation in Germany and she also understands how creative life steps come from listening to the body sense. "It is as if you are in touch with life itself, it’s vast, and you come home to yourself in a very deep way." In learning how to listen deeply to her body with this specific non judgemental open attitude, she taps into an ever present resource.
What we used was Focusing. Eugene Gendlin, Professor for Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Chicago gave the name: he developed it as the teachable essence from successful therapeutic change. Focusing is a door into any change process, be it decision making, working your way out of trauma, learning, creative endeavours or a more embodied spiritual life. It is about sensing the situation at hand. And turning to the sensing we can "make" or "find" sense or meaning in a deeper way than just the level of cognitive, thinking analyses of how things work, like for example life in Germany. By working with the sensing awareness we tap into the vast unconscious bodily processing reservoir, which is older and more inclusive than anything we could consciously know. This is not a New Age belief, but it rather ties in with latest research showing that thinking, rational decision making is not possible without a sound base in feeling. So literally coming to your senses helps thinking become more creative and grounded, as you stop thinking in what can sometimes be destructive circles. Feelings frozen in pain or shock can be softly brought back to life again, especially for people who have been exposed to violence, trauma or loss, helping them to gradually find and recover their inner sense of integrity.
Unfortunately I can only give you a small taste of what I do. My work is psychotherapy as well as coaching and counselling in English and German which I have done for quite a number of years -some of the time as a clinical psychologist in the context of international organisations. I also co-founded the home for battered wives and children in Cologne. Working with expatriates on different levels comes naturally to me. I was born into a multi cultural European family with intense personal, and later professional ties, to the UK and US as well as extensive life experience in Asia. I also teach the process of Focusing (authorised to certify) and facilitate meditative inquiry in my workspace. My heart is in supporting people and myself into finding sense in living…. every day.
Text: Astrid Schillings
Contact Info: Astrid Schillings, Psychologische Praxis, Brüsseler Platz 6, 50672 Cologne
T: 0221-56 25 770, Email: Astrid.Schillings@gmx.de