IMG_2171On a recent trip to Australia, we were walking through the bush, as they call it, when we noticed many trees that were black from fire yet looked healthy beyond words, with shoots bursting out of almost every branch.  Inquiring about this, we learned that they were eucalyptus, or gum, trees, which are known to thrive after being burned by fire. In fact, it is an important part of their life cycle. Eucalyptus trees grow in a near desert- like ecosystem which is razed by fire every few years. They have not only adapted; they have dominated this ecosystem.

This led me to reflect on post-traumatic growth in people:  how the journey of healing from trauma can involve  powerful positive changes.  In psychology, trauma can be broadly defined as anything that causes upset.  Most people have heard of post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD.  A less familiar term that has been more recently coined is “post-traumatic growth”.   Post-traumatic growth can happen instead of, after, or during post-traumatic stress.

Post -traumatic growth is differentiated from resilience, which refers to recovery and return to baseline.  With post-traumatic growth, there are significant and valuable positive changes in a person which occur because of the trauma and result in healing from it.

Many people who have had awful trauma, for example a bad car accident, a near death experience, a serious illness, or being close to someone with one of these life changing experiences, describe a vivid appreciation of life. They report that they are less likely to take simple things for granted.  What a valuable gift!

Another common experience such individuals describe is noticing a change in their sense of priorities.  They can be better able to see the big picture, and discern between what is important, and what isn’t.  They may notice that they are no longer upset by the little things that used to upset them.  They can become better able to handle adversity.  These are also obviously very valuable changes.

As a result of trauma and healing from it, people can gain in self-awareness and self-acceptance, both invaluable.  The struggle with meaning-making that is part of the journey is often very fruitful, often  with greater spiritual development.  The journey of healing from trauma has been described as transformative.

Often, there is recognition of new possibilities or paths for one’s life.  This may involve a sense of purpose with a drive to help others.

On the bumpy journey in the aftermath of trauma, people can develop increased closeness or intimacy in their relationships.  This can be a rich gift that gives life more enjoyment and meaning!

Another common sequela after trauma is an increased sense of personal strength.  This is a powerful sense to live life by, as opposed to the opposite, which is feeling vulnerable.

As people heal from trauma they may develop more compassion for themselves and others.  Compassion is a lovely  energy that is healing to ourselves and others, and fundamentally helps make the world a better place.

Both trauma and post-traumatic stress can be miserable.  So it’s important to recognize that the journey potentially involves invaluable changes, and that the suffering is not meaningless, even though it sometimes feels that way.





Whereas love is necessary and awesome, unfortunately it is not sufficient by itself to make for a healthy-enough relationship where two people can be happy enough.

Beyond love, another thing that a relationship needs in order to work, is trust.  When trust is betrayed, as it sometimes is in relationships, it needs to be repaired and rebuilt.  If there is no hope for rebuilt trust, all the love in the world isn’t going to make up for the essential trust that is needed.

Being able to communicate effectively is another thing that a relationship needs.  To be able to listen, understand, validate, empathize, and apologize are very helpful skills in a relationship, as are being able to express oneself calmly without blame.

Sometimes people find themselves chronically extremely unhappy in an unhealthy relationship but feel compelled to stay in it because “we love each other”.  As well as the love, there needs to be some realistic hope that things can get better with working on it.  Unfortunately, two people can love each other a lot and yet both be miserable together.

There is no relationship, from very dysfunctional to very healthy, that is all good or all bad.  There is always some good, and there is always some bad.  Therefore, being able to identify some good is not a good reason to stay in a relationship that is mostly bad, a relationship where there is no realistic hope of things becoming “good enough”.  Everybody deserves “more than crumbs”.

Because ending a relationship is a big decision, it should not be made impulsively from a place of anger.  Rather, from a calm place, one needs to reflect on the relationship from a distance and with objectivity, to determine if there is realistic hope for things to improve enough, what is needed, and if one has energy to invest on working on it.  This process needs to be repeated over some time; in other words one needs to “sleep on it”.

Some people have trouble ending a relationship because of fear of being on their own.  They often equate being single with being unloveable/unloved.  This is completely untrue.  You are loveable, loved, and good enough whether you are in a romantic relationship or not.  You are whole and complete whether you are in a romantic relationship or not.

Sometimes people stay in a relationship even though they don’t want to stay in it. It may be because of feeling guilty to leave, or fear of hurting the other person.  These, too, are not good reasons for staying in a relationship.  Staying for the wrong reasons can result in more hurt down the road.  You wouldn’t leave a relationship in order to hurt someone.  You would only be going separate ways because you don’t believe you can be happy in that relationship.  Feeling that way does not make you a bad person.  You can communicate in a kind and loving way.  The involvement of pain and sadness does not make a decision a wrong one.  Sometimes, a person doesn’t want to end a relationship unless the partner agrees with him/her.  The partner may be in a different place.  It is OK to agree to disagree.  Again, you are not a bad person to feel the way you do.  It is OK for it to be a unilateral decision.

Long term relationships are always challenging at some time.  One needs a sense of commitment to work through the challenges and difficulties that come along.  As long as there is hope for improvement, it is great to keep working on improving a relationship.  It is an ongoing journey.

Trouble in relationships is a frequent contributor to people’s unhappiness.  Also, trouble in a marriage often negatively affects kids’ wellbeing.  Because your happiness is important, it is worth working on your relationships rather than just letting problems remain unresolved.

Not attending to your relationship on a regular basis is like never doing any maintenance on your car.  It’s not surprising to find either the car or the relationship no longer working down the road. Real relationships are not like those portrayed in Hollywood or fairy tales, where love is enough and they live happily ever after.  Real relationships are challenging and need ongoing work.  There is a Sufi blessing at weddings that goes:  “May your troubles begin”.  This is not a curse, but rather an acknowledgement of reality, with an understanding that with overcoming those troubles, the newlyweds will grow, as will their relationship.

Here are some ways of working on your relationship:  Work on giving your partner what you are needing.  Chances are that your partner is also needing the same things.  And you’ll find yourself getting those things yourself.  Try to be generous of spirit, and do or say loving things.  Express appreciation, even for little things.  Try your best to live by the Golden Rule:  treat your partner the way you would like to be treated.  It is very helpful to communicate your feelings, needs, and requests calmly.

These recommendations are applicable to other kind of relationships as well. Obviously help from a professional is also available.  Professionals are all people and none is the same as another. So if one wasn’t a good fit for you, another one could be.

Contrary to what one might wish, problems do not tend to spontaneously disappear.  Instead, a gulf between two people can grow as unaddressed problems accumulate.  You don’t want to let that happen to you and your relationships. Fortunately there is a great deal you can do to make things much better for you, the other person, and the space between the two of you.



We have all been hurt in relationships, whether it be with our parents, siblings, friends or romantic partners.  Understandably, we have each, at times, been left feeling unloved.

Whereas the other’s action, or lack of action, was indeed hurtful or even unacceptable, the real cause for their behavior was  not that they did not care, as it may have seemed.  The reason for their behavior can better be seen in relation to their own issues and also to the circumstances – the things that influence the space between two people.  Relatedly, dynamics in the relationship, in other words the dance between their issues and yours, can definitely be a factor.

For example, a husband can love his wife very much yet forget their anniversary because of being highly stressed and preoccupied at work.  A partner or parent may be emotionally unavailable because he/she doesn’t know how to be better engaged.  A person with depression may not get something done that his partner has asked for, and may be less interested in sex, not due to lack of love, but due to the depression.  When a parent is repeatedly angry at a child, it is natural for the child to feel unloved, but the problem may be the parent feeling stressed and not coping well, not lack of love for the child.

It is a very important truth to work with that it was not lack of love, because it is good news.  It feels much better to feel loved rather than feeling unloved.  It helps us feel the truth that we are loveable and deserve good treatment.  Just because we got bad treatment does not mean that we deserve it.

People behave badly because of feeling badly.  Their behavior says something about them at that time.   Recognizing a separation between someone’s behavior and our own self worth allows us to be much less upset. This stance encourages us to get unstuck from the past and move on. It makes it easier to forgive, and to repair.  Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, we legitimately should not trust the other person enough and may need to maintain varying amounts of distance.  But with this important truth, we are no longer taking the other person’s behavior personally.  It seems very personal, but it isn’t.



You can explore to find what works for you to be your Perfect Helper.  It can be an angel, or the best part of you that is sometimes referred to as your Higher Self, which you might call whatever works for you, such as your guide, your manager, or Big Your Name.  It can be someone you know or have known, infused with divine qualities, or someone you know of, such as Jesus or Buddah.  It can even be an animal.  Of course, it can be God.

This being is ALWAYS available to you, and only a thought/image away.  As soon as you think of your Perfect Helper, whatever you call him/her, he/she is there for you, with all the wonderful qualities.

What are the qualities of your Perfect Helper?  (For the sake of simplicity, I will use the pronoun she).

She is very very loving, and loves you very much.  She understands you completely.  She is very validating.  She is full of compassion and empathy.  She does not know how to judge.  She is completely accepting.  She is kind, gentle, and tender.  Her patience is infinite.

You know that everything she speaks is totally true, so you know you can trust her.  She speaks with the authority of always speaking the truth, with complete confidence.

She knows exactly what you need, and how to help you.  As well as the love, understanding, validation, and compassion as above, she goes on to give reassurance, encouragement, or guidance as needed.  She completely believes in you, and helps you feel confident.  She is extremely wise, and helps you gain perspective and see things clearly.  She is creative, and full of good ideas, always able to help you with any situation.  She can be playful and have a sense of humor.

She is ALWAYS able to help you, with anything.  Because she loves you so much, she delights in helping you any time.  Remember that she is always available, and only a thought away.

If your body does not quickly relax completely with her help, just watch it and give it the time to continue releasing its tension, so that you can feel completely better.  You are worth that bit of time.

So the next time that you are upset, remember that you don’t have to stay upset.  Help is always available in the form of your Perfect Helper.  Why not take advantage of that and feel better quicker?



Mindfulness is a term which one often hears these days. But what is it exactly? Mindfulness is non-judgemental curious awareness. It happens in the present moment.  In order to really observe or notice things, we need to slow down. To pay attention with curiosity takes a little time, and is well worth it.

Our minds are accustomed to producing thoughts at a rapid rate, so that is the speed that we are used to operating at.  Unfortunately, at that pace, much in the world around us goes unnoticed.

When instead we pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and impulses, in this curious slowed down manner characteristic of mindfulness, we are rewarded with rich understandings and insights. The self-awareness and reflection that is gained is invaluable in personal growth.  They help us change so that we suffer less, and become more the people who we want to be.  The more we live mindfully, at a slower pace, the more we can choose how we act, rather than reacting, then regretting our reactions.  You can imagine how much more skillful and productive communication would be if people remained grounded, mindful, and take the time to choose what they wanted to communicate.

When we pay attention to others in this non-harried way, we notice things that give us valuable information.  This helps us conduct ourselves in more appropriate ways.

When we take the time to pay attention to our environment, there are benefits.  We are safer, because we notice danger and we have our intuition to guide us.  We find ourselves wondering with awe at the beauty and magnificence of nature.  And again, we learn through observation.

It also takes time to notice what is going on in the body, and how it is reacting to various stimuli, which is a huge source of information about ourselves.  In addition, it often takes some time for our bodies to release tension, either on their own, or in response to something positive.  If we slow down and allow the body the time it needs, we are rewarded with finding ourselves in a better state.  This is time very well spent, because the relaxed state is so pleasant, because it affects everything, including how we think, feel, and behave, and because we are cultivating more pleasant and productive habits of being for the future by experiencing it.

When one first starts to slow down, it can feel unnatural, in part because it is unfamiliar.  But what a great skill to have, and to nurture. I encourage you – it is worthwhile to persist as you gain experience in slowing down.



Have you ever visited Waterton Lakes National Park (near the Alberta/Montana border)? The wildflowers are just amazing!  They come in so many breath-taking colors, shapes, and sizes.

We, too, like the wildflowers, come in many variations —  different colors and sizes, and also different religions, levels of education, different illnesses, disabilities, and limitations, different degrees of wealth and poverty, varying athletic abilities, and varying artistic talents.  We also vary a great deal in personalities. There are extroverts and introverts, those who like to plan and those who are more spontaneous, those who are known to be more organized and those who tend to be less organized, those who are fearful and those who are not.  The differences are endless – each individual has different attributes, and each has their own unique sets of strengths and weaknesses.  Nobody is perfect.  Yet we each hold our own special beauty.

Unfortunately, unlike the wildflowers, these differences can result in judgement, conflict, and even war.

Each wildflower, on the other hand, has the space to be who it is, and to grow and develop as it needs to.  All the different wildflowers, including the edible and the poisonous ones, co-exist side by side in peace.

All the different wildflowers create such beauty all together. Photographers travel from around the world to catch the wildflowers in Waterton National Park at their peak. If we could only be more like the wildflowers!  So what if we have differences?  Like them, let us strive to live and let live, accepting ourselves and each other with all our differences.  Nobody needs to be right or wrong – just different.  Maybe we can even celebrate our differences.  The field of wildflowers is all the more striking because of the sharp contrast in colors, shapes, and sizes, which adds richness and variety.  Differences can be challenging, but they can also complement one another, for example one partner’s sense of responsibility together with their partner’s funloving nature.

In its own unique way, despite being asymmetrical or lopsided, each flower is beautiful.  The same is true of each human being, despite our limitations.  Each individual is important and deserving.  Each person should have the freedom to be who they are, and to become what they can be without prejudice, discrimination, danger, or judgement.

Your challenge is to catch yourself judging yourself and others, and to turn that judgement into acceptance and, if appropriate, compassion.  You can use the wildflowers as an inspiring example.




The “Good Mom” is that part of you that does a great job of handling the family, or the different parts of you.  She is very loving, understanding, validating, and empathetic to all family members.  At the same time, she is very wise and always does what is best for the family.  So while she is equally empathetic to the 2 yr old’s upset as he has a temper tantrum as she is to the withdrawn teenager, she does not bow down to their wishes, but sticks to what is best for the family.

Likewise, the “Good Mom” part of you is very understanding, validating, and compassionate to all parts of you.  As well, she knows what is true and reminds you of the truth.  She speaks with authority, and you always trust her because you know that she always speaks the truth.  She is a source of love, validation, understanding, compassion, acceptance, kindness, reassurance, encouragement, truth, wisdom, and guidance.  Her positive regard for you in unconditional.  She knows you better than anyone does.  She sees and honors your goodness.  She is infinitely patient.  She is completely non-judgemental.  She is always available to help you.  She is only a thought away.  When you think “Good Mom”, she is there with her amazing energy.  She can always help you no matter what.

Making use of the “Good Mom” can be transformative.  It can rapidly change things for you and take you from a very bad state to feeling OK.  Imagine that you are in a very negative state.  At these times, we generally feel all alone with our misery.  Then you think:  “Good Mom”.  Suddenly you are no longer feeling all alone.  Now there is someone with you who understands your experience completely, and who cares so much about you.  You feel her compassion and tenderness for you.  Perhaps she gives you a hug, or offers you some touch.  All this feels helps you feel better.  Then she tells you the truth about yourself and the situation that was upsetting you.  She helps you regain perspective and see things clearly.  She gives you whatever you need, whether that be reassurance, encouragement, guidance, strength, empowerment, confidence, courage, or a good idea.  Allow your body time to respond to her loving presence and helpful words.

There are many great things about making use of the “Good Mom”.  One is that she is always available:  anytime anywhere.  Another is how powerful she is:  she can help you no matter how deep in the pit you are and regardless of the type of distress or what it is about.  It doesn’t take long to feel better with her help. There are no “side effects” or other down sides to enlisting her help.  It is a very healing experience which deals with the core issues rather than avoiding them.  When they are temporarily avoided, they are  alive and well, ready to resurface later.  Instead, while you’re healing what is needing attention in the moment, you are investing in your future well-being by feeling important truths, thus making them more familiar to your system.  Also, it is a very empowering experience, because the “Good Mom” is a part of you.  It feels very good to help yourself shift from a bad place to a good place.  Lastly, you can very well see it as a spiritual experience.

Because the “Good Mom” provides healing and relief from your distress, you no longer feel the need to escape with the use of alcohol, drugs, food, electronics, gambling, eating disorder behavior, shopping, or other distractions.

With the help of the “Good Mom”, you are now grounded and are able to feel the way you want to and act in the way you want to, whether that be to accomplish something, enjoy something, or have the conversation calmly that needs to take place.  From this good state, you can see clearly.  You can trust yourself.  You can make good decisions.  Everything is much easier from here.  Life is more enjoyable from here.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing that the “Good Mom” is ALWAYS available to help you?