What is the Process?
Various things happen on multiple levels when we meet. There is the relational aspect- learning from the experience of being in a relationship with me and trying out different ways of being. There are ‘cognitive insights’ that will bring you a new perspective and many ‘aha’ moments. There are the experiential activities we do, that change things not just on an intellectual level but in a deep and emotional way. There can also be homework and behavioural strategies we practise. Apart from being informed by psychology, I also like to synthesise Eastern and Western philosophies and spiritual modalities such as Buddhism and the Enneagram, as well as well-founded psychology tools like Schema. I also employ creative and intuitive methods such as Art and Poetry, Jungian Coaching, Dream Analysis, and Shadow Work.
In regards to the process, I will first formulate an understanding of your difficulties through an integrative model, and then I use a combination of techniques in the process with you. Still, the best way is to get to know you and find out what best resonates with you- for instance, some people prefer a more intellectual way of working whilst others get more benefits from experiential or intuitive ways of working.
But consulting is not just about these techniques- after all, you can read them in a book! It is about the relational space we create together and giving you an embodied experience of something new. There is a difference between ‘downloading’ skills and theories versus learning and growing in a relationship.
I may give you creative homework and reflective exercises designed to help you consolidate the insights and progress we make within the sessions. For example, I may ask you to bring in photographs, doodles or some form of diary notes. Nothing is mandatory, however. It all depends on what you are comfortable with. For more information on some of these activities, please see the Online Portal.
On top of ‘fire-fighting’ imminent issues, the aim of this work is to make changes to the deep-seated life patterns that cause similar problems to come up again and again in your life. This process can create lasting change because it looks below the surface and addresses core psychological and emotional roots.
Our focus is on helping you move towards living a full life. Alongside discussions about your inner psychology, we will also talk pragmatically about your day-to-day habits and performance, career path, life goals, and relationship fulfilment.
You are in the driver’s seat. Sharing ideas and knowledge with you is a core part of our journey. Ultimately, I hope that you will be equipped with the necessary skills and capacity that will allow you to take charge.
(If you are struggling with severe mental illnesses, are suicidal, or require significant psychiatric input, please make sure you have support in place and know that this could not replace your major mental health care. )
My original training was in mental health, psychotherapy and art therapy. This training has deeply influenced my thinking. To understand what causes what you are going through, I may have ideas in the back of my mind that come from Psychodynamic theories, family systems theories, Jungian ideas and systems thinking.
Being psychodynamic in my thinking means I believe in getting to the roots of your current challenges and the power of insights as a proponent for change. We want to create a safe and non-judgemental space for you to explore how you might be projecting ideas from the past onto your current relationships, and how that affects how others relate to you. We will look at some survival strategies you have adopted, and see how they have served you and how they may hold you back. By freeing you from emotional burdens from the past, it is hoped that you would be freed to reach your creative potential in the future.
Please note that whilst I may use psychodynamic theories to understand your past and present, I do not practise classical psychoanalysis. This means it will not be a ‘blank-slate approach. ( This is when the therapist holds back from facial expressions or saying anything, in order to encourage projections from the client) I will provide feedback and insights, and we will have a back-and-forth. Sometimes, if I think it would be beneficial to you, I may disclose something about myself, and you will get to know more about me as a person.
Jungian theories also inform a big part of my thinking; ideas such as the Persona, Shadow, and Individuation help me understand your challenges and how to move forward. We may also employ creative techniques to explore your unconscious and look at the symbolic meaning of your dreams and emotional landscape. (For more on Jung, here are interviews I did with Jungian Analyst James Hollis and Gary Trosclair.)
Systemic and Family System Theories
Psychodynamic theories help us understand what is happening inside of us, but we deal not only with the intra-psychic but also the interpersonal. This is when System theories come in. The fact is that we do live amongst others, so how relationships play out in different groups (family, friendship groups, workplace, political and cultural systems) will inevitably have an impact.
For example, as a sensitive and intense person, you might have been unconsciously ‘elected’ by your family to take on the role of a caretaker, the ‘capable one” who is not allowed to break down. Or, on the contrary, you were framed as the family scapegoat or black sheep. These roles would have impacted your view of yourself, and subsequently, your ability to achieve happiness and success today.
Taking on a system theory perspective, we will identify deeply entrenched patterns in your relationships, as well as the role you have taken on within systems. Usually, we tend to carry one set of patterns and apply that to most aspects of our lives, so understanding your family dynamic, for example, may help us resolve problems in your work and in your marriage.
Sometimes, talking through things is enough, but certain experiential exercises can reinforce our insights and hopefully help you shift on an emotional, embodied level. Activities such as visual imagery, journaling, and role-play may be used. The goals of them are to allow you to get to know different parts of yourself and integrate them, so you feel fewer inner conflicts. I may give you homework with the same goal of helping you to integrate your shadows and become more self-actualized.
Using Our Relationship
It turns out, that many of us often repeat dysfunctional relational patterns from the past. You may notice yourself repeating specific behaviours or emotional patterns in many of your relationships, such as being a people-pleaser, being competitive, having the tendency to ‘push-pull’, idealizing others initially, then being disappointed later, etc. You may also have certain life scripts (e.g. ‘I am not lovable’, ‘people eventually get annoyed with me as I am too much’) that pervasively affect how you interact with other people. This tendency is known as repetition compulsion.
People often feel an inner compulsion, bypassing logic, to repeatedly expose themselves to conditions reminiscent of the original hurt. A cliche example would be how we are always eerily attracted to people who resemble our parents or treat us like our parents do. This happens partly because, as humans, we all seek familiarity. We may also repeat the same pattern because we have internalized ideas about how we deserve to be treated. At the core of this repetition is actually your deep desire to thrive— you want to repeat the same beginning but have a better ending.
One of the biggest goals of our relationship is to offer you a safe place to discuss what keeps you stuck and how to help you move forward. In an ideal situation, through authentic exchange and even a few ruptures and repairs, you get to internalize a new experience about who you are and how others see you. This is a process that requires commitment on both parts and is not easy. After all, if you have been hurt or betrayed, feeling raw again with another person is exactly what frightens you. But what is the most bitter is also the best medicine. When done well, this is one of the most potent change agents there is.
Changing through experience is essential and powerful because often, intellectual insight alone is not enough. This is something that underlies whatever it is that we ‘do.’ Essentially, by having a relational experience, hardwired neuropathways in our brain can be rewired. This has now been validated by abundant research.
In a nutshell, a productive and solution-oriented experience can potentially you a powerful, first-hand experience that challenges distorted self-beliefs and behavioural patterns that were residual of your past hurts and limitations. It opens the doorway to building secure and stable relationships with people in your life, and more peace and freedom.
There will be days when you feel too alone, your baggage feels too heavy, and the journey seems too long.
These are the times to focus on nothing but the next smallest step, simply putting one foot in front of the other.
More than a decade ago, I received a Master in Mental Health from The School of Medicine at the University of Queensland, Australia; through this training, I obtained a solid understanding of most mental health diagnoses and how to work with them. Although I am no longer working within the mental health system, this training has been invaluable in helping me understand human psychology. Later, I wished to add a spiritual dimension to my work and my understanding of the work, so I pursued a Master in Buddhist Studies. It was not an easy journey but I am glad to have dabbled in this school of ancient wisdom. I feel it has given me an enriched understanding of human suffering and ways to alleviate it.
After Buddhism, I pursued a Certificate in Jungian Studies and continue to integrate what I have learned to add a spiritual dimension to my work.
In the years of practising as a therapist, I have pursued training in various modalities, and many of them are integrative and highly adaptable. Mainly, I am trained in Schema Therapy (which combines psychodynamic thinking with gestalt technique and behavioural change strategies), Mentalization-based Treatment Practitioner (which brings together aspects of psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural, systemic and ecological approaches), Philosophical Counselling (I am trained in Logic-based Therapy, a philosophical variant of rational emotive behaviour therapy), and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (combining Buddhist wisdom with somatic elements and cognitive therapy).
(For more about my training and background, please see here)
What Happens in These Sessions?
Although the process is often organic and non-linear, categorizing the change process into the following phases might help clarify what actually happens in the work.
Phase 1: Getting to know your blockages
To start, we will try to understand what it is that troubles you and stops you from being your best self. We will work towards identifying some of your old survival strategies, behaviours, or thinking patterns that no longer serve you. For example, in your subconscious, there might be mind-imagery, specific memories, and deep feelings around certain beliefs: ‘People will always betray me in the end,’ ‘I can never trust anyone,’ ‘I do not fit in anywhere.’ In your attempts to lessen your pain, you might have developed destructive habits or self-sabotaging patterns.
If you have been through therapy or counselling before you may have come across references to them as ‘Defences’, ‘Negative Automatic Thoughts’, ‘Life Traps’, ‘Maladaptive Schema’, ‘Inner Critic’, ‘Negative self-talk’ etc. To keep things simple, I call them ‘Blockages’. And since they take a wide variety of forms based on who you are and your personal history, I will work with you to design and prioritize your goals.
During this phase, we shall work together to better understand the parts of you that you do not like or want, and you will begin to feel your inner tension and conflict softening. For example, I might start by asking you to make more concrete this inner destructive force: If your inner critic were a person, what would they be like (man/woman, what would they sound like, look like, etc)? Does your inner criticism come in a particular shape, size, form, or colour? What bodily sensations do you get when feeling shame? Could you draw it on a piece of paper?
Phase 2: Bouncing Back and Integrating
Once we have identified your blockages, we will learn how to manage and, in some cases, transform these challenging parts of you. We aim to lessen the times when you feel overwhelmed, so you do not have to resort to avoidance or compensatory behaviours (overeating, overspending, and other destructive habits). We want to integrate the more vulnerable parts of ourselves, rather than rejecting them, and at the same time mind the undisciplined, rageful, and destructive part of ourselves, and tame or transform our inner critic.
Lasting change requires not only an intellectual understanding but also a relational experience. We will try to access some of your blockages through experiential processes such as visual imagery or homework assignments. This step is potentially life-changing, but can also be the most challenging. I will do my best to make sure that you have full control over the process and are free to go at a pace that feels safe for you.
Phase 3: Building Your Internal Strengths to Sustain Lasting Changes
Our biggest goal is to build a solid sense of self for lasting resilience in all aspects of your life. Through a series of solution-focused questions and exploration, we may look at how you can gain inner strength, and take care of yourself — Practically, Emotionally, Interpersonally, and Spiritually. By fully internalizing and integrating these new capacities, we hope that you will be able to manage your emotions, behaviours and relationships over the long run, even after finishing a course of coaching.
– Practical: Managing the balance between burn-out and bore-out; Learning to self-soothe; Lifestyle support; Life structuring; Learning to say no; Navigating work politics; Strategies on building your own creative career.
– Emotional: Befriending different emotions; Riding emotional storms and Managing destructive behaviours
– Interpersonal: Living authentically; Honouring your values; Communicating your needs assertively; Having your deep desires heard, Being seen and received as your true self
– Spiritual: Learning to trust life; Tapping into your creative resource; Finding your place in the world
Phase 4: Moving Towards Your Full Potential
I hope that you can find a place in the world where you are not just tolerated, but celebrated. Remember, you are highly, but not overly, intense and sensitive. By this phase, I should know you well enough to work with you to find your strengths based on your personality and unique personal story. We can work towards maximizing your potential by getting in touch with your gifts.
I deeply honour your deep yearning to be seen and heard as who you are, and by finding the right stage for your audience, the right channel for your gifts. We do this by tapping into the seed of your creativity and channelling your existential angst into a sense of mission and purpose.
As you step into embracing your unique qualities, I hope you can learn to trust your unique ways of relating to the world and be able to connect to what you have to offer. Themes such as authentic existence, the meaning of life, and the purpose of being come to the foreground of awareness, as you embark on the journey towards self-actualization. Furthermore, I want you to build a life around your values so you do not struggle with inner conflicts that pain your soul. The work in this aspect may also include practical ways to increase productivity and optimize your health, in order to facilitate your creativity. This may involve learning from artists and others who have achieved success in life.
In a Nutshell
To recap, our goals include, but are not restricted to the following:
1. Knowing your personal history and patterns well enough that when you fall back to old survival strategies or mind traps, you can wake up in reactivity and not let it run the show.
2. Knowing your emotions well enough that when they come up you can recognize, name, and know what to do with them.
3. Being able to stay connected with others whilst being true to yourself.
4. Being empathic with others without losing your personal boundaries.
5. Knowing your unique strengths and gifts in order to live a fuller life.
We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us
– Joseph Campbell
The Path from Healing to Thriving
People who identify with being emotionally intense and sensitive tend to experience their day-to-day life more vividly and deeply.
As an intense person, you face a set of unique challenges. New research has recognized the differences in the way intense people perceive and process information. They tend to react more strongly to physical and emotional pain in themselves and others, and can easily become stressed or fatigued due to sensory and emotional overload. Apart from your struggle with regulating feelings, you might have also been misunderstood and stigmatized for years. However, you can come to learn about and accept your unique qualities.
The following Roadmap illustrates some of the potential milestones or markers you will hit on the journey from healing to thriving. They serve as a guideline to our coaching process. These are not steps to be achieved in a linear sequence – after all, the process is cyclical, back-and-forth, and completely unique to you.
1. Addressing the Past that Holds you Back
- Heal the wounds of being told that you were ‘too much’, ‘too dramatic’, ‘too intense’, ‘too sensitive’, ‘too…’
- Acknowledge the unmet needs in your early years.
- Identify self-sabotaging behaviours (e.g. overeating/ ‘lashing out’) and beliefs that no longer serve you (e.g. ‘People will leave me when they see the real me’).
- Deal with overwhelming sadness, rage, and other reactivity triggered by those who are close to you.
- Healthily mourning the lack/ loss of the ‘what might have been’: Letting go of the resentment about not having the perfect childhood, the ideal parents…, and being at peace with your family as they are now.
- Identify if you have ever been ‘parentified’ – Were you put into the role of being a parent to your own parents, instrumentally or emotionally?
- Manage the voice of your inner critic and the internalized sense of shame.
- Be able to express and assert your needs and wants in the world.
2. Becoming Emotionally Resilient
- Locate or develop a sense of safety within yourself.
- Understand the values and functions of intense emotions, and honour them.
- Dance with impermanence in life: Knowing that pain is inevitable in life and that it is human to be thrown off course sometimes. When that happens, rest in the faith that you will be able to bounce back.
- Have an expanded ‘window of tolerance’ for feelings, so you are not triggered into states of hyper-arousal (acute stress, rage, tension, and panic) or under-arousal (dissociating, disconnecting, feeling empty and depressed).
- Come to terms with the unavoidable ‘givens’ of human existence; That things are constantly changing, life is not always fair, losses and death are part of life, and we cannot control everything.
3. Finding Authenticity and Power in the World
- Explore your values and beliefs, and craft out what ‘living in alignment’ looks like for you.
- Reconnect with your sense of power, heal from the Imposter Syndrome or the fear of success.
- Let go of who you think you should be and embrace who you are.
- Optimize your creativity and work performance.
- Being ‘skillfully authentic’ in groups and relationships: Allowing your real self to be seen and accepted, without pre-maturely exposing yourself when it is not safe/ appropriate to do so.
- Find and go where you are celebrated, not just tolerated.
- Understand and recognize human dynamics such as toxic envy and passive aggression.
- Become aware of and finding ways to preserve your personal, emotional, and energetic boundaries.
4. Bringing Passion and Vitality Back Into Your Heart
- Address the chronic disconnection, numbness, and emptiness you feel.
- Allow yourself to be emotionally moved and impacted, rather than being cut off and disconnected.
- Have the courage to feel, to love, without getting caught up in emotional storms or excessive fear of abandonment and losses
- Come to experience relationships as enriching rather than tiring or threatening.
- Be aware of compromised and dysfunctional relationship patterns.
- Trust the natural expression of your ‘unedited self’, preserving your natural playfulness and spontaneity.
5. Actualising Your Creative Potential
- Express yourself creatively in a chosen vocation that is aligned with your values, beliefs, and talents.
- Transform your existential angst into a sense of mission and purpose.
- Find your diverse and multiple callings, without feeling like you have to ‘focus’ or restrict yourself.
- Relinquish the need to have life pan out exactly the way you wish it to be, and tune into your intuitive wisdom.
- Alleviate the endless sense of urgency and restlessness, and trust that your life is unfolding in the perfect order.
- Have a sense of trust in something bigger than yourself. Develop a spiritual understanding that the work is being done not ‘by you’, but ‘through you’, and have fun and enjoy the ride.
There is no need to feel deflated if some of these themes seem unreachable to you right now. Emotional healing and spiritual maturity are lifelong paths that each of us can achieve through commitment and continuous practices. People’s lives change as they progress in their own stages of self-realization.
How Often Do We Meet?
Regarding frequency, it can be like going to the gym for a physical workout. We may go to the gym and train our muscles every week, but the effect is not immediate- it is only after some time, say a month or so, that we feel the benefits and changes from within. Everyone uses these sessions differently; I have clients who do two sessions a week, and some come once a month. It all depends on many factors, from what they hope to get from coaching, their existing resources, and ways of functioning.
There is no ‘rule’, but for most people, in the beginning, fortnightly or weekly is good to build trust and understanding in the relationship. It can then be changed in the future.
I trust my clients to find their own pace. I encourage people to look around, shop around, and become in tune with their internal compass. And of course, I am always happy to evaluate the process with you along the way.
If you are contemplating doing the work to look inside, work through past wounds and address deep existential issues, I must congratulate you on your courage and commitment to reaching your thriving potential. You deserve to live a life where you don’t have to carry your emotional burdens for life or deal with everything on your own without help.
I hope the above helps and clarify what the process looks like.
I look forward to hearing from you!
I know but one freedom, and that is the freedom of the mind.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery