Magdalena Bak-Maier, Phd – Transforming: Finding and Practicing Self-Love

"Fold Me Tight" by Christiane Feser
“Fold Me Tight” by Christiane Feser

My interest and passion sits in transformational work. The word always conjures up images of a magician doing a spell and there we have it! The new, improved, more resilient, better version of what was before.

Some of my clients struggle with the word transformation. To some the word implies I’m one thing today and I’ll be something else tomorrow. Others conjure up a long, painful process like a pilgrimage filled with uncertainty and discomfort that makes them doubt they can do it however much they may feel it is needed or desired. Perhaps the numerous makeover shows have not helped us in the personal field of work as psychologists, therapists, counselors and coaches or the prominent figures whether in banking or politics or people in our personal lives claiming transformational changes that in the end proved to be smoke and mirrors.

But transformations are really journeys of self discovery, acceptance of the present in its totality and exploration of possible futures that become potential avenues to travel as time and life unfold. Viewed this way, transformation work becomes a less scary process; one that can be welcomed and presented as nothing more than a complete and unconditional love of self.

Our subconscious mind keeps track of this journey and all the feelings associated with it. The other day I woke up to a dream in which a family member gave me an extra suitcase to bring home. In the dream, I remember being scared to open this suitcase upon arrival. My fear was that it contained yogurt which would have spilled over everything else and made a massive “mess” that I would then be left to clean up.

My childhood, as all childhoods contains pleasant memories as well as those that are less pleasant – the messy stuff I have come to accept with the help of a gifted counsellor and friend. Perhaps the mess was a reference to those less pleasant memories. In my dream, on arrival home, I opened to large suitcase filled with anxiety and to my surprise there was no spillage. Instead, I began to unpack items that all came from my time growing up in Poland and then New York as a young adolescent. There was the sweatshirt from NYU which represented great memories. A faded Eddie Bower T-shirt I gave my dad as a present. Old, softened by time, and yet such a classic, along with a couple of books from my polish origin which, while unknown to me, seemed to somehow belong. And I remember putting them away as keepsakes while some of the items I put aside for donation, feeling I no longer needed them.

"Principissa" by Sophie Derrick
“Principissa” by Sophie Derrick

I believe the dream was a healthy way for my mind to review and update my book of life and transformation process. Up until recently, that book started with my adult life leaving the child years in the background. Even the person who packed the suitcase for me, was now someone I could trust to not surprise me with messes. My subconscious mind has created a dream and a story that were able to put things in context and given them a healthy perspective. When I woke up from the dream, I felt refreshed and healed.

I have long suspected that our minds are our natural healers. They store all of our experiences and continuously make meaning of them. Making meaning requires synthetic thinking: a process I have been exploring in my work. Unlike analytical thinking which concerns itself with the shortest path between thought A and thought B, synthetic thinking runs on less well traveled routes in the brain. It compares, references, creates associations, and meaning that evolves with time as the picture in our mind gets clearer and clearer until we can express it through our conscious awareness. Our subconscious mind helps us with creativity, insights and lateral problem solving.

So our minds are continuously being transformed and helping us transform by remaking neuronal connections and meaning simply from what information is available. Sadly in the busy, technologically rich and massively visually exhausting world of major cities, for the first time in human evolutions, our brains are having to cope with an onslaught of external data. No wonder the human mind, in its attempt to cope has found ways to block a lot of the content to prevent exhaustion. Most people and clients I talk to yearn for ways to get away from “it,” to shut down. This has made areas of personal development and care such as mindfullness so important. But our brains can also shut out things we decide to not deal with, which undermine a natural and healthy ongoing transformation process that allows us to stay at our best. For example when we choose to bury our true feelings, ignore realities, or get caught in thoughts instead of what’s really happening; with repression, rejection of aspects of our selves and others, with denials or silence we risk illness and dissatisfaction taking us further away from a healthy, fulfilling life.

"Sete's Sky" by Li Wei
“Sete’s Sky” by Li Wei

So when I explain to my clients the transformation they are about to undertake, I don’t do it with words. I ask them to complete a task. They create a vision board with no purpose. The board serves as a capture and reflection of what the client is drawn towards, what they may feel repelled by or what causes other strong reactions. This process can take a couple of hours and has a natural stopping point where the client experiences a shift in energy. The task is a way of creating a dialogue and opening an eye on the subconscious brain. When completed, the client is asked to assemble the words, pictures, phrases, into a visual geography map: the spacing, order, position and clustering each being real, unique and true to them. Clients often feel a sense of release as if a big burden was lifted from their shoulders, heart or sometimes their head. In some cases their body shifts: they walk more lightly, speak more firmly or notice other physical symptoms which extend away from my practice room back into their lives and work. Through the process the clients come face to face with a narrative of their transformational journey that has been happening all this time without their control. Through the map they can see aspects of their past, present and future allowing them to make meaning of what is and find a way to accept it. With this clarity they are then able to consider how to take control of where the journey will go next as much as life, with all of its nuances and unpredictability allows. And in that moment they find self-love as well as leadership.

Transformation is a beautiful process of developing self-love which is fundamental to us being able to love others as well as to have compassion for our fellow human beings instead of judgement. I hope this short article invites you to open your eyes to your whole self and to accept it. Through acceptance and acknowledgement of the many dimensions that make up who you are, you will discover inner strength and healing as well as an invitation to take the steps necessary to own your life and live it well.

Magdalena Bak-Maier, PhdGet Productive!

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