November 28, 2012

A Beyond Survivor's Story: Finding Something Positive From My Abusive Childhood

Hi all,

I am so pleased to introduce you to Cynthia Krainin, whom I met while serving on the Surviving Spirit board. She is a wonderful and amazing woman and author, and I know you will learn much from her during her guest blogger series. Enjoy!


Recently I learned of the passing of my co-author Nancy Brook. We wrote, Thriving At Work: A Guidebook For Survivors Of Childhood Abuse.  After having a good cry, memories of our countless hours of collaboration started surfacing fast and furiously like a train barreling through a mountain pass.

The train ride through our time together came to a gentle stop and I heard the conductor announce “We have arrived at Chapter 5 – Strengths of Being a Survivor.  All of those departing please be kind to yourself and watch your step exiting the train."

I vividly remember our discussions about the strengths we needed to develop in order to survive our abusive childhoods.  This subject became the fifth chapter of our book.  I wanted the memories to continue so without hesitation, I sprinted off the train onto the platform of Chapter 5.

My gratitude abounds for my collaborator Nancy and the journey we took together.

There is much work that needs to be done to heal from the deep wounding of childhood abuse.  We are all on the healing path together, but we each have our own process and timing in navigating the journey. 

Some of us roar down the road to recovery on a souped-up Harley.  Others love the comfort of driving the old Chevy down familiar roads.  Each passes the tour bus of survivors that stops along the way to take in the sights.  And there are those who choose alternative modes to get to their healing destination.
What works for one person may not be right for someone else.  In hindsight, we understood that writing this book together was our unique mode of healing.  We marveled at the personal and professional strides we had made.

I am deeply grateful to be able to acknowledge how far I have come.

Writing Chapter 5 started with comic relief.  We were both suffering from writer's block and decided to stop for the day.  As we cleaned up, I jokingly said “What does not kill us, makes us stronger.”  Nancy flung back with “Adversity builds character and we both seem to be characters.”  This gave way to many pithy sayings and stopped at “without our abusers, this book would not have been written.”

Even though we were joking, Nancy and I got the profound teaching.  In response to each of our traumatic experiences, we developed a unique set of coping mechanisms that helped us survive.

Our senses were heightened to warn us of imminent danger; we could feel it coming.  We learned to dissociate, to disconnect and mentally cut ourselves off from unbearable experiences.  We all developed our own set of skills, abilities, personality traits, etc., in order to survive.

Here is a tiny list of some of the strengths that Nancy and I rattled off that afternoon…
  • Strength and fortitude     
  • A heightened sense of listening and watching
  • Awareness of nuances, slight shifts and changes
  • The ability to feel compassion and kinship with others who have suffered
  • An ability to take control
  • Courage and perseverance
  • Sensitivity to conflict and danger
  • Attention to details and directions
  • An ability to respond quickly to a crisis
Take a moment to add your own list of personal skills and strengths.  Ask friends to give you their observations.  Keep adding to this list as you identify new strengths. 

I am grateful that out of a very hurtful time in my life,
I developed many strengths that are part of who I am.

All of these strengths can be extremely useful in our personal and professional lives.  Did you realize that each one is very valuable and marketable in today’s job arena?

It did not take me long as a work-life coach to start introducing this concept to my clients with trauma backgrounds.  Here is an example of possibilities that exist for us by identifying our assets and using them to help communicate our value.

Jeff H. was a finalist for an account representative position with an advertising agency.  The job required assessing client needs, communicating the client’s wishes to the Creative Department, presenting ad campaign ideas to the client and negotiating final terms.

Once Jeff got the job, he asked what made him stand out when his competitors had similar degrees and experience.  His new boss was quite candid and said:

 “…All of the other candidates talked about their skills.  You communicated what it was about YOU that would make you successful in this position. You gave examples of how your strengths had helped you achieve desired results in your last job…  You described WHO was going to show up for work and HOW you would handle the job… the others did not.”

*  *  *  *

Sally G. hadn’t slept for days knowing she was having her first job review. She shook terribly knowing what was about to happen.  In childhood, Sally had been beaten for mistakes she didn’t know she had made. Now she would be fired. 

She was shocked to see herself through her boss’s eyes.  He shared his appreciation for how she supported coworkers, her ability to make people feel safe, to listen without judgment and meet people exactly where they are.  Sally couldn’t believe it.  She was being lauded for her survival skills! 

*  *  *  *

My “survival strengths” have helped make me an effective life coach. Here is a chance for you to list three accomplishments and determine which strengths helped make you effective in each example.

One cautionary note: There are many coping mechanisms that helped save our lives during our abuse but are no longer helpful.  They need to be de-commissioned because they backfire when used today.

How dare I look at the “bright side” of abuse!  Personally, I had to find some aspect of my childhood abuse that was not painful.  And it has paid off in spades.

November 14, 2012

Increasing Harmony & Meaning in Your Relationships

Hi all,

This week, we have the final post from guest blogger, Tahil Gesyuk. It's been so great learning from this masterful coach. Enjoy!


How to support a relationship to transcend the sum of its parts?

When we relate with others we typically take turns supporting one another. This in turn leads to mutual respect and deepening of connection. In the early stages of connection when we can't show up for each other, an effort is needed to reconnect from lack of momentum of early relating. This momentum vacillates to such a velocity that it transcends the two and gives birth to a third. This third entity has an identity that both partners contributed to and in its transcendent state it contributes back. This article is about how to develop and nurture this transcendence between the couple and how to relate to its contributions.


If you look at how we relate from a bird’s eye view, you would see us connecting and disconnecting in rhythmic patterns, sometimes speeding up, sometimes slowing down. The more sense of harmony and resonance you feel with one another, the better timing you have.

There are three ways to increase harmony and resonance: Expansive Cues, Contractive Cues, and Presence.

The first part of understanding timing is Expansive Cues, they are the signals to connect.

Expansive Non-verbal Cues...
  • A deep breath is taken
  • Body relaxes
  • Facial expressions match emotional space
  • Posture opens (arms and legs uncross and general leaning in and nodding of head in acknowledgement)
Expansive Verbal Cues...
  • Pitch gets lower
  • Speaking gets slower more introspective
  • Speaking gets more expressive of expansive feelings, such as, happy, joyful, grounded, courageous, and relaxed
(Note our culture is often not well versed in expressive vocabulary, thus it is good to be well versed in expansive cues and tones of speech and non-verbal cues of body language.)

The better we get at reading and spotting expansive cues the better timing we will have with our ability to connect. It will become smoother, more efficient, and it will feel effortless—no different than taking a deep breath.

The second part of timing is knowing and understanding contractive cues, because they let us know when it is time to disconnect or time to leave.

Contractive Non-Verbal Cues...    
  • Breath shortens
  • Body tightens
  • Face expression is not matching the emotional space shared
  • Posture pulls in (arms crossed, legs cross, and general sense of leaning away)
  • Fidgeting: it could be increased movement like ants in pants or twirling hair or chewing on straw
Contractive Verbal Cues...  
  • Pitch gets higher
  • Speed of talking increases
  • Short concise answers that are not open ended
As we get better at reading these contractive and expansive cues, we become better at connecting and disconnecting with good timing and natural rhythm to have more opportunity to drop into transcendent space with our partners.

The third piece in timing in relationship is presence.

Presence is that harmonic space between contractive and expansive cues. Where you feel like you have entered your own private room with your partner as if the rest of the world has disappeared and you and your partner are linked. It feels like time stands still.

Presence Non-Verbal Cues...
  • Act of mirroring. You tend to mimic each other’s body movement. This links up your nervous system and a variety of chemical reactions to create a unified almost altered intimacy of connection. It is the body language of bonding.
  • There is a tendency to increase eye contact and have extended periods of maintaining its length together.
  • Breathing links and harmonizes together with your partner.
  • Senses of touch, sight become more active, while the other senses tend to drop away.
Presence Verbal Cues...
  • Voices tend to harmonize
  • There is a capacity to finish each other’s words and thoughts, and sense of what they are going to say next
  • There is a tendency for a greater capacity to communicate without words, using tones, grunts, sighs, etc.
When presence meets presence, transcendence occurs and births something greater than the sum of the two.

Expansive cues let us know the person is approachable; contractive cues let us know they are not. There are some things that need to be understood first. Many of these cues happen unconsciously. The more conscious you become the less likely you will misread and others misread you.

Taking Turns

Often taking turns is a missing function of connection. And it has to do with understanding power dynamics. In order to have healthy flow and rhythm with one another to transcend, we need to be able to give and receive. Some people are better at giving, other people are better at receiving. When we relate with one another, one of the fundamental things that needs to be understood is how our strengths and challenges around giving and receiving are matched with one another. Taking turns reveals those challenges and strengths to us.

As a couple gets more conscious in taking turns of giving and receiving, they will naturally notice and take roles in what fits their strengths or challenge as they connect. This is how partnerships and ally relationships develop.

For the sake of this article, to develop a transcendence, I recommend setting aside time where the roles are reversed. If you feel strong in receiving and feel challenged in giving, take the role of the giver and have your partner take the role of the receiver. This creates a muscle in empathy and understanding that is needed for the foundation of transcendence to occur.

Partnering in the Unknown

Partnering in the unknown is how we relate to something greater than ourselves to the world around us. The more we experience presence meeting presence, we enter into the room together where the world disappears, the more facility we have to function in the unknown together. It is those moments in time where time stops and presence meets presence; something gets developed there that gives us a sense of trust as a couple to face the unknown.

The more we develop a relationship to our relationship, the more we get to reap the rewards of those moments in time where our connection bares the fruit of our poignant union.

The better we develop timing, taking turns, and partnering in the unknown, our ability to transcend and be supported in our relationship, even when we cannot show up for each other, greatly increases. It has its own momentum, its own knowledge, and dare I say, its own identity.

Tahil has a passion for bringing love, connection,and health into people’s lives. With over 15 solid years of coaching experience, he is committed to bringing forth the radiance in each human being. As the director of the Intimacy Forum, Tahil Gesyuk is dedicated to teaching you the language of creating extraordinary relationships that impact the world in a loving and effective way.

The Intimacy Forum produces events and trainings around affection and connection, bringing a unique synthesis of full sensory and full body learning around *Heart-intimacy*, connection and affection.

For more info, please visit our website: 

November 7, 2012

The Seven Stages of Deepening Connection

Hi all,

This week, we continue with guest blogger, Tahil Gesyuk. Enjoy!


There are seasons in relating. You could be doing everything right at the wrong time and things will not be going so well. The more we understand the seasons of relating the better we can transition with grace and compassion! 

There are five fundamental transitions (Innocence, Curiosity, Confidence, Peace, and Transcendence) and seven stages of deepening relating: passion, sympathetic, turbulence, molding, contentment, reservations, and maturated passion.

First Transition: INNOCENCE
Stage 1: The Passion (and Infatuation) Stage of Relating
We all start connection through innocence as it is our ultimate vulnerable state, preconditioning, and assumption. It is our kinetic potential where truly anything is possible! This is innocence’s calling card: if you see possibility you are in a state of innocence. If a couple honors the innocence in each other, they enter into “infatuation and passion.” This is a very vulnerable and delicate stage that is very exciting if innocence is preserved.

The greatest challenge in this stage of passion is cynicism, it is where our trauma locks and inner wounds of hurt from life experiences prevent a natural expression of innocence.  Our innocence, numb in expression, often comes out in cynicism is the exposing our wounds to the world! Cynicism stands guard for our broken trust until the cynicism can be honored, seen and felt to the deep vulnerability underneath. 

If we did not have modeling on how to maintain innocence with discernment, to develop our own wisdom, we find the “ouch” of our naivete. Without healthy modeling we often numb our innocence as a natural trial and error of that “ouch” we feel. Not realizing the cost of resilience in possibility and the cost of not being nurtured and expressed in our authenticity! This flux inside us between innocence and cynicism is our alchemy in setting our foundation in our stage of passion.

Second Transition: CURIOSITY
Stage 2 & 3: Sympathetic & Turbulence Stages of Relating

Our next transitory function that needs to be paid attention to is curiosity. Our innocence naturally peeks into curiosity and investigating the unknown by physical cues such as butterflies in our stomach. These cues are where our innocence is caught in a spell of wonder and awe (awesomeness). These enchantments are like bread crumbs leading our innocence to express itself to the world around itself.

This natural inquiry doesn’t get sidetracked by assumptive qualities but rather keeps going until Innocence meets Confidence. So in a way curiosity is the bridge of innocence to confidence. Think of curiosity as the alchemical process of bringing our vulnerability and strength into harmony!  Our curiosity is essential in our day to day challenges as a function to curb jadedness. It is holistic in nature, meaning it has a tendency to synergize, bringing all findings in inquiry under the scrutiny of innocence coming back to itself.  

Our greatest challenge in this transition is judgment. Our judgment is viewing the world through right or wrong based on our polarized set of ideals of how things should or should not be. Our curiosity gets replaced by judgment to protect our most tender vulnerable parts and its perk of streamlined efficiency. 

There is this search for absolutes whose sole pursuit is for security and safety. Not realizing the cost of those butterflies in our stomach. Our gut truths get replaced by judgment! Our wounds in curiosity get exposed to the world through our judgments.  If we had healthy modeling, “judgment” would be used as setting a container for curiosity to flourish and blossom rather than a replacement. (It is like a young sapling needing support from the elements in the beginning of its life.) The good in good judgment is the maintained curiosity in it! By honoring judgments in others and ourselves we give spaciousness for curiosity to come out and see another point of view. This alchemy between our curiosity and judgment is where our pacing and boundaries come from.

In the stages of sympathy and turbulence, we sympathize with one another as we get to know each other better while going over each others' histories and how they relate and connect us. The stage of turbulence enters when we find where we don’t relate or understand one another.  It is a time of the proverbial honeymoon coming to an end. Things get messy and real. As you start seeing each other behind the masks, how curiosity is maintained and honored in coupling can set the course to a rocky end or smoother sailing.

Third Transition: CONFIDENCE 
Stage 4: Molding Stage of Relating

The next transition occurs as curiosity peeks into confidence. As innocence finds itself through curiosity there is this thrill in discovery that meets the thrill in the inquiry. In this harmonic convergence of butterflies meeting butterflies, confidence is birthed. 

Confidence gives room to make mistakes. It has this sense about it that even if you lose you win. The calling card of confidence is our dignity! Not the dignity where you have to do or be something to be dignified but rather a dignity that comes from a simple awareness that we exist and that there is nothing quite like us.

Our greatest challenge in this transition is arrogance. It is a puffed up sense of self that masks the vulnerability we carry and hides the strength we truly have. Our confidence gets numbed in our re-fabrication of it in acting stronger than we are and not revealing our vulnerability as well our own authority. We don’t realize that when we fake it till we make it, our own authority gets replaced by others. And worse yet when we do make it (whatever that is) we want to have authority over others. Our power gets thwarted in us in saying “yes” when we mean “no” and “no” when we mean “yes”. The most detrimental cost is lacking the courage to stand up for our unique expression in the world. Our wounds in confidence get revealed to the world in our arrogance.

The flux between confidence and arrogance is the dance one needs to dance if they want to find their own path in life. The healing balm for arrogance in us and others is acknowledging the strength for what it truly is, no more or less, and being a welcoming for the vulnerability to make room for mistakes. 

In the molding stage we seek to make each other in our own image! There is this tug of war conscious or/and unconscious of what image each person has of an ideal partner. In some places our ideals get exceeded and we find happy surprises, in others we are challenged because they are not showing up the way our ideal would have it. If both partners honor confidence in each other and their happy surprises exceed the challenges, a synthesis occurs where an ideal is established on the behalf of both of them as well as maintaining the sanctity of the individual.  

Fourth Transition: PEACE
Stage 5: Contentment Stage of Relating

In this transition of peace there is this joyous ease after the adventure that authentic confidence brings. It is as if you caught a wave of a pause in life. As this natural ease meets responsibility of adults, many things happen that act deeply in our bellies around ease. 

If we had healthy modeling, our easeful peace would be honored in healthy pace of life. We would be shown how our natural rhythm would be harmonized with the rhythm of others to give spaciousness for us and the people around us to be in a healthy state of rest. Yet often because of the modeling of arrogance rather than confidence, our rhythms around ease and peace were often numbed to almost nonexistent.  When confidence meets confidence, it evokes peace. When arrogance meets arrogance, violence is inevitable. The greatest challenge in this transition is angst.

Angst is a sense of anxiety in constantly covering up or catching up to how you really feel about the world around you. When we lose our trust in the natural rhythm of our ease and peace, the scar we replace it with is angst. Angst brings out this looming sense that we always have to be running to or from someone or somewhere in the moment we want to rest. 

You know angst dominates your life if you feel overwhelmed and that you have two speeds: full speed ahead or drop dead tired. Rest and ease has been lost in our vocabulary of function. This flux around peace and angst is how we find our rhythm and flow in life. Angst exposes the wounds of peace to the world.  As we notice angst in ourselves and others, healing is to harmonize with authentic yes's and no’s to model how healthy rhythm of ease can be. Also strengthening and reclaiming the functions of innocence, curiosity, and confidence. In the contentment stage we commit. This is typically when we pop the “Question” or “Feel” settled.

Fifth Transition: Transcendence
Stage 6 & 7: Reservations & Maturated Passion Stages

In this peek of transition we transcend. Transcendence is just that, a transcended state of being that has one be aware of something greater. If you ever just stood back and let yourself be absorbed in watching a playground filled with children at play, at some point you feel transcendence because that is what you’re witnessing. As the children hit this harmonic note of pure glee the whole meets the individual and something other than just both happens. 

If we maintain our ability to have full function in our innocence, curiosity, confidence, and peace into adulthood our spirituality is not a concept we borrow from others, but rather it becomes a living embodiment of our transcendence.  As children our innocence peeks into curiosity and curiosity into confidence and confidence into peace then there is this opportunity of transcendence and we are born anew. It is this whole cycle of transcendence that revitalizes youth and brings fresh innocent eyes to life.

The greatest challenge in this transition is chaos, it is a sense of your life whirling out of control into oblivion. When we embody more of the destructive cycle of cynicism, judgment, arrogance, and angst, chaos tends to happen. There is this general destructive nature around it. Things blow up, get dramatic, and we get caught in the web of our own unconscious and collusive delusion with others. When our transcendence gets numbed, chaos takes its place. Chaos exposes the overall cycle that we embody is one of destruction.  

It is hardwired defeat in nature of chaos that gives the opportunity to find our innocence again and find our play cycle back into transcendence.  When we notice chaotic tendencies in us or others, it is healing to honor the chaos and invite innocence in defeat. It is in the nature of chaos to destroy everything in its path including the very thing that created it (cynicism.)  And in that, empathy of nature is exposed.

When we realize that we are back where we started, having an opportunity to reclaim our innocence, an authentic humility arises in empathy for the chaotic nature. In the reservation stage, doubts creep in after we have been with one another for a while, things get complacent, we might start thinking about past partners or what might be somewhere else. If transcendence is honored there is a partnership in transcending reservation together which leads to maturated passion. A deeper more transcendent passion takes root not like a fever of a young passion of infatuation but rather a slow cooking flame of knowing there is no place you would rather be than to simmer in your lover arms.

Tahil has a passion for bringing love, connection,and health into people’s lives. With over 15 solid years of coaching experience, he is committed to bringing forth the radiance in each human being. As the director of the Intimacy Forum, Tahil Gesyuk is dedicated to teaching you the language of creating extraordinary relationships that impact the world in a loving and effective way.

The Intimacy Forum produces events and trainings around affection and connection, bringing a unique synthesis of full sensory and full body learning around *Heart-intimacy*, connection and affection.

For more info, please visit our website: 

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