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Posts tagged ‘Strategic Intervention’

A Crabby Cat, family patterns and emotional regression.

I have a cat I sometimes call “Crabby Cat”. His proper name is Jack, a beautiful, senior, brown-black tabby. I first saw Jack as a pair of dark, triangle ears poking up from behind some goutweed along the border of my garden at the house I used to inhabit in town. I’d be puttering around the garden and notice the ears or some movement, maybe a faint meow, and I would start talking to this mysterious visitor. I eventually got to see his beautiful face, distinctive markings and paler tan colouring outlining his large eyes. I was smitten.


Over a period of months, back about 9 years ago, I determined he was a stray. Since he got along with my other cats out in the garden, I enticed him to hang around. Once he got close enough, I noticed he had an oozing wound above his left eye. I decided to take my chances on trapping him so I could get him to a vet, to clean up the wound and neuter him too, after which I would release him and hope that he might stay with us.

I succeeded, with the deft use of a can of tuna placed in a cat carrier just outside the kitchen door. That, with some vigilance and fast action, caught him. He had the abcess drained, got “fixed”, tested for diseases and vaccinated. After a night in my basement I released him, and after three days of nibbling the food I left out, under cover of darkness, he showed up for a proper visit and never left.

But Jack, as I chose to call him for his sense of sturdy maleness and street-smarts, brought a little “cattitude” with him. The vet had estimated Jack was about 6 years old at the time, so possibly he’d been on his own quite a while, avoiding or surviving the dangers of foxes, raccoons, owls and cars, let alone winter. Life on the streets can be rough for a cat.

He had a short fuse, not totally trusting us, batting at the others and hissing, although I don’t think anyone was ever actually scratched by him, cat or human.

I spent a few years without Jack when I moved and could only take one cat with me, leaving Jack with my former partner. But a year ago Jack, and another cat I had adopted, Rosie, were offered back to me, as my ex had decided to move away. Jack would now be entering a new house with three other cats, two dogs and a new “dad”.

It was then that I started to call him Crabby Cat, as he would hiss at us for no apparent reason, the cats, the dogs, whomever walked too close by. He’d wave his paw to swat at the other critters who were basically ignoring him as they tried to pass him in the hallway, (maybe he just wanted attention?) Sometimes he’d make contact, batting one of the dogs right on the nose, but it seemed no claws were extended. They learned to give him a wide berth.

He’d also eat his food in a terrible hurry, flinging bits here and there outside his dish, uttering a snuffling, growling noise as he gobbled it up, looking worried that someone would snatch it away if he didn’t. Sometimes he’d eat so quickly it would all back up onto the floor a few minutes later. He did eventually slow down as he came to trust in the supply.

The hissing and growling have decreased too, but it is still there on an almost daily basis at some point or other, and I have started to see a connection between Jack’s seemingly out of place hissing and some of my own bad habits, namely my habit of worrying “what people will think”, or more particularly, worrying about the possibility of being criticized.

I was working recently with a coach on one of my own issues, a certain stuckness and procrastination that arises when I am just on the precipice of really getting somewhere and then I backslide, partly due to an underlying fear of receiving unfavourable criticism by putting my work “out there”.

I have always know where the fear comes from, inculcated at a very early age as I watched my siblings either be onImage the receiving end of criticism, or else trying to avoid it, as they and I observed judgments being doled out about others by our father. I learned well, as they say, to “fly under the radar” –  to be a good girl, be quiet, not cause any trouble, and of course not to have an opinion that might not be the right one. I had observed too many times how quickly other opinions could be shut down just by his tone of voice. I learned it was not safe to speak up or to be noisy or very different. The desire to conform in order to feel safe was paramount. This still happened into my 30’s when I spent some time back at home one year.

As Tony Robbins, one of the founders of the Strategic Intervention coach training program I am in, says, “Our two greatest fears are that we are not enough, and we won’t be loved.”  We do a lot to fit in.

In my case, as I expect for many (as the feeling of not being “enough” seems to be pervasive in our culture), this sense gets implanted at a very young age, and reinforced by our observations as we grow up, even if we are not directly criticized and even when, as I was, we are told we are loved. The messages are absorbed by observation. We learn to contort and stifle ourselves to make sure we are never a target. Some folks go the other way and act out and rebel. But not me. I had learned that security was more important than speaking up and being yourself. I believe it was indeed true that I was loved by both parents, but I also observed that “approval” could be taken away. I am quite sure my dad had learned this with the help of his own family conditioning too, and he was passing on his own insecurities to us.

So, you ask, as you scratch your head, that’s all too bad, but what does it have to do with a crabby cat?

Well, seems Jack and I may both get stuck in a reactive loop from time to time, growling and hissing at perceived “dangers” that are no longer there and are no longer relevant. Jack is no longer out on the streets or in the woods fending for himself, fighting off other stray cats and raccoons looking for a bit to eat, or even being vulnerable to owls or foxes who might be around and hungry. He’s got the “good life” now, constantly being served, snuggled, attended to, in a warm and comfortable home. He doesn’t need to growl and hiss and bare his teeth to protect himself.  When he does, he’s regressing to an earlier time, running an old program.

And sometimes it would seem, so am I! I don’t do much growling and hissing, but there are certain triggers that bring me to a state where the old programs run, just like Jack…times when I feel vulnerable, where I fear I might be exposed to judgment or criticism, where I feel I have to “measure up” in order to get approval, and therefore to feel safe. Just being aware that such emotional regression can occur can save one from reacting in a way that is out of proportion to a given situation.

Because of all the study and self-development I have done over the years, I am much more aware and less likely to fall into such a trap. I have learned through Strategic Intervention and other concepts to create new beliefs for my life that are more empowering than beliefs I held as a child, and to let go of old beliefs that are no longer true for me.

Sadly, my father passed away many years ago.  It would have been nice to have gotten to the stage where I no longer felt that childish vulnerability and could relate to him adult to adult, having open and honest discussions without fear. And perhaps he would’ve finally appreciated that too. But I need not fear his disapproval anymore. The fear of being rejected by my family is no longer relevant. I do want us to stay connected and loving, but as an adult, it is no longer a matter of my personal security if anyone disapproves of me.

So, as the holidays approach, and new leaps are taken by me in my coaching career, I remember to stay aware of old triggers and emotional habits.  When something pops up, I can pause, step back and evaluate my response. If it looks like I have responded from an old pattern that is not based in the current reality of my life, then it’s time for me to take a deep breath,  “put on my big girl panties” as Cheryl Richardson is fond of saying, and act from my older and wiser adult self.

As for Jack the Cat, I am still not sure how to break him of his regressive hissing habit, except to keep loving him and helping him to feel secure in this house until he can form a new belief that being close to other critters is not a threat, that they all get loved and treated equally, and that he is finally…safe.


To read about the concept of emotional regression see John Lee’s book, “Growing Yourself Back Up”, which I first learned about from Hay House author and coach, Cheryl Richardson.  Also helpful in terms of breaking away from the disempowering patterns often passed down through generations in families, see Denise Linn’s Book, “Four Acts of Personal Power”, which adds elements of meditation and ritual to help free oneself and free the generations to follow.

Here we go again….

Here we go again…

Funny how a year passes and it’s “deja vu all over again”, only in a slightly different way. Here I am, 11 months after my last blog post (what can I say, I’ve been busy!), and the theme of “letting go” is emerging once again in my life, and I think also in the lives of some friends too, some who have been or are about to, be moving across the country or from one country to another.

As I keep peeling back the layers of the amazing onion that is my life, (weird-smelling metaphor, I know), looking for that heart of me and the work that truly jazzes me, I find once again I am having to let go in order to make space for that which I want to emerge.

For the past year I have immersed myself in a course of study called Strategic Intervention, a life coaching modality (or assortment of techniques and theories), from Robbins-Madanes Training. It was created by coach-motivator extraordinaire, Anthony Robbins, in conjunction with psychotherapist Cloe Madanes, with coaches Mark & Magali Peysha. It has been a fascinating exploration. There is so much to glean from their work, so many revelations about the way people respond to their world and the people in it, myself included. Doing the program, as in most coaching schools, means doing a lot of study of, and work on, oneself as well.

On a very practical level, not associated with the study, is that I have recently come to some certainty that … gasp…  “I can’t do it all”!  As anyone who has followed me in my previous blog (which still languishes in obscurity over at my old, soon-to-be-dismantled photo site,, or in our newsletters from Co-Creative Healing Arts, Edward and I have created extensive gardens over the past 7 or so years on our little piece of country paradise, the land being our painter’s canvas and the plants our palette.
We love the creative exercise of making beautiful spaces and growing some of our own food. Along with herb beds, perennial borders and vegetable gardens, I went so far as to create my mini (or “petite”) Provence, inspired as I was from a long-ago trip to France and the views of great fields of lavender. While our wetter Nova Scotian climate does not quite support some of the larger lavender hybrids seen in huge plantations over there, it does allow for some of the hardier, traditional varieties to flourish, with some care and attention. Between 2006 and 2009 I planted over 500 tiny plants, including about 8 different varietals, acquired from various nurseries here and in Ontario and Manitoba.Image

Most were planted to offer a view from the house of a small field, about 20 rows 60 feet long, each with 25 plants or so. At one point I also created a “medicine wheel” concept garden, which still survives, ringed with lavender, as well as two gardens attempting to employ “sacred geometry”. One featured a raised bed in the centre shaped like a large 5-pointed star, with various perennials in the centre and lavender at the points, surrounded by a 30-foot diameter raised-bed  in the shape of an octagon, all filled with lavender.

The other beds consisted of two inter-facing spiral shapes, not mathematically correct but loosely drawn along the proprotions of the Golden Mean. Alas, the area in which these two elaborate beds were created suffered from poor drainage, and for a couple of years I was replacing rotting lavenders until I threw in the towel and removed my geometric creations.

The biggest enemies of lavender are “wet feet” as they often say in the “how to grow” guides, as well as weeds, which contributes to the wetness by trapping moisture around the crown and roots, as well as chokes the plants and steals nutrients. In 2009 I replaced over 200 small plants due to a very wet winter with lots of freezing and thawing. And while the past couple of years have enjoyed good growth, this year’s rainy spring and early summer, and then a heatwave, created incredible conditions for weeds…weeds like I have never seen before!

Spikey, thistle-y weeds that stick you with needles, flat weeds that travel and form an almost impermeable mat and look like some kind of alien life form, and everything else imaginable, have been growing….well….like weeds this year, finally sapping me of my will to continue the battle to keep the lavender weed-free. This was reinforced by last year’s decision, after trying a couple summers at farmers’ markets, that, “no, this is not going to be a business, this is a hobby that creates beauty at my home.”
Well, this year the thought finally became, “What’s the point of creating this beauty if I never have a minute to sit and relax and just soak it all in, enjoying my ‘Petite Provence’ with a glass of wine in hand? How can I enjoy it while fearing it would soon turn into a huge, ugly, tangled mess??”

It also became a huge distraction from my coaching studies and practice. For the past couple of years it seemed that everything I was working towards in that career, including my existing work as a Soul Coach and Interior Alignment® (feng shui) practitioner, got shoved to the side while “gardening season” took over my life. Remember, it’s not just the lavender crop, but all the other beds too, needing attention.

So…the choice is clear. Last week I gave notice on Facebook announcing my decision to sell off the lavender plants piecemeal. Like the market vending the year before and the photography gallery the year before that, I am once again in a space of letting go. And each time a little bit of my identity goes too, which is probably the hardest part.

Actually for me, this letting go is more about feeling that my labour and financial investment was a waste, but mostly the labour. As I have already been thinking of myself as a coach for a few years now, the identity of Lavender Farmer is much easier to shrug off than my former cloak of Photographer. More people knew me in the latter context for much longer.

And as with pretty much every change I go through like this, I have to draw on my own coaching skills, (and sometimes those of others with more objectivity), to remind myself that we are all so much more than what we do, or what we have. I know a few people have called me “The Lavender Lady”…. not my favourite moniker, conjuring for me as it does some kind of romantic English waif in a flowing dress, which I feel anything but! But it’s harmless. I am, for sure, a font of good, practical information about growing the stuff after this experiment.

But I am so much more than any label, and yet that is how we generally make ourselves known to others isn’t it? I am not much of a student of philosophy but I do remember Kierkegaard’s quote from university, “Once you label me you negate me.”  Labels are inherently limiting.

Our careers force us to wear labels to identify our skill set or products to our potential clients and customers. But it is always a danger to wear those like armour, because someday it will rust, or an arm will fall off or a joint will be pierced and we will change course or get fired or retire and then…who are we?  Some never find who they are without that career identity, and struggle with diminished sense of self while trying to get mileage out of who they used to be or what they used to do.

I am glad “Lavender Lady” has not, in spite of several years, infused my blood with its essential oil! It’s beautiful stuff, lavender. It smells great, tastes good too, but it is not who I am in my ever-evolving and unlimited Being.  Letting go once more allows “letting in”!

Have you ever had trouble relinquishing a label? How did you do it? Had trouble changing careers or lifestyle or habits because you identify so strongly with being that thing you have been? Have you experienced challenges starting something new because you have been hanging onto something that no longer serves you because your identity is so intertwined with it?

We can chat about these ideas over on our Co-creative Healing Arts Facebook Page. LIKE us on facebook to continue the discussion. And for more information on what my husband and I offer at Co-Creative Healing Arts, please check out our web site,


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