Annelieke de Vries is a seasoned social worker who relies on her personal and professional experiences to provide step-by-step guidance that will help anyone identify who they truly are, break free from an endless cycle of struggles and suffering, return to a place of happiness and peace, and learn to live life with love, ease, and purpose. De Vries, who embarked on her own persistent search for growth and happiness after a childhood trauma, offers perspective on how she moved forward, healed, and regained love for herself and life while encouraging others to question everything, realize the power of intuition, know when to ask for help, release fears, and ultimately find their true selves.
How to Be Human combines personal experiences with tools and references that will guide others to embrace a new and fulfilling life.
|Publisher:||Balboa Press AU|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.20(d)|
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A girl called Annelieke, and conditioning of the brain
I was born on the 20th of February 1984 in Delft, The Netherlands. The middle child, an older brother and younger sister. My parents named me Annelieke de Vries. I was a happy girl growing up in a supportive middleclass family. I was very close to my siblings, had pets I loved very much and friends I saw every day. I was an independent, sensitive, intelligent, creative, social little girl. I was a free spirit, in touch with my soul and the world around me.
Growing up in a western culture was a privilege and a burden. I was lucky to grow up in a country with good health care and education that supported creative thinking, innovation and philosophical discussion. I had access to all I needed, and more. But there was also a downside. One I only realised in the last few years. I was put through the western education system. My brain was trained to think, problem solve and focus on the future. I stopped being in my body. I was encouraged to think and to achieve. Then trauma happened. A few events that shook up my world. The thinking, the worrying, got worse and turned into fear.
The culture I grew up in, is probably the culture you know. A culture that is westernised, that focusses on achievements, money, career, marriage. Our brains conditioned to be in thinking mode. Focussed on the future goals we have set for ourselves by the standards and expectations of our family and culture. I learned to forget who I truly was and had no understanding at all of what this life was about. My true self got lost in systems built on conditioning and fear. The thing was, I did not know I was living in constant fear until only a few years ago. I was living just like everyone else knew.
When I migrated from the Netherlands to Australia, I started working as a counsellor. Many of my clients had a history of trauma. I started learning more about trauma and the human brain. It opened my eyes. This was an important piece of the puzzle I was missing for myself and my work. Understanding the brain and the connection between the mind, body and trauma helped me understand myself and my clients better.
My j ourney of self-growth and the work with my clients over the last decade, have helped me find the tools that I needed to let go of all that conditioning and fear. To start living with ease, joy and purpose. Understanding how the brain and mind-body connection work, is vital to understanding the human condition. It was the first piece of information that helped me to understand my humanness, and the first thing I want to share with you.
1.1 A bit about the brain
Our brain is made up out of many parts, but I am going to keep things simple. There are many books written by knowledgeable people in this world on this topic, and I encourage you to explore the internet and the library if you want to know more. This is my perception on how I see things, not necessarily how things are in your world. I invite you to research anything you feel you need to in order to find your truth.
We live in a world where get overloaded with information constantly, and we get lost in the details. We end up feeling overwhelmed and unable to filter out the information that is actually important to us. Our brain is made up out of many parts, but I only discuss those parts that I perceive as important for now: the left and right brain half, and the mind-body connection.
The left part of our brain is the part that plans, solves problems, produces thoughts and stores memories in words and pictures. Some call this our thinking brain and it is associated with male energy. It helps us plan and organise our lives and is able to look at the past and future. The left brain also has the ability to cope by 'going on with normal life', no matter what happens. This explains how a woman who gets beaten by her husband, is still able to go to work, be a mother and socialise with friends.
The right part of our brain is the part that is responsible for non-verbal language, body language. It helps you with interpreting emotions, sensations and facial expressions. It is home to our creative energy and is associated with female energy. It is the part where emotional and sensory memories are stored. Trauma is stored as a body response in the right brain. This is also the part from which our instinctive survival responses are activated.
The ego and our sense of self
To keep things simple, I am going to say that the left brain is home to the ego. The ego is our personality, our sense of self. It holds our beliefs about who we are, about others and the world we live in. Some people will tell you that having an ego is bad. It is not. We need an ego in order to have a sense of who we are in this life on this planet. Without an ego, we have no sense of self. And without a sense of self, we are not human.
The ego is surrounded by walls. When we talk about someone with a strong ego, we talk about the ego walls. Someone with thick ego walls, has a strong sense of self and strong beliefs about themselves, others and the world they live in. When the walls are too thick, these beliefs and the sense of self become rigid. Walls that are too thick, do not allow new information to penetrate. The persons sense of self does not change, even if they have experiences or new information that allows them to grow.
When our ego walls are too thin, we do not have much of a sense of self. Our beliefs are easily changed by external and internal influences, such as friends, family, media, emotions and pain. Someone who has thin ego walls, feels unsure about who they are and how they fit into this world. They are easy influenced by other people. Their beliefs about themselves, others and the world can change strongly with the events that occur in their lives. This can be very ungrounding. Not having a sense of self means not having a base upon which to stand. It can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. This is what happened to me, and to the majority of the people I have worked with.
Someone who is balanced, has an ego with walls that are strong enough to keep them grounded, to know who they are in life. To stick to their own beliefs, despite what other people say. But they also have walls that are thin enough to let in new information, so their beliefs and sense of self can change. This enables someone to stay flexible and continue to grow. The ego and ego walls are conditioned by culture, where we live and who we interact with. It can be strengthened or broken down by our life experiences. The ego walls are our protection. They help us stay grounded and help us feel safe when we are undergoing changes, internally or externally.
The soul and the observing self
The right brain is the space that holds a part of us that many refer to as the observing self. It is the part that can just notice, observe everything. It can notice the thoughts produced by the left brain. It can notice the feelings in the body. It is the part that notices the smell, sight, touch and taste of things in detail with complete presence. This is a part of ourselves that just is, a part of us where we are able to be an observer in our own lives. All of us have this observing self. However most of us are used to being in our thinking selves. We are trained to use our thinking brain. That is what gets us through school and work to make the money for the things we want to buy in order for us to be happy. Our observing self has been neglected in the Western culture. Slowly we are starting to remember the importance of training and strengthening this muscle.
The physical, emotional and mental benefits of mindfulness are becoming more widely recognized in the western world. By practising yoga, meditation or other mindfulness exercises, you can strengthen the observing self. This is important, as the observing self is a point from which you can connect directly to your soul and the divine. The soul is what some people call their heart, intuition or their higher self. It is that part of us that is connected to all other living beings on this earth. It is the energy that connects us all. It holds our true identity, our purpose and all the knowledge of the world. Your soul knows what is best for you and when you trust it, your intuition and connection to all energies within and without grow stronger.
There is a strong connection between the mind and the body. A constant relay of messages between the mind and the body occurs every second of our life. The senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound) feed information to the brain. The brain filters the information and interprets it. It makes a decision and signals the body to respond accordingly.
The right brain is connected with the left body half, the observing self and female energy. When we strengthen the observing self, we can observe our own thoughts and behaviour and connect to our intuition or soul more easily. We can observe how our body responds to situations, people and sensations. The left brain is connected with the right body half, the thinking self and male energy. The left brain can make sense of what our body feels by analysing it. We need the left brain to analyse the messages, sensations and events observed by the right brain in both our inner and outer worlds. The more we observe and reflect on our body responses and thought patterns, the more we learn about ourselves. This helps us understand the messages that our bodies give us.
How we treat our body and how we treat our mind, has an influence on the other. If we choose to eat unhealthy food or not give our body enough nutrients, it will affect our way of thinking. If we chose to surround ourselves by situations or people we do not feel safe with, our body activates the stress response and we cannot think clearly. Our soul constantly gives us signals through our body, messages to help guide us to what is good for us. We just need to know how understand these messages correctly.
1.2 Getting back in touch with our intuition
I believe everyone has all the knowledge and wisdom inside them, to make the decisions that are right for them. It is that feeling you get when you have a hunch, a feeling that something is not right or very right for you. You might know this as your gut feeling, intuition or soul.
Whatever you call that feeling, every human being has it. What is right and wrong is different and unique to each individual. Sometimes, our intuition or 'radar' to steer away from things or people that are not good for us, gets muddled. This happens because of trauma and the culture and systems we live in. We are so conditioned to make decisions that are sensible, with what is perceived 'right and wrong' in our culture, that many of have lost touch with our intuition.
Animals do not make decisions based on peer pressure or culture. Animals are completely guided by their intuition and a stress response when a threat appears. They just know not to eat that toxic plant, or where to look for water. How often do we hear of animals fleeing a certain area, only for a natural disaster to occur a day later killing thousands of people? Just like other animals, our bodies give us valuable clues to what is good and what is not good for us, we just need to learn how to listen and interpret those feelings.
Especially when we have experienced traumatic events in our life, we can misinterpret our body sensations. The reason for this is that traumatic memory is stored as a body response. It creates a chain reaction of physical and emotional changes when there is something (a trigger) reminding your body of the traumatic experience. This can make it difficult to distinguish between intuition, and the stress response activated by triggers of trauma. I will explain more about what trauma is and the effects of trauma in following chapters.
How to ask your body for answers.
So how do we get back in touch with our intuition? The answer is simple: ASK YOUR BODY! This is a simple exercise I was taught in a workshop and has helped me a lot in regaining the trust in my own intuition.
Ask your body exercise:
Stand up, plant your feet firmly into the ground and take three slow deep breaths. (You can do this exercise seated as well if needed.) If you feel comfortable, you can close your eyes to make it easier to tune into your body. Notice what you are feeling in your body right now, any sensations, any pain or tension, any 'buzzing' or vibration.
Now, in your mind or out loud, ask your body to give you an answer for YES and take a minute or so to see if there is a sensation, feeling or movement that happens.
(Some people get a warm feeling in a certain place in their body, others notice tension in a body part or their whole body might move slightly forward, backwards or sideways.)
If you have noticed the feeling, make a mental note of it and move on to the next question.
Now, again in your mind or out loud, ask your body to give you an answer for NO. Again, take a minute or so to notice the change of sensation, feeling or movement in your body, and make a mental note of it. Repeat both questions to double check the sensations are the same.
THIS IS YOUR GUT, YOUR INTUITION GIVING YOU AN ANSWER.
If the responses are very subtle, you can do the exercise again and ask your body to make the response bigger. If the response is too big (for example your body moves that much forward or backwards you almost fall over), you can ask your body to turn the response down a bit. If you receive a different sensation or movement, you might want to do the exercise another two times to ensure you get a consistent answer.
You can use this response to get answers to important questions in your life. My experience is, that this tool works on questions that involve matters of the heart, not matters of ego. Our intuition only wants to guide us on matters that are truly important.
Sometimes, when we are stressed or very emotional, our intuition gets muddled with a stress response that can create similar sensations. To ensure you are listening to your intuition and that you are getting answers that you can trust, you can ask your body the following question first:
Am I giving answers that are true to my highest good? (the response should be YES). Is there a reason why I would not? (the response should be NO).
I want to be sick? (NO). I want to be well? (YES)
If you are getting different answers than the ones state above, you are not being guided by your intuition and I strongly recommend that you do not listen to the answers you receive. Instead, you might want to do something calming and relaxing (such as a going for walk, listening to calming music or taking a bath), and then try again. I recommend that everyone uses these 'double check' questions at first, until you feel you know when and how to get accurate information through your body responses.
1.3 The importance of connection
I have always been a very social person, always interested in people's stories and behaviour. That's why I became a counsellor. I grew up in a tightknit family, where connection to self, others and the world were important values. But it is only since I reconnected to myself, that I truly understand how important connection really is.
As a little girl, I loved the buzz of the city. My mother often reminds me that even as a very young girl, I would point to the lights and people in the pubs in town and say: "That is where I want to go mummy". I love connecting with others, especially strangers. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories, as every story tells me more about myself and the world we live in.
Our worlds have become so big, that many of us disconnect. We stop making friends, talking together and supporting the people in our local community. Instead we spend time texting and putting pictures and status updates on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We have become isolated and lonely, inundated with so much information we cannot process it. We get overwhelmed by fear and worry and confused with messages that are fed to us through the internet, tv and videogames.
We build up beliefs around the world that are based on feelings of hopelessness and a lack of control. We do not know what information is true, and what is based on lies and deceit. And the only way to gain some control back and not feel overwhelmed by all that information, is to disconnect. The problem is, that many of us chose to disconnect from the thing that has helped us survive and evolve as a species: other humans.
I remember once experimenting with connecting with strangers. I smiled and said hello to everyone I met on the street in my hometown. Some people said hello and smiled back, but most of them looked at me weird, sometimes even scared. It made me sad to see how something as simple as smiling and saying hello, can already put people in a place of fear and suspicion. We have become scared to connect, to tell our true stories. We have become too concerned that we will be judged or perceived as weird, or different. Every person I meet, seems to have the same 'I am different' or 'I am not good enough' story. And yet it appears that we all want the same thing: To live a happy, healthy life filled with love, ease and purpose.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "How to Be Human"
Copyright © 2017 Annelieke de Vries.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 A girl called Annelieke, and conditioning of the brain, 1,
2 When trauma happened, 13,
3 Coping through sex, drugs and therapy, 22,
4 Conditioning, and generations of trauma, 35,
5 Living the dream and letting it go, 42,
6 The journey to self-love, 57,
7 How drugs changed my world, 69,
A Final Word, 75,