We all know people who greet life’s challenges easily with grit and grace. People who are calm, collective and even-keeled under pressure, approaching worries, fears, life’s struggles and even injustice with magnanimity.

I however have never been one of those people EVER. As your classic overachiever, i’v always had a tendency to equate my self-worth with external validation. At times it has come in rather handy, feeding my ambitious streak by pushing me to work harder. But with me constantly living for the next “gold star” has also let me to process each minor set back, like a major disaster, (almost a feeling of “the world just ended”) filling my brain with dramatic thoughts: I couldn’t do anything right. Everybody hated me. I was always doomed to fail, always.

Maybe you can relate to this kind of unwitting overreaction. Maybe not? It happens when you have a fight with a friend that leaves you convinced that the two of you are over for ever, or when your partner does something hurtful to you to make you believe, just temporarily, that you hate them.

We see this behavior in pop culture and politics – where we are always too quick to categorize these people as good/bad, worthy of admiration or disdain without fully understanding the full situation. We pass judgement. We always pass judgement way too quickly.

The tendency to think in extremes is known in psychology as dichotomous. Another way to describe it is seeing everything as black or white . A common mental error that will distort your perception of reality. Something I suffer with but can handle it much better now. When your in the grips of dichotomous, there’s no room for nuance. You start seeing the world as all or nothing, fixating on how things “should be” or “must be” to the point that you render yourself inflexible to change. But of course you can change. I did. I am!

Ask yourself what objective evidence supports this? How would another view this situation?

Everyone I believe suffers from dichotomous thinking at some point in their life. Just my opinion.

Research has shown that this kind of thinking can lead to a pattern of harmful perfectionism and also low self esteem, with this comes bad judgement and leaves you to misunderstand others peoples emotions. Life is ambitious and complex, you have to appreciate its subtleties to stay happy and sane. We need to be a little bit more realistic and a little less extreme in our thoughts. Agree this is not always an easy task.

Pay attention to your thoughts. If you hear yourself talking in absolutes, negative thinking. Sentences like “this always happens to me” or “it never works out” try to counteract them with a realism rating. Instead of giving marks out of 10, rate your performance out of 100. Doesn’t seem so negative now does it?

When your at the height of dichotomous thinking, this is where you can become dangerous to yourself. Your brain automatically will jump into overdrive, this is to protect you from perceived threats. However your not actually in any danger but this is your body’s way of dealing with your thinking. Your body will start to release chemicals like cortisone and adrenaline which pumps up your anxiety, the other functions like decision making, self control and focus, to name a few are shot down and you won’t find them. Something that I do and I find very helpful is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, Also know as a grounding exercise. Engage your 5 senses one at a time. Identify 5 things you can see, 4 sounds, 3 physical sensations, 2 smells and 1 taste that you are experiencing right at that moment.

Once that’s done , we need to get our brain back thinking clearly again. What I do is I will create a counterargument.

What’s our goal? We need to challenge our thoughts, we need to know if what we’re thinking is correct. These are some of the questions I ask myself….

What objective evidence or facts supports this ?

How would another person view this situation?

Are there other angles to consider?

What actions can I take that will help or influence what happens next?

We need a more balanced way of reacting to a situation. Reframing is when we gather other ways at looking at a situation. Fact is: doing this can reduce the potency of whatever false perception that’s causing you stress. Sounds simple and it actually is. If you suffer with dichotomous, the reality is that you need to do these things or life will become very scary, very negative and very lonely.

Remember we have to be nicer to ourselves. Self compassion will increase your capacity to cope with negative emotions. So when your eternal monologue is full of your thoughts about your inadequacy please ask yourself this – Is there a better generous assumption that I can be making right now?

Embracing Your Physical Self

It was only in my mid 30’s when I first realised how much my sexuality influences my sense of self. Sex it turns out, was a form of expression I was rather interested in. Oddly enough, that’s when my then partner accused me: “all you care about is sex” He said this because he did not want a sexual component in our relationship at all. A perfectly fine thing, if partners agree. However not an option for me.

The confusion he had over his own feelings about sex in relationships unfortunately triggered a lot of confusion for me. The shame I felt over this was immense- I internalised his words about how valuing sex as highly as an emotion or mental connection was primitive, stupid. I began to deny that I was physical person at all, and a part of me was squared away in a box with a label attached to it saying “do not touch” A far cry from liberation!

Only more recently have I admitted the truth to myself: I am not an idiot for been a physical, sexual human-being. My physicality is an active part of my identity. Now I am rediscovering my body in all new ways. It’s exciting. I am finally paying attention to it, rather than dismissing it out of hand for the “superiority” of my mind. The mind is a powerful thing but living entirely in ones own head is also dangerous. Our true self is something that I think can only really be understood and explored if we are balanced in mind, body and spirit.

It is in this vein that I began to reflect on what “liberation” really means. Its something that gets bandied about quite a lot. We all know someone who after a few beers think they are super woke and sexually free and “get it”. But what does liberation really mean? I guess it might mean so many different things for so many people but here is what I think it means.

Its about Openness

Been open Minded doesn’t come naturally to everyone and fear around the physical realm (the vulnerability required and pressure of “performing” to exceptions) can be daunting. I have friends who can not even say the word “sex” when its not a word we should have a fear of. If you are afraid of the word then how can you be open in the act? People are contradictions, in the end. There are many factors that overlap with sex- culture, sexual orientation, religion, media, just to name a few. We absorb all these things, alongside information about gender roles, along side ageism and ableism and everything else that aims to hold some bodies above others for particular kinds of pleasure. Untangling these things to figure where true desire and pleasure starts and finishes is really rather tricky. However not impossible. But without a sense of been open and ready to explore, real pleasure is very hard to achieve. Almost impossible.

I have done my best to eliminate assumptions about what my body is here to do on this earth. However its here to do many things, not all to do with my sexuality, nor all to do with my thoughts.

Liberation requires openness to begin down the road of discovery.

Its about self awareness

Self-awareness is a challenge in a lot of aspects of life. Let alone in the sexual sphere, where internalised shame can do so much damage. Its not news, that women understand even less about their own pleasure than men often do, what with masturbation being something utterly undiscussed. Shame! And at the same time there is an unreasonable expectation that men are meant to understand it all perfectly (when of course they don’t) which makes it hard for them to ask questions as well. Its the blind leading the blind. Or rather, nobody leading anyone- everyone pretending everything/anything is fine ( and I know all about pretending, but thats another blog) a system that benefits no-one.

We have to explore, we have to ask questions, we have to experiment. A sense of trust is important, (this can be difficult for some people) and becomes very important if others are involved.

Its about communication

A straight friend of mine told me that he considered sex to be worthwhile even without helping his partner achieve an orgasm. Now I don’t think sex is about orgasm-but orgasm is a fairly important part of it for a lot of people. It is for me. It speaks to the age-old assumptions that female pleasure isn’t quite so important. The partner he imagines as sufficiently pleased by a lack of orgasm is a partner who hasn’t ever spoken for herself. I’d love to know her point of view on this matter. In essence it felt as though there was an assumption about male versus female “needs”. But the reality is what ever gender you are, the needs of your partner are something you must discuss together. And given the huge assumption that exists about male orgasm (that it is “final”-it signals the end point of a heterosexual sexual encounters) its even more important that this is discussed. Orgasm is important, and female orgasm is not so much mysterious as it is undervalued, but the emphasis on male ejacualion is problematic also. The pressure for one partner to dole out pleasure, take pleasure, initiate and finalise the encounter, is far too great a task. However much of this is been dismantled with time. Again, it comes back to peoples expectations and the pressure applied to achieve absolutes that are grounded in stereotype and assumptions, in an arena where absolutes does not exist.

Sensuality is often fluid. The things we like will probably change. Our bodies are not machines, and they don’t always act as we expect them to. We have to learn how to communicate our needs to our partner and give our partner an opportunity to express theirs, in order to experience liberation- completely, and to ensure we don’t suppress our partners, either.

Its about choice

In an excellent episode of the Sexually Liberate Woman podcast, Ev’Yan Whitney Jaliessa Sipress, who at one point in her podcast says:

If you are been fulfilled by vanilla sex, then you should do that. You know what I mean? just because you are a sex educator does not mean that you have to try every flavour in the ice cream shop…..

The name originate’s from the Irish “Mhaigh Eo”

The Irish “Mhaigh Eo” translates to “Plain of the Yew Trees” originality from the village of Mayo, known today as Mayo Abbey. The Yew tree is one of the few trees native to Ireland.

Mayo was the birth place of one of the most fearsome and famous Irish pirates. Grace OMally. She captured English ships and stole their cargo.

Some of the best-know stories from early Irish literature came from county Mayo. Tain Bo Flidhais and Táin Bó Cúailnge.

Mayo has some stunning beaches. Here is my favorite. Ballycroy .

The largest Irish Island is off the coast of Mayo. Achill.

There is so much more history in Mayo. Knock, Croagh Patrick, Cèide Fields to make a few. One more of my favorite places to visit is Down Patrick Head.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
Orson Welles

 

I know I go on and on about lunches in Ryans Bar Navan. But it simply is the best lunch in town. Simple honest food that tastes great. The added bonus is the service is fast and efficient. The coffee is great too. Of course a little sing song from Mick Ryan when he passes your table is generally welcome.

Dining by myself or with clients, friends or family Ryans is where I go.

 

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In August I was in Mayo and done a couple of the local Loop walks. I really love a good loop walk especially when the views are great. Where better than the Wild Atlantic Way?

The first one was the Erris Loop Walk. Its only 5km but the views were impressive. Its not a hard walk. I done this with my mom so we took it nice and easy and enjoyed each others company and the Wild Atlantic views.

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The next walk was the burrishoole walk. There are a few choices to choose from but I took the longest one, only 10km. Took just over 2hours to complete, some heavy hill climbing in places but the views are worth it.

Its bog tracks, country lanes and stone surfaced tracts. Great views of clew bay and Croagh Patrick as backdrop to the south and Nephew Big mountain range to the north

If you find yourself in Mayo with a few hours to yourself I would definitely recommend these walks. The peace and quite is simply so good for your mind soul and body.

Sligo is know for its literary heritage and rugged countryside. Steeped in history and mythology. From clear lakes to rivers to dramatic mountains. Sligo has it all.

We decided to head away to Sligo for a few nights. Mountain climbing, cycling and walking was on our agenda. The weather was perfect. The company was great and the air from the Wild Atlantic. Sure where would ya want to be. Nothing beats the west of Ireland.

Our first stop was a cycle from Sligo town over to the Devils Chimney. A lovely cycle.

The Devils Chimney is just over 1km hike. We didn’t expect to see any water flowing from the waterfall as this only happens when it’s raining. But we wanted to do the hike and see the views. It was a lovely hike through wooded area. When you reached the top the views were pretty impressive. We could see Glencar Lake and the valley stretching below between the hills. There was a lovely picnic area at the top and we took a short break to enjoy a snack.

You have to have some sort of level of fitness to this do.

A quick trip down the road after to the Glencar waterfalls. Very pretty but nothing else to do there.

After this it was time to cycle back to the car and head over to the Beach Bar and B&B in Aughris head where we were staying.

What a location. We arrived and the place was buzzing. Seeing so many people enjoying the sun and happy. What a great feeling. Quick shower and change and up to the bar for dinner. I’m not a fan of bar food, probably because of several bad experiences and cheap pre cooked food shoved out to customers. I didn’t have really high expectations. I was proven wrong. The food was exceptional. Simple food cooked perfect. I’m gutted I didn’t take any pictures. I was starving. I had fish and chips. The batter was so fresh and soft. And not all batter and no fish. A few pints to help wash it down and a lovely walk to watch the sun set.

Next morning we decided to walk the forest walk around Benbulbin, but missing the turn lead us to Luke’s bridge where we decided to climb Benbulbin instead. Not the best decisions Iv ever made. Not following any track, we just decided that we would climb some of it. We started to climb and it was easy enough, in so far as I was able to still stand and walk up it. It gets steeper and eventually you have no choice but to start climbing (like Spider-Man, but without the web) so close to the top I looked around and went into a state of panic. (Iv never claimed or walked up a mountain before) I froze. I just wanted to get off this mountain. Petrified. Convinced myself I was going to fall, (if I fell there would be some serious injury’s) tears rolling down my eyes. Literally holding onto the side of a mountain, legs like jelly. The only way off this mountain was to keep going up. We really should have just followed a track. Stubborn and angry at myself I reached the top. Every single emotion going through me. I couldn’t wait to get down.

Once we got down I needed to feel grounded so I decided to cycle Lough Gill Cycle Loop. Amazing views and a lovely cycle. Pushing all my frustrations out on my quads as I pushed up hills. Best therapy ever.

Back into Sligo town after and time to relax.

Benbulbin you nearly had me but nearly never matched the cow.

I would highly recommend Sligo for a mini adventure trip. I had a blast.