Phase Transition, Inc

Empowerment Through Self Awareness

Putting the “Self” in Self-esteem

Build self-esteem by trying new things you think you might like.

Build self-esteem by trying new things you think you might like.

Were does your self-esteem come from? Is it based on how you look or perform, how someone (parent/partner) feels about you, how much money you have in the bank? What happens to you when you age, perform poorly, have a major disagreement with your partner, or suffer a financial loss?

Most of us do not give self esteem a second thought. When things are going well, we don’t need to. When things go wrong in a major way it is a healthy self-esteem that keeps us from over-reacting, from getting lost in despair and overwhelm.

So what’s a healthy self-esteem? Where do we get it from and how do we sustainit? A big key is in the word itself. The “self” in self esteem is YOU. What do you think of yourself? What needs to be addressed for you to like yourself? Are you willing to make those changes? How do you tell YOU that you are important? When was the last time you did something you like to do, just because? We get caught up in our schedules and commitments and forget that feeding our “self” means more than good nutrition. It means exercise we enjoy for our soul, our mind and our body. It means expressing ourselves, however that looks – art, dance, music, book club. It means indulging in things that make us feel good, clean and whole. You control these things, and only you can take them away.

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Reflection on Family

The days are shortening, and as the sun dips into the canyon beyond my window I think of my parents and siblings whom I have lost, those who were not at the table for Thanksgiving but who blessed me in so many ways throughout my life.  This year my friends are loosing their parents, and I am able to tell them that the pain of that loss is less in time.

My reflection on the nature or the nurture of family left me ripe for a quote by Penelope Niven whose book Thorton Wilder: A Life (Harper) was recently released.  “In Wilder’s daily life,” Niven writes, “family was an anchor, usually a comfort and help, sometimes a nuisance, and always a responsibility, generously fulfilled.” Like Wilder, family is my anchor weighted by comfort given, help taken, nuisance given and taken, always a responsibility generously fulfilled.  I am blessed to feel this way, and I share Bert Hellinger’s Constellation work so others might find their anchor as well.

For more on Penelope Niven’s book, read the review by Rob Hardy at:

For more on Bert Hellinger’s Family Constellation work, see Bert Hellinger’s home page at

Soulful Summer


Just what is a soulful summer?  Remember the summer vacations of the past where we giggled as we played with our friends, ran around in bare feet past the setting of the sun?  Maybe we read a book, lay back in the grass and watched the clouds form a shape, tried our hand at baseball and made new friends at vacation camp.  Those times you remember from summers long ago are clues to what feeds your soul.

Every time we invest in a soulful moment, we reduce our stress level, and since stress is a factor in heart attacks, cancer and other illness, we should experience soulful moments as often as possible.  Here are some activities to feed your soul, structured for those of us who feel we have no time:

Read a good book – Wash up for bed twenty minutes early so you can curl up with a good book.  Choose something that makes you feel good (an English mystery, a heartwarming tale about your favorite animals, history of your ancestors) and if you fall asleep after a few minutes, know you probably needed to.  If you are like me, once you get into it, you’ll be reading it while standing on line at the pharmacy, etc. Suddenly you will find time to read a little bit more.

Catch up with an old friend – or a new one.  If friends are close by, get together.  Busy schedule? Make it twenty minutes at the coffee shop, or forty-five minutes while walking the neighborhood.  If your friends are across the country or the globe, phone calls and Skype keep us in touch.  Sharing, laughing, listening, connecting.  These are soulful acts!

Spend time in nature – Go to the farmer’s market, city park or arboretum for an hour.  Sit in the back yard and listen to the wind blow the leaves.  Use all your senses to experience nature.  Not only will you be in the moment (great for reducing stress), but also you might find a frog’s hiding spot (I did).  If you don’t have a back yard, and aren’t near the park, bring nature to you.  A houseplant, a terrarium with snails or a gold fish bowl will do the trick as long as you focus on them.

Exercise – If you don’t love a sport you might need to trick yourself into this one.  A tango lesson is exercise, and so is gardening.  Rescue a dog and commit to walking it as a way to combine two soulful acts.  Consider your personality and the condition of your present health.  Choose enjoyable, easily attainable goals and reward yourself with one slightly more challenging when a goal is reached.  The number one goal is letting you know you care about yourself, feeling good right down to the core of your being, so don’t focus on “personal bests” unless that makes you feel good.

Take a vacation – If you have a full schedule, lots of local responsibilities or a tight budget a vacation can seem impossible.  But vacations are about changing your perspective and your routine.  A weekend getaway, staying (or swapping) with a friend, or a day trip to a local attraction can supply the soulful pick-me-up that comes from a break in “the norm”.  So be creative about what “vacation” means and challenge yourself to take a break on your terms.

Whatever you do, keep it stress free.  I know I can find twenty minutes once a week to read a book.  And…I set the timer, because the chatter in my head would have me off folding laundry otherwise.  This twenty minutes is my gift to me, and it is amazing how quickly my mood lightens, and I am feeling more creative, and am better able to listen to others.  Know your limits and honor them – time, money, physical health all need to be respected or you’ll add stress instead of diminishing it.  Choose things that you feel compelled to do, and things that are out of the norm for you (change your brain patterns) to give sustenance to the physical, emotional, mental and energetic YOU.

Feel free to give me feedback about what you chose, why, and how it made you feel.  Happy, soulful summer to you!

Does Upbringing Influence Adult Outcomes?

The case can be made that events in childhood affect Adult outcomes.

The ACE Study is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. Led by Co-principal Investigators Robert F. Anda, MD, MS, and Vincent J. Felitti, MD, the ACE Study is perhaps the largest scientific research study of its kind, analyzing the relationship between multiple categories of childhood trauma (ACEs), and health and behavioral outcomes later in life.

What’s an ACE?

Growing up experiencing any of the following conditions in the household prior to age 18:

1. Recurrent physical abuse
2. Recurrent emotional abuse
3. Contact sexual abuse
4. An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
5. An incarcerated household member
6. Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
7. Mother is treated violently
8. One or no parents
9. Emotional or physical neglect

What’s your ACE score?

Find out more about your score, and the effect of these conditions on future outcomes including smoking, addiction, general health and more. Check out the web site at

Peace in 2012

“Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”              Jelaluddin Rumi

I could not have understood this statement, or accepted this invitation, from Runi had it not been for Family Constellation work.  In the framework of a larger, historical context most actions taken by our ancestors seem to logically follow in the wake tragedies too heartbreaking to speak of.  Rather than judging right or wrong, the work seeks to remember those missing or excluded ones and acknowledges the suffering of lost hope, lost love, or lost life.  Finally, family members take their rightful place so that order is restored.   Those who participate experience a sense of peace.

If you are ready to explore Rumi’s invitation, check out a Family Constellation workshop near you.

Essential Clay Play

As summer winds down and planned activates wane, try this recipe for homemade clay.  Add essential oils and color to make it a more kinesthetic experience.  If your children have trouble with letters or numbers, have them shape the clay in uppercase or lower case letters.  Stipple, score or otherwise texture the characters and let them dry for a three dimensional representation of the alphabet.  For more ideas, contact me!

Kids of all ages will have hours of aromatic fun with this soft, long-lasting dough.


  1. Mix 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup salt, 2 tablespoons cream of tarter, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 cup water in a medium-sized pot until well blended.
  2. While stirring continuously, cook the mixture in the pot over medium-low heat until it forms a thick dough that is no longer sticky (approximately 5 minutes). You can tell it is done when it no longer sticks to the sides of the pan, but forms a clump of dough in the middle of the pan. (*Helpful hint: the dough will become fairly hard to stir before it gets done, so an extra set of hands to help stir may be useful.)
  3. Remove the dough from the pan and place on waxed-paper. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal pieces.
  5. For each of the four pieces of dough, add approximately 10 drops of different colored food coloring, and knead until the color is well blended into the dough.
  6. Add approximately 8-10 drops of different essential oils or blends to each of the four pieces of dough and knead for about 60 seconds. If you find the scent of the dough is not strong enough, add a few more drops of the essential oil or blend. (*Helpful hint: to make sure both the food coloring and the essential oil or blend stay in the dough and don’t drip off, create a well in the top of the piece of dough with your finger, drop the coloring or oil in the well, fold the dough so it closes over the well opening, then continue to knead the dough as normal.)
  7. Store each piece of dough in a clean, 4 oz. plastic container, Ziplock® bag, or other airtight container.

Extra Ideas:

  1. Create fun labels for your containers using sheets of inkjet or laser labels (such as Avery®). You can either color these by hand using markers, stamps, or paints, or you can use your software that has pre-formatted label settings (most word-processing software does) and create labels on your computer and print them.
  2. Try creating scents that match the color of the play clay you created. For example, try using peppermint oil for red or white, pine for green, wintergreen or birch (both have a root beer-like aroma) for brown, spruce for blue, orange oil for orange, and so forth.
  3. Make two batches and shape the clay into the letters of the alphabet.   Before they dry, lightly stipple, score or mark the letters in varying ways.  Once they dry, have your child put them in order, group them into consonants and vowels or spell simple words.

This and other recipes using essential oils are available at

Stuck In Between – Part 2

Did you ever feel stuck between two emotions, or two options with no idea of how to move forward? If so, you are not alone. It happens to most of us at one time or another. So what can be done to get “unstuck”? Last time I explained the “two chair” model that helps get in touch with the reasons and feelings related to each choice.

Hellinger style resolution between two choices looks a lot like the “two chair” method. The difference is in the field. Hellinger’s work relies on people who or objects that represent each option. I prefer people for issues related to choice, so I’ll explain it from that perspective. Feel free to ask questions if you’d like to know more about working with objects.

One client worked in the family business – three generations of business law. Her hobby was dancing. When her dance teacher asked her to turn professional and go on the road, she found the idea captivating. Stuck between loyalty to the family business, and the enticement of professional dancing, I asked her to choose a representative for law and a representative for dance. They stood in front of us at first, and then moved to where they felt comfortable in relation to each other and the client. The representative for law was resolute, turned away from “dance”, and partially away from the client. The representative for dance was exuberant, moving boldly, bumping into “law” and the client at times.

I asked the client to stand in front of “law” and look him in the eye. It was clear from her stance and facial expressions that she was deeply connected to “law”. No words were spoken, though they could have been. Five minutes or more passed before a peace came over the two of them, their faces calm, their shoulders relaxed, their faces neutral or smiling.

I then asked her to look “professional dance” in the eye. “Dance” was beaming, always moving some part of her body. The client stood for a long time, six or seven minutes, looking at “dance”. Twice she looked over at “law” who turned to watch from about three feet away. I noted the client’s posture and her facial expressions, but said nothing aloud so she could focus on her own feelings. Eventually she turned to me and stated, “I got what I needed. Thank you.”

Why does this method work? The client is literally faced with two choices. Somehow, presumably via Sheldrake’s morphic field or Jung’s collective unconscious, the representatives know something about the choice they represent. “Dance” was exuberant, and “law” was resolute. Through these representations, the client was reminded of why she chose law in the first place, and could see why becoming a professional dancer was attractive. The silent dialogue between the representatives and the client allowed her to safely connect with all of her thoughts, feelings and motivations in the face of both choices. As a facilitator, I could bring awareness to her body posture, sensations and breathing if necessary. I could also bring awareness to the repeating pattern of dichotomy (exuberant/resolute) by including representatives for family members had it seemed appropriate.

In the “two chair” method, the participant does the talking, the noticing. A facilitator may or may not be present to observe and report. The Hellinger method requires more people, and space to set up the field, but the feedback of the representatives is constant and the facilitator is available to bring awareness to things that might otherwise be missed. In both methods, awareness and respect of each option brings the client to resolution.

Next time you feel conflicted by a choice or emotions, give one of these methods a try. Your feedback is always welcome.

Stuck in Between

Did you ever feel stuck between two emotions, or two options with no idea of how to move forward? If so, you are not alone. It happens to most of us at one time or another. So what can be done to get “unstuck”?

A colleague of mine uses the “two chair” approach. Whichever emotion or option has more depth or conviction gets chair one. The second approach gets chair two. Sitting in chair one, make all the statements that support the stronger emotion or option. Then switch to chair two and show you heard what was said in chair one, followed by any reaction you have to what was said. What fears come up? What wasn’t taken into account? Finally, state the case for the second emotion or option. If you feel overpowered by the first option, state that, but make sure option two gets an equal chance to be completely explored. Maybe rebuttal is appropriate. If so, back to chair one, to show you heard chair two’s position, and to state the rebuttal. Keep switching chairs until everything relevant has been spoken. Yes…you are doing this out loud, so notice if you are wimpy, whiny or bullying, and when. This may give you a clue as to why you are feeling stuck.

Why does this work? Hopes and fears lie behind emotions, and emotions drive our choice of options. Getting in touch with the strong fears and the secret hopes allows us to see the whole picture. We can give fear it’s proper place, and give hope a chance. Doing the exercise by yourself gives you the freedom to say everything you need to without fear of judgment. No one is listening but you.

This is the second key…you must listen. By listening to yourself advocate for each option or emotion, you’ll get a sense of what the stronger position is, what’s driven by fear, and where compromise is possible or necessary.

Noticing is key as well. You are watching two sides of your “self”. One is more comfortable to you. One is congruent with how you see yourself, and how you’d like others to see you. One is less so. Since you are exploring the two, not committing to either option, you are free to catch a glimpse of who else you are.  Greater self acceptance is right around the corner.  Try it, and let me know how it works for you and what you discovered.

If you are looking for a non-verbal approach, stay tuned. Three-dimensional mapping involves more people in the process of looking at emotions or options, but less talk.   It is a great way to get a peek at why you’ve been chronically stuck. Resolution, Hellinger style, is the topic of the next blog.

Check Out The Horse Boy

For anyone interested in looking at the journey of Autism in a completely different way, check out The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson. When their son is first diagnosed Karen and Rupert make dietary and nutritive changes, they try behavioral modification and touch to make contact with the child who is lost more and more to tantrums and daydreams. Things seem more hopeful when Roan is around animals, especially horses, and so begins a scheme to visit Mongolian shamen via horseback. It is not the route that most of us would take, but it is a fascinating journey with many heartwarming moments. I won’t tell you how it ends, but I will tell you it is worth watching on DVD (93 minutes) or reading. The film touched me in many ways.

As a Brain Integration Specialist I was fascinated to see Roan interact with the items of his intense focus – live animals or plastic replicas. In the DVD version succinct interviews from autism experts made the point that we know so little about the minds of those who live among the autism spectrum, and that our way of judging them may do us all a disservice. As an educator I was relieved to hear Roan’s parents share their fears, expectations, reservations, and their unorthodox journey. They speak the language of those whose children are not what society deems “normal” and they respond to daily challenges with grace, humor and boundless love. If you have ever felt ashamed of the DNA that passed to your child, you have a kindred spirit in Rupert Isaacson.

Constellation Facilitators will recognize the “knowing field” in the shaman’s attention to a family member whose symptoms appear to be relevant. Shamanic ceremonies are performed while the camera is rolling, so we get a glimpse of how change is affected in other cultures. Everyone from the guide and cameramen to the parents and shamen seems to be touched by the experience of working for the good of this young boy.

Following the passions of our children may not be the prescribed way of moving through the journey of autism, but here is a look at what might happen if it were!

4 Rules for Life

For years I have lived, whenever possible, by four simple rules. My friend and  mentor, Warren Jacobs, M.D., has shown me their wisdom, wisdom he gleaned from Dr. Dean Ornish. I share them with you here, and hope they work the same magic in your life that they have worked in mine.

1. Show Up. Be present and aware of what’s happening in this moment, rather than worried about the future or reliving the past.
2. Be Honest.
3. Be In Touch Your Feelings & the Feelings of Others. Feelings are different from thoughts. They inform or guide thoughts, but they sensations like joy, fear, hopelessness, sorrow, humiliation. If you are clear about your feelings, and the feelings of others an open dialogue can take place.
4. Don’t Be Too Invested in the Outcome. Whenever I am too invested in the outcome, one of the other rules gets forgotten, so I find that when I have my heart set on achieving a goal, it is best if I am also okay if the outcome is not what I was hoping for. When I can imagine both outcomes, and be content with either, I can maintain perspective, and remain in touch, honest, and present.

They are not always easy, but try these rules out the next time you face a situation where you are hoping for a certain outcome, and your partner, friend, sibling or boss is hoping for another. See if it makes things go more smoothly, even if the outcome is not what you were hoping for. Focus on the connection you have with that person, and notice if you respected the connection, and if it is now stronger. I find that stronger connections enrich my life more than gaining the outcome I hoped for every time. See if you agree. Post your feedback, if you like.

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