Recently, I gave an interview with Angelina Piechowska, a Polish woman living in Birmingham, UK. She works with what she calls 'self-silencing women' - mainly Polish women who went with their husbands to UK and now live a more or less invisible life as housewives, often derouting into depression or anxiety. She is dedicated to spread hope and encourage agency for this group of expats. Read the full interview below.
A: Pernille, you work with people from all over the world, how do you discover the beauty within someone during a session?
P: If you are talking about all over the world, it is really this experience of our shared humanity. Whether people come from India, Thailand, EU or US, we are all human beings and we have so much in common. That is the beautiful thing.
A: Why did you choose to work with needs? Why do you believe that needs are so important in our life?
P: It is because it is the common denominators between us. All human beings share the same basic needs. We have physical needs for shelter, food, and drink, and we share needs with one another that we need each other to be fulfilled, such as respect, acceptance, appreciation, acknowledgement, understanding, and so forth. Once we connect with the needs in each other, that’s when we get a real sense of being deeply connected, not just as individuals but to everybody in a broader sense.
A: So the point is when you work with your needs, that it promotes the true connection with yourself and other people?
P: Yes, the needs are ways to understand each other and ourselves. The way we are connected to our needs and the needs of others, that is through our feelings. Feelings whether they are happy as contentment, and joy, or whether they are negative like anger or depression or fear, it all points to needs and whether they are being met or not being met. That is the way to understand to each other, to be curious about the feelings we are having, and then to find the needs behind which every feeling points to.
A: What do you recommend to people who claim that they don’t have needs and they live day after day without awareness of their needs and feelings?
P: That is one of the things that really touches me when it happens. I see people who have had this experience throughout their life that the only way to be safe is to eliminate themselves. So when I met people who claim to not feel anything, I want to be with them and give them this experience of having company, and I let them know that I understand that they have chosen the best strategy that works for them, which is to shut down some really important aspects of being human. This approach usually builds enough trust for the other person to notice feelings inside. it is very important because feelings are really worth it, they give us the experience of living our life. Not feeling anything compared to feeling our emotions is like a difference between reading the notes on a sheet of paper from sitting in the concert hall and listening to great music. If we do not have feelings, we do not experience the fullness of life.
A: It’s so beautiful how you talk about it. What do you recommend to people who are in the very hard moments in their life and they don’t see any hope?
P: Oh dear, so what I find to be really important is that they find one person whom they trust, who is able to listen deeply and be with them through whatever pain or hardship they are experiencing, without any agenda to change it for them. Because the paradox is when we accept what we feel and who we are in the moment, we become able to change . But the first step is always to fully feel and have companionship in what we arestanding in the middle of.
A: What is the best source of power? How can we feel our power, how can we discover our power? Do you believe that everybody has inner strength?
P: I think true power consists of having the freedom to choose your reaction to what happens in your life, instead of what we usually do: When somebody is doing something to you that you do not like, and you react automatically, shutting down, or blaming the other person. If you become aware of what is triggered in you when this person did this or that, and you notice that actually, you have choice about how you think of the situation, and then after thinking, how you react. That is really claiming the freedom to change your life, and it is very powerful.
A: Yes, so we don’t have to change the other people, we have to only change our attitude to understanding their situation?
P: Yes, that is the first step. That might lead to ask other people if they will change something in their behavior or their decisions. Then it comes from a much more powerful place, as it gives the other person a sense of choice rather than we demand it. I guess everybody knows how it is when someone tells us to do something. That is something that easily creates distance. But when people come from a mature place in themselves and they ask kindly if we would discuss how this could be done differently, then it is much more likely that it will happen.
A: What happens when people have discovered what they really need? Have you experienced this moment where a client first time discovers what he needs?
P: It can be a quite overwhelming experience once they wake up to their own needs, but soon thereafter people notice that something changes quite soon after they embark on this journey. Just to taste the sweetness of getting to know yourself and to pay attention to your own feelings and needs. That allows them to care for other people’s feeling and needs more consciously. Like a careful mum who sees her children; they might be desperate, or angry, or fearful, and she just kisses them in a mature manner and loves them anyway, while she caringly points to how she would like them to behave. That is how we step into this way of being with ourselves as well as with other people. It benefits ourselves and people around us as well.
A: Do you see that some people are very afraid and they don’t want to go for having their needs met because they think that it is wrong, that they will be excluded?
P: Yes, they are afraid that other people will not like them if they concentrate on their own feelings and needs. And this is an experience they probably have had in their childhood. Perhaps they had a parent who didn’t have space inside to take care of his own needs and feelings, so the children had to act as grownups, at an emotional level. But if this person acknowledges his own needs, the benefits will be for him, the family and people around him.
A: When you work with people, what is the hardest moment on this journey towards yourself?
P: For me or for this person?
A: For your client and for you as well.
P: For me it’s not hard J For the client, I guess it is the moment when she sees how much she has sacrificed and how huge the costs have been for her and perhaps those around her, and in the beginning she doesn’t have the skills to change it. So she has to stay in the process a little a bit longer before the changes will manifest. The journey goes really through a lot of grief. Grief about what was, that we wish would have been differently. Grief is a really important practice. It is some kind of saying goodbye to your dream, goodbye to something that we used to hope for and we never got.
A: You know it sounds like some kind of transformation from child to adult person. When you have to say goodbye to some items, issues in our life….
P: Yes it is true and it is really growing into maturity in some way. Even though I would like to moderate this because people are very mature and grown up even if they chose to live in the sacrifices of their own needs and feelings. So it is not that kind of maturity, it is more like growing to the potential of humans, a potential of gentleness to ourselves and gentleness to others.
A; Sometimes people do not have connection with themselves for a long, long time. How we can rebuild our connections with our inner world?
P: This is a very important question. THE BEST MOMENT IS ALWAYS NOW J We can not change what happened before, but now, what do I feel in this moment? This might be a very difficult question. So we can ask ourselves, What do I notice in my body? How is my feet, my stomach, my heart doing? If my chest or my belly is contracting, something is not good for me, a need of mine is not met. What need might that be? Then gradually built a sense of my own inner life and become conscious about it and find some words for it to communicate with a trusted friend.