Working with Aninia: My Experience
“…I have some problems with stress, which cause sometimes my hair and beard to not grow…”
This is what I wrote to Aninia in the first place. It was 18 March 2016. I was suggested her from a friend, who pictured Aninia as a sort of magician who could do miracles. I am usually skeptical towards what is not underpinned by scientific proofs; but the fact that the person who told me about Aninia was also a scientist, and the failure of some previous science-based attempts to solve my problem led me to make the contact.
I believe my problem starts in the psyche and its phenomenological expression is inhibition of hair/beard growth (the chemist inside me explains this has a bunch of stress-induced chemicals that attack the hair and causes all of the above). I therefore thought – and to a certain extent still try – to solve the problem from the psyche. But I quickly understood that Aninia’s approach goes the other way around: through the body, the physical experience and sensations to the psyche. She’s reversing the whole thing!
I did not know what to expect the first time I walked in. I only knew she would be checking my feet and probably ask me to take off my clothes. During the first session, we of course talked about me and my problem and then we moved on to do exercises. But session after session, I figured out that every session – sorry for the repetition – is structured, I would say, in three moments: a) conversation, b) physical exercise and c) observation. At this point in time, I knew of her physical approach and I had already experienced the power of it. I remember, I think it was the second time, having the whole day sore muscles in the neck and shoulders, like if I had been training hard; and instead she had “just” been playing around with her hands! That was shocking.
When this was clear to me, Aninia surprised me again showing fine ability as a psychologist. During our conversations she made it through my ideas and beliefs, challenged my own view of myself and, eventually, showed that I do not fully know who I am or what I want. Emblematic, in this regard, is when we were talking about some group work I was doing and she asked if I wanted to be a leader. My reply was “no, that’s not me, I do not have the charisma”. Few minutes later she showed me that, actually, yes I do like to be in the lead. Another shock!
This point, her psychological ability, was another score with me: as I said earlier, I thought my own problem resided in the psyche and thought that Aninia was trying to solve it from the body, the other way around. But now, I realized Aninia was tackling the problem from both sides: making me aware of my inner thoughts and, at the same time, working with the body: a combo approach!
By the end of May, I started being worried for a presentation I needed to give to some managers. Aninia came up with this training exercise to help me to be present and “fill the room“ with my own presence and words. For some reason, I was a bit embarrassed to do that exercise. In the end, my manager told me “very good presentation; not only the slides, also the way you presented”. Another score of Aninia and another “thanks” from me to her.
As summer holidays approached, Aninia started to give me take-home exercises and questionnaires. On one side, the daily questionnaire was a good way to stop for 10 minutes and look back at the day. This started to build a sort of log-book that I could scan through at a later stage to find patterns. When discussing my answers to questions about physical sensations, Aninia showed me that I interpreted them as questions about what is wrong: instead of being just a witness of my body, I was instead the judge, sentencing what was normal (and therefore not worth being noted down) and what was not normal. In this, I have a lot to improve still.
The exercises to do at home showed me another aspect: how much trust I had in Aninia and how much her studio was a special place. Doing those exercises at home, especially if my girlfriend was there, was not easy. It did not feel the right place and I was embarrassed, almost afraid of being laughed at. I believe this is the reason why they did not work that well: I was not giving myself 100% to the exercise.
By the end of the summer, I reached a level of awareness that Aninia had mentioned some time before: instead of noticing how my body reacted to some psychological situations, e.g. stress, using the body experience to understand what goes on in my psyche. So far, the belly is my “sensor of stress”.
At this point in time, some of my hair had started to grow again and I felt that I had a good toolbox (questionnaire and exercises), experience and awareness to try and see how it would go all by myself. Also I wanted to introduce more sport in my private life. So far I am training by myself with the aim of joining a football team. Let’s see what the future brings. So far, thanks a ton to Aninia!
P.S. I remember a TED talk about how body language influences mind
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