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Articles written by Anelle

It is a small world, after all.

“It's a world of laughter, a world of tears.

It's a world of hopes, and a world of fears.

There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, it's a small world after all…

There is just one moon, and one golden sun.

And a smile means friendship to every one.

Though the mountains divide, and the oceans are wide, it's a small world after all.”

By Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman

I recently had a very privileged and ultimately life changing opportunity to re-connect with myself, special people and, most importantly, my inner child in a significant and magical way. I discovered that by purposefully living in the moment and experiencing everything about it bit by bit – it is possible for the fear of the unknown to somehow (magically?) change into excitement and wonder about the future.

“It’s a small world (after all)” is a children’s song, you no doubt have heard before. It is one of those simple and repetitive songs – loved by many. The lyrical repetition is reinforced by the song's insistent musical theme. You can in fact play the same chords over and over again, but with different melodies. The repetitive pattern tricks your mind into absorbing the music, without it becoming tiresome to your ear (although there are some who would disagree with this, but this is something that I personally do not agree with, as I am absolutely in love with this song!)

I think children's music is sometimes difficult for grown-ups to understand. In order to fully connect with the pure simplicity of the music, we have to somehow connect with the small child within (and remember to feed it emotional candy floss!) It is meant to appeal to things that a childish sensibility enjoys. The fun, the wonder, the excitement of being alive and everything that it brings; experiencing the moment, without the fear of what it might mean (in future), what it could say (about us), or how it could be perceived (by the world).

This song was written in the 1960’s, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which greatly influenced the song's message of peace, finding common ground and the need for a stable global community. So the words (maybe not so new today) were really fresh and progressive at the time. And yet - now, I could not find these words more powerful and, ultimately true.

The New York World’s Fair of 1964-1965 was an opportunity for Walt Disney to show that his style of theme park entertainment was not just a California accident, but something that appealed even to the supposedly more sophisticated East Coast. Walt Disney’s brief was clear: "I need one song that can be easily translated into many languages. The Sherman Brothers got to work and came up with what we know today as "It's a small world (after all)”.

The “It’s a small world” ride (a boat gliding past miniature dolls representing children form all over the world) opened April 22, 1964. During its two years of operation (before it was replicated and expanded on for all the Disney Resorts to come), it was determined that more than 10 million people rode it. This meant it had a higher ridership than any of the other Disney rides at the fair, even though there was a special admission ticket that was not charged at the other Disney rides. The funds went to the UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund).  

This made me think: we protect our own children, and other children close to us; we raise awareness and fight for children’s rights; we do all this, and yet forget to actively and mindfully protect our ”inner children” as well. The small girl and small boy who got injured along the way, who maybe had to make grown up decisions before they were ready, who had to keep family secrets or deal with situations they did not have the capacity to understand, what about them. What about us?

It is not too late for our inner children, they are still alive – although perhaps covered by grown up troubles and responsibility.

Yet, it is not a free Disney ride, we need to make an investment; the ride is not self maintained, we need to service it from time to time; the detail and surprises of discovery while on the ride doesn’t jump at us, we need to curiously look and explore to see and appreciate it. Then we are truly alive - and healing.

Let’s challenge ourselves: choose one activity, or person, or song that could help you open the door to your inner child again. Build a sand castle, dance with a friend in the rain, play with clay, sing “it’s a small world” until your voice is hoarse – just do it!

You will be amazed at how others might join you on your journey of self discovery. It is a small world, after all. 

Sustaining friendship in the midst of life changes

"make a connection today with a friend that you have not spoken to in a while, but keep it “real” ….no face book, sms or email"

Friendship is a living, ever changing and flexible dynamic. Like any living organism it needs resources, input and energy to be sustained, to exist, and to grow. Without insight into the changes within ourselves, our contexts and each other, the connection will become less meaningful and will eventually become silent.

So, the challenge is to actively look for similarities and connection potential, although changes in the context have and will continue to take place.

Q: Is it possible to stay close to a friend when one of you undergoes big changes, such as one of you gets married or becomes a mother or change jobs? A: As we go through life changes and adjustments, our relationships change too. It is important to remember that friendships should enrich our lives for the better, if not, it might be time to re evaluate the purpose and significance of the friendship.

That being said, it might be helpful to look at a friendship, not as a relationship that should and must be meaningful in all areas, but to recognize the role it can play in specific or even limited areas of our lives. So, if your best friend becomes a mother and you are single, look for opportunities to contribute to the relationship in meaningful ways and most importantly, adjust your expectations of what the friendship should mean. Meaning comes in many shapes and forms, and if we were to have static non flexible assumptions of what would be a meaningful friendship, chances are that we will feel dissatisfied and disappointed all the time.

To have the same expectations of a friendship that started in high school, when you are 30 or 40, would not only be unfair to the friendship, but also very unrealistic. Unrealistic expectations almost always lead to disappointment and unnecessary resentment. As our lives become more complex and more diverse, we find it increasingly difficult to have friends that will be able to relate to us on all the many different levels of our lives. Although preferable, it would be unrealistic to expect that one friend absolutely must be able to understand and relate to every single aspect of our lives.

Talk to your friend about the changes in both your lives, as well as the fears you might have when you anticipate the impact these changes will have on your friendship.

Q: What should we focus on? A: Focus on the similarities and the aspects you have in common, as well as the history you share, and

build on that. Focusing on the differences (or worse ignoring these) will only create distance and disconnection. Consider that we have different friends who fulfil different roles. To the one you talk about relationships, the other about work, and another about history and friend can not possibly fulfil or relate to all aspects of your life, and if you expect it to be so, you will probably exhaust your friend to such an extent that she will leave. She is after all only one person.

Q: What emotions might you experience when you feel like your friendship is changing. A: When faced with change and adjustment we usually react with sadness and anxiety. Sadness about what we have already lost and anxiety about what we anticipate losing. Often it is more the sense of uncertainty that gets to us - not being so sure that things will be OK, what they will be like, and if we will be able to handle them, creates severe anxiety. It is helpful to understand that the uncertainty is the cause of the discomfort, not the person or relationship.

The challenge therefore does not lie in the changes in the other person or the relationship, but in your reaction to the uncertainty about the future of the friendship and the way you think you will be able to handle it. Talking to friend about this could go a long way in easing the fears and helping both of you to manage the friendship responsibly.

Five tips on how to handle a friendship transition and stay close

  1. talk about the fears and concerns you have,
  2. don’t make demands, rather voice what you believe you have to offer to maintain a meaningful friendship,
  3. look at what you have in common and focus on building on those aspects,
  4. be prepared to share your friend with the other significant people in her life,
  5. have realistic expectations about the friendship, knowing that no friendship can fulfil us on all levels.

Challenge: make a connection today with a friend that you have not spoken to in a while, but keep it “real” ….no face book, sms or email 


    "… when you find yourself at the end of your rope, tie a knot in it, hang on, and swing…"

For many the past year has been a struggle to survive the economic down turn. For others it has been a year of adjusting and healing after trauma or change. Perhaps your year feels just like it did last year. Whatever our circumstances, we are not immune to the fatigue so often experienced when nearing the end of a busy year. So, in November’s newsletter I’m focussing on the benefits of self care as an important tool in combating burnout.

Burnout is a state of extreme emotional, psychological and physical exhaustion, resulting in a loss of interest and motivation.

Answering “yes” to any of the following, could be a flashing red warning signal:

  • doing more and more, but accomplishing less and less - YES NO
  • doing more and more, but feeling appreciated less and less - YES NO
  • making endless lists, believing that you are the only person who can do what must be done - YES NO
  • if you stop, it will all fall apart - YES NO
  • feeling exhausted, but sleep doesn’t seem to help - YES NO
  • feeling sad for no apparent reason - YES NO
  • a lack of purpose and meaning - YES NO
  • increasing detachment from relationships - YES NO

It is important to remember that the road to burnout is paved with good intentions. There's certainly nothing wrong with being idealistic, hardworking or motivated. But, unrealistic job or relationship expectations, the absence of self care, measuring oneself in unrealistic ways, unhealthy lifestyles - are certainly not admirable and definitely unwise.

Look at the following example:
Suzan held a post as head of department, working long hours. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer and Suzan regularly travelled the 300 km to her mother’s hospice during the last 2 months of her life.

Suzan held everything together; visits to her sick mother, meeting deadlines at work, going to gym, helping out at her favourite charity… She was quite proud of being able to cope and honour her relationship with her mother. After her mother’s death, she returned to work only to discover that no one cared about her loss. She was even asked to work overtime on her first day back. Suzan said nothing and did as she was told. But inside she was angrier than she had ever been before. It was at this point that Suzan stopped caring for herself. She worked harder and harder, stopped going to gym, withdrew from friends, and allowed her life to move totally out of balance. Soon she had no life at all, except for work.

What was Suzan’s defining moment? It was not her work load; it was not even (as we might think) the death of her mother. It was the moment she decided to swallow her anger, the moment she denied herself the opportunity to be true to herself and the basic need to express emotion.

Working too hard (over- working) can often be the effect of, rather than the cause of, the burnout process. When we broaden our understanding of burnout, we realise that working hard is not the only culprit.
My clients often share that work is the one thing they still know how to do, or have some control over. It becomes a lifeline, providing some sense of purpose, even though it generates little joy or satisfaction. A trying or difficult time, when we are deeply affected, but ignore the implications, is often the trigger for burnout. For example, if you know that a career change is inevitable, but instead of facing your fears continue holding on to the known by working harder and expecting more of yourself, then burnout is almost inevitable. Often this experience of extreme frustration and sense of helplessness evokes old and powerful familiar feelings that haven’t been dealt with. Therapy can help with this.

It is my opinion that burnout stems from changes that happen within us over time. Because we are too busy to notice, or worse, actively ignore these changes, we continue to make the same old choices that no longer work for us. We are often genuinely surprised when everything within us rebels and comes to a sudden stop!

Dealing with this requires acknowledging genuine emotions, and giving oneself permission to act authentically. Through self nurturing and awareness it is possible to identify the origin of the burnout and address this, only then will the rest make sense.

With understanding and acceptance we can arise from the ashes of burnout and actively learn from the experience.

THIS MONTH’S CHALLENGE: make one change in your life that you know will impact positively on your quality of life. Then stick to it….for the whole month!


" …feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it to anyone…" - William Arthur Ward

I am feeling grateful for many things this month: my practice, my colleagues and especially the people I am honoured to meet with on a daily basis. Gratitude, thankfulness, appreciation… these are helpful and positive emotions in reaction and acknowledgement to some form of benefit that we have received, or are still about to receive.

Traditionally psychology focused on understanding and curing distress and illness, rather than understanding and emphasising helpful emotions and growth. These days, we know that to celebrate and honour the things we are grateful for, help us to grow and create meaning.

But as always, everything is dependant on how we perceive things: firstly, we have to consider the gift or gesture as valuable and meaningful and secondly, we have to trust the intentions of the one we are receiving it from as good and honourable. Why are these 2 aspects so important? Because these are the only part of the equation we have any control over. We don’t have control over the situation, but only over the way we view it and how we react to it.

There is a significant correlation between gratitude and wellness. People living with gratitude are more inclined to view relationships as meaningful, manage stress better, in general have a greater degree of self acceptance, they ask for assistance more readily, focus on the problem (rather than on how unfair life is) and adjust more effectively to change.

Techniques to help us practice gratitude:

  1. gratitude journal – you write down three things you are grateful for, everyday. Not non-specific general things, but significant and specific things, described in detail. Go through these lists in your head while you are doing something relaxing, like working in the garden, drinking a cup of tea … you get the idea.
  2. want to challenge yourself even further? keep a gratitude journal on the unpleasant areas in your life, such as “my finances” or “my marriage” and see what happens…
  3. The gratitude box, this is something for the whole family: put a box, pens and paper in a central place in the house. Everybody adds things to be grateful for on a daily basis. Then you take turns to read the contents of the box out loud at Sunday lunch once a week, or have a build up to Easter or Christmas, for a proper gratitude celebration.
  4. at the end of each day, ask the following: a. what touched me? b. what surprised me? c. what inspired me, today? And write down the answers in your journal.

Being grateful is a mindset and like all good mindsets needs to be practised. Please e-mail me with questions or comments.