198 items found
- Retreat Review | Beijing Community Healers
“Having been working in mental health for 7 years, I have at times felt energy depletion, empathy, and compassion. I have travelled far for many retreats over the years to charge myself. Sometime I wish we could just do it right here in Beijing, especially now with COVID travel restrictions. I know many other healers in Beijing who do great work for our communities need a place to be taken care of for a change. Then I thought why not just create one for our own Beijing healers?” On January 1-2, we hosted the very first CandleX Beijing Community Healers Retreat. It was aimed at people in the Beijing community who have volunteered their time and expertise over the past years and helped to build up our community resilience for mental health. The retreat was carried out in a small, intimate, and cozy home environment in Shunyi, where we were able to get away from downtown for a bit. A two-day meditation, creative writing, self-reflecting card games, movies, mindful walk, and good food were on the two-day agenda. At this retreat, we continued to practice mindfulness – in our use of phones, words, and energy. “I constantly check in with everything I do, and the work CandleX does is constantly reminded by something Maya Angelou once said: ‘Maybe the hardest part is, if you teach, you have to live your teaching,’” says Xiaojie. (You can learn more about CandleX’s spirit on this blog post in 2017: Xiaojie's letter | # 20 CandleX's two years now. But where am I?) We are pleased to have offered the very needed space for healers in Beijing and we aim to do another one this coming up spring. We’d like to ask the community for two things: Please let us know if you know someone who’s been volunteering their time and expertise that support community mental health. We’d like to get to know them and potentially invite them to our next retreat. We believe community healers need to be taken care of by the community as well. If you have ever attended a wellbeing event hosted by healers that made the healing events accessible to you, we encourage you to donate to our Beijing Community Healer Retreat Funds. This way, you’d be helping more community healers get access to the support that they deserve. Please add Summer to make a donation, and let her know that it goes to “Beijing Community Healer Retreat.”
- Mortality & Grief | An TEL Gathering Reflection
Author: Mirabel | Facilitator of TEL Date: Nov 2021 Last night was the second gathering of “The Examined Life,” and our topic last night was mortality and grief. The 12 attendees, in different phases of their lives and of different cultural backgrounds, bonded over vulnerable, personal stories of death. We united, simply, in the fact that we’re all human. Death is a culturally forbidden topic in most of the China I know. As far as my earliest memories go, I feared my grandparents’ deaths. Being a naturally sensitive person, I concluded at a young age that death was the worst loss of all because we simply never recover from it. But this fear was unspoken. Whenever I tried to raise this existential concern, the adults around me would say, “Now that’s a sinister thought. Don’t think about such sad events; be happy.” Older me now understand the way we dodge our death anxiety was in fact a somewhat healthy defense mechanism as life is so much more than death. However, we can’t avoid death forever; truth is, someday it comes back to haunt us. And this year it has. With both my partner's and my own grandparents getting increasingly ill, we realise it’s that time of our life that “the worst loss” isn’t far from us. So without much experience, I started grieving. I started grieving the dreams and future I looked forward to sharing with my grandparents. I started imagining life and a world without them. I started settling in with the fact that my future kids would probably never meet them, and that’s okay. During this process, I realised how lonely grief can be. A friend’s therapist described the way she grieved her late boyfriend's sudden death as sitting in a dark room alone with dried tears all over her face, and there was no light at all. That’s an accurate description of grief, I thought. It’s a dark, inaccessible space, and we are thereby ourselves because of how tabooed it is to talk about one of the worst types of pain openly, and how rare it is to find a communal space that isn’t church or therapy that welcomes such discussions. Credit: Tania Yakunova Attendees shared with us the loss of friend, mother, father, partner, brother, uncle, some of which happened as recently as 3 months ago and some as far dated back as two decades ago. As a group, we grieved together by recounting the memories we had with our loved ones. We came to agree that confronting other’s and our own mortality guides us to lead more fulfilling lives. Many said they started living their lives drastically differently after staring death in the face. They started exercising more and saying yes (and no) more, gave up on suicidal attempts to let light sink in, and slowed down to appreciate the little moments of life frequently and unapologetically. In different ways, we learned from and are transformed by our loss. If one can heal from a traumatic event, it ceases to be trauma and evolves into something that empowers and drives us. Yesterday was a gathering of empowerment, rather than sadness. Credit: Joey Guidone To learn more about our project and our future gatherings, please read the project introduction article: "The Examined Life | CandleX Monthly Event." CHINESE: 昨晚是第二期的“The Examined Life”活动，主题是死亡和悲痛(mortality and grief)。十一位参加者尽管在人生的不同阶段，有着不同的文化背景，但每个人都有自己的关于生死的故事。让我们凑在一起的是对死亡的恐惧、担忧和对生活的思考，也可以简单地说，是“人性”两字。 在国内，死亡是一个忌讳的话题。从小，我最恐惧的事就是祖父祖母终将有一天离我而去，可这种恐惧似乎不可被提及。每当我试图向大人们表达我对死亡的焦虑时，他们便会说，“不要去想这些悲伤事儿，你看，他们现在不好好的吗？”长大了的我现在明白我们躲避死亡其实多少是个健康的防御机制，毕竟人活一辈子，不能总沉浸在对死亡的恐惧中。然而，我们也不能永远逃避，总有一天我们需要面对死亡——他人的死亡，自己的离去。今年，随着男友和我的祖父病重到病危，我们意识到死亡可能离我们越来越近。在对死亡思考得少之甚少的同时，我开始学习哀悼(grieve)。所谓哀悼，不仅仅是哀悼一个即将逝去的人，哀悼还有很大成分是去接受破灭的梦想和未来。我开始想象没有祖父的生活和世界。我开始接受我未来的孩子可能永远不会有机会认识世上我最爱的祖父……而这一切是生命最自然的规律，这不过是最正常的。 在这个过程中，我意识到悲痛是多么的孤独。一位朋友的咨询师将她沉浸在悲痛的状态描述成了这样一个画面：她独自坐在漆黑一片的房间里，一点光都进不来，她脸上全是干涸的泪水。这个描述十分形象。在一个黑暗、封闭的空间里，我们独自哭泣，沉浸在悲痛里。在我们的社会背景下，公开谈论死亡是禁忌，除了教堂和心理咨询室，我们很难找到慰藉。 于是，我希望能够营造一个温暖的环境，任何人都可以加入，无论年龄、国籍、文化、性取向。在这里。参加者既可以敞开心扉地分享自己的故事也可以静静地聆听。我想要的，是用一种温暖，一种开放，一种包容，战胜在面临人生最大挑战时我们都会深感的被遗弃的和孤独的感觉。 十一位参加者分享了失去好友、父母、伴侣、哥哥等经历，有的近在几个月前，有的近十年甚至二十年前发生。相同的是，悲痛一直都在。作为一个团体，我们通过讲述、分享与亲人的回忆来思念他们。直面死亡能够帮助我们更充实地生活，许多人说，在经历了死亡之后他们开始了截然不同的生活。他们开始更注意身体、积极锻炼，有人奋不顾身地投入到了热爱的事情里去，有人尝试着与父母慢慢和解关系，生活放慢速度，感恩生活。 我们以不同的方式从失去中学习与成长。如果一个人可以从创伤性事件中痊愈，那它就不再是创伤，而是演变成某种能够赋予我们力量和驱动力的东西。 为了解更多关于The Examined Life的介绍和未来活动，请阅读："The Examined Life | CandleX Monthly Event."
- Chapter 1: The Happy Tune is My Step | My Story with Swing Dance
"In dance, I met myself,” Xiaojie said. Here is her story. “在摇摆舞中，我遇见了我自己。“ 小杰说。 这，是一篇她的故事。 作者 Author: 秦小杰 Xiaojie Qin 时间 Date: 2021 Before Swing Dance Back when I was just a toddler, mum said that whenever I heard music from the radio, I would move. The happy tune is my step. I remember that in primary school, I’d always participate in the group dance at the elders’ community. I remember that I was the youngest one in the dance group, the grandmas from the group said I was a good dancer, I must have been nine by the time. Picture: One-year-old Xiaojie In high school, every Saturday - the only night without extra study in a week, I would wait for my parents to go out for a walk and start my stress relief activities, dancing and moving my body, in crazy routines to the DVDs of Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Whitney Huston, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, and Coco Lee. Once I started working, for the first time ever, I had enough time to explore my hobbies. Salsa for a few months, I had so much fun. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was that the shoes were so uncomfortable, they were high heels after all! In the spring of 2010, a friend said there is a swing dance class that day at Zhang Zizhong's. I never heard of that dance before. Why not, I thought. I didn’t have anything better to do. Picture: 2010 swing dance in Sanlitun village (now Taikooli) 摇摆舞之前 我妈说，那个时候我刚会走路，正从屋子里外往外走。广播里开始播放一首歌曲，我颠颠簸簸的走回来，‘每一步都踩着快乐的节奏‘。 小学了，我记得一段时间，我总会去参加单位老人家的集体舞蹈，就是现在的广场舞吧。我还记得，当时我是最年轻的一个，老奶奶们说我跳的不错。那个时候，我应该9岁吧。 高中了，每周周六，那是唯一一个没有晚自习的夜晚，我就等着爸妈出去散步后开始我雷打不动的解压活动，疯狂的跟着Christina Anglera, Britney Spears, Whitney Huston, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson还有李玟的DVD扭摆。 照片：2010 三里屯户外摇摆舞 工作了，第一次有足够的时间去探索爱好，Salsa了有几个月，挺好玩的，就是那个鞋穿着不舒服，再舒服也是个带跟的鞋啊。 然后，2010年的春天，一个朋友说当天有个摇摆舞体验课，在张志忠那里。啥是摇摆舞？我心想。反正也没事，那就去呗。 照片：2011 Swing Time Ball 照片：2018北京布鲁斯舞蹈节 The Beginning of Swing Dance Do I believe love at first sight? Call me romantic! I felt for the first time, the meaning of love at first sight from my first swing lesson! (If you have read my story of Brazilian Jiujistu, you would know love at first sight can happen more than once in life). I remember just watching Josh and Leru’s little performance from that day back in 2010, and I knew I was in love with swing dance. After that there was the weekly class - no other options were available at that time. You only got to dance just once a week. In the same class was Simon Bressanelli. if you're a swing dancer, you know that he is a master teacher and dancer on the international stage. I used to think I had some talent, but in the class, I found out that many other people could learn the moves, but I felt I had 2 left feet. Picture: June 2010 with Simon Bressanelli In the same summer, I went to study abroad. In Antwerp, Belgium, I do not remember whether there were weekly lessons, I only remember that I went to observe the local classes, and we practiced bounce in that class. Eager to achieve success quickly, I would go to a special class with the local swing dancer, and I would always go to the dancing party. With full immersion at the parties, I could practice and grow, with local experts and only correct swing movements based on the natural expression of my body. Those ugly swing moves didn't stop me from ‘bothering’ the lead. It was at one dance party when I first met Sep, a famous Belgian swing pioneer - I said I didn't know how to do the moves he was demonstrating. I tried to jump around with him. I vaguely remember him saying that I have the ‘energy’ and, with time, I could be a good dancer. I still don't know what he meant by "energy” but maybe it's the most natural response that music brings to my body, and the way I let my body express itself. 3 pictures: 2010-2011 Belgium 摇摆舞之初 信不信一见钟情，信！不是我罗曼蒂克，因为摇摆舞的第一个体验课我就感受到了一见钟情的含义。（当然，你读过我巴西柔术的故事，就知道一见钟情可不会一生只有一次。）我只记得，当天看着Josh和Leru做了一小段的表演，我就知道我没救了。接下来就是每周一次的课程，那个时候没得挑，每周就一次，同学还有Simon Bressanelli，如果你是个摇摆舞者，你就会知道这个已经是当代国际舞台大师级别的舞者了。以前我觉得自己还有点天赋，一上课发现怎么好多别人都会了的舞步，自己就是不会呢？ 照片：2015 China Lindy Hop Championship in Beijing 照片：2018 China Lindy Hop Championship in Beijing 那个夏天，我出国念书了。在比利时，安特卫普已经不记得有没有固定的周课，我只记得我去观摩了下当地的课程，那一堂课就练bounce，心急想吃热豆腐的我没去上常规课，有时候会跟当地的摇摆舞着去上个特别课程之类的，有舞会的时候我都会去。没有了系统一步一步的学习，我就只能在舞会中成长，在以身体自然的表达为基础上去纠正摇摆舞的动作。非常惨不忍睹的摇摆舞步没有阻止我去骚扰lead。一次舞会，我第一次遇见Sep，比利时耳熟能详的摇摆舞先驱了，我说我不会跳，我试着跟着他蹦来蹦去的，我模糊的记得他说，我有一股劲，随着时间，我可以成为一个不错的舞者。 我现在也不知道他们口中的“劲“什么，也许是音乐带给我身体的最自然的反应，以及我允许身体对这个反应的表达。 照片：2011跟Josh在北京
- Sign Up | Mental Health Support Group in China
Moving to a new country, going through a breakup, losing a job, or living with mental conditions are very challenging. Yet, there's no reason to suffer alone when one can choose to join hands with others and let the power of connection and group support encourage and heal us. In the absence of such social support in Beijing, CandleX established the peer support group in October 2015, with the goal to provide psychosocial support to the Beijing community. Our group meeting shifted from meeting in person to meeting online during the period of Convid-19. It provides a safe and supportive environment for people living in and out of Beijing to share personal thoughts and experiences in small, confidential gatherings. To understand this project, or if you’d like to read our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year support group review, please visit https://www.candlex.cn/mental-health-support-group NOTE: If you are looking for information about mental health treatments or have a close friend or family member who is living with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety and you want to support them, our Pre-treatment Guidance Program is perfect for that. Sign up via the following link: https://www.candlex.cn/single-post/pre-treatment-guidance-mental-health Key Information Peer support group Participants: Our support groups are for people living with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, or that have suffered trauma such as domestic abuse. The support group is especially effective for newcomers who are in situations of lack of social support, experiencing shame and guilt of having depression, or people who present an elevated risk of mental illness. Date: every second and fourth Tuesday (both offline) Time : 19:30-21:00 Location: near Dongdaqiao (details will be communicated via a confirmation email after 4 pm, the day before each meeting) Language: English Max number: 7 people each session Fee: 40rmb or 20rmb (income ≤6000rmb/month) Registration via scanning QR code, or click on https://yoopay.cn/event/05475102 Note: we also organize casual hang out dinner for group members that are in Beijing from time to time Content and Approach: During the meeting, the core elements are as follow: Share our stories and feelings, and let others help you, and give you emotional support when dealing with difficult emotions alone. Help each other recognize the importance of tending to and promoting our own self-care The meeting is generally conducted in talking and sharing, but we offer other approaches to make sure that we feel relaxed and comfortable to share, including some guided meditation, breathing exercises, etc. There is one facilitator to throughout the workshop, monitor the progress of each session and facilitate group interactions. Keep in touch with each other, as we have a WeChat group (that you may join after attending at least one meeting) where you are free to choose an accountability partner, with whom you will check up on each other regularly and help each other reach your goals, as well as make sure you are safe and not alone during tough times, especially if you are having suicidal thoughts. As an accountability partner, you may help give each other the clarity needed to move ahead, motivate one another to make plans and to be consistent with them, etc. Peer Group Principles We shall not be held responsible for group member's safety. We are all peers. There are no professionals in this group. CandleX will not be responsible for people engaging in self-harm or suicidal ideations. If you are in a crisis, please seek a professional immediately at the same time. You will find useful information on our crisis page, visit: https://www.candlex.cn/crisis-support All information shared with the group is held confidential. All new participants will need to register first for eligibility screening. no graphic description of suicide, self-harm, and death as it may trigger some of the attendees. Please note that this is a Peer Support Group, there will be no professional therapists attending. By signing up the peer support group, I understand and agree to release CandleX and its staff or volunteers from any or all liability connected to my own participation, including but not limited to any forms of self-harm or suicide.
- The Examined Life | CandleX Monthly Event
In November 2021, CandleX launched The Examined Life, an intimate monthly gathering dedicated to self-discovery, emotional growth, and the exploration of topics that most of us can relate to. Greek philosopher Socrates famously stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” To Socrates, all philosophical exploration is reduced to one simple commitment: to know ourselves. In our fast-paced society where many social settings require us to mask up and engage in small talk, we don’t always have the time to listen to ourselves and get to know our inner selves better. Many topics that truly deserve our attention are overlooked or pushed to the back of our minds. Some examples: How do we deal with loneliness? How do we deal with grief and the ultimate existential concern: death? What does our parents’ relationship teach or fail to teach us about love? How do we accept ourselves and why is self-acceptance so hard to come by? What difficult patterns of behaviour are we prey to in friendships and romantic relationships? Etc. Credit: Marco Melgrati While mental health support group provides a safe space for anyone to open up about their life and mental health struggles, The Examined Life lays tough life questions on the table, and by practicing a culture of vulnerability, candor, and intimacy, helps us better understand ourselves and cope with life’s ebbs and flows. The gathering hopes to bring us deeper self-awareness and more resilience, which are key to leading fulfilling lives. What the Gathering Offers: A safe space to open up, share, and find comfort in each other’s most human, vulnerable side; More lucid understanding of topic discussed; Self-discovery, self-knowledge, and emotional growth; Authentic, meaningful connection with those who likewise crave for and are replenished by such engagement; A non-judgmental support system. Details at a Glance: Date & Time: The third Tuesday each month, at 7 pm (unless otherwise specified; gathering signup link will be shared in the CandleX group) Language: English Fee: ¥50 or donation-based Gathering size: up to 10 attendees Location: an apartment near Chaoyangmen station (detail in signup link) Signup: An event signup will be sent to the CandleX WeChat group the week before. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis. Add the WeChat contact below for further info Principles for Gathering: 1. [Not a therapy group] Our setting is not that of group therapy. We are a casual, friendly gathering. The host and attendees are not professionals so are not equipped to offer professional mental health advice. 2. [In case of crisis] Please seek professional help immediately in case of crisis. Visit our website for more crisis support: https://www.candlex.cn/crisis-support CandleX is not responsible for the safety of people engaging in self-harm or suicidal ideations. 3. [Non-judgment] No form of disrespect or verbal/nonverbal violence is tolerated. We practise active listening and offer personal opinions respectfully. 4. [Participation] Everyone is encouraged to share. Everyone can pass any time if they don’t want to share.
- Teens Empowerment Project | CandleX Teens Mental Health
Did you know that one in six people with mental health conditions is aged 10-19 years? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds. Mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years. The consequences of not addressing teens mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults (1). For this reason, CandleX places a strong emphasis on supporting teens and has an ongoing project targeted towards helping them: the Teens Empowerment Project. The CandleX Teens Empowerment Project started in 2020 in Beijing, China under Teens Mental Health Program. We target teenagers who are usually third-cultured, international, and multilingual. These are teens who have experience with mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, and so on. Some of them have also experienced self-harm. The goal of the project is to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and provide a chance for teens to gain knowledge on mental health and tools on how to cope with difficult emotions so that they become resilient. The Teens Empowerment Project has 3 stages. Stage 1 is called “Teen Writers.” The teens write down their own stories with support from a therapist. This process allows teens to find their own voice and explore the struggles and the meaning of their stories. This is like the narrative approach that we take in psychotherapy. Later, the therapist can identify the dominant and problematic story. We also include facts and insight into the editor's notes for professional information. Once we publish that through our own platform and the networks of our media partners, we can help to educate the community and reduce the stigma that teenagers feel is attached to mental illness. Stage 2 is called “Teen Interviewers.” The teens have the chance to interview an influential adult in our community. It might be a startup entrepreneur or the CEO of a well-established company. These are adults who have battled with mental health in the past and are willing to talk to the teens about their experiences. We work with experienced media professionals who volunteer to help the teens structure their interviews, prepare the articles, and write the final pieces. Again, there is a therapist engaged in the process to make sure the whole process is therapeutic and that the final piece serves as a mental health educational purpose. These first two stages allow teenagers to learn how to accept their own struggles and become stronger in dealing with them. They also gain practical skills associated with publishing articles and conducting interviews. For a lot of them, it's also the first time that they publish something on a public platform! Stage 3 is called “Teen Spokesperson.” CandleX gets interviewed by the media every now and then, and as the Teens Empowerment Project develops, we try to create a space for the teenagers to be the people who can talk about their opinions and their experiences as an advocate as well. So far, we've had teens on radio shows, magazines, and now we have an exciting opportunity for them to be on national TV as well! The three-stage empowerment project paints a road map where we can take the teenager on a journey. Not all teenagers will go through all the stages; it depends on their willingness, strength, and preferences. That’s why we take very small steps in this process. We constantly check in with them to see how they're feeling, whether they're learning things and whether things are going according to what they expect. Our role in this process is being the support instead of the supervisor. To empower one teen, we often engage 4 to 5 adults in the process. So far, this is the highest investment project we've had in all our projects. It usually takes about 6 months to 1 year to finish the empowerment project for one teenager. This is also one of the strongest programs we have, where I continue to see changes that teenagers demonstrate throughout the process, as well as after the program has ended. Some of them choose to stay with CandleX and volunteer in other roles, while others continue with their lives and contribute to society in their own ways on mental health afterward. References: 1. Adolescent Mental Health - World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health.
- Psychotherapy on Healing from Abusive Relationships | Group and Individual Therapy
Please note: this project was an initiative by Xiaojie and Megan as individuals, and was not a service provided by CandleX. In Beijing, there has always been an unmet need to support women in the international community who were in abusive relationships. Survivors are usually invisible due to the shame, and affordable professional support almost does not exist due to the scarce resources and high costs. Abusive relationships can exist in the form of domestic violence, intimate partner abuse, or even toxic friendships. Many people who are in abusive relationships may not even realize they are in that situation. But for those who do and manage to get out, there is still a long road of healing ahead which may require work with a therapist. Being aware of that and with the goal to kick start the support on this topic, Xiaojie and Megan provided the much-needed support for women who were in abusive relationships to heal in Oct 2021. Project Organizers Xiaojie Qin Title: Xiaojie is a certified psychotherapist and director at CandleX, who provided the therapy sessions. For this project, Xiaojie provided 4 sessions of group therapy and 4 individual sessions for each participant. Megan Megan is an activist for women and is passionate about supporting victims of intimate partner abuse and domestic violence. She volunteers with Female Health Empowerment Network to help women gain access to healthcare resources in China. For this project, Megan co-organized the sessions and was present to support the therapy sessions when needed. Therapy Details Duration: September 25 - October 24, 2021 Number of participants: 4, from 3 different countries Language: English Group Sessions: Once per week for 4 weeks, 2 hours each week Individual Sessions: 4 per participant Total therapy hours offered: 24 hours Fee: 100rmb for each session, both for group therapy and individual therapy How does the Group Therapy Session Work? We had a screening phase to ensure the eligibility of the participants, as well as ensuring the maximum possible outcome of the project. The purpose of the group therapy was to give women the space and tools necessary to begin or continue healing from their past abusive relationships. Survivors often feel alone in their experiences, and group therapy can provide a space for them to connect with each other. Over the course of 4 weeks (2 hours per weekly session), participants shared and reflected on their stories. Based on their individual experiences and their own needs, group goals were established, and Xiaojie provided everyone with guidance and tools to help them adapt their mindsets and behavior. Each group therapy will vary based on the participants’ experiences, preferences, and established goals as a group. The following structure and content were unique to this group and should only be seen as a reference. Week 1: Unpacking the Past To discover where the dislocation is in your bones, a physician may need to press on the point that causes pain. It’s the same for psychotherapy, and participants felt heavy and overwhelmed after the first session. In our first session, group members shared their past experiences with abuse, which is not easy to express. It did allow the therapist to see the roots of some issues they experience now. After this session, participants were reminded that it is important to schedule something fun and/or relaxing afterwards to recover from intense emotions brought up during the first session. Week 2: Group Goals, Defining Abuse, and How Past Abuse Impacts Us Now Many survivors of abuse have a mentality that leaves them frozen in time, including having difficulty trusting others. Children think concretely, not abstractly. They learn concepts of trust and love through their significant caregivers in life. The absence of such modelling can make it difficult for them to know what those look like. It’s as if “you are trying to describe the color green to someone who’s blind.” Participants need to learn to distinguish abuse from common conflicts or unhealthy interactions. We went through the definition of abuse, relating it to their personal stories. People have different histories of abuse, ranging from emotional and psychological abuse to sexual abuse from family members or their partners, all on different levels of severity. The abuse happened to participants of different ages. It is clear to see how that can create a sense of insecurity within a person, and subsequently lead to hypervigilance and confusion in their world views, and their principles setting in interaction with others. We ended the session by leading the participants to accept that these unfortunate events have happened and to allow those events to stay in the past. Group members started to feel more at ease after this and gained insights that they could apply in current or future relationships. You can learn more about abusive relationships in this article: What is emotional abuse? | Classroom Week 3: Exploring Common Ineffective Thoughts and How to Revise Them Instead of having a therapist to participants conversations, the participants were encouraged to ask questions, give each other feedback, and practice active listening and non-judgment. One common psychological inflexibility all members showed was the fusion with their thoughts, as described in acceptance and commitment therapy. Instead of seeing thoughts in nature as changing, possibly conflicting, and not always reflecting the truth, some participants often have self-loathing thoughts and catastrophizing thoughts. The chess on the board metaphor was used for discussion to understand the new approach of observing these thoughts, instead of acting the negative thoughts. Week 4: New Skills to Move Forward in Life It was interesting to see how participants were on different ends of the spectrum of assertiveness. They were a mixture of passive, ineffectively assertive (defensive), and passive aggressive. Understanding where they are on the scale of assertiveness helps the participant to understand how to create healthier interactions when there’s a conflict. In this session, participants completed a role-play exercise to help them see their own assertive style and work on cultivating healthier interaction patterns. Supplemental Individual Therapy Every participant’s experience with trauma and current state of well-being is different. Individual sessions helped participants to work on specific issues that the group did not address. With some, individual sessions focused on self-awareness of their passions and callings in life, and elevating their mood, in addition to re-constructing their life activities to maintain well-being. With others, its individual sessions focused on managing their current burning issues in life. That included more effective and healthier ways to interact with their current partners, or building their self-sufficiency and self-reliance, and how to balance that in relationships. Overall, the feedback from participants was positive. They felt the sessions provided them with great tools for overcoming negative thoughts and behavior. They also appreciated having a safe space to share their stories and connect with others who had been in similar situations. Not feeling alone was important for them. Participant A stated that having the group to interact with and hear from others made her “realize that others also are struggling” and that they could help learn from each other. Participant B said she “learned so much just in those four sessions” and that sharing the experience with other women provided “comfort and support.” Participants also expressed that they hoped these group therapies would be offered more regularly or on a more permanent basis. Therapy should be an ongoing process, especially when there was trauma in the past. Through continued support and work, we can get closer to living a more fulfilled life. Along the way, we need patience, consistency, and continuing work. As a society, I hope we could create more spaces for that to be possible. To get in touch with Megan, please add her on WeChat: meganpurvis Xiaojie also offers discounted therapy for 200rmb/session for those who experience financial difficulty. Please scan the code below for more information.
- CandleX: What it Means to Me, and the Community | Xiaojie on EmberFlame
In February of 2021, Zhen from EmberFlame interviewed CandleX’s director Xiaojie on her story of founding and running CandleX. Thank you to EmberFlame for not only producing the wonderful videos below but also for showing support and interest in mental health. If you live in China, you can watch from our Tencent channel: https://v.qq.com/x/page/w330294a0zo.html In the three-part video series, Xiaojie opens up to us about her personal experience with mental health, as well as the creation and development of CandleX and the community it created. Xiaojie’s own experience with mental illness led to the birth of CandleX. In the past six years, CandleX created a community that provides an open space for talks on mental health. “Through talking, shame dies,” Xiaojie says. Since 2020, CandleX has not only provided help for adults but teens as well. The birth of CandleX only ignited a fire to start discussions, Xiaojie says. The community is doing the rest – it knows its need, and is building the flame to further facilitate space and give strength to those who need it. The Ember Flame is a documentary series showcasing stories of diverse community founders and entrepreneurs pursuing passion projects and building communities in Beijing. (Follow “EmberFlame” on WeChat: WeChat – Discover – Channels – “EmberFlame”)
- Triggers and Growth in Relationships | CandleX Classroom
Xiaojie, psychotherapist and founder of CandleX, was invited to speak about triggers and growth in relationships for Date Night China’s Mind, Body and Soul Workshop on October 23rd, 2021. The event was held at Guoyihui along with speakers Angelo Eugenio, Rachel George, and Juan. Xiaojie talked about healing from past relationships: how trauma or scars in past relationships can affect our current relationships, and how we heal and repair ourselves in our current relationships. YouTube link of full video: https://youtu.be/mR_ewNgAEwU Tencent link of full video: https://v.qq.com/x/page/g3305ahf9uq.html Xiaojie started off by explaining what triggers look like. Triggers stem from the survival brain: the part of the brain that is focused on threat, dislikes ambiguity, and thinks in black and white. When we are in our survival brains due to stress or trauma, we lose the ability to think logically. Texts and replies, opposite gender friendships, communication conflicts, and sex are all examples of triggers. Xiaojie pointed out that what triggers us in relationships could be based on our childhood, past relationships, and culture – everyone’s triggers can vary enormously. Then, she moved on to introduce the learning brain: the part of the brain that is open to new information and comfortable with ambiguity. With our learning brains, we feel calm, connected, confident, and less triggered so that we are ready to learn. Unfortunately, the survival brain often overtakes the learning brain, making it hard for us to think rationally. Image by Jacob Ham This is when we must work on ourselves. Xiaojie ended her presentation by listing out action points for the audience to work on by themselves, with their partners, or through professional support. After Xiaojie, the other speakers presented. Angel from Active Together spoke on physical health and well-being, the environment, and how that impacts the relationships in life. Rachel, a licensed therapist and life coach, presented emotional well-being, values, and boundaries when it comes to relationships and how those values reflect our self-concept. Juan from ComeUnity conducted a mindful meditation session after the three speakers, providing a time for reflection. Afterwards, there was also time for small group discussions and socializing. Although being Date Night China’s first speakers’ workshop, it was a full house. The workshop speakers shared their knowledge with expertise and provided tools to support building healthy relationships between individuals. Xiaojie’s presentation evoked thought upon how the misunderstandings that create discomfort in our lives are linked with our personal backgrounds. Through simple neurology concepts, she explained how the human brain functions, making it easier for us to understand and accept our behavior. People were actively listening and engaging in meaningful discussions with Xiaojie. With a focus on nurturing one’s own mental well-being, Xiaojie’s participation provided the audience with a supportive environment to not only listen, learn, and self-reflect, but also share their mental state. Xiaojie also provides discounted therapy sessions for those with financial restrains for 200rmb/session (4 sessions per person). To know more information on the availability each month, and the criteria, please scan the QR code below for consultation.
- Press | Interview by ThatsBeijing about Teen’s Open letters
Providing mental health support to teens has been a key part of CandleX’s vision and goals. Teens, unlike other demographics, face unique mental health challenges partly due to the development phase they undergo as well as the social and cultural expectations they receive. According to the U.S.-based organization National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 children ages 13 to 18 have, or will have a serious mental illness. In fact, 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Therefore, the consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults. Since February 2020, CandleX launched a column called Teen’s Opens Letters dedicated to teens to voice their experiences. Whether it’s mental health challenges as a result of moving away from home and beginning university life in a foreign country, battles against eating disorders and depression, unspoken thoughts to parents, Teen’s Open Letters has a place for all these topics. Click here for ThatsBeijing’s recently published article on CandleX’s mental health service and support for teens. Sources: 1. National Institute of Mental Health. www.nimh.nih.gov 2. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health