Dare To Say Yes

Daring to say yes is very powerful on many different levels: psychologically, mentally, emotionally, and – few people are aware of this fact – neurologically.

Robert Hill is a psychologist who specialises in neurobiology. Robert is a member of an international research group as well as an international trainer. He is engaged in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology – IPBN. In one of his seminars on IPBN he highlights the power and the importance of saying yes.

According to Robert Hill, saying YES opens up an entire neurophysiological state of being that is very different from saying No:

Daring to say yes is like turning the light-switch on:  the current flows, paving the way for relaxation, good digestion, smooth functioning of the various body systems

*  Saying yes actives the beneficial part of the nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)  – its main job is relaxation and digestion, in other words: the antidote to stress

*  Saying yes actives our social engagement system

Our social engagement system is biologically hardwired – that means it is a fundamental, quintessential part of being human. We are biologically and neurologically meant to relate to others. More on that in later posts.


By contrast, saying no:

*  Activates the sympathetic nervous system. Its main job is to set off our fight or flight response, which has also been called the     acute stress response.

*  This stress response entails a whole range of negative effects on the human body such as physiological responses:

–       acceleration of the heart beat

–       Inhibition of stomach action to the point where digestion stops

–       Constriction of the blood supply to the major organs

–       Loss of hearing or peripheral vision (tunnel vision) to name but a few


        Emotional and mental responses to acute stress such as

–       aggression

–       anger

–       withdrawal

–       substance abuse and

–       addictions

Robert Hill points out that saying no actually sounds rigid, it indicates stopping and opposing. It actually has physical effects in the body of the listener. Take note next time someone says a vehement NO. Observe your reaction – you might find that your shoulders are hunched or your stomach tightened. This means emotional healing and wellbeing cannot take place when you are stressed.

The Mind Science Institute 

In prehistoric times, the fight or flight response served as an important strategy for survival. Nowadays, a wide range of triggers set off the fight or flight response with dire consequences for our physical and internal wellbeing. The fight or flight response was not designed for the stresses of modern times.


It is clear then that learning to say yes is an important life skill and state of mind.  

So what am I asking you to say yes to? Your wellbeing. Thriving in life. Emotional freedom. I’m suggesting that you might dare to say yes to YOU. I believe that it is crucial in life to be authentic. Society teaches us that selfishness is bad. And what is considered as ‘selfish’ ranges from not sharing lollies to refusing to act out of obligation. There is a large grey area regarding what is selfish and what is not.

I am, however,  talking about SELF-CARE. Because that is what saying yes to you, to a life filled with contentment and joy, is all about. It is caring for your self. And from this place of caring for and about yourself you also open the gateway for others to do the same: to care for themselves. Self-care feels good and does not harm others in any way. Classical ‘selfishness’ does not feel good.

And here we are right back at our emotions: your emotions will definitely be able to tell you unwaveringly if you are caring for the self: because it feels good! It gives you juice. You are inspired. Time flies by.

By contrast, being selfish might make you feel guilty and angry with yourself. It doesn’t foster self-esteem. Or if you acted out of mere obligation you’ll end up feeling bad for abandoning your self.


We have a lot of no’s in our world. We need more ‘yes’ in our lives and in our world.

What might you dare to say yes to?

Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal & Reflection

Making sense of change

How to reconnect with life following emotional pain or trauma

When you are stuck in the midst of a whirlpool of unimaginable emotional pain, and the memory of suffering swirls around your head, playing the movie in front of your inner eye over and over, and the excruciating sounds of suffering echo in your ears, and all of the cells of your body are filled with your emotional pain, there appears to be nothing beyond this agonising inner pain. Emotional healing, even just feeling ‘normal’, seems out of reach. So how then do you reconnect with life, and re-build a joyful life?

I truly believe that the very first step to reconnecting with life is the desire within to do so. Something in you has to really want that for yourself. It has to be genuine. You cannot kid yourself; you cannot pretend that you want it when really you don’t. No-one can do this for you other than yourself. There is no way around this step. It has to be authentic. No-one else can truly provide you emotional support that might bring about a lasting change for you until you have made that decision for yourself.

You do not, however, have to know at that point in time HOW on earth you are going to be able to do that. The how will come; it will follow your inner decision to reach for reconnection, for a life of thriving. The pathway or pathways that will help you to make that reconnection happen for yourself will show up.

When I made my decision to choose happiness for my children and myself I was firmly caught up in despair. This was four months into Mark’s journey of his illness and trauma; at this stage he already had multiple brain surgeries, and, being unable to move, more and more things started to go wrong with his body. The outlook, according to doctors, “was bleak”. I did not know if he would live or die, there were no clear answers and the not-knowing was extremely agonising. And if he lived, would he need full care for the rest of his life? I had no answers, only despair and exhaustion. But in the middle of all this something inside me compelled me to make my decision to choose something beyond the suffering and pain, to choose happiness. I did not want my children’s happiness put on hold indefinitely, paused until one day their beloved dad might come home.

I know deep in my heart that it was this decision that I made, sitting on my couch at home in a rare moment of solitude, that made my recovery and renewal possible in the long term. And importantly, it made it possible for our children to recover from their trauma. It did not take my pain away, but it added in something else. It opened the door to tiny snippets of joy, such as when I was hugging my children, a moment, even a nanosecond, of something else.

I have therefore placed making the decision to choose a happy life for yourself, to choose emotional healing, as my first signpost. It is an inner process. And I hope that by sharing my story of recovery from trauma that I might inspire you to make that decision for yourself to dare to say yes to you.


In a previous post I shared the story of Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs. He knows despair first-hand. How did he get out of his whirlpool of despair and suffering? It seems that Nick turned his inner world around and connected for the first time in his life with the possibility that he could be happy and could contribute something to the world when his mother showed him a newspaper article on a disabled man. For the first time Nick realised that his uniqueness had a positive side to it: having no arms or legs placed him in a position where he moved people, where he speaks directly to people’s hearts. This means that Nick can have an instant heart connection with others, bypassing the formal logical brain based connection that usually is the first type of connection we have with a stranger. He is able to open people’s hearts, and that is a huge gift to give to others.

Obviously recognising and then connecting with this shift in perception of himself would have been an ongoing process for Nick that took place over a long period of time.

But there are some tangible events in Nick’s life that are proof of his incredible inner strength and optimism, evidence of his shift in perception: earlier this year, in February 2012, Nick got married to his beautiful wife Kanae. This video clip is a true testament to their incredible love story.

Nick Vujicic: emotinal healing and wellbeing despite extreme adversity



And now Kanae and Nick are expecting their first baby! Nick could not have possibly imagined as he was growing up that he would ever become a father himself. Even in recent years, as Nick’s wish to become a father has been growing, he could not have imagined the path his life would take in meeting and getting married to Kanae and then falling pregnant early on in their marriage.


What is the uniqueness about you that is borne out of your personal adversity and pain? Who are you today as a result of all of your life experience, especially the challenges and painful experiences that ripped your heart open?


Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal & Reflection                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Making sense of change