All I Want For Christmas …

Dear reader,

greetings from a snowy, cold and dark London. I haven’t been here since August and it is truly good to be back. I remember leaving it quite confused, with vague feelings and no plans, yet life never happens according to your plans so one might be surprised by how vague and gloomy predictions might turn into a quite bright and jolly future.

Anyways, every time I go to London and if I have time, I must visit some of my favourite places. And some of my favourite shops. Which include Victoria’s Secret. I really like nice lingerie and having a good bra is one of the things which are quite important to me. Not that I would have any preferred brand, but the truth to be told, I quite like VS ever since I first visited it years go in the US.

This time was no different, I had to sneak in the store and act as a completely spoiled western consumer (which feels quite good sometimes, no?). And then on my way home on the red bus, I had this small tiny moment of bliss.

I don’t need any of the VS’s fancy bras. In fact I don’t need anything.

All of my lovely, carefully designed shopping plans all of a sudden meant nothing. All of a sudden I was completely happy in my old, half torn jeans. All of my girly wishes vanished. And what remained was pure gratitude. Gratitude that I am alive. That I am safe. Warm. Relatively free to choose what I want to do. That I have a place to go. A thing to do. People to care for and care about. And that was pretty much it.

I realised I don’t need anything. I’ve already got much more than I need.

So this year I wish I had no wishes. Because it’s so f****** good 🙂 (sorry about the language!)

What do you want for Christmas?

Biba

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You really need very little. You might want a lot though. 

A. Biba Rebolj

When dealing with your own issues, use your head. When dealing with other people’s issues, use your heart.

This is my personal motto.

A few days ago, my former client made a comment she’s missing information about me on my webpage. Her words were: “There is so much about your organization, but so little about yourself. People are interested and would love to hear about you!” And when she heard I never sign my blog posts, she thought I was mad. Since she’s very good at her business, I trust her words and intuition. I’ll sign my posts from now on 🙂

I’m not the kind of person who likes talking about herself. I always feel I don’t have anything special to say about me. If I would be able to choose, I would stay in the shadow and would preferably observe what’s going on from the distance. If I could choose between talking or listening, I would go for the latter. Same stands when choosing between answering or asking.

However, life never goes according to our plans and someone or something had different plans for me and a different path in mind.

I was born in an average family in one working class town where alcoholism was more of a natural state than an exception. My father (an alcoholic) died of stroke when I was 5 and he was diagnosed with manic depression. My mother was suffering from anxiety. Though I perceive my childhood as a happy one, I ran away from home when I was 13 and headed off to the capitol city, where I wanted to follow my dreams thus become a ballet dancer. I was gifted and had demonstrated hard discipline, but was nothing truly exceptional. Teachers recommended I rather choose career in music because of my perfect pitch or go study languages, but I felt otherwise. Didn’t succeed as a dancer, so I headed towards university after more than a year of severe depression and eating disorder, because my world and my identity collapsed in as short period as just one day.

My undergraduate studies were in library and information science. I selected this course because I had doubts I would be able to finish anything more demanding, even though my scores were high enough to grant me a place in medicine or psychology. But my self esteem was lower than the height of a chihuahua dog and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Soon after the first few lectures passed, it appeared to me that this study course would allow me plenty of time, which I  spared engaging in extracurricular activities, such as student council, student associations, etc., which soon got me to be an elected MP for my faculty. I didn’t like the MP’s position, though very prestigious, partly because I don’t aspire to be under flashlights and partly because I hate pretension. However through that function, I met some very nice people and my network grew. At about the same time I was appointed to take a leading role of a coordinator for student tutors and students with disabilities. It was a brand new role, so I established the entire support system from scratch. This was something that really suited me and I loved my work, for the first time after being a failed artist. Loved helping others who were facing difficult situations, especially because I myself have had an experience what it feels like being stigmatized, hurt, abandoned or very scared. I could also have little understanding of the weight of having a disability label, because I’ve self-recovered from a 5-year eating disorder which was proclaimed lethal and unhealable. I figured doctors and specialists were not always the best option. Nor was psychiatry, digging in the past, or discussing whose fault it was. They labelled me “hopeless”, but they were wrong. I resisted their “help”, because all they did, was looking down at me from their expert positions through diagnosis and nobody took the time to really listen. And none of them cared. I promised myself I would treat people differently. I managed to completely recover and put myself up again, without any professional help. But I didn’t look at this as an achievement, because nobody really cared. At least I thought so.

In 2010, university MP’s got the opportunity to be subjects for IQ testing at Mensa. It was a rainy afternoon and I just had a big lunch, so I thought I could afford to spend an hour or two playing with some funny tests to avoid falling asleep. My expectations towards the outcomes were rather low, because I was still holding a belief I’m below average. When the results came several weeks later, they delivered a huge surprise. It turned out I have such a strong mental capacity to fit within top 3-4% of the mankind population. It then occured to me that funny looks I got sometimes weren’t happening because people wouldn’t like me, but were there because people wouldn’t understand what I was saying or they couldn’t catch up with my thoughts of rapid speed and my ability to get to the bottom much earlier.

So suddenly I was proven more intelligent than most people. Such a rare ability comes with huge responsibility. It is not my achievement that I found myself in a privileged place like that, though I could feel superior to others. I viewed it simply in terms that I was extremely lucky to be born with such amazing brain function. So I should make some use of this and make a difference in the world. But how?

Since I liked my work as a disability coordinator and my students liked it too, I decided that after my graduation, I should do something and gain real expertise, because my undergraduate studies were a joke (with all the respect towards the library&information profession which I really admire and feel sympathetic towards, but it was not challenging enough for me). So I was admitted to doctoral degree in education, which was quite daring, because I switched profession and academic fields completely and this meant double or tripple work to catch up with others. I couldn’t afford to pay for the PhD of course, but somehow managed to get in the top 5% of the student population to obtain an EU scholarship that paid for my tuition as well as for my living expenses. It was smply meant to be. During my PhD I got an opportunity to go on a research study visit abroad. I chose United Kingdom and was supposed to stay there for half a year. Instead I stayed a year and a half and now call UK my second home. Solution Focused Brief Therapy found me while being there and it felt like coming home. It was love at first sight and I knew I found exactly what I’ve been waiting for and I was a good asset for it as well. This was exactly what I needed in order to be able to help others achieve their aspirations – it works, it is brief and it is in alignment with my personal values. The Solution Focused community soon recognized my efforts and my activities caught the eyes of many, so I won the award that enabled me intensive Solution Focused training in the USA in 2014. The year 2014 was a year of travelling and a year of intense studying. Have a look at blog index to read some notes about that, if interested.

So I came back from the UK and felt really energized. Couldn’t wait to pass this new knowledge to others and make a difference in their lives. I had it all – the tools, the expertise, motivation, passion … so I opened the Ribalon Institute as the first Solution Focused institution in Slovenia in February 2015. Since then, my work has gradually been gaining impact and recognition. People in my workshops and trainings often claim, these are the best workshops/trainings they’ve ever been to. And I feel for them, because that’s exactly how I felt when I first encountered Solution Focused Approach. In april 2015 I finished my training with BRIEF, which is the largest institution providing SF training in Europe and also one with the longest tradition. As a cherry on top, BRIEF sponsored my attendance at the European Brief Therapy Association annual conference in Vienna in September 2015. From there I got an invitation to host a masterclass at the next EU conference in Brugges in 2016. I’m currently the first certified Solution Focused practitioner in Slovenia. So (un)fortunately once again, I couldn’t stay in the shadows, quietly as an observer, as someone/something had other plans for me.

My life is a story and stories are better than theories, because people learn better by telling stories rather than talking theories. I met many people whose life stories were amazing and I’m really grateful, life has brought me so many lessons. My humble opinion about the whole story is, that I couldn’t possibly ask for anything more, but to be able to spend my life the way I like it the most – making a positive difference in other people’s lives, doing things I want to do and leaving this Earth a bit nicer place because of that. I still believe I’m nothing special. Hence if I managed to “recover straight up from the ashes”, why wouldn’t others also be able to do it as well. Why wouldn’t you be able to do it? Also, I’m now slowly accepting that life has ascribed me a different position and I’m getting used to obviously being a leader and not a follower. Also, I would like to create leaders, not followers. So it would be an honour for me to meet you and offer you a little bit of this joy and flow as well.

With love and from life,

Biba

moja Biba

Meet a person who saved my life and doesn’t know it

Dear reader,

sometimes your actions echo and reach much much further than you may realize. Well I think that most of your actions cause somehow a snowball effect, only you might not be aware of it.

Here’s a story about someone that had much influence on my character in the past and is still very, very special to me. A story about someone, who used to be like a mother when I needed one most. A story of someone whom I call my person, the one that watched me grow up and stayed, even until today. Her name is M.

She used to be my teacher in grammar school. I was in love with her. She was my role model and everything she said or did, I wanted to be like her. She had a great sense of humour and my notebooks were full of short notices about the jokes she made in class. She was also a poet and inspired me to write myself. I secretly wished that I would somehow resemble her when I grow up. But I was a messy teenager. Very bright and hardworking, but not very well behaved. I believed in justice and couldn’t keep my mouth shut when I noticed some iniquities. I was also very active and would be in first rows when somebody would propose some action, even though it might have been a silly one. So I happened to be a co-editor of a school paper, which my class had set up and wrote many articles for it. In the beginning of my third year, I was preparing for a national ballet competition and I was quite unhappy about my ballet teacher’s work and attitude. He made it clear I was not his protĂŠgĂŠ, even though I was the only one in class being sent to this competition. I was upset with his methods and behaviour, and not just his, but the entire school policy. Ballet world sucks – it’s very competitive, most of the discussions are around your obeying body and relationships are harsh. But I didn’t mind it back then. What I did mind, was that I wanted to work even harder, but had no opportunity to do so. I wanted more trainings, more lessons, but couldn’t find a listening ear that would enable me to develop to the maximum. So since nobody would listen, I wrote an article about this – an anonymous one, without names, but I did put a signature, which clearly pointed to me as an author. I didn’t want to hide, but didn’t want to point fingers either. I felt I had to let it out and hoped that something would change.

Much changed, and the change came rapidly. My ballet teacher recognized himself in this piece of writing and went mad. I was called up into his office and he yelled at me for about half an hour so loud, that the entire school heard it. I was called names, was threatened and in the end, sent home with a prohibition to come back until the teaching staff board meeting. What was worse, was that he revealed himself as being the person I was referring to in the article, so that everybody knew who he was and what he’s doing and that upset him even more.

I went home. I was petrified. And shocked. My intention was not to harm anybody, but to raise an issue that it is time for a change and discussion. Everything I told was the truth and furthermore, it was not my opinion entirely. We talked about these issues and most of my other colleagues agreed with my concerns, but as soon as this happened, their mouths were shut and I was left alone.

The board meeting was in a few days. I was not allowed to attend trainings in the meantime. When the board was over, M. approached me and said they were considering expulsion. But she told me not to worry, because it’s not going to happen. Later on I heard that she stood up for me in the meeting and claimed that all I did was expressing my opinion in a free speech country and I should not be punished for daring to step out to say the emperor’s naked. She was the only one who dared to say something in my defence. So they did not expel me, I only got a final notice. But the ballet teacher withdrew his mentorship and wouldn’t talk to me for one year, even though I won the second place in that competition. However, inspite of that I cried almost every night, because my spirit was broken. And this was the end of my wild nature. It was the beginning of the end of my career as a dancer, only I didn’t know this at that point. I was only 16.

The end happened about 5 years later. Following years brought me much trouble and some very difficult time. When I left the opera house, I was a nervous wreck. Most of the people abandoned me. M. stayed. But she never asked anything. Never judged. She left me alone, but not lonely. Never gave me “the disgusting look” I frequently got from the others in terms of “look at her, she’s destroying herself and there’s no hope for her”. She was just simply there as if nothing was wrong and I was always good enough, even though I was nothing and felt like nothing.

After I went to the university, she stayed still. Talked to me about different things. She was interested in how I was doing. And I think she saved my life, because she showed me that life goes on, no matter what. That even though you lose everything, some people stay. Not because of what you do and how you do it, but simply because you are and that’s enough. This was huge for me and made me realize, she was there the whole time, from the first day I came to this school. She wrote a letter to me when I was in a hospital and couldn’t rehearse. She congratulated me for my birthday, every year. She read my poems and encouraged me to write, because she thought I was talented. And she was proud when I graduated and won the PreĹĄeren’s prize.

She’s retired now, but we still keep in touch. Our relationship has changed, because she’s not my teacher anymore and I’m a grown-up, but it has become an even better one. She follows this blog and I know that when she’ll read this post, she’ll be very surprised. So here’s to you, M.: You probably had no idea what a positive influence you had on my development. Nevertheless, yes – you saved my life and you contributed a great deal to my moral education. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share a piece of my life with you and have a tiny place in yours. It is a gem for me and no words will ever be enough to say thank you for what you have done and that you are still here.

Once we spent an afternoon at your place and you gave me a small notebook. I use it to write good things in it, that have happened to me. And there are actually many things in there! So maybe I’ll start writing some posts in Slovenian, as you requested. Maybe the time is right to do so.

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May I Present to You …

A Certified Solution Focused Practitioner! I recently came back from England and brought an important paper in my pocket. My first part of solution focused training is behind me and I’m now officially fully qualified to pursue Solution Focused Practice.

The difference for me is rather minor, but it makes huge difference when I present my work and qualification to others. Clients usually don’t mind as well, they are more interested in the outcomes. However other practitioners of all kinds are VERY interested. And I think this is a good sign, they should be, because it does matter where you’ve been trained, by whom, how long and what the structure of your training was. You don’t want to be coached by someone who has only pursued a brief training on a weekend seminar, do you?

So for you dear fellow workers, who are in the helping professions and others who are interested, here’s what my training so far looked like:

Prior to entering the Solution Focused training, I was already engaged in working with students. Counselling and help has been offered through the university tutor system and I was the head of tutors for students with disabilities. I’ve been doing it for 8 years and have been granted two faculty awards for my work.

As I’ve told you in a past post, a miracle has happened and SF found me. My training at BRIEF (London, United Kingdom) has lasted from March 2014 until April 2015. Though I haven’t been in London the whole time, meanwhile I’ve participated in European Brief Therapy Association Conference 2014 in the Netherlands, Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association of America’s 2014 conference and additional training (not included in my primary training at BRIEF) and SOL CEE Conference 2015 in Hungary. And I was at home, working with my clients.

In total, so far I’ve experienced more than 150 hours of intensive training in Solution Focused Practice, about 30 hours of supervision and more than 120 hours with clients (only individual clients are included in the number, not the workshops). I’ve been really lucky to be trained or coached by the world’s famous Solution Focused Therapists and Coaches: Chris Iveson (my number one consultant and supervisor), Harvey Ratner, Evan George, dr. Peter De Jong, dr. Heather Fiske, dr. Harry Korman, dr. Janet Beavin Bavelas, Katalin Hankovszky Christiansen, Marco Matera, dr. Susanne Burgstaller, Hannes Couvreur and have sought consultation and guidance from dr. John Wheeler, dr. Mark Beyebach, Randa Fent, dr. Alasdair J. MacDonald, dr. Lance Taylor and Anne-Marie Wulf. I’m omitting the official titles other than PhD’s, because there are so many and I will probably make a mistake listing all of it. And because they made a difference to my life as people, not as doctors and specialists. What’s consisted a huge amount of my professional development was the EBTA, SFBTA and SOL World Community’s support. I had constant access to resources and immediate feedback from Solution Focused Practitioners whenever I needed one. My work has been recognized as meaningful, so the communities have enabled me to participate in training and conference in the US and in Hungary. I cannot find the right gratitude words to express what difference this has made to my professional standing, so I didn’t say it in words, but have showed it in action by opening the Ribalon Institute. All the above named and unnamed people have contributed to it.

What is coming next, is another year of extensive training for a Solution Focused Therapist and attendance in other Solution Focused events that currently I can’t tell how many will be. Anyhow, I believe I’ll be learning for life and in the end, my best teachers will be my clients. If things continue this way, you’ll be able to read about it as it happens.

It has been a long and arduous time and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

So my dear readers, proudly to present a marvellous journey that has escalated in a certificate paper. In case you’d ask.

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Good and lasting results don’t come overnight. It takes time to be able to perform and produce something meaningful. Like a good porridge for example.

A Word about You: 1,000 Visitors!

Dear reader,

Since the birth of this blog, today the number of visitors turned 1,000 and beyond! Thank you so much for following, being around, letting me know you appreciate my work and thank you for simply being. According to the statistics, I’ve got readers from all over the world (in no specific order): the Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Philippines, Poland, Belgium, Israel, Canada, Austria, Australia, Croatia, Mexico, Greece, Argentina, Serbia, Singapore, Russian Federation, Taiwan, Norway, France and the Republic of Korea.

Since the beginning of my practice, I’ve had more than 30 clients, many of them were in their following sessions and I’ve had many more who were not in sessions but were curious about what I do. The feedback I got so far is 92/100% satisfaction, which includes questions of respect, professionalism, usefulness, effects and overall experience. I’ve had about 10 workshops delivered on SF introduction at various organizations and have worked with different groups. That has resulted in expanded collaboration, so the project is slowly growing. I receive let’s say weekly emails with all sorts of help/suggestion proposals. Though I don’t measure the feedback from these, I have a sense that the receivers are happy with my answers, because they stay and keep writing. The newly launched Facebook page had more than 100 likes in 5 days only. So I obviously can’t find the right words to express how honoured I am, so I’m (as usual) going to tell you another SF story.

Knitting you all the “cherry on the top” words above, the reality is, I’m almost daily standing in front of huge challenges and have to take difficult steps that I have no idea where they’ll lead to. At least once a day I do a task that I’m scared to do or in the best case, I feel uncomfortable doing (like have a meeting with someone I don’t know well and is not favourable towards the project, implement some new ideas or using new questions in sessions that may not result being useful, etc.). So sometimes at the end of a day, especially if I haven’t seen any client (consequently my purpose is drifting), I feel small and would preferably like to hide for a while. I never do, don’t know how I manage this really. But I do look for support, mostly in people I deeply respect. So I wrote the other day to SF list (online list uniting SF therapists and workers worldwide) and shared my doubts. I got a reply from D. from Belgium, who’s been working as a SF worker for 43 years:

My general advice: whatever you do, do it with passion. More specifically, if you want to be good at doing therapy/coaching, just do just that. Time spent on other things like building organisations, conferences-, etc. is time you will not be able to spend with your clients.

And today I got FB message from a student working in our tutor system, saying she’s heard about my workshop and has heard it was great and students loved it, so she’d like to invite me to deliver another one for her public. Also, I had a meeting with an experienced psychotherapist who is familiar and favours solution focused therapy. We’ve spent a nice afternoon together and I got some very useful information and so did she. We decided we’ll work on preparing a project together one day. So my dear reader, even though I get home late and have zero spare time, I like spending time with you, even though I don’t know you personally and haven’t met you. Yet. Thank you again for being around and being around so much!

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Taking small steps, making huge difference. With a smile 🙂

A Word about the Patience and Gratitude

Dear reader,

You’ve probably noticed through my posts that perfectionism could be a tag that would describe my character pretty accurately. That’s so stressful! I really hope it will fade out with time eventually, because it is really not a pleasant characteristic to possess. For example, for the last two days I haven’t been able to sleep well, because I’m expecting some very important news that will have a huge impact on my future in terms of get going or have it difficult. The deadline for a final decision was supposed to be yesterday and I was alert every bloody minute (checking inbox and annoying everyone who’s been around). No news.

Why are they not responding? Did they miss my application? Or did the reply get lost somewhere on the way? Did they choose someone else and will not inform those who were not selected? Did they have an accident and are in the hospital? Are they looking for a polite way to say that I wasn’t successful? Am I going to have an accident soon? Am I mad? Goddd …. (Remember the post where I told you about the presentation in front of psychology students? Sounds familiar?)

These thoughts were so pervasive and aggressive that almost paralyzed me for that day. Luckily I had some clients and I’m somehow always able to switch from my personal life to professional setting. We had a great time together so partly they were helping me! Funny, when it comes to clients, I’m never being as demanding to them as I am to myself. Also perfectionism is out of question, because it doesn’t do any good. And they make such admirable progress – just today I got another SMS a client has passed an exam and the other one wrote to me a couple of days ago that he found the therapy very useful, because he’s learned so much about himself through it. You see, clients teach me so many things! I had to suppress my nonsense behaviour and then took a deep breath. Then looked around. So much was happening that I could almost overlook because I’ve been so busy feeding my perfectionistic monster.

Tomorrow it’s the first anniversary of our wedding. My husband gave me the most wonderful present. He designed earrings for me that have a deeper meaning and had them made by the jeweller who made our wedding rings. It was such a lovely thing to do, he really showed how much he cared that he spent so much time and efforts thinking about the present that will be something special. He gave me the earrings today and made a very nice speech. I felt so lucky and suddenly realized I’m in the middle of the most beautiful moment that would be spoiled if I would think about the past or the future. So I stopped. And when I did, amazing thing happened. I realized I have SO much. In fact, I have everything: a loving husband, work that I love and I’m good at, great health … what more could I want? A reply from the Committee 🙂 It will come, the later it comes, the better, because that way I could keep this exciting feeling of desire and expectation a bit longer. Keep your fingers crossed for me please and hopefully soon I could tell you more about it!

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That was my gift – handmade one of a kind cups.