Being Me, Loving You: Creating and Living a Healthy Relationship:The Hague, NL, Sept 24-27

Come and join us in The Hague, Sept 24-27, to create genuine, harmonious relationships that are based on deep emotional connection and growth, both individually and as a couple. With our focus on needs based communication (otherwise known as Compassionate or Nonviolent Communication) we help couples move away from the level of strategies and thoughts, which is where the conflicts and judgements of each other are often embedded. We supportively and safely guide the partners to a different level of relating, person to person from the heart. For more information contact Jerry Zondervan or Gordana Stankovic (both counselling in psychology) on +447917299297 or on (please make adjustments; e-mail written this way to prevent spam) healthyretreats (at) caring-for (dot) eu

Workshop and retreats webpage:

Price per couple 550 Euro. Single participants pay half.


Scarcity mentality

Till not too long ago, I believed that in order to succeed – and our society defines success all too often in terms of prestige and money or material possessions – I had to put in hard work and mow problems out of the way. I had bought into this quite rigid model of success, hence, figuratively speaking, I needed to run into walls with my shoulders to knock issues down. Society taught me: “If you get there too slowly, someone else will get it before you, and you’ll be the sucker left behind. It’s a world of sharks out there.”

Over time, I have come to realize that this is some form of deeply life-alienating thinking. Life-alienating, because it disunites us from one another: We come to see other humans as nuisances; a hindrance on the way between us and success. I also came to understand that this kind of thinking is based mostly on our fears. On those fears of not having enough, of not receiving enough, or more in general, of missing out on something so precious that the mere thought is too ghastly to contemplate.

Nowadays, I know that things are not so, and I see at least two common denominators that are removing us from our true selves with this kind of thinking. One is the scarcity mentality, and the other, our inability to recognize and follow our passions, and generate a comfortable living, while actually playing. The scarcity mentality involves pauper’s thinking, a way of looking at life that many of us were taught to adhere to, based on the idea that if I leave something for the time being, it will not be available to me in the future. It also involves the belief that there is not enough to go round, of anything really. For instance, our thinking might go along the lines of: “If I don’t get this job now, someone else will, and I will be left without any. I’ll be jobless for a long time, perhaps the rest of my life!”

Yet, let me stop here for a moment, so that I can make a distinction. There are opportunities that present themselves under our noses; often some event that we really wanted to attract. Just as often, when these situations arise, we run away from them and we self-sabotage. A person seeking counsel that I worked with, kept sending out the message that she wanted to have a loving, tender, and generally fulfilling relationship. Then, inevitably, when a man showed up who fitted the bill, she would find excuses as to why this relationship would not work, and run away from him. Situations like these are real lost opportunities that are not likely to come back. When we act in this way, we manage to attract the exact misery that we would love to be away from in the first place. Somewhere in our minds, we create negative thoughts, and the hidden idea underneath is that we don’t deserve a particular outcome.

Let me now come back to that scarcity thinking. Based on the assumption that there is not enough to go round, we believe that we need to go out and “get it before someone else does”. This state of mind makes us live in a place of constant stress, alertness and unease. It makes us feel as if we are living “beside our life”, only visiting, because we are too busy with other issues. We are never present with our true intentions, nor with ourselves, nor with others.

On this particular subject of scarcity, Mahatma Gandhi pronounced these often invoked words: “There is enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for anybody’s greed.”

This statement by Gandhi seems to sum it up so well: If I share with others, there is plenty for all of us; there is harmony because there is a certain form of balance; there is flow.

However, if I try to hold on to things, I do this with that fear-based mentality, and all on the planet suffer, as there is no flow. For instance, those that have little or no food suffer because of their empty bellies, those that have too much food suffer because of the cardiovascular and digestive diseases that over-eating causes, and because often over-eating is a form of psychological compensation.

This scarcity set of mind, permeates most of our activities and decisions, without us being aware of it. Coming back to the example of that job we would like, or perhaps a house we badly want to buy, it is quite likely that at some stage we tell ourselves something along the lines of: “I need to beat others!” and so we start competing not only with others, but, unwittingly, with ourselves.

We start creating what I refer to as the rush-rush-mentality; we create a personal world in which we want to move faster, and faster, and faster till, at some stage we get to that point that our society has come to refer to as “burn-out”.

In reality, if we were, collectively, as societies, able to realize that burn-outs are nothing but a state of not giving ourselves enough time to come to terms with what life throws at us, then we would be able to simply scale back and live in ways which create harmony, rather than stress. Perhaps, in some cases, this would mean embracing, willingly, a simpler way of life, with fewer material goods, with fewer engagements yet, probably, with more personal spaciousness and more deep-going human bonds.

In the case of most of us – and this leads me to the second theme that I want to talk about in this chapter – it would mean stopping, and taking time to recognize what our passions are, and living them. For instance, if Alexander Graham Bell had not stood still to explore his passion, and had instead taken up a banking job, we would probably not have had the telephone, or at least not at the point in time it was brought to humanity. If Einstein had not followed his passionate curiosity to go explore the universe, and had gone to find a hamburger-flipping job instead, we would not have had the theory of relativity, among many of the contributions he made. If Mozart had not listened to his burning musical talent, and had contented himself with playing music written by others at events in Vienna’s courts, we would have been deprived of some of the most incredibly, wonderfully inspiring symphonies the world has known.

All these examples are not meant to talk down any job, yet they are meant to show that all of us have some innate passion, some innate capacity to produce something that is extraordinary for ourselves, something unique to us, and to share it with the world. At this stage many people ask: “What about the money though? This is all nice and fine, yet how do I pay my bills?”

Again back to the same point: Follow your inspiration!

When you do what you are passionate about, the results will follow suit at some stage; leave the details to higher forces, to those situations we often call coincidental. It might take weeks, it might take months, it might take years, yet the results will show abundantly, providing you stick with it and are 100% convinced of your project. The two conditions I just mentioned are fundamental, because if we do not believe in our own project, and therefore set in motion the necessary energies to see change in our lives, it will simply not happen.

The three examples I offered earlier on, are obviously of well known individuals, yet, it is likely that in our everyday lives we all know at least one person who is following her own path, who is listening thoroughly to her inner voice, and living the life of her dreams. It seems to me that one characteristic all these people have in common, is that they see abundance showing up in their lives, in the way that each and everyone of them desires. Einstein got to pursue his research career, Mozart to write music, Bell to get the world to talk. All three men were desiring to abundantly contribute to others. Interestingly, all three of them were amply compensated economically by life, each one of them in the way they preferred, and probably beyond; this, despite the romantic 19th century claims that Mozart was a pauper. An exhibition in Austria in 2006 showed that he was probably among the top five percent earners of that time in Vienna, and that he was buried in a standard mass grave, as was common practice in those days. Life took care of them financially, so that they could buy food and shelter and concentrate on doing what they knew best: letting their creativity be of service to others.

So, next time we start feeling heavy about the job we currently have, the relationship we are in, the friendships we seem to attract, some situations that seem to come our way over and over, let’s remind ourselves that we have a choice. We can choose to stay in our old thinking patterns that deliver results that we don’t want, or we can choose to drop them and create new ones, and attract a different, more fulfilling and joyful way of life, either in the current situation – with our new thinking – or in a new set of circumstances.


Jerry Zondervan (1967-) HDSS, is an internationally known author, e-counselor (spec. healthy relationships) and speaker in the area of self-development and self-growth. His first book, 

was reviewed by a reader in the UK as: “As one who has entered into therapy in both the US and England, I can say that this book is an excellent guide on how to approach and hopefully be an emotionally healthy person through honestly looking at oneself”. Joe G. England (UK)

Why talk therapies work: A discussion and overview of CBT and Nonviolent communication biased counseling

There are many approaches to psychological well being. Some medicated, some not.

Most studies that have been done since the 1950’s agree that the so called “talk therapies” are among the most effective ones, more often than not without the use of any drugs.

Medication has too many so called side-effects [in reality they are no side-effects at all. That is what the drug does. One unfortunately all too often prescribed medication might lift your mood, yet at the same time it can reduce your libido, cause diarrhea, cause nervousness and anxiety, insomnia and vascular dilation. Need I say more…:-)?] for me to contemplate their use, hence my choice to concentrate on what is most effective: empathy, connection, understanding and the unwavering belief that we are all able to change…for the better, if we put our energies towards it.

Let me take you back to the 1980’s when I was much younger, I was blessed with a gift that arrived indirectly into my hands. Carl Gustav Jung, by many referred to as the father of modern day psychology would have called it with a term of his own creation: synchronicity.

I got a copy of “Feeling Good” by David Burns, MD. At the time, in my teens, I believed I had every reason to be severely depressed and with no outlook in life; a disastrous example at home of how not to connect to life and with others.

An alcoholic mother, a caring father, yet unable to show emotions and hence all the “teachings” I got from him were rather practical and supposedly rational. When I was turning 12, and about to go to a different school, he put me on his knees, and talked adult stuff with me, among which, I remember well: “and, from now on, you are entering a different age, son, you are getting into puberty, and you will be developing an interest in girls. My best advice to you son: leave them alone, as they only bring trouble” …ehmmm….thanks dad, I see your good intention, yet we need to agree to disagree on this one…:-)

Going back now to exercises in David’s book (he is the father of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, see his web page for much more information) helped me connect in a different way with myself, and I will be forever grateful to him for that. Thank you David Burns, M.D.!

Yet, what he also taught me, is that “talk therapies” really, really work and that, going deep within ourselves to see what dialogue we have with ourselves, is the best way to change ourselves.

How can that be?

Let’s imagine a scenario: we feel really fearful about a particular situation that has arisen in our lives, to the point that we can’t let those thoughts go. They take over our lives almost literally 24/7. If we can see what sort of dialogue we have with ourselves in that moment, we can actually bring something more rational to our thinking processes.

For example, I might be telling myself: “I dread speaking in public because I’ll make a fool of myself”

Well, once we identified this thought, we can change it with something more realistic: “while some people might consider me a fool, the vast majority of those coming to the room will find at least some parts of my speech of interest, and I love the speech I wrote, which is really the most important thing. I did it with joy”

Bear in mind this is only a simple, simple example, and in reality this process needs to go on for several rounds, because we will be telling ourselves lots of nasty things about ourselves and our innate slimy gooiness. (And, by the same token, if we apply more components of CBT, we will actually try to identify what kind of thinking is going on here. David Burns created a list of some common types of cognitive errors, such as all or nothing thinking, magnification, minimization, jumping to conclusions, etc…)

As a species, our ability to be unloving, non-compassionate, non-understanding of that person we see in the mirror every day is not to be underestimated…

Let’s assume we have done a round of these searches and understandings of our thinking processes and their flaws. Now, we can take our “quest” to the next level and go even deeper within.

So what do we do now?

We descend into the realm of our most basic human needs. This part of the process is based on the understanding that all human beings have equal basic human needs [well, let me be playful and call them bunees…:-) ].

Before I go on, I wish to point out that now we are entering the realm of Nonviolent communication, the baby of M. Rosenberg [pls see his for more information]

Let’s come back to our bunees: A set of examples could be a need for acceptance, a need for sexual expression, a need for drink/water, a need for food, a need for being seen, a need for playfulness, and the list goes on [if you wish to have a fuller list, do not hesitate to contact me. I will do work for free with you on this issue, which is far too important to let you just go out into the world with it on your own devices, without some level of guidance. Like any knife, depending how you hold it, it can cut the steak, or chop off your hand]

Now we can combine bunees with our feelings, and very simply: when our bunees are met, we will feel easy, light feelings, when, on the other hand our bunees are not met, we will carry with us a sense of heaviness, a sense of frustration, a sense of lack of energy and, in more severe cases of our bunees not being met, we get to that point that is often referred to as “depression” [ from this school of thought and understanding of humanity, “depression” actually does not exist. It is nothing but a very, very negatively biased dialogue about one’s life, as any study on talk therapy has proven…seriously!…Google it and you will see that CBT alone, in itself, without any other “tools” can be extremely effective in cases of extreme negative thinking, a.k.a. “depression”. The myth that low levels of serotonin in the brain are responsible for “depression” have served some health-related industries very, very well, got los dineros flowing towards them…;-) ].

So, perhaps you start seeing this next stage, the bunees and feeling stage, as very important?

We have, earlier on, brought some clarity and order [ and a sense of more reality which makes us feel better ]to our thinking processes.

Now we have identified that on the whole we feel a bit heavy, hence we know that some of our bunees are not met.

What next?

Very important and perhaps heavy step: we need to understand, to our core, that whatever we do in this world is a strategy.

It is a strategy to fulfill some of these needs. For example: I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water. What is or are my need/needs?

A need for drink, a need for (physical) well being (and perhaps you can think of others)

Before going to the kitchen to get the glass of water, some of my bunees were not met, and inside I had a feeling of discomfort, which normally we refer to as “thirst”.

Now, after putting into place my strategy, my bunees are satisfied [happy bunees….gee…awful pun…:-) ] and inside I feel fine.

However, this was but one strategy; instead of going to the kitchen, I could have placed a bottle of water next to me (a different strategy), or I could have gone to the garden and drank from the garden hose (a different strategy yet again, normally quite plastic-tasting experience), or I could have gone to the local watering hole to satisfy my thirst (yet a different strategy), or…come up with a few different ones yourself!

Net result?

In this example, we have 4 different strategies to satisfy the same needs. In practice, in “real life” we do the same thing with most things, be it work, intimate and non-intimate relationships, shopping, financials, etc…

We chose strategies except that, in many cases if not most, we are not really aware of our choices, because we have been culturally programed by all kinds of parties: parents, ethnic/cultural background, schools, religious institutions, political biases, ethnic biases, and so on.

Hence, we go into the world and do things that are actually not really appropriate for us and, when that reaches a certain personal threshold, which is different for each and everyone of us, we fall into burn-outs, “depressions”, suicidal tendencies, addictions of all kinds – from accomplishment to sex, through hard and soft drugs and legal ones such as alcohol – .

So, our second stage of work will be to make sure that your bunees are met, most of the time.

How do we do that?

By seeing what strategies you chose to satisfy these bunees, and by checking what thinking processes are at play.

I have seen it over and over and over with the people I have worked with:

If we manage to start seeing our thinking processes, and their flaws and if we can, together with that, have the courage and immense energy to sink deeper and see what bunees we are trying to meet, then, from there on it is plain sailing.

Caveat emptor: both processes require, as I just said, courage and immense energy. Courage, because you will need to face your worse enemy: yourself. The person that harasses you, the person that tells you you are no good, the person that tells you you need to be less stupid [right…;-) ?]

Immense energy, because after having been drained by the previous part, of identifying and working with your less that empathic dialogue, you will need to take yourself to the next deep level of immersion. Your bunees.

Your bunees require of you that you let go of all the viruses of the mind, a.k.a. Memes, that society at large has put in your head, such as “boys don’t cry”, “ladies only sit in certain positions”, “good girls don’t have promiscuous sex-lives”, “men are achievers”, and you can continue the list on your own I am sure.

Enough to convince you to be in touch…:-)?

And, last but not least: I do lots of free work, as well as paid for work, based on the understanding that:

if you can afford me, please pay the full whack, so that I can help those that right now don’t have enough funds to pay for sessions. If you wish to pay, yet the full whack is too much, write me, we can surely find some agreement.


Jerry Zondervan

About Jerry Zondervan

Jerry Zondervan is an Inner Reference counselor/counsellor (a form of person-centered, humanist psychology) and author of many articles, as well as the book “Life is tough…yet it doesn’t have to be that way”. Jerry has a background in the social sciences, psychology and in a former [and present…:-) ] life, a career in hotel management. His work is based on Eastern and Western Philosophies – mostly the Yoga and Buddhist traditions – as well as the research on psychology performed by Jung, Rogers, Maslow, Rosenberg, Burns and many, many more. He counsels (through Skype, phone and e-mail) globally and gives thought-process changing workshops throughout most of the world.

For a list of workshops and lectures look him up on:
and his web page:


Psychological pressure and the city

(This is an excerpt from the book “Life is tough…yet it doesn’t have to be that way; ISBN 978-3-7103-1105-5)

Many of us, when faced with a situation that we find stressful or unpleasant, react by lashing out. We attack the person that we consider to be responsible for our unease, for our rage, and tell them what incompetent headless toads drifting in a smelly, dark green pond they are. In so doing, we try to make ourselves feel better and, at the same time, we want to show our counterpart what kind of bad behaviour they are displaying. We expect them to repent and finally see the light, and tell us that they have erred, throw themselves at our feet, and we also expect that from now on they will be staying on the path of wisdom that we so forcefully put across to them.

Of course, in reality, when we respond with verbal force to a situation, events are only likely to escalate, till at one time one of the parties starts to back off, or removes herself physically, or till both parties attack each other physically.

What we have then are two unhappy, angry people, who hold a grudge towards each other. In extreme cases, when two or more nations, tribes, gangs or in general, groups of people face each other in such a way, the end result is war, displacement, death and enormous suffering on all sides.

If this is some situation where the two parties need to see each other often, such as in a work-related condition, then this tension can become almost unbearable and result in stress, heaviness, striving to put the other person under a bad light and oneself under a good one and generally, lack of harmony.

This can easily transmit to a whole department – or a whole company – as we literally pass on our body language to others. In fact, depending on which study you decide to believe, anywhere between 60 and 85% of our communications are non-verbal, hence, in the long run, my anger becomes your anger by proxy. If looked at from the other side, this is why we feel easy around certain people – their ease becomes our ease – and, as said, uneasy around others.

Let’s stay with the situation in which we feel uneasy around certain people. This state of affairs often arises because they try to present – verbally – a certain image of themselves, yet their body language is telling a different story, and body language is the one we mostly pick up and react to.

But let’s go back to the situation at work, between the two people in question. What can we do now, as individuals not directly concerned with the skirmish-at-work, to help the parties involved, to help them bring ease and lightness to their working –and personal – relationship?

One way of solving the conflict once and for all is by developing a capacity to identify people’s innermost needs, as well as their feelings.

This, almost needless to say, involves several steps, which I like to sum up in this way:

Step 1) Train yourself to, at all times, identify how you feel. In your private time as well as at work. When you do a certain thing, how do you feel? Happy? Sad? Angry? Relaxed? Moved? Etc…

Step 2) Train yourself to identify your own needs. Needs in this specific context refer to basic human needs such as, for example, food, to be heard, to be seen, sharing, meaning, growth, contribution, inclusion, and the list goes on.

I wish to open a long parenthesis now. Step one is a major indicator, a major gauge of the condition of our life. Imagine at one end of the gauge the inscription “Not fulfilled. Following what others want me to. Not paying attention to what I need. Emotional empty tank”. At the other end of the gauge “Fulfilled. I meet my needs most, if not all of the time. Emotional full tank”.

Feelings such as anger, sadness, heaviness, weakness indicate an emotional empty tank. We don’t really trust in our inner voice; we actually override it with our thoughts and rationalizations. Often these rationalizations will contain the “should” word.

On the other hand, feelings such as joy, playfulness, lightness point towards emotional full tank. We listen to our inner voice, and we live in harmony with what it tells us, even when what it tells us is not always convenient. It might tell us, for example, that it is time to quit a certain job and go for a long trip throughout South America. We are perhaps, in that very moment of realization, lingering on the couch watching a movie, congratulating ourselves for the comfortable life we have created; yet, living a meaningful life entails listening to that inner voice and rocking our own boat.

Generally, a meaningful life also means that we live a life in which we treat others with the same compassionate lovingness that we give to ourselves.

Based on all of this, it becomes pretty obvious why our feelings are an absolutely precious indicator as to what is happening inside, and a pointer to whether we are living a satisfying, full life worth living or not.

Once you have a basic ability to address your own feelings and needs, it is time to go to the next level; the level of the strategies and their utmost intimate connection with our needs.

Briefly, strategies are all the things we do in life. No exception. When, for example, we go to the cinema, we are fulfilling some needs, which could be for relaxation, playfulness, or excitement. We get up in the morning to go to work. That is a strategy to fulfil certain needs, perhaps financial safety, excitement, meaning. We go on a break to a peaceful spot. It is a strategy to fulfil certain needs, maybe harmony, ease, space. We pick up the phone to call someone. It’s a strategy to fulfil certain needs, such as connection, sharing, closeness. Yet, the catch for most of us is that we do things in reverse order; we put the cart before the horse, as it were. We go out in the world and do things, unaware of the needs we are trying to fulfil and often, we get lost in “doership”, and that is when we invoke the help of a counsellor, a spiritual leader or a psychologist, because most of the time we create chaos and pain.

If, on the other hand, we stop and give ourselves the time to see what our needs are, and what feelings they lead to, then we stand a very good chance of identifying and putting into place those strategies that bring us fulfilment.

With this new knowledge, we can go back to the uneasy situation between the two parties at the office and move to the next step.

Step 3) With the awareness of feelings, needs and strategies we can start talking with the two individuals. There will be lots of blame sentences flying back and forth, such as “he did this” and “she said that”, or perhaps “she is this” and “he is that”.

It is important, very important in this moment to see behind the words that are flying across the room, and to try and guess what everybody’s needs are, and to give all a chance to express themselves. This guesswork is necessary to be able to connect to the individuals’ innermost humanity.

Step 4) At this stage, we want to thoroughly and truly connect with the people involved, and in order to do that we start asking about their needs, based on the guesswork we just did. So, for example, we could say: “Are you angry because you need to be heard?”

Chances are the guess was right and the person says yes. We continue with this work till all parties have sufficiently been heard. We will know at what point in time this happens, because the energy of all involved will shift from hostile to relaxed; from two people seeing each other as antagonists, to two people touching each other’s humanity. Tune in to people’s body language to see where they are.

Step 5) Work on the strategies. Help all involved find strategies that work, without any party feeling that they are giving up anything, in any way.

Step 6) Create a win-win situation.We live in a world where all too often mediation has come to mean: “you give up a little, I give up a little and we both walk away dissatisfied, but what can you do…”. A classical expression of the “win-lose” model.

The result of this way of thinking is unhappy parties who haven’t solved anything and who may carry grudges for years. (In extreme situations, these grudges are passed on from generation to generation, down the centuries, creating highly volatile political areas on this planet). On the other hand, a win-win mediation is based on strategies that all parties are really happy with. This is easy to reach once all parties feel heard, and once all were able to connect to each other at this profoundest level of basic human needs.

Human relations can be really easy, if we are willing to make the necessary steps to understand and reach out to ourselves, and then to others. Win-win situations are the only ones that create lasting peace within, and in the world around us, because the win-win model is based on everyone’s needs being met. Conflicts that have often simmered for generations can be erased when all parties are willing to meet at this most genuine and intimate human level.

About Jerry Zondervan

Jerry Zondervan is an Inner Reference counselor/counsellor (a form of person-centered, humanist psychology) and author of many articles, as well as the book “Life is tough…yet it doesn’t have to be that way”. Jerry has a background in the social sciences, psychology and in a former [and present…:-) ] life, a career in hotel management. His work is based on Eastern and Western Philosophies – mostly the Yoga and Buddhist traditions – as well as the research on psychology performed by Jung, Rogers, Maslow, Rosenberg, Burns and many, many more. He counsels (through Skype, phone and e-mail) globally and gives thought-process changing workshops throughout most of the world.

For a list of workshops and lectures look him up on:
and his web page: