the pow­er­ful con­nec­tion that can change lives BODY AND MIND:

How much are you say­ing with­out us­ing your voice? Body lan­guage ex­pert and coun­sel­lor Suzanne Mase­field is pas­sion­ate about help­ing peo­ple un­der­stand the body-mind con­nec­tion and how it can im­prove our qual­ity of life. She talks to Emma Clifton about her

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

If you want to be aware of your limbs, sit op­po­site a body lan­guage ex­pert for a while. For in­stance, if you have your fin­ger and thumb rest­ing on your chin, that’s a good thing – you’re lis­ten­ing, you’re en­gaged. But if that fin­ger makes a move towards your mouth, it might mean you’re keen to change the sub­ject or you’re hav­ing neg­a­tive thoughts about what’s be­ing said. Cross your legs or arms and you’re clos­ing up, mak­ing you less grounded in the con­ver­sa­tion and more likely to make the wrong de­ci­sion. But then if you get too com­fort­able and start slump­ing down, it might in­di­cate that your en­ergy lev­els are dip­ping too far.

Even if you’re not open­ing your mouth, it doesn’t mean your body isn’t hold­ing a con­ver­sa­tion of its own. And there to in­ter­pret it is Suzanne Mase­field.

A body/mind an­a­lyst, mi­croex­pres­sions trainer, clin­i­cal hyp­nother­a­pist and ex­ec­u­tive coach, Suzanne’s job de­scrip­tion is more of a sen­tence than just an an­swer. She’s also a best-sell­ing au­thor of the guide Align, Ex­pand and Suc­ceed, and the new young adult novel/teach­ing tool Ed­die Mo­tion and the Tan­gi­ble Magik. Oh and she has de­signed a suc­cess­ful app. Ba­si­cally, she’s a hu­man Swiss army knife for all your emo­tional needs.

It is this unique set of skills that has taken Suzanne to some very un­ex­pected places: speak­ing along­side Sir Gra­ham Henry at a New Zealand Rugby con­fer­ence, teach­ing all the coaches how to build their phys­i­cal pres­ence on the pitch. Or re­jig­ging SkyCity’s en­tire sur­veil­lance and se­cu­rity teams by help­ing them spot de­cep­tive or cheat­ing be­hav­iour at their crowded gam­bling ta­bles. Or be­ing brought in to an­a­lyse Bill English and Jacinda Ardern’s body lan­guage dur­ing last year’s lead­ers’ de­bate. The client base is as var­ied as the job it­self. But while these skills have proven use­ful in her adult life, it wasn’t the eas­i­est road to get there.

Grow­ing up, Suzanne found out pretty quickly that her pow­ers of ob­ser­va­tion were dif­fer­ent from other peo­ple’s. She re­mem­bers con­stantly get­ting into trouble walk­ing with her mum on the way to church as she

pointed out – as kids do – the idio­syn­cra­sies of the world around her. Un­like most chil­dren, how­ever, she could see a lit­tle deeper into the peo­ple she came across and into their hid­den lives. “I couldn’t un­der­stand why peo­ple would say some­thing that was the op­po­site of what they were feel­ing, be­cause I knew what they were feel­ing,” she re­calls. “I’d of­ten say it out loud to my par­ents – which was quite em­bar­rass­ing for them. It was very con­fus­ing to me as a child.”

When Suzanne was young, her mum bat­tled through a de­bil­i­tat­ing de­pres­sion, leav­ing Suzanne – the el­dest – to look af­ter her brothers and sis­ters for three years. It left her an­gry for a long time, and the en­tire fam­ily went through coun­selling to help cope with it. How­ever, in hind­sight, Suzanne be­lieves, it put her on the path she’s on now. “If it hadn’t been for my mother be­ing so ill, I wouldn’t have seen the need to ex­plore all this. Be­cause I didn’t want to end up like that.”

The sec­ond piece of the puzzle that saw Suzanne change tack was when she, too, suf­fered from burnout in the mid­dle of her high-pow­ered cor­po­rate ca­reer in pub­lic re­la­tions for the mu­sic in­dus­try. “It was a stake in the ground for me to go, ‘Okay, some­thing has to change.’ I had a fan­tas­tic job, got paid loads of money and I was com­pletely dis­con­nected. All that un­ex­pressed emo­tion from grow­ing up hadn’t been dealt with. That’s when I started study­ing how the body works, so I didn’t get sick again.”

She started a well­ness busi­ness in the UK, then stud­ied to be­come a coun­sel­lor af­ter she moved to New Zealand (she mar­ried a Kiwi, hence the move down un­der). In her mind, coun­selling was a com­ple­men­tary skill for the body work she had al­ready done. “I un­der­stood how when you touch cer­tain parts of the body, the mus­cle seems to re­lease and then the per­son laughs or cries,” she says. “Coun­selling helped me sup­port that; I could cre­ate a safe space to help deal with the is­sues that kept com­ing up. I found there were lim­i­ta­tions in coun­selling – it can help you find the prob­lem, but you can go round and round in a cy­cle with­out nec­es­sar­ily get­ting off it. It’s about the ‘why’, not nec­es­sar­ily the ‘how to from here’.”


The mind/body con­nec­tion will be fa­mil­iar to a lot of peo­ple – if you’ve ever had a panic at­tack, for ex­am­ple, you know just how phys­i­cal the ef­fects of strong emo­tions can be. A study at Ohio State Univer­sity found a 30-minute ar­gu­ment with your part­ner can slow down your abil­ity to heal by at least a day, be­cause it in­creases the in­flam­ma­tion in your body. In­flam­ma­tion is linked to arthri­tis, di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and can­cer. Re­search at the Stan­ford Univer­sity School of Medicine proved long-last­ing or chronic stress can slow or even stop the body’s abil­ity to re­pair it­self, and raise the risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and di­a­betes. When you con­sider that these are the dis­eases cur­rently plagu­ing the Western world, be­ing aware of the toll your emo­tions are tak­ing on the body no longer looks like “al­ter­na­tive medicine” – it starts to look like com­mon sense.

“Some peo­ple might get a re­ally big phys­i­cal prob­lem, like a heart at­tack. For other peo­ple, it may come in an emo­tional prob­lem, like a re­la­tion­ship break­down, where they turn around and look at their life. Wake-up calls come in many forms; if you take no­tice of the first or sec­ond one, they might not get too big. But if you keep

avoid­ing them, they get big­ger and big­ger, so the les­son also has to be big­ger for you to take no­tice.”

As some­one who has ex­pe­ri­enced burnout, Suzanne is well aware of what it’s like to get a wake-up call. It’s one of the rea­sons she’s con­tin­ued to add strings to her bow over the years. “One modal­ity doesn’t do it – you’ve got to have a com­bi­na­tion of things at dif­fer­ent times for dif­fer­ent peo­ple. For me, coun­selling wasn’t enough, so I stud­ied the body/mind con­nec­tion. Then I stud­ied hyp­nother­apy, be­cause I wanted to un­der­stand how we get the brain to work in a dif­fer­ent way. And then I trained as a coach, which grounds it. So coun­selling talks about your past and takes you into the why, and, from there, coach­ing will tell you ‘what do I want?’”

It’s this ques­tion women can strug­gle with the most, Suzanne says, be­cause they’re too busy think­ing about ev­ery­one else to fo­cus on their own goals. In­volv­ing the body, as well as the mind, puts her clients in a bet­ter place to not only find out what they want, but cre­ate the step­ping stones to get there. But it’s an in­vest­ment of time in them­selves that women can find tricky, be­cause it’s not an overnight process. “We’re a quick-fix so­ci­ety, but any­thing worth­while takes time,” Suzanne warns. The key, she says, is “rep­e­ti­tion, con­sis­tency, small in­cre­ments through­out the day” as op­posed to just one big ther­apy sit­u­a­tion.

“If they pressed pause, con­nected with their bod­ies and asked: ‘How am I feel­ing? What is my fo­cus to­day? What do I need to sup­port my­self?’ just two or three times a day, life would change.” RE­STORE CALM

“Press pause” has been a key mes­sage of Suzanne’s for years – it’s even the name of an app she cre­ated to help peo­ple con­nect with how they’re feel­ing and re­store some calm dur­ing the day. “It’s that mind­ful­ness – get­ting present in your­self to be in that mo­ment and also fo­cus your mind.” It’s cur­rently be­ing used by sev­eral of the NZ Rugby teams, and 12 dif­fer­ent de­part­ments at SkyCity, not to men­tion the glow­ing tes­ti­mo­ni­als it has re­ceived from high-pro­file peo­ple at the BBC, Air New Zealand, Dat­a­com and the in­ter­na­tional bank com­pany HSBC. The Magic net­ball team has also signed up for the app as a tool to help with their per­for­mance.

So af­ter con­vert­ing the sport­ing and busi­ness world, which part of the pop­u­la­tion is Suzanne aim­ing for next? Young adults – and their teach­ers. Hence her first novel, Ed­die Mo­tion and the Tan­gi­ble Magik, un­der her fam­ily name Suzanne de Malpla­quet. She de­scribes it as be­ing in the vein of J.K. Rowl­ing and Enid Bly­ton. “I wanted to cre­ate that soft nos­tal­gia while hav­ing an ed­u­ca­tional jour­ney, with some magic com­ing in. The “tan­gi­ble” is the strat­egy: prac­ti­cal, log­i­cal things that you can do, blended with the “magik”, which is the emo­tional and spir­i­tual.”

The spark of an idea first hit her about five years ago, and slowly the char­ac­ters formed them­selves in her head. Suzanne was re­sis­tant to the idea at first; ever the prag­ma­tist, she re­mem­bers think­ing, “This isn’t a good busi­ness move, writ­ing a book – and is it a kids’ book? Is it a magic book? But my soul would have noth­ing less.” Last year the idea con­tin­ued to de­velop, and the re­sult is a book that takes many of her lessons on con­fi­dence and pres­ence, and dis­tils them into a mag­i­cal “com­ing of age” fan­tasy/ad­ven­ture novel, with the Tan­gi­ble Magik Toolkit to help the reader man­age their emo­tions and un­cover their po­ten­tial. It feels, Suzanne says, like the nat­u­ral next step in get­ting her mes­sage out there, and she’s al­ready had glow­ing feed­back from teach­ers and prin­ci­pals – how­ever, she laughs, the magic as­pect works more eas­ily on chil­dren than it does on some adults. She gave it to a friend – a busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ager – for their opin­ion and was told, “Well, you know I don’t like magic, and I don’t like Harry Pot­ter… but I think the toolkit at the back is great and I found it re­ally help­ful.”

Even though her book has be­come a best seller on Ama­zon, Suzanne is cer­tainly not in it to cre­ate a J.K. Rowl­ing level of for­tune. At the time of our in­ter­view, she was try­ing to get it sold on e-read­ers for 99 cents – “I just want it to get to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.” And she’s do­nat­ing half of what­ever she does make any­way. The book is ded­i­cated to her nephew, Kit de Malpla­quet, the beloved first child of her brother and his wife, who died when he was a baby. The money will go to a char­ity for griev­ing par­ents, and the ded­i­ca­tion is help­ing to keep Kit’s name alive. “If this book can help other chil­dren and it’s in his name, then what a lovely le­gacy.”

Al­though the book is aimed at the younger gen­er­a­tion, Suzanne be­lieves we all need to take care of our own in­ner child. “We all have one inside us that needs sup­port, and we can do that as an adult. But if it’s driving us sub­con­sciously, it’ll be in­ter­act­ing in all of our meet­ings.” Suzanne ex­plains this by say­ing her job re­quires a lot of pub­lic speak­ing, but she used to find it ter­ri­fy­ing. Then she re­alised she was tak­ing her scared lit­tle five-year-old self onto the stage, rather than her adult self, who knew she had the skills to do it. So – and she ad­mits this rates high on the woo-woo scale – she imag­ined in her head that she had put her five-year-old self on the cor­ner of the stage with some colour­ing-in books to keep her oc­cu­pied. “Sounds a bit batty,” she says with a laugh. “But it worked!”

“We’re a quick-fix so­ci­ety, but any­thing worth­while takes time.”

Ed­die Mo­tion and the Tan­gi­ble Magik by Suzanne Mase­field, avail­able at tan­gi­ and se­lected Paper Plus stores na­tion­wide.

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