As a psychotherapist I knew that one of the biggest pitfalls of all relationships* was “seeing” others through the clouded lens of our own eyes. We humans tend to think everyone feels as we do and should understand what we know. It’s hard to take someone else’s position because we live in the bubble of our unique experiences and interpretations. In psychological terms it’s called projection. I was surprised to see this phenomena in artwork.
During the breaks in life drawing I noticed that many (not all) drew the model in “their own image”: Short students tended to draw the models legs too short; stocky students drew her a bit too stocky and; muscular students created muscular images.
Although all art, whether dancing, singing, painting etc. is ultimately a “projection” of the artist I’m wondering if what sets apart renowned artists from amateurs is a true reflection of the artist rather than an “accurate” rendition of the subject?
To read about the pitfalls of relationships click here:
The challenge I had as a therapist (not to mention as a human being) was to look beyond surface presentations, what I “thought” I knew and see my client’s situation/feelings/thinking not only from their perspective but within a larger framework.
Being a therapist was a gift. It forever helped me understand that perception always informs and colors my experiences, to look for larger patterns and see beyond what appears “obvious”. Most of the time I can see blessings behind every tragedy, and opportunities created with every mistake & mis-step.
Drawing, too, is about perspective. This session the class was so crowded I had to sit closer to the model stand than usual. It forced me to draw what my eye actually saw rather than what I thought I saw. For example, In the first drawing the foot (or my outline of the foot) is as long as his head – simply because his foot was closer to me.
Bet you can tell what was eye-level to me in this next drawing!
This last sketch was a 2 minute quick warm-up which always begins the drawing sessions to help our hands loosen up and draw what our eyes actually see not what our brains think we see.
I should go out in the garden and eat worms. I’m exhausted. I hurt all over. It’s hard not to have self-pity. I TRY to limit my public and private kvetching because I know it doesn’t help . . . me or you. There’s scientific basis for the harm we do to ourselves when we talk about trauma – any kind of trauma.
Rehashing a traumatic story/event does some of the following:
puts our system on high alert
triggers the fight/flight response
triggers shutdown mode
On the flip side Carolyn talks about the benefits of sharing with close friends:
“Dr. Laura Cousin Klein and her team found that the credit for women’s unique stress reactions may belong to the hormone oxytocin (also known as the “lovehormone”). It’s the body’s own wonder drug – released when we nurse our babies, for example, as well as during a woman’s stress response. It’s instinctual, it buffers the fight-or-flight response and it encourages us to tend children and gather with other women instead – what’s called our tend-and-befriend response to stress. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone—which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress—seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.”
Penelope and I met a few years ago. I went for a carton of milk and there she was, an albino pig, in a grocery store. She was in a dangerous situation – it was only time before she ended up on the meat aisle. (OIY VEY) So for $9 I took her home with the milk.
I gave her a bit of color and a bow and she went to live in my therapy office.
Very few clients ever commented on her.I always suspected new clients didn’t quite know what to say and my long-term clients knew me well enough that they didn’t need to say anything.
Penelope retired the same time as Freddie Parker but she still has a lot of good advice:
How to Live Life to the Fullest
by Penelope the Pig, CPT, RET
EAT greedily all the delectable things life gives you.
I am fascinated by our newfound ability to study the brain in real-time.For most of my life the only way the brain was studied was by autopsy.
For decades, I’ve explained to clients that “feelings” are not psychological constructs but a neurochemical phenomena. I had no proof – just trickles of brain research I read. Now that I’m retired the evidence is mounting. I’d love to be able to say “I told you so!”
In psychological “terms” the proportion of outward behavior is a measure of internal feelings. Examples: Do you know some one who is a “control freak”? Of course you do.
The more someone tries to exert control over everyone and everything it is usually (read “always” – I’m trying to be “politically correct, ahem . . .) a direct measure they internally/unconsciously feel out of control. People who “feel” in control don’t have to prove they are in control – they can collaborate, give others credit etc.
Know someone who is a narcissist – the earth revolves around them, not the sun? Of course you do.
The more a person needs to boast about themselves, point the finger of blame at others etc. . . . the more insecure they are. Read about some interesting brain research that substantiates this that on a neurological level.
I am sustained by my Baha’i belief that pain, suffering – any type of crisis – is an opportunity for learning, changing and growing. My professionally and personal experience backs my belief as I know, without a doubt, that pleasure, ease and happiness do not promote growth.
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t seek out pain and suffering but when it happens to me or in the world I do look for the good that can evolve.
“Do you think the image of Liberia has changed through this [Ebola crisis]?
“Yes, I think it has. We were the poster child of everything that could go wrong: disaster, death, destruction all over the place. We too, as a result of Ebola, had a re-energizing of ourselves. We saw a new opportunity to turn this crisis into something that will be good for the country. And it’s not just the leadership, It’s also the people in the communities. They were the victims but they became the victors because they were the ones who took responsibility. They all had a role to play. And because of that, we see this as a new resurgence. Our success, we think, has been heralded. If you look at the predictions that we faced in October, I mean, by the end of January there will be 1.4 million people dead. That was a wake-up call for us, a call to action. Our people rose to that.”
I’m a bit upset with all of you who have e-mailed me or commented on my retirement with such incredibly loving, affirming messages and gifts. I’m upset because it’s now too late to use all of you for testimonials to promote my services. Where were you when I could have taken advantage of you? I could be retiring a millionaire.
There are so many people who have touched my life I can’t begin to list them all. These are just a few in recent time: Sherry, Lisa, Linda, Margo, Susan, Joyce, Bryan, Adele, Liz, Peggy, Cathy, Doug, Chris, Ramesh, Paula, Ron, Kathy, Denise, Ann, Rich, Nan, Kate, Erin, Alma, Kathe, Ruta, Lyn, Abbie, Jackie, Jan, Ida, Jan, Alma, Rosemary, Denise, Fariba, Margi, Diane, Vivian, Christine, Theresa, Mike, Becca, Carolyn, Vandi, Kim, Daru, Bernice, Deborah, Laura, Tessa, Hank, Jamey, Carol, Theresa, Mary, Blair, Barry, Sandyha, Marc, Cindy, Sam, Laurie, Sally (if I’ve left anyone out please be forgiving as there are literally hundreds and hundreds).
I have met the most wonderful people in my life and career – people who dedicate themselves to helping others, giving to others, people who have gone through painful, frightening, confusing times only to come out stronger and wiser and more loving on the other end. You all have been an inspiration to me and I say that from the bottom of my tired, irregularly beating heart.
I’ve been a psychotherapist for 30+ years and needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway) it’s been a huge part of my identity. I painted this canvas a few decades ago when I was in another “identity” shift –
struggling with who I was as a person with a chronic medical condition. The picture was done in about 15 minutes, spontaneously, without planning or forethought. It surprised me. It is symbolic to me of emergence and hung in my office.
It’s probably time to paint anotherand see if I’m growing a third head.
With love and gratitude to each and every one of you who have touched my life,
P.S. I suggest you consider announcing your pending retirement or your demise (which ever you think may come first) as soon as possible so you can enjoy the nice things people say . . . . and find out who is keeping mum . . .
When I was a shrinkling listening was not automatic. Thirty years later I’m on auto-pilot listening simultaneously on multiple levels: What clients are saying, what they are not saying, how they are experiencing it, what their body is saying, how what I’m hearing is connected to feelings in the last few days, years, lifetimes; Listening for patterns, connections, disconnections . . .
Logic would have me think it was more stressful being a psychotherapist in the beginning of my career. So why, after just sitting and listening, I’m a zombie for days afterwards?
This explanation about chronic stress might explain some of it (I agree with everything, except for the conclusion):
‘”A young lady confidently walked around the room with a raised glass of water while leading a seminar and explaining stress management to her audience. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, ‘Half empty or half full?’ She fooled them all. “How heavy is this glass of water?” she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. To 20 oz.”
“She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm.”
“If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”‘
“She continued, “and that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.”‘
“‘As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden – holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Pick them up again tomorrow if you must.”
P.S. I still blame much of my zombiehood on the fibromyalgia. After all what else is fibro good for – it never listens.
Listen and learn how to control your thoughts so they don’t control you – Not good enough . . . I’ll always be alone in pain . . . not smart enough . . . no one will ever understand me and . . . dark, dark thoughts.
Do listen to this excellent (and entertaining) NPR broadcast. Worth your time and it’s cheaper than a therapy appointment.
Owls can rotate their heads and necks as much as 270 degrees “. . . owls have backup arteries, which offer a fresh supply of nutrients when blood vessels get closed off by rapid turning.
Their arteries also swell to collect any excess blood created in the process.”National Geographic
I bought paint today for the bedroom – grey paint, Grey Owl,the name on the paint chip. A quick trip to the paint store. “I like how you smile. I just told my last customer that I like to see smiles. I always say the first wrinkles I get will be right here”, she swipes her fingers around her mouth, “from smiling,” the clerk behind the counter looks at me straight in the eye. “I like how you smile”.
Maybe from 30 years of being a therapist,a scent people pick up just like Freddie my dog picks up with his nose – scents that I can’t, don’t detect. I watch her ring up my paint purchase.
“I just have a happy disposition. They say I’m like my mother. Always laughing. If my Mother saw someone trip and fall out there” – she looks outside through the plate-glass window– “she would laugh and laugh. But people never know what you feel inside, people never know if you have just been in your car, crying. People can’t see the sadness or pain inside. You can swipe your credit card now”, she takes a breath, “My mother died when I was 4 years old. I wasn’t allowed in the hospital. Maybe my brothers got to see her, got to say goodbye. I never saw her. I never said goodbye. I have two boys and a girl. My little girl always wants to be with me. I try to imagine what it was like for my Mother.”
I say something rather innocuous struck by how beautiful – smooth skin, clear, dark kinky hair, color streaked, pulled tightly back in a careless knot, bright red lipstick. Turning, gesturing, looking up, looking down at the computer she doesn’t stop moving, trapped behind the counter. She speaks fast, effortlessly, her words softened with Spanish sounding consonants. “My aunt raised me but I’ve never felt like a daughter. I never felt loved. My aunt already had 6 children but she told my Mom she would take care of me. My mother never told anyone she was dying. She didn’t want anyone to worry. I talk to my Mother. I tell her when I’m angry. I want to give you a hug.”– an effortless, tight hug separated by a counter. She picks up the ringing phone and motions me to get my paint.
Two gallons, one in each hand. They’re heavy, the wire handles digging painfully into my palms. She smiles and nods in my direction, still on the phone, as I walk out the automatic doors.
Grey Owl painton the bedroom wall. Surrounded by the stark white molding it looks fresh and soothing . I’ll smile at the Grey Owl walls when I wake in the morning, a smile for the young woman in the paint store and her mother.
“In ancient Egyptian, Celtic, and Hindu cultures the symbolic meaning of owl revolved around guardianship of the underworlds, and a protection of the dead.”
“The owl was honored as the keeper of spirits who had passed from one plane to another. Often myth indicates the owl accompanying a spirit to the underworld – winging its newly freed soul from the physical world into the realm of spirit.”animal-symbolism
A client and I were talking how we needlessly take on other people’s “stuff”. She told me a Polish saying that was a great reminder to separate ourselves from others’ issues, feelings or reactions. I’d never heard this saying (even though I’m half Polish . . .). Does this create a brrrrrrrrrrriliant reminder, or what!?
“It’s not my circus, not my monkeys”
Ponder on that!
nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
not my business literally: not my circus, not my monkeys
My father died 10 years ago. I have held his secret for one decade. My Father held his secret 6 decades.
Dad was a WW II veteran. He enlisted in the army even though he was exempt from serving. After he returned from service in the Philippines Mom said he had changed from the spontaneous, communicative man she had married.
The father I knew didn’t talk, he did things – built rooms, repaired cars, fixed leaks, upholstered furniture. He was incredibly handy, always busy doing, never talking. The father I knew was taciturn and downright anti-social at times.
After my mother diedDad began to talk. He talked non-stop, mostly about fond memories of his youth and early days of dating and marrying Mom. He talked to me, to strangers, to anyone who had a friendly listening ear.
Only when I was driving, both of us looking straight ahead, did he talk of regrets or sorrows . . . He needn’t look at me and I couldn’t look at him.
One ride I will never forget,his tone changed. “I never told your Mother . . .”, a tone I had never heard in his voice before . . . “I killed a man in the Philippines. I still see his eyes.” Startled, I turned to see tears running down his cheeks. “I think about that man having a family . . .”, choking back sobs, he stopped talking.
Monday was Veterans’ day. Outside the market The Veterans of Foreign Wars were handing out poppies. I took one and slipped $5.00 into the donation can – one dollar for every year my father continued to keep his secret kept after Mom died.
A typhoon just ripped its way through the Philippine islands yesterday leaving a trail of visible destruction. There are too many destructive events in this world that rip their way secretively through our psyche and soul.
To read my post about my Dad, my VW & me and an explanation of the significance of the poppy for veterans click here
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below”.
“We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie, In Flanders fields.Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw”
“The torch;be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields”.
“In Flanders Fields” written in 1915 by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian forces
“It is good to laugh. Laughter is spiritual relaxation.” Baha’i
I received a short questionnaire for publication in the Camelback High School, class of 1963 reunion book.For “memories” I wrote:“Secret crushes (I would never have admitted it then) Bill Nelson . . . “
Bill was (and I assume, still is) charismatic, smart, sang beautifully and had a wonderful sense of humor. I ADORED Bill.
We were both very involved in student government, spent a lot of time concocting skits and pranks for school assemblies, planning school activities . . . like dances. He rarely, maybe never, asked me to dance at the dances (almost no boy did but that’s another post) so the closest I came to physical contact was when he threw me over his shoulder in a comedy skit for a school assembly – physical pain, emotional nirvana.
Looking back, I was popular in high school. Just not “popular” in the way girls wanted to be . . . Bill treated me like a good FRIEND – damn! – and having NO clue how to flirt or give ANY cues I was “available” I treated him the same – damn!
Thus lies the back story for what I now share about my 50th high school reunion. OH What a Night!
Here are highlights:
Our eyes lock across the crowded room. 1,000 of the 500 students in my Camelback High graduating class, recede to the perimeters. (Perhaps my glaucoma is worse than I was told). My heart beats faster and faster (my pacemaker kicks in)and as the air is sucked out of the room, my stomach sucks in (I didn’t have to wear a “support garment” after all).
THERE HE IS, Bill Nelson, my high school secret crush! The boy I worshipped secretly from afar for 4 years. If only I had been “man enough” to tell him in high school, if only he had been a “man” . . . we run toward each other in slow motion (my joint pain vanishes – maybe it’s the slow motion?) “Bill, Bill, Bill,” I murmur as we hug . . . passionately. “Why didn’t you ever ask me out? Why didn’t you love me back?” But in this moment in time there is no need for words, touch tells me we are destined to be together.
“Judy, this is my wife, . . ..” My heart stops, my pacemaker paces (miracle of modern medicine) my stomach drops to the floor (it’s a good thing, after all, I’m wearing a “support garment”). I squint (it’s hard to see in the dimly lit room without my glasses). Mrs-Bill-Nelson smiles broadly and reaches out. I’m not sure if she said something gracious or not since the audible sound of catching my breath reverberates throughout my skull. “Pleased to meet you”, I mumble.
Miraculously from the podium, I hear my name: “When Judy talked in class I listened. She was so smart, so astute, so genuine, so wise, so kind, so loving, so compassionate . . . (I think he forgot beautiful BUT, no matter, his memory probably isn’t what it used to be). He goes on and on for what seems like a lifetime.
Mike Bewley, the M.C. of the night, successful lawyer . . . my thoughts racing now as fast as my pace maker can pace: He MUST be successful because he collects modern art (I LOVE modern art); FREE legal counsel (my client’s records have just been subpoenaed); He’s filled out rather nicely; handsome; debonair; I LOVE his self-deprecating humor combined with an air of confident authority.
I can’t feel the groundas I walk in slow motion towards Mike, away from what’s-her-name-Mrs-Bill-Nelson. A hush stills the air. All eyes are on me, watching with bated breath. My heart pounding, pounding in my chest (Good that I remembered to pack my cardiologists phone number with my blood pressure monitor) My heart beats faster and faster (my pacemaker kicks in again) as the air is sucked out of the room and my stomach returns from the
We share the podium and the microphone, Mike Bewley and I, as if we are one. Looking into each other’s eyes he flashes a PERFECT smile silently acknowledging the forever bond we share – both of us wearing braces all 4 years of high school. He continues, on and on and on . . . passionately, unabashedly declaring his worship of me OUTLOUD to all in the room. Our classmates smile knowingly.
“Judy, you have won a prize”!Mike announces, his voice booming. “Just go to the gift table behind me and pick any package you want”. I choose the smallest package. It will fit in my luggage. (A magnifying glass . . . I can use another one.)
As my 50th reunion is coming to an end I turn to leave. A tall, imposing, yet gentle, man blocks my way. “Judy, it’s Terry. Stop! Don’t go! I have to see you before you leave.” I look up into his eyes . . . soft, kind. Who is this man? My misty eyes blindly searching for his name tag . . . Terry? Terry? Terry? I can feel my brain searching, searching its data banks. Terry, Terry, Terry . . . my head still swimming with the pain of unrequited love.
Of course! TERRY Gardner, retired dentist: Smart, successful, (enough money to be retired); the man who took time to write ME a PERSONAL invitation – It was obvious he had painstakingly searched through all the year books to find MY pictures; to write a PERSONAL invitation desperately hoping I would attend the reunion. With laser focus my mind retrieves the picture of Terry on the invitation – Terry, flashing a big grin sitting on a motorcycle – a combination of power, strength, adventure (I don’t think he was wearing any gang insignia).
Today I saw this sign “You teach what you need to learn” echoes again in my mind.
The other thing I often teach is “Don’t WAIT to feel inspired (or loving, or grateful – put in any word you choose) ACT that way and the feelings will follow.”
I‘m a bit tired and achytoday and not feeling very inspired OR inspiring. The best action of inspiration I can muster up is to post the sign on the blog. I’ll let you know when inspiring feelings hit me . . . Let me know if they hit you first.
In the 1960’s I took my first sociology & psychology classes at the University of California, Berkeley . Neither were in the classroom, no papers, no exams. Both took place watching the daily protests on the now famous (or infamous – depending on your point of view) steps of Sproul hall. I didn’t march, I didn’t join movements (I was too busy working my way through college and trying not to slide down the wrong side of the grading curve. And I am, by nature, an observer rather than an instigator or follower).
I watched, I listened.
I heard the anger & outrage of the Vietnam protest leaders. After awhile it was hard to tell what they were outraged over. Many, if not most, of the anti-war leaders were leading with the exact same outrage and ferver, what seemed to me, any cause that might come their way.
Now “Berkeley” had led the free speech movement and I believed rightly so. But I saw the same people rallying behind Carol Doda with the same intensity of anger and outrage they had about the war. I wondered what might be boiling under their psyches that fueled them. I wondered about the crowds of students who hung on their every incendiary word and rallied behind them for multiple causes – my first lessons in sociology and psychology for which I had no time to research.
I don’t often talk about politics, at least not here. The cover of Rolling Stone with the picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has elicited anger and outrage that has me remember my experiences at Berkeley. I now wonder what might be boiling under our collective national psyche that seems to erupt periodically like a volcano with clouds of ash obscuring our visibility.
After reading the article by David Weinberger I also wonder if he stood next to me on the Berkeley campus watching & listening.
” . . . To counter our natural desire to think that those who attack us so vilely must be totally unlike us, we need not only the words denouncing them, but images that reminds us that they weren’t born as what they became. This juxtaposition makes the mystery manifest: Someone like us became someone who hates us. We need to explore that mystery not so we can sympathize with a despicable accused murderer but so we understand better how he passed beyond sympathy. The cover of Rolling Stone — words and picture — puts that awful mystery right in front of us. But we seem to prefer the security of outrage.”
I lead, have led, a secure and rather sheltered life. Perhaps if my life were less secure, less sheltered, I too would be incensed and outraged. I have no answer.
Here are the STORY HIGHLIGHTS. If you are curious read the entire article by clicking the link.
David Weinberger says he’s not outraged about the Rolling Stone cover
He asks, why must we prove bombings upset us before we can discuss not minding cover?
Weinberger: Cover confronts the mystery of someone like us who came to hate us
Baha’i teaches: “We must not only be patient with others, infinitely patient, but also with our own poor selves.” – Abdu’l-Baha
The first art class I ever take is first semester, freshman year in college 1983. I think it will be a fun way to get units.
We work on easels, drawing huge pictures on large sheets of paper. The first classI discover that during breaks students walk around the room looking at each others drawings. I walk around too. Their drawings are REALLY good, so good that I dread going to the second class and the first class is only half-way over.
Second class I get there early to claim my spot. I position my easel at the very back of the room, in a corner, making it very difficult for anyone, including the teacher, to see my drawings.
The teacher walks around the room commenting on the students’ drawings. He scrunches himself in the corner to see my drawings, says nothing and walks on. The third classhe pulls me aside and instructs me to get a large sketchbook and draw 50 pictures outside the class. (Turns out this is the ONLY instruction he ever gives me the entire semester)
The fourth class I discover I am the only student enrolled who isn’t an art major and has never taken an art class in their life. Being straight out of high school and extremely conscientious it never crosses my mind to withdraw. It probably crosses the art teacher’s mind. To my relief the other students stop trying to see what I’m drawing.
P.S. I kept the sketch book. I commuted to the University from home so all my drawings were things in or around my parent’s house. I was always desperate trying to find things that were easy to draw. The 4 drawings on this page are some of my first 50 sketches. That was the last drawing class I ever took at that University.
Freddie and I were at “work”from 10 am to 7 pm today. After being petted and getting treats Freddie napped. I’m a bit tired right now as it’s not polite for me to nap during a session. So here’s a “No-Brainer Brainer” post.
It took me awhile to see the circles.Now I cannot NOT see them. It’s just like therapy. We all have a limited viewpoint, a perception, of how things are. It’s never the whole picture. As a therapist I help clients view their lives, their situations and relationships from different perspectives. I help them see the “circles.”
“Do not exalt yourselves above others, but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God.” Abdu’l-Baha, Bahai quotes
Years ago you named me “judyJudith” bridging in one word the essence of my being –the serious and the silly, the public and the private, the secular and the spiritual. I intuitively embraced the name you gave me as part of my cyber-space identity, half tongue in cheek, and half knowing you had identified the truth.
Yesterday morning, before my husband and I put Max to rest, there you are in my office and there you are, again, helping bring clarity to who I am and what I do.
It’s no one’s business what specific issues we were addressing. But I found myself saying . . .amidst ALL the things I say (for the few billions of you who have never been a client of mine, I “tend” to talk a lot and give my opinion a lot – violating all the therapist training I’ve had – another story) . . . amidst all the things I said was what I needed to hear undoubtedly more than you.
We talked about a dream.– where a once beautiful and symbolic piece of jewelry broke into pieces and trying, trying, trying to glue them back together and all attempts failed . . . in the dream.
I vaguely and clearly remember (yesterday was a vague haze of total clarity)saying to you that for all of us, when we stop struggling to put back together what once was we can submit to what is. This the now moment where we can detach from the fantasy, the futile dream of what “SHOULD be, COULD be. This is the moment where detachment opens us up freeing our mind, freeing our spirit. This is the moment, embracing the truth of what is and experiencing the pain of grief, we move on. This is the fleeting moment we can embrace God.
In that very moment I hear my truth – Max’s little body was broken and his spirit needed to be set free.
A LONG time ago another client gave me a moment of truth. I no longer remember details of the session. I DO remember thinking I was brilliant, on the mark with lazer like focus on exactly what that client needed to hear.
The following week she came in with a huge smile announcing that our last session together was a turning point for her and what I said had stayed with her all week. Beaming inwardly (I was trained that a “professional” therapist never outwardly shares their own feelings, experiences or reactions – keep a blank slate at all times), I reply, “Yes, tell me about it” (that’s another thing I learned in training).
My brain turning to a pile of ego-less mushas she recounted something I didn’t remember saying, some throw away words that were insignificant to what I thought was important.
My wonderful M.M., whatever it is that puts the smile on your face are your jewels. I have no idea what those look like. I only know that they are yours and yours alone, I’ve not given them to you.
I also know yesterday you gave me a priceless gem. Thank you.
with eternal love,
P.S. I’m still charging for the session. Max would want that . . .
Guilt is my least favorite emotion. Why? Because it’s over used by the people who often needn’t feel guilty. To feel guilty we have to be very clever to come up with good set of reasons: (apologies to all the Mothers in the world)
I feel guilty that I won’t be there to help my parents paint their house. It doesn’t matter that I’m in a full body cast, if I were a good daughter I’d at least hold the bucket of paint.
I dread spending the holidays with my family because everyone drinks themselves into a drunken stupor, my cousin is a psychopath and carries a gun in his belt and Sis’ 6 children are all under the age of 5. Mom begs me to come. I’ll feel guilty if I don’t go.
I feel guilty that I don’t call my Mom more often to hear her whine and complain about her terrible life and how all her 13 children have let her down and that she doesn’t have much more time here on earth. After all she is my mother and I’m the only one who talks to her
When Guilt drives us to feel responsibility for things not of our making or in our control it’s the wrong emotion.
So I share, during this Season of Guilt, my criteria! Drum roll please! In order for guilt to be an appropriate emotion you must have done something that is:
1. Illegal 2. Immoral 3. Unethical
Now don’t get me wrong I like Guilt when it’s appropriate.
legal – Keeps our society cohesive when we adhere to law. You better feel guilty if you’ve robbed a bank,
Moral – Stops us from hurting others by immoral activity. FEEL BIG TIME GUILT if you’ve committed adultery (now there’s an old-timers word)
Ethical – Holds our professional, monetary institutions to a high standard. Feel guilty, verrrrry guilty if you’ve embezzled
If what you are feeling guilty about doesn’t meet any of those criteria . . .
pick another emotion, like pleasure, sadness, fear or relief!
I’m not a worrier by nature, I’m not anxiety ridden. I teach OTHERS how to relax, how to reduce THEIR tension.
Getting my hair done yesterday – yes, I still have my purple streaks – I had nothing better to do than focus on me. That’s what my hairdresser was doing so I figured I could too.
Whoa! My entire body was tense.
I relaxed my muscles. They tensed up again. I relaxed again. Muscles from head to toe tensed up again as if I were a trained athlete who had practiced over and over until my muscle memory was so strong practice was no longer needed.
Flashing before my eyes was every therapy session I’ve ever had with anyone who had anxiety, PTSD, was a caretaker, had a sick loved one, experienced loss of any kind, anticipated loss, was in pain or had a CHRONIC CONDITION. . . .
I’ve explained “it” so many times that like a well-trained athlete my mind no longer has to think. I automatically recognize the stress response in others (others being the operant word).
Chronically Running for Our Life
I know that your brain (NOT MINE OF COURSE) chronically perceives danger with any chronic emotional or physical condition. The body being continually under siege, in pain, sends signals to the brain which get us ready to flee or fight off our enemy. Muscle tension is needed for running like hell or slugging it out. Now’s not the time to relax if you want to live.
The opposite of DANGER is SAFETY.
Here’s one of the very best mind-body techniques, and easiest, way to let your brain practice calm.Best of all it requires no Rx, no money, no time and you take it with you where ever you go. I have taught this hundreds, maybe thousands, of times and it absolutely works (I of course don’t need to do it. After all I teach it).
Chronically Safe Signal:
1. Take a deep breath through your nose. 2. Hold the breath for just a moment 3. As you release the breath, through your nose, very gently, say silently: “Thank you brain, I’m safe.” (Be kind to your brain. It’s just trying to keep you from being eaten alive)
Sound too simple!?
Our brains are relatively simple in that brains can not tell the difference between when we are actually in danger(anxiety is our brain’s way of keeping us on alert for danger so we can survive) or when we perceive danger through thoughts or other cues.
Imagine a snake, a spider, anything that you are afraid of. Your brain will signal “danger! danger!” and flood your cells with the neurochemistry of fear. Watch a sad movie and your brain will flood you with the neurochemistry of sadness and, if you are like me, sob like a baby. Soooooooooo, tell your brain you are safe and it will stop the neurochemistry of fear and anxiety. It’s not instant cup’o’soup because once you are flooded with the anxious feeling it will take about 20 minutes or so for the neurochemistry to metabolize out of your body’s cells. No matter how you FEEL keep giving your brain the “I’m Safe” cue.
Here’s the Key
Yoga, meditation, mindfulness prayer, listening to relaxation recordings all help. However, to break into a CHRONIC cycle you need to chronically signal your brain to stop sending the neurochemistry of the stress response to your body. Let your brain know that no one is throwing grenades at you, animals are not trying to eat you alive, you are not in danger.
CHRONICALLY “Sprinkle” the Breath/I’m safe cue throughout the day and evening. It’s a good idea to get a cue(s) to remind yourself to do this. A post-it-note on the bathroom mirror, every time your phone rings, a note in your appointment book etc.
You HAVE to breathe anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose — except your stress response!
I was going to name this post “Teachers Teach What they Need to Learn” but I figured out that I had a legitimate reason to be stressed while my hair was getting done because
my hair dresser had a scissors in one hand
and with the other hand pointed a hair dryer to my head.