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.
“Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet,whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, colour or shade of political opinion. Heaven will support you while you work in this in-gathering of the scattered peoples of the world beneath the shadow of the almighty tent of unity.”
Baha’u’llah, The Baha’i World Faith,
“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”
The Dalai Lama
“But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Heart disease, not cancer, is the #1 killer of women. I learned that and other invaluable information on Carolyn Thomas’ My Heart Sisters blog.
Over the years I’ve “stolen” and reposted many a wonderful post from Carolyn Thomas. Her blog, Heart Sisters, has been one of the few I’ve followed for years. I have forgotten what led me to her blog but once I read both her compelling stories and the up-to-date information on women’s health, in particular heart disease, I was a Carolyn-groupie.
Apparently Johns Hopkins was a groupie too when they asked her to write a book on Living with Heart Disease. My guess is that her down-to-earth writing coupled with up-to-date research and information appealed to Johns Hopkins as much as it did to me.
Here’s just a sample of info found on Carolyn’s blog:
“Did you know: Women generally fare far worse than men after experiencing a cardiac event? One possible reason is that it can be confusing to make sense of warning symptoms when they do hit. Women are also less likely than our male counterparts to seek immediate help at the first sign of cardiac symptoms. Instead, we end up:”
toughing them out
waiting to see if they go away
blaming them on stress, muscle soreness, indigestion or other less serious non-cardiac causes
I can’t say enough good things about Carolyn – you’ll have to read her book and her blog to see for yourself what fabulous advocacy and education Carolyn has provided since her own “widow-maker” heart attack. (Full disclosure: we are not related, I’ve never met her in person, and I don’t get a kick-back!)
Buy a copy and give the gift of life to a woman you love . . . maybe it’s even yourself
Save 20% when you use the code HTWN when you pre-order the book from Johns Hopkins
“[A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease] gives women the knowledge they need to become their own advocates in a health care system that continues to be weighted against them.”
— Foreword Reviews
“This book brings a needed focus to a leading killer of women today and is a must-read for women and their loved ones.”
— Library Journal
“If you are a woman, or love a woman, this is a book for you! Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of women. Here is a book focused on women’s cardiovascular health. It is all here—prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Read it for the people you love.”
— Edward K. Kasper, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, coauthor of Living Well With Heart Failure: The Misnamed, Misunderstood Condition
“This work is an important contribution to the discussion about heart attack and misdiagnosis in women. Thomas’s personal story—alongside the stories of millions of other women—provides a needed reminder of recognizing one’s symptoms, avoiding denial, and seeking medical attention. This elegant book is a unique addition to women’s health books and a necessary read for women and the people who care about them.”
— Roger S. Blumenthal, MD, Director, The Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease
Thank you Carolyn for pushing through your own symptoms to write a book of this magnitude.
“Syrian kids who passed through Milan’s Central Station last year did something very Italian: create artwork. While they waited for trains to take them to northern Europe, Save the Children offered them a chance to draw. They could depict whatever they wanted, says psychologist Vittoria Ardino, president of the Italian Society for the Study of Traumatic Stress, who analyzed 500 of these images.”
Scroll down to last drawing to read one of Ardino’s reflections on the drawings.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama
“God has created the world as one—the boundaries are marked out by man.”
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
1 Corinthians 1:10
“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you
If you do not act on upon them?”
Here’s one of Vittoria Ardino’s reflections on these drawings:
“There’s so much happening on this piece of paper — which is maybe a reflection of the child’s chaotic inner world, Ardino says. A flying creature is part butterfly, a common symbol of freedom. But it’s also part gun. A plane dropping bombs is covered by a face that’s half-human and half-fish (or actually, a big fish devouring a smaller one). A flower droops over a series of squiggles, which Ardino believes represent human bodies. All of that points to a child feeling powerless — but “trying desperately to find light,” Ardino adds. The face is surrounded by sun, and an oversized ladder or staircase leads away from the houses. Ardino suggests this is the child’s attempt at answering a critical question: “How can I escape?”‘
Click hereto read Ardino’s reflections on all 7 drawings.
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.”
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.
Dear Human-beings and other creatures,Those of you who follow my posts know how frank and fundamentally illuminating they are (not to mention how fantastically informative about the human condition). This post is no exception as my story The Tree has an important lesson for all to heed.
Here ismy first (and possibly only) draft of the story. Those of you who appreciate and are knowledgable about this genre your “critique” would be appreciated before I am sought out by publishers.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a tree. (I frequently start my writing with “Once upon a time” as it lends a universal appeal to readers young and old) Its trunk was crooked and all its bark was peeling. Big roots spread all around the tree, some deep in the earth and some growing above the ground. The Tree lived in a park with other trees of its own kind on the far edge of town. Every day many dogs of differing sizes and persuasions came to claim the tree as their territory.
One day, after years of being claimed, the tree yelled at a big black dog with pointy ears and a black nose sniffing around its roots, “I am NOT your territory!” The big black dog didn’t care what the tree thought, claimed it for its own and walked on looking for more territory.
Within minutes a little white dog with floppy ears and a wet nose sniffed out where the big black dog had been. “I am a tree not a fire hydrant!,” the tree yelled at the little white dog who ignored the tree, claimed it for its own and walked on looking for more territory.
The tree, ever alert for impending indignities, spotted a medium-sized dog with shaggy brown hair and a pink nose approaching. Finally, after many years of being claimed by many dogs, the tree figured out that actions speak louder than words. So it picked up its roots and walked away.
The end of my tail
Frankly & Faithfully yours,
Freddie Parker Westerfield, Canine Dog Therapist RET, Author
Goggle “emotional sensitivity” and you’ll find tons (well maybe not tons, but a lot) of articles, books, survival guides on how to overcome “being so sensitive”.
About 1 in 5 fit the HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) profile. I currently rate a 12 1/2 out of 16 traits below. When I was younger it was 16 out of 16. (Interestingly, artists and therapists seem to fit this profile in larger numbers than the general population . . . hmmm)
It’s baaaaaaaad: I cry at dog food commercials and can’t tolerate anything that has a hint of violence.
My husband prefers “blow’em up – shoot ’em dead – stab ’em hard” for his watching pleasure. He reminds me that it’s “not real” as I lock him in his room so I can’t see or hear what he’s watching. I watch HGTV House Hunters International, preferring my suspense and intrigue to trying to guess which house the couple will buy.
However, rather than label myself as a “Highly Sensitive Person”, I prefer to think of myself as a fragile flower . . . so much more feminine.
Here are 16 HSP traits. If you want to read more about each click here
They feel more deeply.
They’re more emotionally reactive.
They’re probably used to hearing, “Don’t take things so personally” and “Why are you so sensitive?”
They prefer to exercise solo.
It takes longer for them to make decisions.
They are more upset if they make a “bad” or “wrong” decision.
They notice details.
Not all highly sensitive people are introverts.
They work well in team environments.
They’re more prone to anxiety or depression (but only if they’ve had a lot of past negative experiences).
That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person.
Violent movies are the worst.
They cry more easily.
They have above-average manners.
The effects of criticism are especially amplified in highly sensitive people.
They prefer solo work environments.
The good news! I no longer have to read up on how to overcome, minimize, explain or justify my emotional sensitivity because I must have a ADRA2b gene.
(Now I can blame my mother for my sensitivity – aren’t mothers always the ones who get the credit for how we turn out . . . or the blame?)
“Your genes may influence how sensitive you are to emotional information, according to new research by a UBC neuroscientist. The study, recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that carriers of a certain genetic variation perceived positive and negative images more vividly, and had heightened activity in certain brain regions.”
“People really do see the world differently,” says lead author Rebecca Todd, a professor in UBC’s Department of Psychology. “For people with this gene variation, the emotionally relevant things in the world stand out much more.”
“The gene in question is ADRA2b, which influences the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Previous research by Todd found that carriers of a deletion variant of this gene showed greater attention to negative words. Her latest research is the first to use brain imaging to find out how the gene affects how vividly people perceive the world around them, and the results were startling.”
“Fragile flower? HSP? . . . I think she’s just plain melodramatic. . “
As an experienced CDT here’s some basic guidelines for your new career.
Always have kleenex ready. It’s tax-deductible.
Do not take insurance. Make sure that your clients understand you take only “out-of-pocket” doggie-cookies, no deferred insurance payment. Insurance takes too long to reimburse and will discount the amount of cookies you are entitled to.
When your clients are angry or unduly upset get under a table until the storm blows over. In extreme cases you might have to jump on your human-being’s lap to protect her because she doesn’t have enough instinct to duck ‘n cover.
Show, don’t tell. Most therapist spend all their time talking – blah, blah, blah. After awhile clients just tune them out. You must demonstrate these time-tested psychotherapeutic techniques to help humans develop healthy behavioral coping skills:
Shake it off. Not everything needs examining or even understanding.
Roll over. “Turn the other cheek” in human-lingo.
Play dead when others are threatening, demanding or unreasonable.
Beg for forgiveness if you’ve done something hurtful.
Stare to get attention. Don’t make a fuss as it takes too much energy.
Sleep a lot in order to think clearly and make healthy choices.
Play. Don’t take life seriously as that takes MUCH too much energy.
Should you need further guidance send a check payable to Freddie Parker Westerfield and then call me.
Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDT RET
P.S. I don’t take insurance and no longer take payment in dog-cookies as I prefer to buy my own.
Until I read Carolyn’s excellent post I had never heard of Post Traumatic GROWTH:
“Post-Traumatic Growth is the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises.
“Although the term is new, the idea that great good can come from great suffering is ancient.”
“Reports of Post-Traumatic Growth have been found in people who have experienced bereavement, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV infection, cancer, bone marrow transplantation, heart attacks, coping with the medical problems of children, transportation accidents, house fires, sexual assault and sexual abuse, combat, refugee experiences, and being taken hostage.”
Read this informative and thought-provoking post and Carolyn’s concern for patients & people regarding this concept. ClickHERE
Long after the original dagger has been wiped clean of blood, wounds of failure, loneliness and rejection often never heal. We learn to cover them up with smiles and long sleeves to keep them hidden from view.
Emotional wounds lie on the surface. They get bumped, scrapped and ripped opened over and over throughout our lives. We habituate to our emotional pain and don’t look for help until our body starts talking to us through physical symptoms.
Many of you who know me well know I often speak in “hyperbole”. All of you knowI’m not now exaggerating. Watch this excellent TedTalk.
“We’ll go to the doctor when we feel flu-ish or a nagging pain. So why don’t we see a health professional when we feel emotional pain: guilt, loss, loneliness? Too many of us deal with common psychological-health issues on our own, says Guy Winch. But we don’t have to. He makes a compelling case to practice emotional hygiene — taking care of our emotions, our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies.”
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.
Just realized I need to update my oh-so-many profiles that are swirling around in cyberspace.
Less than an academic exercise changing my profile has become a psychological dilemma in ego-identification. Since I have no specific direction I’ve decided to call myself aUsed-to-Be Therapist. Used-to-Be has a ring of experience with just a hint of being washed up. I think I’ll also add BEing-in-Progress. The combination of Used-to-Be and BEing-in Progress creates a bit of intrigue.
I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to my professional identity. I don’t like to break up with my current identity until I have another identity lined up in the wings. When I break the news “I don’t love you anymore” to any job I’ve had it’s comforting to run into the arms of my new job for solace, security and paycheck.
This time around Uncle Sam is neither giving me comfort nor solace and his paycheck, contrary to what he calls it, is not a lot of security and comes with the title DEPENDENT.
I’ve worked since I was 16. So for 60 decades, give or take a few years, I’ve prided myself in being INDEPENDENT. Ok – It’s not always pride, some of the time self-pity, much of the time martyrdom and most of the time resignation. But for 60 decades I’ve never had the title DEPENDENT.
Used-to-Be-Independent, Dependent in-Progess? You’ll have to keep checking all my cyber profiles to see what my current status is. I’ll probably decide after I receive my first social SECURITY check.
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.
I tend to live in the present moment – not because I am centered nor have I perfected mindfulness. It’s because I have a very lousy long-term memory. You can tell me the same joke over and over and I’ll laugh every time because I never remember the punch line. I don’t remember having already seen a movie or read a book until I get to the end. Details of my life elude me. Turns out I’m blessed by a forgetful remembering-self.
LISTEN to this!!!!!!!! – How we determine what is a painful experience or a pleasurable one; How we create the story of our life.
This comes under the heading of “If I knew then what I know now”.
After years of hearing from Daru Maer, my friend and colleague, about how wonderful, creative and incredibly accomplished her daughter Jenn Maer was I finally got to verify that myself when I met Jenn last year.
I’m sharing Jenn’s article that appeared in the San Francisco Egotist because it is timely. During the holidays we are particularly sensitive to other’s expectations, needs, wants and their “feedback”. Jenn’s realization that feedback, most of the time, is given for precisely the reasons she identifies is spot-on. I wish I knew that when I was Jenn’s age.
(Sorry Jenn, I couldn’t resist the parenthetical feedback)
What I Learned in 2014: Jenn Maer, Design Director, IDEO
“This was the year I finally learned to take feedback.”
“Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been “addressing” feedback for my entire career.Early on, I mastered the art of smiling whenever somebody eviscerated my work—nodding thoughtfully while saying, “Hmm. Interesting. Let me have a think on that.” But until recently, I never truly meant it. Feedback was something to be dodged, outsmarted, and begrudgingly incorporated when pressed to do so.”
“I realize this makes me sound like a world-class a_ _ _ _ _ _ (Feedback: Sorry for the edit, Jen, but this is a PG 13 rated blog and your description is not appropriate for those of us emotionally under the age of consent). But I don’t think that’s the case: I love (and insist on) working collaboratively, I always look for opportunities to help other people shine, and I’m pretty easy-going all around. I think I just hated the feeling that I hadn’t done something perfectly right off the bat.”
“Then, after having a really enlightening conversation with a mentor of mine, something shifted in me. I would get a piece of feedback and listen to it. I mean, really listen to it. Like the kind of listening a therapist does, when you say, “I hate the color blue” and they hear you say, “I’ve got deep-seeded issues with my mother.” (Feedback: Sorry Jen, your mother IS a therapist – how could you NOT have deep-seeded issues with her?) (Sorry Daru, but since you are a therapist you know that all things lead back to the mother . . .)
“I stopped being so quietly, inwardly defensive, and realized that each piece of feedback is delivered in service of making things better. Now, with every comment or red-Sharpied suggestion, I ask myself, what’s behind the issue that’s being raised? How can I use this as a chance to make my work clearer, tighter, smarter, funnier…whatever it needs to be?”
“I’m not saying I’ve got this new skill down pat. There are certainly still moments when people make inane, counter-productive comments that make me want to bash their heads in with the Polycom. (Sorry Jen, but I don’t know what a Polycom is so if you want to bash in my head I hope it’s soft . . . ). But you know what? I’m learning to hear what’s beneath those comments, too. It’s usually something like, “I need to feel important here.” (Sorry Jenn, I am important here – it’s MY blog) Or, “I don’t know what’s happening and I’m freaked out about it.” And with a little bit of empathy, I can help them through those issues, as well.” (Sorry Jen, if you don’t want to help me with my issue of compulsively commenting, maybe your Mom can?)
(ALL things are ultimately the mother’s fault – You are one smart, insightful daughter)
“. . . it is so easy to feel insecure about our appearance. Whether it is because of the mean comment that comes our way or the photoshopped image we see in magazines, it can be so easy to feel self-conscious about our body. When was the last time you felt comfortable in your own skin?”
“We are so excited to share with you our newest 50 people 1 question short – Comfortable. We hope that this video will inspire you to be more comfortable and confident in yourself.Beauty is not about what you don’t have, but about being comfortable in your own skin.“
You wrote me about your owner Cody and I will try to help you understand him to improve your relationship.
“Cody rarely barks except when he thinks I (Gloria) am too slow in answering the front door or taking him for walks”.(All humans are too slow because they insist on getting about on only two limbs).
“He thinks everyone that comes over, came over to see him”.(Gloria Human-Being, don’t be so sure that’s not true)
“He has a doggie door but if he thinks he’s not getting enough attention, (If he thinks he’s not getting enough attention, he’s NOT getting enough attention)he goes out his door and comes around to the family room door and barks to let me know he’s out there.”(how else is he going to let you know he’s out there? . . . make sure Cody carries his smart phone so he can text message you)
“When the doggie door is closed and has to potty, he finds me in the house and scratches my leg a couple of times to let me know he’s there”.(Gloria Human-being, of course he scratches your leg. Bend down so he can reach your shoulder)
“He’ll scratch my leg like that for attention if I’m in the office, to let me know the timer is buzzing when I’m watering my trees”.(We doggies are very conscious of conserving our natural resources – especially since water is the only one we are allowed to drink)
Cody, full “blown” Westie
“If you’re eating something, he will look at you with his ears perked up, but you tell him it’s “mine” his ears drop and walks away. (Gloria Human-being, you must learn to be more generous and share). Although if someone feeds him a snack he may stick around for more. I try to tell my friends to give him carrots or dog treats only.”(Is that what you feed your friends – carrots or dog treats?)
“Cody has been a treasure to have as he and I are buddies. He loves going to grandma’s house as he usually gets a piece of chicken or meat to taste”.(Grandma rocks! I would like to have her for my Grandma. Please ask her.)
“Would women be better than men at running the world?There’s a case to be made on the example of Angela Merkel, currently the longest-serving — and most popular — leader of a Group of Seven country.”
With an approval rating of 71 percent, far beyond what the leaders of other big industrialized nations could hope for, Merkel shouldn’t need any further justification to stay in power. She has, however, an unexpected one: “I have, at least so far, incredible curiosity.” It’s not just about highbrow lectures. Merkel is the rare politician who listens rather than talks, which is one reason her public pronouncements are famously bland and repetitive. One sometimes gets the impression that Russian President Vladimir Putin calls her so often (he did it yesterday, too) because he finds the sessions therapeutic.
At the risk of jinxing myselfI’ve been puzzling over why I do not suffer as much from fibromyalgia than the women (and men) I know who are in more pain, have more co-morbid conditions and debilitating symptoms than I do.
And because they are, for the most part, held hostage by their medical conditions they are unable to continue to work in their professions and live a “relatively normal” life. I’m not sure my life is “normal”. I’m often stopped in my tracks by exhaustion, distracted by pain but I’ve been blessed by being able to continue to work in a profession that gives my life purpose and meaning.
What’s prompted all my questioning and thinking?
I’ve been reading books written by Viktor Frankl an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who was a Holocaust survivor. In his book Mans Search for Meaning he writes about his incarceration in nazi death camps where he observed that those who did not believe their existence had meaning succumbed in greater numbers from starvation and disease than those who held the belief that their life had meaning.
Their purpose didn’t involve grand schemes of saving the world, curing people or groundbreaking discoveries. Purpose ranged from finishing a manuscript of a book begun before incarceration, staying alive for a family member or simply believing God had an unknown reason for them to live.
So? What part does purpose and meaning play in our lives? in your life? Does having purpose and meaning help reduce emotional or physical suffering? I don’t pretend to have the answer, just the question.
Here’s Dr Frankl in an interview about finding meaning in difficult times. (He talks about his experience in the concentration camps toward the end of the interview.)
“. . .the man on the street knows that meaning may not only be found in creating a work and doing a deed, not only in encountering someone and experiencing something, but also, if need be, in the way in which he stands up to suffering.” Viktor Frankl
It’s a big responsibility being a Canine Dog Therapist (CDT). I take it very seriously.
Me, Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDT, thinking about what my clients need today.
I always know what might be most helpful to my clients.Sometimes they need to laugh so I do something to amuse them. Sometimes they need to calm down so I let them pet me. Sometimes I have to demonstrate what they need to do to make their life better like shake things up a bit or tear into a problem .
Moosie is my therapy assistant. My Auntie Lyn gave him to me. Auntie Lyn is very compassionate and knows how stressful it is for me to do everything on my own.
I often use Moosie to demonstrate concepts such as:
No matter how life shakes you up you can survive gut wrenching experiences
What we show on the outside is not always what is inside.
A broken heart is the least of your worries.
If you want to be inconspicuous don’t wear red.
Me, Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDT, after a hard days work.
It is gratifying to know that I help my clients . . .
REALLY worth watching – Chris Hadfield: What I learned from going blind in space.
‘”There’s an astronaut saying: In space, “there is no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse.”So how do you deal with the complexity, the sheer pressure, of dealing with dangerous and scary situations? Retired colonel Chris Hadfield paints a vivid portrait of how to be prepared for the worst in space (and life) — and it starts with walking into a spider’s web. Watch for a special space-y performance”. TED Talks
“Good morning, Earth.” That is how Colonel Chris Hadfield, writing on Twitter, woke up the world every day while living aboard the International Space Station. In his five months on the ISS (including three as commander) Hadfield became a worldwide sensation, using social media to make outer space accessible and infusing a sense of wonder into the collective consciousness. Check out his cover version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” sung while floating in his tin can, far above the world …’
We’re doing an experiential presentation: “The Magic of the Mask”.
Each of us has done variations of this workshop. Now we have to combine forces which means I HAVE to go to Oregon where Daru lives so we can plan it. Right? RIGHT! I’m sooooooo looking forward to getting “outa town” as I’ve not been away for over a decade (the perils of working for yourself).
Daru said that the weather is unpredictable in Portland – it may rain in the morning or in the evening or rain all day long. You never know.
So! I need a favor from all of you: Please IMAGINE SUNSHINE IN THE NORTHWEST UNITED STATES I don’t own an umbrella, rain boots or rain coat.
if it is prompted by the highest motives & the will to do service to humanity.” Baha’i
How do we express the inexpressible? I believe it is only through creativity and the arts that feelings can powerfully be shared. That is what makes music, dance, painting, poetry, any form of creative expression, a personal signature of who we are and how we feel. The Scream by Edvard Munch, circa 1893 (WebMuseum at ibiblio via Wikimedia Commons)
“One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood-red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.”-Evdard Munch
“Depersonalization [disorder], a serious disruption in a persons thoughts or sensations about their individual self, understandably alters their entire world…Alienation, isolation, and altered perceptions have for centuries served as themes for the visual arts, particularly modern art. Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream depicts the essence of a private hell and detachment from all things outside of one’s self.”-Feeling Unreal: Depersonalization Disorder And the Loss of the Self by Daphne Simeon & Jeffrey Abugel
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.”
Anxiety is the brain’s way of trying to keep us alive. It wants us to be safe and so it looks for anything and everything that may not work, could be a problem, might be dangerous.
For most people who have anxiety “disorders” their minds are always working, scanning their physical, mental and emotional environments: A non-stop cacophony of thoughts , trying to avoid difficulty, figuring out something that doesn’t make sense . . . day and night; An adaptive mechanism in overdrive.
As someone who does hypnotherapy it is exciting when the research supports the power of unconscious processing. When you have a decision to make how often have you heard – “sleep on it”? Turns out this is good advice.
“New brain imaging research shows that brain regions responsible for making decisions continue to be active even when the conscious brain is distracted with a different task. The research provides some of the first evidence showing how the brain unconsciously processes decision information in ways that lead to improved decision-making.”
“It [the research] shows that brain regions important for decision-making remain active even while our brains may be simultaneously engaged in unrelated tasks, such as thinking about a math problem. What’s most intriguing about this finding is that participants did not have any awareness that their brains were still working on the decision problem while they were engaged in an unrelated task.” J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology in Carnegie Mellon University Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and director of the Health and Human Performance Laboratory.
You or someone you know probably fits the profile of being “Highly Sensitive”. After reading an interview of Douglas Eby I’m relieved to know I’m just “highly sensitive” and not wacked out.
Read on for some excerpts from an interview by Therese J. Borchard, associate editor of PsychCentral with Douglas Eby, M.A./Psychology, writer and researcher on the psychology of creative
expression, high ability and personal growth. HighlySensitive.org and http://talentdevelop.com.
“One of the prominent “virtues” of high sensitivity is the richness of sensory detail that life provides. The subtle shades of texture in clothing, and foods when cooking, the sounds of music or even traffic or people talking, fragrances and colors of nature. All of these may be more intense for highly sensitive people.”
” . . . response to color makes visual experience rich and exciting, and can help visual artists and designers be even more excellent.”
2. Nuances in meaning
“The trait of high sensitivity also includes a strong tendency to be aware of nuances in meaning, and to be more cautious about taking action, and to more carefully consider options and possible outcomes.”
3. Emotional awareness
“We also tend to be more aware of our inner emotional states, which can make for richer and more profound creative work as writers, musicians, actors or other artists.”
“A greater response to pain, discomfort, and physical experience can mean sensitive people have the potential, at least, to take better care of their health.”
“Psychologist Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, estimates about twenty percent of people are highly sensitive, and seventy percent of those are introverted, which is a trait that can also encourage creativity.”
5. Greater empathy
“High sensitivity to other people’s emotions can be a powerful asset for teachers, managers, therapists and others.”
Five curses of the decreased latently inhibited
1. Easily overwhelmed, overstimulated
“The biggest challenge in high sensitivity is probably being vulnerable to sensory or emotional overwhelm. Taking in and processing so much information from both inner and outer worlds can be “too much” at times and result in more pain, fatigue, stress, anxiety and other reactions.”
“An intriguing neuroscience research study I came across that may explain some of this said people with nervous systems having decreased latent inhibition are more open to incoming stimuli.Which can be a good thing, or not so good.” (I prefer to be latently inhibited rather than overly sensitive)
“Actor Amy Brenneman once commented, “I’m too sensitive to watch most of the reality shows. It’s so painful for me.” (Won’t watch anything that even hints at famine, pestilence, flood or fire.)
2. Affected by emotions of others
“Another aspect of sensitivity can be reacting to the emotions — and perhaps thoughts — of others. Being in the vicinity of angry people, for example, can be more distressing.” (I run screaming into the night if I overhear angry arguments even on T.V.)
3. Need lots of space and time to ourselves
“We may need to “retreat” and emotionally “refresh” ourselves at times . . . ”
4. Unhealthy perfectionism
There can also be qualities of thinking or analyzing that lead to unhealthy perfectionism, or stressful responses to objects, people or situations that are “too much” or “wrong” for our sensitivities.
5. Living out of sync with our culture
Living in a culture that devalues sensitivity and introversion as much as the U.S. means there are many pressures to be “normal” — meaning extroverted, sociable and outgoing.
Dr. Ted Zeff, author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide, points out that other cultures, such as Thailand, have different attitudes, with a strong appreciation of sensitive or introverted people. (Now I know why I love Thai food)
” . . . “too emotional” or “too sensitive” are usually criticisms based on majority behavior and standards.”
The conclusion of the interview: “Overall, I think being highly sensitive is a trait we can embrace and use to be more creative and aware. But it demands taking care to live strategically, even outside popular values, to avoid overwhelm so we can better nurture our abilities and creative talents.”
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!
My birthday is almost here. Perhaps because I’m still sniffing, snorting, coughing, moaning & groaning from this cold that’s settled into my bronchial tubes, perhaps because of my fibro, perhaps because every birthday reminds me of how short a time we spend on this planet I’m a bit down. Didn’t know it . . . until . . .
Since spending most of my days as a psychotherapist focusing on other people’s feelings, feelings, especially my own, are the last thing I want to pay attention to when I’m not working. But since I’ve been facilitating Therapeutic Process Journaling Workshops I’ve stepped up my own creative journaling.
I keep telling my participants that their unconscious KNOWS what’s happening. Whether you intend it or not, unconscious messages come out in the journal pages.
As I was doing the cover of a $1.00 notebook the picture of hands on a magazine cover seemed to be the right size and I liked the colors against the black and white notebook. At least that’s what my conscious mind was focused on: size & color.
When the cover was done it struck me that I wanted a helping hand.
I wasn’t feeling good physically or emotionally. I also had been spending all my time at the office or alone with my computer – even neglecting Max and his walks. I needed to reach out to family, friends. And Max would add – take leash in hand and take him on walks! The cover left no room for doubt.