Category Archives: Blog

Choosing Love in Conflict

I heard this song, “Choose You,” the other day and kind of fell in love with it. In a landscape of romance songs codependently decrying “I can’t live without you”, Stan Walker gets it right: Love is a choice.

While there is a sense of security in being “needed” in a relationship, it’s a much more special, beautiful thing to NOT be needed, and yet still CHOSEN.

In the realm of skeptical dating, people tend to be on the lookout for the other person to answer the question if they might be a good fit of romantic partner. However there’s also an element where it’s up to us to decide that we want them as a romantic partner.

Even better, Walker poses the power of choice in the context of conflict: “Even though I wanna stay mad, even though I wanna get angry..

I’ve heard many songs about love and many about breakups, but seemingly few that portray this view of love through disagreement so beautifully. It’s absolutely a choice to be angry at someone. (Although at times it certainly doesn’t feel like it, which is where a reminder like this may be valuable!). Holding a space to be angry at someone and simultaneously choose to love them and work through the dispute is healthy, and can make resolution easier. It’s empowering to remember you have choice- to stay, to go, either temporarily or permanently. You are not simply victim to the other person’s decisions and actions. Be angry as long as you want, don’t feel like you have to hold something against them in order to prove a point.

When you make the decision to choose to love, Walker is mindful that “I’m so mad at you right now that I can’t think straight…I should shut my mouth so I don’t let out the cruel things I say..” He’s aware the anger is right now but not forever. Because he’s keeping in mind his sense of power to choose, he doesn’t need to exert his power or prove anything by hurting his partner. He’s holding the greater perspective of the value of the relationship as a whole, which helps him address the situation respectfully.

Ultimately, it’s about keeping in mind priorities; the value the relationship holds being important enough to take time or space away in disagreements, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so. Because, while often conflict feels urgent to restore a sense of security in the relationship, the better choice may be to remember that it’s important enough to be treated with patience. Taking that time apart to let feelings out in a safer space not only protects the relationship from volatile words, it creates a chance to re-center and rediscover this power to choose, and not need the other person to feel okay in the world. In that way, it is very self-loving as well to respect and give space for your feelings, practicing self-trust to be ok when things feel uncomfortable, and make decisions about your actions and the relationship from a choiceful, non-reactive mindset.

Into the Light: Reflections after a Depressive Episode

One of the biggest challenges of depression is frequently around the inability to see hope for things to change.  As a therapist, one thing I offer is holding hope for clients when they aren’t able to see it for themselves. However, sometimes the words of experience are much easier to hold. A friend of mine recently shared her observations on recovering from depression on social media, and graciously offered permission for me to share. Depression may feel endless, but it doesn’t have to be; perhaps these words can offer some hope.
“I just returned from my three month check-up with my psychiatrist.
Guess what?
I’m doing great. 🙂
It’s been slowly hitting me the last few weeks, I’m happy again. Like, legit content. Can I tell you how incredible this feels?
It’s like sunshine in your chest, warming you softly.
It’s like that moment you catch yourself smiling for no reason.
It’s like that belly full of laughter at a friend’s joke that made you want to hug them forever.
I’ve been going to therapy religiously, bullet journaling like a mad-woman and also keeping a journal of my moods, when I work out, what I eat, how much I smoke, a habit-tracker, wishes and things I am grateful for. These tools have been invaluable for providing structure and stability which I’ve found are key in coming out of a major depressive episode.
After everything I have been through the past three years, extreme highs and extreme lows, there are a few things I have learned that I want to share with you.
1. Your mind and body are connected. The health of your brain meats are influenced by the health of your body meats. Care for all the meats.
2. Know who your friends are…. and trust your instincts. I’m not talking about that little voice in your head that tells you no one likes you. I’ talking about that place right below your belly that whispers things to you. I have a core group of girlfriends in my life (and good guy friends) for the first time in ages and they absolutely SAVED. MY. ASS. these past six months. It’s the friends who put up with you un-showered, in your pajamas, crying for the third day in a row on their couch that are the true ones. Keep them close and give back to them however you are able. It’s amazing how many people kind of fall away on the periphery when you are not glowingly happy and “on”.
3. “I’ll feel better after”: This is a mantra for all depressed people. Force yourself to do little things, even if they seem insurmountable. Floss. Make coffee. Take a walk. Call a friend. Reminding yourself, convincing yourself, that you will feel better after you do something is the only way to get out of the rut that turns into a vortex, that leads to a black hole.
4. No matter what anyone else says about you… you know yourself.  I had to find my way back to the things in music and in life that made me happy. I may never be as successful as I once dreamed of being because I won’t compromise parts of myself anymore for that success. That was part of the issue. I would compromise a little bit, like a chip off my soul, then another, then another until I didn’t remember who I was before the success started happening. I may never accomplish those visions I have been carrying around in my head since childhood, but that’s ok. They are just visions. Life is here. Life is now. It’s the little pleasures and your experiences with friends and loved ones that makes it all worth it. For the first time I can see that clearly and appreciate that who I am as a performer is not who I am as a person, and both deserve equal respect. Taking care of my career is not taking care of ME. That’s what I mean about knowing yourself. I know who I am, and what I love and what makes life good… and no one can take that away from me.
5. Don’t assume the worst all the time. Seeing the whole picture is just as much about seeing the good as you do the bad. Life is gray, and if you concentrate on the black parts only, constantly, you are not getting to the truth. You are only sabotaging yourself. Sometimes your emotions are so powerful — especially if they are related to trauma — that you don’t see what is actually happening. You see what you fear is happening. Take a step back, breath, meditate (oh yeah I do that every day now like a damn hippie) and don’t react until you are calm if you can help it. This has been a hard journey and I am still learning, but what progress I have made has made my life incalculably better.
Not to be too cheesy, but I saw the latest Star Wars and one quote resonated a lot with me, “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you will never make it through the night.”
This is what it feels like recovering from a major depressive episode. There is always hope, there is always sun, even if you can’t see it. ☀️”
Looking up at the trees in Yosemite
Looking up
Give yourself the love you deserve!

To the recipients of emotional abuse…

Have you known the you deserve better than the treatment you receive in your relationship?

Do you beat yourself up, feel bad or embarrassed for not getting out of it soon enough?

There’s a secret I want you to know.

Your dedication is a strength.

You love fiercely.

This is a wonderful thing! I just want to offer you one tweak. That love? Turn it inward. To you. You deserve it. It doesn’t even mean you have to stop giving it to anyone else. Just..add yourself into the recipient pool.

We can expend so much energy giving love to another in hopes they will reciprocate. And it’s ok to make this a more direct path to receiving love. It’s ok to value your dedication to relationships and love. It doesn’t mean you have to keep offering it in a direction it’s not appreciated, or drain yourself in an uphill battle. It can be something you appreciate directly about yourself.You may be used to the world demanding a lot of your caring nature. You may have forgotten what it feels like to be truly loved. You don’t need anyone else to remind you. Just make the decision to love yourself.

Give yourself the love you deserve!
Love yourself fiercely!

What can you do, right now,

to commit to loving yourself?

You might be abusing the Most Important Relationship you’ll ever have

It’s no secret that therapists help you improve your relationships. It’s what we do! However, there are times when I’ve told people I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist, and they at first think that couples and family work is ALL I do, when in fact at least half of my practice is seeing Individuals!

The key is this: The most important relationship you will ever have, is with yourself. Lives change, people move, people die, divorce and heartbreak happen…other people will come and go from your life. But you?…You’re kinda stuck with you!

If you’re going to be stuck with yourself for the rest of your life, it’s quite beneficial to find peace in that relationship. Don’t just beat yourself up for all the things you “could have done differently”.  Don’t just look to others to give you love, validate that you’re worthy of companionship and kindness! Do you possess any of the qualities you look for in others? Probably…so enjoy it!

DO respect the person you are! You have interests, and hobbies, you care about people and have unique thoughts and experiences that are completely yours. How cool is that? Doesn’t it deserve some celebrating?

Sometimes when we keep ourselves surrounded with others, it’s easy to lose ourselves a bit. To engage in hobbies that our loved ones engage in because of community, even if it’s not what WE totally love. We let certain things slip away because especially in the early stages of New Relationship Energy, we get caught up and willingly lose track of some things to make more room for time with the subject of our affection. That can be fun and exciting, but think about it. If you and your partner only spent time together while in part of a larger group, would you be satisfied, or do you sometimes want Quality Time just the two of you? You and yourself deserve that too!

Spending some time alone gives a chance to assess all of that. To reflect. If we don’t like our own company…why not? If you’re unbearably negative, do you want to try finding more gratitude? If you’re bored, do you want to try a different activity? If you DO like yourself, take the time to honor that relationship! You don’t ALWAYS have to share with others. It encourages authenticity, growth, and joy to occasionally spend time alone. And…it will have a ripple effect and improve all the rest of your relationships as well!

Take the time for you. Show yourself the love you deserve instead of trying to convince others to do it for you. If the idea of spending time alone makes you anxious, if you fear loneliness or disappointing someone by not including them, give me a call. I’d love to help you embark on a new and fulfilling relationship with yourself!

Therapy can help you blossom.

Hesitant About Therapy?

On my way home from therapy yesterday (yes, even therapists can use support) I noticed how good I felt, compared to the ‘iffiness’ or ‘off-balanced’ feeling I had going in. We had unpacked and tied a thread across a variety of experiences. There are times, yes, when this can leave a ‘weighty’ feeling. This experience, however, was that we had tapped in and found my energy and joy that is sometimes tainted or burdened by certain events.

This is one of the things I love about counseling, both for myself and for clients. It’s no about pretending bad things don’t or didn’t happen. It’s not about making them go away. It’s about making more room for the pure essence of self, find the joy of wanting things, allowing inspiration rather than fear to be a driving force in choosing how we live. Therapy can be painful, but it is also empowering.

If you’ve thought about therapy but have been nervous about it, listen to what a variety of people have to say:


What People Who Go To Therapy Want You To Know by buzzfeedvideo

Therapy does involve some vulnerability, and that can be scary. It can also be incredibly valuable. You’re always welcome to make the first phone call to explore your options, without any commitment.

 

Who do you listen to?

On my drive to the gym the other day, I spent the whole way considering whether to go to a class or use the equipment in the weight room. By the time I was changed, I had decided I wanted cardio… the “bodyflow” class is very routine, and I would get my preferred yoga class tomorrow. So I laced up my shoes instead of putting on the flip flops, and headed out of the locker room.

And yet, next thing I knew, I found myself stepping into the class room! All that thoughtful consideration and logic, and yet here I was following my body’s lead.
So I did the Bodyflow yoga class, and enjoyed it more than I expected. And I still wanted cardio, so went in and topped it off with the treadmill. And once again, thankfully, I listened to my body instead of my brain. My brain was telling me, “Oh, maybe 5 minutes is enough. The time is going so slowly. What was I thinking, setting it for 20 minutes?”
But I didn’t listen to my brain that was making excuses to cut the run short. Stopping was always an option, I don’t have to give in immediately. 10 minutes in, I’d found my pacing and ease. And then I didn’t want to be stopping yet. I wanted to see the end of the Niagara Falls trail I was virtually running!

Yoga instructor Roz Adams of www.rozfitness.com
Yoga instructor Roz Adams of www.rozfitness.com
The moral of the story is, our bodies have their own wisdom. As much as athletics can be about pushing limits, we can also learn to listen to and trust our bodies more. This is true whether it’s about working out, whether to cry, etc. It can help to silence the thoughts and just be present to the moment. And, to quote my favorite yoga instructor.. “Be still, and your will will move with the tide of the spirit.”

Simple Pleasures

Last night was “Ladies Night” in the downtown area of my office, enticing women to come out and patronize retail stores, collecting whatever discounts or freebies may be offered. So for three hours, I sat outside my office with a little music, blowing bubbles, offering vials of bubbles to anyone who wanted them.

At some point, someone walked by and made a comment about how I must be lonely, at the table by myself. In reality, that couldn’t have been further from the truth!

Bubbles
Bubbles

The three hours (which was supposed to be only 2.5) flew by; some people laughed at the offer, while others’ faces lit up and they scurried over to accept. Some adults took some vials home for their kids. For me, it was a joyful experience to watch the delight, the reminder of simple pleasures. Kids blew bubbles “for the plants” or exclaimed, “Bubbles!” every time they passed. One group of women spent maybe a good 10 minutes taking photos of each other blowing bubbles!

I love carrying a vial of bubbles in my purse. In a society that defaults to checking our phones every time there’s a ‘down minute’, I can reach in and pull out the bubbles instead. It keeps me looking ‘up’ and available to connect to the others around me, see the environment I’m in. It makes me breathe deeper, take in more oxygen as I inhale and blow. It reminds me that it’s okay to slow down. I can watch the iridescent colors swirl, or the slow floating away of the bubbles on a gentle wind current. It’s a reminder that we can “go with the flow,” too; not everything needs to be done forcefully.

In those three hours, I did have my phone with me, for the option of texting friends or making some notes if I got bored, but I ended up not having time for it. I felt the warmth in my heart swell, watching the delight of the people who accepted. I looked at the clouds, pondered the bubbles’ flight paths. I was present in the moment, and present with my surroundings.

For anyone who struggles with “trying to meditate”, come get your vial of bubbles and blow your cares away. Sometimes the simple pleasures are surprisingly powerful.

And thank you to everyone who stopped by last night!

Success: Letting go of the fear

Success. We all want it. Or at least we think we do.

If you avoid taking risks, it may be more than just a fear of failure holding you back. Failure is only one option. You could also succeed! And what would that mean? Have you actually allowed yourself to feel what it would be like on the other side or your challenge?

Success is more than just a “happily ever after.” In real life, the story doesn’t end once the present challenge is accomplished. Envision life after success, so you can be prepared for what comes next. Imagine what it feels like not just to have succeeded, but to Be Successful.

Being successful requires an active participation in your life. Luck can happen to you; success is earned, and being successful is just that- a way of being, not simply a one-time accomplishment needed to obtain the label.

Success, for me, means living up to my potential. It doesn’t always mean getting the outcome I want- there are always circumstances outside of our control. But it does mean no excuses when it comes to doing my best.

Sometimes we intentionally keep success at bay. By putting success on a distant pedestal, we get to believe there’s green grass somewhere, that we can have eventually, maybe once we’ve “earned” it. There’s a comfort in excuses, in the familiarity of the struggle, and not facing the fear of uncertainty of what it looks like to be successful.

I’ll admit it- I’ve felt this fear. When I took success off the pedestal and looked at it up close, I discovered…Living up to my potential is a pretty big responsibility, and that’s kind of scary! To embrace success means letting go of excuses and being open to new and different responsibilities.

If you ever find yourself unsure and asking, “Do I deserve this,” you’re asking the wrong question. Trust that you do deserve success. Step up to the pedestal. Believe that it is within your reach, and feel what it’s like to hold it in your hands..to wear the identity of being successful and take on the responsibility that come with it. See how you like it, make sure you really want it. Then ask, “How hard am I willing to work for this?”

 

To see what I’m willing to work hard for and help me past the external obstacles to my potential, please take a look and vote for my grant proposal.

Hakomi? What’s that?

When many people hear “psychotherapy”, they still have the image of Freud analyzing someone’s words as they lay on a couch. While information is helpful, ‘knowing why’ something happens does not make it go away or immediately change it. Sometimes it even makes things worse, as we get critical and judge ourselves if we don’t suddenly change something!

In my own personal experience, I knew why certain events in my life made me unhappy. However, knowing the logical reasons around the events did nothing to change my unhappiness or my beliefs about myself! I was drawn to Hakomi from my first introduction to its power: my body responding to a simple, serious statement with a fit of uncontrollable laughter. This was a strong, undeniable message about my beliefs around anger that I hadn’t known about! Since then, through Hakomi, I’ve been able to develop a new relationship with myself that is much less critical, more relaxed, and more fulfilled. With increased awareness, I can better take care of my own emotions and needs, so I’m happier with myself, as well as in my relationships with others.

What is Hakomi?

Hakomi is a mindful approach to therapy that facilitates change in an experiential way. It works with what is present, without always needing the story. It invites the wisdom of the body and emotions in a more holistic way than simply ‘talking about’ the problem.

Hakomi trusts in the innate tendency toward healing. Even after a doctor performs surgery, much of the healing process comes from the body – white blood cells battle infection, platelets create a scab, and new cells grow to heal a wound. Similarly, emotional wounds can find their own path to healing if given enough of a safe environment where they are welcome to show up as they are, without having to “make sense”.

Hakomi invites compassionate curiosity to explore and change the core beliefs that get in our way. Having the embodied sense of what feels ‘right’ and true can create a big shift in our ability to create lasting change and freedom. We can’t control others, we can only practice being the self we want to be. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean having to change everything around us!

Hakomi involves the use of mindfulness in order to increase awareness of ourselves and our ways of interacting. Especially in our busy ‘doing’ society, the mere experience of this level of attention can bring some healing. By listening to the deeper messages of what is needed, new experiences can be created to heal old wounds. Acceptance, emotional safety, being good enough, the ability to trust, are all common themes that can grow and improve through Hakomi.

What does Hakomi look like?

Since Hakomi is an exploration, there is a lot of room for creativity in sessions. What comes up can be surprising, and sometimes fun! As much of the work is done in mindfulness, many clients opt to work with their eyes closed, so they can be attentive to their own experience, rather than distracted by conversation. Maybe we start by exploring the color, shape, or temperature of your pain. Maybe we explore the sensation of protection and safety with a pillow fort. Or maybe we simply study that subtle gesture of raising your shoulders ever so slightly when someone asks you for something. The body shares information like this with us all the time; I can help you slow down and listen to the messages that want to be heard, and create new experiences to feel more whole and at peace.

 

Healing Rites of Passage: The Value of Divorce Parties

I read a blog article today of someone bashing the idea of Divorce Parties, based on the author’s assumption that having a party means the marriage was never taken seriously, that it meant a total disregard for the former partner’s feelings, and the vows taken.

I whole-heartedly disagree with his view. In a society that struggles with allowing grief, that continues to lose touch with the value of rites of passage, where divorce is judged as a taboo, I’d like to share some thoughts on the value of Divorce Parties, and why, if you’re in process of divorcing or recently divorced, you may want to consider having one.

Divorce is frequently a lonely process. In the co-parenting classes I’ve taught, the most repeated piece of feedback received is the value of the group dynamic: others to share with, and knowing you’re not the only one struggling. Oftentimes with divorce, friendships are lost as some feel the need to ‘side’ with one partner or the other. Others, even the most well-intentioned, may simply not know how to support the divorcing friend. Combine that with the sense of shame, and difficulty of even finding the right moment to share with people “We’re getting divorced,” coming to the place of feeling OK to publicly celebrate the finality of the marriage can be a significant turning point in breaking the perpetuation of shame and the fear of acknowledging the divorce. It is an announcement to friends and family that it is OK to talk about the situation, rather than the wondering of “Maybe it’s too sensitive for Mary to want to talk about,” or, on the divorcee’s side, “It might make my friends uncomfortable if I bring it up.” Having a party, therefore, breaks that need to be alone and stay silent, and may help facilitate support. When there’s a topic at hand that generally carries a lot of shame in addition to a possibly difficult, stressful, or emotionally laden topic, people gathering in a message of “we accept you,” can be powerful.

Weddings are one of the biggest rites of passage still celebrated in American society, alongside graduations and perhaps funerals. While some cultures do still hold onto the rite of passage of entering into adulthood, it seems this is less frequent than it used to be. Indeed, the subconscious need for a rite of passage may actually fuel the desire for marriage in some cases. If it is important to acknowledge the joining together of two people, why is it not equally important to acknowledge the new independence of someone? From child to adult, from single to married, from married to divorced; it is a new identity- sometimes wanted, sometimes not- that deserves acknowledgment which can help a person settle into the role, rather than getting stuck in denial, anger, depression, or any other stage of grief.

The timing of the party is something worth mentioning here: one transition that comes through a grief process is the shift of mourning the past, to looking forward to a new future without the loss. It’s wise to pay attention to where you are in the process, and when you’re ready to consciously make the shift to forward looking – and not mark the turning point before you’re ready.

Let’s not, of course, forget the difficulty of the legal side of things. Even in the simplest, most amicable divorces, in California your divorce will not be final for at least 6 months and one day from the day you file. There’s legal jargon to translate, financials to disclose, paperwork to file in triplicate, all along with the little day to day things like changing your exemptions at work, separating auto and health insurance, and bank accounts, and belongings to divvy up. In more complicated divorces, there are custody arrangements to settle and support payments to determine. It’s a lot, and coming to an end of a long process is an accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated in some capacity.

While legal and practical issues of transitioning to being divorced necessarily take space and get discussed more openly, the pervasive, deeper issues often get ignored or overlooked. Divorce is more than a breakup, more than the decision to not continue sharing a life with someone. As promise is involved, at least in a legal context, and frequently in a religious one as well, divorce can bring up feelings of betrayal and guilt, shame, issues around trust (in both others and self), and low self-esteem. You do not need to carry eternal shame for getting divorced. To truly be able to move on and live a fulfilling life, forgiveness needs to come into play. Forgiveness is often difficult when there has been a lot of pain, but not forgiving does not protect you the way people tend to believe. A divorce party can mark the choice to forgive yourself for anything you feel needs forgiving. Whether you have a sense of guilt for “giving up on them/my vow”, self-directed anger for “ever trusting them with my heart”, or any other number of things, forgiveness of self is crucial to truly moving on with the view that you deserve to be happy again. You do deserve to be happy.

Whether all of these points are commemorated publicly through a party or in some other, more private act, it is important to acknowledge with intention the complexity of the Divorce transition and your multiple personal processes (legal, social, emotional, spiritual,) of moving through it.