Grace, gravity and gratitude

I woke up this morning with the following riddle: I thought, it would be better if I could remember, as often as possible, these aspirations: “Grace and Gratitude,” but also thought something was missing here, and I wanted an alliteration, easier to remember that way, and might look and sound better, so what’s missing…. So,…

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The benefits of limited self-doubt

Self-doubt is one of the most confusing and yet constant feelings we experience. It is everywhere, in nearly everything we do, big and small. Self-doubt is that little voice that says, “are you sure you should…? [have whole milk in your latte], or [text an old romantic partner who’s sent you a seemingly harmless text],…

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Introspection Part 11, Ambivalence and balance

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself; (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Leaves of Grass   Having the capacity to hold and experience two opposing or contradictory feelings, thoughts and desires at the same time is human, very human. It is both a blessing and a…

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Introspection Part 10, Avoiding Narcissism

Having spent the last several months writing about “going inside yourself” (introspection), it occurs to me that I should take a breather and answer the question, “is there such a thing as too much introspection?” I want to say “no” because introspection is so much a part of my life as a therapist and a…

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Introspection Part 9, Being interesting

In the last blog post, I described the difference between existence (you as you are right now) and being (you in the process of becoming what you want to be).  Being is preferable.  Being means frequently asking yourself where you are headed in your life, your head, your values and morality.  Being isn’t just about goals, although…

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Introspection Part 8, Self-awareness and being

  “Skynet… becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th.” From the Movie, Terminator II, 1991   I was on a bus at the age of 14, headed toward work. I was looking down at my hands. I was probably bored, and maybe high on something. I started to move my fingers, watching my…

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Introspection Part 7, Intersubjectivity

There’s this scene in the movie The Elephant Man that was transformative for me.  I saw the movie in my late teens.  In the movie, the main guy has a disease which disfigures his whole body, including his face.  In this particular scene, he is running from reporters.  I think he’s in a hospital.  At…

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Introspection Part 6, Self-acceptance

Introspection Part 6, self-acceptance I recently said the following to a client struggling with shame: “The opposite of shame is not pride. The opposite of shame is self-acceptance.” Moving toward self-acceptance requires self-knowledge, which in turn requires introspection. In Part 2 of this series of blog posts on introspection, I attempted to lay out the…

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Introspection Part 5, Your inner narrative

Now that you have some tools for accessing your inner self (See the previous blog post, Introspection Part 4), what are you supposed to do once you are “in there” (looking around within yourself)? Answer: find your “inner narrative”—the story you tell yourself about you and your world. That’s really it. Sounds simple, and it…

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Introspection Part 4, Tools for self-discovery

It occurs to me that in addition to all the negative reasons one might not engage in self-exploration I noted in Part 3 of this series on introspection (fear of emotional pain, family or gender negative messages, avoiding  responsibility), some of us do not engage in self-exploration because we just don’t really know how to do…

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Introspection Part 3, Why do we avoid our inner lives

I hope I made a convincing case in Part 2 of this discussion on introspection—that exploring your inner life has some very tangible (and intrinsic) benefits, including predictability and flexibility (in how you interact with others). I hope I also made it clear that, without introspection, there is really no way for a person to…

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Introspection Part 2, the value of self-discovery

Every once in a while I run into a person who tells me they think introspection and self-awareness are a waste of time. I have even on occasion been told that introspection encourages negative feelings about ourselves, by causing us to dwell on difficult issues. I am almost universally so surprised by these ways of…

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Introspection Part 1, What is introspection?

A friend recently read my book, Firewalking on Jupiter. He liked it. He thought it was useful in a variety of ways. He thought the book did a pretty good job of explaining how to address different issues you might need to address depending on who you are and what you discover about yourself—things like…

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Moral Conviction

Where does moral conviction originate? Does it come from within? Is it instilled in us from something external? How does it arise? Do we need to pay attention to it, foster it, grow it, encourage it, for it to gain strength? Or, does it exist of its own accord, making itself known when the time…

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Grace and post-victim status

In my most recent blog post, I charted some of the course of moving into and then out of the victim role as an essential and healthy process for dealing with trauma. I wrote this in part due to a conversation I had with a few therapy colleagues at a conference about trauma and healing.…

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Being a victim

When is a victim truly a victim, as opposed to when someone merely thinks they are a victim? Why do we question this? Probably because, often enough, we hear someone claiming “victim” status when they may not actually be a victim at all. Their justification for claiming “victim” status comes through blaming someone or something…

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Coasting

“You can only coast in one direction.” In case the meaning of this statement doesn’t sink in right away, take a moment and think about it. Imagine you’re on a bicycle. You’ve stopped pedaling. You’re coasting. This won’t last long unless you are going down, only down. Going straight or uphill, you’ll stop coasting pretty…

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Defiant Morality

I have for some time been considering how to approach more directly my thoughts on morality—on what is “good” and “bad” when it comes to human decisions, including their behavior, beliefs, attitudes, and judgments. I have wanted to write about this topic directly, but have hesitated. The problem has been that is in my nature…

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Pride

People fear pride, which is weird, and a bummer. Pride is good. It even seems a little sad when someone tells me they fear letting themselves feel pride. Pride is simply a way of telling ourselves we have done something worth doing, and maybe we have even done it well. So why do we fear…

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Judgments

We all say we don’t like to be judged by others, and yet, let’s face it, we all judge others. Does this make us hypocrites? Not necessarily. It depends on what you judge and how you use judgments. There are a couple of different ways to judge and to be judged. There are also different…

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Responsibility and blame

Desire for personal growth, and the kind of change that comes with it, is usually driven by a recognition that things as they are now are somehow unsatisfactory, problematic, or just more difficult than we want them to be. Somewhere there is a situation that needs changing, a problem to be resolved, a challenge to…

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Empathy

Empathy is a very important part of my role as a therapist. Without it, the therapy relationship would feel and even be, robotic, mechanistic. What makes therapy human, connected, real, interesting and therefore valuable to the client (and me) is my ability and willingness to try to imagine what it would be like to be…

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Goal-setting by imagining being “there”

Setting goals is something is an important and early part of the therapy process.  As part of the goal-setting process, I ask questions like these: “How will you know when you are ready to be done in therapy?” “How will things be different in your life?”  “How will you feel about the problems that brought…

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A thought for the Holidays, let others be who they are

Let’s say you find a sibling, an in-law or some other family member you have in the past found particularly irritating; maybe you disagree with their values, politics, religion, or their lack of filters (e.g. when they drink).  Now let’s say you only see them once or a few times a year, like during the…

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The Power of Tenacity

A search for the definition of the word “tenacity” first brings up “stubbornness.”  It works for a starter—except we think of stubborn as a mostly negative trait and I want to write about the positive aspect of tenacity. Sometimes, though, there is also strength in stubbornness. While on a walk a few years ago with…

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Therapy, Part 3, the process of therapy (with me)

The process of therapy is different for every client.  All clients have different needs, goals, issues, personalities, levels of development, self-awareness and expectations.  It is important for me to cater my approach and processes in therapy to the individual needs of all unique clients.  No one approach fits everyone. At the same time, there are…

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Personal Heroes

This is a modified version of a chapter in the book I wrote about my childhood. The book is called, “Twelfth Child.”  It is not published, but now and then I use parts of it when I speak and bits and pieces of it have shown up here as part of blogs and in other…

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Our Christmas Miracle

This is a story of a Christmas Miracle about our precious little dog, Julian. For those of you who do not celebrate Christmas, either because it is not consistent with your culture or belief system, or because you for other reasons simply choose not to participate in this holiday, please bear with me. I actually…

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How important is your past in therapy?

Clients are often (justifiably) concerned about getting stuck or dwelling on their past for months or years as part of the therapy process. Sometimes clients have a concern that therapy might encourage them to rely on their past as “an excuse” for whatever their issues might be in their current lives (“I can’t get my…

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Depression and Anxiety: Flip sides of the same coin, Part 1

In part 1 of this series of blogs on the relationship between depression and anxiety, I discuss how they are often related by their both being a response to a difficult task or issue.  In Part 2, I describe how depression and anxiety become such problems when dealing with difficult tasks or issues. Finally, in…

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What is “mental health,” Part 1

During my first session with clients, I often suggest to them that while they are thinking about which therapist might be a good fit for them, they ask themselves this question, “how does this therapist define what constitutes ‘mental health’?”  I wonder to myself, if asked that question during an initial session or phone call…

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Gestalt Prayer by Fritz Perls

Yesterday, I visited with my mother for a few hours, showing her a bit about how to use the internet beyond email. She recited a line from a poem to offer some insight into a relationship issue we were discussing. She only knew one line, but didn’t know the rest of the poem, or who…

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Anxiety–a story of two powerful mistakes

Why do we have anxiety? We experience anxiety when we want control over outcomes that are important to us. In this sense, anxiety itself is not a problem. A professor back in graduate school had a saying about anxiety: “without anxiety all rabbits would be dead on the railroad tracks” (if they didn’t jump like…

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Boundaries

I can safely say nearly all of my clients have issues that would be far less important to their daily feelings of well-being if they were able to establish more consistent and healthy boundaries with the people they are close to in their lives.  What do I mean by “healthy” boundaries?  Boundaries in which you…

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