Tag Archives: therapy

The Cleansing

31 Jul

Crash! It hit me and it felt amazing. It knocked me off my feet, I had to hold my breath and wait for a chance to come up for air. And then… I could not wait for another. Wave after wave, I was loving my time in the ocean. The weatherman predicted rain and the waves were proof it was coming. The water was rough and I enjoyed it immensely. It was pounding the stress out of me with every rising foam-filled crash. They knocked me down and pulled me back out towards the sea over and over again. It was a cleansing I could not get anywhere else.

In the brief moments when the waves died down, I did what my friend and I call “doing the Jesus.” I laid on my back, arms out to my sides and my eyes to the Heavens. I was floating and offering in sacrifice every worry, every fear, every last bit of stress. “Take it from me!” I’d float until I was pulled under by the next big wave that came to retrieve my sacrifices and carry them far, far away. It was a beautiful thing that left me exhausted and feeling free.

There is something so spiritual about the ocean and the way it is constantly taking from the shore and pulling out to sea the things we no longer need. It is one clean slate after another, erasing and erasing all that we need to let go. We can give our hardships away to the waves and rejoice in the warm sand knowing they are gone, at least for the while that we are there in the presence of the crashing waves. The smell of the air and the sounds of seagulls are simply bonus.


Self Renovation

28 Jul

I’ve been cleaning and painting a house every day for the last week. It’s my rental house. I have dusted, scrubbed, washed, swept, wiped down and picked at things with my finger nails that I probably shouldn’t have. I’ve taped, cut in, painted and repainted every nook and cranny. I’ve changed light bulbs, put in curtains and air fresheners in every room. The place went from trash to treasure in about 10 days time. To see the change has been nothing short of moving and somewhat emotional.

I was about 5 days in when I began to see the changes really taking place and my first thought was, why haven’t I done this in my primary home? What has kept me from spending money on new lighting, paint and vanilla fragrance in the home I live in every day? It didn’t take much time to convince myself that was what I should do. Another 5 days went by and then I did what I always do, I make meaning. I find a way to relate it to my existence as a human being and learn a lesson. I strongly believe that is what we are all here to do anyway.

If you’ve ever dabbled in any dream analysis and tried to figure out why the heck you keep dreaming you’re late for class, running around naked or your legs won’t work when you’re running from the bad guys, then you may know when we dream about a house, it often represents ourselves. When we explore different rooms in the house, we are often exploring different parts of our being – perhaps our roles as a parent, a sibling, a professional, a creative being and so on. Or perhaps it’s the cynical part, the depressed part, the hurting part, the people pleaser part and the broken parts.

Now back to my task of making meaning and allowing this rental house to represent me for the sake of learning. Before I did the cleaning, the house smelled. It was instinctual to turn away and walk the other direction. Is there anybody that perceives me that way? I’m not asking if I stink, and I’m pretty sure I don’t but I am asking if people are more inclined to approach me or turn away from me at first glance and at first encounter with my energy. Am I positive or negative? Do I attract or repel? And if I did a little more upkeep on my attitude, would I draw more positive people to me? I believe what I put out there comes back to me so it is on my to-do list to refresh my attitude.

The old flooring had stains. It had weird icky gooey stuff. It had years of memories, liquid and otherwise. I picked at some of these trying to clean them up. What kinds of stains am I carrying around? I know when people unknowingly pick at one of my old wounds the feelings come gushing out at a rate that is more than called for in the present situation. In other words, they see me “over reacting.” I’ve been triggered and they don’t know it. I think instead of letting these old hurts continue to embarrass me and cause me to look overly dramatic and then just scab over, I might just try some therapy, some meditation, some healing of the soul. Rumi says the wound is where the light enters so I’ll make sure I don’t make them disappear completely (aka denial) but I’ll take better care to clean them and prevent further scarring.

The most damage and dirt in the house was upstairs. It is also in the “upstairs” of me. It’s in my eyes when I look in the mirror and in my mouth when I say those ugly things about my hair and my body. It’s in my ears when I hear only the negative. It’s in my head, in my thoughts and in the old scripts I’ve repeated over the years. I need a lobotomy. Okay, not really, but obviously it’s time to clear the dust from my eyes and see the beauty in this woman that God created. I will shut this mouth and do what my mother said; if I can’t say something nice (about myself) well then I won’t say anything at all. I don’t know what to do about the way I hear things. I guess I’ll probably encourage those that love me to repeat themselves again and again until I can hear it for what it is. They say I am beautiful, that I am kind and strong and smart. That is worth hearing so I will listen. My brain that has the old scripts is really just that little girl version of me still crying about who knows what. I believe the adult version of me is going to just have to sit her down for a come to Jesus meeting and tell it like it is. I will tell her we’re cleaning house and it feels good.

How You Do Something Is How You Do Everything

22 Jul

I heard this phrase last year at the annual conference for the American Counseling Association. We had invited celebrity and well-known actress Ashley Judd to be the keynote speaker. While I understand she may have some radical political views, I will not be referencing anything of that sort. I only want to share with you a little bit about the powerful messages she so bravely shared with us as she picked through some of her most trying childhood memories and shared her story of recovery.

How you do something is how you do everything. I heard the words and they slowly began to melt over me as if the world were moving in slow motion. I am sure my mouth was wide open as patterns of my life and those I know began to move through my mind. It was as if I’d never heard anything more truthful in my life. Think about the words and how they might apply to you or people you know. When we talk about “doing” we are talking about behavior. Are you always neat and organized and on time and overly structured? Are you a bit messy, frazzled, and always running a bit behind? Would all of your closest friends use the same three words to describe you? Probably, because now I see how true it is, how you do something is how you do everything. Are you a half-asser? Have you ever seen the end of any project? Or do you finish everything you start and give a 110% without a second thought? This is where our labels come from. “Oh, she is such a hard worker!” Or on the flip side, “He’s the laziest guy I know.” Our behavior speaks for us and often represents our character and people begin judging and assuming and lumping us under one big label just to keep it simple. They decide if we’re honest, trustworthy, active, capable, silly, organized, mean, kind, and in general if we are good or bad.

If there were ever a companion phrase that goes along with this one, it would be, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” You guessed it. Because how they do something is how they do everything. I believe in exceptions on occasion, but I rarely chalk things up to random, especially people’s behavior. If you stick around long enough, you will see the patterns. What you thought was random behavior or a one-time fluke can then be filed under “red flag.” You’re next step would be to run in the other direction. Run fast.

I think you’ll find it easy to look around you for patterns of behavior in those closest to you. The harder part will be looking at your own patterns. If you are unable to see it for yourself right away, try to think of things you have heard over the years. What have people said about you? This may be hard because we tend to block out some of the more hurtful comments. If you only heard it once, let it go. If you continue to hear it, then perhaps there is some truth in it.

How you do something is how you do everything. By the time you’re grown, your behavior is fairly predictable and in line with your morals and values. With the exception of chemical imbalances and serious disorders, you are likely presenting yourself to the world in a consistent manner. So… what do people think of you? You don’t know? Find out. There is power in awareness. Become aware of how you are perceived by others. If you don’t like it, change it.

Do You Need Therapy?

27 Feb

I get it. Trust me, I get it. There has been a long time stigma attached to therapy and it is definitely taking its time in going away. People still use the word “shrink” and imagine they’d be made to lie down on the couch of a psychoanalyst for years to come. I imagine anything is possible and that may certainly be one of the scenarios that could play out if you were to seek therapy, but it isn’t likely.

While I like the word “therapist,” I most often refer to myself as a counselor for the simple fact that it sounds a little less intimidating. The root word “counsel” allows one to consider that there is guidance to be offered rather than being made to dig deep into one’s past. I appreciate counseling because it is far removed from pathology and the medical model. In fact, counseling is based in a wellness model. It is constructed on what is already going well for the client. It is a model filled with empowerment and never sees the client as the sum of their symptoms.

When people ask about the pros and cons of going to a counselor, I am always up front. I explain that it may initially be difficult to experience some painful and uncomfortable feelings that they may be struggling with but that ultimately, if they commit to the process they will come out clean on the other side. I’ve used that phrase “come out clean on the other side,” for a long time because I thought it was the best picture I could give of what they could expect.

I realized recently that while it nicely sets the tone for what a client can expect after entering counseling, it doesn’t answer the question of, “Do I need counseling?” When I wear my counselor hat, I rarely answer a question directly with a “Yes” or “No.” My training has taught me to give a question back to the client, for only they hold the answers. I figure if someone asks me if they need counseling and I look them in the eye and say, “I don’t know, do you?” that a lot of things might happen, none of which would make them feel good about entering counseling. Thanks to author and psychotherapist, Steven Levenkron, I know what I’ll say from now on. I’ll ask them if they need a bridge. While they try to process what may seem like a random question, I’ll help them along. I’ll tell them that if they have problems that they aren’t able to talk about, they can find a counselor and use their words to build a bridge. Their bad feelings can travel over that bridge, away from them and to the counselor. When clients don’t have the power to release their bad feelings, if they’ll just begin to talk and allow the feelings to cross the bridge, the counselor can hold them for the client, let them go, or even throw them away; something that the client was unable to do for themselves. The “bridge” is the therapeutic relationship between the client and the counselor. It is powerful beyond words and the greatest tool to facilitate change. I like the image of a bridge. It symbolizes transition, a journey, another side, and so much more.

If you ever dreaded therapy because you see yourself being analyzed, flat on your back in a therapist office one pill away from crazy, then I encourage you to replace that image with a simple bridge. Do you have some bad feelings that need to travel away from you? Do you need to use your words to let those feelings go? If so, find a counselor and begin building that bridge.

How Important is Emotion?

14 Sep

“It’s huge!”  That is what I’ve always said, for lack of a better explanation. I have always found it difficult to find the words to explain the important role of emotion in one’s life and furthermore how the role of emotions can be used effectively in therapy, in fact emotions are one of the greatest tools for healing.  I’ve been called overly emotional myself.  But what I know that some people don’t, is that my life is richer when I experience emotions directly and viscerally in the absence of my defense mechanisms.  In other words, in those moments where I feel safe to be me, without feelings of shame or embarrassment and I am not worried about being judged, I laugh louder, I cry freely and I feel transformed.

I am reading an amazing book right now called “The Transforming Power of Affect: A model for Accelerated Change” by Diana Fosha.  It’s not an easy read.  I’ve read most of the pages twice to make sure I understand.  One of the highlights of the book was finding the words to explain the role of emotion and it’s importance.  Here are the words I’ve been searching for…

“Emotional occasions…are extremely potent in precipitating mental rearrangements.  The sudden and explosive ways in which love, jealousy, guilt, fear, remorse, or anger can seize upon one are known to everybody.  Hope, happiness, security, resolve…can be equally explosive.  And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom leave things as they found them.” (James, 1902, p. 198)

That’s it.  That is what I’ve been trying to say.  One of the greatest contexts where this process of transformation can occur is in the romantic relationship.  Person(1988) in his work on romantic passion and the state of being in love discovered this:    

“Romantic love offers not just the excitement of the moment but the possibility for dramatic change in the self.  It is in fact an agent of change… Romantic love takes on meaning and provides a subjective sense of liberation only insofar as it creates a flexibility in personality that allows a breakthrough of internal psychological barriers and taboos… It creates a flux in personality, the possibility for change, the impetus to begin new phases of life and undertake new endeavors.  As such, it can be seen as a paradigm for any significant realignment of personality and values. (p.23)

Don’t it make you wanna fall in love?

Thanks for reading! 



5 Jul

According to Susan Anderson, “Every day there are people who feel as if life itself has left them on a doorstep or thrown them away. Abandonment is about loss of love itself, that crucial loss of connectedness. It often involves breakup, betrayal, aloneness-something people can experience all at once, or one after another over a period of months, or even years later as an aftershock. Abandonment means different things to different people.” Recognizing your abandonment issues does not simply mean you are weak and vulnerable to dysfunctional relationships or even a life of isolation. In fact, recognition of your abandonment wound is necessary to begin the recovery process. It is essential that you redirect your energy and begin taking responsibility for improving your life.

Anderson lays out the following 5 stages of abandonment and uses the acronym SWIRL – Shattering, Withdrawal, Internalizing, Rage, Lifting.

During the Shattering stage, there is a great sense of shock and real pain that can make life seem unbearable. Suicidal ideation is common during this stage. The despair felt during Shattering is great, but temporary.

Withdrawal entails a great craving for the love and connection you have lost As people, we are wired for human connection and the need to bond with others. Physical and emotional symptoms at the Withdrawal stage may present themselves as fatigue, weight loss and anxiety.

The third stage, known as Internalizing, can really take a toll on your self esteem. The anger you feel for your partner gets rerouted and you end up beating up on yourself instead. Any negative from the person/partner you lost can hit you below the belt and cause great damage. The Internalizing stage is filled with a good deal of regret.

Rage is the fifth stage of abandonment. While you have experienced anger in the prior stages, it was that of a victim. The rage you feel now allows you the energy to stand up and fight back. Now it is about your survival. During Rage, most people don’t want to turn the anger on the person they lost for fear of losing them even further. Instead, it is those others who are close to you who get the brunt of your rage. Your expectations that they will replace the love and connection you lost, will invariably cause them to fall short and you explode. This is a time to focus on the best kind of revenge – success for you.

The final stage of Lifting comes to be because the rage you felt in the last stage allowed you to direct your energy outward. Strength and wisdom gained from your painful experience are now present. It is in the Lifting stage that you let go.

It’s important to remember that these stages are circular as opposed to linear. It is likely you will SWIRL through them until the “tornado” begins to weaken and you emerged a changed person.

If you are interested in her work, check out her book entitled: The Journey from Abandonment to Healing.

All credit for this blog goes to Susan Anderson and her wisdom on Abandonment and SWIRL.