“I’m not a good meditator, I can’t stop my thoughts”
“I’m not a good breather”
I can’t count the times I have heard these sentiments expressed, but every time I hear them, they break my heart a little bit. Truth be told, I am guilty of having said the second statement myself. I said it during my first year of graduate school, in my mid-twenties, during a time that I was encountering multiple new worlds: yoga, meditation, fully embodied presence and clear and effective feelings-focused communication which I had never before encountered. I was overwhelmed and awed by this paradigm shift and in my new understanding of what was possible.
I was also extremely self-critical. I had come to associate the relentlessly analytical judge in my mind who let me know when I had said or done the wrong thing with my true self. (I later realized this judge was an impostor!)
I know now that I am a natural-born breather. I know that my breath will sometimes be fast and labored, particularly during times of heightened stress. I also know my breath can be slow and steady. It can calm and soothe me when I harness its power to affect my parasympathetic nervous system. I also know that my breath can be used as a tool to anchor me in the present moment, so that I can be fully aware and come back to the now when my mind begins to wander or I get lost in my own thoughts.
As a part of my work as a licensed professional counselor, I often introduce clients to meditation and breathing exercises, and I often hear these “I’m bad at it” concerns expressed. Dispelling the myths about what mediation is and is not is often the first step in that process. Above is a short video by Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg that breaks down some of those myths and includes a few minutes of guided meditation so that you can learn and practice on your own. Below is another, longer guided meditation by meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg.
You may be familiar with one or more of the following issues arising in your intimate relationships:
Inability to be present, or unawareness of what that really means
Lack of understanding around the concept of empathy, and how to do it
Trouble with just listening to your partner, feeling yourself frequently taking the role of ‘problem solver’ or ‘fixer’
Your partner has expressed feeling unheard by you, like you aren’t understanding them or listening when they want to share and process their feelings
In my private psychotherapy practice I provide therapy for men and have the great honor and privilege of working with men who enlist my support in cultivating their emotional intelligence. Some of these men have experienced a lack of intimate relationships, while others have not been able to show up in their long term relationships in a way that sustains the growth of their unions.
I recently watched and was deeply inspired by the documentary film The Mask You Live In, about the role that American culture plays in shaping the identities of our boys and men, and how we teach our boys from a young age that having and expressing emotions is the objectionable territory of girls and women only. The resulting tragedy of this insidious message is that boys and men don’t learn to connect with the full range of their human experience, and therefore don’t connect with others either.
Sometimes boys are raised in fatherless families of origin, or have an inaccessible father who is out-of-touch with his own emotions, is abusive, or is otherwise not a good example for kind and open communication. This lack of role modeling, paired with the cultural stigma of boys expressing emotions (and the berating that often follows) can create the conditions whereby men do not develop their emotional selves and later find that they are not skilled in creating intimacy with loved ones through sharing the feelings closest to their hearts or empathizing with their partner’s experiences.
Together, we can look at the obstacles that might be preventing you from creating and building the types of bonds you would like to have. Additionally, we can explore your abilities in the following areas of effective communication and work on strengthening your skills so that you can move forward with confidence in your ability to sustain positive and loving connections:
Identifying and Sharing Your Own Feelings, Body Sensations, Emotions
Please contact me if you would like to learn more about effective communication and build your skill-set.
“There are at least two kinds of therapists. One kind develops a great deal of expertise in understanding and has explanations for everything. Another kind of therapist seems more shamanistic, follows the mysterious, and relies more upon imagination. All of us have both capacities within us: one which understands and one which follows the process…” – Amy and Arny Mindell
One of my favorite ways to work with clients when ‘following the mystery’ is called guided imagery, or psychosynthesis.
Psychosynthesis utilizes meditative techniques to focus on increasing awareness and understanding of bodily sensations, breath, feelings and thoughts, or to evoke and engage images from the unconscious. Imagery has been called ‘the language of the soul’ and can be used to facilitate healing, for relaxation purposes, in order to gain insight, as well as for mental preparation. Guided imagery exercises can also be used to integrate sub-personalities, to cultivate self acceptance, develop positive characterological qualities, set goals, or access the inner wisdom of one’s highest Self.
Psychosynthesis is something that I have personal experience with, and have found it to be transformative in terms of removing obstacles, neutralizing inner conflicts, and in my own personal growth.
The purpose of using imagery or visualization in psychotherapy is to gain insight into unconscious or split-off parts of the personality. Using this creative function can provide what Carl Jung called a ‘dynamic equilibrium’ and unite the unconscious and conscious into a more holistic, balanced state.
Psychosynthesis “aims to evoke wholeness and the dawn of a new and wider frame of reference in the human psyche.” – Piero Ferrucci
Roberto Assagioli, and Italian psychiatrist and contemporary of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, created Psychosynthesis as a psychotherapeutic technique which supports the ideal of self-actualization by integrating disparate components of the psyche.
“Assagioli noticed several years ago that a great deal of psychological pain, imbalance, and meaninglessness are felt when our diverse inner elements exist unconnected side by side or clash with one another. But he also observed that when they merge in successively greater wholes, we experience a release of energy, a sense of well-being, and a greater depth of meaning in our lives.” – Piero Ferrucci
There are no long-term, lasting benefits from taking A.D.H.D. medications… but mindfulness seems to be training the same areas of the brain that have reduced activity in A.D.H.D. That’s why mindfulness might be so important… it seems to get at the causes.
When I got married two years ago to my (now) husband, a father of two boys, I was hopelessly romantic and admittedly naive about what becoming a step-mother would entail. As a child of divorced parents I have run the gamut of good, bad, and ugly in the world of blended families, but even that was not sufficient to prepare me for my own journey into step-motherhood!
While the past couple of years have had their ups and downs, I feel that I have now traversed at least most of the major transitions that every blended family goes through. Having done so, I can easily say that I have ‘made it’ thanks to the supporters in my life who have listened, empathized, offered feedback, and have just generally ‘been there.’
If you are a new step-parent, or considering marrying (or committing to) someone with children from a previous relationship and find yourself dealing with the challenges of navigating all of those new relationships, I strongly encourage you to reach out for support!
I offer one-on-one counseling for step-mothers and step-fathers who are transitioning into new roles or are dealing with difficult dynamics in their relationships.
Anxiety is a normal human response to stress. Everyone, at some point in their lives, experiences anxiety. The degree to which our anxiety impacts our relationships to ourselves, to the people in our lives and the world around us varies depending on a number of factors.
From a feeling of butterflies in the belly that transforms into an excited, energized feeling of electricity throughout the body, to an outright panic attack that seems to take over our ability to regulate our own physical body, and may take days to recover from, anxiety encompasses a broad spectrum.
Some of the most common causes of anxiety which I frequently work on with clients include:
Meeting new people
Difficult relationships with friends or family
Job interviews and work related stress
Changing bad habits
Traumatic life events
Some of the negative thinking that often accompanies anxiety:
I am such a weirdo/fool/idiot
There must be something wrong with me
Everyone can see all of my flaws
I am not normal
Things are never going to change, I am always going to be like this
While in graduate school, one of my favorite teachers, Sue Ellen Wise, shared a German expression with me that reframed the way I looked at anxiety. Loosely translated, it is “anxiety is excitement that hasn’t taken a breath.”When we can acknowledge our feelings of anxiety in a non-judging way, and remember to breathe, our experience of tightening and contraction gets a little more space and we are freer to respond to our environment with more ease and spontaneity.
In my private psychotherapy practice, I provide anxiety therapy and work with clients who struggle with feeling anxious. Using a holistic approach that includes mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, breath-work and other modalities, we work together to discover the true cause of your anxiety and collaborate to increase feelings of self-kindness and acceptance, disarming the fear-based thinking that creates anxious feelings.
Contact me today to schedule an appointment to begin to work with your anxiety in a productive way.