The Question

What questions do you get asked over and over again about your practice?

My model of therapy involves having two way conversations.  Like most conversations, there are discussions and questions.  Some of the questions are logistical—payment, appointments etc, others are more therapeutic. The question that comes up more often is actually not directed towards me.  It is a question asked rhetorically by my clients about their right to have their feelings.  These are a few samples:

“Why should I be depressed?  I have everything that anyone would want.”

“Why should I be upset about my bonus?  There are so many people who don’t have jobs? “

“I really shouldn’t be upset about my husband talking to that woman at the party, should I?”

This sample of questions shows that people doubt their self perceptions and right to feel.  Self doubts then lead to self loathing about not only feeling these feelings, but having them in the first place.  Their self perception is that they are weak, shallow, and ungrateful people.  This process of invalidation followed by self loathing becomes a downward spiral of lower self esteem.  What a crappy process!!!

How do we change this process?  Give myself permission. What does that mean? According to thefreedictionary.com, permission means – approval to do something.  When I give myself permission, I am granting myself the approval to have feelings, and feel my feelings.  That is powerful permission!!  Permission also comes with its own self-talk channel.  This “channel” can run in my head at any time and tell me “it’s ok to have these feelings”; “it’s ok to feel these feelings”.  This ongoing permissive self-talk gives me the power to own my feelings.  They are mine after all!!!  Once I start the process of permission, I can then challenge my self doubts and self perceptions and can empower myself to be a more feeling person.  If I can own my feelings without the self doubt, I can then work on changing other bad patterns and cycles.

Remember, change is possible!

 

 

 

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Hall of Shame

The Major League Baseball writers decided Wednesday to not accept Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens into its Hall of Fame.  They were not accepted into the hall due to the allegations that they used performance enhancing drugs(PEDS).  It was a huge statement by the writers to say that ballplayers who take PEDS in order to improve their performance are not Hall of Fame worthy.

This  Hall of Fame voting  got me to think more intently about this issue.  Would I take PEDS  to improve my performance– to  hear clients better, to become more perceptive,  to develop more insights and make changes occur faster?  People would get better faster, and would make more long lasting changes.  As a result, I could see more people, improve the quality of more client’s lives, and make more money.  There is no doubt that this would lead to appearances on talk shows, and calls for keynote addresses at conferences.  They would  hail me as that famous psychotherapist with that great new therapeutic technique in which people got  better, faster.

On the down side, every now and then I would act out in rage and yell at my clients for being stupid.  Most of them would know that this was just a therapeutic technique to get them better, and would ignore my behavior.  In addition, there would be a little buzz about how an above average therapist turned into a mega superstar in a short period of time.  There would be some allegations from a client who saw some pills on my desk—(he came in too early for his session). These would be explained  to the questioners as my vitamins that keep up my energy level.  I would explain to anyone who asked about  my new found success,  that it was a result of  working hard, and training regularly to become a better therapist.  When the state and federal boards would investigate allegations of Performance Enhancement, I would simply deny ever using PEDS.  When reporters and other investigators would come around asking questions of my use, I would deny over and over and over again that I had ever used PEDS, period.   Due to the embarrassment, the anguish, the sense of failure, the humiliation, my fading reputation,and the public’s loss of faith in therapy, I I would never own up to using PEDS. I would hold that secret forever.

Although Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens did not get into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but they can be admitted to a far better place.  They are important entrants  into  the Hall of the Shame. This is a place where Bonds, Sosa and Clemens, can feel the remorse, guilt, shame, embarrassment and self loathing about their behavior. It’s a place where smug, arrogant and self-centered people hang out because they’re better, smarter, more manipulative, and more creative than the rest of the world.    In fact, The Hall   is a place where many of my clients had taken up residence until they realized that they could get out.  They recognized that by admitting what had happened, it gave them the freedom to begin to make change.  They were no longer bound by the code of secrecy.  They could make life style changes, become honest, and have integrity. They could change many of their behaviors and work on having a path of doing good and right deeds. They left their Hall of Shame plaque behind and moved onto living a healthier life.  The Hall of Shame is not a place that many people want entrance to, however it’s a place where addictions, infidelity, mental illness,  physical and sexual abuse take you to.  The best part, is that unlike the Hotel California, you can check out and leave it all behind.

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Stormy Monday

(The original version of this blog was  written  after Superstorm Sandy.  It was a narrative of the events of the storm and the many feelings that were going on. The original was “written’  in my head at 5AM one day as I was hoping and praying to go back to sleep. Making a decision to not get up and write this at 5am in  a house void of power and heat would have  made a long day, longer. For people in new york, Hoboken, South Jersey and theJersey Shore, Sandy has been nothing but longer days. Although it makes me feel guilty for writing about my lost power and lost heat,  these are my reflections and recollections of the “lost week”)

 As everyone knows the date of October 29, 2012 will always be with us as the date that Superstorm Sandy (SSS)decimated much o fNJ, created havoc, chaos and unforeseen damage.  Sss for people in northern NJ was a long drawn out process creating anticipation and anxiety.  The beginnings of the stages of grief started that Monday,–there was denial—“they don’t know what they’re talking about, they’re always wrong”. As the storm progressed there was bargaining  “ok the people in NY and in the shore, they’re getting it bad, maybe we’ll just have some rain and a little wind.” There was  more denial, more bargaining and then darkness.

The darkness was the onset of many of the feelings we began to feel.  Here are some of  them;

1)anxiety, boredom, isolation

The darkness brought anticipatory anxiety– When will the power come back?  How long will this last? Is there some place to go?  The anxiety gave us ultimate powerlessness. We lacked control.   Most  people are used to structure, control, and predictability in their lives. When the rug gets pulled on these, you get lots of  anxiety. This anxiety for many had physiological symptoms which made the anxiety worse.  The worsening anxiety led to a decrease in functioning which made for a very bad time.   In addition to anxiety, there was an increase in isolation.  In the state of emergency that we were in, staying in was the only safe option.  However, staying home in cold and dark homes increased the isolation, anxiety, and boredom. Once the state of emergency lifted, the gas crisis hit.  The anxiety and isolation were multiplied because people were afraid to go far, fearful of having to be either without gas, or waiting on monster gas lines. So the alternative was to stay home.   Staying in the dark and cold also increased our boredom.  The boredom increased once 5pm happened since it was darker.  The draining of energy due to anxiety, isolation and boredom  became a new stressor due to the monotony of life.

2) anger, depression

As the days went on,  people’s anger and frustration increased.  JCP&L  became an easy target. they were the bad guys, they messed up, how could they have dropped the ball again-after Hurricane Irene just one year earlier?  Some of us vented this anger at JCP&L customer service reps(sorry) who were overmatched and underinformed.

People began to run out of gas for their generators and cars and  searched for gas.  People lined up for hours, at times based on only a rumor that a particular station would open.  Other people started their search in the early morning trying to avoid the lines.  Others sojourned to Pennsylvania where there was less impact by sss. Gas  lines brought out the worst in people.  There were fist fights, arguments, and more expressions of people’s total lack of control and ultimate panic.

Our lack of  electrical power,  left our electronic devices as a nice pieces of plastic with little value beyond that.  Charging stations opened in all communities and although this should have increased hope, and decreased isolation, it  actually increased frustration, anger and depression.

In addition, people spent a good amount of time at home  avoiding gas lines, and seemingly increasing their safety and security.  However, As the week went on,  family members spent way  too much time together.  This caused frustration and tension and many conflicts within couples and families.

As bad as the anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, and isolation were, oddly, there were also positive things that happened as a result of the storm.

3) increased family connections

Family members talked and talked and talked.  There were no technological distractions.  People could share stories, events, and history of things  that were rarely talked about.  Kids played board(bored) games and cards.  Some turned the experience into a camping trip using fireplaces and having that “roughing it” experience of camping.

4) people were nicer

As much as some people were short tempered, there was also a sense of community—we were all in this together. Everyone was compassionate about other people’s struggles.  We wanted to listen to their stories about lack of power, heat, and water.     In one local bagel place, it sounded like group therapy, with everyone sharing their particular issue.  In addition, I  heard many stories of neighbors helping neighbors with food, gas, tree cutting, running electrical extensions to generators.  In  the nicest and weirdest story, absolute strangers joining the cause to help others

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CBdEb7FXiw

5) people utilized skills that they typically  wouldn’t

Many people used all of their “handy man skills”, especially when typically they don’t use them.    Trees got cut, people rigged up ways to continue to survive. For me, I did the unthinkable, I waited on lines.   I have a well know “line allergy”.  I do not stand on checkout lines.  In fact,  I hardly go to stores.  However in sss, I gratefully sat on a gas line, stood on line at dunkin donuts, waited for a table at a restaurant. I think this metamorphosis of my personality was in part due to a lack of things to do. Since I was unable to work due to the lack of power, these tasks became my new work.  My goal for the day—get gas-check.  Need warm beverages and food-check.  Necessity and survival allow people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

The stages of grief—(denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) were all the stages we went through with sss.  It was strange when acceptance occurred—all the energy used to fight the difficult feelings went away.  It just was a situation that would eventually have an end,  And it did.  One month later we are all changed in some way by this storm.  As 2012 comes to an end for us northern NJ people, we will think about our pain and hopefully be grateful that it’s over.  In the other local areas, it will be a long time until their nightmare ends.

I usually associate many memories with music. Many of these songs are storm related, so it will take a while before people hear the following songs in quite the same way:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgFHM8HMbWQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-WMbP1RcC4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI2COawqMJQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTBv4kAdk_w

 

This one, however, captures my exact feelings and is the one I’ll hold onto for a long time:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gDhR1R3S0s

Hope all of you have recovered from the storm.  Please share your storm experiences.

 

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Make The Best of What’s Around

Here is the latest episode of Tales From the Office

 

Make the Best of What’s Around

Today’s  show  is a combination of 2 of my loves, music and sports.  The first “make the best of what’s around” tells us about some very courageous folks who seem to know how to get by and get ahead in spite of major obstacles.  The second tale “the daily racing form” is sage advice if you’re looking to get to winner’s circle in the most important race you’ll ever run.

 

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Chalk Talk

Here is a rehab standard, and oldie but goodie done by the late Father Joseph Martin.  In this 1 hour plus video, he explains alcoholism, the consequences and effects of drinking,and recovery.  The presentation in done is his humorous and straightforward way.

 

Father Martin’s “Chalk Talk on Alcoholism” from Tod Maffin on Vimeo.

For more information the rehab in his name, Father Martin’s Ashley click here

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