23 January 2011

The saddest part is what goes unspoken

My saddest moments as a therapist often have nothing to do with what's being said.  Instead, they are about the heartbreak that hovers in the room and goes unspoken.

She yelled at me all morning about how lazy I was, and then took off for the weekend without calling once.  What I couldn't believe is that when she came home on Sunday night, she didn't even want to eat dinner with me.  Is that so much to ask?*

If this quote made you twitch, that's a good thing.

What is not being said here?  How much it hurts to be yelled at and demeaned.  The breach of trust that occurs when one person leaves and doesn't call.  How this should call into question the entire relationship, and how the issue should be how this person is being treated overall by an emotionally and verbally abusive partner.

Instead, it becomes about the missed pizza, or not receiving a birthday card from someone who hasn't said a respectful word in ten years, or how someone who yells at you everyday never text-messages back in a timely fashion.

This lack of self-respect, lack of self-love, is the saddest and most heart-breaking thing that I experience as a therapist.  It is what is not said, not acknowledged.   It is the looking to incriminate someone's behavior rather than weep at your own heartbreak.  It is trying to fit into someone's desire rather than draw boundaries around your own heart.

"Love yourself" is mantra we all know.  But what does it mean?  How do you put it into practice?

One day, one interaction, one relationship at a time.  Say no.  Say yes.  Take care of your self.

*All quotes in this post are completely fictionalized accounts of therapy.

20 January 2011

The King's Friend

I went to see the acclaimed The King's Speech last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is a great movie, a fine film, and a lovely period piece with exquisite usage of the music of Beethoven.  A fantastic way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.  But the best part--for me as a psychotherapist--was this: the heart of the movie is the healing power of the relationship between the king and his therapist.

I'm sure the movie will be seen by many other therapists who feel the same way.  Here comes a client looking for techniques and fixes when what they really need is love, honest friendship, and to tell their story.  The latter is the reason most of us go into our line of work; that is, to listen, and to try to help and heal with our hearts.

As a psychotherapist, I am told that "it has been proven" that those techniques and fixes are what helps, what cures, and what is right.  That I need to give my clients the homework, worksheets, and assessments that they are expecting and think will help.  That I need to continue the message of lack that they have been struggling with for their entire life.

Don't get me wrong, I give homework and I teach skills.  But these are integrated into an approach that seeks to empower the client to know themselves, and to be in control of themselves; an approach that seeks to teach clients to love themselves.

And it works.

What I love about this movie is that it shows the importance of respect for where the client is and is willing to go, and the responsibility on the part of the therapist to challenge this position.  Many movies have been made about psychotherapy.  It's funny that one about speech therapy really hits the nail on the head.

13 January 2011

Connection through Difference; Enchantment with the Possible

In this TEDtalk, Elizabeth Lesser discusses ideas for connecting with the "other," the person who is "different":

Connection to the other is a theme this week.  I've posted about it, worked on it in my own life and work, and President Obama is talking about it too.  How have we become so divided?  How can we work towards connection?

We need to let go in order to connect.  We need to be unafraid, secure, and ready for surprises, challenges, and the adventure of life.  This attitude is happiness.

The other we are connecting to is not just someone who is different.  The first other we need to embrace are the others in our own hearts; the others inside that we fear, dislike, or are ashamed of.

Living life with faith is about inspiration:  going towards the inspiring rather than away from the feared; looking for the choice that fills the heart with a sense of wonder and peace.  It's about facing those inside others, loving them, and then letting them go.  And then doing it all over again.  Because that's what makes the heart sing.  And nothing feels more lovely or true than that.

I don't know what's going to happen in this world.  There will surely be more love, more pain, more need, more want, more joy, and more despair.  What I do know is that we are revolving through the mysterious spiral of the universe one moment at a time.  And that today I am filled with wondering, and that feels wonderful.

10 January 2011

The Power of Vulnerability

I was sent a video by a colleague and it affected me so much that I have twittered, facebook'd, and emailed all about it.  I hope that you enjoy it, too.  I'd love to hear any comments or thoughts you have after watching it.

It is by Brene Brown, someone I had not heard of until today, but who I will certainly be following from now on.  You can find the lovely item below, and many other lovely things at her website.

From Brene Brown's Website
She has discovered some wonderful truths through her research, truths that I am always trying to find, not only for myself, but for the people I work with.  Enjoy.

08 January 2011

Time to Heal

It takes time to heal, time to grieve, time to move on and find new beginnings.  It is a process, not a fix; a transformation, not a switch.  When you are in great pain, this is such a difficult, difficult thing to accept.

The beauty of this is the realization that the best thing you can do for yourself when going through periods of pain and frustration is to allow yourself to feel.  This does not mean allowing yourself to wallow, ruminate, and wish away the day.  That is not feeling, that is thinking, worrying, and avoiding.

Take time to feel.

Lay on your bed, close your eyes, and allow your feelings to just be there.  Don't think about them, don't try to figure them out, just let them do their work.

Feeling is the work of the heart.  Let it teach you.

I was listening to a great show on NPR the other day, the Moth Hour.  There was a segment (I have tried to find the recording but can't) where the speaker described his relationship with his therapist in funny and moving terms.  His therapist was unorthodox, direct, and wise.  One thing he shared that I really love goes something like this:

"Sometimes you just have to grab a towel, sit in a chair, and let the feelings come."

Let them come, let them move through you, past you, so can move past them.

I'll share with you a secret: this basic action is much of what therapists try to teach their clients.  You just have to feel.

04 January 2011

What do you do with the mad that you feel?

The title of this post is a quote from a young boy who inspired a Mr. Rogers song.  I heard it recently as I watched this video, shared with me by my sister, of Mr. Rogers defending funding for PBS:

What a wonderful man.  I grew up watching Fred Rogers, and can remember thinking about being special, thinking that it was a "good feeling, just being alive."  Watching this, I appreciate even more as an adult his calm voice, his caring, and his sense of the time and attention children need to be feel understood and loved.

At the end of this clip, he speaks the words to the song I mentioned above, "What do you Do?"  It is a beautiful teaching about dealing with difficult emotions, and centers on the importance of feeling able to make choices, even when upset.
What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong...
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It's great to be able to stop
When you've planned a thing that's wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there's something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.
So much strife comes out of moments when it feels like there is only one truth, and no choice.  But there is always choice in how we react to how we feel; there is always a choice where action is concerned.

Sadly, many people are not empowered to make that choice, they are gripped by the emotion and the fear.  They do not experience the empowerment that comes with dealing with a painful emotion with strength, reason, and faith -- faith in oneself, and in the humanity of us all.

May 2011 be a year of strength, tolerance, and joy for all of us.   May we believe we are special, and know that we can stop, stop, stop, any time.  Mister Rogers would want it that way.

Listen to Mister Rogers sing the song.
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