Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Facing us and Daily Strength: Two Wonderful Resources for Those Struggling With Mood Disorders

 I would like to write about two wonderful resources for those struggling with depression, anxiety, and more.

Facing Us is an online community and resource center for those suffering from mood disorders.  It offers the following:

"■Screening Center: Fill out a confidential questionnaire to see if you might be experiencing signs of depression, mania or anxiety.

■Learn about Depression: Learn about the illness, its signs and symptoms, treatment options and the prevalence of depression that occurs with other medical illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, etc.

■Learn about Bipolar Disorder: Learn about the illness, its signs and symptoms, treatment options and the prevalence of bipolar disorder that occurs with other medical illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, etc.

■Learn about Anxiety: Learn about the illnesses, the signs and symptoms, treatment options and the prevalence of anxiety that occurs with other medical illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.

■Educate Yourself: Browse through more than 40 different DBSA publications about mood disorders, treatment options or challenges and information on how others can help.

■Find a Support Group: You are not alone! Find a support group near you using our convenient search tool. DBSA chapters run more than 1,000 peer-led support groups across the United States.

■Watch & Listen: At DBSA's online Recovery Education Center, take a class, watch videos and listen/subscribe to podcasts.

■Sleep Better: Good sleep habits have a significant impact on maintaining wellness. Get tips and information on how to improve your sleep. You can even request a "sleep kit."
It also offers an online journal, wellness tracker, creativity center and more.
Daily Strength "is the largest, most comprehensive health network of people sharing their advice, treatment experiences, and support.

•Access 500+ support groups for health issues and life challenges

•Set realistic goals and get advice from people just like you

•Research the latest drugs, treatments and alternative therapies"

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Personal Lives of Therapists

Being a therapist is highly rewarding, extremely challenging and often exhausting work. How does this work effect the personal lives of therapists? Psyche Visual offers a free online presentation this month by Doctor Brendan McPhillips entitled, “What Happens to the Therapist in Therapy?” McPhillips distributed surveys and conducted interviews with therapists in order to answer this question.

One respondent to McPhillips survey described his psychotherapy career as akin to “a life spent under the sea, so the fragile life giving sunshine and upper earth realities take on a new value and a new beauty” You can listen to this month’s free presentation here

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Living in Gratitude by Caroline Myss

The above is a brief video on living in gratitude. Myss urges us to make "the appreciation of life" our spiritual practice. Not an easy task by any means, but an essential one if we are committed to living our lives fully and with grace. Adabella Radici wrote, "As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world."

It requires no effort to acknowledge how deeply troubled this world is, how much pain and suffering is present each and every second of each and every day. And yet, there is so very much beauty here - so much love, and compassion, and wisdom... When I open my grateful heart, I both bless and am blessed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

online video Marsha Linehan on Mindfulness and DBT

Youtube offers a presentation delivered by Marsha Linehan at the Awakening To Mindfulness conference on mindfulness and DBT skills. You can watch the remainder of the lecture by following the associated links following the first segment of the lecture.

There is also a wonderful online resource for developing DBT skills here

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Problems and Possibilities

In The Five Stages of the Soul, author and executive director of the Brookdale Center on Aging at Hunter College, Harry Moody, describes an exercise he periodically asks his students to complete. First, he requests that students compile a list of the significant problems that currently confront them. Next, students are asked to number the problems in order of severity, and then to read each problem while asking themselves the following questions as they move through the list:

"Is this problem really as dire as I imagine it to be? What are its potential good points? What is the worse that can happen to me? What is the best?

How can I use this problem, these feelings of dejection or loss or futility, to understand myself better? What are these feelings really telling me? Suppose I were to think of this problem as a messenger standing at my front door with a letter. What does the letter tell me about my life, my needs, my possible course of action?

Think back to previous similar problems. Now that the pain and suffering associated with them is past, would you avoid the suffering that they brought if you knew you would be deprived of the insights such experiences provided? If so, why? Or why not?

What hidden messages are there in this for me to learn from? How can I take the suffering that life has handed me and use it as a tool for spiritual growth?..."

These are extremely helpful questions to ask when one is attempting to gain perspective, harvest experience, and formulate a course of action.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Psychotherapy , Happiness and Money

According to a study conducted at the University of Warwick and published in “Health Economics, Policy and Law,” psychotherapy may be 32 times more effective at fostering happiness and well being than either getting a raise or winning the lottery.

Study author, Chris Boyd wrote, “Often the importance of money for improving our well-being and bringing greater happiness is vastly over-valued in our societies…The benefits of having good mental health, on the other hand, are often not fully appreciated and people do not realize the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non-directive counseling, can have on improving our well-being."

I’m reminded here of psychologist and author, David Myers observation that “We excel at making a living but often fail at making a life. We celebrate our prosperity but yearn for purpose. We cherish our freedoms but long for connection. In an age of plenty, we feel spiritual hunger.”

Study after study concludes that material wealth is not correlated with emotional, physical or spiritual health, and retail therapy offers far less in terms of satisfaction and well-being than psychotherapy. Even a poll conducted by the Roper organization, commissioned by Jean Chatzky, financial editor of the Today show and columnist for Money magazine in 2003, concluded that personal happiness is not connected to how much money you have to spend. If you want to be happy, your best bet is to invest in your relationships and the health of your mind, body, and spirit rather than in gold, stocks, bonds, or your bank account.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The Depression and Bipolar Support alliance is a wonderful resource for those struggling with depression or bipolar disorder and for those who care about them. It offers information, support groups, a newsletter, a wellness tracker, advocacy services, podcasts and so much more. The mission of DBSA is "to provide hope, help, and support to improve the lives of people living with depression or bipolar disorder. DBSA pursues and accomplishes this mission through peer-based, recovery-oriented, empowering services and resources when people want them, where they want them, and how they want them."
There are also local DBSA offices and support groups. Information pertaining to the Maine state organization follows:

State Organization
DBSA Maine
Contact 1: Jeffrey Irving
Phone: (207) 650-3248
Email: jcirving@maine.rr.com

Friday, November 27, 2009

Continuing to Practice Gratitude

Matthew Fox wrote, "…gratitude has been at the heart of my spirituality. It has to do with awe… the awe of just being here.” This seems important to remember on Black Friday. While so much of the world rushes all around me, I am tucked in at home, safe and warm. I'm focused on what I have, what I love, what is right before me. And I truly am awed....

Friday, November 20, 2009

On Gratitude

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m reminded once again of the benefits to each of us of integrating a gratitude practice into our lives. Allowing ourselves to fully experience a sense of gratitude on a daily basis has proven to be highly beneficial to our minds, bodies, and souls (for more details about how this is so you might want to read, “Giving Thanks: The Effects of Joy and Gratitude on the Human Body” .)

Episcopal priest and author, Matthew Fox declares that gratitude is at the heart of his spirituality. Roman Catholic theologian, David Steindl-Rast, advices that gratitude is the source of our happiness, and Greek Philosopher, Epictetus, maintains that gratitude is a characteristic of wisdom. My own experience supports the assertions of these grateful sages.

When I practice gratitude on a daily basis I not only feel better, I believe that I become a better person. I’m more generous, appreciative, peaceful, and more easily open to wonder and awe. When my practice slips away, it’s not long before I notice the difference. I’m much more likely to be vulnerable to envy, discontentment, and anxiety. I worry more and sleep less; hoard more and give less; work more and celebrate less.

Melodie Beattie observed, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” My life is fuller when I practice gratitude, it makes more sense, and it offers so many more gifts as my heart opens wider to them.

Gratitude Resources:


Selfless Gratitude

Spirituality & Practice: Gratitude

Lets Create more Grateful Organizations

Selfless Gratitude

Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness

Friday, November 13, 2009


Not too long ago I read, “Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind” and wanted to share the following points made by the various authors of this very thought provoking text.

  • Ecotherapy is a psychotherapy modality that recognizes the deep connection between humans and the rest of the natural world.

  • A significant problem today is an ‘inner deadening’ – a defense against the stressors of living in an industrialized society overrun by advertising, toxic chemicals, unethical business practices, consumerism, unhealthy food, overwork, propaganda, and perpetual war.

  • Psychotherapists should be addressing the cultural issues that create so much pain and suffering today. Instead, most mainstream therapy ignores these issues.

  • During this time of environmental crisis, it is irresponsible for so many mental health clinicians to fail to connect epidemic rates of depression and anxiety with the suicidal destruction of our home- the earth.

  • Many clients fail to recognize that their grief and fear may be connected to “the death of so many living beings and the ongoing distress of Earth, air, and ocean life all around us. Because we’re not being informed about links between mental health symptoms caused by the way we live and the accelerating inner and outer devastation, we remain mystified about why we feel so much pain.”

  • Most people living in our culture have been treated like objects for all of their lives. “This is the source of the wound to the soul underlying most of human misery that therapists encounter. Because people have come to experience themselves as objects, they in turn objectify other people and commodify the world. They feel alienated , isolated, and empty, believing their lives hold no meaning.”

  • In the absence of soul and connection, we are confronted with a profound emptiness and loneliness. This emptiness leads to cultural distress that in turn manifests through social and economic inequities, violence, dysfunction in individuals, families, organizations, and entire communities, as well as a host of societal and psychological disorders.

  • Our connection to the very source of life has been severed, consequently we are possessed by an unrelenting hunger that we attempt to satisfy by consuming more and more goods, and in the process we continue to destroy our environment.

  • Ecopsychology attempts to respond to the sources of our cultural illness and to repair the lost connection “with the more-than human world. Its intention is to re-animate the world, to restore its soul.”

  • Ecotherapy is soul work and involves an awakening to beauty.

  • The unrelenting pursuit of money is one of the most pervasive and accepted forms of psychopathology (craziness) in our culture.

  • Bill McKibben points out that the consequences of the ethos of looking out for number one that permeates our culture is apparent on so many fronts. For instance, the United States used to be the healthiest nation in the world, now its rank is twenty-seventh.

  • Community is the key to both physical survival and human satisfaction. In fact, if you don’t currently belong to any group or club of some kind, by joining one, you reduce the risk that you will die within the next year by half. We truly do serve as healers for one another.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The World Abounds with Healers

We are surrounded by healers. They're everywhere.

All we need to do is to open our hearts....

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Search for Happiness: Epicurus Then and Now

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who thought and spoke a great deal about happiness, contentment, and living well. Among the numerous nuggets of wisdom he offered were:

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

“It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.”

“Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”

Today, with so much talk about hard times, corporate greed, and the search for the good life, much of his message seems relevant to me today.

Following is a very well produced video entitled, "Epicurus on Happiness. It offers some valuable food for thought. Parts two and three of the three part series are available at y0utube.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creativity and Honoring our Own Gifts

Julia Cameron describes the process of engaging in art as tapping into our 'vein of gold' – the origin of our creative impulses as well as our connection to the divine. Each of us, according to Cameron, possesses this precious conduit which can be found at the very heart of our lives. However, if our hearts have been wounded, then they must be healed in order for our vein of gold to flow freely. In her book, “The Vein of Gold” Cameron describes this process of healing as a pilgrimage home to ourselves where, “we will be taking the dross of our lives -- the disappointments, wounds, and burdens -- and we will make them into gold through the power of creativity. All of our lives are already golden -- in potential -- if we are willing to do the necessary work of transformation.”

I was speaking with a group of women recently about the importance of creativity and tapping into our unique veins of gold when one woman shared, “I wish I were, but I’m just not creative.” I immediately responded, “when I came into this room today, all I saw at first were strangers. I only knew one person here. Now, in spite of the fact that I’ve learned to hide it well, I’m very shy and so it was uncomfortable for me at first. And then I looked over at you, another unfamiliar face and you immediately gave me such a welcoming and beautiful smile that I relaxed right away. Right at the moment you smiled at me you created a safe place for me.”

I didn’t just say those words to her to make her feel better. I meant them from the bottom of my heart. She has a very special gift that not everyone possesses, and she created something wonderful today, and not just for me. I watched her repeatedly project this warm and healing energy into our group. There are so many ways to be creative and I am tremendously grateful for gifts such as hers. I honor her gift and encourage her to claim it. I encourage you to honor and claim your own creative gifts as well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Art, Healing, and Elizabeth Layton

In "Creativity and Madness: Psychological Studies of Art and Artists," counselor and art therapist, Vivian Rogers wrote the following about artist, Elizabeth Layton:

“The artist, Elizabeth Layton, defied traditional rites of passage in old age. Her point of departure was a 30- year crisis of manic depression and the cruelest blow of all – the death of a child. Yet ahead was an astonishing journey of creativity and personality growth…

…The death of a son precipitated a psychological crisis when she was 67 and was the turning point in Layton’s late life development…

…It had been a rocky road, with a lingering sadness that began in childhood, a failed first marriage, the need to support five young children, and life in a small Midwestern town where, as county newspaper editor, her liberated views often put her at odds with her readers. Thirteen electroshock treatments, lithium and psychotherapy failed to bring any lasting relief. A successful second marriage and the support of loving friends and family also proved inadequate to buffer the pain.”

While grieving for her son, Layton followed her sister’s advice and enrolled in a drawing class at Ottawa University. While taking the course Layton was introduced to blind contour drawing, a technique designed to assist the artist in tapping into the right side of the brain so that he or she experiences what is drawn rather than simply drawing what is seen. “From the inward search, carried on through drawings so stark she could hardly look at them, Layton’s depression lifted, and healing came within the year and her bi-polar symptoms never returned.”

From the time Layton took her first class in her sixties, she completed over a 1,000 drawings, many of which have been displayed in prestigious galleries and museums. Rogers wrote, “At first convinced that it was the contour drawing technique alone that cured her, Layton was later to conclude that it was both the act of blind contour drawing and the finding of meaning in her drawings that made her well. She thought that those who do contour drawing experience some sort of catharsis, some relief from the pain of their emotions as, after the images mysteriously take shape on the page, the artist reflect on the meanings of what they have drawn. …Layton’s written commentary, which often accompanied her drawings, was another way she explored and shared meaning. …Layton said the commentary also provided closure.”

In "The Art Therapy Source Book", Cathy Malchiodi observes, “Art therapy is a powerful means of making painful and frightening events concrete and dissociating them from ourselves. …one of the most impressive aspects of the arts process is its potential to achieve or restore psychological equilibrium. Art therapy emerged from the idea that art can be used not only to alleviate or contain feelings of trauma, fear, or anxiety but also to repair, restore, and heal.” Therapist and author, Natalie Rogers writes, “Part of the psychotherapeutic process is to awaken the creative life-force energy. Thus creativity and therapy overlap.”

It’s not my intention to suggest for a moment that art is a magical cure for mental illnesses and despair. I wish it were that simple. However, I certainly find Layton’s story to be inspirational and one that supports my belief in the tremendous potential contained within art and other creative acts to foster meaning and facilitate healing.

A free online lesson in Blind Contour Drawing

Drawing Against Depression

Grandma Layton: Art Heals

Progress: Special Edition on the Treatment of Trauma and Creative Arts Therapy

How Creativity Heals

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life, Creativity, and Everything is Holy Now

Everything is Holy Now...

"There is no greater joy than the feeling of oneself creator. The triumph of life is expressed by creation.”
Henri Bergson

Theologian and author Matthew Fox describes lifestyle as an art form and urges us to create life styles of “spiritual substance.” Fox also observes in his book Creativity that:

“Creativity, when all is said and done, may be the best thing our species has going for it. It is also the most dangerous… When we consider creativity, we are considering the most elemental and innermost and deeply spiritual aspects of our beings. The great thirteenth century mystic Meister Eckhart asks: ‘what is it that remains?’ And his answer is, ‘That which is inborn in me remains. That which we give birth to from our depths is that which lives on after us. That which is inborn in us constitutes our most intimate moments – intimate with self, intimate with God the Creative Spirit, and intimate with others. To speak of creativity is to speak of profound intimacy. It is also to speak of our connecting to the Divine in us and of our bringing the Divine back to the community.”

When I reflect upon the life styles that I’ve unconsciously adopted in my past, I’m struck by the opportunities for joy, growth, peace, beauty and so many other sacred gifts that I have squandered. Michael Brownfield defined life as, “that which creates.” Thus, according to Brownfield, if you’re alive, then you’re most definitely a creator. From my perspective, it makes enormous sense that we each take responsibility for that which we’re creating.

And so, I’ve decided to see myself as an artist now, one who’s in charge of creating as much beauty and meaning as possible on the canvass that’s before me. I want to be sure to add learning, beauty, compassion, love, sunshine, fresh air, and other gifts to the holy canvass of each and every day. We were created, and now, we are creators. What will you choose to compose from the vast array of materials before you? How will you manifest the Divine that dwells within you?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cycle of Renewal

Cycle of Renewal

"as a tree releases
leaves to the earth
to decay and enrich the soil

may I release
what no longer serves
to decay and enrich my self"

-rebecca at The Difference a Year Makes

I found the above at a wonderful blog and resource for both deepening our spirituality and creativity entitled, Abby of the Arts.

As October unfolds, what is it that you are in the process of releasing?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Julia Cameron, “The Artists Way” Creativity & Spirituality

As a therapist who frequently works with writers and other artists, I’m perpetually it seems engaged in the study of creativity. Over the years, I have become absolutely convinced that engaging in creative acts awakens our intuition, cultivates self- awareness, deepens our spiritual lives, and facilitates healing. (I’ll be writing much more about this in future blog posts.)

Best selling author, Julia Cameron has written a great deal about the connection between creativity and spirituality. In fact, she asserts that the two are interchangeable. In The Artists way Cameron writes, “The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity. Those who speak in spiritual terms routinely refer to God as the creator but seldom see creator as the literal term for artist. I am suggesting you take the term creator quite literally. You are seeking to forge a creative alliance, artist-to-artist with the Great Creator. Accepting this concept can greatly enhance your creative possibilities.”

Cameron also offers in “The Artists Way” the following ten spiritual principles as the foundation for which both creative discovery and recovery can be achieved. She suggests that the following principles are read through once a day.

“1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.

2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life -- including ourselves.

3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator's creativity within us and our lives.

4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.

5. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.

8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.

9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

Does Wendell Potter Both Mirror the Worst, and Model the Best in Us?

“That which we witness, we are forever changed by, and once witnessed we can never go back.”
Angeles Arrien

Wendell Potter is a former CIGNA executive turned whistle-blower, and current fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy. He had a successful career with Cigna as director of corporate communications, liked his co-workers very much, and was well compensated financially in addition to enjoying numerous perks. So why did he leave and then become adversary to an industry that had treated him so well?

In July of 2007, shortly after Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko” was released (a movie by the way that he worked very hard to discredit, only to later admit that it had been “an honest film”) Potter paid a visit to his parents in Tennessee. While there, he read about a health clinic that was being held in nearby Wise county Virginia by the Remote Area Medical Clinic Volunteer Core and decided to check it out. What he witnessed there shook him to the core and brought him to tears. The clinic was being held at the local fairgrounds where thousands of people (some of whom had driven from Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina) were waiting in seemingly endless lines for healthcare delivered in animal stalls. When recalling that July day, Potter told Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers Journal, “It was absolutely stunning. It was like being hit by lightning. It was almost– what country am I in? … it just didn’t seem to be a possibility that I was in the United States. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me.”

Craig Keilburger and Marc Kelburger, founders of “Free the Children and authors of the best selling book, “ME to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World” explore how perfectly good people like you and I come to defend ourselves against the large scale suffering of others by blocking it out and going about business as usual. One way we do this is to distance ourselves from those who are hurting by “convincing ourselves that ‘they’ are not like ‘us.’…We may blame them for their circumstances, emphasizing or imagining all the weaknesses and failures of that group that have led to these circumstances. We may try to ignore the external factors, the political, ideological, economic, military and other forces that shaped their fates from the outside… Seeing people in ‘us’ and ‘them’ terms makes it easier to dehumanize and devalue them, to assume that there are fundamental differences between us and them, and to blame them for their suffering. Thinking in ‘us’ and ‘them’ terms also makes it easier to reduce people to numbers, to conveniently forget about their individuality.”

Suddenly confronted with the desperation and suffering surrounding him at the fairgrounds that day, his defenses began to crumble. He’d been insulated in his high- rise Philadelphia office, flying corporate jets, surrounded by the vestiges of wealth, and served lunches on gold trimmed plates. He hadn’t truly known “what was really going on,” he explained to Moyers. He was aware that 47 million people were uninsured, and that among the insured, there were many who could not afford to pay their deductibles, but he had never attached real live faces to those numbers. In a town not far from the one he grew up in, Wendell Potter had an epiphany. “There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up …in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.”

In December, five months after his fateful visit to the fairgrounds, 17 year old Nataline Sarkisyan died the very night that Cigna reversed its decision (under tremendous pressure) to deny coverage for a liver transplant. Here was yet another real person in lieu of a statistic, a young woman with hopes and dreams and whose parents loved her very much, just as Wendell loved his own daughter. In addition to dealing with his feelings regarding Nataline’s death, he was inundated with angry and accusatory calls and letters from people all over the country. In January, Potter informed CIGNA that he would be resigning.

On June 24th, in Philadelphia, he testified before a U.S. Senate Committee. His opening remarks included, “My name is Wendell Potter and for 20 years, I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies, and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick — all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors. I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry. Insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and they make it nearly impossible to understand — or even to obtain — information we need.”

Three months later he met with the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and warned, “…if Congress goes along with the so-called ‘solutions’ the insurance industry says it is bringing to the table and acquiesces to the demands it is making of lawmakers, and if it fails to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, the bill it sends to the president might as well be called the Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.” He further explained that the Baucus plan would enable insurers to charge the elderly and families up to 7.5 times as much as younger people, weaken state regulation of insurers, fail to make affordable coverage for those currently insured more available, or stop the increase in medical bankruptcy. Instead, the Baucus bill would insure a huge new stream of revenue for the insurance companies as individuals were forced to purchase insurance policies and taxpayers were required to finance the necessary subsidies for those who could not afford the premiums.

Potter also stressed to congress that the public option should “not just be an ‘option’ to be bargained away at the behest of insurance companies who are pouring money into Congress to defeat substantial and essential reforms. A public option must be created to provide true choice to consumers or reform will fail to truly fix the root of the severe problems that have been caused in large part by the greedy demands of Wall Street. By creating a strong public option and restricting the insurance industry's ability to enrich executives and investors at the expense of taxpayers and consumers, H.R. 3200 will truly benefit average Americans. The Baucus plan, on the other hand, would create a government-subsidized monopoly for the purchase of bare bones, high-deductible policies that would truly benefit Big Insurance. In other words, insurers would win; your constituents would lose.”

I am grateful to Wendell Potter. Yes, it’s certainly true that he was aware of the unethical and in some cases deadly practices of his industry, and he actively participated in many of them, however, how different was he really from the rest of us? How different is he from those of us who turn away when the faces of starving children flash across our television screen while a narrator urges us to commit to just dollars a day (less than the cost of a large Starbucks coffee) to help feed these children? How different is he from those of us who are well aware of the wrongs committed by our own industries while we continue to show up for work each day and collect our paychecks? How different is he from those who die each and every year from “karosh,i” the Japanese term for death due to job related stress and overwork; those poor souls (my own husband came very close to being one of them) who dragged themselves to work every day while knowing at some level that their current jobs were truly ‘killing’ them? How is it that in a free and democratic society according to David Johnson “Americans put in more hours at work than any other nation, surpassing even the workaholic Japanese. We average nine more weeks of labor per year than our working counterparts in Western Europe, who get at least 20 paid days of vacation each year.”

It’s been said that evil prevails when good people do nothing to stop it. I am one of those people who on far too many occasions have done nothing. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel wisely pointed out, “In regards to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty, while all are responsible.” Wendell Potter, from my perspective, is most definitely a guilty man. He is also a product of his society, a society that according to Paul Rogat Loeb, “has systematically taught us to ignore the ills we see, and leave them to others to handle.” Wendell Potter is working very diligently to right the wrongs that he both witnessed and participated in committing. What about those of us who stand by and do nothing while special interest groups twist the facts and feed the fears of misinformed but perfectly good people? What about those of us who refuse to take a stand while thousands of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children die each year in the United States of America because they lack access to proper health care? We might, just might, escape the guilt, but we cannot escape the responsibility.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Lecture by Karen Armstrong on A Charter for Compassion

On Fora Tv a lecture by author, theologian, and former nun, Karen Armstrong on the Charter for Compassion was delivered at Chautauqua. You can watch her wise and very important lecture here

On the Huffingtonpost.com website Armstrong explains why the Charter for Compassion is so important:

"It is bitterly ironic that our world is so dangerously polarized at a time when we are linked together -- electronically, financially and politically -- closely than ever before. The powerful nations can no longer ignore trouble spots in other parts of the world; what happens in Iraq, Gaza or Afghanistan is likely to have repercussions tomorrow in London or New York. But the atrocities of September 11, 2001 and its tragic aftermath split the world into rival camps that are growing daily more estranged.

The religions that should help to heal these divisions have themselves been gravely implicated in the terrorism and violence of our time. Actually, the chief cause of our present troubles is political but in regions of the world where warfare has become chronic -- the Middle East, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya -- religion has been sucked into the vicious cycle of aggression, strike and counter-strike.

Yet at the core of every single one of the world religions is the virtue of compassion, which does not mean "pity"; its Latin root means to feel with the other. Each one of the world religions has developed its own version of the Golden Rule -- Do not treat others as you would not like to be treated yourself -- and maintained that this is the prime religious duty." You can read the entire article here

Armstrong describes her work on Bill Moyers Journal ,

"My work has continually brought me back to the notion of compassion. Whichever religious tradition I study, I find at the heart of it is the idea of feeling with the other, experiencing with the other, compassion. And every single one of the major world religions has developed its own version of the Golden Rule. Don't do to others what you would not like them to do to you.

....We've got to do better than this. Compassion doesn't mean feeling sorry for people. It doesn't mean pity. It means putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other. Learning what's motivating the other, learning about their grievances."

Friday, September 18, 2009

On Transitions and September in Maine

I love Maine in September. I savor its gentle temperatures, mist filled mornings, and its quiet country roads. While I’ll admit that there’s a slight melancholy in the air as summer drifts relentlessly backward into the past, there’s a whiff of promise too. The leaves are beginning their spectacular turning, the apples and pumpkins grow closer to harvest with the dawn of each new day, and tomatoes hang ripe and juicy on the vine.

Autumn is a time of both abundance and disintegration, of brilliant vistas and diminishing light. In the midst of plenty, as we gather the harvest, the cooling mornings and shortened days inform us that winter is on its way. Making this transition can be particularly challenging to embrace for those of us who reside in the north country. And yet, embrace it we must if we want to participate as fully as possible in the enduring cycles of nature and in our own inevitable evolution. Everything changes, and just as whole new vistas open up in winter, I am reminded that each and every ending contains its own beginning. Transition periods whether welcomed or not very often compel us to stretch and grow, offering us a certain amount of grace if we will only try our best to meet them with acceptance and receptivity.

Joan Chittister in, “Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir observed, “Transitions complete us. We ripen. We learn. We hurt. We survive one thing after another…Then, in the end, we gain what we came to get – a kind of well worn, hard-won wisdom… the problem is that we all too seldom bother to stop and notice how much we have become in the process.” Each September finds me in a different place than I was the one before. Last year was filled with change, challenge, and celebration. This September finds me struggling to keep a healthy perspective as I slowly and faithfully work my way through grief.

Perhaps I love September so much because it symbolizes on some level crossing over a threshold. Just as the natural world begins once more its seasonal process of transformation - from summer to fall, fall to winter and finally winter to spring- we are reminded that during the course of our lives the landscape of both our bodies and our souls is altered again and yet again.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood

In Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood", Wayne Muller observed that those who suffered in childhood, while baring painful scars, invariably exhibit exceptional strengths including remarkable insight, creativity, and a profound inner wisdom. He challenges those of us who have suffered to not perceive ourselves as broken and damaged, nor to disown those dark and wounded places in ourselves, but instead to work to reawaken that which is wisest, strongest and whole within us.

In working with victims of childhood trauma, Muller noted that while still haunted by the past, many also develop an acute sensitivity to others as well as a tendency to seek beauty, love and peace. He writes, "Seen through this lens, family sorrow is not only a painful wound to be endured, analyzed and treated. It may in fact become a seed that gives birth to our spiritual healing and awakening."

It's been my own experience as a therapist that this is often the case with survivors of childhood trauma. While not all survivors with whom I've worked possess the characteristics that Muller so respectfully describes, I'm almost always touched by their strength and depth. Each person has brought to therapy his or her own unique skills, stories, and beauty - gifts that truly seemed to be forged to a significant degree in the flames of the very pain they now seek to escape.

Muller assures the reader that suffering and pain are not exceptions to the human condition. Instead they are inevitable threads that make up the tapestry of a life. He cautions us to not become entangled in our memories of childhood suffering - to not let our pain resonate throughout the whole of our lives. He also points out that many of us would prefer to explain our hurt rather than to feel it. He advises that we acknowledge our pain, allow ourselves to experience it, and then to look for the lessons it will inevitably teach if we only look and listen, particularly to the wisdom contained within the depths of our very own souls.

While I never, under any circumstances want to minimize or justify the pain of another, nor suggest that anyone be grateful for their suffering, I do try to gently suggest to my clients (when they are ready to consider the suggestion) that even the most painful path can be a pathway to possibilities not yet discovered.

There have been many hurtful experiences in my own life that I would have adamantly refused to face had I been given the choice. I am also aware that to deny the value of the message, in spite of how painful the lesson or unwelcome the messenger, only serves to add insult to injury. If you have no choice for the time being but to travel a difficult path, at the very least, why not claim all possible compensations along the way?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Embracing the Day

The day awaits.
A clean slate
is before me.
Will I fill it with
vibrant people
and experiences?
Will I shape it subtly
and gently
as the wisdom and serenity
of a quiet and reflective morning
Will I balance my canvas with
meaningful work,
a walk in the park,
play with a child,
a good book?
Will I warm it with sweet tea
and a heart-felt smile?
Will I honor my deepest values
and be receptive to the days lessons?
Will I hold fast
or take a stand?
I now begin to acknowledge
how powerful
I truly am....

From: BirthQuake: A Journey to Wholness

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Psychotherapy and Spiritual Practice

A young therapist, poet, and regular reader of this blog is exploring the intersection between psychotherapy and spiritual practice. In honor of her substantial ability to both create and appreciate poetry, I thought I would offer what I found to be a rather poetic response to the question, "How is psychotherapy and spiritual practice similar?" by Janet Pfunder in Psychotherapy and Religion: Many Paths, One Journey.

“Psychotherapy and spiritual practice both offer the opportunity to actually suffer our suffering, offsetting the ways we have become numbly unreal to ourselves. We listen for the inaudible scream, finger the invisible scar. We reach toward agony X finding yet never fully finding, yet ever reaching toward, on and on. We fall into ravines, scale perpendicular cliffs, enter flames, and cross scorching deserts looking for the baptism of tears – the kind of tears that fall ever faster as the heart opens. The baptism of tears that transmutes the parched, torn , scorched body into a body of light, a body of breath, a body of gems, over and over and over until the body gradually begins to retain some of its glow. It’s the work of at least one whole long lifetime.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Working with Female Veterans

The Coming Home Project, developed to meet the challenges faced by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families, offers a series of presentations which can be viewed online . Among them is a presentation by Darrah Westrup entitled, "Treating Female Veterans of War."

During her presentation Westrup points out that female veterans tend to be younger, receive less in terms of in-service support, and are twice as likely to develop PTSD than their male counterparts. She also discusses the following evidence based treatments that are currently offered to female veterans:

Seeking Safety

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Buddhism and Psychotherapy

I have found many of the world's spiritual traditions rich with wisdom which is often both useful and applicable to psychotherapy and life. For instance, while I am not a Buddhist, I have most definitely benefited from some of the lessons that I have learned from the Buddhist tradition and find that there are many Buddhist teachings that make sound clinical sense.

In Awakening and Insight: Zen Buddhism and Psychotherapy, edited by Polly Young-Eisendrath and ShĂ´ji Muramoto, Akira Onda observes, "Dhampada, one of the oldest Buddhist texts, begins with the words, ‘We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.’” These ancient words have been echoed by so many models of psychotherapy including but not limited to cognitive, reality, psychoanalytic, gestalt, humanistic, and narrative therapy.

In the same book quoted above, Young-Eisendrath writes, "In my work as a Jungian psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, I have many opportunities… to engage in the struggle of human suffering, and as many opportunities to test my compassion… An American dread of suffering, based on ignorance about what suffering teaches and how it can be transformed, has recently led to more and more physicalistic and materialist explanations of our pain and adversity. Instead of recognizing the role subjective distress- the ways in which disappointment, anguish, fear, envy, pride, and hostility, for instance, contribute to our suffering – the American anti-suffering campaign now addresses people at the level of neurotransmitters, organ transplants, genetic engineering and biological determinism. This cultural movement has already had massive ill-effects on the practice of psychiatry and psychotherapy over the past two decades in the United States…In this same period of time that this has been unfolding, Buddhism has become a major religious and cultural movement in North America in a way that no one could have easily anticipated in the early 1970…As a result, Buddhism…has, perhaps surprisingly, opened up the possibility of a renewed appreciation of psychodynamic practices of psychotherapy. Because Buddhism presents a spiritual argument for the transformation (not medication) of suffering, as well as specific and systematic methods of analyzing subjective distress…”

As both a therapist and a human being, suffering and the alleviation of suffering has been a great preoccupation of mine for much of my life. It was perhaps from my introduction to the Buddhist perspective on suffering over twenty years ago now that my attention began to shift from how suffering can best be eliminated (an impossibility) to how it might be transformed.
Following are links to additional articles that address Buddhism and psychotherapy that you might find of interest:

Wisdom and compassion: Buddhism and Psychotherapy as Skillful Means

The Search for Happiness Through Buddhism and Psychotherapy

Increasing Use of Buddhist Practices in Psychotherapy

Buddhism and Psychotherapy

Positive Psychology and the Buddhist Path of Compassion

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Spirituality and Psychological Health

In Spirituality and Psychological Health authors Cox, Erwin-Cox, and Hoffman observe, "Undeniably, religion is a reliable source of comfort, hope, and inspiration. It provides meaning and purpose to life, helps people make sense of their suffering, and empowers people to endure even the most challenging circumstances. Religious involvement is also linked to positive physical and mental health. Research studies consistently find that active religious involvement promotes primary and secondary prevention of physical and psychological impairment. For instance, frequent church attendance is negatively correlated with immune system deficiency… People who consistently participate in religious activities and communities may delay the onset of physical disability… and may reduce the mortality rate by 25%… Religious involvement may also safeguard mental health. Individuals who actively exercise their beliefs are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and lifestyle, such as substance abuse, domestic violence, promiscuity, and criminal activities. They tend to have stable marriages, healthy lifestyles, and supportive social relationships. They also experience greater well-being, higher life satisfaction, and less anxiety than their counterpart… Needless to say, there are also negative effects associated with religion, particularly among religious groups that are repressive, controlling, insular, and prejudicial…

…The demand for mental health practitioners with spiritual and religious experience, interests, or background is undeniable. However, the response to this call is generally lukewarm, if not apathetic. For instance, less than one third of practitioners in the filed responded in a survey stating that they would incorporate religious matters as a part of their treatment plan… In general practitioners are skeptical in discussing religious issues in therapy; many are reluctant to explore or address religious topics with their clients. Even when religious issues are brought up in the session, practitioners may tend to be oblivious about the subject matter. Some may downplay its significance in clients’ lives…”

It's my belief that training in how to most effectively and respectfully address both religious and spiritual issues is essential for all mental health professionals.

I'll be writing more about this in future blogs.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Heart of Psychotherapy

I came across a quote this morning from an old book entitled, "The Heart of Psychotherapy" by George Weinberg. The quote refers to a message that Weinberg encourages therapists to continually convey to their clients. The message is:

"You are the central figure. Your journey, which began even before you had power to reflect on it, is a magnificent one. It doesn't matter where you came from. In the chaos you made millions of decisions, learning, interpreting life as you saw it, furthering as best you could that single conscious being, which is you. You were perhaps sidetracked and alone, or defeated yourself. Or you labored pointlessly in the wrong relationship, seemed almost buried alive. But your aspirations, like your heart, kept beating, somewhere. Every stage of the journey was precious, and I admire that."

Each therapist offers a different message to his or her clients. I can only hope that regardless of the particulars of the message, it is one that expresses the strengths, beauty, and sacredness of each individual with whom we have the honor of working with.

Friday, July 10, 2009

This most amazing ordinary day

On the most ordinary and uneventful days I like to remind myself of e.e. cummings celebration and affirmation of the beauty and sacred which exists within the seemingly normal and ordinary. He wrote,

"i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes"

There is so much that is natural and infinite and that says 'yes' contained in each and every day and I often find deep pleasure in creating long lists at the end of my day of all that I encountered that could be considered unremarkable on the one hand and miraculous and beautiful and holy on the other.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Therapist's Grief and Responsibility

Last night I wrote to my representative and urged him to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist wrote in, "Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind:

“At a time of planetwide environmental crisis, it seems both outrageous and irresponsible that so few mental health clinicians connect the epidemics of mental distress in industrial societies with the devastating impact of our suicidal destruction of our own habitat and ecocidal elimination of whole species that used to share the Earth with us.

Many therapy clients also don’t realize that the grief and fear they struggle with may be natural responses to the death of so many living beings and the ongoing distress of Earth, air, and ocean life all around us. Because we’re not informed abut links between mental health symptoms caused by the way we live and the accelerating inner and outer devastation, we remain mystified about why we feel so much pain.”

I absolutely agree. I have witnessed the frustration, anxiety and grief of adolescents in particular who fear for their futures and who lament the passing of so many awe inspiring creatures from this beautiful and sacred planet. I share their feelings. Perhaps you do too.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

War and the Soul

For anyone working with veterans, I highly recommend Edward Tick’s powerful, painful, and wise book, “War and the Soul: Healing our Nations Veterans from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.” There is also an online video that addresses Tick’s work with traumatized veterans available for free download entitled, “Forgiveness and Healing.”

Tick observes, "the soul at war is characteristically distorted... War stamps the soul with an indelible imprint and makes it its own. The soul that once went to war is forever transformed..."

"We can embrace the life- affirming and protective capacities of the warrior spirit and practice a living spirituality. We can restore relations with former enemies and with the dead and witness to the suffering caused by war and violence. We can find new and meaningful forms of service that atone for former actions and contribute to the healing of our own veterans and those we harmed. We can perform sacred ceremonies and rituals for ourselves, others, and the dead. All this, hand- in-hand with the truth about war, can lead to a spiritual transformation in which the soul grows again..."

Tick offers valuable insights into how we as therapists can help to not only heal the wounded psyche of veterans, but how we can help to facilitate healing of their wounded souls.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Dark Night of the Soul

The Institute for Spirituality and Psychotherapy offers a number of lectures for download including "The Dark Night of the Soul: Psychological and Spiritual Perspectives."

The lecture is delivered by psychotherapists Frances Vaughan and Bryan Wittine and is described by the following:

"In contemporary depth psychology, the term ‘dark night of the soul’ is sometimes used to describe periods that are central to the journey of individuation. During these periods old ego-identificationsbreak down and old values no longer hold true. This presentation focuses on how therapists can honor these periods as an opening of our client’s deepest longings so they might come to appreciate life’s greater meanings and find a more fulfilling relationship with Mystery."

Among the points that Vaughan and Wittine make regarding 'Dark Nights' that I found of particular interest were:

There are two types of dark nights according to John of the Cross who coined the phrase; the night of the senses and the night of the spirit.

During the night of the senses we relinquish our appetite for things of this world and our attachment to things of this world - material goods, status, money, etc.

During the night of spirit we relinquish our attachments to spiritual beliefs and ideas in which we are oriented towards separateness and multiplicity and turn instead towards a consciousness where we are oriented toward unity and oneness with the absolute.

During the Night of the spirit our spiritual experiences and beliefs come into question and we are faced with the absense of the divine (nobody is out there giving us answers.)

The dark night is mysterious. We don’t know where it’s going or what we’re supposed to do. And it’s not something that necessarily just happens once. Dark nights seem to generally happen after we’ve experienced some illumination, when we know there’s more. Dark nights are hard to be in and are thought by some to parallel the Buddhist teachings of impermanence. Also, the cultivation of the “don’t know” mind (a Buddhist concept) can be helpful during dark nights.

The dark night of the senses often shows up in midlife when we discover that the right job, car, partner, etc. won’t do it. Ultimate satisfaction will never come from outside of ourselves.

Dark nights involve giving up illusions

Staying with the experience of the dark night eventually leads to the dawning of the light in some way.

During a dark night we frequently feel like victims, feel sorry for ourselves and gradually we may begin to take a stand such as, "this is no longer acceptable." It is here that we begin to mobilize energy. Often this is angry energy and we enter a period of being an adversary – we may take political action, confront an abuser, become angry at God, etc. Eventually we may shift our anger into a creative endeavor and give up the role of advesary, eventually evolving into co-creators.

Dark nights force us to let go, and every time we let go we are freed up to open our hearts to love.

The dark night is part of the human experience. We can remind each other that we are not alone and that these times are deepening our capacity for compassion and loving kindness.

The dark not is not the same as clinical depression and generally involves the following:

We retain our sense of humor
Our Compassion in enhanced
We feel in spite of the discomfort that there is a sense of rightness about the process
We seldom feel desperate to escape the process
The deeper one goes into the dark night, the qualities of frustration and annoyance diminish and an openness to the dark and not knowing evolves

The dark night has been descriged as a period of 'divine discontent.'

Friday, June 5, 2009

Men and Depression

In an article entitled, "Men's depression is different -- and Dangerous," Tom Keenan addresses what Harvard psychotherapist Terrence Real identifies as "a silent epidemic in men," chronic depression.

In his article Keenan points out that:

  • A man's depression tends to manifest differently than a woman's. He is far more likely to act out his pain rather than talk about it. Common ways that depression in males is acted out include but are certainly not limited to workaholism, substance abuse, aggression, and irritability.
  • Men are less likely to seek help and more likely to commit suicide.

The following are resources available on the web that I often recommend:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is There Such a Thing as Depressive Personality Disorder?

Is there such a thing as Depressive Personality Disorder? Todd Finnerty believes so.

"Can you think of a person you may have met or treated whose usual mood was gloomy and unhappy, were they critical of themselves and did they brood and tend to worry?
Did they tend to be negative and judgmental toward others? Were they pessimistic
and prone to feeling guilty or remorseful? Did this person have a Depressive
Personality Disorder?"

So begins Todd Finnerty's thoughtful new book, Depressive Personality Disorder: Understanding Current Trends in Research and Practice which is available for review online.
You can also read Finnerty's blog here .

A description of his book follows:

"This book answers the question “Does Depressive Personality Disorder exist?” with a concise, readable review of current research. DPD is a valid and clinically useful concept which should be included in DSM-V and ICD-11. DPD was offered as both a diagnosis for further
study and an example of a diagnosis that can be made under Personality Disorder NOS in the DSM-IV and DSMIV-TR. The book is intended for professionals, students and anyone else interested in character traits which impact mood. It offers a view of depressive personality
disorder supported by current research. Gain a firm background in recent research and theory on DPD and understand its relationship to chronic depression, dysthymic disorder, cognitive vulnerabilities to depression and the Five-Factor Model of Personality."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Global Spirit

There is a wonderful resource available online, Global Spirit.

"Global Spirit is an unprecedented inquiry into the universe of human consciousness, across the exciting interface of television and the internet.

We are delighted to be finally launching this new original series, which will be airing nationally on Link TV and selected PBS stations, and internationally via the internet. Each program focuses on a universal theme of global and timeless significance, themes that concern us all on the most basic human level: Forgiveness, Oneness, Ecstasy, Earth Wisdom, Art and the creative process, and more.

Programs will feature riveting conversations between our host Phil Cousineau, and a selection of inspiring guests who speak from first-hand experience about their own personal journeys into the realms of human consciousness and transformation.

These conversations are unlike anything you've heard before on national television. They are complimented by amazing documentary film segments from around the world. These experiential film segments both inspire our guests and ignite their conversations.

Global Spirit also features extraordinary full-length documentaries, which are framed and deepened by engaging interviews with the filmmakers or related guests. Most of the programs will also be streamed right here on our GlobalSpirit.tv website.

Why this series now? It’s no secret that we are currently in a time of deep global economic and environmental crisis. And yet, amidst this crisis, many of use are aware that something new is happening, that a certain sense of change is in the air. But “change” is not something that just happens from the outside. Real change happens on a human, personal level, and most often involves an internal journey. "

I encourage you to pay it a visit and watch the videos that are available there to view and then talk to at least one person about what you saw.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Psyche and Soul

Edward Tick in “War and the Soul” wrote, ” “In ancient Greek psyche means “soul.” Our modern scientific thinking equates psyche with mind, limiting the word to its psychological dimension alone and thus reducing its resonance and depth. Nonetheless, as every ancient and modern tradition avers, we are on a spiritual journey through this life and, if we are to travel well, it is important to understand the concept of psyche in this fuller sense of soul.”

I couldn’t agree more…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blessing the World...

Poet David Whyte wrote, “remember how as a child your arms could rise and your palms turn out to bless the world?"

Two year old Skylar is helping me remember as he delights in the dancing shadows that are created by the tree branches and afternoon sunlight on his bedroom wall. He helps me remember as we gather smooth rocks, each one a treasure, and then solemnly let them go. As we watch them tumble over the dam, the force of the water mists our faces when we lean close enough over the edge. I am reminded as we huddle in a blanket on the porch swing, shivering at the sound of thunder, and gasping as the lightening flashes against the darkening sky. I am reminded as we roll down the hill and rest at the bottom, gazing up together at the clouds, his little hand in mine. He has helped me gather up so much that I had allowed to scatter and because of this tiny little boy, my arms rise up and palms turn outward now to bless the world over and over again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Question for Psychotherapists

Deena Mezger observed, "a good question is a great gift... a good question can change your life..." All too often we avoid really important questions when they feel too difficult to answer or too threatening to face.

Mary-Jane Rust in "Creating Psychotherapy for a Sustainable Future" asks psychotherapists the following question, " how does psychotherapy need to change, theoretically and in practice, in the service of creating a sustainable future? This is complex, for it ranges from how cultural and global affairs affect and shape our internal and external worlds, to how we feel about being part of the very consumer culture which is causing this crisis, to how we conceive of, and connect with, nature, culture and the larger whole, to how our long, slow, deep process of change might contribute to the creation of sustainability, and more."

How Childhood Suffering lives on...

"Some things that happen to you never stop happening to you..."
Author Unknown

Each of us who has endured prolonged childhood suffering leaves behind our own unique trail of tears. Some of us still have nightmares. Others no longer remember; we simply experience a sense of emptiness and a vague and disturbing suspicion that something was, and perhaps still is, terribly wrong. Although our symptoms and behaviors vary, we are each aware at some level that we have been deeply wounded. For most of us, there's a secret shame imbedded in this knowledge. In spite of the fact that we intellectually understand that we were innocent and vulnerable children when the deepest wounds were inflicted, there remains a part of us that perceives ourselves as failing. All too often it becomes ourselves whom we cannot trust.

The child who blamed him or herself for the abuse becomes the self-condemning adult. The losses and betrayals he or she endured become promises that more hurt will be forthcoming. The child who was powerless grows into a frightened and defensive adult. The little girl whose body was abused remains disconnected from her grown up body. The anger of the small boy lives on in the man who lets no-one close enough to harm (or heal) him. Another compensates for his or her shame by devoting a life time to achievement, but the struggle never ends. There are no victories great enough to annihalate the inadequacy and self-doubt. The child who acts out his or her pain in destructive ways might continue the pattern into adulthood, unconsciously creating situations that inspire the very misery he or she so desperatley sought to escape. These sad cycles can go on and on. And they can be broken.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spirituality and Creativity

I saw theologian and author Matthew Fox in Portland yesterday. I had read/heard much of what he shared in other lectures and books he's previously written but it is always wonderful to be reminded of what feels wise and whole and true. Among the thoughts that he shared which resonated with me were:

Suffering is initiation into our deeper creativity...

The definition of courage is comprised of two French words meaning "wise heart."

To overcome our fear it's helpful to connect with what we love and cherish.

Our culture fails to appreciate the value of the void, we're always trying to fill it up.

Wisdom brings heart and mind together.

Men have to recover their warrior nature (huge difference between warrior and soldier.)

Christ, Gandhi, King were all warriors.

The warrior is a lover and a mystic.

"Don't give a loaded gun to young men who have not yet learned to dance."

The love of death (necrophilia) grows when the love of life (biophilia) is stunted.

Wildness is the wellspring of creativity

Clarissa Pinkola Estes asserts that creativity (and the wild woman) lives in the gut and not in the head

The love of life and the grief of life give birth to creativity

The first level of grief is anger

Our universe is totally committed to birthing and creativity