Monthly Archive: March 2015

Phenomenal Woman

I first heard Phenomenal Woman, one of Maya Angelou’s many poems that touched where I live a few months ago.  You can hear it yourself by clicking on the video imbedded in this newsletter.  Ms. Angelou grew up in the southern United States at a time when the Klu Klux Klan were still openly present.  She has survived abuse and hardship and thrived to become a teacher and role model for men and women of all race and colour.

In all of her biographies of hers that I’ve read so far, she demonstrates and personifies an attitude and approach toward life that we can live by daily.  Pick any one of these quotes and use it as a mantra for that day:

  • Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.
  • If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.
  • You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
  • Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and how you do it.
  • My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

Agelou’s life has certainly been a full one: from the hardscrabble Depression era South to pimp, prostitute, supper club chanteuse, performer in Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, journalist in Egypt and Ghana in the heady days of decolonization, comrade of Malcolm X, and eyewitness to the Watts riots. She knew King and Malcolm, Billie Holiday, and Abbey Lincoln. Reviewer John McWhorter, The New Republic

Dr. Maya Angelou Recites Her Poem “Phenomenal Woman”

Asking Yourself the Right Questions

A part of Gestalt Therapy is being able to ask yourself the right questions. This is harder than it presents because we often don’t know what the right questions are in the midst of crisis or change. Using the questions and statements meant to focus the awareness in the present on one aspect or another is a key to my services and helping people identify and then overcome certain challenges.

Audience-Questions-Hands-Raised

“What do you feel?” or “What’s on your mind right now?” are some of these questions. They may seem like typical therapy questions, but there is more to reporting simply what you’re feeling. In fact, it is important for you, the patient, to work through the simple answers to get in touch with your true, hidden and often complex feelings / replies.

Let’s say you just were fired. You might say, “I feel upset and scared.” Well, that is ok but it’s scratching the service. Someone who is Gestalt therapy may answer with “I’m scared because I failed to save enough money to get  me through a time like this. I don’t know who to ask for help or what resources are available to me. I’m mad at myself, my employer and my spouse for not understanding where my head is at right now.”

Being detailed about what you feel is really a key component to being present in your daily life, regardless if the situation is pleasant or not.  I can also  help you identify areas of avoidance in your life by how you answer these questions. For example, the recurrent avoidance of using the pronoun “I” and its substitution with “you” or “it” can indicate that you may avoid a particular area of your life or a situation. There are ways I can help encourage you to take ownership of these situations.

Want to know more? Please contact me. I can help!

Water

Life happens! 

This week all plans were rearranged when my suitcase with all my research got lost.  I travelled across the continent to see my soul mate, and am now sitting 20 feet from the Pacific Ocean, entertained and mesmerized by the endless calling of water.

We are made up mostly of water, all living things need water to survive, water covers most of the earth.   The ancients called water both Mother and Father – it nurtures us, births life and makes all life possible; it’s active – sometimes violent – taking us to new and unknown lands.  It can change landscapes.

Leonardo da Vinci had a lot to say about water’s many meanings. Water, to him, is the driving force of all nature. He was both fascinated by and terrified of the impact of water on our lives.  He made a study of water and devoted much of his life to learning how to live with and best use water.

Emotions are like water – they flow and when we let them flow, they inform everything we do.  Also like water, when we block them, they donfffff/’t go away, but build up in force and energy, exploding outward once the dam breaks.

Water is fluid, and our emotions are fluid when we are healthy and open to whatever comes our way, when we trust ourselves and our ability to handle life.  Water is a symbol of open-heartedness.

This week, take a moment to make your own study of water. 

  • Meditate on it’s meaning in your own life – on your every-day life.
  • Treat water as a teacher – of how you can approach daily issues
  • Then choose something to remind you of your connection with water – a river rock, a poem or drawing – something of meaning to you.
  • Carry it with you for a week, and every time you connect with it, also connect with what water has taught you.

Water Painting

Benefits of Gestalt Therapy Online

Yes, I provide confidential Gestalt therapy to the online community. I also provide phone and in-person services and yes, I am HIPAA compliant.  Some of you may wonder what exactly the benefits of Gestalt therapy are.  Well, there are many. The effectiveness of the approach depend on your honesty level, personality, and if you feel this type of therapy is a great match for you. Remember, we’re all individuals and you have to work with a trusted therapist and within a comfortable landscape for you.

88

Gestalt therapy, developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman in the 1940s, is an experiential and humanistic form of therapy that was originally designed as an alternative to conventional psychoanalysis. Gestalt therapists and their clients use creative and experiential techniques to enhance awareness, freedom, and self-direction. The word gestalt comes from the German word meaning shape or form, and it references the character or essence of something.

The main benefit of Gestalt therapy is to pull the fragments of your life together, creating an awareness of what works for you, what causes certain behaviors, and how to move forward in a healthy and happy manner that isn’t self-destructive. I believe once you understand your current situation and your reactive behaviors, you can truly learn how to navigate your life to its fullest.  Thus, there are many tools and situations we can use, together, to identify what is working and isn’t working in your present and past life.

If you’re pondering if Gestalt therapy is the right path for you, contact me. Let’s connect and talk about your situation and end-game goals. I have lots of different methods and Gestalt may or may not be the best for your specific situation.

Hope

Hopefor a better future, a longed-for result, a healthy world, a good life – is the prime motivator of everything we do.  Without hope, we wither and die. Hope is what energizes our vision of where we want to be in our lives.

This past weekend, I was at the Wellness Business Summit, a conference for Alternative Health Care Practitioners who are interested in building their businesses.  The Wellness Business Summit is the spirit-child of Lori Kennedy and represented hope to many who attended, helping to highlight what they need to focus on to make their businesses successful.

Hope can also keep us from living. Paraphrasing Eckhart Tolle, hope keeps us going, but hope can keep us focused on the future.  That happens when we look to the future as a way of avoiding being with ourselves in the present.  Pema Chodron calls this kind of hope an addiction. Here,  hope and fear as two sides of the same coin. When hope for the future becomes our only focus, it no longer serves us.

How can hope fuel your present? When our focus is too much in the future, we get stuck in the hoping. When we spend all our energy hoping for a future, we have no energy for the present.  While we need hope for the future for us to grow, we need to balance that with an active presence so that we have an opportunity to evolve our future.

The key is to let go of what you think the outcome should look like and focus instead on being open and present for opportunity.

It seems like a contradiction – letting go of hope in order to maintain a hopeful future.  When you find yourself fearing your future and focusing too much on what you hope will happen rather than on what is actually happening, here’s what you can do:

Be aware – become aware of what is happening to you, and where your focus is.  Is your focus on fear of the future, or the past, or is it on what is happening right now? Are you expecting disaster because you’ve decided you didn’t prepare well enough? Or are you working with what you bring right now?

Pause, assess, decide – take a few minutes to get grounded, giving yourself space to consider the reality of the situation.  For instance, you may not have prepared as much as possible, but whatever you have done is what you come with.  It may be better to postpone or to simply work with what you have. Dig deep and consult your inner wisdom, then make a decision.

Be grateful – whatever the outcome, the present moment is an opportunity to grow and experience living.  Allow yourself to know this and to appreciate this opportunity, learning, and understanding.

You Can Live Your Dream

Here and Now….

As a therapist who uses Gestalt therapy techniques, focusing on the here and now is important when helping clients understand how to overcome current challenges. Many people want to focus on the past in order to move forward. While this does work and is a great tool to use, I believe that understanding the past means dealing with the here and now.

by-take-the-future-exhale-the-past-tattoo

Through therapy, people learn to discover feelings that may have been suppressed or masked by other feelings and to accept and trust their emotions. Needs and emotions that were previously suppressed or unacknowledged are likely to surface as well. Through this process, my clients gain a new sense of self as overall awareness increases.

Again, this doesn’t devalue what working on the past has in a person’s everyday life. But thinking in terms of the present can help dissect the past and really address how to cope with different and even similar situations going forward.  Think about people , maybe even yourself, who suffer with anxiety. Usually, anxiety is rooted in an incident from the past. When the feelings or circumstances of today relate or refer to yesterday, the anxiety is usually ignited.  While we work with the past to think about how and when the anxiety started, it isn’t enough to move forward.  Dealing, however, with the triggers of today will help to harness the feelings associated with anxiety and the past.  It is important to have a conversation with yourself about today as much as you need to have it with yourself about your past.

I can help you navigate these often difficult conversations with yourself to address current and past behaviors and even others who may have caused you harm.  If you’re a bit curious about my technique, of Gestalt therapy in general, please do not hesitate to contact me. All my sessions are confidential and I work by phone or Skype. Yes, I’m HIPAA compliant.

Anger, Complex At-Home Examination

Gestalt therapy deals with many emotions. I often talk to clients who are harboring a lot of anger. Often, the anger they feel is a secondary emotion related to something else. Sadness leads to anger. Abandonment leads to anger. Anxiety leads to frustration and then anger. Disappointment leads to anger…. you get the point.

A 25107

While the below at-home exercise will not cure you of anger- and the underlining emotions or causes, it is a step in the right direction. At-home or not, I often encourage my clients to understand the words behind their anger. This doesn’t mean any curse words you may have used during a heated moment. Instead, it is more of a reflection upon what is upsetting you , causing the anger, and – most importantly- understanding the anger in a present moment.

When you’re at home and you feel heated or angry, talk to yourself about. Find a safe and quite place. Speaking out loud, talk about your anger. Describe how it feels. Think about where you are and what you are truly feeling- outside the small “anger” word. For example, if you are angry because your husband didn’t take the trash out… again, describe that during this angry word session. You might say something like, “I’m angry because I feel frustrated. When he doesn’t take the trash out I feel disrespected and unheard, which causes me to feel this way.”  With this example, anger is more frustration and hurt. You can accept the present and then create a rational plan, choosing the best words, to overcome the emotions and correct the problem or miscommunication with the other party.  Simply accepting that you’re angry isn’t as healthy for you as understanding why you’re angry and what else is leading to these feelings.  This exercise allows you to really be in the present in the healthiest mindset possible.

In my private online or in-person sessions, I also dive further to help you understand the physical symptoms of anger in the now and how they manifested this way by not addressing emotions from your past. Together, we work to move forward and to find a place of peace.

 

Is Gestalt Therapy Good for Addiction?

I recently received a question about addiction and Gestalt therapy. My thoughts are this, if you’re seeking help- you’re already on a good path no matter what form of therapy / treatment you decide to take. Moving forward to addictionbreak the cycle of addiction is always a positive thing.

Gestalt therapy can help with addiction issues. As I’ve noted before, Gestalt therapy works on your psychological and emotional health, believing these two things can only be achieved by understanding oneself as part of a greater whole. Basically, I (and other therapists) believe that once you acknowledge who you are and why you are, you can finally be who you are.  Understanding why you react to certain triggers, and that the journey to self-discovery and transformation is a lifelong quest, is always my primary goal.

When it comes to addiction, I try not to analyze your past and place blame on certain people. Instead, we talk about you and your feelings. We work on your present moment in certain situations and how you felt and then how addiction become introduced and relied upon.

Addicts are often unaware of their true selves and therefore can’t really identify their true needs.  This is where I help patients understand their needs on a physical and emotional level, as well as the ways that they have responded to them in the past. By understanding your true self, you can start to seek out and  provide yourself with your true needs, vs. continuing to fill a void through the cycle of addiction. We also work on breaking the escape of life by using addiction as the tool / doorway. Instead, I help you  increase self-awareness and awareness of your relationship with the world. You no longer will need an escape tool / doorway through drugs, alcohol or sex. Instead, you will be able to discover your true needs and fulfill them, leaving addiction behind.

Don’t get me wrong. Addiction is addiction and it can take several attempts to truly kick any habit, but I promise the journey is worth it.

If you’re struggling with addiction and want to learn more, please contact me.

Your past. Your now.

Today I want to talk about referencing your past. I have many clients who are so focused on the past that they forget they are living in the now. I don’t want to shame someone’s past. In fact, what I do is help people understand their past, how it impacts current behaviors and associations, and then I help people realize what is deadening their ability to navigate the present.

112
Are the exercises fun or easy? Not necessarily. But, in many cases, understanding your past (without focusing on it or using it as an excuse to stand still) will help you become more aware of your environment and why you react to certain situations in a negative or positive manner.
I always start with helping people identify patterns based on present emotions. Let’s say you constantly feel jealous of other successful women. This current problem can make you feel anxious, angry and even cause you to self-sabotage yourself at work. Instead of focusing on constant panic or rage attacks, I will help you identify the pattern and where it stemmed from.
If your first job was working for a female boss who always shamed you and didn’t make you feel “good enough”, then of course your reactions to any successful women in today’s environment would be skewed. You shouldn’t address a successful women in your current life in the same manner you would react to the horrible female boss of your past. Yet, many of us carry our past into present life and we fail to separate the now environment from our prior circumstances.
I can help you with this. I can help you transcend the events of your past into the reasons why you react to certain situations with patterned behavior. We can talk about your tension and work with recall exercises to help you see and feel your full memory.
Again, if you were abused by men in your past, we would address this to help you become aware of how you are interacting with men in the present based on your past. Once this is identified through memory recall, and reliving the experience through associated recall exercises, we can correct negative behaviors within your current life. You can start to focus on building positive relationships with men and come to expect more from them vs. what your past has taught you. You will realize your current environment offers different outcomes and possibilities, which is essential for being in the now in order to move forward.
Are you ready to address your past so you can truly live a fulfilled life in the present? Are you ready to be aware of where you are today? If so, let’s talk! I can help!

Two Tips for Dissecting Your Dreams At Home.

I had such a great response to my prior blog post on dreams that I thought I would offer everyone some tips to do dream work at home. Now, you have to be careful. When you do dream work from home, without professional guidance, you can unravel some uncomfortable truths about your past, about your present, and about yourself.  If you know there are some painful truths buried, please seek out my services or the services of someone else who youdreams3 feel comfortable with.  Gestalt therapy is about the journey of living, successfully, in the present. Sometimes, however, the journey is a rocky path and there is no shame in seeking support to complete any part of it so you can move forward.

Ok, now to our two exercises. The first one I have dubbed as “The Rewrite Process.” This is where you take a dream and re-write it or tell it to yourself as if it is happening right now. After you do this, turn the paper over so you can’t reference it. Now, write the dream in the past tense- as you can recall it from when you woke up.  Remember, you’re covering the same dream but from two different positions. First, as if it is happening in the moment. Next, as it happened in the past tense and you viewed it from afar.

You want to compare the papers next and see where the differences exist, and there will be differences. Ask yourself how alive you felt in each experience and what emotions you felt in each experience. The results will help you work through what your unconscious mind is trying to tell you about a present situation.

Another exercise that you want to try is considered a “part of me” process. What you want to do is list all the objects you saw in the dream. For example, if you’ve dreamed about Robert Downey Jr. (yes, the actor) making milkshakes and your grandma’s house- you’d write down 1) Robert Downey Jr. 1) Milkshakes 3.) Grandma’s house.  Your next step is to write the phrase “part of me” next to each item.

Next, write down a one to two sentence that puzzled your about the dream. Follow this by writing down why it puzzled you.  Now go back and write down how all the objects in the dream made you feel. Your sentence structure should look something like this, 1. Robert Downey Jr.  Party of me.  Handsome.  2. Milkshakes. Part of me. I don’t like them. 3. Grandma’s House. Part of me. Comforting.  I was puzzled by the dream because I don’t know Robert Downey, Jr. and I don’t like his movies. I felt upset that he was at my grandma’s house.

Once you have the basics down, you should take the time to reflect upon the dream and what you wrote down out loud. If you have to talk to an empty chair or a wall, do so. Spend a good twenty minutes talking through your dreams and your notes.  Identify emotions and how each part of you noted on paper can related to your present day life.

Want to do more intense dream work with my guidance? Let’s talk.