Monthly Archive: May 2015

Do You Know Sad?

When I talk about Gestalt therapy, or environment awareness in general, I try to help my patients really understand the emotions that they are feeling. I have recently noticed an uptick in patients feeling angry, disappointed, or riddled with anxiety…. at least this is what they tell me. When we talk and work through their emotions, the truth is they are sad. So, why all the mislabeling of emotions to cover up sadness? Well, I think society has a lot to do with it.


We, as a society, don’t like to admit to feeling sad. We use all kinds of excuses and different descriptions to avoid vocalizing the fact that we are – in fact- truly sad about something.  As an example, check out this interesting link I found online. Sad is listed as a negative tone and it is truly associated with something terrible, which is why I think we spend so much time trying to dance around being sad. Being sad means something has either happened to us emotionally, physically, or there is an underlining medical and chemical issue that has us feeling this way. Regardless of the reason, sad almost seems shameful to say. By avoiding the feeling of sad, we are avoiding the root cause. We are altering how we interrupt and respond to an environment, which can do more harm than good.

In 2012 Oprah and Deepak Chopra dedicated time to the subject of coping with sadness. You can find the article here: While the article is well-written and interesting, I think it can be a bit misguiding. In fact, the article states, “It surprises people, but, in fact, the best cure for sadness is happiness. Anything that diminishes your ability to build your own happiness must be avoided or eliminated.”  There is that word again… “avoided”… Why? Really take a step back and think about this commend.

It is OK to be identify yourself as being sad. Doing so will allow you to create an awareness as to why. And, if you can’t figure out the why, then there may be a chemical issue going on that needs to be addressed. Either way, you are addressing the issue- not avoiding it. Sadness isn’t to be avoided. Faking happiness isn’t healthy. Don’t sugar coat your emotions any longer or avoid them. Instead, embrace them for what they are. Then, in that infinite awareness of how you truly feel, understand the moments leading up to feeling those emotions so you can then understand the environment and actions that caused them (or didn’t cause them) to properly and most effectively respond.

Still have questions? I’m here to help. Contact me and let’s discuss your online therapeutic options.

Resistance – What It Can Tell Us

“Resistance is futile” – the Borg phrase every Trekky knows and probably repeats internally whenever the word “resistance” comes up.

Resistance is futile when it’s about our own inner processes. But it can be useful.  Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art talks about the many ways we resist as we begin, process and complete a creative venture.  He points out that resistance will happen any and every time we try something new or any time we try to improve ourselves.

Resistance is natural and is to be expected.

Pressfield gives a whole book of examples on how resistance comes up in our lives.  Here are a few that you may recognise: pursuing any creative enterprise, going on a diet, getting healthy in general, education that requires being tested, any act of courage, any act that means commitment – like marriage or becoming a parent. What it looks like is avoidance, distraction, procrastination, addiction, mindless business, absent-mindedness, worry, and many others.

Once recognized, there are things we can do to reduce the resistance and empower ourselves to move in the direction we desire.

First, plan for resistance by becoming a Pro.  The difference between an amateur and a professional is, basically, that for the amateur their pursuit is a part-time thing; for the professional, it’s full-time, fully committed.  Whatever a professional does is their vocation, something they have dedicated their lives to.  As a Pro, fighting off resistance sometimes boils down to creating a plan, and then following it to it’s end.

Make sure your vision is big enough and compelling enough to guide you through times of resistance. Marie Forleo puts it this way:  You won’t have to push yourself to keep going if you have a big enough vision to pull you ahead.  It’s the difference between pushing through resistance, or being pulled toward a compelling goal.  Which is easier?

Finally, keep your vision alive and strong.  One way to weaken it is by constantly fantasizing about the future – this gives us a false sense of satiation – as if it’s already happening when it hasn’t. Keep your vision alive by focusing on what’s happening for you right now, in the present, and keep future plans ready for when you need them.  While it’s essential to have plans, the reality is that nothing is for certain, and plans will almost certainly need to be adjusted anyway.

Muse – Resistance

Quote of the Week
Weight, force and casual impulse, together with resistance, are the four external powers in which all the visible actions of mortals have their being and their end.
– Leonardo da Vinci

Sharpen Your Environment Awareness

DPZPTWJ07TAre you really aware of your environment? Most people aren’t. We spend out days in patterns and forming reactive behaviors that we tend to forget about proactive growth.  I once worked with a client who, at the end of her journey, stated ” What you’ve taught me is the realization that it who and what I am seeing, hearing, moving, is what is making the waves in my life. Understanding the why brings me to understanding the how.” I thought this was a beautiful testament to our online work together.

When I speak to groups about sharpening awareness, I tend to focus on the still Room test.  If you think you are qualified right now, in your space, to really understand how your environment impacts your emotions and moods, even recall of history, think again. For most people, we think we have a great grasp on how the world looks and operates. We are like race horses with blinders on. All we see is all we know, yet there is much more going on around us.

Take this simple Still Room test to start understanding what I mean when I reference the phrase ‘sharpening your environment awareness’. Then if you want to learn more, contact me. I can help you on an one-on-one basis (online or in-person) or I can come speak to your group to boost productivity and individual advocacy.


1. Think about any other room in your home right now other than the one you are sitting in.

2. On a piece of paper write down all the details that you can remember about that room.

3. Now write down three ways that room makes you feel.

4. Write down one memory you have of a sad emotion in the room.

5. Flip the paper over. Walk away from it for at least an hour. Set an alarm if you need to.

6. Without referencing the paper you wrote on, grab another blank piece of paper.

7. Spend 30 minutes sitting in the room picking apart details and thinking about happy and sad memories. Don’t write anything down. If you need to, set an alarm. Really focus on details and don’t have music or any other background distractions on.

8. When the 30 minutes is up, while still in the room, write down one sad memory you have of this room.

9. Now, go compare your current notes with the one you wrote down in Step number four. Is there a difference? Examine how your recall varies from the actual awareness of being present in the now of the room.


Workplace Stress & TMI

I help people deal with anxiety and an awareness of their environment on all levels. Recently, I started speaking to professional groups and corporations (yes, I am available to speak at your event) regarding anxiety, conflict challenges, and other stressors related to work productivity and employment.

What I have noticed in my speaking efforts is that many people are having work overload anxiety at their place of employment. Interestingly enough, this has led to a problem of TMI (too much information) within the work place. And, even more stunning, most people do not know that they are sharing too much information at work. When they do, they suddenly realize this and then further stress and anxiety is the result.

To help you stay conscious of your words, and the receiving environment, I’ve created a few notes that you can copy and write onto sticky notes. Place the sticky notes around your area to help you from over-sharing when you get stressed or anxious on the job.

Sticky Notes: (only write down the first three words)


1. Your Heart Matters. Let this sticky note be a gentle reminder that you do matter and your feelings are valid. But you don’t have to react to situations right away. Listen to your hear, but use your head. Calendar some time aside , after you’ve had a moment to stand back from the situation, to address what your really feeling, why, and what actions need to be taken.

2. The Three P’s: Don’t share anything political. Don’t talk about how privileged or not privileged you are in life. Avoid sharing personal information, like how your kids are always in trouble or how you have a crush on someone in accounting.

3. Gossip is Hurtful. Most people believe gossip is harmless. It’s not. In fact, it makes the person engaging in it more riddled with anxiety because they have to face their victim almost daily and keep up appearances with their clique.

4. The Letter ‘S’: Don’t discuss sex. Don’t discuss salary. Don’t discuss seniority. Nothing good can come from these discussions at work. Period. I’ve noticed a lot of people gossip about salary assumptions (most of which are off base) and this causes resentment and stress in the workplace. Avoid engaging in these types of conversations.

5. You’re Here to Work: Productivity is hard enough on a good day. Most work places have raised the level of expectations. In my conferences and workplace conferences, I help employees understand how to distress and remain productive- all of which becomes more complex and taxing when anything outside of your work duties is brought into your work environment.

Saying “Yes”

Ever woken up after tossing and turning, feeling tired, deflated, worried …. All before your morning coffee?  If you’re like me, this feeling could continue through morning meditation, breakfast, emails, and into the day, infecting everything I do and everyone I see.

If I take a good look, it’s usually because of something I didn’t want, something that didn’t fit into my plan for my life, and this personal rejection colors my world in a way that isn’t helpful.

Saying “Yes” to life, no matter what actually happens, is a way of bringing joy and energy into our world, regardless of the circumstances.

In Improv comedy routines, according to Rick Hanson, the only direction the actors get is to say “Yes” to whatever happens.  “If someone on stage turns to you and says, ‘Doctor, why does my baby have two heads?’ you should respond with something like, ‘Because two heads are better than one.’ ”
Even if something that happens is hurtful, saying “No” to it won’t change it or make it go away; it will merely eat up a lot of your energy that you might otherwise use to better purpose, like Don Quixote fighting windmills. Anna Kupka talks about the power of saying “Yes” and “No” in her series on transforming lives. In this excellent article, she points out that when we resist the energy of the way things are actually going, we also resist our own energy. Conversely, when we say “yes” to whatever is actually happening, going with the flow of life, we enhance our own energy.

In Eckhardt Tole’s words,

Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.

Say Yes!  Tony Robbins

Quote of the Week
Saying ‘yes’ got easier, and more important each time. Yes like a heartbeat that won’t quit, yes like a promise to keep trying, yes like a brass knuckle… If you say ‘yes’ enough, your life starts saying ‘yes’ back.
-Saeed Jonest

Are You A Mood Changer?

I was watching a TV show the other day about addiction.  Instead of the therapist talking about DNA and blaming genetics (which for this TV show is pretty common), the therapist identified on addict as a mood changer. I was elated. You see, DNA does play a part in who we are and the addictions we face. DNA can be a predictor for us in ways that indicate if our personalities will be particularly driven or anxious or depressed. What people don’t talk about often is the mindset of a mood changer. It is a stage of awareness that comes with true Gestalt therapy. Being able to identify yourself or someone else (probably who is toxic) in your life as a mood changer is a positive thing because it is a jumping off point to changing habits and changing the craving to change moods and stir things up!


Definition of a true mood changer: A person who changes mood to create excitement or succeed the same high / thrill that comes with any other type of addiction. A true mood change isn’t fueled by substance abuse, although using does make situations even more complex. Some people have been diagnosed with disassociative identify disorder when they really are classic mood changers.

Example; Betty is upset with her husband. Instead of addressing the issue with him, Betty finds a thrill in shopping. Once she returns home from the shopping trip and her high mood changes with the recognition of reality and the husband’s actions, she may find that her new clothes don’t fit her and this causes her to be depressed or angry. Is she truly changing moods based on the trip to the mall or is she changing moods to avoid certain conversations or responsibilities? Understanding the environment is key in cases of mood changers.

If you feel that you may be a mood changer, please contact me. I can help. I’m also providing a few bullet points below on how to change your mood in a positive way until you are able to meet with either myself, or someone well-matched for you- who can help you understand why switching moods is helping you to escape reality in the same way substance addiction does for addicts.

  • Read a biography of someone you admire
    Cook something different, a new kind of cuisine
    Learn about a new subject: the Civil War, a foreign language
    Start saving, and plan for a trip
    Get an orchid plant, or buy some flowers
    Sort through old photos
    Hang out at the library
    Organize an outing to a museum and dinner
    Join a reading group
    Listen to a recorded book
    Make fudge
    Make soup, and bring some to a neighbor you don’t know well
    Get up early or sleep late—vary your routine
    Go swimming
    Music—play it loud, without any distractions
    Rearrange the furniture
    Learn a joke a day and tell it to five people
    At your impromptu party, play pass the tangerine, or twister
    Change your hairstyle
    Take walks




Inner Talk – Guidance From Our Voice Of Reason

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a place of fear, not knowing quite what to do?  Pamela Weintraub talks about how self-talk can free us from our fears and make us wise about ourselves and others in the May, 2015 edition of Psychology Today (The Voice of Reason).

Malala Yousafzi, the young Pakistani activist and youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prise, used self-talk to deal with her own real fears about the Taliban. She knew the Taliban would be looking for because of her continued outspoken stand against oppression, and was able to overcome her fears by having a conversation with herself: “If the Taliban comes, what would you do, Malala?  Then I would reply to myself, Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.”

Psychologist Ethan Kross discovered that how people talked to themselves impacted their success in life.  For instance, if we talk to ourselves using the pronoun “I”, we will be more likely to perform poorly in stressful situations.  But talk to ourselves in the first person, using our own name, and our chances of succeeding soar. Using self-talk in specific ways at specific times frees our brain to do it’s absolute best on our behalf.
Kross postulates that by addressing ourselves by name rather than by the pronoun “I”, we create a psychological distance between our sense of self and our emotions, allowing us to think clearly and perform better.

He suggests a three-stage process of self-talk 

  1. Address yourself by name, seeing yourself as you would a friend.  It is so much easier to be objective when giving someone else we care about advice because we are most often in a calm and focused place when dealing with a friend, and not in that place when dealing with ourselves.
  2. Provide precise self-direction, using unemotional, step-by-step language, just as a teacher might direct a student, or a mentor might direct a mentee.
  3. Focus on the positive.  Put your fear into the broader context by using positive affirmations. Such affirmations move the focus away from a narrowed threat and toward the broader and more realistic perspective of our lives.

An example many of us can relate to is getting ready to go out on a date with a stranger after becoming newly single.  If this is something that would make you nervous and anxious, your self talk might go something like this:  Maryanne, what’s the nervousness about – this isn’t your first date.  You’ve done your homework and he seems real, so stay calm.  Even if it ends up being a one-off, it’s not the end of the world.  You’re warm, funny and intelligent, so let it go and enjoy yourself.

Wise advice.

(Insert your name) You are …

Positive Declarations from Pastor Joel Osteen

Quote of the Week
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Thoughts That Can Change Our Lives

First, say to yourself, ‘I’m totally independent of the good or bad opinions of others.’ Second: ‘I’m beneath no one.’ Third: ‘I’m fearless in the face of any and all challenges.’ -Deepak Chopra
I read this quote of Chopra’s in Oprah’s Thought for the Day. What would it be like – how might it change our lives – if we were to repeat this to ourselves every morning when we woke, or every evening at bedtime?For some of us, it might change our lives for the better.

For others of us, me included, it simply isn’t true that I’m totally independent of the good or bad opinion of others.  No matter how many times I tell myself otherwise, the next time I receive criticism or praise, I feel it.

Same with fearlessness – I am fearful of a lot of things, especially challenges.  And no matter how many challenges I meet, the fear doesn’t diminish.

If Depak Chopra’s words don’t move you, perhaps an alternative mantra, focusing on success in life regardless of fear, like the mantra below, might be a better guide.

I am successful when I believe I’m worth it.

No matter the criticism or praise, the daily fears and challenges, meditating on a mantra that speaks to us personally can refresh hope and inner strength, knowing that we have the ultimate say in our own success.

Louise Hay, the quintessential modern personal mantra guru, says that every word we speak is creating our future, as if our thoughts go out into the universe, are accepted and return to us as experience.  Positive thoughts, according to her, are essential if we want a positive life.

To create our own mantra (which she calls an affirmation), that is unique to our life situation, she suggests 3 things:

  • First, learn to become aware of our thoughts.  What am I thinking?
  • Then once you know what you are thinking, ask yourself if you would like that thought to create your life. In other words, would you like the experience that thought could bring to you.
  • Then take those thoughts you want to experience, and repeat them to yourself every day.

Last word from Deepak Chopra

Quote of the Week

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.― Zora Neale Hurston