Forgiveness: What and How

Hands letting go of sandWhat does forgiveness really mean?  It comes up in therapy a lot but the concept is so unclear for many of us. I have devoted hours pondering the meaning of this elusive concept. Forgiveness describes a conscious act on the part of the person forgiving and a human gift received by the person who is in need of forgiveness. And forgiveness is a close partner to intensely painful feelings and memories of things that have happened in the past.  In truth “to forgive is not to forget” so how does transformation of the past pain and damaged relationship happen?… (Continue to read at Psyched in San Francisco Magazine)

A Strange Ode to a Weird Friend

Mirrored IamgeYou make my skin crawl when I hear a noise in the night

You send jitters down my spine when I climb to scary heights

You make me run, run, run…

Forward, don’t look back, never rest!

You remind me I have a heart that can beat out of my chest

You come to me in the night with memories and visions, a punch to the gut

And then you push me out of the gates with incredible speed.

Fight or flight! Freeze or death! You keep me going, my weird friend, my racing breath, forward, don’t look back, never stay, never rest…

In this short poem I was trying to touch on some of the contradictory aspects our experience of anxiety can contain. While it originates in our basic survival mechanism of “fight, flight or freeze,” our emotional makeup as humans that comes with the knowledge of our own mortality, a keen memory and a sense of imagination of the future can transform it into a force that works against us. I sometimes describe this aspect of anxiety as an “emotional and mental autoimmune condition.” Like our immune system, anxiety is there to let us survive but it can turn into an enemy. When we experience the detrimental effects of overbearing anxiety, we tend to lose touch with not only its truly protective aspects but also with its potential as a driving force. I will certainly write more about this in future posts but would love to hear more from you about your thoughts and reflections on anxiety.

The Roles We Play

RolesSome people love acting on stage or in films. They loan their body and imagination to a fictional character and make us believe in its existence. We are moved to tears or break into heartfelt laughter at their performance and experience their adventures vicariously for a while. I have not done much of this kind of acting, apart from being a ghost in a school play, but I admire actors and their skills. Before I became a therapist I was a professional fiction writer and have created characters on page, which requires imagining the feelings of somebody not yourself and bringing their thoughts and actions to life in a believable way. So when I learned about role theory during my clinical social work training, I was naturally drawn to this way of describing how we interact in society.

Let’s think about the many roles we take on every day. Continue reading

Praise Our Chosen Family!

What a wonderful article. It puts in words exactly how I feel about my chosen family as well.

Counseling TidBits

From “On Being” with Krista Tippett

In Praise of Chosen Family

BY COURTNEY E. MARTIN (@COURTWRITES), WEEKLY COLUMNIST

Kate is one of the first friends that I feel like I actually chose. I’d see her walking around campus, her thick, dark hair curling up around her headphones, her head bobbing. She was a DJ at the college radio station. She was in my human rights class with the ancient and erudite Professor Juviler.

She sat with a group of girls in the cafeteria who exuded a bravado that I craved as I sat with my calorie-counting crew. I admired her from a safe distance for a while, suspicious that I was probably too earnest for her. Then, one day, with my adolescent esteem on some erratic upswing, I decided to email her. I told her that she was amazing and that…

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Some Light Musings on Aging and Death

light musings“If you don’t want to get old you have to die young.” This aphorism caught my attention immediately when I read it many years ago and I have since then often remembered it and sometimes quoted it when the moment seemed right. Having lost quite a few friends to illnesses and accidents when we were all still young, I felt that complaining about the aging process was indeed a luxury only people who survived life long enough to enter this process were afforded. I am now at the strange place in life where I’m neither young nor old and my friends range in ages from the very young to octogenarians. Another aphorism pops into my mind more often now, i.e. “In every old person is a young one utterly surprised.” Continue reading

Hope in Action

supergirlIn my work as a therapist and clinical social worker I come across the concept of hope frequently. For the last years I worked at an agency in San Francisco serving people who were often homeless, very poor, addictively ill, and who had been confronted with existential obstacles for a long time–sometimes all of their lives. Many of them experienced traumatizing events. From the outside it would seem that hope is not easy to come by when your life path has been one of struggles and disappointments. When I began my work at this agency, I was told that one of my tasks was to give people hope.  Continue reading

Our Inner Community

inner communityI am immensely fortunate and grateful to have a number of very dear friends. Some live close by and some are far away on other continents. One of them, my spouse, I see every day, and others I have not seen in years. I was taking a walk not too long ago and started thinking of a friend I had not spoken to in a few weeks and made a mental note to call her later that day. During this thought process I realized how close I felt to her and how her friendship, warmth, and support have settled in me, become part of me, something I can feel and have access to independent of actual contact. Just thinking of this friend made me feel accepted and appreciated. Continue reading