Some 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.
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…
A little while ago an amazing poem by a 6-year-old boy circulated on the internet. It is charming for its misspelled words and the last two lines convey this beautiful image, “We danst to the mozik/We made personal space” (spelling as in the original).
These lines so perfectly capture the idea of this small area of space around us that moves with us when we move and whose size depends on the situation we find ourselves in. This physical personal space is something we are unconsciously always aware of and we learn to sense and respect other people’s personal space as well. Continue reading →
I am currently reading a book by Caroline Knapp “Drinking: A Love Story,” in which she details her struggles with alcoholism and the story of her recovery. I highly recommend the book! So many people are living with chronic addictive illnesses either in the active stages or in recovery from it. As a therapist I find myself discussing addictions of different stripes with my clients almost daily. I have read more books about the topic than I can count and am always seeking out more information and training on the matter. A recurring theme related to addiction is the description of people using a substance (or sometimes a behavior such as gambling or binge eating) to cope with a feeling. Addictive illness is an intensely complicated topic, so the accounts of the feelings and situations that drive people to drink or use are individual and diverse. Continue reading →
“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 →
In 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 →
I 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 →