This Blog Is About

This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Monday, February 28, 2011


                        "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."  Anais Nin

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Speak When Spoken To and When You Choose

Two versions of the wondrous human helping relationship.

 One of the hallmarks of being human---our ability to speak.  It is one of the first things we begin teaching our babies.  And how delighted we are by their first attempts.  Some have been known to spend massive efforts teaching gray parrots to speak.  We wish sometimes we could know what our pets, and other animals would say to us, if they only could.  Speaking, having language, is one of the characteristics that distinguishes us from other living creatures.  It was such a treasure to be able to express oneself, our American forefathers even put it in the constitution; all Americans are adamant about our right to "freedom of speech".

There are two films which explore the other side of this picture---what happens to a person who cannot speak:  One is a film that was taken from a book (which I have read but have only seen a few clips from the film).  It is called The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.  This is the story of a man suddenly struck down by a cerebrovascular accident.  I once had a patient who had suffered this unusual, devastating physical event.  But, in his case, he was still able to speak, albeit, with difficulty.  In the story of the 42 year old, editor-in-chief of Elle magazine, a man in the midst of an exciting, glamorous world of fashion models and media events, enjoying a position of power and status,  wakes up not able to move and unable to speak.

In the movie, we are taken along with him in his experience of the slowly dawning realization that he is only thinking, no longer talking, and that no one else can hear him.  He has no means of communication; he feels as if he in in a diving bell, under the sea, able to breathe but, otherwise isolated, cut off from the rest of the world.  This condition is sometimes called, Locked-In Syndrome.

The other film is current.  In the movie theatres now, The King's Speech is about, again, a man in a powerful position---in this case where he acutely feels the demands placed upon him---the expectations vested in a person who is to reign over a nation.  He is beset with a speech impediment which makes it virtually impossible for him to speak, in many situations.  His father, the king whose shoes he must one day fill, has needs and expectations of him that have specifically to do with speaking, as do the multitudes of citizens of his country.  His time in history is one of sweeping change and great fear---his leadership, specifically in the interpretation of political events, was desperately needed.  But, he could not speak; he lived in personal crisis.

Here we have two true stories of great poignancy primarily about the inability to express oneself.  How often do we think of being able to talk as such a grand gift?  When you see the portrayal of one robbed of that ability, you may begin to think of it that way.  In the first story, we share the shock of the victim as he recognizes his predicament and in the second, we share the pain and immense frustration of an individual caught in constant conflict.

In both cases, there is a rescue; there is a savior, a person of such compassion that they each determine to overcome the immense obstacles and find a way to help.  Reyna Cowan, LCSW, a psychoanalyst and child therapist says that in performing psychotherapy we "...enter the world of the patient, have it wash over us..." and try to express it back in some meaningful way.
 In both of these cases, the helping person was not a psychotherapist by profession but they could not be better examples of how to be therapeutic.  How does a speech therapist find such determination in herself to devise a way for someone to communicate who has no ability to move save, breathe and open and close one eyelid?  How does a self-anointed "speech specialist" find the courage to stand up to a king in order to be able to help him?

I found the portrayal of this relationship in The King's Speech to be beautifully depicted and  very moving, in the delineation of the development of that relationship.  There are stops and starts, to be sure.  This happens even in relationships with the best intentions, including therapy relationships.  But the wish on the part of the helper to facilitate recovery for his patient was powerful.  If you see this film, watch for how the speech specialist has to protect his own dignity while still conveying the deference due a king---it is touching and remarkable.

When you are in a relationship or, even just a single interaction, wherein you are attempting to help, remember this model; you have to keep both people in mind, be respectful of both, help without losing yourself nor tarnishing the pride of the one being helped.

I'm really hoping you'll comment on the posts about communication!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Tribute

 Some inspiring voices speak for us all

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut
with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl
up like burnt paper.
--D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blog Notes

To my readers

Hi everybody.  First and foremost, thank you for voting on my poll.  Getting some feedback from you is very helpful to me.
This is the second poll wherein you've told me that the long, more complex posts are your favorite offering on my blog.  That's very nice for me since those thoughts are mine and, while they sometimes pull together the research and offerings of others in the field, they are my personal creations and really reflect, in large part my personal philosophy and approach to therapy.  I have a long post in draft which will be up within the next 10 days; title:  Speak When Spoken To.
Short posts,  my meditations, and the book and CD links which I give you all got 66% of the vote.  Your Question of the Day seems less popular.  I think I will continue it for awhile and then replace it (I have some ideas for that).  It is a once a month feature, posting on the 20th of every month.
The Amazon portal got 0 votes.  But I will try to persuade you differently;  If you are going to order something from Amazon anyway, if you do it through my blog, I get some (a little tiny) credit for it.  Over time, they'll add up.  So, it is something you can do for me.

If there is anything else, not listed in that poll, that you particularly like or don't like on the blog, please leave me a message about it in the comments section.  I really want to know.
I've noticed a lot of page views of the No Denial Here post lately; just want to let you know, if you are interested in the topic of alcoholism, addiction, or substance abuse, that, there are a number of other posts on that topic  Here are some of the titles,
  • When Fire Water Causes Conflagration
  • Subtracting to Add
  • Addiction

Two other things I will ask for:  The Americans, my fellow citizens form the largest readership.  This I know from the statistics provided by Google, but, I have no way of knowing which part of the country you are in.  It would be fun for me to know that.
And, finally, it would be wonderful to have comments from some of the many people of different cultures around the world, who read this blog.  Your point of view would be so interesting to us and would, undoubtedly, enrich the blog.

The new slide show is an homage to the Russian readers who currently comprise the third largest readership here, (right after Canada and the U.S.).  Thanks Russia!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

There's A Limit!

          Confrontation can be positive, productive and promote good relations

 There's a limit.  And what is it?  This can be a thorny question in a marriage, in a friendship, in a relationship with a relative.  How many and how far an incursion do you tolerate and how quickly, under what circumstances, and how firmly do you, yourself, set a limit with someone you really care about?
The last part of the last question is the easiest to answer:  Once you decide to set a limit, make it clear.  It isn't fair to you nor to the other person to express your displeasure, to draw the line and then to go all wobbly about it---too confusing.  If you aren't clear about what you want, the other person can't be expected to divine it and thus, they really can't comply, or even decide if they are going to comply or not.  It may require you to do some thinking before speaking.

Once you are internally clear, you do have a right to say what you want.  However, you may get a reaction.  You have to expect that.  You can't just dictate to others and have it all, always go your way.  It might just be acknowledged, accepted and acted upon---that's the ideal outcome for you.  A healthy alternative might be that the other interprets your statement of your preference as the initiation of a negotiation, not a final declaration; thus, you have entered a process.  Or, maybe a mutually clarifying discussion will be the result---that could be enlightening.  Those are productive outcomes.

Conversely, there are, of course, many negative possibilities:  Anger on the part of the other, defensiveness, resistance, refusal, a feeling on their part of being offended, argument, misinterpretation, and so on.  You can't make a stand without being prepared for the other(s) to react from a myriad of possible positions.  Some even make a habit of ostensibly agreeing and then, blithely going on in the same way, ignoring the limit you set for yourself.  This, needs must, presents you with the necessity of repeating yourself.  And, if you don't, if you overlook the other overlooking you, it will be all the more difficult to be respected the next time you have to stand for yourself with this individual.

How do you know what to tolerate and what to change?  If there is a problematic behavior on the part of another or, a particular behavior on the part of others that bothers you, you must watch for two things:  Is is a pattern?  Does that person repeat it over and over?  Maybe getting your toes stepped on once can be tolerated but maybe, even twice is too  much and then you have to say something.  The other thing to notice is if the disliked behavior bothers you every time anyone does it?  (Or is it only some people?  In that case, you may be focusing on the wrong thing---back to the drawing board!).  How much does it disturb you?  Can you live with it, really?  If it never changed, could you be okay with that?  Is it something that is possible for the other to change?
For example, if someone in your circle has a very annoying laugh and, let's say, you find certain types of laughter irritating anyway, well, what are you going to do?  A laugh is a natural expression, different in each person, sometimes pleasant to the ear, sometimes not.  But I don't think it is possible for a person to change that in themselves.  In another example, if a friend hits you and you don't like to be hit, that is an action on which they can restrain themselves.

In the world of setting limits, there are preferences and there are rights.  Your home, for example is your place,---your sanctuary, some say.  You have the right, to a great extent to say how things go there.  If you share your home, the rights are still there but are shared and, thus, are less all-encompassing.  If you don't like loud parties that go on until all hours of the morning and your partner does, a compromise has to be reached.  One cannot impose their complete will upon the other.  A possibility would be that parties would be allowed at certain agreed-upon intervals and would end at, say, midnight.
Sometimes a limit has been set previously but transgressed.  What do you do then?  How you state (re-state) your terms can be quite simple (Example:  "We had an agreement."), direct, and without rancor.  It seems that a low-key tone and straightforward statement have the best chance of being received well.

One of the things I notice since I participate in fitness and physical health classes (primarily Yoga and Feldenkrais) is that the teachers will usually not perform a correction on a student without asking permission first, to touch them.  It seems we all have the right to decide if we will be touched by another or not.  Here is an example of a culturally-set limit.

Other limits you consider setting with others may have to do with meeting times, food preferences, drug use or abstention,  frequency of visits, duration of visits, in business---there may be policies that in your business you choose to require your clients/customers to adhere to.  There could be many examples.  These are more fitting in the category of wants than rights.

Nonetheless, you are free to draw the line anywhere in your life that you choose.  If the pattern's continuation without a limit is going to put a lot of wear and tear on any relationship, it seems it might be important to put forth that limit.  What about when others demonstrate the firmness of their own boundaries with you?  Something to pay attention to...

To be fair, this has to work both ways.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Rejuvenating Your Body and Soul"

"Yogic wisdom"                                                  
                                                                          "...start with a daily spiritual practice, such as meditating or reading a spiritual book, when you wake.  It will make you mindful of whether you're really hungry or not; whether you're going about your life peacefully or in a hectic way; what kind of people you're attracting; even what kind of work you're attracting.  We are a product of what we spend most of our time doing."                                     Yogi Cameron Alborzian               ~~Note:  A way to do this might be to go to one of the meditations on this blog each morning.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Old Bones


 "...the ankle bone's connected to the leg bone, the leg bone's connected to the knee bone..."  etc.  These are some of the lyrics from a traditional song sometimes called Dry Bones/Dem Bones/Old Bones.  A chiropractor, Scott Heun, once recited the words of that old song to me, illustrating that when you had an injury in one part of your body that it also affected other parts.  The Feldenkrais method also talks about this idea that symptoms are not isolated situations.

This connectivity or feedback loop is also true of the mind and the body.  When you are not well, it often affects your state of mind and your general attitude.  It is also sometimes difficult to think as clearly as usual.  When illness goes on for a long time, people's perceptions sometimes become inaccurate and they get confused.  Emotions are sometimes generated by being ill:  Perhaps you got sick just as you were about to leave on a vacation trip and you feel frustrated.  It can be disappointing to prepare for something with a lot of time and effort only to have to bow out due to sudden illness.  Sometimes being sick can provoke the feeling of fear.  One of my patients recently had to be briefly hospitalized for pneumonia and after recovering told me how helpless she felt in the hospital, not being able to manage her own care nor even advocate for herself.  Indeed, being sick can evoke emotions and alter thinking, so I think we can safely say that illness affects the mental functioning.

(The concept of inner interconnectedness is touched upon in the post titled, Circumambulation)

However, the other end of that feedback loop, how the mind influences the body is not as often discussed.  "The lifespan of severely and persistently mentally ill persons is, on average, twenty years shorter than the rest of the population."  John Hollender.  How do we understand such a statistic?  The mind and the body and not separated and, in fact, there is a constant dual communication or feedback loop between the two.  It has been my observation and experience that psychotherapy affects general physical health in a positive way.  Not only do people in counseling often begin to take better care of themselves (see post on related topic titled, "I've Lost 38 Pounds!"), automatically make better choices for themselves as their sense of self strengthens, but, the mind seems to be better able to direct the body as it gets clearer psychologically.  "Data from the...field of PNI...increasingly indicate a mind-body continuum and discredit the anachronistic split of Cartesian dualism.  Concepts and models from quantum physics, as well as theoretical speculations from key researchers, indicate that human consciousness...may, in fact, exert a superordinate organizing function over...biological functions."  Kenneth Pelletier & Denise Herzing

It pays off in better immunity, improved digestion, and less muscle tension to tend to your emotional health, your spiritual life, your personal relationships and your mental habits.  "Electrical signals sent by the neurological system, including the brain, are turned into chemical signals in the immune system, and vice versa.  In fact, it is believed that this translation takes place in the region of the brain known as the limbic system.  This is also the part of the brain where emotions are 'processed'." Wendy Ruthstiver, RN, BSN, MA.  Therapists have known for a long time that there is a mind-body connection but now other branches of science have become interested in proving this.
Some of the idioms in the English language such as, having "butterflies in my stomach" or a "gut feeling" or "a pain in the neck" indicate that not just therapists have made this observation.  Really everyone knows that the idea that body and mind are not linked is untrue and have known it for a long time.  For some reason though, there is a resistance in many cultures to the notion that the mind can impact the body's health.  So, even though the wisdom of this interweaving of our functioning appears in our common language, we think we can deal with these aspects as separate parts of ourselves.  I submit that we do ourselves a disservice when using that model to self-evaluate.  Why not take advantage of that wisdom that is in our culture and in our emerging science and thus help ourselves to feel better, be healthier, and support our wellness?

"Our bodies are important.  Our body is a unified, fluid, organic environment.  It is our means for experiencing the world.  One of the key points to stress to learn to listen to our body.  Be aware of the clues which it is giving you.  Chest pain is a clue.  Tension headaches are  clues that you are out of balance in some way.  These clues provide you with a tremendous opportunity to learn about who you are..." W. Ruthstiver

And by the same token, a regular meditation practice, a good, on-going therapy experience, and a balance between mental stimulation and rest can elevate your overall health.