It has only been recent and only through my personal work in therapy that I have become aware something significant. Looking back on my life, my childhood, I realize that I have had to allocate my psychological resources for defending myself against real or perceived threats to my ego. I reflect back to my childhood, to my unique gifts and my unique way of thinking and realize that much of what makes me, “me” has always been present. Yet, there wasn’t anyone consistent in my childhood context that could see me and offer the necessary validation. Had that occurred, I could have, from that early point on, used my time to develop those gifts. Instead, it is if I have wasted many years, decades, trying to prove to others that I was worthy of love and attention.
Something wonderful happens when a publisher says she likes your work. And then, when you go on-line to Google this publisher and you find out that she is Judith Regan, one of the most accomplished and renowned publishers of our time, it is exhilarating. It is this wonderful moment when all of your insecurities about yourself, about your thoughts and ideas of the world, are given a reprieve. When my soon-to-be agent told me that Judith Regan liked my book and wanted to talk about publishing it, it was one of the most validating moments in my life.
What I am noticing more and more these days is that people who are in the business of treating mental health and addiction issues struggle to know how to do it. They don’t notice it in this way, rather their experience is that they are frustrated or disappointed in their clients. In situations where the client is unable to adjust or function in a way the therapist or professional deems acceptable, the therapist describes the client as “borderline” or “a problem.” The therapist describes this resistance as the client’s inability or unwillingness to improve or engage in therapy.
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What is therapy? Therapy is not a climb to the top of the mountain to seek advice from the sage. Therapy is always an experience and those who don't know this, (whether it is the client or the practitioner) often engage in the exchange of information without addressing the core issues. Therapy is a container. And by container we are not talking about the office or the physical setting. The container is the mind of the therapist. It is a place one can go to—to be received without judgment. The judgment I am talking about doesn't necessarily come in the form of moral disdain or overt rejection. Rather the judgment I am talking about is often cloaked behind a Ph.D. or training with thousand dollar words like “borderline,” or “narcissism,” or “depression.” With parents the judgment comes in the form of their worry, anxiety, frustration, disappointment or anger. These feelings are interpreted by the child as “I am a problem—I must be—otherwise my parent would not be so upset.”
During the course of working with families, I am often asked to make an assessment and subsequent recommendations. These tasks happen on a small scale, like whether or not the child is ready for a certain privilege, or on a large scale, like whether or not the young adult child should return home or go to a transitional program.
Why do we often hear that Mother’s Day is a day filled with anxiety, sadness, guilt, anger and unfulfilled expectations? There are a myriad of answers to why mothers experience those feelings and a complicated array of scenarios people have to navigate on this holiday. On of the challenges of this holiday is how we try to package the universal feeling of motherhood into the the diversity of people’s experiences It is impossible for me to address everyone’s situation. What I do bring to the table is my experience as a mom and step-mom, as well as a daughter of a step-mom, mom and mother-in-law. From these experiences, I have a few ideas on how to help children have an easier time around this emotionally laden holiday. I also find it interesting that a similar dynamic doesn’t seem to happen as intensely on Father’s Day. There seems to be something unique to mothers that creates vulnerabilities to these difficult emotions. Below are five of the many dynamics that play a part in creating an emotionally stressful holiday rather than a celebration of the unique gifts of motherhood.
As I thought about what to write for my first blog entry, I found myself stuck in an old familiar thinking pattern that plagues from time to time. From my particular childhood context, it is important to get things right. If asked, my parents would most likely deny they intended to teach me this idea but through their particular lens, the only lens I had as a small child, I saw the world through their eyes.
For the last few years, Isabella, our 12-year old, has recorded songs for her mother and me for Christmas. Her choices have held meaning to her and to us. This year, her older sister, Emma, our 20-year old, decided to join Bella and record a song for us. As Christmas approached this year, Bella asked me what I might like to hear her sing. I gave her a short list of songs that I would really love to have for Christmas. As the holiday approached, I teased her about telling me the song she had chosen. She was a vault. She assured me though, that she had not chosen a song from my list. I pressed further suggesting she was just trying to throw me off the trail.
I suppose a topic appropriate for the first entry is the concept of Enlightenment. When I think of enlightenment, I think of shining a light onto all the parts of ourselves. It is identifying all of us, with a special focus of bringing into our awareness those parts of ourselves that were hidden in the dark, forced there by our belief (conscious or unconscious) that we would not belong or be loved if we retained those certain parts.