Feeling betrayed by the body

Feeling betrayed by the body is something that most cancer patients have experienced at one point or another in their journey. For it grows so silently until something makes us aware of it’s presence. My initial suspicion stemmed from dreaming that I had breast cancer, and then I found the lump. While I often wondered if I would get cancer because of my family history, it was still a shocking discovery to find. In between the time that I had the dream and went to the doctor, it grew to a noticeable lump when I would look at myself in the mirror.   In retrospect, once I had the official diagnosis I began to recognize that for about 6 months prior I had not been feeling quite myself- my generally unflappable energy had been waning and there had been a quality of unease inside my skin that had been persistent, even though it had not been shouting until the dream.   I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, which is an aggressive, fast growing version of breast Read more [...]

How art helps us recover from a traumatic illness or injury

The first rule of thumb is that no experience is necessary. It is easy to feel intimidated or shy about the idea of using art to process what you have been through, often we have old baggage about being criticized or misunderstood about our inherent creative nature. Yet, while some of the work you produce processing through art may be exceptional or lead to an art piece that you wish to display, the raw processing of trauma is generally not intended to be a masterpiece. Process art is a form of communication, it is your inner self externally sharing something of personal value and meaning on paper. It may represent a thought, feeling, or belief that you have inside, or perhaps the process art will be a form of meditation that allows you to be more present as you sift through memories, thoughts, and feelings.   When we have been through a traumatic experience, it impacts our body, mind, spirit and sense of self on a number of levels. Being diagnosed with a life threatening illness Read more [...]

“The Journey” by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice-

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do-

determined to save

the only life you could save.

“You must let people live their own lives and learn their own lessons. If people are not receptive, let them go their own way — even into difficulty or dangerous circumstances.” ~taken from I-Ching #4

When we are faced with the destructive behavior of a loved one, we often are pulled by our own compassion to help them along the journey. It is important to examine our intentions and their impact, because all too often our assistance prevents the individual from taking ownership of the situation. When boundaries are enmeshed, it invokes dependency rather than confidence and perseverance.   A recent article featured in the magazine, The Atlantic, titled “How to land your kid in therapy” examines the impact of parents who out of their love for their children attempt to mitigate most difficult situations for their children. It can be challenging to determine what is appropriate especially with adolescents and their families, because of the adolescent's developmental needs for individuation and the parent's ongoing responsibility for their child's wellbeing.   The drive behind this behavior is building self esteem and happiness, yet it protects children from feedback Read more [...]

“If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” ~ Emile Zola

There are just some days when we wake up and it is difficult to shift our thinking and behaviors. Seeing our human shadow can often cause a lot of shame, even when we might be more forgiving of the same in others. Developing compassion for ourselves is an important step in breaking free of self defeating thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. I often ask clients to try and translate the compassion they feel for their loved ones into compassion for themselves. However, it takes time to develop self compassion and in the meantime we are left vulnerable to self loathing.   Tolerance for the process can be hard to come by, especially if we are isolated. Being isolated clearly can arise from having a limited network or emotionally unsafe relationships, yet often isolation comes from an internal place- fear of breaking the silence and taking the risk to share our inner world with trusted companions.   In therapy, I often help clients identify what is keeping them silent. Read more [...]

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago” ~ Nietzsche

Currently I am reading Irvin Yalom's book “Staring at the Sun, Overcoming the Terror of Death”. In the book, Yalom describes how frequently our overt and covert fears surrounding death influence how we experience our lives. I was struck by the quote from Nietzsche, as it does encapsulate an important reason why we seek out psychotherapy. Often this need manifests at a time of transition, major life change or loss. Revisiting ideas, behaviors, and beliefs that one has conquered before can be frustrating, as we often wish they would remain in the past rather than influence our present. I have often noted that when this occurs, we may feel like we are repeating our developmental stages; for example, responding in a manner that expresses the helplessness we may have felt as a small child or rebelling as teen to try and establish autonomy. Feeling vulnerable can shed light onto the shadow aspects of self, those parts of ourself which we have rejected and pushed aside. What is in Read more [...]