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Archive for the ‘Therapy’ Category

Connecting Without Regrets

In Therapy, Uncategorized on February 7, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Three years ago I lost someone close to me to cancer. Jenna was my friend of 20 years and also my sister in law. I came back from her funeral and looked at my week ahead. I had more clients that week than ever, and as much as I love (LOVE!) what I do, I got scared. I was turning 40 and my kids were growing up, and my husband and I were basically talking logistics when we saw each other. Life was passing me by. I made a list then, that night, a list of changes that I promised to myself—in honor of Jenna, but also in honor of my family and of myself—that I was going to change. What a process these past three years has been.

Those of you who work, you can relate. Those of you who parent, you can relate. I read the book “I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam and found that there was reason behind my changes. I became even more determined. I used to think of my day in snapshots. Morning, work, dinner, bedtime. She has me looking at my week, at my life, as not just happening, but as looking the way I want it to look. And the gift I have is the same gift everyone has. Each week we have 168 hours.

Ok, so take away sleep. If you are like me, that number is higher than most. I sleep 8-9 hours a night. I still have 108 hours a week. When I logged my week, all 168 hours, I found some really great things happening, and when I found the parts I didn’t like, I changed them. I like to exercise 6 times a week, so that leaves me with 102 hours. Work is of course a big one, and when you include phone calls, scheduling and consulting time it adds up, but not to the point of filling every hour. I still have close to 60 hours left. Sixty hours! What would you do with 60 hours? Shower, car pool, do some laundry, clean…That still leaves you with 45-50. Time to read, see a friend, walk the dog. Walk the dog with my sons, or with my husband. watch a movie, get a haircut, go out to dinner. I found myself determined to cut back on the computer hours in order to increase my hours elsewhere. Listening to my kids’ days, getting a manicure with a girlfriend, talking and enjoying my family. More reading. What would you do with 40 hours?

It’s not easy. I’m pre-wired with a strong work ethic. When I relax, my mind wonders what I should be doing or what I need to worry about. Reprogramming myself to being there in the moment is something I had on my Jenna list three years ago. It’s still hard. But it has definitely improved.

I took a Healthy Lifestyles Assessment last month. My score was nearly perfect. It amazes me to think of what it would have been three years ago. And I’m not “doing” anything different in this life. Nothing has physically changed. I’m prioritizing my time differently. I need to like my life to enjoy it. And so far, these past three years, no regrets. Mostly.

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Connecting by Empowering

In Confidence, Therapy, Uncategorized on September 3, 2015 at 7:44 am

Confirm or Empower. I never considered these two words as opposites before I was the parent of a twelve year old. I grew up a pleaser. I come from generations of them. I can be who you need me to be and you don’t even have to know what you need from me. I can intuit it. I think that is one of the reasons I am a good therapist. I will “get you”. Addiction, self esteem, anger, trauma, guilt, hopelessness… I rarely fail my clients and if they don’t feel understood, I work harder until they do. That is why my twelve year old really threw me for a loop.

Not in the way he is a perfectionist. Believe me, that part I get. Not in the way he doesn’t want to disappoint his teachers or he strives to make his parents proud. I get that too. It is with his peers that he is a whole other kind of animal. When he began styling his hair a certain way several months ago (and when I say “certain”, I mean different. I mean combed to the side in a a self-described “professional businessman” look), I asked him in my most casual way possible “Do other kids in Junior High wear their hair this way?” knowing full well the answer was no. Hs answer surprised me. He said “I’m not like the other kids mom”.

My instinct was to cringe and protect. Being an individual in Junior High? Wasn’t that what I strived NOT to be when I was 12? Wasn’t it a recipe for social outcast or a life of being bullied, or worse… lonely? But I am learning that not conforming is OK when your child is empowered. I empower my clients on a daily basis. Why did it take me longer to figure this out under my own roof?

He is so confident in who he is and what a complex combination of intelligence, sensitivity, athleticism, competitiveness and kindness he is. He thinks swearing is pointless. He thinks bullying anyone is hurtful. He stands up for the bullied despite consequences. He turns down R rated movies claiming they would overwhelm him. He studies for tests and sets his own bedtime. He empowers me every day to do what is right instead of what is “pleasing” or “common” or “accepted by others”. I envy his self esteem. I am proud of him. He knows that being the only one voted the “ stand out student “ all three trimesters by his peers does not necessarily make him the most popular student, but that is because of how popularity is defined at his school. He knows that his happy ending awaits him. His confidence reassures me and amazes me. And I will continue to empower him.

Connecting Kindly

In Therapy, Uncategorized on February 16, 2011 at 9:11 am

I presented last month on a topic I’ve been studying, learning about, and practicing with for over ten years. Overweight adolescents, bullying and self esteem. What is it about our society that teaches one must never discriminate or be prejudiced against others for reasons such as race, culture or socioeconomic status, but then considers discrimination and prejudice against someone who is overweight not that bad? It’s been called the last socially acceptable prejudice. Even therapists, when polled, have associated overweight people with negative characteristics such as lazy and ugly.

Why? What gives people a right to judge? As I learned in my online survey, parents want to raise their children with compassion, empathy and respect (see my blog dated 4/30/10). So where is this empathy when it comes to people who are overweight? The Chicago Tribune published an article last year citing a University of Michigan study that found there has been an overall decline in empathy. President Obama was criticized for discussing our instinct for empathy (when talking about the Arizona shootings) because instead of it being instinctual, empathy must be taught and learned.

A book that I have used over and over again is called “Have You Filled Your Bucket Today?”. It teaches that we all have the power to make or break someone else each day. Choosing your words carefully is a skill all of us can work on, but being purposefully hurtful and mean is never OK. Illinois just enacted the anti-bullying law which includes bullying based on physical appearances. Other states are doing the same. Kelly Osborne was quoted as saying “I took more hell for being fat than I did for being an absolute raging drug addict. I will never understand that”.

Neither will I. Let’s change that.

Connecting in Greek

In Sorority, Therapy, Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Some of you may feel this topic does not apply to you: You never joined a sorority you life was not affected by sororities, you are now out of college and life went on, or you are a male. However, for the sake of every young woman you know, daughters, friends’ daughters, nieces, neighbors, babysitters, and the like, this can be considered your pre-primer to the world that does not seem to have changed over the last 40 years. While a lot of my information comes from Alexandra Robbins’s book “Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities” (like the “last 40 years” statement), a lot comes from my personal experience as well as the numerous mothers and college students I talk with in and outside my office.

While the topic of sororities is not a big one in my office, the summer before leaving for college and the week during sorority rush (when the sorority houses and interested girls meet each other and make their choices/selections) is a time of high anxiety , emotional ups and downs, and sometimes even depression.

Why do girls join a sorority? Reasons include an instant network of girlfriends, being part of a group, philanthropies, and it can even “enhance a girl’s college experience, boost her self-esteem and better her character” (Robbins, p. 11). However, it seems there are also some studies showing it can “crush confidence… and lead to problem behaviors” (p.320) all in an effort to fit in and be a part of a group.

People feel very strongly about the rush process, and I have yet to hear from anyone who honestly enjoys it and feels good about it. Ms. Robbins offers some suggestions on truly reforming it so that it is not a quick, judging, popularity contest but rather a process held all year long (as African American sororities have been doing for years). I know a girl who dropped out of her sorority during her first year on the other side of rush because of the “restricting” rules and “silly” behaviors, along with the mean discussions they were forced to have listing pros and cons of prospective pledges. A parent recently called it a “ridiculous process” citing an incident where a parent got so involved campaigning for her daughter to be “let in” to a particular house that she sent in a cake with her daughter’s photo created in the icing. A college freshman who had the fortunate experience of being pursued by multiple houses said to me “I am really uncomfortable with the message rush sends” and discussed instances where “great, funny, cool” girls were cut from selection lists in what seemed to be judgments on their looks. And what about those girls who don’t get accepted to their choices? It’s not so easy to move on when most girls in your dorm are wearing new Greek letters and going to sorority-invites and you feel like the only one who wasn’t wanted.

I have worked hard with some girls helping them process what just happened during the whirlwind of rush, and how it is not a defining moment in their lives. Why aren’t some of these great, funny girls getting selected? Some have speculated that diversity is frowned upon and if you don’t fit the “type”, you’re not in. And what if you do “fit the type”? Is that good? Are your Greek letters your new identity? For some yes, others no. But one thing is for sure: After having completed the college experience, nobody really cares.

Connecting with Confidence

In Therapy, Uncategorized on July 14, 2010 at 5:28 am

Sometime in my early adulthood, I figured out what makes someone attractive.  Whether it was being able to look back on my own youth, or through the eyes of all the clients I work with, it is the one quality we all wish we had more of, and the one we often feel everyone else has more of than we do.  Confidence.  What does it mean to be confident?  Having conviction.  Being self-assured and independent.  Believing in your powers and abilities

I was recently told by someone that the one thing they would like to change about themself is to be able to walk up to anyone and start a conversation.  Another person said that he would like to be the one making the decisions around his peers.  A young child only wants to be included and chosen for a sports team.  A high school student says she does not write well.  Another is sure she will be the “worst” at a new specialized camp.  A mother says she is constantly seeking approval and comparing herself to others when it comes to her own childrearing abilities.  A husband avoids social situations with his family, afraid he won’t know how to interact.  Interestingly and predictably, they all see “everyone else” as much more self assured, successful and “right” about all of their decisions.  Realizing that everyone has self-doubts, everyone has baggage, everyone has strengths and weaknesses is very difficult for many people.  Feeling “less-than” becomes the norm.

What are you good at?  What are your strengths?  What can you teach others, and lead?  What do you wish you had a stronger conviction about?  How can you give your loved ones more confidence?  Your children?  Your spouse?  If only it were bought.  And once it is given, how can you assure this gift of confidence is received, and received appropriately and not turned into arrogance?  How can you act confident when you don’t feel confident?  How can you embrace a challenge and have confidence you will succeed?

You can find directions all over the internet and self-help books about “how to be confident” but unless you believe in your qualities, your strengths, your powers and abilities, you might be the one who suffers the most.

Connecting During Change

In Therapy, Uncategorized on May 27, 2010 at 8:46 am

This time of year it seems that everything is changing. Not just the seasons as we look to summer, but the school year ends, there are graduations, there is gardening to do, barbeques to plan, weddings to celebrate. There are also things changing that we don’t plan for or count on. There are diagnoses given, deaths to grieve, good-byes to say. Change is hard…. Change is good. We hear both of these phrases often, and they both ring true.

I recently spoke to some groups of high school seniors about transitions. Defined, it means the passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another. While they are transitioning to college, literally moving from one place to another, they are moving from one state to another in the figurative sense. From being a high-schooler to a college student. Oftentimes, this means from being a child to being an adult.

We transition from one state to another many times in our lives. Sometimes as simply as making a new decision, re-connecting with someone, or strengthening a bond. Other times more significantly. Our role as the baby in the family might have changed when a sibling was born. Our role as student class president ending with a loss, or our identitly of “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” abrubtly ending with a breakup. Similarly, our role as wife or husband expands to become mother or father. Our role as unemployed becomes breadwinner, or as addict becomes sober. Transitions. Changes.

How well do you cope with change? Coping with change is a theme in most therapy sessions and coping skills are invaluable. Oftentimes, it is the fear of the change that immobilizes us and that the change itself is never as awful as the “what ifs” that surrounded it. Shel Silverstein wrote a poem titled “What if”, Marvel comics published several series titled “What If” exploring the road not traveled by some of their heroes, and in the clinical world, the “what ifs” are another word for worries. Silencing the what ifs is challenging for everyone. Embracing and overcoming change is also challenging, but at the same time, you should ask yourself “what if I am successful/happier/more at peace” once the change and transitions become an event of your past.

Enjoy your summer. Enjoy your transition. Enjoy your change.

The Chemistry Connection

In Therapy, Uncategorized on March 10, 2010 at 10:21 am

How do you meet people is a question that is often asked, but really, what we are asking is how do we meet people we like, connect with, enjoy, and feel good around. It is that old-fashioned phrase “have chemistry”.  We talk to many people throughout our day, whether it is at our morning coffee shop, on a school playground, at the office, but who would you like to spend your free time with?  Who makes you laugh or brings out your funny-side?  Who do you have chemistry with?

Literally, chemistry is the study of how matter interacts.  When we talk about chemistry with another person, we commonly refer to the love/attraction type of chemistry, but really just interacting positively is a general type of chemistry that we all strive to reach with others.  This type of interaction is so powerful, that it not only puts you in a good mood, but some research has shown that by releasing a certain chemical, phenylethylamine (PEA), this type of chemistry with another person may even make you happy and possibly resist depressive feelings.

Adolescents often say the now-cool word “aaaawkward” when describing certain encounters, but in truth, so many encounters are!  A hint of sarcasm that was taken seriously; a lag in conversation where you say something you regret just to fill the silence; or you’ve exposed too much and experience the “TMI brush-off” (too much information).

But when it’s good, it’s good.  Time flies, you don’t remember why but you know you laughed… hard.  And you are comfortable.  You are validated.  You are valued and never judged.  Similar to finding the right therapist.  This relationship too requires chemistry.  And when it’s good, it’s good.