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Dear Soul

Dear Soul Engaged in a Mental Turf War,

Our mind can be our best ally AND our most destructive enemy. Optimally, our mind helps us solve complex problems, see possibilities, create a happy life, make assessments about people and things and continue to learn. Our mind can also   create problems, limit our possibilities, sabotage our hopes and dreams, make harsh judgments and keep us hiding in a foxhole.  Our mind is a masterful, over-achieving, take no prisoners, thought-generating machine. The personal turf war over our mind is not with the actual thoughts themselves, but in the attachment to or belief in the thoughts.

Gladys is the battle-hardened, all work and no play, thought producing gal who is a part of my mind. Because of our intimate, lifelong connection, we continue to negotiate an agreement that allows us to co-exist.  Gladys produces an endless supply of “keep Laurie alive, safe and out of pain” thoughts. I ultimately decide which thoughts to heed and/or dismiss based on the life I choose to create. Some of the most life-limiting thoughts she has generated for my believing displeasure include:

“You SHOULD NEVER do anything less than perfect.”
“You MUST ALWAYS be in control of your thoughts and feelings.”
“Better SAFE then SORRY.”

I would cling to her thoughts as though they were my salvation. Because thoughts self populate, Gladys helped me cherry pick the thoughts that directly supported her position. This led me to interpret situations in my life through this “doom and gloom” mentality. Confirmation bias morphed into core beliefs, which negatively shaped my self-concept. I convinced myself that since I failed miserably at accomplishing her harsh dictates, “I wasn’t good enough.”

A profound, deep truth I learned over decades of living [...]

Dancing to my own Beat; My Musical Happiness Revolution

My happiness revolution evolved from the wisdom and poetry of lyrics, an unexpected rhythm, the beauty of a sustained note. Music has been the “One friend, to get me through the day. One friend, that never goes away. Only one friend to understand, and never let me down.” (Keb Mo)  As I moved into my first apartment at age 19, I had to choose between purchasing a sofa or badass hi-fi system.  I sat on the floor and savored Carlos Santana’s, sublime spirituality, “Open your eyes, let it begin with me. Brand new day, fresh new way to live.” This moment of choice was turning toward a simple life of engaging with the elements of life that brought me meaning. The gorgeous harmony of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young encouraged me to continue to pursue a life of synchronicity and balance.  “You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.  And so become yourself because the past is just a good bye.”

The musical tracks of my life were not as succinct, as I danced through many relationships.  I discovered that while Cat Stevens was “looking for a hard headed woman” most of the men I dated were not that emotionally aware.  More often than not, “I stayed awake for hours again last night.  Searching for a reason to keep up the fight. I’ve made choices I don’t regret, I’ve got problems I don’t get.” (Great Big Sea) My naïve, but always well-intended attempts to “help” a die-hard rocker find nuance and wonder in the musical paintings of Pat Metheney usually ended on a sour note.   Joni Mitchell was always empathic when I felt “I’m so hard to handle, [...]

Good Enough IS the New (and more realistic) Perfect

List the areas in your life that are most important to you. Create a table with two columns, the first being “The Perfect Life” and the second “The Good Enough Life”. For each of the life areas that you listed, write down what would be perfect in the first column, and what would be good enough in the second column. (CiPP=Certificate in Positive Psychology)
Important Areas of my Life:

Meaningful Relationships/Connections (husband, family, friends, pets, clients)

Creativity (writing, music/dance, growing business, creating a beautiful environment)

Professional Life (lifelong learning, personal growth and development)

Travel (near and far)

Play (includes Gardening, Cooking, Entertaining, reading)

Health (Mind, Body, Spirit)

Keep in mind the PERFECT life is based on denying the reality of our limitations. The Good Enough Life is based on accepting the reality of our limitations and working in the direction of creating the Optimal Life.

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    The Monster Inside My Head (aka what gets in the way of me thriving)

The Monster Inside My Head (aka what gets in the way of me thriving)

“I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed
Get along with the voices inside of my head
You’re trying to save me, stop holding your breath
And you think I’m crazy, yeah, you think I’m crazy Well, that’s nothing
Well, that’s nothing”
— Eminem, Rihanna: The Monster
Flashback……September 2009

A time in my life when I thrived was when I taught a master’s level course on Psychotherapy for Individuals. I had agreed to teach this course as a favor to a friend who unexpectedly moved out of state.  It was my first foray into formal teaching (although I had run groups and in-house seminars on professional ethics and stress reduction for numerous years.)  I had a one-week timeframe to prepare before the course began. The course ran for 3 hours on Tuesday evenings. Evenings are not my optimum time of day. I am one of those annoying early-birds that bound out of bed ready to rock and roll (it annoys the heck out of my husbandJ).  It was about an hours drive for me to get to the university AFTER I had completed a full day of groups and individual therapy and I had to drive on Michigan winter roads and in the dark on my way home (two of my least favorite things.)  There we a lot of valid excuses for me NOT to thrive.

A colleague asked me if I felt intimidated about teaching these young, fresh students.  My externally verbalized response was “No, I just really need to stay one week ahead of them.”  My internal honest, not verbalized response was  “Hell YES, terrified!!!”  I decided my best approach was to speak from my strengths and passion, which at that time were [...]

Time-Flow

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

“Time, flowing like a river
Time, beckoning me
Who knows when we shall meet again, if ever?
But time keeps flowing like a river into the sea”
The Alan Parsons Project – Time

Whenever I think of flow, this song comes to mind.  It evokes two vivid memories.

In the first, I was leaving the business world to go back to school to pursue the great unknown (as in really I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do.)  I had some cash, a bit of time, a newer car and had talked myself into driving cross-country by myself on the back roads. As someone who is pathetically challenged navigationally this was a leap of faith. At that time there were no GPS or cell phones. I had no set agenda, nowhere I had to be, and no one I needed to answer to.  I was scared shitless, but to be brutally honest, more afraid of NOT making the journey now that I had mentally committed.

I kept a journal as a means of acknowledging and remembering. There was a point in my adventure that the content and tone of the journal shifted.  It may have been around South Dakota.  My writing became less factual and more lyrical. I began to savor the beauty around me, a vast field of sunflowers, a mountain goat in Glacier National Park, the hypnotic hum of the tires on the road, the fact that in [...]

By |April 24th, 2014|Blog|0 Comments|

The Wisdom of My 110 Year Old Self

Through the hazy film of eyes once bright with possibility and wonder, my 110 year- old self holds me in a fragile, yet soft embrace.  The unexpected beauty of HER deeply lined face; HER unwavering sense of self, shake me to the core. I momentarily feel foolish that I continue to be influenced by superficial standards, at times, not even comfortable in my own skin. However, HER gaze assures me that she sees me as wonderfully perfect in my flawed, vulnerable ways.  SHE substitutes judgment and critique with curiosity and understanding.  SHE intimately knows that I will consistently try to do better and aspire to a wiser version of myself.

HER shaky, quiet voice whispers of kinder,…..gentler,….. slower…… ways to connect with the world and myself.  SHE models the art of being fully present, appreciating the moments as they unfold.  My frenetic mind registers the words but races ahead MORE, BETTER, FASTER, despite the knowledge that this does NOT serve me well.  SHE acknowledges there are lessons to be gained from the struggle.  SHE wishes it didn’t have to be so; wishes I could loosen my grip on the struggle, but SHE has discovered it is futile to fight the wind.  HER embrace loosens ever-so slightly, imperceptible to most, but I notice and wonder what it means. SHE chuckles under her breath as SHE notices me noticing this.

My 110 year-old self has discovered an unmarked path that meanders its way through bramble, mud, dust and shale.  SHE knows I will be willing to navigate its many obstacles that eventually point the way to peace of mind and fullness of heart.   SHE has witnessed beauty and unspeakable tragedy, felt love and sorrow, experienced success and failure. [...]

How and When Did Mental Health Become Mental Meh?

Dear fellow human being, seeking a meaningful, rich, wholehearted life,

When and how did mental health become mental meh?
“What is the problem from your viewpoint?”  “How does the problem affect your life and ability to function?”  “Describe the symptoms you have noticed as a result of your problem.” “What have you already tried to fix the problem?”  What didn’t work for you when trying to fix this problem?”
Psychological change hinges on the art of an evocative, well-timed, question.

In traditional psychology the questions traditionally center on what’s WRONG and how to diagnose, then reduce or eliminate the PROBLEM.  Since the problem typically involves a painful emotional state, our feelings become categorized as either good or bad.  Strength-based and client-centered buzzwords end, along with therapy, as soon as the problem is in remission or don’t meet DSM criteria. The optimum outcome is symptom reduction.  Is it any wonder there is stigma associated with this problem-centered, feeling phobic, “fix what’s broken and then you’ll be ok like the rest of us” way of practicing psychology?  Paradoxically, the single most stated therapeutic goal of people coming to see me for help is “I just want to be happy.”
“Who has been positively influenced and shaped your beliefs and worldview?”  “What are you grateful for today?”  “Describe a time in your life when you felt at your best.  What was happening, who were you with? What worked?”  “How would you like to be remembered?”  “What needs to happen for this to become a reality?”
Positive Psychology poses questions and engages in dialogue about optimum health, life balance, how we define success, the nature of values.  The well-timed evocative questions focus on what works.  What are your strengths and [...]

Muggy

Reflecting on my childhood, a photo consistently comes to mind.  My grandmother (Muggy) is engrossed watching me open a gift.  Her expression radiates unfiltered wonder, love and happiness.  It is the look of a woman wholly engaged in the beauty of the moment.  This image captured both the wonderful simplicity and depth of being accepted and loved for WHO I was in the world.

Muggy (my nickname for her…not sure how or why I came up with thisJ) lived with our family in the home that had been passed down maternally for 3 generations. She was a passionate kindergarten teacher by profession but the numerous lessons I gleaned from her were predominately implicit.  These seemingly innocuous, yet profound, memories have guided and shaped me along the twisty -turny roads of the journey that is my life.

An early, and in retrospect, life-altering, lesson I learned from Muggy was that people posses a depth and complexity of character that can only be observed and understood by direct, patient observation. I’m sure most people perceived her as a selfless, softhearted, generous educator and relief parent for my mom and dad when they were in dire need of a break.  Physically, her fluffy white hair highlighted the mischievous twinkle in her blue eyes.  She was a robust lady with the profound bosom of the female figurehead on the front of ships and always wore an array of Sarah Coventry bejeweled pins.  She openly chowed an entire large Hershey bar every day and made me sublime milk –toast when I was sick.

In a secret world, that I was lucky to observe, Muggy never missed a Saturday installment of Big Time Wrestling with Bobo Brazil.  On special occasions she could throw [...]

The Appreciation Videos

I have been taken by the wisdom of the appreciation letter ever since I read Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness.  I have written two such letters and decided to make video’s for each, as I like the idea of both the recipient and me being able to view it again and again.  The experience of composing and delivering these appreciation videos has been profound.

The first appreciation video I made for my husband, Yoram.  I gave it to him as a Holiday gift.  He loved it and said it was the kindest thing anyone had ever done for him.  I loved both the process of thinking about and making the video and perhaps even better was his surprise and heartfelt emotion when I viewed it with him. He travels extensively and has downloaded it to his computer for when he needs a pick me up while half way around the world.

The second video I just completed is for my mother.  We live 10 hours apart and it is not possible this year for me to return to Michigan to deliver her tribute in person.  I will be sending it on DVD in a care package for her birthday.  I cry every time I watch it and I can hardly wait for her to view it. I know she will both laugh and cry.

My disclaimer for this video is that our entire family has this crazy sense of the absurd.  We developed the ability to laugh and joke about the un-jokable as a means of coping with the stress of  the looming death of both my grandmother (Muggy) and my dad (Clarence.)  Fifteen years my life from age 15-30 involved a family members terminally ill diagnosis [...]

Confessions of a Flawed, Vulnerable Human Being

Hi, my name is Laurie and I’m a reforming perfection-olic (did I spell that right?…he, he, he)  I have been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember.  I may have come out of the womb believing this crazy making mythology.  It has negatively impacted every aspect of my life. I have been powerless over my addiction (or so I believed) until the last two decades of my life.

About 8 years ago I added the auspicious credential, FVHB, to my business card.  When asked, I state that FVHB is the most important credential I earned.  It has taken me decades to achieve and has been the most challenging accomplishment of my life.  The acronym stands for Flawed Vulnerable Human Being.  There, I said it out loud…with a big grin and an internal sense of feeling lighter, more grounded and less neurotic.

As the oldest of three kids, stair-stepped two years apart, I embraced the role of leader, teacher and responsible one.  This personality trait earned me big psychological kudos with my mom and dad. I was rigorous in my attempts to corral and tame my brothers (the demon spawn from hell.) I aspired to find just the right words, convey the correct tone and always model the best behavior (always with a smile, that often resembled a grimace) to help them see the error of their ways AND do what I thought was best.  The demon spawn had very different ideas.

Two of the most formative FVHB, moments occurred while babysitting my brothers.  The first involved them setting the house curtains on fire after squirting lighter fluid into the fire in the fireplace.  In a separate, but equally terrifying incident, my youngest brother held an [...]