by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 25, 2014 counseling, holidays, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Oh its the holiday season and if you’re like me then you may have already started to take note of perfect present options for the people on Santa’s list. Some of us are extremely adept at choosing excellent and meaningful gifts for everyone on our list without even breaking the budget, understanding the person enough to project what they could enjoy or want is a skill. By the time I was a teenager I had caught on to my grandmother’s tactic for unfailingly choosing an excellent gift. Around September or October as Sunday dinner was wrapping up, she stood her vigil at the counter placing the dishes in their places, she would drape the kitchen table in lots of advertisements and suggest that we go through them. Nanny would pretend to only half hear while my sister and I perused the pages of toys and games, the objects which drummed up the most aghast and emphatic squeals always found their way under the tree. Nanny is a great gift giver indeed. While we express gratitude for each gift that is given and received, as it truly is a privilege to be able to exchange presents, still there is no harm in wondering, what is it that separates the excellent gift from the things that find their way to the rear wall of the guest bathroom? Low on my personal preference for wonderful gifts are envelopes of cash unless of course the gifter has asked for or made some overture that this would be a most enchanting and preferred present for them. Because when we consider it, the point of gift giving is to delight someone that we care about. On the inverse, a budding business mogul may especially enjoy a cash present by honing their tycoon skills turning the 50.00 into hundreds more! To delight another we must have an understanding of the person that we are gifting because we each come with difference preferences. Very high on my list of excellent choices for presents are activities or adventures. Anything which the giver and givee are able to do together. Let’s admit that most of us have more objects than we can even store and the acquisition of even more stuff may not really add any value or meaning to our lives. Yet the promise of time together and memories made does add that extra dose of joy. From hot air balloon trips for the thrill seeker, cooking classes for the domestic goddess or god, dance instruction, acting class’s for those who adore the spotlight. Activity presents are things that provide a jolt of joy and the promise of time spent together enjoying and growing together.
Handmade crafts are a great idea for children to partake in the blessing of giving and enhancing creativity, this allows them to participate in the holiday gift exchange without the thought of money. Adults too sometimes exchange handmade crafts, something that I would never attempt as I am not particularly skilled in painting, knitting, or collaging but kudos to you if you are! The sentimental are especially likely to be touched by a handmade gift. Personally I prefer to forget about finding out what someone “needs” for Christmas and instead consider what would they really “want?” What better way to delight the foodie on your list that with the food of the month clubs which are a great way to enjoy the holiday cheer all year long with such clubs as the wine of the month club to the chocolate of the month and even the salt of the month! This is perfect for those who indulge in sensual pleasures and are forever seeking new tastes to indulge. Finally we should always remember that while some enjoy the luxury of gift giving and choosing presents suited to each person on Santa’s list, there are others who may not be able to participate for financial hardships. For the social work student on your list may love a donation to a charity of their choice in their name. For the rest of us, finding great gifts which are within our means are the key to having a great holiday. Even if you’re not able to participate in gifting this year, then baking some holiday treats are an inexpensive way to share your love. That really is the message beneath all of the commercials and advertisements, to share in the tradition of bringing happiness to others during the December holidays. How do you bring yours? Happy Holidays, Stephanie McCracken MSPC Nicole Moneteleone LPC, NCC, NBCC Reviving Minds Therapy 1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 412-322-2129Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 19, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Perception and Encountering The True Self
Perception is the realization of the effect that a vantage point has upon the quality and content of thought. There are sects of psychology which map out human consciousness, a design to thought and feeling. An ever complex diagram which points to the id, the ego, or in other realms the observing ego, and still others such as gestalts, figures, and the foreground. There psychological unity to recognize that we want to name and understand this very act of understanding, as grandiose as this quest may be. Imagine the possibilities to go on a fantastic adventure by literally stepping inside of the human mind, or are you in there? Or do we only imagine that we are inside of ourselves yet entirely mystified and misled by thoughts and feelings? Inside of your mind what kinds of structures would we see beyond the biological anatomy, what is this fabric of your consciousness?
Entering into the nature of our consciousness is an exquisite endeavor, beyond things like our defense mechanisms and ornate or ordinary persona, we may find something else entirely. Yet many of us live our daily life with such a distorted vision of reality. According to Carl Jung “an encounter with the true self is like an encounter with god.” Why, you may ask is this such a special and unparalleled act? Well to really know the true self requires that we do very deep excavation, in the recovery of our true self beneath layers of defenses and processing through our fallible ego lays a piece that our core. It is often hard to discern that piece when even our own thinking is a construct which is churned about after being milled through anxiety limiting and mighty defenses and shadoscapes. It is not as though defense mechanisms are such a terrible thing, in many cases they are often protective, they order and mask, limiting chaos and pain of being. Yet as a truth seeker, it is this encounter with the deepest parts of being which is my manifest mission. When the true self becomes visible, then we may decide to make some changes, we very well may need to stop from turning and running away from the way that we distort the world to maintain a sense of self, or avoid intimacy, or prevent the reliving of trauma, the multitudinous functions of thought. The prize when encountering this true self is that we then may be freer to choose alternate ways of responding to ourselves and others.
What is your perspective? Choosing terrain exerts entirely different experience upon whether you’re looking down to the glittering river while meandering on foot across a bridge. Yet then consider the difference when on a boat and floating past the bridge from beneath the looming beams, then one is able to notice the rusting nails from beneath the structure, crying out “hello” and hear the booming echo of your speaking voice. What a difference perspective makes, with thought and perspective it’s not where you go but how you get there as we people of Pittsburgh and beyond converge and live dispersed on meridians about these three rivers. To what are you attenuated as frolicking about life’s journey?
In happiness and wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NBCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 11, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, holidays, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
The holidays symbolize time to be close to those who we hold near and dear, the sentimental stuff of greeting cards, television series, and memories to be made. In later years we may recall the time that the snow fell 8 inches on Thanksgiving Day and Aunt Margaret perfected her best version yet of caramel apple pie, while baby Charlie was just learning to crawl. The Griswold style celebrations, the kind in which we run to each other with open arms to gleefully share in discussion of all of the incredible things that we have been doing with our ultra-successful lives. Stop, cut! Perhaps you are like many of us who struggle during the holidays, maybe it’s been a tough year or a tough life and thinking of the holidays fills you with dread. Just maybe there can still be some way to encounter some of the most common impasses in a compassionate and constructive way.
Often that relationship concern, family rift, lost job, death, or defeat has a way of haunting the landscapes of that which would otherwise be a charming holiday season. This ominous considerations often lead to a preoccupation with stress during the holidays, we balefully note the slipping away of our glittering joys topped with an extra serving of sadness for not being as happy as we expect that we “should” be. For instance, since the lay off at the office, you have not been feeling quite yourself and grief keeps you from even telling your perfectionist mom about the loss. Yet with thanksgiving it will now become impossible to avoid the situation and anxiety is heightening with each approaching day. Perhaps it is time to allow the people that care about you to be a support? It is often helpful to remember that we imagine others to be in ways that may be less of a reflection of them and more a reflection of us, mom may not become angry or critical when hearing our woes, look carefully at those parts of yourself which cause anxiety at the thought of revealing humanness and vulnerability.
Maybe you have a very small family, no family, a family that lives across the country and not enough of a work break or airfare to get there. For you, the holidays end up being a time of aloneness, in fact when your coworkers ask what you are doing for the holidays you always make up a story about being with Great Aunty Mildred, the shame in admitting the truth is most easily shrouded in deception. Instead you will be sitting inside watching ancient reruns of the Brady Bunch submerged in a dialogue of your general unworthiness towards companionship. Perhaps this could be approached differently, honest discourse demands courage from ourselves but it often opens doors, maybe even doors to holiday gatherings. Remember, although you may feel that you’re the only one alone on the holiday, you’re not, there are others who are in the same position. Maybe by summoning your inner Gandhi and “being the change you want to see in the world” and host your own “Friends-giving.” This is becoming a popular way to celebrate with others, particularly if done in the evening or the day after the holiday. If neither of those options sounds like a fit then accept the challenge of donating your time for the day towards helping a charity or creating something that you can donate with the idea in mind, “how can I help someone today?”
If your concerns aren’t about bringing together people but being surrounded with people who you have been seeking to avoid then read on. For instance, entering into grandma’s house, many hugs and hellos exchanged, the scent of crisp turkey skin intermingled with sage wafting through your nostrils as you see the infamous Aunt Carol approach. Your stomach lurches as you start to feel the anxiety coming on, she is that one family member who always criticizes everything that you do. In previous years “why aren’t you married, you will end up old and alone” “when will you have children, the clock doesn’t tick forever you know!” “why haven’t you been promoted yet?” and on and on, you end up leaving feeling simply terrible about yourself and no matter what you try to say in your meek defense she just doesn’t take the hint. Many of us know the type of meddling in which the inquisitor seems to be blissfully unaware of the sensitive nature of the questions which he or she is asking. With this sort of encounter sometimes it can elicit some compassion to remember that this person is reflecting to you their own inner dialogue and her misguided ability to connect with others in a welcomed and comfortable way. There may even be a bit of pity to think that this is how Aunt Carol has probably talked to herself all of her life and maybe some of the reason that she is here all alone. While it is hurtful to hear her litany of unwelcomed suggestions she may be trying to warn you of markers that she missed in her own life as often advice has more to do with the givers perceptions than the receivers needs.
Yet still a tiny thought for the all doing and typically matriarchal figure who may have wielded cutlery and cooktop for days to prepare this thanksgiving feast, with matching napkins and table centerpiece she has created a vision that would make Martha Stewarts jaw drop. Yet the cooking and the cleaning take so much attention that she ends up missing the togetherness of the day. For this sort of host or hostess, remember that everything doesn’t need to perfect and also to keep the gathering well within your financial means. It is easy to go overboard with tons of eats and treats and obsessing about the perfectly rendered pumpkin pie but the point isn’t to create to the point of stress and exhaustion but to enjoy each other in good times together. Step away from the turkey and have a seat, even if only for a bit, allow others to help as they will surely be excited about the opportunity to contribute to this day of thanks.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing our wish for you is to encounter something or someone which allows gratitude to unfold into you on this Thanksgiving and Holiday Season. Often we become confused by our seemingly unique life circumstance and would be best served to recognize that in experiencing our life situations we aren’t really as unusual as we imagine. With the hope that you too will enjoy this holiday season, gobble-gobble!
With an extra serving of love & mounded with hope,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Learn more from our friends at
Learn more from our friends; https://inlpcenter.org/-psychological-attachments
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 5, 2014 mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, sexuality0 comments
Amidst Chaos and Wonder, We Connect
For my quiet inspiration
Often I have written with advice on how to encounter some of relationships and marriages challenges in such a way to bring back the harmony into love. Yet today I realize that not often enough do we reflect upon the playful ecstasy of those moments when love becomes palpable and we achieve treasured moments of connection. Perhaps this less frequent consideration on the elegant simplicity of loves joys is a product of how many of us think about things in general, we are typically more often seen reflecting upon areas for growth instead of reveling in our glories, but not for today, for today our respite is to enjoy what it is like when we connect and truly allow ourselves to set aside chaos and be together.
“Seated in the room with all of the background faded to a fuzzy recollection of a blurry outline but amidst the stop of the hands of time this is the one very thing that is emerging from all of those distinct shadows. A form so perfect with its clear cut edges, and crisp keen blues of your eyes with heavily draped lids, dazzled with electric hope and severe concentration looking outwards towards the distance, considering and mulling your theories and life’s vast considerations as I internally muse that this is the souls recess hour. For the intensity of all of this hyper focused thought projecting your doomsdays, your hands remain fixed on me, as if my body were an anchor to hold your presence in the world of physical things. The place where you only half remain and the rest is all up there in its perfect platonic forms and thoughts. You’re dancing eyes and bombastic baritones resting upon me to punctuate sentences and thoughts. I inhale deeply to enjoy the wooded scent wafting from your neck and permeating the small distance between our bodies. Your words still coming more staccato as you pause more upon me, and in my mind I wonder at your perfection and how elegant your creation and dichotomies which form your wonderful soul. Together we wonder and perfect serenity takes hold, your hands upon me massaging out thought and consideration moving me deeper into hazy and warm wonder like the days before the days and all of those days after there are no more, slipping into welcoming comfort. This is what it was always supposed to be…”
A playful musing on the pleasures of love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233