by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 26, 2015 counseling, educational, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wellness, wisdom0 comments
“What would you do today if you weren’t afraid to fail?”
This is a quote on a magnet which hangs neatly on my refrigerator. This quote changed my life. Fate isn’t something we just wake up and experience as easily as the first cup of coffee makes its molten ascent out of the carafe, smooth and steady. Embracing my ambition to become a psychotherapist was not always written in the stars. The act of becoming presents road blocks, brick walls, doors slammed in the face, the slaying of a few dragons, encountering some villains, all in a day’s work when we are attempting to become the best version of our self. I was afraid to fail.
Many years ago, I was on a fast track to earning a degree in English Writing with a Minor in English Literature. It was in an honors literature course that I encountered Sigmund Freud’s Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis. I was hooked, immediately changing my major to devote my academic trajectory and the rest of my life to studying and practicing counseling psychology. It started off very well, the theories and interpretation all came to me fluidly and I was thrilled at the prospect of embodying this calling.
The University of Pittsburgh, where I was studying, has an excellent and rigorous Psychology program, where degrees are offered as a Bachelor’s of Science. Subtle but vastly significant differences that translate to very heavy upper level mathematics courses, calculus and statistics, trigonometry. Any of the psychology baccalaureates from the university are very well prepared to become researchers, quantifying and perpetuating the latest science in the field. I have been plagued with math anxiety for my entire life, even basic mathematics courses becoming source for struggle in high school. Quite a dichotomy from the experiences of studying in my social sciences or English courses where a deep understanding of concepts would simply flow to me. Numbers terrified me, but I wanted it, I wanted the degree, I wanted to learn more about papa Freud and his procession of disciples, I wanted to do this every day. Never falling victim to fear, I enter business calculus, two weeks of lectures and each day I departed while suffocating tears behind the ever growing lump in my throat. I withdrew from the course and resigned myself to not being good enough to enter the field. “Leave it behind, you aren’t good at math and you never were!” Hearing all of those self-berating thoughts which are eager to leap out and from the shadows, the stop signs, the yield signs, the take a u-turn! I switched back to English writing, still something I loved to do, no there would be no therapy couch, no exploration of the unconscious. This was where I would settle for less than what I wanted out of fear and a sense of inadequacy. Life went on as it always does, we stuff down our displaced dreams, we move on to be productive, to succeed someplace that doesn’t provoke our fears too much, we choose that which is low risk, “this is sensible” we tell ourselves, “you can’t do this” fear says.
A couple of years later, walking down the aisle of Whole Foods, I saw that magnet, “What would you do today if your weren’t afraid to fail?” Before I could formulate the whole thought each fiber in me knew, If I weren’t afraid to fail, I would study psychology, and study psychology is exactly what I did. Reentering those math courses and working harder than I ever had to work to achieve success at anything, attending every study group, showing up to class early and staying late, by blood and sweat I did it, and all of that hard work didn’t just gain me a pass but I “A”ced all of those stats courses and made it through the program to graduate with honors. Now math isn’t even so scary any more, I have come to appreciate some of its applications when it comes to the field of psychology.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail? What would it be? Where do you feel a sense of defeat? Would you ask the girl out on a date? Would you tackle an addiction? Would you learn how to fly a plane? Would you write the next great American novel? Work on your marriage? Back pack Europe? Learn to prepare the perfect Indian Curry? Become fluent in Chinese? Put an end to some defeating or depressing pattern in your life? Start coping with your anxiety? Learn to fly and airplane? Cope with Depression? Work on your start up company? What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail? By this time you may be wondering, how do you get over this fear of failure, we have an answer for that too, you don’t, the most successful among us have failed a hundred times but have gotten back up one hundred and one, and that is what makes all of the difference!
We hope our humble magnets’ question is as resonant with you as it is for us!
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Counseling and Wellness Center Pittsburgh
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 9, 2015 counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Tick, tock, tick, tock, allowing the sands of time to unfold into minutes, hours, days, years, reaching way back to the earliest memories that can be recollected; let us imagine that you are 5 years old again and enjoying those endless hours of playtime. When thinking of the word “playtime” what comes to mind for you? What is it that you enjoyed doing with that pure and unadulterated childlike bliss? Maybe you liked to bake or paint, collect insects, be a teacher in your classroom of dolls? Way before we knew whether we were good at something, or whether our talents and interests could make us money or gain us praise, social standing; way back then we followed our passion by the elegantly simple act of tinkering, entertaining, creating, learning with sheer delight. It is no wonder that as adults we long for those times when for most of us, things we just that simple, following ones bliss. As children most of us were free to simply enjoy what felt right and not take the time to consider what we were good at, what would pay the bills, what image we would like to portray as our life’s work, the time of innocence before road blocks and hurtles.
We explore these questions not to simply evoke the sensation of nostalgia but because our creative pleasures indicate something about our innate gifts and capacities. Each of us is born with purpose and potential and the more greatly we create a life which is aligned with the sharing of our pleasures and talents the more at peace we tend to be. Even if we have chosen a career simply for the financial opportunities we have gained we should still make time to regularly connect with that which we can become submerged in, the kind of creative play which takes our eyes off of the clocks and into our minds eye. What is that for you? For me, as young as 5 years old, I enjoyed writing, creating heaping piles of poems. What about you? Did you like to play the keyboard? Did you love to paint upon the easel? Did you enjoy playing in the kitchen and kneading dough? Did you construct toy trucks and cars? What was your passion or pleasure as a child? As adults some of us note with an air of melancholy, I have no energy, I am exhausted, I am not sure what the meaning of my life has become. If you struggle with these questions much like many others, maybe it would help to consider when did you take the time to connect with the inexhaustible wellspring of energy which is found through our passion. When we paint, draw, throw the ball around, we are not depleting our energy, we are in fact connecting with the part of our self which is bounteously full of enthusiasm and childlike joy.
It’s a wonder that any of us would ever stop doing that which has the potential to bring us such enjoyment. Often as teens and adults we begin to deviate from this kind of playfulness in search of being mindful of our time and not wasting it on that which is not useful. Some were shamed for their gifts, told by teachers of parents, “you don’t want to be ______, be educated in this, leave this behind now.” Often we are very sensitive about our talents, the most passionate are acutely in tune with the emotional world of ourselves and others. So we put away our paintbrush or drumstick and pick up our time card, marching on to the time piece of humanity. The most joyful people are often those who find a way to merge their passion into their life’s work, “The master of the art of living makes no difference between work and play, for him they are both the same.” The artists may serve as our teachers, to be like those, those who embrace an inner calling or take up hobbies in that which proffers them abundant connection with that creative part to themselves.
In tribal cultures, when a sad or anxious man or woman comes to the Shaman, the shaman will ask, “tell me my friend, so you are sick?” the tearful woman looks to the ground as she explains, “yes, yes, I am sick, I am so sad and I so often worry, I have no energy for life.”
The shaman, he brightens, “Oh, no worries, this is a problem that I understand! Tell me this my friend, when did you stop singing, when did you stop dancing? When did you stop laughing with life?”
In closing my friend, I ask of you to consider this question, if you were allowing yourself the opportunity to play, no judgement, no criticism, just melting into the opportunity to enjoy that which is amusing, that which is creative and unharnessed, that which brought you hours of entertainment as a young child, what is it that you would be doing?
In love and playfulness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh