by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 13, 2016 counseling, educational, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy, resolutions, wisdom0 comments
Resolving to Simplicity, Less is More.
Oh it is indeed that time again, the new year with its glittering hopes, perhaps like many others, you are assessing some goals, or maybe just noticing in quiet desperation that there are some things which you feel hopeless and exhausting from last year. According to statistics over half of those who have stated a resolution have already had one or more slip ups in achieving their goals. We understand, no need to wait until next year to start again, perhaps your resolution itself could use some polishing to make it more achievable. We know the common categorical types of resolutions, generally those things which move us toward the best version of self, or to be a better spouse, perhaps your goals are professional in nature, there are indeed many ways to evolve. As a helpful tip it is known that we do best with goals which are tangible and concrete therefor more attainable. For example, instead of I want to be healthier we would do best to spend some time listing and contemplating what our ideal version of health looks like so that we can better achieve that. We also do best with goals that are focused on adding a behavior or if we are taking something out of our repertoire we should be sure to replace it with something else, for instance if we resolve to drink less soda, what are we going to drink instead? So many worthwhile goals I have heard uttered by those around town, “take the stairs more often, spend more time with loved ones, take more time for relaxation.” Kudos to us in the north east for even while plummeted with heaps of snow, we still embrace our efforts toward growth or change. It is never an easy task to do a self-assessment and then endeavor to make internal and external maneuvers which are in line with our goals. Yet any effort large or small becomes a reward in and of itself, for this we should be proud, always remembering that change is not an event but a process. Maybe you are still coming up with your resolution, and that is ok too, there are lots of people still calling out ‘happy new year!’ For 2016 maybe like us, you want something a bit different, an intangible, an inarticulate, for us, our resolution may be the anti-resolution, for 2016 what we resolve to make as our own is this one simple, elegant thing, ‘we want less’ let us explore what we mean by this.
For 2016 let us clear out the clutter, the tattered and torn blouses shoved deep into the recesses of our closet, bring the dust bunnies to the light. Not just less clutter but less time acquiring more stuff, in 2016 let us aim to take up less space, find a smaller house and fill it with only the most important and essential of items which mean something vital to us. Let us embrace less fad dieting and nutritional trends which most of all whittle away at our self-esteem when in fact there is much to be loved about the curvature of our waist line. In this new year perhaps we can best serve our selves and goals by speaking less, saying fewer things and embracing those pauses which sustain the power of our chosen words and when we say less of them we instill our speech with meaningful gravity. It may be best to devote less attention to pursuing goals and progress, even this goal and instead we can sit in quiet contemplation while staring out at the endless lessons of the sun or the river, the sun and the river have so much to teach us. In this shiny new and novel year perhaps we can do less, and need less and maybe we will notice the widening cracks of the facade of all of that artificial striving when the unnecessary, the unimportant, the artificial all fade away, we suddenly create space for peace, for stillness, we find that stillness has its own fullness, we create space for our minds to speak of their own accord instead of the ceaseless serving of our family, our friends, our bosses and coworkers needs and wants.
In Pittsburgh’s own Andy Warhol Museum there hangs a sign that says, “Less is more? No! More is More!’- a quote by Andy himself. This we do contest, less really is more because when all that is not essential is whittled away, it is peace, simplicity and serenity which unfolds upon us, cheers to the new year and best of luck with your resolutions and beyond.Learn More
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
We are Free!
The sunshine is emerging on this Pittsburgh morning, in a moment of quiet reflection the gravity of a thought was borne. A glittering thought about this freedom that we gather to celebrate today. As we set off to our picnics and rejoice in our long holiday weekend, in enlivened revelry as we gather just as we have gathered as a nation since 1776. The enlightening and ebullient notion where we may float as light as a feather in the intoxication of this freedom, yet too this freedom has such weight as in choice there is gravity for we must then assume accountability in this staggering possibility. We as citizens of this great freedom, we the masters of our own lives, the freedom to create our own identity, free to be the preservers of our own happiness, the free proponents of our lifestyles. This freedom is ours no matter what moments we have experienced victimization and disappointment, emotional or moral outrage, you see indeed we are still free, given this freedom which propels us to limitless choice yet weighs each of us with the burden of choice. In this very governmental, emotional, intellectual, and religious freedom in which we are esteemed this gleaming and distinguished honor, we are afforded the experience of freedom on this and each day, let us take a moment to thank those forefathers who sought to establish and protect our emancipation from the severe and deleterious rule of any other another nation, any other notion or thought which would sever our choice or promote our bondage, allow us to be bright and somber in this hopeful and heavy choice of who we will be and how we shall become it. In our early years we united as a union and fought for this freedom with the eventual outcome of assembling as one nation, one nation under god, and it is within god that we trust. As a country we are given the constitutional right to boisterously proclaim our truths and to pursue our pleasures with little interference provided we act in accordance with the basics of dignity and respect; yes, indeed we are free. What a thing to be untethered and able to account for our own choices, consider and rejoice in this, WE ARE FREE! Free to marry whomever we wish. Free to enjoy boundless borders and unalienable rights. Freedom is an honor and a notion to be protected, consider how many gun shots have been fired in the name of this, our freedom. Allow us to remember those canons sounding as our fireworks sound through a nation in celebration of this honor of freedom. Today let us gather with friends and loved ones, strangers alike, and allow us to remember what an honor it is to be free, an honor to serve the magnitude of opportunity, let us revel in this vast and intricate responsibility and possibility within our independent freedom.
In loving and grateful freedom,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA LPC NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenMay 4, 2015 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Is our fantasy of tomorrow preventing life today? There is a Zen saying which states that we should all aspire to be like a baby, experiencing each thing anew, recovering its wonder, in this we find peace, we find joy, we find the departure of negative feeling states attached to memory’s. There are many times when the perception of life’s lengthy expanse may prevent us from engaging fully in today, we imagine that we always have another tomorrow to complete our goals, to say hello, to say good bye, or to utter I’m sorry. As an exercise in consciousness and imagination, consider for a moment that you have learned it will be your last day on earth. I imagine that most of us would want to know this information as it would likely shape how we interact on our final day. If we could harness our strength and be compelled to ride the waves of anxiety something unique happens when we let go of the illusion of tomorrow, we submerge ourselves with attention in the things that matter most, we begin to embody our true or essential selves.
What is meant by the term true self? Most people when asked what they would do on their final day, make some mention of spending time with the people who they love. We want to tell them that we love them, perhaps to lay behind us disagreements and grievances. Yet too we often want to contribute something to humanity or to our family. Our essential self, offers peace and love as its greatest legacy yet often in life we are caught up in our feelings of injustice, notion of what is right or wrong, rigid boundaries with others so then it becomes easy to hold grudges, not make time for those we care about as we check our email, lift our weights, as we save and toil for our eternally uncertain futures.
There is another Zen saying which states that if we are feeling anxiety it is because we are in the future, if we are feeling depression it is because we are in the past, if we are feeling calm it is because we are in the present. Our human minds easily drift among these layers of consciousness, with the gift of memory and planning we have evolved so well to map out our future, considering things like consequences and possibilities. It is the same too with consideration of the past, it is an evolutionary advantage to remember people and situations which cause us fear and pain. It is healthy and expected to refrain from dangers and risks and move towards help and comfort. Without concerns for the future, as we continue our exercise in imagining that it is our last day on earth, we are poised on the precipice of the great unknown, we may be better able to remain grounded “in the now”. Author Randy Pausch, esteemed writer of “The Last Lecture”, Randy wrote a memoir on living while dying, in one of his chapters he references how brilliant each moment became when we know that our time is very limited. We open ourselves to the grandeur and wonder when we imagine that the things we encounter will never be encountered again, yet the truth is for each of us, full of health and contentment, time is limited, it is ticking with finality, how vivid is today, how connected to the things and people do you feel that you are right now? How do you feel about the life that you will be living today? Have you made amends with your regrets? Are you connected to passion, serenity, to wonder? We cannot be sure about tomorrow but how alive can we become today?
In peace and joy,
Stephanie McCracken MSCP
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Counseling and Psychotherapy ‘Couples Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenApril 13, 2015 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
With the passing of the seasons, the moist dew draping the landscape, like just maybe the earth herself is crying for one of the many seasons departures. Typically the subjects I explore are things that I find intellectually interesting, topics which may be trending on the web. Today something different, in a recent reading about tapping into universal consciousness as a reader I was urged to follow synchronicity. Where are we noticing patterns? Those uncannily shared and observed sets of circumstances which arch across history and humanity? None may be more universal that the experience of grief and loss, a topic which has touched me personally during the last couple of months. The death of someone close or even far is extremely difficult, perhaps even harder than anyone could know lest they have experienced deaths dismal grips. The proverbial lights go out, we stand in darkness, we may tell ourselves, “hey lighten up, you are lucky enough to have made it through another bombastic winter and onward to the next season’s days, you’re still here you know.” In the being here, there are so many things to do, tasks of the living, so we may push away our feelings to move on with our busy tasks.
As therapists, counselors and mental health professionals alike we have our charts which makes explicitly tangible the grieving cycle, from immobilized shock and dismay, a dose of anger and denial, depression, and acceptance. The motions are not static, they are an influx of transitions greatly affected by personality, biochemical, and social variables. Coping skills can be assessed at each interval of the process. As counselors we are trained to understand what is within the normal range for the process of grieving, whether that loss is divorce, death, loss of unrealized potentials, among the myriad of other losses. Saying goodbye, the gravity of letting go can be paralyzing, yet as every great philosopher knows life is indeed about loss, we build up, we hold on, we let go, this is the grand procession of all things. In death of loved ones and even in divorce or a break up, we struggle with the paramount life questions. Concern over the deceased and what our spiritual views dictate. We may become vividly aware of a sense of aloneness, who has a touch or a word that sincerely offers comfort to internal anguish, we too may find comfort in spirituality and or those who grieve with us, comrades in grief, unity within our suffering. We at times may feel alone and not know where to unravel the depth of our sorrow as well intended acquaintances may or may not really want to know what we are thinking when they ask how we are feeling. Other bleak nuances and limitations sharpen focus in grieving, we know that we too will one day depart from our human form, a veiled and stupefying terror of our own death may emerge. It may at times seem herculean to continue delegating time and attention to the tasks which sustain our basic lives. The cycle of grief.
We sometimes may notice shortened attention spans, greater irritation at small things which normally wouldn’t bother us, we may begin to doubt ourselves. When reiterating this stringent knowledge I am reminded of a modern adage wherein a waiter is holding a bludgeoning tray of goods for his next table, his arm stands poised and for the first minute, succeeding erect posture, his elevated arm is steady. When asked “how heavy is the tray?” He replies haughtily “It is nothing!” Ten minutes later, when the examiner checks back to ask again, “how does it feel now?” Sweat beads a look of distress have contorted his face, his muscles twitch, “I can’t hold on any longer!” The burden of the weight changes equivalent to the length of time one holds on. The point is that even the most well equipped muscles buckle under the strain of holding a heavy load for too long. During times of loss and grief it becomes important to lighten our load in anticipation of exhaustion and irritation, to relay on others who will help us to get our orders to the table.
Within the span of an hour or day, a month or two life’s circumstances can change radically, few things offer such stark rotation to direction as saying goodbye. We struggle to understand these mournful changes, staring bleakly at our permanently gnarled family or friend tree, a hallowed and unrecognizable tone offers a faint “goodbye.” Letting go of the old and embracing the new are not often as easy for our human minds as the turning of a calendar page, despite the melting frosts and welcoming warm winds. Yes, the cycle of the grief but let’s too have compassion for our own suffering, let’s not expect too much from ourselves. It’s ok to look out the window and notice that the spring time has a dismal tinge this year. It is only by allowing the April showers to soak into the earth that our spring flowers burst most aptly, so yes let us not refrain from experiencing the depth of our sadness and anguish for fear of falling into a pit of grief, let the sadness soak into our heart, allow it to be felt deeply penetrating the core of the self. Yes, April showers, they do bring many things, a memory of tear drops, the promise of May flowers, replenishing the earth, and they will prepare for another seasons growth ahead.
In care and compassion,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone LPC, NCC, NBCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
*This is not a substitute for medical or professional advice, this article is for your mild consideration and intended to be an literary artistic musing, if you feel that you may be suffering from depression or sadness due to a loss of some other then please set up an appointment to meet with one of our or another mental health professional.Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 31, 2015 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, dating, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
The Fish and The Bird, A thoughts on Compliments
To those birds flying high, swooping down to proffer complements to external beauty, words like “she’s so pretty”, to the “did you see the way she looks with no makeup on”, to the world of no filter selfies, oh my goodness that girl looks like a hobbit, and look at the photo shop on Justin- he’s really so spindly. Did you see how much weight Kim has gained after her baby? To the land of tinder where we read little and swipe left, swipe right back and forth in an endless procession of objects for our egos and libido. How truly healthy are our minds eyes in whirl of impulsively uttered, “she’s so pretty and you’re so gorgeous” Maybe we are not too late to climb aboard the ship we are missing. It’s not about the way we look so much as the way that we feel. Mature love and even primal lust take much more than a craftily stated tagline and a first date where we are picked up in a shiny new Italian automobile by a man with bulging neck circumference, the male form of silicone breasts.
In a recent conversation with a good friend she mentioned her frustration that her ex-boyfriend would tell her that “she was the most beautiful woman in the world”, she would always feel diminished by this trite and billowy compliment and a few times she would muster the strength to look at him and state “but no, I am not.” Before anyone offers a preliminary diagnosis, she is not a woman with low self-esteem, my friend indeed is a prideful creature but hadn’t ever aspired to compete in the beauty pageant circuit. Yet, every time she would protest the compliment he would change the subject, invariably “you’re the most beautiful woman in the world” was the bloke’s idea of a high compliment. Perhaps some woman or men would swoon over those words, (see definition of bird) however this lady felt injustice upon that remark, this friend is a very lovely woman but she would wonder; “if the best in me is on the outside then what will I be when my skin sags and my locks have faded to silver?” In mindful dating and loving we can call upon the number one rule of persuasion is “know your audience.” It is important to know who it is that you’re talking to when lavishing charming praise upon a lady or gent. The world which compliments a woman or man’s façade without mentioning their inner world is a place where people become invisible or worthless as the years pass by. My friend’s relationship with her well-meaning boyfriend ended many years ago, perhaps in many ways because he never was able to know her inside, she was more mindful of the inner world and he dwelled above, he the bird and she the fish if you will.
If you really have your gaze locked on a lovely man or women and you have struck up conversation and now want to put the lady or gent under loves spell then pay close attention, not to how much his or her teeth sparkle when they smile, instead pay attention to the “what”. Disclaimer*** this may not work for everyone, notice fish and bird above if when dealing with woman who is more fish or mermaid and you use bird praise it may be less effective. On a more serious note our most valuable attributes are those things which vanquish mortality and link us to the wellspring of the eternal. Notice in her the conviction in her tone when she speaks. Observe in your beloved the way that they can put others at ease. Cast attention to his or her work ethic, keeping late hours and waking up in the early hours to start it all over again. Tell her that the attention and skill she puts into maintaining her health are inspirational. You see she just may be more flattered by these compliments, as they speak to something timeless, to values like strength, intention and honor, the things that will hold his or her posture erect even as geriatric skin sages into the most lovely gray pallor. When we feel understood and valued for the core components of our character then we feel connected, for many of us this notion of understanding facilitates the foundation of intimacy and attraction, yet it is not for the faint of heart or those who aren’t willing to put forth the bountiful effort required to nurture love.
In love and kindness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenFebruary 19, 2015 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, mindfulness, new year 2015, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Are you one of those people who when asked what is wrong you cross your arms over your chest and say “Nothing.” Ever notice that some people just seem to hold the power of persuasion? Maybe your husband or wife is that very person. Do you ever feel that you give so much of yourself yet often end up feeling exhausted, overworked and burdened by too many tasks? Ever notice how some people seem to have it all, others seem to listen or at least hear them? Yes for some the world effortlessly and gladly brings about their wishes. Well perhaps they hold some spiritual secret, hiding away a genie in a bottle or the like but the truth is, many people who get what they want hold certain similarities. As a counselor I note one very vital difference, these people hone in on their own wants and needs and then communicate their needs and expectations using power driven language and thinking. This is not the first article that I have written about the power of communication and I urge, if you feel that others often don’t hear you or the world most often doesn’t bring you forth the wishes and things that you want it may be time to begin to consider a different method.
It is easy to fall into a pattern of frustration and even resentment when we notice that we don’t often get our needs met in our relationships. We may feel uncared for and unimportant, yet for these very reasons we continue to hold our feelings in silence thinking they less important that our partners, our children’s, our parents, everyone’s needs but our own. Perhaps we have subtle dropped the hint that we would like to go to a certain show or restaurant and our partner obliviously keeps picking the same place for monthly date night. Or maybe those grumbling noises that we make while carrying the third load of laundry up the stairs fail to elicit even the smallest response. Our husband or wife may be just as mystified by noticing that we are grumbling or sitting silently not eating during date night. These scenarios are quite common but perhaps it’s time to try a new more direct approach.
It is often helpful to begin by writing a fantasy list. It’s not something that needs to be shared with anyone so don’t be shy, what is it that you absolutely would like to see in your life? If you were able to have your way every day what would your ideal day look like? What are some things that you imagine your husband or wife could help you with? Also add in some things that you really are grateful for and that are going well. What are some things that you have kept to yourself for a long time that you imagine your partner would be surprised to learn? Remember it’s not good for either your loved one or you to hold in truths about thoughts and feelings. After writing your list spend some time looking over it, maybe put it away for a couple of days and then bring it back out to reread it. Does it still make sense and appear relevant? Things like “On the days that I work late I would rather we order take out.” Or “I really don’t want to go to my mother in laws every weekend.” “I would like to get two days per month to attend a fitness workshop.” While this sounds like a very simple or obvious task to some, the very process of considering ones wants and needs is completely out of touch for some personality types, we put ourselves lasts in hopes that someone else may put us first yet this is not a path which often leads to wholeness or happiness, instead of content we often end up feeling used, disappointed, sad and frustrated.
In health and wholeness,
Reviving Minds Therapy
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCCLearn More
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 22, 2015 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, wisdom0 comments
The Grass is Always Greener, To the Brown Patches of Dirt in my Lawn, On Love and Life
The grass is always greener, the crab grass, the blue grass, the sea grass, I see it out there as one whose mind is prone to perpetual comparisons, squinting eyes contemplating between the haves and have not’s. My front lawn has large cavernous patches of dirt, etched amidst sparse littering’s of grassy blades. It’s something that really bothers me, sometimes in the way too early morning hours I lay awake and think about how to solve this problem, I should admit that I pride myself upon being a solver of life’s hasty demands. Yet this one has riddled me, how did this muddy pit get here? Once or twice I have even tried picking up all of my belongings and moving to a new home, so beside myself with this shoddy yard that I convinced myself to find a completely new house, a house with the dream lawn of my most romantic fantasies. I am not the only person to notice the grass, the grass provides the frame of ones home, the foundation for ones life, a connection to the earth, this is about so much more than the “grass,” it’s a part of ones identity, how does one manicure what is imperfect? How to maintain esteemed pride when the very things which frame my tidy house fail to meet my very own lofty standards of, “how it all should be.” Does one still thrust a pole into the lawn with a kitschy flag to commemorate each of the holidays? Does one dabble large planters upon the grass and fill them with marigolds and petunias? Maybe nobody will notice those miserable barren patches if I simply abandon all responsibility and allowing the lawn to grow long and wild, perhaps to revel in the mysterious and primal Amazonian nature of it. Coveting thy neighbors grass can become an obsession. A soothing Sunday drive to clear the mind and where am I? I am not in conversation with my fiancé who is stoically manning the wheel, I careen my neck from outside of his finely tuned automobile. I see the emerald spikes encasing the lawns of this neighbor and that, evoking for me a sense of desirous melancholy. Things can rapidly careen out of control, thoughts becoming high jacked, not wanted to walk out of the house to have someone see that this is my lawn, not wanting to be associated with those cursed drab patches of barren earth. I see my neighbors flaunting theirs, the grass that sparkles, those majestic little studs bolding jutting out from the earth, with their implicit meaning that any abode which has such grass is perfectly cared for, is more than a house, it is a home. I too want the kind that feels like that springs beneath bare feet and smells like a musky blend of lemon tart and pine needle. There are countless books written about landscaping and gardening, one can use seed or sod, barricade it to be sure nobody walks on it, or then too, one could walk on it with high heels to aerate, or perhaps enhance the soil with worms, for every curiosity help is a YouTube video, a google, or a guru away . Yet none of them say this: After a very long and drawn out rest, a celestial providence of an epiphany struck down upon me, opening up my mind with a shiny insight; nobody else is going to fix my lawn, moving isn’t going to help me find better grass, it is my very technique to tending the lawn which is lacking. It’s easy to get frustrated too much, to turn away from picnics in the grass because it doesn’t look, smell, or feel the way that one imagined it “should”. Soil samples and sod wont alleviate this eternal pondering for the clue to change the grass for good, there is a really simple way to enjoy the grassy knoll of ones dreams. Yet like all things worth cultivating, it will not be easy, lace up the old work boots and jean coveralls.
It all starts by loving the grass, those darling petite seedlings only dare rupture the earth for promise of the warming sun, give your grass warmth. Yes, I know my child, in this moment we see only barren patches of earth but I urge you to go out there and love them anyways, not just to say it but to do it, planting glorious seeds of intention. Water those blades each and every day, fill your watering can to the brim with hopeful water, set aside a collection of rainwater, the earth loves the water best which has danced amidst the clouds. Tend to your petite parcel of earth each day, when tired wield your soil crusted shovel, when fantasizing about a tropical holiday, one still must tend to the lawn. You see, I have learned something, our response to our imperfections, to those earthen patches of mud, does indeed determine our opportunities for growth. How do you tend to the patches of mud upon your lawn? Anyone can marvel at that which has been luxuriated with advantageous wonder but it takes one dedicated and master gardener to persevere with fortitude, to love a little earthen patch into a fully bloomed, springy and lustrous lawn. Just what is it in you or your relationship which just may need a little more love to blossom forth with life?
Dreaming of spring time grass, Stephanie McCracken MSPC Reviving Minds Therapy Offering Marriage or Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy 1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 *This is an intentional fictional piece and similarity to real or actual events is sheer cosmic coincidence…Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 8, 2015 counseling, feminist, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
We raise them to be good girls, to nod politely during fine conversation strung on during respectable hours with respectable people. We raise them to be pillars of hope, encouraging others in their struggles, we hug them and cradle them from the womb to teach them that they too should hug others, pearls of sweat always wiped away before becoming visible, to be the tirelessly devoted caretaker. We raise them with their kitchen play sets and plastic burgers and fries to prepare, toil, to serve those near and dear, insistently offering heaps and dollops of crème fraichely flavored affectionate nurturance. We raise them to banter upon the midnight keys of the baby grand, to cajole the audience with a fine melody, high five you little entertainer, pat, pat upon your severely strewn locks all wrapped up in an impeccable bow, “you are such a good girl.”. Oh, indeed, she hears you, her tiny countenance aglow with your praises, forming a map, a how-to manual which will beckon the praises of all of the others, a lifetime of others. A heavily laden back drop of nodding, and “yes sir” and “yes ma’am”, discipline and structure abounds her omnipresent formative years, she will please and she will shine.
This little essay is for all of those good little girls, turned to women that must learn how to say “no sir” “no ma’am” here is the boundary that draws the distinction between you and between me. Sometimes she must say “no” and nod “no” for nobody else other than her, and her own self-interest, and sometimes she must walk away still being a “good girl” because as she is learning her obligation is to nurture herself, too. Here is to the good girls who have traded in their bright-eyed baby dolls and longed instead to sit in solitude, sometimes for hours on end, to strewn together words upon words which offer semblance to their own pale logic. This is for the good little girls who leave those plastic frying pans, those dull golden rubber buns left to acquire a lifetime of mold. This is for the little girls that are too busy collecting grasshoppers and salamanders, head to toe crusted in mud, smelling not like perfume and soap but like straw and finely decomposing fall leaves, yes little girl “we love you too”. This is for the little girl come lady who screeches out an alarming melody, a protestation, a vigorous “No! I don’t want to wear your dresses, I won’t be a good little girl, I want to listen to crickets and cicadas and feed the goats in my denim jean coveralls, someday I want to be the CEO and walk about with ease in a simple pair of flat shoes meant for utility!” For the little girl that doesn’t want to smile and nod, on some days she wants to stomp and to curse a big “fuck you world!” She wants to say it and not fall from her imagined place of grace, clinging to all of this sturdy awareness, panicking that she has careened over the invisible line, teetering on becoming a very bad girl indeed. Yes, good and bad and all of these startling dichotomies, black and white pervade in a world of pastels, blues and greys, there must be something beyond the stark definition, the deft appraisal, and no girl wants to be tossed to the bad girl side when it comes to such grossly serious matters. Even with messy hair, smeared mascara, no mascara, when we have stayed up too late, when we can’t wake up in the morning, when we have allowed cruel words and actions to rush passed angrily contorted lips, we still want your love. When we have shattered our picture perfect with heaps and doses of vapid reality, we still want your love, we still want to be a good-girl turned woman, a woman worth loving, to you, and we want to fill up our own hole that reeks of neediness, the irrational desire for your love which we know needs to be sustained by our own self-love, a love that remains beyond these tendencies of fluctuating moods, beyond good-girl and bad-girls, the place of total acceptance, the point of compassion for our own humanness, yes, right there, that space of self-nurturance, maybe we are good-girls turned woman after all.
In care and warmth,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Psychotherapist ; Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100