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
The 60’s may be an era far behind us but women all over the world may want to reconsider why it is still a good idea to burn those bras! More and more research is indicating that underwires and demi cups could be doing more damage than good for the shape and health of the breast. Furthermore I would personally encourage women to consider exactly why is it considered a faux pas to allow their nipples the experience of grazing their clothes without the interference of padding or lace? The male nipple is legally and culturally approved to expose itself wherever it may wish, yet the female nipple is somehow shrouded, forevermore to be contained in secrecy. At its most bare level, to require woman to cover their breasts is a violation of basic equal rights guaranteed by the American constitution. Women are not given the same rights as men when it comes to this point. How does this legal stance effect women psychologically, are we so different from the Muslim women who don their head coverings or hijabs to prevent men from becoming aroused by their lustrous locks? What sort of repercussions do women experience when they chose to defy these cultural norms, by either going braless or topless? What is it really like to be a woman in modern day America?
Let’s begin from the more common reasons that women may be dedicated to wear a bra. Media and transmitted popular culture has some convinced to keep their breasts supported 24/7 this allegedly prevents the breasts from sagging and dropping. The fact is that breast tissue is suspended by the pectoral muscles, just as any other muscle in the body the more that the muscle is activated the stronger it becomes. Wearing a bra is known to cause the atrophy of the pectoral muscles and thereby hastens the dropping of breast tissue long before nature may have effected such changes. Old, young, high, low, grande or petite, we love and salute the breast in all of its forms.
Form however is not the only consideration when it comes to breast tissue. America has one of the highest instances of breast cancer in all industrialized nations. Researchers are turning to the bra in an effort to understand why. Some studies have concluded that wearing a bra is correlated with higher instances of breast cancer. Some are concluding that bras, particularly those with underwire, are preventing the lymphatic system from cycling toxins out of the body, leaving them trapped within the breast fat and later developing into cancers.
With all of this confusion surrounding the bra, I wonder why Victorias Secret seems to increase their sales every year? Isn’t one of the points of covering the nipple so that a woman appears chaste, yet ironically the very bras that we use to cover the nipple have come to symbolize sex with even the youngest girls seek out the lacy sheers of Victoria’s and Fredrick’s. With all of these inconsistent messages surrounding sexuality it is no wonder sexual dysfunction and body image are topics that continually crop up in therapists offices.
Why is it that our male counterparts are not forced to cover their nipples, in fact a man can go topless while jogging outdoors without fearing legal repercussions. For a woman it is indeed against the law to exercise the same way, anyone who knows the basic tenants of constitutional equal rights is likely cringing! What is it about the female breast with its mammary glands and vital function which is the cause of such a stir? We see primates and other zoo animals topless and think nothing of this, in Europe many females visit the beaches and pools without tops and in the European countries nobody seems to care very much about this would be spectacle. Just like with most anything prohibited, the breast becomes more alluring the more that it’s mystified. We owe it to ourselves and our future generation to provide clear messages surrounding these tufts of tissue, these parts of ourselves. Breasts are beautiful, they are for some sexual a source of sexual pleasure, they are a source of nutrition for our young, yet they should not and will not be source of shame. I at times hear the whispers that others speak about women who breast feed in public places, I hear them be the subject of ridicule as they perform the most natural of all mammary functions, we must cease to shame this.
The point of this essay is to allow woman a moment to consider just why we are binding and gagging ourselves with covers that very well may be leading to our early demise. Why we are taught to be “modest” from a young age, and just what is hidden beneath our lacy bras, the female breast should be celebrated for its function, a provider of life and vital nourishment, a place for the young to feel protected and safe as they suckle to maturation. If any woman should be so bold as to desire taking a jog or a walk outdoors with the sensation of cool wind fluttering against their bare upper body, then in the essence of equality and love of the human body, we should be provided the opportunity for equal rights and equal freedom. Until that day, we are given July 9, 2013, A day to go braless, enjoy the human experience ladies.
In freedom and health,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233
For Further Reading
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 10, 2013 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, Uncategorized0 comments
The Life Inside
Standing in the grocery store checkout, there is much more to do here besides the typical exchange of money for some organic fruits and veggies. With a certain measure of guilt, my eyes invariably peruse the tabloids which today, are making “news” of Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy weight. While I am outraged by the headlines declaring “200lbs and only 6mos” they crassly mock her maternity wear as “A fashion No, No.” Ms. Kardashian has seldom been the object of pity but when taking a moment to reflect upon a nation that is so completely obsessed with beauty, weight, and plastic surgery that is has become acceptable to ridicule a pregnant woman’s’ weight? This “news publication” makes a headline out of each pound of her growing form so that it may be scrutinized by millions of grocery isle readers as they, much like me, stand next to an abundance of Snickers and Reese’s Cups? I must ask, have we forgotten the sacredness to her growing form? There is a life inside of her you know, a life which in its quest for sustenance beckons Ms. Kardashian’s appetite for nutrition, despite what her thighs may want. Yet this obsession with physical form and aesthetic perfection is an epidemic of worldwide proportions, while reading my musings I would like you to consider one question. If our televisions and popular reading material are any indicator, it seems that our culture mandates us to manicure our exterior images until they are perfectly reflected from the mirror. My question is this, what are we avoiding while we daftly reflect upon our aesthetics which blankly stare back at us from those glassy surfaces?
Once while I was journeying through the Peruvian Andes, I observed a tiny, wrinkled, and ancient woman heaving buckets up a dangerously slopped mountainside. Earthen and bound by a foreign code of conduct she carried her load one small step at a time, graciously imparting a smile of browned and cracked teeth to anyone who may pass her direction. At once I realized why I hadn’t seen a single fitness center in the entire village. Most people throughout the world struggle to maintain health or as many Americans would be compelled to describe, “stay thin” by participating in activities which sustain their lives. The people in the 2nd and 3rd worlds think not of “staying thin” but of maintaining health by eating enough food so that they do not perish. The whole, “thin is in” paradigm has ironically had its grips on Americans for a century despite the fact that many within our nation suffer from the dangerous epidemic of obesity. All of those diet pills marketed to the western world would be a misnomer if you found yourself in Mauritania. In this nomadic tribe the cultural norm proclaims that “bigger is better.” For a Mauritanian beauty is found within grand and bulbous layers of plump flesh. Can you imagine if the grocery checkout was filled with magazine images of women in their bikini, proudly flaunting bulging tufts of cellulite and fat rolls?
Alas this is America and we exalt the skinny girl, svelte body, fat free kind of look except when it comes to our face and our lips because for facial contours plumper is better! Even beyond the multiple lip glosses and creams promising to give the user full and pouty lips the medical community has revolutionized a whole line of “fillers.” For the price of a luxury car payment one can have hyaluronic acids injected into sallow contours of the face all in an effort to fill up that fat loss that happens as a result of normal aging. What is it that we want to avoid by covering up those wrinkles, filling in the signs of age? Why would life be like if we allowed it to be what it really is?
Imagine what it would be like to live life in the Eastern part of the globe, countries where some women do not enjoy dark skin tones. While I was backpacking throughout Thailand, I noticed an array of dangerous bleaching creams and bleaching powders intended to morph flesh into the most albino shade of white that almond shaped eyes had ever seen! It’s not just the Thai culture but many Asian and African cultures that want to turn their skin from chestnut, cinnamon, and chocolate shades to pale and creamy tones. Yet, in America, many of those that possess those milky white skin colors read the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan to instead learn how to turn the color of their flesh into the “perfect golden bronze.” If powders and cream aren’t enough one could always submit to a bout of “tanorexia” and bake in a tanning booth until cancer has sprouted from the flesh. Why are humans all over the globe attempting to change the color of their flesh at the risk of their health?
Until the early 20th century foot binding was a common cultural practice in China. Girls as young as 4 would have their toes broken and wrapped in such a way that they would cease to grow as men found these tiny feet to be most beautiful. What a paradox for those here in modern America, we offer heels so high that a lady will be able to sniff the heavens while cautiously lurching onward into the day or night. If you attempt to sport a pair of these stiletto heels it very well may end up being an evening spent grasping for the nearest handrail until your blistered and raw toes hurt so badly that even though you look incredible by today’s smoky eye, stilt walking standard, you cannot possibly take another step. Remember the wartime mantra as you plod onward, “beauty is pain, pain is beauty.”
I imagine you seated somewhere reading this little essay, squinting in disbelief at the paradoxes inherent in the world of glitz, glamour, and beauty or perhaps you are not squinting at all! Facial expression has allowed humans to evolve by our ability to communicate subtle and intricate emotions. Consider all that is communicated in the raise of a brow or narrowing of the eyes, nonverbal conveyances employed by the human species for the last few hundred thousand years, but forget about that because according to the latest polls smooth foreheads are “in” and there is a full scale attack upon “the squint.” Cosmo states that facial expression is soooooo out of Vogue! Please don’t worry your pretty little faces or attempt to bat your frozen lashes! We have a quick fix for that and all other things! Doctors are able to inject your forehead, lips, and eyes with botulism. Yes, that’s right; the historically toxic and even lethal bacteria “botulism” is now bottled and sold under the name Botox. Men and women are paying enormous sums of money to have this substance injected into facial nerves, with a promise that their formerly fluid expressions will now remain immobile. Paralytic motion is the aim of treatment because motion causes wrinkles and wrinkles mean, umm…that you’re aging????? The FDA has also approved Botox as helpful for profuse sweating, while humans sweat to detoxify and cool their bodies but alas sweat must go because sweating may interfere with one’s ability to be seamlessly “pretty”.
If anyone out there still has a mobile eyebrow you may raise when you learn that in 2007 Americans spent 95 BILLION dollars on beauty, hair, and skin products! With the myriad of options to alter oneself, thinner, plumper, whiter, tanner, taller, smoother, oh how the list could go on, there are options for you! It seems however, that in all of this exterior rebuffing there is still something that many of us are neglecting. You won’t find this on the label of your favorite designer, “The most invigorating sensations are far from the cosmetic isles or fashion boutiques!” Has the color palette of your eye shadow trio ever mirrored the feeling that you get when you stop to watch the Atlantic crash into pebble and sand beaches? Do you ever make time to admire that fiery orb dip below or above the horizon, or consider the wispy tufts of clouds meandering across the sky submitting to some cosmic law that defies definition or human intervention? Take a moment to see beyond the compact and notice that the best place to reflect is a some quiet and placid place on a newly discovered pond hidden deep within the forest. Nature has some mystical secrets to teach you. Today seems like it’s a wonderful day to leave the heels in the closet and choose todays outfit solely on its ability to offer comfort. Allow your brows to form joyously contorted expressions while looking out at the world or into your heart and mind. A small message to close, whether you’re like Miss Kardashian and 8 months pregnant or not interested in ever having a baby, please remember that there is much more to the eye than the fleshy surface, for each and every one of us, THERE IS LIFE INSIDE. It is my hope that we can each create the day where we use the majority of our time to polish the soul, exfoliate the heart, and bronze the emotions. A shiny self-reflection begins when we take a moment to look inside, what and how does your mind do its thinking, what kinds of emotions color the terrain of your perception, what types of words do you use to describe your daily experience, what is the quality of your relationship to your friends, family, coworkers? Let us all find that behind those manicured reflections, the most sacred place is the one that exists deep within you, and when you encourage yourself to take that glimpse into your inner sanctum, just what does your mind say about what it sees?
In health and Wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233