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 McCrackenDecember 31, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, new year 2015, personal growth, psychotherapy, resolutions, Uncategorized, wisdom0 comments
A New Year and A Blank Canvas
The infamous ball is approaching its apex, soon the confetti shall spill to the ground, the party music will envelops the night air, albeit briefly as the quiet is coming. Soon, our little nor’easter earth will become silent and still as the snow falls steadfastly ensuring the depths of our winter’s hibernation. Beneath all of this obligatory stillness our mind churns even if just dimly, yes, the mind does indeed churn, the powerhouse creating the thoughts convections which form and sustain our deliberate and unconscious motions in life. One of the greatest quests upon which we can embark is to live more deliberately, with greater awareness, to make conscious all of our human and unacknowledged motivations. How then can we honor our assumed attempts towards personal growth, these questions which are beckoned by the transition into yet another year? In exaltation of the grand pillar of knowingness which indicates another hallmark, we welcome you mindfully 2015.
Alas it is a 2015 and another succession of 365 tomorrows slumped forward and splayed out before us like a pristine canvas, acrylics atop the easel, how will we render our reality? Choose mindfully my friend, as you shift through the boxes of so many colors, which do you want to set the tone of your work? Our life is indeed the greatest act of deliberate creation which we can make and despite some utterances of powerlessness; we all preserve the power to choose how it is that we will respond to life’s grievances and successes, this is my solemn promise to you. So allow us to attune to the process of creation and examine the “how” it is that we paint our picture? This may be referred to as our personal style. What is the feeling which courses through your limbs as you reach for the brush and walk nearer the canvas? Is your heart beating in rapid succession, is your breathing sharp? Is there a sense of nervousness that you will make a blunder? If so that’s ok, there is still a choice in that, how do you respond to anxiety, do you allow fear to limit action? Perhaps you isolate from terror or embarrassment of your own emotional state, you sulk away or head back to the couch and put the blanket over your head, oh my friend, come on, come on back! While we have only one canvas, one year, time is our merciless provocateur, lest not we waste it all in perpetual forced solitude. Perhaps with some semblance of bravery you persevere, you fretfully and shakily reach for the paint, place a dollop upon the tray and allow your vision to take hold? Perhaps you grip the brush stiffly, pressing so forcefully into the canvas that miserly scrapings of paint are all that remains from your terrified attempt, yet when looking back you see that simply by loosening up just a bit, you could have rendered a fairly realistic still life of a sole granny smith apple, waxen gleam, atop your chosen ensemble of a purposefully barren cornucopia. Perhaps that is not like you at all, maybe you are characteristically bold, often finding yourself leaping first and thinking later. Perhaps you reach for the brush and feel brazen in your novice maneuvers, you haplessly secure the broad stroke brush and feverishly create only realizing when looking back that the form is sloppy and the colors have all bled together? Perhaps you are best maneuvering for more of an impressionistic feat, you can still make out the form of all of the people passing down the street that you relentlessly studied, in critiquing your work you imagine that you would like to render them with greater depth. Oh, our dear canvases abounded with stylistic features, the plentitude of variability towards the characteristics which allow us to create our world. What is your style, upon what could you hope to improve? What are your greatest regrets through the year? Perhaps you are like some of us and you wield your abundant energy to paint gloriously, for you it is an act of love and you would like all of the world to be an act of esteemed and exalted love,
fervor will thrust one far yet it is also easy to be burst into a perilous direction when making rapid and frenetic motions with ones paint brush. Yet this is the way you have always created your life’s work, still change can come when we concentrate our efforts and maybe this year something different is in order. When recalling the masterpieces and artistic disasters which your brush has bequeathed, on some days a dribble here and imperfection there, in which frame do you store your most treasured accolades. Perhaps it is the era of sketching out a design and landscape before putting brush to canvas, or perhaps for you it is moving beyond the sketch and working through the fears of actually committing to wielding motion to propel the brush. Some small motion towards growth, always it is intention and mindfulness that hold the key to most every great work, these are the skills which compel talent and desire. Happy New Year! Cheers to creating in the dazzling array of hues, in natural and free flowing form while still making space for artistic imperfections.
Happy New Year!
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone NCC, NBCC, LPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
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 McCrackenAugust 26, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, elephant journal, marriage counseling, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Written by us and as featured in Elephant Journal
elephantjournal.com/2014/09/ how-to-work-through-guilt-a- psychotherapists-musings- stephanie-mccracken/
Guilt. Certainly we all know that haunting sensation.
Even the most conscientious and heroic among us will experience guilt from time to time.
Those living a socially mindful life often can’t escape the sensation of guilt. Concern enters when we perceive ourselves as having erred in a grandiose manner—sometimes this results in reactions coursing from the deepest parts of our psyche.
Human thought and emotion become duplicitous as we note that the mind, always churning ephemerally, mechanically is able to dole out doses of guilt for thoughts which are repressed and lying dormant, deep in the layers of the unconscious.
When guilt and regret lay unconscious it often has deleterious effects on our psyches. We self-defeat, isolate, lose sleep and sometimes exhibit melancholic or anxious tendencies. Yet, within the symptoms often lie the opportunity for the cure.
Guilt is a Mechanism of the good guys and girls.
There is evidence suggesting that people who feel the most guilt are the most highly morally conscious.
Consider a priest who, despite living beyond reproach, perpetually contemplates whether he is performing enough service for human kind. “Is God pleased by my actions?” He may ruminate with guilt because he only offered five hours of his time to children’s literacy last week.
In this sense, guilt is a cursory sensation meant to guide our moral compass toward a better outcome for the next time life offers us a choice. For example, you have left your dog for eight hours without a walk and fresh water while you are out with friends for the afternoon. Or you haven’t called your grandmother in a couple of weeks to say hello.
These examples would likely elicit some measure of guilt which would guide our human impulses to change our behavior and do better in the future to bypass guilt’s irritating sensations.
Guilt Symbolizes Growing Wisdom.
Barring the possibility that we were born without any sort of moral compass—typically clinicians label this one of the primary makings of a sociopath—let’s assume that we are like most, delicately hearty mortal creatures who will inevitably make guilt inducing errors, great and minute, within this life.
Certain segments of life’s timeline are founded upon the knowledge that errors are to be made so that we can, in the words of Maya Angelou “know better and do better.”
Consider the teen years spent squealing and careening into adulthood with our lapses of budding judgment in hand. Teens are often experimental with cliques, manner of dress, maybe are even rebellious with rules, saying and behaving in ways with parents that later churn up a bit of guilt. Yet the forbidden memories become a product of our mounting wisdom guiding us toward a safe and stable path.
Self-compassion releases guilt.
Sometimes we set out, cloaked in the armor of our best intentions, cradled with the assurance that we are acting toward the best good for others and ourselves, yet later we discover that we have made a terrible mistake.
Provided we make it forward to a new day, we evolve with altered perceptions as those well intentioned choices become shrouded in a fog of regret. How do we deal with these scenarios? How do we make peace with and move beyond the pain of guilt?
These are worthwhile questions as we unravel the layers to subjectivity.
Picture this: Tina enters therapy as a recently married woman who is struggling with depression. It becomes evident that her husband is increasingly abusive, but she retreats into self-blame about the growing violence.
Through many sessions, Tina shares that she was previously married to John for five years. She says one day they were driving to a picnic at the east end of town and Tina was a bit upset because John had picked Tina up an hour late. Tina and John quibble while making their way to the barbeque. John turns to Tina who is staring out the window and says, “I am sorry, I really hope…”
He never finishes his sentence. A car comes swerving into their lane hitting them head on. He dies immediately.
Tina survives on life support but quickly remembers the fateful day as she reemerges. In addition to her grief she is frozen by the inexplicable guilt that if she had not been brooding he would still be alive.
Through growing insight into her unresolved feelings as well as self-compassion, Tina begins to nurture choices which lead her away from depression and towards greater peace.
The key to living a good life is to not become so consumed with our cloak of shame that we miss out on the opportunity to continue our evolution.
We must learn from our mistakes yet not become crippled in the negative self-outlook which comes from realizing that we have erred in judgment. Regrets can be a fluctuating foe. Courage and a wealth of internal resources to glimpse within are required to traverse the innards of thought by understanding and accepting our limited human capacity for perfection.
It is within the conscious processing of regret that we encounter the opportunity to garner wisdom. We are here to learn from life’s inevitable lessons.
We can never be expected to know it all from the outset.
In health and wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy/and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, marriage counseling, psychology, psychotherapy, sexuality0 comments
“Birds and The Bees Redux; Sex therapy, Psycho-therapuetic perspective ”
Seduction, Eroticism, Arousal, Desire, Consent, Sex, Orgasm, Connection. How do you perceive those words? Are they lurid? Dirty? Enchanting? How intimately do you introspect upon your very own sensual conduct or is this a thought so frighteningly formidable that consideration is cast towards the shadows, remaining beneath a dark veil? Perhaps you dear reader, are thinking, why all of the sex talk, this psychotherapist could have picked a more comfortable topic, any other formation of words strung to sentences in the direction of a cogent thought. Hone in on your emotional, physical, and psychological reaction in reading these words right now. If these words bring about discomfort for you, there might be something worth exploring with a sex therapist.
Comfort with sensual talk, the vocabulary that we use to discuss and imagine physical intimacy is embedded in the furthest reaches of our psychological development. As all mental health therapists recognize, our thoughts are closely related to where and how we received our first sexual educations all the way back in childhood. If you are like most people your sexual understanding may have been born from some dim intimation, if you reach back to childhood you will remember that these early messages tend to be more forbidding then uplifting towards a budding understanding of sex. In the school classroom we are doled out some cautionary tales about the dangers of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. “Wear a condom” “No means No.” While all of this in its own perspective is valid and true maybe we are missing a lesson in there. Still yet, in the sermon of the major religious teachings we are chastely instructed to not engage in damning premarital sex and only for procreations purposes. Outside of suggesting chastity and the prevention of disease did anyone ever share the sex positive information about the beauty and grandeur of “it?” The cosmic, interpersonal, relational meaning of the merging of body parts leading to physical connection? While billboards allude to sensually explicit material, within American homes it’s not just the kids who are often missing opportunities to have frank discourse about sex but husbands and wives too shy away from conversations about their own sexual relationship simply because the topic is shrouded in taboo. Without examining all of the manners that sex can be dysfunctional, perhaps the world hears more than enough of that sort of message, for today, shall we enjoy a more pleasurable encounter wondering about the aspirational hope and joy of our sexual selves!
Over and above economies which have been created to bolster our sexual essence such as lingerie and cologne and cultivating our bodies, we can best serve our higher selves by exploring the deeper fleshy meaning of the very act of sex. Standing bare and uncloaked it is indeed the meaning which appears, the essence beyond evolutionary longings to procreate, we are thirsted with the vital human need for connection, for intimate thirst. We manifest our need for connection with increasingly expanded abilities to connect actually, virtually, reshaping the present and future. It’s socially common to even connect on the web to other people’s sexual escapades via red tube and interactive porn. Yet still, there is often something lost within such mediums, the human essence evades digital transmission or perhaps it is a divergent longing to entertain our sensual longings through such means. Yet I digress, and this is not about the many, many, ways that sexual longing can be pathological but the ways in which it is an essential and elevated expression of tangible expressions, the converging communion. Sex is indeed one of the most concrete interplays which brings emotional love to life to meet physical body and spirit, metaphorically and literally indeed. In the quest of a sex positive message may we consider the unique question of how we bring our love to life, how do we foster a sense of connection physically and emotionally, how do we esteem our sexual selves? Have we fallen victim to shaming by a sexually uncomfortable society which wishes to expand its repertoire of sexual innuendo without upholding blissful and loving sexual interaction?
Exactly how much elevation are we able to achieve through our sex as we revere it in the eternal crescendo of our ancient and primordial lusting and life giving urges. We sustain the a connection and deep communion with our past, present, and future selves while merging with the same in our lover, like the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, just a thing called sex.
In loving intention,
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15233
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Suite 100
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
enjoy other articles from this writer on the sexual topics such as http://revivingmindstherapy.com/long-term-sex-for-long-term-love/
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 20, 2014 counseling, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
The solar energy and entrance of summers dance beckons forth beads of perspiration and the cherry blossom glow if sun-kissed cheeks. It is time to celebrate the summer solstice and this year the earth has proffered abundantly with her flourishing landscape smiling faces pleased to be enjoying more of life outdoors. Moods seem to be heightened and Peaceburgh united in celebration of earth’s full bloom. As a 30 something woman and psychotherapist the summer solstice has special significance to me as I realize that I am in the solstice of my very own life’s trajectory.
Spring and early summer are behind me, those carefree days hallmarked by revelry of free abandon, newly warmed earth encouraging endless exploration, curiosity and summers long, warm nights fueling choice and impulse to stay a little longer gazing at the starlight canopy glimmering way up there. Yet the more days of life which are offered to any of earths curious travelers, the more thought that may beckon itself towards the distance. As thinking, feeling, planning humans we know that the golden halo of the high summer sun will unfold towards to the chill of October and the stark freeze of January. So we sentient beings do our very best to both remain centered within the ebullient energy of the solstice yet we also concern ourselves with embodying the best expression of all of this heightened opportunity towards the yield of the later season’s crop. The tomato blossoms which I loving tend in June shall nourish me during the less opportune late winter. Much of human suffering is preventable when we simply act in accordance with the earth’s rhythms and offer our selves towards the infinite flow of wisdom which is contained in the grasses and groves around us.
Which portion of your life may you tend more gently, nourish and water more abundantly so that your crop yield will provide more nourishment to your and yours? Are you a staunch singleton or a part of a loving relationship or marriage? Is there an activity or hobby which you have always wanted to take up? How about that extra degree or accreditation which you have wanted to obtain? A part of your spirit urging you to take that trip? Are you uncomfortably shy or angry, what risks are you willing to take to embody the best you? What about that love or a friendship which you have wanted to repair? The solstice is a time of bountiful joy and opportunity, our terrestrial reminder that energy is in full force, to what should we devote ourselves so that we are the most whole and healthful humans we can be?
Pittsburgh has much to do this solstice to celebrate and commune in the worshiping and love of the season! Check out some of these peaceful events!
- At the First United Methodist Church “Re-Source! Creation Spirituality Gathering, June 20-22” Here you can look forward to “Integrating Spiritual Practice with Compassionate Action”, is the theme of this year’s Creation Spirituality Gathering at First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh. Deepen your spiritual practices with people who re-source their walk in the world through ancient wisdom, the new cosmology, co-creativity, and joy for the inter-connectedness of all beings. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox’s keynote address will be “Compassion: The Next Level of Consciousness for Human Evolution”. Find out more at our website. www.re-Source!Gathering.com”https://www.facebook.com/events/597288267044768/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming&suggestsessionid=81c6cef650f0c27c601a808714ea119b
- Also not to be missed is The Summer Solstice, Hear The Song of The Heart Celebration! Summer Solstice represents the highest point of light available for inner activation of consciousness, Mike Tamburo and Gallina work in unison to during their vibrational gonging and Kirtan chanting healing ceremonies, if your interest is piqued then follow the link! oin us for a very special Summer Solstice gathering. Create and celebrate community as we light our inner fire with vitality, joy, and renewal. Experience transformation and union through sound, tone, breath, and movement in this Yoga of Sound workshop. Crown of Eternity will lead you through mantras and meditations with a live music soundtrack – creating the perfect environment for you to become absorbed in the sound current. Open a space of inner stillness and allow the song of your heart to arise inwardly from the subtle currents of prana moving throughout your body. Experience the devotional aspects of the Heart Chakra; where there is no conflict; where Heavens and Earth come together in balance. Let your hearts soar through Crown Of Eternity’s live cosmic renditions of sacred chants. Let your minds dissolve in sublime stillness to the sounds of multiple gongs. Meditation on sound is a universal path to self realization accessible to any one and appropriate for any path or spiritual aspiration.oin us for a very special summer gathering. This event historically sells out! Register here: http://www.crownofeternity.com/ai1ec_event/summer-solstice-hear-the-song-of-the-heart-celebration/?instance_id=496
- At the local J and D winery, you can worship with some vino and tunes this Sunday! “Join us for”Wine & Music on the Patio w/ Joy Ike Band”. This lovely Sunday afternoon will include live music from 2pm – 5pm. You can also enjoy local cheese from Emerald Valley Artisans, and of course, delicious wine by the glass and by the bottle will be available for purchase.” Follow the link for more details! https://www.facebook.com/events/1451627521750989/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
- On June 28th head on over to Mookshi Wellness Center for the “Welcome Back Summer Trance-Chant Party/KIRTAN with Vox Lumina” “PARTICIPATE! RADIATE! ELEVATE! Celebrate the return of spring and raise your vibrational state with “trance-chanting”, or what the yogi’s call “Kirtan”. It’s amazing!” Follow the link to get your tickets in advance! https://www.facebook.com/events/1455776654643681/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
Here’s to you; may your solstice be full of radiance, peace, introspection, and connection!
In love and light,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Individual Counseling/Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 18, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychology0 comments
“To truly listen to another means that you are open to their ability to change you.” Anonymous
In working with married and long term couples, it is noticeable that those inevitable conflicts often spring from certain specific contexts and behaviors. While communication itself is a wellspring, influenced by depths of current which underlie its thrusting façade, the primary source of communicative energy is found in the depths of our psychology. It is under layers and layers of consciousness, those healthy and unhealthy parts of the self, formed in our earliest years and expounded upon as our life’s story unfolds. Yet with that being said, an exploration of communication itself is still a valid starting point to note the many ways in which attempts to convey our points, needs, and caring words may exhibit opportunities to be strengthened.
The most important point in understanding effective communication is that you allow the listener the opportunity to change you; anything else is in fact, not really listening. Imagine entering into a discourse in which you and your partner have been disagreeing about divergent political opinions, this is a longstanding issue of which both of you are well aware and your manner of relating to each other becomes almost pathologically scripted. Meaning that you are both mostly tuned out and non-receptive to the others viewpoints despite having much passion for the topic. It may have become beneficial for one or both of you to tune out and or shut down when it comes to certain sensitive topics as the mounting memory of failed communication attempts stings! Yet today is a new day and this is the point where the opportunity for strengthened communication can really offer gains. Now notice that you are not attuning to your partner and you cast aside your preconceived beliefs about yourself, your world views, parenting differences, and you instead and quite differently from your typical way of relating, you allow she or he to enter your thoughts and affect you.
One of the greatest gifts that we can offer another is our presence and attunement to their thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we don’t even want anyone to fix our problems or change anything but merely to be heard is often a powerful elixir to feelings of loneliness and disappointment and just as well to flavor our joys with a surplus of buoyancy.
The Imago Dialogue is a therapeutic tool that some practitioners utilize to help facilitate the kind of presence in conversation that sometimes becomes lost in the time or distance of our marriage or long term relationship, it has even been featured on The Oprah Show. While I would recommend that this be utilized in conjunction with marriage counseling / couples therapy to identify any other issues that are effecting the bond, this may be helpful for you or your partner to note as you attempt to repair your bond.
Listen– Listening means that you are offering your presence to you partner and that you are really entering their feeling state with the only goal being, to hear them. Other more faulty methods of listening may include hearing with the goal of responding which is not a part of empathetic communication.
Mirror- After your partner has spoken their entire point; you now are able to enjoy your chance to communicate by parroting everything that you have heard them say. You should be careful to contain only what your partner has said because this is about hearing your partner and not about adding in your thoughts, feelings, or reactions. When you finish speaking your mirrored statement ask your partner to follow up by saying “have I heard you correctly” or “does that sound right” or “can I add any more?”
Summarize- The next key component to the dialogue is that you paraphrase by distilling the key thoughts of your partner’s points into your own words.
Validate – Now you validate which extends your empathy and understanding to your partners view point, this is often easier to do after having truly listened to and internalized your partner’s viewpoints. The statement can be something like, “I can understand that _______ or it makes sense that_________.” This doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with the points being conveyed but you are only indicating that you understand because you have entered his or her feeling and being state.
Empathize- Finally you can finish up by conjecturing what your partner may be feeling as a result of this new understanding of them, it is sometimes challenging to imagine what another person may be feeling but you can consider what you may feel if you were in the position that you have just heard as a result of the issues that your partner has shared. This is a stunningly healing and powerful point in which your partner may feel heard and understood this is often the height of what we are looking for!
To close and before switching roles, it may be helpful to have a discussion about how it felt to have this kind of communication for both of the partners.
This is certainly a helpful tool to prompt the kind of furtive dialogue which sustains the strongest bonds. If your marriage or relationship is suffering it may be time to explore a professional perspective!
In love and good health,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]
Imago Instructions retrieved from http://imagoworks.com/pages/dialogue_instructions.html
by Stephanie McCrackenMay 23, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, marriage counseling, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
Love and relationships, the eternal dance of distance and estrangement from love, we are all in the process of moving closer and farther away from loves enchanting melody. While marriages and long term relationships have their own challenges there too are many reasons why single life can be a stress of its own, particularly as men and women are recently divorced or just plain single in there 30’s, 40’s, and beyond. Most of us expect that a 20 year old is safe to explore that world and not be married or living with someone as this is a part of the process of life. Yet I often here even younger clients exploring the possibility that there is something pathological about their lack of romantic attachment in the 20’s and even teen years. It is without doubt that it is a healthy longing to share one’s life with a love partners, some profound thinkers even note that this is one of the major goals of life. Sigmund Freud famously states that psychotherapy’s work is done when one is able to “work and to love.” The scanning notation that there seem to be more weddings and baby showers in the planner may cue one into the fact that this is the time in the life cycle where many chose to create a marriage and even populate it with some tiny tots. Yet, there are many who feel forbidden by so many responsibilities within work, or such “poor luck in love” that they happily turn to other goals instead of risking a painful breakup or heartbreak by falling in love or marriage again. What does the reader think of this? Is single living a valid stance or do you advocate for relationship hopping? What does the singleton do when the social cues of family and friends offer such questioning as “I have someone I want you to meet!”It is this psychotherapist’s belief that single time as an opportunity towards reflection and self-discovery. Single is certainly a valid stance in today’s world, with other lifestyle focal points being multiple, we may attune ourselves to friendship, careers, create a social calendar so full that there is no moment to spare for relationships. With little to no spare time coupled with high ideals for our “end all-be all” alpha and omega relationship or marriage love which may make the realities of the not so fairy tale romances less than appealing. Simultaneously, there is the inverse of love avoidance where individuals haphazardly navigate from love to love, or even remain in relationships long after their expiration date has come to pass simply because they do not want to be alone the world. Most of us as humans simply want to minimize guilt and misery that comes when we become fixated on the “would have” and “should haves” and “musts” of our life course, and to maximize the pleasures which come from loving and being in wholeness. We are weighed down when we think, “I am supposed to have everything figured out by now”, “I am supposed to be married by (insert age, 24, 34, 44)”. Reality isn’t so cut and dry, we seldom obtain our goals in the linear fashion in which our ideals expect. In life, we sometimes reach a summit to realize that there is much more open territory beyond, or become married to realize that in all of our haste we coupled with a person who is not a suitable match!
It is this therapist’s assertion that reflective and self-nurturing time is a worthy salve in managing such risks and reveling in such bliss. Yet I also believe that among other things an effective counseling process will have aided the client on the road towards Freud’s psychotherapeutic goal which encourages “to love and to work.” It takes courage to face the world alone, even if it’s just for a little while, yet too it takes tremendous courage to love particularly when we have paid its high price in the past. I highly recommend that any person who has recently broken off a relationship adopt some time devotedly to becoming at one with single, it is within that self-nurturance that one is able to foster a greater and more reflective relationship with the self, enhancing all of the other facets to living a full and meaningful life before moving closer yet again to another person’s heart, in the eternal dance of loving human relationships.
In love and good health,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Psychotherapist, Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenApril 30, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Who among us has not suffered from feelings of anxiety at some point in his or her life, it is common enough to be among the more often seen symptoms which bring an individual into a therapist’s office. Even for the most staunchly healthy psyches anxiety is a typical benchmark which exists in a range of degrees within the human emotive process. Depending upon you as the individual and the technical approach of your clinician you may be offered a multitude of conflicting remedies to intervene upon that which is ailing you.
There are the wildly popular pharmacological interventions such as Xanax or Valium, while widely popular these interventions do nothing to examine the “how’s” or “why’s” of an anxious feeling. These interventions assume that an increased cardiovascular response, heightened worry, tense muscles, sleepless nights, feelings of agitation are all in the physical realm yet quite mysterious. Indeed anxiety in its more insidious form is a grave health concern so it is with accolades that I note the vast number of humans seeking treatment to escape its grips. There is something inexplicably disconcerting about the hyper arousal of anxiety which compels one towards a greater risk for many other issues health issues such as addictions, depression, coronary heart disease, even eroding the erectile function of both the male and female, to name but a few.
Most of us recognize that there are yet other forms of anxiety which are our “bon amie,” the kind which compels our actions for good causes such as self and social betterment. Without a touch of anxiety one may hit the snooze button each and every morning and drop out of society all together. Yet for our purposes we will consider the more sinister form with its wanton undesirability which causes many to seek its avoidance at all costs. There are vastly varied approaches within the medical community in terms of treatment of anxiety, there are folk remedies, homeopathic remedies, new age methods, each with their unique utility. Yet most all of these interventions lavish attention upon the amelioration of physical symptoms but may from sheer neglect, fail to examine the psychological underpinnings of anxiety itself. For those who do experience the necessity of utilizing anti-anxiety medication it is an empirically validated fact that the best therapeutic outcomes exists for individuals who make use of psychotherapeutic settings simultaneously. It is within the psychotherapeutic setting that the focus is cast specifically upon the unique psychology which may be breeding and offering sustenance to an overabundance of anxiety. Allow the remainder of this small essay to offer a rudimentary overview of some of the more typical sources of psychological anxiety.
Significant Life Changes
This form of anxiety is a reaction to some looming occurrence which has skated its way across your horizon, it may be adaptive and is completely natural. Many of us thrive upon constancy, as much as this tendency is at odds with the nature of the universe, inevitably we experience some anxiety while changing jobs, graduating, marrying, divorcing etc. While it is normal to exhibit some emotional reaction to such transitions be mindful to give extra care to yourself even during those joyous transitions. For any anxious feeling that continues to gnaw at your innards, give yourself some time to thoroughly examine all of your thoughts surrounding the (fill in blank) transition. This reflection affords the opportunity to hone in on any ways your emotional self may be beckoning you towards a closer look at something that your conscious awareness is not seeing completely.
The more that we attempt to repress our emotional experience the more that they tend to rupture forth in greatly unmanageable ways. Perhaps you are a product of early learning which valued emotional repression and lack of expressiveness. In some way you may have learned early or later in life that it is dangerous or taboo to talk about feelings or even notice that they exist for you, yet the vast and unstoppable torrent of the feeling state will not be escaped. This form of anxiety or panic urges the person towards understanding and experiencing of inner awareness and emotional expression.
The exactitude and finite nature of time is stated by some to be the source of all anxiety. What is it that you will you do with your precious earthly allowance? By becoming more aware of lapsing time, acknowledging that life proffers beauteous opportunity, love, and abundance still too, how will you cope with mounting defeats, losses, and unrealized potentials? Ones highest hope is to make father time ones friend, utilizing our human energies to compel feats which contribute to human progress. For you that may mean many things, to raise a family, build computer software, tend the forest, love deeply, the myriad meanings for the human riddle.
For some of us it is alarming to consider doing something that risks ones perceived control over ones surroundings. That could mean riding in an airplane, making interpersonal changes like developing new relationships, people are the ultimate unknown variables full of competing needs and possibilities. Will you be able to extend the risk of letting go of the known order to enjoy the potentials?
While this is in no way an exhaustive exploration of that powerful human indicator named anxiety it is something that may compel one to begin to relate to it in a slightly different manner. Perhaps it is time to consider its possibilities, its latent messages, it may one with greater respect for behoove one to not simply extinguish an anxious feeling with a pill or an exercise but to sit with it, even for just a moment, entering its heart palpating, dizzying sensation, in reverential respect for its utility and possibility as an psychic indicator. There is an understanding that in most cases, under the layers of any symptom are a fortunate beckoning towards the best version of yourself, the unrelinquishable layers of consciousness which insist that ideals will be felt and known.
In good health and energy,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
*This article does not intend to diagnose, treat, or in any way address an anxiety disorder or supplant psychological or medical advice. This is intended for your consideration only.
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 19, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, sexuality, Uncategorized0 comments
As a psychotherapist who offers marriage counseling, affairs and their aftermath are sometimes ironed out amidst my office couch. Both parts of the couple struggle to make sense of the betrayal and its costs, they often seek a professional to find the answers to questions such as; should we stay together, should we separate, will our relationship ever be “normal,” (whatever version that may be for you), again. For both of the lovers there are painful truths to identify, the person who was cheating must come to terms with his or her guilt and the person who was victimized by the cheating may wonder if it is acceptable to forgive or if this somehow means that they are weak or foolish. While the answers to all of the many questions are highly complex, completely personal, and entirely up to you, if the affair has been ended and both lovers actively choose to stay there are abundant ways that you will both be able to enjoy the effects of an enhanced love bond! Here are some of the reasons why your love can rebound from an affair and be even closer and more intimate than before, provided that you both are willing and able to put in the time and work to make some big changes through the healing process.
- The affair itself is a symptom of a greater and deeper underlying problem. That problem could be anything from one of the partners acting upon impulses from narcissism, entitlement, and or sex addiction, or that there are some deficits in the relational component. For example, when the relationship is stuck in a pattern of withholding, and or criticism, when it is lacking in warmth, passion, communication and sometimes this causes one of the parties to conclude that she or he should look outside of the commitment to fill certain interpersonal needs. The affair must be understood as a symptom but also, if it addressed successfully, within every problem is an opportunity for the solution to be uncovered. Now you are free to explore the solution to the underlying issue.
- The time after the affair has been disclosed or discovered will be hallmarked by raw and real interaction, this kind of communication facilitates rebuilding. Obviously there will be a serious mourning phase caused by shattered trust and therefor many questions about who, what, when, where, and why. You both must be honest about what exactly is transpiring during this time. As the anguish ebbs allow the new to emerge. This honest and direct communication will feel refreshing as most often during an affair the communication had been stifled, the newfound open honesty will feel refreshing and serve as a great reminder to understand all of the ways that each partner was turning away from true intimate interaction previously.
- Your relationship will never be the same again and that very well could be a good thing considering the path to the affair is likely paved by anguish and deceit. Like a home that is being rebuilt there will be new walls and windows for the relationship, walls between the person who was conducting the affair and the man or woman who was facilitating the cheating, as well as shiny and new windows of transparency between the love partners. The windows should be framed in the light of honesty, openness, you may even want to place a chair nearby for reflective time, and renovations take time, work, and are not for the faint of heart!
To close and to be repetitive, the person who was having the affair must be completely honest and know that trust may not be given immediately or for a very long time to come. A message for the person who suffered the betrayal- recognize that you are healing within the cycle of grief. From anguish, anger, disbelief and all the way around you must place your long term intentions upon your healing and forgiveness for the cheating spouse. Keep your eyes on the prize however as if it is in your will, you both will eventually move beyond this troubling time and into a better relationship which will someday be capable of casting meaning upon this day when you are suffering the effect of the human misgivings of betrayal.
Sharing in happiness and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh
Pa 15233 Suite 100