by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 14, 2019 conflict resolution, making up after fights, pittsburgh counseling and wellness, relationship resolutions0 comments
When couples say that they have conflict or problems with communication they really mean that they have a trigger topic that is non solvable or that they have different ways of managing conflict.This causes their disagreements to have a fire or ice quality. I will describe each of these styles and inherently none of them is worse that the other, but depending on what your partner’s style of conflict is, they can lead to further issues.
A fire conflict style describes a person who may boil over quickly. Like fire they are quick to heat. When something triggers a person with a fire style in conflict their irritation will rise. They will likely seek to discuss the issues, sometimes in a way that causes greater conflict if they use criticism or demandingness instead of softer and mindful approaches. Often a person who is fire in conflict can cool down as quickly as they become enraged and then be glad to act like nothing ever happened. While it is definitely not recommended that a couple have big disagreements and not process them, the person with this style of conflict can be fine with their ups and downs. If two people with a fire style end up in a pair, they will likely have many heated quarrels that have passion and intensity. Words can be said that end up hurting, perhaps even threatening to end the relationship leading to a make-up break up syndrome. Let us also distinguish this from physical or emotional abuse. While those types often have a fire quality, they exhibit a muchmore serious pathology which should cause the victim to seek safety and law enforcement. Let’s explore more about what can happen if a fire and ice person are in a pair.
Persons in the cool state and of the ice style of communication may take quite a long time to boil. They tend to try to avoid conflict at all costs, sometimes minimizing disagreements and quarrels. When this style is a little bit more on the spectrum of cool avoidant they may purposefully not share details that they fear could lead to conflict. Often and ironically this can lead to conflict. They remain relatively externally cool during disagreements, but this doesn’t mean that they are not having emotional reactions on the inside. I have seen many people in this state be hooked up to an oximeter and their heart rates are cascading over the thresholds of 120. In any event, from the outside, the person appears calm and maybe even rigid in the way that they are not communicating. The fear with this conflict style is of course that important conversations don’t happen. Without talking about important issues they may miss chances for their partner to understand their needs and what is important to them. When this style of conflict communication exists alongside a fire type there may be misunderstandings where the fire person feels that the ice person is avoiding their feelings and doesn’t care.
Both the fire and ice communication styles will benefit from a conflict management plan. A plan for conflict implies that disagreements are not inherently a problem but aims at tackling issues in the relationship that can cause small issues to become much bigger. It also brings awareness about how emotions play into their disagreements and what to do so that there is a smaller likelihood that trigger topics spiral out of control.
In love and wellness,
Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 1, 2018 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology0 comments
Repair or Run the Other Way? My partner had an affair, Should I Stay or Go?
If you or your partner has recently discovered an affair has been happening in your relationship, in this moment you are likely trembling, a blurry fury of agonizing hurt, the entire relationship now may feel foreign to you. As a couples counselor affairs and their tempestuous aftermath are ironed our my office couch. Both parts of the couple struggle to make sense of the betrayal and its costs, couples seek aid and asylum to find the answers to questions such as; should we stay together or separate, will our relationship ever regain a sense of normalcy, ‘am I weak or foolish for thinking of staying?’ ‘how can we fix this?”
A relationship is founded and grows upon a platform of trust, without the reinforcement that trust provides, the person who was victimized by the affair will be thrust into a state of panic, questioning every action and motive of their life and partner. An affair is a trauma to the relationship, often people who have learned of, or been told about an affair from their partner, suffer from symptoms similar to PTSD or Acute Stress Disorder. Sleeplessness, anxious and intrusive thoughts and images, fear of it happening again. Within the wake of this mountain of emotional upheaval they create their next course of action, remain together or disassemble their lives. Use this guideline to weigh the options, keeping in mind the decision is one that must be made by ones self, as it is personal, intimate, and an infinitely complex choice to make.
- Is the partner who committed the affair being accountable? There must be a high level of accountability if the relationship will be repaired. This means that the cheating spouse accepts responsibility for his or her actions. If instead your partner is blame shifting or gaslighting, by saying that the affair is your fault or someone else’s fault, or if he or she is trying to minimize the impact or the hurt this will not work. The relationship must have truth to begin the healing process. It can be very frightening to own up, and some personality types that are antisocial, psychopathic, or narcissistic will likely use more defensiveness when met with the truth and or will struggle with empathy for their betrayed partners hurt. Under these circumstances it won’t be possible to work thought what happened in a healthy way.
- Has communication been cut off with the paramour? If communication is on going with the alternate partner there is no chance that the relationship can heal from the betrayal. There are people who will try to stick it out and court their partner while he or she tries to figure out which partner to choose. This is not a recipe for healthy connection, jumping around doing the “pick me dance” will likely lead to a major impact on self esteem and an internal sense of anxiety and profound sadness. Many couple’s therapists will not treat a relationship when there is an active affair happening.
- Is your partner willing to have greater transparency with you? This means giving you the codes to his or her phone, email, and social media accounts. Even with the codes and access to your partners interactions, it will take a herculean effort to restore any sense of safety or trust. This is a good first step in letting ones partner in and pushing the affair partner out.
- Do you want to do the work or forgiveness? While it is true that the affair is often symptomatic of deeper issues, the aftermath puts a tremendous strain on both parties. Deciding to work through and forge forgiveness is a toll which most heavily gets heaped upon the person who has experienced the betrayal. If you have learned that an affair has happened in your relationship and that you want to work on repairing it, you will simultaneously actively be committing to forgiving, this will be exquisitely difficult. After enough time has passed, you will be required to work through the process of handling anger, hurt, sadness, resentment, jealously, insecurity, all in the name of staying with your partner. Keep this in mind as it may not be for everyone which is ok!
All of these grim facts in mind, there is hope, if the above questions can be answered with certainty then there is a path to be forged toward forgiveness. Not an easy one but it is possible to have a connection which is stronger after an affair. Trust is a formula of consistency over a time, trust can be rebuilt if the formula is followed. With understanding, truth, and commitment, love is a robust and golden vessel which proudly contains the tender blossoms of our lives. A vessel that is able to withstand complete annihilation and be recreated to become gleaming and full again, or sometimes it is best to pluck our precious contents and replant somewhere anew…
In love and care,
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and Monroeville
Stephanie Wijkstrom MS, LPC, NBCCLearn More
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 24, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, personal growth, psychotherapy, sexuality1 comment
For those of us who are a part of a long term relationship, partnership, or marriage, there are endless competing demands, changing circumstances, ever evolving human structures, that constant flux of exchanging our time, attention, affection for the expectation that our partner will to attenuate towards meeting our needs for attention, affection, sexual and emotional satisfaction, understanding etc. Often though, circumstances change and things like long work hours leading to exhaustion, or even the mounting heap of unresolved conflicts may create a pattern accidental neglect or even purposeful withholding within the relationship. In the majority of contexts this people pleasing, asking for little, passive communication structure, the needing to be needed, more often belongs to the feminine among us, yet there too are men who are indeed comprised of these trappings. The person who may remain in the shadow holding our silent or not so silent candlelight vigil buoyed by the hope that we will be seen, heard, understood by our significant other yet our very hopeful approach may be causing ourselves and our relationship to suffer.
The problem may come in to play when we remain silent, in the hopes that our spouse, children, parents or friends will pick up on our subtle cues that we are in need. All too often, this doesn’t happen and in turn we may retreat into brooding, passive aggressive communication including sarcasm and coldness, depression, loss of faith in the relationship, anger or a number of other maladaptive patterns. We can become so frozen in our non-direct approach to having our needs for power, choice, child rearing, financial distribution, household chores, pepperoni on the pizza, that we can no longer imagine what it would look like if we said “no thank you, I’m not in the mood for sex tonight” or “I could really use some help with getting the house ready for the 4th of July party.” Instead we may simply plod along, share our bodies with our partners when we don’t really want to so as to not disrupt any ego, we take on more chores than we have time to do because we don’t want to ask or even because we don’t think that we are worthy of help or that we should be able to do it all.
With all of the aforementioned examples there is an exorbitant cost, the psychological burden of betraying your kernel of authentic impulse. That tiny bud of truth which remains above and beyond the compulsion to fulfill duty of what you erroneously declare that you “should” do. For purposes of this consideration, you may want to contemplate upon that authentic impulse to not take on more than you logically and happily can, the healthy and whole part of you which states, enough is enough for today, the essential you which wants to draw boundaries and ask for your fair share of help! Just for today, maybe you will consider expounding upon the naysayer, and the demanding inner part of you. In recognizing that that part of you may be buried beneath layers of reasons, memories of relationships which may have encouraged or fostered you to build retaining walls, the enclosures which separate us from our true essence and the kind of soulful engagement which our highest self can compel, yet just for today and just perhaps you can channel that inner warrior and recognize that a whole voice doesn’t always sing the most pleasing of melodies.
In health and wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy/and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
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 McCrackenMarch 24, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
At long last spring is finally before us, warming sun beams serve as a reminder that winters darkness is ebbing, unfolding to a new time of the year. Before we can finish with a blink of an eye the landscape will be blushing a cool green, the growth of all that only a month ago, was cloaked in hardened winter, a stern remembrance of the branches and twigs formerly befallen with the chilled stagnation of ice and snow. Even the icebergs which were suffocating the rivers and ponds eternal flow have graciously thawed just as do our hearts, mind, beingness—that is if we remain afloat in the process of growing. With springs return we may feel lighter, more content, responding to greater amounts sunlight and warmth, with each day we move further from the Vernal Equinox our knowingness is assured, spring is here. Motivation energizes the spirit which wants to follow the pristine example of the landscape by becoming something even greater, brighter, and more beautiful, on the inside. Some of us create grand plans to dig out our dust pans and mops, rearrange the furniture, switch out our fall and winter wardrobe for the pastels of the season, go all out and do a round of spring cleaning. Like our mothers or fathers and their grandparents before them making use of this special transition to arrange our world into a cleaner and more comfortable environment in preparation for springs blossoming. Perhaps you turn to the instructional mechanisms of Feng shui or some other method to order your environment. Yet the outside, well that has always been the easiest part to wield ones growing sense of mastery, if you really want to challenge your springs cleaning efforts this year, you may want to assess the mechanisms which sustain your internal world by utilizing psychotherapy. All of those thoughts, emotions turned behaviors, reaching their roots as far back as you can recall into the very earliest memories that thought can conjure. I beg you to ask, in what areas do you aim to grow this spring?
This winter has beckoned me to consider the effects of ferocity and holding on far too long. What are some things which you are holding within, exuding to the external? Is there a pattern which you use to shape your interactions with others, can you see it, are you ready to examine this tender area or is it still more safe and familiar to linger in blaming and projections of fears and anxiety? Is there a relationship which you should fix or let go in order to best serve your growth? If you’re imaging that the answer is “yes” then consider a step further, what lessons does this negative interaction hold for you and about you? When you scrape the dust from the long ago blurry mirror and examine your very own image, perhaps you notice a stark face returning your gaze, but what do you really see my friend? Who hides in your shadows?
The earth makes its revolution, revolving 1 time in every 24 hours, our planet is ever in orbit, a seasonal change impending, we feel it, and we must consider how should we change too? Nature is an insistent instructor forever whispering her lessons of change. It is very sad to see those who are ever seeking to remain the same, not recognizing the stages and changes in life, in a solemn and straight trajectory they insist that yesterday should indicate the forecast for tomorrow—yet the best leaders and most well adapted humans accept and thrive through change, allowing it to shape and mold their actions and using it as fuel for their becoming. Ones best course of action through time of change is to examine and then create ones intentions, a typical effort within counseling and therapy. Allow change to unfold by clearing out mental and physical space for spring’s shiny new growth to blossom. Use your mental broom to push stagnant thoughts and behaviors back into the muddy earth and replace them with those which sustain the tender budding life, the new growth, both within and without. Bloom Bright and Blossom Beauty!
In Loving Encouragement,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa
15233 Suite 100
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
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, Uncategorized0 comments
Some incredible orator stated “Two broken wings won’t fly.” A healthy relationship or marriage is explicitly the product of the intentional and harmonious blending of two actualized psyches. True love and true life require wholeness and awareness. Self-help, self-talk, self-betterment, are all words of our time and just about everyone seems to be on the journey of self and relational growth, yet when it comes to the loves process we may be wondering what the notion of wholeness means. This may be particularly relevant when tracing the route through past relationships and recognizing that there is some naggingly similar quality to those in the rearview. Similarly, you may be married or in a relationship and wondering why you notice a certain je ne cest quoi ebbing into ether, placing you onto the familiar path of conflict speckled by a pervading sense of loneliness. Perhaps you are unattached but when your gaze falls upon the rearview you see lovers left to the wayside like mile markers off of the highway. All in all, its a fine moment to reflect upon wholeness. Not that the act of loving requires any encouragement to unfold, there is an powerful drive or instinct to experiencing love. The manner in which humans repeatedly attempt and often fail to sustain love is evidence of the intensity of this instinct, wanting to share our lives within the context of a meaningful and rich romantic bond. The heartfelt sensations which are a product of engaging in loves virtues and risks are certainly the most ebullient, ecstatic, soothing, and dually frustrating and disappointing! To love is a process by which the culmination of all of these sensations is inevitable, to love is a spiritual and complete act, yet it is also a specific skill set. If you sincerely believe that you have worked towards the mindset which embodies your best current version of you then you may be prepared to enter into a dance of this ancient and sacred heart song.
Step it on out of yourself! A loving relationship requires that we step out of ourselves to meet the needs of our beloved. Loving is most certainly not all about you! To love we must see beyond our own sore spots and insecurities to be present, empathetic, and understanding to the emotional, physical, and spiritual parts of those who are loving. This is no small feat, given the myriad of questions and concerns which arise as a part of a loving relationship or marriage. Often we will need to reflect upon our entire selfhood in relation to another and assess those things which the relationship, like a mirror, may show to us, this is at times startling to a psyche both well developed and those egos which may be in the midst of crumbling.
Love Song Birds Being whole requires attunement to the abundant social cues which are promenaded upon the faces of our fellow humans. Many people are perfectly competent to sustain friendships but when entering the unique atmosphere of romance our sore spots become stimulated by our mate’s. Our lover with their wants and needs and the intimate fact that to understand and accept, this is love in action. Why these sore spots? Remembering our first example of how to give and receive love and attention began as early as infancy. Messages internalized by the way that our mother or primary caretaker mirrored our expressions and responded to our cries, setting up and ever solidifying the evolving pattern of our being within the world. When your lover comes to you to say that she or he has had a terrible day, in that moment do you respond with equal concern and inquisitiveness? Do you launch into problem solving mode, speaking at length about how you can relate? Do you immediately become frustrated that you are stuck in dealing with their feelings or do you feel bad about yourself because you can’t fix it all for your love? So many highly personal responses to one elegantly poised prompt. Most often and simply when a lover comes to us in distress they are only seeking the opportunity to be heard and understood. In the very powerful act of giving that distraction free moment or ten we are filling our lover with the hypnotic sound of our loving song.
A touch of authenticity– It takes courage to be authentic especially with the person we love, it can be frightening to imagine their perceived judgment and fear. Psychological theorist Fritz Perl’s states that psychological distress stems from the proportion that a person lives inauthentically. All of those moments that you squash your verbal impulse to stay with the crowd or forgo offending your lover’s sensitivities certainly take an undeniable toll! Agree to attend the theater or the football game even though you loath it? Or perhaps you lie by omission in order to avoid a conflict? No matter the justification, being inauthentic stink the rot of decay. As Perls would say, you are being “phony” and it incurs a psychological cost, while it’s certainly important to make social trades and compromise its best to enjoy relationships which do not tax your dislikes too often and also make room for us to be authentic in representing our likes, values etc. Being phony runs the risk fanning the flames of eating the fiery venom resentment or making one into an inauthentic drone. One should also examine the part of his or her self which would continually betray one’s own essence for another person’s approval. Simultaneously if you are actually in a relationship with one who would sincerely limit or judge your solo activities then there may be even more questions which you could explore. In life and love must choose and act wisely. “Keep it real” express, fears, taboo, passions, with astonishing honesty and gusto.
Express Vulnerabilities – Love requires that we examine ourselves, own our emotional baggage and then we must feel safe to lay it upon the feet of our beloved, trusting that he or she will respond with tenderness and empathetic care. This can be a mountainous task for those who keep the pain of early or recent betrayals, trauma, heartbreak, or even for those who have never enjoyed the luxury of an open environment which lavished empathy and compassion upon pains. Lovers who were initially able to bask in the trusting atmosphere of a mutually nurturing atmosphere will still sometimes notice things falling off the tracks and wrecking into a place where less productive interpersonal patterns evolve. In this damaged place the expression of vulnerabilities becomes forbidden and is often replaced by defensiveness. This being said it is by allowing our lover into the areas of tenderness and softness that we develop trust and warmth the compassionate comfort which can only be produced by lovers who have navigated through many storms and basked through many summer suns together.
How can you apply these basics to your own love, if you are saying that you can’t really apply any of this they I would imagine that you may not be completely honest with yourself. The act of loving is one which is ever co-evolving and no matter how well or not so well we are doing it, there are ways which we can improve it.
In love and kindness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Relationship Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenFebruary 13, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy, sexuality, Uncategorized0 comments
It’s Valentine’s Day, the time of year when romance and affection become central to our hearts and minds. What better way for you and your loved one to mutually celebrate your bond than with warm and flush cheeks, rapidly beating heart, and maybe even a dose of perspiration. Aphrodisiacs promise to invoke all of these responses and much more. Aphrodisiacs have long been revered for their power to make men stand a bit taller and women’s blood to rush with desire. The term seems to have come from ancient Greece and their Goddess “Aphrodite” the goddess of love. The fascination with desire invoking serums and tinctures did not end with the Greeks, time seems to have inflamed our human impulse to create that symposium of flavors which will invoke our less easily satiable appetites. For any of us in a long term loving union, single, or dating, Valentine’s Day is a most spell inducing context to permit ones appetite to be beckoned towards gluttony. Please remember that the magically seductive properties of the following aphrodisiacs will be dually heightened if shared within a loving atmosphere spellbound by the flicker of candle light, melodiously chattering conversation, and maybe even the wafting sweet aroma of flowers.
Truffles-The truffle has remained one of the most sought after delicacies throughout time, it is earthy and woody with a delicate pungency which is sure to inflame each and every one of the senses. The white truffles is even more esteemed than the black and either way if you want to be certain that your lover erects gratitude, deliver a touch of this refined flavor. They are an excellent accompaniment to dress upon most any meat or vegetable. The process by which the mushrooms are discovered is equally fascinating as they are excavated by pigs which are ever attracted to the pheromones the mushrooms emit. Pheromones may also contribute to the Truffles aphrodisiac qualities as they contain the same chemicals which are found within human sweat, which believe it or not is lust enhancing chemical.
Garlic– There is indeed something mystical about this potent and “stinking onion”. Modern days prize it for its anti-microbial functions, high antioxidant content, and gourmands revere its bold taste. Garlic contains the active compound Allicin, this has the alchemical property of increasing blood flow which is sure to heighten lust. This aphrodisiac is best enjoyed by pairs of two lest you want your lover to be repelled much like the mythical vampires which it purportedly scatters to the distant winds.
Oils-From cold pressed organic extra virgin olive oil to the myriad of nut oils there are so many uses and pleasures to be associated with each. Any lover whose impulse towards tasty pleasures is so misaligned to express derision for the fat yielding content of the oils while not undressing its delicate flavors and propensity towards viscosity should remain far from the prep station. By lavishly soaking your finest cut of meat or vegetables in a seasoned concoction of oil, the dish will be rendered ready for the sizzling heat of a sear or sauté while still retaining its internal moisture! I personally assure you that most any food which bursts with moisture has aphrodisiac qualities.
Honey-The creation of laborious effort by tiny bees, buzzing about from flower to flower, fertilizing as they zip through the air, anything born of fertilization certainly qualifies as an aphrodisiac. Ever wonder why newlyweds go on a honeymoon? Historically they were given a jug of mead upon their departure, mead is a drink made from sensual enhancing fermented honey. Cleopatra is said to have used honey in the art of seduction by sharing it with her lovers amidst her erotic regions. If you haven’t found enough reasons to get yourself a large vat of honey, you can also note that honey is bursting with boron which is a metabolite of estrogen a hormone playing a role in arousal for both men and women.
Oysters– There is indeed something lurid and suggestive about the shape of the oyster, Casanova is purported to have consumed more than 50 of these pearl producing gems every day through his life. The salty and sea water infused flesh is teeming with zinc which aids in the production of testosterone, strong hormonal balance certainly heightens the arousal phase of any steamy interlude.
Dark Chocolate– Esteemed as a nectar of the gods and at one time reserved for only the royalty. In fact, Montezuma made a daily ritual of consuming a hot cocoa which was infused with chili peppers which are known to invoke their own power over the appetites of lust. Simultaneously, we offer chocolates to loved ones during most every holiday as tryptophan activates our brains pleasure centers. Of course, any quality chocolate the sensual properties are further exacerbated with the accompaniment of pleasant company, laughter and perhaps even a glass of wine.
Enjoy the Aphrodisiacs friends, fans, and lovers and always remember that the greatest lust enhancing potion is that which is enjoyed from the sultry warmth of a healthy and loving relationship!
Love and warmth,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenFebruary 4, 2014 couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, personal growth, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
Why Searching for a Soul Mate is Damning to Love
Soul mates, the stuff of fantasies, dreams come true, love at first sight and also quite likely among the reasons you may find yourself hurling towards disappointment when encountering real life love! A soul mate is a notion born from Christianity, the story is simple; at one time all souls frolicked in their natural and divine state of male female merger, we were celestial and reflecting wholeness. Then our souls were ripped apart and cast down to the earth leaving us with a longing which can only be subsided by the reunion of ourselves with our one “other half”. An interesting fact is that the western world nations practicing Christianity and love marriages suffer from exorbitantly high divorce rates compared to nations which may have practiced arranged marriages where the emphasis becomes working towards harmony.
A soul mate unintentionally dismisses the actual and expansive realities of true love by instead distracting a would-be lover with damaging beliefs such as “love at first sight.” In the soul mate version of love, emptiness and longing are the implications of living without ones eternal mate and the only remedy appears as the divine salve upon having found ones soul mate. When pirouetting from life’s various stages, including romantic encounters one may easily fall susceptible to the guise that wholeness has been reached, sustaining the faulty belief that the soul has become whole in those first throes of ecstatic merger. I assure you that any relationship which is built upon the understanding that perfection will be reached by the merging of two halfs, falsely acting upon the understanding that wholeness is only sustained by consolidating two empty jars; any such union will erode and suffer from disappointment and ensuing bitter resentment among a host of other maladies. Do not despair for this is no argument against love, this is a cautionary semblance meant to yield the reader towards a more mature and viable assembly of the hearts potential melodic chord!
I do not want to execute your love but I do want to help you to develop realistic expectations for romance and loving feelings. Love is not a magical act whereby to opposites attract or two fateful spirits find their missing piece. The act of loving is a skill set, to love is a verb implying that there is some action, exertion of effort, a labor of love indeed. Thus far we have established that love takes work and love requires two whole parts. A loving union offers many challenges but its rewards are tenfold. How does one find the harmonious chord when bringing together two humans with their own unique set of wants, needs, values, manners of loving and being? The answer is carefully, mindfully, and with intention.
Ways to move beyond the notion of soul mate and develop strong and healthy relationships
Approach from wholeness Feeling sad, lonely, inadequate? These are not places from which a healthy relationship can be born, a “soul mate” meant to complete your empty parts is a set up for failure. Equally for all of the white knights and Florence Nightingales, it may somehow speak to your fractured psyche to purchase a fixer upper but saving someone else or teaching them art of living skills will inevitably be dehumanizing and resentment building for both parties. The best we can ever do is to hone our own self-worth, know our ever evolving abilities and work to create some confidence in them so that we can enjoy sharing those attributes with others who can extend the very same!
Love takes work One must be willing to exert effort in the creation of a smooth and solid relationship. This will require you to leave behind the infantile suggestion of perfect mergers manifested by the divine, the stuff of this world requires honing interpersonal skills, speaking and being authentically, embodying compassion, trust, care, believe, compromise, caress, challenge. The list could go on forever indeed but I am sure most of you are already aware of that!
Know thy self, Socrates may have been the first to mention, the unexamined life is not worth living! Get to know yourself and develop a strong loving relationship with you! If you are hiding a ton of shame or uncertainties about the car you drive, your job, your interests and you want to create a relationship with someone able to “show you the way” then I assure you that even if you do meet a potential love match you will be starting the relationship off on shaky ground. Have respect for your unique being and as you become better equipped to share your presence authentically you will be far more likely to create similar relationships, the kind based on mutual likes, passions, values, and respect.
Don’t expect too much but never settle Sometimes settling may mean allowing the relationship or the self to fall into deterioration during the course of long term togetherness. Nurturing love requires one to constantly grow, maintain physical, emotional, spiritual growth. That which remains stagnant and rigid is bound to break but that which eternally renews shall remain strong and vital like the river flowing.
Forget about finding the perfect fairy tale lover, evolve into the best “YOU” Often in relationships men and women tirelessly search for that other who will allow the harmony and happiness to flow into their life. Yet beyond creating love based upon compatible personality, values, and interests that which prohibits the loving union is often to be found within our very own selves. As Rumi so profoundly proffers “Seek not for love but to remove all of the barriers within oneself which prevent it.”
I leave you with this contemplation, what part of you can be removed so that you my friends and readers are best able to share a love?
With a warm heart and lots of love,
Stephanie M McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling