by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 8, 2015 counseling, feminist, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
We raise them to be good girls, to nod politely during fine conversation strung on during respectable hours with respectable people. We raise them to be pillars of hope, encouraging others in their struggles, we hug them and cradle them from the womb to teach them that they too should hug others, pearls of sweat always wiped away before becoming visible, to be the tirelessly devoted caretaker. We raise them with their kitchen play sets and plastic burgers and fries to prepare, toil, to serve those near and dear, insistently offering heaps and dollops of crème fraichely flavored affectionate nurturance. We raise them to banter upon the midnight keys of the baby grand, to cajole the audience with a fine melody, high five you little entertainer, pat, pat upon your severely strewn locks all wrapped up in an impeccable bow, “you are such a good girl.”. Oh, indeed, she hears you, her tiny countenance aglow with your praises, forming a map, a how-to manual which will beckon the praises of all of the others, a lifetime of others. A heavily laden back drop of nodding, and “yes sir” and “yes ma’am”, discipline and structure abounds her omnipresent formative years, she will please and she will shine.
This little essay is for all of those good little girls, turned to women that must learn how to say “no sir” “no ma’am” here is the boundary that draws the distinction between you and between me. Sometimes she must say “no” and nod “no” for nobody else other than her, and her own self-interest, and sometimes she must walk away still being a “good girl” because as she is learning her obligation is to nurture herself, too. Here is to the good girls who have traded in their bright-eyed baby dolls and longed instead to sit in solitude, sometimes for hours on end, to strewn together words upon words which offer semblance to their own pale logic. This is for the good little girls who leave those plastic frying pans, those dull golden rubber buns left to acquire a lifetime of mold. This is for the little girls that are too busy collecting grasshoppers and salamanders, head to toe crusted in mud, smelling not like perfume and soap but like straw and finely decomposing fall leaves, yes little girl “we love you too”. This is for the little girl come lady who screeches out an alarming melody, a protestation, a vigorous “No! I don’t want to wear your dresses, I won’t be a good little girl, I want to listen to crickets and cicadas and feed the goats in my denim jean coveralls, someday I want to be the CEO and walk about with ease in a simple pair of flat shoes meant for utility!” For the little girl that doesn’t want to smile and nod, on some days she wants to stomp and to curse a big “fuck you world!” She wants to say it and not fall from her imagined place of grace, clinging to all of this sturdy awareness, panicking that she has careened over the invisible line, teetering on becoming a very bad girl indeed. Yes, good and bad and all of these startling dichotomies, black and white pervade in a world of pastels, blues and greys, there must be something beyond the stark definition, the deft appraisal, and no girl wants to be tossed to the bad girl side when it comes to such grossly serious matters. Even with messy hair, smeared mascara, no mascara, when we have stayed up too late, when we can’t wake up in the morning, when we have allowed cruel words and actions to rush passed angrily contorted lips, we still want your love. When we have shattered our picture perfect with heaps and doses of vapid reality, we still want your love, we still want to be a good-girl turned woman, a woman worth loving, to you, and we want to fill up our own hole that reeks of neediness, the irrational desire for your love which we know needs to be sustained by our own self-love, a love that remains beyond these tendencies of fluctuating moods, beyond good-girl and bad-girls, the place of total acceptance, the point of compassion for our own humanness, yes, right there, that space of self-nurturance, maybe we are good-girls turned woman after all.
In care and warmth,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Psychotherapist ; Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, elephant journal, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
As written by us and featured in Elephant Journal http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/09/serenaded-by-fire-dancing-with-anger-a-psychotherapists-musings-stephanie-mccracken/
Experiencing and acting upon anger, despite its steeping potentials, is often shrouded in uncertainty and even guilt or shame, causing many people to attempt its subterranean burial. Due to cultural and early childhood learning, anger is only given an opportunity to only to be exhumed by accessing deeper levels of consciousness. This cultural urging to truncate human richness towards the effort of appearing uni-dimensional, saccharine and serene may be especially felt by woman, “be a good girl” they say. Despite valiant efforts to remain superiorly cool, even the most grandiose attempt to dismiss anger will result in its manifestation in less healthy manners. Perhaps you are a person who has been accused of yelling or other frenetic outburst to which you adamantly deny, then this reflection may resonate with your unconscious yearning for wholeness and serve as an impetus towards allowing some of the disavowed aggression to lovingly bubble forth.
In the range of the human emotional experience, anger is a vital, valid, and often in containment of a message. Anger is alphabetically close to danger but this too means that anger has a protective function. Whether the sensation of anger propels our action to ensconce and protect the rainforest from loggers or our child from the grips of a bully, anger is an activating emotion. On a cellular level when anger erupts we will likely notice an acceleration of heart rate, pupil dilation, vasodilation, all similar to panic and anxiety these would have allowed us to evolve in our prehistoric forms by seeing better, running harder, and accessing our reserve of strength. For some this is a rapid and temporarily irreversible ascension which will require some time spent self-soothing to reenter the terrestrial atmosphere. In fact, within couples therapy and marriage counseling it is noted that divergent conflict resolution needs are a common theme, it becomes essential to understand what yours is and how it interacts with those around you with the aim of growing towards health and balance.
It is not only relationships which may benefit from a better relationship with anger, modern science supports that repeatedly experiencing activating emotions renders a tantamount physical and emotional bill. Such as the case of the “type A personality” those with the monumental drive to make the world one conquest are also often noted to linger on the precipice of fiery anger. This puts them at continued risk for heart disease, hypertension, and additionally the social cost that can come for those that motion in a perpetually haughty dance with angers tempo. Allow us to admit just this one thing, whether it be culturally or from our families many of us learn, to our detriment, that there is something dangerous or forbidden about the outward expression of anger. Perhaps it is that we will be consumed by experiencing it or act out in a way that is unacceptable, which may lead to repression of the feeling thereby becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as those things we wish to bury almost always evidence themselves in more dramatic and unexpected ways. Provided that we recognize and utilize our emotions in a productive and socially responsible manner, angers energy has the potential to become a beneficial driving force!
From Repression to Expression With heightened and hot emotions like anger there may be some cultural and personal sentiments which discourage the human experience by placing an added layer of shame, guilt, or doubt upon the expression of negative feelings, even if done in the most appropriate and effective of manners. The real challenge may be in encouraging a person who practices repression that they are even experiencing such feelings, particularly if they have learned from an early age that the expression of such feelings is unsafe as we see with victims of trauma and abuse.
Unveiling The Masking of Anger The multitude of colors and ensembles with which anger is known to present itself can be bewildering. From the exceedingly calm demeanor which may only display a mild tightening of the area around the lips, to the full out adult temper tantrum and there are even those who utilize passive aggression to make their inner world become evident, anger is indeed a human universal as much as some may wish to dismiss its being.
In recognizing aggressive and animalistic impulses we seek to nurture a healthy degree of fire, without being dominated by unconscious aggression. Even for the good girl, the journey towards wholeness and mindfulness will require that we first prioritize a relationship with our inner self to begin to recognize our anger, respect the sensation and then work within the pause between thought/feeling and action to formulate an appropriate response to anger. Some questions that you may want to ask of yourself- What happens for our internal sanctum as the heart thrums faster and the embers flicker towards rising heat? Do we trust our ability to communicate effectively in a hot state or are we the kind of person who needs a cooling off period to navigate a high level of frustration? When was the last time that you expressed anger and what emotions come up for you as you consider your expression of this human sensation? The point is that provided we are being mindful and authentic we are best honoring ourselves and our bountifully rich human experience.
In robust wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Psychotherapist offering Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
Thank you Hollywood
This essay, is an offering of gratitude to Hollywood’s fascination with therapy. When one takes a moment to reflect upon the big screen or television portrayals of psychotherapy you may be quick to realize that this kind of therapy is often found under the context of an ultra-masculine male client reaching out for counseling services. From cinema to sitcom, we all know that viewers are influenced by the shows that they watch, and it is not often enough that television is accredited with making positive contributions to humanity. Here is one therapist’s heartfelt and humble thank you to the producers and actors of some of the following shows that have portrayed therapists and therapy and most importantly have done so in such a way that men receive the message that they need to explore the various unexamined parts of the self!
Movies such as, the hilarious “Analyze This” with Billy Crystal who plays a therapist to an Italian American with criminal tendencies. It appears that viewers really enjoy this theme as who could forget “The Sopranos” Tony Soprano, he with his boisterous and memorable bravado, his tough guy persona imbibing implicitly to a nation of admirers. Both of these portrayals carry a poignant message. “Men have a vast network of feelings, the best of us are actively working towards enhanced relationships with ourselves and significant others of the past, present, and future!” In most all cinematic representations of psychotherapy, for example in the case of The Sopranos, there are some serious ethical and moral breaches between therapist and client but hey, it’s Hollywood!
Interestingly, the characters that sought treatment looking to depart from symptoms are ultimately given something else in the process. Perhaps that is part of the Hollywood obsession, everywhere we turn it seems that humans are wanting to experience something a little deeper in relation to themselves and others. One of my favorite movie portrayals of therapy at work is within the tear jerker movie, “Good Will Hunting.” Yet there are many other more light hearted examples such as “What about Bob?” Among the modern and vaguely based on realism is the series, called “In treatment” which showcases weekly cases in one mans practice.
Some of you may be wondering but what is the thanks about? Mostly I have cited a bunch of male therapists working with other men. Yet, in reality, women are more likely to enter therapy then men, although both sexes do experience issues which could benefit from the therapeutic encounter. Think of those men who were raised by positive intentions bespoken phrases to small ears which internalized such explicit messages as “big boys don’t cry like a girls!” “Don’t be a sissy.” As a clinician, this causes an internal cringe. I know that there were and are whole generations of men and even women with grossly neglected parts of the self! This equates to a myriad of sufferings from symptoms to vaguely definable human malaise, or simply put, a life that could be lived in a much richer manner. Formerly, those men who were unidentifiably searching for a safe place to iron out these grander mysteries may have stifled their quest as to not encroach upon the cultural taboos of betraying the earlier defined meaning of masculinity. Curtain call, in walks a character like Soprano, who has the persona of aggressive and dominant male, yet also dealing with anxiety for all of those disavowed parts of the self. When someone like that turns to therapy and discovers some things in the process, the viewing men are then too given permission to examine those emotive parts of their selves. This is not to say that all men are cut off from their emotions, there are certainly those men among us who develop into the well balanced kind of gent that enjoys the abundance of the human experience but for those who have not been so lucky, well you can just tune in to your favorite show and see, there are indeed a myriad of other options.
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233