by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 1, 2014 counseling, couples therapy, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
Of all of the things that we share on social media and otherwise, our successes, “I am so relieved! I finally graduated!” Our location “Strike, checking in at Hollywood lanes bowling alley come on down!” How inspiring to be virtually plugged, the possibility for connection in ways which can be meaningful and significant. The opportunity to influence, to brighten, reviving optimism and care. Of all of these things, there is one that I know to be true, a mystical mechanism which influences both the receivers and givers unequivocally. Sharing Love. As a psychotherapist working with individuals or married/dating couples, it is visible that how we share our love is often the deeper question veiled under anxiety, depression, communication trouble “I want to be better at giving and receiving love.”
Love is a mysterious and compelling source of both eternal vitality and confusion, in many ways it is humanities greatest quest since our earliest days of arboreal ascent in the vast tree limbs. The feeling of connection elicited when we share a bit of love with a long-time friend, our mother, or our lover. Love is for many a “raison de etre” and a stalwartly reason at that. Even when we are not in the midst of experiencing one of those loving moments we may be listening to, or writing a song, or perhaps creating a painting or other miraculous expression of our relationship to this divine sensation. There are so many places to see the manifestation of our hearts longing when we take the time to be present and perceive. Right there, do you see it? The elderly couple walking down the street gnarled and aching hands arthritically frozen into one pillar of hope. The mother poised with a sparkly eyed child on the park bench, it’s the man with a sole tear drop rolling from his cheek contemplating someone with aching heart. When we look to the world how much love can we see?
Reviving Minds Therapy would like to invite you to participate in our month long photo sharing campaign which we are calling “Revive Your Love.” We are asking participants to photograph and post an original photo which captures Love In Action to the “Revive Your Mind” Facebook or Twitter, use the hashtag “#reviveyourlove, we encourage contestants and our followers to vote by “liking” the photo that they feel most encapsulates their vision of love. All winners must have liked and followed the Revive Your Mind facebook or twitter page to be eligible for prizes. We ask that you post no more than one original photo per day, at the end of one month, the contestants photo with the most “likes” will receive 50$ Visa gift card, there will also be a 2nd place of 25$ Gift card and third place of 15$. Remember that everyone is a winner when we gaze into the world with that aim of seeing and sharing love. As always thank you for your readership and participation!
In warmth and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC & Nicole Monteleone MS LPC, NCC,
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Reviving Minds Therapy, Offering Individual Psychotherapy and Couples Therapy
by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 23, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Tight Hugs I Like; A Psychotherapists Musings
It could be risky to admit this but here it goes anyway, I judge people, in social settings I categorize to such a grand degree, some may say I can hardly help myself. You see, I rank people based on how they hug. When it comes to hugs, they are certainly not all the same. For example, my grandmother, she was a woman who knew how to wallop out a good old-fashioned, full on, closed-arm, hug. Of course she was blessed with a constitution of advantages being a billowy woman who with her puffy arms was capable of ensconcing me in a way that warmly emitted rapture. When I am meeting, enjoying, and connecting, I always cherish most those folks who know how to put extra endurance on the squeeze, those are my people the kind, warm, close, hug-loving people.
Hugs are kind of like the word “love” in regards to the way we have come to dole them out socially. We hug upon meeting and greeting, at every social and familial function, it’s inextricably woven into the fabric of our social essence yet I wonder if the more that we do it, the less care we pause to exert that extra “umph” into its meaning and effort, somehow causing it to lose its magical luster. Like the carelessly tossed “love you” which punctuates the end of conversations over iPhones and peppered unto friendly discourses. The whole thing makes me melancholy, myself being a women known to exhibit a propensity for intensities of passion, I know that the altitudes of love are not unleashed when we lube up every good bye with “luv you.” My fiancé and I have a rule between us that we only say those words when we are superbly overcome with loves sentiments and can offer proper tone and intimations to its grander meaning and I think hugs should be the same.
We can enter a discussion into the mounting scientific evidence which identifies oxytocin and other alchemical neurochemicals and their vast proliferation upon the synapse during human contact, a full 20 second hug ranks best in stress relief, bonding, relationship healing, it’s sort of like a love serum. Yet I really only need to think about the mutually enveloping sensation provoked upon a tight, warm, and long hug and I already know- this is the sweet spot, this is indeed where the magic happens; tight hugs I like.
Perhaps we best know the tight hug by its inverse, the dowdy anticlimax of the one-armed, limited contact encounter, this is the person who offers one limp and paltry arm to the embrace, their hand barely grazing the others back. Sort of like its phony cousin, the air-kiss, quite popular in Europe and Hollywood. These pseudo-signs of affectionate encounter make me wonder “Good gracious Darling!!! Why are we even bothering with a hug?!” Perhaps these people are better temperamentally suited for handshakes or high fives, which is simply fine but please don’t spoil the hug. Still there are others who fumblingly attempt the hug with a gapping distance between their bodies, as they lean in with their chest, their hand taps upon their would-be comrades back. I watch imagining that fluttering hand so close to a warm embrace yet the hand will not rest nor envelop their friend, they will not anchor them down, pulling friends nor acquaintances in, ever missing the full embrace. I sigh watching their leaning chests and tapping hands, saddened by what I imagine to be their trembling fear of connection.
Perhaps I am a romantic as somewhere in my heart of hearts I know that maybe some of us are destined to be less than adequate huggers, the ecstasy of a limb-locked, enduring hug is not something that one can enjoy with everyone. The dreamer in me is helpless to float upon imaginary visions of a world teeming with propensities towards deep, soul-strewn connection, flowery displays of oozing, syrupy, love. Where we hug it out in the market place with arms firmly enveloping the neck, with chests pressing chest, body rocked embraces like pillars of hope amidst the coffee shops and promenades. Can you imagine such a place, an earth where we envelop each other more freely and shamelessly, where hugs mean something and the tight vibration of muscles grid locked around each other thrumming into the hollows of our insides, where we move into the distances, stomping out those numbing chasms and we commence upon celebration of full bodies connections. Tight hugs I like.
Exuding robust love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh pa 15233
412-322-2129 [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]Learn More
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
by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 15, 2014 counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy0 comments
/ˈɪntəməsi/ Show Spelled [in-tuh-muh-see] noun, plural in·ti·ma·cies.
1. The state of being intimate.
2. A close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving relationship with another person or group.
3. A close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject.
4. An act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like: to allow the intimacy of using first names.
5. An amorously familiar act.
Those in staunchly well mind and body are often motivated for enjoyment, the want to enjoy good food, good love, and good sex. Most ideally we are able to enjoy closeness with our family and friends, mutual pleasures with ones that we love. Yet it very well may be possible that for all of our satisfied physical urges we may still be missing the ship on nurturing intimacy. You see, while intimacy may be fostered within the context of lovemaking it is most readily sustained within the mundane moments of other parts of the relationship. Intimacy is where all of this “relationship stuff” really melds into a complex interplay, intimacy is the nectar which offers fluidity to our love. The gazing into each other’s eyes, it’s the subtle touch of the arm while walking down the street, it’s the intermingled limbs awaking at dawn, the secrets that you know of each other.
What if I told you that the secret to sustaining intimacy is in how well your relationship tolerates distance? Intimacy may be well known by its opposite which for the intention of this cursory summary, is distance. We and our lover are always in the eternal dance of closeness and distance. We meet at home and spend our lives in different jobs or completing divergent tasks, we may share friends but we have our own as well, we converge and diverge. How close we become as years unfurl around our partner and our self. Yet too, how much can we allow and encourage some space between us before feeling that there is a chasm. Often in psychology we see a range of personality disorders which are challenged by forging emotional closeness and distance in interpersonal relationships. When we allow our partner the safe space to separate autonomously and then reemerge into the sanctity of our love we will often be thanked by abundant closeness.
Imagine this, you go to the grocery store and run into a college friend in the isles, you chat for a while about the pledges of your sorority and are feeling fabulous as you go home to your husband to enjoy a quiet evening together. Your husband is seated brooding when you enter the house, accusations begin to fly about why you are home a half an hour late. “What were you doing? How could you be so thoughtless to not text or call that you would not be on time? Were you with someone else?” Perhaps in years one through three you used to defend and explain but that leads to no solution, over time you shut down and swallow tears, sometimes wondering if you should be doing all of the things that you are accused of, it sure would beat the loneliness of your quiet sulking. Hours later, your husband, feeling guilty for his explosion, eager to close the chasm between you, reaches to touch you and begin making love when you crawl into bed. Now you are brooding and squirm away from his touch, he accuses yet again, “What is wrong with you? Why are you so cold to me?” In his mind he is now certain that you are cheating and you are certain that he is a Neanderthal. The couple exemplified here is suffering greatly the lack of trust and diminished communication among possible other hypothesis. I wonder how different this interaction would look if distance was encouraged between the two? It’s vital to remember that the moment that we step out of the habit of encouraging our partners autonomy and space we become something different and distance will inevitably begin to replace our longed for closeness.
Its most important to keep in mind that a relationship is made up of multiple components and the way that you and your partner are relating is an ever malleable matrix, influenced and influencing a multiplicity of domains from the physical, emotional, psychological, social, spiritual to name a few. With this in mind, hold fast to hope. The maintenance of a marriage or relationship occurs by a specific skillset which for some of us is natural while for others it may take a bit of work, like all aspects of our relational style we can always learn how to do better. If you are a part of a romantic relationship or if you are thinking back to other relationships, you may want to ask yourself, how well do you and your partner relish distance and what does that do to the intimacy between the two of you? A little intimate secret for you is that we can only allow to come close that which is existent within from its own context, from its very unique and nurturing distance.
In love and light,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy 1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling