April Rain Drops; Tear Drops, A Counselors Thoughts on Grief
by Stephanie McCrackenApril 13, 2015 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
With the passing of the seasons, the moist dew draping the landscape, like just maybe the earth herself is crying for one of the many seasons departures. Typically the subjects I explore are things that I find intellectually interesting, topics which may be trending on the web. Today something different, in a recent reading about tapping into universal consciousness as a reader I was urged to follow synchronicity. Where are we noticing patterns? Those uncannily shared and observed sets of circumstances which arch across history and humanity? None may be more universal that the experience of grief and loss, a topic which has touched me personally during the last couple of months. The death of someone close or even far is extremely difficult, perhaps even harder than anyone could know lest they have experienced deaths dismal grips. The proverbial lights go out, we stand in darkness, we may tell ourselves, “hey lighten up, you are lucky enough to have made it through another bombastic winter and onward to the next season’s days, you’re still here you know.” In the being here, there are so many things to do, tasks of the living, so we may push away our feelings to move on with our busy tasks.
As therapists, counselors and mental health professionals alike we have our charts which makes explicitly tangible the grieving cycle, from immobilized shock and dismay, a dose of anger and denial, depression, and acceptance. The motions are not static, they are an influx of transitions greatly affected by personality, biochemical, and social variables. Coping skills can be assessed at each interval of the process. As counselors we are trained to understand what is within the normal range for the process of grieving, whether that loss is divorce, death, loss of unrealized potentials, among the myriad of other losses. Saying goodbye, the gravity of letting go can be paralyzing, yet as every great philosopher knows life is indeed about loss, we build up, we hold on, we let go, this is the grand procession of all things. In death of loved ones and even in divorce or a break up, we struggle with the paramount life questions. Concern over the deceased and what our spiritual views dictate. We may become vividly aware of a sense of aloneness, who has a touch or a word that sincerely offers comfort to internal anguish, we too may find comfort in spirituality and or those who grieve with us, comrades in grief, unity within our suffering. We at times may feel alone and not know where to unravel the depth of our sorrow as well intended acquaintances may or may not really want to know what we are thinking when they ask how we are feeling. Other bleak nuances and limitations sharpen focus in grieving, we know that we too will one day depart from our human form, a veiled and stupefying terror of our own death may emerge. It may at times seem herculean to continue delegating time and attention to the tasks which sustain our basic lives. The cycle of grief.
We sometimes may notice shortened attention spans, greater irritation at small things which normally wouldn’t bother us, we may begin to doubt ourselves. When reiterating this stringent knowledge I am reminded of a modern adage wherein a waiter is holding a bludgeoning tray of goods for his next table, his arm stands poised and for the first minute, succeeding erect posture, his elevated arm is steady. When asked “how heavy is the tray?” He replies haughtily “It is nothing!” Ten minutes later, when the examiner checks back to ask again, “how does it feel now?” Sweat beads a look of distress have contorted his face, his muscles twitch, “I can’t hold on any longer!” The burden of the weight changes equivalent to the length of time one holds on. The point is that even the most well equipped muscles buckle under the strain of holding a heavy load for too long. During times of loss and grief it becomes important to lighten our load in anticipation of exhaustion and irritation, to relay on others who will help us to get our orders to the table.
Within the span of an hour or day, a month or two life’s circumstances can change radically, few things offer such stark rotation to direction as saying goodbye. We struggle to understand these mournful changes, staring bleakly at our permanently gnarled family or friend tree, a hallowed and unrecognizable tone offers a faint “goodbye.” Letting go of the old and embracing the new are not often as easy for our human minds as the turning of a calendar page, despite the melting frosts and welcoming warm winds. Yes, the cycle of the grief but let’s too have compassion for our own suffering, let’s not expect too much from ourselves. It’s ok to look out the window and notice that the spring time has a dismal tinge this year. It is only by allowing the April showers to soak into the earth that our spring flowers burst most aptly, so yes let us not refrain from experiencing the depth of our sadness and anguish for fear of falling into a pit of grief, let the sadness soak into our heart, allow it to be felt deeply penetrating the core of the self. Yes, April showers, they do bring many things, a memory of tear drops, the promise of May flowers, replenishing the earth, and they will prepare for another seasons growth ahead.
In care and compassion,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone LPC, NCC, NBCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
*This is not a substitute for medical or professional advice, this article is for your mild consideration and intended to be an literary artistic musing, if you feel that you may be suffering from depression or sadness due to a loss of some other then please set up an appointment to meet with one of our or another mental health professional.Learn More
The Fish and The Bird, A Psychotherapists thoughts on Compliments
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 31, 2015 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, dating, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
The Fish and The Bird, A thoughts on Compliments
To those birds flying high, swooping down to proffer complements to external beauty, words like “she’s so pretty”, to the “did you see the way she looks with no makeup on”, to the world of no filter selfies, oh my goodness that girl looks like a hobbit, and look at the photo shop on Justin- he’s really so spindly. Did you see how much weight Kim has gained after her baby? To the land of tinder where we read little and swipe left, swipe right back and forth in an endless procession of objects for our egos and libido. How truly healthy are our minds eyes in whirl of impulsively uttered, “she’s so pretty and you’re so gorgeous” Maybe we are not too late to climb aboard the ship we are missing. It’s not about the way we look so much as the way that we feel. Mature love and even primal lust take much more than a craftily stated tagline and a first date where we are picked up in a shiny new Italian automobile by a man with bulging neck circumference, the male form of silicone breasts.
In a recent conversation with a good friend she mentioned her frustration that her ex-boyfriend would tell her that “she was the most beautiful woman in the world”, she would always feel diminished by this trite and billowy compliment and a few times she would muster the strength to look at him and state “but no, I am not.” Before anyone offers a preliminary diagnosis, she is not a woman with low self-esteem, my friend indeed is a prideful creature but hadn’t ever aspired to compete in the beauty pageant circuit. Yet, every time she would protest the compliment he would change the subject, invariably “you’re the most beautiful woman in the world” was the bloke’s idea of a high compliment. Perhaps some woman or men would swoon over those words, (see definition of bird) however this lady felt injustice upon that remark, this friend is a very lovely woman but she would wonder; “if the best in me is on the outside then what will I be when my skin sags and my locks have faded to silver?” In mindful dating and loving we can call upon the number one rule of persuasion is “know your audience.” It is important to know who it is that you’re talking to when lavishing charming praise upon a lady or gent. The world which compliments a woman or man’s façade without mentioning their inner world is a place where people become invisible or worthless as the years pass by. My friend’s relationship with her well-meaning boyfriend ended many years ago, perhaps in many ways because he never was able to know her inside, she was more mindful of the inner world and he dwelled above, he the bird and she the fish if you will.
If you really have your gaze locked on a lovely man or women and you have struck up conversation and now want to put the lady or gent under loves spell then pay close attention, not to how much his or her teeth sparkle when they smile, instead pay attention to the “what”. Disclaimer*** this may not work for everyone, notice fish and bird above if when dealing with woman who is more fish or mermaid and you use bird praise it may be less effective. On a more serious note our most valuable attributes are those things which vanquish mortality and link us to the wellspring of the eternal. Notice in her the conviction in her tone when she speaks. Observe in your beloved the way that they can put others at ease. Cast attention to his or her work ethic, keeping late hours and waking up in the early hours to start it all over again. Tell her that the attention and skill she puts into maintaining her health are inspirational. You see she just may be more flattered by these compliments, as they speak to something timeless, to values like strength, intention and honor, the things that will hold his or her posture erect even as geriatric skin sages into the most lovely gray pallor. When we feel understood and valued for the core components of our character then we feel connected, for many of us this notion of understanding facilitates the foundation of intimacy and attraction, yet it is not for the faint of heart or those who aren’t willing to put forth the bountiful effort required to nurture love.
In love and kindness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
How To Get Everything You Ever Wanted In One Easy Step, Well Almost.
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
The Grass is Greener, To the Patches of Dirt in my Lawn
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 22, 2015 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, wisdom0 comments
The Grass is Always Greener, To the Brown Patches of Dirt in my Lawn, On Love and Life
The grass is always greener, the crab grass, the blue grass, the sea grass, I see it out there as one whose mind is prone to perpetual comparisons, squinting eyes contemplating between the haves and have not’s. My front lawn has large cavernous patches of dirt, etched amidst sparse littering’s of grassy blades. It’s something that really bothers me, sometimes in the way too early morning hours I lay awake and think about how to solve this problem, I should admit that I pride myself upon being a solver of life’s hasty demands. Yet this one has riddled me, how did this muddy pit get here? Once or twice I have even tried picking up all of my belongings and moving to a new home, so beside myself with this shoddy yard that I convinced myself to find a completely new house, a house with the dream lawn of my most romantic fantasies. I am not the only person to notice the grass, the grass provides the frame of ones home, the foundation for ones life, a connection to the earth, this is about so much more than the “grass,” it’s a part of ones identity, how does one manicure what is imperfect? How to maintain esteemed pride when the very things which frame my tidy house fail to meet my very own lofty standards of, “how it all should be.” Does one still thrust a pole into the lawn with a kitschy flag to commemorate each of the holidays? Does one dabble large planters upon the grass and fill them with marigolds and petunias? Maybe nobody will notice those miserable barren patches if I simply abandon all responsibility and allowing the lawn to grow long and wild, perhaps to revel in the mysterious and primal Amazonian nature of it. Coveting thy neighbors grass can become an obsession. A soothing Sunday drive to clear the mind and where am I? I am not in conversation with my fiancé who is stoically manning the wheel, I careen my neck from outside of his finely tuned automobile. I see the emerald spikes encasing the lawns of this neighbor and that, evoking for me a sense of desirous melancholy. Things can rapidly careen out of control, thoughts becoming high jacked, not wanted to walk out of the house to have someone see that this is my lawn, not wanting to be associated with those cursed drab patches of barren earth. I see my neighbors flaunting theirs, the grass that sparkles, those majestic little studs bolding jutting out from the earth, with their implicit meaning that any abode which has such grass is perfectly cared for, is more than a house, it is a home. I too want the kind that feels like that springs beneath bare feet and smells like a musky blend of lemon tart and pine needle. There are countless books written about landscaping and gardening, one can use seed or sod, barricade it to be sure nobody walks on it, or then too, one could walk on it with high heels to aerate, or perhaps enhance the soil with worms, for every curiosity help is a YouTube video, a google, or a guru away . Yet none of them say this: After a very long and drawn out rest, a celestial providence of an epiphany struck down upon me, opening up my mind with a shiny insight; nobody else is going to fix my lawn, moving isn’t going to help me find better grass, it is my very technique to tending the lawn which is lacking. It’s easy to get frustrated too much, to turn away from picnics in the grass because it doesn’t look, smell, or feel the way that one imagined it “should”. Soil samples and sod wont alleviate this eternal pondering for the clue to change the grass for good, there is a really simple way to enjoy the grassy knoll of ones dreams. Yet like all things worth cultivating, it will not be easy, lace up the old work boots and jean coveralls.
It all starts by loving the grass, those darling petite seedlings only dare rupture the earth for promise of the warming sun, give your grass warmth. Yes, I know my child, in this moment we see only barren patches of earth but I urge you to go out there and love them anyways, not just to say it but to do it, planting glorious seeds of intention. Water those blades each and every day, fill your watering can to the brim with hopeful water, set aside a collection of rainwater, the earth loves the water best which has danced amidst the clouds. Tend to your petite parcel of earth each day, when tired wield your soil crusted shovel, when fantasizing about a tropical holiday, one still must tend to the lawn. You see, I have learned something, our response to our imperfections, to those earthen patches of mud, does indeed determine our opportunities for growth. How do you tend to the patches of mud upon your lawn? Anyone can marvel at that which has been luxuriated with advantageous wonder but it takes one dedicated and master gardener to persevere with fortitude, to love a little earthen patch into a fully bloomed, springy and lustrous lawn. Just what is it in you or your relationship which just may need a little more love to blossom forth with life?
Dreaming of spring time grass, Stephanie McCracken MSPC Reviving Minds Therapy Offering Marriage or Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy 1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 *This is an intentional fictional piece and similarity to real or actual events is sheer cosmic coincidence…Learn More
We Raise Them To Be Good Girls
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
A New Year; A Blank Canvas
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!
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
We are the Believers; The Christmas Spirit
by Stephanie McCrackenDecember 1, 2014 counseling, holidays, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Holidays offer a time to renew hope as we become enamored with the sparkle of the glimmeringly bedecked pines and spruces in all of their exalted luster. The fa,la,la,la of Christmas carols blaring on the radio while baking cookies, pies, and perhaps even a bit of gingerbread to share with loved ones and guests. It’s the time of year when I want to hug a little longer in escape of the winter chill, and most importantly its the time to remember that dreams do come true. Do you want to restore your bounty of belief in magical goodness? This task is simple my friend, stare into the eyes of a young child and ask the age’s old question, “What do you hope that Santa will bring for you this Christmas.” Watch the delight and make a note of what should be placed high upon Santa’s list, maybe now you are beginning to remember that Christmas dreams do have a way of coming true. Beneath the rising crime rates, tendencies of avoiding intimately connecting with others, even deeper than our capacity for fear, we can believe in magic, we are able to be propelled by faith, we can marvel in miracles, we can offer kindness and exude love too. Just give it a try and notice what happens when with wide eyes and voices slightly above a whisper, you say “I think I heard something, is that Santa’s sled?”
We all know about broken hearts, loneliness and only one limited time span of life to live, but once again with the light displays and holiday party’s maybe we can allow ourselves to “catch the Christmas spirit” and drift along on the currents of hope and love for a while. When elves and reindeer whirl about the night air, it is indeed an act of true love to make hundreds of millions of dreams come true. Little ears stretch to listen for the sound of Santa lurching down the chimney or through the front door, only the crumbs are left from the feast of cookies serving as a token of gratitude for Santas affectionately hard work. Remember that feeling, the sheer delight of surprise and wonder as your feet flurried down the stairs on Christmas morning, and the excitement of brightly wrapped presents and piled beneath the tree. Every scrooge can have his day to embrace a little magic, love a little more, recall with a soft smile those early days when anything could happen, those days are now. It’s the day of year when we can eat cookies for breakfast and magic becomes reality. The snowflakes sparkle just a little more or maybe they reflect that twinkle in our eye.
You see, I believe in magic, I know that its as real as you and I for I have seen tear drops evolve into loving and exuberant smiles. I have seen hatred and ferocity in action, upon the news headlines, in the news feed, but I also know of random acts of kindness, a loving hand extended towards our brothers and sisters near and far. I have seen greed and thirst for material objects, tight fists grappling with stacks of paper money but too I have seen boundless generosity and selfless investments of time and care towards the betterment of our human race and the earth. I have seen the dark days and felt the chill of December’s air but I too know the exhilaration of a well-placed ray of sun upon the skin. Maybe too this is what this Christmas time means in its distilled and essential version, all of the gift giving and frenetic purchases, we want to believe. We want to believe in others as pillars of goodness and ourselves as givers of happiness, mounds of good cheer. We want to elevate our neighbors and friends to the fullness of bright smiles, we want to believe in love at first sight, in tradition, in hope, in the birth of merciful demigods, in salvation, for we can see it now, with the coming of the lights and the scent of baking cookies, pine freshened air, it’s with the wrapping of the bows, and the long embrace of hugs, the outstretched warm hands to hold, yes, yes, I remember now, we believe, the Christmas spirit is here…
In Holiday Hope and Love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Couples Therapy
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
Holiday Presents Unwrapped, Thoughts on Gifting by A Psychotherapist.
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
Perception and Encountering The True Self
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 19, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Perception and Encountering The True Self
Perception is the realization of the effect that a vantage point has upon the quality and content of thought. There are sects of psychology which map out human consciousness, a design to thought and feeling. An ever complex diagram which points to the id, the ego, or in other realms the observing ego, and still others such as gestalts, figures, and the foreground. There psychological unity to recognize that we want to name and understand this very act of understanding, as grandiose as this quest may be. Imagine the possibilities to go on a fantastic adventure by literally stepping inside of the human mind, or are you in there? Or do we only imagine that we are inside of ourselves yet entirely mystified and misled by thoughts and feelings? Inside of your mind what kinds of structures would we see beyond the biological anatomy, what is this fabric of your consciousness?
Entering into the nature of our consciousness is an exquisite endeavor, beyond things like our defense mechanisms and ornate or ordinary persona, we may find something else entirely. Yet many of us live our daily life with such a distorted vision of reality. According to Carl Jung “an encounter with the true self is like an encounter with god.” Why, you may ask is this such a special and unparalleled act? Well to really know the true self requires that we do very deep excavation, in the recovery of our true self beneath layers of defenses and processing through our fallible ego lays a piece that our core. It is often hard to discern that piece when even our own thinking is a construct which is churned about after being milled through anxiety limiting and mighty defenses and shadoscapes. It is not as though defense mechanisms are such a terrible thing, in many cases they are often protective, they order and mask, limiting chaos and pain of being. Yet as a truth seeker, it is this encounter with the deepest parts of being which is my manifest mission. When the true self becomes visible, then we may decide to make some changes, we very well may need to stop from turning and running away from the way that we distort the world to maintain a sense of self, or avoid intimacy, or prevent the reliving of trauma, the multitudinous functions of thought. The prize when encountering this true self is that we then may be freer to choose alternate ways of responding to ourselves and others.
What is your perspective? Choosing terrain exerts entirely different experience upon whether you’re looking down to the glittering river while meandering on foot across a bridge. Yet then consider the difference when on a boat and floating past the bridge from beneath the looming beams, then one is able to notice the rusting nails from beneath the structure, crying out “hello” and hear the booming echo of your speaking voice. What a difference perspective makes, with thought and perspective it’s not where you go but how you get there as we people of Pittsburgh and beyond converge and live dispersed on meridians about these three rivers. To what are you attenuated as frolicking about life’s journey?
In happiness and wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NBCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Turkey, Thanks & Boosting Holiday Joy
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 11, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, holidays, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
The holidays symbolize time to be close to those who we hold near and dear, the sentimental stuff of greeting cards, television series, and memories to be made. In later years we may recall the time that the snow fell 8 inches on Thanksgiving Day and Aunt Margaret perfected her best version yet of caramel apple pie, while baby Charlie was just learning to crawl. The Griswold style celebrations, the kind in which we run to each other with open arms to gleefully share in discussion of all of the incredible things that we have been doing with our ultra-successful lives. Stop, cut! Perhaps you are like many of us who struggle during the holidays, maybe it’s been a tough year or a tough life and thinking of the holidays fills you with dread. Just maybe there can still be some way to encounter some of the most common impasses in a compassionate and constructive way.
Often that relationship concern, family rift, lost job, death, or defeat has a way of haunting the landscapes of that which would otherwise be a charming holiday season. This ominous considerations often lead to a preoccupation with stress during the holidays, we balefully note the slipping away of our glittering joys topped with an extra serving of sadness for not being as happy as we expect that we “should” be. For instance, since the lay off at the office, you have not been feeling quite yourself and grief keeps you from even telling your perfectionist mom about the loss. Yet with thanksgiving it will now become impossible to avoid the situation and anxiety is heightening with each approaching day. Perhaps it is time to allow the people that care about you to be a support? It is often helpful to remember that we imagine others to be in ways that may be less of a reflection of them and more a reflection of us, mom may not become angry or critical when hearing our woes, look carefully at those parts of yourself which cause anxiety at the thought of revealing humanness and vulnerability.
Maybe you have a very small family, no family, a family that lives across the country and not enough of a work break or airfare to get there. For you, the holidays end up being a time of aloneness, in fact when your coworkers ask what you are doing for the holidays you always make up a story about being with Great Aunty Mildred, the shame in admitting the truth is most easily shrouded in deception. Instead you will be sitting inside watching ancient reruns of the Brady Bunch submerged in a dialogue of your general unworthiness towards companionship. Perhaps this could be approached differently, honest discourse demands courage from ourselves but it often opens doors, maybe even doors to holiday gatherings. Remember, although you may feel that you’re the only one alone on the holiday, you’re not, there are others who are in the same position. Maybe by summoning your inner Gandhi and “being the change you want to see in the world” and host your own “Friends-giving.” This is becoming a popular way to celebrate with others, particularly if done in the evening or the day after the holiday. If neither of those options sounds like a fit then accept the challenge of donating your time for the day towards helping a charity or creating something that you can donate with the idea in mind, “how can I help someone today?”
If your concerns aren’t about bringing together people but being surrounded with people who you have been seeking to avoid then read on. For instance, entering into grandma’s house, many hugs and hellos exchanged, the scent of crisp turkey skin intermingled with sage wafting through your nostrils as you see the infamous Aunt Carol approach. Your stomach lurches as you start to feel the anxiety coming on, she is that one family member who always criticizes everything that you do. In previous years “why aren’t you married, you will end up old and alone” “when will you have children, the clock doesn’t tick forever you know!” “why haven’t you been promoted yet?” and on and on, you end up leaving feeling simply terrible about yourself and no matter what you try to say in your meek defense she just doesn’t take the hint. Many of us know the type of meddling in which the inquisitor seems to be blissfully unaware of the sensitive nature of the questions which he or she is asking. With this sort of encounter sometimes it can elicit some compassion to remember that this person is reflecting to you their own inner dialogue and her misguided ability to connect with others in a welcomed and comfortable way. There may even be a bit of pity to think that this is how Aunt Carol has probably talked to herself all of her life and maybe some of the reason that she is here all alone. While it is hurtful to hear her litany of unwelcomed suggestions she may be trying to warn you of markers that she missed in her own life as often advice has more to do with the givers perceptions than the receivers needs.
Yet still a tiny thought for the all doing and typically matriarchal figure who may have wielded cutlery and cooktop for days to prepare this thanksgiving feast, with matching napkins and table centerpiece she has created a vision that would make Martha Stewarts jaw drop. Yet the cooking and the cleaning take so much attention that she ends up missing the togetherness of the day. For this sort of host or hostess, remember that everything doesn’t need to perfect and also to keep the gathering well within your financial means. It is easy to go overboard with tons of eats and treats and obsessing about the perfectly rendered pumpkin pie but the point isn’t to create to the point of stress and exhaustion but to enjoy each other in good times together. Step away from the turkey and have a seat, even if only for a bit, allow others to help as they will surely be excited about the opportunity to contribute to this day of thanks.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing our wish for you is to encounter something or someone which allows gratitude to unfold into you on this Thanksgiving and Holiday Season. Often we become confused by our seemingly unique life circumstance and would be best served to recognize that in experiencing our life situations we aren’t really as unusual as we imagine. With the hope that you too will enjoy this holiday season, gobble-gobble!
With an extra serving of love & mounded with hope,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
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