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 20, 2014 counseling, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
The solar energy and entrance of summers dance beckons forth beads of perspiration and the cherry blossom glow if sun-kissed cheeks. It is time to celebrate the summer solstice and this year the earth has proffered abundantly with her flourishing landscape smiling faces pleased to be enjoying more of life outdoors. Moods seem to be heightened and Peaceburgh united in celebration of earth’s full bloom. As a 30 something woman and psychotherapist the summer solstice has special significance to me as I realize that I am in the solstice of my very own life’s trajectory.
Spring and early summer are behind me, those carefree days hallmarked by revelry of free abandon, newly warmed earth encouraging endless exploration, curiosity and summers long, warm nights fueling choice and impulse to stay a little longer gazing at the starlight canopy glimmering way up there. Yet the more days of life which are offered to any of earths curious travelers, the more thought that may beckon itself towards the distance. As thinking, feeling, planning humans we know that the golden halo of the high summer sun will unfold towards to the chill of October and the stark freeze of January. So we sentient beings do our very best to both remain centered within the ebullient energy of the solstice yet we also concern ourselves with embodying the best expression of all of this heightened opportunity towards the yield of the later season’s crop. The tomato blossoms which I loving tend in June shall nourish me during the less opportune late winter. Much of human suffering is preventable when we simply act in accordance with the earth’s rhythms and offer our selves towards the infinite flow of wisdom which is contained in the grasses and groves around us.
Which portion of your life may you tend more gently, nourish and water more abundantly so that your crop yield will provide more nourishment to your and yours? Are you a staunch singleton or a part of a loving relationship or marriage? Is there an activity or hobby which you have always wanted to take up? How about that extra degree or accreditation which you have wanted to obtain? A part of your spirit urging you to take that trip? Are you uncomfortably shy or angry, what risks are you willing to take to embody the best you? What about that love or a friendship which you have wanted to repair? The solstice is a time of bountiful joy and opportunity, our terrestrial reminder that energy is in full force, to what should we devote ourselves so that we are the most whole and healthful humans we can be?
Pittsburgh has much to do this solstice to celebrate and commune in the worshiping and love of the season! Check out some of these peaceful events!
- At the First United Methodist Church “Re-Source! Creation Spirituality Gathering, June 20-22” Here you can look forward to “Integrating Spiritual Practice with Compassionate Action”, is the theme of this year’s Creation Spirituality Gathering at First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh. Deepen your spiritual practices with people who re-source their walk in the world through ancient wisdom, the new cosmology, co-creativity, and joy for the inter-connectedness of all beings. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox’s keynote address will be “Compassion: The Next Level of Consciousness for Human Evolution”. Find out more at our website. www.re-Source!Gathering.com”https://www.facebook.com/events/597288267044768/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming&suggestsessionid=81c6cef650f0c27c601a808714ea119b
- Also not to be missed is The Summer Solstice, Hear The Song of The Heart Celebration! Summer Solstice represents the highest point of light available for inner activation of consciousness, Mike Tamburo and Gallina work in unison to during their vibrational gonging and Kirtan chanting healing ceremonies, if your interest is piqued then follow the link! oin us for a very special Summer Solstice gathering. Create and celebrate community as we light our inner fire with vitality, joy, and renewal. Experience transformation and union through sound, tone, breath, and movement in this Yoga of Sound workshop. Crown of Eternity will lead you through mantras and meditations with a live music soundtrack – creating the perfect environment for you to become absorbed in the sound current. Open a space of inner stillness and allow the song of your heart to arise inwardly from the subtle currents of prana moving throughout your body. Experience the devotional aspects of the Heart Chakra; where there is no conflict; where Heavens and Earth come together in balance. Let your hearts soar through Crown Of Eternity’s live cosmic renditions of sacred chants. Let your minds dissolve in sublime stillness to the sounds of multiple gongs. Meditation on sound is a universal path to self realization accessible to any one and appropriate for any path or spiritual aspiration.oin us for a very special summer gathering. This event historically sells out! Register here: http://www.crownofeternity.com/ai1ec_event/summer-solstice-hear-the-song-of-the-heart-celebration/?instance_id=496
- At the local J and D winery, you can worship with some vino and tunes this Sunday! “Join us for”Wine & Music on the Patio w/ Joy Ike Band”. This lovely Sunday afternoon will include live music from 2pm – 5pm. You can also enjoy local cheese from Emerald Valley Artisans, and of course, delicious wine by the glass and by the bottle will be available for purchase.” Follow the link for more details! https://www.facebook.com/events/1451627521750989/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
- On June 28th head on over to Mookshi Wellness Center for the “Welcome Back Summer Trance-Chant Party/KIRTAN with Vox Lumina” “PARTICIPATE! RADIATE! ELEVATE! Celebrate the return of spring and raise your vibrational state with “trance-chanting”, or what the yogi’s call “Kirtan”. It’s amazing!” Follow the link to get your tickets in advance! https://www.facebook.com/events/1455776654643681/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
Here’s to you; may your solstice be full of radiance, peace, introspection, and connection!
In love and light,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Individual Counseling/Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenMay 23, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, marriage counseling, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
Love and relationships, the eternal dance of distance and estrangement from love, we are all in the process of moving closer and farther away from loves enchanting melody. While marriages and long term relationships have their own challenges there too are many reasons why single life can be a stress of its own, particularly as men and women are recently divorced or just plain single in there 30’s, 40’s, and beyond. Most of us expect that a 20 year old is safe to explore that world and not be married or living with someone as this is a part of the process of life. Yet I often here even younger clients exploring the possibility that there is something pathological about their lack of romantic attachment in the 20’s and even teen years. It is without doubt that it is a healthy longing to share one’s life with a love partners, some profound thinkers even note that this is one of the major goals of life. Sigmund Freud famously states that psychotherapy’s work is done when one is able to “work and to love.” The scanning notation that there seem to be more weddings and baby showers in the planner may cue one into the fact that this is the time in the life cycle where many chose to create a marriage and even populate it with some tiny tots. Yet, there are many who feel forbidden by so many responsibilities within work, or such “poor luck in love” that they happily turn to other goals instead of risking a painful breakup or heartbreak by falling in love or marriage again. What does the reader think of this? Is single living a valid stance or do you advocate for relationship hopping? What does the singleton do when the social cues of family and friends offer such questioning as “I have someone I want you to meet!”It is this psychotherapist’s belief that single time as an opportunity towards reflection and self-discovery. Single is certainly a valid stance in today’s world, with other lifestyle focal points being multiple, we may attune ourselves to friendship, careers, create a social calendar so full that there is no moment to spare for relationships. With little to no spare time coupled with high ideals for our “end all-be all” alpha and omega relationship or marriage love which may make the realities of the not so fairy tale romances less than appealing. Simultaneously, there is the inverse of love avoidance where individuals haphazardly navigate from love to love, or even remain in relationships long after their expiration date has come to pass simply because they do not want to be alone the world. Most of us as humans simply want to minimize guilt and misery that comes when we become fixated on the “would have” and “should haves” and “musts” of our life course, and to maximize the pleasures which come from loving and being in wholeness. We are weighed down when we think, “I am supposed to have everything figured out by now”, “I am supposed to be married by (insert age, 24, 34, 44)”. Reality isn’t so cut and dry, we seldom obtain our goals in the linear fashion in which our ideals expect. In life, we sometimes reach a summit to realize that there is much more open territory beyond, or become married to realize that in all of our haste we coupled with a person who is not a suitable match!
It is this therapist’s assertion that reflective and self-nurturing time is a worthy salve in managing such risks and reveling in such bliss. Yet I also believe that among other things an effective counseling process will have aided the client on the road towards Freud’s psychotherapeutic goal which encourages “to love and to work.” It takes courage to face the world alone, even if it’s just for a little while, yet too it takes tremendous courage to love particularly when we have paid its high price in the past. I highly recommend that any person who has recently broken off a relationship adopt some time devotedly to becoming at one with single, it is within that self-nurturance that one is able to foster a greater and more reflective relationship with the self, enhancing all of the other facets to living a full and meaningful life before moving closer yet again to another person’s heart, in the eternal dance of loving human relationships.
In love and good health,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Psychotherapist, Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenApril 30, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Who among us has not suffered from feelings of anxiety at some point in his or her life, it is common enough to be among the more often seen symptoms which bring an individual into a therapist’s office. Even for the most staunchly healthy psyches anxiety is a typical benchmark which exists in a range of degrees within the human emotive process. Depending upon you as the individual and the technical approach of your clinician you may be offered a multitude of conflicting remedies to intervene upon that which is ailing you.
There are the wildly popular pharmacological interventions such as Xanax or Valium, while widely popular these interventions do nothing to examine the “how’s” or “why’s” of an anxious feeling. These interventions assume that an increased cardiovascular response, heightened worry, tense muscles, sleepless nights, feelings of agitation are all in the physical realm yet quite mysterious. Indeed anxiety in its more insidious form is a grave health concern so it is with accolades that I note the vast number of humans seeking treatment to escape its grips. There is something inexplicably disconcerting about the hyper arousal of anxiety which compels one towards a greater risk for many other issues health issues such as addictions, depression, coronary heart disease, even eroding the erectile function of both the male and female, to name but a few.
Most of us recognize that there are yet other forms of anxiety which are our “bon amie,” the kind which compels our actions for good causes such as self and social betterment. Without a touch of anxiety one may hit the snooze button each and every morning and drop out of society all together. Yet for our purposes we will consider the more sinister form with its wanton undesirability which causes many to seek its avoidance at all costs. There are vastly varied approaches within the medical community in terms of treatment of anxiety, there are folk remedies, homeopathic remedies, new age methods, each with their unique utility. Yet most all of these interventions lavish attention upon the amelioration of physical symptoms but may from sheer neglect, fail to examine the psychological underpinnings of anxiety itself. For those who do experience the necessity of utilizing anti-anxiety medication it is an empirically validated fact that the best therapeutic outcomes exists for individuals who make use of psychotherapeutic settings simultaneously. It is within the psychotherapeutic setting that the focus is cast specifically upon the unique psychology which may be breeding and offering sustenance to an overabundance of anxiety. Allow the remainder of this small essay to offer a rudimentary overview of some of the more typical sources of psychological anxiety.
Significant Life Changes
This form of anxiety is a reaction to some looming occurrence which has skated its way across your horizon, it may be adaptive and is completely natural. Many of us thrive upon constancy, as much as this tendency is at odds with the nature of the universe, inevitably we experience some anxiety while changing jobs, graduating, marrying, divorcing etc. While it is normal to exhibit some emotional reaction to such transitions be mindful to give extra care to yourself even during those joyous transitions. For any anxious feeling that continues to gnaw at your innards, give yourself some time to thoroughly examine all of your thoughts surrounding the (fill in blank) transition. This reflection affords the opportunity to hone in on any ways your emotional self may be beckoning you towards a closer look at something that your conscious awareness is not seeing completely.
The more that we attempt to repress our emotional experience the more that they tend to rupture forth in greatly unmanageable ways. Perhaps you are a product of early learning which valued emotional repression and lack of expressiveness. In some way you may have learned early or later in life that it is dangerous or taboo to talk about feelings or even notice that they exist for you, yet the vast and unstoppable torrent of the feeling state will not be escaped. This form of anxiety or panic urges the person towards understanding and experiencing of inner awareness and emotional expression.
The exactitude and finite nature of time is stated by some to be the source of all anxiety. What is it that you will you do with your precious earthly allowance? By becoming more aware of lapsing time, acknowledging that life proffers beauteous opportunity, love, and abundance still too, how will you cope with mounting defeats, losses, and unrealized potentials? Ones highest hope is to make father time ones friend, utilizing our human energies to compel feats which contribute to human progress. For you that may mean many things, to raise a family, build computer software, tend the forest, love deeply, the myriad meanings for the human riddle.
For some of us it is alarming to consider doing something that risks ones perceived control over ones surroundings. That could mean riding in an airplane, making interpersonal changes like developing new relationships, people are the ultimate unknown variables full of competing needs and possibilities. Will you be able to extend the risk of letting go of the known order to enjoy the potentials?
While this is in no way an exhaustive exploration of that powerful human indicator named anxiety it is something that may compel one to begin to relate to it in a slightly different manner. Perhaps it is time to consider its possibilities, its latent messages, it may one with greater respect for behoove one to not simply extinguish an anxious feeling with a pill or an exercise but to sit with it, even for just a moment, entering its heart palpating, dizzying sensation, in reverential respect for its utility and possibility as an psychic indicator. There is an understanding that in most cases, under the layers of any symptom are a fortunate beckoning towards the best version of yourself, the unrelinquishable layers of consciousness which insist that ideals will be felt and known.
In good health and energy,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
*This article does not intend to diagnose, treat, or in any way address an anxiety disorder or supplant psychological or medical advice. This is intended for your consideration only.
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 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 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
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 27, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
The termination phase of love is a magnificent hurtle or sticking point for many of the lovers out there. Even if all seems hopeless right now, I want anyone wounded in love to recognize that there is abundant likelihood that your heart, mind, and spirit will make a full recovery. This does however require one to make use of some specific skill sets, your coping mechanisms. It is in fact coping skills coupled with awareness and integration of new learning which make that full recovery more expedient and probable.
We know some of the story, loss of the hopes, dreams, and connection that was once shared are indeed hard let go, fearing or believing that one will never love again. False thoughts and stumbling points can turn our mind against itself for a short period of time. Breakups, for the mutually agreed upon, or even for both the initiator and receiver of the news that the relationship has become terminal, all should know that there will be challenges in these changes. Chin up wounded warrior- adversity is the starting point for opportunity!
As a Psychotherapist and Marriage Counselor I have helped clients with accepting, managing, and resolving the grief of lost love. It is important to note there are two phases to the loss, Termination and Resolution. Termination is when there has been a verbal agreement to call it quits, the cognizant thought that “it’s over” and the sting after pulling off the band aid! Responses vary from emotional outpourings, edginess, anxiety, fear. Long nights vegetating with ice cream and sad movies become the cliché. Moving beyond this juncture requires acceptance of the loss and consolidation of the feelings associated with it. Resolution implies successful termination and the process of grieving reaching its timely closure. Sounds easy but why is this process the focus of so many movies and songs? Ummm…because broken hearts hurt! Breaking up brings up many reactions and is often hardest when they touch upon some of the unresolved emotional issues such as abandonment and fear of being alone, and or self-esteem in need of some strengthening.
Here are some of the typical stumbling blocks during the early phases of a breakup;
Obsessing- The stern face of determination and a destiny manifesto mapping the route back to the lost lover! Convinced to find a way of bringing Timmy or Tara back into your longing arms and with enough self-work, stalking, and or compromising you will again reach land of happy, happy, the end! NOT! This shows little regard or respect for yourself or your departed lover, if the relationship is over you must embrace some dignity for yourself and walk away with head held high. Repeated phone calls, Cyber stalking, or showing up at places where you know they will be is going to diminish your image in their eyes and most importantly in your own! What is it that you are seeking to avoid by continually calling, is it loneliness or fear that is beckoning you to desperate measures to seek reunion?
A Few Tears for a farewell- Many people become confused by feelings. False thoughts leading the presumption that if you miss someone or feel sad about a breakup that you should call him or her and make a teary eyed plea for the love. This is not true, if there were solid reasons and feelings on one or both ends to terminate then give it up already. Feeling sad and or slightly displaced by the big change of not spending time with your former mate is sure to create some inner angst. Recognize it and know that this is because you are a fabulous person capable of great love but do not make it a reason to pick up the phone. It is a good time to expand your social horizon and reach out to your friends, family, and social supports. Rely upon them while strengthening your inner resources during your grieving process.
Drinking- So you are feeling pretty awful or even maybe excited to expand your horizons and you find that you are spending more time with a cocktail glass in your hand. Drinking to excess, too much and too often is a sure way to zap energy and decrease positive emotions. This is a cautionary tale and I assure you that during a break up it is a crucial time to embrace structure and healthy coping mechanisms to deal with your grief.
Insert BABE here- The lonely feelings are pulling you down? House is eerily quiet, weekends unfilled with company? Quick solution, fill that void with something or no– fill it with someone, fill it with anyone so you don’t need to feel alone!!!!! Hold that thought—STOP! Relationship junkies take a breather and consider just what you are avoiding by wanting to attach to anyone who passes your gaze. Relationships and even flings that are borne from fear of loneliness or the want to make another jealous are ultimately dehumanizing for both parties and do more to erode the self than promote happiness. Hold out for true healing before putting any of your energy back into a love mate, remember two broken wings don’t fly but two strong and pluming wings shall soar! Instead enjoy the opportunity to come into your self and rediscover who you are as one no longer a part of a marriage or relationship.
Hear no evil speak no evil-Speaking poorly about your ex-lover is going to make you look like the monster not the ex. No matter what the conditions of the divorce or breakup one must practice respect for the memory of the relationship and dignity of the self. If there is something that you must vent about do so with a close friend or family member or therapist. If you tell everyone you meet about what a jerk and loser Sammy or Sally is, those around you are sure to wonder why you would waste your time and love on someone whom you regard so negatively. It is always best to simply say that you are both moving on respectfully to those who may inquire.
Look forward to next week—Beyond grief into bloom.
If you have any of other thoughts, questions, or words of wisdom please be welcome to share!
In abundant love, warmth, and wisdom,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 21, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
It’s the time of the year for chills up and down the back, and not the kind that are associated with pleasure unless of course you are polar bear, seal pup, or avid skier! All of us here in the blustery northern hemisphere are struggling to maintain some semblance of energy and optimism yet we may find ourselves faltering with the realities of cabin fevers’ stillness upon us. In fact, according to a mental health organization in the UK this is quantifiably the most depressing portion of the year. The formula calculates: weather=W, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions=Q, low motivational levels=M and the feeling of a need to take action=Na. The date usually falls within the second or third week of January highlighting the worst of the winter blues.
Arctic air, decreased sunlight , wind advisories and slightly lower energy levels all work together to compel a human version of hibernation. Sometimes so much stillness induces feelings of boredom and restlessness known as cabin fever and other all too familiar notions such as the winter blues, a very mild form of depression. A subtle difference in energy can be expected but if you are experiencing a more dramatic and sudden change in mood or energy, beyond what is normal or even a mild change for an extended period of time, you should talk with a mental health or medical professional. For those of us who have had it with sluggishness and staring at the same four walls please enjoy the enclosed suggestions which are sure to offer some reprieve to the winter doldrums. Before sharing some tips, I will ask you a reflective question; what can be learned from the quiet and stillness which is upon us? There is indeed something balanced in the calm of the winters freeze, all of life seems to slow and with the quiet one may even be able to discern the hushed sound of each of the individual snowflakes falling. What wisdom are you able to obtain in this year’s winter reflection?
Enjoy the freeze my friends and here are some of my favorite ways to keep your mind, body, and spirit warm and well during this year’s frost!
*Eating seasonable local vegetables will vitalize your body. There is wisdom in syncing up with the earths offerings such as beets, root vegetables, cabbages, coniferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are all a bit higher in sugar which will give you a boost of natural energy that your body is likely craving!
*Don’t like veggies? I bet you like ice cream—there are multiple creative options to enjoy the snow, just stay away from the yellow kind! Find yourself a pristine patch of freshly fallen flakes and follow the link for recipes including more obvious treats such as snow cones, ice cream, and even pancakes! These are also great activities to enjoy with the kids! http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/food/index.ssf/2014/01/try_these_snow-based_recipes.html
*If you can’t beat them, join them! Merge with the cool air by taking advantage of outdoor activities such as skiing, snow-tubing, and ice skating. With the proper cold weather apparel you will welcome some time outside of the home!
*I have written about sun gazing before and it is indeed a highly effective mood and energy booster, with the wind and cold air advisories you still may be able to take advantage of some solar meditation through a window. If that isn’t possible or for an alternate exercise, try to meditate upon a candle flame, breathing fully and with your wide-eyed gazing upon its mini solar radiance spindling about.
*My own favorite cold weather activity is hot yoga which allows me to bask as though I reside in the tropics! If you are less than athletic, take advantage of a sauna, many of the local gyms and spas feature them and will typically allow you to purchase a day pass.
*Unleash your inner nerd by utilizing boric acid to create of rainbow burning pine cones for the fireplace or even light bulbs made of snow! Follow the link for instruction. http://www.dvice.com/2013-1-29/14-geeky-and-unusual-winter-activities-fun-cold
*With all of this time indoors be sure your furnaces filter is changed the recommended 3-6months. Your lungs will thank you and also keep in mind that you still need extra hydration! The heated air tends to be very drying and your body will require much more water than you typically consume.
If you have a favorite cold weather activity or suggestion, please feel free to share!
Sending warm wishes for health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 14, 2013 mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
What if your eyes, your skin and your brain are very much like tiny solar panels connected to your brain? In some capacities they are! Our skin is the largest human organ and it is responsive on many levels to it’s surroundings and stimuli such as the sun. Most any person who lives in the Northern Hemisphere can acknowledge the effect that the seasons have on human cognition, human emotions, and over all sense of well-being. The seasons change and often along with the departure of summer, fall and winter have a marked increase in Seasonal-Affective Disorder (SAD), seasonal depression, general malaise, and even relationship problems. As a large counseling center, we notice a marked increase in incoming client requests in the colder months. If you want to enhance your happiness, enjoy calm and comfort floating through life like a midsummer’s day? Well then it may be a good idea for you to spend some time with your head in the clouds or at the very least with your gaze directed towards the sky. As the cold air descends upon us most of us retreat into our warm and homes and convalesce with our den instinct, along with more time indoors we experience more darkness and harsh overhead fluorescent light. With this in mind, let us examine the specific benefits of sun gazing, it’s origins, and how to do a solar/sun gazing meditation.
In former times, Native American tribes held a yearly sun dance to the approach of the revered summer solstice. The native peoples worship the sun and as a part of the ritual, the sun gazers would dance, fast, and stare directly at the glowing orb in the day sky, this was intended to be an act of communion and rebirth with the earth’s rhythms. As a newly re-popularized trend, Sun gazing is enjoying its resurgence; many of us note that we must reconnect with the earth and her rhythms if we are going to enjoy the full capacity of our health and wellness. Some people report that by staring directly into the sun for 30-60 seconds each morning they enjoy greater vigor, energy, alertness, and focus. You might be wondering “but don’t your eyes get damaged from that?” Many of us recall our mother’s telling us as mall children, “Don’t stare into the sun, you will lose your vision!” After a bit of research, we haven’t been able to find any evidence that supports that claim. In fact, sun gazers note more acute vision and even ocular regeneration as some benefits.
Having trouble staying energized during the day or falling asleep at night? Solar powered meditation may be something you could try! The retina contains several kinds of photoreceptor cells; one of them is specifically responsible for regulating the circadian rhythms which is the bio-chemical/ hormonal process of sleeping and waking. When allowing the sun to contact the open eye, melatonin, one of the primary sleep chemicals is then commanded by your brain to decrease its production. Sleep comes in sync by increasing nighttime melanin production which causes deeper, longer nighttime rest. Contact with the sun will simultaneously increase production of serotonin which is a “feel good” chemical, this neurochemical is targeted in many of the popular anti-depressants on the market today. Just a minute of the suns luminosity can help you sleep better which gives you heightened energy and you can even feel happier in your new found heightened mental and physical acuity! Let us not forget that vitamin d is also synthesized via sunshine and that supports bone health as well as mood!
There is still one more noted and interesting benefit to sun gazing, that it the purported enhanced function of the “Third Eye.” The pineal gland, commonly referred to as the “Third Eye” is a curious part of the brain, it is largely associated with mystical, spiritual, and even psychic purposes. In MRI images, many ordinary subjects show a Third Eye that is atrophied or calcified. On the other hand, many of those who are deemed very spiritual, for example the “Dalai Lama” types show something completely different in this sacred mental cavern. In MRI scans performed on monks while in deep meditation, the pineal gland pulsates an ethereal blue light. Simultaneously, shaman and others who participate in Ajauhausca ceremonies also are said to be decalcifying and developing their pineal gland. Sun gazing is yet another way that we can enhance the powers of your Third Eye thereby heightening spiritual energy.
STEPS FOR SUNGAZING SOLAR MEDITATION
It is a good idea to sun gaze during the first hour or two after the sun has risen or right before it is setting, there are lower concentrations harmful ray spectrum’s during those times. As you begin this practice, aim for the goal of ten seconds during your first day and add an additional ten seconds each day until you work up to one minute which is the maximum suggested time to sun gaze.
1) Raise your hands and aligning your posture towards the sun, tilt your head back to expose your throat chakra and allow your feet to be anchored firmly on the earth. Focus on opening yourself to the energy of the sun and allow your eyes to fall upon the space directly above or below the sun.
2) Breathe deeply through your nose allowing the breath to expand inside of you as you hold your breath for a moment and allow your chest to fall slowly, evenly and gently from out of your nose for 10 seconds-60 seconds.
3) Notice how you feel before and after your mini meditation.
4) A Pro Tip: Turn your inner gaze softly towards your nose where the third eye can be found. This specifically targets the pineal gland and helps in rejuvenating it, you may notice that after your eyes have been warmed you can see many colors and flashes of light while maintaining soft, steady, and abundant inhalation and exhalation. One of the keys is to maintain awareness, mindfulness, and gratitude for the abundant warmth and light. With practice you will be transported to a hypnotic space. People who regularly practice this note that while the sun formerly appeared to be motionless it now pulsates and radiates many colors while they are gazing at it.
Take notice of your energy levels after spending this 2 minutes connecting with the sun and the earth. Do your best to find the time to incorporate this small but powerful exercise into your life for the next 30 days just to see how much of an effect that it has upon your mood and energy. Remember that the body takes time to adjust so one month is plenty of time to really obtain the myriad of benefits. If you miss a day here or there that is ok, doing your best is more than enough. Some people find it easiest to incorporate sun gazing as a part of my morning walk. If you are plentiful on time and are able to do the evening meditation as well then even better for you, otherwise many people find that once a day is more than enough. Remember if the sun is powerful enough to cause the trees and flowers to bloom, to cause the seasons to change, imagine what it can do for you! NAMASTE!
Wishes for brightness, wholeness, and health,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Therapy, Marriage and Family Counseling
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 28, 2013 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Everyone does it. So if you don’t mind my asking, when was the last time that you really did it? When was the last time you allowed it to propel you to the heights of Nirvana only to have it gently slide you back down into limp flesh, relaxed? I bet many of you didn’t even know that it could be so good, like sweet cream on a warm summer’s evening. After all, this very act sustains the life you are living.
I want to share with you the secrets of doing it really well. I will warn you, it’s not as simple as it seems. It takes training, discipline and wisdom if you really want to experience its full potential. Take some time for yourself. This time will give you the chance to develop tools that will offer an opportunity for clarity, strength, calm, and wisdom throughout all parts of your living and being.
Come. Take some time. Breathe with me.
There is a common misconception that we know all that we need to about the breathing process. After all, isn’t it our first physical act once emerging from the warmth of the womb? Yet, there are gurus, yogis, monks and other wellness facilitators who devote a lifetime of practice to this complex and exhilarating act. As with most everything, what you see is not what you necessarily get because there are many layers of power to be harnessed and experienced within the act of breathing.
Let us journey to our core. Begin by sitting in a chair in an upright position. Now close your eyes, allow them to gently block the outside world. Find yourself in a warm, tranquil space that exists on the backside of your eyelids. You notice the beating of your heart as it pushes warm, oxygen rich blood to the rest of your body. Begin to connect with the rest of your physical self. Notice the distinct calm feeling in your hands as they rest on the tops of your legs. Open your palms in a position of reception for the energy that is coming toward you. Accept this as a gift, a connection from the universe to you. Your feet should be planted flat on the ground. Notice how the floor feels beneath them. What does it feel like to be connected to something as grand as the earth?
Now that you are settled in a peaceful position, we are going to go even deeper inside. Take a slow and steady inhalation through your nose. Feel the warmth of the air as it makes it ascent from the tip of your nose and fills the back of your throat. Feel your shoulders rise as the air continues to spill inside of your chest, filling you down to the bottom of your belly which has expanded to allow the air space inside.
This breath feeds and nourishes your body as you hold the inhalation and very slowly, let it go, let it go, let it go. The act of taking in should match the process of letting go, equal strength and time allotted to each of them. Notice how your body softens as you exhale, feel your shoulders falling as the tightness disappears from your neck and your brow. Now let’s fill our lungs again, taking in the rich air which surrounds us. All that is full of life and power brings the breath into us until we are full. Now hold the breath as your chest expands and your belly begins to soften on the release. These sacred breaths allow everything within you to fall naturally and evenly away, as you savor in the calm which washes over you on the exhale.
Take attention to your body. Feel the energy coursing through your hands and legs. Such supple feelings of softness as you float in the space behind your eyes. Whatever you are noticing, you are exactly where you should be. You are comforted and cradled in warmth. You are present and you are calm in this moment.
Spend time at least once a day to focus on your breathing and the physical sensations related to it. If you can dedicate 5 or 10 minutes of your hectic day to breathe in this manner, you will notice a greater calm and clarity in the rest of those moments where you are devoted to work and family and all of the other tasks related to living life. Always remember the importance of your breathing. Notice the ever evolving shape and speed of your inhalation and the physical sensations attached to this. Close your eyes and for a brief moment, escape, soothe, relish. There are so many ways to do it simply and elegantly.
Love, peace and happiness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage CounselingLearn More