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
Learn more from our friends at
Learn more from our friends; https://inlpcenter.org/-psychological-attachments
Amidst Chaos and Wonder We Connect, On Love
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 5, 2014 mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, sexuality0 comments
Amidst Chaos and Wonder, We Connect
For my quiet inspiration
Often I have written with advice on how to encounter some of relationships and marriages challenges in such a way to bring back the harmony into love. Yet today I realize that not often enough do we reflect upon the playful ecstasy of those moments when love becomes palpable and we achieve treasured moments of connection. Perhaps this less frequent consideration on the elegant simplicity of loves joys is a product of how many of us think about things in general, we are typically more often seen reflecting upon areas for growth instead of reveling in our glories, but not for today, for today our respite is to enjoy what it is like when we connect and truly allow ourselves to set aside chaos and be together.
“Seated in the room with all of the background faded to a fuzzy recollection of a blurry outline but amidst the stop of the hands of time this is the one very thing that is emerging from all of those distinct shadows. A form so perfect with its clear cut edges, and crisp keen blues of your eyes with heavily draped lids, dazzled with electric hope and severe concentration looking outwards towards the distance, considering and mulling your theories and life’s vast considerations as I internally muse that this is the souls recess hour. For the intensity of all of this hyper focused thought projecting your doomsdays, your hands remain fixed on me, as if my body were an anchor to hold your presence in the world of physical things. The place where you only half remain and the rest is all up there in its perfect platonic forms and thoughts. You’re dancing eyes and bombastic baritones resting upon me to punctuate sentences and thoughts. I inhale deeply to enjoy the wooded scent wafting from your neck and permeating the small distance between our bodies. Your words still coming more staccato as you pause more upon me, and in my mind I wonder at your perfection and how elegant your creation and dichotomies which form your wonderful soul. Together we wonder and perfect serenity takes hold, your hands upon me massaging out thought and consideration moving me deeper into hazy and warm wonder like the days before the days and all of those days after there are no more, slipping into welcoming comfort. This is what it was always supposed to be…”
A playful musing on the pleasures of love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
Skeletons, Ghosts, and Halloween Costumes; The Inner Shadow
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 27, 2014 costumes, counseling, halloween, holidays, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy, sexuality0 comments
It is that time of year, high autumn, with the emblazoned oranges cascading upon the tree lines, carved pumpkins checkering the streets and yards of American homes. All of the store isles, featuring costumes of frightening ghosts and skeletons. We venture out to enjoy the pumpkin patches, haunted houses, costume parties and more the Halloween season is the first of our holiday celebrations. Yet by comparison Halloween is far different from the other holidays in tradition and practice. Its origins in Celtic and Gaelic traditions to honor the dead. Modernly for Halloween we maintain the deathly focus when we parade as any number of frightening and decrepit beings. Typically we nurture great distance from gore and death, often we are not as playful as our spirit may like for us to be. On Halloween we pay homage to our inner opposite. We display skeletons and zombies, we participate in ghost walks and haunted houses. During this very special time of year we allow to emerge these typically unconscious impulses towards fascination of the eternal sleep, blood and guts. It is a truth that just as we are composed of loving, caring, and altruistic impulses, our minds are also teeming with darkness, impulses of aggressive and sexual natures yet many of us may bury those considerations sometimes leading to unhealthy behaviors and feelings. For ourselves as well as the collective thinking and being of our American civilization it is vital to contemplate that which is normally distant from our minds, It was Carl Jung who said “I would rather be whole than good.”
Beyond the candy corn, Halloween provides the chance to glorify our inner shadows. For example, it is widely known that many women sport a “sexy______ costume.” Jenna Marbles does many skits on this, the librarian may masquerade as a bondage queen, and the conservative mother of two flaunts herself as sexy midcentury fairy. On this evening those of us who may be quite conservative in dress and sensual expression are allowing ourselves to accentuate a different part on our inner world, the sexy seductress. The seductress which may lay dormant during most of the other 364 days of the year, yet on the night of tricks and treats she will shed her skin and prevail. It doesn’t end with the sexy costumes, consider too the pocket protector wearing accountant, he may usually be quite shy but not for Halloween, he spends months in preparation for the night when he will become a cinema worthy zombie, complete with protruding eyeballs and missing limbs. What an excitement for him, to become the master of death and also to be in touch with that part of himself which enjoys the spotlight and fascinated attention of admiring costume party goers. Yet another great example of nurturing the inner opposite is Heidi Klum’s award winning 2013 costume where she disguises herself as a very old woman. I would speculate that it provides a certain sense of victory over aging for the stunning supermodel to create her own ancient self and don it proudly. There may be a part of her which is able to lessen some anxiety about the process of becoming older by being the master of it, at least for that night.
So perhaps before casting aside the costume wearing process as childish fun maybe we should all think again, after all, doesn’t everyone love candy treats? By practicing that which we have been doing for the last couple hundred years and allowing creativity to flow deep into our mind’s eye as we entertain the thought of what part of our inner being is often unexpressed? What do we loathe? What do we admire, what by expression can lead us towards wholeness? What will we be for Halloween??? Don’t let the skeletons and ghosts catch you! BWHAHAHAAHAHAHA!
In great fun and love, Happy Halloween!
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
Share Your Love, Revive Your Love, Photo Contest with Prizes!
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 1, 2014 counseling, couples therapy, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
Of all of the things that we share on social media and otherwise, our successes, “I am so relieved! I finally graduated!” Our location “Strike, checking in at Hollywood lanes bowling alley come on down!” How inspiring to be virtually plugged, the possibility for connection in ways which can be meaningful and significant. The opportunity to influence, to brighten, reviving optimism and care. Of all of these things, there is one that I know to be true, a mystical mechanism which influences both the receivers and givers unequivocally. Sharing Love. As a psychotherapist working with individuals or married/dating couples, it is visible that how we share our love is often the deeper question veiled under anxiety, depression, communication trouble “I want to be better at giving and receiving love.”
Love is a mysterious and compelling source of both eternal vitality and confusion, in many ways it is humanities greatest quest since our earliest days of arboreal ascent in the vast tree limbs. The feeling of connection elicited when we share a bit of love with a long-time friend, our mother, or our lover. Love is for many a “raison de etre” and a stalwartly reason at that. Even when we are not in the midst of experiencing one of those loving moments we may be listening to, or writing a song, or perhaps creating a painting or other miraculous expression of our relationship to this divine sensation. There are so many places to see the manifestation of our hearts longing when we take the time to be present and perceive. Right there, do you see it? The elderly couple walking down the street gnarled and aching hands arthritically frozen into one pillar of hope. The mother poised with a sparkly eyed child on the park bench, it’s the man with a sole tear drop rolling from his cheek contemplating someone with aching heart. When we look to the world how much love can we see?
Reviving Minds Therapy would like to invite you to participate in our month long photo sharing campaign which we are calling “Revive Your Love.” We are asking participants to photograph and post an original photo which captures Love In Action to the “Revive Your Mind” Facebook or Twitter, use the hashtag “#reviveyourlove, we encourage contestants and our followers to vote by “liking” the photo that they feel most encapsulates their vision of love. All winners must have liked and followed the Revive Your Mind facebook or twitter page to be eligible for prizes. We ask that you post no more than one original photo per day, at the end of one month, the contestants photo with the most “likes” will receive 50$ Visa gift card, there will also be a 2nd place of 25$ Gift card and third place of 15$. Remember that everyone is a winner when we gaze into the world with that aim of seeing and sharing love. As always thank you for your readership and participation!
In warmth and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC & Nicole Monteleone MS LPC, NCC,
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Reviving Minds Therapy, Offering Individual Psychotherapy and Couples Therapy
Tight Hugs I Like; A Psychotherapists Musings
by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 23, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Tight Hugs I Like; A Psychotherapists Musings
It could be risky to admit this but here it goes anyway, I judge people, in social settings I categorize to such a grand degree, some may say I can hardly help myself. You see, I rank people based on how they hug. When it comes to hugs, they are certainly not all the same. For example, my grandmother, she was a woman who knew how to wallop out a good old-fashioned, full on, closed-arm, hug. Of course she was blessed with a constitution of advantages being a billowy woman who with her puffy arms was capable of ensconcing me in a way that warmly emitted rapture. When I am meeting, enjoying, and connecting, I always cherish most those folks who know how to put extra endurance on the squeeze, those are my people the kind, warm, close, hug-loving people.
Hugs are kind of like the word “love” in regards to the way we have come to dole them out socially. We hug upon meeting and greeting, at every social and familial function, it’s inextricably woven into the fabric of our social essence yet I wonder if the more that we do it, the less care we pause to exert that extra “umph” into its meaning and effort, somehow causing it to lose its magical luster. Like the carelessly tossed “love you” which punctuates the end of conversations over iPhones and peppered unto friendly discourses. The whole thing makes me melancholy, myself being a women known to exhibit a propensity for intensities of passion, I know that the altitudes of love are not unleashed when we lube up every good bye with “luv you.” My fiancé and I have a rule between us that we only say those words when we are superbly overcome with loves sentiments and can offer proper tone and intimations to its grander meaning and I think hugs should be the same.
We can enter a discussion into the mounting scientific evidence which identifies oxytocin and other alchemical neurochemicals and their vast proliferation upon the synapse during human contact, a full 20 second hug ranks best in stress relief, bonding, relationship healing, it’s sort of like a love serum. Yet I really only need to think about the mutually enveloping sensation provoked upon a tight, warm, and long hug and I already know- this is the sweet spot, this is indeed where the magic happens; tight hugs I like.
Perhaps we best know the tight hug by its inverse, the dowdy anticlimax of the one-armed, limited contact encounter, this is the person who offers one limp and paltry arm to the embrace, their hand barely grazing the others back. Sort of like its phony cousin, the air-kiss, quite popular in Europe and Hollywood. These pseudo-signs of affectionate encounter make me wonder “Good gracious Darling!!! Why are we even bothering with a hug?!” Perhaps these people are better temperamentally suited for handshakes or high fives, which is simply fine but please don’t spoil the hug. Still there are others who fumblingly attempt the hug with a gapping distance between their bodies, as they lean in with their chest, their hand taps upon their would-be comrades back. I watch imagining that fluttering hand so close to a warm embrace yet the hand will not rest nor envelop their friend, they will not anchor them down, pulling friends nor acquaintances in, ever missing the full embrace. I sigh watching their leaning chests and tapping hands, saddened by what I imagine to be their trembling fear of connection.
Perhaps I am a romantic as somewhere in my heart of hearts I know that maybe some of us are destined to be less than adequate huggers, the ecstasy of a limb-locked, enduring hug is not something that one can enjoy with everyone. The dreamer in me is helpless to float upon imaginary visions of a world teeming with propensities towards deep, soul-strewn connection, flowery displays of oozing, syrupy, love. Where we hug it out in the market place with arms firmly enveloping the neck, with chests pressing chest, body rocked embraces like pillars of hope amidst the coffee shops and promenades. Can you imagine such a place, an earth where we envelop each other more freely and shamelessly, where hugs mean something and the tight vibration of muscles grid locked around each other thrumming into the hollows of our insides, where we move into the distances, stomping out those numbing chasms and we commence upon celebration of full bodies connections. Tight hugs I like.
Exuding robust love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh pa 15233
412-322-2129 [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]Learn More
Serenaded by Fire; Dancing with Anger- A Psychotherapist’s musings…
by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, elephant journal, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
As written by us and featured in Elephant Journal http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/09/serenaded-by-fire-dancing-with-anger-a-psychotherapists-musings-stephanie-mccracken/
Experiencing and acting upon anger, despite its steeping potentials, is often shrouded in uncertainty and even guilt or shame, causing many people to attempt its subterranean burial. Due to cultural and early childhood learning, anger is only given an opportunity to only to be exhumed by accessing deeper levels of consciousness. This cultural urging to truncate human richness towards the effort of appearing uni-dimensional, saccharine and serene may be especially felt by woman, “be a good girl” they say. Despite valiant efforts to remain superiorly cool, even the most grandiose attempt to dismiss anger will result in its manifestation in less healthy manners. Perhaps you are a person who has been accused of yelling or other frenetic outburst to which you adamantly deny, then this reflection may resonate with your unconscious yearning for wholeness and serve as an impetus towards allowing some of the disavowed aggression to lovingly bubble forth.
In the range of the human emotional experience, anger is a vital, valid, and often in containment of a message. Anger is alphabetically close to danger but this too means that anger has a protective function. Whether the sensation of anger propels our action to ensconce and protect the rainforest from loggers or our child from the grips of a bully, anger is an activating emotion. On a cellular level when anger erupts we will likely notice an acceleration of heart rate, pupil dilation, vasodilation, all similar to panic and anxiety these would have allowed us to evolve in our prehistoric forms by seeing better, running harder, and accessing our reserve of strength. For some this is a rapid and temporarily irreversible ascension which will require some time spent self-soothing to reenter the terrestrial atmosphere. In fact, within couples therapy and marriage counseling it is noted that divergent conflict resolution needs are a common theme, it becomes essential to understand what yours is and how it interacts with those around you with the aim of growing towards health and balance.
It is not only relationships which may benefit from a better relationship with anger, modern science supports that repeatedly experiencing activating emotions renders a tantamount physical and emotional bill. Such as the case of the “type A personality” those with the monumental drive to make the world one conquest are also often noted to linger on the precipice of fiery anger. This puts them at continued risk for heart disease, hypertension, and additionally the social cost that can come for those that motion in a perpetually haughty dance with angers tempo. Allow us to admit just this one thing, whether it be culturally or from our families many of us learn, to our detriment, that there is something dangerous or forbidden about the outward expression of anger. Perhaps it is that we will be consumed by experiencing it or act out in a way that is unacceptable, which may lead to repression of the feeling thereby becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as those things we wish to bury almost always evidence themselves in more dramatic and unexpected ways. Provided that we recognize and utilize our emotions in a productive and socially responsible manner, angers energy has the potential to become a beneficial driving force!
From Repression to Expression With heightened and hot emotions like anger there may be some cultural and personal sentiments which discourage the human experience by placing an added layer of shame, guilt, or doubt upon the expression of negative feelings, even if done in the most appropriate and effective of manners. The real challenge may be in encouraging a person who practices repression that they are even experiencing such feelings, particularly if they have learned from an early age that the expression of such feelings is unsafe as we see with victims of trauma and abuse.
Unveiling The Masking of Anger The multitude of colors and ensembles with which anger is known to present itself can be bewildering. From the exceedingly calm demeanor which may only display a mild tightening of the area around the lips, to the full out adult temper tantrum and there are even those who utilize passive aggression to make their inner world become evident, anger is indeed a human universal as much as some may wish to dismiss its being.
In recognizing aggressive and animalistic impulses we seek to nurture a healthy degree of fire, without being dominated by unconscious aggression. Even for the good girl, the journey towards wholeness and mindfulness will require that we first prioritize a relationship with our inner self to begin to recognize our anger, respect the sensation and then work within the pause between thought/feeling and action to formulate an appropriate response to anger. Some questions that you may want to ask of yourself- What happens for our internal sanctum as the heart thrums faster and the embers flicker towards rising heat? Do we trust our ability to communicate effectively in a hot state or are we the kind of person who needs a cooling off period to navigate a high level of frustration? When was the last time that you expressed anger and what emotions come up for you as you consider your expression of this human sensation? The point is that provided we are being mindful and authentic we are best honoring ourselves and our bountifully rich human experience.
In robust wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Psychotherapist offering Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
“How to work Through Guilt, a Psychotherapists Musings”
by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 26, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, elephant journal, marriage counseling, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Written by us and as featured in Elephant Journal
elephantjournal.com/2014/09/ how-to-work-through-guilt-a- psychotherapists-musings- stephanie-mccracken/
Guilt. Certainly we all know that haunting sensation.
Even the most conscientious and heroic among us will experience guilt from time to time.
Those living a socially mindful life often can’t escape the sensation of guilt. Concern enters when we perceive ourselves as having erred in a grandiose manner—sometimes this results in reactions coursing from the deepest parts of our psyche.
Human thought and emotion become duplicitous as we note that the mind, always churning ephemerally, mechanically is able to dole out doses of guilt for thoughts which are repressed and lying dormant, deep in the layers of the unconscious.
When guilt and regret lay unconscious it often has deleterious effects on our psyches. We self-defeat, isolate, lose sleep and sometimes exhibit melancholic or anxious tendencies. Yet, within the symptoms often lie the opportunity for the cure.
Guilt is a Mechanism of the good guys and girls.
There is evidence suggesting that people who feel the most guilt are the most highly morally conscious.
Consider a priest who, despite living beyond reproach, perpetually contemplates whether he is performing enough service for human kind. “Is God pleased by my actions?” He may ruminate with guilt because he only offered five hours of his time to children’s literacy last week.
In this sense, guilt is a cursory sensation meant to guide our moral compass toward a better outcome for the next time life offers us a choice. For example, you have left your dog for eight hours without a walk and fresh water while you are out with friends for the afternoon. Or you haven’t called your grandmother in a couple of weeks to say hello.
These examples would likely elicit some measure of guilt which would guide our human impulses to change our behavior and do better in the future to bypass guilt’s irritating sensations.
Guilt Symbolizes Growing Wisdom.
Barring the possibility that we were born without any sort of moral compass—typically clinicians label this one of the primary makings of a sociopath—let’s assume that we are like most, delicately hearty mortal creatures who will inevitably make guilt inducing errors, great and minute, within this life.
Certain segments of life’s timeline are founded upon the knowledge that errors are to be made so that we can, in the words of Maya Angelou “know better and do better.”
Consider the teen years spent squealing and careening into adulthood with our lapses of budding judgment in hand. Teens are often experimental with cliques, manner of dress, maybe are even rebellious with rules, saying and behaving in ways with parents that later churn up a bit of guilt. Yet the forbidden memories become a product of our mounting wisdom guiding us toward a safe and stable path.
Self-compassion releases guilt.
Sometimes we set out, cloaked in the armor of our best intentions, cradled with the assurance that we are acting toward the best good for others and ourselves, yet later we discover that we have made a terrible mistake.
Provided we make it forward to a new day, we evolve with altered perceptions as those well intentioned choices become shrouded in a fog of regret. How do we deal with these scenarios? How do we make peace with and move beyond the pain of guilt?
These are worthwhile questions as we unravel the layers to subjectivity.
Picture this: Tina enters therapy as a recently married woman who is struggling with depression. It becomes evident that her husband is increasingly abusive, but she retreats into self-blame about the growing violence.
Through many sessions, Tina shares that she was previously married to John for five years. She says one day they were driving to a picnic at the east end of town and Tina was a bit upset because John had picked Tina up an hour late. Tina and John quibble while making their way to the barbeque. John turns to Tina who is staring out the window and says, “I am sorry, I really hope…”
He never finishes his sentence. A car comes swerving into their lane hitting them head on. He dies immediately.
Tina survives on life support but quickly remembers the fateful day as she reemerges. In addition to her grief she is frozen by the inexplicable guilt that if she had not been brooding he would still be alive.
Through growing insight into her unresolved feelings as well as self-compassion, Tina begins to nurture choices which lead her away from depression and towards greater peace.
The key to living a good life is to not become so consumed with our cloak of shame that we miss out on the opportunity to continue our evolution.
We must learn from our mistakes yet not become crippled in the negative self-outlook which comes from realizing that we have erred in judgment. Regrets can be a fluctuating foe. Courage and a wealth of internal resources to glimpse within are required to traverse the innards of thought by understanding and accepting our limited human capacity for perfection.
It is within the conscious processing of regret that we encounter the opportunity to garner wisdom. We are here to learn from life’s inevitable lessons.
We can never be expected to know it all from the outset.
In health and wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy/and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233