Wounded Warrior, How to Survive a Loss of Love, Divorce Counseling and Breaking Up
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 27, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
Wounded warrior, How to Survive a Loss of Love…
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
Warm and Well This Winter, Cooling Cabin Fever, A Psychotherapists Musings
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
Relationships, to have, hold or do not resuscitate? Marriage Counseling and Thoughts
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 16, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy0 comments
The abundant contentment which our long term relationships provide is for many the ultimate hallmark of a life well-lived. Our human bonds sustain our happiness filling our celebrations with glee and making life burdens a bit easier to manage. Romantic relationships exert tremendous effects upon our long term happiness and even health. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, those in what is considered a supportive and positive long-term relationship or marriage enjoyed the benefits of better health and even longer life, compared to singles and especially those in relationships marked by high levels of stress.
Relationships are vulnerable, like our bodies they require regular care and nourishment to maintain vitality. There are indeed factors which make loving bonds more susceptible to “disease.” Consuming “toxins” such as deception is known to cause the life sustaining organ of trust to fail. Trauma such as physical abuse may erode at the relationships heart. Even joyous occasions such as the birth of a child, job changes or moving may exert subtle variations to the internal balance of loves inner mechanisms. The mortality rates are high, hope of returning to loves assumed previous vigor being dependent upon the quality of care that both parts of the couple are willing and able to usher towards its recovery. Relationships become sick just like any other organ, infected with disease which erodes at the common threads sustaining health. Have you ever been a part of one which is marked, “do not resuscitate?”
- Mutually supportive
- Trusting Space for individual time and voices
- A source of contentment for all parties most of the time
- Direct communication of both person’s thoughts, wants, needs
- Non-supportive, controlled, devalued
- Caustic, callous,
- Indifferent or Obsessive
- Doubting, jealous, insecure
- Separate time is viewed as threatening
- Passive aggressive/ aggressive/ or non- communication
Individuals yearn for relief from their ailing relationship and they typically want to explore every option to bring the vitality back to the bond. At this point a therapist or coach is a fantastic help towards examining and restoring the essence of a love hanging to life. For anyone looking for a prescription or a bandage to heal the wounds here is the “medicine” for some common relationship ailments.
- This medicine must be consumed daily in an atmosphere of humble respect for yourself and your partner.
- To be swallowed on an empty stomach which has been rinsed of pride, ego, and defensiveness.
- Take some time to listen to the sound of the beating heart, is the thumping sound weak or hastened? Be prepared to understand and accept your loves physical state without distortion.
- May be contraindicated if one or both partners are suffering from their own underlying “diseases” which prevent authentic, warm, respectful, interaction.
- Time is an important salve and must be lavishly applied to all expected recovery plans.
- If disease has been present for a long time then expect there to be permanent changes to the loving bond.
- Patience goes a long way towards renewing hope.
The truth readers is that not all of the patients make it, sometimes the damage is too pervasive and the blunt force too shocking to the system, there are times when we must best serve our holistic form by pulling the plug on love. Yet for those who do regain health and create a warm love anew, the reward is in the joy and comfort that a long time love is able to provide! For those of you who may be in the termination or resolution phase of a marriage or relationship, please stay tuned for next week’s edition “Wounded Warriors, How to Survive a Loss of Love!” As always no matter which stage of your relationship, from looking to leaving Reviving Minds is here for you with relationship coaching and psychotherapeutic services!
In love and warmth!
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
The Sun & Your Mood, SUNGAZING
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
Breathe, Tips from Psychotherapy on Relaxation
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
Forgiveness, Letting Go like Leaves of Fall, Thoughts from Psychotherapy
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 15, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
There is great wisdom in the seasons, the rhythms of the earth. I admire the leaves, those curious objects transitioning in brilliant metamorphosis. They motion from soft and green to reds, orange, and rust while becoming dry and brittle, forming a carpet upon the earth in their final descent. Yes, the earth has many lessons for us; mere mortals. In spring she takes in, blossoming and growing but with time, she wilts and in a dazzling display, she falls, letting the leaves, flowers, cones and the like, all go back into herself. I often see many people in the world and in my office, even myself at times, who struggle to “let go.”
Past pains, disappointments, greedily lending themselves to calcified resentment. It is that little man perched atop the watchtower of the soul, waiting for another insult or injury from our loved one or family member. Sometimes our little internal watchman becomes hyper-vigilant, ever wanting to prevent our spirits from being scathed. When too many hurts have been accumulated, our memories becomes infiltrated with all of those winces, from the chronically late boyfriend, our ever critical mother, the sister that is always undermining your happiness, these things we remember! The problem is that we often remember too well, it is indeed a part of a healthy longing to protect ourselves from those who would hurt us. So we store away these abundant notations about others, retrieving the data in the future, making an effort to “duck” before the next blow is hurled. Often when we store away so much angst pertaining to specific others, we will become too quick to react, overflowing with hurt or anger in even minor instances. We hold fast to our internal list of wrong doing and to those who will listen we complain and wallow at the injustice of “others” who pain us! There is a normal and healthy amount of time to complain or be upset at the injustices or insults which will inevitably be hurled at us in this life. Yet I must ask, how useful is it to continue to hold on to anger and resentment?
One of my favorite anonymous quotes is “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get die.” Often with our lists of anger, we are exclusively causing injury to ourselves! As it often is with human foible, the very mechanisms which may serve to protect us, become the source of our very own brand of strife! If you will allow yourself to reflect honestly, each time you recount the story of your critical mom, failure to thrive brother, masochistic professor, it really only makes you upset again. The physical and emotional stress that results from accumulating our lists of hurts may lead to coronary disease, somatic illness, angry explosions, drug or alcohol abuse, and may be related to mental health disorders such as depression. Forgiveness and the ability to move beyond the sins of our foes is an ability that will serve you very well, even if you don’t think you’re (insert explicative) boss/girlfriend/ex deserves your forgiveness, it may be time for you to consider letting things go for your own health and wellbeing.
There is wisdom in forgiveness, each of the major religious gurus speaks abundantly upon the topic, for example Jesus Christ, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Along with the Dalai Lama who even wrote a book titled The Wisdom of Forgiveness, he states it eloquently with “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion, and forgiveness, the important thing is that they should be a part of your daily life.” We should also remember Mahatma Gandhi who is quoted as saying, “The weak can never forgive, and forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” I am not a spiritual leader, I am only a psychotherapist, a woman who struggles with the very same human dilemmas as all of the rest of you, yet I will recommend that you take the time to lay to rest those angers, hurts, and pains.
Take a long hard look, maybe even make a list of all of the grudges that you are needlessly carrying with you. Accept them, remember them, I have even suggested that some clients wrap that list around a rock and carry it with them everywhere for a week. Then when the week is over, take the time to think about your experience in lugging a heavy and burdensome weight in your pocket. When your week is over, the time is up, lay it to rest. As a clinician who respects traditions and rituals, perhaps making a ceremony of it will help you to solidify the process of letting go. Bury it, burn it, burn it and bury it, rip it up. Whatever you do, let it go and don’t set off searching for its remains. Allow it to be over, not for the other person who has hurt you, but because you love yourself enough to not sit with toxicity in your blood. Because peace and serenity are your goals, because Gandhi, Jesus Christ, and the Dalai Lama said so, let go of resentment and make some room for more love, peace, and contentment. In a Technicolor array of splendor like the leaves twirling from the sturdy oaks to rest peacefully atop the fall earth, may it decay into next year’s nutrient rich soil.
In peace and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
Something about Nothing, The Importance of Relaxation
by Stephanie McCrackenJuly 19, 2013 counseling, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Something about Nothing
The heated summer air is whirring beyond and within your skin, feet pounding upon the city sidewalks in an ever hurried procession. Preparation for yet another marathon, sweat beads forming and sliding, perspiring in cylindrical icicles down your front, back, and every inch of in between, an urgent reminder to go, go, go, harder, faster, more.
12 hour work days, 52 weeks out of the year, the paper work piling higher, depositions and court cases formulating another win, another dollar. You will make partner in your firm by the time you are 40 as long as you stay later in hopes of achievement, more, more, money, more promotions, more responsibility, more ways to know that this is worth it, work harder, faster, more.
Your neighbor owes you 50$ and tells you that she isn’t able to return the kindly favor until next week, you were counting on it to put gas in your tank to take your brother to the store and your dad to the doctor and your daughter to the outpatient drug rehabilitation program, maybe even buying some snack cakes to put in your husband’s lunch pail. Who else needs you today? Who else can you help? Move, go, do, more, faster.
Stick the needle in your arm yet again, the numbness settles within and sealing your mind from everything out there until it’s time to get up in search of another person to rob, a piece of jewelry to steal, to trade for some money to buy some silence in time without thinking of the faceless people from which you steal or the way that it makes you think to be a person who sticks a needle to go numb. More, deeper, harder, faster.
Traffic light, stop sign, all hail the whistle!
Yield, I insist upon the cessation of all of this motion for just one moment!
You, don’t move another inch towards the needle, don’t lift that tennis shoe from its connection to the ground, toss that mounting pile of paper work to the side, tell everyone to take a taxi today. This moment, this hour, this day will be sacred. In this moment you will busy yourself with nothing! Your work, your accomplishment, your effort will be the achievement of absolutely nothing at all. Settle into that seat, locate a sturdy park bench, or a shady and cool spot under a giant oak, or perhaps you will lay down in your bed, it matters not as long as you are making time to do nothing at all.
For most of us, it takes practice and effort to develop this superior skill. The ability to relax and even glean wisdom from nothing, but in time you will appreciate the restorative properties to doing nothing because, doing nothing is every bit as vital as doing all of those something’s. Moments of nothing can be brimming with einstienesque inspiration, it is the stillness and quiet that is associated with heightened vital energy. Many people are at first uncomfortable in silence, it is in those moments that the mind begins to speak and we don’t know what to feel about all of these thoughts and sensations pouring from within of us. We are typically seated with television blasted and task at hand, there is most always something that provides a barrier preventing us from hearing that inner voice the speech exuding from the quieted mind. My challenge for you is this, insist upon creating a moments time, at least several days per a week or ideally, each and every day, to sit quietly while doing nothing. Allow stillness to cloak you and with eyes opened or closed, notice the quiet settling within and without, simply be seated and breath, observe your thoughts as they meander by like rotund puffy clouds in a warm summer sky. Simply and calmly be, while at first you may find it challenging to achieve this, I will offer my unequivocal assurance that you are in technical terms “achieving.” In this quiet and calm you are equipping yourself with vitality. As the mind, body, heart rate breathing settle, thinking, feeling, and being improve. With the mind calmly alert one is best able to commune harmoniously with others in performing the thinking tasks associated with living a full life. Some may call this exercise mediation, or prayer, or even time out but I will insist upon titling it nothing, the Italians have a luxuriously simplistic phrase for this, dolce far niente, “the joy of doing nothing.” Nothing hasn’t ever sounded so good. Always remember that it is within balance that harmony is borne, silence projects sound, the yin and the yang, all of those somethings, out of nothing….
by Stephanie McCrackenJuly 2, 2013 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
Bliss, contentment, joy, with all of this jolly there is much debate. Are we birthed from our mothers’ wombs and onto the terrestrial sphere with an innate capacity to experience greater abundance of positive vibes or is a happy disposition something that can be nurtured? There are endless varieties of self-help books, and spiritual manuals indicating the gamut of tactics which when put into practice, may help us live a life with greater serenity. As a therapist and a woman who revels in her own personal transformation, I have some simple but powerful tools to share with you which will direct your feelings towards the more ecstatic emotions. Here are some tips for the reader:
1) Letting go of resentment. Whether it is a feud that started 10 years ago or just yesterday, when you hold on to feelings of anger and harbor grudges it is very unhealthy for you. Just like the saying goes, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick!” Letting go of grudges doesn’t mean that you are saying a wrong doing done to you is ok, it means that you recognize that these emotions do not serve you which is why you are letting them go! It may be helpful to release them ceremoniously, writing a small list and burning it and then burying it somewhere deep within the earths soil, truly putting your woes to rest.
2) Make a regular practice to reflect on gratitude. The feeling of gratitude is one of the most powerful positive emotions; it expands thinking and is composed of light and love. No matter where you are in your life, you surely have some things to be grateful for and the best things are typically the simplest- always keep in mind that the tiny moments are the building blocks of the fabric of your life!
3) Take care of your body! There is much to be said for taking the time to invigorate your limbs with oxygenated blood, allowing them the experience of vigorous contortion. We are animals and our forms are intended for motion. Furthermore, we must be mindful to consume nutritious food. Be sure to eat at least one or two foods a day that are plant based, preferably something out of the skin or rind and not out of the jar. Ancient Chinese medicine indicates that all food has energy, be sure to eat things that are live, healthy and teeming with life force!
4) Focus on the breath. When you take the time to understand your body and realize its
rhythms you are well on your way to living a healthy and happy life! The breath is the elixir which feeds our very living, it has the power to calm, or excite and when you hone in on this process you can begin to exert great power over your own mood. Slowing and deepening for deep relaxation or notice how fast and shallow breathing becomes when we are upset or after a run.
5) Value non-material things. Working is an important part of adult life, making money can feel great because money has the ability to provide for basic material necessities and those little bells and whistles which sure can be fun. Yet, the most important things that we know are our relationships to friends and families, they are the true givers of joy. Remember that when your last hour is nearing, you won’t be thinking about your bank account balance, you will crave nearness with the people who dwell in your heart and mind so make time for them now while your time is long.
6) Discover the joy of doing nothing. Most of us stay so busy maintaining the demands of our work and home duties that the idea of doing nothing comfortably gives us the shivers. Yet because of this it is even more vital that we explore the sensory bliss of truly relaxing into our own minds and bodies, far away from the phone and computer or chatter of mates and children. We will all become a bit happier when we carve out some time to enjoy doing nothing, for you maybe that is simply closing your eyes and breathing in a hot bath, or under the shade of the tree or even turning your back on your computer at work, closing your eyes and guiltlessly dwelling in your own mind for a few blissful minutes.
7) Reacquaint yourself with nature. The most content people have a relationship with and an understanding of nature. All of those forces outside of the self, the inspiration of countless poems and paintings, when we place our attention upon the attunement of our earth, she usually has some messages for us. While she speaks, she calms and there are even new studies which indicate that people who sit, plant, and place themselves near soil are happier and boast heartier immune systems. Despite what your mother may have told you about tracking it in the house, dirt isn’t so bad after all, those live microbes carry some secrets such as disease fighting and there are others who say that direct contact with the ground can have astounding effects on your electromagnetic composition, literally realigning your force field.
Besides any of things what are your suggestions for living a happier life? Please share your own personal tips!
In health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Long Term Sex, for Long Term Love, Tips to add Spark to Sexual Intimacy- Marriage Counseling and Beyond
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 26, 2013 couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy, sensate focus, sexuality, Uncategorized0 comments
Long term relationships, life time marriages ; Tips To Add Spark To Sexual Intimacy
Idyllic harmonious encounters of two souls forever become one, ahh…sounds so lovely, and it can be. Yet, reality settles in and our fantasy love becomes peppered with disappointments, disagreements, and challenges of surviving in a world that is at times unjust. For those who are able to make a loving partnership work, the bliss and benefits are at times extraordinarily beautiful, even promising greater wellness and longevity for people who are a part of a healthy committed relationship. There are many tips and methods which can help a couple mesh their various conflict resolution patterns and styles of loving which will create a happy ending after all. Yet, even those couples who are able to remain attached into the deeper phases of loving matrimony are not in the clear as time itself exerts a considerable amount of influence upon our behaviors and even our biology. Time causes us to become “habituated” to our mates, to use a scientific term. The term habituation is an important one, it means that all of those exciting feelings that we once derived from our partner’s presence are replaced with sensations of comfort. Literally that man or woman who was once the source of a quickening heart is now a source of a calm and comforting feeling, their presence is soothing. Like all things, habituation is at times a blessing but can also be a burden. Someone whose mere presence provides calm and comfort sounds divine, however sexually this can potentially be a source of trouble. When it comes to the bedroom biology will require that our pulses quicken and that blood flow heighten, this may be even more important for males whereas females can potentially experience greater arousal as they become more soothed. Are you a couple and have found yourself recently entering a sensual slump or are in a long term pattern of doing it less than is desirable for you? Keep in mind that there really is not a magic number for how many times a week or month is the ideal number of times for love making. Some couples may be content to enjoy sex a few times a month while others enjoy sex several times a week. The key point is that you and your partner know what is best for you individually and collectively. Taking that into account, if you are past the honeymoon phase and noticing a sexual shift, here are some tips for men and women to use, to combat the effects of time.
1) Cast aside routine. You probably have plenty of routine in the rest of your life so keep those outside of the bedroom. In fact, for some couples who are experiencing lower sexual arousal making an effort to make love in a different room of the house is a helpful tip to renew once felt passion. You may even want to consider spending the night in a hotel or taking a long weekend, enjoying you physical bond in a different setting may be just the trick to break the spell of habituation.
2) More on routine, it is easy to get stuck in a sexual rut by performing the same sexual position time after time but this will squelch your sexual passion quickly. Dare to try something new! Yes, it can be frightening to step outside of yourself and into something different but maintaining the same script every time you and your partner jump into the sack may be just as frightening. Fortunately, we live in the technological era and there are countless online and professional resources which will explain a million other contortions to enjoy your physical bond. Study something like tantra to add to your imagination.
3) Resolve emotional conflicts. This is a big one, the longer you remain together, the more time exists to build up unresolved emotional issues. Emotional conflict will wreak havoc on your sexual connection. Often our hurts, our resentments and all of the other things that inevitably happen as lines of communication and understanding become crossed, crop up in other parts of our behavior. Therapists hear many stories being recounted over and again from couple to couple, battles being reenacted in the sexual relationship as a pattern of one or both partners begin withholding sex. The best way to combat this is to resolve those emotional issues, adopt different manners of communication, it takes work but the relationship that can be achieved when you put in the time is well worth the effort.
4) Make time to make love! It is commonplace to be consumed in work, children, and finances that we literally forget how important it is to carve out some time for physical bonding with our partners. With so many other things placing demands on our attention, sometimes we view our partner as being “the person who will always be there tomorrow”, if they are there tomorrow the demands of the night doesn’t always elicit due urgency. I will beckon urgency for you, make time to regularly make love, it is every bit as important as driving the kids to soccer practice and dropping the mortgage in the mail.
5) Take care of your physical health, when we exercise and eat well, we feel our best and when we feel our best, our sexual energy is higher. The human body is a spectacular thing that can endure well into old age but only if we are kind to ourselves by nurturing our mind, body, spirit with quality nutrients and oxygen. If you are struggling with sexual arousal, sexual desire, orgasm, or a sexual pain disorder, you should seek sex therapy or a medical evaluation. By caring for yourself, you have mastered one of the best predictors of having a quality sexual relationship with your mate into octogenarian-hood.
One final note, sudden decreased sexual desire or sexual response can sometimes occur with other symptoms related to certain conditions such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, or even emotions such as low self-esteem or as a result of trauma or attachment related issues- this list is by no means exhaustive and is no substitute for medical or psychological help.
In health and bliss,
Stephanie M. Wijkstrom, LPC, NCC
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15233
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Jungian Shadow Self, Animus Anima, Psychotherapy and Beyond
by Stephanie McCrackenMay 6, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
The Delicate Dance
The delicate dance, our human nature eternally pirouettes. A melodic sway, a hip sashay, and life is brightly illuminated by the sun’s luminosity. Soon the night falls, and we are left contemplating the sepia toned shadows outlining the nocturne. Darkness and light, yin and the yang, animus and anima, life and death, each of these do flow within us, watering the gardens of our souls. There is more to consider as our ever present opposites are further knotted by the presence of a shadow. This opaque sum of us that follows the persona, as it is cast to the ground for all eternity. How is it that we seldom bring our shadow to the truth of light? Instead, we tend to leave it bereft in the unconscious parts of our selves where it unleashes even greater power in an effort to be noticed and heard. Allow us to remember that there is wisdom in the darkness.
As a woman, my family and friends, indeed culture at large, exerts a strong influence upon me to nurture the archetypal image of the “Great Mother” female. For a woman this means that we are to be social, nurturing of our close friendships and the cohesive glue and bleeding matriarch for our families. She is the ever doting caretaker who will sacrifice any moment of indulgence for her husband and children. I applaud these women. Yet, it took me years to appreciate this domestic scene. As a child I did not prefer to play with toy dolls and strollers. I was most happy to run, imagine, and read books.
Primavera by Botticelli, courtesy wikimedia.org
We should always remember what a challenging duty being a mother is. To nurture a family and watch it grow is one of the greatest gifts of all. Yet, even for the most tireless caregivers, balance is always the highest function. My animus has always been a bit more developed. I am driven toward increasing my abilities which remain outside of our conventional domestic sphere. Female executives recognize the trade-offs and cultural misgivings of assertiveness and flaunting success outside the home. These women are often relegated to the social sidelines as “bitches.” Sadly, there are still many who have a difficult time understanding women who do not subscribe to the preconceived notion of “what they should be.” Now we see the “doing it all” woman who will raise her family and nurture her career simultaneously. While some argue that these women are wearing themselves thin, there are others who recognize the importance of achieving a healthy balance between self-interest and familiar nurturance.
Dichotomies are present in most every facet of life, and the greater understanding that we develop of them, the better able we become to integrate competing impulses into a harmonious whole. As social creatures we all, to varying degrees, crave the comforting sensation of intimacy and togetherness. Yet this reminds of a parable involving porcupines which Arthur Schopenhauer originated. Later, Sigmund Freud was known to have been so stricken with this allegory that he placed a porcupine figurine on his desk as a reminder.
Schopenhauer’s story goes something like this: Porcupines live together in close social groups to brave the bitterness of winters. Cold, they inch closer together. Yet, as they draw increasingly nearer to each other their quills protrude. Their most important defense mechanism which prevents them from being hunted by other animals is activated. Inevitably the agony of being poked by the quills is painful and thus the porcupines move further apart to avoid the pain. This does not last long, as the chill of the air brings them back together in an eternal dance of seeking warmth and avoiding pain. Freud believed that human dynamics mirror this dance. My own personal experience allows me to recognize the validity to this simple theorem, a delicate balance between emotional intimacy and isolation. Yet the sad truth is a back and forth dance is an ensemble which should be conducted with precision and elegant beauty. It is by bringing the need for both isolation and intimacy into our awareness that we can begin to dance with greater ease and harmony. I know of relationships where the couple spends so much time bandaging their wounds from those pesky quills, in fear that there may be another jab coming, that they seldom remember the joys of enjoying each other’s warmth. The joy of togetherness, with recognition of the importance of solitude, will bring this shadow into focus thereby strengthening the relationship.
As we continue to consider all of the ways that dichotomous energies influence our essence on a moment to moment basis, we may experience a deepening empathy for our nature. As any artist or writer would fully understand, great creativity is birthed in the silence of introspection. In those times of meditation for the comforting quietude of the infiltrated mind, the artist is able to glean her energy in the creation of elegant sentences superb in their meaning and syntax. Just as a composer, singer, or songwriter intuits a masterpiece by utilizing both the wisdom of the notes and the silence in between the sounds. Indeed, silence and sound both lend their power to the creation of music. I have known people who are so terrified of silence that they prattle on endlessly, perhaps afraid that they may fall into a void of nothingness if not for the sound of their own voice. Ironically, such people never say anything of importance and invariably run out of audience, producing the silence that is so feared. Perhaps such a person could strengthen the ability to pause for just a moment and reflect on their words and instill them with some meaning.
Finally, the energetic shift of the animus motions toward the furthest reach of the spectrum, to the spaces where stillness remains but a memory. Culturally, it seems that the majority of our population is bound by the unwritten code which encourages or forces our motion, progress, and intent, into a faster, frantic pace that produces unhealthy results. It is no wonder that stress related illnesses continue to rise as our bodies sputter out due to the ever increasing demand for progress, it seems that deadlines loom like executioners to our health.
Dance at Bougival by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, courtesy wikimedia.org
Within the 3 x 6 span of my yoga mat, I have developed a vital valuation to actively seek comfort and peace. Surrender within moments of quiet and stillness. It is easy to note how the shadow can overwhelm the stillness. When we see one who spends all her time at the gym, training with weights to make the physical body larger than nature would have intended for it to be, we are witnessing an overindulged animus. Often people use steroids and other regimented combinations of compounds to tweak their physical form, but no matter what the compound their physical body is pushed beyond its natural limits. Our muscles are not intended to train 5-7 days per week and the creation of this sort of body build is symptomatic of far too much use of the animus’ energy. Such a female would do well to allow the anima to guide her toward relaxation and wellness. Even more than meditation, such an animus driven person would do well to perform an in-depth exploration of the energies that propelled her to desire such goals. The inverse of this would be one who allows the anima to overtake all motion leading to utter stagnation. Perhaps the most dramatic form of this would be a person who has been lying in bed for years at a time. This person has suffered from an extreme case of the anima releasing itself into the shadow and they must desperately balance with the animus for their health and wellbeing. Now the fact is that the majority of people do not fall within the dramatic outliers of such disharmonious alignments of their energies. Most of us vacillate between more subtle surges of motion, stillness, sound, quiet, intimacy, and solitude. The key to navigating life’s motion most successfully is to be aware of these nuances within the animus and the anima as there is infinite wisdom to be found within both. I ask you to ponder this question to yourself today: in what ways is my animus serving me and in what ways is my anima serving me? Keeping in mind all of the ways that the masculine and the feminine exist within each of us. Consider this as follow-up, in what areas are my energies crying out for greater balance? Where could I develop greater balance in my life? Consider these in the eternal quest for your happiness, by way of mindful, healthful, bountiful, wellness.