HELP~ IN LOVE AND UNDER ATTACK, Domestic Violence Resource! Marriage Counseling
by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 19, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, Uncategorized0 comments
Today’s article is devoted to a serious issue, domestic violence. With more and more abused partners seeking refuge within shelters and therapy offices, one would imagine that there would exist a cultural and personal awareness of abuse that could protect survivors before violence reaches extremes. However, the lines that exist when violence and abuse pervade the sanctum of a relationship are often fuzzy. This is made even more complex by the fact that we as a society are so quick to blame the victim. You have heard it said before, “why doesn’t he/she just leave?” The reasons that some stay anchored in an abusive relationship are aplenty, some examples include, they are afraid, they may want to stay for their children or family, they may remember times when the relationship was healthy, the survivor may not have access to financial resources, their self esteem and mental health may have eroded from years of suffering because the survivor is receiving strong messages from their abusers that they are to blame for what is happening! It is hard for many to understand how the survivor could be blamed for what is happening. For example after a violent attack, the attacker may ‘gaslight’ the target by denying that anything even happened, saying things like “I didn’t touch you!” “Why are you upset? You’re being dramatic! If you hadn’t gotten out of line this wouldn’t have happened.” Other times the victim may fight back against the perpetrators grabbing, pulling, shoving, barricading, slapping, choking, and then the fault lines become even more hazy, as the victim feels guilty for having struck another and begins to truly internalize the fact that this is all his or her fault.
The hopeful message of this humble essay is that as a psychological and humanitarian community we provide opportunity for intervention before the violence has a chance to escalate to the newspaper headlines or obituaries. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2000 1297 women were killed by a romantic partner and 440 men by a partner. How do these men and women slip through the cracks, how do they avoid the potential help that could ally within co-workers, friends or family? Often individuals in violent situations are alienated with limited social supports. Simultaneously, the abuser may be clever in where he or she places the marks so that the attacks are not as immediately visible. Also, the victim will be an expert at covering up any hints of bruises or contusions because they love the person who is abusing them and don’t want to see their partner end up in trouble nor do they want to burden anyone with the knowledge that something is amiss in what may appear to be their picture perfect life.
Statistically, there is a relationship between domestic violence and the suffering from other mental health diagnoses such as a depressive disorder, self-esteem issues, and these can sometimes be further complicated by the presence of drug or alcohol abuse. Whether the violence causes such problems or people with these dispositions are more likely to enter abusive relationships is an entirely different topic, this writer simply notes that there is a relationship. How can we help someone who we think may be experiencing Domestic Violence to prevent death and further destruction from occurring?
1) Educate our young and old on the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships. The earlier that people learn to see a relationship for what it is the more likely that they will leave.
2)Remain vigilant of anyone that you think may exhibit signs of violent or abusive behavior.
3) Keep the lines of communication open for those you fear have entered an abusive relationships, keep in mind that the friend may have not been in touch in a while because of their abuser.
4) If someone you know is in an abusive relationship do not push them to leave, this may only alienate them further. Do your best to express to that person that you are there for them as a friend and that you respect their will and choices.
Some of the signs of abuse
~An uncontrollable temper
~Tells their partner how to dress
~Tells their partner that they are worthless, that they will never find another mate again
~Easily becomes jealous and possessive
~Forces or insists upon sex
~Destroys belongings such as clothes, electronics, or automobile
~Threatens suicide if their partner tries to leave
~Touches, grabs, restrains, or chokes, pushes, solicits any physical touch after hearing ‘no.’
~Diminishes their partners will to make important choices
~Restricts his or her partners ability to leave him or her
~Shows up at their partners home, work, school, families house/ etc against your wishes
~Constantly checks up on their partner
~Insists on controlling the money, car, or other resources *Financial abuse is a separate kind of abuse which often co-occurs with physical and emotional violence. I.e.
` ~Making their partner account for every penny that is spent
~Stealing from their partner/ taking their money
~Restricting partner to an allowance
~Sabotaging their partners job
Remember abuse is confusing, after years of having ones feelings minimized, it may feel strange or dramatic to label what is happening as abuse, abuse is insidious and nobody should be touched or belittled, abuse starts out small before ending as the kinds of violence that we all have heard about on the news. Often abusive relationships have periods of time where everything seems perfectly fine, but if a person has touched you in a violent way once they are quite likely to do it again. Violence is by definition when someone restricts your ability to move about freely and independently as a human by chocking, pushing, grabbing, pulling, smacking, slapping, punching, hair pulling, it is violent for anyone to touch you when you have asked them not to! Often an abuser will physically assault their target until they become passive, the right to walk, roam, and be is your legal and physical right. Abusers are masters at making excuses for unthinkable acts. They will stop at nothing to blame you for their violence that they were only trying to help you, even trying to convince the target that it didn’t happen. They will classically promise the target that it will never happen again. The abuser will be his or her most charming after an attack, the honeymoon period is a soothing time for the target. This makes it very difficult to leave the abuser because the abused person usually wants to believe that this painful behavior is finally over and when the abuser is doing and saying all of the “right things” and ‘love-bombing’ their target, it is very hard to leave.
The cycle of violence in domestic abuse
- Abuse – The abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show the target “who is boss.”
- Guilt – After abusing the target, the abuser partner feels fearful not guilt over what he’s or she’s done. He’s or she is more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for his or her abusive behavior.
- Excuses – The abuser rationalizes what he or she has done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
- “Normal” behavior – The abuser does everything he or she can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. She or he may act as if nothing has happened, or may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
- Fantasy and planning – In characterological violence, the abuser begins to fantasize about abusing their target again. Or they spend a lot of time thinking about what they imagine the target has done wrong and how he or she will make you see what you did. Then the abuser makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality. In situational violence, generally the abuser has less of a plan and explodes in the moment, both kinds of violence are equally dangerous.
- Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing you.
Some relationships are not as they seem! Awareness is the first step towards a healthier you, a more empowered family and society, if you or someone you know is suffering from the abuse it’s never too late or too early to make a change. For other resources please visit:
Or for 24 Hour emergency service
The Womens Shelter Hotline
(877) 338-8255 (toll free number)
In health and Wellness,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Therapy, Marriage Counseling, and Family Counseling in Western Pennsylvania
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
2539 Monroeville BLVD Monroeville PA 15146
FREEDOM FOR THE FEMALE
by Stephanie McCrackenJuly 9, 2013 Uncategorized0 comments
The 60’s may be an era far behind us but women all over the world may want to reconsider why it is still a good idea to burn those bras! More and more research is indicating that underwires and demi cups could be doing more damage than good for the shape and health of the breast. Furthermore I would personally encourage women to consider exactly why is it considered a faux pas to allow their nipples the experience of grazing their clothes without the interference of padding or lace? The male nipple is legally and culturally approved to expose itself wherever it may wish, yet the female nipple is somehow shrouded, forevermore to be contained in secrecy. At its most bare level, to require woman to cover their breasts is a violation of basic equal rights guaranteed by the American constitution. Women are not given the same rights as men when it comes to this point. How does this legal stance effect women psychologically, are we so different from the Muslim women who don their head coverings or hijabs to prevent men from becoming aroused by their lustrous locks? What sort of repercussions do women experience when they chose to defy these cultural norms, by either going braless or topless? What is it really like to be a woman in modern day America?
Let’s begin from the more common reasons that women may be dedicated to wear a bra. Media and transmitted popular culture has some convinced to keep their breasts supported 24/7 this allegedly prevents the breasts from sagging and dropping. The fact is that breast tissue is suspended by the pectoral muscles, just as any other muscle in the body the more that the muscle is activated the stronger it becomes. Wearing a bra is known to cause the atrophy of the pectoral muscles and thereby hastens the dropping of breast tissue long before nature may have effected such changes. Old, young, high, low, grande or petite, we love and salute the breast in all of its forms.
Form however is not the only consideration when it comes to breast tissue. America has one of the highest instances of breast cancer in all industrialized nations. Researchers are turning to the bra in an effort to understand why. Some studies have concluded that wearing a bra is correlated with higher instances of breast cancer. Some are concluding that bras, particularly those with underwire, are preventing the lymphatic system from cycling toxins out of the body, leaving them trapped within the breast fat and later developing into cancers.
With all of this confusion surrounding the bra, I wonder why Victorias Secret seems to increase their sales every year? Isn’t one of the points of covering the nipple so that a woman appears chaste, yet ironically the very bras that we use to cover the nipple have come to symbolize sex with even the youngest girls seek out the lacy sheers of Victoria’s and Fredrick’s. With all of these inconsistent messages surrounding sexuality it is no wonder sexual dysfunction and body image are topics that continually crop up in therapists offices.
Why is it that our male counterparts are not forced to cover their nipples, in fact a man can go topless while jogging outdoors without fearing legal repercussions. For a woman it is indeed against the law to exercise the same way, anyone who knows the basic tenants of constitutional equal rights is likely cringing! What is it about the female breast with its mammary glands and vital function which is the cause of such a stir? We see primates and other zoo animals topless and think nothing of this, in Europe many females visit the beaches and pools without tops and in the European countries nobody seems to care very much about this would be spectacle. Just like with most anything prohibited, the breast becomes more alluring the more that it’s mystified. We owe it to ourselves and our future generation to provide clear messages surrounding these tufts of tissue, these parts of ourselves. Breasts are beautiful, they are for some sexual a source of sexual pleasure, they are a source of nutrition for our young, yet they should not and will not be source of shame. I at times hear the whispers that others speak about women who breast feed in public places, I hear them be the subject of ridicule as they perform the most natural of all mammary functions, we must cease to shame this.
The point of this essay is to allow woman a moment to consider just why we are binding and gagging ourselves with covers that very well may be leading to our early demise. Why we are taught to be “modest” from a young age, and just what is hidden beneath our lacy bras, the female breast should be celebrated for its function, a provider of life and vital nourishment, a place for the young to feel protected and safe as they suckle to maturation. If any woman should be so bold as to desire taking a jog or a walk outdoors with the sensation of cool wind fluttering against their bare upper body, then in the essence of equality and love of the human body, we should be provided the opportunity for equal rights and equal freedom. Until that day, we are given July 9, 2013, A day to go braless, enjoy the human experience ladies.
In freedom and health,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233
For Further Reading
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
The Life Inside, Psychotherapy and Beyond
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 10, 2013 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, Uncategorized0 comments
The Life Inside
Standing in the grocery store checkout, there is much more to do here besides the typical exchange of money for some organic fruits and veggies. With a certain measure of guilt, my eyes invariably peruse the tabloids which today, are making “news” of Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy weight. While I am outraged by the headlines declaring “200lbs and only 6mos” they crassly mock her maternity wear as “A fashion No, No.” Ms. Kardashian has seldom been the object of pity but when taking a moment to reflect upon a nation that is so completely obsessed with beauty, weight, and plastic surgery that is has become acceptable to ridicule a pregnant woman’s’ weight? This “news publication” makes a headline out of each pound of her growing form so that it may be scrutinized by millions of grocery isle readers as they, much like me, stand next to an abundance of Snickers and Reese’s Cups? I must ask, have we forgotten the sacredness to her growing form? There is a life inside of her you know, a life which in its quest for sustenance beckons Ms. Kardashian’s appetite for nutrition, despite what her thighs may want. Yet this obsession with physical form and aesthetic perfection is an epidemic of worldwide proportions, while reading my musings I would like you to consider one question. If our televisions and popular reading material are any indicator, it seems that our culture mandates us to manicure our exterior images until they are perfectly reflected from the mirror. My question is this, what are we avoiding while we daftly reflect upon our aesthetics which blankly stare back at us from those glassy surfaces?
Once while I was journeying through the Peruvian Andes, I observed a tiny, wrinkled, and ancient woman heaving buckets up a dangerously slopped mountainside. Earthen and bound by a foreign code of conduct she carried her load one small step at a time, graciously imparting a smile of browned and cracked teeth to anyone who may pass her direction. At once I realized why I hadn’t seen a single fitness center in the entire village. Most people throughout the world struggle to maintain health or as many Americans would be compelled to describe, “stay thin” by participating in activities which sustain their lives. The people in the 2nd and 3rd worlds think not of “staying thin” but of maintaining health by eating enough food so that they do not perish. The whole, “thin is in” paradigm has ironically had its grips on Americans for a century despite the fact that many within our nation suffer from the dangerous epidemic of obesity. All of those diet pills marketed to the western world would be a misnomer if you found yourself in Mauritania. In this nomadic tribe the cultural norm proclaims that “bigger is better.” For a Mauritanian beauty is found within grand and bulbous layers of plump flesh. Can you imagine if the grocery checkout was filled with magazine images of women in their bikini, proudly flaunting bulging tufts of cellulite and fat rolls?
Alas this is America and we exalt the skinny girl, svelte body, fat free kind of look except when it comes to our face and our lips because for facial contours plumper is better! Even beyond the multiple lip glosses and creams promising to give the user full and pouty lips the medical community has revolutionized a whole line of “fillers.” For the price of a luxury car payment one can have hyaluronic acids injected into sallow contours of the face all in an effort to fill up that fat loss that happens as a result of normal aging. What is it that we want to avoid by covering up those wrinkles, filling in the signs of age? Why would life be like if we allowed it to be what it really is?
Imagine what it would be like to live life in the Eastern part of the globe, countries where some women do not enjoy dark skin tones. While I was backpacking throughout Thailand, I noticed an array of dangerous bleaching creams and bleaching powders intended to morph flesh into the most albino shade of white that almond shaped eyes had ever seen! It’s not just the Thai culture but many Asian and African cultures that want to turn their skin from chestnut, cinnamon, and chocolate shades to pale and creamy tones. Yet, in America, many of those that possess those milky white skin colors read the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan to instead learn how to turn the color of their flesh into the “perfect golden bronze.” If powders and cream aren’t enough one could always submit to a bout of “tanorexia” and bake in a tanning booth until cancer has sprouted from the flesh. Why are humans all over the globe attempting to change the color of their flesh at the risk of their health?
Until the early 20th century foot binding was a common cultural practice in China. Girls as young as 4 would have their toes broken and wrapped in such a way that they would cease to grow as men found these tiny feet to be most beautiful. What a paradox for those here in modern America, we offer heels so high that a lady will be able to sniff the heavens while cautiously lurching onward into the day or night. If you attempt to sport a pair of these stiletto heels it very well may end up being an evening spent grasping for the nearest handrail until your blistered and raw toes hurt so badly that even though you look incredible by today’s smoky eye, stilt walking standard, you cannot possibly take another step. Remember the wartime mantra as you plod onward, “beauty is pain, pain is beauty.”
I imagine you seated somewhere reading this little essay, squinting in disbelief at the paradoxes inherent in the world of glitz, glamour, and beauty or perhaps you are not squinting at all! Facial expression has allowed humans to evolve by our ability to communicate subtle and intricate emotions. Consider all that is communicated in the raise of a brow or narrowing of the eyes, nonverbal conveyances employed by the human species for the last few hundred thousand years, but forget about that because according to the latest polls smooth foreheads are “in” and there is a full scale attack upon “the squint.” Cosmo states that facial expression is soooooo out of Vogue! Please don’t worry your pretty little faces or attempt to bat your frozen lashes! We have a quick fix for that and all other things! Doctors are able to inject your forehead, lips, and eyes with botulism. Yes, that’s right; the historically toxic and even lethal bacteria “botulism” is now bottled and sold under the name Botox. Men and women are paying enormous sums of money to have this substance injected into facial nerves, with a promise that their formerly fluid expressions will now remain immobile. Paralytic motion is the aim of treatment because motion causes wrinkles and wrinkles mean, umm…that you’re aging????? The FDA has also approved Botox as helpful for profuse sweating, while humans sweat to detoxify and cool their bodies but alas sweat must go because sweating may interfere with one’s ability to be seamlessly “pretty”.
If anyone out there still has a mobile eyebrow you may raise when you learn that in 2007 Americans spent 95 BILLION dollars on beauty, hair, and skin products! With the myriad of options to alter oneself, thinner, plumper, whiter, tanner, taller, smoother, oh how the list could go on, there are options for you! It seems however, that in all of this exterior rebuffing there is still something that many of us are neglecting. You won’t find this on the label of your favorite designer, “The most invigorating sensations are far from the cosmetic isles or fashion boutiques!” Has the color palette of your eye shadow trio ever mirrored the feeling that you get when you stop to watch the Atlantic crash into pebble and sand beaches? Do you ever make time to admire that fiery orb dip below or above the horizon, or consider the wispy tufts of clouds meandering across the sky submitting to some cosmic law that defies definition or human intervention? Take a moment to see beyond the compact and notice that the best place to reflect is a some quiet and placid place on a newly discovered pond hidden deep within the forest. Nature has some mystical secrets to teach you. Today seems like it’s a wonderful day to leave the heels in the closet and choose todays outfit solely on its ability to offer comfort. Allow your brows to form joyously contorted expressions while looking out at the world or into your heart and mind. A small message to close, whether you’re like Miss Kardashian and 8 months pregnant or not interested in ever having a baby, please remember that there is much more to the eye than the fleshy surface, for each and every one of us, THERE IS LIFE INSIDE. It is my hope that we can each create the day where we use the majority of our time to polish the soul, exfoliate the heart, and bronze the emotions. A shiny self-reflection begins when we take a moment to look inside, what and how does your mind do its thinking, what kinds of emotions color the terrain of your perception, what types of words do you use to describe your daily experience, what is the quality of your relationship to your friends, family, coworkers? Let us all find that behind those manicured reflections, the most sacred place is the one that exists deep within you, and when you encourage yourself to take that glimpse into your inner sanctum, just what does your mind say about what it sees?
In health and Wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenMay 13, 2013 family counseling, Uncategorized0 comments
Mother: a word unlike any other. It has meaning in every culture and time since the birth of human kind. By definition it elicits a range of thoughts and emotions, as each of us considers the personal and collective vision we have for the word “Mother.” The day we honor those who embody this wondrous expression is once again upon us. What does it mean to you? How do we characterize the word, the embodiment, the spirit of “Mother?”
Who Is She?
Venus von Willendorf
At the birth of civilization it was the “Great Mother” the nomadic tribes worshiped. She who could spring forth life from her womb and nourishment from her breast, and revered as a magical being would thousands of years later become the most respected woman in the Christian Bible. “Mother Mary,” a virgin, who gave birth to Christ, is just one of the many creation stories from our collective religious canon. Isis, an Egyptian goddess, worshipped as the ideal mother and wife was honored for her connection with nature and magic. She was the friend of the wealthy and poor alike. Pachamama, a fertility goddess linked to the earth and nature, promotes ingestion of a tonic brewed from “the mother vine or the sacred vine.” In fact, the earth is often referred to as the “First Mother,” giving life to all who have followed. “Mother Earth” provides the theater for each human to rise from the soil, wind and rain. In all of her selfless giving, Mother, often asks for nothing. In our endless quest for progress and growth we often forget to mumble a simple “thank you” to our sacred creator.
A Mother’s Love Remembered
Thank you for my life. From your flesh I was born, from your blood I could breathe, from your surrender I was able to grow and love. We have this day, this collective day, to remember the importance and the essence of what it is to be “Mother.” A day to recollect with gratitude all the giving, caring, and loving smiles; the encouragement, tenderness, warmth, sustenance, freshly pressed clothes, and matching socks. For the hand that stroked my hair when I was sick, and took my temperature with expert precision, reassuring me that it would be okay.
Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and St. Mary Magdalene by Neroccio di Bartolomeo
Thank you Mom for the freshly cooked meals, the gooey cookies, the cradled feeling of being gently rocked until the tears magically disappeared. For the hand that nestled yours, until my safe arrival to the other side of the street, Mom, allow me to offer a kiss to that hand. To the sweet voice who read the fairytales at bedtime, the passion with which the words fell from your lips – hearing those words was the greatest gift I have ever received. Your words both read and spoken have taken me so far. To the singer of lullabies and pop songs, turned all of the way up on those warm summer days when we would drive with the windows down. You should know that I love the sound of your voice, Mother. The voice that I hear most prominently after all these years is yours. I still hear you, Mom. I know that sound, I delight in it, and I thank you for your encouragement and your courage. As a woman I have felt that glory, the knowing and the gratitude, and you were right.
This Mother’s Day, allow us to recall the sacrifice which lead to the brilliance surrounding her title, she asked for nothing but the charm of your smiles and hugs. The homemade greeting cards were always her favorite, especially when they came with a macaroni necklace that crowned her throat more dazzling to her than any string of pearls and rubies. I think she only wanted to know that we appreciated what she did, to say,” Thank you, Mom.”
Though a single day could never be enough to truly illuminate the magnificence that all of your love and time deserves, it is but what should be many days to honor and recall with great fondness and respect the queens the earthen goddess has created. For all the biological Moms, Step-Moms, Foster Moms, the Mommas of fur babies, the Grandmas, the Mother Earth, a world of Moms who sustain the life from moment to moment, today we salute you and we honor you, Divine and Mortal Mother, Thank you.
Love, and maternal happiness,
Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghLearn More
Eros, Cupid, and Heart Shaped Boxes of Chocolate
by Stephanie McCrackenMay 6, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, mindfulness, Uncategorized0 comments
Eros, Cupid, and Heart Shaped Boxes of Chocolate
“The Task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
Ah, February. That time of the year when the days slowly begin to increase, while the climate gives us a pining glimpse of why we love the summer months. Yet, in spite of the frostiness outside our bodies, there is warmth in our hearts. They pitter-patter or maybe they simply ooze with affection and reflection, indicating that now is a fine time for us to consider love. Eros in Greek and roman history is the god of passionate love, yet Carl Jung who later uses the work meant something very different by it.
Since the earliest times we have always been fascinated with the topic of romantic love – think Cupid, spritely son of Venus in Roman mythology. His message was quite simple; love is something that simply happens to us. It happens when we meet the perfect person who is our “soul mate.” We are always looking for our other half, the half that the Gods took from us. When we fall in love at first sight, then we have found someone that “fills” our anima or animus archetype particularly well. This match, cut from the same archetypal cloth, will make all of our short comings suddenly dissipate with the fulfillment of this perfection…uh-oh! With such a wishful perception of what it means to fall in love and linger in love, it is no wonder that Cupid’s arrows often result in more pain and disappointment than pleasure.
The desire to be a part of a romantic relationship is a very healthy one. Psychologists, philosophers, media outlets and the public chatter on endlessly about love. Yet sometimes this healthy urge can bring us to the pits of repetitive despair. There are those who seem to be in a new romantic relationship every month. Each liaison is asserted to finally be “the one.” However, as soon as true intimacy begins to take form emotional fears emerge and the person is off to find the next “one.” How about the friend who continually falls for “the one” that she ends up loathing? She embraces an idea of love that soon resembles a battlefield where tears replace laughter and frowns are misaligned, forced smiles. With the advent of social media there are those who increasingly hide behind keyboards instead of taking the risk to experience meaningful human interaction. Perhaps they are so afraid of the risks of love that they choose to stay far away from its possibilities and responsibilities?
Are there those who are simply addicted to love? The Top 40 catalog of popular music for the past 100 years would have us believe so. Recently neuroscientists have identified that there does seem to be a similar pathway which is involved in the formation and sustainment of all addictive behaviors, including an unhealthy need to always be “falling in love.” We know it is there, those who are suffering know that it is unhealthy, yet how do we move beyond the despair of repeatedly engaging in patterns that debase our sense of personal strength and hope?
So, what then is this thing called love? Love is a mutual interest in each other and in other things yet love is also maintenance of individuality and solo pursuits. Love is compassion and care for the self and for the other. Love is respect of the other and of others-in-the-world. Love is both, “I want to append to this person’s happiness and I will continue to be my own happiness.” Love is taking the time to listen and hear, being present with the other. Finally, love is speaking with positive clarity and authenticity to the values wants and needs of me and the other.
Remember when someone told you that love begins where and when you love yourself? Mature love will not sustain itself by an unhappy person trying to bring happiness to another—only the unity of the two nurturing mutual wholeness and happiness can ignite the chemical reaction of true and meaningful love. So if you are plodding along anxiously waiting for “the one” to appear, “the one” who is going to change the gloomy trajectory of your life, you may be waiting a while.
Seizing this moment to respect yourself, to love yourself in an authentic and mature fashion, will eventually ripple out into the ether and present an opportunity for you to experience the love of another in a new and significant way. Perhaps you have some thoughts about love that you would like to share?
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.