by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 26, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, elephant journal, marriage counseling, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Written by us and as featured in Elephant Journal
elephantjournal.com/2014/09/ how-to-work-through-guilt-a- psychotherapists-musings- stephanie-mccracken/
Guilt. Certainly we all know that haunting sensation.
Even the most conscientious and heroic among us will experience guilt from time to time.
Those living a socially mindful life often can’t escape the sensation of guilt. Concern enters when we perceive ourselves as having erred in a grandiose manner—sometimes this results in reactions coursing from the deepest parts of our psyche.
Human thought and emotion become duplicitous as we note that the mind, always churning ephemerally, mechanically is able to dole out doses of guilt for thoughts which are repressed and lying dormant, deep in the layers of the unconscious.
When guilt and regret lay unconscious it often has deleterious effects on our psyches. We self-defeat, isolate, lose sleep and sometimes exhibit melancholic or anxious tendencies. Yet, within the symptoms often lie the opportunity for the cure.
Guilt is a Mechanism of the good guys and girls.
There is evidence suggesting that people who feel the most guilt are the most highly morally conscious.
Consider a priest who, despite living beyond reproach, perpetually contemplates whether he is performing enough service for human kind. “Is God pleased by my actions?” He may ruminate with guilt because he only offered five hours of his time to children’s literacy last week.
In this sense, guilt is a cursory sensation meant to guide our moral compass toward a better outcome for the next time life offers us a choice. For example, you have left your dog for eight hours without a walk and fresh water while you are out with friends for the afternoon. Or you haven’t called your grandmother in a couple of weeks to say hello.
These examples would likely elicit some measure of guilt which would guide our human impulses to change our behavior and do better in the future to bypass guilt’s irritating sensations.
Guilt Symbolizes Growing Wisdom.
Barring the possibility that we were born without any sort of moral compass—typically clinicians label this one of the primary makings of a sociopath—let’s assume that we are like most, delicately hearty mortal creatures who will inevitably make guilt inducing errors, great and minute, within this life.
Certain segments of life’s timeline are founded upon the knowledge that errors are to be made so that we can, in the words of Maya Angelou “know better and do better.”
Consider the teen years spent squealing and careening into adulthood with our lapses of budding judgment in hand. Teens are often experimental with cliques, manner of dress, maybe are even rebellious with rules, saying and behaving in ways with parents that later churn up a bit of guilt. Yet the forbidden memories become a product of our mounting wisdom guiding us toward a safe and stable path.
Self-compassion releases guilt.
Sometimes we set out, cloaked in the armor of our best intentions, cradled with the assurance that we are acting toward the best good for others and ourselves, yet later we discover that we have made a terrible mistake.
Provided we make it forward to a new day, we evolve with altered perceptions as those well intentioned choices become shrouded in a fog of regret. How do we deal with these scenarios? How do we make peace with and move beyond the pain of guilt?
These are worthwhile questions as we unravel the layers to subjectivity.
Picture this: Tina enters therapy as a recently married woman who is struggling with depression. It becomes evident that her husband is increasingly abusive, but she retreats into self-blame about the growing violence.
Through many sessions, Tina shares that she was previously married to John for five years. She says one day they were driving to a picnic at the east end of town and Tina was a bit upset because John had picked Tina up an hour late. Tina and John quibble while making their way to the barbeque. John turns to Tina who is staring out the window and says, “I am sorry, I really hope…”
He never finishes his sentence. A car comes swerving into their lane hitting them head on. He dies immediately.
Tina survives on life support but quickly remembers the fateful day as she reemerges. In addition to her grief she is frozen by the inexplicable guilt that if she had not been brooding he would still be alive.
Through growing insight into her unresolved feelings as well as self-compassion, Tina begins to nurture choices which lead her away from depression and towards greater peace.
The key to living a good life is to not become so consumed with our cloak of shame that we miss out on the opportunity to continue our evolution.
We must learn from our mistakes yet not become crippled in the negative self-outlook which comes from realizing that we have erred in judgment. Regrets can be a fluctuating foe. Courage and a wealth of internal resources to glimpse within are required to traverse the innards of thought by understanding and accepting our limited human capacity for perfection.
It is within the conscious processing of regret that we encounter the opportunity to garner wisdom. We are here to learn from life’s inevitable lessons.
We can never be expected to know it all from the outset.
In health and wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy/and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 15, 2014 counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy0 comments
/ˈɪntəməsi/ Show Spelled [in-tuh-muh-see] noun, plural in·ti·ma·cies.
1. The state of being intimate.
2. A close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving relationship with another person or group.
3. A close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject.
4. An act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like: to allow the intimacy of using first names.
5. An amorously familiar act.
Those in staunchly well mind and body are often motivated for enjoyment, the want to enjoy good food, good love, and good sex. Most ideally we are able to enjoy closeness with our family and friends, mutual pleasures with ones that we love. Yet it very well may be possible that for all of our satisfied physical urges we may still be missing the ship on nurturing intimacy. You see, while intimacy may be fostered within the context of lovemaking it is most readily sustained within the mundane moments of other parts of the relationship. Intimacy is where all of this “relationship stuff” really melds into a complex interplay, intimacy is the nectar which offers fluidity to our love. The gazing into each other’s eyes, it’s the subtle touch of the arm while walking down the street, it’s the intermingled limbs awaking at dawn, the secrets that you know of each other.
What if I told you that the secret to sustaining intimacy is in how well your relationship tolerates distance? Intimacy may be well known by its opposite which for the intention of this cursory summary, is distance. We and our lover are always in the eternal dance of closeness and distance. We meet at home and spend our lives in different jobs or completing divergent tasks, we may share friends but we have our own as well, we converge and diverge. How close we become as years unfurl around our partner and our self. Yet too, how much can we allow and encourage some space between us before feeling that there is a chasm. Often in psychology we see a range of personality disorders which are challenged by forging emotional closeness and distance in interpersonal relationships. When we allow our partner the safe space to separate autonomously and then reemerge into the sanctity of our love we will often be thanked by abundant closeness.
Imagine this, you go to the grocery store and run into a college friend in the isles, you chat for a while about the pledges of your sorority and are feeling fabulous as you go home to your husband to enjoy a quiet evening together. Your husband is seated brooding when you enter the house, accusations begin to fly about why you are home a half an hour late. “What were you doing? How could you be so thoughtless to not text or call that you would not be on time? Were you with someone else?” Perhaps in years one through three you used to defend and explain but that leads to no solution, over time you shut down and swallow tears, sometimes wondering if you should be doing all of the things that you are accused of, it sure would beat the loneliness of your quiet sulking. Hours later, your husband, feeling guilty for his explosion, eager to close the chasm between you, reaches to touch you and begin making love when you crawl into bed. Now you are brooding and squirm away from his touch, he accuses yet again, “What is wrong with you? Why are you so cold to me?” In his mind he is now certain that you are cheating and you are certain that he is a Neanderthal. The couple exemplified here is suffering greatly the lack of trust and diminished communication among possible other hypothesis. I wonder how different this interaction would look if distance was encouraged between the two? It’s vital to remember that the moment that we step out of the habit of encouraging our partners autonomy and space we become something different and distance will inevitably begin to replace our longed for closeness.
Its most important to keep in mind that a relationship is made up of multiple components and the way that you and your partner are relating is an ever malleable matrix, influenced and influencing a multiplicity of domains from the physical, emotional, psychological, social, spiritual to name a few. With this in mind, hold fast to hope. The maintenance of a marriage or relationship occurs by a specific skillset which for some of us is natural while for others it may take a bit of work, like all aspects of our relational style we can always learn how to do better. If you are a part of a romantic relationship or if you are thinking back to other relationships, you may want to ask yourself, how well do you and your partner relish distance and what does that do to the intimacy between the two of you? A little intimate secret for you is that we can only allow to come close that which is existent within from its own context, from its very unique and nurturing distance.
In love and light,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy 1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, marriage counseling, psychology, psychotherapy, sexuality0 comments
“Birds and The Bees Redux; Sex Talk, A Psychotherapists Musings”
Seduction, Eroticism, Arousal, Desire, Consent, Sex, Orgasm, Connection. How do you perceive those words? Are they lurid? Dirty? Enchanting? How intimately do you introspect upon your very own sensual conduct or is this a thought so frighteningly formidable that consideration is cast towards the shadows, remaining beneath a dark veil? Perhaps you dear reader, are thinking, why all of the sex talk, this psychotherapist could have picked a more comfortable topic, any other formation of words strung to sentences in the direction of a cogent thought. Hone in on your emotional or intellection experience in reading these words right now.
Attunement and comfort with sensual talk and thought may be closely related to where and how we received our first sexual educations. If you are like most people your sexual understanding may have been born from some dim intimation, these early messages tend to be more forbidding then uplifting towards a budding understanding of sex. In the school classroom we are doled out some cautionary tales about the dangers of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. “Wear a condom” “No means No.” While all of this in its own perspective is valid and true maybe we are missing a lesson in there. Still yet in the sermon of the major religious teachings we are chastely instructed to not engage in damning premarital sex and only for procreations purposes. Outside of suggesting chastity and the prevention of disease did anyone ever talk about the grandeur of “it?” The cosmic, interpersonal, relational meaning of the merging of body parts leading to physical connection? While billboards allude to sensually explicit material, within American homes it’s not just the kids who are often missing opportunities to have frank discourse about sex but husbands and wives too shy away from conversations about their own sexual relationship simply because the topic is shrouded in taboo. Without examining all of the manners that sex can be dysfunctional, perhaps the world hears more than enough of that sort of message, for today, shall we enjoy a more pleasurable encounter wondering about the aspirational hope and joy of our sexual selves!
Over and above economies which have been created to bolster our sexual essence such as lingerie and cologne and cultivating our bodies, we can best serve our higher selves by exploring the deeper fleshy meaning of the very act of sex. Standing bare and uncloaked it is indeed the meaning which appears, the essence beyond evolutionary longings to procreate, we are thirsted with the vital human need for connection, for intimate thirst. We manifest our need for connection with increasingly expanded abilities to connect actually, virtually, reshaping the present and future. It’s socially common to even connect on the web to other people’s sexual escapades via red tube and interactive porn. Yet still, there is often something lost within such mediums, the human essence evades digital transmission or perhaps it is a divergent longing to entertain our sensual longings through such means. Yet I digress, and this is not about the many, many, ways that sexual longing can be pathological but the ways in which it is an essential and elevated expression of tangible expressions, the converging communion. Sex is indeed one of the most concrete interplays which brings emotional love to life to meet physical body and spirit, metaphorically and literally indeed. In the quest of a sex positive message may we consider the unique question of how we bring our love to life, how do we foster a sense of connection physically and emotionally, how do we esteem our sexual selves? Have we fallen victim to shaming by a sexually uncomfortable society which wishes to expand its repertoire of sexual innuendo without upholding blissful and loving sexual interaction?
Exactly how much elevation are we able to achieve through our sex as we revere it in the eternal crescendo of our ancient and primordial lusting and life giving urges. We sustain the a connection and deep communion with our past, present, and future selves while merging with the same in our lover, like the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, just a thing called sex.
In loving intention,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Suite 100
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
enjoy other articles from this writer on the sexual topics such as http://revivingmindstherapy.com/long-term-sex-for-long-term-love/