by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 17, 2019 addiction recovery, counseling wexford, digital detox0 comments
‘5 Awesome and Up-worthy Benefits of A Digital Detox’
Mental clutter, anxiety, ‘fubbing’ and stress related disease are just a few of the human spoils which we can estimate are at least in some part perpetuated by our over-reliance on cell phones and digital solutions. The technology era is here and the evidence is within our aching and gnarled fingers, computer blurred-out hyper-focused eyes, our text neck, and cluttered minds. In fact, cell phones have become a newly added to the expanse of potential behavioral addictions. The more we tune into our personal devices the more we tune out all that is around us. Digital detox is the new mental colonic but with perhaps even greater results and significance. When was the last time that you unplugged? What do you imagine would happen if you tried. We have heard of some texters and cell phone obsessed say that they even get full blown anxiety attacks if they leave their phone at home accidentally. We encourage you to take the digital detox challenge and see for how long you can not use your phone. Even for a few hours a day can make a difference. Here are some of the benefits you will notice fairly quickly.
- Thoughts and feelings become much more calm. Much like a turbulent bay on a stormy afternoon, our thoughts get churned up when we are constantly bouncing from one email, to our search engine, and then to social media. When we step away for a few days, our consciousness and the direction of our thoughts have a chance to become still and reflective.
- Enjoy better concentration with internal stillness. Sometimes we multitask to our own detriment, in an attentionally scattered frenzy we try to do too many things at once and fall short everywhere. Yet, when we are unplugged, we can tune our attention in any direction we chose. There are limitations to our ability to think and pay attention and we deplete those resources shuffling between 10 screens. Yet when we focus on things more deeply we become more aware and productive.
- We see what is around us, for real!! Of course when we are scrolling and trolling we are not very good company and we are missing a lot of the scenery. The people we care about may even become hurt or feel rejected by our obsession with our phone. In fact, cell phone overuse wrecks relationships and even brings many couples into counseling. Sometimes we unconsciously use our devices to avoid who and what is happening around us. When we put down our phone and step away from the screen we become much more aware of the people around us, the raw beauty of the skyline, the gray tinged clouds that roll in before the storm, we are ‘in the now’ and living it all.
- Sleeping more deeply. There is much compelling research from the National Institute of Health that logs the correlation between screen time and disrupted sleep wake cycle. The statistics are so compelling that we can safely suggest that we leave behind our personal devices for at least one hour before hitting the sack. The benefits really peak after several days disconnected, this is when our internal clocks have a chance to reset, the benefits multiply as there are few things which are better for our wellness than a solid nights slumber .
- Higher energy and creativity. When we are sleeping well and tuning into the environment, the next natural result is greater energy and even creativity. Want to finish an important project or just feel more vital? Try a digital detox for a few days and see what happens.
How ready are you to try something new today? If you would like further reading on how to make emotional, or physical changes, read our article ‘How to Slay Anything in 2019.’
With energy and clarity,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Monroeville, and Wexford.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghOctober 30, 2018 compassion, pittsburgh, positive psychology, resilience to trauma0 comments
Trauma; Honor For Your Healing Journey
The four things your therapist wants you to know about your healing journey. When you’re healing from a grief, trauma, or resultant PTSD, you must be thinking about ‘how will I ever move on from this horrible, unexpected, agonizing reaction to the traumatic situation that I have experienced?’ Remember, PTSD is a reaction to witnessing or experiencing a sudden and unexpected event which caused one to feel powerless by delivering, threatening, or witnessing harm. How can I rise above these feelings and thoughts and create meaningful and complete healing? Maybe you want to go backwards in time and undo all of the harm that you have experienced. A common and reasonable response to all of these above disorders, particularly PTSD, is to try to avoid all triggers associated with the situation which evoked the trauma, hypervigilance, intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks and an increased risk for anxiety and depression. This disorder presents a mountain to ascend, and whether you have spend years in therapy or are only beginning to acknowledge the depth of the effects this has had on you, these are some points to keep in mind. These are the 4 things that your therapist wants you to know about healing that are not immediately evident.
Healed but not Forgotten
Some people have the unrealistic expectation that when they reach the end of their healing journey they shouldn’t have any emotional reaction to their memories of the traumatic event which led to grief and loss. That is not how healing works. It is quite likely that you will always have some sort of reaction to the memories and thoughts associated with your grief or trauma. In fact, according to a 2011 study published in NIH by Sherin and Nemeroff, and according to all of science and psychology support the fact that there is potential for long term neuroanatomical and neurochemical changes to the central nervous system resulting from trauma. These changes are especially evident in the way we respond to triggers or trauma associated stimuli. What we should be striving for in the healing from trauma is a ‘new normal.’ Healing means that you are able to function in professional or personal settings and that you are practicing resilience and positive coping when waves of thought and emotion do come.
Healing means Acknowledging Feelings
One of the ways that therapy works is by creating an intentional space for healing warriors to be honest with themselves, to create an understanding of their emotions. After an awareness has been formed adaptive responses to feelings and thoughts can be generated. We create psychopathology by being critical and attempting to repress our internal honest responses. For some people like first responders, police, and paramedics, there may be an extra layer of difficulty and stigma attached to acknowledging ones feelings and seeking mental health support to manage trauma. This can cause further damaging denial of the effects of traumatic experiences, One of the core tenets of psychological theory present in every form of therapy is that the more we repress, judge or avoid our feelings, the more we cause problems. Repression elicits tangled feeling constellations, blocked energies, incomplete and unintegrated shadows. Mindfulness based stress reduction, EMDR, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Exposure Therapy, have shown efficacy in treating PTSD. Our feelings can turn into psychopathology that are bigger and sometimes socially unacceptable forms of the original emotional response.
Healing Happens in Relationships. Find your Healing Tribe
It is especially true for trauma that happens in relationships, that this same trauma is healed in relationships. When trauma survivors open up to those people who they consider to be safe, there is an incredible potential for healing to happen. Healing relationships are those that resonate compassion, gentle acceptance, warmth, and non-judgement. Think about it, we become close to those who we can be really honest with, those who ask about our feelings and can share in a compassionate interchange, (Mgrath, 2001). Sharing trauma should be exercised with caution. However well-intentioned our healing tribe may be, its members may inadvertently respond in less constructive ways that judge, shame, or put down the survivor for having the pain or scars of trauma. Another risk is not being able to hear or understand what is being shared. What is really needed is non-judgmental acceptance, understanding, and compassionate warmth.
Positive Psychology, Pop Culture and Non-Reality
You may have survived a trauma
but that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to meme reality. Scroll through a social media forum and you will see many posts and memes which declare that everyone should be happy all the time. That isn’t honest or possible. The healthiest among us are those who are honest with themselves about what they experience and then respond to their vulnerable reality in a constructive way. According to a 2016 study by Elizabeth Kneeland,pop cultures layman positive psychology is damaging. When pop culture got its hands on positive psychology its representatives distorted the message, and now laymen perpetuate unrealistic and uninformed messages which imply that we can think our way into a good mood. It suggests that if we blink our eyes we can make trauma and psychological distress evaporate. Your therapist knows differently. Its ok to be outraged, disgusted, sad, hurt, angry, confused, and it is important to acknowledge where you are in your healing journey today.
No matter where you are today, the best we can do is to risk opening to ourselves, to create an honest internal dialogue that we are eventually able to share with others. We should unabashedly honor our own processes, giving relentless permission to feel, think and be; in reverence of joy, in honor of glorious fury, to the fullest expression of gaiety, to the utterance of insuperable hurt, to fully hone in on repugnant disgust. Keep developing your divine awareness, and eventually you will have created the unique meaning which understands with a lens of compassion, acceptance, and self love all that has happened to you.
With love and hope for resilience,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
- Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
- Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
4108 Monroeville BLVD, Monroeville PA 15146
Accepting new clients, our therapists accept UPMC, Highmark BCBS, United, Cigna, Magellan, Aetna, HSA, Self Paying and Sliding Scale.
Thank you to our Editor, Dr. Stellan Wijkstrom for his ever helpful alterations and contributions.
For More Reading
Kneeland, Elizabeth et al, Positive thinking Newsweek, 2016
McGrath, Ellen. Psychology Today, published November 1, 2001
Sherin, Jonathan E, Charles B. Nemeroff
Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011 Sep; 13(3): 263–278.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 3, 2018 agoraphobia, anxiety, anxiety therapy pittsburgh, counseling for anxiety, counseling pittsburgh, help for anxiety, panic attack, therapist, therapists, therapy, Therapy and Counseling For Anxiety0 comments
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that can sometimes co-occur with panic disorder. Its prevalence rate in the population is low, occurring in only about 1.1% of the population. Agoraphobia is hallmarked by a fear of leaving the house or other safe place. This often cooccurs with panic attack or panic disorder because a person has experienced a panic attack and then fears that they may have one again or that they will experience some other feared situation such as traveling on a bridge, going through a tunnel, or being stuck in a crowd of people. In some situations, the person may be able to encounter the feared situation, but they do so with such dread that the activity and many other parts of life lose their joy and peacefulness, which can even lead to depression and other psychiatric disorders. In some instances agoraphobia can be diagnosed without a history of panic disorder.
The criteria for Agoraphobia are as follows:
- A fear or anxiety about being in places or situations where escape may be challenging. This fear is often surrounding being unable to quickly escape if the sufferer has a panic attack and could become trapped or unable to leave.
- The fear of being unable to leave leads to an avoidance of said situations which can result in restriction of travel or in some instances the situations are endured but only with a certain safe person or friend.
- This specific phobic avoidance is not accounted for by another disorder such as social anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder.
A person who has experienced a panic disorder may state “ Before I sought treatment and recovered from agoraphobia, I rarely left my apartment for 2 years. It all started when I was walking down a crowded street in downtown Pittsburgh and suddenly I had hot flashes, I was sweating and couldn’t breathe, the pain in my chest became so bad that I ran for help and reached for the lady next to me and told her to ‘Help, call 911!’ When I was diagnosed as having a panic attack the hospital I couldn’t believe it, everything changed for me then. I wanted to avoid having another episode and the only place I felt better was at home. I avoided everyone and even did my grocery shopping online. It became so bad that I started to feel anxious when I thought about leaving home for anything.”
A person with agoraphobia suffers greatly, their ability to function in life is limited including socially, emotionally, and psychologically. Treating panic disorders can be extremely difficult because the person may not want to leave their home even to seek help, fortunately treatment using distance or online counseling is now an option. The best treatment for Agoraphobia is psychotherapy, a counseling or therapy approach which uses exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Medication or Pharmacological therapy including anxiolytic medications and SSRI’s are often used effectively to treat Agoraphobia too, medication is often used in conjunction with counseling or psychotherapy.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 16, 2018 anxiety, anxiety therapy pittsburgh, cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, counseling for anxiety, counseling pittsburgh, generalized anxiety disorder therapy pittsburgh, Help for obsessive compulsive disorder, licensed therapist monroeville, licensed therapist pittsburgh, obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, searching for a therapist in monroeville, searching for a therapist pittsburgh, therapist in murrysville, therapists, therapy, Therapy and Counseling For Anxiety, therapy for anxiety, therapy pittsburgh0 comments
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder which afflicts .5-2.5% of the population. The disorder greatly effects the quality of life for the sufferer and becomes a consuming pattern of anxieties and rituals which are centered around both obsessional worries and compulsive behaviors. Most of the individuals who have this disorder at one time or another acknowledge or have insight that their worry is excessive or disproportionate to the actual fear or anxiety. An example of someone who may be experiencing Obsessive Compulsive disorder is that “It started when I was in my mid 20’s, I was always worried that I would get something wrong, I made lists so I could try to manage my daily living tasks. Soon lists became my life, I would write a list of everything that I needed to do while I was in the shower, then I would check the list 3 times after writing it, to be sure that I did get everything right. Then I would reread my list again 2 times before entering the shower and read it out loud, If I didn’t perform this task I was simply unable to take my shower for the day because I would lapse into such overwhelming anxiety.”
Some examples of symptoms and behaviors association with this disorder are as follows
according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual;
That the individual has either obsessions or compulsions and which the definition of these are;
- Thoughts which are recurring and persistent including images or impulses, these impulses are distressing and cause impairment including anxiety.
- These impulses, thoughts and images are not related to a threat or worry about a real life problem.
- There is an attempt to repress and ignore the distressing images, impulses and thoughts.
- The person who is suffering from this disorder is in recognition that these fears are in fact a product of his or her own thought process.
Compulsions are defined as
- Repetitive behaviors (e.g., checking, cleaning, cleaning,) and also cognitive acts such as (ie, ritualized prayer, tracing in the mind, taking count of objects or steps) the person feels compelled to enact the behavior in response to the obsession in a system of self created rules.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a treatable anxiety disorder, the best form of therapy often involves both pharmacology including SSRI’s delivered in conjunction with long-term psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven effective in managing the symptoms associated with this diagnosis as well as Behavioral Therapy such as Exposure therapy are all effective treatment or counseling models to progress beyond this disorder and take back control over life.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 28, 2017 co-parenting, counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, divorce, educational, marriage counseling, meditation, mental health, parenting, psychology, psychotherapy, therapist, therapists, therapy, Uncategorized, wellness0 comments
Our licensed professional counselors are here for the community offering evidence-based therapy, marriage counseling, family counseling, child therapy, art therapy, premarital counseling, all by top rated clinicians. Our team of therapists has over 150 years of experience between us, we offer therapy to heal from Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and our Couples Therapists can treat a full range of relationship issues from conflict communication, to intimacy enhancement, and parenting concerns. In all of our centers, we also provide a menu of comprehensive wellness services. We offer wellness support including health treatment options from our certified nutritionist, kinesiologist, clinical herbalist who specialize in offering the people of The Greater Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania communities providing wellness solutions for mind, body, and spirit. Be well with us!
Contact us at our Pittsburgh location 830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa, 15233 Our Pittsburgh center is located in the northshore of the downtown Pittsburgh. Therapy near Northside, Southside, Brighton heights, Lawrenceville, Shadyside, Bloomfield, Strip District, and Mt. Washington. Our hours are from 7-am-8 pm Monday through Sunday. We accept UPMC, Highmark, Blue Cross Blue Shield, United, Magellan, Aetna, and Comp Psych as well as Out of Network, Self Pay, and Sliding Scale options.
For a therapist near you – Call us at 412-322-2129Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 22, 2017 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy0 comments
Repair or Run; Relationship Checklist
Whether married, dating, in a long or short term relationship, despite our most valiant efforts, sometimes our love becomes disharmonious, with that being said, each person we date or meet doesn’t have the personal and relationship skills to create a beautiful love song that will echo into eternity. Perhaps you are like most people who can relate to having been conflicted about whether or not to remain in a relationship. Friends, family, and romantic partners alike can bring so much joy and enrichment into our lives and hope, coupled with happy peaceful times allow us to remain steadfast and true when we run upon difficult moments. However, sometimes despite our protests and discussions we may find that the relationship has taken a turn leaving us feeling down and discouraged? Below are questions to ask ourselves to prompt considerations which will help us to determine whether or not a relationship is worth the continued investment.
Does this person want what is best for me?
Those whom we allow in our lives should have our best interest at heart. The decisions we make have a direct impact on our lives. Therefore, the closest people to us, should encourage us to make good decisions. Our relationships should drive us to be mindful of the decisions we make and any guidance offered should be free of ulterior motive. A solid foundation, in a nurturing environment, allows for growth.
Have I abandoned my own values to have this person in my life?
Values can be defined as what is important in ones life. If we abandon what is important in our lives, we abandon the very fiber that makes us who we are. Sometimes we start very early to look past certain red flags like smoking, or drinking, or a temper in order to be patient and compassionate but it is important to understand and have boundaries as well as “deal breakers.” Just as well as other factors such as valuing sexual connection, health, and time as high priorities and coupling with others who value the same.
Do I trust them?
The ability to trust someone involves several fundamental components: reliability, honesty, integrity, and security. Those in whom we invest should possess such characteristics. Without these, and without trust, a foundation cannot be built and therefore, a relationship cannot be sustained. One should never invest in a faulty foundation. On the other hand, in order to trust another we first must trust ourselves.
Am I significant to this person?
The heart of significant human relationships can be found in the ability to influence each other. When we influence one another, we are shown that our existence has meaning and what we think and believe is important. The relationships in which we invest should make us feel that we are worthy of attention. You deserve to feel like a priority!
Is this relationship is one sided?
In order to feel happy in a relationship, one must feel like his or her needs are being met. Often, when a relationship is one sided, we are left feeling dissatisfied because one or more of our needs have been ignored. Investment in a relationship involves mutual communication, vulnerability, and commitment. It is a vital necessity to mutually value and appreciate in a loving relationship.
In love and relational wellness,
Corynn Koos Ma, LPC, NCC
Therapist and Relationship Counselor at The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 14, 2016 counseling, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy, wellness0 comments
Mindfulness in Motion, Moving Beyond Anxiety
“Now days everyone replaces their emotions with Fear” Paulo Coelho
How much of our joy, our comfort, our desire do we replace with the sensation of fear and anxiety? We gain the promotion but then immediately start to wonder how will we maintain it; will we have the time required to devote to our new station? We buy the house but before we even close on it we start to panic about lawn care, taxes, the neighbors seemed a bit odd. After 3 years of the single life we meet the perfect partner but obsess nervously about whether they have called or texted back, do they like us, are we saying the right things? If any of this sounds familiar then please read on.
Often our tendency toward fearful or anxious thinking is so ingrained that we often don’t even realize that what we are experiencing is anxiety in action, perhaps we notice only that we feel bad, sad, hopeless, always keyed up and hyper aware. or maybe riddled with physical sickness. Often when we are adrift in the gravity of this emotional process we may simply think that we are mulling about the possibilities or that we are preventing these bad things from happening by considering them beforehand. The concern is that when we think so deeply about all of the possible negative crisis’s and downfalls that could happen in the future we are zapping ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy the peace and pleasantness of our joys now. We become so fixated on how we will acclimate to the managerial position that the joy and triumph of our promotions victory loses the wind from its sails before the ship leaves the port. This is one of the reasons that anxiety and depression are often co-mingled, anxiety is a feeling state which effects our perception, when we ruminate over the unrealized possibilities around each and every corner depression is often a natural out cursor.
If this is a somewhat familiar song and dance to you, then you may want to try some of these mindful tips to help reduce stress or anxiety.
- Become reflective of your mind’s process, that means mindfully noticing that you’re in an anxious thought cycle as it is happening. Mindfulness is a fantastic tactic in forming awareness of your psychological and emotional process which is the best first step toward change.
- When in an anxious state practice self-soothing, Imagine for a minute all of the situations that you have worried about that have never in fact happened, this is the equivalent of the self-soothing mantra, “everything will be ok.”
- Be patient with yourself. We sometimes get so crafty with our worrying that we then beginning worrying about the fact that we are worrying. No need to add an extra layer of anger, guilt or shame because you are noticing that you are worrying or fearful, remember that these thoughts shall pass as all thoughts and feeling states do. In fact, in a recent study published in psych central, the most helpful statement that one can make to a person experiencing anxiety or panic is that “this will pass, just as all feelings pass.”
- Psychotherapy, there are many forms of therapy which can help, commonly popular Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an excellent intervention to make progress in changing maladaptive thought patterns.
May the best of luck and preparation guide you on your journey!
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and Monroeville
Contributed by Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 13, 2016 counseling, educational, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy, resolutions, wisdom0 comments
Resolving to Simplicity, Less is More.
Oh it is indeed that time again, the new year with its glittering hopes, perhaps like many others, you are assessing some goals, or maybe just noticing in quiet desperation that there are some things which you feel hopeless and exhausting from last year. According to statistics over half of those who have stated a resolution have already had one or more slip ups in achieving their goals. We understand, no need to wait until next year to start again, perhaps your resolution itself could use some polishing to make it more achievable. We know the common categorical types of resolutions, generally those things which move us toward the best version of self, or to be a better spouse, perhaps your goals are professional in nature, there are indeed many ways to evolve. As a helpful tip it is known that we do best with goals which are tangible and concrete therefor more attainable. For example, instead of I want to be healthier we would do best to spend some time listing and contemplating what our ideal version of health looks like so that we can better achieve that. We also do best with goals that are focused on adding a behavior or if we are taking something out of our repertoire we should be sure to replace it with something else, for instance if we resolve to drink less soda, what are we going to drink instead? So many worthwhile goals I have heard uttered by those around town, “take the stairs more often, spend more time with loved ones, take more time for relaxation.” Kudos to us in the north east for even while plummeted with heaps of snow, we still embrace our efforts toward growth or change. It is never an easy task to do a self-assessment and then endeavor to make internal and external maneuvers which are in line with our goals. Yet any effort large or small becomes a reward in and of itself, for this we should be proud, always remembering that change is not an event but a process. Maybe you are still coming up with your resolution, and that is ok too, there are lots of people still calling out ‘happy new year!’ For 2016 maybe like us, you want something a bit different, an intangible, an inarticulate, for us, our resolution may be the anti-resolution, for 2016 what we resolve to make as our own is this one simple, elegant thing, ‘we want less’ let us explore what we mean by this.
For 2016 let us clear out the clutter, the tattered and torn blouses shoved deep into the recesses of our closet, bring the dust bunnies to the light. Not just less clutter but less time acquiring more stuff, in 2016 let us aim to take up less space, find a smaller house and fill it with only the most important and essential of items which mean something vital to us. Let us embrace less fad dieting and nutritional trends which most of all whittle away at our self-esteem when in fact there is much to be loved about the curvature of our waist line. In this new year perhaps we can best serve our selves and goals by speaking less, saying fewer things and embracing those pauses which sustain the power of our chosen words and when we say less of them we instill our speech with meaningful gravity. It may be best to devote less attention to pursuing goals and progress, even this goal and instead we can sit in quiet contemplation while staring out at the endless lessons of the sun or the river, the sun and the river have so much to teach us. In this shiny new and novel year perhaps we can do less, and need less and maybe we will notice the widening cracks of the facade of all of that artificial striving when the unnecessary, the unimportant, the artificial all fade away, we suddenly create space for peace, for stillness, we find that stillness has its own fullness, we create space for our minds to speak of their own accord instead of the ceaseless serving of our family, our friends, our bosses and coworkers needs and wants.
In Pittsburgh’s own Andy Warhol Museum there hangs a sign that says, “Less is more? No! More is More!’- a quote by Andy himself. This we do contest, less really is more because when all that is not essential is whittled away, it is peace, simplicity and serenity which unfolds upon us, cheers to the new year and best of luck with your resolutions and beyond.
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 26, 2015 counseling, educational, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wellness, wisdom0 comments
“What would you do today if you weren’t afraid to fail?”
This is a quote on a magnet which hangs neatly on my refrigerator. This quote changed my life. Fate isn’t something we just wake up and experience as easily as the first cup of coffee makes its molten ascent out of the carafe, smooth and steady. Embracing my ambition to become a psychotherapist was not always written in the stars. The act of becoming presents road blocks, brick walls, doors slammed in the face, the slaying of a few dragons, encountering some villains, all in a day’s work when we are attempting to become the best version of our self. I was afraid to fail.
Many years ago, I was on a fast track to earning a degree in English Writing with a Minor in English Literature. It was in an honors literature course that I encountered Sigmund Freud’s Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis. I was hooked, immediately changing my major to devote my academic trajectory and the rest of my life to studying and practicing counseling psychology. It started off very well, the theories and interpretation all came to me fluidly and I was thrilled at the prospect of embodying this calling.
The University of Pittsburgh, where I was studying, has an excellent and rigorous Psychology program, where degrees are offered as a Bachelor’s of Science. Subtle but vastly significant differences that translate to very heavy upper level mathematics courses, calculus and statistics, trigonometry. Any of the psychology baccalaureates from the university are very well prepared to become researchers, quantifying and perpetuating the latest science in the field. I have been plagued with math anxiety for my entire life, even basic mathematics courses becoming source for struggle in high school. Quite a dichotomy from the experiences of studying in my social sciences or English courses where a deep understanding of concepts would simply flow to me. Numbers terrified me, but I wanted it, I wanted the degree, I wanted to learn more about papa Freud and his procession of disciples, I wanted to do this every day. Never falling victim to fear, I enter business calculus, two weeks of lectures and each day I departed while suffocating tears behind the ever growing lump in my throat. I withdrew from the course and resigned myself to not being good enough to enter the field. “Leave it behind, you aren’t good at math and you never were!” Hearing all of those self-berating thoughts which are eager to leap out and from the shadows, the stop signs, the yield signs, the take a u-turn! I switched back to English writing, still something I loved to do, no there would be no therapy couch, no exploration of the unconscious. This was where I would settle for less than what I wanted out of fear and a sense of inadequacy. Life went on as it always does, we stuff down our displaced dreams, we move on to be productive, to succeed someplace that doesn’t provoke our fears too much, we choose that which is low risk, “this is sensible” we tell ourselves, “you can’t do this” fear says.
A couple of years later, walking down the aisle of Whole Foods, I saw that magnet, “What would you do today if your weren’t afraid to fail?” Before I could formulate the whole thought each fiber in me knew, If I weren’t afraid to fail, I would study psychology, and study psychology is exactly what I did. Reentering those math courses and working harder than I ever had to work to achieve success at anything, attending every study group, showing up to class early and staying late, by blood and sweat I did it, and all of that hard work didn’t just gain me a pass but I “A”ced all of those stats courses and made it through the program to graduate with honors. Now math isn’t even so scary any more, I have come to appreciate some of its applications when it comes to the field of psychology.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail? What would it be? Where do you feel a sense of defeat? Would you ask the girl out on a date? Would you tackle an addiction? Would you learn how to fly a plane? Would you write the next great American novel? Work on your marriage? Back pack Europe? Learn to prepare the perfect Indian Curry? Become fluent in Chinese? Put an end to some defeating or depressing pattern in your life? Start coping with your anxiety? Learn to fly and airplane? Cope with Depression? Work on your start up company? What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail? By this time you may be wondering, how do you get over this fear of failure, we have an answer for that too, you don’t, the most successful among us have failed a hundred times but have gotten back up one hundred and one, and that is what makes all of the difference!
We hope our humble magnets’ question is as resonant with you as it is for us!
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Counseling and Wellness Center Pittsburgh
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 9, 2015 counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Tick, tock, tick, tock, allowing the sands of time to unfold into minutes, hours, days, years, reaching way back to the earliest memories that can be recollected; let us imagine that you are 5 years old again and enjoying those endless hours of playtime. When thinking of the word “playtime” what comes to mind for you? What is it that you enjoyed doing with that pure and unadulterated childlike bliss? Maybe you liked to bake or paint, collect insects, be a teacher in your classroom of dolls? Way before we knew whether we were good at something, or whether our talents and interests could make us money or gain us praise, social standing; way back then we followed our passion by the elegantly simple act of tinkering, entertaining, creating, learning with sheer delight. It is no wonder that as adults we long for those times when for most of us, things we just that simple, following ones bliss. As children most of us were free to simply enjoy what felt right and not take the time to consider what we were good at, what would pay the bills, what image we would like to portray as our life’s work, the time of innocence before road blocks and hurtles.
We explore these questions not to simply evoke the sensation of nostalgia but because our creative pleasures indicate something about our innate gifts and capacities. Each of us is born with purpose and potential and the more greatly we create a life which is aligned with the sharing of our pleasures and talents the more at peace we tend to be. Even if we have chosen a career simply for the financial opportunities we have gained we should still make time to regularly connect with that which we can become submerged in, the kind of creative play which takes our eyes off of the clocks and into our minds eye. What is that for you? For me, as young as 5 years old, I enjoyed writing, creating heaping piles of poems. What about you? Did you like to play the keyboard? Did you love to paint upon the easel? Did you enjoy playing in the kitchen and kneading dough? Did you construct toy trucks and cars? What was your passion or pleasure as a child? As adults some of us note with an air of melancholy, I have no energy, I am exhausted, I am not sure what the meaning of my life has become. If you struggle with these questions much like many others, maybe it would help to consider when did you take the time to connect with the inexhaustible wellspring of energy which is found through our passion. When we paint, draw, throw the ball around, we are not depleting our energy, we are in fact connecting with the part of our self which is bounteously full of enthusiasm and childlike joy.
It’s a wonder that any of us would ever stop doing that which has the potential to bring us such enjoyment. Often as teens and adults we begin to deviate from this kind of playfulness in search of being mindful of our time and not wasting it on that which is not useful. Some were shamed for their gifts, told by teachers of parents, “you don’t want to be ______, be educated in this, leave this behind now.” Often we are very sensitive about our talents, the most passionate are acutely in tune with the emotional world of ourselves and others. So we put away our paintbrush or drumstick and pick up our time card, marching on to the time piece of humanity. The most joyful people are often those who find a way to merge their passion into their life’s work, “The master of the art of living makes no difference between work and play, for him they are both the same.” The artists may serve as our teachers, to be like those, those who embrace an inner calling or take up hobbies in that which proffers them abundant connection with that creative part to themselves.
In tribal cultures, when a sad or anxious man or woman comes to the Shaman, the shaman will ask, “tell me my friend, so you are sick?” the tearful woman looks to the ground as she explains, “yes, yes, I am sick, I am so sad and I so often worry, I have no energy for life.”
The shaman, he brightens, “Oh, no worries, this is a problem that I understand! Tell me this my friend, when did you stop singing, when did you stop dancing? When did you stop laughing with life?”
In closing my friend, I ask of you to consider this question, if you were allowing yourself the opportunity to play, no judgement, no criticism, just melting into the opportunity to enjoy that which is amusing, that which is creative and unharnessed, that which brought you hours of entertainment as a young child, what is it that you would be doing?
In love and playfulness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh