The Life Inside, Psychotherapy and Beyond

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? narcisistic

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?

6073621-happy-old-woman-with-dark-tanned-skin-lots-of-wrinkles-and-unhealthy-teeth--not-homeless-she-is-sellAlas 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”.

self-reflection-in-mirrorIf 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?  self-reflection

In health and Wellness,

Stephanie McCracken MSPC

Reviving Minds Therapy

Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling

1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233

 

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