2010 August

Archive for August, 2010

29 Aug 2010

Do You Believe in Magic?

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I have been passionately connected to my dream life since I was a very young boy, even two years old. In fact, the first dream I can recall involved me in a baby carriage staring up at a magician dressed in black with a dark fancy mustache, shifting the colors of a wand with his slight of hand as I carefully stared at his eyes, not bedazzled by the tricks. Magic. The dream to this day leaves me with an uneasy feeling.

As an early dream, perhaps this “big dream” (as psychotherapists like to describe those night visions that remain in our lives because they are in some way transformational) was one of the most influential messages of my life even if it never occurred in my waking existence.

“Beware the magician,” cautioned my psyche, long before magic was anything but the stuff of birthday parties and street side card tricks. Perhaps I had been exposed to a magic show as a baby or glimpsed the imagery of the man in the black top hat on my parents television set, however, regardless of the concrete stimulus or inception for the dream, the emotional message itself was a clear download from the collective unconscious. Wisdom for Life, 101.

This was a message conveyed to me as a young child from a realm beyond my parents wagging fingertips and fuzzy Sesame Street characters. Information that I would need throughout my life, perhaps, a “note to self” for when I was to encounter a person who implored me to watch the colors and lights, not the information deep within their eyes.

Perhaps it was self-fulfilling prophesy that I have needed to rely on this subtle skepticism for the better part of my life, a life full of teachers, gurus, and not a few magicians.

Yet, this unconscious need to look into the eyes of a speaker, teacher or guide and truly listen to their message through a trans-personal dialogue, one that transcends word or action, exists at my core and serves me each and every day as I make my way through the oftentimes complex landscape of life on this planet.

All as a result of a dream.

C.G. Jung said: “A person’s soul is a complicated thing and it takes sometimes half a lifetime to get somewhere in one’s psychological development.”

Ain’t that the truth? And yet, I believe I have not been on this journey alone. Yes, there have indeed been beautiful people with whom I have journeyed and learned from, and yet I speak of the unconscious. Both the personal and collective unconscious continually offer cautionary tales, dramatic reminders about past lessons and poignant directions with regard to my unique process, a unique link in a chain of unique links. Through these daydreams, night dreams and in-between dreams, I believe our psyches are lovingly coached and conditioned to encounter life with even more tools and insight than we gained through the sum of our nature and nurture.

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is…

23 Aug 2010

Switching Gears…

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Emergency Truck Ramp

How do you switch gears from a long day at work to decompressing and rejuvenating  time?

I have struggled with this for most of the past 15 years and it is truly an ongoing challenge. Spawned from two intense workaholics, I have found that  resisting the proclivity toward my own workaholism is akin to willing my large Jewish nose to somehow morph into a little button thing. Not going to happen!

One thing i have found, however, is that when I come home from the primary job of counseling 8-12 clients per day at my private psychotherapy office, I need a drastic game change. What works for me is that within 2 minutes of my being home, I strip. Totally. I drop my pants to the floor, fling my shirt off and most often, yank the boxers off as well. Oftentimes this is achieved before my wife makes it down the hallway to greet me and her darling expression is the same each time: “Honey, you lost your clothes!”

Because the work I do can be very intense and it is sometimes challenging not to carry the traumas of clients home with me, I find that a literal shedding of the day is a very useful tool when it comes to reclaiming the peace of self that doesn’t simply come with the mantle of professional psychology.

While I might check emails, monitor tweets and statuses, and even do some light marketing once I’m stripped down, I find the change in my uniform to be a very effective way to slow things down. Think of those massive gravel turn-offs for 18-wheelers who can’t stop as they are barreling down a big mountain. They turn off onto these run-away truck routes and eventually the thick gravel just slows them to a stop. Yeah, think of that. It is a much better image than thinking of me in my birthday suit sitting in the Aeron at my I-Mac!

All the best,

19 Aug 2010

Who Do We Appreciate?

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I work with dozens of couples every week on how to strengthen and sometimes, save, their marriage and one of the most vital elements that we focus on is appreciation. Appreciation is the fluid that keeps the mechanism of the relationship moving smoothly and it is often one of the first things to disappear when life seems to hit overdrive. Kids, work, TV, financial hardship… all of these have a tendency to dry up the simplest, least common denominator for your relationship: Why and what you love about your partner!

In order for both women and men to make their marriage a priority, there must be some basic steps taken to create a boundary for the relationship.

Many parents leave the door open at night for the kids. Makes sense, and, it also makes it challenging for intimacy to occur in a natural, spontaneous manner. Close the door sometimes! Even for a half hour of private time that the kids know about. It doesn’t have to be sex but it will at least be intimate and private.

Appreciation is the fluid for which your relationship thirsts! At least three times a day, be sure to acknowledge the things you love and are grateful for in your partner. A note, a hug, a text or email even as you juggle the kids will go a long way. We need to know we’re loved and that the things we do mean something.

Many couples observe “Date Night.” This is a wonderful routine that goes a long way for many folks. However, is a couple of hours a week enough to give to your relationship? I encourage couples to make time every day for at least some type of check-in. Typically, the time after the kids are down and the TV and laptops rule the living room is a perfect moment to pause everything else, look each other in the eyes and check in. Start with appreciation and then ask about their day. Ask if there is anything they need or that you can help them with. Remember, love is a verb. It is good will in action! We tend to rely on the “of course I love you” rather than the “how can I love you today…”

In the end, your kids win. We grow up observing our parents’ relationship and tend to either recreate or spend our lives reacting to the way things were in our childhood. Modeling healthy boundaries, loving service and boundless appreciation are just some of the legacies you can leave your kids. They will also get parents who are nurtured and patient with each other and therefore more present and loving about their needs. Kids need to see their parents being loving with each other and communicating in a healthy way, otherwise both generations end up on my couch!

15 Aug 2010

Hot town, summer in the city…

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The people who track things are saying that for every record low temperature set these days, there are two record highs notated. It makes me wonder what this trend will lead to as we ease on down the road. It feels like it has been over 90 for half of the summer and I can’t take the dogs out for a walk without hearing a collection of hums from a mix of old and new air conditioners, spattering liquid onto our heads as we walk past the old brick buildings. Wasn’t it hot when we were kids? Was it this hot? Are we just hyper-sensitive?

Thank God the butterflies are still blooming.

Summer Loving. Having a Blast.

13 Aug 2010

I Want Your Love.

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Gaga BarbieI Want Your Love!

I want your ugly, I want your disease
I want your everything, As long as it’s free
I want your love

– Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”

Love is patient, love is kind…

How many of you have ever used this line in a bar: “I want your ugly, I want your disease?”

What’s that I hear? Crickets chirping? Are the cicadas back? I didn’t think so.

These words have a way of pulsing through my head every time I hear the hit Lady Gaga song, “Bad Romance.” At first glance, these are silly lyrics to another wonderfully pop-ular pop song, innocent place fillers until the next wave of synthesized rhythm and bass swings back around to make the car next to me tremble like a tween at a vampire flic. However, as I’m unconsciously humming the lyrics while a client takes her seat on my therapy couch, the words become hauntingly real.

As synchronicity would have it, the woman before me begins to tell the tale of dramatic new love, now only two weeks old. The passion, projection, and plans for a lifetime of bliss together are all added to an alluring soundtrack of the romance dance. As I listen to this bright, self-aware young woman speak about ice cream on the lake, drinks al fresco and sex on the roof of his apartment building, I consider the power of new love. We become so intense in our minds and bodies when we find ourselves in a mutual connection with a new partner that we almost forget how our minds and bodies operated just seconds before we met the new person.

Thoughts are incredibly difficult to change and actually tend to reproduce exponentially, spreading throughout our inner ecosystem. In fact, Richard Brodie in his book, “Virus of the Mind,” refers to these types of thoughts as memes, or thought viruses. Brodie suggests that “once created, a virus of the mind gains a life independent of its creator and evolves quickly to infect as many people as possible.” As a therapist, however, it is my responsibility to help support clients in determining which memes are actually healthy ideas to spread within and without their lives. As the recent film, Inception, so elegantly describes it, for an outside thought to really feel like our own it has to be presented in its simplest, most absorbable form. Easier said than done… Unless we’re talking about the “love disease.”

The desperation of the love we tend to feel in the early days, weeks and even months of a passionate relationship can feel exhilarating and even profoundly healthy, yet we commonly refer to this process as “falling” in love for a reason. There is a mix of terror and pleasure I feel when I plummet ten stories on the “Free Fall” ride at the Six Flags theme park. I accept that I will be voluntarily incapacitated for a brief moment of my life and most people would find it odd if I decided to bring my tax return up there with me to get some work done. Yet, is that not what we do when we fall in love: drop into an ecstatic state of temporary bliss that is actually complete incapacity? Is this what the Gaga lady is speaking about when she desperately calls for the ugly, the disease?

Consciously spreading healthy thoughts and ideas we consider to be supportive is in many ways the most effective way to combat mind viruses and remain in control of our life. Yet, how do we discern which thoughts are healthy once we are already “infected” by the infatuation meme? We all have the ability to resist unhealthy thoughts and their partner behaviors when we make healthy living and clarity a primary intention for the way we live our lives. However, in order to boost our psycho-emotional immune system, we must take good care of ourselves before we are introduced to “foreign elements.”

Nourishing our relationships through the appreciation of those people in our lives we adore and truly cherish not only makes them feel good, it is a healthy power boost to our own sense of balance. When we take the time and effort to choose to be vulnerable with our inner circle of friends and family, one of the benefits is that we remember what it feels like to love and be loved in its simplest, purest form; without any of the bells and whistles, perhaps even without the enticement of ice cream or sex.