The Question


There are times in a session when the answer to just one question turns on the light and the darkness flees from comprehended truth. Nothing changes but everything is different.

A beautiful young woman came in for therapy with concerns about tackling the challenges of her college assignments and trying to decide what direction to take after graduation. She was a former model from Europe, in her mid twenties, creative, and academically excellent. During the initial assessment, I heard her life story. She spoke about her childhood, high school years, and modeling career. In the process, some common themes became apparent ~ like her love for children, her passion for art and her struggles in relationships.   Through several sessions, we talked about ways to handle her tendency to procrastinate with assignments and about how to concentrate in class. She also disclosed that she had professional opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic. However she felt that either choice would cost her personally and affect other people’s perspective of her.

While she reflected on her choices, I suggested a simple exercise, to which she agreed. First, I asked her to imagine this was the only time in our lives that we would meet; we would never see each other again. I would have to form a memory of her from what she said and did in this brief moment.

She was intrigued by the idea and said she was ready to proceed.

I then asked, “What would be the one thing about yourself that you would want me to know about who you are?”

Her answer was instantaneous. “That I am not stupid!”

In the following silence I looked at her golden blonde hair and beautiful face and comprehended again the impact that stereotypes can have on a person’s life. This woman’s choices ~ the compelling drive ~ was the concern that how she looked dictated what others thought about her and so in every circumstance or relationship she tried to dispel the myth that she was stupid. It is not that she believed she was stupid; on the contrary, she knew herself to be an intelligent and accomplished human being. Her constant battle was against prejudice, ridicule, and dismissal based solely on her physical appearance.

As we continued to unpack this idea she was able to see that many of her past choices and actions with her family, intimate friends and career were a reaction against public opinion. She was screaming back at the world that she was not who ‘They’ said she was and her actions would prove them wrong. Paradoxically, this need to be seen as an individual and the corresponding need to deny the stereotype had been hindering her from making the choices she genuinely wanted to make. She needed a divorce from ‘public opinion’ and to develop the courage to make choices about her future based upon what she was passionate about.

Nothing of her circumstance actually changed in that moment  but her realization that she did not have to live according to these stereotypes took away the fears that haunted her every choice. That was over ten years ago. From that moment, she started following her own path, making decisions based on her own needs, desires, and inherent abilities.

Society still ogles the outside ‘package’ and makes a snap judgment about a lovely woman, but that woman no longer cares. Her choices are based on what she knows to be true about herself, and about what she decides she needs to be a whole and healthy Self. For a time, that included modeling and the financial gains that accompanied being an ‘animated robot modeling expensive clothes,’ because that opportunity created others. Today she is ‘Mom’ to two beautiful little souls and uses that intelligence she always knew she had to make the world a better place.


What would be your answer to this question? What are your actions and choices saying? Questions like these can help us to learn about ourselves and about the reasons we do things. Sometimes we do the same things over and over even though they cause us pain. Then we need to ask ourselves; ‘Why do I keep doing this again and again?’ Sometimes, a better question is; ‘What am I trying to say by that choice?’

Therapy really works.   By reflective listening, empathy, and unconditional positive regard a therapist can help you see what is going on inside.

(Story used with permission)


Beliefs we need to ditch | Reblog

Often, clients end up learning through the process of therapy that they are holding onto to beliefs about themselves, life, and the world in general …that they didn’t know they had. Those beliefs are the framework for decision-making, which is why they end up in my office.

“Why do I keep doing this over and over? I don’t want to, and yet, here I am, again!”

Sepi Tajima writes most eloquently on emotional wellness and the things that hinder our enjoyment in life – this post is worth the time it takes to read.

The99, The Factual Feminist, and MikeRoweWORKS – strange bedfellows.

I’m going to use a quote I’ve used before, for good reason, which, if you keep reading, I’ll explain.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought (idea) without accepting it.” ~Aristotle

The world is full of peeps who seem to adamantly believe that if I disagree with them, there’s something wrong with my intelligence (I have none), my values (I wasn’t raised right), or my beliefs (I’m one step away from sleeping with the Devil …or possibly I already have and that’s my problem). Sometimes there’s rationalisation… I don’t agree with them because I was dropped on my head as a baby… I’ve had a traumatic life… I’m a recovering addict… I’ve smoked too much crack… I’ve been educated by liberals/conservatives/extremists/nuns/atheists/fundamentalists/hippies/[insert vilified group here]… or I’ve  …gotten above my raising and no longer have a moral compass.

It doesn’t matter what idea or concept we’re actually talking about here. If liberal, the conservatives are the next best thing to the Devil and anyone who agrees with, espouses, or doesn’t publicly diss their philosophical values is suspect. And certainly to be trolled, beaten down, insulted, dismissed, and otherwise silenced. Same if one happens to be conservative and doesn’t violently object to a liberal perspective during a conversation with adherents to the liberal faction.

Since when did we, as human beings, become so small-minded?

In this Global Village, where it’s possible for me to actually learn what someone of the Masai Mara thinks about poaching in his part of the world, or how a working class friend in Lunca Ilvae Romania feels about World Bank policies, or what someone in the Patagonia suggests as a solution for oceanic pollution, it has become more and more difficult to have a real debate about anything. Peeps get up on a particular soapbox, and then expect the WHOLE WORLD to stand on that little platform with them. Yes. ‘Everyone get up here and shout like me or I am going to call down flaming tongues of fire (or at least swarms of flies) on your head for daring to disagree with even one syllable of what I’ve just said because it is “THE Right Way.”‘

Crap, crap, and more crap.

In the ages before the Internet (and there were many of them) people debated ideas. There would be able representation of two or more opposing perspectives and the discussion/conversation/argument would proceed with more-or-less passion to a mutually agreed point of disengagement. Admittedly, this sometimes meant a duel at dawn with flintlock pistols and stuffy men acting as Seconds, but usually, the discussion was suspended before this point. Everyone lived to debate another day. Sometimes people changed their minds on an issue, sometimes perspectives shifted a little, and sometimes, one’s conviction on an issue was solidified and validated. In any case the debate happened.

Today, the polarisation of positions has encouraged or fostered “If you’re not one of us, you’re the enemy,” and clearly, in this violent, aggressive, territorial age, the “enemy” is only ever worthy of death, whether metaphorically, or literally. This highlights the paradoxical nature of our global connection. We have never been more connected than we are today, and at the same time, we have never been more individually anonymous. Marshal McLuhan had it right when he said, “Anonymity breeds violence.” The root of ‘violence’ means “…with words” and in general, digital peeps have that one mastered.

This post started in the summer as a seed idea when my boss, Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of The99 superheroes became the subject of a fatwa, first from the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and more worryingly, by ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesha …you know… those bearded dudes trying take over the world by beheading everyone sans beard, balls, or bigotry (the Holy Trinity of extremists everywhere). He (Naif) is apparently not permitted to promote the ideals of Islam in any way other than the approved format. Lest I be accused of leaving out “…half the world’s population,” this is also an issue for people like Christina Hoff Sommers, (The Factual Feminist) who has logically explained why she cannot espouse the intemperate position of extreme feminists, and as a result, has been vilified, trolled, castigated and threatened by those who disagree with her. The violence of the responses made me speculate about beards, balls, & bigoted females …possibly Freud was right? (It appears that when logic and facts are in short supply, personalisation and profanity are the standard second choice) That seed began to germinate and grew into a full blown tree yesterday after reading Mike Rowe’s responses to the storm of criticism he’s received for appearing on both liberal and conservative media programs to promote his foundation, MikeRoweWORKS.

Mike Rowe is promoting a concept that is near and dear to my heart. That is, the TRUTH that it is (and has been) a short-sighted, ridiculous, elitist, profoundly STUPID practice for the past few generations to sell, push, promote, and otherwise promulgate the idea that a four year degree is the only real route to a life worth living. According to prevailing wisdom (and I use the term very loosely), one must aspire to get out of “blue collar hell” and into “white collar paradise.” Because, as we all know, working with one’s hands in a trade is sooooooooo not cool.

Crap, crap, and more crap.

So. Mike is out promoting the reality that the trades are a noble, worthy pursuit. Along with that, he’s passing on the truth that not everyone aspires to sit behind a desk, or stand on the trading floor, or wear a suit and tie to work every day. Some people – make that millions of peeps – want to build stuff. With their OWN hands. They want to be working outside… rain, shine, cold, snow, hail, whatever. My own experience as an educator has demonstrated over and over and over again that ‘one-size-fits-all’ education does no one any favours, and the academic elitists who control the shape and flavour of education have made the trades – working with one’s hands – an unacceptable pursuit. For years, and years, and years it has been subtly and not-so-subtly drummed into kids’ heads that ‘shop’ is something the jocks and dumbheads do. Anyone with ‘brains’ takes maths and sciences, and if there’s a spark of genius evident, the Arts are an acceptable second choice. But never, ever, ever was it acceptable for a student with good grades and evidently on the academic ball to say, “I want to be a mechanic.” *stepsdownfoldsupsoapbox*

So, Mike is trying to rectify this oversight, and in the process, he’s earning accolades and censure in equal measure from opposing camps. As are Naif Al-Mutawa and Christina Hoff Sommers in their respective spheres. This in itself isn’t the issue. In a free and functioning world, disagreement, and the opportunity to express that disagreement is a fundamental hallmark of thinking individuals in society as a whole. Where this gets ugly… pear-shaped… goes South… screws the pooch… is when that disagreement becomes personal. As if there is something fundamentally wrong with Naif, or Christina, or Mike because what they think is different than me, or you, or even half of society. This a dangerous, slippery slope. The personalisation of another’s perspective regarding any idea, value, creed, thought, or event is the first step to the reality of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, taking the Blue Pill, or drinking the Kool-aid. Without dissent, debate, or diversity, we are nothing more than automatons, toeing the party line …the line of whichever party happens to wield the most power at the moment.

There’s many amazing reasons to love living in this digital age of instant, global communication, and a few reasons to despise what is happening as a result. Disagreement is healthy and fosters debate, thinking, growth, progress, and often problem-solving. Personalising does none of the above. Defaming someone’s character is de facto proof that one is unable to refute an idea with logic, facts, or rational alternatives. (I guess, in a funny sort of way, this might be a compliment to the one being insulted?)

When did we lose the ability to really thoughtfully consider another’s position without feeling threatened?