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)


Badly Behaved Children and Poor Parenting| Reblog

How I Know That Sensory Processing Disorder Is Real | Stephanie Giese. Please – take the time to read Stephanie’s post.

For all the well meaning (and not-so-well-meaning and the downright critical and malicious) peeps out there; just because a child’s behaviour looks like your Internet idea of autism doesn’t mean s/he actually falls on the autism spectrum.

The observable behaviours which lead to a diagnosis of any type of childhood disorder often overlap tremendously, which is the reason why experts do the diagnosing. Sometimes, the diagnosis needs to be deferred because the child in question has been so abused through neglect and/or violence that these issues have to be addressed first because doing anything else would be grossly unfair to an already disadvantaged little person.

In the interests of full disclosure, before I was a psychologist, I, along with my husband, was a foster parent. Additionally, we’ve raised three girls to adulthood, including one we adopted. They’ve now produced five glorious grandsons which we consider ample reward for any of the behaviours (discussed below) which may have happened.

I’ve had more than one episode in the local mall with a rather large child doing a great imitation of a spoiled toddler. I can count on one hand the number of times that ANY onlooker offered any form of constructive help. Mostly, I could count on people vocally criticising, rolling their eyes, or talking loudly to each other about how badly the child in question was behaving, or even in one case, someone offered in a totally patronising tone to “…tan that child’s hide so you know what to do next time this happens.” (Truth!)

I don’t have the time or the patience in the moment to tell all those rubbernecking perfect parents that this child has been badly abused  enough already thank you very much, has great difficulty managing himself in open spaces because of chronic sensory overload (that abuse thing again), and has just been told he may not have McDonalds for lunch; the only kind of food he’d ever eaten before he came to my house. (We’d just learned his cholesterol level -at nine years old- is through the roof and Child Welfare has also tasked us with getting him healthy again.)

Instead of adding to a stressed, embarrassed, or overwhelmed parent or caregiver’s crisis of the moment, why not choose from a list of more helpful options?

1. Smile and ask if there’s anything you can do that would be helpful. If the answer is ‘yes’ – just do exactly that thing.

2. Smile kindly and say, “Been there, done that. It’s okay,” and keep walking.

3. Compose your face to look pleasant and keep walking – don’t add to the spectacle by being part of the crowd that gathers.

Even if the child’s behaviour IS the result of poor parenting skills it’s none of your business. If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re adding to the problem.

If this sounds like a rant, it is. I’ve had some of the most awful, cruel things said to me, and to an already suffering child by critical, viciously judgmental people who know nothing of the situation except what they see at this moment …and they can only interpret that moment within the framework of their own perspective. How sad that the reflection of their internal life is almost always hurtfully negative.

Says a lot about the individual. A whole lot more than they would probably want me to know.

If nothing else, remember that what you see in the moment is never the whole picture and one never decides about a painting without seeing all of it. Too bad we can’t remember this when judging a parent by a brief example of “bad” behaviour.

More on judging others’ parenting here, here, and here. And lastly, a perfect rant by Matt Walsh