The Question

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.

©sjs2013

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)

 

The Fear Factor | bazaarKuwait

Dr Susannah-The Fear Factor  Love writing for bazaar Magazine, Kuwait, and I am always so pleased with how the bazaar peeps make my little scribbles look so wonderful. This is the end of the third year I’ve had the privilege of contributing to this magazine, and I look forward to the New Year, new opportunities and old friends in Kuwait.

Adly & the bazaarites… May 2016 be all that you hope for and so much more than you can imagine.

Getting it Right

I am a fan of Daniel Goleman. I read his “Emotional Intelligence” when it first came out, wading through “reptilian brains” and “evolutionary development” to get to the good stuff. It was worth it.

A whole entire industry was spawned. Not because emotional intelligence didn’t exist before Daniel Goleman but because he made understanding our emotional lives – and how important this is – so easy to grasp and apply. Since then, myriad resources have sprung up, some good, some …not.

Along with this new paradigm came ‘mindfulness’ and out of that, a renewed interest in meditation. As we all know (of course we do) that meditation is millennia-old, practiced by everyone from King David to Buddhists everywhere (and countless other anonymous practitioners of self-regulated mental health through the ages).

As always, when something becomes very popular, it tends to morph into a form acceptable to the populace. Which usually means it becomes virtually unrecognisable to practitioners of the real thing – take music, for instance. There are very few things in common between an unplugged version of ‘Bad Romance’ and the stage version a la Lady Gaga, other than the fact that both use the same words and (mostly) the same tune. (I’m being facetious here). What came to mind as a specific example is this truth…

The popular version resembles the real (original) thing only coincidentally.

Anyway, back to Mr. Goleman and meditation. As he so rightly points out, mindfulness and meditation are not to be confused, and neither one takes the place of therapy. The practice of both is necessary to optimum mental health, but neither one will solve cognitive dissonance or your impending divorce.

Read Daniel’s post here. Then go meditate.

 

Things I Learned from Running

DSC07274
Running at Schonbrunn Schloss, Vienna Austria

As always, I process through rambling discourses, so why should this be any different? I took up running on January 2, 2013 and as a full year of running comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on things I’ve learned or comprehended in the process.

1. The biggest battle is not physical, it’s mental.

2. Changing my lifestyle required me to get pathologically pissy about putting myself first. (See #1)

3. I cannot sustain a thought (positive or negative) for long when I run. It just gets pounded out of existence.

4. Once the body becomes accustomed to regular doses of endorphins, it whines and complains without them.

5. I’m continually amazed at what I see when I run that I have missed on a hundred drives along the same route.

6. The feeling of euphoria that happens after a hard run can’t be articulated or duplicated.

7. My mind still writes cheques my body can’t cash, but in the end, my physical condition sets limits on what I can accomplish. (See #1)

8. Success is its own reward and encourages tomorrow’s effort to improve.

9. Tomorrow’s goals are the fuel of today’s effort.

10. Sometimes, it was only the awareness that others were looking to me for inspiration in their own battles that was the motivation that got me out the door or on the treadmill. (See #1)

As of today, I am at 988km for the year, aiming for 1000km by January 2, 2014. All things being equal, I think I’m going to make it. I can already feel the preliminary bubbling of an explosion of celebration.

I’ll keep you posted.

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