Monday, August 12, 2013


I'm frequently surprised by the number of people who tell me that they are trying to cope with the challenges in their lives by "only thinking positively".  While there is no doubt that optimists, people who maintain a positive perspective, live longer and live happier lives,  we also know that people who try to deny the reality in their lives, generally end up in their counselor's chair...

Ok, here's the reality:  sometimes, life is not pleasant, or positive.  Sometimes life is tragic, and painful, and very hard work.    Sometimes, life just stinks!   If we ignore that reality, we are trying to pretend that something that is true, is not true.  And it's that pretending, that can hurt us.    It is much better for us to practice acceptance of the realities in our life that are difficult.    I often wonder if Reinhold Niebuhr ever knew how incredibly wise he was when he wrote his serenity prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

There are some things in life that we won't like but we may be able to change.  By all means, I wish everyone the courage to change those things in their lives that they can.  But to ACCEPT the things in life that we cannot change, is one of our greatest life skills.  Acceptance doesn't mean we have to like it, it only means that we won't fight a useless battle.  Paying taxes is one of those realities that most people consider a negative experience.  Acceptance doesn't demand that one like paying taxes, it only asks that one doesn't fight it.  Acceptance (of what we can't change) is truly a path leading to inner peace.

To everyone, optimists and pessimists alike, I encourage all of us to celebrate and enjoy the many, many positives in our lives.  But when something negative comes along, ask the question, "is this something I can change?".  If it is, best of luck to you.  But if it's not,  consider acceptance--the absence of fighting--as a truly positive perspective.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mothers Day, Nurses Appreciation, Father's Day.....and Violence

It's that time of year when we celebrate our parents and other nurturers - like nurses.  When I think about what we're actually celebrating, I think we're celebrating the love and care that people give to each other.  And one not need to give birth or go to nursing school to be included.  We all have the ability to nurture each other.  We can pat people at work on the shoulder for doing a good job, thank the person at the grocery store for help or checking us out, hold the door open for others.  Easier still, offer a smile to anyone and everyone  whose path you cross.  And if you can recall being in a position when you were hurt or vulnerable,  than you can probably recall how comforting and powerful another's gesture or words can be.

I don't think that we can ever underestimate the power of kindness; it's really just an active expression of love.  Sometimes we stop ourselves from smiling at strangers, thinking we can't smile at people we don't know.  That idea always prompts me to question why we have to know someone in order to practice kindness.  What would happen if we allowed ourselves to express love and kindness to everyone (whether or not we know them).

Which brings me to the last part of this article: Violence.  It seems we can't turn on the television without another news story about someone who went on some sort of rampage and killing and injuring some number of people.  Huge acts of violence against others.  Not too long ago, a young woman committed suicide in our community.  While it didn't make the news, it is still a huge act of violence - against self.  It seems as a culture we are struggling with what to do.  Should we make stricter gun laws?  Should we have tougher punishments for those who harm others?  Should we all arm ourselves?  Should we continue to ignore our suicide problem, and continue to blame those who make this fatal decision?

I think the most effective course of action lies in our world community, and of course it begins at home.  One of Ghandi's most popular quotes is, "You must be the change in the world, you wish to see."  I can't help but wonder if, as a community, we were kinder and loving to the perpetrators, than perhaps these acts of violence would diminish.  I think it was Jack Kornfield who wrote about his work in Africa.  He discovered one community who would gather around a member who was deviant, and surround him with love and affection, and remind the deviant person that they are an important part of the community.  They would not stop, until the offender recognized the error of his ways and "came back" to the community.

We may think that our individual acts of kindness don't matter or aren't enough to "count".  In truth, the love we show others, is the only thing that really does matter.

Monday, April 15, 2013

From our Guest Blogger, Dan Derezinski, LPC

Cleaning Up the Mess
When I was a teenager, an older gentleman and I befriended each other.  He was a conservationist and an environmentalist and often took me on outdoor excursions to various parks, forests and reserves.  Without fail, when walking some trail or enjoying some natural setting, this gentleman would never hesitate to pick up some garbage or litter found lying about. Even the smallest of scraps. Into his pocket it would go, later to be disposed of properly.  You see, my friend considered the natural world his home and he liked to keep “his place” tidy.  Though he wasn’t responsible for the messes he found out there in the natural environment--his nature home--he freely and personally assumed responsibility for it.  Without complaint, he cleaned things up.  And he always seemed happier for it.  He sensed that the natural environment would be healthier without these scraps of pollution lying about.  And consequently he, too, would be healthier as he understood the connection between himself and nature.

Over the years I’ve often reflected on this and have come to see a deeper lesson in it.  Just as my friend assumed responsibility for the messes out in the natural environment and worked to clean things up, there is another environment in which each of us live--our inner environment.  Here in our inner environment we’re likely to find lots of garbage, too, and may feel at times that someone else is to blame for that mess, for dumping that “garbage” on us, for all that “crap” we may carry around inside--some of it downright toxic.  In a lot of ways, this may be true. Someone or something else may be responsible. After all, we don’t choose our family, we don’t ask for or control the experiences that come our way, especially when we were kids.  Perhaps we’ve fallen victim to some trauma, some abuse, some overwhelming hardship or heartbreaking loss.  Maybe we’ve learned a lot of dysfunctional habits and behaviors, unhealthy attitudes and beliefs, because of the family or social environment in which we were raised.  Now, in our consequent pain or confusion or dysfunction we may conclude, “I’m such a mess!”  We may blame others for this, or even life itself, and may genuinely be justified in doing so.

But here’s the bottom line.  Whoever it is that may ultimately be responsible for that mess we find inside, unless we personally assume responsibility for it, it will never get cleaned up.  There’s no one else that walks those inner trails, who lives in that inner environment.  Just us alone. Unless we become responsible for cleaning up our own inner world, we’ll just continue to live in that toxic environment--made sick by it, hurt by it, weighed down by it, continuing in unhealthy patterns, struggling through life.  We won’t be able to live to our fullest potential.  We won’t know happiness or well-being or peace of mind. 

The good news is that, just as my friend freely assumed responsibility for cleaning up the outer environment, we, too, are fully capable of assuming responsibility for our inner environment.  We can do something about that inner mess.  If we choose, we can consciously and intentionally process what’s inside—the hurt, the confusion, the negative thoughts.  We can reconnect with our inner-wisdom, gain insight, and learn new ways to approach life.  But how?  One effective path to this inner cleansing work is to enter into counseling and psychotherapy.  Working side by side with a caring, nonjudgmental individual deeply committed to our well-being, who is professionally trained and licensed to facilitate this inner work, can be a truly healing journey.  Perhaps today is the day to choose to take this first step.  It’s a choice that can make all the difference.  And like my friend, we’ll be happier and healthier for it!

Monday, April 1, 2013


Snow...freezing rain...cold hours...not enough free partner doesn't understand me....I don't have enough money...

The list of things that we can find to worry us, or complain about is endless.  We devote much of our efforts (and money) to "trying to let go of stress" and "dealing with stress in a healthy way."  Perhaps this is a symptom of the culture we live in. and certainly, living in our reality in a healthy way is something to strive for.

But I think we need to devote some time to celebrate and to practice joyful awareness in all of the things in our lives that ARE going well, and do work for us.  One doesn't need to win the lottery to find joy - it's available to each and everyone of us regardless of our circumstances.   Sitting in the the sun and feeling the warmth on our face, a cool drink of water after strenuous exercise, or a practice of counting our blessings will all bring to awareness that there is joy to be experienced in our lives.

To further experience joy, I encourage everyone to CELEBRATE!  The practice of celebration is like putting an exclamation point on the awareness of joy.  Celebration may be a special treat or reward of some kind, allowing oneself the time and space to do pleasurable activities (read, take a bath, watch a movie, go for a walk) and it is even magnified when we can share it with a friend or someone special.

So today, I hope that everyone who reads this, will take some time to celebrate the joy in their life.  Who knows?   If we spend more time celebrating, maybe we'll spend less time worrying or all stressed out.....

Celebrate good times, Come on!  ~~~  Kool and the Gang

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to stay out of your therapist's chair

Many people don't want to come to therapy.  Many people don't want to take medication.  While I believe that both of these resources will be available for a long time, most people don't realize that they can reduce their need for both.

Taking care of our bodies, has a direct impact on taking care of our brains and our mental health.  One little known fact is that, in order for our brains to function at an optimal level, they need two things:  protein and healthy fats.   People will almost always notice an improvement in their mental functioning, their energy level and their overall well being if they simply give our brains what they need.

How much protein does a brain need?  The answer is: 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight.  A 100 pound person, would need 40 grams of protein per day, a 150 pound person needs 60 grams and a 200 pound person needs 80 grams of protein per day just to keep our brains functioning well.   Most of us know that eating meat is an efficient way to gain protein.  Luckily, there are many plant-based alternatives:  nuts, beans, legumes, soy can all be great sources to add protein to a diet.  Many of you have also discovered that Greek yogurt generally carries twice as much protein as regular with no increase in calories.

Healthy fats are another essential to your brain.  Healthy fats include things like olive oil, canola oil and coconut oil.  1-2 Tablespoons per day is all it takes, and is an easy item to add to any diet.

I encourage all of you to pay attention to your brain health and give it what it needs!

Until next time -

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I'm often reminded of the stigma that is still attached to the idea of going to see a counselor.  Some people find it embarrassing  and even though a client's confidentiality is protected by law, they are still afraid that someone will find out.

What your therapist may not tell you, is that most therapists, including myself, have sought psychotherapy at some time in their own life.  The bottom line is that we believe in what we do.  We believe that talking with another human being who is listening to us is helpful just in itself.  There is an added benefit, when the person listening has been trained and has experience in helping us to see what we might not see in our confusion, or offering a perspective that we hadn't considered before.   It is comforting to know that when we feel we can't continue that we can lean on someone to support us to continue on our path.  A fabulous bonus comes when we realize that the therapist has been listening with non-judgement; and that the only real judgement that's hurting us is our own.

People need people.  It's the way we are.  My wish for anyone who is struggling in some way, to know that there will always be a compassionate and accepting listener available for them.

I'll blog again...