Friday, January 6, 2012

Potential

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room,
drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list,
we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...
not looking for flaws, but for potential."
Ellen Goodman
And, that, is what I love most about a new year: the potential hidden within it. For me, there has never been anything more filled with potential than an empty appointment book (if you don't count the patient appointments carried forward from December). There it is, open, blank, pristine pages filled with plenty of room for new events, new patients, new educational experiences, new friends, new moments in an old marriage, and opportunity after opportunity to grow.
In which areas would you like to grow this year? Do you want (or need) a new skill set for your work? Do you aspire to higher education? Is this the year that you start, or finish, that B.A.? Is there a hobby that you have wanted to explore? Will you be more social this year, or maybe, less social? Who will you prioritize (you, your spouse, your patients, your God)? Has that church or shul down the street seemed interesting? Do you need more quiet, contemplative time (at the mosque, the beach, or in your own backyard)? Would you benefit from a serenity corner at your office? Will you eat more salads and less sugar this year? The choice is entirely yours.
This is YOUR year; the only year that will ever be 2012. Will it end with a contented sigh or a groan of regret? Will you feel more completely and wholly you? Or will you feel the same, or saddest of all, diminished? As trite as it may sound, if you want to change your life, then you must change your attitude. Can you change your attitude alone, or would you have a greater chance of success with a supportive partner (spouse, friend, therapist, spiritual director)? Now is the best time to decide what you need in order to experience success with your goals in 2012. Reach out, take a risk, and to paraphrase the Army's slogan, "Be the best YOU that you can be." Wishing you a wonder-filled 2012.

Compassionate Listening

"My spiritual director is my non-judgmental companion through dark uncertain times." Helena
"Compassionate listening from my spiritual director is a sacred and grace-filled blessing
that continually feeds my soul so that I in turn may spiritually feed others
through compassionate acts of the heart." Genny
"I don't just want to be listened to. I want someone who can help me make sense of what I am seeking to express. That person is my spiritual director." John-Francis

As therapists, we often find ourselves feeling very alone, holding other people's stories and pains. As you journey through the uncertainy of life, to whom do you turn for compassionate listening? Some of us take that pain into supervision or maybe we enter group therapy with other therapists, while the rest of us muddle through it alone. I find that having a spiritual director to companion with me through the rocky journey that has been my life, truly makes all the difference in the world. Whether it is a dark and uncertain time (in my life or a patient's life) or a joyful time, having someone to tell it to can be critical for my mental health.

What is a spiritual director? In a nutshell, it is a layperson trained in identifying spiritual issues and in providing spiritual support (call it clergy-lite), who helps a spiritual directee to find God (whatever the person's definition of God may be) and a joyful spirituality in their life.

"As I am listened to I have space to bring my thoughts into the open; there I can see how different parts of my life fit together and how events during the week are related to issues that were on my mind two or three weeks ago. Without someone listening, many of these thoughts would remain buried within me." John
As therapists, sometimes we need clinical guidance, a different view of a diagnosis, maybe a helpful hint or two, which can be readily available from an old supervisor or a colleague. But, what do we do with our deeper needs, the pains that we carry from our patients, and where do we go for nonjudgmental acceptance and compassionate caring for our woundedness (both secondhand and personal)?
"It is a sacred right to be heard. The compassionate, loving gift of companioning another
is a sacred call to my own journey and the deep responsibility one has to the other." Ruth
Where can you find a spiritual director? Go to www.sdi.org (Spiritual Directors International), click Seek and Find Directory. You are free to choose a director from within your own faith or there are plenty of spiritual directors who are inter-faith. Rates for spiritual direction are considerably lower than a clinical supervisor, which is a nice bonus. Or, feel free to call me. I worked for many years in hospice as an interfaith chaplain and I continue to offer spiritual direction when requested. (714) 658-7488. And, yes, for busy professionals, spiritual direction can be conducted via telephone or Skype.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday blessings

Here is a simple and heartfelt blessing for you, as we enter into the season of general craziness and overdoing, aka the winter holidays.

Throughout the busy month of December, may you slow down to discover the joy of anticipation.

May your encounters with your spiritual companions (aka other humanbeings) celebrate the simple pleasures abundantly given by God.

May you deepen your commitment to be a courageous and hope-filled person of awe and wonder.

Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season, filled with joy and re-connection with your family and friends.
Hugs,
Gwen

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tips for the Bereaved: Handling the Holidays

Here are a few tips to help you get through the holidays without your loved one, and with your sanity intact.


1. Decide what you can handle comfortably and let family and friends know. Please remember that there is no right or wrong way of handling the holidays.

2. Ask yourself, "Can I handle the responsibility of the family dinner, etc., or shall I ask someone else to do it? Do I want to talk about my loved one or not? Shall I stay here for the holidays or go to a completely different environment?"

3. Depending upon your answers, you may want to make some changes, if they feel comfortable for you. For example,

---You could open presents on Christmas Eve, instead of Christmas morning (or vice versa); or vary the timing of Hannukah gift-giving or latke-making.

---Would it help to have dinner at a different time or location? (e.g., another's home, a restaurant, a picnic in the park.

---Maybe it is time to let the younger generation shop, decorate the house, bake, or prepare food, while you do only what you can or want to do. Remember to pace yourself.

4. This may be the year to RE-EXAMINE YOUR PRIORITIES: Such as NOT writing greeting cards, or NOT doing the holiday baking or decorating, or NOT putting up a tree or preparing
the family dinner, etc.

---It is important to ask yourself, "Do I really enjoy doing this? Is this a task that can be shared?"

---This might be the year to hire a caterer or buy a prepared dinner from the grocery store.

5. It is important to recognize your loved one's presence in the family or social circle. Let's face it, he or she is very present, even if you can't touch them. So, go ahead, and do what will give you pleasure or peace....

---Hang a stocking for your loved one, into which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings.

---Listen to music that was especially liked by your loved one; look at photographs.

---Set his/her place at the dinner table and decorate his/her place with flowers or a candle.

---Give in to that urge to buy your loved one a present, enjoy wrapping it, and then give it to a charity or a homeless person.


6. If you decide to do holiday shopping, make a list ahead of time and keep it handy for a day when you feel like shopping, or shop through an online catalog.

7. This next item is critical: Try to get enough rest. The holidays can be emotionally and physically draining.

8. Your feelings will, no doubt, be ever-present, so, please, allow yourself to express your feelings.
Holidays often magnify feelings of loss, especially when the loved one has only recently died or was recently relocated to a facility or hospice. It is natural to feel sadness. Give yourself time-outs from socializing.

9. Grief can be a lonely experience, either because our friends and family members are protecting themselves from their own feelings by staying away from us, or because we choose to demonstrate a stiff upper lip and keep our pain to ourselves. It is important that you share concerns, apprehensions, and sadness with a friend. The need for support is often greater during
holidays.

10. Here are a few DON'Ts.....

---Don't hesitate to call a clergyperson or a therapist for support.
---Don't be afraid to have fun. Laughter and joy are not disrespectful. Give yourself and your family members permission to celebrate and to take pleasure in the holidays.

Perspective is important, if not readily available, when we are grieving. Try to remind yourself that it won't always hurt this much, because, truth be told, it won't always hurt this much. It may always hurt some, and some years it may hurt more than others, but the pain won't always be as acute as it is during the first and second years.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Grieving Process

Grief is an emotion that we associate with pain, suffering, and loss. It is an essential part of the normal process of acknowledging the death of a loved one and starting to rebuild a life without that person. Grief is an uniquely individual process. Every person's experience is different, depending upon many factors such as age, health, culture, and religious background, and whether or not the survivors have other close family members or friends upon whom they can rely for support and comfort. It is important to remember that grief is normal and essential--and that there are as many ways to experience grief as there are people.
Losing someone you love is like suffering a physical wound: part of you is suddenly cut off, and the wound hurts, just as a physical injury does. And, as with a physical injury, it takes time for the wound to heal. The grieving process is the process of forming emotional "scar tissue" and learning to put your loss into perspective. And while you won't ever fully recover from from grief (as you do from a physical illness), you will reach a point when you can proceed with your life and take satisfaction from living.
The loss of a spouse, the loss of a child, and the loss of a parent are possibly the most difficult to face. But it is important to realize that no death is insignificant. Losing a friend or co-worker can also be devastating. Any sudden or unexpected death is also difficult and may require a longer grieving process than a loss that is expected, such as one from a long illness.
There is no right way to grieve. The death of a spouse, sibling, parent, cousin, grandparent, or close friend impacts everyone who knew and loved that person. And each person's response to death is different. Trust yourself to know what you need to get through this time. It is very important to accept offers of emotional support and kindness. The loving generosity of others will help ease the process.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Infidelity

Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Dr. Shirley P. Glass (Free Press: NY), is meant to help married couples recover from infidelity.
Her book shatters the myth that adultery occurs only in unhappy marriages. In my experience as a therapist, I have worked with many couples and sometimes it really is just about needing variety or because of a weak moment. Monogamy is not easy and sexual exclusivity is even more difficult. It's a lot to ask of a partner to be sexually faithful for decades, but, nonetheless, we do ask. In fact, we demand it, and when we, or our partners, prove to be just plain human, our marriage is shredded.
I'm not suggesting that cheating is ok because it isn't. When, on that bright sunny day that we stood in front of family and friends and promised to keep our pants up for the rest of our lives, we made a promise, pure and simple. Call me old fashioned, or naive, but I'm a stickler for promises. My grandmother always said, "You don't make a promise you can't keep." On that sunny day, you made a promise and you don't get to break that promise just because you want to, or you were weak, or you drank too much, or your partner is disappointing. You get to go into marital therapy, that's what you get to do. But, you don't get to cheat....that's breaking a whopper of a promise!
If you want to avoid temptation, then read on. Dr. Glass declares that no matter what one's level of marital satisfaction, it is very important to maintain specific boundaries (aka walls) with the opposite gender: not flirting, not discussing your marital dissatisfaction with the opposite sex, not pursuing an old flame on the internet, not meeting a co-worker in private, and not keeping friends who are hostile to your marriage (may I say, unless your marriage is abusive and, then, your hostile friends are your very BEST friends and maybe you should listen to them).
Here's a critical tidbit, which Dr. Glass points out: You know that feeling of being "in love"? The sensation of having your heart go pitter-patter when you think of him or her? Dr. Glass points out that the "in love" feeling of an affair is simply a temporary stage of infatuation which always fades away, and which is mistaken for the comfort and familiarity of a lifelong relationship. As a marriage and family therapist, I understand something that most married folks don't know: marriages are subject to stages of growth, just like human beings. In the beginning stage, we're all about the similarities: "Oh, you like pears? I like pears, too!" And, deep sigh, pitter-patter, we're goofy about the other person. Ah, but, then comes the stage when we want our old life back, and the stage when we want to move forward with our own growth (and career, and other friendships), and the stage when we think we can live without the person. Not to mention all of the disapointments that breed resentment (just a fancy word for anger), and, well, the blush begins to fade on the rose, and marriage starts looking less attractive.
Dr. Glass asserts that the marriages that have the best chance for recovery are those in which the unfaithful spouse ends the affair with no contact afterward, makes a 100% commitment to improve the marriage regardless of ambivalent feelings, refuses to contrast the weaknesses of one's spouse with the strengths of the affair partner, discovers one's vulnerabilities which led to the affair (including, I might add, a low threshold for boredom), and allows one's spouse to hold one accountable for ongoing boundaries. In a study of 4100 husbands who had an affair, 3485 (85%) decided to repair their marriages, while 615 (15%) divorced. Of these, only 19 men married their affair partner. Dr. Glass says that "We live in a culture that professes to value monogamy, but at the same time undercuts monogamy significantly by glamorizing illicit love affairs and commercializing sexual titillation." (p. 279) I can't argue with her there.
So, maybe, the answer isn't having an affair, maybe it is putting the same energy into one's current marriage? Just a thought.

Achieving Closure

Losing someone we love is never easy, and if there is violence involved or it is sudden and unexpected, that adds a dimension of pain and suffering that is difficult to overcome. Traumatic loss (e.g., a mugging turned violent) and a sudden loss (e.g., car accident) are the most difficult kinds of loss to overcome. Having said that, it is truly the meaning of the loss and our coping skills that determine, to a large extent, how soon we can move forward with our lives.

Oftentimes when we lose someone unexpectedly, not only is there no time to prepare ourselves mentally for the loss, we might find it impossible to attend a funeral or a memorial service. For many of us that leaves a void, the process is incomplete, and we tend to refer to our untended feelings as a need for closure. Is there ever, truly, a complete sense of closure when we have loves someone deeply? If the relationship was significant and meaningful, it is highly unlikely that we will achieve closure, as some therapists and many laypersons like to refer to it.

"Achieve"??? Like it's a goal that can be measured or a finish line that can be crossed? I don't think so. If the relationship was truly significant and meaningful, then the person takes a HUGE piece of us with them, and leaves a big piece of themselves behind in us. The truth of the matter is that we can spend a lifetime "achieving closure," if closure is actually something that can be achieved.

Most of us have to settle for accepting the loss, then finding a way to live with the loss, and then going about the business of actually living without that person. In time, with hard work, the pain becomes less acute and we can breathe, again, without crying or physically hurting on a regular basis. It is important to be realistic about loss and to understand that the pain will reoccur at unexpected moments in our lives, and at meaningful moments in our lives. And, yes, the pain may take our breath away in that moment of re-experiencing the loss, but, and here's the good news, it goes away much more quickly and with much less effort.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Achieving closure

Losing someone we love is never easy, and if there is violence involved or it is sudden and unexpected, that adds a dimension of pain and suffering that is difficult to overcome. Traumatic loss (e.g., a mugging turned violent) and sudden loss (e.g., car accident) are the most difficult kinds of loss to overcome. Having said that, it is truly the meaning of the loss and our coping skills that determine, to a large extent, how soon we can move forward with our lives.

Oftentimes when we lose someone unexpectedly, not only is there no time to prepare ourselves mentally for the loss, we might find it impossible to attend a funeral or a memorial service. For many of us that leaves a void, the process is incomplete, and we tend to refer to our untended feelings as a need for closure. Is there ever, truly, a complete sense of closure when we have loved someone deeply? If the relationship was significant and meaningful, it is highly unlikely tht we will achieve closure, as some therapists and many laypersons like to refer to it.

"Achieve"??? Like it's a goal that can be measured or a finish line that can be crossed? I don't think so. If the relationship was truly significant and meaningful, then the person takes a HUGE piece of us with them, and leaves a big piece of themselves behind in us. The truth of the matter is that we can spend a lifetime "achieving closure," if closure is actually something that can be achieved.

Most of us will have to settle for accepting the loss, then finding a way to live with the loss, and then going about the business of actually living without that person. In time, with hard work, the pain becomes less acute and we can breathe, again, without crying or physically hurting on a regular basis. It is important to be realistic about loss and to understand that the pain will reoccur at unexpected moments in our lives, and at meaningful moments in our lives. And, yes, the pain may take our breath away in that moment of re-experiencing the loss, but, and here's the good news, it goes away much more quickly and with much less effort.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Unfinished Business

I just finished reading a book entitled Unfinished Business by Lee Kravitz. The subtitle is "One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things." In a nutshell, Lee was fired from his long-time job and decided to spend the next year of unemployment cleaning up old business by making things right: he had a backlog of good intentions, but no follow-through. Don't we all? We all have some unfinished business: the promises we made, but didn't keep; money borrowed and not repaid; a condolence card never sent. Some of us are occasionally haunted by them; others are frequently haunted by them. Lee could not have predicted how cleaning up behind himself would have such a positive impact on his life. When you let go of the anchors on your soul, it is amazing how much easier it is to soar. If you have a lazy Sunday, or a quiet weekend away, wrap yourself around this book. When you're finished reading it, if you haven't already done so, make a list of your unfinished business, and then clean them up. It just might change your life for the better. Just a thought.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why are you afraid?

Why are you afraid? Why do you panic? Why do you sink into depression?

If all we seek is an earthly answer to those questions, then all we get are a list of reasons or excuses for our misery and pain. But what if we look for a higher answer, then what do we learn?

My spiritual teacher, a man of great wisdom, and what always seemed to me to be a direct relationship with On High, once said,

"Your soul plunged downward to live in an earthly realm,
to enwrap herself in a body of flesh and blood, willingly and with purpose.
What emboldened her? What drew her to squeeze into the
straitjacket of time and space?
It was neither fear, nor dread, nor panic. It was the knowledge that
here below is a beauty the highest of angels cannot touch.
Care for yourself, for your family, for your fellow human beings and
our lovely planet earth, NOT out of fear, NOR from distress, but out
of love and awe for the beauty within that we came to discover."

So, go forth, and discover the beauty. Find the pathway that leads you out of fear, out of panic, out of depression.

Opportunity may be presented as something that knocks on our door, but the truth is that more often than not, we have to leave home for opportunity to find us. When I was single, Mr. Right never rode up to my apartment door on his white steed, knocked boldly, and said, "Hey, jump on, Cutie. I'm here to change your life!" Jobs never looked me up in the White Pages of the telephone directory and offered me huge sums of money to do what I knew how to do. Contentment never sent me an email inviting me to a champagne reception to shake the hand of Truth. And Truth, well, Truth has been elusive and seems to be found only by walking one's own path, which, it would seem, usually leads out of my home and out into the world. So, go forth, and live your life among others. Who knows what good will come your way when you intersect Good's path. Just a thought.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why am I here?

"Why am I here?" is a question frequently asked by patients, spiritual querents, and the deeply depressed.

Why am I here? The answer to that question unfolds throughout our life. It may not be very clear earlier in life, but as the years add up and one's perspective develops, it becomes easier and easier to understand our purpose in being. Take a good, long look at yourself: What do you see? What do you enjoy? What resonates within you? What are your gifts? When you have the answers to those questions, then it is time to put the answers to good use. How you apply your gifts is probably your purpose.

Why are you the way that you are? Short and sweet, God made YOU this way because God needs you to be this way. No one else can do what God needs YOU to do. So, go! Do it!

If we are made in God's image, why does God need so many images? I don't know, but, maybe, it could be because each of us reflects a different aspect of God. So, go! Reflect!

How can we each have our own unique gifts? How can there be that many gifts? For all I know, there may be a finite number of gifts, but how and where you apply them will be uniquely your own. So, go! Give!

How can we use our gifts in service to God? By giving our gifts to others.

How can we use our gifts to bring meaning and purpose into our life? By giving our gifts in a spirit of gratitude.

How can we feel like a part of the human race? By giving our Self to others.

How can we feel like we belong? By giving our Self to our purpose.

How can we get over depression? By stepping out of our self-imposed isolation, our loneliness, our aloneness, and our all-consuming self-loathing.

How do we do that? As it says on the back of the shampoo bottle: Repeat. Return to the beginning of this entry, read it, and then reread it. Repeat. Repeat until you get it. Then go out there and join the human race. You deserve to belong. Just a thought.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Change your attitude, change your life

Too often, we focus on the bad stuff in life, or the stuff we cannot control. How many times in a day, in a week, in a lifetime, do good things actually occur? And how often do we walk right by the good stuff and not see it or feel it? How often do YOU focus on the hurtful words or deeds, the painful memories, the disappointments, the loves lost, and the suffering, but you don't notice when good stuff is actually happening?

Am I asking you to be a PollyAnna or to make lemonade out of lemons? No. I'm just asking you to write down every big and little thing that happens this week that was GOOD. NOTICE THE GOOD STUFF. Notice the things that you enjoy, or feel good about, or that enhance your self-esteem, or that you were so pleasantly and happily engaged with that you lost track of time. And, then, take a moment to feel grateful. Why? To increase your level of attention to the good details of your life.

As you change your attitude toward your own life, and what is happening in it, YOU will find that your life is actually changing. Yes, just by changing your attitude, you can change your life. I invite you to give it a try. Spend the next week noticing what is actually going right and you may be surprised at how good your life really is. Just a thought.

Remember: the sky may be the limit, but time is limited.

I love the start of a new year because it is ripe with potential. However, it is up to me to fulfill its promise. Granted, my 2011 appointment book was filled with recurring engagements even before the end of October 2010. There were all the usual items, e.g., appointments with patients, meetings, personal holidays, but the rest of the time was wide open and ready to be filled.

I'm sure we've all experienced the reality that if we stand still, we get run over---run over by time, run over by competitors, or run over by our own fears. I've never been much for standing still: there is still too much to learn, too much to experience, and too much to teach, before I will have no choice in whether or not I stand still. None of us knows when, or if, we will develop a progressive disease, a neurological condition, or when that "thing" that we already have may advance and stop us in our tracks. So, while I can still make a difference within my sphere of influence, I am. While I can still learn, I will. And while I can still teach, I do.

It is with the above in mind, that I have decided to pursue national certification in trauma and dissociation. As my patients know, many years ago I earned national certification in thanatology (death, dying, and bereavement), and that continues to be an area of treatment in which I specialize. Since I began my career in the field of psychology 35+ years ago, as the executive director of a rape crisis center and a victims' advocate, trauma has played a very big part in my career. It feels like the right time, once again, to commit to the certification process, and to make an investment in myself and my career as a practicing therapist. The courses and certification are offered by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation and it is a year-long program. I'll keep you posted when I learn something new.

What will you do to invest in yourself this year? Charitable work, a class for fun (cooking, art, archaeology, glass blowing), increased reading, enjoying a new hobby, taking a professional development course, or, or, or....???? Remember: the sky may be the limit, but, time is limited. So, what will you do with the time that you have remaining?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wishing you....

Dear patients, readers, colleagues and friends-I-haven't-yet-met,

I wish you a love-filled holy season, and a new year over-flowing with the satisfaction of meaningful work and a life lived in congruence with your purpose.

Warm fuzzies,
Gwen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

As we approach the holidays, perhaps....

Perhaps, we can decorate our home, and our new life, with the treasures that speak of our history, finding joy in the memories that they spark. Maybe, we'll bring with us some of the old, add a few pieces of the new, and practice the art of blending yesterday with today in the hope of creating another memory for tomorrow.

Perhaps, we can hang the special ornaments, or polish the menorah, and cherish the warmth of the love of which these symbols remind us. No one has to know the pain that we may be experiencing, even as we relive the pleasure and joy of having these objects in our life now.

Perhaps, we can gather with loved ones and count our blessings; counting not only the people around the table, but including ALL those whose lives have touched ours in countless ways. One does not have to be present to be alive in our hearts. Afterall, we shared a few moments of our life journey together and our hearts will never forget, even when others do.

And, perhaps, it may be that nothing will fit this year. But, the situation will get better, improving with age, or experience, or patience. We will probably always be a bit unsettled, unnerved when the roll-call finds a name missing or a chair empty. But, then, why shouldn't we be a little sad when a light goes out in our world?

So, this holiday season, try to look for things to enjoy. Gather in your blessings and count them ALL. Count the blessings of ALL the people in your life story, both present and deceased, and find the peace that comes from experiencing another holiday of joys recalled and love shared. And, just perhaps, the holidays will be better than you think they will be.

I wish you love-filled holidays and a new year of peace and joy.

A few helpful ideas for dealing with the holidays

Grief is never easy. Working through our grief, learning how to survive our loss, is a process---a process made more difficult by big family holidays. As we enter the end of the year, the time of year filled with the most intense and meaningful of holidays, here are a few ideas for dealing with the holidays and your loss.

1. Do not try to be brave. Take time to cry and just "be with" your grief. And, yes, strong men do cry.

2. Share your grief with others. Do not try to protect friends or family with silence. If friends or family cannot, or will not, listen....OR...if you feel like a burden to them, this may be a good time to contact a grief counselor, or a psychologist, or a pastoral counselor. Please do not allow yourself to feel isolated or lonely.

3. Please take care of your self. YOU ARE IMPORTANT and so is your health. . Try to eat well and exercise regularly. Even a short walk around the block will produce biochemical changes that can affect your attitude and you'll sleep better.

4. Please forgive yourself for everything you thnk you did "wrong." You did the best you could. Okay, maybe you didn't give your best every single day, but there was so much going on at the time and you had so many stressors in your life that you did the best you could, even if it wasn't the VERY best you could have done every single day. Remember that you were there for for the person you loved, and that is what is important.

5. Accept that there is no truly acceptable answer to the question, "Why?" Maybe your grief counselor or your spiritual counselor can help you find peace with this question. Just remember: you do NOT have to go through this alone.

6. Do purposeful work that brings meaning to eacg day and to your life. Bringing meaning into your life during a time when you may be questioning the meaning of life, God, religion, or previous choices, can be very beneficial. Volunteering to help the less fortunate, reading to children at the library, getting involved with your religious institution's outreach program can have a personally uplifting effect.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Resilience

Have you ever wondered why some people just seem to get over "stuff" and get on with life more easily than others? Is that due to personality differences? Is it inborn or due to the parenting that they received? (Ah, yes, that old conundrum of nature vs nurture.) Or, maybe, God just likes them better?

In my line of work we call that resilience. Webster's defines resilience as "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to change or misfortune." Resilience does seem to make a great difference in how people handle life and all that it can dish out.

So, what is resilience exactly? Who knows. There are no clear answers from the brain researchers, or the personality researchers, or the religious/spiritual researchers. However, here's what we do know about resilience: some piece of it is inborn. Yes, it seems we either have some, or we don't have some. (Note the word some. Is the remaining balance acquired? Maybe.) However, that isn't the end of the story. We also know that some people survive their childhoods, and move on to bigger and better things, because of one very important factor: the presence of one person who believed in them. Is that all it takes to thrive? No, but it helps A LOT.

The presence, the influence, the saving grace, of one person who believed in us can change our life. It doesn't have to be a person who was full-time in our lives (like a parent or other relative). It can be someone who was transitory, for example, a counselor for two weeks of summer camp, a classroom teacher, the local librarian, a soccer coach. In fact, it could be as transitory as someone we knew for a moment, literally, a moment in our lives, e.g., when we spoke to the inspirational lecturer at a Sunday School assembly, or the woman at the bookstore who took a minute and really listened to us.

When you look back on your childhood or adolescence, who reached out to you? Who believed in you, even if just for a moment? Who might you thank for the way you turned out? And can you do that for someone else, a child or a teenager who might need just one person to believe in him/her and their resilience will be encouraged to flourish?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Questions to ponder

What are human beings?

What are you as a human being?

What are the forces that act on your life?

Do you listen to your inner voice?

What do you do to understand your Self?

Can a person become a perfect person?

Does G-d want perfect people?

Does G-d want imperfect people?

What are the obstacles to your personal change?

How do you view the world?

Do you focus on the details or on the bigger picture?

Just some things to think about. Who knows, maybe the answers can change your life for the better.