A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

Thoughts on counseling, healing, and creating the life you want

On Getting Older, Changing Your State and the Merits of a Personal Theme Song

I’m not quite 4o yet, but I sure am breathing heavily down 40’s neck, warming up her collar and whispering the tidings of my imminent arrival. I’ve done all the requisite machinations of a woman teetering off the edge of her youth and into a robust, and hopefully juicy middle age. I have fewer you know whats to give about how people judge me and what they may think. I’m doing all the things. You know, cutting my hair, learning to roller skate and thinking about getting a tattoo. Then, upon deciding that I am too afraid of needles to approach the tattoo with a 10-foot pole, I have bought myself a tiny, fierce new car. I’ve never been one for an ostentatious ride. I feel conspicuous in it. But, I think it’s everyone’s duty at some point in life to (literally and metaphorically) put down the windows, pump up your jam and roll out like you mean it.

Hopefully, unless we have had to cope with misfortune or trauma, our early years are a hothouse of blooming creativity and extravagant imagination. More often, youth is the place where we collect the experiential odds and ends we need to be really interesting humans further down the line. Forging an existence that has purpose  is a constant, iterative process of intentional engineering. If youth offers anything extraordinarily delicious, it’s a lack of expectation as one is becoming to know who you’re supposed to be. We’re allowed to make it up as we go, giddy with discovery and sensitive to meaningful newness. What I liked most about my twenties was trying on hats–journalist, therapist, swing dancer, poet. I stamped my own individuality all over my life. And, if I have learned anything about happy people in general, particularly the older ones, it’s that they continue to remain awake to the option to create themselves over and over again. Their dreams don’t stop taking up the really good real estate in their own lives. I’m talking psychological beachfront condos, baby!

To that end, I have decided that I need a theme song. You know–an intro and an outro. A slick beat that heralds my desire to be intentional, and kind of bad ass as well. I need something that will effect an immediate state change in me whenever and wherever I desire it–no matter if I’m hearing it through my stereo or in my head. Here’s an example of the hilarious Peter MacNicol gearing himself up to face a difficult situation via his musical spirit animal, Barry White.

This isn’t, of course, anything new. Anyone who loves Tony Robbins or any of the NLP folks will recognize the idea that when you’re stressed or stumped, purposely changing your state by physical movement, affirmations or meditation is a quick, easy way to ritualize a return to the productive zone. That’s the place we call flow, where we can create and thrive. I teach my clients lots of tricks to do this state change stuff, so they can manage it in meetings, traffic or even while they’re doing leisure activities. When you come in, we can try some of the intellectual widgets that have worked for other people and you can also develop a few idiosyncratic ones of your own. History is full of folks who used their own experiences, culled from years of living as themselves, to combat undesirable mental and emotional roadblocks. The incomparable Leonard Cohen, for instance, chants, “Pauper sum ego, nihil habeo” before performing. That’s Latin for, “I am poor, I have nothing.” This incantation is intended to “reduce the weight” he and his fellow musicians feel before heading onto stage. To someone else, that wouldn’t be a useful approach. But, it works for Leonard. It’s essential to figure out how you best do you, and then to do that. Not for nothing, Keith Richards just eats a shepherd’s pie. Because, you know, Keith Richards.

If we can help you notice the state changes you experience in times of stress, anger, hopelessness, anxiety or overwhelm, we are more than a few steps down the road to mindfully creating a blueprint for your own happiness and contentment. If you’re able to be very present in moments that ordinarily would have “just happened” to you, what interesting changes could you invite? There is a process of creativity to assembling a tool box. And I am here to tell you that it is fun, interesting work.

What will you be doing in the next few weeks to improve your chances of conjuring up a life at your highest vibration? Me? I’ll be listening to my new theme song…and feeling good.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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A Word About Loving Your Parents Well and a Freebie

luck dragon“If you stop to think about it, you’ll have to admit that all the stories in the world consist essentially of twenty-six letters. The letters are always the same, only the arrangement varies. From letters words are formed, from words sentences, from sentences chapters, and from chapters stories.” –Michael Ende

That’s a luck dragon over to the left, by the way. He’ll be helpful later in this post for getting you a free session. Read on, fearless reader!

All of my posts here on A Raleigh Therapist’s blog are directly related to topics I’m covering in sessions with clients. Sometimes, it seems like lots of folks come in with the exact same concern all at once. I’m not sure if that’s a phase of the moon thing, or perhaps this is simply the time of the year for it. But, lately the topic du jour has been this–how in the world do I get along with my parents as an adult child?

Despite all the colorful things I told my folks back when I was an angry Goth girl covered in black clothes and magenta hair, I think they did a pretty good job at shepherding me towards adulthood. And, to tell you the truth, my angry Goth days were sort of essential in shaping me into the person that I am now. That’s maybe a blog post for another day related to a comforting speech I often give parents of my teenage/young adult clients that goes something like, “I also wore black nail polish, had dark taste in music and nurtured a penchant for Sylvia Plath. Here I sit before you in boring, tasteful pumps with a Ph.D.–it’ll probably be fine.”

But, in all honesty, it’s not as simple as that sometimes, is it? Often your differences with your parents continue on long after the turbulence of those early years has settled.  The waters are not always smooth sailing when trying to negotiate an adult identity with the people who will almost always look at you (fondly even) as though you were three.

The relationship with our parents, for most of us, is the first  and most complex bond we’ll ever know until we have children ourselves. It’s rich in both love and conflict, and in so many ways is the template on which we base our adult relationships. So, what happens if the relationship with your parents is one in which you need to set loving boundaries?

1) You’re a Mean One, Mr./Ms. Grinch: You have a right, and even more importantly, a responsibility to behave in a fashion that is congruent with your own morals. When you allow people you love, your parents included, to push you to do things outside of those values (for instance, getting into screaming matches, sidestepping your spouse, or going into debt to offer financial assistance) you are not behaving in a loving way. The worst thing about capitulating to demands that aren’t in alignment with your sense of integrity is that it breeds a particularly vicious kind of resentment on your part. Then, it is impossible to behave in a manner that honors your parents, let alone allows you to enjoy that relationship. Let your parents know what your boundaries are and stick to them in a way that isn’t punitive.

2) Guilty as Charged: The main reason that most folks don’t want to have boundaries with their folks is because they don’t want to feel guilty. And, I think this is pretty freakin’ normal. Your parents may have sacrificed for you. Perhaps they had a difficult upbringing and have done their best to make sure you were raised differently. Denying some requests does not mean you don’t honor your parents’ contributions or that you stop making commentary on your gratitude for them. Rather, it means that the requests you extend yourself to offer you do with a joyful heart. Boundaries don’t mean you’re angry with anyone. If your family of origin translates boundaries as anger, you may need some help to sort out what to say.

3)Boundaries aren’t Walls: Sometimes it’s hard to imagine setting boundaries because we are concerned that the people with whom we set them will think we don’t love them any longer. It may be hard to believe this, but you can love more deeply and intensely when you know where you stand. Then, you don’t have to be angry at yourself and by extension, other people because you allowed yourself to be pushed into places you never wanted to go.

Could you use some help in figuring out how to set loving boundaries? Do you need a better sense of space in your relationships? I’m here to help. I’ll even give you a gimmie. If you’d like to win a free session with me, answer this question about one of my own very first acts of parenting:

My youngest son is named after one of the two lead characters in my favorite book by writer Michael Ende. I loved the idea of an underdog who could save the world with his big imagination. The luck dragon above is a hint. If you’re the first person to email me the name of that character I’ll offer you a free, hour-long session.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for compassionate individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Imposter Syndrome, Anxiety and You

I used to work in community mental health. That is to say, I spent long hours attempting to help folks with poor resources, intractable mental illness and life circumstances that would knock most of us down for the count. Though I loved being on the front lines in that way (and think absolutely every therapist should do it before entering private practice) I often felt ground down by the hopelessness my clients articulated. Even if I viewed them as capable, vibrant individuals with lots to give the world, many of them didn’t view themselves that way. I found it maddening. How could I convince them that they were worthy and intelligent?

This was a problem I thought I would not be facing any longer when I moved exclusively to private practice. I mean, my clientele now consisted of NASA scientists, my elected officials, lawyers and professional performers and athletes just to name a few. If we gathered all these folks in one place, they truly represent the creme de la creme of their disciplines.  Yet, the story in my therapy room was much the same. No matter what professional heights they had reached, they were terrified that at any moment, the world would pull back the curtain and see that they were not all that great after all. It wasn’t that they were awesome, they told me. Nope, it was that they had tricked everyone into simply thinking that they were. Pretty soon, they reasoned, we would all figure out that underneath the degrees, muscles or charisma there was an empty shell where the intelligence and virtuosity should be. And boy, would the rest of us all be ticked that we had fallen for it. (Well, that or we would be smugly satisfied and get a good laugh out of it.)

Therapists call this particular phenomenon Imposter Syndrome. Though it’s not an officially recognized disorder (and personally, I don’t view it as a disorder–just an unhelpful way of thinking) it is a growing trend as far as I can tell. It used to be mostly thought of as something to which high-achieving women, minorities and folks in academia fell prey. But, more recent studies have demonstrated that it is increasingly wide-spread. Imposter Syndrome is associated with personality traits of perfectionism, thus making it pretty ironic that the folks most of us would evaluate as most capable are the ones who suffer intensely.

So, what can you do about it?

1) Be Present: I’m not saying this in a new-agey kind of way. Like, really, take stock of this moment and what is actually going on right now. When we have anxiety, worry is the activity we engage in to bind it up and do something with it. But, if we think about it, the whole point of worry (even when it’s warranted) is to project what could happen and attempt to avoid the bad outcomes. That sounds logical until you realize that you are a super-duper creative individual when it comes to worry. We all are. We can come up millions of things that could happen. And, when we do that, we are off in theory land. We can’t process the now, which is usually a far nicer place than our projections if we’re constantly somewhere else.  Even if it isn’t much nicer, it’s all we can control at this moment.

2) Mind your mental coin purse: I’ve mentioned in other blogs that thoughts are like taxis in NYC. Another one will come along any second if you don’t jump in this one. Be selective about which rides you’re willing to take. You’re paying for it if you take it both metaphorically and literally. You are offering mental/emotional/spiritual resources to that thought if you entertain it. Also, if you are constantly entertaining very negative, panic-provoking thoughts you are paying for it physically as well. Be a good steward of your resources.

3) Help Others: In all honestly, I remember more about how great of a therapist I am when I mentor other therapists than when I am with clients. If you have a skill set that you can share, you can hone it further by articulating it to your colleagues or those just coming up in your field. If you have to explain it rather than just doing it, the details become clearer.

Are you worried that the world will soon figure out your charade? Do you need help reminding yourself that you deserve the fruits of your labor? Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for compassionate individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Failure is Feedback

“One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.” —Henry Ford

I have to admit something to you. I almost didn’t write a blog on this topic. Here’s the reason why: if you took me seriously on this idea in any area of your life it would put me right out of business. Finally, a tid bit that can be applied to anything you can imagine, because in its simplicity, it is revolutionary.

Over the years I have worked with a number of highly-accomplished clients. These folks are professional athletes, politicians, business owners and entertainers. You would recognize their names if I told them to you, but since I’m an ethical and law-abiding kind of therapist I won’t do that. Seeing as how I won’t spill those goods, I’ll just give you the important part. Would you like to know the difference between these folks and the rest of us mere mortals?  They believe that failure is feedback. 

Many individuals have a faulty interior logic that tells them that if they don’t succeed the first few times, they probably aren’t meant to do that thing. Worse, they may believe that these initial missteps before greatness are evidence that something is amiss in their intelligence or creativity. High-achieving individuals brainstorm about how their failures give them evidence of the way forward. What new twist or turn has been added to the map that you couldn’t see before? What has become clear?

Therapy is helpful because with help, you can quit catastrophizing and break your goals down into small enough pieces that they become possible. What prep work do you need to do in order to make these successes happen? The worst move you can make is to do too much too soon because you are ashamed that what you envision hasn’t already materialized. Let’s discover why failure has happened in the past and use that as a template to make the microadjustments that will get you on the path to achieving all that you are capable of doing.

Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it? I would be delighted to co-architect a plan for an exciting new year.

Your Partner in Healing,

Are you looking for compassionate individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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The Importance of Nurturing your Inner Pollyanna

I have always been a bit of a Pollyanna. I say this affectionately about myself. Because, in my line of work, I happen to know that Pollyanna Syndrome is protective against all kinds of physical and emotional maladies. If you believe that the world is essentially good, and that the people in it are also pretty alright, (if sometimes kinda broken) than you’re not looking for the boogie man around the corner. And you also have the great luxury of thinking that when people screw your over, they didn’t do it because of any inherent evil. That means, in a nutshell, that you believe deep into your bones that no matter what, people can change. This is a helpful logic to have when one is a therapist–I would quickly feel defeated by my job if I didn’t have faith in our ability to transform terrible things into better ones. I have managed to maintain this worldview despite working with sex offenders, clients adjudicated for domestic violence and with folks in prisons. I think my Pollyanna gene is a gift from God and I try to nurture it and take good care of it.

But, this has been a hard week. I have been sorely tested. I got a call from the nice people at Dell Computers to tell me that they needed a few more details to process the order for my brand-spanking new $950 laptop. Say what? My what? After making sure that Dan hadn’t ordered us any fancy new electronics, I, the aforementioned Dell gurus and Chase sorted out that someone had stolen my credit card info. This person also clearly has my address and some other information about me. Dell won’t give me the physical address that the computer was to be delivered to because they are afraid I’ll exercise my other dominant gene–my hillbilly behind whoopin’ gene–and go over there and raise cane. But, what they did give me is the person’s email address. Now, isn’t that interesting?

So, what does one do now? I have been thinking of all the ways I could respond to this new bit of information. Should I send her (apparently her name is Melissa) a vitriolic missive dripping with the full content of my displeasure? Should I tell her that I am going to say a prayer to the universe for her that she heals her life and chooses a different direction? Should I respond at all?

That’s a question I will probably wrestle with for a while as Raleigh PD continues to try to track down the culprit. But, it has gotten me thinking about the emotional choices we make in life. Are we are better off when we choose to frame something in a positive manner? With the notable exception of circumstances in which you are being assertive (not aggressive) to maintain healthy boundaries, I believe the answer to that question is yes.

I have realized over the years that when I distill it down, the majority of my job as a clinician is to teach and model kindness. Clients come because their lives and their relationships have become devoid of compassion towards themselves and others. This happens when they blame themselves for things like depression, anxiety or PTSD. It happens when partners can no longer hear one another without lashing out in frustration and rage. Worst of all, it happens when you no longer believe that there is enough room in the world you currently inhabit to nurture your dreams and hopes for yourself.

So, how can you nurture your inner Pollyanna? I have a few ideas about that:

1) Do unto others: Yeah, I know. It’s hokey. But science agrees with me that acts of altruism boost wellness. If you can’t do anything nice for yourself, choose a day every now and again to do something for someone else. You can volunteer tons of places. www.volunteermatch.org is a great place to start.

2) Stop gossiping: Yeah, I know it’s fun. It seems like the original good, clean time. But, recreationally badmouthing other people is bad for your emotional and spiritual health. It’s a double-edged sword, you see. Sure, you may have the best zinger in the neighborhood about Sandra down the street. But giving voice to those kinds of things also lets you know something unpleasant about yourself that will come back to bite you in your self-esteem–you participate in meanness. If you spend your time practicing division rather than compassion you won’t reap the benefits of experiencing yourself as kind, tolerant and the sort of person with whom you would want to be friends.

3) Practice the fine art of liking yourself: It really does seem to be a lost art these days. We live in morally ambiguous times. The things we are able to do and experience through technologies like social networking (and blogging too) take us out of the real-life intimate audiences of the people who know us well, and thrust us onto an ever-widening stage of acquaintances. In part, that’s pretty darn cool. Otherwise, how would you be reading all these pearls of wisdom I’m dropping on you right now? But, it also opens the door for near-constant comparisons of our lives to others’ lives. I mean, before Facebook and Twitter, would I have really seen photos of a chick I knew only passably well in high school on her fantastic Italian cruise? Would I have known what gourmet meals everyone was preparing for dinner? Nope, we have unprecedented data on one another. Work just as hard to know and respect yourself. I firmly believe that the many ways we have of expressing ourselves publicly these days have in many ways stripped us of personal creativity and invited a kind of one-upping one another via the mirror of Facebook.

What are your ideas about cultivating kindness in your life? I’d sure love to hear them. Why don’t you come on in today so that we can talk about it?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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The Importance of Sacred Spaces Plus an Invitation

I love putting together a new office. There is a wonderful sense of newness and urgency about it. It just feels like every great thing that is going to happen in that space will manifest all at once if I can hurry up and get the curtains hung. The new Lotus Therapy Center feels warm and cozy. I’m setting it up so that both you and I can express our awesomeness in there appropriately.

I think everyone should have somewhere–your car, a corner of your closet, a yoga mat and candle out on the fire escape–somewhere, that you can access a few moments of quiet and inspiration. For me, that place is usually my office. There are numerous reasons for this that include but are not limited to: 1) There are no legos to step on anywhere 2) I don’t have to put my coffee at a level somewhere above my head for fear that I will later be drinking after my mountain-climbing pug 3) I decorated it myself and all my best books are there.

Sacred spaces are important for recharging your batteries and equipping yourself to handle new challenges that come your way. You wouldn’t expect your car to continue to run if you don’t put gas in it. But, so many folks navigate the rigors of modern life by pushing through on fumes. Here are a few tips for creating sacred spaces in your life:

1) Wherever you go, there you are: Back in the day when I did in-home and in-school counseling, I carried around a very strongly-scented peppermint aromatherapy lotion from Origins. (It’s called Peace of Mind if you’re interested.) I did this for several reasons. First, studies show that athletes who smell peppermint feel better, perform more strongly and are more cheerful about the entire endeavor. Did you know you could get that kind of boost in a smell? Secondly, it gave a olfactory clue that our therapy sessions, no matter where they were that day, were sacred spaces. So, really all you need is a cue, a quiet place (seriously, your car will do) and a few minutes to set your intention on whatever will help you most.

2) R-E-S-P-E-C-T: I hope you just sang that in your head like I did. If you respect your responsibilities and want to do your best, you have to respect the instrument that will get all that stuff accomplished first–you. You are your own first and last resource for health and better performance. Can you make a corner of your office (you don’t have to tell anybody) a sacred space? My office has a plant my husband gave me many years ago, a special rock I got from a seminar I found inspiring, and a small statue of Kwan Yin. It doesn’t look like anything but a collection of mementos. But to me, it reminds me that if I want to practice compassion towards others, I have to do it for myself.

3) Come Together Right Now: There are those of us who make it our business to create sacred spaces to share. Folks who lead mediation groups, worship leaders of all religions, yoga teachers, massage therapists and a host of others are available to enter into those collaborative spaces with you. I would love to take this opportunity to invite you into mine.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Taking a Chance on Change

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better  by change.” –Jim Rohn

If I had any one mantra for living life in a satisfying manner, this would be it. Go ahead and read it again because it’s important stuff. When you’re ready to throw up your hands and let life happen to you, that’s probably the time you need this particular quote tattooed on the back of your eyelids. As a matter of fact, I needed to reread ol’ Jim myself this morning. I am in the middle of choosing a new office here in Raleigh, and it’s not going well. Seriously, I have been ready to just abandon the whole process and start the Triangle’s first mobile therapy service. I’m thinking I’ll just get an old ice cream truck and ride around offering 15-minute mini-sessions downtown. Maybe I’ll actually hand out cones too. In other words, sometimes, even I would rather just think silly, discouraged thoughts and pine away for something to magically materialize.

Sugar-coated counseling sessions aside, I love this saying by business coach and author, Jim Rohn, because it is a call to action. And action, my friends, is what gets us out of muddles we have now and into the future we want most. Any client that I see, from folks presenting with OCD to those coming to alleviate poor relationship patterns, are asked this important question: “What would be the first, smallest change that would let you know your goal is starting to happen?” And then we start about instituting that tiniest change right away. I love rooting around in the past and looking at patterns and memories that will, when understood, help shine the light of understanding on a murky problem. But, I believe that contemplation has to be paired with the empowering sensation of forward motion. Otherwise, the reflection can begin to seem like all there is. And no matter what you are facing, wherever you are now is never all there is.

Here are a few tips to get you on the road to change:

1) Identify that first smallest step and recognize that there is never a step that is too small: I once treated an woman who struggled with a fear of leaving her home. She was so paralyzed by her terror that she could not go grocery shopping, attend appointments in person, or visit friends and family. Though we talked quite a bit about how this fear crept up on her, we paired it with action. She decided that her first, smallest step would be to open the front door and then close it again. That was all, and that was enough. Eventually, through adding many other smallest steps onto that first one, she was able to drive herself around again and resume a life she recognized as joyful and fulfilling. No first step is ever too small.

2) Put me in coach, I’m ready to play: I happen to think that I’m a pretty great coach and therapist even when I don’t offer frozen treats. But, I’m no match for your interior motivator. Find a quote that matches your situation and counteracts the internal voice that tells you that nothing can be different. Now, write it down on a card and cut it out. Now, put it in your pants pocket. Read it to yourself every time you go to the bathroom. There you go–it’s scheduled for a time when you’re already fumbling around with your pants and have some quiet time alone. Voila!

3) Get a room you two: Schedule some time to meet with a therapist or coach who can help you articulate clear goals that are in alignment with the future that you want. When most people do this alone they choose initial goals that are too big out of a sense of shame that the goal hasn’t already been accomplished. With someone to help you break it down into intelligent parts, you can get some wins under your belt that will guide you to that larger goal.

Why don’t you come on in so that we can get you on the way to your goals?

Your Partner in Healing,

Dr. Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in the Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to see how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com.

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Reawakening your Creative Life in the Absence of the Mouse

My new neighborhood is boring. There, I said it.  I have moved to Raleigh and I am dying of sheer, unadulterated monotony.

We relocated to NC because we thought Gabriel and Bastian deserved to grow up in a place that is a little slower. And, boy, have we gotten more than we bargained for on that count. Have you ever heard that saying about the sidewalks rolling up after 6 p.m.? Well, I’m pretty sure that the person who coined that phrase was looking for something to do in Raleigh that doesn’t involve a pub, collegiate sports, or must-see TV. Sweet mother of all that is good and holy, I am bored.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love NC because it is where I grew up, where my family is, and home to some of the nicest people on the face of this planet. Where else do your neighbors actually bring you a cake when you move into your new house? Where else do complete strangers come running up to you in the parking lot, frantic to help you put your cart away when you’re struggling to get a toddler and an infant into your polar bear-murdering lug of an SUV? Nowhere, that’s where. But, I’m still bored. I just moved here from Orlando, for Pete’s sake. We had annual passes to Disney, Sea World and Universal Studios. Please forgive me while I tone my expectations back a notch.

However, there is hope. One day when I was kicking around my neighborhood trying to find some trouble to get into, I stumbled upon the most fabulous used bookstore. My geek gene started humming softly in my ear, and my wallet flew out of my pocket and ran away through the front door. I’ll spare you the armfuls of other books that I adopted that day, but I want to tell you about one really good one that has gotten me thinking about what other things I could be doing with my Mickey Mouseless hours.

“This I Believe” is a book of essays that is about exactly what it sounds like. The book takes it name from a radio series that began in 1951, and highlights the core beliefs of all kinds of Americans. The essays are really short–a page or two–and cover everything from the belief in barbecue to a fundamental faith in kindness. (If you would like to write your own essay, which may be featured on NPR, you can go to http://thisibelieve.org/.)

Anyway, the essay that I have been thinking about today focused on the secret creativity we all have inside us. Author Mel Rusnov is a civil engineer who, “makes a satisfying, comfortable living working quietly in my cubicle.” But, she is more than that. She is also an accomplished pianist, “bringing to life with my own hands, the genius of Bach, Mozart and Chopin.” Rusnov says that we are all narrowly defined by our predictable lives as worker bees and that we can be transformed by the beauty of the talents we allow to lie dormant within us. What should we do with these rich interior lives that cubicle nation has no use for? We should take them out, shine them up and reintegrate them into ourselves. In fact, I that I believe with all my heart.

I have seen friends, family members and clients remake their own lives into something more satisfying and real by giving themselves permission to participate in the creative pursuits that give them joy. This is meaningful to me these days because I have been contemplating picking up my cello again and getting back into music. Though NC isn’t filled with the kind of recreation I am used to, perhaps I can use this time to return to some parts of myself that have been neglected for too long.

What do you need to do to reclaim your secret creativity?

Your partner in healing,

Dr. Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in the Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to see how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com.

 

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What's your Life's Work?

You know, I’m kinda liking this unfettered blogging. Since we moved to NC, I have been seeing only a handful of my Florida clients via Skype. These are folks with whom I have been working for a long time, and for whom it would have been sort of messy and discouraging to change therapists. The good thing about this yawning cavern of free time  in my life is that I have extra moments lying about in spades to write, read and make endless amount of cookies with Gabe. However, I can’t help but feel a little at loose ends without sessions to attend and people to help. I mean, it’s what I do.

 Today I was pondering how you know that the work that you do, whatever it is, is what you’re supposed to be doing. And, honestly, I don’t think that you have to be slogging away at something fancy or world-saving to find meaning in your job. I was quickly disabused of that notion by my sweet friend Marta, who cleaned my house for me while I was a studying for my doctoral degree. I asked Marta once (like the arrogant know-it-all most clinical graduate students are) if cleaning houses had always been what she wanted to do with her life. You can see where I’ m going with this–it hadn’t occurred to me that someone would want to commit herself to that. I assumed she must have been trapped into this by dire circumstance. But Marta told me that ever since she was a child, she had taken great pleasure in putting things in order. She said that she views what she does for her clients as a something therapuetic for them. Marta loved to go home and know that we were walking back into homes that were organized, clean and healthy. And, she got to own her own business and make her own hours. In other words, Marta is probably doing people as much good in her profession as I am in mine. Seriously, if anybody in Ft. Lauderdale needs a house tender, Marta is your gal.

If I am fortunate in anything in my life, it is that I know what my life’s work is supposed to be. I love being a therapist, and the idea of doing absolutely anything else is strange and terrifying. Do you know what you’re supposed to be doing? Here’s some questions to ask yourself as you’re on the path to discovery:

1) What would be different about your life if you loved your work?

2) If you journeyed into the forbidden territory of your best hopes for your life (the ones we don’t dare let ourselves entertain because they sound too far-fetched) what would you unearth?

3) What emotions do you need to clear about yourself before you can think critically about your future? (Regret, anxiety, self-loathing)

4) How can you reframe that best hope so that it or some part of it is possible? For instance, I considered going to school to be an OBGYN. Since I am interested in women’s issues I do postpartum counseling.

5) What skills do you need to develop to trust yourself to make new goals for the future?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

holly@lotustherapycenter.com

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The importance of Editing

Right now, as we speak, I am supposed to be hard at work finishing a writing project I started about 5 years ago. I’m not sure what all I have been doing lo these many moons, but it sure as heck hasn’t been carefully toiling over this long-hated research mess. So, I started thinking about what it means to us to finish what we start, and if sometimes it’s ok to simply decide to edit some things out of our lives entirely.

I don’t believe a stress-free life is possible, or even desirable. But, if we manage to lessen the things we “must” do down to the things that we have to do in order to be responsible, moral, and happy then we probably have a toehold on a pretty good life. Where are you overcommited?

1) Create more open spaces in your life: I don’t mean that in the literal sense. Though, if any of you wants to come and clean off the clutter of my toddler’s two-year-old birthday party (that was three days ago) I will be eternally grateful. What I mean is that Americans are waaaaaaay, waaaaaaay, too scheduled. We schedule ourselves into the ground at work, our religious centers, and with friends. But worst of all, we overschedule our children so much that there are whole families of sad, emotionally-winded people. Not to be a killjoy, but I am watching my fellow mommy friends put their toddlers into sports, music, art, and a host of other “lessons” and “learning opportunities.” Poppycock! I would rather sit with Gabe and dig in the dirt for three hours then listen to someone else tell me how to stimulate him to the ends of the earth. In my years of practice I have noticed that the children of all ages that are happiest are the ones who spend time with their folks. Period. They have, perhaps, a few activities to beef up the ol’ college resume, but that’s it. Take that time you were going to spend ferrying Jr. to freestyle football dance class and each of you read your own book on the couch, no cell phones. Now, that’s happiness. And literacy…but that’s probably another blog post.

2. Practice Gratitude: I believe that one of the single, best tools you can create for yourself is a gratitude journal. Take a few moments at some point during the day (I do it through an ap on my Iphone) to write down what’s going well and to thank God, the universe, or whatever floats your boat for the lovely things. I know this is a post about editing down your life, and I believe that this is a great way to do it. There are a few people (who shall remain nameless in case they read this blog) who really manage to push my buttons every time I see them. Seriously, even the therapist needs to go out back and have a quiet moment of resisting homicide sometimes. But, after that’s taken care of, I deliberately turn my focus instead to the myriad of people who are blessings to me. If I don’t do that, I for one, can ruminate. Unless it really is time for you to face a particular person or issue and make a big change–and by all means, don’t let me stop you–learn to pay attention to things that will water your emotional garden rather than grow weeds in it.

3) Have some Boundaries: Those people who know me might sometimes accuse me of being a raging liberal. On some points, I am. But I also think we live in an age of odd moral relativism. I know I’ll take some fire for that, but I don’t care. There are some things that you should do as a human being because they’re the right things to do. These include spending time with your children, keeping your commitment to your spouse or partner, and treating absolutely everyone else in your life the way you would want to be treated. If you’re lying, cheating, being a bully, and in general living in a selfish way you know who you are. Excuses like rotten parents, ugly breakups, and the whole host of other ills people use to justify mean-spirited selfishness just make the justifiers feel worse. If you’re haunted by something go ahead and get some help. Take care of it and choose not to perpetuate the emotional devestation that injured you. And, if you’re mollycoddling people like this you’re not helping them–you’re allowing them to remain emotionally handicapped and that is not kindness, it’s  facilitating a delay of their healing.

So, that’s it for me tonight. Happy editing to us both!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

holly@lotustherapycenter.com

If you would like a free, 30-minute consultation to learn more about how counseling can be helpful to you, please don’t hesitate to call me at 407.913.4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

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