Sunday, December 1, 2013

Let the Shadows Fall Behind - Embracing Gratitude

Have you ever wondered why it is so much easier to complain than to be joyful? Finding fault with our lives comes so naturally; it flows forth from our lips in a tidal wave when given the chance to empty.  We are seemingly full of negativity.  
But, to find gratitude we grapple.  We need to pause and ponder.  We need books to assist us, religion to remind us how blessed we are, we even have a holiday to help us reconnect to the thankfulness we have disconnected from during the year. 
Carl Jung termed this negative seeking side in our psyche "Schadenfreude"meaning pleasure in sadness; (the German language captures such profoundness in their compound words! ).  Eckhard Tolle says we are all too attached to "the pain body"; the side of us that is invested in our physical and emotional discomforts.  In Buddhism, it is said that in life there is suffering and in our illusory minds we are attached to that suffering.  
I say, we are not born that way.  I've been around a lot of young children and I've never met a toddler who chooses sadness over happiness.  Show a grumpy or hurt toddler a flower, an animal, a truck, and they are in awe, smiling radiantly at the wonders life offers.  They connect to gratitude in an instant and their discomfort has been forgotten.  True, life is uncomplicated at that age, but the point is we are born optimistic, with our glasses half full.  
It stands to reason that we lose something in our maturing process.  Or perhaps something infiltrates our original, optimistic outlook.  
The Chinese people, I have been told, believed that if you complimented a baby/child, or you are too optimistic, the jealous Gods would hear your boast and ruin your plans, maim your child, and so forth.  So they tuned their positive statements down, claimed the negative instead, to trick the Gods.  
Our culture has a similar attitude about optimism and gratitude.  We don't like to "count our chickens before they hatch".  We try not to appear too content so others won't begrudge our contentedness.  
It's a confusing relationship we have with thankfulness.  Only at the aforementioned moments are we supposed to tap that window glass to admire it.  We must keep it at arms length. Yet, we all feel so good when we are thankful. 
Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese Doctor did research on water crystals and emotions.  Astonishingly, he found that the microscopic crystalline structure of water changed when different emotional energy surrounded the water.  (For more information, see What the Bleep do we Know!?
The most beautiful crystalline shape was created when gratitude and love surrounded the water.  

love-and-gratitude.jpg


Now imagine what our bodies and blood would look like if we could maintain our state of gratitude.  Imagine sharing that with others and spreading that instead of our "pain body". 
Shifting our perception onto the things that are working in our life and unplugging our attention from the things that aren't working is a common practice in counseling.  It can be transformative. 

Without the darkness we wouldn't recognize the light, but let's not give the darkness all the attention. Try turning to the light instead and embrace gratitude.

"In the activites of the mind, keep optimistic - even when everything goes wrong.  Turn thy face to the light and the shadows fall behind "- Edgar Cayce







Friday, November 15, 2013

What is the Grieving Process?

Grieving is a process, as everyone who has experienced it knows.  It is a process that varies for all of us. There is no right or wrong way to go through the grieving process.  Finding the most personally reflective way to grieve is what becomes important.

Most of us are familiar with Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross' stages of grieving. These stages are not fixed. We move in and out of these stages randomly bouncing from one to the other.  It is not a step by step sequence. You may even skip a stage.  The following excerpt is taken from her book "On Death and Dying".  "the so-called “stage theory” are merely a set of categories artificially isolated and separately described so that the author can discuss each of these experiences more clearly and simply. The careful reader will note K├╝bler-Ross’s own repeated warnings that many of these “stages” overlap, occur together, or even that some reactions are missed altogether. To emphasize this conditional way of talking about stages, the word “stages” was even put in inverted commas to emphasize their tentative nature in the only diagrammatic representation of these ideas in her book.
The following is Dr. Ross' diagram model: 
5-Stages-Chart-2013_LD3.jpg




Grieving isn't just something we experience when a loved one dies. We grieve when we have a change; even happy changes can spark a grieving reaction with in us, as we release the old to make room for the new.  From sad events like a death, a divorce, a loss of employment, to happier events such as a move, a graduation, a new baby, retirement ... the old life dies and the new life moves in.  But it's more like moving through taffy. Change is slow and sticky and we need to warm up to it before it can become more fluid.  What we are truly mourning is not only loss, but essentially the change in our life as a result of the event.

I read an autobiography once who's title and author escapes me, but I recall how the author was going through a divorce and at the same time developed a chronic illness.  She decided to be a "conscious" griever.  When she felt like screaming, she found a time and place to do so ASAP!  When she wanted to cry, she didn't swallow her tears.  She allowed the pain she felt to have a voice when and how it needed to express itself.  She experienced a transition from pain to peace in a relatively short time; she claimed 2 weeks was all it took for her to embrace her new life.  No suppression; just expression.

A year is the stated "typical" time frame for people to come to some neutral place of acceptance.  One year to accept - not heal completely, or be back to normal.  Healing is slow.  But how much of this is due to all of our "stiff upper lip" mentality? What would change for us if we stayed with our suffering and gave it an outlet whenever it chose to wash over us? Like a wave washing up on the shore; it will recede again.  Nothing stays the same, not even our pain.

If you are grieving, no matter the reason; and you're not coming to terms with your life in a satisfying manner; than consider seeking therapy to assist. Bioenergetics body work therapy, dream work, and expressive arts are all excellent means of working out the suffering that has stored itself within our psyche.   Often a few sessions will ease the load greatly; leaving a promise of a hopeful tomorrow. Remember to treat yourself with velvet gloves; softly and gently, and do the things that warm your heart.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What are natural and logical consequences?

I am frequently asked by my clients with children about the use of natural and logical consequences and how they can be more effective in guiding our kids to improved choice making.  I have to reflect back to one of my first encounters with the value of natural consequences.
One of my "wise women" mentors advised me after the birth of my baby boy to not put too much energy into "baby-proofing" the house.  She felt it was all unnecessary and that a child will learn better if everything remained natural in the home environment.  She recommended not moving all my porcelain nick-nacks and vases.  "Allow the baby to grow up seeing and normalizing all the precious things so he can learn to be gentle and careful at times" she said.  "Do this right from the start to condition him" was her advice.  To save myself a lot of redecorating trouble, I followed her suggestion and happily she was correct.  My little boy developed his ability to be careful and gentle quickly.  He seemed to enjoy sitting with me and handling (with my help), a music box or a tea cup.  These interactions enabled him to develop "soft touches" that later transferred when playing with other children.  He had learned the concept of "gentle". 
This experience was one of natural consequences.  These traits were learned through a natural sequence of events. I did not have to intercede. The breakable nick-nacks stayed put and the child learned naturally that this was normal to see and be around such things, and in addition, that mommy praised him when he was gentle with certain things in the house.  These skills then later help him control his actions.  

Now, what about logical consequences? These involve some action taken by the care-taker.  If for example, my son had been too rough with something, then the logical consequence would be to put that item away until he could show me he could be gentle.   Another classic example of a logical consequence is when a child leaves his/her bicycle out in the street and it gets run over; the child has to earn the money to pay for a new one.  The child is being held accountable for his actions.  Or let's say that he/she gets into something they are not supposed to and makes a mess.  They have to be part of the clean up and maybe even the replacing of what they wasted.  

The missing link in making these effective is the communication that needs to happen after one of these learning opportunities arise.  An age appropriate conversation has to take place after the dust has settled, exploring how choices and actions resulted in the consequences and how these choices and actions effect others.  Then you need to pile on the praise when they have done what was asked.  This is the glue that holds the memory strong. Forgiveness and praise! 

Taking away the i-pad because the child has a temper tantrum at the store hasn't any sequential logic. It's too far a stretch for a child to understand.  Try to bridge the behavior to the consequence so that they can learn from their experience.  Then discuss what took place when everyone is calm again and help them see the connection. 

Guiding our children in ways that make sense, tying actions and choices to their natural and logical consequences is the foundation for effective boundary setting and creates safety and clear expectations for kids.  

For more information on how to be the most effective parent you can be, call or email me to set up a consultation.  It could prove to be invaluable! 
tanya@newlevelcounseling.com, 404-702-8474


Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Importance of Wise Women

I was expecting my first baby, and naturally I wanted to do everything right.  I had all the necessities, felt materially prepared, but still was in awe of this birthing and parenting process.  Although I wanted to be viewed as competent, I was logical enough to know I didn't know everything and couldn't be expected to.
A family friend was visiting; she had known me as a small child and was a dear friend to my mother.  She had a warm but no-nonsense approach that made me feel secure around her.  I trusted her. We spent the afternoon talking about this and that, but every now and then she would offer some practical advise.  I had other women, older than me who periodically passed some small tidbit about motherhood down to me, like a precious jewel that you don't realize is a gem until it comes time to use it.  These women were a blessing to me.  Little by little, these Goddesses added more and more to my sense of assuredness and confidence that I could take on this incredibly difficult, life or death challenge, successfully. I began to wonder if other women have such women in their lives and do they recognize who they are and what value they hold?

It was so vital to my development to have these wise women in my life at this critical time.
This type of practical but positive influence was truly imperative during my growth period. In hind sight, I see that a great deal of my ability to mother effectively comes from these wonderful women.  My own mother and other mother figures in my life contributed to this pool of "wisdom".   This gathering of information, this sifting of the good grains from the bad, is our preparation work to feel our inner wise mother unfold.  We don't learn parenting from just books; we don't learn it from just our mother.  We can't just "wing it".  We must look through the volumes of information all the wise women in our lives have to offer.  We are then able to gather enough good and useful information to create our own volume on mothering.
Making it your own style is the next stage of development.  Learning to trust your own resources, your own voice is something I encourage not only in the new mothers who come to me for assistance, but also the experienced ones who are needing some more information to fill their book on parenting. We are always adding new material to our skill log when it comes to parenting and this is a good thing; for we are never wise enough not to do so.
Look around at the people in your life and examine what impact they could have on you positively, or have had on you already.  It is only when we make an effort to be aware of the value people bring to our life that we become conscious enough to recognize that we are not alone and we are supported by those around us.  Then we can utilize and personalize their knowledge that they offer, giving it credence and allowing them to make an impact.

To learn more parenting tools call me for a consultation @ 404-702-8474, or email me tanya@newlevelcounseling.com.  Visit my website for more information; newlevelcounseling.com

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Presence in Parenting

"Mindfulness" and "being in the moment" are concepts that are becoming more popular in our culture.  People everywhere are realizing that living a frenzied lifestyle may keep us busy, but it doesn't usually lead to satisfaction.  These concepts of centeredness and mindfulness are bridges to calmness.

So, how often during your day do you close your eyes and breathe long enough to feel the tension leave your body?  My guess is not often enough.  Try it now. With your inhalation bring your awareness to your lungs, expanding and dropping into your body.  In yoga we focus on the breath and how it moves through the body, creating space for the body to lengthen, or relax.  Even if you don't do yoga  this simple breathing practice can be integrated into daily life, creating a more centered experience regardless of the chaos around you.

How present are you with your children?  Tuning into the moment while interacting with your them is a simple, but powerful way to connect.  Much of our dialogue with our children is based on questions and answers.  "Did you feed the dog?" "Did you do your homework?" These type of interactions are necessary, but they don't bring us closer.
When we as parents stop, breathe and focus on the moment we hone our ability to engage in a meaningful encounter.  Even if we have 10 minutes time to connect. Those 10 minutes leave us feeling satisfied rather than empty.

If you have small children who like to be tucked into bed, laying next to them and breathing with their rhythm of breath can be a way to tune into them energetically; it's a soothing practice.  When playing with them, bring awareness to the connection you are creating.  Allow your internal observer to observe the interaction and come alive to the bond that is present.

When we have someones attention we see it in their eyes and feel it in their body energy.  When in the moment we are in a state of acceptance rather than judgement.  This gives our children the energetic freedom o be real with us; to express themselves in an authentic way.  For all of us, not just our kids, it is good therapy to feel that unconditional, positive acceptance when we are in the presence of someone who is simply THERE with us.

Take my hand. 
We will Walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk,
without thinking of arriving anywhere. 
Walk peacefully. 
Walk happily. Our walk is a peace walk. 
Our walk is a happiness walk.  - Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Unloved Self: The Shadow

There is a part of us that lurks in the shadows of our mind. A part of us shunned and stunted and cut off from the life flow.  An unloved part, C.G.Jung termed "shadow".  The time has come to shed some light on this dark aspect of personality.   It is the tyrant in our unconscious that is the cause of much conflict and sabotaging decision making that leads us into trouble.  Our acting out and misbehaving is born out of the unseen shadow within.  Paradoxically, our over-identification with behaving ourselves is also born out of this obscure dimension.

When we deny elements of our self, we become inflexible, unyielding, controlling & judgmental.  We lose our innate spontaneity.  When events don't happen as expected, we struggle and resist; having lost our resilience in that moment.  Our world turns from a rainbow of colors to only grey, black, and white.

"A composite of characteristics and potentialities which have been denied expression in life.  It contains inferior qualities which the ego will not permit it to recognize.  But because it is accessible to the ego, it assists the ego in adapting and thus contains positive content as well as negative."  The Shadow defined by C.G. Jung.

Familiar with the phrase, "The outer reflects the inner?"  If your world is full of negative, or simply annoying people for example, then the place to go to begin to amend this is to your shadow.
In the words of June Singer, Jungian analyst; "What we cannot admit in ourselves we often find in others."
I have my clients make a list of all things they dislike about someone in particular.  Then they make a list of how they personally act out at times.  They then compare the two lists.  Or, if acting out isn't the issue, then one can write why someone would want to act that way.  What benefit is received by behaving a particular way that is not approved of.   You might ask yourself: How am I like this person? How do I compensate, & sacrifice to avoid acting like this person? Is my current behavior in alignment with who I am, or do I force myself to the degree of cutting a part of myself off? 

When you soften judgements by shifting a perspective, you make room for your shadow to blend in with the light.  Welcoming an attitude of open discernment rather than judgment, for your own actions as well as others, can leave you with peace instead of harshness. As you accept your own negative stuff you step into self love; when we connect with self love we open up to love in general.  Aren't we all happier when we live with love rather than judgement?  Through conscious attention we can find ways to transform and tame the negative in us into something helpful; there in lies the potential of who we can be.

Does this mean you can go ahead and act on all your negative impulses? Of course not.  You must use your own conscious (ego) mind to mediate between your shadow thoughts and your conscious choices to move your actions toward what is best for all involved.  To accept and understand our shadow doesn't mean it's in our best interest to act out the shadow.  And remember, intention is everything.

Visit my website newlevelcounseling.com for more information on Jungian Depth Therapy, or call for a consultation.  404-702-8474

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Smoothness of Being

"The Smoothness of Being"... that was the mantra that came to me during a wonderful Savasana, or "corpse pose" experience right after my yoga class.  For my non-yoga readers, Savasana is the state of relaxation and meditation that occurs after the yoga class.  In fact the yoga itself is the set up for the entry point into Savasana.  Yoga moves the body and relaxes the mind so that the mind can slow its' chatter to allow for a deeper Savasana.

Moments of insight are rare or brief, even in meditation.  Often it just feels good; but this time as I was lying there, I felt the smoothness of the floor beneath me.  My mind jumped suddenly to a time when I wasn't happy in my life. A time before I myself entered into counseling.  It was a time when it was a struggle to be in my body, dealing with so many disappointments and conflicting emotions.  But through the therapeutic journey I felt better and better, until I gained a "smoothness" in being myself again.  My internal monsters didn't scare me any longer and when they did appear it was ok; I could accept them.  It became easier to be in my body, to be in my brain.  I could stop myself from getting caught up in the struggle within and instead I could honor the timing of my life as it played out its story.

C.G. Jung has brought us the gift of working with our "Shadow" our "unrecognized, unconscious aspect of the personality. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of one's personality, the shadow is largely negative. There are, however, positive aspects which may also remain hidden in one's shadow." The shadow, Jung believed, is "the seat of our creativity."

What I find so important to remember is the shadow is a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious, the inner world and the outer world and it is necessary and vital.  Not something to be irradicated or even shunned. Like all of our aspects in our personality, shadow aspects play an important role.  Debbie Ford wrote a fabulous book on how to work with shadow called The Dark Side of The Light Chasers.

Learning to love what we have created thus far in our lives shifts the focus off of what is broken and moves our awareness to what is still whole; because let's face it, there is always something broken or about to break in our lives - we don't have to be perfect to do our life's work, and to accomplish our goals, or even to fix what we can. When we begin to appreciate ourselves and how far we have come in this moment, then we lose our roughness, and tightness, and allow for the smoothness of being ourselves, as we journey forward in creating the life we desire and deserve.

"For happiness , how little suffices for happiness!...the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard's rustling, a breath, a disk, an eye glance - little maketh up the best happiness. Be still"  - Nietzsche.

"Try to be like the turtle- at ease in your own shell" - Bill Copeland.

Friday, July 26, 2013

All I want to do is Dream

"All I want to do is dream..." (song by the Everly Brothers).  But what can you do with these dreams that float about in your mind at night?  They are intriguing; most people have found themselves curious about a particular dream experience they have had.  Maybe a flying dream, or a falling dream, or nightmares.  What about those reoccurring dreams? Do they mean something?  This blog will give you a basic introduction on how one could start a practice of remembering dreams and why one would want to work on unravelling the mystery of your dreams.  The following is one way to begin playing with dreams; it is a place to start...

There has been much fascinating research done on the role that dreams play in our lives, and for our brain development, including learning and memory.  The ancient cultures all had a practice of studying their dreams; the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Native Americans, etc.  In dreams amazing things happen to us and we are capable of awesome feats. To think; all of these stories are coming from your imagination!  So, do they mean anything? Is it just the effect of your midnight snack that has created these bizarre stories that play out in the night behind closed eyes? Or, is it a message from your wiser self? The answer is, yes to both; sometimes it's the snack and sometimes it's the wiser self.

Dreams are said to come from the unconscious mind. That is the opposite of your conscious mind. It's the part of you that is aware of all sorts of things that your conscious mind has filtered out.  It knows lots of stuff your conscious mind hasn't a clue about.  Your conscious mind is too busy thinking about whether you locked your door, or if it will rain tomorrow.  As my dream-guru, Dr. Carl G. Jung wrote, "Consciousness can keep only a few images in full clarity at one time, and even this clarity fluctuates.  The unconscious, however, has taken note of them and such subliminal sense perceptions play a significant part in our everyday lives.  Without realizing it, they influence the way in which we react to both events and people."  

So how does the unconscious relay information to us, if it's always unconscious?  You guest it, through our dreams.  When you have a dream that has emotional weight ( positive or negative ) for you, or is reoccurring, or simply arouses your curious nature, chances are it's worth exploring.  These dreams are thought to be a form of connection with our true selves, or our psyche.  The real you; not the side of you who shows up at the board meeting, or the book club.  These nightly visions of wonder are speaking to you in a symbolic language and through metaphors.  Your unconscious is very literal and loves a good fairy tale.

Looking at dreams through the lenses of myth and symbolic meaning is the key to forging a relationship with your dreams.  Dr. Jung had a process he prescribed called "amplification".  It involves making a personal association with your dream symbols and metaphors.  Let's say you have a scene from a dream, or an image; ask yourself "What does this remind me of in my life?" " How does this make me feel, or think"?  "What happened because of something else that happened?"  Then explore the language of your dream.  Do you have any play on words, or puns? Chocolate in a dream might be about the sweetness of life, the moon might be translated as the light in the darkness; meaning, the understanding coming out of confusion.  Ann Faraday a British psychologist gave the example of a tidal wave in a dream having to do with a person's title, as in privileged.  Record all ideas you have around a particular image from your dream.  Brainstorm and personalize on your images before consulting any dream books.  Dream books come in handy when you want to know about numerological meanings (a #1can mean a new beginning), and cultural/historical meanings.  The final stage is exploring how these interpretations apply to your current predicament.

 A person who is connecting to their dreams is connecting to their psyche.  Here is the chance to listen to your inner workings and get closer to your emotional world.  Regular dream work will enhance your understanding of yourself, your relationships with others and the world around you.  It can lead to healing, deeper knowing, and growth.

Call for a consultation if you'd like to do more dream work on a therapeutic level! (404-702-8474)
Or visit my website: newlevelcounseling.com

"Dreams can provide insight into the concrete problem of making sense of ourselves." Dream Researchers Morewedge & Norton.

"The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego-consciousness and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends."  C.G.Jung

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Light of Poetry

Some time ago, a thoughtful and wise friend pointed out that people don't seem to pay much attention to poetry like they use to in the past. She thought sadly, it might be a dying art in mainstream culture.  We just don't hear it often, or read poetry much anymore. Evenings of poetry reading in libraries, cafes, or book stores no longer seem to be the thing to do.  Even school children, in my experience, aren't required to memorize a poem and recite it for the class.  The only poems we seem to read are in our birthday cards.  

I hadn't paid much attention to poetry's presence in my life until I started thinking about what she said.  It made me sensitive to my appreciation for poetry. It seemed important to not allow it to fizzle out of my life. And so I began to look for poems on line, I pulled my poetry books off my shelf, I read fun poems to my children, I even made a point of reading the poems in the beginning of novels. 
The usual "I love you" notes I would place in my son's lunch box were replaced with short quotes that inspired young minds.  Poetry became the art work decorating my mind. 

What really became apparent to me is that when a poem resonates with a truth that connects you to your own truth, it fills you with a warm calmness, reminding you that you are not alone in your experiences.
Poetic truth is something that has always been known, only its been tucked away in some corner of your heart where there was never any light, until the poem flipped the switch and that truth was "enlightened". Let's keep flipping the switches on.  Let's keep poems decorating the walls of our lives. 

It is difficult to choose the poems I want to share here now. It is like talking about movies, or books with a friend. You want to list them all so no one misses out on a good thing.  I'll start with two: 

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves...
Don't search for the answers which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. 
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Good people, 
Most royal greening verdancy, 
rooted in the sun, 
You shine with radiant light. 
In this circle of earthly existence
You shine so finely, 
It surpasses understanding.
God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of god.
-Hildegard of Bingen











Thursday, July 4, 2013

Taking your First Steps to Therapy

If you have come to my blog you are probably thinking about counseling for yourself or someone you love.  Maybe this is your first time looking into therapy or maybe this is an old hat for you.  Either way, starting with a new therapist can be daunting.  Sharing thoughts and emotions with a stranger is unusual; but it is also very freeing.  A therapist is not interested in passing judgement, or giving you their life story as in "take it from me, I know what is best for you",like your best friend or your loving mother might do.  A counselor is interested in helping you decide what is best for you from the perspective of attaining a balanced, more satisfying life. You don't have to worry mid sentence "Am I talking too much about myself?" You're suppose to talk about yourself.  You have someone's undivided attention who has your best interest in mind; this is very comforting.  In fact studies have shown that this unusual dynamic of being listened to, and feeling understood by itself  has healing properties.  I encourage you to move beyond your doubts, or your fears and try counseling.  Even a few sessions with a trained professional can have lasting results! Visit my website newlevelcounseling.com, and call for a consultation.