“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Carl Jung
Welcome to what I hope you will find to be a safe and compassionate place, rich with resources and reflections, where you can explore your story of yourself in search of how it works for you and how it does not. I believe there is probably no single thing that has more power over us than the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. So often, that story gets stuck, in sometimes unseen cement that can limit our movement into explorations of alternate interpretations of who we are, what our life means, where we are headed. Not even yesterday has to define us, much less our childhoods, nor a story that may have hung around us like an albatross, constraining our sense of choice, free will, self-determination in often octopus-like emotional strangulations (to mix creature metaphors :-).
We are not inevitably chained to what happened to us nor to what someone else (including an old, stuck version of ourselves) may have defined us as being. Too often such definitions are very limiting and oppressive to our sense of what is possible in our lives, and too mis-rooted in an unexamined sense of ourselves as 'human doings' rather than human beings.
We can in fact say "No" to the negative self-talk, the chatter of self-judgment ("I should have said x"; "why did I do z?") that is fed by these longstanding self-definitions that many of us default to when a crisis or sense of 'failure' looms, even in the ambiguous silence of an unanswered text or phone call. And yet...it's human nature to get bogged down in aspects of our past experience and what we think we've learned from it. Our unresolved memories of those past sticking points can keep us off balance or paralyze us (often with fear of future regrets, stirred by shame or guilt) as we struggle to "be in the moment" or look forward with hope.
Therapy is a place to find and develop facility with that underdeveloped muscle to say No to definitions that limit us, to self-images that leave us vulnerable, including the one that says vulnerability is somehow itself a flaw rather than an important signal – and part of life's grace and balance.
Finding grace and serenity and balance in life is no easy task, even with the best laid foundations of a supportive and liberating childhood and with the nimblest, most affirmative, most respectful yet guidance-offering of parents and, later, of adulthood friends, mentors, bosses, and lovers. And that is true even without the overlay of trauma – heartbreak, abuse, crises of health, home, or employment – that can so understandably destabilize us from childhood onward.
Keeping one's eyes on the prize (of our dreams and goals for ourselves) is often a rollercoaster ride, sometimes derailed by recurrent blind alleys and brick walls to the point of making us doubt our paths or even ourselves. We may wander toward those blissful dreams feeling clueless, and wondering how those around us seem to have already grasped the "how to's" of relationships, love, and purpose. We can arrive at a sense of emotional if not physical abandonment that leaves us seeing life and joy passing by on a train that we run alongside and don't know how to board. Sometimes we live life as if it were a dress rehearsal, with wishful thinking that light will magically shine on the shadows and then "let" us start living the life and relationships we dream of, if we have dared to let ourselves hear our dreams.
While we can't change difficult situations of the past, we can choose how much power to give them over our present and future, what attitude to have toward them, so as to keep them from derailing us. Therapy can provide support and practical feedback to help you put past experience in perspective and address current life challenges with an eye to future goals - where you want to be six months from now, six years from now.
Most of us want the qualities of grace and serenity and balance - along with love and laughter and health and a sense of purpose. The fact that you're here on this page, considering beginning or resuming therapy, probably means that hopefulness has sprung eternal and you may be here reading this because you wonder if finding a therapist who fits you might be instrumental in getting you feeling back on the path to whatever qualities and life goals might be eluding you. Or perhaps to help you work through an arduous crossroads, having to make a difficult choice between conflicting life priorities, that may have thrown you off balance.
Therapy entails opening up horizons (most fundamentally as to how we survey the landscape of self and others) and breathing new oxygen into our sense of possibility for ourselves. At the very least, as Viktor Frankl saw exemplified before his eyes as a survivor of a Holocaust concentration camp and recounted in Man's Search for Meaning, even in the worst of life circumstances, when all other choices would seem precluded, we have the choice over what attitude we will hold toward our circumstances and selves. And that by itself can make all the difference. Once raised to conscious choice, a reconsideration of the attitude we bring to ourselves and our circumstances can be pivotal to making changes we seek, the ones we may only have allowed ourselves to see as "impossible dreams" that we've told ourselves are foreclosed by our histories. It can take a kind of retraining of ourselves so as to choose not to attend chiefly to our perceived failures and stop minimizing our qualities and successes. My favorite Shamanistic psychology principle, "Where attention goes, energy flows," can be a vital daily reminder of the power of the choice we make in where we direct our attentions and how much energy and change hangs in the balance, in function of that choice.
My role as therapist is to help you assess what's working and isn't working in your life, what you seek to change and how, to explore your true potential and personal goals for a life that, in your own eyes, is worth celebrating. It is surprising how often we don't ask ourselves if we truly want what we're struggling to attain or whether our goals are actually the expectations others have imposed, or sometimes a stubborn pursuit of the seeming unattainable for the sake of attainment, having lost sight of whether it - the job, the love interest, the friend - have actually enhanced or would enhance our sense of ourselves in the first place. (They may instead have fed an inner self-doubt or sense of unworthiness, being judged, needing to please. That happens, often.) It is also somewhat surprising how often I find clients are living in constant self-judgment, hard on themselves in ways and to degrees that they have not recognized for the powerful hold these self-judgments have, leading to self-censoring, second-guessing, and even the conviction they aren't hard enough on themselves.
Based on feedback from clients, I know that my role as therapist pivotally draws on three underlying qualities: first, a graying-haired breadth of lived experience that gives me an awareness and sensitivity to a diversity of life issues; second, especially keen listening and remembering skills, attuned to what is in the lines and intuiting between the lines of your stories, your stated feelings, and your body's sometimes conflicting messages; and third, a creative facility for posing the kinds of exploratory, story-bridging questions that often prove to be questions clients have never thought to ask themselves.
No two clients' paths are the same, and, accordingly, I am not the same therapist in terms of how I work or the role I take with any two clients. The continual freshness of this journey for me is that I can never know in advance where you will lead me - and more importantly yourself. Your situation is unique and so must be your path. (But I do have my framework of ever-evolving therapy and life perspectives, some of which are laid out in the section "Practices and Principles.")
I welcome the opportunity to meet with you and to see if this seems like a good fit for you. Please email or phone me for an individual, couples, or family therapy consultation.