All Things Delightful

It’s a brand new year — and you know what that means? A slew of articles in every media source you can find telling you about how to make and keep your resolutions. For the most part, I have heard it all before, but there was one article that truly caught my eye. It surrounded the idea of taking delight in the every day.

What a wonderful word: Delight!

I have to admit, I am over the idea of looking for things to be grateful for and writing my five grateful things down every day. I have practiced this for years and, yes, it has allowed me to see the good in my life, even trained me to look for it, and then to count my many blessings. I don’t want to knock gratitude, but I suppose I am looking for something novel this year.

Now, the idea of looking for something, some act, some one that delights. That feels like an altogether different bent on how I view my days and what makes them up. No longer am I counting my blessings, but I am thinking about my days through the lens of delight.

Did the taste on my tongue delight me?

Did a certain color that I run into delight me?

Did someone surprise me, i.e. delight me?

Is there an extraordinary moment that feels delightful?

Oh the list of questions could go on and on. Delight is different from gratitude. With gratitude, you could write down the same five things every day and be set, i.e. health, family, friends, employment, hobbies. That’s just a broad list example. I always tried to be more specific in my gratitude journal, but the truth is you don’t have to be. If I was having a bad day, for instance, that list would do.

However, what delights me is something that we can also be grateful for, but does not equate solely to gratitude. We are looking for delight in our every day life. We are looking for those things, people, experiences that bring us great pleasure. That is different. All things we delight in we may be grateful for, but not all things we are grateful for delight us.

I wish you a year of great pleasure captured in many delights. Here’s to not only receiving it, but also giving it out far and wide. We all need to be delighted!

Holiday Gifting

Holiday gifting. Does it bring you delight to see all the gifts under the tree or dread? Or would you love to see all the gifts if there wasn’t all the work and expense that had to be done to produce such a scene?

I was at a comedy show recently and the comedian was talking about her Mother announcing that they were cutting back on gifts and that everyone should do the same. How would you feel if someone said this in your family? Gifting is over! Of course, the comedian went on to say her Mother had ordered her a bunch of stuff and so actually the gifting was on — it just sounded good to say at the start of the season.

I get it — holiday gifting is a fundamental part of most Christmas traditions. People grew up with gifts and want to give and receive gifts as adults. To not have a pile feels — well — just wrong. However, I had the opportunity this particular holiday season to doe exactly that and not buy any gifts.

Well, I bought a few presents for people who I knew could use some holiday cheer. However, my annual list of “have to buy for these people no matter what” stopped. As I have been walking through the season it feels tremendously freeing to not have any gifts to have to buy as well as strange. How can I possibly walk through a department store and not buy bunches of stuff to give to people? It’s so much a part and parcel of who I am and how I celebrate the holidays. Well, it all feels odd.

Such an experiment is not for the faint of heart. I almost feel like I will be dreading Christmas morning with nothing to give or receive — and yet there are different things that I want this year that really can’t come wrapped in a box with a bow. Gifts of love, presence, kindness, opportunity, persistence, striving, and more that I want in my life more than any goods.

And that is what I am giving myself this year — as well as to my family and friends. It’s less expensive in some ways and more expensive in others. It’s me and my life that I am crafting that I seek to shape not in the direction of commercial goods, but into a direction of crafting a life I am happy to lead.

Maybe it’s too radical to ask you to join me this year, but perhaps something to hold in mind for next season. If the thought of not buying gifts for your loved ones gets you upset, defensive or afraid, it’s probably right where you need to be.

Here’s to gifting — gifts that can be seen and unseen. I’m in the latter category this year.



Gratitude. It’s November. Tomorrow, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America. The idea of giving thanks is baked into our culture — along with the pies. Now is the time to count your blessings.

I remember a few decades ago — it must have been back in the 90s — when expressing gratitude and actually chronicling what you were grateful for in a formal journal could really aid in people feeling more satisfied with their daily lives. Also, it became a way to cultivate the mindset of looking for things to be grateful for in one’s life each and every day.

I’ll admit I drank the proverbial Kool Aid and bought that journal and for years — literally years — I wrote down five things I was grateful for each and every day. And, yes, it was a practice that had me looking and finding the good in each day. I filled reams of journals that could attest to the fact that I had a life that I should be grateful for.

I never thought I would get away from that perspective — and would keep it going all the days of my life. But, I think all of those gratitude journals set me up for living life with a certain bent toward being grateful in my life. I departed my town and went traveling and stepped away from all of the gratitude giving journaling, but I still kept the spirit alive in my heart and how I met life.

All this to say, gratitude, gratefulness, giving thanks is a spirit within not necessarily a practice that needs a gold star. If you are here reading my words, I am grateful you are here. It’s in the spirit of my writing right now. Let’s not forget, it’s not about the doing of writing down what we are grateful for, but rather an orientation toward life that sprouts from this that is important. The former can help cultivate the spirit, but should never be used to guilt or attack yourself if you aren’t keeping the practice.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.



Mattering. To matter to another.

I never even heard of this concept until I read an article in the NYT about it.

Mattering is not just that you belong to a group of family, friends, and/or like-minded individuals, but that you also matter to them. The article hones in on mattering to a group because of what you do and/or contribute. This sounds well and truly valid. You do something, people notice and appreciate that act, and you come to matter to those people. This is then part and parcel of how we build our sense of self.

All true, and yet I have problems with all this doing.

As a therapist, I hear many stories people relate about their doings in the world — and either how they feel they matter or do not matter to others when they are doing all this stuff. Yes, just because you are doing does not mean you are mattering — and therein lies the problem.

I like to think about mattering in terms of our being state. We matter to others because of who we are not because of what we do. If we are always trying to do to matter, it can really lead to disappointment. First, your banking on someone else to notice what you are doing, appreciating it, and telling you you matter because of it — which keeps us doing for them. What if the other does not perceive all of your doing in this benign way?

Second, you could have gotten the message that you hold no value unless you are doing. So you do more and more hoping to matter more and more — and the cycle becomes never ending because the needs of others and organizations are never ending. Talk about a straight path to burnout.

Third, it almost feels taboo in society to simply be without doing. To hold value just for who you are. If we can matter for our being, then what can we do? Well, we have choice to decide what we will or won’t do and not just find worth in endless doing for others. We can simply be. That almost feels impossible today to not be doing for someone or some cause. To claim value in mattering because you are you.

The foundation is to matter for who you are and then to have choice in what and how much you do. This also provides agency to not let others dictate your worth, but to recognize you have worth without doing a thing.

You matter for being who you are first and foremost.

Possible Selves

Possible Selves

Possible selves?

To me, the idea conjures up opening up to possibilities that we can become. And I think that is what this recent article in the NYT was talking about. A metaphor for how we can potentially reinvent ourselves at any point in our lives. It also seems to be along the lines of the fiction book The Midnight Library, where the protagonist pulls a book from the library shelf which is a path she may have taken in her life.

It’s an intriguing concept. There is who we are in the “here and now” moment which is largely defined by what we do for a living and then there are all the roads that we have not taken. Many times these are roads that hold no interest for us, or we have no talent in, or it just never occurred to us to think about a path for ourselves given who we are, where we have come from, and how we have crafted our life to date.

The idea of imagining different walks of life for ourselves is not only an imaginative exercise, but allows us the freedom to think about different ways of living our lives. When we make any shift in what we do, all of a sudden things looks different, fresh, new. Perhaps our schedules change. Perhaps we head back to being a student for a time. Perhaps we meet different people in different environments. The idea is that it is possible and we can bring our self to this possibility.

This is not something that happens overnight, of course. But it does begin with imagining. If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with how you are spending your time with your job/career, what is it that you are drawn to intuitively? Perhaps it is more than one thing. Once you have this in mind, take a walk down a day on this path with your possible self. What are you doing? Who are you with? How does the day flow? You can set out on these paths as many times as you like — but always hold that it is possible.

It strikes me that we get shot down from even starting on any type of new path for ourselves as we do not believe fundamentally that it is possible. Once we begin to imagine and fantasize about the possibility this can lead us to take the next steps if we find we are truly drawn to another way of working or creating a career for ourselves.

Do not be daunted. Believe in possibility. Believe in yourself. Believe in your possible selves.

The Doctor Is In

The Doctor is in

The Doctor is in. Or so they say.

Having recently moved from Seattle, WA to the New York City area, one of the most difficult parts of the process has been finding a whole new slate of service providers. From a dry cleaner to a veterinarian to a stylist and beyond, uprooting one’s self when one had it so organized and lock step (after many years) has felt like one of the most challenging parts of my move, as well as one of the most unsettling.

To have to rebuild a whole new cadre of service providers who I feel comfortable with for me and my family has been daunting. And, by far, the most challenging one to find is a Doctor for me. One of the most important people you need in your life. Immediately, upon moving, this is a person you need to fill your scripts and to get an appointment with if you get sick and, of course, to have the annual physical with.

I hear many people report that it is so difficult to even talk to a Doctor that often people avoid making appointments to just not have to deal with the whole thing, i.e. one’s health. Within the medical profession there are many Doctors who do not understand how intimidating they are to the average person. Consumers know they are paid by the minute, very expensive, often are not taught to think for themselves even as they are treated as “Gods” in society, i.e.e those who have every answer that you need about your health.

I don’t blame people for never wanting to go to the Dr. and, when/if they do, the intimidating experience it can be. Still, it is your health — my health — we are talking about here and so persisting to find a Dr. that is a right fit for you is worth the journey.

For me, it has been exactly that. A journey. First off, I had it very good with my Doctor in Seattle — a long term relationship of 17 years. She was an internist who also did all of the necessary female examinations — all in one Doctor. She was about my age and so we also aged together. I always called her Doc as I knew very well she was not my friend, but she was sound, solid, and also looked at me as a unique individual, not just a part of American adult stats.

To leave her was devastating — especially with what I have met with here in NY City. Knowing that I need to find a Doctor, but I also needed time to do so, here are some tips, if you too are transitioning (for any reason) to a new Doctor:

  1. Make sure to have seen your regular Doctor just before you need to transition. This way your health records will be up-to-date, blood work done, all tests run via people you trust, scripts issued for you to fill before you start the journey to seeing someone new.

2. Print off your health records or have your electronic medical record available for your new Doctor to review.

3. Set up a “meet and greet” consult with a new Doctor. This can serve as a time to meet a new Doctor and let them learn about you through your medical records as well as you, yourself. After all they are treating a person. This also gives you the chance to meet this Doctor. Do you like him or her from the start? Do you feel comfortable expressing your voice? How do they view you — as you or as a statistic? Are they pushing tests? This is a great opportunity to see if you like this person generally and feel they get you and your medical concerns, conditions, and more.

4. Don’t stop. If this particular Doctor is not a good match, set up another “meet and greet” consult. This can be painful for a couple of reasons. One, we just want to have a Doctor on board already. Second, consults cost and so finding the right Doctor through such consult appointments may be pricey. However, this is your health. Fighting through these painful parts is important for your care.

5. If you have a “meet and greet” consult and, although you don’t like the Doctor, you can still get your scripts refilled, antibiotics if you are sick, or any other number of isolated things one needs without creating an ongoing relationship with the Doctor. You may also need this interim step as you find your way to a new Doctor.

6. Trust that you will know who is a good fit for you and your health needs. Listen carefully, attune to your own mind and body as you sit with a new provider. Are you relaxed? Comfortable? Can you speak easily and freely with the person? Do you feel heard? Keep a close connection to self and you will intuitively know if someone is or is not the right match. If the person isn’t, take heed and don’t look back.

People often have a difficult time persisting in finding a new Doctor for themselves. For me, it has taken the better part of six months to find the dentist, the dermatologist, the internist. I am still on the journey, but I have plenty of time. So do you.

All Things Freud are New Again

All Things Freud

All things Freud are new again. It’s true.

I was just perusing the New York Times this week and there it was an article titled Not Your Daddy’s Freud. Freud is now a meme, a Tok Tok viral sensation, the inspiration for countless shows about real life therapy. People want to know what goes on in the therapy treatment. What is the secret to Freud and his world?

Apparently, as I read the article, I learned there are record numbers of people studying to be analysts, which has them on the couch for 4-5 sessions per week, and then listening to their control cases for another 4-5 sessions per week. A lot of talking, talking, talking.

People need a place to talk. And to be listened to on a deep level. People want room to process their past, their dreams, their relationships, their inner desires, and more. Overall, society doesn’t have much tolerance for all this psycho-babble, but Freud does. He always did and always will.

People are leaving corporate America and other professional paths to study all this talking and what it means via their own talking and then talking to others about them. People also need to talk about themselves — for long periods of time. They need space to hear themselves, to be validated, to have someone express curiosity over their person and the happenings in their lives.

We, therapists and analysts, also need to talk about ourselves — a lot. To study in a Freudian tradition means those training get to talk and talk and talk too.

Funny how society doesn’t have much time for long talks any longer. It’s all a quick tweet, a social media shout out, a meme, a text, an emoji — the less said the better. No one has time to listen or take time to really hear someone. I am amazed that even newspaper articles state how long it will take you to read it. No time for taking anything much in in detail, let alone another person.

Yes, here is this article. Freud is back and more popular than ever. People need a space to talk — somehow it is the cure for what ails us — as another joins us to hear our story, our pain, our selves come alive. Analytic, depth work can be scary — it doesn’t offer the evidence based treatment of 10 sessions, 10 different thoughts, and you’re cured.

No Freud has each of walk the long road within which is where the pain lies hidden under many protective defensives, traumas, woundings, and more — all that has scaffolded our thoughts and how we bring ourselves to our current lives. As we delve and can bring to voice this pain — slowly through much talking — defenses can shift, memories and pain can be unearthed and more.

Slowly all the talking cures — or at least helps us tolerate what was unknowable as it has been so intolerable.

I practice from this lens within my training. I need to talk, to be heard — and I then return it to my patients who need to talk, to be listened to — it’s these winding roads that lead us to self. Even in this day and age when there is no time to talk — Freud beckons.

Real Self Care

Real Self Care
Real Self Care is All You Need

Real self care — that’s the new title of self care. Apparently, not all self care is equal according to a new book by Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included), and reviewed in the New York Times recently.

Yes, it’s another book on self care. Another thought on how to care for one’s self — this time the real way. I am not sure self care can actually be categorized as real or not real — if one is caring for one’s self then it’s self care. Buy, hey, authors have to have an angle and this is hers.

For Dr. Pooja, it is about aligning one’s self care with one’s values. In this way, yoga, crystals, baths may be just what you need. I think she is seeking to encourage women to think about what they value in their lives and then use these values to care for self. Don’t just take the yoga class because someone has told you it’s a good way to care for your self. Rather, check in with one’s self and ask yourself, “Is stretching in yoga poses a way to actually take care of myself — or not?” If not, then move on.

The author wisely recognizes — as so many of us do — that self care is just another billion dollar industry trying to get their share of the capitalist pie. It’s OK to support the industry as long as it is actually really about your self care — thus the idea of “real self care.”

There is one part of Dr. Pooja’s suggestions that I really liked — her imaginative exercise of thinking about a dinner party you would throw to learn what you values actually are. I never thought of this type of exercise as a way to get at what one values, but I suppose it does. Are you interested in a small gathering or a large one? Is it pot luck or formal? What’s on the menu — take out or something you spent the day cooking? What music are you playing and what games/activities are you throwing into the mix? This is very helpful to see what motivates one in life.

How would you answer these questions? For me, I tend to like more people than less, I love to set a table or make a pretty table for the group, I mix in store bought foods with easy-to-cook dishes (I want to have fun too!). If children are there, I love to have games for them to play or at least give them my Labrador who loves to play with kids. Oh, and i love a good party favor.

How does this translate into real self care?

It seems to me that I value sharing time that is fun and creative with people whom I am close to of all ages. If I choose to spend time in this way then I am caring for myself. Makes sense to me as a way to get at what real self care looks like.

Of course, it’s not the only way and if you feel good about spending your money in the self care industry that is fine too. When it comes to self care, follow your bliss, and make the time to do so on a regular basis.

To Be Selfish — or Not?

To be selfish -- or not?
Selfish or Selfless?

To be selfish — or not? That is the question.

I am always reading the news and find myself stumbling upon articles around mental health, which, of course, catch my attention. This week it was an article in the Times about The Benefits of Wise Selfishness. I had to laugh out loud as I read how the article had to spin selfishness (something our society judges as a bad thing) into something that is OK to be these days. Actually necessary.

I tend to agree with this article, but I wouldn’t call it “wise” but rather absolutely necessary and critical to our own mental health. And it is mind boggling to me that people feel that it is wrong to think about themselves and hold their interests in mind. Like everything, just because we are thinking about ourselves does not mean we can’t also think about the other.

If you think about it, in the airplanes, during the safety instructions, parents are always told to put on their own oxygen mask on before putting it on their child. Intuitively, we must be cared for before we can offer care to another — even our own child in this case!

It is important that we hold ourselves in minds throughout our days that make up our lives. That we are living out of alignment with who we are, our values, our bliss, our boundaries, and more. It may sound selfish, but I don’t see it that way, I would actually argue if we cannot hold ourselves in mind and take care of our desires, needs, and wants we really cannot extend that to another in an authentic and true way. When we turn our backs on our own selves to be selfless there is something inauthentic about how we are doing for others — rather than it springing forth from a full well of ourselves, it is motivated by a turning away from ourselves to sink into the other, perhaps putting their needs above our own.

This is then applauded by society. This type of person is so selfless and does for others with asking for nothing in return for themselves. What exactly is going on here is where my mind goes? Why is it so difficult for the person to be with herself and be there for one’s self? Often the message is you are selfish and bad for thinking about yourself.

Ah, selfish, selfless — such judgements on people and situations which we hardly know the truth of it at all. It isn’t wise to be selfish and it isn’t unwise to be selfless. We love to organize our minds with things being all good or all bad. The truth is holding yourself in mind is mentally healthy and then allows for us to be there for others that are authentic and true to who we are as we are also held in mind alongside the others we are holding in mind. This can be in parallel and does not need to be an “either/or” situation.

Let’s all practice remembering ourselves first as a basic tenet of good mental health. From there, it’s up to you how you would like to do or not do for others. Selfish, selfless — it’s time to drop these judgments.

Therapy for Police

Therapy for Police

For: Tyre Nichols

Although not always required, when candidates apply for the position of police officer, they can be given a psychology screening tool, known as the MMPI, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. One of the purposes of this “test (is) as a screening instrument for certain professions, especially high-risk jobs.” (Cherry, 2022)

When a candidate is screened via the MMP1 and deemed to be qualified to conduct herself and her job within parameters of mental wellness, what accounts for the police officers who misuse their power with the public? We know that systemic racism plays a part, as well as the culture of law enforcement.

However, I believe there is also another element that plays a role in police misuse of their power. This is their own personal story. Although the screening tool takes a snapshot of a potential officer before they are employed in the role, this does not cover what happens when police are on the job, day in and day out, coming up against other people’s traumas in real time, potentially triggering their own stories of trauma. Screening tools that seek to measure aggressive behavior in police at the entry level is not enough to trust and curtail one’s behavior as they do their job each day.

To safeguard a police officer’s mental health and the impact she will have on the community; I suggest that a fundamental requirement for police be to undertake on-going therapy. This can become a part of police reform that people are calling out for in America.

Therapists are highly encouraged to be in their own therapy and/or supervision as a good practice as they work with their patients because trauma, negative emotions, and struggle come up in our on-going work. This is as we sit quietly with our patients taking in their stories and holding it confidentially.

It is not that people who become therapists are crazy, but by the mere nature of continually being exposed to people’s trauma, we are often led into our own unprocessed anger, openings of our personal traumas, and more. Going to therapy and/or attending consult groups with fellow therapists helps to contain these feelings in an appropriate space that protects both therapists and their patients.

My imagination around police officers is the same. Their work involves unknown circumstances, painful situations, horrific crimes, personal danger and more. Although someone may be screened as non-aggressive for police work, over time it can be a hazard for any police officer to become angry, aggressive, and out of touch with what is and is not appropriate behavior. This, in tandem with having weapons on board, can be a deadly combination as we have seen time and time again in America.

No matter where we come upon these situations, whether in a therapy room or in “here and now” situations, our own stories can become activated. Without any place to process our feelings, we can become a danger to ourselves and to others over time.

For therapists, it can look like not being able to listen well to the other, intruding on our patient’s process, forcing our agenda on another, and more. For police officers, I imagine it can look like the brutality we have seen recently. When police officers cannot even understand what excessive force is, this is a sign that their own “excessive force within” is so great, unregulated, and unprocessed that the unconscious looks for an object, which can often be a person in police work, to take it out on in lieu of any safe place to contain it.

A good practice for police departments across America is to offer personal therapy on a regular basis. Police departments should be mandated to hire mental health professionals who can see each police officer who is actively working with people in the community. Here is a space where police officers can feel safe to speak about what has come up for them, how it may relate to their story, learn ways of diffusing anger, and more.

If police departments want an alternative to individual police therapy, group therapy is also a powerful way for police officers to come together with a mental health professional leading the group to process what they have encountered, how it may be affecting them on deeper levels, and have a safe space to contain it among one another. Further, mental health professionals can be called to listen actively to hear if a particular officer needs personal therapy.

We speak about a change in police culture. I absolutely agree. I think this includes looking at what is going on in the deeper psyche of any individual who is encountering trauma, violence, and unknown situations on a regular basis. As a therapist, we face this every day in a more passive setting. Add in the active setting and it is a recipe for violence, for being out of touch with one’s humanity, for not being embodied enough in self to know how they are bringing themselves to any given situation.

It is not enough to screen police candidates at the entry level. Police officers should be held in ways that support their mental health on a consistent basis with a mental health professional. This type of investment will also support the greater communities they serve. No, a police officer cannot be a mental health professional, but they should be required to have mental health support when they are actively in contact with the communities they serve.