Anxiety, Embodied: The Biology of “Mental” Illness

Anxiety is not a choice. It’s not a characterological weakness. It’s a kink in your biological software. Sadly, the mood-as-a-choice crowd has been growing in the last decade or two, making it worse. Now, not only do you stutter in a crowd, have difficulty making eye contact, or find your obsessive thoughts getting in the way of rational decision-making, but you understand these to be signs of failure on your part. The shame, then, of being incompetent, unfriendly and untrustworthy, stupid, and my favorite absurdity, “attention-seeking,” makes it almost impossible for you to simply work with your physical self to heal it, because even admitting your anxiety is embarrassing. Once you can get past your shame however, and simply allow yourself with guidance to gently, compassionately step into your anxious body, you have the power to bring flow to the log-jam of chronic anxiety. Continue Reading Anxiety, Embodied: The Biology of “Mental” Illness

Here’s an Idea for Curbing Gun Violence: Stop the Nut-Shaming

Our refusal to bring mental illness itself into the light of day, de-shaming it and thereby allowing those currently struggling with depression and anxiety to feel much more open to admitting their need for help, only sets us up for more shocking surprises, from Columbine to Parkland. We suffer from morbusanimiphobia! Continue Reading Here’s an Idea for Curbing Gun Violence: Stop the Nut-Shaming

Relax! The Case for Taking It Easy as a Path to Mental Wellness

Therapy is hard work. It’s so much more that talking about your problems with the fantasy that at some point, they’re just going to go away! If you don’t have the skill set for recovery, for catching your breath, for resting the body that produces thought, you’re probably wise to stay on the surface and out of that body. But you won’t heal. That’s what twenty years and over a thousand clients have taught me. The path to your healing begins with the ability to find your ease. Relax. Continue Reading Relax! The Case for Taking It Easy as a Path to Mental Wellness

Before Returning to Your Normally Scheduled Lives

For the last month, you’ve probably been off-schedule, regardless of how or if you’ve celebrated the holidays. Truth is, like infants, it’s surprisingly easy to get us humans off-schedule. In somatic terms, we become more disregulated. For many of us who have healthy-enough nervous systems, we can get back in gear with a few practices and some time. Many of us don’t even realize we’re doing it, when we cut out sugar, return to a regular bed-time, return to baseline on the amount of human contact we allow in a particular day.  Come January 2nd, you step back into ordinary life. And while the season’s stressors are a relief to see in the rear-view mirror, most of us, even those who really hate this time of year, may feel a bit of a let-down. Somehow, the banal suggestion that one find a way to carry some wisdom, or some element of beauty, into mundane life feels lame.

And yet… Continue Reading Before Returning to Your Normally Scheduled Lives

Ready for the Holidays?

We are resourceful, creative creatures! And we can reclaim this holiday season for our own. We can defy the commercialism, the expectations of others, the din of the desperation surrounding us and instead use this time to heal, cultivating a deeper spiritual awareness, inner peace and joy. Continue Reading Ready for the Holidays?

Boo!: In Praise of Getting Scared

why would I love this season of intended scariness? Why would I encourage you in the joy of “boo”? Because practicing a little frisson of fear, from time to time and in good company, inoculates us from that very anxiety. Think of it as exercise. We do reps. We do laps. We rest between, and recover. In that way, we build strength without becoming overwhelmed, without injuring ourselves. The scary moment in the movie is followed by a funny one, gets resolved at the end. The scary halloween house is visited and then left, as your children turn towards you for assurance and find it. Fear, unlike anxiety, is based in the present, and the conditions inciting it can therefore be managed, giving us a sense of confidence around scary sensations that can be expanded to those selfsame anxious sensations. The breath we automatically take after the monster is vanquished, the laughter when the loud noise turns out to be a cat, the shiver of delight are all, also, forms of discharge, teaching our nervous systems to handle fear and anxiety more effectively. Continue Reading Boo!: In Praise of Getting Scared

Where is the Humanity?

As a therapist, I deal with individual torment, but as a country, as a society, we must also think of trauma as something socially induced and with cultural impact. Regardless of where one stands with gun control (and I doubt that Las Vegas’ tragedy changed not one NRA mind), this country is subtly changed by each new slaughter, becoming more inured, more tolerant… much as my individual clients survived by dissociating, by learning to live without safety, becoming hypervigilent and chronically anxious.  By learning not to care. Continue Reading Where is the Humanity?

The Sauna: Managing Conflict Well

In a healthy family, each member seeks to empower both the self and other, wanting to tell, and to hear, the authentic concerns that threaten the bond of care and concern. Even when the voices get a little loud, there is the sense of people fighting for each other as well as for themselves. Continue Reading The Sauna: Managing Conflict Well

The Sauna, or, How To Befriend Heated Conflict

Conflict is hard, and the hardest part, in my observation, is when it becomes heated. Even cool, the threat is there: the loss of a tenuous relationship, or of the harmony at least superficially apparent. Most cultures work very hard at finding and maintaining equanimity. Yet, darn it, those heated conflicts keep popping up! Continue Reading The Sauna, or, How To Befriend Heated Conflict