I Choose Peace

A client shared the following story during session last week and I want to share it with you. It’s about a friend of hers–let’s name him George.

George was recently divorced, living alone in an apartment in downtown Indianapolis. He awakened on Christmas morning feeling unloved and lonely.  True to tradition, however, he spent Christmas morning with his kids at his parents’ home engaging in the routines they had enjoyed for years.

Tradition abandoned him that afternoon when he customarily would have accompanied his family to his in-laws’ home. This year, his kids would leave to go with their mother while he traveled back to his apartment–alone.

Rejected, he made the decision to bundle up and face the frigid Indiana wind. He walked toward Massachusetts Avenue peering around each corner, normally alive with cars and people. Empty streets. Gray sky. He thought to himself, what a pathetic reject I am. Alone on Christmas Day while everyone else is with their family and friends. He walked, allowing himself to acknowledge the sadness. The eerie stillness of the usually bustling street was unnerving.

As he walked, snow began to fall and he was gently awakened by a sense of peace. A sudden awareness that the silence–the lack of cars and people–was actually a gift. He was able to smile, to pull his hood around him and experience the shelter against the gust. He saw the Christmas lights and neon signs in juxtaposition to the gray sky. I have a choice, he thought. I can wallow in my sadness and rejection, or I can claim this peace.

He walked another few blocks, energized, and toward a red neon sign, OPEN and walked into the neighborhood bar. He ordered an enormous plate of nachos and his favorite beer.

“So, what are you up to this afternoon?” the bartender asked as he set the feast on the bar in front of his lone patron.

“Well, after I enjoy these nachos and beer, I’m walking back to my apartment and I’m going to watch my favorite movies for the rest of the afternoon. Treat myself to a movie day. I’m going to  choose Peace.”

So many of my clients face special challenges during the Holiday Season. Recently, I’ve spent hours with clients processing the emotional onslaught brought on by loss and change. Or, for some, the added stress of extra time spent with family. Each of us faces his or her own set of challenges that the holidays magnify.

This year, I send for you a wish for the will to let go of perfection and any expectations thereof. The ability to accept others as they are. The gift of kindness to yourself. The gift of Inner Peace.

 May there be Peace on Earth.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ~Dalai Lama

The Dread of the Office Party

As I often do, I chose this topic in response to recent sessions. This post is specially written for the 1 in 8 people who suffer from social anxiety so intense that it interferes with normal daily activities. Most of us experience some heightened sense of nervousness in social situations but some are so highly anxious that they isolate themselves when possible and become physically ill at the thought of attending a necessary social situation, often attached to the workplace. The phobia stems from an intense fear of being judged by others. Clients report their fear is compounded by an obsession that others are watching them and will notice. Physical symptoms are often manifested in the form of an upset stomach, diarrhea, sweating, trembling, dizziness or rapid heartbeat.

I recently listened to a bright, talented, successful young professional share his struggle with an upcoming event he was dreading. Attendance was required by his work. I applauded him, as I do all of my clients, for being brave enough to admit his struggle and seek help. We identified specific causes of the heightened stress surrounding this function and potential ways to relieve the anxiety.


  • This function was out of the normal work environment, resulting in a fear of being in a new place.
  • This function was outside the comfortable routine of the workplace.
  • A heightened fear of others noticing his anxiety.
  • Loss of control.
  • Fear of being trapped.
  • Fear of saying/doing something awkward. Humiliation.

Methods of Relief:

  • Recognize anxiety and the causes thereof.
  • Visit venue ahead of time to practice drive, secure parking information, and familiarize with the environment, limiting many unknowns.
  • Set an acceptable limited time of attendance.
  • Drive separately securing freedom to leave at will.
  • In advance, allow yourself permission to temporarily remove from the situation to text someone for support, listen to calming music, or meditate for a few minutes if feeling highly anxious.
  • Vow not to rely on liquid courage.
  • Claim an affirmation to repeat or write on a slip of paper as a reminder. Example: “I am not what others think of me.”

I cannot emphasize enough how effective it can be to meditate prior to an event, focusing on positive visualization.  See yourself having fun. Laughing. A successful outcome to the evening. The more we can replace worry with positive visualization, the better we will be.

I recommend meditation and positive visualization to everyone, but for my highly anxious clients, I prescribe it. It is not necessary to “know how” to meditate nor is it necessary to dedicate large blocks of time to benefit from the practice. Consistency is the key. Just five minutes once or twice each day is an great beginning. Free apps for beginners (Calm) and You Tube videos of meditation instruction are abundant.

This young man, as with most clients I see for social anxiety, did benefit from the tools we worked together to create. He was successful in not allowing fear to control his evening.

Next week: Fear of public Speaking, a form of social anxiety.

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” ~W. Clement Stone
October 12th, 2015|Anxiety, Depression, Fulfillment, Happiness, Holidays, Individual Therapy|

Marriage–A Renewable Resource?

Allow me to begin with a reminder that these blogs are written with the purpose of opening discourse, an encouragement to consider a fresh perspective. They are not research pieces, nor are they ever presented as “The Answer.” Most often ideas spring from discussions I have with clients–especially issues I hear repeatedly.

Roughly half of the couples I see for marital therapy report that their marriage has grown stale.  The vitality they once enjoyed in their relationship is gone.

They report:

“We never thought we’d be here. Never.”

“We miss us. We miss what we used to have.”

“We are not having fun anymore.”

“We have become roommates.”

Typically, they are mentally and emotionally drained. Burned out by responsibilities of their respective careers, kids’ schedules, and keeping up with a home. They once shared the joy of a deep connection; now they share a sense of living tired, overwhelmed, and hopeless. Unhappy, they blame each other and the marriage, resulting in hurt and frustration.

I praise couples for their bravery and willingness to be vulnerable, seeking to improve their marriage before they reach a crisis situation. They’re in the “We’re-okay-but-we-know-it-can-be-much-better,” category.

I always ask clients what they want to hire me to do. Often partners hire me to guide them as they rediscover the fun and enjoyment they once found in their marriage.

The process begins with the following steps:

  • Acknowledge that the marriage needs attention.
  • Sharing and respectfully listening to each others’ perspective on how “we got here.”
  • Review what initially attracted them to one another.
  • Commit to change from the current routine.
  • Examine leisure time–entertainment.

Many couples spend little, or no, time together–alone. They are either with the kids, friends, or family. They cannot recall the last time they did something fun, just as a couple.

I question, “Suppose your marriage was a resource, what are you doing to renew it? Sustain it?” Marriage may be viewed as a renewable resource, but not one that replenishes naturally. We are not solar powered.  The wonderful passion and vitality of a relationship may be consumed to the point of depletion if we do not recharge regularly. We must engage in relationship resource management. Healthy marriages are sustained by a commitment of both time and energy. Happy marriages are treated as a priority.

Stepping into a therapist’s office, openly admitting that your marriage is not the source of joy that it once was is difficult. Sadly, for some, awkward and embarrassing. But for many, it is the first step in renewing a highly valuable resource.

From We’re No Fun Anymore by Schwarz and Braff, “It is not that couples are not playing and having fun because they are angry and resentful; they are angry and resentful because they are not playing and having fun together” (xiv).