Full disclosure: I am a hot head. When someone emails me something that I don’t like, I’m prone to firing back in a flash without thinking things through. Pounding out a rapid reply, my fingers fly over the keyboard, culminating in hitting the final “send” with conviction and a sense of self righteousness, like a high note on the keyboard. Rude, I know... but I’m right!
As the story goes, the ancient way to catch a monkey was to place a banana in a narrowly barred cage, and leave it in the forest. The monkey comes, sticks its hand into the cage and grabs the banana. But the banana is too big to fit back out through the bars of the cage. As the hunter approaches, the monkey won’t let go of the banana, and thus is captured, soon finding itself inside the cage, right along with the desired fruit.
Attuned to research about aging well (for no obvious reason), I am often struck by the fact that the recipe for “super aging” has much in common with the one I am always promoting to you younger folk. The basics of living well — sufficient sleep, daily exercise and meditation, good food, meaningful work, and quality social interactions — apply for all of us.
It has been a hard month. Many of us have felt that support for our basic human values has taken a huge hit. Equal treatment for all, compassion over aggression, civil discourse, respect, and honesty are not political issues. I unapologetically reaffirm my commitment to these principles, and encourage you to do likewise, irrespective of where you stand on the political spectrum.
After practicing as a psychologist in Madison for 20 years, I can say with confidence that most of what we see clinically is people's responses to the serious difficulties of life. Not that there isn’t true psychopathology, but that the power of emphasizing resilience and strength, and de-pathologizing normal struggle cannot be overstated.
We all had a mother once. But some of us lost her early, and some of us have or had mothers who weren’t so good for us. It is a vitally important relationship, and it can go wrong in so many ways. The mother who is hyper-critical, the mother who is over indulgent, the mother who is indifferent, and countless other flavors of wrong.
My daughter, the potter, made me a beautiful vessel for the kitchen herb garden I have been wanting all winter. This weekend I started a variety of herbs by seed, and expect they will be big and plentiful enough to populate both my new indoor and regular outdoor gardens. We’ll eat from them all summer, and now, thanks to daughter, through the winter as well.
It is no accident that we choose to write to you about love right after Valentine’s Day. At Westside Psychotherapy, we believe that the most important days to show love lie between February 15 and February 13. Sustaining love is challenging. Life wears us down, disappointments and resentments accumulate, fatigue sets in, the dullness of familiarity may begin to rankle.
The more time I spend in this life, the more strongly I believe fear is not often helpful. The purpose of fear — pounding heart, outpouring of adrenaline, and burst of energy — is to get us away from that tiger, fast! But if there is no tiger — if we have to stay in the room with the thing causing the fear - all that acceleration and energy turns against us.
Here we are again, the leaves are off the tress, there is frost in the mornings. Even this year’s gloriously long warm spell must give way to the oncoming winter, and right in step we have . . . The Holiday Season. No one goes untouched. Some greet it with happy anticipation, others with dread, some do their level best to hunker down and ignore the whole rigamarole.