Innocence

What if during difficult times we could revert back to a previous point in our lives when we still had an inkling of what innocence felt like?  Do we mourn for simpler times when we didn’t have to cut through so much noise? Have we lost our filters allowing negative ideas to seep into our consciousness?

There is a tug-o-war of stimuli pushing and pulling to get our attention.  We’re inundated with junk mail, robocalls, and commercials working diligently to persuade, dissuade, or promote a particular agenda.  Our world has left little time for developing our own worldview.  Our consciousness is being commandeered by a minute number of influencers.

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Are you willing to reclaim your innocence?  I’ve found holding on to items, memories, and faith have allowed me to keep a firm grasp on my innocence.  My relationships have been my teachers and guiding lights through tumultuous times.  The idea of downsizing, organizing, and streamlining becomes more attractive every day

How will you reclaim your innocence? What does holding innocence as part of your conscious life free you to do, think, and feel?

Alone in a Crowd

Have you ever been in a group, at a party, in a class, or even with your own family and felt alone?  At first, we may think it’s all in our imagination, but the ruminations become more pronounced and we retreat to the safety of our mind and our home.  Even if you’re in a relationship we may feel alone because we feel unheard or the other person doesn’t have time to spend with us.

Loneliness, according to former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, is a public health issue.  We have become a society so busy with irrelevant actions that we’re often unaware of the depth of the loneliness.  The amazing thing about loneliness is its insidious nature.  It sneaks in like the old story of the frog in the pot of water that eventually boils.  It’s not an overnight experience, it creeps up on us and intensifies over time.  It leads many to thoughts and actions with less perfect outcomes. 

The amazing thing about loneliness is how far it reaches.  It crosses racial, socio-economic, religion, and education levels.  It hits kids in grammar school through individuals in senior living facilities.  We even see it amongst those in hospice as they prepare to leave this world.

We used to be a society built on community, so what happened?  Over time, people began moving away from their families for greater opportunities.  Travel made it easier for us to venture out in the world and technology has made it possible to work remotely.  The current state of affairs with COVID-19 has intensified the loneliness factor, but it was already well on its way to seizing the psyche of many people.

The amazing thing about loneliness is we have an easy prescription making loneliness dissolve like the wicked witch of the west when she was doused with water.  Inclusion is the factor able to rid loneliness from our lives the way we rid the world of smallpox.  Being mindful of those around us and making an effort to include those who are more introverted than extroverted, those facing mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and listening for the micro-aggressions pushing some to self-isolate for survival.  

It may seem easy to rid the world of loneliness, but truth be told, technology has reduced direct, face-to-face interaction for the simplicity of technology.  We think we’re in relationship with people because we were able to touch base with 140 characters or a quick picture.  Our hearts and minds need more and we deserve more.

Free to Be You and Me

Halloween is coming and all I can think of is the desire to wear masks.  Of course, given this time of COVID-19, we don’t need Halloween as a reason to wear a mask.  Truth is we all wear masks of the figurative type.  It’s how many of us make it through the day.

Noted author David Brooks wrote The Second Mountain.  Brooks describes two phases of our lives.  The first mountain is how we attain power and status as a means of creating an identity.  The second mountain is a place of becoming who we are truly meant to be without the need for a return on investment.  The reward is a freedom to live one’s life without apology.

Who would you be if the word “judgment” didn’t exist?  You would be free to express your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs without fear of condemnation or adulation.  There would be an unbridled authenticity allowing us the opportunity to be curious, explore, and experiment.  Our lives would be full of celebration.

How did our lives become so mired in judgment?  Many talk about those with opposing beliefs as torturers.  Don’t we all have that capacity.  The choice we have is whether or not we put our thoughts into actions.  There are plenty of individuals in our world I don’t agree with, but slinging mud as retaliation doesn’t heal the hurt. What heals the hurt is following my passion.  What heals the hurt is speaking one’s truth without wanting acceptance.  What heals the hurt is the ability and willingness to allow everyone the same right to expression (without violence) as we would desire.

Writing this I realize how something so simple in theory is so difficult in reality.  My prescription is to take moments when you feel safe physically, emotionally, and spiritually to revel in “you”.  Take time and promote the true “you” to rise to the surface and be activated.  Give yourself the gift of the experience of “you”.

The End of Innocence

Remember the days when you didn’t have a care in the world?  The times when the biggest decision we had to make was which flavor ice cream to order?  We can watch period pieces from earlier times and life was hard, but in a different way than it is now.  It was physically harder.  Today we’ve reached a new wave of avenues to difficulty.  We’re being hit with political, social, religious, ecological, and financial troubles.  The Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, has transformed into, he who has the gold makes the rules.

We grow up with a set of assumptions about what makes us feel safe and secure.  We’re taught lessons about morality and values, hoping we’ll employ them in all areas of our lives.  What happens when our assumptions are shattered?  This happens to many children who are victims of abuse.  What should be a time of joy and freedom is burdened with insecurity and fear. 

Why are acts of kindness becoming an endangered species?  Is everyone walking around with the feelings of hunt or be hunted?  It certainly feels like we’re in times of threat and uncertainty.  What we used to count on for solace is on shaky ground.  When our foundation falters we experience emotional and spiritual turbulence. 

It’s clear no one can go back to earlier times.  However, isn’t it possible for us to put our time and attention into decency?  Aren’t we capable of provide safe dialogues so one party or the other isn’t always on the defensive?  What will it take for us to recapture even an ounce of innocence?

Flip the Switch

Facing a mental health crisis is devastating.  The sheer experience of plunging into an arena of the unknown, many times with no warning, is terrifying.  Those who end up in an emergency room or crisis center experience a world unlike anything they could have imagined.  I was taking a class titled, “Film and Mental Health”.  One of the films shown was Titticut Follies.  The films is a documentary about the conditions at a Massachusetts hospital for the criminally insane.  Needless to say, the conditions were abominable, degrading, and stands as the history/foundation for psychiatric facilities.

Why do so many believe symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome/Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, and Schizophrenia, can be turned on and off like a light switch?  There’s a misconception we’re in control of our brains/minds.  We’re made to believe we have the power to disconnect from the symptom until the crisis passes and then we’re able to resume life as usual.

Studies have shown conclusively how the brain and brain chemistry change when facing mental health crisis or illness.  60 Minutes had a segment on the brain and mental illness a few weeks ago.  The segment outlined a study comparing a control group to those who had suicidal ideations/attempts within thirty days of taking the Function Magnetic Resonance Imaging fMFRI.  There was a definite difference between the scans and the parts of the brain illuminated between the two groups.

The problem, for many, is not going for help when symptoms emerge.  Many may not be aware of the symptoms of anxiety or depression, because mental illness is stigmatized and the thought of having a “mental illness” is easily deniable.  Often, it’s not until the symptoms invade and intrude on the daily functions of one’s life we seek help.  It may interfere with sleep, eating, interpersonal relationships, and even thoughts of suicide.

Where are the sources of information and the efforts to promote mental health?  How can we destigmatize mental illness and create safe havens for individuals to seek help?  Why are we so hesitant to seek help when there are treatments both medical and non-medical for mental health issues?  How do we educate people about a diagnosis is not an identity?

For more art and prompts visit me on Instagram: @drfiber

Let’s Soar

There are so many things in life holding us down.  We feel held back from being more creative and innovative at work.  Voices are being stifled because they offend some people.  The pandemic has punctuated the mental health challenges in our culture.  It can feel like we’re salmon swimming upstream.

If we put a little effort into it, there’s plenty to set us free so we can soar.  What are your interests?  I’d even go so far as to ask, “What are you passionate about?”  When we devote our time and energy these activities and practices, we feel free.  

What are you curious about?  In Michael Gelb’s book How to think Like Leonardo DaVinci, he outlines seven steps, and curiosity is number one.  When we’re curious we explore.  When we’re curious we ask questions.  We aren’t so fixed in a thought process with no alternatives or options.  When we’re curious we’re mindful as well follow the clues of our curious nature.

Where do you find beauty?  I’ve engaged in guided visualization for years. I know the meadow I’ve been directed to intimately.  I’ve can describe the river or the ocean I’ve sat aside listening to the waves or the babble of the water as I visualize the experience.  The botanic gardens give me pause because it reinforces how beautiful nature is and the impact it has on our souls.  Listening to Yo-Yo Ma play the cello is a transcendent experience.  It’s not only the piece, but his mastery of the instrument and his interpretation of the work.  

There’s a lot out in the world giving us the opportunity to soar.  We have to want it, go after it, and experience it!  What allows you to soar?

For more art and prompts visit me on Instagram: @drfiber

What’s Next for Us?

We like to know what’s going to happen.  We feel secure when there’s a plan with incremental steps.  Many thrive when they can use the word “sure” frequently.  Truth be told, life is full of uncertainty.  The problem arises when what we would consider “normal” uncertainty is exponentially increased by a pandemic.  Our levels of anxiety rise to new heights and the coping mechanisms we’ve come to depend on, stop working.

We’re caught in a cycle of not knowing and we start to doubt our abilities to manage situations as they arise.  Our focus shifts to all the unresolved issues with the question if we’ll ever be able to resume life as we knew it.  The amount of information generated is overwhelming and adds to our rise in uncertainty.  Not knowing which sources are truthful and accurate, coupled with the need for hope compounds our anxiety levels.

I learned a saying years ago and it has served me well as a jumping off point for resolving uncertainty.  “Life’s not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is!”  We read fairy tales, but life is not a picture book.  We can’t always control the cards we’re dealt so finding other mechanisms for control become essential.

Focus on the things you already know.  Depending on your age, you have a wealth of information and strategies available to serve as a jumping off point for problem solving.  We have created anchors in our lives as listed in our brains as “the things I know for sure”.   It’s acknowledging the relationships we’ve cultivated in our lives, the morals and values we hold, and practices that allow us to focus on possibility.

How do you look forward with hope instead of trepidation?  What will anchor you long enough to get your sea legs and develop new coping strategies.  Fortunately, the pandemic has forced us to connect through technology.  Information, spiritual practices, expressive arts classes have all gone online.  Education has upped the ante when it comes to online classes, so developing new skills is within our reach.  A quick text can reap a sense of security and calm because you know someone is out there to support you.

What’s next?  What do you want to be next?  How will you take steps to move toward “the next”?  

For more art and prompts visit me on Instagram: @drfiber

Head Toward Simple

Is life complicated or do we make it complicated?  How have we added work to our work?  Why are we striving for complexity versus simplicity?  Does adding steps to what we do or think raise its profile or make it more important?  

I remember when I was in high school taking geometry.  I was having problems learning how to do a proof.  I went for extra help after school to unlock the mystery of the proof.  My geometry teacher, Mrs. McCarthy said at the beginning of the year, if we couldn’t do a proof by Christmas, she was taking us to Florida for extra tutoring.  Boy did she luck out…I learned how to do a proof right after Thanksgiving. 

As I progressed through the class Mrs. McCarthy asked why I made my proofs so complicated.  I remember her saying my proofs were like taking a road trip from New Jersey to Pittsburgh via California.  I can laugh at it now but was confused.  I didn’t realize till a little later there was an easier way.  I finally unlocked the mystery and found the shortest route to complete the assignment.  

As a visual anthropologist and psychotherapist, I watch people.  I observe how we act out in the world and look for patterns on how people act and react.  It’s amazing how many of us choose (and I use that word on purpose) to make our lives more difficult than necessary.  We’ve become a culture where struggle is rewarded, commended, and saluted.  We believe just because something is difficult, it must be good.  Why are we wearing struggle as a merit badge?

The word edit doesn’t seem to fit in many people’s vocabulary.  Simplicity is equated with worthlessness.  Internal space is set aside for the endless search of self-help books, retreats promising to heal our busy lives, and cultural gurus telling us to let go of what doesn’t serve us. 

Those are all important things, but most people who buy the books and attend the seminars have added one more level of struggle to their lives.  They’ve added another layer of judgment.  Simplicity is not a four-letter word.  It doesn’t imply lack of attention or effort.  Chunking things down into manageable and attainable parts and goals is smart.  It’s doable!  It’s calming.  

What will entice you toward simplicity?  

When Things Fall Apart

We all like it when things are put into neat little packages.  We like it when things are manageable, just think of the rise in food on sticks or hand-held delights.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way and too many times we experience a melt-down, or the ground beneath us gives way, the foundation we depend on to manage our lives falters and we have a crisis.

How do we handle our lives when things fall apart?  It’s not as if we can simply pick up the pieces and crazy glue our emotional or spiritual lives back together.  In order for us to reconfigure our lives we have to understand the threads holding us together.  We need to understand what creates a sense of wholeness.  It’s important for us to utilize tools giving us a sense of purpose and meaning.  

Unfortunately, we’re experiencing a time of deep existential crisis.  Safety nets are disintegrating before our eyes and the pressure is too much for some to handle.  It’s not a surprise the rates of depression and anxiety are on the rise and with that comes the increase in suicide.

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week and it shines a light on the crisis we have in this country around the issue of suicide.  How have we come to a time in our culture when individuals feel they have no option but to end their lives?  How have we reached a point of utter hopelessness leaving many with no option, in their eyes, but to end their lives.

How are we feeding a culture of desperation where human contact has diminished, even before the onset of the pandemic?  We’ve become a culture where social interaction is through our fingers on a screen.  Our worth is determined by the number of like we have and the number of anonymous followers we have in the stratosphere.  

We need human connection.  We need to be able to hear others pain and listen to their concerns.  We have to cultivate a culture of inclusivity.  We need to understand the importance of a gentle interaction.  We need to understand how an act of kindness can potentially save someone’s life. 

How are you going to contribute to the culture of saving lives?

Tired

We know when we’re tired.  We yawn, we doze off while watching television, or we experience a weakness, making us lethargic.  Our physical sense of tiredness is very different from emotional or spiritual tiredness.  It’s an important distinction because suicide is on the rise, and for many, emotional exhaustion is a stepping-stone to giving up.

Suicide rates are on the rise.  Before the pandemic, there were twenty-two veterans a day ending their life by suicide.  If we look at the statistics for LGBTQIA youth, forty percent have contemplated suicide.  Twenty-five percent of veterinarians have contemplated suicide.  The list goes on and on with statistics, but we have to remember, there are people behind each of those numbers.  If we’re not horrified by these statistics, we have a larger problem than the suicides themselves.

What brings a human soul to make a decision to end their life?  How low must the person feel to make a permanent decision.  I remember watching the film The Bridge.  A filmmaker filmed the Golden Gate Bridge for one year from sunup to sundown.  He documented the suicide of all but one for the year who jumped off the bridge.  One person survived the jump and when interviewed, the moment he left the bridge he regretted making the jump.  

I’m amazed at how many people feel suicide attempts are a call for help.  My experience is the attempt is not a call for help, it’s a declarative statement that life is too difficult to go on living.  I’m not saying there aren’t a miniscule number who are doing it for attention but wanting to end one’s life is real.  As a psychotherapist I’ve not only had a client who died by suicide, but I’ve been on the phone multiple times with individuals in the contemplation stage.  

Are we not listening to people’s pain?  Is there so much divisiveness and exclusion individuals feel there is no other choice but to cease existing?  We lack services meant to catch those who fall through the cracks.  Social media has shortened our attention span leaving our human interactions truncated and dismissive.  The pandemic has left many isolated, lonely, and in desperate need for human interaction.  

There’s no formula for making the decision to end one’s life.  Understanding the interconnectedness of all human beings should provide us with the strength to reach out to those in need.   

Go With the Flow

Imagine yourself floating down a river.  Picture your physical being, your emotional self, or your spiritual self as part of this relaxing journey.  As you float down the river engaging all your senses, what do you notice?  How does your body feel?  What emotions come to the foreground of your consciousness?

Go with the flow doesn’t mean just going for the ride.  It doesn’t imply surrendering to the forces we encounter.  It does mean we should be engaging the questions presented to us.  It is an opportunity to take in the stimuli in our path and process it, extract what’s useful, and utilize its clues to propel us deeper into an introspective state.

The ability to widen our narrative is what expands the realm of what’s possible in our lives.  Creating stories helps us decode the messages presented to us as we float down our visualized river.  The visual of floating down a river is relaxing, but at the same time is filled with mystery.  We don’t know the flora and fauna.  We may not know the creatures calling this environment home.

Every day we walk through life bombarded with stimuli.  Advertisers and the media are constantly fighting for our attention.  As we move through the day it’s important to be aware of what catches our attention and how it impacts our thoughts and actions.  Being present to our bodily sensations, our emotional shifts is important to finding peace and healing.  

When we go with the flow, we can use the energy of the current (however you define the current) as a means to greater understanding of our priorities.  It’s about following the energy, giving us greater momentum providing an opportunity for growth and a deeper knowing of the self.

For more art and prompts follow me on Instagram: @drfiber