What Drives You?

What drives you? is a question that I ask myself and others every day. As a psychotherapist, I want to know what motivates people to do what they do and be who they are. Right now, as the Olympics in Rio are being televised, I watch and think about what drives athletes to become, not only good at something, but have a passion to the best in the world.

RunningOn Being with Krista Tippett is an inspiring podcast. This week’s piece is entitled, Running As Spiritual Practice. It’s about Olympic athletes and others who run with a passion for the sport.

The last story is exceptional. It’s from an interview that took place in May of this year.  Olympians Are Chosen By The Gods is about a Native American Man named, Billy Mills who broke a world record at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Mills tells his story with imagery and ease. His voice is mesmerizing. It’s easy to picture him losing his parents at a young age, not fitting in at school, dealing with racism and feeling physical and emotional pain. Because of his story telling abilities, it’s also easy to picture him on his runs, feeling his father’s presence, racing in the Olympics and then gaining the last bit of drive that he needed in order to push through to the finish line and set a world record.

Below is a a one minute video of that moment and here is a link to a four minute clip:

It takes a lot of drive to become an Olympic athlete or a world record holder. For some it takes a lot of drive to be a runner, a jogger, a teacher or a firefighter. For others, it takes a lot of motivation to just show up. I encourage you to listen to both podcasts and then ask yourself, what drives you? I’d like to know.

Welcoming Mara

Tara Brach wrote a piece on her blog, entitled, Inviting Mara To Tea.
Tara has “been practicing and teaching Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening, with a focus on vipassana (mindfulness) meditation” for many years.

Tara writes, “The night before his enlightenment, the Buddha fought a great battle with the Demon God Mara, who attacked the then Marabodhisattva Siddhartha Guatama with everything he had: lust, greed, anger, doubt, etc. Having failed, Mara left in disarray on the morning of the Buddha’s enlightenment.”In this story she share that instead of ignoring Mara or driving him away, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge his presence, saying, ‘I see you, Mara.’ He even invited Mara to have tea with him.”

Tara continues, “When Mara visits us, in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories, we can say, “I see you, Mara,” and clearly recognize the reality of craving and fear that lives in each human heart. By accepting these experiences with the warmth of compassion, we can offer Mara tea rather than fearfully driving him away. Seeing what is true, we hold what is seen with kindness. We express such wakefulness of heart each time we recognize and embrace our hurts and fears.”

Mara-TeaHow do you react when Mara visits? Do you ignore him, tolerate him, fight with him? What would it be like to welcome him? In other words, what would it be like to accept a sad feeling or an anxious one just as much as you welcome a happy or peaceful feeling? All feelings come and go. They are transient.

What would it be like, this time, to notice that Mara has come for a visit? He may want to stay for a few minutes or a few days. Only you can decide that. By welcoming him, he probably won’t stay too long but for whatever length of time he wants to visit, he is there to teach us something. By allowing ourselves to see him, we are essentially asking ourselves, what is this visit here to teach me?

So, the next time Mara comes, welcome him, invite him for tea. See if you can appreciate him rather than fear or resist him.

If you fear Mara too much to welcome or invite him to tea or if Mara lives with you and does not just visit, let me know. I would like to help you. You can contact me here.

What Would You Ask Your Therapist?

Psychiatrist Jeffery Smith, MD, wrote a post for Oprah.com, entitled, 11 Questions You’ve Wanted to Ask Your Shrink, Answered. I enjoyed reading it and want to share it with you.

Many people come to therapy not knowing ask your therapist what to expect or what to talk about. They can be frightened, apprehensive and vulnerable. It’s my job to create an environment that feels safe enough for my clients to express those feelings. But what happens when they don’t know how to begin?

lotus in handHere’s the answer: You don’t have to know. I will guide you. We will begin with an intake and then we will begin regular sessions. I will explain what that looks like in another post. In this one, I will list Dr. Smith’s questions. I encourage you to read his article and see his answers. They are honest and informative.

  1. What do I talk about?
  2. Are you going to blame my mother?
  3. Can I tell you if you have salad in your teeth?
  4. What if I lie to you?
  5. Am I boring you?
  6. Can’t we resolve my issues faster?
  7. Can we really ever resolve my issues?
  8. Why can’t I ask you about your personal life?
  9. What if I’m attracted to you?
  10. Do you think of me between sessions?
  11. Do you care about me?

What questions would you like to ask this therapist?

How Can Sharing One’s Shame, Eliminate It?

Martha Beck wrote in an article entitled, Take Pride: Freedom From Shame & Humiliation: “I was about to learn that my level of shame was always under my own control, that I would endure exactly as much humiliation as I consented to feel, and that instead of tolerating this awful feeling, I could simply dispense with it. All of this is equally true for you.”

shameIn the article, she writes about learning while pregnant, that she is carrying a child with special needs. “Avoiding humiliation was practically my religion. I was a slavish overachiever, desperate to succeed, to please, to fit in. Now, it seemed, I would be obviously and publicly shamed in the all-important role of mother.”

Can you relate to being a “slavish overachiever?” Many people, especially those living in cities such as New York, feel a desperate need, not only to be good but to be great. Good enough is rarely good enough.

There is a wonderful saying by Eleanor Roosevelt, that Beck quotes in her article, “No one can cause us to feel humiliation or shame without our consent.” How often do we give our consent away and how can we take it back?

Beck believes if we align our beliefs with our actions, we can eliminate our shame. How exactly does one do this? Beck has two strategies: “Strategy number one is obvious: Don’t do anything you think is wrong or fail to do anything you consider morally necessary. Number two: Stop trying to change your behavior; instead, rethink your beliefs. ”

sharingBeck then suggests sharing your shame with a safe person. By unburdening oneself of a shameful belief and still feeling accepted by the person with whom you are sharing it, is empowering and shame eliminating.

Beck writes about her son, “I got a similar gift from the potential humiliation of having a son with an extra chromosome. I am proud of everything about Adam, who at 22 is one of the finest people I know. I’ve written about him, traveled the world with him, stood with him before crowds gathered to celebrate his difference. What’s sometimes hard to contain is not the humiliation but the pride and joy of taking my child out in public. ”

I encourage you to share your whole self. You may be pleasantly surprised to know that you’re not alone in your shameful beliefs and that you can still be loved and accepted.

How have you overcome shame? What helped you most? Or do you have something you want to share? I’d love to help you through it. Contact me here.

What Does Luck Have To Do With Adoption?

April Dinwoodie is the Chief Executive of The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI), co-founder of Fostering Change for Children, and a transracial adoptee. From the DAI website: “Everything we do and every action we take is geared toward safeguarding the best interests of children, enhancing the adoption experience and sustaining families – while achieving equitable treatment for everyone within the extended family of adoption.”

Dinwoodie wrote a wonderful article for the Huffington Post entitled, first familiesThinking About Adoption: Lucky Me? In it she discusses what luck has to do with adoption. One of the most pervasive comments often made to an adopted person, even when they’re children is, “You are so lucky!” If a child is lucky to be adopted, that implies that she owes her (adopted) family something. The best response I’ve heard to that statement is when a parent replies with, “No, I’m the lucky one. My life is so enriched now that (said adopted person) is a part of it.”

From Dinwoodie, “This notion of luck does not only impact adopted people, it can be a burden to the extended family of adoption. For the first/birth family, it assumes that they would have been incapable of providing appropriate care — a fact that is not an element of every adoption experience. For some adoptive parents, being seen as rescuers can add unrealistic expectations to their role as a parent.”

adoptionAnother aspect of luck that Dinwoodie tackles in her article is the luck of finding one’s birth parents. It is common now in domestic adoptions in particular, for there to be connection with the birth mother and occasionally the birth father. But years ago, and still in many international adoptions, there is no information or access to the birth parents. Sometimes finding a birth parent is lucky, sometimes it’s not. Each situation is different because each person is different.

Then there is the “luck” of being able to have access to one’s own original birth certificate. It is still illegal, yes ILLEGAL, to have access to one’s own original birth certificate. This article gives some background on the subject of original birth certificates and how they are revised after adoption.

There are so many wonderful things about adoption and there are many losses. Dinwoodie’s article describes the complexities of adoption and how some aspects are lucky and others are not.

Dinwoodie ends her article,  “My hope is that moving forward we stop simplifying the adoption experience and put in the work to fully comprehend the challenges and opportunities. We’d all be lucky and better for understanding family from an evolved place. When we move from transaction to transformation, adoption allows us to do just that.”

If you were adopted, are thinking of adopting or have adopted and you are looking for support, let me know. I would like to help you. Feel free to contact me here.

Another Neurofeedback Benefit

The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center shared; neurofeedback“A new study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center evaluating the use of neurofeedback found a decrease in the experience of chronic pain and increase quality of life in patients with neuropathic pain.”

The lead investigator, Sarah , PhD said that, “Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy is very common in cancer patients and there is currently only one medication approved to treat it. I’m encouraged to see the significant improvements in patient’s quality of life after treatment. This treatment is customized to the individual, and is relatively inexpensive, non-invasive and non-addictive.”

The brainIt is encouraging to know that Neurofeedback (NF) can help with Peripheral neuropathy because it effects not only patients undergoing chemotherapy but others with illnesses such as Lyme disease, shingles (varicella-zoster), Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis C, leprosy, diphtheria and HIV.

“Chronic chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a common side effect of chemotherapy, often affecting 71 to 96 percent of patients after a month of chemotherapy treatment. Peripheral neuropathy is a set of symptoms such as pain, burning, tingling and loss of feeling caused by damage to nerves that control the sensations and movements of our arms and legs.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and change existing ones. This study demonstrated that neurofeedback induces neuroplasticity to modulate brain activity and improve CIPN symptoms.”

The study also showed that, “After treatment, 73 percent saw improvement in their pain and quality of life. Patients with CIPN also exhibited specific and predictable EEG signatures that changed with neurofeedback.”

If you would like to learn more about neurofeedback and how it can help you, please contact me here.

Neuro-What?

What is the most common question asked when meeting someone new?

It’s generally, “What do you do?” bigstock-Brain-profile-made-by-typograp-32324291

At a party the other day, an old friend asked, “so what are you doing these days?”

I began with, “I’m still a therapist in private practice and I also do something called, neurofeedback.”

The old friend asked, “is that like biofeedback?”

A new friend, overhearing the conversation asked, “neurowhat?”

I answered them both. “Yes, neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. It’s a way to train one’s brain to better deal with life’s stressors. You sit in a comfortable chair in my office with five non-invasive sensors, which are reading the electricity on the surface of your scalp. There is nothing going into your head. You simply sit back and listen to beautiful and relaxing music for 33 minutes. There’s nothing else you have to do. It’s a non-medical way to overcome some of life’s challenges such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, addictions, ADD/ADHD, etc. It’s also great for people who have experience with regular talk therapy and want a change. It’s complementary with talk therapy and it’s often the missing piece for those who have done a lot of therapy and other forms of working on themselves.”

neuroBeing that we were on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I assumed that many people in the room had at some point worked with a talk therapist. My friends were both very interested in learning more about how neurofeedback works and how it would specifically work for them. One mentioned having repetitive thoughts while the other discussed bouts of insomnia. They asked if neurofeedback could help with both of these issues. I told them that it could and that I currently work with clients who are being treated for those exact issues. The clients were responding very well and in a much shorter period than they expected.

What happens is this: The system I use is called, NeurOptimal®. When your brain shows turbulence, the music makes a minute pause. What happens is that the turbulence the system is flagging for the brain is what happens whenever our brain shifts from one state to another. The pause in the music is a wakeup call to the brain to come back to the present and choose whether or not the shift is a good idea. The system flags ANY state shift, not just problematic ones. Our brains prefer to use energy efficiently. Even when the pause in the music is indecipherable, the brain notices it. The decrease in the regular stress creates calmness and increases the ability to return to the present moment.

Eventually there become fewer and fewer episodes of recycling the past and you are allowed to see and respond to what is actually happening in your life rather than react to it out of habit. Also, as the brain gets calmer, the part of the brain that controls relaxation responses becomes more dominant than the part of the brain the guides the “fight or flight response.” Your body then is able to repair itself and become healthier.”

It was exciting for me to share what I know and exciting for my friends to learn about neuro-what? I mean neurofeedback.

If you’re interested in trying neurofeedback, call me at 917-817-8575 or email me.

Is Neurofeedback Becoming Mainstream?

The Wall Street Journal just published an article entitled,  Brain Training for Anxiety, Depression and Other Mental Conditions-Neurofeedback uses real-time scans to teach patients to try to change how they think.

The article, written by Andrea Petersen, is about the many ways that neurofeedback (NF) can help people cope with a variety of issues, such as depression and anxiety.

The type of NF mentioned in the article is different from the one neurofeedbackI use but it is effective nonetheless. “While fMRI neurofeedback is only a few years old, its principles have been around for decades. Doctors and researchers have long used electroencephalograms (EEG), tests that record electrical activity, to perform a version of neurofeedback. The approach is particularly popular as a treatment for ADHD in children.”

bigstock-Brain-profile-made-by-typograp-32324291The type of NF that I do is auditory based and in a much more inviting setting than the one discussed in the article. When a client meets me for a NF session, they sit in a comfortable chair, listen to beautiful music for 33 minutes and they relax. The computer does all of the work.

To learn more about the type of system I use, click on this link and see how neurofeedback and help you.

Can you will yourself to be less depressed?

Nope. You can’t will yourself to lower your cholesterol either. Both are medical conditions that require assistance in order to get better.

How do you know if you’re depressed? How does it manifest? What causes it?  What can you to feel better?  Take a look at a wonderful cartoon called, What is depression? by Helen M. Farrell. The video answers these questions and more.

If you think you’re depressed or struggling with feelings of sadness, I’d like to help you.  Feel free to contact me here.

Why Does It Matter That Celebrities Adopt From Foster Care?

The access, Sandra Bullock recently adopted a daughter from the foster care system. People Magazine found the this fact so interesting that they put the story and a photo of the actress with her two children, both of whom are adopted, on the front cover. It matters when a celebrity adopts from foster care because it challenges the public’s preconceived ideas about foster care.

I’ve worked in the field of adoption since 1999. Since then I’ve been interested in learning as much as I can about the subject. I know about private adoptions, domestic adoptions and international adoptions but my knowledge of foster care adoption is limited by comparison.

When I was asked by a producer from Good Morning America to be taped for a segment on Ms. Bullock’s adoption, I was a little nervous. I expected myself to be an expert in foster care but I wasn’t- I’m not. So I did as much research as I could to prepare. I looked up statistics, I researched the history of foster care to adoption, I poured through articles about the subject and when Kenny the camera man, showed up at my office, most of what I learned didn’t matter anymore. I wasn’t being asked to be an expert, I was being asked to share my thoughts about (Ms. Bullock’s) adoption and I can always do that. Here’s the segment:


ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

What I do know about foster care is that there are many children waiting for permanent homes. I also know that the average age of a child adopted from foster care system is eight. There is a great deal of information on AdoptiveFamilies.com, which is an invaluable resource for all things adoption related.

What stuck out most when I was researching on their site is that “….many more adults consider this route (foster care to adoption) without taking action, due to skepticism about the process. With a little education, (the writer of the article said that) I’ve seen many of them become, yes, perfect parents to children in need of ‘forever families.'”

If you would like more information about adopting from foster care, here are helpful links: AdoptUsKids and The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).