Monthly Archives: May 2006

the negative voice vs. the encouraging voice

“The story of your life is the story of a journey of your heart through a dangerous and beautiful world. It is the story of the long and sustained assault on your heart by the Enemy who knows what you could be and fears you. But it is also the story of the long and mysterious pursuit of your heart by the God who knows you and truly loves you deeply.” John Eldridge

who is our enemy?

who is our god?

it occurs to me that the “enemy” – the negative, negating, invalidating, small, sarcastic voice often sits very close to my ear (or heart?). how strange! why not reserve that seat to my god – the encouraging, loving, expansive, freeing, soothing voice?

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

children and war

i found this in medicalnews today:

How Do Children Understand The Phenomenon Of War?

All over the world children are exposed to war, some first-hand, others through media images. However, little is known about how children understand the phenomenon of war, and many parents are unsure how to approach the subjects of war and terrorism with their children.

Parents can benefit from research that emphasizes their children’s perspective. Increased awareness of children’s knowledge of war, their sources of information about war, and developmental differences in their communication and understanding of war can help parents approach their children about this important and timely issue.

Dr. Kathleen Walker and Dr. Maureen Blankemeyer, Kent State professors in human development and family studies, have studied the understanding of war and peace among children in Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Israel and the United States, where they also conducted a study to learn about children’s awareness of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and what has influenced that knowledge.

of course i was quite intrigued, so i looked around to see what these researchers found – but there’s nothing there.

it all sounds pretty bland.

and war is such a horrific experience for adults – how much more intense is it for children! just yesterday i spent time talking to two friends of mine, both of whom were affected by WWII in eastern europe. there is nothing bland about their stories. i, too, born not long after the war, am deeply influenced by the stories of the holocaust and WWII that my parents told me.

here are some web sites that deal with the same topic:

it is our children for whom we want peace; for some reason, we always think of the future when we think of our children. but our children today, they need peace now.

i don’t know whether it’s a coincidence that i, as well as the two friends i just mentioned, feel passionate about peace.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

understanding anorexia

i don’t have anorexia but i am intrigued by how close i feel to people who have this experience. there is a way in which i understand the desire to control one’s life to such a high degree. “my body will not tell me when to eat! i am in charge of that!” these words also reveal the split between “my body” and “i” – as if there were two entities. like most people, i find it easy to buy into this duality.

there is also a part of me – the small, wounded child who feels misunderstood and overlooked, perhaps? – who gets the need to influence people and occupy people’s minds by my behaviours, just like the person with severe anorexia often holds their family and friends in thrall.

and i so very much understand the excitement that comes with closing in on perfection! perfection, as we imperfect human beings understand it, is such a shining ideal, such a dazzling idea to strive for. it’s blinding, and there is always something comforting in that kind of emotional blindness.

even the self image that looks so very different to the person with anorexia than a “normal” (??) person is something that makes sense to me. it’s nothing but an exxageration of what happens to most of us anyway – who can really see reality? who has the eyes, who has the guts? who has the guts to look upon themselves with true love? it’s much easier to form some idea of oneself and then to only see that idea when we look into the mirror.

and i get the disdain that some people with anorexia experience towards people who eat “normally”. in their eyes, they are striving for perfection, whereas people who eat normally or people who eat too much are just letting themselves go to seed. feeling superior is something in which we all engage.

anorexia comes at a very high price. it can mean death, it can mean serious health problems. sometimes the experience of being human is so challenging that paying that price appears worth while.

i understand that, too.

however, i don’t agree that this price need be paid. i believe that there are softer, easier, more joyful, happy and free ways to live one’s life according to one’s own script; to interact between body and mind; to live with those around us; to strive for ideals; and that there is enjoyment in going through life with our eyes open and looking reality square in the eye. and i don’t believe in sacrifice – in sacrificing our body or anything else. sacrifices are made to wrathful gods; if you have a wrathful god, i say, fire him!

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

healthy lifestyle strategies

A UCLA research study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that people may be able to improve their cognitive function and brain efficiency by making simple lifestyle changes such as incorporating memory exercises, healthy eating, physical fitness and stress reduction into their daily lives.

Researchers found that after just 14 days of following healthy lifestyle strategies, study participants’ brain metabolism decreased in working memory regions, suggesting an increased efficiency — so the brain didn’t have to work as hard to accomplish tasks.

For the two-week study, 17 subjects with normal baseline memory performance scores were randomly assigned to two groups: a control group did not make any behavior modifications, while a test group incorporated healthy longevity strategies to improve physical and mental function.

wow … i’d really like to believe that this is can be generalized to the population at large. 14 days of healthy lifestyle and brain efficiency is increased …

i’ll have to get the whole scientific report and look at some of the details. what did the control group do, for example? is it possible that the test group improved simply because they were given so much attention? also, 17 subjects – that’s 8 or 9 subjects for each group. not a lot.

still, it sounds really hopeful. stay tuned for more news on this …

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

tracing depression

what is depression? sometimes tracing the various meanings of words can help in understanding the concept or experience for which the word stands. a while ago i spent a few hours trying to pin down when the word “depression” was first used. it looks like henry maudsley, a british physician (there were no psychologists before the late 1800s), was the first to use the word, in the early 1800’s. before that, and right through to freud (who, as far as i can tell, did not use the word “depression”), the term “melancholia” was used. this dates back to the greeks; melancholia literally means “black bile”.

when you look it up in the dictionary, “depression” is derived from “deprimere”, and “deprimere” means “to press down”. the interesting thing, though, is that “supprimere” (to suppress) means “to press down”, as well.

what is the connection between suppression and depression?

to suppress actually means more literally to press down. the prefix sub(p)- always refers to a downward notion (e.g. to submerge). freud saw suppression as pushing something down into the subconscious. this is a pretty normal process – we cannot be aware of everything that ever happened to us. perhaps the subconscious can be compared to what we have stored in the basement. most of what’s stored down there is simply because we have no use for it right now. however, there are the odd things that we stick in the basement because looking at it day in, day out is just too uncomfortable or painful. we stick them in the basement, far out of sight, probably even locked away in a trunk. problems arise (!) when there’s too much in the basement (maybe it even starts to stink from down there?), or when some of the things in the basement should either be thrown out or brought upstairs (that is, into consciousness).

i cannot give you an example of something that i have currently suppressed – it is the very nature of suppression that i am not aware of it.

to depress – that’s a more complex affair. the core meaning of the prefix de- is “away from”. down, aside, up, whatever. just get it away from me! it is interesting to think about that in the context of melancholia – black bile. the function of bile is to aid in the process of digestion, especially fat, a hard-to-digest food item. could we think about depression as pushing away that which is hard to digest? or as taking something inside (“eating” something) that we then push through the digestive tract rather than letting it “mix with our juices”? or is depression about swallowing things so fast that our bile cannot keep up with it? or is depression, as many suggest, about swallowing our anger? again, it is interesting to note that the greek word for bile – chole – is closely related to the greek word for anger – cholos.

in my opinion, the emotional part of depression most definitely involves not dealing with our feelings. (there may also be a chemical component to depression.) that can sound a little harsh, no? i immediately think, oh no, there’s something i was supposed to deal with and i didn’t! like not paying a bill. but it goes much deeper than that. in most cases we are simply not in a position to deal with the feelings. maybe we don’t know how. maybe it’s too scary or seems overwhelming. maybe the depressive feelings are closely connected to old experiences we have hidden away (suppressed).

there’s one thing we can do, though, even in the middle of depression. never mind all the emotions we have already pushed away. we can deal with that later. but we can stop pushing right now. we can stop putting things in the basement right now. and instead of resisting our own feelings, we can start to resist – or better even, simply move out of the way of – pressures from outside.

like when i moved out of the way of time pressure yesterday.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

stress and the buddha

stress … it’s 9:15 pm and i’ve been at it since 7 am. i’ve had a 10-minute break. somewhere around 4 pm.

look at me! i’m such a hard worker!

what a bunch of baloney!

driving my body, mind and soul like this is nothing to be proud of.

and i’m very grateful that i recognize this. so when i was driving home from a meeting, thinking about how i was going to most effectively work through the rest of the evening, mercifully, the sensible part of me told me to STOP!

“stop,” said this sensible voice to me, “stop this thinking in the future, stop the scheming and planning, and pay attention to what you’re doing now!”

so i started to pay attention to what i was doing. driving. participating in the dance of traffic. noticing the tension in my shoulders. stepping on the gas, stepping on the breaks. breathing. breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4; breath out: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. breathe in …. breathe out ……..

aaaah. that felt better. breathing, stepping, looking, moving … and then of course, thoughts of the future still popping in and out. but the focus wasn’t on those thoughts anymore. the focus was on being right here, only “this”, right now, rather than doing this and that, over there, in the future.

i even pulled over for a few minutes to just sit and breathe.

i feel much better now.

thank you, buddha, for teaching me this.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

a new food and exercise plan

lindsay from dizzyisland has made a decision:

After a little encouragement from my psychiatrist on Friday, I decided to bite the bullet and begin my food and exercise plan …

Basically what my doctor said to me made a lot of sense; at first I wasn’t hearing her, but she finally got through to me on Friday. I’ve spent years and years planning and anticipating, and not a whole lot of time actually doing. It was good to have someone there to call me on my shit, recognize my behavior pattern for what it was, and suggest that I jump right in the pool with no hesitation.

Yes, I still have a couple days left of work; yes, it’s going to be hectic; yes, I’m clueless as to whether or not I’m going to get paid yet while I’m off; yes, I have to travel to my hometown this week; but, I’m in the care of God now. There’s nothing to be afraid of. My belief that I can’t make it through a day without self-medicating, by any of my various means, is false. It’s an illusion. I can get through a day without (fill in the blank).

darn courageous, lindsay, and way to go on getting your food and exercise in order! making the move from planning to doing sounds so easy on paper. saying that you can make it through the day without self-medication sounds so healthy. pronouncing that there’s nothing to be afraid of sounds so logical.

and all these things are so hard to do in actual practice.

or at least, so it seems. the metaphor of jumping in the water is so fitting. last time i went swimming (something i don’t do very often), it was the same way: here i was in my bathing suit, already a little cold, walking around the pool, looking for the best way to avoid the shock of entering the water. so cold! so wet! so … not dry, so not the what my body is used to! in a small way, i was dreading the impact of this new experience, i was dreading the moment where the rubber hits the road, so to say. there was a part of me that completely resisted the transition as well as the newness of it.

and then i got in, and within a second or two everything was fine.

i hope everything will work out ok for you, too, lindsay.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver