Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reevaluating Our Priorities

Gloom and doom abound if we listen to or read the news. We are so saturated with traumas like war, poverty, beheadings, inequality, greed, gun and drone violence, that we can’t think clearly. We can only react.

We need sweeping overhauls in our government and in our spending for America’s future health. But, changing our systems can be a highly complicated and difficult maneuver.

As part of the global community, the U.S. provides support and protection to other countries by giving away billions of dollars in aid, selling weapons to other countries, and spending much on defense. Then when other countries use those weapons and money to harm our allies, we are appalled, and we want to barge in and save the day. John Kerry calls it: “Defeating Terror…:”

Experts who discuss the evolution of our capitalistic society say that capitalism began partly to help increase the middle class.  However, our current style of capitalism has gone awry and now directly contributes to the widening gap between the poor and the rich, shrinking our middle class. How can we change this trend?

When greed takes over, companies move their industries overseas where they pay less for labor, harboring the income that could have been taxed here, prompting vast unemployment. When the top 1% takes in 1/4 of the nations’s income but also controls 40% of the country’s wealth, something has gone terribly wrong. 

When elections are bought by the richest and by huge corporations, they get their wishes fulfilled, but the rest of us don’t. When the Koch brothers pump money into our state to convince Tennesseans that judges should play politics instead of act as impartial jurists, we witness how power and money change the course of our lives.  Our country and state will be doomed if this kind of stratification increases, or continues as it is now.

The U.S. is headed for a major upheaval. Our political leaders are so divided that little work gets done. Our gun happy citizenry may end up fighting their own civil war in the name of the freedom to carry, and the freedom to protect themselves and stand their ground, believing their individual rights are more important that our communal rights.  When police brutalize unarmed black and brown boys and men, the community has now begun saying, “We have had enough!”

We need to analyze this complete mess, the whole picture, including the Middle East crises, border children issues, climate change, and where to bomb next. If we continue to only put out fires each day, we will never change our priorities, or flourish.

Although more discreet, covert and subtle than some other groups, perhaps the U.S. has become like some other terrorist organizations. Is that what we want for ourselves, our children and grandchildren?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Floating for Life: A Nashville Adventure

Imagine you are suspended.  Your body feels light, weightless. You are totally safe and able to move, breathe and relax. This is not a dream. What you may be looking for is an adventure at Float Nashville.

Picture your best massage, meditation, your best after-sex glow, the times when you have felt that momentary sense of ecstasy that lifts your spirit, your mind, all of you. Floating suspends our bodies with no supports other than a thickly epsom-salted water which holds us gently, no fingers, hands or equipment manipulating us, no hard or sharp edges. The customer service is excellent and the price is right.

Here are some of the benefits of floating: relaxing without gravity pulling you down, soothing the pain of arthritis, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain.  Floating lowers blood pressure and decreases inflammation while minimizing the stresses we feel outside of us and inside of us. A wonderful opportunity and a great supplement and adjunct to exercise, sports, psychotherapy, yoga, physical therapy, medical treatment, and massage. Amy Grimes, the owner, and Mark Chessir, the Float Master, say that endorphins are sparked, dopamine is stimulated, and that there is research to back this up. The results may surprise you.

My first float felt like freedom but words cannot truly describe my full body, mind, heart, and spiritual experience.  I am not sure I have ever felt totally free before, but when I floated in a tank at Float Nashville in the darkness with no sounds, just with myself, I felt free. It felt like when I dream about flying. Yes, flying in the air, like a bird, carefree and adventurous. No work to be done, no children to care for, no money to make, no conflicts to handle. Totally free for 90 minutes, just floating and dancing without hard impact. While suspended in this way, I stretched and swayed, and found myself luxuriating in the movement and stillness, much like I imagine I might have in my mother’s womb.  

Some people wish to return to the coziness and safety of the womb, at least for a little while.  In the womb we are held gently, nourished and nurtured inside our mothers, and I think babies feel bliss, just hanging out, growing and being.  So too in a tank.

Some people talk about “going home.”  Some say death is home.  Maybe retreating to the womb in a float tank is also like going to a lovely, heaven-like sanctuary without having to die first.

I may sound like an hysterical used car salesman but this ain’t no snake oil. A floater is in complete control of the specifics of the float: the light and dark, closed or open tank, the length of time floating, and more. Some people might liken this adventure to sky diving, running, rock climbing or race car driving.  Those may be thrilling but can include some risk, danger, pain, or even death.  Not so there in the dark with no one or no thing invading your space. This is far gentler.

If you want to know more about this process, I encourage you to schedule a float after reading about it on the website: Oh, I am sure floating doesn’t heal all wounds, diseases or pains but it surely is delightful, and whatever it does or doesn’t do can be evaluated by the scientists.

Check it out. I highly recommend it. A shower, warm tea, chocolates, aromas, music and lotions await you as you are reborn, crawling out of the tank toward solid ground, not really sure you want to leave this dark kingdom.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Longing for Peace and Calm while Feeling Fully Alive

Needless to say, my title is a contradiction.  How can we feel peaceful and calm while also feeling fully alive? Can this be achieved?
Although many of us hunger for peace and calm, the real trick is to be able to find some peace while also feeling fully engaged in life, being able to tackle life’s challenges and manage a whole range of emotions, still being somewhat grounded, centered, and safe.
I used to think that we all just long for that ideal mother who can give us everything we need: food, drink, nurturance, comfort, filling up those empty spaces inside us, or soothing those jagged parts of us to create comfort and joy. Nowadays, I know that no one person can humanly supply all that for us, and we can grieve that fact.
We all want to feel loved, nourished by others, by our work, by our children, friends, family, and by life itself. But, too often, life becomes either hard to deal with or sometimes even boring and mundane. We wonder why we are here, what is the purpose of our lives?  Then, when we are upset, what we may want is for someone to hold us, to listen to us and to truly understand us.  That can be hard to find. In my psychotherapy practice, I hear daily about how some people have grown up with parents who weren’t fully attuned to them, didn’t seem to really understand them, or listen to them with great empathy.  After all, parents have their own lives and stresses, and parenting is not a job that any of us can do perfectly. 
Those people sometimes grow up rarely feeling good about themselves, always feeling a little different, or misunderstood, and can be confusing even to themselves, even when they have had good lives, filled with all the trappings of a good family, fun stuff, opportunities, and more.  With that kind of background, they may wonder, “Then, why am I feeling so bad (or blah)?”  Good question.
Babies and kids grow up in this world being fully dependent on caregivers for all of their needs.  Certainly trauma can occur which is tragic; but even when that doesn’t occur, people wonder why they just don't feel good. Some parents are excellent but there are lots of other variables that affect children and their self esteem. Some people never ever feel quite good enough, and some feel fraudulent as if they are just acting a part and can never really just be themselves. We compare ourselves to others, knowing someone is always more successful, smarter, or better looking. 
For whatever reasons, many of us do have a hunger for more or different, for something that we haven’t quite found even within ourselves.  Although we want to engage in life and to connect with others and ourselves in deep and meaningful ways, too often conflict occurs and reinforces some of our bad feelings about ourselves.  So, we learn to soothe ourselves as best we can, often in destructive ways, with comforting substances or behaviors that can become compulsive or rigid. We look and long for something to help us feel better, to help us feel alive but at the same time we want comfort and peace.  No small request!
We get discouraged and sometimes feel desperate to find some way, any way to feel better. And, we long for safety and passion sometimes both at the same time. So, how do we find that thing that really works for us, helps us, so we don’t go through life feeling all alone so much of the time?
Some find help in religion, meditation and other spiritual practices. Some find that if they can still their minds and let flow through them all those harsh internal judgments, they can sometimes let go of some of those old mean messages.  Forgiveness is often necessary. But, sometimes we can’t do it all on our own.  Sometimes we need a family member, a close friend, and/or a minister or rabbi to be with us through this hard journey called life.
Since psychotherapy is my career which I dearly love and enjoy, I find that the best way I can help someone is to be with them, to listen to them carefully, to try to understand and then help them understand who they are and what has happened to them in their lives.  Then, we can both seek together some new ways to think about or be in life perhaps a rewriting of life's narrative. I believe that therapy is a sacred space where people can come together with the intention of finding better ways to understand themselves, others and their lives.  In doing so, people can feel reborn, blossom like never before, and feel transformed, because they have committed to undertake an exploration, with another person beside them, as they discover what is missing and what might be done so that they can feel better than ever. 
Psychotherapy and life's journey can take much time and energy. But what can be more valuable than this process? Because if we feel better, the world and people around us feel better, our children are better cared for, and our relationships and our work improve.  We can help the world more effectively by helping ourselves, and we can do both at the same time.
One day, if you haven’t already, or even if you have done so before, give yourself the gift of seeking inside yourself to discover who you are and how you can feel better.  Give yourself a gift that may create in you more peace and calm, while you can also feel more fully alive.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

D-I-V-O-R-C-E in Tennessee

That dreaded word: Divorce. An average of 50% of marriages end in divorce these days. As often as it happens, divorce can still be one of the worst times in a family’s life. You can help minimize the pain of loss and separation in a divorce by educating yourself as to what type of divorce process might be best one for you to use.

Couples who divorce and the dynamics between the partners are as unique as snowflakes, complicated and difficult to understand. We all know that marriages can go wrong for a wide variety of reasons. And, no one size fits all.

Trying to work on your marriage is often the recommended first step, to explore ways to stay married and become more satisfied. Talking with a therapist, a spiritual advisor, or other professional can help you determine whether a divorce is a reasonable process to use to improve your and your family’s lives in the long run. Some couples stay together and some split, a decision not to be made lightly.

When considering a divorce, there are several ways to proceed. Attorneys can give legal advice about how to divorce. Mental health professionals, attorneys, and financial advisors can also help a couple evaluate the situation and explore various divorce processes. Here are some:

1. Print divorce forms from the internet and work together. I advise you to let an attorney review your work.
2. Explore the process of mediation. A listing of Rule 31 mediators can be found at: http://
3. Talk with a Collaborative Divorce professional. Learn more at:
4. Contact an attorney to litigate the divorce, an adversarial process using two attorneys. This may mean that you will attend a trial in court, or that your attorneys will help you create a settlement to be offered to the court.
5. If you are unable to afford an attorney, contact the Legal Aid Society in the Middle TN area:

You need to consider whether or not you want to get divorced in a somewhat amicable way or whether you want to fight with your spouse. You also need to think about costs, whether you have enough money to enter into what can be a lengthy litigation, or work together to develop a mutually agreed upon, durable agreement. Do you want to work with your spouse on your plans for the future, or let a judge make decisions for you and your family? Child support, spousal support, and a parenting plan are all areas for consideration as you transition from a married family to a divorced one.

Everyone suffers during divorce because divorce brings out issues about love, loss, separation, betrayal and safety. If you have decided to divorce, hopefully you can take charge of your divorce by deciding what type of divorce process fits best for you.