The Balancing Act of “Being Safe”

One of pieces of my practice mission is to create and hold safe space for my clients.

Coming to therapy is a big step. And it isn’t one that people tend to take unless they are facing some pretty significant disruption or pain. By the time someone is sitting down with me, it isn’t unusual for them to have been through a lot of difficult stuff. They have faced hurt or betrayal in their relationships, or they have endured significant loss. For some of my clients, those patterns of loss and hurt have repeated multiple times throughout their lives.

Read more here.

Are You Letting Your Needs Show?

So many needs–Maslow’s Hierarchy

I recently took a pretty substantial roadtrip (total mileage: 2500ish). If you’ve been reading along with me for a while, you know that I love the chance to get out and see new things. I also get the chance to listen to some good music and a few good audiobooks along the way. This time, my music shuffle offered up Bill Wither’s classic “Lean on Me” several times. I think everyone knows this song, at least enough to sing along to the chorus. But what struck me on this trip was a verse that I had not heard clearly on other listens:

“Please, swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show.”–Bill Withers

This verse spoke to me so powerfully, because it seems to describe exactly what I hear so many of my clients say.

Read the rest of this post here.

Ride the Vacuum Cleaner

I actually had a different post planned for this week, but I was driving home last night and I caught part of an interview with film director, Ken Burns, who is part of the documentary series inspired by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s powerful book “The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer.” The interviewer was asking Mr. Burns what pulled him toward this subject. Mr. Burns revealed that his mother had coped with cancer throughout much of his early childhood, and had eventually died when he was eleven. He stated that he felt as though every day of his life since then has been impacted by cancer. (Right about now, you might be wondering why I am talking to you about a film director. Hang on. I’m getting there. I promise.)

Mr. Burns said that the thought of cancer as something frightening, and shared a story from his family. He explained how his daughter, when she was very little, was terrified of the vacuum cleaner. He said that her terror persisted, until one day, she walked into the room with the loud, scary monster–and sat on it. He explained that, to this day in their family, when they talk about doing something that is scary, they say it’s time to “ride the vacuum cleaner.”

I love that analogy. It is such a good fit for our real life. Because there are a lot of things that feel large, scary, and overwhelming to us. Much like a vacuum cleaner would look and feel if you were a small child.

Finish reading this post here.

Finding Beauty

“Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere.”–Lisa Bonchek Adams

I love my flower pictures--this time of year they remind me that spring will be back!

I love my flower pictures–this time of year they remind me that spring will be back!

If you aren’t a part of the health and social media landscape, you might not have heard of Lisa Bonchek Adams. Lisa was a writer, a wife, a mother, and an advocate. She also had metastatic cancer and died on March 6, 2015 at the age of 45. This post isn’t really about Lisa–there are many others who were more deeply connected to her than me. If you’d like to learn more, or just experience some of her poignant, powerful writing, I encourage you to check out her blog.

Instead, this post is about one of Lisa’s most shared statements, the quote that opens this post.

Finish reading this post here.

Coping with Change

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.–Robert Frost

It’s not unusual for me to sit with a client who says, “I hate change.” And I’ve been in that space myself. Change disrupts things. Change requires response from us. Change means that our routines might not work any more. Because even if our status quo is unhealthy or difficult, it is what we know how to do. We have figured out a set of responses that works for now. Change requires that we learn new responses, that we stretch our boundaries, that we challenge ourselves. Mostly, change is not comfortable.

Read more here.

Don’t Drown in a Cup of Water

Okay, true confessions time. Sometimes, I like watching creation-based reality shows. Things like Top Chef or Project Runway. I know, contrary to their title, that there’s not much reality in these shows. I know that they are heavily edited to amp up the drama. I know all of this. But I love watching people make things. I think that making things is good for you, and the research would back me up on that.

But this post isn’t about my no-longer-secret vice. Anyone who has worked with me will tell you that I don’t hesitate to use popular culture to help my clients really grab my point (remember the “Princess Bride” post?). My family and friends will tell you that I am constantly making blog-related notes to help me remember those pop culture moments, and that happened recently while I was watching an episode of Project Runway. One cast member turned to another, and said:

Read more here.

Shift Perspective

IMG_3217Back in October, I wrote about the fun we had re-discovering the wonder in everyday items. For today’s post, I’m using another image from the City Museum of St. Louis. This particular photo does a great job of illustrating an idea that I often talk about with my clients. It is important to look at our situations from different angles. When we are facing stress, hurt, loss, or other challenges, it is really easy to get stuck in our assessment of a situation. We begin with an assumption about what is happening, and that assumption tends to get stronger over time.

Our assumptions matter. They matter because they shape the possibilities we see. Our perspective affects our sense of who we are in the world. Our view of the world determines how we define problems, and what solutions we see.

For example, the picture above looks like a collection of rusty junk. Admittedly, it’s rusty junk that has been laid out in a tidy way, but it’s rusty junk, nonetheless. And as we consider rusty junk, the appropriate response is usually to pitch it in the trash.

But, at the City Museum, the rusty junk is actually part of this:

IMG_3216 It’s a fantastical tree structure, including a musical dragon. The artists at the City Museum have been able to look at rusty junk, the things that the rest of us would ignore or pitch, and envision something amazing. It’s a clear reminder that things can be more than they seem.

I love this.

I am so excited when I find reminders that we aren’t stuck with the way things initially appear. We aren’t trapped with the original presentation. Even in the face of illness, or pain, or loss–we retain the ability to change our perspective.

When we change our perspective, we change our possibilities. We create the chance to change our experience. To see the world in new ways, to have new experiences. And that’s where we gain some power in life. Because pain, illness and loss happen to all of us. They are unavoidable. But being paralyzed by the pain, illness and loss is not unavoidable.

So, what rusty junk in your life can you transform into musical dragon trees? What shifts in perspective might open up new possibilities for you? Please feel free to share in the comments.

And if you need help shifting perspective, you know where to find me.

David W. Covington, LPC, MBA

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