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Wednesday May 25, 2007

I found myself at the Episcopal retreat (The Solomon Center) north of New Orleans on Mother’s Day weekend. I went back down to N.O. To work with the Deacons from the Katrina ravaged area. Again, I was amazed by the dislocation and on-going problems the entire area is still experiencing, but that is not what I will be addressing in this musing. Rather...I want to talk about a tragic story I heard from one of the Deacon's spouses. As I was walking back to my room one morning, I found myself on the path with a lovely woman who thanked me for the talk I had just given on “Trauma.”She had tears in her eyes which I inquired about. This woman, a contemporary of mine, revealed that her son (21) had returned from Iraq after two tours as a Marine in Special forces, last January. She revealed that he was totally traumatized by his experience as a soldier who was on the front lines of violence every day, She worried that he was drinking heavily and was perhaps suicidal. He would not discuss his experience over in Iraq except to say that there were no words to describe the carnage he witnessed and participated in. He was reluctant to seek help as he felt ashamed of his emotions and also was “bound” by confidentiality agreements he had signed with the Military. This poor woman felt helpless and was not aided in any way by the Military in dealing with her son’s emotional wreckage. The only solace she got was from chat rooms which have sprung up with other Military parents. Here she learned things like” you never wake up your returned soldier by standing next to him/her. You call from the door.” Why? Well, she stated, “they are probably sleeping with a knife or gun under their pillow, ready to attack.” Most of the time, her son, now living off his meager compensation from the Military...was drunk and unreachable. Every now and then, he would call on the phone, in a little boy’s voice and say, “I am hurting mommy. I killed people there” I have a 20 year old. What would I ever say to her, had she had this experience of war? Why do we spend so much money on killing, and a pittance on saving the souls involved afterwards? How many mothers are crying for their lost, mangled and emotionally destroyed children? Last week, The New York Times printed an article stating that soldiers are ridiculed by their commanding officers for having emotional difficulties during their tours, or upon their return. They are chastised for seeking help. There is something very wrong with this picture. I would worry more about those young people who could go to war, kill, and see killing and come home and not be deeply affected. We need to recognize and acknowledge the emotional needs of our returning Veterans. We need to care and support both them and their families. We can not tolerate sending our youth to killing fields and then having them return, beaten, injured and deeply troubled and not embrace them with compassion, help and love.

Friday May 4, 2007

My mom passed away last Sunday on the 29th of April. She had been ill with Parkinson’s and a variety of other syndromes for the past three and a half years. During this period, she went from living independently as a widow to moving to an assisted living facility and then finally, a nursing home. For my mother, her passing came as a relief from her process of losing her physical abilities and her mental lucidity. She endured all of these ordeals with dignity and grace. Her funeral day was marked by great respect and honor by her friends and family and now she lies next to my father in peace. It is very strange to find myself with no parents on this earth. I feel like now, finally, I am the grown-up, the representative of my ancestral lines. I had the good fortune of being able to care for my mother these last few years in ways I had never been able to do so before. This was a final gift from her to me. The circle of life. For all of my friends and family who have been so loving and supportive during these last years and especially the last week, I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday April 17, 2007

I want to write about the tragic and senseless events at Virginia Tech. University yesterday. There are no words to describe the devastation we all feel about this catastrophic event. My heart goes out to the parents, students and personnel involved at Virginia Tech. Right now, all involved are still in deep shock and confusion. People are seeking information and desperately trying to make sense out of something which makes no sense. This is normal in the immediate aftermaths of such a trauma. Soon, the anger, sadness and enormity of this will set in. We will all learn more about the shooter as well as his victims. We will mourn and move on. However, for those directly and indirectly affected, the healing will be slow and difficult. There will be much questioning about how things were handled, how could this happen and how do those involved begin to move on? As in New Orleans, the clergy will be on the front lines along with the grief counselors and helping professionals. The question that will be asked over and over will be , “Why”. And how can this type of horror be prevented? What were the warning signs? Moments like this tragedy, bring us together as a nation. For a minute, we forget politics, our own problems and even the war in Iraq. Senseless loss of life, especially in youth is unbearable to ponder and accept. Hopefully, amidst all the media and commentary, we will be able to become more conscious of the gun problem in the US, security issues on campus, and the importance of mental health so sorely overlooked by our government. Our prayers will be with those lost and their loved ones...our goal should be to put our resources where they are truly needed...right here at home!-- Namaste!


Wednesday Febuary 28, 2007

I am back after a long period of not writing. Here goes....I have been counseling returning Military Episcopal Clergy who have been deployed in Iraq. What have I heard and more importantly, what have I learned? I am continually struck by the immense courage and strength of these men (so far, no women) not only for the dangers they faced while in this war zone, but for the immense trauma they witnessed and dealt with while doing their duty. Not only did they face their own physical and mental hardships, but at the same time had to be on constant alert and availability to provide spiritual and often physical help to the wounded soldiers and to those who took care of them. These are men who have dedicated their lives to providing guidance to others, who have deep faith in their God, and who have dedicated themselves to the Clergy. Believe me, their faith was tested in Iraq. When they return to the US, they must re-integrate into their families, their communities and their parishes. At the same time, they are dealing with the aftermaths of their own traumatization and the vicarious traumatization from those whose traumas they have witnessed. There are often no words to describe all they have been through and seen. The common thread I have heard is how gratified they feel to have served their mission in the most challenging of situations and how grateful they are for having had this opportunity. None are bitter or hopeless at the plight of their fellow man. Yes..each individual copes with the return from Iraq uniquely, some more troubled than others. However, we should all take note once again of the resiliency of the human experience and have the deepest respect for not only our soldiers in Iraq but for those souls who go over there, many voluntarily, to provide comfort and support to the spirits of these brave men and women.


Monday June 5, 2006

I just came back from a pretigious nursey school in Manhattan. I was there to give a talk about the “Separation Process” with the new parents whose precious children will be starting pre-school this Fall. How attentively did they all listen to my every word about: separation being a normal process in the human experience; how carefully this school will handle the delicate balance between the parents and the children the first few weeks of the semester; and about how up until now, most of the parents knew every move their children made during the day. There were many anxious smiles and many more anxious questions. Most of the teachers at this particular institution had been there for many years and were pros at helping both the parents and children go through the transition carefully and gently. You would think we were discussing serious brain surgery with the way care and attunement to this whole process is handled! As I walked out of the school, I was struck by the vast difference between how these New York City children would be dealt with entering one of the most coveted Nursery programs in the city, and how so many children inhabiting the earth today are starving, abused and neglected. If only each one of these suffering young ones had even an ounce of care about their emotional and physical well-being. All over the world, children are torn from their parents by death, starvation and violence...In India, children live in the train stations from very early ages. In the Sudan and Rwanda, they starve and die from diseases. All over Africa, they are being wiped out by AIDS and other illnesses. In some countries, killed at birth, less their parents have one more mouth to feed. How can this be? How can some children be handled like fragile glass while so many live lives of despair. I have no answer, only this question.


Friday May 29, 2006

This week I am thinking about the impact that technology has on all of us as "humans". When my children were young and in strollers (right before the advent of cell phones), I used to walk them all over the city. As we strolled, I would talk to them, interact with them, point out sites and scenes to them, and , in essence be relating to them. The other day, I left my office to take a walk. It was a beautiful Spring day and mothers were out in full force, pushing their toddlers in strollers. However, I was struck by a new phenomena; they were all talking on their cell phones, while balancing the handlebars of the strollers with one hand. Chatting away, these moms were oblivious to their little ones, watching the world go by in their cozy stroller seats. Later that day, on my cab ride home, I returned a few of the many calls I had received. My cab driver was not offended because he was chatting away on his phone. I remember a time not that long ago where I loved the interaction with cab drivers from all over the world. Each cab ride like a mini, world culture lesson. The next day, a patient who had left a job with a daily newspaper related how she left the paper to work for an online news service. She had resigned from this new position after one week. Why? No body talked in the office-they only E mailed, even if they sat in the next cubicle. She couldn't bear the lack of human contact. I went home that night. Both my teenage age daughters had their noses in their computers, while IM'ing some friends and Blackberrying others.God forbid if I interrupted to have a "discussion". I went into my room and thought to myself-"What have we come to?" Then I turned on my computer to return E mails......


Tuesday May 1, 2006

I saw the movie, "Flight 93" last weekend. I must say this was a very painful film to watch. The memories of 9/11 came flooding back in full force. This movie portrayed how very vulnerable and unprepared we all were on that fateful day. I remember running to get my children from school after the news of the World Trade Center crashes reached me. At that point none of us knew how many planes were still in the air only to be used as bombs. None of us knew where it would all end. I remember driving over the George Washington Bridge a few days later, still seeing the smoking Ground Zero site and thinking, what if those who perished were the lucky ones and that those of us still here were about to endure endless terrorism, war and carnage? Seeing the amazing courage of those on that fateful flight, realizing their patriotic act of keeping the plane from heading to D.C. and ironically, watching both the passengers and the terrorists praying simultaneously to their Gods was quite overwhelming. The fear, the wishful thinking for last ditch rescue and finally, the saying goodbye to loved ones via air and cell phones was unbearable to behold. Again, I was struck by the humanness and well as the insane lack of humanness this film depicts. As a mother I think, " What kind of mother raises a child who can purposefully kill other mother's children? How can snuffing out lives in full progress be the command of any God?"


Monday April 27, 2006

Hello again. Here is what I am thinking about this week. As I study more and more about human evolution, I can't help but think about the adaptive nature of the human spirit (as well as our physical being). Natural selection in evolutionary terms, involves the ability of species to adapt to the ever-changing environment in order to survive and thrive! I believe this is how we also survive our childhoods. When we are young and essentially captive in our families of origin, we must adapt to the familial environment, good or bad, in order to survive emotionally. Some of the adaptations which we develop to do so, stay with us into adulthood. Unfortunately, some of these coping skills remain with us when no longer needed. They then become maladaptive. For example, if being "perfect" as a child insured our parent's approval and therefore love, we would have successfully gotten what we needed from our parents by being perfect children, this being positive attention. However, perfectionism is basically an impossible task to maintain. As an adult, trying to be perfect will only lead to frustration and a sense of constant failure.In essence, what was once adaptive is now maladaptive. We must learn to understand how we survived as children psychologically and differentiate which "adaptive" coping skills are no longer working in our adult lives. The task of psychotherapy is not to dismiss these "maladaptive attitudes and behaviors" rather to honor and respect their once importance in our lives. Only then, can we decide which coping skills are still necessary and which we need to move away from.

Monday April 17, 2006

Welcome to my website. I will be periodically writing thoughts, observations and musings on my Forum. I have been practicing Psychotherapy for almost 28 years. (This is hard to believe.) As time has passed I have come to have great respect for the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability of people to adapt to the most horrific of situations. I believe that one of the most basic truisms of being human is that "the original wishes we all have die very hard." These wishes are simply, to be mirrored by, respected and loved unconditionally by our parents and/or primary caretakers when we are young. Being that parents are human, these basic needs are often not met as consistently or as positively as would be ultimatey most nurturing. Many times, these needs are negated, abused or exploited. We then spend our lives, until we become enlightened, trying to redo, undo and hoping to ultimately create a sense that these original wishes will be met. Unfortunately, how we go about retelling ( and living) our life story is often in ways which only bring us back to the original state of being.This sounds counterintuitive, but is intrinsically human. An example of this dynamic would be the child of an alcoholic who grows up and marries an alcoholic only to spend countless energy trying to reform the spouse. This person did not want to repeat their childhood exactly, rather the WISH is to finally be able to undo their childhood story, by having the power to reform the "drinker." Sadly, this type of thinking usually leads the person right back to the original state-that being, living with an alcoholic! To change, one has to be able to face and then give up the original WISH,"If Im good enough, my needs will be met," or in this example,"I am important enough that this person will stop drinking." What we all need to achieve is the ability to have realistic and grownup wishes and find persons and situations which have the potential to give us the greatest life satisfaction possible!This is easier said than done beacuse our old wishes die hard!!!



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