Christmas in October

One morning last week, as the darkness unfurled into first light and the night’s dreams still lingered at the edges of psyche, my younger son asked, “Why are there Christmas decorations in the stores already?”

Without thinking I responded, “Because people are afraid of the sadness and darkness that arise this time of year so they focus on the next holiday and the season of lights.”

“Why does this time of year make people sad? I don’t feel sad!”

A lover of winter and snow, our younger son celebrates the change of seasons. But as the minutes of light decrease daily I can see the melancholy descend on the other members of our household, as well as in many of my clients. As the twilight hour approaches, I sometimes see the loss embodied on my older son’s face, as if a cloud has crossed over his normally sunny disposition. When … Click here to continue reading...

Holy Fear

We hear and read a lot of fear these days in psychological and spiritual circles. Mostly, fear is painted in a negative way as the energy that we have to wrestle with and overcome in order to live a life of joy. Most of the statements and quotes we read about fear pin it in the position of the enemy, the obstacle, the dark road. These quotes are accurate, but they’re only talking about one kind of fear. There’s another face of fear that needs and deserves our attention.

Recently, while reading Rabbi Naomi Levy’s book, “Einstein and the Rabbi”, the phrase “holy fear” leapt out at me from the page. She writes:

“There are two divine attributes that emanate toward us: they are love and fear. Love and fear are always keeping each other in check like yin and yang. Love is an outpouring that flows from the soul, Click here to continue reading...

Perfection and The Fear of Failure

It’s better to make a mistake with the full force of your being than to carefully avoid mistakes with a trembling spirit.

– Dan Millman, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

When I was in graduate school many ago, my classmates would often ask me how I was able to write papers so quickly and effortlessly. Many of them were perfectionists (like myself and many of you), and they struggled with writer’s block when faced with a blank piece of paper. When I was asked this question, it prompted me to think about how I was able to overcome my own perfectionism, and I realized that the breakthrough moment had come in high school when, in some moment of grace, I realized that if I gave myself full permission to write the worst paper I had ever written it freed me to express myself. From that point on, … Click here to continue reading...

Breathe It In

These are words I find myself saying multiple times a day: to my clients, to my sons, to myself. Breathe it in.

We see a prairie dog hit by a car lying on the side of the road. I turn to look at my son’s face to see if he sees it. As we live in a rural area, he’s learned over the years of seeing too many dead animals to look at the fields and mountains instead of at the side of the road while we’re driving, but sometimes his eyes veer to the telltale lump of fur.

“A prairie dog, Mommy.”

“I know, love. Breathe it in.”

We watch a snippet of news and see the devastation in Texas (or wherever the current devastation might be), and I see their faces fall. As I’ve shared in other posts, my sons try to avoid the sadness by asking, “Why?”, … Click here to continue reading...

Intrusive Thought: "What if I Harm a Child?" (POCD)

When the same thought, image, dream, or motif shows up across cultures and crosses all of our lines of classification (age, gender, geography, race, religion), we call it an archetype. For example, the dreams where you show up at school without your pants on or have forgotten to study for a test are archetypal dreams. The character of the wicked witch or the evil stepmother are archetypal symbols. And the thought, “What if I’m a pedophile?” is one of many archetypal thoughts – alongside “What if I don’t love my partner?” and “What if I have a terminal illness?” – that clients and course members have shared with me over the past two decades. It’s also one of the most highly misunderstood intrusive thoughts and the one that often causes the most anguish. As the Louisville OCD clinic writes:

Although all the many ways that obsessive-compulsive fears manifest themselves can … Click here to continue reading...