Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Voices — August 2021
Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT
Insanity and Enlightenment
The saying sometimes goes that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” As we well know, because we’re therapists and also flawed humans, change is hard, takes time, and only happens when external and internal conditions allow.
Looking for inspiration and direction this month, I re-read a selection of past Presidents’ President’s Messages—some as far back as 2009—and noticed reoccurring visions, themes, and grandiose plans for changes to the chapter that still haven’t come to pass or last. I wonder to myself if I’m insane to think that current leadership can actually accomplish any of these things if we haven’t yet?
Every year LA-CAMFT holds a Leadership Retreat, to build stronger bonds and talk about what’s working or not working within the chapter. We take time out to listen to what people want to see and do in LA-CAMFT, and then brainstorm how to manifest all the brilliant cool ideas moving forward. And each year, it seems, the new voices ask for the same things, and the established voices (like mine, at this point) nod along and validate—“Yes, yes—absolutely,” while also defensively explaining how we’ve been hoping to bring these things to fruition and haven’t had the time, ability, and/or person-power to do so, yet. Some oft reported suggestions include:
And as if on cue, all of these things turned up again at this year’s Leadership Retreat. However, something did seem different. President-Elect Leanne Nettles and I sought to use the time we had to discuss a vision for a post-Covid LA-CAMFT, while forming and deepening connections between those who are currently in Leadership—as board members, committee or SIG chairs, facilitators, and more. Expanding diversity in representation on the board, on the speaker calendar, and in everything LA-CAMFT does, has always been a priority—and it has taken a long time for the changes supporting that commitment to become apparent. Looking at the Zoom squares, it was heartening to see what a beautiful representation of divine weirdos cut from many kinds of cloth we are, and I was struck by how at least half the attendees are active members of the Diversity Committee. We are on our way. It’s a new generation of Leadership and there’s space for everyone; I’m excited and hopeful about the future of LA-CAMFT. Any cynicism I was holding onto has melted.
So, perhaps I’m not insane (not completely, at least)—even if we need to keep doing the same things over and over again, ultimately it’s worth it. Maybe with more meetings, retreats, president’s messages, inclusion, and brainstorms on the future of LA-CAMFT, things do change, as they have changed, and will continue to change. They’re changing and the future is NOW. Wishes keep coming true as we get more folx on board, and find more hours in the day, and as conditions make it externally and internally possible. Be patient, please. We will keep doing what we can with the talented overtaxed team that we’ve got . . . and we could always use more help. There will always be more we can do.
Enlightenment is a kind of stupidity, seeing with new eyes, forgetting what we think we know (“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”), releasing ourselves from suffering and desire in order to let things happen at a natural pace. It is an effortless effort. Change comes when we have created the environment for it to take root, and we have to work hard to get lucky. (Thank you, Leanne, for working so hard with me on the Leadership Retreat. We were incredibly lucky to spend the afternoon with all the fierce leaders who joined the conversation.)
There is a Japanese legend that says anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish from the gods, or maybe happiness and eternal good luck, or perhaps recovery from illness or injury. Cranes are also folded as dedications to lost loved ones, and I can always get with that. Although I started folding them many years ago, I really dug in during Covid, completing my first thousand origami cranes in March of this year. After a thousand, I waited for enlightenment, and this is what I now understand: there will always be more cranes to fold. There will always be more wishes to be granted, more souls to be honored, more happiness, luck, and recovery to be had. I ordered more paper, and have begun my next thousand. There will always be more we can do.
JJVW — Jenni June Villegas Wilson
Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT is a collaborative conversationalist, trained in narrative therapy and EMDR. She works with creative and anxious clients on improving, avoiding, and eliminating co-dependent and toxic relationships, while finding healthy ways to be unapologetically themselves. She is the primary therapist at Conclusions Treatment Center IOP in Mission Hills, and has a private practice in Sherman Oaks.
Cheviot Hills Park
Please Join Us!
LA-CAMFT invites you and your family to the first in-person networking event of the year!
Grab your masks and join us for a day of fun and self-care on Sunday, August 8th from 1pm to 4pm for the 12th Annual Summer Social Networking Picnic.
Our fun-filled summer day will include exciting ice breakers, sing-alongs, relaxing group meditation, drum circle, fun games, and prizes.
This is a great opportunity to meet and connect with your colleagues and LA-CAMFT board members
Want to show off your new creative pandemic skills?! Surprise us and win a prize for your coolest and creative masks!
Event Details: Sunday, August 8, 2021, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm (PT)
Where: Cheviot Hills Park, 2551 Motor Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90064
Register today by clicking the "Register Here" button below.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
Getting Paid: Training with the Masters:
Portrait of Virginia Satir
Virginia Satir was one of the most imaginative and creative teachers and therapists that I have ever met. Learning from her was truly an experience of living life fully. You never knew what was going to happen next once Virginia started working with someone but you could always be certain that you would learn a lot about yourself, people in general, and how Virginia worked. It was very exciting to learn from her and to be a part of the development and unfolding of her work.
Virginia Satir was my teacher, mentor, colleague and friend. Our association continued for 15 years until her death. She was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known.
Virginia made doing complex and profound things seem easy and simple with her exquisite skills, positive, ‘can do’ attitude, and her willingness to go to new places with people.
When Virginia began to work with someone, she would listen for a while, share with them what she was understanding about them and what they were interested in having happen; then she would say something like “Let’s start right here by doing this, and then we’ll see what happens next. How would that be?” The next thing you knew you were off on a learning adventure with Virginia as guide.
Whenever Virginia started working you either watched from your seat or were selected to take a more active part right there in the action with her. She often orchestrated scenes of past, present or future interchanges and ideas that came alive as members of the audience were elected to represent and enact the key elements, dynamics or people involved.
This Satir theatre provided the star, Virginia’s term for client, because “we are all the stars of our own lives,” with a dynamic, externalized view of their internal pictures, models, and experiences that could be looked at, commented on, explored, and experimented with. New perspectives, choices and decisions were always a result of this work. The Parts Party, Family Reconstruction, and Individual, Couple, and Family Sculpting are a few of The Satir Model’s vehicles that utilize this process, as do the Communication Stances Virginia is most widely known for.
As Virginia guided the star through the experience of watching the sculpture or enactment as it unfolded under her expert direction, she would periodically stop the action and have the star, or the people role playing, or the audience, comment on their experience, thoughts or feelings through her expert facilitation.
It was through these seemingly casual and random interchanges that profound realizations, information, and awareness would surface, which Virginia would then expertly weave back into the work. Doing this allowed the experience and information to become integrated into the star’s conscious awareness.
It was by using this type of relating and processing that Virginia was able to create the conditions for a transformation to take place—a change that would have lasting effects on the star, the people role playing, the audience, and, ultimately, Virginia herself. In the Satir Model, the guide benefits, learns, and grows right along with the star.
The art of The Satir Model, which began first with Virginia facilitating these interactions and exchanges, is in how the Satir guide uses his or her self in relation to the star, the role players, and the audience and manifests these interchanges, surfacing the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, expectations, and yearnings during this orchestrated learning experience. How the Satir guide harvests the learnings during and after the enactment or sculpture further brings into awareness what has transpired as well as information and new discoveries that can be utilized again by the star to make more fitting choices in the future.
Virginia Satir was a genius. Her ways of working with and understanding people are some of the best in the world. The Satir Model is easily taught, learned, understood, and used by clients, professionals, the business community, and the general public throughout the world. Her customizable universal formulas and practical, down to earth tools and methods are effective with a wide range of people and cultures, and provide immediate and lasting results that can be replicated.
The Satir Model is one of the most comprehensive, multi-dimensional, practical and effective therapy and change approaches around. It helps people understand themselves and each other, heal their wounds and transform their lives.
The Satir Model produces rapid results and encourages a proactive approach to life. It also provides human systems with a guide to what is needed to support healthy human relationships, navigate change, and create systems of interaction and community that support the growth and development of the person as well as the business or organization.
The transformational processes of The Satir Model are easily explainable, understandable, learnable and transferable. Virginia Satir’s approach works equally well with therapy, business, education, creative pursuits, and many other areas of human systems interaction. The tools, teachings, principles and practices that Virginia Satir developed are timeless, and are, perhaps, an even better fit today than when she when she first began teaching and using them. The Positive Psychology Movement and the Interpersonal Neurobiology approach are currently using science and research to illustrate and support core teachings and practices that are quite similar to those that Virginia developed, used, and taught more than four decades ago.
As a therapist, graduate professor, and supervisor of psychotherapists and marriage and family therapists, I’ve learned, practiced, and become proficient at teaching, training, supervising, and doing therapy with the major and minor therapeutic theories and approaches. My esteem for The Satir Model is a result of my lifelong study of the best human and organizational growth, change and transformation systems.
Virginia Satir succeeded greatly with the body of knowledge she pioneered while she was with us. The legacy that she left us, her tools, teachings and practices that are the Satir Model, are as reliable as having Virginia herself present. Experience this for yourself.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative Adults across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop even more successful careers and practices. To learn more about her in-person and online services, workshops or monthly no-cost Online Networking & Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.
This article originally appeared in a Virginia Satir Global Celebration Publication and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride
Bridezilla is something that people have long joked about, and certainly there is some merit to this characterization. The pressure on brides to have a wedding that is absolutely perfect is high, even if it is something they put on themselves. Often brides-to-be are trying to plan the perfect wedding for themselves, while also pleasing multiple other people, most notably their own mothers. It’s a setup for disappointment, and the stress makes it tough for the bride-to-be to be a good friend at this time—a period during which her good friends are spending literally thousands of dollars to go to proposal parties, showers, bachelorettes, and, eventually, the wedding.
Young women who are spending a huge portion of their disposable income on someone else’s perfect scenario are in a good position for feeling disappointment, inadequacy, depression, and even self-loathing.
If you have clients who are “at that marrying stage of life” it’s important to be aware of what is going on in their emotional life. If your client comes in talking about flying to Cabo for a bachelorette party, then going back home the next weekend for a shower, then joining friends for a surprise proposal party at the beach, don’t just assume her life is all fun and games. Take some time to dig into all the feelings that surround these activities.
Many young women feel resentment at having to spend so much time and money on someone else’s big life event. Many feel sad that they don’t have a partner themselves, or that their own partner seems lightyears away from proposing to them. Certainly, those who are not yet partnered worry that by the time they get married, no one will have the time or energy to spend on them the way that they did on the ones who were sooner to the altar.
But . . . worse than the resentment, the sadness, or the worry, is the shame. And this is where therapists can be invaluable.
First there is shame around not being married yet—and this will only get worse now that they are once again able to travel to see families at home and have to explain to Aunt Minnie for the umpteenth time why they don’t “have a nice boy to marry.” As much as our culture tells women to be independent, the more subtle underlying message is that they should also be married. And given that humans are social animals, and have evolved to live in groups, we tend to want this for ourselves as well. Everyone wants to have their “person.” And when you don’t have that special someone, you start to wonder . . . is it me? Hence, shame. All the work we do as therapists on self-esteem is going to be more important than ever during this extended and super-charged wedding season.
Another kind of shame is even more insidious, and this is where therapists can be particularly helpful. Young women might gripe to their friends about how much money they are spending on a particular event, but they won’t go so far as to say how much they really resent having to continuously celebrate other people’s happiness. And how much they dislike themselves for feeling that way. Normalizing feelings is hugely important in this situation, so be sure your therapy room is a safe place for your clients to express all their complicated emotions around weddings.
You may need to open the door with a comment that shows how you understand the demands of all the wedding hoopla. I sometimes tell my clients stories about how other young women feel in this situation. It helps that I have loads of clients in this demographic, as well as three daughters of my own between 25 and 30. I have heard this story many, many times.
I have had clients break down talking about how they will be spending literally thousands of dollars on other people’s weddings this year, but they can’t get people to commit to coming to their own birthday party, since birthdays are seen as not being that important. It’s critical to get to the totally raw moment where they can see all of their feelings—the resentment, the anger, the insecurity, the sadness—so that you can help them have empathy for themselves rather than turn these feelings into self-loathing.
Self-loathing is the young woman’s go-to emotion these days. It doesn’t help that they may be trying to squeeze their 15lbs-heavier post-Covid body into that bridesmaid dress they ordered in 2019, so be on the lookout for that, too. Body dysmorphia is so common among young women, and when they all get together for a shower or a bachelorette party, they may end up leaving feeling worse that when they arrived.
All this being said, weddings are happy events, and even my clients who have unhappily gone stag to their friends’ weddings have had a lot of good times. All of the above is simply a warning to therapists, especially those of you who don’t have very many clients who are young women and don’t see the same overall pattern that I do in my practice, to dig a little deeper into the shadow side of the emotions surrounding weddings, so that your clients can process those emotions and land at a place of understanding and self-acceptance.
Amy McManus, LMFT, helps anxious young adults build healthy new relationships with themselves and others after a breakup. Amy’s blog, “Life Hacks,” offers practical tips for thriving in today’s crazy plugged-in world. Learn more about Amy from her website www.thrivetherapyla.com.
Mark Levine, M.D.
Event Details: Saturday, August 14, 2021, 9:00 am-12:00 pm (PT)
Where: Online Via Zoom
After you register you will be emailed a Zoom link the Thursday before the presentation.
More information and register today by clicking the Register Here button below.
LMFT, NMP, CGP
Pressing Pause On My LA-CAMFT Writing—
Dear LA-CAMFT Colleagues,
I've decided to take a little break from writing for our monthly newsletter. I have enjoyed writing these posts since 2016! Thank you to all my editors and readers especially Lynne Azpeitia.
I enjoy writing the column so much and hope to resume at some point if there is room when I am ready.
Editor’s Note: Anytime you’re missing reading one of Maria Gray’s articles, type “Maria Gray” in the search box at the top of the LA-CAMFT homepage and read one of her many articles to guide you in your practice as a psychotherapist. Many thanks to Maria for contributing so many wonderful articles to Voices since 2016.
Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles. She is a Brainspotting Specialist who specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is a Certified Group Therapist and currently offers three online groups in her practice. She enjoys working with adults who grew up around mentally ill or addictive family members. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.
How to Win an Oscar
Writing About Life Transitions
In movies that look at internal themes and explore rites of passage, we tend to think the antagonist is the protagonist himself. It appears the conflict in the film is man vs. self. To a certain extend that’s true.
Look at stories about coming of age, (Almost Famous), mid-life crises (10), serious illness (Theory of Everything), drug and alcohol addiction (28 Days, Trainspotting), grieving, (Ordinary People), psychological issues (A Beautiful Mind)—they all feature internal struggles.
Films like those tend to make for great dramatic storytelling because they focus completely on the central character’s growth through life a transition, something everyone can relate to.
In the other genres, action, adventure, sci-fi, comedy, horror, for example, the protagonist also goes through a change, but in those genres the change is not the main focus of the story.
Films about life changes tend to win Oscars.Why is that? For one thing, there’s a universal appeal to these stories. Everyone experiences periods of grieving, coming of age, growing older, getting through a breakup, etc., so everybody can identify with these essentially human stories.
Because they explore relatable themes of life transition, they uncover a wider range of emotions, and create memorable performances. Screenplays that explore a wide range of emotions in a character attract the best actors. They had the best parts. Movies with great acting tend to win awards.
While it’s true that in these films the protagonist is often their own worst enemy, and can be considered antagonists, movies are a visual medium. Think of how it would look onscreen to just follow a character around during a transition and just hear their internal thoughts.
Yes, but you have to look at the films as a screenwriter, which means the protagonist drives the story. The antagonist impedes his progress.
It’s best to use an external storyline in a film that's about life transitions.The protagonist has a drive that moves the film forward. Another character impedes his progress, and that character is an antagonist. In a novel you could just deal with a character experiencing loss. You could explore his internal dialogue. But in a film you need conflict that shows up on the screen.
Looking at some of the best films in the “rite-of-passage” genre, it’s apparent the good ones have created an external antagonist (an actual person, not “depression” or “addiction”).
In Leaving Las Vegas, Nick Cage’s character’s drive is to drink himself to death after encountering some tragic losses. A beautiful but essentially broken prostitute, played by Elizabeth Shue, slows him down and almost stops him by offering him compassion, friendship, and a place to stay.
In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper’s character (dealing with bipolar disorder) comes out of a mental facility driven to get back together with his ex-wife. Jennifer Lawrence’s character stands in his way, and eventually prevails, as they fall in love.
In Ordinary People, a young boy fails to save his brother from drowning and after his death, is wracked with guilt, and eventually attempts suicide. The antagonist in Ordinary People is his cold-hearted mother played by Mary Tyler Moore.
She not only holds the boy responsible for his brother’s death but goes on to make a big show of living her “perfect,” suburban, upper middle-class lifestyle, denying affection to her depressed son. She stands in the way of the boy’s recovery.
Let’s take a closer look at perhaps the best film in this genre, American Beauty.The protagonist in this story, middle-aged Lester (played by Kevin Spacey), is going through a mid-life crisis. In the beginning he’s laid off at work.
During his midlife crisis, Lester measures his expectations in life against how things really turned out, in a both a professional and interpersonal sense. Lester realizes that his best days are behind him.
After being laid-off and examining his life, he meets his daughter’s best friend a gorgeous 17-year-old blonde cheerleader played by Mena Suvari.
Lester plays around with the idea of forgetting all his adult responsibilities, and indulging in all of the activities that gave him so much pleasure as an adolescent, smoking pot, working out, selling burgers, driving cool cars, and getting laid.
In this film, Lester’s realtor wife (played by Annette Benning) is his major adversary. A self-absorbed, workaholic who seems to have lost all interest in her husband—and sex, she stands in his way of achieving his goals, which involve becoming an irresponsible dope-smoking, minimum wage, hedonist who lusts after a 17-year-old blonde cheerleader.
She has help from Lester’s daughter, played by Thora Birch, a beautiful and snarky high school girl at that stage in life where she’s embarrassed by everything he does. She mocks Lester’s regression into adolescence as “pervy.”
Lester is such an embarrassment to her, that at some point she even asks her boyfriend if he’ll kill her. He thinks for a while, then casually decides, why not?
Surprisingly, another antagonist comes into play in the form of the homophobic ex-Marine (played by Chris Cooper) who focuses on hating the gay neighbors who welcome him to the hood. The Marine gets the wrong idea when he sees Lester smoking pot with his son in the garage.
The ex-Marine gets very worked up, grabs a gun and goes over to Lester’s to straighten out whatever he’s up to with his son, and he clearly thinks it’s some sort of unnatural act. What we don’t expect is for him to, instead, kiss Lester.
In the ensuing chaos and homo-erotically charged aftermath, the ex-Marine shoots and kills Lester.
American Beauty examines the life transition of a middle-aged man.However, the script gives him motives, which are thwarted by characters, you could say antagonists, in the film. They include his wife, his daughter, the next-door neighbor, and the Marine who finally kills him in a fit of homosexual panic. American Beauty features realistic characters, acting as antagonists, and giving the film a visually interesting dynamic, and at times, an action-packed storyline, about what is, essentially a middle-aged man’s existential crisis. What could have been a movie with one long internal monologue becomes visually exciting and filled with conflict that plays out on the screen.
David Silverman, LMFT, treats anxiety and depression, especially in highly sensitive individuals in his LA practice. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, paralyzing perfectionism, and career reversals over a 25 year career as a Film/TV writer, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative, and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, depression, and addiction. David received training at Stanford and Antioch, is fully EMDR certified, and works with programs treating Victims of Crime and Problem Gamblers. Visit www.DavidSilvermanLMFT.com.
Black Therapist Support Group
First Saturday of Every Month
Saturday, August 7, 2021
12:00 pm-1:30 pm (PT)
Online Via Zoom
A safe place for healing, connection, support and building community. In this group, licensed clinicians, associates and students can come together and process experiences of racism (systemic, social, and internalized), discrimination, implicit bias, and micro-aggressions, along with additional experiences that therapists of African descent encounter in the field of mental health. As the late great Maya Angelou once said, “As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal someone else.” May this space, be the support needed to facilitate that journey.
Open to LA-CAMFT Members and Non-Members
First Saturday of Each Month
Location: Zoom Meeting
Baaba Hawthorne LMFT, email@example.com.
Licensed Therapists, Associates, and Students
Event Details: Saturday, August 7, 2021, 12:00 pm-1:30 pm (PT)
Time of Check-In: 11:50 am
Where: Online Via Zoom
Once you have registered for the presentation, we will email you a link to Zoom a few days before the presentation.
Online Registration CLOSES on the date of the event.
(Registration is open and available until the group ends.)
Questions about Registration? Contact Marvin Whistler & Tina Cacho Sakai at DiversityCommittee@lacamft.org.
In diversity there is beauty
and there is strength.
Andrew Susskind,LCSW, SEP, CGP
Fantasy as a Survival Strategy
Fantasy is defined as imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained (www.dictionary.com), and it can also be a liberating exploration of your wants and desires, both sexual or romantic. Is it possible that fantasy gets a bad rap? Can your imagination, even if extravagant or unrestrained be useful and safe?
The answer is yes and no. Fantasy can simply be a safe voyage into your wildest dreams or it can be a survival strategy to transcend painful and overwhelming circumstances. For example, I grew up in an emotionally unstable and sometimes turbulent home. As a kid, I was a tv-holic and many of my favorite shows such as The Wonderful World of Disney, Happy Days and Love Boat served as a mini-vacation from the reality of my family. I eagerly looked forward to Saturday nights at 9pm to discover the guest celebrities on the Love Boat as they travelled to exotic destinations. This weekly escape was the perfect remedy for a young child stuck in a family overflowing with misery.
At first, fantasy serves a purpose, but at times it becomes out of control leading to highly-obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors and negative consequences. In my case, it started very innocently. My best friend became my first romantic fantasy at age five. At the time I had no understanding of the depth of the fantasy, but he seemed to have a loving family who adopted me and became one of the many surrogate families in my childhood. As part of my survival, I always had a best friend who became the object of my affection, admiration and fantasy, at times.
When I reached puberty and beyond, sexual fantasy kicked into full gear and although innocent at first, it unraveled into more obsessive and compulsive behaviors into my young adult years. I didn’t realize this at the time, but my brain was being hijacked as fantasy was no longer based on the innocence of childhood survival but instead on painful obsessive longings, both romantic and sexual. Fantasy had become agonizing.
On the other hand, I feel fortunate that my coming of age years unfolded before the invention of the internet because the epidemic of fantasy has exploded exponentially with the advent of internet porn and dating apps. We now know that incessant porn and app use leads to overdeveloped brain circuitry toward these behaviors. Neural pathways get habituated to the search for the perfect person or body part, which may result in a distortion of reality, as well as obsession. For some, unrestrained fantasy takes over and leads to unexpected consequences.
Recently, a young male client told me that he is only able to climax with porn images but not with actual sexual partners. He is interested in real-life sex but has been hooked on porn for the past ten years. We now call this porn-induced erectile dysfunction. The brain-body connection has acclimated to these images and doesn’t recognize the body cues to get stimulated with a real person. Not only does this cause him shame and humiliation with his girlfriend, but he now realizes he is suffering both emotional and sexual intimacy consequences from his compulsive relationship to porn. The good news is that he is seeking help, acknowledging his problem and realizing that porn has been his survival strategy from a family where he felt unseen and neglected by overburdened, distant parents.
Fantasy always serves a purpose but it can also lead to unforeseen troubles if it overshadows reality. Keep in mind that it’s a vital part of your life energy and imagination. Don’t hide from or eliminate safe, productive, and fun ways to fantasize. If it does feel out of control, seek professional help from a sexual health expert who understands the complicated underpinnings often rooted in relational trauma. Obsessive, compulsive forms of fantasy are not a life sentence but require healing attention to minimize future harm.
Andrew Susskind, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Somatic Experiencing and Brainspotting Practitioner and Certified Group Psychotherapist, based in West Los Angeles since 1992, specializing in trauma and addictions. His recent book, It’s Not About the Sex: Moving from Isolation to Intimacy after Sexual Addiction joins his workbook, From Now On: Seven Keys to Purposeful Recovery. For more information visit his websites westsidetherapist.com and brainspottinglosangeles.org.
Madison’s Apple Tree
Madison is as wide eyed as any child has ever been watching her seedling push its way up out of the Styrofoam cup. Like many kindergarten kids in America, her class has planted apple seeds and is waiting for them to grow. The children tend the plants lined up on the windowsill, learning that they require water, sunlight, and tender loving care. The students are taught about photosynthesis and the making of chlorophyll. Mostly, they learn about patience—that grow-ing things take their own time no matter how much we might like to rush them.
When the experiment is over, Madison takes the cup home, and her dad offers to plant the tiny treasure. Outside the classroom environment, the little tree is fragile and helpless, sitting beside the driveway near a clump of bushes. It could easily be run over by the lawnmower, or dogs, or somebody clumsily getting out of a car. The new-born little shoot needs protection, so Madison’s dad puts a wire cage around it, the kind he uses for tomatoes. Once the plant are sturdy, he will remove the support and it will stand on its own.
People who are in intense periods of personal growth often need similar protection. When someone has had success clearing out a major piece of old baggage, or is in shock at encountering unexpected trauma, s/he is raw, and a new way of seeing, of being, is growing in them. This newness is a good thing, but the sprout is vulnerable, untested, and in need of shielding to ensure its continued growth.
© 2021 Catherine Auman
Catherine Auman, LMFT is a licensed therapist with advanced training in both traditional and spiritual psychology with over thirty years of successful professional experience helping thousands of clients. She has headed nationally based psychiatric programs as well as worked through alternative methodologies based on ancient traditions and wisdom teachings. Visit her online at catherineauman.com.
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