Growth takes time

Navigating through a series of dead-end relationships, a client asked this week through her tears, “How long does this take?” She was referring to the “process of therapy.”

Living in our fast paced culture, we are accustomed to quick fixes, instant downloads, immediate access to masses of overwhelming information. We are constantly consuming something – food, drinks, clothing, gasoline, electricity. etc. If we are broken, we want to be fixed. If we are sad, we want to be happy. To our dismay, however, we repeatedly learn that it is not that simple. Growth inevitably takes time. Old patterns are repeated until we allow new insights to replace our past, ineffectual blueprints. New insights cannot be forced or intellectualized, they require a deep surrendering to the unconscious, they necessitate an attitude of patience, presence of mind and daily witnessing of one’s actions.

The gestation period for a full term baby is 38 weeks; that’s almost nine months of waiting. And although we are not able to witness the millions of cells transforming into rudimentary organ systems we somehow accept that something magical is happening within the growing womb. It is the same with therapy. Although we are not able to see the internal transformation day-by-day, if we stay with the process long enough, we suddenly notice a radical shift in our perceptions, in our personalities, in our sense of self and in our relationships. The shift is subtle, akin to watching our children every day and failing to notice any signs of growth, yet suddenly realizing their pants are too small, they have outgrown their shoes, they look like a man not a boy.

It is the same with therapy. The gradual shifts toward setting healthy boundaries, being more self-empowered and assertive, toward better communication and tuning into one’s unconscious life – all cannot be noticed until time passes. Then suddenly, we simply feel different, our perceptions are altered and we have changed.

The client that I am seeing will undergo a series of ups and downs – growing pains – until she comes out the other side, walks through the door of change with renewed insight and wonders how on earth she used to view the world the way that she did. Eventually, if she sticks with it, she will meet a man that matches her wants and needs -and marvel at this chance meeting – later making sense of how her life unfolded and ended up they way it did. It is as if as we grow internally, we look back at our former selves as if viewing a young child, innocent of the wisdom we now house and carry within.

As long as we are patient, growth will occur. Yet if we rush our inner transformations, we risk truncating our true potential and cutting off change. We must continue nurturing and watering our inner selves each day until we witness ourselves truly flourishing and thriving.

Posted in Change, Dr. Jenni, Therapy | 1 Comment

The Bee and The Glass Window


I remember a time in my life when I felt particularly stuck. I was in a relationship with a man with whom I was not compatible, living with a roommate I didn’t particularly like, on the brink of leaving an agency and starting my own private practice and looking for a sign of what I should do next. Staring out my large glass windows that lined a wall of my room, I began to notice a bee slamming its tiny black and yellow frame into the glass, desperate to escape into the outside world. The more I stared at the bee and listened to its incessant buzzing, the more I realized that the bee had been sent to me at that moment to teach me something.

I often refer back to that bee, banging against that glass window over and over again, clearly seeing its destination but bewildered as to how to get there. I see the bee buzzing effusively, then after some time, losing its buzz, until dropping to the ground, it’s hum finally fading away into outstretched intervals until I could no longer hear any sound.

What I realized after seeing the bee fall and finally fade was that all along, the sliding glass door next to the window had been wide open. The bee was so focused on getting out of it’s misery through the impenetrable glass that it had completely missed its opportunity to escape and fly free through the open door. With this recognition, I contemplated my own life – how I had become so used to thinking and feeling one way about my relationship, about my work, about my identity (MY impenetrable glass) that I was missing the open door – my OWN choice to change directions, TURN AROUND and fly toward my destination.

Once I recognized that it was my own buzzing that was keeping me trapped inside the glass room, I began turning around more, listening to a deeper voice from within and exiting into the wide open air. Immediately, I was given feedback from the universe – I moved into a place I loved, began a relationship where I felt a true connection and opened a thriving private practice. Since making the choice not to continue flying into a glass wall, not to repeat the same script in my head, that “I can’t do this” “I am not able to do that” and embrace the idea that the universe ALWAYS offers open doors to those who choose to risk feeling uncomfortable and simply fly through, I have been able to assist and help others in recognizing how it is the negativity of our own inner critique that leads us into a state of immobilization. If our buzzing truly turns into our own unique song and we fly confidently, proudly, turning toward openness, rather than imitating others and shrinking into our fears, we will immediately see the offerings of the universe. We will embrace life in a way that we never thought possible. And our buzzing will one day become beautiful as we soar through the open air of our true calling.

Posted in Dr. Jenni, Possibility, Power of Choice, Psychology | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Vision Boards

work in progress

After a six month hiatus, I am back to blogging again. Time has been ticking away and I am ready to start tackling some of my goals. The kids have settled back into school, my practice is small but all clients are thriving, my baby is almost one years old. I have slowly started to get back into shape. I have begun the slow but necessary rewrite of my novel, which I hope to finish soon. I have made a list room-by-room of all the things that need to be organized – and I have yet to get to most of the things on the list, but at least I have made one.

A friend of mine who is coach has spearheaded a women’s networking group. One of the first things she suggested is everyone in the group make a ‘vision board’ – detailing all of their goals, desires, wishes, etc on the board to make their dreams clear and their visions ‘witnessed’ by others in the group. I am a big believer in naming your goals (if you can name it you can claim it) and also having others witness your process. I have done this before, but for the past few months I have been procrastinating.

I have now decided it is time to lay it all out there. I have been hiding behind being a psychotherapist and a mother for too long. Sitting in a chair, listening to other people’s issues forces you to contemplate your own, yet it does not push you into the active role of taking charge of what truly is important in your own life. Being a mom and a caretaker is one of the most amazing, satisfying jobs in the world, yet if a creative flame is burning within, it doesn’t quell this inner longing.

As I look at all the words and pictures I have begun putting on my board, I feel a sense of clarity forming within. Choosing these images and words is coming fairly easily, yet as I begin to see them all together, it brings a satisfying smile to my face. As I place them on the blank white slate, I watch my vision unfold, becoming more and more clear. I also know that I will soon share this vision with others and thus a witnessing will take place. This witnessing allows the dream to become more and more of a reality as others add input and help shape and form the ideas into something concrete. In my Ph.D program, we held a ‘council’ throughout the three years I was there, involving a sharing and a witnessing of everyone’s process. I believe this was one of the most important parts of the Ph.D. program, giving a voice to all of the doubts, fears and insecurities that were surfacing as people began to take risks and put out their innermost thoughts and feelings.

As you look ahead into your future, what words and images do you imagine and envision on your blank slate? Google some images, cut them from magazines, take some personal images from your photo app – put them all together and start beholding the future that you would like to create. This process may be swimming around in your head, but has yet to find a visual place in your office where you can stare at it each and every day, reminding you that you are on track with your wishes and dreams, even if you are having an ‘off’ day. If you become part of a group, it also helps your wishes find a place in your community, so you can begin to sharing your dreams and not keep them locked up inside your heart.

Posted in Dr. Jenni | 1 Comment

mother and child

Most of us, whether we are sons, daughters or mothers have experienced the indescribable bond between mother and child.

From the moment we are born, the union between mother and child is severed – the umbilical cord is cut and we are sent screaming, cold and frightened into an unknown universe.

As babies adjust to their new form and recognize they are separate entities, they begin to experience both the joy and the terrifying frustration of being alive and being completely dependent on their caretaker.

As teenagers (in healthy families) this dependency gradually tapers off as the child begins to recognize her own separate identity and (if she is lucky) her own calling.

In my novel The Gossamer Thread the Angel of Prayer makes the conscious choice to release her daughter, Feather, who makes the difficult choice to detach herself from her mother’s wings and plummet to earth, responding to a rabbi’s prayers.  Although she recognizes the pain her daughter will endure, she knows that she must release her for she cannot prohibit her daughter’s calling.

With Mother’s Day approaching, let us all honor our mother’s – who from the moment we were born both embraced and released us, knowing that the deepest love is that love, which both teaches and releases.

The following is an excerpt from The Gossamer Thread describing the Feather’s difficult choice to leave her mother:

 

As she caught a glimpse of the angel’s tear-stained eyes, Feather wished that she could make her mother understand all of the powerful emotions that were traveling through her tiny being.  For a brief second, she snuggled close against her mother’s warm skin, feeling the familiar love and security that she always experienced when the angel was near.  Here, it felt safe, uncomplicated and comfortable, a place no evil or harm could ever find her.  Yet the lone voice carried itself throughout her body, drawing her downward with a force over which she no longer control.  And she began to recognize that for whatever reason, the hypnotic prayer had now taken over and any of her own resolve to stay attached to her mother had all but disappeared.

It was then that Feather heard the familiar sound of her mother’s calming voice whispering something over and over again—something that she would never forget.  The words floated above her like the halo that was always suspended above her mother’s head. And almost instantly, the Feather felt a shift in the energy around her.

As her mother whispered she began to pick up speed, flying downward faster and faster.  Feather noticed the blue-green planet getting closer and closer.  Was her mother trying to fly as near to Earth as possible to make her journey less frightening?

A strange sensation entered Feather’s body, a feeling that if she were to let go, she would be able to fly on her own.  She noticed the air becoming thick, like a magical serum that held her as if she were in her mother’s arms. She glanced at the angel one last time, then closed her eyes and told Source, her mother, her brothers and sisters and everyone she knew in the Universe that what she was about to do was meant for the good of the world.  And with this last prayer she took a deep breath, allowing the cosmic wind to rush through her small frame.

A jerk began at the bottom of her spine and journeyed upward through her entire body as she began to shake and cry. She screamed as she felt the warmness of her mother leave her, and she experienced a terrifying chill as she drifted head-first into the shadows, into the Holocaust below, into the hands of the rabbi calling to her from his dark corner of the world.

 

Posted in Dr. Jenni | Comments Off on mother and child

Fear or Faith

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. “

Albert Einstein

When seeing clients, I used to always refer to the Einstein’s quote above. The simplicity of its message spoke to the two divergent ways we can all choose to view this perplexing world — through the eyes of fear or the eyes of faith.

The other night I awoke in the middle of the night with intense fear. Before I went to bed, I had read an article about a Hiroshima survivor, who spoke about the flashbacks she was having when viewing the nuclear meltdown happening in Japan. She spoke of how the child survivors of Hiroshima became outcasts – they could never marry, have children or be employed. She spoke about what she saw during and after the bombing, how her skin on her face and hands melted like candle wax and how others with radiation poisoning quickly resembled odd colored Dalmations with purple spots covering their deformed bodies, bleeding gums and other terrifying symptoms.  Earlier that day I had followed a Geiger counter that my husband had found on the internet – some man in Santa Monica had posted it live and streaming on the internet, tracking how much radiation was actually entering West Los Angeles from Japan. I stocked up on Potassium Iodine.  I couldn’t stop watching CNN.

I awoke with visions of the Hiroshima survivor, and then visions of all kinds of devastating tragedies occurring in Los Angeles: earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear radiation.  I realized that I hadn’t put together my emergency kits, something that had been eating away at me for the past year. Why hadn’t I done this?

I saw visions of Obama tossing and turning in his White House bed, not able to sleep because of the magnanimous pressure on his shoulders — the pressure of keeping us all from melting, from the purple spots invading our bodies and gums bleeding. His face washed through me as I lay awake worrying about the light fixture above my children’s beds. I need to get that thing removed. Why haven’t I done that yet?

I sat up thinking about, as I have done many times before what it would feel like in the last moments of my life — a sudden panic, pain? the energy sucked out of me, the flashbacks of all the dear moments with my children, my youngest baby girl. Who would take care of her?

And then I sort of stopped. WHAT AM I DOING? I took a deep breath and quieted my mind, reminding myself that I was allowing fear to overtake me. All the news feeds that were trickling into my psyche were causing me to feel paralyzed and overwhelmed. F.E.A.R. represents False Expectations Appearing Real. It contains all of the What If’s running wild in our imagination like swarms of bees attacking each and every part of our bodies, not unlike the radiation seeping out of Japan.

Although “traces” of radiation had showed up in Sacramento, the truth is that they hadn’t hit Southern California. And although I continued received articles telling me that I must stay out of the rain because of the way it interacts with the radioactive particles and I must not drink filtered tap water unless it is boiled and I must not eat eggs, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruit, etc. because they will all be affected by the radiation falling to the earth and sealed in by the rain. Otherwise I’m okay…

What is left to eat, I thought? My kids who are picky eaters to begin with will STARVE!

That’s when I thought…Jenni, you are reacting to this out of fear. That is no way to live your life. You have always lived with faith — faith which fuels the wellspring of goodness and miracles that occur on this planet every second. STOP and look at your baby girl, her eyes gazing out to this topsy-turvey, yet magnificent world.  From where did this perfect creature come? Look at the spiderweb outside your window, spun with the agility of a magician. How does this spindly creature know how to create such a masterpiece? And feel the strength and power of your heart beating, your heart which knows a deeper truth than fear.

And that’s when I remembered the Einstein quote. The one I used to quote to my clients all the time, the one that I would think of when I felt anxious, alone and paranoid. And I realized again, that despite the radiation traveling slowly across the Pacific ocean possibly entering my part of the world, despite the fear teaming and multiplying in every corner, everything is in fact still a miracle.

Posted in Dr. Jenni | Comments Off on Fear or Faith

Prayers for Japan

As the devastating news and images of the earthquake, tsunami and now nuclear threat circulate the globe, raising panic and fear throughout the world, I think about the important messages contained in my novel, The Gossamer Thread.

In the following passage, the main character Jessica has the following dream about her grandmother, who impels Jessica to open up her ancient trunk:

***

As I tiptoed closer to the trunk she took my hand in hers and whispered, They have nuclear weapons. They must be stopped.

I turned to her and asked, Who?

She said, Now is the time to open it. She slowly unlocked the trunk, releasing a whirlwind of colors into the dream, which transformed into a dazzling rainbow that saturated every part of me with a mysterious new energy.  From the middle of the rainbow gradually emerged a glistening white feather—a paintbrush ready to immerse her shimmering strands into all of these colors?

The feather began swaying back and forth, back and forth like an alluring genie appearing out of Aladdin’s lamp. Slowly her form altered into the curvy and sensual body of a beautiful, otherworldly woman, her feathery skin changing from white to red, to orange, to yellow, to green, to blue, to purple, to brown, to black and then back to white. She swayed there, changing colors for what felt like an eternity.  Staring at this gorgeous transforming creature, I heard my grandmother say, Jessica, I am the feather. You are the feather.  We all contain the gossamer thread in the interstices of our soul. The time to open it is now.

All night long, I couldn’t get this feather woman out of my mind. She stayed with me into the light of morning, as did my grandmother’s statement: The time to open it is now. I know that the trunk is somewhere in my parent’s basement and I have to drive over there to uncover its secrets.

***

With the recent events occurring in Japan and the growing threat of nuclear annihilation, the message in my novel, the time to open it is now must be heard. The secrets contained in this trunk and within the novel, The Gossamer Thread are ultimately ones we all possess deep within, yet we unfortunately forget to behold, embrace and live by. We have survived thousands of years filled with man-made and natural disasters, violence, anger, hatred, prejudice, world wars, etc. however our bruised planet is only able to tolerate so much.

Tonight imagine that within you are the elements to shift what is occurring on our planet. As the grandmother in the novel says, I am the feather. You are the feather. We all contain the gossamer thread in the interstices of our soul. The time to open it is now. Instead of sitting idly by, how can we all help the victims in Japan? What can we pull out of our ancient trunks to remind them that humankind is still human and kind? The victims need basic necessities — food, water, shelter –yet they also need hope and prayers. Tomorrow my kids and I will put together a care package for a few children and families in Japan, sending them the comforts from our home and letting them know that on the other side of the world, they have not been forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.

Posted in Dr. Jenni, The Gossamer Thread | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

all the things I didn’t say

all the things she didn’t say today

melted away into nothingness

she was going to whisper, I love you!

she missed talking to him

with no distractions

her candle burning bright

but the wind changed its course

and the flame flickered

and the love he never knew existed

softened

and

melted

away

into

nothingness

***

What things did you want to say to those you love today but for whatever reason you never did? You became too distracted, too tired, too caught up in something else…and the moment passed for you to share, for you to become connected.

Every second opportunities for connection melt away.   We look outward for comfort and understanding — to TV shows, news feeds, literature, comparisons of others in our community, etc.  Instead of reaching into our own wellsprings of love and consciousness identifying our heart’s desires and sharing them with those we love, we ignore or discount our truest feelings, quietening our flame within, allowing our feelings to melt away. This grasping for outward connection only brings us half versions of our fantasies, never allowing our truest wants to materialize. As Carl Jung said, “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. He who looks outside, dreams; he who looks inside, awakens.”

Looking inward to those things that are burning inside — ideas and words that long to come forth and be heard will make all that you want a reality. Jung also reminds us, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” Choosing to become conscious and aware is the first step. Becoming clear and sifting out these ideas is the second step. Taking a risk and sharing these ideas is the next step.

If we remain quiet for too long, we will never be truly heard. Today please ask yourself if there is wax building up in your heart. Things that you have wanted to share but have let slip away. We never know if we will have tomorrow and tomorrow always gives us another opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Find your words, find your flame — before your wick burns out and your heart melts.

 

Posted in Dr. Jenni, Possibility, Psychology | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on all the things I didn’t say

the butterfly and the spiderweb

Many years ago I worked at a Christian treatment center for addictions with clients ranging from physicians and judges to homeless men and women, all who were psychologically dependent on alcohol, cocaine, heroin, sex, gambling, eating, the internet, working, etc.

On one particular day, I met a new client (who I will call Patty – all details have been fictionalized and changed to protect confidentiality). She wanted to sit outside, instead of in the dark rooms inhabited by all the other patients in the treatment center. She was a buxom woman of about thirty two, although the lines around her eyes made her appear much older. She wore a blue sun hat, which drooped mournfully over her faraway aquamarine eyes. Her round impish face was drained of color as she sucked on a long, lifeless cigarette, drawing out her vanquished grace and beauty as if it were some sort of death inducing syringe.

I decided to ask her why she had chosen this time to seek treatment.

“Do you know that I am writing a one-woman-show? It’s called ‘How I got addicted to earplugs.’ It’s really funny.”

That sounds interesting. And do you really wear earplugs?”

“Every night. And sometimes during the day too. In fact I’d be wearing them right now if they hadn’t taken them away from me at the front desk? Plus…” she sighed finally getting to my question. “I’m here to listen. Cause I feel like I’m going crazy.”

She looked at me for the first time. It is a look of desperation, a look of years of sexual abuse by her father, of going to church with her mother  to listen to her father’s sermons.

She told me about her childhood, about how her mother wanted her to be a child actress like Shirley Temple.  She told me how she was in lots of television commercials where her mother told her to “put on a happy face” even when she came home at night and was repeatedly sexually abused by her father.  She told me how she started drinking her father’s whisky before he came home from church so that she would not remember what he would do to her or say to her.  And as she told me she put her hands over her ears and began to cry softly.

We sat in silence for quite a while.  The wind blows and makes the trees sway as if they are trying to comfort her.

She then looks up above my head and gasps. “Oh my God!”

I turn around and see that a beautiful butterfly has gotten itself caught in an enormous spider-web that is spread out between two trees.   Instinctively, Patty gets up from her chair and walks over to the spider-web. Her voice became high-pitched as if she were a little girl.

“It’s okay little butterfly,” she said as she slowly begins tearing down the spider-web with the palms of her hand. “It’s okay. I’m gonna free you now. I’m gonna free you.”

The butterfly drops to the grass beneath the broken spider-web, it’s wings appearing still and lifeless.  Patty stares at the butterfly for a while then disappointed that it is not moving walks back over to her chair.

“I think she might be dead,” she says sadly as she pulls out another cigarette.

Patty told me that her whole life she had felt like the lifeless butterfly.  That she has been caught in a spider-web, a dark prison that has kept her from flying away and being free.  She had tried to escape this prison by leaning on the sermons she learned at her Church, but because her father was the priest and because she felt trapped by the structure of the church, the sermons held nothing for her.  They are like waterless canals, empty passages that lead her even further into the darkness.

I looked at Patty,  and from underneath her blue hat I saw in her: a goddess of wisdom, creation, redemption and suffering.  Yet, because of her years of silence, a chain of forgetfulness began.  She and the whole world drank their father’s whisky, acted in television commercials and went shopping at the mall to buy blue hats that are specifically crafted by American companies to help hide her profound sense of pain.

Burrowed deep within her, her pain was nestled, singing the praises of the church, of her abusive father who assisted them in keeping her asleep, numb and in the dark.

Yet as she stared at the lifeless butterfly she told me that she still yearned to bring back the light that once danced in her body, to restore what was stolen from her by her father and her mother who turned her cheek to what was occurring.  And that is why she was here – to awaken the light of long, long ago, to find her way out of the darkness and back to the hidden God, to experience her true gnosis.

Suddenly we both noticed something miraculous.  The butterfly was moving it’s bright yellow wings as if it may perhaps fly.  They slowly opened and closed like a luminous gift that was extending itself to all of creation.

“She’s alive!” Patty screams. “She’s alive!”

And with that, the butterfly lifted off of the grass, like Christ resurrected landing with no accident on Patty’s shoulder.  There she sat for what seems like hours, a divine maiden, opening and closing her wings as we, her spectators witness her beauty and power in utter amazement.

And with that, she hurried her wings and lifted herself into the air.   We both watched her fly into the light, raising herself up into to the heavens.

It is difficult to know what happened on that day when Patty freed the butterfly from the spider-web.  It is hard to say if the butterfly appeared in order to free her or if she appeared in order to free the butterfly.  Either way they have both been released, soaring at this moment somewhere above the earth and clouds, a step closer to their original star from whence they both had come.

***

In what way are you the butterfly trapped

in the spiderweb, longing to be free?

Posted in Addictions, Dr. Jenni, PhD. Academic Papers, Psychology | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on the butterfly and the spiderweb

all paths lead back to a mid-point

Recently on NPR there was an interesting story about how human beings, when blindfolded are never able to walk in a straight line.  Oftentimes they’ll walk around in circles without even realizing it. The reasons for this phenomenon remain a mystery.

Being a depth psychologist, I found this impossibility fascinating – the fact that we are not linear beings – that ultimately we give way to our circular nature and circular rhythms.

The psychologist Carl Jung spent much of his life studying mandalas, the Sanskrit word for circles. He believed that he “had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego…seeing that everything, all paths he had been following, all steps he had taken, were leading back to a single point –namely, to the midpoint. It became increasingly plain to him that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre, to individuation.”

In our Western culture, we spend much of our time attempting to walk in straight lines — yearning for success, being overly goal oriented, self-driven, self-directed, desiring to be perfect, driven to acquiring all the answers, etc.

After many attempts at “walking straight,” we ultimately fail, because this linear motion defies our true nature, giving credence only to our egos and not to our souls, which in essence are always transforming, circular and desiring wholeness.

Today, instead of checking off your list of things to do and worrying about what tomorrow brings, take some deep breaths, close your eyes and contemplate your circular nature, spinning like a magical top with nowhere to go, nothing to see but the beauty of your inner self.

Posted in Dr. Jenni, Jung, Psychology | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on all paths lead back to a mid-point

unus mundus

Yesterday on my way home from driving my son to Sunday school, I was thinking about the character Feather in my novel The Gossamer Thread. As I turned the corner and pulled onto my street I saw the above image that the clouds had formed at that instant in the sky. The Feather! The Feather! My son and I stopped to behold the very image of which I was just thinking.

As Jung states “psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing.” This is called “unus mundus,” which translates in Latin as “one world,” referring to the concept of an underlying unified reality from which everything emerges and returns to. Jung’s concept of synchronicity is related to the unus mundus — the meaningful coincidence being made possible by the fact that both the observer and “connected event” ultimately stem from the same source, the unus mundus.

Whatever ideas are flowing through your mind right now will be evidenced in your exterior environment. You must only work on training yourself to become more aware of both your psyche and the matter, which surrounds you. Quite literally, the more you exercise your internal mind to become in tune with the external world, you will begin experiencing these synchronicities on a daily basis.

Posted in Dr. Jenni, Jung, The Gossamer Thread | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments