The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

Coronavirus Retreat Tip #1

Dog in mask

Over the years I have been trained up to always see the pros and cons of each challenge. Not to be in denial of the pain, trauma and suffering — but to see the possibility of hidden value in the challenges.  “What if everything that is happening to you is happening for you?” asked  Colin Tipping years ago in a lecture in New York.   That thought percolated through me for years before I could finally understand what it truly meant, and the freedom and peace of mind that comes from living with this deep level of acceptance. 

What are the pros and cons of this Covid-19 challenge we now face? Here are some resources which have helped me sort this out and remain more peaceful and relaxed during this difficult time. 

To be transparent as ever,  I am feeling the full dialectical nature of this moment: sometimes I feel a deep peace and stillness within, and at the same time I feel the edge of a panic attack creeping up on me.  The difference between now and 30 years ago, however,  is that I have learned to observe my inner world so much better…so when I sense that edge, I use some breathwork, distress tolerance skills and physical release to shift out of it.  (More on those skills in the next Coronavirus post).

Over the next few days, I’m going to unpack some useful tips for coping with this extra level of anxiety we all share from the pandemic.  As always,  I have been sorting and cycling through my personal tool kit, plus I have found some new and impactful ideas that I will share here too.  The best of the best for you, my dear reader…as we trudge this road through the forced Retreat to wellness and bliss.

First, listening to Jack Kornfield  and Tim Ferriss discuss ways to re-frame and re-focus during this difficult time gave me more insight and some good practical advice. Kornfield’s  75 years on this Earth have been well spent.  As a brief overview, he was a Buddhist Monk in Thailand, then served as co-founder of the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, MA,  then became a psychologist. Now he is involved in many educational and activist programs to help bring mindfulness and other useful transformative skills to the public. 

Tim Ferriss is one of my favorite teachers. First, I love Ferriss’  passion for extreme wellness.  I love his awesome lifestyle hacks and his never ending curiosity about world class performers  and the minutia of their morning routines, what they eat for breakfast,  favorite books, how they sleep and more. He also has an impressive history of  brilliant investing, living with bipolar illness and managing well.  Yes, I’m a fan of Ferriss! 

You can access this podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts:  Listen to #414: Jack Kornfield — How to Find Peace Amidst COVID-19, How to Cultivate Calm in Chaos from The Tim Ferriss Show in Podcasts.

For your consideration, here is my brief summary of this  podcast. During this two hour, wide ranging conversation, you will learn: 

  1. During the first hour, “It’s not about perfecting yourself, it’s about perfecting your Love.”  Learning to live in this world with more love, embracing the inner and outer imperfections with radical acceptance is one path to more inner peace and joy here.  Kornfield delves into some wonderful coping and practice skills to help move through the anxiety and depression of these pandemic days.
  2. From 1:07 there is a discussion of psychedelic research aka Sacred Medicines, for the treatment of drug resistant depression and anxiety.   Kornfield discusses the mysteries of our multi-dimensional selves.  “We are learning to use sacred medicines to know who we are.”  Apparently, this paradigm shifting research helps us form more positive and useful world views. Ferriss cites exciting and impressive research coming out of Johns Hopkins Medical School which has gotten robust results.   After listening to this  segment, I made a note to read The Cosmic Game, by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, which describes the wisdom and understanding that hundreds of trials of Sacred Medicines have offered seekers in laboratory conditions, to help better understand the nature of consciousness Itself. (As it happens, Harvard Medical School is hosting a large conference here in Boston  May 1-2, 2020, on Meditation and Psychotherapy: Learning from Non-Ordinary States).
  3.  From 1:23 Kornfield deconstructs suicide and suicidal patterns and how to reduce treatment resistant depression.  I was intrigued with this curious idea,  how we long for “sleep,” and how for some suicide is the big sleep that they think will solve their painful life for good. Suicidal people have  worthy intentions, not the best solutions…Kornfield’s approach to suicide is practical and soothing.  
  4.  From 1:32  Kornfield explains his trauma work, and how to be in the field of compassion which allows us to process the trauma successfully. “To witness with a loving gaze, it’s not who you are, it’s something that you went through.”   This reminds me of the teaching that “We make mistakes, but we are not a mistake.”   Again, learning to pause, observe, step back and see the pain as something that we passed through is very different then feeling a permanent imprint from it, rendering us emotionally compromised,  with anxiety, depression, PTSD and other conditions.  

I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as I did.  It really gave me a booster during these troubled times. There is hope! There is a solution…

Stay tuned for my next Coronavirus Retreat Tip…may these tips serve you well! 

Onwards and Upwards in good health, 

Lisa Wessan

 

Related reading: 

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy: My Turn: Mass panic may be worse than virus itself

 

 

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Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm….How Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills help you learn to manage and cope better with difficult emotions

I’m excited to announce that we are hastening slowly to transform the world from the inner to outer, one DBT student at a time…

Up next: we will be exploring Mindfulness & Emotion Regulation skills from March 11 – June 17, 2020.

For all groups (Adults, Teens, Mastermind Groups) we have a minimum of six and maximum of 10 students.

Four leaf DBT

The Emotion Regulation module has four sections:

  • Understanding and Naming Emotions
  • Changing Emotional Responses
  • Reducing Vulnerability to Emotion Mind
  • Managing Extremely Difficult Emotions

DBT Mindfulness

The Mindfulness material includes:

  • Learning to be a good observer
  • Being non-judgmental
  • Staying in the present
  • Practicing being effective
  • Accessing Wise Mind (aka higher self, higher consciousness)
  • Understanding Reality Acceptance and detaching from negative or critical thoughts.

As DBT founder Dr. Marsha Linehan says, “It is difficult to manage your emotions when you do not understand how emotions work. Knowledge is power.”

  • We learn to cope better with social anxiety issues, negative thinking and get out of the Blame Game.
  • We learn to abstain from the “Compare and Despair” syndrome.
  • We practice  “Face it, trace it and erase it” as we work the DBT Skills and grow stronger and wiser with effective emotional regulation and expression.
  • We learn to access “Wise Mind” and regain our center, remain calm.  We learn to take a stand for our peace, and become bulletproof to bullies, nastiness and others’ negative remarks.
  • We learn to practice Radical Acceptance, as needed, and problem solve when possible. We are no longer victims.

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Lisa Wessan, LICSW
DBT Skills Trainer

If this sounds good to you, please get in touch with me to start  your enrollment process. 

For exact dates, fees, insurance,  FAQs,  location, DBT videos and more details, please visit www.lisawessan.com or call 978.710.8039.

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2020. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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DBT Skills Groups for Teens and Adults forming for July 2019 in Westford, MA

dbt-skills

Since the shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last June, people have been becoming more acutely aware of how vulnerable we all are to thoughts of self-harm.  Knowing that all the success, cash and prizes, fame and celebrity connections do not make a person happy can be mind bending for many people.

In my guild, we deal with self-harm and suicidal ideation regularly and know how catastrophic it can be for families and loved ones to process and cope with a loved ones’ tendency to self-harm.  Plus, we each have our own dark thoughts and need to learn to be able to observe, defrost and release those negative thoughts in order to function here at Earth School.

No one is exempt from this learning curve!  This is why I am confident that ultimately solution focused, evidence based Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills (DBT) and Mindfulness will be taught in all elementary schools as part of the required educational curriculum.  More than most cognitive restructuring methods, DBT has one of the highest rates of success (Linehan, 2016).

To that end…here are the new dates for Summer 2019 for my adolescent and adult DBT Skills Groups. (At this time, there is one spot is still open in the adult group, and  two spots are open in the adolescent group. The Open Enrollment Period ends August 14th, so if you or someone you know would like to join us, just contact me at your earliest convenience).

Adolescents (age 14-17, with rare exceptions): 

WEDNESDAYS, 4:15 – 5:45 PM
July 17, 24, 31
August 7, 14, 21, 28
September 4, 11, 18, 25
October 2, 16, 23

Adults: (age 18 +)

WEDNESDAYS,  7:30 – 9:00 PM
July 24, 31
August 7, 14, 21, 28
September 4, 11, 18, 25
October 2, 16, 23, 30

(we skip Yom Kippur)

If you are new to this work, here are some useful links:

  1. Five Steps to Enrolling in a DBT group.
  2. DBT Fees and Refund Policy
  3. Insurance and How to Use your Out of Network Benefits
  4. About DBT in general. What is dialectical thinking?
  5. Recent article on getting beyond binary and dualistic thinking.
  6. What do you cover in the Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness module?
  7. Main DBT Page at www.lisawessan.com
  8. Accolades and Testimonials for Lisa Wessan

(For learning DBT Skills from a remote location, or if you are compromised due to health issues, I also use video chat sessions  to share this work).

Let’s turn your defeats into victories, and your scars into stars…Yes, DBT can help you shift from being IMPOSSIBLE to I’M POSSIBLE!

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

 Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Receiving Accolades at the State House in Boston

When I left my job at NBC as a Talk Show Producer, I knew that there was never going to be a time when fame, fortune, cash and prizes were going to make me happy.  Not that I was ever famous, or super wealthy.  But I had lived in that world, worked at 30 Rockefeller Plaza for over a decade amidst the affluence and glittery abundance of mid-town Manhattan.  Working in the Entertainment Division at NBC was being at celebrity central, especially working on the talk shows.

What I learned, after a while, is that these things cannot sustain deep joy and wonder.  Working in that world was not inspiring me, and I felt I was somehow skimming the surface of life. I knew at some point that I was going to move on…

Fast forward…Yes, moving from trauma to transformation is now the name of my game.  As it is for most of my peers,  we are mostly off the radar, not seeking the limelight and quite happy doing what we do in the privacy of our consulting rooms.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I learned I was going to be honored for my deep dive into psychospiritual matters!  This was quite the shockeroo…

Who would have guessed that working with clients through their mysterious process of defrosting grief, recovering from illness, loss, abuse and neglect, teaching skills on emotion regulation, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, finding new purpose in life, and finally building new dreams would be honored?   Not me. 

Getting kudos for how we work through the muck of it all? Incredible! Clearly, there is no Red Carpet in therapy land!  (Perhaps one day, however, when my book is out there, it will become a best seller, and then a blockbuster film…that would be fun and quite the wild ride.  Being a bit conflicted about being on the big arena,  I will need to continue to choose “Courage over comfort,” as Brené Brown  says.  Book tours, screenings, interviews, all positive and negative.  “Courage over comfort” helps me to accept leaving my safe, small world and moving on!)

In the meantime, it’s wonderful to live in Massachusetts, one of the more enlightened states that takes the time to acknowledge our inner journey, and how important it is to use mental health resources when the going gets tough.  Massachusetts is great at de-stigmatizing mental health issues.  There is tremendous support here for everyone to get what they need and move on.  

The Big Day…

On March 6, 2019, there was a beautiful and moving ceremony at the State House in Boston to honor a few of us maverick social workers who are doing extraordinary things in our practice.

Several politicians gave speeches, Senator Ed Kennedy acknowledged us by name (see his Facebook post below)  and there were lots of hugs and cheers throughout the event.  In addition, our photos with brief bios were on display in the State House during National Social Work Month in March.  (So fun and unexpected!)

Each of us that were honored that day has taken our original graduate training and morphed into providers who are doing unexpected works.  We all went past graduate school and expanded into unpredictably useful areas  (Click HERE for the original press release.)

My unusual areas of work involve Walk and Talk Therapy,  Therapeutic Laughter Training and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  (You can learn more about these topics at my web site, www.lisawessan.com)

I appreciated Senator Ed Kennedy’s comments on Facebook and his ongoing support of our work (see below). It was a special day and fun to be with my magnificent peers.

Here are some photos from the day:

 

Thank you for sharing in the gratitude and excitement of this moment in my career!  It was certainly one of the highlights of my time here in Massachusetts.

Up Next?

The journey continues — and this is truly a shameless plug — I’m an organically wired promoter, and cannot help sharing good science tested information or personal anecdotal results from the Lisa Laboratory of Life!  So if you want to keep in touch, you can follow this blog, or send me a message at my web site to receive my periodic newsletter.

Stay tuned for more quality news as we journey together from Trauma to Transformation!

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.

 

 

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What do we cover in the Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation DBT Modules?

I’m excited to announce that we are hastening slowly to transform the world from the inner to outer, one DBT student at a time…

Up next: we will be exploring Mindfulness & Emotion Regulation skills.

For all groups (Adults, Teens, Mastermind Groups) we need a minimum of six and maximum of 10 students to make it work.  (Low/Slow enrollment just delays the start date until we reach six, usually within a week or two of the posted target date.)

Four leaf DBT

The Emotion Regulation module has four sections:

  • Understanding and Naming Emotions
  • Changing Emotional Responses
  • Reducing Vulnerability to Emotion Mind
  • Managing Extremely Difficult Emotions

 

DBT Mindfulness

The Mindfulness material includes:

  • Learning to be a good observer
  • Being non-judgmental
  • Staying in the present
  • Practicing being effective
  • Accessing Wise Mind (aka higher self, higher consciousness)
  • Understanding Reality Acceptance and detaching from negative or critical thoughts.

As DBT founder Dr. Marsha Linehan says, “It is difficult to manage your emotions when you do not understand how emotions work. Knowledge is power.”

  • We learn to cope better with social anxiety issues, negative thinking and get out of the Blame Game.
  • We learn to abstain from the “Compare and Despair” syndrome.
  • We practice  “Face it, trace it and erase it” as we work the DBT Skills and grow stronger and wiser with effective emotional regulation and expression.
  • We learn to access “Wise Mind” and regain our center, remain calm. As it is written, “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.”  We learn to take a stand for our peace, and become bulletproof to bullies, nastiness and others’ negative remarks.
  • We learn to practice Radical Acceptance, as needed, and problem solve when possible. We are no longer victims.

If this sounds good to you, please get in touch with me to start  your enrollment process. 

For exact dates, fees, insurance,  FAQs,  location, DBT videos and more details, please visit www.lisawessan.com or call 978.710.8039.

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019.
All rights reserved. www.LisaWessan.com

4 Comments »

What should I do about my Fitbit rash and other electropollution?

I’m bedazzled by the electromagnetic field (EMF)  radiation around me! But is it hurting us?  More will be revealed…

IMG-7073

Ever since I heard of this Fitbit technology I was concerned about the possibly harmful effects of the radiation on my health and body.  But my concerns were swept aside when my nephew shed 165 lbs. strictly by using his Fitbit daily, tracking movement, food intake and using all the app can do.  I was inspired, and thought maybe it could help me release my unwanted pounds, too.

So I have been using my Fitbit since last November…the good news is that I have been tracking 10,000 steps or more nearly every day and it is fun to see the counts come in and get cheered by my fellow Fitbit friends.  My overall health metrics are very good.

The less good news is that I have not released my extra weight in any significant way, plus I just recently developed a rash from my wearing my Fitbit daily.

I’ve discussed my multidimensional food challenges in other articles, so for today I’m just going to share about this Fitbit rash, because I care about and love my readers here who might also be getting hurt from your  wearable tech.

Research on the dangers of wearable tech

I suggest you search at Google Scholar online for “Dangers of Fitbit” and “Fitbit Rash” to see what’s been coming down the pike on this topic.   For me, these were the three most interesting articles from reliable sources:

Do I Need to Worry About Radiation From WiFi and Bluetooth Devices? by Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports, 3/1/18)

Why a Fitbit Harms More Than Helps Your Health  by Sarah Pope (The Healthy Home Economist, 8/30/18)

Wireless Silent Spring  by Cindy Russell, MD      (WirelessSilentSpring_-SCCMA-Oct-2-2018.pdf)

Besides the unknown effects of the chronic wireless marination of our bodies, there is clear evidence in Dr. Russell’s  report in the SCCMA about the dangers of this radiation for our birds, bees, trees and other wildlife.

Robert’s article in Consumer Reports gives some excellent suggestions to curb the exposure to radiation towards the end of the article.

I’m not here to preach anything to anyone, I just love our beautiful Earth and want it to be sustained for 10,000 generations and more. Plus, I want to see the epidemic of cancer be reduced and eliminated.   It’s very possible that our environment is causing this massive cancer phenomenon and we can do something to curtail this now.

Oh my, I know you will be annoyed to hear this – but we need to pull back and be more mindful of how we use our devices here!

Some background: When I was younger, I was a full time environmental activist for a while. I served as the Executive Director of the Strategic Defense of the Environment Group (SDEG).  Our goal was to preserve as much of the rainforest terrain as possible,  more dramatically, “TO SAVE THE LUNGS OF THE PLANET!”

SDEG  produced a very successful conference in Rabat, Morocco in October 1995, covered by five countries’ television crews, with 5,000 attendees. In sum, due to SDEG’s efforts, legislation was revised and improved in Brazil to reduce the deforestation of the rainforest dramatically, so we definitely had a positive influence. Plus all the Ministers of Environment around the world got to meet each other and create useful networks.

Why I stopped being a full-time environmental activist:  after SDEG I chose to shift from a macro career dealing with global transformation issues to a more intimate micro focus, dealing with individuals’ and small groups’ transformation process as a therapist.  At the end of the day, battling governments’ legislation issues was not for me. I have deep respect for those who do battle with policy, Big Pharma, Big Oil and all of the contributors to our planet’s health challenges.

Solution Focused

For today, I support a bunch of exemplary environmental groups that are doing the work for me, as it were.  You can donate to any of these organizations and know that your loving kindness will be doing great things for our planet (for a full list of my favorite environmental charities, just request it below in Comments):

The Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council

Do cell phones cause brain cancer, or other harmful side effects?

One of the many things I did learn at SDEG is that even in the 1990s scientists were concerned about the cell phone towers and how the electromagnetic fields (EMF) generating radiation were affecting the environment, and us.

Shameless fact: I was the last person in my family and circle of friends to get a cell phone because I had read so much scientific research at SDEG on the dangers of  EMF.  I still never put my cell phone next to my ear.

Not so fun fact:  there has been a huge rise in brain tumors located by our ears.  Conservative estimates abound, but you can find many studies warning us now. This is truly a dilemma for all of us, who love our cell phones (and other wearable tech).

So for today,  I am going to need to retire my beautiful Fitbit for a while…at least until my rash goes away.  Then I might wear it occasionally, but not daily.

This will be my version of Moderation Management!

Slowly, slowly, letting go of my beautiful Fitbit…sigh.IMG-7095

For yourself, think about what all this EMF radiation is doing to you. Learn more about electropollution and how it affects you here…

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

 

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2018. All rights reserved.
www.LisaWessan.com

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Holiday Blues? Pause and Take a Mental Laxative (Forgiveness 101)

For some people, the holidays are a very joyful and exciting time of year.  More parties, celebrations, shopping and gift exchanges coupled with lots of social stimulation.  It’s all good…for them.

But for others, who feel painful pressure to have “forced fun” and may not have strong intimate connections, lack financial resources, struggle with illness or addiction, these times are fraught with deep loneliness and uncomfortable feelings of “Compare and Despair” (Wessan, 2011).  For this group,  we are entering “The Red Zone.”  

The Red Zone  runs through  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve…and perhaps for many Valentine’s Day is also included in this over stimulating, emotionally charged, addiction riddled time of year.

When I was younger, single and living alone in New York City,  I experienced the holidays as my Red Zone.   I loved my circle of friends, but many of them were married or had moved far away. They were not available for the holidays. I found my loneliness was most acute during this time of year.

As part of my coping with loneliness,  for many years I went away for New Year’s weekend to Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center, in Craryville, NY.  Pumpkin Hollow is a beautiful place, with magical trails on lush Berkshire hills and a thoughtful and sensitive staff.  They used to facilitate a wonderful Silent Retreat over New Year’s weekend (I noticed now they have one in late January and May).

There were moonlit walks in the woods, we ate delicious gourmet organic vegetarian meals , danced  around a huge campfire, hugged trees and meditated together in the silence.   The facilitators artfully helped us work through all the activities in silence, and I remember every year being amazed at how little language I really needed to get by and still feel peaceful and content.

For me, it was a relaxing and restorative weekend in the Berkshires, but I also I had to process some difficult feelings. 

 

Forgiveness 101

Being in the Silence can be a powerful cleanse,  as so many distractions are removed.  The Silence gives us time to deeply work through some acceptance and forgiveness issues, serving as a “Mental Laxative,” as  Iyanla Vanzant is known to say  (Vanzant, 2013). This is a perfect time to take a moral inventory of ourselves, and notice where we need to improve. 

Moral inventories vary, but at their core,  we make a list of the people we have harmed, consciously or unconsciously.  Then we make a list of the ways we hurt ourselves, consciously or unconsciously.  Finally, we make a list of our fears and regrets.  (The only way to do a moral inventory wrong is to not do it at all.)

All of this then requires a deep and thorough forgiveness practice, ultimately letting go of all of it.  Then it is done.  We have a fresh start.  

You can use this Forgiveness Prayer to help you get started.  Practice Suggestion:  Read it into your Smart Phone’s Voice Memo app (or tape recorder) very slowly. Pause 5-10 seconds between each line.  Save it, and then play it back to yourself with your eyes closed, allowing yourself to feel it deeply.  As faces and names to forgive bubble up in your consciousness, you can make a note of them to add to your lists.

For all those we have harmed, knowingly or unknowingly,
we are truly sorry. Forgive us and set us free.
For all those who have harmed us, knowingly or unknowingly,
we forgive them and we set them free.
And for the harm we have done to ourselves,
knowingly or unknowingly, we are truly sorry.
We forgive ourselves and we set ourselves free.
~ Author Unknown ~

Afterwards, we may also need to talk to a few people and apologize for our behavior (or in some cases neglect).  Hard Fact: In order to really feel healthy, whole, clean and strong  inside, it is essential to give our inner emotional pipes a good Roto-Rooter cleaning by resolving any awkward or tender hurts. Apologies and amends need to be in the process.  Fun Fact: Asking for forgiveness is the final piece in our quest for inner calm, or should I say, the Final Peace?!!  

But you don’t have to go away for a whole weekend to give yourself an effective Mental Laxative…you can carve out some time each day, or each week,  to sit quietly and review your life to forgive the imperfect moments. What worked well? What did not go so well?  Whom did you judge too harshly?  Even taking a brief inventory of your emotional interior will have huge pay offs in the long run.  

One more Mental Laxative Practice Suggestion:  set a timer for 10 minutes.  Do as much of your list making as you can in that time, and then stop.  It will be enough.  Do this on a weekly basis, or more frequently if you are ready. Ten minutes of taking a Mental Laxative twice a  week is a great beginning, perhaps once over the weekend and once during the week?  Do what feels right for you.

As you progress, this could ideally become a daily activity…and who would you be if you had no resentments, anger, unresolved grief and rage?  You would bloom on in a whole new way.

In addition, I believe that holding onto negative thoughts and unresolved anger, resentment, fear and grief will fester within, and eventually manifest into some kind of physical illness and/or mood disorder.  We need to keep all of our pipes clean!  Digestive pipes and emotional pipes, which actually work together in the big picture.

As the hallowed halls of the Mindfulness research and Functional Medicine have taught us, every thought becomes a chemical reaction in our bodies.  Please note, the Mind-Body connection is not philosophical, theoretical or conjectured.  It is grounded in science (Turner, 2014).

We need to be aware of this and carve out the time to release and let go of our negative and stinking thinking.  If we don’t, it will just putrefy within, and poison our relationships as well.

 

What is Reflective Listening?

Being heard is so close to being loved, that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.  – David Augsburger

Another worthwhile activity to do if you find yourself being in the Red Zone now is to volunteer your time, talent and special treasure in places that will appreciate you.

Before I became a therapist, I used to volunteer at a Suicide Hotline called HELPLINE, at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York,  which for me, was an exhilarating service.  It was founded by the late, great Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, may he rest in peace.  (There is also an excellent Blanton-Peale counseling center located at Marble, with wonderful psychospiritual therapists on staff, see reference below).

Most Hotlines have a fascinating and useful training program which enhances all human relationships.  I first learned the power of Reflective Listening in my 10-week HELPLINE training, and it transformed my life. 

Reflective Listening is being able to let someone else talk and just be present for them,  listening quietly.  When they pause, then you reflect back the essence of what they have just said.  This feels very soothing and loving to the agitated talker. The person feels so validated by your Reflective Listening, it is often enough to help them  get “off the ledge.” Listening is a form of loving each other that soothes, heals and restores us.

Learning Reflective Listening  was the bulk of my HELPLINE training, plus there was also a lot to learn about making referrals and gaining trust. 

Coming from a culture of chronic interrupters and non-listeners, I had learned some ineffective communication habits over the years, which I continue to strive to improve.   The impulse to speak out and interrupt is fierce, but knowing that it compromises relationships and hurts people helps me to zip my lip, as best as I can.  For today, I remain a humble work in progress, that’s for sure.

My hope for the future is that the Hotline’s training program is something that will be  taught to all humans by the sixth grade. Similar to the skills learned in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT, which should also be part of elementary school education) during training we learned about interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation.  These skills give us the foundation for better emotional balance, and allow us to be more present for others’ pain and suffering, as well as our own. 

 

Ask yourself the magical question, “How can I be useful today?”

I understand that a Hotline gig may not be your cup of tea.  Volunteering at a soup kitchen, animal shelter, nursing home, botanical garden, museum, Indivisible, MoveOn or anywhere can also be very uplifting during the Red Zone. 

Nursing homes always need a river of volunteers to help with feeding, reading, translation services and transporting  non-ambulatory residents .  I learned this when I was in graduate school, as one of my internships was at the Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged in the Bronx.  I was facilitating several  therapy groups each week, but there was a huge volunteer staff that coordinated all these helpful tasks for the residents.  I was so impressed with the volunteers’ compassion and zeal to help these nursing home residents.  

Yes, there is a time for self care, and then sometimes it is better to focus on others’ needs more than your own, to take a break from the painful  ME-ME-ME inner dialogue you might be having.

 

Transparency is Healing

Finally, being in the Red Zone totally in secret is just exhausting and no fun.  Be honest and authentic about your feelings — transparency is healing —  and see who matches your energy.  You might find a few people who also feel put upon and even hate the holidays — great — these will be your Red Zone buddies and comrades in getting through the muck of the season. 

Make it a point, however, to be victorious together, e.g.”let’s stay sober and clean through this nightmare,” or “This too shall pass. How can we be useful today?”  or “Let’s go for a hike and get away from the shopping madness.” Complaining is draining, so it’s important to find ways to support each other to rise above the chaos of the season.

Being able to laugh about it, the complete absurdity and paradox of Christmas especially, is so refreshing.  Whenever I see huge displays of gifts and glittery objects everywhere tempting us to buy-buy-buy, I chuckle to myself and think “What would Jesus say about all this?  Would He be happy with this display?”  Yikes.

I’m not judging, nay, nay,  I actually love the glittery Hand of G-d in all of this (Wessan, 2012).  But you know  the commercialization of Christmas becomes excessive and downright irritating at times — so I like to take a step back and think about the real reason for the season…our awesome connectivity, celebrating our Oneness, and the mystery of the Numinous in our lives.  

Another reason is the magnitude of  working through the bittersweet feelings of existence together and being brave enough to peacefully co-exist in this tumultuous world.   We can acknowledge the dialectical paradox, that sometimes we want to live and sometimes we don’t, but we choose life anyway.  We need to be courageous during this time, knowing that we are struggling in the Red Zone while “everyone else” seems to be having the best time ever. 

 

In Conclusion

For this holiday season, The Red Zone,  I encourage you to try something different:

  • Experiment with a daily or weekly Mental Laxative experience, or go away on a retreat for more in depth forgiveness work.
  • Volunteer somewhere that will give you  a chance to focus on someone else, take a break from “Poor me, Poor Me, Pour me a drink” thinking.
  • Give honesty a chance, come clean and tell a few people how you really feel. Defrost some of that hidden grief, rage, loss, loneliness, “Compare and Despair” and all the inner stressful thinking that puts a damper on your days.

I promise if you follow some of these suggestions you will feel lighter, brighter and perhaps, dare I say it, even more peaceful during this relentless Red Zone. 

Good health is wealth, go for it!

 

 

References

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills (DBT).   This is a four part psychoeducation program that covers Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness. It takes one year to complete the curriculum.

Turner, K. (2014).  Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds.   New York: Harper Collins. 

Vanzant, I. (2013). Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for  Everything. Carlsbad, CA: Smiley Books.

Wessan, L. (2011, September 27). Compare and Despair: How Free Do You Want to Be?  Retrieved from https://mirthmaven.blog/2011/09/27/compair-and-despair-how-free-do-you-want-to-be/

Wessan, L. (2005, October 14) Forgiving is not condoning. (8 minute video)  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avBEdDJJGrk

Wessan, L. (2012, July 13). The Glittery Hand of God. (3 minute video).  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT2lSvLft4o&t=4s

Blanton-Peale Institute and CounselingCenter, New York, NY,  for individual, family and couples counseling.  Accepts most insurance.  Highly recommended for quality psychospiritual therapy.  Founder: the late great Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. 

Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center, Craryville, NY. Owned and operated by the Theosophical Society.  Organic vegetarian food served from their own farm, non-dogmatic, beautiful retreat center. Highly recommend, especially the retreats on Therapeutic Touch, and the Silent Retreat.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Lisa Wessan. All rights reserved.

 

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Up Next: New DBT Skills Groups on Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness in Westford, MA

#MirthMaven |

In the wake of the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, people are now becoming more acutely aware than ever of how vulnerable we all are to thoughts of self harm.  Knowing that all the success, cash and prizes, fame and celebrity connections do not make a person happy can be mind bending for many people.

In my guild, we deal with self harm and suicidal ideation regularly and know how catastrophic it can be for families and loved ones to process and cope with a loved ones’ tendency to self harm.  Plus, we each have our own dark thoughts and need to learn to be able to observe, defrost and release those negative thoughts in order to function here at Earth School.

No one is exempt from this learning curve!  This is why I am confident that ultimately DBT and Mindfulness will be taught in all elementary schools as part of the required educational curriculum.

To that end…besides my basic and ongoing daytime and evening Dialectical Behavior Skills Groups (DBT), I have been asked by several concerned parents of challenging and high risk adult children if I could form a monthly DBT support group for them.   I have also been asked by my amazing graduates of the one year basic DBT program if we could have an Advanced Group that also meets monthly…

To fulfill that request,  below are the upcoming groups that are forming to meet the personal growth needs of our community. (For learning DBT Skills from a remote location, or if you are compromised due to health issues, I also use video chat sessions  to share this work).

Daytime and Evening 14 Week DBT Skills Group on Distress Tolerance and Mindfulness: August 16, 2018 – November 15, 2018  Thursdays, 3:15 -4:45 PM or 7:30 – 9 PM.

Monthly DBT Skills and Support Group for Parents of High Risk and Challenging Children, the first Wednesday of the month, 7 – 8:30 PM.

Monthly DBT Skills for Advanced Students, the second Wednesday of the month. 7 – 8:30 PM.

Please note: enrollment is ongoing. (Sorry, no walk-ins, you must pre-register for all above groups.)

Let’s turn your defeats into victories, and your scars into stars…Yes, DBT can help you shift from being IMPOSSIBLE to I’M POSSIBLE!

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2018. All rights reserved.

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WESTFORD, MA – New DBT Skills Group for Adults on Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness, (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) starts 03/28/19

I am excited to announce the next 14-week Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills (DBT) Group in Westford, MA will be starting a new evening trimester on Thursday,  March 28, 2019, 7:30 – 9 PM.

We will be covering both the Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness modules.  (This is an ongoing group that has Open Enrollment Periods three times per year. This group is non-binary/co-ed, ages 18+, tuition fee applies/non-insurance based.)

Four leaf DBT

The Emotion Regulation module has four sections:

  • Understanding and Naming Emotions
  • Changing Emotional Responses
  • Reducing Vulnerability to Emotion Mind
  • Managing Extremely Difficult Emotions

The Mindfulness material includes:

  • Learning to be a good observer
  • Being non-judgmental
  • Staying in the present
  • Practicing being effective
  • Accessing Wise Mind (aka higher self, higher consciousness)
  • Understanding Reality Acceptance and detaching from negative or critical thoughts.

As DBT founder Dr. Marsha Linehan says, “It is difficult to manage your emotions when you do not understand how emotions work. Knowledge is power.”

For exact dates,  location, DBT videos and more details, please visit www.lisawessan.com or call 978.710.8039.

Onward and Upward,
Lisa Wessan

DBT Mindfulness

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019.  All rights reserved.

 

 

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New daytime DBT Skills Groups starts Thursday June 8, 2017 in Westford, MA. This group is co-ed/non-binary, mature teens and adults welcome…

We will be studying Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation from the DBT Skills curriculum. This class will be held on Thursdays, 3:15-4:45 PM,  in the beautiful Westford Center for Counseling and Holistic Therapies, in Westford, Massachusetts. (One initial consultation is required prior to joining the group, plus the completion of some DBT Skills registration forms.)

dbt-skills

Over the years, I have seen the strong evidence of how DBT helps to rewire our brains, and reduce the inflammatory cognitions and irrational beliefs and interpretations which cause so much pain and suffering. So I am passionate about teaching DBT Skills, and truly believe it should be offered to all adolescents.

DBT has powerful and easy relaxation techniques for anxiety; a large array of management tools for depression and mood issues; and brilliant communication and boundary setting skills which make this an amazing vehicle for interpersonal effectiveness, peak performance and personal growth.

Each 14 week course delves into Mindfulness and Dialectics plus one of the remaining three main modules of DBT, which are Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness. We repeat the Mindfulness module at the beginning of each semester to reinforce the powerful foundational skills it offers for general anxiety (Kabat-Zinn et al, 1992).

UP NEXT FOR 2017-2018
FALL – WINTER – SPRING – SUMMER OVERVIEW

Fall 2017- Winter 2018 trimester: Mindfulness, Dialectics and Distress Tolerance (especially useful for the “Holiday Red Zone,” which is fraught with unique challenges and conflicts, including severe Compare and Despair Syndrome).

Winter – Spring 2018 trimester: Mindfulness, Dialectics and Emotional Regulation. Learning to identify your vast array of feelings, articulate them and express appropriately is part of this powerful work. Also, learning to turn down the volume on your intense emotions yet still experience them is most empowering.

Summer – Fall 2018  trimester: Mindfulness, Dialectics and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Through discussions, readings and interactive exercises you will be learning to set healthy boundaries, learning to say “YES” when you mean yes and “NO” when you mean no without worrying about getting people’s approval.  You will  learn how to become bulletproof to others invalidation of you and as you become a self-validating person.  The art of asking for what you want and negotiating well to get it is also explored. In addition, we study various forms of interpersonal protection, safety and skills to identify your Energy Vampires (Orloff, 2004) and recover well from their hurtful interactions.

TUITION

Each trimester is $700 for 14 weeks.  (The Advanced Price for registering up to two weeks before we start the group is $670.)

** It is a requirement of this group that participants are working with an individual therapist while they attend the group. The therapist does not need to be me, nor does the therapist need to be trained in DBT, but will be available for all processing outside the group. (Release forms will be sent to you and/or your therapist after the Initial Consultation with me).

I hope I can be of service to you, your clients or loved ones who would benefit from this group in the greater north Boston area.

Learn more about the details of this DBT Skills Group by visiting my web site, www.lisawessan.com.  Also, please feel free to call or email me for further information.

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

________________________________________________________________________________________
References

Kabat-Zinn, J., Massion, A. O., Kristeller, J., Peterson, L. G., Fletcher, K. E., Pbert, L., et al. (1992). Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 936–943.

Orloff, Judith, MD. (2004). Positive Energy.   New York: Random House.  Chapter 9, The Ninth Prescription:  Protect Yourself from Energy Vampires.  288 – 318.

Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Wessan. All rights reserved.

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