The Gift of Oblivion

The Relief of Oblivion:
A Clinical Perspective

Mindfulness has indeed become an industry. Slowly gaining credibility in psychological sciences, mindful practices began as an “alternative” therapeutic approach borrowed from Eastern spiritual traditions. Coupled with growing interests in Yoga and Buddha breathing techniques, mindfulness practices have greatly impacted the mental health and wellness industry.

As a loyal proponent of self-care, I quickly adopted Yoga and mindful breathing techniques in the 1990’s while providing front-line mental health services and growing my own family. I was accutely aware of the vicarious stress created by social work in mental health, child and family, primary health, education and child protection roles. At the time, I opted to take Eli Bay’s Beyond Stress Course offered through his Relaxation Institute in Toronto. The course attendees included Medical Doctors, Lawyers, School Administrators, Business Leaders, and parents.

Eli’s work on biofeedback and visualization enhanced the medical credibility of integrative breathing work in heart-health and post-trauma care. Research demonstrated that individuals recovering from heart attacks or tragic accidents held “memories” of this trauma in their bodies for years. For more information on Eli’s pioneering career, please see https://www.innercalmonline.com/. Since this early research, more science has been conducted on the deep experiences of trauma in the body even at the cellular level. The advent of neuroscience further illuminates links between trauma on the body and human emotion.

There is ample evidence that the mastery of deep diaphragmatic breathing and visualization strategies helps people to better manage or “regulate” emotions such as anxiety and anger. The popularity of these strategies is mostly due to the effective impact of conscious breathing on your ability to control your emotions.

However, there is also the possibility that with increased mindfulness you experience a type of behavioural paralysis, such that the analytic-rational parts of your mind oppress your intuition or broadly speaking intuitive/organic feelings and movements. It is possible to overly self-regulate and to forget to allow the easy intuitive flow of your inner emotional life to occur.

Once again, the clinician occupies this space of in-between the rational and intuitive spheres of being human.

It is in this very experience of being human that you are reminded about the need for balance and called to a fundamentally important concept in systems theory in social work referred to as homeostasis. In clinical social work terms, homeostasis is the ever-present desire to experience stability, balance, contentment or emotional calm.

In this light, there is a gift of oblivion – moments where you trust your auto-pilot or intuition when it is turned on. Ironically, you are less likely to notice when you engage your world in a less mindful, oblivious, and automatic fashion. An experience like brushing your teeth and forgetting whether you used the bathroom cup to rinse out your mouth or the cup of your hand in absence of the cup in the room. In the end, the cup itself does not really matter to your overall teeth-cleaning experience. However, noting whether or not the cup was acutally present in the room may indicate your level of awareness during the activity.

Sometimes, it is very important to be mindfully aware of the cup in your teeth-brushing routine, and at other times, it is okay to be oblivious to it. In my view, oblivion is a gift when life is extremely stressful. Moments of feeling completely lost in your intuitive creativity such as being fully engrossed in painting, guitar strumming, piano playing, writing, or dancing are examples of healing oblivion.

The artisit in many ways has this gifted sensibility of uninterrupted intuition and sustained creative focus that both, best, represents and captures that which we view as being human or simply put, the human experience. It is in this space of cultivating creative human hobbies that we offer this gift of oblivion to our children and ourselves.

You deserve moments of intuitive mindlessness. Perhaps, during this Covid19 pandemic you are more aware than ever about the demands placed on your cognitive functioning. Unlike any other time in history, your brain is procesing and multi-processing information at a rate and level that traditional literacy did not expect. Of course, artisitic creativity involves cognition and cognitive processing. However, free-flowing creative experiences feel differently, and clinically speaking are healing.

In the words of Eli Bay – enjoy your time of just being and find what the space between your thoughts feels like to you!!!

Dr. Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW Sunny dispositions deserve to shine.

#wellness #healing #healthy #Covid19 #isolatecreate

Painful Adult Decisions

Most psychological research shows that men and women consistently focus on personal relationships as the source of emotional pain. It is not hard to imagine that romantic relationships are among the top reasons people seek psychotherapy and counselling supports. Marriages, extra-marital affairs, consensual sexual arrangements, long-term committed partnerships and more are common causes of emotional pain when something goes awry. Relationships at work are also reported as troublesome and emotionally painful, but not the topic of focus in this blog.

Emotionally Painful Decisions take time to heal!!!

Many famous people in politics and hollywood have had to endure the consequences of personal adult decisions in public. Perhaps, this is the cost of fame albeit negatively impactful on the lives of innocent family members also affected by revelations, especially where previously shrouded in secrecy.

Our own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s political campaign was shadowed by the ghost of his father’s past. Pierre’s mature post-marital partnership with Deborah Coyne resulted in the birth of Sarah Elisabeth Coyne when Justin was 19 years old. In 1991, the then modern adult and consensual relationship was viewed as mutually caring and respectful. In fact, the decision to reserve the Trudeau surname for his three surviving sons seemed to be a progressive and thoughtful tribute to his own life as Prime Minister with Margaret and their young family. It cast Deborah in an equally progressive and respectful light acknowledging the mature nature of decision-making in her own romantic relationship with Pierre.

The interesting twist of Deborah’s decision to run as the leader of the Liberal Party at the same time as Justin was confusing to many. Certainly, her lifelong interest in law and politics, and her personal commitment to build a better Canada stands for itself. The manner in which the Canadian Press reported her political decisions was respectful in comparison to the humiliating tone used in politics by neighbours to our South. Canadian politics pales in comparison to the mean and sometimes viscious politics of our American neighbours.

Notwithstanding, a media analysis of the public treatment of the Deborah and Sarah Coyne would likely reveal layers of misogyny, gender-based bias and prejudice. From a psychotherapeutic perspective, I am reminded about the ways that emotional pain trickles down to people outside the intimate space of the bedroom where many of these adult decisions are made. Ironically, Pierre rose to fame in part by his declaration that “there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” His spontaneuos eloquence so easily summarized the sentiments of the time, and established a much-needed boundary between the personal & the public.

It is in this boundary between the personal and public that intrigues the work of a psychotherapist who regularly straddles this navigational space with clients in careful and deliberate ways. Certainly, adults have rights to engage in consensual decisions that best meet their personal needs. It is the psychological, social, and emotional impacts of personal adult decisions that may cause emotional pain for many years. Currently referred to as “collateral damage” in therapeutic circles, there are rippling effects to personal decisions for which you may not be prepared down the road.

Accessing a Clinical Supervisor to assist navigating this emotional space between the private and public, especially where other people involved including children may be hurt. Clinical supervision is an important step to ensure that your personal prejudices, biases, and values are explored while working on cases at hand. You may be triggered by work with individual clients actively engaged in an extra-martial affair, ethical non-monogamy, poly-amorous relationships, or casual sex. Romatic mores have changed sinced the 1970’s, but emotional pain has not.

In person counselling remains an essential service to individuals, couples, and families who carry their own personal pain, and perhaps, the residual emotional pain inherited from older adults and family members. Take your time and find the right therapist for you today.

Sunny dispositions deserve to shine!!!!

#healthy #wellness #InPersonCounselling #Whenyouareready #Covid19Compliant

The Gift of Motherhood

Birth of New Life

Today is a special day in North America and around the globe. It signifies a deserved pause in busy times to honour the woman who brought you to life. Of course, there are several exceptions to the bio-normative perspective of motherhood that includes adoption, surrogacy, step-parenthood, and foster parenting. A traditional feminist analysis of mothering expands the bio-normative procreative function of the female body to include mothering roles, which may or may not be performed by the woman who bore the new person into the world.

I was a relatively younger mother myself. Deciding to have my children prior to obtaining my Master of Social Work degree or establishing my chosen professional career. Like many women of my time, we were children of immigrants who came to Canada in search of the promise of the New World. We aspired to fulfill dreams of higher education that our parents believed would ensure that the New World would steer a better course than previous generations. I can only imagine the hope that fuelled my parents generations as they sailed across the Ocean to arrive in the Halifax habour. Many cousins sailed to Ellis Island in New York, all sharing dreams of New Beginnings as young men and women full of potential and dreams for a better life.

It was this vision of higher education that we children of immigrants strived to acheive. The view was that higher education would “teach” us to be better humans. A modern world where people communicate with eloquence, understanding and compassion. We had faith in rational models of problem solving, science, analysis, and deliberation. Our parents cautiously trusted insitutions of higher education, as they lived through the terrible & far reaching impacts of “eugenic sciences” in Europe.

Planning to have my children was the best decision of my life. Having two children twenty-months apart was a happy surprise that kept us on our toes. We had lots of help from my mother, sisters, family, and friends. There is something truly sublime in the simple, as many poets, philosophers, scientists, and artists have tried to capture and recreate over the years.

Perhaps, this sublime quality of all that is beautiful in the world will forever be beyond our human grasp. Nonetheless, we continue to try. It is this gift of hope that New Life heralds to mothers around the world. Motherhood is to me a shared experience that is both amazingly unique and common at the same time.

The cultural and geo-location of my personal experiences as Mom and everything else is shaped by my Italian roots. Fiercely identified as feminist in my views, the ongoing tension with mysogyny & patriarchy in my life and work remains. In humility, I gently nod Simone de Beauvoir’s magnum opus The Second Sex in 1949, and thank the academy for reminding “striving” women about its current relevance.

I remain a “striving” woman myself. It is my hope that being a Mother and “Striving” remains fluid. My genuine hope is that new mothers will find this balance to strive, achieve, and sustain all the while growing healthy, happy, and compassionate people. Happy Mother’s Day!!

Dr. Romano-Dwyer, CEO & Owner, Health & Wellness Affiliates Clinic

#wellness #balance #compassion #care #MothersDay #love #family