Jaqueline Lapa Sussman, MS, LPC
Sex permeates the culture of our children through music, ads, television, shows, films and the Internet. What not so long ago was considered vulgar and pornographic is now viewed as normal and acceptable. Movie stars and popular singers who are our children’s role models dress in sexually explicit and provocative ways. The lyrics of their songs, movie and television themes, and magazine ads are sexually overt and provocative in order to sell the products. Images of women with exposed cleavages sell toothpaste, nearly naked men and women in suggestible sexual poses sell perfume. Sex is bombarded at our teens sending them the message that to be sexual is to be cool and acceptable. We have come a long way from the days when I was a child where the most popular TV show, “Leave It To Beaver” showed his parents, Ozzie and Harriet sleeping in flannel buttoned up pajamas in separate twin beds. The overemphasis on sexuality robs our youth later on in their lives of the experience of the sacredness and sensitivity of sexuality with love and deep intimacy with another.
True Abundance Is Found In The Heart
No matter what we buy or how much material wealth we achieve, we'll keep feeling empty if we donft find fulfillment from within. External measures of success only fulfill us if they are a product of the expressions of our heart's essence. Celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson provide classic illustrations of this. They had beauty, fame, money and talent, but didn't sufficiently love themselves and couldn't fill their emptiness, even with all the adulation, fame, and wealth at their disposal.
For this month, I am excited to share an interview I conducted with a dear and longtime friend, Penelope Young Andrade. Penelope is a masterful and gifted psychotherapist, whose fantastic book, "Emotional Medicine Rx" details the importance of restoring the ability to experience all of one's emotions for complete health in both body and mind. She describes how symptoms such as depression and anxiety, as well as psychosomatic illnesses, are rooted in unfelt emotions that have been suppressed from past traumas. She also illustrates how problematic physical, mental and emotional symptoms can be overcome in practical steps that not only eliminate symptoms, but facilitate peace, equanimity and wellbeing.
When I recently meditated upon the Dalai Lama’s words about the role of women today, his sentiments confirmed the vital contribution women have made to all areas of society since the advent of feminism. When I grew up in the 1950s, it was rare to find examples of women in positions of leadership. Whether on TV, in magazines, or on the silver screen, the images of women promoted by the media conformed to the notion of “the weaker sex” requiring the protection and support of a man. Today, however, we’ve come a long way from this “Betty Crocker” vision of women. As we all know, women are increasingly assuming leadership roles that had previously been reserved for men, from corporate America, politics, and the business sector to social activism, human rights, medicine and science. As women continue to make vital and powerful contributions to their chosen fields, however, this transition from male to female social influence must be better framed and understood.
Author’s Note: I write a monthly column for Total Health focusing on Eidetic Image Psychology. But for the current issue, I decided to interview my husband, Richard Sussman, a psychotherapist and social worker who specializes in healing marriages and relationships scarred by infidelity. As we spoke, I became increasingly conscious of the difficult web of emotional and psychological factors that each partner faces when dealing with an affair. Based upon years of experience working with couples, his perspective encompasses a much more complex understanding than the conventional wisdom might suggest, moving beyond a framework of guilt and blame toward mutual compassion, understanding and trust. I hope that his insights will not only help couples currently struggling with the pain of infidelity, but will inspire everyone interested in strengthening the bonds of love.
FALLING IN LOVE IS A BLISSFUL LIFE-ALTERING EVENT. It seems to strike us out of the blue. We go along in our daily lives and then meet someone to whom we are at first indifferent, or who may seem interesting in some way. Then suddenly, for no explicable reason, we see them in a new light. It is as if we have been struck by Cupid’s arrow and become dazed. We have fallen in love. Reason flies out the window and we are overcome by erotic feelings, passion and desire. We see the person’s unique beauty and find ourselves deeply drawn to them. We begin to think of them night and day and can’t get them out of our mind. That first “hit” of Eros, when we realize we have fallen in love, is a time where we see the best of the person and feel the best within ourselves. It is an idyllic time where passion and desire, two very powerful forces in the human psyche, overtake us. Our spirits soar. It is a magical time of being enveloped in the mystery of falling in love.
Physical illness is not an isolated incidence that is separate from one’s mental and emotional states. In fact, thoughts and attitudes trigger physiological conditions. For example, when we have a fearful thought, this thought instantly releases “fear” chemicals to specific locations in our bodies. As a result, we experience rushes of panic in our faces or chests. Similarly, when we have hopeful thoughts, chemicals are released that produce the experience of optimism, which might be felt in our hearts expanding with sensations of joy.
Feeling fulfilled in one’s work and personal wellness is interconnected. When we do things we feel passionate about we enter into states of high energy that promotes positive health, which involves one’s mind, body and spirit. The mind engages in subtle, complex and powerful interactions with the body, so it comes as no surprise that emotional and mental well-being are directly linked to physical health.
To be whole or, healthy, means, our thoughts, feelings and actions are in harmony with each other. We are doing things in the world we find joy in and things that are in tune with our innermost feelings. This is especially important in our work lives, which accounts for nearly one half (or more) of our waking lives. True success in our work is not just by gaining material possessions or status. It is also measured by the feeling of high energy and exuberance we often experience in what we do and in what we give to others in the course of our work: that feeling in turn also nourishes our soul.
|"A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."¨
All of the worlds’ spiritual and wisdom traditions instruct us to live in accordance with our soul’s deepest intentions in order to live a fulfilled life. These “soul intentions” come to us in the midst of our busy lives when we do something that elevates our spirit. For example, we might take a moment to feel gratitude for the things we have in our life, rather than only focusing on what we want or lack. We might suddenly be moved to give money to a homeless person on the street, or we might donate our seat to an elderly person on a train. We might be the first to end a fight with someone we love by taking responsibility for our part in the misunderstanding. In business, we might make a deal that is a win-win for everyone involved instead of striving for our own personal gain. In all these interactions, our hearts open, our spirits surge, and we feel good about ourselves and the world around us. We might not realize, however, that these soulful actions are just as good for our physical health as they are for our spirits.
As parents we may think that by loving, spending time with, communicating, and properly disciplining our children we hold the key to their optimal development. This is true, since parents are their children’s strongest role models. However, more fundamental to the formation of our child’s personality development is not simply our child rearing techniques, but who we are as a person. Our own behaviors and attitudes are the primary influences that shape our children’s sense of self, whether we are aware of these or not.
Contained within our psyches is a storehouse of natural strength, vitality, creativity, and power. We are all born whole and complete with unique gifts and natural abilities. Each of us has an inherited genetic blueprint of distinct potentials stored within our brains, which holds our pure untainted nature. As babies, we are born whole and complete with all our powers intact. Babies and toddlers interact with the world with joy, playfulness, curiosity, openness and express the truth of what they are feeling, whether in laughter, tears, tantrums or just saying “no” to something they don’t want to do. They are free and unencumbered. If nurtured properly, their abilities and strengths naturally grow and flourish. However, as we grow and interact with the world, life’s inevitable disappointments, conflicts and painful experiences can intrude upon us and inhibit the free expression of our potential. Thus, our natural gifts become obstructed in subtle or overt ways.
We have often heard all the answers to our most important questions are inside us. We are told by all of the world’s spiritual traditions that by following our truth, inner voice, or intuitive knowing, we can find within ourselves the answers to life’s problems. And we know even when we seek advice from others, acceptance of their counsel must first be congruent with our own inner sense. Nevertheless, connecting to our innate knowing is difficult to attain at times, especially when we find ourselves in situations where we feel blocked, hopeless or trapped.
Most of us have heard of, and perhaps have even used, the phrase “stream of consciousness,” but what exactly does it mean? Typically, people use the phrase to describe a series of thoughts they have or statements they make which seem to flow automatically, from one to the other; and they are right to a certain extent. In 1892, William James, the famous psychologist, first used the term to describe the unbroken flow of thought and awareness of the waking mind. James defined this stream of consciousness as the full range of thoughts one experiences from moment to moment. As such, a stream of consciousness includes, in addition to one’s thoughts, all attendant sense perceptions, all of which intermingle with our conscious, and half-conscious experiences and random associations.
The most beautiful thing we experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
Creativity can be defined as the process whereby a person creates something new and original. When we think of creativity we naturally think of people such as artists, authors, actors, photographers and filmmakers. However, while there are certainly different types and levels of creativity everyone has the natural inborn ability to be creative no matter what they do. Most of us are creative every day, but we don’t realize it. Creativity can be found in a sales person adding a new twist to a sale’s pitch, in a financial planner choosing an investment portfolio for a client, in a teacher designing a lecture for their students, or in a cook modifying a favorite recipe. Creativity is an ongoing regenerating experience in all that we do.
The leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women is coronary disease, which most often takes the form of a heart attack.
The heart is one of the most important organs in the human body. It is a pump composed of muscle, which circulates blood throughout the body, carrying all the vital materials that help our bodies function removing unnecessary waste products. The entire body is governed by the heart. If one’s ankle hurts, it “throbs” with pain as the heartbeat is experienced there. The heartbeat is felt even in one’s fingers and toes, which are farthest from the heart. Without an abundant and continuous blood supply, circulated by the heart in proper rhythm, the body weakens and dies.
Valentine’s Day conjures up images in our minds of Eros, love and sensuality. It is a day where lovers give each other cards, flowers and gifts expressing their love for each other. It is remarkable that an entire day of the year is set aside to celebrate erotic love, the strong compelling force between two people that combines love and sexual desire.
Erotic love is a vastly different from the love of a parent for a child or the love between siblings or friends. Face it: erotic love “sizzles” and speaks to mankind’s universal desire for physical and spiritual union. It evokes—and unleashes—potent and passionate emotions from deep within the human psyche.
People who succeed physically as well as mentally, such as major league athletes, famous dancers and award winning entertainers, are imbued with feelings and states of inspiration that are deeply personal to them. Some successful celebrities are not aware of what inspires them to excel, while others utilize the sources of their inspiration to motivate and propel themselves to enormous feats of achievement. This latter group typically cites dramatic examples of deep personal inspiration.
Susan and Bob were seated opposite me in my office. They were there because they could not agree on many family matters, including child-raising and money management. They constantly quarreled, engaged in power struggles, and endlessly blamed each other for trying to win the other over to their point of view. Consequently, the couple’s fights typically ended in mutual anger and emotional distancing, with both parties hurt from feeling misunderstood.
Powerlessness has been described as the feeling of lacking power, feeling helpless, ineffectual, unable to persuade or hold someone’s interest, or feeling voiceless. Often, it is a learned behavior from childhood. For example, a child who was not allowed to express himself freely in the house he grew up in now finds himself unable to speak up for himself at work. Even though, his parents no longer have control over him, the imprint in his mind of this life experience lives on and he continues to repeat his childhood experience in his adult life.
In the last issue of totalhealth, I published an article called “What is Autism,” which described Dr. Ahsen’s innovative method of treating autism. The following is a real success story that describes a cure of autism symptoms through working with a methodology developed by Dr. Akhter Ahsen, originator of Image Psychology and author of more than 30 books.
In “What is Autism” I used the word ecology to describe autistic children’s highly sensitive genetic predispositions and the way they interact with their environments. I suggested that the environment or “ecology” around autistic children impacts them more strongly than it does others of a less gifted and susceptible nature. In fact, the article reveals that the individuals who are most prone to developing autism fall along the most brilliant, imaginative and sensitive side of the human spectrum. Due to their highly responsive minds, these children absorb life’s interactions in a deeply acute manner, leaving them more wounded by the exchanges that other children can easily brush off.