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The Accidental Existentialist Issue 4

Read the FALL 2018 edition of The Accidental Existentialist now or download it to read later. In this issue you will find great articles by mental health professionals Morgan Roberts, Christina Pettinato and Don Laird, as well as freelance writer Aurora Starr. We would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below – Enjoy!

Through autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way. You always loved this time of year.
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now that you’re not here…”
~ Justin Hayward

The Accidental Existentialist Fall 2018 Issue 4

A crisp autumn sky, crackling bonfires and brilliant colors floating delicately toward the ground, inspire many people to gather and celebrate the season. Yet, as always, there is a twinge of bitter-sweetness and sorrow as the year takes one final and glorious bow before it fades into the darkness and isolation of winter. Logically, we know that with spring new life will emerge from death.

Still, autumn is a conscious (or perhaps unconscious) reminder of our own mortality. A time when in spite of the colors and all the pumpkin deserts and drinks, we must acknowledge the brightness of our days is framed by the vividness and wisdom of our nights. The youthfulness of spring and summer now give way to the remembrance of all things lost, but not forgotten. All things must pass, and we are fortunate enough to recognize this as we move forward to the end of the seasons and ultimately the splendid finality of this mortal coil.

Enjoy the season. Drink in its grace and grandeur. Winter is indeed coming, but life continues.

Peace,
Don

In this issue:


Alice
by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineAlice was dead. A client I had known for only a short time, but her words still drifted across my consultation room as if they were just spoken. A slight, yet radiant smile, matched by hands confidently holding a mug of tea as she imparted the bittersweet details of a lifetime, mere shadows; wistful ghosts conjured on cue. Somehow, Alice had it figured out. Centuries of philosophical thoughts, tomes of written conjecture, all debating the questions of life and their ultimate meanings, yet none of it seemed as authentic or grounded as a 68-year old woman’s journey from Point A to Point Z, and all stop in-between. Read more…


Q&A with Therapist Christina Pettinato

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Christina (pictured above) adds her personal message to a “Before I Die…Wall in Cleveland, OH. This Wall is part of a series of interactive public art projects created by artist Candy Chang to encourage and inspire communities to share their stories and dreams in a public forum.

Through meaningful conversation and mindful discourse, you and I will embark on a journey toward change and purpose. Together we will navigate your issues in life through problem-solving techniques, self exploration and reflection. With you, my hope is to map out opportunities for growth, awareness, authenticity and mindfulness.” Read more…


Navigating the World in the #TimesUp Era
by Morgan Roberts, MSPC

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After The New Yorker and later The New York Times published bombshell reports of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assaults, we have been in the midst of a paradigm. A paradigm is a major shift in thought and behavior. Biological science was drastically changed by Darwin. Psychics was drastically changed by Hawking. Likewise, there are social shifts which have caused dramatic changes in society. We live in a different era with a different mindset than we did pre-Vietnam, pre-Columbine, pre-9/11, pre-Obama, pre-Trump. Yet, there has been no paradigm shift that has directly impacted me as the Weinstein allegations and the events which followed. Read more…


5 Films with an Existential Motif
by Aurora Starr

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Existentialism is an analysis of human existence and the value and consequence of human choice. “Existence proceeds essence” with an aversion to any method designed to define humankind in a systematic or empirical way. In short, it is a philosophy concerned with finding meaning through free will, choice, and personal responsibility; a confrontation with existence by an exploration of death and meaning.

Hereafter, through the beauty of Netflix and Hulu, is a list of five films that highlight existential motifs in pure celluloid magic. Read more…


Do you have an idea for an article or would you like to contribute to our magazine?

This is your opportunity to submit educational and informative content that promotes growth in all aspects of mental health issues from an existential or humanistic perspective. Upon publication of your article, you will receive a $25 stipend.

Submit your queries at eTalkTherapy.com/submit.

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Life Lessons

Coping with a Pet Emergency

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

You walk through your front door and notice your furry friend isn’t there to greet you. You think, “That’s odd,” but continue with a routine of dropping your purse, locking the door, and kicking your shoes off. Again, you think “Where is she? No greeting? No sassy glare? This isn’t right.” And so, the search begins. You notice she isn’t in her favorite kitty box, on the windowsill, or in her chosen chair. Initial concern morphs into concerned and frantic thinking. You finally find her lying in the corner of a room that she normally avoids like the plague. You scratch a favorite spot behind her ear and she barely lifts her head to look at you. An internal alarm rings and it’s scary, as you realize something is terribly wrong. A member of your family is ill, and you feel helpless and frightened.

When you sign up for a lifetime of love you hardly think of the day your beloved pet will become ill. Thoughts like that seem almost unimaginable. Cohabitating with a furry friend is about the joy, the happiness, and all that other good stuff, right? Of course, but life is unavoidable, and our friends do get sick and do eventually leave us. It is never easy to see someone you love not feeling well. It is even harder to know if you are making the right decision to help your pet feel better.

So when I found myself facing this scary situation about a week ago, here is some helpful advice I followed that helped me to cope with such an emergency:

  1. Be prepared
    It really pays off to have a plan.  This allows for direct intervention and lessens the in-action choices we must make in moments like this.  Some ways to prepare are knowing the address and phone number of an emergency veterinarian in your area.  The last thing you want is mad search through the internet for to locate a reputable pet ER while you and your friend are in distress.  More importantly, if you are proactive and take this step you will have time to ask your veterinarian what animal hospitals they partner with and trust.  This will ease your anxiety regarding the quality of care for your friend.
  1. Breathe, try to breathe
    Your deep breathing practices will come in handy during this stressful time.  When you are suddenly confronted with your friend not feeling so well, begin taking some deep breaths.  Try to focus on your breathing by slowly breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Remember, the slower your breathing becomes the calmer your body will be.  Deep breathing will help support your ability to think clearly and be an effective decision maker, which your pet needs you to be.  If deep breathing is a novel idea for you, try practicing it as a part of your daily routine. This will add to your repertoire of calming strategies during times of increased stress and worry.
  1. Try to avoid the internet
    Internet searches are not always helpful! We all do it, as much as we consciously know this will cause more worry we attempt the inevitable internet search to find out what is wrong. Being overloaded with symptoms and a faux diagnosis isn’t helpful. Not only will this give you more things to stress about, but it will create pressure you and your furry friend don’t need right now. Instead, put trust in your Veterinarian. Leave it to the experts who have a working knowledge of your pet. They are trained professionals and have more experience thank any internet search.
  1. Reach out to someone
    This can be a stressful and anxious time. There is so much uncertainty and you can’t help but question the choices you are making. “Am I making the right decision. Did I choose the right vet? Am I keeping my pet safe?”  This is a tough place to be in.  Try finding an empathetic ear, someone who will listen to your story, thoughts, and feelings.  This can be a friend, family member, or even your therapist.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.  Whether this is scheduling shifts to help take care of your pet, sitting in the ER waiting with you, or just being a person’s hand, you need hold on to.

Experiencing fear and anxiety during this time is a normal reaction.  Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings but know that they don’t have to take control.  If you are experiencing stress or anxiety about your pet’s health or grief over the loss of your beloved friend, contact us. We’re hear to listen.

Avanti,
Christina

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Everyday Therapy

The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

A Series of Articles: 1 of 6 – The Reality of Being Human

This is the first in a series of 6 articles relating to developing quality relationships and the associated, at times, painstaking issues to consider along the way. An individual has choices as to who s/he has a relationship with, to what degree, and in what manners to engage. This includes the degree to which an individual engages with family, friends, romantic partners, and within the community.

It’s important to consider that those an individual chooses to have a relationship with will engage in different roles at different times. First, it is important to consider meeting a level of your own needs. At times, individuals have difficulty developing the skills it takes to nurture one’s self. A combination of a quality relationship with one’s self and different types of mutual relationships to assist one whole human (you) and give the opportunities to work towards relationships where two or more humans help enhance, nurture, strengthen, and balance each other in healthy ways. In today’s society, life has the propensity to become busy. A great way to stay connected is by taking time to call, text, check in on one another, and/or set up a lunch date; each are important factors in maintaining a relationship. Relationships take work, which increases commitment, investment, and value.  Relationships benefit from being nurtured and having the opportunities for growth, change (this is an important facet), mutual support, laughter, increase listening skills and being heard, and the numerous psychological and physiological benefits associated with each.

At times, humans appear to sacrifice the opportunities to have higher quality relationships- one’s that are mutual, positive, nurturing, fun, supportive, and giving from each person in the relationship. Many times, this brings a person into therapy seeking out support, healing, and learning ways to build strong, positive, and supportive relationships.

Consider the following and how each applies to your current relationships:

  1. Who do you have relationships with & who do you avoid relationships with? What are your motivations for each?
  2. Do you take the opportunities to build relationships with family, friends, and within community?
  3. Does fear and/or anxiety contribute to limiting the opportunities to create mutually caring relationships; if so, in what ways?
  4. What type of relationship(s) do you desire in your life? How will each enhance your growth as a person?

The Realities of Being Human

At times, a person experiences neglect and/or trauma throughout childhood and/or in an adult relationship (this includes romantic partners), and the immense amount of pain associated with interpersonal relationships containing the above mentioned behaviors. Many times, clients feel a level of obligation to have a relationship with a person even after what happened throughout the relationship or is currently a part of an individual’s daily environment; which obstructs growth, development, and contributes to physiological and psychological issues over time. Seeking out therapy assists an individual in processing what happened and is happening internally, contributes to healing the immense pain, and moving forward from, many times, decades of harm.

An individual will then have the opportunity to choose to continue the relationship as it is and find ways to cope with the trauma, stress, and/or anxiety, to minimize interactions while benefiting from a shift to lighter subjects that are void of a deeper connection (which many times exist only from one person), or to cease the relationship entirely.  Each are associated with a psychological process and a high level of pain that benefits from long-term therapy. Many clients experience the memories and contend with the pain and/or rumination of a harmful relationship; many times, as if it was happening currently.  For many, even thoughts of healthier relationships evoke fear, anxiety, and cognitive dissonance. During the therapeutic process, internal healing begins and assists clients with allowing one’s self to move towards a healthier set of relationships in the future.

Consider the following:

  1. Do you give yourself permission to love, miss, or have a level of affection for a person knowing the relationship is best kept as part of a past learning experience- even if it was a difficult one or would benefit from change moving forward?

    Many times, this is where realistic expectations and healing begin.  The thoughts and feelings associated with any significant relationship take time to decrease in intensity, whether a family member, close friend, or romantic partner.

  1. Are there behavioral health or mental health issues that make it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship for either individual or for each person involved?

    It’s important to seek individual therapy, couples therapy, and/or family therapy to learn how work together in positive manners and communicate well- including difficult times.

Most individuals, engaging in relationships consider the differences of being human, while working towards developing relationships that encompass respect, appreciation, a level of graciousness, communication, support, acceptance and adaptation during change, and growth. Each will be discussed throughout the 6 part series. COMING SOON: article 2 of 6 in the series: How Respect & Appreciation Increase Rewarding Relationships.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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Existential GPS

Six Ways to Beat the Summer-time Blues

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Summertime blues? Seriously? The answer is yes, and it’s more common than you might think. The kids are out of school and they have two questions on their minds, “Can we go to the pool now?” and “What can I eat next?” Your lawn has taken on a creepy “I will be overgrown regardless of your efforts” attitude. Your neighbors ask “Is it hot enough for you?” at least twice a day.  And if you hear one more person tell you about their family’s vacation plans, you will personally run over their GPS with your lawn mower (should it decide to start today).

The heat is oppressive, the air conditioner is working overtime to make sure your electric bill surpasses the national debt and your “bored” kids are home for 90 consecutive days. In short, you’re miserable.

Ian A. Cook, MD, the director of the Depression Research Program at UCLA discusses five causes of summer depression in an article published by WebMD:

1. Summertime SAD.

You’ve probably heard about seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which affects about 4% to 6% of the U.S. population. SAD typically causes depression as the days get shorter and colder. But about 10% of people with SAD get it in the reverse — the onset of summer triggers their depression symptoms. Cook notes that some studies have found that in countries near the equator – like India – summer SAD is more common than winter SAD.

2. Disrupted schedules in summer.

If you’ve experienced depression before, you probably know that having a reliable routine is beneficial for keeping symptoms in check. But during the summer, routine goes out the window — and that disruption can be stressful, Cook says. If you have children in school, you’re suddenly faced with the prospect of keeping them occupied all day, every day. If your kids are in college, you may suddenly find them — and all their boxes of stuff — back in the house after a nine-month absence. Vacations can disrupt your work, sleep, and eating habits — all of which can all contribute to summer depression.

3. Body image issues.

As the temperature climbs and the layers of clothing fall away, a lot of people feel terribly self-conscious about their bodies, says Cook. Feeling embarrassed in shorts or a bathing suit can make life awkward, not to mention hot. Since so many summertime gatherings revolve around beaches and pools, some people start avoiding social situations out of embarrassment.

4. Financial worries.

Summers can be expensive. There’s the vacation, of course. And if you’re a working parent, you may have to fork over a lot of money to daycare, summer camps or babysitters to keep your kids occupied while you’re on the job. The expenses can add to a feeling of summer depression.

5. The heat.

Lots of people relish the sweltering heat. They love baking on a beach all day. But for the people who don’t, summer heat can become truly oppressive. You may start spending every weekend hiding out in your air-conditioned bedroom, watching pay-per-view until your eyes ache. You may begin to skip your usual before-dinner walks because of the humidity. You may rely on unhealthy takeout because it’s just too stifling to cook. Any of these things can contribute to summer depression.

So, just what can you do about the summertime blues?

1. Get on a schedule.

A month or so before school year ends, get out your calendar and start marking it up. The kids will go to this camp during this week. I will be able to work from 8 to 3 on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. I will swim in the morning on these days. You get the point.

2. Plan something fun.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. Plan something enjoyable every few weeks to keep motivated and moving forward. Something that can give you an ounce of joy can also carry you through many hot summer afternoons.

3. Sleep.

It’s important to maintain a steady sleep schedule in the summer. That is, even though the day’s events are changing from week to week, make sure to keep your sleep schedule the same: go to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every morning, and don’t sleep much less than 7 hours and no more than 9 hours a night. When depressed, it’s common to want to sleep as much as you can, to kill the hours. However, extra sleep does increase symptoms related to depression.

4. Exercise.

During the summer months it’s easy to abandon any exercise program that you’ve been disciplined enough to start since the oppressive heat can be dangerous, if not terribly unappealing. So before the heat sets in, design a plan you can stick with that won’t make you literally stick to everything else. I will run early in the morning during the summer, before the humidity sets in, and I will try to swim more often.

5. Be around people.

As tempting as it is to isolate in the cool comfort of central AC during the summer, forcing yourself outside to be around people — even if you don’t join the discussion — is going to assist your mood and especially the ruminations that get your into trouble. If you don’t want to leave your air-conditioned home, at least make yourself call one person on a daily basis — a sibling, friend, or co-worker — to stay connected to the world.

6. Stay Hydrated

This seems like a no-brainer, but dehydration occurs more often than you think. Avoid caffeinated sodas, coffee, teas, and sugary sports drinks. H20 is the way to go. It boosts your immune system by flushing out toxins and promotes balance in your body’s natural chemistry.

In good health,
Don

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Hello Universe

Was It Something I Said?

By Aurora Starr

I rarely apologize anymore. Why? Because saying you’re sorry is the new black. “Sorry” means nothing if it is overused, disingenuous or a faux plea of ignorance. Today so many feel compelled to apologize ad nauseum. “I’m sorry for eating the last slice.” No, you’re not. “I’m sorry, BUT…” Wow, that’s heartfelt. “I’m sorry for hitting on your best friend.” No, you’re sorry you got caught.

So, when a person commented in typical social media fashion (one or two brief sentences with no backup or backbone) on one of my recent posts, I was not surprised. I was called: “Petty, immature and unoriginal.

Well, my first reaction was to reply to her comment with an old and timeless classic of my own: “F**k you.” Perhaps my manners won out, or maybe the Vodka hadn’t kicked in yet, but my sober mind prevailed and I refrained from joining her in verbal fisticuffs. Then came the second and final sentence of her insightful manifesto, “I can’t believe this person is a therapist.” First of all, I never claimed I was. Had she bothered to read the entire blog or any number of my other posts, she would have figured that one out all on her own. However, her uninformed remark did force the editors of this blog to post a disclaimer about my non-therapist credentials. I don’t blame them. It seems people are overly sensitive these days. Or are they?

I WILL STATE THE FOLLOWING IN BIG LETTERS SO THE TROLLS WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL POST.  DO NOT WASTE MY TIME OR THE EDITORS’ TIME BY TRYING TO MAKE IT ONE. I’m not treading on your First Amendment Rights, either. You have an opinion? Wonderful and good for you! Now go share it with the people who already think like you. There, I’m done. Happy places, everyone. Happy places, I say!

Maybe it isn’t that people are more sensitive these days. Maybe it’s that people have bigger and multiple platforms with which to tell you the effects of your actions and words or at least their opinions about them. People haven’t suddenly become more sensitive, they have suddenly become able to let you know how they feel or what they think in real time. Opinions are not inherently bad, but they aren’t facts either. This isn’t new and it isn’t groundbreaking. What is interesting is that opinions are like apologies, they mean nothing if they are not thought out, contain less than three actual sentences or consist exclusively of preconceived talking points.

The world hasn’t changed, but the amount of meaningless fodder you have about it has. Regardless of what your opinion is on whether or not people are overly sensitive isn’t much more different now than it was before. It’s just that now Bob in Kansas (#Sorry Bob and Kansas…) can co-opt someone else’s platform to spout off whatever he likes or dislikes, and it may not be something we agree with or, in fact, may be misinformed, racist, sexist or just plain stupid. Thanks, Bob.

If the current trends in our culture have taught me anything it is this, we have ignored each other for far too long. I want a fair exchange of ideas, not talking points. Discourse and civilization thrive when we engage in respectful dialogue, and not through impulsive reactions to a blog post written from personal lived experiences. In short, you don’t get to throw shit on my “wall” and then walk away. Can we instead talk and learn from each other? If your answer is yes, then I am in. And for this I will never say “Sorry.”

Shine brightly,
Aurora

Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, not a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own. However, if you are easily offended then Aurora’s blog may not be for you.