The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5
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The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5. Photo by Alexander Stanishev at UnsplashRead the Winter 2018/19 edition of The Accidental Existentialist, eTalkTherapy‘s quarterly online magazine now or download the PDF to read later. In this issue you will find great articles and new works by Point Park University journalism student Derek Malush, mental health professionals Támara Hill, Morgan Roberts, and Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk. Leave a comment to let us know what you think – Enjoy!

The winter sunset looms. The darkness gathers quickly, and the cold winds blow, but there kindles inside us a hopeful side to the long winter months. A flame remains in spite of its obscured existence. So here is my challenge to you, Dear Reader, stoke the flame.
May you head into the New Year believing you can make it a great year. Most  importantly, may you head into 2019 with a plan.

Great things in life seldom happen without resolve, energy and a creative spirit. The good stuff is the result of vision, strategy, hard work, and patience.

There’s some truth to what naysayers spout about resolutions, but the concept of resolutions is a good one. Used well and with good intent, they can provide the focus needed to turn goals into that ever elusive “new normal.”

We all have answers to what we want out of life. The problem is that we ask ourselves the wrong questions. Instead of asking “How?” or “Why?” try “When?” or “Where?”
Many people who’ve lost weight were rarely successful on the first or second try. Yet, they persevered.

If a goal is worth dreaming, it’s worth relentless effort and passion. Perseverance and resolve are key. Little in life is accomplished without them. So rather than abandon your New Year’s resolutions, add this one: “I resolve to keep my New Year’s resolutions.” Create a life worth living. Navigate those uncharted waters and stop being your own worst critic. Commitment counts. Remind yourself frequently of what you hope to achieve, and pursue it with urgency. Life is indeed short, with no guarantees. When does it start for you?

Have a Healthy and Happy New Year.

Peace,
Don

In this issue:


King. Me.
by Derek Malush

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Life is habitually referred to as a game. Numerous pieces, various rules, and the board on which we play is the ground we tread on.

Take chess for example. An intellectual’s game, which entails limitless hours of
practice to mature one’s strategy. I often amused the thought of chess as just
being an old person’s game. That when you see chess being played, it is, as
sappy indie films tell us, usually two older folks trying to out-duel one another
using their ripened wit and arduous tactics as if the rusted gates had just
dropped down on the beach of Normandy…Read more


Managing Family During the Holidays: 5 Roles to Avoid
by Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC, Owner at Anchored Child & Family Counseling

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How do you plan to spend the holiday this year? Are you dreading the family gatherings? If so, you are not alone.

Research suggests that the holidays are often a time of intense grief and feelings of loss, existential discomfort (discussed below), revisiting of traumatic experiences, overwhelm with materialism and commercialism, and the dispiriting conversations around the table…Read more


Midterm Elections 2018: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
by Morgan Roberts, MSPC

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2018 saw a historic midterm election. Though, let us be honest, every election is historic. It shapes our government for years, and possibly generations. I am looking at you, Senate, for confirming known-assaulter Brett Kavanaugh.

However, what we saw was a glimmer of hope, the realities of a rigged system, and you know, white people just being themselves. You are probably reading this, hinting at my personal bias here…Read more


Navigating the Holidays & Associated Emotions with Awareness
by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

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During the holiday season, images of a crisp snow covered lane, with the view into the frosted window of a warm and cozy home, the scene of a blazing fire, a long decorative table filled with scrumptious holiday delights, and loved one’s surrounding the table brings feelings of dissonance for many. The holidays absolutely have the potential to bring feelings of intimate experiences filled with belonging, exhilaration, sharing, and gathering with loved ones.

For many, however, there are increases in stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness, difficulties with grieving and loss, conflict, and contemplation…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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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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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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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. 

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Mindfulness, Does it Really Matter?

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

RING! BUZZ! RING! BUZZ!

There is a moment when you realize the sudden pulsing light is not part of your sweet, slumbering dream. Grasping at the air with foggy uncertainty, you reach out in a flopping seal like motion to silence the sound of your morning wake up call. Rolling out of bed you manage to overcome the almost Quixotic task of lumbering into the shower, and within a blink of an eye you are sitting at your work desk wondering “How did I get here?

More often than you’d like to admit, you often find yourself pointlessly functioning in the world around you. Looking back at the days, weeks, and even months, life sometimes seems to be a blurry mess. With all the modern-day challenges, you try to stay afloat within the abyss of past missteps and worries of an uncertain future. It’s no wonder you may feel like your life is moving at the speed of light. So what can you do to slow things down and enjoy the present or maybe even remember what happened last week? Folks, there is a reason this is called auto pilot, and we need a way out!

Most of us have heard about mindfulness, but what is it really? When you think about Mindfulness you want to create a state of consciousness in which you are solely aware of the present moment. With a calm mind, you acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. The focus is on the present moment, and releasing your past and future dwellings. In short, you can look at yourself with intention and in a nonjudgmental way to integrate mind and body and spirit.

What I have for you today are three simple techniques you can use to introduce Mindfulness into your daily routine.

1 – One Minute of Mindfulness

Mindfulness doesn’t require hours of meditating like a Tibetan monk. Instead, you want to create mindful moments throughout your day. You are going to need a timer for this exercise. What you want to do is take a seated spot with your feet flat on the floor, your back resting comfortably, and your hands in a relaxed position. After you start the timer, it is your task to focus on your breathing for one minute.

You may close your eyes or keep them open during this exercise. There is no wrong or right way to breath. If you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts, bring your attention back to your breathing. Remember, if you notice a thought creeping in and you begin to move away from focusing on your breathing, it is Okay. Bring your attention back to your breathing as many times as you need. Refocus on connecting your body and breath. Move within the moment back and forth to bring your attention back to your breathing.

2 – Mindful Eating

As you sit down to eat a meal, do attempt to remove any distractions to bring full attention to your eating experience. You want to connect your body with each of the five senses during this exercise.

Before eating your meal, visually explore your food noting the colors, shapes, and textures that you see. Next, call attention to the scent of your food. Notice the aroma and the sensation you feel as the scents move through your nose. Then bring your attention to touch, listening, and lastly introduce taste. Be mindful for the first 3 bites of your meal. Focus on the smell, texture, taste, and any changes you may experience as you chew your food. Explore each of your senses. Savor the moment with an intention to experience solely through your senses.

3 – Pause and Observe

Choose a moment of the day and find a place that feels right for you. Once you feel you are ready, take a moment to pause and look at your surroundings. In this moment, you are intentionally choosing to focus on your environment.

Simply observe. Notice where your attention brings you as you use your eyes to observe your environment. Try to notice without judgment, without critique.  Continue to observe for as long as you like, and stay present in the moment. During this exercise allow enough time for your body to naturally adjust and relax.

Whether you are attempting to learn a new technique, to be more productive, or to find alternative ways to ground yourself in your busy lifestyle using mindfulness is a great tool to help you stop smell and the roses. Next time we will explore three additional steps to help you on your path to self awareness.

Avanti,
Christina