Women reading a book
Christy Gualtieri

Our Special Faults

“A year seems very long to wait before I see them, but remind them that while we wait we may all work, so that these hard days need not be wasted. I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.” – A letter from Father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

For Mother’s Day this year, my husband took our kids out to give me some much-desired alone time; and with my quiet house, I did what any sensible mother would do with two hours in a row of time on her hands: I watched Little Women (the BBC adaptation is especially lovely) and cried my eyes out. It wasn’t my first time seeing this version, but I particularly love the sweeping, gorgeous cinematography and how well Marmee’s character was portrayed, and one little bit that I hadn’t thought about much last time I saw it really stood out to me this time. It was in a letter the little women get from their father, who is serving as a military chaplain in the Civil War:

“…will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully…”

Bosom enemies? I didn’t really know what that meant, but I understood the concept of “conquering myself” – trying to overcome my faults in order to be a better person.  From what I understand, the term “bosom enemies” refers to those things which particularly harm us, those special vices that we tend to struggle with more than others. If I spend some time thinking about mine, I can come up with my list fairly easily, but what really struck me was the fighting them part.  I can identify and list what my vices are, but am I actively doing anything to fight them? I’ll admit, it’s taken me a lot of years to even figure out what the heck they are, thanks in no small part to the work I’ve done in therapy over the last ten years, but now that I know what they are and what to do about them, am I following through?

The answer is… not always yes.  

I do try, of course, but most times I’m just content with the idea that I know what my struggles are. I do forget, though, that just labeling it is not enough. I think there is a great freedom in knowing that we do have what it takes to conquer what’s worst about ourselves, even if we don’t have it yet. It’s a skill we can learn to develop, with time and patience and knowledge of who we are. We can start small too, and over time, we can grow out of – and eventually conquer – those things about ourselves that give us the most trouble. (Disclaimer: I’m not referring to the physical aspect of mental illnesses, like chemical imbalances and things like that that are treated with medication. If your condition requires medical treatment, please make sure to follow your doctor’s orders!)

So, what about you? What are your bosom enemies, those special faults” unique to you that you know you can change? How can you fight them? The girls of Little Women resolved hard to grow out of them, and as they grew up they succeeded! Their example still serves us well, 150 years later. We can do it, too! 

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineAbout the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Two women having a conversation with coffee
Christy Gualtieri

Words Matter, Choose Good Ones

I don’t know if this is a trait more particular to women than men, but when I am struggling with an idea or wrestling with my feelings, I like to talk about them. I need to use words to figure out what I’m thinking, like the words themselves help me navigate how I’m feeling about things. And last week was a tough week. I was grappling with some issues that were really near and dear to my heart and my community. And much like me, the people in that community dealt with those same difficult and confusing issues by talking.

But you know how it is when people talk: it can very easily go from “let’s work this issue out,” to “here’s a bunch of hurtful words.” The transition from mercy to gossip can be really quick, almost like a current. Before you know it, you’re swept away in the feelings of anger, disgust, and confusion that can threaten to swallow you whole if you’re not careful.

And, to be honest with you, it’s hard to be careful with what we say. It’s hard to think first and add to the conversation later. It’s natural: we want to be heard. We want to be validated, we want to be right. It’s hard to override that impulse to have our voices heard, even if the things we say can be hurtful or mean. I personally struggle a lot with where the line is between venting and gossip. But I do know that gossip hurts. I have gossiped and been the one gossiped about. And I have felt terribly on both sides.

But then, a wonderful thing happened. I called a friend of mine I haven’t spoken to in years (not on purpose; it had just been a while). I asked for advice, and I got some wonderful encouragement. I was challenged – but lovingly – and I was able to voice my concerns, and as I hung up the phone, I felt better than I had felt in days.

This is important: I didn’t see my friend. I spoke on the phone with them. But just the same, their words – those lifted me up. They were life-giving. They were affirming, and they made a difference.

What you say is important, and the words you use carry a great power to them, even if you don’t think so. And so I want to offer you a little challenge: for the next few days, make an effort to speak carefully. Just take a minute before talking – a small pause, not even a full minute – and even if what you have to say is difficult, try as hard as you can to say those words with love.  Then simply observe. Observe how you feel. Observe how the other person reacts.

Sometimes it’s tempting to think that we aren’t good enough; that what we say doesn’t matter. But it does – even the small things (especially the small things). Thank you for all the times that your words have brought life, joy, and encouragement to another person. That will inspire them to speak in kind, and remember that their words will help you too, one day.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineAbout the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online
Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk

Part 2: Engaging Academically and Socially in College and Grad School

A Comprehensive 2 Part Guide: Eleven Areas to Consider to be Successful throughout College and Graduate School

Part 2: Focusing on the Social Engagement

Part two of this comprehensive guide focuses on the social engagement of academic relationships and the long-term growth experienced throughout.  Take a few moments to check out Part 1: Focusing on the Academics.

  1. Some professors will be more interesting than others. Each has a different personality, temperament, level of structure to the course, and teaching style. Whether s/he is funny, boring, or runs around wearing a cape, understand that they’re human and come with their own weird quirks too. With that being said, if you build a solid relationship with a professor, take them again, and if you don’t, consider that you’re only with this person for one semester and move forward from there.
  1. Ask questions! Use your voice – respectfully. At times, individuals will feel nervous talking with professors or had a difficult experience where it felt like the professor didn’t want bothered. Working through the nervousness and asking questions is extremely important. It will help with your academic success long-term! Many questions and the need for clarifications arise in the years of academia. Go directly to your professor. Most will take the time and want to help you. Plus, this assists with increasing your communication skills.
  1. Personal issues occur from time to time. Most are manageable. However there may be times where balancing personal issues and academics is difficult for students. At times, I will recommend finding ways to focus on academics during difficult times.  Yes, the last thing you want to do. Each semester, I talk with and support students contending with personal issues – many professors do. It’s important to balance your commitments with your goals. For example, the probability of success increases by carving out time in an environment where you feel productive. This may be on campus, in the library, at home, and/or a local coffee shop. Reflect on what works for you when you’re experiencing lower stress levels and do your best to apply this in short to moderate segments. Many times, you’ll feel your motivation return and continue making progress.
  1. Anxiety, whether General Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and/or test anxiety with the associated stress of each are experienced by students each semester. It feels extremely consuming and overwhelming for most. At times, even making small changes such as coming prepared to classes and turning in your work on time help minimize anxiety. In addition, practice deep breathing, and work towards building your confidence as a person and academically. It’s important to allow yourself to tolerate discomfort while learning ways to cope with and minimize anxiety, and to remind yourself that you’re in a safe environment. This is an extensive subject and if this is an area you’re struggling with, you’re welcome to contact eTalkTherapy – our therapists will be able to help you work through your anxiety and learn ways to be successful academically and feel confident in the process.
  1. Find a mentor. Most times, as you go through your academic career preparing for the professional world, you’ll meet professors along the way that you’ll remember and reflect on being genuine, approachable, and taking the extra time. At times, you’ll build a professional relationship; especially, if the degree you’re working towards is under the same department as the professor, you may find yourself in a number of her/his courses. They make great mentors. I would recommend asking in a mindful way and if they’re open to it and scheduling allows for it, then you’ll have a fantastic resource (appreciate it).
  1. Remember to have fun! This is an amazing opportunity to unfold more of your identity as a person, to build confidence, and move towards a genuine and authentic self. Enjoy your classes, meeting new people, developing relationships, and learning and growing as a human throughout the entire process.

Please take a few moments and check out Part 1: Focusing on the Academics

Learn, grow, and enjoy,
Mandi

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Christy Gualtieri

The Little Guys

by Christy Gualtieri

As a mom to young kids, I haven’t been to the movies in a while (with the exception of the latest installment in the LEGO franchise at a child’s birthday party), but I love to watch the Oscars, even if I haven’t seen any of the films nominated that year. My brothers are big cinephiles, and one of our favorite ways to catch up with each other is to talk about what we’ve been seeing (or, in my case, not seeing, but want to). And this year, the Oscars are in a bit of a pickle, what with no hosts and a bunch of “let’s try this and see if it sticks” action going on; but one thing that’s been put on the table really annoyed me: awarding trophies to certain categories during television breaks.

It’s hard to believe that someone in Hollywood could be considered one of the “little guys,” but that’s the feeling I had when I heard about it. Granted, these categories (Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup & Hair-styling) may not be quite as glamorous and exciting – the show’s producers know that people at home aren’t watching to see the behind the scenes folks get up on stage and win – and they took a gamble by excluding them. I’m happy to say, though, after some push back on social media, the producers reversed their decision and decided to televise those awards as well.

It seems a silly thing to care about, really, but it does matter. You can have wonderful lead actors and actresses, but without a cinematographer, your movie will be a visual disaster. Without film editors, a film’s message can be jumbled and lose a sense of flow and purpose. Makeup & Hair-styling adds fantastic dazzle and delight (or horror – remember Javier Bardem’s hair in “No Country For Old Men”? Yikes), and short films show the masterfulness of the craft. And you could say, “The Oscars are still giving the awards to them, just not showing it,” and you’d be right. But this is a night for them to shine and be recognized in front of the whole world.

Here’s why else it matters: it reminds us that just because you’re not in the spotlight doesn’t mean you’re not valuable. It’s a microcosm of understanding that it takes communal effort to get things done. Even in our everyday life, we who are so far from fortune and fame, are so dependent on a large network of people who we never see and barely acknowledge that keep our lives running smoothly. Do we recognize and appreciate the valuable services we receive from our mail carriers, or our trash collectors, or the workers making sure the power on the grid is still on?

Here’s a challenge for you this week: choose someone around you who makes your life better, and thank them for what they do. (I understand that they get paid for it, just as the cinematographers and the film editors do.) But thank them anyway, and know that by recognizing them, you are recognizing the fact that we all make a difference in our own way, whether you’re seen by the greater public or not.

You make a difference. You are valuable.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online
Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk

Engaging Academically and Socially in College and Grad School

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Comprehensive 2 Part Guide: Eleven Areas to Consider to be Successful throughout College and Graduate School

Part 1: Focusing on the Academics

Whether you’re new to college or returning after many years, it’s important to learn how to engage and to make conscious choices as to what type of student you plan on working towards being throughout your academic career, and couple this with your natural gifts and capacities. This includes being realistic regarding strengths and weaknesses (academically and otherwise). It’s important to simultaneously work on areas of strength and on weakness where the capacities to improve are present, while accepting the limitations of areas that have a low probability of shifting over time.

Additionally, this is a time of learning and growth academically and as a human-being. The more time spent in academia, the more changes you’ll experience as an individual. It’s important to implement changes towards reinforcing what you’re doing well, adjusting what you’re struggling with, and supporting your short-term and long-term goals.

Below are a few areas to build awareness in and reflect on towards supporting your work towards academic success (i.e., GPA, engaging in an academic environment, and in planning and working towards achieving personal goals, including the transition into a professional environment).

  1. Learn how to study. It’s important to consider that professors have different teaching styles and there are reasons for this. Consider the array of curriculum you will have the opportunity to learn in each course and throughout each semester (yes, I said opportunity). For example, if I am teaching an area of the course focusing on research or statistics, it’s important for students to have examples of research studies or formulas available to utilize in practice and application. There are numerous ways to consolidate and retrieve information, which will help you learn the information better.  This assists in setting realistic and beneficial study goals that feel manageable.
  1. Learn how to take notes. This is difficult for some students. For example, if I am teaching students about brain function and genetic factors relating to a particular set of disorders, I’ll give the students an opportunity to see it, hear it, write it, and then there are opportunities to analyze, apply, and study the information to build understanding for exams and towards future curriculum. It’s important to take the information presented and write it in terms you’ll understand and note the examples given, which will help you remember the information after class.
  1. PowerPoint is not everything, this typically goes for textbooks as well. However, it is an important tool utilized in many courses. Writing every word of the PowerPoint down during class tends to create anxiety and at times, is counter intuitive. This increases the potential for issues with focus, missing important and relevant details, and implementing information into your working memory towards short-term memory, and then long-term memory.  Remember, this is part of note taking and learning how to pull important information.  It takes time, practice, and adjusting to new course work each semester.
  1. Complete your papers, presentations, and other coursework on time. Most times, professors know when you’re making up a fake crisis due to a deadline being missed. With that being said, if you’ve procrastinated and are still developing the discipline to complete your work on time be honest. Additionally, if you’re struggling with an area of the curriculum talk with your professor.  S/he will be happy to give you some direction.
  1. What do I call you? Most professors will have a preference of how s/he prefers to be addressed. It’s important to build awareness of the benefits of developing professional relationships with your professors. One way to begin is by noting what your professor requests to be called during the semester. During the course, in the halls, in emails, etc., address your professor in this manner. If s/he requests being addressed as professor, call him or her professor, if s/he requests being addressed as doctor, call her or him doctor, if s/he gives the option of using first names, then choose what you’re most comfortable with. However, I would recommend going with professor until you know for certain and learn the dynamics of the class environment.

Please take a few moments and check out Part 2: Focusing on the Social Engagement

Learn, grow, and enjoy,
Mandi