The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5
eTalkTherapy

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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Everyday Therapy

Part 3: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 3 of 6 – How to Increase Healthy Communication

Have you ever experienced someone in life that you connect with and enjoy talking with immensely- on all levels of communication? There are feelings of mutual understanding, it feels natural, safe, supportive, and you find that you’re able to share more and more facets of your being with another human.  It’s a wonderful experience- one of value. Someone that knows the deeper meaning to your life events and experiences, that’s there for you, that you’re there for, makes you laugh, and you’re able to give to genuinely.

The Desire to Connect

Communication stimulates and engages on a cognitive level. It’s important to consider that the desire to connect as a human is natural. Consider how many people you meet within a week, a month, and a year.  How often do you connect in a deep and meaningful level? Many times, clients indicate the level of difficulty in communicating with others and developing deep and meaningful relationships.  An individual’s innate desire to connect taps into one’s internal strength reserves to  work through fears and evoke increases in vulnerability with the goals of moving forward towards healthier communication; which brings the associated benefits of developing satisfying long-term relationships.

Appreciation and Value

In addition, it’s vital to appreciate the individuals you’ve developed strong communication with. Ask the difficult question- do you appreciate and value the relationship(s) you currently have? To assist with your decision, reflect on how each individual relationship has shifted and developed over time.  Consider what expectations you have of the relationship and whether you’re able to give back in similar manners.

Additionally, ask- are you feeling consistently frustrated? This is a difficult environment to engage in. Consider whether or not you are stuck in a cycle of unrealistic expectations. If so, honest reflection in regards to how realistic it is for the relationship to change over time and/or whether or not the relationship will be a beneficial experience long-term is vital.  At times, there is internal work an individual will benefit from in a therapeutic relationship to assist with developing realistic expectations and building awareness of the complexity and differences.

When Life Becomes Significantly Difficult- and it will

Life, at times, becomes stressful, difficult, and perplexing. Healthy communication doesn’t necessarily mean that there is void of conflict or disagreement; especially during stress, grieving, and difficult times.  Consider how individuals engage during the good times and during more difficult times.  This is where having developed a sense of value and appreciation for having strong communicative relationships is beneficial.  During difficult times, many relationships suffer and eventually break down or cease completely.  Most times, with pain, confusion, and many unanswered questions. The more time that passes without directly addressing the issues that break down the relationship, the more difficult it is to return to a sense of balance and satisfaction.  However, there are ways to minimize the damage and pain. With healthy communication, individuals will have a higher probability of increasing the strength and connection through difficult times, which develops a stronger connection, reinforces trust, and commitment.

Strong Connections

At times, a person engages in a relationship built over years with a strong connection. The relationship has deeper meaning, higher investment, and is much more difficult to cease. Moreover, if the relationship is a healthy one, it’s critical to understand the gift of this type of connection throughout life. Consider romantic relationships, family members, friends, professional connections, and/or connections on social media.  It’s important to reflect on how comprehensive and significant this list is. Ask yourself- how many individuals do you feel intimately connected with? Even with the numerous individuals you engage with, there is only a segment that encompasses what individuals innately desire- mutually healthy, strong, consistent, intimate, and beneficial relationships where growth, change, vulnerability, love, and communication are supported and desirable for each person.

Note: Article: 3 of 6 discussed the benefits of increasing healthy communication. Article: 4 of 6 will discuss ways to increase healthy communication as part of developing and reinforcing long-term relationships. Furthermore, Article 4 of 6 focuses on the messages you received in life, how others perceive your communication, proactive listening, humor, trust and safety, compromise, and the risks of being open. The two articles in the series partner with one another to encompass a wider range of elements regarding communication.

In conclusion, communication is vital to each individual experiencing the relationship and to the relationship as a whole. Communication is complex, it involves investment and work to develop a level of vulnerability through tapping into strengths and reducing fears.  Developing quality relationships with healthy communication patterns is vital to mental health, connection, enjoyment, and well-being. Communication increases the capacity for relationships to be mutually satisfying and full of support, caring, positive interactions, and veering well during difficult times. COMING SOON: Article 4 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

Looking Up

by Christy Gualtieri

A few months ago, my cousin from New York City came to visit with his four kids in tow, the oldest of whom was sixteen. We got to talking about cell phones and how old the kids were when they first got them, a topic that I listened to with interest, since although my kids are relatively young, it’s a conversation I’ll end up having sooner rather than later. The sixteen year old does everything on his phone. Calls and texts, obviously. Social media apps, getting his news. But also, schoolwork. Writing essays.

“Writing essays?” I said incredulously, like a proper Old Person.

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “I type them on my phone and then email it to myself to print out.”

I sat there relatively agog, half-wondering if he was a warlock of some kind. “But…how do your thumbs still work?” I checked his hands fully expecting to see inhumanly large thumbs with huge muscles bulging out, but they looked like normal teenage hands to me.  “Haven’t they fallen off?” I was joking, but still…I was pretty taken aback.

It’s such a funny thing, living in a time when things are changing so rapidly, where new technologies are cropping up every day. I imagine it’s like someone who just got electricity in their home for the first time, and what the Old People in their times would say. “But…you just turn on…lights? In your home? What do you do with all the candles?”  Or people who just got radios. “But…how do you hear someone’s voice in your house…without them being there?”

But back to the phones. Being of a certain age, I wouldn’t say that I’m the kind of person who is attached to my cell phone all the time, but I do check it pretty frequently. I can’t imagine being a kid and feeling like a limb was missing if it was taken away, or what someone’s brainwaves look like after only knowing the reality of being able to access information in the palm of your hand.

The other day, I was standing on the corner waiting for my son’s school bus. I was alone and it was a chilly day, but a bright one, and the sky really was lovely: a robin’s-egg blue color with this smattering of white clouds all across it. I looked up and watched the cloud for a minute, and then saw something else, and kept watching. I was transfixed. No one had been driving by at the time, but I can guess what they’d have been thinking if they did: what is she looking at? And maybe they’d stop too, crane their neck up against their car window, or peer upward past their sun visors that hung down, trying to see why in the world one solitary woman was doing just standing there on the corner, looking up at the sky.

There was this bird, that’s all. A huge bird, the kind that was so big so way up high that you knew it would be absolutely monstrous if it was closer to you. We get plenty of birds in our neighborhood; cardinals and blue-jays, crows (my favorite), and sometimes little yellow ones – canaries, maybe – but this was no bird like that. I wondered how high up it was, and remembered that hawks can spot a little mouse for dinner from something like a mile up in the air, and I wondered if that’s how high this bird was. After a minute it kept flying out of sight, and I thought about how silly I must have looked, neck crooked, eyes straight up, with a hand to shield the strong light of the sun.

Why is it strange to see someone looking up…and why is not strange to see someone looking down? Because that’s what we do, most times, right? I know I do. Looking down gets you knowledge of things that are happening not very close to you…but looking up keeps you focused on the world you’re in right now.

Chances are, you’re like me, and could do with some more looking up. Of course, we all need distractions, especially if you’re not very comfortable with the world you’re currently in right now, but we need balance, too, and the world needs you in it – to participate, to acknowledge, to understand that although it’s a big, wide world, it’s all the more special because of what you contribute to it.

So if you get a chance (and you should make one), take a minute to look up. Observe what the sky looks like, and the clouds, if there are any. Take a deep breath, and then another one. Then go back to whatever else you were doing, and try to take that time again tomorrow, with some extra time added on…and see what you see! You may be surprised!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Pittsburgh NorthShore: Tribute to Children. Photo By Wally Gobetz. Flickr Creative Commons
Peace, Love & Anxiety

My Favorite Neighbor

by Christy Gualtieri

Not too long ago, the neighborhood beside mine was transformed, and rather quickly, for that matter by a group of folks whose job it is to turn back time. Storefronts that had stood empty for years were magically restored to look like operating businesses; old-school telephone booths now adorned the street corners; and the main street, at parts desolate and uninviting in 2018, was now absolutely inviting and looked just like 1960s Western Pennsylvania.

They were filming a movie! And not just any movie: a biopic about one of the area’s iconic treasures, Mr. Rogers. I admittedly, unlike most of the folks my age, didn’t grow up much on Mr. Rogers, we were a Sesame Street people, and although I’ve mostly come to know him in my time as a transplant to the area as adult, I’ve begun to foster a healthy respect for him and all he did during his time on television. He was more than just a TV personality for folks in Western PA, just as the spinoff show that airs now, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” is more than just a show for my own kids. The longer I lived in the area, the more I came to appreciate all he did for children around the country (and the world) – and his messages of kindness, integrity, curiosity, and love resonate so much more now, I believe, than they ever have in the hearts of the grownups who remember him. I recently saw a video online of him accepting his spot in the TV Hall of Fame, and was so struck by his encouraging words and his faith in those who want to spread goodness and love throughout the world. His gentleness and his patience absolutely radiated, and it’s no wonder at all to see why he was so beloved, not only here, but the world over.

As soon as filming was over, the crew worked diligently – and extremely quickly! – to break down the set and soon it looked just as it had a week prior, like nothing had ever happened. And Mr. Rogers is gone now, he has been gone for such a long time, but whenever people remember his kind words and how he helped children to grow into mature, kind, loving adults, it’s like he’s never been gone at all.

Did you watch Mr. Rogers as a kid? What resonated the most with you about his show, and which of his messages do you think we need to hear more of in today’s frenetic world? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

And, just for fun — one of my favorite stories about Mr. Rogers is about the history of his time on TV. For a hilarious take on it, check out this short video from Comedy Central’s “Drunk History,” starring Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks’ son; Tom is the actor who is portraying Mr. Rogers in the upcoming film).

Until next time, be well!
Christy

 

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Existential GPS

Shadows in the Attic

by Don Laird, NCC, LPC, DCC

Fear is one of the most potent human emotions. Primitive yet effective, it alerted us (and still does) to the presence of danger and was essential in keeping our species on the planet. Our emotional evolution with all its intellectual trappings of modern sophistication has done little to smother the reach and intensity of fear. Reduce it all we want, try to explain it away, yet we still feel compelled to whistle while passing by the dark, cerebral cemetery of unknowns. From the shadowy cavities of our minds fear creeps in two ways – emotional and biochemical. The emotional response is highly individualized, while the biochemical response is universal.

The emotional response to fear is very personalized. Fear does involve some of the same chemical responses in our brains that positive emotions like happiness do, so feeling fear under certain circumstances can be seen as enjoyable, like watching scary movies or going to a “haunted” attraction. Those who get physical pleasure from the release of adrenaline into the body by thriving on extreme sports and other fear-inducing situations would be another example of the complexity to understanding how fear works. While there are others who have a negative reaction to fear, and they avoid fear-inducing situations at all costs. Depending on the individual and the situation, fear may be perceived as either a positive or negative experience.

Fear is a natural survival mechanism. It’s been with us since , well, for as long as we have had the ability to survive as a species. When faced with a perceived threat, our bodies respond in highly specific ways. Reactions to fear may include increased heart rate and higher that usual adrenaline levels that make us extremely alert and “on guard.” This physical response is also known as a “fight or flight” response, in which your body prepares itself to either enter combat or run away.  Adrenaline as well as the stress hormone cortisol begins pumping through your body at a very high rate. This occurs so that you can react quickly to danger or a perceived threat. If you are someone who is an excessive worrier or you experience sustained fear because of your health, death of a loved one, divorce, etc., then the “fight or flight” reaction releases an overwhelming amount of cortisol into your brain, resulting in sustained worry and potentially clinical anxiety. Fear can, in fact, alter your brain’s wiring, as well as your impulse control.  There are, however, ways to counter this physical reaction. Drinking lots of cold water helps flush the adrenaline and cortisol from your system. Deep breathing exercises are another way to help slow down this process, and of course physical activity and exercise are crucial to decreasing these chemicals in your body to a much more manageable and comfortable level.

Fear is incredibly complex. Some fears could be the result of frightening experiences or even trauma, while others may actually represent a fear of something else a little less obvious, such as loss of control or meaning in life or anxiety over death and dying. Fear in and of itself is not rational. It operates at the opposite end of that spectrum and can often run up against logic or “common sense,” which in turn may cause feelings of guilt or elevated levels of anxiety.

Repeated exposure to similar situations leads to familiarity. For example: find the light switch in the dark room and all is seemingly well. Exposure reduces both the emotional fear response and the resulting biochemical reaction. Conversely, this leads adrenaline junkies to seek out the extreme – ever new and bigger thrills. Exposure forms the basis of many phobia treatments, which depend on slowly minimizing the fear response by making it feel familiar and eventually extinguishing it altogether.

However, if you are faced with a serious threat or a dangerous situation, then fear is appropriate.  It’s knowing how to manage your fear, so that it doesn’t paralyze you from living your life and from participating or engaging with others in a meaningful fashion.

The solution is to understand your situation and your fears. Therapy or counseling from a licensed professional can help if your fears become too large for you to manage on your own.

To be continued… Part 4 of a 5-week series on eTalkTherapy’s psychology of fear.