Author Archives: Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian - in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at www.susanhammondswhite.com.

The Other Side of the Couch – Don’t Wait

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Twenty years.  Hard to believe it has been twenty years.  The pain has receded; it isn’t daily now as it was in the first several years.  When it returns it is tempered now by sweet memories of better days.  The things we did together, the moments of laughter we shared, the trips we took – these are precious now. 

Twenty years.  Hard to believe it has been twenty years.  The pain has receded, but when it returns it is jagged and still painful and hard to understand.  The pain has not been worked through – it seems instead burned into our memories without healing.

Today, September 11, has two meanings for me. 

First, this day would have been my dad’s 101st birthday.  He was born in 1920, and he died unexpectedly on the 5th of July, 2001.  The first anniversary of his birth occurred on the day that the 9/11 attacks shook our country to the core.  Now, twenty years later, we are remembering as a nation that terrible day.  I, as a single human being, am remembering both the terrorist attack and the loss of a beloved father.

The most important lesson for me out of all this loss is a simple one.  Don’t wait.  Don’t wait to visit loved ones. Don’t wait to say you love them.  Don’t wait to take that trip, to write that story down, to share happy memories.  Our time on this earth is not a given, and we never really know what is ahead.

I didn’t know on July 1, 2001 that the phone call I had with my father would be the last time I heard his voice.  Thousands didn’t know on September 11, 2001 that they were saying good-bye for the last time.

Don’t wait.  It may be the last thing you ever get to say or do.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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The Other Side of the Couch – Understanding Self-Delusion

download (1) June seems so far away now – a miraculous moment now fading with the miasma of the Delta variant that is reversing the gains that were made.  We were so close to being able to be a bit safer, a bit freer. How is it possible that so many people in this country are so willing to risk their own lives and the LIVES OF THEIR CHILDREN by choosing to forego vaccination against COVID-19.

I have been more than perplexed by this conundrum.  It makes no rational sense.  However, I recently read an article written by Shankar Vedantam that shed some light on this issue.

Shankar Vedantam is the NPR host of the podcast “Hidden Brain”.  He is interested in the issue of delusional thinking, and his latest book, Useful Delusions:  The Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain, presents a fascinating look at events that illustrate the protective power of self-delusion.  Although the buzzwords of the last few years – alternative facts, fake news, QAnon – are not mentioned, these concerns hover in the background of the stories like malevolent fairies just waiting to become visible.

Vedantam cites the story of one Donald Lowry, the founder of the infamous Church of Love that made millions of dollars in the 80s on the backs of lonely men.  Lowry essentially impersonated women who wrote letters to men who subscribed to the program, assuming a variety of personas and including many personalized touches to the letters he sent.  He was eventually caught and prosecuted, but the strange twist to this was that men who were members of his love letter subscription service CAME TO THE COURTHOUSE TO DEFEND HIM.  The men said the letters had saved their lives, stopped addiction, even stopped suicidal behavior.

Vedantam states in an article written for Psychotherapy Networker:

 “Foregoing self-deception isn’t merely a mark of education or enlightenment – it is a sign of privilege…your material, cultural, and social worlds are providing you with other safety nets for your psychological and physical needs.  But should your circumstances change for the worse, were the pillars of your life to buckle and sway, your mind, too, would prove fertile ground for the wildest self-deceptions.” (Psychotherapy Networker, July/August 2021, p. 23)

So, what to do when we see the pillars of rationality challenged by what to many of us can only seem completely without merit.  Vedantam suggests that we are dealing with an evolutionary process in which “old” brain responses are at war with “newer” brain responses.  The two states of the brain have different value systems, and when rationality is seen as the only way of knowing, it is often ignored.

Humans have spent eons using the processes of narrative and storytelling and use of symbols – when we don’t use these processes and rely totally on rationality for truth, we lose sight of much that makes us human.  Joseph Campbell’s monumental work in defining the power of myth in human history is an example, as is Carl Jung’s exploration of the archetypes that live in the collective unconscious of humanity.

So, what does self-deception do for us?  In its best form it protects us when things are just too fragile, too out of control, too frightening.  Self-delusion gives us something to hold onto in a scary world.  It can create a sense of meaning and a sense of community.  We need to think carefully about what self-delusion does, and we need to figure out how to work with it.  How does this self-deception help the believer? What are the consequences of the belief?  Without this insight, it will be hard to create any kind of traction for change.

So, you don’t believe in vaccinations?  Tell me more about that – what are your hesitations?  Oh, your church community is against it? Oh, you feel a strong bond with your fellow church members and wouldn’t want to be different?  Oh, your grandfather was involved in the infamous Tuskegee syphilis research experiment?  That helps me understand.  I still disagree with your choice, but it makes better sense now.  Let me explain to you my experience – would you be willing to listen?

Vedantam closes his article with quite a statement:

“The psychological forces that make it difficult for the members of the Church of Love to see reality accurately fill all our lives.  If we seem less credulous, it’s only because circumstances have not tested us to the same extent. Put another way, those poor, pathetic rubes –but for a few strokes of luck –are us.” Psychotherapy Networker, July/August 2021, p. 25

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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The Other Side of the Couch – No Words

Clouds and Sorrow

As I begin this piece tonight I find myself faced with putting into words what cannot be, can never be, put into words, because words can only carry us so far into experience.  Tonight I am faced with an attempt to put into words the enormity of the events of these last days, weeks, months, even years that have piled on, each one unique unto itself and yet combining into what is now greater, harder, more challenging than all its parts. And yet I am going to try, because the trying perhaps is in itself a healing process.

It began slowly – he said after we were all together that Christmas of 2018, somewhat offhandedly, oh by the way, I am having a CT scan when I get back to Berkeley– maybe have fatty liver.  Not too much alarm there – then in January the startling news of a tumor in the liver, size of a softball.  Surgery to come.  Removal of two-thirds of his liver in March, 2019.  Reports – it is not primary liver cancer, it is bile-duct cancer.  What?  Very rare.  OF course.  Not well understood.

The fight began.  He, a scientist and geneticist, participated fully in his treatment, sought information, found clinical trials.  A trial he entered gave him, remarkably, almost 21 months of additional, high-quality life.  In spite of COVID he thrived, creating family connections and friend connections across the globe, hosting as he always did, connecting others.

November, 2020 – she called, having experience shortness of breath – went to the ER for removal of a liquid surrounding the lungs.  In the process of this, a CT scan revealed an abdominal mass.  When surgically removed and reviewed – ovarian cancer of a rare and slow-growing type (which meant not responsive to chemo).  In January of 2021 she entered a clinical trial.  She did very well.

Suddenly things began to change.  For him, the clinical trial stopped working.  The cancer invaded the biliary tree in the liver, and all attempts to help bile leave the liver were unavailing.  Although another trial showed promise, the fight to get there was lost.  He left us on May 2, 2021, having survived 21 months post-diagnosis of a type of cancer that rarely if ever allows for more than months of life.

And while all this was happening, she was doing well.  A dancer, a lover of nature, she thrived on this beautiful island.  From January 2021 to June 2021 she was upbeat, feeling good, feeling positive, enjoying life in paradise, her name for her home on Maui.

Suddenly things began to change.  A sensation of pressure in her legs – unclear origin.  Suddenly problems with digestion.  Next discomfort in abdomen – visit to ER revealing fluid gathered in the abdomen, which when drained showed signs of advanced cancer.  Further hospitalization showed the cancer suddenly invading all major organs.

She went home to her beloved partner and entered hospice care on June 30.  We arrived – her sisters, her niece, her brother-in-law – on July 3.  She knew us.  She thanked us for coming.

She left us on July 4, 2021.

A brother.  A sister.  Both younger than I – ages 70 and 67.  Both lost to rare cancers that overwhelmed the best efforts and best care each could have.  There is no one to blame.  Everyone loved them and fought hard for them, but the cancers were relentless in their proliferation.  They both died surrounded by those who loved them.

And now, those who loved them are faced with the daily task of getting up each day and living lives from which their daily presence is gone.  Those who loved them have to pick up the pieces of life, to face the bureaucracy of death, the death certificates, the computer passwords, the search for things like safe deposit box keys, the bank accounts.

Those who loved them have to distribute their earthly possessions, decide what to keep, what to give, what to do with the remains of a life.

And yet most of all, those who loved them are faced with walking through each day with the reality of their absence.  Many things are said about death – but for me the truth is that death is absence and loss of the precious connection between human souls.  I carry them with me in my heart, but I want to hear them, and talk with them, and remember with them, and that will never be again.

So today I mourn the loss of my brother Glenn Hammonds and my sister Lindsay Hammonds – two bright stars who blazed through this world too quickly and left it too soon.  I am only at the beginning of the journey of grief. Today I can only feel the loss.  Perhaps happy memories will help, but not yet.

Friends, hold each other close.  Don’t wait to be together.  These COVID months have stopped us in so many ways – but for COVID I would have spent months with each of them instead of having to wait for vaccination to make it safe to go. I am grateful I was able to be with both of them before they died. Don’t wait.  Life is not a given, and we are given now, but nothing else is sure.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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The Other Side of the Couch – The Weight of Grief

Grief Image

I am not unfamiliar with grieving, and yet each time Life requires that I encounter it, I am yet again surprised by its strength.  I know from past encounters that the intensity will pass – there will come a time that I am not aware almost every waking moment of the depth of this loss.  But that time has not yet arrived.

My husband and I both lost beloved brothers – barely two weeks apart – to metastatic cancer.  Both men lived wonderful lives – one a world traveller and humanitarian, the other a brilliant scientist and sharer of knowledge and kindness. Their accomplishments were many, but it is their connections to their families and communities that live on in my memory.

Grief is heavy.  Grief is physical.  I am sleeping but wake up exhausted nonetheless.  Moments of unexpected sadness come at random moments – just now, thinking about Glenn, wishing I could tell him about a new find in our family tree, wishing I could ask him a computer question.  Little things.

I am grateful that I was able to spend time with him in person.  My daughter and I went to California – the vaccine finally giving us the opportunity to go – we would have gone long since but the pandemic stopped us.  We were able to be with him – to say we loved each other – to essentially say goodbye.  We hoped it was not the last time – but it turned out that way.

The words of a poem by Steven Spender have meant a lot to me in these last days – in particular the last several lines. 

I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great

“Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields 
See how these names are feted by the waving grass 
And by the streamers of white cloud 
And whispers of wind in the listening sky. 
The names of those who in their lives fought for life 
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center. 
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun, 
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.”

My brother touched many lives – and for me, that is the measure of greatness. Love to you, Glenn, and Godspeed. 

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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The Other Side of the Couch – Unexpected Gifts

By Susan E. Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP



March 18, 2020 – almost a year ago – was the last time I saw clients in my office. We were all in the early days of the pandemic – uncertain, rattled, no idea of what to expect or what was to come. The news became more and more dire with each day. The country shut down. I remember driving through deserted streets – my husband and I drove one day into downtown Nashville, all the way down Broadway, just to see it. Empty. No people. No church. No Symphony. No plays. Worst of all, no contact with my daughter and my granddaughter as we all tried to make sense of what was dangerous and what we could risk.

It all seems like a blur to me now. I have heard the days of the week during COVID called Blursdays – because there is no sense of time, no markers that indicate the familiar rhythms of life. We humans live lives based on expectations and routine. Our bodies require food at regular intervals; we require sleep at certain times. We unconsciously count on these routines and structures. While we certainly continued to eat and sleep, the pandemic stripped away our sense of expectation. Suddenly we could count on nothing. Going to the grocery became an exercise in avoiding mortal peril. Hugging a grandchild could result in becoming infected with a mortal disease. We could enter a hospital and never come out, dying alone with no loved ones near us. Or worse – we could infect the ones we love and watch them die while blaming ourselves.

Today – almost one year later – we are entering an era that MAY BE hopeful. The amazing speed with which effective vaccines have been developed and made available is changing the risk analysis each person has had to make each day. More and more people that I know personally are getting the vaccine, and with each shot in the arm hope increases that we will be able to regain those moments of just being with each other without fear.

At the same time, this year has also brought me face to face with the reality that time does not wait for anyone. Three beloved family members are facing cancer. My beloved feline companion of 18 years left us after a hard-fought battle with kidney failure. My clients continue to struggle with all the things that bring people to therapy – because COVID is not the only thing that is going on in their lives.

How to make sense of all this? I have found two things that make a difference.

The first is gratitude. The second is structure.

This year I have returned to playing the piano because I am home to do it. I am no longer “too busy” to take the time to practice. I have continued to do the work I love online, but I am choosing to work fewer hours and to spend more time with my family and with myself. I have become an amateur bird watcher. My far-flung family has become much more connected through the magic of Zoom. I am cooking much more regularly rather than going out for meals. These are small things – none of them is monumental or earth-shattering – yet taken together, they have made a difference in my life for good.

We know that the practice of gratitude creates better mental health. Structure helps those Blursdays become manageable and even enjoyable. Having a routine and expectations of the self help contain anxiety and mitigate depression. As the days of the pandemic begin to wind down, I hope to take with me these unexpected gifts.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Lessons from a Pandemic

The landscape outside my window is bound by the rectangles of the windowpanes on either side and the windowsill below and blinds above.  Just below the sill are holly bushes, still with bright red berries, a little further on is a brick border, then a grassy verge, then a sidewalk that passes in front of an old oak tree.  A large shrub whose name I do not know creates a boundary on the other side.  Farther away steps lead to another level of the condominiums.

Centered in the midst of this view is an iron post with an arm that swings out over the grass; hanging from that arm is a cylindrical bird feeder with four perches.  This object is fought over, jumped on, blown about, surrounded by so many birds – and by the occasional squirrel.

Today, a gray and frosty day, the feeder is surrounded by many house finches, red-headed and breasted or dove-colored depending on their sex.  A Carolina wren approaches, yellow breasted, then a black-capped chickadee.  Suddenly a flash of blue – an Eastern bluebird appears momentarily, then leaves, disappointed with the seeds available.  A mockingbird approaches – too large for this feeder.  I watch a squirrel make a determined assault on the feeder, climbing the pole, reaching out onto the swinging arm, then actually grasping the cylinder with all four feet – but this feeder closes with the weight of this determined rodent – no luck.  He retreats to the scattered seeds and shells beneath the feeder.

As all this unfolds outside, my Maine Coon cat sits inside the window, watching every move of every creature on the outside, tail switching and ears perked.  This is her daily entertainment – a bench is placed at the window level so she can enjoy the vista, even though she cannot reach the creatures she would like to hunt.  Sometimes a squirrel decides to climb onto the outside ledge – to his dismay as the cat strikes, the squirrel jumps, and is suddenly displaced from what appeared safe.

I too spend lots of time at this window.  My own life is also bounded by the rectangle of this window and the computer that sits to the right of it.  The computer allows me the opportunity to connect with family and with friends; it also allows me to continue my life’s work of serving those who are struggling with varieties of life crises and emotional distress.  COVID-19 has led to the compression of life into a computer screen in so many ways.

What is amazing to me is the persistence of life in the face of these limitations.  The birds keep on searching for food, the squirrels keep on trying for more, the cat keeps on doing what cats do, and so do we humans.  In the face of this life-changing year, we keep on.  We continue to live, in spite of the limitations.  For me the year of COVID-19 has been a distillation, a clearing, an intensification of all that matters most.  With so much gone, I have had time to learn what matters.  Not surprisingly, it turns out to be connection with family and friends.  While I miss the busy life of pre-COVID, full of many subscription series, I believe I will not return to that busy life.  COVID has taught me once again that it is necessary to choose between good and good.  I hope that as the year goes on and more safety returns I will remember that important lesson.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – A Silver Lining

 

As sickening as the mob is that overran our Capitol building on January 6, 2021, I am oddly grateful for it.

Terrible crisis always brings with it amazing opportunity.

This crisis has brought into stark reality the ways in which our country has been infiltrated by anti-democratic fascism.  Thousands have been radicalized by the ongoing lies perpetrated by Trump, Trumpism, Fox News, and all the social media platforms that were allowed to run unchecked over the last four years.

Katherine Belew, author of Bring the War Home (a treatise on the reality of the white power movement that extends all the way back to the aftermath of the Viet Nam war) writes that law enforcement and media in the U.S. have looked the other way at domestic terrorism, defining violence perpetrated by angry white men as “lone wolf” types of events. She shows that these anti-democratic, pro white-power groups, essentially Nazi-like in their beliefs, are actually deeply embedded in our culture. There aim is to OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT and to create what they call a transnational white country (excluding any kind of person who is “not white”). Unsure about whether a group is patriotic or not – look for the Nazis. If there are Nazis or Nazi-like rhetoric involved, be sure the group is NOT patriotic!

The ideology of Trumpism, America First, anti-immigrant, anti-black and indigenous peoples, is not conservative. It is radical, and its aim is to de-stabilize and ultimately dismantle the institutions that have governed this country since its inception in 1776.

Why on earth, then, would I say there is silver lining to this horrific event?

The way I see it – the reality is no longer hidden. It is no longer possible to discount Trump and his extremist followers as “patriotic Americans who are exercising their free speech rights”. The President of the United States incited violence. He supported an insurrection. We saw it happen. It cannot be denied.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s powerful condemnation of Trump and of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol compares what happened to the Nazi’s Kristallnacht – the Night of the Broken Glass – the ominous beginning of the rise of Hitler’s legions. His video is well worth watching. Look him up on Youtube.

Our democracy held, and swift change has followed. No more Twitter, no more Facebook, no more access to social media by President Trump. The “free-speech app” Parler was shut down when Amazon removed its access to its servers. Large corporations are informing elected officials who objected to the state’s electoral votes in the House and Senate that they would not be receiving campaign donations. The FBI began investigations into hundreds of people who appeared in video on the Capitol assault, and arrests have begun. Trump may be impeached for a second time – and this time he could be convicted.

As we enter a new year, a new administration, and new hope for a different future, I am glad that the reality of these extreme groups has been revealed. Hidden, it was hard to believe. Out in the open, we can see the reality, and we can begin to change it.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com .

Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – What It Costs Us

The woman was talking to her son, age seven. He was in tears. “I’m sorry, Robbie, but you’re just going to have to learn to control yourself. You can’t dissolve into tears over every little thing.”

Two little boys were having an argument over a toy. One child hit the other one. A parent standing nearby said, “Hit him back, Johnny.”

The little boy had fallen and skinned his knee. He began to cry loudly. His peers, slightly older and already wise in the ways of the world, taunted him. “What a crybaby – he is a girl.”

The preceding stories are typical interactions that happen every day, every week, every month, every year in our society. They represent pervasive attitudes toward raising young boys to be men. The message goes something like this: “It is not good to let boys grow up to be too sensitive. They will be ridiculed: they will not have what it takes to succeed in a competitive world. It MAY be all right for them to express some feelings when they are very young, but they should not be coddled. The last thing anyone wants is a son who is a sissy.”

Sensitivity to the experience of others, the ability to feel with another person in his/her joy or pain, is often regarded as suspect when it is displayed by boys or men. This attitude presents a significant barrier to improved world community.

A central task that faces human beings is that of maintaining a balance between self and other. Human as we are, we can neither live alone nor together; we are caught in an ongoing tension between yearning for connection and affiliation and yearning for autonomy and independence. The experience of empathy – a process during which a person experiences the experience of another AS IF it were her own and AT THE SAME TIME is clearly aware of her own self – clearly mirrors that ultimate humanity.

The empathic process calls on the individual to perceive affective cues, both verbal and non-verbal, which serve as indicators of the other’s emotional state. The individual, perceiving these cues, takes the role of the other, experiencing the other’s feelings vicariously. Empathic ability is complex, requiring a clear self-concept, the ability to connect affectively, and flexible ego boundaries. Empathic ability has been posited to be a strong indicator of effective human functioning and maturity. A major component of effective parenting rests on parental ability to empathize. Inability to empathize, on the other hand, has been linked with a variety of antisocial behaviors (narcissism, in particular).

When empathy is broken down into its various components (perceptual, affective/cognitive, communicative) boys and girls do well on all aspects of tasks other than the motivation to attend or perceive. In other words, girls notice the non-verbal and verbal cues necessary to arouse empathy. They seem to be more perceptually attuned to pick up on these cues. Boys, when trained in research settings in doing this, were equally able on the other parts of the tasks. Differences in measured empathic ability diminished with direct teaching of perceptual skills to boys.

The implications of these findings are both heart-rending and hopeful. The ability to empathize is an essential human skill. Our culture encourages girls to have it because it fits with our definition of female. Boys, who need it just as much and who benefit from direct teaching of how to pick up on perceptual cues from others, are instead taught to deny their own feelings and to ignore the feelings of others.

Boys may require actual specific teaching of skills that girls acquire as part of their identity. Boys seem to be deliberately trained away from acquiring this set of skills because of well-intentioned parents’ fears for their future success in an out-of-balance society. Young boys are placed in an emotional
catch-22 by this process -subject to deep emotional arousal, yet not given the tools to understand it or to release it into altruism or prosocial behavior.

Our world is poorly served by this unfortunate situation. Something little boys and men need – full emotional, flexible responsiveness – is being withheld from them, through no fault of their own. Knowing that it can be and must be directly taught is essential information for our world’s future functioning.

Parent: “Johnny, you hit your friend. What is he doing? “
Johnny: “He is crying and holding his arm.”
Parent: “If someone hits you, how do you feel?”
Johnny: “I feel sad and mad.”
Parent: “How do you think your friend feels right now?”
Johnny: “Sad and mad.”
Parent: “What can you do to help?”
Johnny: “I can give him a hug and say I’m sorry.”
Parent: “Good job, Johnny – I am proud of you for noticing that your friend is sad and mad and needs help.”

This little scenario is an illustration of two-step perspective taking that helps a child understand the beginnings of empathic connection. It works! As we enter a New Year, as we leave behind a year fraught with pain and distress, may we all take heart from the good and decent men and women who are learning and teaching the lessons of empathy and care needed by all human beings.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com .

Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit!

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The Other Side of the Couch – What’s Next

     

 

I was driving on Old Hickory Boulevard on Saturday morning (November 7) on the way to visit my daughter and granddaughter and listening to NPR’s Ask Me Another, when suddenly Scott Simon broke in, and it became clear that the presidential race had been called for Joe Biden.  I had been waiting for this, hoping for this for so long – and as I took in the news, I felt a weight that I hadn’t realized I had been carrying begin to slip away.  Unfortunately, that weight has returned, given what is transpiring in our government in these last few days.

Ever since that awful morning in 2016 when I awakened to learn that a misogynistic reality TV star had defeated the most qualified and prepared candidate for president who had run in the last forty years, I have been to some degree in disbelief.  Secretary Clinton said he was unfit to hold the office of President of the United States.  It turns out this was an understatement.

Now after a hard-fought race that has been clearly won by Vice-President Biden – now President-Elect Biden – Trump is refusing to concede, is directing government offices NOT to cooperate with the transition, and appears to be purging high-level Pentagon officials and installing his own loyalists.

Over and over again well-meaning people have said, “It can’t get worse.”  And over and over again it has gotten worse.

I don’t want to think that Trump is planning to stage a coup or start a war in order to stay in office.  I don’t want to think that he would incite some blindly loyal followers to become violent in order to keep him in office.  But I didn’t want to think that most of the things he has done could happen.

I say, America, wake up!  Something is not right.

My dependence is on our military because I do not think the military will allow itself to be used for political ends. And I never thought that I would be saying these things in the United States of America.  The tradition of a non-political military that is not used to enforce domestic policy is essential to our democracy – and I believe that line will hold.  Today is Veterans Day -and we owe a debt of gratitude to all our service members, past and present, who have been willing to give their all – even their very lives – in service to our country.  I say to them – thank you – and may you soon have a Commander-in-Chief who values you and sees you and supports you.

May we survive these days and make it to January 20, 2021.  Then we can say with hope – what’s next.

 

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Making an Ofrenda

Autumn has arrived. As I look out the window I see leaves scattered across the yard, berries turned bright red on the shrubs just below the sill, and squirrels busily chasing whatever they can store up for the cold to come. The angle of the sun is different now, and brilliant as it is, still plays hide and seek with wind and clouds. The humidity of summer is over, and a little crisp bite of a breeze sends the leaves scurrying.
Autumn has always been to me a bittersweet time – a time of laying to rest, of putting by, of acknowledging endings. The time of harvest has arrived, and the time to sweep the fields of plantings, prepare them for the rest of winter, has arrived. No wonder then that in this time of planetary transition, I am drawn into remembering.
The Disney movie “Coco”, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this small gem of an animated film, focuses on the story of a young boy who finds himself catapulted into the land of the dead. Based on the Mexican tradition of the “El Dia de los Muertos” – the Day of the Dead (celebrated in Mexican culture on November 1) – he finds himself as a living boy searching for someone he remembers. This causes consternation in the Land of the Dead, as a living boy is NOT supposed to be there! After a number of snafus all works out, and he finds the family he was meant to find. A message of the film is the importance of remembering and honoring those who have gone before us.
I was touched by my daughter’s request for family pictures of grandparents and great-grandparents so that she could make an “ofrenda”, as is done in the movie, to remember those dear people and to teach her young daughter about them. What a lovely idea! And so I began to search and to remember.
In the process of finding and sharing these pictures I was drawn into the joy of thinking about and remembering these loved family members – remembering not only their faces, but also their beings – the things they enjoyed, the times we spent together. Little moments returned – shopping with my mother; making boiled custard with my grandmother – so many precious moments.
In our Western culture this concept of celebrating the dead may seem morbid to some – but I am seeing it as a lovely and gentle way to both grieve and honor those who live on in our hearts. So thank you to my daughter for this opportunity – and welcome to Autumn, that time of bittersweet Remembering.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.


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