"An essential part of seeing clearly is finding the willingness to look closely and to go beyond our own ideas."-Cheri Huber

Monday, September 2, 2013

12 Months Of Life Lessons: August


1)SCREEN YOUR STORY: When you experience displeasure, discontent, angry confusion or feel the need to ask someone to change themselves, start by screening your story. Our experiences are projections. More often than not, our interpretation/story of what is going on holds us hostage and we react or make demands for change stemming from these stories, as opposed to "truth". Before acting on the need to ask someone to change, screen your story with questions like, "I experienced what you said as insensitive/ mean/hurtful/suspicious. Is that what you meant?". Screening your story allows the other the necessary opportunity to explain and express, and allows you to modify your story in a way that matches what "is" as opposed to what you "think it is". It is also the quickest way to maintain kindness while honoring the feelings of displeasure you feel.


2)DON'T GET WET IN SOMEONE ELSE"S STORM: People lash out, share loud angry opinions, judge, criticize,misinterpret all the time. If you are coming from a place of integrity, remember that they are likely soaking in their own storm and their opinion is not the same as your reality. Stay dry by validating their experience(you don't have to agree to validate!)and clarifying your position. Jumping in with defensiveness, counter-attacking, aggressively proving them wrong, or insulting them is a sign that you are now getting wet too. State your position, and allow them their need to sway in their storm in the direction they choose. Their storm is not your project, playground, battle field or your reality. It is only where they are right now.

Screen your story. Stay Dry. 

*This post is part of a personal project to pay attention to life lessons as they arise each month,document them and share them. September is feeling pretty rich already! Stay tuned!).

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Paradox of Progress

I once cried and sobbed to my dance teacher about how often I was called "weirdo" and "rebellious" and worst of all, "incapable and too laid back" as a child. I cannot look back at my childhood and adolescence and wish I were a kid again because for me, being a kid was fraught with confusion. I grew up in the heart of the bipolarity that some kids do where you experience love and acceptance until you show that you are different. That is when the labels come rushing in. I experienced this everywhere I went with barely any exceptions. At 14, I secretly decided to leave primarily because of this. At 23, I caught a plane and moved continents because I was tired of being forced to fit in, of labels, of being accused of things I didn't do, of being accepted and rejected by loved ones on a monthly basis and of seeing the pain in my mothers eyes as she did her best to create a wall around me to protect what she accepted as "unique". I was outspoken, often said it like it is, did not bow my head down if someone older did something blatantly wrong and in my Indian culture, faced the consequences of it all.

The teacher I cried and sobbed to, sent me a postcard once I moved with this quote on it. Although she no longer lives, her reminder always will.

I am still the weirdo and I continue to speak up to the best I can when I see power being abused. But every step I have taken, is an ongoing attempt to draw new lines. I don't always succeed, but this is the one thing I won't give up on.
To all kids in adult bodies who know what I am talking about, this is for you. You will lose relationships,
you may get hit in your professional endeavors, you will almost never lose some of you labels, authority figures may dread you, but always remember...society needs you to be bold, irrational, messy and original. Progress was never made by those who bow their head and conform. For a plant to grow, it must burst open through the cracks in the soil...and that is the paradox of progress.You may need to be wise and grown-up  about it, because even though adolescent rebellion was great , it not always productive.Don't lose yourself in the displeasure and judgment of others. Trust the process and draw new lines.

Sunday, July 7, 2013



I recently learned: the absence, or limited engagement in the act of self awareness shows quickly and sharply in how one communicates with others. The way one speaks to someone else is often a reflection of how one speaks to oneself . Do you speak to yourself/treat yourself with compassion, or acerbity?Self awareness transcends the question "What do you say to yourself when...?" and begs to incorporate "How do you speak to yourself when....?" The former attends to thoughts while the latter attends to thoughts and intention.
Effective communication, then, is not a mere skill of speaking. It is a delicate art of balancing compassion with clarity, intention with delivery, asserting boundaries with opening space for dialogue, conveying a message with listening for impact on another.
Self awareness based communication remembers me, you and all of us;because being self-aware is being aware of the self in others...and being aware of others is being aware of their impact on the self.
Communication hides a secret power of influencing the climate of relationships; it comes armed with weapons of destruction and gifts of connection. When one chooses their words, they choose the relationship that is created as a result of those words. What is intended, what is said and what is heard results in the creation or destruction of connection...and connection thrives in the presence of self-awareness. It dies in its absence.

To connect is to be self-aware, to be self aware is to be aware of others, to be aware of others is to practice the art of compassionately clear communication, and to be compassionate to others, one must know how to be compassionate to oneself.

An ongoing lesson, and ongoing practice...much has been learned, much remains to be learned.


Writing came easily, effortlessly and fiercely until a professional/educational setback that attempted to strangle my spirit visited me this March. A setback that I recently described as "I feel like I lost my first born!" when asked what it was like. I am on my way out from under a secret rock of feeling small, violated and infuriated at injustice(secret because until this moment, no one other than my husband has been witness to or allowed into the gradual crashing and crumbling of my heart). But I found myself sobbing and shaking 3 days ago as I attempted to write again. I had so much to say and share that I could feel it physically in the depths of my stomach. Instead, I stared at a blank screen for a really long time...questioning what I should say and how, backspacing every sentence I typed. I looked at my husband in the midst of my sobs, and asked the question that I have been avoiding for all these months. A question that makes me feel more vulnerable than I have ever been; "What If I've lost it?".

Internally, I battled questions of "What If I can't and won't write?What if it's gone?What if they took it away?"Then they did strangle my spirit, didn't they? They got me where it hurts the most...my nurtured ambition for contribution and growth through creative and honest expression. And in place of that ambition is fear, self doubt, exhaustion and confusion.
The more I pondered and grappled with these questions, the angrier I felt. The kind of anger that is motivating, not defeating; The anger that is felt by a bird that is caged for the first time. The kind that burns in the base of your throat and sends a surge of creatively fueled adrenalin coursing through your veins.

I have chosen Facebook to air a lot of my laundry (I don't have "dirty laundry, just laundry that has the wear and tear of experience. And that is not dirty!). And I am choosing Facebook to voice a goal that I am terrified I won't achieve:to write, express and share with the bold voice I was so proud of before March. I am terrified it will be too hard. I am afraid that it won't be any good. I am afraid that I may realize that this setback, of all my experiences, has changed me to become quiet, meek and overpowered by self-doubt.
I know that none of this is true. I know that somewhere in my reader list is at least one other person who knows exactly what I am talking about. If not about writing, then about dating after a painful divorce, walking after a broken leg, losing weight after weight gain, finding a job after being laid off, rebuilding a relationship after it cracked...I know that somewhere out there is someone who is asking more questions instead of fearlessly following their gut that says, "You can start over. You KNOW how".
If that is you, I am writing this post for you. I am writing this because we are not just connected by sharing success, but we are truly connected by acknowledging how similar we are in the messiness of being human.
My July goal is to hang perfectionism on the coat track of unwanted obstacles and return to what fuels me: my need to grow, and my need to contribute and writing is my chosen medium.My goal is to write again regardless of how sub-par I may judge it to be. I am scared, and that is why I must do it.
What do you want your goal to be?What do you want to overcome?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I have woken up today feeling like there is sunlight within; like clouds don't just have silver linings but are made of silver itself; like there is no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, the rainbow IS the gold; and that night exists so that the sun can take a nap; like there is no calm before a storm but that calm is the norm and a storm is just a temporary interruption;I feel like the life I was waiting to live has been waiting for me to see that it was here to live all along.

I have woken up knowing that every door that slammed shut in the past needed to be shut or I would not have looked for the one that has opened now; knowing that the guiding voice within us is much louder than the voices that surround us; knowing that you never rise or fall alone and that relationships matter more than resumes.

I have woken up believing that life will do what it must, we can either be friends with it or make it our enemy and the choice we make manifests in how we experience your experiences. I have woken up believing that whether you believe in God or are atheistic does not matter as much as how you treat those who believe differently than you, and how you treat yourself in your moments of vulnerability matters more than whether you pray or scientifically dissect your experience.

I have woken up feeling, knowing and believing that I may not always remember all that I have learned through my recent struggles, but I will always remember this relief that pauses, no matter how long, do come to an end. And if you are someone who is at the heart of your own pause, I feel, believe and know that you will find your way out.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"We do not see what we do not know"-How Mental Health Professionals dismiss the Gifted

"Do you specialize or see Gifted Adults as clients?
Um, no!What problems do THEY have that are different from anyone else?!?"

This is sadly, an example of a stereotypical conversation that I have come across regarding Gifted-ness when talking to mental health professionals of varying expertise. While the response is not always as blatant, it is along a similar spectrum;From a simple and acceptable "no" to vague conversations about intellectual assessment and testing to the more dramatic spirit of "Gifted-ness does not exist", to mention of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

As a mental health professional myself, I am openly astounded at  mental health professionals who dismiss or deny the  legitimacy of Gifted children and adults. My search for a different word for "Gifted" continues as it does lead to a projection of elitism and "better than" ideas that seem to trigger not only those who are at this end of the spectrum but those that hear the word "Gifted". I often wonder about the social receptivity of this genre if the term Gifted was replaced by "Differently Abled".

I have come across very few mental health professionals who don't squirm or worse, question the validity of the "differently abled" population when they hear of it. There seems to be an intrinsic need to deny that it exists or what is shared is a shrugging of the shoulders with the premise "They have problems different than everyone else?!" (like the conversation above). The primary amazement that I experience when I hear this is if Developmental Delays and lower IQs exist and are acknowledged, then why is there so much resistance to acknowledging the other end of this continuum?No, it is not the same...but it does exists.Why do we metaphorically plug our ears when we hear others talk about this?

       Recently, I engaged in a social review of sorts where I mentioned Gifted-ness to various mental health professionals I know, in direct and indirect ways. It has been astounding to witness their  reactions. I have noticed facial expressions change when the word "Gifted" is casually dropped, to complete silence when I mention or ask if they know of therapists who specialize in providing counseling for Gifted Children, Adults and their families. The ones who could give me an answer or even faintly recall someone they once met who did specialize in this, were the undeniable minority.When the majority is trying to dismiss, wears their lack of awareness as a badge("We are all the same"), boldly state "Everyone is gifted" (when what they really mean is "Every one has a gift"...the two are very different).or shrug their shoulders, talking about Over Excitabilities, Super Sensitivities or any other details of behavioral and emotional "symptoms" of Gifted-ness seemed futile.(Poor Kazimierz Dabrowski must be weeping in his grave!)

Once my personal disbelief and disappointment at this discovery simmered down, I questioned the epistemology of this denial and complacent lack of awareness. Why is it that of ALL people, those that have made analysis and assistance of human nature their livelihood, are the one's that are so comfortable with the limited or absence of awareness about this population?

Personal projections.

           I have tentatively concluded that working specifically with the Gifted populations requires, at the very least, acknowledgment that a Gifted Population exists. Following that is gaining knowledge about it which is in turn,undeniably necessary to engage in being aware, insightful and attentive to it's nuances. I am reminded of the  adage in medical fields that states "We cannot see what we do not know".  But how effective is any of this when one stays behind a personal wall of projection about the label of someone being Gifted?It is no wonder then, that the number of therapists catering to this rare population is so low. There is such a thick fog of personal and societal projection about the Gifted that therapists seem more comfortable pretending it does not exist than find ways to walk through the fog!

       The label of "Gifted" has indeed been overused and grossly misused in certain societies that has contributed to a collective projection. That, in addition to a lot of parents who believe their children are gifted mainly and only because of their grades only makes the reality of Giftedness unfortunately cloudy. This mis-representation along with ego-driven behavior of a lot of parents seems to fuel the disdain around this term. Gifted becomes synonymous with the annoying mother you meet when you drop your child off at school who gloats about teh GATE program!But what is even more unfortunate is that a lot of mental health professionals do not exercise the foundational fuel of therapy: curiosity. Hijacked by their own projections that come from limited information, casual observation of inflated ego's of parents of Gifted children or their own reservations of what being "Gifted" means, mental health professionals tend to look the other way.

     I wonder, as a mental health professional myself, if these projections could be penetrated with reason? If we as professionals could engage in the very work we guide our clients/patients to do? Can we set aside whatever it is we "think" we know about Gifted-ness and approach it with sincere curiosity and self awareness of what comes up for us as we explore?

The sad, sad truth is that whether we as clinicians accept the reality of Gifted struggles or not, there is a significant group of people out there who need us to "get it". They are the parents of Gifted children who quickly realized that "good grades"(if that were included) was NOT what parenting a Gifted Child entails. They are Gifted adolescents who have already spent a significant period of their life struggling to fit in, or be seen as more than "High Achievement", its the middle school kids who may do well academically and glean praise but spend every lunch hour by themselves...lost, confused and mainly very, very alone. The kid that wants to know if "We are living in a world perceived by us but not in reality" but cannot manage to play a simple game with another kid. These kids grow up to be adults struggling with Imposter Syndrome, social misunderstanding and ridicule, tragic and confusing Under Achievement...and they internally remain the kid that sits alone for lunch hour. They struggle very deeply and uniquely in relationships, lose jobs or struggle to find one, are torn between their abilities and limitations and spend their life trying to piece together a fragmented self image that honors their uniqueness but still craving to the "same as others". They can be oddly rebellious and serious procrastinators, you will hear them talk about "not being able to turn their brain off"...the list is endless. Whether we acknowledge any of this or not, it exists.

There is so much emphasis on Gifted-ness being Achievement based that a poignant premise gets missed: Developmental differences and advancement. Mental health professionals are more likely to specialize and assist those who battle developmental differences at the other end of the same spectrum than the one being spoken of here. While one elicits reactions of sympathy and concern(rightfully so!) the Gifted get ignored. I once read that "Even sunshine burns if we get too much". The seemingly sunny side of the Gifted is somewhat like that. The Gifted are "too much" of everything. While details are going to be food for future posts, my hope with this one is that mental health professionals begin to wake up, just a little bit more, to the possibility that their personal projections are dismissing the struggles of a lot of people...which is drastically dichotomous to what our field was created to do. We are agents of change, healers and helpers...we cannot do that if we deny someone's struggles whether it is through absence of information or personal triggers.

Let's start by looking inward ourselves:
1. What came up for you as your read this article?
2. Did you hear a voice of resistance? What did it say?
3. How much do you really know about counseling the Gifted?
4. Do you have a voice that is compelling you to deny Gifted-ness because you feel resistant to the idea that differences in people DO exist?
5.What are your projections about intelligence?

Not every one of us will engage in Therapy for the Gifted. But my hope is that most of us contribute positively to remove the stigma, mysteries and myths that surround this very real population.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Hug before A Tissue

ON HOW A FITNESS PRODUCT TEACHES ME ABOUT LIFE:I was witness to (and participated to some extent) in a recent experience where there was a divide between fitness enthusiasts about a new health product. Some loved it and some did not. As what happens in life about most things, right?

The fascinating element in this was not that people disagreed, but what was triggered in people on both camps as a response to the other. There was no filter in those that loved it to call the one's who did not 'crazy' and proceed to glorify how much they loved it,used language that pushed the ones that did not into a box labeled "negative" and a verbal party about how this product is the best thing to have happened proceeded. A human reaction.

The one's that did not like it did voice their displeasure too, proceeding to describe why they did not, how disappointed they were etc.

What ensued was that the one's that loved it continued to sing about how wonderful it was and the one's that did not were silenced. There was no room to say "hey! I did not like it" with safety amongst peers and an opportunity to learn and grow was missed. An opportunity where the one's experiencing displeasure could have received acceptance and safety to disagree even if the majority felt otherwise. Instead, the perceived "negative" was shut down. Whether in the name of understandable business strategy or not, it had an outcome that was not desirable to any even though not many have noticed it. A section of the people were made to shut up. Sadly.

This is not about the product or fitness enthusiasts or what happened. All people involved were human and okay.

It is an example of how we are socially conditioned to shut down what is perceived as negative. We are conditioned to need to "fix" a feeling that someone may have that is not one of happiness. If someone is discouraged we instruct them to "BE POSITIVE!", we throw around phrases like "turn the frown upside down" and "suck it up". We call the ones that had a negative experience of something we love "nuts". We seem inadvertently trained to look at the one who has a undesirable experience and attempt to make it go away(whether in emotion, about products, TV shows, cultural preferences etc.). While a lot of it is done to "help" ,either the person or those that may be exposed to the displeasure in general...I almost always see it have a different outcome.

In the days that passed since the fitness product description, there is complete silence from those that did not like it, and those that did have not stopped reiterating how much they do. What happened here?Did those that did not like the product magically start to think otherwise?Nope.

What happened was there was a message that "if you do not like something, don't talk about it or take it elsewhere" . COMPLETELY unintentionally, but this is what happened. What COULD have been done differently is to speak to those in a "negative" space differently. It was an opportunity to let them know that its OKAY to not like something as it is okay to feel sad, angry, demotivated and discouraged because we are human and then offer solutions. This would have resulted in the ones not liking the products still feeling included and involved as opposed to silenced and alienated.

But much like in life, what happens is that we speed through to fixing a perceived negative situation and forget about the one who was in distress. When we see tears we offer a Kleenex before a hug when a hug could lead to a person who cries wipe their own tears(which is the desired goal, isn't it?).

What has conditioned us to be this way?Why is it that we make conversation, family, groups and society so unsafe for the "negative" when we ALL feel negatively?Why is it SO hard to offer support by sitting with someone's discomfort and allow it to play out as it needs to.

When did our discomfort about someone else going through discomfort become so unbearable that we inadvertently ignore the need of the one who hurts?Imagine a child who walks in with a gash on his knee...would you put a band-aid and then ask them to "cry elsewhere"? You would likely comfort, understand and nurture the physical and emotional wound simultaneously. how come we treat adults so differently?

The next time you hear someone not like what you like, or cry in front of you...notice what happens. Would you like to be called crazy because you love something or are happy?Then why do it to someone who isn't it?

" I am sorry this is not working for you/feel this way. I personally don't but I am glad that there are options you could try...maybe we can figure this out together to help you feel better?". THERE! How hard was that?