Speed counseling | Integration Pt. IX

The room buzzed with nervous excitement. Over 100 of us circled up in two rows of chairs that faced each other to engage in a series of counseling sessions in a format we’d never used before. One row would play the role of clients as the row opposite would serve as their counselors for five different six-minute sessions. After the six minutes was up with one counselor, a new one would shift over to resume the session wherever it had left off, and the six-minute clock would start again.

It was just like speed dating...except that all attempts to impress the person opposite us were thrown out the window.

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We are not Pavlov's dogs | Pt. VII

In many ways, we are all like Pavlov’s dog. And, in many ways, we are not.

If you’re unfamiliar with Pavlov and his dog(s), he was a Russian psychologist from the last century who worked in an area called Classical Conditioning. His test subjects were dogs repetitiously trained to associate the sound of a bell ringing with the availability of food to consume. Eventually, he conditioned the dogs to so thoroughly relate the bell’s sounding with food that they began to salivate at the mere sound of a bell, even when food was taken out of the equation.

This morning, my alarm went off at 7am. I had a meeting with someone on Central Time and was aware that my morning fatigue might be met by a person on the other line who’d already be invigorated by one or two more cups of coffee than me. My alarm signaled that it was time to become conscious. In fact, it was time to be awake, which brings with it all kinds of responsibilities and expectations.

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What's a question you can't answer? | Pt. VI

Dear Reader, 

What are your unanswerable questions? The ones that play on repeat, inaudibly, throughout every day of your life?

For many of us, they’ve become so embedded within our inner dialogue that we hardly recognize them anymore, as they quietly cause us to wonder: Am I enough? Am I too much? Why do I want to hide? What’s the point? How can I be happy? What does happiness even mean? When will my real life start? (Or, insert any number of your own unanswerable questions. We’ve all got one perfectly tailored to ourselves.)

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Don't be so sensitive | Pt. V

Dear Reader, 

The sound of weeping and wailing was rising and falling like waves from the main meeting room, but the volume decreased with each step I took farther away from the group’s emotional activity.

We’d begun 30 minutes earlier with a shortened version of group meditation that involved three 20-minute segments entirely dedicated to laughter, tears, and silence. I was all game for the laughter portion where, ironically, I laughed so hard I cried. But, when it came time to allow myself to give into tears induced by sadness, not even one would fall from my eyes.

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Love & Shame | Pt. IV

Dear Reader,

The instructions were simple enough:

“Find someone who you’ve wanted to connect with, but who you’ve felt some kind of resistance toward.”

Once we located our person out of the 160 or so to choose from, we were tasked with sitting with them for about 20 minutes – each person getting 10 minutes of client time — and tell each other what makes us want to avoid them.

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Exploring the healing power of aggression | Pt. III

Dear reader,

I pinned her up against the wall and yelled with all my aggression directly into her face. She told me I wasn’t enough, and that I would never get what I wanted.

“You can’t have it,” she mocked. “You never will.”

I pushed harder, my feet sliding out from underneath me, as I could feel her delicate shoulder bones start to give way under my palms.

OK, she said, losing all the intensity we’d developed in the last few moments. Now I want you to push up against the wall behind me, so that you can give it all of your aggression without hurting me.

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How...who...what...are You? | Pt. II

“Today, we are going to be concerning ourselves with the nature of reality and how very little we know about it.”

It was Monday – as perfect a day as any to deconstruct existence as we knew it – and our class of 60 counseling students of all ages, vocations, shapes, sexual orientations, and colors were prepared to dive deep, led by our instructor Steve Bearman.

But first, we needed to come to terms with all that we didn’t know. 

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Why I'm holding guys' hands now | Pt. I

Dear Reader,

I look intently into his eyes and sense he’s hiding something. He’s blinking more often than what seems reasonable. I stand more firm in front of him, looking up, trying to calm his nerves by offering a stable presence, even though I feel quite small.

He’s nearly a foot taller than me and probably weighs twice as much as I do, but his eyes don’t convey the confidence his body commands. And so, in spite of my smaller stature, I feel like I must be strong for him.

His hands are sweaty; I know this because we are holding each other’s as if we’re about to exchange vows.

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