Empathy is the cornerstone of our practice.
Clinician Blog Posts
Dr. Jessica Mlecz, PsyD
Why does it take a lifetime to discover our true selves? Why is it hard to live a good, simple and stress-free existence? What really holds us back from achieving our hopes and dreams? Unfortunately, there are no simple answers but as a therapist, I have had a pretty good vantage point into the hearts and minds of thousands of individuals who have needed guidance and support while exploring these questions.
Perhaps our need to find answers is at the very heart of the problem. Why do we, as humans, need to fix everything that is broken instead of looking at the broken pieces and figuring out what to do with the shattered remnants? In Japan, when a vase breaks, instead of throwing it away the owner mends it with gold so the new vase is even stronger than the original with golden scars that give it human-like qualities and the appearance of a life well lived. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could adopt this same strength-based mindset to show off our scars? Instead of filling our broken bodies with foreign substances, medicines, and negative self-talk about everything that is going wrong, wouldn’t it be wise to rediscover our commonalties and remember that pain, suffering and even loss is part of the shared human experience? Dr. Kristin Neff, PhD says yes, and I quote from her new book Fierce Self-Compassion, “instead of crying woe is me, we honor the shared nature of suffering.…there’s no human being who completely escapes physical, mental and emotional hardship.” (Neff, p. 22). Dr. Neff is a leading pioneer in the research behind self-compassion - a powerful therapeutic approach that helps combat depression, self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety and fear (to name just a few) by promoting the power of unwavering virtues, unconditional self-love, balanced wholeness, and radical acceptance of our shared humanity by promoting personal courage, vulnerability and ultimately change from deep within.
Sounds pretty simple huh? Well, easier said than done. We have a lot of work to do as a society to stop looking outside ourselves for all the answers. I constantly hear clients in therapy say things like “Just tell me what I should do” and “I’m not sure how to fix this” or even “I wish these thoughts would stop”. Thoughts are not meant to be stopped. They are there to be listened to, not just reacted to or acted upon. Actions, as we know, can have unwanted consequences. Therefore, might it be possible to change a negative behavior, no matter how small, to encourage better, healthier thoughts? Harnessing thoughts is simply futile unless we gift ourselves with the ability and courage to embrace them, sift through them, put aside the unhealthy ones, and tap into the ones that provide peace instead of pain. However, if we get up each day and make our bed, might that one positive action lead to more positive actions and perhaps even a sense of accomplishment? And might these types of small yet significant accomplishments lead to happier and more optimistic thoughts about what we CAN do instead of what we CAN NOT? Relief may then be found in our ability to take the necessary steps (or actions) in order to be 100% true to ourselves thus exposing our human imperfections like a broken vase.
Once relief has freed you from your unwise self, continue to readjust your mindset to find comfort in the chaos, peace in the unknown, and contentment in knowing that recognizing the universality of the human struggle is often the first step toward healing your scars.
NEFF, D. K. (2022). Fierce self-compassion: How women can harness kindness to speak up, claim their power, and... thrive. PENGUIN LIFE.
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