"Sunday Neurosis," or, What happens to us during the holidays?

"Sunday Neurosis," or, What happens to us during the holidays?

"Sunday neurosis" was a term coined by psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi to describe the anxiety and stress we feel on Sundays right before we have to go back to work on Monday. I hear a lot of people in my practice talk about this, and I'm not immune to it either – that feeling on Sunday nights of all the anticipated problems in the week ahead seeming to spiral towards you, as though Sisyphus has let go of that damn boulder once and for all and, whoops, looks like you're going to be the one carrying it now if it doesn't smash you first!

This feeling of anxiety and stress is true for so many of us who work the traditional Monday through Friday schedule. This is also something that happens to many of us during the holidays. Some people experience a "vacation brain" that can be blissful while it's happening, but excruciating to come back from. While Ferenczi didn't acknowledge that this same type of anxiety can happen the day before you start your working life after a long holiday, it is incredibly common.

So what can you do about it? 

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Facing your inner oppressor

Facing your inner oppressor

Charlottesville. Ferguson. Orlando. Neo-Nazis. Police brutality. Racism. Classism. Fear. Fear, hate, and Othering have a figurehead now, and people who were once hidden in their hate are now empowered to come forward. As a white person who gives a shit, it is painful knowing the reality that this kind of hate is on the shoulders of marginalized people day in and day out, when it truly should be the burden of white folks such as myself who are complicit in systems of stolen* status and privilege.

So if you’re one of the many white folks asking, “What can I do?”, I suggest you consider the words of my friend and colleague Lily Sloane: “You have to fight your inner Nazis before fighting the outer Nazis.” 

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Power, Contact, and Transformation Through Radical Psychotherapy

Power, Contact, and Transformation Through Radical Psychotherapy

One of the most important and meaningful things in my work is making contact with each of my clients. Without relational contact, whatever work my clients and I do together becomes irrelevant, indigestible, insoluble, and fragmented, which can be traumatizing, re-activating, and particularly harmful on micro and macro levels. That’s not to say rifts and miscommunications don’t happen, even when we are aiming for contact. In fact, that’s often the life blood of our work together, as these inevitable rifts let us know that something is feeling missed inside of you, and therefore there is something that needs to be found and contacted.

So how can you and I make contact, even when you may be feeling an intuitive skepticism and mistrust of what I represent, or even what the vulnerability of emotional contact represents?

I think it has a lot to do with how both of us understand, and can speak to, power, privilege, and hegemony. If I don’t recognize and own my power in the therapeutic dyad, then it is more likely to be misused or enacted without resolution.

In service of a truly transformative experience for my clients and society at large, I aim to stay alive and awake in my radicalism even while maintaining a kind of therapeutic neutrality that is important to my work.

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The Language of "Good-Enough Therapy"

The Language of "Good-Enough Therapy"

I was talking with a therapist friend today about our personal relationships with authority. We were sharing that, as therapists, we have a particular authority that we as non-therapists might also rail against. As therapists, we have authority in the room. Whether we like it or not, there is often a power differential in the clinical hour. But that authority does not have to be a toxic one, and in fact, can become the very container in which to support profound transformation and growth. Here’s how I think that can happen.

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What Therapy Is, and Isn't

What Therapy Is, and Isn't

In the wake of the Oakland Ghostship Warehouse fire, many artists, community members, friends and families are in mourning. Even in my grief, I am inspired by the DIY creativity of the artists of Ghostship and many of the other warehouses across the globe who live under the radar, coming alive in art and community. I think, too, about the subversive and underground nature of therapy, and what a radical act it can be to know yourself on a deep level.

Therapy isn't about making people play by the rules. It’s about helping you learn about yourself, in all your weirdness, your queerness, your creativity, in all that you are just as you are. Your dreams, your shame, your fears, your anxieties, your nightmares, your traps, your stuckness. Therapy is here to help you make sense of past experiences, not to bury them. Therapy is here to help you make sense of confusing and difficult feelings so that you are not at the whim of their chaos and destruction. Therapy is a lot like art in this way.

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Teachers need self-care, too!

Teachers need self-care, too!

Teachers are remarkable people. Having worked with teachers in my practice for the past decade, I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most passionate, smart, creative, and ... stressed out people ever. Having been a teacher and a lecturer myself, I understand the excitement, creativity, and energy that goes in to helping people of all ages expand their minds and develop their skills so they have the best possible opportunities in the world. I also understand the pressure, overloaded schedule, emotional overwhelm, and burnout.

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What's in (and under) a diagnosis?

Have you ever experienced the world as chaotic and unpredictable? When we are children, it is: when we are born, we are completely dependent on a world over which we have no control. We learn over time to navigate this world, and develop agency and accomplishment as we grow into our bodies and our brains. If any of this is thwarted or impeded- either, the capacity for making meaning of our world, or the capacity to live as fully ourselves rather than projections of our parents (as in developmental trauma) and society (as in racism and poverty) and all of this unprocessed grief and pain- we do not get to fully experience ourselves and live our own lives. We take on what Winnicott has called a “false self” and live with what Atwood calls “the ghost of the interrupted life.” This is one of the grains of sand at the root of pathology and disorder.

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