December 4, 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder, Depression and feeling down …

I want to take some time to talk about the change of season and what we can expect, how to potentially help ourselves, what is it exactly that is going on. In the more Northernly hemisphere where we live here in Canada, November is a tough month for many of us. The shorter daylight, the colder temperatures, the oncoming holiday season, the long road before Spring that follows… can make it tough for some of us to feel good. In yoga class some years ago, we always talked about November as the time for turning inward, for slowing down. It is of course the time of the great hibernation for some animals. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s easy to feel […]
November 21, 2017

The Seduction of Stress…..

It’s standard practice for any doctor to ask what level of stress a patient is under. I have begun to wonder how people might come to understand the answer to that question. Most of us work hard, have kids, busy lives, complicated families, difficult co-workers and the list goes on. Add to that – many of us live in noisy, crowded cities with lots of traffic, construction and pollution. We are bombarded daily by television, email, advertising, pressure to spend, save, buy, advance, get educated, get richer, parent better, be a better partner and the list goes on… feeling stressed yet? The funny thing is many of us experience all of the above, on any given day, and do NOT […]
November 8, 2017

What Love Looks Like..

What did love look like when it first came to you? Was it anxious? Was it cool and remote? Was it warm, protective and soothing? Was it chaotic? Was it overwhelming? I have been pondering of late what happens to us as we grow up with our different models of love. Do we seek out the same? If the love that you received as a child was wrapped up in anxiety, do you recognize that in your adult love relationships? Is your present day love interest aloof – like your caretaker in your youth may have been? Sometimes we find ourselves in relationships in our adulthood that are “comfortable”. Sometimes we say we “click” with someone, it’s like an old […]
October 30, 2017

The problem with the Narcissist

Some time ago, I was invited to discuss the psychological themes in the play Lies My Father Told Me, with the director for a production at a local theatre. Without getting too much into the story – “Lies” revolves around a family growing up in post-depression Montreal, where the father could be classified as suffering from “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”.  According to the DSM IV, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is described as being “excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power and prestige and includes a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy”; this lack of empathy being the hallmark, in my opinion, of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In Co-Narcissism: How We Accommodate to Narcissistic Parents by Alan Rappoport, he states that a large […]
October 24, 2017

Speaking from the Heart

What are you really saying when you’re saying what you’re saying….. Ah, communication. Is there anything more necessary, and yet more convoluted as honest communication? We have so many ways of expressing our unhappiness, our needs, our longing – yet for the most part we fall into unconscious, unauthentic, and fearful ways to say what we really want to say. This kind of communicating usually results in us not getting our needs met,  creating resentment, and building greater and greater obstacles to loving, respectful, and supportive relationships. Couples often present in couple therapy arguing about a specific situation: money, child-rearing, sex, yet almost always, the underlying issues are about attachment. “I don’t trust you about money” can be translated into […]
October 16, 2017

On Receiving Care

There is a whole population out there of parentified, uber-responsible, probably over-functioning people who have missed the boat on being taken care of. One of the hallmarks of this population is the absolute misery experienced when asking for help ….if they even permit themselves to do that. That’s kind of a sin isn’t it, this asking for help? It demonstrates some sort of flaw or weakness when we finally face the fact we can’t do it alone. And it never ever occurs to us that we shouldn’t face it alone! And if any one of our loved ones presented themselves to us the way we present ourselves to the world (stoic, self-contained, but suffering, miserable) we would tell them why aren’t you asking […]
October 12, 2017

The Precipice

I’ve been listening to Tony Robbins lately. He’s pretty inspiring I have to say. He is also exhausting to watch and to listen to if you ask me. On the other hand I felt that way after a Paul McCartney concert – please, stop, I can’t handle any more! Where do some people get their drive? How do they get the energy to do the things they do? It’s obvious these men are living out their passions. They believe in what they do with every fiber of their being – they know they are doing what they are meant and want to do. But that’s Tony Robbins and Paul McCartney… I want to figure this out for us ordinary folk. […]
September 27, 2017

The Language of Connection

In Gary Chapman’s, New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages: the Secret to Love that Lasts, he explores the different ways couples communicate their positive feelings for each other. He rightly argues that knowing your own and your partner’s preferred way of communicating love significantly improves your relationship’s chance of survival. Can you recognize yourself among these five approaches? Remember, while we probably use a bit of all, there is usually one approach, one language that is dominant: Do you let your partner know you care through affection or physical touch or do you tend to show your appreciation and care through gift giving? Some of us do so by offering service or taking care of; some of us through […]
September 20, 2017

Some help for depression…

For those of you struggling, there are voices on the internet that can help, that can reflect your experience and perhaps pull you out of feeling so alone in this struggle. I hope some of this is useful. Click here for an account of someone’s experience. Click here for a possible approach to moving out of depression.
September 18, 2017

All about My Daily Dose…

The My Daily Dose project on this site, or here on Instagram, is really all about looking everyday, for what makes me grateful, for what keeps me healthy, for what is beautiful in the world. I choose to do this because I want to be able to get through life without anxiety or depression at best, and without the need for medication for these afflictions at worst. And I am so very fortunate that it works for me. How I understand what I am doing is this: I am intentionally looking for something to be grateful for, and then reporting – whether to you, the world, or myself. Doing the work of looking – actually keeps me in the moment. Whether looking […]
September 12, 2017

A question of intent ..

Intent… intent can be understood as the motive, not necessarily conscious, behind our behaviour and communication. Often times in challenging relationships there appears to be a tendency towards ascribing intent which may not necessarily exist. A common enough complaint in relationship is that our loved one is ignoring us. It is sometimes easier to believe that than to come to an understanding that we were never thought of in the first place. In order for the intent of ignoring me to be there, my partner needs to be thinking of me, and dismissing me to some extent.  In order for me to be ignored, someone has to be doing the ignoring… that’s a conscious act. Rather than consider you and your needs, […]
August 24, 2017

What I learned while riding my bike…

Sometimes I don’t always make the best of decisions. This past weekend for example might have been one of those times. Husband and I decided we would cycle the Nordet … A daunting 80km ride that is pretty much as challenging as the Cabot Trail – which, by the way, when we cycled that, we trained for months! Not only did we decide on the Nordet, but it was our first cycle of the season. I knew something was wrong when a few kilometres in all I ever saw on the road were spandex clad young men and women, on racer bikes, with their Ironman competition numbers on their backs and bikes. Yet… we persevered! I’m sure it didn’t take […]
August 14, 2017

The Click’s the Thing

The Click.. So often, couples report, when talking about how they met, that “we just clicked“. Its worth taking a moment to understand that click. What we call clicking with someone, is actually the experience of being seen and understood. If you come from a European background, chances are high that you will “click” with someone who also has a European background. You “get” each other, you “recognize” the shared cultural values, the language, the nuances of unwritten rules first generation kids had to learn, for example. If you click because you both come from solid family backgrounds, imbued with respect, an understanding of empathic attunement, whether you call it that or not .. You again will feel seen and understood and […]
August 7, 2017

Radio Days….

I am sharing several radio segments I was invited to do on Montreal’s CJAD .. Boomer’s View with Elizabeth Stafiej. This particular segment was about the Sandwich Generation, and how to cope.
July 20, 2017

Boundaries… the most important work you will ever do.

One of the things I do when working with a client is an interpretive exercise about boundaries. It’s an exercise that was originally developed and taught to me by Mia Lobel, back in my university days. It has morphed pretty significantly since then, but I would not have had this tool if it weren’t for her. Thanks Mia! So, clients are given a roll of masking tape, my chair is moved out of the way to give them as wide a berth as possible, and they are asked to “give us a visual representation of your psychological/emotional boundaries”. I almost always get a “what?” kind of look, confusion, worry about “getting it right”, and lots of questions. I leave the […]
July 20, 2017

Holiday Season

Holiday seasons are tough on a lot of people. Those of us with “special” families have our share of Christmas horror stories …. too much drinking, too much drama, too much expectation. The media doesn’t help. We are bombarded from mid November on with the expectation that this is a time to be happy, to be connected to family which is supposed to be in and of itself a good thing, that we should buy, buy, buy, … Little wonder why the Help hotlines are overwhelmed at this time of year.  Those of us with out of step families feel well, out of step. We ask ourselves how is it that we don’t have the pie in the oven, the […]
July 20, 2017

March to a Different Drum

I march to a different drum, do you? I am not a 9 to 5er. As a psychologist in private practice I get to set my own hours, decide what days I work and when I take time off. My partner is a consultant who also works from home. Sometimes I feel a little out of step with the world. I was recently telling my osteopath what my day was like: I get up, I have the time to exercise – which means driving to the mountain for a run, or walking up to the summit – both taking an hour plus in the morning. I come home, shower up, eat and then relax (or run errands) – often I […]
July 20, 2017

Men and Work

Men, sadly, are socialized to believe that who and what they are in the work world is who and what they are period. While there has been a sea-change insofar as realizing the 25 year career in the same company is something from a by-gone era, what hasn’t changed is how men  develop their identity and define themselves according to work. Workaholism is still an acceptable form of escape for men – escape from family participation, self evolution and self reflection, from the intimacy in one’s relationship, from dealing with going after what your heart “wants” rather than what you “should”  …  I say it’s acceptable because it’s often not recognized as workaholism in the first place. Most people look at a […]
July 20, 2017

Helpers..


I watched Requiem for a Dream (2000) over the weekend. It’s a sad, sad story about addiction, loneliness, and the impossibility of some to deal with feelings. Ellen Burstyn plays the mother of a heroin addict. She herself lives alone and is, I guess, dying of loneliness. While I “appreciate” addiction – I get it, I’ve seen it, it’s awful, mostly an illness – but somewhere along the line I believe it’s a choice, usually of how one copes with feelings and anxiety. What I saw happen to Ellen’s character is not so much a choice – sort of. She comes from a time and culture that puts a lot of value in what a doctor says and believes. They are the professionals, […]
February 13, 2016

What We Long For

Well here we are, St. Valentine’s Eve…. and all over the airwaves people are talking about what to do, how to do it, how to deal with this day – that ostensibly is there to honour love. I was interviewed on the radio over the weekend, asked what I thought about the holiday – and I couldn’t get away from the idea about how it accentuates our loneliness, how tough it must be to live up to the pressure this holiday proposes. As I think further I’m astounded at the psychological pressure we are all put under – by the media. Think about it. Todd van der Hayden told me Valentine’s is an 18 BILLION dollar industry – what? All […]