Tag Archives: Counseling Connoisseur

The Counseling Connoisseur: Feminist psychology and the Amazonian mystique

By Cheryl Fisher July 13, 2017

She wanted a hero…so that’s what she became! –Anonymous

 

Clad in her patriotic unitard and silver arm bands, her dark mane cascading as she twirls her golden lasso of truth, Wonder Woman has become an icon of beauty, physical strength and moral character. Her conception in 1941 has taken her from her Amazonian haven of Paradise Island into the land of patriarchy as she is committed to help humans end violence and suffering in the United States. From her 1940s pinup persona to her 1970s Lynda Carter television series and this summer’s blockbuster movie, Wonder Woman continues to wrestle with the underpinnings of injustice in a society plagued with inequity. In creating Wonder Woman, psychologist William Moulton Marston hoped to “set up a standard among children and young people of strong free courageous women and to combat the idea women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievements in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men.”

Harvard professor Jill Lepore suggests in her book The Secret History of Wonder Woman that Wonder Woman acted as a bridge for feminism, highlighting the first cover of Ms. magazine in 1972 with the headline ‘‘Wonder Woman for president.’’ Yet, not everyone was convinced of this superheroine’s positive influence on young and impressionable minds.  In his 1954 book The Seduction of the Innocent, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham described Wonder Woman as “…always a horror type. She is physically very powerful, tortures men and has her own female following, is the cruel, ‘phallic’ woman. While she is a frightening figure for boys, she is an undesirable ideal for girls, being the exact opposite of what girls are supposed to be.”

While Wertham lost his argument declaring comics a contributing factor to delinquency, it wasn’t until 2010 that evidence of the manipulation of data supporting his theory was fully revealed.  Nevertheless, Wonder Woman remains a constant iconic figure in the history of feminism.

Feminist psychology: History

In an attempt to counter Freud’s male-centered theory of identity formation, Karen Horney and other female psychologists developed theories that did not exclude the female experience. It was believed that rather than experiencing penis envy, what women desired was the status and opportunity afforded to men. Rejecting Freud’s theory in 1926, Horney introduced the concept of womb envy, or the desire around women’s ability to create and connect to their children.

The first wave of feminism occurred between 1900 and 1920 and included the suffrage movement, which ultimately won women the right to vote. Simultaneously, the field of psychology was emerging with theories of learning and intelligence. Women who were instrumental to the early conceptualization of psychology included Mary Whiton Calkins, the first female president of the American Psychological Association (APA) and Margaret Floy Washburn, who was the first woman to earn a doctorate in psychology and was the second woman, after Calkins, to serve as APA president.  Women were generally excluded from academia and (ironically) Elizabeth “Sadie” Holloway, the wife of William Moulton Marston (the creator of Wonder Woman) earned a PhD in psychology but was forbidden to attend college with men.

Marston, a psychologist and inventor of the polygraph, produced a paper in 1928 that declared that human emotions came from four factors: dominance, compliance, submission and inducement. According to Marston, inducement was the most powerful of forces, encouraging one to submit – and producing pleasantness in the induced. This was a trait that Marston identified in women, on which he based his 1937 proclamation that women would establish a matriarchy in 100 years because they have the biological advantage with “twice the love-generating organs” as men.  It was from this theoretical framework that Marston introduced his Wonder Woman in 1941.

Biology or social learning and gender prescription

Early psychology and first wave feminism emphasized the biological differences between the binary assignments of male and female-ness. Philosopher, psychologist and Harvard University professor William James denounced women as leaders because of their “tender-minded nature.”  However, second wave feminists of the 1960 to 1980s repealed the androcentric approaches to gender identity and research began to identify greater similarities between men and women.

Many theorists agree that most noted gender differences result from social learning and rewards or punishments for desired socially prescribed behavior. In essence, the theory posits that boys and girls are rewarded for different behaviors and therefore, learn what behaviors are appropriate for their gender. Social structural theory builds on social learning theory by addressing the secondary skills learned as a result of the learned primary behaviors. For example, if a girl is rewarded for domestic skills, a secondary learned behavior may be communal skills. This may result in the stereotyping of domestic work and promote the continued disenfranchising of women.

Wonder Woman attempted to dispel gender differences and employed an internal locus of control. She attributed her successes to commitment and training and valued mental and moral strength, in addition to physical conditioning.

Cultural identity

In addition to gender identity, cultural and ethnic identity contribute to one’s overall sense of self.  Cultural identity involves actively learning about one’s culture (beliefs, values and customs) and developing a clear understanding of the meaning of culture in one’s life. This includes the development of positive feelings toward one’s cultural group membership. Cultural identity in younger children is viewed in terms of physical characteristics. As they mature, culture takes on more social and membership implications.  Research appears to suggest an increase in cultural identity formation during middle adolescence. Furthermore, researchers Timothy Smith and Lynda Silva found evidence to suggest that cultural identity is a predictor of wellbeing among minority adolescents. Wonder Woman identifies as a member of the Amazons living in Paradise Island. While she is fluent in most languages, she is unfamiliar with the rules that accompany an androcentric world. She is abruptly thrown into a society that does not value women as equal [to men] and forces women to bind themselves [in clothes] “restricting their ability to be free to battle.” She wears her arm bands as a reminder that she will never be bound by anyone again. She must learn to acculturate in a way that honors her past and helps her function in the present. She must find membership and belonging in this new land, [which are] tasks that resonate with individuals migrating from other countries.

Conclusion

Wonder Woman has been described as complicated and dichotomous. According to researcher and social work educator Paige Averett, Wonder Woman “is feminine, sexual, submissive and dependent. She is also strong, capable, independent, fierce and ultimately a warrior. Unlike so many other female role models, she does not promote a one-dimensional view of the lived experience of being a woman. Wonder Woman is not just a sexy, attractive woman or just a strong kick-ass heroine or just a nurturing daughter and girlfriend or just a hardworking, justice-loving and world-changing working woman. She is all these things. Wonder Woman does not have to choose.”

Maybe this is the mystique of the Amazon princess that has remained strong for more than 75 years. While she is clearly not free from bias as a light-skinned, blue-eyed, dark haired, slender, more-than-able-bodied demigod, the idea of Wonder Woman poses the vision to engender life without prescription, to capitalize on individual strengths and to promote endless possibilities … for all persons.

 

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Cheryl Fisher

Cheryl Fisher is a licensed clinical professional counselor in private practice in Annapolis, Maryland. She is affiliate faculty for Loyola and Fordham Universities. Her research interests include examining sexuality and spirituality in young women with advanced breast cancer; Nature-informed therapy: and Geek Therapy.  She will be presenting Geek Therapy 101 at the Association for Creativity in Counseling conference in September.   She may be contacted at cyfisherphd@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Related reading: See Counseling Today’s July cover story on the intersection of pop culture and counseling: wp.me/p2BxKN-4Lb

 

Letters to the editor: CT@counseling.org

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

The Counseling Connoisseur: Free time: Vacationing and well-being

By Cheryl Fisher May 31, 2017

 

My schedule is abysmal. I methodically pluck each hour and consume it with some obligation. At the end of my day, my free time is as nonexistent and barren as a sweet-corn field in October. — Cheryl Fisher

 

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Exams are graded. Grades are finally posted. Commencement pomp and circumstance has been observed. I am now able to turn my attention to my much neglected home, garden and family life. Closets and drawers burst with the abundance of unseasonal attire, while young seedlings choke on interloping weeds. I vaguely remember the names of my husband and my canine companion, who both have remained loyal and supportive during these past hectic months.

My closets need space to make room for a warmer climate wardrobe. My seedlings need space to grow to their full capacity. My husband and I need space to reconnect and reclaim the richness of our relationship. We need to make space and time for us!

 

Take back time

The concepts of overwork and “poverty of time” are explored and examined by like-minded professionals at the annual Time Matters: The National Take Back Your Time Conference. These individuals strive to bring life-work balance into practice through discussion and strategy by hosting experts in the field such as historian and author Benjamin Hunnicutt.

Hunnicutt, in his book Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream, challenges that “progress, once defined as more of the good things in life as well as more free time to enjoy them, has come to be understood only as economic growth and more work, forevermore.” He suggests that recommitting to the forgotten American Dream will promote enriched family life and provide more opportunity to “enjoy nature, friendship and the adventures of the mind and of the spirit.”

This sounds great … but how do we do it?

 

Simplify

The most singular thing to do to increase time is to simplify. By minimizing the materialism in one’s life, a person takes back not only time but energy and economy by investing in priority-only possessions, people and protocols. Attending to one or two goals or commitments at a time allows for more full engagement and success. Focusing on positive thoughts reduces ruminating negative feedback loops. Unplugging from digital communication affords solace. Taking steps to simplify life allows for the cultivation of free time.

 

Free time: Benefits of vacation

Recently, I found myself thinking, “I can’t wait until the weekend so that I can get some work done.” Seriously! I was planning to use my weekend to catch up from the workweek.

It was at that point I realized that I needed a vacation. Vacations help to rejuvenate and rehabilitate us from overexposure to demanding schedules and work environments. Here are a few benefits to making the most of our free time.

1) Vacations reduce stress. The American Psychological Association found that vacations reduce stress by removing people from the stressors identified in the workplace. This was similarly found in a Canadian study that examined the role of vacation for 900 lawyers who reported a sense of rejuvenation from the temporary reprieve from their stressful work environments.

2) Vacations reduce heart disease. A Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial for the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease found that in 12,000 men with high risk for coronary disease, those who took regular vacations reduced their chance of a heart attack by 21 percent. Furthermore, the largest and longest running study, the Farmington Study, found that taking routine vacations significantly decreased the risks of heart disease in both men and women.

3) Vacations decrease depression. A study conducted by Marshall Clinic found that taking regular vacations appears to increase positive emotions and buffer the effects of depression. A similar finding emerged from the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind-Body Study.

4) Vacations may make you thinner. The Mind-Body Study additionally found that taking vacations decreased blood pressure and decreased waistlines. These appear to be related to increased activity levels, a decrease in cortisol and a decrease in stress eating.

5) Vacations improve relationships and sex life. Spending time with loved ones and sharing experiences appears to have a positive effect on the bonding experienced in relationships, Furthermore, lower cortisol levels are believed to promote a positive feedback loop in the brain and increase levels of sex hormones such as testosterone, contributing to an increase of libido. Therefore, people report feeling more easily aroused and experiencing higher levels of sexual satisfaction while on vacation.

 

Conclusion

In an effort to resume balance, and with a renewed sense of conviction to self-care, I take the vacation pledge borrowed from Take Back Your Time (repeat after me):

 

I HEREBY PLEDGE:

To not add to the 429 million days of unused paid time off last year.

To promise to vacation so that I can lead a happier, healthier life.

To recharge, refuel and refresh by taking all the vacation time I have earned.

To ignore my voicemail, email and text messages for days on end.

To reduce my stress, improve my health and nurture my relationships by vacationing on a regular basis.

To return to my regularly scheduled life glowing, smiling and doing a little happy dance.

 

And so it begins … Happy summer!

 

 

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For more on the logistics and responsibilities involved in stepping away from a counseling practice for a much-needed break, see Cheryl Fisher’s archive column “Break away: Five vacation hacks for the responsible counselor

 

 

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Cheryl Fisher

Cheryl Fisher is a licensed clinical professional counselor in private practice in Annapolis, Maryland, and a visiting full-time faculty member in the Pastoral Counseling Department at Loyola University Maryland. Her current research examines sexuality and spirituality in young women with advanced breast cancer. She is working on a book titled Homegrown Psychotherapy: Scientifically Based Organic Practicesthat speaks to nature-based wisdom. Contact her at cyfisherphd@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

 

 

The Counseling Connoisseur: Pet loss: Lessons in grief

By Cheryl Fisher April 11, 2017

 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” — Anatole France

 

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On Jan. 22, following a three-week whirlwind diagnosis and decline, my husband and I said goodbye to our 6.5-year-old goldendoodle, Lily. Her disease had rendered this Frisbee-catching superstar unable to stand or walk. She needed to be carried outdoors to “get busy,” and she no longer had the stamina to stay awake for extended periods of time.

The author, Cheryl Fisher, with her dogs Max and Lily.

We spent the entire last weekend with Lily in the emergency room as she struggled against various gastrointestinal issues and, finally, internal bleeding. Her vet and neurologist felt that the disease had progressed and her prognosis was bleak. It was then that we made the most difficult decision we have ever made — to let her go. We took time lying with her, holding her, reminiscing … and stayed with her until her last heartbeat.

On the first day without our Lily, I kept tripping over my grief as I called out to see if she needed to go outside or wanted to lie by the window and watch “her birds.” Max, our 9-year-old goldendoodle, moped around the house, trying to sniff Lily out without success. He looked at me as if begging, “Bring her back, OK?” I canceled my clients for the day. I couldn’t imagine sitting with their pain as my pain continued streaming from my eyes.

I found myself returning to the little Catholic girl inside of me and lighting a candle next to a picture of our Lily that I had placed on the fireplace mantle. I wrote, announcing our loss to all 210 close friends on social media. I started a scrapbook and printed pictures long held captive in my iPhone. I cried continuously, as if the floodgates had been lifted and years and layers of grief came pouring out. All the losses in my life appeared to be resurrected with Lily’s death. My heart ached and my stomach hurt.

My attempts to prep for my classes that week proved futile. I just couldn’t concentrate. I kept reading the same sentence over and over again. Mostly I was just tired. Tired from three weeks of relentless caregiving, painstakingly attempting to keep the horrific disease at bay — the disease that stripped my beautiful bird-watching, tail-wagging, never-had-a-bad-day rescue pup of her mobility, energy and dignity. In the end those soulful eyes would beg me to end her suffering, and in keeping the promise I had made to her, I mercifully did, holding her till the end.

 

Tips for coping with the loss of a pet

Experiencing the death of a pet can be painful and devastating. Our pets are often our most vulnerable family members, relying on us completely for their care. This includes end-of-life care, which may involve making very difficult decisions about treatment and finally letting go. This adds complexity to grief because we may struggle with questions surrounding the decision to stop treatment and euthanize: Did I do enough? When is it time to let go?

1) Grief comes in waves. Initially the waves may be intense and relentless, pummeling us to the ground. We may feel that we will never breath (or stop crying) again. But with time and some work, the waves gradually recede, allowing us to stand and take tentative strides toward a “new normal.” Still, the waves will come and go, often crashing near a special day or at a moment when our dear fur-family member comes to mind.

2) Grief is brain work. Grief affects our neurology. It makes it difficult to concentrate. We forget things. We are easily irritated. We definitely are not on our A game. We may even feel like we are in a dream (or nightmare). Neurologically, we have taken a hit and require time to recover. Don’t worry. The grief fog will lift eventually. In the meantime, be gentle and kind with yourself.

3) Grief is an ever-changing chameleon. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified stages of grief related to dying that can also be applied to our experiences of grief and loss. These stages are no longer thought to happen in a linear manner. Rather, they are common experiences that can occur moment to moment as the result of grief.

Anger: Initially, I felt anger at the sudden deterioration of Lily. She had been running and playing catch just days before her back legs began to buckle under her body. Following an MRI and spinal taps, she was placed on a steroid treatment that quickly led to weight loss and gastric-intestinal discomfort. I was angry at the doctor. I was angry at the disease. I was angry at God.

Guilt: Although I knew I had responded quickly to Lily’s symptoms, I was plagued with self-doubt around the decision to use steroid treatment. Should we have gotten a second opinion? Should we have taken her to a holistic veterinarian? Ultimately, I ruminated over our decision to stop all care and put her to sleep. Was there more that we could have done? It was profoundly clear that the disease had progressed and Lily’s quality of life had suffered drastically, but I still experienced pangs of guilt.

Denial: The first few days were the most grueling. Walking in a daze, I still held some hope that this was all just a nightmare, and as I tripped over Lily’s misplaced toy, I would awaken to find both of our dogs curled at the foot of the bed.

Sadness: It is immensely sad to lose a love one — even a curly headed, wet-nosed, tail-wagging one. I am free with my tears in general, so I just let the emotions stream down my cheeks. Sadness, like grief, looks different for each individual. I am an emotional griever. I emote. My husband is an instrumental griever. He does research on the internet to seek answers. He walks our dog, schedules doggie play dates and arranges activities to help our other dog, Max, with his grief.

Acceptance: Ultimately, the hope is that there will be a sense of peace and understanding at some point and time. This may be experienced in fleeting moments rather than in an arrival at a destination, however.

4) Grief is individual. For me, Lily’s death overshadowed any other event occurring in the world. My Lily had died. Nothing else mattered to me. I crafted my coping strategy selfishly without concern for the feelings or needs of anyone else, including my husband, who had experienced the same loss.

It quickly became apparent that my grieving was more expressive and ritualistic. I made a scrapbook, displayed sympathy cards on the mantle with Lily’s urn, wrote blogs and lit candles in memory of our little rescue. My husband’s grief was more privately experienced, with an occasional shared story and shed tear. It was important not to trip over each other’s grief experience.

5) Grief grows out of a relationship. Some people (and even some therapists) may dismiss the death of a pet as a lesser loss. However, as with any relationship, it is important to understand the meaning ascribed to this relationship. Often a pet serves as a companion who provides unconditional love and affection. Many clients have told me stories of the richness and depth that surrounded their interactions with their pets. For me, Lily was the piece that completed our family puzzle.

 

Conclusion

The death of a pet can be such a huge loss. These fur-family members may serve as faithful friends and playmates, enriching our lives with their magnificent and comical personalities. It is important to honor their story as it intertwines with our own narrative.

I still tear up every time I hear Eva Cassidy’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I imagine my curly white bundle of pure love bounding across a green field to greet me … just around the Rainbow Bridge.

 

 

 

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Cheryl Fisher is a licensed clinical professional counselor in private practice in Annapolis, Maryland, and a visiting full-time faculty member in the Pastoral Counseling Department at Loyola University Maryland. Her current research examines sexuality and spirituality in young women with advanced breast cancer. She is working on a book titled Homegrown Psychotherapy: Scientifically Based Organic Practicesthat speaks to nature-based wisdom. Contact her at cyfisherphd@gmail.com.

 

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

 

Counseling Connoisseur: What Would Yalom Do? A Tribute

By Cheryl Fisher March 10, 2017

 

Editor’s note: CT Online columnist Cheryl Fisher writes this appreciation of Irvin Yalom in anticipation of his keynote address at ACA’s upcoming 2017 Conference & Expo in San Francisco. Find out more at counseling.org/conference/sanfransisco2017.

 

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“What I want is to be intimate with the knowledge that life is temporary. And then, in the light (or shadow) of that knowledge, to know how to live. How to live now.”

― Irvin Yalom, Creatures of a Day: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy

 

I have a passion for books. You know, the old-fashioned paper kind. The kind that are transforming, as they [themselves] are transformed by every crinkled, coffee-stained page and dog-eared corner with smudges of comments penciled in the margin. The kind that, once read, become a part of one’s being. I love books so much that this past summer, I had beautiful built-in bookshelves installed in my home, along with a window seat where I fancied myself enjoying my literary mecca. I have shelves devoted to theologians, philosophers, feminist scholars and mental and holistic health experts ― with a smattering of best-selling novels and summer romance paperbacks.

As I reflect on the insights penned on the pages of the many volumes now perched on my bookshelves, my attention turns to the vast wisdom found in the works of Irvin Yalom. His work, spanning decades, contributes to the counseling profession in ways that transformed psychotherapy from science to art. In The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients, Yalom invites the clinician to not only invest in, but therapeutically utilize, the client-counselor relationship that presents in each session. Through a series of vignettes, Love’s Executioner provides examples of the tender and complex tapestry of human experience that occurs between the therapist and client: “A therapist helps a patient not by sifting through the past but by being lovingly present with that person; by being trustworthy, interested, and by believing that their joint activity will ultimately be redemptive and healing.”

In Momma and the Meaning of Life, Yalom graciously offers his experience in grappling with his relationship with his own mother (“who had a poisonous tongue”) years after her death. He further examines grief therapy intimately by exploring the many facets of loss and death. He continues his exploration of death anxiety in Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death, where he posits, “It’s not easy to live every moment wholly aware of death. It’s like trying to stare the sun in the face; you can stand only so much of it.” He returns to the topic of death anxiety as he explores his own mortality in his more recent release, Creatures of a Day and Other Tales of Psychotherapy.

In his fictional teaching novels — The Schopenhauer Cure, The Spinoza Problem, Lying on the Couch and, my personal favorite, When Nietzsche Wept — Yalom plucks key philosophers and physicians from history and transplants them into a terrace of tales that not only explore the complexity of human behavior and mental processes, but dare to venture into the minds of those who struggle to understand it.

Yalom’s words and transparency have informed my own practice and guided me to discover my ultimate message as a counselor educator: “Illuminate the shadow and embrace your humanity so that you may fully consummate your life. For we are people, not pathologies seeking to connect to oneself, others and the Sacred.”

 

In tribute to this great clinician, author and educator, I offer online readers the article I wrote as a final letter to my graduating counseling students, titled What Would Yalom Do? Ten Nuggets of Wisdom for Counselors Old and New.

 

 

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Cheryl Fisher

 

Cheryl Fisher is a licensed clinical professional counselor in private practice in Annapolis, Maryland, and a visiting full-time faculty member in the Pastoral Counseling Department at Loyola University Maryland. Her current research examines sexuality and spirituality in young women with advanced breast cancer. She is working on a book titled Homegrown Psychotherapy: Scientifically Based Organic Practices that speaks to nature-based wisdom. Contact her at cyfisherphd@gmail.com.

 

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Dr. Irvin Yalom will speak Friday, March 17 at the 2017 ACA Conference & Expo in San Francisco and will sign books afterward. His keynote will also be live-streamed online. Find out more at counseling.org/conference/sanfrancisco2017

 

Find out more about his work and books at yalom.com

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

 

The Counseling Connoisseur: Winter wonderland: Lessons in patience and perspective

By Cheryl Fisher January 30, 2017

I listen to the howling of the wind as it whips the snowdrifts about our modest rambler. Branches dangle from their fragile joints, and birds huddle beneath boxwoods and holly. The birdseed scattered just moments earlier is now covered with a new layer of snow. In the warm glow of our fire, the scent of tomato, garlic and onion from the bubbling pot of chili drifts throughout our home. The dogs lie at our feet gnawing on their bones, and we huddle in the family room, surfing through Netflix … as we brace for the storm.

Just days before, we were collecting supplies to ready for the blizzard. Flashlights were recharged, shovels and ecofriendly salt positioned by the doors, fresh treats and toys gathered to entertain our dogs, ingredients for soups and stews and favorite comfort foods purchased and stored. Cars fully gassed and parked, we were ready … almost delighting in the idea of a weekend of snowshoeing, book reading, movie watching and family time.

The first 24 hours were beautiful to witness as the white blanket began to cover the brown and drab of January. The contrast of cardinals on snowy limbs resembled holiday greeting cards, now discarded for the season. Social media ignited with pictures of snowy backyards and decks, while friends and family in more temperate climates were not denied their contribution of palm trees and sunny skies.

“Wish you were here!” read the captioned picture of a friend lying on the beach with a fruity umbrella drink.

“Right back atcha!” replied another as she sat in her steaming hot tub, snow falling all around, enjoying aged brandy.

There was a time I would have joined the ranks of “winter haters.” I had been in the tropics in my early teen years, and seeing Santa in anything other than Bermuda shorts just seemed wrong! Winter in Maryland was cold — and boring. So I grumbled and grunted the months away, counting the days to spring.

Then, somewhere along the way, I realized that I was complaining for a full quarter of my life, wishing the months would vaporize into warmer days. I was missing out on opportunities to witness beauty and joy that could be experienced even on snowy, bleak winter days. So, I decided to learn to love winter.

 

Perspective

Viktor Frankl, in his classic book Man’s Search for Meaning, suggested that the one thing that can never be taken from a person is her perspective of her situation. Therefore, according to Frankl, we have the opportunity to view any circumstance in a beneficial — even transcendent — manner. It is with this intention that I offer to you a few of the tricks that helped me transcend my wintertime bah-humbug blues:

1) Enjoy comfort foods. What are your favorite cold-weather foods? Let’s face it … soups and stews, ciders and hot cocoa (aged scotch or brandy, for that matter) just taste better when it’s cold outside. I could appreciate winter food and drink with little effort.

2) Get involved in winter sports. I made a list of activities that could be experienced only in snowy weather. This list included ice skating, snow skiing, snow tubing, snowshoeing, and making snow people and snow angels. As I’ve mentioned, my childhood did not include weekends at the slopes, so I invested in lessons. I learned to ice skate at a local arena and took ski lessons any chance I could get. Although I never acquired a passion for either, I found that I really loved sitting by the warm fire in the ski lodge with a hot beverage in my hand and enjoyed the glow that physical fatigue offers after a day on the slopes or ice.

I also discovered that I loved snow tubing. After all, if you are going to end up on your bum … why not begin there? I later obtained snowshoes and now thoroughly enjoy romping in freshly fallen mounds on a quiet evening. If you are more of a spectator of sports, remember there is always the Super Bowl, March Madness and the Winter Olympics (every four years).

3) Dress appropriately. Winter is cold, and I learned quickly that my jeans and bubble jacket didn’t offer enough warmth as part of my new quest to appreciate winter. So, I invested in the real deal — insulated, wicking pants and jacket, along with matching headwear and gloves. What a difference appropriate winter clothing makes. Trust me!

4) Huddle in community. I live in the best neighborhood ever. In addition to keeping an active email blitz going to check on our aging neighbors and helping out with an occasional malfunctioning heater, we arranged a snowperson contest followed by a potluck feast. It is such fun mounding snow with intention and in community. Laughter and silliness permeated the wet gathering. Then we peeled off our snowy gear, warmed ourselves by a fire and enjoyed a table spread with each neighbor’s favorite idea of comfort food. Yum!

5) Relish the silence. I am inherently an introvert. Although I thoroughly enjoy my practice as a counselor and my academic career as a counselor educator, I recognize my need for quiet. I always have a book or two (or three) on my nightstand waiting for me to openly indulge in literary wisdom or adventure. Snowy, wintry days are perfect for lounging in your favorite snuggle-wear and reading away the hours guilt-free.

6) Appreciate the beauty. It is no secret that I swoon to the beauty of nature regardless of season. The birds feast at the feeders on suet and seed. The squirrels run along the branches, dodging snowdrifts that randomly plop down from the tree limbs. The red berries come to life against the green holly bushes, framed by winter’s white. If you are fortunate to live near a forest, you may spy a family of deer out for a moonlit walk. Winter offers a variety of natural beauty that is unique to the season … if only we open our eyes.

7) Realize that it is temporary. For those who, after exhausting all possible avenues to appreciate the winter months, still crave the warmer weather, I remind you … it is a mere few months that will be over before you can say “Easter Bunny” (especially if the occasional tropical vacation is sprinkled in).

Yes, winter is all about perspective and (for some of us) patience.

 

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Cheryl Fisher

Cheryl Fisher is a licensed clinical professional counselor in private practice in Annapolis, Maryland, and a visiting full-time faculty member in the Pastoral Counseling Department at Loyola University Maryland. Her current research examines sexuality and spirituality in young women with advanced breast cancer. She is working on a book titled Homegrown Psychotherapy: Scientifically Based Organic Practices that speaks to nature-based wisdom. Contact her at cyfisherphd@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.