Monday, July 26, 2010

True Friendship

Here in Chicago, with our bone chilling winters, we cherish our warm Summer weather as much as possible. Summer is a great time to get together with friends - going to the beach, listening to music at an outdoor concert, playing in a park.
But Life is not always rosy, and friends can be the lifeline we cling to when "Life gives us lemons....." The following blog article "True Friendship" is written by Dr Gulin Guneri. The picture is of Gulin with her good friend Victoria on Gulin's first 4th of July as an American Citizen! Congratulations, Gulin!
True Friendship

A true friend has your back. They accept the real you with all your quirkiness and insecurities. When you are hard on yourself because you thought you made the “worst mistake in your life” they are right there beside you. They are either a phone call or a cab drive away. After a heart to heart conversation, a true friend reminds you to be kind to yourself. They help you to put things in perspective – your “mistakes” are only part of the learning process that allows you to become a better person. They help you to forgive yourself for not being perfect.

A true friend does not allow you to dwell on the past and replay the scenarios over and over again in your head with “I could have done this!” or “I shouldn’t have said that!” A true friend reminds you that the past is in the past and has no power over you in the now! They help you to focus on the present time so that you can take charge of your life again.

A true friend reminds you that you are not the victim, but you are the conductor who orchestrates your life events. They facilitate the process of finding your inner wisdom as they listen to you calmly, non-judgmentally and with loving care. Because of their existence in your life, you strive to become a better person. A true friend reminds you that the path to happiness and tranquility starts with becoming forgiving, loving, gentle and kind to yourself. And you come to that realization that as you forgive yourself, it becomes easier to forgive others.

If you are having a bad day, pick up the phone and call your true friend. Nobody is a mind reader. If you don’t reach out, your true friend will not know that you needed them in that moment. After a heart to heart conversation on the phone or getting together for a cup of coffee, you do feel relieved as you free yourself from your “punitive self” – the one that judges you for what you have done in the past or agonizes you for “all the bad things” that “can happen” in the future. Do not hesitate to pick up the phone and reach out to your true friend. They will never think that you are a “burden” to them.

In the end, they are your true friend because you reciprocate the loving kindness and respect and care for them. Your true friend is in your life because they also learn from you as you also help them to be in touch with their inner wisdom. They are your true friend because they already know that you got their back!

Gulin Guneri, PsyD
(773) 929-6262 x18

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Challenging Your Bad Body Image

While doing yoga at The Peace School* this morning, I noticed how beautiful I felt in my body – not an outer beauty, but a feeling of strength, of being at peace within my body, feeling connected to the bigger picture of my life. As you may know, I have been writing a book, “Imagine Being At Peace with Food, Your Body, Your Self” which is about using “Parts Therapy” to recover from Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating. I’ve been writing this book for a long, long time – it’s embarrassing how long. But, I am very happy to report, I am working on the very last chapter!!! So as my Blog article, I am using an excerpt from the last chapter, “Making Peace with Food and Your Body.” If you all cross your fingers, maybe a publisher will accept it by the New Year. Anyone know a publisher?

Challenging Your Bad Body Image

……Think way back, why did you start your very first diet? For most of you, feeling ‘Fat’ and being uncomfortable in your own skin was something you’ve felt since you were a kid. In the majority of cases, feeling bad about our bodies was the first symptom of our eating disorder. And unfortunately it is usually the last symptom to go…….
So part of recovery is going to be learning to not trust the negative feelings you have about your body and learning to feed your body as if you did not have these negative feelings, which you will know to be untrue – even though you will still have these feelings for a while. Huh? Clear as mud – right? Don’t worry I’ll try to make this as clear as I can.

We have to admit to ourselves, “Hating my body doesn’t work!” It just makes all the other symptoms worse, much worse! If hating your body actually worked, if it actually motivated you to stop bingeing, then everyone would have ideal bodies.

Body hatred is based on a distorted Body Image. Body Image is the picture you have in your mind of what you think you look like, combined all the judgments and criticisms you have about what you think you look like. It is not based on what you actually look like in reality to all the people in your life. The majority of women (and increasingly men) have a distorted view of their bodies – we do not see ourselves as others see us. I compare this to being color-blind. If a person were color-blind, they would not be able to see some colors the way all other people see them. And they would know this as a fact and would accept that their perception of color was distorted. Let’s say the color-blind person wanted to buy an outfit for a wedding, they would need to rely on someone else’s perception, “Do these colors go together?”

I’m sure you get it so far. Because if you were wearing a lavender dress and one hundred people said to you, “Your dress is lavender,” you would agree with them. But if 100 people said to you, “You’re thin,” you would think, “No, I’m not. They’re just saying that. They don’t know the real me…” One or more Parts of you would not let that information in; these Parts would not trust others’ perceptions (even if they are based in reality).
Why would you not believe others when they tell you how you actually look? Because our Body Image is not only based on what we think we look like, it’s also based on sensations we have inside our bodies. This is the body’s version of Emotional Reasoning: “If I feel it, then it must be true.”

I’m sure you have all had an experience similar to Gabriela who feels good as she talks, laughs and jokes with her co-workers at the office. If you stopped her at this point to ask what she feels about her body, she would actually have to think about it – her body is unimportant and irrelevant at this moment. But then she receives a phone call from her extremely critical boyfriend. After she hangs up she suddenly ‘feels fat’ and decides to skip lunch. If you were with Gabriela, you know she would look no different than she did before the phone call. But Gabriela ‘feels’ different inside her body. Why? Gabriela feels unpleasant body sensations caused by the emotions and thoughts stirred up by the phone conversation – and Gabriela misinterprets these sensations as ‘feeling fat’. Gabriela is not aware that she is actually feeling angry, trapped, helpless, resentful, and sad.

‘Feeling fat’ gives Gabriela a feeling of control, she can do something: she can skip meals, restrict food, eat salads, exercise – she can purge. But if Gabriela acknowledged the emotions and thoughts stirred up when she talked with her boyfriend – it wouldn’t be so easy to control or do. No, she would have to use all the tools in the last two chapters to handle her emotions, change the relationship or accept him as he is.
You have become very skilled at turning emotions and thoughts about other things, people or situations into ‘feeling fat’. In fact you can make yourself feel fat right now. I do this with my clients in my office – I recommend you do this with your therapist or a friend you trust.
Look at the person you are with and have them look at you so you know what they look like. Now, pick a body part – don’t tell each other what part. In your mind, make that body part feel fatter – you know exactly what I mean. Make it feel even fatter. Come on you can do this. Feel it growing and growing. It feels really big now. Look at your friend. Ask your friend if she feels fatter. Does she look different to you? I guarantee she does not. Do you feel fatter? Ask your friend if you look different. I guarantee you look the same to her as well.
Did you feel fat? Yes, you did. You had sensations of that body part getting bigger. But was it real – did your body actually grow or change? No. You experienced real sensations, even though your body did not change at all. The body sensations felt like it, but nothing actually happened. So even though you felt fatter, the feeling is not reflected in reality. I coach my clients to repeat several mantras to themselves every time they feel fat, “I am color-blind. I cannot see myself accurately. I do not look like I feel. I do not look like I think I look.”

I would love to hear your comments or reactions to this excerpt. And I hope you look forward to reading the whole book soon - hopefully very soon!
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

*The International Association for World Peace, also known as The Peace School, located at 3121 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60657, teaches Peace Breathing, Meditation, Massage, Self-Defense and Yoga. They sponsor Peace Day at the Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago in September of each year. Check out their website: or call them at (773) 248-7959.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Living Life Rather Than Getting Through It

I had the privilege of getting away for a long weekend and finally enjoying the sun, sand, and water that I so look forward to as summer rolls in. Before the trip I had a feeling of restless anticipation, a sense of really needing to get away from the day to day craziness of Chicago. I felt like a little kid sitting by the door saying “Can we go yet?”

I wondered why I was so anxious to get away. As I settled into the first day of the vacation I began to slow down and enjoy all the benefits of vacation. Having no set schedule, nowhere to be, and no one expecting anything from me, I quickly settled into the leisurely pace of the small beach community. I soaked up the sun, read a great book, and enjoyed the peaceful flow of the waves. I began to realize how relaxed I felt and how good it was to just slow down. I noticed things that often get overlooked. The gorgeous blue sky, the pure joy on my dog’s face as he chased a Frisbee around the beach, the gestures of love and connection from my friends.

I had the sense of being reminded of what it is like to really be in the moment. So often I encourage clients and challenge myself to take time, give ourselves what we need, notice what we are feeling and needing, and appreciate all the many gifts of the day. Well these few days away from my routine were a great reminder of that. I felt like a bit of a different person, more connected and more at peace. You can argue it was because I was on vacation but this same sense of being doesn’t always settle into every vacation.

As I returned home I began to think of ways that I could emulate this vacation experience. I realized how many choices in my day that keep me from having this sense of peace and connection with myself. I too often don’t give myself enough time and end up feeling rushed, always a few minutes behind schedule or screeching in right on time. I make lists that I feel like have to be done today, right now as if the world will end if everything isn’t taken care of. I choose mindless distractions rather than things that will really enrich my day. I let the tasks of the day or frustrations of the day interfere with really connecting and just being with others.

The time away was not just a few days to get refreshed, enjoy a place I love and people I love. It was a reminder to slow down in every day of life and start to incorporate these little things throughout my days so I can have that same sense of peace and connection. Creating the time and space for ourselves is so crucial and yet so often gets pushed to the side. I wonder what things you may want to incorporate into your days and also consider what aspects of the day interfere with this time needed for ourselves. I hope a few moments of a peaceful lazy summer day can be incorporated to both my days and yours.

Jennifer Schurman, MA, LPC

Jen sees individuals, couples and families for therapy as well as leads the Monday evening Eating Disorder Therapy Group. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x 20 if you would like more information.