Thursday, September 29, 2011

Battle Cry

The following narrative describes my relationship with and struggles in ways of relating to my own body, depicting an ongoing journey of reexamination and constant redefinition.

From the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed,

I can’t get my all-consuming thoughts about you out of my head.

Everywhere I look and everything I see,

Reminders of how and who I am supposed to be.

I wage a war with you everyday,

Battling exactly what price I am willing to pay.

My relationship with you has always been rocky,

I am not sure that I have ever loved you, my own body.

Trapped like a prisoner in my own mind,

An escape from this body, is that what I am trying to find?

Catching myself constantly counting and comparing,

To free you from these constraints just seems so daring.

Accepting you and your flaws seems almost impossible to do,

Wouldn’t that require me loving all of you?

Your imperfections have for so long represented failure and shame,

But maybe its time I begin to shift the blame.

I have mistreated you for so long,

Betraying your beauty and viewing you all wrong.

I am angry that I have lost touch with you,

Allowing the shoulds to always somehow get through.

Not allowed for one minute to forget how I am supposed to look,

These impossible standards will soon be shook.

I will no longer allow myself to shrink and take up less space,

But rejoice in being a woman and begin to give up on this endless chase.

No, you are not what should have to change,

From the oppression of the larger social structure you must estrange.

I am choosing to stand up and give you a voice,

My participation in this system is after all a choice.

I want to thank you for your endurance and unconditional love,

These constraints we are now slowly being made free of.

We have a long road ahead of us, You and I,

The possibilities are endless, this poem our battle cry.

Jaclyn Jarvis, M.A.

Jaclyn Jarvis is a third year doctoral student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is an intern therapist at The Awakening Center. She specializes in eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and health psychology. Jaclyn co-leads the Eating Disorder Recovery Drop In Support Group at TAC on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8:00 p.m. For more i

Happiness in the 50's, Happiness Today.

These past few years I have become fascinated by the lives that women lived in the middle of the 1900's. Aside from admiring the fashion trends of this era, I have become particularly interested in the mindset and perspectives women had at the time about their life goals and their definition of true happiness. I recently stumbled upon a 1950's Pepsi commercial, in which a little girl grows up to get married to the man of her dreams and lives happily ever after. Of course, I don't see anything wrong with this picture, yet I struggle with the idea that this girl's happiness depends on her success in marriage, which of course requires her to maintain a particular appearance. As described in the commercial, more than once, in order to keep her beautiful, "slim" image, she goes on walks. In order to keep up with her beauty and remain "slim", she plays sports, which in this case means she fights other women for a purse on sale. While to some this may seem comical, I could not help to feel offended by the implications of this commercial. Nevertheless, it got me thinking: How much has really changed over the years for women? Body image issues for women are prevalent, and with commercials such as this one it is no wonder why this has been a problem in our society for decades.

Of course, now we have more rights than ever before and are slowly being integrated into leadership positions in this country. But aside from career advancements/constitutional rights, what has changed about our ultimate goals? The makers of this Pepsi commercial simply integrated society's viewpoint of the time that women needed to be successful housewives in order to happy. While that may not necessarily be the case anymore, what does society consider a woman needs to be happy now a day? What I struggle with is that we claim to have improved in many ways from the past, yet women with too much power are seen as scary and not attributed the same respect that men are given. My best guess is that men are still trying to achieve power and status, as they always have,but for women: what defines our happiness in 2011?

By Diana Hinojosa,

Diana is the Bachelor's level intern at the Awakening Center. She assists with the EDA groups and is a senior at DePaul University with a psychology/journalism double major.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I am a garden, not a landfill.

A few years ago, I found myself getting slowly pulled into a world filled with what I like to call “Junk food Journalism”. I was continually turning to media sources that were laced, if not fully entrenched, in sensationalism. Readers were attracted through shocking and catchy titles, and then led on a journey through bias, gossip, and creative license. I categorized it as entertainment. I thought, “What possible harm will this cause? I simply enjoy the frivolous and vacuous stories”. It felt like a temporary escape.

However, over time I noticed that I was spending less of my free time on things substantive, and was more frequently turning to these “news” sources. Strangely, I also slowly began to feel a disconnect to things I once found important in my life. I even felt a little empty inside.

One day as I was walking my dog through our neighborhood, I noticed several beautiful spring gardens that were beginning to fully blossom. The thought just popped into my head that, “I am a garden, not a landfill”. It became very powerful to me that I had a choice to either dump loads of shallow and empty thoughts into my head, or I could carefully select and plant thoughts and information that would grow and blossom into something beautiful and meaningful. The latter thought was instantly more appealing.

Since this transformative moment I have found great pleasure in planting this garden in my mind. Over time it has expanded from thoughts and information into choices and actions. When given an option of a news source, or a leisure activity, or even a plate of food I now quietly say to myself, “I am a garden, not a landfill”. More often than not I find myself planting something that will have the opportunity to grow into greater joy, peace, and wellness.

Erin Stitzel is an interning therapist at The Awakening Center. She is a Masters student at Northeastern Illinois University and will graduate and gain licensure in August of 2012. She specializes in eating disorders, depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief. She runs the Saturday Eating Disorder Recovery Drop In Support Group at TAC on Saturday mornings from 10-11:30am. For more information please call 773.929.6262 (ext.12).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Existentialist’s Perspective: Finding the Self through Astrology on the Internet

One of the basic premises of existentialist philosophy is that we are the creators of our own destinies. We are not victims of circumstance; rather we are to a large extent that which we choose to be. We continually make decisions that shape and re-create ourselves. We are in a constant state of evolving, emerging, becoming, and discovering. As human beings, we possess the capacity to reflect and make choices because we have self-awareness.

It is commonly held belief that it is necessary to build an anchor in self-understanding in order to make healthy choices; choices that contribute to expanding consciousness and positively influence the environment around us. Without this anchor we can get lost in others’ preconceived notions and definitions of who we are. If we are passive, we may let them convince us. Rather than opt for the security of dependence, it is important to face the anxiety of choosing for one’s self.

The vast sea of information on the internet is the devil’s playground for this concept of existential freedom. The anxiety one may experience in the real world is assuaged on the internet with the anonymity that is available. The power to make personal decisions is at one’s fingertips. It is a digital world to explore, to entertain, to learn, to communicate, and to learn about one’s Self.

The quest for self-definition by using the Internet as a tool started at a young age for me. One very useful and entertaining sources of self-knowledge are astrological personality profiles. If the creators of Google tracked my search history since 1997, they would have no doubt in their minds that I am a Pisces. At first I was quite skeptical about identifying with this label. However, I am not afraid to identify with it for the purposes of understanding the differences between myself and other people. I oddly, yet heartily identify with a vast amount of qualities pertaining to this astrological sign.

There are many beliefs and arguments in regards to astrological personality types. For those that are occult, it is a way of understanding how humans are connected to the universe. We can learn about something bigger than ourselves, like the patterns and relativity of the universe or the influence of the planets on personalities. For the skeptics, Astrology can make an excellent topic for debate, especially among those who deem themselves to be more logically-based. For the light at heart, it is a fun party trick to break the ice.

Because it is human nature to categorize and clump our experiences and perceptions into groups, astrology is a fun way to understand who we are and look at why people are different. We can choose to identify with our signs or not. We can connect with other people through understanding similarities and differences. Any function of looking into the personality profiles of each sign can help us to question who we are, define or redefine ourselves, and question our destiny.

Ultimately, we are the masters of own destinies (which is why I read yesterday’s horoscope), but learning about and strengthening the self is a vital factor in making the right decisions. It absolutely okay to not identify with astrology, but we cannot deny the evolution of human consciousness. Anchoring and strengthening the Self fosters healthy choices which can help us grow in a positive, fulfilling direction.

Some links that I’ve come back to over the years:

Danielle Meyer

Danielle is a student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. She is the Art Therapy intern at the Awakening Center who runs the Body Image Group on Tuesdays and the Art Therapy Group on Thursdays. For more info about these groups, call Danielle at (773) 929-6262 x 12.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Remember childhood? Do you remember camping in the dark or making forts and turning off the lights. Reading under the covers by flashlight? Did you have a secret cubby or hiding place that was safe for you? Ever notice how the pirates bury treasure, sometimes in a cave – sometimes a dark cave. As adults, we sometimes lose touch with those hidden places which have such treasures of self knowledge. We learn to bury the treasure and leave it buried.

Whether it is the fall season around the corner or just something that you’re wanting to investigate, those dark cubbies of the psyche hold treasures. Most of our daily activities are lived in unconsciousness. For me, one of the most wonderful things about having a life is about engaging in the present moment. I don’t stay in the present moment all the time. This is mostly healthy and allows us to get through the day – unless we have the job of say, the Dalai Lama. But there are times, even seasons built into our lives to allow us an opportunity to get in touch with the dark or unconscious. They hold all sorts of information. In our society, we try so hard to keep it together, to keep the dark from seeping out. But the seeping out…is pure genius, especially if it is done consciously.

When I’m working with my clients, I invite them (and myself) to listen to what the dark is trying to say. What is that message just below the surface? If you crawl under that blanket, crawl into the cubby and sit with the surroundings and flash just a little bit of a flashlight beam on the story book , what do you learn? Does it whisper to you? I often ask, what are you NOT supposed to see, know, hear, etc.? Maybe you prefer to go into meditation to let the below-the-surface information come up for you. I like to journal about it and let the resistance melt away with each written line. Some people stretch to release the unconscious messages told by the body. Others will draw or doodle to let the unconscious thoughts seep through. At the Awakening Center, we treat eating disorders and more. I often ask my clients to go below the surface of the craving, of the binge, of the restricting – to sit with those dark moments. In that space, there is a treasure trove of information.

A long time ago I read a quote from Bono of U2. He said for so long they ran away from the big rock star image. They thought it would make them into sell-outs. Finally, the popularity surrounded them and they simply had to embrace their greatest fear, the over-the-top rock star persona. And they were genius at it. And the quote went something like, “so we gave the rock star image a big smooch”.

I recently had an experience where my greatest fear became reality. That dark place showed up. I went into it like a cubby. In a way, I had no choice. Everything I’d done to keep it below the surface, all those lovingly proactive steps blew up. There is something raw and truthful about being with the dark. It allows us to be in present time. The opposite is true when we avoid the dark. For me, I found gratitude. For me, I found places in which I could bring in more self love.

SO, as the weather cools off and hibernation urges begin, consider using this time to get more in touch with those hidden messages. Don’t be afraid of the dark.

By Erin Diedling

Erin Diedling, MEd, LPC is a counselor at The Awakening Center. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x 19.