Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Dr. Jen Montgomery is a friend of mine, a registered clinical counsellor and a snow ski lover. She also writes the ski reports for Cypress Mountain. Earlier today, when we should have been consulting about cases, we found ourselves talking about the benefits of being outdoors in the winter (Carole and I have taken up snowshoeing in a big way this year).
Here is a blog Jen wrote for Cypress Mountain. (The words are Jen’s.)
Therapy comes in many forms. One of my favorites is skiing, especially my Wednesday date at Cypress Mountain with my husband. It addresses all of the components of what I recommend to my clients: benefits for mental health, physical health, couple health and even spiritual health.
What I love about skiing is getting out of the dreary weather that the Lower Mainland boasts. Up on the mountain it is generally brighter, dryer and sports spectacular views. Just being outside, which normally we don’t get enough of in our winters, offers freshness to my spirit and clears my mind – not to mention the extra zap of Vitamin D!
Of course exercise is good for all of us. I try and recommend to others to choose a form of exercise that they actually enjoy, not one to endure. For me skiing is not only fun, but also a good workout. It also pushes me in the off season to train in the gym and ensure my body is ready to go for the next season.
I am also a big proponent of couple health. It is not something that just happens, but something that all couples should be intentional about. Whether it is a healthy sex life, having fun together, or simply just time carved out to be together; couple health is extremely important as a foundation for all other areas of our lives. During the ski season, nothing else interferes in our Wednesday date. Even if the snow conditions at Cypress aren’t the best, we still go. It is a nice drive up there from White Rock (after rush hour), do some skiing, and end our date with lunch in the bar. We also plan our return home just ahead of the afternoon rush hour in order to end our day well. This quality time set aside weekly is something we both look forward to.
Spirituality, whatever that means to you, certainly seems to occur in nature’s most beautiful settings. I certainly see the mountains as one of those beautiful settings. The trees, the snow, and fresh air combined with spectacular views of the city and the ocean capture all that is good . . . good for the soul.
Last but not least, we have convinced a good number of our close friends to also purchase a seasons’ pass. Now and again our schedules work out that we can ski together. This is definitely another bonus and adds to everyone’s mental health!!
[Dr. Jennifer Montgomery is a Registered Clinical Counselor, serving the White Rock community in private practice for the past 18 years. She is married and a mother to two young adults.]
Friday, May 25th, 2012When I saw you cry
Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
I grew up in a home where alcohol ingestion was done compulsively. I discovered as a child that the drinking compulsion is an equal opportunity phenomenon – both my Mom and Dad were serious imbibers. I also learned that my parents and their friends formed an alcohol-conscious community where successful parties were granted the status of “great” by the quantity imbibed and the consequent sexualization of intimacies.
My parents were trained in drinking by the Canadian Forces during WW2 when service men and women had their pleasures subsidized by the government. I am reminded of this each and every November 11th and sometimes I stop to tell the “poppy people” why I am not buying their red and black lapel flowers while I stride righteously into the liquor store.
Over the years I have had lots of addicts of various sorts in my practice. I prefer to call them “obsessive fiddlers with states of being” – it sounds less prejudicial than “addicts” though that is what some of them are. These fine folk and friends have been compulsed by all sorts of obsessions: being happy, being right, being perfect, being taken care of, being in love, being admired, and the list goes on. (Perhaps making lists is a compulsion too?) And then they act these ideas out with predictable behaviours: drinking and drugging are common but so is arguing and defending and mean-spirited criticism. I especially dislike it when addicts pretend the moral high ground (e.g. “You are a bad person and I am busy being good or right,” or “I wouldn’t drink if you didn’t criticize me so much.”).
I often hear of sexual addictions as well. These are usually requests for affirmation and attention where the behaviours involve a moving computer image and a few square inches of genital flesh. What these folk want most often is some ordinary passion and some affection directed in their way. At least that is what heals them (mostly men) more than “Just Say No” mouse pads.
Now… I think that there are factors that may increase risk of some kind of addiction. Here are a few for you to consider and I am thinking especially of online compulsions:
♦ Fear of relationships can lead to online compulsions. I mean real relationships not surface social contacts. And a consequential lack of other interests and social isolation – this can lead to compulsive behaviour.
♦ Pre-existing abuse or addiction can easily transfer: for example, online gambling or gaming, cybersex, or online shopping.
♦ Social anxiety or nervousness can make online interactions a very attractive alternative to face-to-face interaction and thus much more compelling.
♦ Low self-esteem, poor body image, or untreated sexual dysfunction can add to obsessions and compulsions.
What fixes this more than anything else is a little reality and a little thoughtfulness. Person-to-person honesty and care, also called empathy, works well. I have found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is really good in breaking the power of addictions and compulsions. I recommend people buy “Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think” by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky. It is best to work this through with a therapist and I have a copy in my office so that if you choose we can work through the harder parts together.
Friday, September 10th, 2010
This oft-repeated phrase in AA and Alanon is profound in its simplicity. The capacity to define oneself in spite of the approval or judgment of another is a sign of emotional maturity and a quality that makes life work better. “Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.” Say it to yourself.
Differentiation is about knowing who you are, about your purpose. It is about distinguishing between the business that is yours and the business that is others. It is about self-definition and the management of opinions.
Trying to live up (or down) to others opinions of you is undifferentiation. Needing others to have your opinion is also undifferentiation. These are patterns of immaturity. Lots of conflict comes from this.
A client friend said to me this week, “I have spent my life working for my father’s approval that I have never received. I am unhappy, overworked, compulsive about everything and I no longer know who I am or what I enjoy.” He is a doctor, newly married, often angry, lost in compulsivity – what used to give him pleasure is now bland. Undifferentiation is a trap that can take years to close.
A few questions for you:
• When do you most feel yourself? When are you most in control of yourself?
• What relationships most allow you to be you? What relationships trap?
• Does your faith mostly freeze you with others, or free you for God?