Mental Health and Gun Control – 19 Years

This past month has been a terrible time for those of us in Columbus, Ohio. First, we lost a juvenile who was in court and, because of his violent behaviors, was subsequently shot outside of court by a deputy sheriff. Then we lost two respected police officers in the very small town of Westerville. Both involved mental health issues of the victim in one case and the perpetrator in another. In the past week, our country lost a total of 5 police officers, including Westerville. We lost a total of 17 teens and school staff in one high school in Florida.

High school shootings have been going on since 1999. Now we are hearing the media say FL was worse than Columbine. This isn’t a competition to see whomever shoots the most kids wins. All school shootings are traumatic, are equal and should never have happened. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

We need to stop blaming and start taking action. Political activists want to blame and act as if it is the Republicans fault that high school shootings exist; when in fact we have had both Democrat and Republican presidents since 1999. Over the years, both sides have made statements about offering love and prayers, obviously they are going to say that because it would be heartless not to. What is worse though is that both sides have said “This will never happen in our country again.” Unfortunately we have now seen 19 years of this happening again in our country. We have seen this happen at the college level, high schools and an elementary school. It is time to stop blaming one side or the other and get to the table and have discussions. To start with, this does not belong on a lobbyist table, it needs to be a discussion of professionals in the mental health industry, police officers, forensic specialists as well as the leaders in the NRA and they need to listen to one another. Listening is the key ingredient in making change, not trying to get votes.

I have been in the mental health profession since high school shootings began. I was trained in holistic thought processes so I am not prone to listening to one side; I try to hear the whole story. You can’t understand anything unless you are looking at the big picture and the long term effects. I have lots of prejudices, believe me, yet I work with people from all different backgrounds, including those I have opinions about. However, because I believe people have a right to be heard and it is hard for me not to have empathy when I hear them and have taken them into my fold as a therapist, I am able to set my opinions aside for this client or clients and provide them the support that they need. After all, working with someone in therapy, I believe, is helping them to become a better person. This is what it means to be a professional.

America has become a Roe v. Wade in the sense that everything is a Pro-Life v. Pro-Choice extreme thinking conversation. No one ever listens to the other side. It is idiotic and stupid when one side is incapable of listening to what the other side has to say. It is ridiculous to hold an opinion that you are right and they are wrong. Sure we all joke and say, “but I am right,” but to actually believe this to the point that you can’t possibly sit down with your opposing view neighbor and have a cup of coffee and hear what each other has to say is beyond sad. It is disturbing and this is what our country has to offer right now.

All these people who get on bandwagons and say they are “tolerant” or “celebrate diversity,” are online yelling at the other side and giving their biases about race, religion or culture. When we are behaving in such a hostile environment as we are on social media, how can we expect that a mentally unwell person is not going to take advantage of this? If Kathy Griffin isn’t capable of understanding that there is a line you don’t cross when it comes to shouting your hatred toward the president of the United States, how in the world can you expect a mentally unwell person to understand and intellectualize what is happening online?

It has become common place to hear about shootings and we have become immune to this. We get an endorphin rush when it happens and a week later we forget. What do we expect is going to happen to someone who has mental health problems and is paying attention to all of this online. We get to be voyeurs but they internalize it and fantasize about it and feel empowered by this.

Madeline Albright (the first female Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton) spoke in San Jose, CA sometime in the early 2000’s and I went to listen to her talk. She spoke about the split in politics and how it has become so damaging to the D.C. atmosphere. When she began her journey in politics, it was normal for Republicans and Democrats to eat together, party together even walk down the street together. Our country being divided to the point of not being able to say who you voted for without getting spit on, means we do not live in a safe place and we cannot expect things to change; as long as we behave in this manner. If our politicians can’t behave like professionals and respect their own colleagues, how can we citizens be expected to behave like decent people? Right now the Democrats are just being sore losers and this is what we teach our children across the country not to do when they are on a team. Republicans were sore losers during Obama; worrying about a birth certificate. Each politician who wins the presidency has 4-8 years in which they can be elected to serve. Be patient and it will be your turn. The winners go in cycles; it is just the way we vote. There has not been one president that has been perfect and not one who has not been narcissistic.

There has been 19 years of school shootings though, with both Democrats and Republicans serving our country. We do need gun control – obviously – no one needs an assault weapon. We should be grown up and mature enough to understand that no one is saying you can’t carry a gun. It is one thing to carry a gun in your holster, on your belt that you are legally allowed to carry or a hunter with a rifle in the back of their truck on a rack. It is one thing to have a gun legally and one illegally. The topic of Mental Health needs to be brought in and we need to be more strict about mental health assessments when carrying a gun. Perhaps everyone needs to have a mental health assessment in order to legally purchase a gun. It wouldn’t be a bad idea. I have family that all carry guns, they would not like to be inconvenienced. However, I am sure all the families who are victims of the 19 years of school shootings, did not like to be inconvenienced either. When the “right to keep and bear arms” amendment was signed into the constitution, we were a different world. Back then it was cowboys and Indians and revolutions that made a positive difference in this country. School shootings make a negative difference in this country, it harms our psyche and destroys our families.

I am listening to children tell me they are afraid to go to school. They are having panic attacks whenever there are noises at school. Instead of just a tornado drill or an earthquake drill, they are having to learn how to hide from a school shooter. I am hearing parents who want to put their kids in private education or home school them. Is this what we are going to come to because adult professionals are not capable of coming to the table and reach an agreement?

Then of course you have the criminal world. No matter what we do, criminals and mentally unwell people can get access to a gun out on the streets. It is not too hard to  go into a bad neighborhood and within a few minutes find someone walking down the street who knows someone who has one to sell. Having worked in bad neighborhoods and spent many conversations talking to people who lived there, I am aware of how easy this is. Having spoken to people who have been drug addicts or alcoholics, I have heard many stories of how easy it is to get what you want if you need a fix. This means we need to have tighter laws about what happens to people who are caught selling guns illegally. The guy who sold the gun to the perpetrator of the two police officers in Westerville was found and brought in. I have no idea at this point what will happen to him or what the laws are currently. I do know that in California, where I used to work on the streets, a crime carries a stiffer penalty if it is gang related. Do we have strict enough laws for the people selling guns illegally, nationwide? Shouldn’t they get the same attention as the perpetrator, since they knew the reason for buying was not for something good? Wouldn’t they be an accessory to the crime?

These are the questions we need to be asking. We need to have discussions about this within our communities and amongst our professionals and come to some answers that we then present to Washington. But it is time for us to behave like grown-ups and professionals and listen with the purpose of coming up with a solution. I am tired of hearing that the NRA has control over Congress. What does this mean? It means that they have control over the lives of our children and grandchildren. Again, if they have had control over Congress they have had it for at least the 19 years we have been concerned and this has been over terms of both Republican and Democrat presidents.

What is a solution that is workable? What is a solution that is going to be tougher on crime, stricter on mental health awareness and reporting and one that makes sense and will protect our children, our families and our country? Stop blaming and start forming community discussion groups, in person because we aren’t capable of having talks online. Bring all the professionals involved to a table and have a discussion that is going to create positive change in our country. We don’t need an assault weapon to go hunting in the woods or to protect our family. A simple gun or rifle will work fine. Let’s show our children that we are capable of making this world a safer place.


Choose Chastity Because You Have Self-Respect

The idea of remaining a virgin has always had religious connotations with it because this is where the concept has the strongest need. In our modern society many people are ashamed to associate with a faith, which is very sad because it is important to value spirituality as well as mind and body. Parents are refusing to provide religious instruction through some avenue of persuasion, opting to “let them choose,” which is about as ignorant as allowing a child to vote. So by writing about chastity here, I want to put it in the context of self-respect.  For some reason modern women writers tend to focus on making sex acceptable and I think it is more important to make self-respect acceptable and a priority. This is not a conversation about religion but it is about being a feminist and it is not about hating men.

Not having sex before you are married is a very beautiful step toward choosing the right partner. It takes a certain amount of maturity, wisdom and focus to make this decision. I am always so proud of my female clients when they tell me they have opted to go in this direction. Some make the decision because of religion and some because they are smart enough to know they are not ready. When my female clients have chosen to embark on the path of sex before marriage, I am proud of them for choosing birth control and safe sex (a majority of young women refuse to use birth control). I know these women are not getting any support from their girlfriends because the “in” crowd is focused on their sexual appetites and what brand of sex they choose. The latter is ridiculous because you cannot be sure of your identity until you are an adult and even then, it takes time to adjust to being in the real world. Many people, I believe, are going to rue the day they made drastic changes to their sex and persona as a young person – wait and see. We have already gone through the plastic surgery guilt and the sudden surge in sex changes and sexual confusion is next. We, as psychology professionals cannot even give certain diagnoses to minors and this is because they are going through identity confusion.  So this is my main argument for chastity. Teenagers are going through an identity crisis and it is best to wait until they are an adult to make any sexual decisions. Regret is a painful feeling to deal with throughout your life.

With chastity before marriage so many benefits come with this decision. You are free to focus on your future without any inhibitions or “responsibilities,” [to someone]. In the meantime, it is important to date and befriend lots of people but be very open about your boundary of not having sex. By doing so, you will get rid of the bad people immediately who are only about pulling down your drawers. You don’t have to worry about disease or babies that “accidentally” occur because you have chosen not to use birth control. You can think about college or career aspirations. You can focus on building a financial portfolio so that you can buy a house and a nice car. You can enjoy having fun with friends and dates because you are not tied down to anyone. When you are dating, you are taking the time to get to know one another and finding out what it is you want in a relationship. When you finally do choose to marry, you are wearing a white wedding dress with pride and because you respect the meaning of the color. The long term benefits are that you will have a lot more happiness by choosing to respect yourself and you will be more successful in life.

The cons that come with sex before marriage are that once you have gone down this road, it is hard to turn back. You can with perseverance and strength and a willingness to start over though. Sex at a young age often becomes a place to perform. Young people get caught up in size, quantity, positions, acting, what they are able to do, and how great they are. This is a very shallow path toward a future because you become focused on your statistics and performance rather than your life. Many people, I have spoken with, who start out at a young age get so lost that they forget who they are. I spend time in sessions coaching them on how to find the human being that rests within. Of course because our society has decided it is not politically correct to discipline a young woman or the young man, for not using birth control, so many women have determined they can take the chances. They see these hideous reality shows where women have multiple partners, have babies before marriage and men see that it is practically acceptable to abandon a woman once she is pregnant. Our society is more focused on feeling sorry for than teaching values. Celebrities have no sense of their role in society and how they are ruining our young people by setting poor examples. It is great for a wealthy person to have a baby at 16 because they have nannies to take care of the unwanted child. The average person has nothing financially to contribute and this can end up leading to social services intervention and/or the public welfare system.

Sex is not a bad thing; it is a very wonderful way to be with a person that you love. It is icing on the cake but much more worthwhile when you have taken the time to get to know someone. Building a friendship and having trust and respect with your partner is foreplay. Foreplay is not a conversation on a first or second or so on date that you end with sex. It takes time to build this emotional connection and once you have a commitment, don’t end this by having sex. Wait to get married to do this, you’ve gone this far so why not? Young people are not able to make a decision that they are in love with someone when their friendship is about sex.

Emotional instability is often the very reason that women end up being unfaithful to their partners because we have “emotional infidelity” (before the act is performed of having sex) whereas men have physical infidelity upfront. When women don’t have a strong emotional connection to their partner, they seek someone else to fulfill this wish. You can’t love someone just because you have had sex together. That is infatuation. You can’t expect to build a relationship on a one night stand or a fling. Most women try to do this and they fall short or end up pregnant hoping to force the issue. Obviously none of this works. To quick to jump in bed is behind so many failed marriages.

The degradation of our current society is at an all-time low that I often wonder if it will ever be possible to repair it. So many inappropriate messages are being thrown out into our culture which unfortunately is witnessed by everyone, including the very young. When I grew up these topics needed to wait until after the nine o’clock hour which was reserved for adults. Even then, the topics were hardly an issue of concern to young people, not when you compare this with our world today. The focus on death by suicide and suicidal ideation is really missing the point. It is not about encouraging people to be sexually open; it is about encouraging self-esteem and abstinence as a way toward a happier and more successful life. I wonder if the rate would be so high if minors were not so focused on coming out or having sex in general? If we made the priority in schools about academia and goal planning for the future rather than passing a test and getting out of school. The idea of focusing on bathrooms rather than education when a person should not be choosing their sexuality as a minor (especially changing the gender) is so harmful to the young psyche whose brain doesn’t even stop developing until they are an adult. Young people won’t need to worry about bathrooms and sexuality if they are focused on their academic future. When they are out in the real world and beginning to see what life is all about, than they can make choices with a clear mind that is not intimidated by peer pressure, family, or religion.

Young people, often, do know what their sexuality is at a very young age but it is more important that they behave like a child and have fun. It is more important that they are groomed for adulthood and are taught principles to grow on. This means learning about religion – with their parents there to instruct as well as the religious sector. It means getting a good education – with their parents taking this seriously and being involved with the school. It means the parents need to teach values, i.e., work ethics and family beliefs. The only thing a young person should be choosing is which sport or type of dance to be in or which school club to join or which elective they want to take. Even then, this should be a decision agreed upon with the parents based on finances of course.

By not focusing on sex a child will have a much stronger and healthier sense of self. Being chaste will more than likely cause a child to be better educated in the long run and this will help them to make better choices in life. It is time for us to take a step back and reflect on the values we, as older adults, were taught growing up and realize how great we had it. Then we need to re-think the messages we are sending out on the Internet and how it is affecting the young minds. A young woman is more of a feminist by respecting her mind, body and spirit and a young man respecting feminist ideals when it is not about getting her in bed. Wait to have sex or to determine your sex and focus on your future. You will thank me one day.

Mindful Parenting – Eliminate the electronics

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. Goethe

I went to Hoover Dam today (in Columbus, OH) and was absolutely amazed to see every single person on the bridge with a cell phone in their hand and their heads down. It was a beautiful day of mid-high 80’s and a crisp breeze was reaching out to us from the exploding water down below. In the horizon to the right were deciduous trees commanding attention for over 200 years or more. To the left the river flowing by with a few scant boaters in the midst. Many unoccupied boats sat docked rather than utilized.   As I walked by these people, no one said hello or even noticed that I existed. A man and his son, heads bent down walking, oblivious to the fact that other humans existed. They are discussing something of importance, probably a game they are playing via a smart phone. A bunch of teens were crowded around the building that houses the engineers and they were all gabbing about, looking down at their smart phones – rather than facing each other like men. A bunch of adults who were clearly together sit under the observation deck on the opposite side of the bridge, every single one of them heads down poking very quickly on their mini keyboards. A woman rode by on a beachcomber, right hand clutched to her ear gossiping about life, left hand on the handlebar. Others walk by had head phones on and were staring straight ahead like a zombie.

Dam in Fall









I feel so bad for these children who’s parents deprive them of nature’s beauty. Who have no ability to set boundaries for themselves, let alone are teaching their children to have no boundaries and to just ignore the world. Parenting like this is neglecting human connection and is creating isolation. No holding hands, no rides on dads shoulders, no talking about the boats and dam and what it is there for. It is not just here that I have noticed this and I am sure you have too. In restaurants families have their heads bent down over IPads. In cars, parents are on their phones rather than focusing on the road, with kids in the back watching videos. Parents are not attaching to their children, they are teaching them to detach from life. The violence level in this world is to such extremes as we have never seen before, in modern times and the stories we hear about the perpetrators are people who have been neglected in life on some level.

What is our future to be like if we are all walking around with our heads down ignoring life around us?

Absent Hearts, Missing Pieces

This is the title of a memoir I published in 2003 but it is now out of print. I thought of the title again today when I was thinking of the holidays and all the sadness I continue to have of missing people in my life. Memories that won’t be made because of family members who have died or grandchildren who I am not allowed to see. I thought about being a single parent and all the women in my ancestry who were single parents, who began this trend long ago. I think about women today who glamorize this topic, the media who puts an entertaining spin on it, the women who argue with women who don’t want to have children, the 50% rate of unplanned pregnancies in America and the 40-50% divorce rate. I wonder about all the children who I have worked with over the years, who had no fathers because they weren’t allowed to see them. Mothers who were mad at the man they slept with because he didn’t give them the fantasy they craved. Fathers who are absent from children’s lives because they were players, addicts, pissed at the mother, never had a father themselves and didn’t know how to be one, the list goes on. These parents, who were quick to have sex but refused to take responsibility for the future by using birth control. I have been the kid, the granddaughter, and a single parent myself.

Imagine what it is like to be a child and your father is no longer around, as mine was at the age of four. By nine, my stepfather adopted me, because my father signed off on the papers so he would not have to pay child support. It sounds like a quick fix but I did not want this. I loved both my father and my stepfather. Imagine what it is like to suddenly be told that I could not see my two half-sisters, my grandparents, my stepmother, my aunts and uncles. As a young adult, it would be my maternal grandmother who put me in touch with my father and I began to become re-acquainted with my paternal family once more. She did not believe it was right what my family did. Re-connecting is not very easy when you have lost over a decade of growing with the people you once loved. It is not easy for them either. One of my half-sisters died before I could ever see her again. My memory of her is when she was about seven or eight years old.

Coming from such a tragic childhood, I fell into the trap of searching for someone to feel an emotional void. A guy I met in high school, who came from a father who was not there and who was at one time a batterer to his mother and an addict. I never knew addiction growing up; this was one issue I was lucky to not have to face as a child. Once I did face this and domestic violence from my husband, I got out quickly but not before having a child of my own.

I never re-married but I did continue to follow a path of looking to fill an emotional void. The difference though between myself and many other woman today, I took responsibility by making sure I did not bring another child into the world, just because I was looking for love in all the wrong places. One child raised by a single parent was enough for me. I learned my lesson there and I learned my lesson as a child. Life wasn’t easy for me, for my child and I wouldn’t do that to another until I figured life out and was more secure financially and emotionally.

My son grew up, eventually we found his dad and later, my son became a father as well. Unfortunately, he also took the path of an addict and brought three children into the world with three different women. He has since become a recovering addict, his father died unwilling to ever take responsibility for his health, his child or get off of the drugs. As a result of being an addict for so many years, these mothers of my son’s children were unable to admit to their own failures in the choices they made with men. The fact that neither they nor my son used birth control but yet it is “all” my son’s fault and they are angry with him. As a result of this, two of my grandchildren are not allowed to be visited by my son. He is able to keep in touch with the eldest who is 15 and old enough for Facebook but lives in a tiny town far away. This child wants to visit his dad but is forced to do what his mother requests. My son pays child support, gives him gifts for birthday and Christmas, talks to him almost daily but never gets to see him. In Ohio, it is not what is in the best interests of the child but what the mother wants. Men have no rights here to their children. Grandparents have no rights to their grandchildren.

My granddaughter lives near my son and goes to the same school as her half-brother and step-brother. Her name is not on the roster and my son believes she has been adopted by someone that her mother began a relationship with after him. My local grandson knows who she is though as he did meet with her a few times before her mother decided no one could be involved with her child. Her mother was in a relationship with my son, while he was in a relationship with my grandson’s mother. They were together in the same house he shared with my grandson’s mother even. Both of them were using drugs and partying “like there was no tomorrow,” but my son is the one who is in the wrong and my granddaughter is being punished, as is my son and I, because of this.

Being a single parent is no joy ride and it is difficult for the children to bear. I do not believe any parent should stay married for the sake of the children because this is not the answer. I do believe that we need to take more responsibility with our sex lives and the partners we choose. Having sex is fun, raising children is a lifetime and it costs money. It is easy to blame another but both parents have to take responsibility when a child is brought into this world. It is never ONE person’s fault. It is certainly not the fault of the children that the father did not give YOU, the mother, what you wanted.

My father was a player and hurt my mom’s feelings. This was wrong of him. I understand her animosity toward him because of this. I understand she needed the money from him as my stepfather was paying the way. However, it was not my fault that he was a player or that he wasn’t paying child support. He never harmed me and my parents were not desperate for money. After I was adopted, they made the same amount of money as beforehand. Meanwhile, I was emotionally wounded at the loss of my paternal family.

My son IS a recovering addict and has taken steps to clean up his life, get in touch with these women and reach out to be an involved parent. It is not my grandchildren’s fault that they want him to choose them now that he is clean. It is not my grandchildren’s fault that their mothers are jealous of his new life. These children will never have the benefit of their father and his family being in their life. They are being punished for their mother’s mistakes which they refuse to acknowledge and take responsibility for. My son was wrong for what he did and their mothers are wrong for their part too.

Many children will grow up in households, never knowing their fathers and in some cases their mothers. They will be turned against their fathers and in some cases will be told lies about who he was. From being a psychotherapist and having worked in social services, I see family patterns repeating themselves for many generations. I see girls being sexually molested by stepfathers, mom’s boyfriends, uncles, grandfathers. Often their mothers were too in childhood. I see boys who have spent time behind bars. Often their fathers were too.  I see adults coming in to tell me their anger toward the father who was never there. Telling me about fathers they didn’t know they had because they assumed the guy who raised them was the dad. I hear stories about mothers who never recovered from the man who jilted them and so the children aren’t really sure what to believe. Sometimes adults hold out hope that he might have been a good guy but more often than not, they take their mothers or grandmothers side of the story. Sometimes there is a huge blank from the families, because this is never discussed. The adult kids of missing parents don’t know what to believe.

Children have a right to know their families, both paternal and maternal. They have a right to figure out for themselves what this guy was like on their own as both my son and I did. If they then choose not to have a relationship with this person, it is on them. Closed adoptions are inappropriate and unfair to the child and to the family involved. If a mother has been raped by a man or if the man is a dangerous person to be around, this is one thing. The child should still be told. Many circumstances, neither of these situations are the case. In almost all circumstances, the grandparents are not to blame, nor the aunts/uncles, cousins, etc… The half-siblings of these children are certainly not to blame. Why do we continue to create this vicious cycle over and over again? Why do men and women continue to have unprotected sex? Why do women continue to lie to their children because they are upset with the father? It won’t end as long as we continue to ignore this topic because we don’t want to shame the single parent. Or because we aren’t being politically correct for some reason.

The holidays are meant to be spent with family. This is a time to create memories. It is a time to learn the stories of your ancestors. It is a time to find out who is who and make your own interpretations of what you see for yourself. Don’t kid yourself into believing that your lies will somehow help the child to have a better life. It never does.

Pride In Self

Chapter Two of my new book “You Don’t Need a Prince to Lead a Charming Life.”

To reclaim your power, it is important to appreciate and be grateful for yourself.

Many years ago I was whining about my life to a woman I knew, and she reframed what I was saying into a positive idea. She interrupted me and said, “It is amazing that you don’t seem to realize all that you have accomplished in life.” It took me off guard and I stopped to think for a minute. “What do you mean?” She started to mention all the things I had done so far in my life that I had seen as negative rather than positive. It was quite amazing to me. I was only focusing on how these things had gotten in the way and brought me down. When she reframed my way of looking at it, I saw how it really was great that I had accomplished what most people would have had a hard time with. I felt pretty wonderful that another woman had seen these things, as it is always important that our own gender give us feedback about what they see, to help us grow as women. A woman-to-woman experience of selves strengthens our gender as a whole. Later on, a teacher at my college noted one day that she was glad to hear me saying that I was a survivor instead of a victim. The words we use in reference to ourselves go a long way in reclaiming our power.

When I speak with women in my practice I see that they all do the same thing: beat themselves up. They grow up in homes that teach them to be second-class citizens. They are not taught to set boundaries or to ask for what they want. Instead, they are supposed to put their own needs aside and focus on the others around them. The Calvinist motto is “Children are to be seen and not heard,” and in this respect it can apply to boys as well as girls, though girls are pushed aside much more than boys are in the household. Girls are meant to be the caretakers. They are raised to believe they will get married one day and their husbands will look after them (this still happens as I still see young girls chasing boys the same way I did in my day).

I don’t mean to pick on single parents but unfortunately, young girls who aren’t raised with a father figure need one. They need to feel admired by a man (unless they are a lesbian, though even for this sexual preference, I still see a need for a father figure). It is human nature, yin/yang, and a balance of male/female. If there is no male figure in a young woman’s life (for men this is still important but a different book to write), she has no one to teach her about boys and men and how to be in a relationship with them. Thus it will create havoc when she tries to have a relationship with a male. I have found in my own family, with clients I have served in private practice and while working for social services that these girls try too quickly and it amounts to sex (which they idealize means he loves me) and since so many are not using birth control (a frequent comment is that it makes them look fat or they don’t like the side effects) the end result of course is babies. This desperate need for attention (love) is recreated in the false belief that the boy will stick around for the child, and if not, what fun it will be to have a baby. Of course they later learn those ideas are most definitely untrue, especially when people begin to focus more attention on the baby instead of the mother and suddenly she finds herself alone once more. The Morehouse Research Institute and the Institute for American Values, (1999. Turning the corner on father absence in black America, A statement from the Morehouse conference on African-American fathers.), stated that when children are abandoned by their fathers, the girls are most likely to end up with early pregnancies and the boys are most likely to end up behind bars.

When I point out to my female clients that it is important to have self-respect, they nod their heads. I then tell them that they can’t expect a man to give them happiness, or to give them what they want in life and this causes confusion. How can I say such a thing and completely wipe away everything they have ever come to learn or expect in their lives? It really throws people into a mess philosophically. Sometimes women say yes, they realize that [intellectually] but to put it in practice is another thing all together. We can’t just stop time and turn ourselves from caretakers into independent women who set boundaries. There are steps to take as we begin to grow from fragile human beings into more evolved ones.

To have pride in yourself starts from the head and goes down to your toes quite literally. The way you present yourself says a lot to the world and a feeling of pride is external as well as internal. All senses are taken into account here. The way you dress – visual, the way you smell – pheromones, the way you talk – hearing and speaking, or how you are heard and how you talk. Taste would even come into play in the way you take care of your body. Let’s look at some of these things individually.

Visual: A woman who has reclaimed her power is going to be a person who is confident in herself and shows this in the way she walks and dresses in public. Look at a woman like Taylor Swift. She is in the same entertainment business as Britney Spears, though she was raised differently and so instead of seeking the sexual route, she is modest and careful in the clothing she chooses. She has a more mature look rather than a childish (little girl) look that excites sexual predators. She even makes fun of the racier styles in her videos as if to say, “Yes, I acknowledge the world around me, but I don’t need to be a part of this.” She is strong, confident, young, and willing to take risks but not to the point of ruining her reputation. Another young role model Jennifer Hudson, conveys a sophisticated, elegant woman with an amazing voice. Listening to the passion in the lyrics she belted out while she sang in Dreamgirls, I felt such a heavy weight on my chest. Older women such as Helen Mirren and Judi Dench astonish us all wearing clothing that makes them look beautiful and intelligent. It is horrifying to see women who have had plastic surgery wearing dresses that a twenty-year-old would wear or exposing their bodies. After you turn fifty, you really need to rethink how you dress in public. It is about looking attractive, intelligent, confident, and comfortable in your skin—because you know you have made it in the world.

When you walk, you need to do so like a woman who is dressed for success, not like a woman who is wearing clothing. Six-inch heels do not make you seem confident, nor does it demand respect. It makes you look ridiculous. They are not practical shoes for the boardroom or for going out at night. Stilts are for clowns in the circus or ladies of the evening who are selling sex. If you want to get ahead in life and in your career and want people to take you seriously, don’t wear this type of clothing.

Smell: Pheromones are subtle signals that we both emanate and pick up from others. There are some people who repel us for obvious reasons such as wearing too much perfume or cologne, and there are people who attract us for unknown reasons, but it is really the pheromones, which are our body scent, our energy, the aura that we have around us. A confident woman who is a good person will attract people because they are eager to hear what she has to say, to see what she is wearing, and see what she is like in person. They want to get to know her. A woman who pretends to be confident may come across as bitchy or insecure; she dresses in a desperate fashion focusing on her sexuality to attract people rather than acknowledging that she is a good person who does not need this attention. If you are intelligent and talented, you will get across the message you want to your audience; you don’t need to cater to people’s negative expectations. Modesty is always the best policy. It makes people want to know you more. Suddenly you are mysterious rather than obvious, and people love suspense.

Taste: what you eat says a lot about you. Our country has turned upside down with Walmarts ruining our communities, and this has also created a junk-food culture. Since Main Street is gone, so has our need to preserve and protect it. Our society has begun to want the predictable and it is expected wherever we go. You can find McDonalds in almost any country and a variety of nationwide franchises like Applebee’s enable us to get satisfied with the same junk while travelling. Predictable food makes Americans feel comfortable when they are on the road and don’t want the adventure of trying the local cuisine. As a result there is an obesity problem because chain food delivers oversized meals that no one ever sat down to at home growing up. Likewise, mom and pop restaurants serve normal portions. It is not just the food Americans are eating in these places but the servers and the cooks presenting it to us as well. They are used to quick and easy, not healthy and happy. Mom and pop restaurants, for the most part, have good values and ethics. Our dollar is important to them and they want us to come back. They have bills to pay and kids to feed. They are working hard to supply their families. A franchise is working hard to serve the corporation. Sure they have families too but the ultimate ruler is the person they bought the chain from. As a result, cleanliness in restaurants is at an all-time low and our society has come to expect this. They don’t have time to clean the place, because there are too many people to serve. Our society just allows these things because everyone is in a hurry and wants the quick, predictable meal. Why care what it looks like? If you are staying in a hotel, you can take it back to your room anyway. Eating good food happens when people love themselves, feel good about themselves, and are confident and conscious of what goes into their bodies.

Hearing and Speaking: Do you talk like a lady—a woman who is in charge of her life, or are you bossing people around trying to control the world around you? Healthy, strong, confident women do not need to demand, they have a way about them that people respect. We see women in society who are loudmouths, who fight with other women and men, who are known as drama queens or who take other people’s men. Women who are educated, well mannered, and diplomatic often have good communication skills. They don’t have these types of problems. They don’t need to yell or fight or demand. When they talk, people listen because there is a sense (from all the senses as well as this one) that this is someone they should listen to. If you have to raise your voice, you need to rethink how you present yourself. Also, you don’t need to be an educated woman to have these skills or to think well of yourself, but it helps. College often brings confidence, but only when your skills are being utilized in the workplace and you enjoy doing what you have set out to do.

Reclaiming your power has to do with reinventing yourself. You, as a woman, have to make a conscious effort to look at what type of people you are attracting into your life and whether or not you have the life you want and are happy with it. If not, it is important to address this, not by finding a man, but by making some changes in your life. How do you fix these things if you have been raised in a world where you have been abused? If your life has been overwhelmed by a mental illness or mental health issues? If you have been raised to be a second-class citizen and are just unhappy overall? Working on the self includes getting support spiritually, psychologically, and physically: mind, body, and spirit.

Having a spiritual belief system strengthens your resolve. It gives you something to believe in. When you have nothing, it often gives people a sense of emptiness. Start with what you learned growing up and then begin to explore religions in general. Take a walk in nature, a good long hike deep in the woods that will bring you to a place of questioning. Nature is good for soul searching. If not a walk, sail a boat, sky dive, do something that enriches your sense of self and takes you to a deeper place.

Almost anyone can benefit from psychotherapy to gain greater self-awareness and contentment within. There are thousands of psychotherapists available who have different modalities of practicing and come from all different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. If you are unhappy, have come from an abusive background and suffered physical, emotional, sexual, financial, or domestic violence as an adult or witnessed it as a child, if you have a mental illness that runs in your family, if you have lost someone in your life very dear to you… these are just some of the examples of why you should seek out a psychotherapist.

Finally, you can’t work on your mind and soul without enriching your health. Cigarette smoking is neither spiritually nor psychologically healthy. If you are putting drugs or alcohol into your system, you are keeping yourself from thinking clearly. Soda pop and coffee on occasion is one thing but living your life with them is another. I have known young people who dehydrate themselves with highly caffeinated drinks, because they were living off these new sodas and not drinking water, juice or milk at all. I have also known people who don’t even drink water or juice on a daily basis. All of these things are bad for the soul. If you are taking lots of medications, you really need to get a second opinion from either another psychiatrist or medical doctor depending on why you take them. A healthy mind, body and spirit does not come from taking four or more medications. Seeking out holistic support and changing your diet can often help to eliminate medications. Don’t ever ignore psychological or physical reasons for taking medications, but you don’t need to be popping pills as if they are candy for the soul. Not only should you focus on eating well and re-examining all that goes into your body, you must also exercise and stay fit and trim. Too many times people give me excuses: “I used to do that” or “I know I need to get back to going to the gym.” Excuses lead to obesity which is an eating disorder in the sense that you are unable to control your food habits or control the way you live your life. Food soothes and nurtures the human being as they begin to give up on themselves. This is tied to family issues, the non-organic food available in stores today as well as the junk food culture, mental health issues, all of which require the support of a wellness practitioner, psychotherapist or nutritionist.

Reclaiming your power is hard work, isn’t it? Anyone can do this. If you want to feel happy with yourself and have the life you want, you must demand it of yourself and start organizing your life in a different way.

Thoughts for the Charming Life: Name 10 female role models in your life, personally or professionally or women of history, that are not in the entertainment business, and who personify the criteria above. Read a book about at least one of them.


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