Category Archives: Information

The Cat Out of the Bag and Other Stressors

Rebecca recently had her hands full transporting her cat, Don Juan, from DC to Tucson.  The trip was an absurd comedy of errors.  She recounted the day as follows:

Things started out fairly uneventfully for us at the airport.  I had TSA pre-check so that I didn’t have to take off my shoes or take out my computer and I could just focus on walking Don Juan through X-ray.  He was cooperative at first, but then struggled when I tried to get him back into his bag.  Somehow, I ended up holding him and the bag with my hands and then nudging him in with my head.  When I looked up, the TSA officer behind the X-ray machine had dropped her jaw and her eyes popped out in shock and disbelief.

Shrugging sheepishly, I zipped the bag up and headed into the terminal.  Not 10-feet past security, I heard a sudden commotion, saw people gesticulating.  I realized they were yelling at me that my cat was “out of the bag”.  I looked around to see Don Juan running away toward a staircase that led to who knows where.

I dropped my bags and sprinted after him, petrified that he was going to bound up the stairs never to be seen again.  Fortunately, he froze as I approached and let me scoop him up. As I turned around, I saw a troupe of five airport police officers standing next to my bags watching the whole scene with benign amusement.  In their midst sat a German Sheppard the size of a pony.  In a flash, I wondered if he would charge at us, sure that if he did, Don Juan and I wouldn’t stand a chance.   But he seemed curious, not dangerous. I was glad that Don Juan had not gotten on his “seize” radar.

Yet again, I wrestled to get Don Juan back in the case, now with an audience of cops, dog, and travelers.  I made sure this time that the bag was securely closed.  At this point, Don Juan was yowling and restlessly turning around in his bag, making it look like a caricature of a storm cloud with thrusting fists bursting out of its sides.

At the gate, I was told that even though I’d paid for the extra “bag”, I would have to check my rolling suitcase.  This meant I had to carry all 22-lbs of cat myself.  For some reason they’d changed planes and they had also changed my seat from one with extra leg room to a cramped one way in the back.

I had gotten on the plane early, so at least I could ask the flight attendant for some water for Don Juan.  As she was ripping a paper cup so that he would be able to sip out of it, I heard a commotion again.  Another flight attendant was calling out “Ma’am!  Ma’am!  Your cat is loose in the plane!”

At this point, more people were starting to board.  I jumped forward, wondering what on earth I would do if he left the plane.  As I rushed through the aisles, the few people already on the plane looked sternly at me-they were not amused.  Again, by some good fortune, Don Juan hadn’t gotten far.  He was under seat 20F.   I had to lie down the entire aisle to get to him.  Someone tripped over me as people were heading to the back of the plane.

Once again, I got Don Juan back in his bag with some unpleasant wrestling.  By now I had some fairly deep scratches.  The attendant who’d gotten me the water brought me some Bandaids.

The back of the plane filled up and, in addition to Don Juan, 5 babies followed (how many flights have 5 babies?!).  Each time the plane’s cabin pressure changed or the engines got louder, cats and babies all cried helplessly.  Don Juan was so agitated that I had to keep his bag in my lap and put my hands around his head for the whole 4 hour trip.

At one point, when my helpful flight attendant came around with drinks, she saw that I had Don Juan in my lap and said, “I have to tell you that you are supposed to have your cat bag under the seat.”   I plaintively told her that if I didn’t hold him he would howl the whole time.  When she said the exact same thing, verbatim, I realized that she was indicating that she “had to tell me” but wasn’t insisting that I actually do it.  She studiously ignored me for the rest of the trip, for which I was very grateful.

When we got to Phoenix, Don Juan began furiously scratching at the bag to get out.   By the time we got on the small jet prop to Tucson, he’d completely exhausted himself and was so still that I was worried he’d had a heart attack.

When we finally made it to Tucson, he warily crawled out of the bag, subdued but already slightly curious about his new digs.  He seemed to get it that we were home and the journey was over.  We both slept long and hard that night.

In the past, being anxious person, I would have been agitated by the fiasco in the terminal, or seethed when the airline told me I couldn’t take my roll-on with me, and fretted the whole flight about whether the attendant would force me to put Don Juan under the seat, and maybe even have been embarrassed about the scene(s) I had caused.  However, throughout the strain of this seemingly never-ending saga, I was actually able to meditate and even sleep a little bit. Although I am constitutionally disposed to be anxious, which is worse in high stress situations like airport travel, I could practice tools like breathing, meditating, not wasting time on things that are out of my control, focusing on making the situation as tolerable as possible, and taking it one minute at a time.

Other things that work to help manage make stressful situations:

  • Listening to music
  • Coloring
  • Drawing
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Stretching
  • Connecting with others in the same predicament
  • Change what you can, don’t focus on what you can’t
  • Think about things are going well despite the situation!

Positively yours, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive

Do art work with symbols for strategies that help you when you are in a high stress situations.  Use drawing materials or make a collage.  Share your image or even one of your similarly absurd stories here or on our facebook page.

Snow Spirals

We recently got a historic snow storm here on the East Coast.  In the Washington DC area, we are still digging out, and the kids have been home from school for a week.  However, Gioia still had to get to work.  She was scheduled to do an outdoor challenge group, a structured trust building exercise held outside. Mother Nature had already made it pretty “challenging” just to get to work, and now the challenge course-along with everything else-was under two feet of snow.

She and her brilliant colleague, expressive therapist Laura First, came up with the idea of using the snow as the challenge of the day-after all, the pristine white landscape was just like a blank canvas. They decided to lead the group in walking through the knee-high snow to create a beautiful Snow Spiral, as ambient trance music played.  When it was finished, they gathered on the balcony to view the Spiral and wrote poetry to capture the beauty of the moment. Later that evening, after the sun went down, Laura added lights to the Spiral which gave it a magical glow.

Because Rebecca was in Tucson during the snowstorm, we couldn’t resist having her make her own spiral in the desert to contrast to the two landscapes.  The spiral itself is an archetypical symbol, associated with transformation, growth, surrender, one’s inner and outer journey, centering and birth, the natural revolutions of time, the stars, energies, and even a connection to the Divine.

Delving into the natural world can often be inspiring. Artists like Robert Smithson, Andy Goldsworthy, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Agnes Denes and Red Earth Environmental Art Group all have utilized natural materials in the landscape in stunning ways. For inspiration, just Google image search any of the artists listed above.

Research shows being in nature is a surefire mood booster, providing healthy distractions that decrease anxiety and depression.  Go Washington Post Research on Positive Effects of Environment to read more about this research.

We hope you too found beauty in the snow this week, or felt some connection to the natural world wherever you are.  If not, go outside and take a few moments to let nature speak to you.

Positively yours,  Gioia and Rebecca  

Art Directive  Go outside and take a moment to appreciate the natural world around you.  Can you make artwork using simple shapes and salvaged natural materials? Try using materials which won’t mind becoming art, such as rocks, sticks, snow or sand, and let living plants stay intact.  Take a picture of whatever you made or find-we’d love to see these posted on our Facebook page!

2016 Why, What, How? Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

The New Year is upon us!  Many of us are carrying over into 2016 resolutions we’d like to have accomplished in 2015.  We may have had firm intentions at the start of last year to follow through, but got distracted or lost focus as the year progressed.

Here at CWW, our resolution is to finish a book that we’ve been working on for the last 6 months.  The deadline for the book is at the beginning of April so we are acutely in touch with pressure to “Finish the Book!”  When we first took on the project, we had difficulty getting started-it seemed so huge. Although we used some of the standard techniques for initiating action, such as breaking down goals into realistic, measurable objectives, and listing daily efforts toward our goal, we were still not writing.

Rebecca’s husband offered some useful advice that helped break through this initial period of resistance.  Rather than setting objectives related to results (e.g., finish one chapter this week) instead commit to short blocks of time (write for 1 hour at least four days a week).  For someone who wants to get in shape, that might look like exercising for 5 minutes three times a week.  For a poet or an artist who is stuck, that might mean free-form writing, painting, drawing, or sculpting for 20 minutes several times a week without worrying about creating a finished product.  Even though, for us, the first of these short sessions were not very productive, they got our feet wet and helped us feel more connected to our goal.

Our friend Katy Davis also introduced us to a great warm-up tool from motivational guru Simon Sinek called the Golden Circle (we love circles so this was a natural fit for us).  The Golden Circle involves using a large sheet of newsprint paper about 18″ x 24″.  The instructions are to draw a large bulls-eye with three layers.  In the inner circle write “Why“, in the middle layer “How” and in the outer layer “What“.

CWW Golden Circl

Rebecca and Gioia’s Golden Circle

The What category states what you want to accomplish; the How layer outlines the means that you would go about doing so; and the Why describes the reason you are doing it.  This last category is the most important but perhaps the hardest-it identifies the motivation for doing what you’re doing.  This should be more of a philosophical statement, basic and broad.  You can think of the Why as a belief, How as the actions you take to realize that belief, and What as the results of those actions.

When we did this exercise, we found it easiest to start with the What layer–Write a book on positive psychology and art therapy.   (For you it might be exercising regularly, or making 10 paintings next year, or anything that is on your list of resolutions). But the How and the Why sections were challenging.  We initially filled up the Whysection fairly quickly with 8-10 statements like “Help art therapists see why Positive Psychology matters” and “Show the magic that art therapy brings to positive psychology.”  However, we realized that these points really belonged in the How section.  We had to ferret out the core of why we wanted to do those things, to simplify our intention.  Eventually we determined that our main focus was simply “we art therapists, like our clients, need to feel more hopeful and more empowered” and “we need to create new ways of seeing and thinking.”

Katy also created a Golden Circle.  She has been working on setting up a database and storytelling around the science of happiness.  She started with lots of words in the outside perimeter of the circle because, she said, she needed to “get the variables out” before she committed to putting them into any particular section.  That then helped her to fill out the What and the How fairly easily, but she also struggled with the Why. She ended up going through the same “distilling” process, refining her Why to simply be “people will actually be happier.”

Katy's Golden Circle

Katy’s Golden Circle

As is evident from both images, we resolved our Golden Circles quite differently, but ended up with the same feeling of clarity and focus.  In the end, not only did we have a diagram that gave us a different way of mapping out our goals, as well as a game plan outlined by the How section, but we were also jazzed and ready to jump in.

So, as you begin the new year, if you have aspirations or goals that you would like to accomplish, consider using the Golden Circle exercise to help motivate you and get you started.  Feel free to share your results with us on our facebook page or here on our website.

 

Wishing you a most fulfilling 2016!

Positively Yours, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive

Make a Golden Circle with something you are hoping to accomplish next year.  Use a large sheet of newsprint paper about 18″ x 24″.  Draw a large bulls-eye with 3 layers and in the inner circle write Why” in the middle layer How, and in the outer layer What.  See if new insights emerge.  We would suggest that you also do a collage afterwards for each of the sections (you could do it on the original piece of paper or another one).  It may add even more clarity, focus, and inspiration.

What Kindness Looks Like

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama

It’s that time of year–Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s. For better or worse, ‘tis the season.

Rebecca, known for being something of a Grinch, is fond of complaining about the “worse” part.  For example, during the holidays the commercialism and the pressure to spend money can distract us from some of the core values that underlie these traditions.  The“better” parts, which Gioia fondly revels in, are the gratitude, gift-giving, generosity, service and kindness that are the essence of these rituals. We are moved to focus on the things for which we are thankful, what is good in our lives, on pleasing our loved ones, on sharing traditions, on creating festivity and beauty, on enjoying good food in good company, and most importantly, on helping others.

There are obvious ways that we can be helpful at this time of year.  We can put money in the Salvation Army tin, donate to organizations whose mission we support, volunteer our time, or invite friends or colleagues to dinner.

But once the holiday season is over, reminders to engage in charitable acts recede into the backdrop of our full lives. We’re busy recovering from the holidays, hunkering down for the winter season, and making resolutions for the new year. If we aren’t getting consistent cues to practice our generosity muscles, we get distracted by life.

Of course, giving more and being kind are the “right” things to do. It turns out they are also the best things for us to do. Generosity and kindness are some of the shortest routes to human happiness. We feel better when we are doing something for others. It makes us healthier, it slows the aging process, and it’s contagious-when we experience kindness, it inspires us to “pay it forward”.

So what does kindness look like? Dacher Keltner, psychologist and head of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, defines kindness as actions that elevate the welfare of somebody else. Below are some simple kindness practices.  Please note that some of these may be more or less appropriate depending upon the recipient of your kindness:

  • Making eye contact
  • Nodding our head
  • Using a tone of voice to show kindness and respect
  • Saying someone’s name
  • Stopping what we’re doing and give our full attention to others
  • Doing something for someone else
  • Acknowledging others
  • Asking how others are doing
  • Asking how we can be of help
Card for Lois

Card for Lois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to practice generosity more regularly and want to strike the iron of the giving impulse while it is hot, here are a couple of ideas:

  • Pick one of your favorite charities and sign up for automatic monthly donations.
  • Think of the kindness and generosity you are already doing and do them more often-you may be engaging in more kindness than you realize.
  • Give World Wildlife Fund stuffed animals as presents at this link (a percentage of the proceeds goes toward wildlife conservation).
  • If you’re a therapist, our art therapy colleague Shannon Flynn acquainted us with Pro Bono Counseling–a non-profit organization that coordinates the process of connecting clients with therapists who are willing to see a client pro bono. Click here to learn more.
  • Think of someone who would really appreciate hearing from you regularly.  Rebecca is thinking of her husband’s grandmother who lost both her son and her husband of 60 years this year. Find 12 cards, stamp and address them and mark your calendar each month to send one of the cards.
  • Think of someone in your work or your neighborhood. Leave them an anonymous treat once a week.
  • Give yourself more time to be kind by showing up early to family events, to work, on your errands.

Share ways to keep the kindness muscle working here or on our Facebook page.

Positively yours, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive
Think of someone you’d like to be in touch with regularly over the next year. Make between four to twelve appreciation cards. Address and stamp the same number of envelopes. Mark your calendar with dates when you will send the cards (beginning of each month, beginning of each season, etc…). Send them off!

The Other Side of Masks

“I reveal myself one mask at a time”
Stephen Dunn

Courage Mask by Gioia

Courage Mask by Gioia

Rebecca and I have recently been using masks in our work. Although they’re often used in art therapy, we were both conflicted about what they represent. Are they meant to hide or protect some aspect of ourselves? Do they reflect what we show to the world and obscure our “true” selves. Or do they help us uncover and discover parts of ourselves? In keeping with our efforts to find positive reframes for the way we approach our work, we decided that we could use them to highlight and celebrate some empowering aspect of ourselves.

For example, in a recent workshop, Rebecca had a client decorate a mask that she said was devoted to “What I keep from myself.” Her client said that, “It’s not so much about what I present to the world. I feel like I am authentic and people get me. It’s more about my sense that I feel like I don’t know myself.” She chose a mask in the shape of a butterfly and delicately decorated it with soft pastels in purple and yellow hues which she said looked like a sunset. She was surprised at how visually pleasing it was and realized that it represented a sense of beauty and gentleness which she tended to minimize in herself.

When Gioia uses maskmaking with people in recovery, she suggests that they explore the courage that they had to draw upon when they decided to take on the disease of drug or alcohol addiction. We like to define “Courage” as exercising the willingness to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, either internal or external. The work “courage” and “encourage” come from the French root word coeur, which means, “heart.” Courage can manifest in the following ways:

Bravery (Valor)
The ability to do what needs to be done despite fear-not being fearless but overcoming one’s fear. May be physical valor shown by warriors, but may also be doing what is right despite consequences, facing a serious illness, or resisting peer pressure and standing up for what is right.

Persistence (Perseverance/Industriousness)
Finishing what one is trying to accomplish despite obstacles, difficulties, or discouragement. Taking care of business, staying on task, mustering the gritty will to perform in the face of boredom, difficulty, and the temptation to do something easier.

Integrity (Authenticity/Honesty/Sincerity)
Taking responsibility for how one feels and what one does, genuine presentation of oneself to others as well as the internal sense that one is a morally coherent being. Being true to oneself, practicing what one preaches, accurately representing privately and publicly one’s internal state, intentions, and commitments.

Vitality (Zest/ Enthusiasm/Vigor/Energy)
Feeling alive, having “joie de vivre,” energy that is experienced not as nervousness, or hyperactivity, but as good energy available to the self and visible to others. A sense of physical well-being and vigor, as well an activated positive emotional state, a sense of enthusiasm.

Although many of Gioia’s clients, when they think of courage, don’t identity with bravery, they do connect with persistence and grit in the face of adversity and with the renewed vitality that they are experiencing in recovery. Rebecca’s client showed courage by addressing the disparity between her internal sense of herself and what the outside world sees in her. Although she was initially struggling with connecting to positive aspects of herself, she immediately got it when she saw the beauty and grace in her butterfly mask.

So as you think about masks that you might wear in the world, think about ones that would celebrate something that you want to recognize and cultivate.

Positively yours, Gioia and Rebecca

Art directive
Make a mask of a courageous person you admire on an outline of a mask or store-bought prepared masks (available at craft stores). Decorate the mask by exploring what comes to you when you think about your fearless ideal. You can draw, paint or use collage or cut paper. What characteristics would this figure have? Is this a person, animal or mythical creature? Of the different kinds of courage, such as bravery, persistence, integrity, or vitality, which might it feature? Write about situations where you might benefit from wearing this mask.

Sometimes a cigar is not a cigar…

Sometimes a cigar is not a cigar.  Perception is a tricky little creature.  We know that what we “see”, what we think is “reality”, is susceptible to all sorts of biochemical mechanisms.  What seems clearly obvious to some may be completely invisible to others.  What we “see” may also change dramatically when something shifts our perception.
 
Rebecca’s husband, KC, is fond of saying “We perceive what we believe.”   We know this to be true-research shows that people will overlook things right before their eyes if it is outside of their expectations.
 
Art is such a fascinating way to reveal and help us shift our perceptions. Invariably, regardless of what the artist was trying to represent, interesting “accidents” happen in the imagery or there are visual effects of which he/she is not aware.
 
Although sometimes those effects might mean nothing-sometimes a cigar is just a cigar-we always ask “If it did have meaning, what might that be?”  What might it mean that you drew a tiger but it looks more like a kitten, that the sun was supposed to be yellow but it’s orange and red, that there were supposed to be five figures to represent your family but you have actually included six?  What if that cigar was not a cigar?
 
We see this with our clients all of the time but it even happens with us as trained artists and art therapists.  We think that we will not be surprised by our own art work–but we are more often than not just as unaware of the interesting “accidents” that happen in our imagery and what it unexpectedly reveals to us.
 
This happened recently in a workshop Rebecca was running at Miraval.  She made a small mandala of what she thought of as a hopeful sun at the end of a spiral path made of gold and blue for healing and prosperity.  Some of the guests commented that it looked like a fuse that culminated in an explosion.  She had not in any way intended that–it had completely escaped her attention when she was looking at it.  However, after the guests made that observation, it became obvious and undeniable.  Seeing the image through their eyes changed Rebecca’s perception of it and she then saw it differently herself.  This is the interesting effect that art work, can have perception–it originates from what seems to be the conscious realm but then it takes on a life of its own.
It is also refreshing to be reminded so beautifully that our imagery can provide such fertile material for exploration.  You might guess that Rebecca had some interesting food for thought contemplating the fuse that was exploding in her drawing. 
 
Positively yours,  Rebecca and Gioia
Art Directive:
Draw a picture that represents how you are feeling now using color, line, shapes and symbols.   Write about your impressions of the image (the color, texture, markmaking, line quality, lightness/darkness, etc…).  Have a couple of people observe what they see visually in it and what impression it gives them.  See if their perceptions match yours and notice you perception of your art work changes after seeing it through their eyes.
Rebecca Spiral Fuse

Rebecca Spiral Fuse

Sweet Dreams

“Sleep is the best meditation.” Dalai Lama
Gioia-Sleep

Gioia-Sleep

Sleeping well has always been one of my super strengths.  I’m just really good at it, and I often feel that most of my best creative ideas are formed when I’m snoozing away.  Rebecca, on the other hand, has often struggled to get a good night’s sleep.
We know that sleep is a crucial factor in mental and physical wellbeing.  Having difficulty sleeping can lead to irritability and moodiness, decreased alertness, impaired memory and cognitive functioning-all of which can impact many areas in your life.
Because so many of our clients report difficulty sleeping, I have been looking into easy and effective ways to improve sleep habits. I found a great new app, “Sleep Cycle”, which can track your sleep patterns and identify sleep phases by tracking movements in bed.

Gioia's Sleep Cycle 8/27/15

Gioia’s Sleep Cycle 8/27/15

You can set your alarm to wake you up when you are in light sleep, not in the deep REM-sleep, where you are dreaming up new ideas. The app actually makes a really cool graph-you can see the ebb and low of how you are sleeping and monitor it over time. You can also track your resting heart rate and mood upon awakening. Check it out athttp://www.sleepcycle.com/

Other tips to improve sleeping include spending more time outside in daylight and get some exercise-natural mood boosters!.  Then try relaxing bedtime activities instead of TV or computer viewing, which can actually rev you up, not get you ready for bed.  Try reading a book or magazine by a soft light and avoid back-lit e-readers, they are too bright.  Other ideas include taking a warm bath, listening to music, doing some easy stretches, winding down with art journaling or writing, making simple preparations for the next day, or even listening to relaxation or mediation CDs or apps. Then, when it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is really dark.  Don’t forget to block light from electrical displays-I always lean a book over the cable box clock so it’s not glowing all night.
Rebecca manages her sleep by winding down for a couple of hours before bed by stretching while watching a movie or TV show, not eating or drinking 3-4 hours before bed, playing white noise (ocean sounds or rain) in the bedroom, and avoiding alarm clocks if at all possible so that she wakes up when her body says it’s time to do so.  Click here to find more good tips to help the sleep deprived.
Sweet dreams,
Gioia and Rebecca

Art Directive

Fold a large piece of paper in half.  On one side, draw or collage about what it’s like when you have not gotten the shut-eye you needed, and feel tired, groggy or fatigued.  On the other side make art about what it’s like when you are fully rested, restored and you have slumbered as much as you wished.  If you would like, after you’ve finished, write about differences in the art and differences you might have observed in yourself when you were doing the different sides.  We’d love to hear-post comments or images on our Facebook page!

Crafting a Life Full of Meaning

When Rebecca and I work with caregivers and therapists, we often find that when they bring up meaning in life as an aspect of happiness that their eyes really light up. Just last month, as we spoke to the staff of Maryland’s Child Advocacy Center, we knew we were seeing deeply committed people whose character strengths included kindness, compassion and a desire for justice. Feeling as if they made a difference energized these folks, who clearly had a deep sense that their lives were mission-driven. One child worker told of racing across a field to catch up to a run-away child, her heart beating in her chest and mud covering her shoes.

Although having a life full of purpose and meaning may not be so dramatic all of the time, it’s often a well of deep and authentic happiness that can bring tremendous satisfaction and joy. One of our positive psychology heroes, Dr. Michael Steger, has done groundbreaking work in this area. He developed a short Meaning in Life Questionnaire which we highly recommend taking. which we highly recommend taking. This quick and interesting survey measures how much we are searching for meaning and how much meaning we feel we have in our lives at this moment.

Not surprisingly, it appears that experiencing meaning and purpose contributes significantly to life satisfaction, health, and wellbeing, to more positive emotions, higher levels of optimism, better self-esteem, fewer psychological problems, and lower mortality.

Be You

Be You-Gioia


If you want to experience more of a sense of meaning and purpose, one of the first steps is to figure out what is important to you, what you feel passionate about and what energizes you. For some people, like our friends the child protection workers, what gives you meaning might be making a difference one child at a time. For others it might be more mundane, like another one of the Child Advocacy staff, who disliked being on the frontlines and instead preferred behind the scenes making sure that everything functioned smoothly for the rest of her co-workers.

What do you find important and what gives your life meaning and purpose? Feel free to share on our Facebook page.

Getting Clear on Your Core Values

“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
Roy Disney

Love and Humanity

Love and Humanity


Seems pretty straightforward-we assume we know what our values are, right?! But when we propose this activity in our workshops and groups, it often draws a blank at first. This may be partly because to many of us our values are so inherent to our understanding of life that we see them as fundamental truths about reality not as personal preferences. It can also be disorienting when we realize that others might identify with completely different values. This is a variation of the comparison bias–we tend to overestimate the similarities we share with others and to assume that others would think and behave the way we would.

Some values most of us share: family, freedom, dignity, love, respect, friendship. Others may be more personal and even seem contradictory: privacy, openness, honesty, sensitivity, efficiency, whimsy, frugality, luxury, austerity, diplomacy, power, independence, interdependence, strength, gentleness, simplicity, subtlety, exaggeration, sophistication, restraint, expressiveness, vitality, conservation, indulgence, beauty, comfort, expansiveness, containment. During some of our workshops, we give out an extensive list of values (click here) and have people circle the ones that are most essential to them.

Some of these values may resonate deeply for you and others may be difficult to appreciate. However, the beauty of this exercise is that it gives insight into the self–it brings into our conscious awareness things that we might take for granted about ourselves. It also illustrates the diversity of values that other people might embrace, values that might be different from ours, but might hold the same degree of importance. This is open a doorway to understanding. When we appreciate that other people are motivated by their values, (whether they are similar to or different than ours), we are more likely to attribute positive intentions to their behavior even if we don’t agree with their choices. This then leads to empathy and compassion (which, no surprise, Gioia and I value-after all we’re therapists!).

The ultimate payoff of getting in touch with our values is that, when we get really clear about what is important to us, it paves the way for guiding our lives. Things become simpler when we determine what overriding values we are working toward. If those decisions involve other people, outlining what values everyone is bringing to the table also helps get people on the same page.

Some of our core values at CWW:
Collaboration, creativity, connection, compassion (OK, so we like the C’s), love, beauty, gentleness, wellbeing, generosity, gratitude, playfulness, perspective, equanimity, empathy, accountability.

What are your core values? Share them with us on our website and on our Facebook page.

In friendship and collaboration,
Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive
Look at our list of values-which ones are most intrinsic to you and what you believe in? Make a collage of people who embody those characteristics and place yourself among them. Post your image her and on our Facebook page!

Burned Out or Filled Up?

Gioia and I were talking about ways to manage burn out and got intrigued by the evocative nature of that descriptor–burn out. The expression evokes all sorts of visual images: a flame sputtering and then extinguishing, a light bulb crackling on and off and finally going dark, the embers of a once glowing fire fading under a pile of cooling ashes, gaseous fumes gradually dissipating until they evaporate and disappear, a dying spark.

Being the “positive psychologists” that we are, we became curious about the inverse of burn out. What would that be? Invigorated? Energized? Enthusiastic? Engaged? Restored? And then what would the metaphor be? If we are burned out because we feel depleted, would we then be filled up, like a gas tank, or an artisian well? If our energy was low, like a fire that was in danger of going out, would we suddenly spark into an eternal flame? Would we light up? Spring to life? Get recharged, like a battery? Or perhaps we would transform into a renewal source of energy, like wind, or ever-flowing water.

Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame

Regardless, we know that one of the ways to manage burn-out, to fill ourselves up, and to feel renewed and re-engaged, involves taking care of ourselves. Because we may not be able to change some of the external factors that contribute to burnout (feeling like our efforts are not noticed or appreciated, that we cannot bring about any positive changes in our environment, not being challenged enough at work or being challenged too much and being unable to meet those expectations), it can be very effective to channel our resources to what we can most effect–ourselves!

Self-care, at its most basic, starts with caring for the body-drinking enough water, sleeping better, and getting basic exercise and nutrition. It means getting outside, spending time with friends and family and animals, remembering what you enjoy and what inspires you, and spending more time doing what energizes you. On the job it can mean taking pauses during the day, tweaking your work so you are able to experience some sense of accomplishment and enjoyment, using more of the strengths that engage you, and less of those that deplete you, identifying your values and aspirations, and connecting with people who support you. Click on the following link for a helpful handout on burn out: CWW-SelfCareDomains

Gioia’s main self-care strategies are spending time with her dog Barley, doing art work, and using sleep to let her brain come up with new ideas. Mine are getting a full night’s sleep, stretching, and trying to take life less seriously and enjoy myself more.

Brightly yours,
Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive
Remember a time when you felt energized, engaged, and invigorated. Create a symbol for that sensation as if it were a source of renewable energy. Share it with us here or on our Facebook page.