I park in front of the barber shop and notice my little man in the rear view mirror. He’s just drifted off into sleep, after a long morning of playing “running in circles.” If I wake him now, he will be a complete basket case. My older son, understanding the situation, offers to go in first.
I wait a few minutes and begin the transfer process, from car seat into my arms. I carefully lift my little boy and carry him into the barber shop; cradled in my arms, he is still fast asleep. A golden moment-sleep is sacred, especially for toddlers. I unzip my little man’s jacket and pull back his wool cap.
I look up at my older son. There he sits, discussing various cars on the market, their engine size and horsepower. His barber happily engages with him as do other patrons; It’s a boys club and somehow I’ve earned a front row seat. He sees me in the mirror and flashes a smile. My heart is full.
I look back down at the sleeping toddler in my arms. With his hat pulled back, his hairline is visible. I notice the shape of his face, his long lashes and the serenity that washes over him. A rare moment these days. He is almost three and always on the go.
My thoughts drift as they often do and I am reminded of time. Soon, my little boy will soon be too big to be held, too old to sleep in my arms, too grown to kiss me goodbye. And while it’s exciting to think about the prospect of getting some of my freedom back, I am gutted by the idea that my boys are growing up. A wave of anxiety and sadness wash over me. I lean in and feel the pangs of my ambivalence, bringing compassion to my experience. I allow myself the space before returning to the present.
Grounding-a moment to moment practice.
I look down again at the little boy in my arms, and study the lines and crevices of his face. His blue vein sitting perfectly between his eyes, nose like a button, tiny beauty marks in all the right places. I am reminded of his sweetness. A rambunctious toddler, so still in his sleep.
I don’t want to forget this moment. So I stay engaged, as best as I could, with a renewed energy to soak up the simple moments- Soothed with the knowledge that a new chapter of connection and holding awaits. Unwavering in my commitment to bring myself back to the present, as best as I can, each and every time I get lost.
Negative beliefs about the self, tell a story. Not of who we are, but of who we believe ourselves to be. And while it’s natural to believe that we are solely responsible for our own psychic pain, there is a context: our lineage.
Unresolved trauma is passed down from generation to generation. Eventually felt by the family member(s) who finds themselves in a deep despair, in darkness.
As we come to understand that we are often absorbing, carrying, and responding to that which does not belong to us, we can begin the process of letting go. We can surrender.
Shedding old layers is how we find compassion and compassion is how we heal.
Psychodynamic therapy deepens and enlivens our understanding of ourselves and those around us, and invites curiosity into our experience.
In this therapy, we access our underlying beliefs, assumptions and feelings about ourselves and others and examine them in detail. We learn that our unacknowledged feelings and beliefs have a profound impact on the choices we make, the safety strategies we use, and on the kind of relationships that we have with ourselves and with others.
Through exploration, we become increasingly aware of our tendencies, including those that keep us stuck and further from the life we desire. We learn that firmly held beliefs about ourselves and others have a context. We come to understand that we often uphold these (negative) beliefs (often without awareness) through our actions and/or stagnation.
As such, in this therapy, we bring those beliefs, feelings and assumptions, into consciousness. We gently hold, understand and modify them, finding new ways to respond and relate to them. We do this, even though it is painstaking, because it frees us from their incredible hold over our us.
In psychodynamic therapy, we also analyze the relationship between patient and therapist. We understand that the therapeutic relationship is the vehicle for deep change and growth. Much of our trauma is rooted in the interpersonal experience, therefore our healing must focus on building safety, trust, healthy boundaries, and connection. Mutual discussion of these constructs and all that unfolds in the room between patient and therapist is encouraged as it helps us understand, improve and work through those long-standing interpersonal patterns and traumas.
With each impasse and reenactment, the patient with the help of the therapist, discovers new and more adaptive ways of relating. The relationship becomes a kind of think tank, where new and more connected ways of relating with ourselves and others are practiced and their impact discussed. This careful exploration leads to important insights and allows for deep interpersonal transformation.
Taken together, psychodynamic therapy is about great courage and healing, and connecting, both in the therapy room and outside with supportive others. It’s about taking action, and pacing ourselves while implementing positive changes in our lives.
Much has been written on postpartum depression (PPD). It is well documented and common among postpartum women, experienced in varying degrees. While symptoms range in intensity, when moderate to severe, they can be upsetting, shameful, and disregulating. Negative emotions can be especially difficult to tolerate when they occur in situations that involve internalized ideals of the perfect (postpartum) experience. For example, a mother who is postpartum, may, at times, experience feelings of bliss, and a deep love and connection with her newborn, yet at the same time experience feelings of dread, sadness, anxiety, panic, detachment, and guilt, in addition to tearfulness and crying. Further exacerbating this experience are extreme hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, feeding difficulties, and the massive life change of being fully responsible for another life; change occurring in full throttle.
Again, the degree to which women feel this polarizing state varies. When "baby blues" and other symptoms (mentioned above) do not remit or worsen, a diagnosis of PPD is considered. When left untreated, some women may be left with a lingering sadness, that waxes and wanes, often suffering in silence. Although many can function in this state, it is not optimal for mother or baby, and will not go away on its own. Positively, help is readily available and treatment options are promising. You do not have to suffer; speak up, and although it can be difficult, try to discuss your experience with those you feel close to, especially your medical provider.
Together, medical and mental health professionals are openly discussing PPD and the postpartum experience with their patients and loved ones. They are working to diminish the stigma of PPD, along with social service organizations, the media, family and friends. By giving PPD and related symptoms a voice, we can reduce shame, and enable earlier detection and intervention, so that women can stop suffering and feel like themselves again.
Dr. Ariela Bellin
If you or someone you know is suffering with PPD or related symptoms, please find help in your area. Reach out to your doctor, nurse or mental health specialist.
All of us can benefit from increased self prioritization; even small additions can have a significant impact. In this article, I outline tips to improve self-care.
1. Develop realistic expectations of yourself and others and communicate them openly; remember that expectations may shift over time, depending on the circumstances of each individual.
2. Learn when to say "no" with less guilt.
3. Manage your guilt or inner critic by developing a kinder and more forgiving internal monologue.
4. Give yourself a pass; we are all human after all.
5. Know your boundaries well so that you can choose when to assert yourself and when to be flexible.
6. Before agreeing to do a favor, pause, and then take time to decide what is right for you.
7. Make sure to use some of your down-time doing exactly what you want to do (especially while on vacation).
8. Understand and communicate your needs directly.
9. Take time everyday to engage in an act of self-care; just fifteen minutes of reading, breathing, stretching or walking can make a difference.
10. If you are feeling depleted, it may be time to take a break and investigate all facets of your situation.
11. Try to let go of resentments. This is an ultimate act of self-care, as it has the potential for tremendous improvements in overall physical and mental well-being.
12. Routinely engage in self-care practices that work for you, keep them in your repertoire, and, at the same time, remember to try something new.
13. Prioritize and nourish yourself. Your stability enables better performance in all areas of your life.
14. Become a role-model for self-care, so that those around you can learn to be kinder to themselves too.
Striking the right balance of self-care is a highly fluid yet attainable practice, unique to every person. It requires increased attention and flexibility so that you can make small tweaks and changes as needed.
Self-care should not be mistaken for self-indulgence or selfishness, it is a basic human need, necessary to maintain our own physical and emotional well-being and that of others; it helps combat feelings of depletion and emptiness, and enables us to be better role models to those we care for. The idea is to start small; little additions can have a great impact.
One example of self-care is to take a fifteen minute mental break every day, either by walking or sitting in a calm area. During that time, it is important to regroup; you may choose to start with a few deep breaths. Check-in with yourself; think about how your day is going and determine whether you are feeling satisfied. If you are feeling accomplished, take time to internalize the good feelings; if you are feeling pessimistic, take a few moments to understand where those feelings are coming from and allow yourself to experience your emotions so that you may validate them. Then, make the choice to shift your behaviors and intentions, it is within your control. Commit to ending the day on a positive note.
Taking time to pause and connect with yourself, an act of self-care, can help build confidence, increase self-efficacy skills, and bring some calm to a busy day.
Ariela Bellin, Psy.D.
I very much appreciate my career as a psychologist in private practice. It offers a private space to analyze and understand the human experience, encourages curiosity and personal growth, and brings balance to intense feelings and thoughts.
Being a relational therapist and doing dynamic therapy is a meaningful experience for me, setting aside time to truly listen and connect with the inner experience of another person, examining the meaning behind our actions and turning despair into hope and comfort. It is truly unique. Being a psychologist has enabled me to be more flexible and thoughtful and has helped me adapt and move beyond my areas of comfort.
Each day, I am fortunate to work with intelligent and insightful people, and form strong alliances and lasting connections. People can help heal other people; healthy relationships can be reparative. Therapy is one kind of healing relationship-what's not to love about that?
Ariela Bellin, Psy.D.
Psychologist in Great Neck