Categories
Change Counseling Love and Romance Psychology Social Media

On Love v. Admiration

In the movie, My Life As a House, George Monroe is an architect who is let go from his job and discovers he has terminal cancer, of which he withholds his diagnosis from others. After deciding he wants to tear down an old house on a piece of property he has been dreaming about for a rebuild, he tells his ex-wife that he wants to take his son Sam for the summer and build the house with him.

In a powerful scene between father and son, Sam’s repulsed expression of disbelief flies out at his father, “You trying to get me to like you?” George’s response is equally telling, “I was trying to get you to love me.”

The things we do for love. Or, is it love that we’re truly pursuing?

With the rare exception of individuals with personality disorders that manifest in social aloofness, we crave love and connection. Children can create imaginary friends to fill in loneliness, boredom, or fearful emotions. And in the age of the Internet, many of us flock to Social Media to not only see what others are doing, but to curate a world where others might connect with us.

All of this sounds pretty innocuous, maybe even adaptive. Until it isn’t.

I’ve been intrigued by conversation around a fast-growing group of people who are being called out as repeat marathon cheaters. These are people, usually everyday non-elite runners, who engaged in ways to cheat the system in order to gain awards, access to other races, and followers because of their astonishing fast-paced finishes. The numbers of cheaters caught at marathons, half marathons, and triathlons are enough that there are forums and a website dedicated to investigating marathon cheaters and turning them in to the race directors and organizations to determine what, if any, consequences should be rendered. The cheating is so common place enough that Wired magazine recently published a story about the founder of Marathon Investigations and the most perplexing responses and consequences of cheating exposures. 

Ever wonder why they would do it?

I suspect the numbers of marathon cheaters is actually not growing as much as you’d think. Rather, the technology used to catch marathon cheaters has improved in such a way as to punish the cheater in a public way by way of disclosure and the removal of awards, a ban from races, and potentially retroactive removal of finish times if there is a proven history of cheating across multiple races.

In other words, marathon cheaters risk being shamed and despised for their behaviour, if they are caught. And if they aren’t caught, they receive the love and admiration of fans.

Actually, I think these people stumble on another truth. They don’t receive love from their fans. They receive admiration based on achievement. Another way of putting it is that they cull conditional love based on a transaction: I perform, and you compliment me. 

Is It Worth It?

As you might have guessed, this post isn’t about running and marathon cheaters as much as it is about answering a question: is it worth it? And what “it” did you receive?

What “it” are we talking about? 

The subject is Love. Most of us learn about the importance of love when we are children. We see it in the sacrifices our parents and caregivers made in order to provide for our needs, listen to us, take us ball games and movies, and make sure we have opportunities to learn and grow. Love is can be hidden within a voice wishing us goodnight, folded into a homemade cake for a birthday party, and embedded in a hug and a kiss. 

Admiration is a similar feeling as Love, yet with a subtle difference. Admiration involves respect and approval, usually because of something we did to earn that feeling from another. An example of being admired is when a stranger put his/her personal safety in jeopardy in order to save the life of another.  We admire that person for bravery; we don’t love that person (the person is a stranger), as much as we hold in high esteem that person’s choice of action at the risk of personal injury. 

So back to the question, is it worth it. It is my belief that one of the reasons why marathon cheaters continue a pattern of cheating is because they trade Love for Admiration.  Finding and experiencing unconditional, non-transactional Love is rare. What they want is to be loved, but what they seek through cheating is the next best thing: Respect and Admiration for being a high performer. 

If Respect and Admiration means that much to a person, I believe they can  – sometimes do — pursue Admiration at all costs; therefore, it is worth it to them. The ‘likes’ on their Social Media posts, the adoring comments filled with heart emojis and ‘way to go’s, gives the person a lot of validation. It becomes its own kind of pellet food bar, of which a hungry mouse will keep pushing despite the fear of being shocked as long as the memory of getting a pellet of food remains. Rewards light up our brains, even if the reward as an emotional one.

And it works on the negative side of the equation too. Some people will do act outrageously to get attention, even orchestrating daring examples of socially unjust or violent actions. Earning a nickname that inspires fear has become its own kind of admiration in the half light of glowing screens across the globe. 

Can’t Buy Me Love

If Love can’t be bought, can its next best feeling, Admiration, be had by lesser means? In the Age of the Internet and the viral nature of Social Media, the answer could very well be Yes

Let me propose an example. You are a woman, a mom, a wife, and you’ve worked all your life to help your family. You do good things in community, volunteer for charities, do your share of duties in your local PTSA, and help the kids with school. At the end of a long day, you take a glance at your Social Media feeds. What do you see?  The accounts with thousands and millions of followers for women are often in the world of beauty, celebrities in film and music, wellness, politics, and sports figures. Oh, and cat ownership.

While you have changed diapers,  helped the kids get launched to college, supported a spouse through think and thin, perhaps you have not been celebrated and noticed. One of the ways we feel Loved is when we have been seen. And one of the ways many of us have sought to be seen by more people is through Social Media. 

One of the ways we feel Loved is when we have been Seen.

The strange thing is this: even accomplished people, celebrities, and sports figures can fall prey to the this online search for recognition. In those cases, there may be money involved in the form of exclusive sponsorships, and a poor performance could translate into loss of income. There would be incredible pressure to cheat, lie, or embellish a story. I’m not excusing cheating, just providing a possible explanation of why someone who was already accomplished might feel pressured to cheat or lie in his or her industry.

What about the Age Group athlete (a non-elite, non-professional athlete), in running or triathlon? Why would they cheat if there was no other financial reward for an Age Group win?

I suspect that the search for Admiration and Respect are in play. It can feel so good to be called a, “Badass” because you are fast and strong. People are curious about seemingly unreachable feats that require commitment, sacrifice, dedication, and focus. We elevate athletic pursuit to be characteristics of the gods.

Still, you can be the head of a tribe of people – a leader! — if you promote a certain kind of lifestyle that others find challenging — such as being a Vegan* or being Sober**, but in the world of Social Media, being Vegan and being Sober aren’t necessarily enough to win the attention of others. If you’re aware that you hunger to be Admired, you’d better match that Vegan lifestyle with something else, something Hard, something Ideal, something Extraordinary.

Of course, I am pointing out the flaws in this formula for living. Why can’t each person be celebrated for these decisions, just as they are? Why don’t we see them?

On Reading

My point is, that rabbit hole has no end. If you search for a sense of worth by Doing instead of Being, you will be tired. You might get some followers, and you will be exhausted.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. I personally don’t subscribe to the romantic overtures of expensive dinners and romance packages. You’re more likely to find me continuing to do the little things behind closed doors that lets my loved ones know how much I care. I still make the bed every morning, as much for myself as for my husband, so that the pillows are plumped and inviting, and a fresh pot of brown rice is ready for dinner at the end of the day. It’s mundane, yet it has it’s own Truth.

The love I feel is about having read people. It is not, “love at all costs” based on the accumulation of achievements. It is love based on our ability to see a person and choose to bestow warmth and affection for who they are.

Love is given because we can choose to love someone based on who they “be” in your life, not what they do. If you knew you were loved that way, you would never feel the need to cheat your way to being admired or respected. You would not worry so much what strangers thought about what clothes you wear when you’re on vacation, or what foods you do or don’t eat.

Yet, as I mentioned before, this kind of non-transactional Love is rare. It takes time to cultivated, because not everyone learns it early in life, and there are social forces around us that whisper other truths about what our essential worth is based on: appearance, agility, youth, genius, gender, economics, work performance, possessions.

The false form of love that people seek or fear on the Internet is costly. Yet, if you choose to See, it’s possible to learn how to cultivate Love versus Admiration based on accomplishment.


Note * and **: In case you were wondering, I have nothing personal against either lifestyle choices of Veganism nor Sobriety, and I have seen how some have healed aspects of their physical and mental health with both. I have simply chosen these two examples because of the abundance of writers on the subjects.

Categories
Counseling Online Therapy Psychology Telehealth

What Can and Cannot Be Seen During Online Therapy

When a person contacts me to initiate online therapy, they will receive a short consultation that helps both of us determine whether we’re a good “fit” to work together. I believe there are some good reasons to refer some people to see a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist who has a brick-and-mortar office, depending on their specific needs and the outcomes they seek.

For all others, online counseling can help bridge one of the most important gaps in healthcare: timely access. Getting people the help they need when they need it has been one of my lifetime goals for my mental health practice, now going entering its 19th year.

What I want every person to know, unequivocally, is what a licensed mental health professional can and cannot see in an online therapy session, based on the nature of the technology. While this appears plain, I’ve noticed that a brief discussion about the nature of online counseling — whether they will become my client or someone else’s — helps every person make better decisions regarding their health needs and the options they have to meet those needs.

What You Can See During An Online Therapy Session

Here’s is what I am able to see (and hear) during an online therapy session under the conditions of bright lighting, good audio, a video camera trained on head, shoulders, chest, and arm movements, robust Internet speed, and a quiet room where the session takes place:

  1. Facial expressions, which helps to reveal mood and changing emotions related to the content being discussed
  2. Body language, such as shoulder shrugs, hand wringing or rotating, posture, and body motions (i.e. rocking, shaking, trembling)
  3. Eyes: blinking, tears, darting, rolling, attentive, sleepy
  4. Breathing patterns, such as shallow, deep, rapid, slow, etc

Part of the reason online therapy can be helpful for people seeking mental health help is that the various measures of pain and progress can still be seen, heard, and felt through an online counseling session through your computer or smart device.

In terms of insight-oriented counseling, the same elements that you would experience in a F2F session can be transmitted and experienced in an online session. But there are exceptions.

What You Can’t See in an Online Session

  1. Just like F2F sessions, I can’t see what someone is hiding. I can, however, see the indicators that would lead me to believe someone is hiding something. Another way to say this: if you are seeking therapy to end your ability to manipulate and lie to the people you love (and you’re good at it), a good therapist may detect the lie in both an online and a F2F session, and both may not be able to determine what exactly the lie is.
  2. I can’t see what you’re doing off-camera. I can only see the reaction of your body and mind to what is happening outside of your camera’s view. For example, if you broke your foot and you were on a pain medication that produces sedation, I would not see the foot cast, but I might see the effects of the sedation in your eyes and facial movement, or the slur or slowness of your speech and cognitive functions.
  3. I also can’t use my other senses, like my sense of smell. This is important for therapists treating someone for depression, as a depressed person might not have the energy or will to attend to their own personal hygiene or wear clean clothes.
  4. Energy levels take longer for me to feel through the lens of the camera, putting together such clues as body posture, vocal quality, alertness of the eyes, and extraneous movement cues, such as “happy feet” and nervous finger movement off camera.

Would Online Counseling Work for You?

So, would online counseling work for you? The answer, like so many other answers contingent on multiple points of concern: it depends.

The best way to determine if online counseling would work for you is have a brief consultation with a licensed therapist to discuss your needs. Next, host a brief time on a HIPAA compatible online counseling platform, such as the one I use, Doxy.me. 

Take a moment to make direct eye contact during the video chat. Ask yourself if you sense your emotions and expressions can be easily read, even if you didn’t explicitly name them. You can also see how we bridge the physical gap by using the text box to write things down, send a resource link, or even give you a virtual high five.

If you feel you have your own bias against online counseling, I think it’s important to just say that upfront. I call this, “Putting your cards on the table.” When you do this, you’re acknowledging your bias. That acknowledgement can be helpful to know if you have some openness to experiencing something other than what you are “certain” you know; that is, that your experience might be different than your feelings.

For example, it might help to talk about your skepticism and negative feelings about talking about difficult things on a video chatting platform. At the same time, I might ask you if you like pets, such as a cat. If the answer is yes, and my cat obliges us, she may poke her head on the camera, and you can interact with her while you experience your real emotions about seeing my fluffy cat as she head butts the laptop and purrs into the microphone.

The reverse is true as well. You may be eager to try online counseling, only to be told that what you are wishing to address in your life needs more support and hands-on or sensory input than an online counseling experience can deliver.

You may have heard in the news that a man with a terminal illness received the bad news of his prognosis through a teleheath robot using a live video connection to his provider. The man died from his illness, and the family was so upset by the delivery method — a robot and a video chat instead of an in-person visit to the man’s bedside in hospital – that they complained to the hospital.

I personally don’t believe we as humans are ready for receiving bad news in this way, whether it is for the end of a relationship (an email), the end of a job (a group email or a recorded video message from the CEO), or an health prognosis. In the case of the latter, a patient may need their hand held, or to feel a presence in the room that speaks to the unspoken — “I’m still here, and my life has value because of the respect being paid to it by someone taking the time to be here.”

It is a subtle shift in thinking to understand that your online therapist has taken time to meet with you over an Internet connection, and the time has as much value as time that passes in the same room. It may help to ask an online counselor what they do to prepare, minimize distraction, and apply the steps of attending during a session.

In the end, a good first online counseling consult should leave you feeling like you made a good connection with the therapist, enough so that you would want to meet again to discuss more complex or difficult subjects.

During the time that the Greater Puget Sound area received a record number of snow days, school closures, and dangerous road conditions, I received an increase in calls inquiring about online counseling. You should know that I used the same elements in this post to help each person make their own decision about online counseling, and that not every call meant that online counseling was the best fit. Sometimes, it’s just not.

But when it is the right fit, we’re ready for you.

Categories
Change Client-centered Therapy coaching Counseling

September 2018 Address from SDC

Fall 2018 Address from SDC | Fall | What’s New

Fall is almost here! Here is my Fall 2018 address to keep you in touch with everything happening at SDC. Photo by Pixabay.

Outside my window, the leaves area already showing the colors of the impending Fall season. Brilliant yellows, screaming vermillion and reds, and toasted browns dapple my neighborhood.

By now, the kids are back to school, work is humming along, and summer vacation memories are washed and stored away. Now what?

Traditionally, I like to use the weeks just before the advent of Fall to do a check in with self, spirit, relationship, and end-of-year goals.

Questions to ask:

  • How are you doing
  • Where are you with Contentment, Satisfaction, and Role
  • How are you contributing to your happiness and the happiness of others around you
  • What progress have you made towards end-of-year goals, and what adjustments do you want to make now to steer closer to them

As I sat on a boulder admiring the view of Lake Moraine in Banff, Canada, I can tell you that I had no such questions in my mind. I was just taking in the view and soaking up every moment outdoors. Yet, in quiet moments in the evening after darkness had fallen, I asked these questions and took a few notes, knowing that I would be thinking about Fall 2018 and what I am bringing back to Seattle Direct Counseling.

Based on conversations from 2017 to present, here is what you can expect from SDC:

  • Professional online counseling services to help meet the needs of busy people and remote-access clients
  • One day per week access to F2F counseling sessions to help local and traveling clients receive personalized care and urgent mental health care when needed
  •  Certified triathlon coaching  (study to begin Sept 2018)
  • Focused writing on food and wellness for those with autoimmune disease and food allergies and intolerances

Fall marks an influx of new clients seeking to address both stubborn, hurtful patterns of thinking and behaving, and recent transitions that have created challenges and barriers across every area of life.

If you are looking to start therapy, or need a coach for detailed how-to’s, Fall is a great time to set counseling or coaching in motion. Please see my hours and Connect Directly page to get the ball rolling for you.