Written by: Sonia Heidenreich, LGSW
D.W. Winnicott was one of the first psychoanalysts who focused his work on children and the parent-child relationship, and I have really admired his work since being introduced to his writing in graduate school. [If you’ve been reading this blog with regularity, you might have already heard me referencing him. His work was extremely influential on a range of theorists and clinicians that came after him, and if you’re curious, you can borrow my book--Playing and Reality.]
This might sound odd, but I thought about the quote up above when I came home the other day and couldn’t find my cat. (I know, I know—crazy cat lady alert.)
When I finally found her curled up in her favorite place underneath the couch, and I laid down on the floor and stared at her, without disturbing her from her hiding place. Before I had even reached out a hand to pet her, she started purring up a storm, clearly so delighted to have been found. I wondered how much she had also enjoyed knowing that I was looking for her. “It is a joy to be hidden,” I thought, “and a disaster not to be found.”
I first read this several years ago now, but it’s never far from my mind. To me, this captures something innate inside all of us: We want to have our own private experiences of the world, we want to feel like our own unique selves, and yet at the same time, we want to feel seen and understood by those around us.
I’ve also been thinking recently about the idea of finding an inner gaze, or of the power of truly gazing inward. We spend so much time with our attention focused outward, whether it’s on other people, on our work, or maybe it’s social media or whatever external stimuli that pulls our attention outside of ourselves. All of this is okay, and even necessary, but it can also be alienating. When we spend too much energy focused on external things/people/experiences, we almost forget how to look inward, to notice ourselves, and fundamentally to be with ourselves. It’s only when we are willing to shift our gaze from the external world to our own internal experience that we offer ourselves the opportunity to ask and answer essentials questions—questions like: Who am I? What is important to me? Why am I here? What do I care about? What do I want my life to mean?
Getting back to Winnicott: I think that in order to allow ourselves to be found, in a metaphorical sense, by important others in our lives, we first need to practice knowing and finding ourselves. We can do this by practicing shifting our gaze inward, with a practice as simple as closing our eyes, taking a few conscious breaths, and really and truly sitting down in stillness with ourselves.
In yoga, this relates to the concept of a drishti, or gaze. We hear about this most often we we’re told to think about fixing our gaze on something unmoving as we’re trying to balance in a challenging posture, and this is a good moment to find a drishti. Certainly, standing in a tree pose and feeling ourselves wobble back and forth is a perfect moment to practice finding our gaze, and sometimes that is a good way to practice. It’s also good practice to close our eyes, take a breath, and get really quiet and present with our own thoughts.
In therapy, we learn to sit with ourselves in the presence of another person. At first, it’s uncomfortable to share our private, personal thoughts out loud, but as we get used to it, we notice (I hope) that we feel better in some way afterwards. It’s often hard to pinpoint why exactly we feel better, but I hypothesize (as would Winnicott, I think) that it has something to do with feeling seen or being found by another person, and then leaving with an enhanced capacity to look inward and truly see ourselves.
Written by: Lauren Barris, LCSW-C
It’s no secret that what the weather is doing – whether it’s sunshiny or raining cats and dogs – can have a BIG impact on our daily mood. And lately, it seems like we’ve been getting a lot more rainy days than sunny ones. When I noticed how this weather was impacting my own mood, as well as the reports I was getting from my clients, I decided to write up some tips on how to handle these rainy day blues.
Tip No. 1: Notice it!
That’s right. My first tip is surprisingly simple, but this one is not to be underestimated. It is far too easy to roll out of bed on a gray, gloomy day, with our mood reflecting that, all the while having no clue why we are feeling so down. So, step number one is to check in with yourself when you start your day. Notice what your mood is doing (and what it might be doing to those around you…) and take stock of reasons why this might be happening – AKA those looming, ominous clouds outside your window!
Tip No. 2: Validate yourself
Remind yourself that it makes sense that you might be feeling a bit down because of the weather. People have known for a very long time that the weather impacts our moods, and it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Validate for yourself that the weather sucks! It may be impacting your social plans, your exercise routines, your allergies or physical wellness (headaches, body aches, etc), the stressfulness of your commute, and it may even be causing damage to your home or community. These are real sources of stress, and simply taking the time to validate that feeling down is a reasonable and understandable reaction to these things can work wonders. It’s hard enough to deal with a low mood – you don’t need to be judging or blaming yourself on top of it.
Tip No. 3: Make up for it
None of us can change the weather, but we can change some things about our daily routine. Make up for the nasty weather by upping your self-care regimen. Maybe opt for a special latte (or tea) in the morning instead of your usual go-to. Maybe wear something bright and colorful that can off-set the gloom for both you and those around you. Practice noticing things about the weather without judging them negatively – notice just the sound the rain makes, the way the air feels, or the color of the sky, without tying it to anything positive or negative. Finally, treat yourself to some extra self-care at the end of your day too, whether that means curling up on the couch in your favorite sweater with a warm cup of tea, cooking a special dinner for yourself, taking a long hot shower or bath, or maybe just getting some extra sleep. The important thing about self-care is that these should be intentional, mindful activities that make you feel good AND are good for you in the long-run. If you indulge in your favorite sugary latte or snack one day, just make sure you don’t do it every day, and if you give yourself a mini-vacation to watch an episode of a favorite show, don’t let it turn into a binge-session. Self-care should be sustainable, enjoyable, and should make you feel good about yourself both in the moment and after.
I hope these tips help to brighten a few of these rainy days. Stay dry out there!