The Love of an Aunt: Call me “Ellie”

My Beautiful Aunt Gilda died on her birthday, yesterday at 2:00 PM. She passed with amazing grace, and my perimagesonal loss is deep. You see, my Aunt was a caring mother to me in every way. I was blessed to have her as a role model, a mentor, a confidante and a source of unconditional love.

Aunts have the power to play that kind of role in the lives of their nieces and nephews. They have the power to fill what otherwise might have been an empty space, a void, in the life of a child. My Auntie stepped up to that fill that space for me and I am all the better for it. She’s wearing the captain’s hat in the picture; she would guide me through a lot of stormy weather and she never abandoned ship.

Perhaps the most beautiful gift my aunt bestowed upon my was my name. My birth name is Elena, but it was my Aunt always who always endearingly called me “Ellie”. When I turned 18, she took me with her, my Uncle and my cousin on a trip to Italy. She just about let me run wild there. It was a life transforming trip and I returned back to the states as “Ellie” forevermore.

Thank you Aunt Gilda for my name, for being My Captain and for the gift of your love. I will feel for you in the space around me. I know you are right there. RIP


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Mental Illness: A Communicable Disease?

There has been an enormous amount of press and publicity about the Ebola virus and the lives this terrible communicable disease has recently claimed. The current statistic reports that presently the Ebola death toll nears 1,000 people worldwide. Thank goodness, steps are being taken to overcome this horrible killer. Lots of discussion, awareness, worry, work, research and medical methodologies are being implemented to find help. Lots of attention, lots of compassion…

What about Mental Illness? The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports the following statistics (brace yourself):

  • One in four adults (61.5 million Americans) experience mental illness in a given year.
  • 14.8 million Americans live with major depression
  • 42 million Americans have anxiety disorders
  • Approximately 60% of those suffering with mental illness do not receive any treatment
  • Individuals with mental illness have an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions
  • Adults with mental illness die on the average, 25 years earlier than other Americans largely do to treatable medical conditions
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America and the 3rd leading cause for ages 15-24

These statistics are based on reported and diagnosed cases. The real numbers are probably much higher. Experts report that mental illness is on the rise.

Research has already suggested that there in an inheritable component to mental illness. But, is mental illness also a “communicable” disease? Are some people carriers of mental illness? Is it being spread around? After 35 years of psychotherapy practice, my opinion on these questions is “probably yes”. If you have mentally ill parents or siblings, live with a mentally ill partner or work/play with mentally ill people, your chances of contracting some form of it probably go up. If you find yourself repetitively in a stress-filled environment, your chances of breathing it in and contracting it probably go up. Everyone is at risk for mental illness. No one is immune to mental illness. No one.

As with any serious disease, the potential outcome for having mental illness is death. Are you concerned about Ebola? Get way more concerned about mental illness. The chances of you or someone you know “catching” it are far greater. What are you willing to do about this epidemic? Can we even begin to talk about it?

RIP Robin Williams

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JFK and I

I was ten years old when a teacher whose name I do not remember barged into my fifth grade classroom and cried out, “The President has been shot. They think he is dead!” I can still feel that electric bolt of shock shoot through my body, I can still smell the severe scent of dread.

Ten years old was a very tender age of development. It was a time when I began to feel the first flourish of abstract reasoning and I was looking for role models. JFK was one of my first chosen role models. I admired how he wore the cloak of leadership. It all started for me when my mother drove us to a mall close to where we lived in New York because he was campaigning and driving through town. We got to see him standing up in the limousine waving to the crowd, waving to us, waving to me. He was handsome and winsome. He had a beautiful smile and soulful eyes. Those were the days when you could actually get close enough to notice and appreciate smiles and eyes.

I became a fan of JFK on that day. I had a schoolgirl crush on him. I loved him like I loved the Beatles. I watched him debate Nixon, I saw him take the oath of office in the freezing cold with his warm breath visibly condensing in the frigid air. I was ten years old, a very tender age.

Those days of mourning over the loss of JFK were horrifying, sorrowful and greatly intensified by witnessing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald live on TV. I was home alone when I saw it. More trauma. I still feel traumatized when I think about it. All the grown-ups around me were also in a state of shock and so incredibly sad.

Our country was forever changed with the assassination of JFK and everything he symbolized. We lost an innovative, energizing and a global thinker. The New Frontier was now spattered with blood. How could someone who was anti-fragile (able to grow and thrive from some major physical and health challenges) be taken out in a few Zapruder film frames? I was never the same either as the curtain lowered on my childhood innocence and my first experience of profound loss introduced itself to me.


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This little unrehearsed video explains why collaborative practitioners will benefit from training in our Streamlined Protocols. On another note, I had to chuckle when I saw it…two coaching divas doing their thing. Click on the video link below to hear more.

Humor aside, this September 26th training in Tarrytown, NY will elevate Collaborative Professionals to far more effective and cost-efficient levels of practice. Join us with our co-trainers Andrew Hoffman, CFP, CDFA and George Richardson, JD, CLFS.  See you in Tarrytown!

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Divorce and Defeating Anxiety

I just returned from LA where, with my training team, I presented a three-day training in Collaborative Divorce. One initial observation I made from this training: many divorce lawyers who practice non-collaboratively are highly anxious and strung out about their work. Throughout the training, time and again, I saw and heard professionals express levels of high anxiety and borrowed worry about their clients:

  • “What about getting my client’s needs met?”
  • “I would feel ashamed of myself if I didn’t get in there and pitch for my client”.
  • “I am supposed to fight for my client. I just can’t sit around and keep quiet!”

Now that we understand, through many years of Collaborative work, that divorcing clients are at some level of trauma/crisis when they seek out a lawyer; we also realize that, as their divorce professionals, we are ever-at-risk to go into the trauma with them and begin reacting with impulsive, limbic aggression “on behalf of the client”. We mistakenly think that this is what is expected of us: to take on the trauma of the client.

In Collaborative Divorce, we notice the trauma of the client, but we do NOT take it on. Instead, we meet the client in the trauma-fog of his/her divorce and we help lead them out to various financial, emotional and legal safety zones which alleviate their anxiety and empower them to be rationally and responsibly present for a recuperative and constructive divorce resolution. This is a much more creative and satisfying way to work.

If you are a divorce professional, do yourself a vocational favor and get trained in Collaborative Divorce. You will be much less anxious and more pleased in the positive meaning of your work.

Upcoming trainings:

  • New York-September 26-27
  • Phoenix-January 16-18

I hope to see you there!

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You Tube: Transference and Countertransference

This video has received almost 10,000 views since I posted it to You Tube. You Tube is a great pathway to “show ’em what you got”. Please have a look. It speaks for itself.

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Linked In Think-Tank

Linked In is one form of social media that actually feels less “social” and more professional to me. It carries an air of being sophisticated, savvy and success-oriented. Navigating around Linked In usually feels like a worthwhile investment of my time and attention.

I use Linked In to generate interest in and direct traffic to my blog. Here is one strategy for optimizing Linked In:

  • research and join as many Linked In groups you can find that you believe would be interested in reading your blog.
  • every time you publish a blog, go to each group you joined and start a discussion with appreciative inquiry.
  • after you ask the respectful question, paste the link to your blog right after it.
  • be sure to return regularly to the discussion to graciously acknowledge and interact with everyone who comments on the discussion you initiated.

Here is an example. As a communication specialist, I belong to several alternative dispute resolution groups on Linked In. When I blog, I will go to each group and ask a respectful question, such as, “How do we help our children to be okay when divorcing parents continue to fight?” I will then follow the discussion question with the link to my blog which expands an answer to my posed question.

This think-tank approach has increased my reader-base and has kept my energy and enthusiasm elevated for continued blogging.

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