“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” — Patanjali
“Mom, do you think I should see a therapist?”
Not trusting my understanding, I asked my daughter, who even as a teenager is the love and joy of my life, “What kind of therapist?”
“You know,” and I did know – I just wanted to make sure. “A psychologist.”
Here it was: one of those questions. It was a question like, “Mom, I learned in school that babies are made when a man places a penis into a vagina. How does a man place a penis into a vagina?” One of those questions that, if you answer it wrong, can instill great doubt about your character to your child and thus scar your child for life.
I carefully measured my tone to sound as conversational as possible. “Personally, I think we could all use a therapist. Why do you think you need to see a therapist?”
My 14 year old shifted a little in the car seat beside me and stared out the window. We had just come from her violin lesson with Brian Conway – who is a master at his craft, Sligo fiddle. People come from all around the world to White Plains, NY to study with Brian. For him, it’s a labor of love. He certainly doesn’t need the students. He just wants to pass on his passion. For him, it’s his mission. He thinks she has natural talent, and he sees that she has a drive and a passion for playing. That’s why he took her on as a student. She knows this.
This lesson went relatively well. She practiced well before this week’s lesson, and it showed. He was pleased. She was pleased. I thought.
“I’m really insecure,” she replied. “I mean, I know other kids my age are insecure, but I’m really insecure,” she chuckled nervously.
She gets that nervous chuckle from me, a chuckle I adopted from my father. I hate that nervous chuckle. After I make what I consider an astute observation, I will often hear it escape from my throat, as if to say, “if I am wrong, I was only joking, okay folks?”
My mother pointed out that chuckle to me one day when she was my age (forty-five) and I was twelve. I was sitting at our kitchen table watching my mother prepare dinner. She chose that moment to have a from-the-heart piece-of-advice for me. If it had to be said at all, she actually chose the timing well, I think. She chose it when I was not in a moment of insecurity, a moment when I wasn’t actually committing the deed; it was a moment when I was feeling relatively comfortable with myself and my relationship with her.
My mother, to this day, is a very loving woman, and a very straight-forward woman. She never beats around the bush about anything. If she has an opinion, she lays it out for the world to see as if it is accepted fact and that’s all there is to it, like it or not, and she doesn’t care what you think.
It is a trait that, as a child, I both admired and loathed about her, and was the exact opposite of how I measured the delivery of my opinions. I tried to “feel” out someone’s feelings, so I didn’t hurt them with my words, and at the same time, I went over my opinions in my head from every direction to make sure the opinions were well-founded – even as I presented them. The resulting delivery is what my mother was about to address; and the benefit she had made in timing was soundly outweighed by its lack of tact, as evidenced by the fact that the incident still haunts me well into my forties.
“Honey, I wanted to talk to you about something,” my mother began.
The statement both intrigued me and mildly panicked me with its seriousness. I was immediately alert. “Okay,” I replied hesitantly.
My mother finished drying her hands with her towel and sat down in the seat beside me at the table. “I wanted to talk to you about something I’ve noticed. It’s about your laugh.”
“My laugh?” I asked.
“You have this nervous laugh,” she explained as carefully as she was able, which impressed me in itself. This must be serious, for her to try to be careful in the way she was addressing me. It lasted exactly for that one sentence. I think it was more than she could bear. “I hear your father with that laugh and it drives me crazy. I don’t want you to have that laugh,” she concluded abruptly.
I blinked a few times, trying to survey the landscape of my laughs in my mind. I had great, open-mouthed guffaw laughs when I heard something funny (which, by the way, I still have) – but I never heard my father make one of those laughs.
She saw that I was struggling to understand. “It’s like this,” she placed her hands on the table and curved her mouth into a weak smile. “Eh, he he heh,” she demonstrated, in as feeble a manner as I had ever seen her portray anything.
Oh. That laugh. I immediately felt a cold douse of realization cascade down my spine to my sacrum.
“When people hear that laugh, they think you don’t know what you’re talking about. It makes you look weak. People take advantage of people who laugh like that,” she explained solemnly. “I can’t do anything about your father at this point. It’s just part of who he is. But you’re still young and impressionable enough. I want you to stop that laugh. You’re hurting yourself.”
“I didn’t know I did that,” I gulped. I was feeling VERY foolish and insecure, and now I knew something of the way my mother viewed my father, something I had suspected in the shadowy recesses of my mind but had never really acknowledged consciously.
“I know,” she reached out and touched my hand lovingly. “Your father doesn’t realize it either. It’s such a nuisance to have to listen to him when he laughs like that. I’m so embarrassed for him. Once I realized that you started doing it, I knew I had to say something. But now that you know, you can do something about it.” She patted my hand and smiled with the surety that she had squelched a catastrophic life-long behavior in me.
Sadly, my mother addressed my behavior too late. As I already stated, I still laugh like that. I catch it now and then, and force myself to be quiet…but only now and then.
However, I’ve adopted another behavior to compensate: my mother’s. When I state an opinion, I state it so emphatically that I believe I scare people with my surety. What’s more, I’ve become an indisputable scholar of my opinions, so that I can (and do) back up my opinions with so many facts that I can bulldoze the length of the Verrazano Bridge with them.
Then, if I’m not careful, I follow all that up with that damn nervous laugh. I must look psychotic sometimes to my patients and friends.
“So, you feel insecure?” I ask my poor daughter, the blind leading the blind.
“Yeah,” she chuckled weakly. “Really insecure.”
Now, you have to know something about my daughter. My daughter just started high school. She is a straight A student, and a talented actress and singer. She plays violin, guitar, drums, and she is learning digital music. She is very active in drama club and has brought standing ovations with her performances. She has skipped a grade in math and sciences and is in all AP courses in her school, having no trouble with them at all. She has already written a full novel (that I am presently editing) and is well into her second. She was a peer mediator for troubled teens in her middle school. Last year, she told me that she either wants to be a criminal psychologist or an actress. (To my credit,) I told her she doesn’t need to choose, that she could be both. So she wants to be both a criminal psychologist and an actress.
She also seems as bold and brash with her friends as I have ever seen a child with their friends. In this era of Facebook and Tumblr, I read and listen to her interactions with her peers to make sure there’s nothing crazy going on. Let me tell you: it’s all crazy. If any of my friends had spoken their opinions to me the way she speaks to her friends, I would have hung myself as a useless creature long ago. But her friends shoot it right back at her, as if it were all normal. There seems to be no boundaries anymore with teenagers. Their sexuality, their fears, their neurosis, their lamenting of society, it’s all out there for the world to see.
So is their abhorrent behavior: drugs, promiscuity, cutting, suicide attempts, thievery…thankfully, none of the latter is present in my teenager (her father, her step-parents, and I are all over this stuff like white on rice), but it is in some of her friends. One 14-year-old girl she knows is two months pregnant and has changed the profile picture on her Facebook account to the ultrasound of her fetus.
I just can’t believe all of this. I thought when I was a teen, I’d be ready for anything because I’d seen it all. As a teenager, I was witness to all of the abhorrent behavior I just listed. But my peers and I never made our opinions and behavior public beyond our own circles, for everyone to see! In this era of digital self-expression, I just don’t know how to judge what is right or not. I know the behavior is wrong; but is public self-expression wrong?
As of late, I’ve been throwing a lasso around her propensity for that public self-expression, saying, “The world doesn’t need to know all about your opinions like that! Don’t you know that, on the Internet, you’re out there for the whole world to see? Your opinions and attitude change as you get older! Anyone can look you up years from now and trace what you’ve said today! When you’re older, trying to get into college, trying to get a job, what you say now is on the record forever! Never put anything personal in writing!”
Yes; I recognize the irony. Measured self-expression is okay. I think. Eh, he he heh.
So the cycle continues. That which my mother didn’t want, and that which I didn’t want for my child, has come to pass. Despite her accomplishments and talents, she’s just as insecure as I was. As I am.
“So you think a therapist would help?” I continue. “I do know some psychologists…” as a doctor, I need to have a handy list of referrals for my patients, so I actually know quite a few qualified doctors and counselors of all stripes. I also see a psychologist, which is actually helping me a lot. I am thinking of him when I address my child.
“NOO! I don’t want them to know my parents AT ALL!!!” she exclaimed.
I think back to my high school psychologist, Mr….ohmygosh, I can’t remember his name! But he helped me so much! “My high school psychologist helped me a lot. I should have gone to him in ninth grade, but I waited until I was a senior. How about your school psychologist?”
“No way!” she replied. “The psychologist came around during our general assembly and said,” she affected a sickly sweet voice, “‘If any of you think you need medications, I’m authorized to prescribe that, so feel free to stop by.’ I don’t want to go on any drugs!”
!!!???WHAT???!!! MY DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST IS ADVOCATING THE USE OF DRUGS TO THE ENTIRE STUDENT BODY AT A GENERAL ASSEMBLY???? Okay…now I know what I’m going to talk to the school psychologist about during the Open House tonight. What the hell is happening in the world??? @*&#$%!!!! AHHHHHH (topic of a future blog post)!!!
I tell myself to calm down and return to the present. “Okay, I’ll ask your father to look into it. Just to let you know, I think you’re a terrific person. I really do. I love you and I’m here for you. You know that, right?”
“Yeah,” she replies weakly.
“I’m not just saying that. Really. I love you. You get it?”
“Yes, Mom, but you say it so much that it’s meaningless!” She exclaimed.
What am I supposed to do with that?
“What am I supposed to do with that?!” I shout.
“I don’t know!” she bellowed back.
And thus, another proud moment in confident parenting is completed.
This is why I ultimately became a chiropractor. I thought about pursuing psychology as a career, only to realize that I was going to barrage my patients with well-founded opinions and wind up yelling, “What’s the matter with you? You can help yourself! Why don’t you?”
Well, not really. I wouldn’t say that. I would think it, though. You know how I know? As a chiropractor, I think that now.
My opinions are well-founded, based in solid science. The body is a self-healing mechanism. If you give the body a chance by providing the right conditions, nine times out of ten the body will heal itself. Unless you have a very virulent virus or bacteria or a physical condition that is immediately life-threatening, a lifestyle of natural health and wellness works much better than reactionary, drastic, invasive methods.
The trick is, you have to want it to work, and you have to put in the effort to make it work. Many…and in my experience, most…people don’t want it healing to work that way. It’s a huge psychological leap for me to make as a doctor, that the obvious is not obvious to most people. It often seems to me that most Americans are so entrained to the medical model that they feel very comfortable in the role of “victim,” and that something like drugs or surgery is the only answer because it doesn’t involve them making the decision to help themselves. They want something or someone beyond their control to make the decision, whether it be a surgeon’s knife or an artificial pharmaceutical formulation, absolutely foreign to the biophysiology of the human body.For instance, one evening some of my friends and I were sitting around a kitchen table, and the conversation turned to some of them talking about other people they knew who were morbidly obese, and what a shame it was.
Now, these people know I am a doctor, nutritionist, and a health coach with Take Shape For Life (www.siroccowellness.tsfl.com). So, I mentioned that I would be happy to consult with them about how Take Shape For Life could really help them, and that it has an 85% success rate because they not only get the Medifast food (which is better and less expensive than any food program out there), they get the personal support of me, Ariel, and a whole team of doctors, nurses, and nutritionists at no extra cost to them.
Don’t you know that they listened, nodded, and then one person at the table said, “I know a great lapband surgeon I can recommend.” The whole table conversation turned in the direction of how fabulous lapband and intestinal bypass surgery can be, with me sitting dumbfounded in my chair.
It’s very frustrating, and it sometimes can interfere with my own psychology as a doctor. Why bother? People don’t listen anyway. Maybe my daughter is right; I say it so much that it is meaningless – whatever that means.
At the end of the day, what I say and think doesn’t matter, and isn’t even my driving passion. What keeps me going is well beyond my physical world. What keeps me going is that something that is referenced in the opening quote:
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
It’s been said many times in many ways, and it always comes to the same thing: what makes life worthwhile is much bigger than yourself. When you find that cause that you most believe in, what you think ceases to matter. It’s the mission that drives itself, and you are just an operator of the vehicle. That’s when the magick happens: when you let go and give yourself over to your mission.
Brian Conway is a District Attorney for the great county of Westchester. He is also one of the world’s foremost players of Sligo fiddle. He is a Master because of his passion. It means something extraordinary to him, and his passion is so attractive that he, personally, is spreading a little-know tradition worldwide and allowing it to thrive in an environment that would otherwise overlook it. That’s what giving yourself over to that passion means.
I know an aromatherapist in North Carolina named Eva, owner of Down to Earth oils (www.downtoearthoils.com). For her, it’s all about “getting the oils out. Get the oils out to people. The oils are the key. We have to get the oils out to people.” This is why I recommend her oils over all others. They contain that magick – that passion – that transmits through ordinary matter and is that added something that makes them work so much better than any other I’ve found.
Chiropractic is so much bigger than who I am that I am often humbled before its power. The simple act of clearing the nervous system of interference and allowing the body full access to its own energetic power is such a huge concept that it blows me away entirely. When I’m working on someone, I’m fully in that moment, that mission, that Art of connection with my patient, of listening to the rhythm of the body, to tune it so that it is a perfect instrument of harmony for Life, so that person can go forth an live their life to the fullest. They first come to me because they know by their pain or dysfunction that their inner power is diminished. Visit by visit, they are more clear, aware, conscious of living in the moment. That’s chiropractic.
The rest is helping people maintain that clarity. That’s when all my facts and figures come in regarding exercise, nutrition, rest, meditation and prayer, natural living, etc…
It has come to my attention recently that I should give myself to the power of that “etc…” as much as I give myself over to chiropractic. I think I help more people when I’m a servant to a cause, as opposed to an advocate of my ideas.
Maybe I should approach my daughter the same way. I’ll talk to my therapist about it next week.
I love you all.