Author Name: Anthony Gaudioso
The ARTISTRY of SELF represents an invigorating and fresh new approach to self-discovery and self-development. People are dynamic and changeable but most do not know how to change, develop and create themselves the way they want to be. Self-actualization can be achieved through comprehension and cultivation of capabilities and operational states. The ARTISTRY of SELF presents an approach to viewing the overall nature of self, self-development, and self-actualization. It provides a framework for understanding, as well as, offering the methods to master the skills that will enable you to develop and self-actualize as your best self.
Length of Sample (in words): 7496
As a psychotherapist I created The ARTISTRY of SELF to address the real needs I often see in my work with clients. New clients will often tell me that they had already been in therapy and that they don’t want to “just talk” about their issues. They left the previous therapy with unresolved and recurring issues. They were not given any concrete replicate-able method to address issues and improve or develop themselves. They want our sessions to give them a tangible understanding and means to operate.
My goal as a therapist has always been to help my clients become capable of taking care of themselves; to discover and reach their authentic needs and wants; and to help them learn how to cope, grow and adapt in all kinds of situations. Without teaching them skills that they can replicate in various circumstantial context, I would only be providing them access to surface problem solving and dependence on therapy. As an active therapist, my work is about tailoring interventions, exercises and practices to challenge my clients to change their underlying ways of being which prevent them from being their best self. I teach them the skill of fishing instead of handing them a fish to fry!
At its core The ARTISTRY of SELF is about self-actualization. Self-actualization is defined as the achievement of one’s full potential. To self-actualize you must know what your full potential is, and then strive to reach it. But how do you know what your potential is, and how do you reach it?
Table of Contents
PART I: THE CRAFTING OF YOUR BEST SELF
Introduction: Meet Your Guide……………………(Sample)
Chapter 1: Architecture……………………….. (Excerpt Sample)
Dimensions of the Experiential-Self .
Self-relations Foundation .
Cognitive-Behavioral Infrastructure .
Sense-Making Interior .
Chapter 2: The Design ……………… (Excerpt Sample)
ARTISTRY the Capabilities Approach to Self-Development .
An Integrating Model of Self-Actualization .
LOVE: Actualizing States into Identity .
Chapter 3: Preparations
Instruction Manual: How to Use this Book .
Pack your Toolbox: Our tools and resources .
Pit stops and Detours: Staying on track .
PART II: ARTISTRY: DEVELOPING YOUR SKILL-SET
Chapter 4: Awareness
Skill-set of Awareness .
Developing Awareness .
Tales of Cultivating Awareness .
Chapter 5: Relatedness
Skill-set of Relatedness .
Developing Relatedness .
Tales of Cultivating Relatedness
Chapter 6: Temperance
Skill-set of Temperance .
Developing Temperance .
Tales of Cultivating Temperance .
Chapter 7: Ingenuity
Skill-set of Ingenuity .
Developing Ingenuity .
Tales of Cultivating Ingenuity .
Chapter 8: Sustainability
Skill-set of Sustainability .
Developing Sustainability .
Tales of Cultivating Sustainability .
Chapter 9: Transformation
Skill-set of Transformation .
Developing Transformation: .
Tales of Cultivating Transformation .
Chapter 10: Resiliency ……………………….(Excerpt Sample)
Skill-set of Resiliency .
Developing Resiliency .
Tales of Cultivating Resiliency .
Chapter 11: Youthfulness
Skill-set of Youthfulness .
Developing Youthfulness .
Tales of Youthfulness .
PART III: FORMING AS SELF AND FRAMING WITH LOVE
Chapter 12: State of Being……………………….
State of Serenity .
State of Empowerment .
State of Lightheartedness .
State of Fulfillment .
Chapter 13: Actualizing Identity: LOVE
SELF as LOVE
The Process of Actualizing .
LOVE Stories .
Chapter 14: A New World-View
World-View in LOVE: .
Paying it Forward: Workshop and Group Work .
Part I: The Crafting of Your Best SELF
The chapters in this section will give you an overall sense of direction as well as an understanding of the basic principles and underpinnings of the book. It will begin with the Introduction as a narrative of personal and professional events that make me a capable and authentic guide. The first Chapter, will go into some detail on the theoretical background. This is followed by a Chapter giving an overview of the design of the entire process in phases. The final chapter in this section, Chapter 3, provides you with some suggestions on how to use the book, materials you may need and some guidelines on how to stay the course and manage obstacles that may arise.
Introduction: Meet Your Guide
Why should you follow me on your path to your best self? What makes me a guide for you with your own personal circumstances? I am an educated professional with academic credentials and years of experience helping clients in psychotherapy. That can certainly give you a sense of my capability. However, that is only part of what gives me a perspective in creating an approach to self-development and self-actualization that can help you.
I have helped many people with an approach that resulted from a struggle to grow in the midst of circumstances that impacted every aspect of my life. That personal journey intersected my professional development in a way that gave me a unique self-actualizing experience and cemented my personal and professional endeavors to develop and help others develop themselves. I guide and teach people to cultivate skills of self-development and self-actualization, from what I had learned for myself.
Most people spend 13 to 20 years in school during the early part of their life. Yet many people never learned the skills to deal with life’s adversity in any structured way. Instead they suffer through challenges and adversity because they have no training on how to manage emotions, thoughts, behavioral choices and circumstances embracing their unique inner potential and all their innate capabilities. I have my own story about finding a path to develop capabilities and skills while I struggled to find the path to self-actualization in the midst of adversity.
In the early development of my career I encountered a personal trauma that could have gripped my self-identity with fear, stigma, bitterness, and insecurity. Instead, I recognized the opportunity to face the adversity and help myself. I grounded myself in the choice to develop skills and become the person I wanted to be in the face of those challenges. I knew to survive I had to be strong, recover, grow and thrive. I had to stay the course, help myself, and become a psychotherapist dedicated to helping others.
Your circumstances may or may not relate to the ones I am about to share, but we are all the same in regards to human capability that can create our personal Best Self. Long before writing the principles you will learn in this book, I had to choose them to become who I am today. I chose to love myself in the face of circumstances that threatened my existence. I went on a journey to help myself and it gave me access to helping others in my career as a psychotherapist. It’s a journey we can all go on no matter what the circumstances. We can all get to our Best Self if we use the right skills and capabilities. In this book I will get you there, using capabilities developed thru ARTISTRY, that give rise to states of your best SELF and an ability to strive to actualize in a state of LOVE. You may have already figured out that I am using these words as acronyms for what is ahead. I will expand on them soon enough but let’s start with my story; the one that led me to the approach in this book.
It was only after moving to Miami in the spring of 1990 that I would realize how high the stakes of this struggle would be and how deep my instinct to understand would go. Only years later would I master skills and be grounded in an awareness of my self to make sense of the opportunity my circumstances offered. Then, I was 22 years of age, and I wasn’t capable of conceptualizing the intricate patterns that now allow me to view my experiences within a framework of plausible theories. I am a gay man and back then I was not accepting or experiencing my sexuality.
At the time, I had just begun my master’s program in mental health counseling, at a Catholic University. Being in a master’s program at a Catholic University hardly seemed like it would be the catalyst for me to “come out”, but it was. Up until that time I had been in a mode of living others expectations of who I was. I had put myself in the army reserve to show how disciplined I could be and I was the first in my family to attend college. However, now I was learning about human nature and how to help others be authentic and accepting of themselves, so it only made sense that I would also learn to accept myself. I needed to explore the repressed sense of who I was. One day while taking a break from studying, I picked up the local news paper and I turned to the classified section to look for a used car. Suddenly, “men seeking men” ads jumped off the page and I realized I didn’t have to go out to a club to explore being gay. I quickly realized these ads would provide a safe method for exploration. I could call the guys, ask questions, and hang up. I circled a few and started my research. I was living in my own private space for the first time so I had freedom to explore without explanation. I called a few ads and asked the men the questions I had about being gay.
After few weeks I had the courage to meet one of the guys in person at his place. After a mild encounter which was all my fears would allow, I went home. When I woke up with all my body parts intact and had not grown horns and a tail, I decided I would continue to explore my sexuality in a “safe” controlled manner. When the young man invited me to go to a club I agreed to go and said we should just go as friends. I immediately realized all the stereotypical myths I allowed myself to believe were all wrong. I danced and had fun and went home satisfied without any sexual activity. Going to a gay bar seemed like a mild enough risk to explore further. It was a long weekend, so on the following night I went out to another gay bar. After a drink and a few minutes of conversation my friend told me it was time to mingle, separately! He told me to walk around and someone was sure to approach me and start a conversation. After circling the bar with my head tucked in my shirt, I found a mirrored pole to stand in front of and watch the guys on the dance floor. Within minutes I was approached. The first man to approach me changed everything. He was very handsome and charming, and my naive heart melted. I immediately began to tell him that I was new to the scene and had only been to one other gay club the night before. Fear and repression seemed to slip away and I jumped head first into being gay by getting involved with a man I met my second time “out”. The next thing I knew we were in love and within two years bought a home and were living together.
Unfortunately, things were not as simple as that. He had been hiding a secret that would impact the course of my life and shatter my young innocent beliefs about humanity. I had two semesters left in order to graduate with my Masters in Mental health counseling, when I learned his secret. He was HIV positive and he had infected me! I was 24 years old, at the start of my career, thought I was on the road to marital bliss and suddenly my world was turned upside down. Once again I was filled with fear and uncertainty about who I was. I had come out to my classmates, family, friends and coworkers and now I had to face their expectations about me again. What was neglecting in my relationship with myself that I could be with someone who didn’t live up to my expectations? What did I miss? Was I in denial about who I was? Who he was? Did I put myself in danger by trying to be who “we” were “supposed” to be?
It was now August of 1992 and in Florida that was the heart of Hurricane season. I had just learned I was HIV positive and there was a big one on the way. Hurricane Andrew was one of the worst disasters in South Florida, and it was the only thing strong enough to rip off the layers of denial I held on to. I didn’t want to believe that my first love could keep a secret that could hurt me both physically and mentally. In the aftermath of the hurricane, I found documentation that further proved he knew he was HIV positive before we ever met. But that was only the surface. I had been living in denial again, not allowing myself the awareness that the relationship was fraught with physical and emotional abuse. When I drove down to check on my Aunt after the hurricane, my wall of denial started to weaken. We arrived at what should have been my aunt’s home. She was on the front lawn rummaging through layers of insulation and mashed dry wall to locate things she could call her belongings. After about ten minutes my partner started to complain that he was hungry and wanted something to eat. He even asked my aunt if she had any food, then she pointed to the pile of debris and said, if you can find anything.to eat in there take it. I had already opened my mind to the fact that he had little regard for me, and at that moment I realized I wasn’t special in that matter. He lacked regard for everyone whenever one of his needs surfaced. Love’s innocence ended at that moment, as I watched my aunt weeping over her losses and heard his “me first”, remarks. I realized I had been defining myself by an external expectation, once again, and the abuse along with his alcoholic behavior pointed out the imperfect dynamic I was living with him. I left the relationship.
After an emotional period of grieving the loss, I had the matter of our joint property to contend with. In speaking with an attorney I began to entertain the idea that I was wronged by the events and decided to go forward with my attorney’s suggestion to pursue it as a legal matter. Suddenly I was in a precedent setting legal battle. I had concerns about my health and I hadn’t even finished my degree! I started to have conversations with myself about not going down without a fight.
I inadvertently entered another relationship that was not necessarily in my best interest. My attorney wanted the limelight and I was eager to get out there and give it to him, if it meant I could make a difference in others lives regarding HIV and disclosure. However, I was not necessarily ready to make a point of what felt like a mission to conquer a serial killer. “He murdered my client! A bullet to the brain would have been quicker!”, was the statement he made to the reporters. There I was on the nightly news with my attorney saying I was murdered on the same day aerial shots of OJ Simpson being chased in his Bronco by police broke on every news channel. There was no trying to calm the storm coming on every front of my life. I decided I would take it head on. I could hardly fathom the number of people who were exposed to my lawsuit story because everyone was already glued to the news about the “actual” murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Unfortunately, I was being thrown on the news right along side them, as the “murdered” young gay man “living” with HIV.
The next day I walked into the agency where I worked as an adoptions counselor and was immediately called into the office and asked to resign. When I refused, they fired me and had me pack up my desk and leave right there on the spot. It was humiliating and disgraceful to walk out of my office, belongings in hand, in front of all my co-workers. When I was interviewed I made them aware that I was gay and HIV positive and I was assured that they would not discriminate and were interested in my my reputation as an effective counselor from years of foster care work. However, the fact that my status was now public from the news stories had them forgo their original interest in my counseling skills. All the media and my lawyer’s spotlight attitude made things even more chaotic and eventually one lawsuit lead to two. With a Civil case against my ex-partner and a discrimination suit against my ex-employer, publicity started to feel like show business instead of opportunity to educate the public about misrepresentation between sexual partners.
Soon these lawsuits had me in the news all the time, “out” to the world about being gay and HIV positive, open to discrimination, rejection, and exploitation. I had goals and dreams hanging in the balance. Fear could have led me to drop out of a Catholic university and not pursue my degree. It could have made me give up on my career as a counselor when the children’s agency I had worked for fired me. I could have given up on physical fitness and health as HIV attacked my system and the under developed medications had me vomiting all the time. I could have given up on Love in fear of more betrayal as my innocent ideals were shattered in a court room drama for all to see.
I decided I had to get through this by being there for myself in a way that my support system couldn’t. Even with a supportive family and community, to face these challenges I needed skill and I needed to be there completely for myself. I started to take self-development and transformational learning as seriously as I was taking my academic pursuit to understand theory and clinical intervention as a psychotherapist. Self-relations theory and the lessons of transformation became ingrained in my core.
I started sharing my own struggles as a way of empathizing and building trust with others experiencing similar issues. I began speaking openly as a person living with HIV in many venues on television and radio. I was outspoken on discussion panels with both personal and professional audiences, always with the goal of educating, facing stigma, and being a role model for others. But this was not my calling. I quickly realized my professional endeavors and what I was learning in my personal development could have a bigger purpose than impacting circumstances involving HIV, stigma, or disclosure. Everything I stood for was about self-development and human capability. My calling was really about passing that message on to “ANYONE” and everyone who wanted to be better at living life to the fullest in the face of “ANY” circumstance.
I was learning and growing academically through my doctoral program in counseling while simultaneously pursuing experiential learning through various transformational courses. I never scoffed at them from the academic knowledge, but rather saw the benefit of integrating the two together. Sound theoretical knowledge with experiential intervention made a lot of sense to me. Being a sense making machine, I started to see the value of integrating practical intervention into the framework of psychotherapy theories.
I discovered that existential theory and practical solution oriented therapy or behavior modification and Self-relations theory did not have to compete or be used in a disjointed eclectic grab bag manner. Because of my formal doctoral course work, I understood the value of integrating approaches over being a purist or an eclectic therapist. And I began to integrate not only academically sanctioned theory but also the sound experiential intervention ideology I was involved in.
In the end I chose what was best for me and what I wanted to be my Best Self. I chose to drop the politics and law suits about HIV disclosure and with courage and ambition went on to research and make a difference without the circus of other people’s expectations. I chose to be a clinician, as the advisors with my best interest had encouraged me towards. I still took risk and put myself out there, but dug deep and made sure those were choices that fit my core were not anyone else’s expectations of me.
Why do some people survive and grow from circumstances while others are defeated and succumb, falling into dismay? It’s the approach they take mentally, behaviorally and in choosing. It’s how they make sense and put meaning to the experiences. It’s the skills and capabilities that they use as resources that form an internal locus of control over external circumstance. We always have a choice, but are you making one when it’s difficult or are you defaulting to defeat? It’s also not just in times of adversity that we need to be choosing, but also when creating our state of SELF in our goals, dreams and aspirations.
I always encourage my clients to take appropriate risk and often what seems to be their biggest obstacle is fear. Even back then I knew the way to deal with my fear was with courage. Courage is a state of mind we are all capable of cultivating, so I choose courage to defeat fear. Instead of dropping out I decided I needed to use my role as a counselor. I learned to use the media to speak out about stigma and HIV disclosure, I taught the faculty and staff at the university through my experience and was enrolled to do a doctoral program at the same Catholic university and a dissertation on the exact subject I feared I would have been stigmatized by. I took being fired as a counselor as a challenge to go forward and eventually develop a private practice! I fought through the physical turmoil with a resolve to exercise and eat healthy. I regained and still maintain a physique I have been proud of. And I never gave up on Love.
I was betrayed and wounded; I could have given up on my health, career, fulfillment and love. Instead I looked for transformation and growth. I chose to find experiential learning to extrapolate the meanings I put on life and my circumstance and I saw the value of self-development as a whole. I was able to move beyond the circumstance and shape myself on a deeper level than what sparked my journey. I couldn’t change just to survive my situation. I needed to become my Best Self for whatever life brought next. I wanted to not just survive but to thrive. That became my mission in a career that involves helping others. In finding my self I found my calling. It’s no coincidence that my biggest circumstantial challenges occurred at the time I was developing myself to be a therapist. My journey isn’t about the circumstances on the path but rather the approach I took while on it. That was how I have translated it to such a diverse client population and how I’ll now translate it to you. Regardless of what has you on this journey of self-development, this approach can work for you!!
Chapter 1: Architecture
Excerpt from Dimensions of the Experiential-Self:
We are all born into this world with something in common. Despite the many differences that may exists from one person to the next there is a common paradigm we all experience while alive. We all experience life through the identity of a Self. Self- Actualization is a term used to describe the process of transforming the Self to its highest state. We have choice about our self-identity and how it impacts our life.
The nature of Self is at the root of Self-development. For each of us everything that occurs is experienced through the dynamics of Self. Life occurs to our-selves through the interactions of experiential processes, which most of us think of as our feelings, thoughts and behaviors. We can imagine these three types of experiential processes as the dimensions of Self. Life occurs to us through the interactions of these three dimensions. The dynamic between those dimensions also represent how we manifest our-selves in the world. If there was no dynamic interaction how would we experience anything? It thus makes sense that an approach to developing our best self should be three dimensional in that it will access all three types of experiential process.
Excerpt from Self-Relations Foundation:
In self-relations theory there is always a dynamic at play. I spend a great deal of time helping my clients understand that they may have all kinds of external circumstances to cope with, many simultaneous thoughts and feelings, and all kinds of complicated dynamics with others. Yet, it is in their relation to “Self” that they can always have “choices”. No matter what the outer circumstance you can operate from an empowered inner dynamic just by identifying and choosing the values, attitudes and actions that will allow you to shape, manage, and impact how these experiences occur to you.
Every individual is composed of two selves; the cognitive-self (thinking) and the somatic-self (feeling). A dialogue between the two selves occurs as positive and negative influences are processed. Through the relationship between the cognitive-self and somatic-self, these influences are either internalized or externalized, thus helping or harming the identity and functioning of the individual.
One of my favorite parables points out what is at the core of self-relations, the ability to choose!
The wolf you choose to feed represents the “part” of self you can “choose” to give power to at any moment. Each human being has the power to shape their own experience of life through the processes of understanding the relationship with one’s self and all its parts.
We all have inner dialogues, like the one in the parable within ourselves. A healthy life of coping and managing experience may come from mastering the skills to distinguish the parts of self and use the “part that chooses” to create harmony and cooperation within our selves.
The exercises, interventions and practices you will use to learn and develop skills throughout your journey in this book have the Self-relations theory as a foundation. Now that you have the basic understanding of it you will find it much easier to utilize this theory in shaping, managing and developing the affective parts of your best self. You should be more aware of how these self-relations concepts impact your attitude, choices and emotional states and how you can use this knowledge to gear them toward your best self.
Exercise: Developing Relationship with Self
Increasing your Awareness of your inner dialogue symbolically!
Here is a little exercise I often use with clients to get them used to working from a self-relations perspective. This exercise can make the dynamic between your thinking/cognitive-self and your feeling/somatic-self more tangible. Go to the store and look through the cards for a card that you believe a positive sponsor would get to encourage you. Buy a greeting card that is empowering and supportive. When you get home put yourself in the role of the positive sponsor and write some encouraging, loving and supportive messages to you from yourself. Be authentic but positive and struggle to finish it as if it were going to someone else. Sign it to and from you using your name. I even have had clients put postage and mail it t themselves. Once it is done display it somewhere you will see it daily and keep it there for a week or more. When you see it take a moment to reflect on what it would be like to maintain that relationship. You can do this exercise as often as you like to increase your awareness of the relationship you want to have with yourself. Use it whenever you need positive encouragement.
Here is an example of the one I did when I was conceiving the ideas for this book:
Handwritten, (retyped for purpose of book). Inside I wrote:
You are an amazing person and you are capable of achieving anything you want once you set your mind to it.
Believe in yourself and put the efforts forth to write and make a difference in your life and all those you can touch with your message. You can reach many more lives by writing and it is part of your destiny to help others.
Remember the things you love most about life and let those things guide and help you on this journey. Nature, dreams, animals, plants, love for growth, joy of helping, your vision, intuition, passion and wonder. l picked this card for you because you love Lucy Ball and it called you to it as a sign to commit to your quest to write.
You know what to do and how to do it —now its time to start and stay the course!
Excerpt from Chapter 2: The Design
This Chapter is an overview of the design of my approach.
Phase 1. Represents the development of skill-sets that comprise capabilities. I will introduce the eight capabilities that form the acronym ARTISTRY. Each capability can be developed and maintained using its skill-set. I offer training for each capability using different methods to build the skill-sets through interventions, exercises and practices. For example, the capability of Awareness is developed as the skill-set of mindfulness, intuition, sensation and perspective are exercised and practiced.
Phase 2. Introduces four Operational States using the acronym of SELF. Each one represents certain ways of “being” in your experiences of life. They are manifested through certain behaviors and attitudes. For example, the state of Serenity can be manifested through an attitude of acceptance or compassionate actions. I explain how these states can emerge as a result of training and developing your capabilities. I also offer a means for you to recognize the states and how you can use them to evaluate, regroup and tailor your training.
Phase 3. In this phase you begin to embody a self-identity that is a culmination of capabilities and states. You begin to identify as an actualized person. Since actualization is defined as reaching one’s full potential you will have a sense that all four states of operating are presenting consistently. The acronym of LOVE is used to help you have a target as you set out to define and cultivate yourself toward this actualized state.
Phase 4. In this final phase you now begin to learn how to operate in the world from this actualized state. I explain how to maintain your state of actualization while living alongside others who have not actualized. The concept of “practice” as the lens for viewing life is emphasized. The goal is a new worldview that mitigates perspective of Self and Other.
Excerpt from Chapter 10: Resiliency
Interventions for Grieving: Let it Go with Balloons, Smoke, or a Stick
Grief and grieving require the skills of resiliency to help us deal with loss and letting go. Grieving in this sense is not just related to death, it also concerns other circumstances of change. It entails the acceptance and comprehension of impermanence. In grieving you will harness the skills of resiliency to transcend the experiences of loss into a paradigm that normalizes impermanence. Changes happen and impermanence is part of life. It’s one of the realities not to be avoided, but rather embraced as what is so.
Lucy in the Sky. I have seen some beautiful ways that people let go and honor the loss of loved ones. When my cousin Lucille passed at 54, her family wanted to honor the joy and colorfulness of her spirit. They chose mylar balloons in her favorite color, purple, filled them with helium and wrote sweet nothings on them. They gathered in the street and released them with her husband and children. There was, of course, pain and disbelief about the loss, but as the balloons floated away, they gave the family a metaphor for the beginning of the transformation to a new perspective, to have a spiritual presence of “Lucy in the Sky” to watch over them.
Up in Smoke. A client was suffering for over a year in grief, not letting go and transforming her grief to a new presence of spirit. She was holding on to something that couldn’t be and therefore suffering. She needed to embrace impermanence by letting go. I had her write some notes to the loved one. I told her to fold them up and write Acceptance, Faith, and Courage on the outside of each note and then had her take them to a place relevant to her connection with the departed. She read them aloud and then burned them as a statement of letting go of suffering, choosing to Struggle and to Restore herself. As the notes dissolved in the fire, her suffering went up in smoke.
Lost in the Wilderness. My beloved cat, Blu, was with me during Hurricane Andrew, all through my trials in Florida and my move to New York City. She was a part of my family for over 16 years. A few summers ago we had taken her and the dogs along on a summer camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains. It was beautiful sunny time until a sudden storm wreaked havoc on the campsite and Blu was lost. I felt responsible for having put her in the dangerous situation and I started searching everywhere for her in the forest and underbrush. I couldn’t stop searching. But we had to leave after a few days to get the dogs home safely. I couldn’t let go. I drove five hours back and put out signs all around the camp grounds. There were sightings of her so I knew she was alive. I spoke to cat rescue experts who informed me that even though she was very affectionate and always came when called, now she would be operating on instinct. Even though I could be a few feet away she would be gripped by fear and not come out of hiding. The only way to rescue her was to trap her. I bought traps and made the five-hour drive to the site every weekend for months, pitching tent or sleeping in the car. I wandered the wilderness trying to track her path. When I first went out looking I found a walking stick that I used to get through the woods. I meditated with the stick. I slept with the stick. I used the stick to clear the brush and for protection from wildlife. One night a bear trampled through the site and I had the stick to protect me. I knew I wasn’t just being delusional, that she was surviving because I saw her once while driving in my car. But the bright lights from the car had her scurry back into the forest. Winter was approaching. The sightings had stopped but I was not letting go. The stick was my friend. It was all I had. As long as I had it I believed I had the power to find Blu. Then one day, delirious with exhaustion, I thought I saw her. I ran, tripped, and came face to face with a snarling raccoon, that I had mistaken for Blu! As if I had waken from a dream, in that moment, I knew Blu was no longer in that forest. I realized it was time to let go. I had not been accepting and was not being resilient. I realized if I was going to let go, I couldn’t take the stick back with me. I had to surrender it to the forest, to the place where my relationship with Blu needed to transcend. I had to accept impermanence. I had to have the courage to let the stick go and with it everything I made it mean. I had given it power and a meaning that caused me to suffer. Now it would allow me to struggle, accept, and restore myself by symbolizing my grieving. I buried the stick in a pile of leaves and said goodbye to Blu. As I drove off I felt as if my connection to her spirit was restored. She had been with me through some of the most difficult times in my life and I always felt her beside me. In letting go, her presence was there once again.
When you need to grieve and let go, find something to give the power to release through, like the balloons, the notes, and the stick from these stories.
Exercise: Creating an ART form to Keep the skills of Resiliency Present
When I first moved to New York City I had to adjust to a whole new way of living. It was a big adjustment and I knew my living environment could either support or hinder my adapting. I needed to be resilient and start a new life. I decided a good way to keep my attitude in check would be to create visuals that would remind me to stay strong. I started collecting little artistic cards with sayings about courage, faith, and empowerment. I turned them into a collage and hung them on the walls. Not long after I got my first taste of the harshness of a New York winter. I caught pneumonia and was sick at home in bed for weeks. The collage was hung on a wall adjacent to my bed and I looked at and read it often while struggling to get through the turmoil my body was undergoing. It kept me aware of how I needed to access the skills of resiliency. I still have the collage of inspirational cards, but now it is in a room amidst a collection of scrapbooks, journals, and inspirational memorabilia from years of crafting art. It represents principles that remind me of the following message: I will be resilient if I Challenge myself to Struggle instead of suffering. I Accept any circumstance while having Faith, Courage, and Optimism that I will Restore myself.
You can create your own “art of resiliency” using any medium. You can write a journal, make a scrapbook, collage symbols and sayings, or paint something. The only requirement is that it has to express the seven elements that make up the skill-set of Resiliency. The art itself wont render you capable of resiliency but if you create it with the intention and purpose of representing those skills, exposure to seeing them and knowing you made them will mean something that might give your cognitive-self the leverage it needs to access your capability to be resilient.
Tales of Cultivating Resiliency
Case Study: Panic vs Family Inheritance
Sarah came in with her father. She was visibly anxious and wanted her father to come to the first session with her. She had panic attacks traveling on the subway just minutes before. I could tell right away her father was her rock. I asked him if he could share his interpretation of what was going on with his daughter and what his concerns were. He started by telling me that he was a concentration camp survivor and Sarah had actually written all about him when she was in college. He described how he never let himself be overtaken by fear, even when he saw family members shot and had to hide in pig slop for days in order to escape! He continued, telling me how he had many made choices to struggle and survive. He had overridden his feelings of fear and worry. Instead he used logic and intellect to figure his way through unimaginable circumstances. Now, here he was in my office, with a daughter who, in comparison, really had minor difficulties in her life. She couldn’t even ride the subway to come to therapy without panicking and being debilitated. He didn’t quite understand why she wasn’t developing the capabilities he knew she possessed.
I quickly gathered that he wanted her to be resilient. Like he was. From what I could tell he was a master in the skills of struggling through, challenging himself, and accepting whatever life threw at him. He was proficient in maintaining faith, courage, optimism, and restorative skills that made him capable of resiliency. He wanted to know why she hadn’t inherited this resiliency. I was sure, however, that she “had” indeed inherited the capability of being resilient. She was human after-all. But she hadn’t learned and developed the skill-set to access and benefit from it. It was my job to teach her! I realized then that Sarah’s father was going to play a very important part as a role model in her process. He would be in therapy with us often even though he would not be coming to any more of her sessions. I requested she come to therapy without him from that day forward.
In that first session I taught her how to overcome panic and ride the subway without him accompanying her. I gave her a version of the “catch and correct” intervention we called “real versus perceived”. I basically had her notice when she felt panic and then ask herself if there was anything “real” connected to those feelings. If not, then the fear, panic, and worry was irrationally “perceived”. I told her, “if they are perceived and thus made up in your own mind, they will dissolve once you put attention on their invalidity”. I basically taught her to dispute and dismantle the irrational thoughts connecting to her anxious feelings. I told her to struggle to think and process. I said “challenge your feelings and the thoughts attached to them”. I was helping her train accept reality and reverse the cycle of being run by her feelings. I told her that with courage she could face her “perceived” fears and maybe even learn some optimism in the process. I then asked her father if that made sense to him and he confirmed that was a good start.
Throughout our process together I often asked Sarah to put herself in her father’s shoes. Act from logic, not through fear when processing circumstances. Leave your feelings in the background instead of letting them run you. “Catch and Correct” became an intervention for her to use often. I also developed a “Maximizing and Minimizing” version of that intervention. She was to catch when her feelings were running her, and then correct by maximizing logical realities and minimizing irrational fears.
I would often refer back to her father as a role model of resiliency. I explained how he must have used both of these interventions to survive the Holocaust, restoring himself after those traumatic experiences, and then creating a healthy successful life. He had a long marriage, raised his children, and had a successful career, all after struggling through horrific situations. Throughout teaching Sarah these interventions, I always referred back to her father and how he must have used skills of resiliency to survive. Since she had written about his experiences and had respect for the capabilities that helped him survive, he was the perfect role model for her to emulate.
I introduced various interventions so that Sarah could develop skills related to Struggling, Challenging, and Accepting. I had her practicing to build Faith, Courage, and Optimism. I encouraged her to be skillful in Restoring normalcy and health in various contexts as she worked with me in therapy. I emphasized the need for continual practice. Over time, Sarah grew in her capability of resiliency. When her father passed away, I reminded Sarah, that he wanted her to inherit his resiliency. I told her she already possessed that resiliency. I said, “if you continue to learn, practice and train, you will master the skills I taught you, with your father as the role model. Now your children can emulate you and inherit his legacy of resiliency!”
Excerpts from Reviews or References:
An Investigation of HIV Misrepresentation between Sexual Contacts, Ann Arbor, UMI Dissertation Services, 2004
Deadly Encounters, Lambert Academic Publishing, Saarbrucken, 2009
What is Self Relations Psychotherapy? November 2015, www.HealthyPsych.com
http://healthypsych.com/what-is-self-relations-therapy/ (Contributed Article)
Little Hero’s Can Make a Big Difference, 2005, www.HIVStopswithME.org
(Contributed Article) http://www.ny-counselors.com/hivstopsdoc.html
Dr. G’s on going Blog: http://www.ny-counselors.com/dr-gs-clinicians-blog
Health Focus Today, Diabetes and Your Health, 1997 Guest Contributor TV
Copiague High School Hall of Achievement, 2007 Private Video Acceptance Speech
Detailed information and complete versions of the above are available using the links
Anthony Gaudioso LMHC, PhD is a practicing Licensed Mental Health Counselor with offices in New York City and Kingston, NY. Dr. Gaudioso has been in private practice in NYC since 2004 and had a practice in Miami for 10 years prior to that. He completed a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling and Ph.D. in Counseling from Barry University. Dr. Gaudioso is also a certified Clinical Hypnotherapist trained in the Ericksonian model to provide hypnosis and Neuro-linguistic programing to his clients and has an integrated theoretical framework that includes self-relations, cognitive behavioral, experiential, person-centered, psychodynamic and mindfulness approaches.