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Shared Meaning

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

We take for granted that our words convey exactly what we intend them to. This is a particularly misinformed assumption. I have observed that upon deeper scrutiny, the words, let alone the concepts, tend not to be received in the way the messenger anticipates. By the time a few sentences have passed, we may have a totally missed communication. How often does we pause and considerately ask the other what they mean by the word they are using?

Although this problem is more glaring in confrontational discourse, it impacts amicable conversations as well. “You don’t know how to be intimate,” she exclaims. He retorts, “I don’t know how to be intimate? You’re so angry and cold who would ever want to be intimate with you?” In the following minutes this couple is off to the races, pushing buttons and hurling invective.

They are arguing around this word intimate. Yet, no one has bothered to share or inquire what the word intimate suggests. She might be referring to emotional intimacy, he might be thinking of sexual intimacy. This is a common disconnect. Yet the problem runs deeper. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are fighting about whether he can or cannot be emotionally intimate. Have they ever discussed the concept of emotional intimacy and reached a shared meaning? This would be most unlikely. (more…)

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Coming into Balance

Monday, December 27th, 2010 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

A few summers ago I broke my foot, the fracture occurring as I missed a step on my front porch. The break occurred on the outside part of my foot- the fifth metatarsal. My doctor provided some good news in that I wouldn’t need a cast and I proceeded to adjust to my broken foot. Or so I thought. In deference to the pain on the outer perimeter of my foot I shifted my weight toward my other side, compensating for the break.

By the following week I had developed a new and more painful problem. I had stressed the unbroken part of my foot by placing an excessive amount of pressure on it. I actually experienced more acute pain in that area than in the break itself. A month later the broken bone had essentially healed–but the damage I caused to the inner part of my foot still lingered. This is an issue of compensation. I had come out of balance, quite literally. And nowhere does this tendency provoke more havoc than in our emotional and psychological lives.
(more…)

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Learning to be heard

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

One of the most common yet frustrating experiences of relationships is the roadblock we hit around communicating. When we initiate a challenging discussion it’s more than likely that the other party may not be truly listening. More often than not, they may be defending their territory and preparing their rebuttal while we’re still trying to articulate our thoughts.
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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Commitment

Friday, November 20th, 2009 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

What does the word commitment suggest? It usually evokes a strong sense of intention and focus. It typically is accompanied by a statement of purpose or a plan of action. Very often, we utilize this word in regard to proclamations we may make about the seriousness of our relationships. For example, “I’m in a committed relationship,” or “I’m completely committed to this relationship.” In such circumstances, what exactly are we saying? We take it for granted that the word or the expression means the same thing to all of us. I can assure you that it doesn’t.
(more…)

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Marriage: Work or Play?

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

Most marriages and primary relationships these days tend to focus more on expediency and structure than on substance and content. In a culture that promotes getting the job done, efficiency regrettably takes precedence over fun. Many couples have become most proficient at getting the job done well. They manage the home, the children and work, but they seem to have lost the capacity to have fun together. They may work well together, but they don’t often love well together.
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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

The pathologizing of a culture

Monday, September 21st, 2009 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

A young woman in her mid-twenties recently came in for her first visit with me. Three months earlier she had experienced her first bout of anxiety and it had become more acute thereafter. She went on to explain that she had been seeing a psychiatrist who had prescribed four different psychotropic medications, simultaneously. Complaining of a blurred and disconnected feeling, she offered that she was uncertain as to whether the cause was physical, emotional and psychological—or a symptom of the gross invasion of this massive drugging.
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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Coming Into Balance

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

I recently broke my foot, a fracture that occurred as I missed a step on my front porch. The break occurred on the outside part of my foot- the fifth metatarsal. My doctor provided some good news in that I wouldn’t need a cast and I proceeded to adjust to my broken foot. Or so I thought. In deference to the pain on the outer perimeter of my foot I shifted my weight toward my other side, compensating for the damage.

By the following week later I had developed a new and more painful problem. I had stressed the unbroken part of my foot by placing an inordinate amount of pressure on it. I actually experienced more acute pain in that area than in the break itself. A month later the broken bone had essentially healed–but the damage I caused to the inner part of my foot still lingers. This is an issue of compensation. And nowhere does this tendency provoke more havoc than in our emotional and psychological lives.
(more…)

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Coming into The Edge

Monday, May 18th, 2009 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

I was in the middle of a challenging stretch in a yoga class recently, when the instructor encouraged us to come into the edge. Move beyond the boundary of our comfort zone, was how I interpreted her coaxing. She was suggesting that moving to the edge of what our muscle memory was comfortable with, would propel us into physical if not spiritual growth. Coming to the edge in yoga provides the body with a new or forgotten experience. As we age our bodies tend to mold into habit and conformity which leads to a constriction of our physical being. Clearly, stretching into some new flexibility seemed wise. I reflected that this was also precisely what we need with our thinking.

As true as this rigidity may be for us physically, it is equally problematic for our thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts tend to replicate themselves into a never ending cascade of similarity as they evoke more and more of the same emotional reactions. As our thoughts become more habituated they create a literal groove in our thinking, which after a time may become very difficult to escape. The deeper the groove the greater the effort required to break into new territory. This is why we struggle with change. If we continue to become enslaved by old thought, change remains elusive. Choosing not to carry the encumbrance of tired, old thought is the key to self-actualized change.

(more…)

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

The Paradox of Expectations

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

Beginning a new year often brings forth a review of our expectations and I thought it might be a good idea to briefly examine this topic.  As with many concepts in our culture, we tend to fall well short of fully appreciating what these terms truly suggest and at times, the apparent contradictions that they may evoke. This is certainly the case with the word expectations. Are they to be valued and embraced or do they impede us and distort our life experiences? The answer depends on a host of things.

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Order Out of Chaos: Embracing Uncertainty

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

The words, order and chaos, are particularly value laden. We tend to embrace order and avoid chaos at all costs. I’ve come to wonder why that is so. And more to the point, what do we mean by order or chaos? Let’s start by examining what these terms suggest.

The notion of order is equivalent to a sense of predictability. Predictability in this form lets us know what we can expect. It speaks almost of a range of motion. A pendulum, unaffected by friction, will follow its predetermined path. We know just how far it will travel to either point in its arc before beginning its return. Predictability relies upon certainty and measurable outcomes. It has been a major tenet of our culture and our science since Newton introduced the motif of determinism in the 17th century. This range of predictable order is known as equilibrium.

In our lives, order suggests that we know the parameters of our experience, as though the boundaries and limits are determined in advance. The emotional and psychological highs and lows are familiar. The rules of relationship are understood. Knowing the range of our experiences provides a sense of order. As such, order creates a comfort zone as we can be assured of familiar terrain, even if that familiarity doesn’t serve us.

Chaos, on the other hand, suggests an absence of predictability. It triggers the unknown, which for most people is very problematic if not outright daunting. It is a venturing into uncertain territory, far from the familiar zone. Sometimes life’s transitions or crises present chaos in the form of illness, death, divorce, job loss, etc. These events are thrust upon us and we do the best we can to cope with them, aided by family and professional support. Occasionally, we buffer the roller coaster ride through chaos with alcohol, medication and/or therapy.

(more…)

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.