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What are you doing right now?

Friday, September 18th, 2009 by Mauri-Lynne Heller

In response to the queries of persistent readers who have been awaiting a new column since late June, I thank you for your notice and offer this little essay in response. In case you’ve ever wondered, the English word essay comes from the French word essayer, meaning “to try.” An essay represents an effort to formulate and communicate ideas. An essay, therefore, is a writer’s attempt to use language to forge a connection with a reader.

Overly optimistic about the launch date of my new Inside Out Journal weblog, I penned a column on the origins of culture and creativity, pleased by the compatibility of topic and occasion. It’s all ready to go, but alas, my brilliant designer and I have a bit more work to do before the unveiling.

So, in an effort to stay connected, I offer these musings about, well, staying connected. Meanwhile, stay tuned. Inside Out will contain a neatly categorized archive of all my past columns along with new ones.

Social Networking

Sometime in between dinner and dessert last Thanksgiving, the middle son of one of my oldest friends got me signed up on Facebook. Pulsating quietly on the desk behind the fully expanded dining table, the computer beckoned, and as Zach had nothing else to do during the interim ten minutes, he quickly cobbled together my home page. I finished up later.
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Mauri-Lynne Heller is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Psychoanalyst in private practice in Southern California. A graduate of Newport Psychoanalytic Institute and member of Newport Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, she is also an active member of the Writing and Research Task Force. A regular contributor to the online Health and Fitness Pages of the Orange Counter Register, her column "Inside Out" appears twice monthly. She is also a supervisor to clinical interns and a writing/editorial consultant. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory

Empathy, Ethics and Morality

Monday, May 18th, 2009 by Mauri-Lynne Heller

Most of us would agree that balanced concern for self and others constitutes a measure of psychological maturity and health. While other, mostly mammalian, species share our capacity to live cooperatively and care for one another, only human beings are able to reflect upon this attribute consciously, to develop it and direct it purposefully. It is our singular ability to think about our own thoughts and behavior that sets us apart. We can learn to observe ourselves and the ways we impact others unlike any other animal.

By making intimate experiences meaningful, psychoanalytic therapy helps people exercise and develop this faculty. As self-awareness increases, symptoms are understood as imperfect solutions to emotional concerns and begin to lose their power. Behavioral flexibility increases.

Our very human capacity to feel and demonstrate concern for others is not innate. The evolution of concern and its cousin, empathy, represent major developmental achievements in the life and mind of an infant. Like the capacity to think, they do not simply appear spontaneously. Concern and empathy emerge from within the omnipresent parent-baby matrix that I’ve so often discussed.

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Mauri-Lynne Heller is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Psychoanalyst in private practice in Southern California. A graduate of Newport Psychoanalytic Institute and member of Newport Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, she is also an active member of the Writing and Research Task Force. A regular contributor to the online Health and Fitness Pages of the Orange Counter Register, her column "Inside Out" appears twice monthly. She is also a supervisor to clinical interns and a writing/editorial consultant. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory

Terribilities: Exploring the Origins of Anxiety

Monday, May 18th, 2009 by Mauri-Lynne Heller

The very unstable economic surround in which we now find ourselves has unleashed an epidemic of anxiety-related complaints. Stomach upsets, irritability, sleep disturbances, hives and rashes and unpleasantly intrusive thoughts or mental imagery have become increasingly common even among the usually serene and composed.

It is undeniably true that we face very complex concerns that demand acknowledgement and realistic adjustments. Yet emotional responses, particularly anxiety, speak of feelings rumbling deep beneath the surface of an outer constellation of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Simply treating a symptom may bring temporary relief but will do nothing to achieve more permanent emotional stability. Anxiety can be used as a vehicle for visceral growth only when its dynamics are understood.

A patient who’d just been pitched into the disequilibrium of a panic attack recently observed that most of the things about which he worries do not actually transpire, yet awareness doesn’t diminish his anxiety. His worries unfold like choppy waves battering the beach: he’ll be laid off; he’ll crash his car and be unable to buy a new one; he’ll end up on a breadline, barefoot, singing a charmless version of “Buddy can you spare a dime.” He won’t even be able to do that, because he doesn’t actually know the lyrics to “Buddy can you spare a dime.” His humor cannot dispel the very real emotional disquiet he faces daily.

My patient is flooded with distressing images of himself and helpless feelings about these images. His body reacts with its own flood of stress hormones, muscle contractions, irregular breathing and heart rhythms. He identifies this convergence of mind-body dysregulation as anxiety and attributes it to the economy. While the economy does represent a palpably immediate context, the vulnerabilities of infancy constitute the real source of his anxiety.

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Mauri-Lynne Heller is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Psychoanalyst in private practice in Southern California. A graduate of Newport Psychoanalytic Institute and member of Newport Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, she is also an active member of the Writing and Research Task Force. A regular contributor to the online Health and Fitness Pages of the Orange Counter Register, her column "Inside Out" appears twice monthly. She is also a supervisor to clinical interns and a writing/editorial consultant. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory

INSIDE OUT: I Just Can’t Live Without It

Friday, February 27th, 2009 by Mauri-Lynne Heller


Emotions fuel impulsive spending

Much has been written lately about impulsive behavior, particularly excessive spending or shopping, as its problematic consequences have become increasingly obvious as our economy continues to implode. While impulse control problems run the gamut from explosive anger to pulling out hair, all impulsive behaviors share in common a singular feature, the inability to resist an impulse or temptation to perform a particular behavior that has harmful repercussions.

Gambling and shopping are familiar examples, notorious for their dire financial consequences. Affluence and the ability to pay for impulsive spending sprees do not negate its presence. Unfortunately, because the pattern is inflexible, people who cannot afford to spend continue to do so, putting themselves and their relationships at great risk.

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Mauri-Lynne Heller is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Psychoanalyst in private practice in Southern California. A graduate of Newport Psychoanalytic Institute and member of Newport Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, she is also an active member of the Writing and Research Task Force. A regular contributor to the online Health and Fitness Pages of the Orange Counter Register, her column "Inside Out" appears twice monthly. She is also a supervisor to clinical interns and a writing/editorial consultant. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory