ema13clara@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO YOUR DREAMS


According to Freud, every dream is the representation of a wish fulfillment. Although often this is very difficult to detect, we have to remember that in every dream there is a defense mechanism acting as a censor that hides its meaning. Sonia had been divorced for ten years, but she still obsessed on why had her husband decided to break the marriage and leave the family. Although still single, her daughter was grown and living on her own, so that was one less issue to worry about. However still after so many years, as soon as she woke up Sonia found herself wondering about her marital failure. Needless to say this unfinished business with her ex husband made her feel extremely frustrated. One evening her neighbors from the third floor invited her for a drink. This was a couple her age, who had two grown children and who seemed to have the perfect marriage. Although Sonia had read enough books in her life to know that there are no such marriages, she envied the way they were still together enjoying the last stage of their lives. That had been her dream while her husband and herself had been working and facing the responsibilities of parenting: to retire and travel around the world in no rush. Unfortunately, as soon as her daughter had graduated from the university her husband left her. It had happened on a fateful morning while they were having breakfast, "Don't worry about the money -he had said avoiding her gaze.- You will have all you need." That was all. Later came the long cold winters of solitude and silence that made death seem the best option of all. Sonia had read all the books on divorce on the market and had even tried a couple of therapists, always with the hope that one of them would say to her: "Many spouses separate, but most of them reunite." But after Sonia told them her story, the therapists knew for sure that this husband would never come back. The evening Sonia went to her neighbors' apartment she had a great time, talking and joking while drinking good wine. That her neighbors invited her despite her being single was a great source of comfort for Sonia. She had felt so lonely so many times that having friends in her building had been like a gift from God. When she came back to her apartment she felt tired but happy after a very enjoyable evening. She prepared herself for bed and turned off the light on her night table lamp. Soon enough she was sound asleep. In her dream she was walking with her husband, who was not only very handsome but also gentle and extremely courteous. When she told him that they had to go see a marital therapist he agreed silently. Sonia was surprised because he was usually talkative and difficult to convince. After a while they came to the therapist's office. This was a woman who specialized in marriages on the brink of divorce. One of her techniques was to show her patients her behavior with her own husband. Sonia could see how her therapist treated her husband with utmost subservience and servility. Like a geisha. When the psychodrama ended, Sonia stood up and left after telling her therapist and her husband that she could never be as compliant. Her husband agreed and followed her. Sonia loved that gentle husband. After the door of the therapy office closed Sonia woke up. She felt a relief she had not felt in years. She finally understood not only why her marriage had ended, but also that she had married a ghost. The man she had fallen in love with was just a figment of her own imagination; he only existed in her dream.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

GERARDO EL ELECTRICISTA

Por un lado está Ratko Mladic, el general Bosnio Serbio, y por el otro está Gerardo el electricista. Ayer me puse a buscar un electricista en Google para arreglar una lámpara y encontré uno a dos millas de mi casa. Después de alistar a Max, mi perro, para un paseo en coche, di entrada a la dirección en mi celular y me dispuse a seguir las instrucciones. Al cabo de diez minutos de dar vueltas por calles totalmente desconocidas me pregunté si la dirección estaba equivocada o si el dicho electricista había dejado de trabajar. De pronto me topé con una curva al final de la cual vi a un hombre cargar elementos de trabajo en una camioneta. A fin de pedirle ayuda bajé la ventanilla del coche. “¿Busca un electricista?” me preguntó amablemente. “Yo soy electricista”. ¡No lo podía creer! A pesar de las dificultades había terminado en la misma casa del electricista. Se llamaba Gerardo y cuando le pregunté si podía dejarle la lámpara para que la arreglara, me dijo que no hacía falta ya que la arreglaría allí mismo. Le echó una ojeada a su reloj y me dijo que, si bien debía estar en South Miami en una hora, podía arreglar mi lámpara y después partir. Sacamos la lámpara del coche y Gerardo empezó a arreglar el cable que el perro se había comido, y mientras trabajaba me mostraba como lo hacía para que la próxima vez pudiera hacerlo yo sola. Después de veinte minutos la lámpara estaba lista así que procedí a preguntarle cuánto le debía. “Nada”, me contestó sonriendo. Me quedé atónita. Toda la aventura había sido sorprendente: encontrar al electricista frente a su casa, quien se ofreció en arreglar la lámpara en la calle, y que después se negó a cobrarme. Le agradecí efusivamente, y después de entregarle veinte dólares, me alejé. Mientras manejaba hacia mi casa me sentí agradecida de que en el mundo hubiera gente como Gerardo, un hombre que comprendió el significado de como amar al prójimo sin esperar una recompensa. Tal como dije, por un lado está Gerardo y por el otro Ratko.
Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias a todos aquellos que ayudan a sus semejantes.

GERARDO, THE ELECTRICIAN

On the one hand there is Ratko Mladic. the Bosnian Serb warlord, and on the other there is Gerardo the electrician. Yesterday I googled for a technician near me to fix a floor lamp and found one two miles from home. After preparing Max, the dog. for a car ride I input the google address into my cell and started following the directions. After ten minutes of wandering through streets I had never crossed before, I started thinking that there was either a mistake in the address or the electrician had closed shop. Suddenly the street made a curve and I saw a man loading some hardware into a van. I decided to ask him for information so I stopped my car and opened the window. “Busca un electricista?” he asked me politely. “Yo soy electricista.” I couldn't believe that despite all odds I had managed to end up at the electrician's home. His name was Gerardo and when I asked him if I could leave the lamp so that he could fix it, he told me that he would fix it right there and then. He looked at his watch and said that he needed to be in South Miami in one hour but that he could fix my lamp and then leave. We took the lamp out of the car and he started fixing the cable the dog had chewed, and while he was working he showed me how to do the job so next time I could do it myself. After twenty minutes the lamp was fixed so I proceeded to ask him how much I owed him. “Nada” he said smiling. I was amazed at the whole adventure: finding an electrician in front of his home, who offered to fix my lamp on the street and then refused to charge me. I thanked him profusely, gave him twenty dollars and left. While I was driving home I felt thankful for people like Gerardo in the world, a man who had understood the meaning of how to love your neighbor without expecting a reward. As I said, on the one hand there is Gerardo and on the other there is Ratko.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who enjoy helping others.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

THE IMPORTANCE OF HELPING OTHERS

A couple of months ago I received an email from someone I did not know asking me if I could write a review on Amazon for the book he had just published. He told me he had read one of my reviews on the subject of his new book, had liked it, and would love for me to read his work. The book was an exegesis on the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As soon as I agreed to review it, he sent me the book as a PDF document by email. The first thing I noticed was that the book was a very long book, longer than I would have liked to spend on an issue as complex as a religious exploration. Although I am very interested in the subject, I am a psychotherapist and am more interested in reading about the complexities of the human mind. However, I am a firm believer in helping others when we are asked to do so. Isn't that our main goal in this life? I had agreed to the job and would do it as best as I could. It took me several weeks to go through the complexities of the author's theory about similarities and differences of the three religions, but I finally was able to reach the end and write a decent review. At least the author was very happy with the result. Then it was my turn to publish a book, and approximately a month ago I put out How to Survive the Loss of a Marriage. The book is a guide for those of us who have gone through this difficult psychological process and how to find the blessing behind the suffering. I also included activities at the end of each chapter so that the work could be used as a guide for divorce groups. I sent copies to some of my readers and asked them to write an honest review on Amazon, exactly like I was asked to do by the above author. I was lucky enough to receive several good reviews but thought that, since the book can be a very useful tool for many of us, I should request more reviews to promote it. So I asked some people I thought would be interested in the subject if they were willing to review my work, and they immediately agreed. I went ahead and ordered the copies, and after I received them bought Manila envelopes and took them to the post office, Not a big deal but still a deal that required my time and my money. I went ahead and sent these two potential reviewers the book followed by a message asking them to let me know if they had received it. That was a month ago and I still have not received a single message from them. Not even a note saying that they did not like my work and would not be doing the review. For some reason I find this attitude extremely inappropriate that speaks volumes about those involved. After all I was not forcing them to agree to a review. They could have declined and they would have saved me money and time. However, the saddest thing is that they are the ones who lost the precious opportunity to be of help.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

MI CELULAR MI AMIGO

Hoy en día es una escena muy familiar la de ir a un restaurant y ver en la mesa de al lado una pareja escrudiñar ávidamente sus teléfonos celulares en vez de dialogar. No solamente adolescentes, pero también adultos parecen tener más cosas que decirle a sus interlocutores distantes que a sus amigos o parejas presentes. Una vez leí que el autismo podría estar relacionado con el hecho de que, cuando las madres empujan los carritos de sus bebés, están más concentradas en sus celulares que en comunicarse con sus hijos. No cabe duda de que la comunicación real entre seres humanos está basada en estar presente y en escuchar activamente al que está hablando. De otra manera, los malos entendidos vuelven la comunicación una comedia de errores. En este respecto recuerdo a una paciente mía que vino a verme porque, al parecer, cada vez que iniciaba un diálogo con su marido éste bostezaba. A pesar de que es más que obvio que este marido no estaba ni mínimamente interesado en escuchar a su esposa, su actitud reflejaba una profunda hostilidad que el hombre no podía controlar. Como habrán adivinado el matrimonio no duró ya que sin buena comunicación ninguna relación sobrevive. Amigos o esposos que no se comunican poco a poco se vuelven meros desconocidos, y al poco tiempo la relación desaparece. Sin embargo, las cosas cambian en las últimas etapas de la vida, especialmente para aquellos que están divorciados o viudos y que viven solos. Tal es mi caso. Después de muchos años de casada, ahora vivo sola en un apartamento al que finalmente pude llamar hogar. A pesar de tener un perro que se ha vuelto mi gran compañero, mi celular es mi puente con el mundo exterior. Todo empieza a la mañana cuando me despierto. Mi primer gesto es alargar el brazo para asir el teléfono en la mesa de luz. Después de apagarlo y volver a prenderlo religiosamente todos los días, verifico atentamente mis mensajes para enterarme a quién tengo que llamar o a quién tengo que ver ese día. Luego abro mi calendario para ver a qué hora son las citas, si las hay. Pero mi celular no sólo me brinda información necesaria. Es también fuente de placer ya que me permite escuchar mi música preferida en los parlantes del coche. En mi caso, la tecnología no está interfiriendo en mi vida sino que me proporciona una tremenda ayuda. Raramente tengo la impresión de estar sola porque, si así ocurriera, el teléfono me pondría de inmediato en contacto con alguien. Sin embargo, una cosa es utilizar la tecnología para sentirse mejor y otra muy distinta es dejar que nos controle la vida. Edith era una amiga mía con la que solía cenar a menudo. Ibamos generalmente a un restaurante argentino que no era caro y que, más que nada, nos servía abundantes vasos de vino. Desafortunadamente Edith tenía un serio problema: apenas se sentaba, abría la cartera y depositaba su celular sobre la mesa. De ahí en más, el teléfono era el amo y Edit la esclava. No importaba cuán importante fuese nuestra charla, si el celular sonaba o vibraba ella tenía que contestar... y hablar, y hablar, y hablar. Como resultado, más de una vez me sentí que estaba comiendo a solas. Como habrán imaginado la amistad no perduró, no tanto por la interferencia de la tecnología, sino por la incapacidad de Edith de estar presente cuando estaba conmigo. De haberlo estado, les hubiera enviado un mensaje a los que la llamaban diciendo que los contactaría luego.
I

THE TRANSFORMATIONAL COACH

Nowadays everything goes...Last night I attended a workshop on Mindfulness, a word imported from Eastern Religions and that is being used in the West as a synonym of living conscientiously. The workshop was offered by a so called transformational coach who promised to change our life if only we attended an eight week course, once a week for one hour and a half each week. When the coach started presenting I made a couple of questions and quickly realized that, besides her material, she knew close to nothing about what it takes to undergo a psychological transformation. I know it well because it took me almost ten years of reading and thinking, and thinking some more, to understand that life is a never ending learning process, and that our only option is to show up and learn what is being taught. Not so for this transformational coach, who stated that in order to get what we want from life we just need to imagine it. “Close your eyes and imagine the man your are looking for because, if you don’t know what he looks like, how will you know it’s him when you find him”, she suggested to one of the attendees. Little did this coach know that life has other plans in mind for each one of us. If all it took was to imagine what we wanted in order to get it, a lot of us would close our eyes and imagine that Trump was not our President any longer. "Now open your eyes slowly and look around you." Unfortunately, Trump would still be there in his emperor's clothes

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MY CELL MY FRIEND

Nowadays it is a common scene going into a restaurant and at the next table seeing a couple avidly looking at their phones instead of talking to each other. Not only teenagers but adults alike seem to have more things to say to their distant listeners than to their friends or partners who are present. I read once that autism may have something to do with the fact that when mothers push their babies' strollers, they are focused on their cells instead of communicating with their children. It is definitely true that real communication between human beings is based on being present and actively listening to the person who is talking. Otherwise many misunderstandings will happen. In this respect I remember a patient of mine who came to see me because she stated that every time she started a dialogue with her husband he yawned. Although it is obvious that this husband was not in the least interested in listening to his wife, his manners reflected a deep seated hostility that he was unable to control. As you might have guessed, the marriage did not last because without a good communication a relationship cannot exist. Partners who do not communicate, gradually become strangers to each other and after a while the partnership ceases to exist. However, things are different in the later stages of life, especially for those who are divorced or widows/ers and live alone. Such is my case. After many years of marriage, I now live on my own in a apartment that I was finally able to call home. Although it is true that I have a dog who has become a great companion, my cell is my means of communication with the outside world. It starts in the morning when I wake up. My first move is to reach my nightstand looking for my charged cellular. After religiously rebooting it, I avidly check my emails and my messages to see whom I have to contact that day. Next, I open my calendar to check if I have any appointments so as to get ready in time. Later during the day the cell will be in constant use, not only for calls but also for music that I can listen to from the car speakers. In my case technology is definitely not interfering in my life but is of big help instead. Rarely, if ever, do I feel lonely and isolated because if I do, I use the phone to connect me. However, it is one thing to use technology to feel better and another to allow technology to control us. Edith was a friend of mine whom I use have dinner with often. We usually went to an Argentine restaurant that was not expensive and that above all served nice glasses of wine. Unfortunately  Edith had one big shortcoming: as soon as she sat down, she opened her purse and put her phone on the table. From then on her cell was the master and she was the slave. No matter how important was our conversation, if the phone rang or a message vibrated she had to answer... and talk, and talk, and talk. As a result, more than once I felt extremely upset and with the feeling that I was eating alone. As you might have guessed the friendship did not last, not because of the interference of technology but because of Edith's inability to be present when she was with me. Had she been present, she would have sent a message to her callers saying that she would contact them later.