Celebration Articles

Finding The Healing Potential In Holidays: Unexpected Ways

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

If you were a bit thrown to learn that Thanksgiving was on for this Thursday and that the Holidays were closing in fast – you were not alone.

Given the unprecedented destruction and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the continued sacrifices of our military, the escalation of international strife, the threatened fiscal cliff and the personal storms most people face, it has been difficult enough to negotiate daily life- much less, think about the holidays.

Do We Really Need The Holidays Now?

Yes. We need the holidays because if we can look past the details and avoid getting trapped in expectations, holidays hold great healing potential. In ways we hardly expect, they provide many of the ingredients recognized as essential to the stages of healing and recovery after traumatic events.

Physical and Psychological Safety

We know that in the aftermath of trauma and disaster, people are most comforted and stabilized by familiar networks of support. The Holidays provide this.

  • In the case of survivors of Hurricane Sandy, we know that families embraced each other and gathered together earlier than expected and may stay together longer than planned. For them, as well as for other familiar networks be they a military unit, a medical staff, evacuees at a shelter or a few students far from home, a Thanksgiving dinner has the potential to stop the clock, take them off task and offer physical and emotional sustenance.
  • No matter how many hours they have worked, cried or served together, to stop and gather with the mutual goal of celebrating and giving thanks reduces the isolation and alienation inherent in the challenges they face. The shared experience adds to their cohesion and the sense of being held together. When the festivity ends – the benefits and memories do not.
  • Food plays a major role in holidays. As such it is as emotionally healing as it is physically gratifying. Emotionally charged events, be they wonderful or traumatic, are remembered and encoded in the senses – the body remembers. As such, food is evocative of powerful memories. While it may seem small, the long awaited fragrance …

Improve Your Marriage by Having an Affair…With Your Spouse

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Do you have any idea how much work goes into an affair?

When you take into account the effort, the planning, the stolen moments, the affection, the creative communications and the anticipation of connection – you have to wonder what having an affair with your spouse could do for a marriage.

The likelihood is that it will do great things.

Having an affair with your spouse is something I have recommended to couples for years. It is an antidote to what Esther Perel describes as “Mating in Captivity,” the neutralizing of connection, the tendency to take each other for granted, the need to prioritize the kids, the jobs, the house, the money…. over the romance.

Does having an affair sound irrational, unlikely, possibly erotic and without guarantees? Yes. That’s the nature of affairs…only this one has a real chance of a happy ending.

What Do You Need to Have an Affair?

Here are the ingredients for having an affair – Do you have anything to lose?


Do You Thank Your Partner? Recognizing Resistance-Understanding Benefits

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

thank your partner“ Why Can’ t You Just Say, Thanks?”

If this sounds familiar it is because most of us have said it or heard it.

  • Most people want to feel appreciated, particularly by the person closest to them but too often the expression of gratitude gets lost in the fabric of couple’s lives.
  • Recent research in the field of positive psychology informs us that feeling gratitude, the awareness and appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself, has many benefits including positive mood, enhanced physical health and optimistic outlook. Actually expressing gratitude has proven to have even greater benefits in terms of personal happiness and relationship enhancement.

Then… Why is it difficult to express gratitude to a partner?

People are complicated. Add in couple dynamics, prior history, unconscious factors, cultural context and you multiply those complications.

  • Most partners don’t consider how often they thank their partner or if not-why not?
  • Few are aware of the proven benefits of expressing gratitude on their personal feelings, their view of the partner, the patterns and value of the relationship.

Consider Recognizing Your Resistance and Understanding the Possible Benefits of  “Just Saying Thanks.”


Living Happily Ever After – Despite Stress

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall - Creative Commons by gnuckxIt is easy to feel happy, content and hopeful when things are going well. What about when life becomes stressful?

How do we hold on to positive feelings in the face of the unexpected diagnosis, the child with special needs, the job that disappears, or the deployment of a spouse?

The definition of happiness most agreed upon by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, economists, positive psychologists and Buddhist Monks is not of happiness as the state of bursting with glee but of happiness as a sense of well being, contentment, the feeling of living a meaningful life, of utilizing one’s gifts, of living with thought and purpose.

Positive and Negative Feelings Can Co-Exist

Research tells us and perhaps your personal experience confirms that positive and negative feelings can both occur during a stressful period of time.  That’s not to say that they occur at the same time or that you should “Smile when your heart is breaking.”  Rather, it means that tears and fears are not incompatible with laughter, enjoyment, love or mastery as we face life’s challenges.


Understanding and Building a ‘Me’ Marriage

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

the me marriageDo you really want a ‘Me’ Marriage? Your first inclination may be to say, “I don’t think so.”

Intuitively this makes sense as most partners have been encouraged to focus on the “We” in their marriage.  It’s even likely that at some point you have heard or have said to your partner – “You know, it’s not all about you!”

That being said, it is very interesting that Tara Parker-Pope in a recent Week in Review section of the New York Times tells us that “The Happy Marriage is the ‘Me’ Marriage.”

How Can This Be?

Reporting on the research of psychologists Arthur Aron and Gary Lewandowski, Parker-Pope clarifies that while communication skills, mental health, social support and stress are factors that determine whether a marriage will last or not – they are not sufficient for making it enjoyable or sustaining to the individuals.


Put Excitement Back Into Your Relationship

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Do you really have to scale K2 together or survive a reality show to spice up your relationship?  Well…. maybe not K2.

You may agree with the feelings one man made very clear to me: “Listen, between the weather, the finances, the kids and the unexpected aggravation, we’ve had about enough excitement as we can stand. We’ll settle for boring.”

OK – but what if we were to make a distinction between what is emotionally stressful, problematic and even traumatic and what is exciting. What if we defined exciting as something that is novel, arousing, and enjoyable?


True Love Means-Looks Still Matter

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
  • “I love you but I don’t love that large Disney Sweatshirt.”
  • “When did marriage mean you would stop shaving on the weekends?”
  • “Everything you tried on looks great– why can’t you wear any of them?”
  • “I think they said casual not throw-away.”

For most people, there was something about the physical characteristics of the person they fell in love with that tripped their chemistry into response. Should that stop mattering when the wedding is over, the kids are in school or the retirement is planned? Not Really.

This is a culture that pushes looks, youth, beauty and the icons that possess theme.  For those seeking a partner, there is a considerable amount of interest in what catches the attention of men when meeting women and what women find attractive in a man.


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Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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Recent Comments
  • Dawn: What bull shit!!!! How about the vows that were taken? So we have to constantly stroke our mans ego so he...
  • Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP: Dear Megalodon: I love your response. I appreciate your sharing as it gives me a...
  • Megalodon: Lovely piece. Thanksgiving was rough on me the first few years but now I give thanks for the many things...
  • Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP: Thanks John- It is a very important day for healing and connecting – Best...
  • John: Thanks for reminding us about ISSLD on Saturday. I thought this was a powerful post with lots of helpful and...
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