Author Archives: vlm
By Patricia Obst, MSW, LCSW
There are some journeys that we get excited about going on. The journey of a cross country vacation, so invigorating and full of adventure; the journey through college toward the goal of a career; or the journey of a new relationship with a significant other filled with all of its discoveries of one another. But grief – grief is a journey that all of us wish we could avoid and certainly a journey we never look forward to. Yet, life insists that we go on this journey at one time or another.
The loss of a loved one is not something that anyone ever “gets over.” We may get “used to” our loved one not being in our lives, but we never get over the fact that a piece of our heart will be missing forever.
So, what to do if “getting over” our loss is not a realistic option. We “journey through it,” eventually recovering from our wounds. But just like other journeys in our lives, we will need directions, supplies, plans, and most of all, support from others. Unfortunately, most of us go into grief ill equipped for the journey. This is not because we’re poor planners, but because whether loss comes suddenly or following a long illness, we are never fully prepared for the “goneness” of the one we love so much or who has affected our lives in such a deep and profound way.
When we’re in the throes of grief, we need to remember that we’re not lost in the deepest depths of a dark cave with no way out. We are surely in the dark, but more like a dark tunnel. If we begin to move forward, we will work our way through the tunnel to the other side – to where we can begin to learn to live again.
So often, what perpetuates the oppression of loss in our lives is the belief that we must say goodbye to our loved one. Others around us tell us it’s time to “move on,” to “let go.” But how can we move on with the thought of our loved one being left behind? How can we come to terms with the fact that we didn’t get to have closure or say everything we wanted to our loved one? How do we reconcile the unfinished business? How can we let go of someone who has become a permanent part of our very soul? So, we end up stuck. Stuck between acting on the outside as if we’ve “moved on” in order to please everyone else. Yet struggling on the inside with a mix of emotions that we’re not able to sort through. We’re not able to let go of our loved one because we simply don’t want to and because it’s simply impossible to do so. Over time this conflict of emotions manages to strangle any joy that comes our way.
Faced with this dilemma, one of the most important things we can learn about traveling this grief journey is that we DON’T have to “move on” from or “let go” of the person we’ve lost. If we think about it, when something of sentimental value to us is lost – it still exists, it’s just in a place where we are not. Its value remains in our hearts although it’s no longer where we can see it or touch it. We don’t have to “let go” or sever our relationship with the one we have lost. Instead we can learn how to create a new relationship with our loved one. A relationship that keeps us connected to the purpose and inspiration of the bond between us. Whether the relationship was a positive one or one filled with animosity, we can still gain something from getting the most out of that relationship that it had to offer in experience and in lessons learned. We can rebuild a relationship that is alive, one that actually breathes new life into us, and enables us to experience a new and different appreciation for our lives and our relationships. In time, our grief journey blends into our life journey. This blending incorporates all that our relationship with our lost loved one has given us and has taught us. It allows our newly created relationship with them to continue to teach us and to enhance our life journey.
As authors John W. James and Russell Friedman state in the book The Grief Recovery Handbook, it is possible to recover from significant loss:
“Recovery means feeling better. Recovery means claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming you and your happiness. Recovery is finding new meaning for living without the fear of being hurt again. Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of regret or remorse. Recovery is acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel sad from
time to time and to talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react. Recovery is being able to forgive others when they say or do things that you know are based on their lack of knowledge about grief. Recovery is one day realizing that your ability to talk about the loss you’ve experienced is indeed normal and healthy.”
As a counselor, I have gathered professional knowledge about the kind of directions, supplies, plans and support needed to guide clients through their grief journey. As a layperson, I have gained personal experience with grief through my own losses and tragedies. Both come together in an offering of practical guidance to clients along with genuine empathy and compassion.
Many of us may spend considerable time to strive, accomplish, and achieve. This may be especially true for those of us who have come from some type of dysfunctional system. The desire—maybe even need—for us to be recognized and valued by someone for something usually provides ample fuel to propel us to even more and greater accomplishments. Of course, working towards attaining goals, in and over itself, is not bad, but after reaching a goal I think it is healthy for us to take some time to enjoy what it is that we have attained.
This thought came to mind this last Sunday while I was at The Starting Point’s 40th Anniversary Dance. There have been considerable effort, energy, and sacrifice over the years by many people who have contributed to the success of The Starting Point these past 40 years, its founder, Vincent DiPasquale, of course, being chief among them. But before we here at The Starting Point begin planning for the next fiscal year and possibly worrying about potential budget shortfalls, it was time this past Sunday to enjoy what The Starting Point had already become. There was dancing, laughter, eating, and conversation. We had fun!
I recommend that before you move on to the next item on your “to do” list, take some time to appreciate where you have already traveled. Doesn’t it seem appropriate for the mountain climber to stop periodically to just enjoy the view?
Allie F. Miller, M.A., L.M.F.T.
“Willingness, Humility & Gratitude”
By: Vince DiPasquale
Each morning begins a new day. Let us kneel before God, our creator and look at the earth and begin each day with a spirit of humility, knowing that we are a part of God’s new day. As we enter the month of November and the earth goes through a new cycle preparing for winter, we begin our journey with an attitude of gratitude for the gift of life. When we are given this wonderful gift, take time to be quiet & listen to God speaking to us through all the situations of this new day.
Let’s begin each day with prayer, asking that we have the willingness to be open to God’s will, not ours. Look around at all we have been given. Allow the experiences of our past, both with our mistakes, and our accomplishments, to be our strength to live just this day with humility and acceptance. Listen to the prayer from one of my meditation books: “Great Spirit, I humbly stand before you along with the new sun, the Mother Earth, and the smells of the morning. I ask you to direct my thinking today. Let me live in silence. Teach me your Wisdom. Teach me to love my brothers and sisters. Let me respect the things you have made”.
We are all spiritual creatures, in a human body. We are limited by our humanness so we can’t walk the journey of this world alone. We need guidance and direction that only comes by asking God for help in prayer. Your Holy Spirit is our guide and strength. We all need spirit guides. Sometimes God speaks to us through situations in the seen world. Our angels are messengers, and they are all around us. We need to be open and listen to them.
We refer to the month of November as a time to renew our spirit of gratitude and acceptance of all that we’ve been given by God. It’s a time that families come together and start the season of traditional holidays that mark the ending of another year.
To be thankful for so many gifts especially the gift of life is something we cannot take for granted. Our recovery program teaches us to have a spirit of openness and willingness to change and grow. The true spirit of humility is the total acceptance of self and both our struggles and talents, knowing that God will be our guide and strength. All of our struggles are battle scars of growth. Thanksgiving is celebrated one day, but the real Thanksgiving Day is every day that we walk the earth. Take time this month to reflect on all of our past experiences, and embrace them. Always remember our history is our most powerful teacher. Plan life but always be open to its changes. Be grateful for each day, treat it like it’s your last.
When we stop and look at life, the world and all of creation, we are humbled to know that we are just one part of God’s mosaic. Our creator has the master plan. All we can do is live each day, do our part, treat ourselves and all we meet with love and respect. Gratitude teaches us that there is a balance in life. For every negative there is a positive.
Just for today, let us think in willingness, walk in humility and pray in gratitude. For all that we’ve been given, teach us love, respect and care for ourselves so that we can pass this same energy on to all those we meet.
Thank you God for all you have given us, thank you for all that has been taken from us, and thank you for all that will be.
May God Bless us each day on our Journey!
This month marks The Starting Point’s 40th anniversary! While the poodle skirt, saddle shoes, and Brylcreem certainly predate the beginning of The Starting Point, we’ll still be celebrating in style with Jerry Blavat—The Geator With The Heater—on Sunday, October 29, from 2-6pm at Auletto’s Catering in Almonesson (near Deptford Mall). This will not be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill dance. This will be a celebration! The event will include hors d’oeuvres, raffle prizes, dancing, and an appearance by one of the most well-known, entertaining Philadelphia celebrities, Jerry Blavat. Come to partake in the fun and merriment! By being part of this Anniversary Dance, you will help to recognize and honor Starting Point and the thousands of people that the organization has helped over these past 40 years—and continues to help today.
If you wish to be a part of this celebration—and we certainly hope you do, you can participate in a number of ways: buy a ticket to attend this gala event ($50 in advance, $60 at the door); become a sponsor; purchase an ad in the program book; or have your name listed as “Patron” for a mere $10. Additional information about any of these options can be found here. You can also call the front desk of The Starting Point (856.854.3155 Ext. 0) or stop in. Loretta Depka, our Administrator, will also be very happy to answer any questions you might have and can be reached at Ext. 179 (or email@example.com).
We’re looking forward to seeing you there!!
Allie F. Miller, LMFT
“The Many Faces of Life”
By: Vincent DiPasquale
When October rolls around we think of how the trees start to show their other faces. Mother Nature once again reminds us that on life’s journey we will experience many different face-changes. Each one will bring us to a place of struggle and growth. During this month we also experience Halloween. Originally, Halloween was a time of sacredness, dressing up as the patron saint which we were named after. This would encourage us to look up to that saint for examples. Today we see many costumes and different faces which also remind us of life. Let’s look at some of the faces which have touched our lives. I will try to recall these different faces of my life’s experiences.
The child. As a little boy raised in the forties, my vision and face were different. I came into the world during World War II, into a world of uncertainly and fear, living in the city of Camden. The face of Camden was different then. The streets were safe and neighborhoods were divided. There was no air-conditioning or television. All ears were glued to the radio. Even baseball was always played in the daytime and some games were called because of darkness. The face of religion was based on fear and guilt. Yet there was a sense of community and caring.
The teenager. The face of my teen years was a journey that took me away to a new community; the seminary. There was fear and confusion and time to adjust to a new face of life for three years. Change came again when the next three years were spent in Blackwood at the seminary (which is now Camden County College.) Life was always adjusting to new people and new experiences. I experienced the world of stage and drama, a time to grow up in a controlled world.
The 20’s. As I entered into my 20’s the journey took me to a new school, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. This was a chance to finish college and receive my graduate seminary training which led to my Ordination in 1966. Once again years of change, confusion, adjustment and growth ensued. It was a time when I thought I had it all together. My years of journey into the ego was a time when I thought it was my job to save the world. My final years of my 20’s were spent in much fear, guilt and craziness. My journey into my codependency and the world of addiction began. It was a time when I was introduced to the 12 Steps and the world of AL-ANON. I still didn’t understand why they kept telling me to work on myself when my ego told me I didn’t need to work on me.
The 30’s. Then came the 30’s, years of much confusion and craziness. I truly understand today that these years were the dark night of my journey. My life was out of control. I was running from life playing the savior and martyr on a journey into a deep hole of emptiness. During the seven years, 1969 to 1976, I was a runaway train. My workaholic instincts and addictions were fully alive. During these years I taught high school, ran a parish, was involved in the Civil Rights movement, prison chaplain and ran a halfway house drug program. I never took time to vacation, was too busy to go to the beach or boardwalk. I founded The Starting Point in Philadelphia in 1977. I was just running away from facing life and decisions. I played the game of avoidance and isolation. I was truly a rebel – against everything. Talk about codependency and control issues! Inside I was empty, lonely and scared.
The 40’s. The 40’s were a time of awakenings; time to face many decisions, fears; a time to awaken and move to a new era of life. My God was very patient with me and sent some very special people into my life to help lead me slowly out of the empty hole and into the light. God sent a new family which forced me to look at another new face, a wife and three beautiful step-daughters who at once helped me look to a new direction. I finally had to begin the journey of growing up. I was led by so many spiritual teachers who taught me to finally do my own work and journey one day at a time while discovering who I was. This journey continues to this day. God has blessed me in so many ways and has sent many people to touch me along the way. He has given me an opportunity to be a member of many communities with many different faces – who have all helped me on my spiritual journey.
Today. I have seven beautiful faces, my grandchildren, who have helped me to meet my child within in a special way. God has blessed me with so many gifts and given me the opportunity to share them.
As we look at the changing faces of the fall season, let’s be grateful for all we have been given. Remember an old and beautiful slogan, “Be grateful for what was, be open to what is and be grateful for whatever will be.” Look around at all the wonderful faces of all of God’s children. We are all connected in the circle of life. May we all be blessed on our life’s journey.
A Prayer for Self-Respect
“Oh God, teach me that self-respect cannot be hunted, it cannot be purchased ~ it is never for sale. Teach me that self-respect comes when I am alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when suddenly I realize that knowing the good, I have done it; knowing the beautiful, I have served it; and knowing the truth, I have spoken it.”
This is a busy time of year as kids head back to school and once again become involved in all of their school-related activities. Most parents with school-age children will soon begin filling their calendars with this event and that activity, often coordinating between each other “who is doing what when.” It is wonderful that parents express interest in and support their children this way, but by becoming completely absorbed in their children’s activities, it can become easy for parents to lose themselves and not take care of themselves properly. For your sake—and that of your children!—please remember to invest some time and energy into Self.
By taking care of Self, you are taking pressure off your child to do that for you. A parent who becomes singularly focused on their child sends a subtle message to that child that s/he is responsible for the parent’s well-being. Supporting and encouraging a child, while well intended, can become detrimental if the child begins to see that s/he is the center of Mom’s or Dad’s universe. It can be a fine line: Letting the child know that they are valued and important, yes; conveying the message that parents’ well-being is dependent on how well the child is doing, no.
Remember, also, that you are the most powerful and influential model for your child. One of the gifts that you can pass on to your child is showing them how to take care of themselves. You hope that your child will grow up to be an emotionally and psychologically well-adjusted adult. Let them see that their parents know how to do that.
Allie Miller, Executive Director
“Live, Laugh, Love” By: Vince DiPasquale
As summer comes to an end and we once again go back to reality, I always feel like the world changes gears. We are reminded that we live in a world that truly makes life complicated. We have a choice: we can get bogged down in the rules of the world or we can learn to listen to our spirit. The world operates around the ego. Power, control, money, prestige and image create stress, anxiety and loss of self.
Let’s take time to reflect on the special words that will take us on the journey to the world of our spirit. We are spiritual beings in a human body. Our journey on this earth is short. Our body is only a home for our spirit. There will come a time when our human home will get leaky and our spirit will have to move on to the unseen world. As we walk the journey of earth, let’s take time to live, laugh and love.
Live ~ Life is a journey if we choose to live in the spirit of the willingness to change and grow. We need to live in harmony, balance and integrity. We are interconnected to everything in life. One of the greatest discoveries in my life is that there are no absolutes. Everything in life is in constant process of changing. This to me is the adventure of life. Enjoy each moment, stop trying to figure life out, just live! One of the greatest readings I do each day is a little pamphlet that is entitled, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” Yesterday is over, learn lessons from it. Tomorrow doesn’t exist, so just live this day today as though it is your last day on the earth. To live one day at a time is the spirit of acceptance, gratitude and humility. Each day is an adventure, trying to teach us that you can’t control life. Try to let go and know that God has lessons for us to learn each day. One of life’s greatest secrets is to go with the flow. Each day as I pray the 11th step prayer I am reminded, “constantly remind us that we are no longer running the show.” Father, help us humbly say many times each day, “Thy will be done.”
Laugh ~ One of God’s greatest gifts that we have within us is the gift to laugh at life even when it’s not funny. Take time to look back on life’s journey and be able to say, “Did I do that?” We have been on so many journeys and done so many things that we need to see our history with the gift of laughter. We live in a world that by nature is dysfunctional and because of our humanity do we ever learn lessons! I love telling stories of my Italian heritage with pride and laughter. I am reminded daily to try not to take anything for granted. I’m convinced that when you look at the world through the eyes of laughter, you are able to have a greater sense of harmony, humility, honesty and healing. Years ago the old timers in AA taught me some great lessons by inviting me to join the Higher Power Club. They called it the 4H Club. When you have the courage to get honest, you will experience humility. If you have a sense of humor and can laugh at life, you will be able to heal and learn positive lessons. My Dad would always say the manure you put in the ground will become fertilizer for plants to grow. Our history with its’ manure becomes our fertilizer for personal growth. Don’t be afraid to laugh, it cleanses the soul!!
Love ~ is the energy of life. The gift that God gave us at birth. When we live this gift and share it with others, it is increased a hundred fold. We are all lovers. As children we were spontaneous and filled with the spirit. Life has a way of hurting us and the world around tries to use this energy in a negative way. We all have to go through our own struggles until the light of love rekindles in each of us. Slowly, we learn to stop being so hard on ourselves and learn how to love ourselves again. The Bible teaches us that a little child will guide us. As we learn to love ourselves the energy in us will flow out to others. Inside of us all is a spontaneous free spirit. When we let go and let God run the show, we will experience so much in life. Always remember love must be shared, so it can grow stronger. We have the Holy Spirit in us. Face each day with gratitude, love and humility. Be open to the journey filled with the spirit and energy of God’s love.
As we begin the fall season, enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Live, laugh and love each moment on this earth!
May God bless and guide us, sending prayers and love to all,
Are You a Mental Health Professional Who Would Like to Join The Starting Point “Family”?
The Starting Point has shared office space available for rental to licensed mental health professionals. Your shared space would be with one of the approximately 25 other professionals who already maintain practices here. This is the perfect situation for someone who has a full-time job elsewhere but wants to have a part-time private practice on the side, is contemplating retirement but would like to have a small practice, or is just wanting to downsize their existing practice.
Your rental fee would include:
- Office space.
- A phone extension, if desired.
- All utilities.
- Access to Wi-Fi.
- Waiting area in lobby.
- Receptionist at front desk from 9:30am-9:30pm M-F and 8am-4pm Saturday.
- Access to copy machine and fax.
- Listing on the organization’s website as one of its “Counselors.”
Being in-network with any of the major health insurance companies will increase your chances of getting referrals, but that is not a requirement to rent here.
If you are interested in exploring this opportunity further, please respond to Allie Miller, the Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 856.854.3155 Ext. 139.
The month of August is frequently referred to as “the dog days of summer”. It’s almost like the world tries to stop rotating for a while. Many of us use it as a time to relax and celebrate life. Let’s make sure that we don’t take a vacation from growing as people. It’s a time to sit back and look at our vision of life. We are our attitude. We create our own journey by the vision we have of ourselves. If we look at life in the vision of negativity or defeat our lives will reflect this image. There is a beautiful saying: “dare to dream”. We are given so many negative messages. Let’s all think positively. We are the architects of our lives. We are very powerful human beings. I would like to share with you 10 simple, beautiful principles that will help you to look at life in a positive way.
1. Be real and accept the reality of who you are. Be proud to be you. Look at each experience in life as a teacher. We are a people in progress. Acceptance is the key to all growth.
2. Be open to life’s journey. Each day we are being led by a higher source that many of us call God. We are being guided. Look at life with positive eyes. Try to be open to rediscover the positive power we have already. At the moment of our birth we were given by God all we need for life. We are in the process of discovering the power we already have, if we are open to grow. Openness to the journey of life will free us as people.
3. Let go and let God. One of the great obstacles of life is the disease of control. The more you try to control the journey of life, the more frustrated you will become. Let’s try to get in touch with the energy and spirit of life, get into the flow, and go where we are led. We all need to listen and learn. Stop thinking so much and just be open to where life will lead you today. When you let go of control the vision of life will unfold. Please let yourself be teachable.
4. Self-knowledge. Take the time to reflect on your own personal history. Your story is the greatest story on the face of the earth. Honor your story; look at it with positive eyes. Remember your history is your teacher. If you look at each experience in a positive way, it will become your teacher.
5. Share your story with others. When you share your experience you help others to share things. The greatest way to learn about ourselves is in sharing with others. Each one of us needs each other. We are both teachers and pupils every day of our lives.
6. Accept your handicaps, as they are gifts from God to teach us so much about life. All of us have certain defects. Remember for every defect there is an asset. My father always said you don’t know what it is to get up until you fall down. This teaches us the gift of humility. Take time to ask God to help us deal with every aspect of life. We need guidance and direction. Our spiritual growth depends on our willingness to ask for help. Many situations in life can be overcome if we are open to ask for direction. Some things we can deal with and some defects we have to accept and learn to live with.
7. Learn how to make amends to those people we have injured or harmed – including ourselves! Take time to make peace with all of these situations whenever humanly possible. The purpose of these principles is to settle and make peace with ourselves and, if possible, with others.
8. Take time each day to reflect and do a daily inventory. Once of the most positive ways to grow as a person is to look at each experience each day as our higher power’s way of teaching us the great lessons of life. If you have an open mind you can learn so much.
9. Stay centered and pray each day to be open to God’s will. Plan each day but realize that change is part of life. Don’t be rigid; circumstances lead us in different directions. Our plan and God’s plan aren’t always the same. Our prayer is that we listen and learn where we are being led.
10. Always live in the spirit of gratitude and sharing. We have so much for which to be thankful. God has given each of us the gift of life and helps us to discover our potential. Live your life openly and honestly and by your example you will be an inspiration to others. The secret is being open to share your gifts with others and you will receive gifts back a hundredfold. Be generous and live your life the best you can. If you are positive in your vision of life your energy will be passed on to others.
These ten principles are the secrets of life. If you live by them you will experience the gift of peace and serenity within, thus attracting positive results in all that you do. Be good to yourself and let’s all thank God for the gifts we’ve been given. Take time to share your gifts with others. Enjoy the rest of the summer. God bless!
As you may or may not be aware, 2016 was a very difficult year for The Starting Point financially.
Even in the best of times, this small not-for-profit organization operates hand-to-mouth on a shoestring budget. However, a major construction project across the street made things far more difficult for us. The construction necessitated street closures, which in turn affected access to our facility and the availability of parking. Because of the disruption and inconvenience, one of our dependable sources of revenue left our facility and relocated. That meant a loss of funds of nearly $12,000 per year. Since then, a second source of revenue, representing an additional $24,000, was lost to us. This total loss of $36,000 represents 10% of our annual operating budget, which has hit the organization hard.
Rest assured that we are working diligently on our end to keep our doors open and continue to provide high-quality holistic, integrative, and wellness-oriented educational and referral services to our clientele and the recovery community at large.
In these difficult times, we remain mindful of your ongoing support and are grateful for any assistance you can show us this year. There are many ways to support Starting Point financially, and these are all detailed on our DONATE page.
As always, we thank you for your support of The Starting Point.
Much of the suffering in our lives is due to negative emotional energies that have become “trapped” within us. The Emotion Code by Dr. Bradley Nelson is a simple and powerful method of finding and releasing these trapped energies. A single trapped emotion can create both physical and emotional problems that can sometimes feel overwhelming. Finding and releasing those trapped negative energies can literally make changes in how you feel and behave in the choices that you make and in the results that you get.
Trapped emotions lower your immune function and make the body vulnerable to disease. They can distort body tissues, block the flow of energy and prevent normal functions of organ and glands. This process can be used for any condition or disease that could be a contributing factor to wellness.
Most people give little thought to their subconscious minds, but like a computer, your subconscious mind is capable of storing vast amounts of information. Dr. Nelson believes that everything you have ever done in your entire life has been logged in your subconscious mind. Your subconscious is also aware of any trapped emotions that your body may be harboring, and it also knows exactly what effect these trapped emotions are having on your physical, emotional and mental well-being. We can actually retrieve information from the subconscious using a form of kinesiology or muscle testing. An important point to know is that all organisms, no matter how primitive will respond to positive or negative stimuli e.g. plants grow towards sunlight and away from darkness. The human body is no different. Your body will normally be drawn toward positive things and repelled by negative things or ideas. If you will allow yourself to quiet your conscious mind and tune into your body, you will learn that your subconscious is quite able to communicate with you. A simple way to do this is called the “Sway Test.” Assume a comfortable standing position with no distraction. You will notice that it is actually impossible to stand perfectly still. When you make a positive, true or congruent statement, your body should begin to sway forward. If it is an incongruent or untrue statement, your body should sway backward.
Everything in the universe is made of energy, whether that energy manifests in physical form or remains invisible. We can feel energy when it is in the form of emotions, and if negative emotional energies become trapped within us, they may adversely affect us. Eventually, a correlation was made between the emotions we experience and the various organs of the body. Anger is emanating from your gall bladder or liver. Betrayal emanates from your heart or small intestine, grief by your lungs or colon, etc. Everything that exists radiates with vibrational energy that has an ultimate effect on our own energy field whether good or bad. This applies to animals too. When emotionally upsetting events occur, animals can suffer just as people do.
The Emotion Code should not be used by itself in attempting to address any major disease or medical condition, but rather it should be looked upon as an adjunctive therapy. More information on the Body/Emotion Code can be found on the internet.
Marie Olwell, Counselor
Marie Olwell, M.Ed., D.Min.
I am a Sister of St. Joseph and have maintained a practice at The Starting Point for six years as a Certified Marriage and Family Counselor as well as other modalities. My studies began with a Degree in Music, a Master’s Degree in Education and a Doctorate in Ministry from Lancaster Theological Seminary. These studies prepared me to teach in elementary school, high school and college settings.
I continued my studies and became a Reiki Master and Body/Emotion Code Practitioner as well as being certified to administer the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator. Although I use all of these modalities to some degree in a holistic way, my current work as a Body/Emotion Code Practitioner has been the most rewarding.
Before working at Starting Point, I served as a Pastoral Associate and Music director for six years in a Philadelphia Catholic Church. During that time I studied at the University of Pennsylvania’s Marriage Council to prepare me to become a marriage counselor in two churches in New Jersey. Following these assignments, I later became the co-founder of Mary’s Vineyard, a Spiritual, Wellness ,and Education Center in Cherry Hill, and served there as the Executive Director for three years. After ten years, I opened a private practice in Barclay Farm prior to coming to Starting Point. My great interest in all these assignments was the advancement of women in the world and attended the International Women’s Conference in Beijing, China in 1995. Upon returning I gave 25 lectures to various groups. For several years I was a Committee member of the Women’s Wellness Weekends sponsored at Cape May Retreat House by the Sisters of St. Joseph where I had previously given presentations on various topics . I have also filled in for Vince as guest lecturer on Wednesdays at The Starting Point on several occasions.
I very much enjoy my work here at Starting Point with the opportunity of being of service in helping others reach their potential. I do not accept insurance but work on a sliding scale. I am deeply grateful to Vince DiPasquale who initially invited me to come to The Starting Point and have found it to have a very welcoming atmosphere on the part of both the other counselors and the administrative staff.
By Annie Fisher, MSW, LCSW
Through focusing we discover a spaciousness inside that can hold difficult experiences and with continued practice, even an imperfect practice of staying with what wants our inner attention, we discover within the spaciousness, a sea full of long forgotten qualities ones such as the fluid energy of compassion and the tenderness of stillness. These aspects of ourselves, which are innumerable, are what makes our connections within and with others, intimate and healing. For most of us, qualities, ones such as deep love and natural courage, don’t register as familiar or could possibly have anything to do with us but focusing finds a way to awaken us back to our authentic nature. These disembodied qualities collectively begin to form our true identity. We then make the seismic shift from knowing and judging ourselves as someone who is hateful or jealous to identifying with this capacious field of awareness that includes feelings of hate or jealousy. Making the identity shift is a tall order for most of us but focusing is a practice and a process. Once we’ve experienced the possibility, we become hooked because freedom is attractive and feels like home.
And of course because we’ve developed a skill for being able to listen to difficult things within us from this larger place, we become able to listen to difficult things from people in our lives. We grow our awareness about who we are as someone who can hold so much more and not become fully identified with the reaction inside of us about what’s being said or happening to us. Eventually we may not even have the reaction at all when someone says or does something that has the potential to sting but until then it’s experienced more like a deep hurt that is being held by a generous ocean. And the space within, that was previously taken up with a big reaction, is now available for relating and responding to ourselves and the people we’re listening to.
In focusing we don’t have to start out with a big open heart, thank God. We don’t even have to see ourselves as someone who is compassionate. We can just show up with a little curiosity, be as present as is available to us in the moment and focusing will take us in the direction we need to go.
Annie Fisher, MSW, LCSW
By Annie Fisher, MSW, LCSW
In part two of this writing we continue to look closely at the issue of resistance even when doing something we might normally enjoy:
Continuing with my life example from last month’s e-newsletter about wanting to get some writing done and feeling stuck, I continued to open to and listen to the “dug in feeling” in my body. I discovered that this stopped place inside is surprisingly tender and doesn’t care about creativity or my great ideas. I’m also surprised to hear it cares about relationship and as I listen more deeply, I hear it often feels left behind by me when I go running off with excitement into action. It tells me this with a mixed tone of resentment, hurt and sadness infused in its “voice.” It recalls how in the past I’ve immersed myself in projects for weeks and all the while this place inside of me feels unattended to, longs for connection and hopelessly waits for its turn. One might imagine a parallel situation occurring in life in which a parent spends long hours at work while the child yearns for attention from that parent.
Just like people in our lives who are asking us to grow, parts are always trying to contribute to our sense of wholeness by insisting that we pay attention to aspects of ourselves that we tend to deny, ignore or over-identify with. I hope it’s clear how this part was not trying to create trouble for me but trying to help me by creating resistance. Like putting its foot in the door that I was trying to exit, it was asking me to first pay attention and get connected so that I could show up in my activities as a more whole, creative and present being. It was the quality of my receptivity to staying and listening that allowed this for kind of opening up to occur.
Focusing is different from inner child work in that there’s now a new bodily felt/lived experience of “bringing my inner child to work with me,” that through trust, patience and relationship has unfolded naturally without having to figure anything out with the logical mind. Focusing teaches us that deep in this moment, what’s needed is available to and for us. Focusing at its highest is when we can apply these principles of trust to our daily lives.
Annie Fisher, MSW, LCSW