Posts tagged ‘Rich Brodt’

Why are we so stressed? ll By: Rich Brodt

Why are we so stressed?
By: Rich Brodt

Gallup’s 2019 Global Emotions report was recently released; it revealed that Americans are among the most highly stressed people in the world. America has the largest Gross Domestic Product in the world, an economy that has enjoyed the highest growth in the world in the past year, and people who live here enjoy more freedoms than people in many other places in the world. Yet, people are still stressed, anxious and worried for many of their waking hours. While we should not be surprised that a high GDP does not lead to decreased stress, the lack of other information available leads me to search for reasons why Americans are so stressed out.

For me, at least one of the answers seems to be embedded in American culture. As a whole, it seems that Americans value success, ambition, innovation and the collection of material possessions. These ideals put pressure on individuals to work towards these values even when they are not particularly important to the individual. Many seek success, financial gain, acquirement of possession not because they strongly identify with these values, but because they feel societal pressure to meet these standards. Social media and the news media just compound this stress.

Social media’s impact is becoming more and more apparent. It creates a space outside of reality where individuals can curate a particular image for themselves, filter and edit photos as they choose and then release those curated images for mass consumption. This allows an individual to project an image of themselves that is not accurate. These images are consumed by other individuals who then become envious of this person’s lifestyle despite its lack of basis in reality. We see an image of a lifestyle that is probably unattainable for most people, we see an individual who is claiming to live that lifestyle, and we assume that we can also find a way to do so. But the reality is that most people are pretending. This pretending leads to positive validation in the form of likes and comments. In essence, people are creating a dishonest version of their life for the purpose of having that dishonest version publicly praised. It is easy to see how this can lead to a disconnection from our true, genuine selves with individual values. How can that lead to anything resembling joy or happiness?

The images used to market products to us are not dissimilar to the images we are finding more and more on social media. In fact, many regular people who post on social media are now being approached to market products, which creates even more pressure for them to maintain an image. We also feel the need to purchase these products in order to attain a similar lifestyle to the person we observe on social media. This leads people to overspend, get into massive amounts of debt, and feel no better off for what they have spent their money on. Thus the cycle continues as that debt often causes long-term financial issues. Those that consume social media are constantly being marketed to both by the people they follow and by independent advertisers that now have unfettered access to their personal browsing and shopping habits. This compounds the problem, leading to more impulsive purchases and increased debt.

While the above addresses the burdens of financial debt and pressure to maintain a certain image, the current political climate must also play a large part in American stress levels. Since the election in 2016, the country has never felt more divided. Both sides are absolutely sure that they know what is right 100% of the time. This has lead to a severe lack of connection and lack of dialogue between people with differing viewpoints. If we avoid people who have different political beliefs than us, we are cutting out nearly 50% of the population, and basically judging their entire character based on what candidate they support. We are closing ourselves off when we are not able to see past a single viewpoint. We are creating a climate of adversarial interactions where people always feel like they are on the defensive. This is no way to create a dialogue. As a result we are losing our sense of connection to others, which is essential for feelings of well-being.

Many of these issues come from our individual attachments, to our beliefs, to our political views, and mostly to being right. We seek information that confirms our beliefs, and we block out the information that does not. We actually have less of a role in this than we might think. Internet search algorithms are designed to lead us to a space where our firmly held beliefs will be confirmed, and those opposing ideas are filtered out. This leads to a lack of empathy for anyone but the group that we identify with. This is a dangerous direction for a nation to be headed. We need to close our computers, put down our phones, and try to see and accept one another.


About Rich Brodt
I provide therapy and counseling for individuals. My style integrates various techniques, but I tailor my approach to each client’s unique needs. I am committed to helping people that experience anxiety resulting from trauma, work-related stress, legal issues or major life transitions. Together, we will work to calm your mind and create lasting change.

How Well are You? ll By Rich Brodt

How Well are You?
By Rich Brodt

When most of us think of self-care, we are generally thinking of our physical and mental health as it relates to our career. This is a good start, but I do not think it captures the full picture. Often, when I work with an individual experiencing depression, the trouble extends past the basic physical and mental health into other aspects of their lives.

This is why I often turn to the 7 Dimensions of Wellness to highlight areas of an individual’s life that could use more attention.

These dimensions are also quite useful when thinking about addressing self-care in areas that extend beyond the general physical and mental health. Checking in on each dimension helps to highlight problem areas that could use some attention.

The 7 Dimensions of Wellness are social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical. These areas often overlap with one another. Together they form a pretty complete picture of the areas of our lives that are most important to focus on. Lets take a closer look at each dimension

The social dimension refers to how we are interacting with others and finding connection.

It is important to focus on whether or not we are establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with the important people in our lives. Are we able to connect and share of ourselves? If not, we should look at why this is happening, and what we might be doing to stop ourselves from connecting. This area is especially important for healers trying to take care of themselves. Private practice can be isolating. That, coupled with the social exhaustion one might feel after days in a row of multiple back to back sessions each week, can lead to social withdrawal due to fatigue. Without connection and feedback from others we lose a sense of our selves.

The emotional dimension refers to how we are experiencing and processing our own emotions.

One aspect of this is how we deal with and overcome challenges. The ability to feel and express our emotions in a healthy way leads to higher productivity and improved self-concept. If we cannot identify and express what we are feeling, it tends to cause difficulty understanding the emotions of others, which is unacceptable for a healing professional.

The spiritual dimension relates to how we see and interact with the world.

Often, the word spiritualleads people to think of religion. However, the concept can be conceptualized much more broadly. Spirituality is about a connection to oneself and an understanding of ones place in the world. Spirituality focuses on the experience of being human, rather than material or physical possessions. It brings peace and humility to our lives, and can be practiced in any number of ways. Getting in touch with this spirituality allows us to identify and live in accordance with our values.

The environmental dimension, while important, is often overlooked.

This dimension speaks to our awareness of the fragility of the earth, and the way we choose to interact with it. Are we making choices that harm our environment? Are we taking time to be thankful to what is provided to us by our environment? Are we having a positive impact?

Occupational wellness, is an interesting topic for a therapist or healer.

Most of us are self-employed, and so we have a great deal of choice in our daily schedule. But are we happy with what were doing and how were doing it? For the self-employed, this might mean focusing on what hours you work, or what populations you work with. It might be that youre feeling burnt out and need a break. We need to listen to the messages we are getting about our work, and use those messages to find greater fulfillment in what we are doing.

Intellectual wellness, while often related to occupational wellness, is important in and of itself.

The focus in this dimension is on whether we are able to open our minds to new ideas and concepts, think critically and improve our skills. This dimension asks whether we are open to challenging our self intellectually, and whether we are willing to digest new information that might change how we feel about a certain topic.

Physical wellness is a dimension where most of us are already aware of the implications.

This dimension refers to our physical health, and our ability to endure through our daily activities without having physical issues. This dimension stresses the importance of routine physical check ups, exercise and avoiding habits that might be detrimental to our physical wellness. I will not spend too much time here since physical wellness seems to be at the top of most self care lists.

These seven dimensions give a solid overview of the idea of wellness as it relates to taking care of oneself. Whenever we feel low, there is a good chance that we are ignoring one or more of these categories. If you ever want to assess where your self-care routine might be improved, running through these dimensions is a good place to start. That said, it is often also a good place to start with clients who are experiencing depression or anxiety, as self-care is the first thing we tend to neglect when things arent going our way.


Rich Brodt is a former Affordable Counseling Program intern and currently works as a Core Practitioner at People House. Rich provides therapy and counseling for individuals. His style integrates various techniques, but he tailors his approach to each client’s unique needs. He is committed to helping people that experience anxiety resulting from trauma, work-related stress, legal issues or major life transitions. “Together, we will work to calm your mind and create lasting change.”

2727 Bryant St Suite 430 Denver CO 80203 and People House Denver

The Importance of Taking Care Pt. 2 ll By Rich Brodt

The Importance of Taking Care Pt. 2
By Rich Brodt

 

In my last post, I focused somewhat disproportionately on the external financial pressures that many of us feel as business owners, and how those pressures can lead to poor self-care. There is another side to this coin.

As healing professionals, our product is us.

It is the space we make for our clients, it is our background, our experience and our genuine self that the client is paying for. It is important that, as much as possible, this is what we deliver.

When life is difficult, when stress is really running high, the easiest thing for any of us to do is withdraw. Withdraw from our friends, family, our feelings, and most of all our selves. When we are having a hard time, the tendency is to hide that from those around us. It feels vulnerable.

But spending time with the people in our lives who support us is one of the most important ways we take care of ourselves.

When we spend time with those who we love and respect and receive mutual love and respect in return it validates who we are. We should not always need this type of validation, but it is important that we have people in our lives who make us feel good about who we are – who fully accept us. When people reflect our positive qualities we become more at ease with who we are and more able to make space for others. This can be difficult for those who have not built a strong support network, but within our community there are always opportunities for group supervisions, workshops and classes. These are all great ways to connect with like-minded people.

That being said, connecting in the ways mentioned above is not for everyone. There is not a single right way to take care of yourself. Different things work for different people, though there are certainly some favorites. Cardiovascular exercise such as biking or running works for many people, as does hiking or swimming. Generally, anything that gets you moving and leads to improved overall health is a good start. Meditation, yoga and other mindfulness-based practices seem to help quite a bit as well.

However, self-care takes on many different formats, and I do not think it should be so narrowly focused.

When trying to choose a hobby or activity, I often ask people to think back to a time where they completed something that was not related to their career and felt a sense of satisfaction upon that completion. Was it a horrible portrait you painted of your dog? A 14er you summited? A computer you built from scratch? A haiku you scribbled in a bathroom stall? The point is that it does not matter what it is. There is no right way to live and there is no right way to care for yourself. But we all need to seek some sort of joy outside of what we do for a living.

What brings you joy?

We can only identify with our careers so much. When this gets out of balance we lose a sense of our self. Seeking outside activities or hobbies that help to bring us a sense of meaning go a long way toward rebuilding the self and regaining a sense of balance.


About the Author

I provide therapy and counseling for individuals. My style integrates various techniques, but I tailor my approach to each client’s unique needs. I am committed to helping people that experience anxiety resulting from trauma, work-related stress, legal issues or major life transitions. Together, we will work to calm your mind and create lasting change.

2727 Bryant St Suite 430 Denver CO 80203 and People House Denver

720.295.1352 or RichardBrodt@Elevatedcounseling.org; http://elevatedcounseling.org

The Importance of Taking Care ll By Rich Brodt

The Importance of Taking Care

By Rich Brodt for People House Blogs

Folks in the helping professions tend to have pretty good awareness of the idea of self-care. However, that does not always mean we put it into practice. I regularly hear of helping professionals slipping into substance abuse, bad habits and unhealthy relationship patterns regardless of the fact that they are regularly able to help other individuals though the same issues. It is likely that they even talk about self-care with their clients, yet have a difficult time applying the principles to themselves.

Most of us in the helping professions are self-employed and run our own businesses. We tend to identify with our business and genuinely feel the ups and downs, and financial pressures that can lead us to poor self-care.

We will not take time off, because we need to get those appointments in, and meet our year-end goals.

We agonize over a tough case instead of coming home and transitioning out of work mode. We skip a workout to return a call or do some other inane task that will have negligible effect on our business. These things do not help us feel good, and these things do not make us better at our jobs. When we start to lose control of how we take care of ourselves, things become disorganized, jumbled and stressful. We lose track of the borders between our personal and professional lives. This can lead to a state of both exhaustion constant stress.

I believe that exhaustion, stress and anxiety are all made much worse by a lack of boundaries. The boundaries may be absent in one’s work life, one’s home life, or both.

In my experience, if a person has poor boundaries, they usually apply those poor boundaries to all aspects of their lives.

By definition, boundaries are intended to mark limits. Without them, we constantly push past our limits and have little left for ourselves. Since most helping professionals have a tendency to be on the more empathic side, this can have really negative consequences. If we are constantly pushed past our limits, we have a very difficult time trying to regain our center.

When you mention boundaries to a client, they often react with fear at having to set and maintain boundaries. After all, it is not uncommon for the setting of limits to be met with conflict. When you mention them to other professionals they react in much the same way. They do not want to leave their clients high and dry during difficult times.

The desire to help comes from a good place, but often leaves the helper feeling exhausted.

When we lose track of our boundaries we have a hard time differentiating between our own feelings and the feelings of others. This can lead to some difficult situations if we are not careful. If we consistently maintained poor boundaries, we’d all run into an ethical problem eventually.

As far as I am concerned, the first step in taking care of oneself is identifying and setting boundaries. Once we gain more control over our time, we are able to focus on our own needs. My next entry will continue on this topic, focusing on ways to identify and meet our own needs.


 

I provide therapy and counseling for individuals. My style integrates various techniques, but I tailor my approach to each client’s unique needs. I am committed to helping people that experience anxiety resulting from trauma, work-related stress, legal issues or major life transitions. Together, we will work to calm your mind and create lasting change.

2727 Bryant Street Suite 550 Denver, CO 80211

People House Denver, 3035 W. 25th Ave, Denver, CO 80211

On Anthony Bourdain and the Mask of Masculinity ll Rich Brodt

On Anthony Bourdain and the Mask of Masculinity 
By: Rich Brodt

I don’t often ruminate on celebrities passing away. However, this week Anthony Bourdain took his own life. This shocked me and also didn’t shock me. I have been watching his television series’ for the past fifteen years or so. In his earlier work, he was wild, energetic, and probed deep into the cultures he explored. This often involved the consumption of more than a healthy amount of alcohol. Visibly intoxicated on camera, Anthony would wax philosophical, and it became clear to me that his mind was capable of going to some very dark places – this fact has always remained obvious in his humor.

            After those early years, he gained traction and seemed to have more creative control over his programming. He clearly had an eye for cinematography, music and making the viewer feel something visceral. He had a gift that became clear to many, and if one watched from his earlier years he clearly progressed as a person, and seemed to mature, his views softening as he talked about raising his daughter. It looked as though he had dealt with his demons. He avidly studied and trained jiu jitsu, and seemed to get his health issues in order as well.

            Then, on location in France, while in the middle of filming a new episode of his show with one of his closest friends, Eric Ripert, it is reported that he hung himself. This close friend, it is also reported, was the one who had to find him unresponsive that morning. Anthony Bourdain is a man who seemed to have a whole lot going for him. He had a continued spot as a host on an award winning program, and was receiving his paycheck for traveling the world, connecting with people and eating interesting food.

From an outside perspective, many would think of that life as a dream come true. Obviously, it wasn’t.

            The suicide rate in American has been creeping up since the last 1990s. Though woman attempt suicide twice as often, men are 3.5 times more likely to complete a suicide. And white men make up far more than half of all completed suicides in America.

We should be shocked when we read these numbers.

            Looking at the statistics, more of us should be asking why men, and white men in particular, are committing suicide at such high rates. And as I’ve been trying to make sense of Anthony Bourdain’s death, I wondered what role masculinity plays in these suicide rates. In my practice, young men in there 20s and 30s make up a relatively large portion of my clientele. For the most part, if I am their first therapist, they report never having been given the time and space to express themselves in a vulnerable manner. The longer they wait, the harder it is to get them to open up – some resist for months or years. When I ask what the benefit of withholding their emotions has been, most seem stunned to learn that it hasn’t benefited them. Rather, they have seen their relationships dissolve as a result of their lack of emotional awareness.

Instead, most of these men wore masks.

             They had different masks for different people, all of which concealed the pain they were dealing with in their personal lives. They report not wanting to burden others with their emotions, not feeling safe discussing emotions with their partners, receiving messages early on in life that expressing emotion was not OK. This leads to a man who does not know himself. A man who does not know himself has a difficult time finding something in himself that it worth saving.

            So maybe there is some value in this death. Maybe more men can open their eyes to the fact that suffering is not uncommon – that it is OK to admit that one feels pain, and that there is help out there for those willing to seek it, that life can be rich and full of expression. In the end, I don’t know what drove Anthony Bourdain to take his own life, but I do know that he had people around him that would have been willing to help if he asked.

The fact that he didn’t is a tragedy.


Rich Brodt is a former intern at People House, and is currently a co-owner and private practitioner at Elevated Counseling, PLLC in the Highlands area of Denver. Prior to training to become a therapist, Rich practiced as a mental health litigation attorney in New York City, where he first became passionate about the field. Rich draws on knowledge of law, philosophy and poetry, bringing a unique perspective to his sessions. 

Rich’s current practice utilizes a client-centered approach, integrating Gestalt, existential and depth approaches. He focuses his practice trauma and anxiety-related issues, including PTSD, high-stress careers, life transitions and other major stressors. Rich’s first priority in counseling is to create a safe, non-judgmental space, where clients can feel comfortable sharing and processing their most difficult thoughts. 

 

Elevated Counseling, PLLC
2727 Bryant Street Suite 550
Denver, CO 80211
ElevatedCounseling.org
Ph: (720) 295-1352

A Different Kind of Pill ll Rich Brodt

A Different Kind of Pill
By: Rich Brodt

   

   The “red pill” was a concept introduced into American culture by the film, The Matrix, and the symbol has come to mean something like the truth – an ability to view what is really taking place outside of our perception and cultural programming. So when I watched the documentary “The Red Pill,” I expected to receive novel information that would change the way I looked at gender equality, but instead I saw more blaming and little actual progress.

     The film, which purports to be a feminist’s journey into the Men’s Rights movement, ends up being a somewhat heavy handed documentary that accomplishes little in terms of bridging the gap between men and women who both feel that they receive unfair treatment in society. The film does point out several men’s issues that could use more attention. These include the male suicide rate, male treatment in family court and men’s health issues. However, there is rarely any sort of deep inspection as to why these issues arise. The feminists interviewed for the film tended to blame the men for their own problems, painting themselves as unsympathetic to men’s issues. The men interviewed in the film seem unsympathetic to women’s issues. And as a result of how they frame their arguments, a few reveal their own misogynistic thinking. 

      The most immediate response most people have to something going wrong in their life is to immediately look for someone or something on which they can blame their misfortune. As we mature, we are faced with our failings more frequently. We can blame an “other” for this misfortune and easily cede responsibility for fixing it ourselves. However, this leads to inertia and increased defensiveness. If we regularly avoid responsibility for our actions, we need to shout even louder about who is oppressing us in order to justify our continued stagnation. Now this is not to say that oppression doesn’t exist. It does.

     Both men and women experience injustice at the hands of a system meant to laud certain traits in both men in women, while exploiting others. Men fights and die in wars more than women. Men work more dangerous jobs and account for a vast majority of workplace deaths. Women face high rates of sexual violence, sexual assault, and harassment. Women have more difficulty rising to top level job positions in large companies, and are underrepresented in politics. 

      Most sane people would look at the last paragraph and agree that these are all issues we, collectively, should care about. The systems currently in place limit the freedoms of both men and women. Most of us do not carry viewpoints that skew us into polarity on topics of gender equality. However, a very loud minority of people do. These are the voices that we tend to hear. Those that sensationalize facts, manufacture clickbait headlines, and treat identity issues as all-or-nothing endeavors where one side is right while the other is clearly wrong. Few issues are that black and white.

     We live in a polarizing time. The media pushes those stories that are most controversial. Media outlets have been rejuvenated, and given new life by the politicization of their reporting. Controversial headlines mean clicks, and clicks mean money. I would urge all media consumers to question those who seeks to monetize your struggle. The actual red pill involves the ability for all people to take step outside of their respective narratives and work towards a more equal future for everyone. I think empathy is the key. We need to see these problems collectively as, human problems that cannot be remedied without cooperation and collaboration. Dividing our causes by gender lines only worsens the issues.

Citations:
Davies, E & Jaye, C. (2016) The Red Pill. United State of America: Jaye Bird Productions


 Rich Brodt is a former intern at People House, and is currently a co-owner and private practitioner at Elevated Counseling, PLLC in the Highlands area of Denver. Prior to training to become a therapist, Rich practiced as a mental health litigation attorney in New York City, where he first became passionate about the field. Rich draws on knowledge of law, philosophy and poetry, bringing a unique perspective to his sessions. 

Rich’s current practice utilizes a client-centered approach, integrating Gestalt, existential and depth approaches. He focuses his practice trauma and anxiety-related issues, including PTSD, high-stress careers, life transitions and other major stressors. Rich’s first priority in counseling is to create a safe, non-judgmental space, where clients can feel comfortable sharing and processing their most difficult thoughts. 

 

Elevated Counseling, PLLC
2727 Bryant Street Suite 550
Denver, CO 80211
ElevatedCounseling.org
Ph: (720) 295-1352

Losing Connection through Connectivity ll Rich Brodt

Losing Connection through Connectivity

By: Rich Brodt

     An opinion is only that, an opinion. All opinions are valid as they are simply views or judgments based on one’s personal beliefs. Everyone is entitled to them. Everyone has opinions with which others strongly disagree. They are subjective, and certainly not conclusive.

     Opinions aren’t new. However, over the past couple decades we’ve seen the proliferation of social media platforms. It started with websites like MySpace and Friendster and has lead to social media apps like Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and various others that I am probably too out of touch to be fully up to date with. These platforms have some obvious benefits. Many marginalized groups are able to hold safe space in these places, often with anonymity that can protect their identities and allow them to share more freely, allowing feelings of acceptance and validation. This can be life-saving for individuals who feel misunderstood, rejected or isolated from their peers.

     There’s also a very dark side to social media that seems to be growing; it promotes shame for certain groups while attempting to empower others. If you use Facebook, for example, you should understand that there are algorithms in place, which are designed to simply feed you ideas that agree with your worldview. While this is happening on your computer screen, there is another individual who’s beliefs differ from you being fed information that further enforces his beliefs. The more each side continues to be spoon-fed information that justifies their beliefs, the more extreme those beliefs become.

Eventually, we stop seeing people as individuals and start to judge them solely based on their stance on the controversial topic du jour.

     This leads to conflict with no resolution. Both sides, dogmatic in their beliefs name-call, shame and poke one another until the whole thing devolves into chaos. Nothing is resolved. Both sides have their beliefs reinforced again, “I am right, and the other side is either stupid or evil.” Who, with a Facebook account, hasn’t at some point scrolled through an argument over a political post and seen the thread regress into name-calling, with words like “MAGA Moron” or “Libtard” being thrown around? No one wins and the two sides move further away from any common ground.

     This is where we are. We have a cataclysmic income gap, one of the worst healthcare systems of any developed nation, a huge national debt, mass surveillance, and politicians that seem to care less and less about the actual human beings that put them in office. And this is where we will stay if we insist on being so attached to our beliefs and unwilling to empathize with the positions of others. The political climate has been so divisive, so belligerent that many people honestly believe they can’t even have a conversation with another human being based on who that human being voted for, and without any knowledge of why they decided to do so. Let’s call that what it is: ignorant. You can talk all you want about how terrible/disgusting/dumb our current Commander in Chief is, but when you shut people down based on their voicing of an opinion that is different than your own, aren’t you doing exactly what you hate him for doing?

Connection with others, in and of itself, is the key to change.

     However, the connection we seek has damaged us. Social media platforms are exploiting flaws in our psychology. If you don’t believe me, put “facebook designed to be addictive” in your search engine, and you’ll find several articles referencing a Facebook creator’s admission that the platform was designed to exploit “a vulnerability in human psychology,” and that he fears what it is doing to the brains of children who use it regularly. Many of the other social media platforms, I would wager, were designed to exploit that same flaw. In essence, we get addicted to the feedback we get from social media, and so we return to it over and over again. We get a dopamine hit from writing a scathing response to someone. This phenomenon has caused such turmoil in our brains that we are actually giving ourselves a little chemical reward for publicly being terrible to another human being. This is highly disturbing.

     The way I see it, the more we’re looking down into our phones, computers and tablets, then the less we are looking at the faces of people we walk by on the street.

On the internet, things are safer, we can easily pick out the groups that share our opinions and sink comfortably into an echo chamber, where we can avoid true conflict resolution. This echo chamber then reinforces the most extreme parts of an individual’s beliefs by creating an environment where anyone who speaks out, however reasonably, in opposition is immediately ridiculed, bullied, shamed and often threatened. We can’t learn to reason intelligently about topics, and actually address the issues when there is no room for discourse. It is essential that, as individuals, we seek out and dialog with those who are different from us. I don’t think we need to step away from social media entirely, rather, I think we need to spend more time reminding ourselves that every individual we interact with is more than just a simple opinion, more than just a username and avatar, more than a meme. We are far too complex for that sort of reductive thinking.


Rich Brodt is a former intern at People House, and is currently a co-owner and private practitioner at Elevated Counseling, PLLC in the Highlands area of Denver. Prior to training to become a therapist, Rich practiced as a mental health litigation attorney in New York City, where he first became passionate about the field. Rich draws on knowledge of law, philosophy and poetry, bringing a unique perspective to his sessions.

Rich’s current practice utilizes a client-centered approach, integrating Gestalt, existential and depth approaches. He focuses his practice trauma and anxiety-related issues, including PTSD, high-stress careers, life transitions and other major stressors. Rich’s first priority in counseling is to create a safe, non-judgmental space, where clients can feel comfortable sharing and processing their most difficult thoughts.

 

Elevated Counseling, PLLC
2727 Bryant Street Suite 550
Denver, CO 80211
ElevatedCounseling.org
Ph: (720) 295-1352

Finding Sanctuary ll Rich Brodt

Finding Sanctuary

By Rich Brodt

     In my darkest times, I have turned to music. The obsession started early, and I was only 14 or 15 before I was regularly attending concerts with my now lifelong best friend. We were skateboarders at a time when skateboarding was not cool or popular, and we generally just did not find much acceptance within our very conservative hometown. We started making a habit of escaping into the Manhattan for a Saturday matinee at ABC No Rio or CBGB, or convincing one of our unwilling parents to drive us to some obscure punk show 40 miles away. Our parents couldn’t stand their kids dressing like punks and attending what they believed to be very dangerous concerts, which made it all the more vital for us. We’ve shared this connection since, visiting one another in different states to see our favorite bands play. Whenever I felt homesick or down, this music pulled me right out of it. There’s a feeling that comes from screaming and thrashing about with both friends and strangers that is impossible to replicate. It is at once cathartic and connecting. That visceral connection, I think, is the most important part. It gives the outside a place to feel like an insider.

That’s why I fell in love with punk and hardcore music.

     For a long time, I felt like that experience would be difficult to replicate with any other type of music. I loved that punk and hardcore more music was dirty, fast, gritty and to the point. You didn’t have to guess at what people were feeling. Everyone was in it together. If someone fell, 10 hands reached out to pick them up. The singer of the headlining act might pass you the mic to sing for a longer than appropriate portion of the song, or see that you got hurt in the pit and come ask how you’re doing after the show. We met strange people who lived lives we understood nothing about. We leaned against the walls of dirty clubs smoking cigarettes and had our eyes opened to a world of people who lived however they wanted to.

Most importantly, we were experiencing this unknown, surreal world together.

     Early this year, I was on the receiving end of a traumatic event at a hardcore show in Denver. I was injured, though not severely, but the entire incident unfolded unlike anything I had experienced at similar shows for the previous 20 years of my life. My sanctuary was no longer a place of comfort for me.  After I got over my initial disillusionment, I realized that I was already finding experiences here that were fulfilling me elsewhere, and that, perhaps it was the experience of connection that was most important part. Sharing one’s catharsis with other people, makes it that much more powerful. I liken this to the same way one might experience meditating alone versus meditating among a group of people with a singular intention. I came to realize that the scene that I grew up with was not the one I was experiencing in Denver. I couldn’t come to a new city and expect the same beliefs and values to be present. This was difficult for me.

     I was attached to the scene I grew up with, and with the feeling that it provided me when I was a struggling teenager. My attachment made it difficult for me to see opportunities for new experiences. Eventually, it was cemented for me that my identity did not need to be tied to a specific type of music. I needed, instead, to be open to the new experiences, while understanding that any expectations I placed on these new experiences were probably unreasonable. I needed to let go of the idea that my past experiences with music were somehow better or more unique than what other people were getting from the music that moved them.

     I found myself embracing a much more diverse group of musicians and musical genres. I allowed myself to be open to what the new people in my life were interested in listening to. In turn, they opened themselves to the music that was important to me. I’ve now been to countless hip-hop, rock, industrial and even electronic shows, and I’ve found that each is unique in what is offers. Each is valuable, and cathartic in its own right. Each was shared with me by someone who is deeply moved by that type of music, which has enriched my experiences greatly.

Music has always been an outlet for those who struggle.

     I believe we connect to the darkness, pain, joy and love that music is capable of creating. Perhaps it is a way for one person to  briefly connect with another as they pass in the dark, and these connections are moments of light.. These are the moments when, despite feeling separate or different from society as a whole, we can be a part of something bigger, deeper and more powerful. It’s where we find our people – the ones who give us hope through our hardest times, the ones who let us know that we belong to something bigger.


Rich Brodt is a former intern at People House with the Affordable Counseling Program, and is currently a co-owner and private practitioner at Elevated Counseling, PLLC in the Highlands area of Denver. Prior to training to become a therapist, Rich practiced as a mental health litigation attorney in New York City, where he first became passionate about the field. Rich draws on knowledge of law, philosophy and poetry, bringing a unique perspective to his sessions.

2727 Bryant Street Suite 550
Denver, CO 80211
ElevatedCounseling.org
Ph: (720) 295-1352

Erasing Shame ll Rich Brodt

Erasing Shame

By: Rich Brodt

            The Oxford English Dictionary defines darkness as both an absence of light, and as wickedness or evil. I take the former to refer to an overall state of literal or figurative darkness. One might say that America is in a time of darkness. Trust in the system is at an all time low due to the actions of our leaders, and people are figuratively in the dark as a result of the media’s inability to consistently report accurate facts. The first definition is easy enough to take at face value, but the second definition gives me pause. Under that second definition, “wickedness or evil,” the Dictionary lists several sub-definitions such as “[u]nhappiness or gloom,” “[s]ecrecy or mystery,” and “[l]ack of spiritual or intellectual enlightenment; ignorance.”

            These definitions are fascinating. They explain the definition of darkness as “wickedness or evil.”

These definitions indicate that unhappiness, gloom, secrecy, and a lack of enlightenment are essentially evil or wicked. Some of the purportedly evil things are the same words we might use to describe mental health issues. “Gloom” or “unhappiness” could easily refer to a depressed individual’s state of mind – and this is how we are defining wickedness or evil. 

            The stigma of mental illness has improved somewhat over the years, however, these are still the messages that society sends to unhappy people. If you are unhappy, something within you must be flawed. The definition treats the negative feelings more like unwanted interlopers than valid emotion. Yet the definition merely reflects what is readily observable in American culture. We are taught to praise the image of a person who is ascending, succeeding, working hard, living a “happy” life. Depression is not depicted as a natural part of life, instead it is portrayed as a defect, a character flaw. I believe this is because we are made uncomfortable by another’s pain.

So on top of sending the message that it is not okay to be depressed, we are also asking depressed individuals to hide their true emotions in order to make us more comfortable.

            These messages force people into hiding, severing connections that are essential to individual growth and positive thinking. By avoiding these uncomfortable topics, we send the message that they are taboo. As a result, negative feelings are suppressed. It seems that this is often followed by detachment and aloofness. Our discomfort with another’s pain causes them to suppress further. Others, sensitive to these messages from an early age, may adopt a false persona to blend in with the people they perceive as normal. This can be dangerous. The continued effort of suppressing one’s true self around other people is exhausting. When an individual suppresses their feelings to this extent it eventually leads to worsening levels of depression, self-harm, and isolation.          

            As a culture, we want people to be “happy.” However, happiness is not meant to be a permanent state. If happiness was permanent, there would be no drive to grow or to improve one’s self. A state of bliss is a nice vacation, but if we stayed there we would probably have far fewer chances to evolve. Stress, anxiety, tragedy, grief and trauma are all a part of the process of becoming who we are. The more we shut ourselves off from the darkness that life challenges us with, the less we are able to accommodate and appreciate moments of light.

            This is largely why I feel that therapists need to spend time working through the taboo thoughts that their client may be having, normalizing them and allowing the individual to understand the reasons for them. For example, at some point, most of us will counsel someone on the verge of losing a loved one. Sometimes, the client will shamefully reveal that the relative’s suffering is so difficult to bare that they would prefer if their loved one would die already. While the statement is impactful, it is not bad or wrong. It can be shocking since the statement is inherently hopeless. However, this shows me that the individual is open to their feelings and not detaching from them. The individual usually feels shame and guilt around even having such thoughts. When they do, I try to remind them that what they are thinking is natural. The mind tries to find a way to relieve itself from suffering. Fantasizing that this person has already passed does exactly that – allows the mind to envision a situation where the suffering has ceased. It provides a comfort.

It is important to normalize this thought process, allowing the client to see there is no reason to feel shame.

            This process can be used to facilitate the processing of other similarly taboo thoughts a client may experience. I believe that there is a reason for every thought; for negative/dark/taboo thought, the reason is usually related to some kind of emotional or physical pain that the individual needs escape from. If that unwanted thought can be traced to something distressing, the individual can begin to understand why the dark thoughts started to emerge. This helps to relieve feelings of shame, and keeps the client moving forward free of judgment.


References

Darkness. (2017). In Oxford.  Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/darkness.


About the Author: Rich Brodt is a Registered Psychotherapist and former attorney with over 7 years of mental health treatment experience. He is especially interested in working with trauma, grief, existential themes in counseling, and the link between psychology and philosophy. He is currently in private practice conducting group and individual therapy at Elevated Counseling, PLLC 2727 Bryant Street Suite 550, Denver, CO 80211 and can be reached at (720) 295-1352 for scheduling inquiries.

The Art of Darkness ll Rich Brodt

The Art of Darkness

By: Rich Brodt

     I sat across the aisle from my classmate, Kyle, on a bus filled with counseling students from our master’s degree program. We were heading back to campus from a day trip to Taos, NM. Kyle and I were engaged a lively discussion about our favorite horror movies. As our conversation turned to some more obscure titles and topics, another student eventually turned around to express that our conversation was a bit morbid. With seeming disgust, the student questioned why someone would be drawn to such dark topics as a source of entertainment.

     I was familiar with this tone. It rang with both curiosity and mild disgust. My tastes in the darker side of art had been questioned by friends, romantic partners, teachers, parents and others throughout my life. Truthfully, I had not seriously questioned these interests until after the brief incident on the bus. I did, however, observe that most of the people in my life looked at some of my interests in a negative light. On that bus, I also observed that many individuals working towards a career in the counseling profession, where judgment is frowned upon, had no problem chiming in to let us know that the subject matter was a bit offensive to their sensibilities. As I continue to consider the idea of why some of us are drawn to darkness, the answer seems simple. These pursuits are therapeutic.

     When watching a horror movie, one is faced with the uncanny, the mysterious, the obscene and the paranormal. In a sense, these are concepts of unreality in that what we see in horror movies does not reflect the world’s present reality, except in rare circumstances. As a result, the movie creates a world that is separate from our own. It is a fantastical surrogate, used to represent the atrocities of our world without forcing us to witness those atrocities in a reality that is too familiar to us. It is inhabited by fictitious people and entities playing out fictitious stories. In this alternate reality, the viewer can safely engage in fantasy and take on any role from hero to perpetrator of evil. This feels permissible because the fantasy takes place in a setting so removed from reality. The viewer has a safe place to explore their most distressing, unwanted desires without slipping into a place of self-judgment, and without inflicting harm on others. This is cathartic. 

     Catharsis is not without value, but there is deeper work to do. This is where both art and therapy can play a larger role in allowing the individual to process the emotions related to horrific or scary thoughts.

     Personally, poetry was the medium I chose to explore darkness. The lens of the poet allowed me to take my most negative thoughts and twist them into beautiful language. Using this lens to explore my psyche, I could see light and dark integrate to form a more complete picture. I saw myself expressed on the page and accepted the positive and negative as equally important parts of my personal narrative. They were not good thoughts and bad thoughts, they were simply different thoughts, the integration of which allowed me to feel whole, and the denial of which made me feel disconnected. Poetry was a door to vulnerability that allowed me share myself with others on a deep level. I no longer needed to live in denial of what I believed were unacceptable feelings and thoughts. It was a starting point to self-awareness and self-acceptance.

     Writing worked well for me and has become an essential part of my mental health, but counselors can foster the same kind of exploration in their sessions if they are willing to go there with clients, fostering an atmosphere where these thoughts can be explored, imagined, experienced and processed.

     The clinician can use a variety of skills to accomplish this. If the clinician senses that a client is keeping something hidden, they may inquire about this, maintaining a non-judgmental stance, the clinician can ask the individual about songs or other movies they may be connecting with at present. Jungian depth work would also be helpful in helping a client connect to some of their thoughts that they may shy away from. Having the option to provide the clinician with an image or metaphor representing a thought should let clients feel safer disclosing and processing. This creates separation from the client’s inner thoughts, allowing them to process a representation of their thought when the thought itself is too difficult to swallow. That being said, it is not necessarily the method that will make a difference, but the willingness to dialog with the client about these thoughts creates a space where self-acceptance is possible amid unacceptable thoughts. Without a route to accept and process such thoughts, an individual may avoid or deny these thoughts, seeing them as taboo. This closes an individual off to vulnerability and can lead to destructive behaviors, such as self-harm, substance abuse and various other unwanted behaviors.


Rich Brodt is a former intern at People House, and is currently a co-owner and private practitioner at Elevated Counseling, PLLC in the Highlands area of Denver. Prior to training to become a therapist, Rich practiced as a mental health litigation attorney in New York City, where he first became passionate about the field. Rich draws on knowledge of law, philosophy and poetry, bringing a unique perspective to his sessions. 

Rich’s current practice utilizes a client-centered approach, integrating Gestalt, existential and depth approaches. He focuses his practice trauma and anxiety-related issues, including PTSD, high-stress careers, life transitions and other major stressors. Rich’s first priority in counseling is to create a safe, non-judgmental space, where clients can feel comfortable sharing and processing their most difficult thoughts. 

Elevated Counseling, PLLC
2727 Bryant Street Suite 550
Denver, CO 80211
ElevatedCounseling.org
Ph: (720) 295-1352

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth