The Grandmother Tree

by Duffy Spencer, Westbury, NY


She stood before me

Her cascading splendor calling me.

I walked inside of her

In awe, I cried


Great mother,

You spread yourself out

to leave room

inside your womb.


Your branches shelter me.

I rest within you.


Your limbs are old and knarled

Your body deeply grounded

Your leaves rich and green


I sing, Oh mother

I am calling your child

seeking healing


I rest on her branches

I hold her

She envelops me

ancient, yet new



the Great Out Doors

I feel your presence

alive inside me.

Self-Esteem Building Therapy

Ventilation Writing

A formula to manage your feelings is:  claim them, name them, tame them and aim them! The process of taking charge begins with putting a name on a problem. But some feelings are harder to own up to than others; glad is easier to take responsibility for than mad or sad. Yet all feelings, whether justified or not, are valid. Anger and sadness may be unwelcome to us, but as real gut experiences, we must recognize and address them.


After naming and claiming, we have to ventilate our feelings as well - but how and to whom?  Have you ever regretted revealing confidences, being fearful your confidant would turn on you, now equipped with goods?


The most private way to ventilate you feelings is to write them down. Writing to air your feelings is not like writing for posterity or for you freshman English. Forget about penmanship, grammar and punctuation; this is "free writing" and you should concentrate only on getting your grievances or emotions down on paper- no matter how they come out. I recommend using free writing for at least five minutes a day when you are upset, to help you focus in on problems and regain control, Students and professionals report it's an easy exercise. (Writing at your desk is hardly suspicious!) A highly effective culmination to free writing is to energetically tear your paper into shreds. It adds an extra kick, a kind of catharsis that allows you to deposit your feelings, along with your shredded paper into the trash. Problems will take a header or at least return to a manageable size.


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Articles Written by Dr. Duffy

"They're Trying to Kill Us!"

Having a Good Life in Spite of it All


Our sense of security has been lost. The "age of innocence" is gone forever. We are vulnerable and scared...and waiting for the next shoe to drop.


Much has already been written about coping with America's new war. The best information includes a) returning to your usual routine,  b) talking about your feelings to trusted people c) exercising appropriate caution d) giving help wherever we can.


There are three additional strategies we can utilize:  Living Our Values, Grounding Ourselves and Discharging Our Emotions


1. Living Our Lives

The Chinese have two symbols for the word "crisis".  One is danger and the other is opportunity.


Having to compromise some of our civil liberties for security purposes, a down-turning economy, fear of sickness or loss of life has compelled us to re-evaluate who we as individuals, who we are as a nation and how we can live our lives with a sense of conscious purpose.


The down times in our lives can be likened to valleys.  There is much fertile ground in the valleys of our lives, just as natural valleys are reposit with nutritious rainwater.  This is a fertile time to question our life choices, what we value and how we actually spend our time.


Many Americans have reported a newfound appreciation of and desire to be closer to their families. Literally overnight just simply being together is enough...and we've re-learned to take pleasure in the simple children so readily do. Now is a good time to sit down and consider what you really want in life and to dedicate your time specifically  to those goals. This time of crisis is not the best time to actually make major life changes but to engage in a process of values clarification.  It's also a time to keep our side of the street "clean" and to recognize that when someone bullies us, they are often operating out of great despair and dissatisfaction. One reason the have-nots of the world want to destroy us is because we have so much.  While each of us has worked hard for what we have, we can be mindful of the American consumeristic culture and to take a closer look at time and relationship over having things. Less can definitely be more.


As a nation we can also enter into a dialogue with underdeveloped countries and learn what they truly want in order to explore how we can all live together fairly and peacefully. A final item to re-evaluate is the role of worry in our psyches...and to be mindful that worry doesn't change anything other than causing us more anxiety. So doing what we can and letting go of the rest is where our power lies.


2. Grounding Ourselves

This is a time when projections of the future run rampant. "Someone is out to get us" is not "paranoid"...but a legitimate fear. The question is how we can separate an understandable apprehension from panic and a lost perspective.


One thing we can do is to stay grounded in our own bodies: i.e. to truly be in our own skin and be mindful of the difference between present moments and future projections. Short of looking carefully at our mail and strangers in crowds, we need to concentrate on the daily decisions of living. What time do I get up? What do I wear? What will I eat? Who will I be spending time with? What will I be doing? How can I get my necessary rest? And to take extra care to concentrate in being present in the here and now...for that is all we have. We have this moment and no other. We can choose to revel in it and enjoy it as the gift of life it is. My favorite affirmation along these lines is "wonderful is now: Whenever I find myself distracted by theses horrendous events, I repeat to myself "wonderful is now" and I re-establish my living in the moment at hand.


3. Discharging Our Emotions

When emotions run strong, there is a need to express them in some form. While feelings may be based upon inappropriate thinking they are still very real in the body and are experienced  as electrical charges. The key is to discharge or release these feelings else they get submerged and lost. In an atmosphere where it is not customary and even frowned upon to talk about feelings...especially unpleasant ones, this is a necessary thing to do for the full recovery of our normal lives (though normal is being redefined).


Much has been written by Elizabeth Kubler Rosse about the six stages of grieving major losses. They are shock, denial, bargaining, anger, depression & acceptance.


One stage especially problematic for women is anger. Its expression is often tabooed. Yet it's a necessary stage to pass through. We cannot wish away our feelings. They exist and need to be acknowledged and expressed in some way. When we find ourselves overwhelmed and distracted from what is going on in the moment, we can use a particular strategy formulated by John Lee called "the Detour Method". The Detour Method simply means to take a detour away from the current situation, to step aside from that feeling for a while and not act out in the present moment (which may be inappropriate). The method involves finding a safe and trustworthy place to vent out our feelings and ignore the usual rules of punctuation, penmanship, spelling, grammar, etc. and then destroy what we've written for the sake of our own personal confidentiality.  If we are alone, we can choose to "physicaliz" our feelings through healthy outlets such as jumping up and down, yelling, beating up pillows, twisting towels and the like.


Each of these three strategies are quick & easy and cost no money. Yet they are profoundly empowering and offer us a vehicle to stay grounded and centered in an uncertain world.


Dr. Duffy Spencer, social psychologist, therapist, author, specializes in personal empowerment and home and at work. A national speaker, corporate trainer and radio talk show host, Dr. Spencer has a private coaching & counseling practice in Westbury and is the founder of WINGS weekly groups and seasonal retreats. She can be reached at or 516-334-8985.


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