Play Therapy by Gary Landreth

“In those early years of my professional development, experience the unconditional acceptance of children was a profound experience.  They did not wish I were more or less.  I experienced children accepting me for what I was at that moment.  They did not try to change me or make me different in some way.  They liked me the way I was.  I did not have to pretend.  I discovered I could just be…

My early interactions with children in play therapy awakened in me a deep appreciation for the unfolding process of life as experienced by children and in turn a new appreciation for the process of my own life, not as something to change, or undo, or overcome, or prove the worth of but to appreciate and live out the excitement of the process of being…”


6:53am  Before bed last night I was still bothered by my weigh in earlier in the week.  It feels like my self- control isn’t what it used to be and that translates into a personal failure.  But then I reason I could easily lose the body fat just by drinking more water and weighing myself after my period is over.  And I know how unreasonable I am being about it.  I am only at 104 and my body fat is still in the high end of the low range.  I’m hoping that by slowing down on the recovery pads and using more energy on the machines I will get to where I want to be.  Wherever that is…

8:08am  Anxiety again.  I had a flash of anxiety over WIC checks again and imagined myself getting fired.  I felt anxious and nervous and stupid and I felt sick over explaining what happened at work to Aunt Elaine, to Mom, and to the women at the gym.  I feel absolutely sick at the idea and it brings me to the edge of tears.

My next point of anxiety came from remembering what I said to a friend earlier in the week.  I told her, while I was in the midst of justifying my weight gain, that I justified everything I did or felt.  I told her that I really didn’t think she understood what I meant when I said everything.  This morning I feel like that was a stupid, overly dramatic, statement (even if it is true), and that I was stupid for making that statement.  It’s as if I overly exposed myself and I worry what she, what everyone, thinks of me.

I’m anxious over my weight gain but more so over feeling that I am letting my self-control and willpower slip.  It’s absolutely ridiculous, I know, but it’s as if…if I am not perfect (whatever that is), if I am not doing the right things (according to what?), I am not worthy to be loved.  Oh, she put on a few pounds…she’s lazy, stupid, self-indulgent, fat, ugly, a pig…and it is not just my weight.  It’s a lot of other things too.  Spending money when I really shouldn’t.  Doing other things when I should be doing homework.  Not dedicating myself to spending hours and hours and hours to doing every single bit of reading assigned to us.  For not getting A’s every single term and for getting A’s and feeling as if I haven’t really earned them.  For making light and minimizing the few accomplishments I have achieved…

I don’t mean to have this blog turn out to be a pity party.

Blankets, Rituals, and Defense

Some people are gifts, pure and simple.  It’s been a really long time since I last realized this.  And I know it sounds corny but for someone like me it is a really big, really intense realization.  Just as a general way of coping I tend to kinda cut myself off from people.  I mean, I’m there, I interact but I’m not really there, if you know what I mean.  It scares me otherwise.  I am easily scared of being hurt, of doing or saying the wrong thing, of being rejected.  It’s like wrapping myself up in a scratchy wool blanket for all of my life.  It keeps be warm, protects me, and generally does its job.  Then when I interact with certain people it is like being caressed by a silky soft down comforter and a whole new world is glimpsed.  For a moment I think, “I am valued.  There is something to love here.”  On the other hand, being that I am only familiar with the scratchy side of things I am uncertain and cautious and sometimes uncomfortable with the relaxation of defenses that the silky down comforter coaxes. And again, I get fearful.  Relaxing my defenses is really scary for me.

Vulnerability is something I really have a hard time with.  Last night was my first Art Therapy with Children class.  At one point we were asked to participate in an experiential exercise.  Our first task was to imagine and create, through pantomime, the safe play spaces we had as children.  The professor went first.  She had preluded her demonstration by telling the class about how she used to make nests in the woods near her house and so this is what she acted out.  I cannot accurately describe how uncomfortable I felt watching my professor gather imaginary branches and push around imaginary leaves and then to lay down in the middle of this imaginary nest.  As a handful of classmates followed her lead, my feelings of discomfort varied in intensity.  Where my classmates observed this imaginary play the most I could do was glance up from my lap from time to time.  I spent most of the time gripping my arms and staring down at my lap, praying for the exercise to end.

On the other hand, when we were given more detailed instructions and required to participate, my discomfort eased somewhat.  Then as we progressed into exploring the comfort of rituals in play I felt even more comfortable as we sung as a group and enacted all of the parts of, “Itsy, Bitsy, Spider,” and “I’m a Little Teapot.”  I was. by no means, ready to go all out but I no longer boarded on the edge of a phobia.

This morning I wondered if a sense of a ritual is perhaps what attracts me to Curves as a gym.  Ever since teachers started providing my daydreaming mind with more structure in the classroom I think I have found comfort in knowing exactly what people expect, knowing exactly how and when to do something, and if done right, knowing exactly what results to expect.  There is a certain amount of desire for approval and a fear of rejection involved in that.  And so I’ve come full circle, again.

It’s difficult to protect a heart so vulnerable.

This is my heart bleeding before you…


I was thinking about how my bachelor uncle and I are so similar.  We’re both loners, more or less, for our own reasons.  I know I at least have no overwhelming inclination to be permanently attached to someone of the opposite sex.  Although it was nice to have a guys arms around me.  You see I don’t have much experience with guys.  I was never one of the girls who went out every other weekend with a group of friends or a guy.  I was home. always. isolated. scared.  

Sadly, I have never had much experience with any kind of peer socializing.  Whenever I did participate in group activities I was never comfortable, never at ease, and can’t remember ever really being able to enjoy myself with uninhibited abandon, ever.  I have always been so self-conscious that it has hurt me in more ways than one.  My feelings of joy and excitement have felt muted for as long as I can remember.  My feelings of fear, embarrassment, sadness, and psychic pain have seemed more acute. And yet being aware of this does not make it any easier.  Knowing your fear, admitting your fear, doesn’t make it any easier to overcome.  For as long as I can remember I have tended to live my life with an avoidance of pain in mind.  I have made some minute progress I think, as I age through my later 20s, but at this rate I’ll be eighty before I am able to live life the way it is meant to be lived.  I’m impatient.  I need to learn to cope better with my apparent extreme vulnerability to negative emotions.

I never really understood the girls went all crazy over a guy.  Even the cute guys who come through my line at work or the cute guys on t.v. are nothing to squeal, rant, rave, and go totally out of proportion over.  I don’t get it.  My problem is that in watching t.v and movies it is the romantic situation that draws feeling out of me more than anything else.  Colonel Brandon, from Sense and Sensibility, pining away.  Professor Baer and Jo March from Little Women.  Unrealistic expectations.  This is what I base my perceptions on since I do not have reality in which to base them.

No guy ever seems to look twice at me anyway.  If there were any interesting guys around I’d end up bungling it up and looking like an idiot.  I’d rather save myself the embarrassment.  But then nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  If only I could find someone worth my time, attention, and heart.

I’m so weary of going it alone.

Image or Mirage



A lot of people who know me now don’t know, to look at me, I used to be fat.  In high school (see pic above) I weighed roughly 162 pounds,  I was part of the “might as well have one more cookie” club and I was unhappy.  I used to lay in bed at night and think, “Oh, if I could only lose 20 pounds I would be so much happier.”

My first year of college I went away to a school that was closer to my Dad’s family and during the course of that year my Aunt set me on the path to weight loss.  Not only was I achieving a dream of mine during this time but I finally had a concrete way to win the love and approval of a beloved family member.  I lived for the days when she excitedly weighed me on her bathroom scale and declared, “We’re going to have to go shopping again!”

Fast forward a few years to when Mom introduces me to Curves.  I am fresh out of college and starting a new well paying job that, I was soon to discover, I hated.  Now not only did I have a scale to measure my self-esteem by, I had body-fat, inches lost or gained, and the frequency of how often I attended the gym.  Shortly after starting Curves, I got myself fired from my nice well-paying job.  Some months later I started another job which I also came to dislike, although not as intensely.  It was during this time that I began meticulously monitoring what I was eating.  My new job left me mostly alone with far too much time to think.  Anyone who knows me knows that, on many days, this is far from a good thing.  Slowly this evolves into monitoring when I eat as well as what I have eaten.

Fast forward a few more years and I am counting every walk, every stroll through a store, and every calorie eaten or drunk.  Even as built muscle mass, every expenditure, or lack thereof, of energy is monitored out of the fear of gaining back what I had lost.  There have been so many stories of yo-yo dieters who often lose and then gain back some or all of their weight.  I have been so strict on myself  out of fear of becoming one of those statistics.  I would/will not let my willpower deviate.  While I never made it as far as freaking out if I had so much as a piece of lettuce I still carry a lot of guilt over what I eat.  I imagined/ imagine it as a failing on my part if I were to gain.  My concept of success in this area was greatly skewed by my subconsciously connecting it to love and approval from friends, family, and even strangers.  To gain that weight back is to lose that love and approval; it is a feeling of being even less lovable heavy.  Losing weight I earned love and approval.  That feeling is still a big part of me.

I am getting better though.  It has been about three weeks since I made an entry into my electronic (via ipod) food log.  Although I still mentally keep track of what I am eating and what I can ‘allow’ myself to eat.  And I am still very dedicated to the gym, though I rarely weigh and measure myself.  I maintain my dedication to the gym more as an act of sublimation and catharsis more than anything else, I think.

I love my Aunt very much and I am supremely grateful for her love and support during my weight loss.  She is the one person I feel I can confide in, although not without the natural reservations that are a part of my temperament.  We are close, I think.

I had a therapist once who asked me if I thought my relationship with my Aunt would be the same if I hadn’t lost the weight.  I’d like to think so; I hope so, but I wonder…  I mean it is unrealistic to think that my weight loss has nothing to do with our relationship but…

Am I happy now?  Happier, certainly but it is not entirely because of my weight.  I have purpose now, I know what I want to do, what is important to me, and I have perspective.  I won’t be any less driven to maintain my weight loss but for me, right now, purpose and perspective are what make me happy.


These are a few of my favorite things…

A few years ago I read a blog that had readers or other contributors submit a list of things that make them happy.  So last night I began thinking about what makes me happy.  This is what I came up with.  Some are imaginary, others are real experiences, some are wishes, and this list is by no means complete.

Frequenting a funky cafe in San Francisco almost every day

Watching the sun rise from a porch overlooking a pine forest and mountains with a heavenly cup of something warm and breakfast

Finding friends who’ll love you when you are having a hard time loving yourself

Looking over nearly 20 years worth of journals

Writing and working in those journals


Art Supplies


Making, from scratch, and eating chocolate chip cookies without caring about calories and fat

The smell of wet wood and leaves after it has rained

The exertion that comes from shoveling snow

Perfumes or Colognes that remind you of your parents or grandparents or other favorite people

Seeing something somewhere that a friend would like

Whipped Cream (the manufactured kind from a can)

Having school work, or efforts made at a job, praised

Being valued (Being appreciated)

The unconditional love of a pet

The satisfaction of having earned something (reaching a goal)

Hot buttered biscuits


Herbal Teas




What makes you happy?