The Psychology of Knitting

large_knitting_yarns_istock_MediumWhat do I mean writing about the psychology of knitting? Knitting is a hobby. How can there be any psychology about making things out of yarn? What the heck is this psychology thing about? I’ve been toying with writing this post for a while. You see, I am a knitter. I am one of those people who rarely sits quietly and gets completely absorbed in a TV program or movie in my own home. I often have a knitting project in my hands while I’m ‘watching TV or relaxing at home.

So, why do I knit? People cheerfully point out to me that it isn’t cost-effective. vunaWhy buy yarn (not a cheap investment) then spend weeks or months on a project, when I could go to any department store and purchase something that has been mass-produced for a fraction of the cost, and zero time investment? If I just wanted a sweater, or a blanket, or any old hat, I could do that. I could go to a department store and purchase an adequately produced product for not much money and very little time investment. Knitting is not about saving money, or being efficient with your time. If it were, people would have given up knitting decades (maybe even a century or more) ago.

shoes-536073_640When I was a child, my Mother never sat down without having something in her hands to work on. She was always knitting or crocheting something for someone. She rarely made anything for herself. I still have the afghan she made for me when I was 19 and newly living independently. When I’m feeling sick, it is often the only blanket that will comfort me. It is a way for me to be connected, once again, to my Mother’s hands. It is a way for me to feel her love again, even though she has been dead for over a decade now. My niece still has the baby blanket that my Mom made for her, and it is one of her most treasured possessions. I own a beautiful green cardigan that my Mother-In-Law knitted for me before she had ever met me. It connects me to her in much the same way that the afghan my Mother knitted connects me to her. My Mother-In-Law passed away this July. I haven’t been able to wear my beautiful green cardigan since she died, because it has been too warm. But I took it out of the closet yesterday, and held it in my hands. I felt her spirit with me while my sweater was in my hands.

I find it much easier to complete knitting projects that are intended for download (17)someone else than the ones intended for me. I guess that’s partly accounted for by the reality that I know what it feels like to be given something hand-made. I know what I feel like when someone has lovingly crafted something specifically for me. I want to share that feeling more than I want to give something to myself.

I was knitting in a doctor’s waiting room one day, while waiting my turn. A 9241389893_221ac313bc_zyoung girl, about 12 years old asked me about what I was doing. I explained to her that I was knitting. I showed her the ball of yarn, and the stitches on the needles, and explained that eventually what I was working on would become a sweater. She looked at me in amazement. She said, “You mean you will carefully make each stitch and count each section out until you have made a sweater??? I don’t think I could ever have that much patience!” I talked to her about the reality that knitting helps me to feel present in the moment. I don’t bother about the finished project while I’m busy working on it. I get lost in the stitches right in front of me. Each stitch, each row, each section becoming its own goal. It may be similar to the way athletes only focus on the goal immediately in front of them (like improving their time, or winning THIS game, or making it up the next section of the mountain). It is a type of patience which has served me well during my life.

child_knittingI learned to knit as a child. When I was in high school, I was completing complex sweater patterns. I think the patience and practical coping skills I learned from being a knitter helped me to cope when I was putting myself through college and working and parenting children all at the same time. Just like staying focused on the row in front of me, as a student, I stayed focused on the specific homework assignment, or paper, or test I needed to prepare for. I stayed present. I dealt with each day and let the following days guide me.

I had forgotten about knitting until the past few years. I was busy raising children and focusing on my career. When my img-thingMother-In-Law knitted that beautiful green cardigan for me, she reignited my passion. It was a gift that she may not have known the value of. I love my cardigan. I love that wearing it opened up the part of me that loves to knit. I am not a knitting expert. I’m just a woman who understands that being patient, taking on a challenge, and investing time in creating something pays off, in ways that can’t be compared to a cheap garment purchased from a department store.

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How Can I Be Happy?

download (14)We all want to be happy, right? But being happy can seem elusive. It’s like nailing jello to a tree…trying to be happy just tends to make happiness slip through our fingers…or our thoughts…or blow away like feathers on a breeze. Continue reading

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What’s Wrong With These People????

Hewlett-PackardWhy do some people always grumble and complain? Why do some act as if they are entitled….to your kindness, your understanding, your generosity? What is wrong with people who are ungrateful and/or demanding? We’ve all met someone like this. Everyone has likely had the experience of knowing someone that they dread seeing, because the inevitable ungratefulness is draining. Or, the demands they make are unrealistic and just plain annoying. Continue reading

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Recovering From Childhood Trauma

If you had trauma in your childhood, you are not alone. Many children are neglected, abused emotionally, physically, and/or sexually. It happens, way too frequently. The 9214235312_2303b1f027_oway children cope with trauma is to literally “freeze” the memory. Sometimes later in life, the memories that were frozen begin to thaw. These times can be frightening, even to an adult. The intensity of the emotion can feel overwhelming, and the traumatic event(s) can feel as if they are happening in the present moment.

If this has happened to you as an adult, you are not crazy. You aren’t over-reacting. You are just coping with past trauma in the best way you can. The good news is that you download (13)don’t have to cope alone. There are people available to help. Therapists who are trained in trauma recovery know how to help you through these types of emotional events. Even someone who isn’t a therapist, a supportive and loving presence, can help you. The most important thing for you to know is that what you feel emotionally is not abnormal. You are not abnormal. You are just recovering from trauma.

flat,550x550,075,fIf you have had traumatic events happen to you in your childhood, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to heal. Seek out caring, competent professionals who know how to guide you through the healing process. And most of all, do not listen to anyone who tells you that there is something wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you. There never has been. You are just a human, doing what humans do when they are traumatized. You are not crazy. You are not beyond help. You are deserving of the most loving, tender help available.

If you experienced trauma as a child, and you are living with depression or 10011940914_cf5f00977f_oanxiety as an adult, give yourself permission to have some help on your healing journey.

Call me if you’d like to make an appointment to talk more: 831-214-8087.

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A Palpable New Excitement

playful-441478_640Yes, that’s correct, I am filled with a palpable new excitement. I attended a Level I workshop on EFT this past weekend, in Emeryville California. EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques, and it is a form of energy therapy. My workshop was taught by Steven Kessler, MFT, who is an EFT Expert and Trainer. He taught the class with a boat load of insight, humor, and tenderness. I left the first day feeling inspired and exhausted. I left the second day feeling even more hopeful, inspired, and completely saturated with my new knowledge. Continue reading

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Depression, It’s Not “All In Your Head”

downloadWhat would it mean if depression became a medical diagnosis, instead of a mental health diagnosis? According to an article published in the Huffington Post on 9/16/2014, there may soon be a laboratory test for depression. Yes, just like you go and get your blood tested for diabetes, there may soon be a lab test for depression. The hope is that if this test is approved, and people can be diagnosed more accurately, some of the stigma of a diagnosis of depression may be lifted. Dr. Eva Redei, Ph.D., and lead investigator for this diagnostic test, says that she believes the test proves that depression, or the ability to recover from depression, “is not a matter of will.”

I agree in theory with what Dr. Redei hopes to achieve. It is time for the stigma of any mental illness to be discarded, like the practice of blood-letting. The Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_002idea that we can separate disorders of mood and mental well-being from the physical body is archaic and ludicrous. It’s as if the general population would like to believe that people choose to be depressed, anxious, obsessive, etc. No one would ever choose to feel stigmatized and isolated by a set of symptoms which overwhelm, confuse and frustrate. Yes, if this lab test reduces or eliminates the stigma of depression, that would be a gift to the world. There is also potential for the test to assess the accuracy of treatment. If lab markers can identify clinical depression, in theory they should also be able to identify improvement.

Zoloft_bottlesAs a therapist, this raises many questions for me. Would the treatment of depression then be relegated only to medical doctors? Right now, research supports that cognitive-behavioral therapy (talk therapy focused on changing thoughts and behaviors) is equally as effective as antidepressant medication in alleviating the symptoms of depression. Many people choose a combination of antidepressant medication and sessions with a qualified therapist. Would the presence of a lab test prevent individuals for making this choice? I hope not. I hope that this lab test, if it is ever approved and marketed, would increase a person’s ability to seek appropriate treatment, and would help professionals know if their treatments are effective. That would be the best outcome for everyone.

quotes-1162No, depression is not a matter of will. Recovery is often a long and painful process, even with appropriate intervention. And, because of the stigma of mental illness, many people go without diagnosis or treatment. Those who are treated are often inadequately treated, or suffer relapse after relapse. Imagine having a broken limb that just won’t heal in spite of efforts to achieve healing with a variety of medical professionals. If you know someone who is suffering with depression, or any other mental health diagnosis, do not assume you know their suffering. Don’t assume they could be happy if they just decided to. Respect them enough to offer the same type of compassion you would offer to someone struggling with diabetes, or heart disease, or any other chronic health condition.

If you are struggling with feelings of sadness, crying for no reason, finding that you have trouble sleeping or that you sleep too much, contact a clinical-depression-testprofessional sooner rather than later. There is help available. Do not suffer needlessly. And please, do not let what people might think of you keep you from getting appropriate care.

Call me at: 831-214-8087 if you would like an appointment.

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It’s February…Love Is In The Air

RSAF_Black_Knights_-_Love_is_in_the_airIt’s February, love is in the air! February in the US is the month of cupid arrows and love songs, with February 14 marking Valentine’s Day. My darling husband calls Valentine’s Day….as well as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretary’s Day and many more ‘holidays’ Hallmark Holidays. For those of you who live in another part of the world, Hallmark is a gift card manufacturer. True enough, there are many ‘holidays’ that it seems are more about selling things than anything else. But I find the theme of love to be one that is both exhilarating and perplexing. Continue reading

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What Would You Do If You Had Millions of Dollars?

18s3nlek301j3jpgWhat would I do if I had millions of dollars? I saw a post on Facebook this morning about this very question, and it inspired me to answer that question for myself. If I had millions of dollars at my disposal, how would my life be different? Continue reading

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Gifts of The New Year

california-70053_640Today I am keenly aware of the many gifts that make my life so rich. December is a month to focus on gift giving, and sharing our abundance with others. January is sometimes a bit of a let down after the rush of the Christmas season. But January has many gifts to offer. Today, it’s a beautiful day in California. This time of year we often have cool nights and bright, sunny days. It was cool last night, cool enough to have the heater on and to cuddle up under some warm blankets. But today has been a beautiful day, sunny, mid 60’s, and the beauty of the day has inspired me to write about the gifts January has blessed me with. Continue reading

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How To Set Goals Effectively

GoalsJanuary is a traditional time for goal setting. But many people set goals, then quickly forget about them when they realize that they have set unrealistic goals. So, how does a person set realistic goals? The first step is to assess your personal motivation to make change. If you are setting a goal based on someone you know pressuring you to make a change that you aren’t fully invested in….this is a setup for disaster. If you are setting a health goal that you would love to achieve but you’ve failed at this particular goal in the past…and you haven’t learned any new skills….also a setup for disaster. So, how do we set goals that are achievable? Continue reading

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