JENNY R. SUSSER, PH.D.

POWER & PERFORMANCE SPORT PSYCHOLOGY SERVICES

Thanks…grieving

Posted by on Nov 30, 2019

For those of you that love the holidays, this is not for you. This is for the silent, or not-so-silent holiday sufferers, the ones who “closet” their disappointment, disdain, and dread of the holidays, carrying on as if they were like all the others, either loving or pretending to love the holidays. Dark, I know, but honest. Each year, I try to remember two things: what it was like to love the holidays, and when I lost that lovin’ feeling. Then, I count the days until January 2nd. It’s hard to trace and even harder to define. I find holidays and anniversaries a bit silly in general, but maybe that is just me. Why is it that we need a national holiday to connect to and express our gratitude? Have we become that ungrateful? Umm, yes. I think back to holidays as a child and they are nothing like the experience today. Again, I wonder if that is because of my innocent and unexperienced childhood psyche, you know, the one that wanted to find everything wonderful. Or, because things were decidedly simpler then and family feuds and fusses were had in person, on the phone, and later, via answering machine. Now, we text nasty, divisive notes to the ones we love, able to deliver at all times of day or night, to express our need to be heard and be right. It wouldn’t surprise me if civility is to be taken out of the dictionary soon…like so many other words that have literally lost their meaning. Thursday, I received a dozen text messages wishing me a happy Thanksgiving. Some from family, some being the only connection I had with that part of my family. Some from people I haven’t seen or heard from in months or even years. With each stranger’s text, I wondered if I was just part of the scrolling through the contacts obligatory or guilt-removing moment for the season. A part of me resents the intrusion on my day; the return obligation to celebrate something I loathe celebrating. I have no desire to play this game of Thanksgiving tag, but I do it anyway, because in truth, I care about them. A part of me appreciates the connection and a part of me resents it. The ire is confusing. I am not usually offended by a random or infrequent text, however, if it takes a holiday...

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Resignation vs. Hope

Posted by on Nov 23, 2019

“Polarization,” noun, a sharp division, as of a population or group, into opposing factions (dictionary.com). A concentration about opposing extremes of groups or interests formerly ranged on a continuum (Merriam-Webster.com). Why we are screwed (DrJenny.com). Most traits or characteristics live on a spectrum or a line graph, with fewer and fewer data points at the extreme ends and the bulk of the grouping in the middle. Think “bell curve,” or the description of a “normal distribution” based on probability. Remember in middle school learning about this? The mean, the median (always confused me), outliers, and the crazy result of symmetry, or how each side is a mirror image of the other. While it is not always appropriate to apply the logic of a bell curve to everything, I shall use it here as a metaphor. For the last year and a half, I have been facilitating Diversity and Inclusion trainings for a top global consulting firm. While it sounds impressive to some, at the end of each day, we are all people, human beings with strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and a deep need for connection. The content is not only important but terrific. The design of the course allows for people to step into the conversation no matter how far along they are with it, and then continue to grow. No bell curve here as the vast majority of participants embrace the importance of inclusion. The question is how to do it…for each person, influenced by their generational and cultural upbringing, has a schema or set of beliefs and assumptions they operate from. Taking this invisible fishbowl we all live in to visible is THE task. And perhaps THE task for the planet right now. Hope. A man in his forties told a story that brought me to my knees. At the beginning of the day, we tell our stories of bias and stereotype to both connect with our own experience and bear witness to each other’s. No matter what, each of us has had this experience, and if allowed, we can uncomfortably acknowledge the pervasive nature of human bias. This man, a naturalized American citizen from India, has lived most of his life in the northeastern US. He told of his American dream, you know, the one where he started with nothing, worked hard, had jobs at a grocery store and a mall during college and grad school to...

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Unconditional love?

Posted by on Nov 16, 2019

Can love be unconditional? There are several “questions for the ages” and I think this qualifies as one. I don’t know about you, but I have heard about unconditional love for as long as I can remember. A badge of sorts, the brass ring of relationship, calling love unconditional seems to take it beyond ordinary love and into the stratosphere, elevating it to a level of safety and permanence. We wield it like a sword, though, slashing it about, protecting some and slaying others. If you are deemed worthy of my unconditional love, then I must be amazingly generous, and you must be wonderful…to me. But what happens when this so-called unconditionally loved relationship fails? Because you know, relationships fail sometimes. So, how do we reconcile the love we once called forever or unconditional? I think we place too much power in love in a relationship. Yes, that is what I said, too much power in love. We love to love (me too), and love is great, however, it is only one ingredient in an entire recipe for a successful relationship. But it feels so good, how can it not be the most important, you ask? If you have ever baked or cooked anything, you know each ingredient plays a role. Some are interchangeable, some are optional, some are malleable, and some are critical. A new oven can change the results. Weather can impact the baking time. And experience can make or break it all. My mom was really big on unconditional love. She talked about it a lot, especially when she was upset with people. Which to me, takes it out of the unconditional realm. If you piss me off and that affects how much I love you, then how unconditional is my love for you, really? People are going to piss you off, no matter how much you love them. As a matter of course, the more you love someone, the more time you spend with them, the greater the opportunity for pissing each other off! We live in a total fantasy that any relationship with meaning can exist outside of discourse. And therein lies the rub (I’ve always wanted to say that!). If we hold our love in a place that excludes discourse, then is it really love? When I think about unconditional love, defining it becomes a challenge. Do you have a great definition for...

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Helplessly Hoping

Posted by on Nov 9, 2019

Not so helpless when together They are one person They are two alone They are three together They are for each other Crosby, Stills, and Nash Helplessly Hoping is one of my all-time favorite songs. On their self-titled 1969 album, the words are as beautiful as the melody and harmony that float them into the air, filling my heart with, well, hope. My favorite line is the last, “They are for each other.” The song is a sad one but the thought of hope in all of that hopelessness is still powerful…and necessary. Being for each other is more important to me than I can express. I can’t remember when exactly, but my dad talked with me one day about a collective universe, one in which we all impact each other, intentionally or unintentionally, knowingly or not. I was young, in college probably, and it has stuck with me every day since then. It is especially disheartening these days as it seems we are about as far away from that concept as ever. How do we remember to take care of each other in the middle of a culture of growing hate, self as importance, and cut-throat competition? You know, take care of everyone, not just people you consider important. I travel frequently for work and the stress of travel can make people a bit crazy. Since I do it so much, it is rarely stressful for me because of the high degree of familiarity and experience. Airports are confusing, airlines can be cruel, weather is a killer, and airport food is expensive and terrible. Don’t even get me started on the seats at the gate and the bathrooms where you cannot fit yourself and your roller bag in a stall without nearly killing yourself (what thoughtless knucklehead designed those)! And all of that before you even get on a plane, which doesn’t have enough room for anyone or anything, and the expense of “not fitting” is terrible. It stresses people out and costs gobs of energy for everyone. I was flying on a small plane into a small airport the other week and there was a mother traveling with her infant. Because she boarded late, her bag had to go above my seat even though she was sitting several rows ahead of me. When we arrived at the gate, I got her bag down and asked the person...

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Hitting a tipping point

Posted by on Nov 2, 2019

Even her posture was unusual as she walked into the office and sat down. Taking a cue from the energy, which sourced the posture, I sat and waited. “I give up,” she said. The words sort of drifted out of her mouth, barely pushed, barely weighted. The surrender in her being was hard to describe, hard to witness. “We all have a tipping point and it seems I have hit mine,” she continued but then stopped. Too sad to cry, she simply sat and stared at the carpet, looking more lost than I had ever seen her. What pushes us to this kind of point in life? And how do we know when we are getting close? We are a resilient being, human beings, but that can change in an instant. Strangely, whenever I think about the resiliency of people, black and white photos of emaciated, almost to the point of not even looking human, concentration camp victims flash across my mind. I read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, an incredible telling of life in a concentration camp told by a psychiatrist and victim, Frankl. It is not a light read by any means, but there is not one moment of blame or victimhood, just reflection, introspection, a searching for meaning and explanation. He was already at work on how meaning impacts life so his time in the camps provided an incredible and rare view into the human psyche. What it must have taken to be a guard. What it took to be a prisoner. Who survived and why? The why is what Frankl contested to be the reason some survived and some didn’t. Having a purpose, a reason helped people survive the worst conditions possible. A phenomenal thought and theory. But what about those walking around without purpose or meaning, how do they survive? Over the last decade, I have worked a great deal with the conversation of purpose and meaning, so these questions are regular fodder for me. What really brings meaning to life? My patient, the one that has reached her tipping point, has enough meaning in her life for several lives, but yet, she feels defeated, as if it is time to give up. I’m not exactly sure what giving up looks like for her but at least it is not on being alive she assures me. Perhaps she is giving up on the...

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