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The Act of Becoming: Psychotherapist Jonathan Kaufman Answers Your Questions

Conversations On Mental Health, The Future, And More…

_WELLNESS / The Act of Becoming

This past year has been filled with isolation, frustration, and more negative adjectives than one can conjure. However, as we progress from a worldwide pandemic to an age of vaccination one can use this moment as a time of reflection to see the possibility of renewal. My wish is that this column serves as a benchmark that will help to navigate the many challenges ahead and offer a new set of tools that will benefit you on your journey to elevate your potential in discovering a true act of becoming.

"It is this belief that we all can grow and evolve and become something more."

– Jonathan Kaufman
on the act of becoming

This knowledge ascribed to one’s act of becoming is an idiom that has been passed down in my family with a feeling of religious fervor. It is this belief that we all can grow and evolve and become something more. Through these dark times, this vernacular is something that needs to be embraced more than ever.

As we begin to embark on this path of renewal, I am compelled to draw from my past as a young graduate student during the days after 9/11. As the city of New York and the country stood traumatized, I was called upon to help create Project Liberty, a program that was designed to focus on crisis management and the psychological repercussions of the day to assist first responders, Disabled people, and aging communities dealing with waves of trauma, fatigue, and ongoing emotional distress. It is this very experience that I seize upon today within my practice as a psychotherapist and executive coach to reframe an attitude for real transformational change. While the pandemic is a once-in-a-century event, there are certainly parallels with 9/11 that can be useful to help you chart a healthy path in a post-pandemic reality by offering some thoughts and suggestions around more effective coping strategies and providing psychological tools to enhance the prospect of life ahead.

However, I don’t want this feature to be a run of the mill advice column, but rather a starting point for a conversation where you the reader, and myself can develop an ongoing relationship to tackle some of the critical questions of the day surrounding human fragility with thoughtfulness, empathy, and some levity sprinkled in. Much like an archeological dig, we can begin to peel away at the layers of this past year and start to confront various issues from anxiety, fatigue, isolation to relationships and find the strength one needs to survive and thrive.

Like many of you, as a person with a disability, I understand some of the additional strain that this past year has placed on us. I hope that this column will be a safe place for you to share and discuss in greater detail some of these pressing issues, but more importantly, recognize how we can reflect on the good things and discover a sense of joy and gratitude in our lives that is critical for building the strength we need to learn the true meaning of the act of becoming.

As we embark on this journey, let me begin the conversation with a few simple questions:

    1. How has this new “hybrid life” affected you?
    2. What impact has it made on either your work life and/or home life?
    3. Has this new way of living contributed to increased stress, burnout, malaise, or other factors that have impacted your sense of mental health or wellbeing?

    By beginning with these series of questions I feel we can find a foundation to start the conversation and reveal key topic areas to embark on as we continue to see how the column unfolds. As we wait for readers' responses, let me close the column with something I plan to do at the end of each one, and that is to offer an action item that can serve as a way to facilitate the process of one’s act of becoming. Today, let me start with the practice of Joy. In this past year, the pandemic certainly put a pause on our capacity to feel joy. It is time that we begin to reacquaint ourselves not only with the feeling of joy but the very practice itself. Let us start with a foundational exercise, when you finish reading this piece, I want you to take a moment to think about aspects of your life that bring you joy. Whether it is something large or small it doesn’t matter, what’s important is the impulse to position ourselves to be present in a mindset of joyfulness. The next step is to choose something from your catalog of joy and actively pursue it. Being that we are still in a pandemic we may be limited, but the point is to focus on the mundane things in life that bring us joy whatever it may be. The practice of joy can be as simple as listening to music, reading a book, spending time with family, watching a movie or television show. The possibilities are endless. The important thing is the practice of doing.

    Let us begin with this action item as the first step to engaging in becoming something more and starting on this new journey of mental wellbeing.

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