Archive for the ‘Personal Stories’ Category

Dreams Part 5: Dying in your dreams can be a good thing.

Dreams - death rebirth

To dream of yourself or someone else dying in your dreams can be disturbing.  But dying in a dream is often, meant metaphorically, not literally.

Nightmare:  My daughter died!

Sandy, a mom with two children, was thinking about going back to work.  Growing up, her mother when back to work when she was 10.  She was the eldest of 5 children and had to be responsible for her siblings when mom was not there.  It was too much for her.  As a mom, she was determined not to do that to her own children.

When her youngest daughter entered school full time, Sandy’s life changed.  She had much more time.  She thought about going back to work.  She’d loved her job as an elementary school teacher. Yet she was concerned about how her going back to work would impact each of her children, especially her eldest child.  She struggled with the decision.

One night she had a nightmare that her youngest child died.  She woke up in distress.  While thinking about the dream she realized that the dream was not about her daughter, but an aspect of herself.  Her youngest daughter had been so excited to go to school and was enjoying it immensely.  Sandy wanted to get back to school again and the nightmare was telling her if she did not go back to work, a part of her would ‘die’.  Her youngest daughter represented that part of herself  that was keen to go to school, that is, get back to work.  Sandy solved her dilemma by taking a position of Teacher-on-Call so she could work if she was called in, yet decline if she needed to stay at home with her children.

Personal Experience:  Death of a relationship.

Years ago I wanted a better relationship with one of my brothers.  We were adults and I wanted more of a connection with him.  For many years, I kept trying to make that happen between us whenever we were together.   One evening we went out to dinner.  As usual I was trying to get more of a connection with him.  That night I dreamed that he died.

That was years ago and my brother is still very much alive today.  What died in the dream was my belief that we could have a more connected relationship.  My dream was telling me to give up; it was not going to happen.  So I stopped trying.  We have had a relationship all these years, it is not the relationship I longed for, but it’s OK. I accept it as it is.

Personal Experience:  Death/Rebirth

In my 30’s I did major work on myself through intensive therapy.  Much of the therapy centered on my dreams.  I kept a dream log during this time.  One time I  read through a series of dreams and identified a recurring symbol in them.   As dreams can have recurring themes they can also have recurring symbols.

The symbol I notice was a retaining wall.  Sometimes the retaining wall was made of wood, sometimes stone, sometimes high, sometimes low etc.  When I talk about this dream I always put my hand on my chest, just over my heart.

Here are the last two dreams I remember having about a retaining wall:

Dream:  I’m going to die!

I dream I’m in the ocean.  I’m at the base of a sheer rock cliff.  The waves are dashing me against the cliff.  I say, “If this continues, I’m going to die.”  Suddenly, there are metal rungs on the cliff wall forming a ladder.  I climb up out of the water to the top of the cliff.  The dream ends with me chatting to a woman who is sun tanning on a lawn chair.

Dream:  I die, yet I live.

In this dream, the retaining wall has water on both sides of it.  I’m in a powerboat and I’m traveling toward the retaining wall.  I’m trying to go over it in the boat.  Why?  I don’t know.  I’m just going to do it.  As I approach the wall, the boat goes up, in my mind’s eye there is a big wall of green water, and in my chest there is terror.  My boat crashes on the wall and I die.  But I do not wake up.  I say to myself, “No. No.  It’s not supposed to be like this.”

I start to do a replay.  I’m in the powerboat again.  I’m heading toward the retaining wall again.  I’m determined to get over it.  As I approach the wall, my boat goes up, the same wall of green water in my mind’s eye, and same terror in my chest.  This time I make it over.  The dream ends with me driving my boat slowly on a peaceful ocean; there are other boats around me.  In my chest, where the terror was, I felt a deep sense of peace.  The next day, I found myself doing things without thinking about them and saying things without thinking about them.  I became more spontaneous in a positive way.  That has never stopped.

The retaining wall represented the part of me that held myself back. Growing up, I learned to keep myself safe by holding myself back.  In order to come fully into myself, that part of me needed to die.  With all the therapy I had had up to this point I had arrived at the place where I could risk letting that part of me go.  It was difficult to let go of a way of being that helped me survive childhood, and some of my adulthood, but it was time and I was ready for it.  I know that I would never have done the things I have done if that part of me had not died.  I would never have gotten a Master’s degree, Doctorate, become a psychologist, written a book and other things, if that part of me had not died.

It was like a death and rebirth.   I had to let go of one way of being in the world so I could develop another way, a healthier way.  I have never forgotten this dream and how it changed my life for the better.

When trying to understand your dreams, remember – they are often metaphorical.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea






Dreams Part 4: Dreams can be literal and metaphorical.


Dreams can be literal.

 Example 1:   The dryer burst in to flames.

Once I bought a new clothes dryer.  About a week after I bought it, I dreamed that it burst into flames.  I woke up with a start.  I instantly knew what the dream was about.  The filter on the new dryer was in a different place and I had forgotten to clean it.  “Bursting into flames”  was my fear of what I believed could happen.  The dream was simply my mind’s way of reminding me to clean the filter.

In many cases of interpreting dreams you need to consider several factors.

It is possible to detect malfunctions in machines and vehicles through your senses, such as sight, hearing, smell, and touch.  Because we live busy lives we may not be aware consciously that we picked up information, yet our dreams may let us know while we sleep.

 Example 2:  I am driving up a steep hill and at the top of the hill the engine falls out of the car.  Nothing else happens, no accident, no one is hurt.

When I woke up, I remembered sitting in my car the night before, waiting for my son to come out of his karate class.  While waiting, I was off in my mind thinking about lots of things.  The weather was cold and I remember seeing steam rising up from the hood of the car.  So when I next drove my car, I looked at the engine gauge. The engine was getting too hot too fast.  I took it to the garage and learned there was a hole in a hose.

Dreams can be Metaphors:

Example 1: Marlene dreamed that two of her co-workers were in bed together.

During work, Marlene had detected something was going on between two of her co-workers but she did not register it consciously.  Their connection with each other came to her at night in her dream.

Their being in bed together could mean they are sexually involved with each other and keeping it secret, or it could mean they are conspiring with each other about work and it has nothing to do with sex.  Being in bed together can be a metaphor for secretly allying with each other in the work (or other) situation.

Now that this has been brought to Marlene’s attention, she can figure out consciously whether their alliance is sexual or conspiratorial.

 Example 2:  My good friend from university was pregnant.

Many years ago, before I had children, I had this dream.  Curious, I decided to phone her and catch up with her.  It turns out she was, in fact, pregnant.  I could not have known about it, as I had not had any contact with her for several years.  She lived in Eastern Canada and I lived on the West Coast.

When we dream about people from the past what it means depends on whether that person is in our life currently or not.  If they are, the meaning may be about the real person.  When they are not in your current life, it means they represent something to you.

My friend was married in university, had had one child and got pregnant with her second child when I knew her.  While the dream was about her, I believe the dream stemmed more from my own strong desire at the time to have children of my own.  Dreaming that she was pregnant, and it turning out to be true, was probably more a coincidence than intuition.  She represented fertility and family to me, which I longed for myself at the time.

People too often take dreams literally when they are metaphors for what is going on in one’s current life.  While they may be literal, consider the possibility they may be metaphorical or symbolic when interpreting your dreams.


With care and concern,


Dr. Bea









Communication Skill 4: Make the Fuzzy Clear.


Too often in conversations and interactions people assume they know what the other person is talking about or doing. Without checking out their assumptions they act as if what they assume is true or fact. Sometimes their assumptions are indeed true and communication is clear. However, when their assumptions are incorrect communication tends to go sideways.

In relationships we know our partners well. Usually we know what they think, feel, value, expect, get upset and excited about. Sometimes though, knowing each other too well creates blind spots. Clarifying can help navigate the blind spots.


Pronouns often make communication fuzzy: I, mine, he, she, his, hers, they, them, you, yours, we, us, one, it, this, that, these, those, other(s), etc.

Example A:

Bob’s mother and her sister are coming for dinner.

  • Bob: My mom said my aunt is a little unsure that you want her to come. She wants you to give her a call.
  • Ann: (thinking the ‘her’ referred to is Bob’s aunt) I don’t feel comfortable calling her.
  • Bob: (for Bob the ‘her’ is his mother) What’s the big deal? Give her a call.
  • Ann: (feels pressured and wants to avoid) It’s your family. You do it. I bought the groceries, and I’m making the dinner. You haven’t done much at all.

THE FIGHT IS ON. Now the issue shifts away from making a phone call.

Make the fuzzy clear:

  • Bob: My mom said my aunt is a little unsure that you want her to come.  She wants you to give her a call.
  • Ann: Who, your mom or your aunt?

Example B:

Greg in conversation with a friend.

  • Greg to a friend: Yesterday I really impressed my boss with what I did. You know, when you get an opportunity to make more of an impact you should go for it.

[When people say “you” they could be referring to you,themselves, or everyone one in general.]

Make the fuzzy clear:

  • Friend to Greg: When you say “you” do you mean yourself, everyone or me?

Knowing specifically who or what is involved helps you make decisions that work out better for you:

Example C:

  • Siggie to Jane: We’re going to Joan’s for a dinner. Do you want to come?

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Jane to Siggie: (Thinking – It depends on who is going and whether she will have to do anything or not.) Who is “we”?   Is it potluck or not?

Example D:

  • Joe to John: I’m working late every night next week. The week after I’m going out of town for 3 days. It gets more and more difficult.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • John to Joe: (What is the “it'”? Working a lot? Traveling? Keeping up? Getting enough time with family?) What is it that is gets more difficult for you?”

Fewer misunderstandings lead to easier relationships.


Words that qualify can have different meaning for different people.

Sometimes, early/late, in a little while, high/low, hard/soft, big/small, strong/weak, fast/slow, positive/negative, mostly/slightly, more/less, helpful/not helpful, harmful, safe/dangerous etc.

When people communicate they often have different ideas in mind. It is often helpful to inquire more about what someone is thinking or intending before you respond. What is difficult for one person may seem easy to another. What is slightly stressful for one person may be really stressful for another.

Example E:

  • Lindsay to Sam:  I’m going to be late tomorrow night.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Sam to Lindsay: When you say you will be late, how late is late?

Example F: 

  • Kim to Julie: I want to earn more money.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Julie to Kim: How much more do you have in mind?

Example G:

  • Fred to Mike: Stop doing that, it’s harmful.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Mike to Fred: How do you see it as harmful’? (Mike thinks he knows, but perhaps it is not what he expects.)

The key here is the word YOU. The receiver may or may not see it as harmful, but to the sender it is harmful. Rather than argue about whether or not it is harmful, inquire how the sender views it, or experiences it as harmful.


People often use the same words or expressions but have different meanings for them. Often the meanings are only slightly different, but sometimes they are vastly different.

Take the word ‘drunk’ for instance. We all have a common meaning for ‘drunk’. Yet a person who had a parent who was a mean drunk when they were growing up has a different additional meaning for ‘drunk’ than a person who had a parent who occasionally got drunk and was funny when they did.

Example H (Words):

  • My Tennis Instructor: “I no longer trust Federer.” (Federer is a top tennis player)

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Me: In what way don’t you trust him? (I was inquiring about what he meant by the word ‘trust’.)

Example I (Phrases):

‘Losing it’ refers to a range of behaviours varying from almost nothing to extreme violence. For some people ‘losing it’ means saying something or doing something when usually they say or do nothing. Some people use this expression when they just mean that they lost their focus. For others ‘losing it’ means they became physical, either with only themselves (punched a hole in the wall), or with someone else (punched someone else). ‘Losing it’ could also mean becoming emotional. For some people this could mean showing a few tears while for others it means they became hysterical.

  • Jim to Rick: Boy, I lost it with my manager yesterday.

Make the Fuzzy Clear:

  • Rick to Jim: When you say you ‘lost it’ what exactly did you say and do?

Inquiring early in a conversation keeps communication clear. Clarifying leads to clearer understanding, effective communication, and less reactivity. Fewer misunderstandings lead to easier relationships.

I encourage all of you to assume less and clarify more.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Getting started in Yoga



For years I knew of yoga but I did not learn about it.  I thought it was just about stretching and nothing more.  I like action so it had no appeal for me.  About five years ago I decided to try it.  There was a yoga studio below my office and it couldn’t be more convenient.

The first few sessions I found very tedious.  I kept looking at the clock on the wall –  only 5 minutes have gone by.  My mind was full of chatter.  I continued and looked at the clock again – only two minutes had gone by.  However, I kept paying attention to the instructor, listening to her voice directing me to my body.

It took about five sessions of listening to the instructor and paying attention to my body before something happened.  Then, unexpectedly, in one session I felt a shift.  I started to yawn and continued to yawn throughout the session.  I experienced time differently.  Time seemed to expand, and yet go by quickly.  Time ceased to matter.  The chatter in my mind stopped. My body was the focus in a way I’d never experienced before.  At the end of the session I fell asleep and the instructor woke me up by gently shaking my leg.  I felt refreshed and restored.

Now when I do yoga I know that to get the experience of yoga, I focus on my body.  Sometimes it takes me longer than others to make the shift.  But I know when it happens because I start to yawn and the sense of time changes.

I realized from this experience that yoga is a state of being.  By focusing on my body in the moment, I shifted from one part of my brain (thinking brain) to a different part (sensing brain).  I achieved the state of yoga through my body.  Once I experienced this state of being, I gained a whole new understanding and respect for yoga.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea




Let the signals your body sends you be your guide to action.

ExhaustionPeople tend to think what they experience, positive or negative, comes “out of the blue”.  But usually there are signals along the way that they do not recognize.

The first time I ever experienced exhaustion was after having my first baby.  I had no idea what exhaustion felt like.  I had had a difficult birth, spent 8 days in the hospital, and when I got home I just expected myself to carry on as I had before the birth.  One afternoon a neighbour came over to visit and see the new baby.  She asked me how I was, and I responded that I was fine.  We talked some more, and she asked me again how I was.  Again, I responded that I was fine.  The third time she asked me I started to cry and couldn’t stop.  I had no idea what was wrong with me.  I got her to leave, and then I thought I’d go grocery shopping because I knew that out in public I’d stop crying.  Well, I had difficulty paying the cashier for the groceries because the tears were rolling down my face and I could not talk.  She couldn’t give me my change fast enough.  Once I got home I had to acknowledge that something was wrong with me, and it took me a while to realize it was exhaustion.

Because of that experience, I learned that my body gives me signals about my level of fatigue.  But because I had never been exhausted before, I did not recognize the signals.  Even if I had noticed them, I would not have known what to do about it.

What I learned about myself.  When I’m somewhat tired my left eyelid twitches, and when I’m very tired, I get a specific type of nausea.  These two signals now guide me on when I need to rest.  The eyelid twitch is a ‘heads-up’ to plan to get some rest soon, and the nausea is strong message I need to rest ASAP.  I have learned to respect these signals and act on them.  It prevents me from getting to the state of exhaustion again.

Pay attention to the sensations in your body and learn what they mean.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Preventable Medicine for Skin Hunger – the Deprivation of Touch.

Yesterday I had my regular bi-weekly full body massage.  I knew it would feel good but knowing it would feel good and the experience of feeling good are two different things.  It’s like, “Aaaaaaah that’s what I’ve been missing.”, but didn’t know it.

I often need massage because I have some injury from tennis, looking after my grandson or some other activity.  But the best massages are when I’m fully fit and healthy. After several years my massage therapist knows my body better than I do.  It’s nice having someone know your body so well.  He knows where I carry my tension and works it out of my body when I didn’t even know it was there.  He knows where I’ve had injuries and makes extra focus on those areas.

I enjoy deep tissue massage. Not everybody does.  I like the strong pressure on my skin and muscles even when it sometimes hurts.  The lighter massage feels pleasant but it does not impact me the way deep tissue does.

Yesterday, as my massage therapist was working on my lower leg, I was reminded of the experience of making passionate love in the past. I did not feel sexually aroused.  The strong pressure on my skin and muscles made me feel – it is difficult to put into words – alive, present, impacted and loved.  I did not feel loved by my massage therapist – of course we have a good report– it was the pressure he was applying that reminded me of feeling loved during passionate love-making in the past when I was touched that intensely.  It felt good to remember.

During massage I find it difficult to stay focused on the part of my body being touched.  I can do it for short times and then my mind goes off to the future or the past.  Then I’m brought back to the present by the wonderful pressure on my skin and muscles.  I stay with the sensations for awhile.  It’s difficult to stay in the moment, but oh so satisfying when I do.  I experience a pleasant kind of grogginess at the end of the session. I move slowly.

Humans need to touch and be touched.  That’s why we love children and pets because they seek us out for touch and we get our need to touch and be touched by caring for them and playing with them. Couples frequently massage each others’ backs, feet and, of course, other parts.  When my sons were teens, giving them occasional back rubs was a way I connected with them and expressed love without them thinking I was being soppy.

It is important to have regular massage treatments if you are not in a current relationship.  Skin hunger can build up over time.  Without intending to, people who are deprived often act out sexually (especially when alcohol and drugs are involved) and have regrets afterward.

In our current North American life style we often are too much in our heads – thinking thinking thinking –  which disconnects us from our bodies.  Massage helps us keep connected to our bodies and helps us remain balanced between mind and body in a healthy way.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

My Highs and Lows of the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies

For me, the best part of attending the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies was the energy I experienced from the moment I got into the line up to enter the stadium to walking out with everyone in the rain afterwords.  It was a happy crowd.

Being a participant of the ceremonies is very different from watching it on TV.  I felt a part of it.  Sixty thousand people!  It is the energy you experience that makes the difference.  You don’t get that when you watch it on TV.  You don’t just hear the cheering, clapping and pounding on the drums, you feel the vibrations from it. During the program there is so much to see.  When you watch it on TV, the camera decides what you’re going to focus on.  When you are there, you can look around at all the activities going on. You see things that the camera never shows. You can focus on what you want to look at.

Our seats were on the floor of the stadium, close enough to the stage to see the faces of all the performers. It was especially fun to see all the smiling faces of the athletes as they entered.  They were really enjoying the experience.

One theme of the ceremonies was the 4 different First Nations people, and the rest of Canadians, welcoming the athletes. The other theme was winter, apropos for a winter Olympics, complete with different types of fake snow – soap suds?? and confetti.  White was the color of the day.  It created a great atmosphere.

I enjoyed most of the program.  It was impressive. I liked how the movie of the snowboarder on the mountains ended with him [albeit at different person] bursting into the stadium on his snowboard. I was amazed at the different landscapes that were created by projecting images on the huge white stage. There were ice fields, oceans, fields and mountains conveying the vastness of Canada.  There were killer whales swimming in the oceans, spouting up misty air as they surfaced.  There were thunderstorms and aurora borealis.  There was so much to see.  K.D Lang’s performance of Leonard Cohen song, Alleluia, was very moving.

I enjoyed sharing the experience with my sons and my good friend, SS.  In the middle of the program my eldest son leaned over, kissed me on the cheek and thanked me for bringing him.

Now the downside.

When the National Anthem started, we were all standing.  I sang the first line of the anthem and then –  the anthem when sideways.  It was a jazzed up version of the anthem which might have been fine in some other situation or setting but certainly not this one.  It did not make our hearts ‘glow’.  I was just standing there confused and puzzled.  I did not feel right.  I felt disconnected from everyone.  Not being able to sing the National Anthem together with 60,000 people was a huge unexpected disappointment.  What a missed opportunity!  I’ve lived in Vancouver for almost 44 years.  I’ve seen the city change from mostly Caucasian people to one with 45% Asian people, as well as people from many other races.  The best way for people to feel connected to each other is to sing together, especially the National Anthem. I saw the movie, The Singing Revolution, the story of the Estonian people, who retained their independence from Russia by uniting and connecting through singing. There is such power in singing together!  Whoever made the decision to have that version of Oh Canada – what were they thinking????????    I hope they do not do that for the Closing Ceremonies.  I also did not enjoy the opera singer who sang the Olympic anthem. Not a good night for anthems.

Apart from the surprise disappointment, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Now when I watch future Opening Ceremonies I will recall what it was like to be at the 2010 Opening Ceremonies.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Getting to the Olympic 2010 Opening Ceremonies

I always loved watching the OLYMPIC Opening  Ceremonies of the various hosting countries.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like to attend one.  This year I got my chance.  I entered the lottery contest and qualified to purchase 4 of the best seats.  Expensive!  I invited my good friend, who is Egyptian.  When I met her I told her that since I was a little girl I had always wanted to visit Egypt.  In 2007, she put together a tour of friends and guided us on a fabulous trip through Egypt.   Taking her to the Opening ceremonies was a way I could express my gratitude.

I intended to sell two of the tickets to cover the cost, or at least reduce the cost but, other than put the word out, I never did anything serious to sell the tickets, such put them for sale on the Internet. In the end, I invited my two sons to attend with me.  I wanted to share the experience with them. The night before I gave a ticket to each of my sons as they would be making their own way from work to the stadium.

My friend invited me to a pre-game linner [lunch + dinner].  She managed to get an excellent restaurant, very near the stadium, to open early for the occasion.  We took a taxi to the restaurant.  Excitement was in the air.   We got out near the restaurant because the traffic was moving too slowly.  The roads were busy and there were many street closures.  At one point as we walked along, I lost my friend and turned back to find her.  She was buying some Canadian flags.  As I approached her I suddenly looked up, right beside her there was a camera filming an on-the-spot interview with a person-in-the-street.  Oooops!   I didn’t plan to be a part of that.  She got her flags and we took off for the restaurant.

After a delicious linner in a calm atmosphere, we headed out into crowds. Getting through security in a timely manner was not going to be easy.  I’d heard that it might take 2-3 hours to get through.  Instructions were for everyone to be seated an hour before the ceremony began because we had things to do and activities to practice.  There were lots of police and volunteers directing us to the security entrances.  It took 40-45 minutes to get through security. Once in, we were able to get to our seats quickly – only 15 minutes late.  I was so intent on finding our specific seats that I wasn’t looking at the people. For a few seconds, I thought there was a guy in one of our seats when I suddenly realized it was my youngest son.  I had not expected either of my sons to get there before we did. My eldest son arrived half an hour later and we quickly filled him in on what to do.

On each seat there was a cardboard box, designed and decorated like a drum, with goodies in it.  We needed to put batteries in two flashlights, one a regular one and the other a ‘candle’ with a yellow glow.  There was a drum stick with a round ball at the end, a Canadian flag and a white Styrofoam poncho. Each section had a leader who guided us through the what, how and when to use all the things in the ‘drum’.

We practiced the countdown with the lights on.  In each section some of the drums were blue on the back and some were white. Mine was white and we were in section 1.  Someone counted down from 10.  As each number was called we stood up and held up our drums.  The white drums displayed the number and the blue ones made up the background.  With the lights on, what we saw was all the people standing up as their section number was called.  With the lights out, you couldn’t see the people – only the giant numbers.  They really stood out.  Across the stadium we could see the numbers as they appeared in the crowd – 10…9…8 etc.

The practicing was lots of fun.  The whole place was buzzing with energy.

Next Post: the highs and lows of the ceremonies.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

The Death of each Parent is a Life Experience

A good friend of mine recently lost her mother and is grieving deeply.  As a mutual friend and I were talking about her loss, we starting talking about losing our own parents.  I told her about my experience of losing my parents.


Looking Forward to My Date on Valentine’s Day

Today’s the date – February 14th – Valentine’s Day.  I’ve been looking forward to it all week. I have a date with the ‘hot’ new man in my life. I picked out a special card just for him. We’ve been seeing each other for about 17 months now. I can hardly wait until he arrives at my door. I know I’ll see a big smile on his face, showing his delight in seeing me.

We’re going to spend the evening together at my place having dinner and just hanging out.  I hear that you’ve found the right person to love if you can be goofy together.  We have lots of fun being goofy together – especially when his parents are not around.  Who is this guy? – my 1 year old grandson.

Enjoy the Valentine(s) in your life,

Dr. Bea

You Literally Saved my Life

I received a priceless present this Christmas. It came via Facebook. Someone from the past was trying to find me. After a bit of sorting out, we discovered I was the one she was looking for.

Here is what she wanted to tell me:

I’ve thought of you often, over the years. I guess you probably could never know, but when you showed up at my Graduation – you literally saved my life. I haven’t often felt as alone as I did that night, and I’ll never forget how you made me feel when you showed up. Like someone cared.

I’d like to thank YOU. You did literally save my life, that night you came to my Graduation. I remember clearly thinking that after the ceremony, I was going to go home and kill myself. I carried that card you gave around for almost 20 years, too.

Thank You Bea.. and God Bless You. I’ve waited 20 years to say that, and boy! Does it feel good!

Hoping you’re set up to have a Wonderful Christmas!

How it came about:

Years ago when I was taking my Master degree in Family Counseling, I was doing my practicum at the university clinic in a local high school. I remember working with a troubled family who had two daughters. It seemed to me that no one cared about the eldest daughter. She was a good kid! No one in her family was going to her high school graduation. So I decided to go. I wanted her to know that someone noticed her and someone cared. I gave her a card and a small gift.

Until I heard from her recently, little did I know how significant an impact my being there was on her or how dear she held the card I gave her. Hearing from her has warmed my heart and made me feel so good. I wanted to make a difference and I did!

You can too!

I encourage all of you to reach out to others with small gestures. You may never know if what you do or say has the impact you intend, but don’t let that get in the way.  (If it wasn’t for Facebook we probably never would have reconnected.) You too could make a difference, big or small, in someone’s life.

May this Holiday Season be wonderful for you!

With Care and Concern,

Dr. Bea

How I handled the Terror of Performance Anxiety.

In 1998 I gave a workshop at an international level for the very first time.  I was both excited and nervous about taking my workshops to a new level.

The morning of the day I was to give my workshop I woke up in a state of absolute terror.   I knew why I was terrified.  I knew that I was far more anxious than called for.  I knew that I was competent and capable enough to give the workshop I was about to do.  But knowing that did not make the terror I was experiencing in that moment go away.

I knew I could stop the feeling of terror if I got up out of bed and started doing something to occupy my mind  (i.e. shift from my right brain to my left brain.)  But I also knew that the terror would not go away, it would just go under ground and keep affecting my behavior in ways that I could not control.  I didn’t want that.

Because of my training, experience and knowledge of psychotherapy I knew if I stayed with the terror and breathed through it that my brain would process it.

So I lie there in bed and felt it.  There are no words to describe how horrible this level of terror is.  The only way I can describe it is that I felt white cold waves of horrible sensations course through my body from head to toe.  The terror came in waves.  I breathed through each wave as it came.  It was very difficult to stay with it.

I did this for two hours. In the right brain, time is experienced differently than in the left brain.  It didn’t seem like 2 hours.  At 7:00 am I had to get ready for the workshop that was at 9:00 am.

I did my workshop and it went well.  I had a few problems with one participant, but over all, it went well.   After the conference was over I got positive feedback from the workshop survey sheets.

Since that time I’ve presented workshops in Canada, Europe, Australia and the USA without any fear.  The amount of anxiety I feel is normal and appropriate to the nature of the event.  In fact, I experience it as excitement as well as anxiety. I believe that excitement and anxiety are flip sides of the same coin. I really enjoy teaching what I know to others.

No one wants to feel difficult feelings.  But facing them, rather than avoiding them, is productive. Once the difficult emotions are felt and processed you are free to live your life as you want.  It is no longer there to determine your behaviors and rule your life.

If you are afraid of abandonment and you access the feelings/sensations and process them, the feelings of abandonment will no longer feel overwhelming, they will be manageable. Then if and when you experience them again you know you can successfully survive them. You don’t have to avoid them. That means you can enter into and enjoy a relationship and it is more likely to last because you handle yourself well.

That goes for any feeling (in a relationship or in other areas of your life) terror, rejection, disappointment, loneliness, humiliation, exposed, hopelessness, shame, failure, losing oneself, out of controlled and others.

Breathe and be yourself,

Dr. Bea

An Grand Merci aux Parisiens

I’d frequently heard that the people in Paris were unfriendly and unhelpful.

After attending the conference in Manchester my friend and I took the Chunnel to Paris and hung out there for a few days. We found the people very friendly and helpful. Our hotel was on the outskirts of Paris yet close to the Metro. We found it really easy to get around Paris on the M. When it came time to leave, the friendly staff at our hotel told us it was 60 Euro’s to take a taxi to the airport and 8.60 Euro’s on the Metro – a big difference. So we decided to take the M even though they said it would be difficult. I stayed on a day longer than my friend which meant we each went on our own.

The difficult part was the luggage. I had one medium size suitcase on wheels. I made sure that everything was packed into the one suitcase. I had to change trains three times. There was not always a lift (elevator) to use, which meant carrying the suitcase up and downstairs. I was not looking for help, yet twice I was offered help to carry my suitcase, once by a woman and once by a man. People helped me getting on and off the trains by pushing the button on the door and making room for me on the train. At the airport there were different stops for different airlines. One of the staff made sure I was getting off at the correct stop.

I was surprised and very grateful. My assumptions of Parisians people have changed.

If anyone reading this blog knows anyone in Paris, let them know I appreciate their friendliness and helpfulness.

Happy, but tired traveler,

Dr. Bea

P.S. I wish I was fluent in French.

The Universe Works in Mysterious Ways

I have not been blogging for a while now. My last entry was when I was still dealing with the infection of my eyes. I was able to recover in time to attend a long-planned-for conference in Manchester, England. After the conference one of my friends from the conference and I took the Chunnel over to Paris for a mini holiday. Paris was hot! I got back late last Thursday (sooner than my luggage) and have been recovering from jet lag and general after-holiday-letdown. So that is why I have not been blogging.

One of the things that my illness taught me was that I’m working too hard. The only way I could be stopped from working at my private practice, blogging, playing tennis, driving, reading, watching TV and using the computer would be to shut down my eyes. Even going for a walk was difficult because although I could see, everything was blurry. My brain kept trying to focus my eyes and was scrambled from the strain. Because I was contagious I could not see anyone. I quarantined myself and spent a lot of time alone. I could talk on the phone and did. My friends were a good support. Not being able to do things forced me to stop and think about my life and what is going on. Having nothing to do, or rather, having nothing I could do, was wonderful. What a change! What relief! The pressure was off. I slept a lot. I’m enjoying the blogging yet trying to do two blogs a week, as well as work full time, is a lot. And there’s having a life too.

I attend this particular conference, AAGT (the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy) every two years. Usually I do a workshop or two at the conferences. I tried to put in a proposal but the deadline came and went and I just could not get it done. I took that to mean I was not meant to do a workshop this time. There’s the universe sending me messages again. So, because I had done so much work on the last conference I decided to attend the conference and do nothing. I still went to workshops and attended activities but without any expectation or demands on myself. By doing that I had a different experience than I usually have. I enjoyed the conference much more and I got more out of the workshops. I was actually inspired by one workshop and have been acting on the inspiration.

In both cases doing ‘nothing’ because I couldn’t or because I chose to, resulted in my realizing that I need to take a look at my life and make some changes. Retirement is not in my vocabulary (it may be for others but not for me) but I do not want to keep working as hard as I have been.

The universe is very wise. I’m listening to it.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Beware the doctor’s office

I have been going to doctors’ offices for years. I read the magazines and newspapers while I wait. I put my hands on the arms of the chairs as I sit down and get up. I never thought about catching anything in the waiting room or from the examination rooms.

When I got the infection in my eyes I was referred to an ophthalmologist. She diagnosed me with a bacterial infection – conjunctivitis with an allergic reaction to the drops I’d been prescribed by the doctor at the Walk-In-Clinic. She told me I was infectious and to use different towels from others in my household.

When I went to the Emergency Department at the hospital I was diagnosed with Adeno Viral Eye Infection and told I was extremely infectious. The doctor told me that the examination room would be scrubbed down with bleach when I left and he held all the doors open for me so I would not touch them. He told me to get treatment outside a hospital because this virus was so contagious that they feared a breakout in the hospital. I said if I’m that contagious should I go and see the ophthalmologist? He said that ophthalmologists deal with these things all the time.

I went back to my ophthalmologist. Now I was aware that I am highly contagious. There seems to be no concern about contagiousness in the waiting room. I sat down but I did not touch the arms of the chair and I did not handle any reading material (my eyes were too blurry to read anyway).

While I’m waiting my turn, an elderly couple came in. I could tell that they both had been probably six inches taller in their younger life. The husband had a patch over one eye. The husband sat beside me, his upper arm brushing my upper arm. He went into the ophthalmologist’s examination room and came out a few minutes with drops in his eyes to dilate his pupils. He sat down and whispered to his wife, “She thinks it’s Herpes.” and then picked up one of the available newspapers.

I was jolted. Thoughts raced through my mind. I did not want to get Herpes in my eyes. I wondered how he got Herpes in his eye. What’s it like to have Herpes in your eyes? These waiting rooms (sometimes even the examinations rooms if not maintained well) are dangerous places! Who knows what diseases one could catch while getting treatment for a different condition. There is an incubation period between picking up a virus or bacteria and the symptoms manifested by it, so the two may not be connected.

I had some sanitizer in my purse. As soon as I was finished with the ophthalmologist and left the office I put sanitizer on my hands and my arm where I’d brushed up against the elderly gentleman. I was taking no chances.

I’m almost fully recovered now and still being careful. I do not know where or how I got the infection but I can take precautions. As I get beyond this illness I will probably be less vigilant but never as lax as I have been for years.

Wash you hands – lots,

Dr. Bea Mackay

How I Coped with my Angry ‘Eye’.

It all started a little over two weeks ago. I went to bed on Saturday night and woke up in the morning with my right eye swollen half shut. I didn’t think too much about it at the time as I could see and was not in any discomfort. I carried on with my day as usual, playing tennis in the morning and hanging out with friends in the afternoon.

On Monday I worked a full day. On my lunch hour I went to the Walk-In clinic across from my office. I was given some drops. I went back to my office and worked the rest of the day. The next day I worked as well. I was not confident that the drops I was given were helpful so I went to the clinic where my doctor works. I could not get in to see her but I saw the doctor on call. He looked at my eye and described it as ‘very angry’ looking. He referred me to an ophthalmologist and was able to get me in quickly. At first it was only my right eye that was infected but by the time I saw the ophthalmologist both eyes were infected. The ophthalmologist diagnosed me with an bacterial eye infection plus an allergic reaction (to the drops I’d been given by the doctor at the “Walk In clinic). I canceled all my clients because I was in so much discomfort I could no longer work and I did not want to risk transmission of the infection.

I took the 3 types of drops as prescribed until Sunday afternoon. By then I was wondering if I was having another allergic reaction because there was no improvement and I was in even more discomfort. By Sunday evening I was in so much pain in my right eye that I went to the Emergency at the hospital. I was diagnosed with Adeno Viral Infection. The Emerg doctor told me it was highly infectious and the hospitals were fearful about an outbreak. I was directed to see my ophthalmologist again to confirm the diagnosis. He said he was “just a lowly Emergency doctor” He said the antibiotics would not help because it was a viral infection but that he would let her tell me to discontinue taking them. When I left hospital, staff were preparing to disinfect the room I’d been examined in. The doctor held all the doors open for me as I left so I did not touch anything.

I went home. I phoned one of my sons who brought me some groceries. He dropped them off at the door and stood back 20 feet. He did not want his baby and family to get infected and I certainly did not want to infect them. I felt like a leper.

I was just beginning a week’s holidays which was good since I could not work. However, I was really upset and angry at having my holidays ruined. I had to cancel out of a mixed doubles tennis tournament that I was looking forward to. I had to cancel several other tennis games I’d set up as well as other activities I’d planned. I was really angry about not being able to play with my grandson. I’d planned to take him out several times while I was on holidays and spend time with him. I was angry about the weather being great and my not able to enjoy it. We’d had a cold spring and this week was great weather. I was angry at about not being able to spend time with others but I certainly did not want to give this infection to anyone else.

With my vision so blurred I basically could not do anything. I could not read. I could not watch TV, It hurt my eyes to be in the sunshine. When I walked my brain was scrambled from constantly trying unsuccessfully to focus.  I’d come home a sleep for an hour or two.

I could talk on the phone but all I did was complain to my family and friends about my holiday being ruined. One evening when I could not think of what to do with myself I pulled out a DVD of Restorative Yoga. A friend of mine, Evelyn Neaman, had produced this DVD and given me a copy. Although I could not watch it, I could listen to it and follow directions. So that is what I did. By the end of the hour I let go of my anger. It was unfortunate that my holiday was ruined but I came to accept that I had an infection and needed to deal with it instead of fight it. This helped me. The next day my eyes did not hurt so much. It felt like I had only three grains of sand in my eyes instead of a hundred. Was it because of the yoga? the meds finally kicking in? or both?

Now, two weeks after getting the infection, I still cannot see out of my right eye. Well, I can see, but my sight is very blurred. I cannot read with my right eye. To read with my left I have to use a magnifying glass. I am writing this blog using touch-typing. I am also using an enlarged font so when I do edit it I will find it easier.

It is not easy to be alone all the time. It is very difficult not be able to do the many activities that I normally do. We take our eyes for granted. I’m concerned about how long it will take to recover. I’m told 2-3 weeks.

But at least I’m not angry – just sad and concerned.

Take care,

Dr. Bea

P.S. If there are any mistakes I’ll have to edit them when I can see better.

Hanging Out with my Grandson: Check out the Tiny Toes

Asleep in the Sling

I really enjoy hanging out with my grandson. When I am with him everything else disappears. I have not felt such joy in years.

One time, when he was about 3 months old, he got tired so I put him in the sling. He quickly fell asleep. I took this photo of him myself. I had to hold the camera as far from my body as I could to get it. When I looked at the photo still in the camera, the image was small. When I printed the photo I saw the tiny toes peeking out.

I got his parents’ permission to share this in my blog.


Dr. Bea

Chatting on the Tennis Court about Left Brain and Right Brain.

Last week during my tennis lesson my instructor and I had a chat about left-brain and right-brain functioning. He’d sent me a video clip and wanted to know my thoughts on it. The video clip is a talk by Dr. Jill Bolt Taylor, a researcher of the brain, about her experience of her right and left brain functioning while she was undergoing a stroke. It is a first hand explanation of how the right and left brains functions differently from someone who knows what she is talking about.

We both found Dr. Taylor’s experience fascinating and chatted about what it meant to each of us in our work. I talked to him about working with clients, helping them to shift from left-brain to right-brain so that they can process their emotions and experience. He told me how he had always been trained to suppress his feelings and about 10 years ago figured out himself, after hearing about Andre Agassi seeking psychological help, that it is beneficial to express feelings. He uses what he learned to teach his students, not just about feelings but about skills as well. He taught me to keep my eyes on the ball by focusing on the color and seeing the lines (right brain). He taught me to feel my body in the correct position for each stroke (right brain) rather than think about the correct position (left brain).

We both enjoyed this chat and how we learn from each other. Well-spent time on the court.

Does right brain and left brain function have meaning in your life?

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

How Feeling What You Feel Can Guide You to Positive Action.

It took me many years to complete my Ph.D. Acquaintances, friends and family would often ask me “When will you be finished?” I got tired of this question because I did not have the answer. I told people to stop asking me. I told them that when I finish I’d let them know.

Well, the day finally came. In the morning I successfully defended my research! The professors shook my hand and called me Dr. Mackay. How wonderfully strange it sounded.

Good friends took me out for a congratulatory lunch. I came home and started making the phone calls to let friends and family know. Most people were at work so I left lots of messages. Then I was done. As I sat there, calm for the first time this day, I became aware that I felt sad. I was puzzled. Why on earth was I sad when I just completed something I was really happy about? I sat with my sadness and let myself feel it.

Gradually I became aware of what I was sad about. Who do you want to tell when you’ve done something fantastic? Mom and Dad, right? Well both my parents were deceased, so I could not tell them. That made me sadder. I let myself feel the sadness that I could never share this with them.

I don’t know where it came from, but I got the idea of writing to people who knew my parents and knew me – people who would know how my parents would have felt about what I had achieved. So I got out writing paper and wrote to my parents’ best friends, people who had known me all of my life. I also wrote to the parents of a long-term friend of mine who also knew my parents. I told them what had just happened and that I was writing them because I could not let my parents know. When I had finished I felt good – like I had completed something.

Shortly after that the phone started ringing with many congratulations and I felt happy again.

About a week later I received flowers from both parties with congratulations. They said they were delighted that I’d written to them and let them know. They told me how proud my parents would have been. It was wonderful! It was sort of like I’d told my parents.

If I had not let myself feel my sadness I would have never gotten to the action that gave me a sense of closure and brought me such good feelings.

Let yourself feel what you feel. It can guide you to positive action.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

Husbands, Rate Your Wives (social norms from the 1930’s)

Husbands, rate your wives is an article from the American Psychological Association (APA) that shows an interesting glimpse into the social norms of the 1930s—and early attempts to improve marriages through scientific assessment and matchmaking.

“Some of psychology’s most interesting artifacts reflect not only the zeitgeist of the times but the personalities of the psychologists behind them. One such example is the “Marital Rating Scale—Wife’s Chart,” a test developed in the late 1930s by George W. Crane, MD, PhD, (1901–95) of Northwestern University, who ran a counseling practice, wrote a syndicated national newspaper column called “The Worry Clinic” and started his own matchmaking service.”

marital scale test

Husbands, rate your wives
By Nick Joyce and David B. Baker, PhD
Monitor on Psychology Volume 39, No. 5 May 2008 (p.1


Share your reactions to this article with us.

Sometime it helps to gain perspective on your life by looking at history. Here are the expectations (demands?) a doctor/counselor had of wives 70 years ago.

Share your thoughts on this with us.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

Make Relationship Changes Now (Pt. 3): Don’t Agree to do Anything that You Really Don’t want to do.

It’s a given that people in relationship need things from one another. Sometimes you want to do what is needed to be done. Sometimes you don’t want to, but you don’t mind doing it. Occasionally you really do not want to do what your partner needs you to do.

It is important to know two truths:

Saying ‘no’ to your partner does not mean you do not love him or her.

Saying ‘no’ to your partner can actually make your relationship better by avoiding problems.

How to avoid backing yourself into a corner.

1) Ask for time before you agree.

When your spouse asks you to do something that you are not sure you want to do, ask for time.

Example: “Let me think about that and get back to you.”

2) If you can’t keep your promise, inform your partner ASAP

Example 1:

“Last week when I promised to ………, I forgot that my brother is coming into town so I can’t do it.”

3) Renegotiate with Your Partner ASAP

When you have already agreed to do something that later you realize you really do not want to do, use the After-the-Fact Communication skill with you partner.

Through discussion the couple can come up with another solution that each feels OK about.

Example 1:

“I know that yesterday I agreed to do …………… but I’ve had a chance to think about it and I really don’t want to do it. Let’s talk about it.”

Scenario 1: Yesterday Fran had promised she would make dinner today for Eddie and herself. During the day she realized it was going to be too stressful for her to do that. She phoned Eddie and says I’ve had chance to think about it and I would rather meet you for a drink at Bottoms Up and then go for seafood at Kettle of Fish. It’s on me. Are you OK with that?

Scenario 1:

Susan and Bill have a schedule about who picks up the children from daycare. Susan has been asking Bill to pick up the children on her days more and more often. While he is OK about doing it occasionally for her, doing it too often interferes with his work. He began feeling stressed and resentful toward her. Bill told Susan what he felt and through discussion they found another option – Susan’s mother was able to pick up the children one day a week which alleviated Susan ‘s stress level and tight schedule.


Susan may say she did not realize that she was doing this. She may have thought Bill was OK with it because he never complained. She may ask him to pick up the kids today but she will make more of an effort to keep her commitments in the future.


Marriage and long-term relationships require a lot of collaboration. Couples are always asking each other for help, for favors, for support, for input, for backup and to do work. Couples who work together as a team feel good about each other and the good feelings they have help them deal more easily with what issues and problems they have. Each feels connected to the other and not alone in the world. This is the ideal.

In courtship this is often the way it is. Lovers in love want to all sorts of things for each other. Making the your lover’s life easier gives you pleasure. You enjoy their appreciation. When you lover does something for you, you feel loved and valued. You want to return the good will. A positive interactive cycle develops between the couple and gains momentum. As long as the giving and receiving is reciprocal, all is right with the world. The couple will work well together.

As relationships shift from courtship into permanent on-going day-to-day living, couples settle into patterns with each other. The first year of living together is about developing these patterns, some of which are conscious and some of which are unconscious.

Life is life. Things happen. Life busy. Sometimes we agree to do something for our partner without thinking about it. Perhaps we just want to ease their life. Other times we want to avoid an argument and our partner’s wrath. We could be distracted when we agree to do something and not think it through before we agree.

What happens when we agree to do something that we realize that we can’t follow through on? Well that’s easy. As soon as we realize the problem, we can use the After-the-Fact Communication skill to go back to our partner and let them know.

But what happens when we agree to do something that afterwards we do not want to do? Perhaps we even realize we don’t want to do it when we agree to it but we don’t say so.

Some people will go ahead and do it because they’ve given their word. If they do not feel resentful about it, there is no problem. But they realize that for their own good and that of the relationship they need to say ‘no’ to something that they really do not want to do.

But all too often what happens is the person does not go to their partner with the problem. They intend to do what they agreed to, but they procrastinate and procrastinate and procrastinate. Now there is a new problem between the couple.

“You said you would ……… and you haven’t. You’ve let me down. You’ve made be look foolish. You’ve caused me more work. I can’t count on you. I can’t trust you. You lied to me.”

Avoid these problems. Don’t agree to do something that you really don’t want to do.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

Can Truth Come From a Child’s Humiliation?

On Thursday, I was watching television as I ate my breakfast.

There was a clip about a boy aged about 10 or 11 years old. He was standing by the side of the road holding a yellow placard. On the placard in large letters were the words, “I can’t stop lying. I think my mother is stupid but I keep getting caught.”. (Not the exact words but that was the message.)

The boy was interviewed. He said his mother was trying to teach him a lesson. The mother was interviewed. She wanted to embarrass him into telling the truth.

I felt really sad to see this negative relationship pattern between parents and children. I find parents try to teach their children not to lie by focusing on ‘lying’ behavior. They catch their children in lies and then punish them. However, if the child admits to doing something wrong, that is, tell the truth, then they also get punished. It’s a no-win situation for the child.

When parents focus on lying rather than truth-telling they tend to get into power struggles with their children that create a vicious cycle in which everyone is a loser. The parents catch their children in lies and punish them. The children are frightened of being punished so they lie. Frightened children tend to lie or go mute. The more children lie, the more their parents catch them in lies, and punish them. Children become afraid of their parents. The parents become suspicious of the children.  Both become angry with each other.  It’s a bad outcome for everyone involved.

Punishment and humiliation can easily backfire damaging any relationship. The relief children experience when they are not caught is reinforcing -tempting them to lie again.  From this cycle, what children actually learn from their parents is “It’s OK to lie, just don’t get CAUGHT lying”.

Parents would do better to focus on their children’s truth-telling behavior. How to do that? See the handout for parents in our Articles section.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

How to Improve Your Relationships in the Present by Talking about the Past. Part 3:

Remembering the Past in More Detail

An example of over remembering the past in more detail comes from my own experience. In my thirties I did some major work on myself in therapy. One day, during a session, I recalled a memory from my early childhood. I don’t remember what we had been talking about at the time, I just remember my experience.

The Memory: I was three years old. I remember that because we still lived in the house on the farm. We moved from that house before I turned four. My mother, brother and I were standing in front of the wood stove popping popcorn. We were all crying.

That was all there was to the memory. It was not a new memory. Any time I had thought about it I was puzzled. I could not make sense out of it. Why were we crying? We were making popcorn. Popcorn was a special treat in those days. This was not like making popcorn today. Back then, my mother would scrape the small black kernels off the cob, put them into the frying pan and they would noisily POP into fluffy white yummy pieces of popcorn. It was magical, especially to a three year old. So why were we all crying?

By the end of this session nothing more had come from my recalling this memory. I left the therapist’s office and went about my day. But I could not stop thinking about it. I knew – I just knew – that there was something very important in this memory. For the rest of the day I was in my own little bubble.

That evening I made dinner as usual, put the kids to bed as usual and then went to bed at 8:00 pm, earlier than usual. I just wanted to be by myself so I could continue to think about this memory. I lay there in the dark, visualizing the scene over and over. Later my husband came to bed and I pretended to be asleep. I just did not want to be interrupted. I continued to lie there for hours thinking. Finally! At 4:00 am I got the answer.

I had always thought that we were all crying about the same thing. But as the memory became clearer I realized that my brother and I were crying because our mother had just strapped us. I don’t remember what for. (This was the late 40s and spankings were considered part of good parenting. People often quoted the Bible: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”) My mother was crying because she felt badly about what she had done to us. She was making the popcorn to make up to us for what she’d done.

Then the memory all made sense to me. I always thought when my mother strapped us kids that she wanted to do it. What I got from the memory was that she had ‘lost it’ and she could not help herself. I may have been only three but I was there.

I felt a flood of forgiveness for her. I felt relief. I felt a release. I fell into a sound peaceful sleep.

This changed my relationship with my mother in a positive way. I was different with her and she responded to my change with change of her own.

The change in the present did not stop there. Before I had this revelation I was the type of person who was warm and affectionate with family and friends but not with acquaintances or strangers. I did not like people I did not know well to touch me and I did not touch them. In the next days after I experienced this huge shift I found myself spontaneously reaching out and touching others. Also, I found myself liking it when people were physically warm with me. I didn’t think about it; it just happened. I’m not sure why this change occurred, but I liked it. The change has lasted to this day.

It is not always possible to remember more about a past event but it can sometimes happen when people reminisce about the past. In therapy people often do remember more about a past event, especially if they deliberately focus on the past. It also happens that new memories of other events come to mind that shed more light on the original memory.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

My Amazing Tennis Buddy

As I drive into the parking lot at the tennis club I see her car. She’s already there. Like me, she’s an early bird and likes to play in the mornings. As I walk into the foyer I see her standing at the computer booking a court for us. Her head is doing it’s Parkinson’s bob making her blond-grey ponytail on top of her head sway. I help her with the booking and then go to the locker room to get my tennis racket. When I come out I see her in the gym pumping iron. She finishes up her final set and we head to the court to meet the other players.

This group is in their 70’s and play regularly Tuesday and Friday mornings. They often invite me to spare for them when they need someone and I am happy to join them. Their hand/eye co-ordination is excellent and they strike the ball fairly hard. While they cannot run well, they consistently place the ball accurately. They are serious about their tennis and get angry at themselves when they miss a shot. They are resigned when they are unable to get to drop shots. When I play with my buddy I do as much of the running as I can for her.

There I am, as usual, the only left-hander with three right-handers. However, my buddy was not always right-handed. Many years ago her left arm was badly injured and she learned to play tennis with her right-hand! As a left-hander I am amazed she can play as well as she can.

After our set I get dressed and go to work. As I’m leaving I see my buddy playing another set. Two and a half hours of tennis – not bad when you’re in your 70’s!

Keep fit!

Dr. Bea Mackay

How to Handle Cut Throat Carla

Last week a fellow asked me to spare for him in a doubles tennis match. I am a C level player. Even though the level of the match was higher than I usually play I said I would. As a spare, I did not have to be concerned about winning or losing. I knew I could just enjoy playing.

During the warm-up I was rallying with one of the opponents. I noticed that she was aggressive even though we were just warming-up. Then we started to play. Well, she was more than aggressive, she was downright nasty. She hit the ball right at me, not once, but several times. I had never experiences such a cutthroat on the court before. This was not a tournament; it was just a regular Wednesday night game. Her behavior was over the top. My partner, a man I had never seen before, mumbled to me that he had played with her before and vowed never to play with her again.

My normal reaction, when I meet someone like this, is to get anxious and tighten up. I get triggered and regress to a younger age. In tennis, when I get tight, I hit the ball all over the place, usually nowhere where I intend to hit it. Afterwards, I’m down on myself for playing so badly. But this night something different happened for me. For some reason I thought it was really funny and I started to chuckle to myself. Laughing at the absurdity of the aggression allowed me to began to relax, and as a result, I started to play well.

In fact, I began to play at a level higher than I had ever played before. Of course I enjoyed this and chuckled to myself even more because I was having fun. My partner started enjoying the play too and we played well together. Cut throat Carla started commenting that I was ‘hot’. This made it even more fun. I was not nasty to her; I just focused on playing the best tennis I could. I had a blast playing that game. Every time I think of it I smile and chuckle to myself.

What surprised me most was my own reaction: What normally would have been a bad experience for me turned into a fun one. I was different and others responded positively. This was not something I consciously decided to do. It just happened and I surprised myself. It reminds me of the night I climbed Mount Sinai – when I least expect it sometimes strange but wonderful new things can happen.

Now that I’ve experienced this little example by accident I wonder if I can decide to respond this way when confronted by similar situations. Maybe I can get myself laughing if I say, “Hey, remember Cut Throat Carla!” and I’ll relax and have fun.

In fun,

Dr. Bea Mackay

Do It Yourself Relationship Help at

Egyptian Holiday (part 5): A Pair of Pidgeons.

On the drive to Alexandria where SS grew up, I noticed some large white cone structures with holes all over them. Amongst ourselves we discussed what they might be for. The holes might be for air-conditioning was one idea. We asked our guide who told us that they were for farming pigeons – considered a delicacy. My friend SS commented that pigeon was similar to quail.

In Alexandria, SS’s mother, along with her brother, invited us all out to dinner at an amazing restaurant that once was a palace that belonged to King Farouk’s wife. It was an opulent palace, in some ways a museum, with furniture, art and artifacts from the time of his reign. It had photos of King Farouk as a child on the walls. The menus were amazing with photos throughout of King Farouk in various uniforms. I would have like to have kept one of those. The elegance and grandness of the room in which we dined was impressive.

At the beginning of the dinner SS gave us each a gift – a gold cartouche with our name in Hieroglyphics on it. Her Egyptian friend, NR, who had joined our group, gave each of us a souvenir of Egypt. The generosity of our hosts was overwhelming. We were all quieter than usual. We were tired and I was sick with a bad cough and cold. I can’t speak for the others, but I know I was quiet because I felt somewhat overwhelmed by their generosity.

When it came time to order I saw that they had pigeon on the menu. SS had said it was like quail. I had had pheasant before and it was succulent and delicious. I grew up on a farm in southern Manitoba. As a child one of the things I liked to do was climb up the ladder to the roof of the barn and look at the pigeons nesting there. First to see the eggs. Then to see the newly hatch fledglings. Then to see the ugly awkward babies with their feathers growing in. We never ate them.

Even so, I ordered a ‘pair of pigeons’ from the menu. When my meal came and the waiter put it down before me I was shocked. My friend sitting beside me, who shall remain nameless, leaned over and whispered, “It looks like road kill.” My thought (which I kept to myself) “Exactly!” There were two flat leathery blackish brown or brownish black inkblots on the plate. They looked like they had just been scraped of the road on a hot summer day. I felt very awkward. I did not want to offend my generous and gracious hosts. So I started to eat it. I tried to cut it with a knife and fork. No way, it was too tough. Then I picked it up and tried to separate a limb from the body. With effort I was able to do it. Tender it was not! When I went to take a bite of it all I got was some greasy skin. There was little meat that I could detect. It was not like any quail or pheasant I had tasted. I still did not want to offend my hosts so I pushed the pigeons around my plate for a while. I did not go hungry. The portions were generous and my friends shared their meals with me. After the plates were cleared the waiter brought me a fingerbowl of lemon-scent water to wash my fingers. I was relieved because it meant to me that I was expected to use my hands to eat it. The meal ended with some delicious fresh fruit for dessert.

After some more photos in this luxurious palace we said our good-byes to our wonderful hosts and sauntered back to our hotel.

Well, at least I tried it.


Dr. Bea Mackay

P.S. How often in relationships do we try to avoid offending or hurting others?

Egyptian Holiday (Part 4): Parenting and Poverty

We were walking back to the old Christian monastery on for a tour inside. It was about 1 Km from the station where our minivan had dropped us off. We’d just hiked down Mount Sinai to the station and had eaten our boxed breakfasts provided by our hotel. We were going back for the tour. As I walked along in the heat of the day I was in a tired fog. Suddenly I was aware that something was going on and I became alert. I noticed a Bedouin man casually slouched on a low kind of stone fence talking to a 4-5 year old child. I assumed it was his son. The boy was running alongside a tourist. He had no goods to sell. He would look at his father. His father would say something to him in Arabic. The son would say something to the tourist and look back at the father who would say something to him. Then he would say something more to the tourist. Then I notice on the other side of the road there was a woman completely covered in her hijab except for her hands and eyes, talking to a different 4-5 year old child. I think it was a girl but it might have been a boy. The same thing was happening. The child was running alongside a tourist. The mother was saying something to her in Arabic. The girl would then say something to the tourist then look back at her mother who would say something to her. I did not have a sense that the father and his son were related to the mother and her child.

I realized that the parents were using this stretch of road to teach their children to beg. I know it is naïve of me but I did not think that begging was something that was taught. I had not really thought about it before; to me it was just something that was done. But the way these parents were teaching their children reminded me of the way I taught my sons how to develop skills in life – such as how to behave with guests, how to conduct themselves in public, etc.

My initial reaction was to feel sad for the children that they had to beg and sad for the parents that they needed to teach their children to beg. My next reaction was to feel relieved that my life circumstances meant I did not have to teach my children to beg. Finally, I thought of the poverty in Egypt and then I began to think that the parents were teaching their children survival skills. Because there are so few jobs and what jobs there are do not pay much, they would need these skills to survive themselves and to help their families survive. These children that I saw looked like normal healthy children. They had not been maimed by their parents to elicit charity as sometimes happens.

I still found it sad.

Dr. Bea Mackay

Egyptian Holiday (part 3): I got high on Mount Sinai

I had not thought much about this activity on our itinerary – hiking Mount Sinai. I had no expectations either positive or negative about it. The only thing that I’d thought about was that it was an all night event and I was concerned about getting over-tired from the loss of a night’s sleep. I was already feeling the effects of losing a night’s sleep traveling from Cairo to Abu Simbel and Aswan. When we got to the Old Cataract Hotel I should have napped in the afternoon instead of going out in the felucca (boat) with everyone. But it was a beautiful day, a neat thing to do and I did not want to miss anything. I got chilled on the boat and that’s how I came down with the bad cold – fatigue and chill. I was concerned that losing another night’s sleep would make me sicker.

Our driver and guide picked us up around 10 pm. We had about two and a half to three hours drive ahead and we all hoped to catch some shut-eye on the drive. We had to go thru many checkpoints at which we all had to show our passports. So much for getting much more than 40 winks on the drive. We arrived around 1:00 am at a small station, which had the usual facilities and met the young Bedouin man who was to be our guide for the hike. It was cold. It was dark. There were millions of stars. As usual, there were lots of hawkers pressing their wares on us – gloves, scarves etc – telling us how cold it was going to be at the top. Lots of other mini buses arrived with many more tourists.

We were given our flashlights and we started up the mountain. As we passed the Christian monastery (the first one ever built) we saw activity – movement, campfires. As we got closer we saw a large herd of camels and their Bedouin owners/drivers. They were looking to get hired to take tourists up the mountain. We trudged by them, away from the light and into the darkness. Only surprisingly, it wasn’t that dark. It was a beautiful moonlit night. With my flashlight on, my eyes could not adjust to the darkness, so I turned it off. It did not take long for my eyes to adjust. I could see so much. I could see the path so I had no trouble with my footing. I could see the whole valley, as well as, up and down the mountain. It was wonderful! Others in my group though wanted and needed the flashlights on. This bugged me because it meant I couldn’t see anything but the immediate path. I wanted to see the whole mountain and valley. I wanted to experience the ambiance of hiking in the moonlight – I’d never done it before. Usually I don’t say anything, but this was important to me. Because I thought we had to stay together I told them to ‘turn off their frigging flashlights’. That did not go over well. I was told to go on ahead. To me, that was a fabulous idea, so I took off. I don’t know what happened to me. I usually ‘collapse’ around 10:00 – 11:00 pm. Instead of being tired, I had energy to burn. I was excited. I did not feel sick at all and forgot all about being sick or getting sicker. I loved hiking up the mountain in the moonlight! I did not even think about my safety. I just soaked up all the sensations of occasion. SJ came along with me. Several times we came across what seemed to be large rocks in the distance but as we got closer they turned out to be a lying down camel with his squatting driver beside him. “Camel, camel”. No takers from me. We went at a good pace. I’m what I call a ‘high-class’ hiker. I have a group of women I hike with and most summers we drive to and/or helicopter into a mountain lodge (ski lodge in winter) and hike 2000-4000 vertical feet a day, ending up in our extremely comfortable accommodations at night. So I had no trouble with the vertical we were doing. At one of the several rests stations on the way up SJ said she was feeling sick. I knew it was from the exertion of the climb. She hired a camel to ride the rest of the way up. I did not want her to be on her own so I kept pace with the camel and driver. It wasn’t easy. Camels take big steps and I did not have the proper footwear. Usually I’m wearing my hiking boots but I did not want to pack them all around Egypt for one occasion. I had brought old tennis runners that were worn smooth. I was finding it very slippery. At some point, the camel driver just took my hand. My immediate reaction was to pull away, but I didn’t. Holding his hand I found it so much easier to keep pace with the camel. Now that I didn’t have to worry about slipping I could relax and enjoy the scenery even more and chat with the driver. He did not speak much English but I learned that it was his brother’s camel and that it was 6 years old.

It was wonderfully strange to be hiking up a mountain in the moonlight holding hands with a Bedouin man in traditional dress, trekking behind a camel. Once we got as high as the camels could go, SJ got off the camel. She was feeling much better. She had enjoyed the ride. We each tipped the driver and told him to go and find other tourists to help. Then we waited for the rest of our group to arrive.

When we reached this station there still was lots of time before the sunrise. It was warm and comfortable here and I knew it was going to be cold on top. I thought we should wait here until closer to sunrise. Our guide told us that there were so many tourists that if we did not get to the top early we would have trouble finding a spot to watch the sunrise.

The next part of the journey was the 750 irregular rocky steps up to the top of the mountain. I certainly did not count them. Now the group was together again, flashlights and all. It was crowded with tourists and we were going so slowly. SS was ahead with our guide holding his hand. I continued to have so much energy and no patience, so I told the guide I wanted to go ahead. I passed SS and the guide and headed to the top. GH, one of the fellows in the group, was keeping up with me. When we got to the top we did not know where the best spot was so we found a spot to wait for our group. Our guide came looking for us and took us to the group. We hunkered together in the cold to wait for the sunrise. Gradually it started to happen. There was something wonderful about being huddled together watching the night turn into day. Once the sun came over the horizon it did not take long to be fully day. Sun’s up! Time to go down again.

I don’t know what happened to me on the hike up Mount Sinai, but it was wonderful!


Dr. Bea Mackay

Egyptian Holiday (part 2): New Eyes

Ever since I was a child the pyramids and sphinx have fascinated me. I’ve wanted to see them. Never did I think that I would make friends with a fabulous Egyptian woman like SS who would show me, not all, but much of what her country has to offer and would take such good care of me while personally guiding me through it.

When you see photos and postcards of the pyramids and sphinx (and all the other monuments and temples) usually that’s all you see. Maybe there is the odd camel in the photos but mostly, you just see just the monuments.

When the big day came and I finally arrived at the pyramids I felt discombobulated. There were many metal-detecting checkpoints and lots of armed guards. There were thousands of tourists milling around. There were hundreds of hucksters hawking their made-in-China products. There were lines of Egyptian children and their adult supervisors trekking through the sites. And, there was garbage – cigarette butts, squashed pop cans and water bottles, bits of plastic, paper and more.

I was distracted by all of this activity and found it confusing. I felt irritated. I wanted it all gone. What do I focus on? I wanted to just experience the pyramids and sphinx. I wanted to step back in time and feel like what it must have been like to live thousands of years ago. No possibility of doing that with all these modern day people around doing modern day activities.

Gradually, I came to realize that we North Americans live in a two-dimensional world of time and space. We live in a young world – even 500 years is young. In Egypt it was like I was experiencing another dimension – history – thousands of years old. People who grow up in countries like this take for granted this dimension. For them, it’s like breathing – it just is there. But it has an impact on people. I’m not sure exactly what the impact is but there is one. I realized that this impact of history was something that I was missing. I had not grown up with it. I felt, not deprived, but less rich somehow. It’s hard to put into words. Perhaps, ignorant on some level – simple, uncomplicated, child-like, in that I was lacking in experience, knowledge and even sensation.

Once I ‘got’ this added dimension, something shifted in my perception. I started to look at the country and all it had to offer in a new way – as a juxtaposing of the ancient and the current. I started looking at the current buildings with the pyramids in the background. Looking at the pyramids with the many skyscrapers in the background. I saw a donkey cart with its driver carrying the vegetables to market going down the road alongside the trucks carrying their loads. I saw trucks filled to the brim with sheep and their shepherds. I saw modern day buildings with their crumbling walls near buildings with their ancient restored turrets rising above. I saw the oldest library in the world in its ultra modern current day architecture from an ancient fort. I saw farmers riding their donkeys to work in the fields along side highways with cars and trucks carrying people to their work (or their sightseeing). I saw young women wearing their hijabs and their jeans. Hiking up Mount Sinai I saw Bedouin guides, dressed in traditional style, with their camels, taking sightseers up and down the mountain. The modern pilgrimage. Our young Bedouin guide wore jeans and a jean jacket with LONDON printed across it.

Even on top of Mount Sinai as the sun rose and the skyline turned many glorious colors there was a jet flying through it, passing over our heads, leaving its widening vapor trailing in a not-straight line. And as I watched the sunrise slowing taking place I see my dear friend SS, frustrated, shivering in her shawl with her back to the sunrise, trying to send a message on her Blackberry – unable to get a signal.

I saw it everywhere I went– juxtaposition of the ancient and the current. I loved my ‘new eyes’.


Dr. Bea Mackay

P.S. If we can get ‘new eyes’ on our relationships, amazing things can happen.

My Egyptian Holiday (part 1)

My Egyptian Holiday:

In November I went on a holiday to Egypt with 7 friends. We had been planning it for some time. We were supposed to go in 2006 but had to postpone it because not everyone could go.

We had a wonderful time. We had a packed itinerary that enabled us to see many important monuments and places.

It is amazing what the Egyptians created in those times with the tools that they had. It’s one thing to look at photos of monuments and it’s another to stand beside them, to touch them and in many ways, experience them. When I stood beside the massive columns of granite in their perfection I was even more astonished that they could do what they did.

Did you know that Luxor has 25% of all the monuments in the world? That’s what our guide told us.

In the Valley of the Kings we toured four tombs, one of which was King Tutankhamun tomb. We saw his mummy, which had only been on display for about two months.

I wrote some vignettes about my experiences. I’ll add them here.


Dr. Bea Mackay