Factors of Dr. Jowdy's Approach:
Hope, Passion & Transformation
Hope is what we can find with a trusted friend with whom we feel safe during troubled times. By listening and providing support, that friend can give us hope that our situation can and will change. For example, after a divorce, such a friend can help you come to believe you will eventually be all right without that person who laid by your side at night perhaps for decades. Regardless of the reason a person joins with me on his or her journey, they typically will see there is a way out of their current mindset after our first or second meeting.
Over the years I have worked with many athletes who had career-ending injuries and became so depressed they no longer wanted to live. Suicidal thoughts are typically related to a total loss of hope, or the feeling a person will never escape from the despair currently torturing them. Through the counseling process, as the athlete begins to transcend their thoughts of dying, I ask, “What is helping?” Almost always, the athlete replies, “You helped me find hope and a desire to live.”
In rooms where 12-step programs are held, you may see a sign on the wall that reads, “Hope is found here.” One huge reason these programs are helpful is that people who attend experience hope, sometimes for the first time in their lives. People who are new to the 12 steps are surrounded by others who came into the rooms bleeding emotionally and found a way out. Jerome Frank, MD, PhD and Julia Frank, MD wrote a book entitled, Persuasion and Healing: A Comparative Study of Psychotherapy (1993). One moral of their story is that the effectiveness of counseling and psychotherapy comes as a result of the therapist instilling hope in the client. This has been supported by both research and anecdotal evidence.
Passion is a word that is rarely used, but is most closely associated with intimate or romantic relationships. From my perspective, passion is a state of being that is associated with physical and mental health, including good mood, low anxiety, a strong immune system, energy and vigor, a sense of focus, a feeling of being close to others, and enjoyment of life. I am big on this idea of passion, and you will find I approach my work as a psychologist with passion. You will also find that when you are in a state of passion, life becomes really fun.
Passion is a state of mind, body, heart, and soul that results in an experience of what is called expansiveness. Expansiveness is a physical and emotional sensation of feeling alive, enthusiastic, courageous, and engaged in the game of life. You can think of expansiveness as being in a fine mood, interested in people and the world, contributing to society, and valuing oneself enough to “block and delete” drama from your life. In comparison, a state of contraction is associated with feeling tired, heavy, fearful, worried, restless, irritable, and unhappy.
Here’s an example that, although far from perfect, typically helps people understand the difference between expansiveness and contractiveness. Around November or so, when the holidays begin to approach, many (if not most) people have a sense of dread and apprehension. We often hear the sentiment, “I can’t wait until the holidays are over!” This is contraction. By contrast, I rarely find people feeling elated or in a state of expansiveness in anticipation of the holidays, saying, “Oh, I can’t wait, the holidays will be so much fun, relaxing and peaceful!” That kind of expansiveness, rarely associated with the holidays, is consistent with a sense of passion.
Transformation is the ultimate goal. There is nothing I can say about transformation that is not captured in a former professor’s poem entitled “The Pilgrim.” The late Michael Mahoney, PhD taught at Pennsylvania State University, where I was fortunate to cross paths with him. His brilliance knew no bounds. For those of you interested in reading theoretical stuff in psychology, I direct you to Mike’s book, Human Change Processes: The Scientific Foundations of Psychotherapy (1991). The book is 608 pages long with more than 2,400 references. His ability to write for those in academic circles and also produce a poem like “The Pilgrim” is a rare quality. Read the poem, then rinse and repeat over time, as its meaning will change. What might not make sense now may become crystal clear as you ride the waves of the human condition. I would be happy to break this down with you, and perhaps use Mike’s creation as a road map of sorts for our journey together. Enjoy!