We humans seem to love rituals, anniversaries, and recurring certain times to celebrate something. Birthdays are a great example. Each year on our special day, we celebrate our arrival in this world. That’s cool. As we age, we may not want to celebrate or call attention to another year added to the many, but even if we are more reserved about our celebration, don’t all of us have some special feelings on our special day?

The New Year is another example that is widely celebrated in our country. Why? It is, really, just another day on the calendar (a man-made, probably not really person-made back then, but really man) artifact for calibrating our lives. Some use it as an opportunity to recount to relatives and friends our achievements or those of our families. Some use it as a means of trying to get back to a forgotten habit (e.g., exercise, healthy eating, etc.) or to start a new habit (same examples).

What about if we would look at any ritual celebratory times as a nudge to increase our self-awareness and our often oft-forgotten personal growth? Especially those of us who care for others regularly (our clients, our family, our community) might need a bit of a reminder to care for ourselves on these designated days each year.

Hmmm … how can we increase our personal growth in the short amount of time that we allocate for ourselves? Well, how about sending me your thoughts so that I can incorporate them into my next blog?? I would totally welcome that and know that you all have many fabulous ideas. I want to try them out myself and pass them along.

What I have learned for myself is this: setting goals for the New Year or a new year on this earth must be gentle or else I am only creating more guilt for myself if I fail to accomplish the goal.

Gentle, one step at a time, willing to revise the goal if at first I don’t succeed (rather than scrapping it entirely and putting myself down for my supposed “failure”). If we can learn to be gentle, encouraging but kind with ourselves, I know we will be better therapists.

As one of my best friends suggested to me when I was feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of unpacking my millions of boxes one more time – “just open one box and see if you feel like doing another.” Of course, she was also with me here to help me along, so that was comforting in itself. But, her suggestion also really helped. I think we unpacked several boxes that day and I awoke with a much lighter feeling the following day, ready to begin opening more boxes – one at a time.

Long ago, when I was a student in MSW program at Tulane, I was a member of a feminist counseling collective that met monthly in New Orleans. I was a baby therapist wannabe, so I relished these meetings with the experienced therapists whom I revered. These women inspired me in so many ways. One of the women stated in one of our meetings something that has remained in my consciousness for many, many years: “We can only offer alternatives to our clients that we can envision for ourselves.” She did not mean (at least as I understood it and have used the perspective all my life) that OUR alternatives have to be those utilized by our clients, but rather that if we continue to envision alternatives in our lives, we can help our clients define and reach for their own alternatives. Anyway, the saying has helped inspire me and my clients over the years and I hope that it might help some of you as well. Not copyrighted, so use as you desire – which is also true for anything I write here or teach in my seminars. Information should always be free if it can help another soul get along a bit easier in this challenging world.

Here’s to new personal growth, exploration, and just plain fun in 2020!

To self-caring and comfort through challenging times,



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Deborah M. Henson