Health & Wellness

Mirror, Mirror in my Head: The Mind Body Connection

by Laura Foti Cohen

Ebell members are women of high achievement in diverse fields. Every month the Magazine will focus on a theme; this month it is Mind and Body. In this piece, Ebell members who are professionals in this area offer their insights.

When you look good, you feel good. This is a simplistic summary of the mind-body connection, but it begins to get at a deeper concept: our physical and mental health are intertwined.

Angelique Campen, an Emergency Room physician at UCLA, provides aesthetic services through her side business, The Best Kept Secret in Larchmont. “All these little things [fillers and Botox] are quick, easy and don’t significantly alter your appearance, making you look rested and preserving your youthful appearance. They help make your exterior match the way you feel inside.” It also works the other way: “looking rested and youthful makes you feel and act that way and affects the way you interact with others.”

Suzanne Rosenblatt Buhai, who uses her maiden name professionally, is a Marriage and Family Therapist with a counseling degree from USC. She’s been in private practice for 25 years, specializing in couples, as well as chronic health issues and their impact on the individual. About therapy she explains, “This job is not telling people what to do. Clients explore choices they’ve made and need to make. Each choice we make means giving up something else.”

How does one know when it’s time to seek therapy? “Talking to a licensed mental health professional can be a life-changing experience,” Suzanne says. “It can be very helpful to talk to someone objective, but you have to find someone to whom you can talk easily, who feels empathetic rather than judgmental.”

Dianne Sundby Driver, a psychologist in private practice since 1971, adds, “Most people come in later than they should, especially couples.” Warning signs include depression, feelings of helplessness and anxiety.

Everyone is susceptible to such feelings. “Even people with high self-esteem get depressed,” Dianne says. “Sometimes they find it hard to accept it when things don’t go well, although usually they’re eager to work on it and move on. There are always new ways to improve your world.”

Suzanne notes, “It’s important for people in therapy to have goals. They should be measurable and agreed upon by the client and the therapist.” Suzanne calls herself “very solution-oriented, especially with couples. I speak frankly and have gotten more direct over the years.”

Addressing emotional issues can have a positive impact on the physical body. As Dianne notes, “If you’ve grown up repressing emotions or rationalizing things away, you’ll find it shows up physically – backaches, headaches, stomach problems – from holding in tension. People need to learn to express their feelings appropriately.”

Understanding feelings can involve going back a generation or two. Chantal Rialland, a Sorbonne-educated psychologist, specializes in psycho-genealogy, a field she created 20 years ago. Author of the book Cette Famille Qui Vit En Nous (not yet published in English), Chantal explains that her work examines the influence of clients’ parents and, in turn, their relationships with their own parents and siblings (the clients’ grandparents, aunts and uncles).

“The work is to be conscious and find our freedom,” Chantal says. “Much of who we are is not our choice, it’s the history of our parents and their parents before them. We need to recognize and manage this influence. Your problems may not be your fault, but it is still your responsibility to work to be free.”

The three main areas addressed by psycho-genealogy are projection, identification and repetition. “We can try not to become our mother, for example,” Chantal explains. “But to be the opposite of our mother is not to be free.”

Arlene Becker, a Marriage and Family Counselor for more than 30 years, now retired, believes we can all help each other. She stresses the importance of developing “your empathetic abilities. Listen to people and find out what’s going on with them. We can all be therapists in our own way, and it helps us too.”

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