Audio Interview (2008)
To listen to Julia, press the play button (triangle) below.
Here’s what Julia said:
My name is Julia Clowney – and I am a licensed independent clinical social worker which means psychotherapist, essentially. And I’ve been practicing for a little bit over 17 years. My approach is empowering and forward moving. And I tend to focus much more on the future than the past. I do address issues from the past. I don’t want to make it sound like I ignore them, they certainly are important. Acknowledging what’s in the past, accepting it and doing the work that’s required for the trauma or the sadness from past events is very important and I do that. The second step is moving towards the future. What do you want your life to feel like in ways that it doesn’t feel like know. And so those questions can sometimes feel uncharacteristic of a usual therapy session. What do you want in your life? What kinds of experiences do you want? What kinds of relationships do you want? And we come up with an action plan or a road map to get from here to there.
I think that a lot of people have the impression that you need to be very sick or very nervous or very depressed in order to justify seeing a therapist. What I think is that it takes a lot of courage to say to yourself that someone else might have a different approach and that different approach might be better. That can be a difficult place to get to – because it takes courage, it takes humility, and it takes a sense of adventure and people don’t necessarily have those things when they’re feeling anxious and depressed. But if they can just find a whisper of those things then anyone would benefit from seeing a therapist. I had a cold call who never came in, he said: I don’t think I’m crazy enough. And then I just never heard back from him. And I just thought that was funny. You don’t need to be crazy to see a therapist.
And one of the reasons that that’s true is because the power of our thoughts, and the power of our perceptions of the situations in our lives are not actually common knowledge. Some people are even so skeptical of this idea, that they even hear of the movie or the book The Secret and they discount it immediately. The Secret is based on the Law of Attraction. My understanding of the Law of Attraction is: what we think about and focus on and spend a lot of time and energy on tends to come into our lives or stay in our lives. And what we really pay no attention to, don’t think about, don’t focus on or give time or energy to very very rarely does. That in a nutshell is what the Law of Attraction is.
My issue with the Secret is that it doesn’t acknowledge core beliefs. A core belief is a belief that you’ve held for so long and so strongly that its become a fact. So, someone might say: I’m terrible in relationships. I’ll never have a meaningful, healthy relationship. Well they’ve had a history of not having good relationships, and that is their current belief about themselves. But it’s happened so many times and it’s a thought that’s occurred to them so many times that it’s become a fact. And it’s enforced by them making the statement to themselves and to other people: I’m not capable of having a healthy relationship, I always screw them up. Addressing that and acknowledging that that is actually a belief and not a fact is the first step in using the Law of Attraction for improving your life.
Contemporary thought has begun to acknowledge this power as well. There’s something called positive psychology – it’s about ten or fifteen years old and focuses on one’s strengths and what is working in someone’s life and applying those skills and talents – and I’m not just speaking to just tangible skills and talent, I’m talking about emotional and mental as well – applying the things they do in the areas of they’re life that are working to the areas of their life that are not working. So there is research out there on a therapeutic approach that uses the strengths that I use. What I’ve done is I’ve used cultures from around the world and traditions from around the world, spiritual traditions to be frank, and I realized that they’re all pretty much saying the same thing. They have different words that they use, they have different rules, or laws if you will that are applied to them and the bottom line is: it’s your choice. Your perspective of your life is the single most important determinant of how your life will be. What you chose to think about and focus on is the most important thing in how your life actually turns out.
I can’t change someone’s thinking for them, but I can offer them the concept that if they want to choose a different perspective that things can be different for them.
I’ve had people where I make suggestions and they’ve said “oh, no – that’s not really an option. That won’t happen. But they have been willing to make a very small change and were very shocked at the results. And they would come in and say ‘you’re never gonna believe this – but I tried that thing you were talking about – and guess what happened?
And I can usually guess. You know, people don’t actually spend enough time deciding what they actually can control in their life and what they can’t. So they spend a lot of time and energy trying to control all of it. It’s not less or more control. It’s what you’re trying to control. So if you’re trying to control other people, if you’re trying to control your boss, your spouse, your kids – your mortgage company, your landlord, your neighbors – than yes – you’re definitely going to want less control because as it turns out – you don’t have any. Having more control over you. Your thoughts, your feelings your emotions. That is the more control that you’re going to be looking for. That’s the control that therapy will give you direction on.
There’s a quote I have up in my office by Marianne Williamson, and it says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It sounds nice and it sounds pleasant when you hear it, but it can be a terrifying thought. If my thoughts and what I have chosen for myself have created this life for me and my life isn’t so great right now . . . that brings you to a fork in the road. And on one side, a deep depression – that I have created this – very unpleasant amount of suffering or this unpleasant experience that I’m going through. The other side of that fork is — I can choose to take this information and actually change the experience of my life and allow the personal transformation and a higher consciousness to evolve from understanding that I am powerful beyond measure.
One of the benefits of understanding and embracing your own power is that it’s a great tool to be able to release some of the negativity you have in your life. Negativity defines who you are, it defines your life and it defines who you are in the world. It’s as simple as that. And negativity is, as difficult as this may be to hear for some people, is a choice. And if you are a negative person, you are choosing to be negative.
I have an analogy that I have used with clients; that your mind is very much like an apartment. Negative thoughts are like friends with muddy boots who come in and trash your place, and stay till unwanted hours and eat the food out of your fridge and damage everything. You don’t lock the door. You don’t throw them out. You don’t even notice them. Positive friends, or positive thoughts, are gonna come in and help you clean up, and bring dinner and talk to you about things and make repairs and so: keep the door locked! And look through the peep hole before a thought comes in. If you need to make changes – kick out the characters who aren’t workin’ for you and look for thoughts that will work. People would be surprised when they hear about positive thinking they’ll say – well that’s just not true. My life is filled with negative things. It is true. There are positive thoughts that can replace those negative thoughts and more times than not, those positive thoughts will be more true than the negative ones.
To introduce a new aspect of yourself that does want transformation, that does want change, that does want joy, peace, contentment, healthy relationships – a feeling that your life has purpose – it’s like a muscle. And you haven’t used it in, possibly, decades. So to consider it, to lift something with that muscle that you haven’t used in a long time is uncomfortable. And in the West we’re taught that if it’s good it’s good and if it’s bad it’s bad – and if it’s good go towards it and if it’s bad go away from it. And this isn’t necessarily a useful way of approaching it – especially when you’re talking about the comfort zone, moving past it and transforming your life.
Watching my clients over the last decade and realizing that those who were able to come into my office and talk to me about what they wanted to see different in their lives and those who had the courage to move out of their comfort zone and try one thing that wasn’t in their regular daily schedule – whether it be physical, mental – emotional – trying on something that they hadn’t tried on before – those were the people that changed. As Winston Churchill said, “You create your own universe as you go along.” If you’d like to explore this more, I’d love to help.