The Deep Dive For Love

A professional note by a colleague: “This article braves 5 major areas and addresses 6 essential questions. To fully understand how to appropriately utilize this article, it would take a person who is in the beginning or middle of this struggle a year of two visits a week with a skilled mental health professional. I consider this an epic article.”  ~ Dr. Daniel Cohen Ph.D., Life Member, APA.

Areas of focus

1) Struggle as a Gift

2) Leaning on Love

3) The Choices We Make

4) Courage & Distraction

5) Numbing

Essential Questions:

  1. Why would anyone avoid the struggle?
  2. What interferes with leaning on love?
  3. How can you know when you’re choosing toxicity over healing?
  4. Why would someone choose toxic behavior?
  5. How does one cultivate courage?
  6. How can you tell when you self-distract?

Ideally, love is shared between two people who see forever in each other’s eyes, and they grow old together, embracing challenges as they arise with courage, confidence, and mutual effort. Each empathizes with the other, drops whatever they are doing to mend any accidental offences, and prioritizes the other above all else.  Earning and sharing trust are at the forefront of their union and they travel life’s sacred journey, hand-in-hand, without making excuses for not showing up emotionally. But what if only one has self-expectation of showing up for the partner while the partner has no such self-expectation? What if only one shows up emotionally – and the other expects this one-sided deal will go on forever, without offering the same?

Make no mistake about it: love can be as frightening as it is rewarding. Those who dare to embark upon the true journey, walk a sacred path to touch eternity – as that is the spark in the eyes and hearts of those who embrace this rare and precious experience.

Each struggle is a gift – an opportunity to show how well you, as a team, can handle it. In any loving relationship, whether you’re together for 2 months, 2 years or 2 decades, ‘struggles’ emerge. In healthy relationships, sharing the burden strengthens your union. Avoiding struggles undercuts trust by giving the message(s): “We can’t do this together” and/or “I’m not here with you to deal with this. You’re on your own. I don’t’ care if it is fixed. You want it fixed? Do it yourself.” Why would anyone avoid the struggle? This is the key question to be answered in this article.

Every couple has struggles on some level. Financial are often among the first stressors for most starting out. Leaning on love not only eases all tension, including financial, but empowers the couple as a united front. That having been said, leaning on love – while easy and pleasurable for some, is almost impossible for others. The inability or unwillingness to lean on love complicates every struggle and ultimately gives the smallest of issues power to tear a couple apart – either by forcing the healthy partner to give up on the lonely, burdensome effort, or by defining to both that they truly have no interest in choosing “us” over self, or any other distraction. 

Keep in mind: all struggles are designed to build a foundation of trust.  All struggles provide an opportunity to strengthen internal trust and your bond as a couple. Avoidance is toxic, and poisons relationships – always.

When handled properly – with heartfelt, unconditional love as the main ingredient, struggles become part of a couple’s recipe for happiness. Without unconditional love, channeling of positive energy, a desire to earn trust, and a mutual decision to nourish devotion to defend against toxic interference, there is no success. Both partners must equally prioritize their union above everything else in order to be triumphant as a couple. This balanced path begins with vulnerability and a willingness to share and feed love freely so it can be leaned on in times of crisis.

What interferes with ‘leaning on love’? Unresolved childhood trauma is often a major culprit. Is it possible to dissolve that obstacle? Yes – but it takes enormous patience and honest effort. Both people need to be sincerely interested in rekindling passion (assuming they began with it). It takes commitment on both parts. Note: as a medical professional I assure you that the human body is designed to heal itself, and the human mind/ brain/ spirit craves inner-peace and calm. To illustrate those observations: the skin, when cut, seals itself off; broken bones heal from within; the brain produces neurotransmitters to self-calm (i.e. serotonin).

Recognition that everyone has experienced disappointment at some point in life is the first step along this healing path; the second step: awareness that, in addition to run-of-the-mill disappointment, some have survived devastating pain. With these two points to guide, it helps to repeat what was stated above: the mind craves healing and inner peace. To achieve healing, the mind forces unresolved issues to resurface throughout life’s journey, giving the traumatized spirit a chance to review – ideally, with perspective and emotional support, so balance can be achieved. Some craft defense-mechanisms which boil down to self-distraction – in spite of the true desire of the spirit to heal. This will be explored in a moment.

As issues and past trauma arise, the choices we make are either to deal with them head on, or to avoid resolving them, by self-distracting. Dealing with unresolved issues requires commitment and tremendous courage. Avoidance is easier – thus, chosen by most. How can you know what you’re choosing? There are hints.

Self-distraction may spiral into more self-distraction. A person with unresolved childhood trauma often enters the spiral by perpetually avoiding dealing with inevitable hurt, negligence, or even abuse that he/she inflicts on a loved one. This is commonly followed by a ‘self-excuse’ which might sound something like this: “Oh I see I caused you pain but I’ve been busy/ confused/ upset myself . . . (the list goes on) all day / week/ year. How could you expect me to step up and deal with what I inflicted on you?” Or it might sound like something that boils down to this: “It isn’t convenient to deal with this now.” The first few years of these excuses might earn ‘forgiveness’ by the one who was hurt, until either the abuse/ neglect stops and trust is finally earned, or growth on the part of the abused leads to separation from the painful relationship, as no more ‘slack’ can be cut.

There are more self-distracting techniques used by survivors of childhood trauma who, until resolved, abuse their partners. One is to self-praise one’s own efforts as ‘progress’ while ignoring the betrayed trust, as if these self-assigned ‘gold stars’ in any way mend the broken trust: “I am finally noticing how I inflict pain on you. That’s progress!” stated without recognition of the actual specific thing(s) done to disappoint or otherwise betray trust. Another: “But look how well I’m doing in so many other areas!” as if this recognition should somehow un-ring the bell of broken trust or spontaneously crazy-glue a shattered heart back together again.

Another cleverly toxic tactic: “I want you to continue to hold me accountable” suggesting the offending person is incapable of self-reflection in the moment. This puts the burden on the offended as it takes the offender off the hook – at least that is the way the offender sees it. With tremendous pride in the illusion of personal growth, the offender fails to earn trust or mend the broken heart of the offended, who continues to feel disappointed and pushed away. The offender feels remorse which is self-proclaimed as ‘payment enough’ for the offense.

Sadly, the offender might then deem the ‘offense’ not worthy of further consideration, time, effort etc., comparing it to a far worse heinous crime – therefore, the offended is ‘lucky’ to have not been the recipient of the more hideous offense. After all, it isn’t as bad as . . . whatever the offender can conjure.  Bottom line: feelings hurt are not mended by the offender – and though there is some remorse, the pattern continues.

The offender chooses a vicious cycle of toxic interactions and behavior over self-reflection and healing. Why? Even though logic shows this vicious cycle of avoidance on the part of the offender inflicts self-abuse, shame, guilt and more, this is the choice that is made. The offender actively chooses to avoid self-reflection which could heal all damaged relationships, simply because it is easier and requires no courage.

Self-reflection leads to awareness, embracing emotions, recognition, questions, an honest search for answers, and ultimately centered peace along with physical wellness.  You can see how much easier it is to choose avoidance – though, when laid out this way, you might notice the rewards of self-reflection are so much greater. Yet, courage is required and, as stated, most who have been traumatized in childhood choose self-distraction over courage until perspective is gained.

How can one actively cultivate courage? The answer begins with learning how to spot the many ways in which we tend to self-distract. To be clear, we all self-distract to a degree.  Healthy self-distraction permits us to calm ourselves so we can move to building courage. Problems arise when self-distraction is permitted to become the cowardly goal, rather than a tool to permit us to self-reflect.

It is necessary to understand how to identify ‘self-distraction that leads to self-reflection’ so that we can spot and dissolve the tendency to permit it to default to more self-distraction. The latter represents an unfortunate spiral feeding a perpetual cycle until one actively breaks the pattern. To learn how to cultivate courage, it helps to recognize that it actually grows on its own with the right nourishment. The logical question becomes: what nourishes courage?

 Every time you spot your own distractions, and view them honestly, you strengthen your own internal courage. Once you have the confidence to spot distractions and actively choose to look at them for what they are, you build self-trust which goes hand-in-hand with spiritual courage. If you’ve read this far, you are interested in learning simple truths about self-distraction, strength of spirit, and how you can spot distraction in yourself and others so that you can facilitate your own healing journey.

People often self-distract emotionally by investing energy into blocking thoughts. There are clear signals when this occurs, such as self-destructive behavior including but not limited to overindulgence (i.e. work, food, exercise, sex, gambling, shopping), or personal neglect (i.e. permitting the body to fall below or climb above target weight or muscle mass, unkempt nails, hair, skin, etc.). These are examples of how one chooses to put ‘dealing with emotions’ on the back-burner. When skilled at self-distraction, one can find ways to avoid addressing emotions altogether.

One adept at self-distracting actually redefines effort into ‘emotion’ as ‘the distraction’ rather than as an important step along the path to healing mind, body and spirit. What does this type of redefinition look like in real time? How can you tell if/when you do it?

Anyone who channels every ‘spare’ moment into devoting time to charities, hours upon hours of hobbies &/or projects that require so much precision and attention that ‘but of course’ no time for emotion would be permitted; work (excusing the investment as necessary to pay household bills – ignoring feeding of emotional relationships within the home); or any other ‘excuse’ to avoid dealing with hurt inflicted emotionally on a loved one who states, “That made me feel sad/ angry/ frustrated etc.) demonstrates this type of self-distracting avoidance – ultimately avoiding the essential  building of courage, spiritual strength, and trust with loved ones.

Self-distracting people often buy into the lie: emotion will distract from a good and effective outcome of ‘the project/ work/ donation effort’.  The defenses include but are not limited to: “After all, only a ‘good person’ would devote every spare moment to charity – right?” and “Only an ‘excellent bread-winner’ can make ends meet and/or support the lifestyle to which one has become accustomed (aka: doing it because of love of family and those supported).”  In truth: what the individual succeeds at doing, in real time, is defining ‘emotion’ as the distraction rather than the gateway to inner-peace.

A child raised in this type of spiritually starved environment is traumatized by toxic vibrations in that very ‘well-intentioned’ home (especially during the most emotionally vulnerable years – before the age of 9). Such exposure often results in an adolescent with either excellent numbing skills, or anger management issues.

Numbing might be accomplished by using external substances (i.e. mind-altering drugs, alcohol), revealed by behavior easily spotted by most casual onlookers, or by mastering the unfortunate skill of silencing the heart by internally numbing. A hint signaling this might be the case: people who master internal numbing present as cold, distant, emotionally unavailable individuals who might excel at intellectual pursuits, but who can’t give or receive satisfying, consistent love with another human. Words don’t match facial expression, empathy is clearly absent, and ‘logic’ remains the focus.

Another sad scenario would be a person who lashes out at others – seemingly unprovoked, with loud words, behavior, or disruptive actions including but not limited to throwing fits of rage in public places, picking fights etc. This path pushes people away as often as the ‘silent, numb’ approach. In either of these cases, until the childhood trauma is put into perspective through interventions which might include EMDR, EFT (tapping), and talk therapy with a well-educated relationship counselor, healing is unlikely, and a satisfying love relationship with another healthy human is nearly impossible.

People who have unresolved childhood trauma might do well if paired with another emotionally numb person, but only if both agree on emotional boundaries, and a parallel existence without desire to build or expectation of earning trust is acceptable to both. Unresolved trauma does not permit a mutually satisfying relationship with another healthy, balanced human unless extraordinary sacrifices are made by the healthy person – or, until the trauma is put into perspective.

To be very clear: casual by-standers and well-intentioned people are not equipped to help heal a person who struggles with unresolved childhood trauma, as it is an emotional emergency that requires professional help; a journey of extraordinary courage and spiritual strength. Healing is only possible for the traumatized survivor who has the right support, is more than just ‘willing and able’- one who is very highly motivated to do so.

This is your sacred journey. All steps taken and avoided are your personal choice.  I wish you spiritual courage, emotional healing, balance of mind, body and spirit, fulfillment, and positive energy.  ~ Dr. Iankowitz

COVID-19 Is Here to Stay

As we focus attention on the current “COVID-19” crisis, many emotions come into play. Though understandable, fear is easily quelled with just a bit of perspective. Armed with evidence-based scientific data, we are empowered.

To be clear, we live in concert with countless micro-organisms – in, on, and surrounding our bodies.  Our beautiful planet is filled with complexity. In wisdom, all creatures – including humans, adapt to survive and even thrive, along with bacteria, fungi, and viruses of all shapes and sizes. For example, you might be familiar with fungi, such as Candida albicans, which can cause tremendous issues for the mind, body and spirit. (Google for details). Though fungi and viruses are generally unpleasant, interventions we take to keep them in check often serve to strengthen our immune system.  

Now, to be thorough, here are a few words about bacteria. Some are good. Some are bad. They aren’t all dangerous – and some are important for a healthy body. We call the beneficial bacteria “probiotics” and embrace them as helpful and healing. Did you know we have many species of bacteria that work well as team-members in certain organ systems of the body, while they might wreak havoc if they relocate to other organ systems in the same body? An example of this would be Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium that is part of a healthy digestive system (though some members of this species may cause gut issues); however, if this bacterium gets into the urinary tract, a “urinary tract infection” results, for which one might take an antibiotic.

So where does the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 come into the discussion? Just as we humans have learned to live with fungi and bacteria, we have the ability to live with viruses, which are unique in that they are neither alive nor dead – rather. they represent ‘potential’ which is fulfilled only if conditions are right. This means that, without proper conditions, this virus can’t replicate. It can’t do damage.  The key is to create an environment that prevents it from damaging humans – and while challenging for some, it is truly easier to do than you might think.

First, we must prevent the virus from coming into contact with any ‘mucus membranes’ on the body. These are areas on the body that are moist from body secretions, such as eyes, inside the nose, inside the mouth, and so on. If the virus gets onto hands, the hands and fingers can put the virus into an eye (by rubbing) or into the nose or mouth – unless the virus is deactivated by soap and water or by 70% alcohol applied directly to it. The hands are main target areas for the virus, as the virus can enter the human body by fingers delivering it directly to any mucus membrane.

Second, it helps to understand other ways in which the virus can travel.  The virus can linger on surfaces such as paper, plastic, and metal – to name a few. It also travels through the air on droplets invisible to the naked eye. So, if a person happens to have this virus, but is not yet showing symptoms, the virus can reproduce in that person and spread itself to others as the person speaks, coughs, or sneezes. Masks worn by people help to prevent the virus from spreading from the one wearing the mask to others who are also wearing masks; however, there are additional precautions to take to prevent accidental infection of others.

It is essential to remember that, since the virus is so small, it is able to pass through regular masks. This means we need to step up our game by providing a greater distance between the infected (but not yet sick) people, and those with whom they speak. Particles of saliva within which the virus travels are generally able to propel up to 13’ from the one who speaks. This means that social distancing between two people – one of whom might be unknowingly infected, reduces chances of permitting the virus to spread to others.

Bottom line interventions: (1) keep your immune system up, (2) use soap and water to wash hands upon re-entry to your home (as well as prior to and after you prepare and eat food), (3) leave outside shoes at the door (wear only inside shoes to walk around your home), (4) designate a ‘dirty area’ for packages, bags etc. that you bring into your home (and wash your hands after handling those packages and the contents), (5) cover your nose and mouth with your mask (and look up how to properly put on and take off the mask for optimal safety). These are just five of the many interventions necessary to stay safe during this time.

            Follow the above interventions for yourself, your loved ones, and especially for vulnerable people (such as diabetics, anyone taking prescribed steroids, those with chronic lung, kidney or heart issues, people over the age of 65, and anyone living with an immune-system diagnosis), as they are more susceptible to contracting any of the over 14 mutations of this novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Viruses mutate to adapt just as we change our behavior to adapt to them.  It is possible that some day we might eradicate COVID-19; however, there will always be challenges to which we must adapt if we are to thrive on this planet in concert with all organisms and life forms. Make choices in evidence-based scientific wisdom, stay vigilant, get restful sleep during nighttime hours, and embrace the healing power of positive vibrations (music, color, light). 

About the author: Dr. Nancy Iankowitz DNP, RN, FNP-BC is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC, editor of scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, and author of several books.

Second Childhood – The Intangible Spirit

We live on this planet with flora, fauna, and organisms of all kinds. When history speaks of ‘plagues’ it represents imbalance. Currently in the middle of a frightening pandemic (COVID-19) we are keenly aware of the devastation an invisible micro-organism can unleash – so how can we regain balance and maintain our best health in the face of world-wide imbalance?

We begin to heal when we ask ourselves important questions that inspire observation. For example, have you noticed that there are some people who have insatiable curiosity about the world around them? This is the curiosity of a child, without the restrictions of having to ask an adult in the room for permission.

Those so blessed to live into their fifth decade and beyond are given an opportunity to embrace a ‘second childhood’ which, frankly, can be much better than the first. In the second childhood we have confidence, excitement at everything we have the power to venture out to experience, and a sense of independence. We marvel and wonder at miracles overlooked during our first childhood.

In the fifth decade of life we feel gratitude for the simple things; for the richness of each new day. Opportunity is our new companion. And though the COVID-19 pandemic does put limitations on activities and socializing in the way in which we’ve become familiar, even while safely at home, some people can’t quite embrace their second childhood – with or without the frightening pandemic. Why is that? Answer: their mind, body and/or spirit are imbalanced. They feel pain.

 When the human body lives long enough, it begins to show wear and tear (mind, body and spirit). As we focus on the ‘intangible spirit’, open-mindedness and curiosity come into focus.  We lean on familiarity – in people, places, and things, all of which bring comfort.

But what happens when what was once familiar appears the same, but behaves differently from what we thought we knew?

Reclaiming relationships falls under this category. We may notice that couples around us begin to grow apart – even after 20 or 30 years together.  Why might that be? As the body needs proper nourishment to maintain agility and efficiently functioning organ systems, so too do relationships require emotional nourishment to maintain vigor and mutual satisfaction.

Sometimes we change and grow apart from our partner; or, we wake up to realize that what we thought we had, never really existed at all. The COVID-19 crisis forces us to focus on spirituality to a greater degree. We may decide to ‘settle for’ rather than ‘strive to become’ or ‘to reclaim’ – a personal decision, and not to be taken lightly.

We ask ourselves if we’ve ever faulted younger couples for not giving their relationship a chance – so often hearing of break-ups within the first 10 years of life together. But who is the wiser person? The one who takes 30 years to wake up or out-grow dysfunction? Or the younger person who recognizes right off the bat that things won’t work out?  Neither is the wiser. The answer is: there is no single way to achieve happiness. Mutual satisfaction is a goal for most, though onlookers might not recognize the agreement. Mutual satisfaction is achieved in countless ways.

Not everyone wants to “work” on a relationship. For those couples, emotional ‘attachment’ is never an issue. Relating is less heavy, permitting those people to put energy into healing the world on different levels – whether it is an accountant or lawyer being available to clients over family, or a medical professional putting patients before home life. Not every couple strikes a balance that is meaningful to outsiders. The important thing is that each individual in the relationship finds enough personal satisfaction to channel healing energy to the earth. If part of a ‘couple’ then whatever is mutually agreed upon is ‘correct’ for the union.

Problems arise only if the spirit isn’t fed in the way in which it needs to be nourished. If spiritually starved, the distress inevitably renders the physical body incapacitated by the time the person reaches the fifth decade of life. An unsettled spirit expresses itself in the form of anxiety – which is often accompanied by heart palpitations, unchecked adrenaline, too much cortisol, and digestive issues, to mention a few.

The unsettled spirit impacts the physical body as deeply as would a tangible injury, such as a fall from a high ladder, or auto accident. The body responds to the unsettled spirit as it responds to the physical accidents: with inflammation. Inflammation is the first step to healing. It calls attention to ‘the injury’. What becomes confusing is when inflammation goes unaddressed.

If your car’s dashboard flashed an engine check light, you would go to a mechanic. You would certainly NOT cover the light with masking tape and then set out on a 3,000 mile road trip. And yet, that is exactly how most people treat inflammation of the joints and gastrointestinal system (the gut). These ‘flashing lights’ continue to interfere with comfort, as well as absorption of necessary healing nutrients. And yet, the masking tape often used to ‘cover the symptoms up’ come in the form of over-the-counter liquids and pills (or worse: pharmaceuticals prescribed to block pain) before the diagnosis of root cause is made. Of course, if the mechanic examines under the hood and determines the engine is fine, but the light is at fault, but no replacement is available, the mechanic might indeed say “ignore the light for a while” and that would be fine. So if the primary healthcare provider determines the cause and states a liquid or pill could handle the symptom without further harming the body, wonderful. However, self-treating or accepting treatment of a symptom before the root cause is determined is often devastating to brain chemistry.

To effectively calm inflammation of the joints and gut, it is most helpful to begin by eliminating processed foods and anything that has the following words on the package: modified, partially hydrogenated, white flour, sugar, corn syrup, and artificial. We need to add to our daily diet organically grown produce – can be fresh or frozen; humanely raised, fed and killed poultry (Google: ShopWithYourHeart for brands that offer this); eggs from humanely raised hens; grass-fed beef, and dairy products from humanely raised cows. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild caught Alaskan salmon and black cod provide important lubrication to joints and anti-inflammatory nutrition to the gut. Probiotics (to be discussed with your healthcare provider as there are categories of organisms that may be important to avoid, depending on your body), and responsible exposure to the sun’s rays (for Vitamin D3 that the body manufactures in response). Speak with your healthcare provider or dermatologist for recommendations here as your body might require sunblock on certain areas for optimal safety.

Then, we consider additional steps. While nutritional intervention is of great value, there is more that we can do to regain spiritual strength. Your body is your business and your brain is the CEO. It communicates through whispers and shouts. Learning the language of your brain facilitates a meaningful internal relationship between and among you and your mind, body and spirit. Pain calls attention to a need. It is a helpful flag requesting investigation as to root-cause.

In order to address flags of pain, it is often valuable to tap into resources such as a life coach, therapist, yoga and/or tai chi instructor, and more. These professionals should be licensed and certified to be certain they have the most appropriate techniques to facilitate healing of the spirit through emotional as well as postural intervention.

This is your life and sacred journey. While in your body, add positive energy to the conversation you have with it on a daily basis so that everything it has to say is something you want to hear. Here’s to your best health and balance. ~ Dr. Nancy Iankowitz

      About the author: Dr. Nancy Iankowitz DNP, RN, FNP-BC is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC (mission & vision: help you self-heal; no patient turned away based upon ability to pay), functional medicine provider, author of several books, and editor of medical and nursing articles in professional journals.;

Does It Distract or Inspire?

It isn’t necessary to be raised by hoarders to learn organization, survive agitated depression to learn compassion, live with a loved one who gaslights & deflects to master the art of seeking & offering clarification, or experience a restraining order from a mentally unwell young adult to know the pain of “only as happy as your most unhappy child” . . . but having traveled that path, I can attest to my awakening: it softens the heart and sharpens the mind to win the battle for one’s soul in the face of these, along life’s sacred journey.

Some view challenges as obstacles or distractions from balance & wellness; others embrace them as invitations to self-improvement. You are defined by what you do with opportunities along your journey rather than by the ‘opportunities’ themselves.

“Blessings are curses turned inside out. Credit the light for shadows of doubt.      Without the ‘source’ no ‘block’ can be. Behind each cloud the Sun shines free.”

© 2018 by Universe’s Secretary

How Your Hobby May Heal You

Your body is your business and your brain is the CEO. It communications through whispers and shouts.  When the whispers are ignored, ‘shouts’ come in the form of illness. One might ask, “So what’s a whisper and how can I pick up on it?”

Effective listening includes recognizing your own mood (the whisper) and catching it before it impacts major organ systems. Specifically, whispers that are ignored may impact the gut (i.e. constipation, diarrhea, gas), musculoskeletal system (i.e. backache, muscle tension), and so on. The good news is that tapping into what gives you joy provides cures.  Joy brings inner peace; inner peace facilitates balance and wellness. For some people, a hobby is their key to relaxation and/or joy. To read more about that click here.

Holiday Health & Wellness


Holidays represent different things to different people.  For most, a wide variety of emotions unfold. Some greet holiday time with eager excitement; others, with anxiety driven anticipation. Self-reflection may help reveal questions and answers that can lead to greater awareness, appropriate preparation, and a more joyful experience. There are many types of self-reflective questions that help identify and clarify our hopes, dreams, and goals; they may even help guide us so we can have greater control over the reality that follows.

Embarking upon a self-reflective journey may begin by including questions that help us identify strengths and weaknesses, so we can pair whatever gives us ‘stress’ with something that feeds our passion. One may begin by asking:

How do I feel about hosting vs being a guest? Why do I feel that way?

This may lead to clarification regarding self-perception of the tasks / pressures/ pleasures involved with each. For example, you might discover that hosting represents

  1. Sending out invitations
  2. Taking responsibility for all preparations including
    • food (and related preferences/ sensitivities),
    • baby-proofing the house (for guests who bring toddlers),
    • making sure the temperature and lighting around the table is appropriate for elderly guests and those with limited eyesight etc.

One or more of the above listed tasks may be your passion; alternatively, one or more may bring you stress. Being a guest may involve responding to invitations and may include choosing which to accept and which to graciously reject.

How do I feel about the guest list? Do I prefer to make it or be on someone else’s?

Concerns surrounding ‘social obligation’ are difficult for many. Once you clarify these, the next steps become easier. This leads to additional key questions such as:

Am I including people (or accepting an invitation) through social obligation?

. . . the answer to which facilitates clarification, making next steps more logical and somewhat easier.  Each question may help highlight one or more personal passions as well as ‘holiday associated energy blockers’  which may trigger a stress response (including anxiety).

Additional self-reflective questions may include:

Why am I uncomfortable around a particular friend or family member who seems to be easy going and/or the life of other gatherings I’ve attended? (Do I feel jealous or threatened?)

You may be shy and/or easily overpowered by that particular person’s energy. In this case, you might attend the gathering but remain physically apart from that person.  If, however, your distaste for a particular member of the family creates such tremendous anxiety that it keeps other family members from getting together and /or puts a strain on one or more family members who otherwise enjoy holiday time, a professional mental health provider might be able to assist by facilitating the healing necessary to turn holidays into a harmonious experience for all.

Whether or not you or someone you know is a role model for countless admirers, most people find it helpful to use this filter before speaking: “is it kind, necessary and true?” Using this filter may help when trying to decide whether or not to say something. The guide is: choose not to speak if the answer to any of these is “no”. This informal rule may help when in conversation with another – especially when that person is grieving the loss of a dearly adored relative, friend or family pet. For those experiencing loss, holiday time may intensify the grief.

Click here for additional ideas.

Since the “Holiday Season” is filled with so many mixed vibrations – both positive and negative, it helps to have a few handy tools to help keep balanced before, during and after. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to look forward to each gathering with comfort, confidence and the ability to bring wonderful, healing vibrations to the celebration? If you are interested in learning more about how to neutralize anxiety, dissolve guilt, and provide peace and comfort to guests with whom you come into contact, you might enjoy the presentation entitled “Family Healing . . . in time for the holidays” on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 from 7:00 – 8:00 PM at the Pawling Free Library. (Space is limited so call the library in advance)

Cooling Inflammation

Inflammation is a signal that involves pain, stiffness, and oftentimes weakness in the affected area. When we live with ‘chronic inflammation’ of any kind, it behooves us to recognize that this ‘signal’ is a symptom of a greater imbalance.  Taking anti-inflammatory pills ‘as the treatment’ is similar to using masking tape over your car’s ‘check engine light’  . . . which one might do if on the way to the mechanic – but certainly not when we are setting out on a road trip.

Life is the road trip.  Inflammation is the ‘check engine’ light. Your mind/ body/ spirit balance is ‘the engine.’

Functional medicine guides us to get to the source of the problem. When we have pain from inflammation, we ask questions such as:  “Is this a genetic predisposition over which I may have some degree of control through carefully chosen lifestyle choices? If so, which ones? What system is sending the signal? Is it muscular? Neurological?” . . . and so on. Once we are certain there is no life threatening emergency, we set out to reestablish ‘balance’ by listening to the unique communication offered by our body, and addressing each system respectfully, paying careful attention to the engine (mind/body/spirit balance).

Once we decide to implement lifestyle choices in our effort to regain control over physical comfort, the first step is often to become mindful of our present lifestyle and daily habits.  For example, we begin to notice how we sit, stand, and walk. While sitting, do we lean on our elbows?  How is our posture at the computer? Are we hunched over the keyboard? In the living room or den, do we often slouch into the couch? At the dinner table do we rest on our forearms and/or stoop down to the dinner plate?  During the day, while standing, do we lean forward, sideward, or in any way lean against the countertop or post beside which we might be standing? While walking, do we look ahead or down at our feet?  These and other questions begin our journey to healing the imbalance signaled by the inflammation.

The second step often includes keeping a daily journal of dietary habits. If this is beginning to sound overwhelming, you might be more interested in the conventional medical approach to your healthcare.  If, however, this is beginning to sound exciting – feeling as if you are being offered a roadmap towards your continuing adventure through life, read on.  There is much more to come. The journal would begin with what you feel before you eat, what food you choose, and how you feel during and after eating it. No changes need to be made to the foods you eat for two weeks. During that two week period, you observe how your energy, mood, joints, sleep pattern, bowel habits etc., all respond to your choices – and these are recorded by you over that same two weeks.

The third step is to evaluate your journal, answer your body’s signals, and follow the instructions your body continues to offer.  If you need assistance, then share your discoveries with your functional medicine practitioner so that together you can learn how to interpret your body’s unique communication, and craft a plan of action to facilitate the comfort you deserve.

A few resources you might find helpful:;

Relationship Gone Sour – Can It Be Fixed? (Part I)


Wondering where you stand? Here are a few clues: when a family member with whom you once shared unconditional love says:  “Call me only in an emergency” there is a clear self-protective boundary being drawn. This suggests that person doesn’t feel safe with you on some level – be it physical, emotional or spiritual.  That individual may have once been (or may at some time in the future be) interested in working on repairing your relationship; however, right now – time, distance and space may be required.

As you honor that space, giving that person control to reduce ‘exposure’ to you, the comfort and trust you earn over the hours, days, weeks or months that follow hopefully permit time for that person to regain perspective. Once ‘enough’ time has passed, resolution initiated by the one who requested the time/space, may begin. Note: At no time is it appropriate for one person to lean on time and silence as if they erase past events. The trigger for the disagreement may require a third party to moderate – but ignoring the issue serves only to build resentment.

How much time is ‘enough’?

In a love relationship, wherein two people share the same bedroom, it may only take a few hours; two people (friends or a couple) with separate residences or who share a common residence but do not share a bedroom, it may take a few days; two adults – either siblings or parent and adult child, a few weeks or months might be necessary.

The time apart ideally permits a respectful return to work together as a team to tackle the issue.

If, however, the one honoring the request ‘for space’ (made by the other) is somehow ‘faulted for the space and/or time’ offered in deference to the request by the other person, or is otherwise disrespected/ attacked, and/or approached in an abusive way, then larger issues are likely afoot. A professional mental health provider might be required to facilitate reconciliation.  Mentally balanced individuals who request space for self-reflection usually regain enough perspective to bring up the topic of the ‘disconnect’ – with gratitude in recognition for the respectful distance afforded by the other person.

Method of communication. Be mindful that, unless you both offer and accept information in a similar way (both either bottom liners or detailed and wordy) sentence structure, energy brought to the discussion, word choice and number of words, even body posture (subtle vs. drama) might be the source of repeated issues. In this case, as long as values, trust, love and respect are all intact, resolution of the disconnect serves to strengthen the relationship.  Any ‘rift’ distracts – at least initially, from the relationship. Communication style between a wordy, detailed sharer and a ‘bottom-liner’ may be a recipe for disaster – if both people drive each other nuts, feel unheard, get overloaded or don’t feel validated. Patience becomes an important skill to master in order to nourish the relationship.

Trust and respect to the rescue. While rifts caused by issues surrounding styles of communication may feel as wide as those caused by lack of trust and/or respect, they are less complex to heal. People who share mutual trust and respect lean on these strengths as they sort through issues surrounding communication styles. On the other hand, two people lacking mutual trust and/or respect may be at a disadvantage. Without trust and respect, either or both often implement heavy self-protective boundaries which, by definition, distract from sharing ‘unconditional love’; that is, one or both tend to lean on the boundaries rather than the heart of the other to feel safe.

Q: How can you figure out where the rift is and what caused it?

A: Sometimes you know.  Sometimes you don’t.


I know where I went wrong. If you know exactly what you did to cause the rift, it is actually up to you to initiate the repair, especially if there was a close, trusting relationship prior to the request for space. If you have absolutely no idea what is going on or why that request was made, seeking clarification may further aggravate the situation. In most healthy, well balanced relationships, disagreements are inevitable. The key is: willingness to give each other the appropriate space to calm down, then return to the issue at hand. The ‘space’ required is usually no longer than an hour or two before ‘perspective’ kicks in. At that point, both people are often able to lean on their mutual love & respect, feeling safe to approach the topic of disagreement as a team. As noted above, relationships grow in strength when this takes place.

What happens when one feels ready to work on the relationship, but the other does not? If both agree that space apart is needed, and one seems consistently ‘ready’ to work things out before the other – patience needs to be cultivated.  If there is chronic refusal on the part of one partner to return to the issue, and/or if pouting, victimizing, tantrums and/or abusive language or behavior is a predictable part of given scenarios, this may indicate deeper issues unrelated to any small disagreement. Intervention that includes an unbiased, professional mental health provider may be of value.

Repeatedly leaning on a friend or family member, no matter how well educated or well-meaning, may set up a potentially unhealthy dynamic. Of course, minor disagreements that are singular in occurrence, as well as debates about ideas regarding vacationing, interior decorating and the like which may go off track can benefit from a friend or family member lending perspective; however, when there is a familiar issue that continues to inject itself into daily life, becoming more labor intensive as it threatens balance, joy and the relationship itself, professional intervention is often helpful.

When arguing ‘is’ and ‘is not’ healthy. Again, when two people in a loving relationship share a mutual desire to help each other fulfill potential, part of that experience does include disagreements from time to time. Communication during these moments defines the relationship. Over years, patterns emerge. If one’s partner, for example, adopts the attitude, “I just need to not rock the boat” one might wonder: “is this an attempt at self-preservation – because the other person controls by throwing temper tantrums, or is this an illusion indicative of a wounded toddler who was emotionally (or physically) beaten into submission-now an adult lacking in healthy relationship tools?”

Dr. Randi Gunther, a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor suggests that abandonment, power and ownership are often at the root of certain disconnects between couples – and there are particular phrases used to indicate underlying issues. Click on her name to read more about that.

I wish every reader healing of mind, body and spirit – and, with gratitude for your time in reading this very long article, I invite you to disagree with any point made.  May you and those you love be blessed and centered.


Dr. Nancy Iankowitz

(Please click here to continue to Part II)

Children In Second & Third Grade Crave Healthy Interaction

Reading interactively is a wonderful way to open up important conversations, create a safe environment for your children to ask questions that are meaningful to them, and an excellent way to share your ideas about topics you might not otherwise touch on.

“Marcy and Her Friends” (click here for details)  is a book written to answer the concerns of 2nd and 3rd graders and those of their parents and teachers. “Marcy and Her Friends” is filled with stories generated by students, parents and teachers – based on real life situations. Each story demonstrates healthy parenting, and offers coping tools that may be used at home as well as in the classroom. If you are a parent or teacher and wish to help build your students’ or own child’s self esteem, click here. To help your 2nd or 3rd grader deal with a bully, click here for a guide.

To see a demonstration of “interactive reading” click here to watch & listen to the video demonstration.  The title of the story is, “Worries About Friendship”  from the children’s by by N.E.C. Iankowitz “Marcy and Her Friends.”

If you’d like your own copy, click here.

Have a beautiful day of blessings and gratitude.  ~Dr. Nancy Iankowitz

Building Lasting Relationships

Learning how to earn trust & respect from yourself & others, as well as how to recognize when trust &/or respect are lacking in a relationship, helps us not only redefine goals & boundaries, but these lessons go a long way in helping us achieve the mind/ body/ spirit balance we so richly deserve. Here’s to your best health, wellness, inner peace & joy. ~Dr. Iankowitz & Dr. Cohen

Click here to listen to a lively discussion regarding respect and trust.