Attention! Pay Attention to Attention.

Do you know when you get a new car and all of a sudden you start seeing that same car when you are out driving? Do you think those cars were not there before, and then just showed up when you bought yours? Or might they have been there all along and you just didn’t notice because you were not paying attention to them? I’d venture to say they were there all along, however, your interest in that car was not as great until you had one yourself.


Philosopher and psychologist William James in 1890 wrote:

“Millions of items of the outward order are present to my senses which never properly enter into my experience.


Because they have no interest for me.

My experience is what I agree to attend to.

Only those items which I notice shape my mind.”


This begs the question, to what are you attending, what do you notice?

William James proposes:

  1. You experience what you notice.
  2. There are many things present that you do not notice.

This has me wondering what if there are things I do not notice that would cause me to have a different experience. I had the privilege of consulting with Paula* who thought of herself as “crazy” but as we talked and got curious about this, she began to notice that what she thought of as “crazy” was really no different than what was going on with other people. Paula then thought, “maybe I’m not so crazy, maybe I’m not as different as I thought I was.” This freed her up to experience life with more agency. Where before she thought there was something wrong with her, when expanding what she paid attention to, she began to realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with her. This led Paula to make some significant choices that altered lifelong practices.

Noticing and exploring that which stands outside our awareness can have a significant impact on our experience. Like Paula, we often convince ourselves that something is wrong, but when able to explore it further, realize that there are realities that we were unaware of. It is often these small awareness’s that lead to significant and meaningful changes.

If you would like to explore and attend to what may be outside your awareness and would like someone to accompany you on that journey, here is a link to where you could begin.

*Name changed for privacy.

Suicide in my community.

Sadly, there was a suicide this past week in the community of which I am a part. According to the latest data from the American Association of Suicidology, suicide rates have increased every year between 2006-2016 (the last year for which there is data). For every completed suicide there are 25 attempts, and females have three times the attempts that males do, although males complete more suicides. This is due to the fact that males use more lethal means (i.e. firearms).


For about a year I was fortunate enough to answer the National Suicide Hotline 800-273-TALK [8255]. I had some very troubling conversations, but also some very rewarding ones. I don’t want to oversimplify, but one characteristic that was common to almost all the callers was an extreme feeling of being overwhelmed by life. Often feeling stuck with little to no hope of life ever changing for the better. I did not personally know this young man, but I imagine he may have been feeling similar to the callers I felt blessed to talk with on the hotline.


If you are concerned that someone may be contemplating suicide, ask them directly, “are you having thoughts of suicide?” You will not be putting the idea in their head. Whatever their answer, you then want to listen to them. Hear them tell you how stuck they are feeling, or how overwhelmed life is for them. With as much empathy as you have, get in touch with what being overwhelmed and stuck feels like. Let them know and FEEL that you have some sense of what they are experiencing. DO NOT tell them that they have so much going for them, that so many people love them, this will come across as you not understanding, and/or them feeling guilty. Your job is to listen and have genuine empathy for your friend.

If your friend answered, “yes” to having thoughts of suicide you want to follow up asking if they have plans for suicide and the means and timeframe to carry it out. Many people have thoughts of suicide that never come up with much of a plan. Just because someone says they are having thoughts of suicide does not mean they are an imminent risk to themselves. However, the more detailed the plan the higher the risk. Which is why it is important to ask about a plan.


The important thing is that people get the help they need! Often talking with a mental health counselor proves to be transformative. It is amazing the healing power that comes when one really feels heard. After listening with empathy, you will want to connect your friend with professional help. You can always call the Suicide Crisis Hotline 800-273-8255 if you feel uncertain or need someone to talk with right away. They are trained and have access to some resources that may prove helpful.


This blog is not meant to be all-encompassing, just a brief overview of a couple of important aspects to think about. Below are links to websites where you can explore and learn more about helping those having thoughts of suicide.


If you are having suicidal thoughts yourself know there is someone who is interested in hearing from you. Please call the hotline right away. The number again is 800-273-TALK [8255].


Some sites to check out:

Feeling Stuck?

Feeling Stuck?

Sometimes I feel stuck because I’m overwhelmed at all that I have to do. Sometimes I feel stuck because I don’t know what to do. And sometimes I feel stuck and am not sure why I feel stuck. I imagine you might be able to relate to a similar feeling. After graduating with my counseling degree and working to get my practice up and running there was so much to do. A few items I checked off my list right away that were obviously important, like getting my website up and running, btw you can check it out at, but now in this next tier of possible actions I’ve felt a little stuck. So, what to do?

I’ve found that getting unstuck doesn’t have to take a long time but does take a little focused intention. Here are four steps for getting unstuck, along with questions to ask yourself.

1) Be clear about the big picture/purpose: What is it you love to do? How do you want to share yourself with the world? (Keep this at the forefront of your thoughts.)

2) Make it your responsibility to not let negative and defeating suggestions get the better of you: What are the ‘yeah-buts’ that would have you think you can’t do what you love? What negative messages do you hear that you are buying into?

3) Turn it around: What is the opposite of my answers from step 2? (Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have enough – time, money, knowledge, etc. Think to yourself I do have enough time to take one action. I do have some knowledge and am able to gain more.)

4) Take action: OK, now what?! (with humility ask yourself what can I do now? Then do the FIRST THING that comes to you.)

If you follow these steps you will progress. Watch out for those sneaky defeating judgments. I’m guessing many of you when you read, “I do have enough time to take one action,” thought something similar to ‘yeah-but what’s that going to do, there is so much more that has to be done.” Then you are back in the loop of being stuck. The way to get out of it is to go onto step 4 and take action. Follow through with the first thing that comes to you to do. As you are doing it, something else may present itself that makes more sense. It’s fine to follow that, but the important thing here is to act!

Checkout my website, follow me on Facebook, and Instagram, and/or sign up for my newsletter. Also, feel free to share this blog with anyone you think may benefit from it. If you’d like to talk feel free to call/text me 314-722-TALK [8255].