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Suitcase Therapy


ecently a client came to session holding a brown paper bag. He opened the bag and removed a frame. In the frame was an exquisite pencil drawing of an empty suitcase. His brother had drawn the picture and it was called 'Empty Baggage'. The client told me that the picture was a symbol of what we were trying to attain and focus on in therapy. So, like the picture, his frame of mind would parallel the suitcase. He said that he identified with the suitcase which once held many things, and was now empty. He too felt his mind held many unnecessary items crammed full with old memories that needed to be cleared. The client said it felt like he had been carrying around a "fully stuffed" suitcase for a long time. He observed that he had been lugging around unresolved issues in his life, keeping them inside, internalizing them. These neglected issues had obstructed his clarity of thought and greatly misguided his behaviors. He commented that the empty suitcase represented what he hoped to accomplish in our work together. The process we were engaged in for him to get rid of his "baggage" and be content.

As the client assessed his thoughts and actions, he realized that he "over intellectualized" and spent too much time involved in obsessive thoughts. He was "in his head" so much that it blocked his ability to feel, clouded his decision making, and led to self deceptions. He found himself increasingly anxious. Bogged down by much from his past, he could not be present in the here and now. He needed to "empty his suitcase"- his mind.

When a person does commit to emptying his or her baggage, whether it is with therapy or another self-help discipline, it's not easy. But like the empty suitcase, they begin to act and feel lighter. This happens when we give attention to burdensome and unresolved events that weigh us down. It is when we can be honest, self reflective, and mindful that we begin the therapeutic process. It is then that we truly begin to create a space to go forward.

The client felt the problem was not that he was thinking, but that he needed to understand his thoughts. This would allow him to clarify and reduce the cumbersome memories, for him to feel safe in dealing with his feelings. Simply put, he had not been able to "feel" in the past, and now he was ready to bridge mind and feeling states and begin to experience feelings in a deeper way. As he gave attention to the things that weighed him down, and processed them they began to wane. This led to more insight. Increased insight and the ability to feel emotions led him to heightened clarity in his actions and behaviors.

Like the suitcase, the client needed to become "empty baggage" so he could continue on his journey less encumbered. With this transition the client discovered his life was less complex and confusing and he could begin to experience an open and loving heart with a sense of wonder and joy. When this happens every experience becomes a special journey and we are a happier fellow traveler.

Joel Polinsky MA, LMFT
License # MFC 38417



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Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Eugene Chaplin Introduces Chaplin's World Museum in Vevey, Switzerland

Charlie Chaplin and the Chaplin Museum
Lake Geneva/ Matterhorn Region and Switzerland Tourism recently blew into Los Angeles with the most esteemed guest, Eugene Chaplin. A man of remarkable lineage, he is the fifth child of Oona O'Neill and Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, the grandson of playwright Eugene O'Neill, the brother of Geraldine Chaplin and father of actress/model Kiera Chaplin.

Go There

Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Burren (Dispatch #14)

a dolmen at The Burren

The Palladian Traveler ventures back to the days of fearless Celtic warriors to search for some "stones to take you home" as he files his latest dispatch from the monochromatic moonscape known as The Burren.

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John Clayton's travel blog/review
Buckingham Palace – It's THE Most Popular Tour in Great Britain (Part 2 of a 2-Part Series)

Buckingham Palace exit
Is it more momentous for a Brit to do the Buckingham Palace tour than say an American or indeed any other nationality? Yes, I know that's an odd question, but if you grow up – as I did – in London back in the 1950s, getting inside Buckingham Palace was the stuff of dreams. Hence my surprise at touring BP in 2005.

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Paradise on Earth: The Romance of Tahiti and Her Islands

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
The first thing you notice is the fragrance. The intoxicating perfume of the tiare flower announces to your senses that you are in a magical place, overflowing with tropical vegetation and soothing trade winds. It is the same fragrance that the English seamen on the HMS Bounty also first encountered; but they came, not for flowers, but for breadfruit, intended as a new food staple for their slaves in the West Indies.

Eric Anderson's travel blog/review
Provence: As Much a Mood, a Spirit as a Destination

Christmas card
"On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" goes the song. Robert Goulet sang it and Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis, too, and it surely comes to mind when you stand on a bluff in the Luberon of Provence and stare across at the little hill village of Gordes. The view is the best part; the village's interior itself is not dramatic and stands as a warning of what contemporary popularity can do to the simple homes of 12th century working people.

go there

Fyllis Hockman's travel blog/review
Exploring Venice: Lost and Found. And Special Finds. Repeat.

Venice street musicians
Walking home to our apartment in Venice, we share a wave through the window with the owner of Baba, our local osteria. Leaving for a day of sightseeing, a cup of my favorite pistachio gelato awaits me despite the early hour. At the Bar Dugole, we relax after a day of sightseeing and order the regular: vodka for my husband and Amaretto for me.

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Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Traveling with Beautiful Boots and a Bison Backpack

Bison Redwood Backpack

People often asked about my favorite travel apparel and gear. This happened to me at the airport recently. One question came as I was putting back on my clothes after going through the TSA checkpoint striptease. Before leaving the area, I heard a soft voice say, "hey, I really like your boots. Where did you get them?" Looking up, I found a uniformed employee staring at my feet.

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Bev Cohn's travel blog
Film Review: "My Hero Brother" – A Tribute to the Human Spirit

a scene from the documentary 'My Hero Brother'

I just spent five days attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival and for the most part, the features, animated shorts, and documentaries were quite professional and compelling. That said, "My Hero Brother," a documentary that was particularly outstanding, told the remarkable and inspiring story about a group of Down syndrome young men and women who go on a two-week trek through the Himalayas with their non-Down syndrome siblings.

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Deb Roskamp's travel photo blog
La Paz, Baja California Sur

The Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur

Photographer Deb Roskamp focuses her camera on La Paz, Baja California Sur. The resort property is CostaBaja, and the boat tours, which include snorkeling at the UNESCO protected site, Isla Espiritu Santo, were conducted by Fun Baja. The photographs are intended to speak for themselves.

Raoul Pascual's travel blog
Leviticus 20:13
Sent by Tom of Pasadena, CA

It all makes sense now. Gay marriage and marijuana was legalized in the last election. Leviticus 20:13 states
"If a man lays with another man, he should be stoned..." We've been interpreting it wrong all these years!

Tim Mattox's travel article
Crooked Eye Tommy: 'Butterflies and Snakes'

Mick Taylor

When you load the CD Butterflies and Snakes into your sound system, you know from the onset Crooked Eye Tommy isn't your run-of-the-mill blues band. The entire recording is based around multiple styles, assorted genres and two lifetimes of influence. From the swamp-like vibe of the opening track through the weeping steel guitar highlighting the finale there's a brand new, old school familiarity that resonates throughout each one of the 11 original songs.

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Corinna Lothar's travel blog/review
NOLA: New Orleans, Louisiana

19th century building, Stuttgart, Germany
Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, the Garden District, the streetcar (now a bus) to Desire, the jazz clubs, the beignets at the Café du Monde and breakfast at Brennan’s come to mind when you think of New Orleans. But that’s not all there is to this unique American city, filled with treasures both culinary and cultural.

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