What is the secret of “well-being” in this insecure era we are living in?
-I strongly believe that the key factor of well being, balance, happiness and success in this era is for a person to be able to learn to "listen" and "trust" his/her INNER VOICE. I believe that each person has an inner guidance, an inner voice of knowledge, wisdom that can lead him/her to his true calling, purpose in life, that will provide happiness, balance and well being. People sometimes have to try to silence 'external noises", interactions and try to listen to "what is inside", their inner wisdom with self reflection, meditation, and some ''isolation time'' in nature or in a personal space. For me well being is : Inner Balance + Inner satisfaction/ Happiness with "WHAT IS...": Appreciation of the Big & the Small + a feeling that my life has a PURPOSE because i OFFER for that I GROW (ΣΚΟΠΟΣ η ΕΞΕΛΙΞΗ & η ΠΡΟΣΦΟΡΑ)
A great influence in work as a psychologist for this is the teachings of Dr Daniel Goleman of E.Q. ,Emotional Intelligence, The teachings of DALAI LAMA & 'The Power of NOW of Eckart Tolle.
Are you the type of character who would swim against the tide or would you rather be on the safe side ?
-During my life time i always swim against the tide, although it may sometimes seem that i don't.....In reality I try to listen to my inner voice and follow my heart, even if it has a great cost at times, practically & psychologically. I believe this is the ESSENCE in life: to be true with yourself & follow your inner voice ! The majority of people are afraid to try something new and prefer to stay on the safe side, even if this means a safe compromise that leads them to a kind of "slow death". This compromise is an ILLUSION. Sooner or later the person will feel "psychological suffocation" and will pay the price, psychologically, physically or spiritually. The only certain thing we have in life, from the moment we are born till our last breath, is CHANGE.
So the sooner we realise and accept it , the better we feel. Only if we learn to accept and adopt change with "Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Agility & Flexibility" ( as my friend & professor at Harvard Dr. Susan Davis says in her book "Emotional Agility"), we can learn to be true and well balanced in order to pursue emotional growth, development and a good quality of life.
So YES, I am a person that dares to swim against the steam , even if it is risky, painful and draining at times. For me there is no other way if you want to stay ALIVE (INSIDE OUT! )
Could sometimes pain in a part of our body, for example, be a message from our soul that something is not going right with our emotional health. Are body and soul connected in this magnificent way ?
-THIS IS SO TRUE ! Of course our Body talks because Body and Soul are connected. As I always say, there is the triad inside us : MIND/BODY and SOUL. For example if a person doesn't listen to his/her real inner voice, tries to compromise, or adjust to what is required outside and suppress his/her inner, true needs....very often the body will react in different psychosomatic ways, i.e in the form of a chronic pain or even a disease or a more serious medical condition. After long research of very famous Medical institutions and esp. Harvard University Medical School and The Mind / Body Clinic of Dr. Howard Benson that I had the privilege to study with, it has been proven that many serious chronic diseases, even like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic fatigue syndrome and of course mental illnesses, depressions even Alzheimer etc have their root to psychosomatic reasons ! So Yes Of course the body and Mind and Spirit are connected for sure.
That's why they have to stay in balance !
Are you an optimistic person? Do you think there is always light in the end of our personal ''tunnels'', regardless of what we are experiencing?
-As a psychologist and counsellor that studied Positive, Spiritual, Existential Psychology I am Optimistic and see the glass always half full and never half empty.....I always try to see -even during difficult times- that there will be "light at the end of the tunnel". I want to believe and inspire my clients: Especially children, adolescents, but also adults that there is a LESSON hidden in every difficulty and challenge. There is a Learning Experience, an opportunity for Growth and Maturity in a personal, interpersonal, intellectual and even in a practical way !
I believe and try to inspire others that even during difficult or challenging situations in life, there is always a "GIFT" for us to see and appreciate. It’s up to us to see it and appreciate it ! Generally I believe that the purpose of life is GROWTH and DEVELOPMENT, not just plain happiness all the time ! I truly believe that: " What doesn't kill us..... makes us stronger"..... and even more wonderful and developed human beings.
How hard is it for parents to deal with their children in a society full of anxiety?
-Growing (if we say the secret is then the reader expects to read what the secret is, not that growing them is a great challenge) healthy, happy, well balanced children today is a great challenge. Parents need to use their time with them qualitatively. There are many external challenges, difficulties today in our modern society and economy, that make our children feel insecure and unstable, such as : external social dangers, Social Media Challenges, Bullying, Violence, childhood/ adolescent Depression, Body image issues, Juvenile Delinquent Behaviour, Use of Alcohol and Drugs, Identity Crisis, Self esteem issues etc.... To all these we have to add the Anxiety of the Financial insecurity that many households have to face.
All these challenges make our children’s life very difficult and challenging. For that reason they need to have next to them well balanced, strong, secure Parents, as Role Models that can play the role of the "Calming Advisors"(Ηπιοι Καθοδηγητες) ! Because Children DO WHAT WE DO , NOT WHAT WE SAY...!
Parents should try, with their personal life example and maybe some personal counselling work..., to stay calm, composed, balanced and open minded, especially during difficult times, in order to inspire to their children as much as possible, the sense of Security, Safety, Empathy, Care & Respect in values. Children will repeat in their lives the types of behaviours they learned from they parents, not just what they heard.
''Coaching''. Is it a trend or we should all have our own mentor in order to manage our daily problems?
-Lately Life Coaching has become a trend and many people seek advice and guidance for their professional and personal issues to several Life Coaches. I have met some Life Coaches that are very good professionals and if they have the right training and appropriate experience, they can help their clients to overcome important issues concerning their professional, practical and sometimes personal life. For me it’s a short term, more practical intervention in order to help and guide clients to manage everyday personal and interpersonal problems.
But I strongly believe that for deeper emotional and long term issues problems that caused many traumatic experiences, people should seek support, soul searching and guidance from a professional Psychologist.
Tell us more about your own professional path. When did it start and what was your inspiration?
-I have started my professional Career studying Psychology and History, double major, because I always felt the need to support people and gain knowledge of the human Psyche. (soul). At the same time my other great love was the theatre, so i studied at the National Theatre of Greece and graduated with Excellence. After my graduation, I applied to EMERSON COLLEGE in Boston in order to study Theatre Education : using Drama for the Emotional Wellbeing & Balance of children and adolescents. I have graduated with an M.A in Theater education and Drama Therapy and applied to HARVARD UNIVERSITY Graduate school of Education in order to get a 2nd Master's degree, ED,M. in Counselling Psychology/ Risk and prevention Program for Children & Adolescents !
My great inspirations were my Harvard Professors and Mentors in Psychology and Education: Dr. Carol Gilligan, Dr. Daniel Goleman of EQ, Dr. Dr. Howard Gardner of Multiple Intelligence, Dr Maya Angellou, a great poet and amazing woman ! A true Inspiration.
What is the biggest obstacle -from your point of view- about being productive and successful in Greece?
-Although I strongly believe that Greece is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, there are some obstacles that restrict its growth and development. Some of these obstacles are some old unacceptable mentalities, lack of professionalism, obsessive preoccupation with money, lack of quality and commitment. For me those characteristics are essential for success.
Future plans or dreams waiting to come true?
-My future dream would be to create and establish a child centered school that each child will have the opportunity to develop his or her unique abilities and qualities in his /her UNIQUE WAY ! Even children with Learning Differences or Difficulties( ADHD) will have the ability to cultivate their UNIQUE INNER TREASURES & express themselves !
My dream is to build a school with open minded and well trained educators that love children, support their inner voices and special talents , needs and abilities !! Also to provide lectures & seminars to Parents to support and educate them in order to help their children ! Because parents are the MIRRORS of their children because “ Children do what they do , not what they say !!!!”
I strongly believe that the best contribution to society would be to support EDUCATION and Children because they are the Future. If you support children and inspire them and believe in them and help them cultivate their unique self and abilities you can have HAPPY, Healthy future citizens , a happy well balanced society with potential for growth , development and happiness!
That’s why my dream is to build a great open minded child centered school that will provide to children a well balanced education with Emotional intelligence and human values and qualities !
My mentors and advisors at Harvard that have inspired me for this dream is Dr. Daniel Goleman of Emotional intelligence and Dr HOWARD GARDNER of Multiple Intelligence theory.
I have also had women mentors whom I admire and who have shaped my mentality in education and life as psychologist and educator , such as my professor at Harvard Dr Carol Gilligan with her inspiring book” in a Different voice” and the great poet Dr. Maya Angelou that has talked about cultivating Chlidren’s inner voices and Unique talents.
Gina G. Thanopoulou, Ed.M., M.A., Harvard University