In honor of Father’s Day, I felt it best to share the best advice and life lessons I’ve received from my father. My father passed away this past year, after a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis and related complications. Since my father’s passing, I’ve been able to take these past 11 months and truly meditate on my life with my Dad. To focus not on his passing, but on his life and our life together, as well as all of the amazing lessons that he taught me. I didn’t realize it back then, but those life lessons really shaped me into the person, and the therapist, that I am today.
As a psychotherapist, my mission is to help others find their own inner peace and live a life that they desire. Throughout the different approaches I use with clients, mindfulness is at the core. For more on mindfulness, see here. The core mindfulness principles that I teach to my clients include acceptance and compassion, which can then lead to the changing of maladaptive thoughts and behaviors. I didn’t realize at the time, but those core principles of acceptance and compassion were instilled in me by my Dad.
When I was younger, I would often talk to my Dad about my experiences and interactions with others: someone that upset me, someone acting in a certain way that I didn’t understand, or someone’s values not lining up with mine. I would always ask “Why?”, “Why does this happen?”, “Why did that person say that?”, “How could they do that?”, etc. Throughout these conversations, my Dad gave me one of the greatest life lessons I’ll ever learn. He would look at me and say, “you’re just like me, you think with your heart, but not everyone is like us.” And the greatest thing about that advice is that there is no judgment in it. He taught me that people are different, and that’s ok. We don’t all have to think or act the same. This is the embodiment of acceptance and mindfulness. To remove judgement. To acknowledge that someone’s thoughts or values may not align with yours, but to accept that as different instead of difficult. By doing so, he helped me to cultivate compassion for others, to acknowledge the differences between us all and embrace our own individuality. In doing so, we help ourselves find our own happiness. We remove the shoulds, the have-tos, and other burdensome thoughts that weigh us down. Only then are we able to lead the lives that we desire and enjoy happiness.
So in honor of Father’s Day, I want to say thank you to all the Dads. To the life lessons and little pieces of advice you offer, and most especially to my Dad. Thank you for making me the person, and the therapist, that I am today. To help me help others. While you may not be here anymore physically, those life lessons will live in forever.
Dana Carretta is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, in Hartsdale, NY. She is trained in clinical counseling and psychotherapy to treat children, adolescents and adults with mental and emotional disorders and other behavioral challenges. She has worked for many years as a behavior consultant with the Holistic Learning Center in White Plains, NY. In that role, she collaborated with several school districts in Westchester County, offering behavior intervention and consultation for students with challenging behaviors and spectrum disorders. Dana has also been a private psychotherapist at Mindful Psychotherapy, LLC, located in Norwalk, CT since 2013.