Today we’d like to introduce you to Meme Rhee.
Meme, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
The first 30 years of my life comprised of seemingly incompatible elements that took another 10 to unravel. Since the age of 4 I trained rigorously, in Tae Kwon Do under my father, Jhoon Rhee, who brought the sport to the U.S. in the 1950’s. My brother and I were very fortunate to be able to travel all over the world with him to give Tae Kwon Do demonstrations and to hand out with legends such as Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali. I inherited my father’s drive to achieve and perform athletically, academically and professionally. As I grew older, however, I discovered that I had difficulty keeping up with the perfectionistic demands of my internal drill sergeant which manifested in inconsistencies in my ability to achieve, follow through and perform. These inconsistencies resulted in depression, obsessive compulsions, addiction and feeling very lost about my purpose. I decided to get therapy which was so transformative that it propelled me on my journey to become a therapist. I enrolled in a Somatic Psychology Program which gave me great insight in understanding the role of the body in therapy. My life-long Martial Arts practice greatly influenced the core of my personality which showed up as aggressive, driven and unemphatic – qualities that are obviously problematic to my profession. Compassion was hardly considered in the instruction and training of Martial Arts which focused primarily on discipline, competition and performance. To change this, I redefined my ideas about the “self” and “discipline.” I had to begin with the inflexible demands of my body which had been steeped deeply in practices that. During my studies I was required to take a class called Sensory Awareness which didn’t ask me to perform but rather surrender, and specifically to my senses. I found the class to be excruciatingly tedious and arrived to each class with resistance in the form of a bad attitude, tiredness, and boredom. I was asked to sit for 3 hours on a floor and to feel everything: the breeze coming through the window, the scratchy carpet, the clothes on my skin. Five months after the class ended, I began to notice subtle changes in my pain threshold. It lowered and kept lowering. I suddenly felt the impact on my neck, back and knees of kicking, punching and running daily for the past 25 years. The unraveling of one’s physical armor begets great physical pain. And through the experience of this pain, I found myself relating more to the pain of others. Through the help of other body practices such as Yoga and Authentic Movement, softening my physical “armoring” helped me become a better therapist. Two years into my internship while working at a dual diagnosis facility, I discovered that my graduate studies were inadequate for the type of patients I was being asked to treat. While my patients were getting better, I seemed to be getting worse and my work felt stale. I almost left the profession entirely but decided to get help and through sheer luck found a psychoanalyst. The experience effected enormous changes in my passion for work that I decided to pursue my doctorate in Object Relations Psychoanalysis. During the rigorous seven-year training, I was in analysis four days a week. I emerged from the program a very different person than who I was when I entered. I felt more clear, grounded and whole and certainly more competent in treating the most challenging patients.
Has it been a smooth road?
I am deeply passionate about my work and I feel very privileged to be a part of a person’s emotional development and seeing them engage more passionately in their relationships and in their work. In the age of technology in which people want to be gratified with instant results, committing to a process can be challenging. Deep lasting change demands three things: time, commitment and a relationship. But when you compare the cost of living year after year with anxiety, obsessiveness, depression, etc. or unconsciously repeating destructive behavior, this investment is small in comparison. We can very easily forget the impact of deep relationships or the power and motivation we can derive through person to person engagement over time. Sometimes people leave therapy too soon and declare that it doesn’t work.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Meme Rhee, MFT, Psy.D. – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
My time is split between my private practice and Launch Centers. As Supervising Clinical Director at Launch, a dual diagnosis intensive outpatient, I supervise treatment for patients struggling with addiction, Borderline Personality Disorder and other mental health issues. I find that people who struggle with addiction are usually trying to find a way to regulate themselves and “feel normal.” At Launch, we try to help these patients identify their underlying issue (such as social anxiety, impulse control) and to find a more constructive strategy in emotionally regulating themselves. In my private practice, I work with high functioning professionals who might feel stuck personally or professionally. Having worked as an executive in the corporate world, I understand the pressures of always “being on” and not having any boundaries between your professional and personal life. Over-expending your energy without balance invariably leads to burnout which usually manifests in a lack of passion, energy and depression. Sometimes people need a different pair of eyes and ears to get clarity on their purpose and how they are unconsciously holding themselves back. I also work with Asian Americans who struggle with intergenerational and cultural conflicts. Having been raised in a Korean household, I understand the difficulties of juggling between Eastern and Western values. In school, I was taught to be independent, opinionated and to think for myself. At home, it was quite the opposite: I was expected to defer to my parents to never challenge their authority. Therapy can be very tricky for Asians because the agenda of connecting with your emotional truth which every human being must do to feel whole will want to find expression. In certain families we don’t always feel like we have permission to express ourselves authentically.
What are important lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share with our readers?
Lesson One: Internal Harmony is your most precious commodity. As someone who suffered intrusive, obsessive thoughts about not being good enough, pretty enough, rich enough, etc. I understand firsthand how draining this can feel and how much valuable mental space this consumes. If your mind is bombarded with thoughts, it’s a communication that you are struggling with an internal conflict that is outside of your conscious awareness.
Lesson Two: We need a sufficient amount of safety and challenge in order to grow. That balance is very different for each individual – that ratio can be 70% safety 30% challenge for some people and more 50% safety 50 % challenge for others. It took me years to really understand this. It’s important to be attuned to your needs and understand the conditions that help you thrive. Find balance in your life by nurturing yourself with the right work and the right relationships and the right pace.
- $175/individual therapy
- $200/couples therapy
- $225/case management
- Address: 179 S. Barrington Place Suite A Los Angeles, CA 90049
- Website: www.memerhee.com
- Phone: 3104303990
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