By KIM SMITH DEDAM Press-Republican
---- — SARANAC LAKE — A mirror in a fairy tale asked a question once: Who’s the fairest of them all?
But the reflection caught in a looking glass isn’t always princess perfect, so the story goes. And the villain is a wicked witch.
There’s a reason for that, according to Saranac Lake psychologist and author Dr. Patricia O’Gorman, who has published a new book to help women rethink self-reflection.
Published this spring, “The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power” introduces a concept O’Gorman defines as “girly thoughts,” the often hyper-critical form of self-reflection that, she explains, can short-circuit a woman’s view of success.
This new book, her eighth published work, is drawing praise and growing media attention.
Girly thoughts, she writes in the book, are signals from damaging messages delivered to women by society: “Those less-than-helpful ideas that are so pervasive as to actually create negative inner dialogue — that get in the way of women listening to their own needs and desires.”
O’Gorman said the concept was born some years ago in a conversation with a male colleague.
“He and I were just talking. Apropos of something I said, he said, ‘Oh, that’s girly thought.’ I remember my jaw dropping. And I looked at him and said, ‘That’s brilliant. Can I do something with that?’
“There really is such power in having a term and leaning on it. I think when we have a term for something, it allows us to manage it in a totally different way.”
REVISITING HIGH HEELS
O’Gorman’s book was more than a decade in the making and follows in the footsteps of a work she finished 19 years ago.
“Its predecessor was a book a little ahead of its time, titled ‘Dancing Backwards in High Heels,’” the author said, laughing.
“Now,” she said, “is a much better time.
“This book provides a name for something that, as women, we all struggle with. I’ve had women tell me, ‘Thank God, I’m not crazy,’ after reading this,” O’Gorman said of responses coming in from all corners.
“And it’s finding audiences way beyond what I imagined. I had an inquiry from Dubai.
“We’re using the exercises in the book to teach literacy to young girls in Mississippi. It’s finding its way.”
‘AN INSIDE JOB’
It’s way also turns the mirror around and questions social status quo.
“You don’t have to go very far to see the problem,” O’Gorman said.
“Look what we’re doing with women in the military. We have the same things going on in corporate structure with sexual harassment, and yet we can’t focus on it emotionally or we would become enraged. But it (the rage) is there in the background, pounding like a drumbeat.
“What put me over the edge — when I started working on the book again — was a magazine: The photos of a model had been digitally enhanced. The woman didn’t even look like herself.”
That impact came up in a recent radio interview about the book when a woman who works as a model called in to talk with O’Gorman.
“She said, ‘I wake up every morning, and I look in the mirror, and I feel sad, because I don’t look like me.’ That is what we’re doing to ourselves. And it’s an inside job. We can change this.
“Basically, the message in my book is: When we make our resilience conscious, it’s a game changer.”
The mother of grown twin sons, Jeremy and Michael, O’Gorman started writing the same time she began working on her dissertation.
She kept writing as her career as a psychologist spanned years working with various agencies and patient groups.
“I ran a division of federal government; I ran a rape crisis center; I have done many things as a psychologist. And I’ve always kept a private practice through all of it,” O’Gorman said.
She opened an office of that practice in Saranac Lake last year. She maintains an office in the Albany area and writes the rest of the time.
Her husband, Bob Ross, is CEO and president of St. Joseph’s Addiction and Rehabilitation Center in Saranac Lake.
“I spent a lot of time writing this book in front of the wood stove. It was the fire burning during the day and me,” O’Gorman laughed.
Finished as the “Resilient Woman” book is, there is still more waiting in its wings.
“The book has been out just a few months, and I’m still writing on this,” O’Gorman said.
Email Kim Smith Dedam:
The Bookstore Plus on Main Street in Lake Placid is hosting Dr. O'Gorman at a book signing from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Learn more about her work at: thepowerfulwoman.net and patriciaogorman.com.