Recently I met a remarkable person: Dr. Tristan Buzzini.
He works with a longtime colleague of mine, Dr. Christine Dickson of Tri Valley Psychotherapy.
Dr. Dickson and I have very similar philosophies on holistic wellness and an individual’s power to create their own sense of well-being by taking responsibility for his perspective, since perspective is the lens through which we all experience our unique place in the world and, indeed, the nature of the world around us. Dr. Dickson thought Dr. Buzzini and I would hit it off and perhaps be able to do some good work together, and she was right. Dr. Buzzini will be adding a critically important voice to the issues of motivation and living true to one’s most deeply held values through mindfulness and non-judgment in my next series of Lean Online.
I asked him to share some of his insights and experiences navigating the often scary, but always life-affirming pathway of personal growth and the critical role of self-care on that road. Here’s our exchange:
Q: Why did you choose a career in Psychotherapy?
My life experiences and path thus far have constantly reinforced that mental, physical, and spiritual wellness are all equal contributors to an overall sense of stability and well-being, and that one can not exist without the other two. I chose a career in psychology because I’ve often witnessed (and experienced in my own life) that the combination of life challenges, organic mental health symptoms, overindulgence, addiction – and societal messages about how we “should” think, how we “should” act, look, behave, what material possessions we “should” have, and what we can/cannot achieve due to our genetics, income, socioeconomic class etc. create an unrealistic and often times extremely painful set of expectations that contribute for many people to a state of mind that makes us unable and unwilling to access our full potential. I have a deep seated passion for wanting to support individuals and groups of people in navigating those pains and processes to move toward experiencing their most empowered and authentic self, whatever that means to them.
Q: Can you tell us more about who you help and how?
I feel honored to have the opportunity to use my personal and professional experience and training to support people across many walks of life. I’ve developed a passion for working with individuals struggling with severe and persistent mental illness in undeserved populations & currently work full time for the California Department of State Hospitals as a inpatient staff psychologist. I also have a private therapy practice working with individuals in our Tri-Valley community as a psychologist along with Dr. Christine Dickson at Tri-Valley Psychotherapy in Pleasanton, CA. In addition to that I’ve maintained my group fitness, cycling instructor, and meditation teaching credentials & have a passion for teaching fitness classes and meditation & mindfulness groups in my spare time. I will also be working in the new year with Dan Taylor as a consultant for his Lean Online body wellness program through Tri-Valley Trainer in Pleasanton. In the future I hope to complete my gender specialist credentials and continue working to serve the LGBT community as well.
I believe strongly in the values of integrity, authenticity, education, and service to others in my communities. In each of the settings mentioned above individuals and groups of people trust me to help them hold and navigate both challenges and successes in extremely vulnerable times of their life, which is something that I do not hold lightly or take for granted. With that being said, I believe it is my duty and privilege to cultivate a space where positive change is possible, use my training and expertise to teach others skills they can use to help themselves, and to support people in discovering their full potential which sometimes requires someone to believe in us and see what we are capable of before we begin to believe in ourselves.
Q: I understand you have personal experience with managing major changes in your own life. Can you tell us more about that?
This is an interesting question because in reflecting back on my life I’ve noticed that changes that feel major in the moment simply become an integrated part of my history and story as time passes. The most major milestones for me have centered around living wholeheartedly which required facing and overcoming periods of uncertainty, exposure, and vulnerability until a deep sense of knowing I am enough emerged. Over the course of my lifetime some of the things that stands out most in this way are my journeys through physical health, body image, and gender identity. I was assigned female at birth and lived the first 31 years of my life outwardly identified as female. In part because I internally struggled with this identification from a very young age I traveled the full spectrum of physical health and body image ranging from hiding and hating my femininity – which resulted in utilizing my body as a “defense mechanism” and treating my body like a “garbage can” with mass consumption of unhealthy food, weighing over 300 pounds, being pre-diabetic with a host of other health problems, and being unable to run a quarter of a mile. My life was literally saved by fitness and I was fortunate enough to have a friend who inspired me to begin my fitness journey. As I began this now lifelong pursuit I experienced the opposite end of the spectrum and internalized the societal message that a fit female needed to be as tiny and unassuming as possible. While I achieved over a 100 pounds in weight loss during that time, exercise developed into an unhealthy obsession and included counting calories, constantly weighing myself, restricting food, and self-dislike for “not being skinny enough”. Beginning outward transition from female to male over the last year forced me once again to reevaluate what “healthy”, “fit” and “lean” meant to me as my body began to change and I was able to see my true self emerge. I began to eat for my health, paying special attention foods that provided me the most nutrients and supported a balance in hormones. As part of transition I also faced the humbling experience of recovering from major surgery in April 2016 & fully embracing a rehabilitative fitness regimen that with my trainer’s help took me from being unable to lift my arms over my head or do a single push-up back to completing multiple races and fitness challenges. In the last year I’ve put on 40 pounds, a large portion of it muscle, put away my scale, and feel in the best shape of my life both internally and externally.
Q: Given your unique perspective, what would you say are the most important characteristics to cultivate to face personal challenges and move forward in one’s life in a positive and productive way?
I genuinely believe we are our own best teachers, and that if we get quiet enough and put aside societal and self judgments of who we “could”, “should”, or “would” be each of us has an inner knowing of how we want to move through life and how to best overcome our inner and outer challenges. For me, three things stand out in this life-long journey as important to cultivate during periods of personal challenge. First, listening – really listening to what you know is your truth in any given situation and trusting that inner knowing. Second, doing as best we can to contribute positive energy with integrity to actions that contribute to manifesting that inner truth as an outward result. Finally, realizing we are not alone in this journey and creating a positive support system to help us reach our goals. The spiritual adage of “environment is stronger than will power” has always resonated with me. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, coaches and teachers who can teach you valuable skills to expand your knowledge, and create an environment that will set you up best for success.
Q: What would you tell someone who is afraid to live their truth because of push-back or judgment they might face?
As a method of survival human beings have the ability to compartmentalize and create an “other”. It is a programmed instinct to be able to identify that which is different & “dangerous” and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, as a society we’ve taken to identifying “other” in those around us and projecting our own judgments about what is “good” and what is “bad” onto healthy, innate, and ubiquitous differences.
I preface with this to say that there will always be those who’s Truth lies outside the bounds of current and ever-changing societal judgments and history has shown us that Truth always “wins” in the sense that regardless of the adversities faced and the push-back received the people society has attempted to put into the shadows have always existed, preserved, overcome, and continued to shine.
With that being said, I would tell people to live their Truth, let their light shine as bright as they possibly can, and be your best version of yourself that you can be – because in raising your own consciousness by living your Truth you contribute to a force for good that encourages others to do the same.
Q: Any other general advice?
Be kind to yourself, appreciate the highs and the lows because they both have something to teach us, celebrate health and happiness without necessarily having to strive for progress or perfection, and have as much fun as you can during the journey.