When I first heard Jennifer Freed’s laughter, I couldn’t believe anyone could be filled with such high spirits and vitality. Then I got to know her and began to understand where it comes from: a place of gratitude and positivity.
Dr. Freed is a therapist, author, and cofounder of the highly successful Attitude, Harmony, Achievement (AHA!), a teen program that serves more than 2,000 families annually. AHA! is dedicated to the development of character, imagination, emotional intelligence, and social conscience in teenagers, while helping them set goals, support their peers, and serve their community.
Jennifer is one of the wisest people I’ve ever met, and so I was very happy when she agreed to answer the Proust questionnaire.
What is it you like most about your job?
I adore working within an atmosphere of gratitude, contribution, celebration, and positive possibility. AHA!’s mantra of Attitude, Harmony, Achievement is really like an alternative universe where everyone matters and is offered affection, support, and honesty. To be involved in a multicultural and truly diverse group of young and old people working together on a daily basis to cultivate joy and a more vibrant community is a blessing.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being with [AHA! cofounder] Rendy [Freedman] and loved ones while swimming with dolphins and catching perfect waves.
What is your greatest fear?
Losing my loved ones.
Who do you most admire and why?
Currently my most admired folks are Gloria Steinem, David Whyte, Richard Tarnas, Augusto Boal. They all represent the best of soulful and authentic genius and achievement within a context of societal liberation.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Traveling five-star anywhere I can, whenever I can, which is not often.
What is your current state of mind?
I am working on expanding my capacity for happiness and gratitude. It is a workout every day to acknowledge the suffering in myself and in the world and to steer my heart and mind toward what is positive, what is possible, and how I can be of service for the greatest happiness of myself and others.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Kind witty humor.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
I most value friends who are thrilled for me when things are going well and cry with me when things are painful. I especially value people who help me take myself less seriously and inspire me with their work in the world or their commitment to their inner work. Loyalty and honesty are critical to me, and the willingness to repair mistakes and the willingness for me to repair my mistakes, too.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Exuberance and exaggeration.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
My partner says I often say “No” before I start to agree or disagree. I think I started that at 2 years old.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Professional surfer, professional singer.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would like to be less aware of time and more relaxed with the ways things are and are not in any given situation instead of feeling the immense responsibility I often feel.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is finding my true love and actually being in love every day for almost 18 years now. Everything great I have achieved stems from this source of connection and partnership based on mutuality, respect, and fun.
Where would you most like to live?
I am happiest in Santa Barbara, and I would like homes in Italy, Hawai’i, France, and New York City if anyone would like to buy me those.
What is your most treasured possession?
I feel very possessive of my mate; however, I know that is not politically correct, so I guess I would say my cats, but frankly they are not easily possessed. They were out all night as I write this, disregarding my frantic whistling.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Marla Phillips and Jan Scott Fadden.
What is your motto?
Say and do everything loving as much as possible.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Gertrude Stein and Anaïs Nin.