Inside every physical temple there resides a mysterious boarder. This dark and elusive lodger pays the rent on time and can be so silent and unobtrusive that we sometimes forget that he/she is actually abiding upstairs in our attic. When we come home and take off that 'mask' that we have worn all day long at the office, when we tear away our clothes, our make-up, our toupees, our preconceptions, our judgments, our out and out delusions, then we may bump into this tenant in the hallway. This is the Shadow.
The Shadow is a label we put on the phenomenon of our inability to acknowledge and come to terms with every single attribute of our personality. Most of us are fairly well versed with our positive traits and many of us can even humbly attest to some of our lesser characteristics (Yes, I am a bit stubborn, jealous, etc.). It is much more difficult to stand up and admit that - I am cruel. I am a racist, a chauvinist, an abuser.
For those who are interested in an in-depth study of this concept the literature is quite extensive and Carl Jung and friends can lead you through the labyrinths of archetype and the unconscious. For our purposes let us merely concentrate on the fundamentals. Let us concede that everyone of us has at least one cankered infection that we have yet to remedy or even to avouch; a particular anger that we have internalized for years; a repressed desire that has yet to see the light of day; a counterfeit ego we are circumventing at all costs.
Every seeker of truth, all who wish to become the masters of their own lives will eventually have to encounter the Shadow. What we expose to the light will sooner or later unfetter and liberate us. What we choose to keep in the darkness may ultimately consume and devastate us.
The New Ager sees the Shadow not as a bogeyman but as an instrument for transformation; not as the devil but more akin to the uncle you hesitate to invite to family get-togethers because he has a tendency to drink too much, tell sexist jokes and burp brazenly at the most inopportune moments.
Ignorance is virulent. The Shadow's solemn objective is to make the unmindful mindful. It keeps our feet planted on the ground and intimates our imperfections. And yes, you may be going to church every day, volunteering at the local food bank and telling your kids hourly that you love them, but this doesn't mean that you've transcended every lesson that you've come into this life to experience.
Take a look at your family, your immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, the world at large, and make a mental list of the people you intensely dislike. Why do these particular individuals irritate you? Could it be that oftentimes what we condemn in others is what we unconsciously detest in ourselves? And if you're positive that those characteristics are not your characteristics then you're still not off the hook. The Shadow is trying to tell you something. Epiphanies and revelations sometimes materialize out of the blue and under incongruous circumstances.
To some the Shadow can resemble the Hydra from Greek mythology. No sooner do you cut the head off the beast but another appears. It is certainly multifaceted. Each one of us is intertwined into the collective unconscious, the vagaries of creation and survival, and all that entails. Cultural conditioning also affects everyone of us and today the medium really is the message. In a pressure cooker society it is imperative to defy the indoctrination and to try to keep your head while those around you are losing theirs.
Most importantly, we have to break into our own personal depository of repressed memories and anxieties; our own self-created underworld of provincialism and predilection. We must scrutinize what we discover, own it, and then minister to and integrate it. By refusing this quest we simply choose a status quo of sanctimony and a penchant for perceiving others as the sinners and monsters.
Remember, as the microcosm so the macrocosm. Isn't our personal Shadow just a miniature replica of the ponderous societal Shadow? And what can societal dark sides spawn? How about injustice and tyranny and war. Personal demons can fabricate and hatch a common foe (the Nazis had this one down pat). The radix of animosity in Croatia and Ireland and the Middle East and other countries all over the world lies in the conscious and unconscious persevering apprehensions of the participants involved, who continue to play out their pathetic little psychodramas by trying to obliterate the 'enemy' while, in point of fact, they are only symbolically annihilating those suppressed aspects of their own psyches which they disaffirm or outrightly abhor.
Of course there are 'bad guys' out there who have to be dealt with. But how many more times do we have to march into war, with God on our side, before the utter uselessness and inefficacy of the exercise dawns on us all. There has to be a better way.
The length of the suspension bridge between your 'notion' of you and the 'real' you depends on the conscious effort you have expended to grow emotionally and spiritually. Let us welcome the Shadow with gratitude because it exposes the abrasions that need medication and (ad)dressing. The Shadow's purpose is not to make us perpetually ashamed but to direct us toward absolute attainment, and if we never entirely metamorphose all the 'vices' within us we will at least have recognized them.
If we as individuals and citizens refuse to deal with our issues then the issues will deal with us. If people continue to brush aside race problems, for example, then circumstances will materialize whereby we will be compelled to resolve them.
If we continue to overstate and celebrate only our positive traits then doubtlessly we'll see ourselves as preeminent and superior to the rank and file. If we allow the Shadow to teach us we'll realize that we're all kindred spirits - all individual drops in the same ocean.
Take care that in your eagerness for not doing various things that may be detrimental, you fall into the more serious rut of just not doing.
When no one is DOING anything about a situation, it's amazing how powerful doing a little can be.
Familiarity does not breed contempt, per se. However, it can, and often does, give us a better perspective about a person whose qualities we may have overestimated.
We become angry at another's faults because these faults still exist, unconquered within ourselves. Where we have conquered such faults, we tend to sympathize and try to aid and correct upon seeing their manifestation in another.
If you wish more customers, give better service to those you now have.
If my enemy kicks me in the rear, I know I'm a step ahead of him. Why turn around and expose my more delicate organs.
How quick we are to criticize in others those things we have long permitted to live within ourselves. Let another's fault help you cure yourself.
There's a difference between he who does not do a misdeed because of conscience and he who keeps from wrongdoing because of the presence of others. One works from the Light. The other works in the Shadow.
The only death is failure to change one's mind.
Only those who fear life, fear death.
Spiritual leaders do not attempt to make men less diverse. Lesser leaders strive to make men conform.
Excesses are for the most part an attempt to find one's bearings. They will finally lead us to temperance.
Learn from the mistakes of others. You haven't time to make them all yourself.
Smile and you may ruin a perfectly miserable day.
We start life all excited about getting things into our stomach. We end it all with much ado about getting things out of our colon.
When people keep telling us how well we look, we can't help but think about how horrible we must have looked.
Take care you do not mistake timidity for humility.
Act crazily occasionally or you may find yourself giving a private performance to a psychotherapist.
We are never so ignorant as when we are learning.
We are living the problems we have not solved.
Those stones along the road you are traveling are probably the same ones you may have once placed along your brother's path.
Be kind to him who calls you names. He is working out a problem.
Knowledge entails responsibilities. This is one reason some refuse to learn. Become your knowledge and it will become you.
We enflesh our thoughts. What are you?
There are many students of mysticism, but few mystics.
There are two types of people - the imperfect by admission and the sadly mistaken.
People who join the perfect organization are soon surprised by the number of imperfect people in it.
Too often the less one says, the more we think about it. And, the more one says, the less we think about it.
The wisdom of others is comprised mostly of our own rejected promptings.
A colleague and I were once quizzing one another with obscure words from the dictionary."Eudaemonics", I ventured.
"Never heard of it".
"It's the science of happiness". My compeer looked solemnly across at me and quipped —
"No wonder I'm always depressed; I was never good at science".
Who doesn't want to be happy? No one. But many people are not. If we exclude those with a physiological causation for their depression, we could be very blunt or even coldhearted and aver thusly:- Happiness is a choice. Period! If you're not content it's because you've exercised your option (whatever the reason) to embrace gloom for the short or long term. End of subject!
But let's take a more circuitous route to the top of this particular mountain. I'm sure a few of you have read or heard some variation of the following sentiment - that we can either make ourselves insufferable, infirm and forlorn or we can make ourselves high-spirited, vigorous and jubilant - for the amount of work is the same. A wise deduction to be sure but, like most of the discerning prescriptions for well-being, easier said than done. Happiness doesn't lurk under a rock or waits to be discovered like some lost sock clinging to the inside of your dryer. It has to be personally imagined and then conceived.
Life offers us a virtual cornucopia of pleasures but for the sake of our discussion let's divide them into two distinct groups. There are the sensual/physical appetites which can be satisfied in the same way as an itch that begs to be scratched. A sumptuous feast quells the hunger pangs. A night of love-making appeases sexual yearnings. These pleasures all have a sufficiency line of demarcation. You can only eat so many donuts and then the enjoyment ceases.
The second category of pleasures are not reactions to physical cravings that require pacification. They are experiences pursued in and of themselves. They could include the rapture of a sunset, the enchantment of a symphony that brings tears to your eyes, the gratification of a completed sculpture that you've been working on for months.
Where many of us err is in thinking that the disquiet and turmoil which begins to swell in our psyches during various periods in our lives can be mollified through sensual means - and so we become addicted to booze and drugs and food and sex and ...
Plutarch wrote that happiness is the result of "right thinking that produces a steadfast state of mind which the vicissitudes of Fortune cannot seriously disturb". Happiness is something you enact. It is not something that incidentally bumps into you. I offer the following for your consideration:
1. Belief systems can be changed. Old Age thinking is at the root of much of the misery we see around us today. I remember S.R., a business analyst, once telling me that although she was fairly content she couldn't be completely happy until she took over her department at work, found her soul mate, and settled down in a rather exclusive neighborhood in the city where she was residing.
If we make our joy dependent on external things we are climbing a rather slippery slope. Happiness becomes difficult to achieve and is readily forfeited if it is contingent on a list of twenty-five indispensable wants. This explains why really contented people are those with few, if any, selfish desires. They have realized that money, notoriety, power over others et cetera are deceptive and sometimes insidious roads leading nowhere. Instead they find some sense of excitement and gratification in almost everything they do.
2. Being a contented person does not mean being deliriously happy every day of our existence. In fact, moments of overpowering joy are not constants but materialize now and again throughout the course of our lives (the birth of a child; a romantic vacation with a new lover; a mystical experience on a mountaintop).
Many of us then identify the joy with the circumstance. We want to reproduce it anew but we have to realize we can't recapture yesterday. And sometimes that second trip with our partner doesn't turn out as magically as the first one. And that view from the summit is as splendid as ever but there are no delectable cosmic chills running up and down our spines like the time before. Moments of perfect harmony (with nature/people) can't really be scheduled to fit our personal timetables. They just happen. And they are meant to be savored and then relished again and again as memories.
And, needless to say, truly contented people are not strangers to grief, anger and melancholy. Emotion is an integral part of our humanity. But the key is acceptance. We may not have a say over certain situations and predicaments manifesting in our lives but we can control how we react to them.
3. If there's one common trait shared by the woebegone, grim-faced wet blanket society it centers around their inability to live in the present. They are either unduly obsessed with the past (If only I had not dropped out of school) and/or forever fixated on the future (When I retire I'm really going to start living and having fun).
There are no guarantees about tomorrow and so if we can't detect a modicum of agreeableness in our present circumstances what makes us think that we'll be able to unearth peace of mind in the long run? If we're brimming with jealousy, selfishness and negative thoughts how do we know that this frame of mind will change even if we are fortunate enough to win a lottery, get a great job or meet the perfect mate?
How we act and think during this present moment will go a long way towards determining what eventualizes in the future. If we're constantly pointing fingers at others or hoping for miracles to set our personal and collective lives aright then our perplexity will endure and our questions will remain unanswered. Very little comes to those who simply sit and wait.
4. Just as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder so also are there no ultimate natural or ethereal fundamentals of happiness. My quest may be altogether different from yours. Ascertain what it will take for joy to enter your life and then move heaven and earth to actualize your current of thought.
Remember that you are a work in progress. Happiness is a corollary of personal transformation. You don't need to have solutions to all your dilemmas before you can experience unconditional bliss. Stop the needless mental interrogation you may be subjecting yourself to and, every now and then, just BE.
And this brings us back to that terse injunction at the beginning of this essay. Wake up tomorrow morning in Eden and simply resolve to be happy. Forget the whys and wherefores. No rationale required. Admission is free.
Why is it that love never turns out the way that we think it should? It seems so difficult to maintain a relationship. How many times have you been 'head-over-heels' only to find yourself disappointed when the romance is over too soon?
The honeymoon does not have to end. I have always dreamed of the happily-ever-after kind of love. Of being rescued from my mundane life by a man who would sweep me away to an enchanted place. He would understand everything about me and would anticipate my every need. I would never have to say a word; everything would be taken care of. Not only that, but he would be handsome, witty and charming with a great jet-setting career. He would be a great romantic, always surprising me with wonderful delights and constantly reaffirming his love for me. Life would be carefree and exciting all the time. Yeah, right; dream on.
My great and wonderful dream lover turned out to be a very human male, complete with irritating little habits, one who would rather stay home and watch TV and eat my cooking, with the ability to forget what I just told him 10 minutes ago. He is, however, good looking and charming, and he loves me more intensely than anyone ever has. Now I believe that I have found the love of my life; a man who gives me what I need but it is not how I thought it would be. He always gives me what I need, even if it's to burst my bubble. It turns out, he doesn't always give me what I want. There are just some things they don't tell you about love and romance. Like the fact that it's a lot of hard work.
Love is not a thing that just "happens", it is not a feeling, it is an act of will. It is not effortless but effortful. Love calls on you to go into service: developing a relationship, and surrendering into the present moment, whatever that moment brings. It means choosing to be with another person over and over again through disappointment and heartache. Keeping your eye on the larger picture instead of the details. And forget about getting your way or having it turn out like that fantasy in your head. It systematically breaks down all your illusions of romance and puts you face to face with the reality of another human being. An imperfect human being.
There was a time when marriage was simply a merger between two families for the sake of the family. It made sense financially, and it fit the prescribed social order. Marriages were arranged without any thought to love or attraction. The purpose was acquiring a good match for the two families involved.
The concept of romance was born out of the "Cult of Courtly Love", which was largely a result of the poetic movement centered in Southern France during the Middle Ages. These poets were called troubadours. A knight or courtly lover, who was also a poet, would choose a lady, preferably a married one, to be his heart's desire. He would then yearn for her, sing songs under her window and send her messages with little tokens of his devotion, but he would never go to bed with her. It would have spoiled the state of being in love, not to mention the fact that it would have been adultery. The state of being in love was always meant to be an unfulfilled, unhappy state. That was romance. It was purely a projection, a fantasy that lived in the hearts of poets. It was about the longing rather than the having. As we all know, it's when you finally win the object of your desire that the trouble and disillusionment begins. As Joseph Campbell said, "We go to bed with a fantasy and then wake up to a reality, and we say, who are you?"
The good thing about the troubadours was that they validated the reality that love between two people does indeed exist, that the great love story shows the heroism of the human being at its best. We need great love stories and we also need to be loved. The difficulty comes when we try to combine marriage with "Courtly Love". The fantasy can't hold up to the mundane reality of the day-to-day demands of relationship. So what we're left with is this idea that being in an intimate relationship ought to look more like the romantic comedies that are created in Hollywood rather than the hard work that an everyday relationship is.
There are as many fantasies about love as there are people. Most create an illusion of intimacy that is difficult, if not completely impossible to achieve. We are our own worst enemies in this regard; we create a vision of love that will always leave us disappointed by the real thing. The fantasy can never match the reality of your average relationship. Real everyday relationships are the stuff that build our souls and humble our egos. We don't get what we think we want, but if we stay open to what is being offered we will find what we need.
In his article 'Stirring the Oatmeal', Robert Johnson talks about the difference between romance and human love. "Stirring the oatmeal is a humble act - not exciting or thrilling. But it symbolizes a relatedness that brings love down to earth. It represents a willingness to share ordinary human life, to find meaning in the simple, unromantic tasks: earning a living, living within a budget, putting out the garbage, feeding the baby in the middle of the night. To 'stir the oatmeal' means to find the relatedness, the value, even the beauty, in simple and ordinary things, not to eternally demand a cosmic drama, an entertainment, or an extraordinary intensity in everything. Like the rice hulling of the Zen monks, the spinning wheel of Gandhi, the tent making of Saint Paul, it represents the discovery of the sacred in the midst of the humble and ordinary".
It is in the small things of everyday living where human love can be found. Love is found in the tasks that lovers do together: the quiet conversation at the breakfast table, the soft word of understanding in daily companionship, the encouragement offered in a difficult moment, a small gift when least expected and other spontaneous gestures of love. It is found by taking down the unrealistic expectations of an exciting fantasy and coming down to earth. By making the practical events of life into acts of intimacy. Then, even the unexciting, difficult and mundane things of day-to-day living become joyful and fulfilling.
When love is taken out of the fantasy realms into the everyday then it is content to do many things that the ego is bored with. Love is willing to work with the other person's moods and unreasonableness. Love is willing to fix breakfast and balance the checkbook. Love is willing to do these "oatmeal" things of life because it is related to a person, not a projection. If you're not expecting that other person to be that great lover of your fantasy then you can relax and let them be who they are. After all, isn't that who you fell in love with? Unrealistic expectations are the quickest route to an unhappy couple.
Love that has no conditions attached sees another person as an individual and makes an individualized relationship with him or her. Romantic love, complete with the attached fantasy, can only see the other person as a player in our private drama and therefore disappointment can't be far behind.
If you truly want romance in your life, then you will have to reinvent your idea of it. It is not the stuff of grand sweeping gestures but is instead a delight in the small things. Like the way we adore our children, unconditionally seeing them as beautiful, talented and smart. Enthralled by who they are, not who we want them to be. It is in that same unconditional and all-accepting love that we can find that grand feeling of romance. My heart can burst open sometimes when I look over at my partner, asleep on the couch, TV remote still in hand. It is in bringing great love to small things where romantic love can flourish.
The best way to ensure an exciting and fulfilling relationship is to desire that your lover becomes a complete and independent person, the best that they can be. I'm a better person because of my partner. He has always encouraged me to succeed and develop myself. He sees me in a light that I can't always see myself in. He holds my confidence when I begin to doubt myself and he knows what I am capable of doing. His vision of me is realistic but far reaching. He can be my lover, friend, parent and coach cheering me on. I try and do the same for him. In accepting who he is he often surprises me by giving much more than I had ever hoped for. It seems like a paradoxical thing but the more I don't push him to "change" into that perfect lover in my fantasy, the more perfect he becomes. People don't change by being forced or nagged - they change because they want to.
If you can bring the accepting kind of love that you give your friends to your lovers then you will find yourself in a healthy and happy relationship. Just think about how you treat your friends versus your lovers. How much more compassion and room you give them to be themselves. You know your friends' weaknesses and the ways in which they are difficult. Most likely you're not so inclined to stand in judgment of them and instead try and help them to see what they're doing instead of finding fault. You don't always see a friend's behaviour as a personal attack or insult to you but instead try to understand what is going on with them.
Friends, genuine friends, want to affirm rather than to judge. They don't coddle but neither do they dwell on each other's inadequacies. They back each other up in the tough times, help each other with the sordid and ordinary tasks of life, like moving for the third time that year or listening with patience to the latest obsession. Most importantly they don't impose impossible standards on each other, they don't ask for perfection and they help each other rather than grind each other down with demands.
Friendship isn't seen as part of the romantic fantasy; it's just too mundane an idea to relate to your great love affair. Who doesn't daydream about the dramatic, flashy, exciting and crazy-kind-of-love that we read about and watch on the movie screen? In fact that romantic feeling may be necessary to get us to fall in love in the first place. If we just saw relationship as a lot of hard work, leading to a series of humbling experiences which end up being no more than living a life of daily routines with someone, we would never bother to get involved in the first place. Unfortunately our idea of romantic love seems opposed to friendship.
This ordinary person who has all those quirky habits can't be the person of my dreams could they? One of the glaring contradictions in romantic love is that so many couples treat their friends with so much more kindness, consideration and forgiveness than they ever give to one another. When people are with their friends they are charming and courteous but when they come home they often vent all their anger, moods and frustrations on each other.
If we believe that being in love is a much more intimate relationship than friendship, then why do couples deny each other the same selfless love and kindness that they readily give to their friends? Somehow the fantasy that we call romance leads us to believe that we have the right to expect that all our desires will be satisfied, and all our fantasies made to come true by the person we are in love with. Bringing the qualities that are found in friendship into your relationship could save it from disaster. Now I know that this task is a very difficult thing to do, but perhaps you can hold it as an intention and try and remember this idea next time you find yourself in a fight that is going nowhere.
"Real relationship" is very humbling to our ego. There is just so much to let go of. You definitely have to let go of expecting any illusions of perfection. Another very important point is letting go of being "right". I've seen too many couples split up because they would rather be "right" than save the relationship. Again it's all about wanting it to be the way you think it should be rather than the way it is.
Love isn't about what you want, it's about what you want to give. If you can give lovers the permission to be themselves you will be very excited by the results. There is nothing more interesting than taking a lifetime to truly know someone. If you sit back, relax and not try to drive, then your love affair will surprise and even romance you. Not all of them work out but by being a true friend as well as a generous lover you will give it your best shot and have a good time besides.
Interestingly enough, we say "falling in love" because loving someone is an act of surrender. It is a call for total abandonment. In love you give yourself over again, you let go, and you say "I give myself to you". To many people this seems quite mad because it means letting things get out of control and all sensible people keep things in control. It is only when we are out of control that things can surprise us. For if we stay in control, then we will get the same result. The only real wise choice is to let go, to commit oneself, to give oneself over, mad as that may seem.
LAURA DI VILIO-REBICK is a psychotherapist/educator in private practice in Toronto. Together with her husband they run Hidden Treasures, offering individuals and couples a place to work on the issues of the heart and soul. They also run weekly ongoing groups specializing in midlife crisis and relationships. You can e-mail Laura at - email@example.com
If there is one sure fire way to push someone's buttons it is when said someone comes home after a difficult day, starts venting about the job, the rush hour, or the general state of agitation and unrest on planet Earth, and you come back with some hackneyed rejoinder like - "Things would most likely work out if you were just a bit more positive about yourself and life in general". Well, the glare you'd probably receive would be enough for you to vow to lock up your treasure trove of verbal antiquities and throw away the key.
There have been untold expletives released into the stratosphere in various friendships and relationships simply as the result of people not realizing that there is a time to lecture and that there is a time to listen, to comfort, to understand - and to keep one's big mouth shut.
But, as long as we're on the topic (and since confidence, attitude and determination play such a fundamental role in self-development) - what about positive thinking? Is it a truism that we halfheartedly believe but mostly ignore or does it encompass more pragmatic value than we can even imagine?
Countless studies have indicated that ingrained pessimism is hazardous to your emotional and physical well-being. Optimists generally live longer, enjoy better health, fewer anxieties and doubts, and they are the sole reason why pharmaceutical companies have not, as yet, taken over the world.
There have also been more than enough books written on the subject so there really is no need but to briefly accentuate a few of the basic (but paramount) themes and concepts.
1. Positive thinkers do not explode out of the womb with a thumbs up sign aimed at the delivering physician and a wink for the assisting nurse. Optimism is an acquired trait. It is learned. It takes effort. You may get a head start on the field by being raised in a hearty atmosphere of affirmative messages from your parents or care givers. You then learn what to expect of yourself and what to look forward to.
However, maintaining a psychology of faith and confidence requires attentiveness, self-discipline and lots of elbow grease. The chronic gloom that emanates from television screens, newspapers and the people we work and socialize with propagates a never-ending personal battle against outer and, subsequently, inner imposed negativity. It's foolish to look at the world through rose-colored glasses but, on the other hand, we won't fully evolve as human beings until we examine the whys and wherefores of the hurdles that present themselves to view along with the growth opportunities that may be inherent in each dilemma.
2. Although a person endowed with a positive frame of mind is constructing a formative foundation for personal success, the process per se is not one that is simply confined to the brain. Thoughts have to be followed by actions. All the positive thoughts in the world about one's state of health are nullified by a lifestyle which includes cigarettes, a poor diet, and physical neglect and inactivity. So, thought may be an important step in the creation of one's reality but it is only the first step.
Thoughts and objectives have to be periodically subjected to a process of close scrutiny. Are your desires rational, ethical, in society's best interests? Well-intentioned, creditable aims will flower expeditiously in the fertile subconscious when they harmonize with your 'true' nature and the common good.
3. If your confidence is based solely on past successes - you may be in for a rude awakening.
T.R. was a stock broker who enjoyed the prosperity of the 1980's. His professional achievements provided him with financial affluence which, in turn, translated into a self-assurance that filtered into his social, personal and familial relationships. Then the recession hit, there were a few errors of judgment, his job vanished and, along with it, so did most of his hope and trust in himself.
The true optimist realizes that life is not always smooth sailing and that occasional storms materialize to test us, teach us or shake us out of our lethargy. Adversity is situational and impermanent. The pessimist never seems to forget yesterday's blunders and defeats. The pessimist feels like an across the board washout (I lost my job - so I am nothing; my relationship just ended - so I'm a total loser).
Confident people have a very developed sense of self. They trust that inner voice. Their positive nature has become a permanent attribute of their personality make-up and not a 'here today - gone tomorrow' trait subject to life's uncertainties.
4. We all know people who are terriblizers (Isn't life a drag? Isn't that terrible? Ain't that dreadful?). And we all know people who rely on accidents, bad luck, catastrophes, sickness, et cetera to garner attention (and love) from others. If you decide to make a concerted effort to climb out of the crater of self-pity then expect some friends and acquaintances to turn their backs on you. Many people feel irrevocably mired in their negativity and they're not ready to deal with the possibility that unhappiness is a choice.
5. Even people who are fairly positive in their outlook on life sometimes set up their own personal lines of demarcation with regards to exactly how optimistic any one person can be expected to become. Confining beliefs are widespread (you can't have it all; you can't be a good mother and a successful career woman at the same time). Do you have any such beliefs?
Without faith in ourselves we begin to atrophy emotionally and spiritually. With desire, confidence and purity of motive we can acquire the insight and energy to alter any situation, to transform our planet. The sky, literally and figuratively, becomes the limit.
Opening up to our feelings can be a scary thing. It requires time; a safe space & developing a new found trust in the value of the emotional realm. Every feeling has its purpose. Anger, joy, sadness, ecstasy, when expressed in creative ways can propel a person into new parts of themselves. When feelings are repressed, so to are the vital energies that cause health. We are unable to give & receive the nourishment needed to live fulfilled lives.
I have noticed in my practice that the emotion that frightens people the most is anger. Yet, anger that is expressed in creative ways can propel a person into new parts of her or his life, enhancing creativity, assurance and expression. When anger is repressed it turns in on us, creating illness.
Discovering the language of an emotion, how to embrace & transform what could be harmful, into energy that empowers, is important. All feelings have the potential to destroy or create. The same is true for feelings of anger. It can be the dynamite that blasts away the constrictions in our hearts and lives. It is not to be feared. Unexpressed anger is something to be feared. It blocks and congests our insides, creating a burning fire that destroys life, instead of creating life. It comes out in subversive ways, in our tone, nasty remarks etc., creating hurts that may take years to heal. Over time repressed anger can lead to depression, lethargy, a general disinterest in life, with an eventual deterioration of our overall organism. Or, instead of facing what lies behind anger, we become over achievers, over doers, running from ourselves and everyone around us. Afraid that feeling too deeply could open what has been so carefully held down.
Fire is an element of creation & destruction. It depends how it's used. The fires of our anger, when directed, can create new life & opportunity. Giving space to get in touch with our deep and rich emotional realm can be one of the greatest healing gifts you give to yourself. You can eat all the organic, healthy foods in the world, but, if it balls up inside of you, it will turn into toxic waste.
Our emotions are much like a river. When the banks of the river (our hearts) are wide we float along gently and effortlessly. There's room for everything. We feel peaceful and content. When the banks (of our hearts) constrict, the water seems to boil and we have what is often referred to as an angry river. Yet, anyone who has white water rafted knows the exhilaration of riding the rapids of a river such as this. It takes skill and technique, watchfulness and inner balance.
When our blood boils, there's a reason. As we learn the skills to ride the throthing, dynamic waves of our emotions, we discover that it is not only exhilarating, it's liberating. On the other side of the rapids is always the peaceful river again, but it is not the same river as it was. Now, it is full of electrical charge; energy that supports life.
When we express our anger in ways that propel us forward we come out the other side charged, refreshed, clearer about the situation and clearer about oneself.
There are many creative, fun and natural ways to explore our emotional realm. Ways of using these deep and powerful feelings as catalysts for the greater emergence of oneself. This is one of them.
Dancing Your Anger
This is a simple exercise to help you move anger in a creative way. As we move the energies of anger, what is unconscious has an opportunity to come into conscious awareness, allowing for greater clarity and balance of expression.
Clear a space in your house to move. It doesn't have to be a large space, just enough for your arms to move around in freely. Doing this in nature is wonderful, and extremely supportive. You will need a sound system and 3 different kinds of music. Music to warm yourself up with, something light and easy. Music that has a strong beat. Drumming music is good. And something flowing and gentle to finish your dance with.
This process can be used any time you feel yourself stuck or unable to channel strong emotions. It can help you to bring clarity and understanding into a situation.
As you learn to ride the waves of your emotions, be it anger, sadness, jealousy, hatred, or just feelings of confusion, you allow the energies of the river of life to move freely through you, guiding you to the other side of the rapids where calm, clarity, inspiration and compassion live.LORENNA BOUSQUET is the founder of Spirit-Earth Wisdom Teachings and co-director of Spirit of the Earth Educational Centre. Her wide spectrum of training includes Sacred Dance, Healings Sounds, Reflexology, Energy Healing and Continuum. Lorenna offers workshops, retreats and private sessions in North America and Costa Rica. Spirit of the Earth Centre - 5871 Bells Road, London, Ontario N6P 1P3
Website: www.thelivingcentre.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
And she remembered it quite vividly. Sitting in that attic room. Alone, unemployed, indigent, nasally congested, and enveloped in a blanket of youthful discontent, weariness and outright cynicism. And there he was in front of her inside that 20 inch black and white television set. In all of his pontifical splendor. Promulgating the notion that trials and tribulations made us more compassionate and understanding; that they were the rungs on the ladder of life guiding us to a fuller comprehension of our inner selves; that they propelled us to reevaluate those things which we thought were important to us; that they ... click! Fade to black!
The issues of 'suffering' and 'life problems' should only be deliberated with people who are, at the moment, relatively happy and carefree. We can then expect some measure of objectivity. It's just too easy to sneer sardonically when you're depressed and watching some overly cheery, toothy, five hundred dollars per workshop, 'successful living', multi-millionaire entrepreneur filling you with platitudes and urging you to pull up your socks ... (Yeah right, buddy. Up yours, and that goes double for your 'inner child'!).
So then, is suffering necessary? Are the vicissitudes of life purposive?
We have to define terms and narrow the scope of our inquiry. Suffering (notably the agony etched into the bewildered faces of African mothers with AIDS cradling their innocent cadaverous offspring) remains elusively problematic - although there are those who would venture that war, poverty and hunger are mortal by-products and could easily be eradicated if human beings chose to cooperate and work together.
We are also not including anguish that is universal and unavoidable (i.e. the grief engendered by the decease of a parent, child or loved one). We are talking about adversity that pushes some into deadlock and torment and stimulates others to adjust and get on with their lives. We are talking about two men who lose their jobs and six months later have still not found work. One becomes despondent, drinks daily and starts to verbally abuse his spouse and the children. The other remains confident and motivated and sees his situation as an 'opportunity'. What understanding of life does the latter individual have that the former does not?
Although the world has its fair share of nihilists, materialists and atheists most people do believe in a Grand Design; in an objective to human existence. Unfortunately many of them can't tear themselves away from TV game shows and football games long enough to silently reflect on this ulterior purpose. Many construct figurative sanctuaries for themselves and their families in an attempt to shield loved ones from life's quandaries. Human beings have this droll habit of erecting towering walls around themselves and then complaining that they can't see over them.
First and foremost we all have to realize that we inhabit the plane of duality; the plane of contrariety. Pleasure / light / rich / good have no meaning unless we also have pain / darkness / poor / bad. Likewise, we have to recognize that so-called 'negative' experiences or feelings need not stand in the way of productive existence. In fact, they are essential. Sir Francis Bacon wrote that "prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue". With adversity we are faced with the possible repercussions of our action or inaction. Evolution (both personal and universal) is synonymous with challenge, exertion and contention. If there was no baptism of fire life would be static and spiritless.
Tribulation and misery have no objective lifeblood. If you think that a predicament exists, then it does. A specific 'problem' that is stressing Peter into a sick bed may not even be an issue as far as Paul is concerned.
Desire plays a significant role in that many of life's worriments and strains are the afterclap of our incapacity to get what we want. There is a weighty and crucial difference between what we want and what we really need. Wants can be material (I want a new car; a diamond stud for my tongue) or they can be personal (I want a better paying upwardly mobile job). We agonize over the fact that we don't have a particular 'what' we think we can't live without, or are not yet 'where' we think we should be or deserve to be in life.
Our anguish can be the result of immaturity and a lack of perspective (like the tearful young woman on a recent talk show who recounted a lingering emotional trauma over the fact that she missed her prom because her parents could not afford to buy her a 'proper' dress). Our torment can be gauged by societal, religious or familial barometers (the person who is trapped in a loveless marriage but who equates divorce with failure or impropriety). Our suffering can be outer-directed (the person who is presented with a dramalogue of misfortune by a friend or family member and feels either unqualified or powerless to unravel a solution).
Most of the problems people experience are self-engendered. They are the outgrowths of everyday exertions, the aftereffects of everyday choices/decisions and the offshoots of an everyday stream of consciousness. Some lessons are learned quickly (no need to touch a hot stove burner twice). Other patterns reverberate endlessly (those who repeatedly get involved with abusive partners; recidivistic felons) until clarity and understanding finally supersede ignorance and inexperience.
Human predicaments have psychological worth. Emotional distress is usually an indicator that a checkup is imperative. People have a dark side, character flaws, vices, and life has a knack of spotlighting the unsavory aspects of mortal make-up. We can avoid, stagnate, hide our complacent heads in the sand or realize that change is natural and inevitable. We can wallow in our self-pity and focus on the gathering clouds of personal ill fortune or we can become pro-active, enable ourselves and discern the 'big picture' eclipsing our ego-centered laments.
Lord Byron said that sorrow was knowledge. Other philosophers and sages have been more categorical and unambiguous. Life is NOT a struggle, they contend. Suffering has no worthiness in and of itself. We have not been delivered into this world to suffer but to rejoice, to relish and to revel.
Easier said than done? Perhaps not. Perhaps enjoying a relatively burden-free course of life is not only practicable but fairly elementary. Perhaps all it entails is reflection and application.
Acknowledging that a 'problem' exists is the first step. And no one resolves every single one of their issues. They simply learn to adjust and live with them.
Stop comparing your progress, your career and your entire course of life with that of the next door neighbor. Your path is as unique and as auspicious as any other.
What we think of ourselves is what we are or what we eventually transform ourselves into. The power of thought can vanquish any fear or dilemma. On the other hand we may crave mastery and prosperity but instead intrinsically expect disappointment and ill winds (because of previous calamities and negative conditioning). The de facto determinants of our failures and frustrations slowly dissipate from objective view and the only recourse that remains is to point the finger at others, at bad luck or, better yet, shrug our shoulders and accept it all as 'God's will'.
The expression 'Go with the flow' became popular a few decades ago and, although it can be interpreted in a couple of different ways, many have construed it as a dictum to follow the line of least resistance. Relax. Be 'at one' with the river. Let it take you where it wants to go. But what if there's a waterfall just ahead?
Similarly, many people don't live life by design. They let life happen. They subsist haphazardly. They circumvent problems by closing their eyes and hoping that they will go away. They don't understand the concept of personal growth. Fortunately life is not a race with winners and losers. It's a university and we're all students. We remain students eternally. It isn't possible to graduate after one lifetime. People who are floating unconsciously and frivolously through life will eventually be confronted by the rapids, by that first personal waterfall, and then they will be impelled to question, to think and to act.
When most people look back over their lives they are more than likely willing to concede that mastering particular problems of the past made them stronger and wiser individuals. The process of suffering (if you want to call it that) was a purifying one. Hindsight is all well and good but it's certainly a formidable task to enjoy or even comprehend an emotional maelstrom when you're smack in the middle of it.
However, getting back into harmony with yourself may be as simple as taking a walk in the park. Leave that car behind you - along with the new Walkman, those ultramodern track shoes and those 21st century expectations. Inhale deeply, trust your intuition, accept your 'self' and very quietly reflect on the meaning of an ancient but cryptic philosophical observation - that triumph and defeat are identical.
I consider myself a good 'citizen' and I can prove it. In over 55 years, my criminal record consists of parking in the wrong place at the wrong time and speeding. It's the speeding that causes me the greater moral dilemma, and that on many levels. Take Ontario's 80 km/hr speed limit: what was the last time anyone has obeyed it? Since all of us expect to get to our destination alive, the chances are that most of us are going to drive safely no matter what speed we move at.
Dilemma #1: Parents, schools, businesses and even governments try to drill the ethic into us that time is money. I know that if I travel 60 kms at 80 km/hr, I will arrive in three quarters of an hour. If I travel the same distance at 120 km/hr, I'll arrive in half an hour, which is a significant saving of time. It seems that speeding fines are set on the premise that everyone earns $300 an hour. A steel worker going from Toronto to Oshawa to earn $25 an hour is not going to risk that kind of fine, while middle-aged lawyers or doctors think nothing of it. They calculate their speed according to their income and know they can afford it. If they get stopped and fined, they figure it's preferable to crashing and dying, which, statistically, they do far more than any other profession.
Dilemma #2: I am cruising along Highway 10 at 120 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. The only reason I know for the posted limit, apart from easing the conscience of lawmakers, road engineers and safety experts, is to raise money for the judicial system. I'm not saying that the OPP has a quota system or that they don't; I don't know and they won't say.
Dilemma #3: I once read that the optimum travelling speed is 120 km/h on an 80 km/h road and that higher speeds become a control problem. Control is best at 100 km/h, 120 km/h being the upper limit. Above that, if the car does go out of control, it's going too fast to be brought back. At 80 km/h and out of control, however, you can take a nap while bringing it back, which may be one of the reasons the 80 km/h is the standard speed set for Ontario highways. If, then, 120 km/h is still 'safe', how does this speed kill?
Dilemma #4: Unless they need extra pocket money, the police will tolerate 100 km/h. My lawyer assures me that officers are allowed a measure of tolerance, called discretion. But 100 km/hr is illegal, so tolerating it makes it extra-legal, or a-legal. This logic may solve the moral dilemma: if I call speeding at 100 km/h a-moral, then I am not being a social reprobate. Or am I?
Dilemma #5: Personally, I feel that travelling at 120 km/h on a clear, open highway, is sensible. But if I uphold the road-related laws enacted by the legislature, then breaking those laws, even if nobody cares, must be unethical.
Dilemma #6: Coming home late one night at 120 km/h in an 80 km/h zone, I was mulling over the possibility that I was progressing along Ontario's highways as an "offender": my action contradicted my claim of being a good citizen. Since I spend most of my days in a vehicle engaging in moving violations, the greatest part of my waking life is being lived as an "offender". Clearly, that makes me part of the criminal element, a full time criminal, a professional even! Unless, of course, I rationalize my status, given that a-moral interpretation of inconsequential laws produce a-criminal behaviour.
Dilemma #7: In spite of doing 120 km/h on the open road, I have my standards, my own personal ethic. When I enter a town, I slow down to the posted speed limit. It's a matter of balance. I tolerate 40 km/h above the limit outside of town because the chances of running down pedestrians and crashing into cars backing out of driveways are greatly diminished. But I respect people and look after their safety in populated areas.
One night, driving through a small town, I reached the point where the streetlights stopped. Just beyond the top of the next hill, I remembered, was an 80 km/h sign. So I accelerated up the hill, reached 80 km/h at the sign, then continued up to 120 km/h. Roaring down the highway towards the next town, I noticed flashing lights behind me. I pulled off the highway and stopped to allow a very polite OPP officer ask me: "Are you in a hurry?" "No," I answered. He continued: "Did you know that you were clocked at 75 km/h in a 50 km/h zone?"
At first I didn't believe what I had heard. I expected 120 km/h in an 80 km/h zone, but 75 in a 50 zone, just a few meters before the 80 km/h sign after I had crossed every empty town at 50 km/h offended me. He must have locked his radar at 75 km/h even though he had to chase me at 140 km/h to catch up. The locked radar reading is admissible evidence in a court of law and he did not lock onto my highway speed. While the officer was in his vehicle with my licence, I wondered if this was harassment or was the officer just fulfilling his quota? Oops, I mean I wondered if he was protecting the people of the small community who pay for his services from someone driving at 75 km/h at the end of town at one o'clock on a Monday morning? According to a statistic I once read in the Globe and Mail, this is the safest time of the week to be on the roads. In fact, I was behind the wheel at such an ungodly hour to optimize my own safety!
So why did he stop me if it was not to fill a quota? A hefty fine with a demerit point or two and a nasty letter from the insurance agent about the suddenly rising premium is the usual result of driving 25 km/h over the speed limit. But the officer handed me my licence and expected me to be relieved that he was charging me with going only 64 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. This meant, he explained a $42.50 fine and no demerit points, although there would be a $5.00 surcharge.
Dilemma #8: I decided not to question the $5.00 surcharge, but there was a problem. The officer's 'allowable discretion' allows him to perjure himself on a legal document. This entire exercise was based on perjury, calculated to make me compliant, accept being labelled an offender and pay the reduced fine without complaint. And it worked.
Dilemma #9: As I said, I think of myself as a responsible citizen and am willing to take the consequences of my actions. Instead, this rather kind OPP officer forced me into an ethical dilemma so that he could make a few bucks for his force in the middle of the night. What could I have said? "Hey, Officer, I was going 75 so give me a ticket for that speed or I'll take you to court"? Would he not have come back with, "Actually, Sir, you were doing 120 in an 80 km/h zone." Then I would have had to tell him that he had no proof and that it would be his word against mine. This would make him feel bad, which is not an ethical thing to do in an already unethical situation.
I felt like I was confronting a liar who, when the lie came out, would have to cover his tracks with increasingly complicated set of lies. The lawmakers, enforcers, members of the judicial system, indeed, our entire society, are involved in cover-up here. Seated in the comfort of my car, I was being criminalized even as the officer wrote up his self-perjuring ticket, criminalizing himself in the process.
Dilemma #10: Our goodwill toward each other was nothing more than a hypocritical gesture. This incident shows that the authorities rely on my lack of moral fibre and are complicit in the criminalization of society. And what did I do? A few days later, I wrote a cheque and mailed it in the envelope the OPP officer provided for my convenience.
Dilemma #11: I cannot help wondering what would happen if I appeared in court with a few other reporters declaring that day to be my 'honest' day and expose the unethical, unlawful, corrupt traffic law enforcing system. I would likely have to follow up one act of honesty with another, until a whole string of honest acts and true words would reduce me to travel the roads at 80 km/h. I wouldn't have to look out for patrol cars; I would be cast as a sociopath, an odd-man-out, a spotless citizen in a world of criminalized, amoral, hypocritical reprobates.
Dilemma #12: As an investigative journalist, I believe a good case could be made by a clever lawyer that a police officer handing a Traffic Code violation 'ticket' to an operator of a motor vehicle is actually violating the law himself! The offence would be misrepresentation. While dressed as a law enforcement officer, he is acting as a revenue agent of the court.
As for the 'ticket' itself, it is a financial instrument in our statutory courts. A clever lawyer could potentially prove that the moment an officer signs a 'ticket', he opens an account in the driver's name at the court of that particular jurisdiction. A driver could technically go to the clerk of that court and, without counter-signing his ticket, could demand the stated sum as 'his' money from 'his' account. Since there is usually a bond attached to such an account, that, too, would belong to the happy driver!
Where did I get this idea? A lifetime spent on the road dodging police cruisers and sharing endless cups of coffee with other 'criminal' drivers afforded me plenty of time to develop a devious mind.
Daniel Kolos is a freelance writer and radio broadcaster with a passion for travel - preferably in a car - and a love for ancient Egypt. He writes with tongue-in-cheek, which helps him explore sensitive moral and political issues.DANIEL M. KOLOS is an Egyptologist and freelance writer raising goats and residing in Priceville, Ontario. He coordinates the Peace Within Concise News Network at www.bmts.com/~damilos/peace.html
A woman went to her doctor and confessed to having been in a state of extreme agitation for the past week. She had seen her first Alfred Hitchcock movie and she couldn't get that notorious scene - Tony Perkins stabbing Janet Leigh in the bath tub - out of her mind. She was finding it difficult to sleep and wild horses couldn't drag her into the shower. The good doctor recommended PSYCHO-therapy.
If mass media have done nothing else they have at least testified to the fact that, in our global village, no matter how bizarre, how aberrant, how uncommon or how inconsequential you may feel your problem is - there are countless others attempting to scale the selfsame precipice. If there's anything mushrooming quicker than fast-food outlets these days it's the vast proliferation of self-help groups, therapists and workshop / seminar peddlers.
This is both good and bad. Good in that it is encouraging to see so many people willing to seek professional help. Bad in that there is a veritable legion of well-meaning amateurs and practitioners with personal agendas interspersed with a solid core of reputable specialists making it rather difficult for some potential customers to ascertain exactly what kind of psychodrama it is that they happen to be auditioning for. I once attended a weekend workshop dealing with a specific healing technique and discovered (much to my chagrin) that one of the attendees had arrived with his new business cards already printed. He was going to start 'healing' next week - and his own training had yet to begin.
I will lay my biases on the table. I have ambivalent feelings regarding psychiatry and the general mindset of certain psychotherapists (especially the ones that have their clients dependent on them for years). There are certain individuals who require intensive help but most people do not need a $150 per hour Freudian tactician. Many clients don't relate well to social work jargon, abstract modalities and psychological gibberish. They simply need to be heard. They will respond to people who seem to give a damn - and there are any number of competent facilitators running support groups at minimal cost or free of charge.
A well-grounded counselor should never bring a demagogic, personal or political agenda into the session room. He/she should acknowledge the uniqueness of each client and strive to work sensitively within the parameters of said client's idiosyncratic life history. And to make doubly sure that clients sally forth with their heads facing frontward.
By this I mean that many clients enter a therapist's office with their train of thought firmly rooted in the remote or distant past. And many practitioners are only too eager to wallow in the quagmire of retrospect and countenance clients to dwell on their issues (thereby continuously fanning the flames instead of containing or putting them out). It's one thing to acknowledge a problem. It's quite another to become obsessed with it while the rest of your life comes to a virtual standstill.
I don't want to minimize the importance of a proper psychosocial assessment. Clients should be permitted to tell their stories in detail. But they should also be informed early in the game that yesterday need not determine today or tomorrow. It is not bygone events per se that hold us hostage or sabotage our daily existence. It is our belief system.
I once saw a 30 year old woman on television who had been sexually assaulted when she was 20. She was still totally fixated on that one particular event in her life. The bags under her eyes made her look ten years older than she actually was. She cried on the show and she had probably cried every day for the past decade. It was difficult to watch. The professionals on stage explained that it was natural and human to experience anger and grief under such circumstances but no one offered any sort of directive approach or dared to suggest that perhaps the woman was, after all this time, consciously or unconsciously 'choosing' to remain subjugated to her memory.
Like cattle stock that have been branded there are far too many people (on TV and in 'real' life) who are walking around mouthing the labels, the nomenclature that some therapist or 'expert' has tagged them with. Hi; I'm Angie; I'm a sexual assault victim. Hello; I'm Fred; I'm an alcoholic. Hey; I'm Betty; I'm an incest survivor.
It's recent overuse has made "victim" a very incapacitating word. It might be more beneficial not even to identify oneself as such (although perhaps it's all a matter of semantics). Yes, I was robbed last night - but I am not a victim. I choose not to live the rest of my life in fear.
Of course we cannot cavalierly dismiss with a wave of our hand the woman who has been assaulted, the grandfather who outlived the Holocaust while the rest of his family did not, the couple whose first child dies in the crib after mere months of existence. We cannot simply say - Get over it! Anger and sorrow must have their day. However, we can point out in due time that the memory of a tragic or heinous ordeal is not the ordeal itself. When we focus or obsess on past incidents we reexperience the emotions we felt at that time. Just as our physical bodies are constantly recreating themselves so is our belief system fashioning our reality. Once our convictions become de facto decrees in the subconscious they can empower or subvert future hopes and dreams. Our subconscious will always furnish evidence to corroborate our self-appraisal.
So, if we reconstruct and reconstrue a memory does it not follow that the initial experience will also remold itself in our mind? Let us take the case of one of my own clients - a 24 year old male who expressed a profound loathing for his father because this 'caregiver' over the course of many years physically abused him. It took some time but eventually this is the kind of self-talk he started to subscribe to whenever the past reared its ugly face - "My father did the best he could with the limited skills that he had. He mirrored the behavior that his own parents had modeled. My father would get intoxicated and beat me because his own lack of self-understanding, his own fear, his own emptiness was just too overwhelming. It is not mandatory that I forgive my father but 'letting go' of past sorrows is the first step in my own journey towards recovery. Hate will only destroy me. The violence stops here. My kids will be the beneficiaries of the lessons I have learned. And it is no longer important for me to look back into the darkness but, instead, to gaze ahead towards the light at the end of this tunnel".
Bona fide personal growth occurs when the goal is to come to terms with your issues and not necessarily to 'fix' them. Years of processing can be circumvented if therapist and client recognize that few if any of us completely resolve our "stuff". We just learn to live with it. To reiterate, if we keep asking ourselves why we're always so damn miserable we'll discover the raison d'Ωtre for our malaise - and perhaps even a justification. If we instead ask ourselves how we can alter our lives so that they can become more productive and gratifying then we will surely begin to spotlight the solutions.
In this New Age a potential seeker of assistance may be torn between all the available choices out there. There is conventional psychotherapy but what is Core Belief Engineering, Transpersonal Therapy, NLP, Polarity Therapy and so on? It's all a simple matter of buyer beware. Always explore what you're getting into. Ascertain how long the therapist has been practicing and where she/he was trained. A referral from someone you know who has received satisfactory service is the best route to go.
And remember, emotional/spiritual illumination does not effectuate completeness and perfection. It does, however, enable you to honor and to reconcile yourself to your frailties and shortcomings.
How to Understand Yourself, Feel Better and Get Along with Others
Self understanding is not rocket science. Nor really is feeling better and getting along with others.
It's simple really, although not necessarily easy ù and it does require commitment, effort and patience. But what better thing to be the object of your efforts than your own inner and outer well being.
The purpose of this brief article is to introduce you to a map of your insides with operating instructions It is a simple approach to knowing yourself. This map and operating instruction will begin to help you learn how to understand yourself, feel better, and get along with others.
The Basis of Understanding
The basic mapping tool for understanding yourself is that you are not a single self but a symphony of selves. Inside of any one person there are many different parts or selves. The cacophony of voices in your mind telling you "do this" or "do that" can be rationally explained, understood and harnessed in your best interest. But in order to do this you must get to know all of your inner selves. There are young parts of you and there are old parts of you. There are emotional, irrational parts and judgmental critical parts as well as kind, nurturing and rational parts of the self.
The first step in self understanding is knowing the difference between your inner tuba player and your inner violinist. The next step in feeling better is appropriately tending to the players in your symphony. And the third step in getting along with others is having an inner conductor to direct who is playing you at any given moment.
Should the trombone be playing when your spouse's timbales are playing or should it be your bass? And why is your trombone player so dang loud?
As with any symphony, there needs to be inner contentment and harmony, inner cooperation and a good conductor in order for there to be good music.
Everyone has different inner symphonies. Some have symphonies with stronger emotional selves that react in certain patterned ways. Some have stronger critical or judgmental aspects. Some are more nurturing, and some are purely rational or analytic. It could be that your trombone player gets loud every time your spouses' timbales tinkle. One part of you or another could be "soloing" or in the driver's seat of your personality at any given moment. Which could be a good thing or not. The goal is to become fluent with your own inner parts or selves. And you can.
Training Your Inner Conductor
The first step in feeling better involves the conductor getting strong and wise. Toward this end, there is the knowledge that bad feelings, of most any kind, reside in our emotional self parts. When the emotional self parts are happy, we are happy. When they are not happy, we are not happy. As your conductor develops psychological wisdom and skillfulness in working with these parts, then the bad feelings will lessen.
There are three areas, or causes, for the emotional parts of our inner symphony to be struggling and feeling sad and unhappy, anxious and fearful, frustrated and angry. These areas or causes compose the operation instructions for how to feel better and get along with others.
The first cause of unhappiness is pretty straight forward: It is the idea that psychological problems are the result of stored, blocked and avoided emotions. Unexpressed emotions cause irritability, anxiety and depression. Blocked emotions cause misperceptions and overreactions in our relationships.
This is not to say that the answer is to let them fly, so to speak, because these stored feelings may have been around for a long time. The goal is for your inner conductor to become more fluent in the what, why and when of emotions and then to determine the healthiest ways of reworking them, clearing the stored files and then not letting more undealt-with emotions build up.
The second cause of generalized or specific unhappiness is unmet needs. The emotional self parts have psychological needs in order to feel OK, secure and happy. These emotional self parts have a young quality and need love, support, attention, acceptance, appreciation, respect, and nurturance. Every tuba player needs love, and a well loved tuba player plays well with others.
The goal here is to become one's own cake and get the icing from the outside. An over reliance on the outside is all too often a disappointing attempt to get too many of our needs met either through personal accomplishments, job performance or significant others.
So the goal here is to become more fluent and accomplished at tending to our own needs. This involves teaching and building the conductor (the positive grown up) to be a better, more fulfilling needmeeter for those younger emotional inner selves.
The last cause for bad feelings is bad internal programming or scripting. This means our inner symphony is having to play a gloomy or faulty composition. This is a good news-bad news scenario. The good news is that we can easily see and understand the problematic programming which is causing negative beliefs, poor attitudes and bad reaction patterns to outside events and others. The not so good news is that the parts of us that hold the programming are not easily changed.
There is hope
The wise conductor/grownup learns to recognize bad life compositions and then goes about the task of rewriting them. This rewriting requires effort, persistence and patience, but what better project than to write yourself a new script for a better quality of life on all levels.
This business of self understanding and self management is not murky rocket science. It is at times elegantly simple and at others exquisitely multifaceted. Sometimes we just need a little help in knowing how to look at ourselves and what to do with what we find out. Sometimes we just need a little push to look inside, and if there is a map then the looking will seem easier to do.
So if you:
You might want to consider making a commitment to your own wellbeing by learning more about how to understand yourself better. This is obviously not automatic, or we would all feel great all of the time. And sometimes we just need a good teacher to help us learn new skills, like training our inner conductor, working through and out of old emotional roadblocks, and finding our inner harmony. Our relationships in the world depend on the health and happiness of our inner selves, yet the language is new. But the task is within reach, and all of us can take steps right now to learn how to feel better and get along better with others in our worlds. It may mean reading moreàor calling a therapistàor consulting a coach or mentor. Please feel free to call on me. I offer individual sessions, groups and couples counseling in Atlanta, and would love to help you.Joel Rachelson, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Atlanta. Visit his website at www.joelrachelsonphd.com
Remember that "good-old-fashioned" rock and roll song about fishes in the deep-blue sea, bullfrogs and the like? And most of us have at least heard the uplifting, timeless Christmas tune of the same nameà Although these two pieces are very different styles of music, they both convey the same message: Joy to the World!
For ever-so-many years, I have asked myself: Why is it that it's only during the holiday season that we all seem to focus on, sing about, and try to capture the wondrous feeling of Joy? Then, once the holidays are over, we return to our super-busy lives, forgetting about that fleeting moment in timeà We try to fill the void or emptiness that we feel, with material goods, or forms of instant gratification.
But, believe it or not, Joy is a year-round thing! By realizing and accepting this fact (which, for some people, may be quite startling!), we reawaken the eternal Joy within ourselves!
Joy is one of the many "Divine Goodies" (as I affectionately call them), including Light, Love, Peace, Hope, Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness, and Gratitude.
These Divine qualities all exist as part of our magical, mysterious Universe. And when we recognize that we are all interconnected, both with each other and with the Universe, it becomes natural and easy to "tap into" the ever-abounding Joy! In fact, when we open ourselves to this Gift of Creation, we do indeed reawaken our own innate Joy! This is our true nature.
As babies, we are born as joyful beings, radiating innocence, purity and love! As young children, we retain this innocence and joyfulness. Then, as we become adults, many of us seem to lose our child-like wonder, innocence and joy...
But - take heart! There are many wonderful ways to assist you in reawakening and reclaiming your Joy!
As a facilitator of Joie de Vivre! (joyful living) workshops, I share with others my personal "recipe" for reawakening and reclaiming Joy, and creating a joyful, peaceful existence in one's daily life. And, yes, it is a transformative process that, for some, does take time and effort to achieve - but there's never been a better and more needed time than now, and the results are worth every ounce of effort! In addition to sharing insights gleaned from my own personal experience, there's a wealth of fact-based information available, concerning Joy...
For example, it is refreshing to note that, on the subject of Joy, both scientific and spiritual sources seem to agree. Dr. Sol Gordon and Harold Brecher, authors of the book, Life is Uncertain, Eat Dessert First!, point out that we must first deal with anxieties that stand in our wayàand admit they exist. Among the techniques that they recommend for creating a joyful existence are: focussing on making others happy, giving freely of oneself and becoming more magnanimous.
Indeed, as we open ourselves to Joy, we must also accept the existence of its "flip side" of sorrow or anxieties, then strive to have more Joy than sorrow - or, more positive than negative - in our lives. And it can in fact be a joyful experience, finding ways to be more joyful!
When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous, silly, and child-like, we have fun and we actually tap into that Universal Source of all things, and our lives begin to embody or reflect this. When we use our creativity and imagination, the possibilities are endless! Some other ways to invoke and increase one's Joy are, through gratitude, humour, art, music, service, any type of spiritual practice, and play à (Go on à Let your hair down! Be silly! Skip down the street! Play with your kids! Do anything that brings out and expresses the Inner Child within you!).
Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr, in her beautiful and timeless book, The Song of the Seed, A Monastic Way of Tending the Soul, writes: "The abiding joy is the reality that you are a spiritual being. You are part of a universe to which you are so intimately connected that the rhythm of its movements affects your very soul."
Echoing Sr. Macrina's and Dr. Gordon's sentiments on the subject, is Robert Ellwood, a Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California, and author of over twenty books on spirituality and religion. In his Finding Deep Joy book, he points out that the seeds of joy are always there, in the real engagement of life, like the joy of wrestling with one's problems. "Joy can be a release of tension, and when we hold back, we do not find real joy. Living open to deep joy means openness to all of life, and to the possibility of finding joy even in pain." Mr. Ellwood notes the importance of setting up a lifestyle for joy, including one's surroundings being calming, tending towards joy, and above all, everything should tend toward the deep unity of life.
Here are a few more ways of cultivating and increasing the Joy in one's daily life:
As for me, the road I've travelled on, up to this present moment in time, has been riddled with potholes, gravel and the like, but it's all part of the adventure - the adventure of life! With ongoing gratitude, I am fortunate in that almost all aspects of my life today reflect my joie de vivre: my work, my home environment, and my efforts to serve and uplift others, family and friends included. Over and above all of this has been my faith in a Creator - manifesting in the daily practices of prayer, contemplation, meditation, journalling, and endeavouring to practise the "Golden Rule".
In ending this article on Joy, I'd like to also give credit where it's dueà In my other work, with the special needs populations of Toronto, I have gained a tremendous appreciation of these wonderful people's hidden gifts - including their joy, purity and child-like innocence. One of the most beloved sources of inspiration, which has profoundly influenced my life and helped to increase my inner reserve of Joy, is the l'Arche / Daybreak community. Founded in 1964, in France, by Jean Vanier, this community for people with intellectual disabilities is designed to embrace all of its members and assistants, as a meeting place "in the seas between people, and a proclamation that even in our own divided world, there is enough room for joy." In Fr. Bill Clarke's book on the l'Arche community, entitled Enough Room for Joy, the spirit of l'Arche and its vibrancy shine through: "Joy and simplicity certainly do characterize the prevailing spirit of l'Arche," Fr. Clarke writes.
For me, the l'Arche communities and their residents truly embody all the "Divine Goodies". They have much to offer and teach us, about ourselves and our world, through their unconditional love and acceptance of others, their compassion, patience and child-like innocence. Yet, here too, the duality of joy and suffering are referred to - in a positive, healthy way: "The joy at l'Arche springs from two factorsà namely simplicity and the acceptance of the reality of sufferingà The ability to do this leads to a deep communion between the people there, and leads to a real celebration of life and true joy."
These beautiful, joyful and pure-at-heart folk do truly inspire us all to join together, to bring about more compassion, tolerance, peace and joy in our hearts and in our world. àJoy to the World!Roslyn Rus facilitates Joie de Vivre! (joyful living) and Golden Rule creative/meditative workshops in Toronto.
She can be reached at (416) 763-8528, or
visit: www.carrot.com/events/joiedevivre/ .
If you want to live an abundant life you need to understand how to manifest. Some people just intuitively live it. They inherently know how to attract what they want into their lives. Others struggle, and the harder they struggle the more difficult it becomes. They have inadvertently set up a cycle of attractingà what they don't want. Once you understand the Laws of Manifestation, the process of attracting abundance becomes easyà you can then attract what you want.
Everything has its own energy and vibration. In order for anything to be created it must start as energy, intention, or thought. An artist's inspiration may be fueled by emotion or passionà that's an emotional energy. Manifestation translates the energy from one plane to another. The artist manifests by taking emotional energy and creating an art form (i.e., paintings, sculpture). He has manifested this by taking it from a level of consciousness and translating it into a physical form.
Seeing manifestation as simply a tool to get more 'things' negates its essence to transform consciousness, turning it into a weapon for control and manipulation. Instead of using it to impose our own will, use it as a tool of expression to allow ourselves to achieve greater potential. Use the principles to develop your own vision, increase consciousness and to understand that we are all part of the whole.
To truly manifest you must change from being a passive receiver to becoming a creator. Create from a centred place not from: scarcity, control or manipulation. While you may be able to attract things to yourself, this does not necessarily make you a manifestor. Are you doing it to feed personality and not soul? You must simply relearn to be yourself. Being is the key to manifestation. Trust and the universe will provide for you. You will automatically attract to yourself whatever you need in any given moment.
Identify what you need. Does the need stem from a lack or does it come from wanting to create? It's important to know yourself and identify your intention because that is what you will manifest. It's okay to meet your own needs when that in turn will allow you to help others. Beware the personality.
Try to discover why you want to manifest? What will you do with this? Perhaps you need it, perhaps you don't. Get a strong sense of your intention whether it's people, things, or circumstancesà remember, that's where you're aligning yourself. Get a sense of who or what you need and allow that to come to you.
A key principle of manifesting is changing the paradigm we erect for ourselves. We now become a creator, not just a bystander. We are part of the whole; we do not travel alone on this journey. If our manifestation is good for us and for others, then we start being part of the solution. If we all become part of the solutionà it could catch on.
© 2005 - Karen Johnson internationally renowned and respected expert in the field of Human Potential Development. Currently in the process of writing her first book.