Tag Archives: mental-health

How To Be a Better, Smarter, more Balanced You

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2016 is looming: it’s an olympic year, a national election year, and a leap year. because everyone else out there is telling you how to be a stronger, fitter, faster, taller and more beautiful you, i’ve decided to focus our work on the inside.

these tips won’t make you slimmer, but they will help you unload crap that isn’t yours in the first place and then maybe you can start to see your real value and you’ll feel lighter on your feet and in your heart.

let shit go: will what’s bugging you matter in 6 minutes, 6 hours, 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years. as a bazillion philosophers have stated, often what’s bugging us is not the situation but our attachment to the situation: expectations, narratives, and old stories which shape our appreciation of the situation. once you can name the hook, you’re released, it’s crazy awesome. apparently socrates said, “the secret to change is not to focus on fighting the old, but on building the new.” try it.

can’t let shit go? try EFT tapping: http://www.emofree.com/eft-tutorial/tapping-basics/how-to-do-eft.html — i recently had a situation that really bugged me, someone called me negative and it hurt a lot because i’ve worked very hard to overcome lots of that. thanks to the resulting introspection (always seek a silver lining) i relearned: 1) that what i was called was a projection of the person who said it; 2) that courting bad feelings is as powerful as a drug*; 3) that running a moral inventory of the good i have done and the people who admire me is the best proof there is of my value in the world; and 4) we are all a little messed up. “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”

*Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center. source http://time.com/4042834/neuroscience-happy-rituals/

stay off social media if it makes you feel like crap. the actual, rainy, sunny, snowy, arid, warm, cool, hilly, flat, leafy, barren world is always more beautiful than the screen version. getting out is good for your heart (physical and metaphorical). bring garden gloves and an empty trash bag on your next walk, and clean up as you go along. you’d be surprised how much trash is out there. (as for that last sentence, the same can be said of social media.)

you can’t please everyone, so don’t try. work on you and your life will unfold before you.

practice gratitude: it’s everywhere. it’s proven. taking stock of and being grateful for all that has happened in your life will help you see how far you’ve come. and believe me: you’ve come far.

don’t do for others the things they can (and need to learn) do for themselves: sure, i’m better at it, i’m faster and i’ve got more experience, so yes, i can drive my 17-yo son everywhere, but if i do that, he doesn’t learn to drive, does he? and then i get stuck taking him everywhere.  you’ll see this theme repeat itself elsewhere through this post. the best teacher is encouraging and allowing others do their own thing — remember toddlers: ain’t nobody gonna help them with their pants until they ask for help.

organic interaction / engagement: if all of a sudden you find yourself hot under the collar about something someone else told you about, chances are you weren’t supposed to know about it in the first place. TEST: if you have to be told something to get wrapped around the axle about, consider this: you’re hearing about it from someone else’s perspective and it’s quite likely you’re not getting all the facts, nor the other sides of the story. and trust me: there are ALWAYS other sides to a story. especially stories which don’t concern you. one word: YIKES. if you like that drama, you’ve got other problems. (i speak with experience, see immediately below.)

more:

fight your own battles: filters filters filters. man, if i had $100 for every stupid thing i got involved in which had nothing to do with me, i’d have about $12,000 and I’d be writing this on a beach somewhere. but the fact is that i’m on my couch at home and my getting involved in dynamics that had nothing to do with me did me absolutely NO favors whatsoever. it stretched my ego, it inflated a false sense i had of myself, and it set off recurrent shoulder pain.

more:

check the mirror: when you point at someone else you have three fingers pointing back at yourself (try it, i’ll wait). you can’t accuse someone of something you aren’t already experienced with already. in other words: you can’t project what you do not have. you think someone is stubborn? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. think someone else is negative? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. accusing someone of talking about you behind your back? don’t look now, but you just won a hypocrisy sundae. think someone else is mean? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. that said, it’s ok — we all do it. learn to be cool with that discerning side of yourself, the one you would rather not talk about at cocktail parties. why? because it has helped you avoid potentially irksome experiences, but never go on someone else’s opinion of anything. i’d never have eaten a Reuben if i went on my friend’s advice.

altruism gives to the giver too: everyone has a talent. serve others only for the sake of serving them and seek nothing in return. volunteer once a month for at least four hours somewhere, but ONLY in a place where you can do your highest good. are you skilled at accounting? see if there’s a shelter that could use your help. do you like public relations? find an organization struggling with outreach. are you an amateur carpenter? check out a local church. they are always building amazing things for other people. i can bake, but i prefer to write. so i volunteer to help others to love writing, i’d rather do that than make lasagnes for people. (even though my lasagnes are awesome.) i love to give the gift of yoga too.

no pedestals: don’t put people on pedestals. here’s why: 1) you’re equal to them in many ways or else you wouldn’t idolize them, so own it; 2) they will screw up and disappoint you and when that happens they will need a soft place to fall, so be that for them; and 3) it’s really unfair to them and you’re just hiding in their shadow.

consider the source: are you hearing things third-hand and getting all hot and bothered about it? are you being insulted? is someone saying something in a back-handed way to you? “consider the source,” is what my mother used to say to me.  again: “those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

speak authentically with others: let it all hang out. everyone pees and poops; everyone has fears (trust me). if you can’t be who you are, and if you have guards up to protect yourself, your relationship will be set upon those parameters: mistrust. own your weaknesses and your strengths and be cool with it or else it all just end up in your face. it happens. that said, know when to flush the toilet and move on. if people can’t handle your sincerity, it’s them.

keep an open mind: nothing inspires growth more than being confronted by and working with an uncomfortable truth, for truth is the greatest teacher. it’s the hanging on to old beliefs and inflexibilities which causes the most trouble. if you like to blame other people for all your problems, guess what? the problems will still happen because you’re giving the other people who cause all your problems all the power. grab the keys and unlock the doors.

more:

end the victimhood, it’s just really sad: do you want pity or support? ian mckewn, author of Atonement once said that he dislikes speaking about his older books when promoting a current one. his answer was brilliant: he’s moved on and doing so makes him “an employee” of his former self. that struck me. when we keep telling our old narratives: traffic at the airport, a horrible boss, a tough childhood, or a traumatic experience without noting the blessings we’ve been given to live days without those experiences, we are totally missing the point. i’ve done all of that and i wish i hadn’t (see, i’m doing it now).

more:

get to the essence of what’s really the point: you’re not mad at what you’re mad at. i’ve written about this a lot. short and sweet: if you’re bothered by something or someone else, it’s likely NOT the other person / event, but a deep feeling inside you triggered by the situation (going back to that socrates quote). for example: if you’re cut off in traffic, it’s not the cutting off, but the possibility that you feel invisible and diminished. (that’s deep. so work with it…) this stuff is insidious, so it’s important for you to address these things because they will be triggers for subconscious and really random behaviors.

don’t enlist others to fight on your behalf: while at times it does “take a village,” don’t set your own hut on fire to get people to help you put out the fire. another aspect of this is economical: no one else can make the points you need to make, nor can anyone else stick to the points you need to make. only you know your story. strength in numbers, sure, but let people have their own perspectives, even if they don’t align with yours.

ok, but what if you’re a rescuer?: if you do get involved, chances are you might agree with the person you’re defending, but stick to what makes the most sense for you. also, beware of people who like to stir up stuff just to be the hero who shows up in the nick of time to fix it? do you know someone like that…?

sprinkle all experiences with a sense of kindness and optimism: no one likes the DMV, or Verizon customer service, but it’s a part of modern life. if you’re at the DMV, maybe remember the truth that your being there keeps someone employed and that person’s employment is bringing home money for a family.

time is a human construct: everything unfolds and happens as it should. consider this: the sun doesn’t rise and set, it’s the earth which turns away. the people you meet, the situations you encounter, they were all meant to be so you can step onto your true path… humans are the only species who’ve wrapped their arms around space and time. do you see dogs wearing watches? only that rabbit in Alice in Wonderland wore a watch and we all know what happened then… everything else acts on a boundless continuum. stop wondering if things are flowing: they are. trust it. it might not be sunshine and roses, but everything we experience: “good” or “bad” (also human constructs) present an opportunity for growth. those who exist in the past and make decisions based on judgement and comparing, they are the ones who are stuck in a rut. they are the ones who can’t move on. the universe flows without them…   Thomas Merton wrote, “You need not know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need, is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”

the lessons will continue until you master them. while the road to hell is paved with good intentions, do you wonder why the same things keep happening to you? do you keep having the same arguments? do you still befriend chaos? are you throwing glass on your path? do you get in arguments which aren’t yours? do you step into situations, thinking you’re advocating when in reality you’re holding back the real people who desperately need to step into their own power? how much of that “helping” is your ego? and then you wonder why it all feels so yucky and familiar? this is the Universe telling you to MYOB. leave it to the professionals. remember what happened to Dorothy in Wizard of Oz? she spoke up for everyone but herself and she got zip out of that black bag AND she was deserted. Just. Like. That. talk about road to hell. don’t be Dorothy: know what is yours and what’s not. Dorothy got swept up because of her own resistance to be accountable for her actions and boundaries: she wouldn’t curb Toto (don’t get me started on terriers)… then she got all upset and ran away. pick your own battles and you will indeed find there’s no place like home.

people do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. who knows why you did what you did, who knows why percival did what percival did. you have to take care of yourself. it’s that air mask on the plane analogy we know is true yet we might consider passé. the more you concentrate on percival, the less you’re taking care of yourself. you can’t save percival, change percival or persuade percival. this is well-documented: 95% of all our behaviors are subconscious based on experiences we were exposed to during our first five years of life. until we realize that, and until we understand that we’re already preprogrammed / conditioned to behave a certain way, there will never be change.

letting go is the same as letting in: clenched fists can’t make way or hold onto changes which are definitely coming our way. do you want to keep your fists and fight off the changes or do you want your hands ready to grasp the opportunities which have been trying to come your way…? if you’re slipping off a mountain shear, having your hands ready to take hold of a new anchor is the only thing which can save you.

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. –Marcus Aurelius

Happy New Year! It’s happening!

Thank you.

Dear Therapy, (dispatches from the bunker)

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I’m at this ever-so-familiar point in my experience with you, which is inevitable.

Transference. That fantastic adolescent stage of The Work when I become a snarky dismissive teenager again.

I’m assigning to you whatever emotions, biases, fears, hostilities and actions I would to a person of significance in my life. At this juncture, despite my obvious progress, it all becomes Mother, again. You are my Mother. Your agent, another ever-pleasant and helpful therapist with the wingback chair, low lighting, doilies, sets of clocks and tissues, commercial carpeting, collections of I’m OK, You’re OK books, posters explaining states of emotional identification, is Mother.

Sigh.

Editorial note: buckle in. This post goes all over the place but lands without much turbulence.

Due to my track record, and my intellectual tendencies to do all I can to learn about “law of diminishing returns in therapy” and to debunk the “value of long-term psychotherapy” I have to say that I am yet again at a crossroads: I don’t like this … this occasional visit to you to tell you about my nocturnal dreams (heaven forbid my life ambitions) and memories and the pattern I exhibited in choosing some friends (boy- and girl-) who were like Mother: distant, brilliant, funny, competitive, self-absorbed, unreachable, private and terrified.

Two weeks ago, the death of a former friend whom I’d unknown (read: hung on every syllable) more than 11 years ago rocked my world. She was all the things I’d apparently (and unwittingly) looked for in a friend. The news and my reaction at first were other worldly, as though on a ticker tape: “HUMAN FEMALE CONTEMPORARY OF REMOVED YET SIGNIFICANT PERSONAL HISTORICAL CONTEXT ON SEPARATE EXISTENTIAL PLANE HAS EXPERIENCED CELLULAR AND SOMATIC FAILURE. CHECK BOX HERE TO ACKNOWLEDGE RECEIPT OF THIS DATA. THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN … 60 DAYS.”

She is the first of my mommyhood friends to go to God and she was young, vivacious and super-involved. After initially processing the news, I thought I was ok. What I was unprepared for was the just-hours-away first shipment of hungover emotional detritus ranging from authentic heart-wrenching sadness to fervent antipathy due to how things died between us. How from the beginning I was dazzled by her glitter trail, slack-jawed and dazed like a five-year-old in Health-Tex clothes and Mary Janes at the tetherball pole and almost two years later, at 34, wrapped soundly by the tether around the pole as she slapped the ball again and again and again ever tighter.

I felt compelled to perform. To join in the chorus of mutual persons who knew her and voice my once-knowing of her. To be a part of something, despite my personal perspective, which likely everyone else was feeling: her loss. I shared on my Facebook wall about her some kindnesses and candor: that our relationship had ended years before, but that her loss was significant to me nonetheless. Most of all, I was sad that I would never see her again and thus, the exchange of another awkward civility between us was impossible. Everything I wrote was sincere. I took it down after a few days because I felt sticky, as though I didn’t belong: those people still deeply loved her. I share this here and now, likely at risk to my friendship with mutuals, but that’s how life is. I’ve never been a faker. When we share these intricacies with people and then they die or we divorce from them, our loss of them also become a loss of ourselves as well, I think. That part of us / our relationship (or co-identity) we have and which they held (in their own value system) has ceased to be held. It’s “floating” out there, vulnerable and alone. That can be hard. 

Our relationship imploded, as many have, due to my allegiance to and advocacy for my children over the relative intensity, tenure and we-all-know-it’s-really-not-healthy but we-will-deny-it-because-its-easier friendship with this person. Just like so many others. So many others with people who so energetically reminded me, in one shape or another, of my woeful habit of picking people who were stunning/terrified, cheerful/angry, energetic/hostile, altruistic/competitive, ____ and ____ and ____… and ____ (read: just like me) to populate my consciousness.

As Rumi said in his poem “The Guest House”:

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

he may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

Yet here’s the difference, this time: I am wiser. I understand now that my “selection” of those vipers (energies) in my life had little to do with them, and everything (or at least more) to do with me. This is what maturity has given me: extremely poor distance eyesight and a mirror to hold at 18″ away. That somewhere in the lineage of all these souls, are lessons about myself. About my predilections (will I EVER spell that word correctly?) due to history.

Rumi continues,

the dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

‘Guide from beyond.’ I like that.

I’m done with saying “conditioning.” At some point, I must cease blaming this stuff on my former life and wake up to the pattern and see that the tenor of familiarity in those people is what hooked me — because honestly, I KNEW.

Not two months after she vaporized from my life, I’d lined up another vacuum. And then four more in two years’ time. If I’d just slowed down for a few breaths, stepped back, checked in (as if a 34-y.o. pregnant mother [with braces and bad hair] of 2 boys under 6 could really do that: STAYBUSYSTAYBUSYSTAYBUSYSTAYBUSY BLOCK ALL INTUITIVE FEELINGS) and assessed, I would’ve walked run. I would’ve kept things high level. But there was something in ME. Every single one of those people was just like me: floundering. We just didn’t know it. I’d like to chalk it all up to battle shock, loneliness and sadness from her exodus, but no. It was me.

In retrospect, at almost every relationship genesis, the other person was in pain and I think I was there to save the day. Not to assuage their pain (initially, anyway) but to somehow apply my kindness to them to alleviate the guilt I unconsciously felt about my mother and my inability to fix her and have some semblance of normal. (Now I know it wasn’t my job — that this is all part of the lesson, the journey in life that we are all on — we are here to do the best we can with what we have and love one another, no questions asked, and mind our own business while at the same time effecting peace and harmony as much as we are able. Right?)

Oh Therapy…  the magnifying-glass-under-the-sun, focusing-on-the-leaf feeling I have toward myself (me, being the leaf, the sun and the glass, all at different times) and my hesitancy to go forward with your agent? What of that? True to my other -ections, I need a goal. I need to have an end point, an expiration date. A “best used by” date. Something that tells me, some form of pee-on-the-stick, get-a-prick-of-blood test that tells me… I am good. And not just “good” in the sense of how my father would say, “We’re good…” as in “has everyone used the bathroom and we’re good to go?” -good:

he will make good his promisefulfillcarry outimplementdischargehonorredeemkeepobserveabide bycomply withstick toheedfollowbe bound bylive up tostand byadhere to.

But GOOD… (have you ever looked up “good” in the dictionary? My word….) — these are great:

for good those days are gone for good: foreverpermanentlyfor alwaysevermoreforevermorefor ever and everfor eternitynever to returnforevermoreinformal for keepsuntil the cows come homeuntil hell freezes overarchaic for aye.make good 

TRUE EXAMPLE!:if I don’t get away from my family, I’ll never make goodsucceedbe successfulbe a successdo wellget aheadreach the topprosperflourishthriveinformal make itmake the grademake a name for oneselfmake one’s markget somewherearrive.

That good. The “those days are gone forever -good.”

My mother has died. Corporeal and somatic and cellular death occurred over a year ago. 19 months, 7 days and 20 hours ago. -ish.

I would like to move the fuck on. For good.

Being a student of life, an examiner, a truth-teller and a “seeker” (whatever the what that means), instead of moving the fuck on, I instead have found myself dissecting the lint from my navel and wondering about shit which simply doesn’t matter any more.

I have been given numerous “signs” to move on. Signs and messages that have told me “All is well” and “You have been written a blank check by God” and “For every shame there is a star.” Those are the audible ones. The supposed more subtle ones are the breath-by-precious breath fact that I am here, every day, aspirating and exchanging gases with the trees and the grass.

There is no “thing” I’m doing “wrong.” Therapy is …. Not my mother, but I’m beginning to treat it as though it is: I’m dismissing it, arguing with it, wondering about its value and its harm. My therapist is lovely — as transference (in my case) dictates, I’m polite with her. I’m talking and “listening” and nodding and “Oh? Yes… Well…” -ing while at the same time … inwardly hostilely wondering, “What the fuck is the point of this? Can’t we just exchange casserole recipes and be done?”

I told her yesterday, “I miss my sense of humor.”

“Really? What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, I used to be really flip and funny, before …”

“Before what?”

“Before this. Before therapy. Before ‘help’ and ‘healthy’ got in the way…” I squirm in my chair. Instead of looking away, I look right at her. With dead, laser eyes and a sneer beginning its curl on my upper lip. “Oh, I know… it was a defense …”

She said nothing.

I continued. “Was it wrong? Maybe. No. It wasn’t. But it was certainly more fun than this.” (Pass the sugar, my venom is getting acidic. I need you to think it’s a nectar first….)

She adjusted herself.

I sat there. Put the old well-intentioned pillow (covered in who knows what) on my lap. I wanted a blanket. I trusted no one. I knew I’d done it, was in for it. I was expecting some sort of comment along the lines of, “Well, I don’t take much of what you say with any weight. At least you’re you. Much of what you say is figurative emotionally, loaded with a lot of irregularities. And I don’t take it that seriously…” which is part of the rambling and incoherent voicemail message my mother left for me three days after my birthday a few years ago. The other part of the message is the blaring daytime television talk show playing in the background. She left the message on the heels of yet another argument we’d had when she called me earlier in the week to say happy birthday to me and then remind me that it was she who should get the presents because she did all the work, “HEE HEE.” My eyes rolled so much they spun themselves out.

“But it was all a joke, don’t you see, Mally. You take everything so seriously…”

God, I’m screwed.

What do you do with that? Yes, I still have that message. Part of me says, “IT’S POISON! GET RID OF IT!!!” and the other says, “NO! IT’S DATA! IT’S PROOF!” and then another part of me says, “You’re 47. Move on.”  To which I reply, “Move on and keep it –move on? Or move on and delete it –move on?” It’s hard to decide.

Why? Because like most of us, Mom had a different face for each place. I’d like to say that I’m pretty consistent, but the fact is that we’re all a little scared inside. Hence, the faces.

So, Therapy, what do we do?

A message I woke with in my head this morning was “This is life. Everyone has their shit to deal with. The more you inspect it, the more you find… How much more do you want to find? It’s all about you anyway — your deflections and projections and transferences and ruses to throw Therapist off the scent by bitching about other people are all about you anyway… YOU DO KNOW THIS… Accept it. Accept what’s yours, learn what you can and grow up. Cut it out.”

Her wings are her fingers.

Her wings are her fingers.

It wasn’t quite that Joan Rivers-esque, but it was close. Wouldn’t it be funny if my Messenger were Joan Rivers? It would be The Best.

Mother is gone and I have learned. The latent vipers I welcomed have also vacated. I don’t give all my bandwidth to the vacuums anymore and yet… . Egads, I don’t want to be a vacuum. So this requires Radical Acceptance of what is and screw the rest. After all, what are we going to do? Unring a bell? That’s crazy. The thing is: we all have stories. We all have -isms.

My goal, I just realized 20 minutes ago when the computer locked up and I was concerned I’d lost all this post (which I hadn’t), was that I think I’ve have resumed with Therapy was because I had a certain, alien, expectation of Therapy, that I would emerge from it somehow taller, Scandinavian, in fabulous boots, and perky. That all my shit would be gone and my baggage replaced with a new set of Louis Vuitton — all of it, from the key fob to the casket — and I’d be ready to pack in new experiences, taller experiences.

I honestly thought I would be scrubbed of stuff. It’s like when I rowed in the stroke seat for the first time; the coaches just automatically assumed I knew that I wasn’t supposed to pull the hardest, but that I was simply supposed to set the time. Well, I did both, and I screwed up my back. I wonder how many other people think that Therapy somehow has a new YOU waiting at the end of the ever-distant and moving finish line? But that’s not it, is it? That’s not at all how it goes. I’m going to emerge emerging wiser and older with my same mismatched luggage, two rolls of animal print duct tape, some WD-40 (one of the small cans, I’m 47 after all), and toolkit instead of an array of showy new designer luggage and casket.

And that’s the point. We are who we are, with all our baggage and shit and we can still get fabulous boots. 

I’m feeling that when I bring this wagon back to center, that when I identify with these moments of transference and realize that they are really about ME, then change can happen. 

We’ve got this. 

 Thank you.

Let Me Clear Up Something — Addiction and Compassion

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Hi.

I hope to never approach on my blog again, the Phillip Seymour Hoffman situation.

Sadly, myriad other similar situations, I assure you, abound for one to approach it. I checked my blog’s spam filter today and I had 20 offers for “_name benzo here_ without a prescription.” Drug abuse, prescription drug abuse and addiction run rampant; our mental health system is overtaxed and people want a quick fix to their pain. Let’s get something straight: often pain can happen in an instant: car accident, or another trauma — those can happen super fast; the other kind of pain takes a long time to ramp up and thus, can take a very long time to unwind. Regardless of the pain, a pill or a tweak might be the easiest way to deal with it, but that ease comes with a price… for everyone.

I first wrote about Philip Seymour Hoffman simply because someone I know expressed an opinion I found so vile that I couldn’t not write about it. The person who expressed that opinion later sincerely recanted and apologized. The opinion was generated, and I feel this is apt, due to the tremendous amount of play this situation has gotten, simply because PSH was a tragic and talented movie star who embodied “the everyman.”

Thanks to the glory of addiction and the romanticization of its travails, easy access to drugs and a basic ignorance of the countless cues our bodies and minds and spirits give us to express one simple thing: HELP, I CAN’T TAKE THIS PAIN!, addiction runs rampant and the legion bodies and hearts and souls left in its wake are bobbing in a sea of sadness, frustration, self-loathing, blame and obvious destruction.

As for Philip Seymour Hoffman: may God rest his soul. May his children find comfort knowing that their father is finally at peace and may his beloved survivors go on without worrying for his welfare AND, might I add, may they feel NOT ONE SHRED of guilt for any of it.

I will see these seemingly endless future writing about [popular] addiction a la blog opportunities and I will raise them with all my available apathy and indifference to ignore them. I will do my utmost to be like Captain Jack Sparrow as he waxed philosophically with Elizabeth Swann about the opportunities to do the right thing:

I know that sounds curt, but I truly can’t constantly wallow in the sadnesses generated by other people. I have my own world and its ups and downs with which to contend.

So, all this said, for one last time, let me clear up something:

I do not glorify or honor addicts. Not in the least. The last two sentences of that post I wrote about PSH hit a nerve and brought people to their feet to agree with me:

Compassion is not enabling. All I know is that compassion just isn’t hate.

I stand by that ending. Hate and anger do nothing. Anger is a necessary and important reaction (not state of being) though, I can assure you, and it helps you get through things and to the heart of matters efficiently.

Those 13 words struck a chord with many readers who graced my blog to indulge in my blathering. I appreciate their visits very much. Normally, as I said in that post, I don’t touch current affairs. I like to believe fantasize they have nothing to do with me; also, tarrying in them can generate static, something I wish to avoid. I didn’t start a blog because I wanted fame; I started it to give my sons a window into how I see the world and a place to express myself, no matter how inane the verbiage.

A reader of that post took the time to suggest in her comment that instead of using “compassion” that perhaps “empathy” would be a better word. I nodded in silent agreement upon reading the comment, but my inner editor canted its head. She made a good point, but I stood by “compassion.”

Let’s look at “compassion” shall we?

compassion |kəmˈpaSHən| noun. Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: the victims should be treated with compassion. ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compati ‘suffer with.’

The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” More involved than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering.[2]

Here’s my simple point: anyone who’s a hair’s breadth away from someone suffering from addiction is — I KID YOU NOT — already co-suffering. Anyone who’s feeling compassion, who is co-suffering, is actively involved in trying to fix things; trying to, and full-on experiencing an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering; and their own, I might add, because in the final analysis, let’s be honest: we’re all a bit selfish.

Fixing things becomes their Number One priority, more important than self-care. People who are in love with, the child of, the best friend of, the relative of an addict and who are deeply concerned about the welfare of that addict are, absolutely Not Putting Themselves First. Because the addict is at the forefront of the mind.

What is the use of eating when your loved one is strung out on the floor, panting in a shallow bath of her own frothy spit, eyes wild with fear and paranoia, speaking of hearing voices? What is the point of working hard when your daughter is inebriated or out of it for days on end? What is the point of showering and sleep when your husband stays out for days and nights? What about the son who comes home after a 3-day bender tattered, bruised, strung-out and evasive, begging for money or just wants to sleep?

Tell me. What is the use?

Welcome to the world of the silent and unseen victims; the innocent victims of addiction. The haggard, worried, sleepless and OBSESSED loved ones who bob in that sea of destruction. Waiting for their addicted to take the fucking lifeline and pull themselves out of the sea. Who cares for the innocent?

It’s a systemic problem. Addiction does not hurt just the addicted. It upsets the entire family system; like a mobile hanging from a thin thread, each disturbance upsets the balance and eventually takes it over. Addiction destroys the faith, trust, life and hope of the people who did nothing wrong. Who just happened to love the person with the problem.

I do not ever want anyone to think I am super-OK with addiction. Addiction to me, stems from obsession with escape, an inability to feel safe in the world in which we inhabit, so we take up ways of coping. Those ways of coping can manifest in unfettered indulgence in: the internet, food, gambling, sports, religion, television, distraction, driving, rules, running, biking, sex, ethics, drugs, anger, shopping, worry, alcohol, reading, writing, exercise, work, artistry, performing, codependency … you name it: whatever takes the heat off. And whatever gives the illusion of being controlled or controllable.

The point of addiction is to upset of that mobile’s balance, and to blur boundaries; to make that which at once seemed totally unhealthy, healthy, normal and sane. The other guy? The one who wants you to step away from your smartphone, the one who wants you to put down the book or the bottle, that guy is the crazy guy. That guy is the problem.

Trust me: there is plenty of compassion, co-suffering, going on in the hearts of the beloved in an addict’s life.

And guess what? It never ends. The innocent’s worry and concern? It never ends. We might estrange ourselves, we might write off the addict, but to pretend that we don’t care? That’s bullshit. The pain, the fear, the disruption — it is always looming, as much for the innocent as it is for the addict. It is a life-long vigil for everyone.

If you know someone who is trying to keep it together for the addict in his or her life, give your ear or your shoulder. Just listen and nod because you know pain, you know what disappointment and fear feel like; you don’t have to dig that deep.

Over and OUT.

Thank you.

Want more? Here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/us/heroins-small-town-toll-and-a-mothers-pain.html?nl=health&emc=edit_hh_20140211&_r=0

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 6: #vulnerability #TMS #courage #Sarno #suffering #innovation

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Welcome to Day 6 of “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I’m relating, on my blog here, to each quote as determined by Goodreads.

Here is today’s quote:

 Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.
― Brené Brown

Today, I’m taking a risk of vulnerability to tell you about the physical pain we create in ourselves without knowing it.

Any volunteers? Oh. Me. Ok.

Never in my life have two people (until now), whose clinical work I admire, crossed jet trails: Dr. John Sarno’s and Brené Brown’s. Brown writes compulsively about vulnerability, emotional freedom, courage and the harm of perfectionism. Sarno just puts it all in a different framework:

from http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Personality_Traits - click on link for the complete online list

from http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Personality_Traits – click on link for the complete online list

That chart. That was basically my FBI profile. I’ve dialed way back on my people pleasing, legalistic and perfectionism stuff. Check out that chart… if you see yourself on it (and you will), high-five me.

On Day 1, Brown said something about the challenges in owning our stories versus running from them and that when we own them, when we step into the darkness we can come to know the power of our light.

Today, we’re here to talk about how vulnerability drives change. I owe it to myself to really do this right.

But first: I can’t tell my big life story on this blog because it keeps coming out in chunks. I need to sit and compose it in one place. I remember a friend saying last year, “Why would you write your memoir? You’re not famous.” The resultant shame I felt inside, burning and humiliating and basic resignation was unbearable; I remember my stomach immediately sinking. Sometimes friends suck at being friends.

Indeed, I thought, who would want to hear my story? Who the hell am I to think that anyone would give a damn? I don’t know who, but but I do know this: Keeping it inside breaks down my body, joint by joint and ligament by ligament. Maybe the best thing which comes from telling your story –once and for all– is that you can finally put it to bed.

This putting it to bed is something I have never done. Instead, I have repressed a bunch of heavy duty emotions to the tune which Sarno would determine as the catalysts for all manner of -itises on my elbows, knees, shoulders, stomach stuff, food allergies I ignore and some freakin’ sciatica that I want to heave.

The good news: is that I live my life despite these ailments, as many of us do. I’m dependable, I’m not a social mess, I’m physically active, and I do my best to be honest with myself. The other great news is that like a lot of people out there, I’m emotionally balanced, I’ve been married almost 20 years, I’ve got three great kids and my friends like me. I really try not to be a burden.

Hello?

Ok. Vulnerability leads to change.

In 2009, a relative told me about Dr. John Sarno’s book The MindBody Prescription. This relative plays her cards close to the vest and thus seldom recommends anything, so when she told me about this one, I had to believe it. She sent it to me, actually, as a gift.

Anyway, the book changed my life. I read it in three weeks (I’m a diligent, deliberate reader) with all manner of annotations and highlights. When I was finished, my gastric stuff cleared up completely. I mean… goneski for the entire season. Then it returned, but I understand it better and it’s under control.

Sarno’s other books, The Divided Mind, and Healing Back Pain talk about the same issues; The MindBody Prescription is his most recent book. He has a theory, to which I subscribe completely, that all these ailments I mention, AND some others including (I’m wincing, don’t get mad at me) such as migraines, fibromyalgia, Epstein-Barre, chronic fatigue, IBS, TMJ and allergies (yes!) are all symptoms of our mind’s ability to repress negative emotions until our bodies can’t take it anymore and then we have these issues.

He’s a medical doctor. He’s a pariah in his community. He has changed lives. His books piss people off.

These fruitless pursuits: invulnerability, perfectionism, people pleasing, rigidity/stoicism, “legalist” (being right) … and so many more all work against us. Our bodies simply can’t take it and the longer we fight it, the weaker we get, just from “trying to keep it together, man!” and we burst either by our muscles giving out, our bellies blowing out (sorry), our brains shutting down with migraines, or our bodies saying “fuck it” with fibromyalgia.

According to Sarno, the culprits (hang on to your hats) are unexpressed, unattended, pent-up, repressed, suppressed, denied, projected and completely ignored hidden narcissistic rage from our childhoods — stay with me — which can come from a shitty childhood, a horrific childhood, or a completely normal childhood.

Just because you had a normal childhood doesn’t mean you weren’t pissed when you didn’t get the red lollipop instead of the orange one and that when your little sister got the red one you wanted to smash it into her face. Admit it. You wanted to grind that red lollipop into her stupid sweet, smiling, ugly perfect, little face. (I feel better already and I don’t have a sister!)

Feeling those feelings is normal. Acting them out is frowned upon. Even (especially) in polite company we don’t share such feelings, but man… that’s where we done screwed up.

I’ve read The MindBody Prescription three times. Each time I do, I am relieved in one form or another. The crap I’m going through right now, this stupid sciatica, is bullshit. Plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with me physically, it’s in my head. You should hear me talk to my ailments, I’m like a cyber bully: “You’re nothing, useless, you don’t exist. You have no value… You suck…”

I discovered this morning on my walk with The Murph, that I have put off reading it this time because I said, “I don’t want to read nonfiction; I’m tired of it.”

Well, how urbane and smart I sound.

The bottom line, as I admitted to myself, is that reading nonfiction means reading reality and reading reality means I have to live in my reality and living in my reality means I need to admit and allow some feelings and allowing some feelings means I have to … see? I can’t even go there.

Oof! Butt pain!

Because I subscribe to all things woo-woo (Western medicine is so far from having everything figured out) I also know that the sides of our bodies have distinct messages to share with us.

The right side is the masculine side.
The left side is the feminine side.

All my pain, for most of my life, has been on my right side.  Since four months before Mom died, I’ve had this nagging sciatic stuff on my right. It’s mostly been nagging, nothing too major. But the last three weeks? Get me a gurney. It must be the holidays.

The joint and ligament stuff, it’s a bear. I really hate it. The fact that it’s on my right side is telling me that it’s about the masculine energy in my life. The fact that it’s been bugging me since spring, when my father stopped speaking to me because I made demands about my mother’s care, tells me that it’s likely about him and that I need to do some Work, emotionally, to truly give the pain the heave ho.

It means I have to let go. Let go of the resentment and the control. After all these years — decades upon decades of my life — I suspect I will feel lost. Is it better to hang on to the resentment that I knew forged me or let go and float down?

Letting go for me means have to live in the now and the reality of Mom never coming back and my never being able to fix her and the fucking frustration I have had inside me all my life about wanting her well. Phuuuuck. It’s acting up again. My right hamstring is howling at me; it feels like it’s about to snap and I’m just sitting here.

To me, a lot of what is causing our sadness, our Sarno issues, is that people are afraid to admit their fragility. We are gossamer, but we have limits.

We have an attachment to brawn, to guts, to bravery, to courage and strength and all attachments lead to suffering. This attachment concept is more than metaphorical: in the case of my elbow tendonitis — the grasping mechanism, I was told lonnnnng ago by my acupuncturist, “Sometimes we hold on to things too tightly.”

NnnnNnnn. What did he know?

I was “holding on” to Mom then, she was making headway, but it was elusive. The codependence was at an all-time high: it was as though she did it for me to witness it for her to do it for me to see her be well for me to see her do it… get it? There is no way to keep that up; it results in disappointment. We must pursue our health for ourselves; if we hinge it on anyone else, it’s too much — there will always be missteps. We are human; we make mistakes.

Brawn, guts, our modern attachment to them, they are all façades for the real action of vulnerability: it takes guts to admit flaws and sensitivities, to put ourselves (myself) out there.

The things I do for you people… 😉

So here’s the finalé of this post: if you’re suffering physically and you suspect you’re repressing emotionally, do yourself a favor and get one of Sarno’s books. Check it out on the cheap: read Mark’s Daily Apple about the physical effects of repressing negative emotions. Go to the TMS / PDD wiki website and learn more.

You don’t have to suffer. All attachments cause suffering. That’s your first truth.

For me, I hope this step into vulnerability will usher my innovation and change in the form of freedom from lies I’ve been hearing all these years.

Thank you.

ps – apologies for the length of this one; combining two writers in one post is bound to be verbose.