Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A New Concept of Therapy

Freud was a miserable guy.  He was deeply insecure, heavily addicted, and ultimately died from medically assisted suicide.  He had developed mouth cancer from all the cigars, had part of his jaw removed in an attempt to excise the growing tumor, and just basically gave up.    I can't help but think, "We gotta do better."

Freud's contribution to the excavation of our unconscious mind is massive.  But he was WRONG! (about the important stuff like Happiness, Well Being, etc, mostly because he never even thought to shine his light on that area.)  Hindsight is famous for being 20/20, which is to say, perfectly clear.  The clear-seeing on Freud, for as much Insight as he offered, is that Insight sometimes cures nothing but Ignorance.  Was Freud any Happier doing it his way? The Historical hindsight says no.  He was a miserable guy, who studied and theorized about misery, and died a miserable death.  That's why we need to adopt a new concept of therapy, one that focuses more on what's working for people, and less on what's WRONG with us.

In 2012 we have this amazing opportunity to see the big picture.  Technology allows us to learn and come to know things that were once totally out of reach or hidden.   It's a big shift, one that requires us to grow and shift with it, or be left behind.  Many of the myths we've been running on have been disproven.  And it's only now that we can really integrate all that data and make that determination.

One example: The pervasive Myth in psychology, from a Freudian perspective, is that there is something wrong with us, it can be understood or interpreted, and through this interpretation it can be removed.  Like Freud's jaw, our unconscious past can be removed, and this is the proper treatment for every individual.  It sounds silly today because we have so much more data than we used to.  But in Freud's time, this was a revolution.  Today, we have a collection of not only theories, but actual scientifically rigorous findings that point us in a different direction about treatment.

My favorite part of this evolution of our thinking is the Positive Psychology movement.  Let me tell ya about that.  And you be the judge.

Martin Seligman is this really stodgy researcher at Penn.  When I was coming up in the field, especially at UCLA, we revered this man for his excellence in scientific discovery.  He was part of the lineage that busted the Freudian mythology, and drove the field away from theoretical ideas, and toward actual bits of scientific knowledge.  We loved him for his contribution to the work, for loving it enough to be bothered to spend his life studying it, and ultimately validating the field as a whole.  UCLA, like most academic environments, loves experimental design, double-blind studies, high validity scores, and anything that can be measured or involves Statistics.   So, like millions of other undergrads we studied Math, Science, and narrowed our focus ever more on what was wrong, and how we could fix it.  Our intention was noble.

One problem: all the attention on scientific rigor, and all the focus on pathology did not make Martin Seligman, or anyone else, any more fundamentally Happy.   From the time that the German pioneers (Wundt, Freud, et al) began their study of psychology in the early 20th century to the dawning of the new millennium when Seligman reigned over the American Psychological Association, our rates of Happiness had not improved.  In other words, Seligman, and the rest of us had to concede that we were WRONG.  The experiment hadn't proven what we set out to prove.    In fact, we seemed to have disproven our thesis in many ways.  It was humbling.  And if we had been "belief-based" in our approach, we would have stayed the course, insisting that we were RIGHT, even though the science, the numbers, the facts and findings did not support that conclusion.  Instead, good old stodgy Seligman is a man of Reason.  And he said, it's time for a new course.  Thus he began studying Happiness, not Pathology.  What was born of that revelation is the now celebrated field of study known as Positive Psychology.  No longer do we think it's as useful to study what's WRONG, as it is to study what's RIGHT.  

What do Happy people, Happy couples, Happy companies, Happy countries have to teach us about Happiness?  And wouldn't it be nice to be able to integrate all this information from all over the globe and all over the socio-political spectrum into our modern understanding and concept of our Selves and our Healing?   Now that we have 20+ years of data, maybe we can effectively derive a better therapy.

Here's the kicker: Stodgy Seligman, now that he's been focusing on Happiness for this long, is Happier.  He is decidedly less stodgy!  He can be seen on YouTube giving TedTalks and making humorous remarks.  It's amazing!!  The guy is Happier.  And, it turns out, as a finding of all this research, the vast majority of people who study Happiness increase their Happiness too.  As radical as it may have seemed once upon a time, Focusing on Happiness, seeking out  Gratitude, talking about the Meaningful aspects of our lives, makes people Happier.

So, let's play my favorite game, "Would You Rather...?"  Would you rather buy into a therapy system derived from a miserable guy who suicided?  Or, would you rather explore a therapy derived from all the previously acquired knowledge, vetted by rigorous study, that was born of a guy who got Happier?

For me, the choice is clear.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


In honor of Baby Caleb, who finally, after a very long, tortuous week spent in the NICU, came home with his new parents and is now, thankfully, where he belongs.

So... I'm working on a book these days, a book about Happiness and Coupling.  It's been an amazing opportunity to dive into the deep well of new research and ancient wisdom that we've acquired over the ages.  Never in my life have I experienced such an awakening.  It's made me rethink how I operate, and given me a chance to make some good, healthy adjustments.  The results of which have been a spectacular sense of overwhelming gratitude.

That word used to irk me.  Actually, that word used to never exist for me.  Then, I began hearing it about 10 years ago, and I didn't know what to make of it.  People would say things like, "I'm just so grateful for my friends, my family, my dog, my ability to breathe independent of a machine," etc etc.  I suppose I, too, was grateful for those things, but I never woulda said it in that way, certainly not out loud.

Little by little, almost without my consent, I began to practice this attitude of gratitude.  I did what I was told: I made lists of 10 things I was grateful for before bed each night for a week.  This was in sharp contrast to the lists I normally made (about what I ate, how I should exercise, the ever-crowded "to-do" list, my worry about others, and my ability to enumerate all the people I really needed to call or else I was a really bad friend, etc etc).  It was a sickness, I'd say.  High functioning people often have this disease of compulsive list making.  It goes nowhere.  It sucks you dry.  I don't recommend it.  But then, some very clever person figured out that if you substitute out the "shit lists" and replace it with a "gratitude list" you still get the full thrill of list making, but you feel full (of gratitude) in the end, instead of empty (with dread or disappointment).

The feeling of actually experiencing my own gratitude was and still is deeply soulful to me.  Turns out, when we let ourselves break out from the shackles of worry and move into a higher consciousness, rising above our base fears into the elevated perspective of enlightened beings that gratitude offers, we feel A LOT better.  Hmmmmmm....

All the Greats sight gratitude as key in any life well led:  The Dalai Lama has trained his mind to seek it out even in seemingly thankless situations, thanking the Chinese government for occupying his country for 50 years, and thanking every jerk we encounter for offering the opportunity to practice patience and compassion.  Natalie Merchant's Kind & Generous??? An entire song about her gratitude!  Martin Seligman found a way to teach gratitude training to soldiers as a preemptive defense against and treatment for PTSD.  In his book, "Flourish" he says that he was brought in by General George Casey in 2008 to "create an army that is just as psychologically fit as it is physically fit."  (Read that quote again, it will blow your mind that a military man said this at a Pentagon meeting during our lifetime!!!)  Today, studies of over 800,000 soldiers have  demonstrated that as psychological fitness goes up, PTSD symptoms decline.  Psychological fitness is defined as resilience, and what fuels our resiliance? Gratitude! (and a few other things).

The ancients have known this, our modern science has proven it, so why do we resist the call of our ever-present gratitude?  In my opinion? Because it hurts.  When my annoying, overbearing intellectualism finally allows gratitude out of its rigid grasp, and into the Realm of Sensing and Feeling, it's kinda painful.  There is definitely an aspect of pain in feeling our full load of gratitude.  You can tell, because it often induces tears to form for "no good reason."  Pain, that is the reason we avoid this overwhelmingly powerful emotion.

I tell you what, I am grateful Baby Caleb came to this earth.  I'm grateful for his first of many teachings to us: Find your gratitude in every scary awful no good rotten situation, and we humans thrive.  Our love in our marriages will also flourish!  Resilience lies in our ability to seek out both the scant morsels and the lush fields of gratitude in our lives.

I am grateful to you for reading my gratitude rant.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Parable...

This is the story of someone who felt driven to do something, but kept failing at it.  He felt discouraged and down.  His self esteem dropped, he felt lost on his path.  He was forlorn, battled with depression and anxiety, but never seemed to be able to get ahead in his life (in particular, his career).  Although he felt driven toward this thing of a goal,  it just never seemed to go his way.  He kept falling into a victim state like, "Why me? Why isn't this happening for me?"  

Now, it wasn't that he wasn't supposed to do this thing, but there was certainly a repetitive pattern of doing it a certain way over and over again, and expecting different results.  (No surprise this exact pattern is often cited as the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.)  He hadn't realized that maybe he needed to do it differently for it to come out differently. 

All it took was one small adjustment-- One tiny little shift in Ego, one light switch of expectations maybe.  Just one small thing was needed in order to make a re-approach possible.   Once there was re-approach, there was a new perspective and a new outcome.  

Bottom line: It wasn't that he was "unlucky" or a "victim" or "not meant to do it".  He was meant to do it, differently.  

*if you or someone you know is afflicted with this parable, call me.  I'm here to help 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blog on Hold

I am currently working on a book about Happy Coupling.  Can't say too much about it, except that it's gonna be awesome.

If you are interested to talk more about the emerging Happiness research and/or Coupling, call me.  It's one of my favorite topics, and I'd be thrilled to regale you with tales from my research marinade.

So, in the meantime, the Blog will be sparse, even more sparse than usual, because, it turns out, writing is hard.  I'm a shrink, not a writer.  There, I said it.

Have a look around though.  Hope something speaks to you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

No guts, no glory

Though I am not a strict Jungian, by any means, I am a huge fan.  Indeed, I am as quick to see where Carl Jung was right as I am to see where Sigmund Freud was wrong-- which is to say, really really quick.  One of the things Jung was really really right about was the multi-functionality of the Mind.  He said there were 4 ways of Knowing:  Intuition, Sensate, Thinking, and Feeling. 

In fact, from this perspective, therapy can be described as a process of heightening and balancing each of these functions.  Learning to strengthen the Intuition is one of my favorite past times.  

A simple exercise goes like this: go with your first thought, see what happens....
Our over functioning brains are often highly neurotic.  Tapping into your intuition via your first thought lessens the neurotic brain.

People come in to therapy to find answers.  The answers come from within themselves, of course, not from what I tell them. I just provide a little extra information, so they can make an informed decision based on their experience and a light education about themselves.  From the research we know that experience and education are key in making good decisions.  Someone once asked me how I felt about the fact that people didn't do what I told them.  I said that I was more concerned that people don't do what they tell themselves!

An example goes like this: A man was learning to date again after a bad breakup.  In his pain, he was picking partners who treated him the way he was feeling inside-- which is to say, like total shit.   A new contender appeared on the horizon, so we discussed the signs, see what he could see.  This new option looked very different from the old pattern, on the outside.  However, in their brief interactions, some red flags were thrown.  Not knowing what to do about the red flags, he continued to invest with this new love interest.  Then some more red flags came out. Then some more.  Each session we'd go over the facts, the feelings, the fears, and get a read on the overall picture.  There was red everywhere.  But! Intellect and Feeling can lead you awry, so we also cross checked it with his gut, because the gut only knows truth.  And the gut said "no."  So now his Intellect, his Intuition, and his Feeling functions all said "no." But he still needed to know for sure.  So, he played it out.  It went badly. We laughed about it in the end.  No shame, just little by little we're hoping to increase his trust in his Self.  

Here's another example:  A woman was thinking of applying for a job. The salary was not sufficient to meet her needs, the position was not at her level, and the work life/real life ratio was waaaaay off-- traveling 3 hours to and from work each day, etc.  Not only did the job not pay enough, she'd be actually losing money on the cost of gas.  All signs read "no".  Still, she fantasized about how good it could be if only x, y, and z could be tolerated or changed.  In short, she was willing to tolerate the intolerable and try to change the unchangable, but not willing to listen to her own guts.  How did we get so off track and come to distrust our own Intuition?

It's a question for another blog.  Intuition has long been considered inferior to Logic and Reason.  Don't know why it got a bad rap, but it's not true.  Go with your gut!   Learn to trust your guts again.  Think how much needless suffering you (wouldn't) miss out on!

Stay tuned for next blog on Proper Usage of all things therapy-ee.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Pain Portal

There's this phenomenon I see each day, working with people through all the ebbs and flows of life.  The phenomenon is so brilliant, that my Human Brain absolutely forgets it, and then has to be shown it again and again, constantly.

What I see in others, and from what I have experienced in my own life, is that pain is a portal into a (magical) world of Healing.   Don't believe in a (magical) word of Healing?  Ya, me either. Even though I see it everyday.  We in the West prefer to see our pain as the problem to be solved.  We have a harder time understanding that the pain we're experiencing in our lives is but a symptom, a rumbling up from deep within us, and an invitation to Heal.  What we need is a new perspective about our pain.  But how?

Let's first agree that our brains are Lamborghinis.  We have at our disposal one of the most amazingly engineered and powerful machines on earth.  And we have no idea how to use it.  There's an enduring myth out there that we only use 10% of our brains.  This does not seem to be backed up by evidence.  However, what may be closer to the "truth," is that we only understand a small percentage of what our brains are actually capable of.

What is the Human Brain actually capable of?  Well, the Sistine Chapel comes to mind, as does the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, the Brooklyn Bridge, Mozza on Melrose, WWOZ New Orleans Public Radio, the entire City of Portland, Oregon, those Lavender Shortbread cookies at Trails Cafe in Griffith Park, and about a billion other shimmers of magnificence.   But how does this evidence of our Lamborghini Brain help us Heal?  Well, the same mental power that fueled the Race for the Double Helix and led to a great discovery about our DNA, is the same source of ingenuity that forms thoughts, images, and ideas everyday in all of us.  Turns out, our thoughts, about Healing, and about everything else, are very powerful.  And "with great power, comes great responsibility."  We just gotta learn to drive our Lamborghinis right.

Now think about the last time you experienced pain.  It can be physical pain or emotional pain.  Whatever the cause of the injury, regardless of it's origins or expressions, wasn't the result some amount of Healing?  Whether it was a paper-cut or a broken heart, though the immediate sense was that of pain, ultimately, we tend to Heal.   Without our pain, we don't Heal.  That simple.

Our Brains sometimes confuse and complicate this.  The Brain is a chatty little thing, probably the chattiest 3 pound entity in existence.  It's in constant conversation with the Body, as well as other parts of the Brain, and other Brains it senses as well.  We just gotta clear the way so our 3 pound chatty Lamborghinis can really stretch out, and the rest seems to solve itself.

I see people everyday whose lives are transforming.  Their pain, their reason for coming into therapy, opens the door into all kinds of healing potential that would not have been possible by employing a narrow view of pain management or simple symptom reduction (though I'm obviously a fan of pain reduction whenever appropriate).  Many of us have developed a huge tolerance for our emotional pain, and not even know it.  If you don't want to Heal, that's ok.  It may either subside in time, or it may worsen. But if you're interested in Healing, know it's all there for you, through your most painful parts.  Our pain is not a sign of weakness, nor a fly to be swatted away, despite the cultural current to the contrary.  It is a portal into a (magical) world of Healing.

I'll see ya there!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Great Article, HuffPost

Ya know, I just couldn't have said it any better myself.

Hope you enjoy!

And yes, I am totally listening to the full album right now.  And yes, it is totally blowing my mind.

Click here for Philip Goldberg's original article on the Huffington Post.

The Old and the New

Once upon a time, in Germany of all places, there lived the first people to ever make their way into the study of people's minds.  People have been philosophizing about the role of the soul in people's lives since ancient times.  There are brilliant works on the topic dating back to ancient India, Greece, and China.  However, it wasn't until the Europeans got their Western Scientific hands on it that the field of Psychology was born.  Wilhelm Wundt (say that in your best German accent) set up the first Psychology Laboratory and thus began the West's entree into the mystical realm of psyche.

The word "psyche" means "soul."  Thus, "psychology" is simply the "study of the soul."  Western Science loves to examine and study things, so psychology got quite a lot of attention.  However, back in the days of Wundt and Freud, scientists had to adhere to the stringent rules governing scientific inquiry.  Namely, as scientists, they agreed to study only that which was observable to the 5 senses.  This was an agreement that pleased both The Church, and the field of Science.  Science focused on the physical, not the metaphysical, and everyone was happy.  So, instead of studying the soul, they studied behavior, they analyzed people's thoughts, they tried to interpret people's dreams, they observed the innate behaviors of children, they postulated about aggression and sexuality, and on and on.

The culture that existed in the late 19th Century in Freud's Vienna, for example, was Victorian in nature, repressed as the day is long.  Piano legs had to be covered up as they were thought to be too risque.  Naturally, the "issues" that people had back then looked very different from what we have going on in our lives today.   Our culture has swung so incredibly far from Victorian Era principles, it's silly.  We can hardly imagine living by those values and ideals.  Yet, that is the backdrop of "modern" psychology.  And that is what most people associate with therapy.  Oops...

The evolution from Freudian analysis to Jung and Adler, to Skinner's Behavioralism, to Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow's Humanism to Rollo May's inclusion of Existentialism, to Cognitive-Behaviorism, and Interpersonal Neurophysiology,  to Spiritual Psychology, Positive Psychology, Mindfulness-Based approaches and Solution-Focused Therapies  has been essential to our gaining a whole understanding of how to help people heal their insides.  That is a compacted list, and says nothing about other fields of science and technology, nor about art, philosophy, music, politics, and cultural commentary.  As an integrationist, I look to all these sources and try to synthesize a treatment approach tailored to the specifics of each person.  It would be easier to adopt a single view and widely apply it.  However, history and Reason disallow that.  Today, we have the benefit of all that we know, and all that we know we don't know.  The myth that somehow there will be one single idea that will be a cure-all has to be dispelled.  We have to do better, think better, so that we can live better.  That is my mission.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fighting Fire with Fire (great, now we have 2 fires)

      Here's the thing: Our brains are hardwired to attack anything it perceives as a threat.  It's an ancient mechanism in our brainstem, from whence the famed "fight or flight" reflex comes.  And it doesn't matter whether the threat is real or perceived or whether its a physical threat or an emotional one.  The amygdala doesn't decipher those nuances.  Evolutionarily, "fight or flight" has been a huge advantage in terms of keeping us alive.  It has also been tremendously effective in weeding out those who either don't "fight" strong enough, or who don't "fly away" fast enough.  The result, after millennia of doing this and passing it down one generation to the next, is a highly honed sense of attacking perceived threats or fleeing from them.  Is it any wonder that most of us are either fierce attackers in battle or superb evaders of conflict?
     This reptilian part of our limbic system hasn't changed in eons.  In 2012, this patterning in the brain seems about as meaningful as our appendix.  It's a vestige from our past, and unlike the appendix which is either negligible most of the time or explosive only once prior to being removed, our brainstem is often governing our interactions and exploding constantly.  It may seem a tad reductive, but many of our current problems can be traced back to this reflexive anger that gets triggered in us when we perceive a threat.
     I see it most clearly in the couples I work with.  When couples fight, typically, everyone is just doing what they know to do.  If they knew something different, they'd likely do something different.  In fact, as we work in therapy to build up the newer parts of the brain, and not simply respond from our ancient defenses, that is exactly what happens.  Generally speaking, most of us were not taught how to be happily married.  We especially were not taught how to resolve conflict in such a way that it bolsters mutual happiness.  No, most of us were taught to win.  However, happily married people will tell you, there is no winning when we're at war with the ones we love.
     Winning, evolutionarily, means survival.  So, it seems like a decent value to hold.  Here's the tricky part: Let's say a couple is embroiled in conflict.  There is so much pain, it's like a fire burning up the house.  And let's say their only tool, innately given, evolutionarily honed, is to fight fire with fire.  So, in their best effort to "win," they take the already heated battle and pour gasoline on it.  Then wonder why they got burned and why their home is destroyed.  The tools we have are insufficient. When we get that insight, we realize we're gonna have to grow.  When this happens, we put down our anger, our defensiveness, our "gasoline," and we say instead something like, "We are allies.  And i feel really hurt and sad and scared and betrayed that..."  And that is when we stop adding gasoline to the fire.  This is when we start to heal.

Post Script-- The process of rewiring our brains takes Time, just like it took Time to wire them in the first place.   The hard-wiring takes place over anywhere between 5 and millions of years, depending on who ya ask.   In all likelihood it will take less Time to rewire than to wire.  Good news is that the brain is incredibly elastic, and is designed to constantly be forming new neural connections.  Even people with devastating brain damage show an ability to grow new neural pathways.  Just read anything by Oliver Sacks, Dan Siegel or Louis Cozolino.  So, you see, never lose hope, never give up.  We'll all have relapses with our anger and defensiveness, but stay with it.  Not only are we innately gifted our "fight or flight" response, we're also hard-wired for growth.   Choice is ours.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Investment and Alignment part 1

Thanks to my guys from yesterday who really helped bring this out.  Hopefully our experience will be of some use to others who may also be searching.

As an Integrationist, I'm naturally curious about how multiple disciplines can illuminate The Path to Happy.  No single entity seems to have THE answer.  So, I've become a professional curator of sorts, selecting important ideas, bits of Wisdom, and all kinds of fun stuff from all over the human experience.

Two of my favorite concepts are Investment, and Alignment.  Investment is a powerful concept from the Money Realm.  It refers to what we get back in by putting something out.  It's actually very similar to our breath work in that way, and our sense of Flow.  Alignment comes from an ancient notion of our healing, and is explained best by the Chiropractic Wizards.  Simply put, Alignment refers to our ability to align ourselves with our purpose.  A healthy spine is an aligned spine.  If a disc is out of place, we will experience a world of hurt physically, emotionally, and sometimes even spiritually.  The same is true in our bodies as in our lives; if something is out of place, misaligned, we're probably gonna hurt.  The Path to Happy requires us, whenever possible to align ourselves in the strongest possible fashion.  Namely, we want to align our behaviors with our values, our time with our energy, and even align our money with our values, our time, our behaviors, and our full energetic output.  When these "discs" are stacked up nicely, and in alignment with one another, we tend to feel much better than when any one or perhaps all of those "discs" are out of whack.  

This brings us to the concept of Money.  In Eastern Medicine, they say that there are two things in life: Money and Love.  Money is everything in the material world: money, job, carreer, finance, possession, etc.  Love is all our relationships: family, friends, romance, partnership, etc.  (I usually add a third Realm, the Realm of Self, but thats for another blog)  For pretty much 100% of all the people I've met ever, "Money"  is never about money.  Money is usually misunderstood by the elders, and passed down accordingly.  What we "inherit" from our family life is not their money, but rather their money issues.  The most pervasive money issue seems to be the problem of vagueness.   

Whatever we may have learned from our families about the value of money, how to be moral, responsible, good people, is likely to be passed down non-verbally.  We just watch our parents interact and do their adult business, and we surmise vaguely how to do it ourselves.  In many cases, the lessons we learned from our parents cause us to react or rebel in such a way that we end up doing whatever the opposite of their way was.  This is about as far as many of our individuation/differentiation processes go.  We just do either as we're shown, or we rebel and do the opposite of what we were shown.  It's very rare that I talk with people who have spent a serious amount of energy, effort, time, and money healing this rift.  As such, our Money Realm stays largely in the Shadows, and is often the source of our psychic pain, as it represents a substantial 'disc' thats out of alignment with ourselves.  

This seems to be especially relevant in the work I do these days.  Certainly, I am not the first to notice the intersection of the horrible economy with a newfound need for re-evaluating our Money Realm.  Millions of people are finding out what is really important to them through this Depression.  Notice how the word 'depression' refers to both the Emotional Realm and the Money Realm.  Sufficed to say, Money is never just about money. The emotional components are essential to our sense of Wellness.  Stay tuned for more to come on Investment and Alignment. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Emotional Literacy

       I'm often struck by the many avenues we find to (not) talk about our feelings.  And by feelings, I of course mean our experiences, our inner truth, what's happening inside of us, as well as how we feel about what is going on around us and inside of us. As a basic map to help navigate this tricky terrain, I use our 4 core emotions: Mad, Sad, Glad, and Scared.
     Here's an example excerpted from a phone conversations with my father:
          "Hey, Dad, how are you?"
          "Well, we got a new computer at the office...the pharmaceutical company... thinks
       it will replace all the previous technology... and we'll see.  I won't just abandon a system
       that's worked all these years in favor of a fancy new toy, but I am enjoying playing with the
       new toy, and soon I'll be retired anyway so it won't matter."
     Yup, heavy undercurrent, but never actually discussed directly.  His core experience is diverted away from the emotional realm , and is instead intellectualized as he begins listing "things".  How does he actually feel about becoming closer to retirement?  How does he feel about Medicine changing?  How is he feeling outside of his work life? I have no idea. And neither does he.
     What we do know about his "feelings" is that every now and then, he gets diagnosed with either some coronary blockages, a little cancer, etc etc.  His doctors say, "Watch your stress."  Very helpful to a man who does not even know he is carrying emotional stress.  He is just one, in an entire generation, in a series of generations, who was never taught the value of Emotional Literacy.
     What is the value of speaking a language of our inner experience?  Let's take a different example: a friend of mine has been dealing with a child custody case since his divorce more than a decade ago. For over 10 years, this couple has been battling it out, spending fortunes on lawyers, using the court system to act as an intermediary between the parents.  Not only are they spending time, money, energy and effort toward this conflict, but we as taxpayers, are investing our money into this court system that deals in "facts" not feelings.  How is it working?  Well, the couple is still embroiled in debate, lawyers are still making money, taxpayers are still supporting the judges who reside over the prolonged case, and actually nothing has been resolved.
     My hypothesis is that the court battle is used the same way my dad's business gripes are used-- to divert away from the core emotional reality about which we are illiterate.  When we don't deal with the complex emotional realm of divorce, and instead misuse the court system as a surrogate for our pain, the wounds remain unhealed, even after a decade has passed, and fortunes have been paid out.
     So here's the question: how different would it look if we could learn a simple language as a way to communicate directly, rather than indirectly, about the stuff that means the most to us?  How different would our relationships look? How different would our lives look? And, how different would our world look?  The question of Emotional Literacy not only affects us, but has massive implications about our planet.  Karma tells us, the sooner we can get this, the sooner we can move on to the next lesson.  Until then, we keep getting this same lesson over and over and over again.
     So, next time someone you care about asks how you're feeling, think about it for a second, tune into that inner Self, and see: are you feeling mad, sad, glad, or scared?  Maybe some of each?  Try it! It'll do your heart good.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Weekend Romance/Adventure

           It’s Saturday morning, 7am.  My body does what it does every day at 7am which is to become aware that we’ve already been awake for 45 minutes, and my mind has begun to solve things though I’m only 20% conscious.  I’m like a trauma survivor coming out of a coma after a car wreck, still having a conversation from the day before.  “Which route is best to take: the canyon or the highway?” “Did I transfer those funds?” “Damn it, the house is filthy.”  “Did I call Jen back?”  “What are we gonna do today?”  We’ve both been working, and busy, and not relaxing together. So now is the time. We must find something to do that will be both bonding and relaxing, and just for a tad more pressure, let’s make sure it’s fun!!  It’s 7:02, and I have completely sucked all the life out of the day with pressure and expectation about how we have to do x,y, and z.  OK, let’s start again.  My fiancĂ©’s eyes aren’t even open yet, so there’s a good chance that there’s nothing to do yet.  Maybe instead of starting the day with the running to do list, we could start the day in bed, together, exactly as we are now.  Now this is what I love about love…

            From here, we make much better decisions.  We feel close and connected and anything we plan to do from this state will likely lead to greater satisfaction than if I’d been planning our day from underneath my swell of morning anxiety.  As we talk about the day ahead, we have completely different ideas about what we want to do, but it’s ok, cuz we’re feelin’ good and in love.  We can conquer anything.  Instead of fighting about whose plan is superior, and instead of compromising like adults, we turn left: Let’s just put all our little plans and ideas about our day onto paper and into a hat.  Our first ever “Choose Your Own Adventure” Saturday.  We agreed upon the number of ideas we each got to submit. It was 8am, so we each got 8 votes to cast.  It made sense at the time.  From the 16 offerings in the hat, we pulled 5.  Thus began our day of “driving up the coast to Santa Barbara,” “listening to live music,” “havin’ sexy time,” “seeing family,” and “walking around,” not in that order.  It was bliss.  If it had been solely up to us, without the merciful god of whim on our side, our Saturday would’ve been filled with laundry, grocery shopping, sleeping, being annoyed we weren’t doing more, and feeling generally quite irritated with ourselves and each other for ruining the day.  Instead, we laughed a lot.  We fell in love a little more. 

            I’m not suggesting that this recipe of live music and walking around is prescriptive or right for everyone.  It may not even be right for us on a different day.  What worked, as far as I can tell, was that we were both able to let go a little.  Let go of our anxiety.  Let go of being right or getting our way.  Let go of our routines and responsibilities, and surrender to the gods of love, all of whom, I’m pretty sure, want us to be happy, lighter, free.  You know, the way it feels to fall in love.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Nothing will push me into blogging more than this lil' nugget.
    When the news came out that Whitney Houston's body had been found (in a bathtub, in a Beverly Hills hotel, the night before the Grammy's), people were shocked. Shocked! Shocked?  I was more saddened, I'd say.  Shocked implies a moment of disbelief.   But, sadly, after spending so much of my life with addicts of all sorts, I tell ya, I believed.  Addicts die from addiction, all the time.  Not shocking, just very, very sad.
    Here's what was shocking to me: That with the sphere of knowledge Western Medicine and Modern Science have at their fingertips, they named the cause of death "Accidental Drowning."  How is it possible that in 2012, the Western World can not accurately identify the Disease of Addiction?  Sure, the DSM mentions "Alcoholism," and "Substance Abuse Disorders", and we're all very glad they took those diagnoses out of the "Personality Disorders" section a few years back.  Way to go.
    Whitney's death is about the Disease of Addiction, which kills thousands every year, and which destroys people's lives, their families, scares children, and wreaks havoc through homes and communities.  But no one talks about it.  The coroner is basically saying she died of Warm Water Asperation.  So 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now when they talk about Whitney's death the way I used to talk about and idealize Jim Morisson's death, he died in a bathtub too, by the way.   They'll say, "Yep, poor Whitney... Bathtub killed her."  And no one will learn about this disease or its treatments.  And people will continue to be forced to go to anonymous meetings and sit in crappy chairs, and drink really way too strong coffee, and hope they can find someone like them to talk to, someone who knows about this disease, because no one else talks about the truth of this illness.  And maybe if we can learn from this, people like Whitney, people who are suffering from a disease few want to recognize, they can start to heal.
    Any recovering alcoholic will tell you, and I believe this is true for us all, we are only as sick as our secrets.  So, as long as the true cause of death remains hidden by the words "accidental," "heart disease," or "sudden," these people will stay sick.  And when they stay sick, sadly, they often die.
    Not to be too hard on the West, it really was great of the Medical Staff to link Cocaine with Heart Disease.  I thought that was a great start, beginning to link diseases.  Usually the reason they miss so much is that their focus has to be so so narrow in order to be considered valid. The only problem is that when your focus is so narrow you invariably miss so much, which in my mind invalidates those findings too.  Vicious circle.  Anyway, as Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by THAT much".  Maybe we'll do better next time...