The Hero and Villian in You

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A great example of the character transformation process in the individual can best be demonstrated in the stories and movies of the superhero protagonist.  I watched a trailer last week of the movie, Venom.  Within the three minute peak, there was an accurate depiction of the process of the emergence that takes place during an essential change of personal character.  In the trailer, the main character is a weak, plain, uptight soft spoken man in his mid 30s. He appears to be a pushover who gets lost in the overwhelming surroundings of circumstances and people.  There seems to be an untold process underway that screams a necessary change must take place within the personality of the person or the character will never emancipate himself from the grips of passivity and victimization.  This change manifests itself into the unexpected “repossessing of the soul” in the form of an indestructible god-like serpent that strives to take complete control of the character’s actions.  In the clip, giant tentacles involuntarily break loose from the protagonist’s body, pummeling and subduing the “bad guys.”  Through it all, the character demonstrates a loss of control, helplessly pleading to the entity within for a share in control, to which the monster replies something like “we do what we want, is that a deal?”  I have to admit that I haven’t watched the movie, but I can take a chance of predicting that the weak character progressively comes to terms with the unknown monster within him, he learns to live with it, possibly destroying or integrating it into his weaker known traits, and utilizes “the shadow” to conquer the opposing evil in the external world.  

The process of transformation often takes place in multidimensional phases, sometimes occurring with or without our knowledge- but our knowledge greatly influences the kind of path it takes.  First, there is an unrecognized knowledge of the dark powerful traits of our personality.  We carry through life wearing a mask (the persona) and living by shoulds or over-identifying with passivity or timidness.  Then, the suppression of the powerful impulses emerge into waking consciousness seeking existence due to constant repression.  These are the unidentified parts often taking a primitive form of expression and can create many disturbances and chaos in daily life.  This is where destructive behaviors form.  These forms have the ability to annihilate the individual without proper integration into awareness. Lastly, given the level of insight and willingness, the individual confronts the shadow, becomes knowledgeable of its tricks, intentions, and desires, and through effort and self reflection properly merges the shadow into the light of awareness.  Without this awareness and work, the shadow becomes a fully independent, overpowering force calling the shots in the host’s life.  

This process which takes place in the human psyche is as real and evident as the external world.  A suppressed shadow will seek expression with or without consent of the individual.  It is better to perceive and confront a lurking enemy than to pretend he is not there at all.  Embracing these monsters inside of us enables us to properly handle the monsters without.  

4 Words

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Shuffling papers, meeting with clients, crisis interventions, meetings, family contacts, documentation…Getting busy, staying busy, feeling productive.  And then a shadow emerges out of a corridor, a half-broken figure, contorted, confused and healing- to thank you but you can’t remember for what… a smile and then you remember you only placed your hand on his shoulder and uttered four words.  The smile is reciprocated and you realize that this whole time you’ve been busy with nothing and the most productive thing you’ll ever do is tell someone “I’m here for you.”  

Shattered

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We talk too much, often expressing what we think we desire rather than taking time to listen to ourselves… it’s no wonder we fluctuate between anxiety and depression.  Our default focus tends to be on the anxiety producing concerns of what others are thinking or doing, on what should be or could be, and on what appears as the accepting consensus.  All the while, the depressed soul withers from its unattended cries of purpose, identity, needs, and passions.  It’s hard to explain this to the disquieted person.  It seems it has become easier to increase dosages and wait in line for a prescription than to address the pressing matter of who we really are, what living is really about, and how to live according to our individual purpose.  We live in a sedated society, medicated by detached practitioners who themselves, through ignorance, evade the    real issues and causes of anxiety, depression, addiction, and other ailments.

Deprivation and Gratitude

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In jail food is a high commodity- the currency that defines an inmate’s status.  Due to the scarcity and restricted variety, the accessibility of food is based on the level of outside support or cunning ability to persuade or take from others.  Food is prisoner’s gold.  It is no wonder the the amount of bricks (sandwiches) or dollars in a commissary account greatly impacts the mood and mental health of the inmate.  Jail is similar to outside society where power and status are of great value, except in jail, possession and rank is brought to the forefront due to scarcity and deprivation.  It was here that I learned deprivation is not necessarily a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, it may be beneficial. 

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned was in simply observing an inmate eat an orange.  He was given an extra orange for lunch by a correctional officer.  He looked at it and held it alternately with both hands.  It was the same way a jeweler would handle an expensive gold necklace or a miner would examine a diamond.  He smiled, peeled it slowly, separated it into pieces, laid it into a paper napkin, smiled again, and finally began to eat it.  There was a level of gratitude in the process that I had never witnessed before. The inmate and his gold, an orange, submerged completely in the moment-something most of take for granted because we become accustomed to always having.  And this applies to most things- our friendships, family, love, our possessions, our health, internal and external freedoms, etc. I have to admit, there was a sense of envy as I watched someone appreciate the very little, grasping to the moment, touching every bit of the orange from its outer texture to the sweetness of taste.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had appreciated the little things, the many that I had take for granted. Because of deprivation, this inmate was given the gift of gratitude in which he could touch life and experience the moment at its fullest vitality.  He was alive and free.  “Who are the real prisoners?”, I asked myself.  Most of us have plenty and yet most of us never experience a genuine level of gratitude for what we have.  We’re taught to write a gratitude list or recite a few affirmations to boost our levels of gratitude but rarely is it suggested to reach out to a life who is far more deprived than we are.  This is the best way to acquire gratitude- to learn it from those who have less.  Often, it’s those that suffer greatly that touch life the deepest.  It’s those who are deprived that can relish and appreciate without reservation when they finally attain something.  Watch and learn through them, because if it’s anything that we more fortunate individuals lack, it might just be the greatest commodity of all- Gratitude. 

Slaying the Beast of Fear

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If we reflect on our troubles, we will find the underlining theme of fear pervading throughout.  Fear creates paralysis.  The external obstacles we face are not necessarily the problem, the way we handle the associated fears of the challenge is the deciding factor of success.  Fear is a natural response to events that we are not accustomed to.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate fear, but there is a way to change the way we handle it- we can learn to transcend fear into something that we can embrace and welcome.  

I remember in college before the big game, we would often engage in chants and sorts of rituals to arouse a spirit of battle within us.  Some of us would scream, jump, and down shove each other, and slap helmets and pads.  Some would pace quietly while others sat with a deep long stare.  Everyone had a ritual.  I noticed this was more than a way to prepare for a fun game and obtain excitement.  The preparation was a way bring the mind and body to a state of readiness to overcome apprehension, to surpass any likelihood of paralysis, and associate fear with excitement and victory.  Preparation made fear an ally.  

Fear is much a natural part of our lives just as any other emotion.  The key is to adapt the proper mindset of its challenge and prepare effectively.  A preparation that creates a response of excitement, confidence, and persistence is one that will always lead to success.  

Beast

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It’s good to get away often.  It quiets the voices that tell us we are small and limited.  I have discovered in moments of isolation, after the pangs of loneliness had subsided, long after I was written off as done for, that within me was a poised and powerful giant capable of rising, flourishing, and transforming the world.  

The Problem with Pleasure and Success

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Ever wonder why your goals and big projects never get accomplished?  “I’m not depressed” you tell yourself… “I have a decent job” and “ I get along with people.”  But when it comes to accomplishing a specific goal or setting yourself to create something new, it seems to always get pushed to the side or left incomplete.  Fear, you say?  Discouragement?  Too busy?  Well, we all experience these feelings and circumstances and yet there are those who maintain a resiliency in the pursuit of their dreams while others fall short of ever achieving them.  

Instead of falling into despair, let’s examine the role of pleasure and its effects on our drive to pursue goals and overcome challenges.  The pleasure principle is the inherent drive in a person to seek pleasure and avoid pain at all costs.  The effort placed in seeking and avoiding takes great energy. As matter of fact,  it’s a basic survival skill evident in both humans and animals.  Once a person has been filled or satiated with pleasure, the drive to accomplish, pursue, overcome, and take on any circumstance is drastically reduced.  For example, let’s say you’ve you haven’t ate all day.  All you can think about is food and what you’re going to eat and how you’re going to go about getting the food. However, once you have ate and are full, the mind becomes content and sends the message “I am good, I can rest- no need to pursue anything.”  We are left in this state until we start feeling hungry again- and the cycle of pursuit continues.  Now imagine what happens to our desire to pursue new projects and levels of aspiration when we are excessively indulging in seeking pleasure.  More often than not we’re left in a state of complacency- telling ourselves we are satisfied while falling short of our potential for success.  When the opportunity of developing a product/business, approaching a person we’re attracted to, or starting a new routine to better ourselves, the drive has been quenched with the pursuit of trivial pleasures and we are unable to push through fear and uncertainty.  

In no way is pleasure a negative thing to be avoided.  It is natural to hunger and seek satiation.  The danger lies in overindulging, resulting in complacency and unfulfilled potential.  I believe everyone is responsible for taking an honest assessment on making the connection between lack of success and time spent in overindulgence of pleasure.  

If you feel that you are not living up to your potential and are unable to remove that mysterious obstacle that stands in between you and your dreams, I urge you to honestly ask yourself how much time and energy is being wasted on feeling good.  Perhaps it is overeating, alcohol, drugs, sex, relationships, or social media that you struggle with.  Make a decision today to either reduce indulging in them or cut them off altogether and place the energy and drive to accomplishing your goals.  

Can you think of any pleasures you or someone you know may be excessively indulging in and how this is affecting your or their ability to succeed?  

Irving Cabarcas, LMHC, MCAP, ICADC

The Question That Changes Everything

715AB0C3-DB9E-461C-8901-53C0443895A6We all strive for individuality and ways to express it.  But how many of us apply our uniqueness- those treasured traits that set us apart?  When there’s a fire deep down that burns within, do you quench the flames out of fear that those around you may oppose or even mock you?  We all have an inner voice urging us to break out of the shell in order to express ourselves.  The truth that lives in us far outweighs societal pressure and commentary.  Bottom line- one cannot have one foot in truth-seeking while peddling in conformity out of appeasing others.  A man must often toil in these times with the most vital question he’ll ever ask: “Who am I, really?”

The Law of Ego and Self-Esteem

D1DDD265-E12A-4881-8E74-0F97ECC1F0B1Ego and self-esteem both have an opposite effect on one another.  Where one is fed, the other diminishes.  We must exercise caution in differentating the two. Ego temporarily provides a sense of gratification and fulfillment but gradually creates separation, loneliness, and conflict.  Self-esteem, initially, may seem contradictory where one shifts focus away from self and directs it towards others, but in time creates a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and connection.  In short, the more I am ‘all about me’ the more disharmony I create;  and the more I am about others, the tighter the bonds and greater the balance I bring into life.  Mastering this art is the simplest way to happiness.  

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