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.  

Digging Deep When There’s Nothing Left

C13823A4-5CF1-4C5A-AA1F-A1D8636E434DI woke up to a voice unlike any other- a voice with much authority and clarity, one that I could not pretend was an imagination, or a whim, or an echo emanating from a quote from the latest self-help bestseller.  This voice resided in desolate and absconded territory, a place long empty, yet filled with pain and an ambience that could break even the most hardened soul.  And there I stood, listening to the voice “Dig….Dig.”  And so I did with no shovel, hands muddied and bloodied digging through filth, hardness, and nothingness.  Minutes passed, hours passed, days, weeks, months, and years, and…nothing.  Yet, the voice grew louder and clearer, “Keep digging.”  I stood there crying, skinny, beaten, sleepless, disheveled- fighting the voice, telling it that there was nothing there.  Nonetheless, it continued “keep digging!”  And so I did.  And from a distance I could see recognizable figures staring at the unrecognizable fragments of the man they once knew.  Gasps, silence, disgust, some look away.  Some dare to ask “what are you looking for?”  And tears roll down and I start feeling like a blend between the two protagonists from Beautiful Mind and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  “I don’t know what” I say.  Just then, a pastor I haven’t seen in years stands in front of a building with sincerity telling me to come here.  But I went there for years and found nothing as clear as this voice and so I continue to dig.  The doors of the building shut and fade away and an old childhood friend stands in its place, holding a bottle and a bag of cocaine.  He whispers “this will quiet the voices and kill all the pain.”  But I remember being dead inside and needing more just to get by… and so I, keep digging and the skin on my hands break and so does my heart as my old friend fades away, away from the voice.  Many others come along but I keep digging.  I dig through the pleas of beautiful women, money, careers, and almost oblige to the persuasive tactics of Appeasing Others.  But the voice grew louder and I dig.  I dig and dig until there’s nothing left of me.  And then, from the same distance the pastor and my friend stood, my family cries out, my son yells “Come daddy.”  I take a step towards them but the voice intensifies, gripping my soul into an understanding that if I don’t keep digging I will lose everything, I will lose them.  Humiliated and greatly discouraged I dig with the little strength and sanity that remains.  “There’s nothing left” I say to the voice as I stare into what is now the hollowed depths of my being.  Cries, pain, mistakes, past hang ups, traumas, guilt, and heartbreak escape the void and I stand like the miner who has discovered the finest diamond on earth… I can finally see the great voice, clothed in infinite Love living within me.  

What great pains and erroneous paths most of us take to find love!  I have found that G_d in His infinite wisdom chose the finest abode in a place we’d often overlook…within us.  Please, keep digging!  

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