The Open Door

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If there is a struggle of any kind at this time that overwhelms you, ask yourself two things:  what does it mean? and where is it leading me?  Our minds are inclined to believe that it’s only through light and bliss that we’ll obtain freedom.  But, by now we should know this is utter and complete bull****.  We find the invaluable in the darkness, we obtain the diamond through clawing our way out of the dung hill.  It’s the place that we often put off from approaching but it’s the only way towards realization and balance.  Living a one sided life in which the primary focus is positive thinking  is a denial and rupture of the human condition. The reality is life is brutal filled with battles for us to engage and conquer.  Every one has a battle to overcome but you cannot overcome what you don’t know what you’re fighting.  The denial of our wounds only makes them worse.  It’s necessary to stare down those dark places in our lives, take a stand, and be willing to enter through the dark corridors of our being.  This is how authentic character is built.  Deciding to put fear aside and face reality, face our wounds, is the emancipating and heroic act of escaping the prison of stagnation.  It’s marks the beginning of character.  It’s the only way we come to realize how powerful we are. 

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When we want to express our most profound sentiments, our rawest emotions, dreams, fears, or opinions in any given moment on any given circumstance, but fail to do so, we commit the greatest offense to the self.  When we’re filled with a passionate idea but bite the tongue out of fear of being criticized or oppressed, it is the equivalency of self-mutilation-a denial of our unique creativity.  In attempting to gain acceptance we lose the part of ourselves that earnestly seeks authenticity, the part of ourselves that yearns to find its place in the world. In turn, our vibrancy is diminished and our confidence withers.  It is better to be daring and speak one’s mind risking ridicule and ostracism than to keep silent to appease the masses.  The former you can quickly recover from, but the latter creates irreparable damage to the soul.  

Soul By The Pound

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Darkness shines the greatest light.  It is the ultraviolet lamp that exposes what we’re really made of within. It reveals our “guts” and weighs our values, faith, and spirit on the scale of reality. Difficulties bring out our presuppositions and biases, it is the tested method by which our true nature is brought to our attention- to ignore or change. To seize the opportunity of changing or denying what is revealed makes the difference between spiritual freedom and captivity.  

5 Minutes To Save A Life

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I often emphasize the present moment as a way to get clients away from the worries of tomorrow and the misfortunes of yesterday.  However, sometimes there’s too much pain in the present to tell anyone to be mindful of the “now.”  Sometimes, there’s too much pain to paint anyone a pretty picture… it invalidates the experience and you render yourself useless no matter how good your intentions may be.  Any variation of getting people to look on the bright side of their circumstances can broaden the gap of what stands between their surrounding darkness and hope.  

A person who has lost the will to live cannot be coerced to reframe or alter the narrative of the crisis.  The crisis, be it the loss of freedom, a child, an illness, or abuse, is remedied through a rigorous validation and honesty.  Both the sufferer and helper must bring forth an honesty of the situation that conveys the present reality for what it is- painful and seemingly intolerable.  Yet, the future must always be accounted for with just as much honesty and responsibility as the present.  While the moment may prove harsh, the future provides an infinite amount of possibilities-hope reigns abundantly in the future-  hope of less pain and more peace, hope of reconciling the worst acts, the healing of deep wounds, the regaining of freedom, and the refining of one’s character made possible by difficult times.  

One More Minute

6FDFFC5A-353A-4434-B334-D79955346131I remember as a child before going to sleep, I’d turn the lights off and dash straight for the bed.  I’d strain my eyes open, desperately seeking light- that minute of waiting felt like an eternity.  I’d initially feel a sense of dread staring into the nothingness of the air, nothing could be seen beyond the opaqueness of the night.  In that minute I’d think, “there is nothing, I am nothing.” I was small, consumed by a great void.  This terrorized me.  But as the  minute passed, the darkness faded.  Small rays of light dispersed through the room and I’d begin to see.  I could see myself. I was put together.  I wasn’t so small after all.  I could look at my surroundings…my hands, and smile.  The wonderful realization about this process was coming to understand later that no matter how dark I had perceived my surroundings to be, the light was always there, waiting for me to grasp it.  I just had to hold on and patiently trust it would show up.  

On a psychological and emotional level, we lose precious souls because it becomes too dark within.  A moment of despair can feel like an eternity where light never comes.  We desperately look around.  We become restless. We feel small.  We say we’re nothing or nothing matters.  But the night is only temporary, it was only a reaction to a sudden change we needed to adjust to. The light is coming.  It has come.  You are awake… you look at yourself.  You’re not so small.  As a matter of fact, you’re pretty f****** beautiful.  You love yourself more, and best of all, you’ve learned to love the night.  

The Invisible Line

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Catch me on a Monday morning stuck in South Florida traffic, running late to work, having to pass on the venti plain pike, dodging cars, looking down and realizing the stain on my shirt didn’t come off after washing.  “I’m late… what is the boss going to say?… stop, your mind is racing” I tell myself-  Catch me in a state of battling my own mind and you’d probably label this process as unstable. If at this point you were able to dissect my thoughts and feelings within a ten minute frame, you’d discover irrational, random, illogical, self-defeating, catastrophizing, and possibly nihilistic content.  You’d probably change your perception on the kind of person I am if we were well acquainted.  However, you’d also acknowledge that every person experiences between 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day.  You’d probably reflect at your own thought patterns throughout a 24 hour period and come away with saying “I’ve had days like that.”  The reality is our minds produce a plethora of thoughts given each presenting situation.  Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to filter, choose, or ignore such thoughts-unfortunately, there are some who are incapable of doing so.  

If we explored the thoughts of any stable, mentally sound individual, you would find a vast area of uncertainty, anxiety, fears, resentments, selfishness, regret, secrets, desires, etc.  What distinguishes this person from the “psychotic” is a well functioning mechanism of containing, filtering, choosing, interpreting, discarding, and applying such thoughts.  The “schizophrenic” wears his thoughts and feelings on the outside, while the majority of us conceal and process them internally.  Nonetheless, the thought content of fears, dreams, desires, love, anger, etc is identical.  If you ever took the time to know someone that experiences auditory or visual hallucinations, you’ll discover the content has significant meaning.  Whether it seems bizarre or incoherent, if we examine our own thoughts we’ll find a common thread-that we all deal with fears whether real or imagined, we all dream, and we all seek to love and be loved in return.  The person who bears the challenges of being unable to contain and filter their thoughts within deserve our utmost gratitude. There is something magnificent, a life saving quality of being able to hear a familiar language uttered in a dark and foreign land. Similarly, it’s relieving to listen to an unfiltered emotion- a thought freed from the constraints of what is “right” or “appropriate” in the midst of challenges.  It’s in the process of crossing over to understand those society disregards- it’s through the voices and visions of a unique mind that we are able to reflect, relate to others, and manage our own inner world.  

The Ills That Save

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How can the greatest ills of humanity serve any good purpose?  The question can only be answered once the defect has been identified and we commence the journey to remedy it.  Those suffering from chronic mental health problems or addictions who have undergone a process of recovery have accomplished the unimaginable.  They have defied the laws of a self destructive nature and have catapulted themselves to state of unprecedented usefulness founded on a basis of knowledge of self and the divine.  I will continue to say of this wondrous matter:  “There is no greater miracle than this!”

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

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