The Problem of Anger

2b0f816b-0376-4d85-bfc6-5095b070150eAnger is the emotion by which all life depends.  Everything we create has its source in the emotions of passion and rage.  The great artists of history never abandoned feelings of anger in their work.  Instead, they used it as fuel-an indication that something of great importance had be created.  The intensity of anger keeps the fire burning when we set out on a particulate project and, if properly embraced, ensures it is carried out to its finish.   It’s common today for many of us to take on a negative view of anger, that it is something to be avoided and indicates something may be inherently wrong with us if we experience it.  It is exactly this belief, of a need to suppress anger, that creates disorder and violence.  Many young men I’ve worked with tend to be emotionally-repressed. They are afraid of their own anger and as a result behave in passive aggressive ways, showing their anger in subtle but destructive tendencies.  They find that their avoidance of anger has deadened their quality of life and halted the creative process.  Once the emotion of anger has been reintegrated, the person is able to create, to formulate, to take on the daring task of leaving one’s mark in the world.  

Anger is a dualistic power.  It can be used to destroy or create.  For this reason, it is a primary emotion, not something underlining another emotion.  An emotional state of frustration can well be telling us something must be created and you are the one chosen to do it, and it will tug at you endlessly until it its demands are obliged.  We cannot afford to overlook something so natural and evident in everyday life.  

The Truth of Passivity

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Passivity can often be masked as a proud portrayal of humility or spiritual surrender.   We must often take note of the origins of stagnation, disinterest, and even our rationalizations for not taking steps towards our personal goals.  The greatest enemy of progress is not to be found outside of ourselves but within the ignored segments of the psyche.  We may find reasons for our lack of execution of a particular task within the immediate environment, but these are only projections or excuses for our own resistances.  The environment as a blockade to progress only becomes a relief, a deflection for taking responsibility for the abandonment of our life goals.  It is much easier to attribute a lack of time for not working on a project than to face the suppressed reality that we fear stepping into the unknown world of creativity- it is the fear of our own potential that must be dealt with daily, many times from moment to moment.  

I have often encountered people that must make a definite change for the sake of their well-being, as continuing on in a particular behavior will inevitably lead to destruction, and have found that underlining their interpretations, they are profoundly terrified of their highest potential.  It is not a fear of failure that keeps us in misery but rather it’s a fear of what we can possibly become if we took initiative and pledged to set out to accomplish what we desire.  We may hide behind a passive life and settle for mediocrity but in many cases this can prove fatal.  People thrive from striving, competing, and improving themselves.  Giving ourselves excuses to continue hiding behind messages of “accepting one’s lot” or success equates trouble and evil, is a deliberate sedation of truth and life.  A patient I once treated who had a history of multiple overdoses, often victimized as a child, also victimized herself as an adult.  She once decided to leave treatment, telling the staff she did not care about her recovery or her life in general.  With tears in her eyes, and words that disarmed the staff with pity and shock, I looked into depths of her being and said “of course you don’t care, it serves you well… if you did care then you’d have to look honestly inside yourself and see what’s wrong, take responsibility towards improving your life and making something of your existence.  It’s so much easier to not care, your addiction loves that you don’t care because if you did you’d probably become someone you’d love and care about, and in turn people would be drawn to you and love you.”  She was able to digest my words without running away and thankfully continued her treatment.  It’s so much easier to live a passive life but it’s also the hardest and cruelest thing we can do to ourselves. We destruct under the guise of meekness and never discover the hero inside of us.  Keeping our “excuses” for not taking responsibility within our awareness can be frightening and overwhelming, but once we commit to doing so and carrying on, we will prove to ourselves we are more powerful than we could have ever imagined.  

Addictive Nature

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It’s surreal to think of how a thing, a substance, sometimes so small, sometimes invisible or pleasantly deceptive to the human eye can utterly destroy a life.  Sometimes, these things appear to be beautiful in their rawest form.  A swaying cocoa plant or a vibrant poppy add beauty to the fields they inhabit.  It’s astonishing and at the same time unfathomable to accept the reality that these beautiful ornaments of nature-once they are separated from their original form and ingested-have the capacity to enslave and obliterate a person on every conceivable level.  

I think of these beautiful intricacies of nature in their true essence…I think of the lives that were once whole and later became separated from themselves and the world because of addiction.  This helps me understand that there is an objective and guiding principle pervading all living things:  Nature and people thrive and are at their most beautiful in their wholeness, and this should never be tampered with…

Be Still

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Man envies every least deserving thing.  He strives and dies for the things that should always be allocated at the background of reality.  The promotion, the size of his home, his bank account, the attention given by others, where his kids go to school, where he dines and gathers- all take center stage and consume the pathway to his purpose. And nature which seeks to teach him how to live, how to be happy, is altogether ignored, kicked away like an orphan who incessantly begs for loose change and crumbs.  He seldom ponders the trees that show him how to weather the inevitable storms, to stand strong through the turbulence, to accept harmoniously the place it’s been given, and to fall gracefully when it is time.  It’s tragic that we often fall prey to the erroneous escapes of life’s struggles-the pill, the powder, the bottle, the dollar, the relationship, etc- through self medication and yet, often ignore the guiding example of nature.   Nature stands still, stoically, through both the pleasant moments and drudgery of existence.  It doesn’t rebel nor complain about what should or could be… it stands and exists in perfect harmony with what is and what has been given.  If you’ve run out of answers, if there’s no more ways to escape left in you, switch your focus to bringing nature and life center stage and lessen your priorities on those things that hinder.  

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.  

First Step

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Before you ask what’s wrong around you in any given situation, take the daring task of examining yourself, your beliefs, your values, your greatest fears and worries…We often find that these are the causes of most of our troubles.  The process of sincerely changing is like surgery.  You must go deep into yourself-beneath bone and marrow-and find those ideas that have been slowly eroding away at the possibility of reaching what you want to achieve.  The greatest victory is in keeping these invalid beliefs in plain sight and be fearlessly willing to battle them on a daily basis.  This is the path of awakening.  

More Than Crumbs

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Who stole the cookie from the jar?
Well…
You did.
Now let’s talk about honesty.  Honesty, and not in the religious moral sense (going to a bad place of lying), but in the sense of integrity. The sense that if you can be honest with yourself and with the values you’ve learned along the way then you can start to grow.

Therapy can be tough, while it implies that a client will be honest, so does the therapist. And while I believe everyone lies at some point in some form, it’s difficult when you are in the therapy room.

On one side, you don’t want to express your darkest secrets and on the other hand you don’t want to tell the client you are thinking about lunch.

There are different schools of thought on change and behaviors. But I think the common idea starts with admitting to yourself (being honest) that there is something you can change or alter. Then you can begin the process of moving forward.

Integrity is not easy.  It’s not easy in therapy or off the couch. But like anything, as you practice you can find yourself satisfying your own path in life instead of walking another person’s path.

Honesty isn’t always the best policy, but if you want to stop stealing cookies, be honest with yourself. If not, steal as many cookies as you want, but don’t tell the therapist you want to change or it’s someone else’s fault you’re getting fat.

Quote from Bill Ward, drummer of Black Sababth:

During the question-and-answer portion of the evening, an audience member asked Ward what advice he’d give someone who was going through a rough time. He responded: “If you believe in a higher power or if you believe in God, then I would suggest that you go to God and see if you can find some solutions. If you don’t believe in God, then try to be as honest with yourself as you possibly can…When I’ve chosen the light of God or self-honesty, my own misery has brought me to a solution. My own pain, my own sadness has brought me to a place of surrender, so I’ll surrender to the truth anyway and go, ‘You know what? I need to talk to somebody about this.’ Try not to be alone with your own pain. Try to find someone you can trust your pain with. It’s really important that we communally share what’s going on with each other… Otherwise, we’re going to be walking around in a very sorrowful place.”

Noah Goldberg, MSW, RCSWI

Elevation: The Simple Path of Change

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Great philosophies are born in the midst of turning points.  A counseling approach based on the foundation of a life changing experience will endure and permeate the lives it treats.  Every helper, no matter what level of expertise, must bring a part of these profound experiences to the counseling table. 

I remember a particular day in the 10th grade, staring into space, daydreaming, disconnected from my surroundings. I was sitting in my English class when the teacher asked the class to write a poem.  I was disinterested, slumped on my desk and prepared for a long nap.  However, the teacher, Mrs. Kurzer was persistent in getting the class to write a poem.  So I wrote a few lines, I can’t recall exactly what I wrote.  But I have always remembered what happened next.  Mrs. Kurzer read the poem and I could see the expression on her face change… and she looked at me and said “wow! This is really good poetry!”  And then she asked “can I make copies of this to show to my other classes?”  Now for a 15 year old kid like me at the time, who had experienced for years verbal and physical abuse from teachers in the public school system, this one gesture pulled me out of the depths of low-self esteem and fear.  Until that point, I had one foot in dropping out.  Until that point, I was utterly convinced that I had no abilities, that I was dumb; there was no confidence in the sense of accomplishing anything.  After that day, Mrs. Kurzer continued to encourage me with writing.  I developed a strong interest in poetry.  Aside from developing a talent, it gave me the gift of believing that I can… that I had a place in the world… I can contribute and create and I was good at something… and this all started with someone conveying a message that I was able.  It  just took one person to bring that out in me… to sincerely express a compliment of an ability that laid dormant within.  This event paved the way for creativity, for taking risks, and most importantly helping others using this philosophy of elevating a person and elevating the moment through bringing out in people their dormant talents and capabilities.  

About a year ago I was working with a 19 year old young man who was in jail awaiting trial for murder.  This young man was likely going to spend the rest of his life behind bars.  He grew up in an impoverished neighborhood without a father figure or any positive role models.  The only sense of purpose and encouragement he had was the one given to him by his friends who spent their time committing crimes and using drugs.  It was through spending time with him and forming an alliance of trust and genuine encouragement that he was able to discover an exceptional talent with numbers.  In less than a month he was studying for his GED exam and soon after began tutoring other inmates.  His entire demeanor changed… his face was brighter, his attitude was positive, and he gave off a strong sense of confidence.  For once, he had a sense of purpose and ability that was awakened through a genuine and caring relationship.  I often wondered, what could have been of his life, only if he had discovered his purpose earlier… if someone would have brought out this capability from within him-  the person behind the cell door could have easily been a great accountant or professor, or better yet, an influential leader in his community.

When people lack purpose than you end up with a society that seeks fulfillment in the most  destructive ways.  A capability unrealized, no matter how small, is a tragedy.. When you look around in your community, around the local treatment centers, the local streets, or even within your own family or circle of friends and you see people that you can help lift out of the depths of despair through elevating them  through encouragement and genuine love then every moment and every encounter becomes an opportunity to take part in what truly matters most… saving a life and in turn saving generations.  

Wounded

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“And there I was… with no option left as he contemplated his own existence.  I wish there could have been another way.  But it’s always the same- the only way to deliver anyone out of deep pain is to reach deeper, without reservation, into our own…”

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