Running

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More often than not we will find that our discontent with outer reality is a reflection of the neglected and unresolved yearnings of our soul.  Our displeasure with some aspect of our career often points to a conflict or unresolved dilemma of our life’s purpose;  a pattern of problems with particular types of people mirrors a hidden and ugly quality we would rather not face in ourselves;  or a preoccupation with trivial fears and phobias may be set off by failing to surrender to a greater internal battle.  A failure to engage in deep psychological work to find the origin of such external distress that really arises from within tends to lead us in an illusory path of seeking relief.  We may habitually change jobs, partners, places of residence, religions, friends, etc- all at an attempt to be released from the debilitating internal struggle of psychological conflicts that most times erroneously reflect external circumstances, people, and events.  These attempts prove to be futile in the long run as the person may seek release through extreme escape behaviors of severe isolation and compulsive habits.  When we perceive there is no where to turn to, when life gets incredibly uncomfortable to bear, the result is the beginning of addictive behavior.  Addiction is a desperate attempt to find release from external and internal conflict when resolution cannot be found- it is the mind’s most resourceful way of getting free from a build up of psychological madness that threatens to obliterate the little comfort that is left.

Addiction personifies a universal problem.  Society is on the go and yet so stagnant, so fast paced and yet ridden with a melancholic disposition.  We are going no where fast, tending to problems erroneously or superficially, fatally ignoring the cries of our psychological lives.  The end result always being a series of temporary departures from reality where our lives and structure remain unchanged.  Perhaps its time to reckon that we have missed the mark, that we’ve been looking for answers in all the wrong places and as long as we continue in the same direction, we won’t find peace but a disruption, or even worse, an obliteration of life.

Healing begins when we are tired, when we stop to say there is something wrong here, and perhaps it’s within me.  Facing oneself honestly is painful-the mirror doesn’t change to our opposing responses or sensibilities.  However, it is only through the undertaking of swallowing hard truth about ourselves and deciding to take action is when the possibility of a better life is made apparent.

Shaman, Shamania

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Our ancestors sought answers by journeying far and wide, seeking spiritual leaders for guidance and answers to life’s most pressing issues.  Many times, they sacrificed their lives in order to listen to the wise counsel of the healer, the devoted shaman.  The shaman was the median between the gods and the people.  He would summon spirits through deep contemplation and rituals, receiving divine life saving knowledge from beyond.  The shaman wore clothing that distinctly separated himself from the community, wore specific painting designs on his face, chanted freely towards the spirits in language unknown to the laymen, and danced in a convulsive like fashion.  Among those that sought out the shaman was a universal understanding that this process was the way of attaining help, direction, and insight into specific issues.  This understanding was ingrained in those that came before us and is a part of our present day make-up.  The chanting shaman is a representation of hope, renewal, and rebirth.  The outcome of seeking these “medicine men” was always one of healing, or at least a consolation of some kind.  

Fast forward present day, the most influential form of entertainment is heavily populated with shaman-like artist drawing in millions of young men and women, who as many of us, are seeking genuine and concise answers to life’s most essential questions.  The “medicine man” effect lures in crowds through senseless chants, tattooed faces, belligerent dances, strange smoke, lanky bare chested men receiving their share of the gold from their performance-and those eager to find answers, while entertained- come empty and leave empty.    

By far, this art form is extremely damaging to the psyche because it taps into the human drive of seeking truth and direction.  While we have moved away from the primitive days of climbing mountains for divine wisdom to climbing stages at an attempt for the same, the result of the latter creates psychological and social decay.  The messages we wholeheartedly yearn have been completely distorted into those that promote violence, hedonism, drug use, promiscuity, addiction, objectification of women, the breakdown of family and community, and the devaluation of morality.  We must all stop to ask ourselves what effect the shift from “knowledge from above” to “f*** b******, get money” has on our youth.  

There is no doubt that such senseless music and artists should be banned from our society.  More importantly though, and more effectively, it would benefit the individual and society to carefully filter content that resembles anything that promotes social garbage and deceptively disguises itself in the images of the “wise old men” of the past.  

Turn

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Society demands the addict to “stop” yet has no real grasp on what recovery means to begin with.  To a lesser degree, we all play out escape behaviors, saturating ourselves with unreality and ideals, falling into the traps of fabricated definitions of humanity.  Yet we demand the addict to stop and do everything wrong to make him stop because the addiction, although more or less in all of us, is more visible in the drug addict.  The remedy for any addiction is reality, a reality that questions one’s purpose, what the world is, and who or what created us— and in turn live according to such questions.  But as long as we turn away from reality, we turn towards addiction and enable others to continue the path of a diluted and destructive existence. 

Smile Through Storms

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“Pick me up and throw me where you will.  Wherever I land I shall keep the god within me happy…” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I’ve heard many stories from people in recovery dealing with obstacles, some so severe I wondered how they were managing to stay clean and sober.  Some had lost their homes to foreclosure.  Some were laid off from work.  And some had even lost children to illness.  In every account, the same statement reappeared at the end of each share, “But I didn’t drink” or “I didn’t pick up”… “no matter what.”  These people were living proof that something profound had taken place within, a spiritual awakening.  Though the external reality of their lives were constant and difficult, there was a wise and directing consciousness beneath what they presented. This consciousness was impenetrable- although their lives were shaken, they were far from broken.  

Recovery is spiritual awareness.   People become aware of the divinity within and make a decision to honor it on a daily basis.  Outside circumstances such as death, divorce, and financial problems cannot influence the spiritual life within.  Many people in AA refer to this idea as the “98 Burn”, a statement made on page 98 of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book text which states “job or no job, wife or no wife…burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone.”  While our world may be shaken or everything seems to be crumbling down around us, we must acknowledge the god inside us, unfazed, smiling, and always willing to direct us towards the next step.  Stability, healing, and recovery depend not on what happens to us but on the reckoning and daily practice of honoring the divine life within. 

2 Boys

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I love two boys dearly.  One of them I had to leave behind in order to give the other a better life.  One is a lighthearted, inquisitive, and affectionate soul.  The other, while quite loving, can be rebellious, fearful, self-destructive, hyper vigilant, and unstable.  One is my son.  The other my inner child.  I stood at a turning point where most men find themselves who are able to reflect and take inventory of personal defects and impediments to growth.  There I found all the hindrances and shortcomings embodied in my inner psychological youth.  It was here in the personification of my inner child that all sources of irrational beliefs lived.  I had to make a decision to part ways with the boy I had intimately known for decades.

The boy within men must be outgrown, tamed, or carefully integrated into adulthood if we are to properly function in the world.  However, when most men find themselves stuck at a crossroad, repeating destructive patterns, or unable to realize their full potential, most times they will find a restless inner child consuming and sabotaging their present realities.  The boy in us may manifest himself in the form of seeking power and control, general mistrust, and a debilitating apprehension to take on new challenges.  Many times, the boy will not adhere to manipulative tactics of persuasion or compromise.  The boy is adamant in getting what it wants and unless effectively confronted will destroy the man he inhabits.  In this case, the inner child must be subdued, bound, and given up for the liberation of a man’s psychological imprisonment.  It is no wonder that biblical stories such as “the binding of Issac” or the crucifixion of Christ resonate well with many of us.  A man must sacrifice faulty beliefs and dysfunctional familial patterns before he can receive the “blessing.”  Subconsciously, we understand that the most primitive and infantile aspects of our psyche must be (or at least one must be willing to) put to rest.  However, the stark difference lies in the fact that our inner child will not comply and lie quietly as Isaac or the Christian Messiah.  The binding, giving up, and the mourning of the inner boy (false and destructive beliefs) is a necessary process, a journey by which we eventually reach complete psychological and spiritual manhood.  

Laugh Out Loud

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What makes anything beautiful, what gives it life, is the experience it has had.  We stare at a certain painting and become mesmerized by something unexplainable-there is an emotion, a life, a story that it has lived.  This is the essence of all things worthwhile.  They are neither fabricated or desired.  Instead, these are the things that preserve us and provides a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us.  To be fully in the moment entails a full participation and realization of the experience.  Experiencing moments where we are submerged in what’s occurring is the lifeblood of humanity.  A bellyaching laugh, a melancholic embrace, a joyful victory, an attentive posture-all provide the opportunity to make the most of our lives.  

Without the experience of participating in the moment, we lose an essential part of ourselves-a missing part that becomes excruciating to live with.  Before we turn to medicine to alleviate our instabilities and sorrows, let’s ask ourselves how much are we participating in the joy of living, and how much are we avoiding it through diluted means of connecting?  An emoji can never take the place of seeing a beautiful face smile.  An “lol” cannot doesn’t come close to shared laughter around a table of friends. And words types across a screen can never replace an invaluable embrace of a loved one in distress.  What makes anything beautiful is the loyal commitment to strive to engage in life as much as possible.  

Depth Of Our Wounds

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“The scars had finally healed.  Looking back on every laceration, every opening… was only an attempt to break free, a way to release all the things I wanted to be and all the things I wanted to say.  Each scar collectively became a map of where I wanted to go, a clear direction for a lost soul.  The scars had finally healed, and I knew this because what I had done to myself physically, through the process of healing, was finally transcended and attained on the spiritual realm.”

The Alternate Womb: A Therapy That Holds and Heals

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“The relationship you build with a client surpasses any therapeutic intervention.”

A close friend and colleague told me that once in a time of self-doubt. I think as therapists, at times we question our ability and our techniques. We are working with humans and sometimes the faith we might put into the work doesn’t seem to have the results that we want. This leads to questions of ” Am I doing this right? , Why am I doing this? School didn’t teach me this. What am I supposed to do with this human?”

We have, as clinicians, a lot of access to books, blogs like this, other therapists and YouTube videos. But ultimately what matters is the relationship and rapport you have with a client.

Therapy, the work we do, happens mostly outside the doors of the office with a couch. During the sessions however, alot of processing and opening up occurs. If the environment is judgmental, cold, authoritative, and sterile, it’ll be difficult to allow the space for trust and safety. Now, I’m not saying don’t use your worksheets, books, or research articles but if you take the time to focus on the relationship, then and only then, can the process of therapy or healing can begin.

Again, this is an opinion but in times of doubt focus on your ability to communicate, to reciprocate the client’s feelings.  Empathy goes a longer way than sympathy and even if you  can’t relate to a client’s cultural or ethinic background, find a common ground.  Therapy , shouldn’t always be about the “bad stuff.” Spend a session talking about the client’s passions or lack of passion.  You may find yourself more engaged.

Lastly, imagine you go somewhere to talk to someone about your own skeletons. You walk into an office terrified that you will be judged on your morals. The therapist has a suit and tie, is pompous, tells you that you are wrong and in order to begin talking about the passing of your loved one you HAVE to fill out 5 worksheets with numbers, sad faces, and intrusive questions.

This might work. But, now imagine your first session as welcoming, embracing, without arrogance.  The therapist’s chair is low to the ground, you’re told you are free to talk about whatever you want and start wherever you want. There is no judgment.

No matter the techniques, the relationship between a therapist and their client, as I have learned, is more important to begin the process of healing.

Noah Goldberg, RCSWI, MSW

Trauma: How Victims Become Survivors

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Imagine for a second you cut yourself while cooking. A deep cut, with a cold sharp blade. After about a week, you look at the wound and you begin to tell yourself how careless you were, how pathetic you were for letting yourself get cut. You tried to treat the wound yourself only to find out that you’ve made it worse. Then, you try to go up to a stranger in desperation who tells you to go away because it’s disgusting.  At that point you feel like a victim to your own lack of awareness dealing with the trauma of a deep wound and you purposely throw out all the kitchen knives so that you’re not reminded.

In trauma, there are some similar concepts.

Victim. Something bad happened to you.

Trauma. Something bad.

Survivor. Something bad happened to you but you somehow got through it.

There is plenty of information and topics about trauma. I will cover only the surface by talking about the narrative, safety, and guilt.

When working with survivors of trauma it can be difficult, yet critical, for the survivor to tell their story. Trust and the feeling of safety are key within the therapeutic relationship in order for trauma work to begin. When trust and safety are established the elephant in the room can be taken off the wall and discussed.

Working through the narrative of the trauma can be a difficult subject. There are clinicians who struggle in this work because of the severity of the stories and the amount of empathy it can take to help someone who discusses the horror stories of their lives. As important as it is for the survivors to feel the space to communicate, it is important for the clinician to work through their own narrative and reflect. Telling the story is key to healing

While we (clinicians) know and understand the symptoms of trauma, there is a symptom that is rarely discussed and that is the symptom of guilt. There is a lot of self-blame from the survivor. The hindsight in domestic violence is an example:

“Why didn’t I leave? Why did I stay?” Are two very difficult questions that seem to be asked when looking back, and if they are not processed, the individual can lead to more guilt, blaming themselves for both questions.

Like I said, trauma it is hard work. Telling your story, whether you are a survivor in therapy or a clinician in supervision, working through the story, the narrative, and the guilt is important in allowing the space for the work to begin.

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