Let emotions signal your needs

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Typically, I leave my house at 6:15 AM for work. Most mornings, I’m rushed and hustle about my home at an almost frenetic pace; gotta beat the traffic, gotta be there on time. While I drive, my mind races over every detail of things I’ve done and things that have been done to me. Sometimes, thoughts of the “injustices” that I’ve experienced flood my mind with adrenaline: I’m ready to fight those enemies who have hurt me and would do so again, preemptively, at the very thought of my name. I imagine myself seeking and taking revenge and…

But, wait, I’m a “good person” and I shouldn’t be thinking of things like revenge. I should love my enemies and pray that they see the errors of their ways. I should love everyone and not feel negative feelings towards anyone, really. If I’m a good person then I shouldn’t want to get even with anyone.

Then again, maybe I’m not a “good person.” Maybe I’m a “bad person,” in which case, wanting revenge against my enemies is ok. Bad people do things like get mad and want to get even with people. Revenge lives in the land of the bad person, after all and bad people harbor negative emotions…

Yet, in stewing over what I feel, both good and bad, I notice the sun rising. It was an overcast day, the sky should have been cascading from the night’s darkness into the blue that comforts with its normalcy. Instead, though, the sun peeked between the mountains and the clouds and turned the sky red; the color of both anger and of love.

And I screamed at the sky, “What’s wrong with you? Are you not aware that you’re supposed to be blue? This red unsettles me; you should be turning sky blue?”

Still though, the sun rose and unsettled my mind with its natural response to clouds and sun and mountains: It turned red in spite of what I thought it should do. Did that make it a “bad” sky?

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Not to me it didn’t. To me, it was a marvel how a natural sky could wash this world with such intense color and light. There was no intervention in the display; it was the perfect combination of light and shade and moisture that made the red a shade that’s probably impossible to match with even the finest paints. I felt blessed to live and breathe under that miracle sky.

As the red faded, I returned to the thoughts of the day. The “good” and “bad” thoughts didn’t seem as such anymore. All I could think was that I’m just a person; sometimes I’m positive, sometimes I’m negative. I have feelings, both good and bad, that are probably natural responses to circumstances I face. I feel with intensity; it’s who I am. I can wash a room with strong emotions; I feel as a human being should feel.

Maybe that’s the thing we should all understand: Inside of each of us is a storm of emotions that we sometimes judge and stop ourselves. The thing is, the energy the emotions create doesn’t just go away. We have emotions so that we can come to understand the circumstances we face in this life; sometimes those emotions are positive and sometimes they’re negative, but most of the time, they are a natural and normal response to what we face. We aren’t good or bad people because we feel certain ways; we are all just people trying to make sense of our worlds and telling ourselves that we should or shouldn’t feel any way makes about as much sense as me yelling at the sky.

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What is Energy Psychology?

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In attending a recent Energy Psychology workshop, I can say that I learned enough to reduce any skepticism I had when I entered the classroom. It wasn’t that I didn’t think there was such a thing as a “psychology” of energy, because I’ve always known that humanity is energy living through physical containers. However, my skepticism derives from the cultural hijackings that can come with topics based in Eastern philosophical traditions. The reality is that, while we can all benefit from learning about other traditions, my experiences with those who profess to understand those traditions come off as hokey and, well, weird. But in taking the class through Odyssey Counseling‘s Mary Baca, I can see the power of not only understanding Energy Psychology, but also, in using it.

So, what is Energy Psychology?

According to the course contents, Energy Psychology is a set of mind-body approaches that work within a Mind-Body energy system to treat people holistically. Simply said, energy psychology is a set of tools to guide a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. In hearing the definition I did ask about spirituality, and Mary’s response echoed my own hesitation in using the word, “spirituality.”

“Well,” Mary said. “People tend to get freaked out by the term, ‘spirituality’.”

So, really, the idea behind energy Psychology is that we are all surrounded by energy, both positive and negative and understanding how that energy affects and impacts us is key in learning to heal ourselves. it’s a powerful way to understand and reflect upon the energy systems in our own lives and I was reminded my a tool I learned back in grad school called, “ecomaps.” The purpose of these ecomaps is to map out people and circumstances in our lives that both provide and consume our energy. As Mary spoke I realized that I’d been using energy psychology for many years, just didn’t have the terms and framework. And while we did discuss Chakras, the topic was presented in a very pragmatic way that wasn’t hokey in the least. But I think the biggest technique discussed was something called “muscle testing,” which is a way to use a person’s body to understand their own truth. I can’t say I “get it” enough to write about it, but I do plan on learning more until I can.

How will I use energy Psychology?

Well, the reality is that I have a lot to learn before I can really apply any of the concepts. However, right off the bat I can see how vibrational energy impacts people, especially within the Addiction domain. Addicts tend to be surrounded by negative energy and seek to “clear” that energy using substances. Plus, inside of themselves, their own positive energy is blocked and trapped by the limits that their absorbed negative energy creates. My plan is to learn enough about the tools within Energy Psychology such that I can form a framework of it specific to Addiction and Substance Abuse.

I will take more workshops within this field until I can become certified as a Holistic Practitioner. I strongly recommend anyone (whether a counselor or not) to attend a workshop with Mary Baca (check out the course listings), as she will guide you to a higher order of understanding. If a skeptic like me can turn, then anyone can.

What does it mean to be mentally healthy?

It may sound kind of strange, but I’ve never bought into the idea that mental health is an “either/or” proposition. I don’t think it’s realistic to suggest that mental health is a goal; to do so would assume that someone isn’t “mentally healthy” to begin with. I see mental health as a process; we all fade in and out of a healthy mental state as our lives unfold and we could be floating along, seemingly healthy, when out of the blue life triggers us and then, WHAM, we are shaken and demons rise in our souls and wreck our healthiness.

When we dip down into the well of despair and frustration that can occur when our mental health is challenged, we scratch and claw in attempts to climb back to a place in which we’re comfortable. But here’s the thing: Most of the time, the place to which we’re trying to get no longer exists and we’re left trying to figure out new ways of living what has become a different world. For example, I tend to drive myself nuts attempting to frame a worldview that is just and fair. For the most part, I see a world in which focused effort, study, and patience yield positive outcomes. However, when people achieve positions of responsibility and authority that they never earned, I become consumed in a whirlpool of an unresolvable contradiction to my worldview. Most of the time, I can approach life from a rational perspective, but, when life sucks me into that whirlpool, I become incapable of rationality and become consumed by anger and frustration.

Emotional thinking is devoid of logic; trying to frame an illogical condition from a logical perspective only digs the anger hole deeper. Yet, that’s exactly what I, like so many others, tend to do when confronted with situations in life that don’t mesh with my view of the world. It’s not healthy for me (or for anyone really) to stew in those places of anger and frustration. But, does that mean that I have mental health issues simply because I become angry to the point of irrationality?

Some would say, “Yes, you need to work on your anger issues.” But, really, I’m human and my anger actually serves a purpose: While there are those who climbed to positions through lying and connections to people, there are far more who have earned their lives and have worked on their craft (whatever that is) to the point of expertise. My anger reminds me that I will never be one of those who get to places through connections; once I calm down from my anger, I look at my pen and notebook and remember that I value expertise; though I may never attain expertise at anything, I will never stop working on my craft in a constant effort of improvement. Anger is my fuel that energizes my search for excellence.

So, yes, I can become spun out when life slaps the reality that not all who “succeed” have done so through focused effort in my face. But, I think acknowledging my anger at those situations is the healthiest thing I can do. Even if it takes a few days to recover from an episode, I return to mental equilibrium through my focused pursuit of becoming a strong writer and while there will always be those who talk a good game and never produce a damn thing but empty words, I will never allow myself to be one of them.  And that knowledge makes me quite mentally healthy.

3 Insights that can make a program successful

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I’m pretty sure the universe is telling me something.  Actually, for years, it’s been saying the same thing over and over again: Set the mind in order to be successful.  But, how does someone “set their mind?”  it’s a basic question, and the truth is, there’s no one right answer that works for everyone.  But I do think there are some things to keep in mind when a program is undertaken and when a task must be completed along the program’s path.

I’ve run several half-marathons and when I completed the last one in October, I decided that I would run a full marathon.  My rationale was that I believe that I can push myself to higher levels and running is really a mental exercise.  That is, there is probably more mental preparation than there is physical when training for a marathon. It’s not…

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Vilifying Substances simply doesn’t work…

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It’s all too easy to point to a substance and say, “that’s evil” or “that’s the problem with things in my life.”  I’ve written about heroin and its relationship with actual evil, but although I do think the conditions associated with heroin use coupled with heroin’s physical affect can lead to evil, I don’t think heroin in and of itself is evil.  Really, I don’t think any substance is evil in and of itself; it’s the substance’s use that provides its subjective and contextual meaning.  That is, any given substance isn’t either good or bad, but if someone abuses the substance, then it could lead to unhealthy outcome for that person.

A big problem that I have with the “war on drugs” is that it vilifies substances and criminalizes their use.  However, the war on drugs really hasn’t done much to neutralize substance abuse.  From a treatment perspective, I believe this failure is at least partly due to a misunderstanding of the systemic and layered domain substance abuse presents. There are sociocultural factors, pscyho-emotional factors, physical factors, and spiritual factors all working in concert to create the perfect storm of conditions within which substance abuse develops.  What’s more is that every person is different, which means each case of substance abuse is different.  The substance at the heart of the abuse gets a lot of attention and focus, but focusing on the substance is the absolute biggest mistake in attempting to treat a substance abuse problem.  The myriad factors must all be addressed in order aid in developing recovery; focusing on the substance of abuse is a distraction that can misdirect treatment efforts.

What’s even worse to me is when food is treated as a villain.  Here in Santa Fe, NM an ordinance is being heard in which sugary beverages will be taxed within the city limits with the proceeds from this tax going towards “PreK” programs. While the ordinance goes out of its way to describe the problems that sugary beverages cause and does a little to describe why PreK programs are necessary, it does absolutely nothing to describe the relationship between poverty and sugar consumption nor does it describe the nature of the benefiting PreK programs.  Really, what this ordinance amounts to is an attempt to build a political career through touting the benefits of PreK education.  While I agree with PreK programming, I don’t think it should result from substance vilification.

We have to stop pointing fingers at substances, whether the substance is marijuana, opiates, or Coca-Cola, and start looking a building a more socially just world in which we all share the load, equally.  Part of Social Justice is recognizing that people have the capability of living through the best within themselves, if only they have the opportunity.  We all have to take responsibility for all of the relationships in our lives, including relationships with substances.  But as long as government officials think they know what’s best for the governed, the governed will never develop that sense of responsibility needed to form healthy relationships.  The Sugary Beverage ordinance is nothing more than a moralizing wolf dressed in PreK sheep’s wool that does nothing more than vilify yet another substance.

There’s no such thing as an addictive personality!!!

The reality is that there is no such thing as an “addictive personality.”  This idea emerges a lot when someone seemingly “transfers” one addiction for another.  For example, I know a man who struggled with a 20-year addiction to alcohol, gave it up, but then became addicted to gambling.  Many pop psychologists would say that this man “transferred” his addiction from alcohol to gambling, but I think that’s about as simplistic idea as there is.

Addiction, in my opinion, is an anxiety disorder that is often accompanied with physical dependence.  Any type of addiction serves a purpose; to think otherwise is to miss out on obtaining information that can be useful within treatment.  Further, realizing that anxiety, shame, and compulsion are all interrelated within an addiction provides insight that can also prove useful.  In the case of the man who became a gambling addict after dealing with alcohol addiction, I suspect that he believed that he needed some external way to cope when his feelings of anxiety overwhelmed him.  Alcohol probably served that purpose, but when he no longer drank he found some relief within gambling.  But the same anxiety, shame, compulsion cycle emerged and he then developed a gambling addiction.

The real issue isn’t an “addictive personality,” but a deep-rooted imbalance.  In my experience, most people who end up addicted to something do so out of a belief on some level that they aren’t “good enough” for something and need something external to squash the inner voices that bind them to those feelings of inadequacy.  They don’t have an addictive personality, but do have erroneous filters that they apply that reinforce whatever limits they believe they have.  Plus, if there’s a history of trauma involved, then those feelings of shame and inadequacy are only deepened and the circumstances in which addiction develops thrive.

I don’t care, really, what people call Addiction.  But to oversimplify it is to miss important information that can be used to guide someone towards health.  Pop psychologists should simply shut their mouths and try to learn rather than perpetuate stupid ideas like an “addictive personality.”

Flowers are great metaphors for a Recovery Consciousness

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Flowers are stunning creatures.  They start out in this world as tiny and as nondescript as any other brown little dot.  Yet, with proper soil and nourishment, they grow and bloom with delicacy, strength, and beauty.  If. however, the soil in which the seed is planted is poisoned or choked, then the seed may yield a stunted plant, but it’ll never develop into the sun-basking, nectar-producing creature it was intended to become.

Recovery should be like the flower.  From a small seed of desire for health, a person can develop into the spiritually connected creature we’re all intended to become.  A very smart anonymous person said, “Strength is defined not by what you can resist, but by how much you can expand” and although I have no idea who said it, I agree with those words wholeheartedly; especially as it pertains to recovery from an Addiction.  See,  we are all intended to become something that allows expression of our spiritual nature; however, Addiction chokes and poisons a soul such that the person never really becomes.  When someone enters recovery, too, if he or she isn’t spiritually nourished, he or she will succumb to the temptation of relapse.

But recovery is not about resisting drugs or alcohol. It is, however, about expanding a soul that was choked into a singular point of focus.  As is the case with every living thing, expanding a soul through love without restricting that soul through fear, allows a person to connect with the entire spectrum of life.  Through those connections, people learn to use their inner senses and in learning to use their inner senses, people learn to what they are intended to become.

So, just like flowers need to expand from a drab little seed, people too need to expand into their true reality.  Flowers remind of that need to expand — I seek to like in pursuit of all that is good and strong and beautiful.  In doing so, I have no need to limit myself because what’s evil has no place in an expanded soul….

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2 types of problems and how each works

I was talking with a colleague the other day about a proposal we were working on. There were challenges with what we were suggesting and I, as usual, was nitpicking about the details and issues our direction may cause. He shook his head and said, “Look, these are problems of opportunity. We are in a good place with this gig; it’s just a matter of working through these things. Once we do, we will be sitting pretty…”

His words resonated. In reflecting on what he said, I realized that although there are several different types of problems, they can be classified into at least two (2) categories: 1) Problems of opportunity; and, 2) Problems of survival. Each category of problem has its own characteristics and each has its emotional approaches.

Problems of opportunity are those problems that, once solved, allow for growth and other positive outcomes. For example, if I could figure out how to create a certain interface with a Medicaid system, the system that I am designing will be ready to market in several different states, as each state has a need to interface with Medicaid. The reality is that, since we have a working system in place, and I have the capability with which I can design a system, the problem the interface presents is one of opportunity because in solving it, our system will be far more marketable.

Problems of survival, however, aren’t about growth; they are problems that need solving just to stay alive. For example, if a person needs to pay three (3) bills, but only has money to pay one, that person has a problem that he or she needs to solve just to be ok. There isn’t really any growth involved and there isn’t really any positive outcomes in solving (other than alleviating the stress owing money). That is, problems of survival are about simply maintaining status quo.

The trick is in recognizing which is which and what it takes in order to solve them. Problems of opportunity can be stressful, but it’s a stress that may even be “good.” There’s a return on the emotional and intellectual capital needed to solve them. In solving problems of survival, there’s little return on the time and energy needed to solve them, as things just stay the same and don’t get worse.

I’m glad my colleague educated me, even if he didn’t know he did. I’ve gained another tool that I can use to impact my world in a more positive way….

Why deadlines are usually stupid

Missing deadlines suck. However, I’ve never actually turned into a pumpkin when I’ve missed a deadline of any kind. Sure, I might get yelled at or feel badly about letting someone down. But usually, nothing worse ever happens. I say, “usually” because there are times when deadlines really do mean something — there’s a reason for the deadline and missing that deadline has defined and adverse consequences.
Most of the time, deadlines are date-driven. They are established through a calendar review and a “pin-the-tail-on-donkey” approach. Regardless of the domain in which the deadline is set, there’s usually no real rhyme or reason to a particular date being set as a deadline for something; it just usually “seems” like enough time for a particular action to be completed. Needless to say, I find that method of date-driven deadline setting to be stupid and, worse, arbitrary.
Deadlines should matter. The should be based upon a clear deliverable and an understanding if the roles and skills are available to satisfy the deliverable. If the roles and skills exist, then there should be some data available about the level of effort needed; that is, what are the tasks associated in meeting the deliverable and how long do those tasks take? Once all that data is collected, then and only then can a deadline be established. But, deadlines should have some impact, usually in the form of some adverse consequence for missing the deadline.
For example, when I work for someone, I do so with clear deliverables and deadlines to complete those deliverables. If I miss any deadline, the consequence is simple: I don’t get paid. It’s that simple; If I don’t meet the deliverable then I don’t get paid whatever the agreed price was for that deliverable. While things come up and there’s usually some allowance for slippage, the deadlines with which I typically agree are based upon my skills and knowledge about how long I take to accomplish associated tasks. I don’t put myself in a position to fail because I’m familiar with my capabilities and limitations.
When people/agencies just throw deadlines to a wall and hope they stick, they are creating a clear path of failure. So, the next time you agree to meet a deadline, ask yourself, “Is this deadline realistic based upon skills and history or is it stupid?” If it’s a stupid deadline, run like someone is trying to shoot you because in a very real way, you are being set up to fail.

NO magic bullets to fight addiction

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I’m going to be on a Santa Fe radio station on Tuesday the 5th.  The host will ask me a bunch of questions regarding my book, 49 Tips and Insights for Understanding Addiction, and I will provide him with answers.  The main question, if I’m predicting correctly, will be: Why should people bother with your book?

The truth is that I believe EVERYONE can benefit from the book, provided they read it mindfully and actually answer the exercises.  It’s not easy; for whatever reason, people hate to read and write.  Unless they want to jack-off with Facebook, people really don’t LIKE to write.  Especially if writing means learning something about themselves: people will stay the hell away from writing as though it’s the plague.

Bookwerks in Albuquerque didn’t want to host me for a reading because they didn’t think anyone would be interested.  Sadly, I think they’re right — people DON’T want to learn about addiction and recovery, they want someone to FIX their addiction problems with no effort on their own.  Newsflash: THERE ARE NO EASY WAYS OUT OF ADDICTION.  Really, there are no easy roads towards anything of value.  There’s ALWAYS work involved.

So, I do hope people tune in; I’ll have more details as they emerge.  In the meantime, I do hope people struggling with Addiction try to learn about it and at least try to recognize that there are solutions, they just have to be found….