In twelve-step recovery circles the phrase “terminal uniqueness” is applied as a warning to everyone trying to get sober.  But, even if you aren’t in a recovery program, you’ve probably felt terminally unique around certain challenges. The term refers to a belief that your pain is so special or different from everyone else’s, there must be a serious character defect in you that no one else has.  The internal voice of terminal uniqueness sounds something like this:  “I’m the only one that struggles like this.”  “I must be really messed up since everyone else can get sobriety but I can’t.”  “No one can really see how much pain I’m in.”  “No one else can understand how terrible my childhood was.”  Terminal uniqueness can also afflict the well to do.  The voice morphs into a different set of attacks:  “I got everything I wanted and I still hate myself.   I must just be a broken, a total loser.”  “I got the house, the car, the kids,  and the husband - and I’m still depressed. I should just kill myself.”   “I thought being rich would make me happy, but I think I was happier in my one bedroom apartment.  It’s hopeless, there’s just something wrong with me.”  

We call it terminal uniqueness because if you follow its story that you are some kind of alien species that is so messed up no one can understand you, the only “solution” the story leads you to is suicide. If not suicide, the solution will at least be a kind of psychological cut off, an isolation that results in a lifetime of slow, confused misery, hiding, and pretending to be ok.  In this case terminal uniqueness does not necessarily kill you physically, but it kills the joy out of your life.  You live, “a quiet life of desperation.” 

You are not terminally unique.  It is actually egotistical to believe your problems are that special.  Your problems are not superior to everyone else’s. You aren’t floating above Earth in a spaceship full of manure wishing you could touch ground.  On a planet of seven billion and counting, there are millions who have experienced some version of the kind of pain you’ve gone through in your life.   They’ve gone through, addiction, physical handicaps, child abuse, depression, poverty, divorce, the loss of a partner - parent - or child, business failure, lost love, broken heartedness, prison time, unrequited love, abandonment, betrayal, financial abuse, suicidal ideation, a drug addicted relative, disease, physical abuse -  if you can name a challenge in your life, many have already gone through it or are currently going through it.

Terminal uniqueness is the mother ship of the internal victim. It is the story in your mind that continues to recycle about what a failure you are as a human being.  Its goal is the destruction of peace, love, creativity, success, and even physical survival.  Its voice is a lie.  You belong to the human race, and if you look around even a little you will find companions who can look you in the face and say, “I know what you’re talking about, I’ve been there.”  

So where should you look?  Well, we are in the age of Google.  It’s pretty easy.  Just do a search for your issue and you’ll find a group that corresponds.  Have an alcohol issue? Alcoholics Anonymous  is for you - https://www.aa.org/.  In debt?  Debtors Anonymous is your group - https://debtorsanonymous.org/.   Having a midlife crisis as a man?  Try Mankind Project - https://mankindproject.org/.   Midlife problem as a woman?  Try  a Her Weekend -  https://herweekend.com/.  Part of the LGBT community?  Google the LGBT center near you -  https://lalgbtcenter.org/.  Bisexual? Try Ambi - http://www.ambi.org/ Sexual abuse survivor?  Look up Stop It Now -  https://www.stopitnow.org Have a drug abuse issue? Narcotics Anonymous is there for you -  http://greaterlosangelesna.org/ Looking at too much porn or hooking up with strangers?  Check out Sex Addicts Anonymous - https://saa-recovery.org/

Or, just join a support group lead by a qualified therapist.  The list of recovery groups, support groups, and help available today is endless.  If you are not availing yourself to the help you need you may be listening to the voice of terminal uniqueness that says, “No one can help me.  I’m hopeless.  My problem is too unusual. I’m unique. Stay home, don’t even try.”  Don’t listen to its lies! You are valuable, you are needed. Take a stand, reach out, YOU ARE NOT TERMINALLY UNIQUE.  

Click below to see Mary C. Von Olen’s take on Terminal Uniqueness:


Most of us want to give up on something we hold deeply important. We’ve tried to “follow our dreams” and have fallen short one too many times.  We want to turn to a boring but safe job.  We tried to get sober for the tenth time and have given in again to the voice that says, “You’re never gonna get it, go get a fifth of vodka.”  We have tried to get the weight off but keep finding ourselves eating at midnight.  We have tried to write the book, the song, the play - but can’t get past our “writers block.”   Someone is on their second divorce and has decided Netflix and beer are a better alternative than trying to be with someone again.  We could have tried to invest but kept losing money so we became tight fisted and small with our dollars.   I once talked to a man at a garage sale about how I was learning to meditate.  He smiled and said, “Yeah, I used to meditate. I like TV now.”    Then there’s suicide -  the ultimate giving up.

A voice in our head rings with some version of the same refrain in these situations - “Give up, you’re damaged: not good enough, not smart enough, not good looking enough, not educated enough, not loved enough . . . .  It’s not worth it anymore.”  

In our right mind we know giving up is playing small but that voice can be pretty convincing when we are down for the count.   It’s not nearly as romantic to overcome self-doubt as it  looks in the movies - it can be down right grueling.    When we give up we are listening to a false, conditioned voice that pretends to be us, that pretends to know what it’s talking about, but that is actually a self-destructive voice we must all contend with in some area of our lives.   Where did this voice come from?  In psychology we talk about the conditioned, shadow voice as a result of childhood trauma, in the Bhagavad Gita its taught that we are all fighting a great internal battle,  Christians say “the devil made me do it,”  in Judaism its the Yetzer Hara, for some its simply “the ego.”  However we want to view this voice of self- doubt we have to contend with it.  No one gets through Earth school without it.  

How to contend with the voice has many faces.  We might just need someone to look us in the eyes and say, “I know how you feel, I feel the same way.”  We might need someone to say, “You’re great.  You can do it. I’ll hold your hand until you get there.”  Anger can sometimes be helpful as a counter to the desire to give up.  “I won’t live like this anymore!,” can take someone a long way.   Medication can be in order if someone is on the precipice of doing harm to themselves.  We might need to leverage the voice utilizing techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique, Self-Compassion, Inner Child work, or Mindfulness.

When an author gets stuck and the voice of giving up is chanting, “This is the worse piece of crap anyone has ever written, you should just shelf it,”  she can use the method of, “doing a pass.”  That is,  she can answer the voice with, “I’m just doing a pass on this book.  This is far from the finished product, it's supposed to be bad in the beginning.  I’ll do a lot of passes on it before its done.” Her answer to the voice of doubt can relieve her of the idea that the book needs to be perfect out of the gate - and thus give her the creative bandwidth to get on with it. Movie scripts can famously have twenty or thirty passes done on them before they  are ready to shoot.

 What if you were to use this method of giving it a pass when you were wanting to give up?  “I did my first pass at sobriety, I have to do another one, and another until it sticks.”  “I did my first pass at running a business.  I  might have to do a few more passes before one succeeds.”   “I did my first pass on this song, it needs a lot more passes before it’s ready to record.”  “I did my first pass at investing. I have more passes to go before an investment pays off.”  Even, “I did my first pass at marriage, I’m ready for another one.”   

If you’re really stuck and ready to give up, try saying to yourself, “I’m just doing a pass at this. I have all the passes I need to get it right.”  

Click the picture below to see Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush give us some encouragement with their song, Don’t Give Up.  (Elton John credits this song with helping him get through sobriety from drugs and alcohol.  He had to do many passes at sobriety before he got clean.) 


Maximillian, an expert archer, was touring the country side putting on stunning exhibitions.  Crowds formed wherever he went.  They watched him split an apple in midair, hit a target blindfolded, he stood on his hands and shot the bow with his feet, Maximillian sent flaming arrows through a spinning hoop.  The crowds applauded with wild enthusiasm showering him with coins.  At a small town outside London the archer was once again in perfect display of his talents.  He was startled when, from the crowd he kept hearing someone whisper,  “It’s just practice.”  Each time he achieved his stunning feats the voice murmured,  “It’s just practice.”  

Later, as he walked through the village he passed an oil salesman.  The salesman looked familiar.  Maximillian confronted him,  “Excuse me, were you the man who was ridiculing my archery show today with chants of, “It’s just practice?”  The oil salesman smiled sheepishly.  “Yes, I admit, that was me.”   Maximillian reared back.  “Don’t you know how amazing the skills are I have and how long it took to achieve them?  No one can do what I can do.  How can you deride me like that?”  The oil salesman nodded and reached down,  “I’ll show you.”  He produced a coin with a tiny hole in it. “Hold this low to the ground.”  Maximillian shrugged and held the coin two inches from the dirt. The oil salesman took out a large pot of oil and poured it from five feet above the coin.  The oil streamed perfectly through the coin’s hole without a drop touching the metal.  The salesman stopped the stream of oil, and held out the pot. “Now you do it.”  Maximillian stood perplexed. The salesman smiled.  “You see, you can’t do it.  You haven’t practiced.  I’ve been practicing it for years.   All you have done is practice some tricks and performed them.  All of life is just practice.  Some people are practicing archery, some practice making money, some are practicing laziness, others practice depression with repeated depressive thoughts, some are practicing their addictions by committing to drinking or sex or drugs, some are practicing joy by joyful thoughts and generosity, some practice giving up, some practice painting, others practice getting fat by eating over their feelings, some practice poverty, and others practice perfecting their bodies with work out routines and diet.  Life is very simple my friend, it’s all just practice. Once you know what you are practicing you have the choice to continue and master it, or change your practice.” 

Have you considered what you are practicing?  Serious meditators say they have a “meditation practice.”   Athletes say their success is based on going to “practice.”  The Beatles famously practiced ten thousand hours of playing music in strip clubs before breaking through to the main stream.   Authors Steven Pressfield and James Patterson have a writing practice every day.  Stevie Wonder sits down at the piano every morning and practices.   

When we come into therapy we’ve usually been conditioned from early experiences to practice things like self-hatred, hopelessness, helplessness, procrastination, blaming, victimization, we practice addictions, laziness, codependency, violence, jealousy, avoidance, obsession, the list goes on.   

What if we realized all of our pain was coming from past conditioning and practicing the wrong things?  What if we decided to adopt new practices in a very straightforward, simple manner?  What if we stopped over complicating our lives with endless analysis?  What if our lives were mostly just cause and effect?  We can practice self-loving thoughts in place of self-criticism, we can have a work out practice, we can spend time practicing our art instead of practicing watching TV, we can  practice generosity, practice prosperity thinking and investing, practice action instead of passivity, practice directness in place of people pleasing, practice sobriety in place of addiction, etc.

Old practices can die hard.  There has been a lot of conditioning going on in our brains through self-destructive practices.  We may need the leverage of a professional to change.  With a therapist we can make new commitments, be held accountable until we can hold ourselves accountable, challenge our belief systems, and develop healthy practices.

What’s required is self-responsibility, a willingness to look at what we’ve been practicing, and a commitment to practice those things that work.   Remember, every day you are practicing something.  What's your practice?  

Click below to see the king of practice, Michael Jordan, gives us a lesson:


Words are vibrations of consciousness. They are not “just words,”  they are energy patterns in motion and have the power to heal and destroy.  A word of encouragement can uplift a broken heart, give someone the strength to go on, even save a life at a key moment.  Verbal assaults can deeply wound a person’s belief about themselves, leave a scar of self-doubt, limit someone’s willingness to risk.  Bullying has even lead to suicide in many cases.  In the recklessness of the current generation words designed to malign and destroy have become commonplace.   We are sometimes “fish in water” - where it can seem normal to be vicious.  Sometimes people will argue, “I”m just being honest,” when they go on the attack - spewing assaults in an effort to be “honest.”

True story:  Sister Mary Sullivan taught elementary school kids.  When asked about teaching her eyes go misty.  “Even with so many bright shining faces in my class Mark Clemons stood out.  He was a beam of light; hard working, encouraging of other kids, and always had a kind word.  The only trouble I ever had with him was his constant talking during class, but even then he would throw me.  Each time I told him to stop talking he would reply with, “Thank you for correcting me sister.”   It  was such a courteous reply to my scoldings I would fall silent.  Still, one day I had had it.  Mark was once more muttering to a school mate during my lesson.  “Mark,”  I said sternly.  “If I hear you talk one more time while I’m teaching I’m going to tape your mouth shut!”  Ten minutes later another student shouted, “Mark is talking again sister!”  Having called him out in the class I had to make good on my threat.  I marched to my desk, got the masking tape, went over to Mark, and put a big “X” of tape over his mouth.  Going to my desk and already feeling guilty to shut down such a sweet kid, I turned back to see how he was doing.  Mark smiled and winked at me.  I burst out laughing - as did the whole class. In defeat, I went back and pulled the tape off of his mouth.”  

“Six years later I had Mark again for Algebra.  He was just as handsome and well tempered as ever. He was struggling in class though.  In fact, the whole class seemed to be sliding down hill.  Students were not performing and discord among them was common place.  Remembering Mark’s sweetness as a child I told the class to take out a piece of paper, list all of their classmates names, and write down the kindest thing they could say of about each one.  The class left their lists with me. I brought them home and compiled each person’s list of kind character traits that had been observed by others.  “He is the smartest one in the class.”  “She is always willing to help me. I couldn’t get through class without her.”  “He has quiet strength.”  “She is a queen.”  “He has the kindest eyes,” and so on.  I distributed the lists the next day.  They were in dismay.  “I never knew anyone thought that about me.”  “Did someone really say I was smart?”  “I never thought I was good enough in class.  Is that what they really think of me?”  “I always thought no one liked me. Wow.” “

“Ten years later I was visiting home.  My parents picked me up at the airport. On the way home my dad cleared his throat.  “Umm, Mary, I have to tell you something.  Do you remember your student Mark Clemons?”  “Oh, yes, did he call you?” I asked eagerly.  “Well, no.  His parents called me.  I’m sorry to tell you, Mark was killed in Vietnam.  The funeral is next week.  It would mean a lot to them if you went.”  I fell into  a numb grief.” 

She goes on, “The funeral was full of sobbing, many of Mark’s classmates showed up.  After the funeral Mark’s brother pulled me aside and said, I think you might know what this is. It was found on Mark when he died in combat.  Mark’s brother handed me a folded piece of paper, the one I had written all the beautiful qualities Mark’s classmates had seen in him.  I collapsed into tears. Mark’s classmate’s gasped at the site of the paper.  John, said, “Oh my God.  I have mine in the top drawer of my desk at home.  Dave said, “My wife put mine in our wedding album.”  Sue, a third classmate slowly pulled a piece of paper out of her purse. “I always have mine on me.””

Whether it’s affirmations, monitoring self-talk (inner child. work), learning to mirror others, using “I” statements, holding others as equals in conflict, giving up being “right”, or risking telling others we love them, being a conscious human being with our words takes work. 

What words are you sharing with others?  Can you hold yourself when your tongue wants to lash out?  Can your need to confront someone be tempered in a way that the other person can hear you?  Can you risk being more giving, blessing the person in front of you with your words?  

Click on the picture below to see Mohammed (which means praised or praiseworthy) Qahtani talk about The Power of Words: 


Social psychologist Amy Cuddy made her mark at the TED TALKS when she delivered an impassioned speech on how body language affects who we are and how our lives unfold.   It isn’t just about how others respond to our body language, it’s how body language affects our hormonal levels, brain function, presence in life, and overall success.

Body language power poses are reflected both in the animal kingdom and in humans. When animals and people feel powerful their body language is expansive, open and upright.  When both species exhibit weakness they make their bodies small:  cower, close off, and hide their body.  For instance, when a cobra is in protection mode it rears up, flares its hood and hisses.  When an ape wants to exhibit dominance it stands up, throws its shoulders back, and maybe even beats its chest (yes, think King Kong). A submissive ape will cower and cover their head.  Other submissive animals might lay on their back and expose their stomachs to their dominant rival. 

When an athlete is successful they will universally expand themselves, open their arms, stand upright, smile. When a leader gives an effective speech she is upright, commanding, direct.  People who embody powerful body language feel more powerful, think more optimistically, and are willing to take risks. People who habitually demonstrate submissive or weak body language reflect weak views of themselves and their ability to achieve in life. 

Further, we tend to compliment each other.  If one person is demonstrating expansive body language, the person they are talking to will tend to reflect a smaller, more submissive one - and vice versa.  

Cuddy states that even our biochemical makeup changes with body language.  People who habitaully stand in powerful body language have higher testosterone levels (the “power” hormone) and lower cortisol levels (the “fear” based hormone).  When we cower our cortisol levels spike up and our testosterone levels lower. 

Cuddy goes on to say we can “fake it till we become it”, meaning, if you are habitually holding yourself in submissive body language, you can force yourself to stand in power positions before stressful situations such as job interviews or speeches.  These small “tweaks” on your body can help your testosterone levels rise, your cortisol levels drop, your brain change, your presence in a room enlarge, and your performance dramatically improve.   Stand up, don’t be afraid to fake it till you become the powerful person you are meant to be.  We need you to be the power house you are, and give others the permission to be the power house they are

Click in the picture below to see  Amy Cuddy give her TED TALK: 


Below is part of an interview with Paul McCartney on how he wrote the iconic song, Let It Be.  

“I was going through a really difficult time around the autumn of 1968. It was late in the Beatles’ career and we had begun making a new album, a follow-up to the “White Album.” As a group we were starting to have problems. I think I was sensing the Beatles were breaking up, so I was staying up late at night, drinking, doing drugs, clubbing, the way a lot of people were at the time. I was really living and playing hard....I was exhausted! Some nights I’d go to bed and my head would just flop on the pillow; and when I’d wake up I’d have difficulty pulling it off, thinking, “Good job I woke up just then or I might have suffocated.”

Then one night, somewhere between deep sleep and insomnia, I had the most comforting dream about my mother, who died when I was only 14....my mother appeared, and there was her face, completely clear, particularly her eyes, and she said to me very gently, very reassuringly: “Let it be.”

It was lovely. I woke up with a great feeling. It was really like she had visited me at this very difficult point in my life and gave me this message: Be gentle, don’t fight things, just try and go with the flow and it will all work out.

So, being a musician, I went right over to the piano and started writing a song: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me”… Mary was my mother’s name… “Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” There will be an answer, let it be.” It didn’t take long. I wrote the main body of it in one go, and then the subsequent verses developed from there: “When all the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be....

So those words are really very special to me, because not only did my mum come to me in a dream and reassure me with them at a very difficult time in my life – and sure enough, things did get better after that – but also, in putting them into a song, and recording it with the Beatles, it became a comforting, healing statement for other people too.”

– Paul McCartney

When we fight with circumstances in life we create turmoil:  a widower drinks himself into a car accident after his wife dies. The alcohol is the agent of resistance to death--which creates more turmoil than the death itself.  If this man could have let his wife’s  death be grieved and accepted he could move on with his life.  

Multitudes have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge after years of depression.  Depression is the resistance to feeling angry and isolated.  Suicide is the ultimate rejection of the pain of depression.  If a suicidal person can access the ability to feel their rage, and experience “unconditional positive regard” from another (this can require a therapist), they can find their way through the emotional turmoil.  If they can just let their pain be felt, they can come to a place of acceptance and peace. 

The most healthy minded people have an objective, compassionate view of their challenges. One friend, whose house was foreclosed on said, “I thought of it as a bad investment. I’ll buy again after my credit rebounds.”  When another friend’s factory ceiling collapsed he said, “Its a pain, but it’s the cost of doing business.  Insurance will cover it.”  A man diagnosed with cancer shrugged, “Its just another thing to deal with.”   That is, they all let their problems be.  The foreclosed on friend did buy again, the factory was restored and went on to be even more successful, the man with cancer survived many more years.  Letting things be doesn’t guarantee things will work out in the way we want, it just gives them a much better chance of working out, and removes the undue psychological suffering of fighting the river of what is.  The Beatles did break up, but Paul put himself in a place of peace during the breakup, and if you didn’t notice, he came out ok.  

If you’re going through some difficulty click below to get some healing from him:


“When some people come in everyone lights up-- and when some people go out everyone lights up.”

Paramahansa Yogananda


Getting has become a national obsession.  How do I get the house, the car, the spouse, the money?  How do I get what I want out of this meeting, this deal, this marriage?  How do I get people to like me, love me, respect me?  This obsessive consciousness of getting revolves around a very small, insecure sense of self.   Sometimes this agenda of getting is subtle. Whenever you hear yourself say to someone, “How can you do that, after all I’ve done for?”   — you know what you’ve “done” or “given” has had some serious getting strings attached. 

We are not saying that knowing what we want from life is wrong, but rather, how do we approach life?

Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer in history, having won 23 Olympic medals, revealed that after every Olympics he sank into a deep depression. "I didn't want to be in the sport anymore," he said. "I didn't want to be alive."  "You do contemplate suicide."  How can the man who got everything he wanted and strived for feel so utterly hopeless?  In addition to his medals, Phelps was regularly fielding multi-million dollar endorsement deals.  The star swimmer reports that his depression lifted when he did therapy and started offering stress management courses. Phelps goes on to say, his ability to help those struggling has been "way more powerful" than any of his athletic achievements. "Those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than winning the Olympic gold medal.”  Huh?  What about getting what you want? 

When we are in the consciousness of true giving, we are seeing others as fellow travelers in a storm, helping each other navigate.  The consciousness of giving from an unattached heart can not only result in getting what we want, it can heal our emotional pain that thrives on isolation, fear, and trying to “get.”  

This is demonstrated in the archetypal story of King Arthur.  A kingdom was to be given to the man strong enough to pull out a sword embedded in rock.  Knights from far and wide flocked to the rock and struggled to withdraw the sword.  Each gave up in defeat.  At the time Arthur was a page to a knight he was totally committed to in heart and mind.  The knight became involved in a sword fight to the death.  When the knight’s sword broke in half, Arthur ran to the rock and easily withdrew the sword so he could carry it back to the struggling knight.  His concern for giving to another had both saved the knight and given Arthur the kingdom.

When someone walks through the door with an agenda to get from others it can be felt in our bones.  We are on edge, wary, needing to guard our flank.  A friend of mine once said, “I gave up on being close to Harry when he called to get money out of me for his political campaign.  When I explained that I was paying off hospital bills he gave me sympathy and then came back at me again for a donation. I realized that every time he called me he was always trying to get something.”  

When a giver walks in we relax, cozy up, we want to be near them.  When Mother Theresa (now Saint Mother Theresa) went into the streets of Calcutta, she went alone.  Her only agenda was to give and serve.  By the end of her life she couldn’t go into public without being mobbed by admirers.  When my mother, who was a giver, was dying, she would move around the house slowly.  Like a human wave, we would move with her.  You just wanted to be near mom.  

At a recent spirituality conference there was a table of self help books.  One book, How To Change Other People, was selling out fast.  When asked about the book sales the seller joked, “I hope we don’t get a lot of returns.  The book is about changing others by changing yourself. Its about learning to love and give to others.” 

Click below to hear Deepak Chopra describe Abundance and the Law of Giving 

“Today and Everyday I Give that which I want to Receive.”  




Complaining and processing are two different animals.  When we are in need of processing difficult issues, getting psychological help to move through the labyrinth of confusion is a no brainer these days.  We need help to get outside our neurotic minds and get the acceptance, compassion, and insight needed to move forward.  Therapy can be a great source of help in navigating through painful problems.   Processing is working through the problem.  It is always apparent to me when someone wants to process.  The ear marks of this kind of person are:  being open to suggestion, curious about solutions, follow through on recommendations for change,  and an ability to take full responsibility for the problem.  

Complaining is something else.  Complaining is actually an unconscious attempt to stay stuck in the problem.  When we complain we are coming from a victim sub-personality that is just loving the complaints.  This victim personality wants to stay a victim, grow itself, and outsize any problem we encounter.  When we complain the reasoning is circular, often full of double binds,  and blames others—the neighbor, the lover, the parent, the government . . . even God.  Complaining is often constructed to convince a therapist that there is no way out of the problem— it just is what it is, and its really, really terrible.  The complaining person can insist they are  trying to work out a problem while they fight any suggestions for change, lack curiosity about how the problem came about, have poor follow through on recommendations to heal, and have a clear absence of responsibility about the problem in front of them.   

In Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Travelled, he opens with a now famous quote about the differences between processing and complaining:

"Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and that has somehow been especially visited upon them, or else upon their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others. I know about this moaning because I have done my share. Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Do we want to teach our children to solve them?”

Indulging complaining can be truly toxic.  The person who is a habitual complainer may feel better after “venting”, but  they will eventually drive others away, suffer loneliness, experience chronic depression and anxiety, and have a tough time achieving goals.  In addition, research shows that complaining neural pathways actually establish in a person’s brain over time that shapes their life perception—seeing life from an unfair, victimized standpoint.  Complaining can decrease the size of the hippocampus in the brain — the part responsible for consolidation of information and problem solving.  Continual complaining increases cortisol levels —- the hormone responsible for activating a flight or attack response.  Ongoing heightened cortisol levels can result in high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and impaired immunity.  

I was once with a group of people at a restaurant.  Mary had her child Timmy with her.  Timmy would literally hang on his mother, whine, complain, and collapse to the floor crying until she gave him candy— which Mary invariably did.  Timmy was learning a cruel lesson.  He was being trained to complain to get what he wants from life. When he reaches adulthood he will be faced with the cold reality that the world does not respond as kindly to complaining as his mother does. A friend of ours, Pamela, who is herself a very good mother, witnessed the tantrum repeatedly at dinner until she couldn’t take it anymore.  Pamela finally pulled Timmy up from the floor and said, “Stop it Timmy.  Stand up.  You’re not getting any more candy today.”   Timmy, shocked at the rebuke, stopped crying and clung to his mother, shooting a fearful glance at Pamela. The rest of the table smiled at Pamela.

Author Carolyn Myss calls chronic complaining “woundology”.  That is, she argues that we can get so identified with our wounds that we learn a language of  bonding with  each other through talking about unresolved trauma and commiserating on the unlikelihood that we’ll ever fully recover. She says to break this toxic pattern we need courage— we need to be able to talk about our painful issues three times, then have the courage to stop talking about it.  (She is not talking about severe trauma such as the death of a loved one).   

We not only have to be aware of our external complaining but how we might be habitually looking at the world through a bitter lens in our internal world. “I never have enough money.”  “I’ll always be alone.”  “Why does this always happen to me?”  “Why does God make me suffer so?”  “I’m so tired.”  “I just want life to end, it would be such a relief.”   Can we have the courage to stop complaining outwardly or inwardly,  start taking responsibility, and move forward?  Focusing on gratitude and taking contrary action to the complaining mind are great remedies to the negative effects of complaining.  “I’ll always be alone” can be met with, “I’m grateful I have friends.  Joe is my friend.  I can date.  I’m going to call Anne for a date.”  “I’m always broke” can be countered with, “I’m grateful I have this place to live.  I have everything I need.  I'm going to start looking for new job.”  We need to be vigilant about complaining--even get accountability partners.  I have a friend who went on vacation with a few women—each of whom had troubled children.  Normally they would spend much of their vacation together anguishing over family woes.  My friend said, “Let’s talk about the kids for an hour and then agree we won’t talk about them again.  They all agreed, did just that, and they had one of the best vacations they had ever experienced together. 

Click below to see how the brain gets impacted by complaining: 


Feeling lost or numb to life is a common syndrome these days.  “What should I do with my life?” “Why do I still feel so lost?”  “What will fix me?”—  Marriage?  Money?  Sex?  Cocaine?   Having kids?  A house?  Power?  A car? Another vacation?  A job?  A new relationship? More money?  Another house?  Another car?  

In the movie My Dinner With Andre, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory do two things in the movie—eat dinner and talk.  This simple movie captured a massive, wildly enthusiastic audience.   It did this by offering a deep dive into the problem of living in modern society and an exploration of how to stay alive in it.  The men pull apart the value of breaking routines, opening the heart to other humans, and paying attention to the trances we are living in.  They explore what it means to not miss each other— to bear witness to each other’s experience and struggles.  How do we stop checking out, going into trance, and attacking each other? 

They also recognize their uncomfortableness with stillness, quiet, and lack of stimulation:  

Wallace: “Personally, I don’t like those quiet moments.”  

Andre:  “That makes you uncomfortable?”

Wallace:  “Well yes, why shouldn’t it?”

Andre:  “…that’s  interesting. You know when I was in Tibet people would gather for tea at night. We would sit and drink tea. If somebody had something to say they would, but mostly no one did, so we would just sit together.”  

How can we be connected if we are always looking for stimulation from food, sex, the internet, infotainment, shopping, etc.?  Can we stop our frantic need for distraction, get honest, and stop pretending to be ok if we are living in perpetual anxiety? 

The men explore the addiction to comfort, electric blankets, chicken, and numbing out:  

Andre:  “My mother knew a woman named Lady Hatfield who died of starvation because all she would eat is chicken.  She just liked chicken, but actually her body was starving but she didn’t know it because she was quite happy eating her chicken, and so, she finally died.  See, I think we’re all sort of like Lady Hatfield.  We’re having a lovely time with our chicken and our electric blankets, but we’re so cut off from reality we’re not getting any real sustenance.  We don’t see the world.  We don’t see ourselves. We don’t see how our actions affect other people.”    

Wallace:  “… are we all just bored, spoiled children who’ve just been lying in the bathtub all day playing with our plastic duck saying, well what can I do?”

Andre:  “Ok, yes, we’re bored . . . but has it ever occurred to you that this boredom might be a self-perpetuating unconscious form of brain washing created by a world totalitarian government based on money, and that is is more dangerous than we think . . . that someone who is bored is asleep, and someone who is asleep will not say no?” 

The movie is a wake up call and a relief.  It becomes a relief to know that the problem of modern living is understood by others, and that we’re not alone in our experience.  It is a step into genuine connection, empathy and compassion for each other, and for ourselves.  It is a call to reach out, to find a way to serve others, to connect—even if that just means extending the effort to be entirely present in listening to another person.  (a friend of mine likes to constantly glance at his smart phone no matter how intimate our conversation might be, ugh).    The movie argues that much of the the problem of living comes from the focus on fear, the over exaggerated need to be recognized as special, the obsession with money, the infatuation with self, on sensual comfort, and the desire for predictability.  It is an invitation to look at ourselves, to touch the person’s shoulder next to you and ask, “Do you feel the same way I do?”  

Click below to see the movie, generously posted on YouTube:  


“Most men lead quiet lives of desperation.”  - Henry David Thoreau

Huh? What’s that all about?  Susan Jeffers, In her classic book, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway, posits one reason people might live “quiet lives of desperation.”  She says that everyone has fear, and most are trying to avoid it. Avoiding fear creates stress, worry, and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, paralysis, and yes— desperation. 

If we live in avoidance of fear we might feel we are living inside an absurdist play.  In Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, two characters, Valdimir and Estrogon, sit around a tree talking about what they will do once “Godot” arrives.  Godot never does arrive and the characters live in a state of perpetual limbo, impotence, and frustration.  While the play is open to a vast array of interpretations, one might easily see the “lives of quiet desperation” Thoreau talks about in their perpetual waiting. The pair spend the entire play waiting for Godot to come to their rescue, give them hope, guidance, tell them what to do. Even at the end of the play when they agree to make the decision to move on, the pair don’t budge.  They are psychologically stuck, unable to deal with life.  They are living the myth of Sisyphus— a man doomed to the pointless task of rolling a stone up a mountain and watching it roll back down for all eternity. While Beckett may not agree that there is a way out of this dilemma (other than accepting the absurdity of life and “imagining Sisyphus happy”), Susan Jeffers would likely have another take on the play.  She would probably interpret their dilemma as the character’s unwillingness to face their fears, take responsibility for their lives, forget Godot, and get away from that damned tree. 

To face our fears Jeffers has a number of solutions.  She says we have to take 100% responsibility for our lives.  We can’t blame anyone for what we are having, feeling, being, or doing in our lives. When we blame we give away our power and live in paralysis.  She also reminds us that 90% of our fears never come true.  When we are feeling fear we are at our growth edge, about to expand, reaching past the known and into the great unknown—the adventure of life.   When we resist or avoid fear we live a life of fear—our lives become about about protecting ourselves, hiding, playing small.

She breaks our fears down into three categories.  

  1. External Fears:  Fears about things outside of ourselves:  approaching an attractive person at a bar, investing in property, speaking publicly, going for a new career, etc.
  2. Internal Fears: The imagined feelings of fear around not succeeding in dealing with the external fears: helplessness, hopelessness, paralysis, etc.

Let’s stop here, Jeffers argues that we often don’t reach the “Real Fear” of any challenge because we shut down and go into avoidance around the external and internal fears.  We stop trying, go away, get a massage, drink something, take a drug, watch TV, become stagnate, avoid the situation all together.  That is, unless we can embrace the Real Fear

3. Real Fear:  The fear that comes from the belief that “I can’t handle it” if I don’t succeed.  That’s it?  Yup, the Real Fear is that if I take on my fearful challenges I won’t be able to handle the consequences.  I’ll  loose all my money, become destitute, live my life in humiliation, kill myself, etc. 

Jeffers says to ask ourselves, “If I couldn’t fail, what would I be afraid of?”  She says that facing our fear is the only way to make it go away.  Often people even cry from relief after they face a long held fear.  The author goes on to advise us that whenever faced with a fear to go right to the “Real Fear” and tell yourself, “I can handle it.”  Whatever comes up in this situation I can handle it. I can handle it if the marriage goes south.  I can handle it if the business deal goes wrong.  I can handle it if the book isn’t published. I can handle it if they say no to my art.  Then she says to take on the fear in small pieces.  You can use what she calls the, “Pain to power continuum.”  On the continuum a 0 represents a complete sense of fear and helplessness.  A 100 represents full empowerment. If you are at a 20 on the pain to power continuum about quitting your job you can take it in small bites till you move to 100.  Don’t go in and quit your job today.  Today you might look at your finances and see what you need to live (moving to 30), next week you remake your resume (moving to 40), the next week you hire a head hunter (moving to 60), the next day you submit your resume to three businesses (70), the next week you go on an interview (80), the next week you say yes to the new job and quit your old one (100!) Or you say, “Ok, they turned me down, but on we go to the next interview.  I can handle this.”  

The big take away is that it is ultimately more painful to live a life of fear avoidance than a life of working through fear. Working through fear is a short term solution to your pain compared to the lifetime of pain that comes from avoiding it. 

What fears have you told yourself you can’t handle?  What if you could? What steps would you take on the continuum?

Click below to see MinionNoMore take on fear: 



At one of Eckhart Tolle’s lectures on the consciousness of integrity a man got up and asked, “Mr. Tolle, my friend says he has integrity because he never lies and neither should I.  Is that a good policy?  Should we never lie?” Tolle looked down and contemplated the question.  He then wondered aloud, “I cannot tell a lie,  Anne Frank is in the attic.” 

Lies are slippery.  The are usually thought of as immoral, not a great idea, even cowardly.  But there’s something deeper going on than the after school sentiment of, “I will never tell a lie.”  That thing is called integrity.  What is the truth of a matter in any given situation?  If a man wants to sleep with his neighbor should he admit that to his wife in an effort to be honest, to not lie to her? What about being integrous to her emotional well being, her sensitivity, her boundaries?  

How about telling lies to children?  Is the collective lie of Santa Claus doing irreparable harm to a child’s psyche?  In the beloved movie, A Miracle On 34th Street, that question is explored.  A little girl, played by Natalie Wood, is told  early on that there is no Santa so that she knows “the truth”  and lives in “reality.”  She ends up seeing life through an antiseptic adult boredom, without mystery,  devoid of magic.  When she encounters a man who believes himself to be Santa she gets her sense of child like enthusiasm, playfulness, and joy back.  I myself enjoyed the Santa myth as a kid.  A guy flying around the world in a sleigh and coming down the chimney with enough toys for the whole world was rapt in mystery and excitement.  A quarter found under my pillow by the tooth fairy after the travails of losing a childhood tooth gave me a thrill.  Still, the whole Easter Bunny coming around with chocolate eggs thing was a bridge too far - what kind of fool did they take me for? 

Then again we’re all too familiar with the dark lies that violate integrity and build individual or collective houses of horror.   A “pre-emptive” war is started in Iraq when the government lies about weapons of mass destruction.   A woman lives with domestic violence and instead of leaving she lies to herself  that, “All men are like him.”  Wall Street brokers lie to themselves that mortgage manipulation and financial products that imploded the economy were just “part of capitalism.”  More recently politicians take money from gun lobbyists and promote that message that gun violence is a “mental health issue,”  not a gun issue— even as more children die. Should we not make it harder to get guns knowing there are mentally ill people out there, especially with the resounding successes of countries like Japan and Australia who have done just that and stopped mass shootings?

Integrity requires us to take a hard look.  We have to give up the buzz of instant gratification around sex, money, power, etc.  Integrity can be thought of as honoring your word, doing what you say you will do, being honest, walking a career path that aligns with your heart, being truthful to your authentic life—being whole and complete as a person.  What is your word to others and, especially,  what is your word to yourself when no one is looking?  Are you able to admit when you are wrong?  Do your behaviors benefit others?  In a society that can so often lack something as fundamental as integrity, where do you stand?  

Click below to see Ellen Degeneres's take on integrity:  

Are You Congruent?

True story:  One day a woman came to Mahatma Gandhi with her sugar addicted son.  The woman said, “Please sir, tell my son to stop eating so much sugar.  He’s getting sick from it and won’t listen to me. I know he’ll listen to you.”  Gandhi smiled and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” and went on to the next person in the room.  A few months later the woman, who was determined that Gandhi was her only hope, brought the boy to the great man again. “Please Mahatma, tell my son not to eat so much sugar!  I am fearful for his health!”  Gandhi looked at the boy and pointed a finger.  “Don’t eat so much sugar.”  The woman was taken aback.  She pulled Gandhi aside and asked, “Why didn’t you tell him that the last time I brought him to you?”  Gandhi smiled and said, “The last time you brought him I was eating too much sugar.” 
Being congruent can be a major challenge.  Still, we want to walk our talk, avoid hypocrisy, and be able to look ourselves in the mirror.  Its tough when we have internal forces working against our better nature. 
I once worked with a psychology supervisor who was grossly over weight. While she counseled others on learning to be safe with their feelings and not repress or medicate them, she was clearly medicating a lot of her own with food. Her mental health and ability to focus on work began to suffer so much she couldn’t hide the effects anymore. One day she was fired on the spot and escorted out of the building.  When they cleared out her office they found candy bars taped under desks, behind file cabinets, and inside the closet. 
We can be incongruent in a thousand ways:  the smiling neighbor who is a closet alcoholic and abusive parent, the business success story who is a weekend binge gambler living on credit cards, the religious zealot who is indifferent to the suffering of the homeless and encourages the bombing of innocent countries, the perfect housewife who is a prescription drug addict, the dedicated married man who cheats because— “I’m under so much pressure,” the pornography obsessed man who is overly protective of his daughter but fine with other men’s’ daughters pleasing his sexual tastes, the comedian who is secretly suicidal, Lance Armstrong, the hero of bike racing—getting busted for doping. 
We all have what is called “shadow” in Jungian psychology.  Shadow is that part of the psyche that runs contrary to our better nature.  Shadow wants us to be incongruent, run afoul of our values— even destroy others and ourselves.  We all have shadow and so we’re all subject to being incongruent with who we want to be—who we see ourselves as.  There is even a “collective shadow.”  Collective shadows appear when large groups go unconscious together.  Vietnam, Iraq, the mortgage meltdown, Watergate, the objectification and repression of women, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, and Native Americans—are just a few of the ways collective shadows have been played out in America.
Honesty is the best way to deal with incongruence. Shadow, the root of incongruence, thrives in the dark of isolation and hiding. Shadow can also be thought of as what author John Bradshaw calls, a shame bind.  We are ashamed of ourselves, we want to hide our incongruent behaviors, pretend to the world they don’t exist, be “liked and admired.”  But as we are seeing with things like the current political cast of characters and the, “Me too”, women’s movement— living in the shadow has an egg timer on it.  We always end up exposed to others and ourselves in the end. The roosters do one day come home to roost.
To be congruent we want to practice “rigorous honesty” as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous.  We define for ourselves what is and isn’t acceptable behavior according to our values. Then we can seek help in keeping ourselves accountable. We have a trusted friend, a therapist, a church group, a support group, a coach—anyone that we can be “rigorously honest with” and keep ourselves congruent.  If we need treatment for an addiction we seek out a twelve-step group.  If we are in debt we make a budget with a financial advisor or maybe join Debtor’s Anonymous.  If we have a rage issue we do anger management work with a therapist.
What areas we need to be congruent with comes from asking ourselves the simple question, “Am I congruent in all my behaviors for who I say I am?”   If the answer is no, its time to look for help.   If the answer is yes, you’ve probably done a good amount of work on yourself already. 
If we feel we are perfect and don’t need anyone’s help we could be truly dangerous in our incongruence.  All dictators, narcissists, and oppressors believe on some level that they are beyond reproach and that their bad behaviors are either not bad or because of others.  I recently saw a documentary on a Short Term Loan store chain that systematically stole tens of millions of dollars from thousands of poverty-stricken customers with hidden fees, small print, and manipulated loan payouts.  The owner of the chain, who had personally pocketed over two hundred million dollars, thought of himself as an innocent victim.  He tearfully stammered, “How can they do this to me?  I was just running a business.  I don’t understand.  I’m losing everything!”
In Humanistic / Client Centered therapy, congruence is considered a main stipulation for a successful outcome.  We all benefit from facing our shadow, giving up the need to be seen as perfect, getting a little help, and becoming congruent with our better nature.   When we are congruent we are truly brave, trustworthy, living in integrity and accountability.  We are able to be of genuine service to the life we want to live and to the lives of others. 


Who's On Your Team?

Life success and satisfaction are largely built on the teams you belong to.  In modern society isolation has reached epidemic proportions.  I have spoken to many people who have said something to the effect of, “Umm, I don’t really have any friends.”  Some of these people are depressive but others actually exude extreme personal charisma.  In modern society is doesn’t matter, isolation is an equal opportunity issue both for the introvert and extrovert.  

The human psyche does not do well in isolation.  In twelve step programs the slogan, “isolation is a killer” is not metaphorical.  When people are alone in an addiction they do tend to kill themselves more often.  Isolation is a great contributor to depression, anxiety, fear, career stagnation, and ongoing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  Anyone I’ve treated in an addiction has suffered from isolation.  The addiction both serves to medicate loneliness and sometimes offers a toxic group to belong to— that is, fellow drinking or drugging buddies, sex partners, gambling groups, etc.  Twelve step groups offer the addict a healthy team to belong to for their recovery and their life.  

Why is isolation such a popular remedy for what ails us?   When people are emotionally hurt or endangered in childhood they tend to rely on isolation for the only emotional and physical safety available to a child.  Isolation can then be relied on in adult life for safety when it is no longer valid or useful.  What used to keep us safe as children can end up destroying us as adults.  

We are also all “symbiotic” to some degree.  That is, we are all affected by the people we surround ourselves with.  Ever notice how rich people tend to associate with others with money?  How happy people hang around other happy people?  How gangsters know where to go to socialize with other gangsters?  How monks congregate with other monks?  How drug addicts gravitate to drug dens full of their friends?  They are all forming teams that rub off on each other—that’s symbiosis.  Pay attention to the teams you hang around.  You can’t spend a lot of time with others and not have their consciousness “rub off” on you to some degree. 

People living in healthy teams have happier moods, better health, and more productive work lives.  Businesses often have “team building” exercises to improve work productivity.  Many people belong to spiritual organizations as a way to gain needed support in their spiritual practices.  The coaches of sports teams are most known for the importance of teaching people how to be part of a team. “There is no “I” in team”,  is a popular saying in sports psychology.   The family “team” is the best known group that helps ensure the survival and success of its members.  In my years working as a homeless shelter supervisor it was rare to see someone come in for help who had an in tact family.  Group therapy is a way of joining a “team” of people who may lack group support in their life. The psyche tends to stabilize around anxiety, depression, and fear when it has the experience of belonging to a healthy group.  A friend of mine belongs to a women’s group that has been meeting for twenty years to share their life struggles and achievements.  

We need healthy teams to live successfully.   Self-doubt can destroy success.  The team operates as leverage past self-doubt to goal achievement.  If you don’t have a group you feel deep belongingness to there are many available.  The website meetup.com offers a plethora of social groups to join as a way of being part of teams.  There is a twelve step group for any kind of addiction or co-addiction you might be a part of (most people qualify for at least one twelve step program!), there are men’s support groups, women’s support groups, cancer survivors groups, business mastermind groups, professional affiliation groups, gardening groups, cooking groups, pottery groups, meditation groups, sports teams, martial arts teams . . . the list is seemingly endless.  Don’t let the belief that isolation keeps you safe continue to rule your life.  Don’t let a toxic group rub off on you.  You belong, the world needs you, your success team is waiting.

Click on the picture below to see how a women’s row team describes team success: 


Get Your Head & Heart Together

What is it with the intellect (the head), and the emotional state, (the heart), that makes life so challenging?  As has been commonly recognized, men are more in their heads / intellects, and women are more in their hearts / feelings.  On the surface this might sound like an argument for the superiority of women, but its not.  Both are needed for effective living.  We need the male and female aspects of our psyches to be integrated.  We want to live in the “yin yang” of life.  

The intellect has gotten a bad reputation over the years because it has run rough shod over the heart in so many ways.   This is what happens when patriarchy reins.  When men are overly dominating a society the head tramples the heart in people’s thinking.  Life is approached with cold eyes and little feeling.  Things get reduced to a math problem or a jig saw puzzle.  The dominant intellect says, “Its a “dog eat dog world”, “the survival of the fittest rules life”, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, “money is the goal of life”, and, “boys don’t cry".  Nature is reduced to a means to economic gains.  People are tossed into the streets with an “everyone has to take care of themselves” cultural attitude.  Brutality is justified with an “ends justifies the means” rationale.  Being cut off from deep feeling we can be confident of our aggressive actions without considering the  impact on other people, animals, or the earth itself.  War is entered with an ignorant, dangerous gusto. 

When the head leads decision making and we end up in bad positions we usually hear ourselves say things like, “I knew he was a player when I married him”,  “I knew this house would be a money pit”,  “I didn’t trust my gut on that car purchase”,  or “I got talked into this job.”  

When the heart dominates the mind in an over indulgent way, feeling can submerge reason.  We become over emotional, touchy, hyper reactive to challenges. We might become mired in self-pity, anxiety, helplessness, or hopelessness.  We can be “love addicted” to others - “I can’t get her out of my mind”, be easily manipulated, find ourselves once again rescuing the “poor” friend, be overly soft when firm decisiveness is called for, or taking care of the forty year old son who “needs me”, etc.  An overweight woman complains, “But I love ice cream so much.”  A sexually addicted man argues, “I just love women.”  Life gets arranged around a need to tend to our very sensitive feelings, or the feelings of others. 

As we all have the male and female / yin & yang of life within us, life is most effectively handled when these aspects are balanced.  This can be achieved in different ways.  If you had a distant or abusive father it may be a good idea to enter therapy with a man who can be nurturing as well as firm.  If you had a withdrawn, neglectful mother, you may want to enter therapy with a loving, gentle female therapist.  We internalize both the positive and negative attributes of our father and mother.  If our parents were not able to embody the best aspects of their male or female attributes they will not be able to pass them on.  They may have “nothing to give.”  

What about “following your heart” ?   This is good advice.  Due to the heavy influence of patriarchy many people are directed by family and society to make major life decisions by following the intellect.  This puts the heart in the second position when it should be first in decision making.   When the intellect is in charge of decisions you might get married because, “I’m getting older”, or “He has a lot of money”,  or “My family wants me to marry her.”   You could get into a job because, “the money is good”, or “Its the family business, we all go into it”,  or “My mother wanted me to be lawyer, doctor, accountant, etc.”  These “head” decisions can  lead to deep regret, a mid-life crisis, and a life riddled with depression or anxiety.   

The heart is  the place where clear intuition arises, a polestar for guiding right decision making. It has recently been found that the heart has its own brain or intelligence.  When it is allowed to open and guide a persons life it also emanates an electromagnetic field that effects those around them and the world as a whole.  I have friends that it just “feels good” to be around.  Being in their presence can be enough to open my heart more.  

The heart is the natural leader to the authentic life.  It shows where your true work is, what your mission is, who is the right partner, where your gifts are.  The intellect should be in service of the heart.   For instance, you might be in love but he wants you to give him a lot of kids when you have no interest in being a mother, join his religion you don’t agree with, and move to Antartica  (brrrr)  etc.  This may be where the head steps in and says, “Not a good idea, there’s other loves out there for you.”   Maybe you found a house to buy you just love and your head looks at it and says, “That house looks shaky. You need to check the foundation.  It’s probably a money pit.”  My friend was once in escrow for a house she loved  with a realtor she loved when the realtor said, “Umm, this house doesn’t have a foundation, it sits on the dirt.  But you can lift it up and pour a foundation.  People do it all the time.” She cancelled escrow and got another realtor.  When the heart leads and the head agrees you know you are on track.  You got the Corvette at a great price, the dream house passed inspections with flying colors, the man you love is doing work you respect and wants dogs instead of children. You think, “Yeah, no diapers, no throwing up for weeks, and I get to paint!”  

An integrated person with a balanced intellect and heart is nurturing, rational, and able to take action when needed:   Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, George Harrison,  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg,  the Dalai Lama, Justice Sonia Soto Mayor, Melinda Gates, etc.  

Click below to hear The Heart Math Institute describe the wonders of the heart’s intelligence, its electromagnetic field, and what it means to lead with the heart:   


Let’s Talk About Sex

Sex and patriarchy have been in the news a lot lately.  As usual it involves men behaving badly.  A lot of sacred cows are being slaughtered in the public eye.  Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, Bill Oreilly, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, President George H.W. Bush, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Anthony Weiner, Charlie Sheen—the list just keeps growing.  Sex is an equal opportunity myth buster when it comes to men getting into trouble.  While women can certainly get into deep water with sex, the tendency for men to crash their lives over it vastly outweighs the female numbers.  The multi-billion dollar porn industry would likely go bust if men stopped clicking on their favorite sites.  

Sex can serve as a panacea for many things that ail men. It can cover up a feeling of being “not enough”, it can temporarily soothe anxiety, depression, loneliness, boredom, and fear (only to exacerbate them when the sex high wears off), it can be used to express anger (S&M, revenge sex, etc.), it can be used to self-validate, get high, feel powerful, be in control, or feel better than other men (yes, locker room bragging on the number of sex conquests is a real thing).  The ways men use sex destructively is seemingly endless. 

From an Imago theory standpoint the roots of sexual abuse can be understood by seeing how deep patriarchy runs.  When one sex is dominated by another from the beginning of our country’s history, sexual abuse is an inherent outcome.  Patriarchy is the systematic oppression of the female population by the male population in the areas of political leadership, social privilege, moral authority, and control of property.  The psychology of patriarchy turns women into lesser human beings, even objects.  The link from power to objectification is not a hard one to connect. Women are thought of as objects to serve men.  They should go along with what the men believe, clean, cook, bare children, be ready for sex, tolerate lewd sexual comments, harassment, and settle for less across the game board of life. 

Imago counseling helps to break out of patriarchal psychology and establish an egalitarian relationship wherein both people are seen, heard, mirrored, and understood as equals.  When women are seen as equals the psychology of both changes.  He no longer sees her as someone who can be used for his animal instincts (remember where our president said you can “grab” women?), and she no longer goes along with it.  When a female staffer complained to a female producer about Charlie Rose’s sexual harassment, the producer shrugged and said, “That’s just Charlie being Charlie.” 

When the idolized Hugh Hefner died and commentators across the airwaves mourned his loss, I heard a number of women proclaim, “I’m not interested in shedding tears for someone who was celebrated for making money by getting the culture to objectify women.”  Gloria Steinem, the iconic warrior against patriarchy and the founder of Ms. Magazine, covertly got a job as a Playboy bunny to experience first hand the workplace of institutionalized sexual patriarchy.  She says it was degrading on every level: financially, the costume she was required to buy and wear, emotionally, and physically. 

In some cultures patriarchy is so lethal it is legal to beat, burn, and even kill their wives.  We in the U.S. tend to rightly look on these practices in horror and blindly deny how rampant the lesser versions of the same problem are part of our collective national unconscious.

Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz states that every woman in patriarchy has a little demon on her shoulder that whispers, “You’ll never amount to anything. You know why, because you’re a woman.” Von Franz says that women can’t get rid of this demon; they have to educate it through therapy, direct communication, self-value, and coming together in groups.   

Some of the men named in the current rash of sexual harassment cases are admitting and taking responsibilities for their bad behaviors (Al Franken), and some are running for the hills.  The wounds are being exposed and the culture of patriarchal sexual objectification is in a free fall.  This is often the necessary “dark night of the soul” that can lead to a collective transformation. 

When sex is mutual, intimate, and an expression of connection it is regarded as psychologically healthy.  When it is used as a form of objectification, is forced, is part of medicating emotional pain or trying to establish power, it is dangerously neurotic.  

Further, men that participate in patriarchal sex are kept in a developmentally delayed, “boy psychology.”  Women who go along are kept in a developmentally delayed “girl psychology.”   Maybe it is really time.  Maybe we are finally going to grow up and become adults around this thing called sex.

 Click below to see Gloria Steinem talk about her experience as a "bunny" inside the walls of Playboy:


“It’s not enough to have a dream, you have to have a work ethic.” 

                                              - Amanda Hocking, bestselling author

There was a famous series of Dunkin Donut commercials in the 80’s.  The commercials showed a tireless worker getting up before dawn, stumbling out of bed, and going off to the donut shop muttering, “Time to make the donuts.” It became a catch phrase for anyone willing to get up and put in the necessary work to see their goals achieved.  My hard working mother used to wake me up for school with the same catch phrase. She’d snap on the lights and tease, “Get up, time to make the donuts.”      

Many people are big on dreams and short on getting up for the work ethic involved in achieving them.  It makes for a lot of misery, self-doubt, and feelings of victimization.   It could be said that if someone isn’t willing to work for their dreams they might be better off “playing it safe.”  There’s nothing wrong with getting a safe job, making money, and retiring. If you are not willing to live with the uncertainty, lean times, and hard work of pursuing your dreams you could be setting yourself up for lifetime of misery attempting to do so.  This might sound like  “reverse psychology”  (arguing for a negative outcome knowing it will be heard as a way to motivate someone)—but its not.  There are “type B” personalities who do not want to go that extra mile.  They may be content with a loving family life, a retirement account, and a sandy beach in old age.   My cheerful, hard working mail woman was very happy to retire after thirty years of delivering envelopes.  I could honestly say that she was generally happier than most people I know. One of my childhood heroes was my school bus driver who used to shout, “Look, flying mud turtles!”  We’d all rush to the windows before he’d invariably say, “Oh, you missed them again.” 

From a “time to make the donuts” perspective you have to raise the bar on your work ethic if you are going to achieve dreams.  If he had an off night and lost, Kobe Bryant would go to a gym after the game and practice free throws.  I was once in an airplane with the actor John C. Reilly.  When I asked about his success he said he never thought about becoming famous as an actor, he just focused on being a working acting.  I later had the opportunity to ask Laurence Fishburne the same question and got the same answer.

When someone is trying to achieve their dreams but does not put in the necessary work ethic they are often convinced that other people are “special”, “gifted”, “lucky”, or otherwise super natural.  The truth is the people they are talking about were usually just more committed, harder working, and less entitled.  They often have an all out work ethic and a do or die attitude about their dreams. Howard Stern interviewed Steven Van Zandt, the lead guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s band. When Howard asked why Van Zandt didn’t give up and quit like his fellow band members he said, “I was all in. I never had a plan B.  Those guys had other options.” 

Many people who achieve their dreams had someone who believed in them on the road to success. That’s not a small thing. The crippling self-doubt that destroys work ethic can often be countered by a parent, a coach, a therapist, a friend, or anyone else who can stand by you and say, “Keep going, you can do it. I got your back.”  Oprah credits her “best friend Gail” for being the only one who believed in her when she said she wanted to leave her news anchor job in Boston to try doing a small talk show in Chicago—up against Phil Donahue, the then undisputed king of talk TV.  Without Gail’s encouragement Oprah might still be reading the news today.  Have you seen those boxing movies when the boxer says to the coach, “I want to take this fight but I can’t do it without you.” (?)  They aren’t kidding.  Boxers without a coach are knocked out in the first round.  There is a whole line of support people behind most success stories. 

We all need someone in our corner when we fail, get up, and try again.  The right attitude toward failure is a key component to successful donut making.  When failure is “part of learning” it is helpful, as we all need to fail to learn.  When it “means I’m a failure and I’ll never succeed” –we are lost and about to close shop, complaining about how Starbucks has taken all the donut business away (even though Starbucks doesn’t sell donuts).

Is it your “time to make the donuts”?  If so achieving the necessary work ethic involved will be up to you, but support is available.  Reach out, ask, get someone in your corner. 

Below Peter Dinklage talks about work ethic, dreams, and the way to the next level:



People can get pretty depressed when they say no to their mission.  Psychotherapy can help unravel what someone’s mission is, but it can’t do the mission for anyone.  It might sometimes seem that a therapist is “curing” a client.  In truth therapy is simply leverage.  It is an opportunity to change, not a guarantee.  The bulk of the work in therapy is done by the client.  As has been stated before, we all have to take a hundred percent responsibility for our lives before things can change—including responsibility for finding and executing our mission. 

So, what is a mission and what does it matter anyhow? A mission is something you have innate talent for and that calls you.  It is, as they say, “a calling.”  Further, you are either doing your mission or it has been drummed underground by the beat of conspicuous consumption—either way, it is still with you.  That “beat” has been going on in the background of our lives since childhood. Our society generally plays the drums of a clear message:  life is dangerous, forget this mission / passion stuff, get a job, make money, and build a bunker.  Then you can play golf, drink, eat, and of course, go shopping.  In other words, “gain wealth forgetting all but self.”  Material gain as an end goal to life also gets drilled into us by what author Gore Vidal calls one of the only true American art forms—advertising.  “Hawaii, Mercedes Benz, the Bahamas, the beach, champagne, mountains of food, diamonds, tennis—what more could you want?  Just pay us and we will deliver your dreams.” 

Mission is something else.  It lives on the edges of society’s thinking.  It calls to us. It is that thing that brings passion and meaning to your life.  It is something that not only serves your heart, it serves the greater good. 

A mission is commonly well known by children. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  “I want to be a fireman.”  “An artist.”  “A writer.”  “An astronaut.”  “A brain surgeon.”  “I want to study the ocean.”  “I want to own a fishing boat.” “I want to be a physicist.”   By the time they reach adulthood many of these same children are satisfied with, “I want a retirement account.”  “I want to be a millionaire.”  “I want to retire by the time I’m 50.”  “I want to have a big house.”  “I want to play golf and drink and forget about the world.”  While none of these later goals are necessarily bad, they are often replacements for mission. They are goals that ring more of giving up than of living our life purpose. 

If someone is on mission few people wonder why they don’t retire, least of all themselves.  Has anyone asked Steven Spielberg why he doesn’t retire from the headaches of movie making?  Is Bill Gates ever going to give up this computer / philanthropy thing and end up on a cruise ship for his remaining days?  Did anyone ask Hillary Clinton why she would want to go for the presidency when she could retire ten times over?  Should Carl Jung or Sigmund Freud have found an easier gig so they could spend their old age drinking and lawn bowling?  Is Meryl Streep trying to make her 401-K stretch so she doesn’t have to take on another role? If asked about why they didn’t retire these people would probably answer something like, “Why would I give up what I most enjoy doing in life?” 

In the seventies TV show, Mission Impossible, every show starts with “Jim Phelps” going into a secret place to find a tape recording of his latest mission.  He looks around to be sure he is alone and presses the “play” button.  The mission’s obstacles are described in detail.  Then he’s instructed:

“Your mission, should you decide to accept it is to (save the world in such and such a way—there’s a new way each week!)  As always, should you or any of your IM forces be caught or killed the secretary with disavow any knowledge of your actions.  This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck Jim.” 

Jim turns the tape recorder off, looks pensively into the distance, and the tape bursts into smoke.   We know that look, the eye of the tiger. He’s going to go for it! 

The same could be said of our lives.  We are given a mission known only to us.  It is found in a secret place that we have to go to alone—within our own hearts. If we choose to accept it there are helpers that will come along (our “IM forces”).  If we fail in our mission the responsibility will be all ours, no one else can take the blame.  The mission is ours, the work is ours, and the success or failure will be ours. 

Will Jim Phelps accept his mission?  What kind of show would it be if he looked at the tape recorder and said, “Forget it. That’s way too dangerous.  I’m going to Disneyland.” . . .  Yet many of us do go to Disneyland.  Our life show goes on, it’s filled with entertainment, but in the end it’s pretty boring.  After all, how many times can you go on the teacups? We can end up spinning around, confused, and in a gnawing state of unfulfilled mission.  What happened?  We said no.  Our mission’s tape seems to have gone up in smoke.  But wait, something inside you still wants to say yes to the mission, risk it all, and take the consequences.  The good news is, it’s a new week, and the world still needs saving.  Look in your heart. Your mission is waiting . . . should you decide to accept it.

Below Jim Phelps faces the ominous message:



"When choosing between two evils, I alway pick the one I haven't tried."                                                                       - Mae West

“I do not fear death.  I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”  - Mark Twain

Laughter shifts perspective.  It can release even the most seriousness of depression and help us “see the light.” 

I recently heard a story on talk radio about a woman named Sarah who woke up one morning in the hospital after a suicide attempt.  The nurse came into the room, drew back the curtain and said, “Good morning Sally, are you feeling suicidal today?”  Sarah broke out laughing.  The first reason she laughed was she thought a trained nurse should ask a gentler question of someone who just tried to kill herself the night before.  The second reason she laughed was that Sarah thought a nurse would be sure to get the name right of someone who just tried to kill herself.  But in that moment of laughter Sarah said a little light came into her life. She thought, “I’m laughing.  If I can laugh at this, maybe I’ll be ok”—and after a lot of therapy, she was.

Researchers have found that laughter uplifts mood by triggering release of endorphins, it reduces stress, it acts as a stop gap for distressing emotions (its hard to feel sad or angry if you are laughing), laughter helps protect the heart by increasing blood flow, boosts the immune system, and improves sleep quality.  Further, when sense of humor was measured as a quality of life statistic, those with a great ability to laugh were shown to have longer life spans.  

From a social perspective researchers observed that laughter strengthened relationships, was socially attractive to others, enhanced teamwork, diffused conflict, and promoted group bonding. 

Like anything laughter can take a shadow form.  It can be used to belittle others, deflect from talking about a serious subject in need of attention, or, in its worse sense, even be used sadistically.

But when we are talking about laughter in a healthy sense, it is invaluable to mental health.  A yoga teacher I studied with said that for mental and physical health and we needed to sweat and laugh every day.  Even forced laughter can have the physiological and mental benefits already mentioned.  For instance, I was walking on the beach one day and came across a “laughing yoga” group.  The group invited me to join them.  I hated the idea of formal laughing but pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone. With a frozen smile I nodded and took a step forward.  True to their name the laughing yogis simply stood around and laughed out loud.   I mean, really loud— screaming, bug eyed, belly laughs.   It scared me.  I wanted to run away.  Just give it a chance, I thought— frozen smile still in place.  Forced laughter always made me wince, and these people were really forcing it.  They were howling with laughter at nothing while one by one sticking their guffawing faces into mine.  My cynical, mid-westerner side was getting a lot of material.  “They can’t be serious. How can I get out of this?  We are really in California now,” I muttered.  But the laughing yogis just wouldn’t stop. Over and over each one came up and pressed their face into mine guffawing with the over the top, cartoonish, awful laughter.  After a while the absurdity of it did make me laugh a little (ok, my laughter was out of judgment, but still—).  I tried to force laugh my best and finally walked away waving, “Ok, bye laughing yogis!” (you idiots)  A few steps down the beach I stopped and realized something—my depression had lifted.

Below GloZell gives you a lesson in laughing: 

The Dalai Lama, Happiness, and Fart Jokes


The Dalai Lama, Happiness, and Fart Jokes

The Dalai Lama is not only a leading religious figure in the world, he is a leading world humanitarian.  His mission to spread the practices of compassion and unity have made him a savior in the eyes of many.  For his followers he is the literal reincarnation of the Buddha. 

His ideas about creating a happy life have primarily to do with the value of developing warm heartedness through a compassionate mind.  The Dalai Lama promotes that we are social creatures—that our contentedness depends on the ability to support and love others.  He states that many people are “I” centered—that they live life mostly out of an attitude of, “What’s in it for me?” (or my immediate family – “We four and no more.”)  This attitude naturally generates a feeling of distrust, competition, and suspicion in relationship to all others.  Because they are then cut off from deep connection with others, they generate loneliness and depression in their lives. Materialism becomes a way to medicate this pain. Media figures are celebrated, money becomes the end goal of life, and sense pleasures such as entertainment, food, travel, drugs, etc., become the predominant activity of life.

In the meantime, because there is not a lack of resources but a lack of compassion for others, society suffers rampant poverty, depression, isolation, and crime. 

Friendship is also a necessity for happiness in his philosophy.  If we are habitually entering life from an “I” centered perspective, the habits of distrust, competition, and suspicion also keep us from forming deeply intimate friendships.  We may say we “have friends” but still experience an emptiness and loneliness that has to do with the limited nature of those friendships.  Even within these friendships our hearts and minds can be somewhat closed.

Another big key to happiness according the Dalai Lama is recognizing that we are all the same.  We give up the idea that some people are innately better, more worthy, or more special than others.   In the need to be seen as special our seeds to unhappiness are sewn.  This need for specialness operates as another way to feel good but leaves us in isolation—disconnected from others in being “special” and as a result disconnected from our own inner well-being.

The important concept is not the intellectual agreement of such basic humanitarian ideas as compassion or love, but the actual practicing of them in our thinking and behaviors.  Many people can espouse the ideas of compassion and love while investing in businesses that enslave others, be competitive or cruel in their dealings with people, support legislation that increases prejudice, support unethical wars, and ignore the poverty surrounding them.  Is this compassion?  Is this love?

Lastly the Dalai Lama promotes that we pay attention to the progress that is being made. We don’t want to ignore the upsurges in organic farming, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the progress in sustainable energy, the millions working in social services, the progress in equal rights for women, African Americans, and the LGBT community, the spread of meditation, yoga, and other methods of expanding consciousness.  In the gratitude of what is working we also generate our happiness and our ability to contribute to others.

Below the Dalai Lama talks about happiness, specialness, and farts:



“I don’t  believe there is a God, I know there is a God.”                                                                                                                                              -Carl Jung                                                                        

God is a touchy subject in psychology—for that matter so is Love (more on that later).  Certainly the field of psychology is not geared to benefit only those with a belief in the almighty.  Agnostics, atheists, those who are deeply religious, folks who are completely indifferent about this “God thing”— all are able to benefit from psychotherapy. 

Still, it’s hard to get away from God when talking about psychology. Carl Jung, one of the most highly regarded psychologists in history,  broke with Freud over his theory of the “collective unconscious.” The theory states that we all come from the same pool of consciousness. According to Jung there is no such thing as an absolute individual.  Further, within this pool we all have the capacity to express any “archetype”  (personality type) of the human experience—from the darkest villain to the holiest saint. If this sounds suspiciously like an argument for the existence of God, well, it kinda is.  

Jung also became fascinated with the symbol of the circle in his teachings.  He called the circle “the great primordial image of mankind—that in considering the circle we are analyzing the self. It expresses the totality of the psyche in all its aspects, including the relationship of man (and woman) and the whole of nature.  Through the ritual action [of drawing the circle], attention and interest are led back to the inner, sacred precinct, which is the source and goal of the psyche and contains the unity of life and consciousness."  Joseph Campbell, a friend of Jung, says the circle is, “representative of the center from which you’ve come back to which you go…it is the alpha and the omega.” The circle represents the coming and going from a source—whether that being from the womb to the tomb, the body’s journey from the earth back to dust, or the souls journey from God to the body and back to God. 

Let’s look at another idea concerning God and therapy.  If God is Love, as so many have stated, there’s no need to talk about spirituality in therapy.  As long as Love exists in the therapeutic relationship, we could, from this definition say that God is in the therapy.  But psychology usually doesn’t like the word Love any more than it likes the word God.  Theories such as Humanism tend to favor concepts such as having “unconditional positive regard” for a client.  Attachment theory talks about developing “positive attachments” with others—ultimately both are talking about Love.  Inner child work as coined by John Bradshaw does actually state that we need to Love our inner child.  Uh oh, God is creeping back in.

Further, I once knew a man who said he went to a therapist with a problem with alcoholism. The therapist said, “I can’t help you with that.  You need to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.  I don’t know why it works, but it does.”  Statistically A.A. is by far the most successful treatment for the often life debilitating and even life threatening problem of addiction.  As a result most therapists are trained to refer their clients to twelve steps if they are in the midst of treating an addiction. Therapy can help in the recovery but it is generally not intensive enough for the addict. The twelve steps are about developing a relationship with a “higher power” and surrendering your powerlessness  over the addiction to that higher power.  Through this surrendering the addiction if often successfully treated.  That God thing is coming through the door again.  

Another form of treatment becoming popularized in psychology is Mindfulness.  Mindfulness is a form of meditation whose origin can be traced to Buddhism.  It teaches the practitioner to “witness” his or her own thoughts.  This “witnessing” is essentially a way of giving up identification with the neurotic mind and begin identifying with something called pure consciousness. Others would call it, ahh, yeah—God consciousness.

While the physicist Stephen Hawking famously says, “There is no God.” Albert Einstein said, “I want to know the thoughts of God, the rest is mere details.” One thing we can probably agree on is that whether we need God or not is up to us, whether we need Love or not is a no brainer—we all need it.

Below Joseph Campbell discusses Jung, the circle of life, and God: