"A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom and joy but illuminates the way to true human potential." Paul Rademacher, author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Friday, October 29, 2010

Are You Attaining the Thing You Are Gifted For?

South Africa lies close to my heart. I enjoyed three incredible weeks there some years ago. One of my closest friends from adolescence in Canada was murdered while living in Johannesburg. An important person in my family’s life is from Durban. And long before I had ever visited the country, while I was still living in Mexico, tears of joy coursed down my cheeks as I saw the release of Nelson Mandela and the eventual end of Apartheid.

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of it? We must have perseverance and above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained." Madam Marie Curie

I recently watched an excellent BBC interview of Desmond Tutu of South Africa by Fern Britton. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has spent a lifetime fighting injustice in South Africa and other parts of the world. It won him a Nobel Peace Prize.

But his intention as a child was not to enter the church … he wanted to be a physician. For a black child from the townships during Apartheid, that was an impossible dream due to the cost the education would imply. So he decided he wanted to be a teacher. Even that turned out to be impossible, because laws were passed that closed that door to black men. And so he entered the clergy. The rest is history.

But what compels me about this story is something else. Here we have a human being who had a dream. He was barred from it. Then he had another dream. He was also barred from that. So he chose one of the few things left to him barring work in some trade or working as a labourer.

There is a wonderful lesson here. Doesn’t this tell us that even when we are forced down a road that is not of our initial choosing, we are still capable of making a difference by making the choice to do so? Of living a life well worth living?

Who knows Tutu’s thoughts when he finally chose the clergy. Who knows what he did with his shelved dreams. What we do know is what his life now symbolizes, not only in South Africa, but in the world. He gave his best. He gave to others. And he made a difference. He attained, as in Madame Curie’s words above, at great cost, the thing he was gifted for.

Are you attaining the thing you are gifted for?

Photo: Cape Town

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Talk, Talk, and Talk to Those Who Are Important to You!

Where would we be without real conversations with our loved ones? How can you sustain a relationship of any kind with a person you care for without communication that breaks through the barriers of social distance and gets into the parts of you that are totally real?

We need to know that our verbal and physical contact with those people in our lives that really matter to us is more important than many other things. If we are unable to connect at levels that delve deep into ourselves, we are living at the surface of life, of the relationship with little hope of becoming profoundly intertwined. (See also an earlier post: Crossing Thresholds).

Some people talk about energetic connections between people who are important to each, between lovers, between parents and children, and it certainly appears that these connections exist. Something traumatic may happen to one part of the relationship, and the other part, even though that person may be thousands of miles away, knows something happened at exactly the same moment in time. Countless stories tell us about the veracity of this.

What I am talking about here, however, is the connection that exists between two people who speak their truth to each other, and who connect - among other things - through their conversations. This can happen if you talk, and talk, and really talk to the other person, and it can happen if you open yourself, not only to the other person, but to your own inner truth. (See also: Losing the Connection: You Still Love Each Other but No Longer Connect).

What does talking to another person have to do with your own inner truth? Quite a lot. (See also Expressing All Your Emotions). If you aren’t aware of yourself, if you aren’t honest to yourself about yourself, it will be quite difficult to talk to the other person at the levels I am describing. Your conversations with others – even with important others – will not touch the rock bottom of your truth. And hence will not connect you to that person in a way that leads to true communication.

So talk. And talk. But above all, become aware of yourself in order to be able to really talk.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who Are You?

Ever asked the person closest to you that question? Ever realized that the person closest to you is actually a stranger in some ways? Ever come to the conclusion that what you believed about that person has nothing to do with reality? Ever decided that if the person you are with, whom you are now seeing with totally new eyes, is not the way you thought he/she was, then you don’t want to spend any more time with him or her?
What a realization! What a nightmare! What freedom! Each case is different.

But what is true is that this happens more often than not. We start out our relationships believing that the person we are falling in love with is one way, but in reality they are totally different. No, they did not pretend to be what they are not (or at least, that is not the rule). And no, they did not change during the course of the relationship from what we thought they were to this new person (or at least, that is not the rule). And no, it’s not that you are a total loss at judging a person's character (or at least, that is not the rule).

So what is it that happens?

In a nutshell, it’s projection. We are attracted to, and fall in love with, that which we want, that which is missing in our own selves, and thus we find a good hook for it. (See also Committed Relationships: Use Them to Grow Towards Self-Understanding and Real Love). We also neglect to heed all the warning signs we receive. These include:
  • What the other person actually tells us
  • What we feel in our solar plexus at the beginning that seems to warn us against this person (a twisting in the gut, might be one way of phrasing it)
 All the little clues we readily ignore, casting them aside in the desire to get what we want, which – as stated – often has little to do with the person we are faced with, but with our own projections.

So of course after a time, after the first glow is gone, after the powerful draw of chemistry is no longer so strong, we begin to feel disappointed in one thing or another, these add up, and we gradually see another person than the one we fell in love with. But, again, this is not because the other person has changed, but because we are no longer seeing them through the projection.

So we ask: Who are you?

It is at this point that we may actually begin to see the real jewel in the relationship, the real value this has for our future growth and freedom. The process that is now possible is the true reason we were initially attracted. It is now that we can begin to polish the diamond and come away with something of far greater value than that which we thought we were getting when we fell in love. If we are capable of persevering now – at least for a time – in the understanding that the gift is only now beginning to unfold, we will come out of this far richer, far greater persons, than we can even begin to imagine.

Photo Credit: Carlos Porto

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crossing Thresholds

Just a few words today about change, newness, and the unknown. We tend to fear it. We tend to think that because we are changing to something different (job, challenge, city, country, relationship, environment of any kind), or doing something new, or going to some type of unknown element in our lives as opposed to what we have done to this point, we will have difficulty with it or even fail. The new aspect can even be something such as changing a behavior, exchanging one way of doing something for another, because we have come to recognize that it is better (for example, when people learn to set boundaries (see also Do Your Relationship Boundaries Contribute to Your Well-Being? ). So when they do this, people are generally fearful at the beginning of putting this new behavior into practice, because even though they see its great value for their own psychological health (and that of any of their relationships), actually doing what it takes to have healthy boundaries can be daunting when one has not been doing it.

But the real point of today’s post is to discuss the fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the untried. Fear of stepping outside of our comfort zone (see also Leaving Your Comfort Zone: Fear of Emotional Expression.)

What exactly does this fear tell us?

First of all, welcome it. Recognize that it is the hallmark of growth to come. Fear of this type signals that as you cross a new threshold into a new arena, you will be learning something that will move your process of growth up a notch.

Secondly, recognize that you have been in this place many times before, with all the other things you have done or lived through for the first time in your life in the past, and now you are totally at ease and comfortable with them. You passed over the threshold when you did whatever it was for the first time, and now you are in a totally new place. But since you are already comfortable with whatever it was that once caused your fear, you no longer view it as something threatening and fearful. Use that "success" experience (the Germans call it Erfolgserlebniss) to help you cross the new threshold. Use the knowledge that what was once so far outside your comfort zone, has now become your new comfort zone. Recognize that the fear you feel indicates that you are in the process of expanding this comfort zone once again, and that this will bring about new growth.

In other words: fear that is felt before starting something new could in fact be a good sign, because it means you are on the road of growth again. Your life and your world are expanding, and you are vital and vibrant and alive in this process. In such a case, fear could be defined as your friend.

Photo Credit: Suat Eman

Monday, October 25, 2010

Your Commitment

You are probably imagining that this is a post about commitment to your goals, commitment to being disciplined or commitment to making your dreams become a reality.

In a way I suppose we could say it is ... but approached from another angle, and that angle is you.

How committed are you to yourself? How committed are you to making the most of yourself in all possible ways and on all levels? Not for others, but for you. because you want to be able to believe in yourself, and you want to be able to love yourself, and part of this process is making a commitment to yourself where you set the benchmark and you hold yourself responsible for reaching it.

This is about you and the way you dialogue with yourself. The way you look at yourself. It's about the way you pull yourself up when you have fallen down and dust yourself off and start over. Not to prove anything to anyone but yourself. Because you are committed to yourself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hidden Layers of the Self In Your Dreams

In the early days of this blog, I did a number of posts on dreams in order to offer readers multiple ways of viewing hidden layers of the self by using the symbolism of dreams:

Those posts in this series on dream symbols are:
Be sufficiently interested in yourself to examine some of these areas, and begin to keep a dream journal. You may be amazed at the hidden depths and treasures you discover about yourself.

Photo Credit: Paul

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Exasperation ... and Gratitude

Having just spent an entire morning dedicated to resolving a burocratic issue, that probably in another country, or even in another part of this country, would be taken care of smoothly, that has - over the hours - become a bit of a nightmare, and noticing my rising exasperation with workers and burocrats and large corporation employees (the latter two of which are never my favorite cup of tea), I decided to put one of my favorite tools into practice.

I looked out of the window, filled my eyes with the beauty I could see there, took a deep breath, and allowed myself to flood with gratitude for such beauty directly around me. In so doing, I could immediately feel a lowering of the exasperation, a loosening of something inside, an inner freedom from the negative place I had landed myself in due to the exasperation, and a general improvement of the state of my well-being. It was really that easy.

Just thought I'd let you know.

Photo Credit: Healing Dream

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do You Like the Person You Are Alone With?

Funny question, isn't it? Do you like the person you are alone with? If you are alone, there is no one with you ... other than yourself. So what about it? Do you like the person you are alone with? Do you like yourself? Enjoy spending time with yourself? Look forward to being alone with yourself? Consider yourself good company? Are you comfortable with yourself? Would you choose yourself as a friend, if you were not you?

Or do you, as so many of my clients admit to me, shy away from spending time with yourself? Find yourself looking for any activity at all in order to avoid being alone with yourself? Literally run away from any possibility of being alone with yourself? Some of my clients find themselves experiencing extreme anxiety if they have to be on their own. They will go shopping, they will eat, watch television, go to parties they don't particularly enjoy, go out on dates with people they don't find very interesting, drink, smoke, take drugs, have sex (including indiscriminate, even promiscuous sleeping around), in short, do anything they can to avoid the ultimate confrontation with the self.

Why does this happen? We could blame it in part on a society that places a much higher value on outer, material, social, and professional accomplishment than on the inner quest, where in reality both should be in balance (see also Tending Your Inner Garden). We could blame it in part on a society that does not further - or help us - to take these looks at ourselves (see also The Unexamined Life).

We could also blame it on a society – and a process of socialization within our family, religious, and educational structures, that does not generally give us appropriate tools to begin the process of self-love. Not egotistical self-love, but healthy, good self-love. The kind that airline personnel refer to, when they are giving the little talk at the beginning of the flight and say that if there should be a drop in pressure, oxygen masks will appear, and if you are traveling with small children, please put yours on first, before attending to your child. You understand that one with no problem, so perhaps you can take another look at the healthy kind of self-love we all need in order to be of use to ourselves and others.

If we do not love the self, we will probably not look forward to spending time with the self. But if we want to love the self, we must also come to know it. In order to know it, we have to look at it. And looking at it means that at first we may find much we don’t like. That’s ok. We can deal with all of it bit by bit. But let’s begin by looking inside. Inside the self.

Amazingly, even psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, mental health counselors, marriage therapists, family therapists, etc., are generally not required to undergo analysis, or encouraged to delve deeply within ... and as my three sons (well-versed in my opinions on the matter) would say ... Hellooooo?. Hello indeed. How is it possible that those of us who deal with the human psyche are not required to deal with our own? That, however, must be the topic of another future article.

Because we do not find this encouragement to embark on the inner quest, those of us who nevertheless do go ahead with it, find ourselves at odds with the bulk of society, if we are courageous enough to speak about it. We are either not understood, we may be mocked, and we may ultimately find ourselves ignored, or our friends may shake their heads and say or think: well, that's just his/her thing.

But what can the person who has not spent time with him or herself do to make this process easier? How can they walk along the path that will lead them into themselves, rather than consistently looking for something external to fill the unexplored void? We could recommend meditation, solitary walks, and so on, but I find that such practices are often too much for the novice, as they are then thrown into themselves to an overwhelming degree, much as someone used to a regular Western diet and who wishes to eat in a more healthy fashion, may find that going raw (eating only raw foods) is too much. (In a side note, I might add, I have gone totally raw from a regular Western diet over the past month after much reflection and reading about the subject over a number of years ... since the 70's, and find the initial effects of this raw diet - fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouts - on my body and mind and state of being, as well as on my energy level and quality of sleep, highly illuminating ... more of this in a future post on my blog).

Here are some transition suggestions:

• use audio CD's or tapes to spend some time on your own, but initially accompanied by someone (the motivational or inspirational speaker) who fills your mind with thoughts you might not normally get into on your own (see also Nurture Yourself to Happiness and Success as well as posts on my blog pertaining to energy)

• start the daily practice of journaling: write down your thoughts during a period of five minutes to begin with and see where it takes you

• and if you are already journaling, do a gratitude journal as well. Just jot down five things every day you are grateful for...and remember...things can be something ranging from a material thing, to something about your looks, to a sea gull you have just spied, to the sound of the wind through the trees, to your own particular gifts and talents, etc. Being grateful brings us closer to ourselves. We become more humble in view of the greatness that surrounds us. And so we come closer to ourselves as well. (See also these previous posts on gratitude).

• start recording your dreams (see previous dream posts or listen to my audio clips on dreams) and attempt to interpret them, as this will lead you into the psyche

• if you enjoy reading, start picking up some books that don't exist merely to entertain, but also to serve as an aid with which you can get to know yourself better (there are numerous books in my extensive Recommended Books Section, others are to be found in the December 2006 and 2007 Newsletters with the yearly list culled from the books I recommend each month, in each respectively, and other book suggestions can be found on my blog)

• once you've done some of this, you may actually find yourself desirous of trying that solitary walk (I power walk one hour every day on the beach here in southern Spain, which affords me a superb opportunity each and every day to commune with myself, or be internally creative, or practice open-eyed meditation, or be grateful for this blissful part of my day, etc.).

Getting to know the self, becoming enamored of the self, finding the beloved within, is one of the most liberating things you can decide to do for yourself. All it takes is some curiosity (how can you not be curious about yourself??) and desire, and above all, the first step.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Doubt Your Limitations

We are so good at doubting ourselves. Sometimes we doubt whether we will be able to make it through the day, or we doubt whether we will be accepted at college, or get the job, or get a date with the girl/boy, or pass the driver's exam, or learn how to ride a bike. And of course we doubt whether we will ever be able to excel.

So here is a suggestion: why not make a habit of doubting your limitations? Begin to doubt that you have limitations. Beginning to doubt your limitations means that you'll begin to look at the whole thing very differently. A conundrum, of sorts. You'll be looking at it from outside the box, as opposed to looking at it from the ho-hum viewpoint you have clung to all your life

Doubt your limitations. Allow yourself to soar. Emerge from the chrysalis so that the entirety of your transformed beauty can be seen!

Photo Credit: Blue Morpho Butterfly -  Butterfly Pictures

Monday, October 18, 2010

Straight Lines & Curves

It would be great if life were so simple that we could live forward in a straight line. I mean, if we could know right from the beginning, that if we start on a given path, we will be able to continue on that given path until we reach our goal. Unfortunately - or perhaps it is in fact, rather fortunate as you'll see below - life is not like that, and since it throws us a number of curve balls, most of them unexpected, we have to follow curves in order to catch (or solve) those curve balls. In so doing, we often find our greatest lessons and rewards.

Because of this, learning to love the unexpectedness of life, the serendipity of life, the continually changing pattern and design of life as our life mingles with the lives of those we live with in all our myriad facets, will bring us to greater heights, to greater accomplishments, and ultimately, to know greater aspects of ourselves that we might never have discovered, had it not been for needing to depart from that very straight path we began out on.

Photo Credit: Filomena Scalise

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Ego and Gratitude

Gratitude, as I've spelled out in many past posts here, has the capacity to pull us into the present moment. Hence, when you focus on something for which you feel gratitude, you momentarily come to a place of peace where the incessant mental chatter leaves you alone for a moment or two, where you no longer contemplate the pain some past event caused you, or worry about some future event that may or may not occur.

But here is another thing that happens when you focus on feeling gratitude, and I only realized this today as I viewed an excellent lecture by Deepak Chopra that I posted to my Facebook Page Rewiring the Soul.

It is this: due to the fact that the incessant mental chatter leave you alone for a moment or two during your contemplation of gratitude, your ego cannot dominate you. Being filled with gratitude, being in the present, frees you from the ego.

How great is that!!!

Listening to a super lecture by Deepak Chopra

Related Articles:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Changing Your Inner Energy

How well you feel inside often appears to depend on mere chance, or at best, outer circumstances over which we have little or no control. In this blog I have posted about how important it is to keep our inner energy high on numerous occasions by observing not only our thoughts, but also all that with which we surround ourselves.

Yesterday, during the 21 hours of the Chilean miner rescue operation, several people mentioned to me that they were astounded at the outpouring of interest by so many people all over the world for this event. After all, only 33 miners were involved, and compared to the Haitian earthquake disaster involving hundreds of thousands, or the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, they could not understand that, according to media reports, one billion viewers watched the rescue globally. And many of these viewers went back over and over again, to see yet another miner pulled out of the hole, and yet another miner reunited with loved ones.

What was going on?

Aside from natural human empathy for such a situation, another thing was going on. And I am very confident that most of those watching felt some of what follows.

Each time a new miner emerged, each time we saw he was in reasonably good shape physically, and in most cases, in great shape (at least this is how it appeared) on other levels, and each time we saw him reunited with loved ones and personally greeted by Chile's president Piñera, something shifted on an inner level in our own selves. This inner shifting involved an elevation of the inner energetic frequency of what for the sake of easy understanding, I am going to call our mood. We felt good. It made us feel good. We rejoiced. So our inner well-being changed, even if only for a moment. And we liked it. Some kept going back for another fix. After all, there were 33 in all!

And here's the thing: you can do the same for yourself at any time you choose to refocus on something different than what you are currently focusing on, if you need to elevate your sense of inner well-being.

Learning from what happened to you yesterday, is a huge step in understanding what you can, in fact, do for yourself at all times. And you don't need miners being rescued. You just need choice and focus.

For more detailed information, read some of the articles in the link above.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seeing the Light at the end of the Tunnel

Back in July 2007 I blogged about the ordeal ending in freedom of kidnapped Alan Johnston. I speculated on why he survived and referred to some of the things he did in order to do that

His interview on the BBC indicated this: 
  1. he kept hoping that tomorrow would be better 
  2. he consistently minimized his fears
  3. he accentuated any mildly positive element
Today - the day of the recue of the Chilean miners - at this writing, 16 have been pulled to safety, and I just want to say this:
  • what were you doing the day their ordeal began? It was August 7th, 2010
  • if they were able to survive those first 17 harrowing days when no one had found them, when they did not know if they ever would be found, and during which time they had only small bites of tuna and a tiny amount of water,
  • and since then, if they have been able to survive the additional 52 days, not knowing if and when they would, in fact, be rescued,
  • and today, if they have been able to survive coming up through 700 metres of mountain in a tiny capsule, 54 cm in diameter ...
If they have been able to maintain hope and courage and survive this, then we can take heart from their strength. We can emulate them, and in our own travails begin to apply the same courage. If they can do this, then we can do whatever it takes to deal with our own lives!

Photo Credit: As We Travel

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Listen to the Sound of Your Voice!

When your mother soothed you with her soft murmurs after you skinned your knee, or were in bed with a temperature, or when your coach encouraged you with his cheers as you were nearing the finish line in the inter-collegiate competitions, or when your college professor sarcastically berated you for not having completed your history essay on time, or when your partner screamed at you irately for flirting with that riveting lawyer at the cocktail party last night, they all used their voice in very specific ways. Due to those sounds, you reacted in ways that were consonant in some fashion, with those sounds. You were soothed, you were encouraged, your felt guilty, etc.

Exactly the same thing happens with your own voice. Take a look at these examples:
  • a friend greets you and asks how you are. Your answer is not necessarily negative, but your tone of voice is low, not hopeful 
  • you are having a telephone conversation with your brother about your job. Your tone of voice is not strong, because you feel that you might be downsized
  • you are voicing a concern about your health to a colleague. Your tone of voice is worried
  • you are recounting a near accident you had due to the carelessness of another drive. Your tone of voice is enraged
  • you are speaking to your partner about a perceived slight. You are inscensed and your voice shows it
  • you are discussing your finances with your spouse. They are not good. Your tone of voice is filled with desperation
In all instances, just as in the ones cited in the first paragraph of today's blog, you are influenced by the tone of voice, but in this case it is your own voice, as opposed to the voice of another person. Your very cells are influenced by the sound of your voice (if you doubt this, think of how your adrenaline shoots up if someone shouts in your ear unexpectedly ... your cells have reacted to the sound). Your body, your psyche, and your spirit are all influenced by the sound of your own voice. Therefore it is very important that you start listening - really listening - to the way you are speaking. It is not only the words that you use that influence you, but also the tone of your voice. I'm not advocating that you pretend to yourself with your own words and the sound of your own voice anything that is not true, but I am advocating that you take great conscious care in how you speak and what you say. Your own influence on yourself in this regard, is perhaps underrated and therefore the goal of this post is to encourage you to begin to pay attention. You have such enormous influence over yourself, in so many ways, if only you will begin to observe it.
Photo Cresdit: Filomena Scalise

Monday, October 11, 2010

Freeing Yourself From Some of the Bonds

A few days ago I blogged about Autonomy in Love and today I'm going to tell almost the same story but in different words. Your partner has indicated that for some reason they are upset with you. Or, God forbid, that they may be contemplating abandoning you. You are devastated. Even in the milder case, where it's merely a question of an upset between the two of you. You recognize this feeling. You have been here many times before. What it is telling you is that your well-being depends on your partner being OK with you. It depends on him/her not being angry or annoyed with you. This sense of well-being that sways back and forth depending on how your partner is feeling about you enslaves you. Not your partner. Your partner is not the one who is enslaving you, although at times it may feel like that. It is your own inner well-being wavering back and forth according to your partner's moods that enslaves you.

So this is what is necessary: your own recognition that when you feel like that, it is up to you to change how you feel, no matter what is going on with your partner. The reason you waver in that fashion is because your own inner core, your inner emotional core is not strong. It needs the approbation or love of the other to allow it to feel good. If you can begin to understand this, you will see that the wavering comes from you and not from outside of you. It comes from a lack of love of yourself. What will make it strong, bit by bit, is if you begin to show the self that you love the self enough to take care of the self in moments like the one described, by being good to the self and doing something that will make you feel better at that moment in time, despite your partner's mood.

This process will strengthen something that is not very strong in you: your self love, and if you do this at any time you feel that familiar sensation referred to above, then each time you choose to care for the self and choose to re-establish that inner balance and well-being despite the outer circumstance, you will grow in self love. And that will bring you to freedom from the bonds.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Kortsch . View from Spain near Tarifa, east towards Bolonia (beaches in foreground) and the Moorish town of Tarifa (land tip jutting out into the water at right), to Africa (the Rif Mountains in background) and Tangiers across the Straits of Gibraltar

Friday, October 8, 2010

Your Words Shape Your Life

Think about the power of these phrases:
  • Oh, I hate it so much when people behave with such lack of sensitivity towards the disabled
  • I am such a klutz when it comes to following directions
  • I'm great at some things, but it's just impossible for me to draw a face
  • I can't stand people who are stingy
  • I really dislike rainy days
  • Don't you just want to kill people who can only see their own point of view?
  • I totally agree that the _______ (Gypsy, Romanian, Sudanese, Mexican, Jewish, Palestinian, etc.) people need to be returned to their own country
In each instance you are expressing something negative that affects a few moments of your life. In each instance you are moving away from peace and love and self-acceptance towards self-denial and hatred or revenge and even war.

Peace begins with a smile, Mother Teresa said. Peace never begins with war or vehement disagreement and hatred. It applies whether the peace is inner or outer. And it begins with the manner in which we use our words and our thoughts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Emotional Unavailability

Emotional unavailability can be devastating to everyone touched by it. People often mistakenly understand it as a ploy on the part of the emotionally unavailable person to use others, or to get without giving, and while it is true that some of that may happen at times, it is also true that it consistently undermines the existence of the one who suffers from it, and consequently wraps its painful tentacles around those who are in the life of that person.

It’s a subject fraught with pain and difficulty, potentially more so for the person on the receiving end of an emotionally unavailable partner or parent or friend, but also on the side of the individual who “plays” out the role of the emotionally unavailable person, as they too, can suffer tremendously from it.

Defining the Emotionally Unavailable Person

How can we define the emotionally unavailable person? These are individuals who are:

• cut off from their own emotions and emotional processes

• cut off from others’ emotions and their emotional processes

• very disconnected from the emotional content of their lives

Let’s take a closer look at all of these points.

Cut Off From Their Own Emotional Process

Imagine that a friend or a partner abandons you, either out of the blue, or after an argument, and has now disappeared from your life. Imagine that you feel that you did not deserve such treatment. Clearly, you would experience feelings of hurt, disappointment, pain, sorrow, and so on. You might also feel angry and indignant.

The emotionally unavailable person, however, would not only not acknowledge most of these feelings, but would probably say that the whole thing is not really that important, or that it was just as well that it happened. In other words, they would have little recognition of these feelings swirling around inside of them. They might complain of gastric upset, or a headache, or back pain, or knee discomfort, or unexplained difficulties in walking, or any other manifestation that shows that the process went into their body due to it not being acknowledged on the emotional level.

On the other hand, if this person has begun a relationship with someone, and they notice that they are thinking about the other person a lot, and that they enjoy spending time with the other person, and that somehow the sun shines more brightly when they are around the other person, they would not interpret this as the beginning of love, the way many other individuals might, but would perhaps say, after a brief time of enjoying the “warm sunshine” of the other’s presence: you’re crowding me, or I need more space, or we need to cool it for a while, or I don’t know how you do it, but you’re really maneuvering yourself into my life, or this is going too quickly for me, or simply I really don’t want a relationship, or I always said I didn’t want a commitment (although they may often marry or cohabit, but although they may share bed and house, they rarely share themselves.

Clearly, the emotionally unavailable person is saying this because they are beginning to feel discomfort in the presence of the other person because they are unable to handle the surge of their own emotions in connection to the other person. This is not conscious, nor is this done or said from a position of nastiness or miserliness, much that it may often appear to be that. This is, in actual fact, a defense mechanism, learned, in all likelihood, in childhood, to safeguard the child against hurt from people he/she had loved and who somehow drastically let him down. Sometimes this letting down happens only in the perception of the child.

Early childhood attachment studies (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970) indicate that abandonment by the parents, and particularly by the mother, creates much greater problems with later emotional availability than even physical abuse. Abandonment, logically, does not only mean a totally absent parent, but also a parent who disappears for a period of time in the early life of the infant (especially during the first 12-18 months of life), such as those children whose parents must leave them in hospital, or some kind of institution and are not able to visit frequently. Nevertheless, the experience, whether it truly happened, or was only perceived, or happened for totally innocent reasons (the child’s life had to be saved by hospitalizing it) carries enormous weight in the adult and with his or her relationships with persons of the opposite sex (or the same gender in the case of gay relationships).

Cut Off From Others’ Emotional Processes

It follows that the emotionally unavailable person has not a clue about the state of another person’s emotions, even when faced with that person’s tears or recriminations, or pain, which may be totally evident to others, but not necessarily to the emotionally unavailable person. In the face of these emotions in the other person, the emotionally unavailable person often feels put upon, burdened with an onerous duty, that he or she mainly wants to escape from, because it feels far too heavy, and heavy often feels dangerous. That makes for a very difficult relationship, to say the least.

Disconnected From the Emotional Content of Their Lives

Despite the disconnection from the emotional content of their lives, emotionally unavailable persons might be connected to bits of it with those people they do not feel threatened by. For example: they may be very loving and tender to the children – especially the very young children - of other people, or very caring and tender to other people’s partners (in the right way, not in the wrong way, i.e. as good and supportive friends). Or they may have a deeply caring relationship with a pet, or be very much into caring for plants, gardening, and so on.

But the connection to their own emotional content is generally non-existent.

I repeat, emotional unavailability tends not to be conscious. The emotionally unavailable person spends an enormous amount of psychological energy maintaining the “wolves at bay”. In order not to have to deal with their own emotions, their defense mechanisms have become automatic, and spring up, the way a bridge over a castle moat springs up to prevent intruders from approaching too closely. It is only when this process becomes conscious, that the emotionally unavailable person is in a position to do something about it, and this person may fight hand and foot in order to not become aware. They may insist that they don’t want to leave their comfort zone, or that they never wanted a commitment, and shrug their shoulders and leave it at that, never having come any closer to a conscious realization of their inner scarring and crippled spirit (see also Scars).


Often – but not always - the emotionally unavailable person is also unavailable sexually, or, if they have made some outward commitment, such as sharing a home, or having a child with the partner, they may withdraw emotionally and sexually, finding it far too emotionally taxing to be engaged on more than one level…in this case, simply living together is enough. Becoming distant from one’s partner or not being sexually responsive are also ways of cutting off genuine relating. This is a long topic, and I will write a separate article about it at a future date.

What if you’re the Partner of the Emotionally Unavailable Person?

What does emotional unavailability tell you about you if you are with an emotionally unavailable partner? And how can you deal with it?

There have probably been issues with the parents and unmet or disappointed emotions on your part, leaving you feeling bereft and alone, like an abandoned child. You may have learned a dysfunctional model of love, where love was never freely given. This in turn may have created a deep well of neediness, neediness, neediness, and more neediness, which in turn caused you to have a lack of boundaries…please step all over me, just as long as you love me. This is implicit in a lack of self-respect, self-worth, self-love, etc., and there tends to be a desire to fuse or merge with a new partner almost immediately. Frequently there is a loss of identity, and of course one tends to be addicted to the partner which implies withdrawal symptoms of the worst kind if and when the partner leaves.

This process is also unconscious. What the person with this aspect of dysfunctionality is aware of, is the pain. But he or she interprets the pain as the fault of the partner, the emotionally unavailable partner, because he/she is not behaving the way this person would like him to behave. Consequently, blame is placed firmly on the shoulders of the emotionally unavailable person by the partner who is not getting what he wants, and hence this partner does not become aware of his own need to clear up the issue of neediness and lack of boundaries and lack of real meaning in the life.

Whether the emotionally unavailable person is behaving “properly” or not from an emotional point of view, is actually not the point, because it is not a question of “fixing” the emotionally unavailable partner. Yes, it is true that those issues need to be worked on, but it is also the partner who feels rejected or feels that the other is cold and unemotional, who needs to take a good look at the reasons he or she is attracted over and over again into situations of this nature (also see the I Need You…I Need You Not). It may mean, that as you work on yourself in order to resolve these issues, you may need to get out of the relationship, and get out fast! Again, this is a long topic, and I will write a separate article about it at a future date.

What Can the Emotionally Unavailable Person Do?

This depends in great measure on the person’s desire to change. Sometimes clients come in saying that they want to be able to offer more to their partner; that they are aware of the fact that they give so little in the emotional arena, that they are somehow stunted, even crippled (see Scars, above) and that they want to be done with that. This is really the first step: becoming aware. As you become aware, you begin to look at the fear and the pain – both your own and that of your partner. All of this requires a great deal of self-honesty and that is never easy, especially if you are used to hiding behind your defenses that you have perfected and honed over the years.

At this point it helps if you decide to make use of that ability that we all have but don’t always invoke: our right to choose at every moment of every day, and in every situation of any kind. So we can choose our reactions, our actions, our thoughts, and our words and gestures, but we must remember to remain aware for this to have a hope of happening. We can also choose to change what we feel. I know that sounds almost impossible, but it’s not. However, it is a topic (once again) for another article (see also Making Choices: Taking Responsibility For Our Lives). Choosing to choose to behave differently is one of the most powerful tools for change in the life of the emotionally unavailable person.

Then do what you would do for any new skill you wish to perfect: practice, practice, practice (it may not make perfect immediately, but it will make you change very quickly, at least some of the time). Observe your body at all times…use the mind-body communication service! (see also The Energy Barometer, Make Your Mind Body Connection Work For You). Finally, don’t expect to climb Mount Everest in a day: be good to yourself taking the first small steps, forgive yourself for mistakes you are bound to make, and remember, the child who is learning how to walk may appear to fall frequently, and just not put it all together into a cohesive whole – until one day, he not only no longer falls, but is walking perfectly, as though it had formed part of his repertoire all of his life. The same goes for you. Want it, believe it, and do it.

Photo Credit: Simon Howden


Also visit my book website: www.gabriellakortsch.com where you may download excerpts or read quotations from any of my books. My new book Emotional Unavailability & Neediness: Two Sides of the Same Coin is now out globally on Amazon in print & Kindle. You can also obtain it (or any of my other books) via Barnes & Noble.

Books by Dr. Gabriella Kortsch

Note: If you are wondering why this blog is now only appearing on alternate days (excluding Sat/Sun), it is because I also post on my other blog on the others days. That other blog is The Tao of Spiritual Partnership, so named for another one of my books. Click here to visit the blog and/or to sign up for the feed.

Find more free articles from my monthly newsletters as well as more information about my work at Advanced Personal Therapy

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Setting Yourself Free

Finding inner freedom is a topic I've blogged about on numerous occasions here and it's a topic we can probably never finish reading about, or never read enough about, because it seems as though once we find freedom in one area of our lives, there are always more areas that require attention, or where we fall back into old habits.

But I believe that there is an underlying fundamental concept to this topic of setting yourself free that arises from taking responsibility for yourself. Ho-hum. Again, another topic I've blogged about a lot here. But you see, once you take that one single solitary decision in a very serious way: that you choose to become responsible for yourself in all ways that affect you: your thoughts, your feelings, your words, your actions and reactions, then everything else, that is to say, everything that happens on the outside must fall into one of those areas, and hence you take charge of it, and hence you become free of the feeling that your world and your circumstances dictate what goes on inside of you.

A simple example: a barking dog. One of your neighbours has a dog that barks a lot, sometimes for hours on end. Thankfully only during the daytime. But you work at home. Hence the dog's barks (and I know you love dogs, this has nothing to do with not being a dog lover) can drive you to distraction. Or anger. Or desperation. Or to a desire to exact some kind of revenge on your neighbour. You get the picture. So where does responsibility for the self come into the picture? In such a way that you set yourself free from the above thoughts and emotions and even potential actions? All of which are, by the way, reactions to the simple fact that the dog barks.

This is it: you determine to ignore the barking. This is a bit like those people we sometimes see in the cinema who live right by the L in Chicago, or in Kloten, the Zurich airport suburb, or who get traffic noise from below their apartment in Manhattan, or anywhere, where there is a lot of intermittent noise that can not be predicted. They generally don't make the concerted effort I'm suggesting in my dog example, because they tend to get used to the noise and only notice it when someone who is not normally there, mentions in surprise that they can't understand how someone living there can sleep, or live, or whatever. Now in our dog example, it requires - as said - determination. Determination to ignore the barking. Determination to not let your angry or frustrated or desperate thoughts get the better of you. Determination to choose to focus on something else. And as you practice this, because it does take practice, you will notice first, that occasionally you have gone hours without hearing the dog, and second, that when you do hear the dog, the sound no longer has the capacity to bother you. That is the beginning - at least of this bit - of freedom.

Photo Credit: Graur Razvan Ionut

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How Often Do You Say Yes When You Should Say No?

You know how it goes:
  • your best friend asks you to house sit her cats while she is away in Europe. She says it will be just like being at home, so it won't make a difference to you ... but it makes a huge difference not to be in your own home for three weeks
  • your colleague at works asks you to let her use the marketing research you have been preparing for your annual meeting. You feel small for wanting to say no, after all, it's all for the good of the company, isn't it?
  • your neighbour asks you to accept a package that will definitely be arriving in the next two hours. She tells you how important it is to her family to have this in time for their get together, but you have a bad feeling when you agree to do it that it might not be two hours, and then you'll be stuck there waiting for the package
  • your client asks to meet with you at a time that totally encroaches on your family and private down time. You don't want to lose the client, but you also don't think it's right to be put into this position
  • your not-so-best friend, but good acquaintance, asks you to ask your graphic designer daughter to help him with a design
I'm sure you get the drift. In each example there is a situation that puts you into a place where it might appear that you are being slightly less than considerate and/or generous if you refuse, and yet if you agree, you will probably be kicking yourself in the behind for some time. So what do you do?

You go by your gut. When you have a sinking feeling inside, or when your gut is clenching, it's a clear message to you that there is something not quite right in what is being asked of you. Maybe because it is presumptuous of the other to ask it of you, or maybe simply because you do not want to do it. So you need to say no. It may take some practice, but it's that simple.

Photo Credit: Paul

Monday, October 4, 2010

Looking For Light in the Darkness

Many people traverse large portions of their lives in darkness. I'm referring to darkness in the sense that it appears as though nothing will improve, in the sense that nothing makes sense anymore, that they have done all they can and yet nothing has worked in the way they had hoped for - and these are not depressed individuals, but rather, individuals who have not yet recognized that there is always some type of light. And of course the minute a minute fraction of light is found, a portion of the darkness must give way to it, and it is immediately not so penetratingly black anymore.

The dark night of the soul that so many authors - old and modern - have written about (St. John of the Cross, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Moore, and Gerald May, to name only a few), is not a place everyone necessarily arrives at, but it is a place, that if you arrive at it, requires that you examine yourself in ways you may not have done before. And examining yourself in these ways, may lead you to that ephemeral (at least initially), and then more lasting and sturdy recognition of the divine self within that Joseph Campbell (and many others) writes about so extensively in his collected work.

This faint recognition then, might be the glimmering of light in the darkness that may - as it is steadily sought and wooed and believed in despite the darkness - grow to a strong and brilliant light that will never again permit access to such complete darkness into an individual's life. Darkness yes, but never complete. Some of the light will always be there as a guide on the way to even greater light.

Friday, October 1, 2010

How Much Do You Care ... What Others Think?

That's a loaded question because most of us don't care to admit that our actions and beliefs and thought patterns are frequently swayed by what others think. Fashion is a great example. Many of my friends (and myself included too at times ... don't conclude that I think that I'm so perfect!) who of course - like myself - are no longer in the spring chicken stage of their lives, will make remarks about elements of current fashion on young girls. I would never have worn something like that, they will say. In my time we were more decent. I look them sternly in the eye and go: so did you change from pointed high heels to round-toed chunky heeled shoes in the early 70's? Or did you go from the knee-high dresses to minis to midis all through the 70's and 80's? What about shoulder pads? They glare at me and tell me that that was very different. After all, they say, I didn't bare my mid-riff, or show off the top of my "behind" in my jeans. And I continue in my lecture mode: what about those strappy FM stiletto heels that came back in the late 70's? Did you ever buy any of those???

The point here is not the morality or esthetics of the article of clothing, as much as the fact that we almost all go along with fashion trends. How many women were there - when I was a kid - who were grandmothers and who did not have white or grey hair? Very few, unless they were genetically lucky. Practically none of them dyed their hair, or if they did, and this was more common in the US than here in Europe, you had "blue-silvery" hair. Now, very few whose hair has gone grey or white at the roots will allow those roots to be seen. Why? Because of what others will think, or because of how we will be perceived by others, which amounts to the same thing.

When three-button jackets for men came out, when ties become more narrow, or wider again, when shirt collars change, what percentage of males does not go along with the trend? When overcoats travel above the knee, or when designers decide to make them sink below it again, how many resist the pull of what is being worn out there by most?

Botox, plastic surgery, hair styles, car models, type and color scheme of furnishings in a home, for crying out loud! And I haven't even started on politically correct opinions or ways of voicing things.

Again, my point is that we are so swayed by our environment, whether it's the very close one, such as family and friends, slightly more distanced one, such as work colleagues and neighbours, or simply mass media and above all, mass advertising. Why are there so many individuals - including more and more males - with eating disorders, or at least with poor body image and subsequent psychological stress due to finding their bodies "wrong" in some way, because of an impossible ideal shown to us day after day out there on TV and in movies and magazines? It's very clear ... we are swayed and we need to become more conscious of it.

Look at how easily we are convinced to eat or drink (or decades ago - to smoke) this or that, just because we are swayed by the advertising. How many times have we now heard how much was already known back then - about smoking, for example - with regards to how noxious it is for our health, and since then, we've heard similar horror stories about additives in food, sweeteners, MSG, corn starch, etc. And yet we continue to be swayed.

In my early 30's I very deliberately stopped buying fashion magazines because I saw the effect they had on me. I won't watch commercials if I happen to be on a television station that still is allowed to have them in the middle of a presentation. No matter how much I like a product, if I remember to read the ingredients on it, and if they are not healthy, or if there are several of them that make no sense or are only numbers or chemical words, I won't buy the product. And so on. But this has to be a conscious choice.

And only you can make it...

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino