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Friday, October 26, 2012

Ghosties and Ghoulies and Magic, Oh Yes!


All Hallows Eve is right around the corner. In Celtic tradition, that’s the date that separates the dark half of the year from the light. It’s a time for staying home with family. For introspection and regrouping. It’s also when the veils between the worlds thin, allowing spirits freer access to the living.
One of my problems with our modern, scientifically-based lives is all the traditions that have been tossed out as meaningless. I’m not religious in a traditional sense, but I am spiritual. So what does that mean? The least complicated definition I can come up with is I believe in something larger than my body and my mind. Something that ties them together. Whether you call it spirit, or the Collective Unconscious doesn’t much matter.

A working definition of gestalt, is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think living creatures are like that. We are way more than neurons firing in certain patterns. It’s why no one has ever made a truly successful robot outside of Hollywood.

Our ancestors, superstitious as they were, had a much better understanding of the mystical quality of life than we do. Where we go racing to the Internet to look up explanations for things, they were content to accept the esoteric nature of certain events.

I’ve had enough odd experiences myself that I believe in the supernatural. Plus, I’ve had friends and patients relate hundreds of parapsychological events. Things that couldn’t possibly be explained away by science. Were we all victims of hysteria? I don’t think so.

On a deeply personal level, I don’t want a world where every single thing can be validated, explained or replicated using the scientific method. I like mysteries. It’s what drew me to depth psychology. Otherwise I would have stuck with cognitive behavioral interventions where you have patients journal and count things.

Not that writing things down doesn’t have a place in psychotherapy. It does because it’s a great tool to raise people’s awareness. But it doesn’t address the root cause of a problem. My observation is that problems have a way of cropping up with different names if we can’t figure out their origins.

Children are experts in the mysteries. But we drum the miraculous out of them pretty fast. Usually, by the time they’re around five, their wonderfully fluid imaginations have started to reflect cultural norms. Schools are just as guilty as parents. No kid wants to be different and they figure out pretty fast that talking about things that aren’t “real” is the kiss of death socially.

How about all of you? Have you had paranormal experiences? What did you do about them? Run like hell, embrace them, or some path in between.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy is a State of Mind


Here in the United States, we are part of the first wave of human beings who’ve been obsessed with being happy. If a generation is roughly twenty-five years, that would make today’s twenty-somethings about the fourth generation since “happy” rose to ascendency.
Why is that, anyway? Well, if you roll the clock back a hundred years, most of us were too busy to worry about whether or not “happy” made the daily hit parade. Take my grandmother, for example. A Russian immigrant, she had seven children. Between laundry, turning out three meals a day for nine people (without convenience foods) and managing a large, rambling house, she didn’t have time to worry about frivolous things. And even though she would have had a hard time articulating it, she derived a sense of personal satisfaction from a job well done. Of her six children who survived to adulthood, every single one had a college education.

In my psychotherapy office over the years, I saw lots of people who would say something like, “I’d be happy if only…” Take a look at that sentence fragment and read it again. Yes, it means exactly what you think it does; and it has interesting implications. It means whoever said it has cut themselves off from the possibility of true happiness if they don’t get a certain thing.
I’d like to take that one step further. In my experience, people who live their lives this way keep raising the bar. They finally get what they thought would make them happy. It doesn’t, so they set their sights on something else.

It may sound simple-minded, but how we feel is under our control. If we tell ourselves we couldn’t possibly be happy because— (you fill in the blank), we’ll never be. But it works in reverse as well. The most conscious, fulfilled people I know carry their joy within them. And they find things to nurture that bliss in simple, everyday events.

We are like crystals. We reflect our inner nature. Self-acceptance is the key to nearly everything. So, set realistic goals. Celebrate successes. Regroup when something doesn’t happen as you may have wished. Instead of waiting for the universe to conform to your expectations, see what you can give that might shift some karmic balance.

Writing is a neurosis-inducing endeavor. And a fairly narcissistic one. I can’t speak for other writers, but what’s made it work for me is having a sense of who I am independent of my identity as a writer. I think you almost need that to deal with the plethora of rejections. Actually, I’ve come to value rejections (and feedback when I’m lucky enough to get it). Both give me direction for how to grow myself as a writer.

Along the road, I’ve done a fair amount of critiquing and editing and I’ve been amazed at how difficult it is for some writers to accept anything other than glowing commentary. Having a second, third and fourth set of eyes on my writing is invaluable, even if some suggestions from different editors compete with one another. For that fact, if I pick up one of my own stories that I haven’t worked on for a few weeks, I’m far better able to pick out its weaknesses.

Growth and change mark our progress more than “happy”. And the ability to look at our own efforts with some level of objectivity is a gift.

How about all of you? Does anything in this blog post resonate? This is a fairly anonymous forum. Anything you’d care to share is always appreciated.