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Greetings, Fellow Earthlings

When I first saw the movie “Avatar,” I was struck by the beautiful greeting the Na’vi use with each other, which is “I see you.” (That is also how the people from Swaziland greet each other, thank you internet).

That phrase, “I see you” is very powerful in so many ways and really resonates with the themes in my book, Addict America: The Lost Connection.

When I say “I see you,” I am first saying that I am aware of your presence and that I see your physical body. That may seem an obvious thing on the face of it, but think about how many people you might greet in a day. Do you really see them or is your mind elsewhere? Do you see the entire person or just parts, such as eyes, mouths, or maybe breasts?

Saying “I see you” gives the message that I am looking at you, the whole you, and that I am acknowledging your personhood.

On a deeper level, saying “I see you” can mean that I see your essence or inner self. At heart, we all want to be accepted unconditionally, no matter our perceived failings, weaknesses, or faults. We are mostly afraid to be fully seen, because we are afraid of rejection. We are afraid that if we are seen for whom we really are, we will be judged as not important, not good enough, or even as bad. We put up walls and wear masks in the hopes that people will see us as we wish to be seen and then we live with the fear that we will be discovered in our deceit.

Finally, saying “I see you” keeps me present. I am aware of the two of us in this space, in this time, and that in this moment, nothing else exists.

Greeting someone with “I see you” is an opportunity to give the gift of your full attention and presence and to give the gift of unconditional acceptance. It is the opportunity to Connect.

Be In Light,

Carol

Fall Fatigue

For many years now I’ve noticed that in the Fall – October and November – I and a lot of people I know complain of feeling tired and with that tiredness comes a sense of depression. As a therapist, I’m aware of clients coming to see me and wanting my help with this. That’s my job, right? To help people with depression and fatigue?

Over the centuries, people have become distanced from their Connection with the earth – the growing cycles, the interplay of plants and animals, and the seasons. We have become disconnected from our own biology as well. We all have that Caveman Brain that is ruled by instinct, the autonomic nervous system, and emotions. We can mediate it with our prefrontal cortex, or Enlightened Brain, but it helps to know the source of our emotions and drives.

In the case of the tiredness we feel in the Fall, it makes sense that this is the time when the days are growing shorter, when the frenetic planting and growing is done and the harvest is in and we can rest. It is a time to unwind and be still. Our Caveman Brains know this but our Enlightened Brains are still in “Go go go” mode and so the natural fatigue we feel is interpreted as something being wrong. Without knowing what it is and being able to fix it, we then feel depressed.

When I recognize this and allow the process, I’m okay. I give myself permission to take naps, to do a bit less, and to enjoy the cooler weather and shorter days (even here in Miami). When I reassure my clients that there is nothing “wrong” and that this is just a part of the seasonal cycle, they feel more peaceful and can experience the regenerative energy of this brief time before the holiday madness engulfs us.

If you or your clients or your friends have been feeling a bit tired or drained, it’s okay. There is nothing to fix. Relax with a good book (The Wind in the Willows is my favorite), take a break, and Connect with what you love. The days will lengthen once more and as nature stirs, the plants slowly waken, the rivers flow with melting snows, then so will your life force energize with the New Year!

Be In Light

Do Not Fear

I was recently talking with someone who is experiencing quite a bit of fear right now.  She is on a fixed income and worried about a time when she will lose some independence, her health, and her home, and not be able to afford the care she will need.  In response to her fear, she is looking to blame someone and it is very easy these days to fall prey to the fear-mongering and blame that is prevalent in our media and politics.  While fear and blame do not change anyone’s situation, they do serve to Connect people, albeit in an unhealthy way.  Just as the early cavemen huddled together around the fire for warmth and security, so do we now band together in groups to feel safe against the terrors of the unknown future. 

The reason I say it is unhealthy is because in our need to belong to a group that shares our fears, we end up intensifying and heightening the perceived threat.  In our attempt to feel in control of our lives, we end up filling our hearts with hate and aggression.  In the enlightened words of Theodore Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

As Andrew Sullivan recently wrote in a Newsweek article ( Andrew Sullivan: Christianity in Crisis, Apr 2, 2012, read the article) Jesus advocated giving up control and trying to have power over others.  Certainly He modeled this throughout His life.  There are many groups today who are feeding our fears and most of them incorporate an espousal of Christianity in their rants, but what they are promoting is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught.  (I am most knowledgeable about Christianity, having been raised in that faith, and I have also studied some Kabbalah and Buddhism and found them to all be related in their basic philosophies.  I plan to read up on the Quran next.)

When we can live by the simple philosophy of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Love your enemies,” and “Forgive others,” we can step out of fear and into a place of true faith and belief that we will be cared for.  In our openness, we will attract others who embrace life simply and lovingly.  We will find new groups to which we may belong.

“Do not fear” was one of the first messages I received when I consciously opened myself up to the Universe on that bridge in Phoenicia that I describe in the first pages of Addict America: The Lost Connection.  Since that time, whenever I have felt fear about the future – losing my husband, losing my home, losing my income, or losing my health (note how fear is always about loss!) I consciously turn it over to God, open my mind to the Light, and the message is always the same – “Do not fear.”  I bring myself back to the moment, this place right here, right now, where I am fine and my fears melt away.  Since that time, I have found that I am daily engaging with others who are on this path.  In my work, I pass on this message and it resonates with so many people, especially those on the journey of Recovery. 

I am Connected.

Express Yourself

Those who know me were very much surprised to hear that I had gone to a discussion and book signing by the infamous purveyor of porn, Larry Flynt. I surprised myself, actually, but I was interested in his new book, One Nation Under Sex, and I also admire him for his continuing work to defend our First Amendment.

Mr. Flynt was entertaining during much of his talk about how the sex lives of our presidents and their first ladies have influenced our politics and I applaud his derision of the hypocrisy in our country. What I found disappointing was his response to a question I posed.

Only that morning, I had been on a panel discussion before a class of medical students and the other panel members, all sex therapists and educators, had denigrated the concept of sex addiction. I respectfully listened to them but they rolled their eyes and made faces indicating their repudiation of my foolish (in their eyes) position on the subject – responses that I personally found juvenile and unprofessional – and I thought it would be interesting to hear what Mr. Flynt’s thoughts might be.

Unfortunately, he only made the well-worn, supposed-to-be-amusing remark that if someone had to have an addiction, sex is the one to have.

Sex addiction, like any addiction, is painful, shameful, and negatively affects not only the addict, but the significant people in the addict’s life and even those who are objectified by the addict’s behavior. It’s not about having joyous, unrestrained orgasms and sex play and it’s not about loving relationships. Labeling sexual behavior as addictive is not about imposing morals or limiting freedom of sexual expression. It’s about behavior that is obsessive, compulsive, and out of control and leads to negative consequences to self and others. Addiction is a barrier to intimacy and Connection, while recovery from addiction leads to true joy in life.

I hope that before anyone argues with me about whether or not sex addiction exists, you will read my book, Addict America: The Lost Connection. You will get to know me and hopefully understand how I conceptualize addiction.

I don’t know you, Larry, but I’m glad we met, and I thank you sincerely for fighting for our right to have these discussions.

Disconnection In America

During the years when I was writing Addict America: The Lost Connection, my focus was on how we, as Americans, are so caught up in our "more is better," "over-the-top" lifestyles, that we live in a state of addiction and disconnection.  In our current times, when our country is so extremely divided, it is more apparent than ever that we are living in a state of addiction that is driven by fears created by groups who wish to control us.  This is nothing new.  Religions, political groups, and any other special interest group - including any company or individual trying to sell us something - will first create a fear and then tell us how they can relieve that fear.

For instance, by creating the fear of Hell, various religions have gathered and kept members by promising that if the members just do what they are told, they will escape Hell and go to Heaven.  In essence, they sell their religion.  In a more mundane way, think of the commercials on TV.  The advertisers create a fear - if you have bad breath, you will be alone; if you drive a competitor´s car, you will die in an accident.  Then they tell you what to do: Use this product, buy this car, and you will be safe.

We also have the need to belong to a group, whether it is our family, our religion, our country, or our political party.  Belonging to the group is the strongest motivator of human behavior, because we are already Connected to all life.  It is just difficult to take in the concept of Connection of such magnitude when our Enlightened Brains are still evolving, so we grab on to smaller, more manageable groups.
Unfortunately, this leaves us open to manipulation by fear.  Of course, then, our greatest fear is rejection from the group, so we sublimate our own inner sense of Connection to our Higher Power for the security of the group.

At this time in America, we are experiencing this phenomenon to an incredible degree.  We have lost our sense of being part of the larger group that is America and are being divided to an extreme degree by political groups.  Political parties and large corporations are made up of people who are part of their own groups within those entities.  They, too, are acting on their personal fears of inadequacy and rejection and they personify the concept of addiction as put forth in Addict America: The Lost Connection.  In their need to escape their own existential pain, they attempt to control the external world and so no amount of money or power will ever be enough because that pain can only be resolved from within.  Meanwhile, unless and until the rest of us free ourselves of fear, we will be manipulated into a deeper state of disconnection from our spiritual selves and from each other.

Even in these divisive times, we can choose to live in recovery.  We can bring ourselves into the present, accept that we cannot control anything outside of ourselves and only our inner thoughts and feelings, and we can give to God that which we fear.

Fear is about loss of control, but when we accept that the only thing we can control is our own minds, we realize that nothing external can ever control us.  When we live by the Serenity Prayer, we have nothing to fear.

God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Another paradox of recovery:  Connect with your inner self to Connect with all life in the Universe.

Be In Light

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