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Forgive Seventy Times Seven Times

Many of you may recognize this from the New Testament. Whether or not you identify as a Christian, there is a lot of wisdom in those pages where they include specific teachings and messages.

I’m thinking of this because of the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade. I was furious and scared and just plain tired since I marched for women’s rights, including the right to do what we want with our bodies, back in the 70s and now here we are again. I began fantasizing about what I’d like to see happen to some of those Supreme Court Justices and to the people who are so fanatical about abortion and I went down a very dark and angry path. Then I remembered Jesus on the cross saying “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” and I realized that even if something awful happened to any of the myriad people who had a voice in this, it wouldn’t change their minds. They have their beliefs and opinions based on so many messages they received over the years that led them to this place – as do we all. The biggest motivator of human behavior is the need to belong to the group and that shuts out other voices as well.

So, if anything is going to effect change, it needs to start from a place of compassion, then forgiveness, and then a willingness to Connect.

What does it mean to forgive and why is it so hard?

For many people, forgiveness is seen as saying that what the other person did is ok, but that is not true. What forgiveness really means is to let go of the control our anger and hurt has over us. It means living by the Serenity Prayer:

God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change (the other person),
the Courage to change the things I can (me and my thoughts, feelings, and behavior),
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

I give up trying to control the other person and forgive the debt I think they owe me (yes, a reference to the Lord’s Prayer. Again, there is wisdom in all religions and from all spiritual leaders if we just look for it.)

If a friend asks me for a loan and says she will pay me back next week, I might get angry when next week comes and she doesn’t return my money. I might let another week or so go by and as the anger and resentment build, it takes my attention and resources. Keep in mind, also, that anger is stimulating and stimulation is addictive, so there is that as well. At some point, I ask my friend for the money and she says she forgot or doesn’t have it and may even get mad at me for bringing it up and don’t I know how much she has been struggling and so on. Finally, I have a choice: keep being angry and resentful and either passive-aggressive with her or outright rejecting, or I can forgive the loan and forgive her. I can give up any hope of getting my money back and go on with my life. I can choose to keep her as a friend or gently let go. I can choose to give her money in the future or not, but with the realistic expectation that I will not be repaid.

The former option will eat away at me and dominate my life. The latter, forgiveness, will allow me to live as I choose – in a life-enhancing and joyful place – not controlled by anyone or anything outside myself.

This is not just a message that repeats in religious teachings, it is also taught to us in psychology and counseling classes. Victor Frankl’s logotherapy, later Existential Therapy. All forms of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Person-Centered Therapy.

It is far too easy to forget or ignore what we counsel our clients when it comes to our own lives and we can make a conscious effort to do as we say and walk the talk. I bring that to my own life regularly. “Progress, not perfection” as they say in the 12-Step programs – more places of deep wisdom.

In today’s world, where we are beset by unimaginable stressors daily, by all means choose positive actions and take a stand, and yet do not lose yourself. Be the person you want to be, always.

Till Death Do Us Part?

What romantic words these are!  There you are, standing at the altar, full of hope and love, excitement and trust.  You are looking into the eyes of your beloved, the person with whom you intend to live a life of such harmony and devotion that all who know you will envy your wedded bliss.  This is the person with whom you will build a home, who will support you through good times and bad, with whom you will grow old as the adoring grandchildren play around your feet and you sit together on the porch watching the sunset.

OMG!  What happened?  How did such devotion, harmony and bliss turn to disgust, bitterness and anger?  Can you ever again look at this person the way you used to?  Can you ever go back to the way it was?  Has all this time together been wasted? 

The answers are no, no and no.

To begin with, you can never “go back.”  To go back would mean to just be where you were at a particular time, without being where you are now.  Can’t happen.  What you really want to know is can you regain those feelings you used to have of being in love and accepting each other and having that feeling of your life being ahead of you.  It’s possible, if that is what you really want with this particular person.

What you can do is build from this moment onward.  You can appreciate how you have learned and grown and evolved and decide to continue that process.  Whether or not you do it with your current partner is often a difficult decision.  It is usually attached to that question of “Has all this time together been wasted?” 

This is at the heart of the issue.  We all have a tendency to make the ends justify the means.  In other words, if my relationship is good now, then whatever came before was worth it.  Conversely, if my relationship is not good now, then all that time I put into it was for nothing and therefore wasted.

It is up to each of us to make each moment count.  It is your choice to wake up each morning and say “Today will be a good day” and know that it is up to you to make it a good day.  It is up to you to not give away your power and allow someone else, anyone else, to make this day other than what you want.  That goes for yesterday and tomorrow as well.

We all choose our reality, and what those weeks or years were before a break-up is up to you.  Whatever is going on now does not have to change what went before.  Now is when you decide what will make today a good day and if that means taking a different path from the person you once thought would be with you forever, then so be it.

We are all on the road of our lives.  Some people pass us the other way, some are going our way but at a different pace, and some join us for a time and then take a different road or speed up or fall behind.  There is no right or wrong to it, it’s just life. 

Enjoy the journey!

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,


I Am Blessed to be Able to Work With Addicts

I grew up in an alcoholic home and had a drug addicted boyfriend at one time, so I wanted nothing to do with addicts when I became a mental health counselor. The Universe had other ideas for me, however, and when I couldn’t find work anywhere else, I ended up in a substance abuse treatment facility. My father and ex-boyfriend went into recovery around the same time and made amends and I experienced a profound shift in perspective. Over the years, I became a Certified Addictions Professional and when I specialized in sex therapy, working with sex addicts was the next progression for me.

After years of working with couples and individuals, sex addicts and others, I formulated a conceptual framework of treating everyone that was based on Recovery principles. When I realized I was saying the same thing over and over as I educated clients and students about how we create barriers to intimacy by using addictive thinking and behavior, I decided to write it all down and voila! Addict America: The Lost Connection was born. It actually gestated for seven years but it eventually was completed and then translated into Spanish.

Working and teaching in the sex therapy field, I have been exposed to a few sexologists who are fundamentally opposed to the concept of “sex addiction.” They have posited various reasons for this, including opinions that sex addiction treatment professionals are “sex negative,” into “reparative therapy,” and religious fundamentalists. For me, none of this is true. A few other professionals are less oppositional but still questioning. While I try to avoid going head-to-head with anyone who is obviously not really interested in a discussion, I am happy to engage in more academic discourse on the subject. Still, I find myself fighting twinges of defensiveness and last night, as I explored this, I was able to move to a completely different place of perspective, which I want to share.

I am blessed to be able to work with addicts. Addicts, no matter the drug or behavior, go through hell and it takes enormous courage and willingness to change in order for them to begin Recovery. As they learn new ways of living, make decisions about everything from what shoes to wear to where to eat, work, play, to relationship choices, they are evolving to a higher spiritual plane. When addicts are living in Recovery, they are present and grounded. They have made choices as to what kinds of people they want to be and they live congruently with that identity. They have made choices regarding their values and what is important in life and are living according to those values. They are fully able to be in intimate, Connected relationships, whether with a committed partner, a child, a friend, a coworker, or someone just passing on the street. For each moment, there is Connection and awareness of Connection. They have Connected to a higher power and live the Serenity Prayer without rationalization, minimization, or intellectualization. They can truly say, and often do, that the worst day in Recovery is better than the best day in addiction. They are my heroes and my role models. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of their journeys.

We all have it in us to be in addiction or be in Recovery. I know when I am not present, not Connected, and not in harmony with the Universe. I know when I’m rushing around, angry or irritable, and blaming others. That is an addictive place. I also know when I am grounded, in the moment, and have a sense of myself and others in Connection. I know who I am and am responsible for myself. That is Recovery. It is where I strive to live.

Be In Light,


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



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