Articles

Interrupting the Cycle of Pain

If you have experienced chronic pain, you are not alone. Each year millions of Americans seek treatment for chronic pain, pain that continues for more than six months. Chronic pain is no longer viewed as a symptom, but as an illness in itself. Things we take for granted, such as eating, sleeping, dressing, walking, laughing, working, and socializing may be lost to a person with chronic pain. Frequently, no physical cause can be established, or the initial injury has healed, but the pain persists and generally worsens over time. Nonetheless, each person’s pain is both real and unique.

It is important that you’re believed. Some doctors do not take the patient’s physical complaints seriously and blame their treatment failures on the patient. An occasional headache, stomach ache, or muscle spasm may occur in reaction to a stressful situation, but the symptom usually resolves quickly, sometimes just from the doctor’s reassurance that there is nothing seriously wrong. However, when pain persists, more often your emotions are a reaction to the physical pain, rather than the reverse.

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Relationship as a Spiritual Path

What makes us “spiritual” beings? The concept of spirituality is derived from “spiritus,” meaning vitality or breath of life.  When we are connected to that force, like an electric charge, our soul awakes; the more we stay connected to that energy, the stronger and more alive is our soul. Our relationships present a constant opportunity to tap into this power.

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Growing Through Divorce

At least half of us have or will, somehow, survive divorce. Although divorce no longer shameful as it once was, many people still feel guilty about their “failed” marriage or marriages. In any case, divorce is painful. It ranks just above death in the severity of stress and is often combined with other stressors, such as marital discord, serious financial problems, a move, single parenting, multiple losses, and litigation, all at once.

Divorce is a process of several stages: Cognitive, emotional, physical, legal, and spiritual. Although this might be the most desirable order, it is not always, or even usually, what happens. This is why we see the “Divorce Court” melodrama -couples who are trying to make the legal separation while they are still emotionally caught up in the drama of their relationship. They haven’t separated emotionally, though they may be physically apart. It is the emotional separation that is the cornerstone for transformation, which not all divorced couples achieve.

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Co-Parenting after Divorce

Parenting changes after divorce in ways couples don’t anticipate. Everything changes, and parents do have the same control over their children as they once did. Short of serious abuse, you no longer can control the advice, boundaries, diet, activities, religious ideas, or friends that your former spouse exposes your children to. On the flip side, you get to raise your children how you want when they’re with you, and they can get to know you separately from your ex. This is especially welcome if the other parent is or has been emotionally abusive to you or your children. The following are recommendations for co-parenting after divorce that were designed with the best interest of your child in mind.

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The Relationship Duet

The Dance of Intimacy

The relationship duet is the dance of intimacy that all couples do. If one partner moves in, the other backs-up. Partners reverse roles as well, but always maintain a certain space between them. The unspoken agreement is that the Pursuer chases the Distancer forever, but never catch-up, and that the Distancer keep running, but never really get away. What is happening is a negotiation of the emotional space between them. We all have needs for both autonomy and intimacy – independence and dependency, yet we simultaneously all fear both being abandoned (acted by the Pursuer), and being too close (acted by the Distancer).

Thus, we have the dilemma of intimacy: How can we be close enough to our partner to feel secure and safe, without feeling threatened by too much closeness? The less room there is to navigate this distance, the more difficult the relationship. The greater sense of self a person has, the more flexible and comfortable s/he is with greater distance and greater closeness. There is less anxiety, and hence less demand on the relationship to accommodate a narrow comfort zone.

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Recovery in the Twelve Steps

Many therapists do not understand the Twelve-Step recovery process, unless they have participated in a 12-Step program. Although they may encourage their clients to do so, they may feel perplexed or intimated, or act patronizing. Often, therapists don’t realize that the 12-Steps are not merely an antidote for addiction, but are guidelines for nothing less than a total personality transformation. Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was influenced by Carl Jung, whom he wrote seeking treatment for alcoholism. Jung replied that the cure would have to be a spiritual one – a power equal to the power of spiritus vivi, or alcohol. He thought that addicts were “misguided ‘seekers for the spirit,’ …in the world of Dionysus, the god of renewal through the light from below, from the earth rather than from the heavens…” (Whitmont, 227)

The Twelve Steps provide a spiritual remedy. They outline a process of surrender of the ego to the unconscious, God or a higher power, and very much resemble the process of transformation in Jungian therapy. Jung believed that unity and wholeness of the personality, which generates a sense of acceptance and detachment, occurs when both the conscious and unconscious demands are taken into account – when not the ego, but the Self, is at the center of consciousness. (Storr, 19) He wrote that his life was “a story of the self-realization of the unconscious,” and rediscovered, as suggested by the 12 Steps, that God was “a guiding principle of unity.” (Storr, 24-25)

Read the published article that summarizes how the Steps work; however, any linear description is misleading, because, like transformation, the process is circular. Although these Steps apply to numerous addictions, whether to a person, a substance (e.g. alcohol, drugs, food), or a process (e.g., sex, gambling, debting), the focus here is on alcohol and drug addiction and the family members who are in a codependent relationship with the alcoholic/addict.

Get the e-workbook that explains each step in depth and provides exercises to make progress in working each one.

Light My Fire

Stimulating Seven Chakras

The creative life force sleeps within each of us like a coiled serpent, waiting to be unleashed to evolve humankind to the next level. Ancient Tantric practices awaken this energy, called kundalini, using the body, breath, sound, and visualizations to speed its journey to God-realization, not over many lifetimes, but potentially in your lifetime. People have three bodies: the physical body and its consciousness; the astral or subtle body, experienced as feelings and emotions; and the causal body, expressed as intelligence and wisdom. The seven chakras act as energy transformers for the three body/minds, each governing different functions. As each of the chakras is activated, the body/mind is purified, matter is spiritualized, and your consciousness is expanded. Gradually, energy moves from darkness, the negative pole, to light, the positive pole, and full consciousness at the seventh chakra. The process has been compared to psychoanalysis. Recovery is also a process of transformation that opens the chakras and brings us into soul-alignment.

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Body and Soul

With the Sexual Revolution behind us, as well as the Victorian attitudes which it rejected, perhaps we are ready for a new conception of sexuality, one not dividing, but embracing, both body and spirit. With few exceptions, such as the Tantric tradition, for centuries both Eastern and Western religious leaders have warned of the dangers of the flesh and exhorted abstinence and restraint in the furtherance of spiritual ideals. (1) Particularly in the West, the separation of the body and spirit, and matter and energy, permeates not only our theology, but Cartesian philosophy, medicine, and science. It is only in recent decades that medicine has become more holistic, and physics has acknowledged the interchangeability of matter and energy.

A holistic attitude towards sex would incorporate the body and spirit, the physical and the divine. It so happens that both the path and the experience of mystical bliss parallel that of lovers’ sexual ecstasy. It is not surprising that many saints refer to their relationship with Jesus as if he were a lover. I’m suggesting that the spiritual experience is neither exclusive, nor preferable, to the sexual, but that it is merely an individual choice as to whether one finds the divine alone or shares the experience with another. In fact, each such experience only enhances the other.

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The Problem of Narcissists

Poor Narcissus. The gods sentenced him to a life without human love. He fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and died hungering for its response. Like Narcissus, narcissists only love themselves as reflected in the eyes of others. It’s a common misconception that they love themselves. They actually dislike themselves immensely. Their inflated self-flattery, perfectionism, and arrogance are merely covers for the self-loathing they don’t admit–usually even to themselves.

Instead, it’s projected outwards in their disdain for and criticism of others. They’re too afraid to look at themselves because they believe that the truth would be devastating. Actually, they don’t have much of a Self at all. Emotionally, they’re dead inside and they hunger to be filled and validated by others. Sadly, they’re unable to appreciate the love they do get and alienate those who give it.

Read More about the diagnosis, cause, behavior, relationships, partners, and therapy for NPD and narcissists.

Get the ebook, Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People.

Recent Posts

What Is Codependency? – Moving beyond Codependent Relationships, Relationship Addiction, and Fear of Intimacy by Darlene Lancer, MFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Santa Monica, CA, and author of Codependency for Dummies

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