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Stepping Out of the Shadows/[Re]Connecting With
Your Life's Journey

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Illuminating the Path

By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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Which Way to Albuquerque?

The great thing in this world is not so much where we are,
but in what direction we are moving.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Our path is illuminated when we focus on becoming more of who we are rather than continually trying to become who we are not.

There is no getting past this tip. Yet sadly, we all can look back on parts of our life where we have invested our emotions, our time, and our money trying to desperately  escape the inescapable. We are who we are. To pursue a path that promises to transform us into what we are not is sheer folly.

In fact, the more we violate this principle, the more we try to stop ourselves from being who we are, we only wind  up super-charging our life’s energy with the very characteristics we do not want.

I see this all the time in my Relationship Bridge Building groups. Alvin is a good example of how this happens. Alvin desperately wants to be viewed as kind, earnest, sincere, well intentioned. He is very wary of upsetting anybody, not wanting to risk being disliked. He hides how angry he is, how judgmental he is about most of the people in the group. To each group member’s face, he tells them how much he cares for them, but his behavior appears to be anything but caring. He is often withdrawn, emotionally unavailable. Alvin is quick to offer a word of kindness when he is challenged to participate more, to give more of himself.

However, the group members are never satisfied with his words. He is often experienced by the group members as patronizing, insincere, withdrawn, and unavailable. And this confounds Alvin to no end. Afterall, doesn’t he always say the right thing, doesn’t he always do the right thing, doesn’t he always hide how angry and judgmental he can be?

But seemingly to no avail. The lesson Alvin needs to learn is both simple and frightening at the same time. Become more of who you are rather than creating someone who you are not.

Easy to say but how do we exercise it?
Focus on two things: attitude and action.

The attitude? Accept where you are. Accept the simple fact that we are growing; afterall, our journey is a process of transformation. We are where we are in our lives today, but that doesn’t have to stay that way forever. It’s always tempting to compare ourselves to others, defining ourselves  solely by what we are not because we focus on what we believe others to be. Unfortunately, this is a formula for pain, a formula for chasing an ever elusive way of being. 

Ralph knows the shame he brings to himself every time he belittles himself for lacking what he believes others have but he is so sorely lacking. He focuses on the fact that he isn’t kind enough, patient enough, forgiving enough, smart enough, slim enough, perky enough. Enough. Enough. Enough. Ralph seldom thinks about what he is, because he is always focused on what he is not enough of.

Ralph has limited his job opportunities, the opportunities to be in loving relationships, he has even passed up opportunities to live in exotic places where he would much rather live. The reason why? He never believed he was enough. But Ralph is slowly learning that he can accept where he is at today, that this acceptance does not condemn him to remain that way forever.

Ralph has learned to trust that he will grow in his own time and his own way without the need to condemn himself for what he is not. If you asked Ralph, he would tell you that it isn’t easy, this idea of accepting where he is at, but he also realizes that the universe will provide him with the opportunities he needs to grow, and those are really the only worthwhile lessons to experience.

The action? Let go of the judgments we hold against ourselves. There is nothing that pushes us further away from who we are than the judgments we hold against ourselves. We recognize all those things about who and what we are that we judge, that we dislike. Is despise too strong a word? We recognize all the ways we have of covering up, glossing over, disconnecting as a means of honoring those judgments.

Letting go of our judgments is the path to stepping out of the shadows. It’s the means by which we accept where we are in our life’s journey. It’s the path we all walk in order to claim who we are rather than deride ourselves for what we are not.

That’s a hard lesson to absorb. For we all want personal growth. We all long for the freedom that comes along with a better understanding of how to better live life. In order to enjoy such freedom we only need to exorcise ourselves from a myth that binds us. We cannot will ourselves to a different life. We cannot push our way to a different life.

There is only one lesson for us all to embrace. Don’t judge yourself for not being anything more than who you already are. The energy you invest in who you are today will forge the path for who you are to become in the tomorrows of your life.



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


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