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

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Liberating the Spirit

By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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Catching Lightening in a Bottle

Man’s main purpose in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.
- Erich Fromm

The last time I said good-bye to her, I felt like a bird nudging her young out of the nest. She was taking three weeks off from her sessions with me to perform in her first play for a school project. The anticipation of this project had dominated our discussions for at least the last month.

We examined every nook-and-cranny--her self-doubts,  her fears, all the ways she was shutting down as a result of the stress created by this project. Each week was an exploration of her retreat. Retreat from herself, the people in her life, her responsibilities from life in general.

The symptoms were all the classic signs of a person disconnecting from their spirit. Emotionally numb, feeling  depleted of her usual energy, she cut back on her workouts, began to miss work, as well as neglecting her preparation for the play. She found herself in her usual cycle of self-sabotage--feeling blocked, she was lost in her discouraged obsessive thinking, unable to write or plan for her part in the play. Spiritually, to her, this wasn’t just another school project, to her this was a life-test, a test she needed to pass in order to validate her life’s purpose.

As I said, she had taken three weeks off to devote fully to her project, so I was mighty curious to find out how well things had gone for her. As soon as I saw her, I didn’t wonder any more. Her face was aglow, her smile stretched from ear to ear. There was a bounce to her step, a looseness in her body that said it all.

As she walked up to me, I asked, “Well?”

She smiled as she said, “I’ll never be the same again.”

I gave her my biggest, brightest I-told-you-so smile and said, “You’ve caught the wave, haven’t you? You’ve discovered that well of energy.”

She looked at me and said, “For the first time I finally understand what you mean. These last three weeks, everything just came together. I have never experienced this kind of, well, I don’t know the word for it. Harmony? Maybe that’s what this feeling is, just like, an engine clicking on all six cylinders.

“I feel like the floodgates opened up all at once. I’m almost afraid of saying this out loud but, I feel like a brilliant light was lit within me. I close my eyes now when I feel confused or momentarily stuck and my mind expands, I don’t really know how to explain this, but it expands into a glowing presence.”

I nodded as she paused, understanding exactly what she was talking about. “As you were talking, I had a picture in” my mind of a lighthouse. It had this strong beacon of light cutting a path through the darkness.”

“I’m so afraid of losing this.”

“Don’t be,” I assured her. “Once you’ve gotten to this point, you’ll continue to ride the wave. I can show you how to regain it the times you momentarily disconnect from it.”

I never cease to be amazed when I see it happen to somebody for the first time. The transformation is always so dramatic. The transformation in their thoughts, their emotions, in their self-concept, in their physical being, it’s all so profound to me. Quite simply, it’s the inevitable outcome of what begins to unfold once we make a conscious choice.

Consciously choosing to step out of the shadows is part of our evolutionary task, it’s our deepest existential stirring. As we’ve already discussed, we start that process by awakening our soul. Once we awaken our soul, the next stage to stepping out of the shadows is unleashing the life-force that enables us to express who we are, express our essence from the depths of our soul. I think of this next step as Liberating the Spirit

Liberating the Spirit. You see a pattern developing? First we awaken, next we set free. But set free what? Well, in its rawest form, we are setting free energy. That’s what it’s all about. It’s energy. It’s all about energy.

Spirit? Energy? Life-Force? These are the words I use to think about the quality that fuels my journey. Although these words may take on some sort of mystical aura, there’s   really nothing mystical about them.

Does the word convergence help? It’s a coming together of sorts, this life-force thing. Think of our spirit as an endpoint, the endpoint of several different sources of energy coming together. Converging energy, unifying into a whole.

Just what is all of this converging energy? Just what is  this elemental energy? It’s the sum total of our emotional, behavioral, cognitive, physiological, creative, and spiritual processes. All of these processes converge at one oint--unifying, creating a well of energy, a well of energy I think of as our spirit.

You know that saying about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts? Well, when you add together all of our life processes, you wind up with this thing, this quality, this unified whole, very simply a life-force--our spirit.

But let’s stick to the game plan. This is where you have to step in and tease out what Liberating the Spirit means to you. Take some time and start formulating for yourself what it means to liberate your spirit.

We need to liberate our spirit as a means of fueling our awakening. We need to free our spirit when it becomes buried under all the ca-ca that we collect throughout our journey.

Do you recognize what it’s like in those times when we disconnect from our spirit, become estranged from the power that fuels our life’s journey? I certainly see the manifestation of what that looks like in my private practice.

A negativity pervades how we think about ourselves. We question our worth, our value to ourselves or anybody else for that matter. We focus on what we believe our defects are. More and more of our time is spent alone, reinforcing the myth that we are undesirable, even worthless, in the eyes of the world. Disconnected from our spirit, we hold the belief that we lack the fundamental attributes we consider essential to attain happiness and fulfillment.

Does any of that ring true for you? Do you recognize how the way you think and feel towards yourself is affected by the times you are disconnected from your spirit? Take a moment and write about what that experience is like for you.

Are you aware of how the way you think and feel about yourself appears in your life when you are disconnected from your spirit? For example, do you find yourself withdrawing or isolating? Do you find yourself feeling irritable? Do you find yourself giving up on yourself or projects you are involved with? Does apathy erase any  vestige of interest you have for participating in life? Take a moment and write about the ways being disconnected from your spirit appears in your life.

Being disconnected from our spirit affects how we view the people and the circumstances in our lives. We tend to see the world as an overwhelming place to live. A place where there is nothing but unreasonable demands being made upon ourselves. We may have a feeling of deprivation. It’s as if the world has decided to withhold all that we want and need from the people in our life. Anger begins to consume us as we begin to hold the world responsible for the fact that we feel so lost, so alienated, so disconnected.

When we aren’t consumed by our anger at life, we are feeling small and frightened. Small because everything seems to be stacked against us. Frightened because we feel so inadequate; it feels utterly futile, this idea that we can do anything about our life.

When we are disconnected from our spirit, we feel like there is nothing we can do to influence our lives in a positive manner. Losing the sense that we can in anyway positively influence our life, we begin to feel totally out of control.

Once we feel like our life is out of control, we begin to feel a pervasive sense of vulnerability. Now angry at the world, feeling inadequate and powerless to do anything about how our life has drifted, our increasing sense of vulnerability fuels an ever-increasing feeling of hopelessness.

But that spiral of hopelessness and despair does not have to stay that way forever.

“I don’t know what it was. Perhaps I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Maybe the pain of staying the way I was began to exceed whatever pain inevitably comes with change. I wasn’t ready to say that my ways were wrong, but I knew that my ways weren’t working for me anymore.”

Billy was telling me about what made a difference for him. Although we had played on the same softball team for years, we had never taken the time before to talk about what he had been going through. But from the outside looking in, it was obvious to the most casual observer that Billy was living his life differently.

He had become more open with people. There was a lightness to his mood that didn’t exist when we met several years before. Before, when things hadn’t gone his way, he would erupt, but now he seemed to take things more in stride. In general, he was more pleasant to be around and to get to know.

“I don’t know how to put it in the terms that you talk about, but I know that I am grateful for what I have in my life today.”

“Well, what do you think has changed for you?” I asked.

“The biggest thing I realize now is how little I really know about myself. Would conscious be the right word? I’m more conscious of myself, my actions,” he interrupted himself with a chuckle, “My infamous reactions.”

There was a look of self-consciousness on his face. “I don’t know if I’m making any sense. I thought I would’ve been the last person in the world to put stock in any of this stuff. But I gotta tell you, understanding me better has made all the difference in the world.

“I used to think that life was one big encounter, you know, like I had to fight for every last piece of turf. But now I feel like I’m learning how to swim with the current rather than against the current.”

“How did you learn to do that?” I asked, hoping to pick up a pointer or two myself.

“You know, that’s the damnedest thing about all of this. When we play ball, we know if we swing the bat in just the right way, we’ll make contact with the ball. But with this stuff, there doesn’t seem to be any direct connection that is obvious to me between what I do and the outcome it’s going to have.”

“You’re starting to lose me now. What are you talking about?” I asked, feeling somewhat puzzled.

“For instance, when I workout, I feel like the harder I workout, the harder I impose my will on my training, the better my results will be.

“But, you know, I feel kind of stupid for saying this, but, I honestly think I’ve stopped trying to impose my will and things seem to come out the way I want them to, well at least more times than not. I can’t explain it. Like I said, I feel like I’ve learned how to ride with the current of the river rather than go against it.”

“Maybe it has to do with that awareness thing you were talking about?”

“Yea, well, your guess is as good as mine. But I do know that I’ve started paying attention to all of myself.”

“All of yourself?” I asked.

“You’ve watched me for four or five years now. It’s pretty obvious that I never thought anything through. I never reflected, I never considered the big picture. I just bounced around, you know, always reacting to life. Well, I know I’m different now in that respect. I listen to other people, I listen to myself. I listen to my body, my heart, not just my hardheaded ways. Hell, I even listen to the mental images that come up when I am trying to relax.

“That’s what I’ve learned, just how to listen to myself and put the pieces together.”

“That sounds like a lot of work.”

“At first I thought so, but you know what is really hard work? Undoing all the stuff I had to undo when I wasn’t listening to myself. Digging myself out of every hole I dug for myself because I was so insistent on running life rather than moving along with 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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