By Dr. Steve
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Lightening in a Bottle
purpose in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.
- Erich Fromm
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.
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.
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 wasnt just another school project, to her this was a
life-test, a test she needed to pass in order to validate her lifes purpose.
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 didnt
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.
she walked up to me, I asked, Well?
smiled as she said, Ill never be the same again.
gave her my biggest, brightest I-told-you-so smile and said, Youve caught the
wave, havent you? Youve discovered that well of energy.
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 dont know the word for it. Harmony? Maybe thats what this feeling is,
just like, an engine clicking on all six cylinders.
feel like the floodgates opened up all at once. Im 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 dont really know how to explain
this, but it expands into a glowing presence.
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.
so afraid of losing this.
be, I assured her. Once youve gotten to this point, youll continue
to ride the wave. I can show you how to regain it the times you momentarily disconnect
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, its all so profound to me.
Quite simply, its the inevitable outcome of what begins to unfold once we make a
choosing to step out of the shadows is part of our evolutionary task, its our
deepest existential stirring. As weve 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.
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. Thats what its all
about. Its energy. Its all about energy.
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, theres
really nothing mystical about them.
the word convergence help? Its 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.
what is all of this converging energy? Just what is this elemental energy? Its
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.
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.
lets 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.
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.
you recognize what its like in those times when we disconnect from our spirit,
become estranged from the power that fuels our lifes journey? I certainly see the
manifestation of what that looks like in my private practice.
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
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.
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.
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. Its 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.
we arent 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.
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.
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.
that spiral of hopelessness and despair does not have to stay that way forever.
dont 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 wasnt ready to say that my ways were wrong, but I knew that my ways
werent working for me anymore.
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.
had become more open with people. There was a lightness to his mood that didnt exist
when we met several years before. Before, when things hadnt 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.
dont 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.
what do you think has changed for you? I asked.
biggest thing I realize now is how little I really know about myself. Would conscious be
the right word? Im more conscious of myself, my actions, he interrupted
himself with a chuckle, My infamous reactions.
was a look of self-consciousness on his face. I dont know if Im making
any sense. I thought I wouldve 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.
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 Im learning how to swim with the current
rather than against the current.
did you learn to do that? I asked, hoping to pick up a pointer or two myself.
know, thats the damnedest thing about all of this. When we play ball, we know if we
swing the bat in just the right way, well make contact with the ball. But with this
stuff, there doesnt seem to be any direct connection that is obvious to me between
what I do and the outcome its going to have.
starting to lose me now. What are you talking about? I asked, feeling somewhat
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.
you know, I feel kind of stupid for saying this, but, I honestly think Ive 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 cant explain it. Like I said, I feel like Ive learned
how to ride with the current of the river rather than go against it.
it has to do with that awareness thing you were talking about?
well, your guess is as good as mine. But I do know that Ive started paying attention
to all of myself.
of yourself? I asked.
watched me for four or five years now. Its 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 Im 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.
what Ive learned, just how to listen to myself and put the pieces together.
sounds like a lot of work.
first I thought so, but you know what is really hard work? Undoing all the stuff I had to
undo when I wasnt 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
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
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to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.