By Dr. Steve
Click Here to Return to
the Table of Contents
you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not
bring forth what is within
you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
-The Gospel of St. Thomas: Logion 45
the uninitiated, you would think that its a well choreographed dance. Ive
participated in it hundreds of times, but I swear the dance is merely a symptom of an
imprisoned spirit. It goes something like this.
greet her at the door. She tries to force a smile. Her mouth moves but her eyes remain
flat, there is almost an eerie stillness to them.
motion for her to have a seat, I notice how stiff her body is as she lowers herself into
the seat. While sitting, her left leg crosses over her right leg, seemingly detached from
the rest of her body, as it alternates from mindlessly swinging to laying lifelessly upon
hands anxiously grip the sides of the chair, the whiteness in her knuckles belying the
calm exterior shes desperately trying to portray.
sit down, my eyes lock onto her eyes for the briefest of seconds and then she looks away
from me. Her eyes begin to dart around the room finally coming to rest on a spot in the
start the session by asking how she feels about being here.
looks up, shrugs her shoulders and says, Oh, I dunno, I feel fine I guess.
face is frozen with fear. Her breathing comes in gasps. Her body is stiff as a board. Her
eyes appear lifeless. Yet her words, her words report that all is well.
ask her to tell me a little bit about what she would like to focus our work on.
talks for awhile about the circumstances with her boyfriend, circumstances that she fines
troubling. As she talks, tears begin to well in her eyes, yet she fights them back. Her
frozen face becomes etched with the pain that comes from feeling betrayed and abandoned.
share my observation of how she appears to be hurting.
stares at the ceiling, thinks about it and says, Naw, I dont think it hurts, I
just want to understand what is going on.
She begins to tell me how foolhardy she had been to trust this man. She had changed her
life for him. She had let him into her life in ways that she had never done so before. All
she got for her trouble was a lot of hard work, eventually having the rug pulled out from
underneath her. All the while she is talking, the veins in her neck are protruding, her
eyes are the size of quarters--a mixture of hurt, confusion, and rage; her left leg
swinging at a furious pace.
comment on how angry she sounds. She looks at me as if I was talking about a third person
in the room. She says, No, I wouldnt call it anger. I just should have known
do you mean by that? I ask her.
Ive made it a point to keep most men at arms length. Ive never really
needed to be in a relationship. In fact, Im much better off without them. Life
always seems to go just fine when I stay focused on my work.
nod at what she is saying. Youre right, not everybody should be in a
relationship. But what about your emotional needs. How do your emotional needs get
dont know. I dont really think about those things. I just know that Ive
had to depend on myself my whole life and Ive done just fine.
dont really think I need anybody else. I get along just fine on my own.
it ever get lonely for you? I ask.
know, I never really thought about it in that way before. Its just the way its
then shifts the conversation, telling me about her work, how shes been in her
present job for over fifteen years.
you enjoy what you do?
pays the rent.
you good at what you do?
alright, I suppose.
did you get into this line of work?
something I just fell into after a couple of other jobs didnt work out.
remembered her mentioning earlier that she thought of herself as being very aggressive. I
found myself wondering what the underside of her aggressiveness was like. I asked her what
was at the center of who she was.
know, I really dont know, she remarks, dumbstruck by the implications of what
she had just revealed to herself.
time I have this sort of conversation with somebody, it has the same feel to it. There is
a sense of detachment. Its as if we are talking about somebody elses life.
seems like the person isnt in their body. Its as if they have created an outer
shell to engage the world. The essence of whatever it is that defines who they are is
missing. Trying to penetrate the shell can be as tricky as trying to cut through a
individual is numb, but even more than numb, they are divorced. Divorced from their
emotional experience. Divorced from the way their emotions appear in their body, in their
conversation, in their day-to-day lives.
watch. I watch closely. I watch how they go through a wide range of emotions as they
speak, yet, they are totally unaware of that whole process unfolding within themselves.
lives appear to be a string of random acts that are not attached to anything that is truly
important to who they are. Their life appears to be more a tapestry of random happenstance
than any kind of orchestrated process that was in any way connected to the soul of the
individual. Its almost as if they are a feather blown by the wind, riding the
current of some external force rather than living from within their own soul.
story that plays in their head is a litany of explanations. Explanations for how they can
go without, how they dont really need, how they get along fine by themselves. Always
the same theme, the pain of deprivation chosen over the fear and discomfort of
saddens me to see how the fear they live with creates these stories of denial, denial of
their emotions, denial of their very human emotional needs, denial of their pathway to a
life of abundance.
keep the stories going, to lend credence to the stories validity, they choose a life
of emotional impoverishment. Yes, they manage to get along. But at what cost? What does it
cost any of us to keep the stories of deprivation and self-sufficiency alive?
dont think I am being overly dramatic when I say that its as if their spirit
has been imprisoned. Can you see all the ways we disconnect from our spirit? Does the
above story stir any glimmer of yourself, the ways in which you are connected and
disconnected from your spirit?
can see the importance of Liberating the Spirit, cant you? Do you recognize the
following life experiences when the spirit is imprisoned. Does the word depression take you anywhere in your own experiences? Does
it fit in any small way that a state of depression is a state of imprisoned energy?
Again where does the word anxiety take you in
your own experiences? Is it possible that anxiety is in some small part energy that needs
to be discharged but is stuck within us?
Does it stand to reason that addiction is a means of imprisoning our spirit?
shutting down. Can you see how we
bottle up our spirit, our life-force when we shut down?
Isnt this a means to make time stand still? To keep life from imposing its will upon
us? Could it be we imprison our spirit as a means of avoiding the demands of the
the need for all these ways of imprisoning our spirit? Why the need for choking all of the
energy out of our lives? Could it be that we mistakenly believe that our best interests
are being served somehow by shutting down or withdrawing?
Perhaps at one point in our lives that was the case. Perhaps our very means for
self-preservation was served by turning within ourselves, more like escaping inward. But
how well does imprisoning our spirit work for us today?
reminded of a story I read in the newspaper last month. There was a man arrested in St.
Louis for roaming the streets with a hunting rifle, more specifically an elephant gun, I
believe. A policeman walked up to him and asked him why he was carrying this elephant gun
man looked incredulously at the officer and said, Why, officer, isnt it
obvious to you? Its to keep the elephants away from here.
officer, trying to understand what the man was talking about, took his hat off and
scratched his head. His head cocked to the side, his right eyebrow arched, he said to the
man, What are you talking about, there isnt an elephant within five thousand
miles of here.
man, not missing a beat, looked the officer right in the eye and said, You see, it
self-protection is important to us all. However, many of us devise means to protect
ourselves that eventually get us in trouble. But the problem is, oftentimes no one can
convince us that many of the ways we protect ourselves arent necessary, that they
dont work, that they really serve to imprison our spirit more than anything else.
and I had a talk once how unsafe he felt in his world. We discussed all the ways he used
to make himself feel more protected. What he came to realize over a number of years was
that every way he chose to insure his self-preservation also froze his spirit,
constricting his world to the point that he was merely living to survive, a prisoner of
his means of survival.
you ever felt like you were the only person you could count on, that you just didnt
feel safe? Well, thats how its always been for me. Ive felt all alone,
unprotected, unable to trust anybody.
have you dealt with that, with being afraid all of the time? I wondered out loud.
I dont think I did, at least I didnt deal with it effectively. I did
everything I could to push away my thoughts and my feelings.
did you do that? I asked.
you name it, I did it. Think about my behavior. Youve always kidded me about how
rigid Ive been. Always doing things the same, always staying in a safe but limiting
pattern of behavior, day after day. Well, that let me live life on auto-pilot. No
surprises. No curve balls. No need to think and feel my way through life. Everything
sound kinda angry about that.
am, its been such a waste. I just cant reconcile the time Ive wasted. I
feel like Ive wasted most of my life.
the people. Ive known a lot of good people but most of that has gone down the drain.
The shame of it is that I set myself up for all of this. Always getting involved with
needy partners. Needing people in my life who took and took from me but never gave. All of
that, only because I needed them in order to feel important. To feel like I
all of that is changing for you, isnt it? I asked somewhat hopefully.
I suppose. Little by little. Ive been afraid my whole life. That isnt going to
change. But its hard. Its always been hard for me to experience my life
changing or expanding. So the more I try to open my life up, the more anxiety I create for
it must feel like youre between a rock and a hard place.
exactly right. Imagine what its like. For instance, I know the way to make myself
safe today is to let people in my life, to allow people to be there for me. However, that
can be really hard. Its hard to let go of all of my mistrust, all of my ways of
protecting myself. Its hard to let someones love and affection in. Believe me,
I want to and I keep trying, but its hard for me to trust.
little by little Im finding my way. Little by little Im discovering a zest for
life, a sense of potency that I never had before.
can hear the blocked energy in Rons story, can you not? Control. Control. Control.
Thats how Ron has kept it together. That is not to judge Ron but to understand how
fearful he has felt in his world.
solution? Limit his participation in life. Limit the amount of uncertainty he had to deal
with. Limit the stimulation that life had to offer in order to feel safe.
today, Ron is slowly but surely finding ways to open the valve little by little, freeing
more and more of his spirit with which to engage life.
not stop here and think about your spirit, your life-force. How free does that energy flow
in your life? Does it move freely or do you have ways of controlling the flow of the
are the things that are frightening you to the degree that you need to slow down or shut
down completely the energy with which you engage the world?
matter the reason, no matter the means, we can change the story we have created in our
head as to why we shut down our energy. We can always find new ways of managing whatever
it is that is frightening us. Although disconnecting from our spirit may have seemed like
an effective solution for whatever we have been trying to solve up to this point, we all
can find ways of liberating our spirit so as to be more present in our lives.
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. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.