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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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Coming Out of the Dark

Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes, and seeing them gratified.
He that labors in any great or laudable undertaking has his [fitigues] first supported by hope, and afterwards
rewarded by joy.
-Samuel Johnson 

Liberating our spirit requires us to move forward with courage rather than retreat in fear.

“Your spirit, um, your spirit, you need to think of it just like a muscle. You know what I mean, use it or lose it. If you don’t exercise it, your spirit will shrivel up and die on you.”

Jay was giving me his take on Liberating the Spirit.

“For me, spirit is not something I need to acquire, I merely need to exercise it in order to keep it strong.”

“Just what do you mean by exercising your spirit?” I asked Jay.

“The way I think about it, we all come into this world with a spirit, vibrant, full of energy, ready to take us to wherever we need to go.

“So none of us are coming from a place of having to get a spirit. But our world is full of toxic influences that eat away at our spirit, eat away at...”

“Toxic influences? Just what do you mean by that?” I interrupted.

“Well, it could be just about anything. The culture we live in that prizes doing above being. It could be neglectful parenting that distorts our early developmental experiences. Our own fears which bend and twist us in ways that our lives become separated from our soul, disconnected from our spirit.”

“So your point is that our work is to keep strong what the world around us can inevitably undermine?”

“Exactly! We all need to strengthen our presence in our lives through the care and nurturance of our spirit. The way to do that is to exercise our spirit, not withdraw from it.”

Jay makes an important point. How many of us confuse withdrawing with self-protection? Doesn’t it stand to reason that we need to become battle-tested in order for our spirit to remain strong?

Think about the beautiful things in this world that are created out of struggle, out of some pressure being applied. A diamond is created from a lump of coal that’s bombarded with intense pressure for thousands of years. Or the beautiful mountain chains in the world: how have they come to be? What about steel? It’s bent and shaped into wondrous strength and form.

So too is our spirit. Our spirit is forged and strengthened out of our encounters with adversity, not our avoidance of adversity. You see, adversity forces us to exercise our spirit by using our internal resources. That’s what’s wonderful about exercising our spirit. The resources for encountering new and challenging situations are within us. Vision. Determination. Creativity. Courage. Hope. Encouragement.

When we watch athletes perform above their usual level, we are in awe of how they reach deep down within themselves to give a record breaking performance. When we are confronted with a new challenge, we all have the same ability to respond. And by doing so, we are exercising our spirit. The more we exercise our spirit, the more confidence and well-being we will bring to other challenges we face in our lives.

If we develop the habit of meeting our challenges head on rather than retreat, it is likely that we will emerge from those challenges stronger and wiser. That makes sense doesn’t it? Being battle-tested is the means by which we keep our spirit sharp and present. In fact, the act of constantly applying ourselves to experiences that make us dig within ourselves plants seeds that enable our spirit to grow and thereby strengthen itself.

I use a simple visualization when I am confronted with a challenge. I close my eyes and create an image in my mind. It’s an image of a forest. And when I picture this forest, I picture a tiny tree hemmed in, forced to grow through the crowded forest toward the light. To make room for itself in the forest, this tree must marshal all of its strength, all of its abilities, all of its resources to grow amid the larger trees. As the tiny tree must use all of its resources in order to survive, so must we use all of our resources in order for our spirits to be liberated and to thrive.

The power of this exercise cannot be underestimated. Can you see how we are all trying to grow towards the light? And it’s inevitable that many challenges will lie in our path.

However, it is from these obstacles that we can grow the   resources necessary to complete our journey, rather than use those challenges as excuses not to complete the journey.

So you may be wondering how best to exercise your spirit. Here are but a few ways to get you started.

Stagnation of the spirit is relieved by action.

Somewhere deep inside of us lie the shackles that imprison our spirit. We have different names for these shackles. What name do you use? Procrastination? Hesitation? Caution? Deliberation? Inertia?

If we find ourselves stuck and feeling frustrated, we only need apply the key that will unlock the shackles that have kept us imprisoned. The key to unlock our personal shackles? Action! Getting started. A mentor of mine once told me, “You can’t steal third base if your foot is still on second base.”

We can’t begin to utilize the power of our spirit if we don’t get started. But once we get started, our spirit takes over, pushing us along, almost unconsciously. It’s easy to see how the mere act of starting breaks the spell that our stagnant inertia casts upon our lives. Once that spell is broken something very important appears in our life--a sense of control.

With any new stimulation we generate, we feel like we have regained more of our personal power. Personal power that comes out of taking control back from forces that live outside of us. There is nothing more energizing than regaining control of our lives by tapping into the essence of who we are rather than feeling victimized by other people and circumstances.

Picture that in your mind for a moment. A life free of all the negative energy that weighs us down. The inertia of paralysis turned around by the power of spirit.

Can you see how the act of liberating our spirit will compel us to act, to move forward? Picture a jack hammer, breaking up a slab of concrete. Picture how your spirit is as powerful as any jackhammer. Just imagine the concrete that has enslaved your spirit being broken up.

What would the next step be once you felt a little more free? What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you be with? Stepping out of the shadows is an active process. Think of what you want your life to be in terms of action. Don’t fall into the trap of merely thinking your way through life.

Action is given birth through our ability to conceive what we want. We have to be able to visualize our outcome. Next we have to visualize the steps necessary to give life to our vision. Quite simply vision plus action equals movement and growth.

Whenever you feel stuck, whenever you feel like you’re stagnating, rely on the simple formula I just described. Create a small vision. Make a plan of action. And then go for it. Take it in small steps, but don’t let fear turn you back.

Taking action. It’s a remedy that is as old as time itself. You know the old saw, “The longest march starts with a first step.”

Invite experiences of growth into our life.

The point of liberating our spirit is that all aspects of our existence, our body, mind, spirit, and soul need to be exercised. No matter our age, no matter our accomplishments, we must continue to invite experiences of growth into our life. It is through these new experiences that we keep our spirit strong.

Growth only takes place when we are challenged. If we want our muscles to grow, what must we do? We must provide resistance. If we want our mind to sharpen we need to feed it new experiences that challenge it to expand.

The same holds true for our spirit. Our spirit needs the stimulation of new challenges in order to prevent atrophy from setting in.

Think for a moment. What are the things that you’ve been promising yourself you’d do, that you keep putting off? Take a class? Send out your resume? Ask somebody out on a date? Start a project around the house? Start going back to the health club? Learn how to play a musical instrument?

Can you see how doing at least one of those things on your list is a means of exercising your spirit? Can you see how being able to exercise your spirit in this one new way will move you one step closer? That’s what it’s all about. Doing things in your life that bring you closer to expressing all of who you are.

You see what I am suggesting here? Stretch. Reach. Go beyond. Create. Out with the old and in with the new. Its value is clear: rejuvenation.

Just what are those things that you let get in your way? What are the obstacles that inhibit your willingness to let new experiences into your life? Why do you choose to give so much power to obstacles rather than your desire to  [re]connect?

Now is the time to make small changes. Don’t take on anything bigger than you can handle. But I promise you, those small changes are like money in your savings account, they compound interest quarterly. Go for a walk. Maybe you’ll make friends with somebody. That new experience may be the impetus that leads to a new place to live, a new hobby to get involved with, a new organization to join. Let’s be clear, if you keep on doing what you’ve always been doing, you’re only going to get more of the same.

Exercise your spirit. New experiences are the means by which you feed and nurture your spirit. Strengthening our spirit creates resiliency for ourselves and the obstacles we encounter along the way. New experiences are the means by which we grow towards the light that lies on the horizon.


Dedicate our life’s journey to joy!

[Re]connecting to our life’s journey is not a practice of drudgery. Although the work is hard, we all need to make it a labor of love. The aim of our hard work is one thing and one thing only. To lighten our load, to make significant connections with the people in our lives, to share our pain and sorrow with those who can be there for us, and ultimately to transform our life into a celebration.

The simple need for making joy in our life? It renews us. Joy purifies us, ultimately leaving us with a profound sense of well-being.

Liberating our spirits is the action step that unleashes the whole range of the human experience within ourselves. We have chosen to open ourselves to what it means to be human. We have opened ourselves to express the wonder of what it is to be on Earth. Ultimately it is within our own power to create a life that is full of joy and wonder or experienced as one of drudgery and pain.

The formula is quite simple. Liberating the spirit requires action. Passive introspection just ain’t gonna get it. We must rise above the mere act of intellectually trying to free ourselves. Don’t settle for mere introspection. Understanding without applying new understandings to our lives renders those new insights impotent.

Secondly, we need to focus on a specific type of action. The action should be one that invites growth into our life. New things that challenge us to stretch ourselves. New things that challenge us to develop new ways of thinking, acting, and feeling. New things that challenge us to integrate new aspects of ourselves with the old is the means by which we shed old skin as we grow new skin to live in.

Lastly, the path of transformation can be a lot of hard  work. A joyful attitude that invites play into your life is the only antidote I know to the inevitable discouragement and heartbreak that goes with the hard work of [re]connecting to your life’s journey. 

I am going to stop at this point. The reason is very simple. I want you to build into your own life steps that will liberate your spirit. What I have discussed is a good start only. Please, for your sake, give them a try, but more importantly, create your own program based upon what we have started here.



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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