of the Shadows
By Dr. Steve
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The Heart of the Matter
With all the miseries surrounding us,
threatening our destruction, we still have an instinct that we cannot repress,
which elevates us above our sorrows.
were finishing up our last session. This was a time for reflection. Looking back upon
where we started, understanding where we were today.
can see so much more clearly today how lost I was back then. I remember thinking then that
I wasnt the one with the problem, everyone else had a problem.
my client was speaking, I was reminiscing in my own mind about our first session together,
what brought him to my office, what it was that he said he needed to work out. I
especially remembered how angry he had become with me in that first session, so I casually
brought that up to him.
right, I remember now. My fiancée had given me a pamphlet you had written, I dont
remember what it was about.
Steps to Emotional and Spiritual Well-Being, I reminded him.
yea, something like that. But I do remember telling you that I understood what you had
explained in the pamphlet, I just didnt understand how to go about doing it.
I thought I would ask you to explain, little did I know then what I know only too well
about you now, you refused to explain.
refused to explain? I responded, not quite remembering things the way he had
you gave me what I thought was a bunch of double-talk. Something like, Those steps
are not something that can be taught to you, they
are something for you to discover. Ultimately, you must discover your own solutions to the
challenges in your life, rather than live out somebody elses solutions.
laughed at his sarcasm as he tried to mimic me. Well, we got through that first
obstacle. Do you remember what those seven steps were?
see. Yea, I remember a few of them. Uh, the first few are easy. Awakening the soul.
Liberating the spirit. Illuminating the path and um, lets see, oh yea, transforming
far so good, I encouraged him. What about healing your wounds, and
strengthening the bonds of fellowship? I asked.
right. I wonder how it is that I could have forgotten my two favorites, he smirked
as he shot me one of his looks. Lets see, the last one was, um, the rhythm of
life, at least I think that was the last one.
thats not too bad. But knowing what they are is one thing. Making them a part of
your life is something else. Where have you gotten with that?
was silent for a few minutes as he gathered his thoughts. Well, overall, I feel
pretty good about where Im at. Although Im finishing up with seeing you, I
know that I have a long way to go with each of those steps. But I can see in more global
terms how far I have come.
do you mean by global terms? I wondered out loud.
example, I remember only too well what you told me when we started. It really pissed me
off at the time, mostly because you were right about me, even more because you were right
about the way this would all unfold.
do you mean? I asked somewhat puzzled.
know that stuff about making this my work, not doing this to get somebody else off my
back. In fact, I think your exact words were, When are you going to stop making this
your fiancees therapy and start making it your own work?
didnt like what you had to say, but I got your point. Unless I was willing to go
through this for myself, I would never get anything out of it. Believe me, that was a big
shift for me, to make this my own journey rather than trying to make other people happy.
something else you said had a lasting impact on me as well. Remember how you told me what
I could expect out of the first few weeks? I was so insistent on wanting to know how long
all of this was going to take.
remember that you wanted this over with before you even got started.
yea, you kept telling me you understood how frightened I was, but all I could do is look
at you like you were crazy. But the point I wanted to make was when you told me about the
first twelve weeks.
told me that I would start feeling better after two weeks. I think the term you used was,
um, subjective distress? You said that the fear, anxiety, the loneliness, and the
hopelessness would lessen after the first two weeks. By week eight, the circumstances that
brought me here would settle down and I would begin to feel even better by then. That by
week 12, I would start asking myself why the hell am I coming to see this guy in the first
dont know what your point was, but what I took from that was that this work is easy
to do when someone is hurting, but there is more to this work than merely alleviating the
symptoms. If I wanted to go beyond merely seeking relief from my symptoms, if I wanted to
change more than the circumstances through which my pain was being expressed, I would have
to find something other than the immediate pain in my life to keep me going. I would have
to find something deep within me to motivate myself to grow and change.
occurred to me, whether you intended this or not, was that I was going to have to make a
commitment to myself for myself. And you know what I realized? I had never done that
before and more importantly, if I were brutally honest about it, that thought scared the
living daylights out of me.
make such a commitment to myself would mean that I would have to believe that I was worth
such a commitment, that I deserved such a commitment. Believe me, it took more than twelve
weeks to get to a place of feeling like I deserved anything.
right! I exclaimed, those are pretty big global shifts.
I think what you would say is that I learned how to take ownership of my journey. I
learned to not hold everyone but myself responsible for my well-being.
way I see it, I had to start seeing who I was and how I affected the people in my life
rather than stay so focused on what the world was doing to me. I had to start seeing how
the things that I was doing, the ways I protected myself just didnt work for me any
I started here, I was angry at everybody for not understanding me, not caring about me. I
can see now that I wouldnt let anybody care about me. I had made my work the center
of my universe and pushed everyone else away.
I drifted further and further away from the people that mattered most to me, from the
things that brought me fun and pleasure, I didnt realize it at the time, but I lost myself.
guess thats the biggest thing that I will leave here with, knowing all the ways I
lose myself and how destructive that is for me. I have to remember how to hold onto myself if I am going to make my life work for me the way
I want it to.
onto yourself? I liked the sound of it but I didnt know exactly what he meant.
thats become almost a mantra for me. Hold onto myself. What Ive learned is how
easily I lose myself. In my relationships. In my ambition. In my value system. In the
choices I make. In the issues I leave unresolved with my fiancée. Every area of my life
is full of potholes for me to fall into. Hell, forget fall into, sometimes I willingly
dive headfirst into them, but the end result is, I become totally disconnected from
was genuinely impressed by the depth of understanding that my client was taking from our
experience together. Well that does sound important. So how do you hold onto
yourself these days?
work at it. I dont think Im there yet. But I keep working at it. In fact, I
can honestly say I still lose myself in a lot of crap more times than not.
I know now how important my friends are to me. They keep me grounded, so I work at these
relationships, even when the work is tedious or overwhelming or both.
Ive only uncovered the tip of the iceberg about myself. But I have to keep peeling
back the layers that hide me from myself and the world. I never realized how not-present I
was in my life. Ive made it a point of absolute commitment to keep doing the work
that will enable more and more of myself to show up in my day-to-day life.
and don't ask me to explain this one because I dont have a handle on any of it yet.
But spirituality, spirituality is a big part of me holding onto myself. I divorced myself
from that part of me my whole life because religion turned me off.
learned from you that this isnt about religion, its about a relationship I
have with a higher part of myself and some kind of higher power in the world. I get it in
my head, I just dont know what that looks like in my life just yet.
I also know, that all of this doesnt have to make sense to me just yet, in fact
its likely that it never will make complete sense to me. Its only important
that Im moving in the direction that will enable me to make sense out of all of this
little by little. For Ive come to accept that Im a work in progress rather
than a project waiting to be completed.
looked at him with a big smile on my face and said, You take my breath away.
Its easy to see that youve made this journey your own voyage, where
youre discovering your way rather than
expecting somebody to teach you their way.
the secret to all of this, discovering your way.
Discovering your path. Forsaking the safety and security of somebody elses
expectations, somebody elses methods. Your life can only be genuinely lived by you
with the courage you have to forge your own path. Anything else is a cheap imitation of
somebody elses vision. You dont have to settle for less than the path that
enables you to step out of the shadows and [re]connect to your lifes journey.
we travel together through this book on our shared journey, I will introduce you to
different phrases that I use. They can only be useful for you if you take the time to
discover your own meaning of each phrase rather than settling for what I tell you they
mean to me. It will be worth your while to take the time to think about these different
phrases and the steps they articulate. What I am suggesting is for you to begin shaping
your own meaning as to what these phrases hold for you.
you begin to do this, remember, there is no one correct meaning that each phrase holds,
there is only a continually unfolding, uniquely personal meaning for you. So lets
start out with Stepping Out of The Shadows. What does that phrase mean to you. Go ahead
and write down a short description. It will be fun for you to revisit your answers and
notice how much they change as you grow and change. If you need more room to write, go
ahead and use some paper and place it here with the rest of what you have written.
the meaning of Stepping Out of The Shadows reminds
me of a conversation I had with my friend Mary Jo. Mary Jo and I have been friends for
twenty years. We have watched each other struggle and grow stronger from those struggles.
We know how hard we both have tried to be true to our paths as well as what our lives have
looked like when we were totally disconnected from our paths. She was in town on business
a while ago. We talked to each other into the wee hours of the morning taking an inventory
of what life has taught us. She shared with me the most important lesson that she has
times I have abandoned my path, those were the times I became confused and disoriented. I
can see how certain choices I had made were more about stopping my pain and silencing my
fear rather than honoring my lifes journey.
thought about what she said for a moment. I was staring off into the distance, listening
to the piano player playing Killing Me Softly With His Song. Finally I said,
It sounds like youre saying that there were times you chose the path of least
resistance, whatever was expedient, but a path that inevitably caused you more suffering
than the pain and fear you were trying to escape.
thats exactly right! At the time I believed I was choosing the only means available
for me to survive. When I chose mere survival, my life became frozen. Every step I took
was encased with rigidity, caution, self-protection, and inevitably self-sabotage. Those
were the times that fear and hopelessness permeated my emotional world. Confusion,
bewilderment, they both coated my mind with a clouded sense of who I was, where I was
the feeling of being trapped with nowhere to go overtook my whole being, I sank deeper and
deeper into a routine that ensured my safety but stifled my growth.
Jo paused for a moment to collect her thoughts. She was being careful not to misspeak. She
sipped her coffee as she continued, Think about it this way. I developed a routine
that gave me one thing: safety. But the net result? The net result was that I abandoned my
sense of adventure, my willingness to take risks. My life became sterile. It was stripped
of the natural emotional ups-and-downs. As a result, I lost myself.
lost yourself? My eyes were squinting, almost as if I was searching for something in
the air that would help me understand what she was saying.
lost my connection, my connection with, with my humanness.
lets see. How can I...? she stared at the ceiling searching for a way to
explain herself. My humanness, my humanness, well my emotional experiences, I guess
is what I mean. Those things that make us all human. My hopes, my sorrow, my joy, my
wounds, my pain. All of that, I was totally disconnected from.
world was black and white. There was no pain, but there was no joy. There was just a
growing sense of apathy, an increasing sense of powerlessness.
dedicating my life to the avoidance of pain, I became numb to all of my life experiences.
You see, it was this very process of avoidance, routine, and emotional numbness to my life
experiences that deadened my soul.
what I discovered is a very simple truism, we all need to get [re]connected with the path
that leads us out of the shadows, and to turn away from the means we use to drown out our
pain and fear.
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