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By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

What the superior man seeks is in himself;
What the small man seeks is in others.

The journey of life is a spiritual one in which our ultimate calling is to transform our life into one that honors who we are, inspires us to love and be loved, and illuminates the path to our higher self. This spiritual journey evolves out of our never ending quest to better know and accept ourselves, more fully love ourselves and others, and, ultimately, make ourselves whole by integrating and connecting to our spiritual center, Essence.

Yet, for many, the prospect of transforming one’s life is more overwhelming than inspiring. The idea of a spiritual journey is often dismissed as being the exclusive domain of the religious zealot. Believing that emotional, spiritual, and material prosperity is the birthright of only those more fortunate than oneself, many people languish in the inertia of their hopelessness and despair.

But, please, don’t count yourself out of the race before it’s even begun. I know of a path that doesn’t require heroic effort, yet, let’s be clear from the outset, it’s indeed a heroic journey. This path is not built on abstract ideals, but a formula to be practiced in every aspect of your life.

What I am about to present to you is a process of personal transformation I refer to as Stepping Out of the Shadows. This process is a blueprint for enriching and transforming the quality of your life as you begin to let go of the influence of Ego and [re]connect to Essence.  

By unraveling the mystery of who you are and what it means to be alive, you’ll discover a path for unearthing and [re]claiming the hidden pieces of who you are, stopping your patterns of self-sabotage, building better bridges with the people who matter most and accessing the wisdom of your higher consciousness.

Now I can imagine how that might sound like a mighty tall order to you. But the truth is there are only two transformative ingredients to this path for you to master--increased awareness and active experiencing. Just why are these two ingredients so important? Well, who isn’t an expert at cutting themself off from the wisdom of  Essence? But no matter how disconnected, no matter how unplugged you have become from Essence, as you expand your awareness, you’ll begin to awaken from the deep sleep brought on by living your life from the scripts written by Ego.

Just imagine how this will benefit you. Greater awareness of the unconscious forces that create and shape the circumstances of your life will empower you to make different choices about the way in which you live your life. Ultimately, increased awareness will expand your perspective on what it means to be a person and how best to connect with all that inhabits your universe.

But, awareness by itself is not enough to transform your life. A catalyst is necessary for infusing your unfolding awakening with energy and direction. I refer to this catalyst as active experiencing. Active experiencing is the art of not only [re]connecting with your spiritual center, Essence, but actively living a richer life from so doing. This requires not only the awareness of how you’re experiencing whatever life offers up to you, but creating life choices that honor who you are from your awareness of those experiences.

Active experiencing is composed of two elements--being present to the moment and making choices about those moments that honor Essence. For you see, the times that these two elements are disregarded are the times that you feel most discouraged and hopeless. And discouragement and hopelessness are the breeding grounds for self-alienation, emotional disorders, addictions, and spiritual bankruptcy.

Here’s why being present in your life is so important. Being  connected to the present moment awakens you to the fact that your life unfolds only in moments. In order to most fully appreciate the preciousness of your life, in order to make choices that honor your life, attending to each unfolding moment is of primary importance.

It’s easy enough to see why that would be so. Your life is made up of a never-ending parade of choices. But for many of us, the life choices we make do not honor Essence. Why? Think about it for a moment. What most influences the choices you make about your life, fear and self-doubt or courage and faith? What best characterizes the foundation on which you build your relationships, acceptance, trust, and love, or judgment, suspicion, and possessiveness? Do you approach each new moment of your life as a victim or a warrior? How does your egocentric, self-will warp what often starts out as your best intentions? You know the old saying about talking the talk? Which is it for you--do you talk the talk or walk the walk?

But as you begin to master the skills of being present to the moment and making honoring choices about those moments, you’ll discover how they’re powerful antidotes for the emotional pain you collect in your life?

Why is active experiencing so healing for the pain that consumes your life? Because everything that happens in your life presents one more opportunity for awakening--awakening from the deep sleep brought on by living life through your automatic, conditioned reactions to the events of your life. Every single experience you have provides an opportunity to choose between the comfort of the familiar or walking through the fear of the unknown. It’s this very moment by moment opportunity for awakening that intensifies the richness and depth of personal transformation. And when you commit yourself to being present to each waking moment, without yielding to your fears and irrational concerns, likes and dislikes, opinions and judgments, and expectations, a new world of possibilities opens up, providing you with one more opportunity to enrich your life.

Just how can you release the potency of active experiencing? To do so, you need only connect the following two elements--your expanded awareness with the full spectrum of your emotional responses. For instance, your ability to persevere grows not merely from understanding how to persevere, but from connecting that know-how with your inherent fierceness, toughness, and determination. How can you nurture yourself and those you love without tapping into the compassion, tenderness, and gentleness that you possess? To most fully live your life, you must be able to access both your joy and sorrow, your compassion and anger, your spontaneity as well as your self-discipline. Only when your life choices arise out of the synthesis of your increased awareness and the heightened experiencing of your emotional world can you most fully embrace all of life--both its difficulties and times of abundance.

Are you beginning to see that Stepping Out of the Shadows is not grounded in a belief system or ideology? It’s simply a process--a process that won’t conflict with your already held beliefs and traditions. The point of this process? To face your life directly, your hopes and fears, possibilities and limitations, your joys and sorrow, all through the art of self-discovery. It’s simply a practical way to be more in touch with the fullness of your being by [re]connecting with Essence.

Notice how we’re back to the simple idea of [re]connecting with Essence? Awakening to your true nature. [Re]connecting with your highest self, letting it flow uncensored and unimpeded. Liberating your voice from fear. Tearing down the facade erected to shut the world out so as to insulate yourself from the pain and sorrow of that comes from being human. Discarding the self-defeating ways you create connections with people based on what you do rather than who you are. Discovering new ways of being in your own skin as well as the world at large. Freeing yourself from the patterns and cycles of self-sabotage you so easily fall into.

[Re]connecting with Essence will bring an end to your pain and suffering. How good would it feel to shed the haziness that permeates your understanding of who you are and how you create the events that occur in your life? Think of all the ways you medicate the pain that arises from your most fundamental fear--your fear of being who you are and expressing yourself in every aspect of your life. Imagine how life would be, unencumbered from all the ways you stop yourself from fully being you.

More than healing, beyond just liberating, as you [re]connect with Essence, you’ll experience the depth of your personal power. By [re]connecting with Essence, you’ll open channels to the deep untapped reservoirs of two underused resources--wisdom and love. Wisdom is embedded in the kernels of awareness created from seeing more clearly and understanding more deeply. Not only created from the sharpening of your mind’s eye, wisdom is forged from listening to and honoring the voice of Essence. As you begin to honor the wisdom of your inner voice, you’ll begin to exercise the choices necessary to release your patterns of negativity, of doubt and fear, that are no longer appropriate to who you are and what your life is becoming.

It’s critical to not only access your deeply rooted wisdom, but to unearth the depth of your capacity for love, as well. The happiness we discover in life is not about possessing or owning or even understanding. It emanates solely from our ability to be present to the moment so that we can most fully access our capacity to create love, to have a loving and free relationship with all of life.

Opening yourself to love and being loved connects you to the deepest parts of Essence. Expressing your love for others strengthens your bond to the community of human kind. Experiencing others love for you heals your wounds by planting the seeds of self-love.

Finally, [re]connecting with Essence is the path to wholeness. By [re]connecting to those parts of who you are that you’re out of touch with, disconnected from, and/or unwilling to acknowledge, you’ll begin to take back those parts of yourself that you’ve given away to your fears and inhibitions.

As I said earlier, I want to share with you a process, Stepping Out of the Shadows, that will enable you to give birth to such a sacred life as the one I described above. What follows is an overview of the steps of Stepping Out of the Shadows. The first step is paradoxical. For in order to see most clearly, in order to experience most keenly, you must first step into the darkness by letting go of the familiar. This is the point where you leave behind the protective devices that you’ve created and step into the darkness of the unknown. That’s the paradox--shedding light on the path ahead by walking through the darkness of the place where you are at.

Therefore, the first step is the step of letting go, what I call Illuminating the Path. Just what is it that you must let go of? The mindset created by Ego. Do you know what I mean by the mindset created by Ego? I’m referring to that piece of yourself that seeks to impose its will on everybody and everything, insists to go it alone in life, and continually clings to that which does not work. Do you recognize that space within yourself that honors your fears, plants doubt in your mind, and second guesses the choices you make? Can you see how the voice within that demands proof, has faith only when it’s convenient, and raises procrastination to an art form comes from a space that is disconnected from Essence? How many times have you stopped yourself dead in your tracks only because of the blind loyalty you maintain to that piece of yourself that must be right all the time, insists on making everyone else wrong, yet refuses to practice what it preaches? What kind of allegiance do you maintain to that piece of yourself that demeans everything you do and say, judges unmercifully who you are and what you’re not, and sabotages your moments of emotional and spiritual well-being.

It’s Ego’s mindset and its unrelenting voice that darkens your path. Yet, you’ve carefully crafted this mindset for one singular purpose--to protect yourself. But in so doing, you’ve left yourself blind to a better understanding of the choices you make, blind to the beauty of what your life can be, blind to the path that leads to the fulfillment of your destiny.

Now it’s easy enough to admonish you, to say “just let go.” But you can never let go of anything unless you have something to replace it with. The thing to replace the mindset of Ego with? What we all must do is construct a mindset that comes from our higher self and transform our loyalties to the voice of  Essence. I can not overstate the importance of this new mindset, namely that it reflects the faith of Essence rather than the willfulness of Ego.        

The second step is the step of increased awareness, what I call Awakening the Soul. This is the start of examining who you are, questioning your view of the world and your place in it. It is at this point that you begin to cultivate an appreciation for the richness of each moment. Seeking out, facing with courage, and bringing into the light of consciousness that which is unconscious and disowned, you begin to open yourself to the possibilities of what your life can become. For the most uplifting outcome of your awakening is healing and growing through the wonderment of discovery by uncovering who you are, letting go of who you are not, integrating what remains into a beautiful tapestry of love and wisdom.

The third step is the step of active experiencing, what I call Liberating the Spirit. Liberating the Spirit is the challenging process of connecting your awareness with your emotional world. There are two aspects to this step--[re]claiming the disowned parts of who you are, and experiencing your world through mind, body, and Essence. By mastering both aspects of Liberating the Spirit, you’ll find yourself emancipated from the self-limiting patterns you’ve created to manage your fears and dissolve your pain.

The key to Liberating the Spirit is developing the skills necessary to most fully live your life in the here-and-now. Living your life in the here-and-now means connecting to yourself and the people in your life in a specific way; in the present moment. Only through this type of connecting can you foster greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality.

How best to be most fully connected to the present moment? First, separating the there-and-then from the here-and now. In simple terms, stop superimposing the past on your present-day experiences. You see, often the line between the present day moment and what that present-day moment mirrors about past experiences becomes blurred. When this happens, the wounds from your past become activated and you feel provoked. As a result, you dump on those in your present-day life the hurt and pain that emanates from the wounds of the past. Until you can fully separate your past from your present, you’ll continue to react to the people and circumstances in your present day life from the hurt and pain of the wounds from your past.

Secondly, you need to release yourself from the bondage created by the judgments you hold about who you are and what you should be. It’s necessary to give yourself permission to be who you are, yet, do you recognize how often you stop yourself by censoring what you think, feel, and do? This censorship arises, in part, from many of the judgments you have about those pieces of yourself you judge to be less than acceptable. Can you see how these judgments inhibit you from fully taking ownership of all the pieces of who you are. The formula is a simple one--only when you embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly of who you are, can you then most fully be present to the here-and-now, available to the present moment, in mind, body, and soul.

The final step is the step of responding rather than reacting to life, what I call Transforming the Mindset. As you fine tune your abilities to be present to the moment, to make choices that honor who you are, and to connect your expanding awareness with your emotional world, you’ll begin to view yourself and your place in the world in a much different way. It’s at this point that you’ll begin to make friends with your enemies, silence the critic within, transform fear into courage, and convert seemingly immovable obstacles into opportunities for growth.

The underlying principle of Transforming the Mindset is that the obstacles in your life are the very place to begin releasing yourself from the demands of Ego and living from Essence. No longer need you avoid your difficulties if you would but begin to use them as tools for healing and becoming.

Take a moment to reflect upon how this transformation might benefit you. Think about what your typical response to troubling life circumstances might be. Blame, frustration, a sense of failure. Perhaps denial, suppressing any recognition of problems and the feelings these problems evoke. In so doing, perhaps you put all of your energy into filling your life with only light, beauty, and ideal feelings. But does this really work for you?

So your solution is to call on Mr. Ego. Invoke your will. Increase your denial. Attack the people in your life. Maintain your allegiance to all the tried and true methods that repeatedly sabotage your best intentions.

But as you master the step of Transforming the Mindset, you’ll discover a new way of dealing with the circumstances in your life. All you need do is change the relationship you have with the obstacles that stop you from creating the kind of life you want with yourself. Begin to see those obstacles as your teacher(s) as you uncover the lesson(s) that are embedded in those circumstances. Through the step of Transforming Your Mindset, you’ll free yourself from the demands of Ego and begin to open yourself to discovering the lessons of life that the universe is serving up to you.

Let me leave you with this last thought. There’s nothing simple about Stepping Out of the Shadows. But I have presented you with a simple formula with which you can create the kind of life that you long for.

Don’t be waiting for moments of profound clarity about what to do next. The next small, simple act is the most empowering act in your arsenal. Stepping Out of the Shadows is like unraveling a knot. You have to keep tugging at the knot, you won’t unravel it with just one yank.

Focus your attention on the voice of your Essence. Strive for integration. Think about being whole. Think about [re]claiming. That’s what all of this work’s geared towards. Honoring the voice of your Essence is the catalyst for awakening all of the potential that lies dormant within ourselves.

All you need do is harvest the wealth that awaits you by awakening your soul and liberating your spirit. Open yourself to what’s possible. When you become open to the possibilities of what the universe has to offer you, then you’ll be open to discovering what your life can be. 

Let me toss in one last element in this formula. Healing. Healing from within. Healing how you think about yourself, act towards yourself, and feel towards yourself. Healing the way you relate to the world, the people in your life. The salve to those tender wounds won’t go on easily. It won’t feel natural to the touch, but give it time, let it soak in. Let this magical salve turn old scar tissue into new tender skin. The salve I’m talking about is three magical words, [re]connecting with Essence.

That’s the one thought I want to leave you with. This pamphlet is nothing more than a testimony to what can happen for you when you begin to live those three words. Don’t be put off by such simplicity. You needn’t search for more complex solutions, although I assure you they exist.

As I say good-bye to you, do me one last honor. Look at where you are. Look to where the light is shining brightest. Take one small step towards that light, step away from the darkness of the shadows, begin your journey, and know that you deserve to be wherever that journey takes you.



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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