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By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

Click here for Part 1 of Spiritual Bankruptcy

Birth is not one act; it is a process.
The aim of life is to be fully born,
though its tragedy is that most of
us die before we are thus born.
To live is to be born every minute.
Death occurs when birth stops.
-Erich Fromm

When once asked how he was able to create his artistic wonders from mere pieces of marble, Michelangelo is said to have replied, “I didn’t do anything. God put them in the marble, they were already there. I had only to carve away the parts that kept you from seeing them.”

Your life, too, is an artistic wonder in the making, awaiting only the courageous, compassionate application of a sculptor’s tools. For your life is an unfolding miracle, needing only to be emancipated from the dis-ease that envelops your spiritual center, Essence.

What is the dis-ease that encases Essence? I call it spiritual bankruptcy. To some, the phrase, spiritual bankruptcy, has a provocative, almost taunting tone to it. Some hear it as an accusation, raising their ire, leaving them defensive, and feeling judged. Others think of spiritual bankruptcy as a condemnation--  that they are lacking the essential moral fiber to be a good person. Still, for others, what they hear me saying is that their spiritual practice is somehow inferior to mine or the next person’s. Then there are those who suggest that I’m being a tad dramatic, that it’s a bit of an overkill, this idea of spiritual bankruptcy. Oh sure, they may be feeling lost, a bit disoriented these days, but bankrupt, that describes a neredewell, the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s of this world, the down-and-outers. In other words, anyone but me.

So first, let me put you at ease. There will be no fire and brimstone rants here, no hand waving, bible thumping sermon about right and wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral. It’s not my intention to provide you with a police artist’s sketch of what’s a sin and who’s a sinner. There will be no predictions offered, no gazing into crystal balls suggested, no palms or tarot cards read. I have no insider’s knowledge as to whether you’re headed north or south of the border in the afterlife.

That’s not where I’m coming from. I leave the ideology of religion to those who are more well versed in it than I. Let those who are so inclined, judge you, but, that’s not what you’ll receive from me. As for preaching and prophesizing, both are the exclusive domain of those who work the other side of the street. 

Just what takes place on my side of the street? Healing your emotional and spiritual wounds--the pertri dish in which the seeds of spiritual bankruptcy are sown, cultivated, and harvested. What are these emotional and spiritual wounds? Here are but three. First, your sense of worth and well-being sliced-and-diced by a razor-edged self-critic, sharpened and tempered by the shame, alienation, and self-loathing that permeates every nook and cranny of the relationship you have with yourself. Second, mind-numbing  loneliness, unfulfilled emotional needs, and smoldering resentments, all the by-product of those relationships that have been stripped bare of joy and love from years and years of fear, neglect, false pride, judgmentalness, and festering, unresolved conflict. Finally, the estrangement from your spiritual center, the disconnect from your spiritual voice, the loss of faith and hope, the overreliance on your will, the complete abandonment of your relationship with your higher power, all of which leaves you feeling empty and incomplete, lacking energy and vitality, drifting through life without purpose and meaning.

No, my side of the street is healing not preaching, searching not judging, examining not explaining. Working my side of the street means one thing and one thing only--illuminating a sacred path that will [re]connect you with both your authentic Self and spiritual center, Essence,  and thus, returning both to the center of your identity. 

You need not worry. This path won’t conflict with your already held beliefs and traditions. There’s only one point to this path--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 end the ever-present pain and despair that envelops your soul. The aim is simple but profound--putting you in touch with the fullness of your being. The means to do so? The same used by Michelangelo--carving away the parts that keep you from seeing, connecting with, and experiencing the grandness of your being.

What is it that has engulfed the core of your being? What fuels the war you wage with yourself? What is the catalyst for the deepening isolation between you and the people in your life? What drowns out the voice of Essence? Just what is it that needs to be carved away so that you may experience your true, authentic self?

Think of it this way. Your authentic Self, your sense of who you really are has become mummified by layer upon layer of shame, alienation, grief, loneliness, anger, fear, and endless patterns of self-defeating conditioned reactions. What is embedded in each layer in which your authentic Self is wrapped? Hopelessness and self-loathing which has choked off the vitality of your life force. Self-contempt which has polluted your perception of yourself and the people in your life. Worthlessness which has twisted and distorted your claims to what you’re entitled to as a child of the Divine.

Embedded in each layer is the anger and hostility that shields the tenderest parts of who you are from the prying eyes of even those who would want but to love you. There are the broken promises to yourself, the unkept words to the people in your life that has revealed your loss of faith and exposed your disconnect from the Divine.

But it’s not just how you feel about yourself nor how you dance with the people in your life, it’s also the built-up residue from all the self-defeating unconscious conscious choices that you make. Think about all the times that you’ve abdicated your free will to the willfulness of Ego. Can you see how you’re enslaved to a script that you blindly follow? Do you recognize that in renouncing your responsibility to choose, you’ve surrendered the opportunity to empower your life? Every time you’ve reacted rather than responded to the circumstances of your life, you’ve allowed fear to control your life. Each time you’ve made a choice that causes you to contract rather than expand has prevented you from becoming the grandest version of who you can be.

Just what is the sum and substance of each layer of scar tissue that imprisons authentic Self? If you look closely enough, if you stop distracting yourself from your pain for any length of time, if you stop living in your world of make believe, you’ll discover a patchwork of emotions and choices that debases your sense of self, poisons your relationships with others, and separates you from your spiritual center, Essence.

It’s as if your core has been enshrouded in a tapestry of pain, self-deception, emptiness and hopelessness. Woven in and out of this tapestry are strands of self-judgment and self-sabotaging choices. The pattern embedded in this tapestry is undeniable--a sense of feeling fundamentally bad, inadequate, defective, dirty, and unworthy. There’s an internal voice of diminishment--damning yourself as less than, experiencing other people’s attitude towards you in a similar fashion.

Mixed in with an overwhelming sense of worthlessness, beyond feeling small and insignificant in the eyes of yourself and others, is an always present feeling of anger and hostility. You experience intense anger at yourself for not being who you believe you should be. You fend off any person’s attempt to know you, or, even worse, see you, with hostility and defensiveness. No matter how many people you may surround yourself with, this nagging feeling of being on the outside looking in never escapes you.

The contempt and disdain for yourself and others compels you to cover up, close off, shut down and self-medicate. Which is your method of self-medication--secrecy, compartmentalizing your life, compulsive behaviors, chaotic relationships, addiction, eating, gambling, sexing, arrogance, self-centeredness, selflessness? What’s the shell in which you hide to silence the self-hate, avoid the exposure of another’s gaze, and tell yourself that it’s alright and, even more confounding, that you’re alright? What reasonable fact simile of who you really are do you morph into in order that you not reveal who you really are to the world? What artist’s rendering of the original masterpiece that you are do you hide out in? What cheap knock-off of your authentic self do you invent and present as yourself to the rest of the world? All of this, every single fabrication, in the name of not being found out, not being exposed, not having to confront all that it means to be human!

This is the DNA of the material that has concealed your authentic Self, engulfed your relationships, and blanketed Essence. It’s this material that must be carved away so as to [re]discover the grandness of who you really are.

Can you see that the only way out of where you’re at is to extract your mind, body, and soul from the most elemental aspects of spiritual bankruptcy? Do you see that spiritual bankruptcy is an underlying dis-ease process embedded in such symptoms as depression, anxiety, shame, self-alienation, resentment, hopelessness, despair, self-sabotage, relationship dysfunctions, addictions, and eating disorders? Every aspect of who you are is affected by this dis-ease. It affects how you think, how you feel, how you perceive the circumstances of your life, how connected you are to your physical being, the quality of the relationship you have with yourself and others, and your ability to live your life connected to your spiritual center.

How does spiritual bankruptcy show up in your life? What are the incarnations that spiritual bankruptcy takes on in your day-to-day life? How and what aspects of your life does spiritual bankruptcy infest? Spiritual bankruptcy manifests itself in your life as disconnection. There are four aspects of your life in which the drama of disconnection unfolds--the relationship you have with yourself, the relationship you have with the people in your life, the relationship you have with your spiritual center, and the relationship you have with the here-and-now.

A Dis-ease of Disconnection:
The Disconnect With Yourself:
The Disconnect Between Mind and Emotions

Let’s first look at the relationship you have with yourself. In this context, there are two levels of disconnection. First, there’s a disconnect between your mind and your emotions. As a result of this disconnect, either your emotions or your thinking dominates, one to the diminishment of the other, how you experience life. This happens in one of two ways.

One type of disconnect takes place when your emotions dominate your perceptions and reactions to the circumstances of your life. When you feel flooded by your emotions, when your emotions dominate how you experience a life circumstance, you feel overwhelmed, and, thus, you become vulnerable to applying meaning to a life circumstance based solely on what emotions have been activated by that life circumstance. As a result, you disconnect from your conscious awareness of the here-and-now, only experiencing a particular moment through your feelings.

The other half of the mind-emotion disconnect is when your conscious thoughts dominate your experience of a situation. When this type of disconnect occurs, you experience a life circumstance solely through your conscious awareness. When this happens, you unplug from your emotions, thereby experiencing a particular moment only with your thoughts. When this occurs, you experience life in a similar fashion as watching television on a black and white television. Either way, with either style of disconnect, without a healthy balance of connection to both your conscious awareness of the moment and your emotional responses to the moment, you’ll experience life either as emotionally charged and overwhelming or sterile and barren.

There are two consequences for either imbalance that I’ve just mentioned. You lack clarity about your sense of self and you are removed from directly experiencing life in the moment. Why? Rather than remaining grounded in the here-and-now, you either regress back to the emotionally charged reactivation of past experiences or escape into mind numbing preoccupation with the future. As a result, if you’re engaged in your life exclusively with your thoughts, you become a distant observer of your life, rather than an active participant. On the other hand, being connected exclusively to your emotions, you become a prisoner of your past, the creator of a chaotic present.

You may still be wondering, “What’s so bad about that, it beats having to actually be present in my life.” When you rely exclusively on either your overcharged emotional reactions or your sterilized, emotionally muted interpretations of your life experiences, you’re vulnerable to distorted perceptions of yourself and your life experiences. You’re vulnerable to these distortions because your awareness and feelings, when used in tandem, serve as a check and balance for the meaning you attribute to the experiences of your life. Without the benefit of that check and balance, your understanding of your life experiences is created through the distorted filters of inflamed awarenesses or emotionally sterilized rationalizations. Because of this, you’re unable to develop a grounded, reality-based connection with the moment. This disconnect from the moment is the genesis of much of the alienation that you feel towards yourself and the people in your life.

A Dis-ease of Disconnection:
The Disconnect With Yourself:
 Disowning Qualities and
Characteristics of Who You Are

There’s a second level of disconnection that takes place within the context of the relationship that you have with yourself. I refer to it as disowning qualities and characteristics of who you are. This means that there’s much about who you are that you’ve unplugged from, disowned, and pushed to the outer edges of your conscious awareness.

What are these parts of yourself that you’ve discarded and declared for ever more, “Not me!”? Personal qualities and characteristics that you’ve developed judgments about, parts of who you are that you feel shame towards, parts of yourself that you want no association with. Likewise, they are qualities and characteristics of yourself that have been raged at, disapproved of, or ridiculed by others.

As a result of the intolerance of yourself and others towards these qualities and characteristics, you make a pledge. You vow never to be weak, because when you’re weak people take advantage of you. Or you swear that you’ll never be dependent on somebody else, because the last time you were, that person walked out on you. It’s likely that you pledged a long time ago to never feel scared or hurt or fragile, because you were belittled or maybe even punished for experiencing and expressing such feelings. I bet you can recite backwards and forwards all the rules you have about who to be and not be when it comes to winning the love of another person.

Think of all of those qualities, the ones you’ve turned off, surrendered, and discarded. Can you identify those characteristics, that you’ve disowned, left unexpressed, never revealed? Do you see the limitations you place on who you allow yourself to be? Are you aware of the restrictions you allow others to place on who you can be. This occurs because of your level of discomfort with certain aspects of who you are. Let’s also give credit to the other guy’s inability to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly about who you are. The end result it that you split off, tuck away, never to be claimed again, important parts of who you are.

How does this fragmenting process unfold? Here are but a few examples. You deny that you feel lonely because “a strong person doesn’t need anybody.” And then you get angry at loneliness and neediness when you see it in another person. Or you erase from your memory bank the parts of you that feels tender towards another person because expressing those feelings is a set-up to be forever at the mercy of another person’s demands for more and more attention. And then you get angry when that person acts in a tender way towards you. Or you out and out deny that your behavior is controlling, or that you’re being manipulative, or that you’re feeling feelings that you’ve forbidden yourself from feeling. And then you get angry and judgmental when you experience those very attributes in somebody else.

Unfortunately, the ways we protect ourselves, more times than not, backfire on us. Disconnecting from parts of who you are is no exception. There’s a tremendous cost incurred when you discard that which you’ve disowned about yourself. For you expend an enormous amount of energy keeping those parts out of your awareness.

In order to insure that these qualities and characteristics remain disowned, the focus of your life becomes not being all that you’ve disowned rather than being all of who you are. The energy you expend in order not to be, drains you, creating a fertile breeding ground for self-loathing, hopelessness and despair. Beyond debilitating your emotional well-being, the process of keeping the disowned out of sight is responsible for much of the chaos in your life. This happens because it creates an ongoing internal conflict between not being and being. This conflict manifests itself as the self-sabotaging and self-destructive behaviors you become entrapped in.

So you set into motion, a style of life that’s dedicated to keeping yourself invisible. The less of yourself there is to see, the less of a target you make yourself for others to judge and attack. However, in chopping your Self up into compartmentalized bits and pieces, you deny yourself and the world access to so many wonderful qualities of who you are. And in so doing, you deny yourself access to so many of the wonderful qualities that exist in other people.

A Dis-ease of Disconnection:
The Disconnect With the People in Your Life

Walt Whitman wrote, “Sometimes touching another person is more than I can bear.” Whitman captures the essence of the second level of disconnection that adds to the bubbling cauldron of dis-ease, alienation, and spiritual bankruptcy. For the second disconnect that takes place is between you and the human race. It occurs in one of two ways. One way is to close yourself off completely, not allowing anybody into your life. A second way is to completely shut out of your life the people in your life. Either way, you exist alone, an island in the sea of humanity. You create a life in which you’re uninvolved emotionally, detached spiritually. Apathy, indifference, and resentment coat your interactions with the people in your life. You’re indifferent to the wants and needs of others. You’re disinterested in their pain and suffering. You derive no pleasure from another’s joy. You resent the demands on your time and emotional reserves, so you create a life that is separate from rather than a part of.

As much sense as that may make to you, can you see why disconnecting from the relationships in your life is so toxic for you? By detaching from the people in your life, by erecting impenetrable barriers between you and the rest of the world, by constructing a fortress of passivity, anger, defensiveness, and hostility, you have renounced the one common link you share with all of humanity--your humanness.

You see, for many, there can be no more hair raising, blood curdling, fingernails on the chalkboard experience than connecting with their humanness. That’s ultimately what you’re seeking shelter from. Not being a part of spares you the pain of connecting with your own humanness. Being separate from offers you release from the burden of your humanness. Uninvolvement alleviates the burden of not experiencing at the depth of your soul the indignity of being ordinarily human and all that being human entails.

That’s why you seek the protection of withdrawing, rather than endure the comfort of belonging. You see, detachment is a judgment against, a denial of, and ultimately a defense from your humanness. Ultimately, you’re wanting to avoid being associated with the judgments you hold about what it means to be human. What are those judgments? Do the words weak, delicate, pathetic, feeble, puny, inadequate, and defective have a ring of familiarity? How willing would anybody be to embrace their humanness if they were to judge it in the same vain as the above descriptors. Let me be clear, I’m not asserting that it’s my belief that claiming your humanness means you’re weak, delicate, pathetic, feeble, puny, inadequate, and defective. What I am asserting is that there are many people who do hold these judgments about being human. And because of those judgments, they defend themselves against experiencing their humanness by disconnecting from the people in their lives.

Beyond not wanting to be associated with your judgments of being human, disconnecting separates you from the pain and suffering associated with experiencing your humanness. Look at what disconnecting from the human race spares you.  Involvement undermines your sense of power and control. Detachment keeps you in charge of the ship. Engagement places your well-being in the hands of others. Aloofness perpetuates the myth that no harm can come to you as long as you rely solely on you. Participating leaves you vulnerable to abandonment. Disconnecting enables you to love and be loved, on your terms and your terms only. Cooperatively living insures that you will feed others emotionally and spiritually. Competitively living ensures that you’ll get yours first, last, and foremost. Involvement empowers you to give of yourself to others. Passivity enables you to take and take as the world dances at your feet.

No, make no mistake about it. There’s much for you to gain by keeping the world at arm’s length. In your mind, it’s the only way that makes any sense. For keeping yourself on the outside looking in insures your safety, guarantees that you’ll never be denied, and keeps you in charge of all that crosses your path. The only thing is it also insures that you’ll go through life hungering for the warmth of a loving relationship.

A Dis-ease of Disconnection:
The Disconnect With the People
in Your Life: Defending Against
Experiencing Your Emotional Needs

What is it that you’re protecting yourself from? What is it that you are so bound and determined not to experience? What relief comes from not experiencing your humanness, so much so, that you are willing to ruin your life rather than cop to the fundamental qualities about who you are? Let’s start with emotional neediness. You have specific emotional needs that can only be fulfilled by living cooperatively amongst the people in your life. The most fundamental need each and every human has is to belong. Seeing as that is a given, you have only two ways to respond to that drive. Either fitting in and making a place for yourself, or defending yourself against the need to belong by denying the need.

But make no mistake about it, belonging is the prime motivation behind every action that you take. No matter how much you tell yourself that you don’t need anybody, no matter how hard you work at shutting the world out, no matter how guarded, abrasive, and defensive you may be, underneath it all ticks the soul of a person who is desperate to belong, to be cared about, to feel appreciated.

I’ve never been fooled by all the creative ways that people deny how badly they hurt, how desperately they long for, how very much they need. None of it impresses me--the protests to the contrary, the swearing on your mother’s grave, the apoplectic fits, all in the name of demonstrating how insulated you are from this very basic need, how self-reliant you are, how repulsed you are by the thought that you might need at least one other human being.

All the problems that you create for the sake of denying your neediness, forget about it. All the sabotaging that takes place to undo even the slightest of connections, it’s really a no brainer. All of the approach and avoidance, all of it, every iota of denying that you have emotional needs is a ruse, a distraction, a diversion. All of it has more to do with protecting yourself and less about convincing me or anyone else.

So the problem is needing, the problem is being seen as a person who needs. And the answer is obvious, don’t need, don’t want, don’t desire. Don’t put yourself at risk, don’t give in to the most fundamental drive you have, belonging. Your credo, “Deny, deny, deny.” And, in so doing, live to see another day.

A Dis-ease of Disconnection:
The Disconnect With the People in Your Life:
Defending Against Feeling Vulnerable

The second aspect of humanness that you defend against is experiencing vulnerability. Living in this world can oftentimes be a scary, overwhelming proposition. However, we are by nature frail, vulnerable beings. None of us are invulnerable to the slings and arrows that life throws our way. And because of this, we do much better when we have people in our lives that can support us.

However, being emotionally involved with the people in your life is a double edged sword. For the very people who can be the heart and soul of your existence, can also be the catalyst for the reenactment of your worst nightmares. For living life emotionally connected to the people in your life is also an invitation to get hurt. It can get ugly fast and that’s not what most of us prefer. But the unavoidable truth is that we cut, we hurt, we bleed. So the moment you let your guard down, the instant you come in from out of the cold, the nanosecond you join in rather than look down on, you’ve instantly exposed yourself to the prospect of being vulnerable.

Connecting is an open invitation to experience the pain of rejection, the sting of judgment, the horror of abandonment, the unfairness of being falsely accused. So, as much as you may benefit from establishing emotional bonds with the people in your life, you may turn solely to yourself for comfort and fortification.

And the way you fortify yourself is by not creating connections of substance. In order to defend against feeling vulnerable, in order to protect yourself from experiencing how frail you and your life really are, in order to insure that you never put yourself at a level of risk that is intolerable, you live your life in a bunker, and believe me, it’s a one man fox hole. And when someone tries to get in, your siege mentality takes over and the battle cries are shouted to the heavens.

“Remember the Alamo!” Remember all the times, all the ways you were hurt. Remember how bad it felt to be let down. Remember how bad it felt to be betrayed. Remember all the ways that being involved worked against you. Remember how it felt, the confusion, the bitterness, the shame and embarrassment. Remember all the times you were left to nurse your hurts, tend to your wounds, comfort your sorrow, all by yourself. Remember the unfulfilled longing for a sympathetic touch, a kind word, the unmet desire for somebody, anybody to make it better.

And so your mantra becomes, “Don’t trust!” To you that makes all the sense in the world. You understand only too well. You know better than that person on the other side of the door who’s trying to get in knows. It sucks to be hurt. It sucks to be played, to be made a fool. It sucks to entrust your well-being, in part or in whole, to another person, only to have that trust abused, taken advantage of, manipulated, and ultimately used against you.

And so you vow, “Never again!” Never again will I depend on another person. Never again will I feel so vulnerable, so out of control. Never again will I let somebody in, only so that they can turn around and walk out of my life. And, in so doing, you’re assured that nobody will hurt you, but, at the same time, you’re also assured that nobody will be there for you.

          A Dis-ease of Disconnection:
The Disconnect With the People in Your Life:
Defending Against Feeling Powerless

As discomforting and unsettling as experiencing your neediness and vulnerability can be, both pale in comparison to the most disturbing aspect of your humanness--powerlessness. Nothing evokes more discomfort, nothing elicits more panic, nothing stimulates your need to deny, seal over, and flee from your state of humanness, more so, than feeling helpless and powerless.

In order to unplug from this aspect of your humanity, you invent a myth. That myth is that you’re in control, that no circumstance exists that your will cannot overcome. You’re intoxicated by the myth. As a result, you live your life as a warrior, mowing down each and every obstacle that gets in your way. As a consequence of your intolerance for the experience of feeling powerless, your mindset has evolved into a them versus me mentality. Every situation is a test, every being is viewed as a threat, every waking moment is spent shadow boxing with real and imagined slights.

In so doing, you miss the real point. The enemy is within. The enemy is not the object of your will, the object being the obstacle in your path. The real enemy is an inescapable aspect of being human--your limitations. That’s the enemy. That’s the villain. That’s what your will is actually seeking to destroy. The notion that you have limits is a repugnant thought to contemplate, let alone embrace. The idea that there’s a power(s) greater than you is too humbling to even comprehend. To even consider that there’s such an entity for which your will is no match, can send any grown man to his knees with fright.

And so the answer is a simple one. Engage the enemy. Fight the enemy. Destroy the enemy. And when the enemy appears to be getting the best of you, simply dig in and keep the war going, for you comfort yourself with the thought that tomorrow is always another day. However, the dis-ease of spiritual bankruptcy is proof positive that your will is no match for what ravages your soul. And, in so denying this genesis of your dis-ease, you insure the fact that the war of wills will live on. And fighting the war armed only with your will, insures that you’ll have much the same success and experience much the same chagrin as a fireman has who uses gasoline to put out a raging fire.

A Dis-ease of Disconnection:
The Disconnect Between
You and Your Spiritual Center

As a dis-ease of the soul, spiritual bankruptcy leaves you disconnected from your spiritual center, Essence. Because of your disconnect from Essence, the energy of pride, which is created by Ego, dominates your life. As a result of this disconnect from Essence, the energy of reverence, which is created by Essence, is unavailable to you (see Mirror Mirror on the Wall for a more detailed explanation of Ego and Essence). As a consequence of being disconnected from your spiritual center, you’ve become estranged from your relationship with your higher power, the Divine. As a result of being estranged from the Divine, self-will and self-control rather than faith and surrender dominate how you make yourself safe, how you attempt to get your emotional needs met, how you regulate your emotional well-being, and how you empower yourself to overcome the challenges in your life.

As self-will dominates your strategies for creating well-being in your life, your energy becomes consumed more and more by the demands of Ego. As this happens, your life becomes more focused on securing your attachment to objects, substances, people, and desired outcomes and less on cultivating a relationship with the Divine as well as love and compassion for yourself and the people in your life. You attempt to make your world secure by forsaking an empowering relationship with the Divine for the mythical, self-delusional powers of self-will and control. Consequently, you invoke your self-will rather than surrender to the Divine. Rather than gaining mastery over yourself and the circumstances of your life by connecting with your spiritual center, Essence, you rely upon control and self-will to accumulate power and control over yourself, the people in your life, and the circumstances of your life.

The problem is that this unfolding drama of power and control creates a profound paradox. For the more you invoke your self-will to achieve power and control over every aspect of your life, the more those aspects of your life control you. The more you forsake surrendering to the Divine as the legitimate means to regain control over the habits, substances, and acting out behaviors that have gained control over you, the less control you actually have over those substances and habits. The more you attempt to control the people in your life, the more power and control those people eventually have over you.

You see relying on the strength and fury of your self-will is a losing battle. It’s much like the ancient Chinese bamboo tube that you insert your index finger in. Once your finger is inserted in the bamboo tube it becomes impossible to remove your finger from the tube. For the harder you try to pull your finger out of the tube, the tighter the grip the tube exerts on your finger.

A Dis-ease of Disconnection:
The Disconnect Between You
and The Here-and-Now

Another aspect of your life impacted by the dis-ease of spiritual bankruptcy is being disconnected from the present moment. There are two time zones in which you experience life when you’re disconnected from the present moment--the past and the future.

Let’s first look at living in the past and the major cause of this disconnect. Here-and-now experiences oftentimes stimulate memories of past toxic experiences. When this reactivation of past experiences occurs, you oftentimes become flooded by the memories of the past and the associated feelings that accompany those memories. When this occurs, the there-and-then becomes superimposed on the here-and-now, distorting the meaning you attribute to the present moment experience as well as your connection to your here-and-now sense of self. As you detach from the present moment, you relive the past as if it is happening all over again in the present. As a consequence, when you’re reliving your past in the moment to moment experiences of your life today, you experience alienation from your self, from the people in your life, and from your spiritual center. How so?

First, think about yourself in the present and yourself in the past as being two distinct selves. I refer to your here-and-now self as the voice of your developed adult self. I refer to your there-and-then self as the voice of your wounded self. For the most part, you carry out your day-to-day functions from the voice of your developed adult self. However, when you have an experience that activates the voice of your wounded self, the voice of your wounded self takes over your emotional and experiential functioning.

As the voice of your wounded self takes over your emotional and experiential functioning, your connection to the voice of your adult self is severed. The significance of your wounded self usurping your connection to your adult self is that the toxicity of shame and self-loathing from your reactivated emotional wounds dominates the attitudes and feelings you hold about yourself.

Not only does your wounded self poison how you think about yourself, it distorts the meaning you apply to how you understand what is happening in the moment, and who you are in the moment. All of those old self-judgments begin to reemerge. “You’re no good.” You’re inadequate.” “You’re unlovable.” “You’re weak.” “You’re dirty.” “You deserved whatever you got.” “I am a victim.”

These messages activate old feeling states. Depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, self-hate, and shame. These feeling states further disconnect you from your adult self. Unable to plug back into your adult self, you stay more and more stuck in the past, further estranged from the here-and-now. And the end result is you experience life much the way you do watching an old movie over and over again. You become stuck in a time warp, unable to escape the hold the past has on you as your reality becomes the reactivated past rather than the present moment.

The second time zone you experience your life in is the future. If shame and self-loathing are what keep you stuck in the past, fear and agitation are what motivates you to unplug from the present moment and flee to the future. What stimulates your flight into the future are the demands of being present to each unfolding moment of your life. You see there’s nothing more demanding than being present to each and every moment of your life. Such presence demands awareness, openness, connection to your emotional being, and the willingness to take risks. For each moment demands that each and every one of us experience life and act on that experience. Now! Not in a moment. Not when you feel more inspired. Not when you better understand how to but now. And in order to act now, much of the time, you’re required to act by stepping into the darkness of the unknown.

And so there’s nothing better for what is provoking you about the present moment than tomorrow. Tomorrow is what alleviates the anxiety of sustaining your connection to the here-and-now moment. Tomorrow is what soothes your fear of stepping into the darkness of the unknown. Tomorrow is the garden in which all of your good intentions are nurtured but never realized. Tomorrow is the place you flee to when the present moment becomes emotionally overwhelming. Tomorrow is the refuge for all that you could do today but put off until..., never quite getting to what it is that you swear that you want in your life more than anything.

Just like living in the past, living in the future unplugs you from the voice of your adult self. You never live in who you are today, for you’re about to become something new and improved tomorrow. The result is much the same as living in the past. You’re not connected to the present moment, you’re not connected to the voice of your adult self. As a result, your life isn’t reality based because, for you, reality isn’t who you are today but who and what you’ll be tomorrow.

But as scary as the present moment can be, as emotionally provocative as it can be, being present in your life is 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 ourselves, nurture our relationships, feed our spirit. 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?

So, in order to be grounded, in order to be reality based, in order to take responsibility for your emotional and spiritual well-being, it’s imperative that you remain connected to the here-and-now. The catch is, as is so often is the case, doing what is best for you, is not without its price. For being connected to each unfolding moment of your life can often activate a state of being that you most want to avoid--being human in all of it’s glory, with all of its pimples.


So that’s the mission you’ve layed out for yourself. Unplug. Disconnect. Remain uninvolved. Abdicate your place in this world by denying your humanness. Deny your humanness by defending yourself against those aspects of yourself that most closely binds you to the rest of humanity. Stake out your claim to a piece of real estate just outside the edges of the mainstream. Turn off your emotional needs. Master the art of never being vulnerable. Invoke your will in the name of not feeling helpless and powerless.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way forever. You can climb out of the darkness and experience the joy of [re]connecting with your Self, the people in your life, and your spiritual being. The work is hard but rewarding, challenging but uplifting, maddening but inspiring.

Remember, in the end it’s up to you. Either way you have a choice. On the one hand you can choose how much longer you’ll  allow the dis-ease of spiritual bankruptcy to poison your life. On the other hand, you also can control how much fear and discomfort you’re willing to expose yourself to. But you know the old saying, “You live by the sword, you die by the sword.”



Click here for Part 1 of Spiritual Bankruptcy

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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