Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Meaning Of Life

excerpts from "The Meaning Of Life"

If you're confused about what you want or how to get it, perhaps you weren't given the chance to discover your own talents and passions.

If your relationships fail and you don't understand why, you may be acting out early patterning that doesn't work any more.

If you're trapped in situations that drain your energy, someone may have convinced you long ago that you're unworthy of better.

If you give in to people you can't stand and fear people you admire, you've probably adopted those attitudes to be sure you didn't offend someone important to you.

If you're overwhelmed by emotions that sometimes make you afraid to act, it's likely you didn't get the recognition you needed as a child to build self-confidence.

If any of this sounds familiar, take heart in knowing that you are not alone. Whether you ask mental health professionals or everyday people, most estimate that over 90% of American families are passing along generations of dysfunctional habits and attitudes that distort personal, social and political life.

The good news is that you are a spirit on a physical journey, and what happens in your life is guided by Spirit to bring you the circumstances you need to learn the lessons you came here for. Surviving a dysfunctional family means setting yourself free from the negative influences in your past so you can build a life you love. You are not a victim of your upbringing. Past circumstances don't necessarily doom you to failure. Although a dysfunctional past can crush your self-esteem and ruin your relationships, the distortion of your instincts can be reversed.

Life on earth is a miraculous blend of spirit and matter, an expression of the universal life force at the heart of creation. Whatever you call that force --God, All-That-Is, the Eternal, the Prime Mover, the Ground of Being, Allah, Yahweh, Shiva, Zeus, or an name you invent yourself--you and me and every living thing that ever was or will be is part of this infinite incomprehensible universe, like a cell in the body of God that has crystallized into your physical form to use its creative power to express your talents and abilities, and show you who you really are and how to make the most of your life.

Beneath your everyday awareness is a wiser, clearer you--what you might call your essence or soul. Your experience of yourself is based on the interaction between those two states of being--the internal and the external.

Either you allow Spirit to flow through you or you get in the way of its flow. When you're out of touch with your true nature, you feel small, separate, and lonely. Being comfortable in your own skin starts with accepting yourself as you are--a spiritual being who is in every moment, every situation, every flash of genius and every stupid blunder, unfolding and expanding far beyond your understanding.

Take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. Use them as signposts to help you set your own course, and be willing to make corrections if you find you've strayed from your natural progression. Beneath your surface are the vision, strength, compassion, and love that are your birthright. Approaching difficulties as opportunities to find your highest potential promotes healing by helping you locate a deeper reality, which permanently changes your perspective and deepens your capacity to love and learn in even the most difficult circumstances.

But by adopting behavior and attitudes to get along with the people closest to us, our natural inclinations become distorted. If instead of being nurtured and supported, we're ridiculed, ignored or abused, we feel afraid, cynical, or depressed. We become focused on doing whatever will stop the pain. We divert all our energy into figuring out how to protect ourselves emotionally and get our basic needs met, doing things we don't want to do but can't stop. We forget there was ever anything we liked or wanted in life, that we have innate talents and interests that are fun to explore and express. Instead we end up mimicking or rebelling against the patterns passed along to us.

Yet this is not an excuse to blame your family for wrecking your life, even if you believe that to be the case. In difficult situations, it's easy to lose touch with your original intention. Repressing your natural instincts for the sake of superficial harmony is the basis for most interactions in what we think of as polite society.

But as soon as you try to show that you love someone by pretending to be what they want you to be, the trouble begins. Cutting and pasting your behavior or beliefs to suit others is unnatural. Your authentic expression can't find an appropriate outlet, so it squeezes itself into an available alternative whether it fits or not. Even the most noble or worthy substitute can never be as satisfying as the original objective. It feels false, and is often physically painful. Your significant others may feel better temporarily, and you may look like you fit in, but keeping up an artificial front creates a split between your behavior and your experience which makes you feel desperate and worthless.

Peace of mind and well-being come from putting your faith in yourself rather than convention or history. Simply acknowleging your own truth heals you. Deep within, you are powerful. You didn't come here to find and problem and fix it. You came to identify and share your gifts. You are good. You are free to do what you want with your life. You are valuable. All is well.

Clearing your stumbling blocks and building your dreams go hand in hand. If you neglect either side, you're destined to relive your unworkable patterns over and over. The longer you ignore their call to action, the more strongly they demand your attention. You feel more pain and your circumstances get worse. Either you face your limitations and act in alignment with what feels right to you, or you blow off steam in ever worsening self-destructive and anti-social behaviors.

Whose life works perfectly, with nothing arising to disturb them? Having personal problems is universal, an essential part of human development. If we had no difficulties to negotiate, how would we learn anything? What we call "mistakes" are not necessarily failures. They can bring great insight.

Buddha's first noble turth is that life is suffering. This is not a statement of hopelessness, but a starting point for understanding how life works. Even the most trying circumstances can help us to release dysfunctional patterns and find our true direction. Experience is the greatest teacher, whether we label any particular situation as good or bad.

Seeing your distortions is the first step to clearing them up. Your reactions to the people and situations that either attract or repel you shape what happens with them. Through inspiration or frustration, they help you clarify your dreams and passions. The things that push your buttons provide clues to what keeps you from having what you want, highlight the areas where you have the most to learn, and give you the impetus to find the mess still left inside and transform it.

Don't be afraid of your emotions, even the so-called "negative" ones. Anger, grief, envy and the like are simply energy that needs to be examined to uncover the truth and good intentions beneath the situation that triggered them. This doesn't mean you have license to indulge your dark side or inflict your moods on others, which are both ways to avoid your true emotions. Instead, go into and beyond them to find the treasure hidden there.

When you examine the tangles in your mind that limit you, you dismantle them. Meeting the challenges within your problems and recognizing your buried emotions and unconscious obstacles frees up your energy to find more satisfying ways to live. Only when you bring your inner life to light can you come to terms with and transform it.

To do this, set aside ten or twenty minutes a day, go to a private place and sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Breathe slowly and deeply. Think of your inhale as bringing in peace and relaxation, and the exhale as releasing tension and distortion. Notice what you think and feel. Allow emotions to arise and pass through you like clouds across the sky, then let them go. Picture yourself healing, and imagine your fondest dreams coming true. When you feel complete, jot down anything you want to remember, then get up and go on with your day.

To have happiness, peace of mind, and well-being, put your faith in what lights you up rather than in conventional beliefs or history. Recognize your dreams and best intentions as a message from God, and take action to make them real. Simply paying attention to your own truth helps you awaken to the reality of spirit, and glimpse the meaning in your own life. Then you begin to see others' lives as meaningful, which enables you to forgive and tolerate difference and difficulty. Being willing to investigate your stuck places can revolutionize your life and society as your transformation reverberates in those around you, making the world a better place one heart at a time.

Suzanne Gold has a Master's Degree in psychology, a Credential of Ministry from the Universal Life Church and has studied and practiced spiritual techniques and principles from around the world.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Depression Study Finds Shame at Root of Issue

A new study reveals the connection between shame and depression.


(October 03, 2007) -- When World War II veterans suffering from depression were asked one simple question, their symptoms of depression immediately lifted.

“They started talking loudly and clearly instead of whispering as they had before and looked into the psychiatrist’s eyes rather than at the floor,” said Thomas Scheff, a professor emeritus at the UC Santa Barbara Department of Sociology.

The question: What were you doing during World War II?

The observations made at the English mental hospital in which the veterans were staying were later developed by Scheff into a theory of depression. The theory supports the idea that depression arises out of shame and may be alleviated by a sense of pride.

Of 83 conversations with such patients, about half were asked about their experiences during World War II. Among those who were asked the question, half of the patients had a temporary remission in which the symptoms of depression completely disappeared.

With such similar reactions to the question being common among the patients, a possible reason for the remission is the ability for a patient’s sense of pride from the war to override the feelings of shame that can cause depression, Scheff said. “Pride is often associated with a sense of acceptance as a valued member of a group,” he said.

Though the patients who exhibited the behavior were older patients, the theory can be applied to all age groups and all cultures, said Kristin Yarris, a graduate student coordinator of the Mind, Medicine and Culture group at UCLA.

“The challenge will be the extent to which we can apply (this theory) to different ages and cultures,” she said.

Shame-based depression is not uncommon among all age groups, such as young adults, for example.

For many depression patients at UCLA, depression, shame and guilt frequently occur together, said Elizabeth Gong-Guy, director of UCLA Student Psychological Services.

“A good example is a student who comes into college expecting to do just as well as they did in high school. But because the competition is at a different level, they aren’t doing as well,” she said. “As a result, they feel shame because they are unable to meet a family expectation.”

The shame, in turn, may lead to depression.

Another common instance of shame-based depression occurs in relationships with lovers or parents. “I’ve seen many students who blame themselves for the breakup and feel shame,” Scheff said.

Oftentimes, the shame will develop into a cycle that may magnify the feeling of shame. “Shame acts back on itself,” Scheff said. “When people blush, they become self-conscious and they blush even more. Similarly, when you are ashamed of being ashamed, it goes round and round and is infinitely powerful.”

In contrast to those who experience shame and place the cause of the shame on themselves, others may express shameful feelings as anger or violence.

Depression may result when shame is directed and kept inward, while violence results if the anger associated with shame is directed outward, Scheff said.

“Sometimes the person will place the fault on someone else. They avoid the pain of shame by covering it over with anger,” he said. “I refer to the two different responses to shame as ‘silence -violence.’”

With the development of this shame-based theory, many possible treatment plans can be and have been formed.

Despite biological and scientific treatment options already present, alternative methods involving psychology and social interactions are just as important because different patients have different symptoms that require different treatments, said Gong-Guy.

“Some are best treated with medication, some with psychotherapy, and some with both,” she said.

Nevertheless, most scientists suggest that a combination of treatments is most effective, she added.

Antidepressants may not be as effective as they seem because many patients have been found not to respond to the medication or may even experience negative side effects, Scheff said.

One possible alternative treatment option rests on social interactions. Scheff outlined a series of steps in his treatment plan, in which a psychiatrist or therapist first tries to go over patients’ positive memories so they can break from depression and begin to feel better. The psychiatrist would then connect with the patient and allow the patient to talk about shameful areas of his or her life so there would be no need to hide or keep it in.

Source: Sience and Health
Sue Wang, Science & Health Editor (Contact)

Last updated: 10/07

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Poem From An Adult Child

Growing up was very hard,
Wondering how I make it this far,
All the pain I felt inside,
Is it any wonder I wanted to die?

Looking at myself today,
Why has it not gone away?
All those beatings that made me cry,
That’s the time I wished I died.

All the things that were said to me,
Through my life I believed.
It’s time to look deep inside,
Life’s to precious to want to die.

Today’s the day I say goodbye,
To all the pain I feel inside.
It’s time to forgive the people from the past,
To me that seems like a good place to start.

It’s time to look at all the good in my life,
And stop dwelling on the past.
To open my eyes to the world and see,
At all the beauty waiting for me.

It’s time to wake up and see,
I’ve come to realize it’s down to me.
Thinking of the positives in my life,
That should stop me thinking from of the past.

- Mick

Special thanks to Mick for sharing his heartfelt poem with all of us.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children