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The Gifts of Peace, Simplicity and Reality this Holiday Season

“Celebration is a forgetting in order to remember. A forgetting of ego, of problems, of difficulties. A letting go.”        – Matthew Fox

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I find holidays to be a real test of my personal growth. I had always been glad I didn’t have to face the holidays alone. Christmas was always spent with my best friend Keith, my sister and her partner. Until this year I was never as acutely aware of how hard as it has to be especially hard for those that have no one.  This is a good time to take care of myself and it is best to be honest, rather than jolly.  For those of us that struggle during this time of year, we can refuse to lose ourselves in old behaviors. We can focus on finding other healthy people to be around.

This holiday season has already offered me the chance to reflect on the impact my mental health issues have had on my relationships and how much sharing these special times with others really means to me.  I am also able to appreciate what I already have, and to better recognize my blessings because I have known the pain and deprivation of my illness.

Peace, simplicity, and reality all are ours this holiday season.  By letting go of expectations, and by choosing an attitude of hope and gratitude, we will soon come to know that there is much more to celebrate than we anticipated.

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When Decisions are Made Out of Fear

Declare your independence of all fear based limits. — Alan Cohen

I have found fear to be one of my most worst and ineffective tools for making decisions.  By “tools”, I mean the emotional coping mechanisms our mind creates during our life time and from our own set of unique and personal experiences.  These tools may be useful during a certain time period in our life because they protect us.  As humans we change, and some of our tools must change as well.  As a child, fear may have been an important tool, because it kept us out of harm’s way from something.  For example, I have a friend who has a two-year old, and to keep the child away from certain things around the house tells the child, “It’s hot.”  So now, when the child wants to touch something, he asks, “Hot?”  My friend has been effective at keeping his child away from certain harmful elements, but obviously, as the child matures, this tool must change.  As adults, I find that our tools don’t change often enough.  Fear based tools are common for us to carry with us into adult hood.  Fear based tools may distort reality, giving one an unrealistic platform for certain functions, such as decision-making.

Fear is the absence of love. Fear is where our higher power (God or the Universe) is not. Making choices out of fear keeps us from looking at the true cause of our pain or anguish. Pain, misery, aggravation are just a few of our negative emotions.  Our mind, our Ego, tells us that something out there in our world is causing us fear. We then believe we must resolve an issue or problem to get rid of the fear.  This process tends to distort reality, blinding us from the true source of our fear, the Ego.  It is our Ego, our mind, causing the fear. Our mind hides this fact from us. If we knew the true cause of our fear, we might feel we were wrong and put ourselves to blame, which then creates guilt.

Our Ego shelters us in this same way from guilt with all of our emotions.  Anger, frustration, embarrassment and sadness are not ours to own responsibility for; it is the outside world to blame.  Something or someone “out there” is the cause of the emotion.  The problem with this tool used by the mind is that it leaves us feeling powerless.  It leaves us feeling unable to change our feelings.  Our power is surrendered to something outside of our own self and at the mercy of this “thing”.  Many of us have learned by now that we can’t change another person.  So we believe we cannot change “it” nor can we change our own emotions or feelings.  We believe that this “thing” in the outside world must change for us to feel better.  The same holds true for every one of our emotions. If the outside world or something or someone in it is the cause of our emotion, then we are not to blame.  Clearly, it is that “thing” “out there” that is responsible for our emotions. This way of thinking makes us feel we are not to blame and not at fault.  The only way to truly heal the problem is to heal the fear.

Through our awareness that it is our reaction to an event and those stories we have fabricated in our mind creating what we believe to be the truth, our power is restored. We have the power to create change and happiness.  We begin realistically and authentically to heal the fear.  No longer is there a dependency on the outside world for our own true joy.

Making choices or decisions out of fear are actions not from God or the Universe.  When an individual has even a remote feeling that a choice or decision is being made from a fear based emotion, I recommend one to stop and take time to do the necessary inventory of one’s own feelings.  Do not make a decision based on fear.  Some of my personal friends and acquaintances go so far as to even do the opposite that a fear based decision may suggest.  I recommend that if one becomes aware that a decision is being made with fear as a driving force, to stop. Breathe deeply in and out and go inside one’s inner Self for direction. I often suggest the use of a simple technique I refer to as “STAR”.  STAR is an acronym for:  Stop, Think, Assess and Redirect to a healthy alternative.  Even the simple exercise of breathing deeply in and out will help to release the fear.  Susan Jeffers, a life coach and spiritual guide suggests, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

That Spinning Wheel Will Go Around and Around

As Long as you let it

“There’s nothing worse than taking something into your head; it turns into a revolving wheel that you can’t control.”                                                    — Ugo Betti, Italian Judge, Playwright (1892-1953)

When something really gets to me, it can easily turn into an obsession. I’ll think that one thought over and over; 24/7. I’ll worry over one particular thought like a bulldog in a meat shop. This obsessive thinking, if left uncontrolled in my mind will lead me eventually to the deep dark shadows of depression.

I believe that I became obsessed by fantasies that spun around inside my head like pinwheels on a windy spring day. At times it became difficult to imagine real people, in real situations. I kept repeating images that were real only in my fantasies. Eventually, I realized these fantasies were closing me off from a world of truth.

To break free, I needed to take dramatic action with both my psychiatrist and therapist. I attended a weekly group session and found that by talking and sharing with others, I was able to learn from their experiences. I continue to walk a path that leads out into life and away from those spinning wheels of my obsessions. I am learning to live a life away from my mad world of obsessions and I’m reaching out and getting free.