The Shrink’s Links: Book Review: Looking for my Father in Emerson’s Essays

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I recently opened, for the first time, a volume of essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson from the collection of old books in my library that I have never read. I was surprised to find that my father, whom I must’ve gotten the book from, noted on the title page that he had read it three times in his adolescence. I started to study the book, not to discover what Emerson’s thoughts were, but to learn more about my father.

When I have a client who needs to understand something about their father, I ask them to refer to the parent by name, not title. That’s because my father was a being who was born when I was born and had existence only in relation to me; whereas, Ray, which was my father’s name, lived about thirty years before I did, had experiences, thoughts, and feelings wholly apart from me, and died about twenty-five years ago, not much older than I am now. I knew him all my life as my father, and so, only knew him partially. I’d like to get to know more about him now, as a person, not just as a father; but alas, I cannot, except through Emerson.

A conscientious teenage boy might read an author like Emerson once if it was assigned. He might read it twice if he liked it, but he would not read it three times in three years if it didn’t make a profound impact on him. There had to be something about Emerson that would unlock the hidden parts of Ray to me. Emerson was the chief voice, if not the founder, of transcendentalism. Was Ray a closet transcendentalist?

These are some of Emerson’s words, taken from his essays, Nature, Self-Reliance, Circles, and The American Scholar, the anthems of transcendentalism:

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. [I think, by man, Emerson meant human.]

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds…A nation of men [and women] will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all …

Emerson lived and wrote in a country that had just freed itself from the domination of Europe. He advocated that Americans leave Europe and all its traditions behind and trust their instincts. Ray grew up the son of a house maid. His own father had gone off during the Great Depression to find work and never returned. His mother’s wealthy employers ruled in his father’s place: the autocratic and persnickety Old Lady Wightman, and Mr Wightman, an introverted man of letters. The Wightmans were British transplants.

It wouldn’t be hard for Ray, reading this book of essays, to imagine that when Emerson was addressing Americans to shake off the domination of Europe and trust themselves, that the author was addressing Ray directly, urging him to free himself from the control of the Wightmans. So, just as soon as Ray had an opportunity, he did so. At the tender age of seventeen, he joined the US Navy and went off to war. I’ve got to believe that seventeen year old boy, shipping halfway around the world to fight a desperate war, had to have a lot of Emerson inside him.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Always do what you are afraid to do.

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.

Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.

Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm.

World War II turned out to be a blast for Ray, tooling around the South Pacific island of Eniwetok in a patrol boat long after that island had been won from the Japanese. He returned a skilled mechanic and went to work fixing cars. Did he remember his Emerson then and regret specializing only in auto mechanics, cutting himself off from his full humanity?

You must take the whole society to find the whole man [human]. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all…In the divided or social state these functions are parceled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work… the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But, unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops and cannot be gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters – a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.

I think he did. The evidence is that, later, about the time I was expected, he declared that he would build his own house, despite having no skills in the building trades. Everyone thought he was crazy, but he did it.

My father never talked about Emerson to me. Indeed, I rarely saw him read a book, although I always knew he held reading in high regard. I knew this because we had a lot of books in my home, many of which he had obtained from Mr Wightman, the shy man of letters. Ray, however, was an Emersonian man of action.

Emerson also had a complicated relationship towards books. He was, of course, an author and a very well read scholar, but one who valued action over analysis. I found it hard to read Emerson until I learned that his essays are best read aloud. I elected to have them read to me. He does not develop his points systematically, his writings are like a series of epigrams, nipping at his subject from a variety of angles. Listening to Emerson, it is possible to have your attention wander off for a few minutes and not miss anything because he will return to the point again and again in a new way. To Emerson, the important thing was not what he had to say, but the thoughts and actions that his words would awaken within you.

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.

Books are for the scholar’s idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men’s transcripts of their readings.

Colleges and books only copy the language which the field and the work-yard made.

I was a big reader when I was a kid and declared that I would grow up to be a writer. My father never pushed anything on me, but I could tell that, whatever I developed an enthusiasm for, he would delight in and support. Still, whenever there was some real work to do around the house, like when we built an addition, or the car needed something, I was right there with him, hammering and turning wrenches with him. I therefore learned to do a great many things and was never intimidated to try something new. When I, at the age of nineteen, said I would move to Western New York and build a house, everyone thought I was crazy, except my father. Ray had done something just like it. Ray was an Emersonian and he had raised an Emersonian without ever speaking a word of Emerson to me.

The secret in education lies in respecting the student.

All our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.

Children are all foreigners.

Emerson is found in practically every idea that has come out of America since his time. Everyone from the Tea Party to the New Deal, from Environmentalism to Entrepreneurial Capitalism, from the Sixties Anti-War Movement to the Neo-Conservatives of the 1990s drew from Emerson. Melville’s Captain Ahab was a mad Emersonian, Gatsby a sad one. It’s in Thoreau, of course; he being a protege of Emerson; and, by way of Thoreau, he infused Martin Luther King and Gandhi. His influence is also found in William Burroughs, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, and Barbara Kingsolver. The Dead Poet’s Society is chock full of Emerson. Dizzy Gillespie played transcendentalism with his horn. Louise Armstrong sang it. Read Emerson today and he sounds like a New Age Guru. He also sounds like half of the memes people post on Facebook. Emerson is in the very air we breath. He’s in the nutrients of the soil. You don’t have to read Emerson to be affected by him, or even have a father who read Emerson. He is a pervasive, inescapable, unconscious part of modern ideology.

To be great is to be misunderstood.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Every hero becomes a bore at last.

A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.

A man of genius is privileged only as far as he is genius. His dullness is as insupportable as any other dullness.

I would urge you to read Emerson even if you aren’t looking to connect with your father. Read Emerson to understand something about yourself.

Click here to go to the American Transcendentalist Web

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Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 11: Often Drugs Work Too Well

Often Drugs Work Too Well

You’ve told your doctor you are anxious or in pain. You got a prescription for Atavan, Klonopin, Valium, or Xanax, if it was anxiety; if it was pain, you might’ve gotten a script for a narcotic like Percoset, Vicodin, Oxicotin, or Morphine. These will certainly take away your anxiety or pain; fast. If you use them sparingly, or intensively for a limited period of time, they can be wonderful. If you use them too long, they can cause more problems than they solve.

There are drugs that work right away to make you feel better and others that take time to raise blood levels. The type that slowly raises blood levels never results in addiction. Anti depressants are like that, you get the side effects first and the desired effects don’t come for two to three weeks, if they come at all. That kind of drug may make you feel better, but not right away, and you can safely take them for an extended period of time.

The drugs that make you feel better right away by removing anxiety or pain can cause real problems if you rely on them too much and for too long. The first sign of trouble is increased tolerance, needing a larger dose of the drug to achieve the same effect. The body, in its wisdom, is building up defenses against the drug.

Why would your body do such a thing? Why won’t it just let you be free of anxiety and pain? Why does your body have to torture you like that?

It’s necessary to have some anxiety and pain for the body to function properly. They are signals that there is danger or something is wrong. Without anxiety, you wouldn’t look both ways when crossing the street. Without pain, you would walk on a broken ankle and injure it more. Anxiety and pain are too valuable to do without.

This is why the body will develop tolerance for the drugs that immediately take away anxiety and pain. If you fail to listen to the body and go on taking more anyway, then you begin to show the second sign of addiction, withdrawal. In withdrawal, as we have seen, (go here if you don’t remember seeing this) whatever anxiety and pain you took away with the drug, comes back, doubled, making up for lost time. This makes you use the drug even more, to avoid withdrawal.

The third way that these drugs get you is by working too well. They do such a good job of taking away anxiety and pain, short term, that you don’t develop ways to cope with them yourself. We can learn to cope with anxiety and pain without drugs; there are skills, if you learn to use them. If you don’t need to use them, you never learn.

If your doctor has prescribed drugs for anxiety or pain, it’s definitely OK to take them for a few weeks if needed, if you have no history of addiction. If you have a history of addiction, then you should tell your doctor so that the risks and benefits of taking them can be accurately considered.

How long is too long for these drugs? When you begin to show tolerance, when the initial dose is no longer enough, it’s already been too long. You should be making plans to stop them before bigger problems develop. Problems such as withdrawal, and not learning how to cope without the drug.

You, have a remarkable ability to learn to cope without drugs. If you tried it without drugs, you would know it.

Click here to see other posts I’ve written about addiction

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The Shrink’s Links: The New Existentialists

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If you were intrigued by my recent post about Martin Buber and the application of existentialism to psychology, then you might be interested in The New Existentialists blog. They seem to have stopped posting new articles, but the old ones are still there to read.

Click here to go to the website.

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Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 10: Staying clean is not enough. We must also develop a personally meaningful life

Staying clean is not enough. We must also develop a personally meaningful life

When you are thoroughly caught up in addiction, your priorities are clear; the drug comes first. Everything is done or not done in service of the drug. It’s the first thing you think about in the morning, the last thing you think about at night. It is the one thing that determines and organizes everything.

When you abstain, that organizing element is gone. The drug no longer governs your mind; it no longer dictates your activities. You are at loose ends. Your life lacks meaning, direction, and purpose.

The drug may not have been a worthy thing to organize your life around. Snorting coke is not like curing cancer. Raising a glass is not raising kids. Shooting dope may give you temporary peace, but it’s not world peace. It’s easy to be critical of the choice you made to serve your addiction, but you did it for a reason. One of the reasons is because you need meaning and purpose in life.

Why is that important?

When I play any kind of a sport, I tend to really get into it. I’m very competitive when I play it, although, when the game is done, it may not matter who won. You don’t have to be as competitive as me to know that the goal of almost every game is to win. Yeah, I know we’re out to have a good time, but come on, you throw that curveball so the batter can’t hit it and he swings the bat to try to score. The fielders aren’t chasing the balls because they don’t like them littering up the field, they’re playing defense; and the catcher is not blocking home plate for his health, he’s trying to get in the runner’s way. Winning is the organizing principle. It governs what the players do. It is the meaning of the game. Without trying to win, they really aren’t even fully playing.

When you find the meaning of any activity, whether it be sports, or life, itself, it’s important not to scrutinize it too much. No meaning holds up very well under inspection. Winning may be the meaning of playing a game and it may make us play better, but, really, what does it matter? If one team wins and the other loses, how does it change anything?

We might just as well ask, why is it important to cure cancer? Everyone is just going to die of something else, anyway. When we have world peace, then what? What’s the point of raising your kids? So they can raise theirs? Where does it end?

The truth is, we don’t know what the point of all this is, and, when people try to tell us, we don’t know if they’re right. Maybe we never will know the meaning of life.

We do know this: in order to live fully, we have to find meaning in what we do, just as, in order to play a sport, we have to try to win. When we are without meaning, we will use drugs to provide it.

Click here to see other posts I’ve written about addiction.

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The Shrink’s Links: I and Thou

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To understand relationships, it is essential to understand what the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber meant by I and Thou. Buber was an existentialist, but unlike most existentialists, who smoke too many cigarettes, wear black, disbelieve in God, and say a lot about individual authenticity, Buber was very religious and he spoke mostly about relationship. I don’t know if he wore black and smoked cigarettes.

According to Buber, you relate to others in two ways. The first is the I-It relation. In this, you treat the other as an object or a machine. You categorize and manipulate. You go to the bank and hand the teller your deposit. You say hello and have a nice day, but she just as well might be an ATM. You interact with this person, but you don’t actually meet. When you relate in I-It, you’re relating from only one part of your being, you are not fully engaged with the person you are making into an It. It is a mode governed by the past (what you already know about the other person and what are your habitual patterns of interaction) and aimed towards the future (what you are trying to accomplish). You go through most of the day like this. You think this way most of the time. It’s a practical necessity and nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s not the best you can do.

The I -Thou relationship is harder to grasp. Some of the confusion is due to the translation. Buber wrote in German and called it Ich-Du. Ich, I am told, means I, but Du has no translation. Du is the German second person familiar and English has no second person familiar. It used to. It used to be Thou, so translators use Thou. The trouble is, Thou, to modern English speakers, is associated with formal religious contexts and the grandiose language of the King James Bible. Du is a word we use for someone we are equal to or intimate with. Maybe a better translation would be Bro, as in, What’s up, Bro?, or Girl, as in, You go, Girl.

In an I-Thou encounter, you aren’t looking for anything, or trying to get anything. You’re not trying to understand, theorize, influence, or control. The other is just an other, as you are. There is a recognition of mutuality. You are completely present; in the “here and now”, rather than the “there and then”.

For Buber, it is impossible for you to grow as a human being on your own. You require a Thou to be complete. However, he frustratingly says you cannot will yourself into an I-Thou relation. There are no exercises that will get you there. It just has to happen.

I don’t agree. I think you can prepare yourself, look for it, and want it.

Those of us trained in psychotherapy were trained to relate to clients from I-Thou, even though our instructors may not have used Buber’s terminology. It’s found in Carl Roger’s principles of congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. It’s embedded in Wilfred Bion’s aspiration to spend the therapeutic hour “without memory or desire”. I-Thou is not found in therapies where the therapist already has an idea where he wants to take the client and uses techniques to bring him there, when he has skills to teach, or interpretations to deliver. That’s more I-It. Therapists would do well to consider that techniques do not determine success in therapy as much as relationships do. I would commend them to study Buber, but remind them not to despair when they read him say about how they cannot make I-Thou happen.

Buber, being a devout, if unconventional, Jew, said that through every I-Thou experience you have connects you to God, who he calls the Eternal Thou. As a consequence, even atheists who relate to other humans in an I-Thou encounter are closer to God than religious people who treat others as objects to be manipulated. Conversely, It is important to Buber that we recognize the evil inherent in the I-It relation. It short circuits your ability to experience real relationship and real spirituality.

Click here to go to the site.

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Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 9: It’s all like a walk in the woods

It’s all like a walk in the woods

To understand the brain and how it works in addiction and recovery, remember the last time you took a walk in the woods. You probably walked on a path. It’s easier that way. Others have gone before and cleared a way for you. It takes you somewhere. It might even be marked.

Consider what makes a path. It starts off with small animals gathering nuts, seeking mates, escaping danger. They begin to wear out a trail that the larger animals take advantage of because it makes their travel easier. The deer and the bear begin to travel the same way that the squirrels and raccoons went. Then the humans take the same path because they’re chasing the deer or running away from the bear and they’d rather not have briars lashing across their faces.

There’s one final step. Plants will not grow on an established path. All those briars, they’ll grow somewhere else where they won’t be disturbed. The more a path is established, the forest will be dense and impenetrable, but there will be a clear trail, free of obstructions.

The brain is like the woods. When it solves a problem, it takes a path. When it takes a path often enough, when it solves a particular problem a particular way, the path becomes well marked and easy to follow. It becomes automatic. You don’t even have to think about it. Other solutions, the ones that aren’t tried, become more and more difficult to access.

If you look at anyone with a well-established addiction, their brain is like a superhighway straight to the drug. Are you having a good day? Let’s celebrate and get high. Are you angry, sad, frustrated? Getting high is the cure. Did your doctor just tell you your liver’s shot? Did your probation officer put you in jail? Your wife just left? Your daughter won’t talk with you? Get high, get high, get high. The more the addict goes to the drug, the clearer and easier the path becomes.

At some point, the addict decides that the path she made does not take her where she wants to go. Then she has to make like Lewis and Clark and blaze a new trail. Recovery involves stepping outside the easy trail, right into where all the briars are, and hack a new way. Recovery is like bushwhacking. It’s hard work, it’s easy to get lost, and it’s tempting to return to the old trail.

The thing is, though: the brain is like the woods. When it solves a problem, it takes a path. When it takes a path often enough, when it solves a particular problem a particular way, other than getting high, that path becomes well marked and easier to follow. In time, lots of time, the old path becomes overgrown and more difficult to find.

Click here to see other posts I’ve written about addiction.

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The Shrink’s Links: Hypno Hero

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Your mind is like a garden. If you’re going to pull weeds, you’d best replace those weeds with desirable plants or the weeds will just grow back. The Hypno Hero app may help. Just download it for free and you can create your own, personalized, hypnosis session in the comfort, privacy, and safety of your own armchair. It is not necessary to have a dangling watch, just a willingness to think differently, feel differently, and change to the person you want to be.

Click here to go to the website.

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Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 8: Positive reinforcement is not enough to motivate a person to stop using

Positive reinforcement is not enough to motivate a person to stop using drugs

You’re a good parent, a loving spouse, a decent boss, a fair judge, a caring therapist. You took psychology in college. You learned that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement. Honey catches more flies than vinegar. But, you don’t know drugs, or, if you do, you haven’t thought it out.

Your praise, your rewards, your love, your kindness, your convincing rationale, your unconditional positive regard, is never, ever going to be enough. You’re competing with crack cocaine, with crystal meth, with heroin, with a good buzz. Do you know what you’re up against? Do you think gold stars are better than that?

The only thing that can challenge the reinforcement that drugs provide is pain.

Drug provide plenty of pain. First, there’s the withdrawal. Then, there’s the consequences of having poor judgment when they’re intoxicated. There’s money problems, work problems, legal problems, and health problems that all arise from substance use. Use long enough and there will be plenty of problems. There will be plenty of pain.

You can still praise and reward when there is something to praise and reward. You can be loving, kind, rational, and caring. You don’t have to provide the pain. The drugs and their consequences will provide plenty of pain. You just have to get out of the way. Stop covering for them. Stop taking the pain yourself.

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The Shrink’s Links: Review of “Life Against Death”

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I recently finished reading Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History by Norman O. Brown. Since it’s a book that only the most psychoanalytically-minded shrink will enjoy, I’ll summarize it for you, so you don’t have to read it.

It goes like this. Babies experience the world with the same level of intensity, the same level of pleasure and pain, that you, as an adult, experience sex. This is what Freud meant by Infant Sexuality, or the equally misunderstood phrase, Polymorphous Perversity. Freud didn’t mean that babies are sexual in the same way that adults are sexual, only that any sensual stimulation that was not pain was pleasure, everything from sucking your thumb to taking a good dump. In addition, it was easy to take pleasure because you could suck your thumb and take a dump anytime you wanted.

This state of affairs made you, as a baby, the observant, engagable creature that you were. The whole world, including yourself, was your plaything. You learned fast, because you were so open to experience and able to experiment. Furthermore, because your parents sheltered you from many of the realities of the world, childhood was a prolonged period of privileged freedom.

All this had to change.

It began to change the moment your caretaker didn’t come when you called. You found that you were not the master of your domain. Something else, or someone else, was more important than you. You wished you could have whatever they had, so that you could have your caretaker anytime you wanted. This is what is meant by the Oedipal Phase and Penis Envy, two other widely misunderstood Freudian terms.

So, what did you do? You suppressed your desires, especially your desire for your caretaker to come immediately, so that you were not made miserable by your desires. Instead of playing freely, you did the things that effectively brought your caretaker to your side. You performed, not for your own pleasure, but for her’s. Your play become work. So that you are not driven mad with pleasure and pain, you deadened your ability to sense. You eventually concentrated sensation to a single, small, hidden part of your body, your genitals. The pleasure you used to feel wherever and whenever, you now confine to the relatively rare act of sex, in a darkened room, with the blinds shut.

Brown says this is madness.

He says that society represses you, and, to please society, you repress yourself. As a result, you cannot recognize the realities of existence. Erotic energy is sublimated and turned to the production of objects, character structures, and political organizations that yield little pleasure. You alone, of all the animals, repress your true desires, live in continual conflict and guilt, and construct for yourself a corporate neurosis you call civilization.

What does Brown propose you do instead?

Brown’s solution to your problem is the resurrection of the body. You need a science based on eros, a world animated by desire, not on objectivity that detaches mind from body. Therapy would be to return your soul to your body, return your self to yourself, and overcome this state of self alienation.

History is the story of this search to reclaim the lost body. It’s the story of the struggle of the forces of life against the limits posed by death.

Very interesting, Professor Brown, but I think you’re missing something. I’m all for partnering in a more effective way with the body. We often turn our bodies, in early adulthood, into neglected, abused, beasts of burden. We pay the price for this later. In later adulthood, we turn resentful and cantankerous toward our bodies as they begin to wear down from this treatment. Ever since toilet training, we fail to obey instinct, ignore gut feelings, deny our needs, and repress reasonable desires. We’re like masters that mistreat our slaves. The slaves revolt and then we’re in trouble.

So, connect in a meaningful way to the body you have, by all means. Take care of it. Listen to it. Sometimes obey it. You’re not getting rid of your body, so you guys have got to learn to get along. However, you are not repressing yourself just to please society. It is often necessary to repress the immediate needs to the body so that greater gains that you would enjoy can be achieved.

In other words: If you take a dump every time you want, you end up sitting around in shitty pants.

A baby’s babbling is melodious. When you were a baby, you could make every sound that a human could possibly make. Now, you’ve lost that ability because you domesticated your utterances into a language. Baby cooing is cool; but people understand language; whereas they can’t understand babbling.

When you suppress your impulses and follow the rules of a sport, you are no longer playing spontaneously. You may be playing tennis, golf, baseball, or soccer. Playing these sports can give much more pleasure than spontaneous play ever could. Well, maybe not golf.

You can think of repression as you think of the net in tennis. If you played tennis without the net, sure, you’d have longer volleys and not have to stop and pick up balls so often, but there wouldn’t be a challenge and you wouldn’t experience the beauty of meeting that challenge with power and grace.

History, you see, is a lot like tennis. It’s the story of how you play within limits. You can’t do whatever you want for as long as you want with whomever you want. There are lines, nets, and rules. When you accept those rules and play within them, that’s how life prevails over death.

Click here to go to the book’s Amazon website.

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Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 7: In the beginning of recovery, it doesn’t matter if you are self motivated. It just matters that you have motivation

In the beginning of recovery, it doesn’t matter if you are self motivated. It just matters that you have motivation

Most people believe that internal or self motivation is the best kind of motivation and that people who are motivated for recovery to please others, whether they be the court, a spouse, a boss, or a parent, are not as well motivated.

Facts and figures show otherwise. They show that people who are externally motivated are more likely to succeed in staying clean than those who are doing it just to please themselves.

The one who is only self motivated is free to change his mind, and most of them do.

It’s one thing to sit and say, I’m never going to use again. What alcoholic has not prayed to the porcelain god that very prayer? Most say they do not want to use again when they are suffering from the consequences, not the desires, of use. When the desire to use returns, there is nothing to stop them. The bars, drug houses, and tobacco shops are filled with people who want to stop using. The ones who do stop have a reason to do so and have the need to make sacrifices.

The person who is externally motivated has more to lose.

I will help anyone where they are at, whether they are internally or externally motivated. But, if I were to chose who I would work with in recovery, I would rather work with the ones who are both externally and internally motivated. They would be the most likely to succeed. But I would take a client who was externally motivated over someone who only had to please himself.

That is particularly the case if the addict has someone: a spouse, a parent, an employer, or a judge, who could externally motivate him, but chooses not to. That person is set up to fail because others have failed him.

The person who is externally motivated has people in her life that care enough to take a stand.

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The Shrink’s Links: Blossom Hypnosis

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When I used to work at an inner city community mental health clinic, Rekha Shrivastava had the office next door. Rekha is a quiet, unassuming lady. Her clients loved her. For good reason. I would watch them walk into her office miserable and walk out happy. I was never quite sure what they did in there, but Rekha called it cognitive behavioral therapy.

Well, it’s years later and Rekha is still making people happy, only now she’s in private practice and she calls it hypnosis. They never let us do hypnosis at the inner city community mental health clinic. It was considered a whacky, alternative type of therapy, even though there’s good evidence it helps with a wide range of problems.

If you’re interested in hypnosis or want to read Rekha’s blog, click here for the link.

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Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 6: Drugs turn a person into an addict, then the addict turns everything else into a drug

Drugs turn a person into an addict, then the addict turns everything else into a drug

If you are addicted, even if you stop using the substance that changed you, you will look for other things (other substances, sex, shopping, relationships, rage, work, gambling, exercising, making deals, etc) to gratify you in the same way. This is called switching addictions. It’s a way of avoiding the real issue that underlies addiction: the belief that you are not enough.

The underlying illness is playing whack-a-mole by extinguishing one problem behavior, only to transfer it to another. We see this frequently with addicts who will use one drug Till they get in trouble with it, and then switch to a different drug. Instead of scoring heroin on the street and using dirty needles, they get their narcotics from a doctor. You’ll think that’s an improvement, until you start to abuse those pills, too; or can’t get to the doctor.

Particularly common is the way cocaine addicts, when they are clean from cocaine, will turn to rage. Rage, you see, is the perfect drug, especially for a cocaine addict, because they feel so much alike. Cocaine is nothing more than powdered rage; but you don’t need to go to a bad neighborhood to score some rage. You just need to dip into your stash of resentments. Rage will cause as many problems as cocaine, so it’s hardly an improvement.

A lot of addicts will turn to a self administered marijuana maintenance program, figuring that, just by smoking some herb, they will quell the urge to use other drugs. Whether marijuana is or is not a benign substance is irrelevant here. When an addict gets a hold of it, he will use it problematically.

Years ago, I used to work with many people who had been locked up in a state psychiatric hospital for years, maybe decades, where they couldn’t get the usual kinds of drugs of abuse. About 20% of them had what we call psychogenic polydipsia. They were addicted to water. They had a dry mouth, caused by their medications, and discovered that, if they drank enough water, which was always around, they could get high. Yes, it’s possible, but you’ve got to drink a whole lot and it will ruin your kidneys.

You see, you can turn anything, any substance, any action, any person, into a drug if you know how. All you have to do is relate to it as a thing that will change your mood, not as something in and of itself. All you have to do is become dependent on it, so that you do not have to stand on your own two feet.

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