A Future of Hope and Improvement
A lady looks into the mirror seeing her reflection smiling back. A man sits by the fire and reflects on the years that have passed and cannot be relived. The still lake holds the reflection of the moon on her surface. The idea of reflection is multilayered. Thinking about things that have happened in the past (reflecting on their deeds) and the bouncing off of light/heat from a surface (a reflection in the mirror) are to name just a few. As we move into another new year, we say goodbye to the past and welcome a future of hope and improvement.
The Path of Renewal and Recovery
Reflecting back on the choices we have made in the past year, we gain a more rounded view of the time and the effects our choices have brought. Making better choices is important while walking this path of renewal and recovery. Our actions should be a reflection of our thoughts and our thoughts should reflect our actions. But we must reflect on these past outcomes before we can alter our future choices.
Taking Inventory of the Past
The most common celebrations of ancient times involved reflection and revolved around the harvest festivals of autumn. Perhaps it was out of fear and reverence. After all, the days grew darker and shorter, and the natural world began to die away. It was an important time because what was done in earnest during this time laid the seeds for the spring to come in the future. This is the meaning of reflection: take inventory of the past to reinvigorate the seeds of the future.
Improving Our World and Ourselves
The Chinese offer us another image of reflection encapsulated in the teachings of the I Ching. In China, a large platform elevated into the sky was used as a lookout, glimpsing both ahead and behind. As we know, if you are high up, you can see far. However, there is a cost to being able to see behind and ahead. The cost is that everyone can see you better as well. Thus, the only way that we can improve our world is to improve ourselves. The only way to lead others in a positive way is to reflect deeply on our own lives and make an impact there. Obtain a better view and look within.
Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. At our holistic facility in Orange County, our Barn Life staff encourage tried and true healing practices within an idyllic setting. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain overwhelmed, please consider giving us a call. Our staff is ready to answer any questions you might have and begin the admissions process. Call now and start to love life again!
Bringing Sustained Change
Perseverance is crucial for long term change and necessary to overcome challenges using new methods. Many of our clients have fallen into patterns, as we all do. Unfortunately, their “normal” way of dealing with life stressors has been maladaptive. Often, clients have created methods to deal with negative, uncomfortable, or intense emotions. Some of these methods work for a time in that they successfully alter the reality of pain. However, maladaptive skills such as rage, disassociation, disconnection/cut-off, and substance use are not a panacea and thus eventually fail. The cost of these maladaptive skills creates a new set of problems at worst. At best, it supports and maintains dysfunctional behaviors.
Getting Out of the Rut
One significant challenge in learning and applying healthy adaptive skills is to get out of the rut of the “same ol’” that has been practiced through the many years. These trained neurological pathways and practiced responses never simply dissipate. Only hard and consistent work through perseverance can bring sustained change. It can be difficult to maintain focus and utilize new adaptive coping skills. It opposes the tendency to rely upon the familiar even if the familiar is the crux of pain. As humans develop and learn coping skills during the different stages of development, they find a sense of what works for them and then they stick to it, until they face the new challenges that further development brings. Herein lies the crossroads. do people learn new adaptive strategies to meet the new challenges or do they revert to known coping methods?
Transitional Regression and Maladaptive Coping Skills
When people are faced with new challenges and feel overwhelmed or overburdened with the reality that development brings, then people tend to revert into behaviors that worked for them in an earlier stage of development. Clinicians call this reversion “transitional regression”. Reverting to an earlier stage of coping initially brings a sense of empowerment. It also provides a sense of comfort due to the familiarity of these coping strategies. However, regressing often brings even more stress and even shame. Reverting to coping skills of earlier stages that do not meet the demands that new development requires creates higher levels of stress and perceived incompetency. Moreover, this reversion into maladaptive coping skills can exacerbate vicious and familiar cycles. So people get stuck and they stay stuck.
The Torment of Sisyphus
To initiate change feels to many like the pain and torment of Sisyphus. This exacerbates the feeling of being stuck and encourages the continuation of maladaptive coping strategies. This can occur even if the familiar prolongs pain or causes new pain and discomfort. It is familiar and many equate familiar with safety, which unfortunately is not the case with maladaptive coping skills. As clients start to develop new coping skills and when they are beset by old haunts, new challenges, and painful emotions that arise from facing underlying issues, there is a significant challenge in not regressing to old behaviors. This brings us to perseverance and the importance of staying the course of new change and practicing functional and adaptive coping skills with diligence.
This week at Barn Life Recovery, we are working to raise our clients’ awareness of transitional regression. We are working to build and sustain behaviors that are conducive to their treatment and life goals, including the benefits of perseverance. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please give Barn Life Recovery a call today. We are the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness at a community-based level. Contact us now a learn to love life again!
Why We Work and Live
It is important to celebrate, and it often goes unappreciated. We live in a world that teaches us to watch three steps ahead. It expects us to rush to the next stoplight in order to be on time for our life. This lifestyle has us seeing life go by as a blur. We can lose a vital part of our healthy psychology when we become too stressed, too busy, too lost or too self-deprecating to celebrate achievements accomplished by ourselves or our loved ones. Celebrations can be symbols of recognition and reminders of positive and desirable manifestations. Over time and with meaningful intention behind the celebrating, celebrations can build solid confidence. This is especially true if the celebration is to recognize the achievement of a significant goal. Celebrations have always been a significant reminder to why we toil, why we work and live.
The Meaning of the Here and Now
Celebrations play a significant role in the formation of our identity. We celebrate many things in life as well we should, and some celebrations have turned into traditions. These then become a significant part of our identity as a people, society, community and as individuals. As we learn to heal our minds and cope with stressors from a light speed lifestyle, we can reflect how the absence of celebration and recognition can erode and jade us. When we lose ourselves to the daily grind, we can lose the meaning of the here and the now. Furthermore, we lose the meaning of what has been accomplished because we are already making plans for next week. We often overlook opportunities to build our accomplishments through celebration as we focus too much on the future.
Finding a Life Spark
Many people struggle with guilt, a twisted sense of humbleness as well as negative self-talk. We are unsatisfied with our lives. We think we will be happy if our lives somehow mirror another’s life in some form, fashion or material possession. When we are “possessed” by these negative thoughts we can become jaded to life. We minimize what we have accomplished and overcome. Little wonder why it’s difficult for many to find a “life spark”. Many of our clients are so lost in their head – understandably so – over what has been done to them, what they have done to others and what pain they have gone through that celebration seems like an insult or at least something undeserving. During this time of powerful traditions and celebrations that are part of numerous cultures, we are assisting clients by helping them to remind themselves why they are doing all this hard work.
Celebration with Intent
Let’s help others practice being humble. This not only requires awareness and management of personal shortcomings but also personal strengths and how we can use those strengths to help ourselves and others achieve life and treatment goals. We can help challenge exaggerated or distorted views of self by encouraging each other to recognize and “own” our accomplishments even if only to celebrate our courage for seeking treatment. Let’s teach each other how to build healthy confidence based upon the truth of our accomplishments. Let’s nourish our willful intent to heal, grow and become healthier people. Using celebration in this way, we can help each other build a strong foundation in reality that can challenge negative self-talk and exaggerated self-critical mindsets that hinder us and our progress.
The Process of Decline and Renewal
The idea of rebirth is ancient. Indeed, throughout time immemorial, myths and legends speak of man’s process of birth, death, and rebirth into a new life. But why is this process of appearance, decline, and renewal so firmly etched on our conscious and unconscious thoughts? The list of gods and demi-gods who have traveled the path of rebirth are as countless as the stars. To name a few: the Phoenix, Osiris, Baldr, Adonis, Dionysus, Attis, Vayu, Quetzalcoatl, Tammuz, Shiva, Persephone, Izanami, Ishtar, and on and on.
An Opportunity for Personal Growth
It is vital to view this concept of rebirth through the lens of non-literal interpretation. In fact, reading these death/rebirth stories and myths as literal events can be dangerous and vexing. However, we can choose to view them with the same sensibilities as Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell. When we do, a whole world of personal growth, psychoanalysis, and psychology opens up. It is like voices from long ago sharing secrets that have endured centuries yet teeter on the precipice of forgotten knowledge.
Embracing the Present Moment
All of us experience death and rebirth. Letting go of addiction is a small death yet carving out a new life free from bondage is a grand rebirth. Experiencing trauma feels like something has died. However, leaving these traumas on the altars of the past (where they belong) is an embrace of the present moment. Relationships die, only to be replaced by new experiences of connection and love.
A Breath of Fresh Air
These cycles are something we all deal with on a daily basis. However, by drawing up these old stories from this inexhaustible well, we can reach new levels of understanding ourselves, thereby quenching our enduring thirst. The cycles of birth and death are all around us. This becomes all the more poignant for someone in early recovery who is in the process of reinventing themselves, starting over, and putting their pasts behind them. Indeed, they are breathing fresh air into an old pattern of suffocation and stagnation.
Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. At our holistic facility in Orange County, our Barn Life staff, within an idyllic setting, encourage tried and true healing practices. For example, we offer Tai Chi, synthetic-free psychology, relapse prevention, martial arts, meditation, and more. It’s all at our Orange County intensive outpatient program and day program. If someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, give us a call today. Start to love life again!
Why Does Freedom Cost So Much?
Freedom has always had a cost and always will if any people have the intention to harm or demonize others or actively work to oppress and confuse or take actions to subjugate and hold dominion over people and their feelings. Entitlement can be a delusion that twists people’s expectations into demanding freedom for nothing. Why does freedom cost so much? Because we still attend and respond to fear in a way that dominates us implicitly and explicitly. We still allow the use of power to keep us in fear. Furthermore, those that wield it toxically might attempt to manipulate those around them so that their thinking becomes limited and actions become limited.
Fear and Prejudice
When we do not fight for freedom, work for freedom, or pay for freedom, life becomes choked. Influences from toxic discourses offer us familiar fear so we do not challenge it. It appears to us as a toxic authority figure that demands our assimilation. It plays on the fear of retaliation which acts as an unfortunately effective leash and muzzle. Fear and prejudice backed by authority offer us comfort in the forms of promises and alluring gifts. It then becomes painful and undesirable to question and challenge oppressive influences.
Barriers to Freedom
To understand freedom is to understand what keeps us from it. Fear and hatred are the oppressive dominant discourses that demand that freedom be paid. For nations, the price has been centuries of struggle, warfare, and bloodshed. For those of us that live in a nation of “freedom,” why then do we create barriers of fear and judgments and spit poison at those that do not wish any harm whatsoever? Is our own disgust and fear of ourselves so strong that we attempt to find identity through the degradation of others? With this level of intense projection, there also must exist delusion and ignorance or both.
Full of Bias and Judgment
When we buy into this toxic preaching – whether it’s broadcasted through the TV, perpetuated by friends or handed down through generations by family – we close off and become more rigid in our thinking. Sometimes it’s so rigid that we begin to actively act in ways that close off our own freedoms. The herd or mob now controls and influences us. One could argue that the most difficult fight for freedom lies within your own bias, prejudice, judgment, and worldview. When we are oppressed in our own minds we can be kept away from the freedom and blessing of diversity, the freedom of exploring cultures, and the freedom to be true to ourselves. When we are full of bias and judgment and feel as if others should not have the same freedoms as us, what is that if not letting fear and cowardice rule us? This is not freedom.
The Path to Freedom
The path to freedom starts with awareness and the ability to challenge one’s own bias, prejudice, and fear. These actions will bring the necessary awareness to be able to question the authorities that govern our societies. We can also question and challenge those negative voices of judgment and fear-fueled worldviews that keep us trapped from our own values and morals free from hypocrisy. It continues with the choice to behave and earn discipline through actions and perseverance. The path to is wide once we have the capacity to challenge our own biases, fears, and prejudices. It becomes manifest when we engage in the discipline and task to continually fight those external and internal struggles that beckon us to make decisions – not from freedom but from familiarity and fear.
The responsibility to attain and maintain freedom is ours. Begin the path with awareness. What fears, prejudices and biases are so stout in your life as to make you rigid and a prisoner of your worldviews? Where did your prejudice and bias come from? How was it transmitted to you? If you can identify this then ask yourself if these are the views you hold because you believe in it or did you come to believe it because you were saturated by toxic influences. Are your actions congruent to the respect for others’ freedom as well as understanding the sanctity and sacredness of your own potential freedom?
Who Is This Self?
Self-improvement seems like a good idea, at first blush. Who doesn’t want to improve? However, have we stopped to think about who or what this “self” is that desires improvement? This self you call you. Are you the sum total of remembered events or a narrative story in which you are the star? Are you the voices in your head? This week I really want us to look closer at what we mean by self-improvement.
A Left-Brain Construct
How can we improve upon a self that is really just a construct of our left brain. Look it up. The left brain is notorious for cooking up all kinds of stories about who we are and what we should be. Scientists have referred to the left brain as the Interpreter. Tests have concluded that it is the left brain’s function to create order, meaning and a linear storyline of who we are. What we forgot to mention to everyone is that YOU are not your left brain. In fact, you are not even the voices in your head at all. Ancient mystics and now modern science agree, the essential YOU is the space or venue in which these thoughts and ideas come to play. Look up studies by Dr. Michael Gazzaniga regarding the left brain. Explore the writings of Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass and Alan Watts. The idea of self is a fascinating topic that we only rarely scratch beyond the surface.
Letting Go of the Obsession
What we want to show our students is that self-improvement is ungraspable until you let go. Stopping addictions are impossible to do by trying not to do something: do not drink, do not overeat, do not smoke, do not seek out dysfunctional relationships. There is no quicker way to do something than to promise yourself you will never do it again. It is only by letting go of the obsession that we find freedom.
Doing That Which You Enjoy
Ironically, that which eludes us will curl up by our feet and surrender if only we would stop chasing our own tails. Instead of self-improvement, seek stillness and silence. Self-improvement is a byproduct of doing that which you enjoy. It happens spontaneously. It never happens by design or because you try desperately to make it so. Go try to fall in love or try to find contentment. Go searching for peace of mind. None will be found because you cannot find what you always had from the start.
Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. At our holistic facility in Orange County, our Barn Life staff, within an idyllic setting, encourage tried and true healing practices vis-a-vis Tai Chi, synthetic-free psychology, relapse prevention, martial arts, and meditation through our Orange County intensive outpatient program and day program. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, give us a call today and start to love life again!