Who’d of Thunk?
45 years ago Glenda and I co-founded PCS. 60 years ago, on June 6th, we were married. Glenda is full of grace or we would not be currently married. Among the affirmations that I make daily include having gratitude for the health I do have, for my family, which includes Marcus, whom many of you know and is the Clinical Director at PCS. It is certainly great to have the privilege of working with Marcus for 30 years. It was very helpful to Marcus and me when approximately 32 years ago he and I were “Marilynized”. For those of you who know, have done therapy or read some of Marilyn Murray’s writings, or have been exposed to them in other ways, being “Marilynized” is a great way to get to know yourself.
PCS is a family program that involves Glenda, myself, Marcus full time and our daughter, Michelle as a consultant.
Who’d of Thunk that being married to me could be a good deal for Glenda, or for that matter, any woman. The process of getting to 60 years of marriage has at times been painful. 23 years into our marriage I did individual therapy. We did couples’ therapy and family therapy that led to a 25th anniversary, which was a redoing of our marriage vows in a way that was a process celebrating a much better marriage than when we got married originally on June 6, 1958. I have learned to “rat on myself” and to take accountability. Glenda also has worked on herself. The combination individual therapy for both of us, couples’ therapy and family therapy has been very helpful to getting us to the place where our marriage, at this point, is the best it’s ever been – that’s what Glenda says and what I say. We are still under construction and working on continued improvement and being better at being helpful to ourselves and each other.
Another concept, which is a “new kid on the block” to me is the term “enlightened selfishness”. I am grateful that I am married because I know that I would rather be married than not married and I am married to the person I would most likely to be married to. My story is that on June 6, 1958 I got married before I was ready to get married and didn’t know that. Gratefully, Glenda and I have, and continue to do the work, to have the marriage we both deserve.
Enlightened selfishness helps me to understand that I would rather be married than single. Because I am married to the person that I would most likely to be married to, behavioral changes make me a better deal for myself and for Glenda. Therapy for this therapist has been enormously helpful. The product of therapy means the most to me because of my own growth and continuing need, at age 81, to be under construction.
Another important area is that Glenda has helped me to “listen – learn” in a way that is different than my parents and grandparents did. Because I believe in the golden rule, it makes sense that it is a fundamental necessity that goes against my basic, instinctual nature. Knowing that there is no “cure” for me and at the same time I can keep in “remission” the parts of me that “nuke” my wife and that I am the one who is a bigger loser when I do that. A specific change is that at times when I am thinking about saying something that would be unproductively hurtful to Glenda, and would also then end up hurting me, when Glenda and I are alone, “shut up Ralph”. She doesn’t ask me what was I going to say.
Glenda and I have a commitment that if either one of us believes that we need to get marital therapy, the other will say yes and we know that we are never too old to need therapy. When needed, we will make that happen.
Some of the areas that have become important to me in this stage of life – ala Eric Ericson’s “Generativity” include working with people who are already married who come to PCS either as individuals in a marriage or as a couple. We use the term “premarital therapy” for people who have become legally married and yet need to come to a place in their marriage where the marriage may be in the “ER Room” and either becomes a healthier marriage or may end. We at PCS are biased and would love to see relationships improve and hate to see “divorce for the wrong reasons.” I am privileged to be a part of a group in which there are 27 therapists who have their individual strengths, personalities and specialties which are brought to bear in our Intensive Outpatient Program.
Scott Peck wrote that “life is difficult.” Marriage is difficult and can be incredibly rewarding.
Recently, I heard a friend who started the Arizona Interfaith Movement and our yearly Golden Rule Banquet state “I am the luckiest man in the world.” That friend died of Lou Gehrig’s disease and was quoting Lou Gehrig when he was physically debilitated by what we now call Lou Gehrig’s disease, making that statement at Yankee Stadium. I write this because “I am the luckiest man in the world” and know that. I am lucky to be in the marriage I am in and to be a father and grandfather. The only name our grandkids use for me is “Cuckoo.” Those of you who know me will know that it is a clinical diagnosis from grandkids, as well as an intimate term, which means a lot to me. Within the last couple of years, I have had the privilege as “Reverend Cuckoo” to perform the wedding for two of our grandkids and their partners.
Another piece of gratitude is, the people who have mentored me – my wife, kids and grandkids mentor me. Mentors who have been professors of mine include two people who knew Bill W, who started AA. Reinhold Niebuhr, who authored the Serenity Prayer, which we use regularly Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the end of group was one of my profs. Another prof did his degree at Columbia in Alcoholism and was involved in the beginning of AA. As some of you know, I am an ordained minister who believes that the rigorous honesty that occurs in 12 step groups and in therapy settings such as PCS, provides a depth, including an understanding of what “the Imperfection of Spirituality” really means in all of our lives.
Thanks for your interest in PCS and those of you who have been to PCS as clients, please keep us posted as alumni of our PCS family.
By Ralph Earle, Founder & Clinical Director
Scoreboard Champions vs. Heart Champions
By KEN WELLS, LPC
“Phony plays for a while but genuine plays for a lifetime”
Ed Wade- former Phillies GM
It was a spring Friday in late April, 2001. It was a day I don’t think I will ever forget! My son Jimmy was a senior and playing his last home game against rival Seton Catholic. They played Seton a few weeks before and Seton got the best of it, winning 3 to 1. Jimmy was the losing pitcher.
I remember telling Jimmy during his last week of practice to take time to take it all in and to appreciate the grind that he had put himself through to get to this point in his high school baseball life. There were a lot of guys who had a lot more talent than he did. He wasn’t the fastest runner, strongest hitter, nor could he throw the ball harder than anyone else.
He was what I call a grinder. A grinder is someone who is not that great in talent but is willing to do the extra work. Jimmy would work relentlessly toward improving his game. He did most of his work on this home field and in the batting cage I had built in our backyard. When he wasn’t pitching, he played first base.
I hit him thousands of grounders at first base. Once we counted after his playing career was over. The count totaled over a quarter of million from age 10 through his senior year. I had bought and accumulated 500 baseballs and we would go out every day in the heat of the summer or the cold of winter and each time I would hit all 500 at him. We did it almost every day. I remember working late—until 8:30pm or 9pm. I would come home, get the baskets of baseballs, head for the field and hit grounders under the lights. There were dings and bruises from balls that took bad hops. Jimmy never backed off and as long as he didn’t, I kept hitting them. Jimmy told me that it was hardest when he would take one off his shins because of a bad hop on a cold day in Arizona when the winter temperature would hover in the high 30’s. There were other times when it was so hot that he nearly would faint under the Arizona sun. We would store the balls in those plastic U.S. Mail contaiNers. Sometimes, I would take a couple of baskets of balls to second base and with a fungo bat would hit the balls on one hop to first. He would practice “picking” one hop balls. He got to be really good at it. He would constantly work on his footwork at first base. I would try to hit fly balls and get them as high as I could hit them with a fungo. Problem was I wasn’t good at it and he would get pissed at me. Somewhere I found this square tennis racquet type mechanism with really strong and tough strings. It was designed to hit fly balls. So I would use it and Jimmy would practice going from first base to running into the outfield foul territory catching the ball with his back to the infield. We did this countless times. He got pretty good.
Today, Jimmy would say that he was over the top in his work ethic about baseball. Between the years of 10 and 21- Jimmy was always on a baseball team and would work between 4 and 7 hours a day on baseball except for 2 weeks around Christmas. He would begin each team as an average middle of the pack player but worked his way to the front of the pack and at times was considered his team’s most valuable player. His work ethic was relentless.
So on this day, I reminisced about all the practice times we had on this field. Just him and me. Though there was a lot of grit and grind, it was a lot of fun.
Since Jim had pitched the game before, he was playing first base. High school games are 7 innings. At top of the 7th, Seton Catholic had the bases loaded with no one out and a 5-3 lead. Jim came into the game as a reliever and struck out the sides. Then at the bottom of the inning, he hit a walk off grand slam home run to win the game and experience a regional championship. I stood back away from all the hoopla. What I will never forget is when he rounded third base, he knew where I was standing and looked for me and made eye contact. That was my special moment with Jim. The rest of the celebration was about him, his team and the feeling of being a champion at last. They went on and won the state championship that year.
Since that experience of being a champion, Jimmy has had many other experiences of being hero and a champion on the field. He also has had more than his share of moments of being the heel. I have been forced to consider the difference between being a scoreboard champion and a champion from the heart.
There seems to be an obsession with being #1 in the endeavor of sports. During college football games, it is common to see cameras pan the crowd and students flash the “we’re #1 sign” even when their team is being annihilated on the field. It becomes so important to identify with the champion on the scoreboard. So much is made up about the heroes on the scoreboard. If he/she is champion there then it is expected that those individuals will be champion elsewhere. But, often the disparity of performance away from the sport is great.
In my work to treat addiction, I find this disparity in performance as well. There are those whose performance is stellar and outstanding on the scoreboard of their professional life. Yet, the disparity of behavior away from their performance at work sabotages their life with out of control addiction.
Scoreboard champions know about winning and losing. There is conditioning and training about performance focus and how to rebound from disappointment and defeat. There is so much preparation that goes into becoming a scoreboard champion.
For many winning and losing becomes a life or death struggle. No matter what it takes it is important to stretch and strive and somehow win. Frequently, athletes adopt a hate mentality toward their opponent, in order to propel them to greater accomplishment on the field of endeavor. Unbelievable stories are told about players who compete with broken bones, damaged bodies and mangled mental conditions. These athletes are lionized with emphasis that to be a real champion you have to compete that way. The inference suggests that real champions ignore human limitations. That’s what makes them champions. Drivenness becomes unparalleled. There is no boundary to what a champion is willing to do to be number one.
I have heard stories about golfers who work on their game as much as 15-20hrs a day! There are stories of runners who run through the pain of a broken bone in their foot. Scott Jurek, in his book Eat and Run, reported during one ultra marathon race through Death Valley at one point after becoming so sick from running that he was uncontrollably throwing up. He had his support team place him inside a coffin of ice prepared for him on the roadside! Then, he revived himself and completed and won the ultra marathon race! These are the examples of extreme lore that defines a scoreboard champion. Corporations across America revel in the legend of leaders who tote the folklore of grit and grind and doing whatever it takes to be a champion in their field of endeavor.
In truth, scoreboard champions learn to depend on this kind of adrenaline to perform. It’s no wonder the line gets blurred around performance enhancement drugs when champions are so monomaniacal about winning and avoiding losing. It becomes their identity. As a result, life becomes imbalanced. Other aspects of life are neglected. Relationship skills, spirituality, community values and sensitivity to anything other than personal ambition often suffer.
Of course, it is not only true of champions of sport. This frenzied feeding of need to be a scoreboard champion is fraught through our society. The stories are replete of personal careers, families, major corporations and entire nations all destroyed by excessive greed driven by obsessed ambition to be number one.
Addiction is positioned as a centerpiece in this dynamic. Addicts become like little kids who cannot get enough sugar. You never get enough of what you really don’t want. Eventually, in a downward death spiral, addiction gets lost in the illusional pursuit of one more hit, one more time that never ends.
In the beginning you just want success, however, it is defined. But in the end, the scoreboard mentality overwhelms and rather than you chasing the brass ring, the tables are turned and it begins to chase you through addiction. Like a pack of wolves chasing someone through the woods and keeps nipping at the heels, the addict keeps trying to reach for that hit one more time, while trying to keep the pack of wolves at bay. The focus becomes “I’m so close—yet so far away”. “I want to climb the hill just one more time”. It’s never sustainable. Even for those who become scoreboard champions. It only lasts but for a brief fleeting moment. As a therapist, many who come to see me are left with the wreck and ruin of addictive devastation.
Recovery weaves a different fabric that looks beyond winning and losing. Recovery focuses on the cultivation of becoming a heart champion. Heart champions are a different breed! They are spawned from a different ilk. There is so much more than the score at the end of the game. Self definition comes from a deeper source. It’s about the preparation, the sacrifice, the sweat and engagement of uncertainty. Whether you win or lose on the scoreboard, a champion’s life is determined within before the game is ever played and independent of the score on the board at the end of the game. It has to do with connecting in congruency with values of the heart that supersede wins and losses on the scoreboard. A heart champion is more concerned about being true to one’s heart and not just winning or losing in life.
It’s not like heart champions condition themselves to lose. Rather, it’s like they are carved from a deeper place down deep inside. A heart champion knows that losing is a part of the ebb and flow of life. She determines to never let an outcome define who she is. Instead, definition is determined by the vision of destiny from within which supersedes any result. What is a priority is knowing that she is connected to herself, embracing all of herself-the good, bad and the ugly. She understands that life is a tapestry weaving together the bitter and the sweet, success and failure, triumph and tragedy. Positive results are fine and desired, but foundationally, a heart champion already has determined that they are “an unrepeatable miracle of the universe” and that no victory will add to it and no defeat will take away from it. it is already etched in the stone of destiny.
Cultivating this concept in recovery demands that we face our addictive failures and our mistakes. It demands that we go into training that teaches us how to manage our shame around our losses and mistaken destructive behaviors.
Heart champions live to connect to the present moment of struggle that comes with a commitment to improve and excel. They learn to cooperate rather than remain focused on competing with their teammates. For them competition is only a training ground for the greater cooperative effort to create a better community, whether that community be a team, a family, a neighborhood or a nation. Heart champions are required for all those who seek healing from an addiction. Addiction breaks the heart and the will of those who suffer. The only path for those who heal is one that requires cooperation within a community who shares equal brokenness and who demand accountability toward change in behavior. This dynamic always creates a heart champion.
Heart champions are able to appreciate all aspects and those who are related to the game. They develop a great appreciation for all team members, not just the star performers. While it is true that you don’t win on the scoreboard without basically talented players, it is also true that you will never be a heart champion without recognizing the value of a bench player mentality.
A bench player mentality is developed when you recognize that those who sit on the bench and do not play carry a very important energy to the enlargement of community. I like to refer to the aggregate collection of people as a community. So, for me, a baseball team is a baseball community.
Kids on the bench make an important addition or subtraction to a baseball community. If a player sulks or allows himself to get distracted from the game, which is easy to do, when you know you’re not going to play, he will drain energy from the focus needed for those who are trying to excel on the field.
But, it goes the other way, too. If guys who are on the field are dismissive of those who don’t play and cop a condescending attitude toward bench players that too will severely damage the results on the field. I have seen this happen many times.
Heart champions embrace the value of all the roles in a baseball community and learn to participate in all the roles. When they are benched, they become cheerleaders for those who play. Whether playing or not, they help gather the equipment before and after the game. They join in preparing the field and picking up the trash. For heart champions, these tasks are as important as playing the game itself.
It’s been my observation, that a “bench player mentality” is necessary for addiction recovery. To translate from what has been described about baseball, recovery requires an addict to do what is needed when others are not looking or even aware. Its one thing to show up at a meeting and engage and say what is expected. Yet, another to follow through in private moments of mundane living, doing what needs to be done to remain sober. Working the 12 steps, calling community members for support and shifting from an attitude of entitlement to one of humility are the common stuff of long term sobriety. These ordinary, every day steps will only occur when an addict shifts from the limelight of wanting to be center stage to the “bench player mentality” of taking up less space so that others in relationship can take up more. Addicts who learn the principles of this life style change are more likely to establish long term sobriety.
Recovery demands heart champions. For the most part, scoreboard champions flame out and addicts relapse into their addiction. In recovery from addiction, one with a scoreboard mentality become more concerned with the number of days of sobriety versus the depth of honesty and integrity going on presently in their life. An addict in recovery with a heart champion mentality is more concerned with being the best client for recovery versus egotistically wanting the touted best therapist. They are more concerned with learning how to be their own guru rather than finding a sponsor who will be their ultimate master guide.
There is nothing wrong with being a scoreboard champion in any sport. But, if one strives and achieves becoming a champion on the scoreboard but fails to incorporate the components of being a heart champion, the game of achievement and endeavor has misled the player and the community at large becomes shortchanged. Phony gets accelerated and genuine is minimized in deference to being #1 no matter what.
Article by Ken Wells, LPC
Turbulent Personality Traits include:
- Hard working
- Goal oriented
- A leader
- A contagious spirit that gets others excited and invested in joint projects
Likely the thought of a “turbulent” personality didn’t inspire the words of strength written above. People with turbulent traits have a number of strengths, perhaps so many that they have a hard time recognizing how some of these strengths can become imbalanced.
If you have turbulent traits you may be optimistic and enthusiastic about life. Likely many people around you benefit from such positivity. Others may come to you for leadership, to manage, to problem solve, or depend on you in times of their own waning hope. Reliance on optimism, though, can come at the neglect of other emotions, and spouses or others in close relationships might have shared pain with you around this. Not only can close family and friends become tired by your enthusiastic energy, they may also feel minimized at times- that their concerns/problems feel overpowered by your optimism. Perhaps you’re used to “fixing” problems and finding solutions, when what your partner needs is empathy.
Being hard working and goal oriented, you might be successful in your career. You might also find that you prioritize work over self-care, and work past your own healthy boundaries to the point of exhaustion. At other times, people can rely on business and work (even if it’s a less effective work style) in order to avoid deeper emotions.
Are there ways in which you might focus on your to-do list in order to avoid deeper emotions? Or, are there ways you might stay so busy with your responsibilities that you have run out of time to sit with, identify, and share your emotions? Do any loved ones ask you to stop fixing, and empathize more?
Continue being optimistic, a leader, continue setting goals and working towards them, and as always, consider how to do so in balanced ways.
By Catherine Lowrey, PsyD Licensed Clinical Psychologist
On a weekly basis, I meet with women in my therapy practice who feel like they are not good moms. When I explore this with them, I find that in contrast to their feelings of failure, they are doing a really good job. Their children are thriving: They do well in school, they have friends, and participate in lots of different activities. And when their children have struggles (a part of thriving), they verbalize the thoughtful way they approached the situation.
I thinks it’s important to admit that I, a psychologist and a mom who should know better (notice the unhelpful, negative thought), struggle with not feeling like a good enough mom, too. Parenting is the most humbling job no matter how well prepared you think you are.
Many things contribute to creating and sustaining moms’ feelings of not being good enough. Many of us are struggling to balance our mommy roles with other roles in our lives and are feeling stressed about not doing everything perfectly. So, in this first entry, let’s look at the concept of being a good enough mom.
The concept of the good enough mother was first coined by Donald Winnicott in 1953. In his work as a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst he observed thousands of babies and mothers and came to realize that babies and children actually benefit when their mothers fail them in manageable ways. They need their primary caretakers to fail them in tolerable ways on a consistent basis to learn to live in an imperfect world. Like trees blown around by wind, children grow stronger by managing challenging events in their lives. The good enough mother is cognizant of her child’s development stage and supports her child’s learning and growth.
60 years later and good enough mothering hasn’t made its way into mainstream thinking. That is terrible. We need to change how we define parenting and celebrate it. Good enough is not mediocre. Good enough is thoughtful. Good enough is making rational choices. Good enough is supporting each other to be the best mom we can be. Good enough frees us and our children to be imperfectly perfect. Let’s start with getting the word out. #goodenoughmom
Article by Cathy Walls
Destiny—A Manifesto for All
By KEN WELLS, LPC
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. – Henry David Thoreau
It was an August evening over 50 years ago in a little midwest farmer’s town. From my memory it was a special night. The team that I played-the Schilling Stars were facing Columbia Machine for the city championship. Each team had won its division and would play to see who would win the City Series. It was best of three. I was selected to pitch the opening game of the Series and naturally was really excited. I had won all of my games that year, including 2 no hitters where the other team didn’t score any runs. I remember the evening had electricity in the air because I just loved playing baseball. Of course, it was Little League, so our Coach Bernie Nale always played everybody at least the minimum of 2 innings. I never liked it because I just wanted to win. I was always frustrated when we did not have the best players on the field.
Some of the kids only played because their parents made them. During this year there was a kid whose name was Williams. He was one who could care less about baseball. Back in the day of Little League, position players would enthusiastically chatter support for their pitcher between pitches—like “me, me swing batter!”. If the chatter was weak and I was pitching, I would turn to the field and holler for the players to talk it up for me. Once, I was pitching and turned around to yell at all the position players to talk it up. I looked around and saw Williams standing in right field with his glove on his head! He had picked a dead dandelion and was blowing the spores, watching them fly away in the wind. I remember being pissed. Between innings I stormed to dugout and complained to the Coach to do something about Williams. What I recall the Coach said to me is that he would talk to the guy who mowed the field and ask if he would cut the grass a little closer so there would be no dandelions to distract Williams next week.
On this night, I was glad that Coach was in my camp and he intended to play just the guys who would help us win. I remember the smell of popcorn and the pungent odor of cigar smoke. It was all inviting to me. There was a charge of anticipation in the air as the game began. It was a 6 inning game and we were the visiting team. When I came out to pitch the final inning, there was a buzz of thrill in the air. We were ahead 8-0 but what was special is that I had a perfect game going—no one reached base to that point. I’m a lefty and remember feeling really pumped when we got the second out. I remember knowing that I had a perfect game going and wondered if I could get the last guy out. I don’t even remember how we got him out but I do remember being deluged with teammates congratulating me for being “Perfecto”! As I made my way off the field, two people said things to me that changed the direction of destiny baseball would take in my life. One adult came up and told me that the only reason I pitched a perfect game was because of the defense behind me. His son was the shortstop. The other, my brother Jimmy, said to me “Beckett (my middle name) you will be a ballplayer when you can hit .667 the way I did in American Legion ball. We won the City Series but what stuck with my young mind were those two impactful statements.
Destiny is often shaped by words and behaviors to individuals when they are young, impressionable and influenced by others around them. Unless there are people to protect and provide clear perspective, the destiny of many young minds is crushed and cremated before they ever begin.
I remember rolling over in my young mind that no matter what I would do, I could never be good enough. To a young and impressionable mind, it was profound. I had tried so hard to be so good, but somehow in my mind I wasn’t. I had won all of my games that I pitched that year and was not selected to the All Star team. I don’t recall any adult saying much about the game or the season, one way or the other. They may have. But, what stuck were the two adults who said some pretty stupid stuff to an impressionable kid. Things in my inner life began to unravel soon thereafter. I lost my confidence and my way around baseball. Within 2 years of that game, I had given up playing baseball, believing that my best would never be good enough. Whether or not I would have ever been a decent player later in life is unknown and not even the point. What mattered is the experience of destiny being curtailed and stymied by untimely hurtful remarks that shaped my young and naive mind.
As an addict destiny seems to narrow to one central focus—when can I get high, get laid, or figure out where the next hit will come from. All of life is reduced to the utility of craving. Nothing else matters. I’m an addict, a pastor, a professional counselor and a person who started out wanting to be a baseball player. As an addict, I know what it is like when I can’t get enough of what I really don’t want. As a pastor, I have absorbed the pain of a lot of people who pretend to fulfill their destiny with a lot of frenetic energy for God but who end up at a place of deprivation not too far from what an addict experiences. As a professional counselor, I listen to people share broken dreams and destroyed destinies triggered by an all consuming ‘I want what I want when I want it’ mentality from a place of addiction or other dysfunction.
Looking back as a young aspiring baseball player, I was first introduced to the possibility of building dreams and fulfilling destiny playing Little league baseball. It was about introducing the special idea that no matter who you are, there is a destiny to be fulfilled. Even if you don’t know the rules of the game, you dream that you can still be a star player. How many kids who played Little League baseball have daydreamed about hitting a walk off home run or diving and reaching just beyond the fence to catch and rob someone of a home run. Most of us who played have had these and other heroic daydreams.
When my son Jimmy, started playing tee-ball, there was this kid who kept striking out by missing the ball teed up for him. Finally, his last at bat, after two missed swings, he hit the ball on the third try and the ball dribbled off the tee. All the parents were screaming “Run, Run”. The little guy was frozen with little idea what to do. Suddenly, he sprinted to third base to fulfill his destiny. While all the parents yelled at him to go to first base, he went to third and in the midst of all the noise and commotion he and the third baseman stood on third base hugging each other, jumping up and down on the base. This comical picture puts in perspective the intensity of dreams that parents have for their kids around baseball and other sports.
Addiction has a way of squeezing all of the magic out of you. As a counselor, I have heard thousands of heartbreaking stories of people who have been tragically deprived of seeing the possibility of embracing an exciting, adventurous destiny. I would add my story to the long list of those that I have listened to. Many hopes, exciting plans for a happy destiny dashed by addiction and human brokenness.
Every person should have the opportunity to fulfill their destiny. No one should remain stuck in the shadow of their own past or limited by what others say that they can or cannot do. As a pastor and counselor I have listened to many folk speak about the messages they received from their now deceased parents that debilitate, sabotage and defeat destiny.
I have never utilized a ouija board to call back voices from those who have already passed. Yet, I have heard many people share the negative enervating messages from parents who are dead but whose voice is as real as if they were alive today or as clear as any ouija board could possibly create. These are the messages that dominate and narrow vision and eventually destroy destiny— keeping people mired in destructive behaviors.
It is necessary for each person to go deep within themselves and not let the voice or influence of others squeeze them into the mold of common expectations. I was told after I pitched a perfect game in a Little League title game that I would only be a ballplayer when I could hit .667 like my older brother did in American Legion ball. I believed him. In less than 2 years, I quit playing baseball.
I was told that I would never make it in college by one of my high school teachers. My college academic advisor told me that my “C” average in college meant that was all I would ever be in life- just nothing special. In time, I learned to never believe those two people.
When I was little, two people’s opinion and statement influenced and shaped my destiny. Later, two people’s opinion only fueled my passion from within to spurn their conclusion and walk to the beat of a different drummer. By this time in my life I had begun to develop a vision for what I could become and create in my life. I knew down deep that none of these people knew what was inside my heart. It wasn’t like as if I didn’t continue to experience failure during my college days. I had attempted to sell Bible books during the summer of my college sophomore year. I worked 80 hrs a week- from 8am-10pm, going door to door every day. I earned $300 for the entire summer. I returned to college and came within a whisker of flunking out of college after the Fall semester. Later, just after my senior year, I failed as a youth pastor, crossing boundaries with one of the kids in my youth group. Yet, there was something within that reminded me that these results were not who I was.
To know yourself is to be able to fulfill your destiny. Dreams will never be discovered unless you are willing to embrace the mysterious. The journey within will take you to places of uncertainty, conflict and even confusion. Only those who are willing to embrace their heart can truly descend to the depths of their life and know themselves. Fear prevents many from taking the journey from the head to the heart. Many people cannot stand the creative tension that is developed when challenged with looking at what is inside the heart. Addicts dread the tension and stress of the unknown. It drives them to act out.
Only those who are willing to embrace their heart can truly descend to the depths of their life and truly know themselves. The goal is to sit with ambiguity, doubt and despair. Allow these unwanted feeling experiences to do their healing— their purging work! Falling short of this process is settling for something shallow. It will take determination and resolve to move through the uncertainty, doubt and the fear of the unknown. What happens for those who stay the course is that you begin to slowly see your dream on the horizon. It is a wonderful harmonious experience to know your dream that has come from your heart.
It is important to not question it- to just go with the flow of what it brings to you. Always know that you will not have to make your dream come true, rather, it will flow through every part of your being. Like an athlete who in sport stops trying to force the game his way but lets the game come to him. It just happens. Nothing will be able to prevent destiny from happening because ultimately your dream is a part of you and you are a part of your dream.
Your destiny is not about results, it’s about the essence of who you are. It’s about the quality of your being. You will not be able to fail if you connect to the depth of essence of who you are. Destiny becomes a part of the quality of your being. Shame and addiction dominates and tells us that what we do is who we are.
But, be relaxed and confident. You are right where you need to be when you take the journey into your heart. This is where destiny is forged. No need for hurry. There’s no place, no day that you are required to do more than you can do in peace. It may sound “booga- booga”— but always be aware that there is a guiding light, a divine presence that walks beside you to witness and to celebrate your destiny. You are special and your willingness to be present in your heart is witness to this great discovery of destiny.
Dag Hammarskjold once said “We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours”. Destiny is an intriguing dynamic. It equates prospect and purpose. It suggests inevitable conclusion in the course of events. There is a certain mystery to it. There is a sad reality that not everyone is given equal opportunity to rendezvous with destiny. Yet, what some have put into the framework of their hope and vision has inspired many. T.S. Eliot reflected that “A man’s destination is not his destiny. Every country is home to one man and exile to another. Where a man dies bravely at one with his destiny, that soil is his.”
It’s the soil of suffering and struggle that characterizes the content of destiny for many throughout the world. Yet there are those who have miraculously championed the pathway for human dignity for all sojourners who struggle. In unlikely circumstances of squalor and suffering they have embraced the vision of Thoreau who said “if one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life that one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
For most, fear dominates like a pack of wolves chasing you through the woods. Destiny can seem so fleeting, so distant, so dichotomist, and at times phony. It’s important to not be dominated by thoughts that you won’t make it. Remain present in the here and now. In truth, it’s all you have and all you need. Destiny is about living in the connection of every moment of your life.
Picture yourself creating the reality of your desired future. See yourself moving forward like a steady ocean liner plodding its way across the sea. When you experience doubt, always know that you do not have to be afraid if you know who it is and the energy that’s present and walks beside you.
Charting your own path means that sometimes you will be lonely because you are creating destiny. In one sense, it is true that no one is there because you are the only one who can create your specialness. But if you look around there are others who have gone before you and there are those who are present in the here and now who going through the same experience. Know they are there applauding your courage to be you. They are prompting you that you are doing it and that you are not alone. When trouble comes, look inside not out. Everything you need to fulfill destiny is inside your heart. You are capable. With courage, stand for principle and fulfill purpose. The very nature of fulfilling destiny is one of freedom. The freedom that comes from your destiny will free others of their own bondage. Destiny is a healing dynamic that creates conviction within. This is the unexpected success that Thoreau is talking about.
While you embrace your dreams, take time to connect with the energy and vision of others who are creating their own destiny. Their destinies will be similar yet different from your own. You will discover a tipping point whereby others will collectively connect their energy with yours and provide a conglomerate healing force that will permeate the universe. Collective destiny ignites a firestorm of energetic love and positive flow that triggers the power of dream and destiny in countless others. It is through you fulfilling your destiny that you will provide the energy for others to create their own. Peace becomes an emerging theme when people fulfill their own destiny. Judgment, comparison and control will diminish in the presence of destiny. Always know that the peace that passes the understanding of many comes from the destiny that lives inside the heart. Know that your life matters and that every life matters. There is no deprivation in destiny. There’s enough destiny for everybody to know the freedom and the power of creating their dreams. When reality of destiny appears in sufficient amounts there is no longer a need for control and domination of one over another. To be at peace and in harmony with all living things is an ideal pursuit that is the personification of a fulfilled destiny.
By Ken Wells
Weaving Together a Solid Recovery Foundation (3 of 3)
By KEN WELLS, LPC
Step 3-“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God”
“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” William James
“I am an addict!” No harder words are ever spoken than those uttered by one who attends h/her first 12 step meeting. Accepting the limitation of addiction and identifying secretive destructive behavior is agonizingly painful and full of discomfort in the beginning stage of recovery. It demands the rigorous honesty cultivated in Step 1. It calls for the humility of Step 2 to ask for help from a higher power.
Step 3 is a Catch 22 dilemma. Figuring it out can be like trying to nail jelly to a tree. This step in the recovery foundation bids for irony and metaphor. It leans into the concept of to win you must lose. Winning sobriety means to surrender all forms of dishonesty, minimization and displacement of responsibility. It means to be in control you must let go. Let go of control of what people think, secrets kept and serial addictive behaviors repeated. It means to totally surrender to a Higher Power in the midst of fear, uncertainty and ambiguity.
It reminds of the story of the tourist visiting the Grand Canyon while leaning over the railing to see the bottom of the canyon, lost his balance and fell-grabbing a lone branch sticking out of the side of the canyon, holding on for dear life. He looks down to a 300 foot drop and cries out “God help me!” to which he hears a deep voice that says “Ok, let go!” He waits a few seconds and then calls out “Is there anyone else up there!” Step 3 challenges the addict to release h/her grip and let go to the promise of program and Higher Power. It is not a one-time surrender but a daily release moment by moment. The requirement is to do what seems innately against addict nature-give up control in order gain peace and to resurrect control again.
In order to know God, Step 3 proposes that you embrace what you don’t know. Through Step 3 we work with and accept the uncertainties of life. We surrender to the reality that there are no absolute certainties, assurances in life and we abandon all demands for perfection. We embrace the spiritual paradox that “when I am weak then am I strong.”
We are challenged to detach from things and possessions. Attachment to positions, power and places has become a problem that stunts spirituality because at some point they own us. Adding to your collection and hoard of things crowds out the spiritual.
Rather, we embrace our failures and our success, our dark side as well as our light and we gain autonomy by not insisting on our own rights. We learn to pay attention to what we hold on to and soberly accept what has happened. Somehow we allow our Higher Power to transform the Catch 22 of addiction from lose-lose to win-win profoundly letting go and accepting what we cannot control.
Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet. He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year. He can be reached at email@example.com for additional information.
Weaving Together a Solid Recovery Foundation (1 of 3)
By KEN WELLS, LPC
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story”—Maya Angelou
Recovery in addiction is likened to getting an out of control train running down the tracked stopped. Getting addictive living re-calibrated and re-establishing life balance is a delicate and difficult task. The 12 step program has been invaluable to those who suffer from powerlessness and unmanagability. Courageously telling the story of out of control living is both a beginning and ending point. Our stories are the most powerful source for healing in our lives. T.S. Eliot said it well,
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time-
Admitting our unmanageability and cultivating a pattern of “telling on myself” is a necessary ingredient for a strong recovery foundation. Our story is not static as in “once said and done”. Rather, we knead through our story as a baker would knead through dough in the making of bread. We work the different aspects of story by incorporating its insights and truths into congruent living which is an ongoing lifetime process. In the midst of failure of control, addictive thinking frequently will lower the expectation of sobriety in order to diminish the standards so that they can create an illusory sense of perfection. “Finally, I am sober!” “Finally, I measure up!” Rather, than embrace the possibility of finding meaningfulness in the failure. We find ourselves unraveling with a driven all or nothing mindset. We cannot stand the pace that striving to be perfect imposes. It is indeed in the process of failing and getting up again that spirituality is essential.
Step one augments that we fail forward. In a very paradoxical way our very brokenness allows us to become whole. Our embrace of this process is paralyzed with dishonesty and denial about our crazy mixed up behavior.
It is very difficult to see our own crazy making ways. We cannot see ourselves without a mirror. Twelve step groups have way of expressing it when they refer “You cannot kiss your own ear”. This challenge brings us back to our story. Stories are the mirror for you and others to see self and uncover behavioral blind spots. This is what makes storytelling and group processing so powerful.
For an addict there is no life balance. It is only pedal to the metal chaos. Step one asks us to embrace our powerless unmanageability. It is the beginning of weaving a life tapestry by boldly exposing the ups and downs, the bitter and sweet, the failure and success, the out of control heartache with courage and vulnerability. Relief from the agony of the untold story is waiting for all who embrace their pain.
Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet. He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Spirituality: Sobriety’s Peaceful Paradox
By KEN WELLS, LPC
Addiction is an invite to become spiritual. In the midst of chaos, denial and deception, there is this beckoning toward truth. The word spiritual is a conundrum. It is a paradox- an “unsettling contradiction”. Some describe spirituality as “trying to nail jelly to a tree”. Others suggest that it is about vulnerability. It can feel like being emotionally naked in front of another. It is about a certain kind of brokenness. Its truth can have a certain coldness and rawness to it. It can be bittersweet. Often, it is presented as sweet peace wrapped in discomfort, even in the presence of being exposed.
Ernst Kurtz, in the Spirituality of Imperfection, indicates that to be spiritual is not about religion and not about therapy. If not, then what the heck is it? He cites that it comes from the “wound” in life. Spirituality comes from our “torn-to-pieces-hood”. It’s in the pus of human failure and repeated destructive behavior. It can be likened to stretching out a tender and sore muscle that begs you to leave it alone. That which we would least like to embrace is the place we are invited to stand. Spirituality demands that I lean into the painful wound. Carl Jung is credited with “the only way out is through the pain”. It’s a contradiction that brings me/you to life as “being” and less about “doing”.
Addiction is painful. It hurts me and others in a profound way. It leaves human carnage in its path. Yet, in the presence of shattered living, spirituality utilizes the pain of addiction as a catalyst to bring us closer to what is real no matter how hard I try to deny it. It demands that I lean into the pain in order to heal. It means I have to scrub the wound. It all sounds so contradictory. I want to do the opposite. Yet, spirituality demands that I embrace the pain of betrayal, the agony of disclosure and the annoyance and inconvenience of consequences. This can include but not limited to incarceration, losses of all types, and the painful tedium of ongoing assessments. It demands the engagement of mistrust of others toward you because of your destructive behavior. It requires that I surrender to the reality that each day I am a beginner in spirit lest I settle into resentment, bitterness and defensiveness toward those who don’t trust me.
Spirituality silently and irrepressibly tells us that we are not in control. Its message can be sweet but only if we embrace what feels bitter.
To myself I will say … “Nah, Nah,Nah”— “I want something better”- “enough is enough!” “I will ignore surrender and force my way to a better place!”- From this space, spirituality takes on a different face. It can even bite back or so it seems. It is not a separate entity trying to break individual stubbornness. Rather, it is the other side of who we are that confronts the resistance and refusal to recognize the limitations of the wounded-ness that comes with addiction.
Spirituality is not about having the answer. It is not fenced in by words. It’s about “am-ness”. Kurtz expressed “it is about a way that we “be”. It’s about emptying (kenosis) from all that we do to embrace simply what we may be. It stirs groundlessness and ongoing uncertainty. It is reality whether we choose isolation and destruction or positive life giving experience. To use a worn out phrase, “it is what it is”.
Metaphors, images and stories become the language of spiritual awareness. For this reason, nothing is more powerful in healing than the story of human brokenness. As the poet T.S. Eliot described “we shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. We share our stories of brokenness again and again so that spiritually we shall know the place for the first time.
Ken Wells is a PCS staff therapist, lecturer, and author of The Clarification Packet. He facilitates Men’s Leadership Weekends held throughout the year. He can be reached at email@example.com for additional information.