Saturday, December 29, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

The B.S. of the "Selfish" Label, or, "Do You!"

It's so darkly hilarious to me that we live in a society which, despite its purported valuing of "the individual" (especially in contrast with some Eastern cultures which purportedly value the collective), is so damn quick to demand conformity, and so damn quick to label non-conformist activities in service of personal fulfillment as "bad," somehow, or "selfish."

What the hell does that even mean? It's stupid, this bandied-about label of selfishness. Its misuse only serves to incite reluctance to take care of one's needs, and yes, to hold one's needs in the highest possible esteem -- and, God forbid, to put one's needs first, A-Numero-Uno, atop one's life priorities list. What's the problem with that? We've got this notion, reinforced by the myriad (ancient) social institutions which thrive on their adherents' subordination, that actions not involving self-sacrifice, subserviance, inattention to self, and even self-shaming, are "bad."

What's wrong with living one's life in freedom from the shackles of putting too much stock in others' opinions about how one OUGHT to live one's life? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no amoralist. We're social creatures, and we live in a society (as I've said before in this blog). We are, therefore, exposed to other's opinions and ways of life, and we will inevitably be strongly influenced by society-at-large. That's fine: it's natural, and it's good. Furthermore, there are certain core, near-universal human-rights-related values to which we have collectively agreed, and to which, therefore, we must adhere. For example, it's not okay to kill someone. It's not okay to steal other people's belongings. It's not okay to physically or psychologically abuse other people. Etc.

That leads me to my real point here. Namely, putting one's needs first, and maintaining a strong moral, socially responsible code of ethics, are NOT mutually exclusive; that is, we don't have to be all in one camp or all in the other. They can, and should, co-exist. Life, of course, requires some degree of sacrifice at times. But to persistently sacrifice one's identity, one's hopes and dreams, and one's senses of happiness, fulfillment, progress, and well-being in service of what other people want/expect/demand/hope of one is harmful -- on the individual and collective levels. It does nobody ANY good whatsoever, and it is, furthermore, madness. It is unnatural.

We are at our best when we feel good about what we're doing on a deep, personal level. We are at our best when we're "doing our thing," as only we know how. And I'll tell you what: if other people disapprove of that, or if they threaten to abandon you or leave you behind because you're daring to reclaim your well-being, then they are clearly on a path which is tangential to yours, and not parallel. Take the reins of your life -- of your life's purpose, as only you understand it -- back. Take back your power. "Do you," as the saying goes. By doing so, you will be freeing yourself to do what you probably hoped to do anyway by sacrificing yourself so fully: helping others along their journeys.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Have I written about forgiveness here? I think I've mentioned it, but I haven't really delved into it as a topic. I think this is a good time to start.

Forgiveness, both of others and of oneself, is one of those concepts that isn't often really explained or examined; it's taken for granted. You don't need to dig too deep into literature, spiritual/religious texts and sermons, or even conversations to hear about it; and yet, what is it, really? How does it work? How do I do it?

My take on it all is that, when it is discussed, forgiveness is often represented as a rather finite, cut-and-dried act, as if one simply forgives another person or oneself of a transgression, right then and there, and moves on. I don't think that really cuts the mustard, especially for the big stuff.

Coming back to those angst-addled questions above: I think the process of forgiveness is deeply personal, and largely undefinable in general terms. I think it's a messy, confusing process, featuring cycles of peace, conflict, progress, and regression, not necessarily in that order, and occurring, often, simultaneously. Our logical, conscious reasoning, as I'm sure you know, can be astonishingly out of step with our feelings -- in general, yes, but certainly while we're in the process of forgiving: we might be able to put the transgression(s) into perspective logically, grasping the fact that we should (beware that word) release it and put it behind us, but find ourselves angry, hurt, and ruminative nonetheless.


The thing about forgiveness, though, is that we can fuel its progress with our intention. If we continue to choose to seek forgiveness, we will find that we're ultimately moving in its direction. Perhaps one day the forgiver will find that something has "clicked," and that they have, in fact, utterly forgiven the transgression. Or perhaps it will remain a struggle that requires periodic fine-tuning and revisiting, sort of like how a car requires a tune-up every so often.

That latter example speaks to me. I find that the anguish of certain transgressions rear up in my heart sometimes, and require that I take a little time to accept my discomfort, give it a think, give it some compassion, and move on with my day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Touchstone: "A Christmas Carol"

"There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew, "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from... the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"'

--Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol"

Whether it's Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or another holiday you celebrate at this time of year, I hope it reminds you of the peace, love, and sense of brotherhood which dwells within us all, and unites us as a human family. For me, tonight, I am reminded that we are all connected by an unseen tapestry of love and beauty. I am honored to be part of this human family, and I am grateful to have the facility to say so. May you all have a blessed evening, and may you all enjoy this beautiful life with spirits renewed.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I'll throw my hat in the ring of this Mayan Apocalypse business. (Why not?) Many folks were anticipating some version or other of End of Days yesterday, featuring the snuffing-out of life on Earth as we know it, or some other, well, apocalyptic transmogrification, via alpha-meteors, earthquakes, volcanoes, strange and sudden shifts in our magnetic field, mass hysteria, etc. etc. (You know, "cats and dogs living together" kind of stuff. Horrible.) I'll admit that I, too, was curious to see what, if anything, happened -- not because I believed any of the items on that Disaster Laundry List were going to occur, but rather because so much had been made of that day; that is, so many people seemed to believe something was going to happen. That collective belief and anticipation carried a lot of power. And it got me thinking.

Our species, and life on earth as we know it, appear to have survived December 21st without incident. We can now forget about fiery Apocalypses, and luxuriate in the business of living without Imminent Fiery Doom hanging over our heads. But what if we took a second, harder look at ourselves, and decided that an apocalypse of sorts is, in fact, occurring -- if we want it to? What if we decided to undergo an apocalypse of meaning, understanding, and intention?

On one level, surviving an apocalypse should teach those of us who expected something to happen about, well, expectations. It is my belief that we should take note of our expectations, our attachments to them, and their influence on our psychology. Expectations, and the degree to which we put stock in, or ascribe truth to them, profoundly affect us. Furthermore, when our expectations go unfulfilled -- as in the case, perhaps, of a Mayan Apocalypse -- we should take note, and think a little about it.

Many of us expect the worst in a given situation, no? We expect "everything" (whatever that is) to fall apart; we expect the most painful, hideous things. Life involves pain and suffering at times, sure -- but beware of the words "everything" and "always." If you find yourself beholden to that always-everything mindset of negative expectations, I encourage you to start to actively seek and take note of the countless examples to the contrary which Life undoubtedly presents you.

I digress. My hidden point is to suggest that we can always seek to change our perspective. We can always seek to transform the way we look at the world, or the way we filter life's events through our perspectives. We can do this on an individual and collective level. And we can use life's events, even a Mayan Apocalypse, to propel us into our personal transformations.

Nobody says it better than Joseph Campbell:

Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end. Our divided, schizophrenic worldview, with no mythology adequate to coordinate our conscious and unconscious -- that is what is coming to an end. The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth -- that is the world as we know it that must pass away. What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us. — Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, p. 107

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Habits and Passion

A 9-to-5 work schedule -- or any work schedule, for that matter -- can leave one feeling drained, and as if there is no time in the day for oneself. Given that discomfort, it is no wonder, then, that many people slip into a comfortable routine that helps them manage their stress and fatigue. Let me be clear about what reads as a critical undertone in that last sentence: I don't think there is anything wrong with a comfortable routine, in and of itself. It is important to find balance, and if vegging out at the end of the day helps a person achieve that balance, well, Mazel Tov.

As I've mentioned, however, behavior exists on a continuum; and what begins as benign actions and routines can quickly become habits. Again, I don't think there's anything wrong with habits in and of themselves: we all have them, and many of them serve our well-being. The nature of habits, however, is that they are automatic; i.e., we don't have to think critically about them -- we just do them. And because they are automatic, and because we are all busy, the potential exists to coast along rather thoughtlessly for days, weeks, months, and even years at a time without taking a look at whether those habits still serve us.

The aforementioned habit or routine of comfort, then, can be problematic, especially if it persists at the expense of a person's sense of vitality and fulfillment. To wit, I worry about people who spend all day working in unsatisfying jobs, and all evening pursuing mindless activities that are designed to be comfortable and passive. I worry about this, because I believe we are designed to do more than that. We need to earn a living, to be sure, and not everyone is necessarily going to work in their dream job. But each and every one of us is creative. Each and every one of us has deep, even hidden, interests: things that captivate us, ignite our curiosity, energize us, and bring us to life.

My hope, then, is that we all find ways to integrate our creative interests into our routines. Such interests, passions, or whatever you want to call them, are the vitality of our souls. They make us human. They help us to connect with ourselves and others, and to live fulfilling lives. So if this resonates with you, maybe take a critical look at your comfort zones, and give yourself a few minutes of your routine to fan the flames of your interests. This is your life -- go out and live it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Taking my(your)self too damn seriously

I know I certainly do. It's easy for me -- it's my wheelhouse, even -- to take myself so damn seriously. Too damn seriously. A human life features experiences of so many different varieties, and a lot of them are mundane, silly, confusing, sloppy, or absurd. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was, "You've got to live life on different levels, Nate, you know?" (Thanks, Dad.) He told me that because I tend to default to deep and thoughtful. That's fine, because it's a big part of who I am. But I sometimes miss out on a lot of life -- that is, a lot of what's happening around me -- because I'm so immersed in my own seriousness that I can't step into, yeah, maybe a shallower way of being. I must have decided a long time ago -- pretty sure I did, actually -- that Shallow = Bad; Deep Thinking/Seriousness = Good. It's just not true, not as axiom, anyway. It's all about the context, the situation: some situations call for seriousness, and others call for silliness. Some situations call for humor, and thoughtlessness, and selfishness. And all of life calls for LIVING, which naturally entails making some damn mistakes.

So, right here and now, I'm reminding myself -- and I invite you to participate -- to take a step back from Serious Gulley, and just enjoy the damn ride. Enjoy the damn ride. Enjoy this absurd, hilarious ride. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

James Altucher: Fear of the Future

There isn't much I can add -- James says it all. (And very succinctly, I might add.) If you're interested in hearing about being present (here and now), your goals, prosperity, and attitudes, check this out:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Befriend Yourself

Be a friend to yourself. Actually, be your own best friend. Give yourself the patience, support, acknowledgment, attention, positive regard, and love that others may not always be able to give you.  Befriend the parts of yourself you wish didn't exist, or those you try to avoid, or to push away. Be a compassionate mentor to yourself, and seek information, support, peace, and imagination. Seek life, in other words. We all feel the fear of uncertainty at times -- maybe even much of the time. But we can move through it, if we can only trust ourselves to do so. And to do so, we must be our own staunchest friend and ally.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More Hamlet; The Dance of Consciousness

The slings and arrows of the external world are nothing in comparison with the demons within. Our beliefs, assumptions of reality, and impressions, all at the subconscious level, give birth to our thoughts, which in turn either soothe or torture us. Our subconscious has a direct influence on the shape and feel of our lives. It tells us what we can and cannot do; it limits us or sets us free. To live the life we want, we must each find a way to allow the dust of our conscious minds to settle -- for who can see clearly through a storm? Indeed, we must allow our conscious minds to settle into the bedrock of our unknowable spirit; and we must trust that our spirit will lead us into the promised land, so to speak, if we do so. And thus, we will become alchemists in our own right, conjuring our consciousness into the form and dance of our spirits.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leaps of Faith, Hamlet, and Action

It's difficult sometimes to know whether to make a change or to stay the course. Rational decision-making processes generally feature some combination of weighing pros and cons, "gut" feelings, goals, and potential consequences of the options in play; i.e., one engages a variety of thought experiments in attempts to gain clarity amid confusion.

These attempts can be frustrating, though, because they often lead the intrepid thought-experimenter right back into their quagmire. The truth is, none of us can ever clearly ascertain the outcome of any decision. We can't predict the future with certainty. Many of us guard against that by proceeding methodically, and accounting for possible outcomes to the best of our abilities.

Sometimes, though, you just have to leap.

It's easier said than done, to be sure. Taking a leap of faith evokes a lot of negative feedback, both from within and without. Our conditioning, experience, and belief systems might protest, "this is crazy!" Our loved ones, along with societal norms, might send us the same messages. Such feedback can be paralyzing, and stop us in our tracks. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from "Hamlet":

And thus, the native hue of resolution 
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of Action.

Granted, Hamlet is referring to suicide, which I do not recommend or condone. That aside, however, these words remind me that sometimes one must simply ACT. Sometimes, one must fly in the face of convention and make a change, and let the chips fall where they will. Sometimes such behavior represents the deepest act of self-regard possible; for by doing so, one is proclaiming, "This situation is unacceptable to me, and I can't go on like this. I have to do this for my own well-being. And I trust that I will successfully navigate the consequences, and that I will be happier, healthier, wiser, and better for having done what I did."

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Nature of Working with Groups (In a variety of settings)

At a group’s onset, my philosophy is to explore our goals as a group; i.e., to identify group members’ endgame, or to ask, "We have convened here; what issue have we convened to tackle? What is our desired outcome? What is the next step beyond this group? What is the next level that we're all trying to get to?" While individual goals may differ, there will be similarities among the participants that the leader or facilitator can and should invoke; after all, the logic is simple: groups and organizations exist for a specific reason, and if an individual is part of that group or organization, there is an implicit thematic connection between the individual and the group or organization.

The work we all do as individuals, and, by extension, in groups and organizations, does not occur in a vacuum; rather, it is in view of the reality that we humans are all in 'place A' right now, and we will eventually be in 'place B.' In other words, in this life, change is constant, and we are always moving forward. That process is inexorable; but it becomes truly beneficial if and when we consciously recognize and engage it as the paradigm of life-as-evolution, and life-as-process. We are constantly in motion, encountering new information, meeting new people, and occupying never-before-experienced moments in time. All that "newness" represents the opportunity and potential to grow, and to expand into the authenticity of ourselves. We are here to learn, to make ourselves manifest, and to help others do the same.

Once these themes have been explored, we render the work more concrete; to do this, we ask the questions, “Ok, how do we get there (i.e., 'place B')? What do we have to do to get there?” The consideration of these questions becomes the roadmap of the work. It also becomes the lens, or the framework for everything that is discussed in the group, as well as everything that is worked on outside of the group. So, "How is this group member’s issue/participation/process, and how is the reflection and mutual aid that arises from group members’ issues/participation/processes, going to move us toward where we want to go? What can we learn from that setback? What can we take with us from that disagreement between group members?" The meta-themes (represented, again, by questions) are, “How are we going to tap into, and act upon, our deeper values? How are we going to gain access to the leader within ourselves, and, in turn, help others get where they want to go?” We must become curious, we must be willing to externalize our questions, we must be willing to explore, and we must be willing to provide others the supportive space necessary to do the same.

We do our best as humans when we connect our own mission with the missions of other individuals around us, and with the organizations, groups, and systems with which we are connected. Essentially, then, the facilitator's, or leader's, tasks are to invoke the path we are all traveling, and, by virtue of drawing connections between meta-evolution and the work at hand, to help participants along that path. By articulating goals, and bringing the endgame / termination plan into view, the leader brings focus to the work in a very practical sense, and reminds us that we’re here, in this room, for a clear purpose.

This process can apply in any work setting, and to any group. It could pertain to a focus group, a task group, or a therapy group, for example. These are principles, after all, and can be applied as needed; but we are all human beings, and when we convene for a purpose, we can let these principles guide our work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bipolar Disorder, Pt. 1

It rips your regular life away. It makes it so all you can see, think, feel, and experience is it. It suffers no rivals, shatters all clarity, and wages its attacks in frightening, unpredictable scattershot. Like a horrible kind of ninja, you can't see it approach; or, exhausted and terrified, you might feel like it's finally gone, only to have it obliterate your mind a few seconds later. 

You have your life figured out. You can see your way forward with blazing, intoxicating clarity, and you feel peaceful, happy, and connected. You become incredibly productive, and watch with astonished joy as you cross item after item off your to-do and bucket lists. Everything, and every conversation, is interesting and vibrant; the spiritual pulse of the world is tangible, and you rejoice in it. 

Any insecurity you've felt completely melts away, or at the very least, you are able to see -- to finally see -- how to move beyond your pain. This, too, is a marvelous feeling, and you begin to see that you are fully capable and entitled to do anything you want to. You think it's time to make up for opportunities you've missed because you've held yourself back, and the mere thought of wandering off to pursue whatever fun or adventure or danger, even, that presents itself to you is explosively exciting.

And then a potential consequence of one of these notions goes flitting through your consciousness. And it enrages you. How DARE anything or anybody tell you what to do? How DARE anyone or anything try to hold you back? You are consumed with anger and aggression, and fantasies of unrelenting violence, cherished with atavistic, heart-pounding excitement, race through your mind. You stomp on the accelerator, shout at the asshole in the right lane, flip off the teenager crossing the street. Your guilt and anger and confusion begin to mount, and everything is getting really frightening and out of control. You aren't sure how you got so upset, or why tears are streaming down your face, or why your heart is pounding in your chest, or why you just snapped at the people riding in the car with you.

You finally realize you are being utterly driven by mania, and you collapse under its weight, reduced to a sad, scared, confused little puddle.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sleep on it

We all have difficult days. We all have days in which it seems like our problems are insurmountable. At times, life might just seem overwhelming or exhausting. We might be wrestling with a decision, entirely unsure of the right thing to do; the way forward may seem unclear.

There's something to be said for going to sleep that night, waking up the next day, and carrying on with the business of living, whatever that looks like. If it only provides the solace that you've survived the battle, so be it. And it might just provide you with the refresher you need to see things with renewed clarity.

Life is lived now, always.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Speculation on a Saturday

Have you ever heard or read the assertion, "There is nothing wrong with you"? What if you really believed it to be true? Think on it.

Much of this life, for many of us, is spent looking forward to something or other. We consciously or unconsciously identify personal and/or professional goals based on what we value, and we become heavily invested in attaining those goals. Such is the nature of things, and it's good.

What if, however, we refrained from basing our concept of self-worth, or of success, on our perceived ability to identify and attain those goals? What if instead we believed we are, by nature -- by default -- fantastically wonderful, amazing creatures, worthy of total admiration, love, and respect? And what if, in realizing those things, we discovered we can give those gifts to ourselves: that we can give ourselves unconditional admiration, love, and respect?

And what if such realizations were not mutually exclusive with living an actual human life? In other words, what if none of that stuff meant we had to live our lives as cloistered, levitating monks? Or that we wouldn't be periodically disappointed, disgusted, angry, guilty, sad, frustrated, unbalanced, unstable, irrational, or hurtful?

What if, instead, the foundational self-worth I'm speculating about enabled us to discover a truer compassion, truer forgiveness, truer remorse, truer kindness, truer intelligence, truer intuition, truer serenity, and truer freedom to pursue the goals and loves of our lives?

Food for thought.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Mind-Body Link is a Thing, You Guys

The mind-body link. Holistic medicine and healing methods. Determining the root cause of the problem, not just treating the symptom. Macrobiotic, or vegetarian, or vegan, or raw foods diets-as-good for physical and mental health. Wheat grass. Whole grains. Clean diesel. Cars running on veggie oil. GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Eating organic food.

You've probably encountered similar-themed material; or perhaps you've had an uncomfortable conversation with a very passionate person (possibly wearing Birkenstocks or driving a Subaru [kidding...or am I?]) who demands you see the Truth of some nugget of We're-All-One pseudo-wisdom, plucked from the voluminous, postmodern currents of the hippie-liberal milieu.

If you haven't, then you're about to. Sort of.

Now, a little about me, for the sake of context. I haven't worn (or owned) Birkenstocks in a long time, and tie-dye T-shirts are no longer a staple of my wardrobe. My man-mane, i.e., my pony-tail, was long ago cut off in favor of a shorter coif. I have a half-sleeve tattoo on one arm, but, depending on how you met me, you probably wouldn't know it: I also really like professional, even conservative, attire (argyle is awesome, as are well-tailored suits). I'm rather well-spoken, deferential, and well-mannered. Suited up properly, I could almost certainly pass for an active member of the Young Republicans, or maybe a yacht club. And yet...

Ok, I'll give it a rest.

The point of my humor has been to acknowledge a critique of an ecological (i.e., one that embraces and attends to the interconnectedness of all things), or holistic perspective: that it tends to be espoused by the "intellectual, liberal elite," who themselves, in turn, could be said to have some affiliation with the, er, crunchier aspects of the movements, fads, and trends I listed above.

Be that as it may, there is plenty of data and research available that explore the link, or relationship, between the mind and the body. It may be said, actually, that they are far less separate than we tend to think of them as being -- or, indeed, that they are not "separate" at all.

Listen, here's the bottom line: the stuff we find our minds wandering about, and the stuff in our subconsciousness, and the stuff we direct our attention toward, and unresolved conflicts and childhood traumas and whatnot -- all of it affects our physical vessels, or, put another way, our physical well-being. Think about it: everyone knows there's a strong correlative link between stress and heart problems (to cite one example off the top of my head). Conversely, our physical vessels affect the processes, functioning, and health of our minds -- our mental health. Think about that for a second, and all it implies. You've probably heard about or experienced a most basic example of this principle: that exercise -- even light exercise -- can help improve a bad mood. Or think about the saying, "you are what you eat." It's kind of true, even in view of what I'm discussing. An overabundance of fried food, for example, tends to lead to a pretty icky, lethargic feeling. You might feel sleepy, unresponsive, slow-witted, etc. You get the point.

Or maybe you don't. Need some further proof, or food for thought? Check out the abstract of an article entitled, "Breakfast and Mental Health" from the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Vol. 49, Issue 5). In all fairness, the article is older (1998), and the relationships (as the abstract clearly delineates) are correlative, not causal; additionally, there obviously exist mediating and moderating variables which affect participants' mental health (the abstract addresses that, too). Regardless, there's a demonstrable positive relationship between breakfast consumption (of cereal, in this study) and good mental health.

There are lots of studies about this topic. I encourage you to investigate it yourself. And I encourage you, as you seek to maintain good health, or to improve your health, to take the mind-body relationship into account.

Trust a hippie who knows. :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dreams: the 12 steps — Paulo Coelho's Blog

Paulo Coelho's writings are an inspiration to millions, including myself. This latest post to his blog is likewise inspiring, as well as practical and extraordinarily useful.

Dreams: the 12 steps — Paulo Coelho's Blog

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Serenity Prayer, Saving Money, and Control Issues

“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference."

That’s the Serenity Prayer. It is perhaps most commonly associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, which has adopted the prayer for the purposes of its program. I won’t be discussing addiction today, but I do think very highly of the Serenity Prayer. It reminds one that many, if not most, things in this life are out of the scope of one’s control. For example, none of us can control the existence of rush hour traffic, or a line at the grocery store, or another person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. But we can accept, even begrudgingly, that we're in the traffic jam; we can breathe through our frustration and choose to wait patiently on line; and we can recognize others' autonomy. 

I’ll argue that much distress arises from what the very existence of the Serenity Prayer indicates; i.e., the human desire for control. We like to do, and to fix. Why? Well, because we are attached to other people, we are attached to expectations (our own and others’), and we are attached to outcomes. We get ideas about what "ought" or "ought not" be, and we take these as Capital-T Truth; we get fused to them, get married to them, and even give over our inherent power of thoughtful perspective to them. If we perceive a threat to what "ought to be," then, we tend to get worked up, and to seek a course of action.

Such attachments (and others) are universal conditions of human life. As such, the Serenity Prayer explicitly acknowledges the existence of impulses for control; but it invokes a re-calibration, so to speak, of one’s inner desire-to-control compass. It gives one hope that, with increased wisdom and clarity, one will be better-able to identify what is truly within and without the scope of one's control and influence; and when one has these realities in one's view, one is empowered to detach, as appropriate, from the impulse to control. And to reiterate: when people lose sight of what they can and can’t control, undue distress may ultimately follow.


An illustration of this logic is money. I firmly believe that many of us have more control over our money situations than we perhaps would prefer to think we do. A commonly cited nugget of conventional wisdom is that one has to "have money to save money." Well, yes, this is partially true, in the sense that in the total absence of all money, one necessarily cannot save money. Now, please understand that what I’m about to describe doesn't apply to everyone; I’m speaking in particular to wage earners with a car or two, a house, some possessions, food on the table, etc. Many such wage earners are plagued by money problems, and with good reason: participation in modern life is very expensive. But that still does not mean one cannot save money.

Have you heard the principle, “Pay yourself first?” If not, it refers to a simple and effective money-saving strategy represented by what is essentially a mind game. Play along: Think of the bills you have to pay, and add another to the very top of that list – it’s your savings account. (If you don’t have one, you can open one for free, and with no minimum deposit requirement, with any number of banks.) In the “pay yourself first” system, you view saving money as being synonymous with paying a bill. Remember: you probably view bills as non-negotiable; i.e., you have to pay them. So why not give yourself and your financial security the same consideration? Listen, it can even be $5 a pay period to start with if that’s what you think you can do right now. The point is to engage the process and get in the habit: the results will follow.

I’ll bet many of you reading this are still skeptical. If so, here’s a real-world example of how it does, in fact, work: 401k plans (or any employer-sponsored retirement plan). You enroll in the plan, and a retirement account is set up. Concurrently, you determine a percentage of your gross pay to contribute to the plan; that amount is then automatically deducted from your wages. It never enters your cash flow, and you never see it in your paycheck. The amount left over is what you have to work with to pay bills, buy groceries, and put gas in your car. Amazingly, awesomely, as time passes, those deductions accumulate. Paying yourself first works the same exact way.

We are emotional creatures. We are highly fallible, impulsive, and prone to misjudgment. And we are prone to misjudgment about our purchases and cash flow management behaviors, and whether we do actually have money in our paychecks to set aside. My guess is that if you’re reading this, there are hidden expenses in your life you aren’t even aware of: things you could do without and really not even have to sacrifice too much by going without. Money represents an agreement, or an idea. It is governed by numbers and arithmetic and logic, all of which are decidedly a-emotional. Paying yourself first -- an inherently automatic, logic-driven process that falls outside the day-to-day scope of fallible decision-making -- is an emotionless process. It leverages the systems that govern financial processes. And it works as a savings strategy. I promise.


We sometimes mistake our subjective, often-faulty perceptions for an objective, absolute reality. We sometimes reach conclusions that don’t tell the whole story; but we decide or assume they do. Sometimes, we can’t see a way out of something; and instead of seeking to learn about new, as-yet unknown ways forward, we decide that our limited perception is reality, and that if “I can’t see a way out now, there must not be a way out.” We have more power than this. We all have a genius within us; and the Serenity Prayer -- and other grounding tools like it -- can help us tap into that genius. 

I'll end with one of my favorite quotes:

"You will be much more in control if you realize how much you are not in control." -- Antonio Damasio

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reader Feedback

This is a new blog, and still very much in its development stages. I haven't yet worked too intensely on the format, set a routine or schedule for my posts, or fully established the tone and scope of the content. Bearing all that in mind, I want your feedback. You can use the following questions as guideposts if you prefer, or just go ahead and leave general comments if that suits you better. Also, feel free to either comment on this post or email me directly.

What have you especially liked or found interesting?

What haven't you liked or found interesting?

What type of subject matter would you like to see covered? (For example, posts about anxiety; grieving and loss; anger management; substance abuse; maintaining good mental health; etc.)

Of the following choices, which would you prefer to see?
     -Written posts only
     -Video posts only
     -Mostly written posts with some video
     -Mostly video with some written posts
     -Neutral or no preference

In general, what time of day is ideal for you to view this blog's content?

Do you have any general comments?

Thanks! I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Stephen Fry: "An Uppy-Downy, Mood-Swingy Kind of Guy"

Some of you may recognize Stephen Fry; some may not. Regardless, I highly recommend watching this ten-or-so minute clip, in which he discusses some of his personal experiences with, and reflections on, bipolar disorder. The information he discusses is both insightful and factually accurate.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vlog #2 -- Mental Health & Personal Finance

Here's the link to vlog #2: Mental Health & Personal Finance. This is a particular passion of mine, and it's difficult for me to adequately address all aspects of this in a 6 minute video. If the linkages and details seem a little hazy, let me know and I'll redouble my efforts. In the meantime, though, thanks for viewing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Awesome Web Resource:

This link will take you to a great online mental health resource called HealthyPlace. (They're also present on Facebook and Twitter.) The site is a comprehensive repository of up-to-date information on a variety of mental health issues and their respective diagnostic criteria, common symptoms, treatment options, and resources for further assistance. It also gets my major kudos for explicitly interweaving diversity considerations throughout the site. There's also an extensive blog network to explore.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Short Article Link

The article linked to below is a good (and quick) read by Leonard Citron, M.A., and published on The Albert Ellis Institute's blog. It addresses perfection, fallout therefrom, and utilizes a nice little baseball analogy, for which I am an unabashed sucker.


What do you love to do?

The title of this post pretty much sums it up. There's a lot of benefit to be derived from answering that question, or from even just giving yourself space and time to consider the question.

If "love" is too strong a word to start with, use "like" instead. And if "like" is too much for now, try "enjoy." Do not impose rules on how you answer! It can be a brainstorming process if you like, or you can sit and ponder it and write out a single sentence or phrase. Work with your preference of the moment.

I recently posted about the practice of noting daily the things you've done well, or are proud of, etc. Likewise, answering this question can be part of your daily practice. Or, it can simply be a reminder to yourself; or a springboard to finding your way back to the answers within.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Video Blog -- aka "Vlog" -- Post

This video represents my first foray into so-called "vlogging," so we'll see how it evolves from here. My amateur self goofed up on my "start-talking" time, so what's cut off in the video is me introducing myself by name; otherwise, it's all there. 

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think!

Mindfulness Article

The link below will take you to a great article about the practice and benefits of mindfulness by Jay Dixit at "Psychology Today." It's well worth the read!

Saturday, September 1, 2012


A long time ago, a college professor -- one of the great teachers in my life -- taught me that, to the conscientious observer, Life is the greatest, most constant teacher of all; and with attention, patience, and curiosity, Life teaches all lessons. It was a powerful concept in the classroom, rendered even more so by the fact that I discovered it to be true. There is potential for learning, and for the demonstration of some principle, around every corner.

The other day, I saw a tiny green bug on a counter top. It was on its back, and it was struggling to right itself. I waited a moment to see whether it could achieve its aim by its own power, and when I decided it couldn't, I gave it a little nudge. It worked: the bug was on its feet. But instead of hurriedly crawling or flying off, it stood perfectly still, as if stunned. I was puzzled by this response at first, but I soon realized it was -- anthropomorphizing aside -- frightened by what it perceived to be the gigantic, unpredictable, possibly malevolent force which had, in fact, so drastically altered its situation for the better.

It occurred to me that many of us experience similar fears when faced with life-changing events, or even the consideration thereof. Fear is, of course, an adaptive, healthy response to perceived danger. After all, fear prepares us to get ourselves out of harm's way, which is definitely not a bad thing. What's curious, though, is that our fear responses are often grossly out of proportion to any actual danger that may exist; it's also curious that, oftentimes, that which we perceive to be a terrible threat is, in fact, a Godsend.

I do not advocate throwing caution to the wind and ignoring all fear -- absolutely not. But I do think it's important that we acknowledge both the fallibility and limiting potential of fear. Moreover, when afraid, it's important that we at least pause and consider whether the object of our fear may, in fact, bring us much good.

Monday, August 27, 2012

In and Of a System

Tonight, I'm going to bring you into the mind -- or an excerpt therefrom -- of Yours Truly, on or about June 27th, 2006. Let's dive in:

The bottom line is that many of us humans have done very well by the system as it currently stands, but many, on the other hand, have not. My hypothesis is that education and enlightenment are the primary tools at our disposal to help bring balance to the system. The short-term goal should be to eradicate poverty. The long-term goal should be to evolve humanity toward an unknown and higher moral purpose.

A couple of imprecisions aside, I'm inclined to high-five my younger self, for he was right. And it ties right back into the theme of this blog, of course. Many people with psychiatric-mental-psychological (whatever you want to call them) disorders tend to fall squarely into the latter category of my first (referenced) sentence up there. Rampant individualism, so sexy and influential in empowered American culture, has tipped the scales of our cultural rhetoric and policy from the compassionate to the draconian. We are quick to blame others for their station in life, for their financial difficulties, and for their impaired mental status; but we are loathe to consider the devastating impacts of intergenerational poverty, illiteracy, lack of education, lack of nutrition, abuse, neglect, trauma, biology, etc. Worse yet, while working ourselves up into a lather of righteous indignation -- "I worked my fingers to the bone to get where I am! I had to overcome so much!" -- we tend to completely ignore the many privileges of our birth that have directly or indirectly made manifest our happier station in life.

I'm grateful for my station in life, and I hope you are, too. I think it's incumbent on us all, though, to approach one another with compassion. And my dream is that our system ultimately reflects that.

"Think globally, act locally."
"Be the change you want to see in the world."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Human Rights Issue

The following post will be the first of many (I'm sure) about depression and stigma. Though I haven't contacted her to ask permission to do so, I am using Allie Brosh as an illustrative example here. Ms. Brosh is the author of a widely followed and hilarious webcomic-blog entitled, "Hyperbole and a Half" ( I feel okay about using her as an example here because A) she made her story public and freely available online, and B) I am linking to her related content to let it speak for itself. Check it out:

What's my point in sharing this with you? Well, first and foremost, I think it's vitally important to challenge --  and seek to debunk -- the many stigmas and false notions associated with mental health issues, including depression. Ms. Brosh did a very brave thing by self-disclosing her struggle with depression, especially since she surely knew her post would be read closely by thousands of people. She also surely knew that any conclusions about her and her content, once published, would be beyond her control, and in the hands of the masses, for better and worse. Do a quick Google search, and you'll notice there are quite a few posts and questions and comments about her depression -- the mill has been spinning.

Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-injury, schizophrenia, personality disorders, PTSD, mania, hypomania, addictions, etc. etc. etc. just ARE. They do not denote a deficiency in character. One who experiences these disorders cannot simply "snap out of it." It's not a thing to be laughed at. Like all other human experiences, it is to be viewed through a lens of compassion.

There's a certain paranoid humor that's commonly shared among students and practitioners who have familiarized themselves with diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders; namely, the symptoms of the disorders are personally recognizable in each of us. If you look back at my post about behavior occurring on a continuum, you'll understand my way of thinking about why this is the case. Sadness, elation, hyperactivity, anxiety, doubt, confusion, paranoia, disorientation, passive-aggressiveness, obsessiveness, poor decision-making, and irrational beliefs, feelings, and behaviors are all things that perfectly "healthy," "normal" (haha) people all experience periodically. You, dear reader, experience these things periodically. So if you get the chance, crack open a DSM-IVtr and notice how quickly you recognize many of the symptoms and signs of XYZ disorder within yourself. Pun intended: it's really crazy.

Here's the kicker about all that: if you can acknowledge that you experience those things sometimes, you can begin to understand mental health "disorders"; and this means that you can show yourself and your brethren some respect when they exhibit the signs thereof. And you can relax, then, and be accepting, and kind, and compassionate, and helpful. Life can be difficult, you guys. Our systems of government, structures of society, and acceptable social behavior standards simply aren't a natural fit for all 7 or so billion of us here on planet earth. Open your mind if it's closed. Fight against stigma; fight against cruelty; fight against unfair, discriminatory policies: it's a human rights issue.

Friday, August 24, 2012


I have another question for you, and this time it's related to resilience. We all experience disappointment; it's an inevitable part of life. Disappointment can be pretty big, as when a relationship fails, or we don't get the interview we wanted, or the purchase or sale of a home falls through. Disappointment can also be on a smaller scale: that movie you wanted to stream is only available on DVD, or the grocery store is out of your favorite flavor of ice cream. 

Whether on a big or small scale, disappointments can be disruptive. They can throw us for a loop, knock us off course, and put us in a negative frame of mind. With enough disappointment, it can sometimes feel as if the universe is conspiring against you, and the way forward, once so seemingly clear, can become hazy and uncertain. Our thinking may become muddled, and we may second-guess ourselves. 

These downward spirals can be difficult to overcome, especially when life -- pesky!! -- doesn't stop to give you a breather. Nope! Life moves on, obligations and all, whether you feel like you're ready or not. My question, then, is this:

How do you get yourself past the inevitable disappointment(s)? Or, put another way, what does resilience "look like" to you?

Enjoy your weekend. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Try this: toward the end of whatever day you read this, take 3-5 minutes and write down the things you've done well and / or are proud of today. It's important to let yourself acknowledge such things, because many of us tend to focus solely on, and thereby remember only, our shortcomings. That, in turn, can contribute to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and self-defeatism.

Here are a few examples of the good things I did today:

-I completed a 6.4-mile hike
-I ate a healthy, nutritious breakfast
-I'm writing this list for the second day in a row
-I took some time to practice my guitar
-I saved a lot of money for the week to come by buying groceries to cover all my meals

Got it, right? Yeah, you do. :)

Mental health, clear-mindedness, and positive self-esteem are things to be practiced, much like physical health can be "practiced" or maintained with a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, rest, etc. Keep these things in mind, and ask yourself how you can regularly, intentionally contribute to your own psychological well-being.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Movement and Stillness

Movement and stillness, movement and stillness. It occurs to me that life can be characterized by these two states. Whether it's the howl of the wind or the still, silent air; whether it's 30 years under the same roof or 5 roofs in 5 years; whether it's a tidal wave or the glassy calm of low tide; and whether it's breathing in and out, or the serene stillness between breath, life is an oscillation between movement and stillness. Both are natural, and it is helpful to me, at least, to remember that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I have a few questions for you...

I have a few questions I'm interested in hearing my readers' responses to regarding thoughts. For the purposes of this post, feel free to use whatever definition of the word "thoughts" you use, and write your answers in the comment section below. I don't have a specific agenda with your responses, although I may, of course, be inspired to write a follow-up post on this subject which may take your responses into consideration. Unless you indicate otherwise, I will NOT use your names or user IDs in such a post; nor will I quote you directly. Thanks!! The questions are below the break:


How much, or how little, do you identify with your thoughts?

How much value do you place on your thoughts?

How much do you rely on your thoughts for guidance?


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Adaptive Nature of Emotions

As the title suggests, our emotions have an adaptive nature. That is, they have utility and purpose -- or, rather, they can have utility and purpose if we allow ourselves to see them that way. To paraphrase one of my former teachers, it can be helpful to conceptualize emotions as messengers, and to ask the question, "what is this feeling trying to communicate to me?" After all, emotions do not simply occur; they do not, like the cheese, stand alone. Emotions exist in relationship to our conscious and subconscious thoughts, hopes, goals, expectations, etc., and to our physical circumstances. Thus, it can be difficult, and even futile, to parse out our emotions in service of determining their origin, as they are likely tangled up with a lot of other stuff. But it can be very helpful and grounding to seek out what they're trying to tell us. 

I'll use myself as an example. I'm looking for work, and it's a slow process. It's frustrating, in fact. I periodically find myself sighing, shaking my head, feeling tense, etc. as I search for jobs. So I take a step back and ask, "what is my frustration communicating to me?" In this case, the answer is pretty simple: I want a job, and I want one now; and since I don't have one now, I want the rest of my search to be easy and quick. Expectations and Desires, meet Reality. It is helpful for me to recognize this, because it tells me 1) I should, for my own peace of mind, adjust my expectations, and 2) give myself props for knowing and pursuing what I want.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Views and Points, and Points of View

I was out for a walk around my neighborhood with someone the other evening, and we strolled by a small, three-or-so-story office building. Since it was getting dark outside, it was easy to see through one of the windows into an illuminated room. There was movement inside that caught our attentions, and we both stole a look as we walked by. My initial glance made me laugh, because my brain had very obviously not accurately perceived the scene inside. (I'll refrain from disclosing what I thought I saw. Suffice to say it was 'haha' worthy at the time.) At any rate, my walking companion, it turns out, had perceived something else entirely in those brief passing moments -- something, it would seem, that was closer to the reality of what was actually happening in the room. I, on the other hand, had seen the same details, but my senses and perception had conspired to compose an entirely different scenario of what we were seeing.

Aside from providing unsolicited insight into the strange little workings of my mind, the difference in our conclusions is revealing, and has broad implications regarding "reality." I am not a philosophical scholar, so I won't embarrass myself by attempting to discuss the minutiae of the nature of reality -- others have done that for centuries. For my purposes now, I'll just take it as a given that, to us humans, reality is a thing we perceive to be so. There may be an Objective Reality out there, but we haven't found it yet; so again, reality is a thing we perceive to be so.

Many of us agree on certain definitions of things as to make life, generally speaking, more synchronous. Language is one such thing, for example: we agree to use certain symbols in certain sequences as to indicate concepts, objects, people, etc., and we construct our mutually agreed-upon reality around that; i.e., you know what I mean (more or less, anyway) when I say the words "air conditioner." Usually, in a casual interaction, one person can mention an air conditioner and proceed without having to really explain what, exactly, they mean when they say "air conditioner." This is why it's so interesting to me when two people look at literally the same thing and yet see two completely different things. When the agreed-upon concept suddenly isn't agreed-upon; or when one party, fully invested in and believing their perception of a thing or event or concept or whatever, realizes that the other party sees things differently, there is confusion and mystery.

There are many paths we could take at this juncture of the discussion, of course, but this blog is about mental health. What implications, then, does all of this stuff have for mental health? Well, there are many, which is pretty much my point. We each attach meaning to the events of our lives. We endow people, objects, and even ourselves with certain characteristics, and we label them as such; moreover, we tend to attach to these definitions and deem them to be capital-t Truth. The work of psychological maintenance and upkeep, then, often requires that we re-examine these supposed Truths, and open ourselves to the possibility that there might just be other, equally valid ways of defining, or looking at, things. Just as it's unwise to tighten a screw too much for fear of stripping its head, so is it (often) problematic when we get too rigid and inflexible -- i.e., too tight -- with our Truths. A too-rigid Truth construct can lead to myriad problems. Why? Well, if one tends to view Truth in terms of all-or-nothing, black-and-white terms, indicated by statements such as, "he's a bad person!", then one neglects the gray areas -- the uncertainty -- which seems to characterize this earthly existence in actuality. How else could there be so much variation in our versions of Truth? What is life but a mystery, after all?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Persistence is good, right? It's the term we give to that certain quality of doggedly moving ever forward, come what may, toward one's goal. Persistence is necessary to achieve goals, because obstacles, or seeming-disincentives to proceed, can and do arise. And we humans, animals that we are, tend to have to will ourselves to favor the long-term over the short-term. In other words, we're rolling in this game with loaded dice: we're wired for pleasure and gratification! Ask any behaviorist out there: we learn, by way of conditioning and reinforcement, how to respond and what to do in given situations. And if we're doing something that brings us periodic, sometimes unpredictable disappointment, discomfort, or pain, our initial impulse may be to stop doing that something.

And so, to get what is not immediately within our grasp, we need persistence.

Now, remember my jag in the previous post about continua? Here, too, I am hesitant to label persistence as, simply, "good." I think it's definitely much farther along toward the "good" side than the "bad," granted, but it's important for us to remember, when endeavoring to achieve, that we must always of necessity make room in our lives for the things we want to get -- and the process and practice of making room for things can be difficult at times. After all, it requires that we disrupt the status quo and seek a new balance. Sometimes this requires others' cooperation, which is where things can get especially tricky, and require even more persistence (i.e., we don't always share an agenda with the key stakeholders of our lives: our partners, friends, family, etc.).

You get the gist.

When pursuing your goal, be willing to make room for it, be willing to grow, and be willing to tolerate some possible discomfort along the way. But know that discomfort, in and of itself, isn't necessarily "bad." Depending on the context, discomfort can be in service of cultivating a deeper contentedness. Think of someone who wants to get in shape, for example. Maybe they go to the gym, or maybe they take up jogging or mountain biking. Whatever they choose will involve some temporary discomfort. Ultimately, however, the satisfaction derived from getting in shape -- i.e., the achievement and manifestation of one's goals -- far outweighs any discomfort which occurred along the way.

So: Be persistent. It's worth it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Beliefs, and Pessimism<----->Optimism

I think that our beliefs about ourselves and our external reality (i.e., the world), whether based in fact or fiction, or rational or irrational processes, go a long way toward determining the course of our lives. These beliefs, if not at the very core of our mind-oriented processes, are embedded deep enough within us as to usually be implicit; that is, these beliefs occupy a domain which usually lies outside our conscious processes, thereby influencing our conscious processes from some deeper, somewhat murky position. (Apologies to Freud and his disciples.)

In general, I'm very interested in the nature of people's beliefs as a point of interest. But beliefs become, to my way of thinking, a potentially very important focal point for consideration if a person is having difficulty in their life. Now, it's important, perhaps, for you to know that I tend to view many aspects of existence and behavior as being on a continuum. (For example, I think "sexual orientation" occupies a continuum: any given person at a given point in their life falls somewhere on it, to my way of thinking.) Let's leave that, in and of itself, alone for the time being. Rather, for now, it should suffice to know that one of the continuum lenses through which I tend to view people's beliefs is that of optimism-pessimism.

Straight up: I'm biased against pervasive pessimism (cynicism). Granted, I do think pessimism makes sense, and has a very logical utility. Plainly, I think that pessimism is essentially a hedge against disappointment: it's a way of guarding oneself from the pain of an unfavorable outcome or development. It's a lot easier to move on from a failure, or from a negative development, if one assumes an attitude of expecting failures or negative developments from the get-go. And if something "good" does happen, it's a pleasant surprise; and even then, of course, the prevailing pessimism will prevent the person from letting their guard down in celebration *too* much.

I get it. I also get that people have very good reasons for developing such pessimism. But I think that, ultimately, pessimism is akin to the local crime syndicate offering a storekeeper "protection" for a price. The price, in this case, is multifaceted, and could probably warrant a separate essay unto itself. In sum, though, the price is an eroded ability to envision and entertain life's possibilities and, therefore, an eroded ability to honor and manifest one's unique gifts. It's really the latter thing there that bothers me. Why? Because I think we're here to learn, grow, and share our gifts with the world as best we can; and it bothers me when people unnecessarily (to my way of thinking) limit themselves.

There's another point I'd like to make about pessimism as a pervasive perspective: I think it's simply easier for people to identify reasons why they (or another) *can't* pursue a goal/dream/desire than it is to seek reasons why they (or another) *can.* Practiced with enough doggedness, such habits of thinking engender the routine use of words like "should" and "ought" with respect to hopes, dreams, wants, needs, and reasonable courses of action. And people often get into trouble when they set up unreasonably restrictive shoulds and oughts to govern their contemplative and action-taking processes.

It is my position that a tendency toward seeking reasons why one *can* pursue what they want or need -- i.e., an opportunity-focused perspective -- better-facilitates one's ability to access the motivation to pursue one's wants and needs. Furthermore, an opportunity-focused perspective does not deny the existence of obstacles, disappointments, and setbacks; rather, it allows for them, it reasonably accommodates them, and it ultimately enables a person to truly move on and reach higher.

Now, none of this is black-and-white, of course, and it is not intended to apply to all things. Taken too far, the perspective I am touting could lead to very destructive and harmful behavior. There are some things people should not do -- and I use the word "should" very intentionally here. I think the principle "do no harm" ought to rule the day, or at least be on one's personal Board of Directors. None of us are islands unto ourselves, and our actions do not exist in a vacuum. No, our actions affect others, and we have a responsibility to others by virtue of living in a society. On another note, I acknowledge that my perspective is biased: I am a White American Man, plain and simple. In theory anyway, I love the ideas of independence, individualism, and self-actualization. I've enjoyed the trappings and benefits of my circumstances, a fact which I happily own; and I acknowledge that my perspective may not be compatible with others'. But you know what? I think that much of what I'm saying is good and true, and my intentions are in service of well-being.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Our Writer-Reader Agreement

While I would have much rather placed this agreement of understanding between you (the reader) and me (the writer) in the blog's description, the current Blogger formatting restrictions only allow for a 500 character maximum in that space. And so I must adjust, and kick off this blog with a rather necessary, if somewhat terse, paragraph. Whether a person is paying for a service or, as is the case here, browsing free content voluntarily, I think it's important that expectations and roles are clearly delineated, and that people know what they're getting into. Here goes:

Be advised, Dear Reader: I have an MSW from an accredited institution, so I do have some formal educational background on aspects of the very broad topic of "mental health." However, this is my personal blog, not an academic or professional publication; i.e., the content herein has not been peer-reviewed, fact-checked, or otherwise edited by anyone other than myself. Moreover, the various content of my posts are not intended to represent the views of any other person, thing, or organization. Be advised of this, then, Dear Reader, and note that the onus is on you to take or leave, so to speak, what I write here. You are reading this blog voluntarily, and in so doing, you are neither implicitly nor explicitly being provided professional mental health services. In other words, I am not your therapist, I am not responsible for how you interpret this material, and you hereby release me from any and all liability by continuing to peruse this blog's content. I am writing this blog because I am interested in the topic, I have some things to say about it, and I enjoy writing. 

Ok, that’s more than enough of that for now: I think we understand our writer-reader arrangement. Thanks for visiting the site, folks – enjoy!