Spotlight: Denial: Do You Do That? by Debby Schwarz Hirschhorn, Ph.D.
Human consciousness is a marvelous thing. It is more flexible than a yogi. For example: You are in a lecture that is definitely not going anywhere. You could be bored out of your mind, but lo and behold, your mind takes a little trip elsewhere and, before you know it, the stupid lecture is over. You walk out feeling not quite so bad about the lost time as you might have.
Or, something painful just happened. Pick one-you got burned, a heavy object fell on your foot, your vegetable knife just pierced your skin. But, at that very moment, you see your toddler falling off a chair and you rush to the rescue. Five hours later, after the emergency doctor visit and the stitches for your baby, you notice your burn, crushed foot or whatever. Your consciousness knew what was most important to focus on.
You see, our minds are really very smart, much smarter than we realize. We can compartmentalize our conscious focus, as is the case in the above scenario or we can turn it completely off as was the case with the opening example. Why were we created that way? Well, if you think about it, that makes our consciousness supremely efficient. We don’t need to clutter it up with irrelevant things and we don’t need to use it at all when it needs a break!
So where does denial come in? What looks like denial may really only be our consciousness not focusing on pain. Now, that makes sense, doesn’t it? If we were steeped in all the pain of our lives, we absolutely could not go on. Someone did a study on people who live to a really old age and they found that these people are particularly optimistic and resilient. They don’t let pain get them down.
See, the interesting thing about conscious focus is that it actually directs our feelings. For example, think of an unhappy period in your life. If you really focus on getting into that memory, it will literally change your mood-for the worse.
So the question is: Are you simply not focusing on a painful thing because dwelling on it will make you needlessly unhappy? If there is nothing you can do about the problem, that is healthy and it is not denial. Or, are you not focusing on it because the pain overwhelms you and you just don’t know what to do? That may be denial. Because if you could work on the problem and aren’t, that’s not healthy or good for you.
Deciding whether you are in denial is all about the possibilities. If change is really impossible, you’re not in denial. If change is possible but would take a lot of work on your part, then maybe you are.
About the author:
Dr. Deb entered the field of healing 30 years ago and has been active in it ever since. Her orientation to therapy is holistic in that she believes therapy must consider the mind, emotions, body, and spirit of people as well as their family and work contexts. Although she does general psychotherapy, her specialty is verbal, physical, and emotional abuse: healing the pain of past history, coping successfully with current relationships, anger management, parenting to prevent repeating history with one's children, and workplace sensitivity to communication styles. Because of her concentration on abuse as it relates to families, she has developed a subspecialty in forensic work. She enjoys writing and speaking for both public and professional audiences.
Visit Dr. Deb at Abuse-Recovery-and-Marriage-Couseling.com
A Second Helping: Soul Matters: You Be the Judge by Austin Vickers
“What does a lawyer know about the soul? I thought lawyers don’t have souls!” When
I finished writing my book, Soul Matters, and I made the decision to leave the practice of law to write and teach people about the soul, a lot of my friends asked me this question. Of course they
asked in jest, but I decided to take it literally. After all, I was a lawyer, and working as a lawyer for many years did feel like hell to me, so who better to answer the question.
What does a lawyer know about the soul? Or in other words, what can a lawyer learn about the soul? I also decided to think more deeply about the judgment that “lawyers don’t have souls.” What purpose do our judgments about others really serve? Like most things in life, these questions made me think more deeply about how soul really manifests itself in life.
I began my career as a trial lawyer. The most exciting aspect of that work was appearing in court, before a judge, to argue a case. There was always a distinct aura and excitement in the courtroom. We would eagerly wait for the judge to enter the room, at which point he or she would take their seat on a big, black leather chair on a stand that was elevated above everyone else. In cases decided by the judge, he or she has all the power and control and can dictate the course, direction, and the outcome of the trial. I know from friends who are judges that there is a great feeling of power and control that comes with being a judge. In the courtroom, the judge is God.
We all necessarily play the role of judge in life. Life presents such a wide variety of ideas and options, from which we all must make choices and judgments about the thoughts, words and actions we will adopt as our own. Thus, the role of judgment is necessary to the manifestation of our own individual experience.
The judgments many of us make about which ideas, people, places or things to include in our lives, though, are often regurgitations of the predetermined thoughts that have been projected on to us by our families, peers, or social norms. Living this way, we often do things we, and others, think we “should do,” rather than do things we really want to do. Inevitably, living life like this soon becomes a personal hell (an internal state of confusion, despair or anguish), because it is living a lie. It is a denial of who we are and a denial of our souls.
But soul will not be denied, so when it is ignored it begins to manifest itself in ways designed to attract our attention. Problems and obstacles arise in life, trying to wake us up to the truth. Whereas honoring the path of soul creates experiences of peace, grace and ease, denying soul creates experiences of anger, depression and dis-ease. For many years I lived a “should do” life, trying to please everyone around me but myself. And I was often angry, depressed and internally powerless because of this denial of soul.
Because of the pain, however, I began to read about many of the principles. One author I read stated that we have to stop “should-ing on ourselves.” Many others stated that to escape the living hell that can be created when we deny our souls, we have to begin living life based on our attractions.
We are all attracted to different ideas, people, places and things, and it is because of these differences that we are able to create for ourselves a distinct identity, that we are able to define who we are. The variety of life creates the construction materials from which we get to build ourselves. This is the path of soul. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted, following our attractions in life is the best way to follow the path of soul, for the intention of the soul manifests itself through our attractions.
Every moment of your life, beginning with right now, you have the opportunity to follow your attractions and honor your soul. On a piece of paper, make a list of the people, places, things and ideas that attract you, and make a decision to pursue these things - passionately. On the other side of that piece of paper, make a list of the people, places, things and ideas in your life that are “should-ing” on you, and begin to clear them from your life as honestly and as lovingly as you can. Doing so will transform any hell you are living into a love affair with soul. It did for me.
Recently I read something interesting about spider webs that shed light on the purpose of our attractions. To the human eye the spider web, although intricate in complexity, normally looks drab and unremarkable in color. However, the strands of a spider’s web actually exhibit extraordinary colors. They are not perceptible to us because we cannot perceive the frequencies of ultraviolet light they reflect. These extraordinary colors are perceptible, however, to an insect, because their eyes are much more sensitive to ultraviolet light than our own. This is the reason why insects are drawn to a spider’s web. They are attracted to the vivid, ultraviolet colors emitted by the spider’s silky strands.
The spider’s web was created more for the experience of spiders and insects, than for ours. But this fact is a fitting metaphor for understanding about our own attractions and judgments. To someone else, a person, place or thing that may be unattractive and appear as a gray, colorless web, may appear to us as an irresistible array of vivid colors to which we are wildly attracted. The reason for the difference in this perception and attraction is not because of some implicit difference in the person, place or thing being experienced, but rather because of the difference between observers. As observers, our perceptions are different because the experience required by the individual manifestations of our souls is different. To one observer, a certain idea, person, place or thing is necessary for the experience of their soul, and thus they are attracted to it. To another, it is not necessary, and thus there is no attraction.
Many of us, however, use such differences in attractions and perceptions as tools of the ego, rather than as defining tools of the soul. We often judge the choices made by others as good or bad, as right or wrong, or as less than our own. Or we judge someone’s choices or ideas as not being spiritual, as not having soul. Applying our own, or cultural judgments to the choices made by others, allows us to unconsciously elevate ourselves above others and feel an illusionary sense of power, much like the elevated judge in the courtroom. In doing so, however, we ignore the fact that the attractions, perceptions and choices made by others, despite how we might judge them, are necessary for their soul’s experience, and not our own.
An important step towards soul-full” living is directing your focus to understanding your own attractions and perceptions, rather than directing your attention to others. Learn to suspend judgment of anyone or anything as good or bad, right or wrong, or as less than something or someone else. Begin to find meaning and soul in things you or others easily judge as mundane, soul-less, or unspiritual. This is where real wisdom lies.
When you can do so, then you place yourself squarely on the path to personal transformation and enlightenment. For the truly enlightened being is not the one who can easily understand or speak of soul matters, but rather is the one who can easily recognize soul matters in all things – even lawyers.
About the author:
Austin Vickers is a lawyer who has represented numerous Fortune 500 companies for many years. He recently wrote the book “Soul Matters” and has created an innovative workshop, “The Soul Court” based on his book and his trial experience.
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Feature: Was Shakespeare Right?
When Reinhold Niebuhr penned the now-famous Alcoholic's Anonymous "Serenity Prayer," what he asked for was to be 'reasonably happy in this life' by being given the wisdom to know what could be changed, and what could not.
Years before the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, Shakespeare wrote, "Sweet are the uses of adversity." Anyone who has been in successful recovery for any long period of time can tell you that only hindsight can lend understanding to that phrase. Being in the middle of adversity can make one wish for the opportunity to throttle the Bard for even thinking like that. Define 'sweet' for me, will ya, Bill?
Adversity has one of two consequences; it either makes me, or breaks me. If it breaks me, I "settle for." I deny that I have the courage to do battle with the problem, I deny that I can be victorious, I deny that change is even necessary. It's too painful? Sometimes, that may be true. Today, perhaps. But tomorrow is a brand-new day, and I offer a prayer that I may have the strength and determination to press on, through the pain.
Some things are worth fighting for, in my life. Passionately.
It requires passion to pursue change when such change is accompanied by pain. It is the unique individual that finds within their heart and soul the passion and the courage, the capacity to challenge and conquer the pain and the fear, to see beyond apparent hopelessness and despair, and to rise above and pass beyond adversity.
Rising victorious above adversity brings me within sight of the Land of Reasonable Happiness. What gets me there is having the wisdom to know what can be changed, and executing that change with single-minded determination.
Believing that it can be done, with passion, that I can prevail in my pursuit of reasonable happiness, helps me to accept the hardships endured on the pathway to peace in my life.
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