Friday, March 27th, 2015 Focus: I process my emotions so they become a tool for growth.

Everyone gets angry. Some people show it openly and others don’t. If you are one of those people who claim you don’t get angry — you’re either not in touch with your emotions or you are lying.

All emotional feelings are signals that there is something in your life that needs to be dealt with, and anger is one of those emotions. When anger comes up, it is a signal that something in your life is out of balance and incongruent with how you believe your world should be.

In relationship, anger can be either healthy or unhealthy. Anger is just an emotion. How you process it is what determines whether it becomes a tool for growth or a source of pain and destruction.

Excerpted from the article:
Anger as a Tool for Growth
Written by Susie & Otto Collins.

Read more of this article…


Should You Stay or Should You Go? Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Compelling Questions and Insights to Help You Make that Difficult Relationship Decision
by Susie and Otto Collins.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book.


A great loss: RIP Ernie Kurtz Posted: 21 Jan 2015 03:51 PM PST- By David Clark

I was saddened to recently hear that Ernie Kurtz passed away on 19th January. Ernie was a brilliant and inquisitive man who helped very large numbers of people better understand AA and spirituality. Bill White recently described Ernie in the following way:
‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.
Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.
This imprint though lies far deeper than the legacy of his five books and numerous articles. Ernie’s involvements in the field span his teaching at innumerable addiction summer schools and conferences (from Rutgers to the University of Chicago) and his mentoring untold numbers of individuals, as well as in his research collaborations focused on the multiple pathways of addiction recovery.’
Hazelden wrote the following biography:
‘Ernie Kurtz received his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University in 1978. His doctoral dissertation was published as the book Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Since then, he has published The Spirituality of Imperfection, and the booklet Shame and Guilt: Characteristics of the Dependency Cycle. He has also published a number of articles, both scholarly and popular, on topics related to his interests and has lectured nationally and internationally on subjects related to the academic study of spirituality. Some of his articles have been published in the 1999 book, The Collected Ernie Kurtz.
Dr. Kurtz taught American History and the History of Religion in America at the University of Georgia and Loyola University of Chicago. From 1978 to 1997, he served on the faculty of the Rutgers University Summer School of Alcohol Studies and from 1987 to 1997 as a lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.
After a brief stint as Director of Research and Education at Guest House, then an alcoholism treatment facility for Catholic clergy, Ernie retired to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and began taking classes in the School of Information at the University of Michigan.
He continued to travel widely offering presentations until late 1997, when a botched medical procedure led to spinal surgery that only partially restored his ability to stand and walk.
Noting that “it is ironic that I now walk like a drunk,” Ernie devoted his remaining time to the intricacies and possibilities of electronic research in this field. Ernie passed away January 2015.’
Bill White recently developed an Ernie Kurtz section of his website, which is essential viewing. I leave you with a film that Bill and Ernie produced. It’s an important legacy.
RIP Ernie Kurtz

‘“Do I Have to Feel so Badly About Myself?” – The Legacies of Guilt, Shame and Anxiety’ by Peter Breggin, MD – JANUARY 6, 2015 BY DAVID CLARK

Guilt, shame and anxiety are intimately tied to addiction. Here is a blog on these emotions by one of my favourite people, Dr. Peter Breggin, which appeared in Mad in America.
‘Guilt, Shame and Anxiety defines these negative emotions, shows how they act as primitive enforcers of anger management, describes many alternative methods of identifying their presence in our lives, enables us to discover our personal negative emotional profile, and shows how to reject these emotions and to triumph over them.
And now we can answer the question asked in the title, “Do I have to feel so badly about myself?” The answer is a definitive “No!” You do not have to live with your emotions out of control. You do not have to feel stymied by painful feelings whenever you seek to be more peaceful or relaxed, more creative, braver, more loving, more independent, or simply happier. You do not have to live this way.
You can learn to understand, to identify, and to reject your negative legacy emotions in favor of life-enhancing principles, including sound ethics, reason and love.
When you and I were children and we felt guilty, we knew we were bad. We did not and could not stop to think, “I’m being made to feel guilty, but by objective ethical standards I’ve done nothing wrong.” Instead, we felt our guilt as strongly as a kick in the stomach or a poisonous black cloud inside our head.
When we felt ashamed, we did not have the ability to escape it by telling ourselves “People are making fun of me, but I’m perfectly fine as I am.” Instead, we believed – we knew! – that we deserve to feel shriveled up and shameful to the marrow of our bones. When we felt anxious, we did not dismiss the feeling as an irrational. Instead, we trembled or our heart palpitated, and we felt genuinely doomed.
Guilt, shame and anxiety appear in every known culture. Neither children nor adults seem to escape feeling some of these potentially disabling emotions and probably almost everyone has experienced all three.
In my forensic experience, even the most hardened criminals who feel no guilt or shame about committing murder are nonetheless likely to feel guilty about something else, such as thinking or talking negatively about their father or mother. They surely feel shame, and overwhelming shame may have ended up fueling, rather than inhibiting, their murderous reactions. Meanwhile, it is highly unlikely that anyone, criminal or not, has avoided feeling anxiety.
Guilt, shame and anxiety are so universal that they must have been built into our genes by biological evolution. That is, natural selection must have favored guilt, shame and anxiety because these emotions somehow promoted human survival and reproduction.
If so, we have to ask, “Why did biological evolution favor or promote the survival of human beings with a genetic, instinctual tendency to feel guilt, shame and anxiety?” The detailed discussion of the theory of negative legacy emotions and how to find emotional freedom is in my latest book: Guilt, Shame and Anxiety.
Human beings have always been both extremely violent and intensely social. Humans struggle with the inherent incompatibility between their willful or aggressive reactions and their demanding needs for personal intimacy.
Unfettered, these conflicting drives would have torn apart family life and made human survival and procreation impossible. Our survival required built-in inhibitions on the expression of willfulness and violence in our most personal and family relationships.
Built-in inhibitory emotions that automatically suppress our willfulness and aggression in our most intimate relationships promoted family life, at least in our more primitive states of biological and cultural development. Guilt, shame, and anxiety made children more likely to conform to their parents’ control, and it made parents less likely to unleash frustration and aggression on their children.
Like most instinctual potentials, including hunger and sex, these emotions were triggered and fashioned by environmental events and influences in infancy and early childhood, and therefore they do not operate smoothly or without glitches.
From these insights grew the theory of negative legacy emotions – that we inherit a biological tendency to react with inhibitions on our more assertive and aggressive impulses within our intimate relationships, and that these built-in capacities for guilt, shame and anxiety are then activated and shaped in early childhood to limit or restrain willfulness and violent conflict within our close family life.
Unfortunately, natural selection is a crude process that takes place at an infinitely slow pace and that usually approximates rather than achieves a perfect solution. Natural selection for the capacity to feel guilt, shame and anxiety was not guided by rational ethical standards but by the necessities of survival and procreation.
Built into us by the crude processes of natural selection and then activated and shaped by the vagaries of our unique childhoods, these negative legacy emotions have little or nothing to do with genuine or mature ethics. Over millions of years of evolution, they helped, however imperfectly, to moderate internal family conflict; but they serve little or no useful purpose in deciding how to live a mature adult life.
As adults, we must learn to identify and reject the influence of these negative legacy emotions, and instead seek to live by higher principles including reason and love. To have a fulfilling life, we must rise above our evolutionary emotional legacies through the conscious exercise of our higher human potentials. My book Guilt, Shame and Anxiety provides tests and tables to help the reader identify and overcome these unwanted, self-defeating emotions.
The concept of negative legacy emotions tells us from the start that we cannot and should not respond to our feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety as if they have a basis in either reality, or sound ethics. Ironically, when these emotions are most intense and convincing, they are almost always associated with trauma and abuse in childhood.
Our most disabling feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety do not result from our bad or mistaken choices; they are the result of biological evolution and what was done to us as helpless children. As I document, these emotions have such an irrational basis that the most abused children feel the most guilt, shame and anxiety, while their perpetrators often feel self-justified and entitled.
The theory of negative legacy emotions helps us take giant steps toward emotional liberation and freedom. It tells us why we feel guilt, shame and anxiety. It makes clear there is nothing personal or useful about feeling guilt, shame or anxiety. It enables us to treat these emotions as primitive in nature and useless as guidelines for positive values and conduct in adulthood. It makes clear they are self-defeating, because they are likely to automatically kick in whenever we think about being self-assertive or pursuing our own interests, regardless of the merit of our aspirations or goals.
The book asks and answers questions like “Is guilt or shame ever a good thing?” “Won’t people act badly if they don’t feel guilt and shame?” “How does anxiety act as a form of anger management?” “Where do our own choices as children fit in?” “Are most so-called mental illnesses the result of guilt, shame and anxiety?”
Guilt, Shame and Anxiety defines these negative emotions, shows how they act as primitive enforcers of anger management, describes many alternative methods of identifying their presence in our lives, enables us to discover our personal negative emotional profile, and shows how to reject these emotions and to triumph over them.
And now we can answer the question asked in the title, “Do I have to feel so badly about myself?” The answer is a definitive “No!”
You do not have to live with your emotions out of control. You do not have to feel stymied by painful feelings whenever you seek to be more peaceful or relaxed, more creative, braver, more loving, more independent, or simply happier. You do not have to live this way. You can learn to understand, to identify, and to reject your negative legacy emotions in favor of life-enhancing principles, including sound ethics, reason and love.’

‘A Different Kind of Evidence’ by Bill White DECEMBER 5, 2014 BY DAVID CLARK

More wisdom from Bill White.

‘Some years ago, a noted research scientist was invited to speak at a local community forum on the subject of addiction. The presentation to more than one hundred interested citizens consisted of a sweeping overview of modern scientific studies on addiction and its clinical treatment.
In the question and answer session that followed the presentation, a member of the audience posed a question about the effectiveness of recovery mutual aid groups like AA, NA, Women for Sobriety, and SMART Recovery.
The speaker responded that there had been few randomized trials comparing the differences in long-term recovery outcomes between these individuals who had achieved recovery with and without mutual aid participation. The scientist declared that no definitive scientific evidence yet existed on the effectiveness of such groups.
Following this declaration, a most interesting thing happened. A man stood in the audience and said simply, “I am the evidence,” which was quickly followed by other men and women scattered through the room who, moved by the man’s declaration, also stood and echoed, “I am the evidence,” before quietly returning to their seats.
This incident vividly portrays what Thomasina Borkman described in 1976 as the gulf and potential collision between scientific/professional knowledge and experiential knowledge.
The knowledge base of the alcohol and drug problems arena has evolved from one of folk wisdom to an emphasis on science and evidenced-based clinical practice. Today, any proposed intervention for addiction will quickly face the question, “Is this an evidence-based practice?”
Such scrutiny is indeed a welcome trend given the long history of charlatanry and harm in the name of help within the history of addiction treatment. I have spent most of my adult life trying to elevate the quality of addiction treatment by helping conduct scientific studies of addiction recovery and translating the implications of such studies for addiction professionals and recovery support specialists.
I say this to emphasize that what follows is not an anti-science diatribe aimed at justifying the status quo of addiction treatment.
Scientific studies can tell us much about recovery outcomes under the most ideal and controlled circumstances, but recovery is rarely achieved under such pristine conditions.
The processes of addiction and addiction recovery are messy – confounded by all manner of co-existing conditions, innumerable internal and external obstacles, previously unknown internal and external assets, and unexplainable life-changing experiences (sometimes labeled “miracles”) that are difficult if not impossible to quantify and scientifically disentangle.
And if there is anything science detests, it is messiness. Perhaps that is one reason that science has for so long avoided the subject of addiction recovery. It is far easier to catalogue addiction-related pathologies than to explain the process of human transformation that unfolds in addiction recovery. What is needed is a recovery-informed research agenda.
2014 Philadelphia Recovery Walk_EvidenceThe starting point of a recovery science should be the systematic collection of experiential knowledge drawn from individuals, families, and groups who have tested particular approaches to the resolution of AOD problems in the real world over an extended period of time. Tenets of folk wisdom drawn from these collective experiences, such as the therapeutic effects of helping others, are now being confirmed in numerous research studies.
There is much within the collective experience and hard-earned wisdom of people in recovery that merits scientific inquiry if we could muster the cultural and professional will to elicit it.’

‘Psychiatric Drugs: More Dangerous Than You Ever Imagined (A New Video)’ by Peter Breggin MD NOVEMBER 21, 2014 BY DAVID CLARK

Peter Breggin is a very special man and has been detailing the dangers of biological psychiatry and psychiatric drugs for many years. Here is a video he posted on Mad In America.
‘We are facing a tragedy of enormous proportions! Psychiatric drugs of every kind are exposing people to long-term risks of a declining quality of life, apathy, chronic disability, and even shrinkage of the brain.
When they try to withdraw from the drugs, they are likely to find themselves afflicted with new symptoms of drug-induced harm that the medications were suppressing. Then they may find it physically and emotionally painful, and even dangerously unsafe, to withdraw from these psychoactive medications.
“Psychiatric Drugs are More Dangerous than You Ever Imagined” is the newest video in my series of Simple Truths about Psychiatry. It provides a simple, direct and inescapable warning about this epidemic of harm induced by psychiatric drugs.
It underscores my conclusions from many decades of scientific research, most recently described and documented in Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry, Second Edition (2008) and Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients (2013).
To that accumulating data and analysis, I would add Bob Whitaker’s landmark scientific discussion of drug-induced disability in Anatomy of an Epidemic (2010).
The video sounds a necessary alarm about this growing tragedy, involving millions of people and their families, who never foresaw the disabling results of taking psychiatric drugs and giving them to their children.’

Guest Blog – ‘A Deeper Well: Art Therapy and Depression’ by Karen Adler NOVEMBER 7, 2014 BY DAVID CLARK

“Someone once asked me, ‘Why do you always insist on taking the hard road?’
I replied, ‘Why do you assume I see two roads?’” Author unknown.
The above quote sounds all very Alice-in-Wonderland’ish but it was taken from a website entitled ‘Depression, Suicide & Self-Injury Quotes’. And it startled me out of an assumption I have long held to be the truth.
The basic assumption is that the person who continues to choose the hard road through life actually sees an alternative – that there are two roads, not just one.
In relation to depression or any maladaptive behaviour which continues to hold sway over a person’s life long past the time when that behaviour had value and relevance, I have come to believe there is choice involved.
Sometimes the ability to choose is buried way down deep or hidden way back in the dim mists of our past. Over time we may come to believe we have lost the freedom to choose because a particular action or emotional state has become so much an integral part of our being.
Life continues to surprise me. For which I am eternally grateful, as there was a time when my mind was so totally closed against any notion of unexpectedness or unpredictability, any possibility of life-being-any-other-way, it both frightens and amuses me to look back on it now.
But I also have a greater empathy and understanding for that long-ago depressed self than I had at the time. I now see shutting down and shutting off from the world as a natural response to the death of my mother, the person I loved most in the world, rather than an abnormal reaction.
The source of my surprise – a graph presented at a workshop on grief – in itself, surprises me. Having long since given up on the validity of statistics – as Mark Twain famously noted, ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics’ – it was enlightening to see the wave-like shape of grief over time.
Anyone who has experienced grief will recognise that it comes in waves. We even speak of waves of emotion but to see something represented visually is always far more effective than having only the verbal description.
The presenter of the workshop stated that over the first 12-13 month period – that first year after someone we love has died in which we have birthdays, anniversaries, holidays without that person in our lives – we always experience grief at a 100% level.
We may expect our grief to diminish after a set period of time and when it is still at the same level after 6 months or 12 months, when a song or a scent or a visual reminder sends us back to that initial high level of loss and sadness, we may begin to think there is something wrong with us.
Being able to see the shape of these waves – the peaks wide and close together at the beginning, narrower and further apart as time progresses – was an Aha! moment for me, an ‘of course, how could it be otherwise’ dawning of comprehension.
It’s that deeper understanding that comes via images as opposed to words. It’s why I view the combination of image plus language as being so powerful. To draw a picture of something as ephemeral as an emotion gives us another tool with which to change an entrenched behaviour, to choose one road over another.
These days, I see Depression as a place. Literally. It’s a town I used to live in for a period of my life. And as a traveller for many years, I know that to get to any destination you have to travel a certain path, take steps along that road and there are signposts on the way that tell you where in your journey you now are.
The more conscious I become, the more mindful of the connection between my internal world and my external reality, the more often I take responsibility for stayin’ the hell outta that town called Depression. The more images and metaphors I develop, the more concrete I make my internal world and its emotional territory, the more easily I navigate the tricky bits.
All of this means that I am able to take back my life as mine and hold it as the precious possession it is.
When my father died almost four years ago, I had planned to start my studies in Transpersonal Art Therapy. Mum’s death and my ensuing depression meant that my previous intended career as an Anthropologist was aborted before it began.
Knowing my father would have been saddened if that happened again, I did everything within my power to embark upon my intended studies.
An early art therapy exercise to access our own deep wisdom resulted in me sitting on the grass crying for my father. I focussed on what was under me and around me and I was able to do a drawing and make meaning from the smell of freshly-mown grass and to focus on my life. As my father would have wished for me.
I called the drawing ‘Awakening to the Beauty of Small and Simple Things.’ It’s one of my favourites and it makes me happy to imagine my father saying, ‘I’m proud of you, sweet.’
Art therapist, Linda Jo Pfeiffer, states that ‘Art tells a story. Through pictures, images and symbols, the art maker communicates feelings and thoughts and creates pathways … to understand what often lies just beyond the realm of verbal awareness.’
If we are making our way through grief or depression, trying to find another road or a new way of being or just trying to survive another day, utilising both sides of our brain via the combination of words and images, can be of immense benefit. It can help us see two roads ahead of us, not just the one.
Copyright: Karen Adler, 2012
Silver, Rawley. Aggression and Depression Assessed through Art: Using Draw-a-Story to Identify Children and Adolescents at Risk, New York, Brunner-Routledge, 2005.

‘Addiction Treatment (By Itself) is Not Enough’ by Bill White SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 BY DAVID CLARK

Extremely important reflections from Bill White on the role of treatment in addiction recovery. I have bolded what I think are in some key statements. This blog is essential reading for all people involved in this field.
‘I have spent more than four decades providing, studying, promoting, and defending addiction treatment, but remain acutely aware of its limitations.
As currently conceived and delivered, most addiction treatment programs facilitate detoxification, recovery initiation, and early recovery stabilization more effectively and more safely than ever achieved in history, but most fall woefully short in supporting the transition to recovery maintenance and the later stages of recovery, particularly for those who need it the most – those with the most severe and complex problems and the least recovery support within their natural environment.
Addiction treatment as a stand-alone intervention is an inadequate strategy for achieving long-term recovery for individuals and families characterized by high problem severity, complexity, and chronicity and low recovery capital. In isolation, addiction treatment is equally inadequate as a national strategy to lower the social costs of alcohol and other drug-related problems. Here’s why.
Specialized addiction treatment as a system of care in the U.S.:
1) attracts too few – only about 10% a year of people in need of it and only a lifetime engagement rate of 25%,
2) begins too late – with years and, in some studies, decades of dependence preceding first treatment admission,
3) retains too few (less than 50% national treatment completion rate),
4) extrudes too many (7.3% of all annual admissions – more than 130,000 individuals – administratively discharged, most for confirming their diagnosis),
5) ends too quickly, e.g., before the 90 days across levels of care recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse,
6) offers too few evidence-based choices,
7) fails to engage and support affected family members and friends,
8) is too disconnected from indigenous recovery community resources,
9) offers minimal continuing care – far short of the five-year point of recovery durability, and
10) fails to alter treatment methods in response to patient non-responsiveness, e.g., blaming substance use disorder recurrence on the patient rather than the treatment methods. (Click here for elaborations and citations related to the above points.)
As a result, we as a country invest billions of dollars in repeated episodes of addiction treatment (59% of people admitted to addiction treatment in the U.S. have at least one prior treatment episode, and 34% have 2 or more prior treatment episodes). We are providing respites within addiction careers for far too many but sustainable recovery for far too few.
The current acute care model of intervention could be significantly improved by re-engineering addiction treatment to provide early screening and intervention and long-term care (sustained monitoring, support, early re-intervention), as is increasingly done with other chronic conditions whose acuity waxes and wanes.
As a country, we have invested inordinate attention on person-focused interventions (clinical models) to the exclusion of interventions focused on shaping recovery landscapes (public health and community development models).
Professionally-directed addiction treatment should not be the first resort for AOD-related problems; it should be the last resort – a safety net to protect individuals, families, and communities.
The first line of response should be support imbedded within relationships that are natural, reciprocal (non-hierarchical), non-professionalized, non-commercialized, and potentially enduring.
Such relationships are to be found, not within a treatment center, but within the larger community environment. However, significant effort is required to build and sustain such natural resources.
It is time we nested clinical models of care within larger efforts to develop, mobilize, and sustain sources of support for resilience and recovery within the larger community. Grassroots recovery community organizations and new recovery support institutions offer vehicles for long-term recovery support that bridge the clinic and the community.
The clinic can bolster the will to recover and the means to recover, but it is the community that must provide the welcoming space in which one can live as a person in long-term recovery. It is time we balanced recovery support within the clinic with recovery support within the community.
The good news is that such a balancing is underway as state after state and community after community wraps acute care models of intervention within larger models of sustained recovery management nested within recovery-oriented systems of care – with the “system” being the community rather than just networked treatment resources.
This shift marks a revolution in the design and delivery of addiction treatment in the United States. What in its isolation addiction treatment has failed to achieve may well be achieved within newly emerging partnerships with the community.’