Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 Focus: I choose to live in a state of constant total amazement.

In the poignant film Joe Versus the Volcano, Meg Ryan’s character sums up our predicament: “Almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. Only a few people are awake, and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”

How, then, do you awaken from the coma of a dreary, burdensome, or oppressive life? The antidote is passion. Passion is the avenue through which life guides you to fulfill your unique purpose. When Morton Lauridsen’s friend heard music that stirred his soul, he found a reason to awaken and live. We all have a reason to awaken and live, but we must act on it to reap its benefits.

In the classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris phones his friend Cameron to ask him to play hooky. Cameron tells Ferris, “I’m too sick.” Ferris replies, “You’re not sick. You just can’t think of anything you want to get up for.” If you feel sick or tired, ask yourself, “What might I do during a day that would make me want to wake up in the morning to do?” Your honest answer to that question will open the door to your next important step in life.

Excerpted from the article:
How to Get Out of a Coma & Be the Director of Your Own Life
Written by Alan Cohen.

Read more of this article…
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A Daily Dose of Sanity by Alan CohenA Daily Dose of Sanity: A Five-Minute Soul Recharge for Every Day of the Year
by Alan Cohen.

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

‘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.


This week’s blogs is the third of a continuing meditation on stigma, recovery concealment/disclosure, and its personal and social effects. Here are some random thoughts we would like to share for your reflection.
Social Effects of Concealment Recovery concealment (“passing”) offers some level of protection to the individual, but buttresses the social conditions (e.g., public misperceptions, prejudices, policies, and overt acts of discrimination) that make concealment a necessary option. To be silent about one’s recovery status is at the social/political level an act of conscious or unconscious complicity in addiction/recovery-related stigma. What is unsettling about the agitation of advocacy movements within stigmatized communities is that they bring past and present acts of such complicity into full awareness.
Process versus Event Disclosure of recovery status is not a one-time decision, but a lifelong series of decisions that evolve in tandem with changes in personal, family, and cultural circumstances. Coming out is a continual process requiring sustained commitment.
Simultaneous, Serial, or Selective Disclosure People who share multiple socially stigmatized traits face decisions on which aspects of their life to reveal or continue to conceal and the best timing and contexts of such revelations. Such revelations may occur in a simultaneous, serial (time-spaced decisions–like peeling layers of an onion), or selective (disclosing one dimension while continuing to conceal one or more other dimensions) fashion.
Intimacy/Safety Continuum Recovery disclosure is not an all or none proposition; it often unfolds incrementally based on levels of intimacy and safety and may vary from no disclosure (complete concealment) to minimal disclosure (status of recovery) to maximum disclosure (details of recovery story).
Disclosure Testing Recovery disclosure in interpersonal encounters is best done in stages, with safety and comfort evaluated at each stage.
Disclosure and Recovery Identity Recovery identity is fluid over time, and degrees of disclosure often evolve across the personal/recovery life cycle.
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Disclosure and Personal Privacy Disclosure of a socially stigmatized condition does not imply abandonment of rights to privacy. Each person has the right to disclose or not disclose and to define the boundaries of such disclosure. The decision to share one’s recovery status and the decision to share the details of one’s recovery story are quite different decisions as they represent far different levels of intimacy and vulnerability and require attention to the way in which these different levels of disclosure serve different purposes.
Recovery Storytelling The structure and details of one’s recovery story may change over time as one grows (again, an onion-like peeling of the addiction/recovery experience) and through exposure to the stories of others in recovery.
In-Group Disclosure “A very widely employed strategy of the discreditable person is to handle his risks by dividing the world into a large group to whom he tells nothing, and a small group to whom he tells all and upon whose support he relies on…” (Goffman, Stigma, 1963, p. 95).
Language of Disclosure Recovery disclosure requires a language of disclosure, which one can acquire from others in recovery or from the larger culture when recovery has penetrated cultural consciousness. The in-group jargon of a recovery fellowship may have limited utility for out-group communications to persons without personal/family recovery experience. Such in-group and out-group language–disclosures to people with and without personal recovery experience–often evolve across the stages of recovery, as recovery communities mature, and as social attitudes toward recovery progress or regress. Collective coming out of people across different pathways of recovery requires a new generic language through which the recovery experience can be expressed to the larger public.
Paradox of In-Group Language It is ironic that the majority of people experiencing active addiction shun the “alcoholic or “addict” identity, while hundreds of thousands of people no longer actively addicted regularly introduce themselves as an “alcoholic” or “addict” in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
In-Group versus Out-Group Communication During the early stages of their cultural/political mobilization, discredited groups may embrace terms of castigation thrust on them by the dominant culture and recast such words as symbols of in-group identification. Historically pejorative language could thus be used for in-group communications at the same time use of this language is being challenged by recovery advocates within the larger culture. Terms like “alcoholic” and “addict” may have great psychological and community-building value within cultures of recovery even as recovery advocates allege that these terms constitute a language of objectification and advocate a preference for person first language at the level of public discourse (e.g., “person with a substance use disorder” versus “substance abuser,” “alcoholic,” or “addict”).
Disclosure and Retraction Sometimes recovery status is later retracted as one reframes his or her personal story, deleting addiction and recovery as meaningful categories within the story. Addiction recovery, like recovery from other life-threatening conditions, can constitute a transitory or enduring identity, as a recovery is integrated into a person’s overall sense of self.
Disclosure as Social Advancement Recovery disclosure can be a way of asserting a new identity for social/occupational advancement–what Goffman refers to as “making a profession of their stigma” (p. 27). A recovery identity may also be falsely embraced and visibly worn as a means of transcending an otherwise stained identity (e.g., explanation for criminal or immoral behavior) or for social advancement (e.g., exaggeration/fabrication of addiction/recovery story when new opportunities are linked to that status).
Collective Disclosure Recovery disclosure can occur as a personal act, but it can also occur as a collective act, as happens each year in public recovery celebration events in the U.S. and in other countries. Rituals of collective disclosure can exert a profound influence on recovery identity and embolden social disclosure of recovery status outside of such events.
Survival of Stigma Surviving a discredited condition/status can be a meaningful source of strength, potentially allowing one a depth of experience, character, and quality of life that might otherwise not have been possible without such challenges. Lecturing at the 1945 Yale School of Alcohol Studies, AA co-founder Bill Wilson referred to this as “the sublime paradox of strength coming out of weakness.”

Why You Should Care About Mental Health Oct 09, 2014 By: RADM Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., Acting U.S. Surgeon General

Most people don’t realize how common mental health and substance abuse problems are in the United States. Just as there are many types of physical illness, mental illness is varied and can affect people at all stages of life. In fact, at some time in their lives, nearly all Americans will be affected by a mental health or substance use disorder in themselves or their families. These are the hard facts:

Depression is a common but serious illness. Each year almost 7 percent of U.S. adults experience a major depressive disorder. Depression also affects our youth–3 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds have experienced a seriously debilitating depressive disorder.
One in 10 adolescents aged 16 to 17 had a major depressive episode in the past year. One in five young adults aged 18 to 25 (18.7 percent) have experienced some form of mental illness in the past year.
An estimated 23.1 million Americans (8.9 percent) needed treatment for a problem related to drugs or alcohol.
People with depression, other mental disorders, or a substance abuse disorder are at risk for suicide. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and for every death by suicide, there are 25 attempts.
Unfortunately, up to half of all people with mental illnesses and 90 percent of people who have a substance use disorder do not get the treatment they need. There are steps we can take to make a difference. Mental illness is treatable and the vast majority of Americans who have experienced mental illness recover and live happy, productive lives. They are our friends, neighbors, and families. We can strive to provide the best prevention, treatment, and recovery support services based on scientific evidence and the rich experiences of our diverse communities. We can involve individuals, families, schools, businesses and others to ensure that all Americans receive the support they need to achieve optimum behavioral health.

Long gone are the days in which we thought of physical health and mental health as separate and distinct. One is not possible without the other. I challenge you to join me in making a difference and together we can improve the health of the nation.

Learn more about mental and emotional well-being and the other priorities in the National Prevention Strategy.

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