Tag Archives: Inner Wisdom

A Tribute to Paula and Matt

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A Man Gives Way to His Addiction–and Dies

Shortly before Christmas, Matt’s mother came home to her dead 40 yr. old son. He had been living with her for several years in an attempt to help him commit to sobriety. Her values prevented her from walking away. His addiction had been a long struggle for both. She had talked to friends for strength in getting through the difficulties in trying to help him. Her efforts to lead him and support him ended in tragedy, his death from alcohol while she briefly vacationed with other family.

Truly, Addiction is the Plague of our Times

Dear Paula,

Since Matt’s passing, the process of grieving is well underway for you. I just wanted to let you know that we are with you in spirit and understanding. Perhaps you are even ahead somewhat because of the long time you dealt with his dying process. He was headed to self-destruction for many years, especially, I think, after his head injury, also a part of the addiction picture.

So, the many memories of him keep coming up for you, memories of both good and bad times, memories of the little boy and his brothers, all the joys and tribulations that a young family brings. Memories of the highs and lows of your life as they were connected to your boys flash in and out of your grieving awareness, until they hopefully will give way to peace and acceptance.

You have been in this process for years, ever since it became clear that Matt’s addiction would eventually bring his demise. I know of no worse destruction than that of addiction. And, of course, Matt received the double dose of brain injury that grievously affected the addiction.

The bad is very real and culminated in his final self-destruction that you are now left with processing, struggling through the emotions, and finally, giving his actions, struggles, and terrible decisions, that he couldn’t seem to stop making, their resting place.

I hope that you are kind to yourself. What you showed to the world was a mother who did everything possible, against overwhelming odds for success. It is very difficult to let our children live out their destinies without thinking that maybe we could stop the process. You tried valiantly to intervene, and give him unconditional love. His life was better for it, the best that circumstances would allow.

Matt was actually a very good man. He had kindness and love of the animal world as primo assets. Even with his deficits, humor did not pass him by. He worked hard and had an admirable set of skills. I enjoyed getting to know him and was grateful for the way he helped others without reservation. We will miss him, too

Now, hopefully, you can heal and set a course for yourself that gives you joy, peace, and freedom.

With Respect,


Mind-Body Health as a Way of Life

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Reducing Stress: A Whole Mind-Body Health Experience

Within the stress relief area, emotional resilience, courage and positive thinking are critical for increased coping skills and prevention of hopelessness. In the face of overwhelming events and injury, it may take a period of time before attitudes and thoughts can swing to hopefulness and positive thinking. However, survival depends on attacking problems from a “can do,” determined stance. Talk to others, let friends and family be of help, get a therapist when feeling stuck.

Activities that reduce stress and promote feelings of control and self-esteem vary from simply getting out of house and talking to those who care, exercising however you can, to finding ways to be mobile. From a place of mastery can grow self-confidence and hope. If anxiety doesn’t overwhelm, the day can be manageable. Taking control over physical movement and daily living activities produces self-reliance and independent living skills, and serves as a re-introduction to your inner core strength.

A core concept in pain management is mind-body relaxation. Biofeedback teaches such skills; however, you can get a jump on the strategies by teaching yourself or using cds/computer software to learn relatively simple relaxation concepts.

Learn and practice breathing and relaxation skills.

Let’s review from other posts how relaxing your body and mind allows for healing. The body cannot heal if it is tense; the mind may take you to irrational fears, worry and ultimately depression. Tension increases inflammation of muscles. Here’s where you bring in your “healthy avatar,” that part of you that naturally connects you to health and vitality. Relaxation skills will lead the way.

Simple relaxation by deep breathing can calm down anxiety: Steps to begin: Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm. Breathing from your chest won’t relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your ‘gut.’ Slowly repeat a calming word or phrase such as ‘relax’ or ‘take it easy.’ Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply. For those who used breathing for child-birth or other stressors, rely on your previous learning.

*Imagery; visualize a relaxing experience from either your memory or your imagination, your special place. This technique is accomplished all in your “mind’s eye.” Some people go to the beach, to grandma’s house, a meadow or mountain top……Have your special place in your mind before beginning. Then start with breathing to relax and set the tone.
**Use all of your 5 senses to intensify the imagery: 1. Sight–see colors, shapes; 2. Hear sounds that you would expect at your special place–soft voices, music, birds singing,a bubbling brook; 3. Taste a special drink, lick your lips and taste the sea salt; 4. Feel the motion of your body as you take a sip, walk along the beach, or into grandma’s house; 5. Smell the pleasing odors you expect in your special place–the ocean scent, grandma’s pie in the oven, flowers in the meadow.

*Learn and practice non-strenuous, slow exercises such as yoga or tai chi to physically relax your muscles and help you center thoughts. If you can’t join a class, use internet or bookstore resources. Even if you can’t do every movement, do those you can. Here’s a secret: “see in your mind’s eye” yourself fully doing the exercise. Use this strategy as a visualization. Then be open to how this may subtly change you. Be watchful.

Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you’re in a tense situation, learn the techniques before you need them. Make relaxation a part of your lifestyle, your everyday existence.

As difficult as your feel your situation is, build in hope and personally direct your healing by returning inward and drawing on strengths you may have forgotten or have been afraid to use. It may seem like a difficult road, but it is doable.

The least you need to know:
1. Good coping skills begin with you taking charge of what is needed.
2. If you allow negative thinking to prevail, you will struggle more.

If you chose to accept this mission, it will require:
1. Honestly examining your attitude.
2. Learning the skills above.

Self-Esteem–From Loss To Letting Go

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Acceptance Bridges Loss To Letting Go

Following the experience of loss, progressing to moving on with life is a bumpy road with many in between steps hovering over acceptance before settling into letting go. Self-esteem is usually deeply scarred by loss, whether the loss is one’s own abilities (an injury or medical condition), a loved one, a job, a relationship, money, status, property…

Loss is a universal happening that few are spared, and that encompasses the person’s life until the loss is accepted and the person goes on, in spite of the new circumstances, until the grieving work is completed. It is only then that self-esteem begins to repair.

Few go through major losses without damage to self-worth in some form. The questions “why me? what did I do?” often seem locked into the grief process, as though the loss is a personal vendetta. Loss has numerous “stages” that seem universally experienced, such as those laid out by psychiatrist Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Suggestions For Coping

The ability to center oneself and rely on the inner wisdom you have gained just by living long enough will set the tone of all other skills you develop. Easy to learn techniques can be enhanced with tapes, cds or software programs.

At each point in the process of grieving, the danger of losing self-esteem is woven into the picture. Sharing with others helps put the loss in perspective and to keep the focus on the process, not inaccuracies in thinking such as I am not worthy or I need to be punished.

Journaling is a good resource. Writing daily helps the process move along. Write your journal longhand, not on a mechanical device. There is a body connection to handwriting that is not made by typing.

Knowledge about the universality of the process is a further way to put self-esteem issues into perspective. Read about loss and how others cope, read personal stories and professional suggestions. There is no time table or specific route that one must take. Everyone’s process is different, individual progress is the norm.

Acceptance Is The Key

Ultimately, the grieving will lead to acceptance and moving on. Acceptance does not mean that the loss is viewed favorably or that now life goes on as usual. It merely means that the hurt is in a place where day to day functioning can proceed, that one can live life again. The pain is moved from encompassing every waking and sleeping hour to being on the periphery, still able to be touched, but not overwhelming.

Acceptance of loss is the key to moving on. In order to accept loss, a series of processing emotions must occur. Reviewing thoughts and feelings, preferably with another person and/or in your writing will lead to relief.

The emotional pain can be devastating; the person may have gotten stuck in the loss, often because of fear–fear that the emotional pain will be too much to handle. It often feels like the emotional pain will destroy the person, if allowed into awareness. Emotional pain is scary, in itself, emotional expression will build tolerance, and eventually, will move the person into acceptance.

“I’ll Just Stuff It”

The resistance to feeling the emotions is often carried out by avoidance–avoidance of thinking about the events of the loss. Distraction by immersing one’s self in extraneous activities, even “running” from one activity to the next, prevents thoughts, let alone emotions, from being brought into awareness.

The coping mechanism of “running” may even have an appropriate place at times in the assimilation of the loss. No pain can be felt for extended periods without affecting functioning. However, when “running” never stops long enough to process loss even in a minimal way, dysfunction, likely severe depression, ultimately is a risk.

Therapy Is One Answer

Clients tell therapists, “I want to let go, I just don’t know how. I know I have to let go” Invariably, the answer is to process, work through, verbalize, feel the feelings, learn coping skills. In the big, world picture, few go to therapy, and therapy isn’t the only answer. Coping with loss is part of the human condition. For those amenable, therapeutic processing is a welcome answer. At this point the therapeutic process is one of uncovering, layer by layer, the events and pain of the original loss, moving through the loss into acceptance and eventually letting go. When coping with loss has progressed into complicated grief, therapy will restore balance.

Stay The Course

The resolution is process, process, process the loss. Don’t grieve alone. Stay in touch with your positives, those ideas that you believe about yourself that can compensate for your loss. Little by little develop a new way of being. Let the loss be a column of strength that guides you to build a new you. You never have to forget the loss, but evidently you have more work to do.

The least you need to know:
1. There is a way out; it is a process; you need others to help.
2. You are beginning a new life phase.
3. Self worth will return.

The Mission, should you choose to accept, requires:
1. You open yourself to not running, to trust that you can handle the emotions, to let others help.
2. You put the proper perspective on self-esteem: you are worthy, you can survive, you accept loss for what it is and go on to do the best you can.

Now, This Is Progress In Raising Self-Esteem!

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Words From A Believer

Time is usually necessary to integrate change, especially in self-esteem. My client deployed overseas after she had sought therapy for a number of sessions. She had been feeling desperate about relationships not working out and finding herself being used. However, she was afraid of letting relationships go because of her fears of loneliness and beliefs that she was only worthwhile, if a man gave her validation. I recently received this very welcome e-mail: (Identifiers of client removed)

Dr. White,
I wanted to update you that about a month ago I bumped into “friend” at my job. You would be so proud of me that I am finally over him. I saw him and he said hi and I said hi back. I was cordial like you said I should be. I kept walking though, so I didn’t stand there and talk to him. Then a couple hours past and he emailed me. He was asking me all sorts of things about me and my life. He even said he thinks about me all the time and he likes what we had before I left. I told him it’s nice that he thinks about me, but I don’t do the same. That was it. He did start working with me again at my job in “city,” but I won’t be dealing with him at all since I am deploying every other 4m and when I’m home in the states I am off for 4m. When I saw him, I felt nothing. It was great, and what’s even better, is that I didn’t even feel any anger towards him. It was weird because I didn’t expect to not feel angry anymore and that’s how I really know I’m over it. He’s obviously still trying to be with me, but don’t worry I’m not falling it for it. BTW I have to go back overseas in the Fall. I wanted to say thank you for everything. You’ve really helped me a lot. I hope you are doing well.
Take Care,

We will get her thoughts on how she did it in the next post.

The least you need to know:
1. Getting caught in hurtful behavior patterns takes a powerful toll on self-esteem.
2. Recovery is possible.

The mission, should you choose to accept, requires:
1. Recognition that you may be stuck
in hurtful behavior patterns.
2. It is within your power to break those patterns.
3. You have to want to change!