Brookside Center for Counseling and Hypnotherapy

 

Introspection

by Maurice Kouguell, Ph.D., BCETS. 
DIPLOMATE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF EXPERTS IN TRAUMATIC STRESS

 

A beggar had been sitting by the side of the road for thirty years.  One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar. “I have nothing to give you,” said the stranger. Then he asked the beggar, “What’s that you are sitting on?” “Nothing,” the other man replied, “just an old box. I have been sitting on it as long as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No,” said the beggar. “What’s the point? There is nothing in there.” Have a look inside,” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.

For many years, I have been that beggar.

Several years ago, I heard a metaphysician who stated that “if you are looking for happiness, look inside you.” It took me about 10 years to understand and be able to feel what he meant. I was like the beggar sitting on that box not knowing it was filled with gold.  I do not recall how the change started to come about for it was a very gradual, almost imperceptible, one. I became aware that no one is responsible for my happiness. I needed to find out for myself why I experienced anger, why I disapproved of certain behaviors, why was I intolerant. I became aware that unhappiness stemmed from a continuous search directed at the outside world while all the time the elusive happiness was within me.

I learned to acknowledge. I can’t remember where I came across that concept.   I found that acknowledging how I felt and accepting it gave me peace of mind.

Peace of mind is obtained by practicing acceptance. Acknowledging something did not mean liking it. It simply meant seeing things as they are without going any further--suspending judgment and expectation. I trained myself to look at people the way they are and accept them without expecting them to be different. That, to me, was a difficult progression. Even today I sometimes stray from my own guidelines but, when I do, I acknowledge it.

I have given myself permission to pursue the need to know. Besides reading and attending workshops, I have also met with a Shaman, talked with theologians and allowed myself to accept all the information provided, making a concerted effort not to analyze what was being said. In time, I either accepted or rejected what I learned. I always gave myself time to feel and to use my intuition to guide me.  I discovered that when one has to explain or justify, one limits one’s growth and runs the risk of once again falling into a traditional thinking mode thus becoming confined by conventional thinking.  Academic and institutional thinking have played an important part in my life and I have a high regard for some traditions, but I am also aware of how restricting they can be.  Institutions last because they do not change. Status quo seems to prevail. Often it seems that we perpetuate what does not work because we can predict the outcome.

This did not mean that I allowed myself to accept the status quo at all times. There were times when I felt deeply that changes must occur and if I could be instrumental in bringing them about I would do so. Change is always difficult for most people. It is comfortable to be confined in a tradition, even when one knows that the tradition may no longer work. I believe that there is a similarity between tradition and addiction.  Both start with a need to be met and when the need is no longer in dire need to be recognized the habit remains-- the tradition remains. Many traditions are questionable, except perhaps for some religious rituals. The first time hazing was introduced, for example, it probably had a strong significance. Now hazing has led to death in many instances. There is still a tradition in Higher Education where Doctoral students have to deal with repeated rejections of their dissertations because some professors believe that this is part of a process to induct new members into academia.

I have always been driven to bring about changes whenever I felt it was indicated.   This certainly did not make me popular. For instance, as a junior member of the Educational Clinic at the then City College of New York, I questioned the tradition of the clinic that social workers treated parents and psychologists treated children. With the cooperation and backing of one of the staff psychiatrists, I was allowed to work with parents as well. As a school psychologist in public schools, I brought changes in spite of objections. All the objections were based on traditions. For instance, families immigrated to my school district during the Cuban crisis and their children did not speak English. I suggested they be allowed to attend Spanish classes (this was before the ESL and bi-lingual programs came to pass) at least to be able to get oriented to their environment. There were severe objections because Spanish was a “foreign language” and only students with good grades were allowed to take a second language. I was instrumental in requesting girls to take shop classes and boys to take home economics.  Inevitably, the resistance was prefaced with “but we have never done it that way.”

For some people, FEAR OF CHANGE IS A TREMEMDOUS HURDLE TO OVERCOME. We do not know how much better things might be if change were to take place. Why does it take a battered spouse to overstay in a marriage? Is it only the poor self-esteem or is it that one may not feel they deserve better? Or is it that there is a concern about how difficult it might be to be happy?

HANDLING FRUSTRATION AND ANGER

I have become aware that much of my annoyance with people stems from the simple fact that I would not accept their behavior. I certainly would not behave the way they do under similar circumstances. I became more and more aware that acceptance of others had to do with looking at them with different eyes. Behavior from others can be irritating to me when, from my perspective, I expect them to behave differently. At these times, we often say to ourselves things like “This behavior is unacceptable” or “I would never do it that way” or “They should be ashamed of themselves.”  Well, apparently they are not and they are different and perhaps we should accept that God created men in His image because had to. Had   He created men in my image we would have a perfect world and...how very dull that would be! I also became aware that no one gave me the right to judge anyone and, above all, I should reevaluate my absolute standards. When we feel joy, for instance, we can find it so much more fulfilling when we let go of regrets about the past or worries about the future and just experience it. I had to learn to do without thoughts of what ifs.  The mind is so fertile when it projects into the future and creates all kinds of scenarios.  Usually these projections were catastrophic and had no basis (except for the distortions that fear brought about).

During this period of time, I commenced my study of energy therapies and began to question the necessity of having to go back to our childhoods to resolve current issues.  With techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique and hypnotherapy, one could frequently get rid of phobias, fears, anxieties etc. in less than one hour. Other techniques such as Focusing brought to my awareness that the body never lies. One needs to listen to one’s body for guidance and awareness of discomfort created by thoughts. It was becoming clearer to me that psychoanalytic methods, as well as traditional psychotherapies, are vehicles to avoid dealing with the present by focusing on the past. To quote Eckhart Tolle in the POWER OF NOW, page 75:

“Deal with the past on the level of the present. The more attention you give to the past the more you energize it, and the more likely you are to make a “self” out of it. Don’t misunderstand: Attention is essential, but not to the past as past. Give attention to the present; give attention to your behavior, to your reactions, to your moods, thoughts, emotions, fears and desires as they occur in the present. There is the past in you. If you can be present enough to watch all those things, not critically or analytically, but non judgmentally, then you are dealing with the past and dissolve it through the power of your presence. You cannot find yourself going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present.

We have choices in life. We can choose to have peace of mind, we can choose to hold grudges against ourselves or others thus choosing to remain stuck to the past or we can choose to be liberated by freeing ourselves from anger and resentment. We can even choose to be sad or happy unless we suffer from a clinical depression .It is only possible to find peace of mind in the present moment. Learning to stay in the present freed me from experiencing anger, fear and guilt. I am still learning and reminding myself to stay in the present. I need to keep reminding myself that fear does not exist, it is only a product of the mind racing ahead and catastrophising. Although I am getting better at it I need to train to look for the positive in people and appreciate within myself when I do that how quiet it feels inside and experience a peace of mind and a peace within my emotions. No one can provide it for me, it is up to me to do it and savor the wonderful state of mind that one can achieve. I read somewhere that “painful" circumstances may be unavoidable, but suffering is optional.”

Another perspective is from the text of Dharma Talk on Sympathetic Joy, one of the 4 Abodes of a Bodhisattva (Copyright 1998 by Tom R. Childers):

“We can all let go of worries and regrets and fears. Some people may say this is hard to do, but that is not really the case. The hard part for some people is to finally realize that it is not hard. It is something we can do naturally if we create the correct causes and conditions. The causes and conditions for letting go is just mindfulness. Thus mindfulness is the key for us to touch our own joy so we can begin to really feel the joy of others”.

Maybe my journey can be best described as one of enlightenment. Our busy, often overactive, minds have been trained to examine all the consequences of our actions. I needed to relearn thinking positively when going into the future outcomes and eradicate catastrophic thinking. Going into the future generated fear in me and it took me a while (and still does) to stay in the present and escape the illusion of some horrible thing happening to me. Of course, I knew how to stop, if not at least control, this thinking pattern. At times, I still have to free myself from looking at the future in a pessimistic way. Teaching it to others is easy, but when applying it to myself, I have to learn to practice staying in the present using various approaches. The one insight for me was to learn not to expect immediate results. I also needed to be freed from my attachment to my concepts or ideas, and to modify and let go of the importance of thinking and feeling that my ideas are “right” and the ideas of others are “wrong.” Nature doesn’t care about right or wrong. The natural world just is.   My thinking is very congruent with Tolles’ on this subject. His views go beyond any particular religion or doctrine. The goal is to be able to enter into and sustain an enlightened state of consciousness throughout everyday life. The publisher of THE POWER OF NOW expresses this perspective better than I could.

“Eckhart Tolle shared the enlightenment he himself experienced after a startling personal transformation. This book extracts the essence of his teachings about how to free oneself from enslavement to the mind.  The goal is to be able to enter into and sustain an enlightened state of consciousness throughout everyday life. Through meditations and simple techniques one can learn to control one’s mind from racing. Through mental relaxation one can take charge of one’s physical health."

Studying psychoneuroimmunology brought to my awareness the strong connection between mind and body. It is to be noted that, historically, there were a series of events that occurred which created the dichotomy between mind and body so common in our modern lives. At one point, for instance, there was a political or ideological schism between the church and scientists. Scientists were forbidden to dissect the body because the church thought the soul resided in the body and you could not desecrate it. Scientists though, agreed to work with the body and suggested the church take care of the mind. Another major event came about 25 years ago when various diseases and infections clearly illustrated the mind body connection. Cardiovascular diseases became clear examples of how lifestyles affected the body. Today, it has been noted that most heart attacks are due to job dissatisfaction and occur on Monday mornings (about 8 or 9 am) and are clearly related to job dissatisfaction. Stress related to changes has been known to promote disease. One can be protected from stress by good self-esteem and a good support system. Feeling helpless makes people susceptible. Poor self-esteem and helplessness lead to a distorted view of the world that is then perceived as a hostile place.

Einstein was once asked, “What is the most important question a person can ask?” He said, “Is the universe a friendly place or not?” People with low self-esteem will describe God as a lowly, mean spirited Santa Claus waiting to punish them. A person with good self-esteem sees a benevolent forgiving God. We always have choices in life.

I am quoting the following since I resonate with the thoughts that are expressed:

We can all let go of worries and regrets and fears. Some people may say this is hard to do, but that is not really the case. The hard part for some people is to finally realize that it is not hard. It is something we can do naturally if we create the correct causes and conditions. The causes and conditions for letting go is just mindfulness. Thus mindfulness is the key for us to touch our own joy so we can begin to really feel the joy of others. When our empty nature blossoms from potential into actuality, then our form will naturally follow our essence just as warmth flows from the sun.

from Text of Dharma Talk on Sympathetic Joy, one of the 4 Abodes of a Bodhisattva (copyright 1998 by Tom R. Childers)

Not what I am. I am a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, a psychologist, a violist…and the list continues. I believe that everyday I come closer to the essence of who I am.

My identity now has been influenced by liking myself. I like who I am. I like who I am and I have discovered that place inside myself. It is a safe place. More and more, I have learned to experience situations as being positive. I have given myself permission to let go of concerns about how other people see me. Being accepted is no longer an issue. I like who I am and no longer need to be molded by others to be accepted by them. The hardest thing is for me to accept who I am. Freedom from the shackles of society has evolved from my own attitude. I have learned to take time and think and then direct my thoughts to the path I have chosen. Letting go of any old attachments to anger or dislike is essential. I have learned to allow myself to do what I really want everyday. I have learned that I can enjoy reading even when it is not totally related to my profession. Yes:  this is something new and most enjoyable; I am experiencing that happiness can only come from inside. Ultimately, there is no limit to what we can do for ourselves!


"Come to the edge," he said.
"We can't, Master, we're scared."
"Come to the edge," he said.
"We can't, Master, we're scared."
"Come to the edge," he said.
They came.
He pushed them …
They flew.Freedom is our destiny.

May you discover the boundless joy at the core of your being. This is your invitation to freedom, your road map to the soul.

Are you ready to soar?

 

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