An Excerpt from See Me Beautiful, Charting a Path to Strength and Presence
It is an interesting task to re-enter a book I wrote over twenty years ago with the idea of adding a bit of spit and polish to it. Feeling Good About Feeling Bad was a labor of love for me back in the early days of my recovery and discovery programs. Although I had a computer back then, the task of printing a book in 1987 was still tough. When my meager supply of books ran out recently, I had to ask myself whether this was a book that was ready to retire or a book that still wanted to be in the world. Since you are reading this foreword to the new revision, you know my decision.
So much has transpired since I first scribbled these words into a notebook. My life has repeatedly taken unpredictable twists and turns. I found my true mate, I left behind NLP training as a career, spent ten years writing radio documentary on native issues with Milt (my mate), wrote several novels and had a spiritual experience that rocked my world. I’m now a grandmother, a novelist, was a college instructor and eventually bought ten acres of land in northern MN and built a straw bale house, yet, I am still the me you see represented in the pages to follow. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned in two decades is that life is not circular but a spiral. Like the swirling seashell, we continue to add whorls and colors into our original, authentic self.
Probably the biggest change in my view of the world since first writing this book is that my thinking has become simplified. Instead of all the relationship-building between the conscious and unconscious mind, I think instead in terms of just growing ourselves up. So many of us are living our lives trapped in childlike thinking and being, and all of the techniques presented here will help you to grow up.
For the most part, I’ve decided to leave the original text of Feeling Good alone although I like to think I’m also a better writer these days. I only smoothed a few sentences, cut some clutter, dropped a lot of punctuation marks, and expanded the section on levels of development. I also knocked out a couple of rambling chapters at the end. Other than these few changes, the only other thing I did was add a few personal notes and exercises at the end of the each chapter when I felt the urge. The one other thing I considered changing are the references to popular (at the time) books but even that serves as a reminder of how fleeting is our time here, and so I leave them be.
However, I still like the book and have been continually amazed at where the original 2,000 copies have been. I’ve had letters from Germany, South America, and other parts of the world. I’ve had orders from bookstores in places I’ve never been.
Just this morning I was sitting and chanting an ancient yogic text when I had the sharp realization that some day I will die and all of my ideas with me. I probably will not be a voice any will remember, not famous or wealthy as I had hoped in my youth. There is little that belongs to me except my own state of mind. For me, however, this is wealth beyond measure. I want only to serve the world in which I find myself. Let me know how you are doing. Contact and website information are in the back of the book.
Chapter One:A Blueprint for Life
For years people have referred to the unconscious mind as a kind of mysterious guru who will perform magic, if bidden, by using the right magic word. This idea of the unconscious mind was part of a mounting frustration I had with affirmations, positive mental attitude, positive visualization, and . . . well, you get my drift.
It wasn’t working. I wasn’t getting what I needed to be happy. I felt like scrooge in The Christmas Carol. Positive mental attitude . . . bah humbug! I nearly growled every time somebody told me to “think positively.”
Scott Peck began his book, The Road Less Traveled, with the words, “Life is difficult.” I agreed with him. I also agreed that thoughts are things, and that I needed to meditate, eat better, sleep more, make my bed, be a cheerful person, and pursue the American Dream. In short, I agreed with all of it—and none of it. I felt like there were two of me—one on the inside who knew who she was and one on the outside doing things according to the rules.
In the midst of my struggle, a friend gave me a medallion which I carried in my purse for years. I would take the coppery coin out and fiddle with it, reading the words printed on it over and over: “To Thine Own Self Be True.” I wondered what it meant and how in the world a person did it.
Finally, I saw that I was living my life according to other people’s rules and somehow abandoning my own greatest desires. Instead of discovering the deeper side of my own nature, I was reaching for the quick fix. I’d sit before a lighted candle waiting for illumination with no earthly idea what it was I wanted to be illuminated about. I expected magic—and got little or nothing because I lacked a basic knowledge about the mind and how it works.
By the early eighties I was at the lowest point in my life. My marriage was ending, a melancholy depression hung about my head like a cloud, and I was angry. This is it, all of it? Life was a battle and I was losing. Now I see that my growth process was like a pregnancy—I just got heavier and heavier until I could no longer ignore it and had to do something to get relief.
Relief came in the form of counseling, thirty days of treatment for co-dependency, and years of attending support groups and learning to reach out to others. That was what I now consider the first stage of my recovery—getting out of utter chaos and depression.
When I look around the world, I see many people reach this point and then stop—as if just getting out of chaos is enough. I believe there is so much more to be done once we reach this basic level of comfort and relief from chaos. In fact, this is where the fun begins, where personal growth becomes a true expansion of the self.
The tools presented in this book I used with myself first. When I began using them with clients, I saw them also begin to change and grow again. As I grew, my tool kit also grew until I could no longer present it all in a morning lecture. This book is a result of that overflow of ideas—about getting more and more from life.
Many of the tools are my own and others I’ve gleaned from keen minds and from the field of Neurolinguistic Programming. I try to give credit where credit is due.
The tools presented here are for the person in what I call Level Two and Level Three Recovery. If you are still living in Level One chaos, you’ll not have the time, energy, or interest to go this far into your own psyche. Better to use your precious energy to get out of the chaos—quit drinking, get out of the abusive relationship and find a safe place. And then pick up this book and begin to explore its contents.
Chapter Two: The Five Levels of Development
When we study psychology, we learn that children must go through certain phases of development in order to reach a healthy adulthood. As parents, we expect our little ones to have trouble regulating behavior and curiosity and to go through such things as the “terrible twos.” Unfortunately, little attention has been given to the stages we grown children must go through to find our maturity. Life is an evolutionary process that occurs in stages very similar to the child’s process. Here I use the word “Level” rather than stages to refer more to the internal process rather than the chronological stages of development.
Below is a summary of the levels of development described by Dabrowski in his Theory of Positive Disin-tegration. I first encountered this theory in a paper presented to the American Psychological Association in 1981 entitled, Inner Conflict As A Path To Higher Development In Women by Linda Silverman and Elizabeth Schuppin.
My friend, Deb, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, got this paper at a treatment center and gave me a copy. At that time, I was restless with recovery and was wondering about life after the twelve steps. The program seemed to work fine—as long as you were suffering, but when I wanted to reach for some new horizon, I felt lost and alone. As I read this paper, I had an explosive realization about where I was trying to get to. Only later, as I was tracking down the source of this paper, did I discover Dabrowski’s theory.
I present the levels here in my own shorthand because they form the foundation of this book. To make the levels a bit clearer, I describe them first as an aspect of normal childhood development followed by how the same behaviors appear in a developing adult.
Level One: Chaos
Level One is chaos. Picture the infant grabbing out to the world and pulling it toward him like a tablecloth on a table. The infant or small child is literally “eating” his world without knowledge or understanding of what he eats. His immature brain is rapidly firing and stretching in the effort to bring in language, coordination, and an understanding of his relationship to the world and to others. All of this chaotic activity is expected and anticipated by the parent.
Adult chaos, however, is quite different. It may still be related to the erratic activities of the brain but the results are neither anticipated nor expected. Adults stuck in Level One are unable to manage their own brains effectively and show serious signs of chaos with irresponsible finances, obsessive eating or drinking, and abusive behavior or mental illness. The chaos can be noisy and dangerous and aimed outward at the world—or turned inward to become a whittling away of any sense of self. Examples of a person in Level One are the abusive alcoholic, the chronically depressed, the criminal or the adult unable to face the responsibility and reality of his or her life.
Level Two: The Rules
The movement from Level Two occurs when we adopt a set of rules which puts chaos to rest. In the small child, when the brain reaches a level of stability he is suddenly able to understand that if he follows a few simple rules, Mommy and Daddy will not get angry or upset. This level sees the child into and through elementary school. Those who have spent time with small children will realize that routines and schedules and rules give the child a sense of security. They actually become attached to the schedule if the parents present it.
Likewise, a set of rules can put chaos to rest for adults. In Level Two the chaotic adult suddenly adopts a system or set of rules and chaos abates. The change is often quick, a conversion of sorts. Some of the best examples of this are the chaotic alcoholic finding the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or the individual who is saved or born again by a set of religious rules. The new structure allows his or her life to change for the better.
Level Two structures can be provided from many different directions such as religion, a new job, a strong relationship, a wellness program—even some multi-level marketing programs such as Amway can provide such structure.
Occasionally the vulnerable adult caught in chaos adopts a set of rules that is harmful. Consider gangs, cults and the Jim Jones or the David Koresh followers who lost their lives because they found and adopted a dangerous set of rules.
It became clear to me as I put these ideas into practice with clients, that one person, such as a therapist or spouse or even a parent, is not enough to provide adequate support and rules for stabilization. The individual in chaos needs the additional support of a social structure. Embracing this Level Two structure stabilizes us and allows us the time and energy we need to advance us toward further growth.
Level Three: Questioning the Rules
Level Three is one of the most fascinating levels of human development. Here, if (and only if) the individual has found security and safety in the earlier set of rules, he then moves on to Level three or questioning the rules. This is normal development. In families, it is called adolescence.
At this level, questioning the rules of the earlier struc-tures indicate that we are now beginning to self-define. Although it is a signal of growth, this rebellious period is what parents and teachers struggle with in the teen. We think we must crunch them back into the shape they had when they were good, rule-abiding children. This is like thinking we can stop a foot from growing if we buy a smaller size shoe.
This was the place I arrived when the recovery program began to feel more like limitation than enlightenment.
As I worked with these concepts, I began to recognize that each client was presenting problems from different levels of development. The woman who couldn’t tolerate my urging her to seek a future vision would demand in a frustrated voice, “Yes, but what do I do?” She clearly wanted the structure and rules needed to put chaos to rest. On the other hand, clients who were firmly established in a social order gladly engaged the question, “What do you want? What is your vision of the future?”
It is important to note that this deep questioning of beliefs, wants, and desires can look very much like Level One chaos. It is a painful time of questioning the very foundation of our lives and searching for personal definition and meaning, a stretch toward the higher levels of development.
In Level Three, we have serious psychic growing pains and, although similar to chaos, it is not. We must be very careful here to choose teachers, therapists, and helpers who are just a little further down the road and not at an earlier level. In Level Three we are explorers of the cosmos, and travelers on the life path searching for what is possible.
Level Four: Self-Definition
This level is obtained only after many years of self-examination, inquiry, and deciding which rules apply at what time. The person in Level Four knows his or her deepest goals—and which rules to follow and which ones to break. She is able to sort and toss massive amounts of input and take only what is relevant to her. She knows how to express herself without anger, passive-aggressive behavior, or manipulation. We should all long for this level or the next for our children and ourselves.
Level Five: Self-Actualization
This highest level of development is only rarely obtained by those who have carefully traveled the previous paths. This person is now dedicated to a higher goal of service. It’s as if this place exists far beyond the smaller human ego and its mundane hungers.
If you are fortunate enough to come in contact with one of these individuals, you will know it. He or she is completely self-contained, almost beyond personal desire, living at a high moral level and, most often, working for the greater good of mankind.
These levels are not clearly defined limits with boundaries and borders. Also, we can attain a new level but can be tossed back to an earlier level by tragedy or a new round of chaos. For example, the death of a loved one can cause chaos to re-emerge and send us scrambling for a Level Two support system. I use these levels here as a way to organize our thoughts. Knowing where we stand is the beginning of being able to shift direction.
I remember feeling guilty about beginning to question the rules within the recovery program. Didn’t they save my life? Was I so ungrateful? Yet a small voice in the back of my mind was crying out, “But there has to be more. I still want more.”
Just reaching a comfort zone, free from chaos, was not enough for me. The ache in my middle never goes away, and I don’t expect it will until I’m gone from this place. It has become my best friend; it pushes and nudges me on, even when I think I’ve finally gotten there.
If you are asking yourself, “Is this it? Isn’t there more?” then this book has come into your hands for the right reasons.
The following chapters move from the big picture to finer and finer pieces of inner awareness. The goal of the contents and the exercises is to encourage us to become our own teacher, guide or therapist and to build a temple based on who we are on the inside, not who we think we should be or could be. This journey begins by stressing the most important relationship we’ll ever build—the one with our own self.
Read this book from beginning to end and take time to personalize it. The examples of client’s stories have been scrambled and the names changed to protect the identities of specific individuals. Also, I’ll mix up the he/she examples randomly to include both sexes.
See Me Beautiful
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