Sunday, July 30, 2017

       Over the past year, I've embarked on sharing my experiences, research and perspectives to inform and benefit others.  Whether it be a result of my 20 years owning and operating businesses or the personal enrichment I have attained through evidence-based psychologically and emotionally restorative methods and eastern practices.  I work with businesses, non-profits, community organizations and individuals teaching all to see the transformation that comes from more effective, less assumptive communication or our biological need for regular face to face connection and being regularly social.  These are the basic practices that keep our minds healthy, challenged and engaged.  And it is we who can choose such new perceptions to reshape or re-energize our experience.  
        It is in this spirit I'd like to share with you this hopeful, and successful "emotional health" treatment method, so simple in its application that many of us have come to realize its power through both adverse and positive experiences in our lives thus far.  What is it? It's not a pill, a thought process or an exercise, really. It's something we do every day, but increasingly less and less so in the most basic and cathartic way we have for centuries. That is, surrounding ourselves with family, friends, and peers, just talking. And listening. Yep, that's it.          A great many of our fellow humans are dying for it, but they are marginalized and "othered" by their inability to engage in a fashion we deem normal.  Usually, though, it's not that extreme, almost every one of us requires this most basic human gift throughout our days, weeks and years.  And the fallout from a lack of it has resulted in a backlash, an epidemic in personal dissatisfaction (despite our untold comforts), depression, anxiety, and discontent.  The trend is extending itself to ever younger people.   I urge you to work daily and diligently to continue to incorporate this art form daily in your lives--especially with your kids--or to bring it back to your routine.  The benefits of management of our social muscle and the medicinal value of close personal relationships and meaningful conversation are only now being re-realized and finally acknowledged as the single greatest natural ability we possess and require to stave off discontentment, "mental illness" and often insatiable search for meaning.  As with most truths, sometimes we've had the answer within us all the while.  
         And if you have interest in reading more, particularly about a healing communication model, wonderfully successful on a large scale, read on.  If not, you've been re-introduced to the transformative, empirically proven human art form within each and every one of us.
         The following is borrowed from Dr. Neel Burton's piece in Psychology Today back in 2015. The movement itself dates back to 1980.  It's quite simple really.  If we take the time to return to our basic emotional intelligence and listen to one another to bring back the art of real live conversation rather than our growing avoidance of it with new technologies which are "saving us time,"  or "making things easier or clearer" we will help ourselves once again, authentically help ourselves. 

The Benefits of Finnish-Founded Open Dialogue

Open Dialogue was developed in Western Lapland in the 1980s. It involves a consistent family/social network approach to care, in which the primary treatment is carried out through meetings involving the patient together with his or her family members and extended social network.
Open Dialogue emerged out of a decade long, organic process, while clinicians (including Jaakko Seikkula and Markku Sutela) searched for the best treatment for acute mental illness and, in particular, psychosis. Many of the changes they made along the way were reactions to encountering ambiguity and uncertainty. They decided to free themselves from searching for a non-existent truth, concentrating instead on curiosity and improvisation. Linked to this, they incorporated the recognition that language shapes our reality, and that one’s language, and thought, is dependent on seeing the world through a personal ‘lens’. The main aim of clinician involvement became the creation of a shared understanding of the problem, through a shared language.
The Open Dialogue approach has spread across much of Scandinavia and other European countries including Germany, Poland, and Italy. In the USA, New York City's successful Parachute Project is founded on similar principles.
The words that form our thoughts are not static symbols. For Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, words carry only fragments of meaning, with a more complete meaning arising only through an exchange of words (dialogue) with others. This could mean that our language, our thoughts, and our world are constructed largely through our interpersonal relationships, rather than on empirical truths.

The ‘construction’ of psychosis
In the same way, might psychosis and another mental dis-ease also be constructed within a social network? Perhaps most psychotic symptoms could be seen, not as symptoms of an illness, but as a strategy to survive strange and traumatic experiences—as a sane reaction to insane circumstances. As such, psychosis could be seen as more normal than it presently is, a natural human tendency. Indeed, psychosis is much more common than most people imagine: studies of young people reveal that over 25% have had psychotic experiences.
Unfortunately, psychiatry as a profession tends to reduce psychotic symptoms to cold and clinical observations, ignoring the possibility of meaning, and preferring to label and pathologize the problems. This risks alienating and invalidating the person and family in distress, who may all be attempting to communicate experiences for which there are not yet any words. In so doing, could we be missing an opportunity to harness their own potential to help themselves?

The ‘re-construction’ of psychosis
Emotional trauma often resists conversation. When a person is traumatized, his or her emotions become unbearable. It may be impossible to put the experience into words, such that the person has difficulty in understanding himself and in making himself understood by others. These others perceive little more than incomprehensible symptoms of mental illness.
Putting words to emotions can lead to the confusion and distress around those emotions being seen from a new, more manageable perspective. In Open Dialogue, the aim is to replace symptoms observed within a social network with a shared language, and therefore a new shared understanding.

The 'Open' in 'Open Dialogue'
A key concept in Open Dialogue is transparency. No decisions about the person in distress are made outside of the network meetings, and within this setting, the clinicians openly discuss their observations. The clinicians are part of the polyphony. They are ‘with, not doing to’. They reflect with their authentic selves, fostering a true human-human relationship by presenting their own emotional responses. The aim is to avoid objectification and distance between clinicians and others.
Some readers may have noted the indebtedness of Open Dialogue to the insights of Carl Rogers, the founder of person-centered therapy. Open Dialogue clinicians need to embody the three basic Rogerian features of a therapist: congruence (transparency), unconditional positive regard, and empathy.

The 'Dialogue' in 'Open Dialogue'
The emphasis in Open Dialogue is on the generation of dialogue, rather than promoting change directly. The aim is for the dialogue to allow the members of the network to summon their own psychological resources, with which to deal with the problem.
In Open Dialogue, every crisis is assumed to be unique. Hasty or formulaic decisions are avoided, and it is accepted that understanding is a gradual, organic process. It may be that no important decisions are taken for first two or three meetings, even when the distress is severe. This is not to say that medication and hospital admission are never used, but efforts are made to expand the dialogue, and to sit with the pain, the risk, and the uncertainty.
Early on, meetings may be very frequent to create a sense of safety. Over time, the network finds the language to express experiences and builds up its inherent resources. With time, the crisis can become an opportunity for positive change: a chance to retell the stories, reshape the identities, and rebuild the relationships that tie the self to the world which he inhabits.


In Open Dialogue, healing occurs when the speaker is moved. If the clinician remains in the moment, open to authentic human warmth, he or she will be sensitive to the ‘moments of aliveness’ in which a participant is touched by something new and potentially transformative.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What Is It About Mom?

It seems kind of obvious, I know.  Our moms are the best. Time after time, and effortlessly they save us. They are the place from where we're able to take chances and pursue the dreams we do. They take care of us, without complaint or obvious reward. They are asked to do so much. Sometimes to help support the family financially, and feed us, and get all our stuff.  To clean up our crap, make sure our beds are cozy and support our emotional needs too. They are our friends, our confidants,' our teachers and always our shoulder to cry on.  I remember crying to my mom about many things because I knew she got it, without even asking me. 

When you connect emotionally on that level without a word spoken, the tears just happen.  I remember just looking into my mom's eyes and boom! Like she could see right through me. I know now, that she could.  And I sense this today in every mother I meet as they talk about their child.
When your child cries, it resonates inside you in a way nothing else can. When I was about 10, I said to my mom once: "Why do you love me so much?" She replied, "You will only know when you have kids yourself."  Of course, she was right.   

Our moms are the grounding force in our lives that allow us to move forward, to step out each day when we are little and make it through each new thing during sometimes harrowing days. Because we know, even without thinking, they will be there when we return home.  

Even today, though my mom is long gone she is still with me, wherever I go, whatever I do. She shares my highest highs and lowest lows. She's in every dinner party and holiday, every business meeting and new place I see.  She's in my children and in every baseball game they play or ballet performance they dance. 

There will never be another like her in our lives and that is at it should be.  And it is with her incalculable gifts of spirit I am the person I am today.  And I know, you know -- just what I mean. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Are We Here? I Know

We are here to find meaning in our lives; we're here to discover--why we are here. 

This is not meant to be glib.  
Are we really here to simply go through the stages of our lives, to age, buy things, raise kids, work---ah, work.  Don't get me started.

We are here to engage one another.  We're here to know our meaning through our interaction and connection with others.  We are here to listen, to challenge, to inspire, to empathize and relate.  

We're here to support and be fascinated by the thoughts and perceptions of others, to broaden the foundations on which our beliefs are based, to honor and affirm the uniqueness and beauty of every person who shares our multi-chapter journey in this life.

We are not here, to walk into our office in the morning and not say good morning to the people we see every day, at the same time, in the same place.  We're not here to get in an elevator with others and quietly stare at the floor til our car reaches its destination.  Nor are we here to pass through a doorway and come face to face with a stranger without as much as a nod, a smile or Hi. 

So, get out there. Lift someone up today. Give. In doing so, you will invariably lift yourself.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Of Treatments & Top Gun

At the risk of sounding geriatric, I thought I'd update my doctor's situation--since i kind of started my blogging that way. (You know how your parents always talk about their doctor appointments?!!)  Perhaps too, someone reading might find something they've not  considered or tried before.

Based on the 23 and Me findings I'm taking a bunch of supplements and antioxidants to offset some of my metabolic deficiencies. Choline, glutathione and something called NAC to lessen the "head cold'' (to put it nicely) I have in the mornings.  So far, a bit of progress, not feeling those shitty body aches as acutely. Relief. 

Still taking my Top Gun tablets, Provigil.  Helps keep me awake during the day---which is so nice. Trying a testosterone supplement also.... A friend's son dealt with depression and his life was changed with T !  He was only in his 20's, but hey, at least i'll get stronger at the gym or, get hair somewhere I don't need it.  Finally, being prescribed a sleep study again.  I honestly don't think this is the culprit. I did one 4 years ago, used a CPAP machine for 3 months and felt no different. Having that thing strapped on my face actually made me sleep worse.  So, were just throwing everything against the wall.

Still doing IV drips once a week. On to Vit C now flooding my system to clean out any crap. I feel slightly better, but, again, no silver bullet.  So comprehensively, better and will push on.  

Graduate school is really energizing. I'm enjoying the challenge writing papers again (!), and having deadlines.  Studying and researching something interesting, then thinking it through to a presentation is satisfying.  I've missed it. School online however, is bizarre---compared to old school.  Messengering your questions to the teacher as she presents online is disjointed and feels disconnected. I really miss the social aspect of school. But I didn't want to commute to a classroom every few days.  This is where we are.

I have no uplifting or self-motivating epiphanies to impart. Only my love, light and faith that in the end it will all be as nothing; it will all make sense and be OK. Moreover, how we treated our self as we lived it, is all that is of consequence.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Floating To The Life We Hoped For

Often, my days feel like i'm floating.  Days later, when i look back on them they seem surreal, almost as if i didn't experience them, that i merely skimmed over them. I realized today that I spend too much time and energy  in the on again off again state of existentialism.  I am continually analyzing my self, my life, my situations and my environment.  

When i think of where I'm headed, I'm not always sure.  Before, when i had a real job, a company i called my own, I felt more safe.  But i certainly felt no more enriched, engrossed or satisfied  

I'm reading a short book called Becoming Earth, by Eva Saulitis.  She chronicles her journey and meditations as she battles breast cancer.  She was a marine biologist and a gifted writer.  Her writings struck a deep chord within me.  Bits of it may be difficult to read for some, but i feel the depth and beauty of her thoughts redeem the corona from the light that eclipses her tragedy.

Last week, by chance, i met her brother Jon while filling our Eurovan with gas.  He noticed all the surf stickers on the back window and asked if we'd surfed Tofino in British Columbia. From there we ended up talking about life--as i am wont to do--and at some point he reminded me that today, right now is all we have.  As he left he told me to read his sister's book, who has since passed away. 

When we look back, will we have lived the life we had hoped for when we were children? The life that seemed so attainable, and to me so obvious and natural?  Will we have realized the dreams that were always within our reach but too often were quashed by our own lack of guts or apprehensions or limiting beliefs?  Or were simply given up as we went on to make a living?

I can't let that be me. The best part of my story is yet to be written.  And i will constantly push back on--or befriend--the notion that the journey i take, viewed through the prism of depression will passively define or shroud my purpose in this life.  And in doing so, i will surpass it.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Our Greatest Fear. It Isnt What You Think.

The morning was a roller coaster ride of emotion. As I write this--and I'm not quite sure why yet-- I'm just tied up.  There is a feeling rising in my chest to my throat that is choking me up.  If I allow myself to go into it, to explore it and really feel it, I can tell it is fear that is behind it. Then I must ask myself, what is it that I fear?  I know I fear failure in my future. But I have come to realize I also fear success... I'm not entirely sure why. But I do have an inkling:

This quote from Marianne Williamson best speaks to my quandary: 

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others will not feel insecure
around us...

...As we let our light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same...

I have read and pondered this passage for months.  Very few things resonate with me as this does.  I know that I have dimmed my light. I was beaten down by the world and I shut it down. I let it happen. And I'm not sure why. 

But!,  I also know that was "ancient" Chip.  And I know I am no longer that person. I have broken free of the dark and elegiac place that I allowed to keep me down. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

A League of My Own

I do my own consulting on depression because I know the current mental healthcare model doesn't work. I know because I'm a veteran of the model. I tried everything and did my best with it for 30 years.  And I have only broken through with the help of the tools I learned at The Clearing.

I don't fault all the well meaning and hard working doctors I've seen. The insurance companies tell the doctors that they will reimburse for 50 minutes a week to ''fix you."  50 minutes a week to dig into your head, to unearth your deepest emotions and issues, work a process through it (few, if any know this process) and put you back together so you can go back to work that day, or even just back out into the world. One hour a week is simply not enough time. 

First off, you cant get to the bottom of much of anything in 50 minutes.  And even if you did, the doctor couldn't help you get your shit back together at the end of the hour to have you walk out the door to continue your day.

So, 'talk therapy' is talking through your feelings while the person in the other chair optimistically questions your assumptions and offers some suggestions to help you see things in a different way.  This may work for some.  It didn't work for me.  I learned I was holding so much stuff inside that I wasn't even aware of.  No way 50 minutes a week is going to address it.  And it's not a one-shot deal.  Working through this pain is a series of doors opening, of peeling back an onion.  And, you've got to be lead up to it to embrace and understand it.   I would have done anything to alleviate my suffering.  I was at the end of my rope.  I cried a lot of the day and hid where and when I could.

As I've said before, my stuff was not big, over the top, ''traditional'' stuff that a lot of my compatriots suffer through. Like divorce or abuse, and/or alcoholism or drugs to mask it all.  No, mine was just emotional events that I took really hard, that scarred my spirit and took an insidious toll on me.  Mine were people to whom I'd attached my dreams leaving me.  They were the carrying of burdens that weren't mine, like my parent's marriage and my mom's pain.  They were festering little grievances that were somehow being tallied up and cashed in as lost faith, cynicism and negativity.

So, this is where I step off.  After 30 years of banging my head against the wall and never getting to the true bottom of issues, Spiritual Psychology and other lessons learned at The Clearing taught me to identify and track back the slights and the seemingly inconsequential events I had rolled through but never come to grips with.  As I dug deep each day, these events surfaced. We set them up and knocked them down, like shooting tin cans on a wall.  The more we dug, the more we found and the more we shot down.  From there I learned forgiveness. To forgive myself.  To discern the judgements that I had made and the limiting beliefs which had ensued.  These limiting beliefs stop us dead in our tracks. We all have them. And the judgements are just excuses.  Judgements are scapegoats with shackles.

If you're in pain from depression and anxiety, fearing to dig in to yourself and dig out is not an option.  Do you actually fear this process more than the constant, unrelenting suffering you endure each day?  It's a path to healing that is right there for you.  You have it all inside but you need to be taught. 

My consultancy will take you for a day.  Or two.  We will explore what it is that's hiding inside. And, you will learn to heal yourself.  You will be courageous.  And the weight will be lifted from your chest. 

One week into my stay at the farm the pain in my chest dissipated.  By the end of it, the pain was gone.  Do I still deal with it today? Yes, I do, but it's on such a reduced level there is no comparison.  And I have tools now.  Mental, emotional and spiritual tools to work through the crap.  I can actually challenge myself mentally and break on through the rantings of the 'shitty committee' in my head.  They stop. It is a transformation.

I know depression. I'm an expert.  And I finally know a way out.  I've earned my stripes and know there isn't a therapist any more qualified to help pull you through. I will teach you the tools, step by step and teach you to open your heart.  When you do, you will be transformed.  I never thought it was possible until I learned and worked at it.  I work at it everyday, and I can teach you how to change your life.