Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Myth of Pure Evil & the Evolution of Compassion

The idea of blind faith, by it's very nature, forces one to suppress one’s natural curiosity and remain ignorant of reality.  One must learn not to believe every thought and that there is no monopoly on "truth."  While many of us rely of our personal experiences to construct our inner worlds and belief systems, human perception has proven to fail us more often then not (just look at any of the recent studies conducted on inherent weakness of eye witness testimonies).  Sin is nothing more than a small-minded myth created by superstitious man to oppress others.  Shakespeare said it best when he said that there is no good nor bad, only thinking makes it so.  It is a persons ACTIONS that can objectively be viewed as bad, not the intrinsic nature of a person.  "Badness" is not the essence of  humanity's ever-changing, dynamic nature.  It's a error people tend to make when they mistake dynamic patterns of inherent potential with permanence. Where does evil reside if it has no home?  Only in the mind. 

The myth of pure evil does nothing more than keep us separated into camps - where evil is viewed as "out there" and good is believed to be contained within the group one chooses to belong to.  The enemy thus becomes a projection of ones own fears and guilt.  Once this "other" group has become objectified in this way and its group members are reduced to the status of "less then animals" this other group can easily be "sacrificed" in order to wash away the collective guilt of the judging groups own hatred.  It is through this mechanism that we've inherited the oxymoron known as "religious war." 

One can not have compassion without understanding.  Hatred does nothing more than create a wall to deeper understanding of each other, reinforcing a false sense of separateness.  Truth is, we have more in common then we have that separates us, yet we tend to focus exclusively on our differences than our similarities, further reinforcing our sense of disunity.  When we objectify another in this way and see ourselves as "superior" or "Christlike" or "righteous" we remain ignorant of others true nature, which is similar to ours - namely, we all wish to avoid suffering and find happiness in our lives.  These are universal qualities of humanity.  When we don't see this reality and objectify another person or group - believing as if "evil" is the only quality of measure for a person or a group  - we are essentially simplifying their dynamic nature to a single attribute and using our unreason to place them in a rigid category.  This does nothing more than severely restrict our perception of reality.  By denying another of their humanity in this way, the impulse naturally follows to withhold our compassion and it becomes far too easy to commit acts of extreme brutality upon these "others" - acts that would most likely appear "evil" to people outside of the group.  This type of psychological brainwashing occurs each time two tribes go to war with one another.  Killing is much easier to accomplish if you can disconnect yourself from your natural state of being (which I'm arguing, is compassion). 

Evil deeds occur because of ignorance, not sin.  Most people might be surprised to learn that sin is actually a relatively new concept as far as our species goes.  Do animals sin, or do they act out of instinct and self-preservation?  Do humans not act out of habit and self-preservation?  At what point in history did our species transcend our animal nature and become formal "sinners?"  Was it instantaneous or was it a gradual culmination?  Out or our roughly 150,000 - 180,000 year existence, we have only begun to fight one another since the advent of agricultural society and the accumulated wealth that accompanies it, roughly 10,000 years ago.  I believe the formal concept of sin was adopted some time after that, when solar gods replaced the lunar goddesses and humanity began to rely more on the left-brained faculties influenced by a linear script.  My argument is that it's time for humanity to wake up and reject this inherited, poisonous Bronze Age dualism, for it is like a cancer of our soul.  No wars have ever been fought over a LACK of faith. 

Despite all the wars that have been fought, and the acts of brutality we witness humanity display on a daily basis, it is far too easy to jump to the conclusion that humanity not have the capacity for moral behavior.  Many formal religious schools of thought support this type of dualistic worldview, but this is simply not so.  If one were to suspend belief for a moment, and examine humanities nature on a deeper level, they would find that morality comes from within.  Our species could not have evolved without compassion for one another.  It was the trade off we made in order to have our bigger brains.  Most of intellectual development occurs post-conception which has the effect of rendering human infants essentially helpless for roughly the first two years of life (the head would have never fit through the womb if this evolutionary trade off hadn't occurred and mothers would have died along with our species).  Without the evolution of compassion, mothers would have likely just left their children to die, our species would have died off and we would not be having this discussion right now.  Despite what you've been told to believe, no divine intervention was necessary for humanity to acquire compassion and morals.  This is the bigger picture.  This is TRUE faith - faith in the GOODNESS of humanity.  I find it somewhat ironic that it's religion that is the main institution that indoctrinates people to remain ignorant of this simple reality.  

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Role of Oxytocin in Modern Life

There is someone who once said there is nothing new under the sun. There is some truth to that. I typically find that what one labels "new" is nothing more than recycled "old" filed under a different name.  A friend of mine recently talked about going to our 20 year high school reunion last weekend, referring to the fact that she believes that people are nicer now that they’re parents, and that maybe some underlying biological process is at work. I think the "biological process" which she was referring to involves the body chemical oxytocin (the so called "cuddle hormone" released during sex, childbirth, and all around general intimacy).  I prefer to call oxy the "bonding hormone" due to the fact that I believe it gave birth to humanities ability to feel compassion and has helped enable humanity to evolve in complexity and can therefore be seen as the fundamental catalyst for birth of the community in general, but I digress.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Life Beyond the Tipping Point

I just started reading “Eaarth” by Bill Mckibben.   Holy crap. I have only gotten through the first chapter of this and have come to the quick conclusion that we're totally fucked. This is not a problem we're passing down to our grandchildren. This is a problem we've already inherited from OUR parents. We've crossed the tipping point (that being the magic number of 350ppm). Anyone want to join a book club? We can double it as a grief support group if you'd like. Count my words, life will force our hands within our life time, and it will, in no uncertain terms, resemble anything similar to what one might consider "a choice" by todays standards. I predict that life is going to look very different in the decades to come, especially when it comes to our often taken for granted technology. With society crossing the tipping point of peak oil in 2008, it will only be a matter of time before this pendulum we call "progress"* is bound to swing back in the other direction. It seems our world today is by and large, taken for granted as "a given" and progress has only to build upon itself indefinitely. This is an illusion and I believe the true psychosis or modern society. All the material things society finds so important and intrinsic to life today - from personal laptop computers and flat screen, high definition TV's to cel phones and digital cameras (which all mostly seem to have a maximum lifespan of 2 - 5 years these days) - will soon no longer be able to support the transient illusion of their permanence which has propped them up for so many years. Global climate change and peak oil aside, what most people often fail to think about - the fact that society truly does not have the means to support this ongoing level of "progress" indefinitely - is the traumatic shock that is inevitable as reality comes crashing down all around us in the decades to come. We will have to be content with less and that's something I don't believe the American psyche is truly prepared for or even willing to think about at this time. We will have no choice but to face this fact in the future.

* [I use the term "progress" as it's often used today, which I believe will lose it's meaning in time as well, as the world comes to associate it with a "global lack of foresight" if not blind hubris. I believe that in the future, our unrealistic pinning over these so called ideals of progress, when viewed from the eyes of hindsight, will be more clearly seen for what it was - the main seed that has been planted in our collective psyche (mostly through a corporately influenced culture of disposable consumerism), that has enabled humanity to be the true architects of its own destruction].

Monday, May 3, 2010

Show Me Your Papers!

Regarding what’s going on in Arizona right now, I agree that identification should be asked for if someone is in "violation of the law." Unfortunately, that is not how this bill has been written. Under the current bill authorities have the right to request identification from an individual they FEEL have "reasonable suspicion" that the person in question is in this country illegally. This leaves the law open to too much individual interpretation. What exactly does a person have to be doing (other then climbing over a fence at the boarder) that qualifies them as behaving in a manner which leads one to suspect they are an illegal immigrant? There is absolutely no way this law can be enforced without enacting racial profiling or violating the equal protection for search and seizure laws under the constitution. People are required to have an ID to drive, and should be asked to produce their license if they are not obeying the law. This law is much broader however, and has implications that go far beyond driving behavior alone. If one looks deeper at the specifics of this bill, it becomes arguably harder to justify its constitutionality.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why Science and Religious Faith are Incompatible

The argument that atheism or science are their own rigid doctrines or dogmas is tragically flawed.  Faith is the belief in, for all tense and purpose, unreasonable things.  Science has nothing what so ever to do with belief, per se.  Belief in science is more akin to an educated guess, informed by empirical evidence.  A hypothesis is the closest science will come to a belief.  The scientific method requires that this hypothesis be tested (and retested) and the evidence systematically compared and quantified.  Other scientist often challenge these hypothesis as well and further tests are conducted.  In general, science can be seen as the antithesis of faith.  It is a method of discovery in which disputing outdated belief systems is an intrinsic part of the practice.  There is no judgment, just a fundamental examination of the quantifiable facts.
Many fundamental belief systems try to adopt the methods used by scientists, but often fail miserably for a number of factors that will become apparent shortly.  Christian Science?  The two words are mutually exclusive (the “Christian” part will always outweigh the “science” part, if you are a “true Christian” with a strong “faith”).  An example which comes to mind is the way many Christians unquestionably buy into the hypothesis of “original sin” (which I personally find to be an extremely hurtful ideology to our intrinsic human nature that continues to support the antiquated dualism of a Bronze Age mentality, which serves as a fundamental drive to divide people into separate camps; such as good vs. evil, sinners vs. non-sinners, believers vs. non-believers, men vs. women, black vs. white, me vs. you, etc).  While it might seem like basic human nature to divide the universe into opposing dualistic pieces, it’s important to recall that this habit of humanity was actually acquired quite recently, and has evolved strongly only within the last 4,000 years or so, with the fall of most Goddess cultures (gaining most of its strength especially within the last 2,000 years with an exclusively male, left-brained, Western orthodoxy sanctioned by the Church).

While humanity of our prehistory tended to be aware of such opposing forces in nature, both manifestations were traditionally viewed as sacred and required in order to maintain a whole perspective (the yin can not exist without the yang, as in the Taoist philosophy for example).  Even death, which was traditionally viewed as necessary (and good) for the renewal of the cycles of life wasn’t vilified or feared until the encroachment of the Bronze Age.  The fact of the matter is, these early cultures generally maintained a more enlightened perspective of the universe, which acknowledged that nature itself is not dualistic, but acts from the whole of its parts (Westerners have unfortunately inherited Bronze Age cynicism and xenophobia that doesn’t necessarily apply to the global functionality of the modern world).  Look deeper (a main tenant of science) and you will find this to be true. The societal meme that we’re inherently bad (i.e.: we’re “all sinners”) supports a self-fulfilling belief system, one in which humanity is viewed as somehow being flawed and need some male sky deity to show us how to have compassion for one another.  This belief (often intrinsic of ones unquestioned religious faith) often determines how one choses to behave and is often self-serving to those in power (typically a male clergy).

Science has debunked the misnomer that we needed supernatural guidance to develop compassion for one another, and (in a nutshell) here’s how.  Humans as a species have evolved to have larger brains.  Our female ancestors began dieing en masse as our brains began to evolve exponentionally quicker then a women’s hips (due, in part, because our hands eventually became free to manipulate objects following our species evolved ability to walk upright, but that’s another story all together).  Following the basic tenants of natural selection, children inevitably evolved to be born prematurely (i.e.: not fully developed) so as not to not kill their mothers (which would clearly lead to their own death sentence).  Unlike other species, human babies were born completely helpless for the first few years of life in order to fit through the birth canal without killing the mother.  In order for them to survive outside of the womb, being so completely helpless, they need a large emotional/altruistic investment from their parents.  Hence, the driving mechanism of this is this noble trait of humanity (compassion) evolved (I say “evolved” because the trait was already there on some level, among other species we’ve evolved from, growing exponentially with our increased cranial capacity).  Compassion therefore required no deity or divine intervention to manifest itself among humanity – no god hypothesis required for its evolution (that is, unless one were to counter with the argument that some deity orchestrated the entire thing, which is an argument based on unquestioned, unquantifiable faith, and needs no further attention here as the speculation lies outside the clearly defined parameters of the established scientific method and therefore is more suited to the arena of credulous speculation).

If I were personally to ascribe to a faith, it would not be to some male sky deity inherited from the prevailing culture I was born into (opposed to a female lunar deity which predominated human cultures for the last 40,000 years before the inevitable spread of war and xenophobia, whose catalyst was provided by of the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago).  Your focus in life determines your reality.  My faith is instead, in humanity itself – the fact that humans are born good and that good people sometimes make bad decisions out of ignorance (e.g.: it’s the decisions that are bad, not the people).  From this view, evil is a learned behavioral trait and not intrinsic to our nature.  It's important to not that behind every evil person is a lifetime of earthly conditioning (as a therapist, I am enlightened to this fact nearly every day).  We all have the ability to feel compassion.  It only requires one powerful main ingredient, and that is deep understanding (which has the natural propensity to be diametrically opposed to ignorance).  Understanding is therefore experiential, and not “granted” by some fundamental doctrine or belief.  You can never fully understand the true nature of something if you ascribe to the label it’s been given (by yourself or by some divine authority), which inevitably biases your opinion of it.  Arguments based solely upon authority, however convincing they may appear, are still not valid arguments (one might remember from basic tenants of logical debate originated in fifth century Greece).

It’s important to remember that the myth of a "universal morality" that many fundamentally inclined religions ascribe to is inherently flawed.  For every rule written in stone, there are multiple exceptions.  A prime example might be to picture the dilemma of the Nazi’s during WWII banging at your door, asking you if you have a Jewish family hiding in your basement to hand them over– obviously you must go against “Gods rule” and break one two commandments written in stone - “thou shall not lie” or “thou shall not kill."  Instead of focusing on rules (which, when focused on exclusively, separate one from reality and the goodness of our intrinsic nature), I believe (as a compassionate scientist) we should be directing our concentration on understanding and compassion that are available to each and every one of us, in each and every moment, as an intrinsic part of our nature. I think it’s also important to note that faith requires emotional reasoning vs. logical thought - a leap of faith, so to speak.  The god hypothesis is not based on the tenants of science.  When it comes down to it, it’s based solely on emotional reasoning, which is fine if you have the temerity to admit to the fact.  Deity worship requires a leap of logic, plain and simple, and anything else is just wishful delusion.  My faith (in humanity) is no better by any means, but at least I can sleep soundly knowing that it has the distinct benefit of being scientifically informed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Zen of Relationships

* [Note: this highly personal post was formulated while I was sitting bedside with a patient at the hospital].  

When I was younger I used to have a totally different philosophy about dating.  I don't think people would have recognized (or even liked) that person at all.  I started out in high school wholly naive and wanted to wait for that “someone special” (puke) and the whole fairy tale of sharing myself unequivocally, etc.  It took getting seriously fucked over several times, and getting cheated on for me to come to my senses.  Unfortunately, I “over-corrected” the car, so to speak, by turning to humanities natural response (one might call "defense mechanism") of wanting to protect myself.  I managed to do a really good job through college with a philosophy of something akin to, 'well if girls don’t ask whether I'm sleeping with anybody else, then it's their own fault for ASSUMING that I wasn’t.  It's not MY responsibility if they get hurt.'  I actually became quite the self-serving prick for a while there (to the point that friends actually would refrain from introducing me to girls they knew). 

Throughout it all, I began to notice my boredom and restlessness when I started dating someone longer then a few months.  This again, was a defense mechanism that I was unaware of at the time.  Whoever I was seeing, no matter how awesome they were, I always found myself looking around for something better - ALWAYS!  It was like I could never be satisfied.  The Replacements song "Unsatisfied" summed it all up for me at the time: ("Look me in the eyes and tell me/that you're satisfied/Are you satisfied/I'm so, I'm so...dissatisfied.").  'Life is too short' I would tell myself, not paying much attention to the negative energy I was releasing into the universe that inevitably, if you believe in karma (which I do), comes back to you.  And you know what I found?  There always WAS something better.  But there lies the inherent problem.  There always WILL BE something better - someone better looking, someone funnier, someone more interesting, or smarter.  People merely trade the 10 most undesirable traits of one relationship with the 10 most undesirable traits of the next one.  The question that begs to be asked - if there's always something better, how the hell is it possible to EVER be content?  This was something I was slow to realize. 

 "Looking for alternatives is the only thing that keeps us from realizing that we're already living in a sacred world." - Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

It wasn't until years later, after questioning why people tend to continue the perplexing habit (or one might call a ‘cycle’) of being attracted to the EXACT type of people who would treat them poorly (typically mirroring how they were treated in childhood), that I learned about trauma theory (of the human tendency of reenacting childhood trauma in current life situations) and "schema chemistry" (feeling a chemical attraction to people who are inevitably bad for you, and feeling nothing for those that would treat you the way would like to be treated).  It was around this time that I realized why some girls repeatedly date guys who treat them badly, or, as in my case, emotionally aloof/unstable girls who didn't give me the deep, emotional connection I was looking for.  It's a common thought in schema therapy that head-over-heels romantic attraction should be seen as a “red flag” as it is often a sign of bad schema chemistry.

[A great book on schema chemistry and why we repeat the trauma of our childhoods in with fixed behavioral patterns is a book called "Emotional Alchemy" by Tara Bennett-Goleman.  It's actually based on Schema Therapy, which is a main component of the approach that I take with my clients.  Great book.  Highly insightful.  Definitely worth reading:].

Also, although I've never been a really big fan of Oprah, here is a really good article that interviews Jeffrey Young who has been developing schema therapy since the early 80's.  Its pretty good insight into what I do with my clients (the flashcards are especially helpful):

[My client is farting unapologetically in is bed.  Lovely].

Anyway, throughout the years I came to see that it's not the world or other people that create our unhappiness (although we all tend to do a good job of blaming everybody else).  What I've learned is that our unhappiness is most often self-created through our own ignorance and lack of deeper introspection.  It basically comes down to a natural human tendency to be drawn toward novel stimuli.  This has been validated by science in numerous studies.  But the ennui comes right back in as soon as you're habitualized to the novelty - the main reason why the honeymoon ends. 

I was under the spell of that delusion my life, that I was 'supposed' to be happy (a very entitled Western belief).  I further followed that thought with that idea that if I wasn't experiencing happiness, then there must be something 'wrong.'  I obviously didn't see anything wrong with myself (as the human ego is highly motivated at orienting itself towards self-protection), so I naturally came to the conclusion that there had to be something wrong with who ever I was with.  It was THEIR fault!  Obviously THEY were the cause of my unhappiness!  This was a very primitive, self-serving form of thinking that obviously neglects the fact that we all create our own realities. 

Writing this all out reminds me of how silly and self-delusional all this really is, yet, if we don't practice mindfulness, we will continue to do it most of our days.  It took me a while before I realized that it was this exact belief (which I wasn't really very conscious of at the time) that was causing my unhappiness.  It took me some time to realize that suffering and boredom are part of life.  There’s no escaping that (if anybody doubts that life is suffering then maybe they also doubt that we all get sick, grow old, and inevitably die).  

The lesson I’ve learned is that in order to have a healthy relationship we really have to actively CREATE an environment of appreciation and gratitude.  Although it might sound counter intuitive to some, in order for relationships to last we have to consciously WORK at maintaining on attraction after the initial excitement of the honeymoon period ends (which it inevitably WILL).  With the passage of time, it's easy to forget what we initially found so alluringly attractive about a person.  This is natural and very human.  Personally, I try to make an effort every day to be mindful and appreciate the things in life I'm likely to take for granted.  But like everyone, I'm human and often forget to do this.  Sometimes it's hard to realize (especially under the dominating influence of a highly active limbic system of our emotional brains), that our self-entitled agitation is nothing more then a creation of our own mind self-serving reconstruction of reality.

I whole-heatedly believe that relationships are definitely about compromise.  This much I've learned in life.  There is no such thing as a perfect relationship.  Such fairytales and happy endings are mainly for people who don’t have the stomach to stick around for the rest of the story.  I've compromised a lot in my current relationship, and I don't see this as a bad thing.  We all have to practice getting past our own self-entitled narcissism.  Actually, I think it's a pretty mature approach (not to mention, more realistic).  For instance, I’ve ALWAYS seen myself winding up with someone who was highly tattooed (I have a major thing for full sleeves).  This person would be a wild, voluptuous, anti-establishment, Goth looking individual, with dyed hair and piercings (tasteful ones), who was highly adventurous and was an artist or a musician (or did something creative), who was highly informed about world issues and enjoyed watching horror movies with me.   This doesn't sound much like my current fiancé though.  Actually, She is none of those things.  

Many people also close themselves off by making arbitrary restrictions for themselves (as they complain about continually being single).  I had a friend who had height restriction on who she dated.  She said that it was a matter of attraction, but I always saw it more as an unconsciously culturally influenced hijacking of the brain - of the temporal lobes forcefully shutting down the limbic system, and another symptom of an ultimate self-created unhappiness and inflexible dualism. 

Sexual preference is definitely a culturally sanctioned phenomenon.  Personally, I've wanted to date someone who was shorter than me for YEARS.  It's actually never happened though.  Such is life as a short guy.  I've dated a number of girls that were several inches taller than me (being my size, I don't really have a large choice of options here).  And yes, it was awkward, but if I had told myself, no, I can't date them, they're too tall and 'everybody is looking at us' or whatever, I think that would be very unfortunate, because, besides not getting a chance to know some amazing people I have been automatically putting up a barrier to the world (and inevitably, my own happiness).  This also holds true with weight as well.  I'm not as attracted to thin girls as I am more voluptuous ones, but I keep happening to date tall thin girls (what's that about anyway?).  

The fact of the matter is, when all is said and done, people are much more than their bodies or their outward appearance.  These bones that support them do not belong to us anyway.  Their ownership is just an illusion.  They inevitably belong to the earth - if not now, then soon enough.  Actually, if we were to really get into an honest debate, the idea of “self” is nothing more than a mosaic of fleeting moments strung together in a linear sequence, overlapping each other, passing themselves off in an illusion of ownership, but I digress.  That may sound depressing, but then again, there really is a mere razors edge between despair and enlightenment.  It’s just another reminder that with every breath, we really do live in a sacred world.

[Stop farting you disgusting creature.  Seriously, wtf?].

My fiancé is actually none of the things I've mentioned.  BUT, if I had stuck to my guns and not opened myself up to her, I would have never gotten a chance to know the beautiful person that she is.  She's a highly caring, spunky, funny, beautiful, open-minded person who likes to talk about deeper issues and analyze the intrinsic motivations of human behavior - things that I'm most inherently interested in.  She shares a faith with me - not of some sky fairy (although she does sway that way more than I do), but of the insurmountable potential of humanity.  She also puts up with me, which is always a plus.  One of the most important things I've learned that I personally value in a relationship is a deep connection and somebody who has the ability to feel compassion for others.  This is a large part of who she is, and consequently why I'm attracted to her.  Everything else is just gravy.

I vividly remember a few years back, a slightly overweight friend of mine who was just had poor hygiene, etc, was dating this completely mind-blowingly beautiful girl who was head over heals for him (not to mention the fact that she was very sweet, had a great sense of humor, awesome taste in music, and was really fun to be around).  Predictably, he also treated her like shit, leaving us all scratching our heads.  I always thought to myself, that it was a shame that he had NO IDEA how good he had it, and how much of a catch she was.  Rumor had it he was also cheating on her.  I remember thinking to myself, how on EARTH could he possibly grow bored with THAT!  It's one of the things I always think about when I find myself getting bored in my relationships (I always have this HUGE fear in relationships, of complacency, of sitting home, watching the dull glow of the TV, like the rest of tuned out suburban America, where we both become uninteresting, lazy, and fat and die in obscurity). 

Anyway, I always think about this couple when I look at my relationship.  Whenever we walk into a room together, I make a conscious effort to imagine what other guys might be thinking as they see my fiancé with new eyes, or what her coworkers might be thinking, or what random people think on the street.  I continually try to maintain my beginners mind, so to speak.  Now I know that a lot of this is what Jung would call anima and animus (projecting an image of perfected feminine or masculine archetype upon a person you feel an attraction for and, more often than not, exaggerating the positive aspects and minimizing the negative), but the exercise helps me find a greater focus and actually helps jumpstart my chemical attraction. 

It also helps me not fall into the alluring trap of taking so much of my life for granted.  It's a constant effort though (people who don't think a relationship should require any effort or either delusional or are trying to sell you something).  It’s kind of like the practice of death meditations, where you mindfully focus on the death of a loved one, or the loss of a limb, or of a sensory stimulus like sight or hearing in order to raise your awareness of it.  Although I forget the specific name for the techniques, I believe they also do something similar in Gestalt therapy. 

[Jesus, it's getting hard to breathe in here!]. 

It's so easy to slip into complacency in our everyday life.  I try and remember a phrase commonly used in most traditional Japanese tea ceremonies; "ichigo ichie" (which is roughly translated as "one time, one meeting," and is linked with the Zen concept of transience and serves as a reminder that each moment in life is unique). It's so easy to get stuck in your head, take for granted the positive aspects of your life and tune out the present world (which is the only place one can find happiness).

[My patient is smacking his lips like crazy as he's eating his lunch.  Nothing drives me crazier then that!  Although it hasn't been empirically validated, I think people who struggle with mental illness tend to do that a lot more then the average population.  My theory is that maybe it's a lack of being able to know social mores or a poor ability to empathize with another’s perspective?  What ever it is, it's pretty damn freakin’ annoying].

Speaking of taking things for granted, the last girl that I was dating, prior to my fiancé was actually sleeping with a coworker of hers for the last 6 months of our  2.5 year relationship.  Although I suspected it, I opted to trust her and not to play the role of “the jealous boyfriend.”  She actually had the gall to tell me that the reason she wasn't able to sleep with me was because she was working on her “sexual abuse issues” with her therapist, and it was bringing up a lot of issues for her, knowing that, being a therapist and a compassionate person, that I would likely understand.  Little did I know that this person wasn't sleeping with me because she didn't want to cheat on her lover – WITH ME!!! 

I actually found out about the whole situation from the very guy she was sleeping with.  She had made the decision to break it off with him, and told him all about how she had still been seeing me (he thought we had broken up).  He wrote me a letter telling me about the whole thing, I guess kind of pissed off about the circumstances.  I remember him specifically asking me not to be too mad are her because she was a “wonderful woman.”  He was obviously either delusional or had never known a real “woman” (a petulant child does not count). 

Now, my first impulse upon finding out was the familiar 'I am never going to trust anyone ever again' but that lasted only a few seconds.  Despite my overwhelming feeling of betrayal, I acknowledged that my trust was my choice, and that she did not deserve any control over of taking that away from me.  Aphrodite was the goddess of love, but she was often associated with the bow and arrow.  When we love, we open our hearts.  If we are to love deeply, then we must accept the inevitable pain that’s associated with such bonding.  It's the choice we make.  SHE was the one who violated that trust. 

Although I had my doubts at times, and would ask her about it from time to time, I could only trust what she told me (she was a horrible liar, BTW).  I made the conscious choice not to let this person continue to have power over my life by causing me to close off my heart to the world.  She wasn’t worth it.  She had her own suffering.  Opening our hearts up to the pain of the world is the only way we find freedom.  Although it might be difficult, if you're open to your pain without resistance, what seemed so solid and overwhelming inevitably passes through you like a fine mist. 

“To eternity, a mountain is no more solid that a cloud.” – Zen saying

I wasn't even really mad at her to tell you the truth.  I was more disappointed that she made the choices that she did (which inevitably affected me), but I was sadder for her.  I guess that’s my definition of forgiveness and compassion, asking questions such as, ‘what kind of suffering must she have been experiencing that would cause her to act so recklessly?’ 

Anyway, my choice was to remain open, even to the pain.  Although I have my doubts, I honestly hope that she finds the happiness in life she's looking for.  I am actually grateful for the way things turned out, because by finally having that inevitable closure, I was able to move on and give my full attention to someone who was deserving of it .