Recently, there has been a flood of articles on “consciousness” popping into my news feed on Facebook. Most of them discuss scientists’ attempt to come up with a theory of what it is, how to measure it, and what it means for the rest of us. This is what we love to do in the research field: Dissect, observe, analyze, and try to come up with a simple, unifying theory to explain the most seemingly complex things.
I’ve come to understand consciousness as a universal knowing – an understanding that despite how different we are, we are all connected. But it’s an awareness that is only beginning to dawn on us. It’s like being in a cave your entire life, only to finally step out into the light and into the realization that there is so much more to the world you thought you knew.
I feel the need to remind myself, over and over, of this concept of consciousness, particularly when I’m going through a difficult time in my life. Our problems tend to isolate us. We get into this mindset where we assume that there is no one out there who can possibly understand what we are going through, because our problem is unique to us and us alone. So we fall into “victim” mode and, as my mentor put it, “build a shrine” to our issues. What I’ve learned over the years is that there is always someone out there who has gone through, thought about, feared or felt the same things you have at some point in their life.
On Queendom we have a Chaise Longue section where our volunteer therapists offer free insight and advice to people who write in. After 20 years, we’ve collected some wonderful pearls of wisdom. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but as I was going through them I thought that posting a few might help some readers realize that no matter what they are dealing with, there is someone out there who has got through it too.
In response to a woman who asking for advice on how to get over the anger and pain of an extremely emotionally abusive relationship:
This experience is an opportunity for profound change. The past will always catch up with you until it’s dealt with entirely. It’s a blessing that you can now feel your rage. Emotions alone cannot hurt you. Trust yourself. Your feelings are food for your soul. Being angry does not mean that you are not a kind and loving person. True forgiveness does not come by forcing yourself to put away your resentments, it only comes out of real healing. Your perceptions of this person will eventually change after you allow yourself the freedom to just be as you are.
Counselor Ben Schwarcz, MFT
In response to a woman struggling with self-esteem issues due to a history of drug abuse, loss, and unhealthy relationships:
What I hear most from your letter is how much shame you feel for all the things that you have done. Shame is a feeling of being deeply and hopelessly flawed inside. This is an emotion that I don’t feel is valid. I am not saying that you haven’t behaved in ways that have hurt yourself and others tremendously. You have and I don’t want to minimize it in the least. However, we are more than just our recent behavior. Many people have screwed up a number of years of their youth and pulled it together enough to live productive and fulfilling lives. Shame is the feeling of not being good enough while guilt is knowing that our behavior has been poor, but we are still valuable as a person.
Jef Gazley, M.S.
In response to a woman struggling to forgive and forget a neglectful father:
Forgiveness indicates awareness that no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes. Forgiveness does NOT mean that you then assume the person’s actions will change. Your statement “I want to forgive him, but I know he’ll just disappoint me again and I don’t know if I can handle it” indicates your belief that if you forgive him, then the slate is wiped clean, and his end of the bargain is to change his behavior. For your own emotional protection, I think it’s important that you keep your expectations of your father realistic – i.e., consistent with what he’s shown you over the years. If you expect your father to change, to follow through on his promises and try harder to maintain a relationship with you, all because you forgave him, then you are setting yourself up for more hurt. He has a past record of making and breaking promises with you. Chances are that he will continue to do so, whether or not you forgive him. The only person that you can change is yourself. People expend tremendous amounts of energy trying to change the people in their lives, but it just isn’t possible to do so.
Susan Maroto, LCSW
In response to a woman struggling with isolation and a lack of social support from loved ones:
The problem is not that you are a loner, but that other people have convinced you that there is something wrong with you because you are quiet, and serious, and prefer your diary to other people’s company. As one loner to another, let me tell you that it’s fine to be like this. Everyone is different, and this is a good thing. Once you accept that it is all right to be the way you are, and feel respect for yourself, then your very seriousness and intelligence and self-sufficiency will draw certain people to you. I can say from personal experience that when you feel damaged and apologetic for being the way you are, this pushes people away. When you can hold up your head, and look at the world with strength and serenity, you become attractive, and people will want to be your friend.
Dr. Bob Rich Ph.D.
In response to a woman who is trying desperately to help her passive brother cope with debilitating depression:
Although you might not want to hear this, your job is not to save your brother, but rather, to reach out to him according to your conscience. And even though “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” is a truism, I believe you can put some salt in his mouth, which means you can direct your efforts to help instill in him the thirst for peace, and to become more whole in his life. Frankly, if he doesn’t want it from the inside, though, nothing will move. Rather than preaching, by all means, model the “good life” with all the non-materialistic values you hold dear, as you would wish it for him. Your own happiness, and your genuine concern for his welfare are the two strongest lifelines to help him out of his abyss. Not lecturing.
Andy Bernay-Roman, RN, MS, LMHC, NCC, LMT
In response to a man who felt that death was his only way out of his difficulties:
I have a feeling that you came here because you have some will in you to live; right now you just can’t see how it’s possible. I do not know if the experience of death is pleasant or unpleasant, but I do know that life can be worth living if you remember one thing. IT ALWAYS GETS BETTER. We have “up” times and “down” times. Even when the down times are REALLY down. They don’t stay that way. Keeping this in mind is helpful for many people as a first step to moving beyond complex, life-altering situations.
Elana Terry, Med, LAPC