I offer this 8-week workshop for 6 to 10 people. The sessions are held weekly for 1 ½ hours. Every session is divided into ¾ hours of lectures, ½ hours of active guided meditations integrating what you learned, followed by ¼ hours discussion of the trance experience. It is not group therapy: there is no personal disclosure, no cross talk, and no help offered by the participants to each other. Nonetheless, strength in numbers happens, a bond is formed, and modeling and hearing truthful experiences of each other heightens the learning.
Change Your Life: Creating a Ripple Effect.
Week 1. Introduction.
Most people, at some time in their lives, wonder why they do the same unfulfilling thing over and over, especially when they know better. Perhaps they are overeating, overworking, attracting the wrong relationships, spending every free moment on the Internet or playing solitaire. Unaware they are caught in a vicious circle, they complain they are in a rut at a dead end. They feel compelled to work, get a relationship -- any relationship or drink, drug or eat. A heroin addict may resort to crime to feed his vicious circle, while the over-eater may hurt only himself.
The Ripple Effect is the opposite of a vicious cycle. Instead of a quick fix that leads to negative consequences; it is a slow fix of each part of us that leads to a new positive lifestyle. It requires effort, but it is worth it and lasts a happy life time. We have four inner parts of ourselves: the spirit, the mind, the feelings, and the body. We have two outer parts: the actions we make and our social world. A vicious cycle effects every dimension of our life. In order to have lasting success, if we make a small change in each part of ourselves it ripples out into a healthy and happy new way of life. The quick fix is about, altering our consciousness or put plainly, feeling good. By using our mind we can go into a trance and feel good and make the small changes more easily. In this workshop, I use active guided meditation; trance work guided and tailored to help you create a ripple effect.
Week 2. Spiritual Change.
We are born to be happy. Therefore, the meaning of our lives is the pursuit of our lasting happiness, whether it's about helping others, or gaining fame and recognition, or raising a family. Vicious circles are really about the pursuit of happiness, too, but only in the short run. Heroin addicts want the ultimate rush now, a quick fix. Sex addicts want the ultimate orgasm. Food addicts want the most satisfying mouthful. Unfortunately, after the ecstasy of the quick fix comes the downfall, almost a mini-death. This is completely opposite of spiritual growth. Traditional spiritual transitions in many cultures have a person prove themselves by difficult tasks. Then they have a rebirth into a new phase of their lives; the boy becomes a man, the student becomes a doctor.
Zen masters spend years in meditation so they can see what they call their original face. You were the center of the universe when you were born and you still are. All of us need to get to a place where we can feel this kind of self-love and acceptance. If you are working to love yourself, you will strive to do good things for yourself. Self-love allows you to pursue your purpose and discover what gives meaning to your life without hurting yourself in the long run. It gives way to purpose and the meaning of life. These are two places to target spiritual change.
Week 3. Mental Change.
Descartes, the French philosopher, started a dialog that has lasted for centuries when he said, "I think, therefore I am." I'd like to extend his thought to, "I think, therefore I am whatever I think I am."
Our thinking develops from simple ideas to complex ones as we evolve. As a teenager you may have had a best friend and you and your friend consider everyone else the enemy. You are either for us or against us. We call this black or white thinking, all or nothing thinking, or global thinking and it is typical of vicious circle behavior.
A patient who always got great evaluations on her job was upset when the recent evaluation was excellent but mentioned one area where she could show improvement. After two years of perfect evaluations at work, one less-than-perfect evaluation made her believe she was no good. She ruminated on this "failure", became depressed and went out drinking that night. She couldn’t stop with just one drink. This is "all or nothing" thinking and behaving. During that first drink she failed to think that it was a new supervisor grading her. Perhaps this new supervisor did not believe in perfect evaluations and was harsh with everyone, which had very little to do with her. Most important, her all or nothing thinking led her to berate herself and have a drink to block it out. Then she told herself that with one drink her sobriety was lost and she might as well get drunk. People need to realize how pervasive this kind of thinking is and change it to more helpful and accurate thoughts.
Week 4. Emotional Change.
By its very nature, the vicious circle is based on escape and avoidance of feelings. Notice how a workaholic is too busy to pay attention to anything else but meeting his deadline. The layers of fat around an over-eater protect that person from feelings that are too strong, just like a wall or a security blanket would. A woman in a vicious circle of attracting men who hurt her is first caught in the pleasure of the seduction and sex, and then the pain of abandonment the morning after. She must prove to herself again and again that she can attract these men to feel good. After they hurt her she needs another man desperately, because of the pain the last one caused. People need to feel, understand and be flexible with their feelings.
An acting teacher taught me that in acting as in life we have access to all of our feelings, at any time. This is a skill worth practicing. We experience many feelings at the same time and we choose to focus in on just one.
Some people get stuck in one feeling. They feel anger all the time, or guilt all the time, or fear all the time. Anger fuels itself, and self-pity fuels the vicious circle. However, it's impossible to believe that a person can be angry all the time because he never gets what he wants. How can a person be fearful all the time? Could their life be in constant danger? This is when it is important to realize that feelings aren’t facts and that feelings change. Just like flexibility in your body, flexibility in your emotional life is very important.
You need to let yourself feel your feelings so you can think about them and change the things that cause the feelings, or change the way you think about things. You don't need to analyze your emotions, just recognize them. (People in analysis for years seem to have limited emotional flexibility. Just look at Woody Allen. The therapy cements their feelings with self-absorbed justification.) Just as it is important that you don't become stuck on one feeling, it is equally important that you don't become stuck in your "feeling" part of the self and ignore your thinking, physical, social and spiritual self.
Week 5. Physical Change.
When we are in the vicious circle, we lose awareness of our bodies. This is true for the drinker, the drug addict, the gambler, the over-eater and the workaholic. Bodily concerns fade into the distance, as the power of the vicious circle increases. Anyone in a vicious circle with food can tell you how well food sedates the body and puts it to sleep.
In the downward spiral it's not just the alcohol that kills the alcoholic, but also the malnutrition of the body that accompanies the final stages of death from alcohol abuse when the drinker stops eating only to drink. The over-eater denies the pain of thighs rubbing together and the cocaine addict denies that his teeth hurt because they are rotting. Moreover, he'll rub cocaine on his gums to relieve the pain while doing worse damage to the body, as it feels numb. The more the body is numb the better. People need to become more aware of, and how to care for their bodies.
Week 6. Social Change.
Ironically, many people began their vicious circles because they wanted to improve their social life. They joined their friends in that first cigarette or drink. Having a drink gave them the courage to speak more easily to the opposite sex or maybe an authority figure. Indeed, bars are the social centers of many neighborhoods. Food and drink is at the center of most entertainment and social occasions. Breaking bread together is a time-honored symbol of intimacy. People addicted to the Internet spend all of their time "talking" with others who are in the same vicious circle, and they become isolated from everyone else.
If you are in a vicious circle you gradually avoid social occasions where you are unable to indulge and eventually spend more time alone because you can enjoy your vicious circle without the distraction of other people. This desire leads to shame. The shame leads to further isolation. At first you break dates, then you don't even bother to make them. People need to get a new social life.
Week 7. Behaviors.
No one holds a gun to your head to eat, drink or smoke. These are behaviors we choose to make, so we can choose to make different or healty choices. Vicious cycles are completely self-perpetuated and so the "cure" is ultimately self-perpetuated. Change is a process and learning happens in a series of steps. But a goal without a date is just a dream. So this where you must put in the effort, do homework, keep records of your progress and take new actions not just the old behaviors and ruminations.
Week 8. The Whole Is Won; Putting yourself back together and Maintain the Ripple Effect.
This is one of the most difficult problems to fix. This is why people use multiple forms of help all at the same time. The first time success rate to overcome a vicious cycle is horribly very low. Paradoxically, the more relapses you have, the greater the likelihood you will succeed. This is because the people who succeed never stop trying. All the great inventions are a result of someone with an idea trying again and again to get it to work. Writers love to recall the number of famous novels that were turned down by multiple publishers before they became classics. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wolfe, and other literary luminaries could tell us how many times they tried and tried again, until they succeeded. Edison tried some 200 or so times before he succeeded with the light bulb. He stated, "I never failed, I just found many ways that didn't work. Mistakes mean progress.
Each relapse can be an opportunity to change. By examining the mistake we can target what needs to be learned and which of the dimensions need change. We may make some mistakes along the way, but the nature of all learning is about mistakes. This is why we have erasers and white out and computers that delete and insert. When you were a baby you fell down many times before you learned to walk. I don't recall any babies getting depressed and refusing to try again if they didn't get it right the first time. People who fall down and don't try again, are those who learned early in life to be victims instead of winners are not likely to suceed. It's easier to just have another cookie or another drink or date another loser and complain that you just can't change anything. This kind of thinking is to be avoided.
This last session of the workshop's, active guided meditation, consists of all the major ideas presented during the 8 weeks and tailored to each participant. It is recorded and put on a CD, given as a present to you, for you to listen to at home, as many times as you need to. Often, you'll reach for the CD instead of your vicious cycle, and the ripple effect is more than likely to be maintained. If it works the credit is yours.
For more information on Dr. Albina's 8 week workshop Changing Your Lifestyle, please call (917) 747-9682 or email email@example.com.
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