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Plant Medicine Can Alleviate Depression, Anxiety, & Addiction

Healing, Life LessonsGuest WriterComment
The New Science of Psychedelics- Plant Medicine Can Alleviate Depression
There is such a sense of authority that comes out of the primary mystical experience that it can be threatening to existing hierarchical structures. We ended up demonizing these compounds. Can you think of another area of science regarded as so dangerous and taboo that all research gets shut down for decades? It’s unprecedented in modern science.
— The Trip Treatment | Michael Pollan

Recent Studies are finding that drugs such as LSD and psilocybin can help to alleviate depression, anxiety, and addiction and may have profound things to teach us about how the mind works.

The studies of psilocybin describe a "complete mystical experience" and measured feelings of unity, sacredness, ineffability, peace and joy, as well as the impression of having transcended space and time and the “noetic sense” that the experience has disclosed some objective truth about reality. A “complete” mystical experience is one that exhibits all six characteristics. One scientist believes that the long-term effectiveness of psilocybin is due to its ability to occasion such a transformative experience, but not by changing the brain’s long-term chemistry, as a conventional psychiatric drug like Prozac does.

Michael Pollan On The 'New Science' Of Psychedelics

Michael Pollan, author of 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' and 'The Botany of Desire,' talks about his new book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. It covers the history of psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms, and how they're now being used experimentally in therapeutic settings, to treat depression, addiction, and fear of death. Pollan also talks about his own experience experimenting with psychedelics.

They were saying things like ‘I understand love is the most powerful force on the planet,’ or ‘I had an encounter with my cancer, this black cloud of smoke.’

People who had been palpably scared of death—they lost their fear. The fact that a drug given once can have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding.

We have never had anything like it in the psychiatric field.

Interview Highlights

On how the psychedelic psilocybin is administered in therapy for depression

The way [psilocybin is] being used is in a very controlled or guided setting. ... They don't just give you a pill and send you home; you're in a room. You're with two guides, one male, one female. You're lying down on a comfortable couch. You're wearing headphones listening to a really carefully curated playlist of music — instrumental compositions for the most part — and you're wearing eyeshades, all of which is to encourage a very inward journey.

Someone is kind of looking out for you, and they prepare you very carefully in advance. They give you a set of "flight instructions," as they call them, which is what to do if you get really scared or you're beginning to have a bad trip. If you see a monster, for example, don't try to run away. Walk right up to it, plant your feet and say, "What do you have to teach me? What are you doing in my mind?" And if you do that, according to the flight instructions, your fear will morph into something much more positive very quickly.

On how psychedelics can help change the stories we tell about ourselves

The drugs foster new perspectives on old problems. One of the things our mind does is tell stories about ourselves. If you're depressed, you're being told a story perhaps that you're worthless, that no one could possibly love you, you're not worthy of love, that life will not get better. And these stories — which are enforced by our egos really — trap us in these ruminative loops that are very hard to get out of. They're very destructive patterns of thought.

What the drugs appear to do is disable for a period of time the part of the brain where the self talks to itself. It's called the default mode network, and it's a group of structures that connect parts of the cortex — the evolutionarily most recent part of the brain — to deeper levels where emotion and memory reside. And it's a very important hub in the brain and lots of important things happen there: self-reflection and rumination, time travel. It's where we go to think about the future or the past, and theory of mind, the ability to imagine the mental states of other beings and, I think, most importantly, the autobiographical self. It's the part of the brain, it appears, where we incorporate things that happen to us, new information, with a sense of who we are, who we were and who we want to be. And that's where these stories get generated. And these stories can be really destructive, they trap us. ...

This network is downregulated [with psychedelics], it sort of goes offline for a period of time. And that's why you experience this dissolution of self or ego, which can be a terrifying or liberating thing, depending on your mindset. This is what allows people, I think, to have those new perspectives on themselves, to realize that they needn't be trapped in those stories and they might actually be able to write some new stories about themselves. That's what's liberating, I think, about the experience when it works.

A follow-up study found that the psilocybin experience also had a positive and lasting effect on the personality of most participants. 

This is a striking result, since the conventional wisdom in psychology holds that personality is usually fixed by age thirty and thereafter is unlikely to substantially change. But more than a year after their psilocybin sessions volunteers who had had the most complete mystical experiences showed significant increases in their “openness,” one of the five domains that psychologists look at in assessing personality traits. (The others are conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.) 

Openness, which encompasses aesthetic appreciation, imagination, and tolerance of others’ viewpoints, is a good predictor of creativity.

The Trip Treatment | Michael Pollan

On how psychedelics can help dying people face their deaths

Prozac doesn't help when you're confronting your mortality. But here we have something that occasions an experience in people — a mystical experience — that somehow makes it easier to let go. And I think some of it has to do with the fact that you do experience the "extinction" of yourself and it's kind of a rehearsal for death. And I think that may be part of what helps people, that they expand their sense of what is your self-interest and your self-interest is something larger than what is contained by your skin. And when you have that recognition, I think dying becomes a little easier.

There's no way to prove this, obviously, and it's a question that really troubled me as an old-fashioned materialist skeptical journalist. It's like, "What if these drugs are inducing an illusion in people?" I got a variety of answers to that question from the researchers. One was, "Who cares if it helps them?" And I can see the point of that. The other was, "Hey, this is beyond my pay grade; none of us know what happens after we die." And others say, "Well, this is an open frontier." ...

The experiences that people have are very real to them — they're psychological facts. And one of the really interesting qualities of psychedelic experience is that the insights you have on them have a durability ... This isn't just an opinion, this is revealed truth, so the confidence people have is hard to shake, actually.

On a Johns Hopkins study on the use of psilocybin to help people quit smoking

Smoking is a very hard addiction to break. It's one of the hardest addictions to break. [I wanted to understand] how, after a single psilocybin trip, they could decide "I'm never going to smoke again" based on the perspective they had achieved. And they would say things like, "Well, I had this amazing experience. I died three times. I sprouted wings. I flew through European histories. I beheld all these wonders. I saw my body on a funeral pyre on the Ganges. And I realized, the universe is so amazing and there's so much to do in it that killing myself seemed really stupid." And that was the insight. Yes, killing yourself is really stupid — but it had an authority it had never had. And that, I think, is the gift of these psychedelics.

The success rate is striking. Twelve subjects, all of whom had tried to quit multiple times, using various methods, were verified as abstinent six months after treatment, a success rate of eighty per cent. 

(Currently, the leading cessation treatment is nicotine-replacement therapy; a recent review article in the BMJ—formerly the _British Medical Journal—_reported that the treatment helped smokers remain abstinent for six months in less than seven per cent of cases.) 

In the Hopkins study, subjects underwent two or three psilocybin sessions and a course of cognitive-behavioral therapy to help them deal with cravings. 

The psychedelic experience seems to allow many subjects to reframe, and then break, a lifelong habit. 

“Smoking seemed irrelevant, so I stopped,” one subject told me.

The Trip Treatment | Michael Pollan

On his own experience tripping on mushrooms

I had an experience that was by turns frightening and ecstatic and weird. ... I found myself in this place where I could no longer control my perceptions at all, and I felt my sense of self scatter to the wind — almost as if a pile of post-its had been released to the wind — but I was fine with it. I didn't feel any desire to pile the papers back together into my customary self ...

Then I looked out and saw myself spread over the landscape like a coat of paint or butter. I was outside myself, beside myself, literally, and the consciousness that beheld this ... was not my normal consciousness, it was completely unperturbed. It was dispassionate. It was content, as I watched myself dissolve over the landscape.

What I brought back from that experience was that I'm not identical to my ego, that there is another ground on which to plant our feet and that our ego is kind of this character that is chattering neurotically in our minds. And it's good for lots of things. I mean, the ego got the book written, but it also can be very harsh, and it's liberating to have some distance on it. And that was a great gift, I think.

I felt my sense of self scatter to the wind — almost as if a pile of post-its had been released to the wind — but I was fine with it. I didn’t feel any desire to pile the papers back together into my customary self...
— Michael Pollan
Chloë Rain is the Founder of Explore Deeply™ and the Explore Deeply Movement. She is a Spiritual Guide & Healer.

Chloë has had the pleasure of working with women and men all over the globe to learn to source their inner power, deepen their relationship to self love, and experience greater fulfillment by answering their calling, so they can enjoy the happiness they have always wanted, and have confidence and JOY in their lives, relationships, and finances.

Many of her clients find that their relationships and careers shift dramatically in new and exciting ways after doing this work, creating freedom and joy in their personal and professional lives. To find out more about working with Chloë go → here.

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Why People Don't Heal and How They Can

Healing, Life LessonsGuest WriterComment
Why People Dont Heal and How They Can

Harmony Books | Excerpt first appeared in the NY Times Books


In the late spring of 1988, I arrived at the Findhorn Community in northeastern Scotland to teach a healing workshop. At that point in my career the people who came to my workshops had tended to be searching for a personal healing. They expected me, as a medical intuitive, to facilitate their healing directly by giving them an individual reading and setting up a treatment regimen for them. (These days my workshops are largely filled with self-reliant people who want to learn how to become more intuitive by learning to "speak chakras" and so heal themselves and their lives, or professionals looking to learn how to help others heal.)

Though I myself am not a healer, I was happy to help them, of course, to the best of my abilities. Often in my readings I was simply validating the suspicions, insights, or intuitions that they already had about themselves and the changes they needed to make in their lives. Sometimes these readings ignited an inner physical and spiritual healing process. Even so, at that time, my workshop participants and I all felt that we were on the right track. After all, healing and health had become the main focus of the holistic or consciousness culture as well as the center of my life. Almost everyone I met, professionally and personally, spoke about either wanting to become a healer or needing a healer, being on their way to visit a new healer, or believing that they were meant to be a healer as soon as they had completed their own healing.

I enjoyed traveling around the world and meeting spiritually committed people who needed me as much as I needed them, and I had especially come to love Findhorn, a community of about three hundred people sharing an organic, cooperative life and a respect for all spiritual paths. Some of the community members reside in an enchanting, converted turn-of-the-century hotel; others have made their home quarters in a beautiful park area alongside the Findhorn Bay. The rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands, combined with the spiritual focus of the community, make Findhorn a most attractive place to be. Whenever I go there, I seem to receive a special energetic charge that results in some important insight, and this visit in 1988 was no exception. This time, however, the insight came in a rather unlikely way.

Prior to beginning the weeklong workshop, I had arranged to have lunch with my dear friend Mary. Having arrived early in the dining room, I joined two gentlemen for tea. Mary entered a while later, and when she walked over to our table, I introduced her to my companions. She had just extended her hand to greet them when another member of the Findhorn community, Wayne, came up to her and asked, "Mary, are you busy on June eighth? We're looking for someone to escort a guest coming to Findhorn for the day."

The tone of Mary's response was as revealing as its length. She snapped, "June eighth? Did you say June eighth?" Suffused with anger and resentment, she continued, "Absolutely not! June eighth is my incest support group meeting, and I would never, ever miss that meeting! We count on each other, after all. We incest victims have to be there for one another. I mean, who else do we have?"

Mary went on for a while longer, but this is as much as I can accurately remember. I was captivated by the instantaneous dramatics triggered by a simple question about her schedule. Wayne hardly took notice of her response, thanked her, and left, but I was astonished. Later, as Mary and I were having lunch, I asked her about her behavior:

"Mary, why, when you were answering Wayne's question about your schedule, did you have to let all three men know that you had suffered incest as a young girl, that you were still angry about it, that you were angry with men in general, and that you intended to control the atmosphere of the conversation with your anger? All Wayne asked you was, `Are you busy June eighth?' and in response you gave these three men a miniature therapy class. A simple yes or no would have done fine."

Mary looked at me as if I had betrayed her. Her body stiffened, and she emphasized her words in an ice-cold, defensive tone: "I answered that way because I am a victim of incest." She drew back from the table, stopped eating, and threw her napkin over her plate, indicating that our lunch together had come to a close. Although I didn't realize it at that moment, so had our friendship.

"Mary, honey," I replied, softening my own tone somewhat, "I know you're a victim of incest, but what I'm trying to figure out is why you found it necessary to tell two strangers and Wayne your history when all he wanted to know was whether you could help out on June eighth. Did you want these men to treat you a certain way or talk to you in a certain way? What made you lay your wounds out on the table within seven seconds of meeting two new people?"

Mary told me that I simply did not understand because I had not endured what she and numerous other incest victims had gone through, but that she had expected me as a friend to be more compassionate. I replied that lack of compassion had nothing to do with what I was asking her. I could feel the separation of energy between us as I realized that in order for our friendship to continue, I needed to "speak wounds" to Mary, to follow some very specific rules of how a supportive friend was to behave, and to bear always in mind that she defined herself by a negative experience.

In addition to her painful childhood history, Mary also had a history of chronic ailments. She was always in pain--some days emotional, some days physical. Though she was kind and always ready to support her friends, she much preferred the company of people who had also had abusive childhoods. That day at our lunch, I realized that Mary needed to be with people who spoke the same language and shared the same mindset and behaviors. I immediately began to think of this attitude as "woundology." I have since become convinced that when we define ourselves by our wounds, we burden and lose our physical and spiritual energy and open ourselves to the risk of illness.

That day I felt as if I had been catapulted out of the surrounding healing culture of Findhorn and the general consciousness movement and was viewing it as an outsider. Although I had not previously noticed this pattern of thought and behavior in Mary or in anyone else, the very next day, curiously, a miniature version of the Mary incident took place in my workshop.

I had arrived twenty minutes early to get ready for my presentation and noticed a woman sitting alone. I sat down next to her and asked, "What's your name?" That's all I asked. Yet without even looking at me, she responded:

"I'm a victim of incest, but I'm fifty-six years old now and I'm over that trauma. I have a wonderful support group, and several of us get together at least once a week, which I believe is essential to healing."

She still had not told me her name, so I asked again, "And what's your name?" But she still didn't answer me directly. She seemed to be in a daze. It felt to me as if she had been preparing for a long time to say something publicly, and now, given the opportunity, she couldn't hear any questions that didn't relate to her agenda. Instead of telling me her name, she said how much she enjoyed coming to workshops like mine because a person was free to speak openly about his or her past, and she hoped that I would allow time for people to share their personal histories. I thanked her and left the room, needing a few moments to gather my thoughts.

Meeting this woman the day after the incident with Mary was not a coincidence. I believe I was being directed to pay attention to the ways we expect to heal our lives--through therapy and support groups. So many people in the midst of a "process" of healing, I saw, are at the same time feeling stuck. They are striving to confront their wounds, valiantly working to bring meaning to terrible past experiences and traumas, and exercising compassionate understanding of others who share their wounds. But they are not healing. They have redefined their lives around their wounds and the process of accepting them. They are not working to get beyond their wounds. In fact, they are stuck in their wounds. Now primed to hear people speak woundology, I believe I was meant to challenge the assumptions that I and many others then held dear--especially the assumption that everyone who is wounded or ill wants the full recovery of their health.

I felt as if I had been given a pair of magical glasses with which to see beneath the behavior of my workshop students. I soon found that the language of woundology was also spoken outside Findhorn. People around the world are confusing the therapeutic value of self-expression with permission to manipulate others with their wounds. Instead of viewing the uncovering of their wounds as an early stage of the healing process, they are using their wounds as a flag and their groups as families and nations.

How did we come to such a pass? A little more than a generation ago, our society was one in which people had difficulty expressing even their most innocent psychological and emotional needs. Today people wear their deepest wounds on their sleeve like a red badge of courage. How did we get to this point? To explain, I have to go back a little further into the past.



I had begun my work as a medical intuitive in 1983, when I became able to sense illness in other people. At that time I had lacked any training as a health professional, but I had co-founded a publishing company that was dedicated to producing books about consciousness, health, and alternative or complementary medicine. The company published first-person accounts of healings as well as books by more scientifically oriented authors reporting research and discoveries in medical treatments then considered alternative. Those years as both a publisher and a medical intuitive educated me in such complementary ways that I now feel that this personal edification must have been directed by a higher force.

The countless manuscripts we received containing personal stories revealed the depth of fear people feel when facing a terminal illness. But many of the stories also revealed the power of the human spirit to catalyze a healing process that can reclaim the life-force, give meaning to illness, and heal seemingly chronic or terminal diseases. Occasionally I would come across a manuscript by a patient who had lost the battle for physical life but had won an inner tranquillity--a sense of completion of this life and an acceptance of the next stage: the death of the body.

Our culture in the early 1980s was hungry for healing and searching for the experience or state of mind that would ignite a healing fire. When I started to do workshops in 1984, the alternative healing field had established a new vocabulary for psychological and emotional healing. People spoke openly about their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Sharing the details of one's personal history became commonplace, as childhood experiences of incest, molestation, and abuse were openly discussed. The social boundaries that had previously limited acceptable social exchanges had dissolved into a new form of instant intimacy.

This new kind of intimacy grew out of the therapeutic culture of the 1960s. Prior to the 1960s, family secrets, financial information, political affiliations, occupational difficulties, and rumors about who was having an affair with whom were all considered "intimate" information, shared only with family members and very close friends. Even asking someone which presidential candidate he had voted for qualified as a highly intimate question. Nor were such topics discussed easily even among trusted, longstanding intimates: Before the 1960s we lacked the vocabulary for sharing with others the most intimate contents of our emotional lives. Personal emotional needs had not yet been introduced into our general culture. We had not yet become comfortable expressing inner psychological experiences, and our basic physical and emotional needs were generally considered to be met if we took care of our job and family responsibilities.

Moreover, before the 1960s society in general viewed those who sought the help of a psychiatrist as mentally ill. Even in 1972, the revelation that a vice-presidential candidate--George McGovern's running mate, Thomas Eagleton--had undergone psychotherapy was reason enough to have him removed from the ticket. The notion of working through a trauma therapeutically was still unfamiliar, so people viewed any and all mental stress as mental illness. They were afraid of the deeper recesses of the mind and the heart, and few explored them willingly. Those who did acquired reputations as rebels, eccentrics, mystics, hermits, or social outcasts. Most people did not tamper with their internal forces but lived safely within the assumption that if the external parts of their lives were stable, their minds and hearts would naturally attain a degree of contentment.

The therapeutic age gave birth to an entirely new dimension of thought: It opened up the inner world behind our eyes. With each step inward that we took, new perceptions about ourselves emerged and overran the long-guarded boundaries around our emotions and psyches. The concept that "we create our own reality" seemed to spring into popular usage almost out of nowhere. The electric idea that we have a kind of ultimate, personal spiritual power took hold of the popular imagination, and self-responsibility became a new power word. We applied these beliefs to every aspect of our lives. Most especially, we began to apply them to the healing process.

People became remarkably eager to "stand and proclaim" not only that they were ill but that they were responsible for their illness, as if this act of public purging in itself contained some kind of power that would guarantee a safe passage into health. In my own workshops and in others I attended, one person after another would describe a particular illness and then add, "I know I'm responsible for this." Where speaking about emotions publicly had once been taboo, it was now a requirement for healing.

Fueled by the notion that an emotional wound that they had previously experienced was at the root of their physical illness, people plunged into their inner lives determined to exorcise every negative memory, thought, and attitude. If they could only unlock that deeply secret emotional impulse, or release that negative childhood experience, they believed, their biological system would respond and reward them with complete health. Almost everyone I encountered during those years was convinced that complete recovery of health was just one psychological insight away. Amazingly enough, every workshop participant who went through this spontaneous public ritual of confession sparkled with enthusiasm and hope. Sometimes, if their story was exceedingly dramatic, applause would follow the confession.

I too believed, as the other workshop participants did, that the psyche held the key to physical healing. An inner power, I was convinced, contained the fuel we needed to reorder our biochemistry and rebuild our bodies. Occasionally someone who had managed to heal an illness--who had not just put the illness into remission but had actually achieved a complete healing--would attain a near-celebrity status at workshops. During the breaks everyone would gather around the self-healer and ask, "What did you do to heal yourself?" I listened, too, eager to learn of some extraordinary treatment, nutritional program, or psychotherapy that would assure a cure.

The self-healers would credit a vast array of factors, including changes in nutrition, vitamin therapy, mud baths, hypnosis, past-life recall, exercise, bodywork, and colon cleansing. Most often, however, they detailed treatments that helped body, mind, and soul together. Regardless of the treatment or the nutritional program that they described, however, the self-healers' greatest gift was the hope they brought to the rest of the group. Those who had made it back to health were considered living proof that individual efforts at self-discovery and healing--that attending workshops, reading books, and learning to express oneself--were bound to pay off.



For reasons I may never understand, 1988 was the year when views and beliefs about healing shifted, at least within the network in which I was teaching. By this time, I was giving workshops in several different countries, yet that year I encountered the same reaction around the world: Workshop participants were no longer interested solely in how to heal. They wanted to know why they were not healing. They had tried the many healing alternatives available, but they still were not healing. Their focus had shifted from enthusiasm about their individual quest for the right regimen, for the unique combination of mind-body treatments, to a terrible frustration and a ceaseless asking of "What's going on here? Why isn't anything working?"

The desperation they felt was phenomenal. I cannot even begin to recall the number of times I was asked, "Do you think I'm being punished for something?" At that time I had no adequate answer, only the old favorite: "Hold on to your faith, and keep focused on your healing. You can't afford to become negative." This was probably as helpful as saying, "Don't think about a blue monkey." It might even have added to the person's guilt about his or her illness.

To be sure, faith and optimism are important factors in healing any life crisis, including illness, then and now. Back in 1988, however, I could see that people were retreating from the hopefulness of holistic health and self-responsibility and returning to the superstitions of what I call the Tribal mind. They suspected that they were being punished for something awful they had done; they saw the disease or suffering as a judgment of the heavens upon them. Privately, I was becoming as mystified as they were. As I watched them struggle so valiantly with their healing, I too began to wonder if maybe they were doing something wrong, or if maybe they weren't supposed to heal, or if maybe the right treatment hadn't yet been discovered....



Then came my fateful luncheon meeting with Mary at Findhorn, followed by my encounter with the incest survivor in my healing workshop, and I began to get an inkling of where the problem lay. For the next few years, woundology became my primary focus. I learned to listen between the lines of what my workshop participants were saying. I began to discern when a person was genuinely going through the specific stage of healing that requires a witness and when someone had discovered the "street" value or social currency of their wound--that is, the manipulative value of the wound.

"Whenever you learn a new word, you should listen carefully," my favorite aunt had taught me as a child, "because you'll hear everyone using it." She was right, and once I tuned in to woundology, the majority of the people in my workshops were conversing in this new language, openly sharing their personal histories with other workshop participants. At times, their sharing even took on a competitive feeling in which one person seemed to attempt to eclipse the painful experiences of another.

The sharing of wounds had become the new language of intimacy, a shortcut to developing trust and understanding. The exchange of intimate revelations, which had been originally developed and intended as appropriate dialogue between therapists and patients, had become the bonding ritual for people just getting to know one another. I met one woman, for instance, who stated upon our introduction that the "rules" of being a friend to her began with agreeing to "honor her wounds." When I asked her to tell me what that meant in practical terms, she said that she was only now beginning to process all of the violations that had happened to her as a child and that in the course of healing these wounds, she would frequently have mood swings and bouts of depression. "Honoring her wounds" meant respecting these moods, not challenging them. She claimed the right to set the tone of any social event of which she was a part. If she was in a "low space," she expected her support system not to introduce humor into the atmosphere but to adjust their mood and conversation to hers. I asked her how long she anticipated needing this intense level of support. "It may take years," she replied, "and if it does, I expect my support system to give me that amount of time."

This type of social authority can become very powerful, even addicting--health never commands such clout. When I asked my new acquaintance what motivation she would have for healing, given her "comfort with her discomfort," so to speak, she was insulted by my question and by my inability to "honor her wounds." Even though I attempted to explain that I was genuinely trying to understand her healing process, she never answered my question.

People also use woundology to make powerful romantic connections. Many people have admitted to me that they come to workshops more for the social contacts than for any actual need to heal. Because loneliness has become so rampant in our culture, when two single, available individuals meet in a workshop, the intimacy of the information they so commonly exchange is often mistaken for romance. There are even "thirteen-steppers"--people who use a twelve-step support group to "hit on" potential romantic partners in vulnerable states of mind.

Many people describe their "soul mate" as the person they have finally found who understands the emotional pain they had experienced as children. Such a bond can certainly feel romantic in the early stages of a relationship, but its foundation is actually injury, pain, and fear. In this paradigm, pain becomes a prerequisite for remaining close to and needing one another, and healing can be seen as a positive threat to the bond. The partnership is inevitably threatened when one of them decides the time has come to release the past and move on.

Don't get me wrong--support groups of all kinds, from AA and other twelve-step programs to those that help people who have lost a parent during childhood, can provide vital assistance and insight. The sharing of wounds has obviously provided a climate that frees people--sometimes for the first time in their lives--to recall their painful memories and explore their feelings and fears with sympathetic, nonjudgmental companions dedicated to supporting them.

The warm and understanding atmosphere that is an almost automatic by-product of this level of sharing also offers group members a social life that may have been missing from their lives prior to joining the group. Another acquaintance of mine, Jane, told me, "The people in my support group, as far as I am concerned, have become my new family. I don't feel judged by them as I do with my biological family. Now I don't feel the need to see my family at all." Certainly the healing intention behind these many support groups is honorable and deserves to be acknowledged; numerous people have benefited and continue to benefit from participating in them.

In addition to all the healing support that they provide, however, another dynamic has made me begin to question their healing value. Those for whom the support group has become an important part of their social life naturally wish to continue indefinitely as members. But because the underlying criterion for remaining a member is a continuing need for support, one must accept the group message "Remain unhealed." That is, to stay a part of the group, you have to "remain apart" from other friends and family.

This dynamic calls to mind a famous saying of the Buddha. "My teachings are a raft," he said, "meant to help you cross over the river. Once you get to the other shore, set them down and go on with your life." "The other shore" was the Buddha's way of describing enlightenment, the goal of his teachings. Once enlightened, continue to live your life, he was saying--just don't carry the raft around with you!

We are not meant to stay wounded. We are supposed to move through our tragedies and challenges and to help each other move through the many painful episodes of our lives. By remaining stuck in the power of our wounds, we block our own transformation. We overlook the greater gifts inherent in our wounds--the strength to overcome them and the lessons that we are meant to receive through them. Wounds are the means through which we enter the hearts of other people. They are meant to teach us to become compassionate and wise.

What would happen, for example, if Jane's support group were to tell her that their role is to give her the strength to heal her unfinished business with her family rather than to become her substitute family? Suppose they told her that as long as she avoided her family with such anger, she was actually running away and not healing, and that she had only a limited amount of time during which the group would help her develop coping skills with her family. At the end of that time, she would be expected to reenter her biological family, to evaluate her own stamina and strength, to see if she could now interact with them without expecting or needing their approval. If she could do that, she would have healed her major wound.

I actually suggested this to Jane, but she immediately became defensive. To her, leaving her newfound family would be like entering an emotional black hole. So intensely had she bonded with her support group that she could not imagine herself able to cope in her world without them. As far as she was concerned, her group was more than a weekly meeting; it was the center of her social life. She could not think of reaching closure with them, even though they required her to remain "actively wounded" and in need of healing.


(C) 1997 Caroline Myss All rights reserved. ISBN: 0-609-60090-7

Chloë Rain is the Founder of Explore Deeply™ and the Explore Deeply Movement. She is a Spiritual Guide & Healer.

Chloë has had the pleasure of working with women and men all over the globe to learn to source their inner power, deepen their relationship to self love, and experience greater fulfillment by answering their calling, so they can enjoy the happiness they have always wanted, and have confidence and JOY in their lives, relationships, and finances.

Many of her clients find that their relationships and careers shift dramatically in new and exciting ways after doing this work, creating freedom and joy in their personal and professional lives. To find out more about working with Chloë go → here.

Please feel free to share content freely from Explore Deeply™. However, please be courteous and link back to the original post, and credit Explore Deeply as well as the writer where applicable. I hope you find many resources here to serve you as you walk your path of purpose. Much love!

Before you can heal the world, you must heal your anger

Healing, Life LessonsGuest WriterComment
Sarah Gray Anger Healing.jpeg

There are so many different social movements coming into the media spotlight every year, each of them working towards a different agenda, and each of them working against other social movements. It is chaos. But in this chaos there is one commonality they all share: they are motivated first and foremost by anger.

While it is certainly noble to wish to change the world for the better, the vast majority of would-be-change-makers are acting out of anger. And while it can be argued that anger is a natural response to the dire conditions of the day, it is important to understand that acting out of anger is most often highly counter-productive to the aim of improving one’s condition and position in life.

The best fighter is never angry.
— Lao Tzu

The great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu understood this, and he knew that actions born of anger lead to further muddling of circumstances. He also understood that a truly effective warrior comes from a place of radical acceptance of what is, for this is the central message of Taoism.

In chapter 68 of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu notes:

A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful.
A good employer is humble.
This is known as the Virtue of not striving.
This is known as ability to deal with others.
This since ancient times has been known
as the ultimate unity with heaven.

From the Taoist perspective anger is seen as an expression of a conflict between the ego’s perception of the way things are and reality. It is resistance to embracing all things in whatever state they may appear to be in, which is a trap of self-absorption. It is the result of a failure to accept what is.

The following passage from Lao Tzu’s Hua Hu Ching explains this ‘departure’ from the way.

“Those who wish to embody the Tao should embrace all things. To embrace all things means first that one holds no anger or resistance toward any idea or thing, living or dead, formed or formless. Acceptance is the very essence of the Tao. To embrace all things means also that one rids oneself of any concept of separation; male and female, self and other, life and death. Division is contrary to the nature of the Tao. Foregoing antagonism and separation, one enters in the harmonious oneness of all things.

Every departure from the Tao contaminates one’s spirit. Anger is a departure, resistance a departure, self- absorption a departure.” — Lao Tzu in the Hua Hu Ching

Speaking to journalist Bill Moyers in the following passage, the great American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell tells a story about a Samurai warrior and anger:

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: I will participate in the game. It’s a wonderful, wonderful opera, except that it hurts. And that wonderful Irish saying, you know, “Is this a private fight, or can anybody get into it?” This is the way life is, and the hero is the one who can participate in it decently, in the way of nature, not in the way of personal rancor, revenge or anything of the kind.

Let me tell you one story here, of a samurai warrior, a Japanese warrior, who had the duty to avenge the murder of his overlord. And he actually, after some time, found and cornered the man who had murdered his overlord. And he was about to deal with him with his samurai sword, when this man in the corner, in the passion of terror, spat in his face. And the samurai sheathed the sword and walked away. Why did he do that?


JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Because he was made angry, and if he had killed that man then, it would have been a personal act, of another kind of act, that’s not what he had come to do.” [Source]

You see, the world is an impersonal place inhabited by persons. None of us see eye-to-eye on everything, but all of us have the capacity to influence and shape our shared reality. When people, divided by ideas and propaganda, join forces in anger and lash out against the world, it only stokes chaos and resentment, pushing things further out of balance.

Therefore, it is essential to resolve the anger within yourself before attempting to resolve some external circumstance which brings out the angry version of you, which is the version of you least capable of improving anything, as psychologist and scholar Jordan Peterson describes:

“There’s the angry you, and you know, you all come in contact with the angry you. It’s rather rigid. That’s the first thing you might say about it. It’s impulsive and short-term. It doesn’t think much about the past, unless it’s bad things about whoever you’re angry at, in which case it thinks about them a lot. It’s not too concerned with long-term future consequences, and mostly it wants to be right.” — Jordan Peterson

The simple but powerful notion of overcoming your anger in order to be a true change-make is also elucidated by the Dalai Lama in a short quote:

“The true hero is one who conquers his own anger and hatred.” — The Dalai Lama

Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and co-host of Redesigning Reality, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.

This article (Lao Tzu and Others on Why You Must Fix Your Anger Before Trying to Fix the World) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to DylanCharles and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

Chloë Rain is the Founder of Explore Deeply™ and the Explore Deeply Movement. She is a Spiritual Guide & Healer.

Chloë has had the pleasure of working with women and men all over the globe to learn to source their inner power, deepen their relationship to self love, and experience greater fulfillment by answering their calling, so they can enjoy the happiness they have always wanted, and have confidence and JOY in their lives, relationships, and finances.

Many of her clients find that their relationships and careers shift dramatically in new and exciting ways after doing this work, creating freedom and joy in their personal and professional lives. To find out more about working with Chloë go → here.

Please feel free to share content freely from Explore Deeply™. However, please be courteous and link back to the original post, and credit Explore Deeply as well as the writer where applicable. I hope you find many resources here to serve you as you walk your path of purpose. Much love!