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The path to emotional freedom: beginning to learn to love
Your life is about to get better.
I see great things in your future, a time when wishes come true.
All the notes you put in a bottle were found.
Right here, right now, consider: what do you wish for most? Is it happiness? Love? Less struggle? An unbumpable ticket to stress relief? As you'll soon learn, the power is within you to achieve these. Or maybe you've completely sworn off wishing in response to a pile-up of disappointments. Of course, I've known that sentiment: "What's the use?" Right? Wrong! Such woe-is-me resignation corners you in some godforsaken dead-end unfit for serenity. My determined hope is that you'll give wishing for what's wonderful another chance. There are moments when opportunities arise. This is one, the staking out of your emotional freedom. Freshly fallen snow, not a single footprint--the path of new beginnings. Your first steps are truly memorable. Don't ever forget them. Let me tell you about mine.
The door to emotional freedom cracked open for me as a teenager in southern California. It was 1968. I was sixteen, a flower child in paisley crop tops, holey jeans, and leather combat boots or barefoot, heavily into the drug scene. My parents were frantic. They kept trying to get through to me, but I made that impossible. My rebellion wasn't just against them but to save myself. Though Mother and Dad couldn't have loved me more, I felt suffocated by their mainstream vision of who they thought I should be, what would make me happy. Jewish country clubs, "presentable" clothes, conservative friends . . . I didn't think so. Some nights, I even slept in my beloved jeans (my mother despised them) to feel more free. At the same time, I didn't want to be who I was--so sensitive, not quite of this world. Since childhood I'd experienced many intuitions and dreams that came true, like the times I predicted my grandfather's death and my parents' friends' divorce, when no one else saw either coming. These and other similar incidents unsettled and confused me. To make matters worse, my parents became so unnerved that I was forbidden to talk to them about my intuitions. Then I was sure there was something really wrong with me, a dread I was totally alone with. I didn't choose to predict these things. They just kept happening. I had huge forces churning inside and no way of reconciling them.
Finally, one night, my parents became hell-bent on ending my flirtation with disaster. In a show of gutsy unity, they packed my things, marched me into the car, and checked their only child into a private locked adolescent substance abuse unit of Westwood Psychiatric Hospital. I felt set up, betrayed, and howled my indignation. I did everything in my power to hide my fear. This was where my path to emotional freedom began.
Every moment in that hospital seems so alive to me now. How I fought the kindness I was offered. Initially I felt like a prisoner. Cooperate? Not a chance. I tried everyone's patience. In daily group therapy sessions I refused to talk. The leader, a tough-love former biker babe in denim, would confront me: "Judi [my nickname then], why are you so angry?" "Huh? I'm fine," I'd snap, tight-lipped and seething. The more she'd probe, the more I'd clam up, pretending to everyone, including myself, just how fine I was. I'd be equally forthcoming with my psychiatrist. At meals twenty of us teenagers would sit in a beige cafeteria with plastic utensils (silverware can become weapons) eating some rubberized version of food. I fully intended to isolate...