Marks shows you how to change an insane mind-set from doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results to a new sanity, doing the same thing over and over again and getting different results. Learn, Grow, Forgive helps you discover the origins of your unbreakable patterns, shows you how to grow beyond the emotional blocks that have entrapped you, and allows you to forgive-the doorway to lasting happiness.
Marks's three-step process describes in detail how you can take any situation in your life and move it from the failure column to the success column. You'll understand how all your experiences are perfectly designed to give your life meaning and purpose. No matter what's happened, you can heal, you can be happy, and you can love yourself in a way no one can take away.
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The Origins of Self-Destruction
I have not failed; I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work.
— Thomas Edison
Long before you developed a self-destructive pattern, a feeling of discontent was forming within you. To learn means having the courage to face your past, face the effect it had on you, and determine if you've avoided that discomfort by using people, places, and things to medicate those feelings. If you are willing to change, you can; you need only know how.
From the moment of birth, our concepts of ourselves and other people begin to form. From then on, what we are taught, or not taught, is how we become set in our ways — good or bad. Babies are innocent and free from societal programming. When nurtured and taught love and respect for themselves and others, they become well-adjusted and happy. When parents teach children to share and receive love, they will naturally integrate the needs of self and others (rarely the case in the dysfunctional family).
Child-rearing errors pass on from generation to generation, many based on fear rather than love. Our caretakers did not necessarily intend to harm us. Adults are not handed a manual on marriage or the perfect way to raise a child. Until recently, there was little information available on the best child-rearing practices. Even worse, children raised in families that were suffering from addictions, mental health problems, and other dysfunctions were at the mercy of people who were too ill to know what they were doing. Children brought up in these environments often find themselves following in the footsteps of the very people they vowed never to emulate. Many of these young people grow maladjusted and wind up in therapy, diagnosed with all types of psychiatric disorders. These labels often miss the mark and ignore the underlying trauma that precipitated the diagnosis.
In Truth We Trust
Children have no problem seeing the truth, but when young people are told they cannot trust what they see, hear, and feel, they must choose between illusion or reality. Children's survival depends on trusting the ones on whom their lives depend. When parents disavow their child's perception, distrust of one's intuition is replaced with the other's lie. There is a cost for this repudiation; those same broken, unresolved schisms are reenacted throughout one's life.
You may have been deluded when you were young, but you do not have to live a lie now. If you want to heal, you have to be willing to embrace the truth.
Resistance Prevention: Identify the Blocks
If you've been in a pattern you cannot break, you will need to clear yourself of any blocks that may have prevented your success. The first block to overcome is resistance. Many of us grew up in constrictive environments or homes with impossible rules. If a child is raised with too many rules, rules that do not make sense, or rules that have a double standard, these things can cause a young mind to shut down or rebel. Before you can learn how to heal, you must reprogram your thinking with open-mindedness and truth.
When Sharon first came into my office, she was emotionally detached and not sure what brought her to therapy. She told me her parents never allowed her to decide for herself, and they said that only "weak people went to shrinks." She said the only reason she made an appointment was that her daughter insisted. Sharon went from doing what her parents wanted to what her daughter wanted, without having any internal sense of need for herself. Careful that we avoid the same trap, at the end of the session, I suggested that she give some time and thought to why she had spent her life doing what others wanted. I also suggested she wait to start therapy until she was ready, not when others thought it was time.
Three years later, Sharon made a second appointment. By then, her husband had divorced her because he was "sick of living with the Ice Queen." Sharon was shocked, but it was the jolt she needed to resuscitate her life. She was now ready to do the work that would help her to heal and recapture her forgotten self.
Rebellion is another reactive block that you must overcome if you want to have freedom from bondage. To be against something only because you were raised to act or believe a certain way is closed-minded and prevents learning. If you rebel against a belief system you were forced to endure, you are still a victim of that belief system. If you refuse to explore your own thoughts and feelings, you are living a robotic life.
One patient, Arthur, wanted to be more spiritual, but he hated going to church because it did not make sense to him that "God was supposed to be loving but also wrathful." He told me, "I do not like being controlled by some invisible old man in the sky." By the time he left home, he had vowed he would never set foot in a church again. Arthur was rightly rejecting something that did not make sense, but he also rejected something that he had never given any personal thought. Now is the time to think for yourself.
Substituting one addiction for a different one is another blockage that prevents learning and change. Addictions are false substitutes for a genuine spiritual connection — feeling love. Stopping one addiction, such as alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex, overspending, sugar, work, and other deadly habits, without healing the taproot of the problem will only lead to another form of self-medication. This merry-go-round will not allow you to get to the toxic root of your unhealed wounds. When I tried to quit smoking for the umpteenth time, one of the healers I sought help from asked me why it was so hard for me to stop.
I replied, "Because I love cigarettes; they have been my best friend ever since I was twelve years old."
She then replied, "When you can say you love yourself as much as you love cigarettes, you won't want to poison yourself anymore."
Once that thought took hold, I was free. As long as you try to get high through an addiction, you will never find your real higher power.
When we relate to people, places, and things as mere objects to fill an empty hole or numb pain, we remain in a maze. As A Course in Miracles says, we "search but never find." Well-adjusted people do not wander about with an umbilical cord, seeking to fill up with their next fix. They simply experience the joy of sharing and receiving what life has to offer. You must stop medicating your feelings if you want to change.
When I first met with Jeffrey, he told me when he went to AA and stopped drinking; he felt good about himself. His marriage improved, and stable income eliminated debt and provided financial security. Even though he was abstinent from alcohol, he became a nonstop coffee drinker and increased his cigarette smoking. At two years sober, under the pressure of his physician, he stopped these habits. Over the next year, Jeffrey gained so much weight that he could not fit into his clothes. He shamefully admitted he had been consuming a container of ice cream every night. Jeffrey came to therapy because he knew that the carton of ice cream was only creating a greater sense of lack. In treatment, Jeffrey learned that he was covering up emotions that he had carried all of his life.
He had been sexually abused by an uncle when he was five years old. At family gatherings, his uncle would corner him and make sexual overtures toward him, once pinning Jeffrey against a wall, pressing against him, and reaching inside his pants. Jeffrey learned to stay clear of his uncle, but his innocence shattered with betrayal and shock was buried deep inside. In therapy, as he faced those memories and grieved the pain, he began to feel more comfortable in his own skin and more emotionally open to his family and life all around him.
Jeffrey was experiencing what many addicted people face: bouncing from one vice to the next, never discovering the deeper issues underneath the addiction. True freedom can only emerge from learning how to heal the emotions that are being medicated and replacing that void and pain with genuine love. Now is the time to get off autopilot and take control of your command center.
Feel It to Heal It
Many mental health professionals have adopted quick-fix methods to alleviate symptoms. While all types of therapy are helpful, some miss the core issues. Psychotropic medications are now the norm rather than the exception, and this form of treatment is often a substitute for psychological healing. Some drugs have a long-term effect on the chemistry of children's brains, treating the symptoms and masking the pain. However, people suffering from major depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and schizophrenia will need medicine before they can fully heal. These conditions do require certain drugs, just as a person with diabetes needs insulin. Once stabilized, these individuals can then do more in-depth work to heal the underlying pain not associated with the chemical imbalance.
Some cognitive therapies only bypass an unhealed past by covering it up with better thoughts. No doubt, logical, rational thinking is preferable to self-destructive thoughts, but sometimes, like medication, those therapies can ignore the underlying causes of the depression, mask the pain, and ignore the need for emotional healing.
Another progress-blocker occurs under the false notion that religion or spirituality cures all problems. Frequently, people think that if they are angry or upset, or they dig up the past, they are not spiritual. Using any cliché — religious or otherwise — is just another way of avoiding how you truly feel. This form of diversion does not get to the core problem. We must embrace our feelings and work through the associated pain before we can experience a spirituality that nourishes us.
If you want to heal, you must persevere and keep your commitment to yourself by staying in the therapeutic process. You must be willing to go back to the place where you first started to escape your feelings and learn new ways to heal those emotions so that you can achieve the life you want. If you've spent your whole life avoiding your innermost thoughts and feelings, you cannot expect this process to be fast or easy. To break through your walls, you need to remain engaged until you are restored to happiness. Once you are free from the past, your tolerance for pain will be gone. Chaos will no longer be compatible with your healed state of mind, and serenity will be your foremost priority. Be patient with yourself, keep doing the work, and trust that you will achieve your goals. You will succeed.
Love All of You, Perfectly Flawed
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, an expert on the emotional process of death and dying, tells us life is full of lessons that are meant for us to learn, and we are not supposed to be perfect. One of my patients brought her dog to therapy. When I asked her if she thought her dog was perfect, she told me, "Of course not. I wouldn't love him nearly as much if he didn't have that crooked ear and two different-colored eyes." When you can love your human flaws, you will be able to enjoy loving yourself and others.
It's Never Too Late to Have a Happy Adulthood
Some of us have been taught to learn from our mistakes, but not everyone can do so. When you learn why you make those mistakes in the first place, you will no longer be a victim; you are taking the first step to self-love. You may have been forced to do things when you were young, but now you are free to make your own choices. Regardless of the circumstances, no one has control over your mind without your consent.
I once had a birthday party for a friend, and when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he said a blue birthday cake. When he was little, his best friend had a blue cake, but his mother only let him have vanilla. As a surprise, I made a blue ice cream cake decorated with blue frosting and blue candles. I will never forget my friend's little-boy eyes reflecting the sixty lighted candles when he saw his everything-blue birthday cake.
At any point in time, you can give yourself what you did not receive when you were young: the ultimate freedom from victimhood. You can never go back in time, but you always have now. Now is the time to give yourself the parenting you didn't receive when you were a child.
In the following pages, you will learn about imprints and templates and how they formed in your unconscious. Short exercises at the end of each chapter will help you to recognize how your childhood programming is currently manifesting itself in your life. This work is designed to free you from blaming yourself or others and teach you how to replace those reactions with empowering tools for psychological and spiritual healing. You will be able to record your answers and insights in journal form so that you can identify the patterns that have dominated your life. Once this awareness takes place, you have the power to change.
Moment of Reflection: What Was It Like?
1. Describe how your parents interacted with each other when you were young.
2. What early memories stand out in your family life?
3. What things were painful and made you feel confused?
4. How did you cope with those painful feelings?
5.a. In what ways were you taught about how to act, feel, and think? List the rules that you had to follow.
5.b. Which rules did not make sense to you?
6.a. If you were the parent, what guidelines would you have instead of those that were imposed on you? How would you do things differently?
6.b. Are you willing to follow those self-designed guidelines now? ____________________________
7. Were you indoctrinated in a way that you did not like? If so, describe what you were taught. Are you willing to explore spirituality from a different perspective?
8. What did you do to cope with emotional pain? How do you cope now?
9. Are you willing to learn new ways to feel and to express your emotions? If you were comfortable with your feelings and how to express them, what would that look like? How might you resist that process? Close-minded, transfer addictions, conforming, rebelling?
Additional Journal Space
Understanding the Template
You see only the past. It is the reason why you are never upset for the reason that you think.
A Course in Miracles
Each of us has a template that formed from our childhood experiences. If you drew a picture of your family and put a frame around it, that would be your template for life. It is an image forever ingrained in your mind, and it can represent pleasure, pain, or anywhere in between. Without your realization, it governs you and rules your decisions. When you veer off the path, you will feel lost, even when you are not.
Our template causes us to gravitate to people and relationships like our family of origin. Pleasant or unpleasant, there is a familiarity in being with people who remind us of those significant others from our youth. That is what drives a child of an alcoholic to marry an alcoholic or addict (or become one). Before you can change these templates, first you must learn how they formed and how you are currently reenacting them.
Sandy was able to see how her past was controlling her and how she worked through her fear. Growing up under her mother's constant disapproval — getting critical looks or negative comments — took a long-term toll on her. She said this behavior was so persistent; it made her think her mother didn't like her. This feeling of being unaccepted was unbearable, and Sandy slowly disconnected from her feelings. She always wondered what was wrong with her and kept trying to seek her mom's approval. "I thought if I had the right friends, then she would like me," she said, "but instead, she criticized them. When I went away to college, I went home as little as possible, and this helped, but the damage to my self-esteem had already happened. I was married twice, both for three years, twenty-eight years apart. The men in those marriages and the few other men with whom I was involved shared a similar trait: They were all self-absorbed. I interpreted this as a sign I should try harder so that they, too, would like me. They didn't."
Sandy realized this theme carried forward her entire life. Kind men who seemed to like her were of no interest to her; their personalities were not familiar enough. She gravitated toward people who did not show much warmth or affection, and she felt "stuck" in the pattern of trying harder, operating under the clear message that she had to be the one to make a relationship work. Much later in life, Sandy moved closer to help her mother, thinking time and maturity would help, but to no avail. There was always friction, and she never felt the affection she craved from her mom. When she started to learn, grow, and forgive, she realized her blocked feelings from those earlier experiences had solidified this pattern in all of her relationships. After she worked through her feelings and realized the lack of affirmation was not her fault; she felt a sense of peace.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Learn, Grow, Forgive"
Copyright © 2019 Dr. Donna Marks.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART I: LEARN,
Chapter 1 The Origins of Self-Destruction, 1,
Chapter 2 Understanding the Template, 13,
Chapter 3 The Psychology of Imprinting, 33,
Chapter 4 The Power of the Unconscious, 45,
Chapter 5 Connecting the Dysfunctional Dots, 55,
PART II: GROW,
Chapter 6 The Courage to Feel, 67,
Chapter 7 Dismissing Dysfunctional Guides: Anger and Guilt, 79,
Chapter 8 Shine Light on the Fear, 93,
Chapter 9 Freedom from Bondage, 107,
Chapter 10 Freedom from Pain, 123,
PART III: FORGIVE,
Chapter 11 The Ultimate Healing, 137,
Chapter 12 Honoring Truth: The Doorway to Authenticity, 149,
Chapter 13 An Open Heart: The Strongest Heart, 159,
Chapter 14 Higher Power, Where Are You?, 169,
Chapter 15 Spiritual Success, 183,