Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, overcoming adversity

Living in Fear? Time to Change Your Address!

We all have an address, whether it is a physical address that the snail mail gets delivered to or a heart address where you and others connect at the deepest levels. It’s a place to land and without a place to call home our lives can be teetering on the edge.

If you think about a home (whether you have one or not) you know a home is made up of rooms. Each room in a house has a purpose or special meaning (just ask all the realtors helping families where the man of the house wants a “mancave”.) Perhaps you want a library to spark your intellectual curiosity, a craft room to express yourself, or a meditation room to seek a sense of peace. The truth is that rooms have emotional energy as well and for some the place they live in is fear.

Fear is powerful and prevents many of us from accomplishing our life’s mission. It holds us back from completing our life assignment. It tricks us into a state of confusion. When our address is fear what scares us knows exactly where to find us. It’s like we’re a magnet and those things that scare us are drawn to that location like a moth to a flame.

The great poet Hafiz shared his belief on fear, “Fear is the cheapest room in the house; I’d like to see you in better living conditions.” Wouldn’t it be great if Hafiz were your emotional and spiritual realtor? Imagine having someone who knows, believes, and encourages you to change your life’s state-of-affairs. The great things about being an emotional and spiritual realtor is your license never expires and we’re all free to gain insight by his lessons.

How will you change the room you live in? First you have to want to abandon the fear that keeps you locked in a particular room. It requires you to redecorate your surroundings with positive thoughts, rational thoughts, and clear and present action. We give fear too much power; let’s strip it of its power. Let’s tell fear to find a new address with no forwarding address.

If you evict irrational fear (we all have rational fears like starting treatment for a health condition or overwhelming debt from the loss of a job) from your life you’ll be able to take strides to health and healing. You’ll give your body, mind, and spirit the resources it needs to face challenges with determination, endurance, and perseverance.

Want to evict fear?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Fear can be released through art.  To find out how visit

Posted in after the diagnosis, Caregiving, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

We’ve All Got Habits…Are Yours Good or Bad?

Habits are simple things that we do often, and most times we’re not even conscious that we’ve engaging in our habits.  Some of our habits are taught to us like brushing our teeth, and others we happen upon because they serve some sort of purpose in our lives.  Perhaps you’re an anxious person and you pace the floors, or crack your knuckles.  We’re all aware that smoking is a bad habit, or drinking too much and a whole host of other activities.  Then again there are good habits like eating right, exercising, having a spiritual practice.  Those are actions, but did you know that emotions can be habit-forming?

The one emotion or experience that rises to the surface after being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness is fear.  Fear can supersede all other thoughts and actions.  It can cloud your vision and make you play the “what if” game way to often.  It can have you future tripping about what might happen to you without provocation.  It sets you in a wasteland of uncertainty.  Ask yourself, “Is being afraid becoming a habit?”

I’m not sure that most of us would know whether this were actually happen, because when your caught up in the fear wave you lose sight and perspective of your current life situation.  It may not be evident in actions, so you may need to take a step back and go inward.  When you take the time to explore your internal life you’ll get a better reading about what’s going on physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Going inward doesn’t mean sitting on a cushion and meditating (although that is one way).  Going inward can be achieved through journaling, dreamwork, creative activity, meeting with a coach, therapist, or spiritual director.

The key is to recognize if in fact fear is becoming a habit and find ways to identify when it’s creeping in to your life and how to avoid the fear trap.  Believe it or not you have an established pattern, a habit, when fear is creeping in to your life.  You can back track those actions so you come to recognize the behavior or thought that sets things in motion.  (If you’re not sure what this might be or look like contact me)   The next step is to come up with strategies to short-circuit the fear so that it doesn’t bloom.  It may be as simple as replacing it with a newly formed habit.

Fear is habit-forming and interferes with your journey to wellness.  It inhibits your body, mind, and spirit from working toward getting better or well.  Don’t get caught in the trap!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Are You Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I’ve worked with the public for years in many different capacities.  I’ve worked in retail, the food industry, the hospitality industry, the non-profit world, and as a consultant.  As a psychotherapist I’ve spent twenty plus years studying and observing people to see what motivates people to do certain things and to understand what motivates us to change.  I’m learning about an entirely new species of people, those who suffer from the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome.

These are otherwise rational and I’m assuming nice people who under stressful or fearful situations become rude, verbally violent, and quite irrational.  I’m consulting for a company that has been around for 30 years and is going bankrupt.  The consumers are afraid that they won’t get what they are owed and when they phone in they are monsters. 

When I started to pull myself away from the screamfest and take a step back to see what’s motivating this behavior it became  clear; these people are afraid.  I don’t have time to explore their fear on the phone, only time enough to be the brunt of their discontent.  I wonder what would happen if I could explore this fear with them; I think it would calm the savage beast.

Now let’s talk about you and me.  Following our diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness when do you exhibit signs of Jekyll and Hyde syndrome?  Maybe the doctor has to reschedule an appointment of is running late.  Perhaps there was a mix-up at the pharmacy and it will be an extra day till your medication comes in…that would cause fear. 

How is fear triggering behaviors you wouldn’t normally exhibit?  I ask this because for those who work with the public, the irrational behavior drives people away at a time we want or need them the most.  They do say that you get more flies with honey than vinegar.  The funny thing is we don’t feel any better after we’ve exhibited these irrational behaviors triggered by fear and to top it all off we may have alienated those we would want to be on our side.

The other factor to consider is what that type of expression of anger does to the cortisol levels in your system.  Cortisol is not a good hormone and when we show this irrational side it floods our system.  We end up doing more harm than good, even if we get what we want from the other person.  What’s the solution?  Before you engage in battle take a deep breath and understand or feel the fear.  Once you can name it and claim it; you can take a different approach so you’re more successful in getting what you want or need.

You’ve already been diagnosed with one illness, do you really want us to diagnosis you with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome?  Sometimes I think this one is more harmful and harder to cure…it’s possible, but you have to explore the fear.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Where’s My Writing Team?

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

When you watch award shows and they give an award for Best Comedy Writing have you noticed how many people get the award?  For instance, when Jon Stewart inevitably wins the Emmy, his team is about 15 people.  We’d all like to think that he’s that funny all by himself, but the truth is it’s the collaboration that makes him funny (I’m sure his comical in a 1-0n-1 situation, you get the point).  Hollywood is loaded with rooms of writers who come together every week and build upon each other’s work to create the scripts we see acted on television and the movies.

I started thinking a lot about this when I was watching an episode of the re-invented, Hawaii Five-O.  One particular episode had the character Steve McGarrett in the car driving like a maniac with his sidekick Danno.  Danno is so frightened by how McGarrett is driving that he’s holding on to every possible handle inside the car out of fear.  McGarrett says, “Are you scared?”  Danno replies, “I’m not scared; I’m rationally concerned.”  Is that not the best line ever?  I’m “rationally concerned”.

I bring this up because when you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness being able to articulate your experience is helpful in creating solutions and developing a path to feeling better (remember I talk about the difference between feeling better and getting well).  It’s the creativity of the writers in the room that come up with these jewels of the spoken langauge.  Those little nuggets of juicy deliciousness that grabs us in our soul and lets us identify for a moment with that revelation?

So are you scared?  What does scared look and feel like?  Maybe like Danno, you’re rationally concerned?  If that’s the case, then how would that show up in your thoughts and actions?  You don’t have the luxury of having script writers who will orchestrate your life.  You can be inventive and be your own writing team.  You’d have to create a space to explore your emotions.  You’d need to be able to go deep within to excavate those nuggets that capture the essence of the body, mind, spirit connection. 

What would your writing team look like and what how would their script help you on your journey to feeling better?  Let me know…maybe there’s a sitcom, a television drama, or at least a  Lifetime Movie in it somewhere for you.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

If Chief Weber says It; It must be so

Yes…Chief Weber is from Grey’s Anatomy.  One episode shows an accident at the entrance of the emergency room with an ambulance that was rolled over.  The two paramedics are hanging upside down…one dies.  The other needs to have a procedure done while still in the ambulance and Meredith Grey climbs in to conduct the procedure.

Following the procedure Meredith Grey and The Chief are talking.  She tells him how scared she was during the procedure, and if Yoda entered the scene he says to her, “Being scared is good; it means you still have something to lose.”

Let’s look at this for a moment.  Can fear really be good?  The same question had been asked about stress for years and the conclusion seems to be that a bit of stress helps us stay motivated.   Now let’s substitute fear for stress in the above question.  If fear can be a good thing, what would be the benefit?  Like the chief says it brings to the foreground your priorities.  It makes you take stock of everything that matters to you and what you could you possibly lose if things don’t change for the better.

A bit of fear also allows you to experience your humanity.  It allows you to experience life instead of simply acting like an automaton, limp and lifeless on the emotional and spiritual forefront.  When you experience fear when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness you’re experiencing your authenticity.  I can’t imagine anyone on this planet expecting you to face this health challenge with a stoic facade.  I know that’s the case in some culture, but it doesn’t promote health and healing.

Having the capacity to experience fear when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness gives you the opportunity to tackle a challenge with grace.  It provides you with something more concrete than the label you get following your diagnosis.  It gives you something to focus on as a challenge and provides you with the focus you need to concentrate your healing energies.

We’re not talking about experiencing fear like those who cower in the corner.  We’re talking about a healthy dose of fear that shakes us back to reality when we’d rather be sitting under the umbrella of denial.  It keeps us present and that’s important on your journey to wellness.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Fear…What’s It all About?

Ever wonder how fear came into the world?  It’s been around ever since living creatures inhabited the planet.  I believe some would even say that it was has propelled the genes of certain species forward; keeping them a presence on the planet.  Now think about living with a chronic or life-threatening illness and ask yourself, “What role does fear play in my life?”  I know it’s like answering the question “What’s the meaning of life”, but I believe you’ll come up with some smart and insightful answers.  Then ask yourself, “What does fear allow me not to do on my journey to wellness?”

I do believe that pop culture reflects back to us the questions that are on the minds of the masses.  Last week on “Grey’s Anatomy” a patient had what many thought was an inoperable, aggressive spinal tumor.  The patient wanted Dr. Shepherd to remove the tumor and after standing in surgery for ten hours he closed the patient without doing anything.  When the doctor spoke to the patient he told the patient he couldn’t do the surgery.  The patient, as if channeling Buddha or Gandhi said to Dr. Shepherd, “When you are frightened, become inspired!”

I have to tell you that sentence stopped me in my tracks.  It’s what Robert Fritz talks about in his book Creating.  Fritz says that creativity comes when the culmination of tension is resolved.  Something builds up inside us causing this eruptive sense of purpose and creativity to overcome the obstacles placed in our way.  In the “Grey’s Anatomy” scenario, Dr. Shepherd went home and had a surgical epiphany, drawing on the walls of the bedroom figuring out how the surgery could in fact be accomplished.

What inner tension will be resolved within you allowing for creative solutions to living with or overcoming your current health challenge?  How will you take your own drive and determination and use it as the keys to the kingdom that will provide you with hope on your journey to health and healing?

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

What Kind of Dealer Are You?

Now don’t get all excited…the word dealer here is meant as in a card dealer, not a drug dealer.  Just wanted to set the record straight from the beginning; although the response if you thought it was the latter would have been funny.  Getting back to matters at hand.  Picture yourself in a casino and you sit down at a table to play Blackjack or Poker.  The dealer deals the cards and you bet your hand based on the information you have and for some even their intuition.  How good are you at betting on the hand you’re playing and what if you were the dealer?

I was recently reading the book “The Little Book On Meaning” by Laura Berman Fortgang.  It’s a pleasant book, no big revelations, but Fortgang’s stories are entertaining.   I read the following quote and felt it was something everyone needed to hear, “How many times do we misinterpret the things we see and hear in our lives?  How often do we stack the cards against ourselves through out interpretation of events, robbing ourselves of what can be meaningful in the name of fear?”  Powerful, don’t you think?

So let’s put you in the seat of the dealer.  Even though casinos want you to believe everyone has equal chances of winning, the truth is in most cases the house wins.  If that’s the case, then let’s make you the house.  How do you want to play your hand?  If your hands (literal and figurative) weren’t tied what would you be doing differently today than you did yesterday?

The biggest question from the quote is how will fear alter your betting strategy?  How will fear cloud your vision so you don’t play your best, in fact you probably are throwing your opportunity away because of the fear.  This is the time in spite of the fear that decisions and actions have to be set in motion.  There’s always time for fear, but a limited time to move toward health and healing.  If you don’t short circuit playing the hand of fear it will snowball into something beyond your control.  Let’s keep things in check, take the upper hand when dealing the cards and play like your life depends on it!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Uncategorized


As with any other catastrophe, t he news has been filled with stories about the Air France jet that crashed earlier this week.  I was particularly saddened by an interview with the wife of one of the passengers who was sitting by the phone waiting for her husband to call from his cell phone (which at this time is more than a mile below the surface of the water).  She was holding on to hope that he may have survived. 

I have a confession.  I don’t mind flying but when it’s clear I often look out the window trying to figure out how low we would have to be in order to survive a crash.  I know it’s morbid but for those of us who aren’t scientifically inclined the idea that we try and act like birds is unnerving.

I wanted to revisit the Air France crash because as I mentioned yesterday, no one can predict it will happen and therefore can’t prepare for such an event.  That means they couldn’t prepare for how they would live their lives in the mode of “as if”.  An “as if” philosophy gets you to ask the question such as, “If I knew I was going to die in a plane crash how would I treat those I love”.  Since these passengers didn’t have that opportunity the “real” experience of being in their bodies, possibly understanding the unresolved issues they were leaving behind happened in a short period of time as the plane plunged to the earth.

Is that the “gun to the head” that you want to live by?  Do you only make decisions or change who you act, think, or feel when you’re back is up against the wall?  The truth is if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, your back is up against the wall.  It’s time you started the “as if” question because being in your body, no matter how uncomfortable it may be is crucial to healing.  You may not heal the body, but you can certainly heal the soul.

Don’t wait until you’re about to crash an burn to take stock of what’s important to you.  Social connection and love are two of the greatest medications ever created.  The ability to connect on a soul level alleviates emotional pain and suffering.  Understanding others, having empathy for others and being genuine is a gift both to you and the other person.

Facing an illness can be daunting, but don’t begin your physical, emotional and spiritual plunge to the earth without “real”izing what’s important and what soothes your soul.  “Real”ization is free, it may take some spiritual elbow grease, but it’s FREE!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Fear is Physical

How attune are you to your body?  Are you conscious of the slight changes in your physical nature?  Ever been standing out in the cold and you begin to shiver?  If you take a deep breath and relax the body the shivering will stop…at least for a bit.  The point is that under stress or challenge the body tightens up, almost to the point of self-strangulation.  If you consciously feel that tight how do you think your blood vessels and internal organs are responding.

It’s convenient and easy to believe that fear is strictly an emotional response to a scary situation.  When you isolate fear as an emotional situation you then believe that the solution is also emotional.  This often sends those facing a chronic or life-threatening illness to psychotherapists and behavior modification specialists in hopes of changing your thought patterns.  Leaving out the physical component means you’re leaving out a part of the equation and that will result in disappointing results from your provider.  Understanding that the mind and the body are connected will put your far ahead of the curve.

Fear is physical.  It constricts the body cutting off needed oxygen to the body.  It reduces the blood supply by constricting the blood vessels.  Many will experience pain during times of extreme fear; can you think of anything more fearful than your mortality?  The body creates its own domino effect and once the dominoes are set in motion the body falls prey to its actions.  It’s crucial that you be able to recognize fear and counteract it’s effects with a practice that allows you to release the fear from the body.

There are many activities that will allow you to release your fear.  Many body centered activities will give you the physical strength and clarity of mind to release the fear from the physical body; practices like yoga, qi gong, or dance.  Exercise is one of the easiest ways to get the body to relax and release.  You have lots of alternatives to give your body the benefit of dismissing fear.  When fear is expunged from the body you give it the freedom it needs to heal itself.  You provide the body with the space and energy it needs to activate your immune system giving you every opportunity to move closer to health and healing.