What has influenced my life? And yours? (Part 1 of 2)

Playfulness is the key to life.
Playfulness is the key to life.

I was asked: Who influenced you the most, in your own inner work, and how?

I’m choosing to answer this question in a more general way: What were the major influences on my life? I suggest this because I have been influenced by many sources; in parallel with this, I invite you the reader to think about your own life, and what influenced you.

  • childhood issues;
  • educational (university) experiences, with many minor mentors;
  • personal experiences of profound mystery, challenging me to change my outlook in many ways;
  • many workshops on personal growth;
  • many important books (where I gained metaphors and concepts); and
  • a few mentors who were very important to me, most of whom have subsequently become friends.

Childhood and Life Experience

My childhood was extremely painful to me, including much alcoholism, suicide, sexual abuse, and other issues. Until approximately age 40, I shut down totally at the emotional level, and in my 40s, I literally had to teach myself how to feel. This subsequently gave me great skill in understanding the nature of emotionality, although it was initially extremely painful (dealing with these issues was a major part of my mid-life crisis).

I have learned a lot about relationships, both the one where I have been unsuccessful, and those where I have been more successful. I regard my wife, Janet, as my life-partner, and one of the most gifted practitioners of NLP (see below) whom I know.

Educational (University) Experiences

To compensate for emotional pain, I used my intellect to succeed— and I had a deep love of learning, perhaps an innate part of who I am. Most of the time it served me well, but it often isolated me from others. During these times there were a number of minor mentors, but I did not have the emotional skills to relate well to them; they were more distant models of who I could be, rather than direct guides to assist me.

My studies also gave me a broad exposure to vast knowledge, ranging from physics to biology to medicine to psychology. I initially planned to be a theoretical astrophysicist, studying the Cosmos; little did I realize that I would end up studying the inner cosmos of being human — and I doubt that anyone would have predicted it!

Personal Experiences of Profound Mystery

In early childhood, I had a brief mystical experience while watching dragonflies. In early university, for a brief few minutes while studying the Bohr atom, I lost consciousness, and I became an electron circling a hydrogen nucleus —with a profound sense of joy. In my early thirties, without any apparent precipitating factors, I entered a state called Cosmic Consciousness (CC) and remained in this state continuously for three years, six months at its peak, fading over the next few years. It changed my life (and still does). But after it faded, I had five years of despair, not knowing what to do with the experience. Resolving this was the beginning of my mid-life crisis.

Workshops on Personal Growth

I had some brief exposure to personal growth workshops through a process called Marriage Enrichment, but it was my first Shalom Retreat that was transformative, lifting my despair although it did not restore CC. It did however open me to the incredible power of good therapy (experiential and inductive), and has served me as a model in my own ways of working with people. Over the next ten years, I blazed through several hundred workshops, ranging from hours to weeks of duration, as well as being in personal therapy. I was thirsty, knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, as a physician, I had the money for these. Most important of all, I learned that I could transform my own pain, and eventually I combined these learnings with more formal training as a therapist so as to be able to work with people on their issues.

Being a therapist has been fascinating: I was being paid to do my own growth, learning much while being a resource. In particular, I am a Gestaltist — my basic philosophy is that of Gestalt Therapy (seeking awareness, contact, and personal responsibility). Much of my practical skill is based in NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP: which I regard as the most powerful and most playful of therapies) and Bowenian Family Systems. On an informal basis, I teach Iyengar Yoga and Vipassana Meditation.

To be continued.

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