Prescriptions and Psychedelics

1392 Relax and Succeed - We never know how much control we have

It is easy for people to be medicalized by definitions, and then pharmaceuticalized through treatments. For better and for worse, those definitions and choices can go on to shape how caregivers and health systems will interact with people for the rest of their lives.

There are undoubtedly cases where these interventions are wise and worthwhile. But unless cases and the effects are extreme, we are often better to start off with the internal interventions that are naturally built into our biological, chemical and physical systems.

We all have our own chemical factory in our minds, and science is also learning that our microbiome may play a major role, which can mean that even the chemistry of our diets can play a big part in how we feel emotionally.

Where possible, when tackling emotional issues, we are often best to start with diet, exercise and thought-based interventions before proceeding onto more externalized responses through drugs.

However, if those other routes do not allow people to maximize their potential, then no one should feel badly about taking whatever course of action leads them to their best health outcomes.

I have worked with people who took more control over their thinking and eventually went off their medications by choice and were fine. At the same time, no one is ‘failing’ if  a drug intervention is the only thing that gets them the relief and healthy life they seek.

Many of those interventions involve things like SSRI-classed prescription drugs, but brain science and behaviour labs are increasingly investigating newer, more experienced-based therapies based on formerly illegal drugs. Especially in extreme cases, many people are finding these methods can lead to life-changing epiphanies.

If you would like to know more, below are several links to a series of programs on new approaches to therapy that are gaining increasingly wider acceptance. What works for one person may not work for another, but if we’re looking at all potential directions to approach our health from, these may prove helpful where all else has failed.

CBC – Ideas – High Culture Part 1

CBC – Ideas – High Culture Part 2

CBC – Ideas – High Culture Part 3

ABC – Health Report – Anxiety, depression and the new science of psychedelics – Part 1

ABC – Health Report – Anxiety, depression and the new science of psychedelics – Part 2

CBC Radio Series – On Drugs


peace. s

Unhealthy Habits

1370 Relax and Succeed - We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong

All day long a billion details offer themselves up for our focus. And yet many of us walk around largely oblivious to our surroundings. Very few people will even notice the eye colour of the people they’re speaking to. Many people need photos to know the eye colour of their friends.

But if billions of these potential stimuli are offered to us, what makes us choose which ones to bring into focus?

Wiring. Our brain is flexible and it builds itself to efficiently do the things we often do. If someone hand-writes every day, the writing gets better and better unless some illness or injury is involved. The same goes for adding numbers. We might feel slow on week one, but by week four our brain has built a bunch of shortcuts.

When those shortcuts are super-efficient and are often used), they are often referred to as habits, and they will even often initiate themselves at specific times of day. These can be external reality things, like the way a photographer will often look at the world in ways that are different from non-photographers, or how someone might keep an ear out for the baby.

Or, we can also have internal, thought-based habits — like someone who worries, or a kid in church who sits there the entire time with their mind filled with thoughts about how much they wish they weren’t in church. We feel the urges to do those things, or think those things, due to the force of habit, just like water flows along low ground.

The popular shortcuts that we find destructive –or even meaningfully counterproductive– are not seen as habits, they are viewed as either obsessions or addictions. But to our brain those are largely the same things. They are things we feel compelled to repeat.

Why we want to repeat them is simply because nature naturally seeks efficiency, so the courses of thought most often used are the ‘low ground’ for our energy. If we’re tired and don’t have a strong flow of reality coming in, our brains will do what’s easiest –our habits– the things we practice and that our brains wire us to do very well.

If we’re struggling with alcohol, or games on our phones, porn, or anything else, plugging that brain superhighway is not how our brains work. We don’t shut down pathways in the brain, we redirect them.

1370 Relax and Succeed - Life does not get better by chance

It was by repeating actions that we built our brains in the troublesome way they may be. But it’s simply by repeating different actions that we can divert our thinking and steal all the traffic from our troublesome road. We can divert the energy to take another path through life that we find more productive.

But this requires us to stay conscious of what we’re really doing with our brains.

If we look at what drugs and alcohol, video games of whatever sort, as well as gambling, food, or sex, all have in common, it is that they either require our attention or they numb us. By doing either, the brain creates a way not to do the painful thinking it might otherwise do. This is a healthy awareness but an unhealthy response.

The healthy part is that, in a low energy state, our desire is to reduce the number of stimuli. These include the considerations and deliberations that can obsess our internal ego-talk. But if we’re doing it by distracting or numbing ourselves then we’ve just replaced a negative with another negative masquerading as a positive. We can do better.

The pressure –or urge– we feel to participate in an addiction will be like that kid in church. But just because we feel that urge to think a course of thoughts does not mean we need to actually think them, or turn them into action. If we think anything at all we are better to meditate on reality.

We can recognize that –in the technical brain sense– our urges makes sense. But we also know brains can re-write themselves. These two facts mean that we can take an addiction impulse, and then use it as a signal to divert our attention to a replacement activity that is something truly valuable to us. (It’s always much easier when we trade a leaning-post for a passion.)

If we’re lazy with our brains they will create more work in our lives. But if we do our best to stay as conscious of ourselves as possible, we can recognize those tugs and urges for what they really are: thought-thin prompts to start a justification narrative.

They are only thoughts. All we have to do is watch ourselves, because if we succumb to a habitual justification we often end up in self-hating loops of thought. But if we divert to something better (a book, a call to a friend, a class), we will soon find that we will feel quite positively about having converted an addiction into a healthy and rewarding habit.

peace. s

From Raving to Adulting

1340 Relax and Succeed - We should consider every day lost

Over the last few years, as people mature and their relationships and job responsibilities become more serious, I have heard from more and more people who want to shift some of their focus away from their party-lives and onto their adult lives.

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has been a wonderful trend in human experience in that its venues have generally provided wonderful spaces in which people could feel free. With few ‘rules’ for dancing or dressing, people could really immerse themselves into the music, and that lead them to experience periods of true bliss. These can be genuinely profound experiences.

While the above is true, it is also true that much of the reason that EDM culture and raves are known for being so ‘loving’ or ‘free’ is because there is a much larger percentage of drug users at those events. But by their 30’s most ravers have seen drugs ravage many friend’s lives if not end them entirely, so concerns are natural. And they are increased by recent changes in the trustworthiness of drug purity. There are a lot of people who want to quit.

The favoured drugs tend to tip people towards temporary, drug-induced feelings of strength and energy (cocaine, methamphetamine etc.), emotional freedom (ecstasy, molly, MDMA, alcohol etc.), relaxation (ketamine, opiates) or spirituality (LSD, DMT, Salvia etc.). In a busy, stressful world, it is easy to see why searching for quick paths to those sensations would be welcomed by many.

These are often referred to as ‘lifestyle’ drugs, because they, together with the music and certain fashions etc., all form a subculture. It is valid as a subculture, but it can also be a legitimate impediment to developing a successful adult life.

1340 Relax and Succeed - Man is fully responsible

It’s one thing to date someone at 23 and spend your weekends on drugs raving to your favourite DJ’s, but eventually the job promotion thing, or the biological clock thing happen, and the people who want families tend to desire less partying and more responsibility. This is often when people first face the idea that they may have a casual addiction.

In truth, I rarely work on the addiction itself. For the most part, what’s needed is a helpful identity shift that allows us to keep the most important parts of ourselves from an earlier incarnation of our life, while we make a legitimate shift into our next phase of life –and until that final curtain, there is always another phase, so it’s a good skill to develop.

Once people have been taught how to make this shift comfortably, the drugs rarely disappear, but they do become more events than a lifestyle. Parents that used to go to every summer festival and rave possible are suddenly having children, serious jobs, and now they hit one or two big festivals a year as their adult time without the kids. Even then, most find their drug use trails off quite naturally and comfortably.

People should not feel strange or feel as though they’ve made a mistake if they’re wrestling with this change. It is never enjoyable to have to surrender freedom to assume responsibility for our life partners or children, but we’re not looking at the whole picture if we think we don’t gain in that trade. We don’t lose our old selves and go backwards, we build on that person and we go up.

There are other ‘highs’ in life. People don’t have to hate or be ashamed of their previous selves to find them. They merely need some guidance on how they can make that shift in ways that make sense, that foster growth, and that feel good. Because no one ever felt weaker by feeling more capable.

peace. s

Mental Health Opportunities

969 Relax and Succeed - I used to careThe medicalisation of mental health is the product of an industry. That being the case, it’s worth it to ask what the agenda of that industry is. I won’t pretend to be able to read the minds of drug company executives but I know they have the same problem that any executive in a publicly traded company has: your job and your pay and a large part of your family’s happiness is based on how well you either cut costs or increase profits. But what’s the mean for the rest of us?

A lot of people work in jobs where they’re already overtaxed by too few staff and old or malfunctioning equipment, so we’ve cut expenses about as much as we can. That leaves profits. If only we could have 15% more diseases every year….

A disease is a findable thing. A doctor can point to something and say; this is happening because a disease is impacting you in this particular way. A disease is its own entity seeking to do its own thing that is often contrary to the needs of its host. At the same time, with no disease present we know otherwise healthy muscles can atrophy and disappear if we just choose not to use them. They will appear diseased because they will shrink and contort but if we went to the gym and changed how we used them they could again be strong and flexible. So it goes with our emotions.

969 Relax and Succeed - If there are no ups and downsYou can feel an emotion and take a pill to rid yourself of it or; you can experience that emotion, become familiar with it and then master it. Some people never learned to juggle the ball of happiness by getting lots of chances to drop it. Some people never learned to juggle the knives of misfortune because they always closed their eyes and ran rather than face some early cuts. So when it comes to negative emotions we’ve either ran or tried to shut them down, but what if you coped instead? You remember that don’t you: coping?

I’ve written for years about the value of nature. I’ve written for years about the value of friends. I’ve written for years about the value of laughter and enjoyment. Meanwhile most people go buy something, or they go to their doctors and get mood pills or they go to a friend to get weed or some other socially acceptable medication, but hardly anyone copes. And every year it gets worse.

Bad things do not create a bad life. A bad attitude about things creates a bad life. Good things do not create a good life, a good attitude about things creates a good life. So what’s a good attitude? Turn it off! Give me my pill! Shut up! Go away! Nope. A good attitude is more like, wow, today was hard. Want to go swimming or biking tonight? How about if we visit the neighbours? They’re always so funny! Or how about a great meal?

969 Relax and Succeed - A good laugh and a long sleepThere you go right there. Want to know the difference between a happy family and a miserable one? That’s it: how you respond to the world. Happy people don’t have better lives they react better. They don’t dull themselves with a pill, they don’t smoke a big bowl and then sit in front of a screen until they fall asleep and they don’t sit and bitch and commiserate. They take action. They run somewhere, accomplish something or see someone.

Take all of the time you spent wasting life, wanting it to be better. Be honest: it’s a huge amount of your day for most even mildly unhappy people. Now what would your life look like if that time was spent exercising, or learning, watching comedies and seeing friends? Would your life still be so small and dull? Would it still seem overrun and rushed? Would you still have as many problems?

There are things we can do things about and things we can’t do much about. Start looking at your life for its opportunities. Rather than a pill take a walk. Rather than escapism connect with a friend. And rather than idleness choose movement. Your life is what you make of it. If it’s currently full of complaints and struggle then you built it that way. Start looking around for the invisible choices you’ve made and find better ones. Because you shouldn’t be surprised that you’d enjoy laughing with a good friend a lot more than bitching about a bad one.

Go create a good week with good choices. They’re not hard. They’re just not a habit–yet.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #113 – Addictions

931 FD Relax and Succeed - We may not be responsibleFor many years there was just a few of us offering a different idea of what an addiction was and how they truly worked. Until recently very few other practitioners subscribed to the idea because we made the addicts innocent. Even before that we also made the addicts culpable so the addicts didn’t like it either–at first.

Slowly addicts understood our point and successes piled up. People did believe there was a way to change their behaviours. Supporting science was done and articles were written. Increasingly people switched over to this other way of doing things until now it is fair to say that the model that people like Gabor Mate or myself were using is now considered the most logical and effective and now it’s only a matter of time before more recently trained or re-trained professionals start implementing these approaches in more clinics around the world.

There are a lot of things we can be addicted to. Alcohol, prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, sleep aids, gambling, sex, work or even exercise, but each of these is pursued in lieu of something else and that is why the addicts are comfortable with their culpability because they come to understand it was innocent. They were acting outside of their own best interests but that was only because they hadn’t fully considered all of the definitions of what their best interests might include.

Kicking an addiction can take more time than other things but is no more difficult than changing any other behaviour if pursued the right way. And by going about things that way, once you’re finished with that process you’re not clinging to your health for the rest of your life. You are moving forward with understanding and confidence that you know the route back to addiction but it simply doesn’t interest you because your life is so rewarding to live.

Create a wonderful weekend for yourselves everyone. 

Much love, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Parenting vs Exampling

It is extremely common for parents to come to me with what they feel are problem children. They talk about behavioral issues, worrisome friends, disrespect, aloofness, bad grades, or casual sex etc. Certainly there’s almost always at least a few kids in my roster who genuinely need some serious help from me, but I’m happy to report that most don’t need much. In fact, in most cases the kid barely needs me at all. Because the issue actually isn’t with the kid. And it’s not with the parents either. But it is with the parenting.

549 Relax and Succeed - The kids who need the most loveAgain: this isn’t to say the parents are bad. Their dedication isn’t an issue, and all of them are intelligent, successful people in whatever life path they pursued. They bring their kids to me because they love them and want them to do well. They’ve invested time and money and effort and endured all kinds of things before they meet me. And always, the kid in front of me is—despite their issues—impressive in all sorts of ways. So the parents have overwhelmingly succeeded, despite a few lingering concerns. In the end, the problem is really very simple: it’s just that most people don’t parent as consciously as they believe they do, so once I help them become more conscious they certainly don’t need any advice from me.

Parents will believe they’re putting a lot into their parenting by giving a lot of thought to their kid’s development and their “issues.” And they are putting a lot in, in a way. But it’s largely wasted energy because their parenting is choosing and inflating those issues unconsciously as a reflective or reciprocal resp0nse to the parenting they got. So if you feel like your life would have gone better if you paid more attention in school and your parents never pushed you in school, then you will be more urgent about trying to get your children to do well in class. But it’s also logical that if you did well in school and that brought rewards, then you will also urge your child to do really well so they can have those rewards too. Yet at the same time, it makes sense that a kid who is 549 Relax and Succeed - Make the ordinary come alivepushed too hard could crater and drop out from the pressure, even though they’re smart. The point is, you’ll act a lot like your parents, or a lot like the opposite of your parents, and you’ll do this in super subtle ways that you will find largely invisible, except for a few key issues (“Oh my God, I sound like my Mother!!”)

So most parenting is based in fear, and on the act of trying to prevent bad things from happening, and the parents choose the bad things they’re most afraid of based on their own lives and the parenting they got. If your mother’s sister died from drowning then you can bet that you’ll be taught to be extra wary when you’re near water. Or if your dad was never home because he was always working, you will have unconsciously learned to leave work exactly on time for the rest of your life, because you want to get home to your kids. Those are the kinds of motivations that create unconscious parenting.

Can you see how that’s like a crazy chain of misinformation and misunderstanding? You don’t need to manage a kid’s life like you’re their agent. There’s little need to focus on individual areas of a child if they feel fully actualized by parents who are parenting under the automatic assumption that their kid will be a successful human being. Not in an egotistical, materialistic 549 Relax and Succeed - The best security blanketway, but rather they will be confident enough to do as well as they should at whatever they try. So some things they’ll be built for, other things not so much, but they’ll feel secure doing either. We’re all crappy at some things, so if a parent’s focused on their child’s weak points, the child will soon have no self esteem and that is the worst blow of all.

If you really want to have an effect, the most effective form of parenting is exampling. If you and your spouse yell at each other, then you have no business telling your kid not to yell. That’s ridiculous. So they have to live to a higher standard than you? No wonder they’re sassy; you’re a hypocrite. And if you’re constantly focused on their bad classes and wanting them to do great in every subject, then again—they’re doomed. No one is good at everything. 80% of the world believes they are bad a math. For God’s sake, let them be a human. They’re allowed not to be good at things and so are you. Everyone gets that by birth.

School and sports have become like the stock market. They drive people insane. The book publishing industry was historically a 4-6% profit business. But then big international media companies bought all the publishers and because they were publicly traded, they wanted the same 15% a year that all their other businesses are whipped into providing—as though 6% is a failure. But of course, the desire of the market to make 15% does not change the state of the world any more than the existence of schools and classes means that kids should be good at 549 Relax and Succeed - The educational systemevery subject that gets invented. It doesn’t matter if you want 15% or A’s, sometimes 6% and C’s are all that’s available. And it seems cruel to whip a zebra because it’s not a horse.

Most people are much, much smarter than they give themselves credit for. But they limit themselves with narratives that they’re stupid or incapable. And those scripts come from responding to the demands of parents. You don’t want to push a kid into a subject, you want them to be inspired toward it. And for the few things they’ll suck at, you can use those as life lessons about how everyone has things they struggle at and that’s okay.

So the best thing you can do is, if you want your kids to focus, focus yourself. If you want them to speak respectfully, then speak respectfully yourself. If you want them to be kind to others, then be kind to others 549 Relax and Succeed - Behind every great kidyourself. If you want them to get their stuff done, get your stuff done. And if you want them to care about something, don’t demand it. Care about it yourself. Because you don’t build a kid. You nurture one, and they’ll grow toward the light.

Forget talk-parenting. Forget lessons. Take some responsibility for their behaviour. Example what you want to see. Show it to them and they’ll amaze you.

I normally would have stopped at the previous paragraph but I want to take a moment to stress that the example above is common. A lot of my current and past clients read the blog regularly and it’s remarkable to me how often they all constantly believe a blog is about them specifically. It shows how much we’re all the same. These are always amalgamations and re-creations of many experiences. So if you’re insecure about you’re parenting, this truly isn’t about any individual, it’s about you the human being. And I do hope it helps de-stress you so that you and your child can more fully enjoy each other’s company. Because I’m confident you’re doing a better job than you think you are.

with love, s

Disadvantaged Youth

452 Relax and Succeed - I am twoWhen parents talk about kids having it easy, they’re talking about the fact that they’re not dealing with either money or relationship issues. But to the child their challenges are very real and the emotions they face as a result are the exact same ones we face.

This means terrible disappointment feels like terrible disappointment whether we’re broken up about a divorce, or broken up about the fact that we can’t play at our favourite friend’s house. Relatively speaking, the disappointment is just as big and it’s felt just as strongly and we would do well to remember that.

Another thing worth remembering is the fact that kids are human. We see this all the time. A child is considered to have misbehaved every time they do something other than exactly what the parent wanted. They essentially get scolded for being their age.

Kids learn through interaction. They learn through trial and error. To be scolded for that is to be scolded for being human.

It’s understandable that parents get frustrated when their kids repeatedly drop stuff off their high chair in their attempt to understand concepts like gravity or here and gone—but we put up with it because they’re babies or toddlers.

Notably, as soon as kids can talk they’re treated increasingly more like employees or soldiers. They’re simply supposed to do what they’re told and anything else is classified as misbehaving.

There is a very good reason for a parent to have time sensitivity in the modern world,  but there is also a very valid reason that explains why making adult choices about time management are impossible for a kid. These are often days where parents can create teaching moments regarding how to apologize.

452 Relax and Succeed - So often children are punishedThere are days where you get a bad sleep. Maybe it was the way your body was positioned. Maybe it was the dreams you had. Or maybe you’re ill and don’t know it. But everyone’s woken up feeling less than ideal and it makes the day a lot harder. Diets can impact our moods as can the various bacteria and virii that compromise much of who we say is “us.”

Again, notably, adults can have those bad days. Kids don’t get bad days. Kids are being bad when they’re disagreeable. They don’t have the luxury of a grumpy day from a rough sleep or through not feeling well. We won’t give them that latitude. If a problem’s not visible, we act as though they are irrelevant.

Kids can’t want something different, they can’t need some time alone. Every disagreement is seen as bad behaviour rather than recognizing that it’s very often just being created by the simple and very real differences between the parent’s personality and the kid’s. In short, a kid isn’t obstinate and difficult—they know who they are and they know what directions feel like theirs.

The fact that society makes demands on them that are unnatural doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the kid—the concept of society itself is just a subconscious agreement we all make to follow largely silly unnatural patterns. Just because some guy invents the concepts of a clock and a job doesn’t mean that an actual individual human being is wise to live their life according to those two things. (See: Intentional Being Video)

452 Relax and Succeed - Normal is getting dressed in clothesIf we want to be truly healthy we have to respect what we are in nature and stop forcing ourselves into the shapes that society demands for conformity. Kids are still wise enough to resist that pressure as unnatural. Adults get subdued into a state of mind where they just follow the patterns and lose all consciousness. And then they wonder why they barely laugh while kids laugh all day.

Yes, kids need to learn society’s systems because those are mostly formalized methods societies have developed to manage large numbers of people, like traffic or the tax system, or how business works. Being able to flow with those things is helpful, but we do not want to do that at the expense of losing our Selves.

Humans are imperfect beings that learn as they go. Because of this, parents must maintain their emotional resilience while their kids test limits and make mistakes. Without that, we steal every individual’s ability to grow.

We all need to avoid an expectation of perfection from kids. We need to start to understand their behaviour not as something that’s not only relative to us and our rules, but as something unto itself. Because that’s what egos do—they assume everything has to do with them. So when a kid has a tantrum in a public place, the kid is making the parent look bad, rather than the kid is having their own very distressing experience.

Do we think back in our tribal history that when we saw a kid freaking out that our reaction was to try to get them to conform so we would look good to our fellow tribesmen? Or do we think we would have watched them in an attempt to understand their actions. Might we then see that the kid is discovering how the world works, or maybe they’re actually noticing something valuable that we’re missing?

452 Relax and Succeed - Childhood is not a mental disorderParents will have conflict with their kids when they try to talk them out of a noisy instrument like drums in favour of some musical instrument they have zero interest in. If a kid loves drums and we buy them a guitar because it’s quieter, then the kid isn’t being difficult by not wanting to go to guitar lessons—he or she is just being a drummer.

Largely we spend too much time reciting complaints and shortcomings to kids. We need to stop and ask ourselves if what they’re moving toward is really a problem, or are we creating one by wanting them to do what you expected rather than what was natural for them?

As an example, some people are naturally nighthawks and some people are natural early-risers. An early-rising parent who forces a nighthawk awake is placing a greater value on society’s external rules than on nature. Even their love for and appreciation of the individual that is their child doesn’t overcome that. We may not find that fact convenient but it’s true.

Cities and nations etc. make us conform. We have to surrender who we are to some degree to function smoothly with others. But beyond that a lot of people will still demand changes just to suit them personally. We can’t blame kids for pushing back against any unnecessary restriction–because they’re right. It’s not them that’s wrong; we’re the ones who’ve been brainwashed and convinced to subjugate our own natural impulses just a little too often.

452 Relax and Succeed - Play is often talked aboutWe need to watch ourselves around kids to make sure we’re behaving less as a corrections officer at a prison camp filled with rules, and more as a fellow human being who is co-discovering the world alongside them.

In the jungle there are no bedtimes, no wake times, no school and no rules. There is the world and how it works and after that everyone’s allowed to be who they are. And it works, because that kid in the jungle will know and understand his world far better than any city kid who only sees the world as a set of pre-organized concepts that can only be manipulated in pre-decided ways, like life is a Transformer that can be this or that, rather than it being like Lego where it has the freedom to be anything.

Kids are people first and the children of their parents second. It helps them if we respect them as individuals. Instead of telling them what to do we need to try listening for who they are. What do they place a value on that we don’t?

Maybe no one in our family plays an instrument but our kid sits at every piano he sees. Now that’s a kid to put in music lessons. Maybe we want them to sit still and they can’t. Well maybe they’re a kinetic kid who’s a dancer or an athlete. Maybe our kid likes to be off alone drawing or reading. That’s not anti-social, that’s a dedication to practising something important.

We all need to respect children. They do need our help establishing healthy limits. But we shouldn’t always assume we know best. Yes, for practical daily reasons sometimes they just have to water-ski along behind our days. But whenever possible, we really should do our best to try to see their behaviour as having less to do with us and life’s rules, and more to do with their own individuality and how that meets this great big world.

Ultimately a parent’s job isn’t to teach a child who to become, it’s to stay aware enough to be able to help each child realize who they already are.

peace. s

The Nature of Addiction

227 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to

I’ve been fortunate enough to help a lot of people overcome some very serious and long term addictions. To do so it’s necessary to understand both the nature of time and the nature of addiction. In regards to the latter, it’s important to remember that the people who get angry all the time are addicted to anger in exactly the same way that a cocaine addict “needs” cocaine. The difference is, one person thinks some thoughts and that leads them to get in their car and drive to go buy drugs, while the other person scans the world constantly for things that will piss them off and then they think about those things over and over until they’ve dosed themselves with the brain chemistry for their drug.

That’s why when you drive with an angry person they’ll find reasons to be angry all over the place when you couldn’t see any of them. It’s just like finding the drug dealer’s house. You can’t go get the chemistry if you don’t know where to look. So the nature of addiction isn’t that you want the chemical itself, it’s that you’ve gotten into the unconscious habit of looking for it.

Every one of the cocaine addicts I’ve worked with hate doing cocaine. They always say they waste it because the entire time they’re doing it they experience guilt over the fact that they bought it again, including an internal discussion about what else they could be doing with the money; and they think fearful thoughts about how they will feel when they run out. It’s not like the drug use itself is super appealing after a time. It’s that they can’t break the habit of looking for it any more than the angry driver can figure out how to get to work without judging every decision every other driver makes.

227 Relax and Succeed - Awareness is the key

The second aspect is time. You don’t quit drugs for life right now. That’s silly. How would you possibly do that? Now is only now. It’s not all-time. So you can’t quit for three weeks now. It’ll take three weeks. You’ll do that quitting then, when that then is Now. (I know, I’m sorry, our language wasn’t built to discuss this idea.) The point is: Now is the only time you can actually take action in. So stop setting dates and saying to yourself, “after this I quit.” Because you can’t quit then, now. Even quitting is the wrong word. It’s not that you quit drugs or quit getting angry. It’s that you do something else instead.

A cocaine addict doesn’t quit drugs on the 15th and then not want them on the 16th. On the 16th the same tilt in their brain will cause them to want to go in that direction. It is then, in that now that the person can make an alternate choice. They can choose to do something other than the drug.

So do you see that you don’t quit anything? You’re always doing something, it’s simply a matter of what. So if you want to quit cocaine or stop getting angry so much, then you have to assume a moment-by-moment awareness over your thought processes. You have to be consciously aware of what you’re thinking and where it will lead. Once you can do that you’ll choose directions more often favourable to you.

227 Relax and Succeed - Heaven on earth

Fortunately both anger and the anxiousness of a drug addiction can be quite helpful. Those unpleasant feelings help signal to us that we’ve let our thinking drift into unhelpful territory. Isn’t that handy? That nature created that little warning system? Like a dog with a shock collar, once we step outside of our healthy space we get a signal to remind us to turn our thinking around and change our direction toward only those choices that are productive and/or enjoyable.

Don’t battle your addictions, be they to chemicals you produce, or ones produced by a drug company or criminal cartel. You don’t stop experiences like that in one moment. Life is a moment to moment decision-making process. Once people realise this they will tell you it is surprisingly easy to quit. None of them have any desire to return to those thought patterns now that they’ve changed them. That’s how you know you’ve really changed. There’s no tension. There isn’t a battle. Because when you chose something better than your addiction, you did it because that’s what you really wanted to do.

Quit quitting. Live instead. You’re always doing something. Start being more aware of all of the potential choices you have to fill every single moment. If you do, filling moments the same way will seem strange and illogical. And once you can see your life as a choice like that, you’re free. Not only from your worst addiction, but from all of them.

Have a wonderful day. And do it by choice. Moment by moment.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Panic Attacks and Addictions

You might wonder why I would relate two such seemingly disparate afflictions. From an ego perspective they don’t seem to have much to do with each other. But from a consciousness perspective, they function very similarly. The trouble begins with a trigger.

The anxiety of addiction (to a drug or person), and the rising panic of facing a phobia, are both just flurries of thought and, in being so, they are truly both addictions. They are the user dosing themselves with anxious chemistry by replaying common repetitive narratives that justify the release of the chemicals.

The reason the person wants the chemical is because they are used to it. If the circumstances of existence genuinely generated it for a long period of time early in life, then a person can get addicted to that neurochemistry and when it is missing they will seek it out. They will seek out circumstances in life which will create opportunities to get the chemicals that they sense as missing.

Ideas and concepts in your mind are held by association. So say you got beaten very badly by a parent when you were young. Unfortunately, a lot of you had to live out that terrible story in real life. And so the combination of all of your fight-or-flight chemistry, plus your efforts to comprehend the reasoning behind the attacks, all lead to strong, consistent doses of powerful chemicals.


204 Relax and Succeed - Living up to an image

But then life got more peaceful, which should seem like it’s good, except you’re left with this strange wanting feeling. Something’s missing. And then you subconsciously go out into the world with this tilt toward finding a situation that will incite your narrative so you can get your chemical. So if you had the crazy dad you had to be afraid of, then you’ll choose a wife or close friend with an intense temper that includes threats of some sort. Get it?

Now remember up at the start there I mentioned triggers? Well those are what start the process so it’s good to figure out what they are. So say we have two people—and I’ll use the most common phobias and addictions I deal with in my practice. One is afraid to cross bridges, the other is addicted to cocaine. Each one will have a subconscious schedule for when they want their drug.

So maybe the bridge person wants to feel their panic chemistry at least twice a week, whereas the crack addict wants to binge every weekend. The bridge person has their accountant, lawyer and favourite restaurant all on the other side of bridges. They have done this subconsciously, but that was a part of why they chose those particular businesses. For the addict, they tell themselves they have a very passionate sexual marriage, when really it is two people in a relationship leaning on a shared narrative to justify their actions. So they’re having sex, but they just happen to subconsciously and automatically add drugs to their experience every time.

204 Relax and Succeed - When you no longer believe

The preparation to go the lawyers or restaurant will begin hours or even days in advance. Thoughts will kick in about how the person needs to get this or that piece of business done, or that they’re craving the restaurant’s curried chicken—but along with that will be a but. But if they do that, then they will have to cross the bridge!

This type of anxiousness addict will create a want on the other side of the bridge so they can think about crossing the bridge, because it’s those thoughts that are giving them what they want. Meanwhile the addict will be getting horny. They’ll be starting to think about sex with the subconscious knowledge that they can successfully justify the purchase and use of drugs for such an event.

These narratives will build and begin dosing the thinker. As they expand and dominate more and more of the person’s day, the doses get stronger and longer and they take the person away from more pressing matters in the present moment. This means decisions about tomorrow are going unattended, which means the people are less likely to go in the most rewarding directions. This is how these addictions restrict our lives and the expansion of ourselves.

So the bridge-crosser starts to talk to themselves about the existence of the bridge,. They tell themselves stories about how they can’t possibly cross it (although they’ll drop logic from their reasoning as to why, and they’ll generally build themselves into a hyper-ventilating, over-wrought wreck. And every time they’ll tell themselves they have to get help for it, but very few will ever really go. Because if they do that, they might get better and then they would be left without their chemical.

The addict tells themselves that this is something they just need to do one more time, and then they’ll be done. That this is their celebration. Their exit party. They’ll have this fun and then move on to the next part of their life. The more serious part where they move ahead more and pay less attention to their party life. But for both the bridge crosser and the sex and drugs couple, life just won’t move forward because too much time is invested in thinking about obtaining the chemistry of their addiction, whether it’s an external one that mimics an internal one, or whether it’s an actual natural internal chemical.

The good news is, whatever your panic attacks or addictions are based on, you will feel the pull of your narrative as a feeling. You will feel the gentle tug of your story starting. And you will feel it build. This is your opportunity. You must step in at that point and ask yourself, what am I thinking about right now? And you will already have been brilliant, because your egoic you was telling itself a story designed to go get the chemistry, and now your true self is taking control of your consciousness and it’s enquiring as to what the ego is doing. This is already the beginning of changing your thoughts. You simply think about something else. Even the same subject but in a different way.

204 Relax and Succeed - She knew this transition

At the start you can reason your way back out of the build-up. You can tell yourself competing narrative stories that undoes the previous logic. And you will most certainly bunny hop in your success. But every time you don’t panic, delay, or don’t do the drug, you have helped reinforce the pathways in your mind that you are not an addict or someone prone to panic attacks. You will have consciously re-wired your brain with a new identity that does not include panic attacks or drugs.

It was a process to become who you are, and it’s a processes to change who that is. But every small success builds that larger more capable identity that is the real you. You are using your understanding to shed your limiting thoughts and you are uncovering your true magnificence. You are motivated by the feeling of immenseness and beauty that emanates from living with a peaceful heart.

When you feel at one with everything, then you have nothing to fear, or worry about, or need. You are ultimately content to leave panicked thoughts and drugs behind in favour of the richness of a life filled with open, loving awareness. That’s actually an addiction of sorts too. But that one’s as healthy as it gets. And fortunately, it’s contagious.

Catch your thoughts. Remember they are yours. Focus your consciousness on something else. Feel the power when you steal the narrative. Feel the loss of apparent momentum the idea has. You are freer and more capable than you give yourself credit for. You are Neo in The Matrix. So skip the drugs and bridges, and go practice some Kung Fu. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

AA Or Your Way?

Everyone has someone they want to be. They want to be thinner, or happier, or more relaxed. And they’re perpetually disappointed by their inability to change into that other person. The reason that change is difficult is because they’re trying to change into someone they’re not, rather than trying to be fully themselves.

50 Relax and Succeed - Welcome to todayFor instance, addicts don’t really want to give up their addictions. In my practice, they’re always the slowest to sign up. They’ll call and discuss the idea with me for some time before committing. The reason is they get the sense they’ll actually quit with me, so part of their journey is acceptance of the idea that they could actually imagine themselves as a non-addict.

I’ve had a lot of success helping people kick everything from painkillers to cocaine to alcohol. The interesting part is, I didn’t do that by trying to get people to kick painkillers, cocaine or alcohol. Rather than getting them to stop enjoying the islands of numbness that dot their otherwise painful life, I got them to start enjoying the seas in between those islands. Eventually they very naturally come to the point where they don’t stop drinking, they start living. They knew the islands were there, but they were simply less attractive when the sailing was good.

Can you see the subtlety in that? If you try to change, you will feel resistance to change. If you accept who you are and use that as a foundation to grow into the person you intend  to be, then there is no resistance—you’re like a sailboat following the wind. There’s nothing forced about that. You’re not struggling against a headwind to go in some direction because you think it’s right. Instead you’re working with your own nature, going the way that makes sense. You do it all the time, but you don’t think about those things like smoking or drinking or drugs.

That famous experiment with the rats taking heroin instead of food until they died? The one that proved how powerful addictions were? Well that experiment’s been redone except they put the rats with the source of heroin into a space that included rat maze with a bunch of fun 50 Relax and Succeed - A smooth seastuff to do. And you know what? No addicted rats. They had some heroin, but over time mostly they just played on the available toys and habitats.

AA and the like ask you to push against your addiction. They encourage you to make the addiction very real every day. They even tell you you’ll always have it—that it will define you for the rest of your life. I have trouble hanging around many AA “successes” because all they do is talk about not drinking. Well I’m sorry, but talking about not drinking is just another way of talking about drinking. If AA’s helped you and you’re loving your life that’s terrific—I truly am super happy for you. But in most cases what I see in the AA approach is tension and a fear of failure. Everyone feels like they’re clinging because they feel like they’re constantly battling the “fact that they will always be an addict.”  Well that simply isn’t true and I have a lot of examples of people who prove it by living differently.

First off, don’t feel alone. Remember that a large percentage of the population is anaesthetized with either alcohol or some form of legal or illegal drug. Other than people who’ve only been using for a very short time I have yet to meet the addict who’s not trying to quit. But that kind of quitting will cause you to beat yourself up and that will only serve to make those islands even more attractive. Forget how ugly the seas feel and focus instead only on your sailing. Get to enjoy that and the islands won’t seem anywhere near as important and you certainly won’t feel motivated to interrupt a good time sailing just to stop at one.

Stop trying to change. Accept who you are. You will only change by following your bliss and you will naturally grow into the next—and bigger—version of yourself. But like water finds low ground you must choose your path by nature. You must not try. Simply move towards what feels good. Eventually whatever you’re addicted to will simply fade in value next to all of the goodness you will have accumulated.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s