Soul Theory and Chances

Continued from Stepping Out

“The purpose of our journey on this precious Earth is now to align our personalities with our souls. It is to create harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for Life.
It is to grow spiritually.” ~ Gary Zukav

Taking classes online meant that almost all my work was writing – probably 98%. We had discussion questions to post and respond to, as well as papers to write, in most classes, weekly. The discussions were designed to generate critical thinking. Why?? We were always asking why. Why do you think that way? Where does that originate from? What are you trying to accomplish? The student body was much more diversified than the undergrad scene I had just come from and so it was a pleasure to have in-depth conversations with people who had some life experience under their belt as well.

By Spring, I was deep into learning different counseling theories. As it turns out, mental health counseling was a rather ‘new’ profession – not derived from psychology – as most of us probably assume as I did. It morphed from the Parsons vocational counseling efforts which began just after the turn of the twentieth century. Up to that point, Psychiatrists and Psychologists gave mental health advice – predominately at the doctorate level and they are trained in a ‘medical model’. Essentially, a medical model attempts to determine what is wrong or broken physically (i.e., brain chemistry) and then works to ‘fix’ it. The counseling profession today is mostly designed to address mental health from a ‘strengths’ perspective. We consider all the things that are good – what skills, attributes, resources, etc., do you already possess that can help you move through the challenges that you face on a day to day basis?

There are a half dozen or so mainstream theories on human behavior in the counseling field and very few therapists today use one of them exclusively. Most of us begin by utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in its core form – looking at how we think and then encouraging supportive behavior to reinforce new / improved thoughts. Along the way, we will inject tidbits from other ideologies such as…. humanistic, existential, and transpersonal concepts.

One of my final papers was to conceptualize and present a new, personal theory of counseling. I called it Soul Theory. It was complete with a view of human nature, therapeutic goals, anticipated client experience, and therapeutic techniques. It also outlined therapists function and roles along with a guide to direct the relationship between the therapist and client. The basic tenant was this:

In soul theory, it is postulated that an individual is comprised of not only body and mind, but also of the soul.  It is the soul’s purpose to guide the human existence on a journey toward the ability to experience complete unconditional love at all times.  When the soul is in balance with the body and mind – in a state of love – behavior is normalized and absent of maladaptive patterns or pathology.  The human experience of emotional states is the result of an imbalance between the soul and one’s behavior or thoughts.  Soul theory is based on the premise that the soul is connected directly to the divine and is all knowing.

I’ve added the paper in its entirety as a page for anyone interested in reading and thinking about it.

I was more fortunate than many and didn’t have to do anything except concentrate on school. When the girls left for high school each morning, I grabbed my coffee cup and headed into my home office where I was able to sit in a comfortable chair and work on a recent model desktop computer. I stayed in my jammies most days until mid-afternoon. Occasionally, I would grab a textbook and head out to the hot tub to study. It wasn’t a bad life and I expressed gratitude for it on a daily basis. The one thing that ex-Hubby always deserves credit for is making that deposit every month that allowed me to educate myself and raise our daughters. I am grateful to him for that privilege. It was a solitary life, though. I was in the house alone or with teens all of the time. Once in a while I would go to lunch with a friend or talk with a neighbor but it wasn’t ‘company’ or ‘companionship’ and I am a social creature… I wanted to meet someone. I wanted to hold hands and kiss and… well – I was craving camaraderie with someone of the opposite sex.

By now it was late October and the quandary was still the dating thing – it just wasn’t my style really and yet, how does one meet someone in Suburbia? I meditated on it for over a week, I prayed and allowed my mind to be open for an answer. I sat quietly during the day for a month or more and ‘heard’ that I needed to put myself out there. I knew I needed to ‘open the door’ at least so that the Universe could send people my way. A month had gone by and Thanksgiving had passed, Christmas was around the corner… time was passing and I was still lonely. I decided to do it in the least aggressive, least intrusive, and least risky manner… I refreshed my Match.com profile and promised myself that I wouldn’t sit there for hours looking through profiles but I would wait. That was the open door – a picture and a paragraph that offered a glimpse of myself, of my life. I vowed to respond to anyone – everyone who made an effort to reach out to me after all, I didn’t know who they might be and I secretly self-pledged not to judge the people knocking on the proverbial door.

And there was nothing for a solid week. I was beginning to feel like a true loser. I asked the Universe again… “what’s going on”? I would whisper to myself in my thoughts / prayers and I got busy preparing for the holidays.

Just after the first of December, I received an email notifying me that there was a message in my Match.com inbox. The tagline of the message was ‘You have a nice smile’. Ahh… that’s cute – a bit corny, but cute. I liked the idea that someone noticed ‘a smile’ and that it prompted him to mention it. I clicked on the profile of the person who had messaged me and saw a man in sunglasses, sitting down but looking kind of ‘up’ toward the camera. He was wearing dark clothing and had a grin – not a smile – on his face. Crap. I couldn’t see his eyes. I put a lot of stock in what I saw in someone’s eyes.

I could tell by reading his personal paragraph that he was eight years older than me, was divorced a few years ago, and bought his clothing at EMS. I’ll admit that I had to look up what kind of store EMS was and I thought it was a bit strange that someone would tell me – actually, the world – where they bought their clothes, but o.k., perhaps it was an identity thing. After researching EMS, I got a handle on a guy who was probably athletic and ‘earthy’. Simple.

I could tell by his photograph that he had blondish hair and a HUGE mustache. That would be different for me – I never got too into facial hair but hey… I was on an adventure. He claimed to be six foot four inches – Yay for me! A tall guy. I ‘winked’ back at him. I had no idea what the proper ‘protocol’ was and I had asserted to myself that I was NOT going to be aggressively pursuing a companion. I wanted to be chased a bit.

I was about to find out if I had any ‘flirting’ energy left in my spirit.

Back to School

Continued from Love’s Journey

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ~ Henry Ford

I believe that I survived because of meditation. It allowed me to ‘reset’ so that my emotions didn’t stay elevated. I eventually learned about stress and cortisol levels… that when we are experiencing extreme emotions (stress), our bodies create hormones designed to help us in that moment (fight or flight response) but our systems are not designed to support consistent levels of those organic chemicals. As such, it’s vital that we learn how to work with our bodies and reduce the amount of time that we allow stress to dominate our life.

I started school full-time in the fall of 2005 and while I was ‘the old lady’ in most of my classes, I loved every minute that I sat in class learning. Of course, I was in the front row and raised my hand twice as much as anyone else… maybe because I was asking all their questions too?? I started all over again with French and literally, every single person in that room had just graduated from high school, but me. It was there – in French class – that I learned the meaning of true humility. I embraced the experience and learned to laugh at myself as I tried to recall the vocabulary I had acquired twenty-seven years earlier. I formed a study group with a couple of gals in my Bio-Psych class where we talked a LOT about the behavior of rats and brain function… Dr. Gans was exceptionally  patient with me as I put three kids on a bus in the morning and then hi-tailed it thirty miles to campus.  If I didn’t time it ‘just right’, I would get behind school buses that stopped at every driveway for more than ten miles. The universe had my back most of the time but every so often, and twice on exam days (Murphy’s Law), I would be ten or so minutes late… entering right in the middle of her lecture kick off. It was pretty hard to ‘slip in’ when my seat was way up front.

The cool part of going back to school in mid-life or for any ‘non-traditional’ student is that the only reason we are there is … to learn. I found out that professors love us. They, of course, entered teaching to teach and we were there to absorb everything we could so it was a perfectly sound, symbiotic, thing we had going. I was serious and demonstrated it by preparing lists of questions, highlighting my textbooks, taking copious notes, and utilizing office hours before tests and after.

I became undeniably fascinated with human behavior. My appetite to understand why people do what they do was almost insatiable. Between the ‘self-help’ library that I was amassing and the academic perspectives I was acquiring, information was being absorbed faster than any other time in my life. All of a sudden, the prospect of browsing through Behavioral Journals became enticing rather than frightening as it has when I first sat through Statistics just a few months earlier. When I was compiling research for a paper on cognitive distortions or adolescent development cycles I would approach the customary sources and then get lost in a sea of collaboration and philosophies from psychology professionals all over the world. Thankfully, academic libraries are available online for registered students and it was fairly typical for a paper to take twice as long to research as it did to actually write for the simple excuse that I was easily distracted on topics ranging from the science of gratitude to deleterious effects of daily stressors and more.

Of course, I read hundreds of studies about dozens of topics but I easily got lost in the – then – relatively new ideas of Positive Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology. They were theoretical positions that moved beyond what we traditionally think of in terms of human behavior, the Freud, Skinner, and Pavlov postulations. Psychodynamic (Freud) and pure Behaviorists (Skinner & Pavlov) theories felt outdated, strict, and slightly contrite as compared to those who introduced the ideas of Transpersonal psychology; Carl Jung, William James, and Abraham Maslow. Indeed, I was so enthralled that I briefly considered bagging my life and trying to get into the University of San Francisco’s Consciousness Studies program. I was hooked.

“‎…the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” ~ C. G. Jung

I devoured as much as I could read about Humanistic approaches, especially those in the Transpersonal realm. It was amazing to me that the ideas and thoughts which I had been focusing on recently, the idea that Love was critical (in some way) to our emotional wellness, was being a ‘real’ thing and being studied all over the world. I’m not sure why I was surprised as I have a strong belief in global consciousness and frankly, it wasn’t exactly ‘new’ but here it was – hundreds of studies that validated the direction I was headed.

Wikipedia defines Transpersonal Psychology as a “sub-field of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology” and elaborates “It is also possible to define it as a ‘spiritual’ psychology”.  It fit my ideology perfectly and became instrumental in the design of my approach as a therapist. Additionally, the field of Positive Psychology was beginning to garner lots of attention. Coming out of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where Martin Seligman, known as the ‘father’ of this domain, was concentrating his research.  I was fortunate enough to have a professor that personally knew Dr. Seligman and was equally excited about some of the findings, especially in reference to ‘gratitude’. It felt as if I was approaching the epicenter of intention; the Universe was leading me perfectly into the place I was destined to be and introducing me to each element, each component that I would eventually need as I moved forward.

I discovered that professors will generally curve UP for students who are attentive, committed, and exemplify hard work. I tried to establish a thoughtful example. The girls and I would take turns sitting at the computer, typing our little hearts out as three of the four of us were knee-deep in homework most nights. Em was still in Elementary school and was an excellent student but the workload wasn’t yet all consuming. I’m sure that they would have been great students regardless of my personal scholastic efforts yet I’d like to think that I embodied study habits which, they carried on. With intense dedication, I managed to squeak out straight A’s.

Christmas arrived. It was going to be the first year as a partitioned family and Hubby was still living in the basement. I didn’t feel as though it was in the kids best interest to exile him, and I sure as H.E. double L. wasn’t going anywhere. By then, Frank was also living in the basement although he wasn’t home very much either. Christmas morning found us all – sitting in the den doing what we had always done. Hubby and I made it as normal as possible for the girls and managed to be beautifully civil to one another even though I knew he was going someplace else after all the gifts were opened. Perhaps that helped; I didn’t spend any time lamenting on how ‘normal’ it felt but rather used all the ‘tools’ that I had developed from my Positive Psychology studies. He did leave and I remember being only a little sad. The people remaining in the house were my favorite humans and I had everything I needed. I focused intently on gratitude and for the first time in a long time – I felt blessed.