Learning About Life with Jim Morrison and The Doors

peoplearestrangeI was recently reminded again of how every one of us participates in creating the quality of the world in which we exist. Through our thoughts and opinions, we craft our own reality, then we live in this world as if every aspect of our creation is written in stone, an unchangeable part of who we are. That of course is not true.

My epiphany occurred while I was on an afternoon walk, enjoying some Spring weather, talking my music with me. Selecting the Doors album “Strange Days,” I scrolled to the cut “People are Strange.” At first I was so focused on the beauty of nature around me—the budding trees and the evening sky painted in hues of purple, orange and yellow as the sun set—I missed what the song was saying. But something in me said, “What was that?” so I started the song over so I could listen again. The verse says—

“People are strange when you’re a stranger,

Faces look ugly when you’re alone.

Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted,

Streets are uneven when you’re down.”

History says that Jim Morrison, the lead singer and resident poet behind The Doors’ music, was suffering with a bout of depression when the thought occurred to him that he was taking a leading role in manufacturing his own frame of mind. He penned these words as a reminder that his mood was mostly his own construction.

While it is true that events happen that are out of our control and that people with bad intensions (or who are at least in a bad humor) cross our paths, we are responsible for the way we feel. We can’t blame everyone “out there” for what’s going on “in here.”

Some of the soldiers and family members I’ve worked with are overwhelmed when the Army moves them to a new state, a different part of the US, or to another country. They stay in their barracks room or their on-post housing, doing their best to insulate themselves from uncomfortable experiences in their unfamiliar surroundings. That’s one way to exist, but I wouldn’t call it living.

It seems to me that real life begins on the edges of our comfort zone. The faces that “look ugly” may appear to be very different when you learn a few words in a foreign language, venture out into your new world, or simply tag along with someone who’s been out there and is willing to show you the way. Expect to make mistakes along the way. Trying new things comes with a learning curve. But saying the wrong word in a conversation in a foreign language or getting lost while driving or taking the train for the first time is part of the educational process. Keep doing the new thing until it doesn’t make you so uncomfortable.

If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. The honest truth is, If you want something new, you have to do something new. Go to the edges of what you’re comfortable with, then take a step (or a leap) toward something beyond.

There was once a man who moved to a different location. He asked an inhabitant of his new hometown, “What do you think? Is this the sort of place where I will be happy?” The man considered the question for a bit and responded, “It all depends, I guess. Were you happy in the place where you lived before? If you were, you’ll probably be happy here as well. If you weren’t, well it seems to me geography is not going to change the situation much.”

Get involved. Educate yourself. Look for the beauty around you. Take back your personal power by acknowledging that you’ve created your reality. Recognize that when you seem to be surrounded by strangers, ugly people and folks who can’t be bothered to even give you a pleasant look, all of these observations can be your creation.

Pointing Fingers

finger pointing stkxchgAs a therapist I’m often waiting to hear the rest of the story from the people I meet in my office. Frequently what I’ve heard from a couple doesn’t fit with what I perceive when I’m with them in the session. I can see the part they’ve shown me and told me, but I may have a sense there is more hiding in the bushes, obscured from view but present nonetheless. I’m aware of the rustlings among the leaves, so I press on, looking for clarity.

It was on one such day that I met alone with a wife who had told her husband she wanted a divorce. She had moved out, but no lawyers had been involved in their saga, not yet anyway. I had met with the couple several times before suggesting this session alone with her. My main purpose was to find out what it was that made her question her desire to continue in the marriage. As we started, I purposely asked her a vague question about her disillusionment with her relationship so she would have the freedom to respond as she wished.Continue reading