Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Our Compulsive Natures Take Over Our Lives

Compulsion can be such a strong thing. It can make you unable to stop, to become addicted. It can make you do things you never would normally do. It can make you become a monster, hurt those that love you, be mean, viscous and destroy beauty. Compulsion for me was a way to defend myself, separate myself from the reality, the painful reality of my life. Much of the pain was because I was unable to escape my own compulsions. The very mechanisms I used to defend myself became the bars of my cage, the cage that kept me trapped when the water started to rise. I know I needed help. Desperately needed help to find a way out of my vicious cycle. For years I think I knew that what I was doing was completely wrong and that I had to stop, before I hurt myself and destroyed any positive connection I might have left. I was on a cycle of destruction that was leading me toward death. A slow suicide. I recently found some light. The Rabbi Doctor Lynn Kesselman, his program called the Five Gates. It's a set of spiritual principles that have helped me to regain faith in life and the world. Lynn Kesselman, went through this self discovery and figured out a way to show other how to come out of the rabbit hole and find the open possibilities of the future. I've only just started down this path of self revelation, self acceptance, self understanding, and self love. Lynn Kesselman wrote a great passage on compulsion and how it consumes us:

Our having prolonged unresolved suffering despite our

best efforts causes us to lose faith in our ability to have a

suffering‐free future. We interpreted this prolonged suffering

experience through the “eyes” of our earliest logical

tool, our belief that our future will resemble our past. We

concluded that through our present actions, we could do

little to secure a much‐improved future. This is the

dilemma that every addict faces in his or her psychologically

based cravings.When we are depressed and compulsive,

we become fatalistic and conclude that because we

feel miserable today, have been miserable so far despite our

efforts at times to improve our situations, we will feel miserable

tomorrow and indefinitely. This makes us believe

that the best chance we have for any happiness at all is to

give in to our emotional mind, which craves immediate

relief, instead of believing in the promises that self‐restraint

will give us what we want and need.

Once defeated, we stop improving our situation

because we believe it will hurt us less. To lose our struggle

uncontested seems to be a better outcome than if we had

tried our best and lost anyway. If we try hard and lose, we

feel like failures. This usually happens because we were

never taught that trying our best is success in itself. To feel

better about not trying to solve our problem, we may try to

fool ourselves by saying, “If I wanted to, I could win.” But

this doesn’t work either. When we stop trying, we know we

will continue to suffer, usually worse than before, and

begin to dread the future altogether. Depression like this is

the root cause of our inability to try to improve.

In the Five Gates philosophy we say that anxiety

(fear) minus hope = depression. In our weakened state of

depression, we desperately reach out for quick fixes to

soothe the pain of our anxiety. Compulsive behavior is the

result. Some of us were taught in early childhood that

worry (an expression of fear) and not just caution is necessary

to keep us safe. If we were raised this way we

became addicted to negative thoughts that further drove

our anxieties to constantly force us to look at life as dangerous

or negative to us. As this habitual way of thinking

deepened within us, we eventually found that our inability

to help ourselves from becoming anxiety‐ridden made us


In my practice, I have discovered that most people who

were believed to have a hereditary predisposition to

anxiety and depression could usually overcome these

problems by simply changing their beliefs about themselves

and life. When they went to their physician they

were asked if either of their parents also suffered from this

problem, and if so their problem was written off as

“running in the family” and could probably be fixed with

the proper medications. The real problem is that in their

early childhood they were taught to see themselves and life

in ways that were anxiety‐producing, resulting in

depression. The causes of depression, and not only the

symptoms, can almost always be resolved through this


I have often been asked why I don’t believe in the

hereditary nature of addictions, anxiety disorder or

depression. The truth is that I don’t really know, but I have

never had a client whose seeming predisposition toward

these problems could not be explained by our discovery of

how he or she grew up to be who they are as it was

revealed in their Fifth Gate journey. In other words, I have

yet to find the well‐adjusted child of well‐adjusted parents

who upon exposure to alcohol and no other negative emotional

problems suddenly found him or herself addicted to

alcohol, unexplainably anxiety ridden or severely

depressed. If these afflictions were hereditary, I should

have found many such cases. On the other hand, some

people may experience greater pleasure or euphoria when

exposed to the same amount of certain stimulations and

may therefore find it harder to keep their rational mind in

control of their emotional mind, particularly in times of


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