“The Privilege of a Life Time” by Peter Metzner


The privilege of a lifetime is being
who you are.
The goal of the hero trip
down to your jewel point
is to find those levels in the psyche
That open, open, open,
and finally open to the mystery
of your self
being Buddha consciousness,
the Christ.

That’s the journey
(Joseph Campbell) Reflections on the Art of Living – A Joseph Campbell Companion

“Find a place where there is joy and the joy will burn out the pain” .

According to Campbell, Satan is the epitome of the intractable ego. That part of ourselves needing to be right, to defend ourselves, feeling separate, better than or not as good as others depending on our beliefs, dogma and life’s situations. Hell is the concretization of your life experiences, a place where you’re stuck, the wasteland. In hell, we blame others for our condition and are so bound to ourselves that grace cannot enter. What is hellish is being stuck without hope, without relief.*

How we mature, depends on taking responsibility for our choices, no longer blaming others, or expecting rescue from them. And to acknowledge the pain of loneliness however much we are invested in social roles and relationships. (James Hollis) Swamplands of The Soul. The mature person i.e. one who is psychologically free : “is confident in his inner world, responsible for his strengths and weaknesses, consciously able to love himself, and thus, able to love others”…. Marion Woodman

In a simple and poignant description of the human condition, and of growth; Jolande Jacobi, a Jungian analyst writes: “Like a seed growing into a tree, life unfolds stage by stage. Triumphant ascent, collapse, crises, failures, and new beginnings strew the way. It is the path trodden by the great majority of people, as a rule unreflectingly, unconsciously, unsuspectingly, following its labyrinthine windings from birth to death in hope and longing. It is hedged about with struggle and suffering, joy and sorrow, guilt and error, and nowhere is there security from catastrophe. For as soon as a man tries to escape every risk and prefers to experience life only in his head, in the form of ideas and fantasies, as soon as he surrenders to opinions of ‘how it ought to be’ and, in order not to make a false step, imitates others when possible, he forfeits the chance of his own independent development. Only if he treads the path bravely and flings himself into life, fearing no struggle and no exertion and fighting shy of no experience, will he mature his personality more fully than the man who is ever trying to keep to the safe side of the road.”
J. Jacobe, The Way of Individuation

There are two gremlins we face every morning.

Fear: I am too tiny it is too hard… I can’t do it.

Lethargy: – chill out tomorrow is another day…

Each will eat us alive… Fear and lethargy are the enemy they are not out there they are inside
Carl Jung wrote: The spirit of evil is the negation of live force by fear… only boldness can overcome that fear.
If the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is violated”

Our task is to recover our personal authority and discern the meaning of our lives.
Who are we to stand in its way?

Navigating my Middle Passage: From the Pursuit of Money to Meaning By Peter Metzner


  When I was in my 30s I had a well paid sales and sales training position.  I worked hard and made good money. In fact, most of my waking efforts were devoted to increasing my sales and commissions and supporting a life style that was keeping pace with my earnings. 

During this phase in my life, I dreamed I was imprisoned in a desert surrounded by a brick wall and chain link fence, guarded by a somewhat arrogant and surly middle-aged man.  On the other side of the wall was beautiful lush country and hills.  I later realized, this dream was a metaphor for how I had trapped myself, felt confined and unable to be in a place I wanted to be.   This insight inspired me to make major shifts in my personal and professional life.

Sigmund Freud was asked in a lecture “What is needed for a successful life?” Surprisingly, he answered in only two words: “Lieben und Arbeiten.” To give and receive love — and to do work that is right for you.  What was the right work for me?  The lush countryside in my dream offered a tantalizing clue.

With therapy, extensive reading, numerous workshops and being coached, I found that by not living my values, or my purpose, and not doing what I was passionate about was a major part of this malaise.  I was living other’s expectations of what I should be.  This is a good definition of Neurosis – having to be someone you are not.  Psychologist James Hollis says “the task of midlife is to find out who you really are and to claim your life.”

 I asked myself, what is a life that is worthy of me and reflective of who I am, what I am naturally good at, passionate about and where there is a real need in our society?  For me the answers that came were realizing that  teaching, coaching, training and helping others grow and be successful energized me.  As I looked back at the major themes of my life – the light bulb went off:  almost everything I had instinctively done was that of teaching, training coaching and speaking!

I realized that happiness and fulfillment for me  required connecting to my passion, utilizing and developing my natural strengths in the service of a need that made me feel my work was meaningful.  Once I got this, the map and next steps were clear.  This is how I made the shift from focusing on external rewards to what was intrinsically rewarding.  It hasn’t always been easy financially. There have been tests, trial and tribulations.  I do  believe that when I  aligned with what is right for me: doors opened,  opportunities arose and people I needed to meet  came to me and me to them in often unexpected ways.   The price of not shifting to vocation would have been too costly to my health, emotional well-being and happiness.

Stepping Into Your Vision by Peter Metzner


“I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens.  I’ve knocked from the inside.” — Rumi

All of our trouble flows from being separated from our instincts.  C.G. Jung

Freud stated that “The price of civilization is neurosis”.   Neurosis meaning being someone you are not,  being split from your natural truth and being defined by an external definition of who you are.   Living a life that is authentically yours;  means being connected to your passion,  using and developing your gifts and natural abilities  in ways that are meaningful, useful and satisfying.   This is what vocational  integration is.    To get to this place requires some reflection and being  ‘real”  with your self.    Asking the larger and important questions can greatly help this process.

Below are powerful questions from James Hollis, PhD   that can help ease access to deeper insights.   Asking the “right”  questions;  stimulates our thinking  to seek to find answers.   We need   to ask and  be open and receptive to the messages we get.  Having solitude and quiet  allows us to hear and discern the answers that come.     Each may take some time so you may want to choose the one or ones that  resonate the most with you at this time.   

The Questions:

  • How do you know what is true for you?   How did you lose your personal authority in the first place?   Did you lose it through adapting  to circumstances?
  • What core ideas – are the defining ideas of my life?
  • What has brought you to this point in your life?  Fate?  Family influences?
  • What parts of history have framed your world?  Are there repeating patterns that make us prisoners of our history?
  • Which pieces or parts of your life are working  for you?
  • What constricts you?
  • What messages did you internalize?  i.e.  We are here to make money;  I have to be perfect,  successful;  have children and make them successful…
  • Why does so much feel like a script that has been written for you?
  • Am I choosing  security over truth?
  • Am I doing  what my peers do?
  • Do I change and grow and how?
  • Why is so much a disappointment?
  • Why do I hide so much from others?
  • What gets pushed underground in my unconscious?
  • Where do I experience the transcendent?

According to Jung, the highest calling is an appointment with our “self”.  We have an appointment with ourselves and not all of us keep it.     We need to mindful and discern where spirit is working in all areas of our lives. If the life we have lived has been too small and it may be too small for most of us;   the task of recovering ourselves is opening to largeness of our journey.

There are two  gremlins we face every morning.

Fear: I am too tiny it is too hard…  I can’t  do it.

 Lethargy:  – chill out tomorrow is another day…

Each will eat us alive… Fear and lethargy are the enemy, they are not out there they are inside.  We awaken only to fall back into the  comfort of our past life.

Jung also wrote:  ” The Spirit of evil is the negation of live force by fear… only boldness can overcome that fear.

If the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is violated.”

We all have a task and it is;  the recovery of personal authority and discerning the meaning of our lives.  Who are we to stand in its way?  We are responsible for finding meaning in our lives.

We can look at symptoms like depression, anxiety, addictions and compulsions as ruptures in our false self.   James Hollis also writes this is the psyche or our “self” trying to break out of the confines of the acquired or false self.    So welcome a symptom.  The psyche which has been captive may have a different agenda than the one our ego or acquired identity is following.    Symptoms may be the psyche no longer able to cooperate in going along the path we are taking.  Similar to the reins of a horse correcting us when we stray.

Jung believed  that every patient knew at some all level what they needed to do.   We all need to become our own psychotherapists
and heal the bridge and split from our natural truth.   The self knows you have always known.   This is the knowledge of the head in service to the knowledge of the heart which gives insight and the courage to live our lives.

If you knew what you are truly capable of, would you move forward into your life with tremendous enthusiasm and very little self-doubt?
Find  your voice and a place in your life where your brilliance  can shine through.  There is  something we all can do to bring us a sense of satisfaction and meaning.   Find  what you love the most in life.  Search inside for that deep passion or restlessness, and allow  yourself  the quiet and peace to give it full expression.
There is genius in every one of us, as a natural part of our birthright.  Let it come out.  The German Poet Rilke wrote: “Our task is to be defeated by ever larger things” .
References and suggested reading:
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally Really Grow up James Hollis PH.D, Gotham books New York, NY 2006
Why Good People Do Bad Things:  Understanding our Darker Selves.  James Hollis PH.D Gotham books New York, NY 2007
Memories Dreams , Reflections.  Carl Gustav Jung  Random House, Inc. 1963
 

 

Overcoming Addictions and Compulsions: “Finding Your Self” by Peter Metzner


If something out side of your self is the reason you are happy;  you are hostage to it.  Ekhard  Tolle

In over 15 years in being in the field of Human Development, I have seen no correlation with having a lot of material things and “happiness”.   Money is important and ranks along  with oxygen to live.   Yet, when there is enough oxygen to breathe  it doesn’t register in our awareness of needs.

Neuroscience has found that money or accumulating money stimulates the pleasure centers of our brains.      If we are happy, have supportive relationships and are living meaningfully and with purpose,  material comforts can  enhance our sense of well-being.   However,  if we are unhappy,  we are  like hungry ghosts.   Searching and driven yet never satisfied.  Riches, material comfort, distractions etc.  can’t make us happy if we are anxious, driven, unhappy or suffering from low self-esteem or lack of meaning.   If materialistic ambition becomes a substitute for our intrinsic needs for giving and receiving love and doing work that is “right” for us, we can become addicted in the pursuit of diversions, pleasure, accumulating “things” , titles, accomplishments, etc.

Neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, PhD  explains, “dopamine levels increase as soon as we start anticipating a reward. Once the dopamine starts flowing, monkeys and people will work and work and work expecting  a treat.  For monkeys,  a grape is usually enough.   For people, the treats include:  a pair of sneakers, a shiny car, an MBA that might lead to a high-paying job, early retirement, a couple of minutes of entertaining diversion, a few seconds of sexual gratification, etc…    Monkeys and people’s neurochemistry  function virtually the same!    The main difference: “Monkeys don’t get hooked on beliefs, ideologies, dogma, degrees, titles, fantasies, lies, empty promises, or self-deceptions” .

What is known about addictions:

  • Any behavior that can deliver a dopamine reward can become an addiction.
  • The more powerful the addiction, the greater the denial, the weaker the free will, the more likely addicts are to detest any information that threatens to keep them from feeding their addictions.
  • It’s possible to get addicted to safety, peer approval, and esteem.   (The dopamine project)

Using brain scanning equipment, researchers have found that there is basically one addiction—dopamine addiction. When heroin addicts shoot up, the street drug tells their brains to produce dopamine. Heroin is a trigger.  Dopamine flow creates the sensation of being ‘high.’ When it comes to scoring dopamine rewards, there are many triggers. For some the trigger is cocaine. For others it’s nicotine, alcohol, sex, gambling, or food.  Street drugs are physical dopamine triggers that are hard to deny because they need the ingesting, inhaling, or injecting of addictive substances.  Sadly, physical dopamine addictions destroy lives and wreak societal damage.  Researchers have recently added video games and texting to the list. Yet the most dangerous dopamine triggers include easy to deny psychological addictions. Psychological dopamine addictions may be more insidious because addictive emotions, memories, thoughts, fantasies, ideologies, rhetoric, and deceptions also trigger release of  dopamine.

An addiction is anything you can’t stop doing and it serves as an anxiety management system.  Along with addictions come formidable psychological defenses.  They include self-deception, denial, and a lack of morality that can even lead to a capacity for murder.   Reason, integrity, morality and a distaste for lying, cheating, stealing, and killing  that non-addicts value are often no match to addicts of:   power, money, fame, substances etc.   We see  in history and current events “examples of unstoppable, unreasonable, inhumane, addict/killers attacking, vilifying, and eliminating reasoning, humane, non-addict/non-killers” (The Dopamine Project)

Addicts have an amazing capacity to dismiss and deny facts, truth, and reason.   “Dopamine flow fuels addictions: More dopamine = yes, like, do more while dopamine withdrawal = stop, hate, avoid. “Thinking”   justifies, rationalizes, and defends  dopamine-influenced decisions”. (The Dopamine Project)  In other words,  intelligence  in the service of  addiction.

One of the most addictive abstractions is money.  Someone  addicted to alcohol or drugs, increasingly organizes their life  around the use and abuse of their substance(s) of choice.  The person who uses money to mood alter can have their relationship with money spin out of control; by being overly focused on accumulating it, spending it, hoarding it or using it to control people, places and things. For example,  as with a drug or alcohol, tolerance increases and a person  may find him/ herself needing to devote increasingly larger amounts of time to these activities, to get the same mood altering high that only a little once provided.  They become increasingly preoccupied with all things related to getting and maintaining their “substance”  excluding  other areas of living.  Gradually, just like any addict, money and the relationship with money becomes a primary preoccupation.   (Tian Dayton, PhD)    Personal drives and identity become so wrapped up around money  that they lose sight of who “they really are” .

No matter how much they have, money addicts crave more.    As with all addictions, the first pleasure is soon replaced by cravings and withdrawal.  Acquiring more money only increases stress levels which keep money addicts craving more money while worrying about losing what they already have.  Money is highly addictive because it quickly and easily converts into other dopamine triggers that feed other addictions like drugs, foods, sex, gambling, approval, status, and power.  The corrupting influences of money addiction everywhere and at every level of society.

So what does this have to do with Finding your “Self”. 

“Since our capacity for Self deception is truly monumental”  (Yorum Kaufam ) Self Awareness and  Self Mastery entails being aware:  of who we really are, what truly matters, the emotions that drive our behaviors, being able to “regulate or manage them,  knowing our passions, our talents, owning our weaknesses and:   what our “Self”,  Psyche or Soul are asking of us.  This is an awareness of what we truly value and a growing understanding  of our place in the world and connection to the transcendent.  To get there,  we need to recognize the mine fields, the seductions and powerful conditioning  of society that  pulls us to these  baser levels of living, wanting  and consuming.  Freud wrote that “The price of civilization is neurosis” – neuroses defined as  ” being someone who you are not”.

Rather than conform mindlessly or automatically to the expectations of  society,  we can  listen to that small voice. If we are quiet and still enough, summoning the will to live a life that is authentically ours.   “When we allow our light to shine we give permission for others lights to shine” ( Marian Williamson)    The great change agents throughout history, Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King, etc.  all answered their summons to raise human consciousness, be in relationship to the transcendent,  live mindfully, ethically and see all of humanity as family.

It is OK  to not fully know our  selves or our true North.   The beginning of wisdom is to realize what you don’t know.  To get there requires openness, receptivity and  mindfulness.    I was forty before shifting into my role of teaching, coaching & training.   By  seeking to stay true to yourself, your values and what energizes you is the compass that helps in finding your way.

The Greek god Aesculapius decreed “that it  is through suffering we come to wisdom” .   Avoidance of suffering can lead to and fuel addictions, compulsions and flights from reality.  (James Hollis) Suffering can also give us empathy, understanding and insights which can help others work through their pain.  Being fully human is to experience the full range of emotions.  Being aware and   experiencing   “all”  emotions enables us to live more fully,  better exercise  free will,  intentionality and grow into the person we are meant  to be.

 “There is hope for the world if enough people do their inner work“. C. G. Jung

References and suggested readings:

The Dopamine Project – Better Living Through Dopamine Awareness : see  http://dopamineproject.org/

Swamplands Of  The Soul – New Life in Dismal Places, James Hollis inner City Books  1996

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should do the Opposite.  David Disalvo Prometheus Books  2011.

The Portrait of Addiction by Peter Metzner


How do addictions and compulsions happen?

According to David Disalvo in his book What Makes Your Brain Happy and why You Should do the Opposite;   “Our brains are equipped with a reward center that serves to adaptively motivate behaviors that benefit us. Without this drive to seek out pleasurable experience we would be very dreary.

This center is  called the mesolimbic reward center. It is like an unprotected power grid that  can be high jacked from external forces.  These forces make use of the same reward circuitry.  The problem is that the new rewards  are usually  not beneficial.  Our brains suffer a type of reward distinction blindness and new imprints are integrated into the grid.  (Koob et al. Neuro circuitry of Addiction)

The common denominator of in all compulsive behaviors is a mal functioning reward center. Whether it is drug abuse, addiction to the internet, video games, gambling, sex, or over eating the same underlying dynamic facilitates compulsive continuation and intensification of the behavior.  (Disalvo)

Research on rats found that stimulation of the reward centers of their  brains made them become compulsive.  Rats trained to press a bar that activated electrodes  in the pleasure center of the brain would not stop pressing the bar – forgoing sleep, eating, drinking or having sex as long as the bar was available.  Many starved to death – they never gave up the bar. This explains why meth addicts forgo food, sleep and sex to get more of the substance their brain craves.   The more the reward is sought the more the craving and the compulsive behavior is reinforced.

Dopamine is often called the reward neurotransmitter.  It  is essential to our survival but  a potent enemy within when our brains reward circuitry is overwhelmed with the wrong types of rewards.  When it comes to technology, Dr. Gary Small, in his book, ibrain, found that someone with compulsive tendencies and (there are estimates of 50 million people in this country) is predisposed to a range of addictive behaviors and technology has a way of accelerating the process.

Carl Jung pointed out to the founders of AA “that the craving for alcohol is the equivalent, on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness – an implicit attempt to connect with a higher power”.

Alcohol or any mood altering drug offers a brief promise of this connectedness and then yanks it away. One must continue in order to anesthetize this new pain and so it goes. (James Hollis, Swamplands  of  the Soul)  “Whatever structure we have erected to bolster our shaky sense of self, our addictive patterns are defenses against anxiety whether we know it or not.”  (Hollis p. 90) All addictions and compulsions are anxiety management techniques.  As the anxiety mounts, we indulge in repetitive patterns that allow us to connect briefly before the angst and emptiness return.  This is a good description of what a living hell is like.   As Hollis writes “what cannot be born consciously  will be projected onto a person, a substance, a behavior … Compulsions narrow life down until there is no living – existence perhaps but no living. “

So in addition to overcoming the physical addiction and highjacking of our reward center, which is very difficult, Hollis also states; “the guilt and shame linked to our short comings erodes the strength needed to confront the unthinkable.”   To go down in the anxiety state to feel what we really feel is to go through and break the tyranny of the timeless emotions that haunt us” .

Suggested readings and references

Swamplands of the Soul – New Life in Dismal Places.  James Hollis 1996 Inner City Books

Under Saturn’s Shadow – The Wounding and Healing of Men James Hollis 1994 Inner City Books

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should do the Opposite.  David Disalvo Prometheus Books  2011.

Neurocircutiry of Addiction, George f. Koob et al. Neuropsychophamarcology  35 Jan. 2010