Thursday, November 26, 2009

OCD's and Scrupulosity - Obsessive Religion

Hello Friends:

We now interrupt our previously scheduled post (the second part of my PTSD and Spiritual Crises series) to take a step back and ask, so what?  So why do I care so much that I'm not spiritually well-defined, anyway?  I mean, I know this is a symptom of PTSD, but is it really necessary to work through this religion stuff at all?  Aren't flashbacks, say, much more of an issue?

Well, yes and no.  As I said in the last post, it seems that all PTSD symptoms are related to the same prime causes, and therefore working on one is likely to help with another.  And it may be impossible to ignore one utterly and expect some other issues to heal up just nice.  So constructing a consistent and meaningful world view may assist with mitigating flashbacks, and vice versa.

But it's more than that, at least for me.  I suffer from a form of 'scrupulosity'.  This is a specific aspect of my OCDs that emerge in the realm of religious and spiritual thinking and rituals.  I found a great description of it here, and excerpted the following (gender change is mine):  "For certain individuals, religious beliefs become compulsive, joyless behaviors.  The individual may constantly worry that she might say or do something blasphemous.  She may fear that she has committed sin, forgotten it and then neglected to repent for the sin.  She may spend long hours searching her mind to try to ferret out evidence of unconfessed sins.  She is unable to feel forgiven.  Specific obsessions and compulsions vary occurring to the individuals religion.  An Orthodox Jew might worry that he did not perform a particular ritual correctly.  He might obsess about this for hours.  A Roman Catholic might go to confession several times a day.  Another individual could believe that anything she does might be sinful.  This individual might become so paralyzed with doubt, that he or she becomes afraid to do or say anything at all."

My issues are not that I tend to perform rituals; I don't have too many religiously compulsive behaviors.  It is that I obsess about how I'm going to hell, and am constantly looking for the right set of 'rules' to follow so I don't have to worry about going to hell anymore.  I'm not sure it is possible.

My religious background is pretty varied within different brands of Christianity.  But the most lingering bad effects came from the time I was attending a fundamentalist church.  These are dangerously seductive for those with OCDs since, on the surface, they seem to present a perfectly defined set of rules that anyone can follow and 'know' they are saved.  But then, when church pulls you in deeper, you realize that instead they always leave you guessing.  Wondering.  Always needing to come back and check.  You are constantly admonished to be vigilant against 'backsliding'.  You must confess your sins to God constantly, and are only assured of being 'saved' until you commit the next sin.  For this sect, thoughts can be sins, and we've already discussed the difficulties in telling yourself not to think about something.  It became a nightmare of trying to meet a set of rules that never really did the trick.  You were never quite good enough.  (Been given the gift of tongues yet?  No?  Hmm ...)  In addition to all of this confusion, you had to take responsibility for the souls of people around you.  If you weren't actively trying to convert them, then you were sinning.  If they died unconverted because you didn't talk to them, that was on your head.

In spite of having left this church behind years ago, damage has been done.  I mentioned in my post on Trying to Make Sense of God, that I'd had a final 'break' with God over what I read in a book.  I accepted that there was no way I could do everything necessary to be sure I was going to hell.  And since the lack of knowing is unbearable, it is easier to say, 'screw you' and know you are going to hell.  Strange, I know.  But there you have it.

Knowing now that this confusion is fed by PTSD, I have some new hope.  Maybe there really is a way to look at this situation more compassionately.  More 'realistically' just like the way I look at all the rest of my OCDs.  I've had success there.  Maybe I can have some success creating a new view of the world where things 'make sense'.  Where there is justice.  Where there is a meaningful spirituality.

I don't know if I can, but as you see I have some motivation to try.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

PTSD and the Crisis of Faith: Part One of Two

Hello Friends:

Well, here's another installment in under my tag of 'spiritual struggles'. I mentioned in Spiritual Crises: Trying to Make Sense of God that at this point, I'm pretty much at ground zero as far as God goes. Ya might want to take a look at that old post since it is the background for what I'm going to talk about here.

Now tell me, how is it that I've been looking for great resources on PTSD for a solid year and missed what is apparently one of the classics? Maybe I'll review the book, formally, in the future. But for now I'm going to use it as the basis for my look at spiritual crises and what to do about it.

The book in question is Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., and was first published in 1992. I have used it here because I wanted to see what the psychologist's model is for a person actually getting 'better' from PTSD, and specifically, what that means for their spirituality. All quotes below are from this book.

The punch line is that there is indeed a model and a path. The caveat to the punch line is that it is an integral part of the whole recovery from Complex PTSD as a process. You can't just say 'hey, I'll get my situation with religion in order first, then come back and deal with the rest of it.' But I plunge ahead doggedly, anyway. Here's my analysis.

The specific symptom we are concerned with is that Complex PTSD causes "alterations in systems of meaning" resulting in "loss of sustaining faith and a sense of hopelessness and despair." Right, okay, I have that symptom. Check.

But why? What exactly is it that the trauma does to undermine a sense of faith? Or worse, to ensure that no sense of faith can really develop or remain unchallenged? The answer to that (as far as this book is concerned, anyway) comes from the nature of the "damaged self."

"Trauma forces the survivor to relive all earlier struggles over autonomy, initative, competence, identity, and intimacy. The developing child's postive sense of self depends upon a caretaker's benign use of power. Traumatic events violate the autonomy of the person at the level of basic bodily integrity. The belief in a meaningful world is formed in relation to others and begins in earliest life. Basic trust, acquired in the primary intimate relationship is the foundation of faith. Trauma creates a crisis of faith. Damage to the survivor's faith and sense of community is particularly severe when the events themselves invoved the betrayal of important relationships."

Yikes. Okay, this also makes sense, but it makes me cringe. Thinking back on the nature of the 'primary intimate relationship' i.e. Mom. (Zo, tell me about your mother.) How cliche. But there you have it - having a neglectful and abusive mother directly impacts the ability to develop a belief in a meaningful world. For us who suffered repeated trauma from the primary caregiver, the world makes no sense, has no meaning, and there is no one who can be trusted.

Here's a passage from the bible I quote a lot, except I'm going to reverse the gender to make the point, "If a daughter asks for bread from any mother among you, will she give her a stone? Or if she asks for an egg, will she offer her a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Mother give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Her!" (Luke 11:10-13 NKJV)

Well ... I got a scorpion.

So of course I don't trust God to give me something ostensibly good. Why would I want my heavenly father (mother) to give me anything at all? I'll pass, thanks. I'll go find my own egg.

So, how to fix this attitude? How to bring yourself to a point where you can create some kind of meaningful world view? "The fundamental stages of recovery are: (1) establishing safety, (2) reconstructing the traumatic story (which includes remembrance and mourning), and (3) restoring the connection between the survivor and her community (reconnecting with ordinary life)." "Recovery is based upon empowerment of the survivor and creation of new connections. It can take place only in the context of a relationship."

Um. Okay. Safety ... right. With my OCDs nothing is safe, really. But this idea of safety includes more than just a sense of physical safety. It means having the worst of the symptoms under control (by meds or CBT or yoga or what have you), having developed at least a vague sense of control of yourself and your life (again, by therapy or whatever), as well as having some established support network. I basically have all this, so I'll give myself a check for stage one.

Then the tough part. Stage two, which has two nasty aspects. The first is recounting and remembering the trauma. Bleh. "The goal of recounting the trauma story is integration, not exorcism." Ah, right. Well, I've remembered a lot of nasty stuff. But I don't think I've actually reprocessed it all. Besides, the second part of stage two is mourning, and I am really, really stuck on that. But the book says "The reward of mourning is realized as the survivor sheds her evil, stigmatized identity and dares to hope for new relationships in which she no longer has anything to hide." Holy crap. Really? Sounds good. Also sounds like pie in the sky. Stage two, no check for me.

Not to end on a down note, but seems like a good place to sit and ponder. I think I'll address both the reprocessing and the mourning later. Next post, I'll finish with step three, even though it's going to be a while actually getting there. So I might as well post about it ...

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: / CC BY 2.0

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Feeling Totally Crazy - Am I A Dweeb?

Hello Friends:

I am feeling kind of like this picture.  Crazy, and yet sort of a mix of spacey and startled.  I don't really have anything profound to say (do I usually?) but felt like posting.

See, I've found a forum on the net that I really like.  And this is a surprise because I've tried a lot of forums and have not felt like there was really much going on.  Not much sharing.  But I found this one at, and I really like it.  So I set up an account and spent a day reading different threads, trying to get to know the community, and posting like seven posts.  And you know me, people, I do not post short posts.

And its funny, at first it was all good.  Thinking I was learning and sharing all nice like.  And then ... then you start to hear the voices.  Not real ones (since I don't think I'm on the psychotic end of things, but you never know) but those inner voices that say, "Wow, that was a dumb post," and "Holy cow, that thing you said was probably really offensive," and "Man, what makes you think anyone wants to read that huge post anyway?"  On and on.

Then I really start to get worried.  See, I've posted here in my blog before about my parents, and I was answering a post there about someone else who now found herself estranged.  I was going on and on, as I usually do, about how my parents drove me crazy and how it's probably better we all went our separate ways.  And then I realized I'd called out my mother's BPD, Narcissism, and my dad's alcoholism quite specifically.  More second guessing ... did I just offend someone?  Do I look like I judge people based solely on their mental illness diagnosis?  Am I coming across as an insensitive lout?  Am I an insensitive lout?

Then you wonder what the #$%@ made you want to post your ideas anyway.  What were you thinking?  I mean ... what was I thinking?  Why get involved in a forum where your idiocy is just hanging out there for all the world to see?  (Are you seeing the irony, yet?)  Took me a while, and then of course I realized I post my idiocy regularly right here on this blog.

But it is different.  After all, if you, reader, find my blog ewwwy, you can go elsewhere.  If someone on a forum thinks I'm ewwwy, then they might think I'm stinking up the whole forum.  Or at least the threads I am posting on.  Still, I do recognize this paranoia as part of my own mental illnesses.  Things like this have their stages, for me, anyway.  First there is that giddy feeling of "hey this is new and fun."  Then the phase of "I think I just put my foot in my mouth" which is the same as the"'I just said something so boring" phase.  Phase three is the "Why don't I quietly slink away and never come back" phase.  Then phase four, the phase where you finally have to chose if you are going to run from the pain of your own foolish face, or try to face up to reality and accept you are a human being.

I'm in phase four.  Wanting to go back and be a part of things, and trying to accept that I'm going to look like a dweeb sometimes.  I do not want to be a dweeb, and yet, are not we all dweebs, every now and then?  Sigh.  I want it all clean and happy and perfect.  And then I show up and make it all real and sticky and messy.

I'd be interested in input.  Do you have these experiences with emails, phone calls, or forums, etc.?  How do you get back on the horse after you've said or done something you either only think is stupid, or had someone comment on saying "that was stupid" or "you hurt my feelings"?  I'd like to know ...

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cans - Part Two of Two - Triumph over Can

Hello Friends:

In my post Cans - Part One - Cans are Scary, I mentioned why it is I seem to have this problem with cans; associating cans with Botulism at a ratio of one to one.  I also talked about how I hadn't opened a can and eaten the contents (without any help) in 17 years.  And even with help, I still haven't opened more than a handful of cans in all that time.  Well, on Friday, one can met its end.  Your Hostess - 1.  Can of pumpkin - 0.  Triumph.  Small, but telling.

Here's how it went.

I woke up with this very strange and unshakable desire for pumpkin pancakes.  I have never made pumpkin pancakes.  I make pancakes all the time, but if you are me then  adding pumpkin means getting an actual pumpkin, chopping off the top of its head, pulling out the stringy insides, and roasting it.  Then removing the skin, chopping it up, and running it through a food processor.  This is needlessly complex.  Roasting your own pumpkin makes for very good pumpkin, but it is an incredible time sink.

So, no pumpkin pancakes for me.

Except ... there was this can.  See, last year at Thanksgiving I did buy two cans of pumpkin so I could make pumpkin pie for my sister that was vegetarian, as well as soy-free, egg-yolk-free, and malt/barley-free.  I actually bought a can opener to do it, since I most certainly didn't own one.  I made the pie( after getting lots of approval on the contents of said can) and then did not eat any for two days.  Then I managed to eat a piece, although I worried for the whole day, and spent the whole time checking for illness and any strange symptoms of 'I'm just not feeling right.'  Which is fricken always.

Well, the pie only took one can of pumpkin to make.  And the other can got shoved into the back of the pantry.  So when I wandered down on Friday, thinking about pancakes and pulling the baking powder down, it caught my eye.  Usually when I see a can I get a vague nauseous feeling and look away.  This time, I got the sick feeling, but didn't turn.  It was ... tempting.  I had a can of pumpkin.  Hmmm.

Just to test the water I picked it up and checked the date.  Another two years left.  I inspected the can thoroughly.  Dents?  Strange sticky spots?  Bulges?  Ripped label?  No.  Nothing.  It was pristine and perfect.  So I figured, well, might as well open it and just see ...

Took me five minutes to find the can opener.  Another three to remember how to use it.  Then I crimped it onto the can and cranked it around.  The inside smelled very pumpkiny.  Smelled good, actually.  No weird scent or strange colors.  I sniffed it several times and held it under the light.  Still I was unable to find a reason to dismiss the contents.

I set it aside, and went to work putting together my usual pancake recipe.  But before I added any of the liquids, I looked back at the can.  What the hell.  I dumped it into my mix and then simply adjusted the amount of liquid until I had something that resembled batter.  I've never found pancakes to be particularly tricky.

And from that point, it was surprisingly easy.  I put in a lot of spices; cloves, two kinds of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, Chinese five spice powder, nutmeg and a few other things I can't remember.  Then I cooked them up.  They smelled GOOD.  And I really, really wanted to eat them.

And I did.  Now, I can't say that I haven't had a twinge since then.  In fact, every time my tummy has been the slightest bit off, I've thought about those pancakes.  But I have not had a panic attack, haven't needed to call the CDC, and haven't lost any sleep over it.

What I've been left with is this desire to really know WHY.  Why is it that I had this success?  Why have things changed enough to allow this to happen?  Lower stress levels, or meditation, or good therapy, or proper dose on the meds, or better diet, or doing lots of writing ... etc?  I've done all of that, made all of those changes.  So there is no way to know.  It probably isn't a single cause, anyway.  If it were that easy, I'd make a mint selling the secret.

Whatever it was.  I am still smiling about it.

Your Hostess with Neuroses

Image is the actual can in question, crushed in defeat.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cans - Part One of Two - Cans are Scary

Hello Friends:

Cans are scary because in my mangled mental state I believe that 'all cans have botulism'.  As with my issue about rabies (i.e. all bats have rabies, all squirrels have rabies) and tetanus (all pins, needles, and nails can give you tetanus) I am not quite rational in my fear of botulism.  I had an interesting encounter with a can recently, which prompted me to go ahead and create this post about one of the "Big Three" fears of my psyche.  I posted the Big Three post to introduce the topic, and then I dealt with my rabies fear in my second post about bats, Bats are Scary.

So let's talk about botulism.  Wheeee!

Okay, my fear started in high school, when I read a caption to a figure in my science textbook.  It said something bizarre, like only 2000 'molecules' of botulism are necessary to kill someone, and it implied that the only result of being infected was death, or very rarely, if you survived, total paralysis.  All this stuff isn't true, by the way, but I didn't know that then.  So when I read that caption, the information settled down somewhere into the irrational part of my brain that keeps facts ready for my later torture.  When my OCDs and panic burst forth fully formed in my early twenties, they tapped into this reservoir of ready-made fears, and botulism came up as one of the top three, beleaguering me for the seventeen years or so since.

The practical result is that since the age of 24 I have been unable to open a can and then eat the contents.  Very rarely, and by that I mean a handful of times in the last seventeen years, I have been able to open a can and use the contents if someone else pronounced it 'good' and then ate the contents first - and then if they didn't die for a day after eating it.  I have literally opened only six cans in seventeen years.

Interestingly, this fear has centered almost completely on metal cans.  For whatever reason, they have bothered me much more than jars.  Although I went many years unable to open a jar, even a glass jar of bottled juice, I have at least been able to use jars with some regularity in the last five to seven years.  Metal cans, though, no go.  (Additionally, for almost two years I couldn't eat frozen food, either, as it somehow became guilty by association.)

Of course, everyone but me uses cans in cooking.  And I can eat at someone's house and at restaurants just fine, as long as I don't see the can.  If I see an open can on a counter, that's it.  I can't eat the food.  This has meant a lot of very embarrassing incidents, and even perceived offenses, where people think I 'don't trust them' because I can't eat the food.  That has played directly into my social anxiety, exacerbating that already chronically bad condition.  Eating dinner at someone's house can be potential nightmare, so I've often avoided it.

Anyway, so that sets the stage for a new look at the big 'B'.

So let's see some facts for a change.  The bacteria that cause botulism are naturally occurring in soil.  They tend to thrive in low-oxygen environments (anaerobic).  This means they colonize generally when contained, as in sealed cans and jars, but also occasionally inside wounds or someone's intestines.  The latter usually only happens to infants.  I always knew of the anaerobic nature of this bacteria, and so have been nervous in any situation that has a container that has been closed for a long time - for example, having to clean out a cooler that was used on a camping trip after it had sat closed with water in the bottom for many months.  The chance there was danger of botulism in that scenario?  About zero.  But as I've noted in the past, if it were a rational fear I wouldn't be on meds.

Botulism is super rare.  The CDC says (emphasis mine), "In the United States, an average of 145 cases are reported each year.  Of these, approximately 15% are foodborne, 65% are infant botulism, and 20% are wound.  Adult intestinal colonization and iatrogenic botulism also occur, but rarely. Outbreaks of foodborne botulism involving two or more persons occur most years and usually caused by eating contaminated home-canned foods. The number of cases of foodborne and infant botulism has changed little in recent years, but wound botulism has increased because of the use of black-tar heroin, especially in California"

WebMD says the following, "Any case of foodborne or unexplained botulism is considered to be a public health emergency because of the potential for toxin-containing foods to injure others who eat them and because of the potential misuse of botulinum toxin as a biological weapon. State and local public health officials by law must be informed immediately whenever botulism is suspected in a human patient."  This is another point underscoring the rarity, since I don't have a lot of memories of 'botulism' emergencies - certainly not like the E. coli. emergencies that seem to happen all the time.

On top of the rarity of the disease, my idea that it was instantly fatal was not quite true, either.  It is true that a survivor can face weeks, months or even years of rehabilitation from the paralysis.  But it is possible, and more likely than ever.  Again, the CDC says, "Botulism can result in death due to respiratory failure. However, in the past 50 years the proportion of patients with botulism who die has fallen from about 50% to 3-5%."

The CDC article goes on to indicate the specific ways one can drop their risk of botulism to near zero.  Don't give infants honey - the bacteria can exist in honey, and infants are at risk in a way adults are not.  Don't use drugs.  Duh.  Be exceptionally careful with home-canned food, and "Because the botulism toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, persons who eat home-canned foods should consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it to ensure safety."

And there it is.  The fear and the facts.  As usual, the facts are not of terribly good use in fighting the fear, but they are useful.  I am now able to use jars, like those above, on an occasional basis (although if they are 'home canned' instead of 'factory canned' I still can't touch them.)  The longer I live, the less I fear dying in general.  After all, I've managed to get the first forty years down, and I can now imagine that if I kept doing what I have been, I figure I should have a pretty good shot at another forty.  And if not, I have this idea that botulism isn't going to end up being the problem.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Review: Radical Acceptance - Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach

Hello Friends:

This book gets five out of five 'wings' from your Adventure Hostess.

One of the best books on 'healing' I've read in ages.  The 'self-help' book that tells you that you are not broken, and even gets you to believe it.  However, calling this a 'self-help' book is a disservice, as the text grapples with our views on life and death, grasping and denial, love and self-hatred, and much more.  It might have really rated a 4.8, since no book is perfect, but rounding up the score is pretty obvious in this case. 

Radical Acceptance - Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach was published in 2003, and I wished I'd found it earlier than 2009.  But until this year I would not have picked up a book with the word 'Buddha' on the cover, thinking it would only apply to people with that mindset or that religious perspective.  But I was wrong.  It has a lot to say to anyone interested in what it means to start accepting yourself for who you are right now.  I also would not have picked up a book with 'Radical' in the title, since I would have assumed it was one of those misguided 'Optimal Health' type books that get my perfectionism hackles up.  But don't be put off, there are no 'ten steps to perfect' anything in this book.  This is real life.

Some of What's in the Book

The subject of the book is obviously the author's idea of finding 'radical acceptance' with ourselves based on the idea that we are, inside, already exactly who we are meant to be.  She works from a premise called 'The Trance of Unworthiness'; that people who feel the need to 'fix' themselves are actually responding to a storyline in which they are always unworthy.  They are always trying to measure up, to be better, to earn the right to be treated with respect and compassion, especially by themselves.  We all come by our belief in this story in different ways.  But in the end, the 'Trance' comes down to the unshakable conviction that 'something is wrong with me.'  Brach writes, "Underneath our fear of being flawed is a more primal fear that something is wrong with life, that something bad is going to happen."

Brach makes convincing arguments that this is not true.  And shows some ways to begin to think and feel differently. "The two parts of genuine acceptance are ... seeing clearly (mindfulness) and holding our experience with compassion."  Brach's text gives concrete suggestions for manifesting both of these parts, including meditations, pausing, reflections, listening to body messages, and more.

This is a long read.  The book is a dense, idea packed 330 pages that I've now read four times and I am still finding passages I didn't absorb on previous reads.  The list of chapters is wordy, but gives some good insight into the content and so I'm going to list them here.

The Trance of Unworthiness
Awakening from the Trance: The Path of Radical Acceptance
The Sacred Pause: Resting Under the Bodhi Tree
Unconditional Friendliness: The Spirit of Radical Acceptance
Coming Home to Our Body: The Ground of Radical Acceptance
Radical Acceptance and Desire: Awakening to the Source of Our Longing
Opening our Heart in the Face of Fear
Awakening Compassion for Ourselves: Becoming the Holder and the Held
Widening the Circles of Compassion:  The Bodhisattva's Path
Awakening Together:  Practicing Radical Acceptance in Relationship
Realizing Our True Nature

Every chapter contains stories and anecdotes from the author, friends and family, and patients in her psychotherapy practice.  Each chapter ends with a guided reflection or meditation.  And these are not afterthoughts, but important exercises that help bring about the change she discusses in the chapters.  And so that you don't end up thumbing through the book trying to find that mediation you liked, she has them listed at the front of the book right after the table of contents.

Yes, the book is built off of the key ideas in Buddhism and from the nature of insight meditation as a practice.  But if you are not of that (or any) religious bent, don't be scared off.  The book does not challenge or force a religious perspective.  Other doctors-as-authors simply excise what they want from a religion and pretend they don't know where they got it from.  Brach presents the context happily and keeps a deep sense of reverence and respect for all religious traditions but without any preaching.

The author states that radical acceptance is "... accepting our human existence and all of life as it is.  Imperfection is not our personal problem - it is a natural part of existing."  She is quick to point out that acceptance does not mean giving up.  "Radical acceptance is not resignation ... Our deepest nature is to awaken and flower."  The book guides us through our natural fears of loss and even death, as well as our habits of "clinging to experience, that must, by nature, pass away".  The reverse of this is being so terrified of any kind of pain that we run from it the instant we spot a trace.  And some of my earlier posts deal with the complete uselessness of suppressing and avoidance, and how mindfulness-based therapies (the guts of which we see in Brach's text) help counter that.

What I Liked

Almost everything.  A key idea in Buddhism, especially Zen, is 'don't take my word for it, don't take anyone's word for it, experience it for yourself.'  Radical Acceptance follows that theme - you don't have to take the author's word for anything.  You can read the text, practice the meditations, and see how the world appears to you.  Do what works, and ditch what doesn't.  The author suggests, "In making choices on our path, it is important to ask ourselves whether or not they will serve awakening and freedom."

The tone is accessible without talking down to the reader.  Scholarly without being cold and distant.  The author speaks from personal experience of 'being in the Trance' so she presents the material with compassion for the reader.  I feel that the author cares about people who are suffering from all the results of being sure they are wrong, mutated, and broken.

Brach uses very compelling language and incisive references to make her points, and many resonated with me.  "In contrast to orthodox notions of climbing up a ladder seeking perfection, Jung describes the spiritual path as an unfolding into wholeness."  Another comment helped me articulate some of my own experience with PTSD, "Dissociation, while protective, creates suffering.  When we leave our bodies, we leave home."  And one I adore, "Longing, felt fully, carries us to belonging."  This isn't a platitude, but a result of the author's own experience of allowing herself to feel terrible longing, rather than running from it and the associated emotional pain.

What I Didn't Like

Not much, but there were a few things.  It's a minor one, but the title drives me nuts.  As I said, anything in a book title like 'optimal power', 'unlocking the code', 'ultimate solution', 'uncovering the secret', 'revolutionary anything' and on and on, will always trip my bull$h!t radar.  'Radical' sounds too much like a word for an extreme sports broadcast.

There are redundancies.  Things said multiple times.  Over and over again.  Sometimes it helps, since the ideas can take time to sink in, but other times the book drags when this happens.

Some of the stories and anecdotes seem to ... miss a little.  They make interesting points, but do not seem to always underscore the point I thought the author was trying to make.  And some of the stories seem to lack depth, sort of present a concept in a somewhat superficial manner.  The book could have been tightened up by removing some of these stories, and thereby reducing the redundancy issues, as well.

Summary and Final Comments

I think this is a great book.  This is a 'mindfulness-based therapy' book that lacks all of the bad aspects of therapy and self-help books in general.  I would recommend it to anyone, even people who may not say they feel the 'Trance' themselves.  The text is informative, uplifting, and original.  The meditations are useful and give the reader some insight :) when practiced.  And for people interested in a different portal for viewing the continued evolution of Buddhist mindfulness in America, it's perfect.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

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