About the Author
Allen Berger, PhD, a popular public speaker and nationally recognized expert on the science of recovery, is the author of 12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery, 12 More Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery, 12 Smart Things to Do When the Booze and Drugs Are Gone, 12 Hidden Rewards of Making Amends and Love Secrets Revealed: What Happy Couples Know About Having Great Sex, Deep Intimacy, and a Lasting Connection. His pamphlet, “How to Get the Most Out of Group Therapy,” helps clients in treatment, continuing care, or Twelve Step groups, understand what happens in group meetings and how these meetings help members acquire recovery skills. Dr. Berger lives in Los Angeles, California.
Allen Berger, PhD Biography
About Dr. Berger
Who I am has been shaped by many different forces and experiences. Below you will find some of the defining moments from my personal life and from my professional life. I hope that understanding the kinds of challenges I have faced in my life helps you get to know me better. These experiences have all played an important part in making me the person and psychotherapist I am today.
At a glance
My personal and professional life has moments both wonderful and tragic:
- My father’s death when I was eleven.
- My alcoholism and drug addiction before, during, and after my service in Vietnam.
- My journey into recovery since 1971.
- My professional journey, mentored by some of the best therapists and addictions specialists in the world.
- My deep gratitude to my Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, to my family and friends, and to the many outstanding professionals who mentored me and worked with me.
- Over forty years of experience as a psychotherapist.
Personal & Recovery Biography
At a glance
- I grew up in Chicago, Illinois in the 1950’s. Early life was good.
- Father died when I was 11. In our family, no one could talk about the pain of loss. I became isolated and emotionally frozen.
- I led a troubled life through high school, when I began using drugs and alcohol.
- Service in Vietnam led to my eventual addiction to drugs other than alcohol and led to recovery through a military drug treatment program.
- My experience in recovery and my wish that no person should suffer alone led me to go to college and develop as a therapist.
- The 12 Steps are an integral part of my daily life
- To this day, I remain grateful to my sponsor, Tom M., who saw my potential when I could not, and to the family, friends, and mentors who have helped in so many ways.
- Clean and sober since the summer of 1971.
I grew up in the Windy City — Chicago, Illinois — in the 1950’s. I lived on the northwest side of town in a neighborhood called Jefferson Park. Chicago is a great city, and I was fortunate to grow up there.
I am the oldest of four. My father, Alvin Jerome Berger, was a metallurgical engineer who worked for Honeywell. My mother, Louise Pressano, was a homemaker. Dad was half Norwegian and half Russian Jew, and Mom was Italian. I’m sure these cultural differences created many challenges in their marriage. But overall, I sensed they respected their differences.
They had a typical 50‘s marriage, with traditional marital roles. Mom loved to cook and hold court while sitting in the kitchen smoking Parliaments and drinking coffee. I can still taste her mouthwatering meatballs, pasta, and eggplant. Dad was a devoted family man, a great provider, and a good son who enjoyed photography and loved spending time with his four children. (I still remember our trips to the Museum of Science and Industry and to the Natural History Museum.)
Up until about ten my life was good. But my life changed dramatically in 1963, when my father died of cancer.
The Impact of Tragic Events
“Chitown” has cold frosty winters, especially when the “Hawk” blows (these are gusts of winds that come off of Lake Michigan).
It seemed that the winter of 1963 was the coldest ever, but not because of the temperature. That year, on December 26, my dad died in the early morning, alone at the hospital. I remember staring out the window of the living room at the dirty, gray snow on the corner of the street. Something deep inside me froze that morning. I would never be the same again.
Alvin Jerome Berger was a wonderful father. We were very close and I was devastated by his death. I had no concept of how to cope with losing my hero.
My loss was much greater than losing my father. I lost my entire family that day. We were all devastated. My mother fell into the abyss of her grief. I was lost to my grief and so were my two brothers and sister.
I have always been shocked that no one, and I mean no one, asked me how I was feeling about my father’s death. It seems like we didn’t talk about anything personal in our family. I think this was the norm in most families at that time.
Our silent decision not to talk about our feelings had a huge impact on me. One impact was negative. My sense of isolation contributed to other problems as I became an adolescent. I internalized my grief. But pain finds its way to be expressed. I acted out or acted up. I became a very angry young man, and ended up having a serious personal crisis abusing drugs and alcohol, getting in fights, skipping school, stealing money from my mother, and eventually dropping out of high school.
But another impact was positive. I am certain this experience influenced me to become a psychologist. Deep inside I made a commitment to ask people the questions that I was never asked. To invite them to let me face their pain with them. To let no person in pain suffer alone. But before I could act on this commitment, I had a long, tough road to travel.
Vietnam and Addiction
At 17 I joined the Marine Corps, hoping they would help me find myself and become a man. I was just clearing the sleep from my eyes when I arrived at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California in the summer of 1969. A year later I was serving a tour of duty in Vietnam with the 1st Marines on Hill 55, just 15 kilometers south of Da Nang. The drug abuse that began in high school peaked during the eleven months I soldiered in Vietnam. I returned to the States with a serious problem.
I arrived in San Francisco from Vietnam feeling lost and confused. I wasn’t ready to come back to reality; none of us were. I didn’t know how to reconcile the difference between being in combat versus being back in the States. The Marine Corps didn’t help us with this transition, either. There was no reentry program to debrief us and prepare us to return to “normal” life.
Back in the states, I continued to get high, spinning totally out of control. Somehow luck or a guardian angel led me to treatment. In the summer of 1971 at the Kanehoe Marine Corps Air Station (KMCAS) in Hawaii a miracle happened. But it took a near-disaster to make the miracle possible. Here’s what happened.
Before I left for my final duty station in Hawaii I went home to Chicago for a 30-day leave. I used drugs and drank daily. I was fried and burnt out at the end of this leave from daily drug use and endless parties.
At the end of my leave my so-called friends escorted me to Chicago O’hare Airport. They filled my pockets with joints and pills of all different kinds including LSD, speed, and Barbiturates. I was looking forward to some great times in Hawaii.
I boarded the plane in Chicago for LAX but had to change planes in LAX to get to Hawaii. I was shocked when I arrived at the gate in LAX to board the plane to Hawaii — everyone was being screened before boarding. I panicked. Remember I was pretty burnt out from partying for the past 30 days so I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was paranoid and thought they were looking for drugs.
I must have looked highly suspicious when I stepped out of line. I decided the best way to get rid of the drugs in my pockets were to bury them in the sand filled ashtrays all around the perimeter of the airline terminal. What I didn’t realize is that security was following me and digging up the drugs I was burying. After disposing of the drugs I returned to the line and passed through security. I was immediately pulled to the side and taken in a back room. The drugs I had buried were spread out in front of me. I was busted. Here’s where an angel must have been watching over me. Instead to arresting me and taking me off to jail, the LAPD Police Officers decided to give me a break because I was a Vietnam Veteran. They told me that they would report what happened to the Commanding Officer of KMCAS.
I understood that the Marine Corps had a zero-tolerance policy for drug abuse. Addicted or drug abusing Marines were either thrown into the brig or dishonorably discharged or both. As always I hoped to find a way out of the mess I had created. I thought that if I voluntarily turned myself in for help they might be more lenient in my punishment. I went to see the First Sergeant shortly after arriving for duty.
He informed me that I was one lucky Marine, that the Corps had just instituted a drug exemption program that would allow me to get help without being discharged. It was in the summer of 1971 that I entered into a drug treatment program that saved my life. That was the beginning of the miracle.
I will never forget the day I met Tom McCall. It was on a Tuesday night, when we had our “drug rap” sessions. (In fact, these rap sessions eventually became the first meeting of Narcotics Anonymous on the island of Oahu). Tom and other young people who were in recovery would come to KMCAS and share their experience, strength, and hope with us.
Picture a bunch of Vietnam Vets sitting in a circle and receiving help from a bunch of hippies. Ironic, isn’t it? But there was something real and right about this encounter at the same time.
When Tom shared his recovery experience, I was impressed and deeply moved. Here was a man honestly and openly talking about his personal issues and shortcomings. He was emotionally free, liberated from his demanding and fearful addicted self. I wanted the personal freedom I saw in Tom. I desired to feel like Tom and I told him so. This admission marked the beginning of my recovery.
Tom became my sponsor and still sponsors me to this very day. (In 12 Step programs like AA and NA, a sponsor is a more experienced member who shares strength and hope with you as you work through the Steps.) As I reflect on the first year of recovery, my relationship with Tom stands out. He saw a potential in me that I was unable to see in myself. He believed in me and had a faith in me when all I had was doubt and hatred. He encouraged me when I was discouraged. He saw worth in me when I felt worthless. I will be forever grateful to this man.
In 12 Step meetings, group members sometimes tell you that in the beginning of recovery they will love you until you can love yourself. This is exactly what I experienced in my relationship with Tom.
So I got “turned on” to recovery. I loved it. Today I believe that one must get turned on to this new way of life to achieve long-term recovery. Fear of what will happen to us if we continue to use alcohol or other drugs can work in the short run but is not enough to sustain recovery.
During recovery I also discovered a passion to help others. I reawakened my silent commitment to ask people the questions that I was never asked when I suffered the simultaneous loss of my father and the ties that bound our family together.
Eventually I was placed on temporary assignment as a counselor at the Drug Information Center, KMCAS. I discovered that I loved working with people. It inspired me to return to school and become a psychologist. Quite an ambitious goal for a high school dropout wasn’t it? But I found that recovery makes the impossible, possible.
I was honorably discharged from the USMC in 1972. I returned to Chicago to start college and take care of some unfinished business. I started making amends to the people I had hurt. This was a very important step in my recovery.
My personal history, my recovery, and my professional development are all part of one story. I could tell you much more about my personal life, of course, but what I’ve tried to describe here are the challenges and joys that impact my approach to my profession. But let me add that I have been married and divorced three times. My second marriage lasted 23 years, and we parted as close friends and remain so to this day. We have two magnificent children, Danielle Berger and Nicolas Berger. Danielle has a master’s degree in teaching from USC and is teaching in the inner city here in Los Angeles. My son Nicolas graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology and played on the men’s tennis team for four years. He continued his education at California State University, Long Beach and graduated with a master’s degree in exercise physiology with a minor in nutrition. He is currently teaching at a Community College, coaching tennis, and helping athletes achieve their optimal physical and mental potential. I am very proud of both of my children and love them very much.
In 2010 I married Dr. Jessica Aaron Fowler. Our love conceived two beautiful daughters. Madelynn Rose and Cecilia Marie. We are blessed to have Madelynn and Cecilia in our lives.
Through my life so far, I have experienced many joys and successes. I’ve also suffered through disappointments, failures, and losses. I have worked the 12 Steps several times, and I have spent many years in therapy. I continue to square off with many of my own demons — emotional dependency, selfishness, fear, false pride, and insecurity. I also know serenity and joy, love and peace, gratitude and humility. My life and my recovery continue to be an exciting and wonderful journey.
At a glance
- During the 1970s I worked with some of the top addictions and psychology professionals: William C Rader, M.D., Lealya Vivian Gary, Ph.D., Judi Hollis, Ph.D., and Walter Kempler, M.D., to name but a few.
- I was part of a group that pioneered the provision of services for the family members of chemically dependent people.
- Simultaneous with my early years as a counselor, I majored in psychology at California State University, Long Beach, and then took a master’s degree in ’79.
- I went on to UC-Davis, where I received a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1987.
- My career in addictions has included duty as Clinical Supervisor of the Alcohol Recovery Service of South Bay Hospital, Clinical Director of the Eating Disorders Unit of San Pedro Peninsula Hospital, work with severely disturbed patients and families at Fairfield Hills Hospital, the co-founder of The Center for Counseling and Recovery, service as Chief Clinical Officer of Cumberland Heights in Nashville, Clinical Director of La Ventana, and a great many years of private practice, Director of Clinical Training at the California Institute of Gestalt Experiential Therapy, and the founder of the Institute for Optimal Recovery and Emotional Sobriety.
- I have five published books, with several more in the pipeline, many recorded lectures and am a frequent speaker and trainer for both the recovery community and other healthcare professionals.
- I have extensive training and experience in recovery counseling and in helping couples and families use their pain or struggles to forge better relationships and adjust to the changes that occur during recovery.
If you have read my personal story, you will know that I grew up in Chicago and served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. When I returned to Chicago after being discharged from the Marine Corps, I attended Amundsen Mayfair Junior College full time, majoring in sociology.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I wasn’t nearly as stupid as I thought. I discovered that with some effort I was capable of doing well in college. As compared to high school—where I rebelled—I was now attending school for the right reason: because I wanted to. I was intrinsically motivated and committed. I had a goal, a dream, and a purpose. I enjoyed attending classes and reading. I looked forward to doing homework, turned in assignments in a timely manner, took copious notes during class, and usually arrived on time and prepared. I loved every minute of college. My recovery showed me that I had a deep desire to learn and grow. This was the beginning of a long and satisfying academic experience.
Early Professional Development
My college and post-graduate work progressed alongside my professional evolution. During the decade of the 1970s, I had the wonderful opportunity to work alongside some of the top addictions and psychology professionals in the field.
Throughout college I was fortunate enough to also work as a counselor, which gave me valuable clinical experience. In 1973 I was hired at The Western Institute of Human Resources, in Long Beach, California, to work with alcoholic families and their children. It was here that I met William C. Rader, M.D..
Bill was one of the brightest and most gifted clinicians I have had the privilege to know. He was the Clinical Director of an excellent outpatient program. The elegant and dedicated Joan McCrae was Program Director. We were one of the first programs in the nation to treat the entire alcoholic family. We worked with Naval personnel and their families who were in treatment at the Navy Alcohol Treatment Program at Long Beach Terminal Island. I received incredible training and supervision from Dr. Rader. He was a brilliant and creative clinician. He taught me much of what I know about alcoholism and addiction.
Dr. Judi Hollis also joined our staff, and together we did some incredible work helping alcoholics and drug addicts put their families back together. Dr. Hollis and I learned a lot during these years, especially when we started training with Walter Kempler, M.D., a pioneer in the field of family therapy.
The late Dr. Kempler translated Gestalt Therapy into working with families. Walt was an astute and powerful therapist. He taught me the art of treating couples and families from this potent perspective. The unique thing about this approach is that it helps couples become aware of how they are interacting in the here and now and what is missing. This is a highly effective approach to therapy. With it I have helped thousands of couples and families use their conflict and difficulties to forge better relationships.
A few years later we opened up the Alcohol Recovery Service at San Pedro Peninsula Hospital. We now offered inpatient treatment in addition to a very comprehensive outpatient family program. Our first program director was Len Baltzer, a gifted counselor and talented leader. He led us in developing a program that literally saved the lives of thousands of men and women suffering from addiction. Our remarkable staff included Dr. William Rader, Jerry McDonald, Ed Storti, Jerry Buchko, Al Ahl, Ray Wilson, Ruth Rothwell, Pat Tully, David Schoerner, Michael Lucid, David Murphy, Olive Reed, Jim Fulton, Father Leo Booth, Mike Brubaker, Judy Hollis, and John Epson. Most of these individuals have made and continue to make significant contributions in the field of chemical dependency treatment.
During this time I was also attending classes at California State University, Long Beach, majoring in psychology. I graduated in 1977 and entered the masters program in psychology. I graduated with a master’s degree in 1979 and was accepted into a very unique clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of California, Davis.
Seven students were accepted in this program. Instead of being admitted to the Psychology Department we were admitted to the Medical School in a graduate clinical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry. This allowed us access to a tremendous amount of practical experience. The faculty at UC Davis were fantastic: Drs. Stephen Abramowitz, Dan Edwards, Leslie Green, Tom Morrison. Arnold Meadows. and John Batista, to mention but a few, were remarkable mentors and teachers. The education at UC Davis was excellent and refined my clinical abilities.
In 1982, while I was still in graduate school at UC Davis, Dr. Rader opened up a sister program to the one San Pedro Peninsula Hospital. The new program was located at South Bay Hospital, Redondo Beach, California. Jerry McDonald was appointed program director and I became a clinical supervisor along with Dr. Lealya Gary.
The counseling staff were top drawer, and we functioned as a great team. Staff included Jerry Buchko, John Strouse, Debby LaChapelle, Billy LaChapelle, Joe Sweeney, Elsie Tyson, Nicky Jeffers, Judi Anne Carol, Mike LaBleu, Michael Lord, Kathy Hauber, Steve Moberg, Steve Powell and Frank Defry. While the program was closely modeled after San Pedro’s it had one important difference — the Alumni Program.
Jerry Mc Donald saw great potential in creating an active alumni program. He developed a program that trained former patients to facilitate aftercare groups to support our patients and their families after completing treatment. The Alumni Program contributed to our phenomenal success. Our program made a lasting impression on the South Bay recovering community. (If you attend the South Bay AA Round-Up, which usually takes place on the July 4th weekend, you can meet many of the men and women we helped.)
From 1983 to 1986, I had the privilege of being the Clinical Director of the Eating Disorders Unit of San Pedro Peninsula Hospital. The program was developed by Dr. Judi Hollis, author of Fat is a Family Affair. Judy created a terrific program. The staff was remarkable: Dr. Katherine Ruccione, Jack Soll, Michael Berman, Michael Lucid, Brenda Carl, Ralph Hoetger, Susan Owen, Anne Feakes, and Margie Dourmak.
In 1986, with both sadness and anticipation, I resigned from both South Bay Hospital and San Pedro Peninsula Hospital to fulfill the final requirement of my doctoral program — a one-year internship in psychology at Fairfield Hills Hospital in Newton, Connecticut.
The training program was outstanding. During my first rotation I had the opportunity to work with severely disturbed patients and their families. My second rotation was spent in a drug treatment program called EDON House. (EDON is an acronym for End Dependency on Narcotics.) The clinical experiences at Fairfield Hospital rounded out my clinical education.
After completing and defending my doctoral dissertation in 1987, which studied the effect of matching patients with counselors, I graduated from UC Davis.
I was eager to return to Southern California to open a private practice. From 1987 to 2004 I had a very successful private practice at The Center for Counseling and Recovery, which I co-founded with Roger Andes. Here we helped individuals and families suffering from a wide range of personal problems. I treated thousands of men, women, and children who needed help coping with the many challenges and adjustment problems inherent in life, especially during the first and second stages of recovery.
I was also a member of the International Training Staff of The Kempler Institute, through which I trained family therapists in Southern California, Scandinavia and Holland. I also consulted for treatment programs across the nation, training staff in group therapy, family therapy, and chemical dependency counseling techniques. I lectured internationally and nationally on group therapy, intervention, the science of recovery, and family therapy.
I left private practice in 2005 to accept the position of Chief Clinical Officer of Cumberland Heights in Nashville, Tennessee. My time at Cumberland Heights was memorable as I witnessed firsthand the challenges that treatment programs are facing in attempting to integrate drug replacement therapy and psychotropic medications in the treatment of addiction. Homesick for the west coast, I left Cumberland Heights in 2007.
I moved back to California, and accepted the position of Clinical Director of La Ventana, an addictions treatment center in Malibu. La Ventana provided an unprecedented level of individualized care. I co-designed the program with Ed Lacy, the program’s former executive director. I am very proud of the program we developed.
In January of 2008 I returned to private practice. I am currently lecturing, writing, training therapists, and busy promoting my books, Love Secrets – Revealed (HCI Books, 2006); 12 Stupid Things that Mess Up Recovery (Hazelden, 2008); 12 Smart Things to do When the Booze and Drugs are Gone,12 Hidden Rewards of Making Amends, and the newly released book 12 More Stupid Things that Mess Up Recovery.
I am very proud of all of these books but especially 12 Smart Things because it discusses a very important and often overlooked area of recovery – emotional sobriety. Hazelden assigned Vince Hyman, an editor, to work with me on it. This was one the best collaboration I have had in my professional career. I am certain you will enjoy what we have created. Vince also worked with me on the two subsequent books I wrote for Hazelden on making amends and on further exploring the stupid things we do to mess up recovery.
I have produced and directed several audio programs on various topics in recovery and about relationships and how to better hold on to ourselves. You can learn more about these in the bookstore.
I have also produced a DVD program for chemical dependency programs. It is titled The Therapeutic Benefits of Group Therapy and is designed to be used in conjunction with my pamphlet from Hazelden titled, How to Get The Most Out of Group Therapy. You can learn more about this instructional DVD on my website.
New Programs Under Dr. Berger’s Clinical Supervision
In 2016 I founded the California Institute for Gestalt Experiential Therapy. The Institute honors the memory and work of Dr. Walter Kempler. The Institute will continue to offer the highly acclaimed two-year training program in Gestalt Experiential Psychotherapy that was started in 2009. But in addition to the professional workshops and clinical training programs we will eventually offer personal growth groups, workshops to help people realize their full potential. You can download a brochure for the program or learn more about the Institute at www.ciget.org.
In 2017 we will be launching a very unique platform for both the recovery community and addiction professionals. The Institute for Optimal Recovery and Emotional Sobriety will provide state of the art information and experiences to help the person in recovery achieve full recovery or what we refer to as optimal recovery. To this end we will offer retreats, one day workshops, and Audio and DVD programs created to enhance and enrich a person’s experience in recovery.
For professionals The Institute for Optimal Recovery and Emotional Sobriety will offer certification in recovery counseling with an emphasis on emotional sobriety. You can learn more about this program by visiting www.optimalrecovery.info.
It has been an incredible professional journey. I am forever grateful to AA and NA, especially my sponsor Tom M., but also the therapists, professors, supervisors, friends, and family who encouraged me to develop my potential and pursue my dreams. They have loved me and supported me, especially when I wasn’t able to love or support myself.
I hope this has given you an understanding of the types of clinical experiences I have been privileged to have during my career.
If there is one lesson to take from my personal and professional biography, it is that I love life and I love what I do. It hasn’t been easy. Life isn’t easy. But continues to be a wonderful voyage.
If you are interested in learning more about my practice and my availability to work with you or lecture to your patients or train your clinical staff then please go to the section on my Clinical Services.
At a glance
- Our society is locked in crisis. Society teaches us to focus on having rather than being. That is, we seek things and status instead of wisdom and authentic relationships. Deep down, we know we can never have enough things and status, but we keep trying because we are afraid that we won’t be lovable otherwise. This creates a vicious cycle: we can never have enough to be lovable, so we keep trying to get more. We go on and teach others—our children, our friends, our loved ones—the same false message.
- My philosophy is simple. Each person has a true, amazing and real self that wants to come out, to be seen, and realized.
- My goal is to help every client reclaim that true self. That is the way to break the vicious cycle, and the way to ease our social crisis.
Having versus Being
Our society is in crisis. One out of four teenagers is dropping out of high school, drug and alcohol addiction are rampant, prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem, and the divorce rate is the highest it has been in the history of the United States. Reality is no longer reality but fake news. Integrity is nowhere to be seen in the current political climate.
What is causing these problems? I believe the answer can be found if we examine our culture and how we adapt to it.
We live in a culture that is based on having rather than being. That is, we seek things rather than seek wisdom. Consider the evidence (and consequences) of our misguided search:
- We treat ourselves as objects and look at others as objects too. In our society, women are sex objects while men are success objects.
- We overvalue possessions and judge our worth on what we own and what we do – rather than on who we are.
- We focus on our image rather than our character.
- We are driven to achieve and to acquire as much as we can. We search for glory in all the wrong places.
- We want more and more and more — in fact we are “addicted to more.” We want a better car, we want more money, we want to have more fun, we want the latest tech toys, we want a more attractive partner, we want more understanding, we want more sex, we want more respect, we want a better body, and we want it all to come easily.
Our focus on seeking things instead of wisdom is a kind of illness. This illness manifests in the feeling that we are unacceptable the way we are; that we are unlovable. So, to make ourselves “marketable” and acceptable we try to live up to an idealized image of who we think we are supposed to be. This idealized image is our false self. We cling to this false self. Deep down, we see it as the solution to a basic fear or anxiety that we won’t be loved or accepted. But because our solution to this basic anxiety rests on a rejection of the who we really are – a rejection of our true self – it never works.
The irony is we reject our true self to make ourselves acceptable. We alienate ourselves from our true self and then we fear that we are going to be found out to be a phony. The result, in our culture, is that most of us really are phonies. Worse, we pass the message along to everyone around us.
Let’s look at some more ways we (and our culture) betray ourselves.
We are discouraged from being real and authentic. Instead we are encouraged to have things and status.
We are discouraged from being honest. Instead we are told that, “Image is everything.”
We focus on performing and producing what we think others want, rather than on building character and letting our true character produce authentic fruits.
Ultimately, things seem to be more important than people. What a mess! I don’t know about you but I am sick and tired of it.
I believe this crisis is a wake-up call, giving us the opportunity to find a healthier balance in our lives — but only if we wake up! We are asleep, thinking we are awake. We are living in a trance. We are hypnotized into believing that this is how life is supposed to be. But it’s not.
We have all learned to play games with ourselves and others that keep us immature. We are afraid of pain and frustration, but the reality is that pain helps us mature and grow up. Pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth and personal transformation. But we are pain-phobic in this society and we have learned to avoid suffering at all costs. The price we pay is great.
I believe it is important to find our lost, true selves. Needless to say the going is tough at times, In fact I believe the more honest we are and the healthier we become the more we will be able to face our shortcomings. Quite a paradox isn’t it? Therapy is difficult, ignorance is not bliss, and addressing our problems is definitely the road less traveled. I believe however that there is a basic need or force within us that wants to mature and become a better person. I hope you will listen to that part of you.
Relationships and the True Self
My view of relationships and therapy has been shaped and influenced by Walter Kempler, M.D., a pioneer in the field of family therapy. He was a remarkable man who translated the principles of Gestalt Therapy, namely the work of Fritz Perls, M.D., into therapy with couples and families. We worked together for over 20 years.
Dr. Kempler taught me that we need a person in our lives to “grind” against. Moreover, conflict is necessary; it helps us take the next step in our personal development. In fact I believe that we choose a partner based on the unconscious wisdom that this partner will cause us trouble so we can grind.
Therefore when you are having a problem in your relationship it doesn’t mean something is wrong. On the contrary, it means something is right. This is what I call “therapeutic trouble” because it provides an opportunity to grow up and become a better person and a better partner.
If you’d like to learn more about relationships and the ideas I have about making them work, then please read, “Love Secrets-Revealed.”