January 1, 2010 
 HealingHeartPower Newsletter
 Reclaiming the Power of the Heart
In This Issue

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Happy New Year! We have completed our first decade into this milennium, and I hope that what lies ahead includes more connection, meaningful work, job and economic security, health and well-being, peace and happiness for all.

Many readers resonated with the article in the December newsletter "You Can Get Too Much of A Good Thing: The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking." It's always meaningful when an article really strikes a chord! Here are a few comments, with permission, from newsletter readers:

"Thanks for writing on 'too much of a good thing.' I wholeheartedly agree. When I teach, I remind students that sadness, fear, anger are not 'negative.' They are simply part of the package of learning, healing and growing. The more we can tolerate and explore our inner chaos, the richer life is! Too much duality! And way too much judgment. Here's to a good cry anytime!"

-- Ruth Levy

"I really appreciated the article 'The Relentless Pursuit of Positive Thinking.' Very validating....especially for me....one who sometimes forgets to deal with realism."

-- Lainey

On Saturday, January 23, I will be leading a special one day workshop looking at What DO We Really Need?" by exploring our fundamental developmental needs and wounds. Most of what we need to be a human being, and the experiences that define who we become take place between conception and age 6. Through experiential exercises, meditation, discussion, and a presentation of a body-centered developmental psychology framework, you will gain insight both into your history and formative experiences, and those of others by observing body structures, thought processes, beliefs, missing experiences and basic needs.

This workshop will meet from 9 am - 5 pm, and has a sliding scale of $100 - 150 for fee.

Articles in this issue include: "Hoarding, the Paperless Office, Attachment and Detachment: What Do We Hold On To?" exploring how hard it is to define "enough" when we are both overloaded with things and choices, and simultaneously asked to live with less and less, and "Reflections on Perfectionism and Addiction" inspired by and drawing from an article written by my colleague, Hillary Rettig on "Perfectionism and Addiction.

Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

Heartfully, Linda

 Hoarding, Paperless Offices, Attachment and Detachment
 What Do We Hold On To?

As a child, I remember learning that there was value in having everything in moderation. Most people who I know who are truly happy have come to a place where they feel they have "enough."

"Enoughness" is a very elusive concept in an age where we are taught to want more, more, more, and also work in environments that ask us to have less, less, less.

While some believe "you can't be too rich or too thin," we have seen first hand that, in the case of Bernie Madoff, and the epidemic of anorexic models in the fashion industry, one who lives by this philosophy does so at great risk.

We also receive contradictory messages, as we are inundated with options for a simple handle for a kitchen cabinet, at Home Depot, then go to work in paperless offices, where the "clean desk police" forbid any pens, photos of loved ones or even plants in ones workspace. (Despina Moutsouris wrote a very powerful article about the sterility of the modern day work environment in a past issue of this newsletter.)

Decision making can be a hard process to start with, but how much harder is it to decide "what is right" or "what is right for YOU," when presented with overwhelming choices and things or being mandated to have nothing at all? Too many choices or no choice does not lead to finding a happy middle ground.

These contemporary examples teach us, you CAN get too much of a good thing. Or perhaps, even more accurately, taken to an extreme, a good thing can even turn bad.

"Hoarding" has become a very newsworthy topic, as a growing number of people "hold on" to what an insider might judge as "anything and everything," from used paper cups, to old pillows, to newspapers and even trash. When there is so little emotionally to hold on to, people are attaching to stuff, rather than other people or life's pursuits. As I read through a series of articles on hoarding, one theme that emerged is that "people are fickle, stuff is always there." So, the hoarder feels safer holding on to things than people.

One can rationally argue that holding on to things, especially "useless" things, and too many things, does not really provide safety, and can even lead to illness or death, as in the case of Homer and Langley Collyer, "two pack-rat brothers who for four decades crammed their Harlem mansion with heaps of debris," until Homer died of starvation and Langley was smothered by a heap of debris.1

Yet, as I remember learning in college Psychology class with the cloth and wire monkey experiments2, when you are deprived of real love, touch, care and human contact in a consistent way, unimagineable sources of pseudocomfort become not only acceptable, but even essential.

On the other end of the continuum, when we hold on to nothing, as is mandated in the sterility of the paperless office, we are emotionally and spiritually anorexic, even dead and certainly numb. We become so detached, nothing matters. Our emotional bonds are fleeting. Everything is short-term or just for now. Our virtual world, where little is physical and tangible, and so much is transient, does not support our investment of emotional or historical energy into creating treasures and keepsakes to pass on to future generations.

If a volcano were to bury a major city like Chicago, New York or Boston, and archeologists were to dig up the ruins many years into the future, what they would discover first is our technological infrastructure--plastic and metal from computers and wires, and not the more personal communications, and treasures closer to the heart of human beings.

Even in the here and now, people don't do the "work" required to build and sustain healthy relationships, because what isn't easy or convenient is too easy to dispose of and replace. So, we attach to things and detach from our hearts and human beings who could be loved ones. I guess, some of us are cloth monkeys and others of us are wire monkeys, and the legacy we pass on to our children will include attachment disorders, without models or experiences of what we really need emotionally, spiritually, physically and practically to feel we have "something to hold on to" that will sustain us in a healthy way.

If we do not find ways of getting regrounded in the basics of being a human being--where the emotional and spiritual intangibles count for as much as power, status, money, and things, we really don't have anything to hold on to. And we will continue to come up with addictions of unhealthy, compensating attachment or stark, depriving unhealthy detachment.

Human beings seem to be the only animals that take hoarding to a pathological extreme. And I suspect humans are also the only animals to take starkness and detachment to pathological extremes as well. Perhaps that is why so many of us are realizing the importance of our four-legged friends. They are angels in our midst, trying to help us come back to a place of balance and peace.

1. From "The Psychology of Hoarding" by Mary Duenwald, Discover Magazine.

2. In the cloth and wire monkey experiments, baby monkeys were taken away from their mothers, in order to study attachment patterns. Some of the baby monkeys were put in a cage with a "wire mother monkey," offering a cold, comfortless structure to hold on to. Others were put in a cage with a "cloth mother monkey," who, while inanimate, was at least soft, and therefore, most comforting. The studies found that the comfort of the cloth monkey was important in contrast to the starkness of the wire monkey. As a college student, I felt the loss for all baby monkeys, because even a soft cloth "pseudo-mother-monkey" is a far cry from a baby monkey's living, breathing, loving mother.

©2009 Linda Marks

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 Reflections on Perfectionism and Addiction

Several weeks back, my colleague, Hillary Rettig sent me an article she had written to review. The topic was "Perfectionism and Addiction," and as I read her reflections, I realized she was opening a very important door.

In my practice, I see people who are trying to heal from both addictions and perfectionism, and very often the two are intimately intertwined.

In many ways, perfectionism is an addiction, since the perfectionist is internally driven to continuously pursue an unattainable target, while feeling like their best falls short. The drive for perfection is a compensation for a deeper, unfufilled need that the perfectionist is usually unaware of and likely out of touch with.

Alcoholics, workaholics and other addicts often suffer from perfectionism and the active judge or critic in the head for whom nothing is good enough, and black and white, compassionless thinking dominates.

Rettig identifies two ways perfectionism supports addiction:

"First, it causes persistent feelings of frustration, despair, shame and guilt that an addict might turn to alcohol or some other addictive substance or behavior to soothe."

"Second, it distorts your view of reality in ways that promote addiction and interfere with recovery. Distorted perspective and thinking are fundamental to addiction, which is often referred to as a 'disease of denial.'"

Rettig notes that in AA, this dysfunctional thinking is called "stinkin' thinkin'."

To illustrate how perfectionism supports addiction, she compares a typical perfectionist scenario with a typical addictive one.

"In the perfectionist scenario, a writer expects her first drafts to be polished and well organized--in other words, like other people's final drafts. When she fails at that unreasonable goal, she reacts with great harshness, calling herself a 'loser" and other names. And then, losing confidence and perspective, she is likely to abandon her writing project."

"In the addictive scenario, a compulsive eater sets an unreasonable weight-loss goal for herself--say, to lose five pounds a week--and fails to meet it. The cycle is then the same as for the writer: self-abuse followed by despair followed by abandonment of the project (in this case, eating plan)."

Both the addictive and perfectionistic scenarios illustrate some key aspects of perfectionism, which Rettig identifies:

1. "Setting unreasonable goals and then punishing yourself harshly for failing to meet them." Both the addict and the perfectionist lack grounding in what is doable and how to break a project down to manageable chunks that allow you to succeed.

2. "Seeing things in rigid absolutes, in this case, as total success or total failure." One of the sources Rettig cites, Abraham J. Twerski's in his book Addictive Thinking, notes that addictive thinking is often characterized by a rigidity of thought, "what we may call 'the either/or rule.'" Things are black or white, and there is no middle ground, no progress towards a goal, no partial success.

3. "A focus on the product, not the process." This single-minded focus interferes with the thought process needed to break down any goal into manageable pieces and to take them one at a time to meet the goal.

4. "Magical thinking," of which grandiosity is an example. The perfectionist or addict either lacks the awareness of the emotional work or practical work needed, consistently, over time, to produce a result, or has not translated this awareness into practical action steps. The grandiose thinker believes they should be able to do things effortlessly, including difficult and complex things that can only be done with hard work over time. Too, the perfectionist, addict or grandiose thinker is unlikely to be open to outside help, support or coaching, believing they should be able to do something all by themselves.

Rettig makes another excellent point, that "'the emotional roller coaster' of extreme highs and lows is, in itself addictive. Sobriety often feels weird and boring in comparison, at least initially, if you're hooked on the highs, that alone could lead you back to the addictive behavior."

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes connections, feedback, support and coaching to succeed at most anything important in life. There is a reason the saying "no man is an island," has become a cultural truism. We are not meant to be isolated and living in our own bubbles of perfectionism and addiction. They are self-destructive and destructive to those we care about and who care about us.

Yet, whatever wounding or missing experience underlies addictive behavior and its underlying thought process, is so strong, that our need to isolate, insulate and keep others out may override feedback from those who may see us more clearly than we are able to see ourselves. The survival instinct is very strong. And if a relationship with another human being led to our wounding and unmet needs, then other human beings are deemed dangerous at a primal level, and not to be trusted or let in.

I do believe it is a matter of divine grace for a perfectionist or other addict to reach a point of "bottom," where they realize the cost of their self-isolating and self-destructive behaviors is greater than the benefit, and that they really do need help and outside intervention in order to heal.

Once this door is opened, it takes a lot of work to rebuild one's life and rewire one's responses. However, the work is well worth it: love, connection, self-esteem, self-care and inner peace are just rewards.

©2009 Linda Marks

You can read Hillary's entire article at the following link: http://lifelongactivist.com/blog/300/perfectionism-and-addiction

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 EKP Clnic Day: Saturday, February 20 in Newton

Iraq Weedflower If you would like to experience EKP as a guest client in a free session with EKP apprentices, we are holding an EKP Clinic Day on Saturday, February 20 in Newton.

The apprentices who have completed this past year's EKP apprentice group (4th year and 1st year apprentices) will be leading sessions, with a lead therapist and a team of others who can be "back up pairs of hands" when needed.

Sessions will be available at 11:30 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm. They last 60 minutes.

If you would like to schedule a session contact LSMHEART@aol.com.


 HealingHeartPower Calendar

Would you like to learn how to do EKP? Applications are being accepted for the 2010 EKP Apprenticeship Program. The apprenticeship group meets once a month for a weekend training session beginning in September 2010. For more information, contact LSMHEART@aol.com or call Linda at (617)965-7846.

If you are interested in learning more about EKP, attending the special daylong workshop, What DO We Really Need?" will give you a good introduction to a body-centered approach to developmental psychology. We study this material in more depth in the second year of the apprenticeship program. This introduction will give you healing and practical insights into your own life experiences, challenges and needs, as well as of those you love.

Sliding scale $100 - 150. Saturday, January 23 from 9 am - 5 pm in Newton. To register, e-mail LSMHEART@aol.com and send your registration check (including your e-mail address and phone number) to Linda Marks, 3 Central Avenue, Newton, MA 02460.

The Thursday night EKP Therapy Group has openings for a couple new members. An interview and one EKP session are required to apply. Contact Linda if you are interested at LSMHEART@aol.com

Keeping A Vital Heart,a new EKP workshop, will now take place on Sunday, January 31 from 2 - 5 pm in Newton. Taking care of your heart is an important practice that will deepen happiness and fulfillment, as well as help to heal trauma and pain.

To enroll, send an e-mail to LSMHEART@aol.com, and a check for $50 to Linda Marks, 3 Central Avenue, Newton, MA 02460. Please include your name, phone number, address and e-mail.

Saturday, February 20 will be an EKP Clinic Day featuring free 60 minute EKP sessions facilitated by EKP apprentices. To sign up for a session, contact LSMHEART@aol.com.

If you are interested in being part of an on-going EKP group that meets once a month, let me know. We had run a Sunday EKP Process group for many years, and could consider forming another one, if there is interest. Whether your schedule is too busy for a weekly group, or you live far enough away that a monthly session is more sustainable, if a monthly group would best meet your needs, we can try to put one together.

EKP opportunities in Newton include:

  • Being a guest client in the Student Clinic
  • On-going Thursday night EKP Body Psychotherapy Group (which currently has room for a couple new members)
  • Apprenticing in EKP

If you would like a Healing the Traumatized Heart workshop near you, or have a group of people who you would like to bring EKP to, please contact LSMHEART@aol.com.

To find out more.... 

 About Linda

Me and Flora Linda Marks, MSM, is pioneer in body psychotherapy who has developed, taught and practiced Emotional-Kinesthetic Psychotherapy (EKP) for more than two decades. Author of LIVING WITH VISION and HEALING THE WAR BETWEEN THE GENDERS, she co-founded the Massachusetts Association of Body Psychotherapists and Counseling Bodyworkers and is the founder of the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network. She holds degrees from Yale and MIT, and has a vital 13-year-old son.

To find out more about Linda...