Holiday Hangover

7 12 2010

The first time I ever went out drinking was a day of exploration, fun, and carefree unconscious exuberance.  At the time there didn’t seem to be any consequences, but little did I know what was going to happen the next morning.  Though I wore the headache, irritability, lethargy, and pain as a badge of honor, I told myself I wasn’t going to drink like that again.  Oddly enough, once the hangover subsided and I returned to normal, I forgot my vow and was out at it the next weekend seeking a way to be connected with others yet unconscious and unaware.

Now just as I have been physically hungover and sick from drinking too much, I have also felt an emotional hangover when I spend too much time drinking in painful emotions without taking the time to express them responsibly.  This happens often with my family where I feel a lot, take on a lot, have racing thoughts and feel internally out of control yet appear dead to the world.  The exhaustion this struggle c

reates is breeding grounds for an emotional hangover.  The effects of which sometimes take days to recover from.

When I leave and retreat back to the safety of my apartment in Chicago, I slowly and painfully regain the consciousness I worked so hard to suppress.  I come away feeling so thirsty for aliveness and connection that it hurts.  I literally go through the physical sensations of being hungover even though I haven’t had a drop of alcohol!

The jolt that gets me out of my funk, the water that cures my emotional dehydration, is safety in community.  I had the experience of being jolted into aliveness through the tough support of community encouraging me to leave the mess I wallow in and join society as an alive, functioning, and supportive member.  While I am getting better at recognizing my foul moods, I depend on the support of other people to help me out of them.  When people hold for me the higher vision of being the strong, confident, capable man that I am I can more readily step out of my deadness and awaken to the aliveness of life that is happening all around me.  I choose to participate in the abundance around me instead of walking around in a slump only aware of a very narrow spectrum.

Where disconnection is my alcohol, community is the best cure I know for an emotional hangover.  The desire and drive to connect keep me in check, and where I once struggled with drinking too much my current area of growth is disconnecting too much.  Thankfully through the support of the community at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment, as well as my friends and growth work partners, I am creating the community and the opportunities for the type of authentic connection that are unavailable to me in the grips of an emotional hangover.

I hope you will join me in my efforts to connectand connect authentically by adding to the conversation either online or in person-  Here’s to an emotional hangover-free Holiday season!


Surprised by Success

23 11 2010

Me in the face of success!

In my last entry I was surprised by the amount of sadness I carry around and have access to on a daily basis.  I am learning to better feel the weight of that sadness and to be more willing to work through the un

easiness of crying and feeling sad in order to experience a lightness and resulting joy.  This past week however, it was not sadness that caught me off guard, rather it was my own success.

I am a good public speaker, in fact my colleague Amy and I recently hosted a singles workshop, and yet what I am learning through this is that I don’t like to brag.  I have a very narrow definition of positive attention, and have been taught to think that any type of self-promotion is bragging.  I learned pretty early on that bragging was bad, it was arrogant, and did not lead to the type of humility that God expected of me; it was selfish.  In expanding my definition of positive attention, I am testing out exactly what the boundary is between bragging and positive affirmation, and looking to my support team to give me the feedback of when I have gone too far.  So far that has yet to happen!  Meaning there is a ton of positive attention available to me, I only need to be willing to ask for it and be willing to receive it once it is given.

I have some old messages or tapes that play in my head as it relates to receiving praise- “They don’t mean it, they only want something from me in return;” “If they really knew me they wouldn’t be praising me for this;” “They are only flattering me, it is not genuine.”  I have historically had a d

ifficult time accepting praise, and yet that is one of my deepest hungers to know that I exist, that I am good, and that I am worthy of love and attention.  At my core I both yearn to have those beliefs affirmed, and believe deep down that I am not worthy enough to have those needs met.  I am caught in a bind.  I want what I don’t believe that I deserve (positive attention), and so the type of attention I believe I deserve (negative attention) is stuff that I don’t really want.


What I am beginning to believe about myself

I am shifting my view of the world, whereas I once saw a scarcity of positive attention, I am seeing that it is abundant to those who seek it.  I have my sights set on that, on creating situations for myself in which I will receive affirmation and to also be engaged in activity worthy of praise.  I am learning to trust, to trust myself and the world that there is abundance out there and that I already have the tools to access and benefit from that abundance!

Surprised by Sadness

16 11 2010

Taylor Hall- Where the Magic Happens

Last weekend I was a staff facilitator at our annual CLE Fall Retreat where our Northshore practice makes the trip up to the Dekoven Center in Racine, Wisconsin for a time of personal growth in a safe, secluded, and sacred space.  Spanning the first weekend in November I learned and grew in ways I could never have imagined and was able to share that surrounded by a community of support.

After dinner on Saturday as I sat in the leaders meeting, wave after wave of sadness came over me and before I knew it I was sobbing in front of a room full of people I admire and respect.  Though I tried to close the floodgates by taking shallow breaths and looking down, I knew that there was no stopping whatever it was that was coming up.  Initially all I could feel was a tearful rage and had no idea what else was lurking just beneath the surface.  I was tense, angry, scared- but mostly in the moment I had the urge to kill.  I sat there in my chair, fist clenched, mind racing, heart pounding, and eyes swelling.  I wanted for the whole room to stop, for the whole world to stop, and for all of it to just go away.  I knew that that wasn’t going to happen, I knew that whatever was coming up I needed to experience.  I grabbed onto my supervisor’s hand for comfort, support, and safety.  As I did so, my feelings switched from rage to pain and once I put my armor down, each word that was being said was cutting through me like a knife.

As we processed, I was no longer in the leader’s meeting, I was back at the dinner table in my family.  Feeling lost, alone, scared, and wounded I would mentally retreat.  Each night at dinner I was braced for a fight yet could never have told you that at the time.  It all felt normal to me, just the way things were.  We said we were a nice family, and our words would have matched it too, but our actions did not.  There was a game going on underneath the surface, one of superiority, competition, aggression, and shame.  Words were words yet the tone behind them was condescending and mean.  This game didn’t feel nice.  And not having a better way to take care of myself and the upset I would feel- I would bury my head in my plate, rarely come up for air, and eat way more than any little kid should.  I could feel but not directly express the dichotomy at the table.  I was a chubby little kid who used food and extra weight to stay insulated and isolated from his family.  I learned to deal with sadness and pain by eating; my strategy was to avoid inserting myself in the conversation and risk being hurt by always having my mouth full of food

In handling an upsetting situation at the retreat, the leader, Rich Blue, took the very protective stance around my colleague Kathleen and I that I wanted to feel in my family.  I recognized in that moment my profound hunger to feel safe, to truly feel that I would be okay no matter what else was happening around me.  I had never been so in touch with this hunger than I was that night.  It was painful the ways in which it wasn’t met, and so liberating to see that that is available to me even now.  I recognized that what I longed for growing up was for someone to just pull me aside and let me in on the game my family was playing, some sort of warning to let me know what to expect.  I lived in the fantasy of what dinners and family time could be like instead of stepping into the reality of what they actually were like.  Now that I am learning how to more accurately describe my pain and experience of that pain I am more willing to live in the reality of what life is actually like and am willing to use that upset as motivation to change instead of justification to stay stuck.  Though at times it takes me great prodding to get moving and grow, this experience of feeling pain, expressing it, and living to tell the story afterwards has been one more notch in my belt of personal growth and self-discovery.

I hope to have many more notches!

Questions Wanted!

26 10 2010

This blog is intended to be interactive- meaning I want to hear from you! Post any questions you have relating to personal growth, transformation, or just life in general, and I will try my best to answer them or get in touch with those who can!  I’ll get the conversations started with new entries and I want you the reader to interact as well and really make this a dynamic online community and resource for those wanting to live great lives!

Friends with Benefits

29 05 2010

I recently saw Up in the Air in which George Clooney develops a friendship based on casual sex.  The agreement set from the beginning is that the relationship is physical with no strings attached.  As the movie goes on, it becomes clear that George Clooney’s character is developing romantic feelings for the woman, and this progression from casual partner to romantic interest is common among friends with benefits.  Desiring and building deeper connection is normal; we are made to want to connect deeply with others.  And even though it can be easy to connect physically, casual sex becomes messy because it blurs the lines between friendship and committed partnership.  In those few moments of physical fun, we lose our sense of self by disconnecting from our hungers to be seen, to be known, and accepted; we trade deeper intimacy for an easier substitute.

Many of us want deep, authentic and lasting connections, yet there is pain involved in achieving and maintaining that depth.  Like working up a good sweat at the gym, it takes some initial time and effort to get there, but once achieved the after workout high is well worth it.   Our hunger for more intimacy and meaning may  be at the core of our relational ache.  Finding ways to dull that ache through hooking up or having a friend with benefits are like applying band-aids for life threatening injuries.   Like scar tissue, counterfeit forms of intimacy build up and take an emotional toll on our selves.  Self respect  and self-acceptance needs to take precedence over the temporary pleasure our body’s experience through sex.  Using sex to numb ourselves from our pain can become addicting and have painful side effects.  What is instead necessary is to begin to train ourselves to be comfortable going for more depth in relationships rather than settling for easier and ultimately less satisfying forms of intimacy.


The Power of Our Personal Myths

28 04 2010

Myths are stories that help us make meaning in the world. They give us a framework by which we can organize information into systems. Myths can be captivatingly sad, or powerfully funny, and yet the way the story weaves into our personal lives has great meaning.  Serious study has been given to learning and discovering the power of myths from many cultures and generations.  Universal truths about the nature of the human condition have been derived from these stories.  Would it surprise you that we all have our own internal myths learned in our family? These myths hold just as much power, if not more, than those ancient stories passed down through the ages.

Both positively and negatively, family myths shape and influence the way we are in the world today.  They encourage us to set up rules to follow and beliefs to adopt that shape our view of the world and ourselves.  These myths are experienced, shared, and internalized on a daily basis. Like a fish to water, the resulting rules and beliefs are difficult to distinguish without deeper exploration.  For example, one of my family myths is the time when I was 10 years old and I cut my foot on sharp barnacles while jumping into a creek behind our beach house rental in South Carolina. Spending the first few hours of vacation in the emergency room getting stitches significantly changed the tone of the trip for me.  Below are a few of the rules and beliefs I was able to identify:


Rule 1: Don’t take chances. Look before you leap, gather as much information as possible before acting.  I believed by following this rule I would reduce the chance of getting hurt in the future.

Rule 2: Don’t be impulsive- doing so is inconvenient and only makes messes that mom and dad will have to clean up.  I came to believe that people resent me and find me to be an inconvenience.

Rule 3: Play small and be nice.  No one wants to be around impulsive and inconvenient kids. I came to believe that if I was too much then I would get rejected and abandoned.


The power of a myth lies in its telling and re-telling. The above rules and beliefs had been verbally and non-verbally communicated in my family, in school, and throughout my life. Sure, there are valuable lessons we need to learn as children, such as, “Look twice before crossing the road.” However, we must be mindful of the fact that those lessons can become generalized and direct our entire life. What is the difference between being careful and living your life refusing to take risks because you are afraid to make a mistake or get hurt?


I am discovering that my family myths have had a silent but deadly influence on my life. I play it safe and do not take risks in order to insure I don’t inconvenience others or risk getting hurt myself.  I am examining and evaluating which rules are working for me and which ones are not.  By paying attention to and cataloguing my library of family myths, I am better able to see where my mistaken rules and beliefs are operating.  With the feedback and support of trusted friends I can more readily live in hope, compassion, a sense of abundance, community and grace rather than seeing the world as dangerous, judgmental, unforgiving and intolerant.


What are some of the myths which have shaped your view of yourself, others and the God? What are the rules which reflect the values communicated by your family myths? Let’s get free from the chains which bind us and keep us from becoming our most Christ-like selves!

Hooking Up with Lyndi and Andrew

13 01 2010

My friend Lyndi and I wrote this and wanted to pass it along to everyone!  Please enjoy:

I remember watching MTV’s “Real World” in 2003, and realizing that the meaning of the phrase “hooking up” had changed.  One of the RW participants, Trishelle, used the phrase regularly to describe her nights out.  At first, I would naively think, oh, she means kissed or lots of kissing.  I was shocked by episode 4 when I realized she meant having sex with people that she just met!  At the time, I used this phrase regularly to mean that I was going to meet up or talk later with one of my friends.

There has been a shift among young people where getting to know a person physically is thought to help determine emotional compatibility.  The more traditional way of connecting emotionally prior to physical intimacy is out of favor.  “Hooking up” is an entertaining, but costly attempt to address our ravenous hunger for closeness, to matter, and to be important to someone.  Women are especially prone to using hooking up to avoid the hunger pangs for belonging, touch, and feeling attractive.  Random acts of physical intimacy with limited emotional connection can generate instant gratification not lasting satisfaction.

Additionally there is a commonly held misconception that men are capable of having these types of relationships without any negative effect.  Men do tend to be more visual and hard wired to seek physical gratification. . They are also more aware of their feelings throughout their bodies. Hooking up to get sex is usually done in reaction to feeling uncomfortable amounts of sadness, loneliness, and anger.  For men, sex becomes the antidote for the pain of emptiness or powerlessness.

To a person who is starving for affection, warmth and care, the seemingly harmless hook up is like a junk food binge. It  feels good in the moment but leaves you feeling empty.  As the sense of fullness from the encounter wears off, we metabolize the empty calories without the benefit of nutrients to grow and thrive. We end up adding dead weight and baggage instead of energy and vitality.  Binges on junk food and sex momentarily satisfy our cravings for fullness and connection, yet tend to intensify the desire for more.  That desire for more is then mistakenly fed through additional binging and hooking up, creating an unsatisfying addictive cycle.

Sex can be an outpouring of tenderness and love, a physical expression of what is already present in the relationship.  However, sex in the form of hooking up is not likely to produce those feelings in a lasting way.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through responsible eating and appropriate emotional intimacy requires hard work and dedication.  It is that hard work and dedication that make healthy relationships so satisfying and why junk food, or hook ups like Trishelle leave us feeling empty.  By filling ourselves with things that are valuable and substantial we will feel like we matter to the world, trusting in the abundance of love, acceptance, and grace.  I often wish there was a pill for that!  If there is… hook me up!

In the meantime, if you are ready to discuss how to satisfy your hungers for connection and intimacy, I would love to meet with you. In an environment of safety and grace, we will discover healthy ways to feed your hungers.  CLE is a great place to learn and grow and our staff would love to support you in your journey.