Steve Fugate lost a son to suicide and a daughter to an overdose. He now is on his 9th walk across the united states with a sign above his head that says “LOVE LIFE” He meets people and spreads a message of hope and love despite unspeakable tragedies. Listen to his inspirational story. You can follow or donate to his cause here : Follow Steve Fugate You can Check Out his book here: Buy Steve Fugate Book Here. Or donate to his walk

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Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press.

By Brooke Feldman. https://www.facebook.com/feldman.brooke.m

Individuals seeking addiction treatment typically have the least amount of resources and the most complex of needs.

Do you know that feeling you get when you are sitting at your doctor’s office waiting to be seen and it’s 15 minutes past your scheduled appointment time and nobody has even checked in with you?

Do you know that feeling you get when you’re experiencing tremendous dental pain but are told “Sorry, the next available appointment isn’t until two weeks away”?

Do you know that feeling you get when you are on hold with your doctor’s office waiting to get a prescription called into the pharmacy and it feels like somebody must have forgotten you were on hold?

Well, if you take that feeling and multiply it exponentially, you will get a tiny glimpse of what countless individuals and families experience every day when trying to access addiction treatment services in America. Extraordinarily long wait times, an utter lack of engagement while waiting, poor customer service and a complete lack of communication often meet people at the entry point of attempting to receive treatment services. While there are many good addiction treatment providers who understand the importance of a warm and welcoming environment, there are far too many who do not – and then some who even go on to blame the individual seeking care for “not wanting it bad enough” when they don’t “stick out” the horrendous conditions in which they wait.

Our public behavioral health service systems are intended to serve the most vulnerable citizens of this country. The individuals and families seeking addiction treatment who are uninsured, under-insured or receiving Medicaid (i.e. welfare; medical assistance) insurance are typically those with the least amount of resources and the most complex of needs. While one would imagine that the treatment providers serving our most vulnerable citizens would deliver services in a manner that actively engages people into treatment, sadly this is often not the case. If you ask any individual or family who has attempted to access addiction treatment services in a public behavioral health system anywhere in this country, you are nearly guaranteed to hear some of the following experiences.

“I waited for three hours on a hard plastic chair before anybody came out to talk to me.”

“I was experiencing terrible withdrawal symptoms but was unable to receive any medical treatment until after I was admitted which was 11 hours after I first arrived.”

“Nobody even communicated with me or told me how long I’d (or my loved one) would have to wait.”

“I waited all day without being seen and then was told to come back the next day because the intake staff were done for the day”

You know that feeling you get when you still haven’t been seen by your doctor and it’s 15 minutes past your appointment time? Well, yeah, multiply that exponentially and you’ll get a glimpse of what many individuals and their families experience when attempting to access addiction treatment services. At a time of crisis and often a personal and family low point, we are expecting people to weather the type of service delivery that in no other healthcare or customer service venue would even the best of us be able to tolerate. Is it that we think people who struggle with addiction challenges don’t deserve better? Is it that we think people who struggle with addiction challenges aren’t important enough to be treated with human decency and respect? Is it that we don’t care how many people are literally dying trying to get into treatment?

There are many strategies behavioral health system leaders and addiction treatment providers can employ to better engage people into treatment. Below are just some examples and available in the literature for all are plenty of others:

1) Provide peer support services in waiting rooms, allowing individuals and family members with lived experience of navigating the system and sustaining recovery to provide encouragement, information and hope

2) Provide the type of waiting room furniture that you would be comfortable with yourself or a loved one spending hours and hours sitting on

3) Splurge on being able to provide water, coffee and something to eat for people who often haven’t eaten in days let alone the hours and hours they have been waiting

4) Ensure that regular communication is taking place and that staff are providing routine updates to individuals and families about wait times, next steps and what to expect in the process

5) Be prepared to serve people experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms and develop procedures that allow for the availability of medical care within a reasonable amount of time

6) Align federal, state and local funding and regulatory policies with a behavioral health system that can meet the demands of those it is there to serve

7) Do unto others as you would want done unto yourself

Listen to Brooke’s story on podcast here:

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BIO:

Brooke M. Feldman, MSW Candidate, University of Pennsylvania
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Brooke openly identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ communities and a person in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder. What this means for Brooke is that she has has been able to stop the intergenerational transmission of addiction that claimed her mother’s life at a young age and has transformed her own life into one of wellness and service. After spending her adolescent years in and out of many behavioral health institutions and the juvenile justice system, Brooke began her recovery at age 24. Since that time, much of Brooke’s energy and efforts have gone into advocacy and action work geared toward making wellness and long-term recovery accessible to all. Having spent the past decade working in various direct care, community outreach, administrative/policy, program coordination and training roles under some of the field’s highest regarded leaders, Brooke has combined her lived experience with a wide spectrum of professional experiences to serve as a support to those in or seeking recovery. Brooke firmly believes that wellness and recovery is not about luck or good fortune but more so about individuals and families having access to what it is they need, when they need it and for however long they need it. Additionally, Brooke believes that the gifts and wisdom uncovered in the addiction recovery journey can and ought to be applied universally to the human experience and shared with the larger world.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press.

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“Imagine all the good that could be done in the world if we offered treatment services – people getting real, talking about feelings, everyone included no cliques – and encouraging adolescents to take off their masks, rather than teach them how to build one and wear for the rest of their lives. “From the book “Taking The Mask Off” by Cortland Pfeffer/Irwin Ozborne

By Cortland Pfeffer

The mass shootings keep happening, despite blaming guns, mental illness and other things. Maybe that is because we are looking at the problem all wrong.

“Help me man!” says a voice of a man that stumbles into my office, “I don’t want to do it anymore. I need you to save my life.”

I was working at the walk-in mental health clinic when this distraught man sits down in front of me and clearly has hit his rock bottom. We start talking for a short time and we both feel a sense of familiarity with each other.

“Ozzy!?” He questions, “Well, I guess we both should have seen this moment coming.”

Ozzy was my high school nickname and the man sitting across from me that was pleading for me to save his life was one of my many, and probably worst, high school bully.

This man tormented me and made life a living hell and now here he was in a hell of his own and begging for me to bring him out of despair.

April 20, 1999:
Rewind the tape to April 20, 1999. It was our senior year and I have endured seven years of being a social outcast and bullied daily. By my senior year, I was part of the “popular” group but I realize it was not because I was accepted but it was more of a joke and a more covert bullying. Although I recognized it, I went along with it due to it being easier to handle than the overt bullying the years prior.

We all skipped school that morning to partake in International “Weed Day.” While we were innocently watching MTV, getting high, and laughing, suddenly my mindset changed. I grew very resentful at everyone as I knew that they were just inviting me so they could laugh at the awkward kid getting high. It was funny to see the kid that never talked suddenly opening his mouth. They were laughing at me, not with me, and I had enough.

I walked out of the house without saying a word and just walked home. No one called, no one wondered where I went, no one cared that I left. It was right around noon that morning as I began my walk.

At the exact same time, a thousand miles away, another group of high school seniors that had been bullied their entire lives and set as outcasts had a much different response. At 11:19 a.m. (local time), Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had entered Columbine High School and began to open fire on the most deadly school shooting in United States History and forever change our world.

First and foremost, I need to explain sincerely that I do not condone their acts in any way and express sympathy for all that were affected by this tragedy. I also am a very non-violent person and could never see myself acting in such a way, but the purpose of this article is to show the two distinct paths my life could have took as I lived the life of the prototype of a school shooter.

A Life of Bullying:
Ever since entering Junior High School, I had no friends. I sat alone and barely said a word throughout the day of school unless prompted. Then, when I went home, it was more of the same. I was emotionally and mentally tormented and tried to hide in my room. I was even victimized further and accused of being “too sensitive.”

I had nowhere to go. No one ever took the time to step in.

A child that never talks, wears dirty clothes, and sits all alone and gets picked on daily and no one wanted to ask what was going on. Perhaps that would have been a “hard case” and nobody wanted to take the initiative.
Long before Columbine happened, I remember a kid in class joking about how I never talked. “Ozzy, you are the type of guy that shoots up a school. I better be nice to you for when you do something like that.”

Another time, while I was in the back of class writing football plays in my notebook, a girl (that also was fairly quiet), walks by and says “what are you writing, bomb codes?”
If people were saying this out loud, what were their private thoughts about me?

Then, the next day, April 21, 1999, I returned to school. Everyone in the school had eyes on me and looked me in the eye as if I had committed the same crime as Klebold and Harris. They weren’t friendly with me, instead they were more quiet and suspicious. The remaining month of my high school career went back to being ignored, which was perfectly fine with me as the phony “friendships” had run its course. Again, I didn’t want to act violently, I just wanted to escape and begin a new life.

Having a Social Outlet
The difference between neurosis and artistic, is that the artist has an outlet to express himself/herself. They neurotic keeps everything inside and brings about further self-torture.

“I’d be a savage beast, if I didn’t have this outlet to salvage me.” — Eminem

We all need a sense of belonging. Luckily for me, I happened to be an average athlete that was good enough to make the team. This is the only outlet that I had and I could release some of my built up anxieties. In addition, and more importantly, it allowed me to belong and be a part of something. It allowed a few people to recognize me and know about me.

A sense of belonging, above all else, is what each individual needs. Look at every mass shooter/killer in the history and they lacked connection.
If it wasn’t for athletics and not making the team, I would have had nothing. I am not sure how those last few years of high school would have turned out. It was because I was involved in these teams that the popular group took me on as their mascot. Again, although it was a form of bullying, I felt I was part of something and had a purpose. If I hadn’t made the team, or wasn’t into athletics, what would I have had? I would have been even more alone and perhaps I become even more alienated and who knows how that story ends.

To Those Who Have Been Bullied
Listen, I am as outcast as they come. I was even too odd for the weirdest people in the school. I have never fit in anywhere in life. As I grow older, I realized this is my greatest strength. If you don’t fit in with mainstream culture, it means you are doing something right. If you fit in with an insane society, that can not possibly make one “normal.”

If I could go back, I would embrace it more. In fact, that’s what I have done since then. It doesn’t have to be painful and life does get better once we truly embrace our life behind the mask.

Less than twenty years later, one of the biggest bullies walks into MY office and asks me to SAVE his life. Here I am living a meaningful, fulfilling life and this man is now begging for me to help him after he put me through hell. The thing is, I didn’t feel redemption, I felt sympathy and empathy for this man because I know how it feels and I don’t want anyone to have to go through that.

To all those who are bullies, remember it is hurt people that hurt people. They are hurting very deeply. Someone who is fully secure and self-confident has no interest in harming the life of another.

I view myself as a non-violent pacifist. I hate guns. But, I also look back and see that I was maybe only a few situations/scenarios away from becoming Dylan Klebold. At the same time, my life changed dramatically in less than twenty years to working with and preventing the future Dylan Klebolds of the world.

Walk Up, Not Out
While this pains me to say it, the conservatives got this one right. In response to the Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018, high school students around the country organized a “walk out” to protest gun violence. Again, I agree with the students, I have always been for gun control to the point I am anti-gun.

But, I can also acknowledge when the other side has a good point. The idea of walk up, not out, has to do with explaining that bullying is the cause of the school shootings. Instead of walking out, the students should walk up and get to know each other – this is accurate. The only thing that bothers me, is the conservatives use this only as a means to push their own agenda – their guns.

If schools would take time to teach classes on having people openly share and express their feelings with one another, it would form tighter bonds. I remember in one class we had to write a very personal essay. We sat in a table of four other students and passed our paper around. Even something as simple as this helped us connect with each other as we saw beyond each other’s masks.

There should be more of this. There should be a treatment-style class in which the group shares their inner world with each other and work on forming meaningful relationships. If we start doing this at a young age it would end nearly all school shootings.

For those that have been bullied, I would like to share that there is also a place to go. There are support groups around the world, such as AA and NA, that understand the concept of unconditional acceptance. You can sit in a room with a police officer and doctor that are sitting alongside a homeless person and they understand each other. They talk about real things and form meaningful connections. No one is judged and everyone is accepted.

The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is indifference. I don’t feel people hated me, but people were indifferent towards me everywhere I went.

Once again, the answer is love.

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Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press.

10 life lessons

By Cortland Pfeffer

Over the past 25 years, I have been immersed in the mental health and addiction system as a patient, later as staff, as a Registered Nurse (RN), and eventually as a supervisor. My time in the mental health system officially began at age 17 when I was first hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. This preceded further hospitalizations, a number of treatment episodes for alcoholism/addiction, along with multiple stints of incarceration in jails. Eventually, through this experience, I was able to embrace recovery and ultimately gain employment at some of these same facilities in which I was treated.

Often I am asked about how I went from being a psychiatric patient and homeless drug addict to being a registered nurse and a supervisor at some of these facilities. While there is no magical answer to that question, there certainly have been some valuable life lessons learned along the way. These are 10 of the life lessons I have learned over time, which allowed me to continue on this journey.

1. If you are naturally different than the majority, you will be labeled.

It is our nature to want to try to fit in with the tribe. It can be lonely when you feel like you are different from other people. When you are not like the majority, others will notice this and try to get you to fit in to this box of normality. But defining “normal” is an impossible task. It is defined as conforming to a standard. However, this standard changes with different cultures and time periods. What was once normal, is now insane. Today we clearly live in an insane society – one in which we favor materialism over that of our fellow man; one in which there is more public uproar over a sporting event than the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. To be “normal” in this type of society would actually make one insane. Yet, when you don’t follow the mold of a brainwashed culture you get labeled as different.

This can be quite destructive as Erich Fromm points out in his 1941 book “Escape from Freedom” as he highlights how people are drawn to authority as it is safer to go along with the pack than to think independently.

We go along with the societal norms for harmony, acceptance, and belonging – which are also innate human desires. Each human has a desire to feel a sense of community and purpose. However, when we go along with the group – even when it is violates our personal beliefs just for acceptance – it causes us to believe that something is wrong with us for thinking differently.

Solomon Asch tested human’s conformity in an experiment in 1951. Over the 12 critical trials approximately 75% of participants conformed at least once; and 25% of participants never conformed. In the control condition, the participants were asked to write down the correct match between the lines without sharing their answers with the group. The results showed that the participants were very accurate, giving the correct answers 98-percent of the time. This is one of many studies that show most people will go along with a crowd, even if it is not what they believe. So what happens if the tribe has decided that there is something “wrong” with you? Science will show that most of us will go along with that.

However this is a mistake. Take a look at the bell curve, which is used to show “normality distribution.” The bell curve is used in many areas of life and can be used here. In many bell curves, you see that 95-percent are within two deviations from the mean, or average. On the very end you will always see 5-percent of people. They are at the extreme end and do not fall inside the box of “normal.” It doesn’t make you bad to be outside the norm, and it also doesn’t make you crazy or sick. In fact, I would argue that those on the extreme ends are the ones that have changed the world.

For example, Mahatma Gandhi did not fit inside that box. The “norm” of his time was to accept the British imperialism in his home country of India. He saw the injustices and spent his life trying to free his people from oppression. He was imprisoned and survived many assassination attempts (although one finally killed him). Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. also saw the injustices of African-Americans were facing in the United States and stood up to the oppression. They both went against the norms, were labeled, judged, and eventually lost their lives for speaking against the status quo. They both ended up dead, but years later we realized they were speaking the truth against an insane society.
Other people’s labels of you are just that — other people’s labels. It is out of fear and ignorance. Do not adapt to other people’s expectations. The world needs people of all sorts. We need diversity.

If you closely take a look at the criteria for someone who is gifted versus someone who has ADHD, Bipolar, Aspergers, and many other mental health diagnosis you will see that they are almost identical. So whether you are called bipolar or gifted doesn’t depend on you, but rather on the so-called expert assessing your life. It is all about perception and none of it matters. All that matters is that you are your most authentic and true version of yourself.

2. We as a society create mental health and addiction.

There have been numerous studies that have exposed the fact that trauma as a child leads to neural chemistry changes in your brain. Childhood trauma has been called the smoking of mental health. The same way smoking can cause or invoke many physical diseases, childhood trauma and maltreatment does the equivalent for mental health and addiction.

There are higher relapse rates for hypertension and heart disease than there are for addiction and mental health. However, we often treat the addict like they are a bad person or making bad choices. So we are taking someone who has been traumatized and often did not receive treatment for their trauma and we punish them by locking them up. This creates more shame, exasperating the trauma and causing the cycle to repeat itself. Additionally, the patient is not going to be readily willing to seek help in the first place due to the aforementioned shame.

What if we had a cancer drug that works 10-percent of the time and made people sicker? We would throw the drug away! However if a treatment center has a 10-percent success rate for addiction or mental health they’re considered successful. What other business could be 10-percent successful and would continue to exist?

The addiction and mental health industry continue to grow, despite this complete lack of success. There are extremely high rates of recidivism in these fields. Speaking from personal experience, more often than not the patients get sicker while in treatment.
The staff then blames this lack of success on the patient. They point fingers and say that the patient “was not ready” or that they have “poor insight.” The site that failed to provide adequate treatment blames the victim and takes no responsibility for their failure.

This system only continues because too many people are making too much money off keeping people sick. The staff tends to be undertrained, under-qualified, and lack any meaningful or diverse life experience. They are trained to believe that their patients are bad people that are making bad choices instead of a sick person who has been traumatized. This obviously results in receiving much different treatment.

Now there are some absolutely wonderful people in this field. That is a fact. However, in general there is an overall lack of humanity and compassion in the way this population has been treated. We are the most incarcerating society in the history of mankind and most of these prisoners are there for harmless drug offenses. Due to this influx of incarcerations, we have created for-profit prisons which rely on mass incarcerations for profit. They set up contracts with governments to guarantee high occupancy rates and spend millions of dollars lobbying to congress to make tougher prison laws to ensure they stay profitable. In turn, members of congress then hold stock in these private prisons – meaning that the people that make the laws are making money off the laws they sign into action.

We are locking up people who have a disease to profit the rich. Punishment does not work for this disease – it never has and it never will. If it did work, we would not have a this astronomical recidivism rate in jails for drug offenses.

3. Be true to who you are.

We run from who we truly are because we are told to by our environment. We are told that it is not okay to be our true self from the time we are young and we begin to believe it to be true. We spend our whole lives living for other people and living based on other people’s expectations. We eventually lose ourselves and create a false persona (or false self) – This is what I refer to as “The Mask”.

The longer we wear the mask, the more we forget who we are underneath. We start to think that we are our masks – the character that we present to the world for acceptance. As this continues, we grow to dislike our mask because it is not our true self. This leads to depression, self-hate, or even suicidal ideation. We think we hate ourselves, but in reality we hate this false self that we have created. When we go against our own nature, it will always create depression.

If you have forgotten who you are, it’s easy to remember. You know the truth by how you feel. If you want to remember what that feeling is like, simply go do something that is pure, genuine, and has good intentions and see how that feels. If you can do something for somebody that can never repay you, you will remember this feeling – that is the feeling you are seeking.

Some of us may not even know who we really are because we’ve been wearing this mask for so long. In that case you get to explore and try new things. You get to discover who you truly are and what makes your soul feel alive. This can be viewed as an obstacle or an opportunity. You can now try everything – writing, dancing, singing, etc. – try anything you desire and you will find your true self in the process.

You will find out who you were, before the world told you who you were supposed to be.
This concept can be frightening, especially if we have become too accustomed to the mask. Some will do anything and everything to put the mask back on for safety, security, and possibly they are benefiting from pretending to be their false self. Although, in the long run it will create more inner dissent.

The world needs you to be you. Your true self fits into the world exactly how it should. When we go against this, we are robbing humanity of the gifts our true selves possess. Albert Einstein said, “great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

It can be scary to finally be yourself. You will likely start feeling rejected and you will lose some people. But those are the people that you want to lose. You will also gain people in your lives – the ones that love the true you and not the false you.
This is a change that is painful and it causes most people to go back into their false self (ore put their mask back on). However, this is an essential struggle that you will encounter on your way. It will turn your world upside down and your relationships will change. But as the old saying goes, “it is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not.”

You are only doing a smidgen of what you are capable of doing by being your true self. You have no idea what you’re capable of until you embrace who you are and you will be blown away by the results.

4. Fear destroys us; and makes others money.

When we are not ourselves, then our lives are being lived and based on fear. When we are always afraid, it is from remembering pain or trauma. Just like any animal, when we are afraid we will hide. We live in a society in which many people benefit of us being afraid.

We are evolutionarily programmed to remember the negative experiences at a much higher rate, more clearly and more intensely, than positive experiences.

Many businesses profit off of our fear. The news gets higher ratings when they show fights, violence, and all the things that are wrong with the world. So that is what they show and that is what we see. They are not showing a true representation of the world, but a sample size that spreads fear and increases ratings. This is paid for by commercial advertisements that spend millions of dollars by spreading fear into your mind in an effort to buy their product. They will tell you might get bitten by a snake, so you need to buy a fence to keep the snakes out. They tell you to buy material items to fit into society or you will be left out and not included. When the fear does not go away, we continue to consume more. And it never goes away until we realize that we are being played.
“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business?” – Dr. Gail Dines

Our insane society has created these masks and then they profit off these masks they created. Then you are labeled as insane if you don’t want to wear your mask anymore. Because when we take off our masks, they lose business.

What goes into your brain will affect your subconscious mind. If you feed it with fear, it will seek fear. If you feed it with love, it will find love. The opposite of living in fear is living with love. Love is the antidote to fear.

When you live with love, you will be faced resistance from those still guided by fear. But remember, in the end, throughout history, every single time love always wins. There may be a time it seems this is not true. But it becomes a crucial point in your recovery when you decide to choose love over fear if you are going to succeed. Every person going through a true recovery will come to this stage and it is scary, it is lonely, and it is supposed to be. It takes immense strength to love when everything inside of you tells you to run away. Once you make it through this stage, you have reached a turning point and the mask begins to crumble.

5. Love, acceptance, and truly listening is far more powerful than any advice you can ever give someone.

We have all seen someone struggling and we want to fix it. Usually we want to fix it the way we would fix it for ourselves if we were in the same struggle. We tend to go in and tell people how to change. Although well-intentioned, when we do this, we begin to lose them. Everyone is different, and every recovery is different. Every mask is unique, and therefore every mask removal must be unique.

Relationships are the single most important thing to someone going through a recovery. You can have the cure for them, but if they do not trust you, they will not hear it. They do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Accepting people for who they are and where they are at in their life will go further than any piece of advice you can ever give them. Giving someone love and a hug when everybody else is kicking them is what I call “psychological life support.”

I had two people that did this for me and they saved my life. Not those who criticized me and tried to force me into treatment. It was those who offered unconditional love and acceptance who kept me alive. Unconditional, meaning without conditions/judgments, but just loving them and accepting them in their entirety with no desire to change or point out their flaws. When I was ready to change, I went to the same people because I had gained their trust.

Relationships come first. If you cannot build a relationship, a trusting relationship, then you will only do damage. I believe many staff in this field are well-intentioned, however they make these problems much worse and the patients get much sicker simply because there is a lack of acceptance, love, and an overabundance of advice giving and fixing.
Trust me, if there was an easy-fix, the person would have already done so. In rushing to fix a person, you are sending the message that they are incompetent and could not think of this on their own. A broken person doesn’t need to be fixed, they need to be loved, then they are able to heal themselves.

When I say listening, I mean being present completely with that person. This means not checking your phone, not looking at the clock, and not even thinking about anything else. This is referred to as active listening. The ten people I think are the best in this field all do this. They make the person they are with feel like they are the most important person on earth in that moment. When the person can feel heard, the magic begins.

6. Embrace your struggles, they are gifts.

When I see a patient walking around a treatment center saying “everything is fine,” “everything is ok,” or “I’m doing great,” this becomes a giant red flag. You should be struggling. Muscles do not grow without struggle and the same goes for our soul.

Since we were young, we were trained to believe that admitting to a struggle is a sign of weakness, but in fact it is a great strength. We are all going through a struggle. We should be working on the thing that is the most difficult for us for optimum growth. The thing that you are most scared to do is probably the thing that is most essential to your recovery.

If you are in pain, if you are crying, if you are scared, then you are growing. If you are questioning why you are there, or why you are going through this, or questioning your own sanity, then you are growing. If you are angry, if you are tense, if you are isolating, then you are growing.

If there is no struggle, there is no growth. If there is no growth, there is no recovery.
Everything in my life in which I thought would be my demise, ended up being the very best things in the long run. We see a small portion of the big picture and act like that’s the reality, when it’s not. We must trust the process and trust in the bigger picture. Without the illusion, there would be no enlightenment.

There will come a time that you will think this is not worth it and feel like giving up. This means you are getting close to breaking through. We usually give up right before the miracle happens.

There is not one magical moment where you reach some mountaintop. It usually takes two steps forward, followed by one step back. It is a continuous, non-linear process. It is like a newborn baby deer trying to learn to walk. Their feet are wobbly and they fall down often. Falling down is not the issue, it is the learning process that makes you stronger and not having shame about the fall. It is about being around people that do not judge the fall.

The only way through the pain you have is to deal with it. There are many things we have hidden inside ourselves through the years because of fear and using the mask. Sometimes it may be for years, or decades, but all things eventually rise to the surface and all your pain is revealed. But that is the only way that it can be healed is for it to come to the surface. It cannot be healed when it is buried.
Let the storm come. After the storm comes the rainbow.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene

7. Our subconscious is what drives us.

We have two parts of our mind – the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious is all of which we are aware. The subconscious is the part that we are not aware, but all the millions of things we process daily and store away.

Our brain cannot tell if what is in our subconscious is true or not. It takes everything in as fact. It is like a hard drive that receives commands and stores everything as fact. It is built by other people and society – parents, siblings, teachers, television, pop culture, advertisements, etc. If we grow up being told that we are “bad,” our subconscious processes it to be true.

Everything is a perception and not reality. However, as different things start to play out in our conscious mind, then the subconscious files come to the surface to back it up as “evidence.” This creates stronger files in our subconscious mind. These files in our subconscious mind are what drives us; not what we are consciously aware.

As young children and even as adolescents, our brains are flooded with gray matter. This is the part of our brain that can be molded and create the person we are to become. This is what shapes the subconscious mind which will determine what drives us for a lifetime. If someone is told they are bad, lazy, incompetent, then they will be driven by this. If someone deals with pain, torture, trauma, and abandonment, they will be drive by this as well.

The good news is we can change the subconscious mind by implanting new messages. It is flexible, but it takes time, practice and patience.
Additionally, some of us will be more affected than others by these messages. Some people are naturally more sensitive, more prone to trauma, and more prone to take things too personally.

We are all born with an innate temperament that lasts our entire lives. That would be like if a couple people were eating a pizza. One person takes a bite and it tastes lukewarm to them; but the other person burns their mouth and complains as to how hot it is. The others would not believe it to be true. However when it comes to emotions, we can’t see anything, the scars or burns are invisible. So we are told that it is not real and our emotions are crazy, in which we believe to be true. This only further pushes our true selves down and creates more negative self-talk which creates files in the subconscious.
This leads to the most sensitive, warm, kind people in our society being invalidated and told they are “babies” for feeling and caring more than most. We tell them that they are not right when inside they are going through a trauma.

But if a young boy acts out in anger instead of crying, that is more acceptable in our society. That is one form of a mask that is created and is prevalent among young men. Then with this mask, and all masks, comes depression from not being your true self from going against nature.

That’s the inner voice, it is the subconscious. It is strong but it may not even be true. The only way to combat this is to start telling yourself positive things (affirmations), surround yourself with positivity, changing your perceptions of the world (cognitive behavioral therapy), focus on the positive things in life (gratitude). This starts to build more positive files in your subconscious which drives you out of despair and into a positive direction.

We all are born pure, and with nothing but love in our hearts. This is often taken from some of us by a combination of temperament, environment, society, and trauma. We eventually believe that we are not good at our core. But we are. We can change our subconscious by what goes into our brain daily. This takes persistence and daily practice, and it is hard when we are used to thinking negatively about ourselves. However, this out of everything is probably the key to sustained long-term recovery- dealing with that inner voice and changing our thoughts. It will seem foreign at first to say “I’m a good person.” If you are going to make it, you have to start doing on a daily basis. You can replace those files just like your body replaces every cell in the body every seven years. Soon those old files will be gone and the new positive files will be your subconscious.

8. Who you surround yourself with is one of the most important decisions you will make.

I have heard many wise people say that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. As I said above, that directly affects our subconscious and what we think of ourselves.

I remember years ago my oldest daughter enrolled in a private school. Everyone in the school was Catholic and she came home and believed in her inner core that the entire world was Catholic. She cried about it at night that she was different because she did not go up to get the fake bread at their ceremonies. Similarly, if you are around five people that smoke pot and you do not smoke pot, then you are the weirdo for not smoking pot. However, if you are with five people that do not smoke pot and you do, then you are considered strange for smoking pot.

At the end of the day, if you are around negativity — eg. those who consider you strange or different — it will eventually influence you.

Now some negativity can be good if you’re an overly positive person and turn a blind eye to all negativity because that is also unrealistic and can actually benefit the person. Also, being angry can help mobilize and motivate you to change. People who are totally happy and content at all times are never the ones that change the world – see Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. It is those that are healthy discontents that create change.

On the flip side, if you only are surrounded by negativity it will suck the life out of you. Likewise if you are around a bunch of people who believe that you are a bad person, be that your family, friends, or relatives, then that’s going to creep right back into your subconscious and you creep right back into old patterns. Soon you believe that pattern as real.

You cannot do this alone. It took many others to help us put the mask on, and it will take others to help remove the mask as well. I came across five amazing people that helped change my life and save it.

Part of recovering is making the effort to be true to yourself. Once you can do this, you will find yourself in others. You start to see that all of life is a synchronicity. You will suddenly be around people who can help you and you have to be willing to accept help and make yourself vulnerable. If you cannot expose yourself and be vulnerable to these good people, then you will fall.

Vulnerability allows others to lift the mask.

You have to start all over sometimes; that may even mean leaving your family and lifelong friends. It is terrifying, but you will find new people that embrace your true self, whereas your friends and family have only got to know your mask and are not ready for your true self. You’ll find that people who you thought were close friends really were not; and people who you thought were not your friends actually were. You find out everybody’s true character when you go through this. It’s a gift in that way as well. Someone you may not have associated with five years ago, you’ll love them when you are your true self. This just means that the transformation is happening.

9. You must learn to truly love yourself or you will not make it.

I wrote earlier about being your true self and that is completely different from loving your true self. There is a reason we wear these masks and have these false selves. It is because we think that at our core, we are not OK. Then we start to be ourselves, but also seek to make changes. We have to 100-percent, truly, genuinely love our true self and embrace it or we will eventually slip back on our masks.

This is the often overlooked Steps Six and Seven of the 12-Steps. We are removing the parts of ourselves that are not true and keeping those that are. However, we get confused at this point because we feel that part of ourselves is flawed.

But, that is impossible! Every single person is perfect at their core. You do not have any flaws. That is a lie created by society. Every person is perfect and once you find your true self you will see this to be true.

Which is why, when you are finally being yourself you are likely going to be mocked, ridiculed, and teased. It begins to seem much easier to revert back to old ways (the mask). It is hard when you have run your whole life and been afraid. Then you start to be yourself and people start teasing you or pushing you away. You must realize that this has nothing to do with you and has everything to do with them. If somebody loves you that usually has more to do with them than you; and if somebody hates you that has more to do with them than you.

I remember when I had to have a psychological test done, I had to have my four closest people fill out a form and I figured it would all be the same answers that they gave. I got four completely different forms with four completely different sets of answers. Others love us based on their perception of us or they hate us based on their perception of us, none of this is reality – but it is reality to them.

What matters is what we think of ourselves. If we love ourselves, we will glow and other people will be drawn to us and some will be drawn away from us.
“The ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll find peace.’ The spirit says, ‘Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.’” – Marianne Williamson

10. Whatever you do, if you do it with love in your heart as your intention, you cannot go wrong.

The world is full of opinions. Everyone has the answers. You can’t do this, or you shouldn’t do that. People can show you evidence about why they are right and why you are wrong. Everyone will tell you how to handle your recovery and how to handle every situation in life. When we are listening to other people instead of our true selves, we are going against our own truth and against our own nature.

There is no right and wrong. We used to think smoking was okay for you and doctors advertised it. We used to think the world was flat. We used to think Columbus discovered America. There is no truth, there is only perception. You must do what your true inner self believes. Your mask is unique so your mask’s removal is going to be unique. The one thing that is common for all mask removals is connection and love. Science and studies have found out that we are breathing the same air that people breathed in and breathed out thousands of years ago. The air we breathe is composed of mainly nitrogen, gas, and oxygen gas. Very little is lost in space, and only occasionally is there a new source of carbon or oxygen introduced into this planet. So every breath you take has atoms that have been here for billions of years.

There was a computer program set up in various spots around the world. It would shoot off random numbers, there was no pattern ever seen for years. This is called a Random Number Generator. However when the September 11th attacks happened, or other moments that human consciousness became coherent, things changed. For instance, in the case of a severe tragedy in which all humans are thinking about similar things and having similar emotions, all the numbers become structured and organized. They show an unpredictable sequence of ones and zeroes. The odds of this happening by chance is one in a trillion. How is this possible?

Every single thing you can see around you — the rocks, the birds, and the trees — all are comprised of the same atoms. They are just expressed differently — yet intricately interconnected. Whatever you do and whatever decisions you make, if you do it with love as your motive and if your intentions are pure with love you cannot be wrong. So know your intentions and know your truth and embrace it. You were born with a light that others have tried to dim with a mask, let your light shine again and take your mask off. Humanity needs the gift that your true self possess.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press.

Itubes

 

Evan Lowe was raised in the Bible Belt and his family appeared to have the American Dream. They had a home and went to church on Sundays, but behind the mask of the American Dream is abuse of all forms. Evan is now a transgender fighting for others who are afraid to be themselves. He has survived sexual, physical, emotional abuse of the worst kind. Listen to Evans story here, on ITunes, sound cloud, and Spreaker. This is not only about taking the mask off, but how one is put on. Links below.  Rate and Review

Spreaker:

 

ITunes: Ep 013 Losing my Religion Itunes1

 

 

YouTube:

 

 

 

Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/cortland-pfeffer/podcast-ep-013-losing-my-religon-the-mask-the-church-gave-me-with-evan-lowe

 

 

WordPress:

Podcast Ep 013 Losing my religon, the mask the church gave me with evan lowe

 

 

 

 

On July 31st, 2004, David Carmichael took his 11 year old sons life.  We discuss the tragedy, the aftermath, his criminal trial, and what he is doing now.

Listen on ITunes, Spreaker, Sound cloud, you tube, and on our site:

 

Spreaker:

 

You Tube:

 

 

 

ITunes:

Itunes interview with David Carmichael about the Murder of his son

 

 

 

 

SoundCloud:

 

 

 

 

WordPress:

Ep 012 Pills that Kill David Carmichael’s medication induced psychosis leads to the murder of his son

 

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Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press

 

In junior high school, I was a painfully shy student. It was to the point I would go through an entire week without peeping a single sound. While it was quite easy to shield my anxiety during most classroom activity, the lunchroom was always my greatest test. How could I possibly hide myself in a crowded cafeteria?

There was always one table in the back of the room which only had about five kids sitting there (the tables sat about 20-30 people).With so many empty seats at the table, it was the perfect spot for someone with severe, debilitating social anxiety.

This group was the outcasts of the school. They wore the same clothes every day, never paid attention in class, didn’t follow the rules, had long straggly hair, and were already experimenting with drugs and alcohol – likely due to their living situations at home. But, they were also different in the sense that they had no desire to fit in with the “cool kids.” They were perfectly content being in their own skin.

They also held different views on the world. They didn’t gossip about other students, blame teachers, or talk bad about the janitorial staff. In fact they talked about how they helped the janitors after school in exchange for being taught how to use certain tools. For it was these kids – the outcasts – who saw the world for how it was, they did not just blindly obey the forces that were trying to socialize them into robots.

“Irwin!” a teacher shouted from across the room, “What are you doing sitting there!?

She shouted as if my life was in imminent danger, sprinting across the room with her arms flailing like she was rescuing a drowning child. Her overly-dramatic antics created a major scene – the exact opposite of what a child with social anxiety desires. But, it was clear, this incident wasn’t about me – it was about her saving a kid from harm. She yanked my shoulder back and with fear in her eyes.

“You don’t have to sit here! Are they making you do this? You can sit somewhere else!”

Embarrassed, I slowly looked at my frantic teacher and then looked back over at the kids at this table. All of them had a look in their eyes as if to say, “It’s OK to leave. We don’t blame you.”

Then I looked back at my teacher and spoke with confidence in my voice for the first time in my life.

“I want to sit here.”

“What!?” She shook her head in disbelief, “You want to sit here? With them!?”

“Yes,” I looked back at them, “I want to sit here.”

She threw her arms up in disbelief as if another child was lost to these terrible monsters. But, my question is where was she as I sat alone in her classroom for a semester? Where was her dire need to save me when she notice the bruises on my arm and cuts on my eye? For it wasn’t about “saving” me, it was about the opportunity to save me in front of a crowd.

 

Over The Rainbow:

This teacher is one of many that take part in the everyday presentation we put on for the world. We wake up in the morning, put on our masks, and then put on a play for the world to see. The thing I enjoyed about this group of kids, they saw behind the phoniness of the world and I felt together we shared a passion to discover the truth.

We celebrate truth-seekers throughout children’s books, films, and stories; yet, when children look to reenact this behavior in “real” life, it is frowned upon.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is tired of the boring and dull life on the farm in rural Kansas. She is trying to explore and the adults continue to push her away, telling her to “go somewhere you can’t get into any trouble.”

This turned into a breakthrough for Dorothy as she dreamed away of a different life, another dimension, a home void of the displeasures of going through the motions of life. She breaks into singing the classic song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which describes this desire to go to a place where “dreams that you dare to dream, really can come true.”

But Dorothy is not the only character with this yearning for truth. Alice from Alice in Wonderland, also was in a depressed state of mind in which she couldn’t find the energy to do the things she once loved until chasing a white rabbit down his rabbit hole. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is criticized and discouraged about seeking life above the sea and searching for a different existence. And Belle from Beauty and the Beast is considered odd because she does not go accept the norms of society.

We are attracted to these tales, because it is our innate desire to seek the truth beyond the mask. Everyone has this desire because it is how we are brought into this world, before it is blocked away from us by the masks we are told to wear.

 

The Twister:

Quite often in the recovery community, you will hear people talk about their absolute worst moment on earth as a “blessing in disguise.” People talk about the point of hitting rock bottom was the time that the fall finally stopped, and gave them the opportunity to get back up.

Frustrated with this existence, Dorothy runs away from home just before gusty winds sweep over the farmland. Her family rushes into the cellar for shelter and locks the doors before Dorothy can make it back home. Finally Dorothy makes it inside the house and tries to seek refuge in her upstairs bedroom. While debris from the twister is whipping around, she is hit with an object and loses consciousness. Before she knows it her entire home and life is being turned upside down and carried away.

This is addiction.

It is important to note that everything in this film is symbolic. Dorothy cannot get in the locked house and is trapped outside in this twister (addiction). Her home represents basic needs and values, and the fact she is locked outside is showing that something is being rejected and she is not receiving these basic needs. Dorothy finally gets in and she is struck in the head by a falling window and knocked unconscious, indicating her state of powerlessness to the twister.

After regaining consciousness, Dorothy peers out the open window as she is doing some soul searching in the midst of her active addiction. She starts seeing happy images of her aunt, uncle, farm hands, and animals. The final object she notices is Miss Gulch – the woman who was trying to take Toto away. Toto is always by her side and always knows what to do, hence, he is her intuition. Miss Gulch is Dorothy’s human shadow – the dark part of our self in which we constantly reject. It is our inner voice telling us we are not good enough. Once she recognizes Miss Gulch, she suddenly transforms into a witch with an evil laugh before Dorothy is brought to the ground by her own fear and confusion. It isn’t until this point that Dorothy recognizes she is engulfed in the twister (addiction).

Then, Bam! The houses crashes and Dorothy has hit rock bottom.

She wakes up and nobody is around. She is all alone in a dark and quiet home. She has no one to talk to and no place to turn. Everything she has ever loved has disappeared. It isn’t until this point that she is to begin the process of recovery and begin a new life.

 

Early Recovery – Journey into the Self:

Dorothy opens the door and the screen lights up in full color for the first time in the film. In the background, the music to “Somewhere over the Rainbow” is playing as she steps outside into a beautiful new existence.

This is early recovery – an inward journey to self-discovery.

We have arrived at that place we dreamed about, the place in which we could be ourselves, and a place in which we were free. We have found our way over the rainbow, without the use of drugs or alcohol for the first time.

Dorothy is first greeted by the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, who looks more like a fairy or angel. This is the part of our recovery in which we start to realize that things aren’t always as they appear. The things we used to view as “old and ugly” can be presented in a new light of majestic beauty.

To Dorothy’s surprise she even comments, “I never heard of beautiful witch before.”

Dorothy is then informed that her house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, who has been oppressing the munchkins for years. The munchkins are fun-loving people who represent our playful youth in which we love things unconditionally, forgive easily, and live in the present moment. They have been trapped by the destructive part of ourselves (Wicked Witch). Dorothy is treated as a queen by her inner child (munchkins) for finally putting an end to the mask she has been wearing.

While the munchkins view this situation as a miracle, Dorothy claims it was no miracle at all. This is the blessing of rock bottom, the twister, our past mistakes, and the worst parts of our existence typically tend to be the greatest blessing in disguise.

 

Killing the False Self:

When we are young, we are free and loving to the world around us. As we grow, we become socialized into fearing one another and being constantly discouraged to be ourselves. We are domesticated to think a certain way, act a certain way, talk, and behave just like others. This is our mask, also known as the false self.

The Wicked Witch of the East was the mask that was put over our true self, or munchkins. It took a twister, or addiction, which spiraled out of control and had to hit rock bottom before we could finally accidentally kill this false self. And then start all over, reborn, as our true self.

In Dorothy’s journey, this is celebrated to the notorious tune of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

In recovery, this is referred to as the “Pink Cloud” phase as life seems quite magical and perfect. However, there are still obstacles and adversity we must face. Dorothy meets her first one with the poof of pinkish-reddish cloud of smoke and is introduced to the Wicked Witch of the West – same character as Miss Gulch.

Dorothy has more shadow work to do, and the Wicked Witch of the West makes it clear that she is going to be her enemy on this journey. The object the Wicked Witch most desires is the Ruby Red Slippers in which Dorothy has recently acquired. Glinda informs Dorothy that “those shoes must be very powerful if the witch wants them so badly.”

This leads to Dorothy’s first longing for “home.” Yet, she is still a lost soul and has no idea where to turn and where to go. She is immediately informed that her best option is to find God, which is symbolically represented in the film as the Wizard of Oz.

Confused, Dorothy questions whether this is a good or bad wizard, to which Glinda replies “He is very good, but also very mysterious.” In order to meet the wizard, she must follow the yellow brick road and never remove her slippers.

The Yellow Brick Road is our spiritual path that we must all take to find our way “home,” or in finding our true spiritual self.

 

Follow the Yellow Brick Road:

While instructed to stay on this path, we soon find out that it is not exactly the destination – in this case the Wizard of Oz – but the journey in which we discover our answers. Dorothy is told that the Wizard of Oz will have all the answers; however, the problem is she was searching for the Wizard when she should have been seeking Oz (the land that surrounds her).

Along her inward journey, she encounters other important aspects of herself – wisdom, compassion, and courage. Once again they are in symbolic form of a scarecrow, tinman, and lion, respectively.

At a fork in the road, Dorothy first encounters the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow talks about not having a brain and it his greatest desire, yet throughout the film he comes up with creative ideas. Next, she meets the Tin Man who yearns to have a heart just to register emotions. Likewise, the Tin Man continues to show compassion throughout the film despite his belief of being heartless. Then finally they encounter the cowardly lion who reveals his secret of lack of courage; although, he too, uses his bravery throughout the journey.

 

Ego Traps:

However, our shadow is never finished with us. The Wicked Witch of the West plays games by luring in the gang off their path. She creates something that is soothing to the eye, yet will put them to sleep and end their journey – poppy fields that cover their path.

This is one example of an ego trap. Each religion has a variation of what is referred to as spiritual warfare. Some refer to it as the angel and the devil on your shoulders; good versus evil; god versus satan; heaven versus hell; the ying and yang; the Cherokee proverb of the two wolves fighting inside of you – one good and one evil – and the one that wins depends on which one you feed; the lessons from karma which state each choice you make determines your future circumstances; and of course the ongoing spiritual battle of the ego/false self versus the soul/true self.

While this battle is ongoing, the ego pulls out all the tricks in the book to regain control. Ego traps are the most effective way to detour you from your path. Some of the most common ego traps include:

  1. Knowing the Path versus Walking the Path: Quite literally in the film, it is clear that their path is to follow the yellow brick road; however, despite this knowledge, they are easily guided off course with the beauty of the Emerald City and the poppy fields which nearly ends their journey.
  2. Feeling Spiritually Superior: Prior to their first meeting with the Wizard of Oz, the Lion is sensing that his lifelong quest for courage is coming soon and he begins singing “If I were King of the Forest” and talks about having others bow down to him. In our spiritual journey, it is easy to fall into this trap of the need to be right about spirituality. As Lao Tzu says “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.” It feels good to gain insight and recognize these positive changes in our life, but the ego can use this as a trap into believing that it is I (the ego) that is responsible for our advanced spirituality.
  3. Judging Others who are “Less Spiritual”: While this one is not prevalent in the film, it is probably the most common. The notorious quote that I hear often in meetings is “Religion is for people that are afraid to go to hell; spirituality is for people that have already been there.” This gets people excited and can relate, but the religion bashing is stating that we are better than a group of people because our beliefs are right and theirs are wrong – isn’t this the same reason most people get turned away by religion? At the end of the film, Dorothy nearly falls into this ego trap as she explains her awakening. Nobody believes her and they tell her it was all a dream, but she is certain it wasn’t. But, she realizes the trap and says “Anyway, I am glad you are all here and I love you all.” Other examples are when we spend more time in nature, do yoga, eat organic food, stop watching the news, etc., but then start judging and labeling those who still do those things because they are not on our level.
  4. Positivity Mask: Also not in the film, but worth mentioning as this trap involves pretending to be overly positive at all times. Even the most advanced spiritual beings will have their bad days and feel a full range of emotions. When the group first meets the Lion, he is into this trap in a different type of way by trying to scare the crew. Later he confesses his true feelings of lacking courage, which ironically takes a great deal of courage to express how we are truly feeling inside. Just another example the cowardly lion expresses courage throughout the film.

The Church of Oz

The Wizard represents the Western Christian version of God. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, but yet mysterious figure. Whereas Oz, is the name of the entire land in which the majority of the story takes place. The Wizard represents a religious interpretation of God in which he is one powerful creature who is the ruler of the universe; whereas, Oz would represent that God is actually in all things – the trees, fields, color, all characters, etc.

At the door of the Emerald City, the gang starts to notice some peculiar traits of this magical place. Their first impression is dampened when they ring the door bell and are greeted by a crabby man who refuses to serve them because they did not “follow the rules” of knocking on the door instead. Once they knock, he returns with a friendly smile on his face. This is symbolic to the modern-day lifestyle of the church in which you come in on Sunday and everyone greets you with a smile, handshake, and maybe a hug. But, then after leaving for an hour of connection, it is back to competition, resentment, anger, and disgust for each other.

They ask to see Oz, but are told that nobody has ever seen him. He only agrees to do so, once seeing the Ruby Red Slippers on Dorothy’s feet. Here we have this all-powerful being that refuses access at first glance and then changes his mind based on appearance.

This symbolism continues as they group is not granted access until they clean up first. The scarecrow is given new straw to help keep him young, the tinman is treated with being sharpened and new oil to help keep him repaired, and the lion receives a manicure and pedicure to look as externally beautiful as possible before appearing before the magnificent Oz.

This, too, is an ego trap. While it feels good to be well-polished, it is creating a mask/false self. This occurs often when someone goes from poverty into fortune and soon forgets the roots of their struggle.

In their first encounter, Oz is quite harsh to the gang. He refers to the tinman as “clinking clanking piece of junk” and the scarecrow as a “billing bail of fodder” and the lion faints before taking on any insults.

The Wizard eventually makes a deal with them and promises to grant their wishes only after they can prove that they are worthy of his power. They are instructed bring the broomstick of the Witch of the West. The group pleads that this could only be possible if they were to execute her, in which he instructs to “Just go.” This great powerful Oz is asking us to kill one another just so we can prove we are worthy of his help?

Similarly, so many wars are fought over religion and claiming to be doing things in the name of our God. What kind of God are we following in which we create artificial borders, discriminate, judge, hurt, and kill each other? God’s love is unconditional; yet, here this is clearly a condition of proving ourselves worthy of his love and assistance.

 

Shadow Work:

As they are walking through the forest to find the witch, she sends her flying monkeys out to attack them and capture Dorothy. The monkeys represent our mischievous side of our personality, which is why they are protecting the witch (our shadow).

The only way to free ourselves, and return home, is to do shadow work and embrace the deepest darkest fears of our soul. The haunted forest represents the journey into the subconscious, which stores the repressed memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Once at the castle, the witch threatens to kill Toto (intuition). Intuition is soul-guided, it is when our true self is running the ship and guiding our decisions. The Witch (shadow) knows that if we are to remove the intuition, the ego will forever be in control. Dorothy offers to give up all her power (slippers) in exchange for her intuition (Toto). But before this can happen, Toto escapes. Her intuition knows that the only way to survive is to find the other aspects of herself that need shadow work – the Lion (courage), Tinman (compassion), and Scarecrow (wisdom).

Toto leads the crew back to the castle, which literally represents our subconscious mind. The guards are put in place to protect us from releasing these painful memories. And it is here in which the shadow work takes place.

The scarecrow, fearful of not having a brain is the one who develops the plan. This plan includes the Lion leading the way; although quite fearful, courageously states “I’ll do it if it means saving Dorothy….I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there.” It takes true courage to take on the hidden aspects of ourselves.

The climatic scene within the castle comes when the witch sets the scarecrow on fire – his greatest weakness. In an effort to put out the fire, Dorothy throws water on the fire and it subsequently gets on the Witch. To their surprise, the water begins to melt away the witch leading to her demise.

The greatest threat to our true self, the Wicked Witch of the West, could only be defeated by the most basic, purest substance of all – water. The substances that we carry within every cell and makes up the majority of our body is the very purity that we needed to defeat our shadow.

Once she melts away, the guards rejoice that the wicked witch is dead. The guards forgot that what they were protecting this entire time was working against us. This is how repressed thoughts work, they feel they are protecting us, but in reality they are still apart of us and always will be until we face them directly.

The difficulty about shadows, is the more we try to resist them, the more they appear. We cannot run, hide, or drink away these hidden aspects of ourselves.

 

The Power Lies Within:

Upon returning to the Wizard, the group presents the broomstick. The broomstick is symbolic for sweeping away aspects of our self which is why the Wizard required the group to do so.

However, he still refuses to grant their wishes. This time, the group starts to argue with him due to his lack of integrity. This is the beginning of their questioning of the organized religious system and the brainwashing of everything they had been told to be true. They are ready for the awakening process. Of course it is Toto, the intuition, who takes the next step by removing the sheet to reveal that the Wizard is just an old man using a voice projector and a smoke machine to create the effects of “the Wizard.”

Here is their breaking away from organized religion, the Wizard has been exposed. The group is infuriated and demands the gifts of a brain, heart, and courage.

The Wizard affirms that it is all a lie. He then goes on to tell the Scarecrow that everyone has a brain before presenting him with a diploma. Instantaneously the Scarecrow recites a complex mathematical equation. The Wizard then tells the lion that he has disorganized thinking and that he only thinks he lacks courage because he runs away from danger – which he instructs him is actually wisdom. He then explains that the lion has displayed courage and presents him with a medal of honor. The same is done for the Tinman by explaining everyone has a heart and is then presented with a heart-shaped clock.

Next, he needs to fulfill Dorothy’s promise – to send her home. Once we are on the spiritual path we start to have this longing for home. This feeling that there is a greater existence out there and that this life is a temporary placement but eventually we will return to a place we call home.

The Wizards is a big talker and explains how he will fly her home in a hot air balloon. There is a major celebration and spectacle of an event in which he boasts about his great powers one final time. Just as the balloon is ready to take off, Toto hops out of the balloon knowing that Dorothy will follow shortly thereafter.

The balloon sails away and the Wizard says he cannot return as he does not know how to operate the balloon. Hot air balloons represent feelings of social elevation and superiority, fame, or popularity. Toto realizes this is another ego trap and escapes from the situation.

Another panic ensues for a short period of time as Dorothy feels stuck, stranded, and unable to return home. At this point, Glinda returns to their aid. Dorothy starts begging for help before the following exchange:

“Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?” Dorothy pleaded.

“You don’t need help any longer,” Glinda smiled, “You always had the power to go back to Kansas.”

“Then why didn’t you tell her before?” demanded the scarecrow

“Because she wouldn’t have believed me,” said Glinda, “She had to learn it for herself.”

“What have your learned Dorothy?” asked the Tinman.

“I think that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntee Em. And if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

While her friends found this concept too simple, they were confused as to why they never thought of it earlier. Glinda simply responds:

“No, she had to find it out for herself.”

While the story has to do with Dorothy going back to a physical home, this symbolizes of a peaceful state of mind and redemption of the Self. Home refers to our true self. We all have the power within us to return home at anytime, but just like for Dorothy, it is a journey that we have to figure out on our own.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon,   Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press

hugclub

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” Rosa Parks

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

Every Wednesday morning for the past few months I have seen the same patient around 7:00 a.m. I would bring her a sausage and egg McMuffin every morning and sometimes a fish sandwich in the afternoon – a violation of company rules.

The “rules” also tell me that I am not supposed to pick up her medications, not to disclose personal information, and to never give hugs to patients. But we all face moments in life in which we realize that rules no longer apply to present circumstances.

Nearly sixty years ago, on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, an African-American woman refused to follow the rules and orders of a bus driver demanding she gives up her seat to a white person. The rules no longer applied to Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement began. A couple decades prior in Germany, Oskar Schindler and Karl Plagge were members of the Nazi Party who saw the “rules” of the time meant systematic extermination of people. They saw the rules no longer applied, with each of them finding a way to save thousands of lives along the way.

Parks, Schindler, and Plagge shared one thing in common. They recognized injustice, deliberately refused to follow the “rules” of their time, and put their personal life at risk in an effort to do the right thing. While these are all extreme examples, they all also started with one simple act which catapulted a movement.

Today, let’s start our own revolution. As they say it will not be televised. That is because only hate and corruption is televised. The real revolution is a return to love.

This woman that I would visit had just lost her only son about three years ago to suicide. She was devastated and never recovered. When I stopped by, we would just talk about life, my kids and family, politics, and the world we live in. It was the highlight of her day. She always asked me for hugs every time I came, and against staff advice, I obliged.

She was incredibly lonely and her depression had reached the point in which it was physically debilitating. She was in so much emotional pain that it was a struggle to get out of bed each day. I would help her get up and walk around outside for a few minutes to help boost her mood.

Then our Wednesday meetings always ended with a simple hug.

I find it ironic that these things violate rules. This has been scientifically / biologically proven that hugging actually releases a hormone called Oxytocin, which is a natural antidote to stress and naturally lifts ones mood. Oxytocin is also released by looking into another’s eyes, a simple holding of the hand, patting on the back, petting an animal, etc.

In fact, studies have shown that teachers that give a warm pat on the back to students will typically fare better in testing and that sports teams that make more personal contact (i.e. high fives, exuberant hugs) are more successful. It has more of a scientific backing than that of antidepressants.

Today, as I was walking towards her door, something felt different. I knocked on the door and waited as I felt something turning in my stomach.

There was no answer. She was dead.

I am not sure the cause of death, but likely will find out in the coming days once the coroner can run an autopsy. But she is gone, she has passed away and will be reunited with her son. Ask me if I regret breaking these rules for the past three months?

On her answering machine, you hear my voice saying, “I can’t come this morning. I have to bring my kids to school. But I promise I’ll be there tomorrow with the egg McMuffin.”

Before I headed to her house this morning, I was feeling very depressed about some other things going on in my personal life. I wasn’t going to bring her food today and my plan was to let her know that I could no longer keep doing this for her. As these thoughts were going through my mind, I was able to slow myself down and remind myself “just because I am depressed does not mean I should add to her pain.”
Last week, I blew her off during our visit. I was short, rushed, and didn’t want to be “bothered.”  She pleaded me to stay longer, but my occupied mind would not allow me to be present that day.

“I promise we will chat more next week,” I told her. Without knowing, that next meeting never came.

And that is what I regret. I was too busy with things going on in my own world, that I missed out on an opportunity to make another person’s day brighter.

Every interaction matters, every hug matters, every moment matters. Being a man does not mean who is the most productive, busy, finishing paperwork on time, or rising to the top. No, being a man has to do with going beyond our ego and making true, meaningful connection with another soul. Give someone a hug, someone in need.

I am starting a hug club. I’m going to hug people openly just the way we did when we were children before society scared us away from loving our neighbor and fellow man. If I see someone walk in the room that I am happy to see, I am going to hug them. If I see someone distressed, I will hug them and allow their body to naturally heal the way we were created to do so.
This is my vow and I encourage others to do the same.

I know we will get weird looks, laughed at, mocked, and ridiculed. But so did Rosa Parks. A real man does not concern himself over the opinions of those still living behind their mask, because a real man understands that that hug may be saving a life.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon,   Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press

Mary was sexually abused, addicted to ecstasy, and suicidal by age 12. She experienced psychosis for 3 years when she tried to quit. This is a common story on the reservations. She now writes about intergenerational trauma and does workshops for youth to stop generational trauma. Listen to Mary’s story of how she took her mask off. Follow Mary here : Follow Mary Black

 

Listen, rate, and review on ITunes, Spreaker, Sound Cloud, and here on our site. Links are below:

 

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ITunes:

Itunes Ep 010 Untangling our Roots Healing Intergenerational Trauma

 

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Ep 010 Untangling our Roots Healing Intergenerational Trauma 2

 

 

In Ep 009 Make America Sane Again: Advocating change for the mental health system, we speak with Emily Cutler. Emily is an assistant Editor for the Website Mad in America and the founder of Southern California against forced treatment. Emily discusses her work for Mad in America, mental health reform, and shares her inspirational personal story.

 

You can Listen on iTunes, sound cloud, Speaker, and here on our site. Links are below:

 

 

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ITunes:

Itunes Ep 009 Making America Sane Again Advocating change in the mental health system

 

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WordPress:

Ep 009 Making America Sane Again W Emily Cutler