Healing from an Addiction to Patterned Ways of Thinking


I had a soul-redemptive heart-to-heart reunion with a woman I had known from a distance but whom now (after our hours long coeur-a-coeur/heart-to-heart) I consider a close friend. I shared with her some very exciting and some challenging circumstances I have been experiencing of late, which I will get back to in a moment. After I shared and shed a few tears she told me a story from her life that also poses, like my story, an invitation for profound change in our lives.

Her story was that on her first day of college her father unexpectedly found her and her boyfriend at her parent’s home “together” (if you catch the drift which I did in our conversation). Her father, upon finding them beat up the boyfriend very badly. He also told her that if she ever saw him again he would kill him. She was too terrified to see him again. She did not doubt that her father would kill him. They had been long-time high school sweethearts and she said she certainly thought she was going to marry him till this happened.

She suppressed so much terror and emotion, and went on with life. She married, had children, divorced, had a very successful career. And one night while out of town on business for a week she found time to search her high school web page. She found that he (her former sweetheart) had been writing her and trying to find her for the past 3 years. Upon reading 3 years of emails from him, she said the lid blew off the manhole cover. She had an emotionally explosive meltdown – re-finding her love after 30 years. All the emotion she had suppressed came back full force and she could not stop crying for the whole week. She was finally releasing so much of what she had held in.

She told me she weighted 220 pounds when this happened and that from that day forward her addiction to emotional eating stopped. That patterned way of suppressing emotion was no longer needed and the extra 100 pounds she was carrying around dissolved. It has been four years since they found each other again and have had a long distance relationship. Now she is making concrete plans to re-locate to live with him and this, too, brings up some emotional questions about maintaining healthy boundaries and taking exquisite care of herself. That eventful day of 30 years ago had profoundly changed him. It left him feeling unworthy of her love and unworthy in general. He thought she had forgotten about him. He has lived with this wound and himself held in a lot of emotion which he is still healing from.

Now back to my own experience which I shared with my friend. The addiction I am learning to break is a patterned way of thinking that keeps my life smaller than I want it to be. Sometimes I don’t realize there is a glass ceiling or floor until I bump into it, and then I know it’s time to look at it, feel it and release the un-discharged emotion that created it. The releasing process allows deeper freedom of mind, meaning the ability to think more clearly and to be more present in the moment.

Like bumping into the glass wall, I also sometimes don’t realize how not-present I am until my mind can quiet down enough to experience a deeper level of presence − of being. This new sense of liberation and strength is, I believe, due to discharging terror and rage that is bubbling up. The current events are linked to ancient dynamics not only from my own lifestream but, I believe, from inter-generational trauma and violence. A new sense of empowerment and clarity of thought and action arises as I live more genuinely from my heart and co-create deeper, more meaningful relationships. In this way I am becoming more aligned with the way I want to be in the world and with the way I want the world to be.

Crisis is opportunity and I have just burned off something that has changed me. Perhaps the poem I wrote while in the midst of crisis, below, captures the intensity of my ‘burning off’ experience. And by the way, I awoke to that beautiful sunrise.

My arms are tied and bound, latched on a truck that is
Dragging my body across a heavily graveled road.
Skin torn and ripped off my cartilage
Blood covering me

I scream out in agony
Like a wild beast stabbed in the gut
Out of control

The pain and torment is unbearable
Where are you my love
I scream and howl for you in the night
But you are far far away

And I don’t know how to touch you and feel you and know that you – the one I love with all my heart and all my soul – are there

The pain of an eternity bound in an incomprehensible abandonment of humanity
Twisted minds brainwashed into the killing fields of Cambodia, the electrified barbed wire of Auschwitz

Eternity speaks and I listen and embody the sorrow of the souls
And all I can do is untie my self from that truck that has stopped dragging me
And stand with mother earth holding me
And saying
Life brings great pain that only deepens the love and gratitude for any crumbs we may find
And any days of life that we can breath
And again see a sunrise whose magnificent beauty blows our mind away

Hold me until the nightmare ends

* * * * *


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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Lauren Spiro
Lauren’s vision of social justice and mental health liberation focuses on developing our capacity for feeling deeply connected, appreciating the vast creative intelligence of the human heart and mind, and inspiring compassionate action. Her life’s mission is to embody inner peace to co-create global peace, thus she curates transformative learning experiences. She co-founded two non-profit corporations and Emotional CPR (www.emotional-cpr.org) a public health education program that teaches people how to support others through an emotional crisis. She is a multi-media artist, a 20+ year practitioner of yoga and meditation, the first Director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, has been featured on national media, and consulted on numerous federal projects. Her memoir paints a poetic picture of her journey into madness and her pathway home. She has an M.A. in clinical/community psychology. For more information see www.Laurenspiro.com


  1. Lauren, this is exquisite. Breaking addictions to limiting thoughts is what frees us up from the stigmatizing and self-stigmatizing illusions which compromise our quality of life, and our existence on the planet, in general. That’s the work I do with myself and with others, to release old patterns of thinking, to allow new ways of being to emerge. It takes a lot of trust, intuition, and patience–as well as a sense of adventure–and I feel this is the ticket.

    My experience has been that it does, indeed, lead to inner peace, as you talk about in the video. Only when we achieve inner peace do we begin to create peace in our world. The shift is from brain consciousness (duality, separation) to heart consciousness (unity, integration of masculine/feminine). Life brings us plenty of opportunities to own what we’ve repressed, and to let it go, once and for all, rather than to continue struggling with ourselves.

    When I made this shift in myself, inclusion occurred, because I knew my place in the world, regardless of anyone else’s projection. It was like releasing a decades long held breath–finally, release and relief, and I could finally identify with my true limitless spirit. Changes everything, inside and out.

    Thank you for a clear and inspired post about healing and evolving into personal freedom.

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    • Alex, It is always a blessing to connect with someone on this path- thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It amazes me how blind I can be to my self. Oppression, coersion, brainwashing in our culture is so insidious that it is hard to see. As I continue to deepen my understanding of the damage imposed by oppression and internalized oppression I become increasing compelled to shed light on it. It’s impact om me and it’s impact on others and it’s impact on how it makes alliance building and trusting relationships challenging fuels my work of late. When I ask people about the impact of trauma on their lives and I share from my own experience it always takes the room to a deep level because people so courageously share their own experience and insights. I find that as I deepen my letting go of the ‘abandonment of humanity’ it frees me to reach for others from a place of love and peace. Inner peace brings global peace – one relationship at a time. It is the most important focus of my life. Next month I look forward to returning to Auschwitz (Poland) and continuing to work intentionally and with others on ending war – ending the illusion of separation.

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      • We speak the same language! “Ending the illusion of separation” is also the goal with fuels my work, and my own personal life. Inner peace is also the most important thing to me, allowing it to ripple outward, attracting more peace. As we strive for this, we feel the power of our spirit, which is where I find my encouragement to help to navigate these changes happening in the world.

        Indeed, awakening to illusion and realizing the lies we’ve been fed, especially about ourselves, is somewhat of a horror and also exhilarating and freeing at the same time. Insidious is the word I use to describe it, as well. I feel this is where we have such fertile opportunities to make core shifts, remembering trust and our natural inner guidance. Forgiveness and self-compassion are powerful allies as we awaken. When we can allow ourselves to connect with these, peace and clarity are on its way.

        Brava, Lauren! So great to know you’re out there doing this work. To me, it is the ticket. All the best on your trip to Auschwitz. Sounds like very exciting and profound work.

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        • Alex,
          It is very profound work and I thought it would be a one time only international workshop experience but my work there is not finished. I had two particularly poignant moments in our 2.5 days visiting Auschwitz. One occurred while I stood in the gas chamber – the words “sorrow of the souls” came to me in a way that was spiritually connecting to the horrors that occurred in that room. The other was as I stood by a lovely pond and knew that “something happened here” (meaning right here). Somehow whatever happened in that exact spot by the pond is connected to me. I am an explorer on the journey of a lifetime and I know I will find more answers and I think a deeper level of peace by going back into the darkness and embracing the radiance of the bright inner light.

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          • When we know our darkness, we know our light. It is all one consciousness. Courage and faith guide us well, and when we listen, we learn that life is eternal, and our physical burdens are relieved, regardless of whether we continue our journeys in our physical bodies or without them.

            Ascending from illusions occurs with forgiveness. That is when we can see the spiritual reality of life, the light. Our best guidance comes from that which seems impossible to forgive. This is among our best opportunities for healing, growth, and knowing universal truth and unconditional love, which is only to our benefit in every way.

            I’m so moved by your journey, and what you describe. So much to learn from these transpersonal experiences. I look forward to reading more about this, thank you.

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      • “You are responsible only for yourself, nobody is responsible for your life” – it’s a mantra that I’ve heard over and over in my time of crisis from the people around me. It’s the biggest lie of modern day. We are not individual beings living in a vacuum and we are responsible for one another. Yet it’s so easy to just selfishly turn around when someone needs your help and say: “you’re responsible for your own happiness.” It’s wrong and it’s false and it makes people feel alienated and unhappy and depressed and violent. This narrative has to be changed.

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  2. Great inspiring article Lauren. Anyone and everyone can use your helpful techniques when under stress and struggling with self destructive behaviors or as you say those glass ceilings we impose on ourselves without even realizing it.

    Nice to see a new post from you. Always helpful and motivating.

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    • Donna
      Thank you for your kind words. When that poem came to me I never imagined I would put it into a blog. I just felt a need to paint it or somehow capture the experience I was burning through. By ‘burning through’ I mean going into the depths of emotion and spirit and discovering a deeper level of who I am – and who we are. At least I think that is what I am doing. It is a healing process and one in which I tap into a deeper awareness of my power to contradict the old patterned way of thinking which allows me to go beyond the glass ceiling and floor. I think I tap into who I was born to be – who we are all born to be. Perfect and gorgeous, intelligent, zestful, loving, cooperative human beings. The oppressiveness of our culture robs us of that often but we can reclaim it. We can envision the world the way we want it, and live our lives in line with that vision.

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  3. Alex
    The deeper I go into the darkness where radiance resides, the more clearly I can embody forgiveness as a portal to the Devine. I continue towards letting go of everything I have ever embraced or thought of as mine and seeing impermanence in all and understanding that this life stream flows eternal. How deeply we are connected.

    In scanning over my life it gets clearer how my ‘psychotic’ journey was actually an invitation to a spiritual path and finding meaning, purpose and community. At the age of 16 I lacked the resource to help me navigate the intensity of a higher power (God) suddenly reaching for me and then speaking directly with me. I was, understandably, overwhelmed and confused trying to navigate this uncharted territory. The map is clearer now, forty years pass in the blink of an eye.

    This next chapter of my life stream appears to be directed towards engaging in intentional dialogues of discovery. I started one yesterday spontaneously while amongst a group of people. (And might I mention that having a recently published memoir as a springboard is not a bad starting off point) And those who came as believers in the brain disease model left with their eyes open a little wider (literally) and thirsty for information and a deeper understanding of “mental illness”. This particular conversation will, I believe, continue.

    How do we build peace in a world so blinded by pain and fear that we seem unwilling to look towards the light of forgiveness? How do you transform consciousness? How do you build peace? How do you describe the sweetness of the fruit?

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    • How do we build peace in a world so blinded by pain and fear that we seem unwilling to look towards the light of forgiveness? How do you transform consciousness? How do you build peace? How do you describe the sweetness of the fruit?

      Lauren, these are the brilliant questions, imo. Each of us finding our spiritual voice is such an individual journey. To me, forgiveness is as much a practical matter as it is spiritually generous. In fact, I believe that spirituality is practical. Within this, we find the support which can be lacking in our communities, often starting with families. Within our spirit truth, we find ease, lightness, and good feelings, here, like hope and joy. For me, that was the healing. I had to learn how to feel good after having felt so badly for so long, due to multiple traumas, betrayal, etc.

      This occurred when I learned to be much kinder to myself, which grew me impervious to negative influences outside of myself, thicker skin. To say I had an inner critic is a major understatement. I had to defeat those voices but good in order to find my clarity, joy, and inner light. Not easy in a hyper-critical and shaming world, but that actually served to help me separate my voice from those of others.

      When we connect with our spiritual nature, we can free ourselves of worry, fear, and other emotional burdens which have long dragged us down, as we are connected to our guiding voice when we connect with our spirits. We are in present time, not in our traumas. That is our light within the darkness, the clarity within the chaos. It’s inside us all along, our personal lumen. It’s just a matter of allowing ourselves to feel this in our hearts, to know our truth and create from it, paying forward the light and love we can feel from knowing our spirits, creating a new and improved world, thusly. To me, that’s the whole point of being on the planet right now.

      Unfortunately, like virtually all else in our current reality, spirituality has been corrupt, and it can be associated with further control, deceit, betrayal, and overall abuse. I know this all too well, from my own experience and from listening to others. It is up to each one of us to get clarity on what is actually spiritual vs. what is dogmatic oppression. I believe this is what we’re all looking to discern now, what is real vs. what is illusory (impermanent). (Not that oppression is illusory, we feel it as very real; still, there are illusions involved here which, were we to see through them, we could ascend the abuse and stop falling prey to it).

      To me, our spirits are real because they are constant. They can be challenged and wounded, but they cannot be destroyed. That’s impossible, as they self-repair, that is the nature of energy. The problem on Earth at this time is that we do not honor nature, so we keep our spirits wounded and undernourished, which is what is so disempowering to us.

      Since I made this connection, my spirit has never, ever let me down. When I follow my spirit guidance, I know I am on a fascinating journey of well-being that gets me all that I could want for myself (fortunately, my needs are quite simple, which is a blessing). But I do have peace, thanks to my spiritual reality, and that is my primary need.

      Anything physical, like our bodies, are temporary by nature. So are the institutions which have brought us so far down; they are temporary, in that they cannot last forever. We would like to see an end to them now, in fact. I believe we can achieve this, were we to know the impermanence of them. That is a powerful and advantageous perspective, I think. To discern illusion from what is real and eternal is a gift to ourselves. This is our power. We have believed the lies for so long, and have grown painfully accustomed to the confusion that comes from these, that disillusionment (literally) will certainly impact us profoundly.

      For me, this is where transformation occurs, when we can accept the spiritual nature of our reality over the physical nature of it. That is where we ascend from a limited reality to one of unlimited potential for one and all, and for humanity at large. This affects everything we do and experience in a way that brings blessed ease into our experience.

      I recently received a testimonial which is on my website from someone with whom I’ve been working who says that the feeling of making this spiritual connection is ‘beyond description.’ That is my feeling, as well. I believe this information exists solely on a felt sense level. Many people have described it in different ways using all sorts of analogies and metaphors, but I have yet to find words to do justice to this experience of transformation to spiritual awareness. It is real and practical, in that it feels fantastic, even in our darkest moments. It is eternal.

      Posting my website, if you’d like to see what I do, related to what we have been discussing, here. And to be further in touch, if you feel inclined. I actually describe my practice as “A school for transforming consciousness.” Following all of my struggles largely related to the illusions of mental health and academic worlds, I’ve found my peace, and my place in the world. My own personal needs are well met, in abundance. I know my spiritual contract, because I finally asked about it, and learned how to listen for the authentic response. I had a good teacher who helped guide me to this information. Took a while, but I finally got it. I am here now to be of service and support during this time of global transformation, that’s what my work and life are geared toward. That gives all my trials and tribulations profound meaning. http://www.embodycalm.com

      Thanks for all that you’ve shared, Lauren. This dialogue has been truly enlightening and validating for me. Much appreciation to you, and for your amazing journey.

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  4. I like your poem, and your story, and your friend’s story. I was inspired by you long ago when I read your story in Firewalkers. Thanks for talking to me last month. You helped me realize I can give myself time for healing instead of competing with other people.

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    • thank you Corinna. You have inspired me for a long time too. Your huge success with Poetry for Personal Power is so innovate, inclusive, thoughtful and forward thinking/ forward being really!!!

      Our bodies, these amazing vessels and ally’s that share our lifetime are full of wisdom. I am learning to more deeply listen to my body. PLease listen to yours and take all the time you need to heal. What could possibly be more important that that?

      Our culture teaches us to compete but what does that mean really? I dont believe in winners and losers. We all win. You have already won. I have already won. Now we get to take a deep breath filled with the sweetest rosey fragrance and deepen our wisdom, share the gems we have learned and build a cooperative, peaceful planet. Now that is fun!!!!!!

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  5. I hope one day the “mentally ill will realize the system that is keeping them down, perpetuating and reinforcing illness and stigma. What we really need is strength. We need to realize that trauma is the source of our differences. Our dissociation from ourself and our suppressed memories keep us afraid. Society keeps us afraid and ashamed of our trauma, of our anxiety. This fear of being different can escalate symptoms of mental illness. “Mental illness”

    It is designed to oppress us, take away out power, our voice. There is a cure. It is realizing there are suppressed memories. We have hidden these memories to protect ourselves, but once we realize how past traumas have influenced “symptoms” we can become whole.
    My mission is to find the cure to the Illness that does not exist.

    -Tru Harlow


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    • Tru
      Thank you for sharing your thinking. I agree with you that we have very intelligent and creative ways of protesting ourselves. These ways may look odd to others who are too quick to judge. Yes, we can and do heal. Occluded memories are revealed when we are ready to process them and find meaning and liberation. I have found that as I go deeper into the abyss of pain and suffering I am able to let go of what I am unnecessarily holding on to – fear, anger, rage, sadness, etc. I find freedom as I walk through the fire – meaning as I use self-inquiry and emotional expression to explore what my mind holds out for me. There is so much to learn.

      I disagree with your statement that trauma is the source of our differences. I believe that we have no differences we only think we do. And we get stuck in thought. We are not our thoughts. We are much deeper and more complex than any thought we could have.
      Trauma and the impact of trauma is a great common denominator. I believe we live in a traumatized world and no one escapes the impact of living in a world so full of hurt and trauma. We think it is normal – and there is nothing normal about the trauma that many people experience. It is a result, I believe, of living in a irrational society that values production, greed, and superficiality over humanity and healing.

      My mission is to find my deepest truth and speak it. My mission is to envision a world where healing and love, inclusion and compassion are commonplace. I believe we can imagine the world the way we want it to be and live our lives based on that dream – that vision. We co-create the world we want.


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