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.

  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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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