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General

Befriending the Body Intelligent

Last year awakened me to my life's purpose. A series of disappointments forced me to abandon paths that had seemed interesting but were not leading to my center. More clearly than ever, I saw how biology has always guided me. Every time life has grown supportive, meaningful, and healing, it's been because I leaned deeper into my love of life science.

It isn't a big leap from love of life science to love of life itself....
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Married to Life

When do we commit to life? And how?

We commit when we see our situation in context and when, seeing all the treasures and terrors life promises, we embrace the whole of it.

Easy to say, but gaining such clarity can be a challenge. For decades I resisted the simple act of acceptance, and for decades I endured needless torment. Part of me knew my own attitudes rooted me in my suffering, but it seemed impossible...
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Forgiving the Unforgivable

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
--Mahatma Ghandi


Forgiveness. Few topics evoke stronger responses from victims. Should we forgive? If so, why, when, and how?

These are complex questions, and this essay highlights but a few principles I gleaned from forgiving the adults who raised me. I suggest visiting The Forgiveness Project for more comprehensive guidance.

My mother cared for me from my birth until her death when I was...
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Finding Pearls in the Muck of Trauma

The wound is the place where the Light enters you. ― Rumi

A reliable means for transcending hardship is to endow it with meaning. Biblical faiths point to the will of a loving but mysterious God. Eastern traditions invoke karma, viewing misfortunes as correctives for misdeeds in past lives.  Such explanations have comforted millions over centuries.

We can also make peace with adversity more prosaically. Anyone who watches human progress knows that challenges often spur growth. Resilience...
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Is Suicide Painless?

A recent comment on an earlier post--The Shocking Truth of Suicide--sets me thinking. The reader's thoughts are quoted below, followed by my response:

"Unfortunately, our society still doesn't get it that suicide is a gift, it's a balsam of peace, it's a right, a human right exclusively. No other animal has the intelligence to say "rien ne va plus." We can stop suffering all sort of circumstances that life forces us to live....
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How Childhood Trauma Fuels Enlightenment

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
--Mathew 5:3


Writing about childhood adversity, often a depressing topic, appeals to me because I know recovery is possible. What’s more, I believe those of us from traumatic backgrounds are well positioned to approach what spiritual disciplines call enlightenment (or realization, awakening, etc). This may sound surprising, but I’ve seen evidence for it in myself and others.

My younger years felt poisoned with dissatisfaction,...
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When Childhood Drives Us to Drink

It’s hard to get enough of something that almost works.
--Vincent Felitti, MD

Adverse childhood experience (ACE) grows out of a family system. No member escapes unscathed. Thus it’s not surprising that my older sister, Janice, suffered trauma’s aftereffects along with me.

As a boy I admired Janice. Her concern for me softened the impact of hardship. Unfortunately, in adolescence she gravitated toward risky habits. She drank alcoholically and took so much LSD she suffered a psychotic...
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The Creative Response to Trauma


Suicide is, after all, the opposite of a poem.
--Anne Sexton
We’ve become accustomed to celebrities dying from self-destructive behavior. Media commentators often ascribe the tragic end of young, promising lives to the temptations of sudden fame and wealth. However, there may be a darker story behind such deaths. British researchers have documented a relationship between childhood adversity and the demise of music stars.

The romantic notion of the passionate, unstable artist captures popular imagination....
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From Misery to Mission

To ease another's heartache is to forget one's own.
--Abraham Lincoln


Despite interests that included writing, ecology, and neurobiology, in my early twenties I decided to enter a helping profession. Given my history of adverse childhood experience (ACE), this choice was predictable. Those from traumatic backgrounds often favor helping careers. For instance, nursing students report greater ACE history than those in unrelated fields. For many, including myself, clinical work engages caretaking habits developed during chaotic childhoods.

Eventually, I...
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Recovering from Childhood Adversity

Note: The following essay was initially written as part of a fourteen article series for the Center for Post Trauma Wellness (CPTW) website, where most of the pieces are already online. The CPTW site is new and has yet to build up much traffic. In the interest of both finding a larger audience for this project and also giving CPTW some exposure, I am going to post the series here. Although the world is full of suffering, it is...
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