From Fragmentation to Wholeness [Episode 9 of the Intentional Clinician podcast]
In this solo episode, Paul Krauss MA LPC (Counseling in Grand Rapids, MI) discusses methods of moving from fragmentation to wholeness, how our attitudes and personal habits affect the way we live, and how to bring about change in a fast-paced world, with regards to the following broad concepts: the concepts of fragmentation and wholeness, feeling overwhelmed by choices and the constant bombardment of media in our current culture, how to deal with the paradox of risk and uncertainty in life, how to find a passion and keep it, and go from being a master of none to a master of something. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Paul Krauss MA LPC will use many of his own stories throughout, stories that he has heard, as well as quotes from authors and philosophers.
Paul Krauss MA LPC practices counseling and is a counseling supervisor in Grand Rapids, MI. Paul has his private psychotherapy practice at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids, located on 781 Kenmoor Ave SE, Suite C. Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Check out his clinic which features himself and many gifted clinicians (each with their own specialty). If you or someone you know is in need or just wants to give counseling a try– call Paul at 616-365-5530 (direct), or at the office 616-200-4433. Here is Paul’s email: [email protected]
Below is some of the content from this podcast episode:
It is likely that have you have experienced the feeling of fragmentation in life.
One definition of fragmentation or fragmented as a verb means “to break or cause to break into fragments” (fragments are, of course, when used as a noun: a small part broken or separated off something). So in a sense, we are feeling like parts of us have broken off and we cannot reunite with that piece of ourselves. I mentioned the divided life, which is a related concept—in one definition it appears that the word divided could be used as a synonym for fragmented: “ separate or be separated into parts.” In a way, a similar feeling to being fragmented—we have been separated out into different parts. Yet, a second definition of the word divided reads “disagree or cause to disagree.” An example of this would be, “the extra task the CEO asked of her company, had divided the employees since its announcement.” So, divided can be construed as not only the feeling of being separated into parts, but actually being in disagreement with oneself. Have you ever felt ambivalence about something? (Ambivalence is the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone). Often times we experience ambivalence about a concept, a person, a goal, a job—but what if we are feeling this ambivalence strongly about different aspects and parts of ourselves? Well when we are living a life that feels fragmented and divided—we are essentially experiencing a strong sense of being separated from ourselves (for example, our voice, our “true self” or what we really believe, really want to say, and really want to bring into action, but are somehow stuck into not revealing that desire). When we feel divided, we are not only separated into parts, but the parts of ourselves, actually disagree with one another, which can lead to chronic struggles both on our insides and in our actions on the outside. For while what we experience in the outside world affects our inside feelings, our inside feelings of course, affect our outside actions in the world.
Most humans have a deep desire to feel whole (even if they are acting out as a result of a distortion, a trauma, or not getting their needs met—but that is a discussion for another podcast). Most of us, want to feel congruent about our thoughts and actions. And people will do all sorts of things in life, both healthy and unhealthy to achieve the feeling of wholeness and congruency. I know that some of us may have memories of a time we felt whole—some of us do not.
One definition of the word whole that was interesting to me was “ in an unbroken or undamaged state; in one piece.”
In the journey of life, it is inevitable that we will face suffering in one form or another—as will everyone we know. So it is no wonder that many of us feel broken and damaged all the time. Yet, there are many ways and paths and practicing to feeling whole, even though life has broken us multiple times and we will carry scars from things that have happened for our entire lives. Of course, scars are not a terrible thing to have, as long as we can make meaning out of the scar and in the present moment we can see that we are not divided. Scars are an ok things to carry if we are feeling congruent about our actions and subsequent thoughts and feelings. While the process of being scarred may not be fair and may not make sense, it is easier to deal with a scar if free congruent in the moment or are working toward wholeness.
This is surely a discussion that could continue in countless books, podcasts, and conversations, but I will aim to provide three simple points with examples today to help us walk through the concept of moving from fragmentation to wholeness. I do not believe that anyone ever achieves complete wholeness, but we are certainly experience moments of wholeness, and even through our brokenness, difficult experiences, and lives, we can feel more fully human and like a whole person. I am sure that these concepts will come up again in future podcasts and blogs.
Here is a quote about wholeness that spoke to me: “Wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” – Parker J. Palmer
I love quotes, but it is important to consider the context from which they are spoken so I tell you that I am quoting his book “A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey toward an Undivided Life”. Parker J. Palmer is an amazing author and teacher—if you haven’t read his books, I highly recommend it.
Remember, we are not aiming for perfection—we are aiming to be in agreement with our actions or forgiving ourselves if we are not in agreement. Wholeness is, in a sense, acceptance of one’s self. How are we feeling about our self late at night before drifting off to sleep, or in the morning upon waking?
Now I am going to address these concepts in 3 parts.
1000 OPTIONS FOR DINNER
Our modern life is full of distractions, “easy answers”, and gateways to addiction. The nonstop availability of information that is available 24/hours a day and in all forms of media, the non-stop availability of entertainment and services, and advertising, marketing, and organizations to become a part of—can have an overwhelming affect on our minds, body, and our psyche (the soul). There are countless ways paths that can cause us to change into autopilot and become immersed in consumption, distraction, and other possibly harmful activities. By the time we get a moment to reflect on our lives and our habits—we find ourselves feelings fragmented in our activities, and divided in our heart. When I use the word heart, I am obviously not speaking of our actual hearts. I am speaking metaphorically of the emotional feelings that most people experience in their torso and chest—usually these feelings are accompanied by thoughts in the brain, which are noticed by what we call “the mind.” If we feel fragmented and divided a lot of the time, it can become difficult to focus, figure out what our true feelings about something are, understand what we want to do with our lives, relationships, and even our time.
I was at a conference in 2009, and I heard James Hillman say something like, “Most people are fine working on goals in therapy—yet the most resistance I have ever encountered is when I try to treat their schedules.”
In the book Essentialism by Greg Mcknown, comments on our current society’s overwhelming amount of options. I am summarizing some of his concepts here with my own thoughts added: The United States in 2017- we have too many choices—so many choices cause decision fatigue: the more decisions we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions decreases. We have too much pressure regarding out decisions—much more social pressure if you are connected to social media or are exposed to advertisements on the TV, magazines, or on the internet. Now we have an explosion of opinion overload with social media and the advent of so-called “fake news.” 3. And of course, the American myth—that we can have it all. People working so much to buy stuff they don’t even have time to enjoy—or ignoring valuable relationships, or hardly engaging in some of the most important years of their lives.
With all of this constant noise in our modern culture, how do we distinguish things of value from the vacuous?
When we are overwhelmed with options, often time, we don’t even notice our own thoughts and voice—and we go into autopilot mode.
Self-awareness and moving toward self-actualization is part of becoming whole—and doing this “inner work” will help us learn to discern what is necessary and what is not. It can help us move out of fragmentation and into a state of wholeness.
But how do we have self-awareness in the land of constant noise and entertainment.
The simple answer is We need time, space, and stillness.
Requirement: The courage to unplug, The space to become intentional, Space in our lives
Taking time out by ourselves—it doesn’t have to be much.
Only then can we begin to figure out what we are entangled in—what is necessary what is not.
Reconnecting with nature
Spirituality. Our generation is often turned off by organized religion, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon any sense of spirituality or not larger answers.
Not filling up our schedule
-Ask yourself these questions: How do I become whole again? What is missing? What do I need?
We need to learn how to tell ourselves the truth:
In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act. – George Orwell
Even reading poetry can open us up to our awareness. As T.S. Eliot said “Poetry may make us a little more aware of the deeper unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.
The lesson begins with the inner work:
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” ~ African Proverb
(Putting aside time to be alone is one practice in becoming whole, is not isolation as a lifestyle—we still need people and animals in our lives). In the next section I will address other obstacles to wholeness, as well as the need for community.
FROM SIMPLICITY TO THE UNPREDICTABLE ROAD OF LIFE
If we were lucky enough to have loving and mindful parents, as a small child, life seems simple. We learn the rules, we play, we eat, we go to sleep, repeat.
Now, if we had a difficult childhood, we may have felt fragmented and divided from the very beginning—and we are still seeking to feel whole, for the first time.
One day we start going to school, and it can seem fun and joyful, until the first time you remember someone attacking you, either verbally or physically.
I certainly remember my bubble being burst on my first day of school in first grade—when I was introducing myself to a third grader on the soccer field, and he said back to me “PAULLL, What kind of name is Paul? That is not cool!” I remember being shocked—why would say that? Was he telling the truth? I felt shame for my name. What did this say about my parents? They were the ones who named me? Other thoughts continued “Why would he pick on me just because he didn’t think my name was cool?” “Am I welcome on the soccer field?” “Should I avoid this person?” I started to feel fragmented and divided. Now, this was not the first time I experienced such a division—there were other instances both in my neighborhood and school which occurred, time-wise, before this incident—but this podcast is not an autobiography, I use these experiences from my own life to illustrate a point.
How many of you remember a flash point— a moment when you went from thinking you were safe, that you were a good person, that you looked nice in your new outfit, and that things were going ok in your life—and the next moment the idea was shattered by a person or unexpected event?
We all have a story, full of these
Being with people, can break us and hurt us deeply.
Or maybe we are the one hurting people?
We have been hurt, and so we grown hard in our hearts and rationalize that it is ok to hurt others.
In Japan, broken objects (such as family bowls and plates) are often replied with gold.
The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, which adds to its beauty.
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
“You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity.”
~ J.K. Rowling
Some of these may also have traumatic events in our lives, and some of these are so serious they may negatively impact our mental health completely and cause various problems in our lives and relationships—I will address traumatic events and ways to heal through counseling and otherwise in a future podcast. With traumatic events, there is often a great need to get serious and intensive treatment—so I am not negating the seriousness of it—but today’s podcast is not about traumatic events and their treatment— I will do a podcast on this in the future.
What story are you telling yourself? Were you able to integrate a bad experience into part of your story, with you overcoming, or is this experience crushing your self-esteem, even now?
Honest w self— are you in denial about something terrible that happened to you? Are you hiding your hurt feelings? Are you hiding your anger? Are you just ashamed?
The first step is often to acknowledge the harm that was done. The next step is often to speak it.
The hard part is, we often struggle with shame and blame ourselves.
Friends who are willing to be authentic with you
A place that you feel safe in
Finding a Community
An organization to be a part of.
Even a support group
Listening to other people- i know i hurt people when i didn’t listen
If we can’t find that—it may be time to begin individual and even group counseling.
PARKER PALMER —discusses the difficulties of when people are trying to fix us or we are trying to fix others.
In counseling, we are not aiming to fix people— as a counselor, I have methods and techniques to help people heal from trauma—but I am not aiming to “fix them.”
I don’t know what is best for their life. I know that often times, people who are suffering, need to be heard —no one has taken the time to hear their story—they have just rushed in with advice.
HOW DO I START SOMETHING WHEN I DON’T KNOW WHAT PATH TO TAKE?
In life there are so many options, so many paths, and opportunities.
Yet, when presented with so many directions and choices—people often feel paralyzed by indecision and anxiety.
When we are young children, many of our paths are chosen for us—it is only over time that we gain a sense of self, and may eventually strive for autonomy or individuation from our parents or caretakers. And in some ways, our experience as children can inhibit or enhance our desire for certain paths depending on who are parents or caretakers are as people, where we live, what opportunities are presented to us, and socioeconomic status. Yet, many people eventually come to a place when they are old enough to choose a path, no matter limitations in their lives.
Often times, I talk to people who no matter what their age are unsure of what to do with their lives. They are afraid of committing to any path at all. Many times they present with a great deal of anxiety and often times feel stuck in their lives—and experience some depression because of it. Yet, each and every one of them could, with help, work to find something of interest to them, and even begin small steps of pursuing a related goal—whether it led to a hobby, a vocation, a new relationship, a new way of spending time. Each and every one of them could change their lives in a small way, as they move down a path to purse something of interest to them that could eventually lead to a new way of being. I will discuss career and vocation in a future podcast.
Today, I am going to tell a little bit of my story and how I eventually found the path I decided to take. This is not an autobiography by any means, but this is a rough overview of some events which led me to where I am today—there is much more to the story.
In many ways, my childhood was a nice experience and in other ways it was confusing and frustrating. I had two parents who loved me, a place to live, and food on the table. I grew up in a lower socioeconomic status, but my parents were decently educated. I had many opportunities to meet a lot of people and learn from them. Yet, to my detriment, I did not have much consistency in my life.
For instance, and for various reasons I attended 3 different elementary schools, 2 different high schools. As a young person I was ashamed because I couldn’t play sports, play instruments, or act as well as some of my peers. When I was young, I assumed it was my fault—that I was untalented. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I realized if I didn’t start to change my path, I was going to be very unhappy. That realization came after what I believe was one of my first long period of depression—where I isolated for a while and didn’t attend events at my school. That was when I took up working out, cooking, reading, playing the piano, and singing—and I demanded to change schools and environments. Luckily, I had always been a reader because my parents limited my television consumption until I was 13, and computer use was only in a class at school. Yet, even with this change, I still wasn’t as talented in many ways. Because I’d never consistently followed through with music lessons or sports before the age of 15. Sure I tried things out for a while, maybe even a season, but I was not forced to continue. I would usually start something and then stop out of frustration, because I did not have the raw talent. I had heard that the key to becoming good at something was “practice, practice, practice” but like most children, I didn’t listen to my parents, like I would only learn by example combined with trial and error. Luckily, at my new school I made some good friends who did “practice practice practice” around age 15 and they did influence me to change and work on my skills in a variety of areas.
And once I started prioritizing my interests and devoting my time to learning and practicing, my life began to change. First of all, I was excited that I had found interests and by practicing, over time, I could see my skills improving. Second of all, I was able to start shedding some of my negative shame of thinking that “I just lacked natural talent.” Another benefit of me applying myself was that I also learned what I did not like to do, which was very important to slightly narrowing my path—and helping me find a general direction for what I liked to do. I still did not know that I was interested in psychology or counseling at this point.
I am going to skip over many pivotal areas of my story at this point in the podcast because this is not an episode about how I became a counselor—that is a story for another day. Suffice to say, I had a series of menial jobs starting in adolescence and continuing through my college days. These jobs, whether in fast food, hospitality, labor, painting, writing and editing, and even a local TV station, helped me define what I did like and mostly what I did not like. I very quickly decided that I did not want to work at a fast food restaurant for a career, nor a motel, I didn’t enjoy tons of physical labor (while I enjoyed the exercise, I couldn’t imagine myself doing that for 40 years), I didn’t like painting, I realized that while I liked writing and editing my own work or my friends—I didn’t like the job of editing and helping other’s write, and most astonishingly I learned that I did not like the lifestyle and hours and pressure that accompanied working in any aspect of local television. Ironically, after dropping my Telecommunications major, I still worked as a camera person for 4 years during college. It was fun and a relatively easy job—once the pressure of doing this for a career was lifted. What I did during my late high school and college years was really explore. I didn’t just sit in a room and internet search “What should I do with my life?” I went out and tried a bunch of different jobs. I also worked at exposing my self to different types of people and their opinions. This exposure brought me out of my comfort zone and helped me learn more about what others valued and what they wanted to do as well as helping me on my path to figuring out what I wanted to do. Since we are discussing wholeness, having all of these different jobs also showed me something that I wasn’t quite aware of at the time. I noticed that I felt energized when I worked 2 jobs during college, one was mentoring younger students in the residence halls, and another was volunteering at a local middle school. At the time, it led me toward pursuing an education degree, but later on, after 1 year of working in high schools—taught me again, that my path was not to become a traditional teacher, but to pursue psychology and eventually to become a counselor.
I am greatly summarizing some my story to make a global point about being intentional with practice, but also in trying things and really immersing yourself in a variety of experiences and jobs, so you can figure out what you like and do not like. I want to say, having all of these jobs and breaking out of my comfort zone was not easy—I was terrified the entire time. Yet, after each new experience, I became less nervous over time. I will discuss anxiety in a future podcast for sure. I had many times where I felt as if I had failed because I didn’t like the job I was doing, or I had great expectations of a new experience or meeting with someone that turned out to not be as great as I had imagined in my mind. During this time, I had plenty of doubts and periods where I was depressed. Yet, I remembered that someone once told me that 99% of life was just showing up…so I kept showing up, most of the time, in spite of my doubt. And I knew already that I didn’t want to work in an hourly wage job for the rest of my life. I didn’t come from money, quite the opposite, so I could not depend on my parents for much support. Yet out of this time of uncertainty I grew as a person. Growing and learning are values that are very dear to me. I don’t ever want to stop growing and learning—because any time I grow stagnant and begin living on autopilot, my joy and happiness as well as my excitement about life, decreases. So I still constantly pursue learning and growing, and attempt to work on my weaknesses, to this very day. Public speaking is not one of my strong fronts, and I have never attempted a podcast or spoken-word recording until the Intentional Clinician.
When you’re first trying a new activity or skills and you’re learning how to do it— you are just not going to be good at it yet. It will not feel “effortless.” Some people will comment, when watching a talented individual that “they’re a natural” at sports or violin or whatever. I just don’t believe that. While certain people seem to have amazing abilities in an area, the only way you can get there is intentional or deliberate practice. You aren’t just born an Olympic athlete or a world-class Chess player—these are skills that need to be developed over time.
According to some researchers it takes about 10,000 hours practice to become a master at a skill. I know I’m well over 10,000 hours of providing psychotherapy (also known as counseling) as I’ve been a licensed counselor since 2007. And it’s fun. I love what I do. love helping people to find their voice, to heal, to change, to meet their goals. At time it is quite challenging but I have always found it rewarding.
Similarly to practicing my counseling skills through trainings, mentorship, evaluation, and working with people—all of my hobbies and interested that I spent time cultivating through intentional practice became joys in my life. For instance, I may not be the best pianist, bicyclist, or cook, but I have gotten to a level of skill where I actually enjoy the practicing and performing with others. If you are struggling with whatever you are doing: Sports, Crafts, socializing, writing, singing, playing an instrument, cooking—you may have not had enough deliberate practice, and/or you haven’t received instruction and helpful feedback.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers that 10,000 hours of appropriately guided practice was “the magic number of greatness,” regardless of a person’s natural aptitude. Gladwell claims that with enough practice almost anyone could achieve a level of proficiency that would rival that of a professional. It was just a matter of putting in the time with proper instruction and help. K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University, whose research began the dialogue on “10,000 hour” rule that Gladwell wrote about, stated in a recent article that this claim appears to be true aside from physical limitations, of course, which can be a constraint for growth and progress in an area.
Genius is perseverance in disguise. ~ Mike Newlin
Aristotle stated, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
Remember, perfection is a myth. Don’t let other’s wonderful talents and skills stop you from starting.
The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.- Carl Rogers
So I tell you, whatever it is the you are interested in JUST DO IT.
JUST START SOMETHING
PUT ASIDE TIME TO WORK ON YOURSELF, A SKILL, A PROJECT, or EVEN A RELATIONSHIP
If you don’t like it or you realized it is not for you, stop and try something else.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”
“Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great.” Orison Swett Marden
Why not take the risk and apply for a job, you can always change your mind later if you decide it is not for you.
Not sure what to do? Many of us learn by experience- I discussed having a variety of jobs as a young person—it certainly informed me as to what I did not like doing— as well as what aspects of each job I liked doing—such as working in a Pizza Parlor, I loved the customer interaction, but hated making pizzas and cleaning. Customer interaction was a form of a social skills, which is something I use as a counselor to this day.
So many people have an idea to write a book—yet they haven’t taken the time to start by writing a short story or poem.
We have to learnt to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we can run.
“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Ziglar
Living in a culture of “easy answers” and “instant gratification”—can lead one to be disappointed if their first try at making something, doing something, or starting something isn’t “amazing.”
Don’t aim for perfection. Aim to do something.
Taking action is the most difficult part of starting to doing something you love.
I have heard a saying in a Yoga Class, “ the fact that you got to your yoga mat today, means that you have succeeded.”
Remember, we have to show up to get results.
Part of living an undivided life where we feel more whole is related to paying attention how we spend our time and what we have decided to prioritize and intentionally practice.
Some questions to ask your self in reflection like we discussed in part one:
What are you doing with your time?
Do you know what your interests are?
Do you know who your true friends are?
Are you worried about finding love but you don’t go talk to people that could be potential partners? Even as friends?
If you want to do something big, you have to start small.
Remember, The World is Changed by Your example, not your opinion. – Paulo Coelho
That means actions, not words, will help you reach your goal.
No matter where you are on your path, there is always an opportunity for change.
It is possible to move from a fragmented and divided life toward a life where you feel wholeness.
Remember, from part one, we must learn to unplug, be still and listen for a while to determine what we value and how and where and with whom we want to spend our time.
From Part two, we learned it is important to acknowledge and own our wounds and brokenness.
It is vital that we heal, and we cannot do it alone—we need the help of others and a safe and affirming community to do so.
In part three, we discussed the difficulties of discovering what we enjoy doing, the challenges of getting started, and what to do if we learn we don’t like the path we are one, as well as ways to grow and intentionally cultivate our skills and gifts.
I hope that something in today’s episode spoke to you. Remember, even if you have had bad experiences and do not feel like taking action:
You are worth the investment of time to contemplate your life, you are worth the time of friends and community.
And, it is never too late to begin doing what you really want to do and living how you want to live.
Leonard Cohen, from his song Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Learn to find wholeness with experimentation and diligence in your life.