Creating A Vision to Live By

Happiness Is A Choice: Creating a Personal Vision to Live By

“The eye sees what it brings to seeing.”

— Shelley

A fifty-six-year-old man, married with children and grandchildren, viewed himself as a realistic, no-nonsense person, definitely not the romantic or sentimental type. His verbal communication tended to be gruff and blunt, delivered always without any sugar coating. He withheld more than he shared. If he described a person or an event as “nice”, he had given it his highest compliment. No one would ever accuse him of being exuberant. His childhood had been dominated by strict, sometimes abusive parents. When they hit him or punished him, they said they did it because they loved him. He came to hate the word “love” and never used it, not once, throughout his adult years. During a break in an afternoon class, he shared with me a discovery he had made.

“I always thought love meant pain,” he said. “Maybe that’s not so, Bears. Today, I watched people in class use that word in many ways. Unhappily. Happily. Then I realized, hey, it’s just a word. That’s all. My parents gave it one meaning, but, me, well, I could give it another. I kept thinking, yeah, I could even get to like that word.”

When class resumed, he asked to share his revelation with the other program participants. Then he turned to his wife, who had attended the seminar with him. He reached out and took her hand in an uncharacteristically graceful and tender gesture. He smiled as his bottom lip quivered and then, in a soft, sweet voice, said, “I love you.” Tears filled his wife’s eyes. In thirty-six years of marriage, she had never heard him say those words.

We can change. We can be different We can defy history. Our past is but a memory dragged into the present moment That moment is no more important or significant than the next. And in the next moment we can change it all. We do it by changing our point of view … by changing our beliefs, as the man above did, and the woman below.

— Barry Neil Kaufman

Creating a Personal Vision to Live By

She had just celebrated her thirty-seventh birthday. She came, she said, to work on anger and forgiveness. Her mother had conceived her after being raped by an acquaintance. Wounded and meek, the woman never filed any charges. Now the child of that act of violence wanted to make peace with what she called “the unthinkable.”

Her own successful marriage, her delight in her two sons, and the enjoyment of a developing sales career had been dimmed by the gnawing anger she directed at phantom images of a man she had never seen. Initially, she considered her intense emotions as a cross of outrage she would bear the rest of her life. Then, she held on to the bitterness to protect herself and those she loved from such “subhuman” behavior as the rape of her mother. Finally, exhausted by pain, she wanted to somehow move beyond her narrow view and come to a new understanding.

“This man has never seen me, though he knows I exist. He is old now, riddled with cancer. I have even located where he lives; I know his exact address. At first, when I found him I thought about cursing him or beating him with my fists. Oh, God, I want out of this misery and all I do is get myself deeper in. Instead of practicing peacefulness, I practice rage!”

No one would fault this woman for her wrath. Some might even see justice in a finger-pointing confrontation with her “father.” However, she knew she had been twice the victim: first, of a stranger’s violence toward her mother and then of her own emotional violence toward herself. The first violence had passed years before; the second continued simmering inside.

While exploring these issues, she came to a crucial awareness. “If I continue to see him as terrible, I will never let go. Never! I really have to look at this person differently for my own salvation.” She shook her head and sighed. “Okay. This will probably sound stupid, but the man’s a human being isn’t he?” She smiled. “I know, Bears, you won’t give me the answers; I have to find them myself. Okay, then yes, I agree with myself; he’s a human being. Violent, probably miserable, but still human like you and me.”.

“What does it mean to you to call him human?” I asked.

“It means he’s fallible. And it means I don’t have to hate him forever. If I could just figure out how to let go of this anger, well, then I’d be free and at peace with myself.”

“How do you think you can let go of it?”

Her eyes closed as she covered her face with her hands. In a muffled voice, she said “I know how to do it, I really do. Forgiving him would be letting go.” With those words she began to cry. In subsequent sessions and in dialogues with her own husband, she formulated a plan of action which would change her life.

Two weeks later, she flew to a remote Midwestern city, rented a car, and drove hundreds of miles to a small rural village. She telephoned this man’s younger daughter, the product of an eventual marriage, and introduced herself without referring directly to the rape. The other woman hesitated, then refused to invite her to the old man’s home. She announced that she would come anyway; they could turn her away at his door if they wanted.

Old paint peeled off the side of the house. Shutters hung askew beside blackened windows. As she walked along a dirt path to the front door, she saw the woman who must have spoken with her on the phone standing on the porch with her arms crossed.

“I won’t stop you,” the woman, declared coldly, then stepped aside while maintaining her obvious vigil.

After she knocked on the door several times, a man’s voice told her to enter. One small lamp cast its dim light over the room. An old man, his shoulders hunched into his chest, sat quietly in a wooden chair. The deep lines on his face seemed chiseled by a crude and unforgiving knife. His reddened eyes peered at her uncomfortably. When he gestured for her to sit, his physical pain became apparent.

“I know who you are,” he said in a whisper.

She couldn’t talk. He was just a man, old and dying, nothing like the phantoms that had whirled in her mind. She struggled to find her voice. She had rehearsed the words hundreds of times on the plane. It’s just a decision, she told herself.

Finally, in a whisper that matched his, she said: “I forgive you. I really do.”

He nodded his head several times and then looked away. In a voice more audible, he said, “I’m sorry.”

She rose to her feet. Just a human being, she thought, like me. Then she surprised herself by putting her arms around him. She had truly forgiven him. His words of apology had no meaning for her now; it was her new vision that had made her whole.

A sixteen-year-old boy fell off a roof during a summer camp experience. Although he had not been seriously injured by the fall, he developed a strong aversion to ledges and high places. In fact, he even refused to enter the protected balcony of his grandfather’s apartment. He avoided bicycle riding for fear of failing. When his parents pressed him to get help, he told them he needed time to conquer his problem and asked not to be pushed to do what he could not do.

One day, on his way home from school through a wooded lot, he heard the screams of two children. When he looked up, he saw them dangling precariously from the top walkway of a huge water tower. He considered going for help but realized they might fall before he returned. He thought for a moment more, then decided God had placed him in that exact spot for a reason and he could trust the reason. His fears evaporated. Without further hesitation, he ran to the ladder affixed to the side of the tower, climbed up over two stories and brought the children down safely.

Our beliefs about the world and ourselves have profound ramifications, affecting all that we embrace around us and all that evolves within us. During the last decade, the National Institute for Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NINCDS) conducted in-depth studies of people exhibiting multiple personalities. Some facts catalogued as part of the research leaped out at me and tickled my imagination. They demonstrated clearly the impact of our convictions and attitudes.

One woman, who had the capacity to display three distinct personalities, had three menstrual periods each month, one for each personality.

A man exhibiting multiple personas required completely different eyeglass prescriptions for each. In the morning, after assuming one personality, he was clinically nearsighted. At noon, after becoming the next person he wanted to be, he needed new glasses to compensate for farsightedness. Each subsequent persona required yet another prescription.

Another man, whose repertoire included nine distinct personalities, suffered a severe and, at times, life-threatening allergic reaction to citrus fruits. Any ingestion of citric acid would cause eight of his nine personalities to have hives, convulsions and seizures. His ninth personality, however, had a fetish for citrus fruits. While assuming this persona, he could consume enormous quantities of oranges and grapefruits without the slightest bodily disturbance.

If any one of us decided to see ourselves as many people within one bodily structure, then we could apparently create personalities so distinct that each would have its own physiology and could, perhaps, transform in seconds on a molecular as well as a cellular level. Such bits and pieces of information, as those from the NINCDS study, dance like excited children in my brain. I am awed by the wondrous possibilities they suggest!

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The Option Institute and its teachers have had the honor to present programs (during the last four decades) that explore the attitudes and beliefs we have (and may want to change) and to help program participants find their own answers to questions about relationships, careers, family challenges and health issues. Our new program, Health & Healing: Navigating Life’s Health Challenges (formerly '5 Days to Live') , focuses on navigating significant health challenges and decision-making with greater ease, clarity, and clear purpose.

We are not a medical facility and we do not dispense any medical advice. We have and would always guide our program participants, to consult with their doctors, healthcare providers, and family members in making medical decisions for themselves and those they love. Neither Mass General Hospital nor any member of its medical staff endorses any program being offered by the Option Institute and its teachers.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration



PRE-REQUISITES for attending Advanced Power Dialogues are:

  • Completion of The Option Institute’s PowerDialogues program.
  • If it’s been more than 5 years since you attended PowerDialogues, please call 413-229-2100 to discuss options.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration


Dear Donor,

Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.

Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!

“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!”

Jeannie wrote.

Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.

Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.

But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake ... and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.

Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.

“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!

Jeannie Reid


Dear Donor

Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.

In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.

When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.

What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.

So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.

About Antonio ... we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.

When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”

At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”

He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.

God bless,



Dear Donor,

I am the mother of three children, all on the Autism Spectrum. Before I heard of the Son-Rise Program and the Option Institute, I was a desperate, angry and depressed person…. I was on Anti-depressants, sleeping multiple hours of the day, and for a period of time, using alcohol to run away from my pain.

Then I heard of the Son-Rise Program. I called to find out more about it and thought “this if for me!” But I could not afford it. You see raising one child with Autism is very expensive but raising three is just outrageously expensive with all the therapies and dietary interventions that we were doing.

But I was offered a full scholarship to the SRSU program. I have since attended all of the Son-Rise Programs and many of the Personal Growth programs offered by the Option Institute.  Each time I have been given a scholarship and each time I go I learn more about who I am and I change for the better each and every time.  Because of your most generous support, my children are recovering from Autism, I have found happiness in my life!  I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have so much more energy.

YOU are the reason that my family is in recovery. It is because of YOU that my oldest son now is enjoying school.  YOU are the reason my second son is speaking. YOU are the reason my daughter is no longer as rigid and controlling as she once was.  Thank you does not even begin to cover how much gratitude I have for you.  I thank God every day for you and I do not even know you.

Please know that you are changing lives with your donation to ATCA and the OI.  It is because of you that every day people are getting the help that they need. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

With so much love,

Kerry Rihtar