To Love Is To Be Happy With – Chapter 7

Trusting Ourselves

The young woman stood frozen on the worn steps of her apartment building. Misty rays of sunshine peeked between two faceless glass structures and caressed the auburn hair falling over her shoulders. An excitement danced through her body as she tasted her womanhood; she had just blossomed into her nineteenth year. Decked in faded denims topped by a patchwork leather jacket, she looked at once casual and chic. Three or four more minutes passed. Lost within herself, she still had not moved. It was as if she was cast in stone, cemented to the very steps upon which she lingered.

Slowly she surveyed the sleeping street, catching and holding the rare freshness of a weekend morning. The mellow music. The slow-paced motion. Her immediate inclination was to spend this lazy Saturday enjoying the city. She had originally planned to spend the time with her parents, whom she had not visited for over a month. Yet, that decision was reached without contemplating the possibility that this day might be warm and clear after weeks of rain and overcast skies. Feeling ambivalent and hesitant, she questioned herself. Should she go to her parents’ or shouldn’t she? Did she want to go? Did she want to trade the beauty of this day for a dingy ride on the subway and bus for two confining hours and then face the possibility of an unpleasant encounter with her parents? Her fingers rubbed her palms as she again absorbed the feeling of the city street. Her decision was to withhold making a decision until she had a chance to walk.

Around the corner at Thirteenth Street, she headed down toward the park. Even the buildings that hung over the sidewalk casting heavy shadows seemed alive. An old man walking his little dog smiled a lecherous smile at her. She laughed. Two children holding hands skipped by her. She tapped one little girl on the head.

“What a glorious day,” she thought to herself. What a contrast to graffiti on cold subway cars rocking and pitching in their tunnel world. She could even hear her mother’s questions echo back and forth in her mind: “How come we never see this boy you’re living with?” “Why don’t you visit us more often?” “You’re so thin and always in those dungarees. You’re such a pretty girl; why don’t you take more care of yourself?” These intrusive images created their own distracting drum beat. She shook her head as if to dispel her thoughts. A little boy jumped rope past her, but this time she failed to register his vivacious body and eager smile.

“That’s it,” she considered, “I just don’t want to go …ah, but maybe I should.” Three more blocks and now she remembered that her father had bought her some new brushes and canvas. She definitely wanted the supplies, but couldn’t she get them another day? “Why am I doing this,” she thought to herself. “Damn it, either go or don’t go!” She could feel the anger mounting as she walked quickly to a telephone booth. “Okay, just relax,” she coaxed herself. She deposited a coin in the slot, dialed a number and waited. No connection. In fact, no tone at all. Pushing the lever up and down, she realized the phone had swallowed her money without delivering. “Just like this city,” she sneered. Back on the sidewalk, she continued walking. “Maybe it was a sign.” “But of what?” Stopping on a corner, she concentrated on voiding her mind by using a technique she had once learned in meditation. Once again, she began to ingest the music of the city. Yes, it was a peaceful, mellow morning – the air and the tone of light were truly rare.

As she passed an art store, thoughts of her father returned. She did need those brushes and she was almost out of canvas. If she went now, she knew by the time she returned it would be dusk. She could feel the tension building. “What’s the matter with me. Just make a decision and do something.” As the beads of sweat broke out on her forehead, she could feel the rising and falling of her chest. Entering the park, she sat down on an old wooden bench.

A little boy with giant freckles, two fluffy old English sheep dogs, a young man playing his guitar, a baby asleep in his mother’s arms and an old couple out of an Andrew Wyeth painting were part of the endless parade of humanity that passed her by. She saw nothing. She heard nothing. She played out an interior dialogue as she contemplated generating energy to visit her parents. As the hands on the clock methodically consumed the minutes, she slowly traded her vibrancy for anger. Almost an hour elapsed. Still undecided, she felt trapped between her two choices. It was as if she did not know what to do or even how to decide.

The original question disappeared as she became immersed in her own dilemma: Why was she such an indecisive person and so angry? Floating uncomfortably in her own unhappy limbo she sat there, neither enjoying her day in the city nor visiting her parents and getting the supplies she wanted. Confused and frustrated by her own thoughts and beliefs, she never moved from the faded park bench.

Why the confusion … the not knowing what to do? As the young woman envisioned her visit as something she was “supposed to” do, she found herself pushing in the opposite direction. She resisted being told she “had to” or “should” do something, even though she was the one telling it to herself.

She also attended to her not-wants and her contemplated unhappiness (subway ride, bus ride, questions from her mother). In the process, she lost focus on her wants (to enjoy herself and the day). Rather than trust her initial inclination to take a walk in the sunshine, she short-circuited her momentum with unresolved questions. Perhaps other beliefs about her abilities and self-worth came to bear. Ultimately her incapability to answer became the center of her attention – all of which had nothing to do with her original plans or desires.

If I look to my own wanting, there is much to observe. When I disapprove of what I want, it is because I believe I want something else or because I fear the consequences of what I want. I would disapprove of my desire to eat if I wanted to be thin or if I feared being fat.

The most fascinating observation is I continually pass judgments on my wanting.

I am either busy finding evidence so I can do what I want or finding justification to suppress what I want. Sometimes, like the girl on the park bench, I have found myself frozen in confusion. In those instances, my questions and doubting were not vehicles to help me get in touch with my wanting, but statements of not trusting myself.

There is no implication here that thinking and weighing evidence is incorrect, but there is a learning experience in understanding why we do it.

What I choose to believe and what I know are very different things. Beliefs are acquired, deduced or created during the act of thinking. Knowing comes directly from my nature – it is not a product of logic and reason. But then, how do I come to know?

The answer goes back to understanding first how I came not to know. As we have seen in a previous chapter, the child is taught to believe being himself creates unhappiness in others and when he is being himself, it is often judged bad … thus, something is wrong with him. To protect himself from himself (he believes he does “bad” things like make his parents unhappy and angry), he suppresses his own natural desires. Carefully, he watches cues and rapidly acquires the beliefs of others so that he will know what to do. In the process, he loses touch with his own inclination and natural tendencies.

This is later compounded by the teaching of additional beliefs. I remember how often I was instructed to slow down … to pause … to act only after careful consideration and judgment. I was taught to stop and gather as much evidence as possible before making my choices. Yet, the quantity and quality of evidence required to make a decision varies greatly from person to person. One scientist asserts there is definite evidence life exists on other planets; another expert claims the opposite. They might even disagree about what evidence is evidence.

How many people have argued over the validity of conclusions from cancer research? Numerous scientists have a primary belief that the more people smoke, the more likely they are to get cancer. They cite a mountain of statistics as proof. Yet in showing more smokers have cancer than nonsmokers, have they taken this correlation and called it a cause? Perhaps people who are going to get cancer also choose to smoke. The causes of cancer and smoking might be the same, not that one causes the other. I am not suggesting this is so, although some doctors would argue the point.

There are numerous ways to interpret evidence. For example, certain statistics can demonstrate that in larger fires where more people die there are always more fire engines. One might conclude fire engines are a hazard to people’s health.

The absurdity here is to heighten a point. I have taken a correlation and called it causal. All evidence is self-serving to the beliefs of the person interpreting it. In a previous chapter, the example of jogging illustrates how professionals, with identical backgrounds, will view the exact same data and arrive at dramatically different conclusions. Not only is the evidence judged, but it is discarded or used in accordance with other judgments. And it goes on and on. But making judgments is different from KNOWING.

My lover has blond hair, blue eyes, weighs 110 pounds, loves ice cream and music. But when I say I really know her, is that what I mean by knowing? Surely these particulars are aspects of her, but my knowing transcends this data. They are the facts I can ascertain about the person. But there have been occasions when I have had a wealth of information about someone, yet I still say I do not know them. Or the converse, upon just meeting someone about whom I have very little information, I feel that I really know this person. There is a substantial difference between knowing (having facts) about someone and knowing someone.

When I see a painting I like, hear a song that catches my fancy or touch a texture that’s delightful, do I really have reasons to like them or just natural inclinations in certain directions? If I decide to buy that painting and come up with reasons for purchasing it, the mental gymnastics would take place after the fact of my enjoying it and wanting it.

Are my actions based on reasons or do I create reasons to justify my actions?

We create reasons (beliefs) so that we can give a rational basis to our choices. Otherwise, we believe we would just be acting on our ungrounded desires which we don’t trust.

No matter how definite and accurate I try to be, none of my conclusions in the realm of reasons and belief are ever absolute. They are just choices I make.

Everything I do represents a choice. And in essence, my choosing is either consenting to my wants or deciding to go against them. In choosing beliefs and activities, I either move in harmony with myself or not. And this is a highly creative process; I choose to trust myself; I choose to hate myself; I choose to be happy and unhappy about a situation; I choose to eat and sleep, to work and play. In choosing to allow, I permit my wants to surface naturally from me as I move about in the universe.

How will I know when I am moving with myself or against myself? There is a simple test we can do when in doubt. We can ask ourselves a question: Am I moving away or toward? The differences are quite distinct. Concentrating on my fear of being sick is very different from moving toward my wanting to be healthy. Hating my job is attending to my unhappiness and motivating myself away while the alternative of clearly seeking new employment is moving toward what I want. To expend energy worrying about divorce is the opposite of trying to find new ways to make my life and my relationship work. If I move away or against myself, I am acting from my discomforts and unhappiness. If I move toward my wants, I am moving with my flow. Although I certainly might be going in the same direction while attending to my not-wants, my unhappiness would most probably short-circuit me along the way … as my vision would be clouded by anger and fear and my energy would be diverted away from focusing on getting what I want. When I become aware of unhappiness motivating me, I can ask first: “What do I want?” and then: “Why am I unhappy?” These questions can be useful tools to help me change my focus and my direction.

Knowing is moving in harmony with myself and my wants, without first requiring evidence or justification.

In effect, there is nothing I have to do except stop stopping myself … allow and trust my wants as a beautiful alternative to drowning in the quicksand of self-defeating beliefs. Wow … sounds dangerous! But it’s not. If I believe there is something dangerous about such a movement, then I must be believing there is something elementally wrong with me. If so, I can explore that belief and my reasons for maintaining it.

A beautiful example of knowing can be seen in a classic experiment performed with young infants. They were placed in a situation under special conditions to determine their capabilities in choosing their own diets. A vast variety of foods of both animal and vegetable origin was placed within easy access of each child. In combination, they provided all the food elements, amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals considered necessary for human nutrition. Each child was given unguided freedom to select his own diet.

During the first few days, the infants experimented and tasted the foods. They ate at random with no specific patterns. Each morsel of food consumed was diligently recorded by observers.

Over the period of the experiment, which in some cases lasted several months, an astonishing pattern emerged. The infants, having absolutely no concept or knowledge of food content or nutritional value, had eaten a combination of foods sufficient to maintain themselves with optimal digestive and nutritional results. Even when they ate excessively of one food product in a day, they adjusted their intake over the next several days.

A possible conclusion: If we allowed, we all would be able to take care of ourselves. Without training or specific knowledge, these children were able literally to “know” how to balance their diets and how to eat healthfully for themselves. Their own inclination and their bodies were their guide.

A knowing person is a happy person in touch with his wants. Knowing and wanting draw from the same well. And what each person would want, would be right for him.

Although it is attractive and mellow to move in harmony with myself, I once had doubts that such evenness might turn my life-style into a mindless and thoughtless utopia. But that too is just another judgment; it would be mindless only if that’s what I decided.

We can do an experiment with ourselves. We could get in touch with our good feelings and allow ourselves three minutes a day to come from ourselves without interfering with judgments … just act on our wants during that time. We could do it ten minutes or two hours a day if we choose. Since we are the experts for ourselves, we then could evaluate and decide the merits of such freedom.

Uncluttered by doubts and fears, I find myself a far more effective human being. My focus is more directed, my energies more crystallized. I take care of myself better and get more of what I want. I don’t even have to control my experiences to want and enjoy them. A beautiful sunset, the smile of a newborn infant, the sight of a horse gliding through the tall grass are all outside my control. Yet, I could be happy and want those experiences, needing no reasons to substantiate my good feelings and desires.

There is nothing to rehearse . . . nothing to practice or memorize. I have only to unload the weights and drop the beliefs. And that decision is for each of us to make for ourselves.

For me to say to myself “I’ll go with what I know” or “I’ll move with what feels right to me instead of going where the evidence leads” is an act of trust and an affirmation of self.

The Think Page(Trusting Ourselves)

Questions to ask yourself

  • Do you like to do the things you believe you “have to,” “should” or “ought to” do?
  • Are you afraid to go with your own inclinations or hunches? If so, why?
  • When you say “you really know someone,” what exactly do you mean?
  • Do you always need reasons before you allow yourself to do something? If so, why?
  • Are you afraid if you were just “you,” it would not be in your best interest? If so, what are you believing about being yourself?
  • Are you uncertain about your wants?
  • Are you uncertain about your wants when you are happy?

Option concepts to consider

  • All evidence is self-serving to the beliefs of the person interpreting it.
  • We want and then we find reasons.
  • Reasons do not support wants, they only clarify doubts.
  • Choosing is either choosing to consent to my wants or going against them.
  • Knowing is moving in harmony with myself and my wants.
  • Wanting to be happier and more loving comes from our knowing …from who we are.
  • We do not need a reason to be happy.

Beliefs to consider discarding

  • Wanting is bad if we have no reasons for it.
  • There must be something wrong with me.
  • I don’t know.
  • Being myself is bad.
  • If I allowed myself to do anything I wanted, I’d screw myself.

Seventh Dialogue – Trust

Q.What are you unhappy about?

A. I’m an account executive at an advertising agency. I’ve been at this particular job for almost three years with the promise of becoming an account supervisor within a year. It has also been subtly hinted that i might get v.p. Stripes. Suddenly, from left field, i was offered another position by a competing agency, which would mean a bigger job and more money right away. There are pros and cons to staying and there are pros and cons to moving. (smiling) i can’t seem to make up my mind. In fact, before this happened just a couple of weeks ago, i would describe my life as steady, settled and fairly comfortable. Now, as ridiculous as it might sound, i feel uncomfortable and possessed by this situation. I have to decide … And soon.

Q. Why are you uncomfortable and possessed by the situation?

A. Because i can’t make up my mind. It’s ironic. When it comes to media commitments and decisions in business, there’s never a problem. But when i’m dealing with my life, with me, it’s a bomb. I always end up feeling ambivalent. If i stay where i am, i might get screwed because i can wait from now to doomsday until i get my promotion. Maybe the divisional vice president is really just dangling a carrot in front of me. On the other hand, if i leave, there are no guarantees it will work out. New people, new faces and new problems. I’ll have to prove myself all over again. Damn (pounds the arm of the chair with his fist).

Q. What’s so upsetting to you?

A. This is not the first time this has happened to me. Every time i consider something important, i don’t know why, but somehow it gets so inflated, i can’t even grab it. I can recommend committing hundreds of thousands of dollars with the snap of a finger and feel really sure of myself. Yet here, i’m driving myself nuts.

Q. What do you mean “‘driving yourself nuts”?

A. When i’m dealing with something at a distance, like products and advertising, it becomes a game for me. When it’s me hanging in the balance, i immediately get uptight. (pause) i really want to get somewhere with this. Let me tackle it from another point of view. If i move in a certain direction on a promotional campaign, we usually have opportunities to redirect if we’re wrong. And even if we don’t, it’s just one of many decisions made. There’s usually no “all-or-nothing” playoff. With staying or changing my job, with me deciding … It’s kind of all-or-nothing. When i know that, i literally drive myself nuts. I think about it day and night; ideas keep floating into my head until it becomes a blur, a confused mess. Then, instead of considering my alternatives, i just walk around hyper.

Q. Hyper?

A. Jumping back and forth like a rabbit. I can’t even concentrate on the pros and cons (shaking his head from side to side).

Q. Why not?

A. Why not? Why not? If i knew, it would be solved. (exhaling an extended sigh) i can’t stand it. I wish i would just make up my mind.

Q. What is so discomforting to you about not being able to choose?

A. If i don’t get on the stick, it’s going to be all over. I have to decide.

Q. Sure, i know you believe it would be better for you to make up your mind, but why are you uncomfortable if you don’t?

A. Because i want to do what’s good for me.

Q. Are you saying that if you don’t make up your mind, you are doing something bad for yourself?

A. Yes, of course. While i’m pacing in my own cage, the world is moving by. By the time i make up my mind about the jobs, the new one will probably be gone. And then, christ, i really blew it.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Like a relationship i once had. It took me so long to make up my mind as to whether i wanted to try to make it work or not that when i was ready to give it my all, she had already left. I don’t blame her for not hanging around. Certainly when i was contemplating our problems, i wasn’t dealing with them. This is sort of the same kind of situation. If i don’t move, it will be gone. The door closed. Finished. And why? Because i couldn’t make a decision. I don’t want to spend my life tripping over myself.

Q. Do you believe you will?

A. Sure … It’s part of my life-style. (pause) well, no … Not really. Come to think of it, i’ve done well in advertising because i could make judgments and could decide. I guess i’m just talking about my personal life. (begins to tap his fingers on a table, stops and exhales a long, deep sigh) listen, i don’t want to be this way. Really … It’s not a picnic. Sometimes i think i’m going to drown in my anger or get a heart attack. When i realize i’m being indecisive, i can feel my whole body tighten like a vise. A wave of anger just washes over me.

Q. What is there specifically, when you become aware of being indecisive, that gets you so angry? (a version of: what is it about that that makes you angry?)

A. If i was only more composed, more direct, then i would know what to do. It’s like playing devil’s advocate for both sides. I do a whole thing with myself. It’s like jumping into an endless debate. I’m so busy going back and forth, i lose myself. If i stay at my present job, i have all the security and a probable future. But it may also be just stagnating . . . Marking time. If i switch to the other agency, i immediately open new doors, face new people and create new opportunities. Yet, i can’t be sure it will work out for weeks, maybe even months.

Q. What do you want?

A. I’m not really sure. Getting another offer is a beautiful ego boost, but so what. All i have now is my unhappiness about not being able to choose.

Q. What are you afraid would happen if you weren’t unhappy about not choosing?

A. I … I might jump irrationally.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I might not be careful making up my mind.

Q. So, are you saying that by being unhappy, you take better care or more care in deciding?

A. Yes, that’s what i’m doing. Seems strange, doesn’t it?

Q. In what way? (a version of: what do you mean?)

A. To go through all this discomfort just to take care of myself. It’s crazy because it just doesn’t work. And yet, i guess i’ve already done this when i see the decision as really important to me . . . To my life. Whew. I never realized i was doing that before. That’s quite a discovery for me. (smiling, a pause) when i see what i was believing, it changes things … Takes a lot of the fuel out of my unhappiness. Still, it only explains part of it. It feels like there’s more … Something else.

Q. Are you saying there is another problem that is also contributing to your indecisiveness?

A. Yes. Yes, i am.

Q. And what’s that?

A. Well, i know it sounds like a little boy, but i’m afraid.

Q. Of what?

A. That i won’t do the right thing …that somehow i’ll screw myself and end up really miserable.

Q. Do you believe that?

A. Yes. Because i’ve done it before. I’ve made other choices which didn’t work out. Problems arose that i did not foresee.

Q. Sure. But why do you believe you weren’t good for yourself if things happened that you did not foresee?

A. I guess if i were smarter, more perceptive … I could control it.

Q. Control what?

A. Things. People. Events.

Q. Do you believe that?

A. (Laughing) yes and no. In some cosmic way, sure. In a human statement, of course not. Wait. I want to stop for a minute. (long pause) maybe the real question for me is why do i get so upset worrying about things not working out?

Q. Why do you?

A. Well, i’m not sure. If i stay at the agency and i don’t get promoted, i’ll feel i’ve lost a great opportunity because i was scared.

Q. Are you saying that your reasons for staying with your present job come from fear?

A. (More smiling) yes, i guess so.

Q. Why are you smiling?

A. Admitting you come from fear is really a nice experience. I always thought letting it out and looking at it would be very painful. Wow, it’s almost the opposite. There are very few places in the world i would feel so comfortable saying this. In our discussions, it’s weird … It’s just another piece of information. (chuckling) and that’s marvelous. (sighs and distinct drop in voice) i’d really like to change. And that includes my job. I feel kind of bored and mindless. I can do most of it half-asleep. It’s time to move on, but …

Q. Is there something stopping you?

A. If i move and it doesn’t work, then i might end up even more miserable than ever.

Q. Why?

A. No one would be thrilled about falling on their ass.

Q. Perhaps. But maybe the question is if the worst came to pass, if you didn’t make it at your new job, why would you be unhappy?

A. I want to say i don’t know, but that doesn’t feel true. If i don’t get into a whole frenzy about failing, i can always find something else. Somehow, i’d be unhappy about having poor judgment.

Q. Why?

A. Because it says something about me?

Q. What do you mean?

A. I’m not sure. Christ, there i go again with a namby-pamby answer.

Q. Let’s focus on it then … Why does “not sure” upset you?

A. It feels like part of the circle. Not sure is indecisive, doubting, confused.

Q. Why are you unhappy about being in doubt or confusion?

A. It means i don’t know.

Q. And what about not knowing makes you unhappy?

A. I guess i want to know.

Q. Sure, but what about the not-knowing upsets you?

A. I guess i begin to think i’ll never know. It’ll go on forever.

Q. Do you believe that?

A. No . . . Not really. I’m just so impatient.

Q. If you knew you would come up with an answer …that someday, somehow, you would know what to choose, would you still be upset?

A. No … Then it would be okay.

Q. Are you saying that your indecisiveness upsets you because it will continue endlessly?

A. (Laughing – no answer)

Q. Why are you laughing?

A. My initial answer to your question was yes …yes, i did most definitely envision the indecisiveness continuing forever. Yet as i thought about it, it suddenly sounded outrageous. But i guess that’s what i believe.

Q. Why do you believe that?

A. (Shaking his head) i don’t know, i really don’t.

Q. If you were to guess at an answer, what would you think?

A. (Long pause) still nothing comes. A blank. I really don’t know why i believe it. I don’t think i have any reasons.

Q. Okay, it you don’t have any reasons to believe it, do you want to continue to believe it?

A. Do i want to continue believing it? No, why would i if it’s not so. All it causes me is grief.

Q. What do you mean?

A. It’s my being upset, not my questions that fog the issue. My doubts always clear … Sooner or later. When i think about it, i always manage to find an answer and choose. I guess i’ve always had this internal alarm clock for perfection. If i didn’t answer in a certain period of time, bang … It’s bad, etc. Etc. If i was more tolerant of not solving it, i’d probably solve it a lot easier. Could you imagine that i was really believing i would never decide?

Q. And now?

A. No way. I don’t believe it any more. If i just let myself, i’ll always manage to solve it. Oh, that’s great stuff, i really feel i’m moving now. (his eyes close). I want to savor this. It’s really nice to feel excited. (a deep breath) just one thing, i’d really like to focus on my deciding on jobs.

Q. Okay. What do you want?

A. I want the new job. I really do (long pause, smiling). Can you believe i just said that so easily? A decision. Whew, it feels like a weight was just lifted off me. One thing bothers me though: why did i get so easily unnerved and worried about things not working out?

Q. Why do you think?

A. I guess, deep down, i believed it showed me i didn’t take care of myself … Maybe, it meant i couldn’t trust myself.

Q. Do you believe it now?

A. No, not any more. It was the game i had always played. Right here, right now, with my fears aside (smiling) or gone, it’s very clear. I have and will continue to take care of myself. I always did, in the end. So even if things don’t work out, it doesn’t mean i didn’t try to do the best for myself. (suddenly, his face cringes.)

Q. What are you feeling?

A. Somewhere, somehow, maybe i still don’t trust myself. I don’t know if i’m ready to let go completely.

Q. Why not?

A. I’m not sure (reflecting on his comment, he begins to laugh). My classic line. Somehow, i was always taught i just can’t jump into things. That’s the way to break my legs. I have to deliberate, mull things over and then, maybe … Just maybe … I could know what’s good for me. It sounds so strange now; it doesn’t even feel like my belief.

Q. No matter when you learned a belief and from whom, if you believe it now, it’s active and a part of you in the present … In the now. In uncovering it, you can ask yourself the question: do you believe it now or want to continue believing it?

A. What amazing questions for me . . . They really are! Do i believe it now? Do i want to believe it? I don’t think so.

Q. Does “don’t think so” mean that you’re not sure?

A. Yes, but that’s only my way of hedging right now. I am sure. I’m beginning to feel i can trust myself. Obviously, when i’m nervous and anxious, i’m too mixed up to see anything. The battle of reasons against reasons was never anything but a painful and confusing process. In the end, there were no absolutes. I feel really bizarre now.

Q. How do you mean?

A. As i’m talking, i don’t think i can ever remember really ever trusting myself. The questions were always bathed in my anxiety; i never really felt i’d come to the right decisions. I really never believed i would know what’s good for me.

Q. And now, do you still think you don’t know what’s good for you?

A. Not any more. And that’s what’s so strange. The questions of changing jobs … I know what’s right for me now. In many ways, i knew it when i first got the offer … Even then, but i was afraid to act on my first impulse. I just couldn’t buy it without putting myself through my ritual of grief.

Q. How are you feeling?

A. New. A little strange with myself, but it’s a good feeling. When i’m not afraid, i do know. It’s funny how you’re taught things, brought up in a certain way and just act it all out. Like a puppet. I never considered all the alternatives. It was as if i had nothing to do with it when, in fact, it has always been my ball game.

Q. What do you want?

A. To feel like this, to choose with or without reasons, but to trust that i will know and do the best i can for myself. As i say that, even mulling through the pros and cons seems like it would be a productive experience. (smiling) i really feel great! I realize now i could make decisions without all the fuss, without all the debating and reasoning … And it will still be the right decision for me. (laughing) i’m sure of it.


Contact Us

Call Me

Or send us a message or question and we will get back to you as soon as we can.



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