How Music & Art can be Therapeutic for Addiction Recovery

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If you have ever perked up because your favorite song came on the radio, you already know that music can affect your mood. Using music intentionally to positively affect your health and wellness is known as music therapy. It is not a standalone treatment for addiction, however, it can be effectively used in conjunction with other forms of therapy and treatment. 
 
That’s why medical professionals and treatment centers across the country are embracing music and art therapy as a supplement to existing programming, and recovering addicts are extending those benefits by incorporating elements of music and art therapy into their lives on an everyday basis. 
 

Why music and art should be a part of recovery

Medical professionals have long noted a connection between music and improved health outcomes. Psychology Today has been used to supplement treatments for everything from autism and infant development to depression and insomnia. It is considered a natural, no-harm form of therapy because it is unlikely to have an adverse effect and it does not involve medications. 
 
One of the biggest reasons why music and art are good supplemental forms of therapy is that they reduce stress and anxiety. They act as a positive distraction from pain or temptation, and they provide a healthy creative outlet, which reduces a person’s need for any unhealthy vices like drugs or alcohol. One music therapist working with addicts noted that music helped her patients acknowledge trauma and better express themselves. 
 
Many physiologically benefits have also been connected to music and art therapy. They include: 

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Relaxed muscle tension
  • Improved respiration
  • Better concentration 
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How to incorporate music and art into recovery

Use or art or music to de-stress

Stress is a common trigger of relapse, so knowing how to cope with both the grind of daily life and any major life events that come your way is important. Use music or art as your go-to destressor in moments of crisis. Embrace adult coloring books. Try meditating to soothing music. The purpose here isn’t to be creative, but instead, to get yourself calm and centered. One tip is to use the same song or type of music to de-stress. The habit will set itself in your brain and trigger a chemical response. 
 
Create something (even if only for yourself)

Write lyrics to a song. Sketch everyday objects. Put together a collage. The end product doesn’t have to be worth of a Grammy, museum exhibit or even your own refrigerator door. You don’t have to share your end process with anyone if you aren’t comfortable doing so. The point is just to embrace creation, have fun and explore new ways to express your emotions and experiences. 
 
Learn to play an instrument

If creating something from scratch is too overwhelming, then pour your energy into learning to play a musical instrument. It is a misconception that you can be too old to learn to play. Buy or rent an instrument that instrument you have always dreamt of playing. If you aren’t already drawn to a particular instrument, consider a woodwind like the clarinet or saxophone. If you find that music-making is truly your niche, consider soundproofing a room (HomeAdvisor estimates the cost to be $1,645)  to keep family members, friends, and neighbors happy while you practice and play to your heart’s content. Most people aren’t naturals at learning an instrument. The challenge of learning a new instrument is frustrating, but rewarding and your mind (and body) can improve when you commit yourself to the process of learning. 
 
Regardless of what your level of comfort or experience with art and music is currently, there is a way for you to incorporate art and music into your life. Doing so has mental and physical benefits and can aid you during your ongoing journey of sobriety. 

The Hero's Journey

Think of your favorite movie.

Do you have it? Maybe it's Harry Potter, The GodfatherGone With the Wind, or even Dumb & Dumber. When you sit down and really think about it, you'll see that in every story there is a series of events that happen in which the protagonist faces new challenges, overcomes obstacles, and in the end comes home stronger than before. It seems there's a pattern of narrative to all of these stories... some type of universal script for the heroes of every tale.

Joseph Campbell defined this as The Hero's Journey. 

(I am the president of the Super-Lame-And-Equally-Obsessive Joseph Campbell Fan Club. Remember back in the Myspace days when bands had "Street Teams" in every city? Well I would be the head guy in ATX.)

Joe incessantly lectured that the stages that heroes take are applicable to our own lives. Check out this image:

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So with the above pattern we think of Bilbo Baggins. He is called to go on this quest (2), he refuses to go (3), Gandalf sends in dwarves to convince him (4), Bilbo finally accepts and they leave (5), etc. This is pretty easy to track when we look at literature or film from a 3rd party, objective stance, but Joe also talks about the inner journey for each hero. This is entirely subjective to the protagonist and necessary for change. Check it out:

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So think of a hardship that you've had to face in your life. It could be anywhere from a death in the family to even your first breakup. When you apply this structure to those challenges, you'll find that you actually went through these stages yourself.

Pretty trippy huh?

From what we know from Dan Siegel's Interpersonal Neurobiology, we want to be as fully integrated in our lives as possible. Our Left Brain wants structure and our Right Brain is pure emotion. Well when we take our current dilemma at hand-- let's say you are going through a breakup or a divorce-- we find that by pinpointing where we are on this journey actually... 

1) puts structure to thought 

2) notes progress, all the while

3) integrating both our right and left brain

Joseph Campbell was highly influential. His work was the lead inspiration for George Lucas in creating Star Wars, but it doesn't need to just be a cool pattern to predict the next scene in a movie. We can (and should) apply this to our lives. We can tell the stories that we want to tell and note challenges when they occur. 

We can be the heroes in our own stories.

 

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ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MY ANKLE BREAK

Has it really been a year?

For those of you who are picking up on this, I broke my ankle while roller skating at a rink with friends—it was our last time around the rink of course.

I’ve read my fair share of books on trauma and how the body reacts to shocks to the system, but I can safely say that there is nothing like experiencing it first-hand. There are a few facts and challenges to understand before I go on…

  1. Both bones were broken around the ankle

  2. It was my right leg, so I couldn’t drive for 4 months

  3. I lived on the 3rd floor of an apartment complex with no elevator

  4. I had one more semester of school until graduating

  5. I had 12 clients I was seeing weekly

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Many questions needed to be answered-- How would I get to and from work since my right ankle was broken and I couldn’t drive? How would I go up and down the stairs? How would I get to school and graduate? How would I shower?

I’d like to answer all these questions through the 5 areas of experiential insight that I gained through the accident:

 

1.       Ask for help, people can respond however they choose

2.       Use discomfort to ground you in the present moment

3.       Our mind is embodied, not enskulled

4.       Enjoy receiving help, and enjoy the process of giving when the time comes

5.       Dance through archetypes to cope

 

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1. Ask for help, people can respond however they choose

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This is something that I learned a long time ago about expressing your needs. Through any difficult scenario, our job is to communicate feelings, thoughts, and needs. The person we’re talking with has the ability and the maturity to respond in their own way. Easy as that.

I needed to get to work. I needed to get to school.

I sent out a massive Facebook post to try and get a schedule of friends to drive me to or from work, school, and physical therapy. People stepped up, and I ended up only spending about $150 on ride apps over those 4 months—incredible.

Once I announced I needed help, friends began cooking for me, helping me get groceries, helping with transportation, and even taking me to the movies. The amount of support was phenomenal and I won’t ever forget those that helped me out.

 

 

 

2. Use Discomfort to Ground you in the Present

When you hit a low, you get to a place where the acceptance of defeat engulfs you. In this place, it seems all is lost and nothing can be done. "There are too many medical bills, this seems impossible to overcome, etc" Once this place is accepted, what we are able to do is say—okay and now what? 

I found myself constantly surprised at the amount of love and compassion that was thrown my way. When I least expected it, people would be looking out for me. I felt fully alive and constantly excited and surprised at the vitality of our community.

 

3. Our Mind is Embodied, not Enskulled

Daniel Siegel speaks about Mindsight and the power that our body has to heal beyond our cognitive abilities in our brain. I could go into it here but he says it best here...

4. Enjoy Receiving Help, & Enjoy the Process of Giving

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My good friend, a Yoga Therapist name Kim Schaefer, had an accident 6 months prior to mine. Upon asking what advice she could give me, she said to enjoy it. We are rarely in the scenario of needing help, owning it, and allowing ourselves to receive it. This experience alone allowed me to own my difficulties and find acceptance in vulnerability. 

Enjoying the experience allowing myself to let go and ride the wave of recovery allowed myself to eventually be a willing candidate to then provide transportation and rides to friends in need later on. This process allowed for the opportunity to connect to the entire circle of the human experience-- the yin/yang, push and pull of the process of helping others.

5. Dance Through Archetypes to Cope

I talk about archetypes a lot, because they're really important. When we embody a type of being or behavior, we evoke emotions from others. When we try and be tough, we try and make people afraid. When we try to be serious, people tend to treat us like adults. 

I decided that the only way for me to cope was to be the archetype of The Jester. 

This archetype evoked emotions of humor, community and the opening for friendship. I couldn't be alone, and I needed help and support. What better way than to embody that of a person who treats it lightly? 

Although this was the archetype that I chose, I found that it conflicted with those who operated under The Ruler archetype, or an archetype that wanted to be taken seriously. This was merely my coping embodiment.

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So there you have it!

It is one year to the day. I'm still sitting down in a chair with two metal rods in my leg, but I went swimming this morning. Later today i'll jog and I just may go to the gym to hit up the bike machine and make it a personal DIY triathlon. This has been a long post, but the truth is-- I needed to do it for me. Cheers to all you young beautiful ankles out there. Thank you to all those who helped me in those months, and here's to many more years of walking, skipping and jumping!

How do populations self-medicate in cities with minimal sunlight?

 

When in Darkness, Sniff

A Cross Comparison of Seattle, Washington and Reykjavik, Iceland

How do populations self-medicate in cities with minimal sunlight?

Andy Lane

 

 

“You will give the people an ideal to strive toward. They will race behind you. They will
stumble. They will fall. But in time they will join you in the sun. In time you will help
them accomplish wonders.”  
(All-Star Superman, 2007) 
 
 
 
“The Sun is gone, but I have light.” 
(Nirvana, 1993)

 

“We come from the land of ice and snow. From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.” 
(Led Zeppelin, 1970)

 

 

When in Darkness, Sniff

Providing Foundation: Abraham Maslow & Addiction

     Throughout history, individuals have made irrational decisions that at times seem
insensitive to the world surrounding them. Abraham Maslow would argue that these
irrational decisions are simply one’s attempt at refining their journey toward self
actualization. Through the lens of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, many behaviors can be explained as unconscious efforts to getting needs met (McLeod, 2007). Before achieving self-actualization, one must first rummage through their desired needs through the levels
of physiological, safety, love/belonging, and self esteem. The format used to describe this
schematic of development is a pyramid that places the differing levels of needs in
sections beginning with physiological needs (breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, etc.) at
the bottom and self-actualization (morality, creativity, problem-solving) at the tip of the
pyramid. It can be argued that this path toward self-actualization is the unconscious drive that is the natural developmental structure for the human condition (McLeod, 2007). This discussion over data gathered will operate under such a foundation. 


     To arrive at the tip of the pyramid, an individual must be given the potential to
achieve such status in an environment that caters toward a comfortable transition into the
next category of needs. If the environment to bolster such transition is not present, an
individual reacts in various ways to cope. This is seen in sexually acting out, substance dependency and if physiological needs are net met can result in death (McLeod, 2007). Environment dictates how fluid each transition into the next stage is. Breathing, eating, 
sleeping and all of the physiological needs must be met as a foundation to travel up the pyramid and to continue living. Many of the primal foundational needs are provided by
the active role that the Sun plays in its dance with the Earth.

The Sun: An Intimate Friend

      Do not be fooled by the sunrise and the sunset—the star in which the Earth orbits
is the exact same star that every generation of humankind has seen.  Although there are
many stars in the universe all with different names and unique properties, the
International Astronomical Union has named this star a name not shared by any other—
“Sun”. It has an intimate relationship with humanity in that it affects the quality of life in
both physical and mental wellness for men and women on the planet. Perhaps the most
obvious gift is it’s provision of Vitamin D, a necessity for absorbing calcium and promoting bone growth. The Sun’s UVB rays, however, provide even more natural benefits for a healthy life. In the medical field, these rays have been used in treating skin diseases, such as psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, and scleroderma (Mercola, 2012). 

     UVB rays are a necessity for a healthy life as they regulate the amount of melatonin in the pineal gland photoreceptors, allowing individuals to regulate their circadian rhythm (Mercola, 2012). This helps in finding a healthy balance between sleep and energy. When this rhythm is unbalanced, several mental health issues occur including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and sometimes-­‐severe Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder, n.d.). The Sun directly affects individuals in their journey toward self-­-actualization because of its natural properties, but there are certain places in the world in which this star does not shine so bright. Those affected by the darkness have turned to various forms of self-­‐medication in an attempt to cope with the lack of UVB rays. The results are terrifying.

Dark Places: Environments Evoking Despondency

Seattle, Washington

       Seattle is the 20th largest city in the United States, with an estimated population of 662,400 people in 2015 (About Seattle, n.d.). Throughout a year it is estimated that this grouping of people experience 2,170 hours of sunlight and 164 days of sunshine (Days of Sunshine Per Year in Washington, n.d.). It is estimated that only 58 of those 164 days are clear skies with direct sunlight. A research assistant at Washington University explained on the phone that October and November are the roughest times of the year for Seattle—a term commonly referred to as the “Grey Period”.

     The rainy days in Seattle can affect the population in more ways than just wet socks and traffic accidents. Lack of sunlight can lead to clinical depression. Among many of the reasoning for this is the overproduction of melatonin on the body. According to the DSM, females are 200% more likely to develop SAD. This is problematic for Seattle as the city has a slightly higher population of women than men (About Seattle, n.d.). SAD is most common among people between the ages 18-30, making those living in Seattle even more susceptible to the condition as its most populated demographic are the ages 25-34.

     Because this grey period has the potential to last for months, residents of Seattle are forced inward for an unhealthy amount of time as they defer to staying home rather than interacting with neighbors and friends. This isolation promotes a worldview of disconnection, a mindset that has been proven to beget addiction as seen in the research conducted by Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander’s “Rat Park” experiment (Ingles-Arkell, 2013).  The conditions in which the population of Seattle operates under make them more susceptible to depression, and thus more attracted to substance abuse as a coping strategy.

     Narcotic Coping. Through this isolation and lack of sunlight, many have turned to substances as a crutch to cope with their lack of needs. In 2014, Seattle had 156 deaths related to heroin, spiking it up to 58% above the norm (Aleccia, 2015). In addition, there were 70 methamphetamine deaths, jumping up to 59% more than normal. Deaths rose in all substances including alcohol (88 deaths), Cocaine (78 deaths), and Benzodiazepines (70 deaths). Although heroin is the most common substance due to its and addictive nature, it appears that substance abuse has increased for every narcotic across the board. These statistics show that the Seattle substance abuse issue is the highest it’s been in the past 17 years (Aleccia, 2015). Coincidentally, Seattle had the highest annual precipitation rate in 2014 since 1996, making it the rainiest year in the past two decades (Seattle Annual Precipitation, 2015). It can be theorized that the increase in narcotic related deaths must be associated with the lack of UVB rays over the year.

     As a response to such an epidemic, on 11/18/2015, the FDA approved an anti-overdose nasal spray version of Naloxone to be sold over the counter in the counties surrounding Seattle. Washington State law (RCW 69.50.315) allows anyone at risk for having or witnessing a drug overdose to obtain access to a prescription for naloxone. Substance users, family members and concerned friends can all carry naloxone in the same way people with allergies are allowed to carry an epinephrine syringe, sometimes referred to as an "epi-pen" (StopOverdose.org, 2015). The product is now going for $40 on the market.

     Non-Substance Coping. Although substance abuse is at an all time high in the Emerald City, many residents of Seattle opt for ulterior ways of coping with the lack of sunlight. A “Sun Lamp” or “Light Box” is a common household appliance that is used to combat the lack of sunlight. Research has shown that some individuals benefit from 30 minutes of time around the appliance a day, resulting in uplifted spirits and positive mood changes (Canney, 2011).  Other forms of coping include getting Vitamin D tested, healthy diet, and connecting with nature when able to be active outside.

     Many efforts are being taken to combat the overproduction of melatonin from the lack of sunshine. On 11/18/2015, the Seattle School Board voted 6-1 to push public school to start no earlier than 8:30 in an effort to provide the students with adequate sleep in hopes of increasing academic performance while decreasing teen substance addiction and depression (Kim, 2015). Because the weather in the Northern East Coast plays by a different set of rules, those living within the area must do so as well by making shifts in policy and structure. These institutional attempts to cope with the lack of sunlight give Seattle hope for a brighter future.

Reykjavik, Iceland

            Reykjavik has an estimated population of 121,822 people (Iceland Demographics Profile 2014). Its weather patterns are unlike any experienced by those in the West as Icelanders only experience 1,268 hours of estimated sunlight per year- a significantly smaller number than the 2,170 that Seattle experiences (Average Sunshine a Year at Cities in Europe, n.d.). This amount of sunlight is, in fact, the least amount of hours for any city in the world. Whereas Seattle may have an estimated 8 ½ hours of sunlight a day, during the winter Iceland only gets four. While the rest of the world categorizes the Sun’s relation to the Earth in terms of “day” and “night”, Iceland uses different terms to categorize time--astronomical twilight, nautical twilight, civil twilight, and direct sunlight (Pease, 2013). Although this lack of UVB rays is as problematic as anywhere else to the people of Reykjavik, they seem to accept and triumph over this difficulty with a resounding force, overcoming all environmental deficits that may thwart their development through the hierarchy of needs. This triumph over the darkness can be verbalized in the ancient Icelandic saying, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing”.

            Recent findings have discovered that a lack of UVB rays is directly linked to cancer, yet according to Organization for Cooperation and Development, the last international survey of countries with cancer rates placed Iceland at 16, where the United States landed in 6th (9 Ways a Lack of Sun is Killing You, 2014). When investigating the prevalence of SAD in Iceland, researchers A. Magnusson and T. Partonen discovered its prevalence only among 3.8% of the population without any chronic obesity from weight gain. The weight gain and prevalence of SAD was less in Iceland despite its Northern latitudes when compared to that of East Coast United States, which was 9.29%.

            Narcotic Coping. The country of Iceland has a minimal amount of substance use and an almost nonexistent amount of substance abuse. Despite one fourth of the population saying they have experimented with drugs in the past, and 10.000 reporting to use cannabis on a regular basis throughout the entire country, substance use is not common for Icelanders (The Reykjavik Grapevine, 2013). A survey done by RUV, an Icelandic news source, questioned Icelanders between the ages 18-74 on their substance experimentation. They noted that those who tampered with substances had only done so very few times. The criminologist conducting the survey, Helgi Gunnlaugsson, reported that there are only a few hundred addicts in the entire country (Fjórðungur Íslendinga prófað fíkniefni, 2013).

            Non-Substance Coping. Icelanders appear to adopt a mindset of acceptance toward the dark. Using common sayings like “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Or “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” they show a demeanor of consent toward and appreciation for the changes in weather. Icelanders embrace activities of skiing, sledding, ice climbing, snow mobiling, and hockey during these twilight hours, uniting the community together through the darkness (Moore, n.d.).

Discussion

            Among many factors, the Sun affects moods through its regulation of melatonin. Depressive moods are linked to substance dependency as a crutch for coping with unmet needs. Reykjavik has more than 1,000 hours of darkness than Seattle and is in a more isolated area of the world, yet substance abuse is practically nonexistent.  Seattle had 314 drug related deaths in 2014, whereas Reykjavik’s substance abuse is so minimal, the statistics to quantitatively compare the city’s drug related deaths simply do not exist (Aleccia, 2015).

          An attractive and quick answer to explain the differences between the two might be to compare the Western principles of violence and individuality in contrast with Iceland’s peaceful and unified demeanor, but these principle driven cultural differences may not be the actual reasoning for an inability to cope. Reykjavik’s resilience over the dark may be due to the very nature of their remarkable isolation. While Seattle is the 20th largest city in the United States and a popular place to move for young professionals, those living in Rejkjavik were most likely born and raised there. Because Reykjavik has been established for over 1,000 years in the northern latitude, the population may have a tolerance toward winter darkness. According to Seattle.gov, the Emerald City’s population increased by 62,000 since 2010—a group of migrants most likely lacking a tolerance to winter blues.

            As practitioners, the takeaway from this cross comparison should be to consider all aspects of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when working with a client. Every element should be examined when there is an inability to cope. Substance abuse and depression can be triggered by an individual not getting their needs met. These needs are sometimes as interconnected systemically as a lack of positive mirroring from a partner or can show up in a physical form as seen in lacking healthy levels of Vitamin D in the body. If Reykjavik’s resilience over the dark is due to their isolation, perhaps this is a lesson in taking the role of detective when in session. Those things that are automatically categorized as unhealthy or simply overlooked may be the very thing that saves a city. Who would have thought that the presence of a star in the universe may directly affect the behavior of humankind?

 

References

9 Ways a Lack of Sun is Killing You. (2014, November 11). Retrieved November 20, 2015, from https://www.sunsprite.com/blog/9-ways-a-lack-of-sun-is-killing-you/

About Seattle. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2015, from http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/cityplanning/populationdemographics/aboutseattle/population/default.htm

Aleccia, J. (2015, June 18). Heroin Deaths Spike Nearly 60 Percent in Seattle Area. The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-418438092.html

Average Sunshine a Year at Cities in Europe. (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Europe/Cities/sunshine-annual-average.php

Canney, C. (2011, January 14). Career, Life, and Wellness Coach. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.altmd.com/Specialists/Colleen-Canney/Blog/Dealing-with-SAD-Seasonal-Affective-Disorder

Cobain, K. (1993). Dumb (Nirvana). On In Utero.

Days of Sunshine Per Year in Washington. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2015, from http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Washington/annual-days-of-sunshine.php

Drug Abuse Not A Great Problem In Iceland - The Reykjavik Grapevine. (2013, October 28). Retrieved November 20, 2015, from http://grapevine.is/news/2013/10/28/drug-abuse-not-a-great-problem-in-iceland/

Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. (4th ed.). (2000). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Fjórðungur Íslendinga prófað fíkniefni. (2013, October 27). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.ruv.is/frett/fjordungur-islendinga-profad-fikniefni

Ingles-Arkell, E. (2013). The Rat Park Experiment. I09. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from http://io9.com/the-rat-park-experiment-486168637

Kim, J. (2015, November 8). Seattle board approves changes in school start times. Q13 Fox. Retrieved November 21, 2015.

Page, J. Plant, R. (1970). Immigrant Song (Recorded by Led Zeppelin). On Led Zeppelin III.

Magnusson, A., & Partonen, T. (1993). Prevalence. Practice and Research Seasonal Affective Disorder, 221-234.

McLeod, S. (2007, September 17). Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Mercola, J. (2012, September 29). Sun Exposure: Benefits Beyond Vitamin D Production. Retrieved November 23, 2015, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/09/29/sun-exposure-vitamin-d-production-benefits.aspx

Moore, A. (n.d.). Northern Exposure: Surviving Winter in the Nordics as an Expat. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.expatarrivals.com/article/northern-exposure-surviving-winter-in-the-nordics-as-an-expat

Morrison, G., & Quitely, F. (2007). All-star Superman. New York: DC Comics.

Pease, K. (2013, November 22). So, There's No Sun Up There In The Winter, Right? - The Reykjavik Grapevine. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from http://grapevine.is/mag/column-opinion/2013/11/22/so-theres-no-sun-up-there-in-the-winter-right/

RCW 69.50.315: Medical assistance-Drug-related overdose-Naloxone-Prosecution for possession. (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=69.50.315

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (2013, March 9). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/in-depth/seasonal-affective-disorder-treatment/art-20048298

Seattle Annual Precipitation 1980-2014. (2014). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.seattleweatherblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/image0034.png

StopOverdose.org - Where to Get Naloxone / FAQs. (2015, November 18). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://stopoverdose.org/faq.htm#wherecan

Iceland Demographics Profile 2014. (2014). In The CIA world factbook 2014. Skyhorse Pub.

 

Book Recommendations

2017 has been a little difficult, yeah? It has been for me too. I've been trying to stay grounded among the chaos. Here is a list of the books that I've read and this year during my hibernation. Depending upon mood, I recommend them all.

 

The Cave of Time

Remember those old Choose Your Own Adventure books? This is the first one. In the book, the protagonist (you), stumbles upon a mysterious cave. Within the cave you see two portals, one that goes back in time and one that goes into the future. Spoiler alert-- if you go too far back, you get eaten by dinosaurs, and if you go to far into the future you are zapped by aliens. The book teaches that no matter which decision you make, staying in the present moment is the only way to exist. 

Nightmares and what we can learn from them

I woke from a very vivid nightmare at about 5am this morning. In the dream I was chased by rats in a sewer. Once I reached the light and stepped out of a manhole, a hooded figure slashed at me repeatedly. I remember thinking—“this is death, but I feel no pain. I only feel fear.”

Once I was more conscious and able to reflect on the nightmare, I pondered on my own fear of death. It was a lesson from a teacher I would never choose—the nightmare professor and my Kali teacher from last night.

This experience came from the shadow—or rather my shadow. This is the Jungian concept of going deeper into the parts of our lives we hide to find meaning, truth, and understanding.  In the end, diving into the shadow makes us whole and more centered in our own existence.

Whoa. Heavy. Let’s take a step back and try and understand this.

So I’m not sure where I heard it. I think it might have been a podcast or something, but it was explained to me that the shadow is the unchosen parts of us. And that’s simply it. It’s not the parts of us that are good or bad, but simply the unchosen parts. Jung believed that these parts live within us still and unless we dive into them, we won’t become whole.

We automatically think of the shadow as evil simply because it was unchosen.

Example: If you decide to major in marketing because you see it is practical, but you feel as though your true calling is being a veterinarian, then the shadow is your love for working with animals. If you explore the drive to work with animals and what made you feel called to that, then several things could happen: You could find a career shift, or you might not hate marketing so much because your need is met by walking dogs around town lake. This makes you more whole.

Example: If you come from a staunch traditionalist background, yet feel ashamed because you know that you are gay, then exploring your shadow is trying to make sense of the urges as they are the unchosen parts of who you are. Joseph Campbell might say this is your heroes journey with the only result of finding balance between the traditionalism and your innate and predisposed sexual drives.

Example: A more common exploration might be saying something stupid, slightly off-color at a party that might be inappropriate and offensive. Exploring the reasons why it came out and what brought you to say those things is shadow-work as well.

It’s important to note that the shadow is an ever-present part of us and that the unconscious has no understanding of time. So if we don’t explore it, then we suppress emotions, and may end up acting out.

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In Star Wars, there is constant talk of the dark and the light being two dichotomous forces opposing one another. In my mind, the entire purpose is to “bring balance to the force”, and if one side were to simply cease to exist, then the universe wouldn’t be balanced and chaos would ensue.

So what is the takeaway?

The point is that it’s not fun and it’s uncomfortable, but if we really want to do good work and become balanced then we have to do shadow-work. Explore your unchosen parts from a loving and mindful state. Discover why you decided what you did. View your existence without judgment from an angle of a multiverse and see the patterns in what has made you YOU and the parts of you that are unchosen.

All the love,

-Andy