Dr. Carol Clark

Be In Light

The offspring of a customized orbiter
Dr. Carol Clark is a Board certified sex therapist and addictions counselor, president and senior instructor at the Sex Therapy Training Institute and is an adjunct professor at Carlos Albizu University in Miami, Florida.
Our over-stimulated lifestyles have led to a disconnection from each other and the Universe. The themes and exercises in this book will help you to Connect and be present, leading to a more fulfilled and peaceful life.
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Dr. Carol L Clark

There are so many meanings to these words: I lost my voice. In my case, I caught a bad cold and had three days of laryngitis, so I actually lost my voice. It’s a scary feeling to open one’s mouth and have no sound come out. There was literally an emptiness in my throat. I’m talking total loss – no croaking, no hoarseness, no squeaks. Nothing, no voice at all.

I had never really thought about what it would mean to lose my voice. I couldn’t answer the phone, I couldn’t call my dog, and I couldn’t do my job. I am a counselor and a professor. I talk for a living. I’ve often thought that I’m fortunate in that if I ever became disabled, perhaps in a wheelchair or blind, I could still do my job. No voice, though, how can I teach or counsel?

So here I am writing. I can do that. It is a different medium and the words are comprehended in a different manner entirely. I hear in my head what I’m typing but you will be giving my words different inflections and intonation. There is so much meaning conveyed when we use our voice to emphasize, to convey humor or gravity.

The new technology is grasping this and we use emoticons to try to convey more accurate meanings with our words. Smiley faces, “lol,” and winks help to fill the gap of not hearing a voice. There is still a disconnect though.

Losing one’s voice has deeper meanings than just not being able to talk. It can mean that I have lost my identity, lost my equality, and lost my power. If I am in a group of people discussing the topic of the day and I cannot talk, then I have lost my voice insofar as even being a part of the conversation. I am an outsider – listening, nodding, smiling or frowning – there, but not there, physically in the circle, but not a part of it. Can I write my opinions or gesticulate my thoughts? That would not last long. People would grow tired and bored and move away. The biggest motivator of human behavior is belonging to the group and I would lose that belonging without my voice.

Minorities, disenfranchised groups, and individuals who do not have equal rights in society have lost their voices. They form their own groups not just for a sense of belonging, but so they can strengthen their collective voice and be heard by the dominant group. We often think of people who are using loud voices as wanting to dominate and control, but maybe they just want to be part of the conversation and have been excluded. They are crying out to be heard and to assert their identity. They want to Connect.

My voice is back and I now have a new understanding of what it means to lose it. I have a deeper compassion for those without a voice. My challenge is to listen through different senses and allow the Connection that needs no voice.

Be In Light

I’m struggling with Ego issues at the moment, so it seems apt to write about this topic.

The reason I’m struggling is because someone made some disparaging remarks about one of the programs I developed and in which I am deeply involved. The comments were not truthful and frankly unfair and my first response (still lingering, hence the struggle) is from my Caveman Brain, where dwells the limbic system containing all emotions. I am also experiencing some physical reactions caused by the adrenaline and other neurotransmitters that make life interesting.

My daily work as a counselor is with people who find it difficult to deal with exactly this – an external event that triggers emotional and physiological responses that in turn lead to undesirable behavior. I know that our emotions are the result of unconscious thoughts that stem from negative childhood experiences. For example, being brought up in a dysfunctional alcoholic household where my very identity was largely dismissed and ignored led to the ingrained thought “There’s something wrong with me.” That, in spite of my own therapy and my years of personal and professional growth, is still the occasional default, as happened today.

When I work with clients, we go back and uncover those negative beliefs and re-process them. I use EMDR, but other therapists utilize other interventions successfully. I know that people like the one who was mean to me today (see how easily I revert to childhood!) have their own issues and that my higher self wants to be kind and compassionate and forgiving.

It takes practice, mindfulness, true desire, and also an awareness of just how powerful that Caveman Brain can be. The limbic system is where addiction moves in and takes up residence. We get “high” off all that adrenaline, enkephalins, dopamine, etc. When my blood is thundering in my ears (ok, maybe just pulsing a bit, I’m being melodramatic) I feel powerful. I’m on high alert and damn the torpedoes! I am able to recognize this and see the paradox of power – I am, while in that state, not powerful at all. Rather, I am truly in control of myself when I can make a decision how to respond based on my values and own sense of self.

People can become addicted to anger and drama just as they do to sex, gambling, shopping, and drugs. Anger can fuel the other addictive behaviors by giving permission to act out. How easily I could have said “I really need a drink now.” There was a time when I would have smoked half a pack of cigarettes.

Instead, I made choices. First, not to act in a way I knew I would be sorry for later. Then to look for meaning and personal growth. Hence, this article. Finally, there is the possibility of Connection in this.

I started out talking about the Ego. There is another paradox, which is so common when we talk about addiction and recovery. Our Egos are how we identify ourselves, what makes each of us who we are. Our Egos are also what keep us in addiction in that we turn inwards and focus only on the “rush” that allows escape from the pain of our disconnection. Letting go of the Ego allows us to Connect to the Universe and every living thing in it, including the people who piss us off. The paradox is that each of us is Connected and so our Egos are a part of that. We don’t need to lose ourselves, deny ourselves, or act against ourselves for the greater good. Everyone’s good is my good. My compassion for that mean person is compassion for myself, because we are Connected. And of course, I need that compassion and understanding. I’ve been there and done that when it comes to being thoughtless and even mean. So in the end, my Ego brought me back to Connection. I’m calm now and ready for sleep.

Be In Light

I thought about suicide last night.

I was taking a bath after a long, swelteringly hot, strenuous day in the yard. Actually, jungle is a more apt word. I live in Miami and the heat and the rain this summer have turned my gardens into overgrown rain forests, with vines choking the flowering bushes that are flowing over their borders and smothering those plants residing closer to the ground. The sun was brutal and in spite of my husband’s admonition, I “overdid it.”

With a pounding head and aching muscles, I tried to find comfort in our oversized tub, but without anything to lean comfortably against, I finally just lay back and let myself float, mouth and nose barely above the water surface.

In time, I relaxed and my head felt better. I sat up and opened the drain. With my head bent, watching the water begin to run out, I thought of how easy it would be to die. I imagined just fading away to darkness, to emptiness. For long moments I allowed this release of all struggle, of all pain, of all need to do anything. Just let go.

I thought of Robin Williams, who recently gave in to this feeling. I thought about what I knew of him, which is only what any of us knew – his stardom, his addictions, his struggle for sobriety. I thought of how the world has been mourning and questioning what would bring him to that place of just giving up when he had so much for which to live. For a few moments, I thought I knew. He just let go.

Of course I didn’t let go. Not in that way at least. I’m not really suicidal, but I work with people who struggle with addiction and depression, with pain and hopelessness. At times, in spite of all my years of education and experience, I simply give them to God. The answers, however, sometimes come, as they did last night. Answers that I already had but needed to feel in a different way.

Just let go. Just give up the struggle. Not by letting go of life, but by letting go of trying to live in a way that forces us to struggle for some external reward that gives us a sense of worth.

Just like addicts, so many of us struggle with “white knuckling” it. We want to maintain our lifestyles but without the addiction – the obsessive, compulsive behavior that keeps us from just enjoying the moment. We want everything to stay the same – friends, activities, jobs – and just not drink, or drug, or sexually act out, or gamble, or overwork, or any of the other activities in our lives that become out of control. Change is hard. For everyone, not just addicts. I want my lifestyle and everything that comes with it. Yet sometimes, it overwhelms me and I want to just let go.

This is why I look at us all as addicts. Those thoughts and behaviors that are about what comes next and fill us with anxiety are addictive and disconnect us from what is really important. When we Connect with each other, in this moment, then we are living life in recovery and health. This is what the Serenity Prayer and Step One are all about – letting go. Making decisions for a good life comes down to this question: “Is this for my addiction or is this for my recovery?” Life becomes very simple this way because we always know. We know what is really important and it is not fame or money or possessions. We can use this question whether or not we identify as addicts.

Last night I thought about suicide and then I got out of the tub, dried off, and went in to sit on the couch with my husband.

Let go and just live.

Be In Light

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

 

This quote, attributed to Aristotle, is the underlying principle for changing one’s life.

 

How many times have you tried to change your behavior by removing something? “I won’t eat sugar and carbs,” “I’m going to stop smoking cigarettes,” “I won’t look at porn tonight,” or “I’m not going to drink more than one drink at the party.” All examples of removing something and leaving a vacuum.

 

Since nature abhors a vacuum, when you create one with using a negative and removing something, the vacuum will suck back in whatever is most available, which is the very thing that you just tried to take away.

 

So instead of deprivation, frame your intention with a positive action that will contribute to you becoming the person you want to be. When I quit smoking for the fifth (and last) time, I finally took on my new identity as a non-smoker. When I craved a cigarette, I said “I am a non-smoker!” and simply turned my attention back to what I was doing in that moment.

 

Schedule your day and fill your time with the activities and behaviors that are congruent with your desired self. Let go of fighting what you want in the next moment and notice what is present in this one, which is already what you decided you want.

 

I am exercising, I am talking to a friend, I am walking my dog, I am breathing.

 

Be In Light

When Counting Sheep Doesn’t Work

By Dr. Carol Clark

Have you ever lain awake at night, wanting and needing desperately to sleep, but your thoughts keep going a mile a minute? Of course you have, we all have, and it just makes it worse when we try to stop it by arguing with ourselves, getting up and down, tossing and turning, and thinking about how fast the morning will come.