Letters to Deepak

Dear Deepak,

Why am I so scared to feel anything for anyone?

A: Usually fear of intimacy is due to memories of being hurt in the past. We mistakenly think that if we stop caring for others and numb out our feelings, then we can avoid future emotional pain and loss. In fact, by holding on to the fear all we are doing is perpetuating the pain of the past continuously into our present experience. Instead of opening our hearts to new possibilities of love, we choose fear and relive our past hurts day after day. Once we have identified these past emotional traumas, we can resolve them through insight, forgiveness, and integration. This releases the grip of fear and we can then feel safe to open our hearts to others.


Dear Deepak,

I saw your interview on CNN about 6 months ago where you said in order to be content in life spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally, you should ask yourself two questions everyday and wait for the answer: “Who am I?,” and “What do I want?” Deepak, what should I hear?

A: What you should hear is what your higher self answers. There is no correct answer. It is an ongoing dialogue of self-discovery that unfolds more and more each day. What you should learn about yourself over time is that who you are is less and less defined by your physical characteristics and personal beliefs, and more and more by the unchanging, universal attributes of your higher self. You will also find as you go deeper and deeper into your nature, that what you want is less about having money and objects and more about becoming abundance, bliss and fulfillment itself. But don't try to jump ahead to the ideal, just listen and follow what you really hear. It is more productive to follow that authentic voice of what you are and what you want right now, because that is what unlocks the transformation to deeper wisdom.

The Chopra Center is dedicated to awakening balance, healing, and transformation in individuals and communities. For more information on the Center's Perfect Health program and awakening one's true inner essence, visit chopra.com or call 888/424-6772


Strategic Counseling- Beliefs that Heal

How can one begin to overcome emotional distress in the quickest way possible? In this 2-part series I will share the model of psychotherapy (psycho-spiritual counseling) I have developed. Part II will be about “Techniques that Heal.” Those of you who read this column are familiar with my work in holistic health. The umbrella of all my work is “Integrative Medicine.” Half of my treatment approach involves nutritional medicine and half involves strategic counseling. I want to make this clear because total healing is most likely to occur when people address body, mind, spirit . . . and even more dimensions of life. By only addressing nutritional deficiencies, one only sees part of the picture.

My approach to counseling is not the one-and-only or the “best” approach. Rather it is “my” approach, forged out of 30 years working with a vast array of human experience. What I know is that there is no single psychotherapist who is suited to work with all people, and there is no one particular treatment modality that will work for all people.

Like all relationships, work with a therapist/healer is a relationship. No matter how eloquent your therapist's words may be, if you don't click, if you don't feel understood, or if you leave that first session feeling worse than before the session, you are probably in the wrong healing relationship. The “relationship,” built on mutual understanding, hope, trust, and a shared belief in what causes illness and what cures, is the important ingredient in healing. However, the healer himself is the most important ingredient, and not his beliefs, techniques, or credentials.

Here are my goals when I meet a client for the first time:

1. Connect,

2. Listen at a profound, non-judgmental level,

3. Inspire hope,

4. Decide if I believe I can help this individual, and

5. Map out a plan of action, which includes an explanation of the chances of success, the duration of therapy, and an explanation of why I think that person is in pain . . . and what strategy is most likely to be beneficial.

I almost always have a very clear idea at the end of the first session about the problem, the treatment, and the likelihood of success. However, it is important that I don't consider my opinions to be fact. I have worked with people who, at the beginning, seemed like they were not likely to benefit much. But they proved me wrong. These people did go through a phase of resistance to change, but after they were able to work through that resistance, they did phenomenally well. So, I am careful not to make judgments that are etched in stone. Rather I make educated “projections.”

All patients are required to complete an extensive Health and Wellness Assessment Form (HWAF) before their first session. It is the same form for those with mental/emotional problems and those with physical symptoms. The HWAF gives me an enormous amount of information. In addition, the HWAF is actually set up as a healing tool in itself, so that the individual filling out the HWAF has learned a tremendous amount about herself before she has even met me.

Re-Designing the Life Puzzle

To illustrate part of the approach of strategic counseling, I imagine that, when I first meet my patient, she is a 20-piece puzzle. In that first session, I take in a huge amount of information, using both analytical skills, intuition, and psychic ability (to whatever extent it is developed within me). At the end of that session, I am “holding” a 1,000-piece puzzle, and I have had to expand my consciousness to hold all of these pieces, to hold the entire life story within my mind. Some of those pieces we can simply discard. My patient can just toss some of the pieces out of her life. Metaphorically, there are other pieces that I help her move around, so that a particular piece is occupying a different place in her total puzzle at the end of the session. We are able to re-frame some of the pieces. We have not made that piece (that problem or symptom) disappear, but we have looked at it in a radically new way that transforms the problem and the individual.

After that first session, the 1,000 pieces of her life puzzle re-assemble into a different shape, and things come together in a more whole way, a more peaceful way. . . but my patient usually does not think that anything has happened at all, until she comes in for her next session and tells me that she feels different, that things have begun to shift in her life for the better…but she is not quite sure why she feels better. That is okay with me. People don't need to understand how the puzzle re-assembles, but here is why this process works. My intention is to raise consciousness, and not simply to remove symptoms. I put a great deal of effort into raising my own consciousness as well as the vibration of the office itself. By so doing, the beginning of this healing relationship takes place within a resonating field of higher consciousness in which truth and dharma (powerful right action) are the two most important ingredients. By holding a person's entire life in my expanded field, with the express goal of raising consciousness, the pieces of that puzzle “are” going to shift and re-assemble at a higher level of consciousness.

Part of the shift in consciousness involves assisting my patient in becoming the Witness of the workings of her mind, and to begin to disengage from the false idea that she “is” her mind. The simple practice of meditation (which is my main “medication”) helps people shift from thinking they ARE the mind to being the Witness of their mind. The shift to being the Witness “is” a rise in consciousness.

Beliefs that Heal

It is most helpful if healer and healee share similar beliefs about why people suffer and how suffering is relieved. If these beliefs are not shared, the healer's job is to explain his model in clear terms, so that the work he is doing does not seem like hocus-pocus. There is no treatment model that is so complex or elevated that the healee/patient would not be capable of understanding it. If the model is so complex that it cannot be explained, it is highly unlikely to be a valid method. Here are some of the beliefs that guide my work:

1 My job is to inspire hope.

2.There is no false hope. There is only “false no hope,” to quote Dr. Bernie Siegel.

3. My job is to create an environment in which healing can occur.

4. Everyone has the inner resources for healing within. I serve as their guide, their teacher, their confidant . . . but not the person that they must come see once a week for 6 months or 6 years. My goal is to teach tools of self-empowerment and help my patient recover as fast as possible.

5. Problems, symptoms, goals, and experiences are important to me. Formal diagnoses are far less important, with the exception that I must know if the individual has schizophrenia, true mania (vastly over-diagnosed) or true biological depression. I have written one new order for anti-depressant medication in the last five years, although if people come to me who are already on medication, I will continue prescribing if they wish, and if I think it is indicated. Most people who come to me who are taking anti-depressants want my help in getting off meds. Usually we can succeed at that goal, but other times we can't.

6. Lasting change can be instantaneous. I have already explained, in part, why this is true. I began to observe instantaneous change more than 20 years ago. By this I mean that by the second session, my patient's work was done, her pain was dramatically relieved, and she truly did not need to see me anymore. From a financial standpoint, this evolution in my work was not helpful. From a moral and spiritual standpoint, I simply knew that, if it were possible to help people change incredibly quickly, then that was my job…and it was God's job to send me a lot of new patients, because psychotherapists make a living by seeing patients for a very long time. This is my deal with God and She has been cooperative.

7. Change does not need to be painful. It is quite American to say, “No pain, no gain.” It is also incorrect. If you think that you must yell your guts out and scream out all the pain . . . and then you will be free from pain, you are wrong.

8. In marriages and families that are having problems, there is almost always one core misunderstanding. After I have listened to layers of emotion, mistrust, betrayal, and the like, if there is genuine love, the core misunderstanding will eventually become clear. By “eventually,” I mean, “by the end of the first session.” No wailing of tears is required, although it certainly comes up in the work I do.

9. Those with strong spiritual faith and connection will do much better than those without.

10. What is required for deep, lasting change is courage—courage to discover one's truth, the right course of action, and courage to take action, no matter how scary that might seem. The very act of taking powerful right action, or dharma, in-and-of-itself is healing. You become stronger when you practice dharma, and weaker when you do not.

11. What you believe about change has a lot to do with how quickly you will change.

12. Creative outlets need to be fostered. Those who are artists or musicians who have given up their art MUST pick up that instrument, and are strongly encouraged to do so when they get home after their first session.

13. Search for your fears. They are the doorway to your power.

14. Focusing on one's passion, mission or goals is extremely important, and is more important in the healing process than focusing on my patient's weaknesses. Those without a passion need help in finding their passion, because without that, I cannot make life meaningful for someone else, no matter what I do, no matter what techniques I use…not even if I managed to attain and sustain samadhi levels of consciousness. I have “attained” a few times. I have not “sustained.”

15. Healing and curing are different. I may help heal someone, but they may still die from terminal cancer. In “healing into death” they will have died feeling healed and whole.

16. It is my job to look for the Divine in the individual sitting in the chair facing me.

17. It is not possible for me to fully understand why a person is suffering, especially if the suffering has gone on for a long time. There are invisible (spiritual and metaphysical) factors, especially karma, which can play a heavy role in illness. Karma must be played out, lived out, survived, and transcended.

18. There are no limitations to the growth that my patient/healee may attain. I blow up (destroy) limitations and fixed ideas about what is possible and what is impossible. If I believe my patient can only go just so far, she probably won't exceed my expectations. Because I believe that periodically I will be delightfully surprised by a person's radical transformation, I see miracles.

David Gersten, M.D. practices nutritional medicine and transpersonal psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. He built the 1,800 pages at www.aminoacidpower.com and the 800 pages about mental imagery at www.imagerynet.com. He has served as the mental imagery consultant to Rodale Press/Prevention Magazine on 18 books, published Atlantis the Imagery Newsletter for 7 years, and consulted to the White House on “Cost Effectiveness of Alternative Medicine.” He authored The POW Survival Guide, and Are You Getting Enlightened Or Losing Your Mind?


Dear Louise
Don't miss Louise Hay's special message of Gratitude for Thanksgiving

Dear Louise,

I've been told that I may have cancer of the esophagus. I'm so surprised, especially since I never even get sore throats or colds! What can this mean?

T.N. , Santa Barbara

Dear T.N.,

If “they” are saying that you may have cancer of the esophagus, I'd definitely get a second and even a third opinion. Second, I'd go to a good nutritionist and have a major diet overhaul. This may only be a warning sign for you to make changes in your life.

Pick up a copy of Healthy Healing by Dr. Linda Page, and read her section on this dis-ease.

On the mental level, conditions in the area of the esophagus can mean a deeply held conflict about whether and what to take in, in the way of nutrients. The person may feel a deep distrust to all that the Universe can provide them. Affirmations to use: My body is always working toward optimum health. My body wants to be whole and healthy. I listen with love to my body's messages.

Dear Louise,

I'm a Westerner living in China doing as much as I can to assist the people around me and help the country to grow. Can you please give me your thoughts on herpes? STDs are really a problem. Thank you for your insight.

A.C., Guangzhou, China

Dear A.C.,

Sexually transmitted dis-eases (STDs) are a problem everywhere—China, as you know, is no exception. I commend the work you're doing, as it's certainly not an easy task. Not only are you dealing with dis-ease, you're also dealing with a totally different culture. Herpes attacks the body when the immunity is low; poor diet is also a risk factor. People who attract herpes often have a massive belief in sexual guilt and the need for punishment. They're full of public shame, and they're convinced that God's going to punish them for being who they are. They're usually intensely rejecting of their genitals and of themselves.

How you'll translate this into their culture is up to you. Ask the Universe for guidance and to bring you someone there you can discuss this with. Affirm: All the information I need for my work is easily brought to me. I am solution oriented!

Dear Louise,

I've read a number of your books, and I love them. How can I stop thinking of others and start changing how I think of myself? I have all the answers for others, and I know what I need to do, but I can't get out of my own way.

C.S. , Boston

Dear C.S.,

Why are you not worth saving? What have you done that's so terrible that convinces you you're not lovable? If you answer these questions, you'll discover that there's really nothing wrong with you—you've just been operating under a false premise all these years. You absolutely must take the leap of faith and accept that you're lovable and are willing to fall in love with yourself. If you don't, you'll leave the planet one day still believing that you're “not good enough.”

Okay now, get off this negative spiral and get yourself to a mirror. Don't look for flaws! Begin, instead, to say: “I love you. I really, really love you.” And stick with it. Say that each time you pass a mirror and every time a negative thought comes up. I know you can do this! And you can do it now. I believe in you!

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