Love, Lust and the Longing for God

The final book in the Longing series is now available — combining the complete text of my three previous books. It is a powerful tool for personal transformation.

In The Secret of Emotions I explained how to understand the spiritual meaning behind our emotional sensations and offered a whole new vocabulary for understanding the language of the heart. In 4 Tools of Emotional Healing I used this language to explore the healing potential of Honesty, Forgiveness, Compassion and Faith and offered practical guidance as to how to apply them to our daily lives. In Longing for Love I applied this unique understanding of emotions to the question of how to find and nurture healthy relationships, while avoiding shame-based relationships and addictive or compulsive acting out.

Now all three of these life-lessons are available in Love, Lust and the Longing for God, a single volume that will be equally useful for individuals trying to understand their life challenges and therapists trying to explain the subtleties of the healing process to their clients.

We All Have Faith in Something

We all have faith in something. The question is whether we have faith that we will succeed, or faith that we will fail; faith that the world is a safe place, or faith that it is out to get us; faith that there is meaning to our lives or faith that the universe is a great cosmic accident in which we are just a tiny blip.
We also all believe in a Transcendent Higher Power, no matter how vehemently we try to deny it. This belief began before we were even born and was reinforced every day of our lives for the duration of our emotional development.
We are born helpless and dependent upon adults who had much more power than we did. We believe, to the very core of our subconscious beings, that there is a power outside of us that is greater than we are because we experienced such a power every day of our early lives. Our feelings of helplessness and powerlessness were therefore embedded in our emotional reality at birth. They are the foundational scaffolding upon which our early emotional and intellectual world-views were built.
Our pre-verbal awareness that as infants we were subject to the whims of forces more powerful than ourselves was reinforced by at least 10-15 years of additional experiences during our childhood and youth. It would be unrealistic to think we could erase these feelings from our psyches. No matter what our head tells us, our hearts tell us that there is something bigger than us out there. It would do no good to engage in an intellectual argument with our hearts over whether or not there is a God.

If we resign ourselves to the idea that a part of us will always believe in a Higher Power, we can still do three things. First, we can accept that our hearts will always long for a source of power, strength and protection. This is not a sign of weakness; it is simply a universal aspect of the human condition.
Second, we can work to uncover what our subconscious and emotional beliefs about that Higher Power might be. We will always believe in a force bigger than ourselves, but we can wrestle some power back from it by being able to name it and describe how it has influenced us.
Finally, we can use this use this understanding to slowly redefine our Higher Power, both mentally and emotionally, to be more supportive and loving. Instead of denying or doing battle with the Higher Power we grew up with, we can transform it; educate it; turn it into the loving Force that we need it to be in our hearts.

 

Longing for Love Is Now Available

I finished the final editing of the third book in my series with a few days to spare.  It is already available through Amazon, and I will be getting a supply in a few days to sell through my company.
In other news, I’m continuing to get really touching reviews for The Secret of Emotions, like this one from Sue Woods at GoodReads:

I love this book. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. It has given me so many things to think about that most self help books leave out.I am especially thankful that the chart on page 88 is in the book. I am just amazed that the author Justice Saint Rain has given the world a way to recognize our motivations. And in such easy simple ways. This is a small book with a very very big message that can be used by every human being who ever wanted to give their walk in this life a more positive spin and actually know what they are doing and why. Thank you so much Justice.
P.S. I will never be finished reading this book as I intend to keep going back to it to gauge my growth progress, encouragement and support.

Speaking of GoodReads.com, there are only a few days left in my 4 Tools of Emotional Healing give-away.  Sign up for a chance to win!

Now that all three books are done, I might finally have time to write some new blog posts.

Stay tuned!

Second Book Give-Away at GoodReads.com

In my last book give-away over 600 people entered to win one of 200 copies of The Secret of Emotions.  Now I am giving away 19 print copies of 4 Tools of Emotional Healing.  Click here to go to Good Reads and enter.  You will need to join Good Reads, but it is free.  While there, don’t forget to rate and/or write a review of any of my other books you’ve read.

Thanks,

Justice

 

Faith, Addiction, and the Marshmallow Test Revisited

Adapted from 4 Tools of Emotional Healing.

How can faith help you control your impulses, delay gratification and make healthier decisions?  Let me describe some recent research that sheds some interesting light on the connection.

Researchers have known for decades that people who have trouble with controlling their impulses, or delaying gratification have a much harder time succeeding in life. They are more likely to do drugs, drop out of school, experience an unintended pregnancy, etc. Researchers know this because of a long-term follow-up study of children who participated in what is known as “The Marshmallow Test” at Stanford University in the 1960’s. In it, researchers leave a 4-year-old alone in a room with a single marshmallow or other treat and tell them that if they can wait until the researcher comes back in ten minutes to eat it, they can have TWO treats instead of one. Children who were good at this—who waited the longest without eating the treat—were found to be more successful in many areas of their life as they grew into adulthood.

The fact that this one test correlated with a long-term pattern of behavior seemed to indicate that it was exposing an innate character quality in these children. A child was either good at delaying gratification or he wasn’t, and if he wasn’t when the test was given, he probably wouldn’t ever be. This consistency suggested that an ability to wait for a greater good was somehow written into a child’s DNA.

The fact that poor kids tended to do less well on this test was explained, not by their poverty, but by an inherited predisposition for irresponsible behavior and short-term thinking.

So where does faith come in? Well, about 50 years later, as it turns out.

In a 2012 study of 56 three-to-five-year-olds, researchers at University of Rochester found that children who experienced reliable interactions with a researcher immediately before the marshmallow experiment waited on average four times longer to eat the marshmallow than children who had an unreliable interaction.

For this new version of the study, children were given two activities. In the first activity, they were promised a reward if they did an art project as requested. After doing the project, half of the children were given the promised reward, and half were not. Later, this same researcher told them that if they waited to eat their marshmallow, they would get a second one.

The children who had faith that the researcher would do as he promised waited a mean time of twelve minutes, while those who expected the researcher to let them down waited a mean time of three minutes—only one quarter as long.

The ones waiting three minutes were not poorer, less bright, or less able to control their impulses. They had less faith that waiting would gain them any advantage.

They had learned from experience that promises are broken, people are unreliable, and pleasure should be grabbed while it is sitting in front of you. As one of the researchers said, “If you are used to getting things taken away from you, not waiting is the rational choice.”

This new study provides strong evidence that the kids who lacked self-control in the ‘60s were probably living in unstable households before they even walked through the door to take the test. Is it any wonder, then, that the follow-up studies found them to be less successful?

Many of us also grew up in unstable homes. Even if we had religious faith, we did not necessarily have faith that God and the universe were looking out for our best interests. The idea that there was plenty to go around never occurred to us. We expected to run out; we expected to be disappointed; we expected to be lied to; we sometimes even expected to be hurt and abused. These expectations were developed as a result of our interaction with those whom we should have been able to trust. As a corollary to these expectations, we also expected to fail, to have the rug pulled out from under us, and to be caught in an endless Catch 22 of bureaucratic gotcha’s.

The expectation that life will kick you when you are down creates a self-sabotaging attitude. Why study if you will never graduate? Why wait to have sex if you will never have a career? Why not take drugs, if they make you feel good now?

When we combine this expectation of failure with feelings of guilt and shame, it is not surprising that many of us go through our days subconsciously looking for proof that the world is out to get us. When that is what we expect to see, that is exactly what we find.

New Book, New Editions and a Thank You!

In case you haven’t heard, the second book in my Love, Lust and the Longing for God series is now available.  4 Tools of Emotional Healing and The Secret of Emotions are both now available in paperback and as KINDLE editions at Amazon, at InterfaithResources and at BahaiResources for instant download.

Thank you, also to the 600+ people who entered to win a free copy of The Secret of Emotions.  The 200 winners should receive their copy in the next week or so, as they were mailed today.

Win a Free Copy of The Secret of Emotions

Click here to enter a drawing at Goodreads.com to win a printed copy of my book The Secret of Emotions.  With 200 copies available, you have a good chance of winning. The deadline is the day after Christmas, and the books will go out the first of January.  You will probably have to join GoodReads to enter, but it is a great place to hear about new books, get book recommendations and read reviews.

Thanksgiving Part 2 – Gratitude and Happiness Research

If the idea that practicing virtues like gratitude can make us happy sounds more spiritual than scientific, you may be surprised to learn that the Positive Psychology Movement has some hard research to back up this claim.

The best-known research is described in the book Authentic Happiness, by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. In his groundbreaking study, Seligman asked volunteers to do one of five different tasks.  At the beginning of the study, and for six months after, they also took an online happiness/depression assessment to measure their state of mind.

Of the five tasks, one was supposed to be an “inert” or “placebo” activity.  As expected, it had a small and short-lived effect on the participant’s happiness. One of the other initial activities also had a small effect that lasted slightly longer.

Three activities, however, had a significant effect on the participant’s happiness that lasted longer than expected.

In the one that had the strongest immediate effect, participants were given a week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude – in person – to someone who had been especially kind to them but had never been properly thanked.  These people’s happiness went up dramatically right after the exercise, and then slowly returned to normal over a six month period.  (I describe the other exercises in The Secret of Emotions).

Gratitude, of course, is a core virtue, so it should not surprise anyone that such an intense expression of it would have a positive effect on a person’s feelings, but that this positive effect could last up to six months gives us reason for encouragement in our own lives.

Perhaps before this Thanksgiving, each of us should set aside some time to not only think about what we are grateful for this year, but actually write it down.  Think ahead to all of the people you expect to see at your Thanksgiving feast, and try to remember something nice they have done, or some character quality that you particularly admire, and then write it down on a card.  When it comes around to your turn to tell people what you are grateful for, instead of stumbling through a last-minute list of half-remembered, half-sincere appreciations, you can share with each person at the table exactly how much they mean to you.

I guarantee you that the time you spend on this will be remembered by both you and your family much longer than your candied yams.

Thanksgiving Part 1 – Is Gratitude a Feeling or a Virtue?

Thanksgiving provides the perfect opportunity to illustrate one of the central themes of my books – that our emotions are sensations that tell us about the presence or absence of virtues in our lives.

In The Secret of Emotions, I present a list of words.  Here are just a few of them: Enthusiasm, Faith, Forgiveness, Friendship, Generosity, Gentleness, Grace, Gratitude.

Look at them closely.  These words represent both virtues and emotions.  How can that be?  It appears that when we experience virtues, they generate strong emotions, and when we feel strong emotions, we are motivated to practice the corresponding virtues.

The correlation between emotions and virtues is strong, yet subtle.  One of the best ways to illustrate it is by considering the virtue of gratitude, or thankfulness.

When we were children many of us were forced to write thank-you notes to friends and relatives for gifts that we weren’t really grateful for.  As adults, we have maintained the habit of saying “thank you” for even small favors as a way of showing courtesy.  When we say “thank you” as a courtesy, we often don’t feel any sensations of gratitude because we are not really grateful, we are simply being polite.

But think of a time when you truly were grateful – when someone went beyond the call of duty and did something extra special for you.  Can you remember that feeling?  That sense of, “this is so wonderful, I really can’t thank you enough!” There is a sensation there, isn’t there?  That sensation is the emotion of gratitude, and it is generated by the virtue of being grateful for one of the many gifts you have received in your life.

Gratitude the virtue is something we can learn, develop and practice.  Gratitude the feeling is something we can ignore, numb, and minimize, or we can celebrate it, cultivate it, and express it every chance we get.

The Thanksgiving season is a good time to think about our relationship to gratitude.  For all of the many times we say “thank you” how often do we really allow ourselves to feel the sensation of gratitude?  If we don’t feel it, then are we really practicing the virtue, or just giving it lip service?  Does it matter?

Here is my favorite quotation on the subject:

“Thankfulness is of various kinds. There is a verbal thanksgiving which is confined to a mere utterance of gratitude. This is of no importance because perchance the tongue may give thanks while the heart is unaware of it. Many who offer thanks to God are of this type, their spirits and hearts unconscious of thanksgiving. This is mere usage, just as when we meet, receive a gift and say thank you, speaking the words without significance. One may say thank you a thousand times while the heart remains thankless, ungrateful. Therefore, mere verbal thanksgiving is without effect. But real thankfulness is a cordial giving of thanks from the heart. When man in response to the favors of God manifests susceptibilities of conscience, the heart is happy, the spirit is exhilarated. These spiritual susceptibilities are ideal thanksgiving.”         ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

According to this, it does make a difference whether we simply utter our thanks, or actually feel it – and one of the differences is that true thankfulness will make the heart happy.  That is something worth thinking about as we enter Thanksgiving week.

The Secret of the Sensational Diet

With Thanksgiving approaching, I thought now would be a good time to share my dieting secrets.  I call this plan the sensational diet because instead of focusing on the kind of foods you are allowed to eat, it focuses on the kinds of sensations that eating food generates.

You don’t have to be a hedonist to appreciate the importance of sensation in our lives. Physical sensations are what tell us that we are physically alive.  If we could not touch, taste, hear, see or smell, we would be hard-pressed to prove, even to ourselves, that we were physically alive.

Less understood, but even more important, spiritual sensations tell us that we are spiritually alive.  Without emotional sensations such as joy, sadness, enthusiasm, anger, and wonder, we could lose touch with our inner reality.  We would become spiritually dead.

The physical sensations that tell us that we are physically alive and the spiritual sensations that tell us that we are spiritually alive are experienced in similar ways.  Physical excitement and spiritual enthusiasm, physical stress and spiritual anxiety, physical hunger and spiritual emptiness – these generate parallel sensations that are difficult to distinguish.  This is because our bodies and souls were created to work together.  Consequently, we often experience spiritual emptiness as a kind of physical hunger.

All of us, to some degree or another, use the pleasurable physical sensations associated with eating food as a replacement for the spiritual sensations that are lacking in our lives.  Chocolate is a lot easier to come by than sincere love and kindness.  Though it might not really fool the soul, if the body identifies the sensation as one of comfort, the soul is willing to go along with it.  We eat, then, in order to feel spiritually alive and fulfilled.

Any diet that tries to limit the pleasurable sensations we get from eating will be interpreted by the spirit as an attempt to limit our sense of feeling alive, and is doomed to failure. Food keeps us physically alive, but diverse tastes make us feel spiritually alive because they are material reflections of the virtues of beauty, sweetness, balance, audacity and more.  If we were willing to live without these sensations, we could lose weight with the “duct tape diet” in which you can eat anything you want, but you have to put a piece of duct tape over your tongue to block out all sensations of taste and texture.  Such a diet would obviously fail because we are not willing to give up one of our primary senses just so that we can lose some weight.  Likewise, we are instinctively unwilling to give up a source of spiritual comfort in order to receive some long-term physical gain.   For a diet to work, it must not try to take away what is currently meeting a spiritual need, but rather, it must find a way to meet that need in some new and healthy way.

In other words, if we come to grips with the fact that food does not really equal love, then we can’t just take away the food.  We have to add more love. We cannot create a vacuum and expect that nothing will sweep in to fill it.  If we are feeling spiritually empty, we must first, before any change in our eating habits, find ways to fill that spiritual void.  Only then can we safely reduce the amount of physical sensations we generate through food without risking self-sabotage.  We certainly don’t want to find ourselves trying to replace both food and spiritual joy with drugs, overspending, or risky sexual behavior.  We must find the healthy replacement first, then drop the unhealthy habits, not the other way around.

The secret of the Sensational Diet, then, is to generate positive spiritual sensations through the practice of virtues so that you don’t feel compelled to create substitute physical sensations by eating comforting foods.

Sing a song, say a prayer, call a friends, throw a kiss, draw a picture, read a poem, look out the window, learn a new word, compliment a coworker, express gratitude.  There are so many good ways to feel that don’t involve your tongue.  Find your favorite.

Note: This is the introduction of a book I may or may not ever write.  I welcome your comments.