Harris B Stratyner Ph.D., CASAC

Recovery For Life

Be Present, Don't Struggle

The practice of being present

Posted Aug 31, 2011

I often see individuals who seem to struggle, when they simply need to be present. The term be present has to do with existing in the moment or just being alive. Stephen Sondheim has a song called "Being Alive" in his musical Company. The lyrics: "Somebody let me come through, I'll always be there, as frightened as you, to help us survive, being alive." You can see that it conveys being present; certainly one must be present if they are to help themselves, let alone help someone else. As they say in 12-step recovery, in the beginning it is a selfish program, but eventually you have to give it away to keep it. Regardless of whether you are frightened you still need to come through.

I love Woody Allen's line: "Ninety percent is just showing up." Again this notion of being present is so important; it allows one to deal with life in bite size, more manageable pieces. Wayne Dyer, the counseling psychologist, talks about arriving not striving. There certainly is an existential ring to this; the intricate human condition that takes into account a person's feelings, behavior, cognition, and responsibilities as they ponder the meaning of life.

Those of you who read my posts know that the word responsibility is a cornerstone to my approach of carefrontation. Whether we are discussing an individual with the disease of addiction or a person with agitated depression, one must still take responsibility for dealing with one's life. What I stress: By focusing on being present and not striving to perform, the individual does not use up all of his energy in fighting off his demons. Energy flows naturally like a stream and moves from the realm of the unconscious to the conscious, so that it is more available for the person to deal with life; again, to paraphrase a slogan in 12-step recovery, life on life's terms!-.

My father used to say: "Harris my boy, you need to wear life like a loose set of clothing." He was such a wise man. I am not saying that it is an easy task to not worry about the past or the future while trying to deal with the present. Lord knows it is an immense and intense task. But if one practices, she can manage to brainwash herself into thinking in a positive, now manner; this takes the struggle out of life and simply (and simplicity is the exact concept) enjoy each breath we take, each scene we view, each minute we live and experience in the present.

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