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December 26, 2005

John Gray

I've mentioned this book before but now I'll give it a more thorough plug. It's called How to Get What You Want and Want What You Have. It's written by John Gray, the same guy who wrote Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. This book has been really helpful in my process of dealing with marital separation. He explains that while outer success is a valid goal, to be worthwhile it needs to be built on inner success.

He has a model of love needs that he explains using ten love tanks. There are ten different types of love that we need: parental love, friendship and fun, romance and partnership, and so on. We naturally focus on each of these at various stages throughout our lives. If we're feeling unfulfilled, it can be a sign that one or more of these love tanks is not full. If one of them is empty, we can be banging away trying to fill the wrong love tank and just not feeling satisfied. I've been consciously attending to various love tanks and found that often when I feel that something is missing, I just need to realize that I need to receive or give a certain type of love. As soon as I make a move in the direction of giving or receiving that love, I feel fulfilled.

Other parts of the book that I found really useful are the sections on letting go of negative emotions and removing what he calls the twelve blocks to success. Sometimes I get stuck and I can't seem to make progress, I can't get to the emotions that need to be felt. Gray provides some powerful tools for getting unstuck, which can be used without a psychotherapist. I used these on my seclusion retreat.

As an example: I was feeling depressed, I couldn't be bothered to do anything and I couldn't figure out why. So I found depression on his table with the general feeling of being abandoned and wrote a feeling letter to my dad about the healing emotions: sadness, fear, sorrow and frustration. Prior to writing the letter, I hadn't realized how abandoned I had felt at age six, when my parents separated. I also hadn't realized at all that I felt abandoned again at age eight, when he died. There was so much sadness and fear in me that I had never felt. I also felt so frustrated that I could do nothing about the situations at the time. I wrote a great response letter to myself on behalf of my dad. Finally, I wrote a connection letter back to him. In that letter I expressed the positive emotions that have been hidden under the blocked negative emotions: love, forgiveness, gratitude, and so on. I felt a lot of release and I cried from my gut while writing the letters. Later in the day, I didn't feel so stuck; I was getting my vitality back.

I also wrote a feeling letter to my step-dad about him hitting me when I was six. I found out that I was really very embarrassed about him hitting me. I don't understand why, but it was really embarrassing. The realization made me cry very intensely and it was such a relief to be able to feel that emotion. In the future, I will be able to empathize with a physically abused child who feels embarrassment; that wasn't possible for me before.

I've only mentioned a couple of areas of the book that I've been using in my life. There's quite a lot more in the book and Gray ties it all together with Four Steps to Personal Success.


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