It’s done! I have finished my book. The official title is “Firewalking on Jupiter: A Therapist’s Guide to Fearless Self-Discovery.” I have published it through CreateSpace, which is part of Amazon. This announcement might seem like a shameless plug. I suppose in a way it is. I want people to buy the book because I really think it is pretty good at getting to some of the thorny issues that keep people stuck in difficult places in their lives. It brings most of my previous writings and some new material all together in a single place. That’s why I did it. On the other hand, I want my therapy clients to benefit from the contents of the book as supplemental to their therapy work, but without feeling any pressure to buy the book (that would feel weird). So, for current clients, I plan to give them each one free printed copy (and they can choose to read all of it, part of it, or none of it, whatever works for them).
Here is a photo of the front cover of the book (the picture is me when I was 19, taking my very first step in the ocean):
If you want to buy the printed version of the book at Amazon.com, click here.
If you have a Kindle, or the Kindle program on an iPad or other device, you can buy a Kindle version of the book here.
You can also take a look at my author page at Amazon. This is what it says about me and my writings: Thinker, fighter, healer. These aptly describe my personality and mirror my education, career choices, and the general bent of my writings. After surviving what was by any measure a harrowing childhood, I found a love in Philosophy at college. This is the “thinker” part. The idea of becoming a Professor of Philosophy at some small college appealed to me. In the end, though, I had other needs and considerations, so I chose the legal profession. This is the “fighter” part. It turned out to be a good fit, for a while (13 years). I still had some fight in me from my days growing up with eight brothers, three sisters, a rather nasty father, an absent mother, and then bouncing around in group homes during my teens. After the fight wore off, so did the appeal of the law. Next came the “healer” part: mental health therapist. Call it redemption, payback, or just my natural state, but I still find myself needing to help others in the ways others helped me. I bring the thinker, the fighter, and the healer to my work as a therapist and to my writings. All three characteristics—thinker, fighter, and healer—are central to my work. I encourage strength, empowerment, anti-racism and anti-oppression in all its forms. I encourage selfishness, and also love. I encourage personal growth by respecting and then overcoming all manner of deep feelings that keep us stuck in difficult places–things like shame, anger, depression, anxiety, guilt, and fear. My writings are designed to inspire hope, but realistic hope, by pointing out the hard work that must be done, as well as the great rewards that come with it, all by getting to know yourself, and accepting every part of yourself. This is all based on a simple premise: “If I can do it, so can you.” If you knew me, knew my story, you’d hardly believe it possible that I have overcome so much, and yet I have. Add to this the concept of humility, that I am no big deal. I am just some guy. That means, if I can do it, so can you, if you try, do the real work of self-discovery, and stay on it, always. Over ten years of working with and watching many others follow this path has taught me a great deal about the power of courage, hope, depth, constancy and honesty. “Thinker, fighter, healer,” all wrapped in “just some guy.” That about sums me up, and my writings, for now.
Here is a sample from the book—it’s the introductory chapter.
An old friend, no longer with us in this life, once called me “firewalker.” He told me he called me firewalker because I had a way of living my life as I saw fit, with confidence, not needing to justify who I was or the decisions I made—that this ability was the result of a difficult but necessary process of facing my many personal demons and re-experiencing traumatic events in my childhood. You will find references in this book to the idea that it is possible to live a life in which you have no fear of any part of yourself or your past because you have accepted yourself fully, including the parts of yourself you may not particularly like. My experience as a therapy client in adulthood, and then later as a therapist helping others, tells me the process is not easy, but it is possible. Although I do not describe in detail the environment of abuse and chaos I survived as a child in this book, I have written about it elsewhere, given talks about it, and may publish someday the memoir I have written about it, called Twelfth Child. My need to fully explore very painful memories and relationships has galvanized my commitment to helping others realize they can do the same—they can become their own firewalkers.
Just in case you were wondering, I do realize that it would be pretty difficult to go “Firewalking on Jupiter,” where the average temperature is -234 degrees (www.space.com). The name of the book reflects the sentiments just explained and also references the name of my therapy practice, Jupiter Center. Why do I call my therapy practice Jupiter Center? Pictured above is an ancient symbol for Jupiter (crudely drawn by yours truly). I use this symbol as a kind of branding for my therapy practice. You may have noticed it on the cover of this book and my website and wondered what it is. Now you know. The symbol and the name “Jupiter” were chosen because they represent the principles of choice, power and control, when we have it, when we don’t, and when we make mistakes about these two situations. Confusion over these issues leads to many of our painful or problematic circumstances and feelings. It turns out that ancient ideas about these issues are really captured by the symbol for “Jupiter” and what it stands for.
Let’s break up the symbol to its more basic parts so you can see how this fits together. Look back at the Jupiter symbol. Notice how there is a kind of backward “C” sitting on top of two lines that form a kind of cross. The backward C stands for soul. The crossed lines stand for matter. The C sits on top of the cross, which means “soul dominating matter.” This is what the symbol for Jupiter stood for, soul dominating matter.
“Soul dominating matter….” A modern interpretation might be “mind over matter,” or in my own words, “mind working with matter.” I love this idea. We are the product of circumstance, to be sure, and this is where matter comes in—the physical aspect of our lives. We didn’t choose our birth parents, our race, ethnicity, gender, time in history to be born, or the birth order among our siblings (if we have any). If this is what completely defines us, then we are nothing but circumstance. This cannot be true. And it isn’t true. We have a mind, or a spirit or a soul, if you like. Our mind gives us the freedom to choose how to respond to circumstance. This is where “mind over matter” comes in. We are actually right now the product of both our physical circumstance (matter) and our personal choices and responses to the physical world (mind/soul). We often have little or no control over circumstance, but always have control over how we choose to respond to it. Therapy clients who are willing to do the needed work to make real change in their lives is constant proof that this is absolutely true.
I doubt this will be my last book. I do not intend to stop writing my thoughts about being a therapist anytime soon. On the other hand, you never know when your “time will come.” While putting this book together, I was taking some pictures and slipped and fell on an icy rock ledge on the shore of Lake Superior. I missed hitting my head on the large rock behind me by just a couple of inches, and so suffered only a bruised shoulder and arm, rather than a serious concussion or worse, which might have ended any attempt at finishing this or any other book or thought.
There’s a pretty famous guy in family therapy circles named Carl Whitaker. I owe a fair portion of my therapeutic style to many of the things he seemed to think. I am glad I know about his thoughts, ideas, and his style of therapy. Although it might have been nice if he had written more about these things, I am glad I had the opportunity to learn about them as I was pursuing my education as a therapist. Even now, more than ten years after learning about him, I still use his ideas and even some of his sayings in my work with clients in therapy. If he hadn’t written about his ideas about therapy, I would not have been able offer the benefits of his ideas to my clients.
I have no reason to expect I will ever be as famous or important as Carl Whitaker in the world of family therapists (or any other world). Still, in case I have had interesting and useful contributions and observations from my work as a therapist, I want to be able to say I put it down to paper. I wanted to know that I had put into a single place something that described what I have learned from my clients and myself as a therapist, a therapy client, and a person. The stuff in this book is the culmination of many years of various writings, workshops, presentations, and handouts, along with some new material to tie it all together in one place.
I frequently receive calls from prospective clients who can’t see me because the timing or logistics don’t work—perhaps our scheduling doesn’t match up, I am not in their insurance network and they can’t afford to pay out of pocket, or I have a client waiting list that is too long for them, and they find help elsewhere (which is a good thing). These prospective clients might find me online, or as often as not, are referred to me by previous clients or professional colleagues who know enough about me to think I have something to offer to the clients they refer to me. In any case, for those clients, and anyone else that might have heard that I have a philosophy about therapy that is worthy of their consideration, I hope they can find in this book helpful ideas from what I have learned working with clients in therapy. The same can be said for therapists and other mental health professionals who might be interested in new or different ideas about how to help their own clients solve problems in their lives. In fact, several of the chapters in this book are modified versions of handouts I have used in presentations and workshops for mental health professionals and social service agencies.
For those of you who follow my blog at jupitercenter.com, many of the chapters in the book will look familiar. I thought about merging all the previous writings that came in multiple parts, and in fact have done so in a few cases where the whole series was not too long. When I put the book together, though, it seemed fitting to leave many of my previous writings as multi-part chapters (i.e. Flexibility, Parts 1, 2, and 3). Like the writings they are based upon, I want the chapters in this book to be both self-contained and easy to read in 5-10 minutes at a time so they are fully digestible, without length being a hindrance. If, having read the first part of a series of chapters leaves you wanting more on the subject, and you end up reading all the parts in one sitting, great, but they are written so you can more easily stop along the way, have some food for thought, and continue onto the next part at your leisure.
If you are interested in finding out what kinds of things I (might) have written after publishing this book, or things I have written but didn’t include in the book, please feel free to check my website, jupitercenter.com, where I tend to upload blogs, handouts, articles, and workshop outlines as I create them, and as I have time. It is also likely that this book will either be updated with new material, or another volume will be published when I have accumulated enough new thoughts and ideas to make it worthwhile. If I do update this book, or put together another book, or if I ever publish my memoir about my childhood, Twelfth Child, I will note it on my website.
A word about confidentiality: in the following chapters there are, not surprisingly, numerous examples of clients in therapy struggling, coping with and overcoming different mental health issues. I offer them to illustrate points, to add some interesting ideas, to make the whole enterprise of working in therapy become more real for you, the reader. None of the examples use the names of actual clients. I have also taken the (necessary) liberty of changing certain elements of the situations or client information so that I am not violating the important duty of confidentiality to any therapy clients. So, while the examples are often based on some aspect of a client’s struggle or a therapy intervention that actually happened in some form, I have been very careful not to be too specific to any one person’s situation. So, if you think you see yourself (as a former or current client) or someone you might know (who is a former or current client), I am glad you can relate to the example, but be assured that I have added, removed, modified, and likely all of the above, some parts of actual client issues to make the situation different to some extent than it really was. I also often have many clients with similar patterns of situations and issues, and give the example as if this one thing happened to this one particular client, when my description is actually a composite of these many different but similar situations among many but different clients.
The caveat for mental health issues: seek help when needed! I hope you enjoy and find useful some of the ideas and tools offered in my book. If you think anything in this book might be valuable to someone else, great. After all, it is your book and you are free to give it to whomever you like. Please keep in mind, though, that many of the topics in this book cover mental health issues that can be serious, deep, protracted, and even life-threatening (e.g. depression). Even if you think the examples given in this book sound very much like the situation you, a friend, or family member are currently experiencing, everyone is different, everyone experiences things differently, everyone’s reaction to circumstance or the guidance of a loved one could be unanticipated. If either you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health issue, I strongly encourage you to seek the help of mental health professionals, educated and qualified to provide the help you or they may need. I say this with all the sincerity I can muster, because I myself have found the need to do this, for myself and others in my life, on many occasions.
Thank you for reading my book!