Jim McGreevey on Larry King Live

October 10, 2006

I recently saw Jim McGreevey, the former Governor of New Jersey, on Larry King Live and was impressed by what a difference the truth has made in his life.

McGreevey stunned the media last year when he announced that he was gay and was resigning from office. He’s now telling all—about his relationship with his gay lover, leaving his wife, and the end of his gubernatorial career—in a new book called The Confession, currently at the top of the best seller lists.

What I found so interesting about McGreevey’s appearance is how happy he seems. He radiates a profound inner contentment because he has finally come to terms with the truth in his own life. During the program, he told Larry he is at peace now that he has finally revealed he is gay. He had thought his political career was the most important thing in his life—and had done whatever it took to protect it. In the process, he not only hurt his wife and family, but made himself miserable. When the truth that he was gay could no longer be denied, at first it brought great chaos to his life. But in time, he found a way to a new life of honesty.

McGreevey’s story mirrors what I see in my practice. Sometimes the fear of the truth is so overpowering that we go to extreme lengths to nurture and foster the lie. We protect the lie, at great expense to ourselves. But facing our own truth allows us to live the life we were always meant to live.

The truth healed Jim McGreevey. I believe it can heal anyone who is willing to acknowledge it.


Remembering 9/11

Remembering 9/11

Sept. 11, 2006

People are starting to move on from the horrific events of 9/11. There are still moments of silence here and there, and announcements about those who have fallen, but folks are moving on. Should we feel guilty? No. It is a normal, healthy process, depending on how close we were to people who were killed or injured and how close we were to the actual events themselves. We are reminded every day about the 9/11 events in the heightened security we experience in airports, office buildings, everywhere… but let’s focus on the good that came out of the horror: our heightened sense of connection to others.

Everyone handles grief differently – what’s right for me will be different for you. I may grieve for years, you may pass through the process in months. It can take a lifetime to process some traumas out of our systems. But we want to honor our dead and our memories of 9/11 without becoming retraumatized. When you have a fresh wound on your arm, it hurts and the pain is acute, but over time it begins to heal. Pretty soon the memory of it and the pain fades, as does the scar. Our bodies and psyches react the same way: they too heal over time.

Americans’ anxiety levels are higher now than ever. One in every eight Americans suffers from some sort of anxiety disorder; that’s nearly 20 million people! We all took in those vivid images from Ground Zero, and continue to compound them with daily images of war news from Iraq, Osama bin Laden tapes, plus violent movies and video games. We can still honor our dead and our memories of 9/11 without taking in more violent images.

I travel the country, putting on Truth Heals™ seminars where I help people find the root cause of their problems, and I often find anxiety at the heart of it. Typical symptoms of anxiety are trouble sleeping, feeling edgy or irritable, tiring easily, or have trouble concentrating. Being active physically is one of the best antidotes to anxiety. Getting back into nature, something as simple as petting your dog or planting a flower, can really help to reduce anxiety. Anything that helps us reconnect to one another, to our pets and to nature.

Those who have disturbing flashbacks to 9/11 or become very uncomfortable around the anniversary, or turn to alcohol or drugs to cope, they’re suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The key to recovery is to have a really strong support system: stay close to your friends and relatives, and get professional help right away.

The best way to remember 9/11 is to remember our neighbors, and do something special for them today. And think big when thinking of neighbors; we’re all connected, so your neighbor could be on the other side of the globe. That best commemorates the spirit of New York during 9/11; we want to take that incredible positive image of neighbor helping neighbor forward into the future with us.


Wild Is Not Necessarily Free

Wild is Not Necessarily Free

Sept. 5, 2007

So what’s up with “the Brit pack?” The group—Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, etc.—seems inordinately influential with the current generation of young women. But it’s a cultural phenomena that hasn’t changed a whole lot since I was a teenager: young people prize freedom of expression. Often this means drinking and drugging, being sexually liberated and free to “hook up.”

I, too, spent my twenties drinking and sexing my way through law school; I answered to no one and did as I pleased. But in truth, much of my behavior was motivated by the big lie: I don’t care what anybody thinks. As far as I can tell, that “big lie” is still alive and well with young people today. I use the term “big lie” as Carl Jung used the term “big dream” to emphasize the particular lies that transcend any one person or individual life. I think of them as cultural mindsets or feeling-states common to large groups of people.

Do young women today really “not care” about what others think?

Perhaps allowing the world to zoom in on her genitalia is Britney’s way of telling us she doesn’t need our approval. Is drinking, drugging, and sleeping around proof of their freedom? No, it just seems that way at first. Most of us figure out fairly quickly that it’s a dead end. Paris had a glimmer of that while she was in jail, but being young and appropriately self-absorbed, it appears she may have already forgotten what she learned there. I would venture a guess that neither Britney nor Lindsey have had even had a passing thought about whether or not their current lifestyle is taking them anywhere. For both of them, rehab has been a place to position themselves vis-à-vis the law, rather than effect any real life changes.

Like it or not, famous or not, women have been inducted into some specific beliefs: 1) their sexuality has a certain value, and 2) they are less of a woman or incomplete without a man. The issue is not whether or not these beliefs are true; the issue here is to become aware of how these beliefs may affect you. These particular “big lies” have been part of our cultural landscape for over 5,000 years. It’s like wallpaper or muzak—we are totally unconscious of them. Watching the antics of the Brit Pack gives us all a chance, though, to get in touch with it. The more awareness we all have that we really deeply believe that woman are “less” than, the less acting out young women will find necessary.

The first time I met a woman who was really free (rather than like Britney or my younger self), I was totally entranced. This woman was not self-absorbed; she was self-possessed and completely at home in her skin. She was so sure of herself that she seemed like another species. She exhibited none of the attention seeking, self-conscious, controlling, or flirtatious ways I associated with being a desirable woman. Her very presence startled something deep inside me awake.

I had to do a great deal of inner work before I built that type of solid foundation in myself. I had to face the fact that I would do anything to secure male approval. I had to look at my motives for choosing provocative attire and learn the fine art of knowing when a sexy look suited me and when it diminished me. I had to confront the many ways I was still invested in the idea that a woman with a man is somehow more complete.

A woman who truly “doesn’t care what anybody thinks” in a positive sense gets her personal power from inside herself. Generally, she is highly regarded and has built her self-esteem through estimable acts. She doesn’t care what people think because she is on purpose, has some accomplishment under her belt, knows her own mind, and has proved to herself and those around her that she has a strong moral core. That was not true of me in my twenties, nor is that what today’s “prostitots” demonstrate when they flaunt their misbehavior in society’s face.

Women experience true freedom when they discover the ability to exercise choice by applying their will. Sometimes we gain more self-respect by exercising self-restraint than by “doing whatever I want.” Then we stand at the threshold of a whole new kind of personal freedom.



Mel Gibson was recently arrested for drunk driving in my home town of Malibu. The press has been having a field day with this scandal, especially with regard to some inflammatory comments Gibson made at the time of his arrest. As I followed the news of his arrest, I felt tremendous empathy for him in his acute embarrassment.

Like Mel, every single one of us has a dark side—parts of ourselves that we deem unlovable or undesirable—that we try to ignore, push down, and disown. In Mel’s case, it looks like he’s dealing with a lot of repressed anger and prejudice from his childhood that causes him shame. During the heyday of The Passion of Christ, when asked about his father’s evident anti-Semitism, he answered,“I can’t answer for my father.” Prejudice is something we learn as children. Becoming aware of our own prejudices requires education; unraveling them requires work.

The more we try to push down and avoid unattractive and unacceptable parts of ourselves, the more likely they are to erupt in unexpected and embarrassing ways. In Mel’s case, he admits problems with addictive behavior, including alcohol. Abusing a substance of any kind is an action taken to mask uncomfortable feelings. At first it feels good and negative feelings go away. Later, as the addiction progresses, it begins to affect us in negative ways, and finally becomes a whole new problem with a life all its own.

We can avoid what happened to Mel Gibson by simply working every day to become aware of our own dark side. All we are looking for initially is awareness; not to be critical of ourselves or judgmental. We can ask ourselves: where are we prejudiced or ego driven or abusive? And while we are looking within, let’s take a moment and rate our own addictive behavior: do we have any addictions to food, drugs, alcohol, sex, or any other behavior that is harmful to us or to those around us?

At least Mel Gibson has had the courage to publicly admit he was wrong; lots of celebs in his position would have hidden behind their publicists or attorneys. Perhaps this regrettable experience has a positive side: it has put Mel back on the road to rehab, and has demonstrated the importance of self honesty.