Thursday, July 28, 2011


A friend was really complaining about how miserable she was since her daughter went away to college. She said that being a single mother so absorbed her that she was able to bury some of her doubts and fears and anger, which were now coming up as she no longer had her daughter nearby to draw her attention and energy. I realized that this woman had been using her daughter as a human bandaid to cover up the symptoms of inner despair. And I began to wonder how many of us do the same thing--use our devotion or obsession or infatuation toward another person to escape confronting our inner demons and pain.

Of course, the big difference is that when you remove a bandaid, healing has often occurred. This is not true with a human bandaid. When someone you have been using in this way disappears from your daily life, by moving or dying or even going away to college and leaving that empty nest behind, instead of healing, the festering wound is reopened--worse than ever. Some people use a sequential set of relationships to keep covering up those symptoms, and this is done in many different forms. Some years ago, I did this by getting involved with a very beautiful, very sexy, and very happy, nurturing woman. The only problem was she was extremely high maintenance. She required constant attention day and night. I thought it was a pretty good trade-off at the time, as she provided a lot of pleasure. But it gave me a great excuse for not dealing with some major issues I should have been dealing with, and probably indirectly led to my ending up broke and in prison.

Sometimes even work acts as this kind of temporary bandaid--men particularly sometimes use intense focus and commitment to work as a way of avoiding commitment and responsibility in other areas of their lives.

One of the oddest manifestations of this bandaid effect is when someone uses personal growth programs and workshops to avoid dealing with the pain deep within them. I remember some years ago there being a very popular series of weekend workshops that required total absorption of participants with a very rigid structure. So much so, that someone attending would have no time or emotional energy left to deal with any depression or issues buried deep within their core.

It almost sounds like a joke, but my friend attends a grief group to deal with the absence of her daughter, now happily attending college in another state. All the other members of the grief group are dealing with the death of a loved one. But my friend says her pain is just as real, and the counselor has told her it may even be a deeper sense of grief because the person she is mourning is still alive. I suppose it is harder to let go of someone who still exists but is no longer in close proximity.

Sometimes it hurts to quickly tear off a bandaid, but that is a small price to pay for the healing impact if we take the opportunity to seek a more permanent solution.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011


It suddenly came to me as I prepare material for my solo performance class at the famed Marsh theatre in San Francisco with teacher/director/solo performer Charlie Varon. The focus of this piece is a humorous/serious look at my 12 year prison experience. I mentioned that one of the events that really upset and depressed and angered me, and was the biggest challenge to my ability to go within and ignore external adversity and deprivation, were the regular book raids.

This is something that happened every several months, when a functionally illiterate corrections officer (what a laughable title!) would bang on my cell door loudly, unlock the door and barge into the small 6 X 8 foot space, announcing, "Gillies, you have too many books--you have two minutes to get it down to the maximum of ten books allowed!" Since I often had 30 or more books, thanks to the account provided by my old friend Mark Victor Hansen, this was an almost impossible task.

I could send some of the books to a friend, but this would cost exorbitant postage (no book rates available) and the friend couldn't send them back to me at a later date. All books had to come from publishers or recognized retail entities like Amazon or a major bookstore chain. Or I could donate them to the prison library, but from experience, I knew that the officer rarely took the time to do this and just threw them away or gave them to some of his pet inmates. All of this was running through my head as I frantically tried to decide what I couldn't do without. I had to keep at least a few mystery novels and the dictionary. It was the rest of the keepers that I had trouble picking.

I usually took more than two minutes and the guard would stand there muttering obscenities, saying he was too busy for this, that if I didn't hurry up, he would just take all the books. I had to make quick choices, and sometimes regretted them as soon as he left with his bagful of loot. I remember one time when I couldn't decide between Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life; Allen D. Bragden's Building Mental Muscle and James Jay Masters' Finding Freedom: Writings From Death Row. I kept the Quindlen book and still haven't read the other two.

After an hour or two, longer than it usually took me to recover from negative events, I calmed down and realized that any book was eventually replaceable, and it didn't have to affect my usual upbeat mood and optimistic outlook. And I immediately wrote to Mark's assistant with a new order, including at least a few replacements in the ten maximum books we could have sent in. This taking of action got rid of any residual bad feelings. But on a couple of occasions, a special visualization exercise I created for myself also helped. I pictured myself at a 12-step program for book addicts, standing up and saying, "Hello, I'm Jerry and I'm a bookaholic, and have been one since my mother taught me to read at the age of three. Today I realized I only need one book at a time, and don't have to pile them up to feel secure."

I've never been "book sober" a day in my life, and except during certain brief periods when I was in a holding cell after transfer from one prison to another, I have never lived a day without a book in my hand. My stockpile in prison made me feel a sense of abundance. The fact that I read some 1000 books in those 12 years gave me a strong sense of accomplishment.

I still am a voracious reader, but limited space in my current living environment prevents me from having hundreds of comfort-providing volumes surrounding me. So I suppose I am partially rehabilitated from my obsession/addiction. The ultimate test will be when I get a much larger budget and living space. One major sign of progress: I no longer think or feel, "So many books, so little time."

P.S. I think being the insatiable reader I am had to inevitably lead to my being an author. I still find it amazing that two million people bought Moneylove. My new audio club and prosperity blog are both inspired by that work, and you can check out both at