Shifting the Focus from Being Broken to Being Better

Shifting the Focus from The Addict to The Sage

I heard about a psychologist who was assigned to work with a young man with a long history of drug addiction. Jack showed up in Dr. Estelle Parsons' office with a thick dossier of troubles and dire diagnoses. As Dr. Parsons began to interview Jack, he launched into many stories and justifications for his addictive behavior. But she did not go there with him. "Tell me about what you did this week that was not addictive," she summoned him.

At first, Jack could not think of much of his week unrelated to his addiction. Then gradually, over months of therapy, Dr. Parsons was able to elicit more and more information about the healthy Jack. At some point the focus of the sessions shifted from Jack's ineptitude to aspects of his life that he had mastered. Jack began to identify with his strength and take pride in it.

Eventually he dropped his addiction entirely. Dr. Parsons was the first therapist who was able to accomplish this extraordinary transformation with this patient.

Adopting a Radical Attitude

We might apply this powerful technique to our relationships. Many of us have become so steeped in what is wrong with ourselves in relationship that dysfunction becomes our accepted norm. We are so expert in why we can't commit; or keep attracting abusive partners; or how our parents' poor role model squashed our self-esteem; or why we can't forgive ourselves or our partner; or; or; or . . . that we talk ourselves out of the possibility of real love. As Dr. Phil might ask, "And just how has that been working for you?"

If your relationship is not working, I invite you to adopt a radical attitude, perhaps one you have not tried: You were born to enjoy a rewarding relationship and you can have one now. And your role in creating it? Quit complaining about what you don't want and start celebrating what you do want -- and may already have. The secret of relationship is the same as living in California: Don't dwell on the faults.

There is a new field of corporate consulting that is catching on in a powerful way. It is called Appreciative Inquiry. In this modality, consultants do not ask their clients what is not working and then try to find ways to fix it; instead, they invite their clients to talk about what is working and why. Appreciative Inquiry practitioners have found that once people get back on touch with the original vision they set out to achieve in their business and find evidence for its reality, they are able to solve problems from an entirely more empowering perspective.

Stepping Into Higher Ground

Albert Einstein noted that you can never solve a problem from the same level the problem exits; you must step higher so you can see the whole picture more clearly. A Course in Miracles puts it this way: "You cannot be your own guide to miracles, for it is you who made them necessary in the first place."

Before you attempt to handle a personal or relationship challenge, step onto higher ground. Get in touch with yourself, your spirit, your higher power. Before you try to correct, connect. Remember who you are in your strength, not your fear or separateness. Recall what you love and appreciate about your partner, and why you are with them. Claim full responsibility for igniting yourself, and let them off the hook as the source of your joy or sorrow. Bring a whole person to your partner, and that is who you will call forth in them.

I did a radio interview with Dr. George Love, a holistic health practitioner. During the interview, I asked the doctor, "Is Love your real name?"

"Yes, it has been my family name for generations," he answered. "In fact, when I was a child, other kids would ask me that. When I told them it was my real name, they would beat me up. Do you have any idea why that happened?"

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I thought for a moment and then answered, "I guess a lot of people are just afraid of love." In a way I was joking, but I was actually being serious. A lot of people are afraid of love -- so much so, that when we come close to it, we find ways to run away from it.

I find it insane that we would turn our back on the thing we crave the most -- and the thing we are the most. We are like the people Plato described, who live in dark cave for so long that when they finally see some light their eyes hurt and they run back into the darkness.

Darkness Is Not Our Destiny

But the darkness is not our destiny. No matter how thick your dossier of what has gone wrong, you can start a new dossier now. All it takes is one person who is willing to see your higher possibilities. And if no one out there is doing that, let that one person be you.

Quit identifying with your difficulties, finding justifications for them, and arguing them. Become a force for your own potential.

Shift your attention to what is going right and how great it could be. Take the affirmation, "I am always doing better than I think I am," for you are. Look your beloved in the eye and find the person you fell in love with. They are in there, and so are you. Fall in love with yourself and your life.

*Subtitles by InnerSelf
Article copyright by Alan Cohen.
All Rights Reserved.

Book written by this author:

I Had It All the Time: When Self-Improvement Gives Way to Ecstasy
by Alan Cohen.

book cover: I Had It All the Time: When Self-Improvement Gives Way to Ecstasy by Alan Cohen.If you are among the millions of people who have devoted years of time, bundles of money, and buckets of effort to finding the teacher, training, or technique that will fix what’s not working in your life, you will find welcome relief in this dynamic, heartful, and humorous array of illuminating insights.

Whether you are a newcomer or a veteran on the path of self-improvement, I Had it All the Time will awaken you to a life so magnificent that you will laugh at the notion of improving what love made whole. Quit fixing yourself and get on with the life you came to live. 

For More Info or to Order This Book. Also available as a Kindle edition.

About The Author

Alan CohenAlan Cohen is the author of the bestselling A Course in Miracles Made Easy and his newly-released inspirational book, Soul and Destiny. Join Alan and musician Karen Drucker for a transformational in-person ACIM-based retreat in California, Into the Light, December 6-10, 2021. For information on this program and Alan’s other books, recordings, and trainings, visit


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