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From Self-Hate to Radical Self-Acceptance

Exploring the process of breaking the cycles of addiction

By Deanna Zachary

People trade one addiction for another, from tequila and dope, to candy, cigarettes, double espressos, and self-help books. The content of the self-abuse changes but the process stays the same. Zen teacher Cheri Huber explores the "how" behind the self-abuse.

Huber has been a student and teacher of Zen Buddhism for over 30 years and is the author of 19 books, the most famous being There is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self-Hate.

Huber describes the battering cycle behind self-hate: we get stressed and reach for our coping behavior of drugs, alcohol, eating or hurting someone. The behavior leads to a moment of feeling better or at least feeling numb, but then we feel worse for hitting the bottle or abusing our spouse. We decide instead to be perfect and never abuse drugs or our beloved, but it's not possible to be perfect, so the pressure builds and the cycle begins again. Huber suggests practicing hearing the voices of self-hate without becoming involved and without judgment.

Huber focuses on the process of social conditioning. Her new six-CD set titled Radical Self-Acceptance uses guided imagery that takes the listener back to a moment in childhood to see how emotions were constructed in our families. Huber asks the listener to think of a parent's primary emotional response to the world, such as fear, sadness, anger or joy. The exercise reveals the range of emotions that were primary in our families, the emotions that were acceptable, how each emotion was constituted and how our bodies responded to the emotion. If your mother greeted life with fear, it's likely that you greet life with fear, or that you respond in an opposite but reactive fashion.

Huber maintains that if you want to know how you were parented, look at your reaction to children at different ages. Do you look at 3-year-olds and think they need to be controlled and disciplined? That's probably how you were parented. In Time-Out for Parents: A Guide to Compassionate Parenting, Huber says, "Consider that how you treat your child is probably how you were treated as a child. And it is how you treat yourself." Huber's parenting book encourages parents to give themselves "time-outs" to become aware of their own conditioning.

Huber says that people are not broken and they don't need to be fixed, "As long as you are concerned about improving yourself, you'll always have a self to improve and you will always suffer." Instead, she recommends that people practice awareness through meditation and being fully present to the world. Her new CD set provides techniques for developing the inner compassionate voice of unconditional love and self-acceptance, "If the voice is not speaking compassionately to you, it has nothing worthwhile to tell you."

Cheri Huber will speak at the First Congregational Church, 900 High St., Santa Cruz on Thursday, June 2, at 7pm (tickets at Gateways, 831.429.9600); and at a workshop in Felton Friday-Saturday, June 3-4 (for info on Felton workshop go to www.livingcompassion.org).

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From the June 1-8, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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