Books by Melody Brooke
OH WOW THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING
Not many know it but there are some simple ways to understand your life and your relationships.
See for yourself in this fun, easy to read book explaining why we do the things we do; and what to do about it.Seriously, get us stressed enough and we all start acting a little childish. Sometimes we can look down-right irrational.Another thing, you are not powerless to change your current relationships The reality is that there is a different way to deal with them that doesn't require your learning a bunch of easily forgotten skills.Now, consider what happens...
...when your whole way of understanding yourself and others changes.
See for yourself
Oh Wow, This Changes Everything $19.99 Order Here
Available on Kindle
OH WOW HEALING GUIDE
You've read the book, you're ready to apply what you've learned. Where do you start? You start with the workbook.
Practical exercises lead you through the process of internalizing the Cycles model into your life and relationships.
* How to practice mindfulness
* To let go of old roles
* How to respond differently under stress
* To enjoy getting to know yourself deeply
* To have empathy for yourself and regain the joy of being alive!
The Workbook is easy to use and gives you tools you can start using right now.
If you are ready to make a real difference in your life, what's holding you back?
Oh Wow Healing Guide $27.00 Order Here
Available on Kindle
THE LANDMINES TO GOLDMINES PLAYBOOK FOR COUPLES
Every one of us goes through the strain of loosing connection and has to choose to leave or start over with someone new (believe me, I’ve tried this one more than once). Most people just end up in the same place with someone else.
Or you can just give up. I’ve seen so many people do this, it breaks my heart. We therapists call that ‘emotional divorce”. You might still be living together and legally married, but on an emotional level your lover has left the building.
Your third choice is to learn what it takes to make it great again.
Inside your lover’s bad moods or lack of sexual desire is the key to deep connection and hot romance. Learn to fulfill your partner’s hidden desires and you will discover the secret to deep intimacy. The real reasons for your disconnect lie hidden in those “moods”.
We call it Turning Landmines Into Goldmines.
The Landmines to Goldmines Playbook for Couples $27.00 Order Here
Available on Kindle
CYCLES OF THE HEART
Therapists and people who like to dig deeper will love Melody's first book, Cycles of the Heart. You get a lot of detail and theory about the model and why it works the way it does.
Unlike the many self-help books available in stores today, Cycles of the Heart not only identifies the traps we are bound to from childhood, it also provides a clear map for navigating out of the pain and into compassion.
Without resorting to psychological jargon or analytical transgressions Cycles of the Heart allows the reader to identify their own part in the Cycle of Egocentrism and discover the specific tools you need to practice compassion.
This is the most complete description and analysis of the model. As a Professional and Academic you will discover how to apply the model in every aspect of your work and practice.
Cycles of the Heart A way out of the egocentrism of everyday life $19.98 Order Here
Available on Kindle
What is this all about???
If you have spent too much of your life suffering through cycles of despair, unsatisfying relationships, depression, loneliness, distrust, emptiness, and power struggles, then this book is for you. It is your first step in your journey toward an integral life, toward discovering the inner workings of your own “cycles of the heart.”
This book exposes the unconscious behavior patterns trapping you in an endless cycle of suffering. But it does not stop there. It is a road map for change. Choosing to live an empowered life means facing the blocks to being fully alive. It means being willing to feel things that have been difficult, if not impossible, to let yourself feel in the past. It means taking ownership of the quality of your current life and moving toward a more satisfying future.
Nearly seven years ago a wild-eyed, white-haired, distinguished looking gentleman I’ll call Daniel was sitting across from me in a therapy session, raving about how I had, yet again, annihilated him through my gross insensitivity. This had been going on for months. At first, Daniel’s accusations had shaken me. He is bright and everything he says is true, I thought. I could have said this or that differently. Why didn’t I notice this or that about him and comment appropriately? For months, I searched my soul as a therapist and worked hard to provide what Daniel felt he needed from me. The process was painful for both of us, but on this particular day, I began seeing Daniel’s pain (and perhaps my own) differently. I reached to the eraser board and drew the Drama Triangle.1 The essential features of the Drama Triangle are the roles stuck in its three corners: the Victim, the Persecutor, and the Rescuer.
As I listened to Daniel, my understanding went beyond identifying the corner positions. I understood the emotions that form each if its sides. I told Daniel about the powerlessness, helplessness, and despair of the Victim position and its associated shame and fear.
Then I drew another triangle on top of the first and labeled it. Fear, shame, and anger are the emotional states that drive the Drama Triangle, I told Daniel. They promote its continuation from one generation to the next. As I talked with Daniel, it became clear to me that the environment in which the Drama Triangle thrives is egocentrism. Egocentrism is self-absorption. It makes us unable to understand and connect with the needs of others. Thus, my diagram and my insight grew and the diagram evolved until I had developed, with Daniel’s help, the Cycle of Egocentrism.
The Cycle of Egocentrism
We learned the Cycle of Egocentrism from our parents. We do what they did. We pattern ourselves after our parental role models and interact with people in the same ways our parents did, no matter how unhealthy those ways are. “I am struggling to survive against the world” (the mantra of the Cycle of Egocentrism) then becomes the core theme of our relationships with others and ourselves. Of every relationship we ask the question, “Are you out to hurt me or to help me?” We are so focused on ourselves that what others need or want is relevant only when it furthers our own needs and wants.
I saw this played out in the relationship of Carrie and Dean, a thirty-something couple I was seeing at the same time I was working with Daniel. Dean was anxious and reported a history of abuse and neglect as a child. He sought therapy because he had a “weekend fling” with a woman at work and Carrie had found out about it. Carrie was rigidly controlled and pained. She had been emotionally neglected in childhood and had learned a closed, unaffectionate style of relating to others. She was constantly critical of Dean and tended to lash out in bursts of rage. When she arrived for therapy, she was closed and angry. Dean was contrite about his affair and empathetic with Carrie for her anger and hurt. He knew something amiss in their marriage had triggered his infidelity. Carrie would accept no responsibility for the condition of their marriage. In her view, she was purely and solely Dean’s victim. Understanding how the emotions of shame and fear support the Victim position helped Carrie to begin to move out of the Cycle of Egocentrism. With work, Carrie was able to own her own Self Protective behaviors and move into empathy for Dean’s pain.
The Victim position is one of powerlessness, hopelessness, and despair. The pain of the Victim position drives the entire cycle. Because we cannot tolerate constantly feeling like Victims, we find ways to gain a sense of control. Without it, we scarcely cope.
Linda was a master Victim I met through a weekly therapy group. During the three and one-half years that Linda was in therapy with an associate of mine, she sucked at least four Rescuers into living with her. The pattern invariably went like this: Linda would promise that if they would do certain things for her around the house; she would give them free (or greatly reduced) rent. But Linda couldn’t tolerate someone actually helping (or rescuing) her, so she would initiate rescuing behaviors of her own, unsolicited by her hapless roommate. Rescuing is a set of behaviors labeled by the “helper” as “helpful,” but it is actually an attempt to grasp power—or at least, the illusion of power. Linda’s unwitting roommates would accept the unsolicited “helping” for a while, but every time Linda would demand compensation for the “help.” Believing that the roommates were indebted to her, she demanded more and more from them. Each bedraggled roommate finally become enraged and tried to put a stop to the demands. Confrontation sent Linda into her Victim mode. “You owe me so much,” Linda would proclaim. “How can you even think for a minute that I’ve done anything wrong? I was just trying to be a good person.” In every case, the angry, frustrated, and exhausted roommates then abandoned the home; taking with them whatever material possessions they could claim.
Poor Linda then moaned to her therapist that, once again, she had given so much. Only to be taken advantage of in return. Repeatedly, she pleaded powerlessness to her therapist, claiming, “I was just trying to help.” The therapist never did catch on.
The Self-protector (Perpetrator!)
The Self-protector is one of the two ways we pretend to gain control. Through either withdrawal from others or offensive self-protective measures, we feel more power over our fear. Self protectors are sometimes seen as angry with a chip on their shoulder. Linda was self-protecting when she fought back against what she perceived as her roommates’ ingratitude. Her roommates probably saw her as the perpetrator.
A common type of Self-protector is Sam, a forty-five-year-old man from a traditional black family. His mother was rigidly controlling, bordering on abusive. She was strict and authoritative with Sam, teaching him to contain his emotions to be strong enough to live in a white man’s world. Living with his girlfriend of more than five years, Sam could never understand her complaint that he was emotionally distant and judgmental of her emotional outbursts. Her tearfulness confused him and he withdrew even further. She was convinced he had no respect for her and was deliberately withholding his affection. Confused, Sam went silent when she accused him of treating her with anger or coldness. Their relationship had no hope of changing without a transition to a different way of understanding what was actually taking place between them.
The Rescuer is traditionally cast as the opposite of the Self-protector. Rescuers, believing themselves to be the “good guys” in the dynamic, do the same things Self-protectors do: they try to gain control through the illusion of power. Rescuers take care of others and make sure no one sees how ashamed and powerless they feel.
Sarah is a classic Rescuer. She became her mother’s caretaker when she was two. Her childhood was harsh. She had no one emotionally available to her. Her father abused her sexually at night. Sarah felt that if her mother found out, she’d break down, so Sarah never told anyone. In an attempt to get her neglectful mother to pay attention to her, Sarah took care of her younger siblings, cleaned the house, and made it her mission to try to make her depressed mother happy. Over time, she became the designated caretaker for the whole family. Now in her forties, Sarah suffers from an eating disorder and depression. She continually flirts with the idea of suicide, but she cannot bring herself to abandon her mother.
The Cycle of Compassion
One day I was explaining the Cycle of Egocentrism to a client. “Yeah, okay, but what is the opposite of that?” I realized an opposite exists. It is the Cycle of Compassion. Its positions and associated feeling sides are the way out of the Cycle of Egocentrism. It leads to genuine empowerment.
The Cycle of Compassion is the heart of spirituality. It uses a triangle also, but it expresses different ways of living. Each of the corners of the Cycle of Compassion is the opposite of its corresponding corner in the Cycle of Egocentrism. These corners represent the behaviors and attitudes that allow us to move out of the Cycle of Egocentrism. The positions are Ownership, Empathy, and Respect.
“We are all doing the best we can” is the environment in which the Cycle of Compassion flourishes. Instead of viewing ourselves as the only important players, we recognize others as being like us—trying to survive in a world that seems hostile.
Ownership is the opposite of the Victim role. Through Ownership of our lives, we regain a sense of personal power and competence. Ownership is taking action, doing something overt to move toward positive change in our relationships. It means recognizing that we alone are responsible for the quality of our own lives. We cannot control other people’s reactions or needs (that would be rescuing), and we cannot push our needs and wants onto others (that would be self-protection). Insistence on control is an addiction to a fantasy. Through Ownership, we discover true personal empowerment.
Empathy is the opposite of the Self-protector role. Empathy requires leaving our protective shell and stepping into someone else’s shoes. Our boundaries must flex enough to let us see another person’s point of view and emotions. It is not enough, however, to feel empathy for others. We must also express empathy for ourselves. In fact, before experiencing empathy for others, we must first offer it to ourselves. Self-Empathy is recognizing we are individuals worthy of understanding and compassion. By accepting that our defensive nature is a result not of our badness, but of our woundedness, we can then approach others on stable and even ground.
Respect is the opposite of the Rescuer. Rescuers do not respect victims. When we jump in and “take care of things” for someone, we show them we do not respect their ability to manage their own lives or even choose the desired outcome. We rob them of Ownership of their problems and circumstances. Self-respect is as important as respect for others. Respecting ourselves, we don’t allow someone to do for us what we can do for ourselves.
Daniels’s story is an example of how the Cycle of Compassion can alter lifelong patterns. From a childhood of parental brutality, Daniel learned that people are dangerous and that he should push them away before they can destroy him. He was persistent. He pushed away more than thirty therapists from every theoretical orientation. At age sixty, he had no friends that he had known for more than a year. He owned nothing but a few pieces of clothes and several boxes of books. His words were, “I don’t fit into this world, because I won’t allow myself to have the things I want.”
Initially doing therapy with him was a nightmare. I never knew what word or look on my face would convey some perceived slight that he would characterize as “annihilation” or “murder” of his “soul.”
For months Daniel spent more time arguing and berating my skills than “doing therapy.” I reacted as many people would to his complaints about me. I considered what he had to say and accepted his criticism. My tears flowed when I believed I had hurt him. That honest response shook him out of his world view. Daniel, the Victim, was shocked by my honesty. He expected me to react like a typical Rescuer whose best efforts were being thwarted by a Victim - and move into Self –Protection. Instead, I owned up to what I might have done differently. In response, he grew kind and considerate, explaining at length all the things I had done right. Amazingly, he came to see how he was attempting to put me in the Self-protector position as he has done with dozens of therapists in the past.
The Wall of Grief
Acting from the Cycle of Compassion, as I did with Daniel, does not come spontaneously to us because something stands in the way. That something is the Wall of Grief. It is the many layers of feelings that stand between the Cycle of Egocentrism and the Cycle of Compassion. Moving through those intense feelings is not for the fainthearted. Letting go of anger and moving into love evokes a deep sense of loss. This new experience of loss with its accompanying grief pulls along with it all our past unprocessed grief experiences. Each time a grief is left unprocessed, the intensity of the pain grows in depth and breadth. Processing grief requires allowing ourselves to face the depths of fear, sorrow and anger that we have long avoided.
The fear of processing grief is so great that some people will do anything to avoid it. We fight, run, work ourselves to death, and escape into a multitude of addictive behaviors to avoid facing the pain. We are unaware of any healthier alternatives.
Those who do not make the shift and face the pain of unprocessed grief are stuck in the Cycle of Egocentrism’s painful throes with no hope of relief. They may learn to manage their addictions so that only the least destructive ones are obvious in their lives. They may avoid intimate connections and then suffer through serial dissolutions of partnerships. They appear to function in the world, yet they hold inside a deep and mostly unexpressed misery and pervasive sense of powerlessness. The tragedy is that they don’t know life need not be like that.
The work of moving out of the Cycle of Egocentrism is arduous. Many lack the courage to make the internal and conceptual shifts needed to incorporate the Cycle of Compassion in their lives fully. But to whatever extent they can, they can experience some empowerment in their lives and relationships.
The grief is usually not as hard to manage and work through as we imagine. Our fear of facing our feelings began in childhood. How can parents who are terrified of their own pain help a child deal with his or hers? They can’t, so they teach their children to not feel.2 Ultimately, that can develop into a phobia of feelings, or panicking at any hint of emotion. Like any phobia, the terror of connecting with the pain of unresolved childhood grief can be worked through and eventually dissipated. If grief is not processed, however, the contained energy builds up and develops into a chronic state of distress.3 Many compulsions, addictions, hypochondria, and numerous physical complaints are rooted in unexpressed grief. The behaviors are an attempt to suppress and contain intense grief.4
Wayne is a good example of how the Wall of Grief prevents change. His parents dominated and controlled him his entire life. When I started seeing him, he was a recovering alcoholic. He carried a chip on his shoulder, becoming so verbally abusive that he scared off his wife of four years. He had fallen into the Self-protector role with her, and—although she tried to rescue him—he couldn’t allow himself to feel the pain his anger hid. She left, and he was devastated. He immediately returned to drinking and within weeks was completely out of control and on the verge of losing his job. He came to therapy drunk and tearful, unable to stay sober enough to continue therapy and unwilling to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. He believed he could not survive the pain of losing his wife or the abuse from his childhood. He drove drunk every day. Eventually he was thrown in jail for drunk driving; miraculously no one was hurt. His entire life was based on a feeling of powerlessness and the distorted idea that the only way he could overcome powerlessness was through dominating and overpowering others. Wayne never returned to therapy.
What I Have Learned
The Cycle of Egocentrism has taught me many things about my own life and the psycho therapeutic process. Coming to terms with both has placed me squarely in the Wall of Grief. I know the experience firsthand.
I entered therapy when my last child, my first boy after three healthy girls, died from sudden infant death syndrome. Like any caring Rescuer, I walked into the counseling office at the college my husband and I both attended two weeks after my son died and asked about getting some counseling to help him with his panic disorder. Wisely, the counselor asked about me. When I told her about my son, she insisted that I get help.
The help led me into a series of groups where I met supportive women who helped me process a lot of shame and loss left over from my childhood, as well as the recent tragedy. I learned to become “assertive,” which meant allowing myself to vent the anger associated with my losses. Part of that process encouraged my anger toward my husband. Over time, I built up a righteous sense of anger toward him for what were clearly inappropriate and often emotionally abusive behaviors. Eventually, I felt powerful enough to leave him and start a life free of the oppressive stress of living with him. Everyone in the group did something similar. We all had dissatisfying relationships with our mates and the group leader called them “Perps” or “Narcissists” (even when she had not met them personally). We all left the group assertive—and single.
What the Cycle of Compassion has taught me is that my divorce and the divorces of the other women in the group may not have been necessary. If we had been able to step out of the Victim role and take ownership of our own dysfunction—and if we had been able to express empathy and respect for our mates instead of firing anger and shame at them—we might have been empowered to change the quality of our marital relationships.
After I spent a year developing my insights into the two cycles and the Wall of Grief, my clients and friends urged me to write a book. This book is the result of their love, compassion, and support. As I wrote this book, I learned more about the power of the Cycle of Compassion and more about how to relate to others with love and in joy.
Coming soon: Cycles of the Heart google discussion group.
Topics related to Cycles of the Heart:
Family Systems Therapy