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On Distancing Onself From Others

Escaping Aloneness and Self Centered Fear

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In August, Sara wrote to me and told me about her aloneness ...

Hi Steven,

I am a talented, smart, attractive, blah blah 28 year old woman. No one can understand why I feel so alone, disconnected, serious.

Mainly I am tired of feeling serious, of feeling like I need to "grow, be on a deep journey." This separates me from people.

I am not able to have relationships with most people. It is nearly impossible for me to be close to people, even when they try, I shake inside at the terrible aloneness I feel.

When I was younger I was put in three different mental hospitals, as was my brother. We were in an abusive house. Blah blah and I have talked about this so much it is just not even necessary; these are the wounds I can see. I don't feel pain from them anymore, moreover, I feel pain from the years of therapy.

I quit therapy at 16 and started again at 22-27. I am not really going now, and the last two years really fizzled. I hospitalized myself last summer because I could not shake this terrible alone feeling which made me feel so numb and detached that I felt non-human. I was in a relationship and that was fine and healthy ... but I was in some kind of relationship since I was 14. It was time to leave, and I did not do that until now.

Point is, for the last several months I have had these increasing epiphanies that have made me even laugh, almost like some huge sort of decompression, only to be covered back up by the habitual feeling of void and guilty feeling of not being able to truly care about another person.

I have studied much in spirituality, self help, diagnosis bs., etc over the years. I was told as a child that I was selfish. As a young adult I was told I had complex PTSD. As an adult I was told I had anxiety / depression within complex PTSD

I have stopped really believing in diagnoses and see how they limited me in many ways and where therapy went wrong. Friends into the Enneagram have told me I am a typical 4, and I have been told I am the epitome of a Cancer, etc..

All I ask for and want is to stop looking for the whys, like you wrote about, as they just justify why I do not feel like I can change. People around me think I am so bright, incredible, and amazing, but inside I feel like I just don't truly care about any of them and fear that I will never have it in me to get beyond myself. And I know this stems from longstanding loneliness and feelings of being so different that I just sort of stopped caring.

I know this has been long and rambling and you probably get way too many of these emails a day and may not even be able to respond, but this is a sincere wish from me to hear something back from you. It sounds like you may have experienced some of this as a young adult, etc. I am terrified, I am terrified I have become one of those people who is so habitually used to being this way that it is "too late." Yet I am only 28.

Perhaps this is because of years of therapy saying "you did not have a childhood, those were your formative years" which led to my feelings of hopelessness.

I like to believe, knowing how resourceful I am, and remembering moments of pleasure and loving feelings ... that I will beat this or accept this or whatever it takes, and I think you hold a significant source of wisdom that just may help me.

I live in Boston. Are you the only one who practices this type of therapy? How do you feel about diagnoses? How much do you charge, and do you do weekend retreats?

Best, Sara

That day, I wrote back and said ...

Hi Sara,

No, I am not the only one, but the only practitioners who do Emergence Therapy are in my area (New York).  However, if you'd be willing to tell me a bit about what is going on, I'd be willing, as one fellow human being to another, to see if I can help.

Obviously, this is no substitute for face to face therapy; however, I've helped quite a few people from the site to find a starting point, sometimes a lot more.

Write if you feel up to it.


And Sara answered ...

Hi Steve, you may kick yourself for the offer :), but I took you up on it. Thank you, and have a wonderful weekend!

I attached the email as a word doc. It is long, and future ones will not be so long, as I pretty much got everything off my chest.

Thank you for making your site so thorough!


Sara Jeanne

A few days later I wrote and said ...

Hi Sara Jeanne,

Please forgive me for not getting to fully read your email yet; I'm in the process of building a center and am up to my eye balls in work and hard labor <grin>. Know I will though, so don't worry. At worst, I may be somewhat slow to reply.

I can say this; even from a brief read, I see we have some things in common, for one thing, that our mothers are schizophrenic.

Anyway, I've got to leave for work already and will be there for fourteen hours. But I'll try to find the time today to read what you've sent.

And thank you for the kind comments. As my site exits solely as a free resource to help people, kind encouragements like yours keep me doing what I'm doing, a work which is now approaching some ten thousand written pages.



And Sara said ...

Thanks, Steve ... Take your time.

Do you know Sparrow Heart? I might be doing a VIsion Quest with him in Sept. in Vermont. He said that he knows (or met) you and has a high level of respect for you. :)



Hard labor is rewarding ... What kind of center is it? I just finished mudding, sanding, and painting, myself.

The next day, I wrote to Sara and told her ...

Hi Sara Jeanne,

What a nice coincidence; you know Sparrow. I have only the same high regard for him as well. And I know him to be a genuinely loving man. Know if you do the vision quest, you will be richly rewarded. And changed in ways you could never predict. Definitely do it if you can.

As for me and hard labor, here again, another commonality between us, albeit "mudding" has been replaced by installing wonder board.

I've also taken down a number of walls (16 yards worth of waste) and have framed several new walls as well. In fact, I was putting the last one up on Sunday night with my son and my arm was so tired from toe nailing ceiling studs that I could barely lift it. Happily tired though. And my chiropractor has been complimenting the difference in my body.

I will also be building a 16 foot long copper water wall / bench / pillow storage unit and this has got me very motivated. It will be at one end of my group room, and I plan on tuning the water over the copper to the spirit of the room.

Also, Austin Shaw, one of the teachers in the Emergence Teacher's Group, will be painting the 16' x 4 ' copper with an as yet undetermined piece of soul work. Being he is one of the fastest rising art talents in New York, I'm pretty excited. (He's only two years out of school and already has done billboards in Times Square and been the major influence in the look of the current Target, NY Knicks, Fed X / Kinkos, ABC Sports ads, etc. Obviously, Emergence works for art too.)

BTW, when did you get the time to write all of what you sent? Wow, it's a lot. And if you want to get a peak at what Emergence is like, all you would have to do is to read through what you wrote while noting (with a highlighter, perhaps) where you go blank; the "missing pieces" per se. These parts of you have been BLocked and so, will be important but buried parts of who you are. Rich beyond imagination if only you can reclaim access to the visual material in there.

Do write and tell me what you have discovered as far as BLocks.

Gotta run,



Then Sara wrote and told me about her problems relating to others ...

Hi Steven,

I just feel like my biggest barrier is my relating with others ... I want closeness yet I put up walls constantly and then I feel like I have been selfish all my life, unable to truly care about anyone else and quite frankly I don't want to become a stiff old mi ser. Yeargh. Yet, all the things I want to do with other people, well, when the people come along, I feel so different and weird that I sort of go into shut down mode via negativity or sleepiness.

I am excited about the Vision Quest ... I will be missing school to do it. I hear that people sometimes have a hard time readjusting when they get home. In my case, I need to jump right back into a new semester so I am a little nervous about that.

"Where did I find the time to write that?," you ask. Hah, well, that day I had A LOT of time on my hands at work. It was about 4 pages?

You say that when you realize where your blocks are, you become able to then release or emerge and the problems start to dissolve. But then you also say that healing is cyclic, and you will return to the pain, only it will be less severe. This is a little confusing.

You also say that if you don't emerge or find that sense of release that it is not the true block, probably just the symptom or something. Sometimes this kind of thinking makes people ruminate over "all" the bad things that happened, searching and searching for the cause. Often times there are multiple blocks. Unfortunately this tends to remind me of how, say, pretty much most of my childhood was a series of woundings.

How the hell does one overcome this without dwelling or getting caught up in the fear that, "oh no," I had such an unhealthy childhood. I must have developed all wacky and now that I am "grown up," I can never go back to make that better. But I also can never worry about it or think about it enough to make it better. Does this make sense?

A lot of therapies, including on your site, talk about old wounds / etc. which occurred at age 3; that they get so big that they are such a part of you; that the scarring is so big, that at 30 it seems impossible to heal. It is scarring, after all.

I went through so much therapy in my early / mid twenties that I feel like I have discovered my wounds, but this did not heal them.


Have you done an Active Meditation, or Aum Meditation? It is pretty amazing.

My goals ... to be playful; to be less concerned with my thoughts; to be comfortable being alone, as well as interdependent, and being able to relate on light levels.

Cheers, Sara

And I wrote back and asked her ...

Hi Sara,

Well, let me be direct. I am wondering exactly what it is you do to distance yourself from others? Do you intellectualize conversations? Do you avoid talking about parts of yourself? Do you make learning more important than connecting?

As for your questions about Emergence Therapy, first realize, the Therapy is but one small aspect of the overall discoveries about human consciousness and personality. And whereas the overall is tremendously complex, the therapy is really quite simple, at least in terms of the basics. Unfortunately, because these simple things are counter intuitive, they are not so easy to actually understand. In fact, a lot of what is on the site have been my attempts to find a way to describe these simple concepts.

To wit, yesterday, I looked up a word in one of my sessions toady; the word, "serendipity." To my amazement, the definition for this word is also one of the best definitions for Emergence Therapy that I've ever seen. It said:

Serendipity is "the faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident." Thus, I could say the Emergence Therapy is "the faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries about one's injuries, by accident."

Notice the first word; "faculty"; meaning a "skill," or an "ability." This is pretty close to what being an Emergence Guide is like. Yes, is does say, "by accident." However, it also says the "skill" of making these fortunate discoveries by accident.

Emergence Therapy is this skill.

As for your confusion re: part of the wound not coming back, and part of the wound resurfacing, try this.

We define a wound as a "blocked ability to picture on the screen of the mind." Sara, this idea is literally true. In fact, this idea is the only empirical test there is for injury. Can you picture the problem? All of it? If something is blocked, then the missing part is the actual injury, similar to how the missing part of a gun shot wound is the person's actual injury, not the bleeding or the raged flesh and collapsed organs.

With injury then, there is always some part of the event which the person becomes unable to picture, something visually blocked on the screen of the person's mind.

Healing, then, is simply restoring one's ability to picture this blocked part.

With Emergence, people usually reclaim about half of the blocked visual material during the first try at emerging from it. Then, if they later revisit this injury in another session, they find the part which emerged in them is still there; meaning, the person can, with little to no effort, still picture the part of the painful event which they became able to picture.

This usually leaves about half the person's injury still blocked. Thus, if they again do Emergence on this same injury, and if they are successful (which they usually are), then about "half of the half" which was left heals, leaving about a quarter of the original injury unhealed. And so on.

My point? Usually about half of what is unhealed heals every time. This means the injury gets progressively smaller each time. Permanently.

The main things to consider here are, genuine healing is permanent. Damage control is temporary.

Genuine healing always centers on reclaiming one's ability to picture blocked visual material on the screen of the mind. Damage control always fails to address this blocked visual material, even when it relieves peoples' symptoms.

As for meditation, I spent well over ten years sitting Vapasana on a nearby mountain top, and there are many things in Emergence which draw from this type of Buddhist insight mediation.

What is profoundly different though is that, with Emergence, we take a more active part in the search. And have many principles to guide these active searches, the main one being the principle of, "the wound is what you can't see; not what you can see."

Emergences do happen during meditation even when people do not know this principle. They just do not happen by choice.

Hope this helps,


Then Sara wrote and said ...

Hi there,

Wow, this was really insightful. Thank you.

I know that for a while I was definitely doing management ... I felt like I talked all I could about abuse, my mom, my own mistakes, etc...and sort of resigned myself to thinking it was too late, because I did not feel better. I did develop a tendency to obsess a lot. I obsessed about symptoms, about the level of anxiety or depression on a moment by moment basis, it seemed.

I attended some seminars which temp. helped...and helped me to get back to school and make a couple of friends down the road. I do realize though, that I dwell...that sometimes even when the pain is gone I feel nervous about it coming back and i miss out on feeling good.

I do intellectualize, I have, as far back as I can remember, felt like an outsider. I was the new kid always, and my mom was a buddhist and people thought we were "satanists" where we lived. I was so alone and sad one day after school and asked my mom how to make friends and she looked at me and sighed "I never had friends, I am sorry I cannot help you" and I felt devastated and more alone and saw a sadness in my moms eyes that I will never forget. She chose abusive husbands that used up all of her energy so I never saw her take care of others very well. I guess this is what scares me about trying to find wounds because there are many, it seems that I used to get on this tangent of outpouring, finding more and more things....not being able to see the pleasant memories.

My relating with people ... ex I work at an Arch. firm with interns and many talented people ... I see the talented people and ask "how can they possibly concentrate and care so much about work AND maintain a family, I must be inadequate because I just cannot seem to care, or maintain a relationship"

Or...the interns...they are all wealthy with parents that are still married...they are very happy girls and they are pretty laid back and always do lunch together, invite me, and I tag along sometimes but feel very alone because I cannot relate to the things they talk about...they are funny, and possess a certain solidity even in their in security ... I find myself thinking "man, I never was thrown into the mix, its because I moved a lot, was by myself a lot, whatever...or its because they went to summer camp every year, did not have to worry about their parents splitting, hitting, or divorcing, getting evicted, or having to try to make new friends again.

I mean, I see what I do, and when I try to change it, which I have for a long time, I feel at a subtle war with myself. It is def getting better though...and I must admit that I have not had much time by myself, truly, and when I was alone I was worrying about being fundamentally alone or worried about my roommates thinking I was weird for hiding out in my room, or was worried about not ever being able to have true friends that I could relax around, I was worried about the future, about boys, about a fear of being codependent, about being a serial girlfriend.

now I worry that I will never be able to care about anyone, that I am truly selfish because I just don't want to do anything for anyone right now and it kind of feels ok. I mean, I even avoid talking with my family, partially bc they treat me like a fragile illness and it drives me nuts.

how do you truly know if you have found the wound?

Also, could a wound, being something you are not able to see, be something related to an emotion ... I am unable to see myself being in love, for example...andI am seeing someone that I am very fond of, but I am not sure if I need to call it off, in order to get used to being by if this is what I need in order to find unique voice and to be more carefree in other relationships ... I feel like a wound up corkscrew when I think of being in a relationship bc I have lost motivation in the past, being swallowed by the relationship.

I hope this helps.

I am trying to learn how to spend time with myself without worrying about "healing, pain, journeying, etc" to really get involved in life ... activity ... I don't want to become a spiritual seeker or someone who only talks about this, always searching for that airy thing, positive mantras and stuff that I know people do and I have done, tend to somehow still reinforce the problem.

Thanks again, for everything.


Have you done a vision quest? My mother called hysterical on my voicemail, about me sleeping alone in the woods for four nights, and is really freaked out. I worry about mountain lions, and of course, axe murderers ... and I think this is why she is freaking out. Do you know if outside hikers could come through?

After exchanging many emails, I wrote the following back to her ...

Hi Sara,

Please hear these things spoken with a soft voice:

You think too much.

Stop thinking.

And stop reading so quickly.

Now start reading again. And please read slowly enough to picture every word I'm saying.

Now try this.

Picture your soul as a little ball of happy light, quickly exiting your body and hovering and floating outside your left ear.

You do this every time someone comes emotionally and spiritually close.

Now be this ball of light and look down from this floating point and tell me what you see.

Is this too hard? Do you need me to tell you where I'm going first, before you trust?

Stop being so closed. And afraid.

Now try again.

Picture the world from your outside place.

Now look down, with gentleness, at that person you see beside you.

What do you see?

Do you see you, a little girl in a woman's body?

Do you see a stranger in your body?

Or do you see a flesh and blood, needy being, needy beyond measure and alone beyond words?

I know you.

I was you.

I am no longer you.

How the heck do you think I came to know all I know. I went back in there when the urges to float to the outside were so strong, I almost broke apart. And vanished like my mother, into fake mysteries and escapist mental puzzles.

Unlike my mother, though, I came back. Years later, I sat meditation, alone, first on one mountain top; for three years, then on a second one for even longer. More than ten years all together. More than ten years enduring my true aloneness. But because I too had a habit of thinking too much, I never noticed the truth which was right there all along, floating right outside my left ear. In a little yellow ball of light.

Some days I cried so hard my teeth hurt. Some days I dreamed of tearing my eyes out with knives. Ten years, deeply crying and tearing out my eyes, trying to see something that felt true. Nothing ever did. And I assumed there was nothing that was true in this world.

I began to journey in dreams outside this world. Shaman's voyages into the images of other times and places. Vision quests into my worst nightmares and darkest fears.

Then it happened. One day, I saw and felt something so true, it destroyed my ability to float outside. Or rather, my need to float outside. I can still float outside. But I don't need to do it anymore.

Why not? I understand aloneness. And the angel of death. We have met, only briefly, yet once was enough.

Sara, I have spent so much of my life sifting through my aloneness, painful bit by painful bit, all the while thinking that there must be something important there. There just must be.

There was. I discovered that the truth we human beings all seek is buried in our aloneness. The very aloneness we run from.

Yes, this aloneness is the worst demon in all of our souls. But it is also the only honest teacher in our entire Universe, the only teacher to speak to us in words which live past the point where words mean anything. Past the point where logic applies. All the way into the truth.

Sara, as I look at how I'm been writing to you, I feel afraid. I never speak to people online like this. I rarely speak to anyone this openly.

Why am I doing it with you?

I'm not sure. I do know, I see something in you. Something you have yet to see.

Know this. No human being endures the kind of terrible aloneness you have endured without having the gifts to make a great difference in the world. Enduring great aloneness is the tuition to this small group of world changers and shaman's apprentices.

Know you've been enrolled. Against your will, yes. But you have been enrolled.

Since you have, why not see what it's like to be a part of dreaming a better world into existence. You'd not be alone anymore. Ever. And you'd be with good hearted people, many of whom are a lot like me. And Sparrow.

You'd also still be your own person too. And you'd be dreaming into existence your own dream, in your own unique way, of course. How can I be so sure?  Because you would be using the only true guide we human beings can ever use. Our own pain. You would be using it to guide you. Through your own visions of aloneness. All the way to your own visions of a better world.

Sara, please stop this selfishness you speak of so casually. Tonight, in fact. Stop being a complaining sleepwalker and do something useful with your light.

You have a good heart in there. And your light is beautiful. I know. I can see it from here.

Why not let someone else besides this old shaman see it too.

I'm here if you want to talk to someone who understands the journey.

Please have hope.



The next morning, Sara wrote back and said ...

Ok, so I had a fitful night of sleeping alternating between only seeing blackness, specifically an inability to love, and of course, fear (asthma). Then I felt alone and fearful of the seriousness I have been feeling (on my way to work), and fearful of how wound up I have gotten by thinking too much.

I got to work, read your email; slowly, and my nose immediately snotted up as tears could not stop streaming down my cheeks. Luckily my coworkers know I have a cold, ha ha. I will read this when I go home again ... and I thank you so so much for this. This is my BLock: I am unable to see a future. Ever since I was a kid, people talked about marriages, careers, etc., and I would shut down and see only black. This BLock feels so shocking. It is an inability to see beauty, and in the moments I do see it / feel it. I want to chase it down, capture it, and hold it close, and then it becomes illusive.

I will do this exercise. I am trying right now; visualizing is so important. My visual world has been gray for a long time with few moments of relief. But those few moments are beautiful indeed.

I feel like I have had the desire for a long time to go to the desert, to be alone to sit, to cry, to what ever ... but I fear disappearing from the world. I fear that "following a quest to the extreme" will not be holistic. I fear that being alone for so long would so further my gap between being able to communicate or live a productive life that I would just become loopy and "out there."

Do you find that you enjoy being with people now; do you feel connected? Ten years. Were you at a center or anything, or were you living in the woods? Did you lose touch with your family and friends? Did you have any supports? Do you find that you are able to be "in the world" after having had such an incredible experience, vs. you know, talking about things like cooking or books or movies, every day things of life without feeling that they are hollow?

My mother emailed me this morning and told me that I terrify her.

I have often felt that I have gifts or want to do something important and then a shift takes place and I feel needy, yes ... beyond control. Just like you said. Flesh and bones and feeling like I don't belong in this world because most things have either caused tremendous anxiety or felt utterly trivial, maybe because when I was young I was great at visualizing, and I thought of deeper things than my neighbors, and I was preoccupied with happiness, and peace, and with trying to understand things.

When you told me in the email to stop reading, I saw yellow. I saw yellow briefly again, when you asked me to picture my soul next to my ear. It is hard to concentrate, but it is sort of there! I need to do this often. I need to start SEEING.

I notice that I tend to cling to these obsessive thoughts, and that if something outside requires more attention than me being in my head, I habitually feel threatened.

So it is true that all Shamans have gone through extreme turbulence, that they have had to overcome something big?

How do you help others without taking on their suffering ...

Yellow, Sara

Finally, I wrote back and told Sara ...

Hi Sara,

I hope you had a better sleep and that you realize you have started on a new path today. A confusing and frightening path perhaps. But a better and more honest path to be sure. And one I am certain will reveal the meaning hidden in your so far painful life.

In truth, Sara, I am very, very happy for you. More so since your journey and mine seem to have so many similarities.

You ask a lot of questions. Good questions, yes. But too many questions. For now, before you ask me any more questions, please look first into yourself to see if you have any BLocked visions in and around whatever question you are currently asking. If you do, then before hearing an answer, you must remove the BLock. Otherwise you can be told the deepest truth and yet, hear nothing. The answer will simply feel empty and devoid of personal meaning for you.

No coincidence the early Christian writers often prefaced their truths with the phrase, "For those with eyes to see; for those with ears to hear."

Know I will answer your questions if you can first do this searching to make sure you can hear and see. And if you do find a BLock, don't be alarmed. Please just ask me to design a vision quest specifically designed to help you to seek this particular hidden beauty.

Know this designing is not hard to do, as the phrase "vision quest" is simply yet another way to say, "Emergence Therapy." A more romantic way, yes, but in effect, no different.

As for your questions to me about the ten years I spent meditating, no, I did not do it as a part of a community. No one does a vision quest into anything but in personal aloneness. How do you think we would do if we went looking for the deepest personal truth we had in someone else's deepest personal truth.

Sadly, although human beings can't do this, many tell us that this is the path we need take. Is it? No. Why? Because aloneness; what the Buddhists' call, "Zen"; the true "emptiness"; is our only real teacher. Which is the very thing which makes you a great candidate to become a world changer: You have done what few ever do. You have done the prerequisite apprenticeship in personal aloneness.

So what about "community" and the idea that most people say being in a community is the only way to spiritually become?

Yes, they are right. But in order to do this, you need to know what place community takes in one's spiritual life.

"Community" exists solely as the soul pool into which we each can pour, exchange, and share with each other, the hidden beauty we discover on our personal journeys into aloneness.

Sara, the formula is simple. You journey into aloneness to discover who you are; your personal beauty. Then you bravely share what you discover there with a community of fellow travelers into the world of personal aloneness.

This is what my site is about. And this is what fills my eyes each morning with the most wonderful hope in all the world; that I may today make a difference in someone's life. More over, that this difference I make in someone will then be carried out into the world and into the lives of children.

In reality, we are all children.

When we make these journeys.

Welcome, Sara.

I am glad you were born.



P. S. And in case you may have missed it, please know, you have already changed my life for the better. Just by knowing you.

Thank you.

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