Psychologist, Life Coach and Spiritual Teacher
For 35 years I've provided services as a Psychologist, Life Coach, & Spiritual Teacher. For most of my career I've blended integrative and traditional methods into my work to help people heal from the past and learn to Thrive and Awaken. Now I'm devoted to developing this website so you can learn the same thriving tools to move out of a reactive Survival Mode, choose to Thrive, and then Awaken to expanded states of consciousness.
Origins - The First Major Life Event...
I've been asked about the origins of Thrive and Awaken. Some early life experiences were formative in my development as a person and what it means to Thrive and Awaken. One main experience occurred at the age of 10, my Mom suddenly died of a blood clot after injuring her back. We weren't expecting it—she was just 35 years old and otherwise quite healthy. I was thrust into Survival Mode with fear, anger, deep sadness, and anxiety. One strong fear was that kids would pick on me for being different because everyone else in my class had a mom.
I was fortunate to spend the upcoming summer with my grandparents who, despite their own grief of losing their only child, were there for me in very supportive and nurturing ways. They modelled how to show up for feelings in a loving way while also not getting consumed by them. It was OK to cry, but not OK to wallow. They taught me how to see this big challenge in my life as an opportunity. Gram and Grandpa taught me to become independent and self-sufficient. It didn't matter that I was 10 years old—it was time to learn how to cook, clean, iron, and vacuum. Afterall, in a couple of months I was going to be back home with my Dad and two brothers, and I thought it was my job to fill some of Mom's role in the family.
I laugh today as I remember deciding to surprise my family with the first home-baked cake since Mom died. I was stumped when the recipe said to use one cup of shortening. What was shortening? This is way before Google existed, and there was not a dictionary to be found. I called my neighbor, Mrs. Latta, and asked her. I could hear the smile on her face as she kindly said, "Doug, just use a stick of melted butter."
Little did I know back then I was learning some of the key elements of thriving:
- Look at life's challenges as opportunities to grow
- Support your feelings without getting lost in them
- Life is short, so be grateful for what is
- Embrace not knowing and seek resources
"Most people only use 10% of their brain capacity"...
Another major life event occurred when I was 16 years old and slumped over my desk in Mr. Lozier's psychology class. He said, “Most people only use 10% of their brain capacity.” I perked up and thought, Really!? What if people could use their whole brain? Energized by this curiosity, I had sudden clarity about my life purpose. In two years I was off and running to get my Ph.D. in clinical psychology, thinking that would give me the training to utilize the whole brain and help people live their potential.
After fours years of undergraduate and five years of graduate school, I got the Ph.D. I was eager to start helping people with their anxiety, depression, addictions, and trauma. I had my own share of those emotions in accepting I was gay. Growing up in the 50s & 60s, I never even heard the word gay. I do remember my dad having a talk with me in the quiet of our basement, telling me to be more butch. I had no idea what that meant, nor did he care to explain it.
In graduate school I was assaulted twice by people who assumed I was gay. One of those times sent me to the ER. I had lots of fear, anxiety, and depression during those years feeling the hatred and rejection by the majority of the population. I could easily have stayed in Survival Mode either by hating myself or by hating the homophobic reactions of people who just didn't know any better. I chose to thrive. I did not want to be lost in the fear and hatred of Survival Mode.
It's easy to get stuck in Survival Mode because our brains and bodies are wired for fight, flight or freeze reactivity when we feel threatened. Our hearts pound quickly and surges of adrenaline move the body rapidly to either fight or flee from whatever proverbial bear we are facing in that moment. And if those aren't effective options, we may freeze or pretend to be dead.
Learning to make choices...
Thriving Mode is learning to make choices rather than give in to automatic reactions. It is choosing to love rather that hate or fear, even if you are in the minority. It's my experience that love is also wired in and shows up when we open the door to it. This very challenging time in my life fostered other key elements of thriving:
- Feel fortunate that circumstances aren't worse
- Accept and have compassion that fear and hatred come out of Survival Mode
- Facing and supporting your fears is the beginning of resolving them
- Making conscious choices sparks your growth and activates thriving
It has been rewarding to witness clients apply these elements of thriving. As they did their inner work, their anxieties ceased, depressions lifted, addictions subsided, and traumas healed. And then they asked, “What's next?” Their curiosity reminded me of my high school quest to explore what it means to activate that other 90% of the brain and live one's potential. As I started weaving more Thriving Tools into my practice, I slowly transitioned from psychotherapy to life coaching with a focus on thriving.
As people learned to thrive, they again asked, “What's next?” They were interested in awakening to their deepest nature and more expanded states of consciousness. This led me to expand my practice again to include spiritual teaching. It was a natural fit for me as I have had many spiritual experiences throughout my life and have been an avid reader and practitioner of spiritual practices.
The awakening journey started for me when I was eight years old. Gram and I were watching Star Trek one evening when suddenly she started crying and said her father just died. Two minutes later she received a phone call that indeed he was gone. Gram had no clue he was even sick, but instantly knew he had died. I learned that day there was more to this reality than what we perceive. Being a Star Trek fan, I was not scared but utterly fascinated to explore this strange new world.
Just two years later I had my own experience of an expanded state of awareness when the yellow school bus doors opened in front of my home. As soon as I jumped off the bus and my feet touched the Earth, I knew immediately—Mom died! As I stepped inside my home, Dad and the neighbor ladies were there to tell me what I already knew. Time seemed to stand still. I remembered when Gram and I were watching Star Trek, and she just knew about her father. It became even clearer to me that there is more to this reality than what our five senses can perceive.
The importance of not judging...
These life experiences and other encounters with the mystery of life led me to start meditating in my early 20s. I learned the importance of not judging the quality of a meditation session and staying grounded and present while experiencing expanded states of awareness. My norm has become infused with an ongoing experience of greater consciousness. This has allowed me to be fully present for my clients while seeing their life challenges as opportunities to learn how to Thrive and Awaken.
More elements of thriving emerged out of these experiences:
- Be open minded to possibilities
- Develop curiosity about the mystery of life
- Release judgments and accept what is
- Practice Thriving Tools daily for them to become habitual
There has to be a different way of living without all the pain and suffering...
I've studied with many spiritual teachers and have incorporated practices from a variety of religions to develop the Surviving to Thriving and Awakening model. The awakening journey starts when we are stuck in reactive Survival Mode and realize there has to be a different way of living without all the pain and suffering. In Thriving Mode, we learn the tools to convert life from just getting by to one of consciously choosing our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. As we do so, the ego slowly transforms such that our underlying nature of love, presence, and awe becomes more prominent, and we begin to live from that perspective.
Currently, I focus on developing this website and occasionally provide virtual Life Coaching and Spiritual Teaching to help others learn to Thrive and Awaken. There are many tools I use to support our Thriving and Awakening that will be developed as classes under Tools for Your Journey. They include: Self-Compassion, Complete Acceptance, Mindfulness Meditation, Self-Discovery, Energy/Life Force Balancing (eg. Eden Energy Medicine & Emotional Freedom Techniques), Enneagram Strategies, Compassionate Curiosity, and more. For 11 years, I have been teaching a program called Deepening Presence® that integrates thriving and awakening practices into our daily lives, so we can live as our true essence. Get more information about my services, other professional experiences, and a vita.
The co-founder of the Surviving to Thriving portion of Thrive and Awaken was Kathleen B Corcoran, Ph.D. We met for years to develop many of the concepts used in this website until her passing in 2018. Kathleen was my beloved friend and business partner for 20 years. As she was dying we had the opportunity to practice the Thriving and Awakening tools. We would frequently celebrate how these tools actually work because they allowed her to die consciously even when it was painful. She was able to stay grounded, mindful, and heartfelt throughout the process. I'm supported by her continued presence.
I have been inspired by many spiritual teachers: Paramahansa Yogananda, Ken Wilber, Neale Donald Walsh, Eckert Tolle, Rupert Spira, Peter Kingsley, A.H. Almaas, Pema Chodren, Russ Hudson, Sandra Maitri, Sri Daya Mata, Adyshanti, Ghandi, Ramana Maharshi, and others.
I'm fortunate to be in an amazing relationship with Patrick for almost 20 years. He enjoys the Thriving and Awakening tools as much as I do and is the primary editor of the website. We are lovingly embraced by our families and friends. After living in Ohio for 40 years, we recently moved to Richmond, Virginia with our Goldendoodle, Beau. When I turned 60, I started playing the piano and fluegelhorn which brings me great joy. We love kayaking, biking, reading, and being with those we love.