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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The wheel of life

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Work, family, a social life, politics, intimacy and religion can be hard to balance. Many times people end up giving all of their attention to one aspect of life and disregarding the others. In her book Lifewheel, Kathy Kouzmanoff, a former Franciscan nun and psychotherapist, helps people see where they stand in life. The short chapters explain what people can do to change their outlooks on living.

What made you decide to write this inspirational book?

In 1995, I founded a nonprofit organization in Brookfield called the Mind’s Eye Institute. People in the focus group said they wanted really good but really simple help for their personal transformation. When that group closed in the year 2000, I decided I was going to try to write a book, and it took me 10 years to complete. A second reason is because I like the intellectual puzzle. I liked the left-brain logic of how all the different parts of personal development fit together. Then I realized I was beginning to get a right-brain approach, which are the multiple points of view. The human mind is full of possibilities: It can be both logical left-brain and a right-brain hologram; it can see life from different perspectives. I spelled that out in the book through different stages.

Why did you decide to split this book into four stages?

I know the literature on personal development is really complicated. I wanted to make it easy, so I just put it into four categories and described each stage in just a few words. I also found that there is so much self-help literature that signifies the path that leads straight to a healthy ego, not the in-between stages that lead to becoming a healthy individual. I wanted to show how it evolves by working through the healthy stages.

How do you hope this will help an adult stuck in the “Needy Responder” stage?

I am running a drop-in group at the Unitarian church; adults and children attend this group and they see themselves spelled out in this “Responder” stage. But what they appreciate is no one told them this is a needy way for them to live, so now they can selfassess. The book also helps them learn how to get out of the “Needy Responder” stage and move into the “Conformist” stage to become a successful person in society.

Could you explain if it is possible for someone to be going through two stages at once?

Definitely. When people are in different stages and in different spots of their lives, they experience confusion. It is usually an inner confusion. A typical example would be people who are raised in the Christian tradition and have a good sense of what it means to be wise and live with selflessness. They also try to be kind and generous to others, but the Christian tradition often does not teach emotional development. So there you have someone who is on a real high end in spirituality and real low in emotional development…

Why did you decide to include beliefs of different authors rather than just your own?

I wanted to create a book that is grounded in objectivity; it needed to have a universal appeal. For that reason I included authors from the Eastern and Western, as well scientific and psychological, traditions.