The Shulman Center

Terrence Daryl Shulman
Founder/Director of
The Shulman Center

Terry Shulman

August 2009 Monthly e-Newsletter

Broken Open:
Finding Your Soul in Times of Crisis

by Terrence Daryl Shulman

As many of you may know, The Shulman Center is in the middle of a frustrating and expensive lawsuit.

If you are interested in supporting our cause and in defending against this current lawsuit, please contact us with any words of support or financial contributions @ e-mail address:

This lawsuit leads us to the topic of our main article this month...

In times of great stress--emotional, financial, health, or relational--our notions of safety, self-sufficiency, and fairness take a beating and we, in the process, often find ourselves "broken open" into extreme vulnerability. It is particularly difficult when we feel "bad things are happening to good people." Being broken open feels like a humiliation, a defeat, a failure, a betrayal. But what I'm continuing to learn is that, as hard as it is, being broken open may be just what we needed to happen. Many times we need to find new pathways to inner strength to persevere and stand up for ourselves. We also may need to learn how to ask for help from all sources like never before and we may find out who is really in our corner and to what degree. Often, times of crises seem to be the only way to get our attention.

There's been a few times in my life where I've been broken open by crisis. I'm sure the time around my parents' divorce--when I was 10 or 11--was one. Another was when I finally hit my bottom in 1990--around age 25--after nearly a decade of secretive shoplifting and stealing, I became ready to come clean, get help, and change my life. I experienced a different kind of crisis in 2001 after buying my first home, moving in with my fiancee, and quitting my job--all within a 30-day period. Too much change at once can cause extreme turbulence. In each case, a radical shift in my personal identity took place. Lately, I am seeing how my role of the hero and good-son is costing me.

You may recall having heard that, in Chinese, the word crisis is formed by two separate characters: "danger" and "opportunity." Others refer to these times as "spiritual emergencies" wherein our spirits are being called forth to emerge in some new way. It is a painful but necessary process if we are to truly grow. The hope is we can become stronger, wiser, more authentic, more whole. I trust this is what I am experiencing currently and many others are as well: vulnerability, a perceived loss of control, helplessness.

I have been reminded lately of the Rumi poem, Prayer is an Egg which, near the end, includes these lines:

...I am stuck in the mud of my life. Help me
out of this! They
will answer, those kings: "The time for helping is past.
The plow stands there in
the field. You should have used it." Then you turn to
the left, where your family
is, and they will say, "Don't look at us! This conversation
is between you and your
creator." Then you pray the prayer that is the essence
of every ritual: God,
I have no hope. I am torn to shreds. You are my first and
last and only refuge.

Don't do daily prayers like a bird pecking, moving its head
up and down. Prayer is an egg.
Hatch out the helplessness inside. --Rumi

Recently, I stumbled upon the book entitled Broken Open: How Difficult Times Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser (2005, Villiard Press). Ms. Lesser is one of the co-founders of The Omega Institute in upstate New York and has been an author and therapist for many years. I highly recommend this book. It is filled with her personal stories and stories of many others she has known and worked with who have gone through difficult times.

Ms. Lesser's main premise seems to be that we all go through tough times at some point or another and that we have two primary choices or responses: resist what is happening, kicking and screaming the whole way, perhaps just trying to survive the ordeal; or, find a way to more fully feel what we need to feel, stop resisting what is, find good support, and allow ourselves to be broken open which, ultimately, will lead to a profound metamorphosis of who we are or think we are. Admittedly, I started with response #1 and am just moving into response #2.

Ms. Lesser uses the terms "the Once-Born" and "the Twice-Born" writing: "Once-Born people do not stray from the familiar territory of who thy think they are and what they think are expected of them. If fate pushes them to the edge of Dante's famous dark woods--where the straight way is lost--they turn back. They don't want to learn something from life's darker lessons. They stay with what seems safe, and what is acceptable to their family and society. They stick to what they already know but don't necessarily want. Once-born people may go through life and never even know what lies beyond the woods--or that there are woods at all.

"A Twice-Born person pays attention when the soul pokes its head through the clouds of a half-lived life. Whether through choice or calamity, the Twice-Born person goes into the woods, loses the straight way, makes mistakes, suffers loss, and confronts that which needs to change within himself in order to live a more genuine and radiant life... Twice-Born people use the difficult changes in their outer lives to make the harder changes within. While Once-Born people avoid or deny or bitterly accept the unpredictable changes of real life, Twice-Born people use adversity for awakening. Betrayal, illness, divorce, the demise of a dream, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one--all these can function as initiations into deeper life... Twice-Born people trade the safety of the known for the power of the unknown."

It is scary to think about death--not just actual death but the death of the self as we've come to believe is who we are. There's the old saying: "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger." I'm not sure that's always true. We may survive a crisis but if it leaves us feeling embittered and closed--is that really coming out stronger? No. Thus, it appears we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to be transformed--like a snake shedding its skin of the false self--in order to emerge stronger. Twice-born.

I must say that I am grateful that, despite this most difficult time in my life, my recovery from addiction has remained strong. I've continued to go to meetings, including returning to Alanon, and I am eternally grateful for the consistent and unconditional love and support I've received from many in my life, especially my wife and several of my closest buddies.

Also, I've returned to reading Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now. Tolle's book has been helpful in reminding me how much of my stress and anxiety is obviously related to my thoughts about losing control of my life and fearing what might happen in the future. Many of us have great difficulty staying in the day, let alone the moment. But doing our best to focus on our breath and what is here right now can help relax us greatly. Further, I can relate to what Tolle says about our over-identification with the ego self--the part that we see as succeeding or failing--which is not even the true essence of who we are. He recounts his famous awakening during a deep depression when he kept thinking "I can't live with myself any longer" and, thus, pondered: do I have two selves or one? Who is this self I can't live with? Is that the real me or some figment of my imagination?

You might also recall Gary Zukav as the guy who was on Oprah regularly ten years ago and who didn't even know who she was when she contacted him after reading his book. Chapters 5 and 6 of The Seat of The Soul are on point for those of us struggling with a sense of fracture in our lives. Zukav uses the term "splintered" self or personality: we're not whole when we're living our lives as if roles in a script. All life events and all relationships are here to assist us in finding our truest selves and, often, it's the most difficult ones that teach us the most. He also talks directly about how addictions are nothing more than soul choices we make to stay small or safe and how, once we get into recovery, temptations to relapse are, essentially, gifts of opportunity to choose between going backwards or forwards, helping our soul to grow.

Yoga and meditation and nature walks have been helpful for me as I've lost my center many times of late. In yoga, there is a saying called "find your edge" which means lean into what feels uncomfortable in your body and mind so you push through a bit but don't overextend and go beyond your edge. The same can be said of meditation when our minds get so restless and our thoughts race that we feel we're going insane and have to stop. Being broken open by life feels painful precisely because it feels as if we've gone beyond our edge, beyond what we're capable of handling or managing. It feels like we're going to die. If we hang in there, though, we likely won't die physically but some part of our lesser or false self might be dying in order to birth our deeper soul.
Opening to the harmony and beauty of nature around us is a healing balm for our souls, too.

The Serenity Prayer also can be very helpful in times of crisis as we struggle with what we can control and what we can't. I'm learning again about my limits over other human beings and it's a rude wake-up call. In the case of my lawsuit, all I can do is do my best to carry on with my work--part of my soul's mission and life purpose--while letting my lawyers do their job and trusting that, whatever happens, I can walk in dignity that I've stood up for my rights and my beliefs.

When predators smell weakness, they do all they can to prey upon that. I am not a victim. I will get through this and be the stronger for it. I also recently re-read the first couple of chapters of Dr. Phil's first book Life Strategies which recounts how he met Oprah Winfrey in the late 1990's when she was being sued by the Cattleman's Association, headquartered in Amarillo, Texas for $100 Million after airing a show about Mad Cow disease. 

Like many, Oprah could not believe this was happening to her. Then she was certain the case would blow over quickly. It didn't. Then she was sure it would at least get dismissed and not go to trial. It didn't. He shared that her vulnerability was very natural--even the toughest of us get scared--but he was hired by her to help her win her court case and he had to coach Oprah out of denial, out of her victim mode, out of her naive belief that the truth and justice would prevail no matter what--and into claiming her truth, her power, and not taking anything for granted; he coached her back into her warrior spirit.

Where is your warrior spirit right now? Sometimes, first, we have to be broken open before we arise again like the phoenix and discover and claim our deeper, more authentic power.

Of course, there may also be a cost to rising up in defense of ourselves: time, money, energy, and the possibility we may lose the battle. Some even say that to defend ourselves is playing into the illusion that we are really being attacked and that we can never find safety here. I just recently stumbled upon A Course of Miracles again. ACIM is a spiritual text which has an uncanny way of turning upside down almost all our well-held beliefs in order to experience a radical shift in our sense of peace.

Lesson #153 from ACIM is: "In my defenselessness, my safety lies." Some of this lesson's text includes the following: "You who feel threatened by this changing world, its twists of fortune and its bitter jests, its brief relationships and all the "gifts" it merely lends to take away again; attend this lesson well. The world provides no safety. It is rooted in attack, and all its "gifts" of seeming safety are illusory deceptions. It attacks, and then it attacks again. No peace of mind is possible where danger threatens thus.

"The world gives rise but to defensiveness. For threat brings anger, anger makes attack seem reasonable, honestly provoked, and righteous in the name of self-defense. Yet is defensiveness a double threat. For it attests to weakness, and sets up a system of defense that cannot work. Now are the weak still further undermined, for there is treachery without and still a greater treachery within. The mind is now confused, and knows not where to turn to find escape from its imaginings.

"It is as if a circle held fast, wherein another circle bound it and another one in that, until escape no longer can be hoped for nor obtained. Attack, defense; defense, attack, become the circles of the hours of the days that bind the mind in heavy bands of steel with iron overlaid, returning but to start again. There seems to be no break nor ending in the ever-tightening grip of the imprisonment of the mind."

Certainly, we can see this in the cycles of violence in the world, between individuals as well as nations. And we also see in Buddhist philosophy the notion of suffering as rooted in attachment to things in life which, by nature, are impermanent. We crave and suffer and we have aversions and suffer. We're either trying to hold on to what we want so it won't be taken away or we resist what is happening, wishing it wasn't. Byron Katie, author and therapist, talks about "loving what is" in her book and on her website

So, within the paradox of choosing the best path--whether to fight or surrender--maybe there's deeper lessons to be learned. When in doubt I, again, turn to the poetry of Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each quest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from the beyond.  --Rumi


If you are interested in supporting our cause and in defending against this current lawsuit, please contact us with any words of support or financial contributions @ e-mail address:

Shoplifting and Employee Theft Continue to Rise!

According to a recent RILA (Retail Industry Leaders Association) survey, the following was reported:

*61% of respondents continue to see an increase in both theft and amateur shoplifting.
*72% continue to see an increase in organized retail crime.
*45% reported an increase in workplace violence and threats.
*75% have seen an increase in internal (employee) theft since December 2008.

Compulsive Theft & Spending in the news! July/August 2009:

July 22/23: Mr. Shulman was featured in an online article about shoplifting addiction/kleptomania. See

Mr. Shulman created an online continuing education course on compulsive shopping and spending based on his book and Power Point presentation through the American Psychotherapy Association. This course is available for purchase by APA members and non-members alike.

Mr. Shulman will be featured in a segment on shoplifting addiction in the MSNBC series "Theft in America" to air in mid-2009.

Mr. Shulman has created an online course on employee theft and ethics in the workplace for 360 Training. See

Beyond August...

Mr. Shulman continues to work as a consultant on a new TV program about compulsive shopping and spending, currently in development.

July - September--Mr. Shulman's articles will be featured on Corporate Combat's monthly loss prevention e-Newsletters. See

Fall 2009: Mr. Shulman will have published an article on compulsive shopping and spending in Paradigm Magazine which is affiliated with Proctor Hospital and The Illinois Institute for Addiction and Recovery.

October 14-16--Mr. Shulman will be presenting on compulisve theft and spending at The American Psychotherapy Associations Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

October 23 and 25--Mr. Shulman will be presenting on compulsive theft and spending at 2 day-long seminars presented by The Jewish Family Services in the metro-Detroit area.

November 5-8--Mr. Shulman will be presenting a 3 hour workshop on compulsive theft and spending at the Annual Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS) in Palm Desert, CA.

Mr. Shulman is consulting on the development of a major motion picture tentatively called "The Rush" in which the lead character is addicted to shoplifting and stealing.

Mr. Shulman submitted a chapter on employee theft for a U.K. book entitled "Risky Business" to be released in late 2009.

November--Mr. Shulman will be featured in a Toronto-based magazine article on compulsive shopping and spending.

December 1--WETV (Women's Entertainment TV) will be airing a segment on women who compulsively shop and spend in which Mr. Shulman was interviewed working with a woman in Bosie, Idaho.

December--CBC Television in Canada will be airing a segment on shoplifting addiction in which Mr. Shulman appears along with the Detroit area C.A.S.A. support group.

Mr. Shulman continues to assist the Kingman, Arizona court system with his court-ordered homestudy program for retail fraud offenders. The program is based on material from his book "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction and Recovery" (2003).

Contact The Shulman Center

Terrence Shulman
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025


Call (248) 358-8508 for free consulation!

Related sites by Terrence Shulman:
The Shulman Center
Cleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous

Something For Nothing
Biting The Hand That Feeds
Bought Out and $pent

Products for Purchase--SALE!

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Livonia, Michigan Financial Manager's Conference 10/19/06. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Louisville, Kentucky Business in Industry Conference 9/19/07. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's two books "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction & Recovery" and "Biting The Hand That Feeds: The Employee Theft Epidemic... New Perspectives, New Solutions" are availabe for $25.00 each (includes shipping/handling) or both for $45.00 (includes shipping/handling).

Mr. Shulman's 90 minute DVD Power Point presentation for young people: "Theft and Dishonesty Awareness Program." $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 33 minute psycho-educational DVD: "The Disease of Something for Nothing: Shoplifting and Employee Theft." $50.00

First International Conference on Theft Addictions & Disorders 4 DVD set (13 Hours). Recorded 10/05. $125.00.

Second International Conference on Compulsive Theft & Spending 2 DVD set (6 Hours). Recorded 9/08. $100.00.

Click here to purchase

E-mail Mr. Shulman:


Call (248) 358-8508