I came across your work during a period of recovery from cancer. I was struggling after my radical treatment to re-enter the world with such a compromised immune and energy system. I was not happy. I read your book, which is a beautifully emotional read that leaves you feeling safe and supported. And after working with you on the Option Method questions based on the lifetime legacy of Bruce di Marsico – we turned my unhappiness around.
DG: Why did you write The Guru Next Door, A Teacher’s Legacy?
WD: The short answer is: to honor my teacher, Bruce Di Marsico, and the wonderful teachings of his Option Method. I was fortunate to have met this amazing man when I was in my early 20s, searching for a way to be a happier person and pursuing a career as a therapist (I later decided that being an Option Method teacher was more suitable for me). After studying for a few years, one day I walked into a course he was teaching called “The Myth of Mental Illness”. I was immediately and forever transfixed by what he was saying and I never left him alone for 25 years. During that time I studied with him, I was his very close friend and associate. He was a prolific writer and lecturer, but only published for his students. In addition, he did not want to be in the limelight, so Option Method practitioners around the world did not really even know of his existence. He was seriously ill for many years and died when he was only 53. I was thinking of writing a book and one day Bruce’s wife, Deborah Mendel, asked me if I would safeguard his writings while she moved house. Once I had them in my possession, the ideas just started flowing. I asked her if I could use his writings in a book and she gave her permission. I was on my way to a wonderful adventure!
DG: It’s interesting we have both authored books, which have healing principles within them, and both are novels. Yours is, The Guru Next Door and mine is called The Icon Painter’s Angel. Like you, in my late twenties, I had a need to understand myself, my relationships and heal my unhappy early life. I studied with Shaun de Warren in London through a period of eighteen years.
DG: Why did you choose a novel as the format?
WD: It feels like it chose me. The character of Annie just arrived in my consciousness one day and never left. I imagined her hiding in Bruce’s wine cellar hoping to soak up the wonderful things that were going on in his house. That image never left me through the writing of the book. Using a novel as a format gave me the freedom I wanted to demonstrate Bruce’s teachings and the man he was. I could weave real life events, conversations and lectures into fictional situations that moved the story along.
DG: Are you Annie?
Well, some of Annie’s experiences are based on my life – certainly my own direct experiences with Bruce, but some of the issues I faced growing up.
DG: What is the Option Method?
WD: I love that question because it is always challenge to answer. And after being involved with this way of thinking – yes, OM is a way of thinking – I am always having new insights about it. OM starts from the perspective that unhappiness is a direct result of how we think and not what happens to us. Specifically, it helps us to uncover the beliefs behind our unhappiness. I am not talking about beliefs about the practical world, such as “I believe the mail will arrive before noon”. I mean core beliefs about ourselves and our ability to be happy. For example, here are some core beliefs behind unhappiness that I have heard over the years. “I am bad for myself”. “If I wasn’t unhappy, I would not do anything to change the situation (that I don’t like), “So and so is responsible for my unhappiness”. Just hearing these beliefs, it is easy to see how they would lead to unhappiness. The interesting thing is that when people are unhappy, they are not in touch with these beliefs at all. It takes loving, non-judgmental questions to uncover them.
DG: I think many people believe they have to be unhappy – to use it as a force for change. But you’re saying that you can choose to change things without the need to be unhappy. Perhaps being seen to be unhappy can give people justification for change?
WD: Yes, we don’t need to be unhappy to change things. Bruce had a great little story about this. Imagine if we are eating blueberry pie and someone offers us a cherry pie. If we are free to change, we simply will stop eating the blueberry and accept the cherry. But when we are unhappy and unfree, we have to spit in our blueberry pie in order to justify to ourselves and others that it’s okay to change. That need to prove that something made us choose our choices is part of our fear that our own wanting isn’t a good enough reason. If we put down our own desires, what are we left with but a need for justification. The fear is that if I weren’t unhappy, I wouldn’t change.
DG: Can we be happy when, say, our husband walks out, or our business goes bust and we’ve don’t have the lifestyle we’re used to?
WD: Yes, none of those things has the power to make us unhappy. We may not be happy about it (although we may be), but we don’t have to be unhappy because of it. If we are unhappy, it is because we believe it is bad for our happiness in some way. What we believe is very specific and personal. Two people in the same situation may have completely different responses.
DG: I have come to understand that all stimulation is neutral. Would you agree with that?
WD: Yes, for example, in the above question you mentioned our husband walks out. Consider that to be a completely neutral stimulation. It is what it is. It can’t make us feel good or bad. We have to believe something about it to feel as we do. So, perhaps we believe it was a good thing – maybe we are happy because we wanted a divorce and now he has made it easy. Or perhaps, we believe it is a bad thing – we are sad because we believe we will always be alone and unhappy. If we don’t like the way we feel, knowing that the stimulus is neutral can be very freeing. We can look at our own reasons and ask why we believe as we do.
DG: People can become very stressed when making a decision, I know I can. Shaun used to say when consulted..A is fine and B is good too, either way will be right for you. Sometimes people would laugh at this, as if making decisions could be that simple. I think Bruce said something similar.
WD: I’m sure he would have agreed with that. Making decisions is easy. In fact, for me, learning Option helped make me a great decision maker. I love making decisions and I make them easily. Like anything else, it becomes difficult when we are unhappy. For example, try making a decision when you are afraid of making a mistake. Bruce often pointed out that one of the main reasons for unhappiness is that we believe we could be against ourselves. Often that is based on our view of past performance. We believe our past mistakes prove that, but in actuality we really do the best we can with what we have every moment of our lives.
DG: I wish Bruce and Shaun could’ve met.
WD: Yes, their focus was different but they had a lot in common. They would have had great conversations.
DG: Understanding myself, my motivations and those of others continues to be a lifetime goal. As you know, preparing this interview, I winkled out another unhappiness thread of my own, which was quite unconscious. Do you still uncover things about yourself?
WD: Sure, I am always learning as I experience more of life. Different circumstances create new opportunities for growth. For example, when my mother was dying, I used that as an opportunity to see if there was anything relating to her that I wanted to deal with. I had already dealt with so much and felt very happy with myself and the way I was in our relationship. But I realized that I still believed in some small way that I wasn’t lovable, or rather, not easy to love, – a belief that was connected to my mother. I let that belief go and it really opened things up for me.
DG: If you wish to choose to be happy and yet find some resistance to this, then visit http://www.DialoguesInSelfDiscovery.com for further information on the Option Method, how to do the questions, and/or work with a teacher.
For links to The Guru Next Door by Wendy Dolber and The Icon Painter’s Angel visit http://www.clublibro.co.uk where you will find a selection of inspirational books and novels in Mind Body Soul genres.