Have you ever seen the path of destruction left behind after a tornado has gone through town? That is what I left behind in Dallas 30 years ago when I came to prison. My whole selfish life was a destructive force that harmed others. In prison I was still selfish but it was tempered due to fear of instant consequences by other cons whom I lived around. I tried to live on that thin line of making things go my way, while not pissing anyone off. Although I thought I was unique and better than everyone else, I really didn’t know anything that pertained to life. One thing I do remember was that I didn’t want to be assimilated into the mass of what I was seeing. The crucible that is prison crushed me and it showed me just how empty and void I was of the things that pertain to life. And while there are so many things that I could tell you that shaped me (for the better) these last 30 years in prison, I will share one of them. In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in prison, so much of why I did the things I did, became clear. I greatly enjoyed being able to finally make sense of the thought patterns that kept me in a cycle of destructive behavior. All my life I looked for reasons and I blamed everybody and everything for all my bad decisions. I thought, ‘Hey, I’m just going by the way I feel and it was to be right, because my own feelings would not lie to me, would they?’ Wouldn’t they?
In the world I blamed my abusive step-dad and circumstances for all my problems. Yet when I arrived in prison, I still had the same problems. My step-dad was not there and my circumstances had changed. But don’t worry, I was a pro, I still found someone to blame. CBT teaches that ‘your thoughts cause your feelings’. If that was true and my feelings were what was guiding me into certain behavior, then I needed to examine what I was thinking (those thought patterns) to see if I was thinking lies and thus my feelings would also be a lie. It turned out that my whole life was a lie.
In the world I was the type of guy to speed around the ‘slow’ cars, just to get stopped at a red light and the ‘slow’ cars would pull up around me. I tried to control every aspect of my life to ensure certain outcomes, but if I would have gone slowly with the traffic of life those outcomes would have come naturally. The biggest insight that helped me merge with the traffic was something I garnered from watching Dr. Phil. He said, “We generate in life, the results that we believe we deserve.” I have always seen my lightbulbs as green (because I never wanted to be stopped at red). So I got a greenlight, an AHA moment, and I saw that I was the one creating-generating-all my problems because I believed, thought and felt that I deserved it. I was truly my own worst enemy. Dr. Phil also said, “You have to get to your core belief-what you truly believe, think and feel about yourself-and change it.” Then I thought about what Jesus said, “It’s what’s in the heart that defiles a man”.
As much as I would like to flow through traffic smoothly-no stops, no cars pulling out in front of me, no potholes- I realize that that is unrealistic. So I changed my perception of life and I know that there will be stops. Cars will cut me off and there will be potholes along the way. Today, I see that they are there for a reason: to check my reaction, how I respond to it. My reaction will reveal what’s in my core belief -my heart. Right now, in prison I equate my life to I’m sitting in rush hour bumper to bumper traffic and I’m in no rush to get out of it. I enjoy life as it is and change how I see life instead of letting it keep me in an unending cycle of destructive choices. Life is what you THINK it is. Let’s continue Living in Reality.