Be like Mike

Dr. Alan Robins, Ashland clinical psychologist (and my brother-in-law) once gave very simple, easy to understand advice: Be like Mike.

Who's Mike? Michael Clark is the third member of my little family — me, my wife, Barb, and our cat, Mike.

Being like Mike is very easy to understand. At one moment, Mike might be happy and cuddly. He wholeheartedly accepts himself and his state of being. At another moment, Mike might be excited, and at another, he might be startled or frightened. In all of his states of being, Mike is totally accepting of himself and who he is in the moment.

We ourselves can be like Mike simply by realizing what is going on inside of ourselves in any given moment. "Oh, I feel hurt right now," or "Oh, I feel sad right now." That is who you are in that moment.

Another thing Dr. Robins recommends is saying to yourself, "It's OK. Who cares? So what? That's just who I am right now." All this, I think, is the essence of knowing yourself and accepting yourself.

Here's something else to think about. Back when I was 15 and Dr. Robins was 19 (back then we called him Al), he was just starting to date my sister Jan. One day, Al asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Smile. I've always been very free in stating my wants, and I grew up a very happy child, partly because of a wonderful mother who always let me know I was always and unconditionally loved just for being me.

So? Well, I ended up giving Al a two page list, starting with a several-thousand dollar stereo and ending with a pair of red, white and blue socks. I had a LOT of fun making that list, and I thought nothing at all about handing it to him. It never occurred to me how Al might react. The way I figured, if he'd handed me such a list, I'd be grateful since he would be giving me many choices from which to choose. Al, unfortunately, found himself in a dilemma, not wanting to hurt my feelings or offend me.

In the end, he gave me the socks. He was fearful how I would respond; I was delighted to get them.

I suspect something like half of all human beings know they have a right to exist and therefore the freedom to have whatever feelings they might have in the moment, and the other half of all humans don't. I guess I'm the former. Al (we call him Dr. Robins nowadays) used to be the latter. Now, because he's done a lot of inner work, he's found that freedom. What did he do? Smile. He learned to be like Mike!

Last, I learned a long time ago that there are only three primary emotions: fear, pain and love. All other emotions are secondary, and if you go to secondary emotions, you're missing the point of what's really going on. Thus, for example, when anyone uses the word anger, she should really be saying fear and/or pain.

Let's stop and think about that. Getting angry in a relationship almost never gets you what you really want in that moment, which is love. Bypassing anger and going directly to sharing your fear or your pain is far more likely to result in that love that you're really needing. Smile. Try it the next time you're tempted to go to anger. Who wants to hug and commiserate with an angry person? It's far easier to hug and commiserate with someone who's sharing pain or fear, don't you think?

So? So, be like Mike. That's what I say, too.

Bruce Harrell is a writer, a semi-retired lawyer in Ashland and a judge pro tem in the Jackson County Circuit Court, Small Claims Division. You may reach him at

The Ashland Daily Tidings invites residents of the Rogue Valley to submit articles on inner peace, where do we find it and what is helpful. Send 600- to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan at To see past articles go to website and see box on left.

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