Prison, Street Punk to Student
When I got out of the service, I immediately stepped back into the role of a street punk by associating with my old friends who thought breaking the law was a challenge as well as fun. Although we never hurt anyone or did anything major, we still fit the bill of “petty criminal”. I had never been arrested or been accused of anything illegal. I had spent the first 19 years of my life just enjoying the thrills of doing what I wanted to and never really related it to being legal or illegal, I was just having fun. However, a certain reality was about to hit me. Things that were a misdemeanor as a juvenile were now a felony as an adult.
In 1959 I was busted and along with my accomplice went to jail. We both pleaded guilty and stayed in jail while awaiting sentencing. A moment of enlightenment: That is how I remember being in jail. Sitting amongst felons who were looking forward to going back to prison was not only scary but downright traumatic. Sitting on the floor, off to the side and watching them play cards for cigarettes, and get into a fight over a piece of bread, made me feel like a chicken who woke up in a den of wolves. These were going to be my roommates for ?????. And then the clouds opened and I heard a voice say, go forth my son and sin no more. I can’t say it was really a religious experience, but a voice was telling me something. I don’t know if I prayed, but I sure was begging for a break. And lo and behold, before the wolves woke up, a miracle happened. The Judge determined, since I had no prior record, excellent grades in school and a long list of personal references, including Sister Irma, who had me expelled from school, the only reason I got into trouble, was running in the wrong crowd. I was given a three year deferred sentence, which meant that if I was good for three years, they would judge me not guilty and clear my record. I wasn’t about to correct him, and immediately accepted my sentence of going back to school, and according to Sister Irma, sin no more.
The trauma of almost going to prison and losing my freedom made me rethink my value system. Although most people would think it was a terrible event in my life, it in fact was a very lucky event. Who knows what would have happened if I had not been arrested at that time for a petty crime. Things would have only gotten worse and the outcome could have been tenfold.
Not only was I lucky to have my downward spiral stopped, but I went back to school (Edison Technical on Broadway) and that is where I met and trained with a 5’ 7” 18 year old kid from Hong Kong named Bruce Lee.
Going back to school was a definite turning point in my life. Not only because of my meeting Bruce Lee, but my new found interest in psychology. I studied everything I could about individual behavior hoping to find solutions to my fears, frustrations, confusion and other questions about myself. It was hard to identify with Freud and Jung because they lived in a Victorian age and seemed to shape theories around that period and its strict views of sex. Alfred Adler, although from the same period as Freud impressed me with his views on “feelings of inferiority” and its effects on self esteem. Maslow’s Humanistic Person-Centered approach made even more sense and later Carl Rogers Client-Centered Therapy refined Maslow’s theories even further. However, the different points of view only added to the confusion. One, there were no facts, only theories. Two, they were complicated and took too long. And three, they were very dependent on the clients vague definition of their problem.
The three reasons presented a problem. Which theory to follow, how much time would I have to commit and how could someone else understand my problems when I had a hard time understanding them myself? My reading suggested that each mode of therapy adapted whatever you said to fit their theory on how to deal with it. I experimented with applying a specific concern, having been brought up in an orphanage, to a variety of different theories. Needless to say the inconsistency of the results left me more confused than ever. Unfortunately, at this time, I was too young and inexperienced with life to take my thinking any further. It would take ten years and a failed marriage to give me the insight to evolve to the next level of personal growth. All the information I had previously studied, about psychology, had been stored in my subconscious, and was expanded on with new subliminal information absorbed as I journeyed thru life.
Enlightenment…. an interesting word. Most definitions of this word are philosophical or intangible. I think of it as “a moment of awareness that dramatically affects your life and causes major emotional, perceptual and thinking changes”. It takes information from a thought stage and converts it to action. I dislike words that are supposed to have deep and profound meaning, yet only stay profound and deep, but are not useful to make specific changes. Marriage, Love, Death, Birth, Self Awareness, happiness, self fulfillment along with enlightenment, are all just words. By giving a word form and substance and relating it to your reality, not someone else’s, it becomes a working tool to help you evolve. So I look for moments of “enlightenment”.
Getting arrested, divorced and learning humility the hard way was three of them.