THE COUNSELOR'S CORNER: Finding peace amidst turmoil

By Fred Cavaiani

Many years ago Peggy Lee sang the song "Is That All There Is?" It was 11th on the best song list in 1969. It was a song about a young woman who had suffered the loss of loved ones in a fire as a child, the loss of a love in her life as an adult, and expresses the pathos of going through life always wondering if there is something more to life in the midst of pain and in the midst of joys. This song became popular because it expressed what most of us feel at different times in our life journey. Painful times like the loss of a loved one or the approaching realization that we do not have much time in this world can be so helplessly painful. Joyful times like the birth of child, a wonderful celebration of a family event, a graduation from college, a passing of the Bar Exam, a wedding, an ordination, a reunion with old friends can be so amazingly joyful that we wonder if we can ever surpass this or ever feel this way again. That continual theme of "Is that all there is?" surfaces at all of these momentous experiences.

The question that remains with every person throughout the centuries of mankind upon this earth still resonates deep in each person's soul. Is there something more? Is there going to be a place that will remain constant in joy and happiness that will never end? Are the sufferings that I have endured in this journey through life worth it? In the words of Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is? Then let's keep dancing. Let's break out the booze and have a ball if that that's all there is." That theme of running from our pain and even running from our joy can grasp ahold of every one of us at times. It is because at these moments we feel that there is nothing more.

Religion has attempted to answer mankind's existential crisis of life for many centuries. For some people religion has worked. For other people it has not brought the desired consolation. When religion works effectively it is primarily because a person has embraced exactly where they are both in intense pain and in intense joy. At these moments a person is so open and broken that the cracks in their armor open up. The fundamental truths of existence can begin to take hold. These fundamental truths begin with the realization that we are evolving toward a deeper union with God. But we must let it happen. The song by the Beatles a few years after Peggy Lee exemplified this in the words "Let it be." It is a song of acceptance and the result of what happens when we accept and embrace our pain and our joy.

A good friend of mine, Fr.Bernie Owens S.J. has written a book called "MORE THAN YOU COULD EVER IMAGINE: On Our Becoming Divine." This book when read slowly and reflectively brings us into a profound experience of God in the here and now. It is a book based on sound psychology and sound theology. It is a book about a loving, gracious God who is always coming to us in each moment of life. It is a book that helps one realize that in the daily moments of life, painful or joyful we discover and experience God and the meaning of intimacy with God which begins now. Death is simply a transition without limitation into the Divine Intimacy. Bernie calls God, "Gracious Mystery." He explains this theme in many different ways. His book reflects his own painful/joyful journey toward a deep union with God. It is the journey we are all on. This reflective book is a great aid in helping us live and experience our journey in life to the fullest and help us to realize what joy is here regardless of what is happening and to realize that this joy will be with us forever.

The biggest problem in religion and in psychology has been blindness to experiencing the present moment in life both psychologically and spiritually. When a person is genuinely open to experiencing their emotions they will develop a profound spiritual life. When a person is sincerely open to their spiritual life they will begin to embrace their emotional pains and joy in a profound manner. When these two principles of life come together, amazing things happen. In my opinion this awesome book shows what happens to the person when these two principles of life come together.

I have known many people who have endured much suffering in their lives. I have also known many people who have had glorious joys in their life. In a sense, all of us, in some manner have experienced glorious joys and painful sorrows. It is the story of everyone's life. In the midst of the greatest pain there is a God, a Power, a "Gracious Mystery" or "Divine Presence" coming towards a person who at this moment is broken and open to this Presence. This "Gracious Mystery" or 'Divine Presence' is also coming toward someone who is happy and joyful but there needs to be a humble gratefulness at these moments to receive this Presence. This humble gratefulness is another form of becoming open and broken and receptive toward whatever will happen. The person in great pain also becomes humbly grateful, not so much for the pain but for the surrendering journey in which this pain has brought them into a profound experience of God because every other experience in life has fallen short. The openness and brokenness we all experience pushes us to our limits of surrender where in this surrender we experience the Presence of God embracing us even more.

If all of this sounds too pious for you it is because we often fail in embracing the present moment of where we are in life. We often rush away from the present moment be it painful or joyful. Life is always in the now and it is where we meet and experience God. Life is simply to open us up more fully to this Wonderful Presence which embraces us in joy and peace now and forever.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage & family therapist and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Tue, Jun 02, 2015