HANAPEPE — Debra Silverman doesn’t believe in normal.
In fact, she likes to say that there’s no such thing.
“It’s just a setting on the dryer,” she said.
Instead, she sees personalities as a mixture of the elements — fire, air, water and earth. She says what others have dubbed issues or problems are just traits that are manifesting in a way that’s undesirable.
She’s detailed her theories in her new book — “The Missing Element: Inspiring Compassion for the Human Condition”, and she’s going to be in Hanapepe at Art Night tonight signing copies.
“The book describes everyone’s personality types as related to the elements, so you figure out what is your missing element and then you grow the missing element,” Silverman said. “That’s what got you off balance in the first place.”
Her work is explained in the book through stories of people she’s worked with.
For instance, the chapter on water focuses on a New York City fireman who left New Jersey for Kauai in September of 2001. When his plane took off, he saw the World Trade Center’s smoke plumes out the window.
“Everyone he had worked with was dead,” Silverman said. “He had to learn how to be in meditation, he had to go to therapy, and he had to learn to forgive — those are all water-related.”
The chapter on air details the story of a young black man who unfairly got a life sentence in San Quentin prison. He was released 27 years later, after fundraising and a friendship with Silverman bought him a good lawyer who helped him get out.
“That’s all about the air — the mind. His philosophy was mastery of his mind,” Silverman said.
Silverman, who lives half time on the South Side and half time in Boulder, Colorado, has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and combines psychotherapy with astrology to help her clients.
She said she was prompted to write the book because her clients were constantly complaining to her about their personality types.
“I would say hold on a minute, you’re not weird and this isn’t a surprise,” Silverman said. “Nothing is wrong. You’re different, and you’re different because you’re supposed to be.”
She said everyone is different and each of us has to work with our own personality style to find balance in our lives.
“The quicker you fall in love with your personality, the happier you’ll be because it’s not going away,” Silverman said. “That’s the nature of the beast and I don’t know where we got the notion of normal.”
Many times people call Silverman and confess they’re “screwed up”, she said, but they don’t need to be “fixed.” They need a permission slip to be themselves.
“Many times what I do is re-frame what people think is their worst trait,” Silverman said. “They say they’re crazy and they want to become normal. I make crazy normal.”
Silverman said she thinks her book will go over well here because the elements are “the essence of Hawaiian culture.”
“It’s a book of hope and it’s a book to say to people, don’t give up,” Silverman said. “You’re not screwed up. Spirit put you here for a reason.”