A Call to Healing in the Wake of Violence

A few days ago, there was violence at political rallies for Donald Trump. It was disturbing and heartbreaking to watch.

As we become aware of violent events – in the political arena and in any area of our world – we need to also become aware of an important truth: Violence begins within each of us.

There is a current of violence within each of us that we have the potential to act out on. That current can be provoked, triggered, fed, by anyone and anything. Sure as it’s sunny in the day and dark in the night, we are all vulnerable to that current being triggered. It may be triggered by our dreams at night, by our memories during the day. It may be evoked by something we’re aware of – like an interaction with someone close to us – or by something we’re not aware of at all. It may be evoked by our transferring onto a person or situation in today’s world deep experiences we had long ago when we were children. It may be triggered by someone who has no intention whatsoever for us to be triggered. And it may be triggered by someone who definitely has an intention to trigger us and get us stirred up … and then use us for his/her own agenda.

If we are to help heal the violence in the world, we need to heal the violence and potential for violence within us. We each need to find that current of anger, rage, violence, and work with it and through it. Each person who does this makes him/herself less vulnerable to his/her inner current of violence being triggered. And certainly less vulnerable to acting out on that inner current of violence. Every one of us who acknowledges, claims, owns the current of violence within, does not act out on that current, and, in fact, works through that part of us … helps heal the well of violence in the human community.

A clue: When we are stressed in our current day, we regress to the child within us still alive and needing healing. Different here-and-now stresses will cause us to regress to different times, ages, experiences, and moments of suffering in our childhoods. If we don’t know this, we believe we’re simply in the here-and-now suffering today. If we don’t know about our regression, we are very likely to act out with our big bodies today the little child’s feelings from long ago. We may, for example, have temper tantrums, hurting ourselves and other people

If those around us don’t know about the regressions in themselves, us, and others … they are likely to normalize the violence being acted out. They are likely to claim it is just about today because of something occurring today. They are likely to abdicate their self-responsibility in the situation. They are likely deny their part in the violence erupting. They are likely to refuse to own up to how they provoked it, triggered it, used it … even though it’s clear as day to others.

If we are to help heal the violence in the world, we need to heal the violence and potential for violence within us.

I have written about healing violence many times in my blog in the hopes that my posts will inspire us all to commit to heal violence from the inside out. You can find many of my past posts about the true roots of violence and how we can all help to heal it here: https://polipsych101.wordpress.com/tag/violence/.

“Why aren’t our efforts to end the violence working?

“Very simply, our efforts to end the violence aren’t working because we are doing things that don’t work, can’t work, and often include violence within them. For example, punishment for violence doesn’t work. Laws outlawing violence and then punishing it don’t work. Have they ever really worked? Look at our world today before you even attempt to answer that question.

“Gun control – although it may prevent guns from being used for violence in some cases – won’t work to end the violence. Someone who is defending against their pain with striking out will just find another way to strike out. And praying for violence to end – although it may be a useful, even necessary help toward ending the violence – will not work all by itself to end violence in our world. And though it may help on some deep level, some people who pray don’t commit violence (even though they may have it within them as an escape hatch), and some people who pray also commit violence. That may seem like a contradiction, but we human beings are filled with contradictions, aren’t we?”*

We say and maybe even believe that we don’t want violence … that we don’t contribute to violence … that we don’t co-create violence. We say and maybe we’re even sure –  in our own minds – that others have a violent current but we don’t. And we rip off permission to not honestly acknowledge the violence within us and its roots in the child within. And yet here is the violence right in the midst of us. This is a perfect example of the poison-is-the-medicine dynamic I wrote about in November. **

“We can attempt to end violence from the outside in …
And fail.
Or we can commit to heal violence from the inside out, to the root,
and over time succeed.” ***

Right now, we are failing.

It is my hope that my work will help you in your own healing journey, and that together we can help heal the violence so prevalent in our world today.

Blessings,
Judith

© Judith Barr, 2015.

* From my home study course Violence: Finding And Healing The Roots from the Inside Out, © Judith Barr, 2013, page 13.

** http://judithbarr.com/2015/11/19/grief-shock-another-tragedy-and-the-poison-is-the-medicine/

*** Adapted from the opening quote in my home study course Healing Bullying to The Root: A Unique Approach to A Painful Epidemic, © Judith Barr, 2013, page 2.

Trump Isn’t The Real Problem – We Are!

It’s 14+ months before the 2016 Presidential Election. It’s already been going on too long. Many are overstimulated by the candidates’ and the media’s hype. The overstimulation feeds both numbness and hysteria. And however disconnected from their true selves people were before, they get more and more disconnected with each step in the election frenzy.

What we once thought was a sacred process – and could still be if we utilized it well – has instead been misused and abused and turned into an election frenzy for all of us.

So here we are in September 2015 … well into the fever pitch of the election process and we’re over a year away. Everybody’s surprised about Donald Trump. Everybody’s talking about Donald Trump. Many are concerned about Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is a concern.

He’s lied. Everyone’s talking about Hillary’s lies. But who’s talking about Trump’s lies?

He’s treated women terribly. He’s made blatant racist statements about Mexicans and other immigrants.

He’s mocked foreign countries who are either our allies, like Japan, or with whom we need to collaborate, like China. He’s ridiculed individuals in our own country … Senator John McCain, many of the other candidates running for president, and who knows how many others.

He’s made claims about what he would do as president. Claims like those related to immigrants. Claims like those related to people of color and of other races and nationalities than he. Claims like those related to immigrants that are impossible without violating the Constitution. Claims that no matter how they might be carried out, would be inhumane … would violate any sense of dignity … and would belie our thinking of ourselves as a civilized nation.

His misogyny is legendary. From calling women “pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” to saying about Megyn Kelly that “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes–blood coming out of her wherever,” as a denigration of her intelligence and ability based on her menstrual cycle, to calling her a “bimbo” and a “lightweight.”

When confronted on what he’d said, Trump denied it and held those who had accurately understood what he’d meant as the problem – “I was referring to nose, ears. They’re very common statements. And only a deviant would think of what people said.” And then he’s turned around and claimed he “cherishes” women. He has, in this instance and at other times, refused to take responsibility for what is actually his responsibility, blaming it on the other person or people. And lying – to others and perhaps himself, too.

When talking about Jeb Bush having mentored Marco Rubio, Trump said: “If I were Bush and I brought somebody along … and all of a sudden the guy, the young guy that I brought along, said: ‘I’m running against you and it’s not my turn but I don’t care because I’m really anxious, I’m really driven’ … I would really go after that guy. I’d say ‘He’s the most disloyal guy. He’s a terrible person. He’s horrible and I hate him.’ ” And then he went on to mock Bush’s and Rubio’s being friendly at the first GOP debate.

This reveals so much about Donald Trump. More than possible to fully do justice to the revelations right now. But for starters … it shows a glimpse of an inability to truly be in a mutual relationship; a vindictiveness, vengefulness that is unwarranted and undermines relationship; an inability to hold more than just one way – his way. And it shows, beneath all his bluster and whatever ability he has developed to make money, just how young and unmatured emotionally he is. A perfect example of what I’ve taught and written about again and again – the child still alive in the grown person; the child driving the show, whether we’re aware of it or not. All these qualities have been, are, and would be dangerous in a leader.

This is not an exhaustive list, but even this list … he thinks he can get away with. The problem is he has been getting away with it. Not only getting away with it, but his support has been growing in response to it. And the problem with that? The problem is not Trump alone. The problem is us! All of us. Those of us who think we’re in the clear because we fight against him, see through him, turn away, sickened or frightened by what he’s doing and how it’s affecting us and our election process … all comforted by the belief that “we’re not at all like him.” And those of us who are disillusioned by our government and thus can be easily roused and seduced by him.

We can look at this phenomenon through many lenses. Today let’s look at it through this lens: the lens of acting out! It will show us why he’s going up in the polls after he acts out time after time.

In depth psychotherapy, we don’t stop at the behavioral level of healing. But we do draw boundaries around people’s behavior to help make it safe for them to explore their thoughts and feelings, no matter what they are. So someone I work with will, for example, make a commitment not to hurt or kill themselves or someone else … so that it will be safe to explore those kinds of angry thoughts and feelings. Making such a commitment doesn’t stop the thoughts and feelings. It isn’t meant to. It’s meant to draw an inviolable line between the thoughts and feelings and the actions. That is what makes it safe to have the thoughts, have the feelings, and bring them out in the open in therapy to talk about them, explore them, find what in the person’s history caused those thoughts and feelings to emerge, and heal that wound to the root.

These lines, these boundaries between having feelings and acting on them are protections that our children need their parents to teach them and help them with. But most children don’t receive this from their parents. Most parents don’t give this to their children, usually because they never received it themselves. Or don’t give it to their children in a healthy way, again because they never received it from their parents. The result is that too many people all over the world are starting more than ever to act out these feelings when they emerge.

Please note: I am not excusing this, just explaining the root cause. It is something that needs to be healed in all of our societies all over the world.

But at the same time as I and my colleagues are working deeply with people and with great commitment to heal to the root and transform this deep wound and its consequences, there are others who are – consciously or unconsciously – taking advantage of that wound and using it for their own purposes.

Dictators have done that and used the wounded to kill in their behalf. Hitler did it in World War II with people who, like him, had been raised in abusive families and thus would respond to his seduction and his cause. ISIS does that with disaffected young people who have their own early wounds and can be lured into the cause. Donald Trump’s cause is “Making America Great Again.” And people are being drawn and seduced into joining.

Significantly, people enjoy Trump’s behavior because he is acting out his thoughts and feelings and then justifying his acting out. On some level people like that he’s doing it and getting away with it. Perhaps they think and feel the same things but feel they don’t dare act out on them. So they secretly – or not so secretly – get off on his doing it. Or perhaps they like that he’s doing it and getting away with it, because then they see it as his giving them permission to do the same. To act out and get away with it. So they are, in effect, ripping off permission from his destructive behavior … permission to act out in kind. In the ways I’ve mentioned above and others as well.

An actual example, an older Hispanic man was recently beaten by two white males in a Boston area neighborhood. The perpetrators justified their actions saying that Trump was right, illegals need to be deported. After first responding to hearing of the beating with “It would be a shame,” Trump then justified their actions, distorting them and normalizing them: “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Hitler could never have come into the power he had without citizens in collusion because of their wounds and their lack of awareness. ISIS could not have come into the power it has without members in collusion because of their wounds and lack of awareness. And Trump (and people like him) will never come into power without our collusion because of our wounds and lack of awareness and refusal to do our own work.

Whether we’re acting out by “ripping off the permission” he’s giving to lie, bully, mistreat women and other people, be obviously racist, and more … or we’re acting out by not taking action at all … believe me: Donald Trump by himself is not the problem. He will only be a real problem if we don’t do our own work with all that’s going on, with all that he mirrors for us within ourselves, and for all that he triggers in us from long, long ago that we have a choice whether or not to act out today. That we have a choice whether or not to explore today. That we have a choice whether or not to work through and heal today.

If we do not pierce our denial, collusion, and whatever else we need to take care of within us … if we do not see the reality and respond to it in a healthy, constructive way … it will be we who cause the harm that comes. It will be we who give Donald Trump or someone like him the permission to carry it out.

© Judith Barr, 2015

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Acting out is a huge problem facing our world today. We all need to learn how to draw, and commit to, boundaries when we are tempted to act out on intense feelings rooted in our childhood experience.

First we need to learn that our impulses to act out are in response to our young and intense feelings being triggered by something in the current day within us or around us.

Second, we need to learn to be aware of both when we are tempted to act out, and also when another’s acting out is tempting us to normalize and justify our own acting out.

When you see, hear, or read about Donald Trump or another public figure, acting out in a destructive way, what feelings arise inside you? Are you shocked and horrified? Are you afraid? Are you secretly glad the person is acting out that way? Perhaps because you would be too afraid to? Maybe because you wouldn’t be able to get away with it and s/he can? Or is there a hidden place in you, deep down, where you admire and agree with the words and actions of the person acting out? And perhaps make excuses for him/her? Are there times when a public figure’s acting out makes you feel “better” about the times when you act out?

Join me today in committing to explore our own inner reaction to the acting out of others … to draw a boundary when we ourselves are tempted to act out our inner wounding in destructive, harmful ways … and to not stop there, but rather to follow through and explore, with the help of a caring, integritous therapist, the real roots of the feelings that cause us to act out destructively. And in doing so … help create greater safety and lasting change in our world!

Robin Williams: What Nobody’s Saying!

A week ago, Robin Williams died by his own hand. People have been celebrating his genius, his quick mind, his success in comedy and serious performances, as well, his good heart, his friendship, the way he gave to others. However his death affected people, it left us grieving.

My grief and my perspective may well be very different from your own. This is not an organized article, but rather musings of mind, heart, and soul that have come to me as I’ve gone through my week, and are coming again as I sit down to share with you. I offer this in the hopes that my sharing will help you in some way, will help others you touch, and will help our world.

My heart is grieving for the little boy, Robin, who played alone in his large home with his 2,000 toy soldiers. I imagine the dialogues he had with them. I imagine him telling them how frightened he was of his father when he was home. I imagine him telling them he wished his mother would stay home with him, instead of going to work and leaving him with the maids. I imagine him expressing to all the toy soldiers somehow that he was so terribly alone and felt so horribly afraid of being abandoned. I imagine his ability to have dialogues with different characters within himself and outside himself may have been born from his dialogues with his toy soldiers.

My heart is grieving for the man, Robin, who, it seems, didn’t have the kind of help he needed to heal the fears that were still alive inside him, in the little boy who, it appears, was still alive inside him. My heart grieves for his attempts to connect with people through his comedy, like he did with his mother, and for the superficial nature of such a connection, if made. My heart grieves for the man who used his quick mind and humor to defend himself against his own pain and fear, to distract others from his own pain and fear … and from theirs, too. My heart is grieving that it seems people didn’t see his pain beneath his jokes and comedic interactions … and if they did, they didn’t find a way to connect with him and help him.

My heart is grieving that people interviewed him, but when they asked questions and he answered with either serious responses or even scary responses, they laughed … as with one of NPR’s interviewers some years ago when she asked him about suicide and he made a joke about calling a suicide hot line and the person at the hotline saying, “Life isn’t for everybody.” She laughed. I listened this past week to a rerun and was aghast, my heart filled with the pain of what he was saying, what she was hearing, and that she laughed. What did members of the audience hear, feel, do in response to hearing this?

My heart is grieving that people allowed Robin to help them forget their own pain, and in many other ways, it seems. But who helped Robin?

My heart is grieving that the experts have taught us – misled us – and are continuing to do so, when they say that there is help, there is medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. And now more modern technological devices. Even the television doctors, like Sanjay Gupta, are spreading this word. But nobody is acknowledging that the healing doesn’t occur in our heads. Managing and controlling our thoughts and feelings doesn’t heal the pain that still lives within. Understanding the thoughts and feelings and even the cause in our lives, doesn’t heal the pain. It doesn’t help us work through it, resolve it, dissolve and transform it. It only helps us hold it at bay … again. Or bury it … again. Nobody’s saying these deeper truths about the help available.

Nobody’s talking about the deep, healing therapy that can take place if you find the right therapist, one who will go with you to the roots.

My heart is grieving that too many people will think “if Robin Williams, who had all the resources he needed, couldn’t get the help he needed to not kill himself, what hope is there for me?”  I understand that resources are needed for therapy – time, money, energy, commitment. But … my heart is grieving that nobody is saying, it’s not the resources, it’s finding the right help. It’s finding the right person.

As far as I’ve heard – and I’ve listened to many talk of his life and death in this past week …
Nobody’s talked about his frenetic, frenzied comedy and the pain that was so obvious in that frenetic energy.
People have talked about his depression, but nobody’s spoken of the manic nature of his comedy, his energy, even his interviews.
People have spoken of his good heart and all he did for others. Nobody’s spoken about how they gave to him. Steven Spielberg, it has been said, called Robin every night while he was making Schindler’s List and asked Robin to make him laugh.

Nobody called Robin every night and asked him,  “What can I do for you, Robin?”
Nobody called him every night and offered to him, “Share your pain with me, Robin.”
Nobody invited him to call them every night and ask them to be with him as he talked about and expressed the pain he was in.
I wish I had invited Robin to call me.
I wish he had called me and allowed me to listen to his pain and be with him … and help him heal to the root.


© Judith Barr, 2014

The Wounding Is Evident – But So Is the Possibility for Healing

Since the beginning of 2014 the signs of wounding in our world – even just here in the USA – are obvious, blatant, and easily visible in the light of day.  Why don’t we see them as the signs of wounding that they are?

By January 24, there were already news reports commenting on the increased frequency of school shootings in this year …7 in the first 14 school days of 2014, in comparison to 28 in all of 2013.

Why don’t people see what drives these tragedies as wounding? The wounding of the shooters? The wounding in their families? The wounding in our society? Instead of seeing the wounding and healing it, they try to control the guns. And at the same time, they want to teach children how to use guns?

The blindness is heart stopping! The denial is breath-taking. The opportunities are completely ignored. The consequences so destructive!

A retired police captain, Curtis Reeves, shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theater because Chad was texting his babysitter. A former cop! Someone we’re “supposed” to trust to keep us safe.  The wounding explodes out into the world in the form of misuse and abuse of power. Do we see the wounding in this and other members of our “protective services”?  Or is our own sight wounded by our early experiences with authorities and “supposed protectors” in our childhood?

A Congressman, Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) spoke to a reporter in an appalling way – appalling for any person to speak to another, even for a politician in today’s world. But he’s not just a politician; he’s a government official.  He insulted the reporter, Michael Scotto. He cursed at the reporter. And worst of all, he threatened the reporter, “I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony.” And he threatened again, “I’ll break you in half, like a boy.” Unfortunately, this kind of behavior and talk in our world’s political arena – in our world period – has become too commonplace. And, unfortunately, we too often only see it as the sign of a particular individual’s “bad behavior.”  Why don’t we see the sign it is of that individual’s wounding? And why don’t we see the sign it is of cultural wounding … that this is so commonplace?

As if that weren’t sign enough of wounding, Representative Grimm first defended and justified his behavior, and then he showed even further signs of wounding – both personal and cultural. He offered something he called an “apology,” but it wasn’t really an apology. It was a justification for his threats and bullying: he said he was “passionate”; he was “in a hurry”; he was “annoyed”; he “verbally took the reporter to task and told him off.” A blatant sign of lack of personal responsibility…his own and a reflection of that in our world.  And a flagrant sign of the dearth of ability to make real repair … for him and in our world. Signs of profound, deep, and also expansive wounding.

Now we come to Chris Christie … previously a potential candidate for president in 2016. Caught in apparent lies, bullying, and revenge. From soaring to a favored governor to plummeting into distrust and disfavor. People are saying all sorts of things about him. The personal wounding is obvious. But does anyone look at that? Does anyone talk about that?

And Justin Bieber, 19 year old singer … speeding, dui, drugs, who knows what else. People see him as all sorts of things, including “spoiled kid celebrity.” But are we blind to his wounding … whatever wounding he experienced in his family and, in addition, the wounding in the celebrity and entertainment world?

The same and similar questions can be asked in relation to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman – apparently overdosed on heroin. What painful wounding did he live with that he never healed … even with his celebrity, even with his money, even with his opportunities for healing? Can’t we see how true this is of both the people with celebrity and money and also those without? The wounding in our world is widespread . . . and oh, so very visible!

If we were to be honest about it, we have all been wounded in some way. No one has escaped. “How do we respond to our wounding?” is the real question. Do we try to keep it buried? Do we pretend it never happened? Do we normalize it as just part of life? Do we attempt to manage it?

Do we do everything we can to control it and the consequences of that wounding? Do we act it out with others and justify that?  Do we try to “rise above” the wounding and pretend that can help us escape its effects?  Do we try to “transcend” the wounding with prayer and meditation and focusing on the light, pretending there is nothing hidden in the dark of our own unconscious selves? Do we somehow or other leave it unhealed . . . and wonder why our lives aren’t what they could be? And wonder why our world is the way it is?

When we are children experiencing pain, wounding, trauma … we reflexively protect ourselves from what feels unbearable to a child. We bury it, repress it, split ourselves off from the experience. We numb ourselves and deaden ourselves. Originally these are a means of protection. As time goes on and they continue, they start to harden into defenses. Even then, they are a child’s way of trying to stay sane and trying to stay alive.

And if we keep those defenses until we safely get ourselves to someone who can help us heal – truly heal to the root – then those defenses may have served us well. But we may have found someone who, instead of helping us heal to the root, helps us instead to strengthen our defenses – with or without even realizing it – or to create new defenses along with our original ones. And all the while, our defenses may have also caused us and others we touch unanticipated pain. Pushing people away to keep from feeling what happened long ago is an example. Lashing out at people who care about you to avoid having a childhood experience triggered is another example.

For while our defenses may keep us intact till we reach someone who can help us heal … those same defenses usually also create the very things they were originally devised to defend us against.  Let’s say we refuse to give all we’ve got to an endeavor at work … out of fear of being punished (the way mom or dad punished us as children). But our boss gets angry at us for falling short. The defense has created the very anger and punishment it was meant to prevent. Or let’s say we’re scared to be all we can be in a business we’re called to create, for fear dad will tell us “we’re too big for our britches.” So we start the business without telling our father and proceed along, keeping our success a secret, till one day the secret comes out and dad’s response is predictably … “What’re you too big for your britches that you didn’t need my help at all?” Once again, our defense has created the very thing it was intended to avoid.

So we have this ancient wounding that is so prevalent in our world. The wounding that comes along with us as we age, alive though perhaps unconscious within us. Do we keep it buried? Do we build a wall within and without to keep from touching it again? To keep from ever feeling it again? Do we deny we were ever wounded, even to ourselves? Do we use a million and one defenses – even new age defenses, twenty-first century defenses – to keep from meeting our wounding again as adults, even if that meeting could make possible the healing? Even if meeting that wounding again is absolutely necessary, in truth, to making possible the healing?

And as a result, do we fail to see the wounding in those around us – up close and far away – individually, culturally, and globally? And if we are unable to see the wounding outside ourselves because we are unable to see the wounding within . . . how will we ever, ever, ever be able to help resolve the problems that exist as a result of wounding? The problems in ourselves. The problems in our families. The problems in our schools. The problems in our religious and spiritual organizations. The problems in our corporations. The problems in our places of employment. The problems in our governments …

We need to take off our blinders and see the signs of wounding – in ourselves and in our world. We need to see and recognize what’s going awry in our lives and in our world as signs of wounding – signs of wounding showing us there are wounds to be healed. We need to know we can heal this wounding … if we commit to being courageous explorers, detectives, and healers in our own unconscious selves.

© Judith Barr, 2014

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

We are all wounded. We all need to become more aware of our own wounding, and commit to do the work needed to explore and heal our wounding.

As you go about your day, try to become aware of situations where your own wounding is evident…and how you react to your own wounds. Ask yourself the same questions I ask in the article above:

Do you try to keep your wounds buried?
Do you pretend the traumas that gave birth to your wounds never happened?
Do you normalize your wounding as just part of life?
Do you attempt to manage or control your wounding and the consequences of that wounding? Do you act it out with others and justify that?
Do you try to “rise above” the wounding and pretend that can help you escape its effects?
Do you try to “transcend” the wounding with prayer and meditation and focusing on the light, pretending there is nothing hidden in the dark of your own unconscious self?
Do you somehow or other leave it unhealed…and wonder why your life and our world aren’t what they could be?

Becoming more aware of how you react to your own wounding can be a starting step in the journey towards healing…taking us further from just trying to control the effects of our own wounding in the outer world and closer toward healing those wounds to the root. And … in doing so, we move closer toward real, sustainable change not only in our lives but in our world.

WHITNEY, TELL THEM WHAT BOBBI KRISTINA IS REALLY SUFFERING FROM

Too many media people have reported that Whitney Houston’s daughter, Bobby Kristina, is suffering from anxiety and stress. This is such a tragic sign of our cultural emotional ignorance. And such a dreadful way to feed that lack of emotional awareness. Such an unfortunate way, perhaps without even realizing it, to prevent the development of emotional maturity in our world.

Emotional maturity is not about diminishing and discounting our feelings. Rather it’s about recognizing them, feeling them, and giving them the importance they have in our beings, in our lives, and in the life of our world. Emotional growth is not about rising above our feelings. Rather it’s about building the capacity to feel and express our feelings safely – safely for us and safely for those around us. It’s about growing the awareness of which feelings are here-and-now feelings and which are feelings from long, long ago . . . so we can discern which ones need to be simply felt and perhaps acted on in the here and now, and which ones need to be felt and expressed purposefully, consciously, and safely solely for the purpose of healing. Emotional maturity is about feeling so safe with our own feelings and our safe, healthy expression of our feelings . . . that we don’t have to defend against them, demean them, be contemptuous of them anymore.

Emotional wisdom is about being able to grieve . . . whatever loss you have experienced. It’s about being able to feel and express safely all the feelings that are contained within the cauldron of grief. It’s about being able to feel the grief in the current day, and tell when there’s also grief coming up from previous times, both recent and long, long ago.

Whitney, don’t let them tell Bobbi Kristina that she’s just feeling anxiety and stress. Let’s make sure your precious daughter knows she is grieving. Let’s make sure she has the help to grieve fully and deeply. Let’s help her know that along with her grief from your death, she will likely also be feeling grief from earlier in her life – like when you and her father divorced, among other times.

Whitney, let’s give our whole hearts to helping Bobbi Kristina and the rest of the world grow their capacity to grieve deeply, fully, and safely . . . in order to grow from and through the grief, instead of getting stuck in it and acting out on themselves, others, and our precious earth. Let’s help utilize your tragic, sudden, premature death, Whitney, for healing our distorted relationships with grief and many other feelings.

© Judith Barr, 2012

WHITNEY HOUSTON – AN UNEXPECTED LEGACY

In his eulogy for Whitney Houston, Kevin Costner acknowledged the questions Whitney carried in her heart … Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me? He went on to say that it was the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble in the end.

I listened to Kevin speaking lovingly and respectfully about Whitney and I wept. Oh Whitney! You stumbled from not knowing if you were good enough? I could have helped you with that. As a psychotherapist, I work with people all the time who suffer from the same thing. It didn’t have to bring you down.

To begin with, it’s so sad you felt that way. And it’s so sad you had so many resources with which to get help and never found someone to help you with your own painful questions. It’s so very sad. And it is so sad that so many people feel that way.

So I say to you, Whitney, to your daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and to millions all over our world . . . if you are suffering from questions like these about whether or not you are good enough, it is possible to heal this suffering to the root.

As we can see from your struggles, Whitney, it’s important that people know of this possibility. Too many in our world don’t know. Too often in our world the help advocated and given only offers bandaids and techniques through which to manage the pain, manage the questions, manage the aching, broken relationship with self. The bandaids and quick fixes delude people into imagining they’re healing, while actually it keeps them stuck, haunted by the inner world of ‘not good enough,’ that’s been pushed further into the ground and not at all resolved. But you can find people – psychotherapists – who truly know how to help you utilize those agonizing questions, experiences, decisions, and feelings as a passageway through to real healing.

There is hope. Imagine what it would be like to heal your experience of not being good enough. Imagine what it would be like for you. And imagine what it would be like communally, as each person who doesn’t feel like she/he is good enough heals individually and, as a result, has a healing impact on our world.

Imagine, Whitney, if that healing becomes part of your legacy!

© Judith Barr, 2012

A Note to Catherine Zeta-Jones . . . and Everyone Else, Too

On April 13th, 2010, it was announced to the public that Catherine Zeta-Jones had recently undergone treatment in a mental health facility in Connecticut, treatment for Bipolar II disorder. Every news cast and article I’ve read recommends medications and psychotherapy.

But the therapy that has been consistently recommended is not psychotherapy as I know it. It’s today’s version of “psychotherapy” which is about managing the symptoms behaviorally and cognitively. Things like understanding and recognizing the triggers for the symptoms, making preventative changes, and tweaking the person’s medication. There is nothing wrong with these things as steps, but only as steps and only as truly needed. But these are being recommended as the therapy.

This is a version of psychotherapy that has taken the soul out of the psychotherapy I know, honor, and love. Psychotherapy is soul work at its best, at its deepest, at heart. What “psychotherapy” has become in our world today is the result of politics (by pharmaceuticals, by “managed care” health insurance, by a system whose goal is the “quick fix” to get you up and working and “functional” as quickly as possible) . . . and repeated blatant and insidious attacks from many quarters in our society on true psychotherapy, true healing, people truly knowing themselves, what happened to them long, long ago, and what still lives within them calling to be healed, calling to be birthed into being, calling to be fulfilled.

Some days ago I heard a well known medical correspondent say that curing it was probably going too far. In other words, there was not a likelihood of cure for Catherine Zeta-Jones, for people with Bipolar Disorder II.

And so I want to let you know, Catherine . . . if you choose to simply take medication and adjust your lifestyle, that is your choice. But you definitely have other choices. It is possible for you, if you are willing to make the commitment and do the inner exploration and healing . . . it is possible for you to heal what you are suffering from to the roots that live within you.

And that which is possible for you, will also make so much more possible for your children. And that which is possible for you, is possible for others, too.

Don’t settle for the limitations that today’s psychotherapists, drug companies, and media people settle for. If therapists do not do their own work to heal the roots of their own wounds, those therapists cannot possibly help others do the inner work to heal to the roots of their wounds.

Don’t settle, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Don’t settle. You have a choice!

© Judith Barr, 2011

HUMILIATION: AN OFTEN IGNORED, NORMALIZED, DENIED FORM OF ABUSE

It doesn’t take much to normalize humiliation in our families, in our country, and in our world. It doesn’t take much to normalize it as a way of being . . . without even calling it the abuse that it is.  It doesn’t take much to normalize it as a way of thinking and feeling, or as a way of interacting – with ourselves and with others.  The following steps are examples of how we’ve come to be part of a country and world in which humiliation is an all-too-common form of abuse.

Step 1:

On Monday, September 27, Michael Bolton dances to the song “Hound Dog” on Dancing with The Stars.
He is humiliated that night by judge Bruno Tonioli.

Step 2:

On Tuesday, September 28th, Michael Bolton has to leave the show. He doesn’t have enough points to stay…possibly in part because of the humiliation the night before.”   People are affected when they see someone humiliated. How depends upon their own experience with humiliation.

Step 3:

Michael Bolton’s wanting an apology from Bruno is discussed on Good Morning America. The hosts of the show seem to think Michael’s the one with the problem – as though humiliation is ‘normal’ and asking for an apology is ‘abnormal.’  Who once humiliated the hosts, making humiliation seem normal in the process?

Many of those commenting on the ABC blog (about half) joined in the humiliation of Bolton.

“Bolton is a cry baby loser.”
“Bolton ought to be apologizing for the way he talked after the show. He sounded like a spoilt brat…pleeze!!!”
“Guess what Michael? You can’t sing either.”

If this is what we say to Michael Bolton, this is what we say to our own children.
And this is probably what was said to us.

Step 4  . . . or is it really step 1?

Under “Bruno Tonioli” in Wikipedia,  Bruno acknowledges having been humiliated as a child for being gay.
What was done to us we do to others.
So what was done to Bruno – humiliation – he did to Michael Bolton . . . humiliate him.
No matter how much the producers of Dancing with the Stars claim Bruno was just doing his job as a judge and giving his honest opinion . . . Bruno was humiliating Michael Bolton. Who humiliated the producers when they were young, under the guise of giving their honest opinions?

Step 5:

Within the same week’s time . . . a suicide occurs in response to humiliation.
A young man’s roommate announces the secret, live streaming online of video of this young man’s sexual encounter with another student. The young man, humiliated beyond words, jumps off the George Washington Bridge.

Who humiliated the roommate – that he would humiliate this young man?
And how?
Why won’t we look at the truth?
Why won’t we see the roots of humiliation in our lives and the life of our country?

Step 6:

Members of the United States military humiliate prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib!
Who humiliated those members of the military in their childhoods that they would demean, steal the dignity of other human beings?

And how does the military itself humiliate those it trains and employs to protect US interests and fight our wars?

Step 7:

Anyone who runs as a candidate for election in the U.S. puts him/herself on the chopping block to be grossly humiliated.  Humiliated by misusing the truth. Dishonestly humiliated. Heartbreakingly humiliated. How did this become such a part of who we are as a country? Not that other countries don’t have this trait also, they do. But many of us think of ourselves as so civilized, while doing things that are so uncivilized . . .  like brutally humiliating people.  Our country. Your country. The important question is: How did this become such a part of who we are as a country? As a world?

Why won’t we look at the truth and heal it?

Because we would see a mammoth malignant growth larger than we can even imagine?
Because most people don’t want to know this?
Because most people don’t want to do the work to heal it, individually or communally?
Because most people don’t want to feel the pain of our own humiliation?
Because most people don’t want to feel the pain of our having humiliated others?

If we don’t look at this, own this, and heal it . . . Who have we become?
If we don’t?  What will we become . . . individually and communally?

© Judith Barr 2010

WE HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN FROM SUSAN BOYLE

Less than a week ago – on Tuesday, April 14 – we learned about Susan Boyle’s appearance on Britain’s Got Talent.
So much has occurred since then.*

But I want to say some things at the heart of the matter.

It’s time for truth telling . . .

First . . . how many people rolled their eyes, made faces with their mouths, judged, disrespected, mocked Susan?
Did you?
How many people are blinded by appearance, whether that appearance is one of exquisite beauty or the opposite end of the spectrum?
Are you?
How many people were blind to the human being, the heart and the unique soul beneath the outer appearance?
Were you?
How many people would have stayed in that very same position, if Susan had not sung like an angel?
Would you have?

Second . . . let’s look at it from Susan’s perspective.
How was she able to stay grounded in herself, her realness, and her gift in the face of such ridicule? Most people fear to be themselves, for fear they will be responded to by that kind of mockery . . . and so instead, they hide themselves.
Do you?

Susan didn’t collapse into a defense in response to people’s contempt. How did she do that? In the face of such contempt . . . most people collapse into a defense, created long ago in their childhoods in an attempt to protect the gift that they are.
In the face of such derision, would you collapse into a defense?

Susan watched and heard people’s scorn, but didn’t give up herself and her gift.  She kept being and giving the gift that she is. In the face of such scorn. . . most people do give themselves up.
In the face of such derision, would you give up yourself and your gift . . . the gift that you are?

Third . . . back to the contempt.
Contempt is a defense against our own vulnerable feelings. If you were contemptuous of Susan . . . without being aware of it,  you were defending yourself against your own feelings about putting yourself out there . . . revealing yourself undefendedly to others. You were defending yourself against the pain you have felt – the earliest of which was probably in your early childhood – when you were real, undefended, vulnerable, and could be nothing else.
Can you allow yourself to find the truth of that for you?

This may not seem political, but it most definitely is. It’s political for us as citizens. And it’s political for us as potential leaders.
The more contemptuous we are . . . the more we defend against our authentic selves and the more we misuse our power in relation to others’ authentic selves. The less we are able to stay grounded in ourselves and our realness . . . the less we are able to fully participate in healing and re-creating our world.

The more we collapse into our defenses . . . the more vulnerable we are to being programmed and controlled, instead of being vital contributing members of our society, and vital leaders as well. The more we give up the gifts we have to offer and the gift of ourselves . . . the less we have to offer to our world.

Caution:  Given the wounds that have caused us to fear being ourselves, to collapse into our defenses, to give up ourselves and our gifts as supposed protection against judgment, ridicule and scorn . . . The work of healing this does not happen overnight. Our quick fix, put-a-bandaid-on-it society prevents the real healing and perpetuates the wounds.

The healing does not happen by willing it. It does not happen by burying once again our vulnerable feelings and trying to rise above them. It does not happen by managing and controlling our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If we try to heal that way, we will only feed the wounds, the defenses, and the coping mechanisms we have carried with us into this day, causing them to persist and perhaps become even more tenacious. The wounds need to be healed to the root with patience, compassion, commitment, and great truth and love.

*On the one hand, word of Susan Boyle’s entire experience on Britain’s Got Talent, has spread all over the world. On the other hand, many are suspicious about the circumstances, whispering and blogging that it was planned … wondering aloud why her hair wasn’t coiffed and why she wasn’t dressed more fashionably.

For the purposes of this post, the most important thing is not what actually happened, but rather what we can learn about ourselves. That is true, even if the whole thing was planned, because if it was, the plan must have calculated what is true about our human nature.

My invitation: See what you can learn for yourself from the post.

(c) Judith Barr, 2009