THE YOUNG POPE: A CANDID MIRROR FOR US ALL

“Cut the dime store analysis out and work with me,” said the tyrannical “young pope.”
“I don’t work with 9-year-old boys,” his mentor, the cardinal, courageously responded.
You’ve never budged* from the front gate of that orphanage, where one fine day,
with no explanation, your parents abandoned you.
May God help us!
You want to make the world pay for the wrong it did to you.
You’ll be a terrible pope. The worst.
And the most dangerous in modern times.
And I don’t intend to waste the few years I have remaining
being an accomplice to a vindictive little boy
!”**

~~~~~~~~

This could be from biblical times.
It could be from Roman times.
It could be from medieval and renaissance times.
It could be from the times of colonial Britain.
It could be from the times of the World Wars.
It could be from today’s times in the USA.
It could be from our very own times in the world today.
Or … it could be from times in our world a year from now, 10 years from now, half a century from now, or more.

It’s not just about leaders – world or national, major or minor.
It’s not just about their advisors – with advice that’s legitimate, valid, just, in truth, or not.
It’s not just about their supporters – whether well-informed or seduced and deluded.
It’s not just about their opponents – fighting for what they believe is right and good and safe.
It’s about all of us.

You’ve never budged…”

Each of us has never budged from some painful point in our childhood. Perhaps some point physically, like the front gate of an orphanage, the corner of a crib, a closet in the bedroom, a cellar. But most importantly, from some point emotionally that was traumatic for us – such as an event that created in us primal terror, rage, hurt, heartbreak, or a cauldron of all those feelings cooking in our being.

“You want to make the world pay…”

Each of us, whether or not we realize it, buried our feelings and made some decision way back at the time of that trauma – some decision about how to relate to ourselves, others, life itself, even The Divine. Maybe we decided to make the world pay overtly. Maybe covertly. Maybe we decided to do a better job of “ruling” the world than those who ruled our childhood world. Maybe we decided we’d punish the ones who hurt us and save those who, like us, needed to be rescued.  Maybe we even decided to hurt ourselves in order to make the other pay. Whatever we decided, most of us didn’t realize we were making a decision we would actually carry out in our lives. Most of us didn’t realize we would carry out our actions, driven by the decision of a 9-year old – like the young pope from the series quoted above – a 5-year old, a 2-year old, or even a tiny baby whose decision was beneath thoughts and words.

“You’ll be a terrible pope…”

Maybe we thought all this primal wounding and our early decisions from it would make us the strongest, the smartest, the most skilled, the richest, the best. The best at whatever we tried. But most likely, our primal wounding actually made us the worst. The worst parent. The worst partner. The worst employee or boss. The worst leader or follower. The most dangerous in modern times. The most dangerous as we continue to enact again and again some version of the wounds we experienced onto those in our lives today – both people we are close to and people we’ll never ever even meet.

… And I don’t intend to waste the few years I have remaining
being an accomplice to a vindictive little boy
!”

If nobody insists we face what we’re doing, how will we know? If nobody teaches us … If nobody stops us … If nobody shows us the truth … How will we know that we’re acting out our wounds from our youth on people in our lives today? How will we know that in the guise of an adult, we’re carrying on our lives as a child?  How will we know that beneath the appearance of someone who has grown big and tall … is a little girl or boy (us) who is going through days and nights pretending to be a grown up?

And if nobody insists we face what we’re doing in public … how will anyone in the world know there is a child driving the world in a big person’s body, with a big person’s mask, in a big person’s role, with the power of a big person … to do anything that child wants – out in the open or under cover of secrecy, acknowledged in truth or supposedly hidden by lies?

And if no one knows there is a child driving the world – whether that world be a family, a school, a company, a town government, a country, our Earth – how will anyone know that child-pretending-to-be-an-adult needs to do the inner healing work to stop the travesty the child is re-enacting of creating trauma in an attempt to defend against the buried-yet-still-alive pain of the trauma the child once experienced?

And how in heaven’s name will we find our way to facing and healing the damage we are creating in our attempts to keep the trauma we once experienced at bay? And how in heaven’s name will we find our way to facing and healing the trauma at the root of our own personal acting out?

It’s a gift when one person can see this and name it. Why can’t more of us do so?  Because we, too, are still little children inside, trying to hold at bay the memories and traumas and painful feelings from back when we were actually little children. So we do collude with the person like the young pope in the series. And we do collude from our own young woundedness that we have never healed. Our own young woundedness that we have not yet healed.

We are seeing this all over our country in the US. We are seeing this all over our world. We wouldn’t be here, where we are in the life of our world today, if each of us hadn’t contributed in some way, big or small, from the traumas in our personal histories that we have left unconscious and unhealed.  From the traumas in our family histories that we have left unconscious and unhealed. From the traumas in our communal histories that we have left unconscious and unhealed… up until now.

Here we have it. A summary and mirror of the choice each of us has in our life.
A summary of the choice we have as a country.
The choice we have as a human race:
Face and heal the ancient wounding we carry within us.
Or continue to wound ourselves and others in the world today and tomorrow –
in a futile attempt to get away from the ancient wounds living within us,
and the painful feelings that go with them.

Thank you to all those involved in the production of The Young Pope.

You have held a mirror for us. A mirror for what is happening and a mirror of our choices. The dialogue between the cardinal and the young pope has shown us the point from which the young pope has never budged. We see other glimpses into the places from which others in the cast of characters have, themselves, never budged. A clear mirror in which we can see ourselves.

Without helping the child within get unstuck from that place s/he hasn’t yet budged from … without helping the child within heal so there is no longer a need to hold the ancient pain at bay by creating the same pain in the world today … that person cannot act from an adult place in these challenging times.

Your efforts have contributed to helping us in this process of healing the stuck children so we can take steps toward truly acting as adults.

Thank you. Please continue to find ways to show us where we have blocked our own way and how to get ourselves unblocked as soon as possible, as deeply as possible, as much in Truth and Love as possible.

This is my work, and I am so thankful to have your crystal-clear help.

*Italics mine for emphasis.
**From the third episode of the HBO series, “The Young Pope.” The pope played by Jude Law; the cardinal played by James Cromwell.

© Judith Barr, 2017.

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

It can be very difficult to see ourselves, or even want to see ourselves, when we are acting, feeling, and thinking from a very wounded young place within. But it is crucial, for our sakes and for the sake of our world, that we become more aware of those times when we are unconsciously regressed.

To truly help in the healing of our world … commit today to become aware of those times when you’re being “a child in an adult’s body.” Are there times when you feel, think or even act in a way that reminds you of a time long ago in childhood when you felt, thought, and acted the same way? Or maybe you wanted to feel, think or act in that same way as a child but were too afraid?

When witnessing events unfolding in our nation and our world, either in fiction or in the real world … can you see the same regression in world leaders and their followers – in your own nation and in the world at large? What comes up inside you when you see or hear leaders who are acting from a young, wounded place? Do you collude? Are you stirred strongly, angrily or maybe even violently?

There may be those in your life, like the cardinal quoted above, who can see your regression when you cannot. Most of all, you may need a good, caring therapist to help you see the regression you and others cannot see … and who can help you to explore and heal the young wounded self still living inside you.

Imagine if everyone committed to use the mirror of The Young Pope – and the many other mirrors we are presented with every day – to explore and heal the wounded child within …our leaders … their followers … their opponents … ourselves … all of us!

The NFL – What They Needed to Do and Couldn’t…Yet

So many have heard about Ray Rice’s violent abuse of his fiancée and the Baltimore Ravens’ and NFL’s failure to respond the way they really needed to … and the way we as a society really needed them to.

Instead of hiding what they knew, keeping silent, initially giving Ray a symbolic slap on the wrist with a couple weeks’ suspension, denying all sorts of things, and, only after the video came out into public view, instead of escalating their responses to the level of the Ravens canceling his contract and the NFL suspending him indefinitely . . . they could have modeled for everyone what is really needed when it’s revealed that one person is abusing another person – man, woman, or child.

Let’s wonder about a different perspective …

What if it wasn’t actually a good idea to cancel and suspend Ray Rice? What if that came from the public’s pressure and threat to ban games? What if the threat of the “almighty dollar” got in the way of their doing what would have been really healthy and healing … like it too often does in many arenas of life?  What if, despite the violence and danger inherent in football, taking away Ray’s ability to play took away one of his releases of aggression – from here and now and long, long ago? What if it made him more likely to abuse?  What if taking away his livelihood added one more trigger to abuse rather than healing? What if responding with punishment feeds abuse – it does for children. If it does for children, why wouldn’t it for adults, too? What if their jumping to a punishment makes the football “heads of state” more like abusers themselves than like the models they could be for all who watch and play football? What if first they colluded with the abuse, normalizing it like so many others in society, and then they tried to save face (and money) by punishing the abuser – abusing the abuser? What if none of this was what was really needed … for Ray, for the Ravens, for the NFL, for healing domestic violence in our country, for us?

So what could the Ravens and the NFL have done that wouldn’t feed abuse? They could have told Ray that in order to stay on the team, he would need to go to ongoing therapy and never abuse his fiancée or anyone else again.

They could have told him that as long as he continued to stay in therapy and truly work to heal to the root all that had caused him to be abusive, and as long as he didn’t abuse anyone, he could continue on the team. And if he violated either one of those, he would be suspended permanently. They could have selected a therapist who they knew would do the deep healing work with Ray, or they could have established approval rights on the therapist he selected and made sure there was a legal, ethical way to monitor that he was still in therapy … and not abusing anyone.

We have so much to learn in our country and our world.

It is so disturbing that as civilized as we believe we are here in the United States, and many other countries, as well, there are 39 countries that have banned corporal punishment of children by parents. And the U.S. is not among them. Neither are Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, nor the United Kingdom.* And in those countries in which corporal punishment of children by parents is legal, the “restrictions” include such bizarre guidelines as “reasonable force,” “non-excessive force,” “punishment necessary to discipline or safeguard the child and his or her welfare,” “the child being able to benefit from the correction,” and “the correction not causing harm.” These are all guises to justify physical abuse. Physical “punishment” does cause harm … physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harm. Anyone claiming otherwise is not aware, not educated, not in reality … the reality of that little child.

I understand the dilemma: how do we not violate the rights of parents to raise their own children, and still protect those children as they grow? I don’t have a short term definitive answer. But I do know that every person I’ve ever worked with who was hit as a child, remained afraid of being hit from deep inside – until the transformation that came from going through the healing crossroads. They may have tried to bury that frightened part of themselves, or they may be very aware of it. They may have become passive in shaping their lives to avoid people attacking them, or they may have tried to avoid being hit by lashing out and attacking other people, children and adults alike.  It gets passed down from one generation to the next. The cycle of abuse, abuse as the reaction to being triggered, gets passed down from one generation to the next.

This happens in families, in communities, in states, in countries … all over our world. A child abused when young, may well abuse his or her own child, partner, or someone else as s/he ages. If violence was an option in the childhood home, it has an enormous likelihood of becoming an option in the adult home. And even if the parent believes he or she loves the child, and uses love as a guise for abusing that little one … the real truth is: The parent is burying the memory of the deep, intense, fear, pain, hurt, helplessness, powerlessness, and more … experienced when s/he was abused as a child. He may remember that he was hit or beaten, but he has built big defenses against re-experiencing the feelings. And those big defenses include abusing others … re-enacting the abuse as a defense against the young child’s feeling experience on all levels of being. That is, the feeling experience of the young child he once was is still alive inside the now-big person.  If the now-big person could feel all those feelings from the childhood trauma of being abused, s/he could not abuse anyone else.

Ignoring abuse won’t resolve it. Normalizing abuse won’t resolve it. Punishing abuse with something equivalent to abuse won’t resolve it. Although laws say a lot about attitude toward abuse – the environment of the city, state, or country – the real resolution is healing.

A lot of people are saying it’s wonderful that the abuse that has been occurring in the sports world is bringing out into the open the problem of abuse in the U.S. And yes! It is a step that the seriousness of the problem has been brought out into the open even more than it already was.

But people are still normalizing it – up to a point. Many on talk shows and news teams are acknowledging they were abused as children, but some of them are okaying what they experienced as different from what Ray Rice did to his fiancée (now wife) or Adrian Peterson did to his son.

No abuse is okay. None! Abuse harms children, families, communities, countries, our world … all of us.

What this really shows us, if we are willing to honestly look and see and fully invest in the true resolution … is that we need to heal this problem at its roots. We need to heal this problem in families.

We need to heal this problem in parents. We need to heal this problem in the children who are abused and grow up with wounds and defenses that they act out on their own children, partners, and others, as well.  We need to heal this in the children who are abused and grow up with fear in their hearts that they might be hit again. They are often the ones who end up in abusive relationships in which they become the abused partner.

We need to heal this problem one by one with people doing their real healing – not just quick fixes, not just managing and controlling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We need to heal this problem to the root. We need to invest in educating people individually, communally, globally about the truth of the problem. And we need to invest our resources, our commitments, our hearts in truly resolving this problem.

Not just in the outer world, but in the world within us . . . from the inside out.

If the NFL and the Ravens had acted differently than they did, they could have truly helped … they could have modeled the real solution for their fans and for children who see the sports celebrities as their models.

They didn’t. But we can. Please join me in making this investment…and inviting others to join us.

© Judith Barr, 2014

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home

 

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

It’s up to each and every one of us to help end domestic violence and abuse in any and all forms. And we can start by doing the inner work necessary to explore and heal the childhood wounds within us … wounds that are at the root of abuse. Wounds that cause us to collude with abuse, normalize abuse, or even actively abuse.

Start by exploring your own relationships. Are there times when you have been abused and tolerated it? And … are there times when you yourself have abused? You may be able to start to explore the feelings you have when you’re being abused or when you’re abusive, tracing those feelings back to times in your early life when you felt similar feelings. But … this is a very delicate process. You may very well find you need the help of a good, integritous, caring therapist to help you explore and heal those feelings … so you can break the cycle of abuse in your life and your family … and your world.

Also … while getting the help you need to heal to the root … let others know that abuse in any form should not be tolerated, and that there is hope for healing the abuse so sadly prevalent in our country and our world. If you feel called, share this article with those you know, to help expand healing out into our world.

We can stop domestic violence … not through tolerance of it or even laws against it, but through each and every one of us doing our own inner healing.

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

Another Way to Wound Children Under A Guise?

Another week of painful experiences in our world – the result of generations of childhood wounding that have been repressed, held at bay, denied, ignored, misnamed, normalized, completely discounted. 

Another week of shootings . . . as I write this there are reports of yet another shooting at a high school. 

Another report of a  psychiatrist who has had a sexual relationship with a patient and instead of having to go through and live with the most painful consequences of the exposure, gets away with brokering a deal to surrender his license and move abroad. And the only reason this even came out into the public is that he was once the psychiatrist of Adam Lanza, the young man who did the shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. 

More weeks of a politician falling from grace, this time the Governor of New Jersey, and fighting to land “safely” despite what’s being revealed.

Another round of people so desperate for love – the desperation a sign of wounding right there – that they are willing to expose themselves in a competition for love on the reality show, The Bachelor/Bachelorette.

Once again these – and more – events happening out in public view. What about all the occurrences that result from childhood wounding that nobody ever shares or discovers? What about all the times the wounding and its consequences are kept secret? And what about all the people who look at these kinds of happenings and are either blind to the roots in childhood or refuse to see the roots in childhood?

And now, under the guise of yet another parenting fad, they’re talking about treating children like adults!  They’re talking about wounding children . . . under the guise of yet another method for parents to parent.

I can hardly believe it.

I can predict with fair certainty that in 20 to 30 years, if not before, those children will need help. Or they will be acting out in their lives – and ours – in ways that are not good for them and others affected – or downright harmful – and in ways that they and our society will deem normal, despite the harm.

I have worked with many people over my years as a depth psychotherapist. I can’t tell you how many of those people were treated like little adults when they were children. How many of those people were talked to like adults, expected to act like adults, expected to think like adults. How many of those people were told as children that they were responsible for their own feelings? Their parent could yell at them or humiliate them and then blame them for having feelings in response. How many of their parents misunderstood and/or misused the latest parenting trends at the time (like Parent Effectiveness Training), accessible therapeutic models (like the popularized version of Transactional Analysis), and social philosophies (like Ayn Rand’s individualism and objectivism) to turn their children into rational little adults? How many of those people as children were expected to feel like adults – or some version of what their parents thought adults should feel? Or some version of what their parents wanted so the parents wouldn’t have to deal with children? So the parents wouldn’t have to be triggered by their children and their children’s feelings?

I can’t tell you how many of those people were left to figure out for themselves how to get along in their families – get along with their mothers, or fathers, or extended families. How to protect themselves because nobody intervened in their behalf, because nobody protected them. I can’t tell you how many of those people had to figure out how to get what they needed from the youngest age . . . usually before they even knew what they needed or could articulate it. But even then, even as the youngest children, they were already trying to please mommy and daddy . . . as most all young children do reflexively. Even as children, they were trying to act like adults . . . from a child’s vantage point. A child cannot be an adult. A child can only pretend to be an adult. A child can only act as if s/he is an adult. A child can only be precocious enough to stretch way past the age s/he is and role play the part of an older person. A child cannot be an adult. And it is a great disservice to expect him or her to do so.  It is not an act of love, even if the parent intends it to be.

I have to wonder what the childhoods of the parents who choose to treat their children like adults were like. Lay people and celebrities alike. As with the examples above, there is a new parenting trend whose potential is huge for misunderstanding, misuse, abuse of the system – in relation to the state of consciousness and healing of the parent using it.

Some guidelines in RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) are more likely to be misused or abused than others.  For example . . . many people don’t want to hear babies cry. Crying babies often trigger memories – conscious or unconscious – of our own crying when we were babies . . . and whatever caused us to cry or however we were responded to that may have caused us more pain. Think of the parent who says, “I’ll give you something to cry about,” in an attempt to threaten and scare a child out of crying.  The RIE system doesn’t endorse stopping babies from crying, which on the surface looks like an improvement over the lengths some would go to stop a crying baby and not have to relive their own triggered pain. Rather RIE lets babies cry as long as they “want” to, justifying it with the concept of not causing them to repress their feelings. The abuse possible from this is heartbreaking.  Letting a baby cry as long as s/he “wants” to?  That’s absurd. Perhaps as long as s/he needs to if you understand that a baby’s crying is the way the baby communicates discomfort, pain, need. Then maybe the baby needs to cry until someone responds, or until his or her needs are met, or until some soothing action on the part of the parent reassures the baby that s/he is safe and loved. But if you just let the baby cry and don’t respond . . . the baby will eventually give up, whimper, and fall asleep either from exhaustion or to reflexively get away from the pain of not being responded to.  Or the baby will cry him/herself into a rage and then fall asleep from exhaustion or escape from the pain.

In other words, if you don’t respond to the baby’s crying – under the guise of letting them cry “as long as they want” so they won’t repress their feelings – you abuse and wound them terribly. You may not think you do. You may think they won’t even remember. They may not remember consciously, but their experience will show up in their lives – in their thinking, feeling, behavior, defenses, coping mechanisms, beliefs and decisions about themselves, others, and life.

Again, I have to wonder about the childhoods of the parents who choose to treat their children like adults. I have to wonder what these parents are trying to bury and forget and keep unconscious about how they were raised. I have to wonder what they are compensating for – perhaps a mother who consumed them emotionally or infantilized them way beyond the time they were infants and small children? I have to wonder who turned them into little adults. Who “parentified” them, trying to get them to take care of their own parents? Who turned them into little “partners”? Who didn’t let them be the little children they were?

Through a very important lens, one that many would like to discount, but one that cannot be pushed aside or minimized . . . our world today is very much an out-picturing of the children still alive inside the adults who are supposedly taking care of the planet. But it is the children alive inside the adults – the very children who were wounded when young and haven’t yet been helped to heal their wounds – who, from the wings so to speak, drive the families today, drive the businesses today, drive the governments today, drive the citizenry today, drive our world today. And mostly we don’t realize it. And mostly we don’t want to realize it.

Mostly we go about our own business, not realizing how the child still alive inside us is driving our life, our business, our world . . . our parenting. And then we wound our own children because we are too frightened to remember, feel, and heal from our wounds and traumas as children – from the wounds our parents inflicted on us because they weren’t doing their own healing work.

Imagine how much more distorted and how much scarier it will be to have a world populated by people who from the youngest age were treated like little adults according to a parenting fad that just happened to fit hand in hand with the parents’ own wounding . . . and who never, ever were seen, held, responded to as the real children they were. Imagine how dysfunctional it will be, under the guise of extraordinary functionality, when people don’t have memories of being little children, only memories of being little adults . . . and little or no access to the child still alive within who is actually driving their life and the life of our world, making it much more difficult to do the healing that is so needed, or even to know there is healing needed.

And now imagine a world where children are allowed to be children, where parents have done their own work – and continue to do it – and can truly be the loving, caring, guardians of their children. Where parents can truly see their children, hear and feel them, attune to their children. Where parents can be self-responsible, acknowledge their own mistakes and make repair when they’re wrong. Where parents can view their role as parents in the truest perspective: not expecting their children to take care of themselves (or them, for that matter) . . . real parents.

© Judith Barr 2014

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

This month, whether or not you have children of your own, make the commitment to explore how you were treated as a child. Were you expected to be a “little adult” regardless of your age? Were you – subtly or blatantly — given responsibilities and expectations beyond what you were or should have been capable of at that age? Maybe even expected to not only care for yourself, but also for your parents? Or were you, on the other hand, infantilized well past the time when you were a child…smothered by parents who could not accept your growing up? How did you feel then…and most importantly, how does this affect your life now?

If you have children…how has your own childhood affected the way you behave with them? Do you infantilize them? “Parentify” them? And what can you find in your own childhood that affects your relationship with them?

Parenting is not easy…and how much harder do we make it – on ourselves and our children –when we carry with us wounding from our own childhood experience, undiscovered and unhealed? And how much better could we be as parents if we all, each one of us, did the inner work needed to heal those wounds?

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