TORTURE … IT’S INFILTRATED OUR LIVES MORE DEEPLY AND PERSONALLY THAN WE WANT TO ADMIT

How to communicate with you about the issue of torture has been cooking within me.
The inspiration came today.
I’m writing this article about my country, because of all that is taking place about the issue of torture in the U.S.
But don’t think that takes any country off the hook …
We all need to look at this more deeply than people seem to realize.

Andrew O’Hehir’s article in Salon.com on December 14th found its way to my desk, and gave me an opening to express in a new way, what I’ve expressed in many other ways. The title of the article was “America’s Torture Machine Is No Aberration—It’s Part of Our Imperial Decline.” Even more important … its subtitle was the first opening I felt called to utilize to invite you to the truth.

The subtitle: “Can we quit pretending torture is some huge departure from America’s behavior?”

My response on a very different level than the one he’s offering:

We have to quit pretending torture is some huge departure from America’s behavior. It isn’t.

We have to deal with it on the national and international levels because that is actually more difficult to hide. But we also have to deal with it on the individual and familial levels – where it is too easy to hide. And in fact, it is from the individual and familial levels that it gets to the national and international levels. Read on to understand.

From my experience as a psychotherapist, workshop leader, media guest, speaker, and author … I have come to believe there is more child abuse in our country than anyone is willing to know.

O’Hehir wrote in his article, “Sure, there were a handful … who sounded the alarm, but most of us just nodded knowingly.” Just like with the torture that’s being revealed and discussed nationally and internationally today, most of us just nod when the issue of child abuse is brought up in our country. Maybe we nod, maybe we shake our heads, maybe we just move on to something else, maybe we talk about it with emotion and then move on … allowing it to continue. Many of my colleagues and I have experienced the nod of Child Protective Services when we reported child abuse (as we are required to by law.) We had to report it, and we should never use failure to take action on the part of CPS as an excuse not to report it. But the nod has come in many forms, thus allowing the abuse to continue:  often in the form of their saying they know – albeit perhaps in some kind of “coded message” – but they aren’t able to do anything about it; frequently in the form of their missing it completely, as though they were totally blind.

Too frequently in our society, child abuse is denied. It is normalized. It is masked over as ‘needed parenting’ or ‘needed discipline.’ It is rationalized and justified. The pretense that there is no child abuse individually, familially, culturally, is immense. I was shocked to read how the United States compares to other countries on what is actually legal child abuse – meaning on the lack of laws truly prohibiting child abuse in our country.*  For example … I have read that in some states, you can hit a child, but only with your open hand. Or you can hit a child, but can’t leave a bruise. Or you can hit a child, but as long as it’s legally considered to be “reasonable force” and “non-excessive corporal punishment.”

So back to the nod … Yes, most of us nod knowingly because someplace within us – even if we don’t want to know – most of us know that child abuse is an infection that festers in our lives and the life of our country … and world. Child abuse as torture, and then domestic violence as torture, and more. The examples of this that we see in the media are just the very surface layer of a deeper infection.

And as abused children grow up, they, in turn, often abuse their children. And if not their children, someone else in their lives. Their partners. Their employees. Their neighbors. Children in a school. People in a movie theater or mall. On and on … including, often themselves.

People don’t only start torturing once they’re in the military. They don’t only begin torturing once they’re in government. They don’t only start torturing as adults. It is deeply related to their own experiences of torture in some form as children … whether it was physical, mental, emotional, energetic, or spiritual torture.

People are looking at the torture issue through many lenses. Here’s one lens we must look at the issue through or we will never truly resolve it in our country …  we will just continue to be complicit and collude with it, in order not to experience our own memories, our own pain, our own torture and the consequences of it in our lives.

Here’s an opening we must look through and resolve within ourselves. Or we will never resolve it in our country or our world.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home#United_States
Note: Although some countries have banned this form of child abuse, it is lawful in Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, The United Kingdom, The United States.


© Judith Barr, 2014

WHAT HAVEN’T WE LEARNED SINCE THE ORIGINAL 9/11?

Today is 9/11. It’s been 13 years since that tragic, shocking, scary, painful day. And today there are many other tragic, shocking, scary, painful things happening all over our world. What have we learned since the original 9/11? Or even more important, what haven’t we learned?

My heart breaks when I look at what we haven’t learned, for I see we haven’t learned what we need to most learn in order to create our lives individually and communally for the long term. My heart breaks when I see that not only have we not learned but we are blind and deaf to the reality that we have shut ourselves down and buried once again the emotional memory of things in our past. We’ve done that individually and communally. And once we bury our own experiences and feelings – whether personal or societal – we are bound to repeat those painful events in some way, shape, or form. A well-known quote by George Santayana says it in part: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In my field of depth psychotherapy, we understand it even more deeply.  If we are afraid to feel the feelings attached to the memories we buried long ago, usually in childhood, we will live our lives working hard unconsciously to hold those feelings at bay and keep from ever experiencing those feelings again; but those very efforts will drive our lives, and the feelings beneath will haunt us, causing us to somehow  re-enact what we’ve buried in order to bring it back into our awareness so we can heal it. Heal it, not “fix” it. Heal it to the root.

The re-enactment is something we create beneath our awareness.

A baby’s mother yells at him when he asks for what he needs – by crying. He grows up and most likely without realizing it, he draws women to him who do the same; when he tells them what he needs, they get irritated with him, angry at him, humiliate him or some version of what his mother did. A woman’s father threatens her when she doesn’t do exactly what he wants, telling her if she loved him enough to do it right, he wouldn’t have to threaten her. Beneath her awareness, she grows up and chooses partners who abuse her in some way and blame her for their abusiveness.

These are two blatant examples of re-enactments. They are blatant to me. They may well be blatant to those witnessing these people carrying out their re-enactments. But the people in the re-enactments are not even aware of it. They are repeating the vicious cycle they began as children. Each time a person re-creates that original experience in a re-enactment, he proves to himself whatever he decided about himself, others, and life in the core experience. And that’s why people call it a vicious cycle. But also, each time the re-enactment occurs, it is the deep wound that haunts the person calling to her to heal.  If people don’t know it’s a call to healing, they might just believe they will “be there forever and never get out”… also part of the vicious cycle they felt as a child in their home, with their family.

If people do this individually, just imagine the collective impact on a society in which most of its people bury their feelings and their memories and strive to never experience them again, and aren’t aware of it. Imagine the impact on the society. Collectively then, the society will create re-enactments of its own life, its own history … whether that society is a country or a world.

So, in brief, burying the feelings … deadens us to the life of our emotions. The deadening causes re-enactments. Think about Nazi Germany about 70 years ago, where leaders started calling Germany “the homeland.” How many people in any society the world over do not cringe when they hear the leaders in the US say the words “the homeland”? How many in the US itself don’t cringe? Have they forgotten? Have they deadened themselves? And what about the consequence for those who weren’t here then, those who have forgotten and deadened, and those who haven’t made sure those who came after knew about the experience?

On top of a child’s reflex to bury and shut down feelings and memories, to be worked with and healed at a later time, we have people who don’t want to work with the feelings and memories. We have people who, thinking they can just be happy, don’t want to feel the pain and will do anything to keep from feeling the pain. They’ll drink, drug, have sex, work, fight, and more … they’ll become addicted to anything that might stave off the pain, for awhile.  Then the pharmaceutical companies come in and take advantage of that. What might have once been a positive intention to help those who were suffering while they could heal, in a big way turned into a means of making money off people’s suffering. The insurance companies, which also once may have had a positive intention, then jump on the bandwagon … and now you have people who believe they are alive and vital but are actually numbed and deadened to still-buried feelings which drive them and their lives beneath their awareness. People who now are like automatons … easy prey to be dominated by leaders who want to rule because of their own childhood wounds … and who, at least in the beginning, do so subtly.

Alice Miller wrote brilliantly about all of this. In her book, For Your Own Good, and in other writings, she wrote about Hitler and Nazi Germany and the roots of how that re-enactment occurred – not just Hitler’s part but also the part of the German people. In her work toward healing child abuse, she acknowledged that parents’ abuse comes out of their own childhood abuse; and that the abuse of their children won’t stop till the parents do their own healing … which they stay away from because they’re afraid of their own buried feelings and memories.  She also wrote in The Drama of the Gifted Child,* “The true opposite of depression is not gaiety or absence of pain, but vitality: the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings.**  It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings also can display the whole scale of human experience, including, but not limited to, envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and mourning. But this freedom cannot be achieved if the childhood roots are cut off.”

Jeff Bridge’s new movie The Giver, based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 book of the same name, offers us a picture of a lot of what I’m talking about … It shows us a society that has cut off its memories and feelings and is supposedly happy, one in which this is done to people without their knowing, and one in which other destructive things are done under a guise. (I don’t want to say any more. Just when you see the movie, I hope you will look at it through the lens of what I’m offering in this post.)

So here we are on 9/11 … needing to learn in order to reclaim our real selves, our real society and world, our real possibilities and potentials.

Would we rather experience the pain and loss and fear that once occurred in our lives and still lives inside us? Or would we rather re-create and re-enact those things in our lives today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that, creating more pain and loss and fear for ourselves and each other? And if we choose to keep re-creating and re-enacting, when the re-enactments once again bring those feelings up to feel and heal the root experiences … will we then say “yes” to the healing or will we choose to keep re-creating and re-enacting?

The sad truth is … most people prefer to avoid the original pain and create it again and again, not knowing their part in what is occurring in the present and will occur in the future. Not knowing the cause and effect relationship between the two. Not knowing how they have created or co-created what is occurring now and what will occur if they don’t ever know. But if you’ve read this far … now you do know. You may need to know more and understand more and experience more. But now you do know.

So now it’s time to know this also …

The hopeful truth is … feeling the original feelings and working through the original pain will steadily move us toward ending the re-enactments, both the personal and the societal ones. The hopeful truth is … knowing, remembering, feeling – not acting out on the feelings, but feeling them – and healing the deep and buried wounds to the root … will change our world and our universe. I have had the honor to have seen and help it change people’s lives. I have seen it change people’s families. I have seen it change people’s businesses. We can change our world from the inside out in this way. As long as there are painful experiences inside us that despite our burying them are driving our lives … trying on the surface won’t work long term. It may make temporary changes … like bandaids and medication … but the underlying feelings and memories will pop out again … in the re-enactments.

This is what we haven’t learned from 9/11 … and many other tragic, shocking, painful, scary, events. It breaks my heart to know this and to know how to help people in this process, and to see so very many people refusing to say ‘yes’ to the remembering, the feeling, the real healing to the root. It breaks my heart to know that when people say “no” to going through the process of feeling the pain alive within them, they say “no” to going through passageways that could lead them to real aliveness, real vitality, real presence in the current moment, and real hope.

My prayer as I write this to each of you who reads it …is that it will help you choose to work to change your re-enacting in your personal life, choose to participate in healing to the root, choose in this way to help in re-weaving the fabric of your life individually and of our lives communally.

Everything depends upon our healing to the root!

*****

* p 57, © 1981, from release as Prisoners of Childhood:  The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self

** She’s not encouraging people to act out or act on these feelings, simply to feel them.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

As we experience this “13 year anniversary” of the September 11 terrorist attacks, let’s look at the ways in which our re-enacting of our childhood wounds and experiences affect our lives…the lives of our loved ones … the life of our country … and the life of our world.

Remember, if you can, what was evoked for you on the original September 11th. Remember what was triggered on the anniversaries between then and now. What is evoked for you today?

Can you identify what feelings you have had and have today that are familiar? Can you identify how those feelings are familiar from your childhood?  Can you identify how your responses today are similar to those in childhood?  Or how your responses now are the opposite of what you felt safe to feel as a child, even if it’s safe now to feel them and not act on them?

Part of discovering and re-discovering our feelings is to learn how to discern which feelings are from long ago calling to be felt as part of the healing, and which are today’s feelings calling to be felt and perhaps also expressed and acted upon.  It’s all part of a process of rediscovery and learning that helps us grow strong enough and wise enough to hold it all and feel it all safely.

As you go about your life – on each September 11 and all year – are there times when you have feelings that seem familiar from long ago … feelings that act as clues to times when you are re-enacting some painful experience from your childhood? Ask yourself: when did I have these feelings? Who or what in my long-ago life were these feelings in response to? And is the situation I experienced back then similar to what I’m living now?  Perhaps not blatantly but where might there be some kind of similarity in today’s experience that evokes for me the original one(s)? And … are there things in my past that seem too painful to remember? Am I defending against remembering, feeling, and healing those memories?

Commit to find and heal the root of those unconscious feelings so you can make the commitment to not re-enact painful destructive situations.

And I encourage you to read Alice Miller’s writings about the relationship between our individual wounds and our generational wounds and our global wounds …and the re-enactments that continue to create more wounding. I encourage you to read also my blog, PoliPsych, on the same topic.  Every post reveals this in some way. And I encourage you to go see The Giver, and to watch it at least once through the lens of this post.

There is so much to be learned about ourselves and our world from the roots of tragic events like 9/11, if we’re open and willing to learn, and if we’re open and willing to truly heal to the root, each and every one of us. And this healing is crucial for us if we are to help create sustainable healing, thriving, and safety in our world.

HOW MANY OF US HAVE DONE WHAT WE COULD?

A TIMELY (AND EARLY) OCTOBER NEWSLETTER 

Unlike most previous newsletters, which have had a single article about one theme,
this month’s newsletter will consist of notes from my heart related to
several things going on in our world today.

IT’S 5 YEARS LATER . . . AFTER THE ECONOMY CRASHED
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED IN THESE 5 YEARS?

We have recently passed through the 5-year anniversary of the economic crash on September 15, 2008, the day the recession began. What have we learned? What have we really done since then?

I am so deeply concerned about all that has been done in the outer world that may have helped only temporarily, and all that has been done in the outer world that hasn’t helped at all . . . by the government, by companies and corporations, by states, communities, families, and individuals.  We need to take action in the outer world. Of course we do. But if we only take action outside us . . . what is inside us that unconsciously drives us in the outer world will remain unknown, untouched, untransformed, unhealed. And as a result, eventually, whatever action we have taken will be undone, undermined, turned upside down and inside out. The consequence of what lies within beneath our awareness, in the shadows of ourselves.

There are so very many possibilities of what could be driving us individually and communally that hasn’t been tended to. Here is just one.

What about all the people in our country and our world who made an early decision in their childhoods that affects our economies today? What about all the people who decided:  I’ll never have enough? 

Their early decision could have been about something physical like food or warmth. Imagine a baby who isn’t getting enough food because he can’t keep his food down. Or imagine a baby who needs to be swaddled more warmly, and is cold all the time. The early decision could also be about something emotional, which to a baby is actually very physical. Imagine a baby needing more connection with mother. Perhaps the bonding isn’t taking place because of something going on with the mother. Perhaps she is physically ill. Perhaps she’s triggered by something about her baby – maybe a reminder of her own frightening infancy.

The baby makes a decision, which then doesn’t have words, of course. But the inner experience of the baby is of not having enough, never having enough. And later, as a child, the words that connect with the experience come, either into consciousness and maybe even spoken; or maybe only unconsciously in mind.

Maybe one baby who has made that early decision will grow up and live the decision again and again, finding him- or herself never having enough. Maybe that baby will not have enough food, or warmth, or money to purchase them. Maybe another baby with that decision will grow up and push and push and push to get enough. Maybe that second baby, for reasons yet unknown to us, will make lots of money — money to purchase food and warmth and more.  To us it would seem that person certainly has enough. But having made the early decision I’ll never have enough, that person will keep working to make more . . .

And more and more and more and more.  People may write that person off as just “greedy,” but the truth is . . . that person is just as driven by an early decision as the person who is going without food and warmth.

Do you see the impact of the early decisions we make?

So, how many of us in the US and how many of us all over the world have done our inner exploration in these 5 years to find our early decisions relating to money and the economy and to heal them – the early decision itself, the consequences that have developed from the early decision, and the roots of the early decision in childhood?

Have you?

And if we haven’t done our own inner work with this . . . how can we possibly expect anything to really change in 5 years? Or 10? Or 20? Or more?  And how can we possibly expect anything in the outer world to sustain?

*****

WE’VE HAD SO MUCH VIOLENCE OUT IN FULL VIEW IN OUR WORLD.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

9/11. Columbine. Aurora, Colorado. Sandy Hook, Connecticut. The Boston Marathon.  Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. Nairobi, Kenya mall attack.  Unfortunately this names just a few of the incidents publicly known.

What have we learned? What have we done? We can’t even claim successful action in the outer world.  We can’t even establish laws that would protect. And in the news as I write this, there was once again talk about mental health. People deem those who are violent “mentally ill” and talk about getting health care benefits for the mentally ill. There’s a controversy over health care benefits. Not that working for benefits for trauma isn’t important.  But in addition to making sure those who need help can get it, we need to also address a larger question: what kind of treatment are they going to receive?  Medication? Training on controlling their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. And nothing more? And what about the choice we need to make: whether we’re going to stay on the surface or go to the root?

Again, I am so deeply concerned about all that has been done in the outer world that may help only temporarily, and all that has been done in the outer world that hasn’t helped at all and won’t help at all, really . . . by the government, by companies and corporations, by states, communities, families, and individuals.  We need to take action in the outer world. Of course we do. But if we only take action outside us . . . what is inside us that unconsciously drives us in the outer world will remain unknown, untouched, untransformed, unhealed. And as a result, eventually, whatever action we have taken will be undone, undermined, turned upside down and inside out.  The consequence of what lies within beneath our awareness, in the shadows of ourselves.

There are so very many possibilities of what could be driving us individually and communally that hasn’t been tended to.  Here is just one.

We need to concentrate on all violence, not just occurrences we consider public tragedies.  We need to focus on bullying everywhere it occurs . . . at home in our families, at school, in religious institutions, in doctor’s offices, in companies, in the military, in the Congress, all over the world in war. And by everyone who bullies . . . even parents who bully their children.

We need to understand that this kind of pervasive violence in our societies begins in our homes, begins in our childhoods. We need to know that when a child has experienced violence, that child will somehow repeat that violence . . . whether visiting it upon someone else, upon him or herself, or just carrying the potential beneath consciousness until at some point there is an experience that is “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” At that point, the violence is enacted.  And the vicious cycle begins again. People suffer from the violence and then will carry that on with them to enact themselves at some point.

The truth is . . . we need to re-weave the fabric of our societies and help people heal their childhood wounds to the root. And we need to intervene where people are acting out their childhood wounds on others, so that the children of today and tomorrow don’t suffer wounds that they don’t heal . . . then passing them onto future generations.

There is far more violence going on in our world than we can even imagine. Than some of us are willing to know. It keeps coming out into the open, calling us to do the work to heal it. Not by fighting. Not by laws. But by healing, truly healing it.

There’s so much more to be said, so much more to be taught, so much more to be done. But the inner work of healing is the core.  It’s the heart of the matter.

Do you see the impact of the wounding each of us has experienced?

So, how many of us in the US and how many of us all over the world have done our inner exploration even since 9/11 to find our own early wounds that may have been experiences of violence or could possibly cause violence?

Have you?

And if we haven’t done our own inner work with this . . . how can we possibly expect anything to really change in 5 years? Or 10? Or 20? Or more?  And how can we possibly expect anything in the outer world to sustain?

*****

WILLFULNESS – THIS NEEDS TO BE HEALED 

There is so much willfulness out in the open in our world today.  It cannot be hidden anymore. It is coming out into the light of day where we can notice it, see it, name it, and heal it.

Willfulness:  planning, threatening, taking action without concern for potential harm to self or others, without concern for the feelings, needs, safety of self or others, the consequences be damned.

We have seen this with those who have been violent – individually, in groups, and as heads of state. We have seen this most recently in Syria, with the chemical weapons used against Syrian citizens . . . the consequences be damned. We have seen this with banks and corporations who  set the economy up to crash and individuals to lose their life savings, their homes, their jobs, and more . . . the consequences be damned.  We have seen this with people like Bernie Madoff who cheated people out of the means with which they were planning to take care of themselves and their families . . . the consequences be damned. And we are watching some members of government on the verge of creating a disaster with the US economy and the world economies . . . the consequences be damned.

Just as we need to let what’s happening in the outer world in relation to money and in relation to violence be a mirror of what we need to look at in ourselves . . . so also do we need to look at our own willfulness.

Do you see the impact of the willfulness each of us has experienced?  And the impact of the willfulness each of us has enacted or may yet enact?

So, how many of us in the US and how many of us all over the world have done our inner exploration to find our own willfulness??

Have you?

So much is happening in our world today that shows that we need to make real sustainable change . . . from the inside out. But if we haven’t done our own inner work with willfulness . . . how can we possibly expect anything to really change in 5 years? Or 10? Or 20? Or more?  And how can we possibly expect anything in the outer world to sustain?

On the other hand . . . imagine if, as part of making those changes, we all make the commitment to do the inner work we need to do to heal those wounds which are hampering our efforts at sustainable change . . . Imagine how different our world would be!

It begins with each one of us . . . one by one by one.  It begins with you.  Will you make the commitment to do your inner healing work with your relationship with money? With your relationship with violence?  With your relationship with willfulness?   Will you do your part in helping to heal both yourself and our world?

© Judith Barr, 2013

****

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

Many of us are working to help bring change to our world – seeking an end to poverty, violence, abuse of power. As you help to work toward those changes, you can help your own efforts by acknowledging your own wounds, how they impact your life and the lives of those around you, and by making a deep commitment to do the inner work needed to heal those wounds in the inner world so you can help create and sustain true and lasting change in our outer world.

A good start would be becoming aware of your feelings as you go through your day. How intense are your feelings? Are they more intense than the situation warrants? If so . . . can you trace those intense feelings back into your early life? When before have you felt this particular feeling? How far back in your life can you remember feeling this way? And what situations in your early life caused you to feel this same feeling?

You may find, as you go deeper and deeper into the roots of your feelings, that you need help to tease apart the here-and-now situation from those ancient roots. You may find you need the help of a caring, integritous therapist . . . and if you do, commit to finding the right therapist for you, and working with him or her to go deeper and deeper in your journey . . . all the way to the roots!

If you’re open to sharing what this article brought up for you, I welcome your emails.

We can help create sustainable change in all areas of our lives and the life of our world . . . if we are open and willing to devote our time and energy, our mind, body, heart, and soul, to exploring and healing our own inner worlds.

12 YEARS LATER . . .

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
HOW HAVE WE GROWN?
HOW HAVE WE HEALED?

It’s almost a dozen years since the terror attacks of 9/11. And here we are in a painfully similar moment and stance as we were that day and then developing after that.

What have we learned? Are we still acting in the outer world without making any real changes in our inner world? Do we respond with kindness and compassion in tragedies like tornadoes, floods, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Sandy Hook shooting, but fail to respond with kindness in our own back yards and at home? Do we respond with kindness and compassion in the aftermath of disasters, but find ourselves unable to sustain it? And in the absence of the sustaining, return to our prejudices and hatreds and fears of people who are different from us – people whose skin is different, whose religion is different, whose way of being is different? Do we take action against them? Speak out against them? Judge them aloud or silently? Are we aware we are judging them, or do we just believe we are saying, thinking, or feeling the truth about them?  Or more subtle still, do we believe we are continuing to be kind and compassionate and yet have currents of thoughts and feelings deep within us – beneath our awareness – that are the opposite of that, or shades of cruelty and unfeeling?

Do we respond with kindness and compassion in the world outside our home, but at home act – however consciously or unconsciously – with cruelty, mean spiritedness, and closed heartedness?  Do we demean our partners? Ridicule them? Shame them? Do we judge them? Do we yell at them? Do we strike out at them – mentally, emotionally, or physically? Are we so unconscious that we believe we are justified? Do we treat our children the same way – however blatantly or subtly – and again believe we are justified? Have the right?

Do we have any idea at all when we are being triggered?  When our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are evoked by something in the current day … but our reactions are not current day. They are the reactions we had and developed long, long ago in childhood when we were hurt, wounded, or even traumatized.

Do we realize when that happens – when we are triggered – it is the child still alive deep within us that is reacting with the power of the body, the physical strength, the mind, the personality of an adult?  Do we have any real understanding of what this means?  Do we really comprehend that in crucial moments we are making decisions and acting on the thoughts, feelings, and early decisions of a child — not those of the adult we believe we are? That the child still alive within us is driving the show…in the most critical times in our life?

If you don’t realize this…
If you don’t take this seriously…
If you don’t find a way to understand this…
If you don’t explore this for yourself, within yourself, in your own life…
you will not only continue to feed what is getting repeated in your personal outer world…
you will also continue to re-create and re-enact it instead of resolving it.
And in addition…
You will also continue to feed what is getting repeated in our communal outer world…
You will also continue to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution in our outer world.

*****

To get a clearer sense of what I’m describing … read on. The example will be blatant to help make the impact more easily understandable. But the same dynamics apply however blatant or subtle.

Imagine you are a child. You live in a family with a mother and father and a couple  siblings. Your mother yells at you and even hits you from your earliest years. Your father demeans you, ridicules you, and leaves you on your own to figure things out for yourself. You feel hurt, angry, and scared … but don’t know what to do to protect yourself. You bury your feelings. You disconnect your own awareness from the painful feelings. You start to find ways to react that you hope will keep you safe from more hurt and pain. Taking care of Mom and Dad. Trying to please them no matter what. Repressing your emotional self, becoming really “logical,” and using your mind to defend yourself. One of your siblings cries in response to your parents’ painful treatment. One of them becomes tough and angry and lashes out. You become very logical and have contempt for both of them for being unable to “control themselves.”

You grow up and “fall in love.” You go from partner to partner, then marriage to marriage … each time ending up with a partner who has some combination of the traits of your mother, father, and siblings.  If your partner cries in response to being hurt, you react with contempt … as a way to defend yourself against your own hurt – not just your here and now hurt with your partner but also your deeply buried hurts in childhood. If your partner acts tough and angry and lashes out, you come back with contempt and logic. If your partner yells at or hits you … you use your logical mind to try to calm your partner down … or perhaps some of your deeply buried anger comes flying out, out of control, in spite of your efforts to keep it buried. But most of the anger that explodes is the anger from Mommy’s hitting you and Daddy’s demeaning you many years past … deeply buried and hidden anger that has been triggered by your partner’s hitting you.

When this happens, instead of reacting and firing your anger on your partner, you need to take this clue for healing and go find someone to help you do the therapy to heal this.  Without the therapy to truly heal this – at its roots – you will continue to find partners like this … and have no idea why you are recreating the same thing over and over and over again. Without real depth therapy, you may stay with your partner and co-create the same scenario many times over. Or you may leave your current partner and find another, only to be shocked when you discover you’ve picked yet one more partner like Mom.

Again, if you do not resolve the pain at its source long ago, you will re-create it again and again in your life ahead.

If this is true for individuals, then it is also true for communities, countries, our world. That is why we keep coming back to the same places again and again.

That’s why, for example, we still have domestic violence, and it is normalized by many in the public and certainly by parts of the law. We can’t end domestic violence by only doing things on the outside; we have to do the inner healing work.  That’s why we still have rape, and so much of it. We can’t legislate rape away. We can only create consequences for it. To end rape we have to do the inner healing work. That’s why we can’t end the inequities and tragedies in relation to money only on the outside, only with outer actions. We have to do the inner healing work.  And that’s why we can’t end war only in the outer world.  We also can’t end it only with our longing.

Ironically, John Kerry said something similar but unfortunately stopped there.

We know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war – believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, calling for action against Syria

He is accurate.  We can’t end war simply by longing for it. John Kerry would have us take action. And sometimes, in some circumstances, we do need to take action.  But the truth is: We can’t end war simply by taking action. Simply by longing for it. We have to do the inner healing work to back up the longing, to make fulfilling the peace we long for truly possible – from the inside out.

We can’t end war simply by letting our longing lead us to praying for it. We can’t end war simply by pretending to ourselves (and others) we are at peace within.  We can’t end war simply by once again pushing our own inner conflicts and wars back down into the underground, burying them once again.  In order to truly end war … we absolutely must do the inner healing work. The inner work to discover and explore the conflicts and wars within us and to resolve them within … on the deepest levels of our being.

Otherwise we will find ourselves individually and communally creating the same circumstances over and over and over and over again … till at long last, after experiencing the painful consequences time after time, we will have no choice but to do the inner healing work.

© Judith Barr, 2013

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

It has been 12 years since the tragedy of September 11, 2001… and we all, individually and communally, need to ask ourselves: what indeed have we learned?

You can greatly help heal all arenas of our world – from the national and world stage, down to your own individual life – by doing the inner exploration and healing we each need to do as we go about our day. Start by asking yourself:

What have I buried?
What have I become unconscious of?
What triggers me?  And can I trace back the feelings I have when I’m triggered to some specific times in my early life?
What have I created over and over again in my life and in the lives of those around me?
What have I learned? How have I grown? How have I healed?

I invite you to share with me the fruits of your exploration at this crucial time in our lives and in our world.

Imagine what our lives would be like, if we all did this inner exploration! Imagine what our communities … our country … our world would be like!

Changing Things From The Inside Out: The Bankruptcy Is Within

It’s 2013. There is so much in our world that is distressing and frightening in these times. And we keep trying to fix it all by doing things out there in the world!  But no matter how hard we try, even if we seem to succeed – for a while – the changes we make in the outer world unravel and threaten to return to the way they were, or worse.

We’re not looking at what’s happening through a big enough lens. We’re not looking at what’s happening through enough dimensions . . . our view is so limited. To put it simply . . . We’re not seeing the big picture. We’re not seeing the whole picture.

We’re not looking far enough. We’re not looking close enough. We’re not looking wide enough. We’re not looking deep enough.  Stay with me to really understand.

As a depth psychotherapist, when I work with an individual person, (I use the masculine pronoun here to simplify, though it applies to both men and women) we look at what has happened in his life that has affected not only his outer world but also his inner world – the world of mind, heart, and soul. We look at how he reflexively protected himself against the pain of the distress or even trauma he suffered. We look at how the originally involuntary protections took hold and became defenses, hardening as time went on and eventually splitting off from their original intentions – first protection against what for a child was unbearable suffering, and later defenses against the pain that was still alive within that child.  We look at inner defenses and outer defenses. And we look at how those defenses created problems that a child couldn’t possibly foresee . . . including distortedly proving to that person what he originally decided about himself, others, and life in response to the original painful events. We look at the vicious cycle all of that sets up for the person’s life, both in his inner world and his outer world.  And the illusion that he and others believe as he grows into what we think of as an adult – a person in a big body with the child still alive within. We also look at how that vicious cycle in his life affects those around him – both up close and personal and also not so close. And, of course, we look at, talk about, and help him truly enter into the deep healing that is possible for him.

That’s a lot to take in and digest in one paragraph. Let me give you an example.

Joe is a 43-year old businessman. He’s married and has two sons, one 6 and the other 12.  He has a wife who loves him, but can’t tolerate his walls, his outbursts, or the power struggles she witnesses and experiences with him.

As a tiny baby, Joe had colic that went on for far too long.  He cried in pain too much of each day. His mother was, herself, distressed that she could not soothe him. Eventually at some point in the day she would put him in his crib, leave the room, closing the door behind her and turning up the volume on the music or T.V. to drown out his crying. His crying would change again and again from that of a hungry, wet baby needing to be responded to, held and loved, to that of a baby with a tummy in pain, to cries of frustration and finally rage at being left alone, hurting, uncomforted, unaided, till he cried himself to sleep. When he awakened, the cycle began again. Mom and Joe pretty much lived in the house without much exposure to the outside world until Joe grew out of the colic. So the only other person who would see this cycle was Joe’s dad. When his father was home, sometimes his father would become so triggered by Joe’s inconsolability and ceaseless crying, that he would throw Joe into the crib yelling at him and leave the room, slamming the door behind him . . . sometimes off its hinges.

Joe did eventually, thank goodness, grow out of the colic, and there was so much less crying. By comparison, almost none.

But when Joe did cry, even as an older baby, even as a toddler, even as a little boy . . . both mom and dad had reactions.  What was triggered in them when he was a baby, was again and again activated by the slightest sign of crying, as if it were a hair trigger. Joe learned to suppress and then completely turn off his crying. He learned to keep his chin from quivering. He learned to keep his eyes dry – no tears. He learned not to do the things that would cause his parents to react in ways that might hurt him enough to cry . . . or if they did, he would either pretend they weren’t hurting him or count the seconds until their verbal lashings or spankings were over. One day he told his sister that he made it through 5 whole minutes without shedding a tear or even wincing.  From his once vulnerable, powerless state as a baby, he had grown defenses that made him feel like the powerful one; he had become contemptuous, proud of his strength, and determined to show his strength whenever he wanted.  He had decided:  I’ll never be powerless again; those monsters’ll be sorry they ever hurt me; and life is a long wait till you get ‘em back. Only no one knew he’d made those decisions, nor that he was busy re-deciding them, even in his dreams and fantasies . . . not even Joe himself.

Yet unconsciously, just like the rest of us, he re-enacted his earlier experiences again and again, transferring his parents and his experiences with them onto other people and his experiences with these people – like his teachers, his boy scout leader, his coaches, his minister. And every time someone hurt him, he hid the signs of the pain – even from himself – and instead acted strong and felt contempt for them that they had to hurt other people. But one day, when he was 12, his minister lashed out at him. Joe saw red and lashed back, this time physically, giving his minister a bloody nose. Joe’s father had a fit about what his son had done and hit Joe so hard he had black and blue marks. Joe took his defensive position with his father and decided again the same decisions he’d decided earlier in his life, this time more specifically personalized to his dad:  I’ll never be powerless again; you’ll be sorry you ever hurt me, you horrible monster; and life’ll be a long wait till I get you back.

In essence, Joe had run through a whole vicious cycle or maze, as I call it.

He’d gone from being powerless with the minister; he’d come to the end of the long wait till he could “get him back” and made the minister-monster sorry, only to be powerless with his father once again and reinforce those decisions for himself all over again. Joe’s classmates cheered him on for decking the minister (which they were afraid to do); they empathized with him for the bruises his father left on him; and secretly they were afraid of him. Somewhat consciously and somewhat beneath his awareness, Joe felt this combination, especially the fear, gave him a lot of power with them: he could turn them into monsters and get them back at any time, too. They knew their fear meant he had a lot of power with them, and did their best not to antagonize him.

But Joe’s father was oblivious. He had no fear of Joe, no inkling Joe was waiting to get him back, and not the slightest awareness that one day Joe would beat him up at the slightest provocation . . . when Joe’s own son was 12. Joe’s twelve year old son hadn’t a clue that his father would yell at him for what seemed like hours on his 12th birthday. And his business partners couldn’t even imagine the potential of the same occurring at work with one of them on that very day.  No one understood the trigger that age 12 had become for Joe.

Do you see how the cycle works and affects everyone? What occurred in Joe’s childhood, so early he didn’t remember it consciously, affected his life and everyone in it . . .

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Now let’s take a big step. There are many, many, many more people in our country than most people can imagine . . . who experience trauma in the form of some kind of abuse.* There are many more than most can imagine – both children and adults. Many more than most want to imagine. Many more than most want to know.  But we need to know. Because these people are not just the guy or gal across the world, across the country, or across town. They are the guy and gal across the street and next door. They are also us, right in our own homes, right in our own lives.

Some of them know they have been or are being abused. I’ve known people, even therapists, who are glad they were hit every day of their childhood . . . because compared to some of their patients who were more subtly humiliated and otherwise emotionally battered, they knew they were being abused. I’ve known others who were so glad they weren’t hit and used that as a defense to prove to themselves they weren’t abused, hiding from their own awareness the more subtle – but equally damaging – forms of abuse they experienced.

So again . . . if we weren’t in denial, we would find there are many more people in our country who have been abused and experienced in that abuse some form of violence. They are people who have buried their memories and their feelings, built defenses against the pain, made decisions about themselves others and life, and are haunted by all of this. They’re haunted by the buried memories, the buried feelings, the defenses they spend their energy keeping strong to hold the memories and feelings at bay . . . and the thing they’re unconsciously waiting to have happen as each cycle comes to a close.

This makes the possibility of abuse and violence acted out physically much more likely than most want to know. But it also increases the likelihood of our unconscious support of violence, a support that ends up as acting out violence and feeds the violence amongst us. For example . . . sports like football and boxing during which fans cheer the violence on; movies and T.V programs that are filled with violence, during which many cheer the violence aloud or secretly get off on the violence; there are those who disparage the paparazzi, yet it is our population who reads the “rags”; many decry human trafficking, yet it is our citizens who buy the humans and use them for sex; the whole political campaign season we just went through was violent in its own right – from lies to verbal attacks and more; not to mention the wars we are waging, often under the guise of laws, righteousness, patriotism, and “helping others”; the violence that’s been done to our economic system; and now after the Sandy Hook tragedy, mental health is in the spotlight – but mental health as a bankrupt system, without the necessary leadership, tools, support, and means with which to truly bring about the healing needed . . . all through society, all over the world.

Here’s where the larger picture really needs to be seen.  .  . or we will never work our way through the painful crossroads we’re at. If Joe, as I described him to you, were to be in serious financial debt and even go bankrupt, I, as his therapist, would not only work with him on the issues on the here and now practical level, recommending he talk with an accountant and/or a financial planner, and working with him on his relationship with money . . . I would also work with him on the debt within himself. I would work with him on the bankruptcy I have described to you above. I would help him acknowledge the bankruptcy within and heal it debt by debt by debt.  I would help him become conscious of his early decisions about himself, others, and life. I would help him both utilize them to access his early memories and feelings and heal them so he isn’t driven by them in his life in the future. I would help him build his capacity to feel the feelings he has been defending against.  I would assist him as he transforms the use of his energy to defend against his early experiences and feelings into a use of his energy and other inner resources for constructive, creative possibilities in his future.  It will be crucial that he does all this, beginning with acknowledging the inner bankruptcy, in order to resolve things from the inside out. He cannot simply fix the outer bankruptcy and stop there . . . it will just occur and recur again and again till the inner bankruptcy is acknowledged and healed.

And this is true of our society, too. What happens within individuals, happens also within societies.  What happens within individuals, happens within the society of the family, the community, the business world, the country, and the global society, as well. You can see it in the example of Joe above. And you can see it in our society today.  While our Congress purports to be trying to help us at the edge of a fiscal cliff, too many of its members are revealing their individual inner bankruptcies and our country’s inner bankruptcy. While our country purports to be fighting against violence, it is acting out its inner bankruptcy of violence right and left. While our country purports to value women and want to keep them safe, the inner bankruptcy of our relationship to woman and the feminine reveals itself in both male and female leaders and citizens every day.

It’s 2013.  It’s time to look at the big picture. It’s time to look up close – at ourselves individually and communally. It’s time to look to the depths – within ourselves and our national and global communities.  It’s time to see the bankruptcy that has been revealed both financially and in other areas of our lives.

It’s time to see the inner bankruptcy from which the outer bankruptcy has been created. It’s time to go to the root and heal this within ourselves and our society – from the inside out.

Each one of us who does that in ourselves, helps not only ourselves but also our society.  You can’t just work to heal societal inner bankruptcy and neglect your own.  It may not be obvious to you, but from my breadth and depth of experience . . . I’m quite sure there is some aspect of inner bankruptcy within us all. Where will you start? What will you do to heal your own inner bankruptcy and our global one as well?

It’s 2013. It is time to begin reweaving the underlying fabric of our society. It is the time of healing from the root, from the inside out . . . within each of us and all over our precious world.

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* Today I’m using the violence facet of the big picture – I could use any side to help us see the relationship between the inner and its outpicturing in the world outside. To help us see the relationship between the inner in the individual and society and the outer for the individual and society. The grief side, for example. It’s less than a month after the violence at Sandy Hook. The grief is tremendous. But instead of grieving, which would help us turn within . . . we’re fighting. About guns. About violence. About the mentally ill. About the fiscal cliff. About who’s right and who’s wrong. And instead of grieving, we’re pushing ourselves and those who have lost so much to get back to normal, albeit perhaps, another new normal. To let go of grief. To not weep for those who are in a better place. All showing our inner bankruptcies, personal and communal. Our fear of grieving and the resulting layers and layers of grief within us just waiting to be triggered.

After 9/11 instead of grieving, we began fighting. We went to war. We declared we were the axis of good and others the axis of evil. A sign of our inner bankruptcy. When the tragedy occurred in Norway, I wrote a public letter and urged them not to make the same mistake we made. . . not to let the grief ungrieved create still more events that would cause yet more grief. Are we really going to make the same mistake again? Or are we going to heal the inner bankruptcy now?

To learn more, you can read these articles at my Huffington Post blog:
An Open Letter to Norway… Don’t Make the Mistake We Made at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-barr/an-open-letter-to-norway-_b_911739.html

Help Your Family and You Through 9/11 Anniversary and Terror Threats at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-barr/911-anniversary_b_956015.html

and these articles on my blog, PoliPsych:
Healing Clues in the Aftermath of The Sandy Hook Tragedy – in Newtown and All Over The World – The Clue Of Grief at
http://judithbarr.com/2012/12/17/healing-clues-in-the-aftermath-of-the-sandy-hook-tragedy-in-newtown-and-all-over-the-world-the-clue-of-grief/.

Healing Clues in the Aftermath of The Sandy Hook Tragedy – in Newtown and All Over The World – The Clue Of Safety at
http://judithbarr.com/2012/12/18/healing-clues-in-the-aftermath-of-the-sandy-hook-tragedy-in-newtown-and-all-over-the-world-the-clue-of-safety/.

© Judith Barr, 2013.

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

This year, make a true commitment to explore, find, and heal the bankruptcy within you . . . as one aspect of doing your part to help reweave the fabric of our society and our world. And as part of healing the bankruptcy within, make a commitment to explore the feelings that arise as you go about your day, tracing those feelings back to their roots in your early life,

And this year, make a true commitment to help bring this message to others in your world – the message of change from the roots, from the inside out.

If you feel called, pass this post on to those in your life you feel would be open and ready to receive the message. It might inform them, inspire them, intrigue them, or simply plant seeds in them. It might help them. It might help someone they know. It might start a dialogue between them and you that would, perhaps, not otherwise have begun.

We can all work together to heal our world, fully and sustainably – from the inside out — if we can commit to doing the inner work we all need to do to help create true and lasting change.

WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?*

Today is 9/11 … 9 years later.

It’s the anniversary of a painful, horrifying, tragedy.

We’ve responded in a number of ways . . .

We’ve been shocked. We’ve grieved. We’ve cried. We’ve screamed. We’ve felt anger.  We’ve blamed. We’ve proclaimed ourselves good and others bad or evil. We’ve gone to war, killing and maiming thousands and thousands. We’ve created yet another round of both blatant and insidious prejudice. And more . . . 

We were terrified that day. And still are today, no matter how many layers of other feelings we build on top of our terror. And no matter what we try to do in the world outside to hold our terror at bay. 

We were terrified that day. And still are today. No matter how many wars we fight to defend ourselves against that terror.  No matter how many national policies we legislate or create through our courts to defend ourselves against that terror. No matter how many trillions of dollars we spend to defend ourselves against that terror.  And no matter how many years pass. No matter how many anniversaries of 9/11/2001 we commemorate.

And why won’t these things we attempt work to defend us against that terror?

Very simply because … only a very small part of that terror is in direct response to the actual events of 9/11/2001.

Most of that terror is terror that was triggered in each of us on that day, terror that lived inside each of us from our past, terror that each of us experienced somehow, sometime, someway, in response to some experience when we were very young children.

We buried that terror as children, because it was too much for children to bear.

But if we keep burying it as adults . . . and if we keep defending ourselves against experiencing it . . . it will nevertheless stay alive, though buried, inside us. It will nevertheless keep getting triggered by other terrifying moments and experiences. It will nevertheless keep driving us — beneath our awareness – to take actions in our lives and make choices in our lives that are dysfunctional, unhealthy, and even destructive. We will find new and even more harmful ways to defend ourselves against our own terror . . . ways which end up creating terror themselves. Like war, like hateful prejudice, like addictions that do unimaginable damage.

This year … on the anniversary of 9/11 … let’s do the one thing that can truly help us to heal … individually, nationally, and globally. . .

Let’s each explore and begin to discover the ancient terror 9/11 stirred up in our minds, hearts, and cells.

Let’s each commit to heal that terror from long, long ago so it doesn’t compound the terrors of current times, so it doesn’t contaminate our decisions and our choices about terrors that we need to respond to healthily, wisely, and heartfully.

When will we ever learn?*

© 2010, Judith Barr

*From Pete Seeger’s 1961 song, Where Have All The Flowers Gone?