How Did We Ever Let This Happen?

History repeats itself when we don’t learn from it, when we don’t grow from it, when we don’t find a way to become conscious of the real roots of it.

In the last century, there was a Holocaust birthed and carried out in Germany and all over Europe … a Holocaust which had repercussions globally that many of us worldwide are still feeling today. A child was born and raised who fed, fanned, and used the emotions of the German citizens to get them to elect him. And then once in power manipulated himself into dictatorship … a dictatorship that blamed and scapegoated entire groups of people, terrorized the citizenry that put him in power and those in other countries that hadn’t, and cruelly, inhumanly, monstrously took millions of prisoners, enslaved them in concentration camps, and devastated them mentally, emotionally, and physically.

What were Germans thinking as this was all evolving? Was anyone aware? Was anyone concerned? Did anyone see Nazi Germany coming? Was anyone wondering what they could do to prevent it? Did anyone get what was unfolding? Did anyone comprehend what was feeding it – in the child-now-dictator? Did anyone comprehend what was feeding it in the citizenry? Or what was causing it? If anyone did get it, did they understand what was at the real root of this horror and this tragedy?

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Six and a half years ago, I watched on television a memorial ceremony at one of those concentration camps – Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany. The speakers at the ceremony were Barack Obama, author and former prisoner in the Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald concentration camps, Elie Wiesel, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I was deeply touched, most of all by Angela Merkel. She asked important questions:

   We, the Germans, are faced with the agonizing question.
   How and why?
   How could this happen?
   How could Germany wreak such havoc in Europe and in the world?

Knowing how to respond to her questions, in a heartbeat I was moved to write to her. I shared with her how touched I was by her questions … and by her asking them publicly. For starters, I shared with her that there are those in my field of psychotherapy who are trying to help us all understand the link between politics/government and psychology. That psychoanalyst and author, Alice Miller was one of those working to help. That I was more and more addressing such connections in my country and in our world.

To help her begin to explore the depths of the answers she was seeking, I referred Chancellor Merkel to Alice Miller’s For Your Own Good – Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence, the chapter entitled, “Adolf Hitler’s Childhood: From Hidden to Manifest Horror.” I also sent her a copy of my book, Power Abused, Power Healed.

It was touching to receive a letter back from her thanking me.

For an individual to look back over personal mistakes, and over personal destructiveness, acknowledging them, taking responsibility for them, seeking to repair them … it takes a lot. It takes a lot of healing and creates a lot of healing.

For one to look back on one’s country’s most destructive mistakes and be able to ask, in effect “How did we let this happen?” takes grace, humility, awakened (or at least awakening) consciousness, connectedness, and the ability to feel. To be able to accept and respond to an answer takes, in addition, openness and willingness, and a longing for healing.

Where was that grace, humility, awakened consciousness, connectedness, and the ability to feel when Hitler’s Germany was step by step evolving into a monstrosity? Hidden beneath a country’s blindness to its own normalized violence in house after house after house.

According to Alice Miller, steeped in monstrous practices of parenting, the children of Germany were being abused under the guise of “child rearing,” a normalized national standard of discipline, not limited to Germany alone. Such cruelty, normalized in the home, spread to the culture. This led to a distorted sort of domino effect: When Adolf Hitler came into power, he himself having been mercilessly abused as a child, all the abused children still alive within the actual children, the teenagers, and the supposed adults, reflexively responded in the usual spectrum of ways abused children would respond.

Some froze; some submitted and obeyed; some colluded; some fled; some stayed close to the abuser to protect themselves; some acted out their own violent impulses as a result of their violent upbringing. Most of the society, blindly and beneath individual or communal consciousness, participated in the “march” toward Hitler’s Germany without even realizing they were doing so. Without even realizing it was happening.

Hitler’s ability to foment fear and anger and direct it toward others drew its power not just from the then-current social, political, and economic conditions in Germany, but more accurately, more deeply, more truly from the mental, emotional, and physical conditions in people’s childhoods, in their homes and families.

The havoc that was wreaked on our world was beyond words. It was not Hitler alone that caused the devastation. It was the society – Hitler and the German citizens and the government and citizens before them, and before that, and before that. It was a reflection of the monstrous abuses of children that occurred in individual homes from generation to generation. Abuses that were either kept blocked from awareness, secret, or hidden from view, or were normalized personally and culturally as a justification, finally coming into public view in Nazi Germany – as an out-picturing of what people had gone through as children and lived with inside themselves still. The holocaust discovered in Hitler’s Germany was horrifyingly and tragically real in itself, but it also gave the world a view into the alarming, frightening, heart-breaking holocaust the children experienced in their childhood homes … the children, including Hitler himself.

As many destructive events play out in our world – and as the world watches the unfolding of the presidential election here in the United States – it seems that we’re headed the same way.

For years I’ve been watching as the wounded children in our country and our world have grown up to out-picture the pain and suffering they went through as children. I’ve helped individuals and couples become aware of the anguish they’ve caused those they insist they love, in ways similar to how their own parents caused them pain when they were little. I’ve connected the dots again and again between the individual wounds and the communal/global wounds – evident at the time and continuing to come down the pike.

I’ve worked to show others this connection. Steeped in fear and denial of their own childhood wounds, the supposed grown up leaders and citizens in our world, like Hitler and the German people, have been driven by the child still alive within them, have had their young feelings fomented, have been acting out their own childhoods, and have been busy defending themselves against the needed explorations of the true causes in their childhood and the effects on their lives, the lives of their families, the life of our culture and world … now and to come.

Just as an alcoholic or a parent who abuses his/her child can be completely blind to the damage they’re causing until after they and those around them have hit bottom, so also can that happen to any country.

Angela Merkel could ask these questions after the devastation.
Whatever questions were asked before and along the way were not being asked publicly, and were not being asked in relation to the inner world of the people.
Who amongst us is asking these questions in our world today?
And who instead of asking them is acting out the roots?
Who is saying, “I wish I could change, but there’s nothing I can do about it!”
Who is freezing? Who is submitting?
Who is blind to what is occurring?
Who is closing his or her eyes and not watching?
Who is running away?
Who is lashing out and becoming a bully him/herself?

Who amongst us is truly seeking the inner answers at the root?
Who amongst us is looking at the wounding in the psyches of our children – the child still alive within each of us, and the children for generations back and for generations to come?
Who amongst us is doing the work of the healing and transformation that is needed?

History repeats itself when we don’t learn from it, when we don’t grow from it, when we don’t find a way to become conscious of the real roots of it. It repeats itself when we don’t find the real roots of it personally, individually, familially. And it repeats itself when we don’t find the real roots communally, nationally, and globally.

Yet there are all sorts of signs that we aren’t finding the real roots.
And that we aren’t asking the questions to lead us to the real roots.
And that we aren’t working to heal and transform ourselves at the real roots.

We wouldn’t be re-enacting the same things again and again if we were.

If people did their own work on their relationships with power, we would be able to have the clarity to elect leaders who truly represent our best interests personally and communally, instead of transferring our young feelings onto candidates; instead of colluding with the abuse of power in the electoral process; instead of choosing leaders from our wounded selves.

If people did their young inner work, prejudice would be on its way to deep healing; fear of the other, blaming the other, scapegoating of the other would not be acted out; would less and less exist within the individual psyche; when it did, would be worked with to heal it more to the root; and would exist less and less in the communal psyche as a result.

If people did their work with misogyny, rooted in their perhaps-unconscious hatred and fear of mommy, and their desire to have power over the one person who had the most power over them … there would be no more war on women, no more attempts to control women no more attempts to own women, no more attempts to have power over women. And if women themselves did their work with their own bodies and psyches, their own wombs, their own experiences with menstruation, birth, and menopause … they would no longer collude with the effort to control them and no longer tolerate being controlled – body, mind, heart, and soul.

If people did their own inner healing work with the root of their relationship with money – wealthy people and poor alike – they would pull their own money wounding out of the world’s wounded economy and support others to do the same – creating the space for healing economies.

If people did their own inner healing work with the abuses they experienced as children – both the right out in the open abuses and the more subtle, not so tangible abuses – our country would no longer pander in its laws and other ways to parents abusing their children, to partners abusing each other.

If people did the inner healing work to be able to feel their feelings, long buried from childhood … they would be able to discern which feelings are for healing from the past and which ones are for acting on today. As a result, no bully or dictator in the making could foment their feelings for his or her own use.

If people did their inner healing work from their own ancient past, there would be no haunting pull drawing people to want to take the country or the world back to “the way it once was.”

If people did their own inner healing work with power and powerlessness, the misuse and abuse of power would not be so rampant in our world … and when it came into view, there would be people who could help to heal it at its root.

Without doing our work, our world is headed toward the same kinds of horrors and tragedies as Germany faced … the same kinds of atrocities experienced by our children and the same kinds of atrocities acted out on our world stage.

Actually we’ve done many of them already … under the guise of politics, under the guise of government, under the guise of democracy, under the guise of freedom of speech, under the guise of powerful beloved leaders, under the guise of defense, under the guise of being civilized …

Who is looking at the wounding that caused what we’ve already reenacted?
Who is looking at the wounding that will cause further escalations?
Who is looking at the wounding of leaders, supporters, the media, and concerned citizens, especially in this year of the U.S. presidential race and election?

If we don’t look at the wounding of our children, the wounding within us, the wounding that spreads from generation to generation, the wounding that becomes part of our very culture … we could end up acting out on our world’s stage scenarios like those the people of Germany co-created with Hitler. We could end up with a country in which too many people join with a candidate out of their own wounding and help wreak havoc all over the world that mirrors the havoc they experienced in their childhood homes.

I know what I’m saying is scary. I know it is tempting to push it away. But pushing it away will only help to create anew the nightmare we need to dissolve and heal. The real hope is in welcoming the truth of it, holding it with an open welcoming heart, and knowing that this truth and the healing work that can come of it will set us free, individually and communally, in a way that nothing else can.

© Judith Barr, 2016

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

As we in the U.S. near our presidential election, and as so many events play out on the world stage, we all need to look not only at the actions of others outside ourselves, but even more importantly … we need to look inside ourselves. Each and every one of us needs to explore and heal those wounds within that allow us to tolerate, collude with, and even perpetrate abuses of power in our world.

This election year – and every year – make the commitment to explore and heal your own inner wounds. Look for the ways in which you subtly or blatantly collude with abuses in your families, communities, nations and world.

When you find yourself allowing or fostering a form of abuse, explore within. For example, when you see a candidate slinging mud at an opponent, how do you feel? What does that mudslinging trigger in you? Can you trace that feeling back in your life … to your own childhood experience? To help you truly heal those feelings, and the experiences out of which they emerged, you may need to find a compassionate, healing professional … one who has integrity, one who does his/her own inner healing work, one who can help you heal to the root.

Imagine if all the leaders and all the citizens in our world did their own inner work to heal their wounding! Imagine how different our world would be!

If We Stay on The Surface . . . We End Up Suffering and Creating More Suffering

Part 6: 
It Is Time to Go Deeper Now! 
What Are We Waiting For?  

I have been writing about the consequences of our staying on the surface in the outer world and not doing the deep work in the inner world from which outer occurrences and events spring. It has been an ongoing part of my writing for years. I have been writing about it in this series for months. Usually I write about it in relation to a specific person, event or theme. This month, I offer a broader view, an overview that will hopefully catch your attention and move you into action deeper than you have known before.

If a family is dysfunctional, most of the members ignore it, rise above it, pretend it isn’t true, live in denial, or walk away from it. Some of the members sometimes try to fight against it, often without success, often being dismissed, ridiculed, shunned, as a result. It takes a lot for a dysfunctional family to truly get the help needed . . . for the family as a whole and for each impacted member of the family to get the help needed to heal the causative and consequent wounds to the root. We see this in all sorts of dysfunctional families – those with alcoholism, gambling, sexual, abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, religious intolerance or fanaticism, and more. And if the family does get help, it is often – all too often – only on the surface. Perhaps the most obvious behaviors change. Perhaps the family members try to stop themselves from acting out on their impulses and their feelings. Perhaps, just perhaps, they even get some insight into why they have been dysfunctional. But it is a rare person, and certainly a rare family that truly heals the dysfunction from the outward behavior to the very root of the dysfunction . . . to the very root of the wound.

This would mean feeling the pain of the wounds, which most people are totally against. Which most people are completely afraid of doing. Which most people haven’t had anyone help them with from the time they were very, very, tiny beings . . . when the pain began. This would mean putting down the defenses – dissolving the defenses – people have constructed and hardened since their youngest days to defend them against the pain.  This would mean feeling finally that which people have worked so hard to avoid – hurt, fear, the anger experienced by young, vulnerable children being hurt or wounded or traumatized, the powerlessness we all feel, and more.  And this would mean remembering who hurt us, who wounded us and how. It would mean exposing our parents and their parents before them and their parents before them. The piercing of the idealization of our parentage would bring its own consequences . . . probably very similar to the wounding experienced in the first place. The hurt, fear, anger, and powerlessness of family and family members, beneath their defenses, being revealed and exposed. And likely lashing out at those doing the exposing.  Lashing out physically, verbally, emotionally – directly at those doing the revealing. Or lashing out behind their backs. Arguing with them, discrediting them, accusing them of being disloyal to the family, making them “bad,” punishing them, shunning or outright exiling them from the family.

It is a rare family that one-by-one and as a whole is willing to dive into the ocean of healing and committed to working all the way through to coming out the other side, healed and transformed to the core. It is a rare individual who is committed to this – fully and whole-heartedly committed.

But now is the time for individuals and families to come forth and do this work. For it is not just our individual selves that are dysfunctional. It is not just our families that are dysfunctional. It is our society that is dysfunctional . . . as a result. Our national society and our global society.

What occurs individually also occurs communally. Not just communally in our families, but communally in our communities, our states, our countries, our world. And if we ever were able to see the communal version, we are seeing it now.  This is one thing the media and the internet are helping us do. See . . . if we are willing to take our blinders off. Hear . . . if we are willing to take our earplugs out.

People are actually calling the US government dysfunctional – which it most certainly is. And what a mirror for us all.  The country and the family . . . both lashing out at those doing the exposing.  Lashing out physically, verbally, emotionally – directly at those doing the revealing. Or lashing out behind their backs.  Arguing with them, discrediting them, accusing them of being disloyal or unpatriotic to the family or country, making them “bad,” punishing them, shunning or outright exiling them.

There are people in our world working to help with the healing, each in his or her own unique way.  There is, for example, Margaret Heffernan, teaching about “willful blindness,” teaching that we refuse to see and acknowledge what is right there in front of us, causing damage to ourselves and others. There is Josh Oppenheimer, who has directed a painful but revealing movie about death squads in Indonesia, with, it seems, the hope that people will realize we all have an underbelly, we’re all perpetrators . . . even if only by wearing the clothing made by victims of those terrors.

But there are also those who seem to be trying to help, yet are feeding people with distortions that end up making things worse. For example, the teachers – spiritual and otherwise – who teach that whatever you put out there comes back to you. Yet . . . they fail to teach people about what we human beings put out there beneath our own  consciousness, without our own awareness, and how that creates things in the world that have a way of coming back to impact us painfully, individually and communally.

Whatever there is within us individually or communally – whatever is harmful or even distorted – that gets normalized, has a way of coming back to haunt us. Whether that’s an incomplete teaching like the one above, an outright lie, or even a destructive force that is right out there in the open  . . . the normalization feeds it and makes it grow under a guise – the guise of being normal.

Alice Miller taught about this again and again. She is no longer alive on this earth, but her wisdom and compassion live on. I hope I can do justice to her in this summary. She taught that no one is “born evil,” not even Hitler. That we bury the memories and feelings related to painful, even unbearable personal childhood experiences and then act them out later in our lives, without even realizing it. We act them out within and all around us, and most particularly on our children. For Hitler this included merciless beatings by his father and an absence of protection by his mother.

Miller taught that when parents’ treatment of children is normalized – like the cruel treatment of children in Germany and other parts of Europe when Hitler was growing up was normalized under the tag “child rearing” – many act out their experiences communally as they grow up.  So . . . those who joined with or served Hitler in his brutality in Germany were also acting out the brutality they grew up with and their defenses in response. And how about those who somehow colluded with his rule? How were they acting out their childhood experiences?  This is true of any tyrant. And it is true of any society.  What does that mean about our society now? What does that mean about our societies now?

It is not only true of families and societies led by tyrants. It is also true of families and societies led by seemingly benign people, who are nevertheless impacting those under and around them from their own wounds and defenses against their own wounds.

Finally, Alice Miller acknowledged that the acting out occurs unconsciously because the child was not allowed to know and remember what was actually going on. This part of her understanding reflects the family’s and society’s attempts to keep from being exposed. But it also reflects the individual’s own attempts to keep from having those memories and feelings exposed, remembered, and felt – not only by others, but most especially by their own self.

Yet . . . we deeply need to expose, reveal, remember, and feel what is in our past that creates our today and tomorrow. There is no way around this. Many have tried to go around it. Many keep trying. Even in my own field, many techniques are developed in an effort to go around it. It is all part of the dysfunction.

We must expose, reveal, remember and feel what is in our past, for it is still alive within us and is creating our today. It is still alive within us and will most certainly create our tomorrow.  We must expose, reveal, remember and feel it for our individual selves and our own individual healing. We must expose, reveal, remember and feel it for our communal selves and our communal, even global healing.

© Judith Barr, 2013

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

We all have wounds . . . all of us. If we are unaware of those wounds, they will almost certainly create dysfunction in our lives.

Ask yourself and honestly answer . . . what are the wounds in my history?  The history of my individual life, my family’s life, my country’s life? And how is that life dysfunctional as a result?  How is my own life dysfunctional?  How is my family dysfunctional? How is my country dysfunctional?

We all have wounds . . . all of us. If we are unaware of those wounds, they may lead us to knowingly or unwittingly commit, feed, or tolerate abuses of power in our lives, our society and our world.

As you go about your daily life…explore the ways in which your own wounding may lead you to be apathetic towards, or even collude with, abuses of power in all arenas in your life . . . your personal relationships, your professional relationships, your relationship with your clergy, your children’s teachers, your government, any authority figures, your relationship with your children or the children in your life.

When you hear about a questionable action taken by someone in your life, how do you feel? What feelings are evoked in you, for example, when you hear of the misuse of power by a corporation’s CEO or when you learn about a politician’s abuse of power? What feelings are evoked in you when you learn of the incident of domestic violence down the street, or the abuse of a child right next door?  And, most importantly, when before in your life have you felt that way? When from your young adult years, your teen years, your childhood? How far back can you trace that feeling? Go back as far as you can in search of the root . . . and take a real look at how you may be acting out in a way that feeds the abuse of power.

Imagine what our lives, our societies, and our world would be like if we all became aware of, and committed to heal, the inner wounds that, untended and unhealed,  create dysfunction and abuse!  Both the most obvious and the most subtle. Both the most out-in-the-open and the most hidden.

A TWO-FER IN THE ABUSE DEPARTMENT . . . HAVE WE HAD OUR FILL YET?

In just a few days, we have been informed of two more abuses of power amongst our government officials — one definitely occurred, the other has been alleged . . . and it seems facts are bearing it out. Most importantly, both of them had horrific impact on citizens of our country!

One . . . Governor David Paterson of New York is accused of having used his power in behalf of an aide.

The aide had been accused of battering his girlfriend, who then filed a criminal complaint against him. The governor is alleged to have sent state police officers, who did not have any jurisdiction in the case, to speak with the alleged victim to harass her into not proceeding with the action,* and then to have asked his press secretary to contact the victim and instruct her to publicly describe the incident as “non-violent.” He is alleged to have then called her himself…after which she would not appear in court to proceed with the case.**  So she was victimized twice … once by her boyfriend and once by the governor.

Who needs to do their work with their relationship with power in the state of New York? Certainly, the governor’s aide. And it certainly looks like the governor needs to himself.  Although this incident is in no way, shape, or form her fault or responsibility…even the woman in the case needs to work with her relationship with power . . . so she can stand up against abuse, instead of collapsing in the face of the governor’s call.

Two . . . Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, with his single vote, made sure jobless aid (and help with health insurance premiums) ran out Sunday night February 28th. And again Tuesday morning, March 3, when another Senator requested a 30 month extension of jobless benefits.*** And although eventually, his colleagues seem to have had an impact, and he backed down . . . for too long a time one single senator had the power to cause the suffering of tens of thousands of citizens.  One senator abused the power he had, the consequences be damned.

Who needs to do their work with their relationship with power in the Senate? Certainly Senator Bunning. Actually, every single senator needs to work with his/her relationship with power.  Not just because of terrible misuses of power they have committed, but to help them keep themselves in integrity with their relationship with power and the power they have.

Have we had our fill yet?   Are we just going to keep watching the people out there who misuse and abuse their power, say ‘tsk tsk,’ and exonerate ourselves?  Or are we going to look in the mirror these leaders hold up for us? Are we going to do our own inner work with the misuse and abuse of power in our own lives . . . so we can pull our abuse of power out of the collective pool?  And so we can stand up and say ‘no’ when others abuse their power?

The truth is . . . we all need to do our own inner work with our relationships with power.  We’ve all experienced others using their power with us . . . from the time we were born. And we all have had at least some painful experiences through childhood and into our adulthood.  We all use power — sometimes well and for great good, sometimes poorly and causing harm. Each one of us needs to take seriously our responsibility to do our own healing with our relationship with power . . . for our own sake and for the sake of our world.

© Judith Barr, 2010

* http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/0225/New-York-scandal-threatens-Gov.-David-Paterson-s-election-bid
** http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2010/03/the-david-paterson-story-somehow-manages-to-get-even-worse.html  
*** article at BostonHerald.com

Congress – America’s Biggest Dysfunctional Family

Congress doesn’t work anymore because it is like a dysfunctional family.

A family in which there is a string of successive fathers, who try to do something for the family -to make it like they want it – while bringing their own wounds and dysfunctions to the group. A family in which there is no mother at the head of the family. Where did she go? Who took her? Who got rid of her? Where in the world is she? Her absence leaving the dysfunction that comes of abandonment. Even if she was barred from the family.

A family in which the siblings have learned to fight with each other . . . some of them while pretending they’re not fighting; some of them under the guise of friendship; some of them fighting in public view while being close in private; some of them trying to win; some of them trying to make the others fail; some of them fighting to the death, albeit figurative death . . . to date. None of them seeing what they are doing to each other. All of them blind and uncaring about what they are doing to the family. Fighting for what they want . . . the family be damned! The consequences be damned!

And that’s what our members of Congress are doing. They’re acting like the children in a horribly dysfunctional family. They’re in adult bodies. Some of them even have adult personas. But some of them, many of them, looking and acting like children right out in full view. Meanwhile they are all (or almost all) regressed children . . . as young as the age at which they were wounded in their own early lives. We have regressed, wounded children running our Senate. We have regressed and wounded children attempting to do the business of our House. We have regressed and wounded children claiming to lead our country.

When we are wounded as children, we get stuck at that age, that point in time, that developmental level. We may grow around the wound, but the wound is left there in the center. We may create defenses that help us seem to develop around the wound, but the defenses don’t dissolve the wound. Until we actually heal the wound, we will consistently, under stress, regress back to the level of that small child — mentally, emotionally, in some ways even physically.

No amount of bandaids will heal the wound. No quick fixes, no matter how simple or how sophisticated, will heal the wound. No amount of managing of behavior, thoughts, or feelings will heal the wound and help the development to continue. The dysfunction will continue, even expand and escalate . . . until we heal the wound to its root.

Our Congress is a dysfunctional family. A family of wounded children. The family needs therapy . . . both as a family and every member of the family.

But…is it just our Congress that’s a dysfunctional family?

© Judith Barr, 2010