DEFENSES DESTROY

I have been silent for awhile … Pensive. Searching. Deeply saddened. Witnessing, as I imagine you are, all that’s going on in our world. Feeling the pain of what’s going on in our world.

People think about what’s happening differently from each other. Some think the destructiveness is just done by “bad” people or “sick” people. Some are in alignment with those who are destructive, normalizing and justifying what they are doing. Some feel completely helpless in the face of it all. Some want to rush into action and do things in the world to fix it. Nothing wrong with action – it’s just not enough by itself. Some increase their prayers to resolve it. Nothing wrong with prayers – but prayers, too, aren’t enough by themselves. And some don’t even want to know about it.

Most people I talk to are missing what’s really happening. And most of what I hear, see, or read via the media is missing what’s really happening … under the surface. Even many in my own profession haven’t been trained to truly understand or get to the roots of the situation. This “miss” feeds misconceptions, misunderstandings, the incapacity to discern well, and most of all … it feeds further destructiveness and makes it impossible to really solve the problem for good.

If we are going to help ourselves and our world, we are going to need to truly understand what is going on beneath the surface, beneath what we can see, hear, touch and currently understand. What is going on beneath the surface that drives us unknowingly from deep within and drives us in our actions in the outer world.

People are acting out again and again … not realizing what they are really doing. Not aware of what they are acting out. Not understanding what their acting out tells them and us about their early lives and about what from that time is still alive in their minds, hearts, bodies, and souls.

And there are so many people who don’t understand what “acting out” really means. I could say exactly the same things here that I said in the second and third paragraphs above.  In essence, people don’t really understand acting out and that lack of understanding feeds the acting out and makes the solutions impossible.

There are so many examples of acting out since my last newsletter, escalating in visibility and frequency, that it is mind boggling and heart boggling. Just to name a handful of them …

Georgia’s new gun law. It enables people to pack guns in places like schools, churches, bars, government buildings and certain parts of airports. Multiple tragic gun shootings have occurred in Georgia since then.

Vladimir Putin’s failed power grab in the Crimean Peninsula. A part of his post-Olympic acting out in the world.

The Sewol Ferry disaster in South Korea, due to negligence of the Ferry owner who ignored safety warnings and allowed the ferry to be overloaded with passengers.

Another Indian woman raped – and then hanged – by Indian men. The violence to girls and women in our world is heart-breaking and belies our wish to think of these times as civilized times. And the ones included here are known tips of the iceberg. What about all the violence to women and girls that is normalized and done in secret?

An Iranian actress on the Cannes Film Festival Jury may be flogged for greeting the president of the festival with a civil kiss on the cheek. It is important to note that a group of women has petitioned to have her flogged.

Donald Sterling’s racist comments and the consequences, including all the attention garnered in the media.

Boko Haram’s abduction of Nigerian school girls with plans to sell them.

Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Isla Vista, California, and the fingers pointing at … the “mentally ill,” the “gun lovers,” and “this generation.”

The ongoing money grabbing and the consequent destruction  — to people, families, businesses, economies, environments – by people who are rich enough in the eyes of others but never seem, in their own minds, to have enough money.

And our Defense Department, which may once have been presented as for protection, but has destroyed again and again and again in the guise of defense.

If we really wanted to know, if we really looked deeply, and if we were able to find and gather the information we needed to truly understand … we would likely find that each of these instances emerged out of wounding that occurred certainly in an individual’s childhood, but also generationally in a family, and culturally, too. In any one instance, which came first, the chicken or the egg, the culture or the individual, isn’t the most important thing to figure out.  We certainly do need to know that what is normalized in a culture impacts the individual families and the individual children. What is normalized in a family impacts the individuals in the family and, of course, others in the life of that family. And what befalls a single child impacts many more people than most of us want to imagine.

When a child is wounded, that child will build defenses to keep from feeling the pain of the wound. What the child is reflexively trying to do is stay sane and alive in the face of those who are causing the wounding.  The child isn’t thinking this all through. The child is acting unconsciously and involuntarily. But the child does not have any idea what those defenses will create in the long run.

First the defenses may seem to protect the child, whether a girl or boy child. But soon the defenses start to harden and become part of a way of life. Walls are built. People are shut out. People are considered enemies and fought against, sometimes righteously and others viciously. Often revenge is sought, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly.  Consciously or without realization, the person may believe that whatever she is feeling gives her permission to act out … with herself and others. Aware or unaware, the person may use the harm he experienced as a child to justify acting out later in life. Substances are taken and activities are done that distract and numb the person against the pain of the original wound. Even though there is pain in the repeated re-creations of the wound, the pain of the original wound is the worst, the deepest, the most intense, the most raw, and the pain the person is actually defending against, whether it’s in or beneath awareness, whether it’s five or fifty years later.

Through all the years of my work as a depth psychotherapist, I have consistently seen that the defenses end up creating in a person’s life what they were originally meant to prevent in the life of that person as a child. This is why I teach people that defenses destroy. This is why the title of this article is “Defenses Destroy.”

Let’s use an example from the list above. Georgia’s new gun law:  You may want to defend your right to carry arms. You may want to defend your right to defend yourself, your family, your property, your values, your thoughts, opinions, and feelings. But if your defense comes in the form of a weapon, like a gun, your defense can and very likely will destroy.  Passing a law to allow guns to be carried especially in places where people are vulnerable – like schools, churches, certain parts of airports – is a license to hurt and destroy vulnerable people.

How much clearer could the meaning be?  If you were hurt or destroyed in some way when you were a vulnerable child, your defense and acting out could end up with your doing the same thing to others when you are old enough to do that. Others in your family – younger siblings, pets, children, or vulnerable people in places like churches and schools.

A second example:  An Iranian actress on the Cannes Film Festival Jury may be flogged for greeting the president of the festival with a civil kiss on the cheek. She tried to extend her hand to greet him, but the elderly official leaned over for the kiss on the cheek. It is important to note that in one accounting of the incident it states a group of women has petitioned to have her flogged and even imprisoned. In another, a group of men and women are seeking her imprisonment. I am not a learned student of the religious beliefs in Iran.  I have, however, seen individually and culturally the consequences of patriarchal laws, religions, mores, values, practices. Even if the cause may once originally have been or may have been purported to be the protection of women … there has also definitely been the effect of women being treated as objects, possessions, in essence the slaves of the men in their lives and their cultures.  This is true not only in Iran but also in many countries and in pockets in some countries.  India, for example, is amongst those countries.  And so is the United States. So … if the original cause were the defense of women, that defense has created torturous destructive experiences all over our world.

And even in the situation of the Iranian actress, why would other women in the Iranian culture demand her punishment? As part of their own defense against their individual and communal pain under the same cultural defense system?

One more brief example … Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Isla Vista, California, and the fingers pointing at… the “mentally ill,” the “gun lovers,” and “this generation.”  He openly stated he wanted revenge against women. The deeper information isn’t publicly available (at least yet). But how can we look at what he did and not wonder what happened when he was young in his relationship with the first woman in his life? How can we not wonder what he felt? How can we not wonder what defenses he reflexively created then that came to be destructively acted out just a short time ago at everyone’s expense?  And how can we keep blaming the guns and blaming the gun lovers and blaming the mentally ill, and this time I even heard blame for this young generation?

I don’t hear anybody asking what it is that we, the parents, have done that has caused our children to be so wounded!

I don’t hear anybody in public asking how we, the parents, are acting out our own wounds and our own defenses in ways that have hurt our children, our families, our countries, our world.

I don’t hear anybody in public asking why we, the parents, don’t do our own healing work as our part of ending the cycles of wounding/defenses/wounding.

It is time for more of us to see and understand this. It is time for more of us to speak up. It is time for more of us to speak out. It is time for more of us to become involved in this way of seeing and resolving the problems that are so out in the open in our world today.

At times when I teach, people will say that this is all so depressing. Or this is all so painful. And they’ll sometimes ask me, “Where is the hope?”

The hope is right here. The hope is that we can heal. The hope is that we can choose to not slap on a bandaid. The hope is that we can choose not to find something to help us bury the real causes once again. The hope is that we can choose not to seduce ourselves into getting rid of the symptoms so we falsely believe the “problem is solved.”  The hope is that we can choose not to keep ourselves unconscious … of what’s there in our inner world and its effect on the outer world.

Where is the hope?
The hope is right here. The hope is that we have the choice – and the responsibility –
To heal … truly heal … to the root.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

Now is the time for each and every one of us to make a commitment to do the inner work necessary to dissolve the defenses that stand between us and truly healing our wounding.

As you hear about, read about, think about the individual issues facing our world today,  try to become aware of the possible roots of those issues… the real, inner roots within each and every one of those directly or indirectly involved. And don’t stop there … feel into those same roots in yourself. Do you ever, for example, feel the need to make a “power grab” as Putin has? Or do you have racist thoughts and feelings – conscious or unconscious – as Sterling has demonstrated?

What we see when others act out, as those in the examples above have, is their defenses against their own inner pain and wounding. Ask yourself: what are my defenses? And what feelings am I using them to defend against? Often we need the help of a good, caring, integritous therapist to help us find and dissolve those defenses, so the healing can begin… Commit to finding a therapist who is a right fit for you to help you begin or go deeper into this healing journey.

The issues facing our world can seem overwhelming… but there is hope, if we can see what is really happening, if we can spread the word so others begin to see, too, and if we commit, one by one, to do the inner work to heal individually, to help our world heal globally!

Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely . . . But Is It Really the Power That Corrupts?

The well-known statement “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is attributed to Lord Acton, an English Catholic politician, writer, and historian in the1800’s. This statement has been made again and again over time since then. The media of our century uses it quite frequently . . . especially nowadays. And many believe it. But actually, there’s much more under the surface we need to take into account.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a blanket statement that doesn’t give responsibility to anyone for misusing and abusing power. It is a statement that doesn’t hold anyone accountable for misusing and abusing power. It makes the power itself responsible and accountable. Not the person. No wonder we’re in the fix we’re in.

It is not power itself that corrupts. It is the people who use the power that corrupt . . . by misusing and abusing the power they have.

Whether they are the president of a country, the CEO of a business, the religious or spiritual leader in a house of worship, the teacher in a classroom, the doctor in a hospital, the parent in a family, the driver behind the wheel in a car on a road . . . people utilize their power – both consciously and unconsciously – in relation to how power was used with them when they were tiny, vulnerable children. How power was used with them often even before they had words to think about or talk about it with. How power was used perhaps so painfully, perhaps so brutally, that they buried the memory of it and the feeling of it, and then start acting it out when they become adults, if not sooner. They act it out without realizing they are perpetuating the abuse of power that they experienced, whether they remember it or not.

One example on the more subtle side might be Cindy’s experience as a child. Her parents, older siblings, and extended family members all ridiculed and humiliated her with their words, meaning, and intention, while using the guise of a loving tone to hide their abuse. Again, under the guise of fake lovingness, they would tell her things like:

“Your crying is the worst sound I’ve ever heard. Shut your mouth.”

“You’re a bad girl for keeping mommy and daddy awake all night.”

“You’re a little monster. You’d eat everything in sight if you could.”

“What an ugly little girl you are. Why can’t you have blond hair and blue eyes like me?”

All of the family members, without realizing it, did to Cindy what was done to them as children.

Or another example . . . Jimmy was a scared little baby. The doctor could see that every time she picked him up, put him down on the examining table, talked to him, touched him. But the doctor couldn’t understand why Jimmy was so scared. His parents, Jim Sr. and Molly, seemed so loving when they were in the office.

But what the doctor couldn’t see was this: At home, Jim Sr. was yelling at Jimmy every time he started crying. The father was yelling and handling Jimmy roughly. Jimmy couldn’t stop crying, and his father’s response to him made him cry all the more. In reaction to the increased volume, intensity and fear in his crying, Jim Sr. would leave the room, slam the door behind him, and start yelling at Molly: “Get your son to shut up!”

Jimmy was just a baby. He didn’t know what was happening. He was completely unable to understand that his father was triggered by his little baby crying. That Jim Sr. had had his own frightening experiences in his infancy, experiences that had been deeply buried and he didn’t even know were there. That his father’s father had been triggered by Jim Sr.’s little baby’s crying and had treated him just like Jimmy’s father was treating Jimmy. And what’s more . . . Jim Sr.’s father didn’t know what was happening either. He was completely unaware that his yelling, roughness, and slamming doors were his own efforts to defend himself from his own early memories and feelings.

In addition, the doctor couldn’t see that a similar thing was occurring with Jimmy’s mother. And Molly couldn’t see it either. Nor could baby Jimmy.  Molly was triggered by Jimmy’s crying and by Jim Sr.’s response.  Molly herself as a baby had cried and cried in fear because of her own father’s violent responses to her crying. And because her mother had shrunk in fear in response to the violent behavior of her husband.  All of this was buried in Molly, even beneath her awareness.

But here they all were . . . baby Jimmy suffering from his parents’ acting out of what they had experienced as babies, without their remembering it, without their having any connection to the feelings they had at that young age. Yet inflicting all of their own wounding on their baby.

This is an explicit picture of people misusing and abusing their power…without even realizing it. It is also an explicit picture of impacting someone else – the next generation – in such a way that they will do the same. It occurs all the time in our world . . . all over our world . . . passed down from one generation to the next. Our relationship with power is passed down the generational line sometimes consciously, but mostly unconsciously.

Sometimes it gets normalized. Like in Joe Sr.’s and Molly’s families. Sometimes it gets confronted, but the power of the family gets misused and abused once again, and instead of allowing the confrontation to create an opening for healing, the group turns against the person confronting . . . just like the parents turned against the baby. At times the person, perhaps like Joe Sr., is asked to become aware and accountable. He will take in his impact on someone else, maybe even say ‘I’m sorry,’ and then go on about his way – without any intention to find out what was triggered in him that caused him to abuse his power with violence – only to continue to abuse his power again and again.  He doesn’t realize it, but he is too afraid to explore the cause in him. He is too afraid to remember how he was treated as a baby. He is too afraid to feel once again what he felt as a helpless, frightened baby at the hands of his violent father and his fearful, shrinking mother – both forms of misuse of power.

This is why people continue to misuse and abuse their power. They are afraid of remembering what they have repressed deep within … the memory, the experience, the feelings from long, long ago when they were helpless. They are afraid to experience how power was used with them and what they learned, decided, and created in their own relationship with power. This fear, if not met and healed, will perpetuate the abuse of power in our world. And it will perpetuate people’s not taking responsibility for their misuse and abuse of power, and instead putting it on other people and things. On people – their children, their partners, their friends, and more. On things – on that toy a parent trips over, the milk the baby has an allergy to, even on power itself. As though it is power itself that corrupts . . . not the person’s own relationship with power.

The reason it appears to people that absolute power corrupts absolutely is that having power triggers and brings up for people a whole host of their wounds. Perhaps most of their wounds. Perhaps even all of their wounds. As you saw in the examples above, most of the time  this occurs unconsciously. Too many times people are triggered, but one way or another normalize their state of mind, heart, and behavior. Because having power, and especially absolute power, brings up our wounds … it makes parenting a prime arena for our wounding and our defenses against that wounding to be evoked. After all, parenting is the situation in which absolute power occurs most naturally … so of course, it would be the most likely place for the most triggering and the most potential for abuse. This can explain why we don’t consciously give people absolute power. No one is completely aware. No one can be completely aware. And up till now, few have been completely committed to continuously looking for and finding the places they have wounds in their relationship with power … and healing them to the root.

What happens in the individual gets carried into the family. What happens in the family gets carried out into the world . . . into every arena including the government.  If you look at the recent events in the US Congress, you see a painful example. Even the people in the media were saying things like: “Where are the grownups?” and “Why can’t they act like adults?” and “They’re acting like little children.”

My response: Yes, you’re right. They’re acting like little children because the little children they once were are still alive inside them. The members of Congress were revealing themselves, but they had no idea they were doing so. They were showing us how they were treated as children.   Perhaps some were showing us how their parents would hold the family hostage to get their own way. Perhaps others were showing more specifically how their parents had a scorched earth policy, willing to destroy everything to have what they wanted. And maybe others were showing us how one or more of their parents wouldn’t protect the family, but instead would protect themselves . . . for fear of the hostage taker turning on them and punishing them.

I’m not a gambler, but from my experience with people and their psyches and souls . . . I would bet that if we could witness what happened in the childhoods of the congress people, even the parts of their childhoods that they don’t remember . . . we would see abuses of power just like the ones the congress people themselves just acted out.

It is so clear. It is right out in the light of day for all of us to see. If we don’t see it . . . what memories and feelings are we, ourselves, defending against?  What memories and feelings that shaped our relationship with power are we hiding from ourselves?  And how do we act out our misuse and abuse of power as a result?

It is not a simple, easy, quick process to heal our relationship with power. It is not simply a mental process, but includes our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our souls. It is not a straight, linear process, but rather a serpentine path unique to our particular unfolding, our particular development, and the mystery of our particular healing journey. But if we are going to help heal the abuse of power in our world, that is what’s needed to make it possible . . . to one by one by one explore and heal our relationship with power – how it developed, what it felt like, how we’ve buried it, how we act it out, and how we could, with true healing, use our power exquisitely for magnificent good.

© Judith Barr, 2013

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

All of us have times in our lives when we have power of some kind…and in those times, it’s crucial for us to thoroughly explore our relationship with power.

As you go through your life, try to become aware of times when you have power in relation to a situation, thing, or person. How do you react when you have power? What feelings are triggered in you? Do you know when you first had feelings that were the same or similar? Try to trace that feeling as far back in your life as you can. It will enlighten you about your relationship with power and the roots of that relationship.

Now imagine you’ve been given absolute power…power over everything and everyone around you. What would you do? How do you feel at the thought of having that much power? What feelings come up in you and how intense are those feelings? Can you trace back those feelings too…back to the first time you ever felt that way?

Continue exploring . . . remember how power was used with you by everyone in your childhood — parents, other adult relatives, older siblings, other adults like doctors, clergy, teachers, coaches, babysitters, and more. This is a crucial key: how others used their power in relation to you, and how they treated you in relation to your power.

None of us is so completely aware of ourselves that we have a perfect relationship with power.  Each of us has something evoked – however consciously or unconsciously – when we have power or when we have the choice to be in power. And all of us have power in some form or other, at some time or other. What you can do in order to actively do your part: Commit today to explore and heal your relationship with power…so you may use the power you have for magnificent good!

IT HAPPENS MORE THAN WE’RE WILLING TO KNOW . . .

As a depth psychotherapist and seeker of truth, I have witnessed for decades what we hide from ourselves in an attempt to “stay sane,” what we hide from others in an attempt to stay safe or even alive. What family members hide from each other and families hide from the outside world to try to stay intact and keep from being exposed and shamed.  What institutions hide, what communities hide, what states hide, what nations hide . . . in an effort to keep the tides from crashing down over them and changing them, however slowly or quickly.

On the level of the individual psyche, I so well know the need to help people open up the truth and grapple with reality at a pace their mind, heart, body, and soul can handle safely. And attuning with their pace is an exquisite part of what I offer in my work with people.

At the same time, individuals hiding from truth are members of families hiding from truth are members of communities hiding from truth . . . all the way to a world hiding from the truth.

The truth is coming out. We need to see its emergence as part of the healing, individually and globally. We need to help the truth come out and help ourselves and each other with the truth as it comes out.

Very recently, an article came out in the online New York Times.*  It was entitled “Prep-School Predators.”  It exposed decades and decades of sexual abuse at Horace Mann, an elite private school in the Bronx, New York. Sexual abuse of children by faculty members. Sexual abuse that was hidden most of the time . . . or perhaps ignored.  The courageous author, Amos Kamil, wrote in the article:

When the Penn State scandal came out last year, I kept getting tangled  in the questions everyone else was getting tangled in: How does an institutional culture arise to condone, or at least ignore, something that individually, every member knows is wrong?. . . The questions of Penn State, I realized, are the questions of Horace Mann and perhaps every  place that has been haunted by a similar history.*

We can be silent. We can try to pretend it all away. We can try to explain it all away, as is so often done. Under the guise of protecting our own positions or benefits. Under the guise of protecting those we care about or love. Under the guise of protecting the institution or even the culture. We can try to normalize it away for the same reasons, under the same guises. But underneath the pretense, beneath the explanations, lying right beneath the normalizing is the truth . . . just like every malady in our world, there is far more sexual abuse in our world than we are willing to know. It comes in limitless forms, among them – pedophilia, rape of adults, sex slavery. It comes in limitless places – out on the street, in school, at houses of worship, right next door, or even at home. It is acted out by limitless people – fathers and mothers, older sisters and brothers, babysitters, teachers, doctors, clergymen and clergywomen, therapists, and more. But as with sex slavery, it is not only acted out by those who take slaves; it is also acted out by the people who pay to have sex with those who’ve been enslaved. It has an impact on the children – the girls and the boys – who’ve been sexually abused; it has an impact on the women and men who’ve been sexually abused; it has an impact on everyone who comes in touch with those who’ve been sexually abused, including their partners if they have partners; it has an impact on a society that is rampant with sexual abuse. Rampant and more than we’re willing to know.

The impact is massive. Especially when we realize that sexual abuse begets sexual abuse. Those who sexually abuse most likely were sexually abused themselves . . . and therefore in need of healing in their own selves. Those who were sexually abused end up in many places on the continuum, among them – they may fight against sexual abuse, numb themselves and close their eyes to sexual abuse, end up abusing someone else, or work with deep commitment to heal from the sexual abuse they experienced. Those who close their eyes and their hearts to sexual abuse  . . . we wonder if they had sexual abuse in their lives in any way, and if so, how. 

The impact is enormous.  Especially when we realize that the trauma of sexual abuse creates deep, intense, raw feelings . . . terror, agonizing pain, hurt, confusion, rage and more.  It creates these feelings in a society that doesn’t want to know about, witness, or especially feel feelings. A society that wants to numb and bury the feelings with whatever can be used to medicate the feelings away and make the person functional once again . . . even sex.

The impact of sexual abuse is larger than we can imagine. Sexual abuse destroys trust . . . in your world, if it was a stranger who sexually abused you. In your world, in people, in those close to you, in yourself . . . especially if it was someone you trusted. How do you trust again? How do you know whom to trust again?  How do you repair the mechanism within you to trust yourself to discern who is trustworthy and who isn’t?  To protect yourself from someone who isn’t trustworthy? And to allow yourself to relax and be connected with someone who is trustworthy?

This is one example of how sexual abuse affects everything in every arena of life. How do you know who is telling the truth, who is manipulating your trust, and who is seducing you under a guise? How do you know up close and personal? And how do you know further away. If family members, priests and coaches, teachers and scout leaders, doctors and charity leaders, senators and congress people, and even presidents can have such wounds to their sexuality that they, in turn, sexually abuse others . . . how do we know for sure even who our candidates are as they run for high offices? 

The only way we can know is to be willing to know.  To be willing to end the silence, end the pretenses, end the normalization, end the excuses, end the lies. The only way we can know is to be willing to know the truth.  The only way we can know is to be committed to the truth. The only way we can know is to be willing to do our own inner healing work with whatever the truth awakens and brings forth in us. Only then will we know and only then will we know what to do with our knowing. 

Only then will we be able to forgo misusing the truth. Only then will we be able to refrain from using truth as an axe, a bomb, or any other weapon. Only then will we be able to partner truth with love and use it as the healing instrument it truly is.

Oddly enough, in a school like Horace Mann where the truth was not brought out into the open, the beginning and end of the school alma mater is: “Great is the truth and it prevails.”   Horace Mann might have betrayed its alma mater, but each of us has a choice.

Will we also betray the truth? Or will we commit to the truth with a full commitment and follow through on that commitment day by day, step by step, breath by breath?

© Judith Barr, 2012
*
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/magazine/the-horace-mann-schools-secret-history-of-sexual-abuse.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

NOTE: One truth that is crucial to know: It is possible to heal deeply and to the root after having been sexually abused. It takes a full commitment, lots of patience, and a really good, seasoned therapist with integrity, good boundaries, an open heart, a commitment to doing his/her own healing work, and someone who is not afraid of feelings.

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

This month . . . Explore honestly within yourself your relationship with truth. Ask yourself: How afraid am I to find and know the truth? How experienced am I in finding and knowing the truth? What has my experience been when I’ve found and known the truth? How committed am I to finding and knowing the truth?
If we are committed to finding the truth, knowing the truth, and bringing the truth to light…imagine how different our world would be!

The Tragedy in Norway – An Escape Hatch in Action

Violence in our world is multiplying. It’s painful to read about, think about, feel. But if we turn away, instead of really resolving the problem, we feed the escalation.

Last week in Norway, we witnessed frightening, painful attacks. Anders Breivik killed and injured people in downtown Oslo and gunned down teenagers at a nearby camp. The consequences of this tragedy in the present day are huge and deep. Many want to simply blame and punish Anders Breivik. Although he must be held accountable, blame and punishment won’t bring real healing to the individuals affected, the town of Oslo, Norway, or our world. In addition to the present reality, Anders Breivik was almost certainly acting out ‘escape hatches’ developed in his psyche in childhood.

If you were at the point where you felt so much – sorrow, hurt, anger, fear – you thought you couldn’t bear it . . . what would you do? When I ask people this question, we discover their escape hatches.

As children, when we are traumatized, we instinctively protect ourselves, doing whatever we can to get away from the pain. We numb ourselves, close our hearts, deaden our bodies, strike out aimlessly . . . even before we have mental concepts or words. When thoughts and words become available, they are added to these responses – decisions we make about ourselves, others, life, and about how to escape suffering. Among these decisions: I’m leaving – running away. I want to die – kill myself. I could kill you – attack the other. I’ll go crazy!

With time, actions are too often joined to the feelings, concepts, and words . . . usually unconsciously. What was once vital self protection, now becomes a defense – hard, brittle, and even destructive – and typically ends up creating the very thing we intended it to defend us against. Think about it: All of the above decisions created to escape suffering end up creating suffering.

What if you’re a child who spends your first year with parents in conflict – openly or beneath the surface. Then, they divorce, your father leaves but begins a custody battle to take you away from your mother. The tension, split, abandonment, custody fight, create so much suffering for you. You feel you can’t bear it. You decide unconsciously: Someday I’ll get back at them and make them suffer like they’ve made me suffer. You’re bullied and abandoned in later childhood, and you make the same decision again.

You spend your early years being outwardly compliant, but as you grow you become rebellious. Eventually, perhaps unaware you’re fulfilling your early decision to make them suffer, you make an actual plan for revenge – not on your parents, rather on parent substitutes . . . current leaders and future authorities being trained for leadership. Eventually you enact your plan, conceived as a defense against pain, an escape from suffering many years ago early in your life.

Hearing the news, your mother ‘escapes’ and hides out, and your father tells the media you should’ve killed yourself to save him shame. Whether you know their reactions or not, they’re showing the whole world what you grew up with: Your mother would escape and hide out; to escape from his own feelings of shame, dad would have you kill yourself. How tragically painful!

So, unconsciously, adults act on these young, raw, primal feelings. The example above is actually a compilation of details from the life of Anders Breivik, woven together by my understanding of how we try to escape suffering from our earliest time.

Escape hatches aren’t just true of Anders Breivik. They’re part of being human, whether we want to know it or not. People are killing themselves and others – domestic violence, suicide bombings, school shootings, wars, and more. People are wreaking havoc on life . . . in fruitless efforts to escape their own suffering. Until taught, children don’t draw boundaries between feelings and actions. Sadly, many adults don’t either: not knowing they’re having young feelings, they act on their feelings like children . . . only with the force and power of an adult. Children still alive inside adults are running rampant through our world, under the guise of adults. Whatever their childhood wounds, decisions, and feelings, people act them out at the expense of us all.

These childhood decisions – conscious and unconscious – have more power to drive a person’s life and impact our world than most of us conceive.

Denying this won’t help our individual or communal situation. Hate or fear isn’t going to solve this. Punishment is no resolution. Nor is giving up and letting it happen. Responding by creating more suffering isn’t, and never should have been, an option.

We need to handle things in the present, but we also need to understand what’s happening under the surface within us, individually and collectively, and work to heal the way we respond to suffering.

If we don’t hide our heads in the sand, we can utilize our minds and hearts to help resolve the acting out of escape hatches in our individual lives and in the life of our world. It isn’t a quick fix process. But it’s well worth investing our time, energy, and commitments in this task. Here is a handful of things you personally can do to help, for starters . . .

  • Commit to find your own escape hatches. If we each find our own escape hatches, we are taking a first step in taking responsibility for our part in the problem.
  • Commit to not act on your escape hatches, even while you still think and feel about them. If we make acting on our escape hatches unacceptable to us, we give ourselves the task, the challenge, and the opportunity to heal to the root the long-ago pain that caused us to create the escape hatches.
  • Build your capacity to feel your pain, whether pain from the past or pain in the present day. If, instead of escaping, we are willing to feel the pain that existed and is still alive within us, as well as the pain that exists today . . . we will be able to prevent the creation of needless pain and suffering that would come from avoidance and escape of pain.
  • Help your children and the children in your life build their capacity to feel their pain. If we help our children feel their feelings as they come up, we give them an option other than escape hatches.
  • Be attuned to your children and the children in your life to sense if they have an escape hatch they need help with. We need to be very attuned and very sensitive here, but our children really need our help with this . . . and so does our world.
  • Be attuned to family, friends, colleagues in your life to sense if they have an escape hatch they need help with. This is also a very delicate matter, but you could make a real difference in a person’s life if you can help him/her not take destructive action to escape pain.
  • If you can’t do this on your own — and who can? — find a really good therapist who understands escape hatches and isn’t afraid of feelings.

Acting out our escape hatches can undermine our greatest possibilities and dreams and can create terrible destruction. Utilizing our awareness of our escape hatches well — on a thinking and feeling level — can open doorways to healing that most people have no conception of . . . yet.

© Judith Barr, 2011

Alice Miller – A Gift to Our World

Just recently, while preparing for my web conference on bullying , I looked up Alice Miller, once again, as I had so very many times over the years . . . particularly since publishing my book, Power Abused, Power Healed, and following my own calling to help heal the misuse and abuse of power in our homes, families, communities, states, countries, and world.

Alice Miller wrote some very powerful things relating and connecting the body, heart, psyche, and history of a person’s childhood to the body, heart, psyche and history of our world. Among these are her book, For Your Own Good, and her article, “The Nature of Abuse.”

Only this time looking her up, I found that Alice Miller had died a year ago, April 14, 2010. Instantly, I felt both saddened that she was no longer here on earth active in her work to expose, prevent, and help heal child abuse in individuals and in our world. And I also felt so deeply thankful for all the work she had done in and toward this healing.

Alice Miller was a wise, deep, courageous woman. From what I’ve read, she herself, kept growing and healing throughout her life. She saw the failures in her own field and in our society and worked to help heal them, also.

Alice Miller was an advocate for truth, an advocate for love, an advocate for healing the abuse in our lives and in our world. I consider her, as I’m sure many do, an inspiration to my life and my own work in our world.

May you know you have helped us all, Alice Miller. May you rest in peace.

© Judith Barr, 2011

Sex and The Media: Where’s The Accountability?

In these times . . . when so much is going on in our world, not just in our country, but all over our world . . . when every media report has the potential to be heard or read by millions . . . our media needs to be more accountable than ever before.

But recently two media organizations ran stories that were anything but responsible or accountable!

The first was a NewYorkTimes.com story about about an 11-year old girl who was gang raped in Cleveland, Texas. The story was slanted in favor of everyone except the girl. The community that had been destroyed. The men and boys who raped her who would have to live with this for the rest of their lives. And the story was slanted against the little girl. It talked about a neighbor asking where her mother was and others talking about how she dressed older than her age. What century do we live in that a little girl is blamed for being raped by 18 men and boys? What country do we live in that this has occurred? And what has happened to the New York Times that it would publish a story like this? Many have said it reflects the rape culture we live in. Perhaps that is so. Regardless, I hold the New York Times accountable for its story. We all need to!

The second was a CBS.com story about a 24-year old woman who has concocted a misuse and abuse of sexuality under the guise of therapy. She calls herself “The Naked Therapist.” She calls what she does “naked therapy.” She promises “power through arousal.” She is not trained or licensed as a psychotherapist. She calls her clients “patients” and charges them $150 an hour to seduce, titillate, and manipulate them into watching her undress, under the guise – the absurd, bizarre, unbelievable guise – of healing.

To add insult to injury, what is CBSnews.com doing publishing an article that doesn’t expose this for what it is – abuse! Not only do they not censure what this woman does, they mention she is not licensed, they mention that professional therapy organizations would not approve of what she does, but they go on and talk about what she does . . . as though it’s okay. Really, their article titillates, which unfortunately in our world, sells stories. How very wounded a society is in which a story like this can be used to titillate and sell a product! I hold CBS.com accountable for its story. We all need to.

This brings us right back to the beginning . . . if the media isn’t accountable for the stories it publishes, we need to hold them accountable.

If we don’t hold them accountable . . . what does that say about us? What does it say about what we need to heal in ourselves? What does it say about what we need to heal personally, individually, for our own lives and for the sake of our society?

© Judith Barr, 2011

A War Against Women . . .

When is a political campaign (and I don’t mean an election) a guise for accomplishing something far more sinister and far more dangerous than is claimed?

When seeming attempts to save unborn lives in the name of something holy are really a war on women.

When apparent efforts to prevent abortion in the name of protecting the lives of the unborn are, in actuality, purposeful, planned moves to take away women’s power .  .  . a war against women.

When men, and most tragically of all, other women themselves, are so afraid of the power women have birthed and claimed in recent times, that they are bound and determined to turn back the times and make women powerless . . . a war against women.

When men, and even women, collude, under the guise of goodness, to make women possessions again . . . possessions of their fathers, possessions of their husbands, possessions of their religions, possessions of the Divine as they perceive the Divine, women making themselves the possessions of others, even women treating themselves like possessions . . . a war against women.

When men, afraid of the growing power women have claimed, and even women themselves are afraid of their own power and the power of other women, and instead of supporting that power and working through their own fears, want to squash that power forever . . . in a war against women.

Wherever else this is happening in our world, it is also happening right now in the United States of America in 2011.

It is rising to bizarre proportions! Last week, there was a bill in Congress that , under the guise of taking action to prevent abortions, would have redefined rape to include only forcible rape . . . and to leave women powerless when they are violated in other ways – by date rape, by rape that occurs when a perpetrator drugs his victim, by rape while a woman is intoxicated or asleep, by rape perpetrated on underage females,by rape when a woman withdraws her consent, or by rape when a woman is trying not to be injured further or is trying to stay alive.

Whatever this bill looked like it was doing, H.R.3, The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act was, in truth, a war on women’s power, a war on women’s protection, a war on women’s access to help . . . a war against women!

And this bill was one single action in millions that have been taking place and that will continue to take place.

A terrorizing war . . . against women!
It’s like a daughter of an incest perpetrator who cuts her off from help in the family, isolates her from the outside world, threatens her loss of safety, threatens her daily survival — food, clothing, shelter, and medical help – squashes her voice, and most dangerous of all, puts on the face of kindness and goodness one minute, while stalking her silently and consistently, so that she is scared all the time.

I know that this is the backlash to the power women have been birthing, growing, and claiming. And I know a backlash was inevitable.  We need to take this seriously now!  This is a war against women.

If we are going to end this war against women, we – women and men alike – are going to need to do our own inner healing.  All of us are part of this, whether we want to know it, acknowledge it, feel it . . . or not!  This is no joke!  I don’t mean just by reading self help books or going to support groups or even a workshop here and there.  We are going to need to heal within us our own fears of being powerless, and also the places where we would take dangerous actions to crush someone else’s power because we are afraid.

There is much more that needs to be said, taught, and healed here than I can do in this short time and space.  I hope, though, that I have opened your eyes to see what is really occurring, opened your mind to help you think about the truth of what is happening, and opened your heart to say ‘yes’ to the healing you, yourself, need to do.  I also hope that you will pass this on to others . . .  whose eyes, minds, and hearts need to open.

Thank you and many blessings,
Judith Barr

(C) Judith Barr, 2011