If We Keep Using Our Escape Hatches, We’ll Keep Preventing the Miracles – Individually and Communally.

It’s a tragic time in our country. And our world.

Instead of people self responsibly searching within, looking to discover what it is within ourselves that is causing us pain in our lives and others, as well … people are looking outside ourselves at others to blame, bully, threaten, punish, force, torture

… when we don’t get what we want.
… in order to get what we want.
… when we believe we can’t bear what’s happening in our lives.
… when we believe we can’t bear the consequences of our actions.
… when we believe we can’t bear the feelings that rise up from within us.

Introduction to escape hatches

Over decades of experience with people — witnessing, talking with, learning about, helping, and caring deeply about them – I have discovered that when it comes right down to it … we are more afraid of our feelings than most anything else. As a result, we create defenses to keep us from experiencing our feelings. This creates a whole vicious cycle in our lives, one that we try to get out of at the very same time as we fight to stay in.

Escape hatches are a crucial aspect of this process. A crucial aspect of which we have little or no awareness. We use escape hatches to defend against our feelings. We use escape hatches to fight our way out of the vicious cycle. And at the same time we use escape hatches to make sure we continue to stay in the vicious cycle, lost in our own maze.

If you got to the point at which you felt so much – sorrow, hurt, anger, fear – that you thought you wouldn’t be able to bear it … what would you do?

When I ask this question of my clients, together we discover their escape hatches. The concept of “escape hatches” or “exits” is known in various therapy models. To my knowledge, however, the profound, rich depth of the healing work that can be done with escape hatches is rarely taught. And I have never heard discussion of its application to our world.

But just as everything else that is personal also exists on the communal level, so also do escape hatches.

What is an escape hatch?

As children, when we are wounded or traumatized, we instinctively protect ourselves. We do whatever we can to get away from the pain. Among other things, we numb ourselves, deaden ourselves, leave our bodies, strike out aimlessly. We do this even before we have mental concepts or words to speak them. At some point, our thoughts and words become available, and these responses have words that go with them – early decisions we make about ourselves, others, and life, and escape hatch decisions we make about how to get away from the pain: for example, I’m getting out of here. I’ll run away. I want to die. I wish I’d never been born. I could kill you. I’ll destroy everything. I’ll go crazy.

How does an escape hatch work in a child’s life?

With time, the feelings, actions, concepts and words are joined together … albeit perhaps unconsciously. But even if a child knows s/he wants to run away, s/he doesn’t comprehend the more complex dynamic of that want as part of an escape hatch and its vicious cycle.

As we grow, what was once vital self-protection, now becomes a defense – hard, and brittle, and even destructive – which usually ends up creating the very thing we intended it to defend us against.  A little boy decides not to talk to his Mommy, to keep her from spanking him. But his silence angers her as much as his words, and she ends up spanking him anyway. Over the months and years, he transfers it to his playmates, his teachers, his buddies, his wife, his employers, his employees.  And the same thing happens again and again … his refusal to speak – the original means of self-defense – infuriates people.

How does an escape hatch work in an adult’s life?

This evokes deep, strong, even raw feelings in the little boy still alive inside the man – the man who doesn’t realize his feelings are those of the little boy he once was. And neither do the people around him realize it. He looks like a 220-pound 6-foot tall 30-year old man. He has the capabilities of an adult man. But he’s acting on the feelings of a little boy.

So … without awareness, without making a commitment not to act on them … the little boy’s raw primal feelings are reacted to by the adult man. If the little boy wanted to die when he was in pain, the adult man might actually try to kill himself — perhaps succeeding, perhaps remaining alive to go ‘round the maze cycle once again. If the little boy wanted to kill his mother, the man might kill his mother … or someone else in her place – his girlfriend, his wife, his boss, a stranger, a lot of strangers. Again and again in our world, people are killing both themselves and others – domestic violence, suicide bombings, school shootings, wars, just to name a few.

Allow yourself to see this differently than you have in the past. This isn’t just people killing themselves and others. This is people acting out the escape hatches long ago created by the child they once were – still alive within them – to escape the pain they felt they couldn’t bear as a child.

How does an escape hatch work in our world?

This is what is happening in our world today! The children inside the adults are running rampant through our world, under the guise of adults. Whatever their childhood wounds, decisions, escape hatches, and feelings … people are acting them out on the stage of our earth, at the expense of all of us.

Until they are taught, children don’t draw a boundary between feelings and actions. Sadly, too many adults don’t either – not knowing they are having young feelings, the adults act on their feelings just like little children do … only with the power of an adult physical body, mind, and personality behind the action.

Children make all sorts of decisions when they are little – some conscious and some unconscious. These decisions and the feelings that go with them have more power to drive a person’s life and impact the world than most people can even conceive. What if the brother of the little boy discussed above also felt powerless with his mother? What if this brother, in his powerless fury, made an early decision within himself:  “You may have the power now, Mommy, but I’ll have all the power when I grow up”?  What if this boy grows up, becomes the leader of his country, and proceeds to garner all the power he can in his country: the power to arrest and imprison people based on lies; the power to torture people; the power to invade anyone’s privacy; the power to take away people’s rights and safety; the power to start wars, even destroy the world? Oh my! What a child’s unhealed pain and early decisions can create in our world!

What if the very people who could stop this leader in every arena of the country are unable to because of their own experiences with their parents and other authorities in their young lives, because of their own early decisions, and because of their own escape hatches? What if the legislators are afraid they will be punished by either the leader or the voters … and so turn away/run away from their own values and support those of the leader? What if the judges are afraid they will lose their appointments … and give up as a result? What if the military leaders are afraid they will lose their posts … and so support a war that in itself is destructive? What if the media is afraid it will be ousted in favor of other media that supports the leader … and so helps to mold the public instead of reflecting where the public truly is? What if the citizens are paralyzed? What if they have been blinded to the abuse of power by the leader because their own parents’ abuse of power was normalized in the family, the community, and the culture. Normalizing dysfunction and destructiveness does paralyze and blind people. It invalidates instincts, creating and feeding fear.

In these scenarios, which escape hatches has each person in each of these groups of people chosen that keep them and us from feeling – and being fully alive – from healing, from growing into all we can be, from exercising our power to truly protect – not defend* – ourselves, our country, and our world?

We are not alone in this.  It is a phenomenon worldwide. We have been seeing it again and again, in escalating proportions in our world. We have seen it in children, in teens, in men and women. We have seen it in citizens and leaders.

I’ve worked more and more deeply with people over the years and seen both the basic escape hatches and the individualized escape hatches they have revealed to me in their own lives. I’ve come to see that in addition to whatever escape hatches people have developed from pain and trauma in their own childhood, there is also wounding and defenses, including escape hatches, that are passed down from generation to generation. Some of this is because one generation after another acted out their escape hatches upon their children, upon their families, or with their families in their society. Some of this is because they’ve transmitted it emotionally from one generation to the next. Some is by an unconscious psychic transmission that does go from one generation to the next. Some is by the expansion of the transmission culturally, normalizing some form of wounding, pain, and trauma consciously and unconsciously. Some is by a combination of pathways of transmission from generation to generation. These intergenerational roots add to our understanding of the tenacity with which we hold onto our escape hatches, both individually and culturally.

I’ve also come to see that there are many other escape hatches needing to be named: among them blaming, scapegoating, bullying, threatening, and war.

People use blaming as an escape hatch to defend against feeling their own issues, their own weaknesses, their own responsibility. Scapegoating is also used to avoid the confrontation of one’s own inadequacies or deficiencies; but scapegoating is usually used communally, whether in a family, an organization, a country, or amongst countries. Bullying, as explained in my home study course, “Healing Bullying to The Root: A Unique Approach to a Painful Epidemic,” is an escape hatch used to defend against the feeling of powerlessness. And war! War is an escape hatch used to get rid of the threat — and all the feelings it stirs in the cauldron of our beings. But in the process, as with every escape hatch, war prevents real communication, real expression of needs and feelings, real searching for new possibilities. War prevents true resolution, true negotiation and true peace. As with every other escape hatch of the kind I am describing … war prevents the miracle.**

This is a call for healing.
It is a hopeful time in our country. And our world.
It is a time of opportunity for great healing and evolution.

We need to look at this. We need to look at this not just in our outer world. We must look at this, each of us, in our inner world. We need to work with this. We need to heal and resolve what is in us that we avoid when we use an escape hatch.  We need to close the escape hatches: We need to draw a boundary between the thoughts and feelings we have related to escape hatches and commit to not act on them; and then we need to commit to work with the hurt and pain, anger and fear, and all the other feelings that caused us as children to find or create our escape hatches. We need to build our capacity to feel our feelings safely, and, as we become parents, to help our children feel their feelings safely. And we need to follow through on those commitments.

Once we’ve done the healing personally, we need to also explore and work to heal what in our families and our culture was passed down to us as children that has created a vicious cycle of pain and escape hatches and more pain. We need to work on that level of healing, too.

We must remember that every single one of us has an impact – from the inside out – not only on our own lives, but also on the life of our whole country, and even the life of our whole world. If you have an escape hatch open and the wound beneath it is unhealed, that will affect our whole world. So, imagine if we each closed our escape hatches and healed the wounds beneath them! Imagine if we all did our healing work to the very root of our being! Imagine the positive impact we could have.

“Power is like fire, lightning, wind, ocean – like life itself – a raw vital force of nature. It has the potential for great harm and the possibility for magnificent good. Each of us chooses, whether consciously or unconsciously, how we will use the power of our own life energy.” ***

How will you use your power?
What will you do to close and heal your own escape hatches
and what lies beneath them?

© 2008, 2015, Judith Barr.

* To learn more about defenses, read my article, Defenses Destroy, at
http://judithbarr.com/2014/06/08/defenses-destroy/

** None of what I say in this explanation about escape hatches in any way says that people who are really in danger in their circumstances should just stay there and let whatever happens happen. For example, I’m not saying a battered wife should just stay and let her husband destroy her. I’m not saying an attacked community should just stay and let the invaders destroy them. But I am offering that the dynamics of escape hatches from early on and through the generations are very complex and need to be explored deeply and expansively.

***Power Abused, Power Healed, Judith Barr, Mysteries of Life, 2007, p iii.

 

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

Now that we have explored escape hatches and how they are created … the next step is to begin to explore within ourselves our own individual escape hatches.

When you are in pain or under stress – pain or stress you feel is “overwhelming,” “over the top,” or “unbearable”- what is your first reaction? Do you want to run away? Curl into a ball or go back to bed and “pull the covers over your head”? Do you feel like you want to die … or even feel like you want to kill someone? Do you feel as though you’re going “crazy”?

The answers to these questions are your first clues as to what your own escape hatches are. You may have one or several. They may be the same, or may be different depending on the type of situation, level of pain or stress, or what is being triggered in you.

Commit to not act out on your escape hatches, to close them on the action level … but don’t stop there. Commit to go to the root to heal, so you can close your own escape hatches on the mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual levels, too. Working with escape hatches is very delicate work … and I urge you to find a caring, integritous therapist to work with to help you close your escape hatches and work with the pain underneath them. A therapist who knows about, or who is open to learning about, escape hatches. (You may even want to show him or her this article, to give them an even deeper understanding about escape hatches, and how they affect our lives.)

It is indeed a tragic time in our world, but there is hope … in knowing about escape hatches, in discovering our own, in committing to close our escape hatches and heal what lies beneath them. There is hope in resolving what, within ourselves, interferes with the miracles. There is hope in making the miracle of true healing happen – both personally and communally!

Fear of the Darkness – The Damage It Creates

From the moment of the Summer Solstice,* the days begin getting shorter,
the nights longer. It gets darker and darker and darker.
From early November, especially if you go through
the end of daylight savings time,
the onset of darkness speeds up …
moving us more and more darkly toward the Winter Solstice –
the shortest day, the longest night of the year.
And the night when a ray of new light births itself into our world again.

The Winter Solstice and our reaction to it can mirror for us
the growth we truly need to realize if we are to end the violence in our world.
I usually use words related to power and abuse of power.
And violence is definitely an abuse of power, borne of our own early wounds.
But if ever there was a time to openly connect abuse of power and violence,
This time in our world is the time.

Violence, as an abuse of power, exists on every level of being.
To put it directly and bluntly …
Nobody has the right to harm another’s physical body.
Nobody has the right to “play with,” threaten, or harm another’s mind.
Nobody has the right to “diminish and destroy the inner self of another.”**
Nobody has the right to interfere with another’s spiritual development.***

Nobody has the right to act out violence against another –
both outright violence and the violence under all sorts of guises,
including the guise of “goodness,” the guise of “need,” the guise of “protection,” and the guise of The Divine in many names.
This is not to say there is no real goodness, need, protection or Divine.
It is simply to acknowledge how they are all too often misused
as guises for violence in some form.

So, back to the darkness and how our reaction to it can both
create damage in our world
and also point the way to our healing and our growth…

*****

Darkness slowly creeps up on us …
And the people are afraid.
They have been taught to fear the dark itself.
They have been taught to fear what happens in the dark.
They have been taught to fear what comes out of the dark.
In the world outside themselves …
And in the world within their very selves.

Darkness gathers it momentum …
And the people are alarmed.
They have been taught the dark is bad.
They have been taught the dark is destructive.
They have been taught the dark is evil.

Darkness descends upon us …
And the people are panicky.
They have been taught the dark destroys.
They have been taught the dark devastates.
They have been taught the dark annihilates.

Darkness cascades upon us …
And the people are terrified.
Just as they have been taught,
They run in fear, hide in fear,
Go numb in fear, freeze in fear, lash out in fear.

Just as they have been taught,
They not only fear the darkness in the world outside,
They also fear the darkness within their very own psyches.
Just as they have been taught,
They take their fear out on others.
Sometimes even on themselves.
Just as they have been taught,
They fear experiencing the darkness within, and so
They project the darkness within
Onto others, and fear them instead …
And then fear turns to hate.
And then they use the hate to strike out,
Destroying someone or something else
In an impotent attempt to get rid of the darkness
And the fear of it.
An endlessly impotent attempt to get rid of the darkness
And the fear of it.

Just as they have been taught,
The people search for the light and refuse the darkness.
Just as they have been taught,
They run to the light and away from the darkness.
Just as they have been taught,
They try to use religion or spirituality to bypass the darkness.
Just as they have been taught,
They split light and dark apart –
Tearing them away from each other –
Making them hate each other.
Actually making one loving and the other hateful…
The light loving and the dark hateful.
Loving one and hating the other.
Loving the light and hating the dark.
Leaving themselves bereft –
of the wholeness that comes from holding together
the light and the dark.

Just as they have been taught,
The people continue to do this over and over again.
Believing – or at least wanting to believe –
that it will one day get rid of the darkness and their fear of the darkness.
But it never does.
And it never will.
It n-e-v-e-r will.

Just as they have been taught,
They bully, abuse, kill –
physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually –
individually, as groups, and as nations …
They bully, abuse, kill
other people, other species,
even their own partners,
even their own children,
even their Mother Earth.

All to avoid looking within.
All to avoid the darkness within.
All to avoid the fear within.
All to avoid that within which they have been taught is evil.

The people have been taught lies.
The people have been seduced out of the truth.
The people have been deprived of the wealth of feelings
that enrich our lives by showing us what is true and what is false.
By showing us what is a guide to responding in the present moment
And what is a sign of wounding calling to be healed.

The people have been deprived of growing up rich with a hunger
to explore the darkness within
and the feelings they have buried beneath the frozen,
hardened ground of their own psyches.

The people have been cheated out of the
Fertile ground within that the darkness really is.
The darkness within is not evil and dangerous.
Not if the people are taught to feel their feelings,
but not act out on them …
Not if the people are taught to discern which feelings
To simply feel and which feelings to take action from.

Not if the people are taught … by their own mothers and fathers,
The first leaders of all.
Deprived of this true wealth,
They seek other forms of wealth to replace it.
Impossible!
A search that can never be fulfilled.

The people have been robbed of the connection to the priceless gifts in the darkness within …
The clues for healing step by step by step …
The layers of defenses against the pain they felt as they went through childhood traumas …
Defenses they need to work through and dissolve.
The beliefs and decisions they made that need to be healed for their growth and transformation.
The parts of themselves that have hardened against the wounds and pains,
Parts that have taken on a life of their own, and become destructive as a result.
These parts and others that are the clues for healing step by step by step.

And the parts that are the people’s strengths …
Their patience, their willingness, their compassion,
Their openness, their aliveness borne of being able to feel,
Their longing and commitment to heal …
Their deepening understanding of that darkness in the deep spiral labyrinths within their very beings …
That it actually leads them to their center.
And to the priceless gift that is the light in the center of the darkness …
The light that cannot be reached any other way other than going through the darkness within …
That light in the midst of the darkness within,
That light they truly need to find …
That is the light of who they really are.

Blindness to the darkness within will never bring the people to the light at the center.
Hiding from the darkness within will never bring them there.
Splitting the dark from the light will never bring them there,
But will only break their wholeness.
Projecting their own darkness onto others will never bring them there.
Lashing out at other people will never bring them there.
Focusing on the darkness in the outer world will never bring them there.
Focusing on the light outside will never bring them there.

The people need help …
They need the help to own their own inner darkness.
They need the help to heal the fear of the darkness within themselves.
They need the help to journey through the darkness within themselves.
They need the help to work with the darkness inside themselves.
They need to know that only through their own journey with their inner darkness
Can they truly come to experience others’ inner darkness differently.
They need the help to find the gifts in their inner darkness.
They need the help to find the true light within …
Not some pseudo light that bypasses the journey through the darkness.
But the true light within.
The people need the help to journey through their inner darkness
To the true light within.
The people need help …
This truth and this work is so critically needed,
If we are to save ourselves, each other, and our world.

* I’m writing this as we approach the Winter Solstice in my home in the Northern Hemisphere … but certainly the article applies to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere when you approach your Winter Solstice in June.

**Excerpted from an excellent definition of the painful experience of emotional abuse from Marti Tamm Loring, Emotional Abuse: The Trauma and Treatment,  (1998, Josie-Bass)

***This was succinctly, wisely, passionately, and  heartfully said by one group member to another many years ago. It had a profound awakening impact on everyone in the group.

© Judith Barr, 2014.

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

As we approach the Winter Solstice, let it remind us that we all need to ongoingly explore our fears relating to the darkness within.

When you contemplate your own inner darkness … do you feel like running? Hiding? Denying and repressing it? What feelings come up in you when you think about your inner darkness? And … do you know the roots of those feelings? In your life, your family, your world?

Exploring the darkness within is the work of a lifetime … every step of the way offering the potential for healing, growth, and transformation beyond what we can imagine. To safely navigate the darkness we often need the help of a good, caring, integritous therapist – one who knows how crucial it is that we explore our own inner darkness … and one who does that work  as a natural part of his/her own living.

Our world seems a dark place sometimes … but it is only by exploring, healing and transforming our own inner darkness that we can find the true light, within and without.