WHAT IS THE REAL CATASTROPHE?

We hear the word catastrophe a lot these days. In the news. In the mental health arena. In the therapy room. In relation to all arenas of life. According to different sources, what’s happening to our climate is a catastrophe. What’s happening to our earth is a catastrophe. What’s happening to people who have lost their jobs and are unable to support themselves and their families financially is a catastrophe. What’s happening to people who will be unable to have adequate healthcare is a catastrophe. What’s happening to people whose homes have been threatened and/or destroyed is a catastrophe. What’s happening to people whose lives in their country are being threatened is a catastrophe. What’s happening to the truth and integrity of our country and our world is a catastrophe. What’s happening to the leadership in our country and our world is a catastrophe.

I could go on and on and on. But I won’t. Each of these is, indeed, a catastrophe in its own right. Each of these is a catastrophe in the current time – 2017.  Step one in responding to a catastrophe in the here and now is to validate it, have compassion for the person experiencing it, and find what actually needs to be done in the here and now.

But there is more to it than this. And given the presence of catastrophes in today’s world, it’s curious, even odd that many people in the mental health world teach their clients not to “catastrophize.”  They are trying to help their clients calm themselves. They are trying to teach their clients that thinking about catastrophic outcomes will upset them unnecessarily. They believe that is a good thing to teach. It might be helpful for a client to have the word “catastrophe.”  When we can name something, it empowers us. But if the therapist stops there … the therapist leaves the client able to know there is a source of power, but unable to see it or find it.

There is also a similar cultural response … as demonstrated in the childhood fairy tale about Chicken Little. Despite some published endings and interpretations of the fairy tale, all the people I talked with about this had the same experience. Basically: When they were told the story as children, it was made very clear that you shouldn’t say what you’re afraid of. You shouldn’t say when you see something happening that feels bad or threatening … or you will be dismissed by people telling you mockingly “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Someone who is afraid of catastrophes certainly doesn’t need to be dismissed, and most certainly doesn’t need to be mocked. And even more certainly doesn’t need to be threatened out of expressing their fears with the warning of humiliation.

Someone who is afraid of catastrophes, doesn’t need to be told to stop “catastrophizing.” He doesn’t need to be told to stop thinking that way. She doesn’t need to be told to stop imagining those catastrophes. He needs to be helped to understand that the catastrophes he’s thinking of are very likely catastrophes he has already experienced in his life – possibly catastrophes he doesn’t even remember consciously. Likely catastrophes he has no words for. Likely catastrophes he had no way out of as a child. He needs help to understand that we can guide him safely as he works his way back to the earlier catastrophes and heals from them. She needs to be taught that as we move toward the original catastrophes, it is likely her fear of catastrophes in the future will ease; she will stop projecting the past catastrophes on the future. That is step two in helping people with catastrophes. If you can help someone know the catastrophe that they’re fearing in the future has actually already happened, long, long ago … that has a calming effect of a different nature. It will likely still be scary, but it’s a different kind of fear. It’s a fear from long ago, still alive within.

It gives the person a chance of having a step three: to find and heal from the original catastrophe… and this time with help. This time not alone. This time as an adult with a little child still alive within.

Here’s an example* …

Burt’s mother hit him from the time he was very, very young. She smacked him anyplace within her reach. He remembers looking down at his leg and seeing her handprint on his little thigh below his diaper. He recalls her holding his hand to pull him close enough to smack, and his trying to stay far enough away that she couldn’t reach him, while she swatted at him again and again. He remembers feeling terrified. These were individual catastrophes for little Burt. But even these two alone would create a fear and an anticipation of more catastrophes to come. A waiting … for the other shoe to drop.

Yet these were not the only two times Burt’s mother treated him this way. In fact, for Burt it was like living in an ocean of abuse and waiting for abuse through his entire childhood. His childhood, in other words, was filled with catastrophes. Catastrophes in the moment and catastrophes about to happen.

Burt’s anticipating and fearing that would continue in his life today and in the future is not catastrophizing, but rather transferring that young ocean of catastrophe onto the future. And since no one helped Burt as a child, or helped him understand and heal the child catastrophes as a young adult, he kept re-enacting and re-creating this in his adult years. He drew to him women who mostly didn’t hit him with their hands, but smacked and swat at him consistently with their words, their looks, their energy, their feelings. That left him continuing to live in an ocean of catastrophe.  And he mistakenly thought it proved that life is a catastrophe. That relationship is catastrophe.

Without even realizing it, Burt contributed to the election of a woman president of his country – one who verbally smacked at those who disagreed with her and those who didn’t do what she wanted. Among the others who contributed to this election’s win by an abusive president were other men and women whose mothers smacked and swatted at them when they were little girls and boys… creating catastrophes in their young lives. And since none of them had the help to heal consciously from the original catastrophes, they were all re-creating their early catastrophes in the life of their nation. And almost everyone in the nation thought it was a current national (and global) emergency only. Only a few knew that the citizens unconsciously and communally had helped to create this national catastrophe out of their childhood catastrophes. And try as they would to inform their country-people … to show their country-people … the citizens didn’t want to know. They seemed to really believe the situation today was the only catastrophe. They seemed to prefer to live in and co-create the current abuse and catastrophe rather than remember, feel, and heal their past young experiences of catastrophe.

Sandy’s experience is another example of the real catastrophe …

Sandy’s father touched her in ways and places he never should have touched her … from the time she was 3 years old – that she can remember –  or perhaps even younger beneath her memory. Sandy’s father would hold her and rub her back when she was crying. He would sing songs to her in a sweet voice, too. It seemed loving and comforting to little Sandy. Eventually, once Sandy became acclimated to this, he began to rub other parts of her body – first with his hands and then with other parts of his body. With each step, what once seemed loving and comforting to Sandy eventually felt alarming, scary, and painful. And his use of the guise of comforting her to cover up his molesting her was terribly confusing to her. Everything got short-circuited for Sandy – love, comfort, pleasure, trust, and even wanting. Her world was one of catastrophe after catastrophe till the air she breathed was made up of molecules of the impending doom of catastrophe or actual catastrophe itself.

Sandy’s mother didn’t help things either. She didn’t protect Sandy. She dressed Sandy up like a little doll from the time she was very young, certainly by 3.  And with each year her mother dressed her more and more like a little model – already looking like a teenager when she was only 8. In this way, Mom colluded in the creation of Sandy’s vulnerability to men molesting and assaulting her. Her high school dates all wanted to get inside her, the consequences be damned, moreso than the stereotype of high school boys. Her first real boyfriend would draw her in with comfort and tenderness and then use her in every way he wanted to satisfy his own appetites. And the same with her first husband.  Sandy was frozen.  She believed she was frozen in the teenage and early 20’s catastrophe of sexual abuse. Having repressed and forgotten her early experiences of sexual abuse in her childhood home with mother and father, she had no way, without help, to realize she was really frozen in her early childhood catastrophes of sexual abuse.

No one helped Sandy as a child. No one helped her as a teen. No one helped her in her 20’s. A whole life-stream of catastrophe. So when she was 28 and the presidential election was coming, Sandy was frozen in the face of the male candidate who promised to provide comfort for the citizens and the country. Comfort in different forms for different citizens. But comfort nonetheless. In her frozen state, and beneath that with such a hunger for comfort, Sandy was vulnerable and, as a result, seduced into supporting him. So she did. Whatever was exposed about the candidate, she still supported him … with no awareness that she had transferred her hunger for Daddy’s comfort onto the candidate. With no awareness that she had transferred the whole catastrophe stream from her childhood onto the process of the buildup to the election.

When the candidate’s molesting of women was unexpectedly exposed to the public, Sandy still supported him. She was still frozen and unconscious in the place of a child, living with daddy, needing daddy, needing attention from daddy, needing comforting from daddy, needing daddy to take care of her, and more …

Other women who had been molested by their fathers as children were split. Some were still supporting the candidate, through mechanisms like Sandy’s frozenness and unconsciousness. And others, triggered by the revelations, woke up and realized what the candidate was doing and what their fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers had done. Those who woke up stopped supporting the candidate as the catastrophes from their own childhoods became real and conscious to them again.

Without awareness, those women who continued to support the candidate were participating in the creation of a catastrophe in the current day out of their inability, unwillingness, fear of looking at, working with, and healing the catastrophes in their childhood.  There were others, too, who supported this candidate out of their “no” to making conscious their experiences of sexual catastrophe as children. Men who had been sexually abused as children. Men whose fathers had molested and sexually abused or harassed their mothers, sisters, women out in public … or even women on TV. Many of these men felt powerless in the face of sexually abusive men.  And many of them became like those sexually abusive men as a way to defend against their young experience of powerlessness. The catastrophe of this candidate getting elected was created from many different childhood catastrophes amongst the citizenry. Even the catastrophe the candidate was creating came out of catastrophes in his early life. Catastrophes from long, long ago that he obviously had no intention at all to remember and heal … for his own sake or for the sake of his country.

These profound, deep, raw, and real examples offer a clear introduction to the real catastrophes … and the consequences of not seeing them, finding them, working to heal from them.

There’s another important clue and gem here. If we interfere with a person’s seeking and finding the original catastrophe, they not only will keep being afraid of a catastrophe in the future, but also will unconsciously co-create catastrophes in the future.  Our unconscious selves – our souls – call us and push us to bring the original catastrophes into consciousness however we can. That’s the only way to heal them.  It’s safer if we bring them into consciousness in our dreams. Or in glimpses of waking memories. It’s safer if we bring them into consciousness watching a movie or tv program. It’s also safer if we bring them into consciousness in small benign re-enactments in our lives, re-enactments that trigger memories of the original catastrophe but don’t cause more catastrophes. But if we don’t unearth the original catastrophes in those ways, we will co-create them in other ways … either in our own individual lives, or along with others who are co-creating them in the life of our world.

This is not something to blame people for. This is not something to punish yourself for. It’s something to be aware of. It is a gem to be thankful for. It holds the key to our healing. We are not responsible for what happened to us as children, but we are responsible for healing from the experiences we had as children and the consequences caused by those catastrophes. This is the key to our healing our individual catastrophes. And the key to our healing our communal catastrophes – familial, national, global.

If you know that the catastrophe was long ago…
If you know that you’re afraid of a catastrophe in the future because you’re transferring the original catastrophe onto the future…

If you know that and don’t do the work to heal from the original catastrophe…
and you know that your refusal to do the original catastrophe work will result in your creating a catastrophe in the future…
If you know that if each of us does the exact same thing – refuses to do the original work and so creates a future catastrophe instead…
we will create catastrophes in our world …

The worst catastrophe is to create a catastrophe in the future
because you said ‘no’ to tending to and healing the catastrophe from your past.
The worst catastrophe is to create a catastrophe in the future
because we together said ‘no’ to tending to and healing the catastrophes from our pasts –
individually and communally.

This is what is occurring in our world today.
It has been since ancient times.
It will continue unless … we take responsibility for our part.

I have written to media editors and hosts … who haven’t even responded.
I have written to leaders in power… most of whom haven’t responded. One leader from another country graciously replied. One leader from an organization responded personally – not in a form letter – but offered no help, didn’t even accept my offer to help.
I have written to others with platforms who could help spread this understanding across the world… no response.
People don’t want to know.
People don’t want to take responsibility at the deepest levels.
They’ll take outer action. They’ll pray. Both of which are also needed. But they really don’t want to see, hear, know, and feel their inner responsibility from their own experiences long ago. They really don’t want to take inner action. They really don’t want to take action on the deepest levels.

I hear people in many places say they don’t want to know. They want to live in a bubble. They’re usually talking about the outer world – consciously – but they mean the inner world, too. People I work with get to the point where they realize as soon as they say “I don’t want to know,” they do know that some awareness is right beneath the surface of their consciousness.  And then we explore, at a rhythm and pace they can work with what that awareness is.

We need to know! Our lives and our sanity depend on it. Our children’s lives and their sanity depend on it. The life of our world depends on it. Depends on our preventing future catastrophes by healing from the ancient catastrophes in our lives.

Even if you don’t fully understand this. Let in the essence and create the passageway within … so you can take the next step.

How can you possibly refuse to do the work of the original catastrophe?
How can you possibly choose to be part of creating a catastrophe in the future
instead of meeting and going through the process of healing from your original catastrophe?
How can you possibly choose to be part of creating a catastrophe for perhaps trillions of people
rather than meet and heal your own early catastrophe?

We each have a choice. We each have a choice right now.
How can you not choose healing from the past?
How can you choose to keep participating in the future catastrophes instead?

The worst catastrophe of all is to know you participate in creating future catastrophes
by refusing to heal the earliest catastrophes in your life … and to still refuse.
The worst catastrophe of all is to know you participate in creating future catastrophes in our world by refusing to heal the earliest catastrophes in your life … and still refuse.

 

*All examples are either fictional, composites from many anonymous people, or examples used with permission.

© Judith Barr, 2017

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

Catastrophes, large and small, personal, national, and global, touch all of us at one time or another. What’s important is how we utilize life’s catastrophes to help heal within.

When you experience or witness one of life’s “catastrophes” how do you react? Do you threaten, dismiss, or mock yourself for feeling the impact of the catastrophe?  Do you try to “manage” the feelings that well up within you – feelings that may be both about the here-and-now situation and about a catastrophe from long ago – of which you may not even be aware? Do you try to “hide” from the situation, “forget” about it, jump into bed and pull the covers over your head? Do you try to hide from the reactions of others – discounting, intimidating, humiliating you out of your feelings about the catastrophe?  Or … do you explore the feelings you have in the moment, using those feelings as clues to the catastrophes within – current and ancient – that need to be healed?

Commit to the latter … to utilizing the catastrophe for your own healing. When a catastrophe happens, after ensuring your safety and the safety of others if you need to, allow yourself to feel whatever comes up within you, without acting out on your feelings. Can you remember when in your past you felt this same way? Trace those feelings back as far as you can, and if you need help to explore and heal those feelings, find a compassionate, caring, integritous therapist who can help you do that.

Catastrophes happen to all of us, but if we can see them for the treasure they can be, and use them to help us in our own healing journeys, we can help prevent the re-enacting of those same catastrophes in our lives, in our societies, and in our world.

DARKNESS FALLS

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.”  – Carl Jung

Darkness falls …
when we make a mistake.

Darkness falls …
when we experience failure.

Darkness falls …
when we fall down.

Darkness falls …
when we suffer a loss.

Darkness falls …
when we experience tragedy.

Darkness falls …
when we witness tragedy, from near or from afar.

Darkness falls …

 

Darkness falls …
when someone hurts us.

Darkness falls …
when someone scares us.

Darkness falls …
when someone lords their power over us.

Darkness falls …
when someone has a perverse disregard
for our feelings, our needs, our safety.

Darkness falls …
when we are helpless in the face of abuse.

Darkness falls …
when we are powerless in the face of cruelty.

Darkness falls …
when we try to fight abuse by responding in the outer world alone.

Darkness falls …
when we try to fight abuse by retreating into our inner world alone.

Darkness falls …

 

Darkness falls …
when we hurt someone.

Darkness falls …
when we scare someone.

Darkness falls …
when we lord our power over someone.

Darkness falls …
when we have a perverse disregard
for someone’s feelings, someone’s needs, someone’s safety.

Darkness falls …
when we are helpless in the face of our own abuse of power.

Darkness falls …
when we are powerless in the face of our own cruelty.

Darkness falls …
when we try to fight our own abuse of power by responding in the outer world alone.

Darkness falls …
when we try to fight our own abuse of power by retreating into our inner world alone.

Darkness falls …
when we don’t even acknowledge our own abuse of power and cruelty,
when we don’t even try to heal our own abuse of power and cruelty.

Darkness falls …

 

Darkness falls …
at the end of the day.

Darkness falls …
at the end of the moon’s cycle.

Darkness falls …
beginning the day after the summer solstice,
and the light only slowly begins to return
on the day of the winter solstice.

In the cycles of nature to this point …
all we had to do was wait till the darkness passed
and the light came once again.

In the cycles of our own nature it isn’t quite so easy.
We need to work with the darkness within.
We need to find the ancient wounds in the darkness within.
We need to find the suffering and trauma we experienced once
long, long ago,
and utilize that darkness to heal the darkness within.

And utilize that darkness within to heal the darkness we create
in our outer world.
And utilize the darkness within from once upon a time …
to heal and preserve the
cycles of nature that flow from dark into light and dark into light,
again and again and again.

And utilize the darkness within from once upon a time
to weave a new fabric of our inner lives and outer lives …
so that we can flow from darkness to light and darkness to light
inside and out …
without making darkness a bad thing and light a good thing …
any more than it is in the cycles of nature.

My prayer for this season of darkness
is that we work with and through the darkness within
to find the true light within us –
individually and communally.

© Judith Barr, 2016

“Grief and loss and suffering, even depression and spiritual crisis,
the dark nights of the soul
only worsen when we try to ignore or deny or avoid them.
The healing journey begins when we turn toward them and learn how to work with them.”
Jack Kornfield, Your Difficulties Are Your Path

“If we cannot face the darkness, we will not see the light.
There’s beauty in the day,
but there is healing in the night.”
Jennifer Berezan, Open It Up

“The light at the center of our inner darkness
is unlike any light in the world outside.
The only way to reach it is to go through the darkness within our very selves.”
Judith Barr

 

If You’re Going to Be a Candidate for President – Little Children in Big Bodies, Acting Out Their Wounds on The World Stage


For Starters …

Sometimes people don’t want to look at their part in something that’s gone awry in their lives or the life of our world, because they don’t want to have aspects of themselves considered pathological that they and many others normalize or even idealize. They don’t want to think of themselves, or have anyone else think of them, as “mentally ill.” What if we didn’t label people as “mentally ill”? What if we didn’t label people as “pathological”? What if we simply understand that we all have wounds from our childhood and probably beyond? I don’t think of our wounding as being our pathology. It is wounding. We all have wounding. It is part of our being here on earth. It has an impact on us, on those close to us, on those in our everyday lives, and on our world. It has an impact whether we act out on it or not. It is safer if we don’t act out on it. But even if we don’t act out on it … its aliveness within us still has an impact. Not only on us but also on generation after generation after generation in our own families and the family of beings in our world. It has an impact when it remains unconscious in the shadows within. It also has an impact when it is conscious but we don’t tend to it, work with it, and transform it. That’s not pathology. That’s the truth of us as human beings … and the calling we have to help heal and transform ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world.

 

Introduction

Out of our wounding … we want to think of ourselves as civilized, even when we’re not. We want to see ourselves as grown up, even when we’re not. We want to feel like we are “together,” even when we’re not. What we do to hold onto those cherished but false beliefs about who we are – in the name of something good, and in order to defend ourselves against our wounding – is unimaginable. And, in the end, horribly destructive – blatantly or ever-so-subtly.

We live in denial. Normalizing it somehow … any way we can find. Not wanting to know the truth. The truth about our experiences once upon a time in our youth. The truth about pain we experienced. The truth about abuse we suffered. The truth about trauma we may have suffered or inflicted. We cut off our feelings and wall off our hearts. Under the guise of something supposedly righteous. Not wanting to feel our feelings … sometimes our feelings of pain and fear, sometimes our feelings of pleasure, hope, and even love. Certainly our feelings from long, long ago when we were children. And as a result, also our feelings today.

But in doing so, we cannot see the real truth in front of us today. In doing so, we cannot feel the feelings of either real danger or real safety when we meet them today.

And paradoxically enough … our denial and shutting down emotionally, which were once long ago intended to protect us, create danger in our lives and in our world today. This is what happens with defenses, they end up creating the very thing they were meant to defend us against.

If we are unwilling to see this in our personal lives … how will we be able to see it on the stage of our national politics? We won’t! If we are unwilling to take responsibility for this up close and personal in our individual and our family lives … how will we be able to hold candidates running for leadership offices accountable for these things in their lives? We won’t! If we are unwilling to get the help to heal this in our own minds-bodies-hearts-and-souls … how will we be able to insist that our leaders all over the world get the help to heal their wounds so they can actually be civilized, adult, wise, compassionate, and heartful leaders? We won’t. That leaves us in a terrible dilemma … doing the same things over and over, like hitting our heads against a brick wall, but refusing to do the one thing that can help us truly resolve the situation.

And then we turn the whole thing upside down: If our leaders don’t come out of denial … if our leaders don’t melt their numbness … if our leaders don’t stop pretending that there are no little children inside them acting out their wounds on the stage of our world … what kind of leadership are they providing? Defective leadership. What kind of modeling are they providing? Distorted modeling. How can they hold us accountable to do our own healing work? They can’t.

They’re like the wounded parents in a dysfunctional family who are in denial, attempting to parent from the wounded child within themselves, and wounding their children in the same ways they were, themselves, wounded as children.


If You Are Running for President …

If you are running for president, you need to do your own therapy beforehand. Otherwise, you will simply act out your little boy or little girl wounds on the stage of the campaign. And if you should win, on the stage of the Presidency, the country, and the world.

Whatever wounds you had as a child will drive you in your life – personal and political – from deep down in your unconscious self … no matter how aware or unaware you are! No matter how much you want to deny it! No matter how good things look on the surface! And no matter how fiercely you claim you are not acting them out.

I don’t usually speculate about people’s wounds, especially people I’m not working with. Especially people I don’t know personally. Especially people I have just bits of information about. But I am going to offer some possible hunches about some of our presidents and some of our candidates … as a way to show you how our childhood wounds can drive us from within, even when we have grown into big bodies and may look like we are grown-ups. As a way to show you how these leaders and would-be leaders’ childhood wounds could have affected their leadership. It is my hope that seeing these hunches as examples, will help you and millions all over our country and our world to see more clearly, for starters … what’s happening on the election stage, what’s happening in our leaders … and what’s happening within us.

I have read or heard a couple of things about Bill Clinton’s childhood. I don’t know if they are true, but if they are, here are the hunches … One: that he was sexually abused. As a psychotherapist who works with people who were sexually abused, I know clearly that one of the symptoms of sexual abuse is promiscuity. It’s a way people unconsciously act out that there’s a problem needing to be resolved. If Bill Clinton was sexually abused as a child, it is no wonder that he had multiple sexual entanglements with women – Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and how many others! His having been sexually abused doesn’t excuse him. It doesn’t give him a “get out of jail free card.” It doesn’t make him not accountable. It simply speaks to the root of where he went awry in his life and his leadership. It speaks to the source of his acting out – in him and in his history. It speaks to what he needed to heal.

Be very clear here: Our wounding doesn’t give us license to do whatever we want, to act out however we’d like. We weren’t responsible for our wounding as children. But we are responsible to do the work to heal from that wounding.

I have also read that Bill was caught in between his mother and his grandmother. Whether he was sexually abused or not, that experience of being caught between two women in his young life would set up a dynamic for him to repeat that in his adult life. Again … caught between Hillary and Gennifer; and Hillary and Paula; and Hillary and Monica. The caught-between dynamic could even be set up to repeat itself not between two women, but between two entities. Perhaps caught between his oath of office as President and his own wounded drivenness to act out his childhood.

Another example, Barack Obama. My understanding is that his mother and father got divorced. And lived far apart from each other – at times, continents apart. My hunch from many years as a therapist: even if he wasn’t conscious of it, I imagine little Barack had a desire and maybe even a fantasy of bringing his parents back together. No matter how impossible that might have been, somewhere within him, albeit it unconsciously, he may well have continued to want to bring mommy and daddy back together.   How might that play out in the world of the Presidency? Somehow little Barack’s desire to bring his parents together could impact Barack the President’s ability to bring together two conflicting sides in any issue.   And look at what a painfully horrible time he’s had with Congress. People tend to blame that on all sorts of things socially and politically. But I’ve never heard anyone talk about the underlying dynamic from his childhood. And what if that same dynamic affects his negotiations with leaders of other countries, as well?

This is not a political article. It is not showing political bias. It is an article to teach … to inform … to intrigue … to inspire. So my talking about Bill Clinton earlier and Hillary Clinton next is not my picking on the Clintons. It is simply an offering of profound examples, based on hunches, of childhood wounding driving people, leaders in their adult lives.

I don’t really know much about Hillary’s history. Except that her mother was abandoned. But if I put aside all the superficial criticisms of Hillary in the media. If I put aside all the political and social judgments … I find myself as a depth psychotherapist wondering why this smart, passionate, hard-working, capable, woman has had trouble in her runs for high leadership offices – particularly the presidency. I’m not wondering “what is her fatal flaw?” as some might wonder. I’m wondering – what is it in Hillary’s childhood that would cause her to start out ahead with a wonderful chance of succeeding, only to sabotage herself on the way. I wish I had the opportunity to help her discover the young, feeling level answer to that question.

Finally, Donald Trump. I recently read an article in which I found the following statement by Trump:

“I realized then and there, that if you let people treat you how they want, you’ll be made a fool. I realized then and there something I would never forget: I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.” *

In the understanding of the depths of our psyches, this was an early decision made by Donald Trump, “I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.” He was 18 at the time. That may have been the first time he decided that consciously, in words, or in those words. And it may seem not such an “early” early decision. But I have found in my many years as a therapist that usually a decision like that made consciously as a teen was also made either unconsciously, or in different words in different situations as a younger child, and perhaps even beneath words in the heart and cells of the child earlier than that.

Someplace inside him, that early decision is driving Trump in his life and his candidacy for the presidency. Some people may believe that will help him in the campaign and as a leader. But making decisions in order not to be made a sucker, does not mean the decisions are going to be healthy, wise, compassionate, effective, successful decisions. It simply means they will be made in the service of not being made a sucker. So who really benefits from that wound, that decision, those actions… perhaps for a while the little boy who decided not to be made a sucker. And only perhaps. Because that driving decision will also undermine Trump and probably leave him open to being a sucker, or as he also said, a fool.

Our leaders and would-be leaders are just like us. They are human beings with childhoods and childhood wounds and traumas. They have defended themselves against the pain of those wounds, created ways of being and acting that would hide the wounds from others and themselves, while acting out the wounds beneath the blinders. They have denied the wounds existed and that the acting out has existed, too.

Yet, they are acting out their own wounds as they campaign to lead or as they actually lead. If we vote for them without knowing this … we shirk our responsibility to be the kind of citizens needed in the world today. If we vote for them without realizing that our wounds, defenses, and denial might be colluding with or somehow hooked into theirs … we shirk our responsibility to be the kind of citizens deeply needed in the world today. If we don’t hold them accountable for doing their own deep inner therapeutic healing before becoming President, we shirk our responsibility for taking a stand for the one major thing that hasn’t been done in working to resolve the misuse and abuse of power in leadership … and the one thing that could truly work. And if we don’t hold them accountable for doing their own deep inner therapeutic healing, we shirk our responsibility for holding ourselves accountable to do our own healing.

It’s not just them. They are not the only ones acting out their wounds. They’re just running for leadership. They’re just executing the leadership they showed us they would execute as they were campaigning. It’s also us. We are the ones electing them. We are the ones acting out our wounds as we respond to them, as we are drawn to them, as we support them, as we oppose them, as we vote for them.

© Judith Barr, 2015.

*http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/opinion/putting-donald-trump-on-the-couch.html?_r=0 


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

Indeed, we are the ones who vote for our leaders … and if we can become aware of our candidates’ and leaders’ wounding, we can also be the ones who utilize that awareness for our own healing.

As we continue on in the race to the presidency, are you aware of the wounding each of the candidates have deep inside? Ask yourself as you follow the race to the election: Are there things – words, actions, decisions – that each candidate has said or done (including “your” candidate) that help to bring to light his or her own wounding?

Now, let’s take it one step further: is there something in the candidates’ behaviors and words and perhaps decisions that can help you find the wounding in yourself? When a particular candidate speaks or acts in a destructive or self-destructive way, do you find yourself agreeing so intensely with him or her, that it feels as though s/he is speaking or acting in the way you’ve always wanted but couldn’t? Can you see shades of your own wounding in each candidate?

Election-time or otherwise, it is crucial that we make the commitment to not only become aware of our wounds but also explore and heal them. This is what I, and other committed, integritous, compassionate therapists and counselors help people do.

Won’t you join me in this individual healing … healing that can not only help your own life, but the life of the world as well?

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now it’s time to know this also …

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

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

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

Everything depends upon our healing to the root!

*****

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Heartache of Today

My heart has been aching with all that is going on in our world today that is so painful and so destructive.  My open, aching heart reaches out to you to inspire, teach, and just be with you.

My heart aches
for the suffering in our world today.
My heart aches for the people who are under siege in their own homes.
For those who have fled their homes to escape destruction,
Yet are meeting destruction elsewhere.
For those who are the innocent bystanders of others’ willfulness.
For those who are the innocent yet seduced colluders of fierce willfulness.
My heart aches
for the suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.
For those who have been shot out of the sky,
For those kidnapped and taken from all that they know,
For those who have been used, misused, abused, tortured, and killed.
My heart aches for those who have been forced into slavery
And for those who have been seduced into slavery.
My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for those who suffer, finding themselves without what they need –
for whatever reasons –
Starving, working harder than any person should have to work to survive,
And to help their families survive.
For parents who are unable to take care of and protect their children.
For people who live in constant danger …
Adults and children alike,
Even children who are unsafe living with their own parents –
Even in supposedly loving families, even in supposedly civilized countries.
It is more common than we want to realize.
My heart aches
for those who suffer, finding themselves without what they need.

My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.
For those suffering from the experience of and the consequences of
Sexual abuse … greater in numbers than most wish to know.
People sexually abused
In their own homes …
By their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings.
By their partners, friends, and people they know.
By strangers.
By those who are overtly violent –
Using it as an act of war or an act of power –
And by those who do it under a guise –
under the guise of play, the guise of taking care of them, the guise of helping them.
My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for the suffering in our world.
For the suffering caused by us when we cannot and will not
Feel our own heartache.
For the suffering caused by our defending* against our own heartache.
For the suffering caused by our defenses that
Fight to be right, fight to win, fight to have it our way,
fight to have power over.
Fight to conquer, fight to have the last word, fight for some imaginary gain  —
something we lost long, long ago when we first built our defenses.

But more than anything,
My heart aches
for the suffering that is being experienced now
And will be experienced in the future …
Because over and over we insist on solving things only in the outer world,
Deluding ourselves into falsely believing that will create change we can sustain.

My heart aches
for the suffering we are now experiencing
And we will experience in times to come …
Because again and again we refuse to solve and resolve things at the root –
in our inner worlds –
So the changes would come from the inside out,
And, in truth, be sustainable.

Please don’t defend against your heartache anymore.
Don’t defend against your own feelings both today
And even more from your youngest days.
Don’t defend against your own powerlessness, hurts, fears as a baby
By lashing out at others today because of those who hurt you back then —
By withholding from others today because of those who hurt you once upon a time,
By willfully acting out your revenge on people and life in the current day,
While wanting to do, from underneath, whatever you want to do to those from your youth,
the consequences be damned.
Please don’t continue this normalized, socially accepted nightmare.

My heart will keep on aching
Until the needless suffering is done.
Where are those of you who will ache with me?
Where are those of you who understand the changes need to come from within?
Where are those of you who will help people make those in depth changes?
Where are those of you who do your own inner work  –
As part of daily living?
Where are those of you who will come forward to help?
Come join me.

This is a mammoth task.
But one we need to keep going with.
It covers more ground than I can name.
Yes, we need to stop bullies.
But even more, we need to heal the bully in us.
We need to negotiate cease fires between warring factions in countries.
But even more, we need to heal the splits, the factions within ourselves.
We need to stop the sex traffickers and free those they’ve captured.
But even more, we need to heal the sexual abuse in our societies, in our world,
By healing the sexual abuse and sexual distortions within ourselves…
So we don’t pass it down from one generation to the next.
None of us can do this alone.

My heart will keep aching until
we join together and help people heal the suffering from the past
that is feeding the suffering of the present and the future.
My heart will keep aching every time I hear somebody say,
“Move on. Just forget the past. It has nothing to do with the future. It’s just
dragging you down.”
The only tiny seed of truth in that statement is that
our past will drag us down to it for healing …
Our past wounding and trauma will haunt us …
Calling and calling and calling us
To do the healing we need to do.
Our past will haunt and call us,
Even if the haunting occurs through horrifying suffering
in the world outside and around us.
And even if we don’t understand at first
The calling that is actually occurring.

My heart will keep aching until we
Do the real work called for in front of our very eyes ….
Joining together to end the needless suffering
That comes from defenses we don’t want to dissolve,
Memories we don’t want to remember,
Feelings we don’t want to feel,
Changes we don’t want to make.
My heart will keep aching until …
I hope yours will, too …

*Read “Defenses Destroy” at http://judithbarr.com/2014/06/08/defenses-destroy/ to learn more about defenses and their harmful consequences.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

Does your heart ache too … as you hear about, read about, see reports of the suffering in our world?  Can you allow yourself to feel the heart ache? Or do you have a reflexive movement to defend against your feelings?

Is your feeling response part of a lifelong pattern of defense against pain?  If so, what will you do to help yourself heal that pattern … for your sake and for the sake of our world?

Is your feeling response open-heartedness – from long ago or relatively new?  If so, what will you do to deepen and expand your open-heartedness and allow it to show you ever-new passageways … for your sake and for the sake of our world?

If you’d like to help even more to heal suffering in our world, help spread the word about the true roots of suffering in our world…and please feel free to pass this article on to others.

We don’t have to accept, resign ourselves to, settle for unnecessary suffering … if we are aware of the roots of that suffering and do the inner work we all need to do to heal our wounding and our defenses to the root.

Spring . . . Inside and Out

“Winter has been hard this year,” people say again and again.
I understand. I empathize.
Time after time I’ve responded,
“Spring will come. Spring will come.”

It has been comforting to people to be reminded.
In the midst of the snowy, icy, cold,
it has helped them calm a bit to be reassured…
about Winter in the outer world.
and Spring in the outer world.

But while I was saying, “Spring will come,”
I was not referring solely to the outer world.
I was also, just as much or perhaps even more,
speaking about the inner world.

The Winter in our outer world this year
is a profound mirror for us of Winters in our inner worlds.
The seasons when we are pulled inside
By the pain within…
the pain in the darkness,
the pain of the wounds we have hidden
beneath the frozen mountainous defenses we have built
to guard against feeling…
and thus against healing.

The seasons when we are pulled within
To face a Winter all our own…
During which we have many of the same fears
we have during Winter in the outer world.
Will I be buried by the snow?
Will I get stuck in the ice, spinning my wheels?
Will I go careening off a bridge into deep waters –
the waters of my own feelings?
Will I be there all alone?
Will anyone help me?
Or will I freeze to death?
Will I freeze to death rather than heal?

If we’re conscious of it,
we ask ourselves questions like these in the midst
of our Winters within.

The inner Winters that are all our own.
And the inner Winters that are part of the collective unconscious
we all share…
like the inner Winter we are all going through now globally.

And the biggest question of all –
Will Spring ever come?

My response, born of helping people through their inner winters
over and over again . . .
“Yes, Spring will come in its own right timing,
in your right rhythm and pace.
But that timing has so much to do with the help you give it . . .
The help of doing your deep inner healing work.
The help of doing the work to melt your frozen defenses –
the frozen walls you built around your mind, cells, heart, and soul
to keep you from feeling all that you most need to feel.
To keep you from feeling all that you most need to feel
in order to transform your inner world from Winter into Spring.”

© Judith Barr, 2014

As We Make Passage From 2013 to 2014 . . . My Prayer Is This . . .

That more and more of us will realize . . .
actions in the outer world –
even the kindest and best of actions –
may help for a time,
but not long term,
because they will not get to the root
of what needs to be healed
in ourselves, our society, our world.

That more and more of us will recognize . . .
prayer in our hearts, on our lips, in our song, in our step –
individually and communally –
even the most genuine prayers . . .
will not alone help,
because they will not alone get to the root
of what needs to be healed
in ourselves, our society, our world.

That more and more of us will truly comprehend . . .
the truth of the painful experiences children have
at the hands of parents –
even those who intend to be loving –
parents who are denying and defending against the
truth of the painful experiences they,
themselves, had as children.

That more and more of us will become conscious of
the truth of the pain from childhood experiences
that lives still within us,
even as we grow older and older —
pain from childhood experiences
that drives us from beneath our awareness,
that drives us to take actions in our lives
and to avoid taking other actions in our lives
that are not good for us, not healthy for us,
individually or communally.

That more and more of us will comprehend
that the pain living still within us individually –
the pain we deny, bury, and defend against –
the pain that drives us in our individual lives
beneath our awareness . . .
that same pain drives us culturally and globally,
and the defense against that same pain
sadly becomes a normalized way of life,
not only by individuals but also by society.

That more and more of us will take a leap of faith,
and yet another leap of faith,
into the healing so needed in our world.
That instead of defending ourselves against
our own early pain and trauma,
and then acting that out upon ourselves,
our children, and others in our lives . . .
we will find the help we need
to build our capacity. . .
to face, feel at last, and heal what still lay within us . . .
in our own inner underground . . .

So that the acting out will cease –
the acting out of and against our pain –
and the healing that occurs within
will help us weave a new fabric
for our lives, our communities, our societies, our world . . .
from the inside out.

That more and more of us will realize that
calling people’s acting out evil or even mental illness
is yet another way to normalize, deny,
defend against the real truth . . .
and will never help us get to the root of it,
will never truly heal it.

That more and more of us will recognize
we have been raised – most of us – in cultures that do not teach us how to feel safely,
express our feelings safely,
and learn how to utilize our feelings for growth,
for health,
for deepening connection and fulfillment
within ourselves and with each other. . .
And that as a result, we are crippled.
As a result we are crippled in ways
we could resolve and heal . . .
if only we didn’t deny them . . .
if only we didn’t defend against them . . .
if only we didn’t normalize the crippling as health.

That more and more of us will commit to recognizing
and healing the crippling in our lives –
caused by our fear of and inability to feel and express our feelings safely and healthily,
individually and communally.
And that more and more of us will not only make that commitment
but also follow through on it . . .
all the way through to the root.

As We Make Passage From 2013 to 2014 . . .
My Commitment Is This . . .

To continue to help more and more of us realize that what we call normal is really an all-too-accepted defense against that within us which is crying out to be healed . . .
To continue to help us learn how to healthily respond to that within us which is crying out for healing . . .
To continue to assist in the healing – the individual and the communal healing –
in whatever ways I can . . .
To continue to help us – through our healing –
reweave the fabric of our selves individually and communally  . . .
from the inside out.

Many deep healing blessings
to you and to all of us
in our passage from year to year
and in the year to come.

© Judith Barr 2013

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

This year, as we make the transition from 2013 to 2014, instead of making a resolution . . . instead of only resolving to try to make changes in the outside world . . .  make a real commitment to help in the healing of our world not only through outer action, prayer or good intention, but also through true inner healing.

Commit to find, explore, and heal within yourself those wounds from long, long ago in your past which cause you to act out, no matter how much you resolve not to, and which prevent you from creating sustainable change in our world – no matter how much you intend to create that lasting change.

Commit to see the truth and speak out about it, rather than normalizing dysfunction in our world. And commit to spreading the word about the real possibility and the importance of healing to the root.

As we transition to the new year, limitless healing is open to all of us – individually and globally. It is my prayer that you join me in committing to do what you can to help truly realize that healing.

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!