“We Need Mothers Who …” Mother’s Day All Over the World

Countries and cultures all over the world celebrate Mother in some way.
It may be a healthy way. It may be a distorted, ritualized, or even an unhealthy way.
Perhaps it’s the personal mother who is celebrated. Perhaps it’s the idealized mother who is celebrated. Perhaps the normalized mother. Possibly it’s the essence of Mother we need.

Our mothers have an impact on us as individuals and on us as a society … whatever society we live in. Both consciously and unconsciously, our mothers have an impact on our personal lives, and an impact on the life of our planet.

There is no perfect mother. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. If someone pretends to be perfect, she teaches her children they have to be perfect. Because they never can be perfect, she teaches her children they can never be good enough. She also teaches them there is no process in life or human relationship. The mother who is human – imperfect but a good enough mother in all the ways children most deeply need – teaches her children it is possible to make mistakes and create a repair for the mistakes they’ve made. She does that with them when she makes a mistake. She helps them do that when they make a mistake. This deepens their trust with her, with themselves, with process, and with life itself.

When have you seen that from a mother in public life? From a mother or a father in public life? It is sorely lacking. Especially in these times.

Just as important as that acknowledgment of a mistake and the repair that needs to follow, is the mother who realizes she has made a mistake out of her own wounding, acknowledges it, and gets the help to do her own inner healing work instead of continuing to act out her wounding with her children, family, and others. This deepens her own and her children’s faith in real repair – for their relationship with mother and for their ability to do the same. It is a profound and wonderful role model for everyone in her life who witnesses her in the process of healing inside and out.

When have you seen that from a mother in public life? From a mother? From a father? It is tragically lacking in our world. Especially in these times.

But … I remember a time not long ago, reading about two public figures who did acknowledge – to themselves and apparently to others – that the work they did in the world was an acting out of their defenses against their wounds. It was a good example of the possibility that we may do important work in our outer world, yet it may unconsciously be a way to hold at bay the pain of our wounding as children that is still alive in our inner world.

Gloria Steinem acknowledged that “being a social activist can be a drug that keeps you from going back and looking at yourself. You keep trying to fill up this emptiness.”* How courageous! How honest! How real! And what a model for our world. Was anybody listening? Did anybody get it? She was acknowledging out loud that she invested herself in a cause in the outer world to avoid the pain still alive in her inner world.

I once led a workshop called Conscious Activism from the Inside Out on the topic of outer activism as a defense against inner activism. As people explored how they used social and political activism to hold their inner world at bay, I was also helping them realize that it is possible to do the inner healing and also help in the outer world. And that it was of great concern how frenzied and distorted the outer activism can become as a defense against the inner. All we have to do to see an example of that is to look at the political scene in the United States today.

Betty Friedan offered an acknowledgement similar to that of Gloria Steinem in a later edition of The Feminine Mystique. She wrote about her hatred for her mother, and then admitted, “It was easier for me to start the women’s movement than it was to change my own personal life.”

These were the “mothers” of the women’s movement. Their acknowledgments don’t discount the actual good done by and through the women’s movement. But they may explain the roots of some of the harms. Here’s a perfect example of no mother being perfect. But by their taking responsibility for the deep roots of their unconscious intentions, these mothers of the women’s movement … freed themselves to do their inner healing and offered a profound model to those who came after them. Who knows how few or many of the “daughters” and “sons” of the women’s movement welcomed and utilized that model in their own lives and their own activism? This brings to the foreground the understanding that the unconscious intentions of avoiding their own inner pain contributed to the unsustainability of many of the outer successes they achieved.

For example, if each of them had first worked with the young pain of not having choices over their own minds, bodies, hearts, and souls … they would have modeled for all those who worked with them and came after them to do their own inner work and then the outer work.

How many other women have made these acknowledgments? How many men have done the same? How very different our political scene would be today if both women and men did their inner work before bringing their energies to such important arenas in our outer world!

But back to mothers … and a deep hope that more mothers – both in private life and public life – will do their own inner healing work for their own sakes, for the sake of their children, and for the sake of our world.

This is my Mother’s Day wish.

This is my Mother’s Day prayer.

© Judith Barr, 2016.

* from the synopsis for the HBO documentary, “In Her Own Words,” http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/gloria-in-her-own-words/synopsis.html

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

Whether we are mothers or not, whether we are activists or not, whether we are men or women, old or young, single or married … we all need to very carefully explore and heal the wounded currents within us that affect our lives, our relationships, our world.

This Mother’s Day, make a commitment to begin that crucial healing journey. Or to take that next big step in it. As you reflect on your own relationship with your mother – past and present – allow yourself to feel whatever arises within you … committing not to act out on those feelings but rather to feel and explore the roots of those feelings. What are the earliest feelings you can recall in relation to your mother? And … when in your here-and-now life do you feel those same feelings? About whom in your here-and-now life do you feel that same way?

When exploring, we may find we need the help of a skilled, caring therapist to truly heal many of our deepest feelings about our mothers. Even to bring into consciousness for healing feelings we can’t remember or don’t consciously connect with our relationship with mother. Commit as well to find that help when you need it.

Whether we are parents or not, we all need to do the inner work necessary to explore and heal our inner wounding…for the sake of our families, our communities, and the children in our world – and the adults they will someday become.

When Are We Going to Heal the Repetitive Vicious Cycle From the Inside Out?

In my article after the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, I talked about the healing concept “the poison is the medicine.” Let’s review before going deeper.

Many healing traditions – spiritual and otherwise – have their own version of “the poison is the medicine.”
It is the heartbeat of homeopathy.
It is the transformation in numerous natural healing traditions.
The healing crisis that brings us through a healing passageway.
It’s inherent in the depth psychotherapy I practice.

It says that the effects created by our own experiences …
the effects we create through our own actions and inactions
may be very painful.
Those painful consequences or effects are the poison.
They are the pain that can be used well to help us learn, grow, and heal.
And that is what we are called to do
in our individual lives and in our communal lives as a world.
We are called to use the pain to learn, grow, and heal …
from the inside out …
from the deepest levels of our being.

If we don’t utilize that poison for healing,
we start down a road that is a vicious cycle –
a maze from which we cannot escape
unless we use the poison for healing.
If we don’t use it for healing, the repetitive vicious cycle
escalates the pain and the poison …
until hopefully we will one day utilize it for healing.

The Paris attacks occurred 3 weeks ago as I write this. To my knowledge, there have been two more violent attacks in the public eye since – one in Colorado Springs 11/27/15 and one in San Bernardino, California 12/2/15. I imagine there were more than that all over the world. I imagine there were more not so very public attacks all over the world – in people’s communities, workplaces, neighborhoods, and homes. And here is the key to “the poison is the medicine.”

Whatever outer action is done to change the danger in the outer world, outer action alone is not and never will be enough. Whatever is done to change the danger in the outer world through prayer alone is not and never will be enough. Even the Dalai Lama recently said, “We cannot solve this problem only through prayers.”* Although both outer action and prayer are valuable components in the solution, the real solution is within each of us. The real solution is by each of us doing our own inner healing work within ourselves – mind, body, heart, and soul.

We each need to discover, work with, resolve, and heal that within us which contributes to, feeds, or even acts out the violence we are seeing all over the world. Even if we don’t remember, even if it was too subtle for a child to grasp, we each need to find the root of that violent vicious cycle in our lives long, long ago. Otherwise, it lives on within us. Otherwise without meaning to, we will perhaps consciously, perhaps unconsciously be participants in keeping the violence going in our lives and in our world – however near or far.

Here’s an example. Bob grew up in a violent home. His father abused his mother. Bob witnessed and heard the abuse. And, of course, felt all sorts of feelings in the process, among them terror, confusion, hurt, sorrow, helplessness, rage … Bob never knew when his father would become violent. He never knew when his father would turn his violence on him. He never knew what caused his father to turn on the people he supposedly loved in such violent attacks. And he never knew why the people in his extended family, his neighborhood, his culture normalized his father’s behavior and therefore either abstained from or refused to help his mother and his whole family prevent the terrorizing attacks right there in their home.

Bob grew up. He was very bright. He finished college and graduated cum laude. He entered the workplace in a field for which he had a passion – medicine – and was making a place for himself in the field. Eventually he met someone and developed a relationship with her. And in right timing, they married. While Bob continued to grow in his professional life, his family began to grow, too. Within a period of 6 years, he and his wife had 4 children. Then one night, without warning, without signs, without immediate outer explanation, one night Bob “snapped.” He smacked his wife, yelling at her – something he would never have thought would happen. His wife would never have thought it either. Nor his neighbors, his friends, his colleagues, his mentors, or anybody else who had known him.

The thing that got him to stop was his wife’s screams and the echo inside him of his mother’s screams when he was a little boy, followed by the terrified look on his children’s faces and the mirror that look showed of his own face and his sibling’s faces as children.

Bob apologized to his wife and moved toward her … she recoiled reflexively, scared he would smack her again. He moved toward his kids, apologizing to them, but they also backed away involuntarily, terrified he would attack them. He was in terrible pain himself – for what he had done, that it had come out of the blue, for the looks and reactions of his wife and his children … for the terror he had caused that would now be part of their experience of him forever.

He had many choices. He could lash out some more at their withdrawal. He could storm out of the house. He could get down on his knees and beg forgiveness, even though there would be no guarantee in their minds, hearts, and cells that he would never do that again. How could they trust him now? He could sit on the couch and sob. He could calmly go upstairs to his bedroom, close and lock the door, lie down on the bed, and cry. He could pack a suitcase and leave – till he knew he would never do that again. He could use the power position he had established, to rule over his family in a new way. He could sit everybody down and talk about what just happened, although his family was still too afraid, too much in shock to be able to do that. He could call the head psychiatrist at the hospital where he worked and ask if he could come talk. Bob had these 8 options and many, many more. Others would have picked a different option than Bob … each one creating another step ‘round the vicious cycle again or taking a step out of the vicious cycle.

Bob, thank goodness, took a step out. He made arrangements to meet with his colleague at the hospital in a half hour, and told his wife and children he was going to go get help so he wouldn’t do that again.

At the meeting with Pete, he talked about what happened and cried and cried from his shock, his fear, his confusion, his remorse, and more … Pete asked him some questions and the subject of the echo of mom’s screams and the mirror of his and his siblings’ faces came out into the conversation. Pete hadn’t known Bob’s childhood history until this night. Near the end of their time together, Bob asked Pete for help. He didn’t know how to keep this from happening again, and he didn’t know how to help his wife and kids not be scared of him. Pete said Bob would need to do some depth psychotherapy to really heal this to the root, and to really make sure he wouldn’t be violent like that again. He explained to Bob that he couldn’t do it himself, because of their collegial relationship, and said that he would give him a referral to a therapist he trusted who did that kind of work.

Bob understood, thanked Pete, and knew he would call the referral the next day. He phoned his wife to see if she felt safe enough for him to come home, and she didn’t. So they agreed he would stay at a hotel for the night and call her the next day after his first appointment with the therapist. The therapist explained to Bob that when you have witnessed abuse as a child and been abused during childhood, the experience and the feelings from the childhood experience live on in your unconscious and can be triggered by anything. Something blatant like a person’s actions, look, or words. Something ever so subtle, like the way a person breathes. Or something in the situation. For Bob, for example, being at home with his wife and 4 children and under so much pressure at work and then at home every day … he had begun to feel trapped. On that unanticipated and frightening night, Bob couldn’t contain the feeling of trappedness any longer.

As the feelings of trappedness opened, Bob’s yelling and smack opened, also … along with the memory of daddy’s abuse and all that came with it … including all the feelings and all the memories Bob carried within him. Not the least of those memories and feelings was Bob’s feeling trapped as a little boy, and his witnessing his mother and his siblings feeling trapped, too.

While Bob stayed in therapy and worked through the healing within him, he and his wife and children got the help to repair the damage he had created in the family.

In my example, Bob could have been male or female, any age (and getting younger all the time), of any race, any religion or no religion at all, with a heritage from any country in the world, of any economic standing, with any sexual orientation …

In other words, anybody who has been wounded in any way will unconsciously bring that wounding into his/her life and re-create or re-enact the ancient wounds in some way. Each time a reenactment occurs it is an opportunity to stop the vicious cycle.

Each time a choice is made – consciously or unconsciously – the person is making a choice whether to use the reenactment and the pain it causes (the poison) as a gateway for healing (the medicine). Choosing not to use the poison as medicine will bring about another reenactment, likely escalated to some degree. Choosing to utilize the poison as medicine, will help to start healing the vicious cycle, the reenactments and the wounds at the root.

In the example of Bob, he chose purposefully and healingly to step out of the vicious cycle. If he hadn’t … the vicious cycle would likely have escalated and escalated until he was violent with his wife again and again, and perhaps his children, too.

And then his children might have grown up like him and unconsciously re-created those early experiences and so ended up in situations where they were either abusive and violent or perhaps being the one abused and battered. This would then be passed down generation after generation, as it actually already had been. The escalation would continue until someone somewhere down the lineage stopped it by doing his/her own inner healing work related to the abuse, the being abused, and the terror.

This is what has been happening in our world again and again. Some people who have been wounded have lashed out publicly and not so publicly in abusive and violent ways. Some who have been wounded have run away, either physically or mentally and emotionally. Others who have been wounded have, in effect, become numb, frozen, and figuratively curled up into a ball, becoming passive and submissive in their lives. There are many reactions a wounded person may have. It’s best not to judge them. And it’s best not to oversimplify them. But we can see that the three above represent the standard reactions of fight, flight, and freeze.

And we need to see that the wounded and disaffected people in our families are vulnerable to being drawn into neighborhood gangs, just like the wounded and disaffected people in our countries are vulnerable to being drawn into gangs like ISIS. People reacting to their wounds can find support in groups. That support may be destructive, not random acts of violence, but violence rooted in their history; that support may collude with and help them go around the vicious cycle again. Or that support may be healing, helping them do the work to step out of the vicious cycle for good.

When we don’t stop the vicious cycle in our individual lives, we create families that don’t stop the vicious cycle. When we don’t stop the vicious cycle in our family lives, we create neighborhoods that don’t stop the vicious cycle…we create communities that don’t stop the vicious cycle; we create states and countries that don’t stop the vicious cycle; we create a world that doesn’t stop the vicious cycle.

When we don’t stop the vicious cycle we normalize the cycle itself. When we don’t stop the vicious cycle we collude with others who don’t stop their vicious cycle. When we don’t stop the vicious cycle we give license to continue the cycle – a silent ‘yes’ to people ripping off permission to act out the cycle again and again. And we live in denial of what we’re doing.

When we don’t stop the vicious cycle we reenact the cycle again and again and help others do the same. We act out our ancient wounds both actively and passively, re-wounding ourselves and others, and escalating that re-wounding again and again … till somebody helps us stop.

Of the people who are acting out violently, whether in words or with violent weapons, some are doing so under a guise of a lofty purpose; some are doing so under a guise of divine will; some under a guise of vengeance or retribution; some with no guises, no excuses at all. But the truth is, at the root, all are doing so as a result of wounding – wounding that may have begun with their parents or with generations and cultures many times removed.

But they aren’t the only ones contributing to the vicious cycle and the escalations. Whatever our wounding individually and from one generation to another … Every one of us has currents of feeling in us that are loving, caring, vulnerable, innocent, and devotedly protective … whether we’ve buried those feelings or not. And every one of us has currents of feeling in us that are angry, raging, violent, destructive, with the intention of doing harm to ourselves and/or someone else … whether we’ve buried those feelings and are conscious of them or not. If we do not explore, discover, and heal the destructive parts of ourselves, no matter how buried beneath our awareness they are … we will continue to collude with the vicious cycle of reenacting and re-creating terror in our lives and the life of our world today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that.

In Power Abused, Power Healed, the quote by Thich Nhat Hanh describes what we each live with and how we are each every side of the problem:

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
Refugee on a small boat,
Who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
**

As I write this, it is 3 weeks since the attacks in Paris. There have already been more attacks and escalated attacks about which we know and many, many more that aren’t publicized. Stop!

We must stop this vicious cycle! Not in the destructive ways that are being discussed and used – for example, not revenge, destruction, and defense – but in the way of real protection, with a real intention of protection. Not in the superficial ways that are being discussed and thrown into the game by people such as the media, the presidential candidates, even the military experts. Rather, stopping the vicious cycle from the inside out, by going inside ourselves and taking responsibility for the violence and the terror alive within us from our own past … and taking responsibility to heal. Stop!

© Judith Barr, 2015

*http://www.alternet.org/world/dalai-lama-stop-praying-paris-humans-created-problem-and-humans-must-solve-it?akid=13672.9560.juPdOY&rd=1&src=newsletter1046025&t=20

**From his poem “Please Call Me by My True Names,” as quoted in the prologue of Power Abused, Power Healed (pp. ix – x)

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

As we take the time to grieve, to pray, to take necessary action in the wake of the recent violent attacks reported around the world, it is so crucial that we also take the time to explore and heal that wounding within us that can contribute to violence in our world.

Take the time – at this time and anytime violence in any way touches your life – to look within.

What does the violence evoke in you? How do you feel when you hear about – or maybe even experience – acts of violence? Don’t act out on those feelings, but don’t try to bury, pray away, or “act away” those feelings either. Instead, make a commitment to explore, as deeply as you safely can, the roots of any intense feelings you have. Do the feelings that rise within you make you recall earlier feelings … feelings from long ago? Did you feel this way in childhood? In response to whom? And in what situation?

To help us safely navigate and heal these intense feelings, we often need the help of a skilled professional, as Bob did. If you feel the call to go deeper into and through these feelings, to truly heal to the root, find a caring, therapist to help, one with integrity, one who does his/her own inner healing work, one who is not afraid of feelings and who is committed to healing to the root.

Prayer and action are important components to help heal violence in our world … but they alone cannot create lasting change. The true heart of healing our world lies in healing our own individual wounding. Won’t you join me in making the commitment to stop the vicious cycle?

Won’t you join me in making the commitment to heal from the inside out?

A New Look at Independence: True Independence

As another Independence Day has come and gone here in the U.S.A.,  I have been called again to speak a deeper voice, a deeper truth about what independence is and isn’t.  All through the weeks leading up to July 4, I kept hearing in my heart … shall I feed the illusions about independence that so many of us believe and live in? Or shall I pierce those illusions and help people part the veil to see where they are not really independent?  My life, my work, my heart is always to find the truth, to teach the truth … even though many may run from it. So this year, in the afterglow of July 4,  I am offering the truth about independence to citizens of the U.S. and citizens of the world, as well. We all need to understand true independence.

Many people believe that if they rebel against their parents, they are free.  And many believe they claim their independence by doing just that – rebelling.* But look at the dynamics beneath the outer action. Look at the dynamic that sets up for the children as they age and for the relationship over time.

Sharon’s mother wants her daughter to be “a good girl” and do what “mommy says is right.”  First of all, what is mother teaching Sharon?  Is she teaching her wonderful values? Is she teaching her to discern the truth for herself? Or is she teaching Sharon not to do anything that will trigger mommy? If the latter, what will little Sharon do? She may comply with her mother and do only what mommy wants, defending herself against mommy’s triggered reactions. Or she may rebel against mommy and do the opposite of what her mother wants, however triggered mommy gets. This may develop into consistent oppositional attitudes and behavior – overt and covert – throughout Sharon’s life, in her relationship with everyone and everything, even life itself. (We’ve seen a lot of this in our Congress for the past many years.)

Sharon may believe that complying with mommy’s wishes takes away her own young independence, while also believing that rebelling against mommy’s wishes and doing the opposite of what mommy wants gives her freedom. This reveals the underlying dynamic that so many of us – all over the world – don’t want to see. Rebelling against does not make us independent, does not make us free, does not make us grownups.  Complying with and rebelling against are both in reaction to “the other,” meaning another person.  Neither is an individuated action in behalf of one’s self.  Once you understand this, you will never be able to see independence, individuation, freedom the same way again.  You will never again be able to see someone in an adult body and be sure if that is a grown up – if that is a grownup standing in individuated truth, or if that is a child in an adult’s body rebelling against mommy and daddy.

I teach my clients this in many different ways.  For instance, if you want to truly individuate, that occurs in the context of the relationship.  It requires a relationship in which a child experiences he can have both himself and also his mother (or father or both).

An example: If the parent sets up the relationship so the son, Sam, cannot have, be, develop into the self he is at essence … Sam will give up himself to have the parent. Or Sam will give up the parent and risk abandonment or abuse on many levels. Or Sam will vacillate between the two options one way or another – perhaps out in the open, perhaps in his own mind and heart, perhaps beneath his own consciousness. And often Sam, like many other children in the same situation, will fantasize the time when he grows up and can get away from the parent … run away from the parent … and at long last be free. Note again, that this is not true freedom, for Sam is getting away from his parent, running away from his parent.  That may be the only way Sam, with his child’s mind, thinks he can become himself. And perhaps he’s right that he will never become himself in that particular parent-child relationship. But, if that’s what Sam is living with, if that’s what Sam is growing up with, if that’s what Sam decides is the solution … deep inside his own psyche and soul, then Sam will be as tied to his parent if he runs away as he will be if he stays.  He will act this out both within himself and in the world outside … somehow … even if other people can’t see or know it, even if he himself isn’t aware of it. And he will not be able to truly individuate – become his own person inside and out — until he finds a therapeutic relationship in which he can heal the wounds that prevent him from both being himself and “having” the other person. This, of course, requires a therapist who has done his or her own deep healing work with individuation and independence.

The person who rebelled to try to get away from her parent as a way of attempting to be independent – to be her own self – will approach the crossroads of working through the childhood dilemma with as much – maybe even more – fear and defense as the person who complied and submitted and never rebelled at all.

This is all to bring us back to the truth: Are you really independent? Or are you just deluding yourself to keep from experiencing your own early pain?  And your own early longing for a parent who has done his or her own work and can both be their full individuated self while at the same time supporting you to become your self?

Sadly, what people will do – as individuals and as groups — to try to avoid this pain, while at the same time pursuing this longing, is mind- and heart-boggling.  They will abuse themselves and each other. They will abuse the earth that is our home. They will try to control others’ hearts, minds, souls. .  . and, of course, bodies. They will submit or rebel against. And while doing these things, most of the time they will be claiming, to themselves and others, that they are independent.  Most of the time asserting that they are free. Most of the time pretending they are in power, or fighting to be the ones in power.  Anyone who gets power that way isn’t really in power. Anyone who lives that way isn’t really independent.

How can people be truly independent unless they do their own work to resolve their issues from the inside out.  How can people be authentically independent if they have no willingness to be interdependent in the most healthy way?  Look out into our world and ask yourself … How much true independence do I see? Not much. How much true interdependence do I see? Not much.

How are we going to become truly independent from the inside out unless we do our own inner healing work to the root?  We’re not. Don’t be deluded or seduced into thinking otherwise.  Don’t be fooled by distorted new age spiritual teachings, or old-age traditional ones, either. Don’t be duped by personal growth leaders who haven’t really been trained to do the deep work with another’s psyche and soul, and even worse, haven’t done their own deep healing to the root.  Don’t be hoodwinked by the quick fix treatment of symptoms by techniques that may help you make believe you’re independent because you can function again, while just hiding the deeper cause and root of the symptom.

Don’t be deceived. Our real independence – individually and communally – rests on our own healing one by one by one.

These truths about real independence are reflected not only in the minds, bodies, hearts, souls, and lives of individuals, but also in those of couples, families, organizations, communities, countries, and our world at large. How often have we seen violent rebellion in which the rebel faction ends up enslaving the populace as much as the old regime did? How many times have we seen rebellious action on the part of a portion of the populace only to have their ideals and goals disintegrate, or the changes they want to enact, however lofty, fail to materialize, or even materialize and then fail to be sustained? This is a reflection of the need for each and every one of us – even the activists amongst us – to do the inner work necessary to truly make change…not out of “rebellion” against past or present authority but from true, conscious longing and commitment to heal ourselves and to heal our world.

We cannot afford any more to delude ourselves. To pretend with ourselves or others. The rich and powerful are not necessarily any more truly independent that those in their employ or those who are impacted by their actions, who are poor and oppressed.  If you have to amass limitless resources to feel secure, how independent can you really be? If you have to use your power over others or at the expense of others, how truly free and independent can you be?

Don’t be deceived. Our real independence – individually and communally – rests on our own healing one by one by one.

© Judith Barr, 2014

*I am not saying that children who are being abused – or adults for that matter –shouldn’t find their way to safety.  But there are more grounded, more truly effective ways to do so than rebellion.

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

As we go about our daily lives – both in the afterglow of Independence Day and all throughout the year – we need to explore within ourselves how independent we truly are.

As you go through your day, explore what your early experiences with independence were. Were you encouraged to individuate, and to truly be who you are, with gentle guidance and teaching? Or were your attempts to be your true self stifled? Or alternately, were you given “free rein” with no guidance at all?

And, how did you react as a child? Did you try to do everything you could to please mommy and daddy, in spite of who you truly were? Or did you perhaps rebel against everything, the consequences be damned?

Then…as you experience authority in whatever form you experience it today, take note of how you feel. Is the feeling familiar? Can you trace that feeling back to your childhood experience? Is the feeling similar to your own childhood feelings, as best as you can recall them, in response to the authority of your parents or other adults?

We all feel the need to make change in our world … a world which so desperately needs change. But in order to make true, sustainable change, we need to explore and heal the wounds which prevent us from truly being independent.

THE POWER OF TOGETHER . . .

There are many lenses through which we need to look at Egypt in this era . . . and we do need to look. Many of them are very deep and complex. Although it’s impossible to do them all at once, today I offer this wondrous and more simple view:

There’s a beautiful children’s book by Leo Lionni.* In French the book is called Nageot, in English, Swimmy. In the story, there is a school of tiny red fish, with one black brother, Nageot. One day everyone in the school except Nageot is eaten by a big fish. Nageot, sad and scared, goes on his way through the sea, having new adventures. One day, he sees a school of tiny red fish, similar to those with whom he originally swam. He invites them to go on adventures with him, but they are too frightened . . . the big fish will eat them.

Nageot won’t give up. Unwilling to pretend there’s nothing to be afraid of, and yet unwilling to be paralyzed by fear, he is determined to find a solution . . . and finally he does: They can all swim together, each in his or her own specific place, so that together they look like a gigantic fish and they will be safe from the big fish.

And in Egypt . . .

The people of Egypt stayed together in Tahrir Square in Cairo. They didn’t attack. They didn’t become violent. They didn’t hide. They didn’t withdraw. They simply stayed together. What a testament to the power of working together!

© Judith Barr, 2011

*Swimmy by Leo Lionni, copyright 1963, Pantheon Books, Random House, Inc. Copyright renewed 1991, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York and Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Although I’ve told you the story, the pictures and the visual involvement in the story are still well worth experiencing first hand.