“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.

On Mother’s Day – The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

As we approach Mother’s Day, it is crucial that we recognize the power that Mother has, the impact that Mother has, the potential effect that Mother has not only on her individual child, but also on the entire world.

William Ross Wallace acknowledged this aptly and poignantly …

“For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.”*

Reflect on the mothers who have been nourishing, supportive, inspiring, honest, kind, compassionate, loving, who have been what I would call “Truth and Love woven together” – mothers who have helped their children become their True Selves.

And reflect on the mothers who – out of their own wounding and the wounding in their cultures – have been less than that, even the opposite. Mothers who have either not protected their children or mothers who have been indifferent, neglectful, or even cruel to their children … often under the guise of their “rights” as mother or “for your own good.”

Ponder the mother whose child became a leader of a country or even an empire. What was the impact of that leader on his or her country? What was the impact on our world? Was the leader damaging to the people, to the earth, to him/herself? Was s/he damaging under the guise of “goodness”? Under the normalization by a culture that accepted such damage and the guise justifying it? Was the culture that of an empire, a country, a business, a family?

As a member of many cultures, we each have the opportunity and the responsibility to affect how our leaders are chosen and how they lead. Are you claiming and acting upon your opportunities and responsibility? And are you doing so in a way that is healthy and woven of Truth and Love?

As a member of many cultures, we each have the opportunity and the responsibility to be a leader in our own way. Are you claiming and acting upon your opportunities and responsibility in your cultures – whether the culture of your family, your school, your church, your workplace, your community …?

Reflect upon how the patriarchal cultures of our world have impacted the experiences of our mothers, their mothers, and the mothers before them. Reflect upon how the individual mother impacts the culture, and the culture impacts the individual mother …and each of her children, and then generations to come. It is a vicious cycle, or a maze as I teach my clients. We need to find our ways out of the vicious cycle … individually and culturally. It takes our doing our personal inner healing work one by one by one. It takes our educating people in our cultures. It takes our reweaving the fabric from the inside out.

Wonder about your own mother. Seek to find, beneath the surface, in the very depths of your being – the impact your mother had on you, on every fiber of your being, on every one you touch … on you as you impact our world.

If you are a mother, wonder about your own mothering. Are there things you can discover about your mothering that you still have a chance to heal – for yourself, for your children … for both of you … and for our world?

*****

It is with Mother that we first have the opportunity to attach, that we first have the opportunity to bond …in healthy ways needed for us to become all we have the potential to be.

It is with Mother that we first have the opportunity to experience in the outer world the essence of the Divine.

If we don’t have a mother with whom we have these crucial experiences … everything else is awry for us until we do our healing. And this impacts not only us, but the world around us and the world as a whole.

As we approach Mother’s Day, let’s go beneath the surface possibilities of the day. Let’s go through the experience deeply and fully – in Truth and Love – discovering and working with what is calling to be healed from the inside out … personally and communally.

© Judith Barr, 2015

*From his poem The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World (published 1865)
http://emp.byui.edu/satterfieldb/quotes/Hand%20that%20rocks%20the%20cradle.html

HOOKED – AT THE DEEP LEVEL OF OUR WOUNDS

We are hooked . . . personally and communally –
and most of us don’t even know how!
Let me show you . . .

A few years ago, I wrote a newsletter about the levels on which we connect with others. It was the February issue, and with Valentine’s Day mid-February, I wrote specifically describing romantic relationships.

As we enter February once again, it’s time to review those levels of connections related to romantic partners, and then expand past that into other relationships … both up close and personal and way out into our world communally.

On the romantic level, one-to-one –

Remember that very first moment you met? There was so much more to that moment than you can even imagine! If you open your mind and your heart to the deepest meaning of that moment, you can bring true love to yourself and your partner on Valentine’s Day … and every day.

In that first moment you met – in that single moment – more occurred than you can possibly imagine. I’m sure more occurred than I can even name, but I’m going to name a number of things, many of which most people either aren’t aware or don’t think about.

In that single moment, the two of you connected in so many ways, on so many levels. Of course you connected visually, and if you found your partner visually attractive, that was level one. When you spoke with your partner the first time, if his* voice appealed to your auditory sensibilities, and your voice to his, that was level two. Depending on how close you were to each other, you might have connected on the olfactory level – did he have aftershave on? Did you have perfume? Or was there a connection on the level of your natural body scents? If there was any physical touch at all, was there already a physical connection? Did you drop something and both of you reach to pick it up, brushing against each other’s arms? Did one of you trip and the other reach out to help you keep from falling? Did someone introduce you and shaking hands was the initial physical touch?

We can consider all of these elements part of the physical connection you and your partner made with each other. I am distinguishing here the physical connection from the sexual connection. For example … you can put your hand on someone’s shoulder in compassion or comfort, without any sexual energy involved at all. You can reach out and hold someone’s hand in a way that has nothing sexual involved at all. You can rub someone’s shoulders or even give them a back rub, no sexuality included. Massage therapists do that on a daily basis … that is, most of them do. There are, sadly, those who do cross that boundary and violate the ethics and safety of their practice. But back to the main point …

Also in the beginning, you connected on the level of mind. Did you have the ability to discuss things with depth and intelligence of thought? Could you discuss what your thoughts are about many things in life? Family, children, education, decision making, religion, how to grow yourself, help each other grow, help your children grow? Were you able to share your opinions about things, like politics, without bashing and dissing each other? Did you find your partner to be deeper in thought than you? Or you to be deeper than your partner? Were your conversations stimulating, thought provoking, satisfying, fruitful?

Then came the emotional level of connection. Was your partner able to feel his feelings? Safely? Did he let his feelings flow through him? Could he express them safely? Could he cry, could he feel his hurt, his fear, his anger? Could he express his anger without lashing out at you, lashing in at himself, or damaging property? Could he talk about his feelings – meta-communicate about them? Did he know which feelings to act on and which were guides to something within himself  he needed to work with? This may seem like a series of strange questions. But they help us know how conscious a person is about his or her feelings and how capable a person has become in experiencing and responding to his or her feelings. Was there empathy between the two of you when you were suffering? Did you and his impact on you matter to him? As much as your impact on him mattered to him?

Next is the sexual level … was there that sexual sizzle between the two of you? Or a slow easy heating up? Or not a sign of it yet, but you knew as the other connections developed, the sexual connection would emerge? Did you dive right into the sexual relationship? Or did you wait until you knew this was someone you connected with in other ways? It’s important to note that once you are sexual with someone, there is a blinding effect. First, you become blind to other things as the heat of the sexual connection takes over. Second, the skin to skin contact reawakens the early bond with mother … a primal experience once lived or a never experienced longing that is all consuming, although most often unconscious. This, too, is blinding, especially since it’s beneath your awareness.

Now we come to the spiritual level … the level at which two people connect soul to soul. Did you connect at that level? Did you even ask yourself if you connected at that level? Did you let your religions or differences in religions block your knowing whether there was truly a soul connection or not? More than anything did you feel the joining between the two of you at the place where truth and love are one? More than anything did that joining of truth and love bring you to want the best for him as well as the best for you? To want to help him fulfill the potential within his soul as well as to fulfill the potential within your own … whether that needed to happen with the two of you together or by your going your separate ways?

And finally … in addition to the connection on all the above levels, when you connected with your partner, you connected on the level of your wounds. Yes, your wounds. Each time we connect with a partner – or anyone, for that matter – there is a connection between the wounds we experienced as a child and those the other person experienced as a child. The connection is often like two fish hooks hooking together and tugging against each other with an intense tension.

When the honeymoon phase of the new romance is over, either the wound level emerges into the light of day, or the wound level begins to have an undeniable impact. At this point in the relationship, often people decide it isn’t the “right” relationship and break up to find another partner. They hope that next time there will be no wound connection, even if they can’t name it. But that is not the truth.** It is at this very point in the relationship that the partners can utilize what is coming to the surface for them – from within them –  for their own healing, while supporting their partner to do the same. I have worked with many women, men,  and couples where this has occurred … deeply and successfully.

The need for healing on the level of our wounds is the one most frequently not known by people. It’s the one most frequently ignored. It’s the one most frequently denied. And it’s the one most often avoided and run away from.  For these reasons, it is the level that, in the end, drives the relationship and the potential for the relationship. And if this level is not tended to, no matter what else is done, the re-enactments of the childhood wounding will keep occurring, within and/or without, however subtly or blatantly, and they will likely escalate until the healing is finally done.

Here’s a brief example:

Sunny meets Robert. They connect on so many levels, known and unknown. They enjoy each other in so many ways, getting closer and closer to each other, “falling” in love, deepening their relationship over the course of a year. It certainly seems to be mutual. But on Valentine’s Day, as a way to express her love for him, Sunny gives Robert a key to her apartment, inviting him to move in. She gives him a beautiful written invitation, telling him she loves him so much, she can’t get enough of him, and she wants to be with him.

She’s horrified by his response to her gift of love. Robert is frozen in fear and the feeling of “too close!” He can barely talk. The smile on his face disappears. Sunny’s reaction, panic! A deep feeling in the pit of her stomach – rejection! Now what?

On the supposedly most romantic day of the year … the honeymoon phase of Sunny’s and Robert’s relationship has ended. Will they see the gift that has just emerged? Or will they be blind to it? Each of them has experienced a trigger to something early in their lives. Robert has been evoked by Sunny’s invitation. Up to a certain point, and with either his initiation or mutual initiation, moving closer and closer has been fine. But Sunny’s initiation of the next step … that evokes Robert’s fear of being suffocated and consumed emotionally, just as he was by his mother from the very beginning of his life. Terrifying for a little baby and a little boy, still alive within this 30 year old man … even though he isn’t conscious of it. And Robert’s frozen state takes Sunny back to her own young childhood and many experiences, both small and large, of abandonment, ending with her mother’s divorcing her father and leaving the children with Dad. She’s not aware of the terrified abandoned child still alive inside herself either.

So here they are on Valentine’s Day. Sunny inviting Robert closer; Robert pulling away; Sunny pulling him towards her; Robert pulling away with more force; Sunny clinging onto him to keep him from leaving; Robert, in desperation, wanting to flee; Sunny, in desperation, wanting to capture him. Ay ay ay! Transaction after transaction they are re-enacting individually and together reactions to painful early childhood wounds. That wound level of their relationship. The one that drives the relationship if they don’t work through their own issues and the way in which those issues are hooked together. The one that could be played out, escalating and escalating until there is no more relationship. Or the one that could be utilized for healing – deep healing in each of them and deep healing of the relationship. But not only deep healing, also deepening connection within themselves and with each other.

Will they do the healing work, giving the greatest gift of love there is … not only on Valentine’s Day but every day?

How many of us bring this kind of love to our partner?
How different our relationships would be if we did.
How different our families would be if we did.
How different our world would be if we did.

On the group level –

The connection between people on the level of our wounds doesn’t apply only in romantic relationships.

It applies in every relationship there is. Friendships. Teacher-student. Spiritual leader – spiritual follower. Employer – employee. Doctor – patient. Parent – children. This last one is a bit different, because it is the parent’s wounds that get acted out with the children – obviously or imperceptibly – causing the children’s wounds.  The children then grow up and are drawn to relationships – romantic and non-romantic – where those wounds are driving them beneath their consciousness. And when they have children, they act out their wounds with their children.

This goes on generation after generation after generation … until there’s a generation that stops the cycle and does its own work decreasing, as much as possible, the wounding that gets passed forward. In some families this is already happening. In others it hasn’t even been allowed into awareness.

Do you see what I’m saying here? Then let’s keep going.

Let’s imagine there’s a family who hasn’t brought the wounding into awareness yet.  The father of the family is a meek, passive man. The mother of the family has abused her husband and children mercilessly for years. The eldest daughter, Karla, is the founder and CEO of a corporation.

Her wounding as a child and the consequent defenses against it will drive her connection with the staff of her corporation. We would have to be in the corporation to see exactly how that plays out. We would have to be there on a day by day basis to see how she re-enacts her childhood trauma. But we can imagine.  She might be meek and passive like her father. She might be mercilessly abusive like her mother. She might be a combination of the two, depending upon who she interacts with. Or in an attempt to not be like either of them, she might become a detached, cold, calculating business woman either right out in the open, or with a mask of warmth and connection.

In that first moment people take that first move to create a corporation – in that single moment – more occurs than you can possibly imagine. Whatever wounds the founders have from their youth becomes part of the wounding of the corporation. And whatever wounds are part of how the corporation begins … those wounds drive that corporation and the people in the corporation throughout its life, until there is real healing done.

Back to Karla. Those drawn to her employ will likely have their own underground wounds that would interconnect with hers, like two fish hooks hooked together. And that hook would drive their interactions … and perhaps many of the interactions in the company. But it would be underneath the surface awareness, and unless someone realizes what is happening and helps Karla heal, the company will continue to be driven in just that way. And unless some of the employees become aware of what is happening and do their own healing, they will stay locked in the wounded level of connection being re-enacted once again at their place of work.

Do you see what I’m offering here? The bridge from the level of wounding that connects individual to individual extends even further … into groups of people: from the family group to the company group, for example. Or the religious group. The social group. Perhaps the activist group, even.

On the world level –

Let’s take this another step … to the national level.

A country on a deep level, is like a family. In that first moment people took that first move to create that country – in that single moment – more occurred than you can possibly imagine. Whoever came together to form that country are like the parents of that country-family.  Many even call the leaders in certain positions in their country the Father of the country. Or the Mother of the country. Whatever wounds the founders had  became part of the wounding of the country. And whatever wounds were part of how a country began, those wounds on a very deep level drive that country as it goes through its life and its history… until purposeful healing is done deep down to the root. In other words, that country will re-enact its earliest beginnings and childhood just as an individual will do.

The examples I’m using are not in any way chosen out of disrespect to or prejudice against the countries I’m utilizing as examples. I just have some understanding of the depths revealing the level of wounding that could be related to these countries … at least enough understanding to offer hunches about the essence of the ways in which these countries are driven by their own deep wounds.

Let’s begin with Germany. Alice Miller wrote about Germany in the time of Adolph Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. She talked about the prevalence of child abuse in German homes, including Hitler’s home, where Hitler was abused by his father and disconnected himself from the pain of his father’s beatings, priding himself on his ability to not even cry. She showed how Hitler’s early rage and disconnection against the torture he experienced as a child drove him to torture and destruction beyond comprehension. She demonstrated how many other children who were abused became active participants in Hitler’s forces. Some of them perhaps joining with him to keep his wrath from turning on them (like they may have with their own fathers or mothers),  and some perhaps joining with him to release their own rage at being abused onto others … the prisoners they took, the people they tortured.

That was certainly a snapshot of Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Is it also a picture of how Germany began? Another snapshot: Germany’s history seems to be a history of fighting – to survive, to avoid invasion or takeover, to unify or prevent unification. The Thirty Years’ War was one of the longest and most bloody conflicts in European history. Perhaps we saw re-enactments of these beginnings in the 20th century with Hitler’s takeover, Hitler’s holocaust, the split into East and West Germany with the Berlin Wall, and then the wall coming down and re-unification.

Let’s move on to another country – Israel. Although there are many arguments that could be offered in response to this hunch, I am looking for the essence of the deep wounds that keep getting re-enacted, and my understanding is that the Jewish people have historically experienced being  victimized again and again.

It is a thread throughout the Bible and beyond. Enemies against them. Enemies fighting them. Enemies harming or threatening to harm them. Enemies enslaving them. Whatever the root of that experience, and whatever the historical reasoning to make a home state in Israel … to make as one’s home state a parcel of land in the midst of countries who hate you, or even simply hold animosity toward you, is something driven from deep in the wounding of the people. And it gets re-enacted again and again and again. By the country – and the surrounding countries – and also by the leaders.

Each leader with his or her own early wounding, as well as the cultural wound that gets passed on and passed down to members of the culture for generations without end … until the healing is begun. The healing of this early wound.

And finally, for now, there is the United States of America. The US started its existence by people rebelling against and running away from England. They may have been taking action to prevent their being unfairly taxed, but they still rebelled and ran away. They came to America and took over the land of the people who lived here. They fought the people they were running away from and the people whose land they had come to. And they took as slaves people from another land, treating them as poorly as, or even worse than, how they were originally treated in England. If we take this seriously, we can see some of the very deep wounds that have never been healed in US history. We can see some of the deep wounds that drive US interactions – and re-enactments – with other countries and other peoples to this day, under the guise of current day “foreign and domestic policy” and under the guise of “defense.” *** And we can see some of the deep wounds that drive US interactions –and re –enactments – even with the people who live in the US today.

I’m pulling out the essence of the wounds in all of these cases. I’m trying to show what’s driving not only people but also countries. I’m trying to show that our countries are wounded, too, and that as a result our countries interact with other countries from that deep, unconscious, level of woundedness … re-enacting the same things over and over again. And that as a result, our countries interact with their own people from that deep, unconscious level of woundedness … re-enacting the same things over and over again.

The examples I’ve given above … are just a few. I am quite sure there is a similar example for each country in our world.

This is the most patriotic thing I, or any citizen, can do for his or her country.
To bring out into consciousness the truth of the deep wounding that is driving the destructive re-enactments in our world.
This is the most loving thing I can do to help in the healing of our countries and our world at this crucial time in our world …
other than helping individuals in their healing,
other than helping couples in their healing,
other than helping parents in their healing,
other than helping other therapists in their healing and in their work with their clients.
This is the most loving thing I can do to help.
To reveal this truth for those …
who can learn it,
who can get it,
who can help with it,
by sending it to others,
by teaching it to others,
by getting involved in the healing.

 

If we are to heal, we need to heal at the level at which we are hooked –
at the deep level of our wounds.

If we are to heal in our own lives, we need to heal at the level of our young wounding.
If we are to heal in the life of our families, and not perpetuate our wounds generation after generation, we need to heal at the level of our early wounding.
If we are to heal our groups and organizations, we need to heal at the level of our wounding which became the wounding in the groups and organizations.
If we are to heal our countries, we need to heal at the level of our early wounding and at the level of the early wounding of our countries.
If we are to heal our world, we need to heal at the very core of what’s occurring,
the level at which we are hooked …
the level of our wounding and the level of communal wounding  …
the wounding within ourselves …
the wounding between us …
the wounding amongst us …
and
the wounding around us.

Yes, it is a big task.
Yes, it will take time.
But this level that is most frequently not known by people,
this level most frequently ignored,
this level most frequently denied,
this level most often avoided and run away from,
this level that drives the relationships and the potential for the relationships …
This is our hope.
This level is our hope
to really heal at the root of the wounding …
so we don’t keep re-enacting the individual and communal wounds over and over again.

Will we do the healing work, giving the greatest gift of love there is to ourselves, each other, and our world … not only on Valentine’s Day but every day?
How many of us bring this kind of love to ourselves and our world?
How different our relationships would be if we did.
How different our families would be if we did.
How different our world would be if we did.

© Judith Barr, 2015

*This article applies to romantic couples of all kinds. My using the male pronoun for male-female relationships is simply to for clarity and not meant to exclude or be insensitive in any way to gay couples or to imply that this learning is meant only for women.

** I am not in any way encouraging someone who is being abused to stay with an abusive partner. I am not in any way saying that you have to heal your childhood wounds within an abusive relationship. Quite the contrary. So please, do not misinterpret this section of the article to in any way continue your being abused.

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

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

On the one-to-one level –

As we approach Valentine’s Day, it’s crucial that we explore our own relationships – whether they be romantic relationships, familial relationships, professional relationships, or friendships.

In addition to the other factors that brought you together, can you see how your own wounds entangle, like fish hooks, with the wounds of those around you? When you have a challenge in one of your relationships, can you trace your feelings in the midst of that challenge to other feelings you’ve had in your life – to events and experiences you had in your own childhood that may color your here-and-now life … and in turn affect our world?

Relationships present opportunities that sadly most of us miss … the opportunity to truly explore within ourselves the long ago wounds that affect us every day. Only by taking this opportunity to heal can we make lasting change in our life and the life of our world.

On the national and world level –

And as we approach Valentine’s Day, it is crucial that we explore how our own early wounds are entangled, like fish hooks, with the wounds of our country. How without even realizing it, our wounds contribute to the re-enactments of our country’s wounds … the re-enactments of our world’s wounds. And how the ongoing reenactments create more wounding and re-wounding with an ever increasing frequency globally.

Imagine, for starters, how the deep wounding in any one of the three countries used as examples above, might be similar to your own young wounding. For instance, have  you, like Germany, been fighting since you were a child? Have you been fighting to survive, to prevent invasion and takeover, to unify or prevent unification?  And if that is true and you are a German citizen, can you imagine how you feed that wounding in your country?

Go through each of the other country examples and see if that helps you deepen and develop your understanding of these dynamics … so clearly at play in our world today.  See how, if you were a citizen of those countries, your wounds might entangle with those of your country.

Add your own examples, too. Make it a priority to explore how your own wounding affects your individual relationships and also the life of our countries and our world.

Will you do the healing work, giving the greatest gift of love there is … not only on Valentine’s Day but every day?

DEFENSES DESTROY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Another Way to Wound Children Under A Guise?

Another week of painful experiences in our world – the result of generations of childhood wounding that have been repressed, held at bay, denied, ignored, misnamed, normalized, completely discounted. 

Another week of shootings . . . as I write this there are reports of yet another shooting at a high school. 

Another report of a  psychiatrist who has had a sexual relationship with a patient and instead of having to go through and live with the most painful consequences of the exposure, gets away with brokering a deal to surrender his license and move abroad. And the only reason this even came out into the public is that he was once the psychiatrist of Adam Lanza, the young man who did the shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. 

More weeks of a politician falling from grace, this time the Governor of New Jersey, and fighting to land “safely” despite what’s being revealed.

Another round of people so desperate for love – the desperation a sign of wounding right there – that they are willing to expose themselves in a competition for love on the reality show, The Bachelor/Bachelorette.

Once again these – and more – events happening out in public view. What about all the occurrences that result from childhood wounding that nobody ever shares or discovers? What about all the times the wounding and its consequences are kept secret? And what about all the people who look at these kinds of happenings and are either blind to the roots in childhood or refuse to see the roots in childhood?

And now, under the guise of yet another parenting fad, they’re talking about treating children like adults!  They’re talking about wounding children . . . under the guise of yet another method for parents to parent.

I can hardly believe it.

I can predict with fair certainty that in 20 to 30 years, if not before, those children will need help. Or they will be acting out in their lives – and ours – in ways that are not good for them and others affected – or downright harmful – and in ways that they and our society will deem normal, despite the harm.

I have worked with many people over my years as a depth psychotherapist. I can’t tell you how many of those people were treated like little adults when they were children. How many of those people were talked to like adults, expected to act like adults, expected to think like adults. How many of those people were told as children that they were responsible for their own feelings? Their parent could yell at them or humiliate them and then blame them for having feelings in response. How many of their parents misunderstood and/or misused the latest parenting trends at the time (like Parent Effectiveness Training), accessible therapeutic models (like the popularized version of Transactional Analysis), and social philosophies (like Ayn Rand’s individualism and objectivism) to turn their children into rational little adults? How many of those people as children were expected to feel like adults – or some version of what their parents thought adults should feel? Or some version of what their parents wanted so the parents wouldn’t have to deal with children? So the parents wouldn’t have to be triggered by their children and their children’s feelings?

I can’t tell you how many of those people were left to figure out for themselves how to get along in their families – get along with their mothers, or fathers, or extended families. How to protect themselves because nobody intervened in their behalf, because nobody protected them. I can’t tell you how many of those people had to figure out how to get what they needed from the youngest age . . . usually before they even knew what they needed or could articulate it. But even then, even as the youngest children, they were already trying to please mommy and daddy . . . as most all young children do reflexively. Even as children, they were trying to act like adults . . . from a child’s vantage point. A child cannot be an adult. A child can only pretend to be an adult. A child can only act as if s/he is an adult. A child can only be precocious enough to stretch way past the age s/he is and role play the part of an older person. A child cannot be an adult. And it is a great disservice to expect him or her to do so.  It is not an act of love, even if the parent intends it to be.

I have to wonder what the childhoods of the parents who choose to treat their children like adults were like. Lay people and celebrities alike. As with the examples above, there is a new parenting trend whose potential is huge for misunderstanding, misuse, abuse of the system – in relation to the state of consciousness and healing of the parent using it.

Some guidelines in RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) are more likely to be misused or abused than others.  For example . . . many people don’t want to hear babies cry. Crying babies often trigger memories – conscious or unconscious – of our own crying when we were babies . . . and whatever caused us to cry or however we were responded to that may have caused us more pain. Think of the parent who says, “I’ll give you something to cry about,” in an attempt to threaten and scare a child out of crying.  The RIE system doesn’t endorse stopping babies from crying, which on the surface looks like an improvement over the lengths some would go to stop a crying baby and not have to relive their own triggered pain. Rather RIE lets babies cry as long as they “want” to, justifying it with the concept of not causing them to repress their feelings. The abuse possible from this is heartbreaking.  Letting a baby cry as long as s/he “wants” to?  That’s absurd. Perhaps as long as s/he needs to if you understand that a baby’s crying is the way the baby communicates discomfort, pain, need. Then maybe the baby needs to cry until someone responds, or until his or her needs are met, or until some soothing action on the part of the parent reassures the baby that s/he is safe and loved. But if you just let the baby cry and don’t respond . . . the baby will eventually give up, whimper, and fall asleep either from exhaustion or to reflexively get away from the pain of not being responded to.  Or the baby will cry him/herself into a rage and then fall asleep from exhaustion or escape from the pain.

In other words, if you don’t respond to the baby’s crying – under the guise of letting them cry “as long as they want” so they won’t repress their feelings – you abuse and wound them terribly. You may not think you do. You may think they won’t even remember. They may not remember consciously, but their experience will show up in their lives – in their thinking, feeling, behavior, defenses, coping mechanisms, beliefs and decisions about themselves, others, and life.

Again, I have to wonder about the childhoods of the parents who choose to treat their children like adults. I have to wonder what these parents are trying to bury and forget and keep unconscious about how they were raised. I have to wonder what they are compensating for – perhaps a mother who consumed them emotionally or infantilized them way beyond the time they were infants and small children? I have to wonder who turned them into little adults. Who “parentified” them, trying to get them to take care of their own parents? Who turned them into little “partners”? Who didn’t let them be the little children they were?

Through a very important lens, one that many would like to discount, but one that cannot be pushed aside or minimized . . . our world today is very much an out-picturing of the children still alive inside the adults who are supposedly taking care of the planet. But it is the children alive inside the adults – the very children who were wounded when young and haven’t yet been helped to heal their wounds – who, from the wings so to speak, drive the families today, drive the businesses today, drive the governments today, drive the citizenry today, drive our world today. And mostly we don’t realize it. And mostly we don’t want to realize it.

Mostly we go about our own business, not realizing how the child still alive inside us is driving our life, our business, our world . . . our parenting. And then we wound our own children because we are too frightened to remember, feel, and heal from our wounds and traumas as children – from the wounds our parents inflicted on us because they weren’t doing their own healing work.

Imagine how much more distorted and how much scarier it will be to have a world populated by people who from the youngest age were treated like little adults according to a parenting fad that just happened to fit hand in hand with the parents’ own wounding . . . and who never, ever were seen, held, responded to as the real children they were. Imagine how dysfunctional it will be, under the guise of extraordinary functionality, when people don’t have memories of being little children, only memories of being little adults . . . and little or no access to the child still alive within who is actually driving their life and the life of our world, making it much more difficult to do the healing that is so needed, or even to know there is healing needed.

And now imagine a world where children are allowed to be children, where parents have done their own work – and continue to do it – and can truly be the loving, caring, guardians of their children. Where parents can truly see their children, hear and feel them, attune to their children. Where parents can be self-responsible, acknowledge their own mistakes and make repair when they’re wrong. Where parents can view their role as parents in the truest perspective: not expecting their children to take care of themselves (or them, for that matter) . . . real parents.

© Judith Barr 2014

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

This month, whether or not you have children of your own, make the commitment to explore how you were treated as a child. Were you expected to be a “little adult” regardless of your age? Were you – subtly or blatantly — given responsibilities and expectations beyond what you were or should have been capable of at that age? Maybe even expected to not only care for yourself, but also for your parents? Or were you, on the other hand, infantilized well past the time when you were a child…smothered by parents who could not accept your growing up? How did you feel then…and most importantly, how does this affect your life now?

If you have children…how has your own childhood affected the way you behave with them? Do you infantilize them? “Parentify” them? And what can you find in your own childhood that affects your relationship with them?

Parenting is not easy…and how much harder do we make it – on ourselves and our children –when we carry with us wounding from our own childhood experience, undiscovered and unhealed? And how much better could we be as parents if we all, each one of us, did the inner work needed to heal those wounds?