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

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

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

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

Introduction to escape hatches

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

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

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

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

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

What is an escape hatch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does an escape hatch work in our world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2008, 2015, Judith Barr.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.