WE’RE ALL HUMAN

Sitting in the waiting room before a checkup,
I witnessed everyone sitting by themselves –
looking at their mobile phones, staring into space, just looking down,
or watching other people without any contact at all.
Except one golden skinned, middle-aged woman,
who said “Good morning,” as she came in
and sat down a few seats away from me.
“Good morning,” I replied, with a smile.
A moment later I leaned toward her and said,
“That’s lovely of you to make contact with me.”
She smiled.
And a few moments later, I wanted to –
but didn’t – stand up and say to everyone in the room:

Hello, everybody …
We’re all human beings
with hearts that love
and hearts that have been hurt,
whether we let ourselves feel it or not.

We’re all human beings,
with hearts that feel
happy and scared, angry and sad, confused and hurt
and more.

We’re all human beings
with hearts that feel
hope and hopelessness,
power and powerlessness,
connected and disconnected,
companioned and isolated.

We’re all human beings
with hearts that need to matter,
with hearts that need to be their selves …
with hearts that need to not have been frightened or
threatened out of being our-selves.

We’re all human beings
with hearts that have learned, been “taught,” induced, or threatened
to not feel –
to not feel safely –
to hide our feelings,
to close ourselves off and bury our feelings …
to defend ourselves from pain.
Defend ourselves.
At all costs defend ourselves!
Keep our deepest thoughts and feelings
to ourselves, even from those closest to us.
Build a moat …
So we can’t be hurt.
Build a gate, a wall, a steel door, a trap door …
so we can’t be hurt.
Gather an army that can lash out and protect us …
so we can’t be hurt.
Keep our deepest thoughts and feelings
even from ourselves.
Numb ourselves. Deaden ourselves…
So we can’t feel the hurt.
Defend ourselves.
At all costs defend ourselves!

Where has this led us?
‘Round the world in however many years we’ve been alive …
and right back into the patriarchy.
All those years we’ve lived in the patriarchy and didn’t know it …
here we are again, with a patriarchy stronger than ever.
All those years we’ve worked so hard to move out of the patriarchy …
here we are again, seeing how deeply entrenched we still are in the patriarchy.
All those years we’ve thought we had moved out of the patriarchy …
here we are again, seeing “out in the open” the patriarchy
that was alive and well beneath our view.
All those years we’ve thought we were free from the patriarchy …
here we are again, needing to see the patriarchy alive outside us
and needing to see, hear, experience the patriarchy alive within our very selves.

The patriarchy within and without.
The patriarchy that refuses to feel real, authentic feelings.
The patriarchy that feels and acts out intense, raw, destructive feelings
from long, long ago …
giving others pseudo-permission to do the same.
The patriarchy that disconnects itself from the heart,
while acting out under the guise of goodness.
The patriarchy that refuses to feel real, authentic feelings.
The patriarchy that refuses to go through its own renewal.
The patriarchy that would rather be shot by an assassin’s bullet
than go through its own renewal …
its own death and rebirth right here in this life.

And where has this led us?
Right here into the mess we’re immersed in right now —
in the U.S. and all over the world.
And repeating it over and over again.
Making the mess worse and worse with each repetition.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on “Morning Joe”
after the terrorist attack in London:
“The city is now getting on with its business.
All our transportation systems are running.
Parliament is continuing its work.
It is business as normal.
That is the way to defy these people.
The worst way to lose the war on terror is to be terrified for a second.
We are not terrified and we will go on.”

In my heart, I could hear the little boy, Boris,
saying what he had decided as a child.
And I could hear the parents of young Boris
telling him to do the same thing he had already decided reflexively.
Defend against your feelings no matter what.
Defend against your terror no matter what.
Let your defiance defend you against what you’re really feeling.
Let your defiance be yet another defense against what you’re really feeling.
Let your defiance numb you to your terror,
making it impossible for you to feel your terror …
making it impossible for you to utilize your terror
in a healthy way …
as part of bearing your own renewal,
as part of your country’s bearing its own renewal,
as part of our world’s bearing its own renewal.

There are many social and political steps we need to take
right now in our world.
But there are steps so much more deeply needed than those
outer steps.
We need to heal the patriarchy within ourselves – men and women alike.
We need to go through our own death and rebirth
right here in our lives.
We need to safely do the inner work of renewal
that helps us go back through
the feelings we buried from our long-ago wounds …
so we cannot be cruel to another without feeling the pain ourselves.
so we cannot be cruel to ourselves without feeling the pain.
so we cannot feel the cruelty of others without feeling the pain.
so we cannot normalize, rationalize, justify anyone’s cruel actions
and the pain those cruel actions cause.
so we cannot allow ourselves or anyone else to go unaccountable for cruel actions…
so we can hold responsible those who are creating havoc in our lives –
in our families, in our churches, in our schools, in our businesses, in our government.
So we can hold ourselves and each other responsible for
going through our own renewal…
our own healing of the patriarchy within us and all around us.

We are born into this world defenseless.
We are also born into this world undefended.
We reflexively defend ourselves and, at the same time,
are taught and pushed into defending ourselves
by the others around us who are doing the same.

But did you know …
the choice is not between
being defended or defenseless?
Did you know …
we can be undefended
without being defenseless?

© Judith Barr, 2017

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

It’s so easy for us to forget our own humanity and each others’ humanity.  And it’s so easy for us, to try to “forget” our own feelings, as we have been “taught” to do – blatantly and subtly. But our feelings don’t just “disappear” if we defend against them … and our buried feelings still cry out from deep within us to be felt, explored and healed.

As you go about your day, begin first to notice the humanity in those around you. Each person you encounter has a heart … with both here-and-now feelings and ancient feelings under the surface. Many people you encounter may be defending against painful feelings in a myriad of ways … by becoming numb, for example, or by acting out in a multiplicity of ways, from the extreme of attacking to that of retreating.

Then, take a look at your own humanity. Are there feelings you have within you against which you feel you need to defend … even beneath your awareness? Is there pain within you that seems so overwhelming that you feel you need to repress or bury it … without even realizing it? Commit today to begin (or deepen) the journey to feel, explore and heal the feelings against which you’ve been defending, with the help of a caring, feeling therapist when you need the help to go deeper than you can on your own.

I welcome your sharing this article – on social media, in email or by word of mouth – with those you feel may be touched or inspired by its message. It’s my prayer that it inspires anyone who reads it to truly feel their own humanity, to feel the humanity of others, and to make the commitment to learn to feel undefendedly, knowing that we can truly be undefended and not defenseless. Imagine if all of us – including those in positions of power in our world – made that commitment!

WE’RE ALL TRIGGERED – WHETHER WE KNOW IT OR NOT

There is plenty for us to have feelings about in today’s world. Plenty of feelings in the here and now. And what is going on in the U.S. today is an ample source of our current, in-the-moment feelings.

But in addition to the current feelings we’re experiencing, all over the world we’re all “triggered” by what’s going on in the U.S. – whether we know it or not. And if we don’t know it, we feed the triggers, the being triggered, and the lack of awareness in both ourselves and others.

Triggered. A word in the healing arts that means something is being awakened beneath our awareness, buried at some time in our past – especially our early life – something we are reacting to with feelings, thoughts, and actions, while either having no idea of what we’re doing or why, or while believing our thoughts, feelings and reactions are in response to some experience in the current day.

If that is where we stay, we will be stuck. Stuck believing we’re acting in response to the here and now, while we’re really reacting to something in our past. Stuck believing we’re acting as mature adults in the current day, while we’re actually acting like children in a time long, long ago. Stuck believing we are helping to solve or resolve what’s going on right here and right now, while we’re really still defending against what happened to us in days long past. Convinced we are having truly here and now feelings – and nothing but – while we are having feelings that are more in the range of 95% from the past and 5% here and now.

How do we resolve something in the here and now, when we’re still stuck in the past? We don’t! No matter how hard we try!

In order to resolve something in the here and now when we’re still stuck in the past . . . we need to become aware. We need to tease apart the past from the present. We need to heal the place(s) we’re stuck that are still alive within us. We need to use our feelings from that stuck place in the past to help in the healing. So that when the healing is done – and even in process – we’ll have a better sense of which feelings are here and now and which are from long, long ago.

Here’s an example:
Andy is terrified by all the lying that is going on in the US Government. He’s afraid of the lying taking place in the US public. He’s afraid of the lying that is being acted out and of the lying that is being believed. It terrifies him. If you ask him what it reminds him of, he says “Nothing. It’s just scary to see so many people lying day in and day out. And it’s as scary to see how many people accept the lies as the truth.”

But if I were able to help Andy go deeper and younger into his childhood experiences still alive inside him, we would find out … he was terrified as a little boy, day in and day out. His father lied every day when he smacked Andy’s mother and claimed it was her fault, that she wasn’t loving enough. When he punched Andy’s older brother and said if he’d gotten better grades, this wouldn’t be necessary. When he kicked Andy and told him if he were better behaved, there would be no need for these kicks. Andy was terrified of his father’s lying, and of his brutality.  Of course his brutality. But there was something about his lying that turned Andy upside down and inside out.

No one contradicted Andy’s father’s lies. Not his mother, not his older brother, not anyone in the family or neighborhood who witnessed these scenes. It appeared to little Andy in the silence that everyone believed father’s lies, and that everyone thought they were true. And it made it hard for Andy to stay with his gut instinct that father wasn’t telling the truth. In that sense, it made him feel kind of crazy. And that, also, was terrifying.

If Andy will only allow me to help him with the young experiences and feelings, he can come back from the deep work – the deep inner exploration and healing – more able to stand in the here and now knowing of the culture of lying that people are attempting to create … not feeling crazy, without the real here and now fear impinged upon by the real once-upon-a-time fear from his childhood, and having a deep sense of knowing how he needs to respond in the face of today.

So Andy has a choice:

*to keep avoiding his own early pain and fear; and, as a result, be out of touch with the here and now reality; and, as a result of that, help to co-create even more the culture of lying that is both being attempted in the here and now and also existed in his childhood.

or

*to do the inner exploration in such a way that he discovers the root of his terror of the lying culture, so he can take responsibility for his own healing; be accountable for the way in which his wounds had contributed to the development of the lying culture; stop feeding that cycle; and have a new sense of how to respond in the face of lying – in a matured way in the here and now.

We each have this choice.
We can each take responsibility for our part in what’s going on.
Or we can disown our responsibility.
We can each take responsibility for our triggers.
Or we can refuse to be accountable for the reality that we have been triggered.
We can each follow our triggers to their root …
or we can insist that our feeling responses to things that are going on are only here and now responses.

We can each insist that our responses are righteous and warranted in the here and now,
even if we are working for truth.
Or we can realize that there is some way in which we are being triggered
that will, in the end, not serve the greatest good …
if we don’t follow the triggers and resolve them at the root –
even if all our actions seem to serve the greatest good;
even if all the intentions we’re aware of seem to serve the greatest good;
even if we can convince ourselves that we are serving the greatest good.

Some of us are acting out – lashing out – sure our anger is justified and will help,
even if it is really destructive and not helpful at all.
Some of us are becoming activists in the outer world, each in our own way…
making calls, signing petitions, sending out information, going to protests, volunteering our help.
Taking action is absolutely needed, but it also can be a way to defend against
the deep feelings within.
And as Gloria Steinem, an activist par excellence, has said,
“Being a social activist can be a drug that keeps you from going back and looking at yourself.”*

Some of us are watching and reading reports about what is happening.
We want to know what’s going on.
We don’t want to be in the dark.
But we can become addicted to those reports.
We can use them for an adrenaline rush.
We can, unknowingly, hope they will hold our own deep feelings at bay.

Some of us are stepping away from the television and the internet. Some saying we’re trying to achieve more balance. Some, in truth, putting our head in the sand or hiding under the covers.

Whatever we are doing that is, in fact, in the greater good, that doesn’t mean we have no triggers that need to be tended. We all do.

All of us. Everyone on every level of the government in every country in the world. Every member of the media all over the world. Every citizen in every country in the world. And not only are we feeling the impact of our triggers … our children are feeling the impact of our triggers, too.  With no way to hold it, no way to ask about it, no way to process it.

If you ask me if I’m having feelings in this time, I would say, “Of course I am! We all are.”
If you ask me what I do with these feelings, I would say, “I do my own inner work to find out which are here and now feelings and which are feelings from the past that are being triggered.
I follow the feelings to times and feelings long, long ago and utilize what I discover for healing.  I utilize the current feelings and the healing I do with the past feelings to support me in finding what I’m called to do today … in Love and Truth.”

If I ask you if you’re having feelings in this time, what would you say?
If I ask you what you do with these feelings, what would you say?
If I ask you what you do when you’re triggered, what would you say?
If I ask you what efforts you’re making to do your own inner healing, what would you say?
If I ask you if you are truly serving the greatest good or merely defending against your own early feelings and wounds, what would you say?
If I ask you what are you going to do now, what will you say?

© Judith Barr, 2017

* 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

We are all triggered sometimes … more often than most of us can imagine. It is crucial that we become aware of the times we’re being triggered and commit to explore and heal the ancient feelings that can become enmeshed with our here-and-now feelings.

Whenever you have feelings that are much stronger than the situation truly warrants … refrain from acting on them. Rather, trace those feelings back as far as you can into your past. When, and in what situation, was the last time you felt this particular feeling? And when was the time before that? And the time before that? Trace the feeling as far back as you can … and, with the help of a caring, integritous healing professional, begin or deepen the journey to heal those feelings to the root.

Won’t you join me, and commit to truly healing the feelings triggered in you to the root … for your sake and for the sake of our world?

“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.

UNCONSCIOUS

I CAN’T PROVE IT TO YOU.
It’s a feeling.

I CAN’T WRITE IT DOWN FOR YOU.
It has no clear, definable voice – yet.

I CAN’T TELL YOU
what scientific principle
or mathematical theorem
supports it …
It isn’t guided by anything
that’s rational
or
logical
that’s been discovered yet!

NO! I CAN’T SHOW YOU PHOTOGRAPHS OF IT.
It isn’t visible in that way.
You can’t see it as clear, discernible,
duplicatable images,
but rather only as light and dark
inchoate forms.

I CANNOT SHOW YOU UNDER A MAGNIFYING GLASS!
You would not want to see it that large –
if it could be reduced to fit a glass.
Yet you recreate it large as life
day by day
and minute by minute.
Yes, you are recreating it this very moment,
between us and in our world.

NO! I CAN’T MAKE IT TANGIBLE –
But if you do not
acknowledge it and
the messages it brings …
You will, Oh my God! Oh my Goddess!
do everything you can
to make it tangible …
even create horrors in our
everyday world.

I CANNOT SEW IT INTO A FABRIC –
I assure you, however,
that it weaves a pattern
with threads so strong
they can never be
fully cut out from the weave.

NO, I CANNOT SHOW YOU UNDER A SPOTLIGHT.
It’s not that containable.
Though if you truly wanted to see it,
You would shine your own light on it –
the only way
in truth
it can be shown!

NO! NO! NO! I CANNOT GIVE YOU EVIDENCE.
This is not hewn of the stuff that
your laws and science are made of.
This is born of a deep Knowing,
of a deep and true reality,
That I trust from within my very bones.
A reality that has been washed
from both our shores
to other beaches
far ago and long away …

So far that we have
lost our names for it,
our voices for it,
our sight and our ear for it,
our taste and our feel for it,
our trust in it!

Yet there it remains,
hiding in a cave at the edge of a beach,
being battered and bathed
by the waves of
roaring and gentle oceans.
Waiting, waiting, waiting patiently
for those of us
who dare
courageously
search for it,
seek it out,
creatively find a way
to bring it home
to us again
and
befriend it,
help it heal and transform.

And … without it
we may or may not survive.
And … without it
we will not LIVE.
And … without it
we will not THRIVE.

Original version: © Judith Barr, 1987. Revised version: © Judith Barr, 2016.