WHAT IS THE REAL CATASTROPHE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s an example* …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

© Judith Barr, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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!

THE YOUNG POPE: A CANDID MIRROR FOR US ALL

“Cut the dime store analysis out and work with me,” said the tyrannical “young pope.”
“I don’t work with 9-year-old boys,” his mentor, the cardinal, courageously responded.
You’ve never budged* from the front gate of that orphanage, where one fine day,
with no explanation, your parents abandoned you.
May God help us!
You want to make the world pay for the wrong it did to you.
You’ll be a terrible pope. The worst.
And the most dangerous in modern times.
And I don’t intend to waste the few years I have remaining
being an accomplice to a vindictive little boy
!”**

~~~~~~~~

This could be from biblical times.
It could be from Roman times.
It could be from medieval and renaissance times.
It could be from the times of colonial Britain.
It could be from the times of the World Wars.
It could be from today’s times in the USA.
It could be from our very own times in the world today.
Or … it could be from times in our world a year from now, 10 years from now, half a century from now, or more.

It’s not just about leaders – world or national, major or minor.
It’s not just about their advisors – with advice that’s legitimate, valid, just, in truth, or not.
It’s not just about their supporters – whether well-informed or seduced and deluded.
It’s not just about their opponents – fighting for what they believe is right and good and safe.
It’s about all of us.

You’ve never budged…”

Each of us has never budged from some painful point in our childhood. Perhaps some point physically, like the front gate of an orphanage, the corner of a crib, a closet in the bedroom, a cellar. But most importantly, from some point emotionally that was traumatic for us – such as an event that created in us primal terror, rage, hurt, heartbreak, or a cauldron of all those feelings cooking in our being.

“You want to make the world pay…”

Each of us, whether or not we realize it, buried our feelings and made some decision way back at the time of that trauma – some decision about how to relate to ourselves, others, life itself, even The Divine. Maybe we decided to make the world pay overtly. Maybe covertly. Maybe we decided to do a better job of “ruling” the world than those who ruled our childhood world. Maybe we decided we’d punish the ones who hurt us and save those who, like us, needed to be rescued.  Maybe we even decided to hurt ourselves in order to make the other pay. Whatever we decided, most of us didn’t realize we were making a decision we would actually carry out in our lives. Most of us didn’t realize we would carry out our actions, driven by the decision of a 9-year old – like the young pope from the series quoted above – a 5-year old, a 2-year old, or even a tiny baby whose decision was beneath thoughts and words.

“You’ll be a terrible pope…”

Maybe we thought all this primal wounding and our early decisions from it would make us the strongest, the smartest, the most skilled, the richest, the best. The best at whatever we tried. But most likely, our primal wounding actually made us the worst. The worst parent. The worst partner. The worst employee or boss. The worst leader or follower. The most dangerous in modern times. The most dangerous as we continue to enact again and again some version of the wounds we experienced onto those in our lives today – both people we are close to and people we’ll never ever even meet.

… And I don’t intend to waste the few years I have remaining
being an accomplice to a vindictive little boy
!”

If nobody insists we face what we’re doing, how will we know? If nobody teaches us … If nobody stops us … If nobody shows us the truth … How will we know that we’re acting out our wounds from our youth on people in our lives today? How will we know that in the guise of an adult, we’re carrying on our lives as a child?  How will we know that beneath the appearance of someone who has grown big and tall … is a little girl or boy (us) who is going through days and nights pretending to be a grown up?

And if nobody insists we face what we’re doing in public … how will anyone in the world know there is a child driving the world in a big person’s body, with a big person’s mask, in a big person’s role, with the power of a big person … to do anything that child wants – out in the open or under cover of secrecy, acknowledged in truth or supposedly hidden by lies?

And if no one knows there is a child driving the world – whether that world be a family, a school, a company, a town government, a country, our Earth – how will anyone know that child-pretending-to-be-an-adult needs to do the inner healing work to stop the travesty the child is re-enacting of creating trauma in an attempt to defend against the buried-yet-still-alive pain of the trauma the child once experienced?

And how in heaven’s name will we find our way to facing and healing the damage we are creating in our attempts to keep the trauma we once experienced at bay? And how in heaven’s name will we find our way to facing and healing the trauma at the root of our own personal acting out?

It’s a gift when one person can see this and name it. Why can’t more of us do so?  Because we, too, are still little children inside, trying to hold at bay the memories and traumas and painful feelings from back when we were actually little children. So we do collude with the person like the young pope in the series. And we do collude from our own young woundedness that we have never healed. Our own young woundedness that we have not yet healed.

We are seeing this all over our country in the US. We are seeing this all over our world. We wouldn’t be here, where we are in the life of our world today, if each of us hadn’t contributed in some way, big or small, from the traumas in our personal histories that we have left unconscious and unhealed.  From the traumas in our family histories that we have left unconscious and unhealed. From the traumas in our communal histories that we have left unconscious and unhealed… up until now.

Here we have it. A summary and mirror of the choice each of us has in our life.
A summary of the choice we have as a country.
The choice we have as a human race:
Face and heal the ancient wounding we carry within us.
Or continue to wound ourselves and others in the world today and tomorrow –
in a futile attempt to get away from the ancient wounds living within us,
and the painful feelings that go with them.

Thank you to all those involved in the production of The Young Pope.

You have held a mirror for us. A mirror for what is happening and a mirror of our choices. The dialogue between the cardinal and the young pope has shown us the point from which the young pope has never budged. We see other glimpses into the places from which others in the cast of characters have, themselves, never budged. A clear mirror in which we can see ourselves.

Without helping the child within get unstuck from that place s/he hasn’t yet budged from … without helping the child within heal so there is no longer a need to hold the ancient pain at bay by creating the same pain in the world today … that person cannot act from an adult place in these challenging times.

Your efforts have contributed to helping us in this process of healing the stuck children so we can take steps toward truly acting as adults.

Thank you. Please continue to find ways to show us where we have blocked our own way and how to get ourselves unblocked as soon as possible, as deeply as possible, as much in Truth and Love as possible.

This is my work, and I am so thankful to have your crystal-clear help.

*Italics mine for emphasis.
**From the third episode of the HBO series, “The Young Pope.” The pope played by Jude Law; the cardinal played by James Cromwell.

© Judith Barr, 2017.

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

It can be very difficult to see ourselves, or even want to see ourselves, when we are acting, feeling, and thinking from a very wounded young place within. But it is crucial, for our sakes and for the sake of our world, that we become more aware of those times when we are unconsciously regressed.

To truly help in the healing of our world … commit today to become aware of those times when you’re being “a child in an adult’s body.” Are there times when you feel, think or even act in a way that reminds you of a time long ago in childhood when you felt, thought, and acted the same way? Or maybe you wanted to feel, think or act in that same way as a child but were too afraid?

When witnessing events unfolding in our nation and our world, either in fiction or in the real world … can you see the same regression in world leaders and their followers – in your own nation and in the world at large? What comes up inside you when you see or hear leaders who are acting from a young, wounded place? Do you collude? Are you stirred strongly, angrily or maybe even violently?

There may be those in your life, like the cardinal quoted above, who can see your regression when you cannot. Most of all, you may need a good, caring therapist to help you see the regression you and others cannot see … and who can help you to explore and heal the young wounded self still living inside you.

Imagine if everyone committed to use the mirror of The Young Pope – and the many other mirrors we are presented with every day – to explore and heal the wounded child within …our leaders … their followers … their opponents … ourselves … all of us!

We’re Forgetting and It’s Dangerous: Don’t Forget! Remember …

In these crucial times in our world and our countries,
and in this election time in the U.S …
there are many times between my usual once-monthly newsletters
that I feel called to write to you
for teaching, intriguing, inspiring, and awakening.
In these months you may receive more frequent articles,
as I am called to write them. 

I hope you will use these well …
for yourself and for our world.
I hope you will use these well …
to help inform, intrigue, inspire, and awaken others with me. 

Many blessings …
Judith

In a world that too often naively and carelessly, though authoritatively, tells us to “get over it” and “move on,” we each need to know how damaging that advice is and how damaging the consequences. If we ignore the damage, we will individually and together continue to wreak havoc in our world … in our own lives and in life on our earth. That is especially and more obviously true right at this point in our individual and communal crossroads.

One of the most vocal spokespeople for the importance of remembering has been Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate. When Elie died July 2, 2016, he left that responsibility to those of us who know the profound and crucial need for us to remember. The need for us to remember individually. And the need for us to remember communally. What we don’t remember, we will inevitably repeat – consciously or unconsciously; by ourselves or with others; intentionally or unintentionally; obviously or obscurely; right out in the open or under a guise.

This is a time in our world where the need to remember is perhaps more important than ever before … both in our world, and in our own countries. And certainly in the U.S.

Elie Wiesel spoke brilliantly about forgetting and remembering in his Nobel Prize lecture in 1986:

“Of course, we could try to forget the past. Why not? Is it not natural for a human being to repress what causes him pain, what causes him shame? Like the body, memory protects its wounds. When day breaks after a sleepless night, one’s ghosts must withdraw; the dead are ordered back to their graves. But for the first time in history, we could not bury our dead. We bear their graves within ourselves.

“For us, forgetting was never an option.

“Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered.”*

And a student of Elie Wiesel, Sonari Glinton, wrote beautifully of the lessons he learned from Wiesel about forgetting (emphasis mine):

“I remember him leaning in and asking why I would want to forget.

Memory, he said, wasn’t just for Holocaust survivors. The people who ask us to forget are not our friends. Memory not only honors those we lost but also gives us strength. In those office hours, he gave me a shield, practical words and thoughts that would help me — a gay, Nigerian, Catholic journalist. He gave me tools that would aid me in an often hostile world. Over the years, I have found myself quoting Professor Wiesel to white people who want me to ‘get over race.’ ‘That’s old.’ ‘It was a hundred years ago.’ But Professor Wiesel had been emphatic: Nothing good comes of forgetting; remember, so that my past doesn’t become your future.**

This more communal understanding of Wiesel’s insistence is more common in our world than the individual. I have quoted George Santayana in previous posts to illustrate this related to communal history. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ***

We need to awaken to that truth communally. But we also need to awaken to other truths that are intimately and intricately related to that one.

We need to awaken to the truth that what we repress and forget from our lives long, long ago, doesn’t disappear from our psyches and souls. And it isn’t without impact on us and those around us. In fact, it drives us from beneath our memory, to think, feel, act in ways we may not even be aware of. It drives us to repeat in our lives again and again, until we finally “get” the vicious cycle we’re in and find a way to heal it to the root.

We need to get that what we repress from our lives long ago is likely the memory and the trauma not just from our own individual ancient experience, but also most likely from the parallel experience in the culture. What is repressed and forgotten by individuals is then acted out in the culture; it is then normalized, repressed and forgotten in the culture; and that feeds its being acted out and repressed both in families and in the culture at large. It may be the extended family culture, the community culture, the state or area culture, the nation culture, or the world culture. Whichever culture it is … there is a definite vicious cycle from individual to culture to individual to culture … over and over again, until individuals start to change it in their own lives and birth that change out into the culture at last.

A brief, but blatant, example:

James grew up in an extended family where there was rampant abuse: physical, sexual, verbal, emotional. The abuse was mostly perpetrated by the men on the women and children. But in another family, it could be by the women on the men and children; or by the women, too.

In James’ family, the abuse was the weapon of the men. James was abused in all of the above ways by his father, who experienced the same in his early life, and then forgot most of it consciously and normalized the rest.

James suffered profoundly from the earliest age, when his father didn’t want to hear him cry in his crib; as a result, his dad yelled at him, threatened to throw him in the garbage, shook his crib wildly, and left the room slamming the door so hard that it came off its hinges.

James was traumatized, repressed the memories for his sanity and safety, and swore – once he was old enough to be aware – that he would never treat his children that way.

Yet, James grew up, married, and had a family. And sure enough, when his children cried (or even his wife), he would erupt into a rage and hurt the one who was crying. Rage at their crying expanded into rage at their expressing their feelings, telling the truth, holding him accountable for some hurt or mistake, and on and on…

James found himself at work trying to contain his rage when employers or co-workers triggered the same young feelings his wife and children triggered. And finally one day he attacked his boss in response to his being so deeply triggered. He swore it was a “current day” issue. He had forgotten its link to his childhood. He had no conscious connection with the link between his violent eruptive response at home or at work and the rage he felt toward his violent father from the earliest days of his life.

Too many in his life normalized all of his triggered responses, including the attack at work. Certainly his extended family did. Others weren’t so vocal about normalizing his behavior, but were afraid to confront him.

Eventually he gathered members of his family and a few co-workers who had grown up the same way he had. They all banded together to go after the boss, sure nobody could stop them. They had no idea that they were all going after their own abusive fathers, grandfathers, older brothers, uncles. They had no idea they were taking out on the boss, the abuse that had been perpetrated on them as children.

If only they had remembered what was done to them.
If only they had been able to feel the pain of what was done to them.
If only they had had the help they needed to discover which feelings to act on and which to simply feel for healing to the root.
If only they had had the help in their adult lives before the office incident.
If only they had had the help they needed as children.
All of them.
Not just James.
But even James’s having the help would have made a huge difference…
in his individual life; in his family life; in his work life; and in the impact his life had on the society.

We have to forget as children. That kind of remembering is too much for a child to bear. But when we grow up … we need to remember. We deeply need to remember so, to paraphrase Elie Wiesel, “our pasts don’t become someone else’s future.”

© Judith Barr, 2016

*http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1986/wiesel-lecture.html

**http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/07/14/484558040/forgetting-isnt-healing-lessons-from-elie-wiesel

*** George Santayana The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense. Scribner’s, 1905

The Election Campaign and The Mob Mentality

As the campaign for the Presidency has unfolded in our country over the past year, the feeding and fomenting of the mob mentality has been evident. To this date – as I write this article – never more evident than during the Republican Convention the night Chris Christie spoke. His “prosecuting” Hillary Clinton in his speech triggered an ugliness in the crowd, a destructiveness in the crowd, that resulted, right there in convention hall, with the crowd yelling “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

That’s what we saw in the convention hall. But who knows what dire consequences and acting out will occur in other areas of our country and world as a result of Christie’s feeding the fire of violence and destruction.

We need to wake up to this dynamic in the campaign and in our world. We need to look at what part we play in this, each of us … no matter what “side” we are on. We need to ask, “What within me has been triggered to cause me to become part of feeding a mob? To become part of a mob?” We are all affected disastrously by the mob mentality, even if it doesn’t appear so in the moment.

As a result of the mob mentality showing itself so “out there” right in front of us in this campaign, I am re-posting an article from a previous election. We may see some things differently in hindsight, but the causes and effects of the mob mentality stay the same.

****

The conventions are over, there’s a bit of distance from them, and as long as you aren’t someplace where a candidate is “stomping” right now … hopefully you can take a moment to breathe and a moment to be objective.

One of the scary and dangerous things about the election campaigns is the phenomenon of the mob mentality. People get caught up on a wave of energy and feeling … exactly the wave the campaigner intends them to get caught up on … and carried away to exactly the place the campaigner intends. In the midst of this mob dynamic, people stop thinking for themselves, and allow the campaigners to think for them. And allow the campaigners to get them, the people, to think whatever the campaigners want them to think. Carried away on the wave, people disconnect from their own moral compass and their true feelings and instincts, and can no longer sense when a red flag is raised or an alarm bell is ringing. They are so carried away, they cannot even tell when there is danger afoot, let alone respond.

This is one of the things that was of such deep concern during the conventions. The speakers were whipping up the crowd, one by one, building to a crescendo that they hoped would carry people, unwittingly, into their camp. If a convention was for the party you are not part of, it might have been very scary to you to watch that … whether you could name it or not. If a convention was for the party you are part of, it might have been very exciting for you to watch that … whether you could name it or not, and whether you could discern that the same thing was going on in each convention or not. Maybe it just felt less scary to you with the party that believes what you believe. But it’s not less scary really. For in either case, the people in the crowd have suspended their own good sense, thinking, awareness, instinct … and, consciously or not, have said ‘yes’ to being carried away.

Do you like a roller coaster? If so, it’s like you have said “Yes I’ll go on this roller coaster ride … never mind the consequences! Never mind the danger!”

But what happens when you find out the consequences of your having suspended your own thinking? Then what happens? Then do you realize that by saying “yes” to being part of the mob dynamic … You have contributed to the mob? You have fed the mob energy? You have added to the mob frenzy? You have been part of actions taken and actions in process that you never intended to have happen? And that you will not now be able to stop? You have been part of things that you now regret. Or if not now, at some point you will regret?

This can happen on a micro level, like in a family, or on a macro level, like in a society. This can happen to you, too … even if you believe it can’t. Many of us believe we’re immune to this. But honestly, who amongst us is absolutely, perfectly conscious?

Let’s look at an example of the micro-level*: Many years ago a very new friend of mine married someone she’d known since childhood. They had been friends, and their families had been friends for years. I was invited to the wedding and attended. I was also very uncomfortable. Something felt “off” to me about this “match made in heaven.” Some years later, my friend and I were walking, and she said she was getting divorced. We talked about what was going on, how she and her husband came to that decision, and how she felt. And then I told her I had been concerned from the beginning but hadn’t felt it my place to say anything since our friendship was so very new. With tears in her eyes she turned to me and said she wished I had said something. She shared that the families were so excited about the two of them getting married that she got carried away on the wave of the families’ excitement. She suspended her thinking, her real feelings, her instinct and let the mob mentality, so to speak, carry her someplace that wasn’t really good or true for her to go.

This kind of thing happens all the time on a micro level … in families, among siblings, among friends, and so forth. Often with painful, sometimes even truly destructive consequences. Think, for example of a family bullying one of the children in the family.

Now let’s look at an example of the macro level: In the book The Oxbow Incident, three innocent men are hanged by a would-be posse. Although one amongst them tries to save them, being part of the mob carries the others away from truth and justice. Only after the hangings have taken place, does the mob discover that their supposed justification for suspecting and killing the three men had never occurred at all. A truly serious, destructive consequence of getting caught up and carried away by the mob mentality.

Or let’s look at how the charisma of Adolph Hitler – which could have been used for great good – was misused and abused to carry people on a wave to their worst instincts and intentions … without their even realizing it. And how the mob mentality turned into a riot mentality that caused the deaths of millions of innocent people, the torture of millions more, and destruction beyond comprehension. Yet we do need to comprehend that kind of destruction that results from being carried on the wave of the mob mentality.

One final macro example: As I write this article, it has been revealed that there have been riots in two Middle Eastern cities at the embassies of the United States. The cause: Someone in the U.S. put an amateur movie clip and trailer on the internet making fun of Allah. The effect: People in the Middle East who believe in Allah saw the movie and began to protest. The protest (influenced and manipulated by some or not) turned into a mob and then a riot. At least four United States embassy people have been reported killed (so far). This shows that the riot mentality can take place in person, via television or radio, and via the internet, as well.

As you prepare to vote in the election on November 8th… I urge you to search your mind, your heart, your soul. I urge you to explore within yourself … Have I been caught up on a wave of mob mentality? Have I been vulnerable in some way unconsciously to allowing myself to be carried onto such a wave? Have I suspended my own thinking? My own true feelings? My own best instincts? If so, how did that happen? If so, how do I get myself off that wave and find a grounded place from which to re-explore? How do I discover what it was in me that caused me to let go of myself and join the wave? What do I need to heal in order to prevent that in the future?

As you and we move toward the election, and a very important election it is … Whatever information you gather in the outer world, commit to find the truth. But most important of all … heal within yourself the place where you could be caught up on a wave of mob mentality, completely disconnected from truth. Completely disconnected from who you really are.

*I have full and generous permission from my friend to tell her story in its essence, in the service of helping us not be part of the mob mentality during this election process … or any time.

NOTE: Please pass this on to others you know and to places that support consciousness and truth. This is crucial for our wellbeing individually, as a society, and as a world.

© Judith Barr, 2012, 2016

THE TRUTH ABOUT FREEDOM …

It’s the day after Independence Day and we Americans think we’re so free.
It’s the day after an election and the winners think they’re free.
It’s the day after the Brexit vote and too many British people think they’re now free.
It’s the day after a terrorist attack and the attackers think they’re free.
It’s the day after a major Supreme or High Court case and the winners think they’re free.
It’s the day after a divorce, and the party who wanted the divorce thinks s/he’s free.
It’s the day after graduation – high school or college – and the graduates think they’re free.
It’s the day after someone’s finished therapy to get rid of symptoms, and the person thinks s/he’s free … and the therapist thinks so, too.

But who can be truly free when beneath our awareness we are unconsciously compelled to repeat the same patterns we have lived out all our lives up till now? Who can be truly free when this is going on deep down within us … even if we think we’re free? Even if we believe we’re free. Even if we would swear we’re free. Even if we would try to prove to you and even more, to ourselves, that we’re free. Even if everyone around us would agree that we’re free.

On the individual level … imagine a child who experiences some kind of trauma – it could be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, or even the grief of losing a parent to death, to a sickness, or to a divorce. The pain of any one of those experiences will be unbearable for the child, who will grow up to, without even realizing it … re-enact one side or the other of the same or similar experiences again and again. If she was physically abused as a child, she may choose a partner, boss, or even raise a child who physically abuses her; or she may enter a relationship with a partner whom she physically abuses and have children she physically abuses. If he was sexually abused in his youth, he may, without realizing why, be drawn to partners who will sexually abuse him; or he may become the sexual abuser – the harasser, the molester, the rapist of others – his partner, children in his life, strangers old and young. This will continue on and on until someone stops him and makes it impossible for him to act it out. But stopping him will not heal it so that he would not act it out again. And he will continue to act it out in limitless ways, from the very subtle to the most obvious, undeniable ways.

Children who are deeply wounded will somehow repeat their wounding experience. They may do it by themselves. They may do it to others. They may even, in search for “family” and “connection,” join groups and do it with others.

So at the heart of it, these re-enactments will continue until the child-now-adult finally chooses to heal it to the root. To do the inner work to end the compulsive repetition of the wounding. To end a way of life in which s/he tries to stop the wounding by wounding again – wounding oneself, wounding others, or both. To end a way of life in which s/he tries to hold the early memories and feelings at bay, by re-enacting them – wounding self and other over and over again. By wounding people, animals, the environment … as an escape from the original pain and the layers and layers of pain created again and again with every cycle of re-enactment.  

Again, these re-enactments will continue till the adult person chooses to heal it to the root. And then each step in the healing process begins to help that person end the re-enactments. Maybe he’ll see the red flags that he couldn’t see before. Maybe she’ll be able to use the new red flags she sees to help her not get into a relationship with someone she’s attracted to (from the wounding) but isn’t good for her. Maybe he’ll be able to tolerate the feelings that emerge when he does something different to take care of himself, instead of just repeating the same old things. Maybe she’ll even be able to feel the feelings and utilize them to help in the healing of the early trauma.

One thing’s for sure … recreating the wounding in ourselves or others will not stop the wounding. It will only perpetuate it. It will only feed it. For example, if she physically abuses her partner, it will likely be part of a re-enactment for the partner, repeating in some way wounds from his/her childhood, and feeding the cycle once again. Or, if she physically abuses her children, they will likely take that trauma into their beings and then re-enact it in their lives … again either exposing themselves to abuse over and over again, or ending up abusing others repeatedly.

This doesn’t occur only on the individual and family level. It occurs communally, too. The individual re-enactments contribute to and even create the communal re-enactments. And unless we understand this, we will not only continue the individual re-enactments, but also the communal re-enactments.

On the national level … imagine a country that created itself by its people fighting against their original country, leaving it and moving away. Then fighting their old country in their new country. Fighting and killing to be free. And then fighting and killing the natives in whose country they built their own new country. Fighting against and killing to be free and to have power is a basic underlying dynamic in this new country. Of course, it probably was already an underlying dynamic in the original home country, too.

At any rate, the dynamic will be there under the surface, even when it’s not actively being carried out. Somewhere within the heart of the entity of the new country, and within her citizens, as well, the fighting against and killing to be free dynamic will be alive, simmering, and waiting to bubble up and get played out all over again in the outer world.

Maybe the fighting that erupts into action will be against other countries. Maybe it will be against the natives of the new country. Maybe it will be against groups of the new country’s citizens. Maybe the fighting will start silently. Maybe in words. Maybe in actions, like taking groups of people hostage. Perhaps in actions like violence against them. Maybe in actions like blocking them out of the new country. Whatever action … this country and its citizens, once under the illusion that they were free, are now compulsively in the process of acting out their original wounds. The ones that were part of how they came here. The ones that were part of the country they lived in before. The ones that were part of the old country generations ago. And also, the ones that were part of the individual citizens’ minds, bodies, hearts, and souls for generations back in time.

And the country and its citizens, under the illusion of freedom – or perhaps under the guise of freedom – will continue to re-enact and act out the underlying dynamic in limitless ways, from the very subtle to the most flagrant, manifest ways of fighting against and killing to be free.

This doesn’t occur only on the national level. It occurs globally, too. The individual and national re-enactments contribute to and even feed the global re-enactments. And then the global re-enactments in turn feed the individual and national ones. It’s a vicious cycle. And unless we understand this, we will not only continue the individual re-enactments and the national re-enactments, but also the global re-enactments … and the vicious cycle, too.

On the global level … imagine the whole world is struggling with the same experience – re-enacting again and again what was once acted out and ended, but never really healed. World War II, for example, was an atrocious acting out of not only Hitler’s childhood waking nightmares, but those of other German children, too, who also had been horribly abused under the cultural guise of child rearing. And for each country and each people who became part of that torturous world war experience, it in itself was a re-enactment of earlier wounds. And although the horrifying cruelty and destructiveness needed to be stopped … each effort to stop the war, win the war, end the war was part of that re-enactment. But without healing what caused the war from the inside out, individually and culturally, we were bound to see new repetitions of the original wounding.

Even Churchill’s intention to have the European Union created to make sure European countries would never fight against each other again … wasn’t enough. As we can see, countries could always leave the union. But that isn’t the reason it wasn’t enough. The reason is – the healing on the inside didn’t happen. The healing of the root cause for each person and each country to be part of that re-enactment was not healed.

There have been many people, like Hitler, who became the leaders of their country as part of their own personal re-enactments and the re-enactments of their country and its citizens. And in the process, great cruelty and destruction have been acted out. Sometimes all through the country. Sometimes all through a continent. Sometimes extending even further to other continents.

And eventually it extended all over the world in groups that are not bounded by countries, but rather exist in different bases, in different locations, and invite and feed re-enactments through the internet. Not limited by time and space.

And our response is to fight against and kill them …
“the war on” cancer, drugs, ISIS.
And our response is to respond in the outer world …
And our response is to once again call them “evil” …
And our response is once again to feel the painful impact of the terror…
But our response is once again to turn away from the inner causes.
To turn away from the inner causes within them.
To turn away from the inner causes within us.
To turn away from the truth that on both sides, these are re-enactments of childhood wounds … childhood wounds, trauma, nightmares, and terrors.
To turn away from the truth that on all sides these are re-enactments of childhood wounds, trauma, nightmares, and terrors.

On all sides what is becoming more and more unbearable today is an ongoing series of re-enactments from our childhoods and the childhoods of those before us. We may not want to see it. We may not want to know it. We may not want to feel it. But if we don’t see it, hear it, know it, understand it, feel it … we will continue to be participants in the escalating re-enactments. But we will continue to be unknowing participants. We will continue to be unconscious participants. And as a result, we will continue to be disempowered participants, preventing ourselves from helping ourselves in the healing – our own individual healing, our national healing, our global healing.

Who can be truly free when beneath our awareness we are unconsciously compelled to repeat the same patterns we have lived out all our lives up till now? Who can be truly free if we refuse to become aware and conscious of what we’re doing beneath the surface?

We can’t stop the wounding by repeating it.
We can’t stop the wounding by wounding.
We can only stop the wounding by healing from the inside out …
And to the root.

And this is the hope –
We can stop the wounding by healing from the inside out …
And to the root.

It will take time.
It will take work.
It will take our investment.
A better investment than staying in the vicious cycle and watching the escalation.
And it will take our commitment.
A better commitment than the unconscious commitment to stay in the vicious cycle and feed the escalation.

But it is possible.
We can stop the wounding by healing from the inside out …
And to the root.
This is the hope.

© Judith Barr, 2016

 

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

No matter where you are in your life, whether you feel “free” or not in your own personal circumstances… no matter what area of the world you call home, whether you’re celebrating a “freedom” achieved long ago or a “freedom” recently decided upon … in order to achieve true, lasting freedom, we all need to do the inner work needed to explore and heal our own inner wounds.

As we collectively and individually contemplate what it means to be free, commit to explore your own inner “freedom.” What wounds are still alive within you that prevent you from teasing yourself free from re-enacting destructive or self-destructive patterns from your own past? And how do those wounds affect not only your own life, but also the life of your family, your community, your world?

Many of our wounds are so deep within, so unconscious, so delicate, that we often need the help of a caring, integritous therapist – one that won’t help us settle for quick fixes, but will truly help us fully explore and heal to the root.

No matter where you are in your life, commit now to not settle for temporary, partial “freedom” in the outer world, but rather to begin or continue the journey towards true, lasting freedom. Imagine what our world would be like if everyone – leaders and citizens – made this commitment!

NEEDED NOW MORE THAN EVER …
UPDATED THIRD EDITION OF POWER ABUSED, POWER HEALED

Recently, I shared the following news with subscribers on my mailing list. I now feel called to share this announcement with all those who read the newsletters themselves in my blog. It is my prayer that my book helps all of us to bring healing not only into our own lives, families, and communities, but also into our whole world.

When I first published my book, Power Abused, Power Healed, nine years ago, I knew that the hopeful, healing message in its pages was so needed in our world – a world rife with abuses of power in all arenas of life.

In that time, so many more abuses have come out into the open, calling for us to begin the journey – or go deeper into the journey – to heal misuse and abuse of power from the inside out. In response to this urgent call, I am issuing an updated third edition of Power Abused, Power Healed.

Sylvia Brinton Perera, Jungian analyst, author of Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women, said this upon reading Power Abused, Power Healed:

“Using Hans Andersen’s fairy tale about the emperor whose vanity lands him naked on parade, Judith Barr explores the stories of many kinds of power. While her accounts are mainly focused on power abuse in families and the helping professions, we know only too well how the same dynamics surround us. In politics, in the corporate world, in church institutions, even in our news sources, we can see many forms of abuse that distort reality, silence questioning, crush empathy, and build empires based on greed, power, and righteous self-aggrandizement. Because Judith Barr’s parables are enjoyable and deceptively simple, they help to raise consciousness in non-threatening ways. They creep under our defenses to wake us up. Thus they can be used by parents, family therapists, pastoral counselors, and group leaders in their work. They can also be used for self-reflection, for it is not hard to find aspects of ourselves mirrored in them.

I would also like to see this book as mandatory reading for politicians and CEOs. Everyone claiming authority needs to know the dire consequences to self and to others of the power shadow. When we are not aware, we may find ourselves parading our grandeur and goodness as foolishly as the naked emperor, or as cruelly as any tyrant.”

While most of the specific stories in Power Abused, Power Healed are about individuals, the larger context of the wrap around story is that of an empire – government, politics, and a whole citizenry – and about an emperor who is the head of government – even a dictator – who threatens anyone who doesn’t see the clothes. Those affected include his advisors, other government officials, and ordinary citizens. Their response mirrors a possible response of any citizenry in similar situations … a mirror that reflects much of what we see in our national and international political scene today.

To learn more, visit www.PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com, and to order your copy, visit http://judithbarr.com/shop/.

I hope you find Power Abused, Power Healed to be a valuable and inspiring resource in your healing journey, in your life, and in holding and helping to heal what’s going on in our world.

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.

An Open Letter to Morning Joe Scarborough and Your Team: The Fish Hook Dynamic!

Dear Morning Joe and your team,

You have recently been asking an important question with increasing frequency and intensity: “Why? What has been causing Donald Trump’s soaring in the polls, caucuses, and primaries?

As a depth psychotherapist, a woman, and a citizen of the United States and of our world, I cannot hear your repeated question without offering an understanding on a different and deeper level than those that have been offered from media, government, politics, historians, and the public itself.

When we connect with someone we connect with them on many levels both conscious and way beneath our conscious awareness: whether up-close-and-personal – a romantic partner, a friend, a boss, – or from afar – a spiritual leader like the Pope, a celebrity like any movie star up for an Oscar, a political figure, like the now-political-candidate Donald Trump.

The level most frequently missed by individuals and culturally is that of the wounds we experienced as children, still alive within us today. Still alive within us whether we are 20, 33, 55, 68, 89, or 106. Since we are unaware that wounded child is still alive within us, we are also unaware that wounded child is driving us in ways we can’t even imagine.

We believe we’re thinking, feeling, and acting in an adult way, while it is the young child within that is acting out in a big body. We believe we’re trying to resolve a conflict in the present moment, when unbeknownst to us, we’re trying to resolve something from long ago that is triggered in the present moment. The more we make it about today, the more we fail in finding a solution. Failing triggers us more because we cannot solve yesterday’s issues under the guise of today’s actions and interactions. Then, in the pain of the past, triggered and enmeshed with the pain of not being able to solve the present, we will likely resort to the defenses our parents used and those we, ourselves, developed, thus frantically escalating the current situation beyond all recognition because we are still driven by our unconscious reactions to painful, even traumatic experiences from long, long ago.

So, when we connect with someone else, we connect on the levels of our wounds and on the level of the child within us unconsciously and often desperately trying to resolve something today that occurred in our past. I call this the “fish hook dynamic.” One person’s wounds hook together with another’s wounds like two fish hooks hooking together. Then as the two pull to get away from the intense tug of war – within themselves and with the other in this dynamic – they are only strengthening the dynamic of the two fish hooks hooked together, pulling against each other. As the hooking intensifies and escalates, so does the trapped feeling from long ago and the thoughts and feelings from the past are more and more intensely acted out today.

Let’s look at an example of how the fish hook dynamic can work in the life of a relationship. A woman who was abandoned by her father in childhood and a man who was suffocated emotionally by his mother in childhood meet and fall in love. She, afraid of being abandoned, clings to him. He, afraid of being suffocated, distances a little more each time she clings. She feels abandoned and clings more; he feels suffocated and withdraws more. Things escalate and escalate until he leaves. They have recreated their childhood wounds unconsciously, and in the end, he has proven to himself that all women suffocate, and she has proven to herself that all men abandon … and so the vicious cycle goes, until they each do the inner healing work to truly resolve the painful wounds at their root in childhood.

This fish hook dynamic doesn’t just occur in individual lives or the life of romantic relationships. It is occurring in many ways all over the world. It is very obviously occurring in the election cycle right now. The Republican Debate this past Thursday night was such a blatant picture of what I’m describing.* Little boys in big bodies all dressed up in suits, yelling at each other, bullying each other, attacking each other as if they were in the school yard, perhaps fighting for the position of leader of the gang … all under the guise of a debate for the office of president.

I’m quite sure if we knew the histories of those little-boys-acting-as-if-they-were-grown-ups, we would know more about how they were unconsciously acting out their wounds and their young defenses against their wounds.

I’m just as sure that each supporter of the candidates has wounds that unconsciously hook together with his or her candidate’s wounds … and that have drawn them to their candidate. I would need to know more about each supporter to be specific about how that person hooks together with Donald Trump or any other candidate, for that matter. But here are some beginning hunches:

Since your question, Morning Joe, was about Donald Trump in particular, we’ll delve a bit into what we know about him in order to give some examples.

It is a known fact that Donald Trump decided he would never be made a fool.** Perhaps some of his supporters were shamed and humiliated as children and didn’t want to become fools themselves. They might project themselves onto Trump and try to help him not be made into a fool. Or they might see him as a role model, or idealized parent who’s showing them how to not become a fool, especially if nobody helped them as a child, or if the person who humiliated them was a parent. They might applaud his every move to dodge being turned into a fool. They might, most of all, applaud his making a fool of the other candidates. They might align with him to keep him – in their imagination – from turning on them and making a fool of them. They might even take permission – I call it “ripping off permission” – to act out in their own lives the way Donald is acting out in his: to act out in a big body a child’s defense against being made a fool. And then we don’t just have a candidate believing he’s being adult while acting out like a child, we have a whole “support team” doing the same.

These are just some of the possibilities. They are limitless … as limitless as the ways in which a child can be wounded. As limitless as the depths to which a child can bury his or her memories of pains and traumas and the feelings with them. As limitless as the ways in which we normalize behaviors that are defenses against the childhood trauma. As limitless as the lack of awareness of our own unconscious selves driving our lives and acting out on the stage of our lives – individually and communally.

Something mysterious is happening deep beneath the surface for Donald Trump to be surging as he is and has been for months. I’ve seen the unconscious wounds hooking together in couples, in families, in groups … and in countries, as with Hitler’s Germany.

We have no contingency plan in our political, legal, media, cultural systems for protecting our society from a presidential candidate triggering the early wounding in the citizenry. Most people don’t even realize what’s happening or that it’s happening beneath the surface. And too much of our mental health treatment has discarded teaching people about the unconscious roots of their suffering and helping them heal to those roots.

We all need to help people understand. We all need to take this seriously. It affects us every day in our personal lives. It affects us for lifetimes in our personal lives. It also affects us every day and for lifetimes in our societal lives. And this “fish hook dynamic” in the race for president, and in Donald Trump’s candidacy most obviously, will affect us for years, decades, generations to come.***

With hope …
Judith Barr

© Judith Barr 2016

* Perhaps this happens in most, if not every political debate, whether Democratic or Republican. Sometimes more subtly than others. Sometimes right out in the open.

**“I realized then and there, that if you let people treat you how they want, you’ll be made a fool. I realized then and there something I would never forget: I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/opinion/putting-donald-trump-on-the-couch.html?_r=0

*** If you want to understand more, Joe, the following links will take you to a trilogy I wrote in my blog, PoliPsych, to help people more deeply comprehend what’s happening in our world today and how each of us can help.

http://judithbarr.com/2015/11/19/grief-shock-another-tragedy-and-the-poison-is-the-medicine/

http://judithbarr.com/2015/12/05/when-are-we-going-to-heal-the-repetitive-vicious-cycle-from-the-inside-out/

http://judithbarr.com/2015/12/28/safety-from-the-inside-out/

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

As we continue on towards the election, commit to becoming very aware of your reactions to the candidates – the one you support and the ones you don’t – whenever you come across them … when you watch them debate, when they show up in the campaign ads, when you read about them in the news.

Be aware that all of us have unresolved wounds and feelings from childhood, and those feelings can color any aspect of your life – including your voting choices. What feelings do each of the candidates trigger in you? Can you trace back those feelings to your early life? Can you identify the fish hook dynamic in your own reactions?

I’m asked sometimes “Where is the hope for healing our world?” If we become aware of and understand the fish hook dynamic, we can choose to commit to explore it for ourselves and find a way to do our own individual healing. In doing so, we can all help to create lasting change for our world. That is the hope!

The Most Loving Gift

On this Valentine’s Day –
known as the day of love –
The most loving gift you can give yourself …
is to do your own inner healing work.
The most loving gift you can give your partner …
is to do your own inner healing work.
The most loving gift you can give your children …
is to do your own inner healing work.
The most loving gift you can give your friends …
is to do your own inner healing work.
The most loving gift you can give your country …
is to do your own inner healing work.
The most loving gift you can give your world …
is to do your own inner healing work.

© Judith Barr, 2016

 

How Did We Ever Let This Happen?

History repeats itself when we don’t learn from it, when we don’t grow from it, when we don’t find a way to become conscious of the real roots of it.

In the last century, there was a Holocaust birthed and carried out in Germany and all over Europe … a Holocaust which had repercussions globally that many of us worldwide are still feeling today. A child was born and raised who fed, fanned, and used the emotions of the German citizens to get them to elect him. And then once in power manipulated himself into dictatorship … a dictatorship that blamed and scapegoated entire groups of people, terrorized the citizenry that put him in power and those in other countries that hadn’t, and cruelly, inhumanly, monstrously took millions of prisoners, enslaved them in concentration camps, and devastated them mentally, emotionally, and physically.

What were Germans thinking as this was all evolving? Was anyone aware? Was anyone concerned? Did anyone see Nazi Germany coming? Was anyone wondering what they could do to prevent it? Did anyone get what was unfolding? Did anyone comprehend what was feeding it – in the child-now-dictator? Did anyone comprehend what was feeding it in the citizenry? Or what was causing it? If anyone did get it, did they understand what was at the real root of this horror and this tragedy?

*****

Six and a half years ago, I watched on television a memorial ceremony at one of those concentration camps – Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany. The speakers at the ceremony were Barack Obama, author and former prisoner in the Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald concentration camps, Elie Wiesel, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I was deeply touched, most of all by Angela Merkel. She asked important questions:

   We, the Germans, are faced with the agonizing question.
   How and why?
   How could this happen?
   How could Germany wreak such havoc in Europe and in the world?

Knowing how to respond to her questions, in a heartbeat I was moved to write to her. I shared with her how touched I was by her questions … and by her asking them publicly. For starters, I shared with her that there are those in my field of psychotherapy who are trying to help us all understand the link between politics/government and psychology. That psychoanalyst and author, Alice Miller was one of those working to help. That I was more and more addressing such connections in my country and in our world.

To help her begin to explore the depths of the answers she was seeking, I referred Chancellor Merkel to Alice Miller’s For Your Own Good – Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence, the chapter entitled, “Adolf Hitler’s Childhood: From Hidden to Manifest Horror.” I also sent her a copy of my book, Power Abused, Power Healed.

It was touching to receive a letter back from her thanking me.

For an individual to look back over personal mistakes, and over personal destructiveness, acknowledging them, taking responsibility for them, seeking to repair them … it takes a lot. It takes a lot of healing and creates a lot of healing.

For one to look back on one’s country’s most destructive mistakes and be able to ask, in effect “How did we let this happen?” takes grace, humility, awakened (or at least awakening) consciousness, connectedness, and the ability to feel. To be able to accept and respond to an answer takes, in addition, openness and willingness, and a longing for healing.

Where was that grace, humility, awakened consciousness, connectedness, and the ability to feel when Hitler’s Germany was step by step evolving into a monstrosity? Hidden beneath a country’s blindness to its own normalized violence in house after house after house.

According to Alice Miller, steeped in monstrous practices of parenting, the children of Germany were being abused under the guise of “child rearing,” a normalized national standard of discipline, not limited to Germany alone. Such cruelty, normalized in the home, spread to the culture. This led to a distorted sort of domino effect: When Adolf Hitler came into power, he himself having been mercilessly abused as a child, all the abused children still alive within the actual children, the teenagers, and the supposed adults, reflexively responded in the usual spectrum of ways abused children would respond.

Some froze; some submitted and obeyed; some colluded; some fled; some stayed close to the abuser to protect themselves; some acted out their own violent impulses as a result of their violent upbringing. Most of the society, blindly and beneath individual or communal consciousness, participated in the “march” toward Hitler’s Germany without even realizing they were doing so. Without even realizing it was happening.

Hitler’s ability to foment fear and anger and direct it toward others drew its power not just from the then-current social, political, and economic conditions in Germany, but more accurately, more deeply, more truly from the mental, emotional, and physical conditions in people’s childhoods, in their homes and families.

The havoc that was wreaked on our world was beyond words. It was not Hitler alone that caused the devastation. It was the society – Hitler and the German citizens and the government and citizens before them, and before that, and before that. It was a reflection of the monstrous abuses of children that occurred in individual homes from generation to generation. Abuses that were either kept blocked from awareness, secret, or hidden from view, or were normalized personally and culturally as a justification, finally coming into public view in Nazi Germany – as an out-picturing of what people had gone through as children and lived with inside themselves still. The holocaust discovered in Hitler’s Germany was horrifyingly and tragically real in itself, but it also gave the world a view into the alarming, frightening, heart-breaking holocaust the children experienced in their childhood homes … the children, including Hitler himself.

As many destructive events play out in our world – and as the world watches the unfolding of the presidential election here in the United States – it seems that we’re headed the same way.

For years I’ve been watching as the wounded children in our country and our world have grown up to out-picture the pain and suffering they went through as children. I’ve helped individuals and couples become aware of the anguish they’ve caused those they insist they love, in ways similar to how their own parents caused them pain when they were little. I’ve connected the dots again and again between the individual wounds and the communal/global wounds – evident at the time and continuing to come down the pike.

I’ve worked to show others this connection. Steeped in fear and denial of their own childhood wounds, the supposed grown up leaders and citizens in our world, like Hitler and the German people, have been driven by the child still alive within them, have had their young feelings fomented, have been acting out their own childhoods, and have been busy defending themselves against the needed explorations of the true causes in their childhood and the effects on their lives, the lives of their families, the life of our culture and world … now and to come.

Just as an alcoholic or a parent who abuses his/her child can be completely blind to the damage they’re causing until after they and those around them have hit bottom, so also can that happen to any country.

Angela Merkel could ask these questions after the devastation.
Whatever questions were asked before and along the way were not being asked publicly, and were not being asked in relation to the inner world of the people.
Who amongst us is asking these questions in our world today?
And who instead of asking them is acting out the roots?
Who is saying, “I wish I could change, but there’s nothing I can do about it!”
Who is freezing? Who is submitting?
Who is blind to what is occurring?
Who is closing his or her eyes and not watching?
Who is running away?
Who is lashing out and becoming a bully him/herself?

Who amongst us is truly seeking the inner answers at the root?
Who amongst us is looking at the wounding in the psyches of our children – the child still alive within each of us, and the children for generations back and for generations to come?
Who amongst us is doing the work of the healing and transformation that is needed?

History repeats itself when we don’t learn from it, when we don’t grow from it, when we don’t find a way to become conscious of the real roots of it. It repeats itself when we don’t find the real roots of it personally, individually, familially. And it repeats itself when we don’t find the real roots communally, nationally, and globally.

Yet there are all sorts of signs that we aren’t finding the real roots.
And that we aren’t asking the questions to lead us to the real roots.
And that we aren’t working to heal and transform ourselves at the real roots.

We wouldn’t be re-enacting the same things again and again if we were.

If people did their own work on their relationships with power, we would be able to have the clarity to elect leaders who truly represent our best interests personally and communally, instead of transferring our young feelings onto candidates; instead of colluding with the abuse of power in the electoral process; instead of choosing leaders from our wounded selves.

If people did their young inner work, prejudice would be on its way to deep healing; fear of the other, blaming the other, scapegoating of the other would not be acted out; would less and less exist within the individual psyche; when it did, would be worked with to heal it more to the root; and would exist less and less in the communal psyche as a result.

If people did their work with misogyny, rooted in their perhaps-unconscious hatred and fear of mommy, and their desire to have power over the one person who had the most power over them … there would be no more war on women, no more attempts to control women no more attempts to own women, no more attempts to have power over women. And if women themselves did their work with their own bodies and psyches, their own wombs, their own experiences with menstruation, birth, and menopause … they would no longer collude with the effort to control them and no longer tolerate being controlled – body, mind, heart, and soul.

If people did their own inner healing work with the root of their relationship with money – wealthy people and poor alike – they would pull their own money wounding out of the world’s wounded economy and support others to do the same – creating the space for healing economies.

If people did their own inner healing work with the abuses they experienced as children – both the right out in the open abuses and the more subtle, not so tangible abuses – our country would no longer pander in its laws and other ways to parents abusing their children, to partners abusing each other.

If people did the inner healing work to be able to feel their feelings, long buried from childhood … they would be able to discern which feelings are for healing from the past and which ones are for acting on today. As a result, no bully or dictator in the making could foment their feelings for his or her own use.

If people did their inner healing work from their own ancient past, there would be no haunting pull drawing people to want to take the country or the world back to “the way it once was.”

If people did their own inner healing work with power and powerlessness, the misuse and abuse of power would not be so rampant in our world … and when it came into view, there would be people who could help to heal it at its root.

Without doing our work, our world is headed toward the same kinds of horrors and tragedies as Germany faced … the same kinds of atrocities experienced by our children and the same kinds of atrocities acted out on our world stage.

Actually we’ve done many of them already … under the guise of politics, under the guise of government, under the guise of democracy, under the guise of freedom of speech, under the guise of powerful beloved leaders, under the guise of defense, under the guise of being civilized …

Who is looking at the wounding that caused what we’ve already reenacted?
Who is looking at the wounding that will cause further escalations?
Who is looking at the wounding of leaders, supporters, the media, and concerned citizens, especially in this year of the U.S. presidential race and election?

If we don’t look at the wounding of our children, the wounding within us, the wounding that spreads from generation to generation, the wounding that becomes part of our very culture … we could end up acting out on our world’s stage scenarios like those the people of Germany co-created with Hitler. We could end up with a country in which too many people join with a candidate out of their own wounding and help wreak havoc all over the world that mirrors the havoc they experienced in their childhood homes.

I know what I’m saying is scary. I know it is tempting to push it away. But pushing it away will only help to create anew the nightmare we need to dissolve and heal. The real hope is in welcoming the truth of it, holding it with an open welcoming heart, and knowing that this truth and the healing work that can come of it will set us free, individually and communally, in a way that nothing else can.

© Judith Barr, 2016

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

As we in the U.S. near our presidential election, and as so many events play out on the world stage, we all need to look not only at the actions of others outside ourselves, but even more importantly … we need to look inside ourselves. Each and every one of us needs to explore and heal those wounds within that allow us to tolerate, collude with, and even perpetrate abuses of power in our world.

This election year – and every year – make the commitment to explore and heal your own inner wounds. Look for the ways in which you subtly or blatantly collude with abuses in your families, communities, nations and world.

When you find yourself allowing or fostering a form of abuse, explore within. For example, when you see a candidate slinging mud at an opponent, how do you feel? What does that mudslinging trigger in you? Can you trace that feeling back in your life … to your own childhood experience? To help you truly heal those feelings, and the experiences out of which they emerged, you may need to find a compassionate, healing professional … one who has integrity, one who does his/her own inner healing work, one who can help you heal to the root.

Imagine if all the leaders and all the citizens in our world did their own inner work to heal their wounding! Imagine how different our world would be!