INSTEAD OF FORCE, WHAT ABOUT MAGIC?

In a number of days, I will begin leading a six-day intensive
with participants who are deeply committed to their healing and growth.
Over time, they have come to know there are depths within them
they didn’t know before,
and that as they meet themselves in their own depths,
they will have the opportunity to discover or re-discover
traumas they experienced long, long ago,
feelings they buried in the midst of the trauma,
thoughts, decisions, behaviors, physical responses, and plans (conscious and unconscious)
for how they would relate to others and life itself.

They will have the opportunity to find where they are stuck within
in their own healing and their own development.
In a world where so much is attempted by force,
they will get to experience the reality of healing.
In a world where so much seeking is done in the outer world,
they will have a chance to search for themselves in their inner world.
In a world where so many attempt to accomplish in the outer world,
they will have the chance to open into their inner world
to make felt but unseen changes within
from which something new will be birthed inside,
and something new will be created from the inside out.
In a world where so much seeking to connect with the Divine
is done through prayer,
they will have the opportunity to dissolve within their very selves,
the blocks between them and the Divine.

They will meet within themselves
the light and the dark
and go through the gateway of each.
They will meet what they experienced long, long ago;
they will meet their involuntary responses to their ancient experiences;
and they will meet the defenses they created in response –
once protections for the child they were,
now, if acted out, destructive for themselves and perhaps others.

They will do this safely,
and purposefully for healing,
and at their own organic rhythm and pace.

They will do this for themselves.
They will do this for those they hold dear.
They will do this for our world.
For every piece of work we do during this intensive
will have a healing effect on us all.
There is a magical mystery in this healing work
that changes things inside and out.

I am so thankful for these people committed to healing to the root …
for themselves …
for all of us.

© Judith Barr, 2016

A Call to Healing in the Wake of Violence

A few days ago, there was violence at political rallies for Donald Trump. It was disturbing and heartbreaking to watch.

As we become aware of violent events – in the political arena and in any area of our world – we need to also become aware of an important truth: Violence begins within each of us.

There is a current of violence within each of us that we have the potential to act out on. That current can be provoked, triggered, fed, by anyone and anything. Sure as it’s sunny in the day and dark in the night, we are all vulnerable to that current being triggered. It may be triggered by our dreams at night, by our memories during the day. It may be evoked by something we’re aware of – like an interaction with someone close to us – or by something we’re not aware of at all. It may be evoked by our transferring onto a person or situation in today’s world deep experiences we had long ago when we were children. It may be triggered by someone who has no intention whatsoever for us to be triggered. And it may be triggered by someone who definitely has an intention to trigger us and get us stirred up … and then use us for his/her own agenda.

If we are to help heal the violence in the world, we need to heal the violence and potential for violence within us. We each need to find that current of anger, rage, violence, and work with it and through it. Each person who does this makes him/herself less vulnerable to his/her inner current of violence being triggered. And certainly less vulnerable to acting out on that inner current of violence. Every one of us who acknowledges, claims, owns the current of violence within, does not act out on that current, and, in fact, works through that part of us … helps heal the well of violence in the human community.

A clue: When we are stressed in our current day, we regress to the child within us still alive and needing healing. Different here-and-now stresses will cause us to regress to different times, ages, experiences, and moments of suffering in our childhoods. If we don’t know this, we believe we’re simply in the here-and-now suffering today. If we don’t know about our regression, we are very likely to act out with our big bodies today the little child’s feelings from long ago. We may, for example, have temper tantrums, hurting ourselves and other people

If those around us don’t know about the regressions in themselves, us, and others … they are likely to normalize the violence being acted out. They are likely to claim it is just about today because of something occurring today. They are likely to abdicate their self-responsibility in the situation. They are likely deny their part in the violence erupting. They are likely to refuse to own up to how they provoked it, triggered it, used it … even though it’s clear as day to others.

If we are to help heal the violence in the world, we need to heal the violence and potential for violence within us.

I have written about healing violence many times in my blog in the hopes that my posts will inspire us all to commit to heal violence from the inside out. You can find many of my past posts about the true roots of violence and how we can all help to heal it here: https://polipsych101.wordpress.com/tag/violence/.

“Why aren’t our efforts to end the violence working?

“Very simply, our efforts to end the violence aren’t working because we are doing things that don’t work, can’t work, and often include violence within them. For example, punishment for violence doesn’t work. Laws outlawing violence and then punishing it don’t work. Have they ever really worked? Look at our world today before you even attempt to answer that question.

“Gun control – although it may prevent guns from being used for violence in some cases – won’t work to end the violence. Someone who is defending against their pain with striking out will just find another way to strike out. And praying for violence to end – although it may be a useful, even necessary help toward ending the violence – will not work all by itself to end violence in our world. And though it may help on some deep level, some people who pray don’t commit violence (even though they may have it within them as an escape hatch), and some people who pray also commit violence. That may seem like a contradiction, but we human beings are filled with contradictions, aren’t we?”*

We say and maybe even believe that we don’t want violence … that we don’t contribute to violence … that we don’t co-create violence. We say and maybe we’re even sure –  in our own minds – that others have a violent current but we don’t. And we rip off permission to not honestly acknowledge the violence within us and its roots in the child within. And yet here is the violence right in the midst of us. This is a perfect example of the poison-is-the-medicine dynamic I wrote about in November. **

“We can attempt to end violence from the outside in …
And fail.
Or we can commit to heal violence from the inside out, to the root,
and over time succeed.” ***

Right now, we are failing.

It is my hope that my work will help you in your own healing journey, and that together we can help heal the violence so prevalent in our world today.

Blessings,
Judith

© Judith Barr, 2015.

* From my home study course Violence: Finding And Healing The Roots from the Inside Out, © Judith Barr, 2013, page 13.

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

*** Adapted from the opening quote in my home study course Healing Bullying to The Root: A Unique Approach to A Painful Epidemic, © Judith Barr, 2013, page 2.

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!

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!

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

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

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

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

Introduction to escape hatches

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

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

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

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

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

What is an escape hatch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does an escape hatch work in our world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2008, 2015, Judith Barr.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Way to Wound Children Under A Guise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can hardly believe it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr 2014

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

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

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

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

“Just Hazing”? “Just Children”? Or Part of the Fabric of Our Society That We Deny?

This week, I turned on the T.V. to get a brief update on something, and was amazed, in the couple minutes I had to watch, to see in a nutshell before my very eyes . . . something I’ve been talking and writing about for years.

On a CNN program two men involved in sports turned a blind eye to bullying by discounting the contexts in which it occurred. One of the guests said that what was being discussed wasn’t bullying, but rather just “hazing,” which all members of a team experience.

If you really examine ‘hazing,” it is a sanctioned outlet for violence in certain sub-cultures. It’s a permission to veterans and upper classmen and women to abuse new members of a club, a fraternity or sorority, a team, a unit in the military . . . or even a family. It’s done under the guise of tradition or “how things are.”  The talk is that it toughens the newbies up, making them immune to it until they become part of the herd and can do it themselves; by making sure each new member becomes a bully, it creates a culture of bullying. And it contributes to the unconscious herd mentality, which is so destructive in our world.  We’ve seen it in many destructive events in our world – the Inquisition, Nazi Germany, many of the school bullying tragedies of the past decade.  One of the most shocking and consciousness-raising movies that shows this herd mentality and its disastrous consequences is the classic Henry Fonda movie “The Ox-Bow Incident.”

The other guest in the interview said that his daughter told him she didn’t understand why something was being called bullying because she thought bullying was something in elementary school or amongst children her age. In both of these cases, there seemed to be a growing consensus not only between the guests, but among the guests and anchors alike. A consensus to the effect that bullying was just a kids’ thing and hazing was just a bonding experience.

But what was actually occurring was a perfect example of normalizing in society. Something that was actually bullying was made to seem so normal that it soon became excluded from the category of bullying. That way, supposedly nobody had to experience the pain of the bullying.

That way supposedly nobody had to be accountable for the bullying. That way there was a public precedent set for excluding locker room hazing and adult bullying from the vast experience of bullying in our world.

Just as “Boys will be boys” is simply a way to minimize, discount, and normalize violence by males when they abuse others  . . . “Bullying is a child’s activity” is a way to dismiss, disregard, and make regular the adult activities that actually are bullying but people don’t want to recognize as such.

Besides, if children bully each other . . . where do they learn it? They learn it from the adults or older children in their lives.  And where do the older children learn bullying?  From the adults in their lives. The truth is . . . there is bullying in every arena of our world and at every age from the nursery well into our senior years. It is a form of violence that has been normalized in all sorts of ways, feeding violence and causing it to grow until it’s woven into the very fabric of the life of our world.

It can’t just be legislated away. It can’t just be educated away. Although both legislation and education are steps in the process, we all need to recognize bullying – and all forms of violence – when we witness or carry them out.  We need to recognize it, name it, hold people accountable for it – ourselves included – and explore the roots of it in our personal lives. Who bullied us when we were children?  Who was violent with us in our early years?  And how did that create bullying as a viable “weapon” in our own actions and lives?

Why don’t we explore this? A crucial question. We repress our own early experiences. We deny those painful happenings. We defend against going back to those memories . . . all because we do not want to feel the pain from our young lives, the pain still alive within our psyches as adults. But our defense against our own pain ends up creating pain for ourselves and others in our world. It perpetuates the normalization of bullying. It breeds bullying in our inner worlds and our outer worlds alike.  People who have been bullied and victimized by violence may act that out in their outer worlds, but they also usually act that out within themselves – sometimes invisibly and inaudibly — bullying and shaming themselves, and sometimes acting violently toward themselves in ways others can witness.

Again, our defense against our own pain feeds the growth of violence in our society. This appears to make violence ok amongst us.  It appears to make violence acceptable. It appears to give permission for bullying and violence all over our world. And others, both consciously and unconsciously, take that apparent permission and use it for their own purposes – in the end, to defend themselves against their own pain in the face of bullying and violence . . . not just current but even more long, long ago.

We’re coming up on the first anniversary of the heartbreaking tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. The number of violent tragedies has grown since that time. Still more people have used bullying and other forms of violence in an attempt to handle their problems and defend against their pain. People both in their private lives – like family – and public lives – like the entertainment and political worlds.

When will we finally have the awareness, the courage, the help, and the commitment to truly heal bullying and violence in our lives and our world?  When will we finally find healthy and truly healing ways to feel and work through our pain . . . without harming ourselves, others, and our world?

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

We all play a part in normalizing and feeding bullying in our world . . . and we all can take steps to help in its healing. As you go about your daily life . . .

*Recognize bullying when you see it. Don’t normalize it within.
*Name it aloud – don’t be silent about it. Don’t normalize it in the outer world either.
*Hold the person bullying accountable, yourself included. Don’t make it appear it’s acceptable to you, or that you give your active or passive permission for it.
*Do all this in a way that is not bullying and not violent.
*Utilize these steps to help others become aware of bullying in their world. . . and to stop normalize bullying in their world.
*Find the help you need to work through bullying.
*Do your own inner work to find the bullying in your early life . . . and to heal to the root.

As part of my effort to help in the healing of bullying in our world, I offer an in-depth talk on the roots and healing of bullying, live or via teleconference or web conference for any individual, group, or organization that feels called to sponsor this event. If you know of any venue that would welcome this talk, please feel free to email me to learn more.

Together, we can help “un-normalize” bullying and violence in our world . . . and truly heal the violent currents that we often try to deny or ignore in our society.

© Judith Barr, 2013

Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely . . . But Is It Really the Power That Corrupts?

The well-known statement “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is attributed to Lord Acton, an English Catholic politician, writer, and historian in the1800’s. This statement has been made again and again over time since then. The media of our century uses it quite frequently . . . especially nowadays. And many believe it. But actually, there’s much more under the surface we need to take into account.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a blanket statement that doesn’t give responsibility to anyone for misusing and abusing power. It is a statement that doesn’t hold anyone accountable for misusing and abusing power. It makes the power itself responsible and accountable. Not the person. No wonder we’re in the fix we’re in.

It is not power itself that corrupts. It is the people who use the power that corrupt . . . by misusing and abusing the power they have.

Whether they are the president of a country, the CEO of a business, the religious or spiritual leader in a house of worship, the teacher in a classroom, the doctor in a hospital, the parent in a family, the driver behind the wheel in a car on a road . . . people utilize their power – both consciously and unconsciously – in relation to how power was used with them when they were tiny, vulnerable children. How power was used with them often even before they had words to think about or talk about it with. How power was used perhaps so painfully, perhaps so brutally, that they buried the memory of it and the feeling of it, and then start acting it out when they become adults, if not sooner. They act it out without realizing they are perpetuating the abuse of power that they experienced, whether they remember it or not.

One example on the more subtle side might be Cindy’s experience as a child. Her parents, older siblings, and extended family members all ridiculed and humiliated her with their words, meaning, and intention, while using the guise of a loving tone to hide their abuse. Again, under the guise of fake lovingness, they would tell her things like:

“Your crying is the worst sound I’ve ever heard. Shut your mouth.”

“You’re a bad girl for keeping mommy and daddy awake all night.”

“You’re a little monster. You’d eat everything in sight if you could.”

“What an ugly little girl you are. Why can’t you have blond hair and blue eyes like me?”

All of the family members, without realizing it, did to Cindy what was done to them as children.

Or another example . . . Jimmy was a scared little baby. The doctor could see that every time she picked him up, put him down on the examining table, talked to him, touched him. But the doctor couldn’t understand why Jimmy was so scared. His parents, Jim Sr. and Molly, seemed so loving when they were in the office.

But what the doctor couldn’t see was this: At home, Jim Sr. was yelling at Jimmy every time he started crying. The father was yelling and handling Jimmy roughly. Jimmy couldn’t stop crying, and his father’s response to him made him cry all the more. In reaction to the increased volume, intensity and fear in his crying, Jim Sr. would leave the room, slam the door behind him, and start yelling at Molly: “Get your son to shut up!”

Jimmy was just a baby. He didn’t know what was happening. He was completely unable to understand that his father was triggered by his little baby crying. That Jim Sr. had had his own frightening experiences in his infancy, experiences that had been deeply buried and he didn’t even know were there. That his father’s father had been triggered by Jim Sr.’s little baby’s crying and had treated him just like Jimmy’s father was treating Jimmy. And what’s more . . . Jim Sr.’s father didn’t know what was happening either. He was completely unaware that his yelling, roughness, and slamming doors were his own efforts to defend himself from his own early memories and feelings.

In addition, the doctor couldn’t see that a similar thing was occurring with Jimmy’s mother. And Molly couldn’t see it either. Nor could baby Jimmy.  Molly was triggered by Jimmy’s crying and by Jim Sr.’s response.  Molly herself as a baby had cried and cried in fear because of her own father’s violent responses to her crying. And because her mother had shrunk in fear in response to the violent behavior of her husband.  All of this was buried in Molly, even beneath her awareness.

But here they all were . . . baby Jimmy suffering from his parents’ acting out of what they had experienced as babies, without their remembering it, without their having any connection to the feelings they had at that young age. Yet inflicting all of their own wounding on their baby.

This is an explicit picture of people misusing and abusing their power…without even realizing it. It is also an explicit picture of impacting someone else – the next generation – in such a way that they will do the same. It occurs all the time in our world . . . all over our world . . . passed down from one generation to the next. Our relationship with power is passed down the generational line sometimes consciously, but mostly unconsciously.

Sometimes it gets normalized. Like in Joe Sr.’s and Molly’s families. Sometimes it gets confronted, but the power of the family gets misused and abused once again, and instead of allowing the confrontation to create an opening for healing, the group turns against the person confronting . . . just like the parents turned against the baby. At times the person, perhaps like Joe Sr., is asked to become aware and accountable. He will take in his impact on someone else, maybe even say ‘I’m sorry,’ and then go on about his way – without any intention to find out what was triggered in him that caused him to abuse his power with violence – only to continue to abuse his power again and again.  He doesn’t realize it, but he is too afraid to explore the cause in him. He is too afraid to remember how he was treated as a baby. He is too afraid to feel once again what he felt as a helpless, frightened baby at the hands of his violent father and his fearful, shrinking mother – both forms of misuse of power.

This is why people continue to misuse and abuse their power. They are afraid of remembering what they have repressed deep within … the memory, the experience, the feelings from long, long ago when they were helpless. They are afraid to experience how power was used with them and what they learned, decided, and created in their own relationship with power. This fear, if not met and healed, will perpetuate the abuse of power in our world. And it will perpetuate people’s not taking responsibility for their misuse and abuse of power, and instead putting it on other people and things. On people – their children, their partners, their friends, and more. On things – on that toy a parent trips over, the milk the baby has an allergy to, even on power itself. As though it is power itself that corrupts . . . not the person’s own relationship with power.

The reason it appears to people that absolute power corrupts absolutely is that having power triggers and brings up for people a whole host of their wounds. Perhaps most of their wounds. Perhaps even all of their wounds. As you saw in the examples above, most of the time  this occurs unconsciously. Too many times people are triggered, but one way or another normalize their state of mind, heart, and behavior. Because having power, and especially absolute power, brings up our wounds … it makes parenting a prime arena for our wounding and our defenses against that wounding to be evoked. After all, parenting is the situation in which absolute power occurs most naturally … so of course, it would be the most likely place for the most triggering and the most potential for abuse. This can explain why we don’t consciously give people absolute power. No one is completely aware. No one can be completely aware. And up till now, few have been completely committed to continuously looking for and finding the places they have wounds in their relationship with power … and healing them to the root.

What happens in the individual gets carried into the family. What happens in the family gets carried out into the world . . . into every arena including the government.  If you look at the recent events in the US Congress, you see a painful example. Even the people in the media were saying things like: “Where are the grownups?” and “Why can’t they act like adults?” and “They’re acting like little children.”

My response: Yes, you’re right. They’re acting like little children because the little children they once were are still alive inside them. The members of Congress were revealing themselves, but they had no idea they were doing so. They were showing us how they were treated as children.   Perhaps some were showing us how their parents would hold the family hostage to get their own way. Perhaps others were showing more specifically how their parents had a scorched earth policy, willing to destroy everything to have what they wanted. And maybe others were showing us how one or more of their parents wouldn’t protect the family, but instead would protect themselves . . . for fear of the hostage taker turning on them and punishing them.

I’m not a gambler, but from my experience with people and their psyches and souls . . . I would bet that if we could witness what happened in the childhoods of the congress people, even the parts of their childhoods that they don’t remember . . . we would see abuses of power just like the ones the congress people themselves just acted out.

It is so clear. It is right out in the light of day for all of us to see. If we don’t see it . . . what memories and feelings are we, ourselves, defending against?  What memories and feelings that shaped our relationship with power are we hiding from ourselves?  And how do we act out our misuse and abuse of power as a result?

It is not a simple, easy, quick process to heal our relationship with power. It is not simply a mental process, but includes our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our souls. It is not a straight, linear process, but rather a serpentine path unique to our particular unfolding, our particular development, and the mystery of our particular healing journey. But if we are going to help heal the abuse of power in our world, that is what’s needed to make it possible . . . to one by one by one explore and heal our relationship with power – how it developed, what it felt like, how we’ve buried it, how we act it out, and how we could, with true healing, use our power exquisitely for magnificent good.

© Judith Barr, 2013

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

All of us have times in our lives when we have power of some kind…and in those times, it’s crucial for us to thoroughly explore our relationship with power.

As you go through your life, try to become aware of times when you have power in relation to a situation, thing, or person. How do you react when you have power? What feelings are triggered in you? Do you know when you first had feelings that were the same or similar? Try to trace that feeling as far back in your life as you can. It will enlighten you about your relationship with power and the roots of that relationship.

Now imagine you’ve been given absolute power…power over everything and everyone around you. What would you do? How do you feel at the thought of having that much power? What feelings come up in you and how intense are those feelings? Can you trace back those feelings too…back to the first time you ever felt that way?

Continue exploring . . . remember how power was used with you by everyone in your childhood — parents, other adult relatives, older siblings, other adults like doctors, clergy, teachers, coaches, babysitters, and more. This is a crucial key: how others used their power in relation to you, and how they treated you in relation to your power.

None of us is so completely aware of ourselves that we have a perfect relationship with power.  Each of us has something evoked – however consciously or unconsciously – when we have power or when we have the choice to be in power. And all of us have power in some form or other, at some time or other. What you can do in order to actively do your part: Commit today to explore and heal your relationship with power…so you may use the power you have for magnificent good!