DARKNESS FALLS

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.”  – Carl Jung

Darkness falls …
when we make a mistake.

Darkness falls …
when we experience failure.

Darkness falls …
when we fall down.

Darkness falls …
when we suffer a loss.

Darkness falls …
when we experience tragedy.

Darkness falls …
when we witness tragedy, from near or from afar.

Darkness falls …

 

Darkness falls …
when someone hurts us.

Darkness falls …
when someone scares us.

Darkness falls …
when someone lords their power over us.

Darkness falls …
when someone has a perverse disregard
for our feelings, our needs, our safety.

Darkness falls …
when we are helpless in the face of abuse.

Darkness falls …
when we are powerless in the face of cruelty.

Darkness falls …
when we try to fight abuse by responding in the outer world alone.

Darkness falls …
when we try to fight abuse by retreating into our inner world alone.

Darkness falls …

 

Darkness falls …
when we hurt someone.

Darkness falls …
when we scare someone.

Darkness falls …
when we lord our power over someone.

Darkness falls …
when we have a perverse disregard
for someone’s feelings, someone’s needs, someone’s safety.

Darkness falls …
when we are helpless in the face of our own abuse of power.

Darkness falls …
when we are powerless in the face of our own cruelty.

Darkness falls …
when we try to fight our own abuse of power by responding in the outer world alone.

Darkness falls …
when we try to fight our own abuse of power by retreating into our inner world alone.

Darkness falls …
when we don’t even acknowledge our own abuse of power and cruelty,
when we don’t even try to heal our own abuse of power and cruelty.

Darkness falls …

 

Darkness falls …
at the end of the day.

Darkness falls …
at the end of the moon’s cycle.

Darkness falls …
beginning the day after the summer solstice,
and the light only slowly begins to return
on the day of the winter solstice.

In the cycles of nature to this point …
all we had to do was wait till the darkness passed
and the light came once again.

In the cycles of our own nature it isn’t quite so easy.
We need to work with the darkness within.
We need to find the ancient wounds in the darkness within.
We need to find the suffering and trauma we experienced once
long, long ago,
and utilize that darkness to heal the darkness within.

And utilize that darkness within to heal the darkness we create
in our outer world.
And utilize the darkness within from once upon a time …
to heal and preserve the
cycles of nature that flow from dark into light and dark into light,
again and again and again.

And utilize the darkness within from once upon a time
to weave a new fabric of our inner lives and outer lives …
so that we can flow from darkness to light and darkness to light
inside and out …
without making darkness a bad thing and light a good thing …
any more than it is in the cycles of nature.

My prayer for this season of darkness
is that we work with and through the darkness within
to find the true light within us –
individually and communally.

© Judith Barr, 2016

“Grief and loss and suffering, even depression and spiritual crisis,
the dark nights of the soul
only worsen when we try to ignore or deny or avoid them.
The healing journey begins when we turn toward them and learn how to work with them.”
Jack Kornfield, Your Difficulties Are Your Path

“If we cannot face the darkness, we will not see the light.
There’s beauty in the day,
but there is healing in the night.”
Jennifer Berezan, Open It Up

“The light at the center of our inner darkness
is unlike any light in the world outside.
The only way to reach it is to go through the darkness within our very selves.”
Judith Barr

 

“We Need Mothers Who …” Mother’s Day All Over the World

Countries and cultures all over the world celebrate Mother in some way.
It may be a healthy way. It may be a distorted, ritualized, or even an unhealthy way.
Perhaps it’s the personal mother who is celebrated. Perhaps it’s the idealized mother who is celebrated. Perhaps the normalized mother. Possibly it’s the essence of Mother we need.

Our mothers have an impact on us as individuals and on us as a society … whatever society we live in. Both consciously and unconsciously, our mothers have an impact on our personal lives, and an impact on the life of our planet.

There is no perfect mother. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. If someone pretends to be perfect, she teaches her children they have to be perfect. Because they never can be perfect, she teaches her children they can never be good enough. She also teaches them there is no process in life or human relationship. The mother who is human – imperfect but a good enough mother in all the ways children most deeply need – teaches her children it is possible to make mistakes and create a repair for the mistakes they’ve made. She does that with them when she makes a mistake. She helps them do that when they make a mistake. This deepens their trust with her, with themselves, with process, and with life itself.

When have you seen that from a mother in public life? From a mother or a father in public life? It is sorely lacking. Especially in these times.

Just as important as that acknowledgment of a mistake and the repair that needs to follow, is the mother who realizes she has made a mistake out of her own wounding, acknowledges it, and gets the help to do her own inner healing work instead of continuing to act out her wounding with her children, family, and others. This deepens her own and her children’s faith in real repair – for their relationship with mother and for their ability to do the same. It is a profound and wonderful role model for everyone in her life who witnesses her in the process of healing inside and out.

When have you seen that from a mother in public life? From a mother? From a father? It is tragically lacking in our world. Especially in these times.

But … I remember a time not long ago, reading about two public figures who did acknowledge – to themselves and apparently to others – that the work they did in the world was an acting out of their defenses against their wounds. It was a good example of the possibility that we may do important work in our outer world, yet it may unconsciously be a way to hold at bay the pain of our wounding as children that is still alive in our inner world.

Gloria Steinem acknowledged that “being a social activist can be a drug that keeps you from going back and looking at yourself. You keep trying to fill up this emptiness.”* How courageous! How honest! How real! And what a model for our world. Was anybody listening? Did anybody get it? She was acknowledging out loud that she invested herself in a cause in the outer world to avoid the pain still alive in her inner world.

I once led a workshop called Conscious Activism from the Inside Out on the topic of outer activism as a defense against inner activism. As people explored how they used social and political activism to hold their inner world at bay, I was also helping them realize that it is possible to do the inner healing and also help in the outer world. And that it was of great concern how frenzied and distorted the outer activism can become as a defense against the inner. All we have to do to see an example of that is to look at the political scene in the United States today.

Betty Friedan offered an acknowledgement similar to that of Gloria Steinem in a later edition of The Feminine Mystique. She wrote about her hatred for her mother, and then admitted, “It was easier for me to start the women’s movement than it was to change my own personal life.”

These were the “mothers” of the women’s movement. Their acknowledgments don’t discount the actual good done by and through the women’s movement. But they may explain the roots of some of the harms. Here’s a perfect example of no mother being perfect. But by their taking responsibility for the deep roots of their unconscious intentions, these mothers of the women’s movement … freed themselves to do their inner healing and offered a profound model to those who came after them. Who knows how few or many of the “daughters” and “sons” of the women’s movement welcomed and utilized that model in their own lives and their own activism? This brings to the foreground the understanding that the unconscious intentions of avoiding their own inner pain contributed to the unsustainability of many of the outer successes they achieved.

For example, if each of them had first worked with the young pain of not having choices over their own minds, bodies, hearts, and souls … they would have modeled for all those who worked with them and came after them to do their own inner work and then the outer work.

How many other women have made these acknowledgments? How many men have done the same? How very different our political scene would be today if both women and men did their inner work before bringing their energies to such important arenas in our outer world!

But back to mothers … and a deep hope that more mothers – both in private life and public life – will do their own inner healing work for their own sakes, for the sake of their children, and for the sake of our world.

This is my Mother’s Day wish.

This is my Mother’s Day prayer.

© Judith Barr, 2016.

* from the synopsis for the HBO documentary, “In Her Own Words,” http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/gloria-in-her-own-words/synopsis.html

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

Whether we are mothers or not, whether we are activists or not, whether we are men or women, old or young, single or married … we all need to very carefully explore and heal the wounded currents within us that affect our lives, our relationships, our world.

This Mother’s Day, make a commitment to begin that crucial healing journey. Or to take that next big step in it. As you reflect on your own relationship with your mother – past and present – allow yourself to feel whatever arises within you … committing not to act out on those feelings but rather to feel and explore the roots of those feelings. What are the earliest feelings you can recall in relation to your mother? And … when in your here-and-now life do you feel those same feelings? About whom in your here-and-now life do you feel that same way?

When exploring, we may find we need the help of a skilled, caring therapist to truly heal many of our deepest feelings about our mothers. Even to bring into consciousness for healing feelings we can’t remember or don’t consciously connect with our relationship with mother. Commit as well to find that help when you need it.

Whether we are parents or not, we all need to do the inner work necessary to explore and heal our inner wounding…for the sake of our families, our communities, and the children in our world – and the adults they will someday become.

Safety – From the Inside Out – For The New Year and Years To Come

This is the third in my series of articles following the tragedy in Paris on November 13. The first was Grief, Shock, Another Tragedy and … the Poison is the Medicine … The second was When Are We Going to Heal the Repetitive Vicious Cycle From the Inside Out?
The article below takes us ever deeper into the cause and the solution.

Every child comes into this world needing to be safe;
needing a mother who keeps him safe,
needing a mother who keeps her safe;
needing a father who keeps him safe,
needing a father who keeps her safe;
Every child comes into this world needing to be safe;
needing at least one truly loving person
to keep him safe,
needing at least one truly loving person
to keep her safe.

When safety is missing from a child’s original home environment …
the consequences in that child’s outer world are mind-boggling;
and if the outer consequences weren’t more than enough to live with…
the consequences in that child’s inner world are almost
incomprehensibly mind-boggling and heart-boggling.

Whatever unsafety a child experiences in his or her young life
causes him to think, feel, grow, and act differently
than he would have without the unsafety.
The child’s young fear in reaction to the unsafety gets felt,
however briefly,
then reflexively buried so the child can survive.
But this innate self-protective reflex quickly changes from pure protection into defenses:
defenses against the unsafety just experienced in the outer world;
defenses against the feelings triggered by the outer unsafety;
but also defenses against the unsafety that remains
alive in the inner world;
and defenses against the feelings that remain alive in the inner world.

The child who innocently felt safe,
no longer feels safe in the outer world or the inner world.
The experience of unsafety and all the feelings that go with it
now are alive within that child …
whether right at the surface or buried deep within;
whether streaming through his self or
encapsulated and held off in the background;
whether consciously or deep beneath awareness.

The unsafety may have been blatant –
smacks on the face, beatings, rape, being thrown across the room …
hunger and famine …
experiencing or witnessing torture or the horrors of war …
Or it may have been more subtle –
being molested under the guise of caretaking,
being used under the guise of love,
being controlled under the guise of good parenting,
being humiliated under the guise of just kidding around,
or being made unsafe in any way … under the guise of safety.

That unsafety, whatever it was, still lives within the child –
that day, that week, that month, that year,
for years and years and years after…
even after the child has grown into adulthood.
That unsafety experienced in childhood
and the little child who experienced the unsafety
are still alive within the adult …
until that person has the help to heal and transform the unsafety from the inside out.

The experiences of unsafety and the defenses
against them, alive within,
create more unsafety without the child or the adult realizing it.
He may lash out and fight, firmly believing that will protect him.
She may withdraw, flee, and hide, certain that will protect her.
He may freeze in his tracks, doing nothing, sure that will protect him.
They may do any one of these things or others
because the unsafety within from long ago has been triggered,
perhaps by nothing unsafe at all in their present day outer world …
by only a misperception or misunderstanding that
sets off the inner and outer reaction to unsafety.
And if that happens,
their reaction could create unsafety in the outer world today
where none had existed.

Or there could be unsafety in the current world,
but the child still alive in the adult person –
about whom the adult is unaware –
could react to the current unsafety
with a charge, an intensity, and a rawness
far, far greater than the current unsafety warrants.

For instance,
someone switching lanes on the highway right in front of the adult
could set off the unsafety from long ago
that results in the adult pulling up too close to the car now in front,
passing the other car dangerously close,
rolling down their window and shouting obscenities,
or even pulling out a gun and shooting.
Any one of those responses would be
millions of times the warranted response –
of just feeling the fear of the moment of unsafety
when the other car pulled in so close.
And all caused by young reactions to and defenses against
unsafety from childhood.

This happens over and over again in our world…
Parents who experienced unsafety in their childhoods will somehow,
even without meaning to consciously,
even without realizing it,
create unsafety for their children.
Somehow unconsciously the child still alive within the parents,
in an effort to hold at bay their own unsafety when they were young,
will act out with their children, creating unsafety
for the next generation …
and the generation after that and the generation after that.

And it’s not limited to our homes.
This happens again and again in our world today …
in our homes –
in our schools and churches –
in our workplaces –
in our governments –
between nations and peoples of nations …
people all over our world creating unsafety
as a consequence of the unsafety they experienced as children.

Yes, there are things in the outer world we need to do to help us be safe today and in the future.
But our reactions to the unsafety in our world today
are intensified and magnified by the triggers we have to the unsafety we lived with in our childhoods …
even if we do not yet remember that unsafety;
even if we feel sure there was no unsafety;
even if that unsafety was passed down psychically
through the generations;
even if any unsafety in our childhood has been
normalized by our families;
even if any unsafety in our childhood has been
normalized by our cultures.

Yes, there are things in the outer world we need to do to help us be safe today and in the future …
but too many of the things people think we need to do will only create more unsafety
and start the cycle again.

The one most crucial thing we must do –
the one thing most people don’t know about at all –
the one thing most people deny as vital to us all …
is to do the inner healing to work through the experiences and feelings of unsafety we had as children.
Without that healing work,
we will continue to create and recreate unsafety
in a vicious cycle in our lives and in our world …
we will continue to create the poison
without using the poison as the medicine.

The original poison was the unsafety each child experienced originally.
The medicine is his or her reaction to real or perceived unsafety
in today’s world.
Using the medicine well:
using the trail of unsafety to heal unsafety –
not just in the outer world, but in the inner world, too.

The cure:
Creating safety from the inside out.

© Judith Barr, 2015

 

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

With commitment and honesty, you can search deep inside yourself to know – even if you are not yet aware –

-how you were unsafe as a child;

-how you have contributed to unsafety through the years as a consequence of the unsafety you experienced in your childhood;

and

-how you contribute to unsafety today as a consequence of the unsafety you experienced in your childhood.

With commitment and honesty, you can find a therapist with integrity and skill, who has done and continues to do his/her own work with safety/unsafety, to help you explore the issue of safety/unsafety to the root. You can work with it to the root and heal it to the root within you. And as a result … create safety from the inside out in your life, and help to create safety from the inside out in the life of our world.

If You’re Going to Be a Candidate for President – Little Children in Big Bodies, Acting Out Their Wounds on The World Stage


For Starters …

Sometimes people don’t want to look at their part in something that’s gone awry in their lives or the life of our world, because they don’t want to have aspects of themselves considered pathological that they and many others normalize or even idealize. They don’t want to think of themselves, or have anyone else think of them, as “mentally ill.” What if we didn’t label people as “mentally ill”? What if we didn’t label people as “pathological”? What if we simply understand that we all have wounds from our childhood and probably beyond? I don’t think of our wounding as being our pathology. It is wounding. We all have wounding. It is part of our being here on earth. It has an impact on us, on those close to us, on those in our everyday lives, and on our world. It has an impact whether we act out on it or not. It is safer if we don’t act out on it. But even if we don’t act out on it … its aliveness within us still has an impact. Not only on us but also on generation after generation after generation in our own families and the family of beings in our world. It has an impact when it remains unconscious in the shadows within. It also has an impact when it is conscious but we don’t tend to it, work with it, and transform it. That’s not pathology. That’s the truth of us as human beings … and the calling we have to help heal and transform ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world.

 

Introduction

Out of our wounding … we want to think of ourselves as civilized, even when we’re not. We want to see ourselves as grown up, even when we’re not. We want to feel like we are “together,” even when we’re not. What we do to hold onto those cherished but false beliefs about who we are – in the name of something good, and in order to defend ourselves against our wounding – is unimaginable. And, in the end, horribly destructive – blatantly or ever-so-subtly.

We live in denial. Normalizing it somehow … any way we can find. Not wanting to know the truth. The truth about our experiences once upon a time in our youth. The truth about pain we experienced. The truth about abuse we suffered. The truth about trauma we may have suffered or inflicted. We cut off our feelings and wall off our hearts. Under the guise of something supposedly righteous. Not wanting to feel our feelings … sometimes our feelings of pain and fear, sometimes our feelings of pleasure, hope, and even love. Certainly our feelings from long, long ago when we were children. And as a result, also our feelings today.

But in doing so, we cannot see the real truth in front of us today. In doing so, we cannot feel the feelings of either real danger or real safety when we meet them today.

And paradoxically enough … our denial and shutting down emotionally, which were once long ago intended to protect us, create danger in our lives and in our world today. This is what happens with defenses, they end up creating the very thing they were meant to defend us against.

If we are unwilling to see this in our personal lives … how will we be able to see it on the stage of our national politics? We won’t! If we are unwilling to take responsibility for this up close and personal in our individual and our family lives … how will we be able to hold candidates running for leadership offices accountable for these things in their lives? We won’t! If we are unwilling to get the help to heal this in our own minds-bodies-hearts-and-souls … how will we be able to insist that our leaders all over the world get the help to heal their wounds so they can actually be civilized, adult, wise, compassionate, and heartful leaders? We won’t. That leaves us in a terrible dilemma … doing the same things over and over, like hitting our heads against a brick wall, but refusing to do the one thing that can help us truly resolve the situation.

And then we turn the whole thing upside down: If our leaders don’t come out of denial … if our leaders don’t melt their numbness … if our leaders don’t stop pretending that there are no little children inside them acting out their wounds on the stage of our world … what kind of leadership are they providing? Defective leadership. What kind of modeling are they providing? Distorted modeling. How can they hold us accountable to do our own healing work? They can’t.

They’re like the wounded parents in a dysfunctional family who are in denial, attempting to parent from the wounded child within themselves, and wounding their children in the same ways they were, themselves, wounded as children.


If You Are Running for President …

If you are running for president, you need to do your own therapy beforehand. Otherwise, you will simply act out your little boy or little girl wounds on the stage of the campaign. And if you should win, on the stage of the Presidency, the country, and the world.

Whatever wounds you had as a child will drive you in your life – personal and political – from deep down in your unconscious self … no matter how aware or unaware you are! No matter how much you want to deny it! No matter how good things look on the surface! And no matter how fiercely you claim you are not acting them out.

I don’t usually speculate about people’s wounds, especially people I’m not working with. Especially people I don’t know personally. Especially people I have just bits of information about. But I am going to offer some possible hunches about some of our presidents and some of our candidates … as a way to show you how our childhood wounds can drive us from within, even when we have grown into big bodies and may look like we are grown-ups. As a way to show you how these leaders and would-be leaders’ childhood wounds could have affected their leadership. It is my hope that seeing these hunches as examples, will help you and millions all over our country and our world to see more clearly, for starters … what’s happening on the election stage, what’s happening in our leaders … and what’s happening within us.

I have read or heard a couple of things about Bill Clinton’s childhood. I don’t know if they are true, but if they are, here are the hunches … One: that he was sexually abused. As a psychotherapist who works with people who were sexually abused, I know clearly that one of the symptoms of sexual abuse is promiscuity. It’s a way people unconsciously act out that there’s a problem needing to be resolved. If Bill Clinton was sexually abused as a child, it is no wonder that he had multiple sexual entanglements with women – Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and how many others! His having been sexually abused doesn’t excuse him. It doesn’t give him a “get out of jail free card.” It doesn’t make him not accountable. It simply speaks to the root of where he went awry in his life and his leadership. It speaks to the source of his acting out – in him and in his history. It speaks to what he needed to heal.

Be very clear here: Our wounding doesn’t give us license to do whatever we want, to act out however we’d like. We weren’t responsible for our wounding as children. But we are responsible to do the work to heal from that wounding.

I have also read that Bill was caught in between his mother and his grandmother. Whether he was sexually abused or not, that experience of being caught between two women in his young life would set up a dynamic for him to repeat that in his adult life. Again … caught between Hillary and Gennifer; and Hillary and Paula; and Hillary and Monica. The caught-between dynamic could even be set up to repeat itself not between two women, but between two entities. Perhaps caught between his oath of office as President and his own wounded drivenness to act out his childhood.

Another example, Barack Obama. My understanding is that his mother and father got divorced. And lived far apart from each other – at times, continents apart. My hunch from many years as a therapist: even if he wasn’t conscious of it, I imagine little Barack had a desire and maybe even a fantasy of bringing his parents back together. No matter how impossible that might have been, somewhere within him, albeit it unconsciously, he may well have continued to want to bring mommy and daddy back together.   How might that play out in the world of the Presidency? Somehow little Barack’s desire to bring his parents together could impact Barack the President’s ability to bring together two conflicting sides in any issue.   And look at what a painfully horrible time he’s had with Congress. People tend to blame that on all sorts of things socially and politically. But I’ve never heard anyone talk about the underlying dynamic from his childhood. And what if that same dynamic affects his negotiations with leaders of other countries, as well?

This is not a political article. It is not showing political bias. It is an article to teach … to inform … to intrigue … to inspire. So my talking about Bill Clinton earlier and Hillary Clinton next is not my picking on the Clintons. It is simply an offering of profound examples, based on hunches, of childhood wounding driving people, leaders in their adult lives.

I don’t really know much about Hillary’s history. Except that her mother was abandoned. But if I put aside all the superficial criticisms of Hillary in the media. If I put aside all the political and social judgments … I find myself as a depth psychotherapist wondering why this smart, passionate, hard-working, capable, woman has had trouble in her runs for high leadership offices – particularly the presidency. I’m not wondering “what is her fatal flaw?” as some might wonder. I’m wondering – what is it in Hillary’s childhood that would cause her to start out ahead with a wonderful chance of succeeding, only to sabotage herself on the way. I wish I had the opportunity to help her discover the young, feeling level answer to that question.

Finally, Donald Trump. I recently read an article in which I found the following statement by Trump:

“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.” *

In the understanding of the depths of our psyches, this was an early decision made by Donald Trump, “I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.” He was 18 at the time. That may have been the first time he decided that consciously, in words, or in those words. And it may seem not such an “early” early decision. But I have found in my many years as a therapist that usually a decision like that made consciously as a teen was also made either unconsciously, or in different words in different situations as a younger child, and perhaps even beneath words in the heart and cells of the child earlier than that.

Someplace inside him, that early decision is driving Trump in his life and his candidacy for the presidency. Some people may believe that will help him in the campaign and as a leader. But making decisions in order not to be made a sucker, does not mean the decisions are going to be healthy, wise, compassionate, effective, successful decisions. It simply means they will be made in the service of not being made a sucker. So who really benefits from that wound, that decision, those actions… perhaps for a while the little boy who decided not to be made a sucker. And only perhaps. Because that driving decision will also undermine Trump and probably leave him open to being a sucker, or as he also said, a fool.

Our leaders and would-be leaders are just like us. They are human beings with childhoods and childhood wounds and traumas. They have defended themselves against the pain of those wounds, created ways of being and acting that would hide the wounds from others and themselves, while acting out the wounds beneath the blinders. They have denied the wounds existed and that the acting out has existed, too.

Yet, they are acting out their own wounds as they campaign to lead or as they actually lead. If we vote for them without knowing this … we shirk our responsibility to be the kind of citizens needed in the world today. If we vote for them without realizing that our wounds, defenses, and denial might be colluding with or somehow hooked into theirs … we shirk our responsibility to be the kind of citizens deeply needed in the world today. If we don’t hold them accountable for doing their own deep inner therapeutic healing before becoming President, we shirk our responsibility for taking a stand for the one major thing that hasn’t been done in working to resolve the misuse and abuse of power in leadership … and the one thing that could truly work. And if we don’t hold them accountable for doing their own deep inner therapeutic healing, we shirk our responsibility for holding ourselves accountable to do our own healing.

It’s not just them. They are not the only ones acting out their wounds. They’re just running for leadership. They’re just executing the leadership they showed us they would execute as they were campaigning. It’s also us. We are the ones electing them. We are the ones acting out our wounds as we respond to them, as we are drawn to them, as we support them, as we oppose them, as we vote for them.

© Judith Barr, 2015.

*http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/opinion/putting-donald-trump-on-the-couch.html?_r=0 


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

Indeed, we are the ones who vote for our leaders … and if we can become aware of our candidates’ and leaders’ wounding, we can also be the ones who utilize that awareness for our own healing.

As we continue on in the race to the presidency, are you aware of the wounding each of the candidates have deep inside? Ask yourself as you follow the race to the election: Are there things – words, actions, decisions – that each candidate has said or done (including “your” candidate) that help to bring to light his or her own wounding?

Now, let’s take it one step further: is there something in the candidates’ behaviors and words and perhaps decisions that can help you find the wounding in yourself? When a particular candidate speaks or acts in a destructive or self-destructive way, do you find yourself agreeing so intensely with him or her, that it feels as though s/he is speaking or acting in the way you’ve always wanted but couldn’t? Can you see shades of your own wounding in each candidate?

Election-time or otherwise, it is crucial that we make the commitment to not only become aware of our wounds but also explore and heal them. This is what I, and other committed, integritous, compassionate therapists and counselors help people do.

Won’t you join me in this individual healing … healing that can not only help your own life, but the life of the world as well?

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!

An Open Letter to Don Hazen on Your Series for Alternet About Fear

The following is an adaptation of a letter I recently sent to Don Hazen in response to his article series on the topic of fear. I have sent Don an individual copy of the letter … only to find myself called to share an open copy of this letter with our world.

My name is Judith Barr. I am a depth psychotherapist in Connecticut.

Generally I am very thankful that your side of the story is available as people try to sort out the truth. When you step into the area of people’s psyches, sometimes I am concerned. In the past I have thought about writing to you … and haven’t. But this time it feels really important to respond to the series you’re planning.

I agree that fear is rampant in America (and all over the world.) That there are forces instilling fear and fanning the flames of fear in our citizens (and in people globally.) I have been teaching for years about the roots of why that fear takes hold and grows, why fighting it in the outer world will not resolve the problem on a sustained basis, and also how our society has evolved in a way that greatly interferes with truly resolving the problem.

Although a brief explanation doesn’t do justice to what’s at the core, here is a nutshell summary:  The current day fear triggers the fears and traumas we experienced as children, the ones we long ago repressed and buried, and have since been holding at bay … mostly unconsciously. When the here-and-now event triggers that fear subtly or blatantly, we can’t tell the difference between the fear from long ago and the fear from today. It all feels like today unless we have been educated to discern the difference. We respond to it all as if it were today, unless we’ve been helped to find the root fears and resolve them.

If we have that help we can respond to the current day fears as responsive adults. If we don’t have that help, we drown in the fears, unable to respond to or resolve either today’s fears or yesterday’s fears (even if we believe we are)… unable to even know some of the fear is real here and now fear, and some is real fear from our childhood still alive inside us from long, long ago.

We in America (and all over our world) are starving for the truth of this. We both need it and are also afraid of it.  But if we don’t open to it, if we don’t learn about it, if we don’t work with it, if we don’t resolve it at the root … we then are helping to create even more fear today, tomorrow and in the future.

I hope when you do your series, you won’t leave this part of the truth out. I know your intentions are good, but if you leave this truth out of the educating and the prescribing … you will be compounding the problem instead of helping to resolve it. You will be compounding the problem while trying to convince people you are helping to resolve it, and while believing you are helping to resolve it.

Thank you for your work, Don.

My best . . .
Judith Barr

P.S. You wrote: “AlterNet’s ongoing series will uncover numerous other examples of vulnerable populations. These include returning combat veterans and their families, people who suffered abuse while growing up, victims of domestic violence and bullying—now well documented as widespread across America—and anyone involved in the U.S. criminal justice system, which today houses more than 2 million people.”

Most of us – probably all of us in one form or other – suffered some kind of wounding as children and carry some kind of young fear inside ourselves to this day. The problem is much deeper and much more expansive than people realize or even want to realize.

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

Whether or not you are an American … whether or not you read Don’s series on fear or another media outlet’s series on fear … people who know and work with the psyche and soul know that we all need to do our own inner work with fear within ourselves and in our lives.

We can start by becoming aware of the fear we feel when we hear, see, or read about news reports. What is your emotional reaction to the evening news, for example? Do you find yourself filled with fear at hearing of national and world events? Was there ever a time you felt that same fear in relation to an event in your past? Trace the feeling back as far as you can … and truly commit to heal those fears, possibly with an integritous, caring therapist to help you explore and heal those fears to the root.

And, of course, you can (and need to) do the same with the fears you have as you go about your own life. There will be times when your fear is warranted for the here-and-now situation; there will be even more times when a certain amount of fear is warranted in the current day, but unresolved fears from your childhood exacerbate the fear beyond the level warranted by today’s situation; and there will also be times when your fear is being triggered by your childhood wounding alone.

It is crucial to know that even if there were nothing to fear now, even if there were nothing major today triggering our fear from long ago, the fear from back then still lives inside us and drives us … even if we’re not aware of that. We strive to do everything we can to keep from feeling that ancient fear, and, as a result, we create fearful occurrences in our lives and in the world. It would be so much healthier, so much more conscious, so much more self responsible, and so much safer to purposefully do the inner healing work with the original fears.

Make a commitment to become aware and discern, as best as you can, which fears are calling for action and which are calling to be healed inside yourself. And make that commitment, again, to fully explore and heal your inner wounding, so you can attain the clarity to know when to act and when to heed the call to healing.

Imagine what our nation would be like, if we all committed to do this healing! Imagine what our world would be like!

HOOKED – AT THE DEEP LEVEL OF OUR WOUNDS

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

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

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

On the romantic level, one-to-one –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a brief example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the group level –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the world level –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2015

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

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

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

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

On the one-to-one level –

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

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

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

On the national and world level –

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

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

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

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

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

Fear of the Darkness – The Damage It Creates

From the moment of the Summer Solstice,* the days begin getting shorter,
the nights longer. It gets darker and darker and darker.
From early November, especially if you go through
the end of daylight savings time,
the onset of darkness speeds up …
moving us more and more darkly toward the Winter Solstice –
the shortest day, the longest night of the year.
And the night when a ray of new light births itself into our world again.

The Winter Solstice and our reaction to it can mirror for us
the growth we truly need to realize if we are to end the violence in our world.
I usually use words related to power and abuse of power.
And violence is definitely an abuse of power, borne of our own early wounds.
But if ever there was a time to openly connect abuse of power and violence,
This time in our world is the time.

Violence, as an abuse of power, exists on every level of being.
To put it directly and bluntly …
Nobody has the right to harm another’s physical body.
Nobody has the right to “play with,” threaten, or harm another’s mind.
Nobody has the right to “diminish and destroy the inner self of another.”**
Nobody has the right to interfere with another’s spiritual development.***

Nobody has the right to act out violence against another –
both outright violence and the violence under all sorts of guises,
including the guise of “goodness,” the guise of “need,” the guise of “protection,” and the guise of The Divine in many names.
This is not to say there is no real goodness, need, protection or Divine.
It is simply to acknowledge how they are all too often misused
as guises for violence in some form.

So, back to the darkness and how our reaction to it can both
create damage in our world
and also point the way to our healing and our growth…

*****

Darkness slowly creeps up on us …
And the people are afraid.
They have been taught to fear the dark itself.
They have been taught to fear what happens in the dark.
They have been taught to fear what comes out of the dark.
In the world outside themselves …
And in the world within their very selves.

Darkness gathers it momentum …
And the people are alarmed.
They have been taught the dark is bad.
They have been taught the dark is destructive.
They have been taught the dark is evil.

Darkness descends upon us …
And the people are panicky.
They have been taught the dark destroys.
They have been taught the dark devastates.
They have been taught the dark annihilates.

Darkness cascades upon us …
And the people are terrified.
Just as they have been taught,
They run in fear, hide in fear,
Go numb in fear, freeze in fear, lash out in fear.

Just as they have been taught,
They not only fear the darkness in the world outside,
They also fear the darkness within their very own psyches.
Just as they have been taught,
They take their fear out on others.
Sometimes even on themselves.
Just as they have been taught,
They fear experiencing the darkness within, and so
They project the darkness within
Onto others, and fear them instead …
And then fear turns to hate.
And then they use the hate to strike out,
Destroying someone or something else
In an impotent attempt to get rid of the darkness
And the fear of it.
An endlessly impotent attempt to get rid of the darkness
And the fear of it.

Just as they have been taught,
The people search for the light and refuse the darkness.
Just as they have been taught,
They run to the light and away from the darkness.
Just as they have been taught,
They try to use religion or spirituality to bypass the darkness.
Just as they have been taught,
They split light and dark apart –
Tearing them away from each other –
Making them hate each other.
Actually making one loving and the other hateful…
The light loving and the dark hateful.
Loving one and hating the other.
Loving the light and hating the dark.
Leaving themselves bereft –
of the wholeness that comes from holding together
the light and the dark.

Just as they have been taught,
The people continue to do this over and over again.
Believing – or at least wanting to believe –
that it will one day get rid of the darkness and their fear of the darkness.
But it never does.
And it never will.
It n-e-v-e-r will.

Just as they have been taught,
They bully, abuse, kill –
physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually –
individually, as groups, and as nations …
They bully, abuse, kill
other people, other species,
even their own partners,
even their own children,
even their Mother Earth.

All to avoid looking within.
All to avoid the darkness within.
All to avoid the fear within.
All to avoid that within which they have been taught is evil.

The people have been taught lies.
The people have been seduced out of the truth.
The people have been deprived of the wealth of feelings
that enrich our lives by showing us what is true and what is false.
By showing us what is a guide to responding in the present moment
And what is a sign of wounding calling to be healed.

The people have been deprived of growing up rich with a hunger
to explore the darkness within
and the feelings they have buried beneath the frozen,
hardened ground of their own psyches.

The people have been cheated out of the
Fertile ground within that the darkness really is.
The darkness within is not evil and dangerous.
Not if the people are taught to feel their feelings,
but not act out on them …
Not if the people are taught to discern which feelings
To simply feel and which feelings to take action from.

Not if the people are taught … by their own mothers and fathers,
The first leaders of all.
Deprived of this true wealth,
They seek other forms of wealth to replace it.
Impossible!
A search that can never be fulfilled.

The people have been robbed of the connection to the priceless gifts in the darkness within …
The clues for healing step by step by step …
The layers of defenses against the pain they felt as they went through childhood traumas …
Defenses they need to work through and dissolve.
The beliefs and decisions they made that need to be healed for their growth and transformation.
The parts of themselves that have hardened against the wounds and pains,
Parts that have taken on a life of their own, and become destructive as a result.
These parts and others that are the clues for healing step by step by step.

And the parts that are the people’s strengths …
Their patience, their willingness, their compassion,
Their openness, their aliveness borne of being able to feel,
Their longing and commitment to heal …
Their deepening understanding of that darkness in the deep spiral labyrinths within their very beings …
That it actually leads them to their center.
And to the priceless gift that is the light in the center of the darkness …
The light that cannot be reached any other way other than going through the darkness within …
That light in the midst of the darkness within,
That light they truly need to find …
That is the light of who they really are.

Blindness to the darkness within will never bring the people to the light at the center.
Hiding from the darkness within will never bring them there.
Splitting the dark from the light will never bring them there,
But will only break their wholeness.
Projecting their own darkness onto others will never bring them there.
Lashing out at other people will never bring them there.
Focusing on the darkness in the outer world will never bring them there.
Focusing on the light outside will never bring them there.

The people need help …
They need the help to own their own inner darkness.
They need the help to heal the fear of the darkness within themselves.
They need the help to journey through the darkness within themselves.
They need the help to work with the darkness inside themselves.
They need to know that only through their own journey with their inner darkness
Can they truly come to experience others’ inner darkness differently.
They need the help to find the gifts in their inner darkness.
They need the help to find the true light within …
Not some pseudo light that bypasses the journey through the darkness.
But the true light within.
The people need the help to journey through their inner darkness
To the true light within.
The people need help …
This truth and this work is so critically needed,
If we are to save ourselves, each other, and our world.

* I’m writing this as we approach the Winter Solstice in my home in the Northern Hemisphere … but certainly the article applies to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere when you approach your Winter Solstice in June.

**Excerpted from an excellent definition of the painful experience of emotional abuse from Marti Tamm Loring, Emotional Abuse: The Trauma and Treatment,  (1998, Josie-Bass)

***This was succinctly, wisely, passionately, and  heartfully said by one group member to another many years ago. It had a profound awakening impact on everyone in the group.

© Judith Barr, 2014.

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

As we approach the Winter Solstice, let it remind us that we all need to ongoingly explore our fears relating to the darkness within.

When you contemplate your own inner darkness … do you feel like running? Hiding? Denying and repressing it? What feelings come up in you when you think about your inner darkness? And … do you know the roots of those feelings? In your life, your family, your world?

Exploring the darkness within is the work of a lifetime … every step of the way offering the potential for healing, growth, and transformation beyond what we can imagine. To safely navigate the darkness we often need the help of a good, caring, integritous therapist – one who knows how crucial it is that we explore our own inner darkness … and one who does that work  as a natural part of his/her own living.

Our world seems a dark place sometimes … but it is only by exploring, healing and transforming our own inner darkness that we can find the true light, within and without.

Safety Then and Now … We’re Not Using the Tools We Have

The issue of safety and lack of safety is front and center in our world today.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, changing climate. Financial safety and lack of safety. School shootings. Shootings in public places like malls and theaters. First Al Qaeda and now ISIS. The Ebola virus. If we don’t face and deal with the hidden ways in which we contribute to our safety and lack of safety – consciously and unconsciously – we will actually end up participating in creating our own unsafety.

Life is a blessing … a many-faceted blessing. And like a rainbow, a many-colored blessing. A rainbow of feelings – contentment, joy, pain, anger, fear, hurt, confusion and more. Safety and unsafety, too.

Even in the natural world alone – even before our misuse and abuse of Mother Earth, our home – life was not always safe. Storms. Volcanoes. Frigid winters. Blistering summers. Affecting human bodies. Affecting animal bodies. Affecting vegetation needed for food. But we humans tried to be as safe as we could in the natural world. And celebrated the safe, joyous, comfortable times and felt the pain, fear, hurt, helplessness and more in the unsafe times.

Today it is very difficult to tell what is the unsafety caused by the natural world in its organic evolution and what’s the unsafety in the natural world caused by human beings. But the most difficult thing of all, in my experience … is to help people become deeply aware of the unsafety that is still alive within them – from their experience in childhood – the consequent unsafety they unconsciously create in their lives in the current day; and of course, the impact the unsafety they create in their lives has on their families, communities, countries, world as a whole.

If you were abused as a child, you probably defended against the unsafety you experienced and all the feelings that went along with that lack of safety. You certainly couldn’t tolerate feeling your young, intense, raw feelings in the face of it – your terror, your rage, your hurt, your powerlessness, your hopelessness, and more. None of us can … as children.

So you buried all those feelings and held them at bay. Maybe you aged through your childhood into adult years, fearful, trying to hide to stay safe, and therefore not actively participating in the rainbow of life. Not realizing the unsafety that hiding ends up causing you and others around you … since every defense eventually creates the very thing we are defending against. Maybe you aged into adult years, lashing out at people in symbolic response to those who lashed out at you in your childhood, attacking people in response to those who attacked you, destroying people and your relationships with people, in response to those who destroyed you and their relationship to you long, long ago. Or maybe you lashed out to get back at them, for revenge. Perhaps you moved into your adult years, flattening your emotional self, staving off everything but “happiness.” And as a result, deadening yourself to the rainbow of feelings in life … to life itself in all its aliveness and vibrancy. Creating unsafety for yourself and others … all along your path … even if you weren’t aware of it. Or actually, especially because you weren’t aware of it.

And the unsafety that occurs in the larger group – the family, the community, the country, the society – evokes in you all the feelings of your childhood unsafety.  This makes your feeling response to today’s unsafety so much more intense, so much deeper, so much more raw than even the current day unsafety calls for. It also skews your other levels of response more than you can imagine, since those levels of response are connected to your young experience of unsafety, not to today’s experience at all. This then contributes to the distorted reactions, the damage those reactions can do, the escalation into further unsafety, and the vicious cycle you go through again and again until you can heal this.

Here’s an example. It’s a blatant example to help paint the picture clearly. But in each of our lives it could be blatant or subtle, obviously abusive and violent or subtly abusive and violent, grossly normalized in the family and maybe even society, remembered or repressed and consciously forgotten – though living deep inside us still, alive deep within us still.

Imagine … As a child you heard Mommy yelling at your older sister and your father smacking your sister with his hand. You could tell when Mommy’s yelling was coming … like a short fuse, the storm grew till she exploded. But Daddy’s smacks came out of the blue. You just never knew when they were going to come.

Those experiences were scary for you. Even with the short fuse warning of Mommy’s tirades, you never really knew when one of your parents would hurt your sister. And you never knew if or when one of them would hurt you, either. You were always on edge, waiting for somebody to hurt somebody. And, whether you realized it or not, you were always waiting for one of your parents to hurt you. You never felt safe. To your knowledge, you tried to be such a good child. You tried to do what everybody wanted of you. At least that was what you were aware of.

But underneath your awareness, and perhaps sometimes also slipping into consciousness … you tried to secretly lash out at your parents and hurt them back in a way they could never find out – for hurting your sister and for the possibility of their hurting you. You had dreams at night of hurting them back, dreams you didn’t remember when you wakened. You were late getting up and out of bed in the morning, and then claimed you couldn’t help it when Dad was frustrated that your late awakening would make him late to work. You broke cookies in the cookie jar, when no one was looking. You made little cuts in the material of your bedspread, so little no one would find them. You spit in the sink and didn’t wash it down the drain. And you tickled your pet dog till he squealed so loud it hurt your ears and, you were afraid, someone else’s ears, too. No one had any idea you were striking back, except you. And perhaps, eventually you, yourself, didn’t even remember.

Year by year went by until you were finally out of your parents’ home and out into the working world. What you’d been looking forward to for ages. You entered a relationship with someone you thought you loved, you thought loved you, and you thought was safe. But eventually – without even being aware of it – you began doing things to lash out secretly, and waiting till your partner hurt you. You felt unsafe again and you didn’t understand how the unsafety could have followed you into your adult years. The same thing happened at your job. You thought you’d found the perfect boss, but eventually you felt so unsafe at work, always on edge for the yelling or the smack, and dreaming at night of hurting your boss.

You had no one to help you understand what was happening. No one to help you discern how you had created the same thing in your young adult life that you had grown up with. Maybe you weren’t even aware it was the same thing. Maybe you didn’t even realize you had created it.

You had no one to ask questions and explore with you. Had you drawn a partner to you who, in fact, wasn’t safe? Had you drawn a partner to you who could be provoked by your defenses, and provoked to react in a way that was similar to your parents’ unsafe actions? Had you drawn a partner who could feel the painful impact of your unsafe provocations, and when your partner tried to explain to you … you perceived it as similar to or the same as your parents’ unsafe actions? Even though it wasn’t the same at all? Had you, in fact, transferred your experience with your parents onto your partner (and your boss), until you couldn’t really tell who your partner was at all? Or until you were finally successful at pushing your partner until you did get a similar response to your parents’ unsafe actions … finally … and could (falsely) prove to yourself that everybody is unsafe? Did you even, in the end of the vicious cycle with your partner, get to prove that you were an unsafe person, too?

Can you see how unsafety in your childhood lives on unconsciously within you – within each of us – till it creates more unsafety inside and out, by our actions and even our body responses, such as illness – unless we do our own inner healing work?

Let’s take it one step further: if generation after generation of people experience unsafety in their childhood homes and then re-enact it in their lives as they age into adulthood … if then they re-enact that unsafety with their own children, and/or the children in their lives … that unsafety will live on from generation to generation, in the children who then grow into adulthood and act it out on the children in their lives … and perhaps other adults, too.

It doesn’t just stay contained in families. It expands out into the world – in the neighborhoods, schools, offices, churches, sports teams, communities, countries and world. The children who were originally unsafe have spread unsafety, like a disease – consciously or unconsciously – and it has taken on a life of its own. What was an unsafe family has grown into an unsafe town and so on. And the children who lash out have become adults who lash out, once unsafe, now creating unsafety. Alone and unsafe within, so disaffected from anything that can ground and heal them, they are either loners who strike out or are drawn to groups who help them strike out … and help them normalize and justify their striking out. We once might have called these groups “gangs.”  But today we see it happen in sports teams, in groups like ISIS, in countries that strike first and are surprised and self-righteous when their strikes don’t solve the problem.

We also see it in how people react when true safety hazards appear in our communal life – like the Ebola virus. “War on Ebola!” See what I mean? And the unsafety in us from childhood, gets opened up so that we react like children, not as adults. Our feelings, our thoughts, our reactions, are those of the unsafe little child within us … so terrified, so helpless, so triggered, and likely so hurt and angry, too. As a result, until we do our healing work on what once happened to us that we have been re-enacting ever since … we will not be able to respond to the current unsafety in a truly healthy, here and now way. We will be children in big people’s bodies, responding as if we’re adults, but not effectively as adults – not healthily, not in a way that will help us be safe in today’s reality.

We have the tools to do this healing. We have the tools to change our lives and our world from the inside out. It is depth psychotherapy. It is healing to the root that offers true healing, true transformation, and true change … not simply band-aids and attempts to control things, just like we once did as children.

Why aren’t we seeing this? Why do we refuse to see it and use the tools we have … the excellent tools we have? It is our way of re-enacting the childhood scenario again. And again. And again. It is our communal re-enactment. Our global re-enactment.

Each time at the edge of a re-enactment, we are choosing to create more unsafety, rather than work with and through our childhood unsafety. We are choosing to create more unsafety and pain in that moment and in the future in order to avoid the unsafety and pain of long ago that is still alive within us. We may not be aware of it, but we are choosing. And we need to become aware of it. Because each time we make a choice, we have the opportunity to use that edge, that crossroads, to make that choice for healing.

The hope? We have that choice. We have the opportunity again and again to choose for real healing to the root, instead of recreating unsafety. We have the tools. I work with them every day in my office. We have the choice. I see it almost every day in my office … people making the choice for healing … for their own lives, for their families, for our world, for generations to come.

There really is so much hope: we have the tools.
There really is so much hope: we have the choice.
There really is so much hope … if you choose healing.

© Judith Barr 2014

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

We all have times in our lives when we feel unsafe. Sometimes that feeling of unsafety is in response to a here-and-now situation. Often, though, it’s in response, in part or in full, to something within us being evoked from long ago in our past.

As you experience the blessing that is your life … make a commitment to become aware of the times in your life when you feel unsafe, and to do the inner work necessary to heal to the root, so you can truly discern which feelings to follow to reasonably keep yourself safe in the here-and-now, and which feelings need to be explored and healed.

When you feel a sense of unsafety, without any current here-and-now threat, ask yourself, “When was the last time I felt these same feelings? And when before that? And before that?” Try to trace those feelings back as far as you can. You may need the help of a caring therapist to help you discern which feelings are from long ago in your past, and which feelings are in response to a here-and-now threat to your safety, if there is one.

It is crucial for our safety, for the safety of our families, for the safety of our communities, and for the safety of our world, that we all, each and every one of us, commit to doing the inner healing work we need to do with our feelings of unsafety, and follow through on that commitment … so that our woundedness doesn’t create the very unsafety we fear. It is my deepest prayer that more and more of you will join me in committing to do that work and in following through on your commitment. Will you join me?

WHAT HAVEN’T WE LEARNED SINCE THE ORIGINAL 9/11?

Today is 9/11. It’s been 13 years since that tragic, shocking, scary, painful day. And today there are many other tragic, shocking, scary, painful things happening all over our world. What have we learned since the original 9/11? Or even more important, what haven’t we learned?

My heart breaks when I look at what we haven’t learned, for I see we haven’t learned what we need to most learn in order to create our lives individually and communally for the long term. My heart breaks when I see that not only have we not learned but we are blind and deaf to the reality that we have shut ourselves down and buried once again the emotional memory of things in our past. We’ve done that individually and communally. And once we bury our own experiences and feelings – whether personal or societal – we are bound to repeat those painful events in some way, shape, or form. A well-known quote by George Santayana says it in part: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In my field of depth psychotherapy, we understand it even more deeply.  If we are afraid to feel the feelings attached to the memories we buried long ago, usually in childhood, we will live our lives working hard unconsciously to hold those feelings at bay and keep from ever experiencing those feelings again; but those very efforts will drive our lives, and the feelings beneath will haunt us, causing us to somehow  re-enact what we’ve buried in order to bring it back into our awareness so we can heal it. Heal it, not “fix” it. Heal it to the root.

The re-enactment is something we create beneath our awareness.

A baby’s mother yells at him when he asks for what he needs – by crying. He grows up and most likely without realizing it, he draws women to him who do the same; when he tells them what he needs, they get irritated with him, angry at him, humiliate him or some version of what his mother did. A woman’s father threatens her when she doesn’t do exactly what he wants, telling her if she loved him enough to do it right, he wouldn’t have to threaten her. Beneath her awareness, she grows up and chooses partners who abuse her in some way and blame her for their abusiveness.

These are two blatant examples of re-enactments. They are blatant to me. They may well be blatant to those witnessing these people carrying out their re-enactments. But the people in the re-enactments are not even aware of it. They are repeating the vicious cycle they began as children. Each time a person re-creates that original experience in a re-enactment, he proves to himself whatever he decided about himself, others, and life in the core experience. And that’s why people call it a vicious cycle. But also, each time the re-enactment occurs, it is the deep wound that haunts the person calling to her to heal.  If people don’t know it’s a call to healing, they might just believe they will “be there forever and never get out”… also part of the vicious cycle they felt as a child in their home, with their family.

If people do this individually, just imagine the collective impact on a society in which most of its people bury their feelings and their memories and strive to never experience them again, and aren’t aware of it. Imagine the impact on the society. Collectively then, the society will create re-enactments of its own life, its own history … whether that society is a country or a world.

So, in brief, burying the feelings … deadens us to the life of our emotions. The deadening causes re-enactments. Think about Nazi Germany about 70 years ago, where leaders started calling Germany “the homeland.” How many people in any society the world over do not cringe when they hear the leaders in the US say the words “the homeland”? How many in the US itself don’t cringe? Have they forgotten? Have they deadened themselves? And what about the consequence for those who weren’t here then, those who have forgotten and deadened, and those who haven’t made sure those who came after knew about the experience?

On top of a child’s reflex to bury and shut down feelings and memories, to be worked with and healed at a later time, we have people who don’t want to work with the feelings and memories. We have people who, thinking they can just be happy, don’t want to feel the pain and will do anything to keep from feeling the pain. They’ll drink, drug, have sex, work, fight, and more … they’ll become addicted to anything that might stave off the pain, for awhile.  Then the pharmaceutical companies come in and take advantage of that. What might have once been a positive intention to help those who were suffering while they could heal, in a big way turned into a means of making money off people’s suffering. The insurance companies, which also once may have had a positive intention, then jump on the bandwagon … and now you have people who believe they are alive and vital but are actually numbed and deadened to still-buried feelings which drive them and their lives beneath their awareness. People who now are like automatons … easy prey to be dominated by leaders who want to rule because of their own childhood wounds … and who, at least in the beginning, do so subtly.

Alice Miller wrote brilliantly about all of this. In her book, For Your Own Good, and in other writings, she wrote about Hitler and Nazi Germany and the roots of how that re-enactment occurred – not just Hitler’s part but also the part of the German people. In her work toward healing child abuse, she acknowledged that parents’ abuse comes out of their own childhood abuse; and that the abuse of their children won’t stop till the parents do their own healing … which they stay away from because they’re afraid of their own buried feelings and memories.  She also wrote in The Drama of the Gifted Child,* “The true opposite of depression is not gaiety or absence of pain, but vitality: the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings.**  It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings also can display the whole scale of human experience, including, but not limited to, envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and mourning. But this freedom cannot be achieved if the childhood roots are cut off.”

Jeff Bridge’s new movie The Giver, based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 book of the same name, offers us a picture of a lot of what I’m talking about … It shows us a society that has cut off its memories and feelings and is supposedly happy, one in which this is done to people without their knowing, and one in which other destructive things are done under a guise. (I don’t want to say any more. Just when you see the movie, I hope you will look at it through the lens of what I’m offering in this post.)

So here we are on 9/11 … needing to learn in order to reclaim our real selves, our real society and world, our real possibilities and potentials.

Would we rather experience the pain and loss and fear that once occurred in our lives and still lives inside us? Or would we rather re-create and re-enact those things in our lives today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that, creating more pain and loss and fear for ourselves and each other? And if we choose to keep re-creating and re-enacting, when the re-enactments once again bring those feelings up to feel and heal the root experiences … will we then say “yes” to the healing or will we choose to keep re-creating and re-enacting?

The sad truth is … most people prefer to avoid the original pain and create it again and again, not knowing their part in what is occurring in the present and will occur in the future. Not knowing the cause and effect relationship between the two. Not knowing how they have created or co-created what is occurring now and what will occur if they don’t ever know. But if you’ve read this far … now you do know. You may need to know more and understand more and experience more. But now you do know.

So now it’s time to know this also …

The hopeful truth is … feeling the original feelings and working through the original pain will steadily move us toward ending the re-enactments, both the personal and the societal ones. The hopeful truth is … knowing, remembering, feeling – not acting out on the feelings, but feeling them – and healing the deep and buried wounds to the root … will change our world and our universe. I have had the honor to have seen and help it change people’s lives. I have seen it change people’s families. I have seen it change people’s businesses. We can change our world from the inside out in this way. As long as there are painful experiences inside us that despite our burying them are driving our lives … trying on the surface won’t work long term. It may make temporary changes … like bandaids and medication … but the underlying feelings and memories will pop out again … in the re-enactments.

This is what we haven’t learned from 9/11 … and many other tragic, shocking, painful, scary, events. It breaks my heart to know this and to know how to help people in this process, and to see so very many people refusing to say ‘yes’ to the remembering, the feeling, the real healing to the root. It breaks my heart to know that when people say “no” to going through the process of feeling the pain alive within them, they say “no” to going through passageways that could lead them to real aliveness, real vitality, real presence in the current moment, and real hope.

My prayer as I write this to each of you who reads it …is that it will help you choose to work to change your re-enacting in your personal life, choose to participate in healing to the root, choose in this way to help in re-weaving the fabric of your life individually and of our lives communally.

Everything depends upon our healing to the root!

*****

* p 57, © 1981, from release as Prisoners of Childhood:  The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self

** She’s not encouraging people to act out or act on these feelings, simply to feel them.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

As we experience this “13 year anniversary” of the September 11 terrorist attacks, let’s look at the ways in which our re-enacting of our childhood wounds and experiences affect our lives…the lives of our loved ones … the life of our country … and the life of our world.

Remember, if you can, what was evoked for you on the original September 11th. Remember what was triggered on the anniversaries between then and now. What is evoked for you today?

Can you identify what feelings you have had and have today that are familiar? Can you identify how those feelings are familiar from your childhood?  Can you identify how your responses today are similar to those in childhood?  Or how your responses now are the opposite of what you felt safe to feel as a child, even if it’s safe now to feel them and not act on them?

Part of discovering and re-discovering our feelings is to learn how to discern which feelings are from long ago calling to be felt as part of the healing, and which are today’s feelings calling to be felt and perhaps also expressed and acted upon.  It’s all part of a process of rediscovery and learning that helps us grow strong enough and wise enough to hold it all and feel it all safely.

As you go about your life – on each September 11 and all year – are there times when you have feelings that seem familiar from long ago … feelings that act as clues to times when you are re-enacting some painful experience from your childhood? Ask yourself: when did I have these feelings? Who or what in my long-ago life were these feelings in response to? And is the situation I experienced back then similar to what I’m living now?  Perhaps not blatantly but where might there be some kind of similarity in today’s experience that evokes for me the original one(s)? And … are there things in my past that seem too painful to remember? Am I defending against remembering, feeling, and healing those memories?

Commit to find and heal the root of those unconscious feelings so you can make the commitment to not re-enact painful destructive situations.

And I encourage you to read Alice Miller’s writings about the relationship between our individual wounds and our generational wounds and our global wounds …and the re-enactments that continue to create more wounding. I encourage you to read also my blog, PoliPsych, on the same topic.  Every post reveals this in some way. And I encourage you to go see The Giver, and to watch it at least once through the lens of this post.

There is so much to be learned about ourselves and our world from the roots of tragic events like 9/11, if we’re open and willing to learn, and if we’re open and willing to truly heal to the root, each and every one of us. And this healing is crucial for us if we are to help create sustainable healing, thriving, and safety in our world.