WHAT IS THE REAL CATASTROPHE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s an example* …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

© Judith Barr, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Grief, Shock, Another Tragedy and … the Poison is the Medicine …

I learned about the attacks in Paris early Saturday morning.
It broke my heart … all through the day.
It still breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart …
For all the people who were right there, who experienced it first-hand.
The shock. The terror. The pain on every level of being.
The fear and the horrible grief that remains.

It breaks my heart …
For all those who were in Paris and nearby.
The shock, the terror, the pain …
the fear and the horrible grief that remains.

It breaks my heart …
For all those who were called, emailed, and texted.
The shock, the terror, the pain …
the fear and the horrible grief that remains.

It breaks my heart …
For all those all over the world who learned about the attacks through the media.
The shock, the terror, the pain …
the fear and the horrible grief that remains.

Many healing traditions – spiritual and otherwise – have their own version of “the poison is the medicine.”
It is the heartbeat of homeopathy.
It is the transformation in numerous natural healing traditions.
The healing crisis that brings us through a healing passageway.
It’s inherent in the depth psychotherapy I practice.

It says that the effects created by our own experiences …
the effects we create through our own actions and inactions
may be very painful.
Those painful consequences or effects are the poison.
They are the pain that can be used well to help us learn, grow, and heal.
And that is what we are called to do
in our individual lives and in our communal lives as a world.
We are called to use the pain to learn, grow, and heal…
on the deepest levels of our being.

If we don’t utilize that poison for healing,
we start down a road that is a vicious cycle –
a maze from which we cannot escape unless we use the poison for healing.
If we don’t use it for healing, the repetitive vicious cycle
escalates the pain and the poison …
until hopefully we will one day utilize it for healing.

In our world, we are experiencing “the poison is the medicine” yet again.
We’ve been living it over and over and over since …
I’m not certain when.
But I have certainly been witnessing the vicious cycle since 9/11/2001…
right here at home in the US and in our world as a whole.
The attacks in Paris happened not even a week ago …
and we have already launched into the vicious cycle yet another time.

This is a call to do our deep inner healing work …
if we don’t use the current round of “the poison is the medicine” for healing this time …
it will escalate further and further.
If we only respond to it with outer actions …
it will escalate further and further.
If we only try to pray it away …
it will escalate further and further.

It is heartbreaking to me to witness those refusing to use the poison as the medicine.
It is heartbreaking to me to witness those who don’t understand, not reaching out to try to understand,
not opening themselves to attempt to understand.
It is heartbreaking to me to witness those who are ready, to not have access to those who can truly help.

If you will find someone to help you do your deep inner healing
you will be using the poison as medicine.

This is just the first of my responses to the Paris attacks.
If you will help spread the word and share the series, entry by entry…
you will also be helping to use the poison as medicine,
for yourself and for our world.

With thanks and many blessings to you for joining me …
Judith Barr

© Judith Barr, 2015

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!

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 Choice This Time?

HOW CAN WE CREATE THE DEEPEST HEALING
IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS?

This week has been filled with tragedy – shock, terror, danger, grief, and more – in the Boston area, where bombs were exploded during the Boston Marathon and then the area was held captive till the men who planted the bombs were not a danger anymore. But this experience affected us all – all of us in the northeastern U.S., in the United States, and all over the world.

Lest we be remiss, there were also tragedies in other areas of the US this week. In West, Texas, there was an enormous explosion at a fertilizer plant, and it is not yet known for sure if it was a crime or an industrial accident. Either way, it caused huge damage, death, injury, and the destruction of property, as well as shock, terror, danger, grief, and more. Also in Illinois, there was a horrible flood this week . . . causing widespread evacuations, road closings, property damage…and feelings of fear, helplessness, and loss.

People have been suffering in all three of these places. And second-hand, from watching the tragedies. As the immediacy of the here-and-now shock and danger just begin to ebb the faintest bit . . . we have some space to ask a question of ourselves and each other. A question that might be brand new to some of us. A question that might not yet be part of our way of life for others of us. A question that is as ingrained as a reflex to those of us who have been practicing it for years.

The question: What choice are we going to make coming into, through, and back out of these tragedies? Are we simply going to feel and work through things on the surface level of the here and now events? Or are we going to look deep within ourselves to see what from our past – that is still alive inside us – has been triggered by one or more of these tragedies and has come to the surface for healing?

If we tend only to the current events and their aftermath in our world…if we only respond on the surface, as we have to so many other things in our world…the real solutions will be left undiscovered and un-created. If we tend only to the current events, what those events have triggered will still be alive within, affecting us, and waiting for something else to bring them up for healing. If we tend to the ancient events being evoked by today’s occurrences…if we really do the work to heal them…we will help ourselves and each other today more than most of us can imagine. We will help ourselves and each other in more effectively tending to the here and now events and to those that come in our future.

For example, wonder for yourself: What events from long, long, long ago in my life filled me with feelings of shock, terror, a sense of danger and unsafety, grief, confusion, pain? What nightmares did I live through in my waking life? What nightmares did I have in my dream life? What “explosions” did I live through in my young life? A parent exploding with rage and violence? What “flooding” did I face as a child? The flooding of myself with all the feelings that came pouring forth within me? What experiences did I have that felt like life and death? What experiences did I have that threatened me physically, mentally, emotionally? What experiences did I have that left me, if only for a time, locked away in a space it was not safe to come out of – whether that was a physical space, or a space inside my very self that I locked myself in for safety? 

Think of it this way: If the above or any similar experiences from your past have been triggered by this week’s tragedies . . . the feelings you are having in response – whether consciously or not – are far more intense, far more raw, far more primal than the here and now feelings. And if you do the work to heal the ancient events and your feelings from them, the feelings you have left in today’s world will be differently in quality, intensity, and effect on your life . . . and on the life of those around you. The life of all those around you . . . near and far.

If we had chosen to do the inner healing work related to all that was triggered in us by 9/11 . . . our world would be a different world today. Our country would be a different country. And we would be different people.

What choice will you make this time?

© Judith Barr, 2013

Healing Clues in the Aftermath of the Sandy Hook Tragedy – in Newtown and All Over the World – The Clue of Safety

The learning and healing possible in the face of this tragedy is huge – even limitless. But the deeper the inner learning and healing within each person, the broader and more expansive will the communal healing be. People have talked with me and written to me acknowledging how important it is for us not to look outside to find others to blame — other people, other policies, other laws, other organizations. People have reached out to me and asked me to remind people how important it is for each of us to look in the mirror and ask How have I contributed to the violence in our world?

So as you follow your own grieving path in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Tragedy, I invite you to read on. I urge you to let this in to the depths of your being . . . and to let it lead you and all of us to deeper healing.

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Perhaps one of the deepest issues brought forth by the tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, last Friday is that of safety.

It is something we all have experience with, consciously or not, whether or not we can put it into words. Am I safe? Am I not safe? And it brings feelings up for us way deeper than we even realize, far more intense that we’re used to, and so much more raw than most of us have yet built the capacity to feel.

In this day and those to come, we absolutely need to be aware of and allow ourselves to feel how unsafe it was in the school last Friday . . . for children and adults alike. We need to allow ourselves to grieve deeply for the lack of safety. We need to grieve deeply for all those affected, both right next door in Sandy Hook and all over our world. I don’t imagine a person in our world could go unaffected by this tragedy – whether they’re aware of it and feeling it consciously or not. We absolutely need to help create safety in the Newtown Schools and schools all over the world as we go forward. As well as in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, malls, movie theaters, and more. We need to pull together to create real safety in our world in the future.

But creating real safety is an inside job.  It is something we do from the inside out. So, a huge part of doing that will be to look in the mirror at ourselves. And to search and examine our own relationship with safety.  To explore how some of our past efforts to be safe have perhaps led us to act out in ways that ended up creating unsafety in the world around us.

When 9/11 occurred, many of those who didn’t look within, either lashed out and blamed others for the intense ancient feelings they were themselves feeling, the ones that had been triggered by the actual event of 9/11, or . . . they started floundering inside themselves, not knowing what to do with so much feeling, and not even knowing that the deepest and most intense of the feelings triggered were from long, long ago in their own lives. The Sandy Hook tragedy holds the same dangers and the same potential opportunities for healing.

What is being triggered in us by the lack of safety we experienced during the Sandy Hook tragedy, making this experience even more intense and raw than it is in the current day? Is that even possible? You might ask. Yes, anything in our past that is still alive within us needing to be dealt with, grieved, and healed, will once again be evoked by something similar in our current day’s experience. And if that experience in our past was in our childhood, when we were small and vulnerable, innocent and helpless . . . we have not only our adult feelings to work with but also the feelings of that little child who was unsafe back then. That unsafety and all the feelings related to it, are still alive within us today, whether we know it or not. And even if they are buried, they will somehow be awakened by an emergency of unsafety today. But until we’re aware, they will be awakened without our realization that they are from another time so long ago.

So, for example, if you experienced a mother who yelled at you, a father who smacked you, an older sibling who held you down or any other experience of unsafety – physical, mental, or emotional . . . Friday’s events probably triggered the feelings you had back then and added the very real feelings you had then to the very real feelings you have in the here-and-now in response to Friday’s tragedy. That’s a lot of feelings. What to do with all these feelings?

That’s part of what we need to learn and develop in order to heal violence in the first place.

For if, as children, we had been taught what to do with our feelings while safely feeling them . . . there might be no violence in our world today.

What to do with all these feelings?

First . . . know that what you’re feeling isn’t just in response to today’s lack of safety. You’re feeling a double dose or a multiple dose of feelings related to lack of safety, some of them those of an adult, and some of them those of a child.

Second . . . do not bury the feelings – neither the ones from today, nor the ones you buried long ago that have risen again.

Third . . . do not act out on the feelings. You need to find some safe way to simply feel the feelings . . . without taking action on them. Defending yourself against those feelings is not going to make you safe. In fact it may well make you less safe in the long run. For example, isolating yourself from all people isn’t going to solve the challenge related to your feelings of unsafety, especially your feelings from long ago. Or barricading yourself behind doors with 10 locks on each, is not going to make you feel safe in relation to the unsafety you experienced as a child, even if you live in a dangerous neighborhood and it does help you feel safe in the current day. Or learning to box today is not going to make you feel safe back then when you were small; the child still alive inside you didn’t feel safe and doesn’t feel safe today. He or she needs real help to work with and through what the child inside you really needs for healing. In addition, learning to box today may actually make you unsafe today, despite your best intentions. What if you think boxing makes you tough, tough enough to defend yourself against feelings of unsafety. And what if that tough defense – and even that boxing skill – leads you to strike out at a shooter . . . only to be gunned to death?  Then it wouldn’t save you from feelings of unsafety, or from real danger, either.

This is, in my experience, what happens with our defenses . . . although we create them as children to help us stay sane and alive, as we grow and age and hang on to those defenses, the defenses themselves end up co-creating the very thing we were using them to defend against.

So fourth . . . get the real, skilled, sensitive help to safely and with great care and compassion dissolve and transform your defenses, while at the same time building your capacity to feel the feelings you were originally defending yourself against.

Fifth . . . learn for yourself, through your own healing, that the help and healing we all need is much deeper than the help that offers quick fixes, bandaids, and efforts to control our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. All those things can do is give a stop-gap illusion that ‘the problem’ is fixed. ‘The problem’ isn’t just on the surface. ‘The problem’ is just something we can control.

For if we just live in the illusion that control solves the problem . . . we do the same thing we did long ago as children when we created our original defenses. While believing, just as we did back then, that we’ve solved the problem. And still the feelings remain buried within us. And still the feelings haunt us. And still the feelings are there inside us waiting for something to trigger them, and perhaps ignite them into some form of explosion.*

Most people call this mental health and focus on the thoughts and behaviors and fixing the symptoms. Many think medication is the solution. And with today’s financial, insurance, and pharmaceutical issues, most people believe they have to settle for a few short sessions and medication. Many people think of it differently than I do. I think of it as emotional health and healing the real wounds and feelings to the root. So what I’m saying is . . . don’t settle for the shortcut. There is no shortcut. Keep looking till you find a way to get the help to the root.

Sixth . . . share all of this with others in your life, your community, our world. And advocate for it in whatever ways are right for you.

But first and most important . . . look in the mirror. Go within. Find the healing you need and don’t stop until you find a way to heal to the root. It will take us all doing this to truly heal violence in our world.

* If you want more help understanding this, you can read about it here on my blog: http://judithbarr.com/blog/

You can hear about it on my archive of audio and video interviews: http://judithbarr.com/audio-video/

You can invite me to come speak to your group. You can come for a consultation. This is part of my calling — to help people really understand this and start living it. And this is part of the heart of what we need to do to heal violence . . . to reweave our society from the deep place of building our capacity to feel and heal.

© Judith Barr, 2012