THE YOUNG POPE: A CANDID MIRROR FOR US ALL

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

~~~~~~~~

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

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

You’ve never budged…”

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

“You want to make the world pay…”

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

“You’ll be a terrible pope…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Call to Healing in the Wake of Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right now, we are failing.

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

Blessings,
Judith

© Judith Barr, 2015.

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

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

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

How Did We Ever Let This Happen?

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

If 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?

Trump Isn’t The Real Problem – We Are!

It’s 14+ months before the 2016 Presidential Election. It’s already been going on too long. Many are overstimulated by the candidates’ and the media’s hype. The overstimulation feeds both numbness and hysteria. And however disconnected from their true selves people were before, they get more and more disconnected with each step in the election frenzy.

What we once thought was a sacred process – and could still be if we utilized it well – has instead been misused and abused and turned into an election frenzy for all of us.

So here we are in September 2015 … well into the fever pitch of the election process and we’re over a year away. Everybody’s surprised about Donald Trump. Everybody’s talking about Donald Trump. Many are concerned about Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is a concern.

He’s lied. Everyone’s talking about Hillary’s lies. But who’s talking about Trump’s lies?

He’s treated women terribly. He’s made blatant racist statements about Mexicans and other immigrants.

He’s mocked foreign countries who are either our allies, like Japan, or with whom we need to collaborate, like China. He’s ridiculed individuals in our own country … Senator John McCain, many of the other candidates running for president, and who knows how many others.

He’s made claims about what he would do as president. Claims like those related to immigrants. Claims like those related to people of color and of other races and nationalities than he. Claims like those related to immigrants that are impossible without violating the Constitution. Claims that no matter how they might be carried out, would be inhumane … would violate any sense of dignity … and would belie our thinking of ourselves as a civilized nation.

His misogyny is legendary. From calling women “pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” to saying about Megyn Kelly that “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes–blood coming out of her wherever,” as a denigration of her intelligence and ability based on her menstrual cycle, to calling her a “bimbo” and a “lightweight.”

When confronted on what he’d said, Trump denied it and held those who had accurately understood what he’d meant as the problem – “I was referring to nose, ears. They’re very common statements. And only a deviant would think of what people said.” And then he’s turned around and claimed he “cherishes” women. He has, in this instance and at other times, refused to take responsibility for what is actually his responsibility, blaming it on the other person or people. And lying – to others and perhaps himself, too.

When talking about Jeb Bush having mentored Marco Rubio, Trump said: “If I were Bush and I brought somebody along … and all of a sudden the guy, the young guy that I brought along, said: ‘I’m running against you and it’s not my turn but I don’t care because I’m really anxious, I’m really driven’ … I would really go after that guy. I’d say ‘He’s the most disloyal guy. He’s a terrible person. He’s horrible and I hate him.’ ” And then he went on to mock Bush’s and Rubio’s being friendly at the first GOP debate.

This reveals so much about Donald Trump. More than possible to fully do justice to the revelations right now. But for starters … it shows a glimpse of an inability to truly be in a mutual relationship; a vindictiveness, vengefulness that is unwarranted and undermines relationship; an inability to hold more than just one way – his way. And it shows, beneath all his bluster and whatever ability he has developed to make money, just how young and unmatured emotionally he is. A perfect example of what I’ve taught and written about again and again – the child still alive in the grown person; the child driving the show, whether we’re aware of it or not. All these qualities have been, are, and would be dangerous in a leader.

This is not an exhaustive list, but even this list … he thinks he can get away with. The problem is he has been getting away with it. Not only getting away with it, but his support has been growing in response to it. And the problem with that? The problem is not Trump alone. The problem is us! All of us. Those of us who think we’re in the clear because we fight against him, see through him, turn away, sickened or frightened by what he’s doing and how it’s affecting us and our election process … all comforted by the belief that “we’re not at all like him.” And those of us who are disillusioned by our government and thus can be easily roused and seduced by him.

We can look at this phenomenon through many lenses. Today let’s look at it through this lens: the lens of acting out! It will show us why he’s going up in the polls after he acts out time after time.

In depth psychotherapy, we don’t stop at the behavioral level of healing. But we do draw boundaries around people’s behavior to help make it safe for them to explore their thoughts and feelings, no matter what they are. So someone I work with will, for example, make a commitment not to hurt or kill themselves or someone else … so that it will be safe to explore those kinds of angry thoughts and feelings. Making such a commitment doesn’t stop the thoughts and feelings. It isn’t meant to. It’s meant to draw an inviolable line between the thoughts and feelings and the actions. That is what makes it safe to have the thoughts, have the feelings, and bring them out in the open in therapy to talk about them, explore them, find what in the person’s history caused those thoughts and feelings to emerge, and heal that wound to the root.

These lines, these boundaries between having feelings and acting on them are protections that our children need their parents to teach them and help them with. But most children don’t receive this from their parents. Most parents don’t give this to their children, usually because they never received it themselves. Or don’t give it to their children in a healthy way, again because they never received it from their parents. The result is that too many people all over the world are starting more than ever to act out these feelings when they emerge.

Please note: I am not excusing this, just explaining the root cause. It is something that needs to be healed in all of our societies all over the world.

But at the same time as I and my colleagues are working deeply with people and with great commitment to heal to the root and transform this deep wound and its consequences, there are others who are – consciously or unconsciously – taking advantage of that wound and using it for their own purposes.

Dictators have done that and used the wounded to kill in their behalf. Hitler did it in World War II with people who, like him, had been raised in abusive families and thus would respond to his seduction and his cause. ISIS does that with disaffected young people who have their own early wounds and can be lured into the cause. Donald Trump’s cause is “Making America Great Again.” And people are being drawn and seduced into joining.

Significantly, people enjoy Trump’s behavior because he is acting out his thoughts and feelings and then justifying his acting out. On some level people like that he’s doing it and getting away with it. Perhaps they think and feel the same things but feel they don’t dare act out on them. So they secretly – or not so secretly – get off on his doing it. Or perhaps they like that he’s doing it and getting away with it, because then they see it as his giving them permission to do the same. To act out and get away with it. So they are, in effect, ripping off permission from his destructive behavior … permission to act out in kind. In the ways I’ve mentioned above and others as well.

An actual example, an older Hispanic man was recently beaten by two white males in a Boston area neighborhood. The perpetrators justified their actions saying that Trump was right, illegals need to be deported. After first responding to hearing of the beating with “It would be a shame,” Trump then justified their actions, distorting them and normalizing them: “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Hitler could never have come into the power he had without citizens in collusion because of their wounds and their lack of awareness. ISIS could not have come into the power it has without members in collusion because of their wounds and lack of awareness. And Trump (and people like him) will never come into power without our collusion because of our wounds and lack of awareness and refusal to do our own work.

Whether we’re acting out by “ripping off the permission” he’s giving to lie, bully, mistreat women and other people, be obviously racist, and more … or we’re acting out by not taking action at all … believe me: Donald Trump by himself is not the problem. He will only be a real problem if we don’t do our own work with all that’s going on, with all that he mirrors for us within ourselves, and for all that he triggers in us from long, long ago that we have a choice whether or not to act out today. That we have a choice whether or not to explore today. That we have a choice whether or not to work through and heal today.

If we do not pierce our denial, collusion, and whatever else we need to take care of within us … if we do not see the reality and respond to it in a healthy, constructive way … it will be we who cause the harm that comes. It will be we who give Donald Trump or someone like him the permission to carry it out.

© Judith Barr, 2015

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

Acting out is a huge problem facing our world today. We all need to learn how to draw, and commit to, boundaries when we are tempted to act out on intense feelings rooted in our childhood experience.

First we need to learn that our impulses to act out are in response to our young and intense feelings being triggered by something in the current day within us or around us.

Second, we need to learn to be aware of both when we are tempted to act out, and also when another’s acting out is tempting us to normalize and justify our own acting out.

When you see, hear, or read about Donald Trump or another public figure, acting out in a destructive way, what feelings arise inside you? Are you shocked and horrified? Are you afraid? Are you secretly glad the person is acting out that way? Perhaps because you would be too afraid to? Maybe because you wouldn’t be able to get away with it and s/he can? Or is there a hidden place in you, deep down, where you admire and agree with the words and actions of the person acting out? And perhaps make excuses for him/her? Are there times when a public figure’s acting out makes you feel “better” about the times when you act out?

Join me today in committing to explore our own inner reaction to the acting out of others … to draw a boundary when we ourselves are tempted to act out our inner wounding in destructive, harmful ways … and to not stop there, but rather to follow through and explore, with the help of a caring, integritous therapist, the real roots of the feelings that cause us to act out destructively. And in doing so … help create greater safety and lasting change in our world!

On Mother’s Day – The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

As we approach Mother’s Day, it is crucial that we recognize the power that Mother has, the impact that Mother has, the potential effect that Mother has not only on her individual child, but also on the entire world.

William Ross Wallace acknowledged this aptly and poignantly …

“For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.”*

Reflect on the mothers who have been nourishing, supportive, inspiring, honest, kind, compassionate, loving, who have been what I would call “Truth and Love woven together” – mothers who have helped their children become their True Selves.

And reflect on the mothers who – out of their own wounding and the wounding in their cultures – have been less than that, even the opposite. Mothers who have either not protected their children or mothers who have been indifferent, neglectful, or even cruel to their children … often under the guise of their “rights” as mother or “for your own good.”

Ponder the mother whose child became a leader of a country or even an empire. What was the impact of that leader on his or her country? What was the impact on our world? Was the leader damaging to the people, to the earth, to him/herself? Was s/he damaging under the guise of “goodness”? Under the normalization by a culture that accepted such damage and the guise justifying it? Was the culture that of an empire, a country, a business, a family?

As a member of many cultures, we each have the opportunity and the responsibility to affect how our leaders are chosen and how they lead. Are you claiming and acting upon your opportunities and responsibility? And are you doing so in a way that is healthy and woven of Truth and Love?

As a member of many cultures, we each have the opportunity and the responsibility to be a leader in our own way. Are you claiming and acting upon your opportunities and responsibility in your cultures – whether the culture of your family, your school, your church, your workplace, your community …?

Reflect upon how the patriarchal cultures of our world have impacted the experiences of our mothers, their mothers, and the mothers before them. Reflect upon how the individual mother impacts the culture, and the culture impacts the individual mother …and each of her children, and then generations to come. It is a vicious cycle, or a maze as I teach my clients. We need to find our ways out of the vicious cycle … individually and culturally. It takes our doing our personal inner healing work one by one by one. It takes our educating people in our cultures. It takes our reweaving the fabric from the inside out.

Wonder about your own mother. Seek to find, beneath the surface, in the very depths of your being – the impact your mother had on you, on every fiber of your being, on every one you touch … on you as you impact our world.

If you are a mother, wonder about your own mothering. Are there things you can discover about your mothering that you still have a chance to heal – for yourself, for your children … for both of you … and for our world?

*****

It is with Mother that we first have the opportunity to attach, that we first have the opportunity to bond …in healthy ways needed for us to become all we have the potential to be.

It is with Mother that we first have the opportunity to experience in the outer world the essence of the Divine.

If we don’t have a mother with whom we have these crucial experiences … everything else is awry for us until we do our healing. And this impacts not only us, but the world around us and the world as a whole.

As we approach Mother’s Day, let’s go beneath the surface possibilities of the day. Let’s go through the experience deeply and fully – in Truth and Love – discovering and working with what is calling to be healed from the inside out … personally and communally.

© Judith Barr, 2015

*From his poem The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World (published 1865)
http://emp.byui.edu/satterfieldb/quotes/Hand%20that%20rocks%20the%20cradle.html

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!

IT’S APRIL FOOLS’ DAY

It’s April 1st – April Fools’ Day . . . And do we have a lot to talk about this month! So much, in fact, that I’m going to do this month’s newsletter differently from usual. I’m going to touch briefly on a number of themes, planting seeds for you – and for us together – to nourish and grow.

*****

It’s April 1st – April Fools’ Day . . .

People are so afraid of being seen as a fool. The result of horrendous shaming, ridiculing, and humiliation which have been normalized in our world culture – both subtly and outright. As part of this normalized shaming …if people feel the pain of being shamed, their pain is discounted and responded to with contempt. They, themselves, are blamed for being able to feel the pain: You’re too sensitive. Toughen up! I was only kidding. Well if you hadn’t done that, you wouldn’t deserve this. Is it any wonder people don’t want to be seen as a fool?

Yet, the deeper meaning of the fool, as in the tarot card, The Fool, is innocence at the edge of new beginnings with unlimited potential and limitless possibilities. If people are afraid of being the fool, they will withhold themselves from this path. They will block their knowing of who they are. They will not let themselves be who they are, even if they know. They will not choose any of the possibilities to which the path leads. Or they will force themselves to pick one, but not let themselves know the one – or the next one – to which they are truly called. Or they will choose one but not commit to it. And so they will leave it when it seems challenging, difficult. Leave the possibility or even the path itself … leaving themselves in the process. Or if they commit to it, they will not follow through with their commitment … lest they appear to be a fool.

Do you interfere with your own unfoldment into your fullest potential … to keep from appearing to be a fool?

*****

Recently …
I led a new workshop on parenting.

Although I’ve worked with people on the consequences for them of their parents’ parenting of them … And although I’ve worked with people on the impact of their parenting on their children … this was different. This was an expansion of that.

My intention was to help parents give their best to their children in a different way than parents usually hear about. My vision was that if parents knew they were being triggered by their children because of their own childhood wounds; if they were helped to know the signs of their being triggered and the impact on their children; if they were shown and even experienced in the workshop that it’s possible to find the root of the trigger and heal it – for both the parent’s sake and the child’s sake … that more people would do their own deep healing work and it would help everyone … from parent to child, to family, to community, to the world as a whole. In any group I’ve ever led, there has been a kind of magic that occurs. People do their own work and witness each other’s work … and it multiplies, and the healing effect multiplies and grows exponentially. And this was true with my recent workshop.

Participants’ responses throughout and after the workshop were so touching and so powerful! My heart flew open again and again to each of the participants, to the group as a whole, and to the possibilities that could come of the afternoon’s work. My heart also flew open as the inspiration came that this parenting workshop might be yet another doorway through which I might help people both individually and also globally. After all, everyone has parents – citizens and leaders, healing leaders and tyrants, heroes and terrorists – and every parent has an impact on his/her children. I’m reaching out to let you know about my soul’s calling to find people who are called to help in this endeavor … to either attend such a workshop or to organize such a workshop … or maybe who have an already-existing group that would like me to come give the workshop to the members. I’m imagining it might be a lay group, a professional group, or even a group of clients working with a given therapist – perhaps the therapist would like me to come give the workshop to his or her clients. (I’ve done the latter on numerous occasions before.) Or perhaps help in some way I cannot yet imagine. I welcome whatever inspirations and help you can give with this.

*****

Leaders were once children, too!
Another lens through which to look at parenting!

The impact of parenting from one generation to the next is more significant than most people realize. Two parents, unaware of their own deep wounding as children, frightened of becoming aware, afraid of feeling, will pass their wounds onto their children … even though they may love their children whole-heartedly. If the children also choose to remain unaware of their wounding, and if they also are afraid of feeling, they will pass the pain onto their children. And so it goes from one generation to the next. Generations of parents who yell at their children; generations of parents who don’t set boundaries for their children; generations of parents who are incestuous with their children on many levels of being; generations of parents who neglect their children; generations of parents who tease and humiliate their children; generations of parents who discipline their children in harmful ways; – from subtle to blatant; and so on…

Parents are impacted by their parents. Their parents were impacted by theirs. And each generation of parents both impacts the culture and is impacted by the culture. It’s a two-way street. If your parents hit you and told you that was love … and if other parents in your culture were doing the same both because their parents did that to them and also because it had become normalized in society at the time … the back and forth between the individual and the culture becomes very clear.

Some parents try to help their children be empowered in their lives, both as children and as adults – often not being aware if there are any ways in which they may send a double or mixed message. Some parents frighten their children out of being empowered and taking action when it’s needed, the parents preferring to be the ones in power and control. Other parents embolden their children to take power in harmful, destructive ways. Still other parents have children who both copy them in using power destructively and also take revenge against them (the parents) … both personally and individually and also communally. And yet other parents sit on their power, not using it actively, but letting it come out in passive ways. They teach their children to do the same by modeling, by messages … and it affects everyone’s lives destructively.

Think of how Hitler took revenge on his father by acting out the horrific torture of his childhood on innocent people … just like he once was. In other words, Hitler was once an innocent child. He had parents – a father who tortured him and a mother who didn’t protect him. And culturally, the society was one where what was called “child rearing” was really child abuse normalized. So the wounded children grew up to act out and re-enact their own childhoods … for example, frightened children joining with the abusive parent in attempts at self-defense. Or frightened, angry children growing up and joining with the abusive parent and torturing others to act out what was done to them and find a way to act out their rage at what they had experienced.

Who knows what child will grow up to be a leader? Who knows what parents will give birth to and parent a child who grows up to be a leader? Who knows what the childhood was like of each leader in our world today? Who knows how that parent-child relationship affects the lives of all of us here on earth today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that?

As Putin has been making his moves in and around the Ukraine and the world at large, how come we aren’t all wondering what his childhood was like? How come we didn’t think of that long, long ago? How come his countrymen and countrywomen didn’t think of that long, long ago? How come somebody didn’t wonder how the culture would create fertile ground both for him to take power as he has and also for the country people to support him?

We could and need to be looking at every leader and every society through this lens … the lens of the psyche developed in the children. It is deeper by far than any lens – social-political-economic-religious – people have looked through before.

*****

In honor of Alice Miller

This month will be the one-year anniversary of Alice Miller’s death. Of all the people I’ve ever studied, or even read … Of all the people I’ve ever known, personally or through their work … she, more than anyone else, understood what I am talking about here. She understood and wrote about the impact of parenting on an individual child’s future and on the cultural and global future, as well. At the same time, she understood about the parents’ resistance to doing their own work, finding their own childhood memories, feeling their own early pain. And about the crucial need for them to overcome, work through, heal their own resistance … for their own sakes, for the sake of their children, and for the sake of our world.

Alice Miller’s work was empowering for us all in ways that are vital for us to become aware of. I am so thankful she was present on this earth! I am so thankful for the support her knowing and teaching offers me as I follow my calling and my knowing … to help in the healing so deeply needed in our world.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

There are so many healing avenues for us to explore this month … and all year long. This April, I’d like to focus on two opportunities to explore and heal.

This month … explore your feelings about “looking the fool.” Are there times in your life when you may have resisted an obvious calling, or resisted being your true Self, for fear of looking foolish? Or in your fear, have you resisted giving your full commitment to a calling? Be aware of the feelings you have when you are inspired by your calling … When have you felt these feelings before in your life? When in your childhood have you felt this same way? Commit today to truly heal those wounds from your childhood that are “holding you back” from fulfilling your true calling – from being who you really are.

As you do this exploration, become aware also of how your own wounds have impacted not only your life, but the lives of the children in your life. Can you trace back – to the root – the feelings you have during your interactions with children – whether they be your own children, the children in your family, friends’ children? Do you know the roots in your own childhood of the feelings you have about children? Commit as well to explore and heal the wounds inside you that affect your children and the children around you.

And … to help bring the much-needed healing out further into our world … if you have an inspiration about how you can help bring my parenting workshop to a venue that would welcome it, please contact me so we can explore the possibilities. Together, we can help heal our world, from the inside out.

Another Way to Wound Children Under A Guise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can hardly believe it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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