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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my Mother’s Day wish.

This is my Mother’s Day prayer.

© Judith Barr, 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Loving Gift

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

© Judith Barr, 2016

 

Healing the Roots of Slavery and Prejudice

In the heartbreaking midst and aftermath of the Charleston, South Carolina massacre, many are claiming change. We can change our behavior. We can change our symbols. We can change our words. We can pass laws that seem to claim we’ve changed our attitudes or even our values. But unless we really dig deep into our feelings and heal what is at the root of racial prejudice … the changes on the surface will only be a guise of change. And they won’t last. They will only conceal what is still festering beneath the surface within us individually, and also societally. Hidden within, masked by outer changes, the roots will continue to create the painful, destructive outcomes within us and all around us. 

This is as true with racial prejudice as it is with anything else that is unresolved deep within.

I have many times thought of writing about the deep roots of prejudice, and the cruelty that people act out on each other as a result. This week as I’ve sat with the events in Charleston, I felt deeply called to write about a different root than I have in the past. I hope this will be food for your wondering. I hope you can let this inform you, intrigue you, and inspire you to look deeper into yourself – for the sake of your own healing, for the sake of those around you, for the sake of our country, and for the sake of our world.

*****

Please wonder with me …
Where do we get the idea we can own other people? And do whatever we want with them and to them, just because …? How did we ever come to believe we had the right to enslave beautiful dark skinned natives of one continent and bring them to our own to do our bidding? Or to receive our wrath if they didn’t? Even receive our murderous rage when they didn’t do what we wanted, when we wanted it, how we wanted it?

Where did this start?
How did this start?

Some might look at it historically, perhaps working backwards beginning with human trafficking today. Some might go all the way back to Ancient Egypt. And some even before that.

Here’s another way to look at it.

When a child bonds well, meaning healthily, with mother … that healthy mother – the one we call in my field the “good enough mother” – does our bidding. She is focused on us, protecting us, nourishing us, taking care of our needs, and doing so with love. No, she isn’t perfect. Not even the “good enough mother” is perfect. But when she makes a mistake she is self-responsible, acknowledging her mistake and finding a way to repair the mistake and its consequences. She does this from love and consciousness, a good heart. And as a result, she creates trust.

When we have this as a child, the attachment with mother becomes internalized and helps us feel secure. It helps us give what we received from mother to ourselves, and often to others as well. When a child has this from mother, the child feels something kindred to owning mommy. But it’s not the same thing. Because in this healthy scenario, mommy gives herself to her child. She whole-heartedly surrenders to the care of her baby … while hopefully still taking good care of herself.

But when a child does not have this healthy attachment, there is no real sense of security. There is a deep hole within and the person feels a sense of starvation for some way to get someone to focus on him, protect him, nourish him, take care of his needs … to do his bidding. There is a deep urge – whether conscious or unconscious – to find or create a way to have someone give what was missing in childhood. A craving to own someone.

From here the cycles upon cycles of damaging and destructive “owning” begin. This child grows up and finds someone to own. It might be his wife. It might be his child. It might be both. It might be his own unhealthy parent who didn’t give as he needed in childhood. His craving to own is truly insatiable – whether he’s aware of it or not, whether it shows on the outside or not. No amount of owning someone today or tomorrow can fill the emptiness of lack of attachment with mommy long ago. But as the current experience of insatiability grows and grows, at some point he moves on from enslaving those who are supposed to be his loved ones to others in his life and then to someone he can make his slave.

All along, over time the other little boys and girls who didn’t attach healthily with mother have been finding ways to own people in their lives, too. And eventually they join together to make people their slaves. To bring people home as slaves from the other side of town or the other side of the country or even the other side of the world.

Others see they can make money off of satisfying the very young craving to own somebody that lives in so many people. And these “money makers” find ways to bring many who will become slaves to the people who, at the root, are starving for mommy.

This owning and money making becomes normalized in the minds and hearts of the individuals and in the minds and hearts of people communally. And it gets passed down from generation to generation, even if not in awareness. The mothers who didn’t have a bond with mommy feel like they own their children, and treat them that way. And those children feel the same about their spouses and children. And on and on and on …

Those who suffer from being owned, don’t know what to do.
Those who suffer from owning, don’t feel consciously like they’re suffering.

Most importantly … nobody is aware that this stems from the earliest times in childhood, when a baby does need mommy to do his or her bidding.
Most importantly … few are aware of how starving we are in our world for healthy attachment from the earliest times in our lives.
Few are aware of how painful it is for a child to be without the deeply needed bonding.
Few are cognizant of the damaging consequences of lack of bonding on an individual, a family, and communally for generations to come.
Few let themselves feel what a trauma this is for all of us.
Few realize how much of what happens in our cultures and in our world is the damaging consequence of unhealthy attachment.

One of the tasks we have ahead of us as we work to end racial prejudice is the same task we have in other arenas of our lives: we need to heal our wounds from the earliest ages, even from the times when healthy attachment needed to occur, so there is healing from the inside out … and not just a guise of healing.

This is courageous, honorable, transformative work.
We all need you – and all of us – to participate in it.

© Judith Barr, 2015

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

None of us is immune to wounding, and even if we don’t actually “own” slaves or consciously feel entitled to “own” others, we may still be feeling the effects of wounding to our early attachment that cause us – consciously or unconsciously – to seek in people in our current lives the healthy “owning” of mommy that we missed as a child.

What you can do:

Commit to explore within yourself if and when you feel entitled to “own” others. You can start by exploring what you feel when someone in your life says “no” to something you’ve asked of them. Do you have strong feelings anytime someone says “no” to you? Do you only have strong feelings when the “no” comes in response to something you feel is really important to you? Do you only have strong feelings if the “no” is a response to something critical to your health and wellbeing? Do you feel scared? Hurt? Angry? Vengeful? Do you feel indignant that they are not “doing your bidding”?

Now ask yourself: “Is my response a here and now response or a young response from long ago that is still alive inside me today? Or is it a combination of the two?” To find out, trace those feelings back, as far back in your life as you can. Maybe you felt this same way – with good reason – when you were a child or even an infant, when mommy withheld the care she should have given you … care you deserved and were truly entitled to. Keep tracing these feelings back as far as you can. And, if the wounding at the root of these feelings calls you to seek help, commit to finding a good, integritous, caring therapist to help you truly heal these feelings to the root.

What else can you do?

After you have explored your craving to own someone, you can also explore the other side of this coin. Perhaps your experience was not only the absence of mommy giving herself whole-heartedly to you in a healthy attached relationship. Perhaps you also experienced her trying to own you. As a result, in addition to your trying to own people in your current life, you might also transfer mommy trying to own you onto other people in your life today.

You might think people want to own you when they really don’t.You might feel people want you to focus only on them when that isn’t the case at all. You might accuse people of wanting you to do their bidding, when that isn’t true. Those transferred feelings may be so strong that your insistence on and defense against the other person trying to own you may in itself enslave you, the other person, and your relationship in a scenario that isn’t here and now and isn’t the truth. This often happens between people in all kinds of combinations, including people of different races.

If this is the case, you can also trace those feelings back, as far back in your life as you can. Maybe you felt this same way – with good reason – when you were a child and mommy tried to own you, enslave you, trap you … instead of take good care of you. Keep tracing these feelings back as far as you can. And, if the wounding at the root of these feelings calls you to seek help, again … commit to finding a good, integritous, caring therapist to help you truly heal these feelings to the root.

Whatever our skin color, gender, nationality, creed or affiliation, we all need to do this inner healing work, before we can even hope to help our world heal from prejudice and the tragedy it often brings. Imagine what our world would be like if we all committed today to do just that!

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!

HOOKED – AT THE DEEP LEVEL OF OUR WOUNDS

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

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

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

On the romantic level, one-to-one –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a brief example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the group level –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the world level –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2015

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

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

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

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

On the one-to-one level –

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

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

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

On the national and world level –

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

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

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

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

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

FOR THE HOLIDAYS AND NEW YEAR: YOU ARE THE GIFT

Far too often in our world, children are socialized according to how Mom and Dad want them to be. Children are thought of as “wild” and “bad” if they don’t match what the culture wants them to be. Children are thought of as demanding and needy, if they need what a child would naturally need. Children are treated as objects and made to function . . . not helped to be their true selves, not helped to more and more deeply become their true selves.

What we see in our world today shows us a mirror of this truth even now. Adults who still abuse children in cultures that normalize the abuse, even perhaps while also appearing to fight against it. Adults who still use children as objects of sexual gratification, even while hiding it from others. Perhaps even while bemoaning the sexual abuse in our world. Adults who treat children as slaves, to do whatever work the adults wish. Adults who – perhaps even while believing they are being loving – force, train, prompt, or even encourage their children to become too-too-busy, on-the-go little robots. In order to function. In order to succeed. In order to go to college, to get a job, and so on. I’ve worked with mothers who start taking their children to 2 and 3 activities a day every day of the week beginning at age 3 or 4, or perhaps even younger.  No time for these budding little ones to be. Or to become. Only to do.

We too often socialize our children, make them function, to alleviate our own anxieties . . . instead of working through our own anxieties in order to help our children be themselves. We too often didn’t have anyone help us to find and be ourselves, so to try to help our children would bring up our own early wounding and painful feelings . . . feelings and experiences too many of us do not want to remember, let alone feel. So in order to leave our painful memories and feelings buried within us, we create painful memories and experiences and feelings for our children. It is a generational issue. It will continue until, individual by individual, family by family, culture by culture, some generation stops it by doing its own healing work.

Even some therapy in today’s day and age contributes to this. Many therapies get the patients or clients to function . . . and no more. Driven, in part, by the insurance companies and finances, therapy is too often limited to a search for functioning, or a search for socializing . . . and no more. It is too often limited to a quick fix – “slap on a band aid” mode of treatment, instead of helping a person through the wounding, through the suffering, to the root of the wound and to the self who was originally wounded. And of course, if the therapist doesn’t do this work for him or herself – as too many therapists don’t – helping someone else do it will bring up what the therapist doesn’t want to remember, re-experience, or feel. This contributes to the therapist being driven by things like insurance, finances, new and old theories and techniques that will take the therapist away from assisting clients to find their true self.

Thank goodness . . . there are some therapists who are able and committed to helping people journey through the dark within to find their true selves; and there are some therapists who do their own work ongoingly so they are able to be with others in this deep, courageous journey.

Even many coaches and personal growth trainers, while perhaps believing they are doing something helpful, make this same mistake. For example, those who advocate “finding your purpose.” The emphasis on your purpose being something you should be doing in the world with your life and life energy. But your purpose isn’t something you do . . . it’s finding who you are, being who you are, living who you are . . . the real you. Some people will settle for doing. Others, thank goodness, want to find their true selves.

Even the media now reinforces and imposes the functioning and socializing instead of the finding of your real self . . .  the CNN Heroes who do great giving things, the gifts people should give for those who have experienced trauma, the donations to be made so you can have an impact.  Mind you, there is nothing wrong with giving. There is nothing wrong with having an impact. But if it is a new way to socialize people instead of helping them find their real selves, then this too is distorted.  And if it is a way to defend against your journey home to your real self, then it blocks the way to our having a family, a culture, a world filled with not giving automatons but deeply authentic people – people able to truly give from the heart and not from a place of wounding. And if it doesn’t truly help a person with the inner healing needed, then it most certainly blocks the way to that healing.

Through this holiday season and in the year to come, instead of making the mad dash to buy gifts for people . . . instead of being seduced and dazzled and held captive by the gifts and the lights in the outer world . . . how about seeing the gifts and lights in the outer world as a mere mirror to the gift of you, the light of you deep within . . . and commit yourself to find the gift within your very self, the light within your very self.

You Are the Gift

Even if you weren’t welcomed into the world as a gift,
Even if you weren’t treated like a gift as a child,
Even if you buried the gift you were beneath your defenses
in a reflexive attempt to protect the real you,
Even if you have forgotten you buried the gift that you are . . .
You are still the gift.

The gift of you is still waiting for you
to come find and  dig him or her out . . .
to take the walls down rock by rock, inch by inch . . .
to fill in the moat, leaving perhaps a brook . . .
so you can allow others to come close while honoring your
boundaries . . .
The gift of you is still waiting for you to bring air and space and true nourishment . . .
to bring protection, not defenses, in a different more healthy way,
in a way that no longer need be life saving without being life giving.

There is a light within you
The spark of you
The essence of you . . .
It lives within the darkness in you.
You cannot truly access it
without going into the darkness within.
You cannot truly live from it
without going through the darkness within.
It is a challenging journey.
It is a unique kind of initiation journey.
It is a healing, transformative journey
Like no other.
It brings you home to you.
This is your purpose . . .
Unlike any other . . .
To journey within
through the darkness of
your own inner underground labyrinths . . .
Through the darkness . . .
Home to the essence of the real you.

That’s who you need to be.
That’s who you need to live.
That’s who you need to be in the world.
That’s who you need to give to life . . .
That’s who you need to give to the world . . .
For in giving your true self to life . . .
Everybody receives . . .
Life and the whole world get to receive the gift of you,
And
You get to receive the gift of being your Self,
Giving what nobody else in the whole universe can give . . .
Your true self.

© Judith Barr 2013

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

This holiday season, and as you prepare for the coming year, make a commitment to do the inner work to explore and heal your inner wounds . . . and find your true self.

Don’t be content with just “functioning” or just “doing.” As you do your holiday shopping . . . as you prepare to celebrate . . . as you make passage into the new year . . . as you go about your daily life . . . notice ways in which our society discourages the journey to self.

Take note of and recognize the ways in which the media and our world in general focus on “doing” rather than “being,” on managing rather than healing, and speak out about this distortion. Help others in your life not to normalize the “quick fixes” that encourage us to settle for just being functional. And commit, during the holiday season and all year long, to heal your own wounds to the root, and to uncover the true and real you . . . to be able to offer the most unique and valuable gift you can: your true self.

IF WE STAY ON THE SURFACE . . . WE END UP SUFFERING AND CREATING MORE SUFFERING . . . PART 2

Who Do You See . . . Really?
The Power of Transference 

I have been writing about the consequences of our staying on the surface in the outer world and not doing the deep work in the inner world from which what occurs in the outer world springs.

From the responses I’ve received, it seems to be such a difficult thing for people to look at, take in, acknowledge, and commit to working with. As a result, starting last month I began teaching in relation to a few arenas in our world where the interplay between the inner and outer is more obvious than others. This month’s theme is about transference.

Chance, the gardener, becomes Chauncey Gardener in one moment of . . . misunderstanding? Inaccurate interpretation? Gross idealization? Transference.

A woman comes into the amphitheater . . . she is glowing . . . there is soft music playing. The wind is blowing. She doesn’t say a word. All she does is walk up and down the rows and around the banks of seats in the huge amphitheater. According to what everyone says, her very presence heals everyone she passes, near and far. All stand silently, smiles on their faces.

A man walks on stage. He’s tan and handsome, well dressed. He holds his hands up, each hand with the first two fingers in a ‘v.’ He’s running for the country’s leadership position. His party just selected him as its candidate. The crowd roars with cheering and applause.

An elderly man, dressed in all white robes, comes out on a balcony overlooking throngs of people. He’s attended by other older men, also in robes, their robes covered with orange-red garments. He holds up his hands as if to bless those below. The crowds of people all bow their heads to receive his blessings.

Who are these people who have taken center stage, so to speak? Who are they actually? And who do we think they are?

Chauncey Gardener is a character from the movie Being There. The simple gardener of a wealthy man, he spent his life on the estate, tending the gardens and watching television. When his employer died, he was seen by a wealthy woman as a wise man . . . soon became advisor to the President, and then was considered as a replacement for the President in the next term. How could this be? How could people, supposedly intelligent, savvy people, mistake a simple gardener so completely?

The woman who supposedly heals people by walking in the rows past them is a scam artist from a little village in a country across the seas. She grew up in an area where public relations people vacation, and one, spotting her, decided to give it a try. Together they are making millions, raking in the money. She speaks no English, and he’s a fast talker. How could so many people be so deceived by her?  So many people – commoners, people in the healing professions, and famous people, as well.

The tan, handsome, well-dressed man is the leading contender for the country’s leadership position – groomed for decades, since childhood, by his party’s leaders.  Taught how to look, stand, sit, talk, walk . . . and how to think, feel, be. Everyone thinks they know who he is and what he will do as leader of the country, even though nobody really knows who he would have become if he hadn’t been groomed and programmed.

The elderly man is the new pope. The public doesn’t really know him yet. We know what we are being told about him. We know how we take his actions and words, but how much of that is through the filter of what we’re being shown?  Most of all, we don’t really know who he is or what kind of pope he will truly be.  We just know that he is “Papa” . . . the pope, the father.*

*****

Why do we respond to these people and others like them as we do, without even really knowing who they are? Respecting them as more than the human beings they are? Trusting them with our well-being, health and healing? Celebrating and cheering them as our leaders-to-be? Honoring and deferring to them as our religious and spiritual leaders, who also hold sway over things very physical and earthly in our lives?

It’s because of a very simple mechanism call transference. Commonly known but not well enough understood and taught in the world of psychotherapy. Hardly known at all in the mainstream world. And the damage and suffering that are caused by our not knowing, understanding, and being able to utilize this mechanism for good … is staggering.

So let’s begin with a basic understanding of transference. When someone transfers onto a person, a thing, an event, the Divine, or even life itself in the present day, someone or some experience from his or her childhood . . . that is transference.  The person from the past is usually someone experienced as an authority figure: mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, adult friends of the family, adults in the neighborhood, teachers, clergy, doctors, or older siblings, babysitters, etc. The event from the past is usually something unpleasant or painful, even traumatic. But it could have been something pleasurable or seemingly pleasurable, a guise for something that was actually damaging – like the seductive, pseudo-playful lead up to sexual abuse. Or it could have been a rare sweet moment in the midst of a lot of painful experiences. And whoever or whatever the transference is put onto in the current day could be a private figure – personal to the individual’s life, like a boyfriend or girlfriend – or a public figure – like a candidate or leader in an organization, a country, a world.

Transference is a complex process with many levels to understand and work with and through. For today, I’m going to talk basic and general, so you can begin to get a sense of the power of this mechanism. And so you can begin to get a sense of just how powerful it is when we are so completely unaware of its existence buried beneath the surface.

*****

Here are some examples of transference related to the situations I described above:

Let’s say a woman’s father was mean and cruel, but her great grandfather, though distant, was quiet and seemingly wise and kind.  That woman might grow up and transfer her cruel father onto most men, especially those she gets close to. With or without her even realizing it, she might draw mean, abusive men to her; and with or without realizing it, she might expect even the kind men that come close to be abusive to her. But she may also – without her awareness – transfer her seemingly kind great grandfather onto men who come toward her but stay at a distance. And from her little girl place, she might imagine what a wonderful, wise, loving man he would be . . . without even knowing him, or anything about him. With this transference in place, unless he actually did or said something cruel to her, she would continue to imagine his wonderful, virtuous qualities. And look to him for his goodness. Perhaps this is how someone like an Eve Rand in the movie Being There, might be drawn into her transference onto a Chance, the gardener.

Let’s say a man’s mother was a doctor in the slums of a major city abroad, a doctor committed to making the lives of the people in the slum better. The man loved his mama, all the more because he so rarely got to see her. But he did see photos of her in the papers and magazines, and stories about her on television . . . always surrounded by people who loved and were grateful to her. Let’s say this man’s mother died when he was a teenager, leaving him with a heart full of grief and an unfulfilled experience of mothering. In his early 20’s, a woman healer came to his part of the country, and he was drawn to her beyond explanation. He became a follower. He even became a promoter for her. He had transferred mama onto her, without any idea what he was doing. Nothing anyone could have said would have dissuaded him from his devotion to her . . . especially not telling him she was carrying out a hoax.  “How could they say that of her – his mama?” He couldn’t have said that. It wouldn’t have been conscious. But it would have lived inside him, very alive within him, since he had unconsciously transferred his mother onto this fake healer.

Now imagine the party’s political candidate for national leader was saying all the “right” things, doing all the “right” things . . . not only enough to get him chosen as the party’s candidate, but also to seduce people, like you, who ordinarily might see through a programmed candidate. But this candidate has been programmed since childhood.

And, he just happens to remind you of your uncle . . . your mother’s brother who was your hero when you were a child. Your mother’s brother who was always there for you when you needed someone. Your mother’s brother who always talked with you, always took you places you needed to go, always helped you when you needed help.

Maybe he was even the brother of the mother who worked as a heroic doctor abroad, while you stayed home and lived with your aunt and uncle. Anyway . . . such a background with your uncle could easily be transferred onto this political candidate, without your being at all aware of the transference. In this case, it would be an example of idealized transference. So you end up utilizing your good experience of your uncle, who was not only good to you but also whom you, as a little child, probably idealized along with your mother . . . and you end up transferring that idealized uncle onto this political candidate. Again, you are not aware this is happening. You think, even believe, you have a very good understanding of who this political candidate is.

One more person to imagine for now – the new pope. You’ve never heard of him before. You are not a student of the papacy. He presents a pleasant enough presence. He is silent for a while. He says and does unique and perhaps touching things when he speaks . . . like staying on the same level with the cardinals instead of being on a raised platform, and asking to be blessed before he blesses the crowds. The media says he is humble, so you see his actions through that filter. They say he is a man of the people, so you let his riding the bus, cooking his own meals, and not living in the Archbishop’s Palace elevate his standing in your eyes and your heart. Whether you’re a Catholic or non-Catholic, you have been gravely concerned with what has gone on in the Catholic Church. You really want to believe this new pope can be trusted to do good in the church and in the world. Just like you really wanted to believe, when your mother remarried after she divorced your abusive father, that your new step father could be trusted to do good in your family. And because you were a little child, with your life in this new father’s hands, you wanted to believe so much . . . that you let yourself believe. The desire, and need, of a little child to believe, plus transference, leads a grown person – with child still alive within – to be vulnerable, seducible, and too easily seduced. In your case, your new step father turned out to be a decent man, to you. But maybe the step father of your next door neighbor wasn’t such a decent man – either to your playmate, or to his own children, now living with their mother; or maybe he wasn’t such a decent man to the children he taught in the nursery school. Nevertheless both you and your neighbor transfer onto the new pope – you transfer onto him your good experience with your step father, and your neighbor transfers onto him an idealized hope of a this-time-decent papa.  And both of you will be somewhat blinded to who the pope really is by your early experiences and your transferences.

Of course, we can transfer anyone and anything. And just like we can idealize someone with our transference, so also can we demonize someone with our transference. So, for example, instead of transferring your new step father onto the pope, you could also transfer onto the pope your abusive father – the father you always wished would be kind and loving to you, but who, in the end, battered and abused you. And you then would anticipate, even expect the pope to be abusive and mean-spirited, and look for proof of that as his papacy unfolds. In the negative transference, too, you are blinded to who the pope really is by your early experiences and your transference.

And unless in each of these possibilities, you all investigate who the current day object of your transference is – the person onto whom you are transferring someone from the past – and also do your own deep inner work with the original source of the transference . . . you will not know who the other person in today’s world actually is. And you will not know who and what you are actually seeing, hearing, and experiencing in the current day. In other words, you will not know when your experience is a here-and-now experience, and when it’s an experience from long ago transferred and imposed onto today’s circumstances.

This is true as we relate to public figures like the ones I have used as examples, and it is also true in our private lives. With our friends, our bosses, our employees, our romantic partners, and even our own children. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with were wounded because their mother or father were jealous of their own siblings and transferred that sibling onto their son or daughter!

*****

“This is staggering,” you say? “How do we get anything straight in our lives – private or public?”

Yes, this is staggering. In terms of our personal relationships and our public discourse and choices as citizens. And yes! This shows us clearly that we cannot just stay on the surface and believe working on the surface level will resolve the suffering – any suffering, any suffering completely. It may bring some temporary relief, but not lasting resolution.

Yes, this understanding of transference is staggering. But it is not a cause to become overwhelmed. Not a cause to collapse. Not a cause to give up. This is staggering . . . it is a very powerful revelation. It is a cause for celebration. It is filled with great potential and possibility. It is a solid reason for true and justified hope.

It is something to open your mind and your heart to . . . and to want to learn about. I hope you will want to learn about it conceptually, but even more . . . I hope you will want to learn about your very own transference experientially and emotionally. I hope you will want to learn about your very own transference and how it affects your life. And the lives of those you touch. I hope you will want to discover it and utilize it for healing. The potential for healing here is enormous.

Will you reach for this healing? Will you follow through on it for your individual healing and for the part your own healing will contribute to our communal healing?

© Judith Barr, 2013.

*This is not a critique of the new pope.  I was actually planning on writing this article for my May newsletter. But with the unexpected changing of the guard at the Vatican, it helped to provide a perfect background from which to teach about transference.

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

Transference is something we all experience . . . each of us, every day.

As you go about your day, notice your reactions to the people around you, people you hear about in the news, in the media, from others. Are your feelings and reactions too intense for the situation or news? Do you find yourself idealizing or demonizing people – people in your daily life or in the public eye? What do you feel when someone you idealize  “lets you down”? And what do you feel when someone you’ve demonized does something unselfish or kind?

Explore the experience you have of others, situations, and things in your life, on a deeper than surface level. Who else from your past have you felt this way about? Trace those feelings back as early as you possibly can.

Usually, we are blind to our own transference and need a healing arts professional who can be objective to help us uncover it. And often, even when we are aware of it, we cannot resolve and dissolve the transference on our own, but need the compassionate, wise, skilled, and integritous real help of a therapist to go through the process.

As a depth psychotherapist, I welcome the opportunity to help people with their exploration of transference. I would gladly do consultations with anyone who would like an individual consultation. If enough people here in my area would like to do a workshop on this, I would gladly arrange it. If enough people here in my area would like to do a short term weekly group on this, I would gladly arrange that. If enough people outside my geographical area would like to do a teleconference on this, I would gladly arrange that.

If you would like to request any of these ways of exploring your transference, I welcome your emails.

THE PETRAEUS SCANDAL – WILL WE UTILIZE IT TO STAGNATE OR TO GROW?

Most every year at the end of December or in early January, I write an article about commitment, since making and breaking New Year’s Resolutions is such a hot topic at that time. We’ve just had news, though, of one of our country’s esteemed and powerful leaders having broken his marriage commitment. So it seems to me, now is the perfect time to write about commitment.

*****

Friday, November 9th 2012, CIA Director David Petraeus (and former four-star General of the U.S. Army) resigned his position, based on his having had an extra-marital affair. It has become a scandal with threads and perhaps webs way beyond Petraeus’ affair (as, of course, breaking a commitment will do). While people are focusing on many difference aspects of the situation, I’m going to focus on the core aspect. Commitment.

It seems important as I begin, to talk about how our society holds commitment. If you listen to the media’s response to the Petraeus affair, it will be obvious. I’ve heard media pundits – mostly men but some women, too – say things like: “It’s human nature”; “Many powerful leaders have done the same thing before him and kept their positions”; “Thomas Jefferson and Dwight Eisenhower had affairs, too”; “They were just ‘randy buggers’”; “Men just like sex”; “It doesn’t affect his judgment in his military position, or his presidential position, or whatever high position he holds”; “It’s just between him and his wife, a family matter.”

Could they normalize the breaking of commitment any more? Could they accept the abuse of power that breaking a commitment actually is any more than they have by what they’ve been saying?

The task of leaders, among others, is to help us evolve into more matured, more developed beings – individually and communally. The response of our media to Petraeus’ affair is totally the opposite. They’ve been passing down myths of . . . “Boys will be boys;” and breaches of trust in one area don’t affect breaches of trust in another; and it’s none of our business, a private matter; and more. That’s how slavery was sustained; that’s how domestic violence has been sustained; that’s how the abuse of power has been supported and sustained for far too long. And if we accept that, we are part of sustaining some of the worst of what goes on in our leaders, our communities, our families, and ourselves. And we collude in keeping ourselves small, unempowered, and unmatured. Are we going to collude? Or are we going to make the choice to support, help, and take part in the growth that is possible here?

My intention is to help with our growth. So let’s talk deeply about commitment. When we make a commitment, we pledge our word and our trustworthiness to fulfill the vow we are making. We accept as our responsibility the fulfillment of that commitment. If we commit in a marriage to love, cherish, and be faithful to our spouse . . . we are giving our word that we will fulfill that commitment.

If we do not make a full commitment, we will not keep a full commitment. In other words, we will end up breaking our commitment in some way. Perhaps we will break it externally, as with having an affair. Or perhaps we will break it internally, as with feeling anger toward our spouse and not exploring the anger and what is causing it – in our relationship or within ourselves alone. Instead we will take our anger into our sexual relationship with our spouse and instead of being in connection with our partner . . . fantasize about other partners. Either way we break the commitment, we break it. In thought, feeling, or action.

It is broken. And so is our word. And so is our trustworthiness. There is a rupture not only between us and the one or ones with whom we have made the commitment, but also within us. Most people don’t really understand commitment. Most people don’t really understand what happens once we make a commitment. Most people don’t really get what happens that leads us down the path to breaking our commitments . . . or what could happen to prevent the breaking of our commitments.

Let’s look at commitment – the breadth and depth of it. First, if we don’t make a full commitment, we definitely won’t keep the commitment fully. Something will inevitably emerge that will either “lead” us to break the commitment or that we will use to justify breaking the commitment. And the outcome will not be all it could be. Making a full commitment means committing 100% of yourself to that to which you are committing. That could be, among other things, to a marriage, a child, a career, your own healing, growth, and development. It means committing your mind, heart, body, and soul…every aspect of your being.

Here’s an example of making only a partial commitment. You marry your spouse. You commit to love, honor, and cherish your spouse “till death do us part.” If you don’t really love your spouse, but have just settled for a companion, you have already broken your commitment. If you love your spouse, but when the honeymoon phase of the relationship is over, the underlying issues surface, and you start to have uncomfortable feelings come up – which they always do – you take some of your energy away from your spouse and start giving that portion of your energy to a co-worker who interests you, and with whom you can feel the new, honeymoon-like feelings again. With a partial commitment, this kind of thing will occur again and again. You will create, find, or stumble upon all sorts of excuses for breaking your commitment. You’ll basically be saying, whether you put it into words or not . . . “This is happening, and it is a reason not to keep my commitment,” or perhaps, “This is happening, and it is a reason not to keep my commitment fully.”

If, on the other hand, you have made a full commitment, when the honeymoon phase of the marriage comes to an end, and issues and feelings come to the foreground . . . you will see clearly what is happening: that the part of you who made the full commitment is showing you right out in the open, this is the next thing in you that needs to be healed in order to take the next steps in following through with and fulfilling your commitment. This is a more matured way to understand commitment. That once we make a commitment, whatever exists in our psyche and soul that needs to be healed in order for us to fulfill that commitment will definitely surface for healing. And it is up to us to see that and utilize that for the purpose of healing . . . not for the breaking of the commitment.

So let’s say you have been married for a year and things have settled down from the excitement and the high of the courtship, the marriage, and the start of your life together. And now you are finding you’re hurt by certain things your spouse does. Maybe he’s not spending all his spare time with you anymore, but starting to do some of the writing he’s always wanted to do instead of taking dancing lessons with you. Or maybe she’s not spending all her spare time with you anymore, but beginning to meditate early every morning, just the time you like to cuddle and be intimate. If you haven’t made a full commitment, you could use this to justify doing more things on your own, drawing further away from your spouse, investing some of your energy in someone else, or eventually, even having an affair. If you have made a full commitment and you understand the process of step by step following through on and fulfilling your commitment . . . you will first explore within you what is getting stirred up.

If your husband is spending time writing that you want him to spend with you, maybe it’s triggering a memory – even if you’re not conscious of it yet – when you were a year old and your mother got pregnant again, giving a chunk of her attention to her pregnancy that had been going to you. And maybe if your wife is spending early morning time meditating when you want to be close to her, it’s triggering when you were a year old and your father was working the night shift. He would come home early in the morning and want to be cuddly and intimate with your mommy, when you wanted her to sit and rock you back to sleep after you awakened too early to get up for the day. These are things that, with a full commitment, you would, of course, find a way to work with and work through – not just on the level of understanding, but on the feeling level, too. Perhaps you would find a good therapist who would help you heal these early places of hurt to the root.

I hope you get the essence of the difference between making a full commitment and only a partial one. The difference between breaking your partial commitment or having made a full commitment, finding a way to heal what comes up inside you that needs to be healed. This difference is crucial.

Further, if you break a commitment in the face of something in your life – inside or out – bringing up uncomfortable or painful feelings within you . . . that isn’t just contained in one area of your life. You can have uncomfortable feelings that you aren’t aware of triggered by anything in any arena in your life. What is triggered could cause you to exercise poor or distorted judgment in any arena in your life, even to break a commitment in any arena of your life. Any arena, personal or public.

The other important thing to be aware of, when you break a commitment: you have an effect not only on yourself, but also on the person to whom you made the commitment . . . and even to others, as well. In the example of a partner in a marriage having an affair and breaking a commitment to the spouse, not only will the spouse be affected, but also the children, the extended family, the person with whom the affair is taking place, that person’s family, and perhaps many more. If the affair is with someone at the office, the whole office can be affected. If the affair is at the office and the office is a country’s government, who knows how many people will be affected…people not only in the country but all over the world?

I teach all of this to my clients over the course of their working with me. I help my clients step by step in the process of learning about and working with their commitments. I assist them in seeing what is coming up that tempts them or leads them to break a commitment, and to see it as something within them calling to be healed . . . so they can return to their commitment and continue with it to fulfillment. And I have the privilege and honor of watching them grow and develop as a result. This is what our leaders need to be modeling for us. This is what our media needs to be helping us to learn just in the way they present the news to us. This is what we need to be insisting on from our leaders, from our media, and both from and for ourselves. Otherwise, we stay undeveloped, unmatured beings who don’t expect any more of ourselves today than we did yesterday or tomorrow than we do today. Is that what we want for ourselves and our children?

© Judith Barr, 2012.

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

As we near the end of the year, and the beginning of a new year, instead of making a resolution this year, commit to explore your own relationship with commitment, and the impact it’s made on your life and the lives of those around you.

Ponder the commitments you’ve made in your life . . . commitments to your relationships, to your children, to your career, to others, to yourself . . . What did you feel when you prepared to make that commitment? When you actually did make the commitment? Was it a full commitment, or were you only partially committed? Were you aware of the partial or full nature of the commitment you were making? And after you made that commitment . . . did feelings arise in you that led you to want to break your commitment?

Before, during, and after you make a commitment, explore the feelings that arise in you, things that may lead you to break your commitment. Have you felt this way before? When? And when before that? Trace those feelings back as far as you can in your life. And, of course, if you need help exploring and healings those feelings, rather than acting out on them, seek the help of a good therapist to untangle your present feelings from your ancient wounds, and truly heal your feelings about your commitment to the root.

One of the most important commitments we can make is to the healing of our relationship with commitment. Imagine the effect on our lives, the life of our country, and the life of our world . . . if everyone healed this to the root, and could make full, real, lasting commitments!