The Wounding Is Evident – But So Is the Possibility for Healing

Since the beginning of 2014 the signs of wounding in our world – even just here in the USA – are obvious, blatant, and easily visible in the light of day.  Why don’t we see them as the signs of wounding that they are?

By January 24, there were already news reports commenting on the increased frequency of school shootings in this year …7 in the first 14 school days of 2014, in comparison to 28 in all of 2013.

Why don’t people see what drives these tragedies as wounding? The wounding of the shooters? The wounding in their families? The wounding in our society? Instead of seeing the wounding and healing it, they try to control the guns. And at the same time, they want to teach children how to use guns?

The blindness is heart stopping! The denial is breath-taking. The opportunities are completely ignored. The consequences so destructive!

A retired police captain, Curtis Reeves, shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theater because Chad was texting his babysitter. A former cop! Someone we’re “supposed” to trust to keep us safe.  The wounding explodes out into the world in the form of misuse and abuse of power. Do we see the wounding in this and other members of our “protective services”?  Or is our own sight wounded by our early experiences with authorities and “supposed protectors” in our childhood?

A Congressman, Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) spoke to a reporter in an appalling way – appalling for any person to speak to another, even for a politician in today’s world. But he’s not just a politician; he’s a government official.  He insulted the reporter, Michael Scotto. He cursed at the reporter. And worst of all, he threatened the reporter, “I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony.” And he threatened again, “I’ll break you in half, like a boy.” Unfortunately, this kind of behavior and talk in our world’s political arena – in our world period – has become too commonplace. And, unfortunately, we too often only see it as the sign of a particular individual’s “bad behavior.”  Why don’t we see the sign it is of that individual’s wounding? And why don’t we see the sign it is of cultural wounding … that this is so commonplace?

As if that weren’t sign enough of wounding, Representative Grimm first defended and justified his behavior, and then he showed even further signs of wounding – both personal and cultural. He offered something he called an “apology,” but it wasn’t really an apology. It was a justification for his threats and bullying: he said he was “passionate”; he was “in a hurry”; he was “annoyed”; he “verbally took the reporter to task and told him off.” A blatant sign of lack of personal responsibility…his own and a reflection of that in our world.  And a flagrant sign of the dearth of ability to make real repair … for him and in our world. Signs of profound, deep, and also expansive wounding.

Now we come to Chris Christie … previously a potential candidate for president in 2016. Caught in apparent lies, bullying, and revenge. From soaring to a favored governor to plummeting into distrust and disfavor. People are saying all sorts of things about him. The personal wounding is obvious. But does anyone look at that? Does anyone talk about that?

And Justin Bieber, 19 year old singer … speeding, dui, drugs, who knows what else. People see him as all sorts of things, including “spoiled kid celebrity.” But are we blind to his wounding … whatever wounding he experienced in his family and, in addition, the wounding in the celebrity and entertainment world?

The same and similar questions can be asked in relation to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman – apparently overdosed on heroin. What painful wounding did he live with that he never healed … even with his celebrity, even with his money, even with his opportunities for healing? Can’t we see how true this is of both the people with celebrity and money and also those without? The wounding in our world is widespread . . . and oh, so very visible!

If we were to be honest about it, we have all been wounded in some way. No one has escaped. “How do we respond to our wounding?” is the real question. Do we try to keep it buried? Do we pretend it never happened? Do we normalize it as just part of life? Do we attempt to manage it?

Do we do everything we can to control it and the consequences of that wounding? Do we act it out with others and justify that?  Do we try to “rise above” the wounding and pretend that can help us escape its effects?  Do we try to “transcend” the wounding with prayer and meditation and focusing on the light, pretending there is nothing hidden in the dark of our own unconscious selves? Do we somehow or other leave it unhealed . . . and wonder why our lives aren’t what they could be? And wonder why our world is the way it is?

When we are children experiencing pain, wounding, trauma … we reflexively protect ourselves from what feels unbearable to a child. We bury it, repress it, split ourselves off from the experience. We numb ourselves and deaden ourselves. Originally these are a means of protection. As time goes on and they continue, they start to harden into defenses. Even then, they are a child’s way of trying to stay sane and trying to stay alive.

And if we keep those defenses until we safely get ourselves to someone who can help us heal – truly heal to the root – then those defenses may have served us well. But we may have found someone who, instead of helping us heal to the root, helps us instead to strengthen our defenses – with or without even realizing it – or to create new defenses along with our original ones. And all the while, our defenses may have also caused us and others we touch unanticipated pain. Pushing people away to keep from feeling what happened long ago is an example. Lashing out at people who care about you to avoid having a childhood experience triggered is another example.

For while our defenses may keep us intact till we reach someone who can help us heal … those same defenses usually also create the very things they were originally devised to defend us against.  Let’s say we refuse to give all we’ve got to an endeavor at work … out of fear of being punished (the way mom or dad punished us as children). But our boss gets angry at us for falling short. The defense has created the very anger and punishment it was meant to prevent. Or let’s say we’re scared to be all we can be in a business we’re called to create, for fear dad will tell us “we’re too big for our britches.” So we start the business without telling our father and proceed along, keeping our success a secret, till one day the secret comes out and dad’s response is predictably … “What’re you too big for your britches that you didn’t need my help at all?” Once again, our defense has created the very thing it was intended to avoid.

So we have this ancient wounding that is so prevalent in our world. The wounding that comes along with us as we age, alive though perhaps unconscious within us. Do we keep it buried? Do we build a wall within and without to keep from touching it again? To keep from ever feeling it again? Do we deny we were ever wounded, even to ourselves? Do we use a million and one defenses – even new age defenses, twenty-first century defenses – to keep from meeting our wounding again as adults, even if that meeting could make possible the healing? Even if meeting that wounding again is absolutely necessary, in truth, to making possible the healing?

And as a result, do we fail to see the wounding in those around us – up close and far away – individually, culturally, and globally? And if we are unable to see the wounding outside ourselves because we are unable to see the wounding within . . . how will we ever, ever, ever be able to help resolve the problems that exist as a result of wounding? The problems in ourselves. The problems in our families. The problems in our schools. The problems in our religious and spiritual organizations. The problems in our corporations. The problems in our places of employment. The problems in our governments …

We need to take off our blinders and see the signs of wounding – in ourselves and in our world. We need to see and recognize what’s going awry in our lives and in our world as signs of wounding – signs of wounding showing us there are wounds to be healed. We need to know we can heal this wounding … if we commit to being courageous explorers, detectives, and healers in our own unconscious selves.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

We are all wounded. We all need to become more aware of our own wounding, and commit to do the work needed to explore and heal our wounding.

As you go about your day, try to become aware of situations where your own wounding is evident…and how you react to your own wounds. Ask yourself the same questions I ask in the article above:

Do you try to keep your wounds buried?
Do you pretend the traumas that gave birth to your wounds never happened?
Do you normalize your wounding as just part of life?
Do you attempt to manage or control your wounding and the consequences of that wounding? Do you act it out with others and justify that?
Do you try to “rise above” the wounding and pretend that can help you escape its effects?
Do you try to “transcend” the wounding with prayer and meditation and focusing on the light, pretending there is nothing hidden in the dark of your own unconscious self?
Do you somehow or other leave it unhealed…and wonder why your life and our world aren’t what they could be?

Becoming more aware of how you react to your own wounding can be a starting step in the journey towards healing…taking us further from just trying to control the effects of our own wounding in the outer world and closer toward healing those wounds to the root. And … in doing so, we move closer toward real, sustainable change not only in our lives but in our world.

If We Stay on The Surface . . . We End Up Suffering and Creating More Suffering . . .

Part 4:  Violence Within and Without.

SINCE THE BOSTON MARATHON . . .

The Boston Marathon Bombings were tragic – for everyone. Not just for those who were killed and injured. Not just for those who lost people dear to them. Not just for those who were walking or eating or studying nearby. Not just for that day. And not just for that week. It was tragic for all of us near and far. It was tragic not only in its occurrence but in its aftermath, too.

Whether you’ve watched the news, listened to the news, read the news via hard copy or internet, talked with people, witnessed and experienced events first hand . . . here’s what we’ve seen and experienced most frequently, most consistently, most openly since April 15, the day of the bombing.

Yes, we’ve seen courageous, quick-thinking, quick-acting people tend to the injured, even save people. We’ve seen people help those who have been hurt and traumatized. We’ve seen people act lovingly towards each other. But as the shock just began to wear off, we began to see also . . . defenses against the pain and fear rising and growing. The face Boston presented was Boston Strong – we’re tough – “they can’t keep us down.”  Resiliency is a true and needed gift, individually and communally. But not hardened as a mask against vulnerability. They showed people rising above the vulnerability of the experience, above the real feelings to the defensive feelings, postures, and actions. And there was a lot of finger pointing, blame, and hatred, not just in Boston, but definitely in and around Boston. According to someone dear to me living in the Boston area, people were vicious and blood thirsty . . . people in public, people in the workplace, people on the media. Not all people, but so many! It was like a re-run of post 9/11 – the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” And instead of feeling the grief and vulnerability and allowing it to be the place from which we moved forward, turning someone into the enemy, building defenses, and fighting. Instead of finding out what is our responsibility and what is someone else’s and holding both accountable – pointing our fingers outward at someone and spewing hatred and blame at them . . . at as many others as we need to in order to not look at ourselves and our own responsibility.

Of what I heard, there was one sane voice in the crowd in the aftermath of the bombings. That of Tom Brokaw. On Meet the Press the Sunday afterward, he said that we need to get to the roots of it; we need to look at our part; we need to see the part that our drones play in the feelings others have toward us and the actions they take; and we need to use this opportunity for all of us to take part in a discussion about violence in our culture. Thank you, Tom Brokaw! It’s a good start. A brave start. Saying things that when said by others caused them to be attacked for being unpatriotic.  But you have the credibility and respect to say it and pull it off. Although . . . there wasn’t very much said about your having said it. Except in a couple places I saw, it was kind of buried underground.

Still you said it, Tom. And I do thank you. But we have so much further to go. I wish you would join with me, Tom, to help people go farther, go deeper. For if we don’t go to the roots – even deeper roots than you were speaking about – we will just have more of the same. We will just see more of the same. We will just create more of the same.

I want to give credit to Noam Chomsky, too. Though two plus weeks later, he said it again, in an Alternet article on May 2. He said it a little differently . . . even more graphically:

“On April 23, Yemeni activist and journalist Farea Al-Muslimi, who had studied at an American high school, testified before a US Senate committee that right after the marathon bombings, a drone strike in his home village in Yemen killed its target.

“The strike terrorized the villagers, turning them into enemies of the United States – something that years of jihadi propaganda had failed to accomplish.

“‘His neighbors had admired the US,’ Al-Muslimi told the committee, but ‘Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads. What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant.’”

I say to you also, Noam . . . Thank you. But . . . we have so much further to go. Please join with me to help people go deeper. For if we don’t go to the real roots, we will just have more of the same. We will just see more of the same. We will, to our own disbelief and horror, create more of the same. And we will continue to believe it is outside our control . . . disconnected from us.

Because we are so disconnected from ourselves.

The violence has been increasing. It has already been expanding and escalating. Look what’s been in the news since the Boston Marathon tragedy:

Jodi Arias was convicted of the first degree murder of her ex-boyfriend. Ariel Castro was caught for kidnapping, raping, holding captive, and torturing three teenage girls. Jeffrey Krusinski, head of U.S. Air Force sexual assault prevention unit was charged himself with sexual battery for allegedly groping a woman in a parking lot. Sexual abuse in the public amongst citizens; sexual abuse in our military; sexual abuse in our religious communities was revealed in the Catholic Church long ago; and sexual abuse in our politics and government. That isn’t all. But that in itself shows the pervasiveness of violence – in this case sexual violence – that occurs in our society . . . not just in and by “those people out there.” People in another country, another state, another community, another ethnicity or culture, another family.  But also sometimes in people close to us and in us, too.

In fact, it could be anyone. A doctor, lawyer, teacher, minister, priest, rabbi, banker, government official, world leader. A father, mother, brother, sister; aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather . . . In fact, it could be anyone who was abusing and anyone who was abused.  In the 1950’s, there was a Miss America named Marilyn Van Derbur. She was from an upstanding family in Denver, Colorado, with a father who was a pillar of the community – a philanthropist, socialite, businessman, and board member. Some years later it was discovered that he had sexually abused Marilyn and her sister, Gwen, for years. (Her two other sisters have declined comment.) She had completely split that part of her daily experience off from her conscious awareness. So . . . anyone could have been abused. Anyone could be being abused. Anyone could abuse others. That is to say that anyone could have violence in his/her experience or potential.

Here are some more examples since the Boston Marathon bombings:

The police were caught – this time in Baltimore, Maryland – once again brutalizing someone – in this case, a woman who filmed their abuse, while her 2 year old child looked on, all alone in the car; the police threatened to take the woman’s daughter away, and refused to call the woman’s mother to take care of the child.

A man in Washington State, in ongoing dispute with his neighbors, bulldozed their homes down and cut the power to thousands in the community for up to 12 hours.  Neighbors said that he could be the kindest person and in seconds turn on you.  How many people could say that about one of their parents?

There are reports that the suicide rate in the US has jumped . . . sky rocketed.  For example, the rate has jumped from 1999 to 2010 for 35- to 64-year olds:  an increase of 50% for men in their 50’s and an increase of 60% for women between 60 and 64.

The numbers on child abuse in the US are staggering. Approximately 681,000 children were victims of maltreatment (unique instances) in 2011 alone. More than 78% of reported child fatalities as a result of abuse and neglect were caused by one or more of the child victim’s parents.*

According to Unicef: “A small group of countries – Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland and Norway – appear to have an exceptionally low incidence of child maltreatment deaths; Belgium, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Hungary and France have levels that are four to six times higher. The United States, Mexico and Portugal have rates that are between 10 and 15 times higher than those at the top of the league table.”**

In the home: There are 35 countries in which corporal punishment of children by their parents is outlawed. The United States of America is not among them.  And none of the states in the U.S. has prohibited corporal punishment outright, although as the result of the wording of its child abuse laws in 2012, Delaware has effectively, though subtly, “banned” it.***

In the school:  There are 113 countries prohibiting corporal punishment in schools. The United States of America is not among them. **** In US schools, 30 states have banned any form of corporal punishment. But that means there are still 20 states in our country that allow corporal punishment in school. *****   Of course just because a law is passed, doesn’t mean it’s followed in the privacy of a home, or less so of a school; and it doesn’t mean that law is held in high esteem.

It is 2013, and there is only a single state in the United States of America that has legally banned the corporal punishment of children in their homes by their parents! It is 2013, and there are still 20 states in the U.S. that allow corporal punishment of children in schools! The meaning of this goes deeper than most people can or perhaps want to imagine. But we all need to imagine and know.

So many of us in the US consider ourselves so civilized – individually and as a country. And yet, we inflict such violence – by commission or omission – upon our children.  And violence inflicted upon children ends up coming back to haunt not only the children themselves, but also our society . . . and our world.  Not only today, but for generations and generations to come.  I was going to say, the violence haunts those in contact with the children once they’ve grown. But it seems the children are acting out the violence younger and younger as time goes on. Look at just a few of the most widely known violent events by young people in the past months:

* Adam Lanza, age 20, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut.

* High school football players in Steubenville, Ohio rape, photograph, and transmit the photos of a 16 year old girl they “handled” like a mere object.

* Three 16-year olds from Saratoga, California, raped 15-year old, Audrie Pott, photographed the attack and spread the photos online and off; Audrie killed herself.

*12-year old Bailey O’Neill, died after being brutally beaten by bullies in his school in Philadelphia.

Not only is the violence escalating and expanding and coming more and more out into the light of day . . . the ways of helping people deal with their experiences of violence are being distorted and constricted.  The kind of therapy that could help deeply heal what has created the violence and what is now creating the violence is being pushed aside in the U.S. by the APA, NIMH,****** and the prevalence and encouragement of short-term, “quick fix” therapies that help people “just function” and “just manage” their symptoms, in lieu of uncovering and revealing the cause and healing to the root.

With so much violence escalating in such a short time, we need to look back to ourselves…

Too many of us just turn away and don’t deal with the violence . . . don’t take in that it’s occurring and growing. Don’t look to see the cause, or to resolve it. Yes, it’s painful, but we can’t just ignore it. We can’t just hide from it. We can’t just bury it again and again.

At the same time, so many of us find ourselves riveted to the television reports of violence, while simultaneously bemoaning the violence we’re seeing. Pointing to the “perpetrators” and calling them “the evil ones” and “the monsters.” Even supposed television “psychological experts” acknowledged that Castro in the Cleveland tragedy must have been horrifically abused and sexually abused as a child, yet insisted he is “a monster.” In fact one purported expert, used “monster” as his “diagnosis” for Castro. Even the experts, like the one mentioned above, feed the violence – blaming others and not taking responsibility for their own part in the violence in our country and in our world.

Have you ever wondered why you are so riveted to the reports about the violence?  It is because of the violence within ourselves. The violence we experienced as little children, up close and personal and also nearby – whether on the television, in the neighborhood, in our country. It is because of the violence we experienced in relation to our own families, our own parents – even our own mothers. It is because of the wounds still alive within us related to violence somehow, but rooted in our earliest experiences.

The riveting is because of the meanness, the cruelty, the abusiveness, the violence . . . that was normalized one way or another, in our homes and in our culture. A few examples:  I’m not being mean; you’re just too sensitive. How else am I supposed to control you? Get you to do what you’re supposed to do? I wouldn’t have to discipline you, if you would be a good boy/girl. This is how we do things here. Turning things around against the child. Blaming it on one’s “job” as a parent. Doing it under a guise, like “discipline.” Citing the laws and mores of the culture. You can’t imagine how many conversations I hear or hear about where people are justifying their yelling at, spanking, hitting, pinching, their children. Verbal, emotional, physical, and spiritual violence, too – all accepted, all excused, all dismissed as okay in “our world.” This kind of violence causes a child to shut down his/her feelings, burying them, giving them a place to fester and become violence later in the child’s life.

That riveting is because of violence within . . . unresolved. If we can look at the violence outside us and keep our attention on it . . . we don’t have to focus on the violence within us. The violence that perhaps we experienced or witnessed as children. Some of it conscious and some of it buried in our unconscious minds, our hearts, our bodies. And the violence we feel in response. Some of it conscious and some not conscious at all. Some of it we may have acted out in our lives; some of it we may fantasize; some of it we may try to keep from acting on; and some of it we may one day act out . . . harming ourselves and others.

Whatever our individual relationship with violence – past and present – we need to explore and heal it to the root. Otherwise, it will create our relationship with violence in the future. It will create our individual relationship with violence. And it will participate in co-creating our communal relationship with violence in the future.  It will show up somehow – subtly or blatantly – in our violence with our children, our partner, our peers, our selves . . . with everyone in our world. And if we don’t heal this to the root . . . we will get caught in a vicious cycle of escalating violence. We already are caught in that vicious cycle. But we are not yet so caught that we can’t free ourselves. We need to extricate ourselves from the cycle of violence in a healthy way – by healing it one by one by one in those who have experienced violence in their childhood – and to dissolve that cycle fully.

This is not about people who are deemed “mentally ill.” This is about all of us. We all need to pay attention. If we don’t pay attention, we will continue to feed the cycle of violence, individually and on a large scale. We will continue to be wounded, violent people; we will continue to “create” wounded, violent people, and we will continue to create a wounded, violent society and a wounded, violent world.

If you grow up with violence – blatant or subtle cruelty – you will have within you many feelings, including anger and hatred, both of which are feelings that are warranted in those situations. Both of which need safe expression for your health. Neither of which can cause any harm if they are simply felt and safely expressed. But that kind of feeling and expression is not safe in a family where there is child abuse, violence, and cruelty. Alice Miller talks about this at length in her book For Your Own Good:  Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence. There are so many excerpts from her book that I would like to include in this article . . . too many to be possible. But here are three quotes that stand out amongst the crucial understandings she offers:

“Since the path to safe, verbal communication based on a feeling of trust was blocked for them, the only way they were able to communicate with the world was by means of unconscious enactment.” – p. 241 [My note:  What she called enactment is also often called “re-enactment” or “acting out.”]

“Not until the end of the drama is reached do these enactments awaken in the world feelings of shock and horror. The public at large unfortunately does not experience such intense feelings upon hearing reports of battered children.” – p. 241 [My note:  So . . .  the Newtown tragedy got our attention, but the mistreatment of Adam Lanza at his school did not. And in similar manner, Ariel Castro’s kidnapping and raping of three girls and particularly their escape, got our attention, but the abuse Ariel Castro suffered at the hands of his parents and the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of an uncle when he was young . . . did not get our attention. We need to see this in individual cases, but also in the societal norms, when the patterns of child abuse don’t get our attention until they are somehow acted out in horrific enactments.]

“For parents to be aware of what they are doing to their children, they would also have to be aware of what was done to them in their own childhood. But this is exactly what was forbidden them as children. If access to this knowledge is cut off, parents can strike and humiliate their children or torment and mistreat them in other ways, without realizing how they are hurting them; they simply are compelled to behave this way.” – p. 262  [My note: If we hide our own young experience in our own unconscious – under the guise of idealizations, illusions, normalization, or just plain denial – we also hide our cruelty toward our children behind those same walls of silence and defenses against pain.]

Going back to last month’s Mother’s Day newsletter article and looking ahead to Father’s Day in the month of June. . . This is what a loving mother or father would teach us.  And the most loving thing a mother or father can do. They would do their own inner healing work with their experience of violence . . . with a commitment so strong that nothing would get them to break it. Although painful, they would want to know and work through their own childhood experiences of violence. Although painful, they would want to know and do their part to work through the consequences that their childhood experience of violence had on others in their life later.

Truly loving parents would want to help us see our experience of violence and our acts of violence, as well. Truly loving parents wouldn’t just – under the guise of love – let us keep up our hardened defenses against our early experiences of violence, and wouldn’t just – under the guise of love – let us keep up our own acts of violence, however subtle or blatant, and be silent about it. Truly loving parents wouldn’t just use a mask of love to “make” us feel good about ourselves, instead of truthfully bringing us face to face with the parts of ourselves that need healing and with the real fulfillment that can come from our being willing to heal.

Truly loving parents are self-responsible parents and teach us to be self-responsible. Truly loving parents would offer to help us see ourselves and our need to heal . . . and love us through the healing. They would join truth and love together. Without real truth, love is just a wishy-washy imitation. And truth can be just a brutal battering, a form of violence in itself, if we don’t join it with love. Truly loving parents join love and truth together and love us through wherever it leads us in our healing and our becoming our fullest, most positive potential self. . . .  individually and communally.

© Judith Barr, 2013

MY NOTE:  After I wrote this article, but before I posted it, the tornados in the mid-west occurred. So many died in them. And so many children died in the tornado in Oklahoma. It is tragic.  My heart breaks for everyone who suffered from the tornados. I send many blessings.

My heart also breaks for this:  Why do so many parents feel the vulnerability of their children when they go through a tragedy like the tornado or like Newtown, but don’t feel their children’s vulnerability on a daily basis in their own homes . . . where they yell at their children, ridicule their children, spank their children, or otherwise do harm to these same children?  If your heart breaks when I ask this question, I encourage you to reread this article. I encourage you to re-read the quotes from Alice Miller. I encourage you to read Alice Miller’s book. And I encourage you to find a therapist who can help you reconnect with your own vulnerability in your childhood and heal the wounds you experienced and affect you and those around you still today.

* At the time this article was initially published, The National Children’s Alliance posted the statistics for 2011 mentioned in this article. They have since removed that page. You may view the most recent statistics (2013 and 2014), which are alarmingly similar, here: http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/media-kit/national-statistics-child-abuse.

** http://www.unicef.org/media/media_14661.html

***http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home

****http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_corporal_punishment#Country_by_country

*****http://school.familyeducation.com/classroom-discipline/resource/38377.html

******http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/nimh-vs-dsm-5-no-one-wins_b_3252323.html

****

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

This month, commit to helping end the cycle of violence in our lives and in our world, by beginning to explore your own involvement in the cycle of violence – both conscious and unconscious. By beginning to explore your own history with violence – both receiving it and acting it out.  By beginning to explore your own currents of thoughts and feelings of violence within your psyche. Or if you’ve already begun, by taking the next step.

How do you feel when you hear reports of violent events that have happened in our world? Do you join in the castigation of the perpetrator . . . the labeling and naming of the person as a “monster”? What do you do with the fear, sorrow, anger or hatred that wells up within you? Do you act on it? Do you silently indulge it? Do you try to repress it? Or . . . do you try to safely explore and feel it?

This time . . . instead of acting on, indulging, or trying to bury those painful feelings . . . try to trace them back, as far back as you can go in your life. When have you felt that particular ‘flavor” of feeling in your early life? Can you recall the first time you felt that anger? That fear? That sorrow? That hatred? Who in your very young life would you have called a “monster” – if it had been safe for you to do so?

The delicate exploration and healing of the violence and hatred within each of us often requires the help of a trained, professional, integritous, and caring therapist, to help us tease apart the here-and-now feelings from the ancient ones. To help us be and feel safe enough to explore, talk about, and feel. If you need help to heal those currents within and would like to explore doing that with me . . . I would welcome your email.

We can truly heal violence in our world . . . if we are willing and committed to healing the violence within.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to do with all these feelings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2012

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

Just as with many other losses in our lives, grieving is absolutely necessary in response to the tragedy in Sandy Hook last week.

The grief that is here for the families directly affected – the children, the parents, the teachers, the first responders, and more – needs to be done . . . deeply, thoroughly, and in the time, rhythm, and pace that each person is ready to grieve. And in addition, for the length of time each person needs to grieve.

All of us have been affected by this tragedy. And the grief is here for all of us. But not only is this grief here to be felt and moved through. Each time we face grief, it brings up all the grieving from our past that has been left buried and undone. That is why grief is usually so very intense and raw, beyond even the level that a current horrific tragedy could cause. If we didn’t grieve then and don’t grieve again today, even more grief will be buried deep within us – individually and communally. And the grief that is buried lays within us, ready to be set off again and again, and possibly to cause more grief in the future.

Grief un-grieved is part of what prolongs and then even causes more woundedness and more grief. Grief is not just sadness. Grief is a cauldron of feelings – sadness, fear, anger, hurt, confusion, helplessness and more. We need to have the help to feel that cauldron of feelings in healthy ways, without acting out on those feelings, either as a defense against the feelings or as a way of expressing them.

Nothing can truly help us bypass our grief. Nothing can truly help us rise above our grief. We need to walk through it . . . step by step by step. Or even crawl through it, if that’s our true pace. And we need the help to do it. Grief is such a crucial example of how our society – perhaps even our world – has tried to avoid and defend against feelings. It is such a crucial example that I included a whole chapter on grief in my book.* I called the chapter, “Abracadabra Alacazam! — All Grief Be Gone,” as a reflection of how we defend against feeling grief.

This is such a crucial example of how the fabric of our society needs to be rewoven. . . rewoven so that we, ourselves, as adults, find a way to feel our grief and other feelings as well, and utilize them  for healing. And then help our children with their grief and other feelings as well. If we can’t tolerate feeling our own feelings, how are we going to even tolerate anyone else’s feelings — let alone help them with them . . . our children included.

Please, do not let anything that is said by anybody interfere with your allowing yourself to grieve in a healthy safe way! Don’t let anybody – within or without – interfere with your grieving. Don’t let the media, the spiritual leaders, the mental health workers, anybody interfere with your finding a safe, healthy, healing, truly transformative way to grieve.

*Judith Barr, Power Abused, Power Healed, Chapter Eight, pp.67-78 This chapter has been helpful to many who needed support to grieve deeply and safely.

© Judith Barr, 2012

IN LIGHT OF THE SANDY HOOK TRAGEDY . . .

Below is a copy of an email I have sent out to media all over our country. For years I have been working to help heal the misuse and abuse of power and the violence that accompanies it – both blatant and subtle.

Some wonderful people in the media have been interested in helping and have interviewed me. A few have talked with me on air again and again. But as we’ve witnessed and experienced more and more public violence, it seems the media – as a mirror to society – has wanted to know less and less what is at the root of violence and how to heal it.

I will continue to put the truth out there. Perhaps what I’ve written below will call to you to send to media in your area. Or perhaps it will call you to learn and explore more yourself.

May we take real and deep steps to heal violence to the root in our country and our world.

Timely Interview Offering: UPDATE: Violence Now in Connecticut – Why Don’t We Want to Know?

Hello . . .

Individually and as a nation, we have just begun to deal with our grief over the recent mall shooting in Oregon…when yet again we are faced with another shocking and tragic event: an elementary school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut…in my own “backyard.”

As we begin to feel another wave of grief over this most recent tragedy, we must ask ourselves: Why does it seem like people don’t want to discover the roots of violence and truly heal it? How close to home does it have to get before we open our minds and hearts to look, learn, and heal?

My name is Judith Barr, and I am a Brookfield, CT psychotherapist and author of Power Abused, Power Healed. In addition to contributing to HuffingtonPost.com, I have been interviewed in a variety of radio, TV, and print media, including, the nationally syndicated The Joey Reynolds Show, Culture Shocks With Barry Lynn, America Tonight with Kate Delaney, One On One With Steve Adubato, Financial Crisis Talk Center with Ken Gross and David Einstandig, The NAPFA Advisor, Leadership Excellence, and The Fenton Report.

If you want to take a step toward truly helping in the healing, one way would be for us to do an interview together. In that interview, I would explore with you for your audience or readers:

· What we don’t want to know about the roots of violence in any of its many forms.

· How our not knowing and exploring those roots helps to feed the violence and keep it going and growing.

· How we can help ourselves and each other turn the tides of violence around, not in a shallow, surface way, but to the root.

· That violence is not just an individual or community issue, but rather a national, multi-national, and global issue.

I look forward to hearing from you, to exploring the possibilities, and to arranging an interview.

Thank you,
Judith Barr, author, Power Abused, Power Healed
JudithBarr@PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com
www.PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com