How Did We Ever Let This Happen?

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

When Are We Going to Heal the Repetitive Vicious Cycle From the Inside Out?

In my article after the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, I talked about the healing concept “the poison is the medicine.” Let’s review before going deeper.

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

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

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

The Paris attacks occurred 3 weeks ago as I write this. To my knowledge, there have been two more violent attacks in the public eye since – one in Colorado Springs 11/27/15 and one in San Bernardino, California 12/2/15. I imagine there were more than that all over the world. I imagine there were more not so very public attacks all over the world – in people’s communities, workplaces, neighborhoods, and homes. And here is the key to “the poison is the medicine.”

Whatever outer action is done to change the danger in the outer world, outer action alone is not and never will be enough. Whatever is done to change the danger in the outer world through prayer alone is not and never will be enough. Even the Dalai Lama recently said, “We cannot solve this problem only through prayers.”* Although both outer action and prayer are valuable components in the solution, the real solution is within each of us. The real solution is by each of us doing our own inner healing work within ourselves – mind, body, heart, and soul.

We each need to discover, work with, resolve, and heal that within us which contributes to, feeds, or even acts out the violence we are seeing all over the world. Even if we don’t remember, even if it was too subtle for a child to grasp, we each need to find the root of that violent vicious cycle in our lives long, long ago. Otherwise, it lives on within us. Otherwise without meaning to, we will perhaps consciously, perhaps unconsciously be participants in keeping the violence going in our lives and in our world – however near or far.

Here’s an example. Bob grew up in a violent home. His father abused his mother. Bob witnessed and heard the abuse. And, of course, felt all sorts of feelings in the process, among them terror, confusion, hurt, sorrow, helplessness, rage … Bob never knew when his father would become violent. He never knew when his father would turn his violence on him. He never knew what caused his father to turn on the people he supposedly loved in such violent attacks. And he never knew why the people in his extended family, his neighborhood, his culture normalized his father’s behavior and therefore either abstained from or refused to help his mother and his whole family prevent the terrorizing attacks right there in their home.

Bob grew up. He was very bright. He finished college and graduated cum laude. He entered the workplace in a field for which he had a passion – medicine – and was making a place for himself in the field. Eventually he met someone and developed a relationship with her. And in right timing, they married. While Bob continued to grow in his professional life, his family began to grow, too. Within a period of 6 years, he and his wife had 4 children. Then one night, without warning, without signs, without immediate outer explanation, one night Bob “snapped.” He smacked his wife, yelling at her – something he would never have thought would happen. His wife would never have thought it either. Nor his neighbors, his friends, his colleagues, his mentors, or anybody else who had known him.

The thing that got him to stop was his wife’s screams and the echo inside him of his mother’s screams when he was a little boy, followed by the terrified look on his children’s faces and the mirror that look showed of his own face and his sibling’s faces as children.

Bob apologized to his wife and moved toward her … she recoiled reflexively, scared he would smack her again. He moved toward his kids, apologizing to them, but they also backed away involuntarily, terrified he would attack them. He was in terrible pain himself – for what he had done, that it had come out of the blue, for the looks and reactions of his wife and his children … for the terror he had caused that would now be part of their experience of him forever.

He had many choices. He could lash out some more at their withdrawal. He could storm out of the house. He could get down on his knees and beg forgiveness, even though there would be no guarantee in their minds, hearts, and cells that he would never do that again. How could they trust him now? He could sit on the couch and sob. He could calmly go upstairs to his bedroom, close and lock the door, lie down on the bed, and cry. He could pack a suitcase and leave – till he knew he would never do that again. He could use the power position he had established, to rule over his family in a new way. He could sit everybody down and talk about what just happened, although his family was still too afraid, too much in shock to be able to do that. He could call the head psychiatrist at the hospital where he worked and ask if he could come talk. Bob had these 8 options and many, many more. Others would have picked a different option than Bob … each one creating another step ‘round the vicious cycle again or taking a step out of the vicious cycle.

Bob, thank goodness, took a step out. He made arrangements to meet with his colleague at the hospital in a half hour, and told his wife and children he was going to go get help so he wouldn’t do that again.

At the meeting with Pete, he talked about what happened and cried and cried from his shock, his fear, his confusion, his remorse, and more … Pete asked him some questions and the subject of the echo of mom’s screams and the mirror of his and his siblings’ faces came out into the conversation. Pete hadn’t known Bob’s childhood history until this night. Near the end of their time together, Bob asked Pete for help. He didn’t know how to keep this from happening again, and he didn’t know how to help his wife and kids not be scared of him. Pete said Bob would need to do some depth psychotherapy to really heal this to the root, and to really make sure he wouldn’t be violent like that again. He explained to Bob that he couldn’t do it himself, because of their collegial relationship, and said that he would give him a referral to a therapist he trusted who did that kind of work.

Bob understood, thanked Pete, and knew he would call the referral the next day. He phoned his wife to see if she felt safe enough for him to come home, and she didn’t. So they agreed he would stay at a hotel for the night and call her the next day after his first appointment with the therapist. The therapist explained to Bob that when you have witnessed abuse as a child and been abused during childhood, the experience and the feelings from the childhood experience live on in your unconscious and can be triggered by anything. Something blatant like a person’s actions, look, or words. Something ever so subtle, like the way a person breathes. Or something in the situation. For Bob, for example, being at home with his wife and 4 children and under so much pressure at work and then at home every day … he had begun to feel trapped. On that unanticipated and frightening night, Bob couldn’t contain the feeling of trappedness any longer.

As the feelings of trappedness opened, Bob’s yelling and smack opened, also … along with the memory of daddy’s abuse and all that came with it … including all the feelings and all the memories Bob carried within him. Not the least of those memories and feelings was Bob’s feeling trapped as a little boy, and his witnessing his mother and his siblings feeling trapped, too.

While Bob stayed in therapy and worked through the healing within him, he and his wife and children got the help to repair the damage he had created in the family.

In my example, Bob could have been male or female, any age (and getting younger all the time), of any race, any religion or no religion at all, with a heritage from any country in the world, of any economic standing, with any sexual orientation …

In other words, anybody who has been wounded in any way will unconsciously bring that wounding into his/her life and re-create or re-enact the ancient wounds in some way. Each time a reenactment occurs it is an opportunity to stop the vicious cycle.

Each time a choice is made – consciously or unconsciously – the person is making a choice whether to use the reenactment and the pain it causes (the poison) as a gateway for healing (the medicine). Choosing not to use the poison as medicine will bring about another reenactment, likely escalated to some degree. Choosing to utilize the poison as medicine, will help to start healing the vicious cycle, the reenactments and the wounds at the root.

In the example of Bob, he chose purposefully and healingly to step out of the vicious cycle. If he hadn’t … the vicious cycle would likely have escalated and escalated until he was violent with his wife again and again, and perhaps his children, too.

And then his children might have grown up like him and unconsciously re-created those early experiences and so ended up in situations where they were either abusive and violent or perhaps being the one abused and battered. This would then be passed down generation after generation, as it actually already had been. The escalation would continue until someone somewhere down the lineage stopped it by doing his/her own inner healing work related to the abuse, the being abused, and the terror.

This is what has been happening in our world again and again. Some people who have been wounded have lashed out publicly and not so publicly in abusive and violent ways. Some who have been wounded have run away, either physically or mentally and emotionally. Others who have been wounded have, in effect, become numb, frozen, and figuratively curled up into a ball, becoming passive and submissive in their lives. There are many reactions a wounded person may have. It’s best not to judge them. And it’s best not to oversimplify them. But we can see that the three above represent the standard reactions of fight, flight, and freeze.

And we need to see that the wounded and disaffected people in our families are vulnerable to being drawn into neighborhood gangs, just like the wounded and disaffected people in our countries are vulnerable to being drawn into gangs like ISIS. People reacting to their wounds can find support in groups. That support may be destructive, not random acts of violence, but violence rooted in their history; that support may collude with and help them go around the vicious cycle again. Or that support may be healing, helping them do the work to step out of the vicious cycle for good.

When we don’t stop the vicious cycle in our individual lives, we create families that don’t stop the vicious cycle. When we don’t stop the vicious cycle in our family lives, we create neighborhoods that don’t stop the vicious cycle…we create communities that don’t stop the vicious cycle; we create states and countries that don’t stop the vicious cycle; we create a world that doesn’t stop the vicious cycle.

When we don’t stop the vicious cycle we normalize the cycle itself. When we don’t stop the vicious cycle we collude with others who don’t stop their vicious cycle. When we don’t stop the vicious cycle we give license to continue the cycle – a silent ‘yes’ to people ripping off permission to act out the cycle again and again. And we live in denial of what we’re doing.

When we don’t stop the vicious cycle we reenact the cycle again and again and help others do the same. We act out our ancient wounds both actively and passively, re-wounding ourselves and others, and escalating that re-wounding again and again … till somebody helps us stop.

Of the people who are acting out violently, whether in words or with violent weapons, some are doing so under a guise of a lofty purpose; some are doing so under a guise of divine will; some under a guise of vengeance or retribution; some with no guises, no excuses at all. But the truth is, at the root, all are doing so as a result of wounding – wounding that may have begun with their parents or with generations and cultures many times removed.

But they aren’t the only ones contributing to the vicious cycle and the escalations. Whatever our wounding individually and from one generation to another … Every one of us has currents of feeling in us that are loving, caring, vulnerable, innocent, and devotedly protective … whether we’ve buried those feelings or not. And every one of us has currents of feeling in us that are angry, raging, violent, destructive, with the intention of doing harm to ourselves and/or someone else … whether we’ve buried those feelings and are conscious of them or not. If we do not explore, discover, and heal the destructive parts of ourselves, no matter how buried beneath our awareness they are … we will continue to collude with the vicious cycle of reenacting and re-creating terror in our lives and the life of our world today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that.

In Power Abused, Power Healed, the quote by Thich Nhat Hanh describes what we each live with and how we are each every side of the problem:

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
Refugee on a small boat,
Who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
**

As I write this, it is 3 weeks since the attacks in Paris. There have already been more attacks and escalated attacks about which we know and many, many more that aren’t publicized. Stop!

We must stop this vicious cycle! Not in the destructive ways that are being discussed and used – for example, not revenge, destruction, and defense – but in the way of real protection, with a real intention of protection. Not in the superficial ways that are being discussed and thrown into the game by people such as the media, the presidential candidates, even the military experts. Rather, stopping the vicious cycle from the inside out, by going inside ourselves and taking responsibility for the violence and the terror alive within us from our own past … and taking responsibility to heal. Stop!

© Judith Barr, 2015

*http://www.alternet.org/world/dalai-lama-stop-praying-paris-humans-created-problem-and-humans-must-solve-it?akid=13672.9560.juPdOY&rd=1&src=newsletter1046025&t=20

**From his poem “Please Call Me by My True Names,” as quoted in the prologue of Power Abused, Power Healed (pp. ix – x)

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

As we take the time to grieve, to pray, to take necessary action in the wake of the recent violent attacks reported around the world, it is so crucial that we also take the time to explore and heal that wounding within us that can contribute to violence in our world.

Take the time – at this time and anytime violence in any way touches your life – to look within.

What does the violence evoke in you? How do you feel when you hear about – or maybe even experience – acts of violence? Don’t act out on those feelings, but don’t try to bury, pray away, or “act away” those feelings either. Instead, make a commitment to explore, as deeply as you safely can, the roots of any intense feelings you have. Do the feelings that rise within you make you recall earlier feelings … feelings from long ago? Did you feel this way in childhood? In response to whom? And in what situation?

To help us safely navigate and heal these intense feelings, we often need the help of a skilled professional, as Bob did. If you feel the call to go deeper into and through these feelings, to truly heal to the root, find a caring, therapist to help, one with integrity, one who does his/her own inner healing work, one who is not afraid of feelings and who is committed to healing to the root.

Prayer and action are important components to help heal violence in our world … but they alone cannot create lasting change. The true heart of healing our world lies in healing our own individual wounding. Won’t you join me in making the commitment to stop the vicious cycle?

Won’t you join me in making the commitment to heal from the inside out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2015

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!

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now it’s time to know this also …

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

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

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

Everything depends upon our healing to the root!

*****

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Williams: What Nobody’s Saying!

A week ago, Robin Williams died by his own hand. People have been celebrating his genius, his quick mind, his success in comedy and serious performances, as well, his good heart, his friendship, the way he gave to others. However his death affected people, it left us grieving.

My grief and my perspective may well be very different from your own. This is not an organized article, but rather musings of mind, heart, and soul that have come to me as I’ve gone through my week, and are coming again as I sit down to share with you. I offer this in the hopes that my sharing will help you in some way, will help others you touch, and will help our world.

My heart is grieving for the little boy, Robin, who played alone in his large home with his 2,000 toy soldiers. I imagine the dialogues he had with them. I imagine him telling them how frightened he was of his father when he was home. I imagine him telling them he wished his mother would stay home with him, instead of going to work and leaving him with the maids. I imagine him expressing to all the toy soldiers somehow that he was so terribly alone and felt so horribly afraid of being abandoned. I imagine his ability to have dialogues with different characters within himself and outside himself may have been born from his dialogues with his toy soldiers.

My heart is grieving for the man, Robin, who, it seems, didn’t have the kind of help he needed to heal the fears that were still alive inside him, in the little boy who, it appears, was still alive inside him. My heart grieves for his attempts to connect with people through his comedy, like he did with his mother, and for the superficial nature of such a connection, if made. My heart grieves for the man who used his quick mind and humor to defend himself against his own pain and fear, to distract others from his own pain and fear … and from theirs, too. My heart is grieving that it seems people didn’t see his pain beneath his jokes and comedic interactions … and if they did, they didn’t find a way to connect with him and help him.

My heart is grieving that people interviewed him, but when they asked questions and he answered with either serious responses or even scary responses, they laughed … as with one of NPR’s interviewers some years ago when she asked him about suicide and he made a joke about calling a suicide hot line and the person at the hotline saying, “Life isn’t for everybody.” She laughed. I listened this past week to a rerun and was aghast, my heart filled with the pain of what he was saying, what she was hearing, and that she laughed. What did members of the audience hear, feel, do in response to hearing this?

My heart is grieving that people allowed Robin to help them forget their own pain, and in many other ways, it seems. But who helped Robin?

My heart is grieving that the experts have taught us – misled us – and are continuing to do so, when they say that there is help, there is medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. And now more modern technological devices. Even the television doctors, like Sanjay Gupta, are spreading this word. But nobody is acknowledging that the healing doesn’t occur in our heads. Managing and controlling our thoughts and feelings doesn’t heal the pain that still lives within. Understanding the thoughts and feelings and even the cause in our lives, doesn’t heal the pain. It doesn’t help us work through it, resolve it, dissolve and transform it. It only helps us hold it at bay … again. Or bury it … again. Nobody’s saying these deeper truths about the help available.

Nobody’s talking about the deep, healing therapy that can take place if you find the right therapist, one who will go with you to the roots.

My heart is grieving that too many people will think “if Robin Williams, who had all the resources he needed, couldn’t get the help he needed to not kill himself, what hope is there for me?”  I understand that resources are needed for therapy – time, money, energy, commitment. But … my heart is grieving that nobody is saying, it’s not the resources, it’s finding the right help. It’s finding the right person.

As far as I’ve heard – and I’ve listened to many talk of his life and death in this past week …
Nobody’s talked about his frenetic, frenzied comedy and the pain that was so obvious in that frenetic energy.
People have talked about his depression, but nobody’s spoken of the manic nature of his comedy, his energy, even his interviews.
People have spoken of his good heart and all he did for others. Nobody’s spoken about how they gave to him. Steven Spielberg, it has been said, called Robin every night while he was making Schindler’s List and asked Robin to make him laugh.

Nobody called Robin every night and asked him,  “What can I do for you, Robin?”
Nobody called him every night and offered to him, “Share your pain with me, Robin.”
Nobody invited him to call them every night and ask them to be with him as he talked about and expressed the pain he was in.
I wish I had invited Robin to call me.
I wish he had called me and allowed me to listen to his pain and be with him … and help him heal to the root.


© Judith Barr, 2014

The Heartache of Today

My heart has been aching with all that is going on in our world today that is so painful and so destructive.  My open, aching heart reaches out to you to inspire, teach, and just be with you.

My heart aches
for the suffering in our world today.
My heart aches for the people who are under siege in their own homes.
For those who have fled their homes to escape destruction,
Yet are meeting destruction elsewhere.
For those who are the innocent bystanders of others’ willfulness.
For those who are the innocent yet seduced colluders of fierce willfulness.
My heart aches
for the suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.
For those who have been shot out of the sky,
For those kidnapped and taken from all that they know,
For those who have been used, misused, abused, tortured, and killed.
My heart aches for those who have been forced into slavery
And for those who have been seduced into slavery.
My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for those who suffer, finding themselves without what they need –
for whatever reasons –
Starving, working harder than any person should have to work to survive,
And to help their families survive.
For parents who are unable to take care of and protect their children.
For people who live in constant danger …
Adults and children alike,
Even children who are unsafe living with their own parents –
Even in supposedly loving families, even in supposedly civilized countries.
It is more common than we want to realize.
My heart aches
for those who suffer, finding themselves without what they need.

My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.
For those suffering from the experience of and the consequences of
Sexual abuse … greater in numbers than most wish to know.
People sexually abused
In their own homes …
By their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings.
By their partners, friends, and people they know.
By strangers.
By those who are overtly violent –
Using it as an act of war or an act of power –
And by those who do it under a guise –
under the guise of play, the guise of taking care of them, the guise of helping them.
My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for the suffering in our world.
For the suffering caused by us when we cannot and will not
Feel our own heartache.
For the suffering caused by our defending* against our own heartache.
For the suffering caused by our defenses that
Fight to be right, fight to win, fight to have it our way,
fight to have power over.
Fight to conquer, fight to have the last word, fight for some imaginary gain  —
something we lost long, long ago when we first built our defenses.

But more than anything,
My heart aches
for the suffering that is being experienced now
And will be experienced in the future …
Because over and over we insist on solving things only in the outer world,
Deluding ourselves into falsely believing that will create change we can sustain.

My heart aches
for the suffering we are now experiencing
And we will experience in times to come …
Because again and again we refuse to solve and resolve things at the root –
in our inner worlds –
So the changes would come from the inside out,
And, in truth, be sustainable.

Please don’t defend against your heartache anymore.
Don’t defend against your own feelings both today
And even more from your youngest days.
Don’t defend against your own powerlessness, hurts, fears as a baby
By lashing out at others today because of those who hurt you back then —
By withholding from others today because of those who hurt you once upon a time,
By willfully acting out your revenge on people and life in the current day,
While wanting to do, from underneath, whatever you want to do to those from your youth,
the consequences be damned.
Please don’t continue this normalized, socially accepted nightmare.

My heart will keep on aching
Until the needless suffering is done.
Where are those of you who will ache with me?
Where are those of you who understand the changes need to come from within?
Where are those of you who will help people make those in depth changes?
Where are those of you who do your own inner work  –
As part of daily living?
Where are those of you who will come forward to help?
Come join me.

This is a mammoth task.
But one we need to keep going with.
It covers more ground than I can name.
Yes, we need to stop bullies.
But even more, we need to heal the bully in us.
We need to negotiate cease fires between warring factions in countries.
But even more, we need to heal the splits, the factions within ourselves.
We need to stop the sex traffickers and free those they’ve captured.
But even more, we need to heal the sexual abuse in our societies, in our world,
By healing the sexual abuse and sexual distortions within ourselves…
So we don’t pass it down from one generation to the next.
None of us can do this alone.

My heart will keep aching until
we join together and help people heal the suffering from the past
that is feeding the suffering of the present and the future.
My heart will keep aching every time I hear somebody say,
“Move on. Just forget the past. It has nothing to do with the future. It’s just
dragging you down.”
The only tiny seed of truth in that statement is that
our past will drag us down to it for healing …
Our past wounding and trauma will haunt us …
Calling and calling and calling us
To do the healing we need to do.
Our past will haunt and call us,
Even if the haunting occurs through horrifying suffering
in the world outside and around us.
And even if we don’t understand at first
The calling that is actually occurring.

My heart will keep aching until we
Do the real work called for in front of our very eyes ….
Joining together to end the needless suffering
That comes from defenses we don’t want to dissolve,
Memories we don’t want to remember,
Feelings we don’t want to feel,
Changes we don’t want to make.
My heart will keep aching until …
I hope yours will, too …

*Read “Defenses Destroy” at http://judithbarr.com/2014/06/08/defenses-destroy/ to learn more about defenses and their harmful consequences.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

Does your heart ache too … as you hear about, read about, see reports of the suffering in our world?  Can you allow yourself to feel the heart ache? Or do you have a reflexive movement to defend against your feelings?

Is your feeling response part of a lifelong pattern of defense against pain?  If so, what will you do to help yourself heal that pattern … for your sake and for the sake of our world?

Is your feeling response open-heartedness – from long ago or relatively new?  If so, what will you do to deepen and expand your open-heartedness and allow it to show you ever-new passageways … for your sake and for the sake of our world?

If you’d like to help even more to heal suffering in our world, help spread the word about the true roots of suffering in our world…and please feel free to pass this article on to others.

We don’t have to accept, resign ourselves to, settle for unnecessary suffering … if we are aware of the roots of that suffering and do the inner work we all need to do to heal our wounding and our defenses to the root.

DEFENSES DESTROY

I have been silent for awhile … Pensive. Searching. Deeply saddened. Witnessing, as I imagine you are, all that’s going on in our world. Feeling the pain of what’s going on in our world.

People think about what’s happening differently from each other. Some think the destructiveness is just done by “bad” people or “sick” people. Some are in alignment with those who are destructive, normalizing and justifying what they are doing. Some feel completely helpless in the face of it all. Some want to rush into action and do things in the world to fix it. Nothing wrong with action – it’s just not enough by itself. Some increase their prayers to resolve it. Nothing wrong with prayers – but prayers, too, aren’t enough by themselves. And some don’t even want to know about it.

Most people I talk to are missing what’s really happening. And most of what I hear, see, or read via the media is missing what’s really happening … under the surface. Even many in my own profession haven’t been trained to truly understand or get to the roots of the situation. This “miss” feeds misconceptions, misunderstandings, the incapacity to discern well, and most of all … it feeds further destructiveness and makes it impossible to really solve the problem for good.

If we are going to help ourselves and our world, we are going to need to truly understand what is going on beneath the surface, beneath what we can see, hear, touch and currently understand. What is going on beneath the surface that drives us unknowingly from deep within and drives us in our actions in the outer world.

People are acting out again and again … not realizing what they are really doing. Not aware of what they are acting out. Not understanding what their acting out tells them and us about their early lives and about what from that time is still alive in their minds, hearts, bodies, and souls.

And there are so many people who don’t understand what “acting out” really means. I could say exactly the same things here that I said in the second and third paragraphs above.  In essence, people don’t really understand acting out and that lack of understanding feeds the acting out and makes the solutions impossible.

There are so many examples of acting out since my last newsletter, escalating in visibility and frequency, that it is mind boggling and heart boggling. Just to name a handful of them …

Georgia’s new gun law. It enables people to pack guns in places like schools, churches, bars, government buildings and certain parts of airports. Multiple tragic gun shootings have occurred in Georgia since then.

Vladimir Putin’s failed power grab in the Crimean Peninsula. A part of his post-Olympic acting out in the world.

The Sewol Ferry disaster in South Korea, due to negligence of the Ferry owner who ignored safety warnings and allowed the ferry to be overloaded with passengers.

Another Indian woman raped – and then hanged – by Indian men. The violence to girls and women in our world is heart-breaking and belies our wish to think of these times as civilized times. And the ones included here are known tips of the iceberg. What about all the violence to women and girls that is normalized and done in secret?

An Iranian actress on the Cannes Film Festival Jury may be flogged for greeting the president of the festival with a civil kiss on the cheek. It is important to note that a group of women has petitioned to have her flogged.

Donald Sterling’s racist comments and the consequences, including all the attention garnered in the media.

Boko Haram’s abduction of Nigerian school girls with plans to sell them.

Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Isla Vista, California, and the fingers pointing at … the “mentally ill,” the “gun lovers,” and “this generation.”

The ongoing money grabbing and the consequent destruction  — to people, families, businesses, economies, environments – by people who are rich enough in the eyes of others but never seem, in their own minds, to have enough money.

And our Defense Department, which may once have been presented as for protection, but has destroyed again and again and again in the guise of defense.

If we really wanted to know, if we really looked deeply, and if we were able to find and gather the information we needed to truly understand … we would likely find that each of these instances emerged out of wounding that occurred certainly in an individual’s childhood, but also generationally in a family, and culturally, too. In any one instance, which came first, the chicken or the egg, the culture or the individual, isn’t the most important thing to figure out.  We certainly do need to know that what is normalized in a culture impacts the individual families and the individual children. What is normalized in a family impacts the individuals in the family and, of course, others in the life of that family. And what befalls a single child impacts many more people than most of us want to imagine.

When a child is wounded, that child will build defenses to keep from feeling the pain of the wound. What the child is reflexively trying to do is stay sane and alive in the face of those who are causing the wounding.  The child isn’t thinking this all through. The child is acting unconsciously and involuntarily. But the child does not have any idea what those defenses will create in the long run.

First the defenses may seem to protect the child, whether a girl or boy child. But soon the defenses start to harden and become part of a way of life. Walls are built. People are shut out. People are considered enemies and fought against, sometimes righteously and others viciously. Often revenge is sought, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly.  Consciously or without realization, the person may believe that whatever she is feeling gives her permission to act out … with herself and others. Aware or unaware, the person may use the harm he experienced as a child to justify acting out later in life. Substances are taken and activities are done that distract and numb the person against the pain of the original wound. Even though there is pain in the repeated re-creations of the wound, the pain of the original wound is the worst, the deepest, the most intense, the most raw, and the pain the person is actually defending against, whether it’s in or beneath awareness, whether it’s five or fifty years later.

Through all the years of my work as a depth psychotherapist, I have consistently seen that the defenses end up creating in a person’s life what they were originally meant to prevent in the life of that person as a child. This is why I teach people that defenses destroy. This is why the title of this article is “Defenses Destroy.”

Let’s use an example from the list above. Georgia’s new gun law:  You may want to defend your right to carry arms. You may want to defend your right to defend yourself, your family, your property, your values, your thoughts, opinions, and feelings. But if your defense comes in the form of a weapon, like a gun, your defense can and very likely will destroy.  Passing a law to allow guns to be carried especially in places where people are vulnerable – like schools, churches, certain parts of airports – is a license to hurt and destroy vulnerable people.

How much clearer could the meaning be?  If you were hurt or destroyed in some way when you were a vulnerable child, your defense and acting out could end up with your doing the same thing to others when you are old enough to do that. Others in your family – younger siblings, pets, children, or vulnerable people in places like churches and schools.

A second example:  An Iranian actress on the Cannes Film Festival Jury may be flogged for greeting the president of the festival with a civil kiss on the cheek. She tried to extend her hand to greet him, but the elderly official leaned over for the kiss on the cheek. It is important to note that in one accounting of the incident it states a group of women has petitioned to have her flogged and even imprisoned. In another, a group of men and women are seeking her imprisonment. I am not a learned student of the religious beliefs in Iran.  I have, however, seen individually and culturally the consequences of patriarchal laws, religions, mores, values, practices. Even if the cause may once originally have been or may have been purported to be the protection of women … there has also definitely been the effect of women being treated as objects, possessions, in essence the slaves of the men in their lives and their cultures.  This is true not only in Iran but also in many countries and in pockets in some countries.  India, for example, is amongst those countries.  And so is the United States. So … if the original cause were the defense of women, that defense has created torturous destructive experiences all over our world.

And even in the situation of the Iranian actress, why would other women in the Iranian culture demand her punishment? As part of their own defense against their individual and communal pain under the same cultural defense system?

One more brief example … Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Isla Vista, California, and the fingers pointing at… the “mentally ill,” the “gun lovers,” and “this generation.”  He openly stated he wanted revenge against women. The deeper information isn’t publicly available (at least yet). But how can we look at what he did and not wonder what happened when he was young in his relationship with the first woman in his life? How can we not wonder what he felt? How can we not wonder what defenses he reflexively created then that came to be destructively acted out just a short time ago at everyone’s expense?  And how can we keep blaming the guns and blaming the gun lovers and blaming the mentally ill, and this time I even heard blame for this young generation?

I don’t hear anybody asking what it is that we, the parents, have done that has caused our children to be so wounded!

I don’t hear anybody in public asking how we, the parents, are acting out our own wounds and our own defenses in ways that have hurt our children, our families, our countries, our world.

I don’t hear anybody in public asking why we, the parents, don’t do our own healing work as our part of ending the cycles of wounding/defenses/wounding.

It is time for more of us to see and understand this. It is time for more of us to speak up. It is time for more of us to speak out. It is time for more of us to become involved in this way of seeing and resolving the problems that are so out in the open in our world today.

At times when I teach, people will say that this is all so depressing. Or this is all so painful. And they’ll sometimes ask me, “Where is the hope?”

The hope is right here. The hope is that we can heal. The hope is that we can choose to not slap on a bandaid. The hope is that we can choose not to find something to help us bury the real causes once again. The hope is that we can choose not to seduce ourselves into getting rid of the symptoms so we falsely believe the “problem is solved.”  The hope is that we can choose not to keep ourselves unconscious … of what’s there in our inner world and its effect on the outer world.

Where is the hope?
The hope is right here. The hope is that we have the choice – and the responsibility –
To heal … truly heal … to the root.

© Judith Barr, 2014

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

Now is the time for each and every one of us to make a commitment to do the inner work necessary to dissolve the defenses that stand between us and truly healing our wounding.

As you hear about, read about, think about the individual issues facing our world today,  try to become aware of the possible roots of those issues… the real, inner roots within each and every one of those directly or indirectly involved. And don’t stop there … feel into those same roots in yourself. Do you ever, for example, feel the need to make a “power grab” as Putin has? Or do you have racist thoughts and feelings – conscious or unconscious – as Sterling has demonstrated?

What we see when others act out, as those in the examples above have, is their defenses against their own inner pain and wounding. Ask yourself: what are my defenses? And what feelings am I using them to defend against? Often we need the help of a good, caring, integritous therapist to help us find and dissolve those defenses, so the healing can begin… Commit to finding a therapist who is a right fit for you to help you begin or go deeper into this healing journey.

The issues facing our world can seem overwhelming… but there is hope, if we can see what is really happening, if we can spread the word so others begin to see, too, and if we commit, one by one, to do the inner work to heal individually, to help our world heal globally!

“Just Hazing”? “Just Children”? Or Part of the Fabric of Our Society That We Deny?

This week, I turned on the T.V. to get a brief update on something, and was amazed, in the couple minutes I had to watch, to see in a nutshell before my very eyes . . . something I’ve been talking and writing about for years.

On a CNN program two men involved in sports turned a blind eye to bullying by discounting the contexts in which it occurred. One of the guests said that what was being discussed wasn’t bullying, but rather just “hazing,” which all members of a team experience.

If you really examine ‘hazing,” it is a sanctioned outlet for violence in certain sub-cultures. It’s a permission to veterans and upper classmen and women to abuse new members of a club, a fraternity or sorority, a team, a unit in the military . . . or even a family. It’s done under the guise of tradition or “how things are.”  The talk is that it toughens the newbies up, making them immune to it until they become part of the herd and can do it themselves; by making sure each new member becomes a bully, it creates a culture of bullying. And it contributes to the unconscious herd mentality, which is so destructive in our world.  We’ve seen it in many destructive events in our world – the Inquisition, Nazi Germany, many of the school bullying tragedies of the past decade.  One of the most shocking and consciousness-raising movies that shows this herd mentality and its disastrous consequences is the classic Henry Fonda movie “The Ox-Bow Incident.”

The other guest in the interview said that his daughter told him she didn’t understand why something was being called bullying because she thought bullying was something in elementary school or amongst children her age. In both of these cases, there seemed to be a growing consensus not only between the guests, but among the guests and anchors alike. A consensus to the effect that bullying was just a kids’ thing and hazing was just a bonding experience.

But what was actually occurring was a perfect example of normalizing in society. Something that was actually bullying was made to seem so normal that it soon became excluded from the category of bullying. That way, supposedly nobody had to experience the pain of the bullying.

That way supposedly nobody had to be accountable for the bullying. That way there was a public precedent set for excluding locker room hazing and adult bullying from the vast experience of bullying in our world.

Just as “Boys will be boys” is simply a way to minimize, discount, and normalize violence by males when they abuse others  . . . “Bullying is a child’s activity” is a way to dismiss, disregard, and make regular the adult activities that actually are bullying but people don’t want to recognize as such.

Besides, if children bully each other . . . where do they learn it? They learn it from the adults or older children in their lives.  And where do the older children learn bullying?  From the adults in their lives. The truth is . . . there is bullying in every arena of our world and at every age from the nursery well into our senior years. It is a form of violence that has been normalized in all sorts of ways, feeding violence and causing it to grow until it’s woven into the very fabric of the life of our world.

It can’t just be legislated away. It can’t just be educated away. Although both legislation and education are steps in the process, we all need to recognize bullying – and all forms of violence – when we witness or carry them out.  We need to recognize it, name it, hold people accountable for it – ourselves included – and explore the roots of it in our personal lives. Who bullied us when we were children?  Who was violent with us in our early years?  And how did that create bullying as a viable “weapon” in our own actions and lives?

Why don’t we explore this? A crucial question. We repress our own early experiences. We deny those painful happenings. We defend against going back to those memories . . . all because we do not want to feel the pain from our young lives, the pain still alive within our psyches as adults. But our defense against our own pain ends up creating pain for ourselves and others in our world. It perpetuates the normalization of bullying. It breeds bullying in our inner worlds and our outer worlds alike.  People who have been bullied and victimized by violence may act that out in their outer worlds, but they also usually act that out within themselves – sometimes invisibly and inaudibly — bullying and shaming themselves, and sometimes acting violently toward themselves in ways others can witness.

Again, our defense against our own pain feeds the growth of violence in our society. This appears to make violence ok amongst us.  It appears to make violence acceptable. It appears to give permission for bullying and violence all over our world. And others, both consciously and unconsciously, take that apparent permission and use it for their own purposes – in the end, to defend themselves against their own pain in the face of bullying and violence . . . not just current but even more long, long ago.

We’re coming up on the first anniversary of the heartbreaking tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. The number of violent tragedies has grown since that time. Still more people have used bullying and other forms of violence in an attempt to handle their problems and defend against their pain. People both in their private lives – like family – and public lives – like the entertainment and political worlds.

When will we finally have the awareness, the courage, the help, and the commitment to truly heal bullying and violence in our lives and our world?  When will we finally find healthy and truly healing ways to feel and work through our pain . . . without harming ourselves, others, and our world?

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

We all play a part in normalizing and feeding bullying in our world . . . and we all can take steps to help in its healing. As you go about your daily life . . .

*Recognize bullying when you see it. Don’t normalize it within.
*Name it aloud – don’t be silent about it. Don’t normalize it in the outer world either.
*Hold the person bullying accountable, yourself included. Don’t make it appear it’s acceptable to you, or that you give your active or passive permission for it.
*Do all this in a way that is not bullying and not violent.
*Utilize these steps to help others become aware of bullying in their world. . . and to stop normalize bullying in their world.
*Find the help you need to work through bullying.
*Do your own inner work to find the bullying in your early life . . . and to heal to the root.

As part of my effort to help in the healing of bullying in our world, I offer an in-depth talk on the roots and healing of bullying, live or via teleconference or web conference for any individual, group, or organization that feels called to sponsor this event. If you know of any venue that would welcome this talk, please feel free to email me to learn more.

Together, we can help “un-normalize” bullying and violence in our world . . . and truly heal the violent currents that we often try to deny or ignore in our society.

© Judith Barr, 2013