A Call to Healing in the Wake of Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right now, we are failing.

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

Blessings,
Judith

© Judith Barr, 2015.

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

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

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

An Open Letter to Morning Joe Scarborough and Your Team: The Fish Hook Dynamic!

Dear Morning Joe and your team,

You have recently been asking an important question with increasing frequency and intensity: “Why? What has been causing Donald Trump’s soaring in the polls, caucuses, and primaries?

As a depth psychotherapist, a woman, and a citizen of the United States and of our world, I cannot hear your repeated question without offering an understanding on a different and deeper level than those that have been offered from media, government, politics, historians, and the public itself.

When we connect with someone we connect with them on many levels both conscious and way beneath our conscious awareness: whether up-close-and-personal – a romantic partner, a friend, a boss, – or from afar – a spiritual leader like the Pope, a celebrity like any movie star up for an Oscar, a political figure, like the now-political-candidate Donald Trump.

The level most frequently missed by individuals and culturally is that of the wounds we experienced as children, still alive within us today. Still alive within us whether we are 20, 33, 55, 68, 89, or 106. Since we are unaware that wounded child is still alive within us, we are also unaware that wounded child is driving us in ways we can’t even imagine.

We believe we’re thinking, feeling, and acting in an adult way, while it is the young child within that is acting out in a big body. We believe we’re trying to resolve a conflict in the present moment, when unbeknownst to us, we’re trying to resolve something from long ago that is triggered in the present moment. The more we make it about today, the more we fail in finding a solution. Failing triggers us more because we cannot solve yesterday’s issues under the guise of today’s actions and interactions. Then, in the pain of the past, triggered and enmeshed with the pain of not being able to solve the present, we will likely resort to the defenses our parents used and those we, ourselves, developed, thus frantically escalating the current situation beyond all recognition because we are still driven by our unconscious reactions to painful, even traumatic experiences from long, long ago.

So, when we connect with someone else, we connect on the levels of our wounds and on the level of the child within us unconsciously and often desperately trying to resolve something today that occurred in our past. I call this the “fish hook dynamic.” One person’s wounds hook together with another’s wounds like two fish hooks hooking together. Then as the two pull to get away from the intense tug of war – within themselves and with the other in this dynamic – they are only strengthening the dynamic of the two fish hooks hooked together, pulling against each other. As the hooking intensifies and escalates, so does the trapped feeling from long ago and the thoughts and feelings from the past are more and more intensely acted out today.

Let’s look at an example of how the fish hook dynamic can work in the life of a relationship. A woman who was abandoned by her father in childhood and a man who was suffocated emotionally by his mother in childhood meet and fall in love. She, afraid of being abandoned, clings to him. He, afraid of being suffocated, distances a little more each time she clings. She feels abandoned and clings more; he feels suffocated and withdraws more. Things escalate and escalate until he leaves. They have recreated their childhood wounds unconsciously, and in the end, he has proven to himself that all women suffocate, and she has proven to herself that all men abandon … and so the vicious cycle goes, until they each do the inner healing work to truly resolve the painful wounds at their root in childhood.

This fish hook dynamic doesn’t just occur in individual lives or the life of romantic relationships. It is occurring in many ways all over the world. It is very obviously occurring in the election cycle right now. The Republican Debate this past Thursday night was such a blatant picture of what I’m describing.* Little boys in big bodies all dressed up in suits, yelling at each other, bullying each other, attacking each other as if they were in the school yard, perhaps fighting for the position of leader of the gang … all under the guise of a debate for the office of president.

I’m quite sure if we knew the histories of those little-boys-acting-as-if-they-were-grown-ups, we would know more about how they were unconsciously acting out their wounds and their young defenses against their wounds.

I’m just as sure that each supporter of the candidates has wounds that unconsciously hook together with his or her candidate’s wounds … and that have drawn them to their candidate. I would need to know more about each supporter to be specific about how that person hooks together with Donald Trump or any other candidate, for that matter. But here are some beginning hunches:

Since your question, Morning Joe, was about Donald Trump in particular, we’ll delve a bit into what we know about him in order to give some examples.

It is a known fact that Donald Trump decided he would never be made a fool.** Perhaps some of his supporters were shamed and humiliated as children and didn’t want to become fools themselves. They might project themselves onto Trump and try to help him not be made into a fool. Or they might see him as a role model, or idealized parent who’s showing them how to not become a fool, especially if nobody helped them as a child, or if the person who humiliated them was a parent. They might applaud his every move to dodge being turned into a fool. They might, most of all, applaud his making a fool of the other candidates. They might align with him to keep him – in their imagination – from turning on them and making a fool of them. They might even take permission – I call it “ripping off permission” – to act out in their own lives the way Donald is acting out in his: to act out in a big body a child’s defense against being made a fool. And then we don’t just have a candidate believing he’s being adult while acting out like a child, we have a whole “support team” doing the same.

These are just some of the possibilities. They are limitless … as limitless as the ways in which a child can be wounded. As limitless as the depths to which a child can bury his or her memories of pains and traumas and the feelings with them. As limitless as the ways in which we normalize behaviors that are defenses against the childhood trauma. As limitless as the lack of awareness of our own unconscious selves driving our lives and acting out on the stage of our lives – individually and communally.

Something mysterious is happening deep beneath the surface for Donald Trump to be surging as he is and has been for months. I’ve seen the unconscious wounds hooking together in couples, in families, in groups … and in countries, as with Hitler’s Germany.

We have no contingency plan in our political, legal, media, cultural systems for protecting our society from a presidential candidate triggering the early wounding in the citizenry. Most people don’t even realize what’s happening or that it’s happening beneath the surface. And too much of our mental health treatment has discarded teaching people about the unconscious roots of their suffering and helping them heal to those roots.

We all need to help people understand. We all need to take this seriously. It affects us every day in our personal lives. It affects us for lifetimes in our personal lives. It also affects us every day and for lifetimes in our societal lives. And this “fish hook dynamic” in the race for president, and in Donald Trump’s candidacy most obviously, will affect us for years, decades, generations to come.***

With hope …
Judith Barr

© Judith Barr 2016

* Perhaps this happens in most, if not every political debate, whether Democratic or Republican. Sometimes more subtly than others. Sometimes right out in the open.

**“I realized then and there, that if you let people treat you how they want, you’ll be made a fool. I realized then and there something I would never forget: I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/opinion/putting-donald-trump-on-the-couch.html?_r=0

*** If you want to understand more, Joe, the following links will take you to a trilogy I wrote in my blog, PoliPsych, to help people more deeply comprehend what’s happening in our world today and how each of us can help.

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

http://judithbarr.com/2015/12/05/when-are-we-going-to-heal-the-repetitive-vicious-cycle-from-the-inside-out/

http://judithbarr.com/2015/12/28/safety-from-the-inside-out/

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

As we continue on towards the election, commit to becoming very aware of your reactions to the candidates – the one you support and the ones you don’t – whenever you come across them … when you watch them debate, when they show up in the campaign ads, when you read about them in the news.

Be aware that all of us have unresolved wounds and feelings from childhood, and those feelings can color any aspect of your life – including your voting choices. What feelings do each of the candidates trigger in you? Can you trace back those feelings to your early life? Can you identify the fish hook dynamic in your own reactions?

I’m asked sometimes “Where is the hope for healing our world?” If we become aware of and understand the fish hook dynamic, we can choose to commit to explore it for ourselves and find a way to do our own individual healing. In doing so, we can all help to create lasting change for our world. That is the hope!

How Did We Ever Let This Happen?

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

If 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!

TORTURE … IT’S INFILTRATED OUR LIVES MORE DEEPLY AND PERSONALLY THAN WE WANT TO ADMIT

How to communicate with you about the issue of torture has been cooking within me.
The inspiration came today.
I’m writing this article about my country, because of all that is taking place about the issue of torture in the U.S.
But don’t think that takes any country off the hook …
We all need to look at this more deeply than people seem to realize.

Andrew O’Hehir’s article in Salon.com on December 14th found its way to my desk, and gave me an opening to express in a new way, what I’ve expressed in many other ways. The title of the article was “America’s Torture Machine Is No Aberration—It’s Part of Our Imperial Decline.” Even more important … its subtitle was the first opening I felt called to utilize to invite you to the truth.

The subtitle: “Can we quit pretending torture is some huge departure from America’s behavior?”

My response on a very different level than the one he’s offering:

We have to quit pretending torture is some huge departure from America’s behavior. It isn’t.

We have to deal with it on the national and international levels because that is actually more difficult to hide. But we also have to deal with it on the individual and familial levels – where it is too easy to hide. And in fact, it is from the individual and familial levels that it gets to the national and international levels. Read on to understand.

From my experience as a psychotherapist, workshop leader, media guest, speaker, and author … I have come to believe there is more child abuse in our country than anyone is willing to know.

O’Hehir wrote in his article, “Sure, there were a handful … who sounded the alarm, but most of us just nodded knowingly.” Just like with the torture that’s being revealed and discussed nationally and internationally today, most of us just nod when the issue of child abuse is brought up in our country. Maybe we nod, maybe we shake our heads, maybe we just move on to something else, maybe we talk about it with emotion and then move on … allowing it to continue. Many of my colleagues and I have experienced the nod of Child Protective Services when we reported child abuse (as we are required to by law.) We had to report it, and we should never use failure to take action on the part of CPS as an excuse not to report it. But the nod has come in many forms, thus allowing the abuse to continue:  often in the form of their saying they know – albeit perhaps in some kind of “coded message” – but they aren’t able to do anything about it; frequently in the form of their missing it completely, as though they were totally blind.

Too frequently in our society, child abuse is denied. It is normalized. It is masked over as ‘needed parenting’ or ‘needed discipline.’ It is rationalized and justified. The pretense that there is no child abuse individually, familially, culturally, is immense. I was shocked to read how the United States compares to other countries on what is actually legal child abuse – meaning on the lack of laws truly prohibiting child abuse in our country.*  For example … I have read that in some states, you can hit a child, but only with your open hand. Or you can hit a child, but can’t leave a bruise. Or you can hit a child, but as long as it’s legally considered to be “reasonable force” and “non-excessive corporal punishment.”

So back to the nod … Yes, most of us nod knowingly because someplace within us – even if we don’t want to know – most of us know that child abuse is an infection that festers in our lives and the life of our country … and world. Child abuse as torture, and then domestic violence as torture, and more. The examples of this that we see in the media are just the very surface layer of a deeper infection.

And as abused children grow up, they, in turn, often abuse their children. And if not their children, someone else in their lives. Their partners. Their employees. Their neighbors. Children in a school. People in a movie theater or mall. On and on … including, often themselves.

People don’t only start torturing once they’re in the military. They don’t only begin torturing once they’re in government. They don’t only start torturing as adults. It is deeply related to their own experiences of torture in some form as children … whether it was physical, mental, emotional, energetic, or spiritual torture.

People are looking at the torture issue through many lenses. Here’s one lens we must look at the issue through or we will never truly resolve it in our country …  we will just continue to be complicit and collude with it, in order not to experience our own memories, our own pain, our own torture and the consequences of it in our lives.

Here’s an opening we must look through and resolve within ourselves. Or we will never resolve it in our country or our world.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home#United_States
Note: Although some countries have banned this form of child abuse, it is lawful in Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, The United Kingdom, The United States.


© Judith Barr, 2014

Safety Then and Now … We’re Not Using the Tools We Have

The issue of safety and lack of safety is front and center in our world today.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, changing climate. Financial safety and lack of safety. School shootings. Shootings in public places like malls and theaters. First Al Qaeda and now ISIS. The Ebola virus. If we don’t face and deal with the hidden ways in which we contribute to our safety and lack of safety – consciously and unconsciously – we will actually end up participating in creating our own unsafety.

Life is a blessing … a many-faceted blessing. And like a rainbow, a many-colored blessing. A rainbow of feelings – contentment, joy, pain, anger, fear, hurt, confusion and more. Safety and unsafety, too.

Even in the natural world alone – even before our misuse and abuse of Mother Earth, our home – life was not always safe. Storms. Volcanoes. Frigid winters. Blistering summers. Affecting human bodies. Affecting animal bodies. Affecting vegetation needed for food. But we humans tried to be as safe as we could in the natural world. And celebrated the safe, joyous, comfortable times and felt the pain, fear, hurt, helplessness and more in the unsafe times.

Today it is very difficult to tell what is the unsafety caused by the natural world in its organic evolution and what’s the unsafety in the natural world caused by human beings. But the most difficult thing of all, in my experience … is to help people become deeply aware of the unsafety that is still alive within them – from their experience in childhood – the consequent unsafety they unconsciously create in their lives in the current day; and of course, the impact the unsafety they create in their lives has on their families, communities, countries, world as a whole.

If you were abused as a child, you probably defended against the unsafety you experienced and all the feelings that went along with that lack of safety. You certainly couldn’t tolerate feeling your young, intense, raw feelings in the face of it – your terror, your rage, your hurt, your powerlessness, your hopelessness, and more. None of us can … as children.

So you buried all those feelings and held them at bay. Maybe you aged through your childhood into adult years, fearful, trying to hide to stay safe, and therefore not actively participating in the rainbow of life. Not realizing the unsafety that hiding ends up causing you and others around you … since every defense eventually creates the very thing we are defending against. Maybe you aged into adult years, lashing out at people in symbolic response to those who lashed out at you in your childhood, attacking people in response to those who attacked you, destroying people and your relationships with people, in response to those who destroyed you and their relationship to you long, long ago. Or maybe you lashed out to get back at them, for revenge. Perhaps you moved into your adult years, flattening your emotional self, staving off everything but “happiness.” And as a result, deadening yourself to the rainbow of feelings in life … to life itself in all its aliveness and vibrancy. Creating unsafety for yourself and others … all along your path … even if you weren’t aware of it. Or actually, especially because you weren’t aware of it.

And the unsafety that occurs in the larger group – the family, the community, the country, the society – evokes in you all the feelings of your childhood unsafety.  This makes your feeling response to today’s unsafety so much more intense, so much deeper, so much more raw than even the current day unsafety calls for. It also skews your other levels of response more than you can imagine, since those levels of response are connected to your young experience of unsafety, not to today’s experience at all. This then contributes to the distorted reactions, the damage those reactions can do, the escalation into further unsafety, and the vicious cycle you go through again and again until you can heal this.

Here’s an example. It’s a blatant example to help paint the picture clearly. But in each of our lives it could be blatant or subtle, obviously abusive and violent or subtly abusive and violent, grossly normalized in the family and maybe even society, remembered or repressed and consciously forgotten – though living deep inside us still, alive deep within us still.

Imagine … As a child you heard Mommy yelling at your older sister and your father smacking your sister with his hand. You could tell when Mommy’s yelling was coming … like a short fuse, the storm grew till she exploded. But Daddy’s smacks came out of the blue. You just never knew when they were going to come.

Those experiences were scary for you. Even with the short fuse warning of Mommy’s tirades, you never really knew when one of your parents would hurt your sister. And you never knew if or when one of them would hurt you, either. You were always on edge, waiting for somebody to hurt somebody. And, whether you realized it or not, you were always waiting for one of your parents to hurt you. You never felt safe. To your knowledge, you tried to be such a good child. You tried to do what everybody wanted of you. At least that was what you were aware of.

But underneath your awareness, and perhaps sometimes also slipping into consciousness … you tried to secretly lash out at your parents and hurt them back in a way they could never find out – for hurting your sister and for the possibility of their hurting you. You had dreams at night of hurting them back, dreams you didn’t remember when you wakened. You were late getting up and out of bed in the morning, and then claimed you couldn’t help it when Dad was frustrated that your late awakening would make him late to work. You broke cookies in the cookie jar, when no one was looking. You made little cuts in the material of your bedspread, so little no one would find them. You spit in the sink and didn’t wash it down the drain. And you tickled your pet dog till he squealed so loud it hurt your ears and, you were afraid, someone else’s ears, too. No one had any idea you were striking back, except you. And perhaps, eventually you, yourself, didn’t even remember.

Year by year went by until you were finally out of your parents’ home and out into the working world. What you’d been looking forward to for ages. You entered a relationship with someone you thought you loved, you thought loved you, and you thought was safe. But eventually – without even being aware of it – you began doing things to lash out secretly, and waiting till your partner hurt you. You felt unsafe again and you didn’t understand how the unsafety could have followed you into your adult years. The same thing happened at your job. You thought you’d found the perfect boss, but eventually you felt so unsafe at work, always on edge for the yelling or the smack, and dreaming at night of hurting your boss.

You had no one to help you understand what was happening. No one to help you discern how you had created the same thing in your young adult life that you had grown up with. Maybe you weren’t even aware it was the same thing. Maybe you didn’t even realize you had created it.

You had no one to ask questions and explore with you. Had you drawn a partner to you who, in fact, wasn’t safe? Had you drawn a partner to you who could be provoked by your defenses, and provoked to react in a way that was similar to your parents’ unsafe actions? Had you drawn a partner who could feel the painful impact of your unsafe provocations, and when your partner tried to explain to you … you perceived it as similar to or the same as your parents’ unsafe actions? Even though it wasn’t the same at all? Had you, in fact, transferred your experience with your parents onto your partner (and your boss), until you couldn’t really tell who your partner was at all? Or until you were finally successful at pushing your partner until you did get a similar response to your parents’ unsafe actions … finally … and could (falsely) prove to yourself that everybody is unsafe? Did you even, in the end of the vicious cycle with your partner, get to prove that you were an unsafe person, too?

Can you see how unsafety in your childhood lives on unconsciously within you – within each of us – till it creates more unsafety inside and out, by our actions and even our body responses, such as illness – unless we do our own inner healing work?

Let’s take it one step further: if generation after generation of people experience unsafety in their childhood homes and then re-enact it in their lives as they age into adulthood … if then they re-enact that unsafety with their own children, and/or the children in their lives … that unsafety will live on from generation to generation, in the children who then grow into adulthood and act it out on the children in their lives … and perhaps other adults, too.

It doesn’t just stay contained in families. It expands out into the world – in the neighborhoods, schools, offices, churches, sports teams, communities, countries and world. The children who were originally unsafe have spread unsafety, like a disease – consciously or unconsciously – and it has taken on a life of its own. What was an unsafe family has grown into an unsafe town and so on. And the children who lash out have become adults who lash out, once unsafe, now creating unsafety. Alone and unsafe within, so disaffected from anything that can ground and heal them, they are either loners who strike out or are drawn to groups who help them strike out … and help them normalize and justify their striking out. We once might have called these groups “gangs.”  But today we see it happen in sports teams, in groups like ISIS, in countries that strike first and are surprised and self-righteous when their strikes don’t solve the problem.

We also see it in how people react when true safety hazards appear in our communal life – like the Ebola virus. “War on Ebola!” See what I mean? And the unsafety in us from childhood, gets opened up so that we react like children, not as adults. Our feelings, our thoughts, our reactions, are those of the unsafe little child within us … so terrified, so helpless, so triggered, and likely so hurt and angry, too. As a result, until we do our healing work on what once happened to us that we have been re-enacting ever since … we will not be able to respond to the current unsafety in a truly healthy, here and now way. We will be children in big people’s bodies, responding as if we’re adults, but not effectively as adults – not healthily, not in a way that will help us be safe in today’s reality.

We have the tools to do this healing. We have the tools to change our lives and our world from the inside out. It is depth psychotherapy. It is healing to the root that offers true healing, true transformation, and true change … not simply band-aids and attempts to control things, just like we once did as children.

Why aren’t we seeing this? Why do we refuse to see it and use the tools we have … the excellent tools we have? It is our way of re-enacting the childhood scenario again. And again. And again. It is our communal re-enactment. Our global re-enactment.

Each time at the edge of a re-enactment, we are choosing to create more unsafety, rather than work with and through our childhood unsafety. We are choosing to create more unsafety and pain in that moment and in the future in order to avoid the unsafety and pain of long ago that is still alive within us. We may not be aware of it, but we are choosing. And we need to become aware of it. Because each time we make a choice, we have the opportunity to use that edge, that crossroads, to make that choice for healing.

The hope? We have that choice. We have the opportunity again and again to choose for real healing to the root, instead of recreating unsafety. We have the tools. I work with them every day in my office. We have the choice. I see it almost every day in my office … people making the choice for healing … for their own lives, for their families, for our world, for generations to come.

There really is so much hope: we have the tools.
There really is so much hope: we have the choice.
There really is so much hope … if you choose healing.

© Judith Barr 2014

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

We all have times in our lives when we feel unsafe. Sometimes that feeling of unsafety is in response to a here-and-now situation. Often, though, it’s in response, in part or in full, to something within us being evoked from long ago in our past.

As you experience the blessing that is your life … make a commitment to become aware of the times in your life when you feel unsafe, and to do the inner work necessary to heal to the root, so you can truly discern which feelings to follow to reasonably keep yourself safe in the here-and-now, and which feelings need to be explored and healed.

When you feel a sense of unsafety, without any current here-and-now threat, ask yourself, “When was the last time I felt these same feelings? And when before that? And before that?” Try to trace those feelings back as far as you can. You may need the help of a caring therapist to help you discern which feelings are from long ago in your past, and which feelings are in response to a here-and-now threat to your safety, if there is one.

It is crucial for our safety, for the safety of our families, for the safety of our communities, and for the safety of our world, that we all, each and every one of us, commit to doing the inner healing work we need to do with our feelings of unsafety, and follow through on that commitment … so that our woundedness doesn’t create the very unsafety we fear. It is my deepest prayer that more and more of you will join me in committing to do that work and in following through on your commitment. Will you join me?

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!

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

Part 6: 
It Is Time to Go Deeper Now! 
What Are We Waiting For?  

I have been writing about the consequences of our staying on the surface in the outer world and not doing the deep work in the inner world from which outer occurrences and events spring. It has been an ongoing part of my writing for years. I have been writing about it in this series for months. Usually I write about it in relation to a specific person, event or theme. This month, I offer a broader view, an overview that will hopefully catch your attention and move you into action deeper than you have known before.

If a family is dysfunctional, most of the members ignore it, rise above it, pretend it isn’t true, live in denial, or walk away from it. Some of the members sometimes try to fight against it, often without success, often being dismissed, ridiculed, shunned, as a result. It takes a lot for a dysfunctional family to truly get the help needed . . . for the family as a whole and for each impacted member of the family to get the help needed to heal the causative and consequent wounds to the root. We see this in all sorts of dysfunctional families – those with alcoholism, gambling, sexual, abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, religious intolerance or fanaticism, and more. And if the family does get help, it is often – all too often – only on the surface. Perhaps the most obvious behaviors change. Perhaps the family members try to stop themselves from acting out on their impulses and their feelings. Perhaps, just perhaps, they even get some insight into why they have been dysfunctional. But it is a rare person, and certainly a rare family that truly heals the dysfunction from the outward behavior to the very root of the dysfunction . . . to the very root of the wound.

This would mean feeling the pain of the wounds, which most people are totally against. Which most people are completely afraid of doing. Which most people haven’t had anyone help them with from the time they were very, very, tiny beings . . . when the pain began. This would mean putting down the defenses – dissolving the defenses – people have constructed and hardened since their youngest days to defend them against the pain.  This would mean feeling finally that which people have worked so hard to avoid – hurt, fear, the anger experienced by young, vulnerable children being hurt or wounded or traumatized, the powerlessness we all feel, and more.  And this would mean remembering who hurt us, who wounded us and how. It would mean exposing our parents and their parents before them and their parents before them. The piercing of the idealization of our parentage would bring its own consequences . . . probably very similar to the wounding experienced in the first place. The hurt, fear, anger, and powerlessness of family and family members, beneath their defenses, being revealed and exposed. And likely lashing out at those doing the exposing.  Lashing out physically, verbally, emotionally – directly at those doing the revealing. Or lashing out behind their backs. Arguing with them, discrediting them, accusing them of being disloyal to the family, making them “bad,” punishing them, shunning or outright exiling them from the family.

It is a rare family that one-by-one and as a whole is willing to dive into the ocean of healing and committed to working all the way through to coming out the other side, healed and transformed to the core. It is a rare individual who is committed to this – fully and whole-heartedly committed.

But now is the time for individuals and families to come forth and do this work. For it is not just our individual selves that are dysfunctional. It is not just our families that are dysfunctional. It is our society that is dysfunctional . . . as a result. Our national society and our global society.

What occurs individually also occurs communally. Not just communally in our families, but communally in our communities, our states, our countries, our world. And if we ever were able to see the communal version, we are seeing it now.  This is one thing the media and the internet are helping us do. See . . . if we are willing to take our blinders off. Hear . . . if we are willing to take our earplugs out.

People are actually calling the US government dysfunctional – which it most certainly is. And what a mirror for us all.  The country and the family . . . both lashing out at those doing the exposing.  Lashing out physically, verbally, emotionally – directly at those doing the revealing. Or lashing out behind their backs.  Arguing with them, discrediting them, accusing them of being disloyal or unpatriotic to the family or country, making them “bad,” punishing them, shunning or outright exiling them.

There are people in our world working to help with the healing, each in his or her own unique way.  There is, for example, Margaret Heffernan, teaching about “willful blindness,” teaching that we refuse to see and acknowledge what is right there in front of us, causing damage to ourselves and others. There is Josh Oppenheimer, who has directed a painful but revealing movie about death squads in Indonesia, with, it seems, the hope that people will realize we all have an underbelly, we’re all perpetrators . . . even if only by wearing the clothing made by victims of those terrors.

But there are also those who seem to be trying to help, yet are feeding people with distortions that end up making things worse. For example, the teachers – spiritual and otherwise – who teach that whatever you put out there comes back to you. Yet . . . they fail to teach people about what we human beings put out there beneath our own  consciousness, without our own awareness, and how that creates things in the world that have a way of coming back to impact us painfully, individually and communally.

Whatever there is within us individually or communally – whatever is harmful or even distorted – that gets normalized, has a way of coming back to haunt us. Whether that’s an incomplete teaching like the one above, an outright lie, or even a destructive force that is right out there in the open  . . . the normalization feeds it and makes it grow under a guise – the guise of being normal.

Alice Miller taught about this again and again. She is no longer alive on this earth, but her wisdom and compassion live on. I hope I can do justice to her in this summary. She taught that no one is “born evil,” not even Hitler. That we bury the memories and feelings related to painful, even unbearable personal childhood experiences and then act them out later in our lives, without even realizing it. We act them out within and all around us, and most particularly on our children. For Hitler this included merciless beatings by his father and an absence of protection by his mother.

Miller taught that when parents’ treatment of children is normalized – like the cruel treatment of children in Germany and other parts of Europe when Hitler was growing up was normalized under the tag “child rearing” – many act out their experiences communally as they grow up.  So . . . those who joined with or served Hitler in his brutality in Germany were also acting out the brutality they grew up with and their defenses in response. And how about those who somehow colluded with his rule? How were they acting out their childhood experiences?  This is true of any tyrant. And it is true of any society.  What does that mean about our society now? What does that mean about our societies now?

It is not only true of families and societies led by tyrants. It is also true of families and societies led by seemingly benign people, who are nevertheless impacting those under and around them from their own wounds and defenses against their own wounds.

Finally, Alice Miller acknowledged that the acting out occurs unconsciously because the child was not allowed to know and remember what was actually going on. This part of her understanding reflects the family’s and society’s attempts to keep from being exposed. But it also reflects the individual’s own attempts to keep from having those memories and feelings exposed, remembered, and felt – not only by others, but most especially by their own self.

Yet . . . we deeply need to expose, reveal, remember, and feel what is in our past that creates our today and tomorrow. There is no way around this. Many have tried to go around it. Many keep trying. Even in my own field, many techniques are developed in an effort to go around it. It is all part of the dysfunction.

We must expose, reveal, remember and feel what is in our past, for it is still alive within us and is creating our today. It is still alive within us and will most certainly create our tomorrow.  We must expose, reveal, remember and feel it for our individual selves and our own individual healing. We must expose, reveal, remember and feel it for our communal selves and our communal, even global healing.

© Judith Barr, 2013

****

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

We all have wounds . . . all of us. If we are unaware of those wounds, they will almost certainly create dysfunction in our lives.

Ask yourself and honestly answer . . . what are the wounds in my history?  The history of my individual life, my family’s life, my country’s life? And how is that life dysfunctional as a result?  How is my own life dysfunctional?  How is my family dysfunctional? How is my country dysfunctional?

We all have wounds . . . all of us. If we are unaware of those wounds, they may lead us to knowingly or unwittingly commit, feed, or tolerate abuses of power in our lives, our society and our world.

As you go about your daily life…explore the ways in which your own wounding may lead you to be apathetic towards, or even collude with, abuses of power in all arenas in your life . . . your personal relationships, your professional relationships, your relationship with your clergy, your children’s teachers, your government, any authority figures, your relationship with your children or the children in your life.

When you hear about a questionable action taken by someone in your life, how do you feel? What feelings are evoked in you, for example, when you hear of the misuse of power by a corporation’s CEO or when you learn about a politician’s abuse of power? What feelings are evoked in you when you learn of the incident of domestic violence down the street, or the abuse of a child right next door?  And, most importantly, when before in your life have you felt that way? When from your young adult years, your teen years, your childhood? How far back can you trace that feeling? Go back as far as you can in search of the root . . . and take a real look at how you may be acting out in a way that feeds the abuse of power.

Imagine what our lives, our societies, and our world would be like if we all became aware of, and committed to heal, the inner wounds that, untended and unhealed,  create dysfunction and abuse!  Both the most obvious and the most subtle. Both the most out-in-the-open and the most hidden.