We are hooked . . . personally and communally –
and most of us don’t even know how!
Let me show you . . .
A few years ago, I wrote a newsletter about the levels on which we connect with others. It was the February issue, and with Valentine’s Day mid-February, I wrote specifically describing romantic relationships.
As we enter February once again, it’s time to review those levels of connections related to romantic partners, and then expand past that into other relationships … both up close and personal and way out into our world communally.
On the romantic level, one-to-one –
Remember that very first moment you met? There was so much more to that moment than you can even imagine! If you open your mind and your heart to the deepest meaning of that moment, you can bring true love to yourself and your partner on Valentine’s Day … and every day.
In that first moment you met – in that single moment – more occurred than you can possibly imagine. I’m sure more occurred than I can even name, but I’m going to name a number of things, many of which most people either aren’t aware or don’t think about.
In that single moment, the two of you connected in so many ways, on so many levels. Of course you connected visually, and if you found your partner visually attractive, that was level one. When you spoke with your partner the first time, if his* voice appealed to your auditory sensibilities, and your voice to his, that was level two. Depending on how close you were to each other, you might have connected on the olfactory level – did he have aftershave on? Did you have perfume? Or was there a connection on the level of your natural body scents? If there was any physical touch at all, was there already a physical connection? Did you drop something and both of you reach to pick it up, brushing against each other’s arms? Did one of you trip and the other reach out to help you keep from falling? Did someone introduce you and shaking hands was the initial physical touch?
We can consider all of these elements part of the physical connection you and your partner made with each other. I am distinguishing here the physical connection from the sexual connection. For example … you can put your hand on someone’s shoulder in compassion or comfort, without any sexual energy involved at all. You can reach out and hold someone’s hand in a way that has nothing sexual involved at all. You can rub someone’s shoulders or even give them a back rub, no sexuality included. Massage therapists do that on a daily basis … that is, most of them do. There are, sadly, those who do cross that boundary and violate the ethics and safety of their practice. But back to the main point …
Also in the beginning, you connected on the level of mind. Did you have the ability to discuss things with depth and intelligence of thought? Could you discuss what your thoughts are about many things in life? Family, children, education, decision making, religion, how to grow yourself, help each other grow, help your children grow? Were you able to share your opinions about things, like politics, without bashing and dissing each other? Did you find your partner to be deeper in thought than you? Or you to be deeper than your partner? Were your conversations stimulating, thought provoking, satisfying, fruitful?
Then came the emotional level of connection. Was your partner able to feel his feelings? Safely? Did he let his feelings flow through him? Could he express them safely? Could he cry, could he feel his hurt, his fear, his anger? Could he express his anger without lashing out at you, lashing in at himself, or damaging property? Could he talk about his feelings – meta-communicate about them? Did he know which feelings to act on and which were guides to something within himself he needed to work with? This may seem like a series of strange questions. But they help us know how conscious a person is about his or her feelings and how capable a person has become in experiencing and responding to his or her feelings. Was there empathy between the two of you when you were suffering? Did you and his impact on you matter to him? As much as your impact on him mattered to him?
Next is the sexual level … was there that sexual sizzle between the two of you? Or a slow easy heating up? Or not a sign of it yet, but you knew as the other connections developed, the sexual connection would emerge? Did you dive right into the sexual relationship? Or did you wait until you knew this was someone you connected with in other ways? It’s important to note that once you are sexual with someone, there is a blinding effect. First, you become blind to other things as the heat of the sexual connection takes over. Second, the skin to skin contact reawakens the early bond with mother … a primal experience once lived or a never experienced longing that is all consuming, although most often unconscious. This, too, is blinding, especially since it’s beneath your awareness.
Now we come to the spiritual level … the level at which two people connect soul to soul. Did you connect at that level? Did you even ask yourself if you connected at that level? Did you let your religions or differences in religions block your knowing whether there was truly a soul connection or not? More than anything did you feel the joining between the two of you at the place where truth and love are one? More than anything did that joining of truth and love bring you to want the best for him as well as the best for you? To want to help him fulfill the potential within his soul as well as to fulfill the potential within your own … whether that needed to happen with the two of you together or by your going your separate ways?
And finally … in addition to the connection on all the above levels, when you connected with your partner, you connected on the level of your wounds. Yes, your wounds. Each time we connect with a partner – or anyone, for that matter – there is a connection between the wounds we experienced as a child and those the other person experienced as a child. The connection is often like two fish hooks hooking together and tugging against each other with an intense tension.
When the honeymoon phase of the new romance is over, either the wound level emerges into the light of day, or the wound level begins to have an undeniable impact. At this point in the relationship, often people decide it isn’t the “right” relationship and break up to find another partner. They hope that next time there will be no wound connection, even if they can’t name it. But that is not the truth.** It is at this very point in the relationship that the partners can utilize what is coming to the surface for them – from within them – for their own healing, while supporting their partner to do the same. I have worked with many women, men, and couples where this has occurred … deeply and successfully.
The need for healing on the level of our wounds is the one most frequently not known by people. It’s the one most frequently ignored. It’s the one most frequently denied. And it’s the one most often avoided and run away from. For these reasons, it is the level that, in the end, drives the relationship and the potential for the relationship. And if this level is not tended to, no matter what else is done, the re-enactments of the childhood wounding will keep occurring, within and/or without, however subtly or blatantly, and they will likely escalate until the healing is finally done.
Here’s a brief example:
Sunny meets Robert. They connect on so many levels, known and unknown. They enjoy each other in so many ways, getting closer and closer to each other, “falling” in love, deepening their relationship over the course of a year. It certainly seems to be mutual. But on Valentine’s Day, as a way to express her love for him, Sunny gives Robert a key to her apartment, inviting him to move in. She gives him a beautiful written invitation, telling him she loves him so much, she can’t get enough of him, and she wants to be with him.
She’s horrified by his response to her gift of love. Robert is frozen in fear and the feeling of “too close!” He can barely talk. The smile on his face disappears. Sunny’s reaction, panic! A deep feeling in the pit of her stomach – rejection! Now what?
On the supposedly most romantic day of the year … the honeymoon phase of Sunny’s and Robert’s relationship has ended. Will they see the gift that has just emerged? Or will they be blind to it? Each of them has experienced a trigger to something early in their lives. Robert has been evoked by Sunny’s invitation. Up to a certain point, and with either his initiation or mutual initiation, moving closer and closer has been fine. But Sunny’s initiation of the next step … that evokes Robert’s fear of being suffocated and consumed emotionally, just as he was by his mother from the very beginning of his life. Terrifying for a little baby and a little boy, still alive within this 30 year old man … even though he isn’t conscious of it. And Robert’s frozen state takes Sunny back to her own young childhood and many experiences, both small and large, of abandonment, ending with her mother’s divorcing her father and leaving the children with Dad. She’s not aware of the terrified abandoned child still alive inside herself either.
So here they are on Valentine’s Day. Sunny inviting Robert closer; Robert pulling away; Sunny pulling him towards her; Robert pulling away with more force; Sunny clinging onto him to keep him from leaving; Robert, in desperation, wanting to flee; Sunny, in desperation, wanting to capture him. Ay ay ay! Transaction after transaction they are re-enacting individually and together reactions to painful early childhood wounds. That wound level of their relationship. The one that drives the relationship if they don’t work through their own issues and the way in which those issues are hooked together. The one that could be played out, escalating and escalating until there is no more relationship. Or the one that could be utilized for healing – deep healing in each of them and deep healing of the relationship. But not only deep healing, also deepening connection within themselves and with each other.
Will they do the healing work, giving the greatest gift of love there is … not only on Valentine’s Day but every day?
How many of us bring this kind of love to our partner?
How different our relationships would be if we did.
How different our families would be if we did.
How different our world would be if we did.
On the group level –
The connection between people on the level of our wounds doesn’t apply only in romantic relationships.
It applies in every relationship there is. Friendships. Teacher-student. Spiritual leader – spiritual follower. Employer – employee. Doctor – patient. Parent – children. This last one is a bit different, because it is the parent’s wounds that get acted out with the children – obviously or imperceptibly – causing the children’s wounds. The children then grow up and are drawn to relationships – romantic and non-romantic – where those wounds are driving them beneath their consciousness. And when they have children, they act out their wounds with their children.
This goes on generation after generation after generation … until there’s a generation that stops the cycle and does its own work decreasing, as much as possible, the wounding that gets passed forward. In some families this is already happening. In others it hasn’t even been allowed into awareness.
Do you see what I’m saying here? Then let’s keep going.
Let’s imagine there’s a family who hasn’t brought the wounding into awareness yet. The father of the family is a meek, passive man. The mother of the family has abused her husband and children mercilessly for years. The eldest daughter, Karla, is the founder and CEO of a corporation.
Her wounding as a child and the consequent defenses against it will drive her connection with the staff of her corporation. We would have to be in the corporation to see exactly how that plays out. We would have to be there on a day by day basis to see how she re-enacts her childhood trauma. But we can imagine. She might be meek and passive like her father. She might be mercilessly abusive like her mother. She might be a combination of the two, depending upon who she interacts with. Or in an attempt to not be like either of them, she might become a detached, cold, calculating business woman either right out in the open, or with a mask of warmth and connection.
In that first moment people take that first move to create a corporation – in that single moment – more occurs than you can possibly imagine. Whatever wounds the founders have from their youth becomes part of the wounding of the corporation. And whatever wounds are part of how the corporation begins … those wounds drive that corporation and the people in the corporation throughout its life, until there is real healing done.
Back to Karla. Those drawn to her employ will likely have their own underground wounds that would interconnect with hers, like two fish hooks hooked together. And that hook would drive their interactions … and perhaps many of the interactions in the company. But it would be underneath the surface awareness, and unless someone realizes what is happening and helps Karla heal, the company will continue to be driven in just that way. And unless some of the employees become aware of what is happening and do their own healing, they will stay locked in the wounded level of connection being re-enacted once again at their place of work.
Do you see what I’m offering here? The bridge from the level of wounding that connects individual to individual extends even further … into groups of people: from the family group to the company group, for example. Or the religious group. The social group. Perhaps the activist group, even.
On the world level –
Let’s take this another step … to the national level.
A country on a deep level, is like a family. In that first moment people took that first move to create that country – in that single moment – more occurred than you can possibly imagine. Whoever came together to form that country are like the parents of that country-family. Many even call the leaders in certain positions in their country the Father of the country. Or the Mother of the country. Whatever wounds the founders had became part of the wounding of the country. And whatever wounds were part of how a country began, those wounds on a very deep level drive that country as it goes through its life and its history… until purposeful healing is done deep down to the root. In other words, that country will re-enact its earliest beginnings and childhood just as an individual will do.
The examples I’m using are not in any way chosen out of disrespect to or prejudice against the countries I’m utilizing as examples. I just have some understanding of the depths revealing the level of wounding that could be related to these countries … at least enough understanding to offer hunches about the essence of the ways in which these countries are driven by their own deep wounds.
Let’s begin with Germany. Alice Miller wrote about Germany in the time of Adolph Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. She talked about the prevalence of child abuse in German homes, including Hitler’s home, where Hitler was abused by his father and disconnected himself from the pain of his father’s beatings, priding himself on his ability to not even cry. She showed how Hitler’s early rage and disconnection against the torture he experienced as a child drove him to torture and destruction beyond comprehension. She demonstrated how many other children who were abused became active participants in Hitler’s forces. Some of them perhaps joining with him to keep his wrath from turning on them (like they may have with their own fathers or mothers), and some perhaps joining with him to release their own rage at being abused onto others … the prisoners they took, the people they tortured.
That was certainly a snapshot of Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Is it also a picture of how Germany began? Another snapshot: Germany’s history seems to be a history of fighting – to survive, to avoid invasion or takeover, to unify or prevent unification. The Thirty Years’ War was one of the longest and most bloody conflicts in European history. Perhaps we saw re-enactments of these beginnings in the 20th century with Hitler’s takeover, Hitler’s holocaust, the split into East and West Germany with the Berlin Wall, and then the wall coming down and re-unification.
Let’s move on to another country – Israel. Although there are many arguments that could be offered in response to this hunch, I am looking for the essence of the deep wounds that keep getting re-enacted, and my understanding is that the Jewish people have historically experienced being victimized again and again.
It is a thread throughout the Bible and beyond. Enemies against them. Enemies fighting them. Enemies harming or threatening to harm them. Enemies enslaving them. Whatever the root of that experience, and whatever the historical reasoning to make a home state in Israel … to make as one’s home state a parcel of land in the midst of countries who hate you, or even simply hold animosity toward you, is something driven from deep in the wounding of the people. And it gets re-enacted again and again and again. By the country – and the surrounding countries – and also by the leaders.
Each leader with his or her own early wounding, as well as the cultural wound that gets passed on and passed down to members of the culture for generations without end … until the healing is begun. The healing of this early wound.
And finally, for now, there is the United States of America. The US started its existence by people rebelling against and running away from England. They may have been taking action to prevent their being unfairly taxed, but they still rebelled and ran away. They came to America and took over the land of the people who lived here. They fought the people they were running away from and the people whose land they had come to. And they took as slaves people from another land, treating them as poorly as, or even worse than, how they were originally treated in England. If we take this seriously, we can see some of the very deep wounds that have never been healed in US history. We can see some of the deep wounds that drive US interactions – and re-enactments – with other countries and other peoples to this day, under the guise of current day “foreign and domestic policy” and under the guise of “defense.” *** And we can see some of the deep wounds that drive US interactions –and re –enactments – even with the people who live in the US today.
I’m pulling out the essence of the wounds in all of these cases. I’m trying to show what’s driving not only people but also countries. I’m trying to show that our countries are wounded, too, and that as a result our countries interact with other countries from that deep, unconscious, level of woundedness … re-enacting the same things over and over again. And that as a result, our countries interact with their own people from that deep, unconscious level of woundedness … re-enacting the same things over and over again.
The examples I’ve given above … are just a few. I am quite sure there is a similar example for each country in our world.
This is the most patriotic thing I, or any citizen, can do for his or her country.
To bring out into consciousness the truth of the deep wounding that is driving the destructive re-enactments in our world.
This is the most loving thing I can do to help in the healing of our countries and our world at this crucial time in our world …
other than helping individuals in their healing,
other than helping couples in their healing,
other than helping parents in their healing,
other than helping other therapists in their healing and in their work with their clients.
This is the most loving thing I can do to help.
To reveal this truth for those …
who can learn it,
who can get it,
who can help with it,
by sending it to others,
by teaching it to others,
by getting involved in the healing.
If we are to heal, we need to heal at the level at which we are hooked –
at the deep level of our wounds.
If we are to heal in our own lives, we need to heal at the level of our young wounding.
If we are to heal in the life of our families, and not perpetuate our wounds generation after generation, we need to heal at the level of our early wounding.
If we are to heal our groups and organizations, we need to heal at the level of our wounding which became the wounding in the groups and organizations.
If we are to heal our countries, we need to heal at the level of our early wounding and at the level of the early wounding of our countries.
If we are to heal our world, we need to heal at the very core of what’s occurring,
the level at which we are hooked …
the level of our wounding and the level of communal wounding …
the wounding within ourselves …
the wounding between us …
the wounding amongst us …
the wounding around us.
Yes, it is a big task.
Yes, it will take time.
But this level that is most frequently not known by people,
this level most frequently ignored,
this level most frequently denied,
this level most often avoided and run away from,
this level that drives the relationships and the potential for the relationships …
This is our hope.
This level is our hope
to really heal at the root of the wounding …
so we don’t keep re-enacting the individual and communal wounds over and over again.
Will we do the healing work, giving the greatest gift of love there is to ourselves, each other, and our world … not only on Valentine’s Day but every day?
How many of us bring this kind of love to ourselves and our world?
How different our relationships would be if we did.
How different our families would be if we did.
How different our world would be if we did.
© Judith Barr, 2015
*This article applies to romantic couples of all kinds. My using the male pronoun for male-female relationships is simply to for clarity and not meant to exclude or be insensitive in any way to gay couples or to imply that this learning is meant only for women.
** I am not in any way encouraging someone who is being abused to stay with an abusive partner. I am not in any way saying that you have to heal your childhood wounds within an abusive relationship. Quite the contrary. So please, do not misinterpret this section of the article to in any way continue your being abused.
*** To learn more about defenses, read my article, Defenses Destroy, at http://judithbarr.com/2014/06/08/defenses-destroy/.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT
On the one-to-one level –
As we approach Valentine’s Day, it’s crucial that we explore our own relationships – whether they be romantic relationships, familial relationships, professional relationships, or friendships.
In addition to the other factors that brought you together, can you see how your own wounds entangle, like fish hooks, with the wounds of those around you? When you have a challenge in one of your relationships, can you trace your feelings in the midst of that challenge to other feelings you’ve had in your life – to events and experiences you had in your own childhood that may color your here-and-now life … and in turn affect our world?
Relationships present opportunities that sadly most of us miss … the opportunity to truly explore within ourselves the long ago wounds that affect us every day. Only by taking this opportunity to heal can we make lasting change in our life and the life of our world.
On the national and world level –
And as we approach Valentine’s Day, it is crucial that we explore how our own early wounds are entangled, like fish hooks, with the wounds of our country. How without even realizing it, our wounds contribute to the re-enactments of our country’s wounds … the re-enactments of our world’s wounds. And how the ongoing reenactments create more wounding and re-wounding with an ever increasing frequency globally.
Imagine, for starters, how the deep wounding in any one of the three countries used as examples above, might be similar to your own young wounding. For instance, have you, like Germany, been fighting since you were a child? Have you been fighting to survive, to prevent invasion and takeover, to unify or prevent unification? And if that is true and you are a German citizen, can you imagine how you feed that wounding in your country?
Go through each of the other country examples and see if that helps you deepen and develop your understanding of these dynamics … so clearly at play in our world today. See how, if you were a citizen of those countries, your wounds might entangle with those of your country.
Add your own examples, too. Make it a priority to explore how your own wounding affects your individual relationships and also the life of our countries and our world.
Will you do the healing work, giving the greatest gift of love there is … not only on Valentine’s Day but every day?