HARVEY AND IRMA

The foreboding that came with the forecasts of Harvey and Irma was real.
The trepidation that preceded the hurricanes was real.
The dread as they came closer and closer escalated.
The panic as they hit was beyond measure.
The surges after the landfall, terrifying, as well.
The devastation done on every level of being, surreal, yet all too real.
The trauma experienced mentally, emotionally, and physically was massive.
The impact long-lasting … longer lasting than we even want to know.

For those of us who don’t live where the hurricanes caused their visible, physical damage … most of us are on to other things. Certainly, the media is. Those, however, who lived right there in the wake of the storms are left with unimaginable months and even years of grieving, clean-up and restoration, along with triggers to be triggered every time clouds darken the skies, winds start to blow, rains come, there is a forecast of a hurricane … who knows what might trigger the memories and feelings from Harvey and Irma?

Who knows what might trigger the memories and feelings for those who witnessed these mammoth storms? And who knows what these storms themselves may have triggered for those living through it up close and personal, as well as those living through it from afar?

We all go through storms in our lives – inside and out – and those storms stay with us, some in our awareness and some beneath our conscious memory. Birth is a storm common to us all. Being born is like a storm to a tiny being. Just imagine – pushed, out of control, by forces bigger than you, out of your home toward someplace unknown, flooded with feelings you can’t even express, and it feels like – and may even actually be – life and death!

Even if we just explore the example of birth, the original experience is a trauma. The memories and feelings of that trauma are long-lasting. The cues that can trigger memory and emotion are beyond count. The attempt to hold at bay the experience in all its painful and frightening aspects is beneath consciousness for most of us. And how many of us realize there are consequences in our lives – individual and communal – that come from the storm of being born and our attempts to bury and hold that storm at bay?

For starters … we hold back on giving birth in our lives. Perhaps we hold back on allowing new inspirations that could change our lives – our personal and our global lives – for the better. Perhaps we hold back on putting those inspirations into action. Perhaps we put them into action but then freeze half-way through, three-quarters of the way through, or just before the moment of birth. Defending ourselves, without our even realizing it, from feeling again and re-experiencing the storm of our own birth into this world.

And if this is true of something so natural as birth, imagine how true it is of other traumas – unnatural traumas we experience even as tiny little children! Abuse, neglect, loss, abandonment, and more. These traumas occur more often than we imagine. To more children than we want to imagine.

Those children – each in their own way, each related to their own personal storms – are triggered when, for example:
The foreboding comes with the forecasts of a storm. (Dad comes home to find Mom in a bad mood.)
The trepidation comes that precedes yet another hurricane, real in their own life. (Dad storms out and slams the door.)
The dread escalates as the storm comes closer and closer. (Dad calls from the bar and says he’ll be home in an hour.)
The panic is beyond measure as the next storm hits. (Dad walks in the door and yells at Mom as he walks in their room.)
The surge after the new storm’s landfall is terrifying, as well. (Mom is sobbing and screaming; the children are sobbing, too.)
The devastation done on every level of being, is surreal, yet all too real. (The imprint of the storm on everyone is real.)
The trauma experienced mentally, emotionally, and physically is massive.
The impact of the storms before and yet-another-storm is long-lasting … longer lasting than we even want to know.

And those children – ourselves included – take steps to defend ourselves against the floods of memories and feelings. As children, these steps are crucial for our sanity and our lives. As we grow, those same defenses are in place as part of our being, and they become reflexive and involuntary in response to certain triggers. But those steps may also create new steps and new storms and new terror and devastation.

One of the first things I learned in my training as a depth psychotherapist – our defenses end up creating the very thing we are defending against. So, we end up creating more storms when we defend against the original storms. The storms we create may be emotional, mental, physical, spiritual. This could help us understand how we have played a role in the drastic changes in our climate that are giving birth to new bigger, and more devastating storms.

If we don’t heal our storms, we won’t be able to sense, see, hear, feel, or act upon dangers when they are right in front of us. We may freeze, fight, or flee instead of taking the kind of action that is needed.

As harm begins to appear on the horizon, if more of us had healing from our once-childhood storms – now storms within us – the dangers we are experiencing now in our world might have been stopped … awhile back, long ago, or in their tracks.

With each original storm, there is so much grieving, clean up, restoration, and healing that needs to be done – within ourselves. And with each storm after that, the repair needed on every level of being is multiplied beyond measure.

But we can heal from our original storms, and the many storms we experienced after that in our young lives, and those we re-enacted in our lives as we grew. By healing, we can help decrease the storms in our lives, in the lives of our children, and in the lives of our world.

By healing, we can help decrease the storms that are within our control. And perhaps there are more storms within our control than we can imagine before we do the healing. This is the hope! The healing is the hope!

© Judith Barr, 2017.

NOTE: This same understanding could be related to the earthquakes in Mexico and New Zealand, wildfires in the western US, flooding in India, terrorist attacks in Europe, and more …

A Lesson from The Breakfast Club: The Shooting of the Lawmaker

Recently, at a morning baseball practice for a political party’s team, planning to play its opposition team in a charity game … some of those present were shot by a single shooter. The member of the team most seriously injured was GOP Representative Steve Scalise, House Majority Whip.  I’m so sorry he and others were injured. I’m sorry the others there at the practice were traumatized by the violence. They are all in my heart and prayers.

At the same time, there is so much for us to learn from this incident.

After the shooting, there were many responses … from members of Representative Scalise’s own party. Representative Mark Sanford said on the “Morning Joe” show that the President has unleashed demons.*

“I would argue that the president is at least, is partially – not totally – but partially to blame for demons that have been unleashed … The fact that you have the top guy saying I wish I can hit you in the face. If not, why don’t you and I’ll pay your legal fees. That’s bizarre. We ought to call it as such. What I’ve said back home, some of these people have been frankly weird and different in a town hall meeting. I say what is going on. They’ll say look, if the guy at the top can say anything to anybody at any time, why can’t I? I think we all need to look for ways to learn from what happened yesterday and to say, wait a minute, this is a pause moment. What might I do a little differently in the way I reached out to other members.”

Other representatives said they would be more careful of how they speak.  And the House Majority and Minority Leaders spoke of unity. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, maintained, “We are united. We are united in our shock. We are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” **  He followed up, claiming, “… but we do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber. For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family.” ** And Nancy Pelosi shared about praying. “And so I pray, my prayer is that we can resolve our differences in a way that furthers the preamble to the constitution, takes us closer to e pluribus unum … It’s in the family.” ***

And while Ryan spoke of unity, the same party is sneaking a health care bill through congress with the intention of no one being able to read it or know what it says before the vote on it. The bill, it is said, may be devastating for millions in relation to their insurance, their financial well-being, and their standing vis-a-vis the wealthiest in our nation.

The lesson at a deep level – inner and outer …

So let’s start with the claim that we are united and the prayer for “out of many, one.”  There is within each of us a longing for unity – unity in the outer world and unity in the inner world.  There is within us the longing for union … union as we knew it when we were babies, union as we envision it when we fall in love, and union as we envision it when we reach for the Divine as we know it.

This is definitely part of us. Whether we know it or not, whether we can claim it or not, whether we create it or not.

Right there inside us, though, along with the longing for union, are other aspects of each of us … again, whether we know it or not, whether we can claim it or not, whether we act it out or only fantasize it.

There is the part of us who sneaks and manipulates to win and get our way.
There is the part of us who lies, or wants to lie, or wonders how come “they” get away with lying.
There is the part of us who bullies, or wants to bully – mentally, emotionally, verbally, and even spiritually.
There is the part of us who takes that bullying, or fantasizes taking that bullying, to the level of physical violence … anywhere from spanking a little child, to beating up a school mate, to shooting a lawmaker, to bombing or running a car into a crowd of innocent people.
There is the part of us who is and/or feels powerless.
There is the part of us who is powerless and finds or fantasizes a way to be powerful by misusing and abusing our power, in all sorts of ways small and large, hidden and obvious.
There is the part of us who finds or fantasizes a way to be powerful by fanning the flames of others’ bullying, of others’ acting out the misuse and abuse of power… by giving false permission to others to unleash their demons.
There is the part of us who is powerless and finds or fantasizes a way to be powerful by using our power for magnificent good.

Years and years ago, famous actor Cary Grant spoke of this simply, when he said: “You have all things inside you: love and hate. You can use your love to exhaust your hate.”****

Current day spiritual teacher and activist, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh speaks to this same truth, that we are each every side of the problem, or situation, when he says in his poem, “Please Call Me by My True Names,”

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

Brother Phap Dung, who lives at Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village monastery in France, teaches that our greatest enemies are gifts to us. ****** They show us aspects of ourselves that we cannot see directly in ourselves. In that way, they give us the possibility for healing. Trump can be our scapegoat, or we can see him and heal through the knowledge that we have elements of Trump in us.

Even before 9/11, I taught this in my sessions and workshops, and especially in workshops in response to current events. After 9/11, however, I felt called to take this understanding further out into the world. Many people were afraid to see and explore it. Nevertheless, teaching people that there is a terrorist in each of us, felt, was, and still is a profound part of our healing individually and globally. If we don’t see it … If we don’t feel it … If we don’t know it … we can continue to believe that the other guy or the other gal is the terrorist, not us. The result: we can continue to bad-mouth and fight against the other.  If we do see it, feel it, know it … we can do our own inner work to heal the terrorist within (or some other aspect of ourselves); and by doing that we can remove some of the energy of terrorism from our life and the life of our world.

And finally for now … there’s “The Breakfast Club,” the 1985 John Hughes movie about life through the eyes and hearts of teens.  Five students in 1984 are sent to detention on a Saturday morning. The assistant principal, who is in charge of detention, instructs them to write an essay of 1000 words, saying “who you think you are.”

Right before the end of the day, four of the five ask Brian, the student considered “the brain,” to write the essay for all of them. He does, and he writes a letter that definitely speaks for them all.

“ … we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out [today] is that each one of us is a brain … and an athlete … and a basket case … a princess  … and a criminal. Does that answer your question?” *******

Brian signs the letter: The Breakfast Club

All of this and more is within us. Even the teenagers in The Breakfast Club learned this.

We, who think of ourselves as adults in our world, can refuse to see what’s within ourselves, and instead see it only in those around us. In that way, we continue to create further conflict, separation, and destruction.

We can choose to see what is within us and can choose to utilize our seeing it to create further conflict, separation, and destruction. We can see the destructiveness in ourselves and others and instead of holding ourselves and others accountable, call both bad for it, making matters worse. We can see what is within us and refuse to understand and acknowledge the effect it has on others, even if we don’t act it out.

Or we can utilize what we see to help ourselves do the healing that is crying out for help all over the world. To see the destructiveness in both ourselves and each other, hold both accountable but not call anyone bad, and utilize the destructiveness in ourselves for healing.

My prayer … that we use it for healing.

© Judith Barr, 2017

*Morning Joe, June 15, 2017

** http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jun/14/paul-ryan-we-are-united/?utm_source=RSS_Feedutm_medium=RSS

*** http://www.democraticleader.gov/newsroom/61417-3/

**** Becoming Cary Grant, 2017 movie. “Now I know that I hurt every woman I loved. Oh my God, humanity please come in. My attitude toward women was now different. I could be a good husband now.”

*****“Please Call Me By My True Names” by Thich Nhat Hanh, 1978

****** http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/zen-and-the-art-of-activism_us_58a118b6e4b094a129ec59af

******* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088847/synopsis

WE’RE ALL TRIGGERED – WHETHER WE KNOW IT OR NOT

There is plenty for us to have feelings about in today’s world. Plenty of feelings in the here and now. And what is going on in the U.S. today is an ample source of our current, in-the-moment feelings.

But in addition to the current feelings we’re experiencing, all over the world we’re all “triggered” by what’s going on in the U.S. – whether we know it or not. And if we don’t know it, we feed the triggers, the being triggered, and the lack of awareness in both ourselves and others.

Triggered. A word in the healing arts that means something is being awakened beneath our awareness, buried at some time in our past – especially our early life – something we are reacting to with feelings, thoughts, and actions, while either having no idea of what we’re doing or why, or while believing our thoughts, feelings and reactions are in response to some experience in the current day.

If that is where we stay, we will be stuck. Stuck believing we’re acting in response to the here and now, while we’re really reacting to something in our past. Stuck believing we’re acting as mature adults in the current day, while we’re actually acting like children in a time long, long ago. Stuck believing we are helping to solve or resolve what’s going on right here and right now, while we’re really still defending against what happened to us in days long past. Convinced we are having truly here and now feelings – and nothing but – while we are having feelings that are more in the range of 95% from the past and 5% here and now.

How do we resolve something in the here and now, when we’re still stuck in the past? We don’t! No matter how hard we try!

In order to resolve something in the here and now when we’re still stuck in the past . . . we need to become aware. We need to tease apart the past from the present. We need to heal the place(s) we’re stuck that are still alive within us. We need to use our feelings from that stuck place in the past to help in the healing. So that when the healing is done – and even in process – we’ll have a better sense of which feelings are here and now and which are from long, long ago.

Here’s an example:
Andy is terrified by all the lying that is going on in the US Government. He’s afraid of the lying taking place in the US public. He’s afraid of the lying that is being acted out and of the lying that is being believed. It terrifies him. If you ask him what it reminds him of, he says “Nothing. It’s just scary to see so many people lying day in and day out. And it’s as scary to see how many people accept the lies as the truth.”

But if I were able to help Andy go deeper and younger into his childhood experiences still alive inside him, we would find out … he was terrified as a little boy, day in and day out. His father lied every day when he smacked Andy’s mother and claimed it was her fault, that she wasn’t loving enough. When he punched Andy’s older brother and said if he’d gotten better grades, this wouldn’t be necessary. When he kicked Andy and told him if he were better behaved, there would be no need for these kicks. Andy was terrified of his father’s lying, and of his brutality.  Of course his brutality. But there was something about his lying that turned Andy upside down and inside out.

No one contradicted Andy’s father’s lies. Not his mother, not his older brother, not anyone in the family or neighborhood who witnessed these scenes. It appeared to little Andy in the silence that everyone believed father’s lies, and that everyone thought they were true. And it made it hard for Andy to stay with his gut instinct that father wasn’t telling the truth. In that sense, it made him feel kind of crazy. And that, also, was terrifying.

If Andy will only allow me to help him with the young experiences and feelings, he can come back from the deep work – the deep inner exploration and healing – more able to stand in the here and now knowing of the culture of lying that people are attempting to create … not feeling crazy, without the real here and now fear impinged upon by the real once-upon-a-time fear from his childhood, and having a deep sense of knowing how he needs to respond in the face of today.

So Andy has a choice:

*to keep avoiding his own early pain and fear; and, as a result, be out of touch with the here and now reality; and, as a result of that, help to co-create even more the culture of lying that is both being attempted in the here and now and also existed in his childhood.

or

*to do the inner exploration in such a way that he discovers the root of his terror of the lying culture, so he can take responsibility for his own healing; be accountable for the way in which his wounds had contributed to the development of the lying culture; stop feeding that cycle; and have a new sense of how to respond in the face of lying – in a matured way in the here and now.

We each have this choice.
We can each take responsibility for our part in what’s going on.
Or we can disown our responsibility.
We can each take responsibility for our triggers.
Or we can refuse to be accountable for the reality that we have been triggered.
We can each follow our triggers to their root …
or we can insist that our feeling responses to things that are going on are only here and now responses.

We can each insist that our responses are righteous and warranted in the here and now,
even if we are working for truth.
Or we can realize that there is some way in which we are being triggered
that will, in the end, not serve the greatest good …
if we don’t follow the triggers and resolve them at the root –
even if all our actions seem to serve the greatest good;
even if all the intentions we’re aware of seem to serve the greatest good;
even if we can convince ourselves that we are serving the greatest good.

Some of us are acting out – lashing out – sure our anger is justified and will help,
even if it is really destructive and not helpful at all.
Some of us are becoming activists in the outer world, each in our own way…
making calls, signing petitions, sending out information, going to protests, volunteering our help.
Taking action is absolutely needed, but it also can be a way to defend against
the deep feelings within.
And as Gloria Steinem, an activist par excellence, has said,
“Being a social activist can be a drug that keeps you from going back and looking at yourself.”*

Some of us are watching and reading reports about what is happening.
We want to know what’s going on.
We don’t want to be in the dark.
But we can become addicted to those reports.
We can use them for an adrenaline rush.
We can, unknowingly, hope they will hold our own deep feelings at bay.

Some of us are stepping away from the television and the internet. Some saying we’re trying to achieve more balance. Some, in truth, putting our head in the sand or hiding under the covers.

Whatever we are doing that is, in fact, in the greater good, that doesn’t mean we have no triggers that need to be tended. We all do.

All of us. Everyone on every level of the government in every country in the world. Every member of the media all over the world. Every citizen in every country in the world. And not only are we feeling the impact of our triggers … our children are feeling the impact of our triggers, too.  With no way to hold it, no way to ask about it, no way to process it.

If you ask me if I’m having feelings in this time, I would say, “Of course I am! We all are.”
If you ask me what I do with these feelings, I would say, “I do my own inner work to find out which are here and now feelings and which are feelings from the past that are being triggered.
I follow the feelings to times and feelings long, long ago and utilize what I discover for healing.  I utilize the current feelings and the healing I do with the past feelings to support me in finding what I’m called to do today … in Love and Truth.”

If I ask you if you’re having feelings in this time, what would you say?
If I ask you what you do with these feelings, what would you say?
If I ask you what you do when you’re triggered, what would you say?
If I ask you what efforts you’re making to do your own inner healing, what would you say?
If I ask you if you are truly serving the greatest good or merely defending against your own early feelings and wounds, what would you say?
If I ask you what are you going to do now, what will you say?

© Judith Barr, 2017

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

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

We are all triggered sometimes … more often than most of us can imagine. It is crucial that we become aware of the times we’re being triggered and commit to explore and heal the ancient feelings that can become enmeshed with our here-and-now feelings.

Whenever you have feelings that are much stronger than the situation truly warrants … refrain from acting on them. Rather, trace those feelings back as far as you can into your past. When, and in what situation, was the last time you felt this particular feeling? And when was the time before that? And the time before that? Trace the feeling as far back as you can … and, with the help of a caring, integritous healing professional, begin or deepen the journey to heal those feelings to the root.

Won’t you join me, and commit to truly healing the feelings triggered in you to the root … for your sake and for the sake of our world?

We’re Forgetting and It’s Dangerous: Don’t Forget! Remember …

In these crucial times in our world and our countries,
and in this election time in the U.S …
there are many times between my usual once-monthly newsletters
that I feel called to write to you
for teaching, intriguing, inspiring, and awakening.
In these months you may receive more frequent articles,
as I am called to write them. 

I hope you will use these well …
for yourself and for our world.
I hope you will use these well …
to help inform, intrigue, inspire, and awaken others with me. 

Many blessings …
Judith

In a world that too often naively and carelessly, though authoritatively, tells us to “get over it” and “move on,” we each need to know how damaging that advice is and how damaging the consequences. If we ignore the damage, we will individually and together continue to wreak havoc in our world … in our own lives and in life on our earth. That is especially and more obviously true right at this point in our individual and communal crossroads.

One of the most vocal spokespeople for the importance of remembering has been Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate. When Elie died July 2, 2016, he left that responsibility to those of us who know the profound and crucial need for us to remember. The need for us to remember individually. And the need for us to remember communally. What we don’t remember, we will inevitably repeat – consciously or unconsciously; by ourselves or with others; intentionally or unintentionally; obviously or obscurely; right out in the open or under a guise.

This is a time in our world where the need to remember is perhaps more important than ever before … both in our world, and in our own countries. And certainly in the U.S.

Elie Wiesel spoke brilliantly about forgetting and remembering in his Nobel Prize lecture in 1986:

“Of course, we could try to forget the past. Why not? Is it not natural for a human being to repress what causes him pain, what causes him shame? Like the body, memory protects its wounds. When day breaks after a sleepless night, one’s ghosts must withdraw; the dead are ordered back to their graves. But for the first time in history, we could not bury our dead. We bear their graves within ourselves.

“For us, forgetting was never an option.

“Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered.”*

And a student of Elie Wiesel, Sonari Glinton, wrote beautifully of the lessons he learned from Wiesel about forgetting (emphasis mine):

“I remember him leaning in and asking why I would want to forget.

Memory, he said, wasn’t just for Holocaust survivors. The people who ask us to forget are not our friends. Memory not only honors those we lost but also gives us strength. In those office hours, he gave me a shield, practical words and thoughts that would help me — a gay, Nigerian, Catholic journalist. He gave me tools that would aid me in an often hostile world. Over the years, I have found myself quoting Professor Wiesel to white people who want me to ‘get over race.’ ‘That’s old.’ ‘It was a hundred years ago.’ But Professor Wiesel had been emphatic: Nothing good comes of forgetting; remember, so that my past doesn’t become your future.**

This more communal understanding of Wiesel’s insistence is more common in our world than the individual. I have quoted George Santayana in previous posts to illustrate this related to communal history. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ***

We need to awaken to that truth communally. But we also need to awaken to other truths that are intimately and intricately related to that one.

We need to awaken to the truth that what we repress and forget from our lives long, long ago, doesn’t disappear from our psyches and souls. And it isn’t without impact on us and those around us. In fact, it drives us from beneath our memory, to think, feel, act in ways we may not even be aware of. It drives us to repeat in our lives again and again, until we finally “get” the vicious cycle we’re in and find a way to heal it to the root.

We need to get that what we repress from our lives long ago is likely the memory and the trauma not just from our own individual ancient experience, but also most likely from the parallel experience in the culture. What is repressed and forgotten by individuals is then acted out in the culture; it is then normalized, repressed and forgotten in the culture; and that feeds its being acted out and repressed both in families and in the culture at large. It may be the extended family culture, the community culture, the state or area culture, the nation culture, or the world culture. Whichever culture it is … there is a definite vicious cycle from individual to culture to individual to culture … over and over again, until individuals start to change it in their own lives and birth that change out into the culture at last.

A brief, but blatant, example:

James grew up in an extended family where there was rampant abuse: physical, sexual, verbal, emotional. The abuse was mostly perpetrated by the men on the women and children. But in another family, it could be by the women on the men and children; or by the women, too.

In James’ family, the abuse was the weapon of the men. James was abused in all of the above ways by his father, who experienced the same in his early life, and then forgot most of it consciously and normalized the rest.

James suffered profoundly from the earliest age, when his father didn’t want to hear him cry in his crib; as a result, his dad yelled at him, threatened to throw him in the garbage, shook his crib wildly, and left the room slamming the door so hard that it came off its hinges.

James was traumatized, repressed the memories for his sanity and safety, and swore – once he was old enough to be aware – that he would never treat his children that way.

Yet, James grew up, married, and had a family. And sure enough, when his children cried (or even his wife), he would erupt into a rage and hurt the one who was crying. Rage at their crying expanded into rage at their expressing their feelings, telling the truth, holding him accountable for some hurt or mistake, and on and on…

James found himself at work trying to contain his rage when employers or co-workers triggered the same young feelings his wife and children triggered. And finally one day he attacked his boss in response to his being so deeply triggered. He swore it was a “current day” issue. He had forgotten its link to his childhood. He had no conscious connection with the link between his violent eruptive response at home or at work and the rage he felt toward his violent father from the earliest days of his life.

Too many in his life normalized all of his triggered responses, including the attack at work. Certainly his extended family did. Others weren’t so vocal about normalizing his behavior, but were afraid to confront him.

Eventually he gathered members of his family and a few co-workers who had grown up the same way he had. They all banded together to go after the boss, sure nobody could stop them. They had no idea that they were all going after their own abusive fathers, grandfathers, older brothers, uncles. They had no idea they were taking out on the boss, the abuse that had been perpetrated on them as children.

If only they had remembered what was done to them.
If only they had been able to feel the pain of what was done to them.
If only they had had the help they needed to discover which feelings to act on and which to simply feel for healing to the root.
If only they had had the help in their adult lives before the office incident.
If only they had had the help they needed as children.
All of them.
Not just James.
But even James’s having the help would have made a huge difference…
in his individual life; in his family life; in his work life; and in the impact his life had on the society.

We have to forget as children. That kind of remembering is too much for a child to bear. But when we grow up … we need to remember. We deeply need to remember so, to paraphrase Elie Wiesel, “our pasts don’t become someone else’s future.”

© Judith Barr, 2016

*http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1986/wiesel-lecture.html

**http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/07/14/484558040/forgetting-isnt-healing-lessons-from-elie-wiesel

*** George Santayana The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense. Scribner’s, 1905

If I Were A Rich Man … ‘Twas the Night Before Tax Day!

‘Twas the night before Tax Day
and all through the house
not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse
who could nibble at a dollar bill
and carry it to build his nest
or back to his nest already-built.  

‘Twas the night before Tax Day
and all through the house
all the creatures were dreaming
of what they would do with nests full of money.
Many dreaming, like Tevye,*
that they wouldn’t have to work hard,
would have big houses right in the middle of town,
and would be thought to be wise and powerful
just because they’re rich.
Many asking, like Tevye,
“Would it spoil some vast eternal plan.
If I were a wealthy man?”**

Any day of the year is a good day to learn about money …
To learn different things about money than they teach you at home, in school, at the bank, on the job, in an accountant’s office, and certainly in the media. To learn deeper truths about money than you learn anywhere else.

Tax day is a particularly good day.

With all the issues we have related to money in our individual lives, in our national economies, and our world economy …
And of course, in our politics …
The Fiddler on the Roof song and fantasy can help us dissolve the illusions we have about money …
And learn the deepest truth about what drives us in our relationships with money.

For example …
Just because a person is rich, doesn’t mean s/he has a healthy relationship with money.
Just because a person is rich, doesn’t mean his/her relationship with money is about the here and now, and not some other time long ago.
Just because a person is rich, doesn’t mean his/her relationship with money is that of an adult.
Just because a person is rich, doesn’t mean his/her relationship with money is really about money.

*****

As a depth psychotherapist and a financial therapist, I have worked with many people over the years to help them discover the roots of their relationship with money. Despite my numerous articles, the most thorough of which is my home study course, A Recession Regression – Finding the Root of Our Relationships with Money, people often, if not usually, have the misconception that if you’re rich, you have a healthy relationship with money. Not necessarily so.

Many people I’ve worked with who were not rich, knew their relationship with money was not good for them. Many even knew it was not good for their family or our world. But until they did the depth work, they often imagined being rich would fix their relationship with money.

Many of the wealthy people I’ve worked with knew something was distorted about their relationship with money and came to me for the help to discover what. Many didn’t know, and were very surprised and thankful to find out.

People willing to go to the depths of themselves consistently discover in our work together that it is the little child they once were – still alive within them – who is truly driving their relationship with money. Sometimes experiences with money as a child do form a layer of that child’s experience driving their financial life today. But almost always there is another layer of early experience that isn’t about money at all. It’s about something going on in that child’s life, in that child’s relationships, in that child’s pains or even trauma, that ends up being transferred unconsciously onto money.

Here’s a profound example that could apply to a child who grew up to be poor or a child who grew up to be rich. Sal grew up, the oldest child in a large family: mother, father, aged maternal grandmother and grandfather, and 8 siblings.  His father worked in a factory long, long hours. His mother took in sewing so she could also be home to take care of her parents and children during the day. They were far from rich financially, and he felt it. But the greatest deprivation Sal suffered was from not having enough of his mother. She felt she had too much else to take care of, and his being the oldest, she enlisted his help taking care of the other children.

Sal decided very early in his life … before he even had words to express his decision: I’ll never have enough. It was a decision that lived in his little heart, his little body, his little mind. Later he might have had, thought, and even said the words. Or perhaps not. If he did, it is unlikely he could have realized how powerfully that early decision would affect his life, even drive his life, from his unconscious self. One thing’s for sure: it definitely would drive his life in very profound ways from the underground labyrinths of his psyche.

For instance, with an early decision of I’ll never have enough, he might struggle and struggle and work so very hard trying to make a good living, and find that no matter how hard he works, he does, in fact, end up never having enough money. He fulfills the early decision by its coming true actually in his finances, followed by his feelings.

He might also find a way to earn a really good living, bring in lots of money, and still feel he doesn’t have enough. He might change jobs, start his own business, hit a jackpot investment, and still feel he doesn’t have enough, even though he has in the current day more than enough many times over. He fulfills the early decision by its coming true in his perception and most of all in his feelings.

In both versions of Sal’s here-and-now experience, he is always experiencing and afraid of not having enough. In both versions, he is blocked by a decision he made long ago in his childhood – the decision “I’ll never have enough.” He is blocked by that decision. He is blocked by his being unaware of it. He is blocked by his transferring an experience he had with his mother onto money. And he is blocked by his own not working with this issue in his life and not healing and resolving it to its root.

Furthermore, he is not the only one impacted by his early decision and his reactions to it – his internal reactions, his relational reactions, his financial reactions. This is one of those places where it is becoming more and more obvious that we’re all connected.

Babies are not born greedy. Babies are born innocent, vulnerable, needing. It is the experiences our babies have and the unconscious early decisions they make from within those experiences that end up driving them to become greedy – greedy for money, greedy for power, greedy for attention, greedy for love … or hopeless in relation to the same things.

When you come right down to it, most of the profoundly intense feelings we feel in today’s world have their roots in the experiences of the child still alive within us from his/her world long, long ago.

If only we would do our inner work to discover the roots and to heal all the way to the roots … our world today could be a very different world.

This is not work for just one of us or just a few of us.
Every one of us who does this work helps him/herself and contributes to the communal healing.
But this is work every one of us needs to find a way to do.
For our own sakes, for our children’s sake, and for the sake of our world.

© Judith Barr 2016

*Tevye is the main character in the popular Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

**From “If I Were A Rich Man,” song from “Fiddler on the Roof.” © 1964 Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

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

As you begin to “wind down” from Tax Day – whether you’re rich, poor, or in-between … whether you get a refund or have to make a payment – take this wonderful opportunity to explore your true relationship with money.

Explore how you felt doing your taxes, or having them done for you. Were you tense or relaxed? Were you angry? Sad? Elated? Scared? And take some time to explore as well how you feel in the wake of this Tax Day. How do you really feel towards money? If you could speak with money, what would you say?

We all sometimes need the help of a skilled, caring professional in the things we do … and the labor of love that is exploring your relationship with money is no different. When you’re ready to go deeper into yourself, and truly heal your relationship with money, seek out a caring, integritous therapist to help you find and heal your early decisions about, and wounding to your relationship with, money.

Imagine if we all, rich and poor, did the crucial inner work to heal our relationships with money! Imagine how different our economy – and our world – would be!

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.

UNCONSCIOUS

I CAN’T PROVE IT TO YOU.
It’s a feeling.

I CAN’T WRITE IT DOWN FOR YOU.
It has no clear, definable voice – yet.

I CAN’T TELL YOU
what scientific principle
or mathematical theorem
supports it …
It isn’t guided by anything
that’s rational
or
logical
that’s been discovered yet!

NO! I CAN’T SHOW YOU PHOTOGRAPHS OF IT.
It isn’t visible in that way.
You can’t see it as clear, discernible,
duplicatable images,
but rather only as light and dark
inchoate forms.

I CANNOT SHOW YOU UNDER A MAGNIFYING GLASS!
You would not want to see it that large –
if it could be reduced to fit a glass.
Yet you recreate it large as life
day by day
and minute by minute.
Yes, you are recreating it this very moment,
between us and in our world.

NO! I CAN’T MAKE IT TANGIBLE –
But if you do not
acknowledge it and
the messages it brings …
You will, Oh my God! Oh my Goddess!
do everything you can
to make it tangible …
even create horrors in our
everyday world.

I CANNOT SEW IT INTO A FABRIC –
I assure you, however,
that it weaves a pattern
with threads so strong
they can never be
fully cut out from the weave.

NO, I CANNOT SHOW YOU UNDER A SPOTLIGHT.
It’s not that containable.
Though if you truly wanted to see it,
You would shine your own light on it –
the only way
in truth
it can be shown!

NO! NO! NO! I CANNOT GIVE YOU EVIDENCE.
This is not hewn of the stuff that
your laws and science are made of.
This is born of a deep Knowing,
of a deep and true reality,
That I trust from within my very bones.
A reality that has been washed
from both our shores
to other beaches
far ago and long away …

So far that we have
lost our names for it,
our voices for it,
our sight and our ear for it,
our taste and our feel for it,
our trust in it!

Yet there it remains,
hiding in a cave at the edge of a beach,
being battered and bathed
by the waves of
roaring and gentle oceans.
Waiting, waiting, waiting patiently
for those of us
who dare
courageously
search for it,
seek it out,
creatively find a way
to bring it home
to us again
and
befriend it,
help it heal and transform.

And … without it
we may or may not survive.
And … without it
we will not LIVE.
And … without it
we will not THRIVE.

Original version: © Judith Barr, 1987. Revised version: © Judith Barr, 2016.

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!

Safety – From the Inside Out – For The New Year and Years To Come

This is the third in my series of articles following the tragedy in Paris on November 13. The first was Grief, Shock, Another Tragedy and … the Poison is the Medicine … The second was When Are We Going to Heal the Repetitive Vicious Cycle From the Inside Out?
The article below takes us ever deeper into the cause and the solution.

Every child comes into this world needing to be safe;
needing a mother who keeps him safe,
needing a mother who keeps her safe;
needing a father who keeps him safe,
needing a father who keeps her safe;
Every child comes into this world needing to be safe;
needing at least one truly loving person
to keep him safe,
needing at least one truly loving person
to keep her safe.

When safety is missing from a child’s original home environment …
the consequences in that child’s outer world are mind-boggling;
and if the outer consequences weren’t more than enough to live with…
the consequences in that child’s inner world are almost
incomprehensibly mind-boggling and heart-boggling.

Whatever unsafety a child experiences in his or her young life
causes him to think, feel, grow, and act differently
than he would have without the unsafety.
The child’s young fear in reaction to the unsafety gets felt,
however briefly,
then reflexively buried so the child can survive.
But this innate self-protective reflex quickly changes from pure protection into defenses:
defenses against the unsafety just experienced in the outer world;
defenses against the feelings triggered by the outer unsafety;
but also defenses against the unsafety that remains
alive in the inner world;
and defenses against the feelings that remain alive in the inner world.

The child who innocently felt safe,
no longer feels safe in the outer world or the inner world.
The experience of unsafety and all the feelings that go with it
now are alive within that child …
whether right at the surface or buried deep within;
whether streaming through his self or
encapsulated and held off in the background;
whether consciously or deep beneath awareness.

The unsafety may have been blatant –
smacks on the face, beatings, rape, being thrown across the room …
hunger and famine …
experiencing or witnessing torture or the horrors of war …
Or it may have been more subtle –
being molested under the guise of caretaking,
being used under the guise of love,
being controlled under the guise of good parenting,
being humiliated under the guise of just kidding around,
or being made unsafe in any way … under the guise of safety.

That unsafety, whatever it was, still lives within the child –
that day, that week, that month, that year,
for years and years and years after…
even after the child has grown into adulthood.
That unsafety experienced in childhood
and the little child who experienced the unsafety
are still alive within the adult …
until that person has the help to heal and transform the unsafety from the inside out.

The experiences of unsafety and the defenses
against them, alive within,
create more unsafety without the child or the adult realizing it.
He may lash out and fight, firmly believing that will protect him.
She may withdraw, flee, and hide, certain that will protect her.
He may freeze in his tracks, doing nothing, sure that will protect him.
They may do any one of these things or others
because the unsafety within from long ago has been triggered,
perhaps by nothing unsafe at all in their present day outer world …
by only a misperception or misunderstanding that
sets off the inner and outer reaction to unsafety.
And if that happens,
their reaction could create unsafety in the outer world today
where none had existed.

Or there could be unsafety in the current world,
but the child still alive in the adult person –
about whom the adult is unaware –
could react to the current unsafety
with a charge, an intensity, and a rawness
far, far greater than the current unsafety warrants.

For instance,
someone switching lanes on the highway right in front of the adult
could set off the unsafety from long ago
that results in the adult pulling up too close to the car now in front,
passing the other car dangerously close,
rolling down their window and shouting obscenities,
or even pulling out a gun and shooting.
Any one of those responses would be
millions of times the warranted response –
of just feeling the fear of the moment of unsafety
when the other car pulled in so close.
And all caused by young reactions to and defenses against
unsafety from childhood.

This happens over and over again in our world…
Parents who experienced unsafety in their childhoods will somehow,
even without meaning to consciously,
even without realizing it,
create unsafety for their children.
Somehow unconsciously the child still alive within the parents,
in an effort to hold at bay their own unsafety when they were young,
will act out with their children, creating unsafety
for the next generation …
and the generation after that and the generation after that.

And it’s not limited to our homes.
This happens again and again in our world today …
in our homes –
in our schools and churches –
in our workplaces –
in our governments –
between nations and peoples of nations …
people all over our world creating unsafety
as a consequence of the unsafety they experienced as children.

Yes, there are things in the outer world we need to do to help us be safe today and in the future.
But our reactions to the unsafety in our world today
are intensified and magnified by the triggers we have to the unsafety we lived with in our childhoods …
even if we do not yet remember that unsafety;
even if we feel sure there was no unsafety;
even if that unsafety was passed down psychically
through the generations;
even if any unsafety in our childhood has been
normalized by our families;
even if any unsafety in our childhood has been
normalized by our cultures.

Yes, there are things in the outer world we need to do to help us be safe today and in the future …
but too many of the things people think we need to do will only create more unsafety
and start the cycle again.

The one most crucial thing we must do –
the one thing most people don’t know about at all –
the one thing most people deny as vital to us all …
is to do the inner healing to work through the experiences and feelings of unsafety we had as children.
Without that healing work,
we will continue to create and recreate unsafety
in a vicious cycle in our lives and in our world …
we will continue to create the poison
without using the poison as the medicine.

The original poison was the unsafety each child experienced originally.
The medicine is his or her reaction to real or perceived unsafety
in today’s world.
Using the medicine well:
using the trail of unsafety to heal unsafety –
not just in the outer world, but in the inner world, too.

The cure:
Creating safety from the inside out.

© Judith Barr, 2015

 

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

With commitment and honesty, you can search deep inside yourself to know – even if you are not yet aware –

-how you were unsafe as a child;

-how you have contributed to unsafety through the years as a consequence of the unsafety you experienced in your childhood;

and

-how you contribute to unsafety today as a consequence of the unsafety you experienced in your childhood.

With commitment and honesty, you can find a therapist with integrity and skill, who has done and continues to do his/her own work with safety/unsafety, to help you explore the issue of safety/unsafety to the root. You can work with it to the root and heal it to the root within you. And as a result … create safety from the inside out in your life, and help to create safety from the inside out in the life of our world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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