It’s the day after Independence Day and we Americans think we’re so free.
It’s the day after an election and the winners think they’re free.
It’s the day after the Brexit vote and too many British people think they’re now free.
It’s the day after a terrorist attack and the attackers think they’re free.
It’s the day after a major Supreme or High Court case and the winners think they’re free.
It’s the day after a divorce, and the party who wanted the divorce thinks s/he’s free.
It’s the day after graduation – high school or college – and the graduates think they’re free.
It’s the day after someone’s finished therapy to get rid of symptoms, and the person thinks s/he’s free … and the therapist thinks so, too.
But who can be truly free when beneath our awareness we are unconsciously compelled to repeat the same patterns we have lived out all our lives up till now? Who can be truly free when this is going on deep down within us … even if we think we’re free? Even if we believe we’re free. Even if we would swear we’re free. Even if we would try to prove to you and even more, to ourselves, that we’re free. Even if everyone around us would agree that we’re free.
On the individual level … imagine a child who experiences some kind of trauma – it could be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, or even the grief of losing a parent to death, to a sickness, or to a divorce. The pain of any one of those experiences will be unbearable for the child, who will grow up to, without even realizing it … re-enact one side or the other of the same or similar experiences again and again. If she was physically abused as a child, she may choose a partner, boss, or even raise a child who physically abuses her; or she may enter a relationship with a partner whom she physically abuses and have children she physically abuses. If he was sexually abused in his youth, he may, without realizing why, be drawn to partners who will sexually abuse him; or he may become the sexual abuser – the harasser, the molester, the rapist of others – his partner, children in his life, strangers old and young. This will continue on and on until someone stops him and makes it impossible for him to act it out. But stopping him will not heal it so that he would not act it out again. And he will continue to act it out in limitless ways, from the very subtle to the most obvious, undeniable ways.
Children who are deeply wounded will somehow repeat their wounding experience. They may do it by themselves. They may do it to others. They may even, in search for “family” and “connection,” join groups and do it with others.
So at the heart of it, these re-enactments will continue until the child-now-adult finally chooses to heal it to the root. To do the inner work to end the compulsive repetition of the wounding. To end a way of life in which s/he tries to stop the wounding by wounding again – wounding oneself, wounding others, or both. To end a way of life in which s/he tries to hold the early memories and feelings at bay, by re-enacting them – wounding self and other over and over again. By wounding people, animals, the environment … as an escape from the original pain and the layers and layers of pain created again and again with every cycle of re-enactment.
Again, these re-enactments will continue till the adult person chooses to heal it to the root. And then each step in the healing process begins to help that person end the re-enactments. Maybe he’ll see the red flags that he couldn’t see before. Maybe she’ll be able to use the new red flags she sees to help her not get into a relationship with someone she’s attracted to (from the wounding) but isn’t good for her. Maybe he’ll be able to tolerate the feelings that emerge when he does something different to take care of himself, instead of just repeating the same old things. Maybe she’ll even be able to feel the feelings and utilize them to help in the healing of the early trauma.
One thing’s for sure … recreating the wounding in ourselves or others will not stop the wounding. It will only perpetuate it. It will only feed it. For example, if she physically abuses her partner, it will likely be part of a re-enactment for the partner, repeating in some way wounds from his/her childhood, and feeding the cycle once again. Or, if she physically abuses her children, they will likely take that trauma into their beings and then re-enact it in their lives … again either exposing themselves to abuse over and over again, or ending up abusing others repeatedly.
This doesn’t occur only on the individual and family level. It occurs communally, too. The individual re-enactments contribute to and even create the communal re-enactments. And unless we understand this, we will not only continue the individual re-enactments, but also the communal re-enactments.
On the national level … imagine a country that created itself by its people fighting against their original country, leaving it and moving away. Then fighting their old country in their new country. Fighting and killing to be free. And then fighting and killing the natives in whose country they built their own new country. Fighting against and killing to be free and to have power is a basic underlying dynamic in this new country. Of course, it probably was already an underlying dynamic in the original home country, too.
At any rate, the dynamic will be there under the surface, even when it’s not actively being carried out. Somewhere within the heart of the entity of the new country, and within her citizens, as well, the fighting against and killing to be free dynamic will be alive, simmering, and waiting to bubble up and get played out all over again in the outer world.
Maybe the fighting that erupts into action will be against other countries. Maybe it will be against the natives of the new country. Maybe it will be against groups of the new country’s citizens. Maybe the fighting will start silently. Maybe in words. Maybe in actions, like taking groups of people hostage. Perhaps in actions like violence against them. Maybe in actions like blocking them out of the new country. Whatever action … this country and its citizens, once under the illusion that they were free, are now compulsively in the process of acting out their original wounds. The ones that were part of how they came here. The ones that were part of the country they lived in before. The ones that were part of the old country generations ago. And also, the ones that were part of the individual citizens’ minds, bodies, hearts, and souls for generations back in time.
And the country and its citizens, under the illusion of freedom – or perhaps under the guise of freedom – will continue to re-enact and act out the underlying dynamic in limitless ways, from the very subtle to the most flagrant, manifest ways of fighting against and killing to be free.
This doesn’t occur only on the national level. It occurs globally, too. The individual and national re-enactments contribute to and even feed the global re-enactments. And then the global re-enactments in turn feed the individual and national ones. It’s a vicious cycle. And unless we understand this, we will not only continue the individual re-enactments and the national re-enactments, but also the global re-enactments … and the vicious cycle, too.
On the global level … imagine the whole world is struggling with the same experience – re-enacting again and again what was once acted out and ended, but never really healed. World War II, for example, was an atrocious acting out of not only Hitler’s childhood waking nightmares, but those of other German children, too, who also had been horribly abused under the cultural guise of child rearing. And for each country and each people who became part of that torturous world war experience, it in itself was a re-enactment of earlier wounds. And although the horrifying cruelty and destructiveness needed to be stopped … each effort to stop the war, win the war, end the war was part of that re-enactment. But without healing what caused the war from the inside out, individually and culturally, we were bound to see new repetitions of the original wounding.
Even Churchill’s intention to have the European Union created to make sure European countries would never fight against each other again … wasn’t enough. As we can see, countries could always leave the union. But that isn’t the reason it wasn’t enough. The reason is – the healing on the inside didn’t happen. The healing of the root cause for each person and each country to be part of that re-enactment was not healed.
There have been many people, like Hitler, who became the leaders of their country as part of their own personal re-enactments and the re-enactments of their country and its citizens. And in the process, great cruelty and destruction have been acted out. Sometimes all through the country. Sometimes all through a continent. Sometimes extending even further to other continents.
And eventually it extended all over the world in groups that are not bounded by countries, but rather exist in different bases, in different locations, and invite and feed re-enactments through the internet. Not limited by time and space.
And our response is to fight against and kill them …
“the war on” cancer, drugs, ISIS.
And our response is to respond in the outer world …
And our response is to once again call them “evil” …
And our response is once again to feel the painful impact of the terror…
But our response is once again to turn away from the inner causes.
To turn away from the inner causes within them.
To turn away from the inner causes within us.
To turn away from the truth that on both sides, these are re-enactments of childhood wounds … childhood wounds, trauma, nightmares, and terrors.
To turn away from the truth that on all sides these are re-enactments of childhood wounds, trauma, nightmares, and terrors.
On all sides what is becoming more and more unbearable today is an ongoing series of re-enactments from our childhoods and the childhoods of those before us. We may not want to see it. We may not want to know it. We may not want to feel it. But if we don’t see it, hear it, know it, understand it, feel it … we will continue to be participants in the escalating re-enactments. But we will continue to be unknowing participants. We will continue to be unconscious participants. And as a result, we will continue to be disempowered participants, preventing ourselves from helping ourselves in the healing – our own individual healing, our national healing, our global healing.
Who can be truly free when beneath our awareness we are unconsciously compelled to repeat the same patterns we have lived out all our lives up till now? Who can be truly free if we refuse to become aware and conscious of what we’re doing beneath the surface?
We can’t stop the wounding by repeating it.
We can’t stop the wounding by wounding.
We can only stop the wounding by healing from the inside out …
And to the root.
And this is the hope –
We can stop the wounding by healing from the inside out …
And to the root.
It will take time.
It will take work.
It will take our investment.
A better investment than staying in the vicious cycle and watching the escalation.
And it will take our commitment.
A better commitment than the unconscious commitment to stay in the vicious cycle and feed the escalation.
But it is possible.
We can stop the wounding by healing from the inside out …
And to the root.
This is the hope.
© Judith Barr, 2016
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP KEEP OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
No matter where you are in your life, whether you feel “free” or not in your own personal circumstances… no matter what area of the world you call home, whether you’re celebrating a “freedom” achieved long ago or a “freedom” recently decided upon … in order to achieve true, lasting freedom, we all need to do the inner work needed to explore and heal our own inner wounds.
As we collectively and individually contemplate what it means to be free, commit to explore your own inner “freedom.” What wounds are still alive within you that prevent you from teasing yourself free from re-enacting destructive or self-destructive patterns from your own past? And how do those wounds affect not only your own life, but also the life of your family, your community, your world?
Many of our wounds are so deep within, so unconscious, so delicate, that we often need the help of a caring, integritous therapist – one that won’t help us settle for quick fixes, but will truly help us fully explore and heal to the root.
No matter where you are in your life, commit now to not settle for temporary, partial “freedom” in the outer world, but rather to begin or continue the journey towards true, lasting freedom. Imagine what our world would be like if everyone – leaders and citizens – made this commitment!
NEEDED NOW MORE THAN EVER …
UPDATED THIRD EDITION OF POWER ABUSED, POWER HEALED
Recently, I shared the following news with subscribers on my mailing list. I now feel called to share this announcement with all those who read the newsletters themselves in my blog. It is my prayer that my book helps all of us to bring healing not only into our own lives, families, and communities, but also into our whole world.
When I first published my book, Power Abused, Power Healed, nine years ago, I knew that the hopeful, healing message in its pages was so needed in our world – a world rife with abuses of power in all arenas of life.
In that time, so many more abuses have come out into the open, calling for us to begin the journey – or go deeper into the journey – to heal misuse and abuse of power from the inside out. In response to this urgent call, I am issuing an updated third edition of Power Abused, Power Healed.
Sylvia Brinton Perera, Jungian analyst, author of Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women, said this upon reading Power Abused, Power Healed:
“Using Hans Andersen’s fairy tale about the emperor whose vanity lands him naked on parade, Judith Barr explores the stories of many kinds of power. While her accounts are mainly focused on power abuse in families and the helping professions, we know only too well how the same dynamics surround us. In politics, in the corporate world, in church institutions, even in our news sources, we can see many forms of abuse that distort reality, silence questioning, crush empathy, and build empires based on greed, power, and righteous self-aggrandizement. Because Judith Barr’s parables are enjoyable and deceptively simple, they help to raise consciousness in non-threatening ways. They creep under our defenses to wake us up. Thus they can be used by parents, family therapists, pastoral counselors, and group leaders in their work. They can also be used for self-reflection, for it is not hard to find aspects of ourselves mirrored in them.
I would also like to see this book as mandatory reading for politicians and CEOs. Everyone claiming authority needs to know the dire consequences to self and to others of the power shadow. When we are not aware, we may find ourselves parading our grandeur and goodness as foolishly as the naked emperor, or as cruelly as any tyrant.”
While most of the specific stories in Power Abused, Power Healed are about individuals, the larger context of the wrap around story is that of an empire – government, politics, and a whole citizenry – and about an emperor who is the head of government – even a dictator – who threatens anyone who doesn’t see the clothes. Those affected include his advisors, other government officials, and ordinary citizens. Their response mirrors a possible response of any citizenry in similar situations … a mirror that reflects much of what we see in our national and international political scene today.
I hope you find Power Abused, Power Healed to be a valuable and inspiring resource in your healing journey, in your life, and in holding and helping to heal what’s going on in our world.