It Is Time to Go Deeper Now!
What Are We Waiting For?
I have been writing about the consequences of our staying on the surface in the outer world and not doing the deep work in the inner world from which outer occurrences and events spring. It has been an ongoing part of my writing for years. I have been writing about it in this series for months. Usually I write about it in relation to a specific person, event or theme. This month, I offer a broader view, an overview that will hopefully catch your attention and move you into action deeper than you have known before.
If a family is dysfunctional, most of the members ignore it, rise above it, pretend it isn’t true, live in denial, or walk away from it. Some of the members sometimes try to fight against it, often without success, often being dismissed, ridiculed, shunned, as a result. It takes a lot for a dysfunctional family to truly get the help needed . . . for the family as a whole and for each impacted member of the family to get the help needed to heal the causative and consequent wounds to the root. We see this in all sorts of dysfunctional families – those with alcoholism, gambling, sexual, abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, religious intolerance or fanaticism, and more. And if the family does get help, it is often – all too often – only on the surface. Perhaps the most obvious behaviors change. Perhaps the family members try to stop themselves from acting out on their impulses and their feelings. Perhaps, just perhaps, they even get some insight into why they have been dysfunctional. But it is a rare person, and certainly a rare family that truly heals the dysfunction from the outward behavior to the very root of the dysfunction . . . to the very root of the wound.
This would mean feeling the pain of the wounds, which most people are totally against. Which most people are completely afraid of doing. Which most people haven’t had anyone help them with from the time they were very, very, tiny beings . . . when the pain began. This would mean putting down the defenses – dissolving the defenses – people have constructed and hardened since their youngest days to defend them against the pain. This would mean feeling finally that which people have worked so hard to avoid – hurt, fear, the anger experienced by young, vulnerable children being hurt or wounded or traumatized, the powerlessness we all feel, and more. And this would mean remembering who hurt us, who wounded us and how. It would mean exposing our parents and their parents before them and their parents before them. The piercing of the idealization of our parentage would bring its own consequences . . . probably very similar to the wounding experienced in the first place. The hurt, fear, anger, and powerlessness of family and family members, beneath their defenses, being revealed and exposed. And likely lashing out at those doing the exposing. Lashing out physically, verbally, emotionally – directly at those doing the revealing. Or lashing out behind their backs. Arguing with them, discrediting them, accusing them of being disloyal to the family, making them “bad,” punishing them, shunning or outright exiling them from the family.
It is a rare family that one-by-one and as a whole is willing to dive into the ocean of healing and committed to working all the way through to coming out the other side, healed and transformed to the core. It is a rare individual who is committed to this – fully and whole-heartedly committed.
But now is the time for individuals and families to come forth and do this work. For it is not just our individual selves that are dysfunctional. It is not just our families that are dysfunctional. It is our society that is dysfunctional . . . as a result. Our national society and our global society.
What occurs individually also occurs communally. Not just communally in our families, but communally in our communities, our states, our countries, our world. And if we ever were able to see the communal version, we are seeing it now. This is one thing the media and the internet are helping us do. See . . . if we are willing to take our blinders off. Hear . . . if we are willing to take our earplugs out.
People are actually calling the US government dysfunctional – which it most certainly is. And what a mirror for us all. The country and the family . . . both lashing out at those doing the exposing. Lashing out physically, verbally, emotionally – directly at those doing the revealing. Or lashing out behind their backs. Arguing with them, discrediting them, accusing them of being disloyal or unpatriotic to the family or country, making them “bad,” punishing them, shunning or outright exiling them.
There are people in our world working to help with the healing, each in his or her own unique way. There is, for example, Margaret Heffernan, teaching about “willful blindness,” teaching that we refuse to see and acknowledge what is right there in front of us, causing damage to ourselves and others. There is Josh Oppenheimer, who has directed a painful but revealing movie about death squads in Indonesia, with, it seems, the hope that people will realize we all have an underbelly, we’re all perpetrators . . . even if only by wearing the clothing made by victims of those terrors.
But there are also those who seem to be trying to help, yet are feeding people with distortions that end up making things worse. For example, the teachers – spiritual and otherwise – who teach that whatever you put out there comes back to you. Yet . . . they fail to teach people about what we human beings put out there beneath our own consciousness, without our own awareness, and how that creates things in the world that have a way of coming back to impact us painfully, individually and communally.
Whatever there is within us individually or communally – whatever is harmful or even distorted – that gets normalized, has a way of coming back to haunt us. Whether that’s an incomplete teaching like the one above, an outright lie, or even a destructive force that is right out there in the open . . . the normalization feeds it and makes it grow under a guise – the guise of being normal.
Alice Miller taught about this again and again. She is no longer alive on this earth, but her wisdom and compassion live on. I hope I can do justice to her in this summary. She taught that no one is “born evil,” not even Hitler. That we bury the memories and feelings related to painful, even unbearable personal childhood experiences and then act them out later in our lives, without even realizing it. We act them out within and all around us, and most particularly on our children. For Hitler this included merciless beatings by his father and an absence of protection by his mother.
Miller taught that when parents’ treatment of children is normalized – like the cruel treatment of children in Germany and other parts of Europe when Hitler was growing up was normalized under the tag “child rearing” – many act out their experiences communally as they grow up. So . . . those who joined with or served Hitler in his brutality in Germany were also acting out the brutality they grew up with and their defenses in response. And how about those who somehow colluded with his rule? How were they acting out their childhood experiences? This is true of any tyrant. And it is true of any society. What does that mean about our society now? What does that mean about our societies now?
It is not only true of families and societies led by tyrants. It is also true of families and societies led by seemingly benign people, who are nevertheless impacting those under and around them from their own wounds and defenses against their own wounds.
Finally, Alice Miller acknowledged that the acting out occurs unconsciously because the child was not allowed to know and remember what was actually going on. This part of her understanding reflects the family’s and society’s attempts to keep from being exposed. But it also reflects the individual’s own attempts to keep from having those memories and feelings exposed, remembered, and felt – not only by others, but most especially by their own self.
Yet . . . we deeply need to expose, reveal, remember, and feel what is in our past that creates our today and tomorrow. There is no way around this. Many have tried to go around it. Many keep trying. Even in my own field, many techniques are developed in an effort to go around it. It is all part of the dysfunction.
We must expose, reveal, remember and feel what is in our past, for it is still alive within us and is creating our today. It is still alive within us and will most certainly create our tomorrow. We must expose, reveal, remember and feel it for our individual selves and our own individual healing. We must expose, reveal, remember and feel it for our communal selves and our communal, even global healing.
© Judith Barr, 2013
WHAT YOU CAN DO
TO HELP MAKE YOUR AND OUR WORLD SAFE . . .
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
We all have wounds . . . all of us. If we are unaware of those wounds, they will almost certainly create dysfunction in our lives.
Ask yourself and honestly answer . . . what are the wounds in my history? The history of my individual life, my family’s life, my country’s life? And how is that life dysfunctional as a result? How is my own life dysfunctional? How is my family dysfunctional? How is my country dysfunctional?
We all have wounds . . . all of us. If we are unaware of those wounds, they may lead us to knowingly or unwittingly commit, feed, or tolerate abuses of power in our lives, our society and our world.
As you go about your daily life…explore the ways in which your own wounding may lead you to be apathetic towards, or even collude with, abuses of power in all arenas in your life . . . your personal relationships, your professional relationships, your relationship with your clergy, your children’s teachers, your government, any authority figures, your relationship with your children or the children in your life.
When you hear about a questionable action taken by someone in your life, how do you feel? What feelings are evoked in you, for example, when you hear of the misuse of power by a corporation’s CEO or when you learn about a politician’s abuse of power? What feelings are evoked in you when you learn of the incident of domestic violence down the street, or the abuse of a child right next door? And, most importantly, when before in your life have you felt that way? When from your young adult years, your teen years, your childhood? How far back can you trace that feeling? Go back as far as you can in search of the root . . . and take a real look at how you may be acting out in a way that feeds the abuse of power.
Imagine what our lives, our societies, and our world would be like if we all became aware of, and committed to heal, the inner wounds that, untended and unhealed, create dysfunction and abuse! Both the most obvious and the most subtle. Both the most out-in-the-open and the most hidden.