How Did We Ever Let This Happen?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Judith Barr, 2016


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

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

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

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


Among many things that are in my mind and heart after this past week’s election . . .
I keep coming back to the issue of money.

According to NPR’s Morning Edition, literally billions of dollars were spent on the election nationwide!*
Let’s look at some specifics.
Candidate for California governor, Meg Whitman, spent $71 million dollars of her own money on her campaign.*
Rick Scott, Florida gubernatorial candidate, spent about $73 million of his own money to win.**
Linda McMahon – spent at least 50 million dollars, mostly her own money, on her campaign in Connecticut . . . more than any other Senate candidate this year. **
Candidate for New York governor, Carl Paladino, spent $3 million of his own money in the last week of the election alone.*

Extraordinary amounts of money . . . spent on political contests and governmental seats.

Think of all that money.
With that amount of money . . .
Imagine how many people’s houses could be saved from foreclosure!
Imagine how many people could be helped to move from the streets into safe households.
Imagine how many people could be fed.
Imagine how many people could be given good medical care.
Imagine how many children could receive wonderful educations.
Imagine how many people could participate in psychotherapy to heal the wounds of their childhood to the root … so as not to perpetuate them onto another generation!
And imagine the impact on our country and our world if we all had access to the deep inner healing we all need!

What are we doing?
Where are our values?
How distorted our values have become!
Look at all we spend for things outside us!
What about investing in finding the distortions at the roots of our relationships with money?
What about investing in healing the wounds we live with that would cause us to spend all that money on a government position that lasts for just a few years!

© Judith Barr 2010




This post is a follow-up to my previous post on this subject.

The man who was to be executed by a firing squad . . . was, in fact, executed.
The man who volunteered to be on the firing squad was one of five law enforcement officers on the firing squad.

Who can imagine this makes us feel safe?
Who can call our society civilized when such a thing could happen?
Who can imagine we are society of mature human beings if we can’t see through the guise?
Who can call us a society of healthy human beings if we can’t see through the guise?
The guise of justice covering abuse of power.
The guise of justice covering such deep wounding.

I posted a comment on a blog about the incident, and then went to read others’ posts to the blog.
My heart hurt so to read the responses. To see such hatred, rage, violence, and venom come from people
toward the man who had been executed . . . again under a guise.  And toward other people who responded without hatred, rage, violence, and venom.

I wondered who from their own early lives they were transferring onto this man who was executed, and onto others.
I wondered about the abuse in their early lives . . .
the cruelty in their childhoods  . . .
the punishments and other pain they suffered as children . . .
and under what guises?
Punishments that now they flung at others.
I wondered about the revenge someone took out on them during childhood,
revenge from a previous generation’s experiences of cruelty, hatred, punishment.

I wondered how to gather the help in larger numbers
so that together we can help to awaken and heal
our wounded, suffering, society.

(c) Judith Barr, 2010

Abuse of Power Under a Guise . . .

This month, in a few days, the death penalty may be carried out in Utah by means of a firing squad.
In Utah . . . in the United States . . . in 2010!

A man who volunteered to be on the firing squad, who has been on a firing squad before, and is currently a law enforcement officer in Utah . . . spoke to CNN* about the use of firing squads for death penalty cases, and about his experience of being on a firing squad.

Here are some of the things he said:

“How often does this come along? 100 percent justice.”
“The process is instantaneous and carried out with the utmost professionalism.”
“It was anti-climactic. Another day at the office.”
“I’ve shot squirrels I’ve felt worse about.”
“There’s (sic) just some people we need to kick off the planet.”
“The death penalty is nothing more than sending a defective product back to the manufacturer. Let him fix it.”

Does it take your breath away to hear this?  It does mine. Does it break your heart to hear this? It does mine. Imagine!

The abuse of power often takes place under a guise . . .
under the guise of taking care of people,
under the guise of helping people,
under the guise of serving people,
under the guise of justice. **

I urge you to see through the guises . . .
so you aren’t abused under a guise,
so you don’t collude with someone under a guise,
so you don’t remain passive in the face of a guise.

And here, in the form of a firing squad, is a guise for sure.
100% justice . . . that’s the guise.
The signs of the guise . . . what the law enforcement officer said:
“Another day at the office.”
“I’ve shot squirrels I’ve felt worse about,”
“There’s (sic) just some people we need to kick off the planet.”
“The death penalty is nothing more than sending a defective product back to the manufacturer. Let him fix it.”

If you experience being on a firing squad and shooting someone to death as “another day at the office,” you are numbed out and your heart is hardened and closed . . . abuse of power under the guise of professionalism and objectivity.
If you feel worse about squirrels you’ve shot than a human being, you are so disconnected from and misusing your feelings . . . which feeds the abuse of power you are committing.
If you have decided some people need to be kicked off the planet and set yourself up to participate in deciding who and how . . . you are not valuing human life and you are revealing your commitment to destroying what you don’t value. And kicking someone off the planet is abuse of power no matter how you describe it.
If you have decided “the death penalty is . . . sending a defective product back to the manufacturer,” you are abusing power under the guise of a belief and relationship with God.

We need to understand this. We need to know it, hear it, see it, and feel it.
We need to not be fooled by the guise that attempts to justify or hide abuse of power.
We need to understand this and not be fooled by the guise that attempts to justify or hide abuse of power anywhere – including in the bedroom, the living room, the classroom, the boardroom, the legislative halls, and the halls of justice.


** In my book, Power Abused, Power Healed, I state:

“Every form of power can be used well or misused.
“The law has been used to manipulate as well as to serve justice. Parenthood has been used as a means of captivity, and it has been used to nourish a soul, helping it grow into fullness. Sexuality has been used as a weapon to rape and dominate, as a substitute for unmet childhood bonding and physical touch, and as an exquisite sacred expression of love and union.
“Even God’s name has been used both to destroy and to heal. Christian Inquisitors burned midwives at the stake; zealots have committed acts of violence all over the world in the name of religion. In contrast, people of many religions pray for peace; practitioners all over the world speak different names for God as they lay hands on suffering bodies to touch hearts and souls and restore them to health.”

(c) Judith Barr, 2010


In just a few days, we have been informed of two more abuses of power amongst our government officials — one definitely occurred, the other has been alleged . . . and it seems facts are bearing it out. Most importantly, both of them had horrific impact on citizens of our country!

One . . . Governor David Paterson of New York is accused of having used his power in behalf of an aide.

The aide had been accused of battering his girlfriend, who then filed a criminal complaint against him. The governor is alleged to have sent state police officers, who did not have any jurisdiction in the case, to speak with the alleged victim to harass her into not proceeding with the action,* and then to have asked his press secretary to contact the victim and instruct her to publicly describe the incident as “non-violent.” He is alleged to have then called her himself…after which she would not appear in court to proceed with the case.**  So she was victimized twice … once by her boyfriend and once by the governor.

Who needs to do their work with their relationship with power in the state of New York? Certainly, the governor’s aide. And it certainly looks like the governor needs to himself.  Although this incident is in no way, shape, or form her fault or responsibility…even the woman in the case needs to work with her relationship with power . . . so she can stand up against abuse, instead of collapsing in the face of the governor’s call.

Two . . . Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, with his single vote, made sure jobless aid (and help with health insurance premiums) ran out Sunday night February 28th. And again Tuesday morning, March 3, when another Senator requested a 30 month extension of jobless benefits.*** And although eventually, his colleagues seem to have had an impact, and he backed down . . . for too long a time one single senator had the power to cause the suffering of tens of thousands of citizens.  One senator abused the power he had, the consequences be damned.

Who needs to do their work with their relationship with power in the Senate? Certainly Senator Bunning. Actually, every single senator needs to work with his/her relationship with power.  Not just because of terrible misuses of power they have committed, but to help them keep themselves in integrity with their relationship with power and the power they have.

Have we had our fill yet?   Are we just going to keep watching the people out there who misuse and abuse their power, say ‘tsk tsk,’ and exonerate ourselves?  Or are we going to look in the mirror these leaders hold up for us? Are we going to do our own inner work with the misuse and abuse of power in our own lives . . . so we can pull our abuse of power out of the collective pool?  And so we can stand up and say ‘no’ when others abuse their power?

The truth is . . . we all need to do our own inner work with our relationships with power.  We’ve all experienced others using their power with us . . . from the time we were born. And we all have had at least some painful experiences through childhood and into our adulthood.  We all use power — sometimes well and for great good, sometimes poorly and causing harm. Each one of us needs to take seriously our responsibility to do our own healing with our relationship with power . . . for our own sake and for the sake of our world.

© Judith Barr, 2010

*** article at

Congress – America’s Biggest Dysfunctional Family

Congress doesn’t work anymore because it is like a dysfunctional family.

A family in which there is a string of successive fathers, who try to do something for the family -to make it like they want it – while bringing their own wounds and dysfunctions to the group. A family in which there is no mother at the head of the family. Where did she go? Who took her? Who got rid of her? Where in the world is she? Her absence leaving the dysfunction that comes of abandonment. Even if she was barred from the family.

A family in which the siblings have learned to fight with each other . . . some of them while pretending they’re not fighting; some of them under the guise of friendship; some of them fighting in public view while being close in private; some of them trying to win; some of them trying to make the others fail; some of them fighting to the death, albeit figurative death . . . to date. None of them seeing what they are doing to each other. All of them blind and uncaring about what they are doing to the family. Fighting for what they want . . . the family be damned! The consequences be damned!

And that’s what our members of Congress are doing. They’re acting like the children in a horribly dysfunctional family. They’re in adult bodies. Some of them even have adult personas. But some of them, many of them, looking and acting like children right out in full view. Meanwhile they are all (or almost all) regressed children . . . as young as the age at which they were wounded in their own early lives. We have regressed, wounded children running our Senate. We have regressed and wounded children attempting to do the business of our House. We have regressed and wounded children claiming to lead our country.

When we are wounded as children, we get stuck at that age, that point in time, that developmental level. We may grow around the wound, but the wound is left there in the center. We may create defenses that help us seem to develop around the wound, but the defenses don’t dissolve the wound. Until we actually heal the wound, we will consistently, under stress, regress back to the level of that small child — mentally, emotionally, in some ways even physically.

No amount of bandaids will heal the wound. No quick fixes, no matter how simple or how sophisticated, will heal the wound. No amount of managing of behavior, thoughts, or feelings will heal the wound and help the development to continue. The dysfunction will continue, even expand and escalate . . . until we heal the wound to its root.

Our Congress is a dysfunctional family. A family of wounded children. The family needs therapy . . . both as a family and every member of the family.

But…is it just our Congress that’s a dysfunctional family?

© Judith Barr, 2010


In my work as a psychotherapist, I work tirelessly to help people either birth or reclaim their voices.  It’s not that they can’t speak. It’s that they are unable to speak up – for themselves, for someone they love, or for something they believe in. 

Perhaps that ability was squashed when they were babies, before they barely birthed and found their own voices – literally and emotionally.  When they cried – the way babies speak – someone was triggered by their crying and got frustrated, angry, or even abusive.  Or perhaps they were two years old, saying ‘no’ as a way of finding their individuated, own unique selves, and again, someone was evoked by their expressing themselves. That adult someone mistakenly thought the child was trying to control him or her and decided “I’ll show them who’s boss.”

Children can be scared out of using their voice – out of speaking their minds and their hearts – by the threat or actuality of attack or abandonment. When that happens, the work of healing to use their voice is deep, touching, and very real.

In thirty plus years doing this work, I would say every single person I’ve worked with has experienced this wound and needed to do the healing to have and be able to use their voice well and without abusing it. Not because these people were sick, but because they were wounded in relation to their own voices.

Watching our country over the past years, I would say many, many citizens in our country are suffering from the same wound. Some who don’t speak up when they need to.  And some who speak up so abrasively, even so abusively that you might mistakenly think they had no problem with their voice at all.

This shows up in our elections. It shows up in our disagreements about important controversial issues such as healthcare, a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body, and prejudice about people who are different from us. And most recently, it is showing up in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision that a corporation has a voice – a limitless voice – through unlimited use of its money to fund campaign ads for candidates of its choice.*

It is bizarre to give a corporation voice that in the constitution was meant for human beings.  It is bizarre to give a corporation such unlimited voice in elections, and especially under the guise of protecting first amendment rights to freedom of speech. That in itself will likely squash people’s individual voices, especially those of politicians running for office.  That is one of the potential consequences of this decision. But that’s not the voice I’m most concerned about today.

Today I’m concerned that I haven’t heard enough voices of individual citizens expressing themselves about this ruling.  Usually when something that has this much impact occurs, many of my clients talk about it in sessions.  They discuss their feelings about it, and they explore what it brings up in them. Something it would serve us all to do.  Very very few are exploring this event. My colleagues usually speak up about something like this . . . I’m not hearing any talk about this other than passing comments right after the decision.

And I’m concerned that I’m not hearing or reading very much about it in the media. It hasn’t come up on my internet news page since the day after the decision. And I haven’t heard it on the news to which I’ve listened since that same day. 

I shudder to think what such voicelessness can create in our country.
Actually, I shudder to think what voicelessness created an environment in our country in which such a ruling could be made and people would be quiet about it.

We have a lot of healing to do to move from being a voiceless people to a people who will and do use our precious voices to speak up for truth and justice . . . consistently, effectively, and impactfully.

Where is your voice?

*From MSNBC: “In a landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down laws that banned corporations from using their own money to support or oppose candidates for public office. By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned federal laws, in effect for decades, that prevented corporations from using their profits to buy political campaign ads.”
( )

(c) Judith Barr, 2010