In our world today, there is a known and much talked about issue of personal financial debt and national financial debt. It is real and it is serious.
But there is another form of personal, national, and even global debt that is just as real and far more serious. It is at least part of the cause of the financial debt, and at the same time, it is also one of the most devastating consequences of the financial debt. This form of debt is numbing . . . emotional numbing.
As babies and little children, when we experience pain and trauma, perhaps one of our only protections is to numb ourselves to the painful experience and the feelings that go with it. But as we grow, what was once a protection against death, either physical or psychological, becomes a defense . . . not only against something in the outer world that will be painful or traumatic, but also – maybe even moreso – against those painful feelings from before being evoked and awakened again. And as we become adolescents and then adults, what was originally a reflexive protection becomes a defense against our own feelings, and then hardens more and more, becomes increasingly more brittle, and breaks off from its original intention, taking on a life of its own. The numbness that was once a young child’s momentary self protection becomes a consistent way of life.
If we numb ourselves to our feelings – in response to pain, trauma, crisis – it makes it impossible for us to consciously, purposefully, safely work with and work through the pain, trauma, crisis . . . to resolution. Instead, our conscious and unconscious energies are dedicated to staying numb, not feeling the pain – not feeling the here-and-now pain and not feeling the buried pain from the past. The consequence of this numbing: it becomes impossible to clearly discern if there is pain, if the pain is here-and-now, if the pain is from long ago still alive within us, or if the pain is a consequence of both. It also becomes impossible to determine if there is a problem in the current day that needs to be resolved, and if so . . . if it is in our inner world, our outer world, or both. And it also becomes extremely improbable that any problem that does, in fact exist, will be resolved with heart. If we are numb, we may feign caring, but where is the real caring? Buried beneath the numbness!
So from this new perspective . . . how did we get to the debt problem in our nation and our world today?
From numbing ourselves to our feelings. Some who experienced pain as children – abuse or huge lacks or excesses – may grow up greedy for money or power. Others who suffered as children, perhaps even from the same things as those who grow up greedy, may grow up resigned and hopeless. Unproductive, unfruitful, even destructive action and inaction will likely result from these places, supporting the numbness that holds at bay the real roots of the pain. Feeding the numbness that deadens us to our own suffering and to the suffering of others. Bolstering our temptation to not contribute our fair share or to turn a blind eye to the needs of others. Reinforcing any difficulty we have asking for help, offering help, and discerning what help will be truly healthy and what help will actually undermine by collusion or enabling, for instance. From our numbed selves, we may relate to resolving the current day problems as well as the childhood, still-alive-within-us inner problems in unfeeling, even heartless ways . . . that continue to cause us and others pain, and that continue to create more numbness.
These examples are just that – examples. And very tender ones, at that. The depth and breadth of the whole reality is much bigger, much deeper, and much more complex. But I invite, even urge you, to take these examples and this essence of the deeper debt problem . . . and to seriously work with this level of debt within yourself. I also invite you to share this with others you know . . . for we deeply, urgently need to resolve the debt issue at this level of our beings individually, nationally, and globally.
© Judith Barr, 2011
WHAT YOU CAN DO
TO HELP MAKE YOUR WORLD SAFE . . . FROM THE INSIDE OUT
As we near the deadline for debt ceiling negotiations in this country – and at any and every time during the year – make time to explore within yourself your own “debt of numbness.”
When and in what areas of your life do you feel numb emotionally?
And how does this emotional numbness affect your life and your interactions in the world?
Can you trace back to much earlier in your life when you began to feel numb? Go as far back as you can trace the numbness . . .
Only by exploring our own emotional numbness can we hope to make meaningful, sustainable change in our inner world and our outer world – in relation to debt, not just in the financial sense, but in any area of our lives and the life of our world. What will you do to help clear the debt of numbness within you?
Today is the one year anniversary of Ugly Monday.
On September 15, 2008, the Dow dropped 500 points,
the economy took a crumbling dive, and took us on a ride that isn’t over yet. . . even though some people believe it is.
One of the not-well-known reasons it isn’t over yet . . .
People have been doing things on the level of outer actions all through the year.
But very few have explored the roots of their thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and relationships with money.
These unexplored roots actually drive what occurs in our financial lives individually, nationally, and globally.
As I’ve said many times before . . . The anxiety people have in their relationships with money preceded the recession and all the
economic turmoil by a long, long time. That anxiety will be here after the chaos has been calmed and we are on seemingly solid
ground again, or even actually solid ground. For many people, that anxiety exists all the time. It’s not going to go away – certainly not
any time soon. Certainly not as a result of things we do on the practical level in the outer world, either – not by selling our assets,
growing our savings, getting another job, cashing in an IRA, buying lottery tickets, or any amount of planning.
The only thing that can help resolve that anxiety is for us to do the work in our inner world – the world of our psyche and soul – to
discover, explore, heal and improve our relationship with money. In other words, the things we do in the outer world cannot be
sustained without our also doing things in our inner world that bring healing and transformation.
You may have a hard time believing this, but at the root, people’s relationships with money are based on a young child’s thoughts,
feelings, and decisions about money and even more, about the things money symbolizes for them. So when under financial stress,
people regress to a young age . . . even if they’re not aware of it, even if they don’t believe it. And from this young age, while
believing they are full adults, they make young decisions about things which need an adult to decide them.
So imagine if you, your friends, your parents, your community leaders, your state and federal leaders are all regressed and making
decisions from places within them of which they have no awareness . . . of which we have no awareness.
Sadly, there have been few in the media and financial worlds, and even the therapeutic world, who are talking about this aspect of the solution.
Having this conversation is crucial. Bringing this conversation out into the world for all to hear and take part in is crucial.
Taking action on these understandings is crucial.
It’s time to become aware. It’s time to heal what interferes with our wisdom and heart.
© 2009, Judith Barr
*I addressed this theme in more detail in my article A Recession Regression. If you would like to receive a free pdf copy of this article, please email me at Info@PowerAbusedPowerHealed.com.