Moving toward letting go, and gaining insight to live our lives more aligned with health and harmony.
I believe answers to our current dilemmas are always found in the present moment through our undamaged, undiluted, unfiltered awareness. I have found this to be true, time and time again. When “things” do not go well, upon reflection, I see that I had lost focus, that I had been focused in my head on either the past or future, or I had blindly accepted some societal or religious “rule”, which means that I was following someone else’s answer, not my own. Fear takes me out of the present moment, out of my body and into my head, out of my other feelings, out of myself, out of the Truth. Fear is the fundamental dishonesty, that we don’t have what we need in any moment. Truth speaks to us from the core of our being in the present moment. It is both nonverbal as well as Archetypal. We put our own words to it, but those words are our words to convey Truth that wells up in us when needed. Words convey things, ideas, experiences, themes, solutions, feelings, states of mind, but are not what they convey, they are less than what they convey. God doesn’t need words and is not less than or separate from anything!
Absolute honesty is the path back to our Birthright, our Primal Awareness. Human beings seem to have a propensity for taking the easier path. We don’t want to do the hard work that Honesty requires. Instead we rely on rules and suppositions and explanations, doctrine, and the descriptions of others of an inner relationship with Truth, with Life, with God. Those descriptions do often have value, but in relying on them exclusively in each situation, we are not trusting ourselves, and we put this precious Gift in jeopardy, giving that Power to others, allowing their descriptions of Truth to over-ride our own. It’s not enough that our Primal Awareness has been diluted countless times over the years through injuries by others who have had their Awareness injured, or diluted, but then, we continue on in their footsteps, and do it to ourselves! We do this unconsciously. Even in the process of recovering access to this precious Gift we often find ourselves replacing this Birthright with something less.
Keeping in touch with this birthright in a group is particularly difficult. From birth we have given up what we know and what we see and what we feel in order to fit in. Our relationships are important to us. When we were little, that was a matter of life or death. To lose the love of a parent or parents, or of the whole family could have meant that we would perish. We knew this Instinctively. To lose the love and acceptance of parents or family would mean that we would be trapped with others who didn’t care about us. Children see this kind of situation as both life-threatening and never ending. To be totally ourselves despite a situation like this is beyond the capabilities of a child. What is most important in us becomes Unconscious. We then carry this learned behavior into our adult lives, so that belonging is often more important than Being Ourselves! And of course, we are not aware of this propensity. This Unconsciousness is particularly active and powerful in all or almost all groups.
A group will have its own story or description of Life, or the part of Life that it is associated with. When we act from our core in a group we are often at odds with this story that everyone who belongs must accept in order to belong. Group stories are often about separation from others who believe differently, and about a focus on “otherness”. Protection of the group becomes more important than the protection of Individuality. Groups gives a sense of safety in numbers, but are often about fear of others even if that is unconscious rather than acknowledged. The injuries of individuals in a group, then act unconsciously to protect the group, and the group story, whatever that may be.
I was born into a particularly fearful family. My mother was the main conduit of that fear and much violence. Later, however it was others outside the family. I was molested by a man who did “volunteer work” with underprivileged youths in our area at 13, and by the parish priest at 14, a scout leader at 15. I have carried those injuries ever since. This year I am 60 years old. I believe that not only do we carry our injuries with us, injuries that need resolution, stories that need to be told fully, but Life moves to heal those injuries at the appropriate times in the appropriate way. Healing is just as personal, as our relationship to Truth, to Life, to God. We cannot fit our healing, we cannot fit our story, into the words, or views, or rules, or stories of others. That healing, that relationship is deeply personal. It doesn’t fit inside Anything else.
I live in The Deep South. Lots of injury. Lots of Unconsciousness. Lots of mistrust. Lots of churches. Much of the work I do is for churches and ministers. My best friend is a minister. Recently I was doing some contract work for a church, and found myself having to constantly set and reset boundaries, explain, then re-explain what I needed to do the job. I really needed the money that was coming from the job, at least that’s what I told myself. Their behavior in terms of providing what was their responsibility to provide, was very out of control. They wanted more and more and more, regardless of the contract, and regardless of what should have been their own later responsibilities. I asked for digital, they’d give me paper. I’d ask for original, uniform, digital pictures, I’d get cropped, cut up, paper copies. They’d call and call and call. They started forwarding email suggestions from 20 different people in their congregation – all with different ideas about what should be despite the contract. I felt like I was being pecked to death by chickens! In me, uneasiness turned to fear, then panic. I knew my reaction was about my past, about being hurt by the priest, although I didn’t know what, specifically, I was recalling. To date, my memories of that particular injury are very dim. All I knew was that the world didn’t feel safe to me anymore. Other people were acting crazy and out of control, and I felt trapped and vulnerable to their craziness.
Then I had a dream. In the dream, the priest who hurt me was a shadow, but I knew it was him. He was reaching for his gun to come after me with it. I told my best friend about this, and having been trained as a minister, he suggested praying for the priest, that perhaps I had not forgiven him. I replied that I was not angry anymore (even if I was, that energy of anger is often the fuel to tell or to say No!). I did not feel animosity, only fear, panic in fact . He suggested that sometimes things are hidden from us. I know that only I hide things from myself. He suggested perhaps there was something underneath that fear. I knew that at least in me there is no other feeling underneath the fear, it is a primal emotion, and panic is about fear for one’s life. I trusted my friend enough to push back with what I believe from my own experience, and I told him I would “take it to God”, withdrawing from our “back and forth”. I also left “room” for what I might not be aware of. I felt strong having stood up with my own Truth.
The next day, I remembered that the priest that hurt me did in fact have a gun. I had known that all along, but did not have access to that. He showed me that gun, in a black holster, the same color as his clothing. Showing me that gun, was his subtle way of warning me that if I told, he’d come after me. That was the story about my past, that Life sought to show me, once I got past other people’s stories, and created both time and space to receive my own. © 2012 Ken Scully All Rights Reserved
We seem to have a sort of “schizophrenic” relationship with the Grief Process in our society. On one hand we do acknowledge that we must move through the pain to get to the other side. If a loved one dies, or a relationship ends, advice is given that we should “take time to grieve” so that “old doors can close, and new ones can open”. On the other hand, we look at people grieving as somehow maybe “not spiritual enough”, or we might make judgments about the speed with which they progress through their grief, or the kind of grief (sadness might be OK but anger or rage, oh no!). Or – (and this is probably the most common), we look at a grieving person as needing to be “fixed”. Worse, we might give them pills that interfere with their grief. Granted, they no longer feel the full import of their pain, but they most likely will never properly process the event or events that caused that pain. They are separated from their pain, but become separated from their Truest Selves. People drink to keep their pain at bay. Churches tell us we will be “rewarded” in the next life, that suffering in this life is unimportant! In one way or another, other people often get in the way of our feeling and expressing our grief, and our efforts to find meaning in our suffering, in order to move forward. Perhaps they do this because it reminds them of their own grief, which was never “allowed” – and they may have been avoiding their own at all cost, for a very long time. It’s a shame that we see the Grief Process as an indication of “broken-ness” rather than a pathway to the future. It is our process of “Becoming”. It is our Healing Process. It is a part of us.
Recently I was betrayed by my partner, and our fourteen year relationship ended. I experienced this very real loss differently than I ever did before. I gave myself fully – and I mean fully – to my own grief process. I had time, safety, seclusion when needed, support when needed, and an understanding of my own workings that allowed me mostly to not be afraid of the very powerful forces freely flowing in me. I knew that all feelings come and go. I knew that they are the language of a very deep part of myself, and that they tell a story about my loss that can’t easily be put into words, and when listened to give wisdom that no words could ever really convey as clearly. They bring many things to light that were in the darkness, and often help to not only resolve the present injury, but if we’re open to it, past injuries as well. When we fully give ourselves to our Grief, we are fully connected to ourselves and More, in a way that we often do not experience during everyday life. It is a Sacred time.
I learned many things through my grief, over the years. As I said before, often things about the past come up as well as those losses in the present that we are grieving. I have dealt with my mother’s violence and her inability to connect or have empathy for her own son. I noticed that I felt shame, because a lot of other families didn’t have anything like what I experienced. I could see the looks of shock on their faces, when I told others what I had experienced. I felt shame, instead of “giving” that to my mother. That shame was not mine. Shame is about “defectiveness” rather than about making a mistake. I have also learned that PTSD “symptoms” that came from my mother’s abuse are a number of NORMAL REACTIONS to an abnormal event or events, and I have learned to embrace my “different-ness” (the PTSD “symptoms”) to a degree. But telling someone else about them left me feeling shame, and I had to work through that.
This time, I found myself feeling shame about my partner’s very dysfunctional break from our relationship, when I saw those same looks on other people’s faces, as I told them the story of her leaving. I had to struggle to “give” that shame to her, it was her behavior, not mine . We were two individuals responsible for our own behaviors. Relationship breakups aren’t always “caused” by both partners. It only takes one person to do something wrong or hurtful.
During my most recent period of grief about losing a fourteen year relationship, and all the hopes and dreams about growing old together, (even though most of it was in private), I noticed that nearly everyone could not tolerate my process, judged me for it, judged the process itself, or kept responding to me as if I was broken. I knew I was not “broken”. There were some exceptions but they were few and far between. I refused, this time, to be ashamed of my Process.
I gave myself to my Grief. I allowed it as much as I could, and I allowed it to carry me where it would, as fast or slow as it would, however it would. The thing is, though, it isn’t an IT! When I grieve, I feel sadness, and anger, and fear, right from the center of my being, a part of me that is wild and unrestrained, and absolutely honest. This “kid” part of me feels what he feels. Period. No “ifs” “ands” or “buts”. This is a part of us that we keep a stranglehold on for most of our lives. You can’t act “this way or that”. You can’t think “this way or that”. You can’t FEEL “this way or that”. This part of us is attacked by the world over and over, and we try to “civilize” this part of ourselves, rather than find an outlet for this dynamic creative, enthusiastic, passionate part of ourselves. We don’t even notice that we do this to ourselves, because others did this to us, and taught us to do it to ourselves! Most of the time, we live with only a very small percentage of this passion and energy. We wonder why there is so much depression in our society. I tell you, that it comes from binding this wild part of ourselves, this part of ourselves that exists to help us attain our destiny, if such a thing exists, and our highest happiness!
When we “surrender” to our Grief, we really are surrendering to this part of ourselves that is meant to “lead the charge” in Life! Doors to the Old close. Doors to the New open. This part of us leads us from the old into the new! This part of ourselves finds meaning and strength of character in old wounds, and moves us mysteriously forward into the creative unknown. The process is messy, nonlinear, emotional, intuitive, patient, but also sometimes in some of us, more like a tidal wave, than a gentle current. It is as different in one person as in another because it is not a thing. Our grief process is the power of our soul or spirit moving us out of the past, and into the future. Why would we want to hamper this?
A couple of years ago, I was at my son’s wedding. My son has some wonderful friends. One in particular I watched as she danced. I like her because she is very authentic and honest. Many of my son’s friends have those same qualities. I was watching this lady spin and kick and sway with both incredible precision but also with complete abandon. The look on her face is what I have revisited many times in my memory. Pure unadulterated, uncontained, unbridled breathless Joy. How many of us as adults ever feel that? Or notice it in others? Later, she came over to my table. We talked a little about the wedding. I could feel that we were both very “present”. I especially like that, when two people can sit and talk without any hurry or pretense. Then the “kid in me” knows it is safe, and can come to the forefront in me. I asked her if she had ever been to Mardi Gras, probably because of the festive nature of this occasion. She hadn’t, and I remember saying that I would have loved to have gone, back in “my crazy days” because back then I could still “misbehave”. As I told her this, I felt very child-like, and snapped my fingers in an “aw shucks!” kind of kid-like gesture. She smiled and said “You know, it’s OK to “misbehave here”! I have revisited that statement many times as well. I could feel its import when she said it. It was about “allowing” our “wildness”. It was about letting go.
Dancing doesn’t “make sense”. It just is. Music doesn’t “make sense”. It just is. By giving ourselves over to music or dance or any other creative process, we are both transported and enriched. By giving ourselves to “what is” we find all manner of wonderful things. By giving ourselves over to our Grief Process, when that is “what is”, we become more, not less, and find ourselves better equipped to move forward in our lives, discovering new possibilities, new doors that are open to us, as those old doors close on our past. We charge forward on that unbridled Wild Stallion that we find there, towards the future that awaits us.
© 2011 Ken Scully
All Rights Reserved
The demand for absolute obedience from a child is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Parents often look at children as if they were just “little adults”. They also treat them as if they were all the same, and expect adult reactions from them. But like every color in the rainbow, every child is different, one from another. One child is as calm as a lake on a still, sunny day; another is caught in a storm of frenetic activity. One child listens intently; another cannot because their own internal soundscape is too loud. One child is accepting, never questioning what they are told; another is curious and questioning by nature, and must know for themselves. One child is patient and focused; another impatient and scatter-brained. One child is comical and friendly; another is serious and withdrawn. One child is blindly obedient, so eager to please; another senses injustice and powerlessness, and are confused by thoughtless demands, or enraged by angry, dishonest ones. Some children are sensitive; others are not, but the most sensitive among children, are the ones who float on the stormy seas of their parents emotions. Those children will have a very difficult time, indeed.
Too often parents make their children into servants. That’s different than teaching responsibility. There needs to be flexibility, when we are dealing with children. Parents do this because “That’s what parents are supposed to do!” Gradually, these “jobs” will “belong” to the children, even when it makes more sense, one time or another, for the parent to take care of that particular “job”. Parents often “bark” orders, reminding the child of past “indiscretions”, threatening punishment instead of pleasantly and calmly reminding a child of their “duties”. That sets the child up to fail, and “raises the stakes” in a very disfunctional parental game. A parent sitting next to the front door shouldn’t be demanding that a child on the other side of the room open the door every time, when they themselves are closer. Most children are not stupid, and will see the injustice in that. They will see the inflexibility. Parents who make their children into obedient servants, do this for one reason, and one reason only – because their own parents did that to them. They will tell you otherwise, of course.
“But they have to learn how to obey”, is the usual mindlessly repeated retort by protesting parents. This response usually comes from a place of frustration at the least, anger in most cases, exasperation and rage in other cases. If you feel rage because of your child’s disobedience, and especially if you do not give that child adequate time to respond to your often angry or threatening requests, your rage is not about the child, although you do not know that. You are allowing your own past to interfere with your, and your child’s present. Rage is only a proper response to gigantic loss or betrayal. It’s not a response to a child’s disobedience, unless you want them to be injured in the same way you were. Most of us carry our own childhood injuries so deeply inside ourselves, that often we are not aware of the extent of the damage done to us. Those injuries are not silent, however. Often they are expressed in an unyielding, inflexible, enraged attitued directed at our own children, when that rage should have been directed at our own parents long ago. Some of us were never allowed to disagree, or God forbid, disobey our parents. There would have been Hell to pay! That Hell would have been our own parent’s rage, and its consequences, the same rage, we may be directing at our children! This rage is a jealous rage, because it seeks to destroy in others, what was destroyed in ourselves. Like a wolf in waiting, neither parent nor child will ever know when it will attack. Children are led to right action through a calm, patient demeanor.
A parent doesn’t have to beat the “bejesus” (curious expression!) out of a child to do damage. When a parent is feeling this rage, and their child is experiencing their parent’s inflexible, impatient demands, one child may suddenly feel drained of energy, feel frightened and confused. Another may feel an awful feeling in the pit of their stomach, from the fear of being trapped in an out of control situation, with an out of control adult. (Their awareness is still undamaged, and they see the situation for what it is.) Some children respond “like a deer in the headlights”. One child may blame themselves for the parent’s rage, asking themselves, “Why am I so stupid. Why am I so bad. Why can’t I control myself”. (That child doubts their own awareness, no longer feeling what they truly feel, nor seeing what they truly see. They take on the false story that the parent is telling themselves.) The strongest child may feel rage at the injustice, the dishonesty, the lack of love in the parent’s actions and mood. Woe to that child! It will be “proof” to this disfunctional parent that the child “deserves” this treatment. They believe the child is challenging their authority, when in essence the child is challenging the dishonest story being presented to them. It will then become their quest to convince this sensitive, intelligent child, that what they are aware of is not true, that they, indeed are “the problem”! Awareness is eventually destroyed, perhaps losing an Einstein, a Mozart, or a Michaelangelo in the process! The child’s belief that no matter what, they will be OK is destroyed as well. They may carry these tremendous losses for the rest of their lives.
When I see the absolutely honest expression of anger, fear, determination, and sadness on a child’s face after one of these confrontations with a parent who is out of control, I pray the child can hold on for just a little longer. They still know what is true at that point, and still trust themselves. Their awareness is not yet fully damaged. Eventually, without some sort of intervention, the wolf will get the lamb. The parent’s injury then becomes the child’s, and the child’s birthright of an undamaged awareness is stolen from them.
If you are a parent or child like I describe, I hope and pray that you and they will not carry these injuries for a long time. Although healing anytime is a wonderful blessing, healing at say, fifty, sixty, or even later in life, brings with it, the knowledge, that an integral part of yourself, a powerfully creative, sensitive, empathic part of yourself, has been missing for most of your life. We need the “be jesus” in us.
© 2011 Ken Scully and Lowcountry Survivors All Rights Reserved
Cicadas chirped. Birds and butterflies fluttered. Gravel crunched under his Buster Browns. He smelled the perfume sweet honeysuckle smell in the air, and the fresh cut grass of his neighbor’s lawn too. His Spirit sang the happy Song of Being, as the sun shone down on him from an immaculately blue sky, dotted with small fluffy cotton candy-like Cumulus clouds. He was made of Love and smiles, and an equal measure of contentment, excitement, unrestrained giggles and delight. Nothing had shattered his makeup yet. Oh, there was a tentativeness, and uncertainty that wasn’t in him previously, and there had been cuts and bruises, colds and stomach upsets, times of mild admonishment, and other small losses. Of course, to him, every small loss at the time seemed gigantic and forever, and he would cry with all his heart.. But when they were over, though, they were not revisited. He had not learned to do otherwise.
His mother was in the house, doing whatever she always did in there, when she hurried him outside to play. He didn’t really know what she did in there during the day; he did know that she cooked and cleaned and did dishes in their little five room bungalow, but what else, he didn’t know. All he knew was that she didn’t play, because he had asked her to play with him any number of times until he learned not to ask. He learned very quickly, he was very smart.
He had a “well oiled” imagination, rich, vibrant, detailed, and nearly as real to him, as the world he really occupied. His imagination was a wonderful tool, because he spent long hours alone. When he was outside, both his body and his mind were there. When he was playing in his room, that’s where his mind and body were. When he decided to, he used his imagination. He used his imagination to go to places he couldn’t go to, and to do things he couldn’t do, and everything in his imagination made him happy. He had not yet learned to use it in any other manner. His imagination was probably the best toy he owned, although he didn’t even question having it, or using it. It was just a part of him like his arms and feet, and everything else.
He couldn’t tell you how he felt inside, how he felt about himself, and how he felt in the world. But if he could, he might describe feeling smooth and clean and fresh, happy, and a part of everything he saw, and experienced, especially the sunshine and the beautiful soft blue sky that wrapped around his head and body when he was outside. He would tell you that he just felt like himself, how could he feel any other way? He didn’t question his perceptions, his awareness, his feelings. He felt neither strong nor weak, neither good nor bad. This way of being, this way he experienced his world was completely natural to him, and he didn’t know it, but it was his birthright.
© 2011 Ken Scully and Lowcountry Survivors All Rights Reserved
Beautiful. Warm. Safe. Womb-like. Purple, pink and ultraviolet currents and eddies. White Light pulling. Beckoning. Embracing. Pink Love Energy caressing. Soft liquid swaddling. Ever more urgent White Light tugging. A rod of White Light. Pure. Clean. Immaculate. Dim awareness of others. Connected. Calling. Beckoning.
Suddenly, a dream, an understanding, an experience of unprecedented import, clarity, and Power. Deepening colorful purple and violet liquid light texture. Two others bend in welcome and acceptance, peering down at him in his crib. He peers back, Awareness only. Well-being only. No judgment. No definitions. No words. No fears. No before. No after. Only Now. An ancient timeless, mythical, Nativity scene. Safety. Peace. Joy.
Suddenly (if there can be such a thing as “suddenly”) the scene erupts as if in explosion. Torn. Destroyed. Ruined. Gone. The Monster. No words to describe it. Only direct Being-shattering experience. Coiled for attack. Absolute certainty of victory and perverted amusement in its cold eyes. Ancient. Repulsive. Arrogant. Cold. Alien. If he had words to describe this alien being who had appeared uninvited, he would use descriptions like snake, cobra, cold blooded, evil, predator.
His whole experience is his imminent attack. “Knowledge” of the poisonous venom in its fangs, and the tension that shows its alien intentions. His entire Being is filled with Terror, and with themes of danger, flight, hiding, most of all, hiding. He takes a huge terror filled deep breath, and arrives back in his adult body, wracked with the most intense child-like terror, so intense, that it robs him of his usual intellectual capacity. Two Native Americans are with him, awake. The rest of the room is filled with the snoring of the shelter’s various temporary inhabitants. The man is behind him at his head, sitting on his cot. The woman at his feet. She smiles. Vestiges of the rod of white light persist, still tugging. He has a dim awareness that they have been chanting quietly.
“Who is it that you are?”, they chant quietly in unison. He tries to make sense of this, and cannot. “Who are you?” they softly ask, with import behind their words that made no sense to him. “Who are you?”, the elder male asks more insistently. An answer forms within him that he resists, but finds himself saying it, nevertheless. “I am Michael!” he answers, wondering why he is saying such a thing. “And we are Michael too!”, they chant in unison.
In Life, I notice that there is tension, and there is release. The tension builds and builds over time. The tension is need. Need for a change. Need for something to be created. Need for a fulfillment of some form. Need for action. Tension, tension, tension, tension. Then “Pow!”, the arrow flies to its intended target.
My life seems to operate this way. Am I the bow? People tell me to be the Archer. Am I the Archer, or the bow?
If I am the bow, who is this Invisible Archer, that wields the bow, applies tension to the string, then releases that tension to allow the arrow to fly to its intended destination. Who is the Archer?
I only find the Archer, and who He is, as I willingly allow myself to be the bow.
My Heart sings
At the Beauty of the Sunrise.
With great affection, He kisses my forehead
And says “Goodmorning, Son”.
My Heart sings
At the Beauty of the Clouds, white brush strokes
Upon the Canvas of the blue sky.
A touch, She says, “Goodmorning, Son”.
My heart sings
At the Beauty of the Melody of All the Voices of the Earth
They sing together, a chorus, The Beauty of the Earth.
A warm embrace, They say, “Goodmorning, Son”.
My Heart sings.
At the Beauty of My Life.
One part of Many parts.
One Life and many Lives, We sing
The Beauty of this Life.
Richard paced exuberantly about the room, as if he were pursuing a parade that was yet to be. He looked and sounded like that British correspondent, with the same first name – Richard Quest. You know, that boisterous and flamboyant, almost manic correspondent for CNN that all the other CNN anchors don’t quite know how to react to? Teeth so big, that you just know they were made for smiling. Even his own name describes him. Quest. Well, this Richard says to his family, “Let’s go on a holiday!” Grinning in amusement. Eyes wide open. His whole demeanor makes some folks laugh in amusement, other folks laugh in derision. Still others just cringe, because they are in such unfamiliar territory. “We’re going on vacation!” he sort of sings. “A holiday!” he says, drawing out the words as if following a hidden melody that only he hears. “And we’re all going to walk!” he says, as if it were the biggest, most pleasant, special present, that he had just opened for all to see. He might as well have left a “steaming heap” in the middle of the living room floor, what with the looks he had just seen on their faces.
His family sat stunned. They had become enamored with Richard’s exuberance. After all, they were his family, and he part of theirs. His daughter Paprika, and his son Chipotle were the first, however, to jump on his “bandwagon”. His wife, Charlotte had, at first hated the names he had chosen, but curiously, they had grown on her in each case, and they had been in agreement when it finally was time for them to make the choice. It usually took her some time to make decisions, she didn’t just jump right in like Richard was used to doing. The names had turned out to be descriptive of their unique spirits. Paprika was gentle, with a reddish hue to her blond hair. Her personality had a tentative quality about it, and her approach to life was a subtle touch rather than anything more aggressive. Chipotle was much more “fiery” than his sister, but tempered. He loved the outdoors, campfires, and storytelling. Eagerness showed on Chipotle’s face. Paprika looked tentative and slightly amused. Charlotte looked like she had just accidently swallowed a frog.
“Where are we going, Dad?”, Chipotle asked excitedly. “I…don’t….knowww…!”, he disclosed, drawing each word out, as if he were savoring each one and grinning the biggest grin you ever did see, as if it was the biggest, most funny joke he had ever heard. “It’ll be an a..d..v..en..t..u..r..e!”, he said, once again drawing out that last word.
“But Honey”, Charlotte said. “We’re supposed to be adults. We have responsibilities. What will the neighbors think, when we trudge by their homes, dragging our belongings with us, like some homeless vagabonds?!” “I know, Love! Isn’t that great! It’ll be one big hoot!”, he said. Silence. His smile disappeared for just a moment, and then was followed by a different one. This one carried the look of someone who had just discovered something that made him happy. “Alright, Love. We’ll go out the back door, and we’ll travel light. No neighbors. We won’t look like vagabonds to anyone who sees us, we’ll look like we’re off to the park for a picnic, and decided to walk.” Charlotte looked unconvinced, but she no longer looked like she had swallowed a frog. “Now get your things together”, Richard said. “And don’t forget to pack light!” “It’s off into the U..k..n..o..w..n!!” he sang, as he went downstairs, to retrieve their gear. “Yaaahooo!”, Chipotle whooped, as he went off to his room. Charlotte and Paprika looked at each other. Paprika had an amused look, her eyebrows drawn way up on her forehead. Charlotte looked like she had finally digested that frog, bones and all.
Absolute internal honesty eventually brings us to a point where we realize that Awareness is the experience of Life, and of ourselves, our True Selves. That is a primary truth. Getting there may take a number of “processes”, especially the process of “Letting Go”, which includes the “Grief Process”, which itself includes the sub-process of “Forgiveness”, and another sub-process of Letting go of “Control” and “Fear”. Practicing absolute internal honesty is part of each of these processes, or “paths”. Awareness is a primary Truth. Beingness. Receptivity. Acceptance. Love. Joy. Awe. Wonder. Knowingness. Truth. Compassion. Non-resistant experience of What Is. The Now.
To share our individual experience of the Now, we need a contextual framework to communicate that individual, or individuated experience to “others”. Logic is that tool. It is only a tool we use, a sort of “machine”. It is only a tool that we use, to express Truth, but the “fuel” for this “engine”of logic must be unadulterated Awareness, not a limited, less than truthful version of it. Otherwise that engine will sputter, spewing noxious fumes to the environment through which it “travels”. Absolute internal honesty is one of the “filters” we may use, so that the engine runs more smoothly. When it runs smoothly, we see it for what it is, only a tool to communicate Awareness with others. Curiously, when logic sputters, and nearly stalls, we are blinded by our and others’ logic “machines”. With all the noxious, blinding smoky fumes, the poorly running “machines” can no longer be seen for what they are. An emotional “Smog” also does the same thing to us. So Logic is finite, and limited. It is only a tool. Our thinking is only a tool. It is Secondary. It is not who we are, although many identify with their thinking, or with the “Emotional Smog” rather than Awareness. Awareness is independent of the “object” in “Its” field of experience, in a way. Logic is secondary. Awareness is Primary.
I want to tell you a little about what I know about letting go. When I first heard about this process, (and for me, it does seem to be a process), I was terrified by what I was told. In retrospect, I see that fear was not really warranted, but certainly understandable. I was told about this process, first in a 12 Step Group, flavored with its particular philosophy and agenda, later by various individuals who saw letting go through the lens of religion, native American teachings, new age teachings, probably even other ways that I don’t now recall. Certain ways of seeing this process were less scary to me than others, but all of them attempted to describe something that is very real and natural. I will attempt to tell you about letting go, without those prejudices, or diminishments, as much as I can.
This morning I went for my morning walk. My morning walks are exercises in letting go, in relaxing into the NOW, into forgetting for a few brief moments, all the ways I can see myself; you might say that I’m taking off all the different “hats” I wear at various times. I followed our dirt road out into a very open area. On the way, different things would catch my attention – a squirrel here, a bird there, each vegetable area in my garden, a brief glimpse of blue sky and puffy cloud through the trees, the texture of the gravel under my feet, wild grapes hanging from the live oaks, each holding my attention for a moment each time, while I was still aware of the totality of this setting through which I walked. I walked as slow as a little kid who had much shorter, weaker legs than I have. I didn’t force that, it just came natural. I quit thinking about all that was going on in my life, pulling my attention back gradually to just take in my surroundings. Gradually I settled into the NOW.
I arrived at the field, where I usually “say” my morning prayers. Displayed before me was a beautiful Robin’s egg blue sky, clean pure white puffy Cumulus clouds, that entirely wrapped the scene before me in every direction above. Below that was a still well defined layer of fog, thick, textured, grey, and soft looking. Below that I could see a denser landscape – an uncut summer hay field, horses staring back at me from a farm on the far side of the field, far off farmhouses, barns, fences, the entire landscape wrapped in tree lines of live oak. Depending upon where my attention was, I could say that it was overcast, foggy, or clear with a few puffy clouds. Each would be correct, but only a part of the reality that was true. I experienced the whole scene without prejudice or dissection, just taking it in, seeing the beauty, feeling myself within that landscape, and experiencing a wonder that I cannot quite put into words . For me, all that is part of the experience of letting go and entering the NOW. Along with my sense of wonder, was the knowledge, that the landscape before me represented the Truth about this Life we live.
One might say, “That’s beautiful! It feels like what you say is true, but how could I live my life that way? I have responsibilities! I have a job, and a mortgage, and bills! People will think I’m a loon! I can’t do that! I’m too screwed up! I don’t have time! People depend on me! I wish I could do that, but I can’t!”
I have said all those things, and asked all those questions, and felt all those fears. I was looking at a final destination, rather than a journey. I saw it as something I had to do; something that I couldn’t do, rather than a process I was entering. In truth, “not letting go”, is what we have done to ourselves throughout this Life; that is where “the doing” is. “Letting go” is not about “doing”, although within the process, we may have lots to do. It is more about accepting, awareness, absolute honesty (even about the layers of deception within ourselves that we and others put there), a process of grief for our losses (even the loss of how we have been seeing ourselves), and contact with others going through the same process.
I spent many years in group therapy. I was looking for answers, looking for resolution, looking for a way to be “okay”. I changed and healed more in that group, than I had in all my previous years of “one on one talk therapy”, or all the years of my own effort. The two leaders set boundaries to help us feel safe, but they controlled nothing. That environment helped some of us to practice “letting go”. “Letting go” was necessary to get to our injuries in ways that were experiential rather than just intellectual. Miraculous things seemed to happen on a regular basis. By “letting go”, I was able to find a lot of resolution for my many injuries. Others doing the same, helped me to let go. My “letting go” helped others. Our injuries as well as our indiscretions scream at us for attention, for resolution. They grab and hold our awareness, and pull it from the NOW. In my case, my “Caretaker” role (one of the many hats I wore), and my role as “The Black Sheep” in my family of origin, enshrouded my True Self. Attending to those needs and dishonesties that were vowing for my attention, has allowed me to have a quieter internal environment. It’s easier to let go now, after that practice. I attempt to continue to do what I learned in my group. In a nutshell, I relax enough to let go of my need to understand, and follow my spirit.
I remember during my “crazy days”, where I was most out of control, my friends and I would smoke pot, and listen to an improvisational comedy group called “Firesign Theater”. We’d laugh like loons at their silly antics, and crazy sayings. I’m sure most of us remember some of those episodes. One saying that stuck in my mind, in an odd way was “Everything you know is wrong.” Everything in our culture or society, praises “not letting go”. We are expected by family and friends to “not let go”. We praise control, and see “letting go” as giving up. They are not the same. Jesus said that we must lose our lives to gain them. There is wisdom in those words, because the lives we have built, are based on “perceptions” that are not true. Those “perceptions” are not perceptions at all, but constructs that have been taught to us. They interfere with true perception, true awareness! “Everything you know is wrong.”
You might say, “how can I do this “letting go thing”, when I am married? My wife and I fight, and I don’t want to give up my marriage!” I only have answers within my experience, which work for me. I’m sure you will find those answers that work best for you. However, let me tell you a story. Sometimes my wife and I have difficulties. We get lost in stuff that just isn’t true, despite our best efforts to remain honest and caring, and non-blaming. Relationships are difficult. We have had many ups and downs. During the “down” times, I’m sure we have each wondered if it is worth it, and have despaired. During the “up” times I’m sure we both don’t question whether it is worth it at all. We both were abused terribly when we were young, so we have had significant issues, to say the least. Recently, each time I have experienced one of those “down” times, I have felt some pretty intense feelings of despair, despite a part of me knowing that my experience of despair would pass. I strove to see what we were doing, what each of our reactions was, what was really true, to the best of my ability to know, noticing anything petty or untrue within me about our difficulty. I also saw I had NO ANSWERS, other than my understanding of our interactions. I did not know how to fix what was wrong. I can change what I do, but not others. Many options lay before me, but which one was the “correct” one? So I prayed to choose the “right” way of handling the situation. To my surprise I received no answer. Or so I thought. Each time, I sat with my wife, relaxed, knew I had NO ANSWERS AND WOULD HAVE TO JUST WAIT AND SEE HOW IT ALL CAME OUT (perhaps it wouldn’t come out the way I might choose, and I had to be willing to allow that!). I’d keep my attention on her, not on solutions, or my fears of finding none. My mind would be a blank, until the words were there. The most honest words. The most honest feelings. The most honest unpolluted awareness of us and our situation, because it was all there in the NOW. It all was just there. I don’t think I can find any words to really describe it. It has “happened” many times. It has developed over time from all the little things that I have done along the way, and also, because of all the things that have happened to me along the way as well.
I told a friend recently, that during the “hard times” we let go more, and during the “easy” times, we let go less. Those of us that choose this path of “letting go” may recognize the truth of that. I have noticed in me, that I do that, but I also notice that there are far more areas in my life that I do not control anymore, and am allowing more areas of my life that are like that. I also see that sometimes we will suffer, when we DON’T let go. Suffering is optional.
I had a wonderful Christmas holiday. My son, Shawn and his girlfriend Rebecca visited from California, where Shawn goes to Stanford University. Actually they had visited for part of the week before Christmas, and had to leave right before the actual holiday. I couldn’t shut up the whole time they were here! I found myself more enthusiastic and boisterous than usual. I couldn’t seem to contain myself! My son played the guitar and sang one evening, and I was moved by how unbelievably good he was! It had been years since he had last played for me. Rebecca is an opera singer. That same night she brought us all to tears, so beautiful was her rendition of “Oh Holy Night”! I have never heard a voice like that! We all talked about “real” things, you know, those things that we care deeply about, are deeply moved by, etc. We allowed space and safety (lack of any judgment), so each of us could be fully authentic, playful, and open. It was wonderful! Continue reading
“The New Testament is always calling us to do what we cannot do. No, we ourselves cannot forgive, but as we strive to forgive we are given God’s forgiveness as a gift. We are not called to create forgiveness; that is beyond us. We are called instead to participate in a forgiveness given to us as a gift. … Do not ask the wounded to forgive.
Do not ask them to completely heal the relationship, to withdraw all of the painful memory and to extract any lingering poison. Civility is within our grasp; but forgiveness, true, deep-down, New Testament forgiveness, is not a human possibility.”
An except from Thomas G. Long, “To Err is Human; to Forgive?” in Forgiveness, Christian Reflection (Fall 2001): 29-35. Copyright © 2001 by The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University.
I wrote this in response to a minister’s newspaper column in which he promoted the view that people shouldn’t listen or seek out therapists, that all they need to do is read the bible.
“Be afraid, be very, very afraid”. That is the “mantra” of folks who want to control us, to have authority over us, for us to “stay in our place”, and to think “inside their box”.
I have often said that I am a voice of experience, rather than one of authority. What I mean by that is that I write about my direct personal experiences, what I”ve learned by my experiences, rather than what other people have put inside me. That does not mean, that I do not listen to what others say, or read what others have written with honest appraisal, or to take in the gift of their experience. Nor do I automatically disregard tradition, culture, or religion. I am a very good listener, and do not automatically discount what anyone else says, nor do I automatically believe what I hear either. I have faith. I believe in God. I believe God, and this journey I am on, have made me a good listener. My history of experience far outside normal experience gives me a unique perspective. For many years I have struggled to develop a rigorous honesty that questions what is inside me, how it got there, and whether it is true or not. In truth, I do not do this alone, but ask God to guide me, because quite frankly, alone, the task would be too daunting and lonely. I started on this journey many years ago, for my own survival and sanity. My trust in God has grown exponentially over the years, but also, surprisingly, my trust in myself. I do not mean that in an egotistical or narcissistic way. What I mean is that I accept that I know what I know, feel what I feel, and am starting to accept myself as I am at this point in my journey, knowing that there are still many miles ahead on this journey. I do not want power, or riches. I simply want the truth.
I”m sure you have heard of the term “thinking outside the box”. Often those who “think outside the box” accomplish great things for our human family. Sometimes they see what others don”t see, or have a unique perspective or approach to problems that we have that helps us solve those problems. Sometimes they come up with completely new explanations, inventions or theories that shake up the prevailing culture, and its attitudes and beliefs. I believe that this is part of God”s great plan for us. I believe that change is one of the only constants in our experience here, yet we want to hold onto things so tightly out of our fear of change, a fear that is intrinsically dishonest. To be able to think outside the box, we must find our True Selves, that part of ourselves that is underneath what others have put inside us. This part of ourselves is honest and perceptive, beyond what we usually experience in daily life. This part of us lives within the moment, absolutely embedded in the present moment, receptive, and without fear.
Fear is a great thing when it makes us run from a fire, or keeps us from falling off the edge of a cliff. However, too many of us are stuck in our fear, and don”t even know it. The fear that we are stuck in is a dishonest fear. It tells us that God has no power, that He does not protect us, or provide for us, or guide us. It fuels our black and white thinking, and takes us out of the present moment. Black and white thinking sets us apart from each other. This person is good, while that person is bad. Democrats or Republicans are bad, while their counterpart is good. Baptists are good, while Mormons are bad. Rich people are bad, while poor people are good. The more we see this group as bad, while the other group is good, the more we lose our perspective of the vast majority, the shades of gray between the black and white. We limit our empathy, our compassion, to the limited few.
Sometimes even our ministers resort to this black and white thinking, using fear to motivate us into living correctly, yet I have the suspicion that God intends us to live our lives with Love as the fuel that drives us, not fear. When fear is a filter through which we see the world, our true perceptions are altered, and we cannot experience the gift of living in the present moment. When we are in the present moment, we are teachable. When we live in the Now, we are good listeners. When we live in the present moment, we have true, non-judgmental compassion for others. When we are in the present moment, we are being as honest as we can be. We see all the shades of gray, not just black and white. We have everything we need in the present moment, because God is there, and we are receptive.
Miraculous things happen when we are in âthe present moment. I have written on numerous occasions about abuse I survived as a child. I am sure that the abuse I suffered as a child, was never God”s Will. I am sure that He did not condone what was done to me, but I do know that He has used my experience for good. I do know that He led me to the help that I needed. That help included group therapy with others who suffered similar abuse, and two therapists, George and Theresa (a husband and wife team), who I will forever be grateful to for helping me on my journey. During our therapy sessions, I felt God’s Presence many times, and watched Him work miracles in our group. These two wonderful therapists had 25 years of experience, had their Masters Degrees, and all the training that entailed, but allowed their impressions and direct experience to guide their actions during therapy. They did not let their training get in the way. They dropped their fears as best as they could, allowed themselves to relax into the Now, and were guided by honesty, and letting go of control. They let go and let God without any religious pretense, and miracles happened in every session. I cannot tell you how important they were to me, or how important what they do is. I hate when I hear someone proselytizing to folks that are hurting, that they don’t need therapists. God saved me through them. The black and white thinking that presumes to know the Mind of God is arrogant, irresponsible, and ignorant. George and Theresa taught me that absolute internal honesty is how we navigate the maze of prejudices and black and white thinking that we find inside ourselves. In removing more and more of this dishonesty, we find ourselves. In trusting God, we disarm our fears. As we drop our fears, we find the always present Now, and find that we have everything we need. We learn to think outside the box.
I am not always like this, of course. However, in the course of my life, I continue to cycle in and out of my issues to gain mastery over them.
I try so hard to be good. I try so hard, that sometimes, it consumes me. I allow myself no wiggle room, no permission to just be human. Sometimes, I try to anticipate my wife’s bad moods, watching what I say and do, and how I say and do. Maybe I do her thinking for her, so that she doesn’t have those moods, or I might help her do her thinking to get her out of those moods. Sometimes if someone is angry, or going to be angry at me, I do everything in my power to keep that from happening. I am rewarded for this, by others seeing me as “strong” or “together”. I am smart. I am kind. I am respectful. I am attentive. I am empathic, and I am dead tired. Sometimes I am so busy doing all this, and being responsible for everyone else, and everything else, that there is no room for me, inside me. I know why I do this.
In 1955, when I was 4 ½ years old or so, I followed Chuck Hexter and a bunch of neighborhood kids down Circle Drive, in our little town of Trooper. We ended up playing in the open basement of a house that was being built. Now I realize that, but at the time I was too little to understand. After an hour or so, when they decided to leave, Chuck’s older brother told me I had to stay there or he would beat me up. Now, a 4 ½ year old kid takes something like that seriously! Even after they were long gone, I stayed there. I was terrified! I thought I was going to die there, all alone, that no one would ever find me. I distinctly remember that being my fear.
Eventually, my mother came looking for me, and “beat the crap” out of me as soon as she found me. I could make a hundred excuses for her – she was scared because she hadn’t known where I was, or she was scared that she could be in trouble, or be seen as a bad mother, or any number of other excuses. But the fact remains that at that moment she remained focused on herself, and had no empathy for a 4 year old child’s distress! She put responsibility on me, not herself! She should never have allowed me to be in that situation. Her responsibility was to keep an eye on me, not allow me to wander off with older children for hours at a time! That was her responsibility! This is the earliest memory I have of her beating me. There would be hundreds, if not thousands of more times that her beatings would occur, their force, her rage, my fear, her contempt, and her lack of taking responsibility growing each time.
At 4 years old, I was a needy, gentle, naive, deeply feeling, intuitive, impulsive child “ just the way I was meant to be. I looked to others for their definition of me. Let me say that again: I looked to others for their definition of me. I looked to others for their definition of me, their acknowledgement, love, attention, and reasoning. I looked to others to show me how to fit in, how to express my thoughts and my feelings, to learn what was right and what was wrong. I trusted that what my mother told me was true, and that how she acted was right. There was no argument about that in my little 4 year old mind. I would have to try harder to be good.
My mother’s violence towards me, taught me that I was worthless and defective. Her demeaning words of contempt would eventually solidify my view of myself.
A child has no grasp on their own impulsiveness. They are a cauldron of churning, boiling feelings. Their impulses are fueled by those feelings. How ferociously this cauldron boils is dependent upon their experiences. When they are met constantly with craziness and terror; when their caregivers are dishonest, violent, and impulsive themselves, the “cauldron” often boils over. They are seen as “bad”, defective, or worse, by adults who themselves do not understand either their own or a child’s impulsiveness. They do not understand that children operate by impulse, those impulses fueled by feelings that the children have because of how they are treated and seen by these very adults! How is a child to untangle themselves from such a “catch 22″ situation? They cannot. Often they never will, even as they get older. They mature in years, seeing themselves as these adults have seen them, never understanding the nature of their impulsiveness, seeing themselves as “bad”, defective or worse. Escalation is an integral part of this mechanism. As the adults continue to see these children acting on their impulses, their misguided view of the children is solidified. Their reactions and judgment continue in themselves, and reactions in their children continue to escalate. Often other more favored children are brought into this drama, seeing their brother or sister as the parent sees them. The child singled out for this drama, is completely alone, “knows” that they are different from everyone else, because they see every member of their family treating them that way. Isolated from those who see the child this way, the child is left to their own devices in dealing with the violence and craziness, and more importantly, the feelings they are left with because of it.
All through my childhood, I could never seem to do anything right. Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt growing up with this. I remember feeling listlessness, loneliness, and a tightness in my chest, that seemed to contain something unknown and hungry, something that needed to be filled or satisfied, but never could be. Rather than soft, gentle, warm, fuzzy, happy, content hopeful feelings, I had internalized the TERROR and DESPAIR of being raised by someone who more often than not was out of control. I never knew what to expect from my mother. Sometimes she was childlike and “nice”, while other times, she was like a wild animal, ready to devour me if I said or did the “wrong” thing. It would have been less crazy, if she had been wild all the time.
Over time, I learned to read her moods, in order to avoid her during her worst times, but my own impulsiveness set me up to do things that got me in trouble anyhow. My language skills grew as I tried to talk myself out of trouble. Nothing I said (or did) made any difference with her. I found better more precise ways of saying things so I wouldn’t be in trouble, all to no avail. I tried so hard to be “good”, but my own impulsiveness would get me in trouble. No matter how hard I tried, it was never good enough. I was never good enough. Nothing I did or said was good enough for her, or later, for me! If only I could just get it right! But always the axe would fall, and I would find myself dealing with an enraged, out of control woman, ready to hurt me. The fact that she could so easily rationalize her own behavior, made her exceedingly dangerous. At any time, she might have killed me. Over and over and over, I was terrified of her, and terrified that she would kill me. Unless you experienced this, you cannot know what it is like. But I am asking you to try.
As a society, we have grown enough to recognize that it is wrong for an enraged husband to beat his wife. “Just a little hitting” is not OK. We even understand the mechanisms in him that allow him to do this. We understand how his abuse affects her. We understand that he is teaching her that he “owns” her, that she is powerless, in fact even defective and worthless! A mother who beats her children because of her own out of control rage teaches these same terrible lessons to her children. She fills their hearts with terror, rather than love, despair rather than hope, worthlessness, rather than integrity and value.
As a society, we must stop making excuses for parents who beat their children. I am tired of all the excuses. The Law looks for marks on the outside, but we must learn to see the marks it causes on the inside! We must stop automatically defending the right of a parent to beat their children by calling it child rearing, or shifting responsibility to the child by seeing them as “difficult” and the parents as blameless. “Just a little hitting” is not OK!
As a society, when we have grown enough to value our children enough to truly protect them, then perhaps, we can turn our attention toward helping so many others, child and adult alike, who have already been injured. That is the one right place to “try so hard”!
Everyday, I hear something on the news that “makes me” mad. Notice the quotation marks around “makes me”. That phrase is in quotes, because it’s something we say in polite conversation, but it’s something that’s totally untrue. Nothing can “make us” feel anything. If something happens to us, one time we might be sad, while another time we might feel angry, depending on what is already going on with us at the time. Our reactions are our own responsibility. We are making decisions to react or not react inside ourselves all the time, even though we may not notice that subtle subconscious landscape. A more honest way of saying the same thing would be: “I feel angry when I hear some things on the news”. That way I “own” my own anger, I am responsible for it, not the news. I use this as an example of how pervasive and un-noticed our dishonesty is. Let me start over –
I often feel angry when I hear dishonest things on the news. I feel angry, when people are being dishonest with me. When people are being dishonest, they are usually attempting to manipulate others, and that is what I get angry about. Manipulation is an attempt to force someone to think, feel, or do something, and I don’t like being forced! They may not even know they are doing it! Folks have a terrible time with honesty. They also have a terrible time avoiding the impulse to manipulate others. Worse than either of those two is the fact that folks often have trouble noticing dishonesty and manipulation. When I watch the news, I see people in power trying to manipulate us, and they succeed handily! Government officials, political pundits, various authorities in religion, education, business, foreign affairs, and economics all push their particular views – or more correctly stated, the views of their organizations. They use faulty logic, lies of omission, and various other techniques, and quote others using the same tactics!
The news is a maelstrom of dishonesty. On every side of every issue, people attempt to manipulate how we think and feel about that issue. Whether the War in Iraq, Global Warming, or the latest mistake made by some politician, people on both sides of every issue tug at our minds and heart-strings in order to get us to “see it their way”. Most of us can sometimes see the manipulation that goes on by “the other side”, but do we see the manipulation that goes on in “our own side” as well.
Advertisers know how easy it is to manipulate us. The more one has been manipulated, the easier it is to be manipulated! Governments know this principle, and use it. Those in power within those governments attempt to make us see things with their particular slant. It allows them to consolidate power, and to do what they want, whether their motives are good or evil. It is a terrible danger to us as a society.
Why are we so easily manipulated? Why do we have such an awful time with honesty? It is because of this rule: The more one has been manipulated, the easier it is to be manipulated! Most us of were introduced to manipulation and dishonesty when we were children! I don’t mean to imply that all parents are “bad”, that all families are “bad”. Many parents are unaware, sometimes, of what they feel, think, or sometimes why they do what they do. What I am trying to say, is that to a certain degree, deep, penetrating, internal self honesty has been lacking in most of our families to one degree or another, and it causes us to become accustomed to manipulation and dishonesty long before we are “out in the world” ready to be influenced by the forces there. We all are still operating in the “trance” that was created in our families. We only see what this “trance” allows us to see, and we react in predictable ways, based on the tenets of our family trance.
For quite a while, many family therapists have been aware of this. In Transactional Analysis, also, therapists have been aware of this dynamic, as well as those therapists who treat addictive disease. We have all heard of the term “denial”, and have heard about how dishonest and manipulative active alcoholics and other addicts can be. Perhaps we have heard that addiction is a “family” disease, that all members are affected. The forces that bind members in a good way can also be forces that bind them in ways that are not so good.
There is a teaching tool that has been used to describe the processes that bind us in families and similar groups, and keep us in a state of denial (keep us dishonest, or unable to recognize dishonesty and manipulation). This teaching tool is called “The Drama Triangle”. The powerful processes of “The Drama Triangle” train us to be victims. I won’t get into The Drama Triangle’s dynamics here in this article, but if you are interested, do a search for it online.
In all families, children fall into roles that provide stability or credibility to the family, and that role then overshadows their “True Selves” (who God wants them to become). A good example of this is when an older brother or sister becomes the pseudo parent of their younger sibling because of some lack in that family. They can become more responsible than a child should be, and lose touch with their own true child needs and desires, because the role that they have to play in the family becomes foremost in how they see themselves, and how they “act”. Now, for the family, and perhaps sometimes for the little sibling, this can be a good thing, but for the one who takes on the role, they become actors in their own lives, completely unaware of that happening to them. They become super responsible, always striving, but completely unaware of their true feelings and intuitions. Granted, it is a good thing to be responsible, but it is a very bad thing for them to be forced unconsciously into that responsibility, because they lose touch with their own innermost feelings, intuitions, and desires, their “True Selves” . Living out the scripted responses of a family role in this unconscious way, is dishonest living, even though the child never chose to be this way. Another good example is the “black sheep” of the family. No matter what that child does, parents and siblings see him or her as defective: stupid, bad, dirty, disgusting, irresponsible, etc. The more they are seen that way, the more they act and see themselves that way, and the more the family continues to see them that way. But it is all a lie, a scripted role created for them by the family! They go on to continue to act out that role in adult life.
I was the “black sheep” in my family. The remaining members of that family still see me that way. So be it. That is a betrayal. I am sad, and I am angry about that. The forces of their drama still control them, and even though they describe me in all sorts of negative, contemptuous ways, I see me differently! Those who truly love me, see me the way I truly am! Although sometimes, I have very strong feelings about the poor treatment I received as a child, and how I am seen by estranged family members now, I am blessed. I am blessed not because of the abuse that I suffered as a child – that was most definitely not God’s Will for that to happen to me or any other child, but because He provided everything I needed in order to start unraveling the extraordinary dishonesty that was put inside me, and has allowed me to see how these fascinating and powerful forces work. I have spent many years of my adult life (in my 30’s and 40’s) in therapy, with some of the most genuine, loving, intuitive folks, who have been able to give me what my parents could not, and I will be forever grateful to them, and to God for that! For a period of 15 years I read everything I could get my hands on, in order to find my way out of the prison that was created for me. You would be surprised to find out how common that is, for abuse survivors to become experts in the forces that formerly bound them!
I speak from experience rather than authority. These forces that are in all our families to a small degree in some, an enormous degree in others, are what cause us to be so easily misled by those who want to manipulate us. When we live in a sea of dishonesty, dishonesty doesn’t catch our eye!
So what do we do about this? How can we undo this tendency in us that allows us to be manipulated into believing what is not true, buying what we don’t need, supporting those who would hurt us or others by their policies? We have to rigorously cultivate deep, penetrating, internal self-honesty. We must learn to question everything, to not take anything for granted. Just because we have “always” believed something, doesn’t make it true. Most of what is in us was put there by others. Much of what we find will be untrue. This is an extraordinarily uncomfortable process, and most people are unwilling to even attempt it. We are not very patient, and find anything that takes a long time difficult. Also, we have been taught to protect our deepest beliefs, but if they are true, they need no protecting! When who we are, what we feel, what we do, and what we believe is truly and authentically our own, what is inside us needs no protection. There is no uncertainty, except that which is supposed to be in us – we are not omniscient! We do not know everything, and never will. We are human, and will always have some vulnerability, but we were not made to be manipulated by others. We need community, but need to be uniquely and authentically ourselves inside any community. We need to be aware of any community that promotes the value of community over the value of the individual – both are equally valuable. Any group or community that sacrifices the needs of the individual for the needs of the group cultivates the same forces that have created these injuries, or vulnerabilities in us.
Those of us who are believers (in God) may be frightened that our relationship with God might be affected. I started out my journey, by trusting God to lead me on this journey, and quite frankly, I never expected that journey to take me where it has. If anything, my trust in God has grown exponentially during this journey. I started out having trouble trusting anyone. Now I trust both myself and God more than I thought I ever would.
Finally, like many things we seek to develop inside ourselves here on this Earth, this journey is a journey without a final destination, and on this journey our constant companion (along with God) must be vigilance. We must constantly watch what we say, and think, to start rooting out anything that is less than honest. As we do this, not only do we find much that is untrue, but we will start to notice how much of what we hear out in the world that is untrue as well!
“God-damn-it! So help me Christ, I swear there’s something wrong with you, you rotten son-of-a-bitch”, she screamed. I see her in my mind’s eye, above me, always above me, glaring at me, red-faced, her mouth full of teeth, sharp and somewhat yellow-stained, ready to throw more bony fisted punches if I dared to challenge her omnipotence. She said things like that to me in a voice tinged with hysterical rage. Actually, not tinged, (if the truth be known), but filled with rage, overflowing with rage.
I never knew how far she would go, how much she wanted to hurt me, how much she would allow herself to inflict on me, or how long she would continue. Her rage became my terror.
Her “disgust” of me was convincing, I know she believed her own lies. Unfortunately, my sisters and I learned to believe them too.
I wonder why she started on this crusade to convince not just me, but the whole family, that I was dirty, defective, broken, lazy, bad, stupid, and maybe even crazy. She started when I was 4 or 5. I was a child, and children do “bad” things, especially when they are getting the crap scared out of them by an out of control adult like my mother. I think she needed me to be “wrong”, so she could be “right”. I had to be scared, so she could feel powerful. I had to be “bad” so she could feel “good”. She must’ve done that to me 10,000 times if she did it once. Back in her childhood, she had felt a lack of power, and she was bound and determined as an adult to feel that power that she had missed.
My sisters believe that my mother loved them (and me). They believe that I should believe that too. They tell me that I should focus on the “good times”, and all the “good” things my mother said. I don’t remember her telling me too many “good” things!
I can imagine that after just one terrifying episode with my mother, I was probably immune to the next 100 compliments (if they would have been available.) That’s not a defect in me, that’s just a fact of life!
I learned to not trust adults because she, quite frankly, was untrustworthy. There has to be trust for a compliment to do its job. A compliment is like food for our emotional system. As children we need many each day for us to feel OK, competent, strong, loving, and calm.
Looking back, I believe often she hated me, and barely tolerated me other times. For some reason, she saw all the bad things in herself, when she looked at me. There was no reason for her to do that, other than the fact that I was an innocent, intelligent, sensitive child, with all the self-centered needs that all children have. She taught me to see myself in the awful way she saw me from the start. I didn’t have a chance to see me any other way.
It’s easier to talk ABOUT the inner child than to actually define him/her. (since we are talking about a part of ourselves I won’t use the word “it”). When we come into this world as babies, we have no language per se, but we do have Feelings right from the start. Feelings are closer to who we are, and what we “are made of” than thinking. Thinking is what we do. Feelings are more about who we are, and usually precede our thoughts and actions. Feelings convey meaning, and therefore can be seen as a form of language that precedes verbal communication. So feelings are how a baby experiences the world, and expressing those feelings is how he/she communicates with the world. However, we still use Feelings as a way to experience the world and to communicate, even though we have other forms of communication that we use. Now that we are adults, Feelings are a form of experience and communication that comes from the core of who we are. That is the Inner Child, or Magical Child, and is more like our Spirit or Soul.
When we talk about the inner child we may be referring to more than one part of ourselves. In someone who has never been gravely hurt emotionally, or has healed from their hurts, the above explanation fits. For folks who have been victimized as children, and most of society for that matter the explanation would be more like what follows:
This is a more “mechanical” explanation. Try to think about it this way. The person you are today becomes a part of who you are tomorrow, next week, next year. The person you are today doesn’t just go away. The same is true for every day you have ever lived. We are a continuum. Now, when we are injured as children, you might say this transition process of “becoming” gets affected. Instead of it being a smooth process where who we were becomes a perfectly melded part of who we are – instead, who we were gets “charged” , doesn’t “mix” properly, “stands out”. Instead of being a “well mixed” continuum, a perfect mixture, we end up with parts that have more autonomy than they might. Sometimes, in a very few, the schism is so great that multiple personalities occur. The inner child is fully us, though, not some other personality. As you experience the inner child, which will happen as you have empathy for the child you were, this mechanical explanation will be less important, and your inner child will become much more real.
The above is a description of Injured Inner Child, and as we heal, the kid in us becomes more like the first example than the second.
As to why we should care for the kid in us as some of us have alluded to? How about because it works! All I know is that IF we treat this part of ourselves in a manner that would be good for a little child, not with the kind of treatment that our parents or other abusers taught us, but in a truly loving and respectful way, aknowleging the reality of who that child is (which we never got as kids), then that inner child becomes more like the first example, which is the way God intended us to be!
A mother who loves her children.
-is a mother who beats her children with her fists?
-is a mother who screams like a wild animal while she beats her children?
-is a mother who calls her children “rotten sons of bitches of bastards” while she beats them?
-is a mother who continuously tells her children that “there is something wrong with you”?
-is a mother who tells her children that she wishes they were never born?
-is a mother who continuously tells her children that they are “disgusting”?
-is a mother who tells her children “you make me sick to my stomach”?
-is a mother who beats her son with a metal vacuum cleaner pipe?
-is a mother who ties her children to a chair?
-is a mother who tells her 9 year old son that she’d kill him if she could get away with it?
-is a mother who unleashes her unbridled rage on her children, and blames them for it?
-is a mother who does all these things countless times, while pretending to be the victim?
Honesty demands that we say “No!”
Honesty demands that we acknowledge that a mother, who does all those things to her children, does not truly love her children, perhaps through injury, she cannot.
All those things are Not Love.
originally published in Downeast Coastal Press by KS in Dec. 1989
Christmas is the time that we have set aside to celebrate the birth of a very special child. Religious concerns aside, this holiday has much Power. Spiritual Power. The Power that we sense in myth and metaphor. The Power of this season brings us closer to our children-both internal and external.
The Christmas Season is a celebration of the child, and the Power of the Child to set us free. It moves us from our little world of daily concerns, disconnection, practicality, and rationality, into the larger world of Trust, Intimacy, Awe and Wonder.
The Special Child that was born 2000 years ago was not accepted (no room at the inn), had no place of His own, and had humble beginnings close to nature. It was not safe where He was, so He was taken to Egypt by parents whose most important task was to love, care for, and protect this Special Child.
My imagination tells me that His parents allowed him to develop, or unfold, at his own rate, knowing with certainty that His Power was inside Him, a special gift from God. No control or manipulation would bring that Power out. The timing and nature of His unfolding was left to God.
In the beginning, vey few recognized the Power that was inherent in this Special Child, except for his parents, and a few others called Wise Men.
According to the Book of John, in the New Testament, one of the first miracles attributed to the Power inherent in the adult named Jesus, was the turning of water into wine at the marriage feast in Canaan.
A few years ago, the Power of the Christmas Season touched me fully for the first time in my life, or at least for the first time since I was a child. It was the first time I was totally alone on Christmas Eve. Snowflakes had fallen throughout the day, reminding me of the magic that I used to feel as a child in anticipation of a “White Christmas”. That feeling of “magic” escaped me, however. Darkness had fallen, and thee was an “emptiness” that emanated from the corner of the living room, where the absence of a traditional Christmas tree was evident. I also had an emptiness in my heart, that did not just come from being alone. My radio was tuned to a Public Broadcasting Christmas special that was offering readings of traditional Christmas stories.
Slowly the stories that were being told lightened my spirits. With each one, I felt a bit more alive, a bit less depressed. Finally they read “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”. I had heard it before, but its meaning and power had somehow escaped me. But not this time. The sobs that burst from the deepest part of my being could never be described. The words “the Eternal Light with which Childhood fills the world would be extinguished” echoed in my mind. The “Child Within” me was emerging more fully than ever before. The emptiness in my heart disappeared and was replaced by a “fullness”.
With the fullness came a deep appreciation of the timelessness and beauty of the stories I was listening to, as well as a recognition of the deep and hidden meaning of some of those stories. I will never forget that evening.
Years ago, my own Special Child, or Child Within, was not accepted and had to flee to a place deep within me in order to survive. Later, even I continued to abandon him, and he stayed imprisoned. Due to circumstances beyond my control, my Child Within has re-emerged, carefully testing to see if it is safe, retreating if I or others mistreat him.
Like Joseph and Mary, my most important task is to love, care for and protect my Child Within. As I learn to do this, I can do the same for my sons.
I am learning to allow the Child Within to develop or unfold at his own pace, knowing that no control or manipulation will aid his emergence. As I learn to do this, I can do the same for my sons. And finally, just as Jesus turned the water into wine, the Power of the Child Within turns the watered down experience of practicality, disconnection, and rationality, into the Wine of Trust, Intimacy, Awe, and Wonder. Ever so slowly, the adult and the child become one.
This Christmas, take time to remember the children: our sons and daughters, as well as the children we were (who have been internalized within us). Take time for those special stories and other rituals that are a part of the season, and allow yourself to feel their transporting Power. And if you hear or read “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”, let yourself feel the import behind the words, for that is the Power of Myth and Metaphor, the Power of the Season, the Power of the Child.
I believe one of the most important things in this Life, is learning about ourselves, and wondering what God wants for us. Who does He want us to become? How do we become more than we are?
I also believe that to move forward to become the person He wants us to be, sometimes we need to look back, to see where we have been injured, and to heal those injuries that keep us from becoming more. All of us have been injured, many have been injured gravely.
I believe, that to heal emotional injuries from childhood, we often need to revisit those injuries with others, revisit and share the sadness, or anger, or terror with others, and find some personal resolution within ourselves. For many of us who were gravely injured, this journey takes a lifetime.
I spent my childhood in a very rural area. We lived in a large farmhouse, built before the Revolutionary War. Behind the house were three maple trees, over a hundred years old, too large to climb, although those were the trees I always wanted to climb. They had trunks about 30 inches in diameter, deep ridged bark, the first branches more than 20 feet up. Close to these trees, and adjacent to Brownback Road, hidden in the underbrush, was “The Wine Cellar”. Obviously it was built when the first part of the house was built, but separate from the house, and forgotten for a large number of years, hidden away, waiting for discovery. Covering the outside of this tomb like structure (it reminds me of the story of the tomb that Jesus was in, where he rolled that huge boulder away from the entrance) was an almost impenetrable barrier of Osage Orange. Now Osage Orange, if you’re not familiar with it, is the most lethal thorn bush around. I don’t mean lethal, like it is poisonous or something, but lethal, like a sharp knife could be. Thorns two inches long, needle sharp, and woody strong. Folklore attributes this plant to Jesus’ crown of thorns. This “wine cellar”, that’s what we called it, although it was, in fact, a root cellar, was built with expertly placed stone, to form a Quonset or arch shaped underground room, made entirely of stone. Inside, hundred year old mustiness, the smell of dry leaves, which had found their way in over the years, left over spoiled apple smell, mold, and wet earth smell, like the garden, were prevalent. The stones, perfectly fitted, were kind of white, like quartz or limestone. I kept expecting to find stalactites, or stalagmites, but I never did of course. In the very back of the “Wine Cellar”, about 20 feet back, was a perfectly built stone wall, with a square opening 2ft by 2ft, halfway up the wall. When I was most courageous, I would jump and shinny up until I had my belly on the ledge of that opening, and I would peer down a deep stone lined well, which reminded me of pictures I had seen in fairy tale books. I could see the water at the bottom even though every time I got the courage to look in, I expected to find monsters.
I remember this one time, my father spent a weekend cutting the Osage Orange back, and burning what he cut. It grew right back, though, and he gave up, never trying to keep the entrance to the Wine Cellar clear again. He abandoned it. It didn’t matter that it represented the artisanship and way of life of the past. It didn’t matter that out of the whole property, the “Wine Cellar” had the most character of any structure. It didn’t matter that it was built to last forever. It didn’t matter that it had an aura of mystery and power. He abandoned it. I didn’t. I carry it, and what it represents to me, inside myself. I keep pruning those thorns back, and I’ll never stop like he did! I’ll keep pruning them back so I can keep going down in there, to see if I will find monsters or treasure in that well.