Safety Then and Now … We’re Not Using the Tools We Have

October 30, 2014

The issue of safety and lack of safety is front and center in our world today.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, changing climate. Financial safety and lack of safety. School shootings. Shootings in public places like malls and theaters. First Al Qaeda and now ISIS. The Ebola virus. If we don’t face and deal with the hidden ways in which we contribute to our safety and lack of safety – consciously and unconsciously – we will actually end up participating in creating our own unsafety.

Life is a blessing … a many-faceted blessing. And like a rainbow, a many-colored blessing. A rainbow of feelings – contentment, joy, pain, anger, fear, hurt, confusion and more. Safety and unsafety, too.

Even in the natural world alone – even before our misuse and abuse of Mother Earth, our home – life was not always safe. Storms. Volcanoes. Frigid winters. Blistering summers. Affecting human bodies. Affecting animal bodies. Affecting vegetation needed for food. But we humans tried to be as safe as we could in the natural world. And celebrated the safe, joyous, comfortable times and felt the pain, fear, hurt, helplessness and more in the unsafe times.

Today it is very difficult to tell what is the unsafety caused by the natural world in its organic evolution and what’s the unsafety in the natural world caused by human beings. But the most difficult thing of all, in my experience … is to help people become deeply aware of the unsafety that is still alive within them – from their experience in childhood – the consequent unsafety they unconsciously create in their lives in the current day; and of course, the impact the unsafety they create in their lives has on their families, communities, countries, world as a whole.

If you were abused as a child, you probably defended against the unsafety you experienced and all the feelings that went along with that lack of safety. You certainly couldn’t tolerate feeling your young, intense, raw feelings in the face of it – your terror, your rage, your hurt, your powerlessness, your hopelessness, and more. None of us can … as children.

So you buried all those feelings and held them at bay. Maybe you aged through your childhood into adult years, fearful, trying to hide to stay safe, and therefore not actively participating in the rainbow of life. Not realizing the unsafety that hiding ends up causing you and others around you … since every defense eventually creates the very thing we are defending against. Maybe you aged into adult years, lashing out at people in symbolic response to those who lashed out at you in your childhood, attacking people in response to those who attacked you, destroying people and your relationships with people, in response to those who destroyed you and their relationship to you long, long ago. Or maybe you lashed out to get back at them, for revenge. Perhaps you moved into your adult years, flattening your emotional self, staving off everything but “happiness.” And as a result, deadening yourself to the rainbow of feelings in life … to life itself in all its aliveness and vibrancy. Creating unsafety for yourself and others … all along your path … even if you weren’t aware of it. Or actually, especially because you weren’t aware of it.

And the unsafety that occurs in the larger group – the family, the community, the country, the society – evokes in you all the feelings of your childhood unsafety.  This makes your feeling response to today’s unsafety so much more intense, so much deeper, so much more raw than even the current day unsafety calls for. It also skews your other levels of response more than you can imagine, since those levels of response are connected to your young experience of unsafety, not to today’s experience at all. This then contributes to the distorted reactions, the damage those reactions can do, the escalation into further unsafety, and the vicious cycle you go through again and again until you can heal this.

Here’s an example. It’s a blatant example to help paint the picture clearly. But in each of our lives it could be blatant or subtle, obviously abusive and violent or subtly abusive and violent, grossly normalized in the family and maybe even society, remembered or repressed and consciously forgotten – though living deep inside us still, alive deep within us still.

Imagine … As a child you heard Mommy yelling at your older sister and your father smacking your sister with his hand. You could tell when Mommy’s yelling was coming … like a short fuse, the storm grew till she exploded. But Daddy’s smacks came out of the blue. You just never knew when they were going to come.

Those experiences were scary for you. Even with the short fuse warning of Mommy’s tirades, you never really knew when one of your parents would hurt your sister. And you never knew if or when one of them would hurt you, either. You were always on edge, waiting for somebody to hurt somebody. And, whether you realized it or not, you were always waiting for one of your parents to hurt you. You never felt safe. To your knowledge, you tried to be such a good child. You tried to do what everybody wanted of you. At least that was what you were aware of.

But underneath your awareness, and perhaps sometimes also slipping into consciousness … you tried to secretly lash out at your parents and hurt them back in a way they could never find out – for hurting your sister and for the possibility of their hurting you. You had dreams at night of hurting them back, dreams you didn’t remember when you wakened. You were late getting up and out of bed in the morning, and then claimed you couldn’t help it when Dad was frustrated that your late awakening would make him late to work. You broke cookies in the cookie jar, when no one was looking. You made little cuts in the material of your bedspread, so little no one would find them. You spit in the sink and didn’t wash it down the drain. And you tickled your pet dog till he squealed so loud it hurt your ears and, you were afraid, someone else’s ears, too. No one had any idea you were striking back, except you. And perhaps, eventually you, yourself, didn’t even remember.

Year by year went by until you were finally out of your parents’ home and out into the working world. What you’d been looking forward to for ages. You entered a relationship with someone you thought you loved, you thought loved you, and you thought was safe. But eventually – without even being aware of it – you began doing things to lash out secretly, and waiting till your partner hurt you. You felt unsafe again and you didn’t understand how the unsafety could have followed you into your adult years. The same thing happened at your job. You thought you’d found the perfect boss, but eventually you felt so unsafe at work, always on edge for the yelling or the smack, and dreaming at night of hurting your boss.

You had no one to help you understand what was happening. No one to help you discern how you had created the same thing in your young adult life that you had grown up with. Maybe you weren’t even aware it was the same thing. Maybe you didn’t even realize you had created it.

You had no one to ask questions and explore with you. Had you drawn a partner to you who, in fact, wasn’t safe? Had you drawn a partner to you who could be provoked by your defenses, and provoked to react in a way that was similar to your parents’ unsafe actions? Had you drawn a partner who could feel the painful impact of your unsafe provocations, and when your partner tried to explain to you … you perceived it as similar to or the same as your parents’ unsafe actions? Even though it wasn’t the same at all? Had you, in fact, transferred your experience with your parents onto your partner (and your boss), until you couldn’t really tell who your partner was at all? Or until you were finally successful at pushing your partner until you did get a similar response to your parents’ unsafe actions … finally … and could (falsely) prove to yourself that everybody is unsafe? Did you even, in the end of the vicious cycle with your partner, get to prove that you were an unsafe person, too?

Can you see how unsafety in your childhood lives on unconsciously within you – within each of us – till it creates more unsafety inside and out, by our actions and even our body responses, such as illness – unless we do our own inner healing work?

Let’s take it one step further: if generation after generation of people experience unsafety in their childhood homes and then re-enact it in their lives as they age into adulthood … if then they re-enact that unsafety with their own children, and/or the children in their lives … that unsafety will live on from generation to generation, in the children who then grow into adulthood and act it out on the children in their lives … and perhaps other adults, too.

It doesn’t just stay contained in families. It expands out into the world – in the neighborhoods, schools, offices, churches, sports teams, communities, countries and world. The children who were originally unsafe have spread unsafety, like a disease – consciously or unconsciously – and it has taken on a life of its own. What was an unsafe family has grown into an unsafe town and so on. And the children who lash out have become adults who lash out, once unsafe, now creating unsafety. Alone and unsafe within, so disaffected from anything that can ground and heal them, they are either loners who strike out or are drawn to groups who help them strike out … and help them normalize and justify their striking out. We once might have called these groups “gangs.”  But today we see it happen in sports teams, in groups like ISIS, in countries that strike first and are surprised and self-righteous when their strikes don’t solve the problem.

We also see it in how people react when true safety hazards appear in our communal life – like the Ebola virus. “War on Ebola!” See what I mean? And the unsafety in us from childhood, gets opened up so that we react like children, not as adults. Our feelings, our thoughts, our reactions, are those of the unsafe little child within us … so terrified, so helpless, so triggered, and likely so hurt and angry, too. As a result, until we do our healing work on what once happened to us that we have been re-enacting ever since … we will not be able to respond to the current unsafety in a truly healthy, here and now way. We will be children in big people’s bodies, responding as if we’re adults, but not effectively as adults – not healthily, not in a way that will help us be safe in today’s reality.

We have the tools to do this healing. We have the tools to change our lives and our world from the inside out. It is depth psychotherapy. It is healing to the root that offers true healing, true transformation, and true change … not simply band-aids and attempts to control things, just like we once did as children.

Why aren’t we seeing this? Why do we refuse to see it and use the tools we have … the excellent tools we have? It is our way of re-enacting the childhood scenario again. And again. And again. It is our communal re-enactment. Our global re-enactment.

Each time at the edge of a re-enactment, we are choosing to create more unsafety, rather than work with and through our childhood unsafety. We are choosing to create more unsafety and pain in that moment and in the future in order to avoid the unsafety and pain of long ago that is still alive within us. We may not be aware of it, but we are choosing. And we need to become aware of it. Because each time we make a choice, we have the opportunity to use that edge, that crossroads, to make that choice for healing.

The hope? We have that choice. We have the opportunity again and again to choose for real healing to the root, instead of recreating unsafety. We have the tools. I work with them every day in my office. We have the choice. I see it almost every day in my office … people making the choice for healing … for their own lives, for their families, for our world, for generations to come.

There really is so much hope: we have the tools.
There really is so much hope: we have the choice.
There really is so much hope … if you choose healing.

© Judith Barr 2014

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

We all have times in our lives when we feel unsafe. Sometimes that feeling of unsafety is in response to a here-and-now situation. Often, though, it’s in response, in part or in full, to something within us being evoked from long ago in our past.

As you experience the blessing that is your life … make a commitment to become aware of the times in your life when you feel unsafe, and to do the inner work necessary to heal to the root, so you can truly discern which feelings to follow to reasonably keep yourself safe in the here-and-now, and which feelings need to be explored and healed.

When you feel a sense of unsafety, without any current here-and-now threat, ask yourself, “When was the last time I felt these same feelings? And when before that? And before that?” Try to trace those feelings back as far as you can. You may need the help of a caring therapist to help you discern which feelings are from long ago in your past, and which feelings are in response to a here-and-now threat to your safety, if there is one.

It is crucial for our safety, for the safety of our families, for the safety of our communities, and for the safety of our world, that we all, each and every one of us, commit to doing the inner healing work we need to do with our feelings of unsafety, and follow through on that commitment … so that our woundedness doesn’t create the very unsafety we fear. It is my deepest prayer that more and more of you will join me in committing to do that work and in following through on your commitment. Will you join me?

The NFL – What They Needed to Do and Couldn’t…Yet

September 29, 2014

So many have heard about Ray Rice’s violent abuse of his fiancée and the Baltimore Ravens’ and NFL’s failure to respond the way they really needed to … and the way we as a society really needed them to.

Instead of hiding what they knew, keeping silent, initially giving Ray a symbolic slap on the wrist with a couple weeks’ suspension, denying all sorts of things, and, only after the video came out into public view, instead of escalating their responses to the level of the Ravens canceling his contract and the NFL suspending him indefinitely . . . they could have modeled for everyone what is really needed when it’s revealed that one person is abusing another person – man, woman, or child.

Let’s wonder about a different perspective …

What if it wasn’t actually a good idea to cancel and suspend Ray Rice? What if that came from the public’s pressure and threat to ban games? What if the threat of the “almighty dollar” got in the way of their doing what would have been really healthy and healing … like it too often does in many arenas of life?  What if, despite the violence and danger inherent in football, taking away Ray’s ability to play took away one of his releases of aggression – from here and now and long, long ago? What if it made him more likely to abuse?  What if taking away his livelihood added one more trigger to abuse rather than healing? What if responding with punishment feeds abuse – it does for children. If it does for children, why wouldn’t it for adults, too? What if their jumping to a punishment makes the football “heads of state” more like abusers themselves than like the models they could be for all who watch and play football? What if first they colluded with the abuse, normalizing it like so many others in society, and then they tried to save face (and money) by punishing the abuser – abusing the abuser? What if none of this was what was really needed … for Ray, for the Ravens, for the NFL, for healing domestic violence in our country, for us?

So what could the Ravens and the NFL have done that wouldn’t feed abuse? They could have told Ray that in order to stay on the team, he would need to go to ongoing therapy and never abuse his fiancée or anyone else again.

They could have told him that as long as he continued to stay in therapy and truly work to heal to the root all that had caused him to be abusive, and as long as he didn’t abuse anyone, he could continue on the team. And if he violated either one of those, he would be suspended permanently. They could have selected a therapist who they knew would do the deep healing work with Ray, or they could have established approval rights on the therapist he selected and made sure there was a legal, ethical way to monitor that he was still in therapy … and not abusing anyone.

We have so much to learn in our country and our world.

It is so disturbing that as civilized as we believe we are here in the United States, and many other countries, as well, there are 39 countries that have banned corporal punishment of children by parents. And the U.S. is not among them. Neither are Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, nor the United Kingdom.* And in those countries in which corporal punishment of children by parents is legal, the “restrictions” include such bizarre guidelines as “reasonable force,” “non-excessive force,” “punishment necessary to discipline or safeguard the child and his or her welfare,” “the child being able to benefit from the correction,” and “the correction not causing harm.” These are all guises to justify physical abuse. Physical “punishment” does cause harm … physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harm. Anyone claiming otherwise is not aware, not educated, not in reality … the reality of that little child.

I understand the dilemma: how do we not violate the rights of parents to raise their own children, and still protect those children as they grow? I don’t have a short term definitive answer. But I do know that every person I’ve ever worked with who was hit as a child, remained afraid of being hit from deep inside – until the transformation that came from going through the healing crossroads. They may have tried to bury that frightened part of themselves, or they may be very aware of it. They may have become passive in shaping their lives to avoid people attacking them, or they may have tried to avoid being hit by lashing out and attacking other people, children and adults alike.  It gets passed down from one generation to the next. The cycle of abuse, abuse as the reaction to being triggered, gets passed down from one generation to the next.

This happens in families, in communities, in states, in countries … all over our world. A child abused when young, may well abuse his or her own child, partner, or someone else as s/he ages. If violence was an option in the childhood home, it has an enormous likelihood of becoming an option in the adult home. And even if the parent believes he or she loves the child, and uses love as a guise for abusing that little one … the real truth is: The parent is burying the memory of the deep, intense, fear, pain, hurt, helplessness, powerlessness, and more … experienced when s/he was abused as a child. He may remember that he was hit or beaten, but he has built big defenses against re-experiencing the feelings. And those big defenses include abusing others … re-enacting the abuse as a defense against the young child’s feeling experience on all levels of being. That is, the feeling experience of the young child he once was is still alive inside the now-big person.  If the now-big person could feel all those feelings from the childhood trauma of being abused, s/he could not abuse anyone else.

Ignoring abuse won’t resolve it. Normalizing abuse won’t resolve it. Punishing abuse with something equivalent to abuse won’t resolve it. Although laws say a lot about attitude toward abuse – the environment of the city, state, or country – the real resolution is healing.

A lot of people are saying it’s wonderful that the abuse that has been occurring in the sports world is bringing out into the open the problem of abuse in the U.S. And yes! It is a step that the seriousness of the problem has been brought out into the open even more than it already was.

But people are still normalizing it – up to a point. Many on talk shows and news teams are acknowledging they were abused as children, but some of them are okaying what they experienced as different from what Ray Rice did to his fiancée (now wife) or Adrian Peterson did to his son.

No abuse is okay. None! Abuse harms children, families, communities, countries, our world … all of us.

What this really shows us, if we are willing to honestly look and see and fully invest in the true resolution … is that we need to heal this problem at its roots. We need to heal this problem in families.

We need to heal this problem in parents. We need to heal this problem in the children who are abused and grow up with wounds and defenses that they act out on their own children, partners, and others, as well.  We need to heal this in the children who are abused and grow up with fear in their hearts that they might be hit again. They are often the ones who end up in abusive relationships in which they become the abused partner.

We need to heal this problem one by one with people doing their real healing – not just quick fixes, not just managing and controlling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We need to heal this problem to the root. We need to invest in educating people individually, communally, globally about the truth of the problem. And we need to invest our resources, our commitments, our hearts in truly resolving this problem.

Not just in the outer world, but in the world within us . . . from the inside out.

If the NFL and the Ravens had acted differently than they did, they could have truly helped … they could have modeled the real solution for their fans and for children who see the sports celebrities as their models.

They didn’t. But we can. Please join me in making this investment…and inviting others to join us.

© Judith Barr, 2014

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment_in_the_home

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

It’s up to each and every one of us to help end domestic violence and abuse in any and all forms. And we can start by doing the inner work necessary to explore and heal the childhood wounds within us … wounds that are at the root of abuse. Wounds that cause us to collude with abuse, normalize abuse, or even actively abuse.

Start by exploring your own relationships. Are there times when you have been abused and tolerated it? And … are there times when you yourself have abused? You may be able to start to explore the feelings you have when you’re being abused or when you’re abusive, tracing those feelings back to times in your early life when you felt similar feelings. But … this is a very delicate process. You may very well find you need the help of a good, integritous, caring therapist to help you explore and heal those feelings … so you can break the cycle of abuse in your life and your family … and your world.

Also … while getting the help you need to heal to the root … let others know that abuse in any form should not be tolerated, and that there is hope for healing the abuse so sadly prevalent in our country and our world. If you feel called, share this article with those you know, to help expand healing out into our world.

We can stop domestic violence … not through tolerance of it or even laws against it, but through each and every one of us doing our own inner healing.

WHAT HAVEN’T WE LEARNED SINCE THE ORIGINAL 9/11?

September 8, 2014

Today is 9/11. It’s been 13 years since that tragic, shocking, scary, painful day. And today there are many other tragic, shocking, scary, painful things happening all over our world. What have we learned since the original 9/11? Or even more important, what haven’t we learned?

My heart breaks when I look at what we haven’t learned, for I see we haven’t learned what we need to most learn in order to create our lives individually and communally for the long term. My heart breaks when I see that not only have we not learned but we are blind and deaf to the reality that we have shut ourselves down and buried once again the emotional memory of things in our past. We’ve done that individually and communally. And once we bury our own experiences and feelings – whether personal or societal – we are bound to repeat those painful events in some way, shape, or form. A well-known quote by George Santayana says it in part: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In my field of depth psychotherapy, we understand it even more deeply.  If we are afraid to feel the feelings attached to the memories we buried long ago, usually in childhood, we will live our lives working hard unconsciously to hold those feelings at bay and keep from ever experiencing those feelings again; but those very efforts will drive our lives, and the feelings beneath will haunt us, causing us to somehow  re-enact what we’ve buried in order to bring it back into our awareness so we can heal it. Heal it, not “fix” it. Heal it to the root.

The re-enactment is something we create beneath our awareness.

A baby’s mother yells at him when he asks for what he needs – by crying. He grows up and most likely without realizing it, he draws women to him who do the same; when he tells them what he needs, they get irritated with him, angry at him, humiliate him or some version of what his mother did. A woman’s father threatens her when she doesn’t do exactly what he wants, telling her if she loved him enough to do it right, he wouldn’t have to threaten her. Beneath her awareness, she grows up and chooses partners who abuse her in some way and blame her for their abusiveness.

These are two blatant examples of re-enactments. They are blatant to me. They may well be blatant to those witnessing these people carrying out their re-enactments. But the people in the re-enactments are not even aware of it. They are repeating the vicious cycle they began as children. Each time a person re-creates that original experience in a re-enactment, he proves to himself whatever he decided about himself, others, and life in the core experience. And that’s why people call it a vicious cycle. But also, each time the re-enactment occurs, it is the deep wound that haunts the person calling to her to heal.  If people don’t know it’s a call to healing, they might just believe they will “be there forever and never get out”… also part of the vicious cycle they felt as a child in their home, with their family.

If people do this individually, just imagine the collective impact on a society in which most of its people bury their feelings and their memories and strive to never experience them again, and aren’t aware of it. Imagine the impact on the society. Collectively then, the society will create re-enactments of its own life, its own history … whether that society is a country or a world.

So, in brief, burying the feelings … deadens us to the life of our emotions. The deadening causes re-enactments. Think about Nazi Germany about 70 years ago, where leaders started calling Germany “the homeland.” How many people in any society the world over do not cringe when they hear the leaders in the US say the words “the homeland”? How many in the US itself don’t cringe? Have they forgotten? Have they deadened themselves? And what about the consequence for those who weren’t here then, those who have forgotten and deadened, and those who haven’t made sure those who came after knew about the experience?

On top of a child’s reflex to bury and shut down feelings and memories, to be worked with and healed at a later time, we have people who don’t want to work with the feelings and memories. We have people who, thinking they can just be happy, don’t want to feel the pain and will do anything to keep from feeling the pain. They’ll drink, drug, have sex, work, fight, and more … they’ll become addicted to anything that might stave off the pain, for awhile.  Then the pharmaceutical companies come in and take advantage of that. What might have once been a positive intention to help those who were suffering while they could heal, in a big way turned into a means of making money off people’s suffering. The insurance companies, which also once may have had a positive intention, then jump on the bandwagon … and now you have people who believe they are alive and vital but are actually numbed and deadened to still-buried feelings which drive them and their lives beneath their awareness. People who now are like automatons … easy prey to be dominated by leaders who want to rule because of their own childhood wounds … and who, at least in the beginning, do so subtly.

Alice Miller wrote brilliantly about all of this. In her book, For Your Own Good, and in other writings, she wrote about Hitler and Nazi Germany and the roots of how that re-enactment occurred – not just Hitler’s part but also the part of the German people. In her work toward healing child abuse, she acknowledged that parents’ abuse comes out of their own childhood abuse; and that the abuse of their children won’t stop till the parents do their own healing … which they stay away from because they’re afraid of their own buried feelings and memories.  She also wrote in The Drama of the Gifted Child,* “The true opposite of depression is not gaiety or absence of pain, but vitality: the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings.**  It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings also can display the whole scale of human experience, including, but not limited to, envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and mourning. But this freedom cannot be achieved if the childhood roots are cut off.”

Jeff Bridge’s new movie The Giver, based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 book of the same name, offers us a picture of a lot of what I’m talking about … It shows us a society that has cut off its memories and feelings and is supposedly happy, one in which this is done to people without their knowing, and one in which other destructive things are done under a guise. (I don’t want to say any more. Just when you see the movie, I hope you will look at it through the lens of what I’m offering in this post.)

So here we are on 9/11 … needing to learn in order to reclaim our real selves, our real society and world, our real possibilities and potentials.

Would we rather experience the pain and loss and fear that once occurred in our lives and still lives inside us? Or would we rather re-create and re-enact those things in our lives today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that, creating more pain and loss and fear for ourselves and each other? And if we choose to keep re-creating and re-enacting, when the re-enactments once again bring those feelings up to feel and heal the root experiences … will we then say “yes” to the healing or will we choose to keep re-creating and re-enacting?

The sad truth is … most people prefer to avoid the original pain and create it again and again, not knowing their part in what is occurring in the present and will occur in the future. Not knowing the cause and effect relationship between the two. Not knowing how they have created or co-created what is occurring now and what will occur if they don’t ever know. But if you’ve read this far … now you do know. You may need to know more and understand more and experience more. But now you do know.

So now it’s time to know this also …

The hopeful truth is … feeling the original feelings and working through the original pain will steadily move us toward ending the re-enactments, both the personal and the societal ones. The hopeful truth is … knowing, remembering, feeling – not acting out on the feelings, but feeling them – and healing the deep and buried wounds to the root … will change our world and our universe. I have had the honor to have seen and help it change people’s lives. I have seen it change people’s families. I have seen it change people’s businesses. We can change our world from the inside out in this way. As long as there are painful experiences inside us that despite our burying them are driving our lives … trying on the surface won’t work long term. It may make temporary changes … like bandaids and medication … but the underlying feelings and memories will pop out again … in the re-enactments.

This is what we haven’t learned from 9/11 … and many other tragic, shocking, painful, scary, events. It breaks my heart to know this and to know how to help people in this process, and to see so very many people refusing to say ‘yes’ to the remembering, the feeling, the real healing to the root. It breaks my heart to know that when people say “no” to going through the process of feeling the pain alive within them, they say “no” to going through passageways that could lead them to real aliveness, real vitality, real presence in the current moment, and real hope.

My prayer as I write this to each of you who reads it …is that it will help you choose to work to change your re-enacting in your personal life, choose to participate in healing to the root, choose in this way to help in re-weaving the fabric of your life individually and of our lives communally.

Everything depends upon our healing to the root!

*****

* p 57, © 1981, from release as Prisoners of Childhood:  The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self

** She’s not encouraging people to act out or act on these feelings, simply to feel them.

© Judith Barr, 2014

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

As we experience this “13 year anniversary” of the September 11 terrorist attacks, let’s look at the ways in which our re-enacting of our childhood wounds and experiences affect our lives…the lives of our loved ones … the life of our country … and the life of our world.

Remember, if you can, what was evoked for you on the original September 11th. Remember what was triggered on the anniversaries between then and now. What is evoked for you today?

Can you identify what feelings you have had and have today that are familiar? Can you identify how those feelings are familiar from your childhood?  Can you identify how your responses today are similar to those in childhood?  Or how your responses now are the opposite of what you felt safe to feel as a child, even if it’s safe now to feel them and not act on them?

Part of discovering and re-discovering our feelings is to learn how to discern which feelings are from long ago calling to be felt as part of the healing, and which are today’s feelings calling to be felt and perhaps also expressed and acted upon.  It’s all part of a process of rediscovery and learning that helps us grow strong enough and wise enough to hold it all and feel it all safely.

As you go about your life – on each September 11 and all year – are there times when you have feelings that seem familiar from long ago … feelings that act as clues to times when you are re-enacting some painful experience from your childhood? Ask yourself: when did I have these feelings? Who or what in my long-ago life were these feelings in response to? And is the situation I experienced back then similar to what I’m living now?  Perhaps not blatantly but where might there be some kind of similarity in today’s experience that evokes for me the original one(s)? And … are there things in my past that seem too painful to remember? Am I defending against remembering, feeling, and healing those memories?

Commit to find and heal the root of those unconscious feelings so you can make the commitment to not re-enact painful destructive situations.

And I encourage you to read Alice Miller’s writings about the relationship between our individual wounds and our generational wounds and our global wounds …and the re-enactments that continue to create more wounding. I encourage you to read also my blog, PoliPsych, on the same topic.  Every post reveals this in some way. And I encourage you to go see The Giver, and to watch it at least once through the lens of this post.

There is so much to be learned about ourselves and our world from the roots of tragic events like 9/11, if we’re open and willing to learn, and if we’re open and willing to truly heal to the root, each and every one of us. And this healing is crucial for us if we are to help create sustainable healing, thriving, and safety in our world.

Robin Williams: What Nobody’s Saying!

August 18, 2014

A week ago, Robin Williams died by his own hand. People have been celebrating his genius, his quick mind, his success in comedy and serious performances, as well, his good heart, his friendship, the way he gave to others. However his death affected people, it left us grieving.

My grief and my perspective may well be very different from your own. This is not an organized article, but rather musings of mind, heart, and soul that have come to me as I’ve gone through my week, and are coming again as I sit down to share with you. I offer this in the hopes that my sharing will help you in some way, will help others you touch, and will help our world.

My heart is grieving for the little boy, Robin, who played alone in his large home with his 2,000 toy soldiers. I imagine the dialogues he had with them. I imagine him telling them how frightened he was of his father when he was home. I imagine him telling them he wished his mother would stay home with him, instead of going to work and leaving him with the maids. I imagine him expressing to all the toy soldiers somehow that he was so terribly alone and felt so horribly afraid of being abandoned. I imagine his ability to have dialogues with different characters within himself and outside himself may have been born from his dialogues with his toy soldiers.

My heart is grieving for the man, Robin, who, it seems, didn’t have the kind of help he needed to heal the fears that were still alive inside him, in the little boy who, it appears, was still alive inside him. My heart grieves for his attempts to connect with people through his comedy, like he did with his mother, and for the superficial nature of such a connection, if made. My heart grieves for the man who used his quick mind and humor to defend himself against his own pain and fear, to distract others from his own pain and fear … and from theirs, too. My heart is grieving that it seems people didn’t see his pain beneath his jokes and comedic interactions … and if they did, they didn’t find a way to connect with him and help him.

My heart is grieving that people interviewed him, but when they asked questions and he answered with either serious responses or even scary responses, they laughed … as with one of NPR’s interviewers some years ago when she asked him about suicide and he made a joke about calling a suicide hot line and the person at the hotline saying, “Life isn’t for everybody.” She laughed. I listened this past week to a rerun and was aghast, my heart filled with the pain of what he was saying, what she was hearing, and that she laughed. What did members of the audience hear, feel, do in response to hearing this?

My heart is grieving that people allowed Robin to help them forget their own pain, and in many other ways, it seems. But who helped Robin?

My heart is grieving that the experts have taught us – misled us – and are continuing to do so, when they say that there is help, there is medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. And now more modern technological devices. Even the television doctors, like Sanjay Gupta, are spreading this word. But nobody is acknowledging that the healing doesn’t occur in our heads. Managing and controlling our thoughts and feelings doesn’t heal the pain that still lives within. Understanding the thoughts and feelings and even the cause in our lives, doesn’t heal the pain. It doesn’t help us work through it, resolve it, dissolve and transform it. It only helps us hold it at bay … again. Or bury it … again. Nobody’s saying these deeper truths about the help available.

Nobody’s talking about the deep, healing therapy that can take place if you find the right therapist, one who will go with you to the roots.

My heart is grieving that too many people will think “if Robin Williams, who had all the resources he needed, couldn’t get the help he needed to not kill himself, what hope is there for me?”  I understand that resources are needed for therapy – time, money, energy, commitment. But … my heart is grieving that nobody is saying, it’s not the resources, it’s finding the right help. It’s finding the right person.

As far as I’ve heard – and I’ve listened to many talk of his life and death in this past week …
Nobody’s talked about his frenetic, frenzied comedy and the pain that was so obvious in that frenetic energy.
People have talked about his depression, but nobody’s spoken of the manic nature of his comedy, his energy, even his interviews.
People have spoken of his good heart and all he did for others. Nobody’s spoken about how they gave to him. Steven Spielberg, it has been said, called Robin every night while he was making Schindler’s List and asked Robin to make him laugh.

Nobody called Robin every night and asked him,  “What can I do for you, Robin?”
Nobody called him every night and offered to him, “Share your pain with me, Robin.”
Nobody invited him to call them every night and ask them to be with him as he talked about and expressed the pain he was in.
I wish I had invited Robin to call me.
I wish he had called me and allowed me to listen to his pain and be with him … and help him heal to the root.


© Judith Barr, 2014

The Heartache of Today

July 22, 2014

My heart has been aching with all that is going on in our world today that is so painful and so destructive.  My open, aching heart reaches out to you to inspire, teach, and just be with you.

My heart aches
for the suffering in our world today.
My heart aches for the people who are under siege in their own homes.
For those who have fled their homes to escape destruction,
Yet are meeting destruction elsewhere.
For those who are the innocent bystanders of others’ willfulness.
For those who are the innocent yet seduced colluders of fierce willfulness.
My heart aches
for the suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.
For those who have been shot out of the sky,
For those kidnapped and taken from all that they know,
For those who have been used, misused, abused, tortured, and killed.
My heart aches for those who have been forced into slavery
And for those who have been seduced into slavery.
My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for those who suffer, finding themselves without what they need –
for whatever reasons –
Starving, working harder than any person should have to work to survive,
And to help their families survive.
For parents who are unable to take care of and protect their children.
For people who live in constant danger …
Adults and children alike,
Even children who are unsafe living with their own parents –
Even in supposedly loving families, even in supposedly civilized countries.
It is more common than we want to realize.
My heart aches
for those who suffer, finding themselves without what they need.

My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.
For those suffering from the experience of and the consequences of
Sexual abuse … greater in numbers than most wish to know.
People sexually abused
In their own homes …
By their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings.
By their partners, friends, and people they know.
By strangers.
By those who are overtly violent –
Using it as an act of war or an act of power –
And by those who do it under a guise –
under the guise of play, the guise of taking care of them, the guise of helping them.
My heart aches
for those who are suffering in our world today.

My heart aches
for the suffering in our world.
For the suffering caused by us when we cannot and will not
Feel our own heartache.
For the suffering caused by our defending* against our own heartache.
For the suffering caused by our defenses that
Fight to be right, fight to win, fight to have it our way,
fight to have power over.
Fight to conquer, fight to have the last word, fight for some imaginary gain  –
something we lost long, long ago when we first built our defenses.

But more than anything,
My heart aches
for the suffering that is being experienced now
And will be experienced in the future …
Because over and over we insist on solving things only in the outer world,
Deluding ourselves into falsely believing that will create change we can sustain.

My heart aches
for the suffering we are now experiencing
And we will experience in times to come …
Because again and again we refuse to solve and resolve things at the root –
in our inner worlds –
So the changes would come from the inside out,
And, in truth, be sustainable.

Please don’t defend against your heartache anymore.
Don’t defend against your own feelings both today
And even more from your youngest days.
Don’t defend against your own powerlessness, hurts, fears as a baby
By lashing out at others today because of those who hurt you back then –
By withholding from others today because of those who hurt you once upon a time,
By willfully acting out your revenge on people and life in the current day,
While wanting to do, from underneath, whatever you want to do to those from your youth,
the consequences be damned.
Please don’t continue this normalized, socially accepted nightmare.

My heart will keep on aching
Until the needless suffering is done.
Where are those of you who will ache with me?
Where are those of you who understand the changes need to come from within?
Where are those of you who will help people make those in depth changes?
Where are those of you who do your own inner work  -
As part of daily living?
Where are those of you who will come forward to help?
Come join me.

This is a mammoth task.
But one we need to keep going with.
It covers more ground than I can name.
Yes, we need to stop bullies.
But even more, we need to heal the bully in us.
We need to negotiate cease fires between warring factions in countries.
But even more, we need to heal the splits, the factions within ourselves.
We need to stop the sex traffickers and free those they’ve captured.
But even more, we need to heal the sexual abuse in our societies, in our world,
By healing the sexual abuse and sexual distortions within ourselves…
So we don’t pass it down from one generation to the next.
None of us can do this alone.

My heart will keep aching until
we join together and help people heal the suffering from the past
that is feeding the suffering of the present and the future.
My heart will keep aching every time I hear somebody say,
“Move on. Just forget the past. It has nothing to do with the future. It’s just
dragging you down.”
The only tiny seed of truth in that statement is that
our past will drag us down to it for healing …
Our past wounding and trauma will haunt us …
Calling and calling and calling us
To do the healing we need to do.
Our past will haunt and call us,
Even if the haunting occurs through horrifying suffering
in the world outside and around us.
And even if we don’t understand at first
The calling that is actually occurring.

My heart will keep aching until we
Do the real work called for in front of our very eyes ….
Joining together to end the needless suffering
That comes from defenses we don’t want to dissolve,
Memories we don’t want to remember,
Feelings we don’t want to feel,
Changes we don’t want to make.
My heart will keep aching until …
I hope yours will, too …

*Read “Defenses Destroy” at
https://polipsych101.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/defenses-destroy/ to learn more about defenses and their harmful consequences.

© Judith Barr, 2014

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Does your heart ache too … as you hear about, read about, see reports of the suffering in our world?  Can you allow yourself to feel the heart ache? Or do you have a reflexive movement to defend against your feelings?

Is your feeling response part of a lifelong pattern of defense against pain?  If so, what will you do to help yourself heal that pattern … for your sake and for the sake of our world?

Is your feeling response open-heartedness – from long ago or relatively new?  If so, what will you do to deepen and expand your open-heartedness and allow it to show you ever-new passageways … for your sake and for the sake of our world?

If you’d like to help even more to heal suffering in our world, help spread the word about the true roots of suffering in our world…and please feel free to pass this article on to others.

We don’t have to accept, resign ourselves to, settle for unnecessary suffering … if we are aware of the roots of that suffering and do the inner work we all need to do to heal our wounding and our defenses to the root.

A New Look at Independence: True Independence

July 5, 2014

As another Independence Day has come and gone here in the U.S.A.,  I have been called again to speak a deeper voice, a deeper truth about what independence is and isn’t.  All through the weeks leading up to July 4, I kept hearing in my heart … shall I feed the illusions about independence that so many of us believe and live in? Or shall I pierce those illusions and help people part the veil to see where they are not really independent?  My life, my work, my heart is always to find the truth, to teach the truth … even though many may run from it. So this year, in the afterglow of July 4,  I am offering the truth about independence to citizens of the U.S. and citizens of the world, as well. We all need to understand true independence.

Many people believe that if they rebel against their parents, they are free.  And many believe they claim their independence by doing just that – rebelling.* But look at the dynamics beneath the outer action. Look at the dynamic that sets up for the children as they age and for the relationship over time.

Sharon’s mother wants her daughter to be “a good girl” and do what “mommy says is right.”  First of all, what is mother teaching Sharon?  Is she teaching her wonderful values? Is she teaching her to discern the truth for herself? Or is she teaching Sharon not to do anything that will trigger mommy? If the latter, what will little Sharon do? She may comply with her mother and do only what mommy wants, defending herself against mommy’s triggered reactions. Or she may rebel against mommy and do the opposite of what her mother wants, however triggered mommy gets. This may develop into consistent oppositional attitudes and behavior – overt and covert – throughout Sharon’s life, in her relationship with everyone and everything, even life itself. (We’ve seen a lot of this in our Congress for the past many years.)

Sharon may believe that complying with mommy’s wishes takes away her own young independence, while also believing that rebelling against mommy’s wishes and doing the opposite of what mommy wants gives her freedom. This reveals the underlying dynamic that so many of us – all over the world – don’t want to see. Rebelling against does not make us independent, does not make us free, does not make us grownups.  Complying with and rebelling against are both in reaction to “the other,” meaning another person.  Neither is an individuated action in behalf of one’s self.  Once you understand this, you will never be able to see independence, individuation, freedom the same way again.  You will never again be able to see someone in an adult body and be sure if that is a grown up – if that is a grownup standing in individuated truth, or if that is a child in an adult’s body rebelling against mommy and daddy.

I teach my clients this in many different ways.  For instance, if you want to truly individuate, that occurs in the context of the relationship.  It requires a relationship in which a child experiences he can have both himself and also his mother (or father or both).

An example: If the parent sets up the relationship so the son, Sam, cannot have, be, develop into the self he is at essence … Sam will give up himself to have the parent. Or Sam will give up the parent and risk abandonment or abuse on many levels. Or Sam will vacillate between the two options one way or another – perhaps out in the open, perhaps in his own mind and heart, perhaps beneath his own consciousness. And often Sam, like many other children in the same situation, will fantasize the time when he grows up and can get away from the parent … run away from the parent … and at long last be free. Note again, that this is not true freedom, for Sam is getting away from his parent, running away from his parent.  That may be the only way Sam, with his child’s mind, thinks he can become himself. And perhaps he’s right that he will never become himself in that particular parent-child relationship. But, if that’s what Sam is living with, if that’s what Sam is growing up with, if that’s what Sam decides is the solution … deep inside his own psyche and soul, then Sam will be as tied to his parent if he runs away as he will be if he stays.  He will act this out both within himself and in the world outside … somehow … even if other people can’t see or know it, even if he himself isn’t aware of it. And he will not be able to truly individuate – become his own person inside and out — until he finds a therapeutic relationship in which he can heal the wounds that prevent him from both being himself and “having” the other person. This, of course, requires a therapist who has done his or her own deep healing work with individuation and independence.

The person who rebelled to try to get away from her parent as a way of attempting to be independent – to be her own self – will approach the crossroads of working through the childhood dilemma with as much – maybe even more – fear and defense as the person who complied and submitted and never rebelled at all.

This is all to bring us back to the truth: Are you really independent? Or are you just deluding yourself to keep from experiencing your own early pain?  And your own early longing for a parent who has done his or her own work and can both be their full individuated self while at the same time supporting you to become your self?

Sadly, what people will do – as individuals and as groups — to try to avoid this pain, while at the same time pursuing this longing, is mind- and heart-boggling.  They will abuse themselves and each other. They will abuse the earth that is our home. They will try to control others’ hearts, minds, souls. .  . and, of course, bodies. They will submit or rebel against. And while doing these things, most of the time they will be claiming, to themselves and others, that they are independent.  Most of the time asserting that they are free. Most of the time pretending they are in power, or fighting to be the ones in power.  Anyone who gets power that way isn’t really in power. Anyone who lives that way isn’t really independent.

How can people be truly independent unless they do their own work to resolve their issues from the inside out.  How can people be authentically independent if they have no willingness to be interdependent in the most healthy way?  Look out into our world and ask yourself … How much true independence do I see? Not much. How much true interdependence do I see? Not much.

How are we going to become truly independent from the inside out unless we do our own inner healing work to the root?  We’re not. Don’t be deluded or seduced into thinking otherwise.  Don’t be fooled by distorted new age spiritual teachings, or old-age traditional ones, either. Don’t be duped by personal growth leaders who haven’t really been trained to do the deep work with another’s psyche and soul, and even worse, haven’t done their own deep healing to the root.  Don’t be hoodwinked by the quick fix treatment of symptoms by techniques that may help you make believe you’re independent because you can function again, while just hiding the deeper cause and root of the symptom.

Don’t be deceived. Our real independence – individually and communally – rests on our own healing one by one by one.

These truths about real independence are reflected not only in the minds, bodies, hearts, souls, and lives of individuals, but also in those of couples, families, organizations, communities, countries, and our world at large. How often have we seen violent rebellion in which the rebel faction ends up enslaving the populace as much as the old regime did? How many times have we seen rebellious action on the part of a portion of the populace only to have their ideals and goals disintegrate, or the changes they want to enact, however lofty, fail to materialize, or even materialize and then fail to be sustained? This is a reflection of the need for each and every one of us – even the activists amongst us – to do the inner work necessary to truly make change…not out of “rebellion” against past or present authority but from true, conscious longing and commitment to heal ourselves and to heal our world.

We cannot afford any more to delude ourselves. To pretend with ourselves or others. The rich and powerful are not necessarily any more truly independent that those in their employ or those who are impacted by their actions, who are poor and oppressed.  If you have to amass limitless resources to feel secure, how independent can you really be? If you have to use your power over others or at the expense of others, how truly free and independent can you be?

Don’t be deceived. Our real independence – individually and communally – rests on our own healing one by one by one.

© Judith Barr, 2014

*I am not saying that children who are being abused – or adults for that matter –shouldn’t find their way to safety.  But there are more grounded, more truly effective ways to do so than rebellion.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

As we go about our daily lives – both in the afterglow of Independence Day and all throughout the year – we need to explore within ourselves how independent we truly are.

As you go through your day, explore what your early experiences with independence were. Were you encouraged to individuate, and to truly be who you are, with gentle guidance and teaching? Or were your attempts to be your true self stifled? Or alternately, were you given “free rein” with no guidance at all?

And, how did you react as a child? Did you try to do everything you could to please mommy and daddy, in spite of who you truly were? Or did you perhaps rebel against everything, the consequences be damned?

Then…as you experience authority in whatever form you experience it today, take note of how you feel. Is the feeling familiar? Can you trace that feeling back to your childhood experience? Is the feeling similar to your own childhood feelings, as best as you can recall them, in response to the authority of your parents or other adults?

We all feel the need to make change in our world … a world which so desperately needs change. But in order to make true, sustainable change, we need to explore and heal the wounds which prevent us from truly being independent.

DEFENSES DESTROY

June 8, 2014

I have been silent for awhile … Pensive. Searching. Deeply saddened. Witnessing, as I imagine you are, all that’s going on in our world. Feeling the pain of what’s going on in our world.

People think about what’s happening differently from each other. Some think the destructiveness is just done by “bad” people or “sick” people. Some are in alignment with those who are destructive, normalizing and justifying what they are doing. Some feel completely helpless in the face of it all. Some want to rush into action and do things in the world to fix it. Nothing wrong with action – it’s just not enough by itself. Some increase their prayers to resolve it. Nothing wrong with prayers – but prayers, too, aren’t enough by themselves. And some don’t even want to know about it.

Most people I talk to are missing what’s really happening. And most of what I hear, see, or read via the media is missing what’s really happening … under the surface. Even many in my own profession haven’t been trained to truly understand or get to the roots of the situation. This “miss” feeds misconceptions, misunderstandings, the incapacity to discern well, and most of all … it feeds further destructiveness and makes it impossible to really solve the problem for good.

If we are going to help ourselves and our world, we are going to need to truly understand what is going on beneath the surface, beneath what we can see, hear, touch and currently understand. What is going on beneath the surface that drives us unknowingly from deep within and drives us in our actions in the outer world.

People are acting out again and again … not realizing what they are really doing. Not aware of what they are acting out. Not understanding what their acting out tells them and us about their early lives and about what from that time is still alive in their minds, hearts, bodies, and souls.

And there are so many people who don’t understand what “acting out” really means. I could say exactly the same things here that I said in the second and third paragraphs above.  In essence, people don’t really understand acting out and that lack of understanding feeds the acting out and makes the solutions impossible.

There are so many examples of acting out since my last newsletter, escalating in visibility and frequency, that it is mind boggling and heart boggling. Just to name a handful of them …

Georgia’s new gun law. It enables people to pack guns in places like schools, churches, bars, government buildings and certain parts of airports. Multiple tragic gun shootings have occurred in Georgia since then.

Vladimir Putin’s failed power grab in the Crimean Peninsula. A part of his post-Olympic acting out in the world.

The Sewol Ferry disaster in South Korea, due to negligence of the Ferry owner who ignored safety warnings and allowed the ferry to be overloaded with passengers.

Another Indian woman raped – and then hanged – by Indian men. The violence to girls and women in our world is heart-breaking and belies our wish to think of these times as civilized times. And the ones included here are known tips of the iceberg. What about all the violence to women and girls that is normalized and done in secret?

An Iranian actress on the Cannes Film Festival Jury may be flogged for greeting the president of the festival with a civil kiss on the cheek. It is important to note that a group of women has petitioned to have her flogged.

Donald Sterling’s racist comments and the consequences, including all the attention garnered in the media.

Boko Haram’s abduction of Nigerian school girls with plans to sell them.

Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Isla Vista, California, and the fingers pointing at … the “mentally ill,” the “gun lovers,” and “this generation.”

The ongoing money grabbing and the consequent destruction  — to people, families, businesses, economies, environments – by people who are rich enough in the eyes of others but never seem, in their own minds, to have enough money.

And our Defense Department, which may once have been presented as for protection, but has destroyed again and again and again in the guise of defense.

If we really wanted to know, if we really looked deeply, and if we were able to find and gather the information we needed to truly understand … we would likely find that each of these instances emerged out of wounding that occurred certainly in an individual’s childhood, but also generationally in a family, and culturally, too. In any one instance, which came first, the chicken or the egg, the culture or the individual, isn’t the most important thing to figure out.  We certainly do need to know that what is normalized in a culture impacts the individual families and the individual children. What is normalized in a family impacts the individuals in the family and, of course, others in the life of that family. And what befalls a single child impacts many more people than most of us want to imagine.

When a child is wounded, that child will build defenses to keep from feeling the pain of the wound. What the child is reflexively trying to do is stay sane and alive in the face of those who are causing the wounding.  The child isn’t thinking this all through. The child is acting unconsciously and involuntarily. But the child does not have any idea what those defenses will create in the long run.

First the defenses may seem to protect the child, whether a girl or boy child. But soon the defenses start to harden and become part of a way of life. Walls are built. People are shut out. People are considered enemies and fought against, sometimes righteously and others viciously. Often revenge is sought, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly.  Consciously or without realization, the person may believe that whatever she is feeling gives her permission to act out … with herself and others. Aware or unaware, the person may use the harm he experienced as a child to justify acting out later in life. Substances are taken and activities are done that distract and numb the person against the pain of the original wound. Even though there is pain in the repeated re-creations of the wound, the pain of the original wound is the worst, the deepest, the most intense, the most raw, and the pain the person is actually defending against, whether it’s in or beneath awareness, whether it’s five or fifty years later.

Through all the years of my work as a depth psychotherapist, I have consistently seen that the defenses end up creating in a person’s life what they were originally meant to prevent in the life of that person as a child. This is why I teach people that defenses destroy. This is why the title of this article is “Defenses Destroy.”

Let’s use an example from the list above. Georgia’s new gun law:  You may want to defend your right to carry arms. You may want to defend your right to defend yourself, your family, your property, your values, your thoughts, opinions, and feelings. But if your defense comes in the form of a weapon, like a gun, your defense can and very likely will destroy.  Passing a law to allow guns to be carried especially in places where people are vulnerable – like schools, churches, certain parts of airports – is a license to hurt and destroy vulnerable people.

How much clearer could the meaning be?  If you were hurt or destroyed in some way when you were a vulnerable child, your defense and acting out could end up with your doing the same thing to others when you are old enough to do that. Others in your family – younger siblings, pets, children, or vulnerable people in places like churches and schools.

A second example:  An Iranian actress on the Cannes Film Festival Jury may be flogged for greeting the president of the festival with a civil kiss on the cheek. She tried to extend her hand to greet him, but the elderly official leaned over for the kiss on the cheek. It is important to note that in one accounting of the incident it states a group of women has petitioned to have her flogged and even imprisoned. In another, a group of men and women are seeking her imprisonment. I am not a learned student of the religious beliefs in Iran.  I have, however, seen individually and culturally the consequences of patriarchal laws, religions, mores, values, practices. Even if the cause may once originally have been or may have been purported to be the protection of women … there has also definitely been the effect of women being treated as objects, possessions, in essence the slaves of the men in their lives and their cultures.  This is true not only in Iran but also in many countries and in pockets in some countries.  India, for example, is amongst those countries.  And so is the United States. So … if the original cause were the defense of women, that defense has created torturous destructive experiences all over our world.

And even in the situation of the Iranian actress, why would other women in the Iranian culture demand her punishment? As part of their own defense against their individual and communal pain under the same cultural defense system?

One more brief example … Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Isla Vista, California, and the fingers pointing at… the “mentally ill,” the “gun lovers,” and “this generation.”  He openly stated he wanted revenge against women. The deeper information isn’t publicly available (at least yet). But how can we look at what he did and not wonder what happened when he was young in his relationship with the first woman in his life? How can we not wonder what he felt? How can we not wonder what defenses he reflexively created then that came to be destructively acted out just a short time ago at everyone’s expense?  And how can we keep blaming the guns and blaming the gun lovers and blaming the mentally ill, and this time I even heard blame for this young generation?

I don’t hear anybody asking what it is that we, the parents, have done that has caused our children to be so wounded!

I don’t hear anybody in public asking how we, the parents, are acting out our own wounds and our own defenses in ways that have hurt our children, our families, our countries, our world.

I don’t hear anybody in public asking why we, the parents, don’t do our own healing work as our part of ending the cycles of wounding/defenses/wounding.

It is time for more of us to see and understand this. It is time for more of us to speak up. It is time for more of us to speak out. It is time for more of us to become involved in this way of seeing and resolving the problems that are so out in the open in our world today.

At times when I teach, people will say that this is all so depressing. Or this is all so painful. And they’ll sometimes ask me, “Where is the hope?”

The hope is right here. The hope is that we can heal. The hope is that we can choose to not slap on a bandaid. The hope is that we can choose not to find something to help us bury the real causes once again. The hope is that we can choose not to seduce ourselves into getting rid of the symptoms so we falsely believe the “problem is solved.”  The hope is that we can choose not to keep ourselves unconscious … of what’s there in our inner world and its effect on the outer world.

Where is the hope?
The hope is right here. The hope is that we have the choice – and the responsibility –
To heal … truly heal … to the root.

© Judith Barr, 2014

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Now is the time for each and every one of us to make a commitment to do the inner work necessary to dissolve the defenses that stand between us and truly healing our wounding.

As you hear about, read about, think about the individual issues facing our world today,  try to become aware of the possible roots of those issues… the real, inner roots within each and every one of those directly or indirectly involved. And don’t stop there … feel into those same roots in yourself. Do you ever, for example, feel the need to make a “power grab” as Putin has? Or do you have racist thoughts and feelings – conscious or unconscious – as Sterling has demonstrated?

What we see when others act out, as those in the examples above have, is their defenses against their own inner pain and wounding. Ask yourself: what are my defenses? And what feelings am I using them to defend against? Often we need the help of a good, caring, integritous therapist to help us find and dissolve those defenses, so the healing can begin… Commit to finding a therapist who is a right fit for you to help you begin or go deeper into this healing journey.

The issues facing our world can seem overwhelming… but there is hope, if we can see what is really happening, if we can spread the word so others begin to see, too, and if we commit, one by one, to do the inner work to heal individually, to help our world heal globally!

IT’S APRIL FOOLS’ DAY

March 29, 2014

It’s April 1st – April Fools’ Day . . . And do we have a lot to talk about this month! So much, in fact, that I’m going to do this month’s newsletter differently from usual. I’m going to touch briefly on a number of themes, planting seeds for you – and for us together – to nourish and grow.

*****

It’s April 1st – April Fools’ Day . . .

People are so afraid of being seen as a fool. The result of horrendous shaming, ridiculing, and humiliation which have been normalized in our world culture – both subtly and outright. As part of this normalized shaming …if people feel the pain of being shamed, their pain is discounted and responded to with contempt. They, themselves, are blamed for being able to feel the pain: You’re too sensitive. Toughen up! I was only kidding. Well if you hadn’t done that, you wouldn’t deserve this. Is it any wonder people don’t want to be seen as a fool?

Yet, the deeper meaning of the fool, as in the tarot card, The Fool, is innocence at the edge of new beginnings with unlimited potential and limitless possibilities. If people are afraid of being the fool, they will withhold themselves from this path. They will block their knowing of who they are. They will not let themselves be who they are, even if they know. They will not choose any of the possibilities to which the path leads. Or they will force themselves to pick one, but not let themselves know the one – or the next one – to which they are truly called. Or they will choose one but not commit to it. And so they will leave it when it seems challenging, difficult. Leave the possibility or even the path itself … leaving themselves in the process. Or if they commit to it, they will not follow through with their commitment … lest they appear to be a fool.

Do you interfere with your own unfoldment into your fullest potential … to keep from appearing to be a fool?

*****

Recently …
I led a new workshop on parenting.

Although I’ve worked with people on the consequences for them of their parents’ parenting of them … And although I’ve worked with people on the impact of their parenting on their children … this was different. This was an expansion of that.

My intention was to help parents give their best to their children in a different way than parents usually hear about. My vision was that if parents knew they were being triggered by their children because of their own childhood wounds; if they were helped to know the signs of their being triggered and the impact on their children; if they were shown and even experienced in the workshop that it’s possible to find the root of the trigger and heal it – for both the parent’s sake and the child’s sake … that more people would do their own deep healing work and it would help everyone … from parent to child, to family, to community, to the world as a whole. In any group I’ve ever led, there has been a kind of magic that occurs. People do their own work and witness each other’s work … and it multiplies, and the healing effect multiplies and grows exponentially. And this was true with my recent workshop.

Participants’ responses throughout and after the workshop were so touching and so powerful! My heart flew open again and again to each of the participants, to the group as a whole, and to the possibilities that could come of the afternoon’s work. My heart also flew open as the inspiration came that this parenting workshop might be yet another doorway through which I might help people both individually and also globally. After all, everyone has parents – citizens and leaders, healing leaders and tyrants, heroes and terrorists – and every parent has an impact on his/her children. I’m reaching out to let you know about my soul’s calling to find people who are called to help in this endeavor … to either attend such a workshop or to organize such a workshop … or maybe who have an already-existing group that would like me to come give the workshop to the members. I’m imagining it might be a lay group, a professional group, or even a group of clients working with a given therapist – perhaps the therapist would like me to come give the workshop to his or her clients. (I’ve done the latter on numerous occasions before.) Or perhaps help in some way I cannot yet imagine. I welcome whatever inspirations and help you can give with this.

*****

Leaders were once children, too!
Another lens through which to look at parenting!

The impact of parenting from one generation to the next is more significant than most people realize. Two parents, unaware of their own deep wounding as children, frightened of becoming aware, afraid of feeling, will pass their wounds onto their children … even though they may love their children whole-heartedly. If the children also choose to remain unaware of their wounding, and if they also are afraid of feeling, they will pass the pain onto their children. And so it goes from one generation to the next. Generations of parents who yell at their children; generations of parents who don’t set boundaries for their children; generations of parents who are incestuous with their children on many levels of being; generations of parents who neglect their children; generations of parents who tease and humiliate their children; generations of parents who discipline their children in harmful ways; – from subtle to blatant; and so on…

Parents are impacted by their parents. Their parents were impacted by theirs. And each generation of parents both impacts the culture and is impacted by the culture. It’s a two-way street. If your parents hit you and told you that was love … and if other parents in your culture were doing the same both because their parents did that to them and also because it had become normalized in society at the time … the back and forth between the individual and the culture becomes very clear.

Some parents try to help their children be empowered in their lives, both as children and as adults – often not being aware if there are any ways in which they may send a double or mixed message. Some parents frighten their children out of being empowered and taking action when it’s needed, the parents preferring to be the ones in power and control. Other parents embolden their children to take power in harmful, destructive ways. Still other parents have children who both copy them in using power destructively and also take revenge against them (the parents) … both personally and individually and also communally. And yet other parents sit on their power, not using it actively, but letting it come out in passive ways. They teach their children to do the same by modeling, by messages … and it affects everyone’s lives destructively.

Think of how Hitler took revenge on his father by acting out the horrific torture of his childhood on innocent people … just like he once was. In other words, Hitler was once an innocent child. He had parents – a father who tortured him and a mother who didn’t protect him. And culturally, the society was one where what was called “child rearing” was really child abuse normalized. So the wounded children grew up to act out and re-enact their own childhoods … for example, frightened children joining with the abusive parent in attempts at self-defense. Or frightened, angry children growing up and joining with the abusive parent and torturing others to act out what was done to them and find a way to act out their rage at what they had experienced.

Who knows what child will grow up to be a leader? Who knows what parents will give birth to and parent a child who grows up to be a leader? Who knows what the childhood was like of each leader in our world today? Who knows how that parent-child relationship affects the lives of all of us here on earth today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that?

As Putin has been making his moves in and around the Ukraine and the world at large, how come we aren’t all wondering what his childhood was like? How come we didn’t think of that long, long ago? How come his countrymen and countrywomen didn’t think of that long, long ago? How come somebody didn’t wonder how the culture would create fertile ground both for him to take power as he has and also for the country people to support him?

We could and need to be looking at every leader and every society through this lens … the lens of the psyche developed in the children. It is deeper by far than any lens – social-political-economic-religious – people have looked through before.

*****

In honor of Alice Miller

This month will be the one-year anniversary of Alice Miller’s death. Of all the people I’ve ever studied, or even read … Of all the people I’ve ever known, personally or through their work … she, more than anyone else, understood what I am talking about here. She understood and wrote about the impact of parenting on an individual child’s future and on the cultural and global future, as well. At the same time, she understood about the parents’ resistance to doing their own work, finding their own childhood memories, feeling their own early pain. And about the crucial need for them to overcome, work through, heal their own resistance … for their own sakes, for the sake of their children, and for the sake of our world.

Alice Miller’s work was empowering for us all in ways that are vital for us to become aware of. I am so thankful she was present on this earth! I am so thankful for the support her knowing and teaching offers me as I follow my calling and my knowing … to help in the healing so deeply needed in our world.

© Judith Barr, 2014

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

There are so many healing avenues for us to explore this month … and all year long. This April, I’d like to focus on two opportunities to explore and heal.

This month … explore your feelings about “looking the fool.” Are there times in your life when you may have resisted an obvious calling, or resisted being your true Self, for fear of looking foolish? Or in your fear, have you resisted giving your full commitment to a calling? Be aware of the feelings you have when you are inspired by your calling … When have you felt these feelings before in your life? When in your childhood have you felt this same way? Commit today to truly heal those wounds from your childhood that are “holding you back” from fulfilling your true calling – from being who you really are.

As you do this exploration, become aware also of how your own wounds have impacted not only your life, but the lives of the children in your life. Can you trace back – to the root – the feelings you have during your interactions with children – whether they be your own children, the children in your family, friends’ children? Do you know the roots in your own childhood of the feelings you have about children? Commit as well to explore and heal the wounds inside you that affect your children and the children around you.

And … to help bring the much-needed healing out further into our world … if you have an inspiration about how you can help bring my parenting workshop to a venue that would welcome it, please contact me so we can explore the possibilities. Together, we can help heal our world, from the inside out.

Spring . . . Inside and Out

February 27, 2014

“Winter has been hard this year,” people say again and again.
I understand. I empathize.
Time after time I’ve responded,
“Spring will come. Spring will come.”

It has been comforting to people to be reminded.
In the midst of the snowy, icy, cold,
it has helped them calm a bit to be reassured…
about Winter in the outer world.
and Spring in the outer world.

But while I was saying, “Spring will come,”
I was not referring solely to the outer world.
I was also, just as much or perhaps even more,
speaking about the inner world.

The Winter in our outer world this year
is a profound mirror for us of Winters in our inner worlds.
The seasons when we are pulled inside
By the pain within…
the pain in the darkness,
the pain of the wounds we have hidden
beneath the frozen mountainous defenses we have built
to guard against feeling…
and thus against healing.

The seasons when we are pulled within
To face a Winter all our own…
During which we have many of the same fears
we have during Winter in the outer world.
Will I be buried by the snow?
Will I get stuck in the ice, spinning my wheels?
Will I go careening off a bridge into deep waters –
the waters of my own feelings?
Will I be there all alone?
Will anyone help me?
Or will I freeze to death?
Will I freeze to death rather than heal?

If we’re conscious of it,
we ask ourselves questions like these in the midst
of our Winters within.

The inner Winters that are all our own.
And the inner Winters that are part of the collective unconscious
we all share…
like the inner Winter we are all going through now globally.

And the biggest question of all –
Will Spring ever come?

My response, born of helping people through their inner winters
over and over again . . .
“Yes, Spring will come in its own right timing,
in your right rhythm and pace.
But that timing has so much to do with the help you give it . . .
The help of doing your deep inner healing work.
The help of doing the work to melt your frozen defenses –
the frozen walls you built around your mind, cells, heart, and soul
to keep you from feeling all that you most need to feel.
To keep you from feeling all that you most need to feel
in order to transform your inner world from Winter into Spring.”

© Judith Barr, 2014

The Wounding Is Evident – But So Is the Possibility for Healing

February 18, 2014

Since the beginning of 2014 the signs of wounding in our world – even just here in the USA – are obvious, blatant, and easily visible in the light of day.  Why don’t we see them as the signs of wounding that they are?

By January 24, there were already news reports commenting on the increased frequency of school shootings in this year …7 in the first 14 school days of 2014, in comparison to 28 in all of 2013.

Why don’t people see what drives these tragedies as wounding? The wounding of the shooters? The wounding in their families? The wounding in our society? Instead of seeing the wounding and healing it, they try to control the guns. And at the same time, they want to teach children how to use guns?

The blindness is heart stopping! The denial is breath-taking. The opportunities are completely ignored. The consequences so destructive!

A retired police captain, Curtis Reeves, shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theater because Chad was texting his babysitter. A former cop! Someone we’re “supposed” to trust to keep us safe.  The wounding explodes out into the world in the form of misuse and abuse of power. Do we see the wounding in this and other members of our “protective services”?  Or is our own sight wounded by our early experiences with authorities and “supposed protectors” in our childhood?

A Congressman, Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY,) spoke to a reporter in an appalling way – appalling for any person to speak to another, even for a politician in today’s world. But he’s not just a politician; he’s a government official.  He insulted the reporter, Michael Scotto. He cursed at the reporter. And worst of all, he threatened the reporter, “I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony.” And he threatened again, “I’ll break you in half, like a boy.” Unfortunately, this kind of behavior and talk in our world’s political arena – in our world period – has become too commonplace. And, unfortunately, we too often only see it as the sign of a particular individual’s “bad behavior.”  Why don’t we see the sign it is of that individual’s wounding? And why don’t we see the sign it is of cultural wounding … that this is so commonplace?

As if that weren’t sign enough of wounding, Representative Grimm first defended and justified his behavior, and then he showed even further signs of wounding – both personal and cultural. He offered something he called an “apology,” but it wasn’t really an apology. It was a justification for his threats and bullying: he said he was “passionate”; he was “in a hurry”; he was “annoyed”; he “verbally took the reporter to task and told him off.” A blatant sign of lack of personal responsibility…his own and a reflection of that in our world.  And a flagrant sign of the dearth of ability to make real repair … for him and in our world. Signs of profound, deep, and also expansive wounding.

Now we come to Chris Christie … previously a potential candidate for president in 2016. Caught in apparent lies, bullying, and revenge. From soaring to a favored governor to plummeting into distrust and disfavor. People are saying all sorts of things about him. The personal wounding is obvious. But does anyone look at that? Does anyone talk about that?

And Justin Bieber, 19 year old singer … speeding, dui, drugs, who knows what else. People see him as all sorts of things, including “spoiled kid celebrity.” But are we blind to his wounding … whatever wounding he experienced in his family and, in addition, the wounding in the celebrity and entertainment world?

The same and similar questions can be asked in relation to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman – apparently overdosed on heroin. What painful wounding did he live with that he never healed … even with his celebrity, even with his money, even with his opportunities for healing? Can’t we see how true this is of both the people with celebrity and money and also those without? The wounding in our world is widespread . . . and oh, so very visible!

If we were to be honest about it, we have all been wounded in some way. No one has escaped. “How do we respond to our wounding?” is the real question. Do we try to keep it buried? Do we pretend it never happened? Do we normalize it as just part of life? Do we attempt to manage it?

Do we do everything we can to control it and the consequences of that wounding? Do we act it out with others and justify that?  Do we try to “rise above” the wounding and pretend that can help us escape its effects?  Do we try to “transcend” the wounding with prayer and meditation and focusing on the light, pretending there is nothing hidden in the dark of our own unconscious selves? Do we somehow or other leave it unhealed . . . and wonder why our lives aren’t what they could be? And wonder why our world is the way it is?

When we are children experiencing pain, wounding, trauma … we reflexively protect ourselves from what feels unbearable to a child. We bury it, repress it, split ourselves off from the experience. We numb ourselves and deaden ourselves. Originally these are a means of protection. As time goes on and they continue, they start to harden into defenses. Even then, they are a child’s way of trying to stay sane and trying to stay alive.

And if we keep those defenses until we safely get ourselves to someone who can help us heal – truly heal to the root – then those defenses may have served us well. But we may have found someone who, instead of helping us heal to the root, helps us instead to strengthen our defenses – with or without even realizing it – or to create new defenses along with our original ones. And all the while, our defenses may have also caused us and others we touch unanticipated pain. Pushing people away to keep from feeling what happened long ago is an example. Lashing out at people who care about you to avoid having a childhood experience triggered is another example.

For while our defenses may keep us intact till we reach someone who can help us heal … those same defenses usually also create the very things they were originally devised to defend us against.  Let’s say we refuse to give all we’ve got to an endeavor at work … out of fear of being punished (the way mom or dad punished us as children). But our boss gets angry at us for falling short. The defense has created the very anger and punishment it was meant to prevent. Or let’s say we’re scared to be all we can be in a business we’re called to create, for fear dad will tell us “we’re too big for our britches.” So we start the business without telling our father and proceed along, keeping our success a secret, till one day the secret comes out and dad’s response is predictably … “What’re you too big for your britches that you didn’t need my help at all?” Once again, our defense has created the very thing it was intended to avoid.

So we have this ancient wounding that is so prevalent in our world. The wounding that comes along with us as we age, alive though perhaps unconscious within us. Do we keep it buried? Do we build a wall within and without to keep from touching it again? To keep from ever feeling it again? Do we deny we were ever wounded, even to ourselves? Do we use a million and one defenses – even new age defenses, twenty-first century defenses – to keep from meeting our wounding again as adults, even if that meeting could make possible the healing? Even if meeting that wounding again is absolutely necessary, in truth, to making possible the healing?

And as a result, do we fail to see the wounding in those around us – up close and far away – individually, culturally, and globally? And if we are unable to see the wounding outside ourselves because we are unable to see the wounding within . . . how will we ever, ever, ever be able to help resolve the problems that exist as a result of wounding? The problems in ourselves. The problems in our families. The problems in our schools. The problems in our religious and spiritual organizations. The problems in our corporations. The problems in our places of employment. The problems in our governments …

We need to take off our blinders and see the signs of wounding – in ourselves and in our world. We need to see and recognize what’s going awry in our lives and in our world as signs of wounding – signs of wounding showing us there are wounds to be healed. We need to know we can heal this wounding … if we commit to being courageous explorers, detectives, and healers in our own unconscious selves.

© Judith Barr, 2014

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT

We are all wounded. We all need to become more aware of our own wounding, and commit to do the work needed to explore and heal our wounding.

As you go about your day, try to become aware of situations where your own wounding is evident…and how you react to your own wounds. Ask yourself the same questions I ask in the article above:

Do you try to keep your wounds buried?
Do you pretend the traumas that gave birth to your wounds never happened?
Do you normalize your wounding as just part of life?
Do you attempt to manage or control your wounding and the consequences of that wounding? Do you act it out with others and justify that?
Do you try to “rise above” the wounding and pretend that can help you escape its effects?
Do you try to “transcend” the wounding with prayer and meditation and focusing on the light, pretending there is nothing hidden in the dark of your own unconscious self?
Do you somehow or other leave it unhealed…and wonder why your life and our world aren’t what they could be?

Becoming more aware of how you react to your own wounding can be a starting step in the journey towards healing…taking us further from just trying to control the effects of our own wounding in the outer world and closer toward healing those wounds to the root. And … in doing so, we move closer toward real, sustainable change not only in our lives but in our world.


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