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1 April 2011 6 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 10: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 3

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 10: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 3

If you have to stretch to relate to this post or have trouble staying present in your body while you read it, be sure to stick through the series. Hidden issues can make this topic tough. Although my words are spare and direct, I wrote this post with the utmost love, thinking of some brilliant, warm, profound people who have needed support to deal with Inner Wounds. The insights in these posts have made a difference in many lives:

The urge to defend is generally driven by internal self-criticism. Like conscience, forgP1040451iveness entails sensing inwardly. Tracing sensitive feelings is incompatible with defensive behaviors. Defense shuts down feeling. Unwinding these patterns requires vulnerability.

Defense divides us into the parts that are sensitive and the parts that are aggressive, blocking effective introspection. For this reason criticizing ourselves makes it almost impossible to change our behaviors.

These formulations of feeling arose for a client who has the guts to clearly observe how her inner patterns are structured (shared with permission): “When bad things happen I’m not good enough,” and “When bad things happen I deserve it.” A child next door was making a lot of noise, for example. She took this to mean, “I deserve to suffer.” Self-berating followed almost every discomfort. She was “supposed to be good enough” that nothing painful occurred. Of course she was raised by parents who hurt her if she expressed pain.

This woman is a competent professional. It took real Inner Work to learn to observe and give voice to these patterns instead of living on the surface, and going through life asleep to yet acting out their unconscious messages.

Self-blame originates as a defense. It can be an attempt to be flawless to avoid abuse, win approval, earn love, and so forth. Love is to be given freely, not earned with perfect behavior. When we are very young and have inconsistent or violent parents, how simple it is to believe we are flawed and worthy of blame. Feeling responsible is a way to have at least the illusion of some control, or a feeling that the crazy world has some rhyme or reason.

I have seen quite a few people call themselves stupid for not knowing something that they could not possibly have known in advance. This is an internal verbal attack, so it increases defensiveness, blocks creativity, and retards healing.

Calling one’s self “stupid” for not knowing something before having the EXPERIENCE by which we LEARN it mimics the experience of an abused child. We are not “supposed” to be omniscient. Life is to learn. We are not “supposed” to be perfect, all on our own and in our egos. Imagining that we can is actually an arrogant fantasy, if you think about it. It’s way too much work and feels cramped. Kindness is infinitely more spacious.

Accepting wounds gives us humility.

Olive Branch

Olive Branch

We are not stupid, wrong, bad, or flawed, for having wounds. Wounds are doorways into our own humanity. They are vehicles through which we learn. Wounds enable us to see the humanity of others, as we embrace our own. Wounds are also a medium by which many develop intuitive skills and learn to read energy. They spur us on spiritually—if we are willing to dignify our pain by accepting it as a part of life. Accepting does not mean you invite more. It means being present to what is real instead of living in pretense.

Create something beautiful with what you have already, starting where you are NOW.

Remember, our wounds originate with separation. We must separate ourselves from others to abuse them. When we are One, hurting others hurts. Of course, we always ARE One, we just forget.

Pain embraced develops compassion. Pain rejected creates masks.

What do YOU notice about your own patterns of defensiveness?
Are you able to trace back into the more-vulnerable emotions underneath?
What happens when you do?

25 March 2011 2 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 9: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 2

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 9: Self-Forgiveness & Inner Wounds, Part 2

Why learn about inner wounds? Simply being able to see and talk freely about the things that hurt frees and relieves us. Understanding wounds in a container of forgiveness is a big step toward wholeness, authenticity, and relaxed Presence.

We need to be able to go into the wounds in loving contexts so that when we end up in them by accident we can get back out. Those who feel intact certainly have loved onesP1040471 who can use their understanding. So let’s explore the wounded state as it relates to self-forgiveness.

Here is how we start blaming ourselves:

As children we think there must be something wrong with us when others are unloving toward us. We blame ourselves, often to protect ourselves against being blamed by our parents—which is more frightening. Parents, partners, or even strangers don’t withhold love from you because of YOU, they withhold love because of THEM. Their own self-blame–and denial of it—closes their hearts.

These are the sort of things we need to forgive ourselves for:

  • turning away from the love we need
  • withholding love from ourselves or from others
  • making choices that do not nourish our wellbeing

In addition to acts that have caused pain, our lapses in self care, sabotage of intimacy, over-giving, selfishness, blame for things we cannot control, and attempts to control things better left to grace express and aggravate the wounds we long to leave behind.

Here are some examples of traits that result:
Perfectionism, brittleness, inflexibility, projecting denied traits onto others, coldness, saccharine “niceness,” a holier-than-thou stance, resisting rather than accepting the shadow side of life, and so forth. These are ego defenses. They “protect” our sense of identity from material we are not yet able to deal with. These behaviors keep us simultaneously avoiding and replaying the wounds hidden beneath. We’ve all got some. Different personalities demonstrate such traits according to our natures and the way we react to painful circumstances.

Wounds–and their pet issues—take on expression through our actions and interactions. The way these wounds and issues impact our emotions and behavior separates us from feeling deeply connected—with ourselves and with other people. Separating ourselves emotionally from other people is as simple as rejecting a compliment or feeling uncomfortable receiving love. We shut it out—and at some level blame ourselves for it because we know we are doing it.

Going deeply into the wound without resisting it allows you to eventually gain full confidence that you can manage it. Skirting around it, intellectual analysis, giving it power by fearing it, and otherwise denying or avoiding keeps us stuck. Successfully climbing out of the wound-pit a number of times, with full awareness, can make it possible to clamber right back out any time we find ourselves in that pit again.

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Olive Branches at Retreat

The pattern that makes it hardest to forgive ourselves is being hard on ourselves for being hard on ourselves. The illusion that we can and should control our feelings is persistent—and toxic. We do have social needs to manage BEHAVIOR. We feel what we feel inside, and address it with compassion when we can. Judging ourselves for feeling things we don’t like to feel, like self-sabotage, creates a vicious circle between self-blame and non-ideal behaviors. The patterns operate similarly whether they involve self-abuse or just wishing we were different than we actually are. It’s just more subtle.

Perfectionism is a common defense against an active Inner Critic. It doesn’t work. Holding a positive ideal is only as positive as we are compassionate to ourselves. If we are self-critical even the most positive ideal can become a measuring stick or a lash.

In psychology of abused children, the passive parent who did not step in to stop the abuse is usually harder to forgive than the abuser. For the same reasons we find it hard to accept that our own self—who should absolutely be the one to care for us and keep us safe—creates, accepts, allows, endures or condones the things in our lives that cause us pain. Like the passive parent, we do our best given our own fear, dissociation, social conditioning, and survival skills. We, like others, close down and get defensive when we treat ourselves to harshness.

Part 3 of Inner Wounds explores the habitual self-criticism and self-blame that can make us defensive. If we can unmask and accept these patterns, healthy self-love and true forgiveness become accessible.

Are YOUR positive ideals rooted in your real values, or in self-criticism?
What motivates you to contribute to others?

4 March 2011 4 Comments

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 6: Direct Experience

Full-Spectrum Forgiveness, Part 6: Direct Experience

Direct experience is a powerful teacher. Powerful teachers promote direct experience. This post describes an intense, direct experience of forgiveness, under the guidance of two powerful teachers.

As the ten-day retreat (see previous posts) began I was closed down after months of difficult experience without the cleansing release of tears. At that point God, love, and all such superlative positives felt abstract. A pragmatist, I enter states during which I am not inclined to “believe” anything based on rearranging the ideas in my head rather than direct experience. I talked to one of the senior retreat guides. He asked simply, “What DO you believe in?”

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This is my Shadow, on mist!

I said, “I have experienced before that by doing various practices with sound, intention and energy we can resonate with energies that evoke specific experiences that move us and open our hearts. I believe in that.”

“That works,” he acknowledged. And it does.

Let me share an exercise he led as a further example:

After several days doing spiritual practices that sensitize the heart I was certainly not the only person keenly feeling his or her sandpapery ego. Fortunately the retreat guides were intentionally tracking the emotional states that began to emerge in retreat participants. Their book titlePhysicians of the Heartspeaks aptly to applying the right practice at the right moment to open and heal the heart. We had been using sounds that resonate in the heart center to evoke specific qualities of love or compassion. Now the retreat focus became forgiveness.

During another Dance of Universal Peace, the group circled up into two concentric circles. With eye contact and music, masterfully improvised, we were to focus on and transmit four stages of forgiveness, then advance to the next partner. The capacity of the leader to fully feel and transmit the sensations, energies and emotions of the four states supercharged the exercise. Here are the
four stages of forgiveness we worked with—as closely as I can recall:

1. Running our hands along their energy fields we visualized massaging the balm of forgiveness into the wounds of each dance partner, speaking a name of God that carries the resonance of this quality of forgiveness. We were to “Take forgiveness in to the deepest unforgivable place,” including the mistakes we repeat over and over again.
2. We placed our own fingertips together, then lovingly directed them toward the heart center of the other person, intending to enter the deepest wounds to the heart. We used another Name to “Allow this quality of forgiveness to penetrate all the way to the origin of those wounds.”
3. With one hand on our hearts, we opened our other hands out toward the world, as if erasing the footprints of the event from desert sands, inviting the ability to turn away from the wound without denying it.
4. We blew into our dance partner’s heart center, gently and with great respect, as if blowing away the last fleck of dust, “As if the wound or event had never existed, even in memory.”

This may sound a bit silly all on its own. Given the correct timing and the powerful, focused energies during the retreat process, it was incredibly intense. Most of the eighty or so participants were streaming tears. Each brought utmost sincerity and their most capable compassion to the party. Some were powerful healers.

P1040586I noticed how much easier it was for me to stand in and give out that compassion to others than to allow myself to totally receive it for myself. Fortunately I ended up paired not only with several effective and energy-alive partners, but with the current group leader. My moments paired with him during this practice were actually some of the most moving in my life. I was absolutely raw, absolutely vulnerable, and totally focused on allowing him to impact me permanently. While being as uncomfortable as a finger resting on an eyeball, this experience was profound and amazing. I have never felt such a profound emanation of compassion so directly—and as a healer with decades of different types of spiritual exposure, I’ve felt a lot of it!

What is the most powerful experience of forgiveness YOU have had?
How did it change your life?

21 January 2011 5 Comments

Coming to Trust, Part 4: Practicing Trust

Coming to Trust, Part 4: Practicing Trust

Unexpressed feelings need to be defined and shared to establish durable and productive structures in relationships. ~Jeff Jawer

Practicing Trust is the third post of a series that supports understanding what it takes and howDSC05342to develop trust in relationships. This post suggests behaviors that build trust, and lists key characteristics of trustworthy people.

Behaviors that build the ability to trust:

Learn to trust what is actual, not what you hope may be there. What we need to trust is OUR RESPONSE TO life, not that life will be a certain way.

Become reliable in caring for yourself. This greatly aids forming solid relationships. We trust ourselves when we are not willing to sell out our values or perception to try and get love or care from people we cannot trust.

Limit the WAYS you involve yourself with people to the extent that you trust them–or to your ability to manage your risks. If you can afford to be hurt or are not easily hurt you have more room to extend trust.
Stay alert to signals and sensations that tell you whether or not to trust. Keep your intuition at peace by listening to it and responding.

Sustain good communication. Clear up misunderstandings. Avoiding discomfort causes “emotional drift.” Emotional distance opens the door to situations that can compromise trust. Defining and sharing feelings builds intimacy and trust.

Maintain realistic expectations based on mutual agreements.

Practice discussing difficult topics “in a container of love.”

Make trust a priority–not as a demand but as something lovely and valuable that you craft over time.
Allow trust to grow naturally, without forcing it. Once you have it, take great care to repair damaged trust through communication.

Clearly define for yourself the particulars of your basic need for trust. This will be differentFrisbee Dog depending on the type of relationship. For me basic trust in intimacy requires that the person is committed to truthfulness, does not cause pain intentionally, communicates their needs constructively, and can return to a caring frame of mind fairly quickly after an upset. Knowing what you are looking for makes it easier to trust yourself in relationships because you have a basis for evaluation.

Release relationships in which basic trust is not possible.

Remember that trust is a learned skill. Be compassionate with yourself in the process.

Enjoy trusting. Savor and accumulate this form of wealth.

Key Characteristics of Trustworthy People:

  • Authentic
  • Actions and words match
  • Able to say “no” respectfully and “yes” dependably
  • Keep agreements or renegotiate if necessary
  • Able to admit it when they do not know something
  • Able to be both flexible and reliable
  • Show genuine feeling for you if they need to let you down
  • Willing to make compromises but never compromise core principles or personal integrity
  • Consistent ethics, positive values, or principles inform their behavior
  • Willing and able to tell you things you do not like to hear–kindly
  • Able to disagree without needing to argue, or to have friendly arguments that lead to increased understanding
  • Let you know how they feel, where they stand, and how you stand with them
  • Able to recognize, accept, and enjoy the differences between you

After considering others, be sure to turn the same list around on yourself.

Can you be up-front about what you do and do not trust in yourself and your friends? How and when do you intentionally build trust through communication?

14 January 2011 7 Comments

Coming to Trust, Part 3: Developing Trust

Coming to Trust, Part 3: Developing Trust

“Trust one man with your money and another man with your wife.”
(Old Persian saying)

When you think about whether or not to trust, ask yourself, “Trust TO WHAT?” To return aP1010029borrowed book? To keep a confidence? These things are hard for some people and easy for others. To never hurt you, read your mind, and put your needs and interests ahead of their own? This is unrealistic.

Example: I have a friend who is unreliable about time. I trust her to keep me waiting and to inconvenience me. For this reason I do not set myself up by making time-dependent plans with her. We may take separate cars or meet at her place instead of mine. I make back-up plans. She is exceptional, creative and funny. I trust her sense of humor, her heart, and her loyalty.

An important distinction about trust is supported by this Far Side cartoon: Mr. Chicken is on the couch reading the newspaper. His wife has just rushed up to the door, breathless. She has a leash in her hand. The front door has just been slammed behind a large, panting dog. Mrs. Chicken says, “You raise a dog from a pup and what do you get!? A chicken killer!”

This cartoon is practically a parable. Healthy, adult trust takes into account the nature of the other. In wisdom we trust someone to act according to his or her character, history, and context.

Wanting to be liked can set you up for misplaced trust, especially if you have a friendly but vulnerable nature like Mrs. Chicken. Those who abuse trust are keenly attracted to a trusting heart. It’s their food.

If you want someone to hunger for you, go ahead and lay out absolute trust like bait. Don’t be surprised if the person you attract goes all werewolf on you down the line! Here is the antidote to holding out food that attracts people who will hurt you: Get clear about the difference between needy, compulsive hunger and genuine love. This will greatly increase your ability to trust yourself.

Trust takes time and experience. It is rarely possible to develop trust when someone is onElephant“honeymoon behavior” to win your approval or get you to be with them. A big gap between on-display and everyday behaviors is a red flag. Real tasks that require complex decisions and have actual outcomes are essential for establishing trust. We do not get to know one another deeply by enjoying entertainment together.

Enjoy a gradual and extended courtship while you discover the deeper nature of friends and loved ones. Take notice of potential issues, but focus on what you CAN trust.

My life is graced with several rare gems who I can trust wholeheartedly. These wonderful people make good mirrors. They provide honest and loving feedback and help me to stay true to myself.

In Part 4 we explore HOW to develop trust in relationships and key characteristics of trustworthy people.

Who do YOU trust? How did you develop this trust?

7 January 2011 4 Comments

Coming to Trust, Part 2: Healthy and Unhealthy Trust

Coming to Trust, Part 2: Healthy and Unhealthy Trust

A trusting nature is considered fetching; attractive. What makes trust so appealing? How do we increase trust without becoming too vulnerable?

DSC_2102Trust has several different faces. Healthy Trust: When we trust ourselves to effectively evaluate and respond to other people, being trusting reflects emotional health. We are able to allow others to take actions that displease or frustrate us without taking this personally. Genuine trust is attractive to people who are ready for healthy relationships. We telegraph confidence because we trust ourselves to resolve issues.

Unhealthy Trust: The face of wound-based trust is different. If we cannot trust ourselves to represent our needs and keep ourselves safe we tend to go into the either/or experience (see Part 1). We may seek to achieve or maintain relationship by extending blanket “trust.” When the alternative is distrust we may want to hold onto the “trust” and overlook indications that trust is warranted. Along with the need to be liked, approved of, wanted, or kept safe by another person, we might give away “trust” to try and make someone feel a particular way about us, or about his or her self.

Such efforts almost always backfire by causing us to distrust ourselves. Unhealthy trust is attractive to people who are not emotionally healthy. Excessive vulnerability advertises that it is safe to take advantage, care-take, or do both, according to the person’s nature.

This post series began with a comment by a friend about “placing love and trust in persons who have not earned it.” Her thinking is a good starting place. She is taking responsibility for learning, and recognizes that a process needs to occur for trust to develop. She has noticed that we need to carefully observe the way others treat us. Let’s take some involved concepts a step farther:

Words can be powerful. The word “earning” can introduce complications. Expecting someone to earn trust smacks of making them work for it while you hold trust ransom, like a prize for performance. Trustworthy sorts shouldn’t have to work hard to prove themselves to us. They can simply be themselves and allow us to observe who they are and what they do. We see them demonstrate behaviors that build trust. That is less about earning than about living through a variety of situations and seeing whether they respond with natural and consistent integrity.

My friend may not have fallen into this word trap, but I hear a lot of emotional-wound-talk to the effect that so-and-so had to EARN IT! This was past the point of no return for the relationships concerned.

DSC_2488Almost everyone wants to be trusted. Immediate, unqualified trust is tempting. We want to give it freely like love. We want to give it over completely and get the establishing-it-part beyond us so we can enjoy absolute trust and feel safe and all that good stuff. But life and people change from circumstance to circumstance. Even for highly intuitive people, real trust is built brick by brick.

Unconsidered trust is like living on credit–inflated. We can extend trust like a line of credit, and increase it as trust develops. If we extend trust way out ahead of actual, direct experience we make ourselves vulnerable. Yes, vulnerability IS essential to intimacy. Healthy vulnerability; openness. There is a difference between healthy vulnerability and leaving ourselves open to being used by ignoring signs and signals, substituting wishful thinking for clear observation. Hurt and disillusionment that follow inflated hopes are like penalties and fines for missing payments. What we need to pay is: Attention.

Sustainable, flexible, trust is full of possibility. It is a learned skill.

In Part 3 we’ll begin to look into specifics about Developing Trust.

What do YOU trust in yourself?
Can you trust yourself to negotiate honestly for your needs in your relationships?

31 December 2010 0 Comments

Coming to Trust, Part 1: Introduction and Basics

Coming to Trust, Part 1: Introduction and Basics

DSC_2083Trust carries a positive energy that allows relationships to thrive and promotes growth in special ways that cannot occur without it. In this post series we will explore trust. Learning to discern the genuine energy and experience of trust from fear-based hopefulness makes a great foundation.

As ever, grafting a positive image or energy on top of a root twisted with issues is fast and easy. Real and lasting mastery come from learning to establish the genuine thing—in this case trust–starting at the root. Let’s take a look at real trust and the dynamics that compromise it.

This post series builds on the previous “Inner Work” and “Betrayal” series. If you have trust issues or are serious about working on yourself, find these series by scrolling to bottom of the Home page and clicking on “3” and “2.”

Trust is a reliable, solid, clear feeling, not flighty, flimsy, or ungrounded. When we trust we feel supported. We experience trusted relationships as adequately defined. We know where we stand. When we trust we may also feel respectable or respected.

Distrust may be simply factual—an observation without emotional weight. You know you do not trust the person, accept the situation, and base your actions on the way things are without distress.

Let’s begin with basics for understanding issues with trust:

DSC_2073Distrust complicated by emotional issues and frustrated desires is a different beast. Factual distrust now carries the freight of negative emotion. Unresolved distrust can linger around as suspicion, or escalate to paranoia. It can feel slithery, dirty, painful, unfair, vulnerable, and so forth. Emotional distrust usually involves wanting someone to be different than they actually are. Events from your past add intensity.

HOW we think enters in. Thinking of trust in all-or-nothing terms probably implies influence from inner wounds. Young children think in either/or. Either/or thinking is therefore a really good clue that an issue has been triggered. (See Inner Work series for details.)

Blanket (total or absolute) distrust offers an escape from the endless and exhausting mental and emotional processing characteristic of suspicion. If blanket trust is the only alternative, distrust appears to be the only safe stance. Thinking in opposites can also give trust the allure of a peaceful island in a sea of seething distrust and uncertainty. The more uncomfortable your distrust the more inviting it seems to push it all away and just trust.

In either/or thinking we may unconsciously prefer total distrust to uncertainty. Uncertainty is scarier than slamming the door to possibility by being sure something or someone is no good. Either/or thinking is a hedge against uncertainty and insecurity. It occludes options that bring up potential uncertainty. The false certainty of black and white substitutes for the clarity developed by learning to recognize subtlety and to manage uncertainty.

In Part 2 we delve into Healthy and Unhealthy Trust and we start to explore avenues to healthy trust.

Where do YOU go inside when you wonder whether someone can be trusted? How do you manage your uncertainty?

17 December 2010 4 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 5: Internal Conflict

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 5: Internal Conflict

Inner strength, peace and clarity of mind result from knowing and accepting who we are. Self knowledge gives us the ability to chose actions with which we are wholeheartedly aligned. Moving beyond betrayal depends on knowing what drives us. Whether or not we have inner conflict, we can make loving choices when we are in touch with ourselves.

P1020908Even principled, powerful men or women with upper-level business and social skills sometimes experience themselves as being unable to say “no” in more personal relationships. Intimacy can set off submerged issues. Those who fear intimacy feel conflicted about it. Part of them longs to be close while another powerful part works to undermine that intimacy, to reject the vulnerability. Control issues can make the fearful part of them resent or even hate those who love them or come too close for “making” them feel vulnerable.

A person of fairly good character, in conflict about vulnerability, may resist expressing uncomfortable feelings until fantasies of acting out blossom into actions that betray others. Efforts to act honorable can contribute to denying negative feelings and they override candid expression until their discomfort busts their seams. Then the built-up energy is expressed in inappropriate behavior.

People do not betray because we are doing something wrong. They are just as likely to betray if we do something right! And if they do, you can bet they are in conflict. Here are two examples:

  • When we are able to be more vulnerable and open than another person, they may feel threatened if we get close.
  • If you are virtuous it can bring up conflict in others. Those who want the feeling of virtue may judge themselves because they cannot live up to what they see in you, like alcoholics who caustically criticize people who do not drink.

To understand betrayal, accept and pay special attention to your own tendency to betray. If you are honest with yourself–and even if you never actually act it out because you recognize the consequences–you may be able to find a whiff of temptation to betray. Sniff out your conflicts and you can act intentionally instead of acting out.

  • What forces, fears, feelings, drives, and conflicts operate within you when betrayal crosses your mind?
  • What part of you feels weak?
  • What do you actually need in those moments?
  • What would you have had to admit, to yourself or to another person, to be open about your needs?
  • Do you need the other person’s approval?
  • What, exactly, are you afraid of?
  • What did you tell yourself that blocked up your compassion?
  • What is the most loving way you can meet your needs?
  • Are you willing to feel compassion for your weaknesses?
  • How can you use the challenge of sorting out betrayal as an exercise to develop your personal values and clarity?

Which of the above questions do YOU find most useful? Why?

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10 December 2010 4 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 4: Betrayal and Inner Work

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 4: Betrayal and Inner Work

P1010527While one of my brightest and most loyal-hearted clients wrestled with an inner conflict about his marriage, I had an interesting window into our humanness. As we explored feelings, actions, and possibilities it stuck me that we were skimming the water line between the airy realm of the mind and the deeper waters of the heart.

I noticed in a new and immediate way that these two realms have quite different physics, laws, subtle structures, and sensations. I sensed almost physically the way these different “realities” touch–like the great expanse of sky kissing the sea, stirring together surface-to-surface during storms but never merging or become like one another.

I was tracking my client’s buffers—the residues of trauma; invisible walls that keep threatening feelings and memories apart from awareness like a sheet of one-way glass in a fish tank. His buffers were thin. Like pointing from a boat into the depth; at certain angles of light we could see in. From the realm of mind we watched the movement of emotion like fish beneath the surface. He had enough awareness to stay with his feelings while using his skills to go up to bat for his needs. He remained loyal.

On the heels of these observations I saw the way unprocessed trauma–with thicker and more numerous buffers—can make balancing thought and feeling nearly impossible. Buffers cause thought and feeling to alternate without awareness, so they cannot modify one another--different realms a mirror surface away. Our motivations can be invisible to us even while they take shape in action.

Conflicts build up inner pressure when parts of us do not have a voice. The actions that spring from these hidden parts are not consistent with our stated values. Frightening feelings and unthinkable motivations activate the buffers that make us unaware, turning these hidden parts into exiles. So unresolved trauma can make us emotionally and spiritually deaf to the effects of our own actions. Survival mechanisms have no principles.

Reclaiming the brighter legacy of our humanity by becoming self-aware results from courageous Inner Work. As we explored in my post series on this important topic, we can develop an unshakable habit of deep yet detached self-observation.

Yet even Inner Work does not guarantee that we integrate buffered material. I am thinking of someone who excels in self-observation yet fails to apply it when triggered. He has an allergy to psychology, denouncing it frequently in favor of spirituality as a superior practice.

The role of psychology is to assist us to approach and manage the trauma hidden beneath our buffers. Once we are able to feel, identify, and interact with the issues that trigger us, drive us to dissociate, or make us act against our values, Inner Work on its own may be enough. If we cannot approach buffered issues we need frank, experienced assistance to reflect us to ourselves and free our inner exiles.

P1000907We all know people who do what they think or fear is expected of them to hold on to relationships. They resent their weakness while blaming the other person and feeling controlled. When we lack the inner strength to remain loyal to our own needs, feelings, ethics, boundaries or beliefs, attempting to be loyal to others brings up traumatic inner conflicts. These conflicts usually originate in childhood and reside behind buffers.

We may experience the other person as interfering with our ability to take care of ourselves or get our needs met. What is usually going on here is a lack of self-honesty and awareness about real needs, and about who is responsible for our care. We can ask others to participate in meeting our needs, but not to read our minds or to step in without a direct request.

Even in actual situations that force us to choose between our own needs and those of another, we can be forthright, sincere, and loving.

What do YOU do when you feel like someone is stopping you from doing what you want to do? Can you take responsibility for your feelings and remain loving even as you free yourself?

3 December 2010 7 Comments

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 3: Why Betray?

Betrayal as a Journey of Transformation, Part 3: Why Betray?

When we are loyal to ourselves, we are able to be loyal to others. At a very basic level, betraying others occurs after first betraying one’s self. When we are out of touch with our real needs–especially if we sell ourselves out and do what we think others want us to do–we are much more likely to betray. Betrayal can be a skewed attempt at self-care, with a hostile twist.

P1000414Betrayal can be blatant, or diabolically subtle. Cheap and obvious betrayal like cheating on one’s spouse or misrepresentation in business may reflect low standards and values. More shocking are betrayals from those who believe themselves to be upholding positive values. Some go to great lengths to convince themselves they are taking care of themselves or doing something emotionally healthy while creating real life dramas in which they betray.

I recently watched an intelligent professional, able to manage and guide businesses, who appeared powerful and spiritually motivated, betray a dear friend when an honest conversation would have achieved her aims without causing pain.

When betrayal seems out of character, what else is going on?

When someone betrays you it reflects on their ethics, maturity, level of spiritual development, and ability to sustain compassion. It is not a reflection on your worth, or even a matter of whether or not they love you. It is more a matter of whether they love themselves enough to face their own issues honestly.

There are psychological reasons why we betray. Issues mask feelings and motivations that the primary (conscious) personality feels a need to deny. “Triggers”—experiences that re-ignite these buried traumas—make us behave in irrational and unconscious ways. We are so much more complicated than our conscious experience.

Betrayal involves control. The betrayer keeps the betrayed person in the dark while s/he devises and starts to execute a plan, letting consequences shock or shatter as these acts set up a drama on the stage of life. This ploy is sought to ensure that the betrayed has no power. At some level of experience the person who betrays feels powerless, and may imagine that betrayal is a powerful act.

The false power of betrayal emotionally bankrupts those who rely on it. An emotionally healthy person with inner strength can and will discuss with close associates any decisions that could hurt or shock them, in advance of acting on these decisions. Out of respect they give the other person time and information, allowing them to prepare for changes.

P1000642Rational as I am, I ask myself why we do not import the skills polished in business into more intimate relations, to negotiate respectfully for what long to receive. Before risking damage to our connections with others and our self-respect, why do we not till the richest type of soil for what we’d love to grow, or woo those we love as we did initially to win intimacy? The careful, fruitful efforts we extended before we felt entitled to receive were so much more effective than acting out. But we may not be as intentional as that, or as aware of what drives us.

Betraying someone we love IS self-betrayal. We are connected. Hurting a loved one hurts our own heart.

Can you sense inside YOU the part of yourself that would betray under any possible set of circumstances? What does that part feel like in your body? How do you talk to yourself when that part rears its head?