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“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”–Anaïs Nin

124282d46c7c0997e8fd573cbd4020d2It is interesting what we bury in our unconscious, to what we give a pass based on our own limited perceptions and beliefs, and perhaps our own blind spots based on low self-esteem from shame and harsh judgments about ourselves. While I was listening to one of the dozens of accusers of Bill Cosby, a memory was jarred into awareness of a facet of unexamined self-hatred. The woman being interviewed was obviously complicit in the abuse, complicit by her own vulnerability and naïveté. Her complicity was what I first noticed, her clear victimization was a later insight.

In my book/blog I referred to this incident thirty years ago, but only today has my perception of this incident shifted. Thirty plus years ago I met a man while swimming with my daughter in Key Biscayne. Little did I know at the time, but this man was a professional baseball player, actually a pitcher who had won a Cy Young Award. I knew nothing about baseball and repeated that he had won the Henny Youngman award, or something like that. I quickly noticed that people’s reaction was a big deal.

At the time, I was a single mom trying to extricate myself from an abusive marriage while naïvely navigating the legal system. In retrospect, I see that it was a perfect curriculum in the area of worthiness that I seem to be undertaking. This story could have ended right here, but much more insight was accrued while watching the illuminating interview today.

This player asked for my contact information and pursued a long distance relationship with me. He was not interested in my journey as a single mother, he was not interested in my goals and daily pursuits. Had I been less vulnerable, this might’ve been a red flag, but due to my inadequacies and immaturity, I needed to play it out. Excuse all of the sports metaphors and puns.

And play it out I did. I agreed to visit him in Baltimore while visiting my family in Pennsylvania. Upon arriving at his condominium, I told him that I wanted the guest bedroom. That request was met with laughter and ridicule. Had I had more confidence, I would have reversed course. Unfortunately, his arrogance yielded the desired outcome. He whisked me off to a commercial where he was the star and on to an Orioles game, where he was the pitcher. This naïve young woman, barely understanding the vicissitudes of victimization had no chance. If I had existentially told the Universe I wanted to learn self-love, this was the PhD program and Steve was my professor.

Reflecting back, I feel huge empathy for this woman/child who lost a big chunk of her innocence that day. Thirty years later I still feel shame that has been trapped. It’s interesting how emotional healing happens; after healing much trauma, a “trigger” can illuminate what has not been transformed into love. Healing happens in layers. Feeling empathy for the interviewee, offered an entry point to my own unhealed shame. I feel humbled when I realized that the layers can only be available for healing in their own time. I had released a lot of suffering around this issue, even turning my beautiful cotton teddy into what I called my victim doll, which initially elicited much self-hatred as I identified with the aggressor. Over time, I began to forgive and love this doll.

Little did I realize at the time, that that was only half the story. Once again, I had given the predator a pass. Another pun, too bad, get over it, I’m pissed. I lived with one half of the story for thirty years, a story of victimization at the hands of arrogance and predatory behavior. Why had I missed that part? I missed the part about the man with fame and wealth taking advantage of a young woman. Was I a victim of his predatory behavior? Yes, at the time I was. However, if I had not experienced all of the feelings on both sides of the equation, I am still being victimized. Where did that rage go? Had the rage turned into shame that I learned to accommodate? I can see that it is a collective societal construct that the men get a pass and the women bear the shame. Who thinks that OJ did not kill Nicole? How could Dr. Huxtable possibly been a predator? There is a collective propensity to blame the victim. And that propensity has been living in me as well. All these years that occupant has been living rent free! What a revelation. Now I can retrieve that piece of me entirely and that is worthy of celebration.

Of course, the relationship was consensual. I was not a minor, at least not physically. Today they are educating men and boys that, “NO means NO.” I could have received this education as well. Abuse of power can be paradoxical in its subtlety, yet aggressive and devastating. Integrating the teachings can be a powerful tool for the elevation of consciousness, if one is so inclined.

As I have mentioned many times in my blog, I believe in a Just and Loving Universe that is created for our evolution toward Self-love. Learning to hold space for these feelings resulting from our own and others’ victim and predatory behaviors and allowing spaciousness around the pain, is the first step to healing these archaic behaviors. It is within the spaciousness that awareness and forgiveness can provide the alchemy for deep healing to occur.

In retrospect, I seem to have healed only half of the equation. Perhaps if I had created a predator doll as well, I could have healed the whole constellation. It is essential that the predator acknowledge his or her behavior and that acknowledgment needs to be on a visceral, emotional level or on the level of empathy. In my experience, the predator has also been a victim.

I just befell one of my number one pitfalls, healing the whole constellation before I am finished being angry at the predator. For now I will sign off and continue being pissed off. Feeling the depth of the despair and powerlessness is tantamount to true healing.

As I said before, it’s complicated.

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helpless--large-msg-114970372439-2“One who looks outside, dreams; one who looks inside, awakes.”–Carl Jung

Alone and helpless, that was my greatest fear…always; the paradox of having so much love around me, yet feeling none. Maybe that was my deepest Work for this lifetime; maybe power was a secondary teaching.

Right after I wrote the blog entry about pain as an ally, there was a loud pop in my back that rendered me immobile, more immobilized than I had been. I thought I was vulnerable before, but this is a whole new level of vulnerability. A very wise young woman, Elise, named the syndrome the “I’ve got this” syndrome. She is gracefully working with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Well, I thought I had this. That is, until I realized I didn’t. I am not an alarmist, but we called 911. It was not a little knuckle crack; it was a whole joint that dislocated and tore a ligament. I hope it went back into place.

Alone and helpless. That is the absolute opposite expression of my true reality. I have had at least fifteen visitors in the last two days, maybe more. And they are not just casual visitors, but lovers of Love. With all of the love around me, I felt unsupported. How could that possibly be?

I woke up with no internet, no communication. At least, the disconnection must have happened during the night because multiple e-mails were ready to be responded to. None of my e-mail would send; that’s how I realized I had no connection. This disruption has been happening more frequently lately. Sometimes, however, I can text through Skype when my Internet is down. I wrote to Kirsten. It was 6 AM and she responded immediately. We watched the sun come up over Mount Blanca together.

From there, I entered my sacred meditation cave, a metaphor for going inside. I felt all of the love around me and the blockage to letting it in, that could be named “unworthiness.” The sense of unworthiness seemed to be secondary to the fear generated by this injury. It doesn’t matter how much love is around me and love is in me, when that thin veneer of unworthiness is present, it is impenetrable. It is humbling to be this far on the path and to feel this familiar intransigence.

As I began to dismantle the blockage, I noticed my appetite beginning to be regained which is a good sign, so this is recovery in real time. With awareness brings consciousness; the veneer is breaking down, cracks allow the love in. The lower back, the place of not feeling supported [by the Universe], the illusion of unworthiness was clearly keeping the support from being realized.

I used to look outside of myself to be saved from this pattern, to feel Loved, to feel lovable. I now know that this place of feeling loved can only be accessed from the inside. What I am realizing now is that “I got this” is from the limited ego, the part of me that is alive and well. “WE got this,” is the elixir, the cure. I am a microparticle of a gazillion microparticles, and we are all LOVE.

I don’t know if I will be able to return to “my baseline” physically. With this curriculum, nothing is a given; nothing is known. All I know is that I now feel connected to my Self and something greater than myself. The rest is incidental, as my mother used to say.

The Journey continues…..

butterfly

Lynne Kaplan Artography

“Most of the pain we feel is nothing more than a story that needs telling.”
― Ashly Lorenzana

depression

One of the most feared effects of suffering is the experience of bodily pain. I’ve been fortunate to have relatively little neurogenic pain despite having a progressive, degenerative illness. Besides neurogenic pain, there are other forms of pain common in chronic illness caused by inflammation, such as joint pain, effects of disuse atrophy, and more. I specifically designed my diet to exclude foods that are inflammatory. I’ve gone to great lengths to do food sensitivity testing in addition to avoiding known foods that cause inflammation.

I had much more joint pain prior to my dietary changes. For many people with autoimmune issues, a Paleolithic diet excluding dairy and gluten have remediated the symptoms, and in some cases reversed the illness completely. Unfortunately, this was not the case for me. When this became clear, I knew my healing needed to be on a deeper level.

Minimizing daily pain has not only included dietary changes, but riding a motorized stationary bike three times a week to increase circulation and promote skin health. Despite all of my strategizing, there are times that pain is unavoidable. I have undergone various medical interventions that were extremely painful including three abdominal surgeries. There were many less conventional interventions I underwent that were experimental in treating MS, like eight hours of venoplasty to open constrictions in the venous system which was thought to exacerbate progression of the illness. In India, I had a minimum of two injections per day and at least three epidural procedures over eight day durations.

Changing my relationship to pain has been a recurring theme on this healing journey through the body. One of the central teachings has been that I am not my body. I used to believe that I was my body, being identified with my reliable physicality. I used to believe that I thought with my brain. I now feel that I “think” more with my heart than my head. In going through this transformation in belief, my intuition has become stronger and wiser. My relational interactions come more from my heart, more from an inspired place. My work with my clients and friends has become clearer, more heartfelt and effective in encouraging their evolution.

When I think of what has been my greatest ally in learning to separate from the belief that I am my body, I realize that pain has been a master teacher. There have been times when I have experienced pain from pressure sores and couldn’t move for multiple hours due to my disability; there was no way to alleviate the pain. Choosing to live alone, that is a significant consideration. During those times when I could not turn away from the pain, I learned to be present with it. It has been during these times that I realized that there is a part of me NOT experiencing the pain.

This has been a significant practice, developing the “I” separate from the pain. I can remember in childhood having to be wrestled to the floor by the doctor in order to receive an injection. Our tolerance to physical pain increases as we mature. I believe that this is the process of lessening our identification with our physical bodies.

Facilitators like Steven Levine, in the area of death and dying, have been teaching medications to assist people in dis–identifying with extreme pain successfully for many decades. As we identify less as a human body and more as a soul being, our human drama and suffering decreases as our consciousness evolves. This is part of the progression that will assist us when we are ready to make the ultimate transition, to drop our bodies and return Home.

 

“Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted.”–Richard Rohr

Healing hands with love & light

When I was a child, I had a complicated relationship with my mother. She tended to fly into rages with little external provocation, or so it seemed from my brother’s and my perspective. In retrospect, I understand she likely was feeling fear internally.

This pattern seemed to create an imprint that recurred in every significant relationship in my life. My reaction was to feel victimized by the onslaught, which was an understandable interpretation for a vulnerable child. What was complicated, was that I interpreted most people’s anger as a personal affront, in other words, I saw them as perpetrators to be feared.

When one has an imprint this early in life, the awareness accrued from the repetition of this sort of behavior can provide an effective way of clearing the pattern, it just isn’t very easy. My first husband had a rage issue that was exacerbated when drinking alcohol, which he did frequently under stress. I can vividly remember pretending to be asleep, to avoid a confrontation. During an intensive group psychotherapy session, when I was describing a scenario where I was clearly being victimized in my marriage and another group member commented that she had played the role of my husband as “the bad guy,” with her husband. I can remember being shaken from this “victim trance,” because this was a woman who I cared deeply about; she clearly was not a “bad” person. In that moment I was able to see how we are good people, but we get into these archaic patterns with others and act out our unconscious trauma.

Although it would be a long time before I could become completely conscious about this pattern, the genie was now out of the bottle. And not only was this insidious pattern illuminated, but I was now aware that I had complicity, the implication being that if I had a part in it, then I could be part of the solution as well.

Although this pattern of feeling victimized followed me through, probably every significant relationship in my life, my relationship to the “inner victim” began shifting as I was including EMPATHY into the mix.

Dismantling The Victim–Perpetrator–Rescuer Triad

Once I was able to see my group member as having been a “perpetrator” in her past relationship with her husband and child, I could see how anyone could “play” this role; they didn’t have to be a “bad” person. After all, I had empathy for this woman who had been rigorously doing her inner work. It was in this moment that my fear and shame turned into compassion. Eventually, I was able to bring this compassion to myself and then to my former husband.

I began to realize that entering into what has been called the victim/perpetrator dyad was an archaic and tragic attempt to 1) get one’s needs met and 2) release unconscious trauma, I began to see this pattern recurring everywhere in my relationships. Once I began to see this, I was able to begin to dismantle this source of suffering. You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.

The character development of all compelling dramas have these aspects. In human relationships, however, this pattern becomes a defense to cover unconscious pain. It distracts and avoids the tension that authenticity can provoke. In that way, as drama escalates, intimacy decreases. When this pattern is operant, suffering is assured.

The Only Elixir Is Love

For nearly a decade, I have been working with nonviolent communication, a body of work that diffuses conflict through accessing empathy. Empathy towards others was less challenging than accessing empathy toward myself. Initially, it was like breaking a self-destructive habit, of knee-jerk self-condemnation. It took much practice, and continues to, to cultivate self-love. Without the love and empathy for my own pain, I could never transmute the victim/perpetrator pattern, thus perpetuating suffering.

To live life authentically, one has to accept our human flaws. This is not an easy proposition, but fortunately, while we are in our human bodies, we have the time to practice. Living life with less suffering, is a powerful impetus to practice authenticity which can only blossom through self love. Whatever “curriculum” is present in your field, a challenging relationship, a disability in the form of illness or injury, the ingredients are there for transforming suffering into Love.

The only requirement is the desire to courageously face one’s inner demons, our unhealed, unconscious trauma from the past. After all, living with less suffering and more love is the outcome. Why wouldn’t we choose that?