Vulnerability and Attachment Wounds in Romantic Relationship

This blog is inspired by the topic of vulnerability. I wanted to write about it after writing about the sacred emptiness because vulnerability is what births inside the chrysalis of sacred emptiness.

A new form of vulnerability births in the emptiness…based upon attachment wound healing…that opens us up to a more joyful and fulfilling experience of being vulnerable.

Attachment wounding is the root of not being able to be vulnerable in relationship with others and self. Attachment healing turns the tables and allows vulnerability to become a secure and happier experience.

My reflections on attachment will be very brief and stream of consciousness…

If you want to know more in detail there are a ton of books, Youtube videos and podcasts on attachment theory.  I highly recommend listening to the “Psychology Today” podcast. The subscription is only $5 dollars a month for many deep dives into pertinent psychological topics. Kirk Honda is my favorite describer of attachment theory (and any topic in psychology) as he makes content accessible to everyone with a harmonious blend of knowledge and heart.

This is my reflection on vulnerability and attachment today….

Our brains are the place we develop our personality (ego) very early on in life (infant to about age seven) based upon how we are parented by our prime caretakers. The personality formation is strongest the younger we are and gets cemented after age seven.

Our attachment style is the aspect of the personality that relates with others and with self. It is the way in which we desire relationship, behave in relationship, and express vulnerability.

The romantic parter most closely mirrors the prime caretaker and hence, we face our attachment style/wounds the strongest in romantic partnering yet attachment styles show up in every single relationship including the one you have with yourself.

You do not need to have experienced trauma or abuse to have an attachment wound. If you have endured trauma and abuse your wounds are specific to that yet a child can develop a very deep attachment wound in a home with zero abuse and no big traumas.

The avoidant attachment style/wound (often broken down into anxious avoidant and dismissive avoidant) is created by the prime caretaker(s) not tending to the child’s emotions. There is no emotional attunement. The parent(s) do not talk about feelings or they may see emotions as weak, dismiss them, or avoid them. Boys may be more apt to be taught to repress their emotions due to cultural conditioning as well.

As with everything psychological, avoidance shows up as a spectrum. How much did your caretaker(s) avoid your feelings and avoid feelings in the home between family members? There tends to be a basic structure in the avoidant home with bedtime, meals, routines with school, etc and there may also be morals taught and other principals that foster the mind but the emotional realm of the child is not seen, acknowledged or nurtured.

Avoidant style people do not feel safe in close relationships because they feel cut-off from their own feelings. They experience anxiety around intimacy and tend to use dismissive remarks or behaviors to maintain a certain level of detachment, independence and aloofness in relationship. They either believe they do not need intimacy or they push intimacy away in a variety of ways that may be unconscious (flippant remarks, sexual impotency or lack of desire, minimizing issues and the feelings of the partner) or conscious (having a strong belief about the independence they feel gives them strength, for instance or saying they are not relationship oriented).

The avoidant style is often called the island.

Anxious attachment style people (often called preoccupied or ambivalent) is created when the prime caretaker(s) sometimes tune in to the child’s emotions and sometimes ignore them. The key is inconsistency in attunement and often anxiety connected to emotional attunement when it is present. There is some semblance of structure in this attachment style as if there were no structure in the home it would fall under the disorganized attachment style but the structure does tend to be as inconsistent as the emotional attunement. Maybe meals and bedtimes are not always around the same time or maybe the structure is generally chaotic though the child is fed, taken to school, and put to bed at some point. Perhaps the child switches homes a lot or is handed off in a chaotic fashion. The anxious attachment style is often referred to as the wave.

To be clear, emotional attunement is when the care taker responds to the child’s feelings, names the feelings for the child so they may learn to name feelings themselves, nurtures the child when upset and models how to tend to feelings in a loving way no matter what feeling is arising. Emotional attunement when secure in the caretaker, does not cause intense anxiety. The caretaker is not anxious when the child is hurting nor are they living in anxious fear of the child getting hurt in the unforeseeable future.

Anxious attachment creates a person who is not sure if they are loved. Do you love me now? How about now? If you find out (insert trait here) about me will you still love me? The anxious person needs constant validation and reassurance that they are loved. They don’t have any consistent sense of being tended to that is imbedded in their sense of self. They fear love leaving, being abandoned, and being betrayed. They may put themselves at constant fault for creating abandonment or they may build a false case where their partner will leave them due to (insert criticism here).

The wave is very overt with their insecurity and feelings. The island is very covert as beneath every island is a wave but the island is too anxious to deluge. Avoidant people want intimacy deep down underneath their fear just as much as the overt wave. It’s as if islands have an extra defense mechanism around their anxiety that the waves do not posses and this is molded by how we are parented. 

The wave is usually the pursuer of the island. Islands and waves tend to attract each other because the island needs the overt display and pursuit of the wave for them to feel loved and the wave is used to feeling insecure about not being loved and very familiar and comfortable with chasing the unavailable island. It’s a recipe for healing or disaster depending on how willing and skilled the partners are in dealing with these wounds. Without skill or willingness the island first pushes the wave away and then the wave overwhelms the island when they express needing more and this pushes the island away more until both express extreme versions of avoiding and deluging. 

Disorganized attachment is molded in the brain when the there is abuse in the home, major trauma, or the care taker(s) do not provide adequate structure or emotional attunement to the point where it is neglect. Disorganized people may vacillate between being an island and a wave, never feeling a consistent sense of self. The disorganized wound is chaotic and never follows a certain pattern other than the pattern of not being patterned.

Not having a strong sense of self is also the case for the island and the wave. Sense of self is developed in the brain by the child being emotionally attuned to and given proper structure by the caretaker(s). This is a literal process that happens in the brain (mirror neurons) that forms sense of self in relationship with others, self, and the world. With all attachment styles other than secure attachment, the sense of self is shattered in varying qualities and degrees of intensity based upon upbringing mixed with temperament (nature and nurture).

The temperament (soul, true self, the mysterious uniqueness we each posses) of the child plays a big if not a bigger role in the shaping of the sense of self.

A shattered sense of self is the attachment wound.

Secure attachment happens when there is no trauma or abuse and the caretaker(s) tune into the child’s feelings in a nurturing and loving way while also providing the child with a consistent structure. This assures the child develops a healthy sense of self if there is no trauma or abuse outside the home and if the child is not born with a struggling temperament due to multigenerational wounds or a past life wound (if you believe in this).

It is important to note that a child may also absorb anxiety from any family member conflict even if it has nothing to do with them. Families usually have the one “healer” or empath of the family who tends to absorb the anxiety from other family members and become mentally or physically sick as a result. These types are more apt to struggle and often cannot discern their feelings from the feelings of others due to their sensitivity levels yet they are also meant to be as sensitive as they are because they are the healers of this world.

Attachment wounds also present inwardly with self. For instance, you can have a disorganized attachment with yourself where sometimes you tune into your feelings and validate yourself, sometimes you avoid your feelings using some form of addiction or avoidance to ignore them, and sometimes you tend to your feeling but feel filled with anxiety and self doubt about whether you are good enough.

You can also express different styles consciously and unconsciously. For instance, you can be a wave consciously and an island unconsciously by consciously wanting and choosing intimate partnership yet always unconsciously attracting unavailable islands…or…when you attract an available partner you really like, you start pushing them away by finding fault with them at every turn. In this way the island and wave within the self and in partnership tries to find harmony.

The healing of attachment wounds is rooted in learning how to be vulnerable in the relational field and with self. This starts to show up when you no longer need to build a case against self or the partner, drink booze or take recreational drugs to feel comfortable, lay on the criticism, demand proof that you are loved, or push away the other with conscious or unconscious tactics of any kind.

Being vulnerable and intimate looks like letting each other in your feelings, communicating your feelings, being transparent about your feelings, and tending to one another’s feelings….whether during an argument, when times are rough, or during times of passion, joy, and tenderness. It means showing the real you and allowing yourself to trust your partner.

First you may need to do this for yourself but this is not always the requirement. Some people heal more through being vulnerable with a partner (or friend) first. We can build a sense of self love by going within and being alone and also through being in a relationship. It takes the right relationship if it is the latter. You cannot build a sense of self love with a partner who is unable to create intimacy and be vulnerable with you much of the time. Maybe not all the time, as we are flawed beings learning how to love….but a good chunk of the time at the very least.

Also, if you are an island, being vulnerable and close with another may not feel good for a long time. Perhaps years. You have to be willing to enter the not feeling good zone and go through the anxiety and fear. You have to be willing to enter intimacy with more courage to learn how to be vulnerable in the first place. This may feel awkward and challenge your avoidant personality that has protected you for so long. You have to learn how to trust another to care about you and you have to learn how to want to be cared about.

If you are a wave you may enjoy intimacy and even being vulnerable but you come on like a deluge every time you get triggered. This is important to understand for the island and the wave…

The moment you are triggered your animal brain takes the driver’s seat and your higher mind takes a hike. This means that you go into flight/fight/freeze mode and you cannot come out of it through logic, talking, or anything cognitive. When the wave is triggered they deluge the partner who is usually an island. When the island is triggered by the deluge they minimize the communication from the anxious wave which then triggers the wave more who thinks the island is a jerk which triggers the island more who thinks the wave is crazy and the storm intensifies into destruction.

When you get triggered in the relational field all you can do is breathe, touch, and/or take space from the other in order for the higher mind to get back in the driver’s seat. If you both are triggered, stop arguing and breathe, touch one another or allow one person to take some space. Nothing will change how to recover from a trigger because it is brain chemistry. Skill is vital when learning how to become vulnerable in a way that creates feeling more safety and joy.

Most of us are used to vulnerability feeling scary, disappointing, taxing, overwhelming and leading to our detriment. Islands build a mote around them acting like they don’t need a partner or intimacy, in order to survive. Waves desperately try to make the partner their one safe place in all of life’s pain and chaos. Both feel slayed by vulnerability. Both need to learn how to build trust through building a sense of self.

This is the key of all keys. Building a sense of self.

When you have a strong and solid sense of self you can allow yourself to trust getting hurt in the relational field because you can return to yourself as the safe place.

This is the healing of codependency, toxic unions, and everything relational. When you no longer fear being hurt, rejected, disappointed, broken up with, being single, or left alone because you have a safe, reliable, and loving sense of self to return to if the worst happens. Life never gives us a guarantee in the external world so we need the self to be the security and foundation. Islands, don’t contort this to mean you don’t need intimacy in one form or another. The sense of self is a home base and not an escape hatch to avoid the relational field.

It can be safe and feel fulfilling to be vulnerable in the relational field if you build your sense of self and love yourself with more emotional attunement and loving structure. You won’t give your power away to the partner or to addiction or avoidance. You can handle emotional pain and discomfort and in turn, experience a form of joy in relationship that arises only by being tuned in and true to self. Reparenting the self blossoms us into our true self.

True self creates vulnerable and intimate relationships that heal and fulfill our essential needs and desires in waves…and when the waves wane we can return to self for sustenance on a healthy island that can still welcome the other….

 

 

 

 

Reflections on the Sacred Emptiness

This blog is inspired by the sacred emptiness that most often is the mental and emotional space we enter when letting go of patterns, attachments, identifications, and addictions.

Ego wants the immediate gold star or the metaphorical cookie whenever we do something we feel awards us. A feel good moment. Satiation. A happy arrival into a never ending sunset. These are expectations of ego when we do the healing work of letting go of what is not serving our health, thinking if we have the courage to let go, right on the other side is an arrival into fulfillment.

But the fulfillment of letting go takes time because you are reversing the flow from getting love outside of self to feeling love within self. Building a secure attachment with self is a learning process…

The reward for letting go of patterns, attachments, identifications and addiction takes time to feel in an embodied way.

Suffering initiates ego into the dark night of the soul or the process of letting go of what is not healthy for self. We are used to suffering and have become familiar with low self esteem, shaky self worth, self doubt, unhealthy relationships, addictions, and all of the patterns of thinking and behaving that support a comfort zone of pain.

Suffering only initiates you into the dark night of the soul when you are ready to face the new an unfamiliar suffering of letting go. Suffering that comes from letting go is temporary and necessary, unlike the chronic and familiar suffering of a painful comfort zone.

The familiar comfort zone of pain is a neural pathway in the brain paved over the years by patterns of thinking and behaving that form from attaching to a person or thing outside of self because inside a wounded self feels lost, powerless, fearful, and insecure.

For instance, you may have a pattern of thinking that love is stronger and more valuable than logic which rationalizes the behavior of staying in a relationship that is logically very unhealthy for you. You are used to unhealthy attachment because you grew up with it in your family system. The neural pathway has been paved in your brain to accept the current unhealthy union because your inner child ego developed self worth wounds early on and knows nothing else. Your adult ego identifies with a compromised sense of self worth either consciously or unconsciously.

You do not realize staying in the unhealthy union is a continual and often addictive attempt to get mom and dad’s love and attention on an unconscious level. The inner child in the shadow is operating through the adult ego by projecting onto the person the role of being your care taker or savior in some way. You do not realize you either play a victim role or blame self and glorify the other, when neither are true. The truth is that you need to let go of the unhealthy person, heal your wounds, and create a secure attachment with self. You need to be your own savior and heal yourself.

Addiction forms when the person becomes your everything and you can no longer live without them. This is when the brain chemistry relies on the external person or object to literally keep self afloat. Be it a person, food, drug, alcohol, shopping, working, you name the thing; when wounds are not healed and the sense of self is insecure, the external world holds all the power and we get hooked on it in one way or another.

Readiness to heal and let go is key.

When you are not ready, you are not ready. Our patterns, attachments, identity, and addictions serve the ego by helping us stay afloat, feel valued, safe, secure, and loved…until we are ready to let go.

Pushing before readiness might lead to a mental breakdown, too much fear at once, crisis that cannot be overcome. Suffering is our initiation into the dark night of letting go but suffering in just the right amount is key. Too much suffering and you won’t heal.

The timing is the timing. Patience and love for every stage is needed.

When you are ready you let go it may feel empowering or you may have to force it mentally and enter the grief despite your fighting heart and instinct telling you to hold on. Usually it is the latter.

Letting go and entering into the dark night means the ego is not going to receive the gold star or the metaphorical cookie. Letting go means entering the emptiness.

You may first may go into withdrawals, kicking and screaming your way through. During this stage of the dark night you might try to talk yourself out of letting go and you might succeed and hop back into the safe zone of the familiar pain.

If you make it past the withdrawal, kicking, and screaming stage you enter the stage of the sacred emptiness.

In the sacred emptiness there is nothing to replace the security of that well-worn neural pathway. Even though it’s a pathway of pain and self worth wounds, you knew what to expect and you were used to the crumbs and the anxiety. You did not have to try and risk failing or risk the vulnerability of succeeding which can feel very exposing.

There is nothing to soothe the ego in the sacred emptiness other than….

the sacred emptiness itself….

In the sacred emptiness you may find comfort in the nothingness if you can allow yourself to not resist the nothingness by trying to get that dopamine hit from the outside world, person, pattern or thing that feels like love (but isn’t). You sense of security that comes from familiarity will be gone so you must also not resist feeling scared.

If you can allow yourself to feel scared and empty without resistance to those feelings you can discover a sense of comfort and inner quiet as you traverse through this stage which may take days, weeks, months and maybe even a year.

Stop trying to make anything happen in the external world to try to get the cookie or sense of security and instead find a reliable and self soothing routine to support the emptiness stage.

Maybe you need more solitude, more sleep, going to bed and waking up early, exercising more, eating healthier, taking life more slowly, getting out into nature, coloring or knitting or some form of soothing creative outlet…watching Netflix may help or reading books and allowing yourself healthy escape in the stories of others…or maybe sweating, running, dancing and having a more fiery and yang type of practice is your balance.

Find that balance within self  by rooting into a routine that becomes the foundational structure to build a new healthy sense of self, heal the wounds, awaken the soul, and fully shut down the old neural pathway.

If you can allow yourself to surrender into the emptiness and into a routine, slow yourself down, and move through the scary unknown….you will enter the next stage of the dark night.

Here, you may still be in the emptiness but also be tested and need to say no to the old pattern showing up again. If this is the case, do not take it personally. It takes a certain amount of experiences for a new neural pathway to become paved and it only becomes paved through experience. Each time you say no to the unhealthy pattern, you pave the new healthy pathway. It’s science You are not being punished.

Surrender is the key to moving through the emptiness stage whether you are being tested or laying low like a seed in the dark soil. Initiation is surrender.

The suffering of the emptiness stage may show up as needing to say no to the familiar pattern rising up again. If this is the case, say no as quickly as you can and if you mess up, it’s ok. Healing happens in a spiral not a line. Fall and get up again knowing every human being grows through making mistakes.

Suffering in the emptiness stage may also show up as feeling perpetually insecure, bored, doubtful, stagnant, confused, disoriented, and lonely. Know that these feelings are natural and do not take them personally. Allow these feelings to express as you would allow a child to express their feelings without judgement or making a big deal out of them. This will allow the feelings to leave the body.

Surrendering to a higher power is what the Anonymous (AA, NA, OA, etc) philosophy teaches and it is a real quality that provided real results. The transpersonal aspect of life is larger than self and requires no spiritual belief or experience. Call the transpersonal anything that feels right for you, the Collective Unconscious, Nature, Life, Consciousness, God, Goddess, Spirit, Source, Prime Creator, Oneness, The Infinite, Jesus, Isis, Odin, Lakshmi, Universe, Ancestors, Angels, Allies, Archetypes…it does not matter…when you call out to the transpersonal you invoke help from the great mystery and from love.

You do not have to do this work alone and truly, you are never alone. The sacred emptiness is here to serve your liberation and initiate the ego into becoming the true self securely attached and connected to your true source of power within.

 

 

 

Reflection on Having a Mental Paradigm Shift

I have to force myself to blog this morning and I share this because it has to do with the topic at hand. Having a mental paradigm shift stems from being able to follow discipline when the feelings strongly wish to stray from the practice.

The practice is the actual root. Mediation is key. Yoga can be meditation. Chanting can be meditation. Meditation is watching the thoughts pass by while focusing inward and on breath or the mantra. With yoga, the focus is on linking breath and movement while you watch the thoughts.

The practice builds your inner witness (your soul) so you may watch thoughts but not identify with them.

Most people identity with their thoughts and feelings. You think you are your thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and you believe the stories you tell yourself about yourself, life, and others. Yet these stories are only stories.

Same goes with your feelings. You are not the sorrow, despair, joy, inspiration, frustration, anger, rage, loneliness, (on and on) that passes through you in waves.

When you identify too much with your thoughts and feelings you wind up suffering.

The more you find yourself in stillness, breath, and just being, the more peace, balance, and letting go results.

You don’t need stories to define you although you still create them because as humans we are wired to make meaning out of life. You don’t need your feelings to define you although you still acknowledge and express them so that they leave the body. Through the practice, thoughts and feelings are given their right place within the land of self.

This skill of experiencing self as being develops through consistent practice. It is not magic or miracle.

When you put in the dedication and time to meditate most days or every day, you build the skill of self as being. This is where your true source of power is discovered and cannot be taken away no matter what happens to you in the external world, from slight aversion to major trauma.

The true source of power found in being naturally radiates empowerment, contentment, balance, and peace within.

As you build this skill you detach more and more from your thoughts and feelings and this is the prerequisite to being able to make a mental paradigm shift.

What do I mean by making a mental paradigm shift? Let’s say you believe in following the heart no matter what and you keep winding up in toxic relationships, or you believe that feelings are not to be trusted and always find it hard to connect with others, or you strongly believe all men are bad or all women are crazy and you keep attracting the same unhealthy relationship to project your belief onto to prove yourself right (insert your mental paradigm here). I am using only relationship examples but this could be any area of life.

Your mental paradigm is a meta-program that filters all of your thoughts into its main stance. Strong mental paradigm stances that have no room for suppleness, change, growth, or flexibility are usually put in place to protect the ego from being wounded…again. They are purposeful and were put in place to help you but eventually they become a source of suffering.

We all have a protector within us. The protector is the aspect of self that tries to protect us from pain.

Your protector may be sarcastic, flippant, accusatory, wanting to build a case, avoidant, controlling, manipulative, narcissistic, masochist, shy, show-offy, on and on…basically the protector creates the defense mechanisms we unconsciously use to keep us safe and lurking in our familiar haunts that mirror the childhood family system in some way.

Although we long for more connection, secure attachment, and freedom to be the true self, familiarity is hard to break. Most of us find comfort in the familiar pain we know from youth and we tend to unconsciously wade in it rather than risk the vulnerability required to open up to more of what we truly desire on a soul level.

The protector makes sure the vulnerable child deeper inside does not get slam dunked into pain and disappointment again. This means we don’t risk vulnerability and instead we wade in the familiar comfort that is painful but manageable.

Some protectors think they are content but rely on addiction to feed them a false sense of joy. Some protectors are self loathing and rely on feeling bad about self to avoid taking risks. Some protectors rely on being right and good and never doing wrong. Some protectors are critical and judgmental and live on high horses. Protectors project a strong mental paradigm about self, other, and life itself.

The stories that the protector projects are wide in variety but you always know it’s the protector’s mental paradigm when the stance cannot be budged, is narrow in focus, comes out unconsciously (without thinking) or uses some technique of blame, hate, minimizing or negatively perceiving self or other in a black and white fashion.

These protectors are born very young and reflect a mentally immature mind. When we were young these defense mechanism stories were the best we could come up with and allowed us to survive or cope with being a self in the family system. Even privileged children who do not endure trauma may be raised with avoidant parents, surrounded by functional addiction, not receive the attunement or structure needed to develop a healthy ego capable of making healthy choices and traversing through painful experiences.

At a certain point in the healing process, it is time for the protector to stand down and allow vulnerability to express because the protector creates suffering on repeat.

The protector’s story usually makes a hard line between victim (self) and perpetrator (the other) or the reverse of this where self is bad and other is glorified. I am not speaking of actual crimes and violence when there really is a perpetrator and victim. I am speaking of the messy relational field where we come into each moment carrying the hurting inner child wrapped inside the protector who will go to any lengths to make sure the child is not hurt again.

To let the protector stand down and to be vulnerable becomes much easier when we build the inner witness and no longer need to identity with our thoughts and feelings as strongly. There is a detachment that develops. This detachment doesn’t take away from the passion of living, it does not stop thoughts or feelings…it simply creates space so we can breathe and access our true source of power within.

When we can access and feel our true power, self love, spirit, nature, emptiness, whatever you want to call it depending on your temperament and belief….we can let go of the mental paradigm that is causing us suffering, we can allow the protector to stand down, we can allow our vulnerable self to show.

The mental paradigms that create suffering are not who you are and they do not have to rule your life. Yet to release them you must become somewhat comfortable or at least willing to feel and share your vulnerable self without it causing you to crumble to pieces when another causes hurt. The process of becoming somewhat comfortable and willing is different for each person. Trauma may make it much more complex and attachment wounds can be just as difficult.

Temperament has a lot to do with the process too. Nature and nurture are always at play. Patience is needed. Love is needed to not judge the spiral of progress that may look like two steps forward and one step back on the regular.

Human beings are designed to endure pain and we are also designed to be vulnerable.

Most of us are not present. Our wounds and insecurities live with us from the past, alive and sizzling in the heart and mind. Many of us were not safe as children. Many of us could not be vulnerable as children without being dismissed, avoided, scolded, controlled, or abused. This is why we cling to the hard nosed stories that the protectors create to make sure that the little person inside does not risk danger again.

The healing work to integrate the inner child, have the protector stand down, and develop a strong inner witness is hard work but brings potent results.

Meditation is part of healing and so is therapy or some kind of process work. You can process with healers of all kinds to help you move energy and understand your inner landscape. The point  I want to make is that there needs to be some form of processing of the thoughts and feelings, past and present.

The key is to balance not identifying with the thoughts and feelings with processing the thoughts and feelings, so that we heal from a holistic perspective. Meditation, energy work, talk therapy, depth work, using crystals, herbs, dream work, shamanic healing….whatever you are called to do is what works best.

Having a mental paradigm shift may also happen by miracle. Miracles are real. I have experienced them myself and witnessed others suddenly change. In an instant their suicide ideation is gone, their cigarette addiction is gone, their mind suddenly grasps a new paradigm just like that, a story of betrayal vanishes, a feeling and story of attachment to another turns on or shuts off…and we shift in an instant. We cannot rely on miracles but they happen.

Best to put in the daily effort to keep the self supple, growing, healing, and expanding.

Hard work is a part of life. Paradoxically, putting effort forth each day to open the mind, integrate the psyche, heal the self, and grow as a soul will make life easier and more loving and make you more present. It is not the experience itself that does or does not create suffering, it is how we digest and interpret the experience. We are the meaning makers.

Healing in the West, Heart, Connection

This blog will cover the west, the final direction to discuss in the four directions healing process. Read the blog “The Defeat Story and the Transcending True Self,” and the following direction blogs before reading this one, if you haven’t already.

The west is the heart. Here we heal through connection. The attachment wounds live here and are healed here. In the west we also dive into the deep sea of the psyche to discover and awaken the true self, archetypes, wounds, gifts and all aspects hidden from ego that are asking for acknowledgment. The west is where psychological depth work is helpful to integrate the aspects of self through differentiating them. Uncovering, acknowledging, and expressing all that wants out from the unconscious happens here. This is the direction of the heart. Honoring feelings. Going with the flow of inner wisdom. Being in relationship of all kinds, romantic, therapist, healer, friend, mother, father, sibling, pet, teacher, co-worker, etc. Through being in relationship with others outside the self and aspects within the self, we heal. The heart is purified in the west which is connected to water. Water cleanses and renews. Forgiveness, acceptance, letting go and surrender all happen in the west.

In the therapy world we know that 90% of healing happens through the relationship of therapist and client, not from the skills learned or the narrative developed. True, it is vital to have physiological healing from trauma, anxiety, and stress as the foundation of all healing. After that, different narratives and skills work for different people to initiate healing. Yet healing through connection is the most powerful form of healing, for everybody.

It’s hard to talk about this using logic because it is mysterious as to why outside of the scientific understanding of mirror neurons and other brain development factors understood through the attachment theory lens. Science may show us the physiological foundation of how connection keeps the psyche healthy or corrupts the psyche. Beyond science, you could say that love makes the world go round or that connection is what we are all after and why we are here, underneath it all.

What gets broken in relationship can only be healed in relationship. This is not to say we cannot heal tremendously by healing ourselves in solitude or within. I have healed drastically through connection with self and I believe this is a vital relationship to nourish. At the same time, attachment wounds begin during the early brain development years of childhood and set the psyche up for adulthood. The attachment with the parents, siblings, family and peers is most important for developing into a healthy adult in terms of being able to experience secure attachment.

Secure attachment means that you can experience intimacy and connection with another that feels safe and nourishing. Most people have an attachment wound because most of us were born with some level of dysfunction in childhood. Addiction, abuse, neglect, personality disorders and mental illness, poverty, harshness, and ignorance from family and culture show up on a spectrum for every child.

What you experience as a child is much more intense than how you would experience the same thing as an adult. It’s best not to compare and say things like, “others had it much worse,” even if you are a privileged white male or other form of privilege. Abuse, neglect, addiction, harshness, personality disorders, mental illness, death, physical illness, ignorance, and loss can show up in every category of human. It’s important to take care of yourself without judgement.

Insecure attachment can show up as ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized. If your parents or care takers, one or more, did not attune to your emotions and show affection and love but gave you structure you could depend on (meals, bedtime, clothing, schooling, shelter, etc) than you are likely to experience avoidant attachment.

If your parents or care takers, one or more, attuned to your emotions and showed affection and love but you had little or uncertain structure to rely upon, you are likely to experience ambivalent attachment.

If your parents or caretakers, one or more, lacked in providing both structure and emotional attunement or if there was abuse, you are likely to experience disorganized attachment.

An instructor of mine used the metaphor of a cup of liquid. The cup is the structure. The liquid is emotional attuning and expression of love an affection. If you had the cup and no liquid you may avoid intimacy and feel uncomfortable around it. If you had the liquid in a cracked cup, you may constantly doubt that you are loved and feel ambivalence all the time, needing constant reassurance and filled with anxiety. If you were abused or received no liquid in a cracked cup, you may avoid intimacy sometimes and other times enter connection with high anxiety and insecurity, doubting and spinning in your mind.

These are tendencies and you may not experience what I am describing here but what I share is based upon scientific research you can look up if you are interested. Attachment theory is what you would want to research to understand more.

Attachment wounds tend to show up mostly in romantic unions because they most mirror the parent child relationship. In a romantic relationship you have the opportunity to heal the attachment wounds of the past. This is done through recognizing how you are projecting mom, dad, brother, sister, uncle, grandfather etc, onto the partner and then pulling back your projection. Once you own your reaction instead of blaming and accusing, you can work through the issues in therapy or with your partner through dialogue and connecting.

Romantic relationships are not meant to be walks into sunsets. That’s all a bunch of brainwash. In fact, real love with a partner only first begins once the projections start falling and you can see the other for who they truly are.

In the beginning, we project our ideal mate onto the partner. This ideal mate lives inside of us as our inner counterpart to the conscious self. Our unconscious self is the ideal mate to our conscious self. In a sense, we all look for ourselves in a partner when we are unable to love past projection. Projection is not bad, it just is and it is how we fall in love. It is how we get into relationships. It’s the honey moon stage. But once the honey moon is over you see your ideal beautiful mate is not the person you believed them to be. Do you still want to love them. Do they still want to love you?

If you both still want to love each other and are willing to own up to your projections and take responsibility for healing through the intimacy, then you move on to the next stage of intimacy.

Many life long couples never do this. Instead, they may always live with not feeling close to their partner and fall into the same roles their parents fell into, repeating history. This work is only for the brave and for those who want to heal, experience deeper intimacy, and true love. By true love, I mean love that is true and not the sunset walk. I mean love that is based upon a commitment to love one another through the storms and once the projections fall for who each other really is. This should not feel like a life sentence in jail. You should enjoy being with your mate. If you don’t, you are not with the right person. If you enjoy each other but hard issues get in the way, you can heal the issues if both are willing.

Some couples have it easier too and just get along or mutually don’t make a big deal out of the conflicts and are not on the path of healing and evolving in a therapeutic way. Other couples love and enjoy each other so much that they are willing to work on their issues that show up intensely in romantic union due to both people being really intense. Sometimes one partner is willing and the other is not. The spectrum always exists and we each have our own relationship karma to experience.

I don’t want this entire blog to be on romantic attachment. I am somebody who has spent very little time in romantic relationships and I have healed my attachment wounds without it because the few times I was in a romantic union, the mate was not willing to work on his stuff or we were not in love or timing was off. I have healed largely through friendships and family relationships.

I know that when the right man is by side, I will experience attachment healing as well but I don’t want to make it the only way. Our culture over-values romantic relationships as the be-all end-all. But for many, they don’t want that form of relationship. Or they want a different version of it. Point being, however you connect with others is valuable and healing in the west happens through connection.

As far as healing through the self goes, this is done through depth work. Discovering you. Within the psyche many aspects of self dwell. Individual aspects and archetypes such as the wounded self, inner child, the protector, the mother, father, shadow, trickster, on and on. If you take the time and effort in therapy or on your own to discover and integrate these inner aspects you will experience deep healing from the attachment wounds of childhood. You will become more whole, balanced, and blossom into your true self.

This work can be done through Jungian and archetypal psychology and you can use astrology, tarot and other maps of the psyche to understand your inner landscape. This work is my favorite and I would place myself in the west, if I had to pick a direction. The work of each direction is equally needed to heal but the west is where I love to play.

The spiritual lessons dwell in the west too. Forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, acceptance, redemption, and tolerance all stem from attachment wound healing and we can also surrender to spirit to heal and learn these soul deep lessons.

Relationship with spirit, in my opinion, is as vital as the parent child attachment. You can translate this transpersonal relationship to meet any belief. If you are atheist, spirit is nature or the larger cosmos. If you are religious, spirit is god or the gods and goddesses. If you are spiritual but not religious spirit may be the universe or the divine, source creation or whatever word works best. This relationship is not metaphorical. We are a small part of a larger force.

There is a ton of proof for how healing occurs when surrendering to a higher power. People in AA know this well. I know this well, as surrendering to the transpersonal has healed me via miracle and also healed alongside me, carrying much of the burden of my human life, helping me out in ways more powerful than any human could provide.

I am probably on the far end of the spectrum and in a smaller category of people who have healed attachment wounds through connection with self and spirit more than with human beings. This being said, you can heal through connection with pets just as much as people. And with nature too. Let’s not box ourselves in. Connection is expansive.

The spiritual lessons are simple to understand in the mind but hard to achieve. Can you accept the injustices that have happened to you? Can you forgive your abuser? Can you have compassion for the short comings of others? Can you have tolerance for those more ignorant than you? I have found in my own life that focusing on soul lessons has brought me the most inner peace and well being.

We cannot control what happens outside of ourselves. Safety is largely an illusion. Back in the day, nature was the attacker. Today, the attackers have grown due to systemic illness in humanity and also, well, nature has a dark side that just is. We are constantly faced with being treated badly, being abused, neglected, becoming ill, getting into accidents, on and on. Life is filled with tension, injustice, power struggles and pain.

Healing in the west from the suffering of the psyche in response to the pain of life is about healing the heart. Forgiveness sets the heart free from karma and rage. Acceptance allows the heart to metabolize and release trauma. Compassion allows the heart to connect with others, as does tolerance. The spiritual lessons are pragmatic in nature, for they allow us to experience more peace, self love, love for others and the big U.

Unconditional love, the lesson of all lessons.

These lessons are tall orders and perhaps why we have spiritual practices, religions, and mystical tools to help us heal, transcend, transform, and grow. Spiritual bypassing is a thing too to be wary of too. For instance, true forgiveness comes from experiencing suffering, anger, sorrow and working your way through empowerment and into acceptance before forgiveness is genuinely felt.

Spiritual bypassing would be mentally saying you forgive while stuffing all of your painful feelings into the shadow because you judge your own feelings and glom onto spiritual morality to keep you feeling good and safe. This is common and the reason why societies scapegoat groups of people and demonize corrupt leaders. Unless we process our own feelings stuffed into the shadow we will project our feelings onto the other. This is the collective level of connection that needs healing.

I would say healing in the west is the most complex of the directions. I could write on and on about it but feel this blog is already too long. I will end it with mentioning water. Water flows. Water cleanses. Water drowns. Water purifies, Water is our feelings. Our feelings form connection. Connection is why we are all here. Being an individual within the collective, connected to self and the other in harmony, is the healing of the west. This occurs from healing the past and being able to show up with loving awareness in the present. May it be so for us all.

The South, Will, Center, Sacred Fire

In this blog I will delve into the south direction for healing, as an extension of the blog “The Defeat Story and the Transcending True Self.” That and the north and east direction blogs are written right before this one. I am using the power of the south to blog this morning as I don’t want to lose momentum and motivation to write a blog for each direction. My conviction leads me here.

The south is the will. Here we can heal through intention, conviction, and courage. Most of our wills are reactive to what others think of us and how the world treats us. The will is what motivates us. When we are groomed to be reactive to the outside world as the thermometer of how valuable and good we are, the will acts like a ping pong ball always bouncing around based upon circumstance and other’s opinions of self. In the south we learn how to make the will our center. Our true worth stems from the will which is a sturdy yet supple knowing within self and not a temporary emotional reaction. Learning how to live intentionally with every aspect of life builds the will. Making ritual a daily hygiene practice strengthens the will. Healing the will through releasing guilt, shame and other toxic stories connects to the work of the other directions. In the south the healing is one of purification through fire which is using courage, conviction and physical expression to burn away the old.

The will is mysterious. Like the heart of the west the will is also a felt experience. But where the heart’s feelings are the response to relationships (with self as well as external relationships), the will’s felt experience is generated by spirit. If you are not spiritually inclined you can say by  generated by nature or instinct. There is no difference between spirit and nature other than the mental concept relating to it. Remove the mental concept and it still exists as the felt experience that motivates us to act. The will is not the action itself. North is action. The south is where the impetus to act exists.

The will is like an instrument. If you don’t tune it and play it with intention, it will get out of tune and it will be played by the past and by the world of relationships within and without. The will and heart are like the instrument and the melody. The instrument is the impetus and the melody is the response. They are constantly in relationship with each other, just as with body and mind. All the directions always interplay. I am only wanting to differentiate the subtle difference between heart and will. Your heart may long for a romantic relationship while the will rejects intimacy because it’s filled with shame from the past, your past and maybe the ancestral past too.

The will, if not tuned and directed, will be motivated by the past and by getting validation from others that it is worthy as the will collects guilt, shame, and other toxic stories from the mind, ancestral wounds, social and family conditioning, and past lives. The will needs clearing constantly.

We tend to think of the heart as the area that needs healing and purification but it’s the will that needs it. The heart is like weather, always changing, always coming and going just like the thoughts in the east. The east and west, mind and heart, are alway in flux. The south and north, will and body, are meant to stabilize and move in a linear progression that creates a cohesive reality over time. The will is a still center that pulses and these pulses are what motivates.

To purify, heal, and stabilize the will we need to have courage because it’s friggen scary to face shame, guilt, and insecurities weighing the will down and making it act in ways not in integrity with true self.

To release shame, guilt and other toxic mega-stories that live like a perpetually out of tune string on the instrument, we must face and feel these feelings in the west and let go of identifying with the stories in the east. I like to think of the mega-stories the will holds as having different narrative tones, like the tones of movies. For myself, when my will is holding the mega-story of shame I feel like I am living in the tone of the movie “Donnie Darko” and when my will is clear and centered I am living in the tone of the movie, “Amelie”.

We must have the courage to look shame in the eye and give it love. If you let shame express and give shame love, it leaves the will and the body, making it much easier to let go of the mental story. So simple and so hard! You may need to do this a million times. Healing occurs in layers because of the north. We are process oriented creatures that require baby steps (with the occasional miracle) or we explode from too much light at once. Keeping the body relaxed in the north is vital as shame rises up. If you learn how to do this, shame will exit.

Another important healing for the will is to set daily intentions with daily ritual. This is different than the meditation practice of the east. In the south we want to use thoughts like a magic wand. Intentions set in the south are like flags we stick in the soil of the soul’s integrity.

If each morning you have a ritual of intention setting, saying for example, “spirit fill me with unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness, a sense of humor, and grace,” you will tune your will to these words, spirit or nature will rush in to help, your heart will play the melody of your intention, your mind will write the intentional story, and your body will perform the intention on some stage in your life.

Motivation comes from the will. Intention increases motivation, ignites it. Light a candle and some incense, hold a crystal, stand by your alter, smudge, bless water you drink, water a plant, use sacred tools or ordinary tasks in a sacred way to connect your intention to the physical elements. This brings your will into the present moment by connecting will with the embodied north.

Each morning, I light incense and hold a specific crystal and call in the four directions, my angels, ancestors, and allies and I make an intention for my family and myself in each of the directions. After my intention setting, I pull tarot in a four directional spread with the fifth card revealing the daily theme. I tune my will to the archetypes, get on board with the story, and surrender my heart to the energy of the day. Until I do ritual, my will feels all over the place, reactive to the mood I wake up in, reactive to the dreams I had during sleep, reactive to the emails I read before I do ritual…but I wait until after coffee and emails because I like a soft wake up time. Once I do my ritual, my will tunes up and aligns to true self and spirit. Immediately, I feel more centered, supported, courageous, and self-generating.

Doing a daily ritual practice for the will builds its strength and integrity so that you don’t rely on the validation of others and the temporal outside world to keep you motivated. The will becomes the steady center and sacred fire in the belly that drives, motivates, encourages, validates, and protects the true self with conviction and integrity.

Physical expression plays a key role in the south. The north is where the creation is given; the art itself, the meal itself, the garden, the massage, the clean house, the song, the dance, etc. The south is the impetus to physically express. When my will is tuned up as my sacred center, I will paint and write often in my free time. When my will is flailing about from reacting with shame to others or to circumstance, I will feel creatively blah and instead compulsively eat and zone out to too much Netflix.

The root of addiction is in a will filled with toxic stories. The toxic stories are so unbearable to hold that the will loses center and reaches for an external dopamine hit to substitute for the missing sacred fire of spirit. This external dopamine hit is the drink, food, spending, orgasm, instagram like, accolade, weight loss, whatever the addictive behavior may show up as in your personal story.

Over the years I have strengthened and healed my will through releasing shame and doing daily ritual so that now, many years later, I am beginning to catch myself when the will is reaching for the sugar or carb to avoid the shame it’s holding. When this happens it’s not clear. I don’t know my will is filled with shame in the moment because it’s always rationalized with some mental thought that makes the behavior seem innocent and not connected to feeling pain. When I catch the compulsion masked as a rationalization, I know it’s the hurting will needing to release shame. I call for spiritual help first and then I reach for the paint brush. This actually releases the hurt, tunes and heals the will in the living moment.

Courage is needed to not fall into comfort zones of compulsive behavior or avoidance that masks shame and pain…and to face the shame and pain, releasing it with love and expression. Conviction is built with daily intention setting ritual, using thoughts like a magic wand that roots your will in the soil of true self, spirit, nature, the present. The sacred fire.

 

 

 

Notes on the East, Mind, and the Story

This blog will go deeper into the east direction of healing as first written about in the blog entry, “The Defeat Story and the Transcending True Self.” Healing started in the north and you can read about that in the previous post.

East is the mind and here we can find the mindfulness practice that allows us to be witness to the story of defeat versus buying what it is selling. When we can watch the mental stories and the mind blah blah blahing while knowing true self is not the thoughts, we free ego from being enslaved to the story of defeat. This gives space for true self to rise up from the shadow and synthesize with the ego. No need to understand how this works. If you learn to watch your thoughts but not believe in them and if you learn how to be the witness to your mind but not identify with mind as self, the true self will rise, synthesize and become ego. The healing of the east is connected to the air, seeing the big picture like a wise eagle up in the sky.

I want to share my personal story of healing in the east. Back in 2010, when I was 38 years old, I had never meditated before minus a handful of times. I had done countless journeys inward in the form of creative visualizations and shamanic journeys. I had stared out the window and allowed my thoughts to reveal themselves in silence probably every day of my life. But I did not think I needed to meditate and I had no desire until my father suggested I try it when he noticed how much I was struggling with a certain issue in my life.

Smack dab in the middle of New York city, I closed my eyes and began the basic practice of watching my breath and noticing my thoughts pass like clouds through the sky of my mind. Beginners luck. Within just a few minutes a profound felt experience took me over. I could feel me being my breath and the thoughts not being me. Suddenly, I changed forever. I no longer believed my thoughts were true. I no longer felt my self to be what my thoughts were telling me I was through their stories and more deeply, I no longer felt thoughts themselves to be anything even close to who I was.

An emptiness seized me for weeks afterward as I would have thoughts about me or whatever topic rose up and every single thought seemed irrelevant. Not pointless or bad or wrong or any judgmental thing. Just a soft neutral irrelevance that left me feeling empty because I used to fully invest in my thoughts before that. I used to not have a sense of space between me and my thoughts. All of the sudden there was space and complete differentiation. Thoughts seemed nothing more than song on the radio.

I am very mental by temperament. I have seven air planets in my natal chart which represents mind. I am a huge meaning-maker. Eventually, I found my way back to the love and joy I experience for allowing my thoughts to have some weight. During that period in 2010, I would have said, “I have seven air planets in my chart, is just a thought. Astrology is just a thought. I am a meaning-maker is just a thought. None of it matters. I am, is just a thought.” and let it all go the moment those thoughts rose up in me. This is a path many take in life and it is beautiful and true in its own right. I swung back to the middle because my true self love for meaning-making led the way.

Every time I get too invested in thoughts I can return to that place and drop all identification with thinking and identities that thinking creates. To identify with your thoughts means to believe them as true and to believe what they tell you informs you about the nature of reality, self, or whatever you are thinking about. We use thoughts as a means to communicate and they have their purpose. Eventually I found the right balance for me in how much I invest in thoughts but I don’t identify with them at all anymore. I can blab on and on about my natal chart and how it makes sense of my internal experience and I also don’t identify with Astrology as a concept, at the same time. This is how it is with every mental understanding that I love and that gives me a strong felt sense. I love exploring the archetypes, they give me a strong self sense and I don’t identify with archetypes as concepts.

I identify with only a felt experience of being me. It’s wordless. It’s love if I have to give a word.

I share my story of east healing to show how quick it can happen to loosen the grip on the mind. When we over-identify with the stories our mind tells us, we suffer. Buddhism is rooted in the psychology of detaching identity from thought. We are not our thoughts. Even being a “me” is a thought and radical practice of this transcends sense of self past the individual level. We are not who we think we are.

Thoughts are not ours. We don’t make them up. Thoughts travel around and we catch them with our brains that are like nets catching butterflies. Or you can see the brain as a radio station and thoughts are the radio waves. Those of us who channel experience this consciously all the time. I turn my brain to a certain channel and channel a certain being.

The big idea (which is a thought too, so everything I explain in this blog is also moot) is that we are not the stories we tell ourselves and we don’t make up thoughts we think. Rather, the human being is a frequency channeling other frequencies in one big frequency being.

How is this healing?

Because, for example, when you let go of believing you are insecure and not good enough, space is created within. This space will naturally fill up with love. Love is the frequency of oneness that is the core power inside every single human being. Love is God. Love is Nature. Love is Universe. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Yet it is very easy to blotch out. If you spend all day trying to prove your worth in the eyes of others or chasing after projections of what you think will satisfy you or tell yourself you are a piece of poo or tell others they are a piece of poo or whatever story of pain and suffering you tell yourself, you blotch out the natural love that is the very core of existence.

I don’t use the word love like a hippie woo woo creature you can make fun of but you might make fun of me anyway. Let me remind you, love is strong. Love is childbirth, love is surviving abuse and war and starvation, love is saving a life, love is working through problem after problem, love is communicating truth, love is being honest, love is being open, love is being vulnerable, and love is being present. Love is hope. Love is the blood in the body and the gold of the soul. The west is where we feel this love. The east is where we clear space to feel this love.

I have not formally meditated in years. I do a vinyasa yoga practice that connects breath to movement and this keeps me centered so that I remain the witness of my thoughts. Four times a week. Chill. I have huge struggles in certain areas and I am not on any mountaintop when I share that being witness to my thoughts is something that comes easy to me. For you it may be harder and you may need to meditate daily to stay the witness. We all need a different kind of practice.

You can meditate by simply watching your breath and thoughts pass by while sitting in silence. You can watch your thoughts and breath while chanting, making something with our hands that does not require thought, or do some form of movement that allows you to watch thoughts and breath at the same time. You can meditate for five minutes a day or hours a day. Some ancient eastern practices make it complex and add all sorts of fancy breath work. There is a lot of variety to choose from and practices root back to the beginning.

True self rises from the west when we create space by not identifying with thoughts. This is my take on it, coming from a western point of view where I have consciously chosen to embrace the creative play of being an individual soul. I don’t believe in the individual soul as a static thing because as we lose the human suit we may become more collective and when I let go of all thought, I feel only oneness as the play of forces and form. I like to use all metaphysical concepts playfully, poetically and free to morph, as a result.

I feel the play of forces and form that is oneness choosing to put on the costume of the individual soul. Like the Russian doll image, I feel oneness as the core doll evolving through individuating itself into more and more specific life forms. I feel oneness evolve through creating stories of being different life forms. Just as humans stem from the single cell bacteria here on earth…I feel oneness as the spirit version of the single cell bacteria, continually evolving into more and more life forms. Metaphysical tangent.

True self is the authentic individual aching to emerge from the shadow of the ego where it waits for ego to make space for it to rise.

When space is created by not identifying with thoughts, true self can begin to rise and embody the conscious personality. True self is a felt experience and not a belief system. Why must I always express myself creatively? It’s my true self. Why am so sensitive and feel things with the volume way higher than most? It’s my true self. Why am I so spiritual? It’s my true self. It’s me beyond an idea of me. It’s living breathing me.

I was blessed to be raised by parents who did not tell me what to believe about who I am or life itself.  I was raised without religious or moral dogma. I was raised with a felt experience love, even through the dysfunction, abuse, and troubles youth delivered. This may have made it easier for me to know who I really am. I can only imagine the struggle for some who are raised with strong mental belief systems and dogma that forces them to repress their true nature at a young age to survive or be liked. I think about this especially for LGBTQIA kids and it breaks my heart that their true nature is made to be sinful and wrong by religion.

We all face the battle of true self versus conditioned self if we don’t align with our culture’s value system, on any level. Yet even if you are gender binary, christian, cis-male, straight, between the ages of 18 and 35, healthy, handsome, wealthy and educated with the cultural norm kissing your feet, you may equally battle discovering your true self because the world will mold your success so easily and distract you from looking within. However you are praised or marginalized by family and culture will inform how your true self is repressed or valued. Nature and nurture.

A certain true self temperament may not let any amount of cultural/family conditioning, abuse or trauma repress their true nature. Another temperament may crumble from the slightest thought of being humiliated. The reality of being oppressed, abused, or steered away through a strong value system put in place by family and tradition effects each individual in varying degrees. You can notice this in siblings who grow up in same household and culture but respond to external life in very distinct ways based upon their distinct internal experience. The distinct internal experience is the true self.

True self exists beneath and beyond thought but thought turns true self into a word and a concept. In the east, space is made between the felt experience and the thoughts that are always flooding in to costume the felt experience into a story. This story, when identified with, cements itself into the psyche and loops. This looping is called a neural pathway. The reason why we get stuck in habits of thinking and behavior roots itself in the way the neural pathway plays on repeat like forgetting to change the radio station and it always playing the same song, over and over. This is suffering.

 

 

The North, Body, Ancestors,Physical Expression

This blog will go deeper into the North of the four healing directions written about in my last blog, “The Defeat Story and the Transcending True Self. Please note, this is how I attune to the four directions based upon my direct experience and with books I have read over time. The healing modalities I attribute come from my direct channel. There are many maps made by many people channeling information from the thought planes. I channel in the vein of love and the voice of the divine feminine who goes by many names. I don’t claim or care to be right over others who are wrong. I am a needed voice in the variety of needed voices.

As written in the last blog…north is the physical world and here we can do the work of differentiating self from family and ancestral wounds, we can heal trauma in the body, and we can yoke mind and body through a disciplined practice which is necessary for the true self to marry and mature the ego. The north speaks to somatic healing, family systems and ancestral healing through telling the stories of the past and understanding the patterns. To do this we need to release trauma and anxiety from the body so it may support this investigation that makes self a pioneer seeking to manifest true self destiny. Healing in the north is connected to earth and hence process oriented, slow, pragmatic, and linear.

The north honors the linear progression of time in one lifetime, the linear movement of the soul through lifetimes, and the ancestral bloodline. Sometimes healing in a linear progression is the safest and best practice. For instance, if you have been through trauma in your life, it may be better to first address healing the body before processing the emotional, mental, and soul healing directions because trauma is stored in the body and is the cause of anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks, and stress. Processing the other directions before healing the body may re-traumatize you and make things worse in the long run.

I can speak of this experience myself. I healed in soul, heart and mind before receiving somatic (body) healing and as a result, my body is still very split off from my mental/emotional self and often in a state of regressed threat response which has caused me many problems in daily functioning life. Looking back now, had I known better, I would have began healing in the north and sought out therapists, healers, and practices that release trauma from the body to heal me physiologically from the PTSD and anxiety before healing through meaning-making.  Our bodies are our base.

The reason why we inherit ancestral trauma and wounding is because it never left the bodies of our ancestors, it lives in the DNA and stores itself in the next of kin. What we heal in our bodies in this life heals seven generations back and forward, they say. I feel this to be true. I like to see the ancestral bloodline as a dragon creature and each individual life in the bloodline is part of the dragon. No matter which way we look at systems, we are part of one.

The soul also travels through lifetimes in and out of our bloodlines. There are two axises here. The vertical ancestry is the soul traveling in and out of bloodlines through the lifetimes. The horizontal ancestry is our individual human self in the linear progression of the bloodline. We have ancestors in the bloodline we are born into in this life and we have ancestors from traversing many bloodlines and systems on and off planet (I will save the off planet talk for another blog.)

Healing in the north consists of releasing trauma from the body that stems from what happened to you in this lifetime and what happened to your ancestors and parents. Healing in the north is also discerning/differentiating your soul from your family and bloodline. To differentiate it is important to have a felt sense of the true self or the soul. Some people feel their authentic nature easily while others have a harder time accessing their sense of self. Analyzing the past in terms of how you, within your family of origin, operated as a system is a method that helps to gain that felt sense and differentiate the self. Releasing trauma from the body also may increase the felt sense of true self.

Past life regression may also light up the soul’s karma and what needs healing for those who are into that. Karma is what the soul has not let go within a lifetime that carries into the next lifetime. Karma is not tit for tat, this for that. If you die with guilt in your heart you will carry that guilt into your next life. If your grandmother died with shame for her body you may feel shame for your body. Karma is carried over from the vertical axis of the soul and the horizontal axis of the bloodline. To heal karma means to let go which is rooted in acceptance and forgiveness. Letting go is a mystery. There is no equation. The healing of karma happens in the west so I will save that for the west blog. The north is where we can begin to analyze and discern the karmas, sense of self, and release what is being held in the body.

In the north we honor our past lives, ancestors and the suffering they have been through. As we release trauma from the body, differentiate the self from the larger family system, and heal, it is important to understand the healing power of honoring the stories of suffering those before us (and us before) endured to give us the life we live today. We don’t want to just forget the holocaust, the colonization, the indentured servants, the slavery, the abuse, the oppression, and those who fought and died for us to go to a cafe, order a latte, and write about trauma. Tragedy exists right now for many and existed in the past, as much as we fight to overcome tragedy and bring freedom, equality and health to all people. Nature contains a structural dominance hierarchy that makes life as we know it dance with “power over” and “power under” in a strange symbiosis nobody can escape or avoid. Can we honor this?

The north requires patience and asks us to develop compassion. If you sit on a high horse judging others for their short comings you miss the point and avoid your own short comings. It might be easy for you to function in the world and incredibly hard for another to function in the world. It might be easy for you to be kind and fair while another person struggles to be kind and fair. You may be able to heal and let go of the past while another struggles and clings. We are all at different points on our soul journey.

Developing compassion for those not at your level of morality, functioning, intelligence, emotional maturity, etc is key to letting karma go and supporting the well-being of the dragon of humanity. The biggest spiritual lesson for us to learn is how to support one another instead of battle. There will always be a certain amount of battle and separation due to the dominance hierarchy of nature living through our blood, urging us to divide as well as harmonize….but we can create much more balance than we have now. The power balance is way off and not a reflection of what nature is able to provide. We heal the self to heal the dragon of humanity.

As far as therapeutic practice goes, in the north we learn how to commit and be disciplined to a practice that yokes mind to body. The actual yoking is more of an eastern healing but the commitment and discipline to the practice exists in the north. It may be that if you lack discipline and commitment that you are very critical and judgmental of yourself because it is compassion for the self that creates discipline that is rooted in love and not the force of sheer will. An astrologer once shared with me that he thought a better word for discipline is devotion. This really stuck with me. In my own experience, I gained discipline when I devoted to the healing of my body because I had reached a level of self love where healing self outweighed judging self.

Beginning healing in the north allows you to build a solid foundation. Many earth based spiritual maps (not all, there is variety) see north as the beginning because this is when the seed begins its journey in the dark soil of winter. This is how it feels to begin in the north. You are a tiny, vulnerable and tender yet strong seed holding an innate knowing of how to grow. Beginning in the north means you first release trauma and feelings from the body before mentally processing the trauma. The meaning-making you do in the north is to differentiate self and to understand self in the larger pattern of family and ancestry. You devote to a mind-body yoking practice such as meditation or yoga in the north and begin to build your foundation like the seed gaining sustenance in the soil.

Of course the way life is, we bounce all over the directions when it comes to healing because life is not an equation, it is also wild, spontaneous and beyond the linear progression of the north. I healed in the east and west for many years before I ever touched the north and south. I was in therapy in the eighties when processing trauma mentally was the thing to do to heal. I relied on mental and emotional meaning-making, ignoring healing body and will until 2010 when I began meditating and slowly moved into a yoga practice. How we progress on the healing journey is largely informed by the moment and what is available to us.

I want to end this blog with releasing any shadow rigidity the north may contain by acknowledging it. Northern shadows may show up as being too linear, rigid, stuck, systematic, empirical, narrow minded, traditional, and judgmental. If you are north heavy you are earth heavy and may need to travel to another direction to balance out.

The Defeat Story and the Transcending True Self

The story of defeat we all can relate to in different areas of life and with different levels of intensity and duration.

The term “dark night of the soul” may speak to a time in life, or a lifetime for some, where loss leads the soul on a journey of healing, redemption and transformation. We all experience the dark night when a loved one dies or we lose something precious such as our health, a job, home, reputation, partner or any fundamental experience that gives our animal natures a sense of security and satisfaction. For some, not having the fundamental experience is a life long karma. Being chronically single or in unsatisfying relationships. Being chronically impoverished or chronically ill physically, mentally, or both.

Again, the duration and intensity is different for each of us and we all can relate to the story of defeat that comes with loss or the never having. This story of defeat is groomed by culture, family of origin, and the soul’s karmic journey.

American culture places value on youth, physical beauty and health, wealth and financial independence, and being the best or number one-getting that attention. These are only a few values out of many that are highlighted while the other values are suppressed into the shadow.

Systemic cultural oppression adds to the stew pot of creating the juiciest of defeat stories. You are not valued the same way in our culture if you are a person of color, a female, in the LGBTQIA community, over the age of 40, disabled, physically or mentally challenged in any way, low in income, not American, or a child. Family of origin and our upbringing also grooms the character and contains all of the ancestral wounds, patterns, and illnesses born of an oppressive cultural narrative that lacks love, care, depth, awareness, and compassion. The soul also carries defeat stories through the lifetimes.

To be quite honest, with all of the restrictions we face, anyone who is free of the story of defeat is a living miracle! And those who claim to be may have the lofty ego compensating an insecure self hiding in the recesses of the shadow. These types project outwardly onto others as the problem. But that’s another topic.

Back to the defeat story. It is a story made by the mind based upon the felt experience of being human. If you get rejected over and over it hurts the heart and the mind will create a story such as, “I am unlovable” or “people are terrible.” For those who meet the cultural standards for what is of value, they may have all the things, the home, partner, thin body, good health, accolade, success yet still feel unworthy and defeated. Or they may suddenly get ill or lose somebody precious and face the defeat story later in life. Realistically, if the ego does not experience the defeat story it may be suppressing childhood trauma or pain and use the cultural value system unconsciously as a way to feel victorious and worthy.

On the surface our karmas look very different but get beneath the surface and we are all in the same stew pot of being human in a sick world, with most of us having endured some level and at different levels; abuse, poverty, oppression, addiction, being rejected, not receiving the proper love and care we needed as kids, and ancestral trauma. As a result, we do not know how to connect to the true self and express our uniqueness, connect with the divine or nature, connect to our philosophy of life, connect to our value system, our dreams and our true self worth.

The ego tries to compensate for defeat by achieving victory. Victory good. Defeat bad. Attention good. Lack of attention bad. Money good. Lack of money bad. Partner good. Single bad. Successful career good. Low paying job bad. Independent good. Dependent bad. Pretty good. Ugly bad. On and on.

This can also be translated into those seeking healing. Enlightenment good. Not enlightened bad. Faith good. Unfaithful bad. Love good. Hate bad. You can plug in the struggle of the soul to be whole into any value paradigm, be it the mainstream American value system or the offshoots such as the New Age, Mindfulness, Yoga, Witchy or whatever subcategory rooted in healing and wholeness of the individual. The value categories are many but all touch upon the fundamentals of relationships, security, happiness, morality, and self worth.

It is important to discern between when your ego is trying to achieve victory over defeat versus when you are authentically connected to and acting from your true self. It is also important to not judge the ego for wanting victory. We don’t judge the cute little doggie for begging for food no matter how much they won’t stop whining. The ego is a cute little doggie that can develop into a mature ego which would be the true self expressed in the world. But the ego is never something to punish, see as bad, or judge. Our egos need our love.

Having discernment between what is true self and what you have been groomed to value is a process. Transcending the victory/defeat ping pong game is also a process. We have to make a new recipe in the stew pot of the inner self and we also have to survive. Disclaimer: many don’t have the luxury to express the true self through their work and lifestyle, which is unfortunate and unfair. But everyone has the ability to transcend the victory/defeat story through connecting to the true self and being who we truly are designed to be, in character.

The true self can be felt and known even in the most grave of human experiences. But it’s not easy. Nor is it easy to make true self the inner compass, anchor, and love generator which is what is needed to transcend the victory/defeat narrative that enslaves the ego.

This blog is not a “how to” in “ten easy steps” blog. I am not about that mentality. But there are methods to help and results are real. The methods I use are fourfold which coincide with the four sacred directions.

North is the physical world and here we can do the work of differentiating self from family and ancestral wounds, we can heal trauma in the body, and we can yoke mind and body through a disciplined practice which is necessary for the true self to marry and mature the ego. The North speaks to somatic healing, family systems and ancestral healing through telling the stories of the past and understanding the patterns. To do this we need to release trauma and anxiety from the body so it may support this investigation that makes self a pioneer seeking to manifest true self destiny. Healing in the north is connected to earth and hence process oriented, slow, pragmatic, and linear.

East is the mind and here we can find the mindfulness practice that allows us to be witness to the story of defeat versus buying what it is selling. When we can watch the mental stories and the mind blah blah blahing while knowing true self is not the thoughts, we free ego from being enslaved to the story of defeat. This gives space for true self to rise up from the shadow and synthesize with the ego. No need to understand how this works. If you learn to watch your thoughts but not believe in them and if you learn how to be the witness to your mind but not identify with mind as self, the true self will rise, synthesize and become ego. The healing of the east is connected to the air, seeing the big picture like a wise eagle up in the sky.

The south is the will. Here we can heal through intention, conviction, and courage. Most of our wills are reactive to what others think of us and how the world treats us. The will is what motivates us. When we are groomed to be reactive to the outside world as the thermometer of how valuable and good we are, the will acts like a ping pong ball always bouncing around based upon circumstance and other’s opinions of self. In the south we learn how to make the will our center. Our true worth stems from the will which is a sturdy yet supple knowing within self and not a temporary emotional reaction. Learning how to live intentionally with every aspect of life builds the will. Making ritual a daily hygiene practice strengthens the will. Healing the will through releasing guilt, shame and other toxic stories connects to the work of the other directions. In the south the healing is one of purification through fire which is using courage, conviction and physical expression to burn away the old.

The west is the heart. Here we heal through connection. The attachment wounds live here and are healed here. In the west we also dive into the deep sea of the psyche to discover and awaken the true self, archetypes, wounds, gifts and all aspects hidden from ego that are asking for acknowledgment. The west is where psychological depth work is helpful to integrate the aspects of self through differentiating them. Uncovering, acknowledging, and expressing all that wants out from the unconscious happens here. This is the direction of the heart. Honoring feelings. Going with the flow of inner wisdom. Being in relationship of all kinds, romantic, therapist, healer, friend, mother, father, sibling, pet, teacher, co-worker, etc. Through being in relationship with others outside the self and aspects within the self, we heal. The heart is purified in the west which is connected to water. Water cleanses and renews. Forgiveness, acceptance, letting go and surrender all happen in the west.

This is how I see it and there are many ways to see it. In my work with clients and on myself I use this basic framework as I learn new skills along the path. I am walking it with you and beside you. Not ahead or behind. Not better or worse. There is no victory to gain over defeat. The story is a creative quest of the soul seeking sovereignty. Say that ten times fast.

 

The Archetypes in the Collective Shadow and Self-Parts in the Personal Shadow

Understanding from a Jungian perspective, depth perspective, internal family systems perspective (all of which root to the indigenous shamanic perspective), the psyche is made up of many “parts”. Integrating these self-parts brings healing. Each system of thought may have its own specific map and set of methods but they all stem from the fundamental idea that the psyche is made up of many aspects and that the conscious self, or ego, is only a tiny portion of the entire psyche.

Ego is our aware self-part, the part of the psyche that is literally conscious of self on a basic level of knowing you are a person. The unconscious contains the aspects of the psyche we are not aware of and do not identify with as a result and yet the workings of the unconscious deeply effect our conscious lives.

Jung made a distinction between the personal and the collective shadow. Shadow is another word for the unconscious. A poetic and metaphorical word, as Jung was quite the poet in my opinion!

Shadow refers to what cannot be seen. Many people think the shadow is the negative or “bad” traits of the personality, such as the desire to harm, steal, self-destruct, cross boundaries, take selfishly, etc. Although such traits may exist in the shadow or as a shadow personality, the shadow is a neutral term. The shadow is simply what is hidden from the conscious self.

The personal shadow contains what the ego represses in order to be liked and valued, or in order to survive. Hence, the personal shadow contains personality traits the ego thinks will cause shame and also wounds and feelings the ego could not process consciously, stemming from childhood trauma, abuse, or anything too harsh.

The spectrum of what gets relegated to the personal shadow by ego is different for each person because we all have our temperaments and that factors into the mix just as much as the events that take place. Nature and nurture.

The collective shadow is not personal. It is the root of the personal. If our individual selves are the flower, the personal shadow is the seed and the collective shadow is the soil. To understand, think in terms of all of life living symbiotically and interconnected at all times. We are always attached to every living cell of the universe and we would not exist as individuals without the collective holding us here.

Ancestral patterns, wounds, and karma live in the collective shadow and so do the archetypes. The archetypes are the collective instinctual drives we all share in common. Jung took this a new level and defined these archetypes as have their own sentience. We do not create the archetypes. The archetypes are our human foundation.

This concept is hard to grasp and requires the right brain to do so, which is of equal value to the left brain. The ancient and indigenous cultures engaged their right brained skills and understood the archetypes as the many gods and goddesses that ruled each particular collective human function (agriculture, fertility, truth, sexuality, mothering, fathering, morality, etc).

It is important to understand that no matter how you connect to the archetypes, the relationship is cultivated by the imagination or right brain. The imagination does not mean what is being imagined is false (though it might when turned to fantasy). Imagination allows us to communicate with levels of sentience that are not detectable by the five senses. Just as real but cannot be seen, touched, heard, tasted, or smelled.

In tarot, archetypes are imagined as the 22 major arcana. Jung imagined his own list of major archetypes. Internal family systems imagines its own essential model of archetypes living in the psyche. Astrology imagines planetary archetypes to map out the psyche.

I am not here to convince you that archetypes are real, sentient, or needed to heal. If you think this is all bullocks, no worries mate. If you feel drawn to this information than this concept and understanding of the psyche may be very healing for you. I also find it to be fulfilling spiritually and creatively to connect with the archetypes and I do so daily though using tarot, astrology, painting, and journeying.

Healing using archetypes involves becoming aware of the archetypes. Becoming aware brings the archetypes into conscious life. Integration means to bring what is unconscious into conscious life through bringing conscious life to the unconscious. Say that ten times fast!

Much of who we are is collective and not individual. As westerners we tend to avoid the collective level of reality culturally speaking and also psychologically speaking. When you take your ego into the unconscious to integrate with the archetypes you transform into a more balanced, healthy, fulfilled, and happy person. Nature makes it so. By reconnecting with your natural roots, you will experience well-being.

For example, integrating with the Animus (the masculine archetype of the conscious feminine ego) will make a feminine identified ego take authority over her life, set healthy boundaries, make good decisions, partner with an equal who values her, differentiate herself from family, and contribute her ideas to the world as a unique person.

If her Animus is not integrated and lives unconscious and ineffectual in the collective shadow of her psyche, she may see men who do not value her as holding all of the power, she may lack boundaries and give too much of herself away, she may feel lost inside, she may be overly critical and judgmental of her partner, she may be filled with unconscious “shoulds” that she projects onto those she loves as if they are be-ll end-all truths.

In this woman’s personal shadow may live a lonely and desperate character who feels not good enough to be loved and valued by others. Let’s call this character the disempowered girl. This disempowered girl is a mirage living in the woman’s personal shadow, made up of repressed energy from childhood trauma. 

The Animus is sentient and an essential foundation of this woman’s psyche. The disempowered girl is not sentient. The disempowered girl is a character made up of a narrative made up of repressed feelings that never integrated with the woman’s ego.

The disempowered girl emanates the negative vow, “I am bad” (understood through the lens of  cognitive-behavioral work). The disempowered girl is the wounded inner child when understood through inner child work but the inner child is also the child archetype.

Jung used the term “complex” to describe when an archetype becomes the center sun that personal shadow characters orbit around. The sun being the archetype and the planets being repressed energy in the personal shadow make up a galaxy of dysfunction.

In in this example, the child archetype would be the sun and the disempowered girl would be the negative narrative orbiting around it. The child sun would want to integrate with the conscious ego through expressing curiosity, following wonder, experiencing innocence, play, and newness but it’s pulled the disempowered girl into its orbit.

The woman, in her waking ego life, feels shame all of the time and she is too scared to try anything new and express curiosity. She judges herself and others unaware that she is doing so. She sticks to a rigid routine to feel safe, all because of this complex.

But I don’t want to get too far into complexes. My point of this blog is to share the distinction between sentient archetypal aspects that make up the fundamental nature of the psyche and the self-parts in the personal shadow that are living as characters after being repressed by the ego long ago.

I have done a lot of work on myself and with clients on engaging with the self-parts in the personal shadow, treating these parts as valuable, giving them love, acknowledging their existence and letting them express so that they may be released. This work is effective. Using tarot is a potent way to unearth these parts, as are dreams and noticing what causes big reactivity in relationships.

When you suddenly become conscious of a self-part in the personal shadow and give the part love, acknowledgment, and freedom to express, the part will often dissolve. Dissolving means integrating because when the part is released from the shadow it has integrated with the conscious present ego self.

Sometimes the part dissolves all at once and other times the part dissolves slowly over years. I have parts that have taken twenty years to integrate and sometimes a switch in treatment is what brings healing.

Sometimes it is best to not treat the personal shadow part as a character that needs acknowledgment, love, and expression. It may be more effective to use the mindfulness practice of radical acceptance and not attach to the repressed energy as a character. This would look like allowing the expression of the repressed energy to exist with conscious radical acceptance while at the same time not engaging with the part as a character, essentially ignoring it, over and over.

So, if the disempowered girl living in the personal shadow of the woman expresses through her conscious ego as a perpetual feeling of shame, the practice is for her to allow the shame to present with radical acceptance, over and over, while she ignores the shame at the same time.

I like to use the example of the movie “A Beautiful Mind” where the main character overcame his severe delusions that showed up as a group of friends that did not really exist. He did this through a very mundane practice of mindful radical acceptance. By learning to accept the appearance of these friends while at the same time not engaging with them at all, he found integration. He healed.

Sometimes you will need to attach and lovingly engage with the self-part in the personal shadow. You will need to treat this self-part like a parent or therapist and give this part love, listening, honor, and expression. Maybe you’ll need to give this part a job or a role to fulfill. In this way, it is the relationship between ego and self-part that creates healing and integration.

Other times you may need to use radial acceptance and mindfulness to heal from a chronic issue, pattern, or block. You may need to heal by not identifying with what is in the shadow while radically accepting the conscious emotional expression of this shadow part without identifying with it.

We are not our wounds. We are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings.

Integrating the archetypes into conscious life, on the other hand, is necessary. You don’t want to not identify with your most fundamental human instincts. Well, unless you are a radical Buddhist monk. Otherwise, you want to integrate the archetypes so that you live with more health, balance, freedom, and happiness.

How do you know the difference between a self-part in the personal shadow and an archetype?

Usually the self-parts in the personal shadow leak through conscious life as chronic issues, negative narratives, and repeated feelings, whereas the archetypes tend to seize the ego and come on strongly as potent feelings or character traits, instincts or impulses.

For instance, in the personal shadow may be an “ugly girl” who was teased as a child and felt rejected by her classmates. This may show up in the adult woman’s ego as a chronic insecurity narrative where she is always trying to lose weight, look prettier, shop for new clothes, and improve herself because she never feels pretty enough.

The archetype that pulls the “ugly girl” into orbit may the lover, our instinctual desire to sexually merge with another. The lover archetype would seize this woman with erotic desire, feelings of love, seduction, a crush, a need to merge with another. Now we have a complex (usually there are more parts but for the sake of example, I make it simple).

The complex blocks integration of the lover with the ego of the woman because the “ugly girl” in her personal shadow shows up as the insecurity narrative in one form or another and she never allows herself to feel beautiful enough to merge with another. The lover remains shadowed and the “ugly girl” remains in the driver’s seat of her conscious life.

Does this woman need to engage with the “ugly girl”, listen to her, love her, and let her express all her wounds and pain? Does this woman need to give radical acceptance to the insecurity she feels while ignoring the chronic narrative of insecurity at the same time? Or does this woman need to do a little of both?

Intuition guides us and so does trying out different methods. I am naming only two methods and using only one framework of understanding the psyche. The important thing to keep in mind is to not compare yourself to others and do not treat any healer or therapist as a god who knows more than yourself. Results are real and methods work. Healing also may happen without any method. Keeping the mystery alive after all of this explaining! Do what works for you.

 

 

 

Hope through Tragedy

Today’s blog is inspired by a friend going through a very difficult time who suggested I write about enduring hope when I requested a topic. This blog is for her and everyone traversing their own version of tragic circumstances.

What is hope?

Hope is an archetype….an archetype called The Star, according to the ancient wisdom of the tarot.

Archetypes are the collective instinctual drives we all share in common and inherit the moment we are born, according to Jung.

Archetypes are the gods and goddesses, according to the ancients and indigenous people.

Whichever way you want to see archetypes, see them as sentient energies that live in their own place and this is the place we all birth from on a soul level. The collective unconscious is our mother birthing the individual psyche. The archetypes are transpersonal helpers, instincts, forces, and beings.  Hope is a goddess, a god, a sentient energy, and a collective instinct.

Hope is the “light when all lights go out” as said in Lord of the Rings when Frodo is trapped by a deadly giant spider and needs the light of hope to literally not die.  Victor Frankl wrote a book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he links feeling hope to the chances of survival for concentration camp victims in Nazi Germany. Could this really be true? Could hope keep us alive?

What we endure as humans is beyond rational comprehension…

From the natural tragedies of break-ups, death of loved ones, illness, and sudden losses of all sorts….to the diseased type of tragedies that stem from multigenerational trauma and systemic oppression such as sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, prejudice, poverty, and mistreatment of humans, animals, and the planet on many levels….human life and tragedy are bound together.

You cannot answer why on a spiritual level without finding a lesson in the darkness. When you endure hope through tragedy you come out the other side of it with more compassion, more liberation, more knowledge, more love, more understanding. This is a truth of human kind.

When you collapse into tragedy with a sense of doom, blame, punishment, despair and resentment you come out the other side more bitter, closed off, abusive to self or others, hateful, and sick. This is also a truth of human kind.

I want to be careful here and say that every feeling needs an outlet. Hope is not turning a frown upside down. It is not putting a positive spin on a terrible situation. Horrible experiences happen. Unfair circumstances happen. Nobody should spiritually bypass the feelings of anger, despair, resentment, rage, and resignation (among many other feelings) by saying, “this tragedy is meant to be because it will make me stronger, wiser, loving, and aware.”

The process is key and the journey is everything. Feelings are like poop and like chemical storms. What happens if you don’t let yourself poo because you tell yourself it is wrong or bad to poo? What happens if you try to stop a raging hurricane? You can’t stop a storm and not letting yourself poo will make you sick.

All feelings need time and space to be honored and felt.  The key to moving feelings out of the body is to not wrap a mental story around the feeling. Feel the resentment when your partner betrays you but don’t tell yourself you are piece of shit and it’s your fault or whatever the story may be. Keep stories off the feelings and use your mind to keep repeating, “I feel resentment” as you find a way to express it.

Express feelings through exercising, making art, acting, singing, venting to a friend, dancing, cooking, cleaning…find your way and let the feeling out purely without a narrative of why and what the feeling means.

I promise you, the feeling will pass as every storm and every bowel movement does. I am being crude on purpose. Negative feelings are crude. They are not elegant and they don’t smell good but they still need to be honored and let out.  If you let your feelings out you won’t spiritually bypass them with answers, solutions, reasons, meaning-making. Even the best of tools can be used for harm.

Karma, which is simply the accumulation of feelings that are not released from the body (due to stories or what the Buddhists call “attachments”), can be turned into a scolding and judgmental concept when you say, “I won’t feel my anger because I don’t want to create karma.” If you don’t want to create karma, feel your feelings fully and let them pass through.

Astrology is a great tool that can also be used the wrong way if you won’t let yourself feel despair by saying something like, “I have a Scorpio eighth house moon so despair is in my chart.” The tiniest bit of reasoning, no matter how true, can shut the actual feeling off.

Many therapeutic modalities do this too. Re-framing, a cognitive-behavioral technique of turning a negative story into a positive story, may shut off a feeling of anger that needs to surface and be released. It is best to first release the feeling and then re-frame the story.

The point I want to make is that all tools in the spiritual-psychological-self-help tool box can be misused. Take positivity for example. Positivity is not about only feeling and thinking positive thoughts. For that secretly judges and scolds negativity and the act of judging and scolding is extremely toxic. True positivity is remembering that all feelings are innocent when felt and expressed purely.

The truth of how the human body works is that honored and expressed feelings leave the body and cause no harm. When feelings collect in shadow they change over time. They putrefy and create bigger uglier monsters that erupt as chronic illness, projections, neurosis, and imbalances of all forms.

When negative feelings are honored and expressed they leave the body and hope has room to enter. Hope needs room to enter. Hope wont bludgeon its way into the heart.

Why some people have an easier time feeling hope while others struggle to feel hope is part mystery and part rational. The mystery roots down into temperaments. We all have a temperament. No need to judge yourself if your temperament is not very hopeful. I am sure you have another archetypal instinct pouring through you in spades.

Every human is a unique finger print of qualities and this is not in our control. The mystery owns our temperament.

Yet even the most hopeless temperament may experience hope because hope is an archetype we all connect with in the collective unconscious or spirit world. Every. Single. One of us.

Sometimes it takes a little work, which leads to the rational understanding part. If you struggle to feel hope due to your temperament, due to struggles internal or external, or due to being pummeled by tragedy all at once…you can do two things to invoke hope.

First, you can stop rejecting your feelings with judgements and make the dedication to feel your feelings without a story wrapped around them. You may get help doing this with a therapist or healer, a friend, or even a pet. Maybe being with spirit in solitude or in nature is helpful.

Feeling your feelings without stories may take a while. Patience is not easy but needed. For most of us have been told by culture, family, or both that negative feelings are bad and wrong and we experience literal cut-off from feelings as a result. Many of us instead find refuge in various addictions and distractions such as drinking, working, working-out, over-analyzing, focusing on others in service, partying, escaping through drugs, eating, shopping, etc.

But it’s every human’s birthright to reconnect to our feelings. Everyone is capable.

Another aspect to check is the story showing up as identity.

Maybe you identify too much with despair, depression, resentment, etc. Identification is when it’s not really despair you are feeling, it’s the story of despair you are telling yourself and have been your whole life.

You can tell the difference between a feeling and a story by seeing if you identify with it. If you identify with being a depressed person, chances are you have cut-off from many feelings due to being stuck in an identity. Feelings of anger and even self-empowerment may be longing to express but cannot get through the depressed story or persona.

Sorting out feelings from the story, starving out the stories, honoring and expressing the feelings is a process. Process is the most important part. Nobody can bypass their own process. For some it is quick, some slow… but for most of us healing moves in a spiral. We make progress then fall backward yet when we do we are a little wiser, a little more aware, a little more loving.

The second thing is you can invoke hope through ceremony and ritual.  The ancients and indigenous were very connected using ritual and ceremony to stay healthy. Arhcetypes such as hope speak to the conscious-self through images, sound, taste, movement, and feeling. The ancients and indigenous also understand that we are literally made of the elements (earth, air, fire, water, ether) and we may call upon them to ground and connect self to earth.

Whether you partake in a more formal ritual, alone or with a group, or whether you express ritual through making art, singing, listening to a song or a sermon…. ritual and ceremony simply means that you intentionally use your creativity, feelings and senses to invoke the archetypes.

It is everyone’s birthright to invoke hope.

Invoking may be as simple as lighting a candle and calling upon hope in meditation. It may be as elaborate as performing a sacred dance on the full moon after calling the directions, elements, angels, ancestors and allies.

Invoking hope may be as simple as singing a song that makes you feel hope. It may be as elaborate as writing a song about hope and performing in a hospice setting to inspire those close to transitioning into death.

You might find the perfect crystal and invoke hope into the crystal, wearing it over your heart each day.

Or perhaps you put your hands around every glass of water you drink and invoke hope into the water.

Hope does not ask for a specific kind of ritual or ceremony. Hope only asks to be acknowledged.

Many leaders have hope moving so powerfully through their hearts that they inspire everyone around them. Martin Luther King Jr comes to mind as a perfect example of this. Hope catches flame. You may not intend to call upon hope but hope finds you anyway.

Sometimes hope enters the body so strongly that it wipes out any blocks in the way and washes you clean. We have all experienced this through listening to song, watching a movie, being moved by a speaker, looking at a sunset, into a loved one’s eyes, or a work of art.

Hope is always available to us no matter how dense the jungle of tragedy, betrayal and injustice we are traversing. May hope find its way into your heart in your darkest night of the soul.