Archive for the 'healing' Category

Hug a conservative

March 4, 2014

I was writing a reply to a comment on Paul Krugman’s blog.  The blog post itself was about Paul Ryan’s flawed use of citation in his report arguing against current anti-poverty programs.

I was trying to point out that conservatives probably come by their worldview “honestly,” in the sense that it probably was helpful to them.  Many of them do have personal traumas in their pasts, and somehow they found flotsam to cling to until they reached the shore.  On the other hand, clinging to flotsam is not swimming.

I think we need to address the possibility that people who find conservatism comfortable may be people who have a combination of damage and survival and don’t yet see those elements in their lives in a way that would allow them to progress beyond survival and replicating trauma for others.

I think they need more healing.  They probably don’t see it that way.

I see the challenge as being analogous to figuring out how to find a way to give a person the benefit that most people derive from a hug, but without actually hugging them.

Conservatives may yell at the downtrodden to stop being so downtrodden, but liberals tend to yell at the conservatives to stop yelling at the downtrodden.

If we assume everybody is carrying baggage, maybe we can stop adding to it and start reducing it.

Unfortunately self-protective coping devices make that tricky, as attempts to help the authentic self of a person using such devices often are redirected to the false self, and that feeds the problem instead of reducing it.


Roast beef sandwich

November 28, 2013

Jordan looked at me sheepishly this morning and said he had something to apologize to me for.

He had eaten a roast beef sandwich he had bought for me.

He had gone out with friends after class yesterday, and at a restaurant they ate at, had ordered a sandwich for me as take-out.  On his way home, he had stopped at the home of a friend he’s known for ages, who was home on break from college, and he stayed there into the evening.

He got hungry while he was at the friend’s house, and “there wasn’t anything to eat,” which was plausible, not so much because of want but because of what I might call “food issues,” so Jordan ate the sandwich he had with him.

I told him, that despite the fact that he doesn’t agree with my “karmic nonsense,” I was going to tell him how this was actually great news to me in a way;  my nagging issue that some guy “done me wrong” and took from me something that was mine, had been reduced to my child eating a roast beef sandwich because he was hungry — that scenario didn’t bother me, and, he was apologetic about it (not to mention aware of what he had done — and he said he plans to get me another sandwich).  I have a very strong sense that this pattern of feeling wronged by a guy who doesn’t give back, and takes advantage of my having given to him first, is a very old pattern for me, or possibly for someone I have been helping (I do think I help people clean up their old and difficult karma when they get too stuck).  When the pattern reaches an innocuous iteration, it’s like the last ripple of a wave, or the boat getting close enough to the dock that one can step or jump out onto terra firma.

So I am quite happy, in a way, to hear about my missing roast beef sandwich.  I like feedback that progress has been made.  I feel like I have successfully let go of something that was impeding me, finally.  And I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving


October 11, 2013

Well, of course we wouldn’t try to fill up a black hole in a galaxy as if it were a pot hole.  Why do we try to fill up holes in our hearts as if they were, too?

We want to close the hole.

I was reading yesterday this piece about pressure on cracks in a metal actually producing the counter-intuitive result of closing them.

My own personal experience has been that the hole in the heart gets resolved by projecting our positive emotions outwards.

I felt a hole in my heart open after a particularly difficult pregnancy loss, but I also realized that what I needed was a child to nurture, and what I didn’t need was to become angry and bitter.  It wasn’t a reasoned decision, or one set on achieving a particular positive result for myself, it was just a little self-awareness about next steps and avoiding something unpleasant (becoming angry and bitter).

One of the other things I had going for me, apparently, is an ability to stay on emotional pitch and not slide flat or sharp — I could hold a note of hurt or disappointment without its becoming anger or resentment.

Anyway, we found children to nurture.

I think, in retrospect, that it was kind of like throwing up a rope and then climbing it.  I ended up filling the hole through that (nurturing children) — like Harold with his Purple Crayon in the Crockett Johnson children’s books, drawing staircases to go down or go up in order to make his journey.  It’s kind of like faith, only it feels much more concrete than faith in God.  It’s a move on the physical plane that allows one to make a profit by giving something away — giving love to another closes the hole.

There are steps that come after, I think, at least in my own journey, but they are not the subject of this post.  Nor is my encounter with someone whose perceived hole in her heart was woven over through our working through enough imagery and emotional steps, at a very deep level, to allow her to feel the hole had been closed.

Re-establishing the status quo

September 6, 2013

Nowadays we can get tracking information for our packages so we can monitor the progress of their transit.  At first this seemed to be a gain.

But now I feel that I’m back at square one.

Jordan ordered coursebooks from his campus bookstore.  He commutes and having them delivered here isn’t actually very expensive and in his case makes sense.

Some came.  Some didn’t.  But all were issued tracking labels.  Some never progressed in the system beyond that.  The bookstore says, “They must have fallen off the truck” (sic).  Jordan took an hour yesterday to get replacement copies from the store, in person.

This morning I was checking the status of a different package, and again, we’ve got a shipping label acknowledgement by the carrier.  I called the vendor, and they assured me this was normal, that the package was actually in transit with the carrier, and will indeed arrive next week.  I asked them how they could be sure, and cited by way of example the recent experience of Jordan’s books.  The customer service agent said that the lack of information that the package has made it into the carrier’s system is normal.

So tracking information has now become somewhat random.  Maybe it gives one real information, maybe it is misleading.  It is not dependable, does not give us a basis for a realistic expectation of whether the package will arrive.  It does not seem to me that it leaves us better off than we were before we had access to it, at least when the tracking information gets stuck at this stage of “label created, not yet with carrier.”

But there’s always, for me, the possibility of an analogy.  There’s always a lesson I can find in my circumstances.  The situation is not a useless exercise in frustration or in unmet expectations from what technology purports to do (and maybe even did for a time).

Here it could be how psychism interferes with faith.

For example, there’s a spiritual story about a person who “tracks” other people with some sort of supernatural powers we might call psychic.  They eavesdrop and insert messages on a frequency most people don’t notice because they don’t have enough awareness to pick out within their thoughts and emotions these intruded thoughts and emotions as not being their own.

During a subsequent incarnation, these psychic people have that same ability, but without the quality of discernment as to which individual they are communicating with.

They eventually figure this out and are quite indignant.  They think they’ve got defective machinery.

But they don’t.  They have machinery helpful for a different task and helpful for teaching them not to rely on psychism to navigate their lives.  The “different task” is empathic healing, in which it is quite helpful not to know the identity of the person being healed.  And not being able to triangulate and strategize about what move to make based on inside information forces the person back onto faith and reliance on internal guidance from their core.  They can’t track the package, or even know it will get there, they can only do their part and then wait and see, until they receive feedback actually addressed to them; and in the meantime, they can (only) do what their guidance suggests.

But they cry out and complain and sit down and refuse to participate.  Or they demand extra help to compensate for their inability to untangle the strands of what they hear and attribute them accurately to individuals.  Because in addition to being able to undertake empathetic healing, the person in the story is also capable of being one of those “mixing bowls” (like Plato mentions somewhere), and can mix various strands of energy or information in a way that forms a new whole, but they don’t realize that’s what that talent is for, either — they see it, again, as a defective device for manipulating people.  They don’t understand their function, probably because it isn’t part of the belief system of their culture.

Along comes the IT support, the spiritual geek squad, and they check out the equipment (by trying it out themselves).  And they report that it works just fine, it’s just not meant for tracking other people or manipulating them or building social relationships, it’s meant for healing shattered souls, including by creating pieces that may be missing and lost.

I have no idea whether I will receive my package.  I have no idea where it is.  I can only wait.  While I wait, I can stop scouring my external environment for clues and listen to what I hear within.

The package in question is a representation of Kwan Yin.  She would not be who she is through means of trying manipulate on the basis of pieces of external information or trying to manipulate other people.  She hears the cries of others as cries welling up within her, she navigates and heals by means of looking deep within herself and connecting with those forces.

Perilous adolescence

September 1, 2013

I met a social worker at Dana Farber years ago who had adolescent sons.  And he shared that he thought parents’ task is, at least in part, sort of like damage control until the kids emerge from this period of development, so that the kids will have as many options as possible.

I am thinking about humanity in general this way, as we try to deal with issues like climate change and chemical weapons use.

I think it will be a while until there is a critical mass of people who look at life in a more helpful way than most of us currently do.  I think where religious leaders often go wrong is assuming there is a shortcut from here to there.  A lot of spiritual development is rooted in the experience of life with an open mind and an open heart.  Hiring a substitute or avoiding the experiences or trying to have them vicariously through learning about them as ideas just keeps us stuck in earlier stages.  I see (over-)intellectualizing as an excuse, something that masks a much more profound wound that needs healing.


August 31, 2013

A healer I know explained to me recently that she charges for her services at least in part because in that way her clients bring a more engaged perspective to the encounter.  She said her Reiki training requires her to take a fee (except in certain exceptional circumstances).

At least some twelve-step programs have a tradition of “attraction not promotion,” in terms of relating to others who might be thought to be in a position to benefit from the programs.

These attitudes also help healers and others not cross over into trying to do another person’s work for them, help them keep clearer boundaries, and help them not pour time and energy into a bucket with a persistent hole.


June 27, 2013

My mother got herself a new pair of glasses, a cell phone, a room fan, and a couple of pairs of slacks and a few blouses, some socks, etc.  This morning she’s got her second hair-dressing appointment in about a month.  Two ladies will come to her home in the afternoon to play a card game and enjoy refreshments.

It’s an amazing turn-around from where she was a year ago.

She hadn’t bought new clothes for years.

The makeover in my house is going on in the back bedroom in which Willy died.  The plasterers are here.  The ceiling has been replaced, the eave wall, too, the other walls repaired.  They’ll come back and paint another day.

My mother and Willy had a connection.  He did a very sweet but funny imitation of her.  Their birthdays were about a week (and 30 years) apart, and we once celebrated two milestone birthdays of theirs together.  She struggled terribly when he got sick and died.

So maybe there’s some connection between the makeovers, I don’t know.  I just saw too many new cracks in the walls and called the plasterer, was my perspective.

Expecting too much

February 27, 2013

I have been thinking about how I fall into the pitfall of expecting more than a person’s level of emotional development allows them to give.  This is in connection with a pattern of how relationships often run aground in my experience.

It’s for me the equivalent to a man at a club realizing, before it’s too late but after he has already got his hopes up, that the young woman he’s got his eye on actually is underage, just all dressed-up, all made-up to look all grown-up.

For me, the key is how I can find an alternative way of getting my needs met if structurally in my life the person in question is the one who could meet my needs.  With minor children, we use foster care and adoption when their parents can’t meet their obvious needs.  What do we do when other people in our lives can’t meet our less obvious needs?

Insisting that they do I have never found to be effective.  Walking away at least gets me out of my expectation that they will and allows me not to be damaged further.  And walking away opens up the possibility that someone else will enter my life who might.

That somebody else might even be God.

The piece I can actively work on is seeing the person more clearly the way they are, and not having unrealistic expectations.

If I can go back to my club analogy, if the other person has the trappings of maturity — older than I am or materially successful or claiming to be smart or inter-personally astute, for example — I assume a level of emotional maturity that actually turns out not to be matched by the child that they actually are operating as.  This image is actually somewhat accurate — they are operating as a child under the make-up of success or age.

The helpful thing for me is that it is pretty easy for me to have compassion for a “child,” regardless of their age and success.  I can love that damaged child, feel compassion for them.  I may not stick around to enable them to remain a child or to damage me further, but I also wish them no harm and in fact I wish them all the best, including healing.

If they lash out at me if I “leave,” whether metaphorically or literally, or if they become angry with me or even retaliate if I indicate my damage, dissatisfaction, or negative experience of them, then I can have compassion for that, too.  I’m sure I have my own moments, too.


December 16, 2012

It has been clear to me for a long time that a person’s perception of something like an insult depends on many factors besides the details of the actual episode.  Different people are, or have come to be, calibrated differently, not only for insults but for things like unmet expectations, deprivation, etc.  Some people shrug those things off, others are somewhat bothered, others take the event quite personally and spin stories about what happened (including morality tales) in order to soothe themselves about the event and the way the world (allegedly) works more generally.  Some seek not only to right the situation according their own sense of what should be and what “should have” happened, but to punish those who seem responsible for what happened that they didn’t like.

For many years I worked on resolving a situation that turned out to involve this issue.  Someone had been claiming that their consent to something (a something that had become problematic) had been coerced.  I duly investigated how to help them heal and get back on track from what had happened.  I came to see that while they may have felt coerced, in fact they actively chose to engage in a behavior that was necessary for the transaction to occur.  The “coercion” turned out to be more like a combination of manipulation and withholding material information, not what we would usually mean by coercion.

The targeted person in this transaction was unable to perceive this nuance or communicate the true details of what had happened.  Their sense of self was too fragile to acknowledge their contribution to what happened.  They couldn’t see that their being vulnerable to the manipulation, etc. was also a contributing factor — that which had damaged them enough to make them vulnerable to this means of obtaining consent was relevant, too.  But they had a need to not recognize their damage.

What had happened, apparently, was that a situation had come up in which they were offered something tempting but something they knew they should have refused.  It was offered (first) in a guise that seemed to relieve them of responsibility for going along with accepting.  Then, it was temporarily withdrawn, and then re-offered, only this time when it was offered, they had to take an action at their end to make the transaction occur.  At that point, they had become emotionally invested in having the thing that had been offered.  So taking the action affirmatively to obtain it was glossed over by them, and they reported the whole mechanism as “coercion.”  Throughout all this, they really didn’t know the details of what this transaction would entail.

It turned out to be a disaster from which they could not extricate themselves without asking for help.  Which they wouldn’t do for all kinds of reasons, including that they liked some aspects of the situation and had managed to shift some of its costs to others and to blind themselves to the damage to themselves and others. They also felt somewhat paralyzed to act differently, as if they were under hypnosis, in a way.

Eventually they and/or others realized the situation needed to be ended.  I discovered that resolution of this situation was made difficult by the fact that the help tailored to the situation as they described it did not help end the actual situation that had occurred; they did not mention, could not admit to, their own contribution, and that was relevant to what needed to be done to resolve the situation.

My reaction to having finally unearthed this wrinkle, to having discovered why we were having so much trouble resolving this issue, was relief and tiredness.  I had worked through the “treatment” multiple times, each time on the basis of the information I had, and some of those work-throughs were quite taxing.  I was glad I stuck with it long enough to understand what really had transpired that had lead to the problem.  I could see with compassion why the person was unable to share the details more accurately.  And I could pause long enough not to fall into venting any frustration I might have had in their direction.  I admit I was glad when we had accomplished what was needed and were done.

For me, part of the lesson all along was that this case did not actually involve anything unique or esoteric or special, despite the sense of the person involved that it and they were special and unique.  Seeing the problem more accurately was important — its power could be reduced once it was seen differently — it was kind of like the story of the moth fluttering in a headlight that looks like a signal that it’s not, looks like something more exciting than it is.

Of course, even with seeing the issue as it was and applying an appropriate treatment, we still had to clean up the damage and to dismantle what we could and to dispose of what we couldn’t, as safely as possible.  One of the tools we used is a tool I have been advocating in the wake of the shooting incident in Connecticut on Friday:  people less affected by a difficult situation bringing in as much positive energy as possible, in the form of love and caring, for example, to buoy those who are most directly impacted.  It’s like when people say, in the context of fashion, that a smile is the finishing touch on an outfit — bringing in positive energy is a help.  I sometimes think of it as bringing in an air freshener, or opening the windows, in a stuffy and sour-smelling space.  Sometimes the whole world seems to me to be such a place.

What she couldn’t say

October 27, 2012

Once upon a time in a medieval village, there was an elder who was trained in history, law, and the healing arts, who told this story:

“There was once this woman, of indeterminable age, very thin and nervous.  She didn’t meet your gaze or say very much, she was clearly holding on tight to getting through each day.

“At some point she starting talking about women’s property rights, about her rights in property on account of her having been married.  She talked of unrecognized rights of succession through female kin and she talked of legally recognized but ignored rights she had in property held by her husband’s family.  She wanted me to believe the source of her agitation and sorrow lay in these disputes.

“So I duly investigated her rights and the rules, but at some point I found myself studying the story of Lucretia, her rape and the overthrow of the Tarquins and inauguration of the Roman Republic.

“The telling of Lucretia’s story that attracted my attention made it clear that she was coerced, and at knife point.  But she didn’t choose death at that juncture because Tarquin’s threat was that that would bring her family deeper shame if she did, as he would make it look as if she had been caught in adultery with a slave.  She had no good choices, and she tried to walk a line between self-blame for dishonor and belief in her own virtue.  In her culture, suicide allowed her to resolve this conflict in some way.

“I could see too great an internalization by Lucretia of a culturally contingent blaming of the victim for having been overcome.  That turned out to be my own interlocutor’s source of damage: she blamed herself for having been overwhelmed.  Paradoxically, it left her wanting to be emotionally overwhelmed by others in order to blot out the trauma and to push everybody away and lock herself inside herself so as to make any emotional engagement with others impossible.

“This state of things left her alternately imploding and exploding, until I finally understood the root cause was that in some way she really was blaming herself for not being able to protect herself from being physically overwhelmed and raped.  That helped her see a way out, just the recognition that she was blaming herself suggested that there were other ways of reacting.  The recognition made it impossible to be 100% swept up in the reaction as if it were the only reality.

“Part of this woman’s horror was the aftermath of the rape.  She became pregnant and she didn’t like the child’s temperament or behavior as he grew up.  I suggested her experience was a shadow play of the earth’s experience of giant meteor impacts and the new turns in the development of animal life those brought forth.  The woman found a purpose for her life through this, and she reconnected to the physical world.  And gradually a sense that things, and she, could be okay again replaced her despair.

“I was relieved.  I wondered whether her assailant and the guardians of her culture would ever realize how damaging it is to make an innocent person a contributor to their own destruction.  At least I had had a teacher who had cautioned me not to expect more of people than they were capable of, not to take on the stupid cruelness of a situation to my own detriment — here I can see that it wouldn’t have helped, it would have hurt, but oh, it was so tempting.  Especially in light of all the equally misguided ways these people tried to ‘help’ this woman resolve her disquiet before she came to me.  Compassion for people’s limitations, grace for when I can’t locate enough on my own behalf.”

That’s where the account of this story ends.  I am happy to pass it along, with my apologies for any anachronisms in the way I’ve retold it.