Transcendence In Our Most Important Relationships

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On Sunday October 30th I attended the “Celebration Of Life” for a good friend and spiritual mentor, Dee Clutts. Dee made her transition on October 16th 2016.

The service was a beautiful, sacred, and inspirational coming together of Dee’s friends, family, and spiritual community. We were all there to honor and remember Dee, and this we did…through singing songs, telling stories, and prayer.

Reflecting upon Dees service in the days following, I realized that it had a purpose which was far greater than remembering and honoring Dee. In that holy place of gathering last Sunday, we were actually invoking Dee’s very presence, and affirming our relationship to her…both individually and collectively.

Yes…..Dee was there. The stories that were told about Dee’s tendency to “control” her environment, the songs that Dee loved, and the biblical passages and poems were all manifestations of Dee herself. She was there.

So….why is it important? Why is it important to invoke the presence of people, ( and other living beings) even when they are no longer with us in the physical form?

In my view the invocation is what creates the relationship within us. If we feel the presence, that means it exists for us, and there is truly no death ever for relationships that we chose to breathe life into.

Such relationships transcend the constraints of time and space, and can be nurtured by our attention to them in the quiet recesses of our hearts. We can call upon the wisdom and love we felt in these relationships whenever we want.

So…that’s where you are for me now, beloved Dee. You are safely tucked into my heart where I see you and feel you still.

Thank you for the gift of your presence

 

 

 

 

Waking Up…Good News About The Trump Obama Phenomena

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I am not a fan of Donald Trump. I could use more colorful language but I think this captures my feelings accurately enough. Having said it, however, I’ve realized something pretty significant in the last couple of weeks. Bear with me on this.   Here goes:

In an odd, completely surprising and unexpected way, I am grateful that Mr. Trump has emerged out of the political and cultural landscape at this time. Why?

Well, first of all, I should offer the caveat that I can only say this because I have complete confidence that “The Donald” will not be president. If I’m wrong on this, all bets are off.

But, if I’m right I think the “fallout” from the Trump presidential campaign may be one of the best things that has happened in American culture in my lifetime.

In my view, this is because in Donald Trump we have such a clear and blatant “mirror” for so many things in the American character that are despicable and repugnant. He is helping us to see this part of our character so clearly that the reflection is unavoidable

Think of it. Where else, in one single “package” of a person can we find the absolute penultimate of conspicuous consumption, racism, sexism, rape culture, misogyny, and narcissism? It may exist, but not in the public spotlight, as he does.

And best of all…. its all right there! It’s not hidden, or disguised, but instead blasted right into our lives in away that cannot be avoided. Thank you for that Donald Trump. Because of your compete lack of shame or even awareness of your negative impact on people, we can’t help but react to you and reflect upon everything you represent. Each time you open your mouth, it just gets worse

So, why is this good? In my view it’s good because it is forcing us in this country to WAKE UP!  

Okay, okay…I will amend that. Some of us are not waking up, but rather “doubling down” on all the regressive, fascistic, rhetoric that at best is ludicrous, and at worst is a threat to our hard won democracy..

Be that as it may, I’m finding myself hopeful that the scary stuff will eventually die down and a better America will emerge. The pendulum will swing back to a reasonable place.

I believe this most strongly when I listen to Michelle Obama with her articulate and impassioned speeches about all that Trump represents. All the horror and threat of them. Would she have spoken with such passion and authenticity if there had been no Trump for her to react to? I wonder. For myself, I know that Michelle Obamas words were like a lightening rod for all that I have been feeling about social justice and particularly the oppression of women for many years. She cast a light on my feelings and helped me define them. I will forever thank her for that.

Michelle Obama spoke from her heart and told the truth. In doing so, she challenged men and women alike to speak their truth as well. She challenged us to see the truth of how things are, and how far we have to go. In my view, Michelle Obama delivered a message to everyone that we all have the responsibility to “go high” and live up to the promise of becoming the best that we can be…stronger together and in support of one another.

So, I am feeling the exhilaration and the huge responsibility of my own awakening and I feel grateful, ironically enough, to Donald Trump

 

 

Lessons From A Butterfly

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I was inspired today by the following quote attributed to Ellen DeGeneres:

“ Life is short. If you don’t believe me, ask a butterfly. The average lifespan of a butterfly is 5 to 14 days.”

This got me to thinking. For sure, I thought. That’s true. The older I get, the shorter life seems to be. What can I do to make sure my lifespan hits closer to the “14 day mark”? I’ve come up with a few ideas. Its not only about how many years we’ve got, cause face it, that’s kind of out of our control. For me it’s more about expanding the time we have so it doesn’t just feel like time is “flying by”. How can we do that? Here are some ideas:

  1. Strive to spend some time each day immersing yourself completely in the “now”. If you are slowing yourself down, and using all five senses to experience each moment to the fullest, time will expand and create the illusion of “more”.
  1. Related to #1, time spent in quiet contemplation is time that “feels” longer because it has “meaning” attributed to it. I think this is because thinking about what we do, and who we are, adds richness and depth to the experience of being human. It just makes the time feel longer, bigger, and more.
  1. Say “Yes” to new experiences, even when you’re not sure how you are going to like them because they are out of your “comfort zone”.  I learned this lesson from my sister-in-law after she lost her husband of 45 years.  A wise friend told her that the way to begin a new chapter of life is to take the risk of doing something that is beyond what you might imagine you would like. It’s really the only way to stretch yourself into the new person you need to become.  A new and “novel” experience actually heighteners and lengthens our experience of time.  Besides, who knows where you might meet your new best friend, or the love of your life?”
  1. Practice gratitude every day for everything you are, everything you have, and all of your experiences. What seems clear to me now from the perspective of more advanced age, is that our labels of “good” and “bad” for particular experiences become meaningless as the experiences retreat into the past. We can see, for example, that an experience with domestic abuse paved the way for an increase in our self-esteem, and the appearance ultimately of a partner worthy of us. I also think that truly feeling grateful brings in more of what we actually long for. We are “happier” and more “content”, and in that state we actually will live longer.

So that’s it…. those are my thoughts.

Give flight to your butterfly,… live long and prosper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burning Man 2015…The Best and Worst Of Times

Burning Man 2015  The Best And Worst Of Times

A little over one week ago I returned home from Burning Man 2015. This was my second “burn”. I went back to Burning Man this year for many reasons…the creativity, the art,  the opportunity to be fully alive and authentically myself… and the amazing community of likeminded souls…. all of these unique qualities of this experience drew me back. Such an experience is simply not available anywhere else that I know of. That’s why I go. That’s why many go…year after year.

White out at BRCThe Worst Of Times

       There is a “catch” though…as I discovered more fully this year. The physical environment on the “playa” at Black Rock City (home of Burning Man) can be quite harsh and unforgiving. Wind and weather patterns are extremely changeable and unpredictable. This year brought with it nightmarish dust storms that occurred with greater frequency than usual…. the worst in 10 years…I was told by the “old timers”. If you have never experienced a “white out” in a dust storm. ..Trust me…. its no fun. The dust kicks up to such a frenzy that you literally cannot see more than a few feet in front of you. All the while you are just staying in one place trying to keep most of it from invading your eyes, mouth, and nose. This you accomplish with face masks, goggles, and scarves. You can do nothing but “wait it out”. Throughout all of the “whiteouts” of Burning Man 2015, I truly wondered about my sanity and judgment. Is this “fun I asked myself? In those moments my feelings were clear. No. This was not fun. This was unmistakably “the worst of times”…until it wasn’t. I will try to explain

IMG_0009Lifting the “veil” to reveal…The Best Of Times

So….here I am right in the midst of a “white out”. My patience is “tried” to the max. I’m miserable… to state it bluntly. Then…. slowly but surely a miracle begins to occur…. within me. Just because I have to…I let go. By this I mean…I just surrender to it. I begin to realize that the swirling dust has a life of its own and I become fascinated by the way it selectively reveals parts of the Playa. It’s a little bit like an “old school” photography darkroom when you watch a photograph begin to emerge in the final “developing” bath. I always thought that process was miraculous. Now it was happening to an entire landscape. There was the Man, and the Temple, and all of the amazing art and all of the unique citizens of Black Rock City. They were all there, hidden beneath the veil of dust that temporarily obscured them.

All Of This Natural and Man Made Wonder and Creativity Was There All Along

The “take away” lesson of 2015 Burning Man has to do with the way life is. Is it not true that in the midst of the “worst of times” for all of us…there is always the possibility, maybe even the inevitability, of a better tomorrow? For me…. it is comforting to imagine that the dust has already cleared in this “as yet unseen” future, and if I can see glimpses of it…even as I am still “suffering”…. I am already co-creating that better future.

I, myself am “lifting the veil”6 oclock

The Day Of The “Man Burn”….Burning Man 2015

The day the man burned at Burning Man 2015 was an absolutely perfect day. It was a purely and completely blissful day in every imaginable way. From morning till night…there was not a single dust storm and the temperature was ideal.

So…. here is another life’s lesson for me. This perfect day at Burning Man would not have been anywhere near as sweet without the difficult days that preceded it.

That’s just the way it is. How can we possibly appreciate bliss and euphoria if we have not also felt the polar opposite?

Will I go Back To Burning Man?

The truth is…I don’t know. As I contemplate the possibility and remember, the experience calls me back to a place that has become a part of my identity…and that is a strong pull indeed. When you get through the opening gate of Black Rock City you are greeted by greeters who declare “Welcome Home”…and that’s the way it is. If it has seeped into your soul, it simply never leaves.

We’ll see.

 

Rethinking “Betrayal In Love”…It Doesn’t Have To Mean Its Over

The Pain Of Betrayal

Three Stages of Long Term Relationship

Relationship experts tell us that long-term relationships typically move through three distinct stages. First, we fall “In Love” and feel a kind of euphoria… We are “complete and content” when in the presence of our beloved. When the “neuro chemistry” of early love subsides, however, relationships enter the “power struggle” stage. In this stage, the real “work” of long-term relationship begins. The “reward” of doing “the work” in the power struggle stage is to enter into the third stage. Which is “mature love”.

In mature love, the relationship may not be as exciting all the time…but, in a larger sense, it is possible to fall in love all over again.

Problems In The “Power Struggle”

We have a big problem in the United States with our high rate of divorce. Current statistics put the percentage up to 60%, keeping in mind that this statistic takes into account people who have been married multiple times. So what goes wrong in all these marriages? One way to view it is that one or the other member of a couple simply don’t want to do the work involved in solving the “power struggle”. The work can be difficult, as it involves each member of the couple finding a way to maintain a separate identity while still being part of a couple. In our culture of “quick fixes” and assumptions that we should always be “happy”, it can be easier to just “exit” the relationship.

Our most common Relationship Exits

Individuals who are part of a “couple” have two ways to exit the relationship, when the going gets tough. First, they can just decide to live parallel lives in the same household. There can be an unspoken agreement that family life is like a “business”. In such an agreement, the tasks of child rearing and household maintenance are achieved in an arrangement of “lovelessness” between the couple. Love can be, and often is, abundant for the children, while resentment seethes beneath the surface in the relationship. Divorce sometimes happens when the kids leave home

Affairs….the More Dramatic Destructive Relationship Exit

Infidelity expert Esther Perel points out that affairs have been a part of the relationship landscape since the beginning of marriage. The betrayal can be insurmountable, of course, particularly when the “cheater” wants to leave the “cheatee” immediately in order to experience the hormonal “passion bath” of new relationship. Dr. Perel has worked with many women and men who are trying to rebuild a life after being on the recipient end of a “cheater”. She believes we underestimate the trauma involved in “love betrayal”  Its literally one of the worst things that can happen to you, and can shake you to the very core of your being. Unfortunately, this type of betrayal has become so commonplace as to be minimized these days. We often hear, “Why can’t he/she just get “over it” and move on.?

Can There Be Hope…. After An Affair?

Contrary to popular belief, marriages can be rebuilt after an affair and even made stronger. Dr. Perel believes that its important to “reframe” the deeper meaning of the betrayal and begin to see it as an “expression of longing and loss”, …making the statement that an emotional connection has been broken in the relationship. The loss is felt by both the “cheater” and the “cheatee”…but for some reason it is acted upon by the “cheater”….maybe simply because of opportunity. Interestingly, affairs often happen in marriages after other, seemingly unrelated losses. Like job loss, early death of a child, or beloved grandparent. The affair can be an easy way to feel alive again.

Repair of Relationship After The Affair

Dr. Perel has a “formula” that she uses for relationship repair with her couples, which first and foremost involves the “affair perpetrator” taking full responsibility for the enormous harm he/she has done to his/her partner. This first step also involves compete severing of ties with the other party involved with the affair. Guilt and remorse must be repeatedly expressed…really for as long as it takes. Forgiveness can’t be forced, and may take a long time, but will  come in its own time.

The “affair perpetrator” will need to reassure and express remorse for as long as it takes, but Dr. Perel believes that its also important that the one “cheated upon” give up the obsessive need to dwell upon the details of the affair. This need, although very common, can only bring torture to both parties, and actually gives more power to a “third” party than is helpful.

Investigative Questions

It is more helpful, in trying to repair a relationship after an affair to ask “investigative questions”. What was happening to “us” when the affair began? How were we both feeling? What was the disconnect? Interestingly, exploring these kinds of questions can reveal as much about the discontent of the “Cheated upon” as it does about the “Cheater”. Actually, probably no one was happy. That’s the truth, and now we both get to talk about it

How Long Does It Take?

There is no easy answer to this question. It depends on the extent of the betrayal and it “takes as long as it takes” to repair .The issue may come up again and again over the course of a relationship, and will always be a “fault line”. To be reworked again and again.

 

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When Your Soulmate Becomes Your Cellmate

 

How did my soulmate become my cellmate?

How did my soulmate become my cellmate?

Has Your Relationship Turned Toxic?

Long-term relationships are a lot of work. Even in the best of circumstances, with full commitment from both parties, relationships demand our focused attention.

Toxic Relationships Can Be Tenacious

Unfortunately, sometimes the relationships we pour our heart and soul into are not ultimately healthy for us. At the beginning of such relationships we may have felt that we found “the love of my life”..or “the person who completes me”.   Then as the first bloom of “love” wears off…everything changes. Now we find ourselves locked into a power struggle with this person. We don’t understand how this happened. Worse yet…we can’t seem to exit from a situation that has now become unbearable. We feel trapped. What has happened?

The Narcissistic/Co-dependent Relationship Dynamic.

Which Key ingredient Is Missing?

What may have happened, is that you have found yourself in a Narcissistic/co-dependent relationship dynamic. To understand this better, think of an ideal relationship as one where there is an easy flow of “give and take” between your partner and yourself. You feel “seen” and appreciated by your beloved, and in turn it is easy to give back and appreciate in kind. When I think of this kind of love connection, a quote from Romeo and Juliet comes to mind:

“The more I give to you the more I have, for both are infinite”

What I love about this quote is that it illustrates the connection between giving and receiving…that to “give” to you actually gives to me at thesame time as I am giving to you. You, in turn are receiving from me, and giving back to me…at the same time. In a sense, giving and receiving is the same thing. Both can be “infinite”, as Romeo states, and the relationship can continue to flourish.

I bring up the ideal relationship flow, mostly to show contrast to what happens in a Narcissistic/codependent relationship. In such relationships, no such “flow” exists, and the relationship ceases to be satisfying for either partner. To state it simply, the narcissist does most of the taking, and the codependent does most of the giving. But…what gets them together in the first place?

Narcissists and Co-dependents Are Magnetically, but Fatally Attracted

Ironically, according to the research of Ross Rosenberg (The Human Magnet Syndrome), Narcissists and co-dependents are alike in that they come from childhoods where basic emotional needs for being seen and appreciated for ones true, authentic, “imperfect” self were not met. The “codependent” learns that basic survival means taking care of his/her parent’s emotional needs instead of being taken care of by that parent. For the co-dependent, personal needs are sacrificed to take care of the needs of the other. (in this case, the parent)  For the narcissist, survival depends on pretending that he/she doesn’t “need” emotional support from his/her parent. The “stance” of the narcissist is “I’m so “special” that I’m entitled to be treated to all of the finer things in life. “Something is wrong with my parents that they have not been able to appreciate this, and they have never really fully seen the true magnificence of me, but that’s their problem.” This stance covers up a deep inner insecurity, which is confusing since the Narcissist appears to be so “full of him/herself”. I also think its true that a narcissist can be the result of parents who acknowledge their children for academic achievements, but who push and push for ever more, and don’t provide emotional support in times of “imperfection”. For these parents, second best is not good enough. In reality, the Narcissist can never get enough praise and affirmation from other people to fill up that empty core. Of necessity, the narcissist is completely self focused and cannot really even see the needs of others.  In a sense, it is too painful.

So…flash forward into adulthood. The narcissist and the co-dependent fit together like hand and glove. A co-dependent is drawn to someone that needs taking care of, and the narcissist needs taking care of.

The feeling of “falling in love” can be absolutely euphoric for both parties, because it can literally be a feeling of “coming home”. In a sense it offers a solution to that unfinished problem leftover from childhood….a powerful aphrodisiac indeed! Problem is, the euphoria never lasts.

Your Soul mate Becomes Your Cellmate

We know now from the careful research of neurobiologists that the “chemical” bath of early love does not last. Eventually, if you are in the more “co-dependent” role, you will tire of always putting your own needs on the back burner. You may even try to convince your partner that he/she wants what you want, as a ‘back door” way of getting your needs met, but this never works. Your narcissist partner will start to resent this attempt to control him/her. It starts to feel like a power struggle, and the “exit” strategy could become an “affair”, usually, but not always started by the narcissist. All you know is that you are very unhappy and completely exhausted.

If you are in the role of the narcissist, you don’t have the capacity to even see that your partner has needs and preferences that are different from yours. You may sense his/her unhappiness, but you have absolutely no clue as to the origin of it. What happened to the easy love we used to share? That would be your question.

Interestingly, what seems similar about co-dependents and narcissists is that neither one actually wants to be alone. This is more terrifying even than the power struggle, which is why the relationship hangs on and on, even in its utter misery. It is a symbiotic, parasitic kind of misery. It becomes a relationship born out of need, and not love.

Is there a solution to this miserable power struggle?

 If you find yourself locked into this kind of a power struggle, and it seems to happen over and over again in your relationships you have some personal work to do. The work is probably best done before you entangle yourself in another relationship. The original “wound, known as a “narcissistic” wound, happened in your childhood, so you have to go back to that time to disentangle yourself from it. Somehow, very early on, you missed out on learning about the easy give and take, and the giving and receiving, of reciprocal relationship, so you have to reclaim your capacity to do this.

I’m a therapist, and I’m optimistic, so I think it can be done. I think as human beings we are “hard wired” for relationship, and I think there is enough “neuroplasticity” in our system to allow for repair to that which has been broken.

In the end…it just has to be important enough to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Love In The Crucible Of Long Term Relationship

The Crucible as a vessel of healing

The Crucible as a vessel of healing

Definition Of “Crucible”

The word “crucible” has several different, but related meanings. As pictured here, and as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, a “crucible” is a “vessel in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature, or melted”. The same dictionary also defines a “crucible” as a “difficult test or challenge, and a place or a situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions”.

Long Term Commitment is a “Crucible” according to all Definitions of this word

How amazing is it that one single word can so eloquently sum up the incredible challenges and infinite rewards of committing fully and wholeheartedly to another person. I’m speaking of romantic love that begins in that “white hot” passionate state of “falling in love” and then slowly mellows and burns a little more slowly with time. But I’m also referring to long term friendships and other kinship bonds. In either case, isn’t it true that our relationships put us through incredible challenges as we experience every possible emotion known to man in order to stay connected to people? Sometimes we may feel it’s not even worth the effort to maintain connections…but somehow we always go back for more. Love is, after all, the “crucible” that holds the secret to healing all that ails us. Perhaps at some level, we know this. Perhaps we can sense that all of our psychological wounds can only be healed through relationship. It’s the only way. We long for this healing, so we need relationship.

Daphne Rose Kingman’s Book “A Garland Of Love: Daily Reflections On The Magic And Meaning Of Love

In Ms. Kingman’s book, she describes the magical properties of love in the following way:

“Love is the crucible. Through love we are invited to resolve our histories. Love is the crucible, the unmeltable changeless container in which we are tested by fire, melted down, and transformed. In love we are formed and reformed by the white heat of the unexpected revisitation of all the things in us that cry out to be healed; our shame and fear, our hurts and insecurities, our conflicts and our endless inner controversies.”

“ Through our beloved we are once again brought face-to-face with what is unresolved in us. We meet again our father’s absence or our brother’s envy, our mother’s cruelty or our sisters’ competition. We see our own childhoods mirrored in every direction. Through love we are invited to reenter them again, but differently, to re-experience and grieve the losses of the past, and thus to redeem them”

Don’t Be Afraid To Enter Into Your Own Crucible

I can’t possibly improve upon the ideas elucidated by Daphne Rose Kingman, so I won’t even try. I can only urge you to hold onto your most important relationships and know that they will be tested in the fiery heat of the “love” crucible. If you need help to navigate your own particular “crucible” of relationship…such help is available. “Imago” couples therapy can help you with struggles with your significant other. Alternatively, personal therapy with a therapist who believes in the healing power of “relationship” within the therapy itself can also heal you.

Ok…I admit my bias on this. Read my blogs to find out more

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Love…Cultivating a Grateful Heart

Finding Love….Cultivating A Grateful Heartstock-footage-closeup-of-a-buddhist-monk-with-orange-robe-pray-in-temple

Thanksgiving always reminds me of the importance of Gratitude for living a fulfilled and awakened life. This year what I also realized though, is that I don’t always feel grateful. I complain. I criticize. I judge the actions of others. I forget in these moments that much of what I see “out there” in the world of “not me” actually exists “in here”….that is within me. When I am truly honest with myself I admit that what I don’t like in others is actually a reflection of some part of me. Put another way, the truth is that…in some way, at some time, and to some extent….I am that too  (whatever “that” is in that moment

The Full Meaning Of  “I am That”

When I think of “I am that” I am referring to “that” as the wonderful magnificence of me…as well as the shadowy hidden parts of me. I am “all of that” in equal measure, in fact. I had a spiritual teacher who would say….if you see it, and can recognize it, then you are it. I believe this.

Cultivating Gratitude For All Of It

From this more “all encompassing” perspective, I feel called upon to cultivate gratitude in my life. I am grateful for all that I may label as “good”, as well as all that I may label as “bad” at any given time. Most of all , I am grateful for the “unifying field” that holds it all together and allows for the possibility that we can all be “at one” with one another. “Wholeness” and “Oneness” is what I seek at all times for myself and for the world

From Gratitude…Flows Forgiveness

It seems to me that from a place of gratitude, forgiveness can begin to flow easily and abundantly. Surely, if I am “that” and you are also “that” then we can forgive both ourselves and everyone else who may have “wronged” us. Actually, in fact, forgiving one is forgiving the other. Is there really any separation?

Now Love Emerges fully realized

Now is when love begins to really emerge into consciousness. It was always there but it can now be seen and felt in a way that was not possible before.

My gratitude then becomes a gratitude for the love that is everywhere present .….within and without all of us at all times.

So…Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you again

prayer of Gratitude

prayer of Gratitude

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Love….How To Reclaim Your Hidden Self

Finding Love…. Reclaiming and Celebrating the Hidden Self

Wholeness

Wholeness

I’ve recently begun a series of blogs devoted to solving the “riddle” of “Finding Love” in our lives. First I talked about “The Importance of Feeling Seen”. Next I touched upon “Daring to be vulnerable”. Now I want to talk more specifically about the part of us that often is not seen by others…the “hidden” self that feels tender and vulnerable and remains unseen unless we allow it to emerge from the shadows of our personality. In fact, the famous psychologist Carl Jung referred to our hidden self as the “shadow”. In simple terms, your “shadow” is any part of yourself that you don’t want to be seen by others…and in fact you may not even allow yourself to see it because you have denied it for so long or buried it so deep. Examples of “shadow” parts of us might be our extreme shame, or our desperate longing to be loved…orperhaps our bitter jealousy of a sister, brother, or friend.

Virtually anything can be in our shadow if its something we don’t want to “own” or admit to. It could even be a hidden talent that we are afraid to develop lest we won’t be perfect at it. Whatever the shadow is doesn’t matter. What matters is uncovering it…first to yourself…and then to another with whom you wish to achieve authentic intimacy. Uncovering and exposing your shadow is important work on the path to wholeness and, I believe essential for finding lasting love.

How Do You Know What’s In Your Shadow?

I think most of us are pretty conscious of certain parts of ourselves that we keep hidden much of the time. Who amongst us has not been jealous or envious for example? Recently I have found that it’s quite liberating to admit to my trusted women friends that I have felt jealous of them from time to time. I was amazed when I did this. When my jealously was hidden and suppressed I found it difficult to be happy for the good fortune of my friends. When I admitted envy, I could rejoice with them. I could join with my friend and we could be happy together. My jealously came out of the shadows and became an admitted part of who I am.

Now…. Look At Your Projections and Discover The Connection Between Judgment And Projection

In order to find deeper parts of our shadow selves that we really don’t want to admit to or just can’t see, we have to notice the places where we sit in extreme judgment of other people. What happens is that when we really don’t want to admit to a trait within ourselves we react strongly to that trait in another person. This very human tendency is called “Projection” and it’s a really good way to keep our shadow selves at bay. For me, a really good example was when a good friend of mine got a new car that I’d been coveting for a while, but I could not afford right now. All of a sudden I was talking negatively to others about the extreme foolishness of her buying this car. My extreme reaction was Projection. I could not just be happy for her until I admitted my jealousy and took back the projection. My projection, in this case gave me a clue about that same old hidden part of myself called envy

Know That You Are Enough

Brene Brown is a well-known “Shame” researcher who has studied the emotion of shame extensively. One of her findings is that people who are driven by the need to be “perfect” are often keeping huge parts of themselves hidden from themselves and others. What they are keeping hidden is obviously anything that does not fit the image that they are trying to project of being “perfect”. These hidden “non perfect” aspects are part of the shadow of a perfectionist. What a burden! Perfectionism becomes a problem of course, simply because it is unobtainable. Brene Brown stresses the importance of Knowing that you are enough which means, I believe owning all of the parts of yourself…the perfect and the imperfect. In her book, Daring To Be Vulnerable Dr. Brown also talks about how often all of us avoid looking at the imperfect parts of ourselves by staying ultra busy, or numbing ourselves with the many distractions that are available in our modern world. Drugs and alcohol also serve this purpose.

So…. Celebrate All Of Who You Are

So…now that you know how to find your “hidden self”, rejoice in it, reveal it, and celebrate your well-earned place in the human race. People will find you much more approachable as you emerge from the shadows, as long as you surround yourself with a trusted cadre of like-minded folks. One of my favorite songwriters is Leonard Cohen. He has a great line in one of his songs about how true enlightenment comes when a crack appears in anything that we as humans call “perfect” This is how the line goes: “There is a crack, a crack, in everything…that’s how the light gets in. That’s how the light gets in”

 

 

 

Finding Love…Daring To Be Vulnerable

complete solar eclipse

complete solar eclipse

After finishing my last blog entitled “The Importance Of Feeling Seen”, I realized something really important. It is easy and perhaps obvious to recognize that “feeling really seen” by others brings us a great deal of joy and satisfaction…. but rarely do we actually allow ourselves this experience. Even in close friendships and romantic relationships we struggle with this issue. In so many situations we hide important aspects of ourselves, as we assume, usually without a shred of evidence, that parts of us are unacceptable to others. Clearly we can only have the experience of being seen if we really put ourselves out there to be seen. What a shame our “hiding “ is, when you think about it, especially if we consider that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing. We relate to each to each other all the time while revealing only a small fraction of who we are. Our true selves are actually “eclipsed” in a way by our own inner “sensor”. Why is this? What can we do about it?

Vulnerability

The simple answer as to why most of us “hide” so much of the time has to do with the concept of vulnerability. According to the Merrion Webster dictionary, vulnerability means: 1. “Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded” 2. Open to attack or damage.”

This definition is apt in terms of emotional vulnerability, I think. Who amongst us has not been emotionally wounded by people we have allowed ourselves to trust? We are naturally afraid, and so we protect ourselves against “re wounding” by keeping our tender and vulnerable parts well hidden from others…and even hidden from ourselves sometimes. We actually construct a kind of emotional “armor” around these vulnerable places in our attempt to stay “safe”. Unfortunately this “armor” can also keep us isolated and unavailable to others

The Problem With Emotional Armor

Emotional armor is actually really important to human psychological makeup. It is the truth, after all, that not everyone can be trusted to have our best interests at heart. When we first meet someone, especially, we probably want to stay somewhat guarded. The problem occurs when our tendency to be ever “vigilant” to possible danger becomes “over determined” so that we are closed up and emotionally unavailable all of the time. What can be done in this instance?

Taking A Risk

The only way to break through our own resistance to “opening up”, the way I see it, is to just take the risk…”just do it”… even if only in a small way. This can be a “test” of your unconscious, or maybe conscious, hypothesis that “letting people” take a peek inside is a dangerous thing. See what happens when you do it. You may be quite surprised. You may assume you are going to be hurt by others, only to find that quite the opposite occurs.

Admission Of Vulnerability Is a Sign Of Personal Strength, Not Weakness

My hypothesis is that admitting vulnerability is actually a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. I think there is a cultural “myth out there that tells us not to admit to
vulnerability lest we be considered “weak”. Who are we kidding? The human condition is one of constant vulnerability in all realms of our lives. Living in denial of this reality only makes us susceptible to it, I think, because we are shocked beyond belief when the inevitable disasters of our lives actually occur. This doesn’t mean I think we should live in a constant state of fear of all potential dangers…far from it. I think it’s more about acceptance that things will happen over which we have no control so why not just give up the struggle? We just have to live with this reality, without letting it paralyze us. I think admitting vulnerability in personal relationships is exactly the same as admitting it in all parts of our lives. Yes, we are human. Yes, we have been hurt and we have hurt others. It has happened before and will probably happen again. And yet, we still long to be connected. We still need it. We need to take the risk.

Admission Of Vulnerability As a Prerequisite To Intimacy

The trick of becoming truly intimate with another person lies, I believe in the “give and take” of sharing your personal stories. As one person begins to reveal the vulnerabilities inherent in his/her stories the other feels the permission and the safety to do exactly the same thing. Next thing you know, you are both fully engaged in sharing the real experience of being human and finding the mutual empathy of that shared human experience. In my previous blog I refer to this experience as feeling “mirrored”. There is nothing like it…and no other way to have the shared empathy you need for true intimacy. If this is not the right person for the sharing…don’t worry…you will figure it out soon enough. Just pay attention. Open your heart to the “heart click” that is the sign of true intimacy. You will know it when you feel it.

It feels a little like…dare I say it?  falling in love.