As we find our way through our difficulties, there is pain. This is inevitable. Thinking about this from the point of view of a conscious adult, it makes sense. Refusing to accept that there’s pain, just makes sure that the difficulties stay in place.
As children, we were all hurt in some way or another. There is no point in comparing who was hurt more or less, let alone ask why. Comparing and looking for reasons why is usually just another avoidance tactic.
Looking at how we defended against our childhood hurts then, and continue to now, is the only approach that makes any difference.
Some defend against pain by withdrawal. They take themselves, energetically and emotionally, away from life, others, and ultimately, themselves.
Another defense is to aggress. Anger, attack, looking out ahead for danger, and a rigid holding of themselves against the other is what feels like safety to those of us who defend with aggression.
Submission is the third way. Those who choose to submit go towards the other in an attempt to meld with them in order to create a feeling of safety. These people “do for” and “care for” overly much. They try to fix themselves by making the other happy. While on the surface this may seem superior to aggression and withdrawal, submission is as manipulative as the other defenses. It is an equally off-putting and inauthentic energy.
We all defend ourselves in each of these three ways. Most of us have our favorites, the way that feels most like our true energy, our primary divine ray.
Our defenses are divine rays in distortion. When we recognize the defenses as such, dismantle and transform them, we tap into our true energy in essence.
The undefended energy of withdrawal reveals the divine ray of wisdom and serenity. A going inside and holding of oneself is a beautiful strength.
Aggression, once healed, allows the divine ray of power. This is the energy that, in a healthy way, holds our boundaries. This is a necessary and beautifully powerful holding of a piece of life.
Submission, when the original pain is felt and gone through, uncovers the divine ray of true love. A going towards the other in a genuine desire to connect, to become One with. This going out towards the other creates life.
It is our work to see, know, understand, and correct ourselves in relationship to our defenses. They are a divine energy, only in distortion, due to our childish ignorance.
Watch your thoughts, feelings and actions throughout the day. See where and when you withdraw, aggress or submit. Watch these with loving kindness and compassion.
Take an interest in how these patterns developed. It made perfect sense at one time, when we knew no other way. We took our own divine ray, and used this energy to protect us from what felt like a life-threatening situation. To a child, not being loved, not being seen or heard, being confused, are all life-threatening. We then habitualized our defenses and lost our true nature to these habits.
To bring oneself back to the real self, one’s true nature, one’s divinity, is requiring, healing and painful. The original pain that, as a child, we had no other choice but to defend against, has to be felt, gone through and assimilated. It does hurt. We do cry, wail, collapse in, and rage out. We can do this with our own conscious, adult witness. A non-moralizing holding of ourselves, here and now, provides us with the recognition and holding we never had as children. Being held and recognized for who we really are, a divine ray that contributes to life, has life be the creative, joyful, pleasure for which we all yearn.
Putting this into action
Try this daily review at home to bring awareness (the first step to dismantling) to your defenses.
- Every day, set an intention to watch your thoughts, feelings and actions throughout the day as a non-judgmental witness.
- Later, look back over your day and list your disharmonies from the day.
- For these, see where and when you withdrew, aggressed or submitted.
In our present state of consciousness, we think in dualistic terms of either-or, good or bad, right or wrong, worthy or unworthy, and so on. This is simply our human experience; it is not ultimate reality. In ultimate reality, all of the energy forces we come in contact with are One. This energy is natural, flowing, expanding and contracting, giving and receiving, male and female. It is positive and negative, if you are willing to feel past the usual interpretations of these words.
By being willing to know that we live in a false state of duality, and that in ultimate reality all is one, we can then surrender our will to the will of the greater Universe. It is only in refusing that we suffer. Life only wants to be experienced and not refused. That is all. We do not get to decide what life is or has or how it expresses. What we do have is free will. We do get to decide. That is a gift life has given us. Free will and the possibility of the joy of living. We can do with life whatever we choose, and life will live on through us. This is the true meaning of “Thy will be done.”
Pathwork is an opportunity to see, know, understand, and feel into where we refuse life as life is.
We each refuse life in a very particular way. Just as we all have very particular gifts to offer life, we have very precise, individual ways we say “NO! This I will not experience!”
The ways we refuse, turn away from, blame, rationalize, defend, and turn a blind eye to our experience becomes habitual. This refusing pattern of behavior is addictive. We are all addicted to the ways we refuse life. Drugs and alcohol are the obvious ways. We who do this kind of work are usually sneakier in our addictions. Perfectionists, workaholics, drama kings and queens abound.
We can be pridefully spiritual, which is just as destructive as drugs. Maybe even more so, because if you’re a drug addict, the consequences are more immediate. Outward so-called bad behavior can be corrected, whereas being a perfect student of Pathwork, or any spiritual study, is a great place to hide our negativity.
Our work is to find in our inner being where we say “absolutely not.” There is frozen life force hidden within that “no.” We can only live fully, experience life in all of its glory, joy and bliss if we find this “no.”
We do not have to like it; that is not the point. Life is not interested in our puny little likes and dislikes. Those are the things of a child. Life is wild, fierce, and wanting to be felt with abandon. Life wants to be savored, not squandered. The invitation is to surrender to life and all of its expressions.
Submission has a different flavor from intentionally, consciously choosing to appease or please the other. It includes an internal feeling of having betrayed oneself.
When we submit to the will of another, consciously or unconsciously, trust is compromised? Both our own and the others. Even if there is a positive intention behind the submission, submission is not in truth. When we agree to do something, or not do something, without checking in with ourselves and our true needs, we are neither true to ourselves or the other. As a result, we are not in reality – and we are lost to the greater Truth.
When we say “yes” out of weakness and fear, we cannot be trusted. The actual action, or again lack thereof, is irrelevant. We may agree to do something that in and of itself is benign.
Anytime we abandon ourselves for the sake of the other, we are not in line with spiritual law.
By denying the self, we deny all of life. By saying, in action, word, thought, or feeling; “I don’t matter, my desires are unimportant,” we are denying ourselves our own reality.
There are times, of course, when ultimately, our individual desires are indeed less important. Very much so. There is a giving, a natural and deeply spiritual flow out towards the other. This is not the same energetic experience as submission.
As a person who is thought of as one who does not submit (by myself nor by any who know me), this concept is difficult to grasp. Hence, I am attempting to address this. We teach what we most need to learn.
We are all stuck in a vicious circle of defensive submission and rebellion. Some of us are more comfortable submitting, others rebelling. Each group holds the other in significant judgment. Ironically, the judgment we have of the other team is only a reflection of how we feel about ourselves when we do not react from our usual defense.
A year ago, I submitted to a person for whom I feel and felt tremendous love and respect. I tricked myself into believing her request of me should be followed just because I respect her. I held her at a higher level and to a higher standard than I hold my own truth. This is, in the end, disrespectful to both of us. I have suffered deeply from having made this egregious error in analyzing reality. This mistake could have cost me my relationship with this dear person. Had I not taken responsibility for my role in the matter, I could have held onto the belief that I had been wronged by her. I was not. I wronged myself by submitting.
For a person who typically rebels, this is a hard pill to swallow. It is more than a little distasteful to admit weakness. To be weak is the death of all deaths to someone whose life depends on strength.
When we feel as if our lives are at stake, whether it is to be seen as weak as a rebellious personality does, or as mean, which is a death to the submissive type, we typically double down.
When a rebellious personality type is faced with their own weakness, the typical reaction is to increase the aggression, to double down on the anger and rage. The negative pleasure of the adrenaline high carries this personality type to untold violence (in action or thought). Once this train gets rolling, it feels impossible to see that the original attack was against oneself. To admit that it was I who submitted out of my own weakness means that I have to swallow my pride. To me, this is quite a mouthful.
For a submissive personality, to be seen as mean, cruel or selfish is a type of “death.” They only want to be experienced as good, kind, helpful. Rather than admit their selfish motives, they will go overboard with their sweetness and understanding. They particularly enjoy being kind to those horrible, mean rebellious types (like me). This gives them the feeling of being on higher ground, avoiding the pitfall of being rejected. They abandon themselves in order to not be abandoned by the other.
Around and around we go – neither party able to trust the other. Each group sees their way of being as the only answer, the right way to approach life. Neither is trustworthy; neither is in reality.
The truth is usually somewhere in between. Truth, while difficult to find sometimes, can only be recognized by the feeling deep within. Truth, on one day, looks one way and another, quite differently.
The laws of life are not carved in stone as humans try to force them to be. There is a constant give and take, giving and receiving, expansion and contraction. The flow that is Life cannot hold still to accommodate our petty needs and fears. To step into the flow of life and allow it to take us where it may, takes courage, vulnerability, and faith. Again and again, our work is to trust life over our egos. We can lose, we can tolerate being wrong, we can be rejected, frustrated and hurt. These are not what kills us, even though it feels that way at the time. What causes us to die is our refusal to live in line with Truth. The key is to be aware when you are surrendering consciously and lovingly (to oneself and the other) vs. abandoning yourself in submission.
True self-responsibility – what does that mean?
Mostly, I am beginning to know what it does not mean. It does not mean self-blame, being a victim, or having to figure it all out on my own. It does not mean holding oneself rigidly, bracing against what is coming at one. It does not mean constantly looking out ahead for what could go wrong so as to ward off possible disaster. Disaster happens. It does not mean being hypercritical of oneself when things do against one’s wishes. It does not mean chalking up patterns of negativity to past lives, hard-wired neurological activity, or genetics. It does not mean that life is punishing, cruel and unjust.
Self-responsibility is kind, merciful, and inclusive. There is a softness, a bittersweet understanding of the sorrows that befall us all. There is a profound knowing that none of us get out of here alive, and that no one has control, ultimately, over their final fate.
Self-responsibility includes asking for help. It includes not knowing how. It embraces the natural ebb and flow, expansion and contraction, the ups and the downs. It requires the allowing of our mutual humanity.
Self-knowledge, and understanding the nature of the beingness, are crucial. Otherwise we vacillate back and forth between victimization and humiliation. Neither of these are true self-responsibility, although it seems these are confused for this deep and powerful holding.
“It’s all my fault.” “I am the worst.” “I can’t help it; it’s the way I was raised.” “My mother … or my father ….”
All of these are excuses for not being self-responsible. Just because a sentences starts with I or me, does not mean one is being responsible.
My favorite is when, in an attempt to sound responsible, we use “I messages” against one another. “When you did … I felt ….” While this can be a great way to communicate responsibly, when there is a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) subtext of blame, this sets up a vicious circle of blaming each other. Especially if one is fooled by one’s own verbal tricks, which we humans frequently are. Any trick in the book to not have to confront finding the true cause in one’s own self.
We have the choice to live into the possibility of being at cause for all that comes our way. That does not mean we “caused” an accident or an illness. It means that when something occurs within one’s reality, this is the reality that is to be lived into. “This belongs to me.” These feelings I am having, no matter how painful, are mine to be with. This helplessness I am experiencing is for me to hold. This sadness and hurt are for me to find a way to soothe. I have help available to me if I am willing to be vulnerable and humble enough to ask. And, this burden, or illness, or death of a loved one, is mine to bear. Yes, it does hurt. And, no, that does not mean I am being punished unfairly.
The serenity that can be found in true self-responsibility has a divinity to it that can be felt by others. The gift of a deep and profound holding of oneself and life, as if all is in its proper order, vibrates out to the other that life can be trusted after all.
We habitually throw our pain, suffering, upsets, frustrations, fear and anxiety out onto the world and demand that life fix what we suffer. We scream, some inwardly, others out, “This should not be!” We believe that if we protest strongly enough, we can convince the world to change. We hope, desperately, that if we can just find a way to make someone understand exactly how awful our situation is, that someone can make it not so awful. It feels as if what is going on will surely cause our death, not quite literally, but almost.
The situations, problems, and reoccurring upsets that keep one awake at night and ruin the day. The ruminations that erupt in road rage or screaming at a loved one, or have one fall into despair. The seemingly unending cycles that have us act out and numb ourselves with whatever substance our biochemistry prefers. Those situations that are a result of some unmet need, deeply and relentlessly gnawing at our insides.
It is we who need to meet ourselves in our darkest hour. Each of us, individually and alone, are the ones to hold the pain, meet the need. It is there, when we meet ourselves in our deepest depths of despair, that relief is found.
No one else can know my rage intimately and without turning away in fear. No one can hold my sadness, my remorse for having caused my loved ones hurt. No one can truly understand what it felt like to live in my family system. Not even my own sister. She has her own understanding that I can never know.
Until and unless I meet my own needs, they will remain unmet. Until and unless I can hold my own anger, without the need to throw it out at someone or something, I will forever be enraged. When I allow myself to feel my true sadness, without falling into the trap of guilt and shame, only then I will experience mercy. Any pain that I reject in myself and expect someone else to hold for me will only grow exponentially.
It is we who cause our deepest suffering, not the world and certainly not life. It takes time, commitment, effort, and a willingness to sit and be with one’s self. It takes courage to look under the rocks and find what lives there, hidden from view.
We hid these hurtful feelings because we believed them to be unacceptable. We thought they made us unacceptable, unworthy, unlovable. That is the lie we have to stop believing.
These emotions, left over from when we could not know any better, only want us to allow them up, accept them for what they are. The hurts of a child, once seen and known for what they are, can become the badges of courage and humility of a conscious adult.
We can know, in our hearts and souls, that we separate ourselves by refusing what is in us. Then, and only then, is being one with life, one with others, one with the greater consciousness, made available to us.
Then we can know, and feel, and experience the most powerful feelings life had to offer without cringing away. Then we can know true joy, bliss and love. Then we can experience all that life has to offer.
The very human experiences of being hurt, sad, disappointed, frustrated and annoyed are not the personal attack we believe them to be. We do, mostly inadvertently, hurt and disappoint, frustrate and anger one another by our unconscious actions. The hurt, sadness, frustration, each and every pain we feel, lives in us.
We do not respond to stimulus for which we do not have a receptor. If I am an opening to feel rejected when another does not respond to me in a way that satisfies me, I will feel rejected. When I assume that I will be disappointed, even if that assumption lives in me and I am not conscious of its existence, I will often be very disappointed. If I listen to others with the perspective that people lie, I will hear a lot of lies. We cannot experience something that does not exist in our inner being.
We take what happens to us and filter it through our listening, our beliefs, our defenses. What actually happened, factually, is often very different from our interpretation.
If some hurt or pain or disappointment seems to follow wherever I go, it is I who is the common denominator. Unfortunately, most of us use the reoccurring upset as more proof. We say inwardly, “I knew it all along, life is … people are … I cannot …!” We think we are being smart by having figured it out! We believe we have found the key to never getting hurt again. We dig in our heels and say “No!” rather than risk getting hurt again. This is the true sadness, the true hurt, and what truly makes life feel so very frustrating.
Human beings do what human beings do. They always have and perhaps always will. We hurt one another. We are all, to the one, selfish, cruel, self-absorbed, perfectionistic, greedy and pathetic. We all live in a state of unconscious, dualistic “me versus you” mentality. We live in fear of pain, hurt, failure and death. We are afraid we will not get our share and that life is unjust. We look to prove this, find evidence for it, and then complain vociferously.
Complaining has become a sport we all watch on the national news. Unfortunately, in this game no one wins.
There are no solutions in gathering evidence for being a victim, helpless to the whims of others.
Where there is a solution is by finding the cause within. To first know, by observing the facts, and then feel into where we are avoiding our part in the matter, we can find our true power. By using our minds to look for the Truth rather than to find more proof, we can heal. By being willing to feel our True feelings, rather than recycling the old wounds of the child within, we can unite with others in our common pain. By using our Will for good rather than for evil, for rather than against life, we will take actions towards Union and peace.
The point of this work on the path is to go into the dark, hidden, fear-filled heart. We are to go towards rather than away from all that we have kept ourselves blind to in order to avoid discomfort.
Life has pain, suffering, loss, death innate to itself. When we negate any of this, we negate our very lives.
No, it is not pleasant to see and feel and think about the ugly side of humanity. It is, indeed, heartbreaking to allow oneself to become deeply intimate with the worst that is in us. And, there it is, right there, if we only stop to see.
To look away, put our fingers in our ears, refuse what exists, are the actions of a child. It is true that a child would find the facts of life unbearable. It is a matter of survival that a child create an illusory universe so as to keep themselves safe from destructive forces.
Our illusions do not keep us safe in the long run. They were a temporary strategy, quite wisely devised for a tender heart. Now is the time to be willing to see these illusions for what they are, a distraction from reality. By courageously facing reality in all of its manifestations, we can untangle the web.
We can see how it is we who took the streamings and diverted them away from their natural course out of our own greed and fear. We can, if we were willing to let go, raise our arms in surrender to what life has to offer. Instead, like children, we resist and demand that it go the way we think it should. As if our small minds could possibly know what this magnificent intelligence has in store for us.
It is the child in each of us that keeps us at war, refusing to share, turning a blind eye to the suffering of another human being. As if their suffering is not our own. Only a child throws a tantrum when asked to share.
The limited thinking that has brought us to the point where we are now in our country does not allow for the intelligence that life has to offer. Life is growth, change, sharing, clearing old and making room for new. Life squanders itself unselfishly, gleefully, with aplomb.
Tap into the nature of life, in all of its true glory, and there, in those forces, the answers can be found. Not by turning away from, but rather towards what each of us contributes to the negative forces, we can alter life energy. By granting one another beingness, acceptance, the pleasure of love, we can be with, rather than against, life.
To love and to be loved is the deepest longing for every human being on this planet. This longing, and inevitable failure to fulfill this longing, is the core of all of our upsets, problems, confusions.
Our desire for love is our very nature; it is who we are. From the day we are born, we reach out, searching to be received, seen, mirrored, loved, adored. None of us are. All of us, every single one, are furious about this.
We hate because we were not loved perfectly; some of us not at all (or so we believe!). Our anger at not being loved perfectly throws us into an energetic confusion. We want, simultaneously, to be loved and to kill off those who do not fulfill our wishes.
Even at a very young age there is a deep knowing of the incongruity here. We become, at the core, afraid, ashamed, enraged, desperate and terrified. We feel that if we are not loved, we will perish
To a child, not being loved is certain death; after all, we depend on our parents for our very survival. So, we develop strategies to ensure our very lives.
We then grow into these strategies and believe them to be who we are. We consider these ways of being our personalities, and see ourselves in these false, misconceived, damaging images.
We continue to hate and we continue to develop more and more sophisticated ways of hiding our hatred as we grow into adulthood. The part of us that continues to hate, meanwhile, remains in childhood.
A part of us knows this, and is more and more desperate to hide where we know we are mere children emotionally. This is the human dilemma.
What we each do with this is ours to recognize for what it is, a confusion, a mis-understanding, a collapsing of a system created by a child and embraced, unquestioned and unexamined, into adulthood.
Our work is to untie all of our inner knots, piece by messy piece. This painful process is lifelong and life-giving. The deeper we go into the energetic core of our beings and retrieve the part of ourselves that we cut off out of our child’s need, the more of who we really are becomes available.
When we do this work, we find it is safe to love after all. Once we know, understand, and are responsible for the fact that we may or may not be met perfectly by the other, we are free to give our best, our most natural gifts, to life.
We each have a divine nature. This part of us ceaselessly whispers to us “grow, expand, connect, flow outward!” We hear this voice from deep within and interpret this as “improve, be better than, compete, get more!” Our demand of ourselves is twisted, distorted and has us at war with our very selves and one another.
We wall ourselves off from our very nature, hate ourselves for this act of aggression towards life, then project this out into the world. The outside world is a perfect mirror of the internal state of our hearts and souls.
We feel a deep guilt for this, as a part of us does recognize our sin against life. We atone for our sins by pretending a guilt which is not justifiable in reality.
We think we are guilty of not being perfect. We spend most of our energy trying desperately to improve ourselves, or alternately feeling the impossibility of this task. It is impossible, in fact, from this point of view. We can never be as perfect as our ego self demands us to be. We are so lost in this struggle to be perfect that we have lost sight of the life-giving possibility of the true struggle that life gives as its greatest gift: to find and grow into our true nature. To be one with life as it expands ceaselessly into greater consciousness.
By allowing ourselves to know this painful and temporary reality, by telling the truth to ourselves, we can begin the journey we are meant to follow. The journey towards consciousness is more joyful and blissful than we allow ourselves, in our present state, to experience.
All there is to do is tell the truth. It is I who stops life by my own selfish greed. It is I who refuses to love out of the fear that I will lose, or get hurt, or be seen as weak.
Then, remember who I really am. I am, in my deepest soul, one with the All. Who I really am cannot be hurt; I can only learn to love more deeply. By being willing to accept where I am at fault, where I am weak, where I have refused my own divine nature, I am then available to life.
It is only human to strive for more and better. Without this natural desire we would not improve or evolve.
Like any natural desire, some of us take this to the extreme and others of us ignore it all together. This does not make anyone better or worse, more evolved or less so, only in a different place on the continuum of growth.
Just notice for yourself how in some areas there is a strong desire to know more or perform with excellence, while in others there is no interest whatsoever. So it is from person to person.
We have a tendency to judge what the other deems important or worthy of attention.
We are all so self-absorbed that we do not stop to consider that the other may just have a different set of priorities.
How much more peaceful life could be if we could each recognize our own strengths and our own weaknesses, and with compassion choose where we feel growth would be most helpful. If we could each tend to our own growth and respect the ability of the other to do the same.
Those of us who identify with being on a spiritual path are sometimes the greatest offenders of the basic law of brotherhood. Our desperate striving for inner peace and enlightenment can turn into a fast moving train, wiping out everyone in its path. A firehouse of “information,” put out everywhere and anywhere, to anyone who will listen (or not, we don’t even notice!) without taking into consideration that the other may not appreciate being hosed down.
Not everyone wants our “help!” Some people really are only complaining, and that is all they are interested in doing! And that is OK!
I am writing this for myself, by the way. If you happen to resonate, I am happy for you. I know I need to put in check my desire to solve the problems of my friends, loved ones, and dear sons. If anyone wants my insight, they can ask. Otherwise it would behoove me (perhaps you too?) to tend to my own garden.