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Why We Stalk People

Come on, you know you do it. You meet someone interesting at a political rally or a museum or a zumba class (the key word here is interesting; specifically interesting to you, not necessarily to anyone else). nathans-winnnerYou find out their name or something identifiable about them – they were the first woman winner of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest*) and as soon as you get home you’ll be Googling your brains out. What’s up with that?

Well, it turns out there’s a lot up with that, most of it neurobiological. And much of it unconscious for most of us. But none of this will make sense unless you first accept a fundamental premise: within each of us “healing wants to happen.” Another way to say this is: “Broken brain wiring yearns to reconnect” – disconnected parts want to rejoice and rejoin together to make an increasingly happy whole.

Another thing that will have to be accepted is this research and a lot more like it that indicates that the bulk of our brain’s ongoing daily activity is processed unconsciously. We are essentially … Strangers to Ourselves.

To Stalk or Not to Stalk

First showing up on the stalking scene most often is your brain’s Narrative Confabulator, you know – the part of your brain that does “scenario planning” day in and day out. Give it a little morpet (something between a morsel and a snippet) of something interesting and off to the races it will go, spinning one fantastic, made-up tall tale after another. After which your brain will begin working overtime in order to convince you it’s all true.

You used to be guileless at this when you were four or five. Remember? Now you’ve learned to be somewhat circumspect, usually editing for your audience. Which is, more often than not, only you (my own brain once got triggered by a woman working in a bookstore when I was in my thirties. I recruited several friends to go into the store to check her out. None of them could figure out what the draw was with to a rail-thin, bookish, crone type. Guess which of my parents she clearly resembled).

Similar to bookstore lady, something about a person I decide to “inquire about” sets a few network fibers in my brain atingling. While I’m often unconscious about it, the way a person looks, the feel of their energy, the way they speak, smell or taste, will activate action potentials (electro-chemical energy pulses) in my brain. Once, a woman I was standing behind in line at a Starbucks made a gesture with her arm that immediately grabbed my attention. Curious, I waited and watched until she did it again. In a flash I realized who she reminded me of – again, someone I had unfinished business with (contrary to popular belief, not all unfinished business is with mom or dad) – my best male friend in junior high school who betrayed me by stealing away my first puppy love after I’d confided my feelings for her to him.

Familiarity Breeds Connect

And that’s what seems to drive all of my stalking impulses. Somebody shows up in my life, triggers “familiarity circuits” in my brain and bingo!, off I go searching to find out more about them to see (again unconsciously) if they might be someone who can detonate buried memory explosives in my brain and bring them to the light of day for healing integration (which, more often than not, fails to actually happen, unfortunately. More is needed).

Psyches Descent.jpgIf you want to explore your own stalking fetishes further, Jane Wheatley-Crosbie does a compelling job of explaining the unconscious drive towards integrative healing in her fine article, “Psyche’s Return from Soma’s Underworld.” Even more importantly she suggests ways that we might actually engage in processes that stand a good chance at activating and repairing those buried memory networks. It’s probably a more prudent path to take than continually showing up as a stalker and unnecessarily triggering decent people’s threat-detection circuitry. You don’t want to be the weirdo who gets reported to the police needlessly, do you?

*In case you don’t want to look it up, the Nathan winner’s name is Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Where in that slender body she managed to put all those hot dogs  defies all belief, the laws of physics, and biology.

Finally, if you care to put a spiritual spin on your stalking behavior, check out the latest Enchanted Loom review of Mario Beauregard’s and Denyse O’Leary’s book, The Spiritual Brain.

I actually was expecting the bubblewrap mailer that showed up in my mailbox shortly after Halloween. Curious as to what the promised contents would finally look like, I cautiously opened the envelope. Once I saw what was inside, I actually let out a real, spontaneous, Laugh Out Loud – it was a navy blue lettered sweatshirt, and there, emblazoned across the front in beautiful sky-blue letters, were the words:

Keep Your F*@king Promises!

…spewed straight from the mouth of my Inner Herr Führer, in those moments I accidentally let him slip out of his bunker. Spelled recognizably right, of course.

Frankly, Scarlett, I DO Give a Damn

This was a gift of gratitude from Scarlett, one of the people who’d completed my one-on-one Money Relationships and the Brain tele-connection offering. She was expressing appreciation for the hard-won realization that so much of her struggles with money boiled down to this one simple, frequently failed “aspiration.”

Not only did she make and not keep all kinds of promises to other people, but Scarlett also frequently made and didn’t keep them with herself. Which made her inherently untrustworthy both in the eyes of others, but even more importantly, to the Vigilance Networks in her own brain. images.jpgIn addition to monitoring the world around us, our Vigilance Networks – rooted in our threat-detection circuitry – watch everything we say and everything we do every day of our lives, 24/7. But if all the Vigilance Networks did was only watch, it wouldn’t be so bad. It’s the stories they conspire to make up in cahoots with The Great Confabulator based upon what they hear us say and see us do that are the real problem. Why? Because those networks then go about the work of unconsciously convincing us those made-up stories are true and have us act accordingly. We then unconsciously go to work, squeezed down and pressed upon, living our lives to our own lowest expectations.

In our work together, Scarlett focused on one simple behavior – she agreed to defer making any promises to herself or anyone else, until she had sufficient time to coolly and deeply think things over. And then, once she said “Yes,” that promise became carved in hearthstone, powerfully akin to an Irrational Commitment.

Two Simple Commitments

Different than the one-on-one work with Scarlett, I asked our year–long Money Relationships and the Brain experimental group to make two simple commitments (simple, but not easy, as we came to find out). The first was: there are 8760 hours in a year. The expectation I expressed was that people would commit 52 of those 8760 hours – one hour per week – to meeting together every Friday at 7AM through the internet. The second invited commitment was intentionally set up ideally to take advantage of the Power of Ritual. Once a month I wanted the participants to commit to sitting down, taking out their checkbook and mindfully writing and then mailing me a check for $20. To insure they would almost certainly fail, I invited them to … make the $20 commitment … for life! The main reason I suspected they would fail is the main reason we fail at most everything in our lives: we don’t … keep our f*@king promises (me included – one more example of me teaching what I most want to learn and practice). Currently, however, I keep more promises to others and myself than I ever have – eight years of researching and writing this weekly blog being but one example.

Storyboarding

Most often the reason that I don’t keep my promises is: my brain makes up a story about why I can’t or don’t have to keep my word and then convinces me my reasons are absolutely true. And right. And best for everyone if I don’t, or at least best for me. It’s the way the teenage brain often operates. And mostly my brain doesn’t have to go to great lengths to get me on board with the promise-breaking program. It’s a good thing making and keeping promises has to be … a practice.

a-moneyMost often the excuses for why the promised $20 didn’t show up were always “reasonable.” Any list of more important expenditures is virtually limitless, all of which the Vigilance Networks love to get busy and storyboard. The problem is, if I make a promise and I make the relationship with the person I make it to important enough, there are very few of us in this country who could not come up with $20 given thirty days. Ultimately, though, the real person I’m making the commitment to – and for – is me. For many of us, that’s a hard dot to connect and keep connected: the promises we make to ourselves and to others matter. Greatly. To our own mental, spiritual and neurobiological health and well-being. And as Scarlett is finding out, to our financial health.

No Fault, No Harm, No Foul

Before we began the group, life experience, together with my knowledge of the brain’s vulnerabilities, had me expecting that lots of different circumstances might play out. I rarely took such occurrences personally (except occasionally when I did), and there was no “penalty” that needed to be imposed. No one had to run laps or do push ups or pay a higher interest rate. From my perspective, few of us have ever been taught about the need for, or even how to skillfully forsake Rumi’s half-loves – these are just life lessons needing to be learned. The penalty for not learning is unfortunately, a very steep one, neurobiologically, financially and spiritually self-imposed.

Because all of the above is confounded and compounded by the fact that in every moment of our lives each of us is doing the absolute best our brain and the surrounding environment will allow – when our brain works better we do better – each of us in our little group has now recommitted to continuing through a Year 2 of Money Relationships and the Brain! Wish us well, as we try to live into zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki’s wise, smiley-eyed advice,”We are all perfect just as we are. And we could all use a little improvement.”

“We are wonderfully creative at making tepid commitments and then finding endless ways around them.” ~ Walter Mischel, The Marshmallow Test, pg. 260

A good friend of mine recently went out on a second date with someone he met on the Buddhist Passions online dating site. He confessed to me that he’s already picked out the venue for the wedding, which room in her house he’s planning to remodel into his Man Cave and where he’s planning they’ll spend their winters. I’m avidly interested in seeing how this all turns out.

I don’t think my friend is getting ahead of himself or jumping the gun or putting the horse before the cart before the horse, or any other analogy that you care to use. I think what he’s actually doing is expressing a fundamental, neurobiologically-based need: the need to be in secure, reliable, irrationally committed relationships. The need to repeatedly reconnect with a “reliable, unguarded face.” This is one promise that new love often holds out to us, isn’t it? Only we mostly want others to make the Irrational Commitment to us – to present us with their reliable, unguarded face – in which case we DO have the horse before the cart.

brain-universe513The need for irrational commitment is with us from birth. It’s the thing that makes a healthy mother or father give up their self-centered lives, their consuming passions, many of their worldly pursuits in order to insure our survival. As Rumi counseled: “A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take a whole heart home.” As I pointed out a few blogs ago, to forsake means to renounce or give up something for something better.

Being Entrusted with the Universe

Healthy babies arriving through healthy birthing practices come into the world with whole hearts. And healthy parents willingly forsake those thousand half-loves when they discover the extraordinary treasures that have been entrusted to them in their children. They get to safeguard and shape a heart, brain, mind and body more complex and divine than anything else in the known universe.

To my great consternation and surprise, my own daughter’s arrival completely rewired my heart and brain. The need to care for this divine miracle of creation, to provide for and protect her made me laser-focused in my work, and increasingly available and reliable at home. doctoralregaliacomic.jpgSignificant, meaningful projects that I’d been lollygagging and procrastinating with, I quickly brought to good-enough completion: I finished and published my first book. I wrote up my dissertation research, reconvened my committee (after a ten year hiatus) and delivered them a draft they agreed to award me a doctorate for. I submitted plans and had them approved to build a brand new, larger house that would accommodate our growing family. And I did it all with a focused joy and passion that was unknown to me before my daughter was born. My heart and brain began processing energy and information like never before in a completely irrational service to love.

Collaboration Makes It Happen

And I didn’t do it all alone. The biggest change for me in sustaining and strengthening my Irrational Commitment was – when I didn’t know what to do or where to turn – I asked for help. I asked for help with financing, expanding and running my business. I asked for help learning how to care for my daughter. I asked for help recognizing when my calendar was making me its bitch and in prioritizing daily activities needing my attention. I asked for help in identifying additional areas that I truly needed help with and didn’t even realize it.

There aren’t a lot of examples or models in modern culture that demonstrate the importance of or the possibilities that can result from making, getting help with, and keeping Irrational Commitments. One major benefit that is clear to me in hindsight is the change in brain and heart that such a process inevitably produces. It results in massive neurobiological integration. To integrate means to come to an increasingly greater whole. Having and raising a child is not the only way to integrate our neurophysiology, of course. It just happened to be one that took me totally by surprise in ways that I never expected and no one ever properly prepared me for.

Replace Half-Loves with Whole Lobes

If my Buddhist Passions friend above, ends up engaging with just another “half-love,” my bet is that few of his plans are going to come to pass. But if he can find ways to evoke and sustain his own Irrational Commitment in the face of so much in contemporary culture that works against making and keeping one, everything he dreams of and much much more will eventually come to pass. At least that’s how I would bet.

While I’m waiting to see how all that turns out, here’s another Enchanted Loom to chew on: what else, but award-winning psychologist Walter Mischel’s book on integrated brain development: The Marshmallow Test.

My sister voted for Donald Trump. She and I have been in ongoing digital dialogue throughout this recent election cycle. I can’t tell you how challenged I have been to listen to her with kindness and compassion when she is clearly blind, ignorant, selective in what she pays attention to, and in deep denial. Much the same way she feels about me! I call her Sister Cherrypicker. She calls me Captain Confabulation.

More than 100 years ago, Sigmund Freud, a neurologist by training, noticed that many patients came to see him displaying a disturbed capacity to deal with life challenges primarily due to unintegrated, unconscious childhood trauma. Unless these earlier experiences are surfaced, made conscious and worked through, many are doomed to “repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience.” Viewed through this lens, we apparently have a nation of massively father-wounded citizens.

The Homefront Fallout of War

My sister was two-years-old and I was four, when our war-wounded father abandoned the family. While we didn’t have words to clearly articulate it, this abandonment generated enormous everyday stress on both our young vulnerable nervous systems. To this day I find myself extremely rejection-sensitive where male relationships are concerned.

trumpI also have great concern for my sister and the effects of the early abandonment upon her. As this study shows, it affected each of us quite differently. To date she has had to endure considerably more pain and suffering than I have, much of which I can trace both to the study above, and to the age difference at which our core wounding took place. A two-year-old’s brain is much more vulnerable to the stresses of father abandonment than a four-year-old’s brain (the stresses adversely affected our older sister most: she died from COPD many years ago).

If Freud is right, and my sister’s support of and vote for Donald Trump is actually a “compulsion to repeat the trauma,” we can expect that the policies he advocates for and puts in place as president will be those that essentially operate against my sister’s best interests – a form of father abandonment all over again (I’ve long ago accepted the fact that not just Trump, but all politicians work against my best interests – a fully integrated, compassionate, inclusive world).

The Freudian Solution

What to do? A number of articles I have read recently suggest that, because of the way the brain is designed, Democrats in this week’s election would have been much better served by doing more listening and less talking? Which is essentially what Freud’s “talking cure” was about. Would it have changed the way Democrats polled and campaigned? Would it have changed the nature of the relationship they developed with voters? In my estimation and in the estimation of people like Michigan representative Debbie Dingell, Michael Moore and Bruce Springsteen, it absolutely would have.

Neuroscience tells us that we have far more neural resources devoted to receiving energy and information (dendrites) than we do for sending (axons). As neuroscience writer, naturalist and poet Diane Ackerman notes (100 Names for Love; A Natural History of the Senses), “Axons speak and dendrites listen.”

Brain Neuron

Unfortunately, for Democrats, they completely overlooked this psychological quirk and, as the recent election results so clearly tell us, they did far more speaking than they did listening. This is mostly what politicians do; it’s what they’ve been trained to do. Rather than ask Beautiful Questions or make it safe to speak truth to power or facilitate Deep Inquiry, they spend most of their time telling us about themselves and their vision and their great plans for the country and the rest of the world. The primary problem is: nobody older than 5 or 6 believes them in the least.

Practice Practice

As I told you above, I mostly failed in listening to my sister. I repeatedly received what she said and then proceeded to offer her my great wisdom about why I thought she was wrong, crazy and stupid. Fortunately, my sister is smarter than me and has an extraordinarily forgiving heart. She’s a model for what I aspire to be when I eventually grow up.

P.S. Interestingly, immediately after the election my listening books have had a significant upsurge in sales!😉 If any Democrat wants a free handy poster to print out and hang on your future campaign office wall, go here: Listening Poster. I’m happy to make any of the books available to the Democratic party at a bulk discount! Less of a discount for rich, white male Republicans, however.

My wife and I are very fortunate to live surrounded by rose bushes, rhododendrons, Japanese maples, flowering plums, towering fir trees and hundred-year-old cedars. In the summer as the island water table drops, my wife takes on the job of plant-watering. When she does, my threat detection circuitry becomes activated and my stress hormones begin to rise higher and higher the longer I hear the sound of the water rushing from the well through the sprinkler pipes.

sinkholes-vi.jpgSince it was formed perhaps millions of years ago the water table on Whidbey Island has never run dry. In my brain, though, counterfactual neural circuits anxiously proclaim:”No water table ever runs dry until it does. Look what’s happening in California’s Central Valley!” (I deliberately refrain from sending this link to my wife, since one of her greatest fears is of being swallowed up by a giant sinkhole! I also don’t have her read the wisdom tale, When the Waters Were Changed). Nevertheless, visions of disaster populate the eidetic imagery in my brain: every plant shrivels up in slow motion, tree roots die, trees fall over onto the house, the property turns into desolate wasteland suitable perhaps only for being a storage facility (a new one just went up in town, I recently noted, fearing future competition!).

But I’m not alone. David Brooks recently detailed in the NY Times how people in mainland America are undergoing an epidemic of worry unparalleled in modern times.

We Don’t Own Stock in the Electric Company

My wife and I also have very different body thermostats – hers runs hot and mine runs cold. While I’m depositing one load of firewood after another into the wood stove, she’s busy opening windows and turning fans on all over the house. All I can see is the little wheel on our electric meter siphoning 20 dollar bills in droves out of our bank account. One day the money will be all gone and I’ll be living alone in … a storage facility. Of course, she’ll have moved on to someone who can meet her energy needs and keep the power company paid.

Super-Sensitive Threat Circuitry

These are just two scenarios the threat circuitry in my brain has been conditioned to generate (mostly unconsciously) across my neural network over the years. Most of the time these threats never break through into conscious awareness; they simply go about the task of silently elevating my stress hormones, adversely affecting my breathing, compromising my immune function and trying hard to make me a generally grumpy guy. animation-gageBut it turns out that what my brain’s threat circuitry is MOST affected by – for better or worse – are … words. Every single thing that people say, and the way they say them, and every single thing that my own Inner Narrator says, and the way he says it, moves the needle either right or left on my arousal scale. Words have great homeostatic regulatory power.

She’s Got My Number

My wife, however, is onto how my brain and words work; she rarely takes my recurring terrors seriously or personally. Most often, she offers a few soothing words, “It’s okay, honey. Don’t worry. You’re brain’s trying to scare you and make us both crazy at the same time. It’s all going to be just fine.”

It used to be that I would find those words surprising in the calming effect they would have on me, even though the Supreme Court in my logical, reasoning brain could easily point out all the ways that she was clearly delusional. Now, I know better. Now, after decades of paying attention to how – one way or another – body, brain, mind and spirit will find a way to deal with life’s uncertainties – I recognize that my wife is absolutely right (even if it is for the wrong reasons!)😉 It IS all going to be all right. Nevertheless, better would be for some concrete manifestation to show up in support of her thesis, like having our annual income stream triple, or having solar power be free for all. Until then, I suppose we’ll just have to work with the neurobiology we got at the moment.

And in the meantime, enjoy this stress-busting Enchanted Loom review of future Nobel Prize winner Joseph LeDoux’s book – entitled what else, but … Anxious.

When yoga teacher Elena Brower was asked to give an example of an experience that represented tuning in to something she calls her “home frequency,” the example she spontaneously came up with was being handed her newborn baby in the hospital for the very first time.

elena-brower-virayoga

Elena Brower

Upon hearing Elena’s account of that experience, it immediately called up my very own home frequency experience – standing in scrubs and a face mask and being handed a pair of surgical scissors to cut my newborn daughter, Amanda’s umbilical cord. Suddenly, my whole brain and body was flooded with energy, joy and light unlike anything I had ever experienced before, something the poet Wordsworth had obviously experienced himself when he described newborns as “trailing clouds of glory.” The moment Elena identified and named it, I new instantly what she was talking about: Deep Innocence.

Heeding the Call

In the three decades since my daughter’s birth my own home frequency has managed to dispatch me to venue after venue where Deep Innocence might have an increasing probability of re-emerging. I have visited beautiful contemplative retreat centers and communities all over North America – those visits formed the core of my doctoral dissertation research. I have built homes for the homeless, grown food for the poor, and given away one personal possession per day so far this year as a practice for strengthening my altruism circuitry. Altruism brain circuitry and Deep Innocence brain circuitry seem to run on interconnected resonance frequencies. As spiritual teacher Stephen Levine used to frequently remind us: “An open heart withholds nothing.”

Along similar lines, I have taught classes to help people grapple with obesity and addiction, learn to use listening as medicine, and I have sat for long periods with adults in the throes of deep grief; I also felt called to help organize and implement grieving programs for their children. When I was invited, I was more than happy to help co-design and deliver death and dying curriculum – being in the presence of the dying frequently affords us Glimpse After Glimpse of something akin to the home frequency. And without fully realizing it, I have written 13 books for various audiences all intended in one way or another to help reconnect with … Deep Innocence.

Growing My Innocence Edge

My initial interest in Transpersonal Psychology and my current interest in neurobiology have at their root, this deliberate desire expressed in Matthew 18:3 – “Unless you change and become as little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you this desire is a difficult one to realize, and we don’t have many good guides or guidelines for getting us there. Telling me to become as a child might have had considerable gravitas coming directly from Jesus’s lips, but to me, in this day and age, it mostly sounds good in theory. Being able to put it consistently into practice feels like another baby animal altogether.

matthieu-ricardBut the fact that something is difficult does not mean that it’s impossible. There are exemplars and precedents in the world for us to draw upon. The Happiest Man in the World, depicted to the right, is one we might consider. He’s a molecular biologist who found a way to change his own brain. In the process he wrote books, like Caring Economics and discovered his own capacity for Deep Innocence. Follow the link above to find out how he did it.

Hugh Romney (clearly no relation to Mitt) is another exemplar of Deep Innocence. How did he manage to cultivate his own ability to bring it into full flower? Simple, but not easy. He started hanging out on burn units and the cancer ward at a local children’s hospital. Day after day he would immerse himself in the world of children for whom the circumstances of life were trying to bury their own natural Deep Innocence.

wavy2

Hugh Romney

Instead, his growing ability to be present and fully witness their struggles not only helped their Deep Innocence remain in full flower, but it fertilized his own as well, as this story (“You ugly!”) powerfully illustrates.

So, here’s my invitation: consider that Deep Innocence is something yearning to poke through into full flower in your own life and the lives of the people you daily encounter. How might that frame – that perspective – change the way you present and express yourself in the world tomorrow?

When I was in my early twenties, I took a road trip with a friend of mine from LA up to the San Francisco Bay Area. Adam was hot to reconnect with Sybil, a former girlfriend that he hadn’t seen for several years. Sybil, it turned out, had a roommate, Lila, and while Sybil and Adam were renewing old acquaintances, Lila and I managed to find our way into her bed. Love, or something aspiring to it, was in the air.

As our lovemaking reached a climax, I was more than a little surprised to discover that Lila had completely passed out. With all the ego and ignorance of a 20-year-old I immediately attributed Lila’s unconsciousness to my sexual prowess. I mean, what else could it be? a-traumaLater I discovered not only what it could be, but what it actually was – as a child Lila had been repeatedly incested by her father. Going unconscious was her brain’s and body’s way of regulating the intolerable, overwhelming hyperarousal that having sex with me unwittingly triggered.

Surfacing Buried Trauma

The vulnerability and openness that sexual encounters often precipitate make such experiences profound possibilities for triggering unconscious implicit and explicit memories and having them rise into conscious awareness (drugs, yoga, massage, somatic psychotherapies and many contemplative practices can have a similar effect). One reason I believe many spiritual traditions advocate for some form of celibacy is for precisely this reason – to avoid the intrusive catalytic surfacing of hyperarousing traumatic memories. Sigmund Freud knew that simply surfacing traumatic memories did little to integrate and heal them. He advocated for “remembering, repeating and working through.” It’s that last part – the working through part – that often gets left out of hookups and other intimate human interactions, including a lot of therapy. Without the working through/integration part of the equation, a new memory involving yet another hyperarousing experience is added to the storage vault on top of the threat memories already stored away in there. Better to deliberately titrate such stored memories and slowly and safely integrate them into our psyche. In the best of all possible worlds, that’s what long term, committed relationships can help us do. Ideally.

Healing Yearning to Happen

When I look back on my own relationship history, I can clearly see unconscious impulses at work moving me in the direction of increasing attempts at healing and integrationneural network integration. My very first romantic relationship fully recreated the experience of being abandoned as a four-year-old child. So did my second, third, and fourth. Except for a clarity slowly beginning to emerge of the pattern that I was repeating, each of those relationships mostly produced “reenactment without resolution.” It was only after enrolling in a startup Mystery School, with a requirement to engage as fully as possible in work on myself, that some small degree of healing integration began to take place.

Without me fully realizing what I was getting into, the school served as a psycho-spiritual neuro-alchemical cauldron. I was invited to do dreamwork, participate in group processes of one sort and another, visit off-campus venues to experience a variety of contemplative practices, learn to do psychotherapy, work with death and grief, craft and participate in psychodramas, and search out anything and everything I felt called to experiment with as an independent study. And I did it all in the company of fellow travelers, who, in addition to all of the above, were collectively tasked with actually running the school itself! The meta-learning there was in discovering the importance of being responsible for my own learning and my own healing … in community.

Seeing the World As I Am

In such a venue – through the sensory magic of transference and projection – almost everyone from each student’s family of origin sooner or later managed to show up. This neurological vulnerability of the brain emerges in workplaces all over the world and in many other venues where people recurringly meet and spend time together. You know it by the intense emotion emerging or erupting at such venues – romance, fear, confusion, anger, the whole emotional spectrum. It is our brains going about morphing and distorting and overlaying our personal trauma histories onto each other, ostensibly in the service of … healing trying to happen. And for many of us at the Mystery School it did. But it was much different than I signed up for, and anything but easy.

Still, to one degree or another, some healing managed to happen for me. With my ACE’s-loaded early childhood beginnings, filled with loss, mental illness, alcoholism and repeated traumas, there was little to suggest that I would ever go on to have anything resembling a healthy, socially redemptive adult life. But what did I know? And here we are 50 years later!