It wasn’t until my early thirties, after science says my brain had finally maxed out its neuron count, that I met what I was sure would be the final love of my life, my soulmate, the woman I knew I would be spending every day of eternity with.
Mine was a very different brain then, much different than the one I carried around with me in my 20’s. This was a new Super-Matrix capable of processing terabytes more energy and information – a brain built for the speed of Real Love. Not only was I more aware of messages transmitted from all my body’s energy centers, but my cross-hemispheric connections were amplified as well: linear left brain and intuitive right brain were now in dynamic synchrony. As a result Big Magic flowed through every dimension of my life after meeting Wonder Woman. Miraculous healings took place; strangers smiled at me on the street; children crowded around me in shopping malls; every song on the radio was “our song;” our relationship was blessed by an Indian guru (Sri Chinmoy); when I was away from her I could hear her heart beating everywhere I went. It was Kismet, a divine love ordained throughout the Celestial Spheres.
I’ve already briefly written “the rest of the story” in a previous blog. Suffice it to say that when the poo hit the loo, neither one of us had acquired sufficient tools whatsoever to be able to skillfully work on making our way safely through the neural firestorms or in cleaning up in the aftermath. We tried calling in rescue workers and fire tankers for help, but ultimately all each of us could do was flail and bail. We failed The Kohut Rule for a good marriage – only one person going crazy at a time. And as behavioral neurophysiologist Stephen Porges reminds us, everyone’s hell is their own.
Darika and I made a fundamental mistake, what I call the Attribution Error of the Heart. The brain is first and foremost an association organ. Anything that happens in close sequence or proximity, the brain tends to make meaningful connections with. This associating brain capacity is what allowed Pavlov to traumatize the dogs he experimented on – pairing food with an electric shock. It also works with positive associations as well – baby to loving mother, as another example. The problem with such meaning-making, positive or negative, is that more often than not we make errors in attribution and assign false cause.
Matters of the Heart Matter
And this happens every day all over the world, especially with matters of the heart. Mistaking the love we feel for our children or another person and attributing the source or cause of the feeling to them inevitably leads to great suffering the world over. When they grow, change or go, it often feels as though love is leaving right along with them. Except that love never does go anywhere. It’s the ever-present way of the world. All that gets buried and lost through confusion and mis-attribution is … our awareness.
To help correct this attribution error, particularly when the associations are negative, the brain continually scans our world looking for people, places and things that hold the potential for what I call “healing trying to happen.” Freud called it the Repetition Compulsion – unskillful relationship dynamics we repeat over and over in mostly futile, unsuccessful attempts to gain mastery. Which matches my experience with Darika and a number of others over the course of my life.
But such repetitions don’t have to end in a failure to find resolution. We can get effective support for braving Psyche’s descent into Soma. With skilled help from people knowledgeable about somatic psychologies like Hakomi, Somatic Experiencing, Emotional Freedom Therapy, we can descend into the pit of traumatic past experiences and emerge with new-found integrated resolution. We can finally, fully integrate neurons storing overwhelming, painful memories. We can heal.
Cultivating the Default Energy
Goethe, the German lyrical poet, realized that love does not dominate, grasp or demand, it cultivates. Love works to build the capacity for being loving, for repairing our disorganized Social Engagement System. It works to cultivate patience, quell fear, foster compassion and express kindness. It learns to use the power of prosody – the tone and intention behind our words – to promote safety. It is practicing doing small things reflecting great love, as Mother Theresa instructed. It is in the doing and being such things that the barriers to the direct experience of love’s “metaphysical gravity” become thinner and thinner until those barriers eventually simply dissolve and evaporate.
As a volunteer community counselor, I have sat for hundreds of hours with people in the midst of agonizing grief. Husbands who have had their wives murdered. Mothers who’ve had their children kidnapped. Children who have lost parents to auto accidents and excruciatingly painful, fatal diseases. When I am able to fully sit in the presence of such grief, I am no longer surprised when suddenly the barriers to the subtle energies of love dissolve and I find myself bathed once again in their warm and exquisitely tender glow. At such times, in that structured environment, the heart makes no attribution error. It is simply present to love’s ever-present grace. And at such moments, the suffering of the world is nowhere to be found.